As our choice of Disney Cruise Line last year was such a success last summer (Western Caribbean), we booked this Mediterranean cruise onboard the last time. We are a male married couple (33 and 36) from Norway.
We arrived at Barcelona late morning the day before the cruise, and headed straight to Hotel Miramar (got it through Hotwire! Excellent choice!). I am sure the hotel has the most splendid view of Barcelona in the entire city. There were people coming up to our hotel just to check out the view. It is also fairly close to the cruise port (5-10 min cab ride). I'd rate it 8/10, mostly because they didn't follow up on some of the requests I had (I asked for a little more shower gel, never got it). Will recommend anyway! They gave us free Cava when we checked in.
Barcelona, by the way, is amazing! Consider staying there for an extra 2-3 days if this is your port of embarkation.
TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION
We did not book any Disney transport this time, as I would rather do the Magical Express coach when in Florida. Taxi was rather cheap, and the port is easy to get to and visible from the Hotel Miramar. I would not recommend walking there if you carry a lot of luggage (which, and let's be honest - if you're going on a 12-night cruise - you will).
The Disney Magic is one of the two oldest in the Disney cruise ship fleet. It was renovated summer 2013, and despite some elements they probably couldn't and wouldn't change, it was spotless. Nothing seemed worn, which is a major plus. I can unfortunately not compare it to how it was pre-refurbishment. Despite being significantly smaller than the Disney Fantasy, there still will be a lot of walking! I did wish the adult outside area was larger, but I might just have got spoiled from the Fantasy. Theming is good, perhaps a tad less than on the Fantasy? Still, it's Disney standard so you won't notice unless you are very picky, like me. Walking into ship on the first day really felt like "coming home".
Having a stateroom with "only" a large porthole window felt slightly less luxurious compared to last year’s choice with a veranda. Price was the deciding factor. Plenty of space, and the standard split bathroom, were both a plus. I did not expect the tub to look so worn! Either they didn’t change it during the 2013 renovation, or it had suffered heavy use since then. Our stateroom host and staff kept it immaculately clean at all times – I almost felt bad. A minor leak/spill in the bathroom (we guessed from a drain maybe) was fixed and cleaned promptly. I don’t think it even took 5 minutes. The only negative thing I will say was that the bathroom had a distinct unpleasant odor when we arrived. I believe the staff fixed this quickly, as it went away.
We were yet again treated to the pleasantness of the Disney Dining Rotation, and paired at table 32 with two other couples, one from the US and the other from Australia. Just like last year, we felt it was a perfect match. These were funny, sociable, and pleasant people to dine with every night. Our servers were Sana from Indonesia and Joy Vusani from South Africa. They were both poured from Disney’s finest Service Excellence bottle. Rarely have we been taken so well care of. You know that when you hug your waiter on the last day of the cruise. Joy’s catchphrases were “Certainly!” and “May I?” We are certain to request her should she still work for Disney Cruise Line next year. Our server at Palo, Mirko, had a gleam in his eye (we dined there twice), and treated us royally.
As for the restaurants: Animator’s Palate is probably the crown jewels of the fleet. I have to say I do prefer the old black-and-white style to the Fantasy AP version. Lumiere’s is a nice restaurant, but lack the incredible splendor and luxuriousness of Royal Court on the Fantasy. The theme is Beauty and the Beast, and it could easily do with some more magical effects to make it “pop!”. We were underwhelmed by Cariocas. While it is a nice restaurant, the food is just okay, and I don’t get the South American theme. It did have one of the best desserts though!
Palo, while a bit smaller than on the Fantasy, serves perfect food in a perfect setting and with flavors to die for. Everything has just the right texture, temperature, spicing, and garnish. Do not miss out on either brunch (buffet style serving) or dinner (table service).
We did also have pizza from Pinocchio’s Pizzeria (freshly made from scratch, of course), assorted wraps, cheeseburgers and fries from the outside deck area quick service restaurants. All as good as you can expect. The 24 hour included room service was swift and delightful. The drink stations on deck 9 were great, as expected.
Breakfast was normally served at Cabanas, as it was the first thing to open in the morning. Sadly we only got to try table service breakfast once during the cruise, at Lumiere’s.
Oh – and Disney! Here’s something to improve – get better croissants! We get better frozen ones from the grocery store!
We did feel like the ship had fewer activities than on the Fantasy. This was never a problem, and our Port Adventures were often from early morning until late afternoon, so all we managed to make was usually the show of the night and then dinner. After that we were almost exhausted. We did, however, find time to do some activities such as Mixology, Whiskey Tasting, Chocolate and Liquor Tasting, and Tequila and Margarita Tasting. These were somewhat less interactive than on the Fantasy – some of the drinks in Mixology were already mixed? It was confusing. Otherwise, a lot of fun.
Pro-tip: Sign up for classes the moment you get on the ship! No joke!
We also found time to try the spa. Unfortunately, the cheap spa visit option is not to be recommended. Half of the showers didn’t even work (!), and one of the saunas was so hot I couldn’t stay there more than a minute. It’s dark and gloomy compared to the Fantasy, and we will skip it next year. It is not up to Disney standards, which is odd even though it’s outsourced.
Of course you will be engulfed in the Disney Difference that only Disney can provide. Every person you encounter will greet you, smile at you, and make you feel noticed. I must say, though, after having roamed the stateroom halls a few times (Fish Extender business if you’re into the tradition), the endless greetings and “Hello sir, how are you?” tend to bend over to the tiresome side. I am sure some of them asked me two or three times in the same day. Having 10-15 people ask you how your day is… well, they need to work that out.
People everywhere will smile at you, and brighten your day at every turn. From the constant cleaning to the cruise director – they all dance around in an orchestrated and cohesive experience that is sure to melt the coldest of hearts.
A curious note: When reentering the ship with our Key to the World cards, they had our face pictures on file from last year! That’s quite impressive!
The shows are still great, just as we hoped for. Unfortunately some of the voice talents were a little lacking this time. The “All Aboard: Let the Magic Begin” was forgivably expected (“you’re on a Disney cruise!”), but “Villains Tonight!” was great fun! “Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic” was beautiful (also award winning!), but I think they should have switched the actress that played the main character with the actress that sung Circle of Life. She could have had her own show, singing the entire Lion King soundtrack, and no one would ever question why! We MISSED “Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story” (due to some of the activities mentioned earlier), and also the main show at Animator’s Palate. It kind of crushed my soul.
A musical show by Kerry Butler (who I had no previous knowledge of), a French juggler show, and random character appearances (random to me, as I don’t really look up their showtimes) spiced up the remainder of our free time.
Pirate Night is great, but mostly for the kids. I did enjoy the fireworks, naturally.
PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS
Unlike last year, every Port Adventure (shore excursion) was a good choice this time. Our least favorite must have been the Dassia Beach Package on Corfu (from what we understood, Glyphada Beach is a much better choice). The Mediterranean was surprisingly cold for swim – and I’m from Norway! Weather was 90% amazing, except for our day in Rome. We booked and did most excursions through DCL so that we wouldn’t be stuck in any port, being our first Mediterranean cruise. The only non-DCL activity we did was Crawling Through Venice’s Cicchetti Pubs through Rick Steves. Highly recommended!
There comes a time when all good things come to an end, and a Disney cruise is no exception. We had a final breakfast, this time in Lumiere’s, and brought our suitcases with us when leaving through Venice. A short cab ride (they are right next to the cruise terminal) brought us to Marco Polo, the Venice airport. All stateroom charges have been charged to our credit cards, so after filling out a short survey and tipping our servers and hosts, we could leave the ship without a care in the world.
Mind you: Disney Cruise Line does not do any marketing in Norway. Apparently, they don’t need to, as their ships are pretty much full to capacity on every itinerary. They cater mostly to Americans, meaning the ship is as good as devoid of any Scandinavians but us. It’s odd – given that DCL is an award winning cruise line company – but we’ve come to enjoy some time off from our fellow countrymen and neighbors. We booked a new cruise for next year – this time, 7 nights along the Norwegian fjords! See you all real soon!
Stateroom was spacious, and had a split bathroom as is regular Disney Cruise Line standard. Bath tub looked more worn than I had expected. Otherwise spotless and pleasant.
Syracuse Archaelogical SiteThe port was in fact Catania. A visit to Syracuse was interesting, and our guide was very charming - she even sang to us in an ancient (and enormous!) partly man-built cave. She was very knowledgeable about the local plant life. Some people complained about the walking tour, expecting more "grandeur" I suppose, but we loved it. Not everything is Rome and Paris.
Value Package - Nice & Monaco - Adult Only DepartureMonaco is incredibly fascinating being tiny, modern, archaic, clean, and "dead" at the same time. Some spectacular views, especially around the palace and at the Oceanographic museum. Big highlight! The casino and the surrounding area is great for photos, not much else. Go through the Japanese garden if you get the chance. The old streets of Villefranche is in fact well worth a stroll, too!View All 15 Monaco Walking Tour Reviews
Value Package - Nice & Monaco - Adult Only DepartureVillefranche, Nice and Monaco was a pleasant surprise. The old town of Nice was not that interesting, but it was nice to walk along the shore for a bit.View All 5 Nice Walking Tour Reviews
Florence on Your Own – Adult Only DepartureWe booked this transportation to Florence through DCL. The port was La Spezia, not Livorno. Florence is extremely busy, so we decided to walk around, see the major sights and visit the Uffizi gallery (which is sadly not well organized). PLAN what to see, and skip the rest. There is just too much to see, so get a guidebook, or an audio guide podcast. The museum audio guide is terrible, and sometimes the description did not fit the paintings. Florence is naturally very beautiful, so more than 1 day is needed.View All 24 Uffizi Museum Reviews
Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica and Colosseum (Adult Only Departure)If anything pulled down the impression of this tour, it was other tourists. There are just so many of them. The tour of the Colosseum was fantastic, it's hard to imagine this has been a living and active place for 2000 years.View All 193 Colosseum Reviews
Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica and Colosseum (Adult Only Departure)St. Peter's Basilica is beautiful inside and outside. Size, gold, vastness - hard to leave unimpressed.View All 131 St. Peter's Basilica Reviews
Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica and Colosseum (Adult Only Departure)The Vatican museum is huge, but you are just part of a big conveyor belt pushing you through it. You barely get time to take in the marvels that surround you, but it's worth to get it over with to have the "been there, done that". Once in a lifetime and so on. Probably better to go in a slower season.View All 140 Vatican Museums Reviews
Value Package: Sorrento & Pompeii – Adult Only DepartureI was surprised by the sheer magnitude of this old city! Could easily have spent 2-3 more hours to get the scope of everything that happened in an ancient Roman city like this. Make sure you walk through the tiny bordello and see the painted tiles...View All 505 Pompeii Walking Tour Reviews
Value Package: Sorrento & Pompeii – Adult Only DepartureSorrento is BEAUTIFUL, and I could easily have spent 2-3 days there just to relax and suck up the atmosphere. A charming little fairy tale city on top of a cliff, just like something out of a travel catalogue.View All 165 Sorrento Reviews
Dassia Beach PackageShould have gone to Glyfada Beach instead. The beach was rocks and pebbles. Also, I found the water surprisingly cold to be summer in Greece. I guess I thought it would be hot by June... All in all, barely worth the visit.View All 7 Dassia Beach Reviews
Dubrovnik Scenic Cruise and Old Town City Tour — Adult Only DepartureWe got on a boat straight off the ship and had a little but pretty trip to the old city of Dubrovnik. After being guided around the central street for a little while, we got time to explore on our own. We walked around the entire city wall (worth it, but very long!), and would have tried to get up to the mountain if we could have. Too many tours, so the line was enormous. You get to see a lot in a few hours, and if we had found it we would have dined at the Lady Pi Pi (it's high up close to the city wall).View All 134 City Tour Reviews