Let me first say that by no means have I been a Disney hater and it pains me a bit to write this review. In fact, I have been a huge fan of the Mouse my whole life being an annual pass holder on both coasts, spending 6 of the last 10 Christmases at WDW and in general finding just about any excuse to spend my leisure time and dollars on Disney products. But the June 7 cruise from Barcelona was not only below Disney standards, it was also well below standards set by just about every other cruise line.
Here are a few of our experiences aboard the Disney Magic that should give some pause to travelers debating paying the extra 30% to travel DCL versus another line. Our biggest issue was that on the third morning of the cruise my 11 daughter was lost. The situation was my daughter went down to Lumieres to get a table for breakfast we were right behind her. The procedure when you are seated is that the host takes your room number enters it into the computer then you are seated. We arrived downstairs 5 minutes later gave our room number and told the host that our daughter had checked in. He told us that no young lady had been seated yet, and showed us to another table. Thinking she had gone to the restroom on the way we sat and waited, no daughter. We asked again and glanced around the restaurant, "no sir, we have not seen her." This was not in our daughter's character to wander off. So we began a search of the other restaurants, back to the room all over, starting to get panicked. After working with Guest Services for a bit my wife asked can you page for her. The reply from guest services was, "we don't have that capability." After 45 minutes I was back in the room getting one of the Disney intercom phones, so they could call if she was found, when my daughter, who had been seated in Lumieres in the back behind a server stand, and finished her breakfast, emerged and saw my wife at guest services. The staff had seated her, was aware that a 11 year old was dining alone, but somehow did not have the competency, intelligence or care to link the information. Furthermore, the following day we heard a page go out for a seemingly similar situation, so guest services was either incompetent or outright liars to us. Also, what about that enter the room in the computer process, they knew she was there. This caused undo stress to say the least, and cost us an hour of sightseeing on the Italian Riviera that day. I pray DCL never has a true case of a lost or abducted child onboard.
To add to that drama, when I returned to the room to get our bathing suits to take with us to the Cinque Terre, the door lock failed, for the second of what would be 5 times during the week. The result that day is we did not get to swim in the beautiful ports of the Cinque Terre. Several other guests had similar issues we learned from chatting around deck. Each time this happened you would first be told to go to guest services to get a new room card, which did not fix the issue. This was followed then by having to wait for maintenance to come and reset the door lock feature. This cost even more time that could have been used to enjoy the sights in port. After the 5th failure, and making a big enough stink, maintenance changed out the lock so the 5th failure was the last.
It also seemed that fairly heavy maintenance was occurring most nights of the cruise and between the hours of 11pm and 2 AM. On 6 of the 7 nights we were awakened by a banging noise against metal. We did see heavy spray nozzles being dragged down the side of the ship and workers continuously working around deck 4 life boats. Our traveling party was in 5 adjoining rooms on Deck 6 and all of us at one point had to call to complain about the heavy metallic thumping noises in the night. Usually after a call where we were told "no maintenance is going on right now" magically the noise would stop. During the day it was common to see maintenance workers with grinders and other equipment out on deck 4 and the noise was such that enjoying the balcony was challenging, and a nap such as was needed by our 2 and 4 year old cousins was impossible.
So those being the major issues, here's our take on the rest of the cruise and the ship.
Embarkation was relatively smooth although not quite as efficient as Other lines. We chose the 12:30 boarding time and were onboard by 1:15 or so. Bags were slow to be delivered showing up around 5.
Room steward/service was a notch below our experience with Holland America. We did not have many requests, but when we asked for clean wine glasses to be delivered every day, we were told to "call room service." Regular water glasses disappeared and never came back until I mentioned to the steward that we in fact needed glasses. A personal irritation is the note that shows up in your stateroom on night 5 warning guests that any items taken from the room will be charged to your bill. Really?
Restaurant Service: in a word fabulous. Our regular server, Sana, was amazing. He went above and beyond to make sure my wife's food allergies were addressed, always had each child's favorite snacks on the table before we arrived and in general he made every night in the dining room special. His assistant Joy was pure energy and happiness. We miss the two of them. We dined at Palo on night 6 and our server Simone was outstanding as well. The Chef also came out multiple times to talk to us about how he marinated the lobster and also to personally check on my wife's food needs.
Food overall: Palo's was excellent. The full service dinner venues were average to mostly good. Carioca's was the only evening meal where the food was memorably poor with chewy steak, equally tough lamb and overdone seafood. Breakfast at the buffet was poor even by buffet standards with the exception of the hash browns which were trashy good. Sit down breakfast when they did not lose your child at Lumieres was good and a fair bit fresher than the buffet. Burger bar near the pools was average, pizza was not bad and the highlight on deck was the self serve soft ice cream. Each day had a special flavor and I liked the pineapple coconut the best.
Entertainment: this was more hit and miss than I expected out of Disney. The dancers and singers were talented, but in fairness some of the material they had to work with was, not just cheesy but borderline stupid. The Villains Tonight show was a prime example of this, just bad. We did get to see Malificent in 3D which was great one evening. Beyond the major shows the offerings particularly for the over 10 crowd and adults is pretty poor. The after hours section of the ship is like a forgotten zone that would be so much better with a quality offering like a blues band something akin to other lines.
Pool areas: kids areas are great, nice slides and water fun areas that my daughter enjoyed. The adults pool area butts up against the smoker tables, so relaxing in the quiet area required a favorable wind or a tolerance for smoke. On our last sea day we had a lady probably mid 40s with kids and her family who decided to bath topless around the family pool. This set off the various levels of Disney employees and Officers, 5 in all, that descended to try and get a translation through to the lady about putting a top back on. I honestly thought they were going to have to call Burbank to resolve such an issue, and the frantic negotiation was pretty comical. After all we were in Europe.
Rooms: we were in a deluxe veranda room and the room was overall well appointed, and was nice when our door lock allowed us inside. The layout was intelligent and you had enough room to walk to the balcony even with the kids bed setup. The main bed was pretty close to the wall, and we all still have the bruises on our shins from running into the bedpost when trying to pass by. Our room also had a strobing light fixture above the bed which seemingly could not be fixed.
Ship: has been recently renovated and overall looks great. The kids club on 5 takes up most of the deck and is a nice space. The counselors we encountered were high energy and my daughter really enjoyed time with them.
Shore excursions: this is another area where we experienced a Disney miss. We were booked on a tour out of Villefranche and in the second group to get to the tenders. The call to go to our tender came 20 minutes after our departure time. We were in the after hours area and supposed to go down directly from there. Instead they sent us to the other end of the ship, where the tender was full so we waited longer. in short it was 1:35 minutes to get to shore. We were then compressed for time in Nice and Eze.
Pros: Nice small amenities like sodas and ice cream available on deck at no extra charge, liberal alcohol policy which allowed us to buy some nice wines in Spain France and Italy, enjoy some on our balcony and bring others to dinner with a corkage fee of course. At sea fireworks were cool, and again our servers in the restaurant were great.
Cons: Many employees we encountered were very nice, but were in no way able to really solve an issue. The standard response was always a sympathetic nod of the head and a "I am so sorry." That gets old. DCL also goes over the top in up selling everything. From the photo library to the special lotions you need after a massage it was just too much. Spa was a little small, had spa slippers that were all child size, half the lockers were jammed or locked open, and my massage therapist even after I asked for less pressure was hell bent to causing discomfort. I almost laughed when they asked if I wanted to book another massage later in the week.
Overall: We had 5 adjoining rooms overall 4 couples with 3 kids and on our last night we asked each other, "how did Disney do compared to other lines we all have been on, and would we do Disney again?" Between all of us we had been on Holland America, Carnival, Princess, RCL and Seabourn. The sentiment was that DCL would fall below all of those lines and that surprised even me. Based on our experience with the Magic that week we all were unanimous in the thought that we would not cruise DCL again. When a diverse group some with young kids, some about to be parents, two grandparents and us (parents of a tween) all feel this way, it may indicate something is not quite right on this ship and with this cruise line.