I never wrote about my Disney Cruise before because I felt it spoke for itself.
Ten days in tropical climes with Mickey Mouse and Lee Brown? What more needs to be uttered?
But then I realised most of you have never had the pleasure of meeting my friend, Lee Brown. Or of Disney Cruising.
Well, all you need to know about Lee Brown is this: One day, he almost had an involuntary vasectomy, because there was another Lee Brown at the hospital, – the nurse got them confused and he was far too polite to correct her. Nothing else needs to be announced or implied about him, does it?
There are NO adjectives that can describe him. No combination of fancy word play would do him justice.You just need to meet the dude to realise that this man is the best of us all… And also the biggest consumer of Disney anyone has ever met. He eats it. Swallows it whole. Then throws it up, just so he can nibble at it all over again and demand more. Walt didn’t die, he just crawled into the body of a boy in Chingford… So when he asked if I’d like to join him on a Disney Cruise? How could I refuse!?
Easter Saturday was our first day on board. A faux-boat bus rocked up outside our Orlando resort and plied us with fruit cocktails and Goofy Classics until we hit Port Canaveral where the Disney Magic was waiting to abscond with us for 7-nights in the ancient-pirating waters of the Caribbean. Tropical seas in late April? There is no finer place in the world.
The Magic is far from the largest liner on the waves, as we realised when docking next to the Scandinavian giants, but boasts the ‘When you wish upon a star’ melody as a horn blast, and shows round-the-clock Disney movies on a 450-foot-squared LED screen on deck, and thus wins all wars of the nautical kind.
It is also the only cruise liner allowed to sprout fireworks at sea, and even acquired special dispensation from the U.S Coast Guard to have YELLOW lifeboats (not the customary orange) to remain in-keeping with the Mickey Mouse colour scheme. Nobody says NO to Disney.
The crew first mobbed us in the atrium. In true Disney style, these guys treat you like you’re curing cancer. They greet you with the sort of smiles and affection that suggest you might have unknowingly liberated their people from years of oppression, and they serve your food like Cupid smacked an arrow in their face on their behalf. Sure, the saccharine displays of sugar-sweet-sycophancy are enough to turn anyone diabetic, – but we all deserve to be appeased like spoiled dictators from time to time.
A deck party of High School Musical hits, and garlands, and streamers, and violent smiling saw us off: quite possibly your modern interpretation of Dante’s 10th circle of Hell. But nobody waved their sparkly-things harder than we did.
We’d expected the average age of the other passengers to be around 7-and-a-half, but whilst busting some moves to the Greatest Hits of Alan Menken it became clear that there was an excess of middle-aged childless couples and other twenty-somethings aboard too. Yes, there were moments when the deck felt over-run with precocious American brats and absolute-crazies who do nothing but Disney cruise… but never so many that we were praying for an iceberg.
It was a LONG 2 days before we reached our first island destination: St. Maarten. Sea-sickness… Ocean-terror… I felt every rock of the boat and sadly dancing to Hakuna Matata on deck with your free ice-cream can only successfully occupy 2 hours of anyone’s time. What to do with the rest of those hours?
Well. The handful of shops in the deck-4 mall don’t really serve your needs unless you’re in the market for re-mortgaging your house to buy an over-priced Donald Duck hat or the ability to serve your guests ice-cubes shaped like Flounder for the rest of their days, but the stores can accompany a decent 30 minutes of loudly asking “WHAT THE CHRIST WOULD I DO WITH ONE OF THOSE?”
There’s only so many times you can watch new Disney releases at the on-board cinema before you start forgetting how to swear or drink or gamble or do anything remotely fun, so I wouldn’t advise more than two trips a day there.
Pretending you are Christopher Columbus spotting Hispaniola for the first time off the stern might occupy a geeky 20-minutes, as will attempting to play table tennis in the wind-abused games area, until somebody nearly loses an eye in the 60MPH gale. (Nobody tells you how windy it can be in the Caribbean. Sure, you see the yearly Hurricane on the news and think “Shit me!” but at no point prior to visiting did it occur to me that the Eastern Caribbean is constantly at the mercy of warm but vicious trade winds.)
There’s a gym on-board for all those who don’t understand the definition of ‘holiday’, and a tranquil but extortionate health spa where a lovely Namibian woman will punch your sun burn for 200 dollars an hour.
There are photo opportunities with costume characters aplenty and endless sing-songs by the three pools. You can order mindlessly-indulgent cocktails from dawn until… well, the next dawn and play poker in the hazy West Indies sun. But do be prepared for endless questions about Australia. Americans have a habit of assuming anything with an accent and a tan must be from those Southern depths.
Each night there’s a musical extravaganza in the theatre and the regular cruise-ship delights of karaoke, bingo, quizzes and party games… so it’s pretty hard to get bored, but very easy to feel excruciatingly harassed. Besides: now what else you can do on board the Disney Magic? You can endlessly text people you haven’t seen for a whole 5 days and run up a £250 phone bill. Magic indeed!
You may find yourself eating a third-world country’s annual food haul in one of the ships many restaurants. The cruise is all-inclusive, but this doesn’t involve alcoholic beverages or a reservation at Palo: Disney’s Dream Dining.
Palo is what The Great Gatsby would have looked like if Walt had bought the rights: lavish and decadent with a hint of the obscene. Possibly the only time I’ve ever got drunk on alcohol-laced-desserts alone and found myself eating squid, lobster, and cow all in one-sitting.
As a guest on board you are rota’d in to three inclusive restaurants: Lumiere’s being my personal favourite.
This eaterie is a real-life reconstruction of the ballroom in
Beauty and the Beast (possibly my favourite movie of all time), and boasts a service that puts the ‘Be Our Guest’ song to shame and serves many of the dishes from the lyrics: “Beef ragout, cheese soufflé, pie and pudding en flambe, (They prepare and serve with flair a culinary cabaret!”)
I was 4-stone heavier by the time the ship stopped at St. Maarten: One of the loveliest divided islands in the world. Half-French, half-Dutch, full-beautiful. 12 hours really wasn’t enough time to explore. The Dutch side of the island still deals in archaic Gilders while the French-bit seemed a parade of leggy blond-people selling surf lessons. I don’t think there is an unattractive person in residence on any of the Antilles, and neither is there a single inhabitant who doesn’t want to tie you down and braid your hair or ply you with rum.
After another day sailing we struck upon St. Thomas in the US Virgin Isles, where a mini-bus with a mural of 9/11 emblazoned on its side (complete with exploding sky scrapers – I kid you not), picked us up and drove us to a secluded beach where we were begged not to feed our fingers to the Iguanas and where the waves threatened to rip off the rest of our limbs. Absolute perfection.
Castaway Cay in the Bahamas was our final port. Basically? Disney bought an island: a gorgeous, tropical island where the law of Walt prevails and nobody is allowed to frown or curse or think mean thoughts. It’s everything you could want an island to be: golden and basking and bursting with FREE FOOD.
And then? We were back in Orlando. A 7-night Caribbean cruise really isn’t enough. We just skirted around the islands, admiring how pretty they were and grazing the shores for a paddle in their shallows. We didn’t get to go INSIDE… there was no sharing cigars with Rihanna, or eating seafood enchiladas in dirty flip-flops while grinding up against some gorgeous rum-runner to old school Marley. One of many reasons the Eastern Caribbean hasn’t seen the last of me and Lee Brown 🙂