Steam cyclones off the gently rippling surface of a 40-degree whirlpool spa like clouds of freshly spun candy floss and my tired muscles surrender to the kneading jets of water.
As I recline, enveloped in stress-quenching heat, my upside-down panoramic view of the adults-only Quiet Cove on deck nine of the Disney Magic cruise liner suddenly falls into shadow.
A 6ft-tall bloodhound and pointer mixed breed with honeyed fur and white sailor’s cap perched atop his head is waving at me, a candy apple tongue lolling from one side of his mouth. With exaggerated paw gestures, Pluto motions me to make room in my swirling oasis.
Just then, a horn signal comprising the first seven notes of When You Wish Upon A Star startles him – and not for the first time on my Disney Magic At Sea staycation cruise, full-throated laughter gurgles uncontrollably from my body.
International theme parks and resorts are currently off-limits due to Covid, so these two or three-night cruises, exclusive to UK residents, bring immersive Disney storytelling and entertainment to waters around London Tilbury or Newcastle upon Tyne until next month.
Cruises head out to sea to chase the sunshine, so health screening before boarding is scrupulous. Adults must submit proof of full vaccination while under-18s require proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test. A further negative test result from a self-administered nasal swab at the port grants admission to the liner and a personalised guard of honour into an art deco atrium guarded by a bronze statue of Mickey dressed as a helmsman.
As a cruise debutant, I’m pleasantly surprised by a spacious stateroom with private veranda, which can sleep four.
Busy daily programmes of activities include bingo, quizzes, karaoke and violinist Anna Bachkalova performing Disney songs. Meet and greets are replaced with frequent “appear and wave” sessions.
The 40ft-wide proscenium stage of the 977-seat Walt Disney Theatre on deck four boasts art deco and art nouveau design flourishes and hosts two performances daily of Tangled: The Musical.
This exclusive West End-quality adaptation of the animation boasts a life-size articulated puppet of Maximus the horse and three new songs.
Up one deck, the 278-seat Buena Vista Theatre screens the latest blockbusters and classic animations.
Outside, where masks can be removed, Elsa, Anna and chums belt out songs from Frozen in the aptly named Freezing The Night Away celebration, which culminates in a swirling snow storm to the irresistibly infectious melody of Let it Go.
Children have their own dedicated spaces on deck five. The Oceaneer Club hosts storytelling and character interactions in four themed areas, including Andy’s Room from Toy Story.
Animator’s Palate on deck four harnesses some of Tinker Bell’s pixie dust to transform a dining room festooned with static black and white hand-drawn animations into a colour-saturated multimedia spectacle. Angus beef tenderloin dusted in ginger teriyaki, served on a bed of molten wasabi mashed potatoes, is a particular highlight of the main courses.
Sloshing water abounds to whoops of delight in Goofy’s Pool, which welcomes families to a splash zone of pouring paint cans and a double-looping Twist ’n’ Spout waterslide. Having fun can be exhausting so the Senses Spa & Salon provides a perfect retreat from the gloriously controlled madness.
A 50-minute Swedish massage in harmony with the ship’s subtle movement is deliciously soothing. I’m sure my masseuse credits dextrous handiwork for the contented grin flooding across on my face as I recall Pluto in the whirlpool spa. However, in the aromatically scented moment, it’s unabashed puppy love.
The loudest screams are reserved for AquaDunk on deck 10. The floor of this 212ft-long waterslide falls always like a trapdoor, sending guests along a translucent tube that curves tantalisingly over the side of the ship.
Disney Cruise Line (disneycruise.co.uk; 0800 171 2317) offers two or
three-night staycations sailing on Disney Magic from London Tilbury or Newcastle upon Tyne from £2,392 for two adults and two children .
Costs for additional services and experiences on board and Covid testing apply.
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