On the good ship 'Disney Magic'

David Usborne admits that it wasn't only his children who enjoyed a cruise in cartoon world

AS PARENTS of young children living in the United States, my wife and I had always regarded Walt Disney World in Florida in much the same way as we had our local paediatric orthodontist. We had neither the desire nor the money to go there, but knew that we would have to one day. We bit the bullet last February, and, I can report without an iota of shame, we enjoyed our visit enormously. And by we, I mean all of us - children and grown-ups.

Last month, we decided to test our tolerance of Mickeymania to the very limit. In the summer, Disney inaugurated its first cruise ship. The company's goal was to syphon off at least some of the millions of holidaymakers who flock to the Orlando theme parks, and take them for half-week voyages around the Bahamas. How would it be to spend three days as captives of Mickey on a boat with nowhere to run? Could Disney win us over a second time?

While we flew to Orlando and jumped on a Disney bus for the hour-long ride to the port of Canaveral, a package tourist from Britain would have first spent a few days in Disneyworld itself. For a week-long holiday, you have the choice: three days at the parks and four on the boat or vice versa. The Orlando bit comes first because it is so exhausting - four different Disney parks to visit, and a zillion queues. The boat is a more calming experience. Or that is the idea.

One thing to know about Disney is that it is impeccably organised. And so it was that the cruiseline coach was waiting as promised at the airport, easily identifiable by its deco design - within minutes we were on our way. Television monitors helpfully previewed the many activities that awaited us on the boat, the Disney Magic. You quickly realise that "relaxing" is a relative term with Disney.

At Canaveral, just across the water from the Space Shuttle launch pad, Disney has built a brand new terminal, also with a deco theme. At the wharf is the Magic itself, the second largest cruise ship on the seas. Suspended from the ship's stern is a large model of Pluto armed with brushes and paint pots, as though he is giving the final touches to the ship's blue and gold livery. It is a typical example of Disney whimsy, but also a warning: the Disney characters are coming on this cruise with you.

It is at this point that some people may begin to balk. Make no mistake - Disney invented the term synergy. Every product is designed to reinforce the appeal of the others. Just as many of the park attractions are derived from Disney films (the new Buzz Lightyear ride in the Magic Kingdom comes highly recommended by our five-year-old), so does much that is on offer on the ship. The shows in the ship's enormous theatre are dazzling but dedicated to promoting the company's films and Broadway productions. Even the ship's horn doesn't just go toot-toot; it plays the first notes of When you wish upon a star. The toddler's pool is shaped like Mickey Mouse. And it isn't the ship's captain who welcomes us on board, but a 7ft Captain Hook. Surrender yourself to this brainwashing, however, and you will not be bothered by it. For children, it is just an extension of Disney bliss.

All that said, Disney has demonstrated a degree of restraint on the Magic. The Disney-movie music that is piped around the children's and family pools is silenced around the adults-only pool and deck area. Of the four restaurants on board, one, the Palo, is for grown-ups only and is surprisingly sophisticated. Only in one restaurant - Animators Palate - is the Disney theme allowed to run riot, but in a way that is brilliantly inventive.

And then there are the cabins. They call them "staterooms" to convey a sense of luxury and, indeed, they are splendidly comfortable and entirely tasteful. We couldn't find a single Disney logo in our room, with the exception of the toiletries. Best of all, a sliding door leads out on to a veranda, entirely blocked off from the neighbours.

The challenge is to tear yourself away from the Magic when it docks, first in Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, and then, on day two, at Castaway Cay, a small Bahamas island that Disney purchased outright for its cruise passengers. Aside from eating, sleeping and reading on board, adults can be pampered at the Vista Spa, while for children there are clubs, best described as kiddy camps afloat.

This is where the Magic scores highest. Four clubs offer almost round- the-clock activities for different age groups, from toddlers to teenagers. Teens even have their own bar (non-alcoholic) where adults are banned. Our children hate anything that smacks of organised fun, but these clubs were more than just a hit - we could have signed them in from dawn until midnight daily.

Frankly, we could have skipped Nassau and spent two days at the island. True, its desert-island pretensions are appallingly hokey. But, again, you'll be fine if you go with the phoney flow. Take the snorkelling trail, for example. There was no real coral reef, so Disney dropped a series of "treasures" on the seabed for visitors to explore. My eight-year- old loved it.

Those who had done other cruises said that the food and general pampering were not quite up to the standards of other ships. But the Magic is above all a ship for families, not the retired. If you think the only reason to go on a Disney ship would be to chuck Mickey, Minnie and Pluto overboard, perhaps you should choose another cruise.

FACT FILE

Getting there

Three days at Walt Disney World and a four-day cruise starts from pounds 1,189 per adult or pounds 3,567 for a family of four with Virgin Holidays (tel: 01293 617181), including return scheduled flights, transfers, room-only accommodation at Walt Disney World, en-suite accommodation on the cruise and all meals on board.

Further information

A 1999 Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Video is available free featuring the Disney Cruise Line (tel: 0990 00 00 03).

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker