We sailed on the Disney Magic on November 17, 2012- November 24, 2012. This was our first Disney Cruise. We went with my brother's family which included his four children and our four children. The age range for the kids was 23-8. His family lives in Southern California and has season passes to Disneyland, so they are Disney geeks.
We flew via Southwest Airlines into Houston Hobby and caught two 6 passenger taxis to Galveston. With tip it was $120 per taxi and only took 45 minutes. Much better value than booking the shuttle via Disney and having to wait forever for a bus load of people to get from the airport to Galveston.
The embarkation was the easiest we have ever had (mind you this was our 10th cruise- first with Disney). We went up to the Topsider Buffet and it was small, but good. It amazed us how small the Topsider Buffet is, but they are very efficient and the service was nice- you can eat indoor or out on the deck.
Our luggage was there by 5:00 PM and we enjoyed touring the ship.
The staterooms are better than usual. We like the split bathroom, the separate sleeping area from the couch. There's a curtain that can be pulled so when my wife was sleeping in, I could pull the curtain, sit by the window and read and not disturb her. There is also an articulating flat screen TV in the stateroom. The cabin host (they call them hosts and hostesses, not stewards) was friendly and did a very nice job.
The dining each night is rotational and you move from Animator's Palate to Parrot Cay to Lumeer's. Your same server and assistant server stay with you from restaurant to restaurant. I would have to say that this was the BEST dinner service we have had on any cruise. They were fast, efficient, super friendly. Soft drinks, juice, and milk were not an additional charge like on other cruise lines. In fact, on Deck 9 there are fountain soft drink stands that are open 24/7 with no surcharge. I liked this even though I drink soda in moderation. The dining food was very good and the desserts were excellent. The Lobster one night was huge (not the small ones that other lines serve). The servers were very attentive to our children, making sure to cut their steaks, that they liked their entrees, etc. Super service and we felt like they each earned an extra $100 tip at the end of the cruise.
For breakfast and lunch, we either did the buffet or you can eat at Pluto's doghouse or Goofy's galley. You can do healthy, burgers and fries, Pinnochio's pizza, etc. I had a really good spicy chicken sandwhich at Pluto's that was excellent and they even had guacamole to add to it. The fries were always nice and hot, too.
The gym is excellent and has cardio, not much free weights other than dumbells, some nautilus machines, dry sauna, and very nice showers. I used the gym every day and it was never busy (most people are with their little children and the gym is not on their minds).
There are ample adult only areas. Lots of activities. We went to some cooking shows, some Disney history presentations, etc.
Obviously, the decore of the ship is Disney. Lots of character appearances, photo opportunities (and they allow you to use your own camera if you wish along with their professional staff). Disney music plays in the hallways, but isn't too loud.
The shows are Disney themed. Perfect for little ones. We enjoyed them too, but I have enjoyed the singing and dancing more on other cruise lines. I'm not a Disney geek (even though I worked one summer at Disneyland). Sometimes the 24/7 Disney theme can get old, but I was very impressed and overall the cruise and the ship were much better than I had expected.
I did really like the ease of the ship's layout. The Buena Vista theatre on Deck 5 was awesome. We saw Lincoln there and some other shows. Really a nice theatre. The main theatre- The Walt Disney theatre is nice. Make sure to get in line early if you want a good seat. We like to be in the first 15-20 rows and would show up 15 minutes before doors opened to insure this.
We did like the ping pong and foosball on Deck 9 and the teenagers loved "The Vibe" nightclub for 13-17 year olds. We still have a midnight curfew for the kids to be back in the stateroom.
As for ports of call- We went to Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel.
In Grand Cayman we took a tour- Hell, Turtle Farm, a small part of the island, and then went to 7 mile beach. We negotiated with a taxi driver and did all 12 of us for $15 a piece. There was a $10 charge to get into the Turtle Farm and $2 for 7 Mile Beach per person. Much cheaper than what you will pay on the ship (half price) and easy to negotiate in port. We had a good time in Cayman even though we have been there 4 times.
In Costa Maya we stayed around the port. The prices are outrageous and it's kind of silly- lots of little stores and of course, Diamonds International, is everywhere. A hidden secret is to go just outside the port security and visit the Jade Museum. See Joseph Martinez and he and his dad will give you a free tour of the museum and then they have a wonderful jade gift shop. We bought necklaces for the kids. Tell him that the New Mexico dentist sent you so he knows you read my review. Joseph is about 20 years old and speaks great English. This made our Costa Maya trip.
Last, we went to Cozumel. We booked the catamaran, snorkeling, beach excursion through Disney. This was fun. The only drawback was 60 minutes only on the beach- that was way too short. We did enjoy the catamaran ride and they did some line dancing on the deck on the way back in. The kids and my wife had a blast with this. It was $40-50 per person. Soft drinks and beer were free for everyone. We did some shopping in Cozumel.
Let's see- what else am I leaving out? oh- the headline acts on Disney were fun. Lots to do in the evenings for fun. We aren't night owls, but the Beat Street area after 9 PM is 18 and over and is fun. We also really, really enjoyed Tuesday's pirate night. My wife ordered costumes online. We had pictures taken with a Johnny Depp (Captain Jack Sparrow) character and he was very authentic. The dinner was fun that night and then the on-deck party with Mickey and friends and the fireworks was not to be missed.
Overall- great service and a fun cruise. I would highly recommend the Disney Magic. You are bound to have a great time.