On Monday we got back from our first ever Disney Cruise and we honestly wish we could go back right now! The experience was a dream from start to finish and we will definitely be doing it again.
While on the planning stages for the cruise, I looked for some very specific information but couldn’t really find what I wanted, so I hope I can help you prepare for your cruise aboard the Disney Magic.
Whoever says that Disney is a specialist in moving people, they are right. From the online check-in process, to the seamless bag drop at the parking lot and the actual check-in once you arrive at the Terminal 8 (which was custom-designed for Disney) in Port Canaveral, it all happens very smoothly and you barely see the 2,700 people that will be aboard the ship with you.
You can select to board the ship as early as 11am of the departure date (if the ship is scheduled to leave at 4-5pm) and start enjoying it right away. Since we were driving from Miami and didn’t want to wake up super early, we selected the 2-2:30pm check-in slot, but arrived there an hour before… and that was no problem at all! By the time it was 1:45pm we were aboard the ship, having some lunch at Cabana’s – so yes, there is lunch available as soon as you board the ship!
Also at check-in time you collect the wristbands for the kid’s clubs if you had pre-registered your child or you can register them right there – since we had pre-registered our daughter, the whole process was less than 5 minutes.
Difficulty and stress level: zero!
Boarding the ship
I thought we were going to enter through a gangway in the lower part of the Disney Magic, but thanks to its modern terminal at Port Canaveral we stepped right into the Deck 3 lobby, in an “airport-style” finger. As soon as we set foot at the door, one of the Disney Magic’s crew member asked the name of our family and announced it to cheers of the other crew and staff. They do that to every single family and it does make you feel special 🙂
The dining experiences
I guess our scale is telling us that we ate a lot during our cruise… and we did! While we were getting our daughter’s wristband at the the check-in area on Terminal 8, the lady told us to go help ourselves with some lunch on Deck 9 as soon as we boarded the ship. So after our family name being announced to cheers 🙂 , we headed to Cabana’s restaurant on Deck 9 and decided to try their many option on the buffet.
We were assigned the second seating for dinner (first is 6:15pm, second is 8:15pm) and on this Rotation Dining scheduled, we got to try the 3 main restaurants: Carioca’s, Lumiere’s and Animator’s Palate (this was the order we were assigned and we were very happy). Our servers and table number were the same on all 3 restaurants (that’s where Rotational Dining comes from) and they were great and with tons of patience to answer all our questions.
The tables we were in were for 8 people and the same people are assigned to that table for all 3 nights. We were lucky enough to be paired with a Brazilian family with two adorable boys 7 and 8 years old. No need to say that our daughter and the boys got along very well and were together for basically most of the cruise – and made a point that the moms kept in contact so that they could FaceTime later in the week 🙂
From what I researched, Disney Cruise Lines will match the families per table based on some sort of affinity (i.e. kid’s ages, where are you from) and it worked well for us. Also, I believe the second seating assignment we were given for dinner was due to the age of our daughter; since she is 8 and no longer a toddler, it makes sense she would still be up at that time (plus, we are from Brazil and usually have dinner late, even though we live abroad 🙂 ).
Regarding lunch, you can just walk up whenever the lunch is served on the restaurants and no reservation is required. We had lunch at Cabana’s everyday, except on Castaway Cay day (we had lunch at Cookie’s BBQ). But you can also spend literally all day eating at the many quick-service restaurants on Deck 9.
For breakfast we had brunch at Lumiere’s on the first morning, ate at Cabana’s patio overlooking Castaway Cay on the second morning and enjoyed Animator’s Palate on our last day (you will have breakfast at the same place you had dinner the night before on your last day).
And of course, complimentary room service was fantastic!
The character encounters
A Disney Cruise would not be a Disney Cruise without many opportunities to meet your favorite characters!
We got to meet the Princesses (Tiana, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Belle), Mickey and Minnie Pirate, Sailor Goofy and Daisy and the most adorable Peter Pan ever, who walked along the line of little (and big girls) waiting for the princesses and helped calm down a little girl who was crying.
The water slides and pools
The pools and water slides were super fun for my family (I always stay away from water slides, though). The AquaDunk, a 37 feet above the ocean water slide was a hit with my husband; it is very cool, going 20 feet out over the side of the ship, but I didn’t want to try 🙂
The AquaLab is where my daughter enjoyed herself with the water stations! It also has a water slide, Twist ‘n Spout, and the kids were having lots of fun.
But for me, the cool one was Goofy’s Pool, where you can watch movies on the big screen while having fun in the pool.
The kid’s clubs
With a choice between kid’s, tween’s and teen’s clubs, Disney Magic has the capability to never let you run out of things to do.
Our daughter loved the Oceaneers Club and the counselor-led activities. I went to pick her up to get ready for dinner and I saw her truly having a lot of fun; so much fun that when she asked me to let her stay until the end of the activity, I could not say no. Also, the fact that she wanted to go back all the time was reassuring to my original worry about her having fun or being well looked after.
Her stay at the club allowed us to to a wine tasting and a guided tour of the ship – it was fun!
All I can say is that Disney does know how to put on a show. A Broadway quality show. My favorite was “Disney Dreams” on our last day – and I wish I could watch it over and over again!
I read many complaints about the staterooms being tiny. They are not huge, but honestly, with a whole ship to explore, why would you stay inside your room?
We stayed at an Standard Inside Stateroom and it was just right for the 3 of us.
Let’s just say this: this is one of my favorite places, ever! And I am not a huge fan of beaches. I will do a whole separate post just on it.
All I can say is that the whole experience was fantastic and we wish we had more time to do a longer cruise. The itinerary we had was 3-nights, with one day at sea and one at Castaway Cay; I thought this itinerary was great, as we had a whole day to enjoy the ship and a whole day to enjoy Castaway Cay. Also, even though there were 2,700 people, it never felt crowded on the ship or on Castaway Cay. Maybe it’s due to the fact that Disney is a master at moving people, or maybe it’s just because the Disney Magic is indeed magic and you can really relax and have a great time!