It seems like just yesterday that we were in the early stages of planning a Disney cruise, and yet… Here we are in March, having returned from the Western Caribbean over a week ago. Given that it’s still relatively fresh in my mind, I thought I’d put pen to paper (so to speak) and hammer out a review of our trip. With all that transpired, I hope I don’t leave out anything major…
Our Disney Cruise Itinerary
Day 1: Departure
Day 2: Key West
Day 3: At sea
Day 4: Grand Cayman
Day 5: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 6: At sea
Day 7: Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas)
Accomodations Aboard the Disney Magic
We had a pair of adjoining, interior rooms on Deck 2, Midship. While we didn’t have exterior windows, this was a blessing in disguise as we were able to regulate the boys sleep patterns a bit by keeping them up a bit later than normal and then letting them sleep in longer than they’d normally be able to if the sun was peaking in. Our cabin steward was great, and we were greeted every night with turn down service complete towel creatures of various sorts that he had whipped up (this sort of towel origami is one of their trademarks).
Overall, our cabins were “efficient” but totally sufficient. The fact that we very close to dead center in the ship meant that we were convenient to pretty much everything, and we experienced far less in the way of rocking and rolling when we got into heavier seas. This difference was really evident when we’d return from the upper decks in the bow or stern to our room. While we could still feel the ship rocking, it got a bit rough at times and I can only imagine what it was like trying to sleep elsewhere on the ship.
Recreation Onboard the Magic
Once aboard the ship, there were tons of recreation options. For example, there were three pools topside, including two family pools and one “adults only” pool. One of the family pools (Mickey’s pool) had a big water slide whereas the other (Goofy’s pool) had a huge video screen at one end where they showed Disney movies.
There was also a full-size cinema screening first-run movies, a basketball court near the bow on Deck 10 (the top of the ship), and a fitness center (we worked out nearly every day) and spa (yes, my wife and I got a couples massage).
There was a ton of stuff for the kids to do and, best of all, they could do nearly all of it on their own. When we first checked in, they put wrist bands on the kids and issued us a pager. From that point on, we were free to check the kids into age-appropriate areas known as the Oceaneer’s Club, the Oceaneer’s Lab, and Ocean Quest (there is also stuff for teens as well as a nursery, though the nursery costs extra).
The kids are generally split up into 3-4 year olds, 5-7 year olds, 8-9 year olds, and 10-12 year olds and they did activities ranging from sports to games to free play to lab activities. These activities are available from shortly after breakfast until midnight, and your kids can even eat there if you’re so inclined.
We typically checked the kids in for a stretch in the morning so we could go work out, and then again in the evenings after dinner and the show so we could get a bit of time to ourselves in the “adults only” section of the ship.
Given that this was a Disney cruise, it should come as no surprise that the live entertainment was top notch. There were nightly after-dinner shows for the whole family, and there was also a good bit of live music as well as a number of adult shows in the various bars/night clubs on board. Note that when I say “adult,” I don’t mean adult as in risque — rather, these were just comedy and/or variety shows that weren’t really appropriate for young kids.
They also had a number of other events, including a couple of family-friendly deck parties, Disney character appearances, etc. And I’m sure that there was a lot of other stuff going on that simply escaped our notice (I recall hearing about bingo, art auctions, trivia contests, etc.).
Dining aboard the ship was quite good, though I wouldn’t go so far as to classify it as great. There are three main dinner venues, known as Parrot Cay, Lumiere’s, and Animator’s Palate and you get to rotate through each. One of the nice aspects of the rotational dining (aside from the changing scenery) is that your waitstaff rotates with you, such that they get to know you and your kids and are able to quickly accommodate your preferences. For example, by the second or third night, the kids preferred drinks were waiting on the table when we arrived.
Breakfast and lunch are typically on your own, and you have several choices ranging from buffets in some of the more informal restaurants to sit down service in some of the nicer restaurants. There are also a number of burger/sandwich/pizza-type options at snack bars near the pool. Since all food and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the price of the cruise, you’re free to do whatever you want when it comes to eating.
One dining option that deserves a special mention is Palo, which is the adults-only fine dining option. Palo requires a special reservation and a small additional payment (currently $15/person) but the food and atmosphere are both fantastic. Highly recommended.
First stop, Key West. Instead of booking our Key West shore excursions through Disney, my lovely and talented wife did a bit of research on her own and saved a good bit of money by purchasing tickets directly for the Pirate Soul Museum and the Key West Aquarium. Disney has a fantastic docking location in Key West, allowing you to walk off the boat and straight into the middle of the action.
The Pirate Soul Museum was great. It was located just a few blocks from the port, and the boys loved seeing all of the pirate paraphernalia and getting their picture taken with a pirate. The Aquarium, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing. Given what we paid to get in, it was a pretty small-time operation and didn’t have all that much to offer.
Our next stop was Grand Cayman, where we booked an excursion to Stingray City through the cruise line. I went with the three older boys while my lovely and talented wife stayed aboard with Son #4 and got a pedicure while he hung out in the Oceaneer’s Club.
If you’ve never been there, Stingray City is a Cayman Islands must-see. While it was a bit harder for Son #2 and Son #3 to enjoy themselves since the water was a bit choppy and they could barely touch bottom, Son #1 had an absolute blast snorkeling with the stingrays (as did I). He’ll definitely carry those memories with him for a long, long time to come.
Our last ‘regular’ stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. While Cozumel is famous for it’s world-class snorkeling, we were fortunate not to have scheduled any excursions as it was incredibly windy and there were 8-13 foot swells up and down the coast. Definitely not ideal snorkeling conditions. Instead, we just walked around town a bit and then headed back aboard the ship for some swimming and relaxation.
The last stop was a day at Castaway Cay, which is Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. The island was gorgeous, the weather was perfect, and we had a blast snorkeling, swimming, and eating.
Disney Cruise Retrospective
All in all, we had a great time. It was a tiring, but fun and relaxing week. And ever since we got home, the boys have been pretending to be back on board the ship, wanting to have “Cruise Parties” almost every night.