Friday, November 1, 2013

The New and Improved Disney Magic?

So I've spent the last couple of days  listening to and reading reviews of the newly re-imagined Disney Magic cruise ship. This is by far the largest renovation that Disney Cruise Line has ever done to any of it's ships, and the stakes are pretty high.

With the overwhelming success of the new Disney ships, the Dream and the Fantasy, the classic ships have had to rely on special itineraries to put "heads in the beds" on the classic ships, the Magic and the Wonder. With the Magic returning from the Mediterranean, and starting to do more typical DCL itineraries (albeit from Miami instead of Port Canaveral), what would draw people to a 15 year old ship, compared to the newer larger ships? The answer was to bring some of draws from the newer ships to the first Disney cruise ship. We'll see if it turns out as a success, but that will take some time.

Before we get too far into this I want to make it very clear that I am writing this not having been on the newly re-imagined Magic. I have however spent two wonderful weeks aboard the Magic, and know it very well. Some of my best vacation memories are tied to this ship, and when I heard that they were going to be doing such a major renovation, I was both excited, and a little worried. It was obvious that Disney wanted to bring many of the experiences that cruisers can have on the Dream and the Fantasy to one of the classic ships, but would it change the overall feel of the ship?

After sailing on the Dream for the first time I came away conflicted. I really liked the ship, and loved many of the features it offered, but something didn't feel right. The Dream is huge in comparison to the Magic, and that gives it room for more experiences, like a water coaster, bigger kid's clubs, and more places to eat. It is also 13 years newer than the Magic, so there are loads of new technologies that can make the guest experience more fun, like enchanted artwork, virtual portholes, and HD interactive play floors. But I felt that the size of the ship, and all of the stuff to do on it took away from the intimate, relaxing vacations I had experienced on the Wonder and the Magic. Don't get me wrong, I will sail on the Dream again in a heartbeat, and I can't wait to get on the Fantasy, but it didn't capture my heart from the first sailing the way the Wonder did, and the way the Magic did a year later.      

My worry was that the new Magic, would just feel like a smaller Dream, and in hearing about some of the changes, I'm afraid that my fears maybe coming true. In listening to the DIS Unplugged's coverage of the re-imagining (which I will link to at the end of this post), they kept saying that the renovations made the Magic feel more elegant, which would seem like a good thing right? Maybe for most, but not really for me. One of the things that I loved most about the Magic- and the Wonder as well- is that it felt like a luxurious ship, but it didn't take itself too seriously. There was a big chandelier in the atrium, but it wasn't crystal, it was a blown glass piece of art by Dale Chihuly. It felt fancy, but not pretentious. To put it in Disney World terms, the Magic and the Wonder always felt like deluxe resorts, but they were more Boardwalk than they were Grand Floridian. I like that a lot. You get dressed up nice for dinner, but the rest of the day you don't feel bad about walking around in your bathing suit and flip flops. I never felt completely comfortable on the Dream in that sense. Well the Chihuly chandelier is gone, in its place there are now three bright white chandeliers. I'm sure it looks more elegant, but does the ship still have the whimsy?

I am very happy that they added the AquaDunk, waterslide, because I really did love the AquaDuck water coaster on the Dream. It was a lot of fun, and the AquaDunk looks to be a blast! They also updated the kids slide that used to stand at the Mickey pool, which has been replaced with a water play area. I don't have a problem with that, but I will miss looking down from the top deck and seeing the smiling Mickey Mouse shape of the old kids pool.  

They have also greatly upgraded the kid's clubs. They are now more in line with the amazing clubs on the newer ships. The Avengers Academy looks to be an awesome experience, and Any's room was a big hit with our kids on the Dream. They also allow the kids to float back and forth between the Oceaneer's Club and Lab, like on the newer ships, which makes it tougher to fetch your kids, but gives them more options. I hope that they didn't change the check in procedures to match the Dream though. Checking in your kids in that hallway was a mess! Flounder's Nursery has now been changed to the It's A Small World Nursery, and it looks great, but the best thing about the nursery was always the counselors working in it.

As far as the restaurants go, Lumiere's did not change. Animators Palate got some cosmetic upgrades, but the big change is the new dinner shows. They have added the same show that you see on the Fantasy, where you draw a picture on a placemat and see it become animated on the screens throughout the restaurant later on. They also updated the black and white to color show that has been a mainstay from day one. We did lose Parrot Cay, which makes me sad. It was always my favorite of the three rotational dining restaurants onboard, and I know that I am in the minority on that one. I just loved the theme, and I always enjoyed the menu there, even after they stopped serving the sticky wings. Palo got some cosmetic upgrades, and it looks great, but nothing major.

Topsider's buffet has also been updated to Cabana's. Gone is the long buffet line, in it's place are separate pods with various selections. This is a welcome upgrade for sure. I really liked Cabana's on the Dream, and I will not miss the long lines, particularly at breakfast! Many of the quick service places on the pool deck have gotten name changes, but the menus are still essentially the same.  

The staterooms now have a fresh new look to them. They have taken out the old beds and put in the new ones that are on the Dream and Fantasy, which is a good upgrade. Now they are one big bed, instead of two smaller ones pushed together. It doesn't effect our family, but you should know that because of this you can no longer split the queen into two single beds. To make up for this they have also upgraded the sleeper sofa so an adult can more comfortably sleep on that.

The adult bars and lounges have also been renamed and renovated. I never really spent that much time in them because they never really seemed that great. Hopefully that has changed, and I'll want to spend more time there.  

There are many more changes that have been made, and I'm sure I have left many out. I'm also sure that you'll have to discover many of them on your own once you get on the ship. Discovering them for yourself will be a lot of fun!

So overall I think that most of the changes to the Magic are good, but I'm afraid that my fears won't be put aside until I get on the ship and experience it for myself. I really do hope that I won't feel like I am aboard a new ship. I hope that I will still fell like I am on a ship that I really love, and it won't have lost the intimate, relaxed feel that it had. I guess I'll just have to wait and find out.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Disney Parks Mom's Panel 2014

Hey everybody! Sorry for the really long delay in posting, but it has been a busy 10 months in the DIs Kids house! I'll try and get everybody up to speed in the near future, but for now let's talk Mom's Panel.

My history in applying for the Disney Parks Mom's Panel doesn't go as far back as a lot of the other hopeful panelists, but it is worth mentioning.

The 2012 Mom's Panel Search was my first year applying, and I made through to the second round. I was trying to become the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) specialist, as I have every year I've applied. I was pretty surprised that there were not a lot of DCL specific questions in the first round, but the second round was filled with DCL planing essays, plus a video requirement describing our best Disney Parks memory. Well, something didn't go right so round 2 was the end of my voyage.

For the 2013 search, I wasn't as lucky. I didn't even advance out of the first round. I was actually kind of shocked, as I thought my essays were almost as good as the year before, but I guess not. There were some DCL knowledge questions that I know I got right, so I don't think that eliminated me, but maybe one of them was a trick.

So September 2013 rolls around, and I -like thousands of other Moms, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, and other hopefuls- throw my mouse ears back into the ring. I approached the first round a little differently this year. Unlike in the previous two years, I didn't do several rewrites of each essay, looking for the perfect words. I wrote what came to mind immediately, and only spent a couple of hours on the application, not several days. The new process was a success, and I was officially back in round 2 after a year in purgatory (or maybe a Carnival Cruise).

Round 2 was a little different than two years ago. There were a lot more essays, but not the typical 100 words or less requirements. There were several DCL specific questions, and a couple about me and the family. Again this year there was a video requirement, but it was 60 seconds on why I should be the DCL specialist on the Mom's Panel. I submitted everything last week, and I'm feeling pretty good. I think that I was able to answer the questions well, and with some imagination. My video was honest, and I think I presented it well. I know that the odds are long, but I feel a lot more confident than I did two years ago.

The entire process has been about one week behind previous years, so I don't think we will find out if we advance to round 3 for a couple of weeks, so now all there is to do is wait.