As someone whose childhood did not involve a lot of Disney, those Mickey ears are a constant source of amazement.
It starts on the coach ride to the port of Barcelona, when a collective shriek goes up as soon as they appear.
Disney certainly knows a thing or two about what children like, and the big black ears take pride of place on the top deck of the Disney Magic, the elegant art deco-style ship on which we are to spend a week cruising the Mediterranean.
Most of the mothers in my local circle – who, like it or not, are well-versed in all things Disney – had no idea that the company ran a sideline in cruises.
The Magic, the first to launch in 1998, has recently undergone a major refit. The prospect of being invited on board, to see what Disney Cruising is all about, made the heads of my four-year-old and two-year-old spin.
I admit to a little trepidation, travelling on my own with two active and enthusiastic youngsters, but ‘the magic’ of the experience, and consideration for the logistics of cruising as a family are plain from the moment we step aboard.
There are staff everywhere, intent on engaging with the children, but my youngsters are keen on some lunch before a deck party to celebrate our departure from dock – an energetic affair complete with Mickey and his mates and lots of enthusiastic dancing and singing.
Both children have slightly maniacal grins on their faces, while I’m giving thanks for the Perspex-lined railings making it near impossible for even the most agile toddler to debark ahead of schedule.
Up by the pools, the deck’s been ripped up and replaced with new water play areas and the AquaDunk, a three-storey slide with a near vertical launch through a translucent tube that extends 20ft over the side of the ship.
Most of the restaurants have had a makeover, and it is the ship’s food that is the real revelation.
I dined on sea bass, lamb cutlets, tiger prawns and, on the final night, two baked lobster tails on account of enjoying the first one so much.
Animator’s Palate is my children’s favourite restaurant, on account of its black and white theme that becomes slowly more colourful as the evening goes on.
Our days promptly become a whirl of kids’ clubs, half-day excursions to Nice and Pompeii, swimming, eating and meet and greets with Disney characters.
The kids’ clubs are a focus of the refurbishment, with Marvel’s Avengers Academy providing an area where children can ‘unleash their inner superheroes’.
Adjacent to Marvel’s is Andy’s Room, where stars of the Disney-Pixar Toy Story trilogy include a larger-than-life Mr Potato Head and a Slinky Dog slide.
Next door is Pixie Hollow, home to Tinker Bell and her friends, where her teapot house serves as a costume wardrobe and children can immerse themselves in art and craft activities.
The performance on the final night featured Tinker Bell lighting up the theatre with fireworks and some cracking song and dance routines.
As my daughter breathlessly said on her return home: ‘Tinker Bell was there and she lit up the whole ship’
Josie Clarke was a guest of Virgin Holidays Cruises (virgin holidayscruises.co.uk; 0844 573 4398) who offer the seven-night Disney Magic Med Cruise from £949 per adult and £699 per child. Departs from Barcelona, calling at Villefranche (for Nice, France), Pisa, Rome and Naples, including flights from London Gatwick and transfers. Prices are per person based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing an inside cabin on a full-board basis. Based on a departure on August 30, 2014.