This is my third cruise, and my first with Disney. Previous experience was Carnival and Royal Caribbean (RC). In short, we had the BEST TIME on Disney! It was just the 3 of us - myself, my husband and my 4 year old daughter. I had read many reviews on cruise critic about the Disney Magic - some people loved it, while others rated it only par. I really wanted to go on vacation this spring, and after looking at various options, I decided to do a cruise. But, to where and which cruise line? I decided on Disney as I got a good deal online. I booked a guarantee inside room for $700pp. I paid a $20 processing fee and also bought insurance. 30 days before the trip, Disney mailed me my tickets - I ended up with a cat-9 room on deck 2. Deck 2...I was thrilled!
We took a non-stop Southwest flight from Texas to Orlando the day before, and stayed at my sister's. Her husband kindly drove us to Port Canaveral, which was only about 45 minutes away. From the moment we got there, I felt sure that this was going to be a good trip. Disney is SO ORGANIZED. They really do a spectacular job with moving all the people. We got there about 1030am, and boarded by about 1230pm. Compared with the Galveston port I embarked on last year for my Royal Caribbean cruise (RC Voyager), Disney's Port Canaveral is a 10!
This was the first sail where they decided to skip Cozumel - which was fine by me. Instead, we went to Nassau. I had called Disney a couple of days before, so I was aware of this itinerary change before I got there.
The Disney Magic ship is small in comparison to the last ship I cruised on (RC Voyager). But, after awhile, I realized that smaller makes everything more convenient! We had a stateroom starboard midship on the 2nd level which was so convenient. 3rd and 4th decks was dining and entertainment. We had a laundry room on the port side on the 2nd level which I used 3 times. I could hike up easily to the 5th floor to the Oceaneer Club to drop off my daughter for some fun. And, every morning, I did my step exercises to the 9th floor to the beverage stand to get some soda.
The things that we really loved about the CRUISE were:
1. Non-smoking mostly everywhere - very few people smoked. Compared with RC Voyager, where smoke seemed to be everywhere! This was a HUGE deal to me.
2. Stateroom Cat 9 was a good size and lots of closet space and 1.5 baths was awesome! Having a tub to bathe my daughter in makes life for a parent so much easier.
3. Disney characters around every day! Rather than standing outside in the hot sun at Disneyworld, we were able to get lots of pics and autographs onboard - mostly on level 3. Lines were much shorter and it made for a much nicer experience.
4. Dining server (Grace from Jamaica) was so friendly and very knowledgeable. She gave us wonderful service and she really made my daughter feel special. Aleksander, the assistant server was also very gracious. And, the head waiter - Alessandro always checked up on us to ensure we were doing alright.
5. Castaway Cay was GORGEOUS and, like many people, this was our favorite port.
6. Disney's organization of EVERYTHING ONBOARD was fantastic. They make it look so easy. When it's that easy, you know a lot of thought has been put into the details.
7. Oceaneer Club was GREAT! My daughter loved going there - they take great care of the kids. We dropped her off many times, sometimes for dinner even. It was nice for me and my husband to have some time on our own.
8. I loved that Disney organized a 5K run on Castaway Cay. Yes, there were only 3 of us running that morning, but Matt from the Disney Entertainment group was wonderful as he took us around the island for the run. Later, I found a certificate slid under my stateroom door, showing i had ran it - a nice touch.
9. The production shows on Disney are fantastic for families. We always arrived about 30 minutes and were generally the first in line - and had our pick of seats. I personally preferred these shows over the old timey RC entertainment.
10. I called Disney before our vacation and asked if they had DVDs in the room. They told me to fax a request in, and I did. They then set me up with a DVD in my room at no charge. Wow, talking about service!
11. Disney offers great channels on TV. Though we spent little time in our room, when we did turn it on, it was nice to get some good variety of shows, including some live news.
12. Room service is quick - 25 minutes max - we used it once for my daughter, and were quite pleased, though we definitely prefer to go to the dining room for a decent variety.
13. Palos was WONDERFUL. Our server, Igor, was so attentive. We went only once, but we were very impressed with the food and the service.
13. Captain Tom ordered the perfect weather each and every day! From the high 80's to the low 90's...we were very happy cruisers!
14. The tendering situation in Grand Cayman is so easy. When we went there last year via RC, I sent my husband to get tickets the nite before and there was a mob of people waiting in no particular line. He hated that experience. Disney makes you go to a theater after your breakfast (with all your stuff and family) and they lead you in an orderly fashion outside to the tender boat. I got there at 730am and was off the ship by 8am - and I had much time to spare before embarking on a tour (not with Disney).
15. Debarkation at Port Canaveral is A BREEZE! I couldn't believe how easy it was. A friendly porter named Steve came up to me, asked me my stateroom, and then grabbed our luggage from the luggage area - everything is organized by luggage tag color and by stateroom making it very simple to pick up the luggage. Going thru immigration was so easy too. My experience at Galveston was horrific - it took over 2 hours to get off the ship. Disney controls their own area, and they know how to move you right on out. It took me 15 to 20 minutes from the time I left the ship til the time I was out waiting for a shuttle.
16. Disney had hand wipes and hand sanitizer stations in all dining rooms entrances. Plus, there were people there just waiting to hand you one (they're holding the container, not the wipe :-). I appreciated Disney's concern regarding the swine flu situation - I started wondering...gees..shouldn't it be like this all the time?
17. Late night and other entertainment besides the production shows was family friendly and a lot of fun. We went to Studio Sea several times. We played Who wants to be a Mouseketeer one night. One late afternoon, they did a Tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter - and my daughter was selected to have tea on stage with them, which she really enjoyed.
18. Disney ports of Key West, Nassau, and Castaway Cay are great in that there is no tendering - we never experience a line to get off the ship.
19. Free soda! I'm a big soda drinker (yeah yeah, I know it's not good for me), and I'm more than happy to go up 7 flights of stairs to get my free soda in the morning. Of course, I brought two large containers to fill up!
The things that were so so.
1. Topsiders food was very so so...but we ate mostly in the dining rooms. My 4 year old daughter was fine with it and she dined there several times.
2. There's little food choices after 9pm, besides room service, so if you're a late night eater, you're out of luck.
3. The dining room food was not as good as Royal Caribbean (RC) food. The presentation was excellent, but the flavor could have been a bit better. All in all, I'd say it was more like a 3.5 out of 5 stars in my book.
4. The Mickey pool was very crowded. We used the pool only once so it really didn't matter, but if you like to spend a lot of time at the poolside, be prepared to have wall to wall kids in the pool come mid-day.
5. Of the hundreds of disney staff members, we only encountered 2 staff members who weren't up to par. One was assisting a photographer and she was a bit green and handled something very inappropriately. The other was a waitress at Topsiders. But, all the other folks were wonderful! Two bad apples definitely didn't spoil my idea about Disney.
6. Ummm...Ok..I'm now scrambling to come up with not so good things....it's hard, cuz I loved so much about this Disney experience.
They only give me 3 port reviews, so I'm including Castaway Cay here - it was THE BEST ...we just hung out at the family beach ALL DAY. I started the morning with the 5K run that Disney organized and then met my family for the rest of the day. The BBQ lunch was fabulous. Lots of good food and all included with the price of your cruise. Sodas and ice-cream also free. The beach is very clean. Lots of lounge chairs and space for everyone. Water was cool and weather perfect. What's not to love? We want to do a double dip (Castaway Cay twice in one cruise) next time!