Thursday, May 11, 2017

Disney Cruise Line: the Good, The Bad and The Awesome!


Hey-Howdy-Hey, Disney Fans!!!

     So are we ready to talk about my favorite subject ever???? I'm talking about DISNEY CRUISES!!! Yes, you have heard plenty from me about them before, but since I just returned from a 7 Night Southern Caribbean Cruise on the Disney Magic, I have a whole lot more to share! (Looking for my previous DCL-related posts? Click the links below):

Palo Brunch or Dinner?
Picking a Stateroom
3 Things to Pack That You May Not Have Thought Of
Getting Ready for a Disney Cruise
5 Ways to Have the BEST Disney Cruise EVER
First or Second Seating?

     This week, I want to talk about the changes that I saw onboard the Magic, (most of which apply to all ships, in general, some to the "classic" ships only, meaning The Magic and The Wonder). What I liked, what I didn't like and what I loved! As I have told you before, pre-kids, The Hubs and I cruised really frequently, but since adopting our little sailors, we haven't been able to spend as much time at sea as we would like. (Probably has something to do with the money-draining that kids tend to bring into our lives.) Our last cruise was in 2013, and our last cruise on The Magic, specifically, was in 2009. This gave me a great opportunity to compare cruising let's say 5 years ago, to cruising now. (So, no, not all of the "changes" I am talking about are super recent, but they were new to me.) Hopefully, this will help those of you who have cruised in the past know about some of the changes you can expect for your next cruise, and for those of you that are new to DCL, it will help you be even better prepared and more excited for your future sailings.

     So, let's get into it, shall we???

The Positive Changes

+ Let's start with the important stuff... the nightly turn-down chocolates that are left on your bed on all of the ships have been switched over from Disney chocolate to Ghiradelli chocolates! Yum!

+ Replacing the old Topsiders Buffet, (Beach Blanket Buffet on The Wonder), with Cabanas has helped improve the flow of the buffet, making lines a bit shorter, and making it easier to find a table to sit at. It's still not as nicely set up as Cabanas on The Dream and The Fantasy, but much better than it was.

+ The shawarma stand that was added next to the kid's pool area is a nice alternative from the burgers and fries of Pete's Boiler Bites. (This is available on The Magic ONLY, from what I have been told.)

+ On embarkation day, buffet lunch was still offered on Deck 9, as usual, but in a new-to-me twist, full service lunch was offered in Carioca's. This was a nice, much more quiet way to enjoy our first meal onboard. I almost always prefer the full-service lunches to the buffets anyway.



+ Speaking of Carioca's, both The Magic and The Wonder replaced the old Parrot Cay. The Magic now has Carioca's, which has a South American theme to it, and The Wonder has Tiana's Place, which has a New Orleans theme.

+ When Animator's Palate was updated on the classic ships, they added in the new interactive show, Animation Magic. This show allows Guests to draw their own animated character, and have them come to life on the screens around the restaurant. It was really cool to see!




+ Around the pools, the deck chairs have been switched from the old sun-bed loungers, to an Adirondack-style chair. This is nice because more chairs now fit around the deck, making it easier to find a place to sit. And if you prefer the sun-bed ones, don't worry, there are still some available on Deck 11.

+ My kids LOVED the addition of the Aqualab splash pad area next to the kid's pool. It gave them a chance to do something that didn't feel as crowded when the pool was full. And if you have toddlers, there's even a special, smaller area, just for them, so they don't get bumped around by the bigger kids. (Aqualab is on the Magic, Wonder and Fantasy. The Dream has Nemo's Reef only.)




+ My 8 year old was super happy that the Twist 'N' Spout slide at the kid's pool is bigger, taller and twistier than the previous Mickey slide.


+ The Aqua Dunk is pretty amazing. I mean, I don't know personally, because I'm a big chicken, but my 8 year old daughter said it was awesome. Yeah. Dropping off the side of the ship in a plastic tube seems like a LOT of fun to me..... no. But I'm sure many of you thrill-seekers would love it.


+ The Oceaneer's Club switched from the clunky digital tracker wrist bands that they used to have, the the more sleek and comfortable Magic Bands that we all know from the theme parks. Much easier for the kids to keep them on for the whole sailing.

+ The new lobby design has made the lobby more spacious, since there is only one staircase.


+ I loved the new booth seating that was added on Deck 4, off of the lobby. I often saw Guests there playing cards, writing post cards, etc.


+ All of the ships have introduced some ticketed character meet and greets. This makes it so that there are a limited number of families that are allowed into a meet and greet area at one time, helping you to not waste time standing in line. Now, this is not how MOST character meet and greets are done, most are just free-standing in the lobby or deck areas. These ticketed events are for the more exclusive events like meeting Anna and Elsa. Tickets are free of charge, they just need to be booked in advance, through the DCL website, or over the phone.


Disney Junior characters Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins and Jake of Jake and the Neverland Pirates are now appearing onboard the ships, delighting the toddler set.


+ And for the bigger kids, some of the Marvel superheroes are now onboard for meet and greets as well. We met Thor, Captain America and Spiderman!




+ Tangled: The Musical is spectacular! All of the ships now have their own Disney musicals, (Beauty and the Beast on The Dream, Frozen on The Wonder and Aladdin on The Fantasy), and they are awesome! O'Gills even gets in on the Tangled action, with a Snuggly Duckling takeover!


+ The staterooms on the ships have upgraded bedding and towels, which makes a HUGE difference. If your last cruise was quite a while back, you probably remember sort of rough sheets and tiny, thin towels. The upgrades have made a BIG difference!



+ The whole nightclub area on the classic ships got a re-do a while back, replacing the more cheesy Beat Street/Route 66 theming with a more classy and modern look in After Hours. They each still have a main dance club, (Fathoms on The Magic and Azure on The Wonder) and a piano bar, (Keys on The Magic and Cadillac Lounge on The Wonder), but the third club has switched from the sport's club theming to an Irish pub theme. (O'Gills on The Magic and Crown & Fin on The Wonder)








+ The Promenade Lounge now has a small toddler play area, filled with foam blocks and toys, off to the side where the internet cafe area was. This is nice because it gives parents the chance to let the little ones play before dinner, while the older kids and adults tear up the dance floor. Not sure if this is exclusive to The Magic or not.

+ The Oceaneer's Club and Lab got revamped on the classic ships and they are so much cooler now! My little guy's favorite room was the Toy Story-themed Andy's Room, which my daughter loved the Animator's Studio. So many cool areas to play in!










+ The new hand-sanitizing system in the Oceaneer's Club is SO cool! My kids loved washing their hands! Just put your hands in, and warm sanitizing spray whips around your hands, leaving you clean and germ-free.



+ The biggest and best improvement that I enjoyed was the addition of the Navigator App for smartphones. This app is available for all ships and all sailings. All you have to do is download it onto your phone! Before your cruise, the app will give you a countdown clock, then once you board the ship, it's full functionality will begin. The app features ship info, operating hours for the various locations onboard, dining room menus, ship maps, and best of all, the daily Navigator! For those of you who may not know, the Navigator is like your onboard schedule. It's a listing of all activities, movies, character meet and greets and more. You used to just get a printed version that you had to carry around, but now, the app gives you all of the same information, anytime you have your device with you. And what's really cool is that you can pick favorites and set reminders, so that you don't miss out on that photo op with Captain Jack Sparrow because you were enjoying that steel drum music and margarita by the pool a little too much. Oh, and the other thing the app does? It has a chat function, which utilized the ship's wifi service, without charging you. This way, you can keep in touch with your whole party, without having to carry around that clunky wave phone. Plus, BONUS! There are awesome Disney emojis to use too! Now, I will say, The Hubs thought the app was a BAD addition. He didn't like using it and he found that it made everyone have their phone out all the time, just like on land. One of the things he loves about the cruise is that you disconnect and actually LOOK at people when you talk to them, not a screen. I see his point, but I think he's just being a grumpy old man. "Back in MY day, we used to have to look up towel folding class on a PAPER! And we if we wanted to talk to one another, we had to meet somewhere. Ha-rumpf!" (Sorry, babe. Love you.) I loved the app and used it all the time! Yay, technology! My ONLY complaint is that they need to make it so that the Oceaneer's Club can contact you via the app, eliminating the need for the Wave phone all together. I'm sure they'll get there, but they're not there yet.



The Negative Not So Great Changes (I don't like saying "negative", because truly, NOTHING is "negative" about DCL)

- Again, important things first... They got rid of Sprite Zero on The Magic! This was super disappointing to me, since I don't typically drink dark or caffeinated sodas, not do I drink sugared sodas. (I know, sounds like I am healthy, right? TOTALLY not! I just eat lots of desserts instead.)

- The lobby of The Magic no longer has it's iconic Chihuly glass chandelier. They swapped it out for a sparkly, crystal trio of chandeliers. They are pretty, but not nearly as impressive as the original lighting fixture.

- There was a big change to Pirate Night, which it's my understanding all of the ships have been doing. In the past, the Pirate Night deck party, show and fireworks were after the second dinner seating, around 9:30pm. This meant that Guests in the second dinner seating would be rushed through dinner a bit, and the show was a little late for the younger kids. To fix this issue, they have moved the Pirate Night festivities to between the two dinner times, around 7:15pm. Yes, it did mean that more people were able to attend, HOWEVER, it meant that they eliminated the late night buffet on deck, and that the showing of "Pirates of the Caribbean" on the Funnel Vision was during second seating dinner. My daughter had really been looking forward to watching it in her pj's up on deck, after dinner.





- I noticed, (hopefully my kids didn't), a lot of recycling of Cast Members from the entertainment department, meaning that the girl who was the Fairy Godmother in the show last night is a character greeter for Minnie today, and then appears as Elsa tomorrow, or something similar. I understand that this is somewhat necessary, since there is a limited number of people in the entertainment department, however, it seems like it could be done a bit more carefully. We actually avoided meeting princesses face to face, because I knew my daughter would realize they were the same people she interacted with in line for Mickey the day before, and since she still believes in the magic of the characters right now, why ruin it?

- Personally, I was disappointed that The Golden Mickeys were gone, and that Twice Charmed remained. I'm not a huge fan of that show, though I know there's plenty of people that love it. (And I do have to say, this cast was better than any I have ever seen.) I still miss Hercules: The Museical. That show was the BEST!



- Oh, and there was a whole Frozen/Let It Go section added to Disney Dreams, thrilling pretty much every young girl in the audience.

- This one has been a change for quite a while now, but still worth mentioning. I remember when they used to do a mini-sail away party every time you left a port. There'd be a few members of the Cruise Staff, plus the house band and/or DJ up on Deck 9 and there'd be music and dancing. They discontinued that practice, which is such a disappointment, not to mention, no longer have a house band. Though there is still some live music onboard, the amount has been cut down over time.

-  It's not a change, but I feel that it needs to be mentioned. When the heck are they going to swap out the horribly uncomfortable movie seats in the Buena Vista Theater? The Hubs is 6'4" and there's not a prayer his legs will accordion under him enough to make seating in the theater comfortable. Not to mention, if you're at all "hippy", the narrow seats are going to give you a good squeeze. I hope this gets addressed in the next dry dock!

- A while back, if you wanted to attend the character breakfast, (7 night sailings and longer), you were simply be assigned a date and time, based on your dinner seating. Your servers would accompany you, just like at dinner, and Mickey and the gang would visit, in tropical attire, in a relaxed manner. It was a nice way to get in seeing all of the Fab Five, without standing in line. Now, if you want to attend the breakfast, you have to get tickets by either signing up before the cruise through the website, or by hoping they still have availability at Guest Services when you board. Your date and time are whatever you are able to obtain tickets for. This is nice, since you have a little more control over when your meal is, but you're still at the mercy of available tickets. The breakfast on The Magic is now with Sofia the First, Mickey and Goofy. It's called the "Disney Junior" breakfast, but there's really only one uniquely Disney Junior character there, which is strange, since both Jake and Doc are on the ship as well. The breakfast was extremely rushed, with greeters coming to our table to warn us of the incoming character and tell us to be ready. We only got about 2 minutes with each character. The food also happened to be soggy, cold and unappealing and that's the only time that occurred on the whole cruise. Perhaps they prepare the limited menu in advance and it sits more? Either way, we will not bother attending next time we sail.



- Can we just talk about this Royal Tea????  The last time we sailed, in 2013, the princess tea was included as a complimentary offering. All we had to do was obtain tickets and we were able to attend tea with five princesses, along with Minnie and Daisy. We were served tea, apple juice and sweet treats, while the princesses visited the tables. Very sweet and adorable and a favorite event for my daughter. this is NOT the case anymore. Now we have the Royal Court Royal Tea Party. The event is now a for-purchase event, featuring singing, dancing, games and more. There are two courses served, (one sweet, one savory), along with teas. The event is the whopping price of $210 per child and $69 per adult! Yeah, you read that right. What do you get for this price aside from the tea and the experience? A whole bunch of Disney souvenirs for your kid. (Girls get a jewelry box, a necklace, a bracelet, a Cinderella doll, and autograph book and pen and a tiara. Boys get a cinch bag, a sword and shield, pins, and autograph book and a Duffy the Bear plush.) Still a super steep price tag to me, so we skipped it this time around.


And A Few Changes That Are Both Positive And Negative

+ Hot, heavy life jackets are no longer required to be worn for the muster drill.
- No more iconic cruise photos of your group in giant orange vests.

+ The soft serve ice cream area is mostly now all self-service and rarely had a Cast Member posted at it, so you can get all the ice cream you want, without any judgement.
- Since there's no one supervising, the station is almost always a mess.

+ The main dining room menus haven't changed all that much over the years. In fact, they were remarkably similar on this cruise to what they were years ago. All of your old favorites are probably still there.
- If you cruise frequently and you like variety, you might be disappointed in the lack of new and exciting dishes.




+ The addition of the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique onboard means that your little princes, princesses and pirates can get all made up and look spectacular for their cruise photos.
- The Boutique is by no means inexpensive and if you can't swing the cost, your little ones might be quite jealous when their friends in the Oceaneer's Club tell them all about the awesome experience that they had getting made up. In fact, some of the other girls around my daughter's age actually seemed to look down upon the kids who did not go to the boutique onboard. Kids are mean, man!

+ The Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab seemed to host a lot more "Open House" time than I remember them having in previous sailings. This is great if your kids aren't necessarily into being left at the Club but still want to be able to play in that area. You're able to accompany them during Open House hours. Plus, it gives YOU a chance to play in the Club and there's no parent who wouldn't enjoy that!
- Open House means that whichever side of the Club is hosting, your kids cannot be left unattended in. There's no "secure programming" during Open House. If you kids are little guys, and the Club is the side that's having Open House, the kids will be taken over to the Lab to play. My 4 year old wasn't a fan of the Lab. It was above his head. He just wanted to play in Andy's Room, on the slide, so whenever there was Open House in the Club, we had to take him out.

+ The same top-quality, unbelievable service is still offered by Crew Members onboard EVERY ship!
- Tricked ya. There's NO negative to this! Disney Cruises are AMAZING!!!!!


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     So, there ya have it. My run down of the ups and downs of this most recent cruise. Join me next we, when we delve into the wonderful world of DINING onboard a Disney Cruise! Come back and see tons of pictures of the delectable food offered onboard. Warning! You WILL be drooling!

     Need help planning your own Magical, Wonderous, Dreamy or Fantastic Disney Cruise?? Contact the agents at Kingdom Konsultants Travel TODAY for a quote and itinerary planning assistance! 

     Until next time, kids, have a magical week!!! 


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