My name is Jason Leppert, and I’ve been an avid reader of MiceChat for years. As a professional cruise travel journalist and unabashed Disney fanboy, I’m thrilled to now be contributing to my favorite go-to Disney site as a Disney Cruise Line columnist.
In fact, I serendipitously met fellow MiceChatter, Kevin Yee, for the first time onboard the newly redesigned Disney Magic. He had some great things to say about the experience HERE.
This was a big year for Disney’s original cruise ship, the Disney Magic, which was completely renovated to like-new condition. So what did I think of the NEW Disney Magic you may ask? Well, let me tell you…
Even before the Disney Magic was reimagined, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Joe Lanzisero, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering and lead ‘helmsman’ of all Disney Cruise Line projects, at the D23 Expo 2013. You can check out the video interview below.
Now that I have sailed onboard, I am happy to confirm that the modifications turned out great. Having sailed on 66 total cruises, I’ve examined the result of many ship refurbishments, and hands down, the Disney Magic represents the cleanest, most expertly performed maritime remodel I’ve ever seen. Let’s take a look at how it turned out…
Disney describes the atrium as the onboard equivalent of an establishing shot in one of its films, and in typical Disney fashion, the now asymmetrical design conveys an inviting atmosphere that is more open and airy than ever before. It perfectly sets the scene for the sailing to come.
You’d never know an entire stairwell has been removed here. The character frieze that wraps around the mezzanine level seamlessly continues where the stairs once intercepted the detailed golden band. Mickey, in statue form, has also been offset from center just a bit, making the overall layout more akin to that found on the newest Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The handsome chandelier above and colorful carpet below have also been updated to be more consistent with the design of the newest fleet-mates.
The staterooms maintain their existing layout, but the nautical decor has been refreshed, and as a huge help to family storage, the beds have been raised to better accommodate luggage and all the souvenirs acquired over the course of a cruise.
Personally, on the inside staterooms, I would like to have seen the addition of Magical Portholes – the popular displays introduced on the Dream and Fantasy that show a real-time view outside the ship, overlaid with animated character cameos – but alas they were not included as part of the redesign. Joe Lanzisero informed me that adding them would have come at the expense of losing space in the cabins.
Rotational dining from one of three uniquely-themed restaurants to the next each night remains a signature feature on the Disney Magic. The elegant, art deco Lumiere’s continues to shine just as before. Parrot Cay, on the other hand, has made way for Carioca’s, now Brazilian in design and cuisine, as well as named after Donald’s parrot compadre from The Three Caballeros. Colors are more subdued but still bright with whitewashed paneling, and the flavors of South America like empanadas, ceviche and Brazilian sausage are tasty new additions.
The most impressive restaurant remodel comes in the form of an updated Animator’s Palate. Upon entering, the dining room looks mostly as it did before, but the static black and white character portraits have been replaced by digital screens. They progressively animate film scenes – from sketch to finished product – across the duration of the evening rather than just coloring the room. The overall effect is certainly more dramatic and engaging.
Later, the entertaining grand finale features dynamic new audio and visuals set to the classic Fantasmic! soundtrack and builds to a personal visit from Sorcerer Mickey himself. On 7-night or longer voyages, the bonus Animation Magic show invites diners to draw their own character that during dessert comes to life on screen alongside various Disney characters.
Upstairs, the Cabanas buffet has been reconfigured with a welcome addition of more seating space; 3,400-square-feet to be exact, with 455 total chairs. Food stations are far easier to access, and the new Australian Finding Nemo theme makes for a fun environment.
The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab have been completely redone to showcase the latest kid-favorite franchises, namely those from Marvel and Pixar. It’s easy for adults, myself included, to be jealous that the Marvel’s Avengers Academy and its display of Iron Man’s suit and Captain America’s shield, plus the chance to join S.H.I.E.L.D are for kids only.
The new Andy’s Room area gets a major upgrade from the one onboard the Dream and Fantasy. On the Disney Magic, it’s two decks tall and includes a Slinky Dog slide stretching down from an oversized bed. Giant Mr. Potato Head and Hamm are also along for the ride.
Other fun additions include Pixie Hollow and the Mickey Mouse Club, and the digitally interactive Oceaneer Lab is now decked out pirate style. For the littlest ones, the nursery sports a new It’s a Small World theme, appropriate given the attraction’s recently celebrated 50th anniversary, and for family fun, the former Studio Sea has been redesigned into D Lounge.
For adults-only, Beat Street has been razed and transformed into After Hours where the decor is now less eclectic and more refined. All the spaces, save for the existing urban-cowboy bathrooms, which curiously remain, have been converted.
O’Gills, in all its Kelly green glory, has come over from the Fantasy with a more spacious rendition to serve up its great house Irish cream liqueur, and if you can look past the rhinestone-riveted chairs, Keys is a classy new piano bar with creative Mickey-head black-and-white wall paneling. The Fathoms nightclub and variety act stage sport a cool jellyfish-like fiber optic ceiling, backlit stone panels at the bar, and high-back alcove seating.
Rounding out the updated adult facilities onboard are the refreshed Palo Italian restaurant with new decor and the spruced up and expanded Senses Spa & Salon that now includes a Smile Spa for teeth whitening and a barbershop for gentlemen, plus a Chill Spa just for teens.
Fun On Deck
It’s clear that Disney had hoped to add an attraction comparable to the AquaDuck – the sprawling water coaster found on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy – on the Magic as well, but with space being at a premium on the smaller ship, the result is the abbreviated AquaDunk. Narratively, Donald’s mischievous nephews are at it again experimenting with a free-fall version of their water slide creation this time around.
In reality, the new slide is very similar to those being installed on other cruise lines’ ships, but the AquaDunk is far better architecturally and chromatically integrated with the rest of the ship. In my opinion, the ride pails in comparison to the longer and more complex AquaDuck. It only takes seven seconds to swiftly follow the path of the tube after all, but it is indeed more thrilling and still quite a blast. In fact, I overheard several children onboard say that they preferred it to the AquaDuck.
Improvements were also made to the family aquatic area with its conversion into the AquaLab like on the Fantasy and the replacement of the existing water slide for the longer Twist ’n’ Spout one. Also, just off to the side is the Nephews’ Splash Zone. This entire outdoor space came out splendidly (or is that swimmingly?). The layout is, again, perfectly integrated, and there is plenty of opportunities to get delightfully soaked.
The Disney Magic redesign is quite the achievement for the Disney Cruise Line and brings with it a wealth of new shipboard experiences for guests to enjoy. We Disney fans have much to be thankful for with the Disney Magic and to look forward to if the Disney Wonder is next to receive such an extensive reimagining.
And now you too can sail onboard the Disney Magic, along with the MiceChat crew, from June 7-14, 2014 in the Mediterranean (contact MiceChat@FairyGodmotherTravel.com for details). I will not be onboard for this particular adventure but maybe next time. TTFN and Bon Voyage!
About the Author:
Jason Leppert is a dedicated Disney fanboy and cruise travel journalist with over 65 sailings under his belt and a fresh, youthful perspective on the cruise industry. He has been cruising – and more importantly, visiting Disneyland – since before he was even two years old thanks to his parents’ shared passion for traveling and their desire to experience all journeys together as a family.
Jason is the founding editor of PopularCruising.com and regularly produces videos for the Popular Cruising Video Podcast and YouTube channel He also contributes to the Travel Channel, Porthole Magazine, Onboard.com, and the U-T San Diego newspaper, as well as makes appearances on the Cruise Radio, Cruize Cast, and Weekend Travel Show audio podcasts.