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Cruise Line Review

Disney Cruise Line - Cruise Line Review provided by Cruise Critic

About

When Disney execs decided to enter the cruise business they looked back to the 1920s for inspiration. The result: Both the Magic and Wonder resemble luxurious ocean liners of a bygone era that just happen to have all the modern bells and whistles to boot. The twin ships' elongated dark blue hulls, matching red funnels, and elaborate yellow insignias make these sleek ships a beautiful sight to behold in port. Inside, the ambience is casually elegant with plenty of subtle nods to the Mouse that started it all, from the etched-in-pewter characters bordering the atrium to the hidden mini Mickeys in the adults-only restaurant's china pattern. What Disney Cruise Line does best though is prove that "elegant" and "family friendly" don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Disney genuinely offers one of the most unique cruise experiences afloat. With these ships, Disney has introduced a number of innovations. Chief among them are its cabins with a bath-and-a-half and a rotating dining room schedule in which passengers eat at three different restaurants, albeit with the same tablemates and wait staff. It was the first cruise line to launch the "soda card" concept, an idea which has been picked up by competitors, and now they've even gone one-better offering soda gratis in the three restaurants and at the self-service beverage station on the pool deck.

Equally distinctive is what Disney ships don't have: casinos or libraries.

As of 2004 there are three new public spaces aboard each ship: Diversions, Cove Cafe, and a new college-dorm-meets-coffee-bar place for teens. Cove Cafe is the adults-only coffee bar, located next to the Quiet Cove pool. It's a great place to relax on comfortable couches, watch TV, check email, or read one of the many magazines on the shelves. Sports enthusiasts now have Diversions, located in the entertainment district and styled after an English sports pub. The former ESPN Skybox (in the forward funnel of the ship) was transformed into a new space for teens (called Aloft on Wonder and The Stack on Magic). In addition to the public space changes, cabins received better quality mattresses, thicker towels (including bath sheets), and sateen bed linens.

Disney has said it plans to expand its line beyond the original two ships; while rumors are constantly abuzz about when the company will make that commitment, as of now Disney has refused to comment on the topic.

The Fleet

The 2,400-passenger Disney Magic and Disney Wonder are sister ships and carry the same basic themes throughout--with different individual touches along the way. Disney Magic, for instance, has an art-deco theme while Disney Wonder is more art-nouveau.

Onboard Atmosphere

These ships are family-friendly, offering the elaborate Walt Disney Theater, which resembles a plush Broadway house, and the Buena Vista Cinema, which features Disney Corp. flicks. Studio Sea is styled like a television sound stage and offers a forum for G-rated floor shows.

There are three pools. The main event area, in the center, is geared to families; there's a pool for younger kids with a 200-ft. Mickey water-slide, and a small sprinkler tub for toddlers. An adults-only pool exists as well (it's quite tranquil). Plus there is an extensive array of sports options.

Older folks have more than a pool in which to escape. Palo is a boutique eatery featuring northern Italian cuisine; reserve the minute you get onboard because capacity is entirely too limited. The spa is also off-limits to the younger generation and one of the highlights is its rainforest steam room. Somewhat less compelling is an adult-dedicated area of night clubs called "Beat Street" on Magic, "Route 66" on Wonder; among the options at each are a piano bar, dance club, and sports pub.

There are family cabins that hold six, but Disney's roomier-than-average staterooms can handle at least four. Forty-four percent of outside cabins have verandahs. All come with bathtubs, a TV, a minibar, a safe, and a hair dryer.

The children's program is organized and run by dozens of caring youth counselors; scheduled character greetings occur throughout the day (and many surprise visits, too). The inclusion of Flounder's Reef Nursery filled a void for parents looking for childcare for their infants through age three. Spanning nearly an entire deck, Disney's Oceaneer Club is a supervised program for children aged three to seven, spilt into age groups of three to four and five to seven. The Oceaneer Lab is split into groups for kids aged eight to nine and 10 to 12, and offers high-tech interactive programs, hands-on science experiments and ship-wide treasure hunts. Kids 11 to 12 can compete in a marine biology knowledge game show and send digital post cards to friends. Teens (13 to 17) have their own private club, Aloft (or The Stack) is home to lots of overstuffed couches and chairs, the latest video games, MP3 listening stations, board games and magazines, and a bar that dispenses soft drinks and smoothies. Children's facilities are open from 9am until 1am. Flounder's Reef Nursery offers afternoon and nightly hours available on a first-come, first-served basis according to availability. Rates are $6 per hour for the first child ($5 for additional children).

Once signed in onboard the ship, your children are automatically enrolled in the children's programs on Castaway Cay. There are supervised games for the individual age groups, and bike riding. However, take note that they do not take the children swimming. Disney character appearances are scheduled several times daily on the private island.

Itineraries

Both ships are based in Port Canaveral, but offer very different itinerary options. Disney Magic sails seven-night Caribbean trips (alternating Eastern and Western); Disney Wonder handles the three- and four-day trips, and limits its forays to the Bahamas. Both stop at Castaway Cay, Disney's fantastic private island, complete with family--and adult-only--beaches. Passengers have the option to include a land-based stay at a Disney World resort.

During the summer of 2005, the Disney Magic will offer its first-ever seven-night cruises to the Mexican Riviera departing from Los Angeles. Cruises can be combined with a pre- or post-cruise stay at Disneyland. The repositioning of Disney Magic to southern California also includes two 14-night Panama Canal cruises.

Fellow Passengers

The majority of fellow passengers are families and multigenerational reunions due to the extensive activities and options available to children, teens, and adults. However, you'll also find a sprinkling of honeymooners and couples without children who appreciate the oversized staterooms and underutilized adults-only areas.

Cruise Critic

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