I have been vacationing by cruise ship for a while now. Regular cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean have been a staple in my vacationing for the last few years. I’ve always thought of traveling across the Atlantic by cruise ship to be an intriguing and romantic notion, though the thought of being on a comparatively very small cruise ship in a very large ocean did make me a bit nervous when I thought about it for too long. Just a few years ago, Transatlantic or “Repositioning” trips were hard for cruise companies to fill. Rooms often went empty. Travelers, it seemed, preferred to travel across the pond in hours rather than the week or more it takes for a ship to make the voyage. But cruise ships have become such a popular way to travel, and days at sea are filled with so much activity and things to do, that cruise ships sell out and supplies are loaded on by the ton to make these journeys across the water. The ship that I traveled on, the Disney Magic, was sold out months before the trip.
I have always enjoyed the sea days on Disney Cruise ships. While some enjoy laying out on deck or reading by the pools, I am more of a restless traveler who likes to keep busy, so I admit, I was worried about having so many days without land. I mean, how many towel animal and napkin folding classes can a gal take before she starts to lose her mind and long for land. But this was not the case on this trip AT ALL. I knew there would be more entertainment on the longer trip, but what I was surprisingly thrilled with was the sheer quantity, variety and quality of the entertainment and service. There is always good entertainment on DCL ship. After all, Disney is, first and foremost, an entertainment company. I’ve always liked the shows and the musicians on my 4- or 7-day jaunts in the Caribbean. But WOW. I was BLOWN AWAY! There was so much entertainment on this trip, in all kinds of forms: Really excellent musicians (the best I’ve ever heard on DCL, and I’m a pretty picky critic), an a cappella group, performers from Broadway, big-time animators, magicians, ballroom dancers, stage performers, and variety shows. And they weren’t just performing. Every single day there were multiple lectures on the art of digital animation, classes on different ballroom dances, improv sessions with stage actors, unique and fun cooking demos and even “cupcake wars”, Q&As with Broadway actors and musicians, autograph signings, ice sculpture carving, and Irish Step-dancing classes in the Irish pub onboard. There were countless trivia contests, craft sessions, wacky games for all ages, movies, meet-ups, character greetings, talent shows and officer gatherings. All of this was in addition to the usual activities, spa services, lounges, bingo, pool times, DJs, and deck parties. The quality of every activity was not just up a notch, but up 10 notches.
The other thing that reached a new level of incredible was the service onboard. One reason I like to travel with Disney Cruise Line, even without children, is because the service is always excellent. Being onboard for 15 nights instead of the usual 3 – 7, allowed the crew to get to know you and cater to you in a way that isn’t possible on shorter voyages. Though the servers on any trip try to get to know your likes and dislikes and cater to your needs, on the longer trips, they really get to know you and you get to know them. I found the crew members sharing personal stories about their families and their lives when they are not on the ship. There was time to make a genuine connection with people and to stop and look guests in the eyes and listen. There were plenty of extras and surprises all along the journey. Character interactions were great. There was no rush to get into the assembly line of folks with their autograph books and cameras ready to capture a fleeting moment. Instead, it was like taking a trip with Mickey, Pluto, Belle and Captain Hook. They were always around. There was never a line. Children had real conversations with princesses and superheroes, and a conversation on a Tuesday would pick right up from where they left off on Monday. By the end of the trip, it felt like everyone on the ship, guests, crew, officers, entertainers and characters alike, knew each other by name and had made a connection with one another.
I cannot go without mentioning my favorite part of the cruise (other than the food, oh my goodness – the FOOD! – I’ll cover that in another blog post): The Adults Only time in the Kids Club. The kids were gone and the kids clubs were descended upon on 4 separate occasionsby a group of adults who had no problem pretending they were children all over again. We were crowned by CInderella, colored animation cels, slid down the Slinky Dog slide in Andy’s Room, visited with Thor and Captain America in the Avenger’s Academy and took part in making Flubber with guidance from Professor Makes-A-Mess – all without a kid in sight. We had a ball! I even saw an officer come down and play on a computer ship-steering game that he claimed to be his favorite. Everyone was a kid on those nights.
One final word about the Transatlantic voyage. With 15 night aboard the ship, the pacing of the vacation was just wonderful. There was time for activities, for characters, for movies, for pool time and even for naps. Even the normally high-strung, on-the-go me, learned to relax, to slow down, and to enjoy the open water. I was actually a bit disappointed to see land again. Amy Avallone, CARE Travel 617-519-9661 (The Disney Magic is currently scheduled for a Westbound Transatlantic trip from Barcelona, Spain to New York, NY in September of 2017, An Eastbound Transatlantic trip from Miami to Barcelona in May 2018 and a Westbound Transatlantic trip from Dover, England to New York, NY in September of 2018. Give me a call if you would like me to help you plan these or any other DCL or cruise adventure.)