Cruise Details

3-Night Bahamas

Port Canaveral Round-Trip

Ship: Disney Magic

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Inside Oceanview Balcony Suite

$585

$195 per night

$495

$165 per night

$549

$183 per night

$2,010

$670 per night

Disney Magic - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic


Ship Review | Cruise Line Review

Overview

In the mid-1990's, Disney experimented with booking cruises on what was known as The Big Red Boat, a modest and older cruise liner in the now-defunct Premier Cruises fleet. The experiment was such a success that the company commissioned two ships to be built to exacting Disney standards, with the most modern technology inside and the sleek classical lines of earlier ocean-going ships on the outside. These "modern classics" are long and low, with two red stacks (only one of which is necessary), a black hull, a unique pointed stern, and "Mickey yellow" designs, piping and even lifeboats. (Trivia tidbit: Special permission had to be sought from governing authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard, to be able to change the standard orange of the lifeboats to the yellow that is used.) Disney Magic, launched in 1998, was the first of these vessels to be delivered. Disney Wonder debuted a year later.

There was a certain amount of risk in designing and building these two large premium-quality ships. Would they appeal to families, including the adults who make the purchasing decisions? Would they offer enough activities to cater to all age groups? Could they attract cruisers without children? In essence, could they satisfy a wide-enough range of cruise travelers?

After some early faltering, particularly with adult-oriented activities, and some tweaking (for example, adding bingo; opening Palo, the adult-only fine dining restaurant, for a lavish Champagne brunch on several days; and creating Cafe Cove, the adults-only coffeehouse with books, newspapers, magazines and a small Internet center), Disney Magic has evolved into a classic, elegant cruise ship with universal appeal.

Disney Magic's Art Deco design elements are evident in all of its public spaces, which are -- for the most part -- refined and understated. There are a few Disney-themed venues that are appropriately colorful and exuberant, but most of the ship's appeal lies in the fact that it is truly designed for everyone, not just Disney fanatics and kids.

On this trip I traveled with my nearly-12-year-old niece. I worried that she might be too old for the Disney characters, and that she might pooh-pooh the events surrounding Mickey Mouse, Goofy and the others, but I needn't have been concerned. Her age provided the perfect combination of wide-eyed wonder and pre-teen sophistication ... one minute commenting on the perfect blend of seasonings in her penne pasta (accurately pronouncing it "penneh") and the next chasing down an oversized costumed chipmunk --Chip or Dale, I'm not sure which -- for an autograph. And when my niece proclaimed something "cool," I could take it to the bank; it was indeed "cool." In all, this ship is a study in contrasts, blending elegant sophistication on the one hand and joyous, Disney-fied abandon on the other, ultimately merging perfectly into a wonderful whole. I was struck, too, by a couple of luxurious touches (comfortable heavy metal and mesh cloth balcony furniture, a mini-suite-like standard stateroom) and some surprisingly tacky ones (the 24-hour coffee station only has Styrofoam cups, and butter isn't served at any meal -- you get a margarine blend called "butterine").

Dining

The genius who devised the unique dining scheme on Disney ships should win an award for creativity on the seas. Although I enjoy traditional two-seating dining, it is rare that I actually show up in the dining room every night on a seven-night cruise, often choosing room service or the casual buffet at least once. Magic's special "dining rotation," though, made it fun and exciting to go to dinner.

There are three main restaurants on Magic, and every guest gets to dine in each of them at least twice -- you remain at the same table number with the same dining companions and servers, but show up at a different location. Dining times are set at 6 and 8:30 p.m.; as always on a family-friendly cruise ship, the earlier dining times cater to the youngest kids, so plan accordingly.

Lumiere's is the fanciest and most traditional dining room of the three, with Art Deco decor and a French-inspired menu. Dining here replicates mealtimes on luxury liners from the heyday of trans-Atlantic crossings. Animator's Palate uses Disney's unique ability to create magic from the mundane: It starts out in stark black and white, but during the course of dinner, changes slowly into a room filled with color. At one point, near the end of the meal, the various screens around the restaurant come alive with a montage of Disney animations past and present. When the waiters reappear to take dessert orders, their black vests have been replaced with brightly-colored ones, delighting the youngsters at the table. Parrot Cay, our favorite, is a vibrant Caribbean marketplace-themed dining room. It is in this restaurant that you get the waiters singing "Hot Hot Hot" and engaging the kids, who join a mid-meal conga line to dance around the floor. We loved the bright colors and cheerfulness of this room, which is also available for breakfast and lunch buffets.

Apart from the creativity of this dining rotation, Disney has -- as always -- mastered the art of streamlining and organization. There are two reasons that this idea works so well. Firstly, there are three galleys, so each restaurant has its own fresh meals to serve at each sitting, and secondly, the menu service is really simple and efficient. On the first three nights of a seven-night cruise, each restaurant offers its own menu, the same one for each night. Those dining at Lumiere's on the first night get the same menu as those dining there on the third night, for example. On days four through seven, all of the restaurants switch to "theme night" dining and all of the restaurants serve the same meals. "Pirates in the Caribbean" night sees the same offerings in all three of the restaurants, as does the "Captain's Gala." The actual rotation you are assigned makes little difference in the overall dining experience except that you will dine in the first dining room on your rotation three times. Preferred rotations can be requested at time of booking, but are not guaranteed.

The food is very good and the portions ample. Everything, from soup stock to all of the breads and pastries, is made onboard from scratch. There is such an emphasis on quality that we found it surprising to be served only peel-packs of margarine at even the most elegant of the meals in the main dining rooms.

There is a separate children's menu for younger kids; our young tablemates, 6 and 8, said that the viscous-looking macaroni and cheese was "yucky," and no one seemed to like the thick prepackaged-appearing pizza, but they enjoyed everything else. My niece (who selected from the adult menu) and I really appreciated the range of salads and fresh vegetables offered at each meal and found the variety of seafood, meats, pasta and fish excellent and beautifully prepared. Many of the desserts were so-so, but by the time we got to them we were full enough not to mind.

Topsider's, the casual dining restaurant, serves breakfast and lunch buffets and is open for dinner as well. The location, high up and aft, is terrific, but the indoor layout is cramped and difficult to maneuver, one of the rare poorly planned spaces on the ship. On nice days you can dine outdoors overlooking the stern, which is pleasant and appealing.

There are two fast-food locations and a fruit and ice cream bar on Deck 9, which is where most of the outdoor action is to be found. This is a terrific idea since you can grab a bite without changing out of your swimsuit or interrupting your child's fun time in the pool. Pluto's Doghouse serves burgers, fries, tacos and fabulous crispy, juicy chicken breast tenders, a big hit with everyone. Pinocchio's Pizzeria wasn't nearly as popular on the cruise I took, but Scoops, the ice cream station, is an obvious favorite.

I found it amazing that the surcharge for Palo, the adults-only fine dining bistro, was merely $10, both for supper and Champagne brunch. Located aft on Deck 10, this intimate restaurant -- decorated with handmade Italian glass finials and table lamps, a calming color scheme of burnished ochres and blues, and window walls on three sides -- serves wonderful Italian/Mediterranean cuisine that rivals that of any similar upscale land-based dining establishment. We swooned over the portabello mushroom with polenta appetizer, large enough for a meal; all of the fish and seafood dishes were superb as was the perfectly prepared filet mignon. The brunch is an even better bargain ... Champagne, cold buffet with seafood and meats, breads, salads, cakes and desserts plus a hot made-to-order selection of eggs, meat or fish. Book early: The restaurant is small and while supper is available nightly, the Champagne brunch takes place only three times per seven-night cruise.

Room service was fast and efficient. The people who take the orders are obviously used to dealing with kids, and seem to enjoy the interchange over the phone. The menu is relatively simple, with cold sandwiches and salads and a variety of hot items including chili and burgers. The chicken tenders are still the favorite, with a choice of honey mustard or barbecue sauce, and each time they were ordered they arrived hot and crisp. We also loved (and were surprised by the quality of) the baked manicotti, which is served in a portion large enough to share. There is not much flexibility in the menu, but my niece did request warm milk to go with her hot chocolate packs, and it was cheerfully delivered along with her yummy chocolate chip cookies. In-room breakfast is continental only and relatively boring, ordered via a pre-hung door card the night before.

Suite guests get hot breakfast options and dining room meals delivered when requested.

One thing to note is that Disney broke the barrier and is now offering soft drinks (Coca-Cola products) free of charge. They are available at meals and at the 24-hour drink station on Deck 9 aft, but if you get them from a bar or room service, you still pay.

Public Rooms

Disney put a great deal of thought into the design of its public spaces, some of which are astonishing in their outward simplicity and behind-the-scenes complexity. The Walt Disney Theater, for example, is large enough to hold half of the ships' guests, offers fantastic line of sight with no posts or pillars, and seems to have a two-deck-high stage. What is unseen is that the stage area actually encompasses many decks, from its mechanics underneath to the top where the people-flying wires, drop-down scenery and intricate lighting systems are hidden. It's sophisticated enough for the most comprehensive Broadway musical or Las Vegas-style review, but what the guest sees is a lovely theater with comfy stadium-style seating.

The Buena Vista Theater is somewhat smaller but equally enticing; this is where most of the Disney movies are shown during the cruise.

Most of the public spaces are located on Decks 3, 4 and 5, and we had great appreciation for the way they seamlessly flowed from the rowdier kid-centric activities to the quiet family or adult-oriented spaces. We enjoyed pre- and post-dinner music in the Promenade Lounge, a quiet, family-friendly environment, and in Studio Sea we participated in the game shows, exhibitions and karaoke. The Atrium is fairly small and aside from being a great meeting point is little used, except for the Disney character autograph signing, the Captain's cocktail party and Disney pin trading.

There are two large shops on board Magic, located all the way forward just before the entrance to the Walt Disney Theater. One side has Disney memorabilia and postcards, everything from oversized Mickey hands and stuffed animals to miniature souvenirs. The other side has logo apparel and suitcases, duty-free perfumes and liquor.

Note: You can bring liquor onboard Disney ships and you may use it in your stateroom, but if you buy duty-free from their shop, it is held for you until the end of the cruise.

At the very front of the ship on Deck 3 there is an entertainment complex called Beat Street, consisting of lounges, bars and cabarets that become adults-only after 9 p.m. Before that time these spaces are used for various activities. The cabaret lounge, Rockin' Bar D, hosts family-friendly individual performers or family dance parties early in the evening. Sessions, all the way forward, is a low-key and comfortable lounge and one of the few public spots where you can engage in quiet conversation. Diversions, also all the way forward, is the ship's sports bar, which was once located inside the faux funnel at the top of the ship.

The main Internet center is located adjacent to the Promenade Lounge and felt small and cramped. There is no Internet manager on site and the packages are streamlined: You either take the full week's all-you-can-use package at around $90 or you pay 75 cents per minute. There is no wireless accessibility. The satellite service seemed very slow and the per-minute charges really racked up, so if you plan on accessing e-mail more than three times, the package is a better bet.

In the adult section of the pool deck there is a new coffee house, Cove Cafe, serving specialty coffees and bar drinks; Cove Cafe also has a small Internet section. This was a favorite, another spot that was conducive to quiet pursuits, and the closest thing to a library onboard the ship. Comfortable sofas and loungers, little cafe tables and chairs are scattered around the smallish room which looks out onto the adult pool and the port side of Deck 9. Racks of books, magazines and newspapers separate the seating areas. It's an oasis of cool and quiet in the middle of all of the pool deck activities.

Cabins

Obviously designed with family comfort in mind, these staterooms are among the roomiest and most elegant at sea. The overall color scheme is a nice deep blue with gray and burgundy, and while there are "hidden Mickeys" everywhere, you have to look to find them. Cabins aren't made for kids, but rather for respite from the child-friendly public spaces on board. They are placid, quiet and comfortable havens of privacy that somehow manage to work on all levels, and it's no surprise that they are popular with people traveling with as well as without youngsters.

The standard cabins on Disney Magic would be called a mini-suite on many other ships, with a distinct bedroom area and a living room. Twin beds, which can be made into a queen, are divided from the living area with a full pull-across curtain. The living room includes a deep full-length sofa which can be made into a third single bed; many rooms also have berths that descend from the ceiling for a fourth person, and families of five can choose a family stateroom, a bit larger than a standard, that also has a wall-mounted Murphy bed.

There are plenty of drawers for storage including six in a chest at the end of the closet and eight in the deep double-pedestal desk/dressing table. The closet has sliding doors and is fairly small, but most rooms also have an upright "steamer trunk" wardrobe for more clothing storage, which also happens to be the perfect height for kids. There are shelves above the TV in the desk area console, too high for little ones to reach. The beds are very low, too low for most suitcases to slide under. Even my niece's small carry-on did not fit under our beds.

The honey maple furniture with inlaid Art Deco designs is elegant and warm, as are the triple-paned etched glass balcony doors. Only the center portion slides open; there is also a child-proof lock. Each stateroom comes with a "cold box." It's not a refrigerator but just keeps already cold items cold. Also included in staterooms is a safe, two small end tables with a single drawer each, a sofa, a coffee table that rises to table height, a large desk with a crescent-shaped stool and a small television. The TV programming is probably the most comprehensive of any at sea, with mostly Disney-owned channels (including ABC, ABC Family, the Disney Channel and several ESPN channels) and Discovery, Discovery Travel, CNN and CNN Headline. There were several stations with movies produced by Disney-owned companies including Miramax, Buena Vista and Touchstone.

The bathrooms on Magic are unique in that they are divided into a "bath and a half" configuration in all but the least expensive inside cabins. One room has a toilet, a sink and shelves for makeup and sundries; the other has a shallow tub, shower and sink. The tub is mainly to wash little ones who are too young to shower, and while it seemed a bit shallow for an adult bath, it can be used for that purpose as well. Crisp white tiles with bright blue accent pieces, faux granite sink tops with molded honey maple surrounds and round chrome sinks made these little rooms appear elegant but I felt claustrophobic in them. I was surprised when my niece mentioned that they were her least favorite aspect of the room too; "too small," she claimed. Most people love them.

Bathroom amenities are fairly basic, including soap, a shampoo/conditioner combo, and lotion. There is a wall-mounted hair dryer in the room that holds the toilet, which we found oddly inconvenient ... after showering we had to change bathrooms to be able to dry our hair.

The exterior "modern classic" design dictated a lot of the nuances in terms of interior spaces. Outside cabins have large round windows that replicate portholes. Most of the balconies have bars and Plexiglas inserts, but at the aft end of Decks 5, 6, 7 and 8 are balconied staterooms with either a "Navigator's Balcony" with a solid wall and a round cutout, or a half-height white metal wall as the staterooms angle towards the pointed stern. This angle, too, allows for larger verandah spaces because of the curve. We had a stateroom at the "corner" of the aft curve; our balcony was nearly six feet wide at one end, narrowing to about three and a half feet at the other, and was slightly longer than the standard midship balconies. We loved the extra outdoor space but missed the ocean vista since the solid metal wall prevents your being able to see anything but sky when you are seated, both inside and out.

Caveat: Some of these "aft corner" staterooms (5150, 5650, 6150, 6650, 7134, 7634) are narrower than others, with no extra wardrobe for clothes and a tight fit at the living room end. Ours was fine for two people; three would have made it uncomfortable.

The handicap-accessible staterooms on Magic are enormous, and the aft balcony accessible staterooms have huge verandahs (some are 30-ft. long) as well.

Inside cabins are, for the most part, configured similarly to the outsides with the same amenities. The least expensive insides have a single bath with one sink.

Hint: The ship has six staterooms known by insiders as "The Secret Porthole Rooms." They aren't secret at all, but they are a great bargain. They are staterooms all the way forward on Deck 5 that have portholes that are -- to varying degrees -- obstructed, and they are sold at the cost of the most expensive inside stateroom. Staterooms 5020, 5022, 5520 and 5522 have virtually nothing blocking the windows except rails and a pulley; 5024 and 5524 are almost completely blocked with barrels. Still, if you are considering an inside stateroom but would love the light of day for free, these cabins are a best bet.

The suites are all located on Deck 8 midship. Suites range from one bedroom to two Royal suites (one with a baby grand piano), and come complete with a concierge team, more upscale design elements, full-length whirlpool tubs; the two-bedroom and up suites have dual-sink granite vanities. All of the suites have large verandahs.

Suite guests get upgraded bath amenities and robes and slippers. Soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner are thyme- and eucalyptus-scented, served in eco-friendly cardboard packs. There is also mouthwash, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a vanity pack with cotton balls and cotton swabs, plus a little sewing kit.

Entertainment

First of all, there is no casino on this ship, which I really thought would make me crazy. But there is so much to do and see that I honestly didn't miss it at all. There is, however, bingo for die-hards, with pretty good jackpots.

Second, those folks on Magic sure know how to throw a party. The deck parties on Magic were the most widely attended (by all age groups) of any I have ever seen and no one quit until the lights were out. The Pirates in the Caribbean Party, a new theme for Magic, was the highlight of the cruise, with every guest wearing a red bandanna and some donning Cap'n Hook hats, eye patches, the works. Pirates rappelled down the stack and flew over the balconies while everyone danced and danced and danced and cheered and booed and danced some more. The cruise staff uses a lot of music that involves the family, lots of line dances and dances that require hand movements like the Ketchup Song and the Macarena. It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time; great fun.

Anyone who assumes that the entertainment onboard would be all Mickey, all the time would be wrong. There are several production shows (Hercules the Muse-ical, Disney Dreams and The Golden Mickeys) that feature the Disney characters, and they are wonderful ... bright, colorful, perfectly executed and intricately elaborate. Trivia tidbit: There are three sets of costumes onboard and they're custom-made of the finest fabrics -- two for the performer, in case something happens to one of them, and one for the understudy. Performers use some 250 wigs and 350 pairs of shoes in a week's worth of production shows!

There are, of course, the movies; when there is a theatrical release, guests on Magic get to see it at the same time. Otherwise there are first-run movies shown daily in the Buena Vista Theatre; movies with PG-13 and R ratings are shown at later times, while kid-friendly movies are shown during the day.

And new for late 2008 (November 20 for Disney Magic), the line is debuting "Disney Digital 3-D." It's a cinema experience that uses lasers, fog, streamers and special lighting effects in the onboard theater.

There are the game shows, Mickeymania and Who Wants to Be a Mouseketeer in which you test your Disney knowledge. Trivia tidbit: The first feature-length Disney movie was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs -- unchanged since its release in 1937! During production some 50 dwarf names were considered, including Tubby and Burpy.

There are shuffleboard tournaments, golf chipping and putting contests, pool games during the day, shopping talks, toad races and my personal favorite, the Mickey 200 in which you create a racecar out of vegetables. There's family karaoke, music trivia "game shows," a family "spy" party, dance lessons, family cabaret and talent shows, Disco Dad contests, retro dances from the 60's through the 90's ... and all of that doesn't even touch the adults-only entertainment.

Early in the evening, between dinner times, there is a short and squeaky-clean version of the cabaret show that's family friendly. After hours there's an adult version, and while it was suggestive (and really, really funny) not a single curse word was used and the performers never went out of bounds, never crossed over into indecency. It was adult humor that was acceptable to everyone. That showroom, Rockin' Bar D, is used afterwards for dance parties.

There are three adult daytime programs on Magic: The Navigator series, which allows guests to see the inner workings of the ship via lectures and video; the Disney Behind the Scenes series, which gives fans a "backstage" perspective of Disney productions; and the Art of Entertaining series. The latter takes place in Studio Sea and is set up as a cooking show, in which a chef prepares a portion of a meal -- appetizer, salad, dessert or main course. There are overhead mirrors so you can see what's going on, and the chef explains as he goes along. There's a female announcer who offers some really cheesy commentary and engages in a coy repartee with the chef as he plays Emeril for the audience. Everyone gets a taste of the delicacy which is presented with a thimbleful of compatible wine. There is no charge for this, nor for the corollary classes on napkin folding and plate decorating, but there are also comprehensive wine tastings during the cruise for which there is a $12 charge.

Sessions, the forward lounge on Deck Three, features a pianist both during the day and in the evenings, who is occasionally accompanied by a vocalist.

Fitness and Recreation

There are three swimming pools on Disney Magic, all located on Deck 9, each with a different theme or purpose. Mickey's Pool, at the aft, is for kids only. It has a one-deck-high curly slide, is very shallow and has small toddler pools at the "ears." Goofy's Pool (and pool deck) is for families; located midship, this is where a lot of the daytime deck activities take place and is the scene of the nighttime deck parties. Quiet Cove, forward, is the adults-only area, and it is indeed quiet and peaceful. There are two large hot tubs at one end, a bar and coffee house at the other. It's large enough for laps early in the day, when it isn't yet crowded.

Deck 10 has a basketball hoop and volleyball area; there are Ping-Pong tables on Deck 9 and shuffleboard courts on the promenade on Deck 4. Both Deck 4 and Deck 10 have full-circuit walking/jogging tracks. There is a small but well-equipped fitness center on Deck 9, adjacent to the Vista Spa; classes in Pilates and yoga are available for a small charge.

Hint: Looking for a really quiet place to rest and relax in the sun, or to stargaze in peace? All the way aft on Deck 7 is a small, little-known deck area overlooking the stern's wake. There are chaises and a couple of tables, but no bar or food service; this quiet space is accessed though an unmarked wooden door, opens at 7 a.m. and is locked again at 11 p.m.

At first glance, the adults-only Vista Spa looks like any other Steiner of London-run operation, but there are hidden delights. A room just off the spa lobby, called The Tropical Rainforest, has neither rain nor a forest, nor is it particularly tropical. Decorated in Tuscan-inspired tiles, with a fountain in the middle, it's a coed steam room/sauna/aromatherapy environment, with heated ceramic tile chaises and scented showers. It costs $15 per day to use it, or you can purchase a cruise-long pass for $50. If you have a treatment at the spa, you can use the room at any time during that day at no additional charge.

Spa treatments run the gamut from the usual (Swedish massage, aromatherapy facials) to the unusual. Rasul, or "Mud Room," is a treatment room with sundry types of mud body masks scrubbing salts and scented oils, used on an hourly basis with no therapist involved. Though designed for three guests, it's usually only occupied by two. It's a chamber with two rooms; one for steam after applying the mud, and the other for showering the mud off. The cost for the Rasul is $68; other treatments range from $89 for a massage or facial to several hundred dollars for a day of pampering. The Personal Navigator will indicate which specials are offered; port days usually have the best deals.

It might be unusual to mention a cruise line's private island retreat in a ship review, but Disney's Castaway Cay in the Bahamas is actually an extension of the shipboard experience. (Each of the Caribbean and Bahamas cruises has a full day at Castaway Cay.) This beautifully groomed island's amazingly organized "day of leisure" offers a variety of recreational opportunities for families and adults. There is no charge to use the chaises, chairs and hammocks along the beach; tube, floatie and snorkeling equipment rentals are reasonably priced. There is an adults-only section, and the Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab age groups have their own excursions, as do the teens. You can rent bicycles, go for a nature walk or take advantage of the motorized water sports such as Jet Skis, parasailing and banana boat rides offered by a concessionaire. There is also music, dancing, a barbecue lunch and family games throughout the day.

Family

Disney Magic was designed with families in mind, so it's no surprise that most of the programs onboard tend to appeal to all age groups. The areas designated for kids, though, are probably the most extensive at sea, with activities for every age level.

One of the nicest things about Magic's children's programs is the way they break the age groups, so kids of similar ages are together. All families are given a pager which can be used to receive a text message about their child's whereabouts. Kids under 10 have to be signed in by a parent, but 8- and 9-year-olds can sign themselves in and out with written permission from a parent. Kids 10 - 12 can sign themselves in and out; parents can be notified by text messaging only if requested.

Teens have their own special area, The Stack, which is housed in the non-functioning funnel midship. Although it is supervised by Disney personnel, no parents are allowed. Non-alcoholic drinks and coffee are served; there are a variety of activities, and the kids love it.

Oceaneer's Club is designed for the smaller children, (3 to 7) with hundreds of hands-on activities and arts projects in a gigantic space that resembles a pirate ship. Computers and TV monitors are cloaked in plastic replicas of treasure chests. The Oceaneer's Lab is for kids from 8 - 12 (divided into groups ages 8 - 9 and 10 - 12) and offers pre-teen choices as well as computer time, games, gab-fests, pool parties and contests. My niece was particularly excited when the 10- to 12-year-olds got to spend the morning in The Stack, which doesn't open for teens until 1 p.m.

Kids get their own version of the Personal Navigator and can join their groups at any time. Their involvement can include mealtimes if desired.

The programs for children from age 3 are provided at no additional charge.

Flounder's Reef, the nursery on board, takes babies as young as three months (up to 3 years of age). There is a per-hour charge of $6 for this service, but it allows parents time to be on their own, for dinner in Palo or a trip to the spa, for example. New for spring 2009, Disney has introduced an online service that allows passengers to order baby supplies in advance of their cruise and have them delivered to their stateroom (provided by Babies Travel Lite). There are over 1,000 brand-name baby products to choose from, including diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items.

All services are available on Castaway Cay.

Fellow Passengers

Mostly families; however, there are a large number of people traveling without kids because they appreciate the quality of the ship and its offerings, and the suite-like staterooms.

Dress Code

Casual during the day, resort casual in the evenings with one formal night and one semi-formal night on a seven-night cruise. Swimwear, shorts and jeans are not allowed in the restaurants at dinner.

Gratuity

For a seven-night cruise on Disney Magic, the recommended gratuities are $25.75 for the dining room server, $18.75 for the assistant server, $6.50 for the head server, and $25.25 for the room steward. All bar drinks and deck service areas have a 15 percent gratuity added to the bill. It is suggested that one tip for room service as it's delivered.

Overview

In the mid-1990's, Disney experimented with booking cruises on what was known as The Big Red Boat, a modest and older cruise liner in the now-defunct Premier Cruises fleet. The experiment was such a success that the company commissioned two ships to be built to exacting Disney standards, with the most modern technology inside and the sleek classical lines of earlier ocean-going ships on the outside. These "modern classics" are long and low, with two red stacks (only one of which is necessary), a black hull, a unique pointed stern, and "Mickey yellow" designs, piping and even lifeboats. (Trivia tidbit: Special permission had to be sought from governing authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard, to be able to change the standard orange of the lifeboats to the yellow that is used.) Disney Magic, launched in 1998, was the first of these vessels to be delivered. Disney Wonder debuted a year later, followed by the Disney Dream in 2011. Disney's newest ship, Fantasy, is scheduled to set sail in 2012.

There was a certain amount of risk in designing and building these large premium-quality ships. Would they appeal to families, including the adults who make the purchasing decisions? Would they offer enough activities to cater to all age groups? Could they attract cruisers without children? In essence, could they satisfy a wide-enough range of cruise travelers?

After some early faltering, particularly with adult-oriented activities, and some tweaking (for example, adding bingo; opening Palo, the adult-only fine dining restaurant, for a lavish Champagne brunch on several days; and creating Cafe Cove, the adults-only coffeehouse with books, newspapers, magazines and a small Internet center), Disney Magic has evolved into a classic, elegant cruise ship with universal appeal.

Disney Magic's Art Deco design elements are evident in all of its public spaces, which are -- for the most part -- refined and understated. There are a few Disney-themed venues that are appropriately colorful and exuberant, but most of the ship's appeal lies in the fact that it is truly designed for everyone, not just Disney fanatics and kids.

On this trip I traveled with my nearly-12-year-old niece. I worried that she might be too old for the Disney characters, and that she might pooh-pooh the events surrounding Mickey Mouse, Goofy and the others, but I needn't have been concerned. Her age provided the perfect combination of wide-eyed wonder and pre-teen sophistication ... one minute commenting on the perfect blend of seasonings in her penne pasta (accurately pronouncing it "penneh") and the next chasing down an oversized costumed chipmunk --Chip or Dale, I'm not sure which -- for an autograph. And when my niece proclaimed something "cool," I could take it to the bank; it was indeed "cool." In all, this ship is a study in contrasts, blending elegant sophistication on the one hand and joyous, Disney-fied abandon on the other, ultimately merging perfectly into a wonderful whole. I was struck, too, by a couple of luxurious touches (comfortable heavy metal and mesh cloth balcony furniture, a mini-suite-like standard stateroom) and some surprisingly tacky ones (the 24-hour coffee station only has Styrofoam cups, and butter isn't served at any meal -- you get a margarine blend called "butterine").

Dining

The genius who devised the unique dining scheme on Disney ships should win an award for creativity on the seas. Although I enjoy traditional two-seating dining, it is rare that I actually show up in the dining room every night on a seven-night cruise, often choosing room service or the casual buffet at least once. Magic's special "dining rotation," though, made it fun and exciting to go to dinner.

There are three main restaurants on Magic, and every guest gets to dine in each of them at least twice -- you remain at the same table number with the same dining companions and servers, but show up at a different location. Dining times are set at 5:45 and 8:15 p.m.; as always on a family-friendly cruise ship, the earlier dining times cater to the youngest kids, so plan accordingly.

Lumiere's is the fanciest and most traditional dining room of the three, with Art Deco decor and a French-inspired menu. Dining here replicates mealtimes on luxury liners from the heyday of trans-Atlantic crossings. Animator's Palate uses Disney's unique ability to create magic from the mundane: It starts out in stark black and white, but during the course of dinner, changes slowly into a room filled with color. At one point, near the end of the meal, the various screens around the restaurant come alive with a montage of Disney animations past and present. When the waiters reappear to take dessert orders, their black vests have been replaced with brightly-colored ones, delighting the youngsters at the table. Parrot Cay, our favorite, is a vibrant Caribbean marketplace-themed dining room. It is in this restaurant that you get the waiters singing "Hot Hot Hot" and engaging the kids, who join a mid-meal conga line to dance around the floor. We loved the bright colors and cheerfulness of this room, which is also available for breakfast and lunch buffets.

Apart from the creativity of this dining rotation, Disney has -- as always -- mastered the art of streamlining and organization. There are two reasons that this idea works so well. Firstly, there are three galleys, so each restaurant has its own fresh meals to serve at each sitting, and secondly, the menu service is really simple and efficient. On the first three nights of a seven-night cruise, each restaurant offers its own menu, the same one for each night. Those dining at Lumiere's on the first night get the same menu as those dining there on the third night, for example. On days four through seven, all of the restaurants switch to "theme night" dining and all of the restaurants serve the same meals. "Pirates in the Caribbean" night sees the same offerings in all three of the restaurants, as does the "Captain's Gala." The actual rotation you are assigned makes little difference in the overall dining experience except that you will dine in the first dining room on your rotation three times. Preferred rotations can be requested at time of booking, but are not guaranteed.

The food is very good and the portions ample. Everything, from soup stock to all of the breads and pastries, is made onboard from scratch. There is such an emphasis on quality that we found it surprising to be served only peel-packs of margarine at even the most elegant of the meals in the main dining rooms.

There is a separate children's menu for younger kids; our young tablemates, 6 and 8, said that the viscous-looking macaroni and cheese was "yucky," and no one seemed to like the thick prepackaged-appearing pizza, but they enjoyed everything else. My niece (who selected from the adult menu) and I really appreciated the range of salads and fresh vegetables offered at each meal and found the variety of seafood, meats, pasta and fish excellent and beautifully prepared. Many of the desserts were so-so, but by the time we got to them we were full enough not to mind.

Topsider's, the casual dining restaurant, serves breakfast and lunch buffets and is open for dinner as well. The location, high up and aft, is terrific, but the indoor layout is cramped and difficult to maneuver, one of the rare poorly planned spaces on the ship. On nice days you can dine outdoors overlooking the stern, which is pleasant and appealing.

There are three fast-food locations on Deck 9, which is where most of the outdoor action is to be found. This is a terrific idea since you can grab a bite without changing out of your swimsuit or interrupting your child's fun time in the pool. Pluto's Doghouse serves burgers, fries, tacos and fabulous crispy, juicy chicken breast tenders, a big hit with everyone. Pinocchio's Pizzeria wasn't nearly as popular on the cruise I took, but Goofy's Galley is very popular with its salads, sandwiches and paninis, as well as fresh fruit and soft-serve ice cream.

Palo, the adults-only fine dining bistro, levies a $20 per person for supper and Champagne brunch ($10 for high tea). Located aft on Deck 10, this intimate restaurant -- decorated with handmade Italian glass finials and table lamps, a calming color scheme of burnished ochres and blues, and window walls on three sides -- serves wonderful Italian/Mediterranean cuisine that rivals that of any similar upscale land-based dining establishment. We swooned over the portabello mushroom with polenta appetizer, (*This is now portobello with mozzarella and tomato sauce, not sure if you want to change or delete) large enough for a meal; all of the fish and seafood dishes were superb as was the perfectly prepared filet mignon. The brunch is an even better bargain ... Champagne, cold buffet with seafood and meats, breads, salads, cakes and desserts plus a hot made-to-order selection of eggs, meat or fish. Book early: The restaurant is small and while supper is available nightly, the Champagne brunch takes place only three times per seven-night cruise.

Room service was fast and efficient. The people who take the orders are obviously used to dealing with kids, and seem to enjoy the interchange over the phone. The menu is relatively simple, with cold sandwiches (including focaccia with zucchini and portobello mushroom, and a chicken fajita wrap) as well as salads and a variety of hot items including hot dogs, lasagna, pizza and burgers. There is not much flexibility in the menu, but my niece did request warm milk to go with her hot chocolate packs, and it was cheerfully delivered along with her yummy chocolate chip cookies. In-room breakfast is continental only and relatively boring, ordered via a pre-hung door card the night before.

Suite guests get hot breakfast options and dining room meals delivered when requested.

One thing to note is that Disney broke the barrier and is now offering soft drinks (Coca-Cola products) free of charge. They are available at meals and at the 24-hour drink station on Deck 9 aft, but if you get them from a bar or room service, you still pay.

Public Rooms

Disney put a great deal of thought into the design of its public spaces, some of which are astonishing in their outward simplicity and behind-the-scenes complexity. The Walt Disney Theater, for example, is large enough to hold half of the ships' guests, offers fantastic line of sight with no posts or pillars, and seems to have a two-deck-high stage. What is unseen is that the stage area actually encompasses many decks, from its mechanics underneath to the top where the people-flying wires, drop-down scenery and intricate lighting systems are hidden. It's sophisticated enough for the most comprehensive Broadway musical or Las Vegas-style review, but what the guest sees is a lovely theater with comfy stadium-style seating.

The Buena Vista Theater is somewhat smaller but equally enticing; this is where most of the Disney movies are shown during the cruise.

Most of the public spaces are located on Decks 3, 4 and 5, and we had great appreciation for the way they seamlessly flowed from the rowdier kid-centric activities to the quiet family or adult-oriented spaces. We enjoyed pre- and post-dinner music in the Promenade Lounge, a quiet, family-friendly environment, and in Studio Sea we participated in the game shows, exhibitions and karaoke. The Atrium is fairly small and aside from being a great meeting point is little used, except for the Disney character autograph signing, the Captain's cocktail party and Disney pin trading.

There are three shops on board Magic, two on Deck 4 (Mickey's Mates and Treasure Ketch) and one (Up Beat) on Deck 3. Mickey's Mates has Disney memorabilia and postcards, everything from oversized Mickey hands and stuffed animals to miniature souvenirs and t-shirts. Treasure Ketch has lots of logo apparel, jewelry and watches, while Up Beat has duty-free perfumes and liquor.

Note: You can bring liquor onboard Disney ships and you may use it in your stateroom, but if you buy duty-free from their shop, it is held for you until the end of the cruise.

At the very front of the ship on Deck 3 there is an entertainment complex called Beat Street, consisting of lounges, bars and cabarets that become adults-only after 9 p.m. Before that time these spaces are used for various activities. The cabaret lounge, Rockin' Bar D, hosts family-friendly individual performers or family dance parties early in the evening. Sessions, all the way forward, is a low-key and comfortable lounge and one of the few public spots where you can engage in quiet conversation. Diversions, also all the way forward, is the ship's sports bar, which was once located inside the faux funnel at the top of the ship.

The Internet Cafe is located adjacent to the Promenade Lounge, and there you'll find 10 computer stations where you can get online. You won't, however, have access to any Microsoft applications here (like Word) or be able to connect a camera or any other device to these computers.

Wireless Internet is available from 10 hotspots around the ship, including Sessions, Promenade Lounge, and Studio Sea, as well as on open and atrium decks. As far as ships have come in providing Internet access, it's still slow, unpredictable, and expensive. Rates are the same for wired or wireless, but vary based on the length of your cruise. For sailings of fewer than seven nights the rates are as follows: Pay-as-you-go for 75 cents/minute; 50 minutes for $27.50; 100 minutes for $40; or 250 minutes for $75. For sailings of more than seven days the rates are as follows: Pay-as-you-go for 75 cents/minute; 100 minutes for $55; 250 minutes for $100; or 500 minutes for $150.

In the adult section of the pool deck there is a coffee house, Cove Cafe, serving specialty coffees and bar drinks; Cove Cafe also has a small Internet section. This was a favorite, another spot that was conducive to quiet pursuits, and the closest thing to a library onboard the ship. Comfortable sofas and loungers, little cafe tables and chairs are scattered around the smallish room which looks out onto the adult pool and the port side of Deck 9. Racks of books, magazines and newspapers separate the seating areas. It's an oasis of cool and quiet in the middle of all of the pool deck activities.

Cabins

Obviously designed with family comfort in mind, these staterooms are among the roomiest and most elegant at sea. The overall color scheme is a nice deep blue with gray and burgundy, and while there are "hidden Mickeys" everywhere, you have to look to find them. Cabins aren't made for kids, but rather for respite from the child-friendly public spaces on board. They are placid, quiet and comfortable havens of privacy that somehow manage to work on all levels, and it's no surprise that they are popular with people traveling with as well as without youngsters.

The standard cabins on Disney Magic would be called a mini-suite on many other ships, with a distinct bedroom area and a living room. Twin beds, which can be made into a queen, are divided from the living area with a full pull-across curtain. The living room includes a deep full-length sofa which can be made into a third single bed; many rooms also have berths that descend from the ceiling for a fourth person, and families of five can choose a family stateroom, a bit larger than a standard, that also has a wall-mounted Murphy bed.

There are plenty of drawers for storage including six in a chest at the end of the closet and eight in the deep double-pedestal desk/dressing table. The closet has sliding doors and is fairly small, but most rooms also have an upright "steamer trunk" wardrobe for more clothing storage, which also happens to be the perfect height for kids. There are shelves above the TV in the desk area console, too high for little ones to reach. The beds are very low, too low for most suitcases to slide under. Even my niece's small carry-on did not fit under our beds -- an issue thankfully rectified by Disney on their newer ships, Dream and Fantasy. All cabins come with two portable Wave Phones, which have texting capabilities and can be used throughout the ship and on Castaway Cay. (Four phones are provided in the Royal Suite and two-bedroom suites; passengers can rent an additional phone from Guest Services for $3.50 per day.)

The honey maple furniture with inlaid Art Deco designs is elegant and warm, as are the triple-paned etched glass balcony doors. Only the center portion slides open; there is also a child-proof lock. Each stateroom comes with a "cold box." It's not a refrigerator but just keeps already cold items cold. Also included in staterooms is a safe, two small end tables with a single drawer each, a sofa, a coffee table that rises to table height, a large desk with a crescent-shaped stool and a small television. The TV programming is mostly Disney-owned channels (including ABC, Toon Disney, the Disney Channel and several ESPN channels) and Discovery, Discovery Travel, CNN,CNN Headline and BBC World. There were several stations with movies produced by Disney-owned companies including Miramax, Buena Vista and Touchstone.

The bathrooms on Magic are unique in that they are divided into a "bath and a half" configuration in all but the least expensive inside cabins. One room has a toilet, a sink and shelves for makeup and sundries; the other has a shallow tub, shower and sink. The tub is mainly to wash little ones who are too young to shower, and while it seemed a bit shallow for an adult bath, it can be used for that purpose as well. Crisp white tiles with bright blue accent pieces, faux granite sink tops with molded honey maple surrounds and round chrome sinks made these little rooms appear elegant but I felt claustrophobic in them. I was surprised when my niece mentioned that they were her least favorite aspect of the room too; "too small," she claimed. Most people love them.

Bathroom amenities are pretty decent, and include soap, shampoo, a collagen conditioner, and lotion. There is a wall-mounted hair dryer in the room that holds the toilet, which we found oddly inconvenient ... after showering we had to change bathrooms to be able to dry our hair.

The exterior "modern classic" design dictated a lot of the nuances in terms of interior spaces. Outside cabins have large round windows that replicate portholes. Most of the balconies have bars and Plexiglas inserts, but at the aft end of Decks 5, 6, 7 and 8 are balconied staterooms with either a "Navigator's Balcony" with a solid wall and a round cutout, or a half-height white metal wall as the staterooms angle towards the pointed stern. This angle, too, allows for larger verandah spaces because of the curve. We had a stateroom at the "corner" of the aft curve; our balcony was nearly six feet wide at one end, narrowing to about three and a half feet at the other, and was slightly longer than the standard midship balconies. We loved the extra outdoor space but missed the ocean vista since the solid metal wall prevents your being able to see anything but sky when you are seated, both inside and out.

Caveat: Some of these "aft corner" staterooms (5150, 5650, 6150, 6650, 7134, 7634) are narrower than others, with no extra wardrobe for clothes and a tight fit at the living room end. Ours was fine for two people; three would have made it uncomfortable.

The handicap-accessible staterooms on Magic are enormous, and the aft balcony accessible staterooms have huge verandahs (some are 30-ft. long) as well.

Inside cabins are, for the most part, configured similarly to the outsides with the same amenities. The least expensive insides have a single bath with one sink.

Hint: The ship has six staterooms known by insiders as "The Secret Porthole Rooms." They aren't secret at all, but they are a great bargain. They are staterooms all the way forward on Deck 5 that have portholes that are -- to varying degrees -- obstructed, and they are sold at the cost of the most expensive inside stateroom. Staterooms 5020, 5022, 5520 and 5522 have virtually nothing blocking the windows except rails and a pulley; 5024 and 5524 are almost completely blocked with barrels. Still, if you are considering an inside stateroom but would love the light of day for free, these cabins are a best bet.

The suites are all located on Deck 8. Suites range from one bedroom (614 square feet) to two Royal suites (1029 square feet, one with a baby grand piano), and come complete with a concierge team, more upscale design elements, full-length whirlpool tubs; the two-bedroom and up suites have dual-sink granite vanities. Suites also have better quality mattresses and feather and down duvets. All of the suites have large verandahs.

In addition to the shampoo, conditioner and body butter, suite guests get a sea salt body wash and solar a relief gel, and well as robes and slippers. There is also mouthwash, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a vanity pack with cotton balls and cotton swabs, plus a little sewing kit.

Entertainment

First of all, there is no casino on this ship, which I really thought would make me crazy. But there is so much to do and see that I honestly didn't miss it at all. There is, however, bingo for die-hards, with pretty good jackpots.

Second, those folks on Magic sure know how to throw a party. The deck parties on Magic were the most widely attended (by all age groups) of any I have ever seen and no one quit until the lights were out. The Pirates in the Caribbean Party was the highlight of the cruise, with every guest wearing a red bandanna and some donning Cap'n Hook hats, eye patches, the works. Pirates rappelled down the stack and flew over the balconies while everyone danced and danced and danced and cheered and booed and danced some more. It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time; great fun.

Anyone who assumes that the entertainment onboard would be all Mickey, all the time would be wrong. There are several production shows (Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story, Disney Dreams, and Villains Tonight!) that feature the Disney characters, and they are wonderful ... bright, colorful, perfectly executed and intricately elaborate. Trivia tidbit: There are three sets of costumes onboard and they're custom-made of the finest fabrics -- two for the performer, in case something happens to one of them, and one for the understudy. Performers use some 250 wigs and 350 pairs of shoes in a week's worth of production shows!

There are, of course, the movies; when there is a theatrical release, guests on Magic get to see it at the same time. There are first-run movies shown in both the Buena Vista and Walt Disney Theaters, including Disney Digital 3-D movies, which combine the cinema experience with lasers, fog, streamers and special lighting effects.

In the onboard clubs and lounges, there are family-oriented activities during the day, including a Playhouse Disney Dance Party, bingo, and Pirate Trivia Quest. There are also shuffleboard tournaments, golf chipping and putting contests, pool games during the day, shopping talks, toad races and my personal favorite, the Mickey 200 in which you create a racecar out of vegetables. There's family karaoke, music trivia "game shows," dance lessons, family cabaret and talent shows ... and all of that doesn't even touch the adults-only entertainment.

Early in the evening, between dinner times, there is a short and squeaky-clean version of the cabaret show that's family friendly. After hours there's an adult version, and while it was suggestive (and really, really funny) not a single curse word was used and the performers never went out of bounds, never crossed over into indecency. It was adult humor that was acceptable to everyone. There are more-adult-themed activities at night, like Match Your Mate, where you test your knowledge of your significant other, a Singles' Mingle, and even a College Club Social just for passengers ages 18-25.

There are three adult daytime programs on Magic: Navigating the Seas series, which allows guests to see the inner workings of the ship via lectures and video; the Disney Behind the Scenes series, which gives fans a "backstage" perspective of the Disney experience from food to entertainment; and the Art of Entertaining series. The latter takes place in Studio Sea and is set up as a cooking show, in which a chef prepares a portion of a meal -- appetizer, salad, dessert or main course. There are overhead mirrors so you can see what's going on, and the chef explains as he goes along. There's a female announcer who offers some really cheesy commentary and engages in a coy repartee with the chef as he plays Emeril for the audience. Everyone gets a taste of the delicacy which is presented with a thimbleful of compatible wine. There is no charge for this, nor for the corollary classes on napkin folding and plate decorating; but there are also comprehensive wine tastings during the cruise for which there is a $12 charge, and martini and margarita tastings for $15.

Sessions, the forward lounge on Deck Three, features a pianist from 6:30 to midnight in the evenings, who is occasionally accompanied by a vocalist.

Fitness and Recreation

There are three swimming pools on Disney Magic, all located on Deck 9, each with a different theme or purpose. Mickey's Pool, at the aft, is for kids only. It has a one-deck-high curly slide, is very shallow and has small toddler pools at the "ears." Goofy's Pool (and pool deck) is for families; located midship, this is where a lot of the daytime deck activities take place and is the scene of the nighttime deck parties. Quiet Cove, forward, is the adults-only area, and it is indeed quiet and peaceful. There are two large hot tubs at one end, a bar and coffee house at the other. It's large enough for laps early in the day, when it isn't yet crowded.

Deck 10 has a basketball hoop and volleyball area; there are Ping-Pong tables on Deck 9 and shuffleboard courts on the promenade on Deck 4. Both Deck 4 and Deck 10 have full-circuit walking/jogging tracks. There is a small but well-equipped fitness center on Deck 9, adjacent to the Vista Spa; classes in Pilates and yoga are available for a small charge.

Hint: Looking for a really quiet place to rest and relax in the sun, or to stargaze in peace? All the way aft on Deck 7 is a small, little-known deck area overlooking the stern's wake. There are chaises and a couple of tables, but no bar or food service; this quiet space is accessed though an unmarked wooden door, opens at 7 a.m. and is locked again at 11 p.m.

At first glance, the adults-only Vista Spa looks like any other Steiner of London-run operation, but there are hidden delights. A room just off the spa lobby, called The Rainforest Room, has neither rain nor a forest, nor is it particularly tropical. Decorated in Tuscan-inspired tiles, with a fountain in the middle, it's a coed steam room/sauna/aromatherapy environment, with heated ceramic tile chaises and scented showers. It costs $15 per day to use it, or you can purchase a cruise-long pass for $50. If you have a treatment at the spa, you can use the room at any time during that day at no additional charge.

Spa treatments run the gamut from the usual (Swedish massage, aromatherapy facials) to the unusual. Rasul, or "Mud Room," is a treatment room with sundry types of mud body masks scrubbing salts and scented oils, used on an hourly basis with no therapist involved. Though designed for three guests, it's usually only occupied by two. It's a chamber with two rooms; one for steam after applying the mud, and the other for showering the mud off. The cost for the Rasul is $89; other treatments range from $118 for a Swedish massage, to $115 for a facial, or several hundred dollars for a day of pampering. The Personal Navigator will indicate which specials are offered; port days usually have the best deals.

It might be unusual to mention a cruise line's private island retreat in a ship review, but Disney's Castaway Cay in the Bahamas is actually an extension of the shipboard experience. (Each of the Caribbean and Bahamas cruises has a full day at Castaway Cay.) This beautifully groomed island's amazingly organized "day of leisure" offers a variety of recreational opportunities for families and adults. There is no charge to use the chaises, chairs and hammocks along the beach; tube, floatie and snorkeling equipment rentals are reasonably priced. A highlight for kids are two new fantastic water play areas, Pelican Plunge, a platform with waterslides that spit you out into the sea, and Spring-a-Leak, an area with sprayers and soakers, great for cooling off. Teens have their own private activity area on the beach.

Castaway Cay has an adults-only section with oceanfront massage cabanas, and the Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab age groups have their own excursions, as do the teens. You can rent bicycles, go for a nature walk or take advantage of the motorized water sports such as Jet Skis, parasailing and banana boat rides offered by a concessionaire. There is also music, dancing, a barbecue lunch and family games throughout the day.

Family

Disney Magic was designed with families in mind, so it's no surprise that most of the programs onboard tend to appeal to all age groups. The areas designated for kids, though, are probably the most extensive at sea, with activities for every age level.

One of the nicest (and most unique) things about Magic's children's programs is the way they group the kids by age. While organized activities still cater to small age groups (3-7; 8-) all children ages 3-10 have access to the same two clubs: Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, and can move freely between them. Activities in Oceaneer Club are designed (but not limited to) smaller children ages 3 to 7, with hundreds of hands-on activities and arts projects in a gigantic space that resembles a pirate ship. Computers and TV monitors are cloaked in plastic replicas of treasure chests. Activities in the Oceaneer Lab are geared (but again, not limited to) kids 8 - 12 and provide for computer time, cooking classes, games, gab-fests, pool parties and contests.

All families are given a pager which can be used to receive a text message about their child's whereabouts. Kids under 10 have to be signed in by a parent, but 8- and 9-year-olds can sign themselves in and out with written permission from a parent. Kids 10 - 12 can sign themselves in and out; parents can be notified by text messaging only if requested.

Tweens (11-13) have their own small hangout space called The Edge, which has computers, arts and crafts, video games, and a replica of the ship's bridge, where kids can simulate navigating. Teens (14-17) also have their own special area, Vibe, which is housed in the non-functioning funnel midship. It has a lounge feel, with oversized couches, flat-screen TVs and video games. Although it is supervised by Disney personnel, no parents are allowed. Non-alcoholic drinks and coffee are served; there are a variety of activities, from dance parties to karaoke, and the kids love it.

Kids get their own version of the Personal Navigator and can join their groups at any time. Their involvement can include mealtimes if desired.

The programs for children from age 3 are provided at no additional charge.

Flounder's Reef, the nursery on board, takes babies as young as three months (up to 3 years of age). There is a per-hour charge of $6 ($5 for the second child) for this service, but it allows parents time to be on their own, for dinner in Palo or a trip to the spa, for example. New for spring 2009, Disney has an online service that allows passengers to order baby supplies in advance of their cruise and have them delivered to their stateroom (provided by Babies Travel Lite). There are over 1,000 brand-name baby products to choose from, including diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items.

All services are available on Castaway Cay.

Fellow Passengers

Mostly families; however, there are a large number of people traveling without kids because they appreciate the quality of the ship and its offerings, and the suite-like staterooms.

Dress Code

Casual during the day, resort casual in the evenings with one formal night and one semi-formal night on a seven-night cruise. Swimwear, shorts and jeans are not allowed in the restaurants at dinner.

Gratuity

On Disney Magic, the recommended gratuities are $4 per day for the dining room server, $3 per day for the assistant server, $1 per day for the head server, and $4 per day for the room steward. All bar drinks and deck service areas have a 15 percent gratuity added to the bill. It is suggested that one tip for room service as it's delivered.

Overview

When Disney executives set out to enter the cruise business, they focused as much on how to bring their popular brand of entertainment to sea as they did on designing a cruise ship. The result: You won't find a few traditional cruise elements, such as a casino, ship's library and teeny cabins on Disney's very first ship. Instead, Disney Magic debuted in 1998 with roomier-than-average cabins that are ideal for families, an entire deck's worth of space devoted to kids and family activities, and two technologically advanced theatres. While many cruise lines offer excellent children's programs, all four Disney ships offer that, plenty of options suitable for families to enjoy together, plus evening theatre that's appropriate for all ages.

There are some differences between Disney's initial sisters and her two new siblings, Dream and Fantasy -- some positive, some less so. Disney Magic is showing signs of age in a few places, with worn fabrics in the fitness center lounges and cabins, some scuffed furnishings and a bit of rust in balcony corners.

On the other hand, one of the nice things about Magic is its smaller size. It has a more intimate feel than its larger, newer sister ships, which makes it easier to get to know folks, keep track of family members and have the sense that you've experienced most of the ship, even on a shorter sailing.

Another thing to note is that, while Magic has teen programs, the ship is less appealing to teens than Disney's newest ship, Fantasy, which has a larger pool deck, a splash park area for kids of all ages, and an interactive, shipwide, Muppet-themed game.

Disney Magic's Art Deco design elements are evident in all of its public spaces, which are, for the most part, refined and understated. There are a few Disney-themed venues that are appropriately colorful and exuberant, but most of the ship's appeal lies in the fact that it is truly designed for everyone, not just Disney fanatics and kids.

Dining

The genius who devised the unique dining scheme on Disney ships should win an award for creativity on the seas. Although we enjoy traditional two-seating dining, it is rare that we actually show up in the dining room every night on a seven-night cruise, often choosing room service or the casual buffet at least once. Magic's special "dining rotation," though, made it fun and exciting to go to dinner. We plan a date night at Palo or a night at the buffet that's based on a restaurant we might not care if we miss or, on a four-night cruise, for the night we'd be at the same restaurant twice.

There are three main restaurants on Magic, and every cruiser gets to dine in each of them at least once (twice on weeklong cruises). You remain at the same table number with the same dining companions and servers, but show up at a different location each night. Dining times are set at 5:45 and 8:15 p.m.; as always on family-friendly cruise ships, the earlier dining times cater to families with young kids, so plan accordingly.

Lumiere's is the fanciest and most traditional dining room of the three, with Art Deco decor and a French-inspired menu. The restaurant is inspired by luxury liners from the heyday of transatlantic crossings.

Animator's Palate uses Disney's unique ability to create magic from the mundane: the restaurant starts out in stark black and white, but during the course of dinner, it changes slowly into a room filled with color. At one point, near the end of the meal, the various screens around the restaurant come alive with a montage of Disney animations past and present. When the waiters reappear to take dessert orders, their black vests have been replaced with brightly-colored ones, delighting the youngsters at the table. There is a nice variety of seafood, beef and pasta choices on the menu.

The third restaurant, Parrot Cay, is a bright and cheerful Caribbean marketplace-themed dining room. There you'll find waiters singing "Hot Hot Hot" and engaging the kids, who join a mid-meal conga line to dance around the floor. Parrot Cay is also open for breakfast and lunch buffets.

The actual rotation you are assigned makes little difference in the overall dining experience, except that you may dine in the first dining room on your rotation more than others, depending on the number of nights in your cruise. Preferred rotations can be requested at time of booking, but they are not guaranteed.

The food is very good, and the portions are ample. Everything, from soup stock to breads and pastries, is made onboard. With such an emphasis on quality, we found it surprising to be served only peel-packs of margarine at even the most elegant of meals in the main dining rooms.

Younger kids can order off a separate children's menu; our young tablemates, 6 and 8, said that the viscous-looking macaroni and cheese was "yucky," and no one seemed to like the thick pre-packaged-looking pizza, but they enjoyed everything else. The adults really appreciated the range of salads and fresh vegetables offered at each meal and found the variety of seafood, meats, pasta and fish excellent and beautifully prepared. Many of the desserts were so-so, but by the time we got to them, we were full enough not to mind.

Topsider's, the casual dining restaurant, serves breakfast and lunch buffets. It is open for dinner, as well (excepting the first and last evenings of the cruise), and serves freshly tossed salads, grilled steaks and fish, in addition to selections from the main dining room menus. The location, high up and aft, is terrific, but the indoor layout is cramped and difficult to maneuver -- one of the rare poorly planned spaces on the ship. On nice days, you can dine outdoors overlooking the stern.

There are three fast-food locations on Deck 9, which is where most of the outdoor action is to be found. There you can grab a bite without changing out of your swimsuit or interrupting your child's fun time in the pool. Pluto's Doghouse serves burgers, fries and fabulous crispy, juicy chicken breast tenders, a big hit with everyone. Pinocchio's Pizzeria serves slices day and night, and Goofy's Galley is very popular for its salads, sandwiches and paninis, as well as fresh fruit and soft-serve ice cream.

Palo, the adults-only fine dining bistro, levies a $20 per-person charge for supper and for its popular Champagne brunch. Located aft on Deck 10, this intimate and brand-new-looking restaurant is decorated with handmade Italian glass finials and table lamps, a calming color scheme of burnished ochres and blues, and window walls on three sides. There you'll find wonderful Italian/Mediterranean cuisine to rival that of any similar upscale land-based dining establishment. We swooned over the portabella mushroom with polenta appetizer, which was large enough for a meal. All of the fish and seafood dishes were superb, as was the perfectly prepared filet mignon. The brunch is an even better bargain ... Champagne, cold buffet with seafood and meats, breads, salads, cakes and desserts, plus a hot made-to-order selection of eggs, meat or fish. Book early: the restaurant is small, and while supper is available nightly, the Champagne brunch takes place only three times per seven-night cruise.

Room service was fast and efficient. The people who take the orders are obviously used to dealing with kids, and they seem to enjoy the exchange over the phone. The menu is relatively simple, with cold sandwiches (including focaccia with zucchini and portabella mushroom, and a chicken fajita wrap), salads and a variety of hot items, including hot dogs, lasagna, pizza and burgers. There is not much flexibility in the menu, but when we requested warm milk to go with our hot chocolate packs, it was cheerfully delivered along with yummy chocolate chip cookies. In-room breakfast is continental only and relatively boring, ordered via a pre-hung door card the night before.

Suite passengers get hot breakfast options and dining room meals delivered when requested.

One thing to note is that Disney broke the barrier and is now offering soft drinks (Coca-Cola products) free of charge. They are available at meals and at the 24-hour drink station on Deck 9 aft, but if you get them from a bar or room service, you'll still have to pay.

Public Rooms

Disney put a great deal of thought into the design of its public spaces. Most are located on Decks 3, 4 and 5, and we had great appreciation for the way they seamlessly flowed from the rowdier kid-centric activities to the quiet family or adult-oriented spaces. We enjoyed pre- and post-dinner music in the Promenade Lounge, a quiet, family-friendly environment around the corner from Lumiere's. In Studio Sea (located a deck above), we participated in the game shows, exhibitions and karaoke. The Atrium is fairly small, and aside from being a great meeting point, it's rarely used, except for the Disney character autograph-signing, the Captain's cocktail party and Disney pin-trading.

There are three shops onboard Magic, two on Deck 4 (Mickey's Mates and Treasure Ketch) and one (Up Beat) on Deck 3. Mickey's Mates has Disney memorabilia and postcards, everything from oversized Mickey hands and stuffed animals to miniature souvenirs and T-shirts. Treasure Ketch has lots of logo apparel, jewelry and watches, while Up Beat has duty-free perfumes and liquor.

Note: You can bring liquor onboard Disney ships, and you may use it in your stateroom, but if you buy duty-free from their shop, it is held for you until the end of the cruise.

The Internet Cafe is located adjacent to the Promenade Lounge, with 10 computer stations for getting online. You won't, however, have access to any Microsoft applications here (like Word) or be able to connect a camera or other device to these computers. Wireless Internet access is available throughout the ship, including in staterooms. While access is fairly good, it can also be unpredictable and slow at times. Rates are the same for wired or wireless, but they vary based on the length of your cruise. For sailings of fewer than seven nights, the rates are as follows: pay-as-you-go for 75 cents/minute; 50 minutes for $27.50; 100 minutes for $40; or 250 minutes for $75. For sailings of more than seven nights, the rates are as follows: pay-as-you-go for 75 cents/minute; 100 minutes for $55; 250 minutes for $100; or 500 minutes for $150.

Wi-Fi-enabled laptops are available for a fee in the adults-only Cove Cafe on Deck 9, midship. The cafe, located adjacent to the adults-only pool, serves specialty coffees and bar drinks. This was a favorite -- another spot that was conducive to quiet pursuits and the closest thing to a library onboard the ship. Comfortable sofas and loungers, little cafe tables and chairs are scattered around the smallish room, which looks out onto the adult pool and the port side of Deck 9. Racks of books, magazines and newspapers separate the seating areas.

Check the ship map to locate the nearest self-service laundry room. Each has an ironing board and iron, washers, dryers and automated machines selling laundry detergent and dryer sheets.

Cabins

Magic's roomy cabins are designed with family comfort in mind. Cabins aren't made to wow kids but, rather, to provide respite from the child-friendly public spaces onboard. They are placid, quiet and comfortable havens of privacy, and it's no surprise that they are popular, even with people traveling without youngsters. The overall color scheme is a nice nautical blue with gray and burgundy, and while there are "hidden Mickeys" everywhere, you have to look to find them. On Magic, Disney's oldest ship, the cabins are beginning to look worn, with bedspreads that are showing signs of age and shower tile grout that could use replacing.

The 214-square-foot outside cabins and 223-square-foot balcony staterooms (each with a 45-square-foot verandah) are comparable to mini-suites on some other ships, each with a distinct bedroom area and living room. Twin beds, which can be made into a queen, are divided from the living area with a full pull-across curtain. The living rooms include deep, full-length sofas, which can be made into third single beds; many rooms also have berths that descend from the ceiling for a fourth person. The slightly larger 259-square-foot Deluxe Family Oceanview stateroom, with a 45-square-foot balcony, can fit five with an additional wall-mounted Murphy bed. Inside cabins (184 square feet for standard, 214 square feet for deluxe) are, for the most part, configured similarly to the outsides and offer the same amenities.

The honey maple furniture with inlaid Art Deco designs is elegant and warm, as are the triple-paned etched-glass balcony doors, which have childproof locks. There are plenty of drawers for storage, including six in a chest at the end of each closet and eight in the deep double-pedestal desk/dressing tables. The closet has sliding doors and is fairly small, but most rooms also have an upright "steamer trunk" wardrobe for more clothing storage, which also happens to be the perfect height for kids. There are shelves above the TV in the desk area console, too high for little ones to reach. The beds are very low, too low for most suitcases to slide under -- an issue thankfully rectified by Disney on their newer ships, Dream and Fantasy. All cabins come with two portable Wave Phones, which have texting capabilities and can be used throughout the ship and on Castaway Cay. (Four phones are provided in the Royal Suite and two-bedroom suites; passengers can rent additional phones from Guest Services for $3.50 per day.)

Each stateroom comes with a "cold box." It's not a refrigerator, but it does keep already cold items cold. Also included in each stateroom: a safe large enough to fit a Macbook Pro, two small end tables with a single drawer each, a sofa, a coffee table that rises to table height, a large desk with a crescent-shaped stool and a small television. The TV programming is mostly Disney-owned channels (including ABC, Toon Disney, the Disney Channel and several ESPN channels) and Discovery, Discovery Travel, CNN, CNN Headline and BBC World. There were several stations with movies produced by Disney-owned companies, including Miramax, Buena Vista and Touchstone.

The bathrooms on Magic are unique in that they are divided into a "bath and a half" configuration in all but the least expensive inside cabins, which have single baths with one sink each. In all other cabins, one bathroom has a toilet, a sink and shelves for makeup and sundries; the other has a shallow tub, shower and sink. The tub is mainly to wash little ones who are too young to shower, and while it seemed a bit shallow for an adult bath, it can be used for that purpose as well. Crisp white tiles with bright blue accent pieces, faux granite sink tops with molded honey maple surrounds and round chrome sinks made these little rooms appear elegant. Though most people love them, we felt claustrophobic in them.

Bathroom amenities are decent and include soap, shampoo, a collagen conditioner and lotion. There is a wall-mounted hair dryer in the bathroom that houses the toilet, which we found oddly inconvenient ... after showering, you have to change bathrooms to dry your hair.

The ship's exterior "modern classic" design dictated several interior space nuances. Outside cabins have large, round windows that replicate portholes. Most of the balconies have bars and Plexiglas inserts, but at the aft end of Decks 5, 6, 7 and 8 are balconied staterooms with either a "Navigator's Balcony" (with a solid wall and a round cutout) or a half-height white metal wall as the staterooms angle toward the pointed stern. This angle, too, allows for larger verandah spaces because of the curve. We had a stateroom at the "corner" of the aft curve; our balcony was nearly six feet wide at one end, narrowing to about three and a half feet at the other, slightly longer than the standard midship balconies. We loved the extra outdoor space but missed the ocean vista since the solid metal wall prevents a view of anything but the sky when you are seated.

Caveat: Some of these "aft corner" staterooms (5150, 5650, 6150, 6650, 7134, 7634) are narrower than others, with no extra wardrobe for clothes and a tight fit at the living room end. Ours was fine for two people; three would have made it uncomfortable.

The wheelchair-accessible staterooms on Magic are enormous, and they are available in inside, outside, verandah and suite categories. The aft balcony accessible staterooms have huge verandahs, as well (some 30 feet long).

Hint: The ship has six staterooms known by insiders as "The Secret Porthole Rooms." They aren't secret at all, but they are a great bargain. They are staterooms all the way forward on Deck 5 that have portholes that are -- to varying degrees -- obstructed, and they are sold at the cost of the most expensive inside stateroom. Staterooms 5020, 5022, 5520 and 5522 have virtually nothing blocking the windows except rails and a pulley; 5024 and 5524 are almost completely blocked with barrels. Still, if you are considering an inside stateroom but would love the light of day for no extra charge, these cabins are your best bet.

The suites are all located on Deck 8 and include the following: 524-square-foot one-bedroom suites with 90-square-foot balconies, 805-square-foot two-bedroom suites with 140-square-foot balconies, and two 845-square foot Royal suites with 184-square-foot balconies (one of which has a baby grand piano). The one-bedroom suites sleep five, and the two-bedroom and Royal suites sleep seven. Each suite comes complete with a concierge team, more upscale design elements, upgraded mattresses and feather pillows, granite countertops and full-length whirlpool tubs. All of the suites have large verandahs.

In addition to shampoo, conditioner and body butter, suite passengers get a sea salt body wash and sunburn relief gel, as well as robes and slippers. They'll also find mouthwash, toothpaste, a toothbrush and a vanity pack with cotton balls and cotton swabs, plus a little sewing kit.

Entertainment

First of all, there is no casino on this ship, which we really thought would make us crazy. But there is so much to do and see that we honestly didn't miss it at all. There is, however, bingo with pretty good jackpots.

Second, those folks on Magic sure know how to throw a party. The deck parties on Magic were the most widely attended (by all age groups) of any we have ever seen, and no one quit until the lights were out. The Pirates in the Caribbean Party was the highlight of the cruise, with every cruiser wearing a red bandana and some donning Captain Hook hats, eye patches and other piratical paraphernalia. Pirates rappelled down the ship's smokestack and flew over the balconies while everyone danced and cheered and booed and danced.

Anyone who assumes that the entertainment onboard is all Mickey, all the time, would be wrong. Several production shows ("Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story," "Disney Dreams," and "Villains Tonight!") do feature the Disney characters, and they are wonderful ... bright, colorful, perfectly executed and intricately elaborate. Trivia tidbit: There are three sets of costumes onboard, and they're custom-made of the finest fabrics -- two for the performer, in case something happens to one of them, and one for the understudy. Performers use some 250 wigs and 350 pairs of shoes in a week's worth of production shows!

However, depending on sailing length, additional theatre shows might include a comedy and magic show with a special guest performer (not Mickey- or Disney character-related), as well as a "Welcome Aboard: Let the Magic Begin" revue-type show.

These events take place in the the Walt Disney Theater, which is large enough to hold half of the ships' occupants, offers fantastic lines of sight with no posts or pillars, and seems to have a two-deck-high stage. What is unseen is that the stage area actually encompasses many decks, from its mechanics underneath to the top where the people-flying wires, drop-down scenery and intricate lighting systems are hidden. It's sophisticated enough for the most comprehensive Broadway musical or Las Vegas-style review, but what the passengers see is a lovely theater with comfy stadium-style seating.

One entertainment perk is that whenever a Disney-owned movie production company has a theatrical release, Magic passengers get to see it at the same time. These are first-run movies, ranging from kid-friendly, G-rated flicks to PG-13 and even R-rated films, shown in both the Walt Disney Theater and the smaller Buena Vista Theater (depending on length of sailing). In addition, Disney Digital 3-D movies combine the cinema experience with lasers, fog, streamers and special lighting effects.

In the onboard clubs and lounges, daytime family-oriented activities include the Playhouse Disney Dance Party, bingo, Family Magic Quest (a scavenger hunt game) and several trivia games. Other activities include shuffleboard tournaments, golf chipping and putting contests, pool games, shopping talks and our personal favorite, the Mickey 200, in which you create a racecar out of vegetables. Oh, and don't forget family karaoke, music trivia "game shows," dance lessons, family cabaret and talent shows ... and all of that doesn't even touch the adults-only entertainment.

At the very front of the ship on Deck 3 is an entertainment complex called Beat Street, consisting of lounges, bars and cabarets that become adults-only after 9 p.m. Before that time, these spaces are used for various all-ages activities. Rockin' Bar D hosts family-friendly individual performers or family dance parties early in the evening. Between dinner times, a short and squeaky-clean version of the cabaret show is performed for families with younger kids. After hours, the adult version is suggestive (and really, really funny), but not a single curse word was used, and the performers never went out of bounds or crossed over into indecency. It was adult humor that was acceptable to everyone. Additional adult-themed activities at night include a Singles' Mingle, a College Club Social for passengers ages 18-25, and Match Your Mate, where you test your knowledge of your significant other (a la the Newlywed Game).

Sessions, all the way forward, is a low-key and comfortable lounge and one of the few public spots where you can engage in quiet conversation. It features a pianist from 6:30 p.m. to midnight, who is occasionally accompanied by a vocalist. Diversions, also all the way forward, is the ship's sports bar, open to families during the day for games of checkers, foosball, Sorry and assorted other board games.

Three adult programs take place during the day: the Navigating the Seas series, which allows passengers to see the inner workings of the ship via lectures and video; the Disney Behind the Scenes series, which gives fans a "backstage" perspective of the Disney experience, from food to entertainment; and the Art of Entertaining series. The latter takes place in Studio Sea, a family-friendly bar/game show space, and is set up as a cooking show, in which a chef prepares a portion of a meal -- appetizer, salad, dessert or main course. The audience can watch the action via overhead mirrors, and the chef explains what he's doing as he goes along. At the end, everyone gets a taste of the delicacy and a thimbleful of compatible wine. The event is free of charge, as are the corollary classes on napkin-folding and plate-decorating. Wine, martini and margarita tastings are also available for $15 per person.

Disney's shore excursions offer a variety of experiences, usually including a family-friendly option with activities geared toward kids and an adults-only choice. Several new shore excursions are available, thanks to Magic's variety of upcoming itineraries. For example, in typical Disney style, families can attend a garden party with Disney characters in Saint John, New Brunswick, or cruise on Theodore Tugboat in Halifax, both offered on Disney Canada sailings from New York City. The ship's eight-night sailings from New York City also include a day at Disney World in Florida. From Galveston, the Western Caribbean itinerary offers a chance to take the Nautilus Undersea Tour to see coral reefs and tropical fish from a partially submerged submarine, or you can choose from one of several tours that get you up-close with dolphins, turtles or stingrays.

Fitness and Recreation

The three swimming pools on Disney Magic are all located on Deck 9, each with a different theme or purpose. Mickey's Pool, at the aft, is for kids only. It has a one-deck-high curly slide, is very shallow and has small toddler pools at the "ears." Goofy's Pool (and pool deck) is for families; located midship, this is where many daytime deck activities take place and is the scene of the nighttime deck parties. Kids must be toilet-trained to enter any pool. Quiet Cove, forward, is the adults-only area, and it is indeed quiet and peaceful. There are two large hot tubs at one end, a bar and coffee house at the other. It's large enough for laps early in the day when it isn't yet crowded.

Deck 10 has a basketball hoop and volleyball area, plus foosball and Ping-Pong tables. Shuffleboard courts are on the promenade, Deck 4. Both Deck 4 and Deck 10 have full-circuit walking/jogging tracks, but the lower deck is shaded and less crowded. A small but well-equipped fitness center is located on Deck 9, adjacent to the Vista Spa; classes in Pilates and yoga are available for a small charge.

Hint: Looking for a really quiet place to rest and relax in the sun, or to stargaze in peace? All the way aft on Deck 7 is a small, little-known deck area overlooking the stern's wake. There are chaises and a couple of tables, but no bar or food service; this quiet space is accessed through an unmarked wooden door, opens at 7 a.m. and is locked again at 11 p.m.

At first glance, the adults-only Vista Spa looks like any other Steiner of London-run operation, but there are hidden delights. A room just off the spa lobby, called The Rainforest Room, has neither rain nor a forest, nor is it particularly tropical. Decorated in Tuscan-inspired tiles, with a fountain in the middle, it's a coed steam room/sauna/aromatherapy environment, with heated ceramic tile chaises and scented showers. It costs $15 per day to use it, or you can purchase a cruise-long pass for $50. If you have a treatment at the spa, you can use the room at any time during that day at no additional charge.

Spa treatments range from the usual (Swedish massage, aromatherapy facials) to the unusual. Rasul, or "Mud Room," is a treatment room with sundry types of mud body masks, scrubbing salts and scented oils, used on an hourly basis with no therapist involved. Though designed for three people, it's usually only occupied by two. It's a chamber with two rooms -- one for steam after applying the mud and the other for showering the mud off. The cost for the Rasul is $89; other treatments include the $118 Swedish massage and a $115 facial, or you can spend several hundred dollars for a day of pampering. The Personal Navigator will indicate which specials are offered; port days usually have the best deals.

It might be unusual to mention a cruise line's private island retreat in a ship review, but Disney's Castaway Cay in the Bahamas is actually an extension of the shipboard experience. (Each of the Caribbean and Bahamas cruises has a full day at Castaway Cay.) This beautifully groomed island's amazingly organized "day of leisure" offers a variety of recreational opportunities for families and adults. There is no charge to use the chaises, chairs and hammocks along the beach; tube, floatie and snorkeling equipment rentals are reasonably priced. Highlights for kids are two fantastic water-play areas: Pelican Plunge, a platform with waterslides that spit you out into the sea, and Spring-a-Leak, an area with sprayers and soakers, great for cooling off. Teens have their own private activity area on the beach.

Castaway Cay has an adults-only section with oceanfront massage cabanas, and the Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab age groups have their own excursions, as do the teens. You can rent bicycles, go for a nature walk or take advantage of motorized water sports offerings like Jet Skis, parasailing and banana boat rides offered by a concessionaire. Visitors will also find music, dancing, a barbecue lunch and family games throughout the day.

Family

Disney Magic was designed with families in mind, so it's no surprise that most of the programs onboard tend to appeal to all age groups. While there is no in-cabin baby-sitting on Disney ships, the areas designated for kids are probably the most extensive at sea, with activities for every age level and hours available so that you can have a night out.

One of the nicest (and most unique) things about Magic's children's programs is the way they group the kids by age. While organized activities still cater to small age groups (3 to 7), all children, ages 3 to 10, have access to the same two clubs (Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab) and can move freely between them. Activities in Oceaneer Club are designed for (but not limited to) smaller children, ages 3 to 7, with hundreds of hands-on activities and art projects in a gigantic space that resembles a pirate ship. Computers and TV monitors are cloaked in plastic replicas of treasure chests. Activities in the Oceaneer Lab are geared (but again, not limited) to kids 8 to 12 and provide for computer time, cooking classes, games, gab-fests, pool parties and contests.

Each family is given a pager, which can be used to receive a text message about children's whereabouts. Kids younger than 10 have to be signed in and out by a parent, but 8- and 9-year-olds can sign themselves in and out with written permission from a parent. Kids 10 to 12 can sign themselves in and out; parents can be notified by text messaging only if requested.

Tweens (11 to 13) have their own small hangout space called The Edge, which has computers, arts and crafts, video games and a replica of the ship's bridge, where they can simulate navigating. Teens (14 to 17) also have their own special area, Vibe, which is housed in the nonfunctioning funnel, midship. It has a lounge feel, with oversized couches, flat-screen TV's and video games. Although it is supervised by Disney personnel, no parents are allowed. Nonalcoholic drinks and coffee are served; there are a variety of activities, from dance parties to karaoke.

Kids get their own version of the Personal Navigator and can join their groups at any time during the day, including dinner with fellow kid-clubbers, while parents dine alone.

The programs for children from age 3 are provided at no additional charge.

Flounder's Reef, the nursery onboard, takes babies as young as 3 months and children up to 3 years of age. Typical open hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The nursery is stocked with baby swings, walkers, books, toys, games and a TV, as well as a quiet area with cribs.

There is a per-hour charge of $6 ($5 for the second child) for this service, but it allows parents time to be on their own for dinner in Palo or a trip to the spa, for example. You can reserve a limited number of hours of nursery time for your child online up to three days prior to sailing: 10 hours for cruises of seven nights or less, 18 hours for seven-night cruises, 28 hours for 10- to 12-night cruises and 35 hours for cruises of 14 nights or longer. You can also sign your child up in person onboard.

Disney has an online service that allows passengers to order baby supplies in advance of their cruise and have them delivered to their staterooms (provided by Babies Travel Lite). There are more than 1,000 brand-name baby products to choose from, including diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items. The dining room can also provide mashed or pureed food for babies upon request.

All services are available on Castaway Cay.

Fellow Passengers

Mostly families sail this ship; however, there is a large number of people traveling without kids because they appreciate the quality of the ship, its offerings and its suite-like staterooms. In addition, Disney Magic's changing itineraries attract a higher percentage of past passengers looking to explore new places with Disney.

Dress Code

Dress is casual during the day and resort casual -- pants and Polos and casual dresses -- in the evenings, with one formal night and one semiformal night on a seven-night cruise. Even the formal nights lean toward the casual, with many women dressed in summer or maxi-dresses as opposed to long, formal ones. Swimwear, shorts and jeans are not allowed in the restaurants at dinner.

Gratuity

The recommended gratuities are $4 per person, per day, for the dining room server; $3 per person, per day, for the assistant server; $1 per person, per day, for the head server; and $4 per person, per day, for the room steward. All bar, pool deck and coffee bar drinks have a 15 percent gratuity added to the bill. Spa gratuities are not added and are left to the discretion of each passenger. It is suggested that cruisers tip for room service as it's delivered.

Overview

Editor's Note: The 1,754-passenger Disney Magic, which turns 15 on July 30, will head to Cadiz, Spain, from September 7 to October 10 for its biggest-ever refurb. The operation will cover restaurants, bars, the spa, the atrium, cabins and kids' spaces, and will include the addition of a precipitously inclined waterslide that swings out over the side of the 11-deck ship. Get the details.

When Disney executives set out to enter the cruise business, they focused as much on how to bring their popular brand of entertainment to sea as they did on designing a cruise ship. The result: You won't find a few traditional cruise elements, such as a casino, ship's library and teeny cabins on Disney's very first ship. Instead, Disney Magic debuted in 1998 with roomier-than-average cabins that are ideal for families, an entire deck's worth of space devoted to kids and family activities, and two technologically advanced theatres. While many cruise lines offer excellent children's programs, all four Disney ships offer that, plenty of options suitable for families to enjoy together, plus evening theatre that's appropriate for all ages.

There are some differences between Disney's initial sisters and her two new siblings, Dream and Fantasy -- some positive, some less so. Disney Magic is showing signs of age in a few places, with worn fabrics in the fitness center lounges and cabins, some scuffed furnishings and a bit of rust in balcony corners.

On the other hand, one of the nice things about Magic is its smaller size. It has a more intimate feel than its larger, newer sister ships, which makes it easier to get to know folks, keep track of family members and have the sense that you've experienced most of the ship, even on a shorter sailing.

Another thing to note is that, while Magic has teen programs, the ship is less appealing to teens than Disney's newest ship, Fantasy, which has a larger pool deck, a splash park area for kids of all ages, and an interactive, shipwide, Muppet-themed game.

Disney Magic's Art Deco design elements are evident in all of its public spaces, which are, for the most part, refined and understated. There are a few Disney-themed venues that are appropriately colorful and exuberant, but most of the ship's appeal lies in the fact that it is truly designed for everyone, not just Disney fanatics and kids.

Cabins

Magic's roomy cabins are designed with family comfort in mind. Cabins aren't made to wow kids but, rather, to provide respite from the child-friendly public spaces onboard. They are placid, quiet and comfortable havens of privacy, and it's no surprise that they are popular, even with people traveling without youngsters. The overall color scheme is a nice nautical blue with gray and burgundy, and while there are "hidden Mickeys" everywhere, you have to look to find them. On Magic, Disney's oldest ship, the cabins are beginning to look worn, with bedspreads that are showing signs of age and shower tile grout that could use replacing.

The 214-square-foot outside cabins and 223-square-foot balcony staterooms (each with a 45-square-foot verandah) are comparable to mini-suites on some other ships, each with a distinct bedroom area and living room. Twin beds, which can be made into a queen, are divided from the living area with a full pull-across curtain. The living rooms include deep, full-length sofas, which can be made into third single beds; many rooms also have berths that descend from the ceiling for a fourth person. The slightly larger 259-square-foot Deluxe Family Oceanview stateroom, with a 45-square-foot balcony, can fit five with an additional wall-mounted Murphy bed. Inside cabins (184 square feet for standard, 214 square feet for deluxe) are, for the most part, configured similarly to the outsides and offer the same amenities.

Editor's Note: As of November 15, 2013, cigarette smoking on cabin balconies will no longer be permitted.

The honey maple furniture with inlaid Art Deco designs is elegant and warm, as are the triple-paned etched-glass balcony doors, which have childproof locks. There are plenty of drawers for storage, including six in a chest at the end of each closet and eight in the deep double-pedestal desk/dressing tables. The closet has sliding doors and is fairly small, but most rooms also have an upright "steamer trunk" wardrobe for more clothing storage, which also happens to be the perfect height for kids. There are shelves above the TV in the desk area console, too high for little ones to reach. The beds are very low, too low for most suitcases to slide under -- an issue thankfully rectified by Disney on their newer ships, Dream and Fantasy. All cabins come with two portable Wave Phones, which have texting capabilities and can be used throughout the ship and on Castaway Cay. (Four phones are provided in the Royal Suite and two-bedroom suites; passengers can rent additional phones from Guest Services for $3.50 per day.)

Each stateroom comes with a "cold box." It's not a refrigerator, but it does keep already cold items cold. Also included in each stateroom: a safe large enough to fit a Macbook Pro, two small end tables with a single drawer each, a sofa, a coffee table that rises to table height, a large desk with a crescent-shaped stool and a small television. The TV programming is mostly Disney-owned channels (including ABC, Toon Disney, the Disney Channel and several ESPN channels) and Discovery, Discovery Travel, CNN, CNN Headline and BBC World. There were several stations with movies produced by Disney-owned companies, including Miramax, Buena Vista and Touchstone.

The bathrooms on Magic are unique in that they are divided into a "bath and a half" configuration in all but the least expensive inside cabins, which have single baths with one sink each. In all other cabins, one bathroom has a toilet, a sink and shelves for makeup and sundries; the other has a shallow tub, shower and sink. The tub is mainly to wash little ones who are too young to shower, and while it seemed a bit shallow for an adult bath, it can be used for that purpose as well. Crisp white tiles with bright blue accent pieces, faux granite sink tops with molded honey maple surrounds and round chrome sinks made these little rooms appear elegant. Though most people love them, we felt claustrophobic in them.

Bathroom amenities are decent and include soap, shampoo, a collagen conditioner and lotion. There is a wall-mounted hair dryer in the bathroom that houses the toilet, which we found oddly inconvenient ... after showering, you have to change bathrooms to dry your hair.

The ship's exterior "modern classic" design dictated several interior space nuances. Outside cabins have large, round windows that replicate portholes. Most of the balconies have bars and Plexiglas inserts, but at the aft end of Decks 5, 6, 7 and 8 are balconied staterooms with either a "Navigator's Balcony" (with a solid wall and a round cutout) or a half-height white metal wall as the staterooms angle toward the pointed stern. This angle, too, allows for larger verandah spaces because of the curve. We had a stateroom at the "corner" of the aft curve; our balcony was nearly six feet wide at one end, narrowing to about three and a half feet at the other, slightly longer than the standard midship balconies. We loved the extra outdoor space but missed the ocean vista since the solid metal wall prevents a view of anything but the sky when you are seated.

Caveat: Some of these "aft corner" staterooms (5150, 5650, 6150, 6650, 7134, 7634) are narrower than others, with no extra wardrobe for clothes and a tight fit at the living room end. Ours was fine for two people; three would have made it uncomfortable.

The wheelchair-accessible staterooms on Magic are enormous, and they are available in inside, outside, verandah and suite categories. The aft balcony accessible staterooms have huge verandahs, as well (some 30 feet long).

Hint: The ship has six staterooms known by insiders as "The Secret Porthole Rooms." They aren't secret at all, but they are a great bargain. They are staterooms all the way forward on Deck 5 that have portholes that are -- to varying degrees -- obstructed, and they are sold at the cost of the most expensive inside stateroom. Staterooms 5020, 5022, 5520 and 5522 have virtually nothing blocking the windows except rails and a pulley; 5024 and 5524 are almost completely blocked with barrels. Still, if you are considering an inside stateroom but would love the light of day for no extra charge, these cabins are your best bet.

The suites are all located on Deck 8 and include the following: 524-square-foot one-bedroom suites with 90-square-foot balconies, 805-square-foot two-bedroom suites with 140-square-foot balconies, and two 845-square foot Royal suites with 184-square-foot balconies (one of which has a baby grand piano). The one-bedroom suites sleep five, and the two-bedroom and Royal suites sleep seven. Each suite comes complete with a concierge team, more upscale design elements, upgraded mattresses and feather pillows, granite countertops and full-length whirlpool tubs. All of the suites have large verandahs.

In addition to shampoo, conditioner and body butter, suite passengers get a sea salt body wash and sunburn relief gel, as well as robes and slippers. They'll also find mouthwash, toothpaste, a toothbrush and a vanity pack with cotton balls and cotton swabs, plus a little sewing kit.

Dress Code

Dress is casual during the day and resort casual -- pants and Polos and casual dresses -- in the evenings, with one formal night and one semiformal night on a seven-night cruise. Even the formal nights lean toward the casual, with many women dressed in summer or maxi-dresses as opposed to long, formal ones. Swimwear is not allowed in the restaurants at dinner, but shorts and jeans are permitted.

Dining

The genius who devised the unique dining scheme on Disney ships should win an award for creativity on the seas. Although we enjoy traditional two-seating dining, it is rare that we actually show up in the dining room every night on a seven-night cruise, often choosing room service or the casual buffet at least once. Magic's special "dining rotation," though, made it fun and exciting to go to dinner. We plan a date night at Palo or a night at the buffet that's based on a restaurant we might not care if we miss or, on a four-night cruise, for the night we'd be at the same restaurant twice.

There are three main restaurants on Magic, and every cruiser gets to dine in each of them at least once (twice on weeklong cruises). You remain at the same table number with the same dining companions and servers, but show up at a different location each night. Dining times are set at 5:45 and 8:15 p.m.; as always on family-friendly cruise ships, the earlier dining times cater to families with young kids, so plan accordingly.

Lumiere's is the fanciest and most traditional dining room of the three, with Art Deco decor and a French-inspired menu. The restaurant is inspired by luxury liners from the heyday of transatlantic crossings.

Animator's Palate uses Disney's unique ability to create magic from the mundane: the restaurant starts out in stark black and white, but during the course of dinner, it changes slowly into a room filled with color. At one point, near the end of the meal, the various screens around the restaurant come alive with a montage of Disney animations past and present. When the waiters reappear to take dessert orders, their black vests have been replaced with brightly-colored ones, delighting the youngsters at the table. There is a nice variety of seafood, beef and pasta choices on the menu.

The third restaurant, Parrot Cay, is a bright and cheerful Caribbean marketplace-themed dining room. There you'll find waiters singing "Hot Hot Hot" and engaging the kids, who join a mid-meal conga line to dance around the floor. Parrot Cay is also open for breakfast and lunch buffets.

The actual rotation you are assigned makes little difference in the overall dining experience, except that you may dine in the first dining room on your rotation more than others, depending on the number of nights in your cruise. Preferred rotations can be requested at time of booking, but they are not guaranteed.

The food is very good, and the portions are ample. Everything, from soup stock to breads and pastries, is made onboard. With such an emphasis on quality, we found it surprising to be served only peel-packs of margarine at even the most elegant of meals in the main dining rooms.

Younger kids can order off a separate children's menu; our young tablemates, 6 and 8, said that the viscous-looking macaroni and cheese was "yucky," and no one seemed to like the thick pre-packaged-looking pizza, but they enjoyed everything else. The adults really appreciated the range of salads and fresh vegetables offered at each meal and found the variety of seafood, meats, pasta and fish excellent and beautifully prepared. Many of the desserts were so-so, but by the time we got to them, we were full enough not to mind.

Topsider's, the casual dining restaurant, serves breakfast and lunch buffets. It is open for dinner, as well (excepting the first and last evenings of the cruise), and serves freshly tossed salads, grilled steaks and fish, in addition to selections from the main dining room menus. The location, high up and aft, is terrific, but the indoor layout is cramped and difficult to maneuver -- one of the rare poorly planned spaces on the ship. On nice days, you can dine outdoors overlooking the stern.

There are three fast-food locations on Deck 9, which is where most of the outdoor action is to be found. There you can grab a bite without changing out of your swimsuit or interrupting your child's fun time in the pool. Pluto's Doghouse serves burgers, fries and fabulous crispy, juicy chicken breast tenders, a big hit with everyone. Pinocchio's Pizzeria serves slices day and night, and Goofy's Galley is very popular for its salads, sandwiches and paninis, as well as fresh fruit and soft-serve ice cream.

Palo, the adults-only fine dining bistro, levies a $25 per-person charge for supper and for its popular Champagne brunch. Located aft on Deck 10, this intimate and brand-new-looking restaurant is decorated with handmade Italian glass finials and table lamps, a calming color scheme of burnished ochres and blues, and window walls on three sides. There you'll find wonderful Italian/Mediterranean cuisine to rival that of any similar upscale land-based dining establishment. We swooned over the portabella mushroom with polenta appetizer, which was large enough for a meal. All of the fish and seafood dishes were superb, as was the perfectly prepared filet mignon. The brunch is an even better bargain ... Champagne, cold buffet with seafood and meats, breads, salads, cakes and desserts, plus a hot made-to-order selection of eggs, meat or fish. Book early: the restaurant is small, and while supper is available nightly, the Champagne brunch takes place only three times per seven-night cruise.

Room service was fast and efficient. The people who take the orders are obviously used to dealing with kids, and they seem to enjoy the exchange over the phone. The menu is relatively simple, with cold sandwiches (including focaccia with zucchini and portabella mushroom, and a chicken fajita wrap), salads and a variety of hot items, including hot dogs, lasagna, pizza and burgers. There is not much flexibility in the menu, but when we requested warm milk to go with our hot chocolate packs, it was cheerfully delivered along with yummy chocolate chip cookies. In-room breakfast is continental only and relatively boring, ordered via a pre-hung door card the night before.

Suite passengers get hot breakfast options and dining room meals delivered when requested.

One thing to note is that Disney broke the barrier and is now offering soft drinks (Coca-Cola products) free of charge. They are available at meals and at the 24-hour drink station on Deck 9 aft, but if you get them from a bar or room service, you'll still have to pay.

Family

Disney Magic was designed with families in mind, so it's no surprise that most of the programs onboard tend to appeal to all age groups. While there is no in-cabin baby-sitting on Disney ships, the areas designated for kids are probably the most extensive at sea, with activities for every age level and hours available so that you can have a night out.

One of the nicest (and most unique) things about Magic's children's programs is the way they group the kids by age. While organized activities still cater to small age groups (3 to 7), all children, ages 3 to 10, have access to the same two clubs (Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab) and can move freely between them. Activities in Oceaneer Club are designed for (but not limited to) smaller children, ages 3 to 7, with hundreds of hands-on activities and art projects in a gigantic space that resembles a pirate ship. Computers and TV monitors are cloaked in plastic replicas of treasure chests. Activities in the Oceaneer Lab are geared (but again, not limited) to kids 8 to 12 and provide for computer time, cooking classes, games, gab-fests, pool parties and contests.

Each family is given a pager, which can be used to receive a text message about children's whereabouts. Kids younger than 10 have to be signed in and out by a parent, but 8- and 9-year-olds can sign themselves in and out with written permission from a parent. Kids 10 to 12 can sign themselves in and out; parents can be notified by text messaging only if requested.

Tweens (11 to 13) have their own small hangout space called The Edge, which has computers, arts and crafts, video games and a replica of the ship's bridge, where they can simulate navigating. Teens (14 to 17) also have their own special area, Vibe, which is housed in the nonfunctioning funnel, midship. It has a lounge feel, with oversized couches, flat-screen TV's and video games. Although it is supervised by Disney personnel, no parents are allowed. Nonalcoholic drinks and coffee are served; there are a variety of activities, from dance parties to karaoke.

Kids get their own version of the Personal Navigator and can join their groups at any time during the day, including dinner with fellow kid-clubbers, while parents dine alone.

The programs for children from age 3 are provided at no additional charge.

Flounder's Reef, the nursery onboard, takes babies as young as 3 months and children up to 3 years of age. Typical open hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The nursery is stocked with baby swings, walkers, books, toys, games and a TV, as well as a quiet area with cribs.

There is a per-hour charge of $9 ($8 for the second child) for this service, but it allows parents time to be on their own for dinner in Palo or a trip to the spa, for example. You can reserve a limited number of hours of nursery time for your child online up to three days prior to sailing: 10 hours for cruises of seven nights or less, 18 hours for seven-night cruises, 28 hours for 10- to 12-night cruises and 35 hours for cruises of 14 nights or longer. You can also sign your child up in person onboard.

Disney has an online service that allows passengers to order baby supplies in advance of their cruise and have them delivered to their staterooms (provided by Babies Travel Lite). There are more than 1,000 brand-name baby products to choose from, including diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items. The dining room can also provide mashed or pureed food for babies upon request.

All services are available on Castaway Cay.

Overview

There's no doubt Disney Cruise Line has a soft spot for Disney Magic, the ship that gave the line a name in the cruise industry. And, as of fall 2013 -- when the ship received its 15th-birthday refurb -- Disney has all the more reason to celebrate.

Like its three fleetmates, Magic sports a nostalgic ocean liner appearance with a navy blue hull and red funnels (customized with Mickeys, of course). While the cabins have been refreshed with new carpet and furnishings, it retains the nautical decor prevalent on all Disney's sister ships. (And, yes, the hidden Mickeys are still there.) But, despite these similarities, post-refurb Magic lives up to its big sister title with a number of company firsts.

Among them are the AquaDunk, a thrilling slide version of the AquaDuck found on Dream and Fantasy; Carioca's, a Brazilian-style main dining room; and Become Iron Man, a virtual game, found in the children's play area, that lets kids interact suit up as Iron Man. Other upgrades include a brand-new look to the kids areas, expanded water play areas (including a toddler splash zone), updated dining areas and re-imagined entertainment areas like the adults-only bar district and spa.

Disney Magic's Art Deco design elements are evident in all of its public spaces, including its newly redesigned atrium. There are a few Disney-themed venues that are appropriately colorful and exuberant, but most of the ship's appeal lies in the fact that it's truly designed for everyone, not just Disney fanatics and kids.

If you're trying to decide between Magic (or its twin sister Wonder) and the cruise line's newest ships, know this: Magic has a more intimate feel than its larger sisters, which makes it easier to get to know your fellow passengers, keep track of family members and have the sense that you've experienced everything the ship has to offer, even on shorter sailings.

Dining

The genius who devised the unique dining scheme on Disney ships should win an award for creativity on the seas. Although we enjoy traditional set-seating dining, it's rare that we actually show up in the dining room every night on a seven-night cruise, often choosing room service or the casual buffet at least once. Magic's special "dining rotation" made it fun and exciting to go to dinner.

There are three main restaurants on Magic (Animator's Palate, Lumiere's and Carioca's), and every cruiser gets to dine in each of them at least once (twice on weeklong cruises). With rotational dining, you remain at the same table number with the same dining companions and servers, but show up at a different location each night. Dining times are set at 5:45 and 8:15 p.m.; as always on family-friendly cruise ships, the earlier dining times cater to families with young kids, so plan accordingly.

Lumiere's is the fanciest and most traditional dining room of the three, with Art Deco decor and a French-inspired menu. The restaurant evokes luxury liners from the heyday of transatlantic crossings.

Animator's Palate uses Disney's unique ability to create magic from the mundane. The restaurant starts out in stark black and white, but, during the course of dinner, it changes slowly into a room filled with color. Two dinner shows are displayed using high-definition flat screens on the walls. "Drawn to Magic" depicts the evolution of animation in a fun storytelling way, as character sketches come to life. But on "Animation Magic" night, which is only on sailings of at least seven nights, diners create their own magic, drawing characters that appear on the screens interacting with real Disney characters. The menu offers a variety of seafood, beef and pasta choices. Our fish was a bit dry and bland-tasting, but the atmosphere easily made up for it.

Carioca's, which replaced Parrot Cay during the 2013 refurb, is the line's Brazilian-inspired dining room. As soon as you enter, visions of Brazil abound in the South American-style decor, brightly colored festival lanterns and wall mural of Rio de Janeiro's skyline. Menu choices tasted authentic, without being overbearing for those who might not be used to South American cuisine. We ordered the Cuban salad and mahi mahi -- which were accented with flavors like avocado, pineapple and coconut -- and both were not only delicious, but also elegantly presented. The caramel pina colada also was quite satisfying, as were the portions. While all dining rooms offer a fair amount of gluten-free options, Carioca's had the best quality fare with warm, soft bread and flavorful entrees.

The actual rotation you are assigned makes little difference in the overall dining experience, except that you might dine in the first dining room on your rotation more than others, depending on the number of nights in your cruise. Preferred rotations can be requested at time of booking, but they're not guaranteed.

There are three fast food locations on Deck 9, which is where most of the outdoor action is found. There, you can grab a bite without changing out of your swimsuit or interrupting your child's fun time in the pool. Pete's Boiler Bites serves burgers and chicken tenders from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Pinocchio's Pizzeria serves slices from 10:45 a.m. until 6 p.m. (noon to 3 p.m. during visits to Castaway Cay), and Daisy's De-Lites serves fresh fruit, salads, wraps and cookies from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Complimentary self-serve ice cream and smoothies for a small fee can be found at Eye Scream and Frozone Treats throughout the day, but be sure to check your Personal Navigator for specific times.

Palo, the adults-only fine dining bistro, levies a $25 per-person charge for both dinner and its popular Champagne Brunch (which includes a glass of champagne for passengers 21 and over). Located aft on Deck 10, this intimate restaurant is decorated with handmade Italian glass finials and table lamps, a calming color scheme of burnished ochres and blues, and windowed walls on three sides. You'll find wonderful Italian/Mediterranean cuisine to rival that of any similar upscale land-based dining establishment. The brunch features a cold buffet with seafood and meats, breads, salads, cakes and desserts, plus a hot made-to-order selection of eggs, meat and fish. Book early, as the restaurant is small; while dinner is available nightly, the brunch takes place only three times per seven-night cruise.

Another restaurant that was added in 2013 is Cabanas, which replaced Topsider Buffet during the refurb. Inspired by the film "Finding Nemo," it offers more space than the previous venue, seating up to 503 passengers. Breakfast includes usual favorites, including made-to-order omelets, meats and bakery treats. The lunch menu changes frequently but includes the standard soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers. For dinner, passengers can order signature dishes off the Main Dining Room menu, as well as other cooked-to-order items. Dining times vary for each meal, so be sure to check your daily planner for specific hours.

Preludes, a quick-service snack bar just outside the theater on Deck 4, serves pretzels, chips, cookies and candy in addition to bar drinks, bottled water and coffee during live performances.

Room service is fast and efficient. The people who take the orders are obviously used to dealing with kids, and they seem to enjoy the exchange over the phone. The menu is relatively simple, with soups, salads, sandwiches (cold and hot), burgers and pizza. In-room breakfast is continental only and relatively boring, ordered via a card that's hung outside your cabin door the night before. Suite passengers get hot breakfast options and dining room meals delivered when requested.

Note: Disney offers soft drinks (Coca-Cola products) free of charge at meals and at the 24-hour drink station on Deck 9 aft, but if you get them from a bar or room service, you'll still have to pay.

Public Rooms

Disney put a great deal of thought into the design of its public spaces. The redesigned Atrium, although fairly small, is a great meeting point. It's also used for special low-key musical performances and character meet-and-greets.

Guest Services and the Port Adventures desks both can be found on Deck 3.

There are three shops onboard Magic, two on Deck 4 (Mickey's Mates and Treasure Ketch) and one (Up Beat) on Deck 3. Mickey's Mates has Disney memorabilia and postcards, everything from oversized Mickey hands and stuffed animals to miniature souvenirs and T-shirts. Treasure Ketch has lots of logo apparel, jewelry and watches, while Up Beat has duty-free perfumes and liquor.

Note: You can bring liquor onboard Disney ships, and you may use it in your cabin, but if you buy duty-free from their shop, it's held for you until the end of the cruise.

The Internet Cafe is located adjacent to the Promenade Lounge, with 10 computer stations for getting online. You won't, however, have access to any Microsoft applications (like Word) or be able to connect a camera or other device to these computers. Wireless Internet access is available throughout the ship, including cabins. While access is fairly good, it can also be unpredictable and slow at times. As of Febraury 2014, Disney Magic offers a new Connect@Sea program in which you pay for the data you use intstead of per minute. Sample rates start at 25 cents per megabite and increase depending on what you do online. Examples include the small package at $19 for 100 megabites, the medium package at $39 for 300 megabites and the large package at $89 for 1,000 megabites.

Wi-Fi-enabled laptops are available for a fee in the adults-only Cove Cafe on Deck 9, midship. The cafe, located adjacent to the adults-only pool, serves specialty coffees and bar drinks. This was a favorite -- another spot that was conducive to quiet pursuits and the closest thing to a library onboard the ship. Comfortable sofas and loungers, little cafe tables and chairs are scattered around the smallish room, which looks out onto the adult pool and the port side of Deck 9. Racks of books, magazines and newspapers separate the seating areas.

Check the ship map to locate the nearest self-service laundry room. Each has an ironing board and iron, washers, dryers and automated machines selling laundry detergent and dryer sheets.

Cabins

Magic's roomy cabins are designed with family comfort in mind. They're practical but also placid and comfortable havens of privacy that provide respite from the bustling public spaces onboard. It's no surprise that they're popular, even with people traveling without youngsters.

The 214-square-foot outside cabins and 223-square-foot balcony cabins (each with a 45-square-foot verandah) are comparable to mini-suites on some other ships, each with a distinct bedroom area and living room. Twin beds, which can be made into a queens, are divided from the living areas with full pull-across curtains. The living rooms include deep, full-length sofas, which can be made into third single beds; many rooms also have berths that descend from the ceiling for a fourth person. The slightly larger 259-square-foot Deluxe Family Oceanview cabin, also with a 45-square-foot balcony, can fit five with an additional wall-mounted Murphy bed. Inside cabins (184 square feet for standard, 214 square feet for deluxe) are, for the most part, configured similarly to the outsides and offer the same amenities.

Editor's Note: Cigarette smoking is not permitted on cabin balconies.

During the refurb, cabins were updated with new carpet, furnishings and decor, all keeping up with the nautical theme of navy blues, reds and whites, while giving a fresh new look. But perhaps the most notable features are the elevated bed frames, which, unlike the old ones on Magic, provide families with more storage space without sacrificing maneuverability. The split bathroom remains, as do child-safety locks.

While Disney has updated some aspects of Magic's cabins, some of the bathrooms and balconies still show significant wear. In our cabin alone, rust and chipped paint were noticeable on the balcony, the sliding door handle was broken, and the bathroom's outdated appearance coupled with scuff marks made it feel a bit dirty. Other cabins showed signs of rotting or chipped wood and missing fixtures on the furniture.

All cabins come with two portable Wave Phones, which have texting capabilities and can be used throughout the ship and on Castaway Cay. (Four phones are provided in the Royal Suite and two-bedroom suites; passengers can rent additional phones from Guest Services for $3.50 per day.)

Each also includes a Sealy Posturepedic mattress topped with 300-thread-count, 100 percent Egyptian cotton linens; a "cold box," similar to a minifridge; a safe large enough to fit a Macbook Pro; two small end tables; a sofa; coffee table; large desk with a cushioned stool; and a TV. The TV programming is mostly Disney-owned channels (including ABC, Toon Disney, the Disney Channel and several ESPN channels), as well as Discovery, Discovery Travel, CNN, CNN Headline and BBC World.

The bathrooms on Magic are unique in that they're divided into a "bath and a half" configuration in all but the least expensive inside cabins, which have single bathrooms with a shower and tub combo and one sink each. In all other cabins, one bathroom has a toilet, a sink and shelves for makeup and sundries; the other has a shallow tub, shower and sink. The tub is mainly to wash little ones who are too young to shower, and while it seemed a bit shallow for an adult bath, it can be used for that purpose, too. Crisp white tiles with bright blue accent pieces, faux granite sink tops with molded honey maple surrounds, and round chrome sinks make these little rooms appear elegant.

Bathroom amenities were nicer than we were expecting and include soap, shampoo, a collagen conditioner and, our personal favorite, sea salt lotion. There is a wall-mounted hair dryer in the bathroom that houses the toilet; there's also a standard-sized one in the desk drawer in each cabin.

The ship's exterior "modern classic" design dictated several interior space nuances. Outside cabins have large, round windows, porthole style, rather than rectangular picture windows. Most of the balconies have bars and Plexiglas inserts, but at the aft end of decks 5, 6, 7 and 8 are balcony cabins with either a "Navigator's Balcony" (with a solid wall and a round cutout) or a half-height white metal wall as the cabins angle toward the pointed stern. This angle, too, allows for larger verandah spaces because of the curve.

Caveat: Some of these "aft corner" cabins (5150, 5650, 6150, 6650, 7134, 7634) are narrower than others, with no extra closet for clothes and a tight fit at the living room end.

The wheelchair-accessible cabins on Magic are enormous, and they're available in inside, outside, verandah and suite categories. The aft balcony accessible cabins have huge verandahs (some 30 feet long).

Hint: The ship has six cabins known by insiders as "Secret Porthole Rooms." They aren't secret at all, but they are a great bargain. There are cabins all the way forward on Deck 5 with portholes that are obstructed to varying degrees, and they're sold at the cost of the most expensive inside cabin. Cabins 5020, 5022, 5520 and 5522 have virtually nothing blocking the windows except rails and a pulley; 5024 and 5524 are almost completely blocked with barrels. Still, if you're considering an inside cabin but would love the light of day for no extra charge, these are your best bet.

The suites, all located on Deck 8, are divided into three categories: 524-square-foot one-bedroom suites with 90-square-foot balconies, 805-square-foot two-bedroom suites with 140-square-foot balconies, and two 845-square foot Royal suites (one of which has a baby grand piano) with 184-square-foot balconies. The one-bedroom suites sleep up to five and each include a queen-size bed, double sofa bed, two bathrooms, a walk-in closet and wet bar. Some also feature a single pull-down bed in the living room or bedroom. The two-bedroom suites each sleep seven and offer one master bedroom with a queen-size bed and second bedroom with two twin beds; living area with sofa bed; two and a half baths, including a whirlpool tub; a walk-in closet; and a wet bar. The Royal Suites also sleep seven in two bedrooms, one with a queen-size bed and one with two twin beds and two pull-down upper berths; two and a half bathrooms, including a whirlpool tub; a living room; media library with pull-down bed; dining salon; pantry; wet bar; and walk-in closets. Each suite comes complete with a concierge team, upgraded mattresses and feather pillows, granite counter tops and full-length whirlpool tubs.

Entertainment

First of all, there is no casino on this ship, but no one seemed fazed with so much to do and see.

Second, the folks on Magic sure know how to throw a deck party. The ones we attended were the most popular (among all age groups) of any we have ever seen, and no one quit until the lights were out. The Pirates in the Caribbean Party was the highlight of the cruise, with every cruiser wearing a red bandana and some donning Captain Hook hats, eye patches and other piratical paraphernalia.

The onboard entertainment is heavily focused on Mickey and other Disney and Disney-owned characters and superheroes. It's not rare to catch a glimpse of Captain America or some of the Disney princesses handing out hugs and high-fives, and live performances focus on familiar Disney friends.

Skeptics will soon discover that the multiple stage shows ("Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story," "Disney Dreams," and "Villains Tonight!") are Broadway-caliber, impressing adults with the costuming, staging and creative storylines, while delighting kids with fun and songs. These events take place in the Walt Disney Theater, which is large enough to hold half of the ship's occupants, offers fantastic sightlines with no posts or pillars, and has a 40-foot-wide proscenium stage. The high-tech setup is sophisticated enough for the most comprehensive Broadway musical or Las Vegas-style revue, but what the passengers see is a lovely theater with comfy stadium-style seating.

One entertainment perk is that whenever a Disney-owned movie production company has a theatrical release, Magic passengers get to see it at the same time. These are first-run movies, ranging from kid-friendly, G-rated flicks to PG-13 and even R-rated films, shown in both the Walt Disney Theater and the smaller Buena Vista Theater (depending on length of sailing). In addition, Disney Digital 3D movies combine the cinema experience with lasers, fog, streamers and special lighting effects.

Outside the theater, D Lounge is the hub for entertainment, where passengers participate in game shows, exhibitions and other family activities. Live music can be enjoyed before and after dinner in the Promenade Lounge, a quiet family-friendly environment around the corner from Lumiere's.

Adults can hang out in an array of bars and lounges on Deck 3. The After Hours area there is home to Fathoms, an underwater-inspired nightclub that hosts themed dance parties, the Match Your Mate game show and karaoke; Keys, an elegant piano bar and lounge with live music, drinks and snacks; and O'Gills Pub, which hosts a special gathering for college students, martini tastings, singles mingles and fantasy football competitions. On Deck 9, the adults-only Cove Cafe is an intimate coffee lounge, open from noon to midnight and offering cocktails, coffee, tea and snacks. Also on Deck 9 is Signals, a bar adjacent to the adults-only pool, open from noon to 9 p.m. Other adult activities throughout the ship include comedy shows, bingo (which offers some generous jackpots) and several trivia games (including beer-tasting trivia and Pizza Perfection).

Passengers can attend a variety of light enrichment programs, such as regional wine tastings, dinner party planning and the history of ocean travel, hosted by bridge officers.

For more kid-friendly options, families can choose from a number of activities such as Do Si Do with Snow White (among other dance classes), drawing classes, cabaret shows, outdoor sports games and talent shows. There is also a series of themed programs for both adults and children. They range from game shows and outdoor sports matches to more enrichment-based activities like the Ratatouille Cooking School.

An arcade on Deck 9 is open from 8 a.m. until midnight. Passengers can purchase a play card at the front desk and recharge it by purchasing more when their credits run out.

Disney's shore excursions offer a variety of experiences, usually including a family-friendly option with activities geared toward kids and an adults-only choice. Magic's Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries include visits to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, with areas especially designated for families, teens and adults. Shore activities there range from adventurous (parasailing) to sedentary (for-fee cabana rentals).

Fitness and Recreation

The three swimming pools on Disney Magic are all located on Deck 9, each with a different theme or purpose. Kids must be toilet-trained to enter any pool. AquaLab, at the aft, is a kids-only water play area designed to portray a water experiment, with pop jets, geysers, bubblers and a freshwater pool. The area also includes the Twist n' Spout Slide -- an exciting way for little daredevils to cool off -- and the Nephews' Splash Zone, a fun water playground that's safe for little ones younger than 3 who aren't toilet-trained and must wear swim diapers.

Goofy's Pool (a constant four feet deep) and pool deck with two hot tubs is for families. Located midship, this is where many daytime deck activities take place, and it's the scene of the nighttime deck parties.

Quiet Cove, forward, is the adults-only area, and it's indeed quiet and peaceful. There's a pool, large enough for laps early in the day when it isn't crowded, plus two large hot tubs at one end and Signals bar and Cove Cafe coffeehouse at the other.

Hint: Looking for a really quiet place to rest and relax in the sun or to stargaze in peace? All the way aft on Deck 7 is a small, little-known deck area overlooking the wake. There are loungers and a couple of tables but no bar or food service. This quiet space is accessed through an unmarked wooden door, opens at 7 a.m. and is locked again at 11 p.m.

For adults and kids more than 48 inches tall, the AquaDunk, new to Disney Cruise Line, is an adrenaline-pumping slide version of the AquaDuck found on Dream and Fantasy. You walk up the forward funnel on Deck 13, step inside a capsule and count down until the floor opens beneath you. Passengers both young and old loved it, while others asked themselves, "What the heck was I thinking?"

The Wide World of Sports (open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.) dominates Deck 10 and features basketball and volleyball courts, soccer nets, Ping-Pong and shuffleboard. The deck below is where you'll find the fitness center, which is part of Senses Spa and Salon. The gym offers a variety of cardiovascular and weight machines, aerobics classes and, for an additional fee, yoga and Pilates. You'll also find an open-air track, showers, lockers and complimentary water and towels. Private hourlong sessions with a personal trainer are available for a $75 fee.

Disney went from a "same old" look in its pre-refurb Vista Spa to a sleek new approach with Senses Spa and Salon. A room just off the spa lobby, called The Rainforest Room, has neither rain nor a forest, nor is it particularly tropical. Decorated in Tuscan-inspired tiles, with a fountain in the middle, it's a coed steam room/sauna/aromatherapy environment with heated ceramic tile loungers and scented showers. It costs $16 for an unlimited one-day pass, or you can purchase a cruise-long pass, which is priced depending on the length of your cruise. (A three-night pass is $42, a five-night pass is $69, and a seven-night pass is $99.) If you have a treatment at the spa, you can use the room at any time during that day at no additional charge.

Spa treatments range from the usual (Swedish massage, hot stone therapy) to the unusual (spa ritual incorporating Japanese silk masks). For an even more intimate experience, Spa Villas (Mediterranean-inspired suites with verandahs) are ideal for couple's massages and extensive individual services. A standard Swedish massage costs $118, or you can spend several hundred dollars for a day of pampering. The Personal Navigator will indicate which specials are offered; port days usually have the best deals.

Family

Disney Magic was designed with families in mind, so it's no surprise that most of the programs onboard tend to appeal to all age groups. While there is no in-cabin baby-sitting on Disney ships, the areas designated for kids are probably the most extensive at sea, with activities for every age level and hours available so parents can have a night out.

One of the nicest and most unique things about Magic's kids program is the way the line groups the kids by age. While organized activities still cater to small age groups, all children, ages 3 to 12, have access to the same two clubs on Deck 5 (Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab) and can move freely between them. The redesign of the kids' areas was one of the most highly anticipated changes during the 2013 refurb, and it did not disappoint. The Oceaneer Club (open 9 a.m. to midnight), which used to resemble a pirate ship, has taken on a new look: a combination of four themed storybook worlds. Andy's Room brings the famous set from "Toy Story" to life, only kids are the ones who are toy-sized. The room includes a two-story structure resembling Andy's bed, a Slinky Dog slide and Mr. Potato Head. Marvel's Avengers Academy is a S.H.I.E.L.D. command post, where kids can interact with the Avengers (through a virtual game) while they train and prepare for special missions. The two remaining rooms are Mickey Mouse Club, where kids can partake in crafts and games, and Pixie Hollow, a fairytale space in which Tinkerbell's teapot home serves as a closet filled with dresses fit for a princess.

The Oceaneer Lab, also open from 9 a.m. until midnight, adopted a new version of the pirate theme once showcased in Oceaneer Club. Kids can enjoy activities like Disney movies in front of a 103-inch plasma screen, computer time in the Captain's Workshop, watching hand-drawn characters come to life in Animator's Studio and "Pirates of the Caribbean" games in Navigation Game Station.

Each family is given a pager, which can be used to receive a text message about children's whereabouts. Kids younger than 10 have to be signed in and out by a parent, but 8- and 9-year-olds can sign themselves in and out with written permission from a parent. Kids 8 to 12 can sign themselves in and out at their parents' discretion, and parents can be notified by text message only if requested.

Tweens (11 to 14) have their own small hangout space called The Edge (Deck 2), which has computers, arts and crafts, video games and a replica of the ship's bridge, where they can simulate navigating. Additionally, kids in the 10 to 12 age range have access to both the Oceaneer Club and Lab. Teens (14 to 17) also have their own special area, Vibe, which is housed in the nonfunctioning funnel on Deck 11, midship. Similarly, teens ages 13 and 14 have access to both Edge and Vibe. Vibe has a lounge feel, with oversized couches, flat-screen TVs and video games. Although it's supervised by Disney personnel, no parents are allowed. Nonalcoholic drinks and coffee are served; there is a variety of activities, from dance parties to karaoke. Parental permission is required for 10-year-olds to visit Edge and 13-year-olds to visit Vibe. The programs for children from age 3 are provided at no additional charge. Kids get their own version of the Personal Navigator and can join their groups at any time during the day, including dinner with fellow kids-clubbers, while parents dine alone.

It's a Small World Nursery (Deck 5) takes babies as young as 3 months and children up to 3 years of age. Typical open hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The nursery is stocked with baby swings, walkers, books, toys, games and a TV, as well as a quiet area with cribs.

There is a per-hour charge of $9 ($8 for the second child in a family) for this service, but it allows parents time to be on their own for dinner in Palo or a trip to the spa, for example. You can reserve a limited number of hours of nursery time for your child online up to three days prior to sailing: 10 hours for cruises of seven nights or less, 18 hours for seven-night cruises, 28 hours for 10- to 12-night cruises and 35 hours for cruises of 14 nights or longer. You can also sign your child up in person onboard.

Disney has an online service that allows passengers to order baby supplies in advance of their cruise and have them delivered to their cabins (provided by Babies Travel Lite). There are more than 1,000 brand-name baby products to choose from, including diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items. The dining room can also provide mashed or pureed food for babies upon request.

All services are available on Castaway Cay.

Fellow Passengers

Mostly families sail this ship. However, a large number of people do travel without kids because they appreciate the quality of the ship, its offerings and its suite-like cabins. Disney Magic's changing itineraries attract a higher percentage of past passengers looking to explore new places with Disney.

Dress Code

Dress is casual during the day and resort casual -- slacks and collared shirts for men and casual dresses or capri pants for women -- in the evenings, with one formal night and one semiformal night on each seven-night cruise. Although they're optional, dress pants and jackets for men and dresses or pantsuits for women are encouraged. But even these fancier nights lean toward the casual side, with many women dressed in summer or maxi-dresses as opposed to long, formal ones. Swimwear and tank tops are not allowed in the restaurants at dinner, but shorts and jeans are permitted. In Palo, the dress code is a bit more strict; jeans, shorts, capri pants, flip-flops and sneakers are not allowed.

Gratuity

The recommended gratuities are $4 per person (adult or child), per day, for the dining room server; $3 per person, per day, for the assistant server; $1 per person, per day, for the head server; and $4 per person, per day, for the room steward. All bar, pool deck and coffee bar drinks have a 15 percent gratuity added to the bill. Spa gratuities are not added and are left to the discretion of each passenger. It is suggested that cruisers tip a couple dollars for room service as it's delivered.

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Cruise Details

Included: Shipboard Accommodations, Meals, Some Beverages, Onboard Entertainment and Broadway-Style Shows, Featured Entertainers, Daily Activities, 24-Hour Room Service, Standard Kids’ Programs, Port Charges

Not Included: Shore Excursions, Personal Expenses, Gratuities, Alcoholic Beverages, Spa Treatments, Specialty Restaurants

Optional Add-Ons: Flights, Hotels, Transfers, Insurance


N/A: This stateroom type does not exist on this ship.

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Cruise ID:

77118