Hopefully I don’t come across as self-absorbed as a Kardashian by assuming you’ve read about our Disney Cruise through the Mediterranean over the summer.
We chose a Disney Cruise because we wanted a trip where we could see beautiful and historic treasures for us and for our then 18-year-old, but would also appeal to our 10-year-old.
If you’ve ever experienced anything Disney, you know that the up-side to the price tag is their reputation for providing high quality service, cleanliness, safety, and - of course - fun for all ages.
And let’s be honest: despite my housekeeping skills, I’m a bit of a germophobe, so cleanliness is important, especially if it’s a place I’ll be laying my head. I have been known to abandon hotels and drive in the middle of the night to another town if even one little thing makes me feel gaggy.
I knew with Disney, we’d have a nice, clean room and great service on board.
I only had one worry: that we’d be all Disneyed-out by the end of our vacation.
Since our youngest is 10, I didn’t want it to feel too babyish.
We’ve been to Disney World a few times, and things weren’t too babyish there at the parks, but being confined to a ship could be a different story.
I’ll go ahead and tell you now how the story ends: it was ah-freakin-mazing, and no, we were not Disneyed-out.
There weren’t characters everywhere, which I was happy about. There were scheduled times that each character would be available for pictures and autographs, so there was plenty of it available for those who wanted it, but they weren’t all up in our vajay-jay the whole time.
Here’s an overview of how things went for us:
Disney directs guests into different check-in areas based on what “club level” traveler you are. This was our first Disney Cruise, so we were considered “Silver Castaway Club Members,” so our line was the longest.
If you’ve ever cruised before, you know that embarkation is worse than colonoscopy prep, but - even though the lines were intimidatingly long, they moved pretty fast once we were allowed to start boarding.
Once on-board, they announced our name as we walked under a huge chandelier in the main lobby: “Welcome aboard, Braziel family!” and a bunch of crew members and other guests clapped and whooped like we were the freakin' Travolta family.
We went straight to our room and let our youngest change into his swimsuit. The restaurants were already open, too, so we grabbed a snack and some beer and hung out by the pool until it was time for the “Sail Away Deck Party.”
The party was super fun - characters milled around, music blasted from speakers throughout the ship, and we grabbed us some fancy cocktails and watched the ship pull away from Barcelona.
We had a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom, which gave us a pretty big porthole window view, a queen-size bed for me and Mark, and then two pull-down bunks for the boys. It was actually plenty roomy for all four of us.
We were in room 2524, which is on Deck 2, just above the Tender Lobby (this is where you get on and off the ship when you’re at port) and just below Sea Treasures, a small duty free shop.
The location of our room was perfect - near the front of the ship, close enough to elevators to be convenient, but not so close that we were disturbed.
The only "disturbing noise," were the sounds of the gangway being lowered at the Tender Lobby on the mornings that we docked on the starboard (right) side, which is the side where our room was located. The noises didn't bother us because we were up early each day, anyway, especially on days at port.
The ship is fairly small - only 875 rooms with a capacity of 2,700 guests and 950 crew. (That’s about 2.8 guests for every crew member, by the way, which is why you can’t go wrong with Disney. We sat at a poolside table playing cards and saw crew members going into the bathroom to clean about every five minutes. My kinda bathroom.)
There are a handful of casual dining places that you can go to at your convenience, for the most part, and then there are four main restaurants for the evening meal, for which you have a designated time.
Like most other cruises, you choose from an early seating or a late seating, and then you go to the restaurant at that time and you're seated at a table with just your party.
While you do have an assigned wait staff for the duration of the cruise, you rotate restaurants each evening and they move the tables around (just slightly, so you’re in the general vicinity each time you’re at that restaurant, but the tables aren't set up right next to the same people each time, which I liked because after a full day of taking in new sites and all the social exposure for my delicate little nerves, I wasn’t always interested in chatting it up with people at dinner time.)
The meals on this ship - ohmygosh, I can’t possibly do them justice - every night was a different delicious four-course delicacy cooked to perfection.
Even the steaks were incredible, and this Texas girl knows her freakin’ steak.
Supposedly the Magic is Disney Cruise Line’s oldest ship, but they’ve done a great job keeping it updated. I liked that it’s small, as far as ships go, so it’s easy to navigate, even for our 10-year-old.
Actually, strike that last part. He got lost about 47 times.
I’m not sure how this child is so oblivious that he can’t find his way out of a sack, and yet he can detect when I’ve changed things up and dressed his sandwich with low sodium ham.
We didn’t have to worry, though, because he was wearing a tracker device that looks like a kid’s watch, that they have littles wear so they can help track them down if they go missing.
The ship is decorated in old-style art deco, so it has a fancy Great Gatsby-era feel, and there are plenty of adults-only areas on the ship. There’s an adults-only pool and hot tub, of course, but there’s also a large deck area - the entire forward deck of the ship on Deck 8, in fact, that is quiet and kid-free. And then, of course, a handful of bars.
There’s as much or as little Disney as you want. You can set up character breakfasts and character meet-ups, you can watch Disney movies at the theater or in your stateroom, and you can go to any of the magic shows or other performances - some geared toward kids and some toward adults.
Or you can avoid all that kind of hubbub and hang out on a deck chair with a book.
There’s a sports deck on the top level of the ship with ping pong tables, air hockey, and a few basketball courts.
On other decks, there’s shuffleboard, pools and hot tubs, of course, a track that kids and adults can enjoy, and there’s a long list of other on-board activities each day, like Minute to Win It, Family Feud, bingo, and more that I can’t think of right now.
Oh! There are classes and tastings, too - like a whiskey tasting or wine tasting. Mark and our oldest did a class called Mixology, which was a cocktail-making class.
By the way, the drinking age on the ship is 21, but since we were traveling in countries where the legal age is 18, we were able to sign a consent form allowing him to drink alcohol in our presence. Here’s the info on that.
Also - something fun that you want to be prepared for ahead of time: Pirate Night. Each cruise has one pirate themed night, where the guests dress up in costumes as elaborate (or not) as you want.
A crew member leaves a pirate bandana in your room the afternoon of the party, just in case you didn’t bring an extra bag filled with pirate wear (like me), and you can always buy a full pirate get-up at the on-board store, too, for a pretty penny.
I made matching t-shirts for my crew, using this template. I had my friend make me a stencil with her Cameo Silhouette and then painted the design on white cotton t-shirts with fabric paint.
If I had to do it over again, I would use the Cameo Sillhouette to cut the design out of iron-on vinyl instead of painting it on because (1) it would have been a lot faster (I made these the day before we left); and (2) they would have looked more polished, with crisper edges than what is possible with paint.
You're supposed to dress up in your garb before dinner, and then after the late dinner seating, there’s a fireworks show on the upper deck. Super fun, matey. (ah, c’monnn)
Disney organizes excursions with third party vendors that you can book ahead of time, but I had a hard time finding any that worked out time-wise. For example, the meet-up time for a day-long tour might be 8am, but we wouldn’t be able to debark the ship until 9am.
One of the best newsletter subscriptions I’ve ever signed up for is Mouse Savers because they share discounts, secret promo codes, and travel tips for all sorts of Disney vacations. This blog article of theirs put me onto the idea of booking excursions with the vendors themselves, or through another company, specifically Viator, which is who we used for all of our excursions.
Their prices were better, the meet-up and drop-off times were more flexible and accommodating, and there were a lot more options available than those offered through Disney.
We didn’t book an excursion for each port, because we didn’t want to be committed at each and every stop. We knew there were a few ports that we’d want to explore on our own.
But there were a few places that were important that we spend the moolah on a good, solid tour. If you get a one-day shot at Pompeii, you better get to see Pompeii, amiright??
We paid gratuities along with our booking because I didn’t want to have any additional big expenses on top of what I already knew we’d have once the trip was underway. I wanted as much of the expense to be taken care of ahead of time as possible.
The way this worked was, we were handed three or four envelopes the last night of our trip. Each envelope contained a slip of paper that had the gratuity amount for that crew member printed on it. We could change any of the amounts we wanted to - up or down - and they adjusted our credit card with those changes.
Here are the links to resources I found most helpful in planning our trip
Also, if you didn't read my last post, check it out here. I tell you all about these things called Fish Extenders, which you're going to need to become emotionally prepared for. Here's another place to get the scoop, too.
That's the low-down on the shippy part of the cruise, but I'm dying to tell you about our experiences at each of the ports we visited!
Our first port of call: Villefranche - or you may be more familiar with the names Monaco and Monte Carlo? Yah. We went there. **I cannot believe my life!**