Creating smiles is in the Disney DNA, so it’s no surprise that the imaginative storytelling of its theme parks and movies is also abundant on its cruise ships. When you sail with Disney, there’s a plethora of live entertainment, most of which is so captivating it can make octogenarians feel eight years old again. Here are reviews of the 10 performances we saw on a recent, five-day Disney Magic cruise from Miami (featuring a special Marvel Day at Sea)—from our hands-down favorites to a few that were surprisingly not much fun.
This feel-good show has something for everyone. As an old-school Disney fan, I could feel my heart flutter as Peter Pan appeared at a window to visit the sleepless lead character, Anne Marie, after she’d wished upon a star. He then led her on a nighttime journey involving “faith, trust, and pixie dust.” They encountered the heroes and heroines of a half-dozen Disney films as the audience enjoyed a serenade of classic tunes—from “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” to “Under the Sea”—and some pretty awesome special effects. By the time we were all belting out “Let It Go,” we didn’t want to, because we wanted the magic to continue.
Marvel Heroes Unite
If this nighttime on-deck live-action stunt spectacular wasn’t available solely on special Marvel Day at Sea sailings (10 are scheduled for January through March 2019), it would have captured the top spot in a heartbeat. Even though I’m not a comic book fan—I’d never even heard of Black Widow or Red Skull before—I was cheering for the super heroes to outwit the villains who threatened to take over Disney Magic. It felt like being part of an Avengers movie as live-action battles unfolded on the stage, above our heads and on the big-screen in clever film segments shot throughout the ship. And there were fireworks, too!
Sometimes things that start out slow finish strong and that’s the case with this “original twist on the Cinderella story” that has a Wicked Fairy Godfather sending her evil stepmother and stepsisters back in time to break the glass slipper and try to steal the handsome Prince’s heart. In addition to a solid score with clever lyrics—especially the captivating “Believe in Me” sung by Cinderella—the kaleidoscope of color that washes over the stage during the grand ballroom finale is magical.
Pirates in the Caribbean Deck Party
If participation means success, then this shiver-me-timbers nighttime celebration complete with eye patches, red bandanas (supplied by Disney), and some pretty elaborate pirate costumes worn by Captain Jack Sparrow wannabes of all ages is a perfect 10. It makes for great people watching—but without the costumes it would basically be a 45-minute dance party featuring loud music, flashing lights, dancing Disney characters (albeit in pirate garb), and lots of arrrrrghs! The highlight was the fireworks finale.
Star-Spangled USO Show
Attention fans of 1940s big band music: This recreation of a USO show (only on Marvel at Sea Days) will delight you—and maybe even get you onto the dance floor. It’s pretty much impossible to sit still as the male and female leads and their Andrews Sisters-like back-up singers entertain with bubbly classics like “In the Mood” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.” And if you love Captain America, he makes an appearance, too.
Piano Men Tribute
Elton John and Billy Joel are two of my favorite singers/performers, so when I saw this show scheduled in Keys, Disney Magic’s adults-only piano bar, I took a seat, ordered a glass of red, and let the familiar melodies and lyrics wash over me. It didn’t disappoint. On my sailing, singer-pianist Aaron Lotzow succeeded in capturing the distinct personas of these two musical legends rather than simply impersonating them.
Tangled: The Musical
The 2010 movie Tangled apparently rocks (I haven’t seen it, but according to Disney the comedic Rapunzel-and-Flynn-Rider story is quite popular and kids of all ages seem to love it), so I really hoped to enjoy this stage production. My 29-year-old seatmate (who I think has a bit of a latent crush on Flynn) adored it, but her mother and I thought it lacked the usual Disney sparkle. I guess whether it wins you over depends on how connected you are to the story.
Rapunzel’s Royal Table
If you’re into Tangled there’s never enough Rapunzel and Flynn Rider to go around. If you’re not, this new dinner theater experience aboard Disney Magic might be overkill. It’s loud and interactive (watch out for lurking thugs and even a mugging-for-the-camera Flynn sneaking up behind you)—but the kids really seemed to enjoy joining a conga-line between the main course and dessert.
Adventures Away Deck Party
Honestly, I expected way more. As the sail-away celebration aboard Disney Magic, this deck party gathers kids and parents in front of the big screen and stage to dance along with a half-dozen of the ship’s entertainment staff dressed in shorts and striped polos. It felt like a 21st-century version of the Mouseketeers, but without the personality, the individuality, or frankly, the fun.
Dr. Strange: Journey into the Mystic Arts
I didn’t quite get this stage production (on Marvel Day at Sea only), during which Dr. Stephen Strange enlists the help of apprentices (kids from the ship’s Oceaneer Club) in his New York-based Sanctum Sanctorum. Full disclosure: Creating portals and casting spells seemed to captivate the kids, but it had me yawning, so I left early to check out what the other Marvel super heroes at sea were up to.