Disney Cruises for Families | An Inside Look Part II

By Jamie Garrett, Freelance Writer
Part 2 of a 3-part-series packed with cruise ship tips and tricks from my family’s own Disney Magic voyage.
Read Part IRead Part III

Day 2 – Key West, FL

Our first morning onboard the Magic Disney Cruise found us in Key West, the southernmost part of the contiguous United States. Upon arriving in any port, options abound for shore excursions and activities. Some people seek adventures, others look for food and drink, while some only want a relaxing day at the beach. On any cruise ship, passengers can book excursions in advance, either online or onboard.

One of my wife’s fellow travel agents had recommended the Old Town Trolley tour, so we disembarked immediately after breakfast at Cabana’s to search for it. Although we could have booked online, we waited until arriving in Key West in case our plans changed.

Buying tickets for this tour was super easy. Just off of the ship, literally 50 yards away, was the kiosk for the Old Town Trolley.

Passengers can get on and off this 1.5-hour open-air trolley tour as many times as they wish on the same day, making it an ideal way to see lots of Key West in a short amount of time. For $80, the four of us got a great tour narrated by a knowledgeable guide who shared interesting facts about points of interest along the way. The trolley starts near the port, leaves every half hour, and makes 13 stops, including the Southernmost Point, the only place where we got off for an obligatory photo opp.

After the tour, we shopped for souvenirs, bought a piece of “authentic” key lime pie, for our girls to share, and reboarded the Magic for burgers and pizza by the pool.

My Souvenir

I’m not much on souvenirs, except postcards and foreign currency. But as a beer lover and a collector of beer glasses, the one souvenir I wanted was a Disney Cruise Line beer mug. During this afternoon, when my wife and kids were at the pool or in kids club (or wherever they were), I went to O’Gills pub, one of several bars and lounges around the ship to get a mug and have a drink.

The 22 oz. mugs cost $14.99, but for a refill, you only pay the 16 oz. price. To keep you from lugging a heavy glass mug around the entire ship, you trade the empty mug for a token which you exchange the next time you want a beer. On the last day of the cruise, I traded the token for a clean mug to bring home in my carry-on.

Carioca’s: Our Second Evening Meal

The second evening, we dined at Carioca’s, a 3 Caballeros-themed restaurant which offers South American-inspired cuisine. According to my wife, the Magic will dry-dock this spring for refurbishments, one of which will be transforming Carioca’s into a Tangled-themed eatery.

The food was excellent, but there was no show like the previous night in Animator’s Palate. I have a feeling the new Tangled restaurant will offer something more along the lines of what we experienced the first night.

Speaking of Tangled, the second evening’s show was Tangled, a stage presentation of the film. If you’ve seen it, you know the general flow of the show. Our favorite character was Maximus, a full-sized horse who is puppetted in a very interesting and ingenious way!

TIP: When helping kids pack for a cruise, include the obligatory items like swimsuits, flip-flops, cover-ups, sun shirts, and sunglasses. But kids also need real clothes! We mostly wore shorts, tank tops, and T-shirts the entire cruise, but each night, you sit down to a fancy meal (probably fancier than most kids have ever experienced). Your little ones don’t need ball gowns and tuxedos but pack something a little nicer than beachwear. Our girls packed several summer dresses along with a nice pair of sandals for their dinner attire. Knowing that the air-conditioned restaurants can be chilly, they also packed light sweaters. Also, being at sea can get quite windy. Light jackets or windbreakers are handy, especially when strolling on deck in the evening.

Onboard Movies in the Buena Vista Theater

One of my favorite features of this ship was the Buena Vista Theater which plays mostly first-run Disney films. On this cruise, four films were playing – Coco, Cars 3, Thor: Ragnorak, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This particular evening, Star Wars was playing at 10:30 pm, which I had already seen, but who can resist free movies? It was both cool and weird to sit in a moving cinema, swaying back and forth with the motion of the Magic.

TIP: Speaking of motion, at some point during a cruise, everyone gets seasick, a little or a lot. You can take oral medications or put medicated patches behind your ears, but we use Sea-Bands to prevent seasickness. On both cruises, we all wore these wristbands which prevent nausea via a pressure point. We like them because they are non-pharmaceutical, have no side effects, and are safe for everyone, even kids. 

Day 3 – Nassau, Bahamas

On Day 3, the Magic brought us to Nassau, Bahamas, pulling into port between Norwegian’s Epic and Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas, the ship we sailed on last year.

On our previous cruise, we did a shore excursion on our day in Nassau, getting in the water with the dolphins at Blue Lagoon, a truly amazing experience. When the excursion was over, we went to the famous Nassau Straw Market then shopped on Bay Street.

I was underwhelmed by the parts of Nassau that I had seen in 2017. I’m sure there is much more to see there, but since we’d been before and didn’t have a burning desire to do or see anything, we stayed on the ship all day. At the end of the day, it was a good choice, because the weather was cool and windy all day, the perfect day not to go ashore.

Instead of visiting Nassau, we took advantage of the plethora of onboard activities and entertainment. In the morning, my kids went to their respective kids’ clubs while my wife hung out with her fellow agents. I watched Thor: Ragnorak, a film I’d been planning to see, but hadn’t yet. During the afternoon, when our kids were occupied, my wife and I did some 18 and older activities, like Team Trivia (We tied for first, but lost a tie-breaker question. Bummer!).

To navigate the many onboard offerings, each day you receive a paper Navigator in your room with the next day’s full agenda. On top of that, Disney Cruise Line also has an app called the Disney Cruise Line Navigator, a free download from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

In addition to laying out each day’s agenda by age and category, the app includes a very handy messaging feature which uses onboard WiFi (after placing your mobile device in Airplane Mode). This was super helpful on a day like this when we were all four in different places.

 TIP: Download the app BEFORE boarding the ship, especially if you won’t have WiFi access onboard. Although the app uses the “DCL-GUEST” wireless network (complimentary when using the app), the network won’t work for downloading the app. Even though my wife had mentioned it to me the day before, I hadn’t downloaded the app before boarding. Thankfully, we were still in Miami and I could download it via my cell network. But it would have been easier if I had listened to her and done it beforehand. Extra tip: Guys, listen to your wives. Especially when she is a Disney travel expert who has already cruised with Disney Cruise Line!

Kid, Youth, and Teen Activities

On Disney ships, there are four options for the under-18 set. For the littlest ones (under 3-years old), there is the It’s a Small World nursery. For kids 3 to 12, there is an enormous kids club. It is so large because unlike most cruise ships, Disney ships have no casinos. Instead, Disney dedicates that space to kids. On the Magic, the kids club and nursery take up almost the entire middle third of Deck 5.

There are two main areas for the 3 to 12-year olds, Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club. Each of these is subdivided into themed sections – Andy’s Room from Toy Story, a play place where kids can climb and slide, a Marvel Superheroes area, Pixie Hollow, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and others. Both areas have big screens for shows and movies. There is even a section with video games. Throughout the day, kids can join numerous activities like Super Sloppy Science or a Wii Challenge.

Older kids also have their own sections, albeit smaller than the kids’ clubs. For tweens, there is Edge on Deck 9 and for teens, there is Vibe located on Deck 10. Although children under 12 must be signed in and out by a parent or another registered adult, tweens and teens have more freedom and can come and go as they please without being signed in and out.

Dinner at Lumiere’s

A full day of activities really gives you an appetite. So I was famished at dinner. That evening was our only meal at Lumiere’s, a Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant with French-inspired cuisine. All of the food was exquisite. I ordered escargot, braised duck and opera cake, the best dessert I had on this cruise.

Tip: If you are worried about having a picky eater in your party, don’t worry. Although the evening meals are quite fancy, younger eaters have their own menus with pizza, mac and cheese, and burgers (depending on the restaurant).

End of Disney Cruises For Families Part II

Jamie Garrett

Jamie Garrett

Freelance Writer

Jamie has been writing professionally for five years. He has lived in China, France, and Morocco. He has also traveled to 47 of the 50 US states and has visited over 25 countries. Jamie loves going to new places and revisiting favorite ones. When at home, he loves being with his wife and two daughters, reading, watching movies and watching soccer.
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