Making Magic 7-22-2005

There’s a new surprise around every corner of this Disney ship

By: Jill Weinlein

As we all know, Disneyland kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations in May. As part of the festivities, the Disney Magic came to the West Coast for the first time, where she sailed 12 one-week Mexican Riviera cruises, with calls in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Having loved cruising on the Magic in 2001, we jumped at the chance to take one of the unique West Coast sailings. Our 9-year-old daughter was ecstatic to sail with Mickey Mouse again. This time around, we had a new member of the family, our 4-month-old daughter. It was her first cruise.

Since the Magic often sails with up to 1,200 children, we were able to reserve a pack-and-play crib, diaper genie, stroller and babysitting services at the Flounders Reef Nursery. We did all of this online before boarding, which worked perfectly. The pack-and-play crib was set up before we entered our stateroom.

The Flounders Reef Nursery was great for our infant daughter. Counselors go through a special training program that includes CPR and first aid and parents are given a pager to keep for the duration of the cruise. Guests are paged and text messaged immediately if there is a problem. With little to worry about as far as childcare, we set about discovering what is new and different about the Magic since our last cruise.

The ship is now better than ever. For one thing, she has not aged in seven years.

“We are constantly upgrading the ship to look new,” said Capt. Tom Forberg during a bridge tour. “With over 40 percent repeat passengers, we continually add new programs and shows.”

To celebrate the Magic’s first West Coast voyage, the ship staged a big balloon drop. Disney crew members encouraged guests to dance in the atrium 30 minutes before the countdown when hundreds of gold balloons floated down onto the guests, and kids were popping them, batting at them and sitting on them. It was chaotic, but fun.

Passengers were also treated to the new Broadway-style show “Twice Charmed.” It is a clever, “updated” twist on the original Cinderella story that asks, “What if Cinderella had to rely on brains instead of beauty?” Our 9-year-old enjoyed the pyrotechnics, lavish costumes, catchy score and spectacular special effects; however it was too much for our baby.

Another recently added entertainment feature on the Magic, “Pirates IN the Caribbean,” is a dinner and a party. Passengers arrive at their designated restaurant, keeping to Disney Cruise Line’s famous “rotating restaurant schedule.” Place settings held red pirate bandannas, and a unique treasure map menu with such delectables as chilled-to-the-bone honeydew melon and mango soup, Blackbeard’s jumbo crab cakes and Captain Hook’s coconut-crusted oven-baked snapper. After dinner, passengers were invited up to decks 9 and 10 for a dance party. The evening grew ominous as Captain Hook and his band of pirates repelled down from the ship’s stacks to take over the cruise. Heroic Captain Mickey reclaimed the ship, and a colorful firework show capped the evening.

Our 9-year-old loved the pirate party and also enjoyed the special children’s programming. Those programs consist of Disney’s Oceaneer Club, for 3- to 7-year-olds, and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab, for 8- to 12-year-olds. The Oceaneer Lab features new, large, flat-screen monitors with the latest games and educational programs.

In partnership with Nestle, children participate in the Junior Chef Experience. They don Nestle hats and aprons and pour, stir and bake homemade chocolate chip cookies. (Eating them is the highlight

of the day, of course.) Each child also receives a Nestle Junior Chef certificate.

The “Kim Possible” scavenger hunt, named for the popular Disney Channel TV series, has young sailors search for missing objects in order to help save the Magic’s navigation system.

Children participating in the Oceaneer programs attend a farewell celebration at the Walt Disney Theater the last day at sea. Each child receives a Disney alumni shirt and graduation cap with mouse ears. My little girl still has hers proudly displayed in her room.

Other changes on the Magic include the transformation of the old ESPN sports bar into a room called The Stack. It’s a super-cool, teen-only lounge with video games, music videos, magazines, board games and Internet access. Trained counselors organize treasure hunts, mystery parties, night swims and dances for 13- to 17-year-olds.

Another new feature that seemed popular with every age group was Project Fizzy. Guests can now drink free Coca-Cola beverages on deck 9 at the beverage station.

In late August, the Magic will sail a repositioning cruise through the Panama Canal back to Port Canaveral. She’ll be in dry dock for two weeks in October. The Vista Spa will be remodeled and expanded over the bridge. The Oceaneer’s Lab will be redesigned and additional computers added in order to accommodate the rising demand from younger cruisers.

From May 27 to Dec. 9, 2006, the Magic’s standard seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itinerary will have a slight twist. One cruise per month will sail an alternate Western Caribbean itinerary. The ship will stop in Costa Maya (a new port for Disney), as well as in Cozumel. And, most exciting of all, she’ll make two stops at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. A new stingray encounter is in the works there, offering passengers the chance to touch, feed and swim with stingrays.

When the baby gets a little bigger, we’ll book another cruise on the Magic. Who knows what the Disney imagination will have come up with by then.


“Kids still rule on the Magic, but remember that adults have plenty of options as well. In fact, some of the adult-only areas of the ship were nicer and more relaxing than comparable space on mainstream cruise lines. For example, at the sports bar located on deck 3 at Diversions in the Beat Street area, passengers can view various sports programs, play checkers or backgammon while sampling a variety of beers and other drinks.

Disney’s Art of Entertainment, part of its Adult Enrichment Series, offers daily cooking and cocktail-making demonstrations while at sea.

“From Stem to Stern” wine-tasting program ($15 fee) offers hour-long, informative chances to sample wines from different regions.

Common Grounds has been redecorated and is now the Cove Cafe offering gourmet coffee, martini-tasting classes ($12 fee) and the Cognac and Cigar Club. It’s a great place for adults to get away from it all, read a magazine or surf the Web.

The Vista Spa provides a variety of imaginative spa treatments, such as the Tropical Rain Forest pass ($15/day), providing access to various saunas, steam rooms and aromatherapy showers. The fitness center offers 180-degree panoramic views of the sea, state-of-the-art exercise equipment, group Pilates and kickboxing classes.