Do you remember watching the Disney Cruise Line commercials that aired in 1998, encouraging you to “discover uncharted magic” and set sail on the Disney Magic? Sixteen years have passed, and with four ships in its fleet, Disney Cruise Line is as bustling as ever with many dozens of voyages around the world each year.
I recently returned from a most excellent, elegant, and exciting voyage on the Disney Fantasy, the newest of the vessels. I continue to praise everything about what the ship has to offer, both tangibly and emotionally, but to describe an experience does not mean as much as actually living it.
I hope to encourage you to realize the possibilities of Disney Cruise Line, albeit through experiencing it vicariously, as I share memories of my time aboard the Disney Fantasy. My story is just one of many that individuals experienced on the same ship during the same week. Each varies in level of relaxation and fun, but almost all contain the same core elements that define Disney Cruise Line: magic, in every sense of the word.
The magic begins from the moment you step foot on deck of any of the four ships. I am most partial to the Disney Fantasy, having sailed on that vessel twice, but all welcome you with warmth and personalization. For example, just seconds after having your picture taken at the Disney Cruise Line terminal (assuming you are leaving from Port Canaveral, Florida), you are greeted by the crew members. “Disney Fantasy, please welcome (insert your family name here),” a crew member announces on loud speaker. Nautical Donald Duck shakes your hand as you walk toward the immense, absolutely gorgeous lobby. Your itinerary, whether only several days or as many as two weeks, gives you the opportunity to visit multiple destinations. But the coolest destination exists not necessarily where you head to, but rather where you spend most hours of the day. The ship is the destination!
Here you spend your nights dining in one of three meticulously themed restaurants, rich in décor and character. Character, as in class, but also as in Disney characters. Each of the four ships boasts a transformative venue called Animator’s Palate, in which you watch characters come to life in more ways than one. The food, tasty and varied, caters to both the picky eater and connoisseur. Vegetarian or carnivore, dessert lover or fine cuisine critic, Disney Cruise Line’s many ways to eat in fancy and relaxed dining establishments make it scrumptious to sail the seven seas. Food is great, but I most enjoy the familiar faces on board. Mickey Mouse and Goofy are not the only comforting figures you meet on Disney Cruise Line. The crew members and other travelers become your family for a period. In many ways, they make a Disney Cruise Line vacation unlike any other.
Often your first opportunity to meet some of those figures arrives on your sailing day, when you participate in a rousing celebratory send-off to society for a brief period. You watch the party on the main deck, or even dance along with Pluto and pals, and you become acquainted with the other vacationers. Depending on your dinner seating arrangement, you may be paired with another family or group. For 90 minutes to two hours each night, you have the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. I continue to correspond with my fellow dinner-mates from previous voyages because we shared an unforgettable experience together. I have made friends with Canadians, Bostonians, and Tennesseans, to name a few.
Just as importantly, I came to know and appreciate the crew members, including the cruise staff who work day and night to entertain cruisers via trivia games, dance parties, karaoke, bingo, crafts, and other activities. These tireless entertainers aim to make your experience magical. Due to the format of a cruise, and the relatively small staff-to-traveler ratio, they come to know you, too. By name or location, no less. After a few days, they knew me as Brett, or the Arizonan. Disney Cruise Line affords both you and them the chance to converse and learn about your varied life experiences.
Similarly, I appreciated my servers and stateroom attendant, who I chatted with nightly or whenever I saw them around the ship. We talked about our home nations (most are international), played games, and shared wonderful memories. The best part is this situation is more usual than unusual. Most cruisers leave their ship having gained friendships with fellow travelers and crew members alike.
Disney Cruise Line can draw in the geeks, too, as found in this previous Disney In Depth. I discovered endless ways to utilize an hour, from taking part in the Midship Detective Agency interactive game featuring Kermit the Frog, to feeling the rush of water splash onto my face while riding the AquaDuck. The video below highlights some of the immersive activities that line every inch of the Disney Fantasy. While the Dream Class ships (Dream and Fantasy) and the recently renovated Magic possess more state-of-the-art features and venues, all four ships share one thing in common. Given the voyage is in the Bahamas or Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line docks at Castaway Cay for one day. Or even two in some cases.
Disney’s private island, which plays host to only a few thousand guests at a time, separates the Disney cruises from other ocean lines. Imagine the cleanest, most lush tropical paradise possible. Then add the Mouse. Your product is Castaway Cay, marked by snorkeling excursions, a water slide, nature trails, wild birds and even Donald Duck. To relax on a hammock in Serenity Bay, the adult exclusive beach, or to build sand castles in the family area, is to enjoy vacation with Disney style. Character meet-and-greets, 5K runs, crab races and bicycling are just a handful of offerings. Castaway Cay even has roots prior to Disney’s acquisition. Splash, Touchstone Pictures’ first film, was shot on these shores some 30 years ago.
So there I have indicated the people, places, and activities that make Disney Cruise Line so special. Atmosphere also has a spot in this picturesque portrait of a vacation. You see, when you’re on a Disney cruise, you’re isolated from everything in the best way imaginable. Forget stressors, such as cleaning, cooking, checking your phone, or commuting. Everything is accessible, engaging, and hassle-free. Sure, you can certainly respond to messages, but a most fantastic vacation means temporarily breaking away from society. Disney and its crew of considerate Cast Members take care of you on these fantasy-infused ships, always immaculate. You will never see so many hand sanitizer dispensers and wipes in your life, but you will appreciate how Disney prioritizes your health. Additionally, the environment just calls you to explore every floor, full of amazing details and discoveries.
Disney Cruise Line, in truly countless respects, explains why Disney is the best at what it does in multiple arenas. From a ship perspective, the cleanliness, immersive state, and interactivity top its competition. From an entertainment perspective, the musicals, variety acts, and other programming possess variety and first-rate quality. From a vacation perspective, it’s extremely relaxing and fun at the same time.
A voyage on the Disney Cruise Line is an unforgettable fantasy, one you will want to experience again and again. Once you’re a Castaway Club member (after sailing once on Disney Cruise Line), you will be planning your next cruise while still aboard the ship. There’s even a desk on the ship dedicated to booking future cruises. And the lines leading to the desk grow each subsequent day on the voyage.
Have you traveled on Disney Cruise Line? What would you most want to experience? Share your thoughts!
This is Brett Nachman, signing off (from the shore, not sea). Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.