Disney Cruise: Mickey Mouse In The Mediterranean
My three children first spotted a Disney ship two years ago while on holiday in Oman. Exploring the capital Muscat’s harbour, they were seduced by the gargantuan vessel towering over them, complete with twin red, black and yellow funnels bearing an image of Mickey Mouse’s face.
They pointed emphatically. “We want to go on that.”
I had taken more of a shine to the Sultan of Oman’s private yacht parked next door. But aspirations of engineering an invite were mine alone.
For my brood, Mickey’s allure only increased over time. Eventually I caved in and found myself stepping on board Walt’s original cruise ship, Disney Magic, with my 10-year-old twins, Nathalie and Gabriel, and Hannah, aged eight.
Our seven-night voyage of the Mediterranean from Barcelona was the last for Magic (the oldest of Disney’s three ships) before she underwent a major overhaul. Her spa, restaurants and children’s clubs have recently been “re-imagined” during a month in dry dock that has seen her emerge with a raft of new features.
Meeting Our Favourites On Board
We found our cabin spacious, with a balcony, separate toilet and bathroom and a lounge area that transformed into two bunks at night. The revamp has introduced splashes of colour to the neutral decor and raised the beds, permitting more storage underneath.
Setting sail, entertainment was as expected. The infamous Mouse and Cinderella were spotted parading the ship. Disney films played on the outdoor screen and there was a smorgasbord of themed activities, from quizzes and drawing lessons to discos.
When Gabriel asked for ketchup at breakfast, the waiter who brought the bottle squirted a portion next to his sausages in the shape of Mickey. But it’s all done in good humour. In fact the crew, with their sparkly smiles, are so helpful (they remember your names too) that a strange thing happened. I began to enjoy all the cartoon razzle-dazzle. We felt special, as if we were the stars of the show.
Our family gravitated to the top deck. Here the swimming pools, soda and ice-cream stations (at no extra cost — the ship’s best perk) and twirling water slide entertained the children for hours. I found myself led unwillingly to the slide’s launch point, but fortunately was saved by the age restriction.
This entire space has seen the biggest changes during Magic’s time in dry dock, including the addition of a three-storey AquaDunk body ride that starts with a near-vertical drop through a trap door before cantilevering riders out over the side of the ship.
An Action-Packed Ride
Our first port, Villefranche-sur-Mer, a bijou French Riviera resort, was more my thing. Tracking the pink-frangipani-lined esplanade, we spied a small sandy beach in a secluded bay.
Foolishly, we had not brought swimwear or towels, but the crystalline water was hard to resist, so the children dunked fully clad.
To dry off, we walked through the town’s maze of cobbled streets towards the 16th-century citadel.
Magic’s next port stop was Italy’s La Spezia, gateway to the Cinque Terre, a stretch of beautiful coastline where five fishing villages are linked by walking trails and reasonably priced rail journeys. We joined a free National Park guided walk from pretty Manarola and, remarkably, my children didn’t whinge once.
Our largely downhill three-hour trek steered us through a rugged, mountainous landscape of olive trees, vine terraces and forests.
A streak of lightning and rain in distant hills created a dramatic vision — far below, our destination, Corniglia, perched aloof on a cliff next to the most unusual pyramid-shaped rainbow I’ve ever seen.
Back on board, the kids were rewarded for their efforts with a screening of Monsters University, followed by Wii games in the children’s club.
My treat was an afternoon at the top-deck adults-only sanctuary, Quiet Cove Pool. The swimming pool area was calm, the sun beds heavenly. It was nice to escape the omnipotent Mickey, too.
It was a brief reprieve. Disney’s unique dining system sees guests rotating nightly around the three waiter-served restaurants.
That evening we dined in Animator’s Palate where, feasting on wild mushroom risotto followed by veal chops in morel sauce, we were treated to a parade in which Mickey practically danced on our table.
The kids were beside themselves with excitement. And the buckled warm apple crumble delivered shortly afterwards had a similar effect.
An Inevitable Return
Less family-friendly were timings. Our 6.15pm dinner sitting left us watching the evening show at 9pm, but by then my three were exhausted, a shame because the two productions we saw were pixie-dusted extravaganzas designed for youngsters.
Helpfully, however, each cabin had wave phones that operated as walkie-talkies, so one night Nathalie and I went to the theatre, happy in the knowledge that we could be contacted if necessary.
I had wondered if our itinerary, which suited me to a tee, might bore the children. On the contrary; the ports of call enhanced this trip.
An excursion to Pompeii was the highlight, with the children awestruck by the remains of the ancient town, although most memorable for them was seeing two plaster casts of bodies buried by the volcanic eruption, as well as learning that the Romans collected urine to wash their clothes.
I had also worried that my brood might be too old for Disney, but not according to Gabriel. “I think we’d enjoy it even more in a year’s time,” he hinted.
He wants to return to Magic to try the three-storey AquaDunk, as well as experience Disney’s introduction of Marvel’s superhero icons (think Iron Man and Captain America) to the ship.
As for me, I’m now a Disney convert, although the dream of being whisked off to the Sultan of Oman’s yacht has not faded.
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This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.