First off I want to start off by saying that I have never written a review for a cruise before, however I have enjoyed reading others reviews. The only reason why I am writing this review is because I was very saddened by how unjustly The Magic was criticized by BambiRumsey. I could not disagree more. I have sailed with Disney twice and feel that it is the best thing Disney ever created.
Our first trip on Disney was a family vacation on The Disney Wonder in February, where we did the land and sea package. We so enjoyed that trip that we immediately wanted to go back, this time on a longer cruise. So four months later I was once again sailing on Disney, this time with only myself (I am 23), mother (she is 47), my 6-year-old nephew and my 13-year-old cousin. And we had the time of our lives! In fact all four of us have read this review (well my nephew I read it to) and we all completely disagree. Especially my mother and in fact she did not even want to go on her first cruise because she was so sure she would hate it, we had to practically drag her kicking and screaming. And she turned out to love it most of all, from the ice cream, to the new friends, the shows, the shopping and most importantly all the good looking men in the white suits. She had and amazing time and she is now a HUGE fan of the Disney Cruise line. She would go every month if she could.
Embarkation -- After 9/11 I was a little leery of embarkation. I imagined long lines, lots of security and a bunch of screaming children. Thankfully that was not what happened. We bought transfers (I highly recommend this) so when we arrived at our home airport we placed our special Disney color-coded tags on our baggage (we re-enforced our's with clear packing tape so that they didn't come loose during the flight) and did not see them again until they arrived at our cabin around 1 p.m. When we got off the plane in Orlando there was no missing our ride. There were plenty of Disney reps there in sailor suits waving big Mickey hands! I'm not sure who got the bigger kick out of that, the kids or me. We were then shown to the nicest bus that I ever seen where we enjoyed old time Disney cartoons and an informational video about the cruise. The driver pointing out dolphins that were jumping in the water topped off the drive and before I knew it we were at the port. I certainly did not expect such a beautiful port! I will not describe any of the artistic details of the port or the ship as that should be a treat for you to discover, however I will say that it is amazing.
Check-in was a breeze. I checked out the HUGE replica of the ship, which my nephew loved, and took pictures of the kids with Goofy with my own camera (and yes Goofy was just as much fun with us as with the people paying for pictures). Before we were done with the pictures my mother was back with our Key to the World cards and off we went through the giant ears and onto the ship and the beginning of the best vacation we ever had.
Public rooms -- As I have already stated, I will not describe any of the artistic details as it will take too long, however I found all public areas to be amazing. I felt right at home (or rather what I wish home was like). The kids spent much of their time with their clubs or up on the pool deck (which I also enjoyed), I loved reading on the cushioned lounge chairs of the fourth deck. It is a great spot to escape the sun but still have the sea air as well as the view. Another place I really enjoyed was the huge port hole seats. We got awesome pictures of us all sitting there. My mother, who happens to be very social, really enjoyed walking through out the ship meeting new friends. I also have to say that my mother is the most critical out of our group (sorry Mom). If there was anything wrong with the ship she would have found it (and complained about it to anyone who would listen) but she had nothing but good things to say about it.
The Cabins -- being a thrifty person I always book an inside standard cabin, knowing that Disney does free upgrades as the ship fills up, which was the case on both of our sailings. On this sailing we were upgrade to a deluxe ocean view with a nice porthole. My mother was nervous that it was on the 1st floor instead of the 7th as was the case on our last sailing. However, she quickly got over this. We loved our quiet room. There is less noise as there are fewer people down there, which was great when I was trying to get my nephew to go to bed when he'd rather be out "partying." Also, there is less movement from the ship which helps with sea sickness, which non of us had. The best part about being down there was our room stewards Fernando and Pedro who were the hotel managers for the 1st and 2nd floors (I think that was the title). They came and introduced themselves as soon as we got to our cabin and let us know right away if there was anything we needed just ask. And they lived up to it -- we had the best service ever. So much so that I looked on our door to see if there was some kind of alarm that let them know when we were coming and going. If we left the room for so much as twenty minutes when we came back it was spotless. And we loved that the bed was always turned down in a different way with chocolates on the pillows and towel animals. We took a picture each night to add to our album. It seemed like whenever we returned to the room Fernando was there with a wave and opened the door for us and let me tell you that may not seem like anything but when you are trying to keep track of a 6 year-old and carry both his as well as your own things it was a real treat not to have to dig in my purse for my key card.
The cabins were much more roomy then I expected for a ship and I loved the lay out. Disney really gets the most out of the small spaces. Trust me, sharing a cabin with two other women, the spilt bathroom was best feature of the room. Contrary to what has been said in other reviews both bathrooms are very roomy. I am a big girl and always had enough room. It is also great for traveling with children. I was able to take a shower every day without once having my nephew bang on the door because he had to go potty. Disney has our devotion for that feature alone!
The Ports -- For us the fun at sea is what we wanted however Castaway Cay is not to be missed!!!! There is nothing like it. You truly have to experience that. Sitting under a palm tree (my mother's favorite), ordering frozen drinks and floating around the ocean on a raft (without the threat of sharks thanks to the smart people at Disney) is my idea of paradise. My cousin loved the playground they have built in the middle of the ocean and my nephew is still talking about how a stingray swam right under his raft. ***Special note*** DO NOT MISS OUT ON COOKIES BBQ!!
Our next favorite port was St. Thomas. This was the only port that we choose to take an excursion. Usually we check the island out ourselves, however I now believe that the reason we like St. Thomas so much was because of the excursion. We took the Coral World and Island tour. We had a fun tour in a funky tour bus of the island and were able to take beautiful pictures. Then we went to an amusement park built into a coral reef, it is like scuba diving w/o getting wet. There were also things to do on land such as feed sharks, another great photo op.
In St. Maarten we were able to do some shopping, pager in hand, while the kids stayed on the boat having the times of their lives with their clubs. Some friends we met took the submarine tour and had a great time. I could not, I am claustrophobic.
Dining: This was the best part of the cruise (unless you are looking at my scale then it is the worst). The food was awesome. We ate in the dining room every night and grazed all day in the multiple eateries, and the entertainment, especially in Antimatters Palate was AWESOME. However the best part by far were our waiter Elvin and our assistant waiter Leandro. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met and went out of their way to make us happy. My mother is a very picky eater. She never eats much, however I told Elvin on the first night that her favorites were shrimp and vegetables and every night he always had them ready for her. She never had to order off a menu! Leandro holds the honor of being the only person to ever get her drink order right, she likes her cup full of and where there is room left filled with ice tea, no sugar no lemon. Every night it was waiting for her and as soon as it was finished there was a new glass waiting. The reason they hold a place in my heart is the way they treated my nephew. Zack is still talking about Elvin. He was so cute with him! Zack liked a girl at the next table and throughout the week Elvin played "matchmaker" so much so that by the end of the week she was Zack's "girlfriend" and they exchanged numbers and e-mail addresses. It was so cute the whole dining room was teasing the kids about their "romance." My cousin had a big crush on Leandro who always called her a princess and even danced with her one night, it was really cute. A lot of the waiters danced with the kids.
Another person I have to mention is Anna. She wasn't our waitress, but she still made a special stop at our table every night and said hi and gave us a hug every time she saw us around the ship. She is one of my favorite friends on the cruise and she told us a lot of interesting information about life working on the ship and her family in Brazil.
The Children's Program -- With out a doubt this is Disney's shining star. I had not planned on allowing Zack to join. The purpose of this cruise was for me to spend time with him, not leave him with a babysitter. Also I was uncomfortable leaving him with strangers, besides school he has only been in the care of family and I didn't know if his parents would like me leaving him with people they did not know. On the first day we took the tour and met Mia, one of the counselors. She quickly changed our mind. The program is very secure with many safety procedures to make sure the kids do not leave with out their guardian. They wear the identifying bracelet, they have a passcode and only the key that signs them in can sign them out. Add that with the beeper we were given in case he wanted to leave and we felt very comfortable leaving him there. He was in that club from open to close, Goofy even put him to bed when he stayed late to watch a movie. They did so many things I can't name them all. Some of his highlights were making Flubber and learning to be a pirate with Capt. Hook. The kids were also given gifts such as pictures of them with the characters (which they also made frames for), and Disney T-shirts and hats.
They were also very kind to my cousin, who is slightly autistic and did not feel comfortable in the club for her age (teens). They allowed her to be in the 10-12 age group and she LOVED it! She was in her club as much as Zack was in his. She had a counselor named Monica who she clung to for the whole week. We are very grateful for Monica she really made her week.
At the end of the week the children put on the "We Discovered The Magic" show which is not to be missed, it is the best show of the week! It had me in tears. It really makes you want to stay another week.
Entertainment -- Like the Disney parks, there is way too much going on to do it all, although I tried. Some of the highlights are all the shows (how do they do all that on a ship?), BINGO, the golf putt putt, Who Wants To Be A Mousecateer and the art of entertaining. Our favorite was the tea with Wendy Darling. Zack was picked to be one of her brothers, which my mother loved. We commend Disney for being smart enough to know that children would rather be served chocolate chip cookies and ice tea rather than cucumber sandwiches and hot tea (I've never met a child who would eat that).
Dislikes (very few) -- The price was very high compared to other ships. The photographers on formal night were in a big hurry, they did not do a good job and seemed put out when you asked for more then one pose (this could be b/c there were long lines, other times they seemed nice enough). We didn't know there were assigned days for the character breakfast, we missed ours and they would not allow us to attend another one.
Overall -- I believe that it is the best vacation ever, although very expensive. I will be a Disney cruiser for life. However, on our family vacation for 2005 we are trying out a Royal Caribbean ship. We were able to book grand suites for a lower price then of a category 10 on the Magic (although well worth the money). Is it a good bargain? Stay tuned! If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me. I Love talking about my trips :-)