Little Kids: 3-6 • Big Kids: 7-9 • Tweens: 10-12 • Teens: 13-17

Disney Magic Cruises for Families

The first of Disney Cruise Line’s ships to set sail, the Disney Magic made its debut back in 1999 and set the precedent for kid-friendly cruises, catering in particular to families with young children. And while little ones will love seeing their favorite Disney characters in person and on stage, this ship isn’t just about kids. “The Magic” aims to impress mom and dad, too.

October 2013 marked the completion of a major ship-wide overhaul that included, among other things, several new spaces and re-imagined areas, like the addition of Marvel’s Avenger’s Academy, which made Disney Magic the first and only Disney ship to partner with Marvel Worldwide, Inc., along with a makeover of the ship’s grand atrium lobby, new restaurants, more adult nightlife entertainment and a new children’s nursery.

The ship looks like an old ocean liner from the 1920’s, with its navy blue and white hull and bright red funnel. Once onboard, guests are awestricken by the grand atrium lobby, which features a spacious and elegant triple-decker design, classic custom carpeting, blue and aquamarine seashell-inspired patterns and a grand piano and breathtaking chandelier. It also offers all the modern conveniences one would expect, complete top-notch restaurants and kids’ clubs for all ages.

Disney’s outstanding children’s programming outshines all other cruise lines, and is what draws families to use this line again and again. We love that over the years, Disney has added more spaces for the older set, including ‘tween and ‘teen clubs, so that there is something for the whole family to enjoy. All of the kids’ clubs are educational and visually inspiring, with counselors who are truly extraordinary. Add an adults-only restaurant, pool and bars, and mom and dad are guaranteed a restful repose. The options for outdoor sports and recreation on this ship aren’t as impressive as some other lines, so if you have kids who are looking to rock climb or surf, this probably isn’t your ship.

The Magic sails Eastern Caribbean (St. Thomas, St. John, St. Maarten) and Western Caribbean (Key West, Cozumel) itineraries, both of which also stop in Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. The Magic also does a trans-Atlantic crossing and sails Mediterranean itineraries during the summer months, with stops in call in Barcelona, Cannes, Rome, La Spezia, Naples, Palma, Mallorca, and Villefranche, France (Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice).

Disney Magic Staterooms
We never spend much time in our cabins, but when we do, we appreciate that we aren’t sitting in each others’ laps on Disney’s ships. Inside cabins on the Magic start at 184 square feet, and sleep three or four. They come with a double bed and ample of room for storage. Standard outside cabins start at 214 square feet, and those with verandahs start at 268 square feet. Verandah cabins have two chairs and a small table, deck lights, railings covered in plexiglass and childproof locks. Perfect for families of four to five, Family Verandah Cabins have 299 square feet, a queen-size bed, a single convertible sofa, and both wall pull-down and berth pull-down beds.

All Magic’s cabins have a split bathroom concept, which we love. There are two separate (small) bathrooms, one of which has the shower and tub, and the other has the toilet. Both have a vanity. All staterooms also have a couch, desk, chair and privacy curtain, along with a hair dryer, bath products and an in-room safe. All are tastefully decorated with a nautical theme, with charming touches like globe-shaped lamps, and maps on the bedspreads.

I’ve never thought it was worth the extra money for concierge access on a cruise ship (in a hotel, sure, but not on a cruise), mainly because food and beverages are already free, and there are adults-only spaces if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you want access to a private lounge, there are one- and two-bedroom Concierge Suites. Stay in either and you’ll receive access to a small lounge with a sun deck and some chairs, as well as free food and drinks in the private lounge. One-bedroom suites start at 614 square feet and have a queen bed, living area with double convertible sofa, two bathrooms, walk-in closet, and wet bar. Two-bedroom suites give you a whopping 945 square feet, and sleep up to seven. In addition to the two bedrooms, there’s a big living room with a convertible sofa, 2.5 bathrooms (including one whirlpool tub) a walk-in closets, and a wet bar.

The Magic has a 1,029-square-foot Royal Suite that sleeps seven, which comes with a kitchenette, 2.5 baths, a dining room, media library and walk-in closets.

Disney Magic Dining
All of the Disney Magic’s main dining restaurants, Animator’s Palate, Lumiere’s, Carioca’s and Cabanas are kid-friendly, with good food and excellent service. You’ll find the popular Animator’s Palate on all of Disney’s ships. No expense was spared in its design: The walls are covered in animations and sketches with characters from classic Disney movies, which during the course of your meal come to life and transform into color as you look on. At the end of the meal, the waiters join a character or two in a procession around the room, where kids can high-five and cheer them on from their seats.

Disney’s ships all operate under a Rotational Dining system, so you’ll experience a new restaurant each night as you rotate through each, while the same server follows you. There are two adults-only dining options, including the all-new French Remy, which is cozy and romantic, and Palo, which serves Northern Italian cuisine and has amazing ocean views.

Lumiere’s
The art deco, French-inspired Lumiere’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is the most formal of the ships main dining restaurants. Perhaps as a result, it was our kids’ least favorite — though my husband and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Animator’s Palate
One of the main and most popular restaurants on all of Disney’s cruise ships, Animator’s Palate has recently received a facelift that includes all-new, animation-adorned walls and larger high-definition flat-screen TV’s that help families enjoy what this restaurant is known and loved for — animation magic. The dinner show allows guests a firsthand look into how everyone’s favorite cartoon characters came to life; from pencil tests, to paint and ink, and even storytelling.

Carioca’s
Named after Donald Duck’s Parrot in “The Three Caballeros,” this family-friendly, Brazilian-inspired restaurant is visually and gustatorily appealing, with beautiful softly lit lanterns and elegant decor, reminiscent of a day in Rio de Janeiro. Located on Deck 3, Aft., the restaurant serves traditional breakfast and lunch fare, but switches to South American fusion for dinner.

Cabanas
Another new addition to Disney’s Magic, this casual dining experience, set in the Australian haven of Disney-Pixar’s famous children’s classic, “Finding Nemo,” will surely be a kid favorite. The restaurant’s decor includes a plethora references to everyone’s favorite clown fish and all his finned and feathered friends. Cabanas replaced Topside Buffet, and includes an additional 3,400 square feet of indoor seating space.

Daisy’s De-Lites
Daisy’s De-Lites is one of the ship’s outdoor Quick-Service dining stations, located on Deck 9., Aft, right next to the AquaLab pool area. It serves breakfast and lunch, along with delicious early evening snacks. Parents love the delightfully healthy fare that includes fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches and wraps — with items like cookies for dessert!

Pete’s Boiler Bites
Another of the ship’s outdoor Quick-Service stations, Pete’s Boiler Bites serves classic American fare for lunch and dinner, as well as for between-meal snacks. Also located on Deck 9, Aft, next to AquaLab, menu items include classic hamburgers and hotdogs, along with veggie burgers, tacos and chicken tenders.

Eye Scream and Frozone Treats
Kids need a healthy cool-down, or just hankering for some good old-fashioned ice cream? Head on over to Eye Scream and Frozone, located near Goofy’s Pool on Deck 9. Each of these delectable frozen treat spots offer soft-serve ice cream and refreshing frozen fruit smoothies.

Pinocchio’s Pizzeria
The ship’s last Quick-Service station, also located on Deck 9, next to Goofy’s Pool, will satisfy your kids’ cravings for some gooey, cheesy and delicious pizza. Lunch at Pinocchio’s Pizzeria is served from 10:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and although they are subject to change, pizza styles include Hawaiian, vegetarian, pepperoni and cheese. Late-night snacks feature the same menu items, and are served from 9:30 p.m. to midnight on select dates.

Palo
There is one restaurant onboard that’s for adults only, Palo, and it’s by far our favorite. The food is outstanding. You’ll find a Northern Italian/Mediterranean menu with items like lobster and mascarpone ravioli, Osso Buco di Vitello and sea scallops with beans and pancetta. There’s also a selection of freshly made pizza. Palo also does an amazing brunch with meats and cheeses, seafood and salads, as well as a selection of hot made-to-order items. The cover is $20 for each.

Room service is available 24 hours a day, and there are plenty of kid-friendly options to choose from.

Disney Magic Activities
Disney Characters
The characters and the kids’ clubs are our two favorite things about a Disney cruise. Getting up close and personal with the characters is much easier than it is at the parks, where you pay big bucks, and often travel far, for character dining. There are free character greetings throughout your cruise, but even if you miss them, you can count on seeing them often around the ship and in the nightly shows.

It’s a Small World Nursery
For the youngest cruisers onboard, parents will love the new It’s a Small World, where children ages 3 months to 3 years interact with trained counselors in a world of fairy tale fun and discovery. The nursery’s three distinct areas include the acclimation zone, designed to help children adjust to the room, as well as a separate room for naps and a main play area with a soft-surface floor, kid-sized tables and plenty of crafts, books and games to enjoy. The nursery charges a fee of $6 per hour for the first child, and $5 per hour for a second child in the same family.

Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab
Open to potty-trained kids ages 3 to 12, Oceaneers are wonderful, interactive spaces that will keep the kids entertained for hours. The Club’s activities are geared toward the younger set, and kids can play dress up, dance, climb and slide, play board games, watch movies, make arts and crafts and hang out in Mickey Mouse’s club. Characters often pop in for appearances and activities, too.

Aside from interacting with all their favorite Disney and Disney-Pixar characters in places like Andy’s Room and Pixie Hollow, your children may also be transported to a realm filled with all their favorite Marvel crime fighters! With the brand new Marvel’s Avengers Academy, your family’s youngest future crime fighter will have access to a high-tech command post, used in operations training and special missions by The Avengers, themselves. On-base, kids are welcome to check out some of The Avengers most important equipment, including things like Iron Man’s suit of armor, Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s famous red, white and blue shield.

The Edge
A separate space for ‘tweens ages 11 to 14, The Edge is made to look the ship’s bridge and kids can pretend to navigate on a computer simulator. There are also couches for chilling out and watching movies, computers, video games and karaoke.

Vibe
For ages 14 to 17 there’s a teen club called Vibe, which rivals Oceaneers for the coolest kid-friendly space onboard. There’s a comfortable loungey atmosphere with futons and couches, where teens can mingle, as well as the requisite computers, flat-screen TV’s and video games, along with a dance floor. There’s also a small bar that serves sodas and smoothies.

D Lounge
A new addition to Disney Magic, this family-friendly game lounge includes activities, dances and shows designed to keep every member of the family entertained. The decor is modern, vibrant and colorful, helping to encourage creative and high-energy fun.

Pools
Deck 9 is the hub of all pool-related activities, so plan on spending plenty of time there. There are three pools onboard, two for kids and one for adults only. The new AquaLab is an 1,800-square-foot splashtacular playground, open to kids age 3 and older and filled with pop jets, geysers and bubblers, along with the Twist’ n’ Spout water slide.

Kids will also love AquaDunk, a three-story body slide that sends kids whizzing and whirling through a translucent tube that extends over 20 feet out past the edge of the ship. The water slide can only be accessed by a trapdoor, located at the top!

Goofy’s Pool, also on Deck 9, was recently redesigned to offer parents a relaxing experience without losing full-view of their children. And with two whirlpool spas, relaxation is easy. The pool is appropriate for kids who can swim on their own. It’s four feet deep and overlooks a huge 24-foot LED screen, called Funnel Vision, which is mounted on the ship’s funnel. The screen runs Disney movies and shows throughout the day.

All the swimming pools on Disney ships are heated when the water temperature drops below 75 degrees.

The Magic’s adults-only Cove pool is separated from the family pools by a partition and is a small, serene space for mom and dad to hang out. The pool is four feet deep and surrounded by loungers, but it’s small — the two hot tubs are much more popular.

Walt Disney Theater
All of Disney’s ships have amazing Broadway-style family shows twice each night. The Walt Disney Theater hosts family shows including the “Disney Dreams,” “Villains Tonight,” and “Twice Charmed,” all of which have amazing sets and costumes that will impress even non-Disney fans. We love that the shows only run about an hour, perfect for short attention spans. There’s also a second theater onboard, the Buena Vista, where you can see first-run movies and digital 3D films.

Port Adventures
Most ships call them Shore Excursions, but for Disney they are Port Adventures. The Disney Magic calls in some pretty spectacular ports of call, all of which are worthy of a visit for the whole family. If you choose to book a shore excursion through Disney, you’ll find many geared toward young children; these folks know little legs can’t handle four-hour walking tours. Disney makes these experiences unique, and some even include visits from characters on shore. In the Caribbean, you can visit eco parks, learn to parasail or SCUBA dive, or in Key West, take part in a Presidents, Pirates and Pioneers adventure. If you’re heading to Europe, in Barcelona you can go on a tour of the largest aquarium in Europe, or in Italy, take the kids on a drive down the Amalfi Coast (where you’ll pass Mt. Vesuvius) and stop in Sorrento for a hands-on pizza-making lesson.

Disney Magic Travel Tips
All About the Extras
Once during your cruise, there will be a Pirates of the Caribbean deck party with dancing and fireworks, which is always one of the most popular nights onboard. You’ll find pirate handkerchiefs in your cabin to wear, and if you’re so inclined, much more elaborate costumes are for sale in the gift shops. Or, bring your own! You’ll see some amazing getups on both kid and parents.

There is a sports deck, which has basketball courts, a running track, pingpong tables and shuffleboard. There’s no mini-golf like on the newer ships, but the views are amazing. There aren’t many areas in which entertainment is lacking on a Disney cruise, but we’d like to see more options for outdoor sports and recreation. There’s a small arcade with video games, pinball and air hockey, great for rainy days at sea.

For Mom and Dad
Definitely take advantage of the great kids’ clubs and spend at least a few hours at the Vista Spa. You can choose from massages, facials and aromatherapy, as well as salon services like and manicures and pedicures, haircuts, blowouts and barber services. When you book any treatment, you’ll also get free use of sauna and steam rooms.

Guests 18 and older can use the quiet Cove Pool, which is secluded from the family pools and separated by a partition. While somewhat small and uninspired, it is quiet, and there a no kids. There’s a four-foot plunge pool and a six-inch sunbathing pool with built-in loungers and a mister.

After Hours is a happening spot for grownups to mingle in the evening. This 18-and-up area has several bars and lounges, including the sports bar Diversions, the Sessions piano bar, and Rockin’ Bar D where you can listen to live music or sing karaoke.

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