For several years we have wanted to take the family on a cruise again. Three years ago we chose Alaska with Holland America Line.
As before, the entire family sat around the living room one Sunday afternoon and discussed the pros and cons of various cruise lines and ships. Then it hit! Why not a Disney Cruise?
We had heard from others who had cruised on a Disney ship and all said it was the best for all age groups.
We were grandma, grandpa, son and daughter-in-law and two grandchildren ages 10 and 12.
When we brought the subject of Disney into the discussion the young people went crazy with delight. We had read and heard that Disney Cruise Line provided functions on-board for youth, mom and pop and grandma and grandpa. The next day I booked the six of us on the Disney Magic, which has recently home ported in Galveston, Texas.
The 10- and 12-year-olds were off school for one week in October so we chose that time to move in with Mickey, Daffy and the other Disney characters on-board for a seven-day cruise. We sailed on a Saturday afternoon and after two days at sea cruised into Grand Cayman.
October is a good time to travel, as the weather is milder and not as humid in the southern Caribbean.
Our ship seemed large at a length of 964 feet and 83,000 gross tons. She can hold 2,300 guests. The staterooms are rather large and can hold up to four people. The bathroom is split so that while someone is bathing, another person can be shaving, brushing teeth, etc.
We quickly learned that a Disney ship offers an unusually high quality of service, promptness and attitude. Every employee has a smile on their face regardless of what they are doing and what their work is. I have never seen this on any other ship before. This attitude radiates from the top down.
The ship’s officers make their appearance most nights in the main lounge so you can have a chat with the captain, cruise director, chief engineer and so on.
On sailing day there were no crowds checking in since passengers are given a time to do so. We selected 2:30 p.m. We walked right up to a check-in desk and in minutes we were walking up the gangway into the ship. As you enter the main lobby a person dressed in a Disney character costume announces your name over a loudspeaker.
We were escorted to our stateroom on deck 6, midships, and soon our luggage arrived and we commenced moving in to our room.
A safety drill for all passengers was conducted just before we sailed out of Galveston and we were on our way.
On your room key is also printed your dining room table number. Ours was 52 as was the entire family. Another note of interest, each night we all ate in a different dining room with spectacular menu choices. Our waiter and his assistant moved each night with us. All meals were well seasoned, almost gourmet, and the desserts were to die for!
The wait staff goes out of their way to please passengers, especially the young ones who tend at times to be picky.
We chose the early seating, which began at 5:45 p.m. and usually finished up around 7:30 p.m. Afterward we would usually walk to the Walt Disney Theatre in the forward portion of the ship — it can accommodate more than 1,500 guests. There were no posts in the room to hinder viewing.
The ship is not like most of the other modern cruise ships. The main lobby extends up three decks and is a beautiful room reminiscent of the great liners of another era. It echoes the French Line’s wonderful SS Normandie of 1936. There are touches of the past great liners all about the ship. For us older folks it brings back memories of another time and the young ones ask questions about the décor and seem to enjoy comparing it with the Queen Mary now birthed in Long Beach, Calif., in which they have stayed overnight. I don’t mean to convey that the entire ship is old-fashioned, but it does have touches of the past in a modern way.
Our stateroom had a balcony, which I recommend to all. It is the only way to get away from the crowds on deck and is the perfect escape to your private lanai where you hear the waves crashing against the ship.
Right after boarding in Galveston, Mom and Dad registered the young people into shipboard activities according to age. Each morning a schedule for each age group arrives and the young people plan their day’s activities. Each cabin provides cell phones for the young and Mom and Dad so they can converse at any time during the day or night.
Activities for each age group are on-going from 9:30 a.m. until after midnight if that is OK with the parents.
Each evening at 8:30 p.m. a Broadway-style show is performed for all passengers in the Walt Disney Theatre. These were Broadway quality to the fullest with large casts of singers, dancers and actors. All were Disney-centered in one way or another. Every audience age group had a smile on their face when they left the theatre. Everything that is presented on a Disney ship is clean and rated for young people as well as adults.
In each of our three ports of call there were interesting excursions.
Disney calls them Port Adventures rather than shore excursions. These are suitable for young and old alike in most cases. Disney allows you to book these on the Internet before departure from home or on the ship. There is plenty of capacity for most excursions.
Grand Cayman is located on the peak of an undersea mountain range running along the edge of a trench. We all wanted to see this from under the sea so booked the Atlantis submarine, which took us down more than 100 feet below the surface of the water. We hovered at one point and could see the fall-off into the trench some 2,500 feet.
In the afternoon Norma and I enjoyed a nice lunch facing the water in downtown Grand Cayman while Mom, Dad and the two children took a taxi out to seven-mile beach to enjoy the sun and sea for the balance of the afternoon.
Late that afternoon we set sail for Costa Maya (Mayan Coast) and arrived at noon the next day in Mexico’s southern Caribbean Coast. Here, the land is pure dense jungle, flat and has among its attributes Mayan ruins dating back to the 5th century. One of the children, John, was studying the Mayan culture, so found this particularly interesting. Here’s a surprise, the buses used for this excursion were not rickety Mexican specials but rather very new and very deluxe first class coaches.
The third and last port of call was the Mexican island of Cozumel. Norma and I hired a taxi to take us completely around to survey this popular locale while the family went snorkeling. We discovered that only the town where we docked had any population and that was 80,000; the rest of the island was flat, with a little crop farming.
The two ladies, Priscilla and Norma enjoyed shopping in the two Disney shops aboard ship. They were well stocked with gift items for people back home.
If a Disney film is first run in theatres back home, you get them firsthand on a Disney ship. The family watched the new film “Frankenweenie” one night.
So 10-year-old John and 12-year-old Jena were busy almost every hour with entertainment, games and projects during the Disney Cruise while Mom and Dad, Priscilla and Paul, were occupied with getting some rest and reading books. Grandma and Grandpa often found deck chairs on the promenade deck or their balcony and spent a lot of time reading material they brought along.
On the last day of the cruise as we were sailing back to Galveston, Texas we all agreed that Disney had the right recipe for family cruising. Everybody is kept happy and one is able to pursue those interests they enjoy. The family comes together at dinnertime and following.
John and Jena had a wonderful time, Priscilla and Paul were able to relax while the children were being attended to and Norma and Ken were content because the rest of the family was having a wonderful time.
Even the babies are tended to. One morning we witnessed a “diaper dash” in the nursery. It was very cute.
So, in all a Disney Cruise is great for the entire family. There are activity rooms staffed for various age groups and even some public rooms and a swimming pool that someone under 18 cannot enter. Quiet places for adults.
Disney has the right family “magic” at sea and don’t be afraid to take your clan on one of their four ships. Now, they cruise all over the world. Next spring the Disney Magic is being positioned in the Mediterranean with its home port being Barcelona, Spain.
Visit a travel agent and obtain more information regarding Disney Cruises. You will love every minute aboard one of their ships.