Disney Magic Cruise Review by mrallen1: Great Family Vacation on Disney Magic
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Great Family Vacation on Disney Magic
My review is written from the perspective of a family traveling with with fairly young children. My son is 4, and my daughter turned 2 during the cruise and is still in diapers. In hindsight, I can easily see how parents of older children have a totally different experience.
We live in Houston, so we made the 60 minute drive down to Galveston and parked at an off-site lot. We had plenty of baggage too, so we got help from the abundant porters around the terminal. I felt reasonably prepared for the embarkation process, but it actually turned out to be a bit more stressful than I anticipated because I didn't expect we'd need to take a security photo at check-in time; it was a bit of a chore to get our super-excited children to stand still in the right place and look at the camera at the right time.
There was also quite of bit of confusion around the Children's Programming Checkin area. I thought I had done that online so I wasn't quite sure if we should go through the More long line that snaked around a couple of pillars. In the end, we skipped it - we handled procuring our son's Mickey Band onboard the ship without any problem. (We had to stand in a much shorter line on board to get it, so I think that was a net win.)
The first day, everything is pretty flexible. When we made our reservations we were on the second dining seating (which starts at 8:15) and were on the waiting list for the first seating from about December 2012 until our sailing date. On the day we boarded, we happily discovered we'd been assigned to the first seating (at 5:45) which would really work much better for our younger children. So if you're in the same situation, don't fret too much - it probably will work itself out. Another thing we probably screwed up a little bit was our reservations for Palo which is the Magic's "premium" adults-only surcharge dining experience. When I made the cruise booking, I reserved us a dinner spot at 6:30 on our last cruise night. Since our dining rotation was Parrot Cay-Lumiere's-Animator's Palate, that meant we would missing our second night in Animator's Palate, so we tried to move the Palo reservation to some other nights which proved to be problematic for a variety of other reasons (such as, it overlapped with the onboard Pirate Night or my daughter's birthday dinner) so in the end we moved it twice and ended up with a reservation at 6:00 instead of 6:30. Another complication was that we needed to coordinate our Palo dinner with the nursery care for my daughter - our son could stay in the "included" child programming, but our daughter needed to be in the nursery which needs to be pre-booked and costs a little bit extra (It was $6/hour which is pretty cheap, especially for a cruise where it feels like the "extras" are *really* extra!) So one of the take-aways is if you make plans ahead of time and try to change them on the boat, you may end up worse off.
Some of the things we brought with us that were super good ideas included: 1) a stroller, 2) our own laundry soap / dryer sheets, 3) an over-the-door shoe organizer - we used the compartments for holding our lanyards, sunglasses, mickey band and other small bric-a-brac, 4) our own water bottles/cups for the beverage station on Deck 9. If we could do it over, knowing now what we do, we would have brought our stroller for *both* kids and not just an umbrella stroller for our daughter. We also would have brought a lot more snacks for the kids and adults. There are shipboard snacks, but they are quite expensive relative to how much something equivalent would have cost at a grocery store or a Target. One other thing we will bring with us next time are card holder lanyards for the adults. It's really handy to keep your shipboard cards (Key To the World Cards in Disney-ese) in these as you attend character appearances on board. Bring a pair of scissors. They're surprisingly useful. Bring a big beach/pool bag. We had one with us, but found a bigger one would have been nice on our port excursions. We also brought a pair of plain white pillow cases which we turned into guest services - it was delivered back to our stateroom autographed by all of the Disney characters which both our children loved. It will be a nice little keepsake for them and didn't cost any extra.
Our dinner experience was full of highs and lows. The wait staff was very accommodating (almost annoyingly so) about my daughter's dairy allergy. And sometimes my high-strung 4 year old son's behavior really pushed the limits of both our patience and the forbearance of our fellow diners. One reason for that was our dinners stretched from maybe 30 minutes at our house into 90 minutes from start to finish on the ship. One night I marched him out of our dining room after he threw a pat of butter toward a nearby table which landed in a lady's soup. She was, fortunately, quite forgiving although I could not abide that.
The best dining experience with the children was definitely the first night in Animator's Palette. Toward the end of dinner, the waitstaff puts on a little show with a video and the room magically goes from black and white to fully colored - and there's an appearance by Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey to cap things off. The food quality overall, I was impressed with. The Magic is a smaller ship and I think that means the kitchen quality is better than larger ships I've been on. Our dinner in Palo was really special. It's one of the best meals my wife and I have shared in the past few years. If you're on the Magic, I would strongly recommend you plan to eat there during your cruise. It's really worth the up charge. One somewhat strange thing we noticed frequently was that the dining options between the hours of say, 2 pm and 6 pm were really really limited. Even the buffet on Deck 9 closed at 2 and didn't re-open until dinner. That means your options are basically the quick service spots or room service which basically have the same menus: burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips and so forth. (By the way, the chicken strips were the best of these options in my opinion.) This is something I hope that Disney may address - I understand why they want to close down the buffet but there should be something else available during that 4 hour window. (See my previous comment about bringing your own snacks.)
The Disney Magic launched in 1998 so it's an older ship and it's obvious that the ship has seen some age - for example some of the floor tiles in our bathrooms were cracked and the finish on the sinks were a bit worn, but our cabin and everything else was immaculately cleaned. We had a minor issue with our cabin air conditioner which was promptly resolved by a maintenance tech in about 15 minutes. It was great service - and personally, I love the Art Deco art themes and designs around the ship.
The ship has 3 pools. One pool is aft, and intended for younger children. It has a depth of 1.5 feet and a wickedly cool water slide called "The Mickey Slide". Adjacent here are several quick service food spots, the buffet and the splash pad for kids who use swim diapers. There's a pool midships called "Goofy" which has a huge screen showing movies on it (FunnelVision in Disney-ese) which tends to have older kids swimming in it and finally, there's an adults-only pool forward in the "Quiet Cove." Because children in swim diapers are not allowed to use *any* pool, it seems that every day we were at sea the Mickey pool would be closed because some not-fully-toilet-trained kid would poop in the pool. I understand the prohibition on swim diapers but it makes a family like ours where our daughter is probably too old for the splash pad and not quite old enough to use the bigger pool awkward.
Finally, a note about the programming- the Disney shipboard shows are really fantastic. The three musical style shows are top notch productions with pyrotechnics and superb special effects. The variety acts range from "pretty good" to "memorably good." For example, during our cruise, we saw the Buckets and Boards act which was really funny and really engaged our children. There are tons of character appearances during the trip, but you really must plan to be in line for these, especially for the princesses - what worked well for us was for one parent to hold a place in line while the other shepherded the kids around the boat. Less
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