The Moms of 5 Kids Club (which for the purposes of this article is just my friend Melanie and me) took to the high seas the last few days of January, and in true club fashion, we left the other 12 members of our collective families at home. I definitely got the better end of that deal, it was literally 66 degrees (Fahrenheit) BELOW zero *Editor’s Note: fuck that* and they shut down the Fargo airport like a couple of hours after I flew out. Florida and the Caribbean FTW! I flew into MCO-Orlando and we stayed at Shades of Green for one night, primarily so we could be right by Trader Sam’s. I also happened to score a last-minute Storybook Dining reservation, and hobnobbed it with Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and the (Evil) Queen! She was amazing, very good meet and greet. After stuffing ourselves we dropped the car back at Shades and walked to the Poly to bev it up for a few hours before heading back and crashing out for the night. We grabbed a quick bite for breakfast and a coffee and hit the road to Miami. It wasn’t a bad drive, but really damn boring. Non-beachy Florida is pretty dumb (exception, obviously, the Disney bubble).
Day One Leaving Miami
We drove to Port of Miami, and navigated that madness to terminal F to drop our larger bags for a porter then went to park our car in a parking garage. It was about $20/day, but totally worth having it right there when we disembarked at the end of our cruise. It was pretty sweet to see the Magic as we neared the port. Our port arrival time was noon, which meant we could show up any time after that and before the last call. I think it was around 2pm by the time we got through security and waited in line to check in. Melanie is now Gold status with DCL and we both ended up getting gold level lanyards even though it was my first Disney cruise. She also got a sweet bag and 2 luggage tags in the stateroom as a “gold” gift. The biggest perk of her status was we got to walk through an empty queue instead of waiting for like 40 people when it was time to pick up our Key to the World cards. I guess Port Canaveral has more fanfare while waiting at the cruise terminal, but since I didn’t have a comparison, it was fine with me. Once we boarded, there was a little bit of a line, because as you enter the atrium, your family is announced as joining the cruise. We convinced them to say they were welcoming aboard the Moms of 5 Kids Club, which was awesome. Staterooms weren’t open until 3pm, so if you didn’t leave your bigger luggage with a porter, you’re hauling that crap all over the ship with you. The tip is to pack a day bag (swimsuit, medication, valuables, booze) if you’re boarding before your stateroom is open so you can swim, or eat, or whatever.
Yes, I did just say booze. Each guest 21+ is allowed to carry on up to 6 (12 oz) beers OR 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne at each boarding. You cannot bring hard liquor* and you cannot put these in your checked bags. They will confiscate that and keep it until the end of the cruise. (*We did purchase some rum at a distillery in Nassau and they basically checked it in and held it for us until we disembarked.) So you can bet your ass we both had a sixer of beer in our backpacks, which obviously was cumbersome but worth it. We also had stocked up on some movie candy for shows. I’ll buy your popcorn, Disney, but not your $49.95 candy bar. Pro tip: spring for the refillable popcorn bucket (about $8) the first night because it’s like $1.75 to refill and a regular popcorn is seriously almost the same cost as the dang bucket. I don’t care how much you just ate on the ship you’ll enjoy having the popcorn option at the shows or movies. *Editor’s Note: I sneak hard liquor in using dark colored wine bottles that I re-cork and foil, but you didn’t just read that.*
We were on deck 6, which we didn’t know until a few days before the cruise. See, we are all about saving money so we can splurge in other areas. We got a late booking “GTY” room in the veranda category, meaning we’re guaranteed a room in that category (or better), but we cannot choose where it is. Since we didn’t need connecting rooms or anything and just wanted to take a sweet trip, we spent the extra $100 apiece to have the “GTY” balcony vs an interior room. Deck 6 was freaking perfect. BUT since we had to go to deck 9 to eat, and we were carrying heavy-ish bags at this point, we just decided to wait until 3pm when they opened our stateroom. We still had plenty of time to drop our bags, beer in the fridge, check out the stateroom, eat and explore before the mandatory muster drill. If you have cruised before, you know you MUST attend this safety drill. They will literally make sure every damn person onboard is there. I actually found this to not be nearly as bad as the previous (non-Disney) cruises I have been on, except it was rather loud at times and I found myself wondering if one or two of my kids would freak out a bit. (Not that that matters, they’d get over it.) Muster was organized, informative, and to the point so we could get on with the vacation. *Editor’s Note: thus the saying “it’ll pass muster” – I’ve been on several cruises but somehow didn’t connect the two till about a year ago via a damned meme I scrolls past on Facebook. *
Now, let me step back a bit. We ate lunch at Cabanas, the buffet on deck 9 of the Magic. Every single guest must wash their hands before entering a dining establishment, every single time. There are literally CMs whose only job it is to make sure this happens. Some places have sanitizing wipes they hand out in the stead of handwashing stations and they didn’t let one damn person through without watching them scrub in. I saw an old lady say, “I just came from the washroom, though.” To which the CM said, “Great! Take a sanitizing wipe and use it, please.” I had to try not to laugh. *Editor’s Note: WTH lady you can’t overwash your damn hands and no we don’t trust that you did it already just take the damn sanitizer and move along* The buffet was freaking huge. I went about halfway around (it was sort of a giant horseshoe), and figured it was just going to repeat after the middle. Nope. SO. MUCH. FOOD. There were quite a few people offering beer/soda/water packages for those who wanted to keep bottles in their rooms. We brought our own water bottles and obviously our own beer, so that was an easy no. There are soda and water (or coffee, hot chocolate, etc.) available in a few spots onboard but you will have to walk to get them or refill your cups or grab a new one.
After eating some fine cuisine, we explored the ship a bit. Melanie had been aboard the Magic previously but not for many years. I wanted to check out the kids’ clubs and they have a few times throughout the cruise that are “open house” for just this purpose. I did snap a few pictures but most of them are crappy since I was trying to take them with zero children. One great thing is that DCL has a spot for every age of kid, and activities are endless. Babies until age 3 have a nursery, and this is an upcharge. This is a hard 3. So, if your kiddo is 3 -AND toilet trained, another hard-fast rule- then they can go into the (free) Disney Oceaneer Club. I was impressed that this connected to the Disney Oceaneer Lounge so kids can find what interests them and are not completely limited by age. This area has everything ranging from Pixie Hollow and Toy Story to MARVEL Superhero Academy and Animation Studio. There are literally times when superheroes come and play with the kids. Also offered are also clubs for tweens (Edge) and teens (Vibe) as well as a few fun meetups for 18-20 year olds. Find out more here. I’m not saying I’d be planning to drop my kids off on a family vacation but after touring these youth clubs, I’m pretty sure my brood would be ditching us! Very impressed.
Next we decided to check out the Sail Away celebration which was pretty cool. It’s Disney magic, tough to not get swept up in a fun music and dancing number, especially when the characters start streaming out to party too! Once again, I was standing there with the silly grin of someone loving Disney and thinking, my kids would LOVE this. Hope they’re loving their blizzard back home. If you’ve followed along on some of my previous adventures, you know I love a good winter trip. The kind where people think I’m the crazy one for swimming or wearing shorts when it’s 70. I read so many recommendations to bring a jacket or a few sweaters…I’ll give you one guess how many times I wore anything like that outside of the airport. I only wore a hoodie and a coat out of Fargo because it was colder than North of the Wall. (Yes, that is 100% a “Game of Thrones” reference.)
Next, I got in line for a meet and greet, Ariel. See, my family is making this awesome giant photo frame, and it’s made up of small wooden planks that we’re having signed by characters. (This would prove to be an even better idea than we thought, stay tuned for how it lead to my favorite moment of the trip.) One thing you can always count on with anything Disney, especially anything character-related, is a long line complete with some of the finest folk you could ever imagine. Disney cruises are no exception. People were in generally great moods, as this was literally the first few hours aboard the ship, but there were still the consummate meltdowns and annoyed looking parents. The meet and greets throughout the cruise were overwhelmingly amazing. They really took plenty of time with each guest, the handlers were SUPER nice and generous with the time that they allowed guests to queue up, and everything was just a bit more magical because of these entertainment teams.
You may not know that DCL ships have theatres onboard where you can catch a movie. This is pretty sweet, since my family of 7 going to see a newly-released film is not something we often splurge on, so that we can save for vacations. Additionally, there are Broadway-caliber shows most nights. The cast is the same each night with three different shows on this four-night cruise. It was INSANE how talented and how much these performers accomplished. We were not disappointed with the performances, and the storylines and effects were just as impressive.
The first night’s restaurant in our rotational dining was Animator’s Palate. There’s some definite sorcery going on in here, hint hint. Everything may look black and white, but it is not as it seems, and by the end of your dinner, you’ll see things in a new light. That’s my best effort here at not being a spoiler. Overall this was the best food in the rotational restaurants, but picking my favorite themed restaurant would be much more difficult. Melanie and I had the second seating for dinner, so 8:15pm. This meant we saw the nightly performances before eating. I noticed quite a few positives to this option. There were fewer children, as many choose to eat at the earlier time frame (around 5:45 PM) instead of sitting at a late formal dinner. We saw the kids club counselors come retrieve kids to go play part-way through the meal just when they were getting antsy. The kids clubs also provide snacks and treats if you okay it. You can absolutely have a date night aboard a Disney Cruise for no additional cost. #Win.
I really loved all of the options for adult-only activities onboard, some are an extra charge, such as the wine or liquor tastings and mixology classes, and even a private restaurant. It was fun to have free (and still kidless) activities too, like trivia, game shows, karaoke, animation classes, tours, and special entertainers that rotate through on certain cruises. We participated in as many extras as we could and did quite a few trivia sessions. We came in second place almost every damn time, which was saying something because some of those questions were true WTFs. It was frustrating until we realized the family that kept beating us was apparently on a back-to-back cruise, and had literally been doing the same trivias etc. for almost a week straight. Melanie did win in one of the game shows, though, and she won not one, but TWO prizes. Sweet!
CLICK HERE to read Day 2