Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Disney Magic At Sea UK Staycation: Review




2020 was supposed to be the year that we finally got to go on our long-awaited trip to Florida, to visit Walt Disney World.

I say long-awaited because it's something I've dreamed of doing since I was about 7 years old. I priced up trips there every year of my adult life but could just never stretch to it financially, so when we were finally able to save up enough money to book I was thrilled - I counted down the days with eager anticipation.

Unfortunately, a global pandemic was on the cards - who could have seen that one coming?! So of course, our 2020 trip was put on hold.

We pushed it back to 2021 and hoped for the best but it wasn't to be, and so now it's been pushed back for a 3rd time to September 2022 - whether or not it goes ahead remains to be seen but it's fair to say that the disappointment coupled with the severe lack of Disney magic in our lives throughout the pandemic left me desperate for some Mickey time! So when I heard the rumours that the Disney Cruise Line were going to run some short UK seacation trips in the summer, I was ecstatic! Disney and cruises are my two favourite sorts of holiday, so it was the stuff of dreams for me.

We booked a 3 night trip aboard the Disney Magic sailing out of my hometown of Liverpool, which made the experience all the more special - I'll never forget sailing out and seeing the beautiful Liverpool skyline fading into the distance as we took to the seas that sunny evening in July.

Here's a little breakdown of our thoughts on various aspects of the cruise.

The Ship

The Magic is one of Disney's older cruise ships and its not a massive ship when compared to some of the others we've sailed on from other cruise lines, but we actually quite liked how much easier it was to get around. It felt more intimate and cosy, and the decor felt more traditional than some of the more modern ships we've been on - more of a nod to the luxury liners of the past which is something I appreciated.

It wasn't OTT on the Disney theming - it was understated and elegant, rather than cheesy and garish but still the theming worked well particularly in the restaurants.

The staff onboard were all fantastic - the "Disney Difference" really does show itself in the level of customer service given, we didn't encounter anybody who made us feel any less than royalty throughout our stay.  I particularly love how the staff refer to the little girls on board as "Princess", greeting them whenever they pass. So adorable!








Characters

Character interaction on these cruises was a little different than in normal times due to Covid restrictions, but I felt that Disney did a good job of making it work given the circumstances.

There were always characters in the atrium who would wave to guests and do their best to interact although at quite a substantial physical distance. These were usually Mickey and the gang, along with Princesses on the staircase. On the Marvel morning it was Marvel characters such as Black widow, Thor, Captain Marvel and Black Panther.

If you're lucky enough to time it right you may pass the characters on the corridor as they change over, which allows for interaction at a closer proximity which is fun. I found out after we'd left the ship that there are often characters out on deck at closer proximity too. 

During certain times there are also character appearances in the theatres, again there is better interaction at these meets as you're closer to the characters and you can talk to them - I just wish Disney would announce which characters were in which location and when, to save parents having to run around the ship looking for certain people. You can ask the cast members who are accompanying the characters and they will usually be able to point you in the direction of certain characters, but listing who is in the the locations on the app would save a lot of bother.

There are also character appearances during the open house at kids club (Woody and Jessy), and characters appear throughout the kids club sessions too and you can see characters at some of the activities during the day.

We managed to see the following characters during our 3 night sailing: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Chip & Dale, Pluto, the Green army soldiers, Woody, Jessy, Tiana, Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Rapunzel, Flynn Rider,  Spiderman, Thor, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther.






Activities & Entertainment

During the day time there are various activities to take part in - our favourite was Sarge Says which is hosted by the Green army men. It's basically a game of Simon Says and a little show combined, with an opportunity to take photos with them afterwards. It was really good fun! There are also family game shows and during most of these there will be a chance to take photos with a character afterwards. They also have drawing classes which we didn't try, and fun Disney trivia quizzes too. 

There are also shows on board - the stage show during our trip was Dreams. We went along expecting to enjoy it of course but it was so much better than any of us could have imagined! It felt like watching a west end show, the performers were phenomenal, the staging was magical and the immersive elements were such a surprise and so much fun! There's since been a second show added to sailings focused around Rapunzel.

There was also the Freezing The Night Away deck party - this was a show held on the pool deck, starring Olaf, Kristoff, Anna and Elsa. It was really cute and lots of fun, with the kids having a chance to dance around in the snow!

During the evenings there was family karaoke in D Lounge, a violinist in the family bar, and I believe a pianist in the adult only bar as well as more quizzes.

There is also a cinema on board showing the latest Disney cinema releases (Currently Jungle Cruise, Cruella and Black Widow).

For daytime entertainment the pool decks and water slides kept us busy most of the time! The pools aren't huge but they're good fun, and there are hot tubs and an infant splash zone too.






Kids Club

The kids club is really well themed with various sections including Andy's Bedroom complete with slinky dog slide, Marvel academy and Pixie Hollow area. The staff were really good with more reluctant children like my middle child, and - according to my son - super friendly and fun during the sessions!
Each session is around an hour and a half long, and needs to be booked in advance but this can be done on the app - there were always slots available whenever we wanted them.

What I really loved was that characters join the sessions to engage with the kids too - Stitch hosts a slime making session, the Toy story soldiers hold a boot camp, Princesses read bedtime stories and Pluto hosts a fun Pyjama Party too.

After each session, the kids came out with various little trinkets such as a keepsake colour-in pillowcase from Pluto's Pyjama Party, and dog tags from the green army soldier boot camp. 




Food

 I absolutely loved the dining experiences on board - they were some of the best we've ever experienced at sea or in the Disney parks.
 Dining on board is rotational - meaning you change restaurant each night so that on a 3 night cruise you will try every restaurant. Your servers remain the same each evening, and are so attentive - our servers were Netasha and Putra who both made us feel so well looked after.
 Netasha went out of her way to make us happy - she would always encourage us to choose 2 options from the menu so we could try more dishes, and one evening when my son couldn't decide between a burger or steak she insisted on bringing him both! She also made sure my daughter got her mac and cheese every night, even when it wasn't on the menu.

Putra, our drinks waiter, was also fantastic - he replenished our drinks as soon as they started to get low without us even asking and he insisted on cutting up the children's food so that us grown ups could eat our meals right away. My eldest son is quite shy and on the first evening he was reluctant to let Putra cut up his dinner, but Putra made such an effort to get him chatting and make friends with him - by the end of that first evening my son was high fiving and joking with him!

 The theming in the restaurants was fantastic - Animators Palette and Rapunzels restaurants in particular really went to town on the Disney theming and brought the magic, but I did feel that Lumiere's could have done with something more. I'd love to see a stage in the restaurant with Belle and the Beast brought out to dance midway through dinner. 

In fact Lumiere's was the only restaurant without any entertainment during dinner and for this reason it was my least favourite, I also enjoyed the food less in this restaurant but that's not to say it wasn't delicious - it just wasn't as delicious as the other two in my opinion and there was less on the menu that appealed to me.

There's a show/interactive experience during dinner in both Animators Palette and Rapunzels - both were just amazing and the food was top notch!

As for dining options during the day, one of the restaurants open for breakfast and lunch each day but there is also Cabanas buffet on the pool deck. We only ate lunch in here once on our last day but it was so good that I regretted not choosing to eat lunch there more often. 

There is also Pinocchio's Pizzeria and  the Duck In diner on the pool deck which serves burgers, hot dogs and the most incredible shawarma - these are great options not to miss! Daisys De-Lites serves light bites and more healthy options (Including delicious tuna wraps and fresh melon slices which I loved!), and Cove Café in the adults only pool area serves speciality coffees at a surcharge with cakes included.
There's also an ice cream machine and soft drinks machines on the pool deck, all of which are included in the cost of your cruise.

The final thing to note is that Room service is available 24 hours per day and there is no charge. We got warm cookies and milk, and cake of the day delivered every night for a midnight snack while watching a movie in bed...you can also get Mickey premium bars from room service too, although they're not on the menu.













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We honestly had the most magical time onboard - 3 days just didn't feel like enough, and so we took advantage of the onboard placeholder offer which  gave us 10% off the cost of a future cruise. We used the discount to book another cruise this September, before the UK staycation cruises end - and we're so excited to get back on board!

This time we're doing a 2 night and 3 night cruise back to back, giving us 5 full days on board - I cant wait! 

See you real soon Mickey!






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