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Andrea Kaelin

Age: 19

Occupation:USNPS Park Ranger/College Student

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Disney

Ship: Disney Magic

Sailing Date: July 28th, 2003

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This is my review of my recent sail aboard the Disney Magic. In order to understand everything, you must know that I travelled with my grandparents (who have now cruised 38 times on the various lines and itineraries) and my young cousin, age 9, Robert. Each grandchild gets a coming of age cruise at 9. Mine was on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line - and I thoroughly enjoyed and remember it. This was the first time I had cruised Disney - and the absolute last time. There are just some things that aren't really a vacation. I'll rate everything on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest that I have experienced, 1 the lowest.

Embarkation (rated 7): There were no major problems boarding the Disney Magic. We entered their building (after going through all the detectors) and checked in, and boarded the ship. The whole process did not take very long, but we were moved to the head of the line on account of my grandparents AAA status, perhaps 30 minutes. We were enthusiastically greeted onto the ship, and walked into the unimpressive atrium (compared to the Monarch/Grandeur of the Seas RCL). There were minimal activities that day that we attended, but we did check into the Oceaneer's Lab for the kids. Robert was somewhat unenthused about the program, and although the staff was the required cheerful, there was nothing special, and because it was a Disney cruise (and PACKED with children, duh) each child was treated as a child. For my previous cruises on Royal Caribbean, each child is treated as an adult, and expected to behave. There were no such standards on DCL.

STATEROOMS: (rated 6, necessary)
Our room was, of course, small, but well located midship on deck 6. The steward did a wonderful job of keeping the room tidy, but also making towel sculptures of animals. It was a nice touch for the kids. The room was pretty much the basic room - inside stateroom. The biggest issue was wasted space. A minibar took up useless room that we didn't use, and there could be a captains style headboard to place many personal items with the double bed - but that whole area wasted much usable space. RCL was much better about that.

FOOD: (rated 7)
The food was generally well prepared, and good. A nice option was the "lighter fare" that provided a similar option everyday - steak and baked potato. I had Robert (since I was his guardian for the week) scrap the lousy children's menu, and had him order from the adult menu. The children's menu was pathetic and monotonous, though the adults was always varied and wonderful.

DINING: (rated 3)
The rotation dining was interesting, and not necessarily bad, however, the dining rooms (Formal, Tropical, and ever special Animator's Palate) were PACKED with tables, which were PACKED with people and their whiny, rotten children. I KNOW it is a cruise FOR children, but when you are seated so closely to the same family (elbow to elbow almost) every night, it ruins the dining experience. We had the early dining, which was miserable. The noise was constant from all the tables, and ruined the Animator's Palate show (where the room changes color, etc.). Also, the Parrot Cay Tropical Dining Rm and the Animators Palate are foolishly located at the aft of the ship, which is sickening, especially when dining!
Another problem - the supposed "dress code" is not enforced, nor is appropriate table manners. I wasn't expecting Emily Post from these children, but one 5-6 yr old stripped in the FORMAL dining area, and ate, bare-chested and in his underwear, with no correction from anywhere. People dined in shorts (TABOO) and bathing suits. DCL should have requested that these people dine at the buffet on Deck 9, or change their attire. Instead, they did nothing.

SERVICE: (rated 8)
Even with the rotation dining, the waiter and asst. follow you to each dining room each night. Their service was good, with each trained to interact with children. Robert had a peanut allergy, and our waiter would always go over the menu with us and tell us what he should not eat, (along with Gabor's personal recommendations). It was not possible to mix and match any orders, you simply received both meals, and ate what you wanted from each. WASTE.

ENTERTAINMENT: (rated 8)
Aboard, we enjoyed most of the shows in the Walt Disney Theatre, which all had talented performers, even in a mediocre settings. The theatre though, allowed children with wet bathing suits, which consequently wet the seats for the next viewing crowd. There was little leg room between the seats - felt like sardines (kind of like in the dining rooms!). Again, this was at the aft of the ship, and the movement was easily felt - stupid construction on Disney's part. We also enjoyed the jugglers and comedians in the Welcome Aboard show, but also in the Beat Street later in the week (though the lounge was NOT well suited to accommodate so many people). The movies shown were good, but often at odd, inconvenient times.

What we enjoyed better were the game and trivia shows - where everyone could play. We played one nearly everyday, and the host of most of them was a fantastic fun director, Ellen. She worked to make our experiences uniquely wonderful. In fact, that was the best part of the cruise - playing the games together.

CHILDREN'S PROGRAM: (rated 4)
This program was poorly designed for something so high tech. It is much like a dump off day care, and many children, including Robert, did not care for it. He went when I asked him to, enjoyed himself remotely while there, but never wanted to go back unless I made him. Their activities are interesting, making flubber, and Goofy Gumshoes, etc. but not geared at the individual level.

Signing In/Out, was like dealing with a max security prison - and always a HUGE hassle, a wholly negative experience, as the counselors failed treat us with respect. The pagers were a pain to keep up with. A watch and agreed time of departure works just fine. This children's program was not up to par. On RCL, I remember winning prizes and loving the children's program because we were treated as mature beings, and so acted like it, and were able to have infinite fun being the young on board - not the case on DCL.

THE SHIP ITSELF (rated 5)
The ship was poorly designed, and poorly maintained. The carpets were dingy everywhere, and the ship seemed overfull- just crammed with people, and kids, all out of control. And there is nothing DCL will do about it. People throwing stateroom parties at 2am, were "guests of DCL, and we cannot do anything to quiet them" (so I was told on the phone when I called on the 4th offense). Children ran up and down the halls, staircases, in their swimsuits (wet) and barefeet. No wonder Disney had health problems!!! The staff tries to keep everything clean, however, I rarely saw someone doing anything but powerwashing the upper decks.

Most everything was relatively accessible on the ship. The pool deck was always crowded, and the pools were too small to accommodate such a volume of people. The "family" Goofy pool, could hold maybe 3 four person families, if that - and only for splashing around, not games or anything like that. The Mickey pool, again, too small. The slide is WAY overrated. The adult pool - again, too small. It was good only for standing in the water, not actual swimming. Robert DID love going to the pool - crowded or not with wild children. There needed to be a lifeguard at the children's pools, not just monitoring the slide. Not to really save anyone, but to ensure a safe environment. The pools, so highly used, needed to be larger and more entertaining (i.e. a jumping (not diving) board. Kid's love to jump and splash, but jumping from the side lands them ontop of other children!)

PORTS OF CALL: (rate 6)
St. Maarten - limited. The ship ports around daybreak, right at the dock, however, the town of philipsburg is 2 miles away - a nice hike if you travel with young ones. Just to look and shop, is a $3 per person taxi ride there. We walked there and back, and only spent a few hours there before returning to the ship. We weren't there long enough to make our own excursions. Also, car rentals should be located at the dock, not in town.

St. Thomas USVI. We weren't here but 8 hours, plus we had the early AM immigration check (anyone who snuck onto the ship will NOT come to immigration check, duh!), although our group managed a bit of fun. We all taxied to Red Hook and caught the ferry to St. John to visit the National Park, which was very disappointing, unless you wanted to shell out $50 each person to get a guided tour. I thought the NPS would offer more. We did some scenic hiking before heading back to the ferry. We avoided the beaches, knowing that the Disney island was a beach day. We are not sun worshippers - and therefore do not need to lay on the beach all day or on the top decks all days at sea.

WORTH it at St. Thomas - the Paradise Point tramway, a cable car to take you up to scenic heights. Beautiful views, not crowded, and cheaper than most everything else, plus, easy walking distance from the pier. We could have spent more time up there, but had to get back to the ship. Also worth a visit, Maegan's Bay, but you have to take a tour for it.

Castaway Cay (this gets its own rating - a 6). This island is Disney's own, and was not well accommodating to the hordes from the ship (dying to beach). The snorkeling area was pathetic, and all the lifeguards did was tell people they were in the wrong area. Snorkeling, watercrafts rentals, and swimming beach are all kept separate and contained, with not enough beach to go around. The BBQ style lunch was good, but the drinks needed to be more accessible for refills. We found it was better to walk than take the silly tram car. Not far at all. Stupid Disney needs to put towel collection bins by the beach, where the people use the towels. Many towels do not make it back on the ship because people must carry them back.

THE BEST PART OF THE CRUISE:
- The trivia shows led by Ellen
- The food and dining service, even if the dining experience was miserable so crowded and unkempt.
- Deck 4. Nice deck chairs, running track, shuffleboard (could DCL please wax that floor, darn near impossible to play) and best of all, generally free from dripping wet pool rampant children!
- the entertainment (not shows), jugglers/comedians, magician, ventriloquist, etc. The shows were decent, but these were better, and good for the whole family with a much closer view.

WORST PARTS (and I'm only listing the absolute worst, not everything)
- the lack of security/ authority/control. Children ran wild and ruined many vacations (not just ours!) and DCL does NOTHING, enforces nothing. Not the dress code, quiet hours, polite behavior, etc. This was the WORST as it affected me 24-7 while onboard.
- The ship, and its subsequent entertainment areas are TOO SMALL for the volume of people. The pools are too small, the dining areas, atrium and public areas are too small, the theatre, etc.
- the children's program was a HUGE disappointment. Poorly designed and executed.
- the constant sales pitches and exorbitant prices of everything, and its pitched to the kids, and it works to make the parents shell out. How can it be a vacation, when you'll have to work OT the rest of the year to financially survive it?

Walt Disney did something very special to the imaginations of millions, as he was a visionary for each child to have dreams and goals, and a playground for their imaginations. THIS cruise was an abomination of Disney's vision as it had very different goals - get the money from the parents by using the children, pack as many people onto a ship, and obtain maximum profits, regardless of anything. It was disgusting.

Overall, I have to say, I would never recommend this insane experience to people, with or without children. If you want to have a family vacation, where you and your children can have fun together - and apart, pick a different cruise line where your child can be made to feel special, not just one of the means to Daddy's wallet on the DCL. The Disney characters and other desirable marketing points are ruined by the crowded ship of sheep waiting to be sheered.

Take my advice, put your money towards another cruise line - Royal Caribbean or HAL and have wonderful cruising experiences. You don't even need to be on the brand new ships (in fact, the older ones were not designed for high volume and can be WAY better - even without the ice rinks and climbing walls. Make your own fun). The positive aspects of the Disney Cruise line are not special enough (that you could not get it elsewhere) to compensate for the atrocities and flaws in the negative aspects.

I may have just had a bad experience - but my complaints are not specific to just my voyage - these are criteria that just would not vary from sailing date to the next. The dining rooms would always be too crowded, as would the entertainment areas, etc and the kids will go wild, it is a DISNEY cruise. But why waste your money when a better cruising experience is out there.

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