MY son and I have each demolished our Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles, our uber-friendly American waitress has wished us “a great day”, and we’re off to a meet-and-greet with Goofy.
No, we’re not in Florida. Thanks to quarantine restrictions and travel bans, instead we’re getting our Magic Kingdom fix on board the Disney Magic cruise ship, off the English coastline.
Along with millions of other Brits, we’ve decided to swap a foreign holiday for a staycation this summer.
But after a rainy camping trip to Dorset, I was starting to regret my decision as friends flew off to Spain.
Despite the continued lack of sun, this two-night “sea-cation” cruise might have cured my FOMO though.
Thanks to the world-famous Disney hospitality, it feels like a foreign holiday and if it wasn’t for the fog obscuring the horizon, I could convince myself we were sailing in the Gulf of Mexico.
I’m a cruise virgin and have always viewed these giant ships as a bit claustrophobic, even more so if you don’t actually get the chance to go ashore.
But it took all of eight hours on board to convert me.
Disney is the master of entertainment and from the moment you wake up to well past bedtime there is fun for all ages.
There are meet-and-greets with Disney stars, including Donald Duck, plus Marvel superheroes.
Plus, plenty of activities, including animation classes, a science lab, cooking lessons, a gaming room, Disney quizzes, family game shows, origami, bingo and two cinemas playing Disney films. Not forgetting the two children’s pools, with Aquadunk slide, which we visited on both days despite the 17C midday temperatures.
Then there are the live shows. Each evening offers different musicals — we watched a mini 30-minute Frozen dance-a-long on the top deck on the first night, cheering as cannons blasted fake snow during Elsa’s rendition of Let It Go.
Later that evening was an award-winning Disney stars musical, then a musical based on the Tangled movie the following night.
These are West End- calibre performances that you would pay a fortune for in London theatres.
And the entertainment doesn’t stop there. At all the main restaurants, dinner comes with a mini show of its own. On our first night, we dined at the Animator’s Palate, where guests are asked to draw a personalised stick man on their place mat.
Halfway through the meal, these stick people come to life on screens around the room, performing a dance with Disney characters. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The ship’s other fabulously themed restaurants serve up more entertainment and excellent food. There’s French fare at Lumiere’s, and American classics with a Disney fairytale difference at Rapunzel’s Royal Table.
For breakfast and lunch, you can enjoy a huge choice in the buffet or enjoy table service and made-to-order dishes in the restaurants.
There are also quick-service stations serving up pizza and burgers which are ideal for refuelling ex- cited kids on the go. But you don’t need to have children in tow to enjoy the delights of Disney Magic. The ship’s refined, art-deco style oozes decadent luxury and there are dedicated adults-only venues, from the Italian-inspired Palo restaurant to bars with late-night karaoke and dancing.
There’s also pampering to be had at the Senses Spa, as well as a gym and several shops.
You could fill every second of each day and still not make a dent in the activities on offer.
Because I was travelling with a two-year-old, we spent a lot of time in our room, but that was no hardship either as it was surprisingly spacious.
With a queen-size bed and sofa bed as well, as a balcony from which to admire the ocean waves, it would happily accommodate a family of four.
Covid has had an impact on the cruise experience, with sessions in the pool capped at 20 minutes to allow everyone a chance to enjoy the water.
Best trip of the year
The nursery, for children aged two and under, is currently closed but the excellent youth clubs are still operating for those aged three — including the popular Marvel Super Hero Academy as well as games, music and movies.
It’s also a bit of a pain to wear a mask so frequently — they have to stay on at all times indoors, except when in your room or eating and drinking.
The Covid safety procedures made pre-boarding complicated too. All adults must be fully vaccinated and children under 18 must show proof of a negative PCR test taken up to five days before. You’ll then take a lateral flow test at the port before being allowed to board.
But while the testing is a little annoying, it is also understandable given that the cruise industry has been one of the most badly affected by the pandemic.
If this is what it takes to keep cruise holidays safe, so be it.
They are small hoops to jump through for what ended up being our best weekend away this year.
GO: DISNEY CRUISE
GO: DISNEY CRUISE
SAILING THERE: A three-night full-board UK staycation on board the Disney Magic, departing London Tilbury on September 17, is from £598pp. Price includes meals, entertainment, taxes, fees and port charges. Covid tests are extra. To book visit Disneycruise.co.uk or call 0800 171 2317.
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