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Jamashp
05-02-2006, 09:56 AM
Disney Magic : RCCL Voyager of the Seas – Our experience

First off, we are a family of five: DD13, DD11, and DS7. We cruised on the Disney Magic Eastern 10/30/2004 (children were one year younger than stated above) and we sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas on 11/4/2005.

These are our opinions of two cruises our family took one year apart. We went during these time periods, because our children had two days (turned into three for 2004) off of school that week for the New Jersey teacher’s convention. Rates are lower and we get a lot of vacation time with few days missed from school.

Accommodations: Disney Magic – we stayed in a category 4 room ($4,600). Voyager – we stayed in a grand suite ($5,900).

The Magic was a 7-day cruise departing Port Canaveral, with stops at St. Martin, St. Thomas, and Castaway Cay. The Voyager was a 9-day cruise departing Cape Liberty (a.k.a. Bayonne, New Jersey) with stops at Labadee (private area of Haiti), Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Freeport Bahamas.

The Disney Magic was to be our “vacation of a lifetime.” We booked more than a year out and counted down the days until the cruise finally arrived. The anticipation was HUGE! We planned so much for this vacation and researched details through DISboards to fully educate ourselves on what to do and when. I really enjoyed the buildup to this vacation. We flew down to Florida the day before and stayed at a hotel on I-95. We then drove up to Port Canaveral, dropped off the mini-van and took shuttle to the ship. Check-in and embarkation process was smooth. We waited not much more than ½ hour and we were among the first 250 guests on the Magic. Hearing our named announced as we entered the ship really started this vacation off with a special, “Wow!”

I won’t go into a huge review of our Magic cruise, but just to say overall it was fantastic. On the final morning before we departed the Magic, I had a lump in my throat knowing that our wonderful cruise vacation was ending. It was hard to even look at the cast member with the famous “Mickey” white hand waving goodbye to our family. So, “why” you may ask did we next go with Royal Caribbean. To be blunt, money. Disney wanted $6,000 for the same week in 2005, and then I’d add in flights for five, along with a hotel stay and rental car. This would easily add another $1,500 to the trip.

I booked the VOS (Voyager of the Seas) eleven months in advance. Since we live in New Jersey, no flights or hotels or even rental cars to deal with. The only additional cost was the $105 for parking for 9 days.

Here is my comparison on different aspects of the cruise.

Cabin: Disney’s category 4 cabin was fine for our family. The children each had a comfortable bed, and my wife and I were pleased with our bed too. It did get a little crowded when everyone was in the room, but no real concern. The space was so well utilized, we had plenty of storage space and the spit bathroom is a great idea. The balcony was ample in size. We enjoyed it as often as we could. The problem was that the people in the cabin next to us were constantly out there smoking, which drove us back indoors. Nothing we could do about it. It was just luck of the draw. Our VOS cabin was a grand suite. It was the most affordable single cabin that would sleep five. There was a queen bed, a double sofa bed, and they brought in a roll-away bed each evening and took it away each morning. The size of the cabin was huge (381 square feet and a 95 square foot balcony). Peeking into other cabins, ours was gigantic! The balcony was wonderful. We had two chairs, one chaise lounge chair and a decently sized table. On one side there was no balcony next to us (an owners suite which has half the balcony size, but has its inside area take up the other balcony area), and the other side has a solid steel partition separating the balcony cabin next to ours. The balconies are a bit more enclosed in that there is more solid steel and less Plexiglas and railings. There didn’t seem to be any smokers nearby (again it was luck of the draw), and I think the more enclosed VOS balcony design would help keep the smoke away too. Our grand suite also came with concierge service and priority embarking. The concierge service was nice, but nothing to write home about. Wouldn’t miss it if we didn’t have it. I thought the priority boarding would be useless as we intended to get to port an hour or so after they started letting passengers onto the ship. As it turned out, it was invaluable since the ship arrived in port about eight hours late. This meant that everyone was at port at the same time waiting to get onto the ship. With priority boarding, we went to the front of the line and were among the first 50 passengers on the ship. We heard horror stories from others about waiting in line for 5 hours and more. We just dumb-lucked ourselves into this and it started our vacation out on a good note, and not like many other unhappy grumbling passengers who waited so long in line. Whereas we were on the ship and eating dinner by 6:45, others did not board the ship until 11:15PM.

Embarkation: As stated above, Disney was great. VOS worked out well for us, but not for most. Disney is head and shoulders above other cruise lines in getting its passengers onto its ship. The Magic is also special with their announcement of your arrival. I missed that on VOS.

Ship: We loved the Magic and equally loved the VOS. The Magic can hold up to 2400 or so passengers, VOS takes up to 3,114 passengers. The Magic fits through the Panama Canal. The VOS isn’t even close to fitting. It is so wide! At the widest sections, there are balcony rooms, a hallway, then there are inside rooms, then the promenade, and then inside rooms, hallway, and then a balcony room. This ship must have been 30 or 40 feet wider than the Magic. We played mini golf many times. It’s actually a very nice design. I climbed the rock wall once, as did my oldest daughter and son. We played basketball many times. It was a great setup. My oldest also tried out ice skating one day. The main pool area was nice. Yes, the pools were salt water, but it didn’t seem to bother my children too much. The pools were crowded, but nowhere near the wall-to-wall bodies typically seen on the Magic. The adult pool area was nice, but it was too shady.

Dining: On VOS we ate dinner with another family of three in the same dinning room at the same table every night. The food itself was on par with Disney. It started out better, but declined as the cruise wore on. My wife and I did dine at the alternative restaurant one night and were not impressed. Disney’s was MUCH better in service, food quality, and ambiance. I also enjoyed having dinner in the three different restaurants rather than the same place every night. It was fine, but just think Disney’s innovative rotating dining venues are better.

Service: What more can I say about Disney? Every cast member seemed to have a warm smile and greeted our family when they passed. VOS had some, but it was not consistent.

Shows / Entertainment: The Disney shows are a much better production than VOS. Though the ice show is amazing. My wife and I also enjoyed playing in the casino on a number of evenings. I’d give the nod to Disney on their shows, especially the world premEAR at seas of their Disney movies. In 2004 we got to see the Incredibles at 12:01AM. That was fantastic. The casino on VOS was nice to have. And they had a couple adult theme shows that we thoroughly enjoyed. They catered more to adults than to children in the “show and entertainment” area.

Children’s Clubs: I’ll start with my son. He LOVED the Disney children’s club. He couldn’t get enough of it. My heart melted when he turned to me a few days into the cruise and said, “Daddy, I really like the Disney cruise.” It’s moments like that which make it all worth it. Disney’s hours are much better. VOS had morning hours, closed for lunch, afternoon hours, closed for dinner, and then evening hours until 10:00. After that, you pay $5.00/hour and they close at 1:00AM. The size of the club on the Magic is much larger. On the first day on the VOS, I couldn’t believe how many children were in the room in the 6 – 8 year old age group. He didn’t enjoy it at first, but after that first day, he enjoyed it a lot. He was wishy-washy about going there in the day, but loved it in the evening. He always wanted to be there when they were going to the sports deck to play games, and in the evenings he begged to stay to 12:00AM so he could play some type of dodge-ball game that all the children seemed to adore. He never did make it to 12:00AM – mean parents! My 11 year old didn’t use the Disney club too much last year. I think she would have enjoyed it more, but didn’t give it enough of a chance since she had a friend/neighbor from home on the cruise enticing her to do other things. She gave it a try on the VOS and instantly made friends whom she would meet in the clubs and play. She could sign herself in/out. She enjoyed the club. My 13 year old was in the 12 – 14 age group and also made friends quickly. They hung out in the Optix club, listened to music and seemed to enjoy the time. She went to many of the scheduled activities and joined her friends at the pool, sports deck and other activities throughout the cruise. She also enjoyed the Disney club, but I think she like the VOS even more. In my opinion, Disney has more to offer the children at the younger ages, but there seems to be a void when the children get to that 11, 12, and 13 year age group. Both ships seemed to have some groups of teens roaming about and clogging the stairwells, but it wasn’t excessive.

Itinerary and Ports: The itinerary and ports were good on both cruises. The only downer was the Bahamas port since we arrived at 6:30 and departed at 1:30. It was not a pretty area and the time was too short to venture out too far. My theory is that there must be cheap fuel for the ship there. There doesn’t seem to be any other reason the ship stops there. Nine nights was awesome! The first day the temperature was cool, so no pool time. The ship leaving port six hours late and the early November sailing may have accentuated that. The last sea day was also cool as we headed back north to NJ. I did enjoy having the last day at sea though. It gave us time to pack and not feel rushed like we did on the Magic leaving Castaway Cay on the last full day of the cruise.

Debarking: Again, Disney is MUCH better. On the Magic, once the ship was cleared, you walked off the ship. On VOS, we waited and waited and waited for them to begin calling different color tag groups to leave the ship. We again used our “priority” status and we among the first to leave the ship. We then looked all over the terminal for our luggage, which was scattered about. Once we got it, we walked through customs, into the parking lot and to our car. We were at our house by 11:30 (and at my daughter’s soccer by 12:45 - - I’m the coach!). Disney’s terminal is superior to any other cruise line. Cape Liberty and Royal Caribbean need some serious work.

Other Tidbits: * There was smoking on both ships. Smoke is heavy in the casino. There are some non-smoking tables in the casino too. Smoking was allowed in the cabins on VOS and not on the Magic. The Magic didn’t allow smoking at the children’s pool. VOS may have been the same. We didn’t go there often. All other smoking rules were the same for both ships except that VOS had no smoking on the port side of the ship on the pool deck. This was a definite plus. It was frustrating sitting and relaxing in a lounge chair, when someone nearby would light up. We were able to avoid this once we learned of the port side pool deck. * Buffet food was comparable on both ships. * Missed the ship’s whistle on the Magic. How can you beat “When you wish upon a star?” * The convenience of having no flights or hotels was great. * Equal number of people with “it’s all about me” and “it’s my vacation” attitudes on both ships. We didn’t let it bother us. * Jogging track on VOS is a joke. It’s on the top deck and guests often place lounge chairs on it. * My wife and I enjoyed deck four on the Magic and walking laps on the ship. VOS had nothing comparable. * VOS promenade was nice, but seemed much like a mall at sea. I preferred the fewer shops with more character and variety on the Magic better. * We saw the Disney Wonder in the distance one day and wondered, “What if we were on that ship.” * We barely felt any movement of the ship of the VOS. A couple of times we were already moving for 15 minutes or more before we knew we left. * Labadee is beautiful and comparable to Castaway Cay. * We never did a countdown for our VOS cruise. We didn’t book any ship excursions and only went on one we arranged ourselves. It was much more of a relaxation vacation. We seemed to be on the go more with the Magic. * VOS is a late to sleep ship. The Magic went to bed early. * Both ships felt about the same in terms of crowding. Felt it some times and not at all at other times.

Overall: We loved both cruises. They each had their plus and minuses. The dollars and the travel make a difference. Where and when will we cruise (or even vacation) next? That’s a good question. High school begins for our oldest next year and college is creeping up quickly. We’ll have to take it as it comes. You won’t go wrong on either cruise. Just keep a positive attitude!

I hope this info helps. Questions?

Scott

smwf71
05-02-2006, 03:24 PM
Thank you for this valuable comparison - it's wonderful!

Babs417
05-02-2006, 03:32 PM
Great trip report thankyou :hourglass

AshburnMom
05-02-2006, 05:39 PM
This was a great comparison of the 2 cruise lines--thanks for taking the time to write it up. We haven't gone on our Disney cruise yet, so I may be making assumptions, but was there more drinking and kids running wild on RCCL compared to Disney?

Vavasmon
05-02-2006, 05:47 PM
Scott,
Thanks for your detailed report.

We have sailed the Magic twice and have a GS booked on Freedom of the seas for next Spring Break.

I agree with you about kinds activities for the 'tween age range. I personally like that RCCL splits the teens into 2 groups - we aren't there yet but it is coming faster than I ever expected. I am planning on missing the Magic's horn when we pull out of port.

tjeagle
05-02-2006, 05:48 PM
Wonderful objective report! Thanks!

Jamashp
05-05-2006, 02:52 PM
I did not see any difference between the two ships on children running around and being a nuisance. Disney had more younger children (of course), but on a whole, the VOS children were just fine.

Probably the best thing about the VOS was that it was nine nights. That works out so well. You never feel rushed to do anything since there are so many days to do it. The sports facilities are also nicer than Magic.

Both cruises were great. They are just different, so you need to keep an open mind and enjoy what you've got rather than compare and complain.

I'd go back to either in an instant!

jeast
05-10-2006, 10:50 AM
great comparison! THanks for the info.

Timon
05-10-2006, 12:33 PM
Thanks for the review! We did Explorer of the Seas a few years back to compare to the Magic.

We didn't have a good experience on the EOS. The food was terrible, the passengers were rude and the boarding process was horrible.

The service was actually very good for us, very nice cheery people working on that ship, which surprised us since Disney usually stands out service-wise.

I must disagree with you about Labadee though. Not even close to the beauty and magnificence of Castaway Cay!! If you went near the market, you got bombarded with rude locals trying to get you to buy stuff, there was only one decent beach without rough surf and it was so crowded, the food they had at the bbq hut was horrible and the tenders on and off the ship were terribly slow!


We may try Freedom of the Seas one day but otherwise we are hooked on DCL.

I have heard people having a great time on EOS, so it does depend on your experience and wants/needs/expectations of your family.

fairyG
05-27-2006, 02:20 PM
Thanks Scott, for the comparison. We just returned from a trip on the Magic(May 13-20) It was really great. One of my dreams was to go on a Disney Cruise. We were with our daughter & son in law and our two grandaughters 7 & 4.They truly enjoyed the camps and beaches. I thought the menu for the kids was really great. We are due to cruise in Aug. on the RCL out of NJ which should be a piece of cake to get to. (almost our backyard) We have never been on RCL before-mostly Celebrity and one in Dec. on the Costa; from what I have seen so far no one yet has come to compare with Celebrity as far as the dining goes. We are looking forward to RCL; this time we will be with 2 grandsons 9 & almost 14. I heard that there is a lot for the kids of this age-we will see soon and let you know. I am not certain just what ship it is but we also will be on the 10 day. The Is. are the same, but I think we are also going to St.Marteen. I hope so, I bought a coupon book on the Magic for $20.oo which I feel was a waste of money, they were giving out books on the pier where we took the water taxi that were free and much better coupons.Boy I sure could go for a Mickey Bar about now.