It was almost by accident that we ended up taking a cruise. It was definitely just chance that it would be the same dates as the one we took last year. We were looking into booking one with some friends for the spring, when we noticed a quasi-last-minute offer for Florida residents that was a pretty outstanding deal. I wouldn't characterize it as cheap, but given the food, entertainment and service value, it was a great deal. We haven't been on a proper vacation since we moved, and it was long overdue. We were planning a long weekend without Simon around our anniversary, but being close to spring break, room rates were $300-400, not counting food or entertainment. So we celebrated two months early, with our son.
Our first cruise ever was on the Disney Dream last year, a much larger and very new ship. We weren't sure if we would like it or not, and the impetus for going was to surprise my father-in-law for his birthday. As it turned out, we really had a good time, and couldn't wait to do it again. We said we'd like to do the 4-day trip to the Bahamas, but the deal was the same 3-day itinerary we did before, and that's OK. Again, desperate to get out.
The Magic just underwent an extensive overhaul, where they stripped it down and repainted it, replaced most of the carpet and outright replaced entire areas of the ship. For the most part, it really showed, because it didn't feel like a 16-year-old ship. There were a few places here and there (like the "Signals" sign for the bar by the adult pool) that had obviously been around for awhile, but mostly things were shiny and new.
The pool areas on deck 9 included the new Aqua Dunk slide, which I unfortunately didn't get time to ride, and a new Aqua Lab kids area. As was the case on the Dream, these areas get really busy at times, but it's easy enough to just skip out and come back at another time. There is plenty to do.
It was a bit cool the first night there until we got further away from the Florida coast. We met some characters, and spent a lot of time exploring the ship. We bailed in the middle of dinner because Simon was starting to have a really hard time without a nap. They actually sent dinner up to our room, fresh, which was very nice. He did get a second wind, and we saw the first of the three theatrical shows. It was pretty solid overall, a twist on the Cinderella story.
The second day port was Nassau, and we stayed on the ship. It started with the epic breakfast that I really associate as the signature cruise meal. Sure, dinner is fancy and delicious, but the breakfast buffet is what makes me fat. It's really fantastic.
After making fun of how ugly the Carnival ships in the port were, Simon actually asked to get his swimmies on, and we headed up to try stuff out. He was disappointingly tentative about doing anything once we got up there, but the boy does love to hang out on beach chairs. We also tried a movie for the first time, in a theater. They were showing Planes, and we made it through an hour before Simon was totally bored with it. I'm curious about how it ends, but it didn't really grab me either. We ended the afternoon with some nap action.
Our second night dinner was in Animator's Palette, which is not the same as what they did on the Dream last year. Video screens around the restaurant show characters being drawn, and after dinner, the all-white restaurant is animated with colored lighting, set to music and video. It was kind of neat. We passed on the theatrical show, because it was the same as one we saw last year. We checked Simon into the Oceaneer's Club and had some alone time (and beverages) at various places around the ship. We spent some time up on deck 9 for the pirate dance party. It was quite a spectacle, and kids and adults both seemed to love it.
The third day was our day at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. Here we had some excellent breakthroughs with Simon. He has always had issues around textures, both feeling and eating (presumably due in part to the sensory processing issues), and last year he absolutely hated touching or walking in the sand. The island just wasn't much fun for him. But somewhere along the way, he learned about sand castles, and wanted to make some. We were on the beach five minutes before we went down to the water, and Diana scored a few paper cups to make little castles (which he promptly knocked down). He waded in the water, got full of sand, and tried to battle the little waves as they came in. I admit that I was pessimistic about our time there, but he totally surprised me.
The food on the island wasn't particularly good, unfortunately. The chicken was a bit dry, and Diana indicated the fish was as well (though it was well seasoned). It was a little disappointing, but fortunately there's no shortage of the core American junk food onboard, including some really good pizza, chicken tenders and what not. Simon had been battling a cold all weekend, and he and I went back to the ship for some nap time, while Diana stayed behind to read (and actually came back shortly thereafter with the threat of rain).
Our final night was in the Brazilian themed restaurant, where I had soup that blew my mind. I'm not a soup kind of guy, but this chicken and vegetable stuff with lots of heat was fantastic. Loved it. Unfortunately, none of the dishes used chicken as the protein, which is unfortunate because they were all prepared in ways that appealed to me. Simon got a little sick (likely from snot and putting too much food in his mouth), so we took dessert back to the room. We were fortunate enough to have a very nice, young family as dinner tablemates, and I hope they follow up on our contact info.
After a little rest, we went down to the theater for the third show, which was pretty spectacular. As art, I'm not sure how to value it, because it is a lot of recycled Disney intellectual property remixed, but the skill of the performers and technical crew was top notch.
We were up bright and early for breakfast, and off the ship around 7:30, with no friction at customs. We saved money by not having to fly anywhere, but parking was a bit steep at $60 for the three nights. It was also a buzz kill to go directly to work from the port, but you know, these are the hard things about living in Florida.
Once again, I can't emphasize enough how excellent the service was, from the wonderful woman who took care of our stateroom, to the servers that we saw every night at dinner. There's something completely fantastic about sitting on your verandah and seeing three different views, as well as the soothing sound of water rushing by the hull at night (which is quite beautiful, as they have lights that illuminate the blue foam). I'm seriously hooked, and can't wait to do it again.