While I was working for one of the UK’s leading travel companies last year, I was lucky enough to win an incentive scheme and be sent on an amazing (probably once in a lifetime) holiday on board a Disney Cruiseline for a 4 night cruise around the Mediterranean!
I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t really know what to expect if I’m honest. I had sold a lot of cruises in my time in travel retail the past year, and had learnt about all the main features and selling points of a lot of the cruiselines and ships. But nothing can teach you how to sell it properly and passionately until you’ve been on one and experienced it for yourself – and that’s the whole point of these fam trips for agents!
All I knew was I was unbelievably excited. I knew I would literally be in my element. I have always been a massive Disney fan since I was little and I had the entire Disney video collection – and I still love a good Disney film marathon to relive my childhood – the old 90s ones are the classics! At the same time, going on a cruise had somehow always appealed to me, even though I knew the stereotype was the older generation or young families, for its ease of travel and the amount of places you get to see within a short space of time. I feel like the travel industry is trying to gradually change this stereotype, however, and make cruising more attractive to all audiences – and I’m really for this!
The ship I sailed on was on was the Disney Magic, one of the four ships in their fleet (the others are the Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy). Their website describes the ship as a blend of “classic beauty and grace with all the modern luxuries, technology and comforts that make cruising a pleasure” and that totally sums it up – the design is traditional and modern at the same time. Right from our impressive entrance onboard, with the crew and what felt like the whole ship clapping and welcoming each individual family by name, I had fallen in love already.
Obviously with Disney Cruiseline, their main audience is families, but I was surprised to find out when I was on board that about 40% of their clientele is actually couples only! At the same time, this doesn’t surprise me, as the ship does cater so well for the adults as well as the children. There are adult-exclusive nightclubs, restaurants, bars, spas, salons and outdoor pools – so if you love Disney, but also crave a bit of time to unwind away from the screaming kids at the AquaDunk water station and play areas, then you have plenty of places to go.
As far as dining goes, the food was unbelievable – I was so impressed! We were lucky enough in the 4 nights we were on board to sample one of the restaurants each night, as well as unlimited daytime dining at any of the pool-side snack bars (Daisy’s De-Lites, Pinocchio’s Pizzeria, Goofy’s Galley & Pete’s Boiler Bites.) From the casual breakfast bar and buffet lunch in Cabanas – to the South American themed Carioca’s – to exclusively-adult Italian themed fine dining in beautiful Palo – to French-inspired Lumière’s based on Beauty and the Beast (a menu filled with French onion soup, duck breast and crème brulée for desert) – to my absolute favourite Animator’s Palate where we spent the last night.
For this special evening, you start your night in the black and white themed restaurant, with the waiters dressed accordingly and black and white original Disney sketches and animations fill the walls around the room. As the night goes on, the drawings gradually come to life, the paint palettes fill with colour, the waiters change uniforms into brightly coloured outfits and an amazing medley of all the Disney classics fill the screens, as no-one can concentrate on the food anymore. To finish it off, suddenly the Mickey and Minnie Mouse crew appear, dancing around the room and filling the little kid’s faces with delight – and even the adults had tears in their eyes! It was magical!
And I have to add just how amazing the service was, but I wasn’t surprised – this is Disney after all. They must have been trained so well as they could not do enough for you and were so genuine. A nice touch was that throughout the cruise, we were served by the same waiter every single night – he rotated around the restaurants with us – and knew us all by name by the end of the first night. And the most impressive thing was when I ordered some meat one night and he remembered my meat preference of ‘well done’ just from the steak I had ordered on the first night. Anyway, back to the food, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much food in such a short space of time as I did on that cruise ship.
After dinner, a whole other post-dinner drinks scene awaits you. Choose from the more casual Cove Café or Promenade Lounge, or if you fancy something a bit more romantic, live music and maybe a few cocktails, there is the beautiful piano bar, Keys. For a bit of good old pub life, head to the Irish bar O’Gills with live sports showing on screen and pub trivia games. And for an end of the night boogie, there is the open-air Signals on the top deck, or the adult only nightclub Fathoms which is buzzing until the early hours (once we discovered this on our first evening, we ended every night here!)
Activities and facilities wise, you will literally never be bored on that ship. If you’re thinking that, like me, you want to be bored on holiday, you want to literally do nothing except lie in the sun and relax – then you can do that too! We spent most of our free time at the adult only pool as it was quieter – but I have to admit we did go to the kid’s play area and have a go on the slide – just for ‘research purposes’ of course…
But if you want things to do, or to entertain the kids, then be sure that you can fill probably every hour doing something different if you want to. In the daytime, there are constant character greetings (I got to have a photo with Minnie after breakfast one morning and Donald Duck by the pool!), which is probably one of the main reasons people come on a Disney Cruise. It is amazing to just watch the faces of the kids meeting their heroes. For this, you can pick up a programme of appearance times and locations for all the characters, or you could just be wondering back to your cabin after breakfast and come across Peter Pan flying through the corridors!
There are plenty of films showing at the Buena Vista Theatre onboard 3D cinema. For the kids, there is so much to choose from – from the Oceaneer’s Club and Quarter Masters arcade for the younger ones, and Edge the youth club and Vibe, the teen’s activity centre – and for some time all together head to D Lounge family entertainment centre.
If you need a bit of relaxation time, head to the Fitness Centre to burn off some energy or to Senses Spa & Salon for world-class treatments.
In the evenings before dinner, after a quick pre show drink (and maybe some popcorn) from Preludes, we headed to the Walt Disney Theatre where each night a different show is performed – we saw ‘Villains Tonight’, ‘Disney Dreams: an Enchanted Classic’, ‘Twice Charmed’ and a magic show.
As for the places we visited, I can’t describe how exciting it was waking up each morning and being somewhere new (except the first day which was a full day at sea). On our particular Mediterranean itinerary, we embarked the ship in Barcelona…
…then stopped off at Palma, the capital of Mallorca…
…and the beautiful Cala Bassa in Ibiza.
There are so many different itineraries you can do, including other Mediterranean ones, California, the Bahamas & Caribbean, Hawaii, Panama Canal, Mexico and even Alaska.
I can honestly say I had the most amazing time onboard the Disney Magic. I feel lucky to have had the experience of cruising, especially at my age – and I would love to be able to do it again at some point in my life! I do admit – maybe cruising isn’t for everyone – I can imagine my dad absolutely hating being stuck on a boat in the middle of the sea, but I’d definitely say to anyone – don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!