May 2019 EBTA - Taking the Magic eastbound across the Atlantic (and bonus non-DCL Mediterranean cruise!) - Update 9/18

lilsonicfan

<font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
Joined
Jan 20, 2003
Hi everyone :)

I've gotten so much help from the Disboards that I wanted to start a trip report. We just got back late Saturday night and I am back at work... so I anticipate this won't be a quick one to write. I'm starting it, at least.... So feel free to follow along/interject questions! I will try to add pics though I am not sure if I will post pics with us in them or not - we'll see how it goes once I get the pics off my camera!

Introduction:

We are a family of 5 from Vancouver, Canada. There's me, DH, and my three boys, L (age 10), G (age 7) and R (age 6). The EBTA was our second DCL cruise but we are not new to cruising overall. This vacation was a big one, ostensibly in celebration of what I call turning 30 a second time.... lol... I am the trip planner in the family; DH is happy to go along with whatever I decide, but he's less than helpful in actually planning anything - which came to a bit of a head in the middle of the trip, anyway we will get to that.

I am a huge Disney fan, but living on the west coast means that trips to WDW are rare. In 2017 we spent a week at WDW, cruised on the Fantasy, and then went to Universal for a few days. I loved DCL, so we booked a placeholder on board. Originally I wanted to book the WBPC, but the dates didn't work out, so we booked the EBTA. The value for the price is hard to beat for the DCL repositioning cruises.

But after booking the EBTA and looking into staying in Barcelona, I decided we should really make the trip epic, and started to look into a Med cruise. I ruled out DCL for the Med because it was going to cost more than the 13 night EBTA for 7 nights. I first booked the NCL Epic in the Haven (concierge) 2 bedroom suite, which was the same cost as DCL in non-concierge, 2 oceanview rooms. But then I found out about MSC and their Yacht Club level (also concierge) - and it turned out that the cost for that was half the price of the NCL Epic in Haven, and half the price of the DCL Magic.... so we switched. So I will probably have some comments about DCL vs. MSC as we go along.

Trip Itinerary
- 13 nights on the Magic in two oceanview rooms
- 7 nights on the MSC Seaview in a Yacht Club balcony room
  1. Day 0 - Travel from Vancouver to Miami
  2. Day 1 - Miami - and sailaway on the Disney Magic
  3. Day 2 - sea day #1
  4. Day 3 - sea day #2
  5. Day 4 - sea day #3
  6. Day 5 - sea day #4
  7. Day 6 - sea day #5
  8. Day 7 - sea day #6
  9. Day 8 - Ponta Delgada, Azores (Portugal)
  10. Day 9 - sea day #7
  11. Day 10 - Lisbon, Portugal
  12. Day 11 - Cadiz, Spain
  13. Day 12 - Malaga, Spain
  14. Day 13 - Cartagena, Spain
  15. Day 14 - disembark in Barcelona, Spain - short tour - and embark the MSC Seaview for 7 night Mediterranean
  16. Day 15 - Ajaccio, Corsica
  17. Day 16 - Genoa, Italy
  18. Day 17 - La Spezia, Italy
  19. Day 18 - Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
  20. Day 19 - Cannes, France
  21. Day 20 - Palma de Mallorca, Spain
  22. Day 21 - disembark in Barcelona, Spain and travel home
 
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Alohagirl73

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 1, 2012
Looking forward to your report and especially what you thought of MSC with kids. We are looking into MSC for next summer in Med as it's Yacht Club is less than an inside cabin on Disney.

Also the Magic is my favorite ship
 
  • Hubie

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 3, 2016
    We'll be going on the EBTA in 2020. It'll be our 8th DCL cruise. Glad to see you're doing this report. We're looking forward to following along.

    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    DCL 2014 Dream Bahamas, DCL 2015 Wonder WBPC, DCL 2016 Magic Norway Fjords, DCL 2017 Magic Northern Europe, DCL 2017 Dream Bahamas, DCL 2018 Magic Northern Europe & DCL 2018 Magic Western Caribbean.
     
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    lilsonicfan

    <font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2003
    Preparing to leave and Day 0 - the day of travel

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    One of the stressful things about the trip planning was the flight aspect. I was very worried about having to book one way flights to and from Vancouver, which is a major international airport, but going east still requires connections etc. I managed to secure flights for what I thought was an okay price - we paid about $280 CAD each to fly from YVR to Miami and then about $550 CAD each to fly from Barcelona to YVR.

    The YVR to Miami flight was with AA, through Dallas-Fort Worth. The plan was to fly out the day before the cruise. Originally we weren't going to arrive until about 9:30 PM but due to some AA changes, we ended up on a 7am flight that was to arrive in MIA at 6pm. Perfect. I booked the Comfort Suites Miami Airport North which has a free airport shuttle, free port shuttle and free breakfast - for five of us, "free" is hard to beat.

    Got up early, and caught some of the sunrise at the airport!
    406277

    Well, of course, travel never quite goes as planned. Our flight out of Vancouver was delayed (I really don't remember why) and instead of 1.5-2 hours in DFW, we had about 40 minutes to make our connection. No issue with us making the connection, as the gates were close - but then we sat in the second plane at the gate for another hour. I think DFW was experiencing storms. So by the time we arrived in Miami, it was about 8:30 PM...

    Here's my family, so glad to have arrived (bearing in mind we had been up since 4am) and optimistically waiting for our luggage.

    406281

    But..... after waiting until the very last piece of baggage went around the carousel for the millionth time, I realized none of our 3 suitcases had made it. Went to the AA desk along with dozens of others and I actually felt reassured, because the staff were very nice (despite an irate man screaming at them) and they promised me that my luggage was on the next flight or flights, and that it would be delivered that evening. I emphasized that we were embarking on a transatlantic flight with no stops for a full week, so we needed our luggage, and they again insisted it was no problem at all, they made note of the cruise, and off we went.

    So I'm such an optimist that I believed exactly what they said, we went off to the hotel, checked in, and found that the only port shuttle times were 9am and 12:30pm. I took the 9am spot... now, I knew it was first come first served but I won't deny some disappointment with this situation. As for the hotel itself: it's a solid 2-2.5 star hotel - don't expect more. I suspect the main reason for its high ratings is convenience; as I said earlier it's hard to beat "free". The room was adequate. Housekeeping had left already, so we had to make up the sofabed ourselves. I read in our social media group that others had issues such as no hot water, but our room was fine. And I mean "fine" like how a woman responds when she's not really thrilled with the situation. You know how it goes.

    We walked to Tom's NFL pub to have some dinner (not gourmet dining, but it did the trick) and got back to the hotel around 10:30 or so. By this time I was exhausted. My AA tracking for baggage (handy tool, or it would be if the human factor wasn't an issue) showed the suitcases had arrived at MIA baggage claim! I optimistically suggested we should all get some rest as we would likely be interrupted in a few hours by our luggage arriving.

    I won't lie, I was exhausted - we had been up since 4am Vancouver time and sometimes I can't believe how long it takes just to get across the continent! I went to tell the front desk to call me at any time though if the luggage arrived, even if it was 2am.

    Dun dun dun.....
     

    Attachments

    lilsonicfan

    <font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2003
    By the way I apologize if I've done the images wrong. I tried to link images from google photo - that did not appear to do the trick.

    Day 0 to Day 1:

    I'm sure you can guess where this is going. I woke up every half hour wondering where the bags were. Tracking showed - suitcases had arrived at MIA baggage claim. Sigh. Finally, around 3:15am, I went to the front desk and chatted with the clerk, who told me that honestly I might be better off going to collect the bags myself. He offered the 4am airport shuttle and told me to just call again from the airport and they would come and get me.

    Dutifully following the advice given to me I went to the airport at 4am and found my bags at baggage claim, behind four AA staff members who were literally just moving bags from one side of the area to the other. They were less than helpful and I could have left with all of the bags because they didn't scan them out or even check that they were mine. So yeah, great that the tracking works, but it doesn't mean they'll actually deliver. I'm still annoyed at American, but I'm not sure any other airline would have been better?

    Anyway, to cut this a bit short, I was so exhausted that I cancelled the 9am port shuttle. We had breakfast (which was again "fine") and we took an Uber XL to the port. Cost was $33, substantially more for the XL vs regular Uber. Those of you in families of 5 or more will understand that the world is built for what I call square families - two parents, two kids.

    Finally got close to the Magic! If you look really closely you can see the Mickey hands they added for the Sail-a-Wave Party.

    View attachment 406279

    I believe we took our Uber around 11am and arrived just after 11:15am. (had PAT of 11:30) The port security line up was insanely long and slow, but I heard it only got worse as time went on. Painful, but what was slightly more annoying was that there was a separate check-in line for concierge, platinum (of course) and then silver/gold, and then one for first timers. But of course, guess who cruises these long cruises most - repeat cruisers! So first time cruisers had no wait at all to check in, but repeat cruisers had a very long wait (well in fairness I think the platinum line probably moved fairly quickly). Oh well, what are you gonna do. The MAGIC was starting, I was excited!

    Okay, so the first thing that was absolutely new to me and that I had no idea about is that DCL keeps custody of your passports for the first part of the eastbound transatlantic cruise. I won't lie, this was very stressful to find out at the port, and the CMs only said there were no exceptions, but didn't provide an explanation of why exactly, or when exactly we would get them back. I only relaxed when I looked around and ensured that everyone was having the same thing happen (I worried that perhaps it was just for Canadians?) I heard later from European guests that this was not a step that is necessary for them, but in any event it was unavoidable. Just so you don't wonder, I believe what happens is that the ship asks customs officials to come on board at Ponta Delgada to clear and stamp all of the passports. We were able to collect them beginning the day after Ponta Delgada.

    I can't remember our exact boarding group number - I believe it was between 8-12 - but in any event we didn't have to wait at all as they were already boarding up to group 14 by the time we got up there. The Miami terminal has plenty of seating, and though it's not exclusive Disney, they do try to Disney it up a bit...
    406282


    Mickey showed up right as we were about to go up the escalators, so I made my kids take a detour for that pic.... which I haven't yet uploaded, apparently, sorry. But I've got this one! By the way this was the one and only time I made everyone wear matching shirts (actually, mine is a bit different) - these are all from Uniqlo. I would have loved to have made shirts for the voyage, but I'm not crafty, and time got away from me. Pro tip: take an extra day or two off work before you leave for a 3 week trip, lol.

    406283
     

    Geomom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 17, 2010
    Taking your passport in the port would totally stress me out...what if it doesn't make it onto the ship? Especially after you almost didn't have luggage from the airline before you get on a cruise that doesn't have a stop for days.... I would 'almost' be okay with them taking my passport as I get on the ship--at least then I know it made it onto the ship, lol.

    Enjoying your trip report so far!
     
  • lilsonicfan

    <font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2003
    Taking your passport in the port would totally stress me out...what if it doesn't make it onto the ship? Especially after you almost didn't have luggage from the airline before you get on a cruise that doesn't have a stop for days.... I would 'almost' be okay with them taking my passport as I get on the ship--at least then I know it made it onto the ship, lol.

    Enjoying your trip report so far!
    Thanks all those who are following along!

    I agree about the stress of taking the passport while in port .... I feel like it was just one of those things that since we had no choice about, I had to just let it go and not be stressed about it. Guest Services provided copies for anyone who needed them, before we reached Ponta Delgada and that's what I took on shore. It's funny how much research I did for this cruise, and never saw it mentioned!
     

    Alohagirl73

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 1, 2012
    When we did the inaugural British Isles cruise, we had to hand over our passports in Dover because of Ireland authorities needing them. Dublin was toward the end of our cruise . It was so hard to do but no problems getting them back. I was just glad DH and I had brought our driver's license as id to get back into the port.
     

    lilsonicfan

    <font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2003
    When we did the inaugural British Isles cruise, we had to hand over our passports in Dover because of Ireland authorities needing them. Dublin was toward the end of our cruise . It was so hard to do but no problems getting them back. I was just glad DH and I had brought our driver's license as id to get back into the port.
    Actually, I can remember on our very first cruise in 2005, the cruise line kept our passports and I think it was sort of a common thing then. I remember having to go to the theatre to get them stamped in the Bahamas or something. So weird. Definitely, carrying ID is essential!
     

    lilsonicfan

    <font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2003
    Day 1 Continued - finally getting on board!

    In Miami you embark the Magic on Deck 4. Kinda neat. We decided to head to Lumiere's for lunch, and while everyone got seated, I went to the Promenade Lounge to check on our dining request (private table). There was a line, so one of the servers there, who happened to be a Palo server, asked to see my cruise card - when he saw we were at Table 58, he said that 58 is a table for 6, so he knew we would be by ourselves. He said I could wait in line or trust him; I wisely trusted him (there were quite a few people in line already!)

    Promenade Lounge was also the place where they were taking bookings for the liquor tastings. There was a list of tastings in front of the staff members, but I believe they had even more available on the computer than was on the list (which was already significantly more than was available online when the booking windows opened). I asked for quite a few tastings, but the only ones I ended up keeping (you can cancel 24 hours+ in advance) were Chocolate and Liquor Tasting, and Canvas and Cocktails, a special event that only happens on longer cruises on the Magic.

    I then went back to Lumiere's, where as it turns out we were served by Non from Thailand who ended up being our server! Pretty cool coincidence.

    Made the boys take a pic while it wasn't crowded:


    (DS2 broke his elbow about 5.5 weeks before our cruise; he was hoping to get the cast off right before we left but the dr said it needed more time, sigh)

    We then went off to check out our rooms. We had two oceanview rooms on this cruise on Deck 2, port side. I am really a verandah room person, I love having a balcony to sit on. But for a 13 day cruise I thought maybe it might be nice to have two rooms for the 5 of us - the additional bathroom being a huge bonus. Happy we went this direction. I had my own sink, for one thing :) I honestly loved being midship on Deck 2 on the Magic. It's such a convenient deck to be on for the following reasons:
    • there is a laundry room
    • you're only 1-2 decks away from dinner, which is nice if you want to pop back to your room after dinner
    • it's really quiet (I think I heard footsteps a couple of times?? We were under the hallway beside Lumiere's)
    • all of the main decks are just a short staircase climb
    • if you want to head up to deck 9 by elevator, there's rarely anyone in the elevator and it isn't a long wait.
    • you're also only 1 deck away from late night snacks at O'Gills, lol
    • you're also close to the gangway deck, typically on deck 1 or 3.
    We unpacked, as our luggage had already made it. I'm sure I'm not the only one who needs to fully unpack to feel at "home"! Then we went and wandered around the ship for a while, awaiting muster drill.

    Our muster location was on Deck 4, not as convenient as a theatre sadly but oh well.



    It wasn't ideal, we waited a long time in pretty warm/humid weather (we are from Vancouver, it's not like that here, lol) for people to show up and then the scanner thing wasn't working so they had to check people off on paper.

    And then as we waited, this colourful ship passed us by; guess their muster drill went faster!



    We are actually booked on one of the NCL -Away class ships for a future cruise, I know they aren't as 'classic' looking as DCL ships but this one looked pretty fun up on the top decks. But I'm sure all of those guests hanging out on their balconies are jealous of us!

    So, that cloud on the left was a bit ominous, and in fact they had to move the Sail-a-Wave party indoors b/c of a small storm that was approaching. I skipped it - I would have gone if it were outdoors, but didn't feel like going once it got moved. Off we went to the pool deck anyway, figuring what's a little rain when it's time to eat soft serve ice cream and go for a dip in the pool. I snapped a couple of pics of Miami at sailaway, really liked this one with the massive condos in the back and beach at the front. South Beach looks beautiful!



    Next up: dinner :)
     
  • lilsonicfan

    <font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2003
    Looking forward to your report and especially what you thought of MSC with kids. We are looking into MSC for next summer in Med as it's Yacht Club is less than an inside cabin on Disney.

    Also the Magic is my favorite ship
    I will DEFINITELY address this in more depth but I'll say right off the bat that if you can swing YC on MSC (I'm guessing Seaview or Bellissima) it's well worth it in the Med.
     

    xavier2001

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    May 31, 2016
    Joining in, we have this trip booked for 2020, great start so far!! Glad you got your luggage, and hopefully can get some sleep!
     

    Magical_Suitcase

    aka: kid-at-heart
    Joined
    Oct 9, 2018
    Such a cute family. Thank you for sharing their photos.

    But then I found out about MSC and their Yacht Club level (also concierge) - and it turned out that the cost for that was half the price of the NCL Epic in Haven, and half the price of the DCL Magic.... so we switched.
    I hope you continue your trip report to include your cruise on the MSC. We plan to sail the East Bound cruise 2021 and need to make plans for once we land in Barcelona, or wherever the ship ports.
     

    lilsonicfan

    <font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2003
    Thank you for following along!

    Our dinner rotation on this cruise was: LARLARLLARLAR. Who among you isn't thrilled to see SO MANY LETTERS??? My only 'disappointment' was eating in Lumiere's 5x instead of Rapunzel's; however, I honestly didn't care enough to try to change it. I just happen to love purple. I would have thought from this arrangement that pirate night was in the "LL" section, but it wasn't. Anyway! Off we went to Lumiere's. I love the details in the restaurants:



    So the DCL blog says that our first meal at Lumiere's was the standard Lumiere's menu - but I know it wasn't because it is all food from the Let the Magic Begin menu:

    Smoked salmon carpaccio


    Chilled mango and papaya soup: (I love these chilled soups - they are really more like melted ice cream to me! Maybe to some they are a bit of a weird appetizer.)


    Fried spiced calamari


    Pork wellington - looks delicious, but kinda dry :/


    Pan seared halibut - delicious, but DS1 did not care for the minted peas


    Grilled strip loin - loved this


    And for dessert - Dark chocolate raspberry bombe (I think I really enjoyed this) (sorry for the terrible picture)


    Fresh fruit sabayon


    and DS1's favourite: Creme Brulee. This one happened to be kahlua flavoured so he didn't love it as much, but seriously any time Creme Brulee is on the menu he orders two :D


    DS2 and DS3 had Mickey bars, so no picture.

    Another great meal, and so begins 13 nights of eating far too much for dinner !
     

    Mom2m&k

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2007
    Excited to read about your cruises! We are cruising MSC Bellissima in July so looking forward to that part!
     

    lilsonicfan

    <font color=teal>The TF knows Canada VERY well!!<b
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2003
    We stuck with main dining, which worked out fairly well actually. It was nice to go to the show after dinner, and to wander the ship instead of feeling way too full right as it was time to go to bed. Without kids, I think late dining would have been fine. (We had late on our first DCL cruise, and it was no issue) We knew we would have some early port days in any event.

    After dinner, we went to Be Our Guest. The cruise director - Trent - made sure to tell us that we would be getting paper Navigators delivered to our rooms specifically because this was the Transatlantic cruise. He actually said he knew the Navigators were important to guests, and that people wanted to carry them around, mark them up, keep them as souvenirs etc. That was met with much applause and cheering; you would think that alone would tell them people still want the paper Navigators. Anyway, Be Our Guest was okay, it was helpful to learn right away that we wouldn't be interested in some of the performers (though some weren't on board yet, so no chance to preview them)... But one of the 'odd' things about this cruise was that many of the big movies that had been released recently were being shown at regular evening showtimes. Ralph Breaks the Internet, for example, played in the Buena Vista Theatre only on two days and both were at evening showtimes. Same with Captain Marvel. So there were several nights where I had to try to look ahead in the app to see whether we would be missing something or not if we saw that movie or show. It was a bit of a tough decision, but I guess you can't do everything even on a 13 night cruise. But anyway, Be our Guest helped with that at least!

    This leads me to my thoughts on app vs paper Navigator: I think there is room for both, and I think both are necessary. The paper version does something the app isn't good at, and that's showing you the overlap of activities. It's so helpful to be able to look at one paper and say oh, well, we can't go to X because we want to see Y and that goes too long, but we could then do Z. As well the paper Navigator clearly defines adults only, fun for all ages, etc. The app was sometimes a tad unreliable in that regard. I can understand, to a small degree, the idea behind not delivering paper Navigators in an effort to save paper. But it is such a minimal amount of paper that is being saved, a small thing that actually matters to many passengers. Yes, if we had to, we could probably make do with the app (and there are some bonuses -such as being able to favourite items, or to see ahead whether Chip & Dale are coming in future days or whether this is your last chance). But WHY, when it's so easy to print the paper Navigators. Use b&w if it's a cost thing.

    To further illustrate why it's so obviously NOT about saving the environment, here's an event that happened later in the cruise. In the D Lounge there was an event called "Inside Out: Memory Orbs"; turns out it was an ornament making event. More on this later. But as part of the event, the cruise staff brought in hundreds of paper Navigators that had been printed and I guess either not given out or were available as extras. I am not exaggerating, they brought in hundreds. All pristine, ready to be chopped up in all ways to fit into those memory orbs. Hmmm.

    Okay, I digress. Back to where we were! We ran into Goofy in the hall, took a couple of quick shots...


    ...and then we readied ourselves to watch Avengers Endgame. Yes, it was airing on the very first night, at 10:30 PM.... or maybe it was even 10:45 PM. Fortunately we had nowhere to be, what with six straight sea days ahead of us, so the kids insisted on watching, and we agreed. Great movie, but so long. I'm pretty sure it was in the Walt Disney Theatre too.

    then back to our rooms and off to bed. Somewhere during Day 1 I definitely ordered room service, b/c I remember DH saying the wings weren't as good as he remembered. Crazy talk, I tell ya.
     

    FSU Girl

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 20, 2016
    Following along! I've thought about doing one of the Transatlantic cruises, just not sure how I feel about all the sea days and not as many ports. Excited for your reviews on MSC as well I've never sailed them and curious how the cruiseline is. The luggage issue sounded very stressful, I'm glad it worked out and you got them before your cruise. I would have been stressed about handing over my passport too.
     

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