Exposed: The Truth Behind The Façade On The Disney Magic
July 28, 2015
We were all rather excited when we first heard the news (being the cruise geeks we are) as it’s rare for a Disney ship to come to the UK as they normally spend their time cruising either the Mediterranean or the Caribbean so when the Mickey embossed invitations landed in our inbox’s we jumped at the chance to get on-board.
So what did we think of the ship you ask? You’re going to have to bear with us a little and read the whole review as there were many good points about the Disney Magic and we’re sure a lot of people will love her (in fact we know they do – just look at some of the reviews for her here) but we’d have to say we were a little disappointed by the experience (just a little).
It may just have been nothing more than a simple case of us not managing our expectations correctly; you see when most people think of a Disney holiday they’ll think of either the Euro, Land or World parks.
You know what we mean. Massive parades, children everywhere and a constant, non-stop, never ending stream of in your face ‘Disneyness’.
In fact we put that very question to one of the team…
What were your expectations leading up to the visit?
- I was expecting Disney Land at sea – full on, colourful with all the whacky themes, etc.
That’s not what a Disney cruise is all about though but if we’re honest it’s what we were expecting (and even hoping for).
A Disney cruise isn’t like a normal Disney holiday; it’s instead the pinnacle of Disney holidays.
You have Disney land, then Disney World and then Disney cruises. It’s their five star, luxury product. It’s the thing you book after you’ve done all the parks and are looking for something a bit different, something a bit more luxurious or elegant.
Did You Know: Disney Cruises aren’t just for families. A whole one third of their guests on any typical sailing will be traveling as an adult only couple with no children.
We guess it’s true… Some people really don’t ever outgrow the magic of Disney!
In terms of style the ship was designed to recreate the golden age of cruising, so at times can look very 1920’s ‘art deco’. For that reason the Disney elements tend to get down played a little and a bit too much focus is placed on the ‘cruise aspect’ of the holiday (in our opinion).
At times it felt a lot like a bit of a plain cruise ship with a few sneaky Disney touches added in. The Disney aspect was never ‘in your face’, which we’re sure many people will like but it left us feeling a little disappointed.
From the outside the ship looks like everything you’d expect a Disney ship to look like.
It’s bright, colourful and distinctive with a Disney character (Goofy on the Magic) hanging down to ‘paint’ on the ships name. In fact if you look closely at the colours that make up the hull of a Disney Ship you’ll notice it’s the same colours that are used to create Mickey Mouse!
Did You Know: Disney was the first line to have yellow lifeboats rather than the regulation orange. They were granted special permission by the US coastguard to keep within the colour scheme of the ship!
As soon as you step on-board though you get a really different ‘feel’ to what you might expect…
What was your first impressions of the ship?
- As you walk on it felt very much like a traditional cruise ship, nice but nothing amazing. I was expecting to walk round the corner and it to open up into a theme park but that never happened – it was just a “nice” traditional ship throughout – apart from the kids clubs! (We’ll get to those in a minute though)
- The Disney theme was more subtle than I thought it would be. The ship looked a lot like a normal ship.
In fact the first time you step on-board, if it wasn’t for the small Mickey Mouse statue in the atrium you wouldn’t know you were on a Disney ship at all.
That being said there is a rather strange ritual as guests enter…
There’s always three or four cast members (rather charmingly Disney call all their crew cast members) on either of the door and as you walk on-board and the Cruise Director will announce –
“The Disney Magic welcomes the Smith family on-board” (obviously they only say the Smith family if that’s your name otherwise it’d be a really strange tradition!) whilst the rest of the crew applaud you through the main atrium.
We can’t say we’d particularly liked it, to British sensibilities it felt a little awkward but the guests we saw all seemed to really enjoy it and its certainly memorable! There’s not many cruises you get a standing ovation on just for entering!
There were three areas of the ship that stood out for us; the kids clubs, Animators Palette and to a lesser degree the top decks/open areas. These are the areas that most felt like we expected; the areas where the ‘Disney Magic’ really shone through.
We’ll start with the kids clubs…
The stand out highlight of the ship for us had to be the kids clubs and without gushing too much they were easily the best we’ve ever seen at sea (which only makes sense on a Disney ship).
In fact when we asked the team what aspect of the ship most stood out for them they all agreed…
- “The kids clubs!”
- Definitely the kid’s clubs. Avengers academy/Andys room are so clever, you can’t see a child getting bored in there! And that’s without the characters that would normally be around
The kid’s areas are massive spaces with rooms leading off them with themes as diverse as Pirates to Andy’s Toy Room to The Avengers HQ. There’s computer terminals all around the rooms with games and activities on them as well as toys and other organised activities all over the place.
One thing Disney does well is keep kids entertained!
- This was the part of the ship that stood out most for me, in particular Andy’s Bedroom. The room and the toys were massive, making you feel the same size as one of the dolls, the room was even decorated the same as the film and children will get a chance to play with the toys for real.
As great as the kids clubs were and as well designed as they were Animators Palette perhaps best represents (at least for us) how magical a Disney cruise can be.
The entire restaurant is black and white, from the walls, to the table decorations to the chandeliers to the waiting staff… or at least that’s how it starts out.
You see the walls are actually LCD screens decorated with Disney characters and slowly throughout the evening they will get ‘coloured in’.
Every time your waiter comes out with a new course he or she will have changed their outfit slightly, swapping a black and white bow tie for a coloured one or their black and white waistcoat for a coloured one. What’s starts out as a completely black and white dining venue ends the evening in a blaze of colour and makes for a really interesting show.
Plus on sailings of seven nights or longer kids (big and small!) can try their hand at making their own animations. In between courses you’ll be given the opportunity to draw your own cartoon characters which will then be whisked off to be animated behind the scenes and turned into part of the show, dancing alongside popular Disney cartoons!
The ship operates what’s known as a rotational dining experience so there’s two other restaurants alongside Animators Palette and you’ll rotate through each during your cruise, dining in one one night and another the next with the other two dining venues being Lumiere’s (with a slight Beauty and the Beast theme) specialising in ‘continental cuisine with a French flair’ and Carioca’s (named after Donald Ducks companion in The Three Caballeros) and specialising in South American specialities.
What’s nice about rotational dining is that you get to experience all the different restaurants and as an extra touch your waiting staff will travel with you, meaning they can get to know your likes, dislikes and preferences over the course of the cruise.
The last thing that sets Disney dining apart from other cruise lines is that they’ve clearly considered children eating in the main dining rooms. When ordering dinner your kid’s food will be brought out first and will be served at a temperature that is suitable for children. A great touch we thought that more cruise lines should emulate!
And so finally we get to the top deck.
In essence this felt a lot like the top deck of most cruise ships with the addition of a giant red Disney funnel overseeing all. What had been added was several waterslides and child only splash zones although the adult only pool at the front of the ship was a nice (and perhaps much needed) addition away from the ‘action’.
So far so good you may be thinking…
It all sounds great! What exactly were the ‘bad’ points to the ship then? Well actually…. there weren’t that many and certainly nothing major!
The one (minor) issue we had was with the cabins.
You could tell that some thought had gone into these, Disney had clearly thought about the target market (families) and made some changes to the cabins.
For instance the toilet and bath/shower room had been separated out to avoid queues when a family are getting ready which was a nice touch, as was the addition of a mini-bath in each room (what young child do you know that likes showers?)
What they didn’t address however was what to do of an evening with young children.
The typical set up of a cabin as you walked in was bathroom/s, bed, kids pull out bed, balcony. All normal so far you may think.
Now imagine you’ve a young child that needs to be in bed early; even if they’re on holiday they’ll still likely be asleep by 9:00pm at the latest. The main issue you’ll face is that the divider in the room is just a curtain so once the kids are asleep in the pull out bed you either have to climb over them to get to the balcony or sit on your bed with the TV on quietly. Disney don’t tend to use the upper pullman berths used by other cruise lines which is a good thing but the layout of the cabin would be massively improved for families just by swapping the beds around. Yes you can make use of Disney’s babysitting facilities if you want but many parents aren’t happy to go down this route. All it would have taken was to have the beds swapped around but as we said… It’s a minor (if annoying) point.
One touch that we loved and thought other cruise lines should adopt was the Disney wave phones. There’s two in your cabin and they can be used (for free) to call or text any cabin phone or other wave phone on-board without the need for using your mobile at sea. It’s a great way of keeping in touch with your kids.
We’re of course aware that you can’t judge a cruise ship after just a quick visit when she’s in port, after all a lot of her ‘magic, will have been switched off; there was no characters, no shows to see etc. but our overriding impression was the ship just wasn’t Disney enough for us… but maybe that’s not a bad thing? It means there’s something for everyone perhaps?
We asked one of the team who’s a huge Disney fan what they thought…
- I’ve always been a huge Disney fan and have visited Disney World in Orlando Florida multiple times. I found the ship quite dulled down compared to that- which wasn’t a bad thing. It wasn’t overwhelming. This made me think that it would be good for both adults and children, as there were a few bars and adult zones which weren’t incredibly cheesy.
We asked another who had a young child and who’d actually been considering Disney for a while what their thoughts were of the ship as a family friendly option…
- I bought into their “child centred” angle – kid’s food coming first and eatable and shower being a mini bath were all things that struck a chord. That said the fact they used a traditional set dinning was disappointing, as a family with a three year old we would want to eat around our kids routine, not around their set dining options.
If you were new to cruising but a massive Disney fan we’re sure you and/or your children would be bowled over by the experience, delighting in both the Disney elements and the cruise ship itself.
If however you’re a regular cruiser, with experience of other family friendly cruise ships, we think you might end up being slightly let down.
The Disney Magic is basically just an older cruise ship (she was built in 1998) with some Disney touches added in. If your kids (or you) are Disney fans there’s a good chance you’ll have the holiday of a lifetime but a more regular cruiser may overlook some of the Disney touches as there’s not quite enough of them.
Lastly we asked the team if they’d consider a Disney cruise for themselves…
- To be honest I’m torn, as an option in school holidays it really is pretty good when you compare it to doing Disney in Florida (especially if you consider food, drinks, etc.) and as we are not big fans of “rides” we probably not feel like we would miss out on anything. However, compare to it to doing a week on Allure/Oasis and I think it becomes a tough question of what is more important him or us!
If you’re a Disney fan and want to learn more about the Magic why not speak to one of our Disney Cruise experts for more information?
Chloe actually worked in Disney World for just over a year, met her partner there and even got married there!
Marie is a self-confessed ‘disney-holic’ and has been to Disney World four times (with her fifth visit booked for next year) and seven times to Euro Disney!
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