Ahead of the Disney Magic coming to the Mediterranean next year, Roger Crow finds out why Mickey’s first cruise ship still has children and adults spellbound
Whoosh! Our parachute catches the wind and suddenly there’s nothing but us, thin air, sun-kissed sea and ‘our’ ship.
Within seconds my wife and I can see why parasailing is so popular, even if we’ve been dunked in the ocean a few times.
But given the sweltering heat, the cool water is actually a welcome relief.
This is just one of the excursions we enjoy while travelling on our cruise liner, Disney Magic.
Mickey Mouse’s first luxury ocean-going ship has been doing this sort of thing since 1998 - taking passengers around the world and pampering them silly, whether at the excellent Vista Spa & Salon or one of its many restaurants.
Returning to the Mediterranean in 2013, she promises new stopovers in Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Croatia, Turkey and Greece.
I join one of her last voyages of 2012, travelling from New York to the Bahamas, to find out what’s in store next year.
And for personal reasons the timing couldn’t have been better as the trip coincides with my better half’s birthday.
After a fine Virgin Atlantic flight to New York’s JFK Airport, we board the ship at Manhattan’s Cruise Terminal.
Making a beeline for our deceptively spacious stateroom, complete with veranda and comfy bed, we are amazed by the twin washrooms.
(I imagine Disney have developed Tardis-like technology to neatly fit a sink and tub/shower in one room, and a sink and toilet in a separate room, without dominating the rest of the sleeping area.)
We set sail for Nassau (the Magic’s home port) and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.
Before the Bahamian jaunt, I fear I’ll go stir crazy during four full days at sea in the company of 2,000 fellow passengers.
I soon discover there’s little danger of boredom setting in, with a gym, basketball court, sunloungers and three pools, not to mention the all-inclusive beverages and food on offer.
There’s no shortage of the latter, with buffet areas such as Pluto’s Doghouse, Goofy’s Galley and Pinocchio’s Pizzeria dispensing assorted tasty snacks and meals.
I’d also feared my wife and I would feel like a couple stuck at a kids’ mammoth birthday party during the first few days, but the top deck soon becomes like a pleasure beach: one section for families and one for adults.
A highlight of any Disney cruise is the evening entertainment, whether it’s eating a fine meal or watching a show.
With so many mouths to feed, it’s little wonder passengers are split into two groups: early and late diners, with stage shows accommodating each set.
As with all ships in Disney’s fleet, the Magic has an all-inclusive, open rotational dining plan, so one night you can dine at Animator’s Palate (my favourite), the next at Parrot Cay, then Lumieres.
However, adults who want to pay an extra £13 per head should try Palo, a fine dining restaurant; perfect for special occasions such as birthdays or the final night on board.
Waiters at Palo’s are keen to meet diners’ needs, so if you’re a vegetarian tired of tofu-themed dishes, for example, there’s a good chance they can rustle up a tasty alternative.
It doesn’t take long for us to settle into a regular nightly routine: catch a show or film in the early evening; enjoy dinner at one of the assorted restaurants, then opt for a late-night adult-oriented gig with whichever act is in the Walt Disney Theatre.
As Disney is such a family-centric organisation, kids of all ages are well catered for in assorted areas such as Flounder’s Reef Nursery (perfect for infants and toddlers), while older kids seemed to love Oceaneer Club.
Elsewhere, tween-friendly section The Edge and teen-oriented hangout Vibe (which looks like the set of a cool sitcom) appears to keep youngsters happy throughout the voyage.
The Magic may not be the newest ship on the waves but, like a classic car, her sleek design and Mickey-inspired colour scheme (including red smoke stacks and yellow lifeboats) ensures she turns heads in every port.
I admit, I’m not a fan of the lobby chandelier, which looks like an explosion of multicoloured trumpets, but overall the interior is impressive - from the gorgeous Buena Vista cinema, which screens the latest movies in 3D, to the Walt Disney Theatre, reminiscent of classic Art Deco theatres.
With the Magic offering four-night Med cruises in 2013, there’ll be so much to do and see on land, you may not get to sample all the goodies on board this 964-foot long vessel.
My wife and I certainly had an unforgettable time on our Bahamian cruise, and I have no doubt more magic will be repeated as Mickey and his 900-plus crew cast their spell over the Mediterranean next summer.
However, I have warned her that next birthday will be a bit of a letdown by comparison.
Roger Crow was a guest of Disney and Virgin holidays. Next year Disney Magic will be operating a Mediterranean itinerary. Virgin Holidays Cruises offers four, seven and 12 nights on Disney Magic departing from Barcelona, Villefranche, Palma and Barcelona. Prices start from £749 per person based on two adults travelling and sharing an 11c inside cabin on a full-board basis. Includes resort transfers, flights from a London airport and 25 dollars onboard credit. Based on departure date June 2013 to August 2013. Offer book-by date is subject to availability so please consult the website for full details. Offer includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change.
Visit www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk, call 0844 573 4398 or visit one of the 100 stores located in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s nationwide.