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A Disney Cruise!

Disney Magic lobby
I am no stranger to cruising. I've cruised with Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and Princess cruise lines, but I've wanted to take a Disney cruise ever since I saw a model of a Disney cruise ship in the lobby of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim, California.

My mother and I thought that a Disney cruise would be a perfect first mother/daughter solo vacation, and so, when Disney announced that the Disney Magic would be sailing out of my mom's home port, we booked a cabin.

Welcome Aboard

As we boarded the Disney Magic, a staff member took our names and announced us to the people in a lobby graced by a sailor Mickey statue. Another staff member acted as our personal concierge to get us on our way to lunch.

Disney music played softly in the hallways. I immediately noticed some of the Disney touches of the ship, like Mickey hands indicating the current deck level of each elevator and framed Disney art on the walls. Overall, the ship had a classy ocean liner feel that reminded me of the Queen Mary.

At the surprisingly small Topsider Buffet, we selected a little bit of everything that looked interesting, including multiple small desert plates and enjoyed our food on the deck just outside the buffet with a view of the Hudson River.

We dropped off our backpacks in our cabin, and assembled for the Walking Ship Tour that we'd found listed in the Personal Navigator, the schedule of daily events and onboard activities. The ship tour was helpful in orienting us to the layout of the ship; for example, we learned that the Topsider Buffet and all of the dining rooms, except Lumiere's, were located aft.

After the mandatory Boat Drill, where, unlike on most cruise lines I've experienced, we assembled in our indoor evacuation stations without donning a lifejacket, we headed up to the top deck for sailaway.

We are not big fans of loud sailaway parties, and Disney's was just that, so we found a quieter spot along the railing to watch the Manhattan skyline slip past. From the deck, we got to hear the deafening "When You Wish Upon a Star" ship horn up close; fortunately, we were not deafened thanks to a warning given over the PA system just in time to cover our ears.

On Deck 10 before (left) and during (right) sailaway
The Disney cruise ships have multiple main dining rooms. The Disney Magic's dining rooms are: Lumiere's (a dining room with a French/Beauty and the Beast theme), Animator's Palate (a predominately black and white dining room that becomes colorful with lighting effects), and Parrots' Cay (a dining room that reminded me of Disneyland's Tiki Room). We were assigned to a specific dining room for dinner each night. Every night, we had the same tablemates and servers.

Our first dinner was at Lumiere's. We were given a wonderful table, right by a huge porthole looking out on the water. In the center of the dining room was a large mural showing Belle and The Beast. Each of the lights along the center of the room held a glass rose that seemed to glow.

Beauty and the Beast mural in Lumiere's dining room
Aside from the subtle Disney Cruise Line logo on the plates, the presentation of the food was similar to that of any upscale restaurant; there were no Mickeys drawn with sauces or chocolate characters adorning the deserts, except for the sundae ordered by one of my tablemates. Our four course dinner did not disappoint. My beef tenderloin was perfect!

The Walt Disney Theatre show that night was "All Aboard: Let the Magic Begin." Singer/dancer/actors and Disney characters performed a cute, brief musical welcome aboard show about a boy who is taking a cruise with his family and wishes to be captain of the ship. We also got a quick taste of a comedian/magician who performed rope tricks and a comedian/musician who strummed his guitar to short humorous songs that he'd written about cruise ship guest experiences.

At Sea

Our next day was a full day at sea; that meant plenty of onboard activities. We started our day with back-to-back animation classes where we learned to draw Goofy and Donald. During our first drawing class, Goofy, wearing his pajamas, made a surprise visit. Goofy interacted with our instructor before climbing onto one of the tables for a very short nap.

A surprise visit from Goofy during animation class
My favorite activity of the morning was Family Magic Quest. We formed a team with two couples and competed in a hilarious, one-room scavenger hunt where we had to find various "items" like two small children holding hands. We performed respectably, but lost.

Unlike other cruise lines, Disney Cruise Line offers Disney movies that are still in theaters on its cruise ships. We saw The Odd Life of Timothy Green in the Walt Disney Theatre and were touched by the sweet movie starring delightful CJ Adams, Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton.

After the movie, we grabbed one of the many complimentary self-serve, soft-serve ice cream cones that we would have during our cruise and headed to the Art of the Theme Ship Tour. On our tour we learned fascinating details about the Disney Magic, the first Disney cruise ship ever built. We saw how the ship's designers had used forced perspective in the hallway leading to the Walt Disney Theatre to make the area appear longer and more grand. We found the ship's "birthmark," the area where the two halves of the Disney Magic that had been constructed separately had been fused together. Our tour came to an end underneath the lobby chandelier. Looking at the chandelier from directly below, I was enchanted to discover a Hidden Mickey.

Hidden Mickey in the Disney Magic's chandelier
Our dinner that night was in the Animator's Palate dining room. During our meal, we watched the mostly black and white walls and ceiling of the dining room become more and more colorful. Again, the meal was excellent! Just like the night before, I chose the beef tenderloin and my mother and I shared three deserts.

Jen relaxes in a porthole outside Animator's palate
That night's show was "Twice Charmed," a Cinderella story. The show was entertaining, and I enjoyed it, except for the two mouse characters that looked like they belonged at a second-rate birthday party.

Our First Port Day

After a visit to the breakfast buffet in the Parrot Cay dining room, we spent the day exploring Halifax, Nova Scotia, on our own.

When we returned to the ship, we visited "our secret private balcony." On the Disney Magic, on deck 7 aft, there is a doorway that leads to an extra-large balcony complete with deck chairs for lounging. Because few people know about the area, it was almost always deserted.

"Our secret private balcony"
We had yet another excellent dinner that night in the Parrot Cay dining room. Toward the end of our meal, our assistant server fashioned hats for each of us out of colorful napkins. Fortunately, I'd brought my camera to dinner. We posed for a fun "table picture" wearing our napkin hats.

Napkin hat "table picture" at Parrot's Cay
The show that night was Villains Tonight!- an original musical featuring Disney villains. I found the show disappointing. The story was unengaging, most of the songs were forgettable, and a few of the costumes and facial prosthetics were painfully amateurish, especially from our second row vantage point. On the bright side, the majority of the costumes were up to the excellent standards seen in the Disney theme parks. The performer who'd excellently played the charismatic villain in Twice Charmed, again stole the show in the roles of Scar from The Lion King and Jafar from Aladdin.

Our Second Port Day

Before we set off to explore Saint John, New Brunswick on our own, we enjoyed a sit-down breakfast at Lumiere's. All of our food came at once rather than in courses, and so, in not much more time than it took to visit to the buffet, we had a tastier meal in an elegant setting.

Once we were back on the ship after a rainy visit to Saint John, my mom took in Brave in 3D while I took a nap to prepare for our busy evening.

It was the fourth night of our cruise and we had already had dinner in each of the three main dining rooms, and so we were assigned to return to Lumiere's. The theme of the evening that night was Pirates IN the Caribbean, so we donned the pirate outfits that we had brought from home. The dining room staff wore pirate costumes and everyone received a Mickey pirate bandana which most people wore on their heads during dinner.

After dinner, we went to the A Pirate's Life for Me show. The cruise staff divided the audience into two teams and selected a child captain and an adult first mate for each team. I volunteered and was chosen to be our team's first mate. My duties as first mate involved dressing up as a pirate ship and catching coins thrown by my "crew." When the competition was over, the captains and first mates received buttons. My team's buttons had red "champion" ribbons attached as our team was the winner.

The Walt Disney Theatre show was family-friendly music and comedy by the comedian/musician who'd performed on the first night, but the main event that night was the Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party with fireworks. Because it had rained all day, I was concerned that the fireworks would be cancelled. Somehow, maybe using some pixie dust, our captain found a rain-free spot to sail to in time for the party. My mom and I tossed on our jackets and went to Deck 10 where we watched cruise ship staff and some Disney characters lead interested cruisers on Deck 9 in different dances. The best part of the hour-long event came in the last few minutes, when Mickey Mouse glided across the sky on a zip-line and fireworks erupted right next to the ship. Seeing a fireworks show from a cruise ship in, what felt like, the middle of the ocean was incredibly cool!

Our Final Day at Sea

We stopped at Lumiere's for breakfast before attending the Innovations: Parks and Resorts lecture. The host showed video clips demonstrating some of the innovations that Walt Disney and the Imagineers have made at the Disney theme parks and resorts. I enjoyed watching video clips that showed what the Disneyland looked like before I was born.

After the lecture, we dropped in on an animation class and learned to draw Stitch. Then we attended a mouth-watering Art of Entertaining cooking demonstration where one of the ship's pastry chefs prepared a delicious chocolate desert. A sample was given to each person in the audience. Then we were surprised with a complementary tasting of a dangerously yummy, fruity dessert wine.

We returned to Lumiere's for a wonderful four-course lunch. After lunch, we participated in two Disney trivia competitions, Disney Trivia and Disney Music Trivia. Paired up with a cute young couple, we performed very well, but not well enough to earn one of the Mickey ears "medals" given for first place. The Disney trivia knowledge of some of the other guests onboard was so great that, in one competition, there was a tie that required multiple tie-breaker questions.

Our final dinner was at Animator's Palate. Unlike at our first visit, the dining room did not transform during the meal, but remained colorful the entire time. Our servers wore vests decorated with the flags of many different countries in celebration of the many nationalities of the guests and crew.

After dinner was the final Walt Disney Theatre show, Disney Dreams. This show was absolutely spectacular! The original, and very engaging, story was about a girl who wishes that she could fly. The sets, costumes, and songs (granted they were Disney songs that I already knew and loved) were exceptional. The cruise director had mentioned, numerous times throughout the cruise, that Disney Dreams had won some kind of cruise ship industry award; it was well deserved.

After the show, we went back to our cabin to pack, and then headed to the lobby for 'Til We Meet Again, a final opportunity to see and get a photo with, the characters and princesses. At the end of the photo op, the characters and princesses made their way up the grand staircases to go to bed. And then, so did we.
'Til We Meet Again farewell
On our first night onboard, one of our tablemates, upon hearing that it was our first Disney cruise, predicted that it wouldn't be our last. I have a feeling that she's right.

I did this in September 2012 in New York, USA.

Jen is also known as J.W. Lynne, a best selling author of eleven novels. Her works include:

THE UNKNOWN: Eight kidnapped children wake up in a mysterious world full of secrets.

ABOVE THE SKY: A girl lives in a world where touching her soulmate is forbidden.

: A teen is locked in a bunker to take a simulated trip to the moon.

KID DOCS: Teen doctors learn what it really means to practice medicine.

WILD ANIMAL SCHOOL: A girl falls in love with a boy at an exotic animal ranch.

IF I TELL: A teen wonders if her father is a serial killer.

WHAT HE DIDN'T TELL ME: A traumatized girl meets a boy with a horrible secret.

Besides reading books and dreaming up stories to write, Jen's favorite activities are singing along to musical theater soundtracks and hiking in California's beautiful parks.

Check out Jen's books on Amazon!