Moet, Massages and Mickey Mouse
Sipping a glass of Moet, my face glowing from the best anti-ageing facial I’ve ever had, I’m about to embark on a champagne brunch even though it’s only 10am.
I’m surrounded by marble, Venetian glass and panoramic views of the ocean. Now all I have to do is stroll out of my private dining room to explore the buffet laden high with all manner of Northern Italian temptations – myriad cheeses, seafood and caviar – before ordering freshly-prepared dishes such as Calzone, artichoke ravioli and Rollatini Melanzane from the a la carte menu.
But I don’t want to eat too much. Next stop is a dash to the ship’s atrium to meet Mickey Mouse. Well, this is a Disney cruise, after all.
I’m on the Disney Magic – one of the fleet’s four ships – heading to Norway’s fjords on a seven-night Frozen cruise from Dover. And, yes, while there are activities galore for babies, toddlers, kids and teenagers, this is no childish adventure.
The Disney Magic is, well, magic for all the family
The House of Mouse has grown up – Disney is 97 after all – and while it’s first class at entertaining children with its diverse range of characters, movies, theme parks, and cruise line, the brand’s got it right with adults, too.
As well as the five-star Senses Spa & Salon offering a range of luxurious treatments – including a couple’s room where my husband Alexio and I have just been pampered from head to toe with Elemis Pro-Collagen facials (pricey at £118 each but oh-so-worth it for the Age Defy) and incredible knot-reducing Swedish massages (£180 per couple for 50 heavenly minutes) – the Disney Magic also has the serene over 18s only Quiet Cove Pool and café, late night dancing at Fathoms nightclub and live piano and cocktails at Keys.
All we have to do to enjoy them is – whisper it! – get rid of our kids. Luckily, it’s easier than we think. After rushing to wave at Mickey in a mobbed daily meet-and-greet, our 10-year-old daughter is quickly seduced by the cookie -making class in Oceaneer Lab, one of the two kids’ clubs for her age group, while our 16-year-old son can’t wait to dump his embarrassing ‘you’re so uncool’ parents and decamps to the seriously hip Vibe teen club.
He has his own keycard to our shared stateroom and only comes back to go for dinner with the family (‘as long as my friends don’t see me’) and at 3am to ‘crash.’
Our daughter’s clubs have never-ending activities including a GaGa Ball, Parachute Games, and Super Sloppy Science, and so Alexio and I are left alone to explore.
Golden Age of Sailing
With a striking black hull decorated with gold and topped with two red funnels, the 2,700-passenger Disney Magic harks back to the Golden Age of shipping. Sleek with an art deco interior, it is a stunning combination of nostalgia with a modern twist.
We head to Keys, the bar inspired by the Hollywood heyday piano joints of Sunset Boulevard where the music is as lively as the super-strong but delicious Cosmopolitans. It’s retro-cool: dimly lit with plush, giant armchairs, an illuminated bar and flawless service. After another cocktail (OK, two, we don’t get out without the kids much) we headed upstairs to round up the children for dinner.
There are three main restaurants on Disney Magic – and you can get to savour them all twice on each cruise thanks to the Rotational Dining on board. Even better, your waiters will rotate with you so they get to know you and your likes and dislikes.
We start with Lumiere’s with its fine-dining French menu (the French onion soup is amazing), but I’m surprised that the children both love Rapunzel’s Royal table, where we get to meet the characters from Disney hit movie, Tangled.
Rapunzel, who celebrates her birthday here every night, becomes instant BFFs with my daughter – they bond over their long hair – while my son thinks the giant, and frankly, quite scary Snuggly Duckling Thugs are hilarious.
But nothing is as magical as Animator’s Palate where the restaurant and the waiters are all part of a show in which Disney’s iconic characters come to life. It’s a jaw-dropping spectacle where the black and white restaurant explodes into colour, with plenty of surprises along the way (I won’t spoil them for you but sharpen up on your drawing skills before you go!).
The food is pretty magical too, and my Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes — Pasta filled with Truffle-scented Cheese and coated with a Champagne Sauce – melts in my mouth.
But nothing can beat Palo, the Venetian restaurant named after the long poles used by gondoliers – where we were so impressed with that champagne brunch that we book to go again. I can’t resist the Calzone while my Italian husband feasts on prawn cocktail, crab, tuna, scallops and all manner of seafood cooked so perfectly he declares it buonissimo.
Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Since sailing from Dover we’ve been (over) sampling the culinary delights of Disney Magic as she sails towards our first port of call, Copenhagen.
We’re up early to walk the cobbled streets of the Danish capital and visit Tivoli Gardens – one of the world’s oldest leisure parks, founded in 1843, that inspired Walt Disney to create his theme park Disneyland in California. He visited several times and no doubt went on the 1914 wooden rollercoaster that is still there today.
Norway – our very own Frozen adventure onboard the Disney Magic
‘Come on, we’ve got to have a go!’ my son cries. I’ve never seen him so enthusiastic, and though my stomach knots at the screams emanating from the ride, and the seen-it-all-before smile of the brake man in charge of operating it, I force myself to clamber aboard.
I soon regret it. This rollercoaster may be old but she’s far from genteel. The carriages career around the track, plunging and soaring at speed while the brake man, who’s perched just in front of us, laughs harder the more we scream. I close my eyes, and hope not to pass out as the wind tugs my hair and steals my breath. When it’s, thankfully, all over, my son begs to go again, but I shakily exit and leave my husband and teen to it.
There’s no time to relax – we watch Tangled, a Broadway-style show in the Walt Disney Theatre before dinner and then the children vanish and we head to After Dark, the adults-only entertainment district
Instead my daughter and I wander through the pretty gardens, which with their pavilions, remind me of a small version of Disney’s Epcot. The day rushes by screaming and laughing on more rides, including the world’s largest carousel, before we head back to the ship.
There’s no time to relax though. We watch Tangled, a Broadway-style show in the Walt Disney Theatre, before dinner, and then the children vanish and we head to After Dark, the adults-only entertainment ‘district’ where we try out O’Gill’s Pub before ending up in our favourite place, Keys.
We sip mojitos as we sail towards Norway where we’ve booked our own Frozen adventure: a walking tour of Oslo and an Ice Bar.
After Dark is the place to go on the Disney Magic
Adults-only entertainment Disney style
The Viking capital is pretty. We visit the medieval Akershus Fortress and then wander into the city centre where a crowd has gathered. ‘What’s happening?’ I ask and get excited when I discover we’re about to get a glimpse of Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja who are celebrating their Golden wedding anniversary with a special service in the nearby Oslo Cathedral.
We wave at the royal couple as they pass in the Lincoln Continental they first used as newlyweds 50 years ago, then hurry to the ice bar.
Luckily, we’ve watched Frozen on a continuous loop for the last five years as it’s our daughter’s favourite movie, so we’re au fait with the huge fur-lined capes we’re handed outside the bar.
‘Surely it’s not that cold?’ I say as I take the thick gloves offered. But as soon as the bar door is opened I gasp – it’s f-f-freezing
‘Surely it’s not that cold?’ I say as I take the thick gloves offered. But as soon as the bar door is opened I gasp – it’s f-f-freezing.
Everything is carved out of ice to create the most spectacular wintery glass interior. The bar is ice. Giant pieces of art are carved from ice. Statues – including ones of life-size people dotted throughout the bar are made from ice. The glasses are – guess what? – made of ice and so are the tables, chairs and benches. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, but we leave when my nose turns red and my husband’s teeth begin to chatter.
We head back to the ship to warm up and I see that it’s Club Frozen The After-Party in Fathoms later tonight with a silent disco. It’s certainly different from the (fake) snow-swirling extravaganza starring Frozen’s Anna and Elsa on deck that has hundreds of children screaming in excitement on the cruise.
This is one deck party we definitely didn’t want to Let It Go
But it’s hard to persuade my husband to show any shapes, music or no music, as he wants to go to the Buena Vista Theatre to watch Disney’s latest movie release, Ant-Man and The Wasp. All their films are shown on the ships at the same time as they’re released at the cinema, so it’s a bonus for movie buffs.
I don’t mind as we have a busy day tomorrow – and the family is splitting up. The boys are heading off for a high-octane rib boat adventure in Kristiansand – Norway’s ‘Pearl of the South’ thanks to its warmer climate and beach complete with palm trees – while my daughter and I are going for a ride on the Setesdalsbanen Vintage Railway.
Opened in 1896, the 49-mile-long railway to Byglandsfjord transformed the lives of the locals – reducing travelling time to just a few hours instead of days and sometimes weeks, depending on the weather. Now only five miles are still open and the steam train only has a few small carriages, but it’s like riding back through history, and we end our trip smiling.
Over dinner, the boys boast about flying over the water in their ribs but my little girl and I don’t care – we’re all off on a land and sea adventure tomorrow when we dock in Stavanger.
We head out of the city by boat. First stop, Baker’s Paradise, a seaside inn and trading post on a rugged island with tiny ponies and trolls (the former love being patted, the latter not so much). We’re invited into tiny wooden houses to feast on giant Norwegian waffles with fruit and sour cream – delicious – before embarking on a two-hour cruise through Lysefjord.
It’s a picture-perfect journey into the Atlantic though the archipelago, framed by dramatic mountains where we stop to feed nimble goats who magically cling to the sheer cliff faces and easily catch the bread we throw to them.
At Pulpit Rock, one of the most famous spots in Norway, we gaze skywards to see where Tom Cruise performed one of his latest legendary dangerous stunts for Mission: Impossible Fallout.
Dangling off Preikestolen, which was named one of the world’s most spectacular viewpoints by Lonely Planet and the BBC, was all in a day’s work for the Hollywood actor who clambered 2000 feet above the Lysefjord to get the perfect shot. Tourists can climb up there too, if they’re fit and brave enough, but we prefer to, er, Cruise back to Stavanger.
Tonight, we set sail for Dover and so we have another sea day before we arrive home. That means we have time to visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi boutique to give our very own Princess a makeover – she emerges all sparkly with a crown – before dropping her off in the kids’ club while we lay by the (adults only) pool to catch some Norwegian sun.
Later, after dinner, we eschew a makeover of our own in the Senses Spa: a non-surgical facelift, TV tunes trivia in O’Gills and go for Music and Martinis in Keys.
As we sip our cocktails we gaze out of the giant portholes to watch the sun sliding over the horizon. It’s the perfect setting as we leave our Frozen adventures in Norway. This Disney cruise has everything for a magical family holiday but it’s more than cool for discerning grown-ups, too.
A seven-night cruise onboard the Disney Magic from Dover to the Norwegian Fjords on 4 September 2021 starts from £3,000 and calls at Alesund, Stavanger, Eidfjord, Amsterdam and returns to Dover. Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing an inside stateroom cabin on full-board.
Visit www.disneycruiseline.co.uk or call 0800 171 2317