The Disney Magic is the first Disney Cruise Line ship, built in 1998. It holds 2700 passengers and 950 crew members. Its sister ship, the Disney Wonder, was built a year later and is almost identical.
The Disney Dream is the third Disney Cruise Line ship, built in 2011. It holds 4000 passengers and 1458 crew members. Its sister ship, the Disney Fantasy, came in 2012 and is very similar.
Because we are a family of five, the Dream definitely has an edge in the stateroom category. The Dream has more rooms that accommodate a family of five, and it has more cabins with connecting doors. On the Dream/Fantasy, we can fit all of us in one Category 8 Family Oceanview room. On the Magic/Wonder, we have to move up to a Category 4 Verandah to fit all of us, which is a lot more expensive (about $700+ or more compared to a Category 8). On this past cruise, we opted for two inside rooms on the Magic, which was cheaper than one Category 4 at regular price. I did miss having a window a few times, mainly when I was in the room while Alyssa was napping. The inside staterooms on the Dream have virtual portholes. The staterooms on the Dream also had free on-demand television, where we could watch almost any Disney or Touchstone movie on demand at any time. The kids loved this, as we had a little bit of down time each afternoon.
We liked the Mickey kids pool on the Magic better, because it was separated from the deeper pool by the ship's funnel. It was easy to keep track of our kids. On the Dream, both the kids pool and the deeper family pool are next to each other, so it was harder to watch our kids. However, the great thing about the pools on the Dream is that both pools can see the Funnelvision, which plays movies. At the Mickey kids pool on the Magic, we could not see the Funnelvision. Of course, the Dream has the Aqua Duck water slide. This category is a draw.
Oceaneer Club/Oceaneer Lab
This is a tough call, but I have to give the kids clubs to the Magic. On the Magic, the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab are on the same level, but in different locations. Because their main layout is one big open space, I think my kids got to participate in more of the organized activities in the clubs, like Flubber, Toy Story Boot Camp, Mouseketeer in Training, etc. Our kids also got to perform onstage in the Friendship Rocks program, which isn't on the newer ships. On the Dream, the two kids clubs are connected and have a smaller main room and many connecting rooms/alcoves. I think this layout makes it harder for kids to get roped into the group activities. I feel like the Dream had better technology in the clubs, but there were also more chances for the kids to play computers and video games. I asked my 8-year-old which one he liked better, and he said he slightly preferred the clubs on the Dream. He said it was because the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are connected on the Dream, and he could run back and forth between both. On the Magic, he had to ask a cast member to take him to the different club and wait to be escorted.
The character interactions were slightly different on the two ships. I thought the Dream had more scheduled character greetings in the atrium, but the Magic had more character pop-ins on the pool deck that weren't on the schedule. I loved the atrium character dance parties on the Dream, and the character dance parties on Castaway Cay. Our cruise on the Dream also had several Pixar characters that we didn't see on the Magic, like Woody and Jessie, The Incredibles, and Remy. The Magic had the Wake Up With Disney Jr. character dance party in the mornings, which the Dream didn't have. On both ships, there were certainly no shortage of characters to meet. This category is a draw.
This category obviously goes to the Dream, because it is a newer ship. The Dream has enchanted art and the Midship Detective Agency game (which we actually didn't have time to check out on our 2012 cruise). The kids clubs have automated hand washing machines that are really cool. The Oceaneer Club on the Dream has an interactive dance floor. Animator's Palette on the Dream and on the Fantasy has some cool technology not present on the older ships. The Magic is scheduled to have a long dry-dock this Fall, and I'm curious to see if any new technology is added to the ship.
Service and food
The service on both ships is just outstanding. It's one of the reasons why we enjoyed both of our cruises so much. Crew members on both ships were helpful with carrying our kids' trays from the buffets. We had outstanding dining room servers and room attendants.We found the food to be very similar on both ships--yummy and plentiful. This category is a draw.
We didn't see all the shows, or experience much of the adult-only pools or clubs, so I can't really comment on those. The Magic was easier to navigate because it was smaller. Overall, our experience on both ships was very comparable. Based on what we had read on the DIS boards, we expected to have a clear preference for one ship over the other. But, that wasn't the case. We liked things about each ship, and there was nothing on either ship that made our cruise unpleasant. In general, the Dream has an edge in technology department, and possibly the Magic has an edge in some of the kids' programming.
We would gladly sail any of the Disney ships again. My only complaint about our last cruise on the Magic was that it was too short. We didn't get to do many of the activities that sounded fun. But, I think it's important to view Disney Cruises the same way as Disney World, and realize that there's no way you can accomplish everything in one visit. We are looking forward to a 7-night cruise.
Have you been on either of these ships? Do you have a preference?