I traveled with my mother on this three day "quick-cruise" as a prelude to a Disney Parks visit, to "whet the appetite" for all things Disney. I am mid-30's and she is mid-60's and we both love Disney, and we are used to expecting -and getting - the finest in entertainment and service from the Disney brand. I have cruised quite often, at least once a year, and had been on the Magic once before in 2004. My cruising for the past 9 years is done almost solely on Cunard, with my husband, but I was excited to get back on a Disney ship.
The "re-imagined" Disney Magic is spectacular in and of itself. The ship is beautiful, with classic features of wood, marble and elegant appointments in the restaurants and public rooms, with just enough Disney whimsy and sightings of Mickey & Co. The restaurants and public rooms were somewhat recognizable from our cruise almost a decade ago, but the refit had obviously refreshed the ship. The adult areas had been completely redone and had an elegant piano bar "Keys", a "new wave" décor disco/cabaret, and even a fun-loving Irish pub/sports bar "O'Gill's" combination where trivia and other events took place. Having no children, I did not visit any interior children's areas. The outdoor decks have been completely redone also. The family area has added some great extras, with splash areas, slides, and a famous "Aquadunk" daredevil slide for all ages. The Adult Pool is still a nice respite with a good outdoor bar next to it. In the public areas for all, the Lumiere's restaurant still exudes elegance, and the re-imagined Animator's Palate was a spectacular show, with live appearances by Mickey and a great atmosphere. I did not eat in Carioca's, which has replaced Parrot Cay. More on why later.
This itinerary had only one port of call - Castaway Cay - which was a nice island, and a good way to do a Bahamian/Caribbean island without the usual hassles from the locals. Surprisingly, this was the easiest place for character greetings and pix - hardly any lines at all. If you can imagine a Disney "beach" park - this is it. They also provide your meal on shore - at several BBQ locations throughout the island.
The GOOD: - Embarkation was easy, but we were concierge so I cannot say if regular cabins had long lines or issues to deal with. Shows and entertainment. Disney is still the absolute best in the business here, with the 3 nightly shows in the main theater delivering spectacular shows, complete with light sets, absolutely amazing costumes, and even pyrotechnics (something I also hold my breath during on a ship!) My mother and I both loved every show. The Buena Vista Theater (smaller movie theater) showed first run Disney movies - and they were crowded! Frozen in 3D was a hit, and we saw Saving Mr. Banks one afternoon. There was hardly and empty seat, or a dry eye at the end. The "Pirates in the Caribbean" Deck Party was loud, but that was okay, because it was spirited and fun. Fireworks at sea - yes they were great! And "Pirate" Mickey zip-lining over the ship - it was a fun night. Even the little things, like Disney music piped in throughout the ship - I was singing "Let's Go Fly a Kite" for days. The "Princess" gatherings and character greetings, they all made for great fun.
Also Spectacular - The Cabin. I booked a 1 bedroom concierge suite which was nothing short of spectacular. Our concierge Tawana was great, he was engaged, friendly and accommodating. He arranged the little things, like a hot full breakfast in our room every morning (other rooms get continental), and dining in Palo. Just a hint - concierge suites also appear to have the best seats at Lumiere's & Animator's Palate as well. The suite was amazing. The room itself was the best ocean suite I have ever stayed in. It was decorated nicely with great extra touches and the strangest thing though....a scale in the bathroom?! On a ship?! Well okay, I weighed myself every day. The suite helped make up for ....
The BAD - The food. It was terrible. The quality of the ingredients as well as the preparation itself was so subpar I could not believe it was Disney. The park & resort Disney signature dining (sit down, reservation restaurants) is of such good quality, that I could not believe the what was being served to me. Everything may have looked good on paper, but what was served was not good quality. The cuts of meat were dry and texture-less (despite being cooked medium rare) the selections were awful at lunch as they obviously want you to eat in the awful buffet, and the wine list was as good as non-existent. This was not the case on my last Magic visit. Are they catering to families? Yes, but there were many adults traveling without children. The food was also so salty one could barely get the flavors. And the buffet? The less said the better. The selections did not change once. The quality was college cafeteria. Disney costs are far above other mass-market cruise lines and I expected the service and meals to be also. The head waiter could obviously see the food was not of good quality, and he must hear it from other people used to Disney quality, because he looked at me with an "I know it's bad" expression, and suggested Palo for the last night. The concierge made the reservation and Palo was very good. But it was only on par with Britannia Class dining on Cunard which is their main dining room. Contrast this experience to the meals in the Disney Parks once we arrived there, it was night and day. The service was just okay while dining, it did not have the usual Disney flair. If you are a "Disney foodie" do NOT go on a cruise. Spend the extra money on more days at the resort. Except for the concierge, the service was lackluster on this go-around. The debarkation was easy as we did self-carry and were one of the first to leave the ship. We used Disney Cruise Line transfers, which were quite easy, and we were at Epcot having a great steak at Le Cellier by 12:30.
All in all, Disney does some things very well on its cruises, mainly the entertainment quality and the beauty of the ships themselves. But I will not return, due to the lackluster service and low quality of the dining.