In the Summer of 2021, when the world was still gripped by the pandemic and holidays abroad were scarce… Disney give us a wonderful experience right on our doorstep. The Disney Magic at Sea stay-cation cruise! This exclusive experience would bring the Disney Magic cruise ship to UK waters for the summer of 2021 offering sailings out of a number of UK ports. These sailings would allow us to have a little bit of Disney magic here in the UK as well as letting us experience what Disney Cruise Line has to offer. Unlike a standard cruise, there would be no offshore excursions. For most people (myself included) this wasn’t a deal breaker. The idea of spending a few days in the Disney bubble was enough for me. I booked one of the cruises out of Newcastle with Fairytale Holidays.
I Wasn’t Always “Team Cruise”
Prior to this trip, I had never cruised before. In fact, I claimed to be afraid of boats and open water. But the need for some kind of Disney experience was strong, I was watching my daughter’s childhood slip away! That and this felt like a once in a life to experience that I did not want to miss out on. I have to be honest, had this experience not been offered, I’m not sure I would have ever cruised. I’ve spent many years claiming it’s not for me. Back then not even a Disney Cruise could entice me to book. Due to the modified version of this sailing, the price was too good to pass up and I booked 2 nights for us. I can hands up and say the moment I arrived I had instant regret that I hadn’t booked longer. Because that atrium felt like home.
I firmly believed that there was no way a Disney Cruise could bring me the same joy as visiting the parks. But I was wrong. A Disney Cruise is a different kind of trip but it’s one you should absolutely consider taking. And here is why.
Maybe this is just me, but I sorta find Disney Holidays stressful. Magical? Sure! Worth the stress? Of course! But doing a Disney trip that wasn’t stressful at any point, it was bliss.
We only had two days and we managed to do everything we wanted to do at least once. Yes, I wish I could have eaten more. Spent more time letting Liv swim. Watched more movies on Funnel Vision. Taken part in more quizzes. Dedicated a whole day to finding characters. But we did everything we wanted and not once did I feel over stretched or that I was running around. The actual atmosphere on the ship is a much more relaxed one. Everyone is going at their own pace. You have the same servers at each meal so they get to know you and even though we were first dinner service, we never felt rushed out. There is very little queuing for anything (except the store as it’s only open at specific times) and most of it is inside in regulated temperatures.
But you know what really made it relaxing for me, especially as a single parent… the kids clubs. I booked times for my daughter to go to the Oceaneer Club (for kids aged 3-12) and I knew she was safe, entertained and having fun. This gave me time to relax. Because while the kids clubs are strictly kids only (except on embarkment day when adults can look around the kids club), there are plenty of adult only areas on the ship! Kid free spaces with a more adult atmosphere including an upper deck with a pool. I grabbed myself a specialty coffee, my current read and stretched out on one of the sun loungers. Child free time is not an experience I would ever have at one of the parks but on Disney Cruise. And Olivia LOVED it. In fact she cried after her last visit. Oops!
Look, the older I’m getting the lazier I’m getting. In 2015 we were a rope drop to park close kinda family. My daughter slept in her push chair but we never left the parks. These days, I’m ready for bed after dinner and I find if I leave the park for a break, I often never make it back. And the main reason why this happens? The trek. This especially pertains to Walt Disney World. The buses, the monorail, getting back to your car.. it’s all time consuming and can be an epic adventure in itself if you’ve been up since 6am and it’s 100 degrees! Anyway, on a Disney Cruise, you have none of that. Everything is in one place. And I loved that. Forget something for the day? Just pop back to your room. Need a quick change of clothes? Pop back to your room. Want to use your own personal bathroom? Just pop back to your room. Want a nap? You guessed it, just pop back to your room!
Yes, having our room so close by, no matter where we were on the ship was in itself, a huge perk but it’s not the only thing that feels convenient. Dining also felt convenient. Knowing we would always have a table at a specific time in one of the amazing restaurants really took the stress out of mealtimes. Again knowing it wouldn’t take us long to get there from our room made planning our day easier. In fact, everything about Disney Cruise felt like it was convenient. Again, it’s probably why it feels so much more relaxing than visiting a park!
The Food is AMAZING
Since we’ve touched on dining already, I want to go into more detail about the food and restaurants on a Disney Cruise Line ship. So, a big part of the price is the fact that your food is included. I personally was a huge fan of the Disney Dining Plan because I liked not having to budget for my meals, so this was sort of along the same lines. But also better. Aside from a few extra treats, specialty drinks and alcohol, food and drinks are included. You don’t have credits like you would on a dining plan, instead you have allocated times for breakfast and dinner, but if you want to eat anything else you can just pop to one of the quick service windows. Everything we ate was delicious and definitely felt like a step beyond theme park fair.
For starters, the American mac & cheese pretty much made me cry on embarkment day and that really set the standard for us. The evening meals were three courses as standard. What blew my mind was you could order as much as you want? Our server often tried to get us to order three desserts between the two of us and one time even suggested I get a side of STEAK to go with my pasta because I couldn’t pick between the two dishes. Olivia ordered from the adult menu one evening as it appealed more than the kids and they had no problem with letting her mix and match. The same went for breakfast, she could have cereal AND a bagel. I could have French toast AND a plate of hash browns. The service to our table was above and beyond.
The food was so good, I’m trying to get my parents to book to come with us next time purely on that!
It Feels Safe
Anyone who knows me will know 90% of the time I travel alone with my daughter. I’m a single parent team and I have been since she was four months old. Safety is a huge deal for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I ALWAYS feel safe at Disney. But the mass crowds, the pushing and shoving that sometimes happens, the fact that I feel like I need four sets of eyes now she’s no longer in a pushchair. Believe me when I say this, it’s exhausting on your own. While yes, I have mentioned above the break the kids clubs on board a Disney Cruise Line ship offers, there are other aspects that make me feel safe.
- The cleanliness is at such a high standard. This is something I always expect of Disney but I do understand when the parks don’t always look their best due to the sheer amount of guests.
- Everywhere is well lit. Traversing the ship alone in the evening, I felt completely safe.
- Kids can have more independence at the pool. Yes, even the little ones as you can sit right at the edge of the kids pool/splash pad area. My daughter is a strong swimmer and I felt I could trust her to navigate the pools and slides.
- No mass crowds. Not once did I feel like I was being crammed into anywhere or pushed or shoved. I’m aware it was during the pandemic but since everyone needed to be vaccinated and tested prior to boarding, there was little to no social distancing.
The Entertainment is Something Else
When Disney Cruise Line advertise West End calibre shows, they’re not lying. And I have seen a multitude of Disney West End shows, most recently Mary Poppins. The shows they have on their cruise shops filled me with the same emotional joy, wonder and awe than anything I’ve seen. They have some truly talented cast members really putting on a show you can get behind. We saw Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic, which was a medley show featuring beautiful renditions from some of our favourite movies (and it had Peter Pan in it). We also saw Tangled The Musical. This translated perfectly to the stage. On the Wonder you’ll find Frozen, on the Dream is Beauty and the Beast and the Fantasy it’s Aladdin.
On the subject of entertainment on a Disney Cruise, there are chances to meet your favourite characters for photos, autographs and hugs. An indoor cinema showing the latest releases, and “funnel vision” showing a selection of Disney Classics throughout the day. There is karaoke, game shows and quizzes a plenty. But that’s not all. Up on deck you’ll find special deck parties! Deck parties usually bring characters, an MC and lots of singing and dancing. We were eating and missed the Sail Away party, but we caught the Frozen Sing Along. But that’s not all, as of 2022, fireworks are back! And let’s face it, nothing brings a tear to your eye faster than watching a Disney firework display!
Of course, the main question that needs answering for anything to do with Disney.. is it magical? Yes, it’s so magical. Until 2021, I was a true sceptic but now I’m a believer. Disney Cruise Line is a different kind of holiday but it’s one I recommend you try for yourself. Whether you do one of the sailings out of the UK, or choose to do a split stay as part of your Walt Disney World holiday, go with an open mind and I truly believe you won’t be disappointed!
Thinking about setting sail on your own Disney Cruise?
Just complete the form below and one of our Magic Makers will be in touch to help you.