We (DW, DD12, and I) had a terrific time! A few small bumps here and there (mentioned in passing below), but they didnt affect the fact we loved the cruise. As others have said, these boards were absolutely fantastic -- again and again, we found ourselves able to know what to pack, what to do, and where to be so much easier than we otherwise would have. On top of that, we got the pleasure of meeting a great group of folks at our DIS meet during Saturdays sailaway party. So here it is, day by day impressions, things that stand out, and so on. Because I'm so wordy, this entry just covers getting to Orlando on Friday and our first day onboard. I'll continue soon with the rest of the week. FRIDAY We flew to Orlando that afternoon, with the flight arriving around 5:00. Following some good advice Id received on these boards (youre going to hear that phrase a lot here), we rented a car from Budget only about $42 for a full-size car with no drop fee to return it the next day in Cape Canaveral. Much less expensive than three fares to the Port on the DCL bus (which would have cost over $160), and it also meant we didnt have to return to the Orlando airport to get the bus but could drive directly to the port ourselves. (That allowed us to get to the port much earlier than if we had had to wait to try to get one of the first DCL buses, which made for a much more enjoyable first afternoon onboard.) If you reserve with Budget, be sure to join their club, which lets you skip the long line in the terminal and go directly to the place where you get the keys in the parking garage across from the terminal. Expecting something like a Taurus, we got a Grand Prix, which was at least a little more sporty. (Is anything less sporty than a Taurus?) I had enough Hilton Honors points to have reserved a free night at the Hampton Inn near the Orlando airport, so we did that. Given that we got there just in time to eat dinner at a nearby Chilis (dont laugh -- we miss it because both of the ones near us closed last year) and then head back to the hotel, the only thing that let us know it was Orlando was the relatively warm weather. Everyone there said it was cold, but the mid 60s felt good to us since it had been barely above freezing with snow flying when we left OHare. Thought: If I had it to do over again, given that we werent going to be spending any real time in Orlando, and if I could catch a flight that arrived a little earlier, Id probably drive over to Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral that evening and stay at the Radisson or one of the other places near the port. SATURDAY Cruise day! Oh yeah! The day dawned with the temperature around 50, although bright and sunny. DD had made us all T-shirts, each with Mickey Mouse ears on a circle that contained both our real first names and our DIS names, and noting that we were headed off on the Magic, so we all wore those all day until changing for dinner. After breakfast at the hotel, we discovered I had lost my favorite cap that Id brought along to keep the sun out of my eyes and off my face it wasnt in the car (where I thought it was), and it wasnt in the room. Oh, well we knew wed be at lots of places where there would be plenty of souvenir caps to buy. We left Orlando about 9:00, with the weather sunny, breezy, and cool (about 55). The drive, a real straight shot, took about 40-45 minutes. Thanks again to advice on these boards and the wonderful maps found at http://www.dcltribute.com/maps/, getting there was a breeze. We had debated bringing bottled water with us, but ultimately decided it would be easier to just buy the water package onboard (24 screw-top pint bottles of Evian for $29, delivered to your room). Id bought a somewhat small cooler at Wal-Mart before we left, the size that would hold about 10 bottles (or 24 cans), and our thinking was I could carry that over my shoulder if we wanted cold water to take with us up by the pools or Deck 10 or on excursions. More on that later The plan was for me to drop off DW and DD12 with our luggage at the port then return the car to Budget and take Budgets van back to meet up with them in the terminal. The gates to enter DCL werent open yet, and one of the guards there told us to pull into the parking lot across the street to wait, because they wouldnt open until 10:10. We did so, and they opened a little after 10:00. We followed other cars out, and although we had to do a couple U-turns on the street to get into line to enter. We were the fifth or sixth car to go in. After going by two friendly guards, one of whom clearly explained to me (even though I had a map) how to get to Budget, we arrived at the place where I dropped off DW, DD, and the bags. I then returned the car, naturally getting lost on the way. I took the Budget van back to the port with 7 or 8 other DHs and met up with DW and DD at the terminal, which is very large and itself looks like a ship. Because we were so early getting to the terminal, it took DW and DD only a few minutes to register, getting a card that said Group 2 (I think only suite holders get Group 1). I had left my birth certificate with DW and she was able to use it to register me and get my KTTW card with no problem, and I didnt have to do anything when I returned other than show my drivers license at the entry when I walked in to go through security. Early arrival was a great idea (thanks again, DIS boards). It allowed us to be one of the first 50 or so people to board, meaning we had a virtually empty ship for our first few hours. Through the giant Mickey head shape at the port onto the ship! After being handed and using the obligatory disposable hand wipe, we had our first Shutters photo taken (which didnt turn out that well not to worry, by the end of the cruise, had about 15 different pictures of ourselves to choose from, and could have had more taken by the ship photographers if we had wanted). Then walked on board into the atrium. Wow! The announcement, Ladies and gentlemen, from Illinois, please welcome the Gimpeaux Family! (Well, they actually used our real name.) Very cool. We had originally been assigned late seating for dinner and wait-listed ourselves for early. After reading the large number of threads on here talking about how rushed people felt with early seating (especially if you end up getting 5:30), and figuring out from looking at posted Navigators that we were going to be staying up until at least 11:00 every night, we decided to withdraw our request to move to early seating about a week before we cruised. But when we called our TA to do that, he told us we had just been moved to early! So once we boarded, I went to Rockin Bar D on Deck 3 to see if we could change back to late. I expected a huge line, but because there were then so few people onboard, there was no line at all. It was no problem for me to switch, and the CM said he could give us our own table at 8:15. We wanted to share with another family, so I requested that and he said he had done so and wed be eating at 8:00 on the APL rotation (Animators Palette first night, Parrot Cay second night, and Lumieres third night, then repeating). The only night Id been able to book Palo online (even at 3:00 a.m. Eastern time 75 days before the cruise) was for Wednesday night, but decided we didnt want to east there right before Pirates Night and that brunch would be better, so I went to switch that (also in Rockin Bar D). Easily done (got Thursday brunch), and he twisted my arm into keeping the Wednesday night reservation as well since we could always change it without charge so long as we did so by Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, DW and DD had gone to the Vista Spa to make an appointment for DD to get her hair braided onboard on Sunday morning. Again, because we boarded when we did, the spa was virtually empty, and it was a breeze for them to do that and for DW to reserve herself a facial for Sunday as well. The hair braiding itself is done right by the Goofy Pool. (More on that later.) We met up at the spa and then headed up to Topsiders for lunch. For those of you who are concerned that you wont get any exercise onboard, I have one word stairs. If you take the stairs everywhere you go (and believe me, you will spend a lot of time going to Decks 9 and 10), you will get a decent cardiovascular workout especially if, like me, you regularly forget things that you meant to bring from your room. We even had a little more walking because our room was in the bow and all of the restaurants are aft. As others have mentioned, this was the first DCL cruise where CMs served you from the buffets so that instead of taking the serving spoon or whatever and taking what you wanted from the dishes on the buffet line, you told a CM which items you wanted. It took us a few days before it finally dawned on us that if we only wanted, say, a small scoop of something or only one of an item, we could just say so. The CMs tended to assume everyone was hungry for everything all of the time. (Hey, its a cruise, why not?) We didnt realize until after the fact that it was a sanitation thing we viewed it as ultra-luxury look, honey, they dont want us to have to lift a finger even when we go through the buffet line. It is a little over the top when you are having a CM take a coffee cup and taking coffee out of the machine for you, and then handing a container of half-and-half. As someone said, you got to the point where you felt guilty if you did something yourself because there wasnt a CM there that instant to do it for you. (Odd how that doesnt happen at home .) In any event, I knew I was in Florida as I sat outside in the sun, overlooking the ocean, eating fresh shrimp. Yum! One of my first impression of the ship is how unbelievably clean and well-maintained it is. At least twice each day we saw small crews of 2 or 3 men out with buckets of white paint touching up places where, frankly, I couldnt even see there was anything that needed touching up. We were walking down the stairs one night about 9:30 or so, and someone was out there on his hands and knees cleaning up a spot on the carpet. As a result, the ship looks fantastic. I suppose that is part of what you pay for when you pay the DCL premium prices, but it shows. After lunch, we checked out Ocean Quest on Deck 2. After that, because DD had worn her swimsuit under her clothes, we hung out at the Mickey Pool while she played in the water and went down the slide several times. (Another DIS tip worth listening to: if you want a chance to use the Mickey or Goofy pools without them being crowded, this is the time to do so. The second least crowded time is when the ship is in port.) Id been the one from our DIS Cruise Meet thread to have taken orders for and bought green wristbands saying Disney 3/25/06 Magic, and sitting there wearing them, with the T-shirts I described, we were chatting with someone whose 2 boys were also in the pool. He saw my shirt and wristband said, Oh, youre gimpeaux! Turned out it was minneapolismickeys DH, and we met her and the boys shortly thereafter. Also gave them their wristbands, which Id planned on passing out to everyone at the sailaway party DIS meet. By then our room (5002) was available, so we headed there and spent about an hour unpacking and putting things away. The over-the-door clear shoe organizer was a great idea, because there just wasnt a lot of flat space in the room to put the little things you have with you like sunscreen, extra batteries, etc. But in reality, I was amazed at how much space there was in the room, including tons of drawers and shelves. Having read so many threads on here that said you got only a cooling box that kept things around 55 degrees, I was also surprised to see an actual mini-refrigerator in the room, under the desk in the seating area (the area with the couch that becomes a twin bed). It was one of the small ones like you buy for a dorm room. There was a place next to use with a door that said cooling box, but that had nothing behind it so provided to be a good storage space. In fact, there were so many places to stow away things that we occasionally forgot where wed put something. Among all of the other things we brought, the extension cord at first appeared superfluous, until we realized that the plug by the desk in the seating area is the only place you can plug in anything except a shaver, so that is where you must plug in the hair dryer, battery recharger, iPod recharger, etc, and the cord does give you both some room to do that as well as multiple outlets. The duct tape we brought came in handy for taping the edge of the curtain between the seating area (where DD slept) and the main room where DW and I slept, in the hope of making it a little darker at night if DD went to sleep before we did. The lifeboat drill came next, and then after returning our life jackets to the room, it was time to head up to Deck 10 for our DIS meet. Because I was the one who had the wristbands, I eventually met all of those our Cruise Meet thread who had ordered some and even some who hadnt. Great people, all. It took a long time to associate real names with everyone rather than the screen names wed gotten to know everyone by for months before the cruise in fact, Susan, all week long whenever we saw you, it took conscious thought not to say, Hi, geffric! The sailaway was cool, very high-energy with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale onstage dancing up a storm. As we left at 5:00, though I knew it was coming, when the horn sounded those first seven notes from When You Wish Upon A Star, I did get a lump in my throat. (As Captain Louis Renault said about Rick in Casablanca, Im nothing but a rank sentimentalist.) I thought the CMs at the port wearing giant Mickey gloves waving bon voyage was an especially clever Disney touch. Also ordered and had a sailaway Margarita to celebrate the official start of the cruise. Deck 10 was a fine place to look out over the party, but if you want to be n the middle of it, Id recommend getting to the Goofy Pool area on Deck 9 (the pool is covered up for this and the Pirate Night party) ASAP after the drill. Late seating was great for this, because we didnt have to run back to get ready for and head to dinner very quickly. We wandered a bit, then headed back to change for dinner, and caught the opening night variety show in the theatre. The premise a kid (played by a 20-something actor) who is all excited about sailing on the Magic is more than a little corny, but forgivably so. It was a variety show hosted by our omnipresent Cruise Director, Aussie Brent. The world champion juggler was superb, as was rock n roll comedian Gary Delena. Parents beware just as with attractions at Disney World and Disneyland, the theatre is located so it empties right into the two Disney shops onboard. I have to admit, though, that during the week, I got a cool pin which is Mickeys head filled in with the yin-and-yang symbol, DW got a wonderful old-fashioned straw hat with a black ribbon and bow on it, and DD got a cute Cinderella notepad complete with veil. Then Saturday night dinner. This was the worst part of the entire vacation. When we had switched back to late dining, the CM told us to check in with the dining room host upon our arrival at Animators Palette to get out specific table number. There was massive confusion and delay, and it took them almost 10 minutes after we got to the front of the line to figure out where we were supposed to be. They then took us to the table (set for 8), but there was then further confusion with the wait staff as to whether or not we were supposed to be there. It took another 10 minutes to get that all straightened out. As for our dining companions, well, I will try to remember that my mother always says that if you cant say anything nice about someone, dont say anything at all. Id read on here how DCL tries to match you up with a family with similar kids (gender and age), so we were cautiously optimistic. Maybe it was because of the late switch back to late seating, but that didnt happen at all. The family we sat with had three children, two sons aged 6 and 8 and a 5-year-old daughter. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the 2 boys with eyes glued to their Gameboys ignoring everything and anything else that was going on. Mom and Dad were OK but certainly no one wed ever hit it off with. On top of all this, the service was absolutely horrible! There is no other word for it. We were all seated by 8:00, but the server didnt even stop by talk with us and take our order until after 8:30, and it was after 9:00 before the first appetizers arrived! Hey, you can only eat bread for so long. DD was having a meltdown by this point the lack of food and inexcusable delay in getting us anything to eat contrasted so sharply with the high expectations we all had for DCLs attention to detail and focus on service. That combined with the fact (which wouldnt change even if the service improved) that there was no one at the table she could relate to or talk with. The server, who was completely unimpressive, never apologized for the delay until about 9:30, around the time we finally got our entrees, and then said something that made no sense that the tables had been moved around so he had to walk farther to go back and forth to the kitchen. DW went to the host stand during dinner and told him the seating assignment was no good, and he said we could move to a different table the next day. It was so bad an experience that we didnt even stick around for dessert. By the time it would have arrived, it would have been after 10:00 and wed had enough. All of that affected obviously affected our view of Animators Palette, but even trying to be more objective, none of us was terribly impressed by it. Disney bears the burden of creating high expectations, and I think it could have done so much more with the effects and animation than what is, in effect, just gradually turning on colored lights in black-and-white drawings. I think the best thing about the restaurant, frankly, is the pun in its name. DD and I then headed down to Ocean Quest, where there was a meet-and-greet scheduled for 10-to-12 year olds at 9:45. DD was shy, so I sat behind her as about 12-15 kids sat in the seating area and went around each saying their name, where they were from, and offering an adjective starting with the same letter as their first name to describe themselves. The counselors were good laid-back and one slightly goofy making what isnt the worlds simplest job look easy. After it became clear DD was fine, I left, agreeing DW and I would stop by around 11:00 to pick her up. We stopped in around 10:30 just to see how it was going, but the kids were all out on a scavenger hunt activity. We stopped by again at 11:00, only to hear from DD a plea to be allowed to hang out there with the other kids till midnight. We gave her an 11:30 curfew, and things apparently wound down at that point because she returned to the room around 11:15. And so to bed. Coming up next Sunday and Key West (the pain of hair braiding, great lunch at Crabby Bills, great key lime pie at Blonde Giraffe, thrills but no spills -- as I drive a scooter, and we get a great server and assistant server).