We chose this cruise as we have always wanted to go to the Fjords and with this being a special "Frozen"-themed cruise to Norway, we couldn't resist! The challenge in researching the cruise was that there was very little ... Read More
We chose this cruise as we have always wanted to go to the Fjords and with this being a special "Frozen"-themed cruise to Norway, we couldn't resist! The challenge in researching the cruise was that there was very little information about it out in the web and so mostly we went on faith and Disney's reputation. We have sailed with Disney once prior to this sailing in the Caribbean on the Dream, the larger ship. The Magic has had a major overhaul within the past 3 years... but I will discuss that later. Onto the experience itself...
The ship was mostly Brits and Americans... there were more Americans than I had anticipated and many of us had pulled our kids out of school early for the opportunity to take this cruise. We flew in a few days prior and stayed with family in the area. I highly recommend traveling in early to get rid of the jet lag. It takes us about 3 days to get our bodies in a 5 hour time change difference, so I was glad we did. On the return we took the Disney transportation back to London Heathrow airport (LHR) and it was very smooth - especially for a Sunday morning.
Check-in went smooth and we had taken advantage of pre-booking everything online, so we needed to handle little paperwork prior to boarding. The check-in area was very similar to Florida, and the procedure was the same. We were given credentials with badges and lanyards as a Silver Castaway Club member. That was a nice surprise as it was our second cruise. We boarded the ship with no issues and just needed to wait about 20 minutes before we could access our cabin. We had two adjoining cabins, starboard, with balconies on Deck 7. The connecting door was easy to unlatch and we had access between both cabins for the duration of the cruise without having to go into the hallway. On both beds were Castaway Club backpacks... a welcome surprise!
We left port late as I believe they held the ship for late arrivals and last minute cargo loading. We missed the spillway party as my daughter is 5-1/2 and we just needed to slow everything down a bit as she was bouncing off the walls in excitement. We also didn't have our baggage. For arriving at 1PM, right on time, we didn't get a single piece of luggage until almost 6PM. As we were assigned the early dinner seating, we had to just go "as is". We were very disappointed it arrived so late.
The English Channel is usually pretty rough coming out of port, but the only time I really felt it was standing up after dinner. With rotational dining, we ate in Caricoas and then moved onto Animators Palate and then Luminere's for the duration of the cruise. We also switched after the first night to the second seating as frankly, the smaller children are at that service time and it was filled with small children. We are used to a pretty quiet dining environment, so we opted to ask for our own table at the 8:30pm seating. It was the best decision for our family and we ended up with fantastic service team including Plamen from Bulgaria (our main waiter), Vincent (our assistant waiter) and Cindy (our head waiter)... they were all fantastic and went out of their way to provide us with consistent, personalized service. They as a team exceeded our expectations. A shout out to Silvio, from Italy, our Sous Chef.... can't say enough about the special cannoli's that he made us.
The cruise itself went from Dover to Stavanger to Alesund to Geiranger to Bergen and back to Dover. We were on sea days from Dover to Stavanger and Bergen to Dover. The seas were unusually calm and I was very thankful that except for the wait time sailing into the Geiranger Fjord (we couldn't access the Fjord until past 3AM due to traffic), the weather and the sailing was very smooth. We truly lucked out with the seas and weather. I have been in the Med during rough seas, and it is not fun.... I was truly thankful and it just heightened the enjoyment of the experience.
The Oceaneers Club and Lab were both great options for my daughter. The kids crew did a great job of keeping the kids entertained and having a good time. The cruise ended with a performance with the kids on the Walt Disney Stage with Mickey and Minnie singing and dancing along. My daughter received a moment t-shirt and loved the experience. The Oceaneers Club and Lab is one of the main reasons we choose Disney - it is time for my daughter to have with other kids and also for my husband and I to have some time alone together. We appreciate what a good job they do.
We took a number of excursions off of the ship and two of the three were specifically designed for the kids. In Stavanger we took the Maritime Museum tour... the main reason was that our daughter would learn about the Viking experience, but also got to build and decorate her own boat that she got to bring home.
The Alesund excursion was a "once in a lifetime" as we went to Sunnmore Village (outdoor Norwegian historical site that showcases their way of life) which included a meet and greet with Anna, Elsa and Kristoff from FROZEN. It was a bit of a mad crush, but the Disney folks did an excellent job of managing to keep themselves engaged from the first person in line all the way to the last person over an hour an a half. It had rained in the morning, but managed to stop within an hour and we had a really enjoyable time learning about the historical Norwegian way of life. My daughter was interested in the obvious... a very special meet and greet with the FROZEN characters. As we departed we were all given a special Norwegian cookie/cake and also a Disney pin in the shape of a Norwegian flag. Very special....
The Geiranger excursion was equally special, but in a very different way. We took a motor coach into the mountains and had excellent views of the major sites including the seven sisters waterfalls from a high vista lookout. From there we went deeper into the area and ended at a local farm, The Gjaera Farm, run by Martin and his wife. Disney Youth Counselors accompanied us as well and the children went off and learned about stamping with antique wooden stamps from Norway and other countries. The children each made their own pillowcase souvenir with their own stamps. The adults, on the other hand, hung out with Martin and enjoyed is fabulous hand-crafted beer, cheese and other dried meats. We had an incredible view of the fjord below... a slice of Heaven, truly. It was a great couple of hours to watch his sheep and other farm animals graze in the area and then the children came back out and showed us their crafts. They then got to feed the animals... what a perfect morning/early afternoon excursion to have taken.
In Bergen and the rest of the cities that we visited, there was always time to do a little shopping. We docked very close to the city center, if not right in the middle of it! At most, there was a 10 minute walk into Bergen, the docking was ideal. As for the shopping, there is the usual tourist souvenirs, but if you look hard enough, you were able to find some really special artisan shops with local flair. I found that Stavanger had the best clothing and Bergen the best artisans in the historic wharf area. Many of the shop owners participated in the tax refund program, so I was able to get my VAT tax (approx. 20 percent on base price) equivalent refunded to me at the airport when I departed. It is worth taking the time and the hassle at the airport to do the paperwork.
As for the Disney shows, they were pretty spectacular... even on a moving ship. We saw a new production of Tangled... about an hour and a half production on the stage. The performers were fantastic and the staging for a cruise ship was incredibly well done. This was the best one that we saw... but I know that they are all good and well worth planning to see whether before or after your dinner time.
The character meet and greets were not well run. Many of them bumped up on either side of dinner seating times and we had to leave the line after 40 minutes to go to dinner and miss one of the few Minnie/Mickey dual meet and greets, for example. We said something to the crew member running the meet and greet and was met with canned explanations that we did not receive well. We gave up after that.
Room service was run well and was efficient. I wish there were more selections including breakfast (having the option to select in the morning and not just the night before).
We did get to Palo one evening. The surcharge is $30 per person, and the experience was excellent... especially sailing out of the Geiranger Fjord. Most of all, it was a very quiet dining experience, which my husband and I appreciated. My daughter happily enjoyed dinner in the kids club. Is it worth $30 per person? I am not so sure, from a food quality standpoint... but you are also paying for the location/view and the exclusivity. The culinary teams in the rotational dining rooms do an amazing job of preparing the food and adjusting to your personal dietary needs as much as possible.
For a 7 day cruise, there were a few bumps in the road, but nothing major for me to speak of beyond what I have mentioned. I will say that the only negative was the condition of the staterooms. They have had a refurbishment, but the deck chairs were old, had tape on the tops and bottom of the feet, rust was exposed in many areas and the shower was not the greatest. Our beds in both cabins were lumpy and not comfortable... both need new mattresses. The towels and linens were fresh and clean... the towels were cleaned every day, but the bedding could have been changed out, but wasn't when we had a spill by my daughter. But that was it for the most part.
All in all, the Disney consistency shown through... we had a wonderful time in a magical place and look forward to another European adventure again soon! Read Less