Relaunched Cruise Ships Bring Sunshine and Magic

Disney Cruise Line

In the world of cruise travel, the big story is often about the latest, greatest, biggest cruise ships to be launched and what they have to offer travelers. Those new floating resorts often command the highest fares as cruise travel fans line up to book passage and be one of the first to sail. But while major cruise lines build new ships with the best of what they have to offer, they have not forgotten about their existing fleets. Older ships, relaunched with major updates, can often be one of the best cruise travel values available.

Disney Cruise Line is proud of new Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, the two new ships that more than doubled their fleet capacity. But Disney Magic, first launched in 1998, is not forgotten. The ship has been kept up to date with periodic dry dock maintenance but after living with new features rolled out with Fantasy and Dream, Disney imagineers have taken another look at Disney Magic. The result of that look is an extensive remodel that will bring a host of new reasons to sail the ship.

Disney Cruise Line

Headlining the new features on Disney Magic is The AquaDunk, a 37-foot body slide that starts by taking riders down three decks from Deck 13 to Deck 10 through a translucent tube. That tube extends 20 feet over the side of the ship above the ocean that is over 100 feet below.

We have always been committed to reinvesting in our fleet and continuously making shipboard enhancements that elevate the guest experience,” said Karl L. Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line in an Orlando Sentinel article. Marvel comics is now a part of the Disney family of brands, so the Super Hero icons of Marvel have been introduced on Disney Magic as a new space for children. Marvel’s Avengers Academy will be a big part of Disney’s Oceaneer Club as young crime-fighters are transported to a high-tech command post used by The Avengers for special mission.Dining venues are also getting an update with Animator’s Palate getting all-new, larger high-definition flat-screens for better views of the animation magic that takes place all around. “Drawn to Magic” is a new dinner celebration where the black and white “blank canvas” of the Animator’s Palate turns full color, as Disney and Disney-Pixar characters come to life throughout the dinner event.

Carioca’s is a new restaurant tapping the current cruise industry trend to make public spaces multi-use areas. By day the area (which replaces the current Topsider buffet) is a fun quick lunch venue. By night, the now air-conditioned area is an elegant dinner place.

Disney has also added a bigger, better Spa area with a barber shop and more redesigned areas for adults only. Staterooms will get more room, storage and bathing space too. This new Disney video gives full details of all the re-imagined features to be on board Disney Magic:

Disney Magic will be taken out of service on September 10, 2013, returning with all of the above and more on October 8, 2013. But cruise travelers will not have to wait that long to see the result of Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Sunshine, sailing right now after a $155 million refit.

Formerly launched in 1996 as Carnival Destiny, Carnival Cruise Lines took that popular ship, gutted it, and added back all the best features from all their ships and then some. As the first ship in the Carnival fleet to incorporate all of the dining, bar and entertainment options that are part of Carnival Cruise Line’s refreshing Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement program, this one is far more than a pit stop dry dock overhaul.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival is adding new, branded onboard dining and programming elements like Guy’s Burger Joint designed by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, comedian George Lopez’s Punchliner Comedy Club & Brunch and an assortment of games, music and activities through partnerships with names like Hasbro, EA Sports and Miami Heat celebrity DJ Erie.

New on Carnival Sunshine will be:

  • WaterWorks, a racing-themed water park featuring the line’s longest water slide
  • Havana Bar, by day a Cuban coffee and finger foods place and by night a Cuban-themed bar
  • Shake Spot, which will offer classic milkshakes and floats, as well as tropical fruit shakes and adult shakes and floats
  • JavaBlue Café, which will have sweet and frothy cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and other caffeinated favorites
  • Pizzeria del Capitano, an expansion of the line’s popular Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant

For both Disney and Carnival, the name of the game is being relevant. Much of what worked for cruise lines 10 or 15 years ago does not work today. Today’s cruise travelers are inundated by more ships, with more features every year. But that one new ship for any given line – the one that is the newest, best ship in the fleet – is a small percentage of the line’s capacity and not everyone can sail on it. Reworking older ships to bring relevant features is becoming more of a must-do item all the time and these two ships are great examples of the magic and sunshine that can come as a result.

Photo Of The Day: A Magical Key West Night

photo of the day

This Photo of the Day, titled “A Magical Key West Night,” comes from Gadling Flickr pool member Scott Sanders and was captured using a Nikon D40.

Scott’s work here depicting Disney Magic docked in Key West, Florida, is also part of an extensive Disney Cruise Line Flickr set that numbers in the hundreds.

Want to be featured? Upload your best shots to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Several times a week we choose our favorite images from the pool as a Photo of the Day.

Tips for being featured: add a caption describing the image and (better yet) your personal experience when capturing it, details of the photography gear used and any tips you might have for others wanting to emulate your work.

Now, you can also submit photos through Instagram; just mention @GadlingTravel and use the hashtag #gadling when posting your images.

[Photo Credit Gadling Flickr pool member Scott Sanders]

Disney Cruise Line Takes Top Three In World’s Best Ships Poll

When Condé Nast comes out with a readers’ poll, cruise travelers worldwide take notice. To be mentioned near the top of their list is a sought-after award worth bragging about. In the February edition of Condé Nast Traveler, Disney Cruise Line found plenty to be proud of as three of their four ships ranked in the top three places in the large cruise ship category.

Beating out Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Equinox to round out the top five, classic Disney Cruise ships Disney Magic and Disney Wonder took the first and second spots, respectively, followed by 2011’s Disney Dream in third place.

“With four ships in our fleet, more families than ever before can set sail on a Disney Cruise Line vacation filled with imaginative fun for the kids and exciting family time for all,” said Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line in a SILive report. “We’re thrilled that the experiences our cast and crew members deliver at sea continue to be recognized as outstanding by our guests.”

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It was all a part of Condé Nast’s 100 Best Cruise Ships In the World, a reader poll ranking travel experiences with categories of small ships, medium ships, large ships and river cruise ships.

Interestingly, it was Disney Cruise Line’s two older ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder that took top honors followed closely by 2011’s Disney Dream with the latest, greatest version of what Disney does at sea, Disney Fantasy trailing in eighth place. Not that eight place is bad mind you – just not quite as magical.

Here are all top ten in the large ship category. Click on any of them for more information from Condé Nast.

89.9 Disney Magic

89.6 Disney Wonder

89.5 Disney Dream

88.6 Celebrity Eclipse

88.2 Celebrity Equinox

87.0 Queen Mary 2

86.2 Celebrity Solstice

84.8 Disney Fantasy

83.7 Oasis of the Seas

82.7 Liberty of the Seas

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Docks in NYC


[Photo credit- Chris Owen]

Free Cruise Giveaways To Enter Right Now

free cruise

If the idea of a free cruise sounds appealing, right now might be a good time to pay attention. This month, during what cruise lines call “wave season,” travelers can pick up some of the best cruise vacation values available. To promote those exceptional seasonal values to new travelers, some of whom may have never been on a cruise before, cruise lines are teaming with everyone from television program producers to airline operators to give away free cruises.

“Wave Season” unofficially runs from January through March and features what cruise lines and travel agencies promise to be some of the best values of the year. Whether those values are something to get excited about or not, with snow on the ground and winter cold freezing travelers inside, many look to cruise vacations for relief.

Researching, looking, dreaming or buying, cruise travelers probably won’t do better than “free” when it comes to pricing. Let’s take a look at contests going on right now.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” is giving contestants and one lucky home viewer the chance to escape the winter blues with a Disney Cruise Vacation!

This week, during “Cruise In and Win Week,” airing January 7 – 11, a cruise vacation will be attached to one “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” question in each contestant’s game. Answered correctly, the contestant as well as one lucky winner at home wins the money attached to the question as well as a Disney Cruise Vacation for four aboard the Disney Fantasy.

One randomly selected grand prize winner will choose a cruise vacation on either the Disney Magic or the Disney Wonder, sailing from Galveston, Texas.

US Airways Cruises – Million Miles Dream Getaway Sweepstakes will give one grand prize winner 500,000 Dividend Miles and a seven-night Caribbean cruise for two.

To enter, just sign up to receive US Airways weekly cruise emails by January 31. Signing up for just about any travel service provider’s priority email newsletters or offers is a great idea anyway. Those subscribed often get first notice of special pricing, value sailings and more.

Don’t want your email inbox filling up with what might otherwise be seen as junk? Have a special email address just for this reason.

Five other prize winners will receive 100,000 Dividend Miles

The Smooth Jazz Cruise has sailed annually since 2004, bringing together fans of Jazz music and top jazz musicians. Promoter Entertainment Cruise Productions is giving away a free cruise valued at $5,600 on Holland America Line’s m/s Westerdam, January 13 – 20, 2013, or January 20 – 27, 2013, for The Smooth Jazz Cruise.

On board will be jazz great George Benson along with David Sandborn, Bob James, Alonzo Bodden, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and others.

Alaska Magazine has teamed up with adventure cruise line InnerSea Discoveries for a Cruise Alaska Sweepstakes.

Valued at over $11,000, the grand prize is seven nights on board 86-guest Safari Endeavour, departing from Juneau, Alaska. Included are all onboard meals, spirits, wine and microbrews, exclusive transfers and baggage handling, taxes and port fees, entry fees to national parks/preserves, all from-the-boat activities and equipment, sauna, hot tub, yoga classes and a complimentary massage.

Enter between now and January 31, 2013.

Looking for other sources of free cruises? Travel agencies often have free cruise contests as we see in this video:


[Photo Credit- Flickr User Peter Nijenhuis]

Disney puts their ships where their heart is

Disney puts their ships where their heart is

When new Disney Fantasy comes out next year, Disney Cruise Line will have pretty much doubled their fleet of cruise ships in a very short time. Just like Disney, they have magical plans for each and every day all four ships are sailing. New voyages out of three new ports in 2012 is just the beginning. As America’s master of entertainment prepares to dominate the family cruise business, Disney puts their ships where their heart is.

New York, Seattle and Galveston, Texas will see their first Disney ships next year. The two newest ships, this year’s Disney Dream and upcoming Disney Fantasy will stay close to home, sailing a variety of sailings of varying lengths from bustling Port Canaveral in Florida. We knew that. That is good. Theme-park freaks can still get their fill at Walt Disney World in Florida before or after sailing with a shorter cruise while those with an eye for the sea can enjoy longer itineraries.

That’s great news for Florida but nobody forgot about the west coast…not at this cruise line anyway.
The Disney Wonder is scheduled to continue sailing seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises from the Port of Los Angeles for the majority of the year. (and the entire, cruise-ship abandoned west coast lets out a sign of relief). Now, with the increased fleet size, Disney Wonder will also sail four seven-night Pacific Coast cruises from Los Angeles calling on San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico.

Great big fat good news: Now hear this: The Disney Wonder will offer a special 15-night voyage to Hawaii from Los Angeles, calling on Hilo; Kahului, Maui; Honolulu, Oahu; Nawiliwili, Kauai and Ensenada, Mexico.

I can just hear the wheels turning as guests booked at the new massive new Disney Aulani Resort and Spa try to figure out some way to tack a Disney cruise on the front, back, middle or side of a land vacation.

Flipping back to the east coast for a bit, starting in May 2012, Disney Magic will sail a total of 20 cruises from New York. Included are eight-night cruises to the Bahamas and five-night cruises up the New England coast to Canada.

Disney puts their ships where their heart is

Not sure if a family-style casino-less Disney cruise is for you?

Two-night cruises will be offered to give a taste of the Disney Cruise Line experience over a weekend. I’m betting you come back for seconds. Yes, even in New York.

But that’s not all. The hidden gem in the whole deal is that starting in September 2012, Disney Magic will sail 12 seven-night cruises from the Port of Galveston to the Western Caribbean. That’s huge.


That’s also joining new Carnival Magic (which Gadling will be on in just a few weeks) sailing from Galveston, a first for a new cruise ship, normally brought up in Florida before sent to venture out on its own.
Disney puts their ships where their heart is

But wait, we have another one new to Galveston too. Princess Cruises brings a Love Boat to town with the popular Crown Princess sailing in December 2012 and April 2013.

Galveston hits the jackpot, that’s just all there is to it.

I live in Orlando and if there’s one thing we know here it’s that when Disney does it, they do it right. This roll-out of ships and itineraries, this special deployment, will no doubt turn the cruise industry on it’s ear. All the preparation other lines have done, slapping B-grade animation studios on their ships to prepare for this day will be tested.

You can bet the other lines will have their best foot forward as Disney, quite appropriately, ushers in a new standard in family entertainment at sea. It’s a tall order, even for Disney, but a few simple words come to mind that will clearly define this moment for Disney Cruise Line:

“When your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme” -Cricket, Jiminy