Disney Magic - Western Mediterranean Cruise Travel Log

  • 01 of 11

    Disney Magic Mediterranean Cruise

    Disney Magic in the Mediterranean at La Spezia, Italy
    Disney Magic (c) Linda Garrison

    When I was growing up, the term "Disney" brought to mind either cartoons, family-friendly movies, TV shows, or Disneyland in California. Times have changed. Disney opened the trend-setting Disney World in Florida in 1971, and since then the company has opened theme parks in Asia and Europe. In addition, Disney Cruise Lines launched its first two ships in 1998 (Disney Magic) and 1999 (Disney Wonder). Two other Disney cruise ships followed--the Disney Dream in 2011 and the Disney Fantasy in 2012. These four ships sail to the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Alaska, and the Disney Magic repositions to Europe in the summer months.

    Most cruise travelers know that Disney sails from Port Canaveral, Florida, and many families combine a visit to Disney World with a Disney cruise to the Bahamas and the Caribbean that includes a stopover at Castaway Cay, one of the best cruise line private islands. However, a Disney Magic cruise to the Mediterranean is a wonderful vacation option for adults and for families looking to see more of the world.

    Some years, the Disney Magic sails seven to eleven-day cruises roundtrip from Barcelona to fascinating ports of call in the western Mediterranean from May to September. Other years, the cruise ship sails to the Baltic and British Isles in the summer

    I sailed roundtrip from Barcelona on the Disney Magic on a ten-day itinerary that included an excellent mix of diverse cultures, scenery, history, and shore activities.

    The Disney Magic features many of the same shore excursions (called port adventures by Disney) that other cruise lines offer. However, Disney has gone one big step further, with port adventures designed specifically for families to enjoy. The next page discusses some of the excellent family port adventures, and the rest of this article describes things to do and see in each of the Disney Magic Mediterranean ports of call.

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  • 02 of 11

    Disney Cruise Lines' Mediterranean Family Port Adventures

    Making Mosaics at the Bardo Museum in Tunis from the Disney Magic
    Disney Magic Port Adventure (c) Linda Garrison

    At each Mediterranean port of call, the Disney Magic has designed special port adventures for families with children. These port adventures are in addition to those offered by other cruise lines, so adults looking to tour museums, take walking tours, or see the highlights of each port will not be disappointed. Examples of some of the family adventures follow.

    One of the most creative family adventures is the "Bardo Museum and Medina for Families" tour in Tunis, Tunisia. The Bardo Museum has one of the world's best collections of Roman mosaics, and a visit to this fascinating museum will appeal to adults who love history and art. However, many children could care less about artwork made of small rocks. So, while the adults are touring the museum with a guide, the kids (along with counselors from the Disney Magic) create their own mosaic to take home. What a great idea, and a great souvenir! This tour also includes a visit to the old city (Medina) of Tunis, which provides a look at life in this very different culture.

    Kids can enjoy another artistic activity in Florence, where they have time to mix their own colors and paint a fresco (under the supervision of an art technician and the Disney youth counselors). In the meantime, their parents explore the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

    In some ports of call, the Disney Magic has a family treasure hunt. For example, in Malta, the "Valletta Historical Hunt" is fun and educational for all family members. Each family group is provided a walking map of the Maltese capital of Valletta and a series of questions to answer. While walking about two miles of the downtown area and seeing the main sites, the family team learns some of the histories of Malta while pursuing the answers to the questions and racking up points for the team. What an interesting way to get some exercise and learn something about a small part of the world!

    Other ports of call involve hands-on kid's activities. In Naples, families can enjoy the scenic ride to Sorrento where the kids can make pizzas with the Disney youth counselors in a local restaurant while the adults use the time to shop or explore the Italian town. Pizza originated in southern Italy, and this pizza-making activity was so popular that it was expanded to include adults (on another tour).

    Rome is a city with something for everyone, and kids will be exposed to the well-known sites such as St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain on the "Highlights of Rome for Families" Disney port adventure. However, in addition to the touring, kids can enjoy a 45-minute puppet show with the Disney counselors at the Villa Borghese while their parents use the free time to explore the gardens or shop.

    Although not all Disney Magic Mediterranean ports of call include special youth shore activities, all do include "family adventures". These serve two purposes. First, family groups can enjoy each other and the tours were designed with families in mind. Second, adults like me seeking to avoid children on tours can choose from the many other Disney port adventures. Families may be on some of these, but the numbers will be limited

    Let's now explore the Disney Magic's western Mediterranean ports of call.

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  • 03 of 11

    Barcelona, Spain

    Downtown Barcelona - View from Barcelona Cruise Ship Harbor
    Barcelona (c) Linda Garrison

    Barcelona is a beautiful city and the most visited port of call in the Mediterranean. Ships dock near the city center, and the airport is only a short ride away, making it an easy city to embark or disembark from your cruise. Those sailing on the Disney Magic can either arrive early or extend their stay in Barcelona.

    Anyone traveling from the USA who is taking a Mediterranean cruise should plan to arrive at least one day early. Since you have a ship to catch, you don't want to be stuck hours away at USA airport due to weather or mechanical problems. In addition, arriving a day or more before your cruise will allow time to recover from the long flight, and most importantly, time to explore your embarkation port. If this port is Barcelona, you won't have to worry about finding things to do and see.

    Barcelona has long been a great city to visit, but its debut as the Summer Olympics city in 1992 really put it on the world map. The architecture is marvelous, with much of it in the modernist style of the 19th and 20th centuries. Just a look at the La Sagrada Familia Cathedral of Barcelona is worth the trip to the city.

    Disney Magic Embarkation

    Mom and I took a taxi from our hotel and were in the line to check in by 11:30, on the ship by 12:30, and at lunch before 1:00. Our cabins were ready at 1:30, and our bags arrived before the life boat drill at 4:00 pm.

    Our Disney Magic cabin (7056) had a nice balcony and sitting area with sofa. I love the split bath--one has a toilet and sink and the other had a bath/shower and sink. Great for families! The cabin had a nautical decor, with touches of Disney in the artwork and furnishings.

    After the mandatory life boat drill, we had a welcome aboard pool party at 4:30. It is so much fun to see how the kids (and their parents) are attracted to the Disney characters like they were a magnet. The music was loud, and the atmosphere was joyous. We were going on a cruise!

    We went to the 6 pm show before dinner. The evening show was very good -- a welcome aboard show with the large ensemble and a little taste of the upcoming shows by two of the guest entertainers (a comedian and a magician). Seeing all the Disney characters even gave me a little catch in my throat. Since this early September cruise was the last of the season, we were not too surprised to hear the Captain welcome all those lucky travelers on board who were following this 10-day Med cruise with a 14-day transatlantic back to Port Canaveral.

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  • 04 of 11

    Day at Sea and in Valletta, Malta

    La Valletta, Malta Harbor
    La Valletta, Malta (c) Linda Garrison

    Day at Sea on the Disney Magic

    Our first day on the ship was at sea. At 11 am, mom and I went to the champagne brunch at Palo's. The buffet was as good as I remember from my first time on the Disney Magic. While sipping champagne and bellinis, Mom and I nibbled on seared Cajun tuna, jumbo shrimp, and many kinds of cheese. We split a blue cheese/grape pizza, which was delicious and tasted a lot better than it sounds. I also ate two bowls of fresh berries (with a dollop of whipped cream). We skipped the main course since we had filled up so much on the appetizers. The ship has this champagne brunch only on sea days, and even though there is a per person surcharge, reservations in the 130-seat restaurant sell out early.

    It was a formal night, so we donned our best apparel and went to the 6:30 pm show. Seeing all the children dressed up like princesses (with tiaras) or in their favorite action figure costume was fun. As usual, everyone was lined up to get their pics taken with the characters. The show was an hour-long story, "Twice Charmed" about what would have happened if the glass slipper was broken and the Prince couldn't find Cinderella. Very cute.

    After the show, mom and I drifted to my favorite bar on the Disney Magic, the adults-only Sessions, which is a very quiet piano bar with large portholes, giving great views of the sea. Tim Moss, the same musician from when I sailed on the Disney Magic two years earlier, was the pianist. He's very good, and mom and I lingered over a drink while he entertained.

    Dinner was at 8:30 in Lumiere's. I love the rotational seating on the Disney ships. You get to try three different restaurants, moving with your table mates and servers. Our servers were excellent, and they called everyone by their name at each meal, which provided a very personal touch.

    The formal dinner was very good. I had a cheese souffle, salad, and lamb; mom had smoked salmon, consomme, and the lamb. We split a dessert sampler (small portions of three of the dessert offerings).

    As with the previous night, we were back in the room before 10:30 and asleep soon after. The next day we would be on the island of Malta.

    Valletta, Malta

    The next morning we were up early to watch the Disney Magic arrive in Valletta, Malta. The harbor entrance is very narrow, and the city, with its monochromatic sandstone color, was breathtakingly lovely in the early morning sunshine. The city of Valletta sits on a high cliff overlooking the harbor and the Mediterranean. Walls once surrounded the city. Ships dock at the bottom of the cliff, and cruise ship passengers can walk into town if they don't mind 150+ steps and an uphill walk.

    The Disney Magic featured many tours on Malta, and several of them focused on the historical sites of the island and the capital city of Valletta. Some tours included visits to some of the other cities on Malta like the "silent" city of Mdina. Others were a panoramic tour of the island.

    Since I had been to Malta before, we walked into town and explored the city, checking out St. John's Co-Cathedral and its Caravaggio painting, the Palace of the Grand Masters, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens and their panoramic view of the harbor. We considered taking the hop-on, hop-off bus tour, but the lines were way too long since there was another large cruise ship in port.

    Dinner on the Disney Magic was in the third main restaurant--Animator's Palate. Mom and I both loved the black and white decor, and the food was very good.

    The next day the Disney Magic docked in Tunisia on another continent--Africa.

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  • 05 of 11

    Tunis in North Africa

    Downtown Tunis, Tunisia
    Downtown Tunis (c) Linda Garrison

    The sun was up and shining as we got our first glimpse of La Goulette, the harbor town for Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. After breakfast at Parrot Cay, Mom and I had our first "port adventure" (Disney's name for shore excursion) scheduled for the morning. It included a walking tour of the Medina (the old city) of Tunis and the famous Bardo Museum, which has the world's largest collection of Roman mosaics. While waiting for our tour to start, we had fun watching some of our fellow passengers take camel rides on the pier.

    As expected, the tour was well organized, and we had a bus full. This tour was one targeted to families with children, and I wanted to see what Disney does differently that the other cruise lines. Ramadan, the month-long Muslim holiday, had ended the night before, so the Medina (old city) was very quiet. Our guide said it was a three-day holiday, and that the streets would be mostly empty, as would the souk (market). Although some in our group were disappointed they didn't get to see all the bustling shops, I actually loved seeing the architecture and narrow passageways without all the crowds. We also walked up a few flights of stairs in a carpet shop to see the view of the city. It was lovely, but we also had to sit through the carpet presentation. Many of the 20 kids were getting tired by the time we went to the museum.

    It was at the Bardo Museum where Disney had a kid's activity planned. While the adults toured the museum with the guide, the kids stayed with the two Disney youth counselors and the local artisans in a separate work room where they made their own mosaics. I think they all enjoyed it immensely, and they got to take home their own artwork--an 8x10 lovely piece of mosaic. The artisans helped them by cleaning and sealing the art.

    These ancient pieces of art, all of which date from the 2nd to the 5th century AD, are fascinating. The intricacies are amazing, as are the pictures they make when all the pieces were assembled.

    We were back on the ship by about 2:30, and mom and I ate lunch outdoors. It was warm but very comfortable in the shade.

    The Disney ensemble group of actors, singers, and dancers did the second of their three shows that evening. It was titled, "Villains Tonight" and featured many of the Disney villains from movies and TV. Of course, some were unfamiliar to mom and I. It was cute, but not as good as the first show (in our opinion).

    We went a little early for drinks, followed by dinner at Palo's, the adults-only restaurant on the top deck. It was excellent, but way too much food. Mom and I thought the appetizers, soup, pasta, and chocolate souffle were especially good. We also loved the complimentary after dinner drink--lemon sorbet mixed with champagne and vodka--very refreshing and not unlike the lemon granite we had enjoyed in Malta the day before.

    The Italian cuisine at Palo's was a good start on our next three days in Italy, which started with Naples.

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  • 06 of 11

    Naples, Italy

    Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Italy
    Mount Vesuvius (c) Linda Garrison

    We awoke Sunday morning as the ship was nearing Naples, Italy. Mom and I had done all the most popular tours from the port of Naples before--Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi, Sorrento, and Positano--so we decided to do a short tour of the city of Naples. It's embarrassing to have been somewhere a few times before and never toured the actual port of call. I also wanted to check out a tour that was considered "light" activity. It wasn't as light as the two people on the tour in wheelchairs would have liked. Navigating the uneven sidewalks and steps was difficult for them.

    The Naples city tour started with a visit to the Museum of the Treasury of Saint Gennaro, which was next to the 13th century Saint Gennaro cathedral. The Treasury contains many of the "gifts" (offerings) to Saint Gennaro that believers have presented to the church over the centuries. Most of these were in silver, and some in gold. All were very impressive. During the annual week-long Saint Gennaro festival at the end of September, these gifts are paraded through the streets of old Naples, along with a glass case filled with Saint Gennaro's blood. If I understood the guide correctly, this blood sometimes miraculously changes from solid to liquid form on this date.

    After touring the museum, we went into the old gothic/baroque cathedral. It was quite interesting and had many more silver statues, some of which were very heavy and solid silver. Next, we walked through the narrow streets of old town Naples for about 45 minutes. (the area of San Gregorio Armeno) It looked just as I expected--a little dirty and with laundry hanging over the streets. There seemed to be an old church on every corner, and many people had small shops selling trinkets, souvenirs, etc. The Neopolitans were out buying bread in the bakeries, and it was quite interesting. Just as I expected old Naples to look.

    One of the best things on the walking tour for me was listening to our fellow shipmates. One couple from Knoxville who were on their first trip to Europe were just bubbling with excitement over the cathedral, the museum, and the walk around fascinating old town. Others could only see the litter in the streets and the dirty buildings. I often see this on organized tours. For example, in Tunis, some wished we had only gone to the museum, others wished we had spent more time in the shops. That's the worst thing about organized tours--someone else sets the agenda. But, it sure is easier than trying to get around on your own, especially for those who haven't traveled much.

    We walked back to the bus (this "mild" activity tour had a lot of walking, but all of it was flat). Several complained about all the walking since they had picked this tour since it was the only one from Naples with limited walking--e.g. going to Pompeii, Capri, or the Amalfi coast can involve steps and hills.

    Next, we rode through some of the newer parts of Naples, stopping at a lovely seaside pizzeria with a wonderful view of Mt. Vesuvius. This part of the tour was also included on a "family tour" since participants could "make their own" pizza in the city that invented one of everyone's favorites. I didn't try my hand at making the pizzas, but they were good--Margheritas (with cheese and fresh basil). This was the first pizza ever made and it honored both Saint Margherita and Italy with its red sauce, white cheese, and green basil (like the Italian flag). Accompanying the meal, we had wine, salad, and a chocolate-covered pizza for dessert.

    Following our long lunch, we got back to the ship around 2 pm. Dinner was at Lumiere's, the fanciest French restaurant on the restaurant rotation. It was very nice--mom had escargot, French onion soup, and a grilled chicken salad. I had boiled shrimp with asparagus, salad with goat cheese, and baked sea bass on mushroom risotto.

    The next day we visited the eternal city of Rome.

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  • 07 of 11

    Rome, Italy

    Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini at Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy
    Fountain of the Four Rivers (c) Linda Garrison

    Cruise ships dock at Civitavecchia, which is about 1.5-hour bus ride from Rome. Mom and I signed up for the "Rome on Your Own" transit, which included a guide onboard the bus who passed out maps with all the Rome sites marked and gave instructions on touring the city on our own. We left the ship at 8:15, arrived at the drop off/meeting point about 10 am, had until 5:20 pm to explore, and got back at the ship around 7 pm, so it was a long day, but fun.

    Two good tips our bus guide provided. The first one I knew about--you can buy a combo ticket for both the Colosseum and the Roman forum at the ticket office for the forum. The lines are much shorter, and you can bypass the Colosseum line. The second tip I didn't know about. If you visit the Vatican Museums before you go to St. Peter's you can avoid the security line at St. Peter's by taking the exit door on the right side of the Sistine Chapel. It's the security lines that lead to the long waits at St. Peter's and the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel, but those who have already been screened at the museum can skip the additional screening and walk directly into St. Peters.

    Mom and I walked from the drop off at St. Peter's across the river to Piazza Navona for a cappuccino/diet coke break at an outdoor cafe next to the famous Fountain of Four Rivers that forms the centerpiece of the square. It had been cleaned since we had seen it last and was gorgeous. The maps provided by the bus were really inadequate since many streets were either omitted from the map or didn't have the names. I felt very badly for anyone who had never been to Rome before trying to navigate with the bus maps. The lady gave excellent directions, but the narrow streets all look very similar and many are winding. Mom and I had to ask directions a couple of times (doesn't bother me to ask), but often we could just go with the flow of the crowds.

    After a long rest at the Piazza Navona (and a bill for 13 euros for the cappuccino and diet coke), we walked towards the Trevi fountain. As usual, it was packed with tourists. While at the Trevi, we enjoyed a gelato, one of my favorite desserts, and an Italy "must".

    We sat in the shade at the fountain and watched everyone throw their coins in the fountain. (we threw in a couple of pennies ourselves). The revenue from the coins is used to maintain the fountain, and it looked quite clean. The people-watching there was even better than at the Piazza Navona, but the rocky seat wasn't nearly as comfortable (although the price was much better).

    We proceeded to one of our favorite spots in Rome--the Pantheon. This time we didn't linger too long but walked on towards the Spanish Steps. Like many other tourists, we found a seat on the steps (in the shade) and talked for a while with five British women who were touring on their own. Next, we strolled down Via Condotti to see all the designer shops.

    Mom and I meandered the narrow streets, enjoying the interesting doorways and courtyards along the way. On one out-of-the-way street, we found an outdoor cafe that was packed with business workers eating their lunches. While lingering over our pizza and beer, we looked up and saw our five new British women friends take a seat nearby. Guess the restaurant wasn't as hidden as we thought!

    Leaving the restaurant, we took our time wandering back towards Vatican Square to meet the bus and return to Civitavecchia.

    I think everyone on the ship was exhausted after a full day in Rome. Mom and I didn't even go to dinner, opting to just eat at the casual buffet upstairs. After the light dinner, we went to the piano bar for an after dinner drink and then went to the 8:30 show. The show featured five of the singers from the cast (three guys and two girls) who performed songs from Disney movies and TV shows. The show was good, although we both thought the music was too loud; in some cases, it almost drowned out the singers.

    Our next port of call was a new one for me--La Spezia.

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  • 08 of 11

    La Spezia and the Cinque Terre

    Riomaggiore - Cinque Terre in Italy
    Cinque Terre (c) Linda Garrison

    The early September day dawned clear and cloudless, with temperatures in the high 70's/low 80's. The Disney Magic was anchored in the harbor of La Spezia, Italy, a new port for me. Many Disney passengers went to Florence, Pisa, or Portofino, but mom and I chose a shore adventure that took us to the Cinque Terre area of Italy via boat and on foot. Mom and I had visited Portovenere, which is the "gateway to the Cinque Terre", but neither of us had ever visited any of the five (cinque) towns lining the coast that are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. We couldn't have had a more perfect day, and I can see why so many people have raved about this part of the world.

    A small boat picked us up at the ship, and we rode on the top deck of the boat along the coastline. The boat moved very slowly, but we were still at Portovenere within 10 minutes of leaving the ship. We didn't stop at Portovenere but pulled in very close for a long look at this lovely town. I don't think it had changed much in the last decade! Moving on along the coast, the first Cinque Terre village, Riomaggiore, came into view. We didn't pull into Riomaggiore but loved the look of this picturesque town.

    A road has linked the five towns since the 1970's, and the towns are also served by train. The train ride is mostly through tunnels, so it not scenic. Parts of the road have spectacular views, but you can't really ride into the towns--you have to park high on the cliffs and hike down--so most people arrive via boat, train, or foot. The train from La Spezia to Riomaggiore only takes 9 minutes, and each of the other stops along the Cinque Terre coastline is only a few minutes apart. Many choose to hike, but you have to be in good shape since the trails are sometimes steep and slippery. Many visitors arrive on the train and stay in small hotels, using the trails or frequent ferries to move amongst the five Cinque Terre villages.

    The boat ride along the coastline continued to be spectacular. Since the boat was moving so slowly, we had almost no wind, even on the top deck. The guide provided a running commentary. A couple of minutes after drifting by Riomaggiore, we came to the second village of Manarola, which is less than a mile away. The trail from Riomaggiore follows the ocean and is very scenic. Corniglia is the third village and the only one inaccessible to ferry/boat traffic. Whereas the other villages stretch from the seaside up into the cliffs, Corniglia sits high on a cliff. There is a path from the ocean up to the top, but I wouldn't want to tackle it.

    Our tour boat stopped at the fourth village of Vernazza for a little over an hour. We had a short walking tour of the church (Santa Margherita -- like the pizza or wine) and the very narrow streets filled with stair steps, followed by free time. Mom had a cappuccino and I sipped my water.

    Reboarding the boat, we made the short 10-minute boat ride to the northernmost village of Monterosso, which is also the largest (about 1500 residents). It covers two coves and has two lovely beaches. The two parts of the town are linked by a tunnel or by a path over the tunnel's hill. The view of the town from the top of the path is quite lovely, but the tunnel is a much easier walk.

    After a short walking tour, we had about an hour of free time. Mom and I sat in an outdoor cafe overlooking the brilliant blue Mediterranean and watched the hikers walk by our table. We enjoyed a beer (mom) and a glass of white wine (me). A couple from San Francisco came in and sat at a table next to us. They were staying in Vernazza and had hiked over. Although our guide said it was about a 1.5-hour hike, these folks took 2.5 hours and were still waiting on their friends who had fallen behind them when mom and I left to reboard the boat. The two couples were planning to take a ferry back to Vernazza.

    The ride back to the ship was as pleasant as the one out--about an hour or so. We were back on the ship a little before 2 pm.

    It was Pirate night on the ship, and many people were dressed up. They put red pirate bandannas at our place settings, so we all got in the pirate mood. Mom had a crab cake, conch chowder, and a vegetarian dish made from quinoa. I had shrimp cocktail, a good salad, and barbecue short ribs. Mom and I split a white chocolate cheesecake on a macadamia nut crust for dessert.

    We had an early tour the next day in Corsica, but couldn't miss the Pirates in the Caribbean party on the deck. The characters danced, Mickey rode the zip line across the deck, and the fireworks were spectacular. A good ending to a great day along the Cinque Terre.

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  • 09 of 11

    Ajaccio, Corsica, France

    Les Calanches - Corsica UNESCO World Heritage Site
    Les Calanches in Corsica (c) Linda Garrison

    Before visiting the island of Corsica, all I knew was that it was the birthplace of Napoleon. Since it is a French territory, I assumed the people would be very much Francophiles--just as Napoleon was. However, Corsica seemed to be just the opposite. French and Corsican are both taught in school. Our guide was an English woman who had moved to Corsica 35 years ago. She was fluent in Spanish, French, and English when she moved to Corsica, but when she married and had kids, she couldn't help them with their Corsican language homework since the language was much different than those she was familiar with.

    The island is almost completely covered with mountains and has been inhabited for thousands of years. The first invaders were from Pisa and Genoa, and they continued to control the island even when Napoleon was born. However, when he went off to school in France, he embraced everything French and was embarrassed about his Corsican heritage. So, when he was off conquering the world, Corsica was one of his first conquests, and it has remained French ever since. One of the waiters on the Disney Magic was from Lyon, France. He said that you never see a French flag flying in Corsica, and if someone tries to fly one, it is torn down. I wonder if they take aid from France?

    Enough history. One other tidbit. Tourism is the only real industry on Corsica, but the natives don't like tourists, and very few speak English. None of the signage is in English but is in both Corsican and French. The natives prefer being isolated, and many who live in the remote mountain villages may never even see the sea during their lifetimes!

    We left the ship at 8 am for an all-day tour to see Les Calanches, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This nature reserve is part of the Regional Natural Park of Corsica and includes the Scandola peninsula, an area filled with huge, tooth-like granite rocks rising from the sea. (Corsica is nicknamed the Granite Island). The drive through the mountains was really spectacular, and I hope an engineering award went to whoever built the mountain road that clings to the cliffside. The ride was quite scary (no guardrails), but the views were as gorgeous as any coastline drive I've ever been on. The drive is certainly not for those who get carsick or who are terrified of steep drop offs. The granite rocks are pink, gray, black, and all other colors and they are really jagged. We had another sunny day, and the ocean and the sky were almost the same shade of brilliant blue.

    After an hour or so we stopped for 30 minutes in the small village of Carthese, which had been settled by Greeks. The guide took the "strong" walkers down a steep hill to see two adjacent churches, one Greek Orthodox and the other Latin Catholic. Those who didn't do the walk passed the time enjoying the view of the brilliant blue Mediterranean Sea far below.

    Driving onward for another hour, we finally reached the San Bastino Pass in the park. The narrow road was packed with buses, cars, and camper vans, both on the roadway and crammed into small "parking" spots. It was a huge traffic jam, and we did what other bus passengers did--got off the bus and walked along the road for about 20 minutes (mostly downhill) to the only pit stop/cafe/souvenir shop in the park. Even stopping to take photos, we could walk faster than the bus could move since the road was mostly one lane along the area. By walking, we could linger over some amazing rock formations, and with the backdrop of the Mediterranean, I could see the importance of preserving the area. Knowing that the first pit stop in about three hours was at the end of our walk kept us all moving along.

    We reboarded the bus and continued our ride to Porto, a small village on the seaside. Three buses from the Disney Magic (about 50 on each bus) did this tour, and each bus load ate at a different restaurant. Ours was very cute, in a hotel, and featured a typical Corsican meal that was one of the best "tour" lunches I've had in a long time. We started with a hot puff pastry filled with the local Corsican goat cheese flavored with herbs and covered with a fresh tomato sauce. The main course was veal cooked with mushrooms, onions, and potatoes. It was tender (like a crockpot meal) and reminded me of mom's pot roast she cooks with potatoes and carrots. A light red table wine accompanied the meal and was excellent. Dessert was a mousse-like concoction with a chestnut flour crust. (Chestnut flour is very popular in Corsica and is a good substitute for those who need a gluten-free diet).

    Leaving Porto, we started back the same way we came, which gave our side of the bus the good views of the sea. We stopped twice on the three-hour ride back to the ship--once at a touristy shop and the second time at a cafe with a bathroom. We also saw some Corsican donkeys and several Corsican goats, which have long hair and huge horns. The bus got back to the ship exactly at 4:45 -- final boarding time. I was sorry we didn't have time to see Napoleon's birthplace or see some of the rest of the island.

    The 6:30 pm show was one of my favorites--"Disney Dreams"--and featured many Disney characters ranging from Peter Pan to Aladdin to the Beast and Tinkerbell. Very cute and the music didn't drown out the singers as it seemed to in one of the other shows. Mom and I had dinner at Pano's again, and it was excellent (again).

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  • 10 of 11

    Villefranche

    Villefranche on the French Riviera
    Villefranche on the French Riviera (c) Linda Garrison

    The next day was our last port day on the Disney Magic, and it was a good one. Another new port for me--Villefranche, France. I have been to many places near Villefranche, but never to this charming village that is close to Nice, Cannes, Eze, St. Paul de Vence, and Monte Carlo. Most of the ship's passengers took a tour to one of these fascinating towns along the French Riviera.

    Mom and I did not have a tour, so we ate a leisurely breakfast at Parrot Cay and went ashore in the tender after the crowds. We thought the buffet breakfast in Parrot Cay was much less busy and just as fast as the buffet breakfast at the Topsider Cafe near the pool, so we dined there most mornings on the ship. We wandered around the streets, window shopped, and took a peek at a church. We spent a lot of time browsing in a local street market.

    We enjoyed the continuing excellent weather with a cappuccino (mom) and diet coke (me) in a sidewalk cafe before returning to the ship in time for a late lunch. The day was another good one--sunny and warm, but not hot.

    That night we had the last big production show. This one was new and focused on Walt Disney and his life. Animated cartoons and films were incorporated into the show. Very nice and our favorite.

    After the show, we went to Sessions to hear Tim the pianist play while mom sipped her green apple martini and I had a glass of wine. Dinner was at Animator's Palate and was quite good. Mom had melon soaked in some kind of liqueur, spicy tomato soup, and a feta cheese/Philo main course. I had deep fried soft shelled crab, the spicy tomato soup, and Nikola's (our server) recommendation of osso buco. Mom and I split a dessert--flourless chocolate cake.

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  • 11 of 11

    Summary and Conclusion

    Disney Magic at the Dock in Ajaccio, Corsica, France
    Disney Magic (c) Linda Garrison

    Our last day on the cruise featured gray skies and gray seas. Not much wind, but it did rain a little. Since this was a Disney Magic sea day, it didn't bother us, but it probably did bother all those who love to hang out by the pool.

    After a light breakfast at the buffet, I walked for over an hour on the promenade deck. The Disney Magic has a very nice covered wooden deck that completely wraps around the ship on deck 4. It has some teak lounge chairs for those who like to sit outside in the quiet (and the shade) and shuffleboard courts, but is mostly used by walkers and joggers.

    While we were dining in Lumiere's for brunch, Disney had a photo op/autograph signing with "the Princesses" in the grand lobby. The line was long, but kids of all ages patiently waited to be photographed with one of the five Princesses--Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Jasmine, and another one I didn't recognize. Disney may not have a casino onboard, but I am sure their photo revenue helps compensate for that lost revenue.

    Mom took in a 3D movie in the theater--Toy Story 3. Disney shows movies almost continually in the theater and on the television in the cabin. The cloudy weather kept many inside, and it was good to have a fun movie like this one to watch.

    That evening, we said goodbye to our excellent wait staff and those in the Sessions lounge. The next morning, we were among the first off the ship in Barcelona since our flight was at 10 am. Disembarkation was as smooth as boarding the ship had been. Disney properly recognizes the importance of a positive last memory of the ship. We breezed out of the terminal and were quickly in a taxi for the ride to the airport and our flight home. Goodbye, Europe!

    Disney Magic Conclusion

    We had a truly delightful cruise on the Disney Magic, filled with fun, exciting times and quiet times on the ship and with excellent, diverse ports of call. This western Mediterranean itinerary is perfect for those traveling to Europe for the first or the tenth time because it features a good mixture of very popular ports and others not often visited by the major cruise lines.

    The Disney staff was accommodating without being obsequious. I loved the fact that they called each passenger by name and were always willing to answer a question or be helpful in any way they could. The shows were excellent, and the adult areas (both outdoor and indoor) are a wonderful respite from the family groups.

    The ship is beautiful, with its most distinctive areas being the large portholes in the common areas and the wonderful teak wrap-around covered deck. If your family is ready to visit Europe, the Disney Magic is an excellent choice. The young children will be mesmerized by all that is Disney--the characters, the shows, and the movies. The older kids will enjoy meeting new friends from around the world. Adults will appreciate the quality time with their families, but also the opportunity to spend time alone while the kids are in organized activities or with a sitter. The whole family will love the Disney-designed shore adventures and learn more about another part of our wonderful world.

    As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.