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Sailing with Special Needs - A Guest Review of the Disney Magic

Our client, Diana Lee and her family had an amazing experience recently aboard the Disney Magic cruise ship. She was kind enough to share her experiences and advice for our readers:

Summer comes, and everyone hits the shore; Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach, or Virginia Beach. Come winter, kids go snow tubing down the big hills in the neighborhood, and wonderful ski trips are planned.

But for our family, it's different. My daughter is ventilator dependent, cannot sit up, and is pushed around in a wheelchair weighed down by various life-saving medical equipment.

A Vacation of a lifetime aboard the Disney Magic!
What does this mean? It means that my bright-minded, but physically disabled, child cannot do anything that normal kids do, despite her ever whirling mind. Wherever we go, we don’t fit or are in the way, and feel like an intrusion. With so many medical needs, we are often quite tired by the end of the day, and always have to tag team when trying to allow our other children to do fun things.

One day, while talking about vacations, and how much work it takes to go through a normal day, it dawned on us that we needed to find a vacation that is all-inclusive at the location we are staying. Then, a lightbulb went on… how about a Disney Cruise!?

When we chatted about it some more, we realized this would be the best way to celebrate our daughter’s miracle 10th year. We booked with a dear friend who is a Travel Agent. She was very sensitive and aware that I would be asking a million questions, and tried her best to answer every single question. She also gave me a phone number for the special needs line with Disney, which was an essential phone call to make. Actually, it was several phone calls, and everything we discussed was documented, so the Disney team would be prepared. They sent us extra luggage labels because they knew we would have a ton of stuff. When the time finally came for us to show up at the port of call, after our very long drive pulling a trailer with all of our daughter’s equipment, backup equipment, supplies and all the normal stuff a family would pack, we showed up at the port of call like we were moving out of the country.

The staff were very efficient gathering up all of our luggage and getting it on the conveyor belts to load onto the cruise ship. We were advised before hand in our Disney Cruise manual, to keep with us whatever we would need for several hours. We had to go get cash to tip the loaders. Very important to do that! From the moment we boarded the Magic, the feelings of not fitting in or being in the way all melted away. We were greeted very enthusiastically and welcomed onto a beautiful ship and were treated very kindly from that moment and every moment thereafter, until we got off the ship.

Due to my daughter’s wheelchair, we had to stay in a handicap accessible suite, which meant we had concierge support and services. When we rolled up to our room, all we had to do was flash our room key, and the door opened on its own! This might seem like no big deal, but that was a feature that I will never forget. It just brightened our day, because wrestling with doors is our everyday specialty, everywhere we go.

Concierge Food and Drink Station
With the concierge support, we could make reservations and requests without having to stand in the regular customer service line. If we wanted to make a massage appointment, concierge made it work to fit our schedule, because we had to work around our daughter’s schedule. When we were hungry or wanted a quiet place to take a break in the middle of the day, we could go to the concierge lounge and enjoy free drinks and appetizers. It was absolutely lovely!

One big plus of going on a Disney cruise was the fabulous shows that we had heard about. Because our daughter cannot participate in any physical activity, watching shows is what she can do, and we can enjoy as a family. Well, the Disney shows do not disappoint! Each and every one of the shows were amazing! They got better and better each night. We were allowed into shows early, through a side entrance, so that we could sit right in the front. That is probably the highlight of the trip for our family.

Concierge Indoor and Outdoor Seating Area

For my husband, who has multiple food allergies, another highlight was probably the incredible meals the Disney staff made for him, three times a day. That was probably my next favorite highlight. Not having to worry about his multiple food allergies was a huge task taken off my plate. His allergies are often mishandled when we go out, and the suggestions are usually a plain salad and a plain steak. If we wanted a plain steak or salad, we could just stay home. Everywhere we went on the cruise was eye candy to the max. There was always something going on that made rolling through the cruise ship fun and interesting. From Disney characters to the beautiful Christmas tree and Gingerbread house, there was always something to see.

One of the most important concerns we had was about the room we stayed in. We were so worried we wouldn’t be able to fit. We are a family of five, with a wheelchair that reclines, so it’s similar to pushing around a slender shopping cart. We showed up with all of our regular suitcase luggage plus several extra large Rubbermaid bins full of supplies and equipment. Not only did we fit, we were able to set up a 6 ft. folding table in our room, to help us do all of my daughter’s care at a more reasonable height for our backs. We had a spacious bedroom with a queen size bed, had a pack and play set up by the staff in our bedroom, and our two daughters slept on the queen size pull out couch in the living room. The accessible bathroom was the largest accessible bathroom that I have ever seen when traveling, and this was on a cruise ship!

We were able to borrow extra extension cords, though I would recommend bringing your own three pronged power cords, because the extension cords they have are all two pronged. The icing on the cake for our room was our very own very large private verandah! We were able to push my daughter out onto the deck, and pick her up so she could see the dolphins that we spotted, with the ocean breeze blowing in her hair. That was one memorable moment for this Mama.

Disney's Private Island, Castaway Cay
When we got to Castaway Cay, we went straight to our reserved cabana, which was recommended as an add-on to our reservation. It was completely worth it! We were able to rest under the shade and have some privacy, with cold drinks, snacks and clean towels all ready for us. It was another memorable moment for us because beach experiences are usually very tiring and quite taxing. Truly, beach experiences are almost impossible and not usually enjoyable. This experience was none of that, and something we would love to do again.

When the day came to get off the Magic, concierge met us and led us past the bulk of the crowd, so that we could avoid any medical complications while waiting in the long lines. Disney made our family feel welcome and cared for, in every way possible. Disney has set the bar so high, we know that if we go on another vacation, this is what we would choose.

- The Lee Family

If you are ready to book your Disney Cruise Line vacation, and need assistance planning for a guest with accomodations, please contact us at Vacations@KingdomKonsultant.com

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