Jennifer and Dave's Western Caribbean Cruise Adventure

Dates: May 10-21, 2002


Transportation: Northwest Airlines (from Detroit Metro Airport), Avis, and Tiffany Town Car

Ship: Disney Magic (Inaugural Western Caribbean Cruise)

Resort: Dolphin Resort

Parks: Kennedy Space Center, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Pleasure Island

Restaurants/Eateries: Orbit (KSC), Fischer's Seafood (Cocoa Beach), Flamingo's (Radisson), every restaurant/eatery aboard the Disney Magic, The Dolphin Fountain, Chevy's (off-property), Bongo's Cuban Cafe, Restaurant Marrakesh, Palio, Yorkshire County Fish & Chips, and 50s Prime Time Cafe

Background: This was a R&R trip (relax and research) for Kennedy Space Center and the Disney Magic. We also spent three nights at Walt Disney World just for the fun of it.


Updated 11/21/03

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Day Two - Saturday, May 11, 2002

Today was one of the few times in my life when I rose with the sunshine and sprung out of bed. (I’m not a morning person.) Today was our cruise! At last!

Having woken first, I got some work out of the way and double-checked our carry-on. For those unfamiliar with the cruise, your luggage is collected upon arrival (or even earlier if you’ve booked a land/sea package or airport transfer with Disney) and you don’t see your bags until later in the day. Thus, you want to have a well-stocked day bag. Ours had our PassPorters (with passports), cruise documents, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, books, snacks, bottled water, camera, camcorder, and extra batteries. Some folks like to pack swimsuits so they can take advantage of the pools, as they aren’t very busy on embarkation day. The most important thing, of course, is those cruise documents and photo identification.

By 8 am we were ready and went down to eat breakfast at Flamingo’s in the Radisson’s lobby. The restaurant was full, but we were seated quickly. Breakfast was buffet style with fruit, pastries, cereal, bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, plus an omelet station. The chef at the omelet station didn’t balk when I requested an egg-white only omelet. It appeared you could order breakfast off a menu instead of the buffet (we saw a family receive plated meals), but we were not presented with a menu so we’re not sure about that. Breakfast came to $21.50 for the two of us.

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Flamingo's Restaurant

After breakfast we returned to our room and hauled our luggage down to the lobby of the Radisson – we’d reserved two spots on their free Radisson shuttle to the terminal at 10:00 am. Many of the other folks waiting for the shuttle were wearing tie-dye lime green shirts which identified them as "DIS Cruisers" (from We ended up riding over to the terminal in a small shuttle – really, it was more like a van. We assume a larger shuttle arrived soon after ours to pick up the 20 or so people who were waiting with us. The shuttle ride was just 5-10 minutes, and as soon as we arrived a cast member met us and collected our luggage. Then we just walked across the street, showed our photo identification to the security guard positioned outside the terminal, and entered the gorgeous Disney Cruise Line terminal building.

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Our first glimpse of the Disney Magic as we walked across the parking lot

When you enter the terminal, a long escalator takes you up two stories to the check-in counters, waiting area, and boarding ramp.

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Inside the Disney Cruise Line Terminal

Having arrived at quarter past 10:00 am, only a few check-in counters were open (both were for Castaway Club members and Concierge guests, interestingly) and there were only about 20 cruisers in the terminal. No one was in line to board yet, and we toyed with the idea of being the first guests in line, but scrapped the idea. We had at least two hours before boarding began and we preferred to explore the terminal rather stand in the same spot. So we got in line and completed our check-in, all in about 10 minutes. We were informed that boarding would begin at about 12:30 pm, and our stateroom would be ready by 1:30 pm.

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The check-in counters

Upon check-in, we were each given a blue "Key to the World" card with our names – these cards function as stateroom keys, charge cards, and identification. You need to keep the cards on you at all times, so we just tucked them in our PassHolder pouches (for us, those pouches were invaluable on this cruise). Other interesting facts about the cruise cards:

  • Our birth years were noted in the lower right-hand corner of the card, presumably for the cast members to verify that we were of drinking age.
  • Our dining rotation and table number is noted on the front of the card. We got "LAPLAPL," which means that we eat at Lumiere’s on the first night, Animator’s Palette on the second night, Parrot Cay on the third night, and so on.
  • A signature strip is on the back of the card. Sign it as soon as you get it — it may be hard to sign later when oil from your hands rub off. Plus, you really should sign it before you use it for charging.
  • To open your stateroom, insert your card into the slot with the "Mickey" end first (Mickey appears in the upper left-hand corner of the card.)


We were also given one copy of the day’s Personal Navigator upon check-in. Personal Navigators look like newsletters — they are published daily and contain a listing of the activities for the day. Once we had the Navigator in our hot little hands, we immediately read it to see what was planned for the day. We already had a good idea of what was going on thanks to our research, but a few items were new or at different times. We’ve learned from past cruises that our activities on this first afternoon are crucial. There is so much going on, and so many important things to accomplish in a few short hours, that a plan is really important. One of the things we did beforehand was create a worksheet for our activities today – the idea was to test the worksheet on a real cruise to see if it would be good for our cruise guidebook. So we sat down with the Navigator, a highlighter, and our worksheets to fill in the blanks and coordinate our activities. Once our plan was agreed upon and settled, Dave and I both took a copy of this worksheet and tucked it into our PassHolders. I also folded up the Personal Navigator and put it in the PassHolder, along with my highlighter.
Now all that remained was to look around the terminal and take notes. We explored the terminal from end to end and took lots of photos. We were particularly interested in the café at the far end of the terminal, as we’d managed to miss it on our two previous trips. It is just around the corner across from the boarding area. The café, called R.E. Fresh’s Gulf Stream Coffee, opens at 11 am and serves fresh-roasted coffee, espressos, blended coffee drinks, tea, hot cocoa, bottled soft drinks, pastries, New York-style pretzels, and bags of potato chips. Here’s the drink menu:

Fresh Roasted Coffee
Regular – 2.25
Ice Coffee – 2.25
Café Au Lait – 2.25

Espresso Beverages
Espresso (Double) – 2.75
Cappuccino – 3.95
Café Latte – 3.95
Iced Latte – 3.95
Café Mocha – 4.25
Iced Mocha – 4.25
Café Vienna – 4.75
Iced Vienna – 4.75

Blended Beverages
Mocha Frost – 4.50
Caramel Frost – 4.50
Gourmet Ice (Strawberry or Kiwi) – 3.75

Other Beverages
Hot Tea – 2.25
Iced Tea – 2.25
Chai Tea – 3.95
Hot Chocolate – 3.50
Steamer – 3.50

The pastries were mostly just muffins of various sorts (blueberry, chocolate, etc.) and sticky buns, each for $2.25.

The café offers a reasonable amount of seating – a few tables and chairs, plus some bar stools. The seating area also offers a very nice view of the ship. We didn’t try anything from the café, but it appeared to be a very popular place once it opened. Perhaps our fellow cruisers needed a caffeine fix, or had skipped breakfast. We knew that there was a huge buffet awaiting us onboard in just a couple of hours, so it was easy to wait.

Other things we discovered on our exploration of the terminal:

  • The Disney Magic model in the center the terminal offers a cutaway view of the ship if you walk around to the back of it. I missed this on my first two visits – I must have seen the front and assumed the back was the same. The cutaway view is really fascinating! Beyond giving you a peek at the many guests areas you’ll get to know on your cruise, it gives you a behind-the-scenes look at cast-only areas such as galleys, engines, and crew quarters.
  • There is an outside viewing area at the far end of the terminal. Even if the doors are locked or the weather isn’t so great, there are huge windows that afford a delightful view of the ship you are about to board. Comfy seats are arrayed below the windows.
  • Clean restrooms and drinking fountains are at the other end of the terminal. Payphones are also across the way.
  • A large seating area is situated across from the check-in counter. TVs show Disney animations and large display cases show off photos of the ships and various memorabilia.
  • At about 11 am, Disney characters came out to meet and greet cruisers. We saw Goofy, Chip and Dale, Donald, and Mickey. Because this was the Western Caribbean cruise, the characters were all dressed in Mexican garb.
  • Mariachi Cobre (from the Mexico pavilion at Epcot) played for us in celebration of the inaugural Western Caribbean cruise.


By 11:30 am, the terminal was crowded. Really crowded. We couldn’t remember the terminal being so crowded on our two previous cruises. We figured that guests would be less likely to take Disney Cruise Line motorcoaches to the terminal for the 7-night cruises than for the 3- or 4-night cruises, meaning they’d be more likely to arrive earlier. We asked a cast member if the crowds were typical for a 7-night itinerary and he confirmed it. Based on these crowds, it pays to arrive early and get into the boarding line as soon as possible. By 12:00 pm, the line to board wound out of the roped off area, down the length of the terminal, and was starting to double back. Wow! We hopped in line once we were confident we’d taken all the notes and photos we needed.
Finally, at about 12:15 am, boarding began! Around this time, we spotted Deb Wills and her friends in line behind us, and conferred as to when we wanted to dine at Palo’s. It took about 20 minutes before it was our turn to board, and then another 15 minutes to go through security. Be sure to have your Key to the World card handy for boarding.

Once aboard, a cast member asked for our name and location, and then announced "Saludos Amigos! Please welcome the Marx family from Michigan!" And then we were standing in the three-story lobby of the Disney Magic, ready to embark on our exploration of this gorgeous ship.

Standing in the lobby of the Disney Magic for the first time, I took a deep breath. I was so excited to finally be here! Alas, there was no time to do much more than savor the moment. It was almost 1:00 pm and there was so much to do. So worksheets in hand, Dave and I went off in separate directions.

My first stop was the Oceaneer Club and Lab, Deck 5 midship. These areas are normally restricted to registered kids and their parents during the cruise, but on the first afternoon the doors are open to anyone who wants to take a look. So I went up two flights of stairs (the elevators were busy – stairs are faster and good for me!) and videotaped the Club and the Lab for later reference. I also picked up copies of the Personal Navigators for kids – they were out for the taking in the Oceaneer Club. There are separate Navigators for ages 3-4, 5-7, 8-9, and 10-12. The kid’s Navigators give information for the entire cruise rather than just one day as the regular Navigators do. I also picked up a copy of the participation form that parents/guardians need to fill out if they want their kids to participate in the Oceaneer Club or Lab. The children’s areas looked like a lot of fun – almost made me want to be a kid myself so I could come here and play. I highly recommend that anyone with kids between 3-12 sign their kids up early for the programs – from our observations, the earlier the kids get involved, the more likely they are to enjoy it.

Next stop: Common Grounds, the teen hangout on Deck 9 midship. This large room, styled like a coffeehouse, is exclusively for teens ages 13-17. This open house was our one chance to see what it was like. When I entered at 1:15 pm, the room was completely empty and I took plenty of videotape. I also picked up a copy of the Teen Navigator, which listed activities for the entire week.

A glance at the time showed it was 1:30, time to sign up for shore excursions. Now, I should note that we did have the option of signing up for our shore excursions by phone 60 days in advance, but we just couldn’t decide and thus never did any advance bookings. But we’d finally worked out several options for each port, so I headed downstairs to the shore excursion desk on Deck 3 midship. There I found forms to fill out and put in collection boxes. I should note that the Key West shore excursion order form was separate from the order form for Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Castaway Cay, no doubt due to the fact that we would be arriving in Key West in less than 24 hours. It’s also worth noting that the primary guest on the stateroom account (the one whose name the cruise was booked in) needs to sign the shore excursion order form.

I listed several excursion choices for each port, as follows:

Key West:
1. Catamaran Racing
2. Back to Nature Kayak Tour
3. Key West Catamaran Sail & Snorkel Tour

Grand Cayman:
1. Stingray City Snorkeling and Discover Cayman Tour
2. Atlantis Submarine Expedition
3. Stingray City Snorkel Tour

1. Tropical Jeep Safari Tour
2. Atlantis Submarine Expedition
3. Kayaking Adventure

Castaway Cay
1. Bicycle Rental

By the way, we received a booklet of information about the shore excursions with our cruise documents before the cruise. You can also find information on shore excursions at

Now it was time to check on our stateroom, so I went up two flights to Deck 5 aft. We were in stateroom 5628, just down the hall from the movie theater. As soon as I arrived at our stateroom I could see that some of our luggage had already arrived. Inside the stateroom, I made a beeline for the verandah – this was our first experience sailing with our own verandah. It took a few minutes to figure out how to open the door (you need to pull the door by using, but not turning, the handle – and it’s a heavy door!). The verandah was delightful, although at the time it simply overlooked the dock where I could see crew members loading luggage and supplies. I knew that the view out our stateroom would always vary throughout the cruise, and that was an exciting prospect.

The next thing on my agenda was to stop in Sessions (Deck 3 aft) to meet with the Food and Beverage staff at 2:00 pm. I’d learned about this meeting when I called Disney before the cruise to inquire about soy milk at breakfast, as I am lactose intolerant. In Sessions I met up with Dave, and he and I met with one of the staff to discuss my needs. A note was made about my request for soy milk, and I was directed to let my server at dinner know about my needs as well. Easy enough.

By this time, we were both starving – we hadn’t had time to eat yet, due to boarding later than we anticipated. So we scratched off the next item on our agendas (the walking tour for me and the shore excursion presentation for Dave) and headed up to Deck 9 aft for the lunch buffet in Topsider’s. The food was plentiful, fresh, and delicious, with lots of choices, including cocktail shrimp! We loaded up our plates, grabbed a complimentary soft drink (fruit punch for me, ice tea for Dave), and took a seat outside beside the children’s pool. Ahhhh. To sit and relax for a bit… the sun was out, the temperature was about 75 F, and the entire cruise was before us.

During lunch, Dave reported that he was successful at accomplishing his tasks. He checked out Flounder’s Reef Nursery during its open house and took photos. He secured massages for he and I in the cabanas on Castaway Cay (the second appointment of the day). And he reserved Palo for the six of us (me, Dave, Deb, and her three friends) on Monday at 8:30 pm. Deb caught up with us and reported that she was successful in reserving Palo for all of us on Wednesday as well. Great! She also took the liberty of booking the champagne brunch for the six of us on Thursday. Oops, we’d forgotten all about the champagne brunch and high tea that they serve on the 7-night cruises! (They don’t have these on the 3- or 4-night cruises.) Deb tells us that they are still taking reservations for the high tea up at Palo, so after lunch I go up to see if I can reserve spots for us. Alas, they are all booked up, so I put my name on the waiting list and go back down to our stateroom.

You may be wondering, "Why all the running around, Jennifer?" After all, this is the first day of our cruise – we don’t want to wear ourselves out early. But the truth is there are a lot of things to reserve early if we don’t want to be disappointed later. Here is a list of things that should be done on the first day – like us, you probably won’t do all of them, just some of them:

  • Reserve dinner at Palo (the adults-only restaurant), plus the champagne brunch and high tea (on the 7-night cruise)
  • Reserve spa treatments (on the ship and/or on Castaway Cay)
  • Make appointments at Flounders Reef Nursery
  • Register your child(ren) for the Oceaneer Club/Lab
  • Pick up a stroller/wheelchair at Guest Services
  • Book shore excursions
  • Meet with the food and beverage staff about any special dietary needs


Dave and I met back at the room at 3:45 – just in time to get ready for the mandatory boat drill at 4:00 pm. We returned to the room and took down our life jackets on the top shelf of the closet. Then we checked the back of the door to find out where our assembly station was located. The drill siren sounded and we headed down to Animator’s Palette for the drill. Everything was orderly and went according to plan. My only gripe was the parents who allowed their kids to carry rather than wear their life jackets. While it may save whining and complaining, it really does the kids a disservice – if there is a problem, the kids who practiced with their life jackets on will be much better prepared for the real thing.
After the boat drill, we head on up to Deck 9 midship for the Sailaway Celebration. Cast members were handing out special Inaugural Cruise cardboard fans, which I suppose were intended for us to wave as we sailed away. We found Deb and friends on Deck 10 overlooking the party and parked ourselves there to watch the festivities. Nearby, I noticed the DIS Cruisers had congregated to party together – many of them had bottles of soap bubbles to blow, which I think is a fun idea. The ship pulled away from the dock at exactly 4 pm, just as the horn blew its signature "When You Wish Upon a Star" melody. We were off!

Back in our stateroom, the rest of our luggage had arrived so we unpacked and organized our things. Once our suitcases were empty, we stored them under the bed (it has a 9" clearance, which was just enough for our cases). We stored our valuables and wallets in the safe, which I originally secured by using my Key to the World card (you just swipe the card through the slot to lock it). When Dave realized that only I would be able to unlock the safe (because it only works for the card you locked it with), we unlocked it with my card and re-locked it with our AAA card. Then we hid the AAA card in the room so we could both access the safe.

The small refrigerator (really, it’s a cooler) in the room was large enough to hold my carton of soy milk, a bottle of sparkling apple juice, and a bottle of Pellegrino, but I had to remove the wire shelving first.

We also watched a bit of the shore excursion presentation on TV, which they repeated throughout most of the week. After that, we just relaxed until it was time for the Welcome Aboard Variety Show in the Walt Disney Theatre, Deck 4, Forward.

Tonight’s show featured the The Gizmo Guys and Michael Harrison. The Gizmo Guys (see are two comedians/jugglers – Allan Jacobs and Barrett Falker – who were quite amusing. Michael Harrison (see was a wonderful ventriloquist – he brought up a boy from the audience, put a mask on him, and used him in his ventroliquist act. It was hilarious! All three of these performers appeared for shows in Rockin’ Bar D later in the cruise, too. The Gizmo Guys aren’t scheduled to appear on the Disney Magic again this year, but Michael Harrison is apparently a regular – we discovered that he’d been a performer aboard a January sailing of the Disney Magic earlier this year. So perhaps you’ll see him on your next cruise, too. In addition to the two comedy acts, there were some short song/dance numbers from the regular Disney cast.

After the show, we stopped by Studio Sea (Deck 4 midship) to watch the Mickey Mania game show. I was hoping we’d get picked to play, but it turned out they only wanted pairs of parents and children to be contestants. So we simply watched the game – it was fun, but it would have been more fun if we’d been able to participate. This was the only time during the cruise we really felt excluded from an activity, though.

We went back to our stateroom to dress for dinner. Because tonight’s dinner was at Lumiere’s, Dave wore a jacket and tie and I wore a pink sleeveless dress with a shawl. When we arrived at our table (#55), Deb and her friends were already seated. Our server, Sasha, came over to introduce himself. He already knew about my request for soy milk, and explained that whenever I wanted some I only had to ask. He was very accommodating.

Here was tonight’s menu at Lumiere’s:

Deep fried Camembert Fritters – with Red Current jelly or Marinara Sauce
Shrimp Medley – served with Cocktail Sauce
Pearls of Seasonal Melon – with Port Wine
Escargot – with Diced Mushrooms and Garlic Butter
Cream of Cauliflower Soup
Mixed Garden Salad – tossed with Red Wine Vinaigrette and topped with Goat Cheese Croutons

Main Course
Cheese Ravioli – served with a Tomato-Basil Sauce
Garlic-roasted Beef Tenderloin – served with Mashed Potatoes and a Green Peppercorn Sauce
Herb-crusted Sea Bass – with Sauteed Spinach and Champagne Sauce
Braised Lamb Shank – served with Portobello Polenta and a Red Wine Sauce
Roasted Duck Breast – with Sauteed Parsnips and an Orange Sauce
Chef’s Vegetarian Selection of the Day
(Additional selections of sirloin steak, grilled chicken breast, fresh fish, or "lighter fare" are available. Kindly ask your server.)

Chocolate Caramel Torte – with Raspberries over Hazelnut Crust
Carmelized Apple Tart – with Vanilla Sauce
Grand Marnier Souffle – with Chocolate Sauce
Crème Brulee
Chef’s Sugar-Free Dessert

Kid’s Menu

Chicken Noodle Soup
Fruit Cocktail

Hot Dog
Macaroni and Cheese
Cheese Pizza
Chicken Strips

Chef’s Entrees of the Day
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Mickey Ice Cream Bar
Chocolate Pudding
Assorted Ice Cream

Chef’s Dessert of the Day
Banana Cupcake

I eat as healthy as I can, so I asked if the mixed garden salad could be served with the dressing on the side. The server said it could not because it was pre-made. But he offered to bring out a plain salad and serve the dressing on the side, and I agreed. For my main entrée, I ordered the sea bass. Dave had the escargot and the roasted duck breast. Everything we ordered was good, with one exception: my salad. What I received a very boring iceberg lettuce and carrot chip salad. The server then wanted to put the dressing on for me, but the way I use dressing is to dip my fork in the dressing then get a forkful of salad (this method means I use less dressing). So I had to make a big deal about how I just needed him to leave the dressing at the table for me, which he seemed to think was very odd. But he did leave the dressing for me to use.

For dessert, I requested a bowl of fruit (as all the desserts looked too decadent for me) and Dave ordered the apple tart. Again, my bowl of fruit was incredibly boring – just some melon wedges and grapes. I realized at this point that I could request special items like this, but it just wouldn’t be any fun. After this evening, I ordered off the regular menu and ate around the things that weren’t so healthy (whenever possible). Everyone else at our table enjoyed their choices and seemed quite satisfied.

It’s also worth noting that Deb and Linda ordered the 7-Night Wine Package, which they offered to split three ways with Dave. (Dave and I would have ordered it also, but I am not drinking these days.) The packages cost $145 for the classic selections and $265 for the premium selections (this is the package that Deb, Linda, and Dave shared). The way it works is that you get a bottle of wine with dinner each evening, which you chose from a pre-selected list of about 20 kinds. If you want, you can have two bottles one night and no bottles on another night. The packages represent a savings of about 25% over regular list prices for wine. A cast member was stationed in the lobby when we boarded, offering this package to guests. I believe you could also request the package on your first dinner as well.

We were one of the last tables to finish dinner around 10:30 pm – this would be typical for us for the rest of the week. We all had such a good time talking and laughing that eating took just a bit longer.

After dinner, we bid adieu to our friends and went back to our stateroom to crash. What a long day it had been! The only thing I can remember is the wonderful feeling of gentle rocking as I lie in bed, just moments from sleep. Ah, how nice it was to be cruising again!

Next: Day Three

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