Cruise Critic's editors have visited the highly anticipated Sun Princess in the shipyard on two separate occasions to fully grasp the new ship, which debuts in early 2024. Although these visits were insightful and exciting, some areas of Princess Cruises' soon-to-be largest cruise ship weren't quite finished. One such example is Spellbound.
Spellbound will be an area on Sun Princess built in collaboration with The Magic Castle, an exclusive and highly prestigious clubhouse for magicians. Spellbound is to be a miniature likeness of The Magic Castle in Los Angeles, an old Victorian house in Hollywood that's a gathering place for members of the Academy of Magic Arts (an internationally recognized organization for learning about magic and growing interest in the art).
The best way to get a better idea of the Spellbound space and experience prior to Sun Princess' first sailing was to see The Magic Castle itself -- so I took a tour of it. My tour was led by the President of The Magic Castle, Erika Larsen. Larsen is also the daughter of Bill and Irene Larsen and niece of Milt Larsen, all three of which were The Magic Castle's founders.
Here's what we discovered about the iconic Magic Castle in Hollywood and how it will translate onboard Sun Princess -- and how it may not. (Note that we weren't permitted to take photos or videos beyond the entryway to The Magic Castle).
During our tour of The Magic Castle, it would've been easy to get lost if I were alone amongst the six bars, four theaters, winding hallways, several staircases, dining area, magicians' library, and seemingly countless rooms for close-up magic. The fake walls that opened as doors to theaters and the lack of maps certainly wouldn't have helped. Fortunately, Spellbound will not be such a labyrinth.
Spellbound will be a "miniaturized," three-roomed version of The Magic Castle: an entrance with a piano, a bar with tables for magicians to perform close-up magic and a theater for performances. While the maximum capacity for the entire space is still unknown, the theater alone can hold 20 to 40 people.
The decor did catch my eye repeatedly in The Magic Castle, which was aligned with the Victorian era -- picture plush fabrics, golden tassels, chandeliers, candelabras and infinite gaudy picture frames displaying long-gone strangers. "There's a story behind every piece," remarked Larsen on our tour. Touches of Gothic design are present as well, which is present through the dark wooden fixtures, wallpapers and dim lighting.
Spellbound, too, will have Victorian design and ambiance, brimming with plush carpets, chandeliers, magic memorabilia and so on.
Spellbound looks to celebrate the intricacies of mixology at its sole bar as the Magic Castle does at its six bars. Not only will Spellbound offer mixologist-crafted cocktails, but guests can also expect a side of magic with their delicious bevie.
While waiting for my Magical Moment cocktail (Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain liqueur, Monin Passion Fruit and Chandon Brut Rose sparkling wine) at one of the six bars at The Magic Castle, I noticed my chair making a knocking sound. After asking Larsen in pure confusion what was happening to my seat, she said with a smirk, "You're sitting in a sinking chair."
It wasn't until that very moment that I realized I was indeed sinking, and was now almost eye-level with the bar. My cocktail arrived at that very moment, which had smoke housed in a large bubble on top. The bartender instructed me to pop the bubble with a toothpick, which he handed over to me. I did as I was instructed and -- like magic -- my chair shot up to its original height and smoke rose into the air from my drink. I guess my cocktail was more aptly named than I'd realized when I ordered it.
While we can't confirm nor deny guests will have the exact same experience as I did nor the same cocktail in Spellbound, we are hopeful that similar small-scale, whimsical moments like this one will be available.
During our tour of The Magic Castle, we saw three magicians -- one of them twice -- perform close-up magic. Close-up magic is held in smaller rooms with one felt table, usually encircled with chairs for guests to enjoy "close up." These magicians mainly used cards and coins, along with other random items, like lemons and even pieces of shrimp.
The first magician, Jeff Kaylor, was easily my favorite. I'm still stumped on how he made a raw shrimp disappear and reappear as a piece of fried shrimp. Or how he had it reappear later as raw once again, but this time on a guest's shoulder. Or how he put two coins in my hand and somehow, when I opened my fist, there were three coins.
Much like The Magic Castle, Spellbound will have several small tables and chairs set up for close-up magic. While they won't have their own walled rooms, they'll be dispersed in the bar room. Guests will be able to sit down and witness (and even play a part in) close-up magic with some of the world's best magicians.
Spellbound intends on catering more towards families than The Magic Castle currently does. The Magic Castle itself has brunch for families every Sunday and sometimes hosts "Young Adult Nights" for those who are 13 years old and above. However, Spellbound will build upon that baseline for family entertainment (to what capacity, Cruise Critic was unable to get an answer).
We do know that Spellbound desires to make the experience more multigenerationally friendly, which aligns with Sun Princess' goal of providing onboard activities for multigenerational families. Spellbound's goal is simple: to encourage grandparents, their children and their grandchildren to fully enjoy magic together.
There are several details about Spellbound that remain undetermined. The entrance fee, age limit and dress code, for just some examples, are all yet to be determined.
The maximum capacity is also unknown. The Magic Castle was a labyrinth, but it was somehow packed to the gills during our visit. Between performances, guests flooded the common areas -- especially the bars -- which admittedly took me out of the entire experience. I suddenly felt like I was in any other bustling club.
Our hope is that there will be enough space for those to enter Spellbound and enjoy its special experience without feeling crowded. Spellbound will only have three different times available for reservations: 5:00, 7:00 and 9:00 in the evening. Maybe this will alleviate any crowding potential.
The formal wear in the evenings, which is strictly enforced at The Magic Castle, did ease the bout of claustrophobia. Everyone was dressed in stunning floor-length gowns, tuxedos and other elegant wear, which added an extra element of luxury to the experience and matched the decor. I personally am hoping that Spellbound will have a somewhat similar dress code to preserve this element. Witnessing some guests in flip-flops, shorts or tank-tops might take away from the experience and make it "just another space" onboard.
We were looking for more information on Spellbound during this tour, but maybe the lack thereof is to best align with the overall "mysterious" theme. However, the overall idea is that it draws in like-minded people who simply enjoy the art of magic and are looking to have a different kind of fun onboard their cruise ship, to laugh and to leave their worries at the door (or, maybe, the sliding bookcase).