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DISNEY MAGIC

JUNE 29, 2008- JULY 6, 2008
7 NIGHT MEXICAN RIVIERA CRUISE

GETTING TO THE PIER AND EMBARKATION PROCESS:
For this cruise, we decided to fly to LAX the night prior to the cruise as most of our group was also going the day prior and we
wanted to be able to embark together.  LAX is really just a nasty airport, very congested and seems you wait quite awhile for
your complimentary shuttle to the hotel.  I'm not sure if anything can or will be done about it ~ so acceptance is a good thing.  
However, I still stand by the option of flying into Long Beach whenever possible as it is such an easy airport and a quick,
inexpensive taxi ride to either of the LA Area ship terminals (San Pedro or Long Beach).   We stayed at the airport Marriott,
which was the hotel that Disney Cruise Line was using for the pre-cruise hotel package and they had buses coming in the
morning to take passengers to the ship.  We arrived late Saturday  night and the hotel was just fine for our purpose of being
rested the day before getting on the cruise.  Sunday morning our group of 15 that were all staying at the hotel met for
breakfast and also checked-in with the Disney Cruise Line representative in the lobby to obtain our departure time for our
bus.  (The only flaw with this process was that the notice that was given to you upon check-in at the hotel did not say that
everyone had to check in with the Cruise Line Rep in the morning.  The notice made it sound like only those who did not have
transportation prearranged needed to check-in, when in fact one person from each family needed to do this regardless.)  It
was fortunate that I found out about this and was able to alert my group so that we were all on the same bus to the pier.
    

We were on the bus that departed at 1045am for the pier and it was a very smooth drive
down highway 405 to San Pedro and the time went by very quickly because we were
entertained with a DVD on the bus.  It was a DVD with all the Disney Characters leaving
their homes to go to the pier to board their cruise ship and then the video gave you all the
important information that you needed to know about the ship and things to expect
during your 7 day voyage.  I thought this was a fabulous idea!!  Kudos to Disney!

    We arrived smoothly at the pier and got off our bus and into the line to check-in.  The
line was managed very quickly, check-in process very smooth and efficient and it wasn't
long before we were all on our way to board the ship...but first we had to stop for
pictures with Minnie Mouse as she welcomed us aboard!    (My husband's thoughts: 'gee
is she going to make me take pictures with characters all week long')  Overall, I think from
getting off the bus to boarding the ship, total process time was about 30-40 minutes.  
Once you board the Disney Magic you are "announced".  "The Disney Magic welcomes
aboard the Horst Family" and then you walk into the central foyer and a staff member

gives you a briefing, which consisted of telling us where we could go to have lunch and that our cabins would be available
after 2pm.    A few of the parents in our group went to the kids club to get them checked- in for the week, obtain the
important pagers that will become part of their body for the week and then we all met up by the pool to have lunch.  They did
have five venues open for lunch, which was very nice to have the choices ~ not just the buffet, which tends to be the norm
with other cruise lines.   After lunch, everyone dispersed to find their cabins and get settled.   Our luggage had pretty much
arrived by the time we set sail, so we were unpacked before dinner time.    After the life boat drill, we set sail out of Los
Angeles with a sail away party by Goofy's Pool, which is also referred to as the family pool.  We had the early dining at
5:30pm, so we had to cut the party short and get ready for dinner.


DINING VENUES AND LOUNGES:
Disney has 3 main restaurants for sit down dining and each guest is assigned to a different restaurant each night.  Your
serving staff (waiter and busboy) follow you each evening to the restaurant for that evening.  On the Magic, you have
Lumiere's, Animator's Palate and Parrot Cay.  Each restaurant has it's own theme and decor and just really adds to the overall
enjoyment of the cruise.  The dining room staff was wonderful!! By far, the best service that I've ever had on a cruise AND
even though the staff was of various ethnic backgrounds- they all spoke very good English.    These restaurants are always
open for dinner and then for breakfast and lunch usually 2 of the 3 are open for those meals and it changes daily, so referring
to the daily Personal Navigator lets you know which ones are open for which meals.  

In addition to these 3 restaurants, there  are a few other venues for dining.  Topsider's offers buffet breakfast and lunch daily
and then also table service casual dining in the evening.  So for those passengers who might not want to "dress accordingly"
for the 3 main restaurants for dinner, there is another table service option.  Pluto's Dog House was also usually open for
dinner, which is casual, pool-side dining with a wide selection of grilled items: burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs,
bratwurst (these were fabulous!!), chicken tenders, tacos, wings and usually a daily special in addition to all those choices.

Other daytime dining options include: Goofy's Galley where you could get fruits, sandwiches, salads, wraps and also soft
serve ice cream!  Pinnochio's Pizzeria which was very good pizza!

As for all of our meals, I really cannot say that anything was wrong- we enjoyed all our meals and thought the food was very
good.  The staff aims to please and half way through the cruise, our wait staff asked us if everything was meeting our
expectations and if not, they wanted to know about it so that they could correct the situation and make us happy.  There
wasn't anything that needed fixing- we were all impressed with the Disney Quality and Service!

The last dining option is the very elegant, ADULTS ONLY dining venue "Palo's".  This restaurant is located on deck 12 with
wonderful views of the ocean.  5 star service and 5 star quality food.  This was a wonderful dining experience and being a
large group of 13 adults, we were able to secure the Private Dining Room within Palo's in advance   In this venue, your daily
servers do not come with you because they still have other guests in the main dining room to accommodate.  There is a $15
cover charge for Palo's, but definitely worth the service, quality and exclusivity of the it all.  Normally, Disney will only let you
reserve Palo's for one night on a 7 day cruise because they want all guests to have the option if they wish.  We were able to
get into Palo's a second time on our last night because everyone had such a wonderful experience the first time.

Also, they do not do daily midnight buffets on this ship.  They did have the dessert buffet one evening and I missed it (not
sure how that happened)- but each evening along "Beat Street" adult area, they put up a small buffet table with cheese,
crackers, fruits  and other finger foods from 11pm-midnight.  There is also 24 hour room service, which we didn't use, but
were told from people in our group that it was great!

There are a variety of lounges on board the ship.  Preludes was the bar located outside the Walt Disney Theatre and was only
open before and directly after the nightly entertainment in the theatre.  Not so much a place to "lounge", but good place to
get a drink on your way into the theatre for the shows.  Promenade Lounge was a piano bar/small band lounge with a
mid-size dance floor and also the location for some of the bingo games, name that tune game.  Studio Sea was a lounge that
was only open for events- so if they had a "Mickey Mania Game Show" in that venue, then the bar was open during that time.
 This venue was where most of the family games and dance parties were held.

"Beat Street" was a portion of the ship that was for ages 18 and older after 9pm.  In this area, there were 3 venues- "Sessions"
which was a piano bar venue,  "Diversions" which was your local pub with table games, etc. (cards, backgammon, etc.) and
then "Rockin' Bar D"- this was the disco, this was the stage show venue for audience participation shows- THIS is where we
were just about every night.  Music was performed by the ship's band "Soul Drive" and they were very good, always got the
crowd into the party and then the DJ would finish off the night.


ENTERTAINMENT:
We attended a few of the production shows in the Walt Disney Theatre, but not all of them.  I would day most of them were
good- not outstanding for adults- but definitely outstanding for kids.  I could see the kids in our group enjoying the shows,
so that was enjoyable for me to see them happy.  We didn't make going to these shows a priority on our schedule unless the
kids were going to go.      There were a few late night shows for adults only and those were all very good- we had a juggler, a
ventriloquist, hypnotist and then the audience participation type of shows.  There were many people in our group that
participated in the shows, so that made our enjoyment factor much more personal.  

There is also a movie theatre on board and they play movies throughout the day.  The week of our sailing was the national
premier of "Wall-E"- so they also premiered that on the ship.  We didn't get to see it ourselves though because each time we'd
get there too late for a seat.    Most families thought it was pretty cool to get a movie premier on the ship.  There are also
movies run throughout the day by Goofy's pool on the big screen t.v.  I saw "High School Musical" for the first time and
thoroughly enjoyed that.  

The Disney Cruise Ships do not have casinos on board- so if you make gambling a big part of your cruise experience, then this
is not the cruise for you.  I don't gamble as much as I used to, but I will say that I did miss having the option to go to the
casino in the evening.  On the flip side, this was the largest bingo jackpot I've ever seen on a ship.  The final session of bingo
awarded over $12,000 for the final game ~ it was shared by 4 lucky winners.  We only needed N-35 to win!!  

Daytime activities on board the Disney Magic of course include swimming pools.  
On this ship there are 3 pools:  The Mickey Pool (seen right) which is the kid's
pool and has the water slide.  This pool is located aft of the ship.  Located
mid-ship is the Goofy's pool, which is family oriented and has the big screen t.v.
for movie viewing and it's where the daytime "parties" happen - there is a stage
next to Goofy's pool (see bottom right for 4th of July party by the Goofy Pool).   
Finally, located forward is the Adult's only pool- the Quiet Cove Pool ~ children
are not allowed here at all and it is very quiet, serene and comfortable.

Other daytime activities offered include: tastings (wine, tequila, beer), art
auctions, seminars on wellness, arts and crafts, etc.


KIDS have tons of activities and they have their own place for these activities-
Disney has clubs broken into age groups of 3-4, 5-7, 8-10 and 11-13 and then 14-17
for the teens.  Non-stop activities are always going on for the kids in either the
Oceaneer Club, Lab, Ocean Quest or the Stack.  The kids in our group couldn't
wait to finish dinner so that they could go play in the club.  

A few things to note- your kids will test you to make sure you will come if they
call- so the first 1-2 times you get paged, go check on your kid.  But after that
ignore first pages as often times kids change their minds quickly about  wanting
to be picked up or not.   If it is really an emergency, you'll get paged again.  Also,
we had two siblings in our group who were in different age groups and the
younger one wanted to be with his brother who was in the next age group- they
had no problem accommodating that.

HEALTH CLUB & SPA:
This health club was on the small side, they did have quite a bit of cardio equipment and some resistance training machines
along with free weights.  There wasn't a lot of "free space" within the gym to do your own thing and they really didn't have
much of a group exercise area - although they did offer 30 minute classes.  I did take one of the spin classes and it was
actually a very good class.  The instruction was 100% correct ~ if you've read my other reviews I tend to find that instructors
on ships are usually lacking in their knowledge and instruct participants to do silly things that could potentially be harmful.  I
did not find that to be the case on this cruise at all!  The instructor was fabulous!  My only negative was that the class was
only 30 minutes and I would have liked it to be an hour.  I did make it into the gym a few other times to work on the
machines, life weights and do some cardio ~ but them my husband and I opted a few days to take a 3 mile walk around the
promenade deck.  

I walked through the spa, but did not partake in any of the treatments.  There were a few people in our group that did have
massages and facials and they all had positive feedback.  One of the ladies in our group decided to get her hair cut and come
home with a new style- and they did a very nice job with her new sassy style!


PORTS OF CALL:
I won't go into very much detail on the ports of call, as I have visited these ports before (see the 2006 Vision of the Seas
review).  
Cabo San Lucas was our first port of call and since I have an incentive group coming to Cabo in April 2009, I had
already set up a tour of the hotel and surrounding area with a private guide.  This was a wonderful way for us to see more of
Los Cabos.  Our tour guide was right on time at 1030am picking us up at the pier and we were at the Hilton Hotel Los Cabos
by 11am for our tour.  After touring the hotel, we were taken through downtown San Jose del Cabo, walked around a bit
and had a nice lunch at a local restaurant, then had a driving tour of Cabo San Lucas and the marina area before returning to
the ship around 3pm.  The local tour company that took us around was Lands End, DMC and they were wonderful.


Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta were our other two ports of call and we actually stayed on the ship- because we didn't really
feel like running around, we wanted to be able to relax on board the ship.  People in our group tended to do their own
thing.  Most of them took taxis into town in Mazatlan and shopped and did some sightseeing around town and then in
Puerto Vallarta some finished shopping and then went swimming with the dolphins (something we did two years ago and
enjoyed thoroughly!)


OVERALL SUMMARY:

Was this my favorite cruise?
 No.  It was a GREAT cruise, excellent food, excellent service.  In fact, from the time we boarded
the ship we were thoroughly impressed.  Two instances to share:  1)The day we boarded, I was sitting by Pinnochio's pizza
saving tables while the group went to get the food and I pulled my chair in closer to the table and there was something
sticky on the chair handle.  Not much I could do about it because I was watching everyone's carry on luggage and then out
of nowhere a staff member appeared with a container of handi-wipes.  She had noticed me and saw the look on my face as i
looked at my hand and came over to help me out.  I was impressed that someone was paying attention!   2) same day, we
were all eating and one of the bar staff was explaining to us about the wine packages when one of our friends accidentally
tipped his food tray and food was quickly falling towards his lap ~ this staff member jumped to his rescue, he was
mid-sentence about the wine packages and he dropped everything to go help out.  Again, very impressed!

I was also impressed that Disney is trying to make things affordable and they have several "packages" or savings
opportunities.  The Wine Packages, which save you 10%+ off of buying the bottles individually each night, the option to buy a
case of bottled water for your cabin vs. buying individual bottles everything (this saved about $15 on the case), they also
have photo packages that save you vs. individual photo purchases AND fully refundable on the package if you find it wasn't
your best option.  

The main reason for this not being my favorite cruise was probably just the lack of dancing options for us.  Rockin' Bar D
seemed to shut down early each night- but that was because there just weren't people there to keep it open.  I wasn't
surprised by this- and did fully expect this to be the case- so I wasn't disappointed.  But because dancing is a big thing for us
and being able to dance for hours each night usually "Makes or breaks" a cruise for us.    We did have an EXCELLENT time
though and that was because we were travelling with such a great group of people.  


Did I have a good time?  Yes, we did have a great time.  The adult evenings were hysterical, we laughed so  much and we
danced as much as we could.  I sang my heart out on country night and we taught people a few line dances during the
cruise.  So we did have a very good time.  I enjoyed taking pictures with characters, the dining experiences were awesome.  
More importantly, the kids in our group had a fabulous time- I've never seen so many completely worn out kids after 7 days-
but they had tons of fun and I know the parents enjoyed being able to enjoy themselves while the kids were in camp!


Would I do it again?  Sure, I love Disney and I do think that this has been the most organized cruise, most efficiently run
cruise and we would certainly do it again with a large group like this.  As for my husband and I doing this alone- nope.  It's
just not our "childless couple" atmosphere ~ although I do know that many people without kids go on Disney Cruise Line
year after year....so just because we wouldn't do it, doesn't mean it can't be done by others.  They even get honeymooners
on Disney Cruise Line...it really comes down to each individual's expectations!


Food?  I've said it over and over again-but the food was OUTSTANDING!  Nothing to complain about...our meals in the main
restaurants were all very good, each night bread selection with butter and also a special dipping spread for the evening.  
Fish, Poultry, Beef, Pasta- not a single dish disappointed with food quality and taste.  


Service?  Again, EXCELLENT service, great attention to detail.  Every staff member you came into contact with was very
friendly, always helping in any way possible, always with a smile.  There was never a request that could not be granted - our
wait staff was impeccable and our cabin steward was fantastic.  He made the most amazing towel creations each night and
you could tell that he really enjoyed his job.  He made time to chat with you; all of the staff did.  The staff on Disney Cruise
Line really seems to be of a different breed of cruise line employees- nothing left to chance.


Entertainment/Activities?  Other than the lack of dancing, I felt that all the entertainment was top notch.  The big production
shows were more family oriented and knowing that, the shows were great.  Just not entirely our thing, but that 's ok- it
doesn't mean you won't love it! :)  


Closing Comments:
I have had a colleague of mine state that "Disney should run the government" and I would have to agree with her after
cruising with Disney.  I had clients on the Panama Canal sailing this year and the 7 year old boy in the group on the last day as
they were disembarking the ship said, "this is the worst day of my life"- he just didn't want to leave!   These are true
sentiments.  The kids are so very well taken care of and parents can take the time to rest and relax.  I would encourage
families to travel together with other families ~ the more the merrier and also if your kids are going into camp with other kids
that they already know, it makes for a more enjoyable time for them.  

I'm not a big Mexico fan overall, but now after two cruises to the Mexican Riviera, I am starting to show a bit of interest in
going to some of these places for a longer visit (land vacation).  I do love cruising and will probably sail these ports a few
more times in my life since it is so close to home.  I will also sail Disney again if the opportunity presents itself once again ~
again, i think Disney delivers a top notch program!