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Renovated Disney Magic makes waves

As I glance at the three-story water slide, I feel butterflies in my stomach, just for a second. This thrill ride sends guests on a near vertical drop when the floor beneath them opens like a trap door. 

“We touched every space of the ship. It was a complete remodel, but it was important to maintain the profile of the ship.” 

- Lysa Migliorati, Disney, senior project manager

“It’s scary,” warns the waterlogged preteen in front of me. However, “this is my fourth time,” she adds with a grin. 

On that encouraging note, I step inside the AquaDunk, the fast-paced ride aboard the recently revamped Disney Magic cruise ship. 

The bomb-bay doors drop and so do I. 

I let out a high-pitched shriek. Soon after, though, I’m giggling like a school girl as I zip through the translucent tube that at one point curves 20 feet over the side of the ship and overlooks the ocean. My goofy grin at the end of the ride says it all.

Disney has a way of doing that, instantly transforming people into carefree, younger versions of themselves. Unless, of course, you are a kid. And then, well, you run amok like the youngster that you are.

That said, kid’s and adults alike have plenty of things to choose from onboard the cruise ship Disney Magic, which just underwent a massive, six-week overhaul.  

The three-and-under crowd is entertained in the new AquaLab interactive playground featuring pop jets, geysers and bubblers; teens have their own spa section and adults have upscale restaurants and lively night spots.  And that’s just naming a few of the renovations on the 1,754-person vessel, which set sail from Miami Friday after its dry dock in Cadiz, Spain.

“We touched every space of the ship,” says Lysa Migliorati, a senior project manager for Disney. “It was a complete remodel, but it was important to maintain the profile of the ship.” 

As guests board the Disney Cruise Line vessel, which originally launched in 1998, they’ll notice significant changes. Like the bright, spacious Lobby Atrium, for example. A second staircase was removed and the colorful Dale Chihuly chandelier is gone, with a shiny, new Art Deco one is in it’s place.

“We like the set up of the Dream and the Fantasy, where you walk in and you have more space,” Migliorati says. 

Haven for children

One of the main attractions for kids is the new Disney’s Oceaneer Club, a four-room area for three-to-12-year-olds. Not surprisingly, the star of the show is The Marvel’s Avengers Academy. It marks the first time that Marvel’s super hero characters have been part of a Disney Cruise Line ship. Here, guests can virtually don one of Iron Man’s suits during a simulated training experience on a large video screen display. 

Then, there’s Andy’s Room from “Toy Story,” which is designed so kids feel as tiny as a toy. It features a new Slinky Dog slide, a larger-than-life Mr. Potato Head and a giant version of the lovable piggy bank, Hamm. Next door at Pixie Hollow, children can make crafts while sitting on stools shaped like mushrooms and acorns, and the colorful Mickey Mouse Club, where kid’s go through Mouseketeer training. 

Focus on food

When it comes to dining, there are several choices, but none more impressive than Animator’s Palette, formerly Studio C. (Note: The Animation Magic feature, in which guests draw their own characters and see them come to life, is only offered to guests on voyages of seven nights or more.)

“It was important for us to keep the same design of the room,” Migliorati says. However, all the walls are new. So are the high-definition flat screens, LED lights, walls and speakers.

Toward the end of the meal, the room darkens and the illuminated digital canvases show the Drawn to Magic dinner entertainment. It instantly evokes oohs and ahhs while guests nosh on dishes like fire-roasted beef tenderloin and wasabi mashed potatoes, grilled veal chop and orange cheesecake. 

For longtime-Disney fans, it tends to trigger emotions and sometimes tears. “I think it touches the parents sometimes more than the kids,” says Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line. “It’s a very touching, heartfelt experience.” 

Carioca’s, a Brazil-themed eatery that replaced Parrot Cay serves crowd-pleasers like Havana black bean soup, Argentinean beef empanadas and fried plantain and malanga pancakes. And Cabanas, a casual dining experience by day and a table-service restaurant by night, has more than doubled in size. The popular, upscale Palo restaurant has new fixtures, glass artwork and new stone floors. 

Late Night

After Hours, the revamped entertainment space for adults, now features Fathoms nightclub, which features comedy acts and a dance floor; and the black-and-white themed Keys piano bar where handcrafted cocktails are served table side. A third venue, O'Gills Irish pub offers live music, televised sports and table side games like chess.

When guests are ready to relax, the Senses Spa & Salon, which has been expanded by 725 square feet, offers a few new things, including a barbershop and the Chill Spa, where teen can choose from a hot chocolate wrap or an ice cream manicure and pedicure.  

“We built these ships so there would be something for everyone in the family,” says Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “It’s nice when every member of the family feels like the vacation was designed with them in mind.” 

Other changes:

--Staterooms: A redesign of the rooms includes elevated bed frames, which allows for storage under the beds.

--Nephews’ Splash Zone: A watery fun zone for young children with pop jets and squirting figures of Donald Duck’s nephews.

--It’s a Small World Nursery: A whimsical world for cruisers who are three months to three years old.