Disney Magic Entertainment
First of all, there is no casino on this ship, which we really thought would make us crazy. But there is so much to do and see that we honestly didn't miss it at all. There is, however, bingo with pretty good jackpots.
Second, those folks on Magic sure know how to throw a party. The deck parties on Magic were the most widely attended (by all age groups) of any we have ever seen, and no one quit until the lights were out. The Pirates in the Caribbean Party was the highlight of the cruise, with every cruiser wearing a red bandana and some donning Captain Hook hats, eye patches and other piratical paraphernalia. Pirates rappelled down the ship's smokestack and flew over the balconies while everyone danced and cheered and booed and danced.
Anyone who assumes that the entertainment onboard is all Mickey, all the time, would be wrong. Several production shows ("Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story," "Disney Dreams," and "Villains Tonight!") do feature the Disney characters, and they are wonderful ... bright, colorful, perfectly executed and intricately elaborate. Trivia tidbit: There are three sets of costumes onboard, and they're custom-made of the finest fabrics -- two for the performer, in case something happens to one of them, and one for the understudy. Performers use some 250 wigs and 350 pairs of shoes in a week's worth of production shows!
However, depending on sailing length, additional theatre shows might include a comedy and magic show with a special guest performer (not Mickey- or Disney character-related), as well as a "Welcome Aboard: Let the Magic Begin" revue-type show.
These events take place in the the Walt Disney Theater, which is large enough to hold half of the ships' occupants, offers fantastic lines of sight with no posts or pillars, and seems to have a two-deck-high stage. What is unseen is that the stage area actually encompasses many decks, from its mechanics underneath to the top where the people-flying wires, drop-down scenery and intricate lighting systems are hidden. It's sophisticated enough for the most comprehensive Broadway musical or Las Vegas-style review, but what the passengers see is a lovely theater with comfy stadium-style seating.
One entertainment perk is that whenever a Disney-owned movie production company has a theatrical release, Magic passengers get to see it at the same time. These are first-run movies, ranging from kid-friendly, G-rated flicks to PG-13 and even R-rated films, shown in both the Walt Disney Theater and the smaller Buena Vista Theater (depending on length of sailing). In addition, Disney Digital 3-D movies combine the cinema experience with lasers, fog, streamers and special lighting effects.
In the onboard clubs and lounges, daytime family-oriented activities include the Playhouse Disney Dance Party, bingo, Family Magic Quest (a scavenger hunt game) and several trivia games. Other activities include shuffleboard tournaments, golf chipping and putting contests, pool games, shopping talks and our personal favorite, the Mickey 200, in which you create a racecar out of vegetables. Oh, and don't forget family karaoke, music trivia "game shows," dance lessons, family cabaret and talent shows ... and all of that doesn't even touch the adults-only entertainment.
At the very front of the ship on Deck 3 is an entertainment complex called Beat Street, consisting of lounges, bars and cabarets that become adults-only after 9 p.m. Before that time, these spaces are used for various all-ages activities. Rockin' Bar D hosts family-friendly individual performers or family dance parties early in the evening. Between dinner times, a short and squeaky-clean version of the cabaret show is performed for families with younger kids. After hours, the adult version is suggestive (and really, really funny), but not a single curse word was used, and the performers never went out of bounds or crossed over into indecency. It was adult humor that was acceptable to everyone. Additional adult-themed activities at night include a Singles' Mingle, a College Club Social for passengers ages 18-25, and Match Your Mate, where you test your knowledge of your significant other (a la the Newlywed Game).
Sessions, all the way forward, is a low-key and comfortable lounge and one of the few public spots where you can engage in quiet conversation. It features a pianist from 6:30 p.m. to midnight, who is occasionally accompanied by a vocalist. Diversions, also all the way forward, is the ship's sports bar, open to families during the day for games of checkers, foosball, Sorry and assorted other board games.
Three adult programs take place during the day: the Navigating the Seas series, which allows passengers to see the inner workings of the ship via lectures and video; the Disney Behind the Scenes series, which gives fans a "backstage" perspective of the Disney experience, from food to entertainment; and the Art of Entertaining series. The latter takes place in Studio Sea, a family-friendly bar/game show space, and is set up as a cooking show, in which a chef prepares a portion of a meal -- appetizer, salad, dessert or main course. The audience can watch the action via overhead mirrors, and the chef explains what he's doing as he goes along. At the end, everyone gets a taste of the delicacy and a thimbleful of compatible wine. The event is free of charge, as are the corollary classes on napkin-folding and plate-decorating. Wine, martini and margarita tastings are also available for $15 per person.
Disney's shore excursions offer a variety of experiences, usually including a family-friendly option with activities geared toward kids and an adults-only choice. Several new shore excursions are available, thanks to Magic's variety of upcoming itineraries. For example, in typical Disney style, families can attend a garden party with Disney characters in Saint John, New Brunswick, or cruise on Theodore Tugboat in Halifax, both offered on Disney Canada sailings from New York City. The ship's eight-night sailings from New York City also include a day at Disney World in Florida. From Galveston, the Western Caribbean itinerary offers a chance to take the Nautilus Undersea Tour to see coral reefs and tropical fish from a partially submerged submarine, or you can choose from one of several tours that get you up-close with dolphins, turtles or stingrays.
Disney Magic Public Rooms
Disney put a great deal of thought into the design of its public spaces. Most are located on Decks 3, 4 and 5, and we had great appreciation for the way they seamlessly flowed from the rowdier kid-centric activities to the quiet family or adult-oriented spaces. We enjoyed pre- and post-dinner music in the Promenade Lounge, a quiet, family-friendly environment around the corner from Lumiere's. In Studio Sea (located a deck above), we participated in the game shows, exhibitions and karaoke. The Atrium is fairly small, and aside from being a great meeting point, it's rarely used, except for the Disney character autograph-signing, the Captain's cocktail party and Disney pin-trading.
There are three shops onboard Magic, two on Deck 4 (Mickey's Mates and Treasure Ketch) and one (Up Beat) on Deck 3. Mickey's Mates has Disney memorabilia and postcards, everything from oversized Mickey hands and stuffed animals to miniature souvenirs and T-shirts. Treasure Ketch has lots of logo apparel, jewelry and watches, while Up Beat has duty-free perfumes and liquor.
Note: You can bring liquor onboard Disney ships, and you may use it in your stateroom, but if you buy duty-free from their shop, it is held for you until the end of the cruise.
The Internet Cafe is located adjacent to the Promenade Lounge, with 10 computer stations for getting online. You won't, however, have access to any Microsoft applications here (like Word) or be able to connect a camera or other device to these computers. Wireless Internet access is available throughout the ship, including in staterooms. While access is fairly good, it can also be unpredictable and slow at times. Rates are the same for wired or wireless, but they vary based on the length of your cruise. For sailings of fewer than seven nights, the rates are as follows: pay-as-you-go for 75 cents/minute; 50 minutes for $27.50; 100 minutes for $40; or 250 minutes for $75. For sailings of more than seven nights, the rates are as follows: pay-as-you-go for 75 cents/minute; 100 minutes for $55; 250 minutes for $100; or 500 minutes for $150.
Wi-Fi-enabled laptops are available for a fee in the adults-only Cove Cafe on Deck 9, midship. The cafe, located adjacent to the adults-only pool, serves specialty coffees and bar drinks. This was a favorite -- another spot that was conducive to quiet pursuits and the closest thing to a library onboard the ship. Comfortable sofas and loungers, little cafe tables and chairs are scattered around the smallish room, which looks out onto the adult pool and the port side of Deck 9. Racks of books, magazines and newspapers separate the seating areas.
Check the ship map to locate the nearest self-service laundry room. Each has an ironing board and iron, washers, dryers and automated machines selling laundry detergent and dryer sheets.
Disney Magic Spa & Fitness
The three swimming pools on Disney Magic are all located on Deck 9, each with a different theme or purpose. Mickey's Pool, at the aft, is for kids only. It has a one-deck-high curly slide, is very shallow and has small toddler pools at the "ears." Goofy's Pool (and pool deck) is for families; located midship, this is where many daytime deck activities take place and is the scene of the nighttime deck parties. Kids must be toilet-trained to enter any pool. Quiet Cove, forward, is the adults-only area, and it is indeed quiet and peaceful. There are two large hot tubs at one end, a bar and coffee house at the other. It's large enough for laps early in the day when it isn't yet crowded.
Deck 10 has a basketball hoop and volleyball area, plus foosball and Ping-Pong tables. Shuffleboard courts are on the promenade, Deck 4. Both Deck 4 and Deck 10 have full-circuit walking/jogging tracks, but the lower deck is shaded and less crowded. A small but well-equipped fitness center is located on Deck 9, adjacent to the Vista Spa; classes in Pilates and yoga are available for a small charge.
Hint: Looking for a really quiet place to rest and relax in the sun, or to stargaze in peace? All the way aft on Deck 7 is a small, little-known deck area overlooking the stern's wake. There are chaises and a couple of tables, but no bar or food service; this quiet space is accessed through an unmarked wooden door, opens at 7 a.m. and is locked again at 11 p.m.
At first glance, the adults-only Vista Spa looks like any other Steiner of London-run operation, but there are hidden delights. A room just off the spa lobby, called The Rainforest Room, has neither rain nor a forest, nor is it particularly tropical. Decorated in Tuscan-inspired tiles, with a fountain in the middle, it's a coed steam room/sauna/aromatherapy environment, with heated ceramic tile chaises and scented showers. It costs $15 per day to use it, or you can purchase a cruise-long pass for $50. If you have a treatment at the spa, you can use the room at any time during that day at no additional charge.
Spa treatments range from the usual (Swedish massage, aromatherapy facials) to the unusual. Rasul, or "Mud Room," is a treatment room with sundry types of mud body masks, scrubbing salts and scented oils, used on an hourly basis with no therapist involved. Though designed for three people, it's usually only occupied by two. It's a chamber with two rooms -- one for steam after applying the mud and the other for showering the mud off. The cost for the Rasul is $89; other treatments include the $118 Swedish massage and a $115 facial, or you can spend several hundred dollars for a day of pampering. The Personal Navigator will indicate which specials are offered; port days usually have the best deals.
It might be unusual to mention a cruise line's private island retreat in a ship review, but Disney's Castaway Cay in the Bahamas is actually an extension of the shipboard experience. (Each of the Caribbean and Bahamas cruises has a full day at Castaway Cay.) This beautifully groomed island's amazingly organized "day of leisure" offers a variety of recreational opportunities for families and adults. There is no charge to use the chaises, chairs and hammocks along the beach; tube, floatie and snorkeling equipment rentals are reasonably priced. Highlights for kids are two fantastic water-play areas: Pelican Plunge, a platform with waterslides that spit you out into the sea, and Spring-a-Leak, an area with sprayers and soakers, great for cooling off. Teens have their own private activity area on the beach.
Castaway Cay has an adults-only section with oceanfront massage cabanas, and the Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab age groups have their own excursions, as do the teens. You can rent bicycles, go for a nature walk or take advantage of motorized water sports offerings like Jet Skis, parasailing and banana boat rides offered by a concessionaire. Visitors will also find music, dancing, a barbecue lunch and family games throughout the day.