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View Full Version : Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix - May 11 - 26 - Disney Magic Eastbound Repositioning Cruise



AVP
06-07-2007, 10:40 PM
Bringing the Magic to the Med
or
How did I wind up here, anyway?

Friday, May 11: 9:14 p.m.

I begin this trip report from LAX gate 71B, where I am waiting for a red eye flight to Orlando. Tomorrow I will board the Disney Magic as it sets sail for its inaugural cruise to Barcelona, where it will then spend the summer offering tours of the Mediterranean.

I can’t claim that I didn’t plan to be on this cruise; in fact, my husband Tony and I had placed a deposit on a different 2007 cruise before Disney Cruise Line had even confirmed the rumored Mediterranean itineraries, with the full intention of moving our deposit to one of the Med cruises as soon as they were officially announced. But when that finally happened and the prices were released, the family and friends we had planned to sail with decided that the Disney itineraries were too long, too expensive and/or too boring. We tasked our travel agent with the chore of finding another Mediterranean cruise that would satisfy the varied needs of our assorted traveling party, and reluctantly cancelled our deposit.

Our agent eventually found a Mediterranean cruise that had a great itinerary at a much lower price, so we booked that cruise for September 2007. (In fact, our TA thinks that the cruise he found is so good that he cancelled his own Disney Mediterranean cruise and is sailing with us)

So while I had planned to take this cruise, it wasn’t going to happen. We knew that a large group of people we had met on the first Panama Canal cruise would be “Taking the Magic to the Med,” but I had not paid much attention to their pre-cruise chatter – I wasn’t going, and I didn’t want to hear about all the fun they were planning. That also meant I didn’t hear about the discounts and incentives that Disney had begun to offer. When we met our friends at Disneyland the first weekend of May for a farewell party, one of them told us how Disney had cut fares so much that a category 12 stateroom, the cheapest cabin available, was just $999 per person. For a 14-night cruise. To Europe.

Hearing that I looked to my husband, who said regretfully that he just could not get the time off work – and in the next breath said he would send me if I wanted. Over my protests that I couldn’t possibly drop everything and take off to Europe without him for two weeks, he was on the phone to my employees and our travel agent to see if what he had in mind was even possible. Less than an hour later we had a courtesy hold on a cat 12 stateroom, and were waiting to find out if we could redeem miles for the flights to Orlando, and back home to LA from Barcelona. 24 hours later I had confirmed reservations on the cruise and two confirmed airline tickets – and just 6 days to prepare. (The bruises on my arm from all the twisting have healed nicely, thank you very much)

I am fortunate to travel frequently enough that packing for a two week cruise requires little more preparation than doing a few loads of laundry – my husband and I tend to be half-packed most of the time anyway. Getting my staff prepared for a two week absence was almost more difficult, but it will be good practice for the longer vacation Tony and I are still taking with his family this summer. My travel agent bore the real brunt of this last-minute booking, and wound up dealing with some of the details while he himself was aboard a cruise from San Diego to Vancouver. Good travel agents are worth their weight in gold – find one, and keep them close.

And this brings me back to LAX. We had hoped to redeem miles for this flight, but we found a last-minute fare to Orlando that made it less expensive just to purchase the ticket outright. I will be met in Orlando by friends who flew in yesterday, and then we will drive to the port to board the ship. As if two weeks on board were not sufficient, our friends want to be first in line at the port so we can be among the first to board. And people call me a Disney freak.

Saturday, May 12

It’s strange to consider this a new day since I have not yet slept. As promised, I was met at MCO by friends this morning, including a couple I had not expected to see until we reached the port. It seems nobody could sleep Friday night, and so I had a welcoming party to greet me inside the airport terminal. In all the excitement of finding Ken and Shari waiting for me, I completely forgot that I had planned to stop at the Starbucks in the terminal for my last real Frappuchino for at least a week. Ken and Shari helped me claim my luggage and then waited with me at the curb until Linda and Robert arrived in their rental van. We loaded the rental van and drove to Port Canaveral – and it was just past 7 am. (Ken and Shari wisely decided to wait until a more reasonable hour to arrive) At that, we were still not the first there – as we drove we received a call from our travel buddies Scott and Lynn who were also on their way, and by comparing mile markers determined that they were about 30 miles closer to the port than we. Darn.

Once we arrived, we unloaded our luggage and Robert went to return the rental van to the Cocoa Beach office. Lynn was there waiting with their luggage while Scott did the same with their vehicle, and we had fun talking to the bewildered cast members and watching the first passengers leave the ship. The line for embarking passengers is about 20 yards away from the gate where incoming luggage is accepted, so most parties had to split up so one could watch their luggage and the other could stand in the passenger line.

At 9:45am the porter arrived to accept incoming luggage, which by this time was taking up a considerable chunk of the space outside their gate. With everything safely turned over to the porters, the parties regrouped and prepared to head into the terminal at 10:30.

Upon entering the terminal and getting past security, the race was on to check in and ask for upgrades. There were some major computer problems, and the usually very streamlined check in process took me nearly 20 minutes once I reached the counter. Key to the World card in hand, I joined the end of another line to see if there were any upgrades available from my Category 11 room (I had already received an operational upgrade from 12 to 11 after booking), but when I found out that the jump to a stateroom with a porthole was going to be more than my cabin originally cost, I decided that 14 days in a cave wasn’t going to be that bad after all. I joined my friends in the waiting area and settled in to wait to board the ship.

I called Tony as soon as we were called to board, so he could hear the “grand arrival” announcement they make as each group boards the ship. The cast member saw my phone and teased me that I should put it away – as soon as I told him I was talking to my husband he asked for the phone and ribbed Tony about having to stay home while I partied. Oops.

We should have headed straight for lunch at this point (I was still due for breakfast!), but we made a detour to Rockin’ Bar D to try to straighten out our party’s jumbled dining reservations. (Not to mention that I still did not have Palo reservations!) The Vista Spa now has a table in there along with Palo, and people were lined up to book their cabana massages and facials.

We finally had lunch at Topsiders, (I still prefer Parrot Cay for the embarkation lunch, because I hate hauling my luggage through the buffet line), and then I wandered the ship to get photographs of things that had changed since my last cruise for use in the Disney Cruise Line guide I am writing for MousePlanet.

Staterooms were available for us to move into at 1:30, and though this occasionally happens a little earlier on some cruises, the cabin attendants were giving the rooms and extra scrubbing in preparation for the 14-night sailing. In addition, the wireless internet was being installed, and the ceilings panels of the corridors had been removed to install the equipment.

Category 11 is really not that much smaller than a Cat 9, but there are four big differences. Of course, there is no window, so you have no sense of time – it could be noon or midnight, and you would have no visual aid to tell you which. The famed Disney split bathroom is gone. The steamer trunk which provides so much extra storage space is missing, and the closet in my particular cabin is 2/3 the size of the standard closet. All told, it’s great for one person or a couple – I don’t truly know how many more you could cram in here, not for lack of sleeping space but because of the storage issue. Fortunately we’re old hands at this, and though my travel laundry hamper does not fit in the closet, everything else is fine. Between wireless internet and 24-hour a day room service, I don’t even need to leave my cabin until we hit dry land again.

I should have unpacked at this point, or taken a nap, but instead I finished the book I started on the plane and waited for the mandatory safety drill. (Dear Officer In Charge of Sending Letters to People Who Skip the Safety Drill: I was there. I have witnesses. I checked in with the assembly station leader. Thank you!) Then it was back to the room to stow the oh-so-lovely life vest, and time to Sail Away.

Disney’s press release indicated that there would be a new sail away party, and since I hadn’t yet seen the Arial View screen in action, that was new enough for me. They distributed the plastic Mickey-mitt signs with the cruise logo on it, as well as streamers on a stick for the passengers to waive as we set sail. I have to wonder why they don’t have the sail away party a little later, since it seems we never leave at 5 as scheduled. I called everyone I wasn’t going to get to talk to for two weeks to say goodbye, and then called my husband so he could hear the ship’s horn play “When You Wish Upon a Star.” He watched from the Radisson Web cam as we FINALLY sailed off, just in time for me to change clothes for the early dinner. Since there are so few people on the ship they decided to abandon the staggered dining times, so everyone was scheduled to arrive for the early seating at 6pm (instead of 5:45 / 6 / 6:15)

My dinner companions are Ken & Shari, Linda & Robert, Alex & Caroline, Michael, Scott and Gary. Alex & Caroline are “The First Timers,” and their habit is to be on board the maiden voyage of each Disney ship and new itinerary. This is their 31st cruise. We met them on the Panama Canal cruise; after which they remained on board for the first West coast sailing. We also sailed with them on the 11-night Southern Caribbean cruise last summer. Michael was also on the Panama cruise, though we rarely saw him. He recruited two friends to join him for the Atlantic crossing. Ken & Shari and Linda & Robert are active members of the DIS boards, and we met them while planning the Panama trip two years ago.

We ate at Animator’s Palate Saturday evening, though they did not do the show. (First meal and all that) The menu was the “Let the Magic Begin” menu, with no changes I can recognize. I was so tired by the end of the entirely-too-long meal that I skipped dessert and went right to bed.

Sunday, May 13 (Mother’s Day)

Today was our Castaway Cay day, and the last time the Disney Magic will see the island until September. I finally woke up at 9:30 am, showered and made it to the snorkeling beach by 11 to meet Ken & Shari and Linda & Robert. I think Linda forgot, and after waiting long enough for her we decided to head into the water ourselves. It was cold, but I got used to it quickly and we had a blast. I had decided not to bring my own snorkeling equipment in an effort to save weight in my luggage – I think I won’t do that again, as I really missed having my good mask and my ½ fins.

The family beach was so nice – with only 300 kids on the ship there was plenty of room on the beach, and hammocks available all day. On the other hand we heard that the adult beach was once again so crowded they had to bring more chairs onto that side.

Lunch was at Cookie’s BBQ, and nothing had really changed there. We met Linda & Robert after lunch, and then Shari, Robert & I went for another snorkel while Ken & Linda stayed on the beach. We saw a giant grouper (Gary), a barracuda, tons of convict fish – a really nice day. Shari headed in after about 30 minutes, Robert & I stayed out for another hour or so. We met up with Linda and walked back to the ship, snapping a few photos along the way.

Once back in the room I showered to wash off all the sand, and then finally tackled the chore of unpacking. Abut 5 pm I decided I was not going to make it until dinner, and ran upstairs for a hot dog. My commitment to myself has been that I am not going to enter an elevator during this entire cruise – good thing I’m on deck 5.

Finished unpacking, changed clothes, went down to dinner. I’m not in love with our servers yet. To be completely fair, a party of 10 has challenges other tables don’t have, namely we don’t all arrive at the same time, and so time is lost waiting for the stragglers before the orders can be taken. Since several of the people at the table drink, there is also the issue of the nightly selection, presentation and service of the wine du jour. But some things, like repeatedly bringing the wrong dish and/or serving it to the wrong person speaks to efficiency, and our guys are failing in that department big time. Unfortunately we are not first-time cruisers, we know the difference between excellent service and what we are receiving, and some at the table are pretty vocal about it.

Tonight’s performer was Jim Tamley, a ventriloquist from England. Funny guy – Taylor Mason is better. (But unavailable for this cruise)

Note to parents – if, for some reason, you decide to have Dad take the kids to the show without mom and the youngest son spends The. Entire. Show. screaming for mommy, TAKE THE CHILD OUT OF THE THEATER.

Tomorrow is the first of SIX, count ‘em SIX days at sea. So far we have a Castaway Club member reception at 11 and a DVC member reception / sales pitch at 12:30. Let the relaxation begin!

Monday, May 14

The people in the stateroom next to me are starting to irk me – first it was the phone calls at 2am (perhaps from children or family in another cabin?) on Saturday night, then last night it was their loud arrival around 1:30am, accompanied by a loud conversation as they entered the cabin, followed by a loud phone call that I could hear through the walls. (Their English is heavily accented, so I couldn’t hear what the problem was, only the tone that said they were definitely complaining about something.) I finally fell asleep around 3.

At 8:45 Linda called to wake me up for breakfast. Met at Topsiders at 9; from there we went to the Castaway Club welcome reception (out of 1915 people on board, 1050 are repeat Disney cruisers. The average is 35%). Immediately after that was the DVC member reception. The crowd overflowed the space available in Diversions, and so we moved en masse back to Rockin’ Bar D for what turned out to be little more than a slide show / sales pitch and trivia with prizes.

At 2:00 I decided to skip the destination lecture and observe “International Nap Time.” (Hey, it was in our Navigators, and if Cruise Director Rachel says to take a nap, who am I to argue?) About 2:30 I decided that International Nap Time was going to interfere with lunch, so I ordered a steak sandwich with a side of aioli (garlic mayonnaise) from room service. It arrived about 30 minutes later, and with that I learned that room service now requires passengers to sign for deliveries. The slip also has room to add a tip, so I have to wonder how much of this is an effort to remind people that they should tip the delivery staff, and how much is really due to steak sandwiches going missing between the kitchen and the cabins. (The server told me this is actually a problem…) The room service menu has been updated for the Med cruises, and I can say that while the steak sandwich alone was just ok, the aioli could strip paint. I think you could smell it in the hall. It was EXCELLENT.

I read a little more, and then got ready for the ONLY formal night of the cruise (thank goodness) and dinner. Dinner service was much improved (although apparently one person deciding against dessert somehow means that entire side of the table is also going to go without…) The Golden Mickeys show is still cute, if unchanged, and the after-party Balloon Drop was postponed until the “halfway there!” party we are having on Wednesday. As such, I decided to turn in early. We’re losing an hour every day of the crossing to keep us from having to make a 5-hour leap when we get to Spain – having already lost three hours just getting to Florida, I need all the sleep I can get. It’s a vacation, right?

Tuesday, May 15

I meant to get up and go to “walking with Rachel,” but my alarm clock had other ideas. (Yes, I forgot to call Mickey) Linda called to wake me at 10:00, so I met her for breakfast before the day’s events started. The cruise-long “whodunit” mystery game started today, so we attended the first presentation to meet the cast and crew. Linda wanted to go prepare for the scrapbooking workshop she has planned for tomorrow, so Robert and I decided to hit the pool.

The “report from the bridge” indicates that there are gale force winds from the north blowing across the deck, and rough seas of 8 – 13 feet. To compensate for the wind chill, they are heating the pools to 86 degrees, but there is not much they can do to stop the pools from sloshing all over the deck. There were only a handful of kids in the Mickey pool, and the Goofy pool area was deserted. A couple of people were out in Quiet Cove, but they were either bundled up on the sun loungers or soaking in the hot tubs. I joined two brave souls in the pool, and it was like a wave machine had been installed. We rocked and sloshed along with the ship – frankly it’s the most fun I’ve had in a pool since I was a kid. At points the water would swell up and lift you right up onto the edge of the pool if you were positioned just right – we all had to try it.

Lunch was Asian-themed, which apparently means “let’s stir-fry some spaghetti!” Disney Cruise Line has great food, don’t get me wrong, but when they miss the mark the really miss it. I often wonder why they insist on “making due” with the wrong ingredients when it would be so easy to stock the right ones. For example, the ship makes rice for sushi by taking plain old white rice and adding rice vinegar and HONEY to it. (After all, normal white rice isn’t sticky…) They make salmon nigiri with SMOKED SALMON. Their idea of a California roll involves mango… need I go on? However, the pot stickers were EXCELLENT, as was the sesame-crusted tilapia and the hot & sour soup.

Don “Ducky” Williams is on the ship, and has several sessions scheduled for the cruise. He essentially has two different presentations – the one where you watch him draw and the one where he watches you try to draw – and he can nearly fill the big Walt Disney theater every time. After that it was time to turn in our Random Selection Process forms for the limited edition merchandise.

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned the merchandise handling for this cruise – by this point in the Panama cruise we’d already had the sleepover – and that just goes to how well organized they are now. There are three special collections offered right now – an Atlantic crossing collection, a bunch of merchandise for the upcoming Pirates movie and a slew of souvenir items from the countries we will be visiting.

All of the open-edition Atlantic crossing merchandise is for sale in the shop, and unlike the Panama mess, there is a ton of it and it is being restocked constantly. The souvenir items are stocked in Treasure Ketch, and include vinegars and pasta and dishware and clothing and such. Frankly, I’d rather buy said items in the destination cities, but if you suddenly realize you forgot to buy a Ferrari t-shirt after you leave Italy, Disney has you covered.

The limited-edition Atlantic crossing items (including the pins) and the Pirates film items are all being offered through RSP. Disney Cruise Lines actually brought Kim from Walt Disney World’s event team onboard to handle the LE merchandise distribution, which means no lines, no slumber parties, and nobody snatching up the entire stack of logo t-shirts at once.

We turned in our forms, Linda grabbed some lunch and I went to put in a few laps around the ship. Due to the high winds and sea conditions deck 10 was closed, but unfortunately someone forgot to close the deck 10 exit from Palo. There was a sign in front of the exit asking that no sun loungers be brought into the area, but a crew member who happened to be standing right there said it was ok to go out if I was careful. I walked out the door and noticed pretty quickly that there was nobody else out there, but did not realize that the deck had been locked off until I tried to get back inside through the forward funnel and discovered the door was tied shut with a bungee cord. I finally found a way back inside, and notified a passing ship’s officer that they might want to lock the Palo door too. I did a mile around deck 4, and then came in to change for dinner.

Dinner was the “show” in Animator’s Palette, which is one of my favorite meals. We went to see the magician (MikeSuper.com) in the Walt Disney Theater. From there we went to see the ventriloquist do his adult act, but I left after he was done and once “80’s Night” began. (I didn’t much care for the music of the 80’s when I was living it, why would I want to subject myself to it again?)

Wednesday, May 16

Another hour lost. Another night of bad sleep – I was awakened by the sound of shouting down the hall, so I opened the door to see if I could catch my noisy neighbors in the act and tell them to SHUT THE HECK UP. Turns out it was ship’s security investigating some sort of alarm, and she was shouting UP to someone who was in a crawl space above the maintenance room down the hall. I don’t know what broke, but whatever it was involved the use of something that sounded a lot like a band saw or sander to fix.

Something That Sucks About Traveling Alone: Nobody to put sun block on your back, and nobody to scratch your back when it starts to peel...

Character breakfast was today, and I not only set my alarm but also called Mickey to wake me up. Nobody will admit to it, but I think Linda and/or Shari also called in an alarm for me, because Mickey called me THREE TIMES – 7:30, 7:35 and 7:40. (Great, now I’m the annoying neighbor with the phone that rings at odd hours)

The character breakfast is much changed – the characters don’t come to the tables and there isn’t a Disney photographer in sight. Instead they have three performance sets, and the kids are called up to dance with them. I’ve heard some grumbling about this, but I actually like it better. I prefer “dancing with the characters” to “posing with the characters” any day, and this really works well.

Walk a Mile with Rachel was immediately after breakfast, and Shari and I joined the group on the insanely windy deck. Shari walks much faster than I, so she waited until I completed my 4 laps (A mile is only three laps, but Cruise Director Rachel has decided to add a lap each day to compensate for the hour we’re losing), then Shari wanted to walk another one or two. I agreed to one, after which Shari went down to join Linda’s scrapbooking session and I went to observe 4 hours of International Nap Time. I was awakened at some point by a ship-wide announcement to the effect that the Mouse-2-0 deck party had been cancelled due to “inclement weather,” and that a new Navigator would be distributed with alternate activities. I went back to sleep.

When I finally woke up around 3 I went upstairs to grab a bite for lunch, chatted with some DISers for a while, sat with Linda & Robert through the cafeteria scene of High School Musical (playing on the Ariel View Screen on Deck 9) to try to spot her daughter who was a background dancer in that shot, and then went to the DVC meeting to get the particulars for Tony in case we want to add on points.

Dinner was the “new” “Farewell to the Caribbean” menu, but I have absolutely had that risotto dish before, so I think they re-purposed an existing menu. During dinner it was announced that, due to more inclement weather, they were moving the evening deck party to Thursday night. Apparently the ship was rocking and rolling while I slept, and people said we were experiencing 18’ waves. Ken told us that there are two wind and current patterns affecting the ship right now. It’s really not bothering me, but a lot of people are missing meals.

After dinner we crammed into the atrium for the “we’re ½ way there!” balloon drop, and then up to deck 9 for the DIS boards ½ way meet & greet. It was silly fun. The entertainment for the evening was “On the Nose,” the “game show” introduced during the 11-night cruise last year. Not only have they NOT worked out the kinks in the show, they also used the same set of questions for both performances (including 2 that were used in September). As we exited I made a comment to one of the entertainment people who had been supervising the show that they should mix up the questions, and he huffily informed me that this was the “first time in the world the show had ever been performed…”

Right… except for the two shows in September on the Wonder… and the 6pm show that very evening....

After that, I went back to my stateroom and read. I don’t know why I am so tired. I guess it’s the nightly loss of another hour (on top of the 3 I lost getting to Florida), but I just don’t feel like I’m “catching up” on my sleep as I intended.

Thursday, May 17

Guess what! It’s a sea day. OK, it’s not so bad as that, and the weather is much calmer today. I skipped the 9am DIS boards group photo but met the gang for pajama breakfast a little later, then went to the shore excursions desk to see what was still available. As much as I want to snorkel again, I don’t know that I want to do it the first day we get to dry land. I booked the Seville tour with Ken & Shari, and am still considering my other options.

At Noon they said we are officially as far from land as we are going to get. They continue to do the “Desperate Shipmates” mystery skits around the ship, but I think I’ve completely lost track of the plot line. There was Yet Another DVC reception at 4, and it’s not so much that I care about the presentations as that I’m trying to get the straight scoop on what exactly the offers are so I can decide if it’s better to add points now, add them on the member cruise or have our land-based representative add them.

I had previously tried to get tickets to the Tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter, but Guest Relations told me they were sold out. I stopped by on my way to the DVC reception just to get photos for the guide, and was invited to sit – seems they had plenty of room. I ran down to the DVC thing to grab Linda, but she was late. Shari and Ken came in, so Shari and I went for tea while Ken stayed for the DVC thing. Tea is a very short little event, so we even made it back in time to collect our DVC pins.

After DVC I claimed my merchandise from the RSP, and headed up to change for dinner. Linda says jeans are not appropriate at dinner – this from a woman who champions the pajama breakfast?

Dinner was a riot – I think the sea days may be getting to us. This was a new menu for the Magic, with new dishes. A cheese tray was tested on a prior cruise and was well received, so they added it to this new menu. Robert and I have been sitting together so we could split some dishes (which really meant Robert orders three, I order one, and I have bites of his.) Dessert, however, was a completely different matter. I could not decide between three of the desserts, so Shari said she would split them with me. Shari’s version of “splitting” seems to mean that she’ll take one bite and send the rest down to me. In the end we all wound up passing most of the desserts around the table, and spent more time laughing than eating.

Tonight’s show was “The Art of the Story,” previously shown on the Wonder during the 11-night cruise. It’s still a clip show, but cute enough. I’m having way more fun watching the “ASL Performers,” who are a pair of interpreters that act out the show instead of merely translating the words. They are simply incredible.

After the show Shari and I walked a mile around the ship, and then went up to join the deck party. Deck party is apparently Disney-speak for “buy some drinks and dance a while until we feed you again,” but it’s really fun for those who are inclined to dance in public. Speaking of which, poor Robert was dragged on stage during one of the routines – I keep threatening that video will be on YouTube soon enough. ;o)

After dancing a while I decided to go back to my cabin to enjoy a full night of sleep – no lost hour tonight, nowhere to be at 8am.

Friday, May 18

So much for sleep – I think I had too much caffeine at the deck party last night, and tossed and turned until I fell into a light sleep… just in time for my noisy neighbors to finally come home and get settled.

Linda woke me up at 10:20 to make sure I was still coming to Palo brunch – at 10:30. Since I had not been able to make any Palo reservations for myself, Linda added me to a group reservation she had made, and I completely forgot to set an alarm. I hopped on the elevator (2nd time this cruise – so much for that resolution!), and made it just as Ken and Shari arrived. Brunch was wonderful as always, and it was so neat to see Anne Marie again. Anne Marie was our Palo server on a previous cruise, and her husband works in the main dining room. He and Tony share the same birthday, which we celebrated on that cruise. We then met Anne Marie again during the Panama cruise.

After Palo we ran to catch the rescheduled Mouse20 deck party, which I somehow missed during the 11-night cruise. We were all of course stuffed from brunch, but boy did that BBQ smell wonderful.

Today was laundry day, and I spent time working on my DCL guide in between loads. Then I went for a swim, completely forgetting to spray on some sun block. I’m going to pay for that, I can already tell.

Dinner was pirates themed, to coincide with the Pirates IN the Caribbean deck party (I have to wonder why they didn’t scheduled this before the “Farewell to the Caribbean” dinner…) This is not my favorite menu, but it made it really simple for me to skip courses and save room for the buffet that follows the deck party.

Tonight’s presentation in the Walt Disney Theater was Meet the Robinsons, and since I’ve already seen it I came back to my room and spent an hour online catching up on e-mail and IMing with my husband, then it was time for the deck party.

Windy does not even begin to describe the conditions on deck, and I was shocked that deck 10 wasn’t closed. I’m even more shocked that the pyro techs were able to pull off the fireworks show, but they did, and everyone was thrilled.

A little more dancing, then the crew quickly transformed the pool area into an outdoor theater, placing lounge chairs all around so people could grab a seat and watch Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. It was too cold, too windy and too late for me, but every chair was full. We enjoyed our postponed dessert (strawberry crepes), and I turned in.

Another hour lost tonight – only one more to go in this trip.

Saturday, May 19

I’ve figured out what my neighbors are doing at night that is so loud – they are calling home. I don’t know where “home” is, but I can hear (if not understand) the entire conversation from my bed. At 2am.

I think I’m having an allergic reaction to something I ate. I woke up at 7am with awful stomach cramps. Not a good way to start the morning. I finally began to feel better, and went back to bed. I did call the ship’s health services office as instructed, but they were not yet open for the morning and I didn’t feel this was a medical emergency.

Linda called at some point to invite me for breakfast, but I took a rain check and went back to sleep. The Noon announcements woke me up, so I took a shower and met Linda and Robert for lunch. Nothing looked good, so I drank some ginger ale while they ate.

My plan on this last sea day was to document all of the family activities the ship offers on board, so my camera and I have gone to watch the veggie car races, the boat building competition, the golf contest, the rum tasting, trivia challenges and more. The ship is really rocking today (though I don’t believe that is the source of my sickness), so much so that the Mickey and Goofy pools have been closed. I have photos of the waves cresting out of the Goofy pool – it’s quite insane.

We had an “Are We There Yet?” party this afternoon, in which passengers participated in what was said to be an ages old ritual of kissing an Atlantic-caught fish while being doused with cold Atlantic water. Ick, and ick, but I had to attend and participate of course. Unfortunately the fish was dripping fluids and my shirt was stained – I guess I’m not done with laundry yet.


Dinner was the Prince and Princess menu in honor of the musical Twice Charmed. I must really be sick – nothing looked good. I had a few spoons of soup and a baked chicken breast with some plain rice. Carolyn and Alex did not come down for dinner either, and Shari spent most of the day in bed. What a healthy bunch we are.

I have not seen Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer? on any cruise we’ve taken, so I had to make a point of catching both shows. Linda was picked during the second show and brought me up on stage with her to provide moral support. We missed a question that I’ve since been instructed to Google the answer to because Linda and Kelly think the show answer is wrong. Twice Charmed was cute (though the Franco we had on the Panama cruise was much better). We all decided to turn in early so we could wake up to watch the ship sail into harbor. I have nothing planned for tomorrow and I don’t really know that I even want to get off the ship. It’s a Sunday, which means everything is going to be closed, and apparently it’s a 25-minute walk from the ship to the end of the pier.

Sunday, May 20

Mickey overslept today or something, but nobody on the ship got a Mickey wake up call this morning. Of course I didn’t know that, so when Linda called to wake me up, I hung up on her, thinking it was the Mickey alarm and that I still had a few moments to sleep before Linda was going to call…

When I finally DID wake up, Linda and Robert already were off the ship with Ken and Shari on their excursion, and I had less than an hour to get breakfast before the closed the restaurants. I tossed on some clothes, went to deck 9, and saw LAND for the first time in almost a week.

I have not been one of the people who have glued themselves to the rail all week looking for some sign of something other than Atlantic water out there. On the two times in the past 6 days that another ship was sighted in the distance, you could feel the Magic list to starboard as everyone on deck ran to the rail for a peek. I’ve never been one who needed to watch the ship pull into port. So yeah, it was land, but I wasn’t as starved for the sight of it as some people on the ship. (There were actual, photographed instances of people kissing the pier after disembarking this morning)

I got some breakfast (my appetite is still off) and wandered the ship for a while trying to decide if I really wanted to go into town or not. There was a dress rehearsal of a new deck party going on, so I stopped to watch that for a while, then I just decided to get my act into gear and go into town. I stopped at my stateroom to grab my passport and purse, went by guest relations to exchange some US money for Euros, and then made my way off the ship.

The first thing I noticed was a queue of taxis, and I expected to be accosted by the drivers as I walked past, but to my complete amazement they either nodded politely as I walked by, or continued talking to the driver next to them. It wasn’t that they were ignoring me, as much as they were waiting to be approached. As I continued down the pier (apparently it’s only a 25-minute walk if you are the last ship on the pier; the Disney Magic was given the closest berth) towards town, there were several people selling items from tables along the sidewalk, but nobody was “barking” to the crowd. Even the two obvious beggars I saw on the streets of the city kept to themselves – one wore a sign and the other carried a jar for donations, but they did not approach anyone. I don’t know if the city is always this way or if there was an extra-special police presence, but it was really nice and I felt safe and comfortable walking around.

In walked about 9 miles around the city (and got the blisters to prove it), stopping at a giant flea market, a fresh market and a beautiful park with a clock flower bed and a small train ride. The flea market was so strange – this was like a bad garage sale writ large. The sidewalks leading to the main market were jammed with sellers who had apparently just placed down a tarp and put their unwanted household items on display. I saw tons of old records and video games, piles of unsorted clothing and mismatched shoes, and more than one space where a half-used ballpoint pen was among the items for sale. The fresh market was nifty – a two-level complex, with an assortment of butchers, bakers, cheese shops, florists, fruit and vegetable stalls around a central courtyard that contained a kids play area. The lower level housed something akin to a Walgreens. This entire market was one of the only areas open on Sunday.

I walked through pretty residential areas and closed commercial centers, saw some of the city’s abundant public art installations and ventured down to get photos of the ship from the other side of the port area. I stopped at a few pharmacies to try to locate a specific lotion Tony’s mom has asked for – all three carried the line, but were out of that particular product. As I walked around the city I kept my eyes peeled for “the American embassy” (a.k.a. “McDonalds”) so I could get souvenirs for some friends. Once I made it back to a large plaza directly across from the pier I found one and ordered a Happy Meal. (I never did find a Starbucks) Spent some time talking with a few other people from the ship about how we were perpetuating the worst of the “Ugly American” stereotypes, just as a busload of tourists from a Japanese tour group invaded the restaurant. Hmmm…

After lunch I walked back to the ship (passed Annie-Marie on the way) and went to look for Linda & Crew, who, according to Scott and Lynn had just returned from their excursion.

I found them up on deck 9, and after they finished lunch we went for a swim. I then intended to go off the ship and call Tony, but when I got back to my stateroom I discovered that my key card was missing. I stood in the hall until I remembered that I had tucked my key card into my pant pocket when I went through the metal detector (since I’d had to put my lanyard through the X ray), and had left the card in my jeans in my stateroom when I went swimming. I had to drip down to guest services to get a one-time use card, and by the time I made it back to my room I wasn’t going to have enough time to leave the ship, get to a phone and make it back for dinner. I logged on and sent a message to Tony through his Blackberry, and we agreed to meet online in a few minutes. I spent that time composing an e-mail to Mark to include in his Park Update and sent some photos to Tony and to Mark showing the ship in Tenerife. Got to chat with Tony online for about 30 minutes (my how quickly that internet package is ticking down), then went to join the group for dinner.

Michael, Scott and Gary were not at dinner when I arrived, which is not entirely unusual for them – they are often late, and/or have dinner at Palo. But when they hadn’t arrived by the time the entrees were served we were getting worried. We knew they had booked a private jeep tour of Tenerife, and had previously joked with them about missing the ship if their tour ran long. Around 7:20 a ship’s officer came to the table to ask if we had heard from them, and at this point we were sure that they would miss the ship. Being such supportive, concerned friends we immediately began to divvy up their assets – Ken & Shari and I vying for Michael’s larger stateroom, with the balance of his wine package being used as a bargaining chip. The guys breezed in 5 minutes later – turns out they were the LAST passengers to board the ship with just minutes to spare – and we departed on time with them safely on board.

Tonight’s entertainment was courtesy of Boyz II Men, who are making their encore performance on the Disney Magic. I am not a fan of their music – I can tolerate it, which is more than I can say for more R&B artists, but I won’t go out of my way to listen to it. In fact, I skipped their concert on the Panama Canal cruise in 2005. As they took the stage, two of the Boyz wearing denim jeans with what can be described only as a rhinestone-studded skull codpiece design on the front, I was wondering what on earth Disney was doing bringing them on the ship. Obviously ½ of the audience had NO idea what they were in store for, but attended because it was the thing to do. I felt really badly for the older couple in the dead center a few rows from the stage, who found themselves with an excellent view of a concert they never wanted to be at, with no way to discretely leave their seats.

Overall the concert wasn’t bad – the Boyz were personable and cracked jokes about how the motion of the ship was throwing off their choreography – and the songs they picked were generally appropriate to the audience. They sang a song about mothers and went into the audience to serenade a few moms and their kids. One of the singers (I have to be forgiven for not knowing their names, much less how to tell them apart) had a cute interaction with a young boy in the audience – the kid’s thumb went in his mouth as soon as the singer sat down next to the mom, so the singer gently tried to tug the thumb loose. Of course, the kid resisted, and then it became a game, with the kid smiling so hard the thumb was in danger of popping out all on its own. All this was in the middle of a song, and the entire encounter happened without anyone skipping a beat.

Apart from the clothing, my only concern about the show was the decision to perform the “rose” song (I'll Make Love To You), which had the ladies swooning and rushing the stage to claim a rose from the Boyz while I sat in my seat and cringed at the lyrics “Throw your clothes on the floor / I'm gonna take my clothes off too ” I guess it’s hard to make the Boyz completely Disney-friendly, which again presents the question, “why were they on a Disney ship?” (At least they weren’t singing “Close the door,” and thank goodness it wasn’t Bob Saget again…)

We killed a little time after the concert, and then went to 70’s night to see the new skit. It’s much improved, with more audience participation and no more tedious “Gloria Gaynor / John Travolta look alike contest” to halt the dancing for an hour. The Boyz came into Rockin’ Bar D for a bit during 70’s night, and while they did not take to the dance floor, they did participate in the YMCA from the back of the room. The group in the bar was pretty much oblivious to them – a few people came by to shake their hands, but there seemed to be an unspoken agreement (that really had nothing to do with the two bodyguards and the host of Disney suits nearby) to just let them do their own thing.

We lose another hour tonight, but that’s the last time I’ll need to reset my clock until I return to the States. Maybe there’s a Starbucks in Cadiz. Noticed that the wireless crew is STILL ON THE SHIP today – they were supposed to be able to go home, but no such luck. I don’t know what the problem is - the wireless has worked flawlessly in my stateroom during the entire cruise, and I haven’t heard anyone complain that theirs isn’t working – so I hope they aren’t going to be stuck too much longer.

Monday, May 21

I love sea days. I could easily do two weeks at sea. You get to sleep until Captain Tom wakes you up with the Noon announcement, there’s nowhere you need to be… this is my idea of a pleasure cruise. To all the people who ask me “what on earth can possibly keep you busy during a sea day?” I submit the following:

Bingo
Swimming
Bridge games
Reading
Walking / jogging on deck four
Cooking seminar
Art auction
Artist signing
Yahtzee tournament
Trivia challenge
Karaoke
Dance party
Toad Races (paper toads, of course)
Massage
Ship tour
Hot tubs
Stage shows
Wine tasting

Seriously, if you find yourself bored on a sea day, you’re just not trying.

The ship is really rocking today – the “Report from the Bridge” says we have a “force 7” wind coming straight at our bow, and that we’re experiencing “very rough” seas with 13’ – 20’ waves. It’s not bothering me at all, though I can feel it slightly in my hips and along the posture muscles that have been put to unusual use the past few days.

I’m watching the course map, and it’s really somewhat sad to see how close to the end of the cruise I am. I know I have four full days left, including another sea day, but it feels like I should be packing already. Friends tell me that the 11-night cruise that follows this is not yet sold out, and I could probably stay on to do the back-to-back cruise with them if I wanted. I want, but I know I just can not – I have a husband who is missing me and a trip planned for next weekend with him. It’s just hard to believe a two-week cruise is so short.

So, back to Captain Tom. Linda called right after he woke me up, and we agreed to meet for lunch in a few minutes. We looked over the menus at the two options open to us, and decided to eat at Lumiere’s. I really LIKED the server team we had for lunch, and we encountered Yet Another instance where the item as described on the menu looks nothing like the item that arrives at your table. How a “summer berry crisp” can become a cheesecake is beyond me, but so it goes. Linda decided to go to the Don “Ducky” Williams art auction, so Robert and I killed some time waiting for the ship tour to begin. Odd how Americans “kill” or “waste” or “spend” time, while Europeans “pass” or “take” time.

The ship tour was interesting – not much I didn’t already know, though it was nice to have confirmation of the location of the weld seam where the two halves of the Magic were joined together during construction. We got to talking about the new ships being built in Germany, and suddenly I’m in charge of organizing a trip there in 2009 to tour the factory where the two new ships are being constructed.

After the tour we met the group for BINGO (none of us won, but then again I would have needed to buy a ticket to even have a chance), then we sat down to dinner. We knew Ken and Shari had Palo reservations tonight, but we didn’t know why Alex and Caroline were missing. Caroline has been keeping to her room a lot lately, and we’ve been worried about her. When the “three musketeers” arrived, they said that Alex & Caroline also had Palo reservations, so we wound up inviting Andy and Charlene to join us. They have been sitting alone at their own table, so we introduced the Panama Canal cruise tradition of table-hopping.

Tonight was the crew talent show, which is one of those things that you just need to see. It’s campy but it is fun, and after 10 days you want to de-program with something that isn’t scripted to the second. Well, so much for that – they’ve added production effects and scripting and lighting and such to the show, but it was still a total blast. The crew performances were laced with “Dancing with the Officers” segments, where guests and ship’s staff paired up to perform, a la “dancing with the stars.” These guests had been chosen several days ago, and were under strict orders to keep their roles a secret from their fellow passengers. And thus we learned where Caroline has really been all this time – she was partnered with foods manager Joseph in the first set, a disco routine. The show concluded with Cruise Director Rachel and Don “Ducky” Williams in a samba number that brought the crowd to their feet.

Tonight is the debut of the new “Decades Dance Party,” (I keep hearing them say “Deck 8 Dance Party,” which is confusing as deck 8 has nowhere to dance), but I’m turning in early. We arrive in Cadiz at 8:00 am, which is when our shore excursion begins. I don’t DO 8 am, so I want to get as much rest as possible. And just in case Mickey decides he doesn’t need to wake me up tomorrow, I have the other two alarms set as a backup.

Tuesday, May 22

There are cities that, having seen them once, I need never return to. Most anything in Mexico fits that description. There are cities that I would enjoy having more time to explore, like London and Paris. And there are cities that I could live in, if just for a few months or a year. Cadiz joins Brussels and Tokyo in that later category. The city is charming, in the European sense of the word. Twist cobblestone-paved streets. Adorable apartments with flower-filled window boxes. Lots of cute little shops and restaurants. I don’t know what I’d do here, but I’d have fun trying to find out.

I just returned from a really long, active day exploring both Seville and Cadiz. Still groggy from another poor night of sleep (this time it was the crying child in the cabin behind mine, who I could hear through the wall behind the bed), I joined our group after a hasty breakfast to set out on our tour of Seville. I booked this tour so I could spend some time with friends, and so I wouldn’t be wandering alone around a big foreign city. We boarded our busses, and then had a fascinating drive through… pretty much a lot of farmland, before reaching Seville proper. I read Shari’s Reader’s Digest cover-to-cover, she worked on a puzzle book, Ken slept.

We reached Seville and the bus dropped us off in a plaza – the first thing I saw once I got off the bus was a Starbucks. Yeah! From there we followed our tour leader to the Alcazar place, where we were whisked through the group tour line and into the palace. Of course, there were four other Disney Cruise Line tour groups there at the same time, so our tour of the palace was more of a dance, as the five groups traded position around the property.

The palace is amazing, a blend of Muslim and Christian architecture and imagery. The additions and renovations to the grounds over the years show the history of the city much like the rings of a tree. I could have wished for a few more hours just in the gardens, but we had a schedule to keep and we were ushered out into a small square. From there we walked through the old Jewish section of the city and to a bodega where we were given some time to stop and have a drink if we wished, and more importantly to use the restrooms.

Another short walk and we came to the Cathedral Seville, one of the three largest in the world. Again, I could have spent hours and hours inside, and wished that I had lugged along my Nikon D-100 camera with the wide-angle lens and better low-light capabilities, instead of my pocket Casio. Ken and Shari really wanted to go up into the tower, but were told that we didn’t have enough time to do both. Ken decided to skip the tour and head for the tower; after extracting a promise that I would share my photos with her, Shari followed him.

According to the visitor’s guide, 90 minutes are needed for the full tour of the cathedral; 45 minutes is suggested for the “highlights” tour. We were there for just 30. I have scores of photos to share with Shari, but I can’t tell her what most of it is because I snapped photos as we rushed by.

We left the cathedral and headed for our scheduled lunch at a restaurant in the city. The tour guide said we would have 90 minutes for lunch, which seemed excessive, and we hoped that we might be able to eat quickly and gain some free time. We forgot that we were in Spain, land of the 4-hour lunch break, a.k.a. siesta. Lunch was a 9-course meal, served family style. As soon as we decided that dessert didn’t look all that appealing, Shari and I made a break for Starbucks we had passed on the walk from the cathedral. I had my first Frappachino of this trip and hit the ATM on the way back. We later learned that our tour guide was extremely concerned when she found out what we had done, but we were back – with cash and coffee - long before the group was ready to go anywhere.

We walked a few more blocks through some just lovely neighborhoods, and then boarded our bus for what was billed as a “panoramic tour” of the city, but was really “whatever we can show you on the way back to the highway.” Had I known what this tour would be, I think I would have stuck with the “Seville on your own” tour, which promised up to five hours of free time in the city. It was nice to be able to bypass the huge line into the palace, but I would easily have traded the 40-minute drink stop and the 90-minute lunch for more time to see what I really wanted to see.

Once we returned to the ship a smaller group devised a plan that would allow us to get something to eat, catch the early Jim Brickman performance, and still be able to leave the ship to spend some time in Cadiz. Robert, Linda and I ran to our 6:00 dinner seating, ordered beverages and appetizers and wolfed them down. (We SHOULD have gone to Topsiders – this is exactly what that restaurant’s dinner service was designed for!) Then we hustled to theater for the 6:30 performance.

The concert was exactly what I hoped for and better, since there were fewer than 100 people in the theater. It was a great show – I enjoyed hearing him talk about his music, and just listening to the music itself. I had no idea that he had started out working for Henson, or that he had a career writing ad jingles before he came into his current stature. I only wish more people had been able to catch the concert, but I don’t know that people really know who he is until you play one of his songs for them. His music may be on everyone’s lips, but his name gets somewhat lost in the shuffle.

Once the concert was over we headed upstairs to claim Andy and Char, and then made our way off the ship and into town. Sunset is so late here, and we had hours until “All Aboard” at 10:30. We didn’t really have a plan – just wander until something caught our attention. I had a mission to hit as many pharmacies as I could to find the Ducray hand lotion for Tony’s mom and dental sticks for Tony’s grandmother. I did manage to find three bottles of Ducray among the 6 stores I tried, but none of the sticks. (Seriously, what is with the whole “this is the only tube we have” routine? And why did the prices vary so much?) Found lots of Smart cars and took photos of them, found a gelato place and we each bought cones. Robert and I found a fresh popcorn vending machine – the machine air-popped the popcorn fresh for you once you dropped in your coins – and of course I HAD to try it. We all took entirely too many photos – what did we ever do before digital?

We headed back to the ship, and I said goodbye to the gang so I could stop and call home from the nearby bank of pay phones. Reached Tony, but he was in a meeting and couldn’t talk – could I call back in 10 minutes? I mis-read my watch and thought I had to be on the ship within 10 minutes, so I said I’d try to reach him the next day. Then I realized my mistake and decided to wait to call him back. I called AdrienneK, but she wasn’t home. I called my mom and then the store just to check in. I was going to try to call Tony again, but by this time the line of people waiting to use the phones was 10-deep, and I was taking my life into my own hands if I placed another call.

Once I got back on the ship I met Robert and Linda for a late-night dessert, then we headed up to watch the ship leave the port. Somewhere on YouTube are videos of people who have missed their ship running down the pier in a futile effort to catch it, and Linda is not going to be happy until she witnesses something like this for herself.

If you miss the ship, here’s what usually happens. About 15 minutes before All Aboard, they start checking up on the people who are marked as still being off the ship. This has happened to me several times – something happened when I got back on board, and the computer did not properly log my return. So they call your stateroom to see if they can find you. Then they call the rooms of anyone who is linked to your reservation to see if they have seen you on the ship. If that doesn’t work, they check to see if you are at your assigned dinner table. If they have not yet been able to locate you, they make a ship-wide announcement for you to contact guest services immediately. Your room steward is instructed to make sure you are not actually in your cabin, asleep or in the shower. They check the spa and Palo to make sure you don’t have reservations there. They make another announcement. And another. And then the ship leaves. If you aren’t on it, it’s then your responsibility to get yourself to the next port to meet the ship, and good luck doing that if you left your passport in your stateroom…

There were still three people off the ship as the scheduled departure time drew near, and Linda headed to deck 4 to watch for their (hopefully) dramatic arrival. A taxi pulled up shortly after we got to the rail, and two of the missing passengers climbed out. In response to the cheers and jeers from the assembled crowd, which by this point lined the deck 4 rails, the wife announced that the “food and wine were just too good…” She seemed genuinely shocked to learn that the officers had been actively searching for her, and rushed inside the ship. Her husband followed at a more leisurely pace. Still no sign of the 3rd passenger, and we listened as the second and third announcements were made. We watched as Jim Brickman left the ship, climbing into the taxi that was to take him to the airport. Then another announcement was made, this time asking the wife of the missing passenger to call in. They made one final announcement, looking for the wife and/or the passenger, and finally the deck crew disassembled the gangway and the ship slowly pulled away from the dock. A few cars drove around the area as we left, but none seemed to contain the missing passenger(s). (By this time we weren’t sure if the wife was actually missing too. It’s possible the wife was also off the ship.)

Tomorrow we arrive in Gibraltar, our last stop before Barcelona. Tomorrow is another full day – a new city, a brand-new stage show, a brand-new deck party. I did not book any excursions for tomorrow, which is fine – Char and Andy invited me to join them in a walking tour of the city. I think Alex and Caroline may have pulled strings to get the group a table at Palo for dinner, which will be nice. I can’t believe I only have three days left before I have to leave the ship.

Wednesday, May 23

I woke up and went to deck 9 to watch the ship sail into Gibraltar. The sun was just coming up, so I can now claim to have been awake before dawn at least once on this trip. I didn’t book an excursion today, which turned out to be a good thing, as Char and Andy invited me to join them on a crawl around the rock. I had breakfast with the group, plus Scott & Lynn, then went to my room. Robert called to see if I wanted to go off the ship with him and Linda, but I knew I was meeting Char & Andy and I also wanted a little more sleep, so I declined.

Andy called and we met at the gangway. Andy has a broken (but healing) foot, so we decided to hop a cab to the base of the tram way. We told the driver that was where we wanted to go. He acknowledged our request. He SPOKE ENGLISH. So we were a bit surprised to be let off at the market center. Well… seems the cabs don’t GO to the base of the tramway directly – you take one cab to the market center, walk through the market and down lots of shop-lined streets, then to the tramway stop. So we’re walking and walking and walking, and we know where we’re trying to get because Andy has a map of the city, and we finally spot a sign to the gardens where the tram boards. We head up the street, and are hailed by a cab driver who was at the base of the hill. He tells us that some “teenagers” turned the street signs the wrong direction, and that we really wanted to go a different route. He then proceeds to explain to us that the tram ride is $27 Euro, would drop us off at the top of the rock, and that to get to either the siege tunnels or St. Michael’s cave we need to walk downhill quite a bit, down a road with no sidewalks, then return to the top of the hill and repeat the same walk on the other side. Plus, admission to the venues is not included. OR, for just $30 Euro, one of his drivers could take us to all of the stops, no scary gondola of death, no 3-mile uphill walk. The guy had Andy as soon as he said we could avoid the scary gondola of death, so in we climbed. I think we could have negotiated a better deal if we had tried, and the tour was essentially the same as the $49 rock tour Disney offered, but it was a good way to see the city. (And somehow I have a feeling that those “teenagers” only cause mischief when the cruise ships are in port…)

After our tour we wandered to the graveyard and then decided to have lunch. We settled on, well, the first pub we came across, and had a buffet lunch of traditional English pub foods – ground meat in brown sauce, chicken in brown sauce, pork in brown sauce, sausage-of-indeterminate-origin in brown sauce and fish & chips. Yum-o! They also had mushy peas. I passed on those – David might like them, but he’s just strange.

It seemed that Andy & Char wanted some “couple” time, so I went back to do some shopping. I stopped at a few more places looking for dental sticks for Grandma Betsy and Ducray for his mom – this time I found the sticks but no lotion. I went back to a children’s store we had passed earlier and bought some cute gifts for a friend.

Gibraltar still uses the pound sterling as currency, and while they will accept Euros in most places, the exchange rate is not fixed and not at all consistent. For example, our cab driver said the fare was 2. I asked, Euro or American, and he said “whichever.” So I gave him $2 American, which is about 1.40 Euro. However, a pub I passed was asking 2.50 Sterling for a cup of coffee, or 5 Euro. Blech. I had all of the above – dollars, the Euros I had taken from the ATM the prior day, and the few Sterling I had exchanged that morning in port, and it is entirely too confusing. Now I know why people who live in Europe have separate wallets for their currency and their credit cards – you might need two or three different sets of currency, depending on where you are going! (And I haven’t the foggiest notion what the currency in Africa is, but given the proximity of Gibraltar to Africa I imagine they have to deal with it quite a lot too.) After my shopping I was sick of dealing with three sets of coins, so I found a park bench and sat for a while so I could sort them and put away the US coins I won’t need for a while. The Euro coins went into my wallet and the Sterling “pocket lint” (as the bar maid called it) went into a pocket.

I walked around a bit more – I was feeling peckish, but everything that looked interesting (curry? Pasties? Tandori?) was way more than a snack, so I just decided to head back for the ship. LONG walk, that – I had done about 7 miles by the time I got back to my room. I realized that I actually did need to do laundry one more time, so I gathered my things and went to look for an open washer. I was fortunate to get one with only a 30-minute wait, and then came back to check my e-mail and try to contact Tony. I had tried to call from Gibraltar, but the GBB (otherwise known as the Gibraltar Bureau of Blocking phone calls) that operates the local phone service has an effective monopoly. I could not use my international access number to dial into MCI, and the only alternative was to buy a Gibraltarian phone card – at nearly $1 per minute – to call home. I decided to skip the call and rely on AIM instead.

Went down to the laundry to move my clothes into a dryer, and discovered that someone had already done that for me. Ick. I mean, thank you, but ick. Leave my underwear alone. Ick.

I have no idea what we’re doing for dinner – Alex was trying to get Palo ressies for us, but then we realized that tonight is the new stage show and the new deck party. I’m probably going to eat at Topsiders tonight so I can see the show twice.

They’ve started to ease us into accepting that we need to go home soon. We received our tip envelopes tonight, and tomorrow’s schedule includes a disembarkation lecture. You know, I’m finally relaxed and rested enough – you can’t make me leave now! Of course, I also have to go “back to work” tonight to cover the new stage show and the new deck party.

Saturday, May 26th

Yep. I’ve jumped ahead quite a lot. After I went “back to work,” the days flew so fast I didn’t have the time – or energy once I finally got back to my room – to sit and type each night.

So, picking up on Wednesday: I skipped dinner so I could see both showings of the new stage show, once to get a sense of script and blocking and to take wide-angle shots, the second (once I knew what I was looking at) so I could take tight shots and try to gauge crowd reaction. Between the two shows I went back to our dining room to chat with our table, and Tomas insisted on bringing me a quick dinner. I ate and ran, because I needed to dump my camera’s disc before the 2nd show (review below). After the 2nd show I had to run and dump the discs again before the deck party show. I felt that I should process my photos of the two new entertainment options and send them to Mark, so I reluctantly skipped the party portion of the deck party so I could go work on them. Of course I didn’t log on to the computer until around midnight, once I was done with the photos, and so didn’t see my e-mail until then. Someone gave me a heads up about the event planned for our arrival to Barcelona Thursday night, and with that we decided to hold the coverage until next week. I talked with Tony for a while, and went to bed. The next day I learned that the midnight dessert party had been Wednesday night, and I missed it. DARN. It’s not so much that I care about the desserts, but that I missed having the time with my friends. DARN.

I had a towel Angel that night – I’ve never seen one. My stateroom host was quite pleased with himself, and left it flying above the bed for the rest of my cruise.

Thursday was a “sea” day, the last of our cruise, and finally the sun came out and made it the type of sea day that everyone had been craving all along. The adult pool area, usually populated only with a handful of those diehards who would sunbathe in the rain, was suddenly full to overflowing. The crew set up and served a BBQ on deck 9, and it felt a little like a Panama reunion. I sat on deck with Linda & Robert and we chatted with everyone who came by – at one point we had about 12 people around a table and we were dealing in chocolate chip cookies and shrimp cocktail. The activities staff pulled out every pool game then had been unable to do the whole week, and it was a party.

It was over all too soon, and we needed to head up to Palo for our afternoon tea. Tea is a delightful experience, although the guys tend to get bored, and it was rather fun to watch Shari blow her diet for the afternoon. Linda ran off to final BINGO! and we went to do some last-minute shopping. The ship’s stores are unable to open while the ship is in port, so we were afraid that they would not be allowed to have any hours once we arrived Friday morning. It turns out that they had been given an exemption for one night, and would be able to open for just a few hours on Friday, but there was no way I wanted to deal with the mob scene that was certain to ensue. I bought a gift for Tony and a few postcards, but nothing else really caught my eye. I went to check on Linda in the final BINGO! game, and she came really close – she missed the nearly $5k jackpot by one number.

Everyone went to their staterooms to get ready for dinner, and I was about to do the same until I heard commotion in the Walt Disney Theater. The kid’s “graduation” ceremony had just started, so I got to watch that. I’ve never seen it – it is super cute! THEN it was time for dinner. We knew that we would be coming into Barcelona during dinner, and Linda was annoyed that we were in a dining room without a decent window – she kept popping up to see if we were there yet.

Thursday was another “run run run” night, because we new there would be fireworks at 10:00. We went to Disney Dreams, and OH my heck – they have done such a good job making tweaks to that show, I can’t believe it. New laser effects, new sets, new stunt effects, new backdrops – it’s incredible. As soon as the show ended we FLEW up the steps to deck 10 for the 9:45 media shoot, and then waited for the 10:25 arrival show. That was one of those magical nights – just hanging around the rail with a group of friends. (Note – I’ve now seen the publicity photo that ran in the el Periodico newspaper – I got the EXACT same shot from the ship, instead of from above it.)

I went back to the room to dump those photos, and then went to meet everyone at 11 for the ventriloquist act, but nobody showed up. I knew at least ½ of them were planning to go to the midnight screening of Pirates, so around 11:45 I decided to go see if that was where they had vanished to. Sure enough, when I walked into the theater to get crowd photos, I found Linda, Robert and the three guys had claimed a row. They urged me to sit with them – I said I had no intention of sticking around for the whole thing, but once the movie started I could not easily extract myself from the theater and so I found myself walking out of the theater at 3:00 am. Oh, and I had a 9:00 am meeting at the Vista Spa Friday morning. Yawn.

I woke up on time Friday morning, and headed for my appointment at the spa. I got most of the photos I needed, though I did not get to see the villas because they were closed for a deep cleaning. I went to get breakfast, and saw Tom McAlpin was on deck and chatting with a group of managers. At breakfast someone asked me if I planned to see the Gaudi cathedral – I thought she was mispronouncing a word and so I said “it’s Europe, all of the cathedrals are gaudy…” Ooops!

The ship offered a complimentary shuttle from the port to the nearby transportation hub, so I hopped onboard. There is a giant street – Las Ramblas – that serves as a major shopping mall / street festival through the downtown area. There is little you can’t find for sale there; from hamsters to squirrels, fresh flowers to strawberries that looked to be on steroids, and a huge assortment of street performers. New York, eat your heart out. After about 2 miles of this I came to a major public area, which appeared to be the hub for the “on / off” tour busses. I bought a ticket and spent the next four hours seeing the sights of Barcelona, before returning to the ship for lunch and to start the dreaded packing process. (I managed to sneak in a trip to the Seattle embassy on the way…)

Packing. Oh, good grief, how I hate packing. Hate. Capital H. Tony usually does the going-home packing. I can do it, but I’m not quite as efficient at it as he. (Of course, I also tend to use about 200 fewer zip-top bags, so maybe there is something to be said about my method….) So I did get everything packed, but not as well as I would have liked. I need a laptop sleeve, so I don’t need to bring the whole bag. I’m not saving any space doing it this way – I essentially have a roll-on suitcase serving as a laptop case.

A group from the DIS boards who boarded the ship Saturday for the 1st 11-night cruise had decided to meet at the Magic Fountain in Barcelona on Friday night for a pre-cruise dinner, and I really want to go with Ken & Shari to join them. But that would require skipping dinner, and Linda had made “special arrangements” for dessert. Linda was already peeved when she found out Ken and Shari would skip dinner – I was NOT going to add to that. The compromise was that I would pack so that by the time I left for dinner everything that was being sent ahead would be ready to go, leaving just my hand luggage. That way we could grab a cab after dinner and make it to the fountain for the show that was supposedly at 8:30. It was close, but I got myself packed in under an hour.

Our entrees were accompanied by an extra appetizer of paella, courtesy of a special request by Scott. Our special desserts were chocolate-covered strawberries and chocolate soufflé cake from Palo. Yummy!

Dinner ran long (tip night is always like that), and by the time we were ready to go to the fountains it was already 8:20. We also found out that there had been no cabs for 45 minutes. We were about ready to hop the Disney shuttle when a cab finally arrived, and we made it to the fountains around 8:40… only to discover that the fountain show didn’t actually happen until 9:30. We found Ken and Shari and Alex & Caroline and hung out with them until around 9:15, and which point they decided that they were ready to go back – before the show! I must have looked crestfallen, because they quickly agreed to stick around for the show. We had really wanted to get back to the ship in time to watch the “Upon the Sea” skit at pub night; Linda said it was at 11. The fountain show is beautiful, and it was just another one of those great nights. Once it ended we took off at a VERY fast clip back to the ship – we knew we could make it, but it would be close. About three blocks into our trip we ran into the DIS group at the sidewalk café they had taken over. Linda and Robert stopped to chat, but the rest of us kept going because we knew it was a long walk. We covered just over 2 miles in 30 minutes, and made it back to the shuttle, then back onto the ship, JUST in time for the skit.

Unfortunately, Linda’s memory was wrong – the show started at 10, not 11, and she walked in just after it ended. On that note, everyone scattered to their rooms. The all-day process of saying goodbye was getting really overwhelming, and I think people just wanted to sleep.

Except for me. I just wanted to swim. I have this off last-night tradition of closing out the pool area, so I called Robert to see if he had rescued his suit from his luggage and we enjoyed the final 30 minutes before the pool closed.

When I got back to my room I tried to log on and contact my husband, only to discover that the ship had added AIM and MSN messenger to the list of blocked sites & services, in addition to Skype. So I had to make due with insanely slow e-mail, and finally gave up. I shut down my computer, packed up all the remaining electronics, double- and triple-checked all the drawers, closets, cubby holes, etc. (good thing I didn’t trust my memory of having already emptied the safe, as there was about $200 in there!) Then I finally fell asleep around 2. I just hate final night.

(Interesting note, this is only the 2nd time that the Magic has had an overnight port stop, and thus only the 2nd time the crew had NIGHT shore leave. There were some exceptionally tired crew this morning, and I heard that a good portion of the entertainment staff didn’t make it back on the ship much before dawn.)

So now I’m current. I’m back in an airport, waiting for my flight to start boarding; we’ve already been told we’re at least an hour delayed. I woke up, showered, tossed my last few items into my overnight bag and headed for the final meal. Shari & crew were busily chatting about their plans for the day, and I just can not believe they are going to be taking the ship out tonight. We did the “hanging around trying not to say goodbye” thing, but Shari & crew wanted to head into town. Linda told me to go ahead and get off the ship – she expected that there would be a pretty long wait for transportation, and so they’d see me when they came down. That turned out not to be the case – I was off the ship and onto a bus in under 10 minutes. The airport lines were insane – it took 45 minutes to check in and another 30 to go through security. Called Tony to let him know I was safely checked in, and now it’s just a waiting game before I can go home.

The flight from Barcelona to Atlanta was delayed about an hour, and it was funny to arrive at the gate to realize that 90% of the passengers had just left the Disney Magic. There was a flight to Philadelphia on another airline that was apparently also mostly comprised of cruise passengers returning to the US. The flight was long and uneventful, I made my connection from Atlanta to LA with no problem, and with the time change was back in my own bed the very same night.

Post script – Carnival cruise line comparison

One of the reasons I had to return home was because my husband and I had booked (well before I decided to make the Atlantic crossing) a weekend cruise to Ensenada on Carnival cruise line for June 1-4th.

Never, never take a Carnival cruise 5 days after getting off a Disney cruise. There is no way Carnival can stand up to the comparison. Sure, there are things that Carnival has that Disney does not – the big difference being a casino – but there is just SO much that Disney does SO much better. I probably drove my traveling companions nuts with the constant “Disney does this better” and “Disney does that better.” So, to be fair, here are the things that Carnival does better, and some nifty things that Carnival has that Disney doesn’t:

• More indoor public areas, and not necessarily bars.
• Stunning 9-story atrium
• Longer casual dining hours, including one venue that is open 24 hours.
• “Spa Carnival” menu with lighter entrees and nutritional information.
• Comfy down filled duvet.
• A pool slide that adults can enjoy too.
• Rubberized jogging track instead of wood walking deck.
• Miniature golf course.
• A casino, for those who care (and I’m perfectly happy without)

Disney does pretty much everything else so much better that I’d prefer to fly to Orlando to take a 3-night cruise to nowhere than do another Carnival weekend cruise. It was incredible to realize that the Disney Magic and the Carnival Paradise were built around the same time in the same shipyard – the Paradise looks like it was built (and DECORATED!) 20 years earlier.

Andrew
06-07-2007, 11:53 PM
I really enjoyed reading your report and it makes me happy to think that we're now less than a year away from the Canal transit!


When I got back to my room I tried to log on and contact my husband, only to discover that the ship had added AIM and MSN messenger to the list of blocked sites & services, in addition to Skype. So I had to make due with insanely slow e-mail, and finally gave up.
Can you go into any more detail on what is blocked? Do they give you a list of services that are not allowed, and do you know why the email was so slow?

AVP
06-07-2007, 11:56 PM
Can you go into any more detail on what is blocked? Do they give you a list of services that are not allowed, and do you know why the email was so slow?By name, AIM, MSN Messenger and Skype are the three programs I know were blocked that night. I heard people complain about other programs, but they weren't programs I knew. And e-mail was only slow that one night, when I couldn't use the others I tried.

AVP

stan4d_steph
06-08-2007, 07:03 AM
Awesome report AVP! Makes me want to try a cruise. ;) I might be able to swing the cost of the type you got, but it might be a bit weird having no window.

TinaMouse
06-08-2007, 08:50 PM
Thanks for taking the time to write up your trip report. It was awesome! Glad you had a good time and I hope you and your hubby had a good time in Mexico!

adriennek
06-08-2007, 11:15 PM
I called AdrienneK, but she wasn’t home.

I keep forgetting to tell you - I was at a PTA luncheon and my mom was babysitting. She was outside when you called, heard the message and listened in case it was me.

When I got home, she was SO upset I'd missed your call. "Adrienne called you from Spain! I'm sorry I didn't answer the phone! I'm sorry you missed it!"

It was cute.

Sorry, I know, PM material but I keep forgetting to tell you...

Adrienne

ariel39
06-09-2007, 05:00 PM
What a great trip report. We are going July 18 for the 10 day cruise. I didn't know that they had the wireless internet on the ship. Do you know what the cost was? Im hoping it wasn't too much!!

AVP
06-09-2007, 06:58 PM
What a great trip report. We are going July 18 for the 10 day cruise. I didn't know that they had the wireless internet on the ship. Do you know what the cost was? Im hoping it wasn't too much!!I bought the package that was 40c a minute and totalled $150. You can buy smaller packages, but the price-per-minute is higher.

AVP

Niwel
06-10-2007, 12:03 AM
Great write up AVP!
When we were in Barcelona earlier last month, Adam and I kept saying how much fun the DCL cruisers would have. :)
We can't wait till 2009!

ariel39
06-11-2007, 09:28 PM
Did they do any pin trading on the cruise?

AVP
06-11-2007, 11:17 PM
Did they do any pin trading on the cruise?Yeah, I think there were some organized "trade with the crew" type events, but it was pretty low key. The Panama cruise in 2005 was unusual in that it wasn't billed as a pin event, but a huge number of serious pin traders / collectors / dealers booked that cruise anyway. Since it hadn't been planned as a pin event, the Disney merchandise types who usually run those events were not involved in the planning of the merchandise distribution; thus the fiasco that lead to the "slumber party."

I didn't see anything like that on the Med cruises - the pin traders didn't seem to go for that itinierary, and whatever pin trading went on was pretty informal.

AVP

EJ4Disney
06-12-2007, 01:46 PM
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I have done this cruise ( the Medd. part at least) and it was great to relive it.

Ellen

Lani
06-12-2007, 02:00 PM
If you still remember, you can post a list of all the nifty tchotchkes they gave you for this inaugural cruise?

munchkinsmom0003
06-12-2007, 10:14 PM
Thanks for the trip report! I enjoyed reading it.

cirquelover
06-18-2007, 03:32 PM
Thanks for the great trip report!

What a wonderful husband you have. So how was it living in a cave? I don't think I would like not having a window at the very least!

AVP
06-18-2007, 06:23 PM
If you still remember, you can post a list of all the nifty tchotchkes they gave you for this inaugural cruise?Ummm... DVC members received a nice beach towel / blanket, but I didn't get it. (Ok, yes, I booked 6 days before sailing, but my TA confirmed that they DID have my DVC membership linked to my reservation)

Castaway Club members got a nice leather passport case / document holder... didn't get that either. I *did* get my Castaway Club lanyard and pin, but I had to ask for it when I checked in. At the time I assumed it was due to the computer glitch, but now I know it was because they did not, in fact, have my CC number linked to my reservation. See above.

Every stateroom received a nice souvenir "crossing the Atlantic" book (like the one presented during the Panama Canal cruises).

Every stateroon received a Don "Ducky" Williams print of the Fab 5 (plus Stitch) looking at the rock of Gibraltar through a porthole.


So how was it living in a cave? I don't think I would like not having a window at the very least!Someone told me that I should turn my cabin television to the "view from the bridge" channel when I went to bed. Of course that gives you a pitch-black image, but in the morning when the sun comes up, you wake up and see it on the TV. That was such a great tip, and I did that for the 2nd 1/2 of the cruise.

I would not have a problem booking a cave room again, especially if it meant I could take such a fantastic itinerary at such a great price.

AVP