This trip contained many 'firsts' for our family. It was our first vacation as a multi-generation family, our first cruise, our first time to another country, and the first time we tried so many different foods!
So you will all have a better picture, I'll provide some family background. My son is 7 and Autistic. He is severely verbally delayed and does struggle with some sensory issues. He also has eczema which can fluctuate between no big deal and disaster. However, we don't need any special dietary requirements for him so far.
My mother is 61 and I am 31, and we are both cancer survivors. She has had two battles with the disease, and dealt with the permanent side effects of radiation. I went through a brutal course of chemotherapy that left me with nerve damage and bone pain, as well as some cognitive and memory issues. You may notice that my review might bounce back and forth a bit (like the rocking of a ship) and I do apologize for that. These days, it's a bit more difficult for me to organize my thoughts without forgetting them. This will come into play during my review!
Also, we had the misfortune, my mother and I, to each sustain an injury before our sail date. She sprained her knee and I broke a toe that kept getting re-injured. That does not make walking a very fun experience, so it did limit some of our activity here and there.
We sailed on the Disney Magic. I had originally booked an inside stateroom, but got a call the day before we were set to sail letting me know that we had received a complimentary upgrade to an Oceanview Stateroom. When I heard that, I thought "Great! We'll have a tiny porthole to look out when my mother is feeling claustrophobic." Boy was I wrong! The window was huge, and we were on the second floor which gave us a beautiful view of the water. Another thing I liked about the room was that the bathroom was split into two smaller rooms, each with its own locking door. The first room had the toilet and a sink, along with a small cabinet area that had shelves for your toiletries. The other side had the bathtub/shower and another sink. The tub was short, length-wise, but deep enough that my son could take a decent bath. The shower-head was an adjustable massage kind which was nice, since it felt like what we had at home instead of having to roll the dice on a hotel shower that might dribble on you like a leaky faucet or blast you into the next room like a fire hose.
We had a small fridge that used to house a minibar. It may not feel like it's very cold at first, but you shouldn't let that deceive you. It kept our sodas refreshingly cold, especially when we put a small bucket of ice in there from room service.
My mother and I both get overheated easily, so the room felt a bit warm to us at times, but it was nothing unbearable. Each room has its own little thermostat, but it does not seem to make as big a difference as a typical hotel room air conditioner would. You have to keep in mind that there is only so much that modern technology can do. If you tend to have hot flashes or get hot easily, I would pack a small fan. Also, bring a power strip and an extension cord, because there are not many power outlets in the room. Also, the ones we saw were only the 2-prong kind, so if you have the kind of plugs that have the 3 prongs, bring an adapter.
There are guests laundry facilities, and it was $2 to wash and $2 to dry. I believe they sell detergent as well, but you should save yourself the trouble and just buy some individual packets for your trip. No need for quarters either, since you just swipe your Room Key card to pay for the machine. Once you set it up to start your load on the temperature and speed you want, the machine will lock into place and cannot be opened until the timer is finished. That is a nice feature, so you can walk down the hallway to your room without having to worry about losing your pants. They also provide irons and an ironing board in the laundry room for guests to use, but you are only permitted to use them in the laundry room itself for safety reasons. If you prefer not to have to deal with laundry during your vacation, there is laundry service available.
For our dining pleasure, we were assigned to the second seating. My mother complained about it non-stop to me in the beginning, since she is accustomed to going to bed by 9 pm and eating dinner at 8:15 pm was completely foreign to her. I did visit the restaurant manager to see about changing the assignment, but I was too late and the waiting list was too long for us to have a real chance of a change. However, I would like to point out that he called us each and every day on the cruise to keep us updated on the status of our request, even when it was clear that a change was NOT going to happen. He apologized profusely, and he made sure to let us know all of our dining options, should we not want to wait for our assigned dinner. He told us about the casual dining options and Topsider buffet, giving us the times it was open. They can only fit so many people at the first seating, so what are you going to do? I was perfectly fine with eating late, since I am a night owl, and my mother was fine with it in the end as well.
The breakfast and lunch buffets do have certain times that they are open, but I found this reasonable because they are very fastidious about keeping things clean and keeping the food fresh and at safe temperatures. Disney was very careful about germs and sanitation, especially after some of those horror stories we've heard about some other cruise lines spreading illnesses like wildfire. Everyone was provided with hand sanitizing cloths at the entryway to each restaurant, which I thought was brilliant. You have the option of Parrot Cay or Topsiders for buffet style dining, then Lumiere's for lunch menu dining. Or, if you prefer, you can hit up the dining options out on the pool deck on the 0th floor. You can get pizza, corn dogs, chicken strips, fish and chips, or you can dine on the healthier side with fruits, salads, and sandwich wraps.
Room service had simple breakfast options, basically a continental breakfast with things like cereal and danishes. I'm not really much of a breakfast person, so that was fine with me. I'd rather be lazy and lay around in bed than get up early enough to catch the breakfast buffet.
There were three of us in our cabin. Yes, it was on the small side, but I found it to be completely sufficient to our needs. You don't book a cruise like this to stay locked up in your room the whole time! There was room to move around a bit, and we had a little coffee table in between the couch and the vanity where I could spread out our papers and all of my junk. The bed was very comfortable, as well as the sofa sleeper. My son and mother shared the bed and I rode the couch bed. It's also VERY easy to convert from a bed to a couch and back again. You don't have to mess with moving cushions all around and folding and unfolding, you just have to flip one part and you're done, like MAGIC. (Hurr hurr.)
Speaking of magic, our server Edgar performed magic tricks at all of our dinners. He took the children's orders first, so that they had something to munch on while the adults took their time perusing the menu. Between Edgar, Nuno, and our head server (whose name I cannot remember, except for it started with a D and he mentioned he was from Jamaica, I'm so sorry that I didn't write it down!) we had everything we needed. If they even anticipated that we might be thinking about needing something, they were right there to help. Edgar assured us that he did not just want our experience to be "good," he wanted it to be excellent. He told us that if we did not like a dish, we could have a new one in front of us in one minute, and he meant it! Our serving staff was a group of rock stars and Edgar made excellent recommendations on the best dishes to try.
As I mentioned, my son is Autistic and severely verbally delayed. However, that did not stop Edgar and Nuno from interacting with him and treating him the same as everyone else at the table. I really appreciated that they weren't turned off by him blowing them off now and then. They wanted to make sure that he had as good a time as anyone else on the ship, and he did.
The staff at the Oceaneer's Club was just the same. Jess helped me with the registration process, and mentioned that she worked in the Lab. She was willing to take down any tiny detail I could provide about my son and his preferences, assuring me that there was no such thing as too much information. She assured me that the staff is trained on how to deal with special needs children, and that they will be quick to call me if they needed anything. Indeed, they did call me, but not to pressure me into picking up my son. Instead, they just let me know that he was having some trouble adjusting and kept coming to the gate to look for me. We picked him up and spent the day together, and tried again in the evening. That time, they let me go in with him for a few minutes to orient him to the space, and he was eager to join Lilo and Stitch in some games while they were visiting the club. He had a great time, and they just texted me when they believed he was ready to be picked up.
I was blown away by how wonderful the Club staff were with him. I cannot sing their praises enough. They also have a wonderful program for those patrons that are assigned to the second dining seating called Dine and Play, where they will come to the entry of the restaurants to pick up any children that would like to ditch the dinner table and go upstairs to the clubs. That way the adults can finish their meals and perhaps have a cocktail, and then meet up with the children after.
I found plenty of things for adults to do, especially if you enjoy live music. There were movies, there were plenty of club areas where live performances went on. I enjoyed going to the Promenade Lounge several times to listen to The Dreamers play acoustic covers of songs. They're highly talented, and very nice people. There were also interactive games and several sessions of Bingo. The musicals in the Walt Disney Theater were wonderful! If you want to see the shows, but can't go sit in the crowded theater for some reason (perhaps you're not feeling well, or you have anxiety) there is a dedicated channel on your cabin television that plays each of the performances live for guests. I think that is a great option to have available!
Actually, overall, I found the staff to be incredibly accommodating and they all seemed like it was a pleasure to have us there. The only part that frustrated me was the check-in process because we were juggling so many bags because we thought we could handle them and did not realize all the lines we had to go through. You have to present your paperwork four or five different times, which is frustrating because even at the airport you present them once to the ticket counter, and once to security and then you are done. But not at our port! Then they placed the "Now boarding!" mural thing for pictures right in front of the bathrooms. Not the best location for that.
After you've gone through the cramped, sweaty, frustrating line, they stop you to take a professional picture of your group. We found it difficult to smile during that one because I was just complaining about so many "things" that we had to stop and do before getting on the ship.
BUT, I understand why they must do all of that. Security is security, and in this day and age you can't be too careful.
Once we were on the ship, though, everything was magical. Our luggage was dropped off by our door, we went through the mandatory safety drill, and then we were free to roam about the ship.
We were given a Personal Navigator each evening that listed the events for the next day. Everything was laid out when it came to the whens and the wheres, so you could plan out your day. Our room host was exceedingly polite and professional, and kept our room spotless even though I am a self-admitted slob.
The food? The food. I was blown away by the food. We had a little joke at our table about the steaks, because they were very good, but we were all from Texas and we are spoiled when it comes to steaks. The meals were amazing, and I was able to try several different foods that I'd never had the chance to sample. I found that I very much enjoyed the duck, as well as short ribs and many other options. There were always child-friendly options available, so you could get the typical pizza, mac and cheese, or chicken strips if you liked. The buffets also had very adult dishes, with a few kid options on the side.
If you have dietary restrictions, Disney is the cruise line for you. On Friday, we sailed through a cold front so the weather was a bit choppy and most people were staying indoors. We went to Lumiere's for lunch, which was set up as a sit-down cafe for the afternoon. The host informed us that if we were willing to share a table, we could be seated quickly by the window. We'd become used to sharing a table, so we agreed and chose to sit with our backs to the window since we were afraid we might get seasick. (We didn't.) To our delight, the other family of three also had a son with Autism. We were able to gush to each other about our children, and about how happy we were with Disney's service to our respective families. They were on several special diets, having gone gluten-free, casein-free, and I think they had something else but I can't recall. Anyway, since your waitstaff sticks with you during all of your dinners, they really get a chance to get to know you and your dietary preferences over the course of your trip. Their server actually went to different floors on the ship to find them tasty treats that fit their needs. Their son was 17, and they told us that he had been spending a lot of time in the teen club enjoying himself. I kept an eye on the schedules of events for all of the age groups, and I have to admit that even I wanted to go hang out in those clubs.
There are plenty of diabetic-friendly meal options as well, so if you have to deal with that, you still won't miss out on yummy entrees and tasty dessert options.
Yes, the restaurants were a bit noisy at dinner. I did not find it ear-splitting noisy, though. It was just what you might expect from a full crowd of people all sitting down to dinner at once. It is also possible to just go up and fetch your meal, I believe. I was able to pack up my unfinished meals to take them back to our room. Edgar also prepared a dessert plate for my mother one evening when she had to cut her meal short and retire for the night. He was going to send it down on his own, but I offered to take it myself since I had to pop by our room for something anyway. The room service menu is also a nice option. My son had the pizza several times, and it was honestly some of the best pizza I have ever had. I ate his leftovers at 2 am right out of the fridge and it was still great.
Whenever we ordered room service, they would always go the extra step and would offer to send some cookies for my son, or asked if we needed something more to make sure we would be full and satisfied. They only charge for sodas and alcohol, and packaged type snacks. But they do have discount packages where if you buy a certain amount, you get one free. It's really not a bad deal at all.
The desserts were to die for, and Edgar always had great suggestions. He would even go the extra step to bring out two desserts sometimes as a surprise, just to make sure that we didn't miss out on a wonderful culinary experience. When he claimed that a certain dish was "life-changing," he was spot on! There were at least four or five choices for the adults to try at each meal, and the kids had plenty of choices as well. My son has plain ice cream one night, a Mickey bar another (which was ice cream dipped in a dark chocolate coating), and I noticed they offered brownie sundaes and other goodies. One of the nights, he ended up going up to the Oceaneer's Club before dessert, so I tried his Mickey bar and it was really good. ("Tried" it. Yeah, right. I ate the whole thing and have no regrets.)
The night before we docked in Cozumel, they included all the relevant port information we would need in the nightly Personal Navigator. I noticed that they also had a shopping presentation in order to apprise us of all the great deals we could find in the area. I watched part of the presentation from my room while being lazy and getting ready. We did not take part in any of the port adventures, and chose to enjoy some of the activities on the ship while it wasn't quite so crowded. My son spent a few hours in the afternoon at the Oceaneer's Club and I spent a couple hours shopping in the little mall right off the dock in port. I found some lovely gifts for great prices, but be prepared to haggle a bit! What started out as $91 went down to $55, and if I'd paid better attention to the presentation I think I could have gotten an even better deal.
In Cozumel, make sure to have some cash set aside, including some small bills. If you have trouble doing a lot of walking, there are people driving bike-propelled carriages to carry people up and down the long dock, and they work for tips only. Then from the mall, you can get to the street and catch a cab if you like.
The cruise line provided a detailed shopping map that had a summary of the various shops up and down the strip of property along the beach, which I found infinitely useful. They also plainly stated what documentation you needed to take. Getting back onto the ship was a bit of a wait, since I procrastinated and returned close to the cut-off time, but they had staff outside offering cold towels to help us cope with the heat. Again, they also offered hand sanitizer to minimize the spread of germs. A quick, simple glide through the security station and I was safely in my cabin with my new goodies.
I actually found that the ship's Duty Free store had better prices than I got at port when it came to liquor, so keep that in mind.
On Friday, like I said earlier, there was a cold front and there was nothing that Disney could do to control the weather. The ship rocked quite a bit more than the other days, but I personally found it soothing. I just wanted to curl up in bed in order to be rocked to sleep. Most people just had a giggle over watching each other stumble a bit in the hallways, and took advantage of the things we could do indoors.
There is an arcade on the 9th floor that is open 24 hours, which can help to entertain the kids when swimming isn't an option. Plays, 3D movies, character meetings, family karaoke, mock game shows, trivia games, dance parties... The list goes on and on of things to do inside the ship, especially for the kids. There was a craft session to make animal masks, and one to make door hangers. There was Open House in the Oceaneer's Lab which meant everyone was welcome to come and go as they pleased, and they held Ratatouille Cooking School where everyone got to make chocolate chip cookies. There was no shortage of activities.
As an adult, I found it difficult to choose where to spend my time when my son was occupied with his own schedule. There were so many live music performances, there was the spa area where I could have taken advantage of a steam room, or I could have slipped into the hot tub at Quiet Cove. On the last night of my cruise I just curled up and watched Mary Poppins in our room while I waited for the laundry to finish.
If you want your pictures from Shutters, I recommend ordering them through one of the kiosks and picking them up the night before if possible. The morning of debarkation it is a madhouse. If you do order through the kiosk, make sure to tell the staff there, otherwise they will try to make you hunt through the wall-to-wall pictures to find your own prints. I'm not sure why they waste so much photo paper by pre-printing all the pictures you have taken, especially when they pop by at dinner and other times to take pictures you did not request. I would rather look through my options on a digital screen and pay slightly less for my prints than to have them out there ready to grab.
Handicap-accessible bathrooms are a bit spread out on the ship, so if that is something you need, I recommend studying the ship map and highlighting the locations right after you board. That way you will cut down on getting lost during a bathroom emergency.
If you forget something, never fear. There are two gift shops on the 4th floor. There is Treasure Ketch for more adult things like jewelry and practical needs like medicines or nail clippers, and then Mickey's Mates with all the plush toys and costumes. I found the costumes a bit pricey, BUT comparable to industry standard when it comes to theme park gift shops.
I found debarkation to be a breeze compared to everything else. In the Personal Navigator given to us on Thursday or Friday, they provided us with all of the information we would need for debarkation. They instructed us on how to deal with our luggage, how to handle gratuity envelopes, and how to settle our bill in the most streamlined way possible. We chose to check most of our bags, leaving my mother and myself each with a carry-on duffel bag. We were assigned a breakfast seating at 8:15 am in the same restaurant we'd had dinner in the night before, and we had Edgar and Nuno to serve us.
I want to brag on Edgar for a moment here, because he really blew me away with his willingness to make sure I was happy. The morning was not going well because I am already not a morning person, and I was having some health issues as well as arguing-with-my-mother issues. I am sure everyone can relate. Anyway, I ended up being late to breakfast while dealing with the photo order and tying up some loose ends. To keep me from having to wait for food once I arrived, Edgar took the liberty of bringing me a plate of food just in case. When I joined my mother and my son, we all received our plates at the same time, even though I hadn't been there to order. Since he had been our server for the whole trip, he had an idea of what I liked and what I did not, and he knew I did not really have any dietary restrictions. He brought me a fairly complete breakfast platter with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and crisp hash browns. Checking in with me, he asked if that was all right, and I told him it was spot on wonderful. He had me try the food, just to make sure it was to my liking, and then checked in on me once more. Then, when he realized I had never gotten to see a menu, he brought one by and urged me to look over it, just in case I might want something else before I go. Now, we had settled our tip situation the evening before, so this wasn't a last-ditch effort for extra money. He genuinely just wanted to make sure that my last morning on the ship was a good once, since he knew we would be driving half the day in order to get home. It really made a difference for me and I really appreciated it.
We took our time eating and let the lines cool down at the dock, then finally came down to join in the lines exiting the ship. There were a few staff members helping to keep the lines organized and fairly short, and we were able to get out into the port terminal with ease. There were two main lanes, and they were clearly marked, in the hallway of the terminal. If you wanted the services of a porter, you went in the right lane, and if you did not then you went into the left lane. We chose to go with a porter since we were tired and sore, and he was great and loaded up all of our luggage for us.
Now, the ship handled the luggage situation well because we were provided with color coded luggage tags. Ours were gray and had Daisy Duck on them, so it was easy to spot the section where our luggage would be because we just looked for the gray sign with Daisy. We went through the Customs line and then we were ready to catch the shuttle to our Discount Parking lot.
All in all, we had a wonderful vacation and we cannot wait to do it again. Are there things we will do differently next time? Sure! I will definitely take advantage of the Duty Free ship on board on the first night and will make more cocktails in my room to save a little money. You can also get a souvenir glass on the first night, take it around with you, and get discounted drinks for the rest of your voyage. I will plan to catch ALL of the musicals, because I did not realize that there was a different show each day, so I only got to see two of them. Basically, now that I know more fully what they have to offer, I will take advantage of more of the activities and services.
I found it to be a great value for what we spent, and the service was over-the-top excellent. We did not have any issues with noise from other rooms bothering us, or problems with the food. All of the staff we dealt with seemed happy to help us, willing to go the extra mile without even being asked. I've actually fallen asleep several times while writing up this review, but I was so impressed that I wanted to make sure this gets done while it is all still fresh in my mind. I hope my review is helpful to future vacationers considering the Disney Magic out of Galveston.