This was our third Disney cruise, the second time on the Magic. The Magic and the Wonder are sister ships, nearly 20 years old. The Fantasy and the Dream are larger, more modern in every way, and only 5 years old. After cruising on the newer Fantasy, and now back again on the older Magic, the positive factors of the newer Fantasy/Dream just scream at me - the whole time this cruise on the older Magic, I was mentally comparing/contrasting the older to the newer ships, and the older come up far short, sadly. The staff is doing a great job trying to keep the ship spiffed up, but it’s like putting lipstick on a pig, frankly. On our balcony, there were so many paint chips that had chipped off, collecting on the balcony floor, it was unsightly and only brought attention to the rust - you could see the rust at the base of the balcony walls and how the staff valiantly paints over it to hide it, but the paint just flakes off - of course it does, it’s physics. And the flow of the ship, meaning the poor configuration of the public hallways and the very tight buffet, to name a few issues…….the most glaring and dangerous issue is Deck 3, the area in front of the Promenade Lounge. As a passenger, if you want to traverse the length of the ship on Deck 3, which is something you’re going to do every single day as the Atrium is on one side of the ship and if you want to go to Carioca’s for a meal, or anything on that side of the ship, you have to pass through the choke hold passage at the Promenade Lounge. This passage is roughly 6 feet wide - so, picture two way traffic, traffic that includes strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, whole families - and add to that, tables and chairs all along the porthole windows which is part of the passageway - MAYBE, if they’d at least take out the tables and chairs, the passage wouldn’t be as dangerous. Deck 4 is also very dangerous, in this exact section but a deck above. Shutters, the photo shop, has a doorway opening that goodness help you if you’re looking down at the photos you just purchased, as you’ll walk straight into a staircase and plummet down - literally the entire doorway opening spills directly into this staircase. You have to walk out of the doorway and walk immediately to the left to avoid tumbling down the stairs.
So, in this same vein, let me try to get across the horror that was disembarkation - but nothing I can write can possibly portray how bad, and how very dangerous, it was - this is not hyperbole. You exited the ship Deck 3 Midship - remember that - never ever take the aft elevator on disembarkation day. ALWAYS take the midship elevator and skip the line spilling from the Deck 3 aft elevators filled with literally hundreds of people who are simply standing still as they cannot move due to the number of people. It took us 30 min to traverse a distance that would on a “normal” day, take 2 minutes - and it “only” took 30 min because we cheated the line twice in sheer desperation so as not to miss our transportation. We left our cabin at 8am, took the aft elevators to Deck 3 and could barely get out of the elevator, as the entire area was JAMMED with people waiting to get off the ship - can we say claustrophobia? Can we say NO ORGANIZATION, NO CREW around, anywhere, to help or direct?? It was chaos. People were having to group on the stairs, going up and down, just to get out of the way so that people could exit the elevators - the hall was jammed, no one could move as there was no flow, yet the elevators kept spilling out people, so people had to congregate on the stairs. These are full families, young kids SCREAMING, strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, luggage, baggage of all kinds as remember, this is disembarkation - when you get off the ship for the very last time. Everyone has to cram through the Deck 3 bottleneck at the Promenade Lounge that I just described to you in the above paragraph!
And no one had bothered to at the very least, remove the chairs and tables which further clutter the chokehold passage at this point! So everyone is emptying the aft elevators with their children and belongings, clogging the area at the elevators because the Promenade Lounge chokehold passage is clogged as the line to get off the ship is so long as every single person is exiting the ship. COMPOUNDED by the bizarre fact that the restaurant located on Deck 3 aft, is open for breakfast!! HOW INANE!! Open Animator’s Palate on Deck 4 for breakfast, as that is out of the way! SO, you’ve got the clog from everyone getting off but there are also lots of people that are flowing against the crowd, to get into the restaurant, OH GOODNESS, it was chaos. And as I said, no staff anywhere in site to help direct, to separate those trying to get off from those that were going to breakfast. Let me say this - without a shadow of doubt in my mind, regarding the mob of unmoving people at the elevator - if a fire had broken out, we would have all perished. I am not exaggerating one iota. A fire hazard like none I’ve ever encountered. To end what was a very pleasant cruise in many respects, this way, well, it left a very sour taste in many mouths.
Let’s return to the topic of how this ship is nearly 20 years old…….the first two days of our voyage were extremely rough sea wise - the Captain had to skirt two storms, a nor’easter in the north and Hurricane Philip which was shooting up from the south - lots of people were seasick, things were crashing about in the buffet, in the Anna and Elsa photo opportunity in Animator’s Palate, the very heavy table number paint brush holders were falling down - all sorts of things were being tossed about, including people, all over the ship for nearly two full days. And that’s ok, can’t be avoided, and it could have been worse had not the Captain done such a great job. But, so here’s my story - on the second night of super rough seas, we returned from dinner, and an access panel above our bed had come open so that it was hanging open over our bed. I called Guest Relations and a maintenance person was there in 5 minutes and took care of it - he had to replace a screw that was there clearly from it happening before, as the original single lock must have given way before, such that a screw had to be put in to hold the panel tightly shut. With the panel opened, we got to see a bit of that pig that I’d mentioned, you know, putting lipstick on a pig? The inside of the panel had wires and some sort of junction box which is part of the workings of things, but it was also filled with lots of dirt and more disturbingly, sometime in the past, someone had stuffed a bath towel into this panel to most likely, as we don’t know precisely why, quiet rattling wires, as there were a lot of wires inside. So the towel was clearly a bandaid fix to a prior problem, that had never been fixed - otherwise the towel wouldn’t have still been there. I wonder about the safety here - wires, a junction box of some sort, and a towel shoved up all around that, and had been there for who knows how long………another thing that came loose in our cabin was the bed that is pushed up into the wall - not the bunk bed in the ceiling, but the bed in the wall. The screw holding that in place came loose and the bed would have come hurtling down EXCEPT, thank goodness or else I would have been bashed in the head!!!, we had the two cabin chairs against that wall, which was the bed in the wall - so the bed came down on the tops of the chairs. Oh, what if I’d been sitting in one of the chairs? So, ya, another issue that speaks to the age of the ship - ships encounter high seas, that’s normal - but over the years, the screws that hold things in place, like our ceiling panel and the bed in the wall, come loose and dangerous situations can occur.
Another issue speaking to the age of the ship - in our cabin, there was a structural support pole in the middle of the traffic flow - in the middle of the night in the dark, you would walk right into it! To help that not happen, staff had placed glow-in-the-dark strips on it, so at night, the pole glowed. This fix works, you do see the pole in the dark, but this kind of design would never happen in the newer ships.
The entertainment on Disney ships is truly Broadway caliber - not just Broadway style, no, it’s Broadway caliber. If you didn’t know you were on a ship, you’d think you were at the New Amsterdam Theater! The production quality, the sets, the costumes, the talent, the special effects! And the guest entertainers are outstanding! Plus, there are pop-up entertainment venues, if you will - such as on this cruise, with TANGLED being one of the main shows, an offshoot was that the Thugs from Tangled “took over” O’Gills, making it the Snuggly Duckling tavern from the movie, oh the fun, it was super clever - especially the adult version of the takeover in the evening, once O’Gills became “adults only”. All of the Halloween activities were terrific - the Pumpkin Tree, the “Caretaker” who told fun stories, trick-or-treating, beautiful decorations, all very well done and lots of fun.
And what is wonderful, is that there is a cruise within a cruise, as there is a cruise director just for the adults, and a whole section of the ship where only adults are allowed, including a beautiful outdoor pool, the outdoor bar Signals, an adults only coffee shop, Cove, where every morning we ordered the most delicious pumpkin spice lattes (as good as Starbucks!), adult shows in the adults only theater at night - and the list goes on! What was very disappointing is that the stunningly beautiful adult bar, Keys, does not open at night until 6pm. This is poor timing, in regards to the first theater time of 6:15pm - every night, at 5pm, we wanted to go to a bar, timed before the 6:15 show - we didn’t want to go to the super casual O’Gills nor did we want to go to the Promenade Lounge which is nothing more than a waystation in that horrible bottleneck hallway. We do love the outdoor Signals, but the weather did not often comply with sitting outdoors on this cruise. Keys should open at 5pm. Without the slightest doubt in my mind. That was a big disappointment for us this cruise.
Marvel Day at Sea was excellent - Marvel themed activities, speakers, all day and well into the night. There were Marvel character photo shoots for which you needed a ticket, as well as characters that were roaming decks 3,4 and 5 - Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Gamora and Star-Lord being some of them. When you stopped and talked to them, they asked if we’d seen any suspicious activity on the ship, things like that, so that we knew that they were protecting us, as all super heroes are supposed to do - so fun! The food all throughout the ship, was Marvel themed, the staff all had Marvel accents to their uniforms, and on and on - suffice it to say, they did one heck of a job, in getting the Marvel theme across every venue and aspect. The Marvel nighttime show on Decks 9 & 10 outside was excellent - all of the Marvel characters were on stage, and the action was interwoven with pre-recorded footage of the bad guys taking over the ship, filmed some other time when there were no passengers around, along with perfectly timed fireworks and pyrotechnic special effects - it was thrilling, very well done!
Due to the high seas the first two days of the cruise, several activities and shows had to be rescheduled but all in all, no one missed out on anything. Safety first, and crew made sure everyone was ultimately happy. One thing that was missed were the fireworks for Pirate Night at Sea - in order to set off the fireworks display, the ship has to stop, but, because we lost quite a bit of time in the two storms, with the Captain having to divert this way and that, he couldn’t take any time off our already delayed path to stop for the fireworks. The outside show still went on, but without the fireworks. And as a note, Castaway Cay was our first port of call, and we ended up only being one hour delayed to arrive due to favorable currents that the Captain caught, that and not stopping for fireworks on Pirate Night. This did effect the popular 5K Castaway Cay run, which was sadly not run on the island, but rather on the outside running deck on the ship.
In addition to lots of on board entertainment as I’ve mentioned, there are many character interaction opportunities, movies in the theaters (Walt Disney Theater and the Buena Vista Theater), incredible Disney programming on your cabin TV, trivia games, crafts, animation classes, enrichment talks - loved the talks, such as the one about the Disney Studios Innovations - I even took notes! We were two adults, no young kids, but the child only programming is simply beyond compare. There are really too many activities to comment upon. And don’t forget the gym and spa - fully equipped with many classes, free as well as ones that have a fee such as the boot camp classes. The spa is beautiful, we toured, but this cruise didn’t take advantage of it - too many other things to do, which is saying a lot, considering there were 4 sea days on this one week cruise! The crew did a great job filling those 4 days with an abundance of things to do.
There were only two ports of call, Castaway Cay and Port Canaveral. In Port Canaveral, 98% of the passengers took advantage of the 'included with the cruise’ Park Hopper ticket to Disney World. The ship was in port from 7am - 1am the next early morning! We got the 7:30am bus to Magic Kingdom. All transportation is included in the ticket, as well as 3 Fast Passes - golden Fast Passes as I called them as there was NO restriction on the Fast Pass use - it was exhilarating to walk up to the 3 major rides in EPCOT - Soarin, Test Track and Frozen, scan my ticket provided by the ship, and walk into these rides at the time I wanted - didn’t have to decide in advance, nope, just go when the spirit moved you! As a Disney World veteran, these 3 cruise ‘golden' Fast Passes were super cool, made us feel like VIPs! EPCOT Food and Wine Festival was going on, so we spent the vast majority of our day there, lovely! Buses from the parks were running continuously back to the ship and there were perfectly placed signs directing you - very very smooth process, excellent day!
So how do I balance the horror and legitimate risks of disembarkation, the solid reasons why this ship is so old and dangerously configured that it should be sold to one of those offshore casino companies, or scrapped, against a crew that does one heck of a job providing the passengers with a solid experience? Hmmmm, well, we are sailing on the Wonder in February, as it fit our schedule, but honestly, after that, for a Disney cruise, I will only sail on the Fantasy or the Dream (famous last words?? to be continued!)