March 29 Disney Magic 8-Day From Galveston
Here is my late review, probably most won't care anyway. I like reading reviews, so I will post my own. Plus it makes me re-live the cruise a little bit. Our travel party is myself, my wife, and our three kids (girl 9, girl turning 7 the day after we return, boy 4). It is mine and my wife's 17th cruise, 5th on Disney. The girls' have been on Disney three other times and the boy twice. It is my oldest's 14th cruise (yes at nine... we like to cruise and so do her grandparents who fund most of this!). This trip was just the five of us, a first for us since 2008 (when it was just the four of us).
We departed on the 28th, with a 6 p.m. flight out of Chicago Midway. It is 95 miles from our house to Midway. Without traffic, we can make it in 1:45, with traffic, sometimes up to 3 hours. We left at 2:30, made decent time until the last five miles which took 30 minutes. I took a wrong turn. Fortunately, the flight was a little late and we basically walked right up at the start of boarding. We picked up our rental car, something we booked for the whole week as it and parking was cheaper than shuttles or taxis or one way rentals. We set out toward Galveston with the idea of eating dinner in mind. However, as it passed 10 by the time we left the airport, we weren't able to find any of our favorite sit down places and ended up with fast food in the car.
We pulled up at 11:30 at the Harbor House hotel in Galveston. Very nice. Quite pleasantly surprised. It was a very nice hotel and the kids loved it. The area is very quaint and in my opinion a lot nicer than the seawall. Got a pre-paid deal on Expedia for under $100 for the night. The five of us had two beds and the 9-year old took the non-pull out love seat. It was a bit small even for her, an adult there's no way. But she said it was one of the most comfortable beds she's ever slept in. On arrival, we can't see much of Galveston. A native Texan, I lived there for 27 years and this is my first time to Galveston. I like it. A lot like a small New Orleans. Would have liked longer, but the eight-day cruise leaves us a little tight on vacation time with spring break.
We got up early and I had tried to make it without our usual pre-cruise Wal Mart/Walgreens/Target trip, but alas my daughter claimed she needed shoes. So we head to Target only $50 later in shoes for her and my son (buy one get one half off). We returned to the hotel by 10:30 with a PAT of 11. We had pre-paid to leave our rental car at the Harbor House. We pack luggage in the single stroller we brought (which was to serve mostly as a luggage carrier), I grab a few bags and so do the kids and we walk to the terminal. It was a 10 minute walk. Best hotel for a cruise in my opinion. This was our second best boarding experience ever. We got boarding no. 3. We were immediately in line and checked in within 5 minutes. Now we just wait to embark. We had a category 4 so I went in line to see if there were upgrades to a suite, not holding my breath. Looks like plenty of upgrades were available, but no suites. Oh well.
In 20 minutes, we boarded and headed to Parrot Cay for lunch. Really happy with that choice. It was much less chaotic than Topsiders in my opinion. After lunch, we headed to the pool. We didn't need a self-guided tour of the ship as it was the second time in as many years we sailed the Magic. The kids got into swim suits, but it was a tad chilly, high 60s probably and plenty windy. Around 1, my son complains he wants to go to the room because he's tired, so I keep him busy until 1:30 where we check out our deck 8 family balcony cabin. No luggage yet, so I just unpack our carry ons, while he gets in the bed, finds Rise of the Guardians just starting, and settles in. During the course of the movie, the luggage arrives. PLENTY of room for everything, even with five people. We didn't use all of the space even. Movie ends and we head back to the pool before the "Mustard Drill" as we call it. Muster was quick and we all go to the sail away party. It's obvious at that point that the ship isn't full. It doesn't seem crowded at all. After sail-away, we're not moving but we go to the room to the balcony to watch the sail away. We're at the very forward of the ship and we can see the officers on the bridge.
An hour goes by and we still haven't moved. There is one gangway on deck 1 that's still out, so it's obvious that we're waiting for someone. Around 5:15, a bus shows up with four people on it. They race into the terminal and run onto the ship (why they are running is a mystery, we're obviously waiting for them and 5 minutes isn't going to affect us much). By 5:30, the ropes are down, the jet bridge packed and we're off. It was really neat this sail away for some reason. Once in open water, back to the pool!. We're the only ones there. Love the first day for that reason alone.
Dinner was late seating and our rotation was PLLAPPLA, so Parrot Cay for the second time in the day. We had requested specific servers and a non-shared table. When we get to our table, we see it's set for 8. Great, we're sharing. Haven't shared a table in 7 cruises and only three total times. A half hour late, our table mates arrive, clearly unfamiliar with cruising. They are unhappy with late seating, unhappy they are sharing a table, and don't say a word. The order desert to go and are in and out in 15 minutes. It was an older couple (late 50s-early 60s) and their eight year old son (confirmed son on night 2 and not grand kid). Anyway, dinner was enjoyable, but we didn't get the servers we requested from last time, who were no longer on the ship. Our server was eh, but our assistant server had a little perk to her, but we left longing for our servers from a year ago. To end the evening, we retire to our room and probably watch Rise of the Guardians or Pitch Perfect again, as that's seemingly all we watched.
Day two, we awaken to better weather and we have to get our kids to the kids club. They HATE kids clubs. But we had 11 am Palo reservations and the kids begrudgingly go. Palo was fantastic! Last cruise we went twice and we had Sylvester as our server, a re-do from last time. He seemingly remembered everything about us. Don't know how, but he did. He kept bringing us food. It was so good. I had never eaten the grape/bleu cheese pizza before but it was fantastic. My usual favorite, the chicken parm, good as ever. We rolled out of there, picked up the kids. The oldest wasn't happy and the two younger ones seemed to have fun. We took them to lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool after going to the 2 p.m. show. One of the things I liked about this was all the main shows were done 3 times, 2 p.m., 6:15 and 8:15 p.m. The 2 p.m. shows were so uncrowded and we sat much closer and much more centered than usual. The first show was Twice Charmed. Always enjoyable. Afterwards, we had tickets to Tea With Alice at 4 p.m. We could skip this from now on. It was our first time doing it however.
Night two's dinner was in Lumiere's and it was the formal night. Our table mates were already seated by our arrival, but ordered quickly and were gone in a half hour. We tried the small talk. We are from the same state, which is probably why we were seated together. They voiced their displeasure with cruising so far saying they liked land based vacations much better at this point. They left early so we had the table mostly to ourselves. After dinner, we went to see Frankenweenie, but we left halfway through because my two youngest had seen it two previous times and my oldest didn't seem to enjoy it.
Day three was again at sea and we were very lazy. Weather was good again. Nothing overly descriptive about this day other than a return to Lumieres, where our table mates weren't there on our arrival. Apparently they chose not to come to dinner this night. By night 3, we have grown very fond of our assistant server, Kat. She is a very funny, bright young lady from England. Our kids have grown to like her too, especially my son, who takes offense anytime you insinuate that he as a "girlfriend." So he spent most of the cruise being teased by us and even our server as to his affinity for Kat. We liked our head server too, who was very personable. He said he'd take our kids suggestion of a kids Palo directly to the captain! They got a kick out of that. We went to see the late night showing of The Avengers, which my son has now seen at least 5 times. We left very sleepy, but he had a great time.
Day four was our first port, Castaway Cay. My wife awoke early to do the 5K, which she was a bit displeased with. From previous 5Ks, she thought it was more organized and this time it was not. She returned to the ship to get us and we headed to the island. We've never been fortuned with great weather on Cay day. This time, we avoided the rains we've had in the past, but we had super strong winds. All excursions were cancelled. We headed around land and found Minnie playing with some family at the games area. So we hung out there to play golf and checkers. After a while, we headed to lunch. Personally, a private island lunch is one of my least favorite meals on not only this, but all ships. We then rented a water tricycle, which was very difficult to maneuver in the strong winds, the kids played in the sand and we wandered through the family beach. After a while, it was 3 p.m., so we just headed back to hang out at the pool for the rest of the day. We concluded our night with the show at Animators Pallate. When we arrived, we only had five table settings. Comes to find out our head server found a table for the night for our table mates in early seating. After dinner, it was straight to bed for our next day, one of our most interesting cruise ship experiences ever.
Day 5 was Walt Disney World! I woke at 6 a.m. to shower and get ready. We ordered room service breakfast for the morning (no spoons for our cereals however and somehow Special K=Frosted Flakes). But we had a 7:15 bus to Hollywood Studios, to arrive for the 9 a.m. opening and dropping of the rope. We get there at 8:40 only to have the park already open. They opened early due to large crowds. ARGH. There goes my plan! We quickly head to Toy Story and get fast passes and then off to Tower of Terror for my son's first ride. My girls, at four, each LOVED TOT. He was excited. We get on and the first drop, not so much for him. He didn't scream or cry, but he didn't like it. He later said, "It was a little exciting, but I'm not doing it again." We then checked Rock'n Rollercoaster which already had fast passes going for 5 p.m. and weren't able to get fast passes because of our Toy Story passes. We had planned to do Animal Kingdom in the afternoon, so we passed on RnR even though it would be my middle child's first time and she was so looking forward to it.
We did the Great Movie Ride, which everyone enjoyed a lot. Then off to Star Tours prior to Toy Story, which is always fun. We yelled "Andy's coming" to the toy soldiers, who stop what they're doing and assume a pose. Cute. When we walked in, we got "surprise fast passes" to Lights, Motors, Action so we used those. Not that we needed the fast passes really. The show changed quite a bit from the last time we saw it, with the addition of Lightning McQueen. So cool! Then we ate lunch at ABC Commissary. Normally, we leave in the middle of the day for a few hours, but this time we pushed through as we had no where to go. We did some shows and sit down stuff including the Beauty and the Beast show, Disney Junior, One Man's Dream. We waited in line for photos with the Incredibles and Wreck it Ralph characters, which we had never seen before and we then ramped up our day. Back to get ToT fast passes for the evening, we did the Backlot Tour (which is very disappointing from the last time we did it in which I was a participant and got drenched with a thousand gallons of water... no more audience participation). We did some shopping and ended back at ToT and the boy agreed to go on one more time, even though he said he didn't like it again. This is coming from a little gymnast who can do a double front tuck on the trampoline and will jump off anything as long as there is a mat below. After ToT, we sauntered to the exit to get a bus back to the ship, which one had just left so we waited for a half hour for one. We arrived back at the ship at 10:30 and headed to Topsiders for dinner. Dinner that night was staggered. Parrot Cay was open earlier in the evening. Lumieres later in the evening and Topsiders at night. Long day, but very fun. Needless to say there was some bickering on the ride to the ship as everyone was a little sleepy.
Day 6 is a day at sea and we definitely wake late. The kids say they want to go to the kids club so we send them for an hour and go to the adults only pool. When we pick the kids up, they say they did that to give us some time away as we were mean to them yesterday (that's what kids say, right). Whatever reason, it worked. They didn't have fun apparently. We lunch, we see Disney Dreams at 2 p.m. The rest of the day is spent at the pool and we head to Parrot Cay for pirate night dinner. We thought we went all out on pirate night but we were wrong. There were some heavily decked out people. Pirate night is one of my favorite menus as I had two of everything that night. We got to the pirate show late as it was starting and it was a lot more crowded than sail away. We were late because my son had to go to the bathroom and while we were gone, everyone else got up to go. We had to go back to the table so he could say good night to Kat! Went shopping and my middle kid bought a stitch doll with her own money and my oldest made a plan to get her sister something for her birthday. My son, walks around saying he likes everything but never needs to buy anything. He's great to shop with. He's just happy to look.
Day 7 was Key West. We could disembark at 7:45, but we didn't get off the ship until about 9:30. We had a plan. East Fort Martello museum and the Pirate Museum. A $15 cab ride takes us to the East Mortello Museum with a very nice cab driver. Interesting place. It is home to "Robert the Doll," some haunted 100 year old lifesize doll. Creepy. Kids loved it. My son got a "Robert the Doll" replica and carried it with him the rest of the trip. We received lots of comments. Cab ride back to port to the Pat Croce pirate museum and the driver, equally nice, drops us at what he thinks is the pirate museum location. It looks like the location to us, but it's a lingere store now. We choose to not go in. We do more shopping in Key West and head back on the ship at 12:15. We dine and then we go see "Oz: The Great and Powerful" at the Walt Disney Theater. It was packed! Decent movie, but the one problem with people being on vacation and not having paid for a movie ticket is that they don't act with common decency. We had someone 4-5 rows in front of us stand for about five solid minutes during the movie. Made it hard to see. Then the lady next to me answered her wave phone and just had a conversation on it. After the movie, it was more pool time, but the weather takes a bit of a turn south and gets chilly. Despite that, we stay in the hot tub until its time to head to Lumieres for dinner for formal night. Not a fan of this menu, but by now, I'm pretty full from eating non stop as it is. I think we watched Hotel Transylvania in the room. Love that movie.
Day 8 was our final day at sea. The kids agreed to skip the character breakfast, which we did last year. We're not big breakfast eaters. In fact, we made it to breakfast once the entire 8 days. We made last minute Palo brunch reservations with Sylvester. Kids DID NOT want to go to the kids club. It was cold outside and very crowded. We did Palo much faster and I had reached my quota of eating for the cruise anyway. Still very tasty and my favorite of all meals anywhere ever. We had the kids at the club for only an hour. The middle and youngest act like they don't want to leave, but they come anyway. The oldest is too old for the Oceaneer Lab or Club, she thinks. We go to the room to figure out what to do. The room is so large, it's so cold outside and the movies are so nice, we basically spend the next three hours there, packing at the same time. We ordered room service, which was pretty good. My oldest took a nap as we found out later she was getting sick (strep confirmed with an Urgent Care visit two days later). At about 4, we ventured to the pools despite the near 60-degree and very windy day. We huddled in the hot tubs and the kids kept bouncing between the hot tubs and goofy pool. We eventually braved the cold back to the room and got ready for our last night's meal at Anmiators Pallate. My son gave Kat one final hug and kiss. The kids did the see you real soon send off, which they thought was nice, but I remember walking around the ship last year with all the characters out and we got pictures. This time, nothing. We went to Shutters and bought a 10-picture CD package and finished our room clean-up before heading to bed.
We woke on Saturday not ready to go. We never are. We made it to our 8:15 breakfast. Seemed as if Kat stayed long enough just to say goodbye. She gave us our drinks and wished us well. Her contract was over and she was heading home for 2 months! I had a BBQ omelet. Quite possibly the best breakfast food I've ever eaten. We get in line to leave the ship at 9 a.m. and by 9:30 we have our bags, are through customs and have walked back to our car at the Harbor House. Fantastic!
Our flight isn't until 8 p.m. so we have a day to kill. We drive up and down Galveston, but it's really chilly, so no one is on the beach and Paradise Pier isn't attractive. We contemplate NASA, but we chose to start at the Galleria Mall. It wasn't all what I expected and within 2 hours, we're gone. We make our way to a movie theater, which, gulp, was $12 for a matinee! We see the Croods, which was a very good movie and we end up wasting the next two hours at IKEA next door. We head to the airport at 5:30, make our flight in plenty of time and are on the ground by 10:30. We get our bags and are in our car by 11 and are home just shy of 1 a.m. Whew. Would do it all over again in a heartbeat if I could!
Thanks for letting me share.
Thank you for the report...enjoyed it very much! We are taking this exact cruise the 26th so love reading about others' experiences. :)
Thanks for sharing your experience. We are on the 5/10 sailing of this cruise and we are so excited. Our DD (10) isn't a big fan of the kids clubs but has agreed to go Saturday so we can have Palo Brunch. Hopeing she makes a friend and would be willing to go again. :goodvibes Thanks again for your post!
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