We started our trip with a couple of days pre-cruise in Barcelona, staying at the Renaissance. We've stayed there before and use it for its convenience for cruise transfers, even though it is a little out of the way for the centre of Barcelona.
We'd previously cruised on the Magic on a European cruise in 2010 and were pleased to see how much the embarkation process had improved since then. We checked in pretty quickly and then waited in a hold area to board the ship. Although the wait was longer than on other cruise lines, it's worth it for the personalised greeting as you board the ship.
After a brief lunch on deck we went to our stateroom, which was extremely spacious, clean and comfortable. We had very little noise in our stateroom. Occasionally you would hear the loungers stacked on the deck above, but little beyond that and it wasn't done in anti-social hours. Our stateroom attendant, Falcon was wonderful and never ceased to thrill us with his attentiveness and caring attitude.
The ship was not at capacity this voyage due to the small number of children cruising. As a result the dining rooms were quite empty at mealtimes and it was always easy to get a lounger on sea days. Our dining servers could not have been more fantastic. Big thanks to Inyo and Kristi, as well as Luis Emmanuel our head server who really looked after us, as did the Maitre d' Wira. I have a food allergy and my husband has an illness that means he cannot eat properly and the care and attention our team took in dealing with this was second to none. As is procedure with Disney, we ordered our meals from the menu the night before and they were prepared in a separate area. On the many occasions that we were unable to eat from the menu due to our issues, a fresh and original substitute was proposed and arrived. We've never, ever, received as good dining attention.
As this was a less port-intensive cruise than usual, Disney upped the ante in terms of cruise entertainment. In addition to the usual Broadway-style shows with a Disney twist, there were plenty of guest artistes including a flamenco troupe; magician; comedians Albert and Seymour, a hypnotist and vocal group Viva Voce. There was also someone called Charro. Being European I've managed to get through 40+ years without Charro and there were part of her performance that will leave me mentally scarred for the next 40! She was good when she played the guitar though. Additionally there were plenty of rounds of trivia, games, bingo and other entertainment for all ages as well as for different ages. One of our favourite activities was learning about Disney and how to draw from talented Disney artist and historian, Stacia Martin.
In terms of retail opportunities on-board, there were fewer sales and less choice than on other, larger lines. Disney has however re-introduced its art auctions that are now run by the company and entirely feature Disney pieces. These are held as silent auctions. DH bought a couple of lovely pieces, however the time was brought forward and some people missed out on pieces that they were after. This was fine where there were no alternative bids as they could buy after the sale, but those in a competitive situation lost out.
We had a remarkably calm crossing. We've previously done the EBTA on a different cruise-line and had force 9s for a significant part of the journey. This was so wonderful in comparison. You barely knew the ship was moving. At the mid-point of the Atlantic there was a crossing ceremony by the Goofy pool. Participants had green jelly rubbed into their hair, and then had to swim a length of the pool, get out and touch the Mickey as Neptune/Triton ice statue. At the end, the cruise director Peter, who was an incredibly good sport, tipped a bowl of jelly over his head and went in, uniform whites, shoes and all. Later that day I took a photo of the sea, even the little wavelets had disappeared an all that remained was a very slight swell.
Within the ports of call we did a mix of ship's tours and DIY. In Gibraltar we went Dolphin watching (DIY) which was fantastic as we were out as the Ventura left and saw dolphins surfing the bow wave. In Madeira we went on a Disney catamaran trip along the coast and saw pilot whales. In St Maarten we went our separate ways, I went on the Under Two Flags tour and DH went on the RIB boat, we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We've been to Tortola before and went on a trip that was fun. Though with hindsight we should have gone to Virgin Gorda and seen somewhere we've not been to. Castaway Cay involved bike rental, though I've never ridden an American style bike and didn't like the fact it didn't have brakes on the handlebars. All in all the ships tours were fun and good value for money compared to other lines.
The final part of our trip was disembarkation. Immigration checks happen on board and were laborious, involving a 40-minute wait. I am hoping that this is purely down to the cruise being Transatlantic and having so many Europeans on board to clear customs. However the worst part was that some vacationers decided not to visit immigration, meaning that nobody could leave the ship. The lines were horrendous and tailed back into the restaurant where we were due to have breakfast. It was near impossible to get into and tempers were frayed. All because of a few people holding up the many. Such a shame. Finally we took the transfer to the airport, which was straightforward. The lines for car hire and taxis were considerably longer.
Overall this was a wonderful cruise and great value for money. Initially we were worried about the sea-days and having enough to do, but towards the end we looked forward to land in order to get off the ship for a rest! We would do it again in a heartbeat.