What happens when you trade the convenience of not having to fly to your starting port, for the uncertainty of sailing during hurricane season?
We sailed the Disney Magic in May of 2011, out of Port Canaveral on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary that included St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Disney’s Castaway Cay. We always knew we wanted to sail again, and in June 2015 the Disney Magic’s New York City sailings were announced. I quickly had our travel agent book the 10/15 sailing to Castaway Cay and Port Canaveral for us. The prices were a little high but, being from central PA, we could drive to the port easily and save thousands on airfare to offset that.
Plus, Castaway Cay is the most beautiful island ever, with Disney’s theming, safety of being exclusive to the Disney Cruise Line ships, and convenience of the integration with the ship’s functions. The Port Canaveral day included free park hopper day passes to Walt Disney World (WDW) with 3 built-in Fast Passes. 2 relaxing days at sea, a day at Castaway Cay, a day at WDW, then 2 more days at sea before going home. Perfect!
DIStracted Tip: When making your Final Payment a few months before sailing, check the list of itemized charges carefully. If you are driving to port, have the “ground transfer” line item removed, this saved us $360!
Once booked, the countdown commenced. Having such a great vacation to look forward to for 16 months was both torture and motivating. About a month and a half out, I began a countdown chain out of construction paper. Our daughters took turns removing a loop each day.
Would Hurricane Matthew spoil our plans?
And then, 2 weeks out, Hurricane Matthew appeared, projected to hit both Castaway Cay and Port Canaveral, hard. While the storm would be long over by our embarkation date, the damage could be much more long-lasting.
Eyes glued to the Weather Channel as Matthew slowly churned upward, we learned that Disney was rerouting the 10/7 itinerary to Canada, with generous cancellation/ rebooking options available. We held our breath as the storm approached Florida, and then awaited word on the condition. Miraculously, the eye of the storm missed both of our ports and did only minimal damage.
Our Disney Cruise Line cruise was ON!
Saturday, October 15, we rose early and started our 4-ish hour drive to the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, Pier 88. Once we arrived, the process was smooth. A porter was right at the drop off point to collect our suitcases labelled with the DCL-provided tags. My husband then parked the car to its spot one pier over.
DIStracted Tip: Parking for the week cost $280 up front, still much better than the cost of a flight for four!
We got through security and only waited in line a few minutes before we stepped up to register and get our Key to the World cards. We then sat down for about half an hour before our boarding group was called. Mickey and Minnie were doing meet-n-greets, with a long line befitting them. Once our boarding group was called, we approached the ship, stopping for the first of many photo ops that week.
Leaving New York City and the Sail Away Party!
It was a beautiful day in NYC, chilly as to be expected in October but beautiful blue skies and sunshine.
We enjoyed the Sail Away Party and were soon sailing past beautiful landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty!
Our first days aboard the Disney Magic
After the first day of sailing, and as we got further south, the temperatures rose to comfortable swimsuit/short sleeves weather.
The water was a little rocky on Sunday, which, on the noon announcements, the Captain explained was a “Low Eastern Swell” due to Hurricane Matthew’s naughty little sister, Nicole. Monday was smooth sailing for our Halloween on the High Seas day.
Tuesday, our Castaway Cay day, was beautiful, not too hot and a nice breeze blowing, which those of us running the Castaway Cay 5K appreciated. There was one short rain shower mid-morning that didn’t bother anyone a bit…most of us were in the water at that point anyway. The water was a little chillier than expected but still gorgeous as always. The only signs of Matthew’s visit were some brown palm fronds and the communications systems on the island were down. The shopkeepers had to handwrite our purchase details on old-fashioned paper receipts. The process took a bit longer, but we didn’t mind. We just chatted with the staff and fellow guests as we waited. There were a number of people on our ship who had been booked for the week before who rebooked to our week rather than sail to Canada.
Tuesday night was Pirate Night, and with it getting dark shortly earlier in October, they were able to do the show and fireworks in between the 1st and 2nd seatings rather than waiting until after 2nd seating. On our previous sailing during May, they were after 10 p.m. and the kids were too exhausted to enjoy it as much as they might have otherwise.
Walt Disney World
Wednesday was the Walt Disney World Resort day and we were on a bus by 7:30 a.m. to make the 50 minute bus ride from Port Canaveral to Walt Disney World. We each received Fast Pass+ cards which served as park hopper park tickets, preloaded with 3 fast passes for us to use as we liked with no need to book in advance!
DIStracted Tip: In order to view and purchase the PhotoPass photos for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Frozen Ever After (and probably future attractions), you MUST have a Magic Band, whether new or from a past trip.
The day was super fun, if a little bit hectic since we were moving fast to fit as much in as possible. We lucked out with mild, sunny weather with not a single shower. (probably because we brought the ponchos)
Thursday and Friday were sea days, a welcome relaxation after our two busy days. Thursday was windy enough that the front decks were roped off from access for our safety. The ship was taking the gulf stream as we headed North and the boat was rocking enough that the pools had their own waves, to the delight of the children.
Friday morning started with a rain storm. The crew quickly dried off the back deck of Cabana’s for breakfast and we enjoyed seeing leaping dolphins and a rainbow as we dined. Of course that was the one morning I neglected to bring my camera. The day started out mild and warm, but as the day progressed, we ran into a thick patch of fog. Frozen was playing on the FunnelVision and we couldn’t see beyond the railings. There were little girls on the stage blowing bubble wands, bubbles floating upwards as we floated through a misty whiteout as Elsa was creating a snow whiteout of her own onscreen. The effect was one I can hardly think of words to describe, but will never forget!
My final thoughts
And so our wonderful week came to an end. The Disney Magic will be sailing this itinerary again next fall and I can’t recommend it enough! Two Disney cruises have proven to us that it’s all the Disney Magic, theming and character fun but so much more relaxing than a full trip to the parks.