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Before you book your next vacation, read our Disney Cruise review below which takes an in-depth look at the Disney Magic and all kinds of helpful tips for cruising with a baby and preschooler!
This Disney Cruise review first appeared on our site in March 2014. Since then we have logged 3 more Disney Cruises, 2 of them on this same ship! See all of our Disney Cruise content that we have written since this one!
Disney Cruise Review and Tips!
You magical, mystical, glittery, not-cheap but everyone-raves-about-you destination.
While we have made numerous trips to Disney Parks over the years, there is one morsel of Disney-goodness that has alluded us: a Disney Cruise. We love cruising – you may recall our Bahamian Carnival Cruise or our Western Caribbean Carnival Cruise that I reviewed. Both were fun trips, but sorely lacking in facilities and activities for the under-3 crowd.
This wasn’t a huge issue last year – Lily was 4 and rocked kids’ club and we had yet to learn that Landon was on his way. We knew for a next cruise, it had to be kid and baby friendly and from everything we’ve heard, Disney Cruise Lines were the way to go.
Once we settled on DCL, we made a couple decisions that made the trip a bit more cost effective – we cruised during off-peak season (February 28th) and we opted for a shorter, 3-night trip. Both of these choices dropped the price a bit.
We saved further by finding booking incentives for free shipboard credit ($50 for booking with our Disney Visa and $100 from our travel agent). We knew we would be combining a parks + cruise trip, so after a quick check of the various Disney Cruise Ports, we settled on Port Canaveral, FL.
We sailed on the Disney Magic. Of the 4 ships in the DCL fleet, the Magic is one of the original, smaller ships. It recently (2013) underwent a big-time renovation with a shipwide facelift, including a big water slide ride called the AquaDunk on the top deck.
Our cruise set sail on a Friday afternoon. We drove from PA so we left plenty of time to get there, not knowing how many times we’d be stopping to feed the baby, etc. We hit the road around 3 pm on Wednesday and drove into the evening with a stopover in southern Virginia. Thursday we plugged ahead and made it from VA all the way down to Cocoa Beach, FL. We stayed at the DoubleTree hotel on the beach, just minutes from the Port Canaveral docks.
On the morning of our cruise, we used the character phonecall feature on DCL’s website to set up an automated phonecall from Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Here is Lily (and Landon! LOL) learning about our trip:
Ready to go!
Our boarding time that we chose during online check-in before leaving home was at 2:30 pm but we decided to head over around noon to see if we could board any earlier. From the first security guard in the parking lot to the porters who unloaded our luggage to the receptionist who checked us in – everything was seamless. We were on our ship in no time – ready for fun!
The First Few Hours
Our Disney Cruise was jam-packed with activities and things to see, do and eat. This all began (literally) the second we stepped on the ship. Lily thoroughly enjoyed the personalized welcome over the microphone that we received as we walked into the atrium. “Disney Cruise Lines welcomes…. THE WEAVER FAMILY!”
Our staterooms were going to be ready by 1:30 pm and it took us until almost that time just to get an elevator to our floor. We had Landon in the stroller and it was impossible to get an elevator that wasn’t already full. We ended up popping him out of the stroller frame and walking up 4 floors of steps with all of our carry on luggage, a kid and a baby. Not fun.
By the time we huffed and puffed up the steps to Deck 6, we only had a few minutes to wait. We made a beeline to our cabin to check it out before grabbing lunch and getting Lily signed up for kids’ club.
Cabin (#6060, Midship Deck 6, Category 5B)
Our cabin was by far the best cabin we have ever stayed in on a cruise. It was pretty spacious (as far as cruise ship accommodations go) and had a queen sized bed, a sofa bed and a bunk that popped down out of the ceiling. Since Landon’s Pack ‘n Play was going to take up a decent amount of floor space, we opted to leave the couch as a couch.. and Lily enjoyed sleeping on the bunk bed every night.
Our cabin had a private verandah with 2 chairs and a table. After our last cruise (which happened to be the first time we ever sailed with a balcony) we vowed that the balcony was an absolute must-have amenity for us. It’s a gorgeous view and we love watching the scenery as we sail on by. The balcony is also great when you have young children who still take naps. They can nap inside, you can sit and relax, read, whatever outside.
A REALLY cool feature in our cabin was a SPLIT BATHROOM. Two entirely separate rooms gave us a sink in each room, toilet in one, decent sized bathtub in the other. This was such a convenience on many occasions. The bathrooms come stocked with a nice starter supply of Disney Spa bath products. I loved them!
When you’re traveling with a baby or child still in diapers, you can request a diaper genie for your cabin. How convenient! There are also bottle warmers and other baby items available upon request. Make sure you request these as soon as you get to your cabin as they are limited in supply.
We had ample closet and drawer space. The bed was on risers so there was a TON of space underneath to fit our luggage. We were able to fit 6 or 7 bags under the bed with room to spare. Other features in the room included a desk, flat panel tv on swivel mount and a REFRIGERATOR.
When you’re on a Disney Cruise, guess what the television in your cabin plays? Disney movies. ALL SORTS OF DISNEY MOVIES. At any given time, we were able to find popular flicks like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, Mary Poppins, The Lion King and more on tv. In addition to ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Junior and ABC Fam, there were also some newer movies for adults. Gravity, for instance, was playing round the clock when we cruised.
As far as location of our cabin in relation to other ship amenities goes, we were located midship, directly off the main set of elevators. I was worried that this meant we would be bothered by loud passersby, but we heard less from our fellow shipmates on this cruise than any previous cruise we have been on. We were central to so many of the ship’s popular locations. We were a 1 minute (if that) walk to kids’ club and not far from the theaters, restaurants, etc.
ONE LOUD DRAWBACK to our cabin… it sits directly above one of the lifeboats. Directly above one of the lifeboats. One morning at 4 am and another at 6 am we were startled out of a dead sleep as crew pulled the lifeboat in and performed some sort of maintenance on it. It was super loud and I couldn’t go back to sleep!
Where do I even start? Figuring out what to include in this Disney Cruise review has been a tad overwhelming because there is SO much I want to say. Here are some detailed breakdowns of various areas on this ship:
Adults Only Area – Well, in addition to standard features like a spa, gym, jogging track, etc, the Magic has some really fun spots that are well worth checking out. On the very front of the ship is an adults-only area. There is a pool and lounge area, along with a great little coffee shop called Cove Cafe. We grabbed some lattes at the cafe and Bob almost jumped for joy as the barista pointed to a whole display case of complimentary gourmet baked goods. We sampled several and they were incredible!
Pools and AquaDunk Water Ride – A big drawback that we have found on other cruise ships is a huge lack of water entertainment for the non-potty trained kids. Disney is the complete opposite! Not only is there a fun kid pool with an elaborate splash-area and twisting water slide for young children, there is a toddler splashzone specifically for anyone in a swim diaper. Lily spent an entire afternoon in the pool and she even attempted the water slide once.
In the middle of the ship is the regular pool for the masses with two hot tubs on the end. There is a huge movie screen that plays, you guessed it, Disney movies! A little Mary Poppins while you swim? Sure!
New to the Magic after its big renovation is the AquaDunk. This thrill ride water slide features a vertical drop at crazy-fast speeds. Bob tried this ride and LOVED IT!! Me? I don’t do vertical drops. ;) But seriously – every single person coming off this ride was proclaiming its awesomeness.
The Magic has a photography area where you can look for pictures taken of your fam throughout the trip. There are a couple of gift shops brimming with Disney merchandise. The prices in the gift shop didn’t appear to be too inflated (if at all) than what you’d pay at the parks. One store is pretty much a giant Disney store with plush, character toys, dresses, etc. The other store has all sorts of DCL branded merch.
I haven’t been able to curb my accolades, why stop now? We have had our share of gourmet meals and I’ve got to tell you – the food on the Disney Magic WAS INSANELY DELICIOUS. Like, even the buffet lunch – selection after selection that made us go, “Ooo!! Mmmm!!”
There are a bunch of places to eat on the ship.
Quick Eats – For quick food on-the-go try Daisy’s De’Lites on the back of the ship – by the kids’ pool area. Lighter fare like sandwiches and plates brimming with fresh fruit are available there. Find pizza at Pinocchio’s Pizza, Pete’s Boiler Bites for burgers and dogs, ice cream at Eye Scream. They are all located by the pools.
You can stop at Preludes before entering the Walt Disney Theatre to grab popcorn (flavored or fresh-popped butter), drinks, etc.
Room Service – Available 24 hours a day (except on the last night of your cruise), if you’re hungry, just pick up the phone! We ordered from room service a couple of times and it always came quickly. Don’t forget to tip your waiter a couple dollars – it’s always appreciated!
Hot tip: You know those premium Mickey Mouse ice cream bars that are all the rage in the parks? You can order ’em from room service even though they’re not on the menu. FOR FREE. :D
Fine Dining – The Magic has a fine dining restaurant, Palo. For $25 per adult (gratuity INCLUDED), you can enjoy a Northern Italian cuisine for dinner. We did not get to check out Palo on this cruise because we were only on a three-night trip and wanted to experience the other restaurants on the ship.
Rotational Restaurants for Dinner
Table Service Meals – There are 3 different restaurants on the Magic. On your first night on the ship, you head to your assigned restaurant (main seating or late seating – we chose late seating at 8:15 pm so that we could watch the nightly theater show before dinner). You are rotated through the three restaurants during your trip and your waitstaff (waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter) travel with you! We loved this.
It gave us the chance to check out each unique restaurant on the ship while enjoying the camaraderie that comes with having consistent waitstaff each night. For the kids – each night the kids can choose from the same menu of kid-friendly foods.
Animator’s Palate – Our first night on the ship, our dinner was at AP. We headed there all, “just going for some dinner” and left there “OHMYGAH THAT WAS SERIOUSLY UNREAL DID THAT EVEN JUST HAPPEN??” Truly – if there is a night not to miss a table meal, it’s this one. As is implied by the name, Animator’s Palate celebrates the art of animation. You enter to find a very black and white colored restaurant with large screens on the walls all around the restaurant.
The meal begins and simple pencil sketch drawings begin to appear on the screens. Beloved Disney movie characters are recognized as each drawing receives more and more detail. Throughout the meal, the pictures evolve. The pencil sketches start to receive color, then more refined detail, then they move a little. By the end of the meal, the screens come to life as you watch a visual spectacular showcasing some of the most famous scenes from Disney animated movies.
As the music swells and crowd sits in amazement, the entire waitstaff enters the restaurant, led by Mickey Mouse himself. Servers have changed from their black and white vests to colorful versions. They have thought of every last detail and it is UNBELIEVABLE. Here is some video I took over two Disney Cruises – they scarcely do the place justice.
Oh and the food! I almost forgot about the food because I got carried away by the scenery.
The food was absolutely delicious. Bob and I both opted for Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes and Creamy Butternut Squash Soup. Then he had the Ginger-Teriyaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin while I had the Herb Crusted Veal Chop. For dessert he devoured White Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake and I put a serious hurting on a Cookies ‘n Cream Sundae.
2020 update: this restaurant is now Rapunzel’s Royal Table (was formerly Carioca’s). We enjoyed a wonderful dinner show featuring characters from Disney’s Tangled. The food was delicious and my very favorite part was the floating lanterns!!
After a full day of kids’ club, character greetings, swimming and watching Frozen in the movie theater, Lily was super tired and, possibly for the first time in her life, said she wanted “nothing” when it came time to order dessert.
And that’s exactly what she got. ;)
Lumiere’s – Our 3rd and final night on the Magic took us to Lumiere’s – a French-inspired cuisine in a setting based on Beauty and the Beast. The atmosphere was really nice, definitely seemed the most “upscale” of the three main dining restaurants.
Bob and I both went for dual appetizers that night – Escargot Gratinee and Breaded and Deep Fried Brie. ErMahGerd – deLISH! From there it was Leek and Potato Soup was had a great flavor. I was in the mood for some steak that night, so I opted for the Chateaubriand-Roasted Filet Steak while Bob had Roasted Rack of Lamb. By the time dinner came, we were almost too tired for dessert. ALMOST. We both had Peanut Butter Mousse which was fantastic.
Itinerary – 3 Night Bahamas
Since our cruise was so short, we didn’t get a traditional “day at sea” that most 4+ night cruises have on their itinerary. Instead we made a stop each day before returning to Port Canaveral on Day 4.
Nassau – Meh. Blech. We aren’t fond of Nassau. It’s ridiculously crime-ridden and can even be dangerous if you wander on your own. We have stopped in Nassau on other cruises – been there, done that, don’t ever feel the need to do it again. Also, we were on a DISNEY CRUISE and weren’t going to get a day at sea to play on the ship. So that’s what we did! We stayed on the ship and Lily enjoyed games in kids’ club with Peter Pan, swimming in the pool and more. The ship was only partially full as many of our fellow cruisers were off the ship.
Disney does offer a bunch of Port Adventures for Nassau, so if you’re looking for a beach day, day trip to Atlantis Resort, etc etc, there are plenty of choices for you to choose from.
Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island paradise) – Okay, picture it: sandy beaches dotted with umbrellas, gorgeous (clear!) turquoise water, just ready to be swam, snorkled and floated in…slight warm breeze, sun shining down. That was our day on Castaway Cay (Cay is pronounced Key btw). We had perfect weather for a day on the beach. Our ship had a nice long port of call in Castaway Cay – from about 9 am until 5 pm.
You get off the ship and walk a short distance to a tram stop. The tram takes you to the family beach where you can find loungers, chairs, umbrellas and a beach paradise that’s yours for the day. The island has a tiny post office (cash only!) and a couple of shops selling Castaway Cay branded merch, sand toys and other beach supplies, etc.
Floats, tubes, bikes, snorkel equipment and more can be rented for the day if you so desire. Castaway Cay even has an extension of kids’ club, called Scuttle’s Cove. Kids can stay and play as they wish. There are organized games and activities for them to enjoy all day long.
You are handed a beach towel as you get off of the ship so there’s no need to bring one of your own. You can return your towel before you re-board.
Castaway Cay is comprised of three different beach areas. There is a large sprawling family beach where most people settle in for the day. A little further down the beach there is a roped off area with family cabanas that can be rented for the day. The fee is rather steep for these cabanas but the perks are pretty amazing. They can be split between multiple families and are very hard to attain because they are so popular.
We had the chance to book a cabana when someone on our sailing canceled theirs. It wasn’t cheap, but OMG was it amazing. It was especially great with a baby – we had the perfect shady retreat and the staff even set up a Pack ‘n Play so Landon could take a nap (and he napped for HOURS!).
Watch our video tour of a family cabana on Castaway Cay:
Set back behind the family cabanas is another set of cabanas on an adult-only beach.
Your day on Castaway Cay can be entirely cashless – EXCEPT for the post office which is cash-only. Purchases in the gift shops and beach equipment rentals can all be charged using your Key to the World cards. Lunch is served for several hours midday at two different locations on the island.
All food and drinks (even soda!) are included, except for alcohol. The spread for lunch was great – it’s a typical summer picnic spread. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, various salads and some delicious desserts.
Of course, the whole day that you spend on Castaway Cay is with your Disney cruise ship docked in the background. This works as a great backdrop for your pictures!
In the large Walt Disney Theatre there is a Broadway-esque show each evening. Your showtime depends on what dinner seating you have. Late seating for dinner watches the show first, then they go to dinner. Main seating for dinner eats first, then goes to the show.
We saw two of the three shows on our ship and they were FABULOUS! Twice Charmed was a twist on the classic Cinderella story and Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic showcased MANY of Disney’s favorite characters and songs. Both shows were so entertaining! Each one was engaging and since Disney Dreams featured so many well-known Disney favorites, we were humming and singing along with the music!
Also on the ship was a movie theatre that played first run Disney movies. The Buena Vista Theatre was playing Monsters University, Planes, FROZEN, Saving Mr. Banks and Thor throughout our cruise. Daily showtimes are plastered all over the ship – on your daily schedule, on the ship’s app, outside the theatre, even on your stateroom tv.
We skipped the live show on our 2nd night and instead went to the movie theatre for Frozen, the sing-a-long version. Lily was beside herself – she BELTED out every single song!
Yes, that’s right, pirate night. On most of their Caribbean sailings, Disney cruise ships have a pirate night. This night was so much fun, we couldn’t help but get into the spirit. I brought a pirate dress and boots from home for Lily. Landon wore his Mickey pirate onesie with pirate leg huggers.
On pirate night you will see every single level of pirate-wear on your fellow cruisers. There will be hardcore-in-complete-pirate-regalia kids and adults down to people wearing nothing pirate-themed. You can choose your comfort level and go with it.
When you arrive at dinner on pirate night, you get a Mickey-themed bandana at your table. Look for various picture opps with Disney characters in pirate garb on Pirate Night! We saw Captain Hook, Jake, Minnie and Mickey as we walked around.
There is a Pirate Deck Party after the 2nd dinner seating. The party starts around 9:45 pm and there is music and dancing with various Disney characters up by the pool. Right around 10:15 pm there is a fireworks display right off the side of the ship!! Stand midship (by the pool or above it), in front of the smoke stack, to have the best vantage spot for the fireworks. This party and the fireworks are late, but worth it. We made it to the fireworks and then headed straight to bed.
Character Experiences Disney Cruise Review
One of the huge (HUGE) bonuses of a Disney Cruise is that there are character meet and greets all day/night long! You get plenty of advanced warning regarding where and when you can find specific characters, which makes it easier to plan for your kids’ (or your!) favorites. Look on the daily Navigator schedule (paper or app format) to see exactly when and where characters will be.
For characters that Lily was REALLY REALLY hoping to meet, we got in line about 10 minutes or so before the meet and greet was scheduled to begin and never had trouble getting to meet anyone.
For your Disney Princess fans, you will DEFINITELY want to make sure you get to a Princess Gathering. Held at least once during every cruise, you can head to the photo spot and meet several princesses while only waiting in line once. We got in line about 15 minutes early and after maybe a 30 minute wait, Lily had the chance to meet Tiana, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Belle. It was fantastic!
Youth Activities and Nursery
Like other cruise lines, Disney offers an extensive program for all ages – babies through teens can find activities and facilities that cater specifically to them. We thought about taking advantage of some babysitting time in the nursery for Landon, but honestly, our cruise was so short and we were able to time his naps almost perfectly with shows, etc, he stuck with us the whole time.
Lily, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed some time in the kids’ club. There are two huge play areas in the Youth Activities zone – the Oceaneer’s Lab was very hands on and jam-packed with educational crafts, presentations, etc. Kids can learn about animation, work on a craft activity, use computers and more. Lily especially loved the crafts and the organized games and activities. One day she opted to stay until the science experiments had concluded instead of joining us for lunch. Another day she begged to go back for games with Peter Pan.
Over on the other side is the Oceaneer’s Club which has several different themed areas – Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, MARVEL’s Avengers Academy, Pixie Hollow and Toy Story (Andy’s Room). There are computers, dress up costumes, art activities, counselor-led games and more.
On our first day on the ship, we got Lily her identification bracelet for the youth activities. This bracelet held more than met the eye – it actually contained a tracking piece that allowed the counselors to CONSTANTLY monitor kids’ whereabouts for safety, current location, etc.
When we went to pick her up from her activity the counselor could immediately pull up her current location within the kids’ area so that we knew where to go get her from. It was a fantastic piece of added security. Make sure you return your bracelet before getting off of the ship – otherwise your shipboard account will be charged $13 for keeping it.
If we thought getting on the ship was a breeze, getting off the ship was a complete cakewalk. We had to put our checked luggage outside of our cabin by 10:30 the night before where it was collected for debarking. On the last morning on the ship, we were served a tasty table service meal in one of the main dining rooms. After that, it was time to leave.
Getting off the ship was 100% seamless. When we made our way down to the baggage claim area, we were met by friendly porter who offered assistance with our bags. He helped to gather and transport our luggage through customs and right to our car. This service probably saved us about an hour of luggage hauling. (Don’t forget to tip your porter! Customary tips are $2-$4 per bag, at your discretion.)
Unless you missed the entire tone of this review, we loved (LOVED!!!!!!!) our time aboard the Disney Magic. We smiled so much throughout the cruise, and honestly every time we start talking about our trip the smiles come back. It was relaxing, entertaining and just FUN. Lily had a blast, Landon slept and giggled the entire time, Bob and I enjoyed the time with the kids and watching Lily enjoy herself so much.
The food was exquisite, the service was exemplary.
This will NOT be our last Disney cruise… and we just might now be DCL-ers for life. We might have only been on the ship for 3 short nights, but we managed to make lifetime of memories.
We had really worried that cruising with a baby might be difficult. Totally false! In fact, it was one of the easier and more enjoyable trips that we have taken with a baby. A lot of that can be credited to Disney for making it so seamless and for thinking for all of those “little things” along the way! I hope this Disney Cruise review was helpful!
After you read this post, make sure you check out my all-time most popular Disney Cruise posts:
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- 6 Things to Do IMMEDIATELY After Boarding a Disney Cruise Ship
- 3 Easy Ways to Save THOUSANDS of Dollars on a Disney Cruise
- The Ultimate Guide to Disney Cruise Fish Extenders + Lots of Ideas and FREE Printables
- Disney Cruise Line Vacation REVEAL Video – Surprise Scavenger Hunt – Halloween on the High Seas NYC