Monday, June 18, 2012

New York City Disney Cruise part II


Trip Report: 2 night weekend getaway on the Disney Magic 6/15-6/17/12
PART II

(be sure to read Part I first HERE)



So I awoke spontaneously as I try to do every morning on cruises to catch the sunrise ... it never gets old.  Going out on the verandah, seeing nothing but the ocean around you.  In terms of real estate value, this is the ultimate water view.


(port side view from our verandah ... ok, this is a few hours after sunrise, but beautiful nonetheless)

When I had originally planned this cruise, I scoped out the Deck plans for a running track.  On the Dream, it was on Deck 4, and the length worked out to 2.5 laps = 1 mile.  Here on the Magic the running track is similarly on Deck 4, but shorter, 3 laps = 1 mile.  I was originally anxious about getting in my long run, as the cruise fell on a Saturday, and I think at this point of marathon training, I would have been scheduled for at least a 10 mile long run.

But no matter, I got injured, on a crutch now, so it wasn't even an issue on this cruise.  Made packing that much lighter too, not having to bring running shoes and gear.  But my wife went down to check on the track and get her run in, but reported that the ends of closed off ... crew said they were working on something.  So instead of running back and forth along one length she ran up to Deck 10 and found there was ample room to run around there as well.

I loved running on the Disney Dream, like running along the shore, pretty empty early in the morning, and just knowing that you were on a Disney ship.  I missed it ...

Anyway, at this point I realized one thing about the stateroom that I didn't notice the day before ... the curtain between the sleeping and the living areas is NOT a blackout curtain.  Not a criticism, just an observation, and a warning to those who want to sleep in.  (The curtain to the verandah IS blackout, so you can close that ) ... but by no means did I want to sleep in on this one and only day of the cruise!


So after my wife came back from running we headed up to Topsiders, mainly because Parrot Cay wasn't open until 9:30am and didn't want to waste precious hours on this short cruise.  We weren't sure what to expect for Topsiders breakfast buffet, since we were not overly impressed with the embarkation lunch.
Well, I'm happy to report that the Topsiders breakfast buffet was good!  Pretty much standard American breakfast fare, but it doesn't take much to impress me for breakfast though, give me an omelet station, some fruit and coffee, and I'm good to go.  We sat outside where it was cool and windy, but perfectly nice.

The service I have to say again and again was excellent.  Crew members offering to help everywhere you turn (Thanks Kristi from Estonia!).  Smiles all around.  Little things like walking around picking up bits of empty sugar packets that blew off your table.  Just my opinion, but those are the things that make a cruise all worth it to me.

Now, this was both the first and the last day of the cruise.  Our captain made a very funny announcement overhead,

"Good morning, I have the unique opportunity to both welcome you on the cruise and to also thank you for sailing with us, because this is the first and probably the last time you'll hear from me." LOL!


All in good fun!  After breakfast we went to Decks 9 and 10 to take a stroll.  At this point on the Dream, we would have to scope out some poolside seats.  Well, on this cool and windy day ... a mad rush was not necessary:




(To be fair, it did get crowded poolside later in the day, but we managed to snag a couple of seats).

The rest of the day was really about relaxing, and fitting in activities as they came around.  My wife and little one took obligatory pictures with the characters in the lobby, which brings up a point...just yesterday I read a user review of the Magic which criticized that there were "not enough characters," and that "Characters should be EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME!"  The author criticized that the Disney cruise should have "more Disney decor."


Wow.  I really don't know where to start.  The reason I love Disney Cruise Line, is that, although I am an avid fan of Disney, I appreciate that you're not overrun by Disney everywhere.  The feeling and atmosphere is that of class and elegance on a Disney ship.  I love the decor and the subtle Disney references and hidden mickeys throughout.  The interior of the ship does not look like a tacky cartoon ... it's just beautiful.  Character appearances are limited, but goodness there is a schedule outlined right on the daily Navigator.

We did check out the cooking demonstration, in this case it was a Salmon wrapped in Phyllo dough.  Definitely more of a demonstration than a class, by the Chef de Cuisine of Topsiders ... pretty good tasting, the pleasant surprise was that it came with a tasting of a Chardonnay.



So...going along with the Cruise Director's statement that "the biggest decision you will face is where to eat next", before we knew it it was lunch time already!  So back to Topsiders we went, mainly because the chef at the cooking demonstrated mentioned something about a seafood buffer.  We had some room service the day before, which was quick and convenient, as quick and convenient as the fast food offerings they had on Deck 9, but seafood buffet sounded good.   Not a bad a buffet, there were mussels which I like, and crab legs which my wife likes, and the phyllo-wrapped salmon of the earlier demonstration.  I would like to forget about the dry halibut, but the best part was the crepe station!   It was a buffet, but I didn't overdo it.  I had one plate of food, and didn't go back for seconds.  Maybe my crutch made the whole prospect of going back for dry halibut and trying to carrying it back an ordeal, and I didn't feel like having my wife or one of the crew get something for me.

I did make my way at some point to the ice cream station outside for soft serve banana and chocolate!

As an aside, this was my fourth cruise, and I've only cruised Disney.  I cannot compare it to anything but itself.  People ask me how I can justify the price of Disney and how it compares.  I imagine there are many things on the Disney cruise that I just take for granted, things that other cruise lines don't offer.  Unlimited soda, ice cream, characters, second-to-none kids clubs etc, are the obvious features I guess, but the extra cost is for the "Disney touch."  Whether you believe in it or not, I think it's there.


We made our way poolside and my kid loved the Mickey pool and the slide.  The slide on the Magic appears bigger than the Mickey slide on the Dream, but the Dream has the aquaduct.  I did not get in the water and my wife and I were perfectly content sitting out there people watching, until it got too cold and we went back inside to watch Charlie Peachock, an enjoyable comedian/juggler who was on America's Got Talent:


Here's a quick clip from our camera:

video

The amazing thing was that he was able to juggle in the relatively low-ceilinged space of Rockin' Bar D.  Pretty impressive.

Afterwards, a little bit of shopping then we ran into our stateroom hostess and she mentioned that she left us some debarkation luggage tags in the room!  What?  No!  we just got here!  And we have to think about packing and leaving already? Booo.  short cruise!

Next thing we knew it was time to watch the show Dreams: an Enchanted Classic.  I won't say much about it, other than I am a huge Disney music fan (my favorite cruise show is the Golden Mickeys) but this show did not do much for me.  Others in the audience seemed to love it of course.

After the show we waited out in the Atrium lobby to get some "formal" pictures and here is where I noticed a huge difference in atmosphere between the Dream and the Magic.  At least in my experience, the feeling in the Atrium Lobby of the Disney Dream, especially around dinner and show time, is almost like a wedding reception or a classy cocktail hour.  There is nice live music, most people are dressed up, walking and standing around, with drinks and what-not, and there always seemed to be officers in their white uniforms mingling with the guests.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was a team of tuxedo wearing hosts with plates of hors-doerves.

Now, I don't know if it was because this cruise on the Magic was much shorter, but this did not have the same type of elegance.  The space is smaller, there was no music, people were not as generally dressed up, and I saw very few if any officers.  Again, this cruise was different, shorter, and more casual, so the comparison might not be fair.


And then dinner time!  This time we went to Lumiere's.  Again every restaurant rotation had the same menu, this time the Till We Meet Again menu.  I had the tuna sashimi appetizer which was more a seared tuna than straight up sashimi, but still good.  The seafood/lobster bisque was more tomato soup than anything, but fine as well.  I really enjoyed my beef wellington in puff pastry, and ended with a nice chocolate decadence and again a really good cup of coffee.  We have never really ordered anything that was not on the menu, and at least two head servers we have had previously made it a point to say something like, "Please ask me for anything, think of something, please challenge me."  On our very first cruise (The Disney Dream 3 night Bahamian Cruise, March 2011), our head server told us that if you think of something and they didn't have the ingredients, they would try to get it when they got to the next port!  Wow, that's service, but my wife and I never really took advantage of it.  At a nearby table, a couple was making use of the wonderful service and ordered a French Onion soup, salad, and a fish dish, none of which looked like it was on the menu.  That's fine, and wonderful, and the staff should be commended.  This time my wife for the first time tried to order something not on the menu -- creme brulee.  Our server said it would be tough, so we didn't push it.  That's not a big deal.

The Youth Activities counselors came around and picked up the kids to bring them to the clubs while we finished dinner (another awesome feature of the Disney Cruise Line).

Best part of this dinner was the cruise dining staff celebration and congratulations.  This is definitely something they should have on the Disney Dream.  Your dining servers (who follow you from restaurant to restaurant throughout the cruise) are introduced in festive fashion, and parade around the dining room with international flags.  This is complete with cheering, and high fives.  This was wonderful to see and to give due compliments to your servers on this two night cruise ... I could only imagine the cheers and the well-wishes, and perhaps even tears, on a longer cruise.  Imagine the bonding that the guests have with their servers on a week long cruise, and then this is their moment.  Loved it.




So we said our thank yous, and our initial good byes, really feeling how short this cruise was.  We also gave our tip envelopes at this point.  This was something new for this cruise:  Tips were added automatically!  Now, I liked the convenience of not having to go down to guest services to add tips to your account, but initial feeling is that this may do a disservice to the staff.  Now that the tips are added automatically, guests will not have the incentive to add to tip, because they will have to go down to guest services.  Hopefully the staff will continue to have incentive to provide their excellent service, and guests will have incentive to give more.

This was the second and last night, so before we turned in for the night, we checked out Beat Street, the adults-only evening area.  The juggler Charlie Peachock had a nighttime version of this show, just as amazing, but we enjoying chilling out in Diversions, the sports bar.  I can see where the Dream improved upon this with their 687 sports bar in their adult area called the District ... which has a darker, smoother feel, with rich wood tones and artifacts from the ship.  Still, my wife enjoyed her margarita and I my Boddington's just the same.  Especially with the bar food spread ... chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, what can go better?


Then we turned in for the night, sad to know that the next morning this short but certainly sweet cruise was going to be over.

Stay tuned for Part III coming soon.

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