Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Disney
Ship: Disney Magic
Sailing Date: June 26th, 2004
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
We purchased the transfers from the airport and I would definitely recommend this option unless you are really set on saving a few bucks. You could probably get it cheaper by shopping around, but going with Disney allows you to give them your luggage and you won't see it again until it shows up at your stateroom later in the day. The busses are comfortable and they show videos that talk about the ship, the cruise and what you can expect.
Once you arrive at the cruise terminal, you have to check in. The line for this was quite long, but moved quickly. I'd guess we spent about 12 minutes or so in this line. They check your travel documents, issue you 'passport' keys which double as charge cards, and send you on your way. After that, you can walk on the ship. They ask your name and where you're from and then announce you over the loudspeakers. I was a little taken aback but the kids liked it.
We immediately set off to make Palo and Vista Spa reservations and neither one was too big of a deal. The Palo reservations were split into 3 lines depending on which days you wanted. Sunday and Monday in this line, etc. We wanted to go early in the week and had no trouble. Someone else mentioned that they couldn't make reservations until 2PM but in our case I think we did this around 12 noon. No line, no fuss.
The Vista Spa was nice. We decided after touring the facility that we wanted to do the Rasul. This was around 12:30 and it was already booked on all of the 'at-sea' days. We ended up having to cut our day at St. Maarten a little short, but it was definitely worth it. If you want to try this, get in early. They were totally booked by the end of the day. The major issue is that there is only one Rasul room and it has to be sanitized after each use, so they only have like 4-5 appointments a day tops. The massages were a bit more available.
Dining - With a group of 21 we were assigned 3 tables with 1 waiter and assistant waiter. We were also next to two windows in the rooms with windows, so the kids could get up and watch the ocean go by (without bothering other guests). Expect the meals to take about 2 hours. They seemed to speed up as the trip went on. The last day only took about 1 1/2 hours. The food was great, but not spectacular. The service was consistently good. The portions are what you would expect. You could eat 3 courses plus a desert and not feel like an extraordinary pig, though you would definitely feel FULL. The waiters were both good with the kids. The head waiters (that cover multiple table groups) seemed to have all be trained in magic. They could all do slight of hand tricks as well as silly distraction tricks on the littlest ones that made the older kids feel good knowing they 'knew the secret'.
Palo Dining - The up charge for this is now $10, per person. You can only make one reservation for dinner, until everyone has had a chance to be accommodated, then you can come back and try to get in again. My parents, who had paid for the whole family and were assigned a concierge, were able to get into dinner 3 times and the brunch at least twice, but I think that was the exception. Dinner was great there. We went with another couple from our group and were pleased with both the service and the food.
Soft Drinks and Ice Cream - As most know, the soft drinks are no longer a chargeable item. The first day at dinner the waitress actually was offering the mugs for $3, but it wasn't a hard sell. Soft drinks are available on the 9th deck aft by the MIckey pool. There's a whole station with ice and drinks available. Ice cream is on the other side in the same general area, but it's not 'self serve' and it closes sometimes when the ship is in port. Soft drinks from the bars are still a chargeable item ($1.50).
Arcade - You can buy debit cards for the arcade in $10, $20, and $25 increments. The games seemed to range from $0.50 to $1.25 per play. You can't tell how much is left on your card until you 'run out' of money. It's a small area with about 15-20 games I would guess. There's a little Air Hockey game in the middle which is a good break from the electronic stuff. As a funny aside, my sister overheard a lady talking to her teenage son going over the bill, "Here on June 26, here's $10, and here's $10, and here's $10, then on June 27, here's $20 arcade, and $10, and $10." I guess I would say turn the credit off of your kids room keys if you don't trust them. Everything they need is free so there's really no need to let them charge.
Pingpong - There were 2-3 tables on each side of deck 9. In suprisingly good condition with plenty of balls and paddles.
Basketball - Located foredeck on 8 or 9? Would generally be really busy. I don't play but it looked like there were some reasonable games going on. Right behind the basketball courts was an open area. The only time I saw it being used in the some sort of organized was was for something that looked a bit like dodgeball played with a black leather ball the size of a cabbage ball, but it looked hard.
Shuffleboard - Down on deck 4, port side. The
equipment is all in a box/stand next to the court and the rules are posted if
you don't know hoe to play.
Kids Clubs / Oceaneer lab - I only had a couple disappointing experiences here. When I first got there with my 4 year old on the day of arrival, we had missed the 'get to know the counselors' session, and kind of wandered in to a free time moment. I sat down with my son (to get him comfortable) to play with some of those hanging monkey things and these kids just flocked to me. To be fair, there was a girl at the drawing table with crayons and a couple of kids, one was doing the digital pictures they take to make mouse pads and one was playing with the Connex stuff, but I had like 8 kids playing with me. Whenever I go to a new place with the kids, I expect someone to make an effort to help my kids feel comfortable and start playing with the other kids, and I was really surprised it didn't happen at a Disney facility. Once they started doing something together they all moved over to the other side and Sean got engaged and started having more fun. He didn't even acknowledge me when I went to say good bye. :) The only other disappointing thing was the computers. I cam eback to check on Sean about 2 hours later and he was playing on the computers in the middle of the room and neither his nor the little girl's next to him were working properly. It was like a little story game and the camel thing was talking but you couldn't hear a word. The little girls was just totally locked up. On a positive note, the are further forward where the big kids check in was a great play area. The younger kids spend a fair bit of time here as well. Our kids didn't spend that much time in the kids club, but would go in the afternoons sometimes when their energy level made them want to play and our energy level made us want to take a nap. Oh and one last thing, as the kids walk in the get a squirt of soap and go wash their hands which was good to see.
IT was an awesome trip, but very expensive. We wouldn't have been able to go had the major portion not been paid for by my parents. For half the money we could spend the week at the beach in the summer, or skiing in the winter. We were on the 8th floor and could certainly have saved money by moving down, but the stateroom with the veranda was sweet and it would be hard to go back to a porthole. We all talked about whether we would want to go back, and I think we all enjoyed it very much, but I don't think we would want to try it again for a couple years at least. If I had $8,500 burning a hole in my travel budget, I don't know that I would spend it on the Disney cruise or any other. I think their may just be better ways to spend the money.