In this second part of my Disney Magic at Sea recap, I’ll cover what we got up to during our full day on board (part 1 is here if you missed it). We were certainly spoilt for choice as far as things to do were concerned and there was far more on offer than we we could possibly fit in. We did have some “must do” activities in mind, and used the Navigator app to favourite everything we were interested in. This was handy because it meant that 15 minutes ahead of the start time, we got a notification reminding us of the activity and, more importantly the location – make sure you have notifications on so you get these (mine also went to my Apple Watch, which was really handy).
Join me as I recap our magical day at sea…
We had both made an active start to the morning – my sister to the gym and me to the running deck – so were both in need of some food. We chose not to go to one of the main dining rooms as we had a reservation for brunch later in the morning and didn’t want to be too full, so chose Cabanas instead so we could opt for something lighter, just enough to take the edge off! Under normal circumstances Cabanas would be a buffet, but since buffets aren’t happening right now, it is set up with a number of identical stations, each featuring the exact same selection of food, and you simply tell the member of staff behind the counter what you would like and they serve it for you – if you want to pile your plate high with something, they’ll do that for you, no limits! We were required to wash or sanitise our hands before entering and we were greeted by a member of staff who explained the process, reminded us to wait until the party in front of us was finished before going up, etc.
I opted for a Mickey churro (all food tastes better when it’s Mickey-shaped!) and a chocolate chip pancake. The server seemed surprised when I said that was all I wanted, so I felt obliged to explain that I had a brunch booking so really only wanted a snack!
Drinks were also served to us at the drink station rather than it being self service, and here I went for orange juice and coffee. But not just any old coffee, the Joffrey’s coffee I have come to love in Walt Disney World. The first sip transported me to WDW, it just tasted like Disney parks in the morning!
We didn’t stay long as we wanted to fit in some more bits and pieces before changing for brunch, but the food all looked really great – fruit, cereals, cooked items, baked goods – so on another occasion I would have a decent go and trying lots of different things!
Although there were no themed events (Disney cruises in the “olden days” were known for things like Marvel Day at sea, Star Wars Day at sea, Pirate Day, etc) we were told that this particular morning would have a Marvel theme. This meant that the background music playing around the ship was Marvel, there were Marvel characters appearing in the atrium, Disney characters were wearing Marvel-themed clothing and there were Marvel activities like quizzes and animation classes. A brilliant morning for the Marvel fan. Since one of my lockdown projects had been to watch all of the MCU movies (just Black Widow to go now), I was looking forward to this.
The characters began appearing in the atrium not long after 8am and this was the first thing on the activity list for the day. With our stateroom being so near, we were able to see Captain Marvel on our way to breakfast, then later in the morning we saw Black Panther and Thor. These were great interactions, with the characters taking time to talk to guests or, in the case of Black Panther, encourage us to pose with our arms crossed over our chests.
We didn’t have time for any of the quizzes or the animation class (I would have liked to do that one) but we did join the queue to meet Disney Pals in the cinema (where we had met Belle shortly after boarding). We were there before this started so were one of the earlier groups in and we got to meet Minnie Mouse and Pluto. Pluto was sporting a bandana with an Avengers motif, while Minnie had a Spider-Man logo on her top. Again, we had a lovely interaction.
I imagine the characters would have changed throughout the morning, but the queue was quite long when we passed again and we didn’t have time to wait.
Youth Activities Open House
The various Youth Activity areas are normally the sole preserve of the youngsters using them, however during the cruise there is also an “open house” to allow other guests to see that part of the ship. Having done my homework (read: I watched some vlogs) before our sailing I knew that Toy Story characters could be found in the Andy’s Room section of the Oceaneer’s Club, so we made sure to pay a visit after breakfast. While we were in Jessie was in attendance at one point there was nobody there getting pictures so we were able to spend a bit of time interacting.
Next to Andy’s Room there was also the Marvel Superhero Academy and although there were no characters there, it did offer some great photo ops and things to look at. I’d definitely recommend popping in here to see it.
Palo is positioned as a “chic, adult-exclusive” location and does have a dress code “to preserve the elegant ambiance”. In practice, this means dressing smartly (so no swimwear, shorts, torn clothing, etc). We had both packed a dress to put on so after Open House we headed back to our stateroom to change then went by the atrium to take some photos on the staircase while we were smartly dressed. Of course since we were inside we still had to have our masks on and my sister couldn’t stop laughing at me in my Mickey/Minnie face (as in their actual face) mask as she thought it was a bit too seamless looking on my face haha!
Palo is an additional charge of $45 per person, but I had heard that this was a must-do and my sister, despite working a contract on the Disney Wonder, had not had a chance to experience it so booking a table had been discussed before we even booked our cruise. If you’re thinking about it, I definitely think it was worth it.
We were greeted on arrival and shown to our table, which was by the window, although unfortunately this was at the part of the day when the weather was at its most iffy so mostly we watched a few brave souls stepping out into the rain and clutching their Minnie ears to prevent them blowing away 😂
The meal does include a mimosa (is that American for Buck’s Fizz?) but any further drinks would have a further cost. It was 11am so we were quite content with our mimosa and some water.
Our server David was superb. He was knowledgeable and attentive, without ever feeling intrusive. Although there is a menu, much like any other dining location on board you can order absolutely anything you want. I went so far as asking if there were any limits or “rules” and he told me not at all, whatever we asked for he would bring. And bring food he did! Again, in normal times there would have been a buffet as part of this experience but now everything is served to the table.
Having already eaten sweet foods for breakfast, I wanted savoury options, but we did also have a bread service and some pastries. By far the easiest choice was dessert – Warm Ameretto Chocolate Fondant, yum! This was David’s recommendation, but we had pretty much already picked that one out when we saw the menu!
We didn’t have any tea or coffee (which would have been an additional charge) as my sister was keen to get a coffee in the Cove Cafe and I was happy to go with that.
Overall a fantastic experience with AMAZING food. The only trouble is managing to eat enough of it!
We did get changed again after Palo (I was on my holidays so regardless of the weather I was wearing shorts…with a jumper haha!) Then we got on with the important business of experiencing as many things as possible.
- We went shopping (I’ll cover more about merch in part 3 of my recap)
- We returned to the atrium to see the Disney Princesses – Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Tiana and Ariel
- We took lots of photos at various locations around the ship
- We went to a Disney trivia quiz.
Highlights for me were the princesses and the quiz. I really enjoyed the socially distanced character interactions as even with guests spread out, the characters took time to interact with everyone and often there were two or more characters there. I would say that any character interaction will be greatly improved if you can bring something to the experience to further the discussion, so knowing a bit of a character’s story is really helpful. I’m definitely getting better at this as I had some great interactions on board. I also noticed that if you happened to be a small child in a princess dress, you got a REALLY great deal when it came to interactions with the princesses!
The quiz was in the Promenade Lounge and there were 20 multiple choice questions. I think we got 15 right, which wasn’t bad since there were some we had to guess. There was quite a moment when the entertainment staff member read out the answers at the end. We had been asked what season Frozen takes place in (Answer: summer. The whole point is Elsa accidentally freezes summer and Anna needs to find her to reverse her magic and bring back summer. Olaf even sings an entire song about summer). But the answer was read out as winter (apparently the presence of snow made it winter – that’s not how seasons work!) and there was such an outcry from around the room that the poor guy had to give a point for summer AND for winter. I bet he went back later to check his answer sheet afterwards – can’t get anything past a Disney fan!
There was also a surprise at the end of the quiz as Donald and Daisy arrived to pose for photos (top tip: characters will likely turn up at most of these kinds of activities). Each table was brought up in turn to get a photo so that we could maintain a safe distance and not form a crowd.
Taking photos was also good fun as there are a number of places on board that make great photo locations. My suggestions include by the funnels on the top deck, by the statue in the atrium and in the large porthole windows along by the clubs and bars. And of course there are frequently characters in the atrium. As we passed back through there after the quiz we had a great interaction with Rapunzel.
After all that my sister wanted to go for her speciality coffee (one she used to have when she was on the Wonder) but I didn’t want to hang around in the cafe so went for a bit of a wander on my own. I got myself a Minute Maid lemonade (another taste of being in America for me) then an ice cream but that made me a little chilly so I got a Joffrey’s coffee (from the beverage station, so no charge) to warm me up again. By the time I got back my sister was having a lovely catch up with the server in the cafe who had worked with her on the Wonder.
By this point it was time to return to the theatre for our evening show, this one titled Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic. Another excellent show and another one that brought a tear to my eyes as it included songs from a number of my favourite Disney movies and had a heartwarming message. We sat a bit closer to the front this time and enjoyed bubbles and “snow” falling on us at appropriate points in the performance. Honestly if you love Disney music and/or live theatre, absolutely take the chance to see these Broadway-style shows if you’re on board. A very talented cast and there is something for everyone. We also got a bonus surprise before this show started as Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald were brought out on stage to perform a little song and dance. I enjoyed that!
When it was our turn to leave the theatre we headed off to get changed (yes, again. I promise each change was necessary and I actually did wear everything I had with me bar one T-shirt). Out turn-down service had already taken place so there was another towel animal waiting for us, alongside our debarkation information.
On the way past the atrium I spotted Pluto who was doing a brilliant job interacting with guests, then on the way back Captains Mickey and Minnie were there again.
Before dinner we wanted to go to one of the lounges where the performer who had played Mother Gothel in Tangled the night before had a half hour slot to sing some classic Disney songs. It turned out she was actually Scottish and her performance was excellent. The venue felt safe as tables were spaced out, numbers were limited and we had to leave a space between parties. All very pleasant.
In case you didn’t know, Disney cruise ships operate on a rotational dining basis. This means that rather than one main dining room, there are three and you “rotate” from one to the next. You have the same table number and service team each time, but get a different experience in each venue. On a cruise longer than three nights you would repeat one (or more) of the locations.
Lumière’s is, of course, themed to Beauty and the Beast. It is an elegant room reminiscent of a ballroom and while there is no show in this dining room, there is a pianist playing live music. The entrance is just off the atrium so we were treated to seeing the princesses again during our brief wait to enter.
Here the food was again fantastic. I’ll never say no to a bowl of French onion soup, the steak was cooked perfectly and as for that dessert…if you get the chance to have this signature offering of a classic Opera Gateau, you have to do it – your taste buds will thank you!
After dinner we passed back through the atrium where Pluto, Mickey and Minnie were once again greeting guests.
We were on our way to the piano bar Keys. We wanted to have a drink and enjoy the live music. It felt very classy and the pianist was excellent – in the background yet aware of his audience as when we eventually left at the end of the night he drew us into his performance by switching seamlessly into the Mickey Mouse Club’s “Now it’s time to say goodbye” to wish us goodnight.
We both ordered a glass of fizz (we were on a fairly special trip after all!) and while we hadn’t intended staying as long as we did, we were having a lovely chat with our server Natallja and ended up hanging around. That’s something I’ve heard about the service on Disney ships before, that staff take an interest, engage you in conversation and, in the case of servers, remember your order so they can have it ready for you night after night if that’s what you want. From my experience, I would wholeheartedly agree with this. I wouldn’t normally sit on a bar chatting to my server, but this felt really nice, and you get to learn a bit about someone from a different part of the world.
The piano music from Tim Moss was actually the last thing on the activity list for the day, so we closed it down (and managed first activity to last – go us!). By the time we tumbled into bed it was already past midnight (but unlike Cinderella, I still had both my shoes and there wasn’t a pumpkin to be seen!).
We both had a really fantastic day and there were plenty of other things we could have done had there been time. For example, the cinema that had been used for character meets was, later in the day, used to screen movies. Had we wanted to we could have seen Cruella, Black Widow or Jungle Cruise, the latest Disney offerings currently only available for an additional fee on Disney+. On a longer sailing I might have considered it, but was reluctant to use up a couple of hours of precious cruise time to do something I could do at home (albeit without the additional fee). Instead, I wanted to do things that were more unique to the cruise experience.
Either way, once on board you can make your experience whatever you want it to be, whether that’s character meets, other activities or simply relaxing by the pool or eating as much as you can possibly squeeze in! I was really happy with our choices and we never had any “dead” time or time I felt was wasted, I just wished I could stretch the day out to fit in more!
Look out for my third (and final) Disney Magic At Sea post where I’ll go into a bit more detail about debarkation, onboard merch and my overall thoughts on the experience.