The Walt Disney cruise line – The ships

DISNEY MAGIC, DISNEY WONDER, DISNEY FANTASY, AND DISNEY DREAM are modern cruise ships with sleek lines, twin smokestacks, and nautical styling that calls to mind classic ocean liners, but with instantly recognizable Disney signatures. The colors—black, white, red, and yellow—and the famous face-and-ears silhouette on the stacks are clearly those of Mickey Mouse. Look closely, and you’ll see that Magic’s stern ornamentation is a 15-foot Goofy hanging by his overalls.

unofficial TIP

If you want to see the sea on your Disney cruise, book a cabin with a private veranda.

Interiors combine nautical themes with Art Deco inspiration. Disney images are everywhere, from Mickey’s profile in the wrought-iron balustrades to the bronze statue of Helmsman Mickey at the center of the three-deck Grand Atrium. Disney art is on every wall and in every stairwell and corridor. A grand staircase sweeps from the atrium lobby to shops selling Disney Cruise Line–themed clothing, collectibles, jewelry, sundries, and more. (The shops are always full of eager buyers; some observers speculate that the cruise line will derive as much revenue here as other lines do from their casinos, which Disney ships don’t have.)

The ships have two lower decks with cabins, three decks with dining rooms and show rooms, then three upper decks of cabins (five on the Dream and Fantasy). Two sports and sun decks offer separate pools and facilities for families, and for adults without children. Signs point toward lounges and facilities, and all elevators are clearly marked forward, aft, or midships.

Our main complaint concerning the ships’ design is that outdoor public areas focus inward toward the pools instead of seaward, as if Disney wants you to forget you’re on a cruise liner. On the Magic and the Wonder, there’s no public place where you can curl up in the shade and watch the ocean—at least not without a Plexiglas wall between you and it. On Deck 4 of the Dream and the Fantasy, however, there’s an open promenade, complete with comfy deck chairs, that circles the ship. It’s shady and fairly well protected from wind, and it offers the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the sea without looking through Plexiglas barriers.

Speaking of Plexiglas, a predictable but nonetheless irritating design characteristic is the extensive childproofing. There’s enough Plexiglas on all four ships to build a subdivision of see-through homes. On the pool decks especially, it feels as if the ships are hermetically sealed. Plus, veranda doors have a two-part locking mechanism, with one of the two parts 6 feet off the floor—causing even adults occasional consternation in trying to operate them.

CABINS

CABINS AND SUITES ARE SPACIOUS, with wood paneling throughout. About three-fourths of cabins are outside; more than half of those have private verandas. The cabin categories range from standard to deluxe, deluxe with veranda, family stateroom, one- and two-bedroom suites, and royal suite.

Cabin design reveals Disney’s finely tuned sense of the needs of families and children and offers a cruise-industryfirst: a split bathroom with a bathtub and shower combo and sink in one room, and toilet, sink, and vanity in another. This configuration, found in all but standard inside cabins, allows any family member to use the facilities without monopolizing them. All bathrooms have tub and shower, except cabins for disabled passengers (shower only).

Decor includes unusual features such as bureaus designed to look like steamer trunks. Cabins also have a direct-dial telephone with voice mail, TV, hair dryer, and a mini-fridge or cooling box. In some cabins, pull-down Murphy beds or drop-down bunk beds (which lower from the ceiling) allow for additional daytime floor space.

We were pretty horrified to discover that duvets have replaced sheets and blankets on the Dream and the Fantasy and may be coming to the Magic and the Wonder. Duvets may be okay for an Alaskan, Baltic, or off-season Mediterranean cruise, but for the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean during the summer, they’re a stupendously dumb idea. What is Disney thinking? You could cook a Christmas goose under one of those things! During our cruise on the Dream, we chucked the duvet in the closet for the duration and requested a sheet (two, actually). Another option is to take the duvet out of its cover and use the cover as a blanket. Cabin stewards frown on this, however, and will usually stuff the duvet back into the cover each morning, forcing you perform a duvet extraction every night before retiring.

Storage is generous, with deep drawers and large closets. On the Dream and the Fantasy, almost 9 out of 10 of the 1,250 cabins are outside; of those, 90% have a private veranda. Clearly designed for families, including multigenerational ones, the Dream and the Fantasy have a high percentage of cabins for four or five people, along with 500 connecting cabins. The partition between connecting veranda cabins opens, if needed, to create a larger shared balcony. Every cabin has a 22-inch flat-panel TV on a swivel arm and an iPod docking station. And, in a showcase of Disney Imagineering genius, occupants of inside cabins have a view of the outside—yes, the outside. A large virtual porthole on the back wall of the cabin is connected to high-definition cameras, placed on the exterior of the ship, that will feed live video to each porthole for real-time outside views.

A Maylene, Alabama, reader offers this useful information for families with kids:

A big difference between Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line is that when it comes to room capacity, infants are counted just like adults. So while a family of five can stay at a Value resort (four adults on the double beds and an infant in a crib), that same family of five must either book a Category 4 (or above) cabin or book a pair of lower-category cabins.

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