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Disney Magic grows up

A family of five gives this cruise another opportunity and discovers that the former snags had, almost magically, been sorted out

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In the summer of 1998 – with a seven-note blast of "When You Wish Upon a Star" from the ship's horn – our family set sail aboard the just-christened, 2,400-passenger Disney Magic. The much-heralded flagship of the newly minted Disney Cruise Line was bound for four nights in the Bahamas.

We had a great time. Our 5-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter were enchanted by the restaurant known as Animator's Palate, where black and white walls slowly changed to color during dinner (a tribute to Disney's fabled animators).

They marveled at "Disney Dreams," the Broadway-caliber show culminating in Tinkerbell's pixie dust sprinkling over the Magic. And we were pleasantly surprised by the spacious, family-friendly staterooms that were 25 percent larger than the cruise-industry average.

But there were definite snags. Disorganization and a snail-paced line at Disney's Port Canaveral cruise-ship terminal made boarding a lengthy affair. Then we spent much of our time onboard standing in long lines to purchase shore excursion tickets. And the cuisine was unimpressive even by my usual "I'm not cooking it, so how bad can it be?" standards.

The biggest disappointment, however, was that Mickey was missing in action. The mouse-eared one was so mobbed by throngs of autograph-seeking "Mouseketeers" that our kids didn't see the famous icon the entire trip.

All the Disney magic onboard (and there was quite a bit, to be fair) couldn't make up for that omission.

Don't get me wrong – we had a nice time. It just wasn't as seamless – or as magical – as we had hoped it would be.

Wave the magic wand, and it's four years later.

Disney Magic – the sequel

A cruise on the Disney line today barely resembles our fledgling voyage of 1998.

Disney Cruise Line has grown up. You notice it in little things – the half-dozen squeeze bottle sundae toppings (to resemble paint) in Animator's Palette have been replaced by easier-to-carry chocolate-dipped Mickeys on a stick. It's also evident in the big things – cruising the entire Caribbean instead of going to just a couple of Bahamian ports.

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