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Day Fifteen: Barcelona

Posted on Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Dave!And then, as quickly as it began, the cruise was over.

Truthfully, it doesn't feel like I had a vacation. With a port excursion most every day, I was waking up at 7:00am, getting back to the ship for dinner at 6:00pm, then working before going to sleep at 11:00pm so I could start it all over again the next day. But, then again, the idea of doing nothing and just lounging around the ship for ten days would drive me insane, so I guess this as good as it gets. I did get to see a lot of interesting and beautiful places, that's for sure.

In the end, I was very impressed by Disney Cruise Line...

The Disney Magic

A few observations...

  • I was never really bothered by a bunch of kids, as I had expected. There are adults-only areas and adults-only shore excursions which keep your exposure to screaming kids to a minimum. Even at dinner they take care to seat people traveling without kids with other people traveling without kids.
  • That being said, there are a lot of kid-oriented activities to keep them entertained throughout the cruise.
  • The staff was, as expected, exemplary. At every turn in every area the crew was at the top of their game. At times I was blown away at the lengths they'd go to fix a problem. The bad internet, for example, was immediately refunded 50% after I complained about it being unusable at times. When my "character breakfast" time was mis-printed on my dining ticket, the head server arranged another for me. The dining staff was insanely obliging for my every request. If I didn't like the vegetarian options on the menu, they'd create something else... or even order me a pizza... rather than have me leave disappointed. Even the retail shop staff went the extra mile to make sure I was happy. Service is usually good on cruise ships, but Disney takes it to the next level entirely.
  • The food was incredible. Just incredible. The vegetarian options were often fantastic and really delicious, and only twice did I opt for pizza instead of the menu. If you could taste their pizza, you'd understand why... it was great.
  • Like most ships, Disney has an "upscale" restaurant which requires a fee to dine in. On the Disney Magic it's Palo, an adults-only dining area with a Northern Italian menu. The food, while truly excellent, wasn't really that much better than what you get from the restaurant menus. The service, surprisingly, was worse. The poor waitress at my table had to take orders, deliver drinks, deliver food, AND bus tables for four groups... two of them with six people! Naturally, she fell behind, and service definitely suffered. This was a really crappy thing to do to the poor woman... they should at least give her a busser to clean off tables for her. If I had it to do all over again, I would definitely pass on dining at Palo.
  • One area where I think Disney falls behind is when competing with Norwegian Cruise Lines "Freestyle Cruising." While I was never disappointed with my restaurant rotation... I still like the ability to choose my own restaurant and dress how I want. With Disney, if you don't like the restaurant your scheduled for (or want to eat at a different time), you can always go to the buffet or order a burger at the pool... but that's a far cry from eating when you want where you want. And I hate... hate... having to dress up for "formal night" and "semi-formal night" in order to attend my dinner. I AM ON VACATION! DON'T MAKE ME DRESS IN A SUIT FOR DINNER!
  • The port excursions were, as with other cruise lines, not run by Disney. They were operated by a local tour company at the port of call. But what makes Disney different is that they usually send one of their people with the tour group. This removes any worry of something going wrong because you never feel abandoned by Disney... even when you're not with Disney. This was entirely unexpected, but a great idea.
  • The ship itself was nice. Very nice. Everywhere was beautifully designed and impeccably maintained. Disney touches and theming were everywhere. Some things I'd expect to find (a library, for example) were missing... probably to make room for all the kids areas... but it didn't really detract from my experience. A big plus with Disney is a separate toilet room and shower room in most of their cabins. This would make traveling with family a much easier experience.
  • Hands-down the absolute best embarkation and debarkation experiences I've had with any cruise ship ever. Given the total mess that most cruise lines make of this, they could definitely learn a thing or two from Disney.

Overall, I thought this is one of the best cruises I've taken. And, while I prefer the "freestyle" aspect of NCL or the flexible options at Princess, I'd take another Disney Cruise in a second. The problem is that they only have two (soon to be three) ships, so their itineraries are really lacking. Unless you want to take the same Mediterranean Cruise over and over... or hop on a short trip through the Caribbean... your options are severely limited. Earlier this year, they had an amazing "Balkan Capitals" cruise that I'd love to take, but it's not available in 2011. Instead, they're going to Alaska, which I've already done. I'd say the odds of me cruising with Disney any time soon are pretty low... not because I don't like the company, but because they're not going anyplace I want to go.

So... if Disney is cruising a place you'd like to see, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. Everything from the ship to the service to the port experiences were gold.

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Categories: Travel 2010Click To It: Permalink
   

Comments

  1. Sarkawt says:

    Thank you for sharing your vacation photos, your invaluable information and remarks about a luxury cruise ship. Indeed, I enjoyed watching and reading your fifteen-day vacation esp your last “A few observations” they’re really helpful. Hope to see more of you in the future. Who knows maybe next time you will be coming to the North of Iraq, Kurdistan. Be sure, I would be very much happy to help. All the best. Sarkawt

  2. A. Lewis says:

    Cruises do tend to leave an open space in one’s heart and life…they are so much fun….and its often such a letdown when they are over. I’ve run into the same issues with the vegetarian meals on cruises — and restaurants everywhere, for that matter….the meals are most often crafted by non-vegetarian people which leaves them blech…..
    And, I must say, that my cruises with Holland America have been slick, easy, fast….as far as embarking and disembarking have gone. Never once have I waited.

    Come on back to our dreary, gray, wet Pacific Northwest. You’ll feel right at home.

  3. Finn says:

    As a veteran cruiser, this is both good and bad to hear. Good because I would consider a Disney cruise now, bad because I’ve done Alaska and the Caribbean and really only am interested in the cruise you just did and it’s too expensive for us at the moment. But I am putting a pin in this for future.

    I’m glad you had a good vacation. Safe home!

  4. Karl says:

    Very cool. I’ve never been on a cruise. You make me want to go on one. Except for that formal dining bit…which seems silly for a vacation cruise.

  5. Jen says:

    This review is really helpful. I’ve got two kids and a vacation to plan and have been following your adventure. Disney Cruise is definitely on top of the list!

  6. Avitable says:

    The concepts of dressing up for dinner and having to eat at an assigned time are two things that I find obnoxious about cruises. I didn’t know there were cruises that didn’t do that.

  7. I’ve never considered a cruise for all the normal negatives, but I appreciate your recap! It has me considering that it might be good to try a Disney one sometime.

  8. claire says:

    I’m glad you had such a good experience on your cruise!

    Cruises have appeal in theory, but I just can’t get past the idea that I’d be seasick throughout. Really hate that sensation. I know they have meds for it… suppose I’d have to find one that worked for me on a test ferry run or something before I’d really consider a cruise.

  9. josh says:

    I’ve never taken a cruise! You’ve inspired me to win the lottery so I can finally go on one!

  10. whitenoise says:

    Interesting, thanks for the summary. My wife wanted to go on a cruise this fall but I was lukewarm to the idea. I’m not a sit-on-a-loungechair/eat/drink sorta guy and thought that I would have been bored stiff.

  11. kapgar says:

    The whole suit thing really bugs me, too. I’m on vacation and would like to pack as lightly as possible. Yet, I have to take a suit for the damn formal dinner and relatively nicer clothes for any of the other dinners. WHY???? And now with airlines charging for checked luggage, it’s all the more painful. I’m going to be rolling that suit tightly to get it to fit into my carry-on bag. VERY tightly.

  12. muskrat says:

    Glad to read this…I’ve never done a cruise before, and given our litter of younguns, if we do one, it’s likely to be Disney. Glad to see they do it well.

  13. sue says:

    I’m so jealous… it all looked and sounded so fabulous. *sigh*

  14. I’ve never been a fan of cruises, because I’d rather go to the location and stay for a week instead of an afternoon. But, I do see a Disney cruise in our future with these crazy rug rats. Thanks for the review! While you’ve been in the glorious Med, I’ve been in Myrtle Beach. :) Not the same, but still ocean, right?

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