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Sailing on Disney Cruise Line out of Magic-al Miami

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My family took a Cruise this winter on the Disney Magic leaving from the Port of Miami.  We had previously taken both a 3- and a 4-night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream leaving from Cape Canaveral.  We were curious to know if we would still experience the same Disney ambiance in the Miami terminal and wondered how smoothly the boarding process would be.  We were also wondering if we would enjoy the smaller ship.  If you are considering taking a Disney Cruise from a different port or on one of the smaller ships, read on as we share our impressions of the Port of Miami, the Disney Magic, and the 4-night cruise to Key West and Castaway Cay.

Getting to the Port

Wanting to spend the morning in Miami’s South Beach, we selected a 1:00 PM boarding time and enjoyed a leisurely morning on the beach and at our hotel, the Lowes Miami Beach.  The cab ride to the port is along a low causeway that beautifully showed off the Disney Magic waiting for us to board in birth F.  Just a word to the wise, you access the Port of Miami only from the causeway heading North, so our Taxi from Miami Beach, heading South, drove past the Port, and had to take a series of access ramps to turn around and get back onto the causeway heading north and to the Port.  This probably cost us another $10 dollars and another 10 minutes.  Ironically, when you leave the Port, the opposite occurs, you are forced to go South, so we had to turn around again to go back to Miami Beach to grab our rental car.

The Terminal Experience:

Of course, we were excited to arrive at the terminal which was clean and large. As we exited the taxi, we dropped our bags in the corresponding area and quickly passed through passport screening as we entered the terminal.  First impressions, the crowd seemed much more international.  There were definitely more families from Latin America and Europe and the passengers as a whole seemed a more diverse lot compared to past trips out of Cape Canaveral.

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The Check In Process:

Excitement grew as Mickey hands waved greetings to us and we were pointed to the check in area.  As we entered the hall, Disney signage was welcoming and familiar.  I have a feeling that boarding times were of no consequence.  There were queues for Silver, Gold Castaway Club members but nobody seemed to be using the allocated lines.  There was a counter for DVC members with no cast member in sight.  Check in was both friendly and chaotic. In a few moments we had our Keys To the World cards in hand and were walking towards the ship.  It was not until later we realized we had no lanyards.  Luckily, we picked up some lanyards at a DVC event later that day.

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Boarding the Ship: 

Next thing we knew we were walking up to the large Disney Cruise Line panels that provide a family photo opportunity.  We took a few photos, turned the corner, and we were entering the central lobby of the ship.   “Welcome to the Privett Family!”  That just never gets old.  Our first impression is how small the “atrium” felt.  It was much smaller than the Disney Dream.  Uh Oh!  Were we going to like this smaller ship?  It had the Disney attention to details but the scale threw us off.

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The Disney Magic

Everything on the ship is smaller, the teen club was smaller, the pools, the lobby, the spa area, the night clubs. But as we learned as the cruise progressed, everything seemed less crowded.  The restaurants were smaller but that turned out to be nice and a little more intimate.  The lines were shorter, the deck parties less chaotic.  The pirate party was just as fun and a little less frenetic. The nighttime entertainment including the shows, the karaoke, piano bar, and the Irish pub in the adult district were all very enjoyable and up to a high standard.  I enjoyed the adult area pool better on Magic than the Dream, as I could always seem to find a comfortable place to site and relax.

One other benefit of traveling on the smaller ship – Castaway Cay was less crowded.   No problem finding lounge chairs under an umbrella with a nice view of the water.  There were no lines renting a bike, or picking up a mask and snorkel.

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Key West:

We enjoyed visiting Key West as an alternate destination to Nassau.  My daughter and I took a guided bike tour which finishes with a slice of Key Lime Pie.  The island is flat and easy to bike with an interesting history.  Chickens and iguanas, the southern-most point, and Jimmy Buffet’s old house were some of the sites we saw along the way.  My spouse spent part of the day at a local beach with a little shopping downtown.

Debarkation Day:

The same held true on debarkation day: we did not have the same kind of lines to get off of the ship.  Once off the ship, passing through customs to grabbing a cab took about 45 minutes.  Note, we carried our own bags off of the ship as we have done in the past on the Disney Dream.  I just find it less complicated than to have to pack the night before.

If I could merge the beautiful atrium of the Disney Dream with the size and intimacy of the Magic, we would have the best of both worlds.  There are benefits of both the larger and smaller ships and I would recommend you try them both and decide for yourselves.  This summer, we will be taking an Alaskan cruise on the Disney Wonder and maybe next year, we will try the Fantasy.


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