Disney Cruise Line Heading Back to Europe

October 6, 2008

The plate of chilled herring gave it away. Today in New York at the trendy Aquavit restaurant, Disney Cruise Line announced that Disney Magic is heading back to Europe in 2010 for a series of Western Mediterranean cruises -- as well as the line's first-ever Baltic cruises.

From April to September 2010, Disney Magic will spend roughly five months cruising the Continent, offering a total of eight 10- and 11-night Western Mediterranean sailings out of Barcelona, and four new 12-night Northern European cruises out of Dover. Disney made its first foray into Europe last summer with a series of Western Mediterranean cruises (revisit the voyages with our virtual cruise).

Despite the Continental experience, passengers can expect the usual Disney touches onboard, such as the pirate-themed party, an animation restaurant that changes colors as they dine, and a "Toy Story" stage show. But the line is also working on creating customized excursions and onboard activities tailored to the ports being visited.

Although excursions are still in the initial planning stages, spokespersons hinted at a few possibilities. For example, with the "Grand Ball" excursion, your tiniest cruise traveler would be dressed up as a prince or princess and taken to a castle in a Scandinavian port (say, St. Petersburg) for a feast and ball.

Another interesting idea in the works (but not finalized) is a shore tour that would take youngsters to the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg to get an inside look at a Disney ship under construction (two Disney ships are being built for 2011 and 2012).

There will also be special amenities and activities onboard, such as destination-specific menus, kid-friendly "lectures" (offered the night before a port call) and folkloric performances (ancillary offerings; they won't replace "Toy Story"). But again, remember that these destination-specific touches are still in the planning stages and are not set in stone.

The itineraries details, on the other hand, have been finalized. Here's where the mouse is headed:

The four 12-night "Northern European Capitals" voyages will sail roundtrip from Dover during June and July, focusing on well-established Scandinavian stops including Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki or Tallinn (depending on sail date), and Copenhagen. The ship will also call in Warnemunde (for Berlin) and overnight in St. Petersburg. There will be four sea days sprinkled in.

The eight 10- and 11-night Western Mediterranean cruises will sail roundtrip from Barcelona, introducing several new ports for the line, including Malta, Corsica and North Africa's Tunis. The other stops are Naples, La Spezia (for Florence), Rome and Villefranche, with three sea days.

Finally, there will be four repositioning cruises, including two 14-night trans-Atlantic sailings -- one from Port Canaveral to Barcelona in April 2010 and one back to Port Canaveral in September -- as well as a seven-night Barcelona to Dover and an eight-night Dover to Barcelona.

The challenge for Disney will be to make some of these more adult-oriented ports more family-friendly. When asked about North Africa's Tunis, in particular, cruise line president Tom McAlpin said, without hesitation, "We will make them kid-friendly." He then recalled Disney Magic's summer 2007 stop in Olbia, Sardinia -- hardly a kid-friendly port -- saying the town came alive when the ship arrived, and that feedback from passengers was quite positive.

This announcement is the latest in a continuing trend of Disney expanding beyond its staple itineraries in the Caribbean/Bahamas, adding cruises to such places as the Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera and Europe, over the past two years. There has also been speculation that Disney might send Magic to Alaska, after the line applied earlier this summer for a 10-year permit to visit Glacier Bay. The Alaska itineraries remain on the table.

Bookings for the new European itineraries open on October 14.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor