You don’t go on a cruise for almost two years, and then you go on a second within three days of your first. How strange 2021 is, but straight after leaving Anthem of the Seas, we are cruising again, but this time on the Disney Magic. Like the Anthem of the Seas, this is a UK Staycation Cruise for UK residents only, but there will be no ports of call this time.
We are a little bit behind in publishing our live blog posts, and we boarded the ship on the 23rd of July. This is significant as many of the current UK Covid regulations in place when we boarded the Anthem of the Seas have now been removed. On our Royal Caribbean Cruise, guests were capped at 1000, and there were also various other restrictions, many dictated by the UK Government. This does present a few problems when drawing comparisons as we are not necessarily dealing like for like.
Despite the national changes, Disney is still advertising that Disney Magic at Sea sailings will have:
- Reduced guest capacity
- Increased physical distancing
- Guests 18 years of age and older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. You might assume that like Royal Caribbean this includes crew members, but you would be wrong.
- Face coverings for all guests 11 and older while inside.
- Enhanced cleaning and air purification.
- Increased use of technology.
- Advance booking of certain activites including Disney’s Oceaneer Club.
We also had to make reservations for all Walt Disney Theatre shows before our arrival, but this had been abolished to a first-come/first-served model once on the ship.
When I write these travel blog posts, I like to tell you a bit of what we have been up to each day, including any significant events. Today’s blog causes a problem as we are boarding the Disney Magic on Mrs. Modernlifeisgood’s Birthday. Due to the frequency of covering this event, regular readers might well feel that Mrs. Modernlifeisgood has more than one birthday a year, but she genuinely only does have one! However, as her birthday tends to last more than one day, we will focus on this more in an upcoming post and focus this post on our initial impressions of the Disney Magic.
Boarding the Disney Magic at Liverpool
The Disney Magic is sailing from several different cruise terminals this summer, and our journey would start in Liverpool. Liverpool has a great maritime history, but its cruise port is generally only used as a day port rather than for ship turnaround. This presents the first problem as there isn’t enough space in the cruise terminal for the check-in of guests.
The solution is that check-in for the Disney Magic would be at the M&S Bank Arena. After check-in, guests would then be transported to the ship from the arena. It became very apparent as soon as we arrived at the arena that crowds would be very different on the Disney Magic compared to Anthem of the Seas. Immediately after arriving in the arena, we joined the first of what would be several lines. After two and a half hours and no lunch, we were eventually on the Disney Magic. The week prior, we were on the Anthem of the Seas within an hour.
One aspect Disney did have a more sensible policy on was testing before boarding. Before sailing, children required a PCR test, and all guests had a lateral flow test at the arena. Royal Caribbean arranged PCR tests for vaccinated guests before sailing, and then children, but not adults, had a lateral flow test at the dock. Disney’s approach to this seemed to make more sense.
However, the rest of the check-in was not as well organized compared to Royal Caribbean. Numerous lines to get tested, followed by waits for results, followed by various other waits to get through various admin stages, before a further wait to get on board the ship.
Initial steps on the Disney Magic
I’ll be honest once we got on this ship, my patience was starting to get a little worn, but there were to be more lines before we could explore the ship. Our first step was to be assisted by a crew member on connecting to the Disney App. The majority of the App’s functions are not available until you are on the ship, but the App is well designed. A great extra is that you can use FaceTime and iMessage for free over the ship WiFi. In addition, you can book extra kid club sessions once you have access to the App, and I recommend booking these immediately.
After another wait, we had the official Disney Cruise Line welcome, which was nice and included Mickey and Minnie. The crew was very diligent in making sure we were appropriately spaced in the lobby. However, that diligence ended after this initial greeting, and space rarely was considered again.
Next, we had to complete a muster drill which consisted of going to our lifeboat station. There were a few videos on the App to watch at some point, but the process did not appear as well audited as Royal Caribbean’s system. I will be honest; I never watched the videos!
After the following steps, and approaching three hours after we arrived in Liverpool, we were allowed to visit our cabin. When in our cabin, it would be a much longer wait until our suitcases eventually arrived. It seems that the luggage handlers had a long early evening break, but we could see our causes on the pier for several hours!
Life on board the Disney Magic
Lunch was over once we had eventually completed the boarding process; this was despite us having one of the earlier boarding times. Snacks, however, were available from the various fast food counters, which are very good, on Deck 9. However, as our dinner wasn’t scheduled until 8:40, we decided to visit Deck 9 for some snacks.
Once we were on Deck 9, the reality hit us of what the next four days would be like:
- The ship was crowded and it even felt crowded for a pre-COVID ship. There was clearly more than 1000 guests on board and it felt close to full capacity.
- There was little social distancing while in lines, and unlike Royal caribbean no crew managing lines.
- Face masks for many seemed non-obligatory depsite the ship’s rules.
This initial impression did not fit with the reality of how the Disney Magic at Sea sailings were portrayed on the Disney website. While I never expected that cruise lines wouldn’t increase capacity after initial sailings, I feel social distancing and cleaning shouldn’t have slackened. I also think it was unacceptable that dining venues were closed on boarding day when less than half of the guests were on board.
Disney Magic isn’t a massive cruise ship at just over 83000 tonnes, and this was more obvious, having been on the Anthem of the Seas the week earlier. There is a lot of space for guests to spread out on Anthem, but on Magic, that isn’t the case. What we also noticed early on is there weren’t a lot of entertainment options scheduled. Also, with the advance reserving of the kid’s club before you could see the cruise schedule, there were clashes. An example of this was the show Freezing the Night Away, which probably only appealed to Little Miss ModernLifeisGood, the only time when we could attend was when she was booked into the Oceaneer Club.
Our first night’s dining rotation was at Lumiere’s. The cruise is scheduled to last four nights, and tonight’s dinner, all restaurants served the same food. Our waiters appear fantastic, but all the staff we have met so far have also been brilliant. Dinner was delicious, but we are looking forward to tomorrow when the regular dining room rotation starts.
Despite the above comments, we have had a good day on the Disney Magic. The kid’s club seems very good, the food was excellent, and the staff has been brilliant in helping us celebrate Mrs. Modernlifeisgood’s birthday. Unfortunately, the ship does feel too crowded, and I’m not sure there is enough to do to keep entertained for four days at sea.
We are currently on our Tour of the United Kingdom 2021 Staycation. To read more of our adventures, click here.