It’s the ship that started it all. The majestic mother of the Disney Cruise Line fleet, the Disney Magic is Disney’s first ship and now she sparkles with renewed pixie dust. While Disney Cruise Line has been expanded to offer two new, larger ships there is still something so marvelous about Disney’s very first ship, especially after an extensive makeover. After many journeys aboard this beauty, I’d like to take you on a tour from stern to bow, of the beautiful Disney Magic and point out the many magical enhancements she recently received.
Overview – Getting your bearings
The Disney Magic (and its sister ship) offer ten decks full of fun. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out the Deck Plans. If you’ve never been on a cruise ship, especially one of this size, there’s a couple terms you should get comfortable with. You’ll save lots of time that could be spent getting disoriented on the ship later by getting to know these terms now.
Aft, Forward, and Midship: The Disney Cruise ships (and most other major cruise ships) are divided into three sections. These are vertical sections, each deck has these three sections. When you are on the ship the restaurants, theaters, and other areas will be described with two descriptors: the deck number it is on and then the section. For example, the Walt Disney Theater is Deck 4 Forward.
Aft is the rear of the ship. One way I use to remember what’s located in Aft is “aft for appetite.” All the restaurants are in Aft, just on different decks (with the exception of Lumiere’s which is Midship).
Forward is well, you guessed it, the front of the ship. I liked to think “forward is for fun.” The Walt Disney Theater and more importantly all the adults only areas of the ship, like the After Hours collection of bars and lounges and the Quiet Cove pool, are forward.
I am sure Midship requires no explanation. Think of it as the heart of the ship. Here you’ll find the atrium (taking up Decks 3-5). You can think of it like the lobby of a hotel. Guest Services and Port Adventures desks are here. Another helpful tip if you are in the atrium the Mickey statue faces forward.
Port and Starboard: I am sure you’ve heard these boating terms before. Surprising you won’t really hear them too much aboard a Disney Cruise. But you’ll hear it enough that you need to know the difference. Port refers to the left hand side of the ship when you are facing the forward part of the ship. I remember that port has four letters just like the word left. Therefore, Starboard refers to the right side of the ship when you are facing the forward part of the ship.
Ok now that we’ve gotten to know some of the terminology, let’s go on our tour.
Decks 1 and 2
These first two decks are very similar. Both of these decks consist of mostly staterooms (all inside or oceanview). Ob Deck 2, you’ll also find The Edge which is the youth activities hangout for tweens and teens ages 11-14. Edge was recently updated and includes new computers and video games with an updated look.
This deck is pure fun! There are no staterooms here, so it’s packed with all kinds of fun places. Plus, this deck received some of the most extensive refurbishment in multiple areas. Let’s start at the front of the ship, or Forward. On Deck 3 Forward you’ll find one of my favorite sections: After Hours. Three distinct bars and lounges welcome adults 18 years and older each night. During the day, particularly on 7 night or longer cruises, various activities -some for all ages, are presented in the After Hours venues.
After Hours received one of the most extensive makeovers during the recent refurbishment of the Disney Magic. Each venue was rethemed and reimagined. Fathoms is the largest nightclub, hosting many events throughout the cruise, boasting a large bar, plenty of seating, and a welcoming dance floor. This venue used to be known as Rockin’ Bar D with a music theme that got played out pretty quickly in the early life of the Magic.
Fathoms makes use of more contemporary styles with a beautiful design evoking the feeling of being in the depths of the ocean, or fathoms below if you will. Light fixtures hanging above mimic the form of glowing jellyfish. Lighting around the floor and stage pulse as if to the rhythm of the sea.
Keys is often the most underappreciated venue within After Hours. Here guests can enjoy deluxe, handcrafted cocktails and the sophisticated sounds of jazz, Broadway, and other classics. With the refurbishment Keys (formerly Sessions) has been made even classier with luxurious, plush furnishings and décor. An elegant motif of black and white is dazzled with a few sparkles of gold and platinum.
Perhaps the most effective makeover was performed in what used to be known as Diversions. The overall purpose of the venue is the same: to serve as the “local” sports bar or pub on board. However, Diversions has now become O’Gills and given a much stronger sense of place and purpose. O’Gills has a fun little backstory, I’ll leave you to learn it while on board, with fun details throughout the venue to support this little story. An exclusive beer is now served here as well.
At midship, Guest Services and Port Adventures desks used to have stylized murals that were a blend of whimsical and art deco. However, after a few years those murals felt a little dated. Both desks have a cleaner, sleeker look. The Port Adventures desk now has vertical, digital screens showcasing the ports of that voyage.
One of the more dramatic makeovers took place in the atrium, the heart of the Disney Magic. Of course, Helmsman Mickey still stands proudly as the centerpiece, a popular photo location and icon. However, gone are the bolder jewel tones in the fabrics and carpet, gone is the Dale Chilhuly chandelier, and gone is a second grand staircase. The art deco motif has been toned down a little. The atrium lobby feels softer, perhaps more open. The carpet has more of a flow to it and a soft color palette. The remaining grand staircase feels more prominent since it is now the only one. Other furnishings bring in more seafaring tones of turquoise and golden sand.
Finally, heading aft we encounter the new restaurant, Carioca’s. Gone is the Caribbean styled Parrot Cay, which always felt uber casual for a signature dining location. Carioca’s brings a South American beat and energy that feels a little elevated in comparison. The entryway floor resembles the Portuguese pavement style sidewalks, the most famous found in Rio de Janeiro. Much of the structure of the former Parrot Cay was kept in tact, however the color scheme and light fixtures are deeper, urban colors.
At first thought it may not feel like much has changed on Deck 4. Here you will find the Walt Disney Theater, merchandise shops, D Lounge (a family nightclub), a few sales desks, Shutters photography, and Animator’s Palate. In actuality a fair amount of enhancements were made to this deck.
D Lounge has been given a more modern look with a few new bells and whistles. Shutter’s photography is now much easier to navigate through your professional photos than ever before. You simply tap your room key whenever a professional photo is taken and then when you’re ready to view your photos, tap your room key at one of the Shutter’s kiosks and you can view your photos digitally. Your photos will also be printed and placed in an assigned folder. When you go to one of the kiosks your folder number will be given to you.
Animator’s Palate is possibly the most loved restaurant on the Disney Magic. While the Fantasy and Dream have their own newer, more techy versions of Animator’s Palate, I actually prefer the charm and focus on hand drawn animation that primarily makes up the decor on the Magic’s version. There is a new feature that the Magic has taken from Animator’s Palate aboard the Dream and Fantasy. This feature enables guests to draw a figure at the beginning of dinner and then see it come to life towards the end of dinner. Our table full of adults immediately became kids again drawing our little characters and seeing them dance on screen. It’s important that you follow the instructions explicitly and note that the screen closest to your table will be the only one to show your characters.
Here on Deck 5 you’ll find a small amount of staterooms, a large amount of youth activities venues, and the Buena Vista Theater. All three of the youth activities venues received re-theming and updates. The Oceaneer Lab (ages 3 -12) is more immersive and detailed than ever. The venue is themed as a hideout or club for young explorer’s venturing the high seas in search of adventure and discovery. There’s some pretty cool Disney details here so even if you do not have young ones with you it’s fun to visit for a few moments during the open house, usually held at the beginning of the voyage.
The most buzzed about youth venue is The Oceaneer Club (ages 3 -12). Here kids can become part of a variety of popular Disney and Marvel stories from Toy Story to Iron Man. The venue is super cool even for adults (ok I admit I am a little jealous of all the cool toys and experiences offered here). Again, I recommend swinging by just to check it out when the open house is offered. (Unfortunately I was not able to take pictures of these venues on my recent cruise.)
I am just going to skim over these decks as they are home to the majority of staterooms.
Welcome to one of, if not the, busiest decks on the Disney Magic. Here all three pools call for a plunge, Cabanas’ bountiful buffets beckon, multiple quick service locations offer quick, satisfying bites, and two water slides are ready to delight. Some of the more exciting enhancements, especially for veteran Disney Magic cruisers, took place on Deck 9.
My personal favorite enhancement is the Twist n Spout. Back in my day the Disney Magic had one water slide and it could only be used by kids. Disney Cruise Line has doubled the fun with two water slides! The Twist n Spout replaces the former water slide located in the same spot but reserved for little kids. It’s not thrilling by any definition, but it is a great experience for someone like me who just doesn’t do the thrill scene.
Speaking of the thrill scene, let me introduce you to the AquaDunk. Located at the forward funnel, the AquaDunk calls out to all thrill seekers. Those willing to take the plunge enter the top of the slide in a capsule. The door closes, the countdown begins, and suddenly the floor drops out and you’re sliding over the side of the ship, into a loop, and splashing down with your bathing suit in a different position than it was when you started.
Finally, the new Aqualab and Nephew’s Splash Zone complete the pool package. There is so much fun to be had for kids and kids at heart in the Aqualab, featuring popular splash buckets and other gadgets that make this a wonderful water playground. The Nephew’s Splash Zone is simply fantastic for little tikes still earning their sea legs. It is enclosed making it very easy for moms and dads to get an eye of their little ducklings.
All this swimming and sliding is sure to make you hungry. Here on Deck 9 you’ll find three quick service options, two of which have been rethemed and enhanced after the renovation, as well as the free unlimited ice cream station and soft drink station. Pinocchio’s Pizzeria has stayed the same and offers fairly good pizza by the slice throughout the day and most of the evening. Pete’s Broiler Bites offers burgers, sandwiches, and other quick service staples, and was given some touch ups. Finally Daisy De-Lite’s is located near Cabanas – a great choice for lighter quick fare like wraps and paninis; a few cosmetic changes took place here.
Cabanas is the ship’s buffet destination for breakfast and lunch, as well as a quiet “freestyle” alternative for dinner with table service available when you wish, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM. Cabanas received a massive makeover. Formerly known as Topsiders, Cabanas is completely rethemed with a Finding Nemo / Australia motif. The decor is much richer and brighter, a great improvement overall. Cabanas is in the aft section, remember “aft for appetite.”
Some minor enhancements on Deck 9 include improved quality lounge chairs and dining areas. Prior to the renovation there were a few sports tables for games like ping pong and foosball. However, these sports tables were taken up to Deck 10 and placed inside the Wide World of Sports area. This enabled more tables and chairs to be added to Deck 9. The adult exclusive Quiet Cove pool received a few enhancements to the overall appearance. Finally, what was known as the Vista Spa has now been rebranded to Senses Spa. The look and branding of the Senses Spa reflects the two spas located at Walt Disney World itself.
The Disney Magic will always hold a special place in my heart. She’s the ship that made the Disney Cruise Line what it is today. Many people like to think of the Disney Magic as the ambassador ship for the entire fleet. I certainly hold that opinion. While she may not be the newest, thanks to this remarkable renovation her charms are as dazzling as ever.