Disney's Magic gets a makeover

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Disney Imagineers are working their magic on Magic. The 7-year-old vessel -- which, in ship years, is nearly middle-aged -- is getting a face-lift.

On Oct. 15, when it emerges from a shipyard in Newport, Va., Disney's family-focused vessel that tries to tap into everyone's inner child will seriously pamper adults too. Magic will sport three new spa suites with a private oceanview veranda, hot tub and open-air shower.

The spa verandas, a first at sea according to Disney, are only part of Magic's makeover.

The rehab will double the size of the ship's exercise area in its adults-only Vista Spa and Salon to a muscular 10,700 square feet. It will pump up the footage for more workout equipment, an area for spinning classes and private salons for Pilates instruction and consultations.

Disney isn't skimping when it comes to kids, either. Magic will also get a dedicated new space dubbed Ocean Quest, bringing to five the areas where kids can hang out.

Imagineers even are surrendering the helm to Disney's core audience by creating a scaled replica of the ship's bridge, complete with LCD screen "windows" that peer out over the bridge via live video feed. At Ocean Quest (a consolidation of three former conference rooms), a budding helmsman will be able to sit in a captain's chair and simulate steering the ship in and out of ports around the world.

This nautically themed space will brim with computer and video games, arts and crafts activities, and plasma screen TVs.

Outdoors on pool deck, family films will be shown on a jumbo screen, a feature already on other lines.

Remodeling the Magic isn't the only trick up the Mouse's sleeve. Disney also is expanding the itinerary of Magic's sister ship, Wonder, to spice up its current roster of three- and four-night Caribbean cruises.

Next September, Wonder will embark on two 10- and 11-night cruises to the Southern Caribbean, the first time Disney will offer longer cruises on that vessel. Wonder's itinerary includes such ports as St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and St. Kitts.

According to Disney spokesman Jason Lasecki, most of the line's first-time cruisers opt for shorter trips. But Disney wants to enhance its appeal to repeat passengers and offer a novel alternative to its standard fare, especially because longer cruises have proved popular.

At the moment, though, Lasecki says, Disney has no plans for adding longer cruises beyond next year.

Per person rates for Wonder's 10-night cruise start at $1,299 and for the 11-night sailing at $1,499. For information, call 1-888-325-2500 or visit Disneycruise.com.

Calliope lessons, etc.

Do you like old-fashioned fun? Try a quilting cruise on the Mississippi Queen.

On two sailings next spring, the Queen, a historic 422-passenger paddlewheeler will ply the Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland rivers as it steams passengers to Paducah, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn., for annual quilting shows there.

A seven-night Memphis round-trip cruise, beginning April 23, will spend two days in Paducah, where you can visit the Quilting Museum. On board, Dianne Hire, a fiber artist and quilt maker, will lecture, give demonstrations and show various quilt works.

A six-night St. Louis-to-Nashville cruise Aug. 21 will spend two days in Nashville for the American Quilter's Society Show, held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. During the cruise, quilt instructor and author Judy Simmons will explain her techniques for creating machine-needle lace.

Passengers can discover river towns such as Cape Girardeau, Mo., home of talk radio's Rush Limbaugh, and the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area near Dover, Tenn.

Delta Queen Steamboat-style fun comes with the territory -- days filled with talks on the history, culture and lore of the rivers, sing-alongs, pilothouse tours and, yes, even calliope lessons. Per-person fares start at $1,880 for the 6-night cruise and at $2,140 for the seven-nighter. For more information call 1-800-543-1949 or visit Deltaqueen.com.

Arline Bleecker can be reached at AJBleecker@aol.com.

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