Magic 4/30-5/5 2022: Trip Report

TPgal

Earning My Ears
Joined
Feb 7, 2022
Disney Wonder 4/30-5/5 2022
Cabin 8584, Concierge

After a too long covid delay we boarded the Disney Magic in Miami for a 5 night cruise.

ABOUT US: we are a family of three, mom, dad and kiddo (11) traveling with our good friends and neighbors, family of three: mom, dad, and kiddo (10). We all live in Renton, WA, a suburb of Seattle and either work full-time or go to school full time.

PICKING THIS CRUISE: We decided in early 2019 that we liked these neighbors enough to vacation together on a 7-night Mexican riviera cruise that would overlap the spring break of the then 2nd and 3rd grade kids. We still had princesses, unicorns, and magic. As our April 3rd 2020 departure inched closer the news, as you know, became bleak. We spent hours on hold with our TA, and airlines to move things around.

Being a west coast raised kid, I have been to all of the ports on the originally planned itinerary. I highly recommend that cruise for those who want to explore the west coast. However, when we opted to move our vacation up a year we decided that a stop at Castaway Cay and Grand Cayman was with the trade of a 7 night cruise for a 5 night itinerary.

This change moved us out of an inside cabin to a family verandah. I really applaud those who take advantage of the value of the inside cabins, but I am not that person. I need a window that opens - it’s my own phobia, but after seeing those folks on ships in 2020 that weren’t allowed to dock…I stand by it.

As Christmas 2020 rolled around, the 2021 May cruise seemed questionable, so with sadness mixed with excellent timing we moved our reservation out one year. We hit a pretty sweet spot with pricing and the up charge we paid for the family verandah was enough to secure a concierge room on the 2022 Magic.

Travel from Seattle to Miami: now that our friendship has had lots of time to marinate, myself and the other mom left Seattle Wednesday for a couple days of kid/spouse free days. We enjoyed the pool, went to an Elton John concert and…missed our families. The benefit of coming early is acclimating to the time zone, and of course zero stress about baggage arriving. (The DH and I spent 2 of our 11 days in Paris with only our airplane clothes and the emergency outfit I packed into our carryon while our luggage flew Tahiti air on a different vacation.)

Our families arrived the night before the cruise and survived the awful night sleep to start our day. Our companions did not book a concierge suite but had a reasonably early port arrival time. We arrived together and it wasn’t until after the port covid testing, and muster business that we were separated for lunch. It was easy to connect all day, so the disparity in our room “classes” was never an issue.

PORT EXPERIENCE: First of all, we apparently brought the rain from Seattle. WHOA. Other than not being able to manage non-fuzzy hair it wasn’t really an issue. As we like to joke “it’s a warm rain.”

When checking in, Disney gives you a port arrival time (PAT) and our companions obtained an 11:45 PAT, as concierge guests we were invited to arrive at our leisure before 4:00. We arrived together, and stayed together for most of the boarding processes. After the passport and reservation check we were given a gold sticker to wear so that the crew would know we were concierge guests.

The at-port covid testing was easy. They handed us each a bag that we labeled with our names, reservation number and dates of birth. Having the reservation number handy was not something I was prepared for, as we had the QR codes for boarding and the pre-boarding health/vaccine status code. So a quick dig into the bag for the paper copies our information.

We swabbed our own noses under the supervision of a “testing specialist” and then were told to head to the waiting area. The ship was finally in sight but this hurdle was the last one. Test results were displayed by reservation number on TVs throughout the waiting area. During our 10-20 minute waiting period we did not see anyone with a test result of “see the XZY assistance desk”.

Once both of our parties cleared the rapid covid test we were moved through another door and our friends had to wait to board and we were ushered up the ramp.

ON BOARD
As you enter the ship for the first time the brave announcer asks for your family name and does what most people will not, announce your arrival. "Welcome the Latendresse family!" Seriously, most people don’t try it and we’re just not mad about it.

We were then ushered to Luminiers for our lunch which might possibly have been the same menu as the other locations, but we were also offered beer and wine. The head waiter came to say hello, and the concierge staff came by to answer questions, confirm events and to tell us how things worked.

We were told our room was ready and to head up. Our keys were in a fancy envelope tucked behind the fish outside our door. I work in a profession where we are looking for people trying to do bad things and limit the opportunities for them to do so, so the idea of just putting everyone’s door keys outside their door seems pretty dumb, but the concierge manager said that no one ever takes other people’s keys and even if they did it would be discovered very quickly. So, relax self, you’re on vacation.

We dropped our carry-on items and went to the lounge to wait for our friends.

The Concierge Lounge
Behind an unassuming door on deck 10 is the Concierge Lounge. There you will find a staffed desk where they will solve all your worldly (or cruisely) problems. They tell you to skip the guest services line altogether and take everything to them. They really mean it; DH mentioned a minor issue in our cabin to guest services as there was no line and GS, called the CL to have them coordinate with maintenance. We got a polite reminder to take everything to them. It made me wonder if the Guest Services folks rumble with the Concierge team in the off hours ala Sharks & Jets.

The lounge also had rotating treats, a beverage center, the much loved coffee machine and that first day, a staffed adult beverage giver (I think most people call them bartenders). For about an hour we thought we were back on NCL with easy access to vacation beverages at our whim. After day one, they reverted to their normal lounge services where happy hour is held from 5pm to 10pm.

They also had a very nice covered place to enjoy the heat, and kid loved the Evian Mineral water mister cans.

PROTIP: the bags of popcorn can be requested at anytime and were fun to munch on while watching movies on the pool screen.

CONCIERGE THINGS

I’ve already covered the lounge, so here are some random thoughts about upgrading to this level.

We felt pampered, but not bothered. There were no calls to the room to “see how we were” or random drop ins. It was easy to take advantage of the services we wanted without ignoring our traveling companions.

There was a welcome treat in our room on day one, and a couple of parting gifts near the end of the cruise. I don’t really want to mention the details of the one for our kid because the surprise was really appreciated and I don’t know to what levels they go for families that have multiple kids. The other was an “authentic” print of the ship - suitable for framing if that’s your thing.

We seemed to have the same shampoo/conditioner/lotion as our friends, but we also had a more upgraded line that I’m sure they would have refreshed if we weren’t using the regular ones or our own special shampoos.

In all my months of planning and reviewing the boards I must have missed the information about the bar cart. Every day between 5 and 6 the nicest man would knock on our door and mix up a refreshing pre-dinner delight. What a fun surprise. And big thumbs down to the lady a few staterooms down who came out to berate them the one night he was running late.

FOOD
We enjoyed the MDRs - the rotational dining does make it feel like you’re going to specialty restaurants. On NCL we tended to go to the extra fee restaurants vs the MDR and I wondered if we would miss it. I did not. Disney does the food thing very well and there were things each night that we each liked.

We ate at Palo and that actually felt fancy, and of course the service was delightful. It was very on par with our favorite Seattle steakhouse experiences. My scallop was gritty and undercooked and I wasn’t going to complain but the server could see I wasn’t eating it and it was no trouble to send it back but I did have to fight a bit to get them to just send out one more with the risotto. He really wanted to send me a whole new plate of food, but even though it’s a cruise I couldn’t request it knowing I was only going to eat the risotto and one scallop. Having grown up on the coast and being a big fan of scallops I know they are tricky boogers to clean and cook. It’s a very fine line between undercooked and overcooked and I am not disparaging the chef in anyway, things happen.

Buffet: Cruise buffets have their place and value. Being able to grab a quick bite without committing to a full sit down restaraunt type meal is nice, but I thought the buffet was unappealing. I love eggs, but runny buffet eggs churn my stomach. The bright spot are the pastries - the Disney croissants are perfect, limiting myself to one a day was necessary to avoid butter withdrawls upon arriving home.

At the pool, we grabbed pizza, burgers, hot dogs and chicken strips - all a solid B+. Nothing gourmet but perfect for a hot day at the pool.

The kids said the ice cream was great and enjoyed the normal limits on treats being lifted.

The shawarma was a nice thing to see and looked pretty good. It’s pretty standard in Seattle and in Bay Area of CA, but I didn’t expect it on the cruise.

The night we ate at Palo our kids went to the MDR by themselves. We had talked it over with the kids and the server. They all had a great time and were so engrossed in the show that they didn't see us sneak in to take photos. What we lost in princesses at 8 we gained in independence at 11.

Our Cabin 8585
A cozy room for three that is cabable of sleeping five or possibly six if the lower couch folds out. Our steward made the couch up as a single for the kid. There was also a bunk in the ceiling above the couch and a fold out bed near the verandah.

We had a bit of a stink issue in our loo area that I thought was just me and DH thought was just him, but we knew it was an issue when kid complained about it. They fixed the smell by putting duct tape over the drain. A temporary fix but since it's not my ship, it's not my problem.

There was PLENTY of storage for the three of us, and we made use of all the many drawers.

EXPERIENCES
We did a Mojito and Caipirinha tasting - it was fun and informative, but I didn’t appreciate the advertisement pitch from the Diamond lady at the beginning. I don’t attend the “free charm” or vacation club free night seminars because I don’t want/need the hard sell.

I overheard a couple on a bus transfer talking about the Mixology class and their review was not glowing. They said that some of the cocktail combinations were very strange and undrinkable. (hard liquor into red wine as a cocktail - ick)

I had my toenails repaired in the spa after the first beach excursion and it was very relaxing, but the same principle as the Diamond lady, the spa folks are required (I think) to try to upsell services and it does detract from the experience. I was the only client in that area of the spa and I couldn't say if it was a safety protocol or that it was only 8 in the morning.

Our companions purchased the rainforest spa package and would disappear into the spa for steamy, sweaty relaxation. Access appeared to be open to all (with a pass) and while not crowded it was not a private experiene either.

Pirate Night: I thought this was going to be cheesy but it was very well done. The crew in their special outfits were cute and the show was exciting. We didn’t go to the pool deck to dance and mingle with the other passengers but watched from the top deck - which gave us a perfect view of the fireworks. Thumbs Up!

Pools: Here’s where Disney beats the pants off of NCL. Having multiple water experiences on a similar sized ships is fantastic. The slides were very popular, and the temperature in the kids pool was really refreshing. The adult pool was a bit warm, but it was better than any zoom meeting I would have had to go to if we weren’t on vacation. The kids did splash around in the splash pool, but were expressly told that little kids had priority for fun in that zone. (That was a "me" rule, the lifeguards were not policing the kids.)

EXCURSIONS
In Grand Cayman we did a snorkel experience and for me, being on the catamaran in the lovely water with the island still in sight was glorious. We should have brought our own drinking water, but the buckets of water provided were sufficient. The time in the georgous water at both locations was limited, but we appreciated getting back to the port in time to wander around town. The catamaran was pretty spacious and there was mesh nets up front where lots of folks were able to get cozy on for a beautiful view during the short ride to the snorkel spots.

Overheared: kid having a bit of a meltdown because the water was too salty. Oh man...kids. Take them on a $7,000 vacation to the Bahamas and they are mad because the ocean is salty. Have mercy.

On Castaway Cay we scored a cabana (probably only because of the concierge category) and it was very nice to have a place to be. It rained in the morning, and by rain I mean thunder, lightning and a squall that was so severe that they delayed our getting off the ship, for our own safety. It pushed us back by about 30-45 minutes but we were fine to not be out in that mess.

The rain turned to sprinkles and out we went. Staffing at the cabanas seemed light and we sort of just ran into an attendant. I figured out once we reboarded that the attendant was the bartender from the concierge lounge. I think we simply beat him to the cabana area.

THE CABANA
The cabana was nicely appointed, the furniture was comfortable and the outside showers helped us keep the sand to a dull roar. We removed the sodas that we weren’t going to drink and put our beverages from our room, ahem the "beer purse" into the cooler.

The kids were in the water immediately and even though it was still cloudy they played with the tubes and the other floating things. The bay is shallow and a bit rocky but I managed without my water shoes just fine. Yes, I’m the person who brings stuff from Seattle to Miami to the Bahamas to not use them in the exact way they were designed to be used. Don’t judge me.

We splashed around a bit and then whammo it was time for lunch. A quick jaunt to one of the Cookies BBQ for a very tasty brisket sandwich and “the best beans”. CC has the same beverage center available at each of the two locations but I imagine if it was H-O-T that folks would want more water available nearer the family beaches. As it was raining we had difficulty finding a table that was covered and ended up at a table under a tree which provided enough cover to keep us from being drenched.

A quick look through the gift shops that I had read had special items only available on the Cay, but it felt wrong to buy a Castaway Cay 5K t-shirt when I only “run to the bathroom”.

Bad news was waiting for us back at the cabana - jelly fish in the water had stung multiple guests so the water was off limits for the rest of the day. When I tell you that you could have eaten the kid’s disappointment it would not be a lie.

However, it was a good lesson in perspective. We had our beach chairs and each other so after a round or two of telephone and Disney based charades they found their groove again.

Later we were told that the adult beach was open for swimming but that kids were not being invited, so opted to stay and play at our cabana.

Cabana 12 - perfectly located near a rest room and easy walking distance to the main areas.

DISNEY vs. NCL CABANAS
We had a cabana on Harvest Cay (NCL) and there were things that each did better.

The interior of the Disney cabana was more comfortable and the cay itself is nicer, the complimentary lunch was a treat, and the clarty of water is much better in the Bahamas. The work that Disney has done to make the cay a play space is superb.

The Harvest Cay cabana had a private bathroom and a full shower. The outdoor furniture was nicer, but didn’t have the water toys. Food wasn’t complimentary but there was a waiter who delivered our order so we didn’t have to leave the comfort of our cabana.

Price wise - both were similar.

OTHER ADD ONS
We purchased a water package and a room decoration package back when were were on a longer cruise in an inside cabin. I wouldn’t do other again, especially with the concierge class. Our room came with Evian and sodas. We ended up giving our canned water away to anyone and everyone we could.

Had I know about the bar cart or the ability to walk on 2 bottles of wine per adult I wouldn’t have purchased the beer mug - but DH traded the token back in at the end for the big glass, so he seemed happy with it.

I also purchased the premium wine package (again for the original 7 day cruise) and for a 5 day cruise I would back that down - as we had to gift one of our hand carried nice bottles of wine to our friends who were driving to Orlando for a few days in the Parks.

Things I think Disney could do better:
  • Let you view/adjust the add on items on your reservation before you sail. I think I could have called to request refunds based on the multiple reschedules (not Disney’s fault) but I would have adjusted some things. My then 8-year-old would have been excited about the room decor, but the jaded 11-year-old could really have cared less. I would have changed the wine package and dropped the water altogether.
  • Food service at the cabanas. This is a lost opportunity for Disney to make some extra money.
  • Cabana price adjustment. We did not ask for such a thing, and Disney is not responsible for the horrific rain or the closure of the water, but in light of both of those things I would have offered a 10% reduction in the price due to loss of use - that would have been over and above.
  • Water, water everywhere. I think they should push water more. I found self-service water in the cabanas area and a bottle refilled by the sports court but wish it had been more available.
OTHER THOUGHTS
  • Disney Cruise App: This app is in many ways far superior to the NCL app (of 2018). Being able to click into the menus for each restaurant each night is brilliant. Getting notifications of scheduled events, dinner times is great. We didn't use the texting feature because as iPhone people our messaging worked over the limited Wi-Fi without impacting the 100mb credit that we had from our concierge perks. (We used it to check in to our flights)
  • Ship Population: I know the enjoyment of our cruise experience was impacted by the number of people on the ship. No one would give us an exact number, but the crew seemed consistent in that there were about 1500 pax, or that we were missing about 1000 people. You could feel it, but not in a negative way. The hallways were clear, you could get an elevator when you needed it, getting on and off the ship for excursions was easy and quick - even the tendering. I know they will go back to full ships, but what a lucky treat for us.
  • Theater: Even with the lesser numbers and the pre-testing for covid we skipped the theater events. Again, this might have been a result of the ages of our kids now vs. when we had planned to go, but we had more fun on the pool deck at night watching movies like Inside Out, Up, Wreck It Ralph and even Frozen.
  • Disembarkation: As expected, super easy. New luggage tags were delivered to our room, we were assigned a breakfast time (waaaay too early for my taste) and were off the ship by 8:45 am. Grabbed a cab and off to the airport. I was disappointed to not see anyone getting off the ship in their PJs but I'm sure it happens at every cruise.
  • Safety - it was easy to relax and reassure ourselves that since everyone on board tested negative for Covid that it was a safe space. We went from wearing masks in all lines and public spaces to sporatic on and off due to our proximity to others. This was likely a mistake. On day three we started to get notices from the app to report any illness or symptoms. In hind sight, it makes me wonder if someone in a cabin or activty near us became ill because we tested + for covid the day after we got home. I'm embarassed to say that I would remove my mask in the elevator if it was just my two people with me forgetting that people had just likely gotten out of the elevator at a different floor. Everything felt clean, hand washing and sanitizing happened everywhere - so it was just our time, but what a bummer to be housebound for 5 days and no one in Seattle can see my temporarly non-pasty skin.
  • Tipping - we were happy to tip extra to our Server, Assistant server, Stewart and Concierge team. I did mess the envelopes up a bit because I forgot that there was a head server - I'm sure there's value in his stopping by to chat every meal, but we didn't tip extra for that. Someone did tip him and our primary server in GIANT PLASTIC SPARKLING DUCKS. You read that right...maybe they tipped in $$ as well, but someone thought it was a grand idea to pack more than one GIANT PLASTIC SPARKLING DUCK to present to their server and the head waiter as a thank you.
My own iron manDucks are not tipsThe adult pool at 10 am on sea dayIMG_0892.jpgCabana 12pre-teens dining soloGrand Cayman snorkel
 
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NAB

<font color=green>That first page just got too hea
Joined
May 31, 2006
Nice trip report .

You might want to change your title it says Wonder and you said you boarded the Magic. Thought you were on the Hawaiian cruise at first .
 

TPgal

Earning My Ears
Joined
Feb 7, 2022
Nice trip report .

You might want to change your title it says Wonder and you said you boarded the Magic. Thought you were on the Hawaiian cruise at first .
Thank you! We were originally booked on the Wonder, funny what sticks.
 

Maxjr

Earning My Ears
Joined
May 29, 2022
What a wonderful report! Thanks! Who were your concierge hosts, if I may ask?
 



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