I experienced one of the inaugural sailings for Disney Magic at Sea in Australia aboard Disney Wonder – and this is what I found out.
When I heard Disney Cruise Line was bringing its Magic at Sea sailings to Australia and New Zealand for the first time ever in 2023 – its 100th anniversary year – I wasn’t waiting for an invite to that ball. I bibbidi bobbidi booked as soon as I could, preparing not only for my first experience of Disney Cruise Line, but my first cruise ever (using my little boy as the perfect excuse to go).
Considering making a booking? Read on for eight insider insights from my sailing.
1. You can exchange surprises with other guests
If you do your research before your trip, you may stumble across Facebook pages and message boards talking of ‘fish extenders’. What is a fish extender, you ask? Well, every stateroom door has a metal, fish-shaped hook beside it which, in an official capacity, is for staff to leave invitations and reminders on. In an unofficial capacity, these are used for exchanging surprise gifts, drawings and treats with other passengers onboard.
Those participating hang a personalised bag from their door fish, in which other guests deposit their ‘fairy dust’. Facebook groups are set up with families organising to participate together in advance, or you can try your luck and pop a bag on the door in hope of an impromptu drop. If you’re keen to join in, be sure to take some small treats to deposit in your luggage (or you’ll find yourself making repeat visits to the onboard gift shop).
2. The Disney Cruise Line Navigator app will be your best friend
Before your cruise, this handy app will be your go-to for booking activities and checking-in in advance. Use it for daily itineraries, correspondence with other guests and staff onboard (including the kids’ club and nursery) and official notices from Disney Cruise Line (including disembarkation instructions). You simply need to connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi for it to work (but don’t have to pay for a package for it to do so).
3. The kids’ club is epic
I mean, perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise (it is Disney, after all) but the kids’ club was, well… next level. We experienced Disney’s Oceaneer Club (for three to 12 years) and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab. The former is laid out in zones, including a Toy Story-themed play area with slides and a Captain’s Deck, where little ones can ‘steer’ the vessel. The latter is where scheduled activities take place throughout the day, from slime-making to dance parties. There’s truly never a dull moment onboard. Drop them off for some fun, then you’ll receive a message via the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app when it’s time to collect them.
4. It’s fun for adults, too
As a Disney fan myself this was never a question for me, but for those wondering: yes, there are multiple adults-only areas and activities onboard should you want some grownup time. The Quiet Cove Pool is an 18+, splash-free zone, where you can enjoy a swim or whirlpool session. Indulgence awaits at Senses Spa & Salon, where a full list of treatments (from Grown Alchemist facials to a seaweed massage) accompanies rainforest-themed aromatherapy rooms and a Roman-bath-style sauna.
Come evening, Palo restaurant offers elegant, adults-only Italian dining, dishing up saffron arancini, grilled lobster pappardelle and agnolotti with butternut squash and buffalo mozzarella. Not ready to call it a night? The After Hours hub is the place to be, for live music at the Hollywood-inspired Cadillac Lounge and dancing at the ocean-themed Azure nightclub.
5. The onboard shows are seriously good
I’m talking Broadway-style, full sets, impressive costume changes and confetti explosions. We saw The Golden Mickeys (a Hollywood-style awards show paying tribute to the movies of Walt Disney), Frozen, A Musical Spectacular (a stage version of the movie) and Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic (an award-winner that showcases characters and songs from Disney classics). I’d have happily paid top dollar for all of them, yet they were included in our cruise fare – with two seatings a day to make sure all guests have a chance to catch the show. Just be sure to arrive early to secure a seat.
6. I actually got a great night’s sleep
Having never been on a cruise before, I really didn’t know what to expect from sleeping onboard. I really was pleasantly surprised by the size and comfort of the stateroom (we stayed in a Deluxe Inside Stateroom) and we barely heard a noise from other guests. A curtain partition between the bedroom and the living space meant it was so dark we actually achieved some lay-ins during our stay (a priceless gift for any parent).
7. Go quackers for ‘cruise ducks’
Another unofficial yet seriously cute activity that unfolds onboard is the hiding of miniature rubber ducks around the ship for other guests to find. Each one has a tag round its neck saying who left it there, instructing you to either keep the fun going by hiding it again, or hold onto it as a souvenir should you wish. While this game of hide-and-squeak isn’t exclusive to these cruises, it’s a nice complement to the magic onboard.
8. The boarding and disembarking process is speedy
When travelling with a young child, the last thing you need is lengthy queues and juggling of paperwork. With so many guests to board, and then, disembark, I had visions of tantrums and disaster management at either end of our trip. But I needn’t have worried. Everything is so smoothly managed and clear, it all went without a hitch. You and your suitcases are assigned a coloured tag, and when it’s when your turn to disembark, you’re called up to exit the ship, where your luggage is waiting in a nominated zone. Need to leave quickly for a flight? That will be sorted too, with priority departure for those who need it.
Feature image Disney Wonder. Source: Disney Cruise Line.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out Magic at Sea: Why You Should Book with Disney Cruise Line for 2024.