Southeast bureau chief Ernest Blum was a passenger aboard the
maiden voyage of the Disney Magic. As reported, the maiden voyage
did not go as smoothly as it could have, problems including
electronic keys that wouldn't open locks and a lack of personnel.
Blum took a look here not at the operation of the vessel but at its
interior and exterior design details. His impressions follow:
PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. -- With its two classic red funnels,
elongated bowline and prominent glass bridge, the 83,500-ton Disney
Magic is a reinvention of the look of the great classic liners.
The $350 million
ship, designed as a unique blend of cruising and Disney magic,
offers notable innovations, beginning with the spacious and
ingenious family staterooms. The vessel's dedicated spaces for
kids, from ages 3 to 17, also set a new standard at sea.
Entertainment is not only up to Disney's usual standards, but
the venue in the 977-seat Walt Disney Theater gives new meaning to
the phrase "not a bad seat in the house." The theater is a tour de
force, with a magnificent Art Deco decor, tiered seating free of
obstructing columns and a huge, state-of-the-art stage.
The Sessions piano bar, a classic space that exudes 1930s
elegance, seems transported intact from the Queen Mary.
Passengers will be talking about Animator's Palette, one of the
three main restaurants, which offers a visual and sound
extravaganza of Disney animation through the decades. For more
sophisticated tastes, the adults-only Palo restaurant, featuring
northern Italian cuisine, is on a par in food and service with top
New York restaurants. (The downside, of course, is that it
overshadows the ship's other restaurants--and not everyone can
reserve a seat.)
But for all the assortment of notable rooms, the Disney Magic's
calling card is its silhouette. As the commemorative book, "Disney
Magic: The Launching of a Dream," makes clear, the design of the
ship's exterior went far beyond the responsibility of Disney Cruise
Line, extending into the highest level of the Walt Disney Co.
Author John Heminway writes that Disney chairman Michael Eisner
directed the conception, rejecting the preliminary sketches of
three of the cruise industry's foremost designers. That group
included Njal Eide, creator of the genre of seagoing atriums; the
team of Peter Yran and Bjorn Storbraaten, who designed staterooms
on most of the industry's luxury ships, and Robert Tillberg, who
created some of the industry's most fashionable public spaces.
Eisner, dissatisfied with their initial efforts, summoned the
prestigious group to his Los Angeles office and gave them new
marching orders: "Go home and make a modern classic," he said. "I
want you to out-tradition tradition."
As it happened, the overall concept for the ship's exterior was
to be delivered by Hartmut Esslinger, whose company, Frogdesign, is
credited with redesigns of such products as the Apple Macintosh
computer, Sony's Trinitron television and Vuitton luggage. Also
assuming a key role was Wing Chao, head of Walt Disney
Imagineering. Overseeing them was Eisner, who said he attended five
meetings for each public room on the ship and journeyed to Italy to
see lifesize mockups of the ship's staterooms.
The result is in the Disney tradition, a marine icon, the
equivalent of Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
Despite the triumph of the ship's exterior, the same inspiration
does not appear to extend to the Disney Magic's overall interior
design. Taken as an ensemble rather than a collection of some
notable rooms, the interior is far from being a showplace.
Eschewing the soaring atriums that dominate contemporary ship
design, the Disney Magic's three-deck-high atrium is comparatively
squat and narrow. Most other public spaces on the ship are
relatively modest, with a subdued but pleasant Art Deco decor. Many
passengers, of course, will appreciate this intimacy, but some
experienced cruisers may miss the glamour and panache of other
Curiously, for a company that created the Magic Kingdom's Main
Street, there is no analogous thoroughfare on the Disney Magic. The
atrium does not serve as a town center, if one excludes its
purser's desks. There are relatively few sofas or chairs and no
live music, and the space does not serve as a day-and-night lounge,
as on some other recent ships. Rather than being a city at sea, the
Disney Magic gives the impression of being several suburbs at
The three main restaurants are located toward the aft of the
ship, along with a piano bar and a disco; a closed-off, adults-only
entertainment area is set forward; a boutique area is located near
the main showroom at the bow. An impressive but isolated bingo
theater is in still another area, and a bar and television-sports
amphitheater on the top deck is fitted inside the ship's
Amid the sprawl, some parts of the ship remain dull and
lifeless. This was true even of the adults-only entertainment area,
whose relative isolation resulted in sparse use on the maiden
voyage. Perhaps many passengers couldn't find the place. Adding to
the lackluster feeling is the absence of a casino, which Disney
decided against but has not replaced with an alternative generator
of crowd excitement.
Another departure from many modern cruise ships is the dearth of
public rooms with sea vistas. The faux stack, although out of the
way, could serve as a commanding outlook. However, the windows are
curtained to improve views of the oversize TV screen.
The showy, two-deck-high expanse of glass at the bow might seem
to promise such vistas, particularly above the bridge, but one
discovers that the area is occupied by the ship's gym, with the
window space reserved for barely more than a half-dozen persons on
workout machines. Overlooking the stern is Topsiders, the
Lido-style restaurant, but one has to be on the unshaded outside
terrace to fully enjoy the view.
For a ship designed to invoke the glories of the golden age of
sea travel, the designers neglected to make provision for classic
lounge chairs on the outside promenade deck. There is no library or
card room, other classic standards.
However, the Disney Magic offers several major design
innovations, beginning with the superb staterooms, perhaps the best
among all ships serving families. Allotting more room for the
cabins than any other ship in the family market, Disney offers
cabins that have a separate space, dividable by a curtain, for as
many as three extra persons. Indeed, every cabin on the ship has a
third berth in the form of a convertible sofa, comfortable to sit
on as well as sleep on. Available in some cabins is a fourth bed,
tucked into the ceiling. A fifth extra bed, where available, is
tucked into the wall.
Another major innovation in the cabins is the bathrooms divided
into a shower/bath compartment and a toilet compartment. Each
compartment has its own sink, mirror and toiletries cabinet.
Agents should be warned that many of the cabins have doors to
the adjoining cabins, offering flexibility in the arrangements. But
when the cabins are occupied by separate parties, passengers should
be prepared to hear conversations next door.
The cabin furnishings, made in Milan, Italy, are of high
quality, up to the luxury standards of their designer, Yran &
Storbratten. A total of 77% of the accommodations are outside, and
44% of these have private verandas. For children, the ship's three
dedicated kids areas are well stocked with electronic gear,
including many computers. There's also an impressive
Another innovation on the ship is the sun deck, which is both
utilitarian and pleasing, featuring the stacks as an aesthetic
design focus. The glass fence surrounding the sun deck, however,
which is designed as a windbreaker, has no sliding panels to let in
air during slow passage in calm seas. At those times, the area
along the sides of this deck can be sweltering.
No review of the Disney Magic would be complete without a word
about Mickey and Minnie. They are available in person for
autographs before dinner in the atrium. Other Disney characters
welcome guests as they return from Castaway Cay, the line's
splendid private island. The characters are omnipresent as icons,
from discreet mouse ears on cabin lampshades to prominent
artifacts, such as a statue of "Capt. Mickey" at the wheel, regaled
What is the vessel's true capacity
The Disney Magic checked in at port here with a certificate to
carry a total of 2,834 passengers, a limit set by the number of
lifeboats on the vessel and other safety factors. The line is
publicizing the ship's capacity at 2,400, but Disney officials have
put the number in interviews at 2,600.
The ship's dining arrangements would seem to limit the capacity
to 2,652 people, since that is the capacity of the ship's three
main restaurants. However, the adults-only Palo restaurant can
accommodate 272 more people, leaving open the possibility that
Disney could accommodate some extra passengers on peak
The Magic actually has a total of 3,310 passenger berths,
according to the builder, Fincantieri of Italy, giving it
unprecedented flexibility in booking cabins for families. Compared
with the ship's 1,750 lower berths, there are 1,502 extra beds in
the standard cabins, not counting the suites, according to Molteni
& C. of Milan, which supplied the furniture. The extra beds
include 853 sofa beds, or one in each of the vessel's regular
Ship: Disney Magic
Line: Disney Cruise Line.
Size: 83,500 tons.
Itineraries: The Disney Magic offers three-night sailings on
Fridays from Port Canaveral to Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney's
private island in the Bahamas. On Mondays, the ship offers
four-night sailings that include Nassau, Castaway Cay and a day at
sea. Passengers can opt for a weeklong package that includes one of
the two sailings, with the remainder of the week spent at Disney
Commission: 10%; 13% for AAA agencies
Reservations: (800) WDW-CRUISE.