« August 2008 | Main | October 2008 »

September 2008 Archives

September 4, 2008

Last Sea Day -- Disney Magic Panama Canal Cruise

Last sea day. Michael and I were up early. All Disney Vacation Club members met in the atrium lobby for a group photo. Hopefully, it will appear in a future issue of the newsletter!

So, yesterday I complained about breakfast and today it was good! We went to Lumiere's; everything that was supposed to be hot was hot!

We had a lot of little things to take care of today including the debarkation meeting. Even though we've heard it all before, we still like to attend to make sure nothing has changed. They really make it pretty simple.

We managed to squeeze in some time at the pool. That sure felt nice. This afternoon was the last session of bingo. Do you know the jackpot was over $28,000? One lucky family did finally win (not us!).

Aaron missed bingo and chose instead to meet up with Kevin Robinson, an award winner from the X-Games. Right now they are up on the sports deck playing dodgeball. He's pretty excited!

Tonight the play was the award-winning "Disney Dreams". We've seen it five times now and I still get goosebumps and cry. It is just the best story and the cast brings everything to life! It's wonderful.

lori200.jpg
lori201.jpg

We have another formal evening. Luckily, I saved my loosest dress for last. Michael and Aaron both look so handsome in their tuxedos. Aaron and I had our pictures taken with Captain Tom.

lori202.jpg
lori203.jpg

After dinner, Michael attended a special cigar event and Aaron attended "homecoming" with the other teens in the Stack. I came back to the room to get started on packing. So sad.

Lori.

Castaway Cay -- Disney Magic Panama Canal Cruise

lori206.jpg

We've arrived in paradise! There is no other place like Castaway Cay. A tiny island heaven on earth. The weather was perfect. Everything was perfect.

After a quick breakfast, we walked off the ship and headed to the family beach. Along the way we snapped pictures of The Flying Dutchman from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 - Dead Man's Chest and a few other amazing sights (like the Disney Magic!). I even got a picture with Minnie.

lori207.jpg
lori204.jpg
lori205.jpg
lori208.jpg

We stopped at She Sells Seashells to pick up a few souvenirs. Now they will deliver your purchases back to the ship! How convenient!

We found a comfortable spot under an umbrella, and headed over to Gil's Fins and Boats to pick up our snorkel gear. After about 15 minutes in the water, everyone was called back and out of the snorkel lagoon due to weather. It was raining and they were concerned about lightning. We waited about 20 minutes for things to clear and headed back out. It's fun to see how things have changed "under the sea" over the years.

After snorkeling we relaxed in our lounge chairs for awhile. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch - Cookie's BBQ. Yum. Burgers, chicken, ribs, salads, corn on the cob, fruit, and giant chocolate chip cookies! On our way back to our lounge chairs we connected with our new favorite bartender, Yelena. We had afternoon cocktails... Michael read his book and had a cigar. I took a long walk despite the heat. Aaron and I took a dip in the ocean. So refreshing.

lori210.jpg

Eventually, we made it back to the ship. I must admit the shower never felt so good! Michael was sleeping while Aaron and I went back down to the pier to watch a demonstration by Kevin Robinson, the X-Games superhero. It was very cool and I managed to get an excellent mid-air photo of him!

lori209.jpg

In between all of these comings-and-goings we managed to pack our luggage. (Funny how it never fits the same as it did on the way out of town.) We needed to have our bags outside our stateroom door between 9-11pm. We made it! Remember the blog installment from a couple of weeks ago when I packed and re-packed and wanted to minimize laundry, yada, yada, yada? Well, for one of the few times in all of our family travels, I think we did pretty well. I think all three of us wore everything we brought at least once and we allowed enough extra space for goodies.

Aaron and I went to the "until we meet again" show. It was wonderful. Several years ago Disney had a theme of "Remember the Magic" which is what they used this evening. Again, I cried pretty much through the entire presentation. It was fabulous!

Michael filled out the customs forms and figured out all of the duty allowances. We'll probably owe somebody something tomorrow morning. Oh well. It was worth every penny.

Oh, I almost forgot. Dinner tonight was at Animator's. The last night they finally figured out that no one was going to share our table. This time they set the table for 4 even though we were only 3 at a table for 8. Hehehehe.

lori211.jpg

I have had a LOT to drink today. First there was the Captain-and-coke that Yelena prepared for me on Castaway Cay. Then, before dinner she made me some sort of special margarita. It was pink and tasted yummy! At dinner we polished off the last ½ bottle of wine from the night before. After dinner we went to say goodbye to Yelena and have our last after-dinner tequilas. She's been great fun and we've learned a lot from her. My only regret is not finding her earlier in our trip!

Aaron is back from his final Stack activity. They gave each of the kids a t-shirt ("Disney Sea University Alumni") and he collected names and email addresses from all of his new friends.

This has truly been the trip of a lifetime. I can't believe it is coming to a close. (I'm typing this thru tear-filled eyes.) The only thing making this ending more bearable is knowing that we will be back in six months.

We came on this trip to experience the Panama Canal. We are leaving this with memories to last a lifetime.

P.S. Our Stateroom Host, Nick, has done some incredible towel animals for us; a different one every night! I'll send along photos soon.

Thank you so much to Deb for allowing me to share our vacation with AllEars. One of these days our physical paths will cross and I will have the pleasure of meeting her (and sharing a great bottle of red wine).

And, thank you to everyone who has emailed me letting me know that you've actually been following all of my ramblings. Your kind words mean so much.

Faith, trust, and just a little bit of pixie dust... Believe in your dreams!

Lori.

September 16, 2008

Panama Canal Disney Magic Cruise - Final Thoughts

Monday morning came around much too quickly. One big advantage to the latest dinner seating is that you then have the latest breakfast seating on disembark-day. Breakfast was decent. It was tough to say goodbye to our new friends and servers, Tonie and Marija.

When we left Animator's we got in our first line of the morning...just to get off the ship! We waited and waited. I believe there were some issues clearing customs. Eventually, we started moving and headed into the terminal. Since we chose to do the onboard airline check-in, we didn't have to search for our bags; we could head straight to the line for customs. This one was really long and slow moving. It kind of felt like we were at the parks without a Fast Pass!

Towel Creatures

Finally, we made it to an agent and for the first time we had exceeded our allowance and were required to pay some "duty". We felt that the agents were very professional and courteous. We only owed $27 - cash only, no credit cards accepted.

Towel Creatures

Next we moved to the line to board a bus to the airport; also very long. I could not find my Key-to-the-World card (ticket for boarding the bus) but they let us on with Michael and Aaron's cards. After we were on the bus, I realized the driver had taken my DCL carry-on (you know one of the special $20 bags) and I didn't have my name on it. He was stowing dozens of them! Michael grabbed a luggage tag off of his backpack and ran out to get it on the no-name bag. Whew. (It was a good thing because when we got off the bus there were a lot of these untagged bags.)

Towel Creatures

I am happy to report that we had smooth sailing on all of our flights. United was on-time in Orlando, Chicago, and Portland. Yeah!

Of course, we had a "gotcha". Remember my doubts about the onboard airline check-in? Well, only one of our three bags landed in Portland with us. The gal at the United counter said a second bag was in Chicago and would be there later that evening. The third bag, however, was deleted from their system! Yikes.

Towel Creatures

So, we headed home. Bag number 2 was delivered at 3am. About 7am, we called United. Yes, it looks like your last bag never left Orlando. Perhaps it is in the damaged bags area; please call back later in the day. By this time, we figured out the missing 3rd bag contained our most expensive tequila and all of the collectible Panama Canal pins. Ouch. Well, a few minutes later our phone rings. Caller ID says Delta Airlines. Huh? Michael answers and the lady asks, "Is this Aaron Edelman? We have your bag here in Orlando!" We have no idea how our bag got to Delta, but eventually it made it home to us - at 3am the next morning. Everything was intact.

Towel Creatures

(I've decided that the airlines employ "lost luggage gnomes" that go about their deliveries in plain, unmarked vans in the wee hours of the morning.)

Despite the problems with our luggage, Michael says he would use the onboard check-in service again. It was really easy to skip the bag search at Port Canaveral and when we got to the airport we headed right to security. I haven't made up my mind what I would do next time.

Towel Creatures

Speaking of next time, we are booked on the Feb 7 sailing of the Magic with our friends who have never cruised before!!! I can hardly wait.

Towel Creatures

And, finally, as I kept promising, here is the menagerie of fantastic towel animals that greeted us each evening when we returned to our stateroom. Enjoy!

Towel Creatures

(Michael's PS: this was a trip of a lifetime! I cannot convey in words how much I enjoyed this time with my family and how well Disney took care of us! On top of that the Panama Canal was truly awe-inspiring - you hear that something is one of the "Wonders of the World" but you cannot appreciate it until you see it! This cruise was for our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and our last cruise was for our 20th. We have both decided that it's ridiculous to wait so long between cruises. I am SO glad that we are DVC members and are therefore able to take advantage of more cruising. Thank you all for your kind notes, it made the trip even more special for us. And a very special thanks to a special person: Deb Wills - we could not have done this blog without you!)

Read Lori's entire Panama Canal EB Blog!

Lori.

Towel Creatures

Towel Creatures

September 21, 2008

What’s all the Hoopla (HOOPLA!) about?

by Emily Owens-Pickle

eop_ac1.jpg

In 2006 I embarked on what has been and will be the adventure of my life... marriage.

True, it is not a trip for everyone and I might not have made the journey myself except that I lucked out in my choice of partner -- laid-back, hard-working, and awfully cute, one of the first things my then-boyfriend-now-husband said to me was that love is an 'adventure' (*swoon).

It was time to celebrate this adventure that could be likened to an exotic safari: romance, danger, possibly some angry growling and cherished memories. Last weekend Evan and I combined all of the above and took advantage of what will soon be a myth itself... the Adventurers Club (AC) in Downtown Disney.

eop_ac2.jpg
eop_ac3.jpg

This was my first initiation into the AC and I was taken as soon as I whooshed through the revolving doors. You enter the AC on the second floor of the building; artifacts, pictures, and other AC paraphernalia line every inch of space along the walls. Anniversary pins in place and being that the evening is a celebration, I headed toward the bar where I was given a generous (VERY generous) drink -- KUNGALOOSH!

While in line we mingled with other guests and I was pleased by the 'type' of crowd the AC draws. Everyone was friendly and ready to be a bit silly; one guest helped me pick out my drink, another couple strolled by in full 1930s regalia, and another guest helped teach me the official AC toast, the aforementioned KUNGALOOSH!

eop_ac8.jpg

Drinks in hand we headed downstairs to trial run our new toast... for the second or third time. Well -- Evan 'headed', I jogged. I absolutely could not stand to miss one minute of this club -- we only had two and a half hours to enjoy the show! Immediately I met the club curator and treasurer, both who wished Evan and I a happy anniversary and agreed that 'relief' of getting through marriage this long was probably the best gift to one another. The treasurer, Mr. Otis T. Wren, kindly offered us both some 'half-eaten' mints... I declined but Evan tried one.

Licorice. Mints. Half-eaten licorice mints.

Let me pause at the mints in case I have lost you at 'half-eaten' for a quick AC tutorial. When you walk in the front door at the AC you have left the current year and Walt Disney World. You are now a recruit in a spirited membership drive for a 1937 adventurers club. Surrounded by a wild cast of characters, you and other guests are taken through a series of new member activities including initiation, sing-alongs, and adventure-sharing. The extensive club theming, the cast, the guests -- everyone and everything is a part of making this an escape into a different time and place; it is an irreplaceable evening experience.

While Evan reluctantly finished his mint we wandered into the mask room and then almost immediately were back in the main salon for an official AC toast refresher given by the dim-witted Adventurer of the Year, Emil Bleehall, and Treasurer Wren. These two were an absolute riot and inside jokes flowed freely about the impending closing doors of the AC. After some of Bleehall's absent-minded shenanigans Treasurer Wren commented that Bleehall was going to be a fantastic addition to Halloween Horror Nights. Blehall enthusiastically replied by throwing his hands in the air and shouting 'I have a job!'

eop_ac4.jpg

Treasurer Wren explained the evening's events to the recruits ending with an announcement of the AC finale 'The Hoopla!' His last word was immediately echoed with a resounding shout of 'Hoopla!' from at least 60 percent of the audience. Wren played it up repeating 'hoopla' every few words while his audience shouted it back louder and louder each time. Defeated by the almost deafening shouts he finally hung his head and finished his monologue adding, 'I really hate you guys.'

eop_ac6.jpg

The night went by in a blur of songs, new friends, and laughing faces interspersed with shouts of KUNGALOOSH! Evan and I were lucky enough to grab seats at 'The 'Hoopla (HOOPLA!). The songs were clever and ridiculous; I could have easily enjoyed a much longer hoopla (HOOPLA!!). We sat with a very nice older couple who we chatted with -- after the hoopla (HOOPLA!!!) the gentlemen took us outside and pointed out some of the amazing Imagineer creativity and detail that went into the 'artifacts' lining the mezzanine and balcony of the club. As we started to leave he stopped to give us a homemade CD of the Adventurers Club Greatest Hits!

It was such an amazing experience to enjoy a place as unique as the AC is with another couple with whom we would seemingly share little common interest at first glance. Yet there we were giggling together as Bleehall belted out 'Put Your Cheeks Against the Window', his family's long-used mating song that includes the heart-wrenching verse 'You had my heart when I saw your full eclipse...'

It made me really sad to see first-hand how much this club means to so many adult guests of differing ages and backgrounds. I have a family so, yes, I am thrilled that Disney caters to my demographic... at the moment. One day, Evan and I will be celebrating our 50th anniversary... what then? Will we have an opportunity to sit down with a young couple and share something as adult (and juvenile) and original and as wonderful as the Adventurers Club?

I cannot see Saturday night's scenario playing out at T-Rex restaurant. Or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or any of the myriad of attractions that have recently been added to cater to a much-younger demographic while the adult-only entertainment has been ignored or, in the case of the Pleasure Island, eliminated.

I cannot help but grin when I see the lights twinkling on a whirling Cinderella's Golden Carrousel. I cry every time Marlin tells Nemo how old sea turtles are -- I am an unabashed kid at heart. But for every Mickey Ear ice cream I eat (devour), I equally enjoy sipping (devouring) a glass of Jardin at Jiko. And for every Voices of Liberty ballad I tear up at, I want to snicker at an AC song. It seems lately that Disney is making a clear shift to an almost exclusive focus on family entertainment. Again -- I have a small child and I know that families always have and always will be Disney's 'niche'. But families come in all shapes, sizes... and ages. The mission of Disney is to '"create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment to people of all ages, everywhere." Their very statement of purpose shows that Disney prides itself on catering to diversity -- my hope is that their guest pendulum is not swinging too far to one side and subsequently away from an admirable mission.

Maybe I am wrong... maybe by 2066 Evan and I will not be interested in anything Disney except for an occasional shuttling in from Mars to watch virtual reality fireworks from the comfort of our hovercraft... but I would like to think that many years from now, Evan and I will be as adventuresome, savvy and kind as the couple we sat with. I would also like to think that Disney will have a place as unique and wonderful as the Adventurers Club where we will be able to knowingly share a lifetime of adventures with a couple just starting their own...

To all fellow club members I lift my morning coffee and offer a heartfelt and grinning KUNGALOOSH!

eop_ac9.jpg
Return to Blog Central

About September 2008

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in September 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2008 is the previous archive.

October 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.