I recently had the opportunity to sail with Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic from the UK, as part of their Disney Magic at Sea Staycations in 2021. It was my first time sailing with Disney and something I’ve wanted to do for far too many years – so this was very much a bucket list item for me.
I was travelling with my partner, John, and we were really interested to see what it’s like to cruise with Disney as an adult group. Not only have I heard fantastic things in general about Disney as a cruise line, but particularly around the adult-only experience, of course with a Disney twist along the way.
So, let’s get into it.
I didn’t want to write this review without talking about how easy boarding was on the day, even with Covid-19 requirements.
After we dropped off our luggage and took our lateral flow tests (which were thankfully negative!), we headed towards the main Tilbury Cruise Terminal. It was the first time I’d visited this embarkation port and it was a quick and easy experience. As soon as you enter the terminal you could feel the Disney magic in the air, with Disney signage everywhere guiding you to the ship. Check-in itself could not have been simpler or quicker and after a short visit through the security check, it was time to board.
I’ve heard a lot about the unique way to board a Disney ship. As you walk on board, you are guided to a host who introduces you to the rest of the ship on the PA, as Mickey and Minnie Mouse await your arrival on the stage at the front of the Atrium. Here, you are treated to a proper Disney welcome with an impromptu short show by them both. It’s such a lovely way to get you into the Disney spirit, and kids truly love it (and let’s face it, adults too).
Following this, you are guided to one of the entertainment areas where staff introduce you to the Disney Navigator App and you start your muster drill. The muster is quite interesting, as you have to seek out your Muster Station and take a photo using the app to notify the ship that you know where to go – it’s a clever take on it all.
It’s now time to embrace the Disney way of cruising!
Design, look and feel
Disney’s ships are designed to evoke the classic designs of transatlantic liners, and as you make your way around the ship you really do get a feel for its classic design and attention to detail. And you cannot go a Di
sney Cruise without getting a selfie with Captain Mickey of course!
There are so many clever touches on board that really stand out for me, including the large portholes in and around the Atrium and surrounding spaces that let so much light in. Many of which double as a seats, so you can sit and enjoy the world go by outside. Also, watch out for the hidden Mickey’s which appear literally everywhere you look around the ship, as is the design custom of Disney. Overall, the space feels so warm and welcoming.
The heart of the ship is the main Atrium on board, and very much acts as the focus point for activity and design on board. All throughout the day you can find happenings going-on from character meet and greets, to impromptu parties and other activities. This also serves as the main entrance to one of the dining rooms on board (Lumiere’s).
In terms of the cabin, we stayed in an entry-level inside cabin and I have to say it was really spacious. It was just what we needed for a few nights and included a full-size sofa, a bath and other amenities. Again, the design inside draws upon Disney and the wider nautical-liner theme found throughout the ship. I would also say, for a ship that is 20-years old, you couldn’t tell in our room. It was spotless, so we were very happy.
The outside spaces on board Disney Magic can really be split into four primary areas.
Firstly, there is Goofy’s Family Pool. This is the main pool area on board the ship and where you can find the main pool, a large outdoor movie screen and lots of seating. This is also where you’ll find evening entertainment and shows, where cleverly the pool retracts and becomes more space to stand and dance.
Just behind Goofy’s pool you will find a host of casual eateries including Pinocchio’s Pizzeria and the Duck-in Diner. These are also situated next to the Aqualab and The Nephews Splash Zone. This multi-level water park features a kid’s pool, a “beach” area with geysers and interactive elements such as pouring buckets and water jets. These areas also feature the two signature slides on board, firstly the AquaDunk free-fall slide and also Twist’n’Spout (thought it was a bit chill in Sept/Oct in the UK!).
At the front of the ship, you will find the Quiet Cove area. This is the adults’ only outdoor area featuring a pool Jacuzzis, the Cove Café and Signals Bar. As soon as I walked up into this space, I knew it was somewhere I’d want to spend time in, even with it turning to October in the UK.
And the more I spent time in this space, the more I loved it, with Signals always having a great vibe throughout the day (especially at Happy Hour) and Cove Café always bustling with coffee culture. We spent a lot of time here enjoying the space and something I could see myself doing again when I come back on board a Disney ship.
Right at the front of the ship you will also find the Sport Court area, which unlike a lot of ships these days, is full size.
Activities and entertainment
Headlining the entertainment on offer is the Walt Disney Theatre. Much-like the rest of the ship, this has an art deco flair that draws upon the golden age of film.
During our sailing there were two shows in the main theatre on board. Firstly, Tangled: The Musical, where you are transported into Rapunzel’s fairy-tale world as the story comes to life on stage. And then there is Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic. This revue show tells an original story that draws upon all of the classic and favourite Disney stories, from Peter Pan to Frozen, and the Little Mermaid to Lion King. I was truly impressed with the quality and attention to detail for the show. It was incredible and one of the best shows I’ve seen at sea.
A core element to Disney is of course the opportunity to meet your favourite characters. In fact, one of my very first memories is from Disney World meeting Mickey, Pluto and friends from when I was really young. And a Disney Cruise is no different, with ample opportunities to meet characters, including Disney favourites, Disney Princesses and Marvel characters (and of course in a socially distanced and responsible manner).
There is also a full cinema on board, and it’s not a small space that’s tucked away unlike on some other ships. This shows a variety of films and shows from Disney, ranging from classic Disney films to newer Pixar hits, Marvel and Star Wars. I wouldn’t normally go to the cinema on a cruise, but we actually loved the opportunity on board Magic to watch a brand-new Marvel film.
On our voyage, throughout the day there were various activities on offer. These focussed around the two primary lounges on board. Firstly, the Promenade Lounge and then the high-energy D Lounge. Even with covid-restrictions in place, you could see how these spaces would be used on a normal cruise.
That’s not all. Disney are leaders in outside entertainment and across the fleet are known for producing some of the most intriguing and fun shows – including pirate shows and Marvel-based shows, including environmentally friendly firework displays. On Disney Magic, the evening show was Freezing the Night Away with Anna, Elsa and Friends. Featuring visits from all of your favourite Frozen characters, deck games and of course a good ol’ sing-along. The culmination is of course Elsa’s arrival amongst a flurry of snow that covers the deck and ship. You can see my Instagram Reel on this here.
Food & Drinks
As it was only a 2-night sailing, we didn’t get the full opportunity to experience all the dining on board (good excuse to go back though, right?). But what we did experience was fabulous.
We dined in Lumiere’s on the first evening, one of the three included main restaurants. Disney pioneered a really interested dining concept on board, called Rotational Dining, where you move between the three restaurants through the course of the cruise (along with your wait staff), so you get to experience all the different environments, entertainment and food altogether.
And most certainly, the dining venues on board aren’t just about food but the overall experience at the venue as well, with Lumiere’s giving you that decadent atmosphere you would only expect in Beast and Belle’s Castle. In terms of the food, we were not disappointed in the slightest with such delicious temptations as duck confit, Chateaubriand and other items. As an adult group, I was really impressed with the overall experience and even though there were a lot of children at dinner, in no way was it distracting or impact on our experience.
I’ve heard so many good things about Palo over the years, so I was dying to try it when we got on board. Palo is the speciality restaurant on board Disney Magic, with it’s classic Northern Italian cooking with a modern twist.
We were invited to enjoy Brunch by Disney [Ad] while on board in Palo. Again, brunch in Palo is an adults-only institution on Disney and something I *had* to try. And boy it wasn’t disappointing in the slightest. You can watch an Instagram Reel of our brunch experience here.
For Palo, you are encouraged to dress up for the affair, so we donned some smart casual attire and headed up to the restaurant. Palo is situated right at the top-aft of the ship and affords gorgeous views over the wake alongside it’s signature Italian-inspired décor.
I have to say I was totally blown away by the brunch experience – whether it was the cocktails, the delicious anti-pasti, soups, steak or of course classic brunch staples, such as eggs benedict. To finish off, we had the obligatory mickey waffles. And that’s without talking about the truly incredible service from staff.
I was so impressed by it all that we then went and booked Palo *again* for dinner. Coming back in the evening, the atmosphere felt truly intimate and welcoming. As the staff knew we were coming back, we were seated at the same table and had the same waiter – it all acted to take the experience to the next level (and I had already been so impressed at brunch).
On top of breads and anti-pasti (… I just couldn’t resist!), we had a delicious gnocchi amouse-bouche, a caprese salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes, a tender beef tenderloin and another must, the light and fluffy souffle to finish. All washed down with some truly lovely wines. Not only did I come away stuffed, but again was really impressed by the whole experience. I cannot wait to go back in the future and would tell anyone to experience Palo if you are on a Disney ship.
As with the outside, there are dedicated spaces on board for adults on board Disney ships. During the days kids are allowed in some of these venues and activities will take place there, but during the evenings these tend to be more dedicated towards adult’s entertainment.
On Disney Magic, the After-Hours area is made up of three distinct venues at the front of the ship off of the atrium.
Fathoms, as you may guess, is a nautical themed lounge and nightclub on board Disney Magic. It’s a cool space with sea-inspired décor with a futuristic twist – such as the jellyfish-inspired fibre-optic inspired light fixtures.
On our sailing, it was host to the nightly adults-only entertainment and game shows but on normal sailings it’s also used for karaoke, comedy shows, live music and disco. On our last night myself, my partner and the ever-lovely Steph (from Cruise with Amber) were the last people standing (or well, sitting) taking in the atmosphere, nattering, enjoying cocktails and each other’s companies.
Keys is an adults-only lounge on board, featuring craft cocktails and a retro atmosphere that harkens back to the golden age of Hollywood. It’s ambient, sophisticated and comfortable, with live music all evening courtesy of the pianist playing a variety of tunes. In fact, I think it was my favourite venue on board, particularly for a pre-dinner tipple and late evening night cap. Spot-on.
This charming pub can also be found within the After-Hours district on Disney Magic. Featuring dark woods and a green colour scheme, grab a pint and take in the atmosphere. Whenever we visited throughout the day, we found it to have a lively and fun atmosphere, with quizzes, board games and live sports. You can also grab a bite here.
Would I sail with Disney again?
Without a shadow of a doubt! I’d always wanted to try a Disney Cruise, and even though my adult experience of Disney Magic was very brief, it has shown me just how unique a Disney Cruise experience is and something I cannot wait to do again … hopefully soon! Sign me up!
You can read more about Disney Cruise line here
So, what do you think? Would you take the plunge and book a Disney Cruise? Let me know in the comments and on social media.