Cruisin' with Crutches
Trip report: 2 Night Weekend Getaway NYC on the Disney Magic. 6/15 - 6/17/12
(official DCL promo photo for NYC cruises)
To be honest, this cruise kinda crept up on me. To date, I had been on three previous Disney cruises, all on the Disney Dream, which had a rather short reign of being Disney Cruise Line's newest (and grandest) ship until the Disney Fantasy made its debut earlier is year. We as a family looooved our first Disney Dream voyage so much that when DCL announced that its 2012 itineraries would included cruises from New York City, booking one was a no-brainer. Why? Not only am I a huge fan of DCL, Disney service, and the "Disney touch," but we're from New Jersey. The thought of enjoying the magic of Disney without having to fly down was amazing. So book one I did, and this 2 night cruise to nowhere sounded like fun.
But with my femoral neck stress fracture, and me being on crutches (going on 4 weeks now), I almost forgot about this cruise. I wasn't looking forward to cruising with crutches, but come on, being on crutches on a Disney Cruise must be infinitely better than being on crutches at work, right? We literally packed at the last minute, because hey, it's just a weekend, and waited for our car service.
Day 1, 6/15/12: Car service promptly picked us up, and from 9:20am to 10:30am we hit no traffic from the Jersey shore to NYC, missing rush hour, until we hit the West Side Highway. Our official port arrival time that we got was 12-12:30pm, so we had plenty of time, but we like to be early for things. So we sat in traffic for a while when it hit me...when we got a glimpse of the unmistakable red smokestack with the mickey head emblem of the Disney ship, I admit I got excited.
Warning: unavoidable comparisons to the Disney Dream (and Port Canaveral) ahead (because that's all I know).
Drop off at the NYC terminal was ok ... Located at 12ave and 55th street, easy to find ... Signage was ok, but just look for the big ships. It was congested, it's New York City for goodness sake, but not at all chaotic. I was born in NYC, and grew up in Jersey, it felt like a typical day in the city. So we got dropped off right in front of the ship. The Disney Magic is smaller than the Disney Dream, but this is THE original, with the classic shape and theming of cruise liners of days gone by, with the Mickey colors done in an elegant style. The exterior showed some wear and age, but this ship is about 14 years old, and at least from the outside, it's beautiful.
Being that the NYC terminal is not a Disney-exclusive nor a Disney-permanent port, the "disney cruise" signage looked temporary, but you couldn't get lost. There were people with disney signs pointing the way, there were porters to check in your luggage. We arrived exactly at 11am, and found no line to get inside. There's an elevator to go upstairs to check in, then a security checkpoint which was smooth, and then actual check in. The terminal itself is ok, again some temporary disney signs, banners, random people waving Mickey Hands. At this point I don't know if they are official Disney cast members or local employees or what not. But friendly for sure. Check in lines were split amongst first timers, gold and silver castaway club members, platinum castaway club members, and there was a separate area for concierge. By FAR the longest line was for the gold and silver castaway club members. Most people on this cruise clearly had cruised Disney before. Also, clearly most of the passengers were decidedly local like we were. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. I was born in NYC, and grew up in New Jersey where I am so proud to live right now, and it takes one to know one, with the dress and accents and overall appearance. This weekend cruise looked like it had more adults and less kids than other Disneg cruises, and that people were going to party. (disney style anyway).
So we were on line for I guess 10-15 minutes (i know not long but surely longer than any checkin at port canaveral) and the actual check in could not be smoother. We then went to the Youth Activities registration area, and there was no line at all (this line is the longest at port canaveral. Again, less kids at NYC). Waiting in the port, everyone was crowded with many people standing in the area right next to the boarding gate. But just look around, there is a large seating area near security, in front of youth registration, where we sat and waited for our boarding #9 to be called. there was a small stand with coffee, drinks, and sandwiches, something Port Canaveral didn't have last time we were there.
Oh yeah, Goofy was there.
Boarding was FAST. They started boarding at 12pm and they called our #9 in what felt like 15 min. And there was really not much of a line to get in, with the picture taking to the swipe of the Key to the Worl card. This part at Port Canaveral seems to take forever. Here, at NYC I guess with a smaller ship and less people, it was a breeze. Now from the key swipe to the actual ship there is quite a bit of a walk, probably more than half the ships length, outside, then with a snaking gangway/platform thing. So I hobbled along with my crutch, and again there didn't feel like a mad rush of people trying to get on the ship. The timing of the boarding numbers being called was paced just right.
We were greeted and our family names announced by the crew members with the familiar white formal uniforms, and the familiarity of that was awesome. Seriously, something about the youth and the class and international accents of the crew just transported me instantly, we were on a Disney cruise again!
The lobby of this 14 year old ship is of course smaller and in a way darker than the openness and opulence of the much newer Dream, but absolutely no way less in the character, theming, and magic of the whole thing.
Embarkation brunch: both the Parrot Cay and Topsiders appeared to be open, so we headed for Topsiders, mainly because we were so impressed with the Cabanas lunch on the Dream, we were expecting somewhat of a counterpart. Instead of being negative, I'll make this a positive comment and just say that Cabanas is a wonderful improvement over Topsiders, at least for the embarkation lunch. What, with the endless pods of lamb, pasta, turkey, stone crabs, clams, shrimp, vegetables, etc etc etc in the comparitively bright and open and flowing Cabanas....what's not to love. But that's on the Dream. This was Topsiders on the Magic. I'll leave it at that.
So we walked around a bit, checked out Deck 9 and 10 before our stateroom was ready. There were not too many people milling about yet. That's one thing I definitely liked about this cruise, although smaller, with smaller spaces, it just didn't feel like it was crowded or chaotic. I felt that the service was a bit more special too, and that the crew didn't seem as harried. I'm assuming too that me walking around on my crutch prompted more servers to offer, "can I help you with something? Can i carry that for you? Can I get something for you?". I was perfectly capable of using one arm for my crutch and the other to carry my plate or whatever. One server even seemed genuinely sad that I refused her help. The Disney Cruise crew works so hard! Kudos to them!
Check out what was parked just yards from the Disney Magic: the Space Shuttle Enterprise!!!
Our cruise director Peter humorously said, "The Magic has sailed out of Port Canaveral for 15 years, (next to the Kennedy Space Center), but we had to go to New York to see the Space Shuttle!"
So we checked out our stateroom. Category 5C, deluxe family stateroom with veranda. Located on Deck 6, closer to the aft than the midship elevators. I liked the location. It was very quiet, and close to the elevators, which I actually used less than I expected. People OFF crutches would definitely find it convenient to run down a flight or two for the kids clubs, shops etc, and just 3 flights to get up to Deck 9 pool etc. Elevators are very small. Those with wheelchairs and scooters waited a long time for an empty elevator during busy times. The side stairwells were also narrow at parts, people would have to wait or take another route when I was hopping down them on my crutch.
So anyway, the stateroom itself was fine. I think split bathrooms should be mandatory in every family hotel, what a great feature! Bed was comfy enough, there were a bunch of drawers, nice desk space, a little living area with convertible couch, and the verandah of course. I supposed we could've stuffed our one piece of luggage under the bed (which would have to be lifted a bit), but really, on this short of a cruise, we didn't really unpack, and we just kept it in a corner. Overall smaller stateroom than the Dream, but perfectly fine, and other than a few expected signs of age and wear, I couldn't find much to improve upon.
After the mandatory and uneventful muster drill, we went to the Adventures Away party. It was the expected fun, spirited, high-energy sail away party with a really good cruise-activitied host, Tisha, characters, music, confetti, and what I look forward to the most ... The countdown followed by the "When You Wish Upon A Star" horn. The Magic version had bit less sentimentality but the New York skyline in the background and the New York crowd elevated the energy.
And off we went passing by the Freedom Tower:
...and the Statue of Liberty ...
Then we dropped the little one off at the kids clubs, there are the Oceaneers Club and the Oceaneers Lab for those ages 3-12. Now, I know there has been some debate and heat over the "open houses.". Basically the open houses are hours during which "families can enjoy the clubs together with their children.". The problem is that during these hours you have to physically be with your child and you can't drop them off. I thought this was going to be a bummer but the Magic solves this problem by alternating the open houses between the Club and the Lab, so they'll shuttle the kids between each. Problem solved. The club and lab themselves looked great, beautifully themed, with a pirate ship and the like, and plenty of organized and free-play activities. No kid looked bored, and as usual I felt completely comfortable leaving my little one in the hands of the yellow-shirted counselors.
Then we hit the Promenade Lounge to let the weekend begin. The Promenade Lounge is something that the Dream should have, in my opinion. It's located a few steps off of the Atrium Lobby, a perfect location as a meeting place or what not. I suppose the Bon Voyage bar on the Dream would be a counterpart, but the huge difference is that the Promenade Lounge is much larger, with ample seating, a dance floor, and enough space to hold events, live music, and the like...
And thus we found ourselves in the middle of a Disney Trivia game, and ... I actually won! Questions ranged from what year was Beauty and the Beast released? To What is the name of the High School Musical mascot. The prize on one of the trivia games on the Dream was a bottle of champagne, so I was excited and expected similar ... but instead I won this plastic medal, hehe. And fun, memories, and laughs:
(hmm...looks vaguely familiar to the plastic 'winner' medals they gave to every participant in the Castaway Cay 5k)
After some more exploring ... Dinner time! (second seating for us). At Parrot Cay for us. This was the inaugural 2 night weekend getaway from NYC, so there was some online speculation online about dining options, if it would be the same restaurant both days, which menu, etc.
Here's the brief rundown:
On our 2 night cruise, we rotated through the THREE restaurants: for dinner 1, dinner 2, and for the debarkation breakfast.
The menu was the same for all restaurants at the same time: Let the Magic begin, Til we meet again, and See ya real soon menus. That means there was no restaurant-specific theme menu.
Palo was open as far as I know, but we didn't make reservations.
Our servers were Greenidge from India, and Widi from Indonesia. In the brief time we spent with them, i found their service as excellent as any other DCL server I've ever had. There was some speculation online that the servers would not be as engaging or whatever on a 2 night cruise. I found them excellent. Of course you can't "bond" with them over 2 nights as you can over 5 or 7, but they were perfectly fine.
Food was ok on the Let the Magic Begin Menu. I don't really complain about food, and I eat anything, so I don't have much to criticize but that the food was unremarkable. I already forget the details of what I had ... Flavorful chicken bastelo for appetizer, clam and seafood chowder soup which didn't look nor have the texture of a New England chowder, but flavor was just as good, and a rather tough Yachtsman Steakhouse Sirloin. Dessert was fine, I got some sort of trio. Coffee was really good I must say.
It was Pirate Night, but the huge thing I noticed is that I didn't notice. There were very few cast members milling about in Pirate gear during the day. Our servers did not wear pirate costumes. They did not leave any red bandanas in our rooms, so I didn't see any fellow passengers in them, and I really didn't see the amount of passengers in all-out pirate costumes around.
So the Pirate show and Mickey's Buccaneer Blast fireworks went off. Very cool that the Disney Cruise Line is the only one allowed to have fireworka at Sea. Oh yeah, one more thing: the main show was Villains Tonight! But we skipped it as we had seen it three times previously and most recently two months ago on the Dream. Presumable the Magic production would have their own impromptu jokes, but we were content skipping it this time.
So...embarkation was smooth and perfect, and so far service was wonderful. Tomorrow would both our first and last full day, but I didn't care--we were on a Disney Cruise, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Stay tuned for Part II soon!