|03-02-2013, 09:54 PM||#1|
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Mar 2013
Disney Magic (8 Day) Galveston TX - February 15, 2013
This is my first post in a long time - at least 8 years or more. Let me start by advising that we consider ourselves to be "Disney Freaks" - although we live in Ontario, Canada we have been to Disney (WDW, DL) at least 14 times since we were married (yes, we went to Disney on our honeymoon almost 22 years ago) and our three kids have always had wonderful experiences and lots of great memories visiting "the mouse".
This was our first Disney Cruise and only our second cruise ever. On this maiden DCL voyage, my DW and I went solo - yes, I know a Disney Cruise with no kids of our own - but our kids had other commitments and could not join us for the trip. Besides, we had at least 800 kids of the best kind possible - someone else's.
We decided to add a day on either end of our trip to accomodate any potential delays due to fog as we have heard (from DISboards) that February can be notoriously foggy (we were told that the port is closed at least 30 days of the year due to fog).
We departed Detroit, Michigan and travelled to IAH (Houston Intercontinental Airport) with United Airlines - economy fair was $400 per person (taxes included) a bit more than expected, but far cheaper than travelling Air Canada. Upon arrival in Houston we rented a car from AVIS and drove to Galveston TX. We travelled through Houston during rush hour (17:00h) and arrived in Galveston at about 2:15 drive time using I-69 and I-45 as a direct route - probably not the best idea as we could have taken one of the by-pass routes (I-610 or 8). We did a few stops along the way (dinner, last minute items for the cruise) and arrived at our hotel. We stayed at the The Tremont House Hotel (a Wyndham Hotel) approximately two blocks from the port right in the area of the Strand. This hotel is beautiful, it is a grand hotel from the late 1800's that has been completely refurbished - I travel at least 80 days per year and this is one of the nicest hotels I've stayed at in a long time - it almost reminded me of the Old Dixie Landing or Port Orleans at WDW. We picked this location as it was near the port of Galveston and had lots of restaurants and shops in the area. The next morning, I returned the rental car to AVIS in Texas City (a 10 minute drive from Galveston and they drove me back to the hotel - for a small fee). The hotel offers a free shuttle to the port - just advise the registration desk when you check-in.
The Tremont House - 5 Stars (Excellent)
Day 0 - Boarding
Our check-in was all set for 14:30 and we arrived about an hour early at the port. The baggage handlers assisted us with moving our bags into storage (a small tip was warranted here - $3-4 per bag) and we entered the registration area - we did not wait more than 10 minutes in line and were registered very quickly - as new DCL cruisers we had our photo taken and KTW cards issued in a snap - as usual the counter staff were very pleasant and professional. The medical questionnaire was completed and submitted - upon entry of the last security checkpoint the first of many disinfectant wipe stations were presented (at first we were like "Hey, what do they think - are we a bunch of pigs" but we quickly got the idea that any stomach virus would really put our trip into the pooper along with 2500 of our closest friends).
We were checked into Cabin 2054 (an outside Stateroom with a large port hole). We arrived a bit early and was asked to wait in the lobby for 20 minutes until the cabin was ready. Upon boarding the Magic, we were so glad to see that Disney, in it's usual fashion, had made the lobby a grand entrance with lots of Disney detail, colour and of course a few hidden Mickeys. We knew that the ship was first commissioned in 1998, but as with all Disney properties and assets, the Disney Magic is very well taken care of.
We headed down to our cabin, one floor below the entrance level of the ship. Cabin 2054 is located conveniently near the mid-ship elevators on the port (left) side. The room is located within 15 feet of "The Edge", a teen-only fun zone. Although during the day there was lots of activity in the area of the Edge, the noise and traffic was not a problem whatsoever. We had no problems at night as well. Things really quieted down by 22:00h at the latest.
Our cabin was in excellent shape, a large port hole provided an excellent view of the Gulf of Mexico and our ports of call. The bath design is very functional with a separate room for shower/sink and another room for toilet/sink. The bedding, mattress and pillowcases were all in good condition. One suggestion is to call on Day 1 to request an extra blanket if you are a little freaky with using the bedcover at night. There is an extra pillow above the TV (found that one on the last day). The pull-out sofa (futon style) was comfy, TV is suitable with enough channels to choose from (even the Spanish version of TLC) for the amount of time you spend in your cabin.
Cabin 2054 - Four and 1/2 Stars (Very Good)
The Life Boat Drill was very quick and painless - there really is no excuse to not participate in this requirement. After less than 15 minutes we were on our way. After the drill, we headed up to Deck 10 to watch the Adventures Away Deck Party at 17:00h.
At 18:15h we headed to one of many trips to the Walt Disney Theatre to watch All Aboard - Let the Magic Begin. The show was a great introduction by our Cruise Director Peter H. and the very professional and talented entertainment cast aboard the Magic. The quality of the show was top notch with something for everyone. The early shows were often "standing room only" - word to the wise - get there at least 10 minutes before showtime to get a seat. Our late dinner seating allowed us to get ready and changed into our dinner attire.
Day 1 - At Sea
"The seas were angry that day my frieds" - well not really, more disgruntled than angry - I did not feel the motion of the ocean as much as my DW but stronger than usual winds on Day 1 did create a bit of waviness and slight rockiness - more later in the evening. It was mostly cloudy and the temp did not rise above 70F. Suggestion: A hoodie, or windbreaker is recommended.
We lounged around the ship and explored the many hiding places for kids and adults alike. We were looking so forward to attending "Twice Charmed: A Cinderella Story" and were happy to learn that it had three showings scheduled. We caught the first show at 2:00 and the second at 6:15. The 60 minute show did not disappoint - the quality of the set, cast, storyline and special effects rivalled any show or production that we've experienced at Disney and most Broadway shows that we've been to. The dancers, singers and character performers were beautifully costumed and performed flawlessly. All the while, the ship is travelling at 20 knots in seas that were not so calm. Performing a production on this scale considering this challenge, aside from the space limitations of the backstage, must be really be appreciated - but again Disney pulls this off with their usual creativity and flair. One thing you have to appreciate is that you can access these shows aboard DCL pretty easily without much hassle, we've been to some of the shows at WDW and have had to camp out up to an hour in +95F heat to get a seat. On DCL, getting into the theatre a couple of minutes before showtime is a breeze.
Day 2 - At Sea
The weather improved a bit with the seas a bit calmer and a bit more sun.
No major productions were scheduled but shows by Magician Jason Bishop and Comedian John Charles were oriented towards families in the Walt Disney Theatre. We spend some time in Rockin' Bar D and caught Jason Bishop again for an adult show and Rockin' Rowdy - a Disney version of Coyote Ugly. The dancers, some we recognized from Twice Charmed, gave the crowd an excellent rendition of "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" followed with a quick line dance class. As with all dance numbers on the ship, the show was very entertaining with excellent costuming and always classy.
Day 3 - Castaway Cay
We arrived in port at Castaway Cay by 07:30h - the weather had improved considerably, still a bit on the cool side at 75F but it was mostly sunny. Suggestion: Sun Screen - like 45 SPF - trust me.
The property was very well maintained with lots of palm trees, umbrellas, hammocks and foot paths leading from the ship to a number of well equipped and very clean beach areas. We did not make arrangements for any island activities (jet ski, snorkeling, kayaking, etc) and pretty much relaxed in the family beach area. The seating, hammocks and umbrellas was very well dispersed with plenty of staff around to find you a drink - but not pushy.
The food selection on the island was very good with soft-serve ice cream and lots of fresh fruit to choose from.
We returned to the ship at 14:00h in time to catch the first showing of their second production, Villans Tonight. Villans was very entertaining - the character Hades was very funny with some very good and topical one-liners that are family appropriate. The entire production was well done with lots of special effects and excellent set designs.
Day 4 - Port Canaveral - WDW
We arrived in Port Canaveral by 06:00h and the weather was excellent - the temperature was 75F and sunny all day - we've been to WDW a number of times when it was +100F and 100% humidity for weeks at a time - I'd take 75F anytime.
Suggestion: Arrange for the Disney Shuttle to WDW as soon as your board on Day 0.
We arrived at WDW by 09:00h and decided to hit the Magic Kingdom - it was a bit busier than expected (likely due to the new Fantasyland attractions) but we enjoyed the magic of the Magic Kingdom. We had lunch at Be Our Guest which was very enjoyable and brought back a lot of fond memories of watching my DD grow up watching Beauty and the Beast.
We spend the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom and would have had time to park hop, but we decided to take it easy and enjoy the rest of the MK. We left the park around 21:00h and was back on the ship by 23:00h.
Day 5 - At Sea
The weather was again mostly sunny with a high of 75F. A new Captain (John) had boarded at Port Canaveral and took us slow and steady to Key West. The seas were calm.
After spending Day 4 at MK, we relaxed in the Adult's Only area. A relaxing day lounging on the starboard side on Deck 9 and 10 watching Fort Lauderdale, Miami the northern part of the Keys go by.
We finished dinner and headed up to Deck 10 at midship to catch the Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party. The show was very lively and entertaining and very much oriented to the hundreds of families who had dressed up in their best pirate costumes. There were tons of characters about (Stitch, Chip, Dale, Mini, Pluto, Goofy) and excellent performers who really work exceptionally hard to get the crowd pumped. At the climax of the show, a very unfortunate pop was heard from the sound system (a major fuse had blown) that completely knocked out the audio from the cast/characters. The deck entertainers continued on to keep the crowd entertained and engaged. This went on for at least 15 minutes. When it was determined that the sound system could not be repaired in time for the show to go on as planned, Cruise Director Peter then motioned for the fireworks to be set off. You have to appreciate the dedication of the cast/crew to carry on like that without missing a beat - yes, it was a bit disappointing for some but sometimes things happen. The show must go on and it did. The crowd took it all in stride which is a testament to the cast and crew. I did not hear any complaints from the passengers.
Day 6 - Key West
Again it was very pleasant, 80F and mostly sunny.
We arrived in Key West by 07:00h and we off the ship by 08:00h. A series of shuttles were made available - no reservation required. The shuttles delivered us to downtown Key West where we walked eight blocks in either direction to take in the southernmost point in the USA. Due to travel time back to Galveston, the ship departed Key West by 12:30h. This made for a quick trip but was understandable. Key West is definitely more suited to adult visitors with lots of bars, pubs and restaurants but there were some activities for families as well.
The third and last of the productions - Disney Dreams had three showings - we caught the 2:00 and 6:15 show and enjoyed them very much. As with Twice Charmed, the stage presentation, costuming, vocals and dance numbers were exceptional. Again, the productions rivalled what we would expect at any of the Disney Parks.
Day 7 - At Sea
Our last day aboard the ship was very calm, partly cloudy and 70F. We picked up a bit more speed throughout the day and bit more chop as we headed further into the Gulf.
We caught Remember the Magic - a closing farewell show put on by the cast and performers from Dreams, Twice Charmed, Villans Tonight and the magician and comedians. It was a very touching show and left us feeling that another Disney Cruise should be in our future - next time with our three kids together.
Day 8 - Disembark
We arrived in Galveston by 07:00h - thankfully no fog but a bit cooler (60F) and windy.
Disembarking went very quickly with a short wait for the shuttle bus back to IAH (Houston Intercontinental). We were off the ship by 09:30 and in Houston by 11:30. Some passengers were giving the shuttle driver a hard time, I commented that after 8 day of getting their arses wiped, they couldn't wait patiently for the shuttle bus drivers to get them to off the dock fast enough. I think some people were a little agitated, partly due to tight flight arrangements.
Suggestion: Book a later flight on disembarkation day and don't be a dork.
We opted to stay an extra night in Houston and booked at the Marriott (IAH) Houston Airport - my only regret for the trip. The hotel was OK - a three out of five stars but there were very few dining options available - none of the restaurants at IAH were accessible as you needed a boarding pass to get through security. We ended up taking the hotel shuttle to the Deerbrook Mall and had dinner and did some more shopping.
Our flight home to Detroit the next day was smooth and comfortable.
Overall Dining Experience
Throughout our cruise we had second seating (8:15 dinner) and found that to work out very well as we did not have kids - there were fewer children at the late seating than the first seating (6:15). Our dinner rotation was APPLAPLA - but as you know all the restaurants pretty much serve the same food at each venue - just different scenery. The Disney experience is felt through each of the dining locations with the usual Disney attention to detail and magic.
Breakfast and lunch options were plenty with counter, buffet and sit-down options available. The Character Breakfast in Parrot Cay was a great way to start off our second day aboard the Disney Magic with lots of opportunity to visit with Chip, Dale (our favourite), Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto. The quality of the food was excellent, breakfast options were a bit repetitive at Top Siders but there are many options to choose from. The Omelette Bar is a nice option at Top Siders.
The quality of our meals was excellent and with a ton of variety (meats, fish, vegetarian - if so inclined). Our servers, Flamon and Desire were always professional, attentive and personable. We have heard complaints on other cruise review sites about the quality and variety of food on the Magic - we did not experience this whatsoever - some people just have too high expectations.
We had Palo reservations (6:30) on Day 7 - it was a very nice evening with exceptional food and excellent service. The view is wonderful and the dining area very elegant.
The set tip amount was $168 for the 8-day cruise - we added an additional $120 - particularly to cover the excellent dining and cabin service that we received. Disney makes the whole tip experience very easy and you can add any additional amount to your shipboard account at the Guest Relations desk. Most of the crew come from countries where any additional tip goes even further for their families back home, a few dollars a day doesn't really do the level of service you receive justice for their hard work.
We've read on a number of cruise blogs and critic boards that Disney Magic doesn't compare to the elegance of some of the bigger and more luxurious ships. These comments are obviously from passengers who are spoiled - maybe we are biased as we have always found any experience with Disney to be very professional, attentive and magical. The Disney Magic was no exception - with or without kids. We both commented that we had wished that we had taken our children on a Disney Cruise when they were younger.
DCL is definitely oriented toward families and those passengers who come on a Disney cruise without children and then complain about the kids are fools - what did you expect! Disney is the embodiment of family and families are loud - always. If you want peace and quiet - go to the old folks home.
There are many spaces on the Disney Magic where you can hide from children - some parents do a pretty good job of it - but seeing the children enjoying everything that Disney has to offer is the most enjoyable part of this cruise - even though we didn't have our kids with us.
The "Character Experience" on the Disney Magic completely exceeds any other Disney venue that we've been fortunate enough to attend. At the Disney Parks you sometime have to wait hours to get a quick glimpse or photo with your favourite character. The quality, costuming, likeness and elegance of the Disney Princessess aboard the Magic was unbelievable and made so many adults and children overjoyed and at times, even tearful. There aren't many places where Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, Tiana, Aurora, Alice, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip, Dale, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Stitch, Hook, Peter Pan, White Rabbit, Smee and Queen of Hearts all in one location - sometimes all within a few minutes of each other. The characters were completely integrated into the productions, shows, character breakfast and deck strolls throughout our 8 days aboard the Magic. This experience makes a Disney Cruise what it is - Magical.
Thanks for reading and we look forward to our next DCL cruise.
Last edited by ShakeyShakey; 04-02-2013 at 07:33 PM. Reason: Added Pics!
|castaway cay, dcl, disney magic cruise, galveston|
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