Compared to the other major cruise lines Disney's fleet is considered small with just 4 ships. I personally think Disney was pretty smart with the way they built their fleet. They started out with 2 ships back in the late 90s and waited to see how that went before building more. The next 2 ships came a little more than 10 years later. Now here were about another 10 years after those 2 ships and Disney will be adding a couple more starting with the Wish in 2022.
The First 2 Ships
Disney's first ship was the Disney Magic which set sail on her Maiden voyage on July 30, 1998. Having just been onboard the Magic this month I can say for sure she doesn't look her age at all! Disney does an impeccable job of keeping their ships fresh and new looking all the time. Honestly at times I didn't remember which ship I was on since they all look just as new. The Disney Wonder followed the next year with her Maiden voyage on August 15, 1999. The Disney Magic and wonder were almost identical when they debuted. Both have 875 staterooms and 11 decks and are 984 feet long (that is longer than Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom!). Both ships were built at Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy (Palo was inspired by the Italian roots of the ships). Over the years they have each gotten some modifications that make them a little more unique. For example the Disney Wonder started doing Alaska so in one of her refurbishments Disney added some more indoor viewing areas.
Did you know that Disney had to get special permission from the Coast Guard to have the yellow lifeboats? Before Disney all lifeboats were bright orange and Disney really wanted to keep the Mickey color scheme so they had to prove to the Coast Guard that yellow was just as easy to spot as orange.
Did you know that Disney was also the first to offer a rotational dining system where guests moved between 3 different themed dining rooms during their cruise and their dining team moved with them too? This meant guests kept the same servers but got to experience a different dining room.
Did you know Disney was the first cruise line to be able to dock their ships right at their private island? All of the other cruise lines were using tenders to get into their private islands and some still do.
Did you know that Disney was the first cruise line to offer a split bathroom in most staterooms? Having a separate room for the toilet and shower is really convenient for families..
2 More Ships
The Disney Dream set sail on her Maiden voyage January 26, 2011. The Disney Fantasy followed the next year with her Maiden voyage on March 31, 2012. Just like the Magic and Wonder the Fantasy and Dream were built as sister ships almost identical to each other. They both have 1,250 staterooms over 14 decks and are 1,115 feet long. These ships were built at Meyer Werft in Germany. Dream and Fantasy debuted the first water coaster at sea.
Even though the Magic and Wonder were over 10 years old when the new ships came out all 4 ships still looked very similar. Disney kept the same look for all 4 ships and even though they are bigger, not a whole lot else inside was different from the classic ships. You still get 3 main dining rooms which guests rotate through but since Dream and Fantasy are bigger and hold more guests you will notice that the dining rooms also are much bigger. All 4 ships have the Cabanas buffet which is always in after of the upper deck. Dream and Fantasy also added another adult only dining option with the addition of Remy. along with Palo.
If you are a spa person you will have noticed that Disney greatly improved the spa on the new ships. They realized on the classic ships that putting the spa under the basketball court not a good idea. One of my favorite places on any ship is the Rainforest Room and Disney did so much better with that space on the new ships. I love that the Rainforest room has 2 hot tubs on an open air verandah included. I am very excited to see what Disney does with the spa on Wish!
Did you know that the Magic and Dream are both done in art deco style inside and the Wonder and Fantasy are done in art nouveau style? That is one subtle way Disney connected the Classic ships with the New ships.
Did you know that all 4 ships each have a different character statue in their atrium? The Magic has Mickey, Wonder has Ariel, Donald is decked out in his Admiral attire on the Dream, and Minnie is dressed in her vintage best along with her luggage on the Fantasy. The Wish will have Cinderella waiting to greet guests in the atrium.
Disney you know all 4 ships have different characters that look like that are busy painting the ship's name on the very aft of the ship? Magic has Goofy, Wonder had Donald and his nephews, Dream has Fantasia Mickey with the brooms doing the work, and Fantasy has Dumbo. Wish will have Rapunzel using her hair to keep here hanging on the back of the ship.
While I love all 4 ships I am partial to the Classic ships mostly because I like smaller ships but also because the Wonder was the first Disney Cruise I took and was also what inspired me to become a travel agent 20 years ago!
Which is your favorite ship?
I was in need of a little Holiday spirit after finding out my Christmas Market cruise was canceled last minute so a Disney cruise seemed like the next best thing. Since I had already been on the Dream and Fantasy this year I loved the idea of getting onboard the Magic. It had been so long since I sailed on the Magic so I was so excited to get to see her again! The Magic is currently sailing out of Miami - which for me is about the same amount of driving as Port Canaveral so that didn't play a part in deciding. However I always forget how much I hate driving around Miami.
Port of Miami
There are other drawbacks to cruising on Disney out of Miami. Since Disney doesn't have their own terminal in Miami that means you are using a shared one (I am so happy Disney announced plans for their own terminal in Fort Lauderdale). I wondered how the pre cruise testing would be different. In Port Canaveral as I reported we were able to do the test in our car after entering the garage and then just hang out until the test results came back. In Miami the first issue came when finding out the parking garage closest to the ship was closed so we had to go park in one that was at least a mile away. Disney of course had shuttle buses ready to take us back to the terminal.
Having already experienced check in at Port Canaveral I knew that you should only arrive at the time you were given for your port arrival - however in Miami no one even asked or checked our reserved arrival time so it seemed we really could have arrived anytime. In Miami you will go into the terminal building through security and then you arrive at the testing location. After your test you will head upstairs to wait on your test results. This is the area with all the chairs where you would normally wait for your boarding time. Disney has a few large screens set up and they were posting the reservation numbers that were clear to check in as the test results came in. This was helpful since wi-fi in the terminal didn't seem to be working and even my cell service was very spotty. TIP - always print out any important papers since you just never know if your phone will work. After you get the good to go test result you can head into the next room where you will get to check in for the cruise. I was disappointed that they did not have a separate line for the different Castaway levels but it wasn't very crowded so the line wasn't too bad. We got checked in and like the Dream and Fantasy we were told our room keys would be waiting on the door when we get to our room.
Onboard the Magic
We were welcomed onboard in usual Disney fashion except this time the atrium was also decked out in holiday decorations too since this was a MerryTime Cruise. It was just the holiday pick me up I needed with the large tree and gingerbread house greeting us in the atrium! Rooms were not ready yet even though it was after 2 pm. We were told we need to wait until 3 so we figured we would go grab a bite to eat in Cabanas. On our way up the crew was really encouraging everyone to do the safety drill check in so we figured might as well knock that out of the way now. Just like the other ships you use the app and find your meeting location and take a photo. We were done with that quickly and back on our way to food. We hung out in Cabanas until our room was ready so that we could drop off our carry on bags before exploring more.
Dining and Shows
When checking out our schedule on the app I saw that on this 5 night cruise we would be in Lumiere's the first 2 nights and then Animators the next 2 nights with just the last night in Rapunzel's. I had not been onboard Magic since Parrot Cay was changed over to Rapunzel's so I was a little bummed to only get 1 night in there. I was happy that I hadn't booked Palo for that night at least. I got lucky and had picked Palo night for the same night as Pirate night and was so glad since that is my least favorite night in any dining room. Sorry pirates but I am over you.
Lumiere's and Animators are very similar to their counterparts on the Dream and Fantasy. I was so happy that my husband got to experience the drawing part of Animator's this time since I had really hoped we would do it on Fantasy and they didn't. Rapunzel's was a new experience for me and I have to say right away walking in I just loved the whole design of the restaurant. It has very cozy feeling and I love the purple and the lanterns! This is a dinner and a show type dining room and the storyline is that it is Rapunzel's birthday so you have appearances by her and Flynn of course along with a couple of the Snuggly Duck regulars. It was fun but make sure you stay until the end so you don't miss the lanterns.
For the shows on this 5 night cruise Disney was offering 2 main shows that would each be performed 2 nights in a row. So the first 2 nights there was Tangled and then the 3rd night they showed a movie in the theater and the last 2 nights were Enchanted Dreams. I was excited to get to see Tangled the Musical for the first time! I have seen Dreams before but it has changed a bit since last time I saw it. I found myself trying to remember which song was taken out to make room for Frozen. I also noticed that Annemarie got new PJ's since last time I saw it. Even though Disney was doing them each 2 nights to make sure there was enough room for everyone to get to see them and be socially distanced there seemed to be a lot of people saying that they went both nights and saw each show twice. Our sailing wasn't very full which I was very happy about. It also appeared that there weren't many families with kids over age 12 and I am not sure if that was due to the vaccine requirement or just that school was still in and it isn't as easy to take the older kids out.
Since this cruise was in December it was a Merrytime themed cruise - which was one of the main reasons for picking it since I had just lost my holiday travel plans. Besides all of the beautiful decorations around the ship and also on Castaway, there were holiday activities offered each day. Storytime with Mrs Claus was very popular and there were also holiday crafts you could make. Santa was in the atrium posing and waving in front of the tree - you did have to take a distanced selfie or photo but that was OK with me. While we did see a good amount of characters at different times during the cruise but I was disappointed to never see them dressed in any holiday outfits. Maybe we just missed those times but on our Halloween cruise we were always seeing the characters in costumes. Character meets are still kept distanced and on the schedule they are listed as character appear and wave events. The ship photographers have come up with a way to add some characters to your photos too. I was happy to try it out and let the photographer direct me on what to do. He had me pose in funny ways like dancing and when I saw the photo Daisy had joined me dancing. There were others too and you might feel silly doing the poses but the photos are cute.
Stops - Cozumel and Castaway
Our cruise stopped in Cozumel and Castaway Cay. For me I have been to Cozumel many times and this cruise was about enjoying the ship so we opted to stay onboard instead of getting off in Cozumel. Many people did opt to get off and at the time of our cruise if you were vaccinated you could go off on your own but if you were not you did need to be on a Disney excursion. That did mean that any families with little kids would have to be on a ship excursion to get off. It might sound funny but I was very happy to see 3 other ships in port with us that day! Of course during normal times there probably would have been double that in Cozumel.
Our cruise ended up with an extra visit to Miami as the night before our Castaway day the captain came on to tell us that unfortunately a guest needed to be medically evacuated so we had to head into Miami to do that. He assured us we would still be getting to Castaway the next morning but maybe just a little later. I liked the idea of watching us pull into Miami since I am always asleep when the ships return to port at the end of the cruise. I enjoyed watching the city get closer from our balcony. It was also a bonus to have cell service again for about an hour.
Castaway is always my favorite stop and this visit we were greeted by a rainbow over the island as we pulled in! Of course a rainbow meant there was also rain close but we lucked out and besides being a bit windy the sun came out and it was a wonderful day! We headed right to the adult beach to grab a spot and enjoy the day. The water was so shallow that we could walk in only about knee deep water all the way out to the buoy that marks the furthest out guests can go. It was fun walking all the way out there and we even found one of the famous Castaway starfish. I have seen one every time we have been there and if I hadn't seen someone pick one up last time I would maybe think they were not real. The lunch at the adult beach always offers some better options than the family buffet but I do wish they would find a better way to do it. As of now you have to go all the way through the line to find out what the main course options are and then it can get kind of confusing and crowded in there. This time around they were grilling rib-eye steaks to order so that meant a long line of people waiting on their steaks. I feel like if they just posted the main menu outside so you could see it before walking in that would really help a lot. Then you could put your entrée order in and then make your way through the line so that it might be ready once you get down there. I like the way Blaze pizza does the ordering process in Disney Springs so I think the adult buffet on Castaway could work well like that.
It was a great cruise and I really enjoyed being back on a classic ship again! I love the smaller ships and have always felt the Magic and Wonder were designed very well. Next blog I am writing will be a comparison of the Classic and New Disney ships so I will talk more about that then.
It was great to get to soak up some holiday excitement while cruising! If you would like to add a little holiday magic to your next cruise you might want to think about going in November or December.
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