We drove to Port Canaveral from Texas. We took our time (2 full days) in case we ran into any car trouble. Stayed the night before at the Marriott in Cocoa Beach which turned out great because they let us leave our car there for the week, in a very shaded lot for FREE and parking at the port would've been about $105.00 at the time. The Hotel also gave us a shuttle to the dock at no charge.
When we arrived at the dock check in was a breeze, I wasn't sure what to expect since I had never cruised before. But we went into the large lobby, got up to the counter fairly quickly where I decided to ask if they had any balcony rooms available (I'm a bit impulsive for the finer things), since we had originally booked an inside room to save money. They had one left and we upgraded for $1400.00 to a forward balcony room on deck 8. We were just a few doors behind the bridge. I'm so glad we upgraded. It is wonderful to have a balcony to go out on anytime you're in the room. To look out over that fabulous sapphire blue water is a memory I will never forget. I had never seen the blue of the ocean like that. It's expanse and it's beauty is amazing.
The thing that sets Disney apart after cruising two other lines is their service. They call out your name as you come on ship. I know it sounds corny, but my husband still remembers that. There service is so good that we actually felt like we were coming home each time we returned to the ship. The breakfast and lunch were still the best I've had on any ship. The thing that I founds sets Disney apart from Carnival are these:
The class of people are a bit more professional, probably due to the price difference.
The food at breakfast and lunch are much better quality, and the food on Disney is made and ready to pick up. On Carnival you have to ask them to make the sandwich, or cook a slice of pizza etc... Carnival has all the food ready and cut up so that you can have many tastes of each type.
The Service on Disney is superb. They are so nice and willing and wanting to help. My first time on a Carnival cruise the deck staff were loath to help you. They must not be paid or trained as well, and they are overworked...I assume.
The ship is very classic even though it's a Disney boat it's not all kiddy-fide, It's very nice, elegant even, and there were lots of adults without kids.
The kids program is the best no matter what the reviews of Carnival say. Disney rocks it and they give you pagers.
Our first port of call was St. Croix. We had booked through the cruise lines for all excursions since this was our first cruise. We got on a small bus and headed across the island to a beach for snorkeling. We snorkeled for a few hours then then headed back to the port. There was some confusion with the driver as to if he was taking us back and weather he was the right driver, but this was the first time St. Croix had cruise traffic for a few years. We got back fine and several told Disney about the problems, the credited everyone $25.00 per person for the trouble. I thought that was more than fair. When we got back to the port we shopped and I bought some caribbean hook bracelets and other items. We took pictures of all the architecture and the forts, then we took our 5 year old son to a park within walking distance. He played with kids he met there. We were taking our time getting back to the boat since it was so close. Then we realized my husbands watch had stopped in the water and then restarted. It was about 20 minutes off. Opps! We were running down the dock and were the last ones on the boat! Everyone was yelling from the upper decks..."run Forest run!" They knew exactly who we were when we got back on the boat. It was a bit embarrassing that we almost missed getting back on the boat on our first cruise and first port. tip... take two forms of time keeping equipment.
Our second port of call was St. Thomas. Beautiful island. That's what I love about cruising, you wake up everyday to a new wonderland and new scenery off your balcony. St. Thomas is big and mountainous. The shopping in Charlotte Amalie is extensive. We took a cab across the island to Coki Beach and visited the Aquarium there and did a semi sub ride all right on the same peninsula. It was all great, great snorkeling, I saw lots of fish and urchins. It's a small beach but very nice. I can't wait to visit again.
Our third port of call was Disney's private island, Cast A Way Caye. I thought this would be lame but it was so excellent. You have your own private dock, no tendering. You walk onto a private island that has a bit of a outer shelf in the water that makes the beach calm. It is beautifully landscaped and there is a large family beach, a teen beach and a private adult only beach. There are plenty of lounge chairs
and etc. There is a cove where you can get in the water with sting rays, and even a little shopping. They had a huge pavilion with multiple lines of food going with BBQ, Hamburgers, Hotdogs and lots of fresh fruit and other items that I can't now remember. The people who work on the boat come off to work in the food court as well. We rode bikes and had a wonderful day snorkeling and swimming. It was awesome and I'd love to go back.
The shows on Disney were all very good. I've read reviews of other ships and had some trouble with shows being crowded, or having to get there so early or getting into shows at all on Carnival, but on Disney there are usually always two shows so you always get a chance to see them, early or late. We never really had a problem getting to shows. The room was nice and fairly well equipped. Plenty of storage and our son could sleep on the pull out sofa and that was nice not to have to drop the bed from the ceiling. The small dresser had some wear on it, but other than that the room was very nice. I love the split bathroom on Disney with a real tub/shower (good for little ones) and sink, then another sink and toilet next door. That came in handy. The beds on all boats I've been on are thin and hard as rocks, so I've yet to find a good bed. But somehow the gentle rocking helps me to sleep well despite the rock hard beds. The beds seemed clean and no smells.
One of the best things we experienced on Disney was the wait staff in the evenings. Our waiter Plamen from Bulgaria and Marcos from Chile were very good. Especially Plamen. He was the hardest worker I have ever seen. He had one very large table and our small table of three. But he was running the whole time, but what was so great was if you asked for one appetizer, he brought me three. The first night I said no dessert (can you imagine? what an idiot) but he brought me one, the next night three. He would always bring me more than I asked for just so I could taste. He was so good to our son, cutting his food and doing tricks for him every night. He was such a compassionate and truly caring person. We became very close to him during the cruise and we still chat about once a year to this day. I have never had a waiter come close to the one we had on Disney. Another wonderful memory that I will never forget. People, tip your staff well if they are good. These people work 7 days a week. They definitely earn it.
The other great thing about Disney is they don't solicit you for pictures like on other ships. They don't have too, kids and adults alike line up to have their picture taken with Chip and Dale, or in my case Snow White. Even adults who see these fantastically realistic characters turn into kids again.
The Magic being a smaller boat (83,000 tons) compared to todays large boats (125,000 tons and up) It doesn't feel small, but you definitely didn't have a problem with crowds. Also, we always cruise off-season, so that helps a great deal in both price and crowds. I don't think you'd catch me on a Carnival ship on Spring Break!
Overall, 3 cruises later, Disney is still number one.