I felt it necessary to add in "2.0” in the title to make it clear this review is on the post refurbishment of the Disney Magic. The ship is not called 2.0 as she is still the one and only Disney Magic. Debuting in 1998, Disney Magis is the eldest of the DCL family. A few short months after that debut I experienced my first Cruise ever onboard this amazing vessels. I was hooked.
Fast forward…. November 1st 2013 not only was my reunion with this vessel for a 5 night cruise, it is my 25th cruise over all. Returning to see her again post major refurbishment was highly anticipated for me, and overall she did not disappoint. As my first ship ever, I am likely a bit basis with regard to her, but if you’ll excuse the pun, I also now have a boat load of cruise experiences to compare her against. I apologize in advance, this review is long! I will try to break it up into sections. Are you ready to set sail? Bring some sea bands, as we may hit some choppy waters.
Speaking of choppy waters, lets chop up this review into three main parts. Overall my most recent cruise onboard the Disney Magic was exceptional. That said she is currently a complexity of casual indifferences, missed opportunities, and Fantastic new offerings. First we will review the indifferences, changes they made or in some cases did not make, that left an overall impact of….. Nothing. Then I would like to get into those issues the vessel had, because unfortunately no ship is perfect and even the Disney Magic has some flaws that need immediate attention. But sit tight and don’t jump overboard yet, we are going to end this review with what is right about the ship, as there is plenty of good to speak of as well.
The Casual Indifferences.
Back in early 2013 DCL announced the re-imagining of The Disney Magic. One of the publicized changes was the updates being done to the Adult District on the ship. "After Hours”, as it would now be called, would feature three "all new Adult only venues” (after 9pm). The reality is really a watered down version of the Magic’s original Beat Street. According to the press release "After Hours” is a more sophisticated adult entertainment zone. Lets start with the main club, Fantoms, which would replace "Rockin Bar D” with a more elegant "Miami Beach” feel too it and would be infused with new technology. Later press release didn’t mention Miami Beach but instead said the club we be inspired by the Sea. There is no new technology that was evident to myself, and there was certainly not a Miami Beach feel to it, but it does have some under the sea look to it. The lighting is done almost exclusively with various hues of blue and the middle of the club features some fiber optic lighting surely intended to look somewhat like jelly fish. Its pretty but it really does not have a "wow” factor to it.
The old piano bar called session was replaced by Keys, a new Piano bar in the exact same foot print as the original piano bar, and like the original, almost no one attendsL Disney should have tried something different here. Maybe a sing-along piano bar like Carnival Cruise Lines, or a Duel Piano Bar in the spirit of Jelly Rolls or Howl at the Moon. Finally the Irish Pub O-Gills "replaced” the sports bar Diversions, again in pretty much the exactly same foot print and layout. The entrance has been made green with an Irish façade, but once in the pub, it really doesn’t look all that different from Diversions. Disney will say the Adult area is even more adult now, but over-all I was bored by it. Everything did look complete and brand new, and so from that point it was nice area but overall. Still it was very boring and judging from the complete lack of attendance, I was not the only one who thought so.
Another change that was just sort of there, looked nice, but didn’t really add much to the ship was the replacement of Parrot Cay with the new Carioca’s. Carioca’s is an improvement in look over Parrot Cay, like Parrot Cay, there just is not much too it. After the Dream class ships trio of fantastic resturants, I really had the expectations that unlike Parrot Cay, Carioca’s was going to give the Magic an equality Fantastic Trio. Not so much really.
While on this subject of indifference changes to the Magic I feel I need to include the staterooms. Yes, they have new beds now, and the convertible couch also seemed new. A new cabinet replaced the Trunks in the rooms that had thoses. There are now extra power outlets via the night stands flanking the new bed. The bathrooms are unchanged, and honestly not even sure they have been detailed. Mine was clean, but still aged and did not appear re-newed via a deep cleaning. The old wall mounted hair drier is still there, but if you hate those a new plug in hair drier is present in one of the desk drawers. Overall, the rooms felt the same to me with new carpet and the master bed was obviously new and inspired from if not identical to the Dream class ships. The room is not better or worst so much as it is just what it is. Note: The changes to the room I really am indifferent too, but the room overall is still fantastic. The rooms are a major Asset to DCL and a huge part of the DCL difference in cruising. The changes to the room resulted in the room going from excellent to still being just as excellent with some minor convenience improvements. One oddity is that they did not add the virtual portholes to the insides. In an interview Karl mentioned this proved cost prohibitive. I would have kept Beat Street as is and us that money to reduce the cost of the install of the virtual portholes. Also why is so expensive to add a virtual porthole to a ship built in 1998 when Royal Caribbean is adding a virtual balcony to ships just as old???
Finally on the changes with an overall impact of "eh” would be Sense Spa. Sense is slightly bigger, and as such now features a larger reception area, larger saloon, and a new teen spa. They accomplished this by eliminating the walk way on deck 9 on the starboard side forward of the adult pool and spa entrance. Now the saloon is where that walk way use to be this has made Sense Spa wider. However, everything port side of the entrance and spa villas is largely untouched. Some flooring is new, and they now offer DIY sea salt body scrubs in the rain forest room, but overall, is the same as before. Sadly on this trip, the spa Villas were not in use due to plumbing issues.
Dear Disney, please fix these…… the Bad.
Now there were some definite issues with the Disney Magic, and these I will say were just sad, and bad, and sometimes a somewhat glaring blemish on this Jewel of vessel. My room was refreshed but my Veranda was in an unacceptable condition. It did have new patio chairs, and a new divider that could be opened, to the next door veranda, which was an oddity considering the room itself did not feature a connecting door to another room. But clearly the Veranda flooring was partially striped and then never touched again. The movie screen in the Buena Vista Theatre is in dire need of replacement as it is blotched and uneven to the point the projection quality it notably diminished in large sections of the screen. And it’s the screen that is the issue, not the projector. They did not install the adult area privacy dividers on the star board side that the port side features. Such a simple thing that it must have been purely overlooked. Instead of the privacy dividers they have on port side near the Cove coffee shop, the starboard side has a small sign on a stanchion saying adults only beyond this point. Speaking of the Cove, they did not modify it at all like they did on the Wonder and us such there is still a completely unused open air bar overlooking the adult pool from deck 10. Would have been nice to do something with this spot. The open decks of both 9 and 10 were uneven in color from dirty and general wear and tear. One out door staircase from 9 to 10 had a putting green sized hole in it that one could cut their toes on. They covered it up with masking tape when I brought it to their attention. There was also a shattered pain / glass window forward of the adult pool port side. The monsters ink "eye scream” area has NO themeing at all aside from a very small sign that features Mike from Monsters Inc as one of the letters in the sign. And the new carpets are shedding very large lent balls everywhere. The good news is all of the bad can be fixed by the team on board, and I will say deck 9 and 10 looked much cleaner by the last night of the cruise then they did on the first night. No doubt the results of the two crew members that were pressure washing every night up there on those two deck. The next cruise will certainly have better looking decking welcoming them aboard than I had due to those efforts. So most of not all of the bad can be fixed with the on board team. That brings use to the really great things about the Disney Magic.
Happily Ever After…. The really great things about an already great ship.
The Disney Magic has always been a ship that delivers on its name sake, Magic. And dispite still spreading some pixie dust over some area, this ship still delivers, and even more so now. She has always had one of the best upper pool decks I have experienced on a cruise ship, and still does. It is brilliantly divided into an adult pool, a family pool, and a kids pool. Three pools ! The Adult pool is vastly superior to that of the adult pools found on the Dream class ships. Its bigger, has sun on it almost all day long, and the hot tubs are right there next to the pool. The family pool is now complimented by the really fun Aqua Dunk. Ever just want to climp up to the top of one of those classic looking funnels on a DCL ship? Well now you can because the top of the funnel is exactly where the Aqua Dunk begins. Not unlike Carnival’s Green Thunder on the Carnival Spirit, the Aqua Dunk has you falling into the slide as the floor drops out for underneath your feet. Not going to say it’s the most terrifying water slide around but it is a genuinely thrilling water slide and significantly more fun then its big cousin, the Aqua Duck. Though its only 4 seconds long, dunk can process a line infinitely faster then Duck can and so over all I would take a ride on the Dunk over the Duck with out hesitation or regret. Its just a better ride! And over in the kids pool, the splash deck is really fun. I have heard some comments about how small the mini splash deck is for the diaper age crowds, but its super cute, with baby Huey, Duey, and Louie spouting out leaks of water everywhere. Their target audience does not seem to mind or notice that is a small area. The Splash deck for the older kids, and wondering adults, is a great place to soak in some fun, and it was well used by kids and adults. And then there is the new, Twist and Spout water slide. Easily the bigger water slide on any DCL ship, this monster is tall and long. I have never really long to ride the original Mickey Hand slide that Magic use to have and that is still present on the Wonder. I will admit I kind of would like to try the Mickey slide on the Disney Dream class ships. And like the Dream class, the Magic new Twist and Spout is for kids only, except perhaps they are rethinking that? For now they have covered up the maxium height requirement and are allowing adults to ride the slide. You go about three quarter up the rear funnel to board, and unlike the Dunks funnel, you can tell this funnel is real because it is putting out some intense heat. This heat made the slide more refreshing and fortunately for me the line was short when I experienced it, but warning, I did see times where this ride had a long line. All these additions have made one of the Disney Magic best assests, its amazing well designed upper decks, even more fun, thrilling, and entertaining. They even added shade structures to the upper most deck, so finding that perfect shady yet sunny spot is so much less competitive now.
Moving down the aft most part of these upper decks is the completely reworked buffet. Cabanas is so much better then the old Top Siders Buffet. Unlike Carioca’s and After Hours, Cabanas does not look like and clearly is not just a redressing / decorating of an pre existing facility. It has a much larger foot print then the original facility and has a different layout. In short it is completely new. They must have completely gutted this part of the ship and started from scratch. It does not quiet reach the level of the Dream Class ships as its still not that large, but being on the small Disney magic, it doesn’t need to be, and it delivers on food quality just fine. Other minor improvements to the upper deck include all new deck furniture, Quacks Merchandise location between the family and kids pool, and Pete’s Broiler Bites is a reworked Plutos dog house while Daisy’s Delights is new only by name. It used to be Goofy’s. But the Great doesn’t just limited to the upper decks.
The rest of the ship sparkles with brand new carpets everywhere. The staterooms, the hallways, the lounges and the corridors are really pop out with their new carpets. Palo also has a nice refreshed look, it basically looks the same as before but all the signs of aging have been removed. The Wave Phones are new and upgraded models. I already detailed After Hours, but unlike that area, the Lobby really has been redone in grand fashion. The new chandelier is really beautiful and a much MUCH better fit aesthetically then the original Dale Chihuly. No offense Dale, yours was amazing but the new one really does add a sense of classic ocean liner to this Magical ship. They removed one of the staircases and moved the iconic Helmsmen Mickey to the base of the remaining Grand Stair Case. This left for a much larger and open landing at the base of the staircase which lends itself nicely as a mini stage for character meet and greets. Both the Guest Services and the Port Excursions desks have been nicely spruced up, and here I felt they did miss an opportunity to make the guest services desk slightly longer. But overall, this lobby really shines and makes for an impressive entrance aboard this magic ship.
Just off of the lobby is the new D Lounge, which replaced Studio Sea. And here again, a they started all overall and reworked it. Oh the bar is this where it use to be, as is the stage, but everything else was gutted and replaced. The windows were restored and so natural light floods into the lounge, at night the place glows with multicolored indirect lighting effects, and over all it has a 50’s yet Contemporary feel to it. But another place where they genuinely gutted it and started over was the merchandise shops. They have been completely redone, slightly larger then before and now have an open and airy feel to them. I don’t even like shopping but they did a spectacular job here.
Finally that leaves us with Animator Palate. First and foremost, if you are like me, while the new AP on the Dream Class is pretty amazing, I missed the true black and white starting looking of the original AP. The Disney Magic incorporates the technology of the Dream Class AP with out changing the overall look of the original. It still starts off has a strictly black and white experience. The sound has been upgraded, and the animation screens blend in perfectly into the new environment. The original version on the Magic could be forgiving if the colors were a bit muted or pastel like, after all it was the first to pull off this novelty of black and white to color. But no more are those colors muted or pastels, we are talking truly primary colors here that pop out and make you take notice. The Show is top notch and I found myself choking up a few times as it built up upon itself. This is what Animator Palate was meant to be. The original fell a light short on show due to a lack of appropriate technology. The Dream Class has the great technology but lacked the wow factor of going from black and white to color within the same meal period. The Disney Magic takes the strong features and benefits both and marry’s them together so seamlessly you’ll wonder how this was not done this way before now. It will be the highlight of your dinning experience and under no circumstances should you miss it.
Overall the ship is amazing. Unchanged are the shows, which are top notch and not to be missed. The only issue with the shows is that kids don’t really know how to watch a theater presentation, so they can be a bit too vocal, but that’s a hazard of cruising with Disney. While I can’t say there were any stand out singers in the group, there also was not bad singers either. The dancing was great, the production values were excellent, and the overall entertainment offered was of the highest quality. With time the Disney Magic will buff out the dings that the re construction crews left behind, and judging by the 5 days later results of my cruise, I would guess that time is merely weeks away. That leaves us with only mostly positive and some indifferent but refreshing changes that will ensure the Disney Magic has just as much life ahead of her as she has behind her. This is ship is an A+ cruising experience, so don’t hesitate to book her.