Dorothy Bond -- October 1998 -- Walt Disney World (OKWR) / Disney Cruise Trip
10/5/98-10/9/98 cruise dates
I thought I would pass along a few thoughts about our family's Disney Magic trip. Prior to our trip I read everything online I could find regarding the Magic so I thought I would pass along some current info for the next cruiser trying to gather info. I'm not a detail person so this won't be a day by day trip report, I'll just communicate some of our hightlights, likes, wow's, etc. Besides, Kenny was also on this ship and I saw him often with his digital camera in his hand. I'm sure he'll be putting together a great trip report very soon, *hint*hint* ;)
We are a family of five, Myself, husband Chris, 3 children, 14,11,4. We booked our cruise with points through DVC. We sailed October 5-9. We were previously booked on a cruise in May, just Chris & Myself to celebrate our anniversary. We had cruised RCL on our honeymoon and thought the Disney Magic would be a nice way to celebrate. With the delays, our original cruise was cancelled and we were offered some really nice discounts to rebook so we decided to use our Fall break from school and take the whole family. I tell you this story because at our first evening meal, we were so surprised to be presented with a Happy Anniversary cake and the wait staff sang to us. We must have looked so shocked and then we had to explain to them the story I just told you. It was really funny, guess you had to be there, but it really impressed me that they kept up with that information all this time.
Enough about that, I'm just going to list some of the more memorable experiences of ours and hope you enjoy reading.
Check-in - There's been some negative comments about check-in so I'll add our 2 cents about that. We were cruise only, arrived at the terminal about 1:30, walked right up to the counter, had our documents ready and signed and walked away with our Keys to the World in about 4 minutes. Very organized! We were on a wait list for 1st seating for dinner and they already has us switched. I thought I would have to do it on board.
Animator's Palette - This was our first evening's dining experience. It really put us in a Disney mood, it doesn't take much to put us in a Disney mood though but this place is just so incredible. We had such fun listening to the songs and watching the corresponding photos colorize. We were so busy watching the walls that we hardly noticed our meal. The food was interesting though, especially the appetizers. We really enjoy the opportunity to try new things so we weren't at all disappointed that the appetizers were a little strange for our tastes. It's all part of the experience in our minds. I had the tenderloin for my entree and it was melt in your mouth good. This was definitely our favorite dining location, it was the atmosphere though, not the food.
The Mickey Pool/Slide - My two boys, 11 & 4, would have been happy to just slide down the Mickey slide for 4 days and do nothing else. They had the best time coming up with ways to twist their bodies to try and make them go faster and see who could splash over the plexiglass wall. They have a plexiglass shield installed on the side of the slide that's closest to the chairs to attempt to protect specatators from getting drenched. My husband and I just chuckled when we saw it was my 11 yo's turn to slide cause there were always unknowing Mom's standing at the bottom of the slide with their cameras. My son is no small boy and he was the "king" of splash on the slide. Even the lifeguards were getting in on the act and giving him tips to make his splashes even bigger!
Disney Dreams Stage Show - This was the cutest show. I saw a lot of parents that just dropped their kids off for the show and came back to meet them later, not us! We liked it so much we even returned for the 10:30 show to see it again. If you're a Disney fan, you must see this show.
Hercules - This was a good show, my daughter thought it was corny. Lots of parents dropping off kids again. Voyage of the Ghost Ship - An excellent stage production, not Disney related though. I wish they would move it to a different night and have a Disney show as the finale performance. It's currently showing on the last night. The special effects in this show are great and the props are amazing. It's worth seeing, I just wanted more Disney on my last night. Parrot Cay - We had the most wonderful view of the ocean through a giant porthole. We really enjoyed the food in Parrot Cay. There was little more variety than Animator's Palette. We ate here two nights.
Lumiere's - This was our best meal on the ship. Lumiere's is very elegant and we really enjoyed dressing up and trying to teach the kids some proper dining manners. They don't get the chance at home to eat in such places very often. This was our favorite meal as well, the selections suited our tastes a little more.
Common Grounds - This is the teen area on the ship. Sort of like a NY coffee house. My teenage daughter spent the majority of her cruise here, unless we coerced her to hang out with us. She really enjoyed it, her only complaint was that she thought the teen counselors were kind of boring. I'm not sure what it would take to be not boring to a teenager, but she said that they just acted like they were annoyed at having to be there. She made lots of friends and left with lots of addresses for future pen pals and says she had a great time. They had computers and video games available but she and her group mostly played card & board games.
Oceaneers club - This is the play area for our 4 yo. He had an awesome time in here. They have a play place shaped like a pirate ship and the characters make frequent visits and photographers were always on hand. They did lots of dress up and played on computers.
Oceaneers Lab- This is the area for our 11 yo. Our 11 yo was quite independent and felt that hanging out in the lab was a little beneath him maturity wise I think. He would rather play basketball, play arcade games, swim or play shuffleboard than go to the lab. He did go a couple of times for the planned activities. He made some flubber and he really enjoyed the liquid nitrogen experiments. He did run into a baseball pal from back home on the ship, small world huh?, and they enjoyed hanging out together and didn't make too many other friends. I think if our son had been on his own he would have spent more time in the lab to make some shipboard friends. They spent a lot of time in Quarter Masters as well, the arcade. However, be sure and check to see if it's free-play day before you purchase a card. I bought him a $15 card and they were having some problems with their card readers for most of the cruise and it was free-play day for the most part. No refunds on those cards.
Kevin Neary's trivia contests - Don't know if this activity is a regular activity or we just got lucky this cruise, but Kevin Neary is the author of a Disney trivia book and he organized daily contests to test your Disney trivia. Apparently, there were a LOT of Disney Employees on this cruise cause the audience was full of them at this event. However, my husband being one to have great recall of everything he's ever read as well as being a HUGE Disney fan, was able to hold his own and take 3rd place. He received a standing ovation when he introduced himself as NOT being a Disney employee. Apparently, he was the only non-Disney employee that had won a prize in the contest for the entire cruise. Chris was excited to win a copy of Kevin's 3rd book, we have 1 & 2, and Kevin signed it for him. That was a lot of fun.
Off Beat - This is the improv comedy club on board. We just happened to be wandering through Beat Street one evening while the littlest was at his play place and dropped in to Off Beat. We were laughing our heads off before very long. The group of comediennes they have were very talented and quite witty. I was very impressed.
Rockin Bar-D - We were able to convince the oldest to put the youngest to bed for us one night and were able to catch a really great live band in Rockin Bar-D. They were called "Jump, Jive & Wail" Not at all country, which is what we expected in this what looked like a country/western bar. These musicians were very talented and played a wide variety of music that appealed to baby boomers such as ourselves. Overall, we thought the live entertainment on this ship was by far the best we've ever seen on any of our 3 previous cruises, RCL, Holland America & Big Red Boat. Nassau - This was our third trip to Nassau so we weren't interested in repeating past events. We didn't book any excursions but hopped a cab over to Paradise Island to wander around in the aquariums at the Atlantis hotel. If you enjoy aquariums and sea life, be sure and get over there to see what they've done. It's really nice. The kids really enjoyed the beach area. There were good sized waves on this beach as opposed to no waves in the Castaway Cay lagoon. You could also parasail, rent a wave runner or ride on a banana boat, none of which were available on Castaway Cay. A nice way to spend an afternoon. We took an uncomfortable boat over, $2/person, and then caught an air conditioned cab back, also $2/person, plus tip. You decide which is the better deal.
Castaway Cay - What can I say about Castaway Cay, this is like a mini theme park. The work that went into preparing this island for guests is amazing. Every little detail was thought of. We so thoroughly enjoyed our day. The kids really enjoyed the playground equipment they've built on the water. They had lifeguards everywhere. I felt very comfortable letting the big kids swim on their own. We have had much better snorkeling on other cruise ship islands, but we understand the fact that it's just too new to have any reef growth and wildlife inhabitation. It will happen. I really like the way they established trails and give you a map to follow. It was a lot of fun. I don't think I would have gone as far out on my own had I not had something to follow. I'm glad I did. Be sure and find the sunken Mickey. The food on the island was outstanding considering it was an outdoor picnic type setting and they had to deal with the elements of wind and intermittent showers. Our 4 yo spent some time at the play area for his age group. They were very organized and kept the little ones very busy with games and activities. The dinosaur dig area is very clever. Mickey made an appearance in his excavator costume. The teenage daughter blessed us with her presence for the morning and then took off to the teen beach after lunch. She finally came back on board at last call.
The Disney Magic Horn - This was probably one of the highlights of the trip. We couldn't hear it in our room, so only heard it a few times while we happened to be outside. I think they blow it coming and going from every port. Maybe not leaving Nassau, I don't know, I was told we left at about 4:00 AM. The teenagers in Common Grounds thought they were going to stay up until we left port. We had a time convincing our daughter that it would be too late. Leaving Castaway Cay, they did it at least 5-6 times, I lost count.
Shutters - I'm a sucker for photos of my family so I spent way too much time and money in here. The ship photographers took some great pictures though and they always had them on display within a few hours and grouped together so they were fairly easy to find. You can also get a portrait made in the main lobby outside of Lumiere's and custom design your photo with their computer animated logos. Something a little different than the candid shots.
Buena Vista Theater - The movies showing during our cruise were "The Truman Show", "Dr. Dolittle" and "Mulan". We saw all three, Mulan being the only one we had seen previously. We always enjoy watching the animated films over and over and would have seen Mulan again if we'd had time. They are now showing movies every two hours from 12:00 noon with the last showing at 10:30. I'm not sure why they don't just go ahead and run those movies around the clock. The theater was very large for a ship theater and the sound system met my husband's standards. Take a sweatshirt with you in there though. We learned and took a blanket from our room on one occasion. It gets very cold.
ESPN skybox - This is neat place, very well themed. We had a drink up there one night to check the place out and were the only ones in there. I guess PBA Bowling's not one of the more popular events. We tried to get in on Monday night and couldn't even get in the door, Monday Night Football. They have a schedule before you go up of what they plan on airing and if there's a special sports event they'll try to get it, but remember, you're moving in the middle of the ocean, they may not be able to get your favorite team.
Stateroom 8590 - We had a family suite that would sleep five. It was very spacious during the day when all the beds were put away, but when the beds come down, we have to climb over everything to get anywhere. But hey, it's a cruise ship, guess we coulda forked over the bucks for the Walt Disney Suite, NOT! We did peek while they were cleaning one day, it's huge! I hope everyone's stateroom hostess is as wonderful as Sylvia. She made such an effort to make the children's bed look cute. She put all the beanies in different places every day and even made little critter shapes out of our towels and washcloths. She was so sweet. My son gave her a big hug on our last day, I think he misses her.
Tipping - We picked up a tipping sheet from guest services early in our cruise when Guest Services wasn't busy. You can fill it out and turn it in to them in at your leisure and the stateroom hostess leaves you the envelopes on the last night. We got this all taken care of by the third night and charged all of our tips to our designated credit card and were glad we did. The line on the last night was very long and people were very frustrated.
Disney merchandise - We thought the selection of DCL merchandise was very good. Everyone in the family found a different shirt. Be sure and check out the ESPN merchandise store too. They had some cool stuff in there that my 11 yo preferred. They have DCL posters that say 1998-1999 Inaugeral Season for $25 and if you drop it off at Guest Services they will have the Captain sign it for you.
Disembarkation - This was one of the quickest disembarkation experiences we've ever had. We were off that ship, had our bags, through customs and in our car headed to Disney Village for shopping by 8:30 am! We had breakfast our last day in the Topsider buffet. We actually had wonderful breakfasts there every day of the cruise and were surprised that on the last day it was only continental breakfast. The lines for the designated dining rooms were kinda long so we just grabbed a bite and had an early lunch at Disney Village. Speaking of breakfast, my daughter prefers to eat a light breakfast before dressing and I like my coffee first thing so we hung our room service breakfast order on the door every night. They were right on the time we requested every day and got it exactly right every time and the coffee arrived piping hot. Great room service!
That's it for the highlights. It was, without a doubt, the best family vacation ever. I can't say enough great things about this ship. It was more like a floating resort rather than a cruise ship. My husband and I are really glad we decided to make it a family trip but we are hoping to go alone someday. Palo's and the Spa were tempting but we didn't want to spend so much time away from the kids. It leaves us with incentive to go back, alone!