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Connie Blackwell

Age: 42

Occupation:Telecommunications Manager

Number of Cruises: one

Cruise Line: Disney

Ship: Disney Magic

Sailing Date: April 24th, 2004

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

My husband planned a wonderful surprise for my 40th birthday and booked us and our 9 year old son Evan, on our first ever cruise aboard the Disney Magic.

We were extremely anxious at the time, given the fact our actual cruise was booked the year before, but due to a severe ice storm at the airport, we missed our flight entirely, and had to rebook for the following year.

Rebooking our cruise for the same time period required a change in venue. We had originally picked the Eastern itinerary, but the following year did not have the same availability so western is was.

We chose the Disney ground transfers and flew in a day early, as we did not want to take any chances this time around, getting delayed at the airport. I highly recommend this to any first time cruisers. Being stranded at an airport with zero flights going out and an 8 year old in tears is no way to begin a holiday. We chose a Disney hotel that was part of the Disney cruise package, The Port Orleans resort. When we arrived at the airport, we were directed to the Mears shuttle service that took us directly to our hotel. Choosing the Port Orleans hotel, even for just the one day, was a true bonus. The cruise line info desk was right there, and they handled all of our paper work the minute we arrived. Another bonus surprise with booking into the hotel, was passes to the Disney parks, which thrilled our 9 year old to no end. So it was a perfect day for all of us, and enjoying a day at the Disney park.

The Disney bus arrived on schedule to take us to Port Canaveral where the mighty Magic awaited. What a site, truly. The Disney facility is truly amazing. I must say, you pay a little more for Disney, but it is truly worth the extra cash. We were told to head straight to the entrance, and bypassed this huge line-up where a sign read Passports Declared. When we got to the entrance we were then told that as Canadians we were supposed to go to the counters first, and hand in our passports. Our initial reaction was "fury". The gentleman, realizing we were not happy with this information immediately escorted us back to the massive line-ups, walked us to the front of one of the lines and had an agent handle all of our paperwork within minutes. This was very impressive and very Disney!!

Once on board we went directly to our cabin, #6128. We decided to spend a little more and get the balcony. If you can afford a little extravagance, I highly recommend it. Some days you just want to open a sliding door and sit on your own, put up your feet and gaze out at the beautiful blue ocean. Having the balcony was heaven, expensive heaven indeed, but again worth it. The people aboard those "other" cruise ships always seem to be envious when looking at the Disney line. The horn that sounds is hilarious, and there is no mistaking it. The ship's decor is stunning.

Things to Avoid:
As first time cruisers we had no idea what to expect, what to avoid really. When you start to walk around the ship there are a 101 things to consider and want to buy. When you approach the bar, try not to get suckered in to buying the coke program, which if I recall is around $30.00 U.S. Yes, you get a great souvenir mug and all, but we bought one for each of us: $30.00 x 3 and already you have spent over $100.00, and it does not permit you to get a can of coke, only applies to the watered down version at the bar, under the hose. They have fruit juices, water, lemonade for FREE and we would have been very happy with that.

Pictures. You are going to be inundated with someone wanting to take your picture. For every activity, for every dinner, for every second of the day, there is a Disney character just dying to have their picture taken with you and your darling children. And then, conveniently, as part of the pathway to the theatres, there is the Camera Shop, where all those pictures that were taken of you each day around every corner are displayed. Think about it, $20.00 for an 8 x 10, $35.00 for a special package, $40.00 for that, etc, etc. It was a bit much and I found it another "money making" machine that I was not interested in buying in to. The formal prepared for the flashes. Pictures with the captain, pictures with Goofy, pictures with the ship as a backdrop, pictures behind the moon, pictures, pictures, pictures. I was so sick of the pictures.

Also, the off shore excursions do not necessarily offer the best deals. If you are patient, and willing to investigate on your own, once on shore you can get some great deals. We negotiated a great deal with some reputable vendors on shore in Grand Cayman and saved a bundle and had a great time.

Benefits of Disney:
Another great thing about Disney is the attention to convenience. When you see the other cruise ships when in port, notice the line-ups for the other ships when returning to the ship. We were in Grand Cayman and before heading back I was sitting down near the gate waiting for my husband to get his bottle of rum. I saw him frantically waving his arms at me, to say "hurry up and get over here in this line up" When I looked at him like he had five heads, he suddenly realized that maybe that was the line up for the "other ship"...........Disney had an endless supply of tenders, where required, so again, just another example of why it pays to go Disney.

Also, unlike many other cruise lines, Disney is reasonable with what you bring aboard during off shore excursions. Buy your booze while on shore, and keep it in your fridge. The wine packages are too expensive, and drinks add up. We met countless couples whose bar bills were absolutely absurd. I want to spend my money on exciting excursions, buying souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, not on a $8.00 rye and coke x 12 per day. We bought beer, rum, vodka, a few bottles of wine, and walked around the ship happy as can be. There are also machines for lemonade and fruit juices as well, no charge (vodka and lemonade was popular). Don't get caught up on buying the "drink of the day either". Once or twice is fine, but really, if you don't watch it, your bill will sky rocket. This is where cruise ships make their money, selling endless streams of booze to those suckers who think they can afford it, and then fall out of their chairs when they see their final bill on the last night of the cruise. Trust me, if your not making a mental note of each drink you order, it adds up.............FAST!! When we asked to view our bill mid week, we were given the wrong room by accident, and their bar bill alone was $400.00.............ludicrous!!

Things to Take Advantage of:
Enrol your child in the Kids Club, but I strongly recommend you stay with them first, to get their bearings and introduce them to another child. Not every kid is Mr. Personality, and if they are a tad shy at first, when you pick them up hours later, the last thing you want to hear is "I don't want to go back to the club anymore" I made a point of making sure I hooked up my son with another kid his age, before I left. The counselors are great but you cant expect them to play match up each and every time the child walks in. That was my preference and it worked well. The programs are amazing and it was well worth it. They get some nice surprises on the last day of the cruise too.

The Disney shows are out of this world. The "Golden Mickey's" gala was fabulous. It usually airs on the formal night, and you get to line up to take pictures with the Disney characters, in their tuxedos, and its done up like "Oscars Night". These shows are better than Vegas. The lighting, the music, the dancers, everything is beautifully done. They even have a Theatre to watch Disney shows.

I have read many reviews where the food was given a mediocre rating. Not having been on any other cruise line I cant compare, but all I can say is the service was fabulous. Changing venues each night is a thrill, the presentation, the waiters, everything about the dining experience I truly enjoyed. There isn't an endless supply of choices on the menu, but what is available is very good. My husband enjoyed every meal, and I took advantage of the Vegetarian Cuisine, and surprisingly, there was only one dish I found a bit bland and unappetizing. I recommend sharing a table with 2 or more couples, just to make it interesting. It's a gamble for sure, but I always enjoy meeting new people and talking to others during our meal. We chose the early seating, which worked well for us. Just make sure you arrive on time each night. We were out of sorts the first night, and were about 7 minutes late. Very embarrassing, as the other members were waiting for us, as were the servers. Just common courtesy. We were never late again, and got into a great routine, knowing how much time we needed each night to prepare for dinner, etc.

The cabins were great. I had no problem fitting everything into place. I am a neat freak and like everything in its place, and had no troubles putting everything away. Once unpacked and clothes hung in the closets, there was plenty of room to fit the luggage and bags into the closets. There is a separate little room for the shower, with sink, and another room for the toilet and sink. Great idea when you have kids, and a husband who likes to read...........

We will take another Disney cruise for sure. It was wonderful, the staff are top notch. Anytime we had a concern, or needed something, they were eager to help. I have always abided by the golden rule of treating others the same way you yourself would expect to be treated, and everything is resolved, and everyone remains happy. There is no need to fly off the handle if something is not 100% perfect, or a staff member has not delivered your 8th glass of wine within minutes. Be patient, be respectful, and you will get the kind of service usually found in your dreams. Those who complained alot, were usually the chronic misery loves company types, who would complain if something was perfect, so I just laughed at those individuals, who wouldn't know a good time if it bit them in the behind.

In closing, the checkout procedures are flawless. From claiming your passport, to the collection of your luggage, to the color coded system where you retrieve your luggage once off the ship. It was truly amazing how smooth the transition was with so many people on board. Again, take the Disney transfers and save yourself a huge hassle getting taxis, etc.

If you have any questions about this cruise line, do not hesitate to email me. I would be happy to answer your questions.

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