After 18 months I bit the bullet and used the retainer I made with Disney cruise line (DCL) in 2017 and booked a one week Med cruise on Disney Magic sailing from Barcelona in May 2019.
The retainer program is one whereby DCL charge $250 to your card, for this you get a low deposit, 10% off prevailing rates and $200 onboard credit (just watch out for the block out dates) If you dont use it, you simply get in touch and get the money refunded, it saved me around $500. DCL is all in $.
Disney magic is one of the original ships used by DCL, it is however just as up to date as the newest, the ship looks like a liner rather than a floating block of flats which many modern cruise ships tend to resemble.
It boasts a Theater, Cinema, funnel vision, Spa, adult only areas and a number of themed bars and restaurants in and among other features such as character meets etc.
After flying out to Barcelona and having a few days there we headed down to the cruise bus to join the ship with our youngest daughter.
Anyone who has used Disney will likely testify as to how efficient they are, after a short period booking onto the ship in the terminal we entered as a family to be personally greeted by crew members announcing us by name and applauding as we boarded and entered the foyer, we were then whisked away to Lumieres restaurant for a 4 course lunch whilst the baggage was taken to the stateroom.
Dining on board is in the themed restaurants on a rota system, we had 3 evening meals in Animators palette, my personal favorite, and 2 at both Lumieres and Rapunzel’s royal table, there is also adult only dining onboard for an additional fee at Palo’s and informal dining at Canbanas should you wish to forego the top quality food at the others.
On your last visit to Animators palette during your cruise you can sketch cartoons which are then animated to music.
Breakfasts and Lunch can also be taken in the restaurants. One thing about the dining is that in the 3 themed restaurants the waiters follow the tables around on the evening meals so the same people serve you during your stay. The ship also has several other food stations serving Pizzas, chicken, burgers, salads, kebabs, hot and cold drinks and Ice cream etc until late.
Room service is also available all day.
After eating, it was down to the stateroom to unpack before going on deck to decide the weeks itinerary.
Several shows were laid on during the week along with the first release of Aladdin in the cinema in both 2 and 3D, the shows are simply stunning and the special effects match anything I have seen on the West end or on Broadway, they are not to be missed.
Our 11yr old daughter oddly enough bumped into a friend who lived in Texas, she met her in the Caribbean 18 months previously and by the end of the week there was quite a gang of girls going between the Kids clubs.
It illustrates how much of a family DCL actually have, the majority of guests were from the US who thought nothing of jetting across for a week, many having done dozens of DCL cruises.
There are several kids clubs catering for various age groups through to the age of 20 and around 200 child minders on board, you are given 2 wave phones and an app which will keep you posted as to which club they check in and out of, combine these with the water slides, pools, ship activities, unlimited cinema, ice cream, food and drink and you will have extended periods of time without the kids which is great which allowed us to use the Spa, adult only and gym areas.
A surprising number of adults also travel without children, there are plenty of child free areas.
The weather wasn’t particularly good for the first few days however there was always plenty to do regardless.
The Itinerary, which included Naples, Rome, Florence and Villa Franche had plenty of shore excursions if you wanted them.
Disney do state that they wont wait for people late to return to the ship if they use companies other than their own to book shore excursions however we did wait 45 minutes each shore day for late arrivals, I wouldn’t personally risk being late but it didn’t appear that strict.
The shore excursions seemed to be used more by the US tourists and they don’t come cheap if you book through Disney. A trip for 3 to Rome started at just under $1000 however there are facebook groups set up for each cruise and as previously stated, many have been on the cruises previously so there are always pointers about cheaper alternatives from the old hacks. The facebook groups also arrange fish extenders (gift exchanges) and mixology classes so they are always worth joining as there are lots of pointers to make the most out of it.
The ships are well laid out with plenty of lifts throughout which make everything easily accessible for the less mobile.
Drinks on board can be expensive so doing the taster sessions and mixology is a good way of getting value in that regard, you are also allowed to take 2 bottle of wine per person or 6 beers (no spirits) on board and at every port, these are to be consumed in the room rather than dining areas as the corkage doesn’t make it worth while.
Onboard gratuities are graded by cabin type per person and are for the waiters and room cleaners who turn down the beds every night, expect around $100 pppw upwards for these.
As for the cabin types, we never spend much time in them, to save you could opt for inside rooms although the Magic doesn’t have the virtual portholes unlike the new ships.
There really is an awful lot going on, hopefully it will give you a bit of an insight into these cruises, are they cheap? No they are not, Do they offer unique experiences, yes because quite simply nobody else does it like Disney which is why so many people go back year after year regardless of age, and finally, if you do go, don’t forget to decorate your stateroom door and get into the spirit of it all. Bon Voyage, I have my next retainer booked already.