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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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It seemed silly on the face of it – shore excursions on a beach? But not having to wait in line for our "Key to the World" cards to be swiped in order to get fins and snorkels gave us more beach time and less time standing in line. What a wonderful innovation.

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Mom's time alone

As the kids took off on a banana-boat ride – another new offering – I revisited an old favorite: a beach that's set aside for adults. No kids allowed

After a relaxing and quiet time on my own, I realized I was ready for a meal. And so I headed to the new Serenity Bay buffet (also just for grown-ups) that included my favorite seafood: grilled lobster tails.

I'll admit to consuming three before hooking up with the gang at Castaway Family Beach.

As the sun set on our cruise, a seven-note "When You Wish Upon a Star" blast of the ship's horn signaled our departure from Castaway Cay and our return to reality. Or at least to Port Canaveral.

Four years had made a world of difference. This time, thanks to some unscripted island adventure and a lot of Disney magic behind the scenes, our family's vacation dreams did come true.

Disney Cruises - then and now

As Disney Cruise Line enters its fifth year, its cruises barely resemble the ones offered in 1998. It's still not quite grown up ñ#150; but it has gained a world of cruise experience during the past half-decade - and put it to good use for its family audience. Here's a look at the changes:

THE FLEET

1998 One ship: Disney Magic

2002 Two ships: Disney Magic and Disney Wonder

PORTS

1998 3- and 4-night cruises to Nassau, Castaway Cay, and Grand Bahama Island

2002 3- and 4-night cruises to Nassau, Castaway Cay, and Grand Bahama Island, plus 7-night eastern and western Caribbean cruises to St. Maarten, St. Thomas/St. John, Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico

ENTERTAINMENT

1998 Disney favorite films shown

2002 First-run films premiering onboard the same day as in theaters nationwide

1998 Two live stage shows: Voyage of the Ghost Ship, Disney Dreams

2002 Disney Dreams; Who Wants to Be a Mouseketeer; welcome aboard/farewell variety shows; Morty the Magnificent; and Hercules – The Muse-ical

DINING

1998 Rotation dining among Lumiere's, Animator's Palate, and Parrot Cay restaurants with tablemates, servers

2002 Tropicalifragilisticexpedialidocious- and Mexicalifragilisticexpialidocious-theme dinner and deck party on each 7-night cruise; rotation dining continues among three restaurants

1998 24-hour room service from room menu only

2002

• 24-hour dining from any of the ship's restaurant menus

• Family tea with Wendy Darling

• Midnight buffet returns by request. Lumiere's gala dessert buffet debuts (on 3- and 4-day Bahamian cruises only)

• Character breakfast with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and the gang

• Topsider's buffet casual-dinner option available

ADULTS ONLY

1998 Dinner at Palo

2002 Brunch, high tea, and dinner at Palo

Enrichment series: Disney's Behind-the-Scenes, Disney's Navigator Series, and Disney's Art of Entertaining programs include galley tours, cooking demonstrations, and table decorating and invitation-making programs that are offered on sea days.

1998 Live improv comedy club

2002 Dueling pianos club

KID STUFF

1998 Flounder's Reef Nursery (ages 3 months to 3 years), limited hours

2002 Renovated Flounder's Reef has Little Mermaid-themed space that has doubled in size for more little ones to enjoy and has added expanded hours while in port.

1998 Age groupings: 3 to 5; 6 to 8; 9 & 10; 11 & 12; 13 to 17

2002 Age groupings: 3 to 4; 5 to 7; 8 & 9; 10 to 12; 13 to 17 (Reasons for the changes: better alignment of age groups with school ages; better fit for kids and their interests.)

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