Sunday, April 19, 2009

Disney Magic in the Caribbean, Day 1

Join me on board the Disney Magic for a seven day cruise in the Western Caribbean. We'll start at Port Canaveral, Florida and spend time at Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Disney's own private island of adventure, Castaway Cay. Over the next seven days I will review something about the days events, excursions, food or activities, in less than 1000 words.

The Magic Begins - Day 1

Port Canaveral, Florida - From the moment we entered the velvet rope lines at the Orlando International Airport the Disney customer service was in high gear with helpful, happy people. Disney had sent us a booklet with directions for everything. We had a coupon for the 45 minute bus ride from the airport to the Disney exclusive cruise terminal, pre-printed luggage tags with our stateroom and pre authorization forms for purchases on board, everything we needed for a successful cruise vacation.

From the airport we traveled by bus to Terminal 8 in Port Canaveral. We were whisked through security and up the escalator to level two, where there were more people waiting to assist us with pre-boarding. There were no lines. Either we were too early, too late, or the efficiency of Mickey Mouse and company was extraordinary. As it turned out Disney was that efficient. We checked in, had our own personalized Key to the World card made, with a corresponding electronic file and photo. We would not need cash for the next seven days, unless we were in a port and wanted souvenirs or more food. Our Key to the World card is also good to charge specialty drinks, like smoothies or alcohol (not included in the cruise price), buying bingo cards, excursions, tips, and of course merchandise from the on board shops. The card was also our room key and ticket on and off the ship at each port. While you will have to pay extra for the specialty drinks and alcohol, Disney was the first cruise line to offer free sodas, water, coffee and teas 24/7 at a beverage station on deck nine.

After we were announced, in the three-story atrium of the ship, we headed to deck seven and our stateroom. The room is equipped with a bath and a half, one room has a bath and sink and one room a toilet and sink. This is really convenient, particularly in the mornings. I am traveling with two teenage girls and my wife so having the extra sinks is a real time saver. The room has a balcony, queen size bed, a couch that converts to a single bed and a pull down bed from the ceiling.

When we entered the room for the first time we discovered our first towel creature on the bed, a cobra, sitting on the Disney Magic Personal Navigator newletter. This publication is put out each night and will be our road map for activities, location and start times. The first evening was packed with things to do everywhere on the ship. There is no way you could cover all the activities. For the children they have their own activities as do the teenagers.

Before the bon voyage party everyone attends the mandatory boat drill. We joined our fellow passengers wearing our very large bright orange life vests. We also noticed, and were informed later, that the lifeboats on this ship are yellow, not the traditional orange as on other ships. The U.S. Coast Guard had to grant special permission to Disney for this exception. After all the colors of Mickey Mouse are black white and yellow, there is no orange on Mickey.

Following our safety drill we joined the party topside on deck nine with a rocking band, Disney characters and a jumbo screen mid ship. The ship's horns gave a blast followed a few minutes later with the theme sound from "When You Wish Upon a Star" just before the ship began to move. As the ship traveled down the narrow inlet towards the Atlantic the shore was lined with locals and tourists waving to us as though we were the giant float in a parade, it is quite a nice bon voyage.

Our first activity, after the bon voyage was at the nearly 1000 seat Walt Disney Theater for the production "All Aboard! Let the Magic Begin!" This Broadway style show was a preview of the excellent shows scheduled to be performed during our cruise. There were also two comedians at the early show, Freddy Fusion and Jeff Civillico who brought two different styles of entertainment. They will be featured throughout the week.

From the show we went to our late seating dinner at 8:15 pm. I'm not sure this is the best seating and would like to hear from the experienced cruisers on which seating they think is best. I will have an opinion later in the cruise.

Our first dining experience was in the Animator's Palette restaurant. Disney is unique in that it offers rotational dining throughout the cruise. For the first three nights we are scheduled to dine in a different Disney themed restaurant, then repeat the cycle throughout the cruise. During the rotations we keep the same wait staff and table mates. This keeps the dining experience as fresh and different as the menu options. Animator's Palette starts out looking like a black and white movie set, the walls, waiter's vests, and pictures are in black and white. Throughout the meal, with Disney magic, the room and pictures gradually change to color, so by the time dessert rolls around everything is colorful, including the wait staff vests.

With plenty more on the Personal Navigator we call it a night and head to the room to get ready for a day in Key West. Until then....

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