Over four days on Disney's first cruise in Australia, we met Goofy ambling along the pool deck, spied Minnie Mouse walking through the jewellery store and watched princesses including Belle and Cinderella twirling in their ballgowns in the atrium.
We clocked Moana on her way to meet fans, danced with Louis the crocodile, hugged Micky Mouse and held our breath as Spiderman scaled the ship's towering funnel as Thor and Ironman prowled below in a heart-stopping Marvel show.
And that was just the start.
A cruise with Disney is, let me tell you, so magical, I was convinced the company had arranged the rainbow that greeted us at our destination in Hobart.
I could just see the team of Disney Imagineers up in some remote control room of the ship looking intently at a screen with a "Three, two one - cue the rainbow over Mount Wellington!".
There are so many details, so many surprises on a Disney cruise, that your kids won't want to get off. It's great for adults too - there are places to escape the magic if you want to relax without Let It Go pummelling your brain. But, as I discovered, adults want the Disney experience as much as the kids, with many people travelling on the ship without children.
The Disney Cruise Line has been around since 1996 but it set sail on its first Australian cruise from Sydney on October 28.
With three children in tow, I waved to the crowds in Sydney from the verandah of our cabin on the seventh deck as the Disney Wonder set sail on the inaugural Australian cruise. The almost 300-metre ship was turned around by a tug, past the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House and off to a whole new world of cruising.
The four-day cruise sailed from Sydney to Hobart and back, with a few hours on shore in the Tasmanian capital. It was a test case, no doubt, for Disney cruising in Australia, and I'm sure the company is going over the feedback forms from guests with a fine-tooth comb. Because it wasn't all perfect and I'm sure some tweaks will be made. (Minor complaint, I know, but the Americans seem to regard espresso coffee as some kind of rare luxury that demands you pay $US6.50 for a cup - just over 10 Australian bucks. It's not included in your meals. If you have a serious caffeine habit, it quickly adds up.)
And, yes, don't fall into the trap of thinking you're paying Aussie prices on board the ship as it sails in Australian waters. Everything is in US dollars - even though it's not marked as such - and you might get a nasty surprise with your bill at the end of the cruise. Bass Strait also proved to be a pretty tricky crossing. But more on that later.
Let's focus on the magic first.
While Disney is an iconic American company through and through, the cruise director for the Disney Wonder is an ebullient Australian called Trent Hitchcock, a former Ballina boy. He was our Julie from The Love Boat, the ringmaster of all the on-board activities.
He worked at "all the theme parks" on the Gold Coast before joining the Disney Cruise Line in 2007 as a host and working his way up the corporate ladder.
To have the first Disney cruise set sail in Australia was monumental for him.
"I've been with the company for 17 years. You can bet I've been asking this company to come to Australia for 17 years. Someone finally listened, thankfully, and we're here," he said.
"To say I'm proud, elated, emotional, that's an understatement.
"We came under the [Sydney Harbour] Bridge with this cruise on the 27th [of October] at 4.30 in the morning.
"I rang my wife at home in Orlando. She was holding my eight-month-old baby and I went under the bridge and I blubbered like a baby. It was such a special moment to come home.
"Walking around the ship right now and seeing and hearing all the Aussies, it's just such an incredible thing to chat with everyone and find out what their experience is here."
Hitchcock says Disney Cruise Line knows its American guests "so well". Australians are a whole new ballgame.
"A lot of people are here for the very first time and having a Disney experience for the very first time," he said.
Hitchcock said he gave a hug to many an Aussie guest overwhelmed by getting on their first Disney cruise.
"There are humungous Disney fans in Australia and New Zealand and for them to be able to realise that without flying 14 hours on an airplane [to Disneyland in the US] and get jetlag and lug luggage to a hotel and do all of that? To be able to walk out your front door, on to a ship and get that immersive Disney experience? We're so proud to be able to bring that to you."
So much. I have never been on a cruise before, so had zero expectations.
The only thing I wanted to know before I got on the ship, was how many pools there were and if there was a waterslide.
Anything beyond that was a bonus.
The ship has a capacity for 2713 passengers, with 875 staterooms.
There are two pools for the kids - with a waterslide - and an adults-only pool. There's also a movie theatre inside and a big outdoor screen on the top deck for movies.
The kids loved the pool area. Not least because they could eat unlimited ice cream and there were cheeseburgers on tap.
There are multiple restaurants, cafes and bars on board. Triton's (The Little Mermaid), Tiana's Place (The Princess and the Frog) and Animator's Palate are all themed. The food is great in all of them, with kids' options. (Vegemite has been added to the Australian cruises.) There's also buffet breakfast and lunch areas.
My favourite restaurant was Animator's Palate, which was a homage to old-school Disney favourites such as Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmations, in the decor and the entertainment. I won't ruin the surprise, but diners there become fully immersed in the animation of Disney in the most mind-blowing way.
Your waiters or "servers" follow you to each restaurant. We had Organ from India and Aditya from Indonesia. They were the most lovely, beautiful people. High-five-ing the kids and showing them magic tricks at the table, always happy to see them.
A Disney cruise is about giving the parents a break but I has to laugh when the waiters each night would cut up my son's food for him, even though he's quite capable of doing it himself. Little Lord Fauntleroy anyone? (They also doled out on to his plate tomato sauce, sorry ketchup, in the shape of, you guessed it - Mickey Mouse. Like. Wow.)
There were 1063 staff on board, representing 60 different nationalities.
"We recruit from all around the world to get the best talent," Hitchcock says.
Everyone was super friendly.
The kids have their own hang-out areas with dedicated counsellors there until late at night. The Oceaneer Club is for three to 12-year-olds. My nine-year-old son and his mate hung out here a lot. There was a PS5, people! But there were also plenty of activities and craft. Each kid gets a wristband which works a bit like a criminal's ankle bracelet. Yes! Go in the wrong area of the ship and someone will be alerted. It's waterproof so it can be worn all day, including in the pool.
There's also separate hang-out areas for tweens and older teenagers up to 17.
There is a nursery for under threes but you need to book and there are charges.
Fun fact: all the kids' areas are on the upper decks and as you go higher up the floors of the ship, the ceilings become lower. It's a deliberate design feature to make children "feel like they are the boss", in control of their surroundings.
From the classic songs piped around the ship all day, to the Mickey-Mouse-shaped-everything (door handles to breakfast waffles) to the artwork to the cartoon-y look of the ship including its bright red funnels, this is a Disney cruise.
Even the blast of the ship's horn is to the tune of When You Wish Upon A Star. I kid you not.
Then there's the 977-seat Walt Disney Theatre which is host to Broadway-style Disney shows. My 13-year-old daughter was into Frozen eons ago and I thought was probably over Anna and Elsa.
But we went to the live Frozen musical and loved it. The production values were epic. The performers fantastic.
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is where parents outlay quite a bit of their hard-earned to get their little one transformed into a prince or princess, complete with outfit, hair and makeup. There were kids, I'm sure, who didn't get out of their princess dress or knight's outfit the whole cruise.
Iconic Disney characters are also wandering the ship every day, guests alerted by the onboard app as to when and where they will be. There are long lines for a photo, so be prepared. Mickey seems to be the Holy Grail but you can grab a snap with everyone from Ariel to Daisy Duck to Captain Hook.
The live-action Marvel show outside on the top deck was a highlight, with the characters abseiling and ziplining up and down and across the ship. There was also a pirate party. And on the last night, fireworks were set off in the middle of the ocean. (Disney says it is the only cruise line to do so.)
There are Disney-themed activities from morning to night. We did Pixar trivia, Minnie Mouse craft and made a Marvel mask. The kids were never bored.
Sometimes, there's only so much wonderment you can take. So there are plenty of areas on the ship reserved for only adults.
You can shop for diamond rings at a jewellery store or get some botox from the resident cosmetic surgeon in the spa.
There's cocktail lounges, an adults-only pool, an English-style pub and, my favourite, the Cove Cafe for my daily coffee decorated each day with a different Disney character.
The headline restaurant for adults is Palo, a high-end Italian restaurant on the top-floor 10th deck with panoramic views of the ocean.
Adults can also do activities such as wine and chocolate tasting.
So, there were some hiccups.
After a brief stopover in Hobart, we headed back across Bass Strait just as a big southerly cold front was blowing through.
Suddenly sea sickness tablets were taking pride of place in the gift shop amongst all the Mickey paraphernalia. (BTW my fav souvenirs were the Mickey crocs).
That day, I was so desperately ill I made my way to the medical centre. (That will be $173 to see the doctor.) I got an injection and life became a bit more bearable.
I get motion sickness on a merry-go-round, but I know I wasn't the only one confined to quarters that day. Take plenty of boxes of sea sickness tablets. Just in case.
Gabe and Becca Reed form Vincentia on the NSW South Coast were easy to spot on the cruise, looking glam the whole time in Disney-themed outfits.
Becca, 44, who runs a fairy stall at home, and Gabe, 41, an architect, are massive fans of Disneyland.
"We've spent all our special moments at Disneyland," she said.
"We had our honeymoon there, we had our babymoon there and now we're here with our daughter."
The cruise was a way to enjoy Disney with their daughter Vegas-Jack, 7, without having to go all the way to Disneyland.
"As soon as we got on, it felt like Disneyland," Gabe said.
It was only the second day of the four-day cruise and they felt fulfilled already.
"As soon as we got on yesterday, we were so happy with everything we did we said we could get off and still be happy. Without going anywhere," Becca said.
Sydney grandmother Kaye Blavias spent $18,000 taking her family on the four-day cruise and came out of it all a little disappointed.
"I don't think I'd do a Disney cruise again," she said.
There were 11 in the party, including five grandchildren aged from eight to one.
"They had a good time," Kaye said, of the children.
She was annoyed it was not clear that prices on the ship were in US dollars, which left her with a $1200 bill at the end of the trip for drinks and souvenirs, on top of the cruise costs she'd already paid.
"I think they should have disclosed a little bit more," she said.
And when several family members were sick on the return Bass Strait crossing, she was upset they lost a day of activities.
"I mean, at the breakfast buffet, plates and cups were going everywhere," she said.
Kaye has been on other cruises and says she'll go cruising again, just with a different company.
"Do I feel I got value for money? No," she said.
The Nichols family of Eden, by contrast, loved the cruise, which was a gift to them, from Kellie's father.
Kellie and Mark and their daughters Maddison, 12, and Tayla, 10, are now looking forward to the Disney Wonder ship stopping in their home town in January.
The cruise ship will stopover in Eden on the far NSW South Coast on January 3 as part of a three-day cruise from Sydney.
"A couple of the carers from kids' club have said, 'Make sure you come down to the wharf and we'll try to say hello'," she said.
Kellie said both girls loved the cruise.
"Tay, the younger one, every character she saw, every show that she saw, she was just beaming," she said.
"And Maddison, she's quite into dance, so she just loved the theatrical side of things and she met friends in kids' club and made friends with the staff in kids' club and it was always like, 'Can I go back? Can I go back? Can I go back?'. So, really, I don't think we saw much of our children the whole cruise."
Kellie and Mark even found themselves on the pool deck watching a Disney movie without their daughters.
"I think it brings out the child in you," she said.
Gold Coast couple John and Samantha Estell spent their 13th wedding anniversary on the cruise, indulging Samantha's love of all things Disney.
For her, Disney is a chance to feel like a kid again, and leave the pressures of adulthood behind for a while.
"You can sit back and relax and just enjoy what is happening in front of you," she said.
John, 39, was happy to go along for the ride and ended up having a ball.
"Hands down, it's probably the best holiday we've ever had," he said.
"Everything, from when you arrive on the ship and they announce your name and everyone is clapping and Chip and Dale are on the staircase, to the room service, was amazing. I mean cleaning your room three times a day? Go to a hotel and that's unheard of," he said.
Samantha, 38, a Beauty and the Beast fan, was thrilled with the trip.
"Oh my god, it was beyond anything I hoped for," she said.
The downside was the confusion, again, about the prices. A cocktail they thought cost $21 was closer to $40. And even the off-shore activities in Hobart were charged in US dollars.
But the people made up for it. Especially the staff.
"They were just so friendly, they always had a smile on their face and they couldn't do enough for you," Samantha said.
"Even the other passengers, it was like our own little community out at sea."
And for me? I think what I loved the most about the cruise was the sense of independence it gave my kids. I felt safe with them walking around, doing their own thing. They had a great time. I had a great time. We had a great time together.
I'm, at best, a cynic at heart. But on this Disney cruise, even I could not help but be moved by the sheer will and effort of the staff to make people happy. That's something that can't be underestimated in this world of ours.
Seven-year-old me, who used to watch The Wonderful World of Disney in her pyjamas every Sunday night could never have contemplated that one day she'd be on a cruise with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Daisy and all the rest.
Disney does make dreams come true for a lot of people.
After the cruise, with us all on the Murray's bus heading back to Canberra and back to reality, I felt very lucky to have had this experience with my children.
Disney Wonder has cruises from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane right up until February, 2025.
Costs can vary depending on your itinerary and accommodation. A two-day cruise for two people starts at $1524.
All the trips and itineraries can be found on the Disney Cruise Line website
Megan Doherty and her family travelled as guests of Disney Cruise Line