Thursday, 31 October 2013

More Disney Magic - Pt 4, The Big Picture

Concluding our look at the "newly re-imagined" Disney Magic of Disney Cruise Line...

By Editor Simon Veness

So, just how much of a ship CAN you see in 2 days? That was the challenge for us when embarking the newly-refurbished Disney Magic in Miami last Friday, spending two nights at sea (OK, one-and-a-half, as we we were back in port by 6am on Sunday!) and trying to cover as much of the ship as possible.

As we reported in the first three parts of this special report, we did manage to take in the wealth of new designs, additional elements and makeovers that have constituted the massive amount of work Disney have undertaken on their original ship, which dates back to 1998.

This was by far the biggest dry-dock process they had ever undertaken, and the five weeks it was in the shipyard in Spain were barely enough to complete a process that actually began at the design stage two YEARS ago.

Just for example, the parts for the amazing AquaDunk water-slide (above) and the
AquaLab (left) were built a year ago and shipped to Cadiz ready for assembly in that 5-week window. Other components were also pre-constructed and then just taken aboard in a frenzy of 24-hour activity to finish the job.

In reality, the job was only finished back in Disney's home port of Port Canaveral just prior to this short sailing. A previous 5-day cruise had to be cancelled as the plan to lay all the new carpets and other final touches on the transatlantic crossing was thwarted by bad weather, and those days needed to be used for the fitting out instead.

There were even a few small-scale last-minute details being attended to on our cruise (in Cabanas, for example and with some of the fittings on the doors to the new Carioca's restaurant). There were also a few  snafus in some of the cabins, where cleaners had not been completely scrupulous in coming in after the new cabinetry had been fitted, and there were some plumbing and electrical issues that were attended to on the first day.

But reports of wide-scale building going on during the voyage, of mass breakdowns of toilets and air-conditioning and (in one online story) of builders' tools and debris being strewn "everywhere", were a complete exaggeration. Maintenance work of some kind is carried out on every cruise ship in the world on just about every voyage. and there was nothing we saw that amounted to more than this level of inconvenience.

The bottom line is that Disney have pulled off a huge accomplishment in a very short space of time and done it, by and large, with great aplomb.

The enhancements to the likes of Animator's Palate, Cabanas and the kids clubs are
immensely impressive, while the wholescale rebuilding of the adults'-only district from Beat Street to After Hours is a singular triumph, in my opinion. 

The large-scale addition of the AquaDunk slide and AquaLab water-play area is nothing short of jaw-dropping, especially given that five-week window.

So what else did we manage to see in our two days?

Not a lot else, it has to be said! We were able to dine in each of Cabanas and Lumiere's (for lunch) and Animator's Palate and Carioca's (for dinner), and the food on offer in each one was definitely above average and better than I remember the main restaurant fare being 15 or even 10 years ago.

We did take in two of the main shows at the Walt Disney Theater, where the performances of the signature productions Twice Charmed and Disney Dreams drew huge audience applause and continue to be in the very best traditions of the company's live entertainment offerings. Indeed, the originality of Twice Charmed would not be out of place on Broadway, while Disney Dreams (which debuted with the ship itself) remains an absolute tour de force
of classic favourites, Disney's 'Greatest Hits,' if you like (pictured, right).

We managed to stop for coffee in The Cove Cafe in the adults-only section of the upper decks, and would have tried out the Rainforest Room in the Senses Spa if it hadn't been packed out on the Saturday afternoon! So, instead, we sat on the balcony of our wonderfully roomy stateroom and watched the Bahamian waters drift by for a soporific hour.

Finally, there was another highlight for us, pre-dinner drinks in Keys piano bar (below, left), with a female pianist enhancing the ambience with a few well-chosen tunes and a gorgeous cocktail provided by Indonesian barman Andy.

It set the seal on a hectic-but-enjoyable jaunt to see just what "newly re-imagined" really
means, and we can definitely say - it means VERY happy Disney cruising in future.

More info: Look up Disney Cruise line at http://disneycruise.disney.go.com/ or, in the UK, see Virgin Holidays Cruises on www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk, or 0844 573 4398.

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