Howdy folks, I just swam in from Spain and boy, are my arms tired! <Rimshot> If you follow the Touring Plans twitter feed, you are probably fully aware of — if not fed up with — my just-completed voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on the Disney Magic. The 11-day journey was certainly a Best Week Ever and a half, but I’m certain some of you are wondering how you can spend 6 straight sea days stuck in a giant floating hotel without jumping overboard. I had some apprehension before going aboard about being away from dry land for so many days in a row, but now I’m wishing the Disney Cruise Line had cruises to nowhere out of Canaveral, because my week on the water was more wonderful than any port of call (with the possible exception of Castaway Cay), thanks to the jam-packed schedule of activities and events and events you’ll find exclusively on DCL repositioning routes and other extended oceanic cruises. So, at the risk of stealing Derek Burgan‘s gimmick, here are my top six ways to while away your sea days during a Transatlantic Disney Cruise.
6. See a Movie or Twenty
Who wants to spend an expensive cruise inside a movie theater? I do! If you love Disney, you probably love movies, and there are few movie theaters on land that can compete with the Disney Magic’s Buena Vista Theatre. Over our 11 day journey, we averaged two movies a day, many in eye-popping Dolby Digital 3-D (the same system used in Star Tours and Escape From Gringotts, and far brighter and sharper than any multiplex) including Avengers: Age of Ultron Inside Out, and Ant-Man.
The highlight of the cruise’s cinema schedule was the multi-day marathon of the first six Star Wars films. Though screened in release order rather than episode or Machete order, these were the most recent versions created for the Blu-Ray release projected in stunning ultra-high-definition, making it the best presentation of the classic movies I’ve seen since ’77.
If seeing the movies made you itch with anticipation of The Force Awakens, the Disney Magic now has a healthy selection of new Star Wars merchandise.
There’s even an entire shop (the former liquor store in the adult area) devoted to exclusive Disney Cruise Line Star Wars shirts and souvenirs.
5. Act Like a Kid
If you’ve ever peeked into the kids clubs on a Disney Cruise ship, you probably got pretty jealous of all the cool toys the under-18 set get to play with. On our transatlantic trip, the Disney Magic’s Oceaneer Lab and Club, Vibe, and the brand-new Edge were all open to adults on an almost-daily basis, with regularly scheduled crafts and games just for the grown-ups.
The teen Vibe club got some minor updates as well.
Want to make Flubber, draw an animation cell, make a paper Mickey, or play Disney Infinity? Go ahead!
We even got a chance to test drive a pre-release sample of Playmation, an interactive Marvel laser-tag game system that won’t be officially released in stores until October 4.
4. Learn to Cook Something New
Most Disney Cruise Line voyages include a couple Anyone Can Cook seminars, but these kitchen demonstrations are a popular daily feature on transatlantic sea days.
Our classes were lead by some of Disney’s culinary heavy hitters, including chefs from top Walt Disney World restaurants like Artists Point, and the head pastry chef for all of DCL, who showed a packed house how to make chocolate lava cake.
Even if you don’t give a damn about Edam, there’s a Gouda chance you’ll eat up the cheese tasting seminars too, assuming you aren’t lactose intolerant.
For a grand finale, the ship’s captain and cruise director joined the professional cooks in a Chopped-style contest judged by the passengers.
Whether or not you burn water and will never make the recipes at home for yourself, the free samples of food and wine are a powerful incentive to attend.
3. Learn to Eat Something New
The standard rotational dinner menus in DCL’s main dining rooms are all a cut above standard cruise ship fare.
And the familiar specialty meals — including Pirates in the Caribbean night and the new Frozen menu — are all justly celebrated.
But on a cruise of over a week, you’ll get to sample some truly unusual bills of fare, from the World of Flavour (shades of Epcot’s World Showcase restaurants)…
…to Transatlantic Night, which features ingredients like Alaskan King Crab, morel mushrooms, and caviar that you’d otherwise have to visit an up-charge restaurant to enjoy.
Speaking of up-charge, six days in a row at sea gives you plenty of chances to enjoy Palo, which we visited twice. Brunch is excellent and worth every penny,…
…but dinner was on another level entirely. Our evening meal ran to over a dozen courses, from aged cheese to exquisite chocolate soufflé, with lobster, scallops, and lamb between.
With with wine and a generous tip, the above meal cost under $100, making Palo one of the best values in the world…as long as you ignore the very expensive cover charge (a.k.a. The cost of your cruise.)
2. Talk to an Imagineer
Our Disney Magic cruise came immediately after the ship exited dry-dock for its first refurbishment since the major 2013 “reimagining,” and many of the finishing touches were still being applied throughout our crossing. But any inconveniences were offset by the opportunity to travel with the people who make the Magic happen, as transatlantic crossings often count Imagineers and other members of Disney’s creative team among their passengers.
This particular ship’s roster included Imagineer Jeff Morris, who designed everything from the DCL logo to the bolts on our boat; show producer/director and Adventurers Club alumni Greg Triggs; performer, choreographer, and artistic director Ed Whitlow; and lighting designer Bryant Woelk, who programmed everything from Celebrate the Magic and the Osborne Christmas Lights to the spectacular new Frozen sequence in Disney Dreams.
All of these talented artists held informal, informative Q&A’s and workshops that gave real insight into their creative processes, and let slip a few hints about the future of the cruise ships and parks. Better yet, they were all amazingly accessible if you bumped into them at the bar and wanted to banter about their work. If you are half as interested in the hard work behind the magic as I am, these sessions alone are practically worth the price of a transatlantic trip.
1. See a Special Show
The aforementioned upgraded Disney Dreams is only the best of several excellent shows from the Walt Disney Theatre’s standard repertoire that we saw during our cruise, but an 11-night crossing affords opportunities for some unique evening productions. Ventriloquists, comics, percussionists, a Capella singers, and a Beatles tribute band rounded out our show schedule, and even the weakest were more competent than anything I’ve seen on a Carnival Cruise.
But there was one show-stopper that we would have happily paid big bucks to see in Manhattan or London. Gavin Lee — the original “Bert” in Mary Poppins on Broadway and the West End, and currently Thenardier in New York’s Les Miz revival — gave an hour-long concert of favorite tunes and tap dance routines that tore the house down. It isn’t easy to give a standing ovation on a moving ship, but he earned his in spades.
Bonus: Do Nothing!
On a vacation of a week or less, you feel obligated — stressed, even — to cram everything in. But with a few extra days at sea, you can really relax and blow off the activities schedule without feeling guilty.
One of my best days on board involving ordering room service for breakfast, then going back to bed and dozing past noon with cartoons on the stateroom TV, followed by book reading and more snoozing at the adult pool. Because if you can’t unplug and unwind a thousand miles from the nearest continent, then where can you?
Have you ever taken a transatlantic Disney cruise, or would you even consider it? What would you do with six days in a row at sea? Let everyone know in the comments below!