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My First Disney Cruise – Everything I Loved and Hated (Honest Photo Review)

For YEARS I’ve wanted to try a Disney cruise and last week I finally did it.

I’ve just disembarked the Disney Magic and I thought I knew what to expect from a Disney cruise, I’ve been cruising since I was a child with other cruise lines but this cruise was the biggest culture shock ever.

Every couple of hours I would find something new that I didn’t expect at all, some of which were really great surprises and some things I really didn’t like at all. 

Disney cruise funnell disney magic pool deck

I was definitely skeptical when I booked this cruise. I’d heard amazing things from my friends who love Disney but I just didn’t see how a Disney cruise could be worth the price.

This cruise was the most expensive cruise I’ve ever paid for and it was 3x what I usually pay when I cruise. 

I was worried that I’d feel as though I wasted that money and although I’d heard about how amazing the food was and the service but I wasn’t sure if this was better than the other cruise lines that I know and love, would it be 3x better to justify the cost? Or if it was just a case of paying a premium for the Disney brand. 

Why Did I Decide to Book a Disney Cruise?

When I saw that a Disney ship was coming to the UK though, I thought this was my chance. I’ve been curious about it for years and although I didn’t think I was the target market for a Disney cruise. I wanted to find out who was. 

The Disney cruise experience started before we even got to the port.

When I booked this cruise, Mickey Mouse phoned me to welcome me on board when I boarded the ship, Mickey and Minnie were there to welcome us too.

Mickey and Minnie Welcomed us Onboard 

Usually when you embark on a cruise you might be handed a glass of something bubbly but you’re pretty much left to your own devices, you can just wander off and explore the ship but on the Disney Magic when you board, your family name is announced and Mickey and Minnie do a dance.

It was a great start to the cruise because it really kind of set the scene, there was never any doubt what cruise line you were on and the kids seemed to love it. 

mickey and minnie on a disney cruise welcome dance

The crew do this same kind of welcome show over and over again for embarking guests and afterward we were sent on to do our muster drill.

The Muster Drill Was Completed Next

The muster drill is a compulsory safety drill that has to be completed on cruises where they tell you about things like what would happen in an emergency and how to put on a life jacket.

The muster drill was completed on our phones and Disney have an app that you use to do most things onboard.

The app was pretty good overall. There are definitely other cruise lines with better tech and better apps but that isn’t really the point of a Disney cruise. 

We went onto find our muster station and had to scan the sign with our phones. Mum’s phone was having none of it but luckily we could complete the muster drill for both of us on my phone.

The crew onboard were really really helpful and they would have helped us to do the muster drill if we got stuck or if you don’t have a phone I’m sure they’d have an alternative.

disney magic promenade deck muster station

I Loved The Promenade Deck

Our muster station was this big promenade deck and this quickly became one of my favourite places onboard, I love a promenade deck where you can walk all the way around and I think it’s good to note the extra safety precautions like the glass here to stop any little children from trying to climb between the bars.

The Disney Magic Was Built in The 1990s

The Disney Magic was built in the late 1990s and that makes her pretty old by cruise ship standards.

She’s also pretty small, for the time she would have been a large cruise ship but now the world biggest cruise ship is almost 3x the size of the Disney Magic.

I have to say I did love not having far to walk to the top deck and wherever I was, I was never far from my cabin which was good but personally, I’m a fan of the big cruise ships.

That is a personal preference though and I’m sure many people cruising with Disney prefer the smaller ship size.

Disney Magic Promenade Deck

If you’re cruising with young children I doubt you want to be having to go 15 decks up to get the buffet, that isn’t a problem on the Disney Magic though. 

The thing that’s more important to me than the age and the size of a ship, is how the spaces work and if they’ve been well looked after by the cruise line. I’ve been on some ships from the 1980s and 1990s, which were in much better condition than newer ships. 

After completing our muster drill, we went to the top deck to take a selfie with the funnel. I feel as though that’s a thing you have to do on a Disney cruise and I actually managed to find some sunshine briefly for the photo which was a miracle. It’s the Disney magic I guess! 

Disney magic funnel selfie

Soda is Included on The Pool Deck

Wandering around the top of the ship I realised that this is where you could get free soda from.

On Disney cruises soda and tea & coffee are available in the buffet and on the pool deck free of charge. If you order a soda from a bar it’ll cost you money, so I made good use of it and I drink a lot of soda and we grabbed one to start exploring the ship.

disney magic soda included on pool deck

On the top deck there is a swimming pool, waterslides, sports court and lots of seating. 

Theres also an adult only pool too and we did find that there were a few adult only areas onboard, which I thought I may need to retreat to at some point. 

I was a bit worried that I would be totally overwhelmed by this Disney cruise. When I cruise I usually cruise to relax. I don’t have any children myself but I decided to embrace all things Disney, I was only cruising for 3 nights but I don’t really think I understood at that point what I was actually getting myself into. 

We Went in Search of Food (Of Course)

One of the most important things about cruising for me, is eating and by the time we got onboard we were pretty hungry. We headed to the buffet but it was closing so we decided to grab a hotdog and fries from the poolside grill. 

The buffet was closed a lot more than I would expected and sometimes lunch would only be open from 12-2 and then the buffet wouldn’t reopen until around 6pm which I found really strange.

disney magic buffet food

On most other cruise lines the buffet rarely closes at all, if it does, on some cruise lines like MSC the buffet is open for 20+ hours a day. 

The buffet was a nice big space with lots of seating and when we did manage to eat in the buffet though the food was great, just more of it would have been nice. 

Room Service is Free on Disney Cruises

The room service is free though, which is good. I ordered a pizza and some cookies which was nice, on some cruise lines you do have to pay for room service.

disney cruises room service pizza cookies cheese and soda

If you order drinks through room service they’ll cost you money though so if you are doing this, run up to the pool deck to get some soda and bring it to your room, that’s what I did. Luckily because the ship isn’t very big, it was never far to go. 

We Had a Balcony Cabin

We went next to find our cabin and I’ve never had a cabin quite like it. One thing that Disney seem really good at is giving out upgrades. I booked an oceanview cabin and was upgraded to a balcony cabin.

Most of the people I spoke to onboard had either been given an upgrade or had paid to upgrade their cabin, the sailing I was on was at reduced capacity so it may have something to do with that. 

disney magic balcony cabin sofabed towel animal and chocolates

I’m usually more of an inside cabin kind of person but they weren’t available to book when I booked this cruise. Disney cruises almost always sell out very fast and that’s one of the reasons they can charge as much as they do. 

The cabin was pretty big and our balcony was a really nice size. There were lots of surprises in here, like me having to sleep on the sofabed and the toilet being in a different room.

Disney do ‘Rotational Dining’

After exploring our room and wandering around the ship it was dinner time. When it comes to dining, Disney do something that no other cruise line does.

On most mainstream cruise lines you’ll either have fixed time dining or flexible dining where you just show up the restaurant when you’re hungry. 

disney magic rapunzel table dining room

On Disney everybody has a fixed time for dinner and it’s not just your time thats set but actually the restaurants you eat in too.

Disney calls this ‘rotational dining’ and basically, you are assigned a different restaurant each night and your waiters and everybody else in that restaurant follow you to the next restaurant. 

I thought that it worked really well and our waiters knew that I was drinking Coke Zero throughout the cruise, so I never even had to order a drink, it just arrived like magic (see what I did there)!

I love the soft drinks being included in with meals and because our cruise was only 3 nights, we never had any kind of dress codes or formal nights, I wore jeans to dinner everyday which made a nice change.

The service was really good and the waiters would take the time to talk to the kids. Some of our dining experiences were much better than others but the best was the first we had in Animator’s Palate.

Animator’s Palate Was a Great Dining Experience

I’ve never ever had a dinner quite this one and I don’t know if I would have believed it if it was described to me. When we came into the restaurant, everything was black an white and when we sat down we were given a piece of paper and a pen and told to draw a character. 

disney cruise animators palate tables animation

After we had finished our food, the animations came to life and danced around the restaurant. It was really clever and fun and it was definitely the dining highlight of the cruise.

Disney magic animators palate scren

The Food Quality Was Good

The food was good and I liked that there were multiple veggie options available.

Having cruised recently with other cruise lines like Princess and Celebrity, I’d say that the food was about the same in quality.

To find out what’s included in a Disney cruise (almost all the food and lots more) check out this post: What’s Included on a Disney Cruise? – Food, Activities and Exclusions

disney cruise animators palate dinner halloumi parcels food steak

The Theatre Shows Were Great (If a Little Overwhelming)

After dinner we went onto the theatre and really I think this is what a Disney cruise is all about. We watched Tangled the musical and it was great, it was definitely of broadway quality and no expense was spared.

The team of singers and dancers were all very talented, the set design was amazing and in other shows they even had things like bubbles and fake snow. 

A word of warning though, I did find the theatre to be quite overwhelming. I had kids kicking me from behind, toys being dropped on me, kids were running around the back and it was hard to see through everybodies’ Mickey ears. 

tangled the musical disney show

I did talk to a few people when I was onboard and after I got back, they said that I should have picked the late dining seating and therefore gone to the earlier shows because there would be less children on that schedule.

I didn’t really think about that before but it does make sense.

I understood that I was on a cruise line mostly aimed at children and because I cruised out of the school holidays, most the children onboard were between about 2-5.

I didn’t expect the kids to sit still throughout dinner and the show but its definitely worth being aware of. My mum was hit by a Thor hammer, whipped with a Rapunzel braid, you name it, the kids were a bit wild and it did get very, very loud at some points. 

If you’re a parent though, or a child, it must be nice to be able to see a theatre show without having to worry about the kids making too much noise.

Top Tip: Buy Mickey Ears Pre-Cruise!

I will say I did feel a bit out of place without any Mickey ears! If you are taking a Disney cruise definitely get some before you go.

They only had one type left in the gift shop and for $40 I decided against it. You can get great ones online before you go though and lots of people had personalised ears.

If you want to wear custom T-shirts and things that is totally cool on a Disney cruise. Lots of people had matching Mickey ears, T-shirts, bags, you name it. I’ve never met cruise guests that are so passionate about their cruise line.

If you’d like to learn more about Mickey Ears, check out this post from a Expedition Hopper which explains what they are for, who wears them, and where to buy them: Everything You Need To Know About Mickey Ears

Disney Cruisers Decorate Their Cabin Doors

It was intense but really cool to get to talk to people from the Disney crowd, Disney fans always are very friendly and they decorate their cabin doors like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s incredible. 

Below are a couple of my favourite examples from the ship.

These magnets can be bought on Etsy here: Disney Cruise Door Magnets.

Disney do Towel Animals and Chocolates on the Pillow

When we came back to our cabin we found a towel animal waiting for us and a chocolate on the pillow.

10 years ago you’d find that most cruise lines would do towel animals and chocolates on the pillow but this is definitely a thing that the majority of cruise lines have stopped doing recently.

I personally quite like it and the chocolate on the pillow was good too.

As I went to sleep in my sofa bed I felt pretty content and happy with my first day onboard, I still had some questions though that I needed answering.

What would the daily schedule be like on a sea day? Would there be many activities for adults and would I be able to eat enough cookies to make back the cost of the cruise fare? 

Breakfast Options Onboard (I Found Mickey Waffles!)

The buffet was open until 10.30 for breakfast which was good because I’m not an early riser and we also went to the sit-down restaurant another day for breakfast because I was told that I HAD to try the Mickey waffles.

I did try them, and they were good, very very sickly sweet with this pink sugary stuff but it was nice to try them. Maybe that was why the kids on board were so hyper, they started their day with Mickey waffles!

disney cruise mickey waffles for breakfast

The Daily Schedule

Despite the bad weather, plenty of people went for a swim and they constantly showed different Disney movies on the pool TV. They’d also show movies in the theatre and there were lots in the cabin to watch too, if you could get the little TV to work that is. 

The daily schedule on the sea day was made up almost entirely of waving at characters, Disney trivia and Disney movies.

Sometimes the schedule would look like: waving, waving, bingo, waving, waving, selling something, beer tasting, waving, waving, drawing, waving. (A real example from my Disney cruise).

I did my fair share of waving on this cruise and it was cool to see all of the Princess and Marvel Characters.

COVID Social Distancing Measures Were Still in Place

It was a little bit strange because there are still COVID social distancing rules in place, so nobody could put their arms around Mickey Mouse or hug Thor but it is what it is, not much can be done about that. 

One thing that I missed on the daily schedule was live music, there was a little bit but I’m more used to cover bands and singers being around the ship.

Of course, we did have the Disney music being played through the speakers, all day but for me personally, I’m a big fan of sitting in a big lounge with a band playing and I didn’t find any big lounges really, or much live music. 

There Are Kids Clubs For Kids of All Ages

Most of the kids would be enjoying extra activities in the kids clubs of course. Most cruise lines have kids clubs and I actually went to the kids clubs with Norwegian Cruise Line when I started cruising, I loved it so I’m sure the kids on this cruise did too.

They have kids clubs for kids of all ages and they get to meet the characters and do crafts and dance and everything. 

An Interesting Discovery on The Promenade Deck!

When wandering around the promenade deck, I came across this area which I thought was so cool. I’ve never seen anything like this just open to the public before but that’s the nerdy ship side of me coming out.

disney magic promenade deck machinery

The promenade deck was also the jogging track so people would be running and walking around here in the evenings and day times. 

Frozen at Sea – A Pool Deck Party

Despite the cold UK weather, Disney did manage to put on a show called Frozen at Sea.

This was like a festival, but Frozen themed and for kids on the top deck by the pool. Anna and Elsa sang and even Olaf came out to see everybody.

There was fake snow, lots of people dancing and it was cool to see everybody having such a good time. It was freezing though, I imagine this would have been quite different in the sunshine. 

Adult Only Activities and Areas

In the evening there would often be adult-only trivia which did sometimes have non-Disney themes, there was a 90s music trivia at one point that I remember and a few other things.

There are only a couple of places onboard that are adult-only and we didn’t really spend much time there. I’d prefer to be out and about seeing what’s happening on the ship, than spending too much time in the pub.

If I was on an cruise line that included drinks, or I had a drinks package, this might have been different.

There isn’t much late night entertainment happening on a Disney cruise, so we would usually watch a movie before bed in our cabin, which was nice.

Disney cruise ships don’t have casinos and they don’t have drinks packages. To find out what else Disney cruises don’t have, check out this post: You Won’t Find These 9 Things on a Disney Cruise

Who Are Disney Cruises For?

I spoke to quite a few people onboard and since I’ve got home, who LOVE Disney cruising.

They all said to me that they cruise with Disney because of the Disney community and how well the staff take care of them and their children. 

I came at this cruise from a cruise perspective, as opposed to a Disney side and I had great fun finding out who Disney Cruises are for, but personally when I look at the cost and what I could get for the price on other cruise lines, it just doesn’t add up for me. 

It really confirms my point about there being a cruise line for everybody and not every cruise line being for everybody. Life would be very very dull if we all liked the same things.

To put it into perspective, my next cruise is over double the length of my Disney cruise, it includes flights to Spain, transfers, luggage, all gratuities, and all-inclusive drinks, a ship I much prefer personally and is quite a bit cheaper than my Disney cruise. Over double the length and cheaper. 

You’ll never get the Disney magic or Disney entertainment or anything Disney on other cruise lines though, so it’s difficult to compare, and really it’s just a case of if that’s worth the price to you.

For me personally, no. For many many other people, absolutely yes. 

One thing that I did find strange, and it seems like even Disney cruisers find this strange, is the way that Disney do tipping. To find out how that works and why I was so confused to find this in my cabin, check out this video:

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