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July 11, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - The Food, Part 2

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Palo Brunch Desserts


Wednesday night was the Captain's Gala ship-wide menu. We were in Lumiere's again. We ordered a lot of different things - I think this is the most photos I have for one meal!

I started with the regional White Onion Soup with caraway and smoked salmon. As I recall the smoked salmon was not overwhelming and I enjoyed the caraway flavor.

White Onion Soup

Lee had the regional Smoked Salmon Timbal - salmon on the outside and cream cheese, smoked trout, and dill inside. Rich, but good. I had this as my second course.

Smoked Salmon Timbal

Terrie had the regional Baked Oysters on the Half Shell with spinach, onions, and bacon topped with buttered bread crumbs.

Oysters on the half shell

Paul tried the Marinated Tiger Shrimp with celery hearts and remoulade.

Marinated Tiger Shrimp

Terrie ordered the Beefsteak Tomato and Vidila [sic] Onion Salad.

Beefsteak Tomato Salad

There were two entrees Lee and I were interested in, so I ordered one and he ordered the other and we shared. I had the (not regional!) Roasted Red Snapper on a bed of fennel, olives, sweet peppers, and Yukon Gold potato ragout with saffron broth. The fish was good, but the broth was outstanding. So flavorful!

Roasted Red Snapper

Lee ordered he regional Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with creamy cheese polenta, sauteed wild mushrooms and merlot reduction. This was also excellent.

Pork Tenderloin

Terrie ordered the specialty of this particular menu: Oven-Baked Lobster Tail with sun-dried tomato, lemon pesto mash and roasted asparagus. It's very nice to have the servers remove the lobster meat from the tail! They do it so neatly.

Baked Lobster Tail

Paul tried the Seafood Salad with pan-seared scallops, baby shrimp, lobster medallions, leeks, fennel, dill, and romaine lettuce.

Seafood Salad

For dessert Terrie and Lee had the signature Warm Chocolate Lava Cake served warm with double chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Chocolate smiles all around.

Chocolate Lava Cake

I actually passed by the chocolate (yes, really) in favor of the regional dessert: Russian Honey Cake - layered with butterscotch cream and vanilla bean sauce. This was a lighter dessert, and I liked it - especially the honey cake part. It was moist and the honey gave it an interesting flavor.

Russian Honey Cake

Paul ordered two desserts: Banana Creme Brulee with caramel banana and Banana Foster Sundae with rum-glazed bananas, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce. He fully enjoyed both of them.

Banana Crene Brulee


Banana Foster Sundae

Thursday night we were in Animator's Palate - this time for the Animation Magic show dinner. It was also the night of the ship-wide "Freezing the Night Away" menu, but unfortunately because of the show dinner, we weren't offered the entire menu. :-( We had done the Animation Magic dinner before on the Disney Fantasy, but this was the first time we'd done it on the Disney Magic. It's the same - our servers handed us a big animation sheet and told us to draw in the boxes. Darma told us no words - that's the first time I've heard that, but obviously someone abused it at some point. :-( We'd worn our new Norway sweaters, and we were both inspired to put similar designs on our drawings.

Freezing the Night Away

Liliana made us a lovely origami centerpiece for our table - there was a flower for each of us.

Origami flowers

For this dinner, there is a set appetizer sampler and soup, and limited desserts. You get your choice of entree, and at least for entrees we had all of the options that the other two restaurants were getting. It was pretty much ALL regionally inspired on his night - except in Animator's Palate. :-(

Though the appetizer plate was not on the ship-wide menu, I still think it was "regionally inspired". It included Smoked Duck Breast with pickled red onions and Craisins, Dill-Marinated Shrimp with tomato mayonnaise and horseradish cream, Smoked Salmon Tartar with Sour Cream and Cream Cheese. The latter two quite definitely seem "regional". It was all pretty good.

Animator's Palate appetizer sampler

The soup was the one from the regular Animator's Palate menu: Macaroni and Cheese and Baked Potato Soup. It was just ok. I'm not sure macaroni and cheese and baked potato really go together. It had a lot going on.

Macaroni and Baked Potato Soup

As I mentioned, for the entrees we got to choose. And there were lots of interesting choices. I could've had this menu several times! Lee and I both ordered Anna's Honey-Mustard Marinated Salmon with sour cream, spinach, and Aquavit sour cream sauce. The salmon was very good, but I didn't taste mustard in it at all - and I like mustard. And I didn't eat the spinach. Cooked spinach is pretty icky.

Anna's Honey Mustard Salmon

But I got my vegetables another way because Lee and I ordered a second entree to share: Pabbi's Stuffed Cabbage Roulades. Savoy cabbage leaves stuffed with brown rice, asparagus, leeks, carrots, and lingonberry served with a dill cream sauce. We thought the cabbage was a little tough but we really enjoyed the filling. They needed more sauce, though. And I didn't detect any lingonberry in it.

Pabbi's Stuffed Cabbage Roulades

Other entrees were: Hans's Juniper Wild Boar Filet, Veal "King Agda", Kristoff's Rosemary-marinated Striploin, Bulda's Vegetable Lattice, and Alesund Smoked Trout Salad.

There were three desserts available, one of which was the Sweet Temptations sampler that at least offered some opportunity to taste some of the desserts available on the larger menu. Terrie, Lee and I had that. It included Olaf's White Chocolate Floro Dome, Almond Berry Crumble Cake, and Norwegian Pancake. The Crumble Cake was also available as a full-size dessert. It was a nice sampler. The "Floro Dome" was surprisingly good - it had almost a gingerbread-like center to it. The pancake was like a crepe with a lingonberry cream in it that I enjoyed.

Frozen dinner Sweet Temptations

Paul ordered the other dessert, Frozen Yogurt Romanoff Sundae with fresh strawberries marinated in Cointreau, vanilla frozen yogurt, and chopped pistachios.

Romanoff Sundae

After we received our desserts the show, featuring our drawings, started. Watching them come to life is really fun, and one of those "how do they DO that?" things. Lee and I are on the right in the photo below.

Animation Magic

And my animated self got to go log-rolling with Louis in the bayou - though I think we all know who won. :-)

Animation Magic

We learned the first time we did this that when put your name on your drawing you want to do something to make it stand out in the credits, so we advised Paul and Terrie of that, too.

Animation Magic credits

It was a really fun dinner, though I'm disappointed hat we missed a number of items from the "Frozen" menu - I had been looking forward to that.

Some of the items we missed:
Elsa's Coronation Scallops
Arendelle Gravlax
Duke of Weselton's Favorites
(I'm very curious about what those were)
Oaken's Red and Yellow Beetroot Salad
Sven's Carrot Soup

Friday was a day at sea. We slept in, and started our day with brunch at Palo. I think this is my favorite meal on a Disney cruise ship. We had a reservation at 10:00, when the restaurant opened, and we were the third party seated.

Palo

We were able to get to the food tables before too many guests had been there to mess them up. :-)

Palo Brunch

Everything is so colorful and beautifully presented.

Palo Brunch

I tried for an artistic look for my first plate. Anything with a sticky bun on it is going to look good, to me, though. :-)

Palo Brunch

Lee's plate:

Palo Brunch

I went with something different for my hot entree this time: Eggs Julia. Which is Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon. It was delicious, and I totally cleaned my plate.

Palo Brunch Eggs Julia

Lee ordered the Frittata. Unfortunately he didn't realize he should request "no tomato". But he ate most of it anyway.

Palo Brunch Frittata

I enjoyed trying a number of different desserts. The fruit with the champagne gelatin was good - though I can't say the gelatin really tasted like champagne to me. Mostly it was just lightly sweet. The nutella mousse filled puff was pretty good.

Palo Brunch dessert

In place of dessert Lee ordered a second hot entree: Palo Buttermilk Pancakes.

Palo Brunch pancakes

We were back in Carioca's (for the third time) for the final dinner: 'Til We Meet Again. I think this was the only dinner when I didn't order any of the Regional dishes. Terrie and Paul were in Palo for dinner, so Lee and I were alone at our table. As an appetizer Lee and I both ordered something we have enjoyed in the past: Grilled Potato and Goat Cheese Napoleon. It was a much larger serving than we have had before. And really stuffed with goat cheese. I love goat cheese, but there was too much on this, and neither of us finished it. Just too rich.

Potato and Goat Cheese Napoleon

As a second course I ordered Cranberry Salad, with field greens, sunflower seeds and Craisins. It is normally served with blue cheese, but they left that off at my request.

Cranberry Salad

Lee had the Lobster Bisque.

Lobster Bisque

My entree was Trenette Pasta with buttered shrimp, tomato, and basil. And plenty of fresh grated parmesan. The pasta was very good, the shrimp was ok. There could've been more sauce, too.

Trenette Pasta

Lee tried the Tandoori Lamb Duo, with jasmine rice, mint chutney, and raita.

Tandoori Lamb Duo

I ordered Sweet Temptations for dessert. This included Celebration Cake, Chocolate Decadence and Cappuccino Mousse. The Chocolate Decadence was a regional inspiration, with a hazelnut biscuit crust, though I don't think I tasted hazelnut. The Cappuccino Mousse is the meringue finger thing. This is another of those desserts where the description bears little resemblance to the actual dessert. I've mentioned this before, but there's a definite disconnect between the people who write the menus and the people who actually prepare the food. It seems especially pronounced in the desserts.

Sweet Tempations

Lee always orders Baked Alaska. He must enjoy it.

Baked Alaska

On the Magic and the Wonder they still do the parade of servers waving flags on the final night. I've always thought this was a nice ending to the final dinner.

Til we Meet Again server procession

Saturday morning breakfast - our last meal on board. Sigh. It's always a bit quiet. Partly because a lot of us are still half asleep, but also because we are sad to be leaving the ship. It's a pretty limited menu, since they need to get us out of there quickly. I had Eggs for the Road with scrambled eggs, bacon, and a side of whole wheat toast. Having seen the eggs all week in Cabanas, I requested the eggs be scrambled dry. :-)

Eggs for the Road

Lee ordered the Chef's Farewell, an open faced omelet with bbq chicken, green peppers, onions, and Swiss cheese. He almost always orders this.

Chef's Farewell

It's kind of a shame that our dining experience ends with a whimper like that. There's only so much that can be done on the final morning, though.

For the most part our dining experience this time was very good. I really enjoyed the addition of the items that were "Regional Inspirations" to all of the dinner menus. My only real disappointment is that we did not get the opportunity to experience the full "Freezing the Night Away" menu because we had the show dinner in Animator's Palate that night. That's a real drawback to the show dinner setup there.

And with that, I'm finally done telling you about our Norway cruise. Thank you for reading! Until next cruise...





July 10, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - The Food, Part 1

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Disney Magic Palo Brunch

It's not a set of cruise blogs without some information on all of the dining, too!

We've been on enough Disney cruises that we are familiar with a lot of the menu items - they don't change that frequently. One thing we really enjoyed about this cruise was that there were some new offerings: each menu featured some "Regional Inspirations". Generally there were two of these in both the Appetizers and Soup/Salad categories, three in the Entrees, and one Dessert. Now, some of them were variations of what was on the regular menu, but quite a few of them were new. It was great to have all of these new options on every dinner menu! I tried a lot of them, and for the most part I enjoyed them. I don't know if this is something Disney Cruise Line is just doing on the Magic this summer, where there are new itineraries and so many guests are repeat cruisers, but I really liked having some more interesting and different options.

After boarding the Disney Magic in Copenhagen we went to Carioca's for lunch. It's a buffet, and seemed to have the usual selections. I didn't notice any regional choices, but I also wasn't looking for any. It seemed like the usual selection of salads, shrimp and crab, and hot entrees. They had potato leek soup, which is always one of my favorites.

Carioca's plate

We were back in Carioca's for dinner that night. I know I've mentioned this before, but we always seem to get the same dining rotation, where we start in Carioca's (or the equivalent).

Our assistant server was Liliana (Lily) from Portugal and our server was Darma from Indonesia. Lily was a little bit feisty and we really enjoyed that. As the server, Darma always made menu recommendations - which we almost always ignored. :-) It got to be a joke after a while. They both did a very nice job for our table.

Darma and Lily

We were at a table for eight, but there was only one other couple at our table. Terrie and Paul were excellent dinner companions and we enjoyed spending time with them. We always had a lot to talk about.

This dinner was our first experience of seeing the "Regional Inspirations" on the menu. Lee and I both tried the Bergen Fish Soup with cod dumplings. It said "dumplings", but there was only one. It was a creamy soup, and I thought it had a very nice flavor - not fishy at all. Maybe a bit too salty. The fish dumpling had a mild fish flavor. We both enjoyed it.

Bergen Fish Soup

My next regional choice was New Potato Salad with chevil and green beans. This was really a green salad with some sliced new potatoes in it, along with the green beans. Very fresh and tasty.

New Potato Salad

Lee's regional choice was Deep Fried Lobster Croquettes with lentils and creamed horseradish. He thought it was good.

Lobster Croquettes

For our entree we selected the same regional: Pan Seared Halibut on minted smashed peas with shredded potato cake and a chive cream sauce. The fish was very nicely cooked. I was happy that the peas were only slightly minty - hardly even noticeable. That's a good thing.

Pan Seared Halibut

We actually didn't go regional for dessert. :-) That choice was an Orange Almond Torte. I had one of the no sugar added desserts: Silky Dark Mousse de Chocolate with whipped cream and berries. It was ok. I scraped the chocolate off the top - it was that weird gelatinized chocolate that I don't like.

Dark Chocolate Mousse cake

Lee ordered Coconut Tres Leches- coconut cake with three milks, layered with coconut cream. This was excellent - we both thought it was one of the best desserts we had all week.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Most mornings we went to Cabanas on deck 9 and had some combination of oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, bacon, pastries, and omelets. The scrambled eggs were always scary - they were too runny for our taste, though Lee tried them once. The pre-made omelets were a little rubbery, but we never took the time to get them made to order.

Cabanas Breakfast

Cabanas Breakfast

On our first sea day we went to Lumiere's for lunch. The last couple times I'd had lunch at Lumiere's/Triton's I'd been disappointed, but this was pretty good. No regional selections on this one, though. I started with the Ginger-infused Carrot Soup. A little ginger goes a long way with me, but this was very good. It was a cool day and I appreciated something warm. I mentioned Julia in my previous blogs - this was the meal where she was our assistant server, and so diligent in refiling my teacup with hot water. It's rare for me to get even one refill, so it was most appreciated.

Carrot Ginger Soup

As an aside...one thing we've noticed when we have a table service meal for breakfast or lunch (so not with our usual dining team), is that we rarely get the same kind of prompt and dedicated service. So when we do, it's especially noteworthy.

Lee ordered a Vegetable Quesadilla with guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo. It was a really good quesadilla.

Vegetable quesadilla

He also had an Apple Walnut Salad .

Apple Walnut Salad

My entree was Lemon Chicken Salad - a pan seared chicken breast served over greens and papaya. This was very tasty! I liked the chicken, but the papaya was the best part - it was ripe and really good, though it was odd that the skin was still on it.

Lemon Chicken Salad

Lee tried the Glazed Meatloaf with smashed potatoes, buttered carrots and long beans. He says it was very good meatloaf.

Glazed Meatloaf

For dessert we tried the Hot Chocolate Fudge Pudding. We were pretty sure this was going to be more like a lava cake than pudding, and we were correct. It was still good, though - one of the better desserts of the week.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Pudding

We were back in Lumiere's for dinner that night - it was Formal Night, though we just had the regular Lumiere's menu - plus the Regional Inspirations. Terrie and Paul offered to let me take photos of their food, too. It's good to have indulgent table mates. :-)

Disney Magic Lumiere's

As a Regional appetizer I ordered the Smoked Salmon Potato Lefse with sour cream, asparagus, and dill. This was excellent, and a much larger serving than I expected. With the salmon and the sour cream it was a bit rich, and just one of those rolls would have been an acceptable serving size. Which didn't stop us from eating all of them - I had two and Lee had one. :-)

Smoke Salmon Lefse

Lee's first course was the same thing I ordered as my second, Ham and White Cheddar Croquettes with apple-cherry chutney. This was good, but I think my favorite part was the chutney. It was made with tart cherries and had a nice bite to it.

Ham and Cheddar Croquettes

Paul ordered the Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp with horseradish cream, asparagus and dill dressing. I think this was the one where Terrie had a bite that was mostly spicy horseradish. Whew.

Lobster and Shrimp

Lee and Terrie ordered French Onion Soup. This is always a winner at Lumiere's. This may be the first time I haven't ordered it, but I was focusing on trying the regional dishes.

French Onion Soup

Paul ordered Gaston's Escargot Gratinee, which he kindly offered to share with all of us - we passed. :-) He had no problem finishing it without our help. :-)

Escargot

Instead of an entree I ordered the regional soup, Yellow Pea with Crisp Bacon and a side of steamed broccoli. The soup was very good, though I can't tell you that yellow peas taste much different than green peas. :-)

Yellow Pea Soup

Lee ordered a regional entree: Roasted Rack of Lamb with creamed potatoes and buttered brussel sprouts in a rosemary red wine sauce. This didn't really seem that different from the lamb that is usually offered on Lumiere's menu. The lamb was cooked nicely.

Rack of Lamb

Terrie ordered a different regional, Mini Potato Dumplings in a thyme rosemary cream sauce. She didn't really care for it. I've had something similar before, and also was not impressed - it was pretty heavy.

Mini Potato Dumplings

Paul tried the Ahi Tuna Nicoise. This was definitely one of the prettier dishes, and he really enjoyed it.

Ahi tuna Nicoise

I passed on dessert that night - nothing appealed to me. Yes, Lumiere's offers a chocolate souffle, but they ruin it by adding Grand Marnier to it. Chocolate and orange...yuck. (Terrie and I bonded over our mutual love of chocolate and dislike of chocolate and fruit together.)

Lee tried the regional dessert - Summer Berry Pudding. Berries layered with white bread with double cream on top. He liked it.

Summer Berry Pudding

Terrie, on Darma's recommendation, ordered the Peanut Butter Mousse. This was not at all what I expected from the description: Dark chocolate infused peanut butter, chocolate crisp base, and whipped cream. She was very happy with this.

Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

(Speaking of chocolate crisp base - on NO menu did I ever see a "chocolate wafer" mentioned. They learned their lesson on that one. :-) )

Paul is a creme brulee fan, and ordered the Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee. He gave it two thumbs up.

Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee

When we returned to the ship after our day in Stavanger we went to deck 9 to get some pizza. Even at the pizza place they had some regional flavor - I got the last piece of smoked salmon, onion, capers, and dill pizza. It was very good!

Smoked Salmon Pizza

That evening we were in Animator's Palate for the animation show dinner. This is more of a modernization of the original Animator's Palate show dinner, where the restaurant transforms from black and white to color over the course of the evening, rather than the Turtle Talk show that's on the Dream and Fantasy. But now the pictures are animated, rather than just changing color.

Animators Palate

Animators Palate

My first appetizer was a regional: Jarlsberg Cheese and Carrot Souffle. This was outstanding - I think it was my favorite appetizer of the week. Before this trip I didn't know that Jarlsberg cheese came from Norway - I thought it was a variety of Swiss cheese like Gruyere or Emmentaler. (Our guide on the Troll Road excursion later told us that it was made not far from where we were - and that we can buy it much more cheaply in the U.S. than they can in Norway!)

Jarlsberg and Carrot Souffle

Paul also went regional with the Smoked Salmon Tartare, with dill, capers, onions, and horseradish cream. (There were a lot of dishes with horseradish cream! Must be a common condiment in Norway. Lots of dill and smoked salmon, also.)

Smoked Salmon Tartare

Lee and Terrie went with Darma's recommendation - Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes.. Lee has had this before and still enjoyed it this time.

Black Truffle Pasta

For my second course I stayed with the regional choice of Split Green Pea Soup with buttered croutons. This was just ok - not as good as the yellow pea was the night before. So I guess there is a difference between green and yellow peas!

Split Pea soup

Lee went with the tried and true Butternut Squash Soup. It was nice and thick and creamy.

Butternut Squash soup

Terrie ordered the regional salad: Spinach Leaves with red beets, orange segments, and marinated white beans. None of which are very evident in this photo.

Spinach Salad

The three regional choices on the entree menu were mostly variations on regular menu items. I tried the Lemon-Thyme Marinated Chicken Breast, served with sour cream mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables and grain mustard jus. The chicken was tender and cooked well, and I enjoyed the mashed potatoes.

Lemon Thyme Chicken

Terrie had another of the regionals: Pork Cordon Blue - breaded pork loin stuffed with ham and gruyere cheese served with snow peas and roasted potatoes. She did not really care for it - it was a pretty heavy dish.

Pork Cordon Blue

Lee and Paul had one of Darma's recommendations: Ginger-Teriyaki Dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin with wasabi mashed potatoes, bok choy, and tamarind-barbecue reduction. Other than the bok choy, Lee thought it was excellent.

Beef Tenderloin

Just before dessert we had the show part with Sorcerer Mickey and the parade of servers, now wearing their colorful vests.

Sorcerer Mickey

For dessert I ordered the regional Helsinki Blueberry Crumble Tart with vanilla frozen yogurt and a blueberry whipped cream. I really enjoyed it. Paul had the same thing, though he requested vanilla ice cream instead of frozen yogurt.

Blueberry Crumble Tart

Terrie and Lee had the traditional Crunchy Walnut Cake with dark chocolate mousse and raspberry coulis. This one needs a better description - it's really a dark chocolate mousse, and there's nothing cakey about it. I've always enjoyed it, but since I went with the regional this time I recommended it to Terrie, and she liked it.

Crunchy Walnut Cake

Darma decided that we needed additional dessert, and brought each couple a lemon souffle to share. It was good, but we were all really stuffed after that.

Lemon Souffle

Tuesday night was the ship-wide Prince and Princess menu. We were back in Carioca's. My first regional of the evening was Cream of Potato Soup with leeks, carrots, celery, bacon, and knockwurst. It was delicious, and I could've eaten a lot more of it as a main course with some bread.

Cream of Potato soup

Terrie had the regional Gravlaks. Or "rotten fish", as our guide on the Trollstigen called it. :-) Terrie said it was basically just smoked salmon.

Gravlaks

Lee and Paul had Princess Tiana's Sauteed Shrimp on jambalaya rice. Lee says it was yummy.

Sauteed Shrimp

My second regional course was Egg and Bacon Salad with baby lettuce, spring onions, radishes, and Akavit dressing. This was really very nicely presented, and very tasty.

Egg and Bacon Salad

Lee and Terrie had Snow White's Wild Forest Mushroom Soup. They said it was very good. It's never a flattering photograph, though. :-)

Wild Mushroom soup

As an entree, most of us had the regional Baked Fillet of Turbot with creamed potatoes, sauteed fennel, and a dill cream sauce. I thought it was very good.

Fillet of Turbot

Terrie tried the Roasted Portobello Mushroom Triangoli Pasta topped with sour cream, pesto swirl, and sweet butternut squash sauce.

Mushroom Pasta

I didn't go regional for dessert, as Prince Charming Flourless Chocolate Cake was on the menu. Layered with vanilla and chocolate cream, with hazelnut chocolate sauce. In the past I think this was a chilled souffle (which was very good). This was good but not great.

Flourless chocolate cake

Lee had the regional dessert: Traditional Bread and Butter Pudding - lightly toasted bread and raisin pudding with rich custard sauce. Lee says it was REALLY good. As in "one of the best bread puddings he had every had" good.

Bread and Butter Pudding

Paul is an ice cream guy, and he enjoyed Princess Aurora Sundae - rocky road ice cream topped with cookie crumbs (not wafers), chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

Princess Aurora Sundae

Even more food coming in Part 2!






June 26, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - Part 8, Sea Day and Final Thoughts

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Friday - Day at Sea

Even though it was a sea day we had places to go and things to do...

We slept in until after 8:00, but we had Palo brunch booked at 10:00. That's always my favorite meal on board a Disney ship! We were delighted to find that Julia was at the Palo reception desk checking people in. She is so sweet.

Disney Magic Palo Brunch

There will be a more complete account in the upcoming food blog, but suffice it to say that we had a wonderful brunch, and the sticky buns are as good as ever. (Actually better than the last time we had them.)

Disney Magic Palo Brunch

It was an absolutely spectacular day at sea - sunny and warm and almost 70 degrees. And the sea was glassy smooth. I so wished we had those conditions in Bergen the day before... Oh well.

Disney Magic

After our brunch we did a couple of leisurely loops around deck 10 and then a little last-minute shopping. The shop near O'Gills that is usually the Duty-Free shop was instead carrying a selection of goods from Russia and Norway during this cruise. The inventory was getting a little thin at the end of the cruise, but I found a couple of magnets and a troll figure. Here's our door on the final day, with all of the various magnets.

Disney Magic Norway stateroom door

Seeing the Tomorrowland movie was our other big event for the day - this was the only day it was showing during the cruise. It was going to be in the Buena Vista Theater three times in the evening, but we wanted to see it in the Walt Disney Theater, which is a little bigger and more comfortable. There was only one showing there, at 2:00. I actually expected it to be a lot more crowded, but it was less than 1/3 full. Unfortunately it meant we missed the final Dr. Marv lecture on Copenhagen, though I caught most of it later on the stateroom TV.

The movie was good. I'd seen both the extended preview in the theater and the sneak peek at Disneyland, but even so it was much different than I expected. As usual, I thought the action scenes went on a little too long - that's my typical movie complaint. :-)

Lee was hungry and went up to deck 9 to get some pizza, while I went back to start the dreaded chore of packing. :-(

I'd left our "Chocolate Chase" answer sheet on the bed that morning, and when I returned we had our prizes. I was very disappointed that the prizes for a CHOCOLATE Chase were not chocolate at all - it was rice krispie treats covered in white (NOT CHOCOLATE) coating. REALLY???? Anna obviously was NOT consulted.

Disney Magic Chocolate Chase

We also had a card from the Frozen gang thanking us for Freezing the Night Away with them.

Freeze the Night Thank you

The suitcases were a lot more full than they had been when we arrived - but by design we had intentionally left a lot of room because we knew we'd come back with stuff. Just the DVC and Castaway Club gifts are always extras plus we had souvenirs and that lovely plush "Frozen" throw, too. Though there was one gift that we hadn't received, and I was surprised we hadn't: no commemorative lithograph. We'd always received one before on "first time" itineraries. :-(

But when we left for dinner I saw the housekeeping carts... and all of them had the tell-tale white cardboard packets piled on top. Yay!

Lee and I were alone at our table that evening - Terrie and Paul were dining at Palo. We had a nice dinner, then went to Keys for a final drink. This was Clara's final night aboard, and she was feeling a bit melancholy, but she performed several nice Disney medleys.

Disney Magic Clara Oman

Lee wanted to see the Disney Dreams show, and I went back to the stateroom to finish packing and put the bags out. Sure enough the lithograph was on our bed, with a nice note from Commodore Tom thanking us for sailing with them on this inaugural itinerary. I wonder if the reason that we received it so late was to prevent everyone from bringing it to the Commodore's signing, which had been earlier that day. As it was, we had seen a huge line of people who were waiting before the signing even started! I don't get it, personally.

Disney Magic Norway lithograph

I packed the lithograph safely away and placed the bags outside. On the stateroom TV I watched Dr. Marv's talk on Copenhagen, Queen Margaret, and the Kalmar Union and periodically went out on the verandah to watch the sunset - at 10:08 p.m. Still late, but earlier than it had been now that we were sailing south.

Disney Magic Norway sunset

Lee returned from the show, telling me about all of the changes to it - lots of new effects, as well as new material featuring Anna, Elsa, and Olaf. He really enjoyed it.

Lobster towel animal

Saturday - Now It's Time to Say Goodbye...

We were docked in Copenhagen by the time we woke up at 6:30. We're always surprised at how we can sleep through docking - we never seem to hear the sounds that we hear when we are awake.

Breakfast was at 7:15. The final breakfast is always rather sad, since it's intended to be fast. They are in a hurry to get us out of there, though of course they won't TELL us that. :-)

After breakfast we quickly made our way off ship - again via deck 1. In some ways it was easier to leave from deck 1, since we didn't have to pass through the beautiful Atrium on our way off the ship. But it's still an interesting dichotomy: as anxious as the crew is to welcome us aboard the ship at the beginning of the cruise, they are just as anxious to see us leave on departure morning. :-) (Donald is obviously overjoyed. :-) )

Disney Magic Copenhagen terminal

It was, oh, maybe 8:30 by the time we had our bags and were out of the cruise terminal. No passport control or customs to clear. There were already passengers there who were arriving for the next cruise! I was very envious of them...

Disney Magic

I had purchased Disney transfers from the port to the Copenhagen airport. It was more expensive, but I had read that taxis can be difficult to get at the port when a ship comes in. I knew Disney would get us to the airport efficiently. They really packed the bus that we were on, though - I felt like one of those sardines in the cannery in Stavanger! Lee and I were some of the last to board, and we ended up crammed in the last row. Not a very pleasant bus ride, though at least the driver was good, and talked to us about the areas we drove by.

The Copenhagen airport had been pretty empty when we arrived at 7:15 in the morning, but it was very busy at 10:00 in the morning! We had to wait in a huge line to check our bags - that took almost half an hour! But we still had time before our flight to get something to eat and do a little last-minute shopping for some Danish chocolates.

We flew to San Francisco - it was a long flight, but nice to get most of the travel done in one chunk. The flight was a little over 10 hours. We flew over Greenland, and it was clear enough that I could see it below us. Wow... definitely not much "green" down there! We were able to get through Immigration and Customs in San Francisco pretty efficiently, and landed in San Diego about 6:40 p.m. A very long day, and we were tired. We'd been in Scandinavia just long enough for me to get accustomed to that time zone, and now I was back in California. Oh well, at least I find it easier to go west rather than east.

flying over Greenland

Final Thoughts

It was a GREAT trip!!! Copenhagen was even better than I thought it would be, and I'm glad we flew in several days early and had time to enjoy the city. And Norway - that was certainly a "bucket list" item for me, though now I want to go back and spend more time there, and go further north to see some other places.

I wish the itinerary had been slightly different, and that we could've had our second sea day earlier in the cruise to break up some of the port days. Four port days in a row was exhausting.

I really enjoyed the excursions that we selected, and felt that they gave us a good mix of available activities, since we didn't have time to do EVERYTHING that we would've liked to do. I regret that we didn't have any time to wander around Alesund at all, but we knew that would be the case when we chose the Troll Road excursion. Knowing what I do now, I'm still happy that we chose that excursion. But of course next time I would choose something different, since I've seen the Troll Road.

Norway troll

But a nice thing about all of the ports was that you didn't need to go on an excursion in order to see something interesting. All of them had places that you could easily walk to from the dock. In fact, we chose not to do an excursion in Bergen because just about everything we really wanted to see was within walking distance of the ship.

Though we had outstanding weather in Copenhagen, the weather in Norway was typical for this time of year and mostly overcast. I was hoping we'd get the "Disney bubble" that we've had on so many other cruises (like the first Disney cruise to Alaska) and have really great weather, but on port days we only had the one afternoon in Stavanger where we had beautiful blue sky and sunshine. But at least we didn't have much rain - just the one day of rain/drizzle in Geiranger which didn't really bother us. And even under gray skies Norway is truly spectacular. Words and photos can not convey the beauty, majesty and grandeur. It is simply breathtaking.

Disney Magic Norway Cruise

Prior to the trip everyone we talked to who had been to Norway told us to dress in layers, and that was really the key - especially having a waterproof/windproof outer layer. The coldest day we had was in Geiranger when it was mid-40s, but otherwise it was in the 50s and even low 60s. Still, I think this was the first Disney cruise I've been on where I never wore shorts at all. (There were some passengers, including a guy who was on a couple of our excursions, who wore shorts the entire time! They were obviously not from southern California.)

Given the "Frozen Frenzy" and the Norway itinerary, there were lots of Frozen-related activities on-board the ship. I already mentioned "Freezing the Night Away", and some of the special activities that day, as well as the Chocolate Chase. In addition there were special Meet and Greets with Anna and Elsa - for which Fastpasses were distributed - and a version of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique called "Anna and Elsa's Boutique" to transform little girls into miniature Annas and Elsas. The Frozen movie was shown multiple times on board, and I think all of the on-board entertainers were required to perform "Let it Go." :-) In Alesund, there was even a special excursion to the Sunnmore Museum that included a visit by Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff. (For "only" $359/person. We weren't interested, but a lot of people were and it sold out quickly. From what I heard it was a huge success and guests were thrilled.)

There was a fair bit of cruise line specific Frozen-themed merchandise, but I think the bulk of it was generic Frozen items for the kids that you can purchase just about anywhere.

Frozen merchandise

In all honesty, while I would really like to use the line: "Disney, just let it go!", the reality was that I didn't feel buried under a veritable avalanche of "Frozen" while on the cruise. It was there, but it was easy to choose not to participate, and there were lots of other activities available. There was no question that all of the Frozen additions were a huge hit with most guests, though. And there were probably a number of guests who wanted even MORE Frozen. (And I can think of a few Frozen things I would've like to see... for example, a magnetic snowflake around the number on the door of every stateroom would've been a nice touch, and it would have been very amusing to see Olaf give the disembarkation talk... :-) )

I should wrap this up. So just a couple more things:

The crew was wonderful, as they always are. We are always impressed by how nice and accommodating everyone is, despite the incredibly long hours that they work, and with very little personal time (or space). We enjoyed seeing how excited they were to be visiting Norway for the first time.

And the ship was beautiful. The last time we were aboard the Disney Magic was in October 2013 just after the drydock/refurbishment when things weren't quite done and it was still a bit of a fixer-upper. That wasn't an issue this time, though there was some maintenance going on just because there is ALWAYS maintenance in progress on a ship. We still love the Magic, and it's our favorite of the four Disney ships.

Disney Magic

We had a wonderful time, and I'm really glad we took this trip. I would've loved to have had a couple more days on board - but I always say that! I know that the cruise experience is not for everyone, but I love it. And as you can see we manage to have VERY active vacations, even on a cruise.

Thanks for reading - the food blogs will be coming soon.





June 25, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - Part 7, Bergen

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Disney Magic in Bergen


Thursday - Bergen

Lee followed Commodore Tom's advice and got up at 6:00 to go up on deck, but I stayed in bed for another half hour. After that I put on shoes and a jacket and went out on the verandah. I'm afraid the sail-in to Bergen didn't appear that special to me. Nothing like the grandeur of Geirangerfjord, which was worth the early wake-up. Lee returned around 7:00 and confirmed that it hadn't really been worth getting up for, so we both went back to bed until 10:00. Ahhhh.

Bergen

After breakfast we headed off the ship about 11:00. We were going to be "Freezing the Night Away" that evening aboard the ship and the decorations in the Atrium were already up.

Disney Magic Frozen decorations

We picked up a map of Bergen as we exited the port and walked toward Bryggen - the old wharf area with all of the brightly painted wooden buildings you see in photos of Bergen. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was a cool day but not raining, and we had a little bit of sun for a while.

Bergen Bryggen

They use antlers in all of their decorating, too. :-)

Bergen Bryggen

Across from Bryggen is the famous fish market. Lots of stalls selling fresh fish, or smoked fish, and also cooked fish. We had recently had breakfast, so we weren't hungry yet. But everything was very vibrant and busy and colorful.

Bergen fish market

My sister-in-law had given me a map and info on a walking tour they had done when they visited Bergen last year, so we did that. It started at the fish market, then went to a church, and then into some or the old neighborhoods with wooden buildings.

Bergen church
Bergen houses

We found a cat who seemed friendly - but he was one of those Jekyll and Hyde cats that will roll around innocently luring you in to pet him, then swipe at you with claws and teeth. Yeah, we know YOUR kind, cat! :-)

Bergen cat
Bergen cat

We passed by the Ole Bull Theater (Norway's first musical superstar) and the tour finished outside the Museum of Decorative Arts. There was a bunch of construction going on and our view of the museum was blocked by fences and the steam from an asphalt roller. It seemed as though many of the places we visited on this trip had a lot of construction going on - especially Copenhagen and Bergen.

Bergen Museum of Decorative Arts

One of the recommended Bergen activities is to take the funicular to the top of Mt. Floien - about 1,000 feet up. This was a very popular activity and the line was long - took us about 40 minutes to buy tickets and then wait to board. We bought one-way tickets for 43 kroner each, since we planned to walk down.

Floibanen

The ride up was quiet and fast.

Bergen Funicular

There were lots of people at the top. It was cloudy and cool, but the Magic had a little bit of sun on it.

Disney Magic in Bergen

We wanted to hike but didn't have a map, and the posted maps and signs weren't very helpful and didn't give us any idea of the distance involved. It was 1:30 by then and we had to be aboard by 5:15. And it would be about an hour walk back to the ship. We took off towards a lake first, which looked like a short walk - and it was, not even 1/4 mile.

Lake

We were walking through a very green forest. We did find some interesting signs in the forest...

Baby dinosaur sign

No, we did not see any baby dinosaurs. We saw some flowers, though.

Bergen flowers

And some ferns that looked primeval.

Bergen ferns

We never did find any trails that went anywhere in particular, but we did have them almost to ourselves once we were about 10 minutes from the funicular station. Though there were a number of joggers on the trails. We had just a little bit of sun - this photo was taken the last time that it peeked out from behind the clouds.

Mt. Floien trails

This was a really odd sign...we decided it was much more fun to make stuff up rather than use a translator to figure out what it really says. :-)

Goose and wolf sign

Back at the top we found the troll - and the trail that went down to the City Center.

Troll on Mt. Floyen

Near the top of the trail was an activity center with lots of carved wooden figures.

Mt. Floyen carvings

And we found some more fun signs.

No flying witches

There was this imposing figure.

Mt. Floyen witch

Oops...too late! I hope this isn't some kind of Norwegian curse...

No witch photos

There were more people on the trail than I expected, though a lot of them were residents. And there were a lot of people running UP the trail! Whew. It was a nice wide gravel path, but it was a climb. They were definitely getting a workout!

Mt. Floien trail

We stopped in a shop in Bryggen and found a couple of sweaters that "spoke" to us, just like Dr. Marv had said. The sales lady was very helpful - she had worked at Epcot in the Norway pavilion. She was excited that the Magic is visiting Norway this summer.

We also stopped at a bakery for some skillingsbolle - Norwegian cinnamon rolls. They were warm and really good and we ate them so fast that I didn't take any photos. :-)

There was still an hour until we needed to be back on board, but we were ready to go back and relax a little bit before dinner. There were again hot beverages available when we boarded, but we did not partake - instead I went to the Atrium where there was warm spiced wine the night before. And yes, it was there. He'd only just gotten set up so it was only barely warm, but it still tasted good.

There was a Norwegian band performing out on the dock to welcome us back - we could see them from our verandah, and enjoyed their performance.

Bergen Band

That evening, as part of the Freezing the Night Away festivities, there was a Maypole dance in the Atrium - Oaken's Maypole Swirl and Twirl. People of all ages were participating.

Oakens Maypole Dance

Minnie, dressed in her Norwegian costume, was watching from deck 4, and I was able to get my photo taken with her. Many of the Disney characters appeared in new costumes for this cruise, but Minnie was the only one I saw - I heard Goofy was dressed as a Viking, and I'm sorry that I missed that!

Norway Minnie

I watched a little bit of the Maypole dance but then I continued my "Chocolate Chase" - I was down to the final three clues. The very last one was a bit of a challenge - I'd narrowed it down to two locations, but it wasn't in the first place I looked. I wasn't the only one who was looking there! I found it in the other place. The instructions said to leave the answer sheet on the bed on Friday morning.

Chocolate Chase symbol

Since we were "Freezing the Night Away" we wore our new sweaters to dinner. We were in Animator's Palate, and it was the night of the "Animation Magic" show dinner. Unfortunately, it was also the night of the ship-wide "Frozen"-inspired menu, and because of the show dinner, we did not get a chance to try most of the new menu. We had an appetizer sampler and soup (and none of those items were on the new menu), and a dessert sampler, though at least it included a couple of the new menu items. Only for the entrees did we have the full range of choices available. But I was disappointed because there were several appetizer and dessert items I would've like to try.

Dale of Norway sweaters

At the end of dinner we received special light-up snowflake amulets that we were supposed to wear for the deck party later that evening.

Freezing the Night Away Snowflake Lights

After dinner we went to see the new show: Walt Disney: The Dream Goes On. Though this is not a new show to Disney Cruise Line it was new to us. It was not as much a Broadway type of show as the other shows are - there weren't a lot of huge production numbers. Lots of narration and lots of video clips of Walt Disney (much of it familiar from things like "One Man's Dream"). Some of it was more like living dioramas, with elements that wouldn't mean much if you weren't a Disney fan. For example, in one scene there was someone dressed as Alice from the Alice comedies standing in front of an old-style camera.

Walt Disney the Dream Goes On

The only big production number was Mary Poppins, and there was also a nice version of "Go the Distance" sung by three male singers with a male dancer doing a somewhat interpretive artistic (but acrobatic) dance.

I thought the show was interesting but not quite up to the usual standards - it didn't seem to be very polished. Some of that may have been because it was relatively new to this particular cast. Though I was happy that it didn't have the contrived story line of things like "Disney Dreams" and "Disney's Believe".

After the show it was time to get ready for Freezing the Night Away. That's the deck party that was replacing Pirate Night, though I must admit I had been hoping for a Viking Night. :-) I knew it was going to be cold on deck given the temperature and especially the wind. I put on just about every layer I had, including the wind pants and a lined windbreaker on top of my regular jacket. We went up to deck 10 and were able to get a spot right on the rail. This was about 20 minutes before the show started, and the rail spots were going quickly. Right before the show started a family with two little girls (both dressed as Elsa) came up and stood behind us. They weren't being pushy at all but we offered to let the girls stand in front of us so they could see. They were mesmerized, and their parents were very grateful.

Freezing the Night Away

There were already quite a few people in the dance area on deck 9 - and quite a few little girls dressed as Elsa! Not surprising. There were some Annas as well. Most of them were wearing jackets over their dresses. There were even some adults dressed as one of the princesses - I saw some pretty elaborate costumes that were quite beautiful.

Freezing the Night Away

The Royal Party Planners came on stage first, followed by Kristoff and then Anna.

Freezing the Night Away

Even Sven made an appearance on the big screen, and we played some Reindeer Games, like "Sven Says". And we did the Reindeer Hokey Pokey: "You put your left hoof in, you put your left hoof out..."

Freezing the Night Away

Olaf also joined us on screen for an "In Summer" sing-a-long.

Freezing the Night Away

But Olaf started to melt (maybe some people are worth melting for, but perhaps it's not an appropriate thing to do to a guest of honor), and Anna frantically called for Elsa, who appeared in the nick of time, and with the help of our snowflake amulets was able to provide Olaf with his own personal snow flurry.

Freezing the Night Away

And of course everyone had to sing "Let it Go". Some nice CO2 arctic air blasts to accompany those frozen fractals all around. And it even snowed a bit down on deck 9.

Freezing the Night Away

It was a fun show and it looked like everyone had a good time, including the cast and cruise staff. No fireworks for this one, but considering how light it still was at 10:40 when it ended, we wouldn't have been able to see them very well anyway.

There did not seem to be any additional family activity after this - no dessert buffet in Cabanas - but all of the adults were encouraged to visit Fathoms for "Club Frozen" - the continuation of the party.

We went by our stateroom to discard a few layers of clothing (I had stayed warm enough, but only barely), and went to Fathoms.

There were already a number of people there. We got a couple of seats at the high bar in the back where we could see but be out of the way. They had a large ice sculpture on top of the bar that they were using to make the specialty drink of the night: a Frozen Fjord. It was very blue. We ordered two. It was quite good, made with blue curacao and I'm not sure what else.

Club Frozen
Club Frozen
Frozen Fjord

There were also servers circulating with platters of appetizers and desserts. It was a nice selection.

Club Frozen canapes
Club Frozen desserts

We didn't stay very long: there was a DJ playing dance music and it was pretty loud. We went over to O'Gills, since the event had flowed into that space as well, but all of the tables there were full.

Olaf ice scuplture

So we went to Keys instead. Much quieter there. Fletcher made me a lovely Godiva Chocolate Martini. Very pretty.

Godiva chocolate martini

I don't remember when we left - close to midnight. It was kind of sort of almost dark outside. :-)

Elephant towel animal

Sea day the next day - we could sleep in!






June 24, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - Part 6, Geiranger

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Seven Sisters Geiranger

Wednesday - Geiranger

The Commodore had told us to be out on deck by 5:45, so we set the alarm for 5:15. And 5:15 came very early. It was already quite light outside since sunrise was at 4:05. It was overcast and windy but not raining. I put on just about every layer I had: jeans, wind pants, long sleeve shirt, fleece pullover, jacket, and fleece vest over that, along with my scarf, new fleece headband and gloves. It sounds like a lot of clothes but I was warm enough without being too warm.

There were lots of people out on deck, including a lot of the crew, who were as excited as we were since it was also their first time seeing this area.

On deck entering Geiranger fjord

There was a coffee/hot chocolate service set up on deck 10 forward, just behind the plexiglass wall, and that was very nice and very popular. There were also crew members serving breakfast pastries and warm sausage and egg breakfast sandwiches. Those disappeared quickly any time someone came out with a new platter of them!

Disney Magic pastries

We passed by the Seven Sisters waterfalls on the port side and a larger waterfall, called "The Suitor" or "The Bachelor" on the other. The sisters are the more famous, but I thought the larger fall on the starboard side was more impressive.

Geiranger the Suitor

Geirangerfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's 9.3 miles long and over 800 feet deep. As we went further in the channel grew narrower, and we saw more waterfalls and mountains. It gets overwhelming - beauty everywhere you look!

Geiranger Ford

There was just a tiny patch of blue in the sky, which I hoped would be a promise of things to come, but it was just a tease. The day ended up being overcast.

Geiranger Fjord

Finally we could see the town of Geiranger. Commodore Tom sounded the "Mickey horn" twice as we approached. The echoes were very impressive, but since it was only about 7:00 I'm not sure the residents appreciated it very much. :-)

Geiranger

We were moored in the bay and not at a dock and I thought we were going to have to use tender boats (as the ship that had arrived before us was doing) but instead they brought the "Sea Walk" out to us: a nifty floating dock. Really interesting to watch it move into place!

Geiranger Sea Walk
Geiranger Sea Walk

It was only around 7:30 and we weren't meeting for our excursion until 9:30, so we went up to Cabanas for breakfast. It was quite busy up there, especially since everyone wanted to sit inside - quite chilly outside with the wind. We shared a table with a couple who are travel agents and they gave us some suggestions on destinations and cruise lines to try next. (We love Disney, but the itineraries are limited.)

Our excursion for the day was a hike to the Storseterfossen waterfall, and then to a farm for some more Norwegian waffles. There were 42 in our group, plus the two guides, Rico and Unita. We took a bus up the hill to the start of the trail, which was a gravel road for the first 1/2 mile. Lots of flowers in bloom in the pastures we went by.

Geiranger flowers
Geiranger flowers

Eventually we went through a gate and onto a real trail. Quite a bit of it was stone steps. It was starting to drizzle off and on and I was a little concerned about the steps being slippery, but they weren't. (This photo was taken on the way down.)

Geiranger Storseterfossen trail

We were going through pasture land, and we saw some sheep. Though we could hear them before we could see them, thanks to the bells they were wearing.

Geiranger sheep

This was a much more challenging hike than I had expected - the trail was a fairly steep uphill for about 1-1/4 miles. It was no problem for us, and I was happy to get a good cardio workout! Our guide told everyone to go their own pace and let anyone who wanted go ahead - we took him up on that offer!

Geiranger Storseterfossen

We were the first ones to the top, with a (much) younger couple right behind us. :-)

Geiranger Storseterfossen

There was a path down to the waterfall, and we could go behind it to see the back side of water. And I think we found what happens to solid water when it gets warm...

Geiranger Storseterfossen

It had started to rain, and it was actually drier behind the fall than up above! We talked to our guides a little bit. Neither of them is from Norway - he was German, and she was from Estonia. They said less than 200 people live full time in Geiranger, but about 850 come in for the summer to support the busy tourist season.

We went back down the same trail to the Westeras Farm where we had Norwegian waffles and coffee/tea in the old barn building. It was really raining when we left the farm - we both put on our rain pants and jackets, and those kept us dry.

Westeras farm
Norwegian waffles

We walked about 10-15 minutes to an overlook of the fjord where we could see the Disney Magic far below us.

Disney Magic in Geiranger

Along the way we passed a field that had llamas in it - they protect the sheep and goats from predators like foxes. (I got extra credit with Rico for knowing they were used for protection. :-) )

Westeras farm llamas

The rain had slowed to a mist by the time we started back to where our bus would pick us up and take us back to the dock. We enjoyed this excursion, though it would have been great to have a clearer day.

Geiranger waterfall

Instead of going back to the ship we went into town. First stop was the Geiranger Sjokolade shop for some chocolates made in Geiranger! I wanted to stuff some chocolate in my face...

The shop was very busy. They have interesting favors like Aquavit, whiskey, passion fruit, cloudberry, and something called brown cheese, which is like a soft filling, more like a caramel fudge. (Norwegian brown cheese, or brunost, is made of boiled goat's milk, cream, and whey. The sugar in the milk caramelizes from the heat, giving it the sweetness and the brown color.)

Geiranger Sjokolade

Then we went up the Fossevandring, or "Waterfall Walk". There's a large cascade of water that flows through town, and there's a series of stairs and ramps along the lower half. It's new - it only opened last year so it's not in most of the guidebooks yet. I found mention of it on Trip Advisor, and our Cruise Director had mentioned it as an activity, also. It's a public walkway so it's free and there were a lot of other people on it, too. It ends at the Fjord Center, and there is a charge to go in there.

Geiranger Fossevandring

It was getting late in the afternoon and we were chilled and tired - and it was still drizzling so we headed back to the ship. We found a place on the pier to get some photos of the Magic with the walls of the fjord as a backdrop. Oh for a little blue sky over the mountains...

Disney Magic in Geiranger fjord

When we boarded there was coffee, hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies waiting for us just inside - so thoughtful! We had a couple of cookies on the way to our stateroom where we changed out of our damp and muddy clothes and shoes. And then we went to Cove Cafe to enjoy some adult hot beverages! We really missed the enclosed expansion of Cove Cafe to deck 10 that they have on the Disney Wonder...that would have been a very heavily used space on this cruise! As it was, the existing Cove Cafe was quite popular, as there were lots of adults on this cruise.

Disney Magic cookies

We left port a little after 5:00. Of course the weather had started to clear a little by then! No sun, but it was brighter and had stopped raining. Before we left, Commodore Tom told us that in our honor the town would be shooting off some dynamite. Ummmmm...ok? He hurried to assure us that it would not be directed AT us. (One of my Facebook friends suggested that this was retaliation for the 0700 Mickey horn. :-) )

Geiranger fjord

We sat on our verandah and watched the fjord go by - it was great! We were sheltered from the wind and had a lovely view of the Seven Sisters. And then it was time to head to dinner.

Geiranger Seven Sisters

After dinner we went to the Walt Disney Theater for that night's show - a group they had brought aboard for this cruise: The Magic of Light featuring eVolution Dance Theater. They had been featured on "Italy's Got Talent." They did dance routines to Disney music while wearing lighted costumes, where the lights on the costumes were also choreographed to the music. There were some parts that were intriguing, but it wasn't that compelling and we were both falling asleep in some parts.

Evolution Dance Theater

At some point during the evening I found the next three "Chocolate Chase" symbols.

Chocolate chase symbol

It had been several long days, and I was exhausted and in bed by 9:30. After three busy port days in a row we really could've used the sea day the next day, rather than another port day. Commodore Tom had encouraged us to get up at 6:00 the next morning for the sail in to Bergen...but we didn't have an excursion in Bergen so I was looking forward to sleeping in. I wasn't very enthusiastic about yet another early morning, but Lee set the alarm anyway.

Frog towel animal

Coming Next: Bergen





June 23, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - Part 5, Alesund

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Disney Magic Alesund Norway

Tuesday - Alesund

We had a fair bit of motion during the night, but not bad. Mostly things were creaky. I slept better but the jet lag caught up with Lee and he was awake for a while...just watching the hours tick by....

Alesund Norway

We had an excursion in the morning, but we didn't have to meet until 9:30, so didn't have to be up quite so early.

There were lots of interesting things to do in Alesund (OH-leh-sund), but we'd opted for the trip to the Trollstigen - the Troll Road. My brother and sister-in-law did it last year and really enjoyed it, and we were sure we would, too. But it was an all-day trip on a bus, so we wouldn't have any free time in Alesund at all.

Unfortunately the great weather we'd had in Stavanger didn't follow us, and it was overcast and cool the entire day. Oh well. It was certainly typical weather for this time of year.

Disney Magic Alesund Norway

There were quite a few buses going to the Trollstigen. We had one of the "adult only" excursions. The buses were delayed, so we didn't actually get going until 10:15. We had an excellent tour guide who was from England originally, so we had no problems understanding him. He gave us lots of information on what we were seeing and some of the history and politics and culture of Norway.

We started by driving along the Storfjorden. There were lots of waterfalls, and we got kind of blasé about them after a while. :-) But we were still really enjoying the scenery. We also saw a lot of fish farms in the water. There was one that was three circles in a Mickey head shape, but I didn't have a chance to get a photo of it.

Norway fish farm

After about an hour we stopped at an old church in Stordal. There were several other buses already there who had started before us. The church was called the Rose Church. The paintings inside had been restored recently. There's a newer church nearby used for services and the Rose Church is only used for weddings.

Rose Church Norway

The scenery just kept getting better as we continued along the Storfjorden, passing mountains and waterfalls and small towns.

Norway fjord
small town Norway

This area is a very popular vacation destination and we went by lots of RV parks and cabins.

Norway campground

At Valldal we went inland toward the mountains. We stopped at a waterfall walk - Gudbrandsjuvet - that had a series of ramps zigzagging across the cascades below.

Gudbrandsjuvet Norway
Gudbrandsjuvet Norway

Most of our stops were short - just on and off to take pictures - but this one was a little longer and I had time to find some wild flowers in a meadow on the other side. With all of the short stops we made I was very happy that our group was responsible and punctual and everyone was on time - only once did we wait an extra couple of minutes past the time our guide told us to return. That was a very nice change from some of the other excursions I've been on - and even our guide commented on how good we were.

Norway flowers

As we climbed higher into the mountains our guide told us we were in troll country and pointed out the rocks and smaller, more weathered trees. The elevation at the top of the pass was almost 2800 feet above sea level but things were quite barren up there. Tree level is much lower in Norway than in California.

Trollstigen Norway

We started to see a lot more snow on the road and in places there was still 3-4 feet along the side of the road.

Trollstigen Norway

It was mostly clear at the top of the Trollstigen, though there were enough patches of snow for those who might want to build a snowman. (The kids we saw were more interested in using it for snowball fights. :-) )

Trollstigen Norway

We had an hour on our own at the top. There's a nice cafe/shop complex there where people could get lunch (we brought our own).

Trollstigen Norway

There's a paved path to two different overlooks, and that had been mostely cleared of snow. The first overlook was just a couple of minutes away and the second was less than 10, but it had a short, but fairly steep, climb, and then a number of steps down. We ended up on a cantilevered platform looking down at the famous 11 hairpin turns of the Trollstigen.

Trollstigen Norway

As we were driving up and I was looking at the clouds I was afraid we might be in them but we had a good view looking down. It was quite spectacular despite the gray sky.

Trollstigen Norway

We had time to eat our lunch and do a little shopping (we knew we wouldn't have any time in Alesund - we'd have to go straight to the ship). All I really needed was a postcard for our stateroom door.

I'd been dreading the trip down all of those hairpin turns - just the idea of it rather than a motion sickness issue, but it was fine. Our bus driver had obviously done it many times and it was slow and controlled. Since it was so early in the season we only encountered a few vehicles that were coming up, which made it easier. It's a pretty impressively steep road with a 10% incline. When our side of the bus was on the outside looking down, the next hairpin seemed a long way below us!

Trollstigen Norway

We had a couple of very short stops for photos, which gave us an excellent view of the Stigfossen waterfall.

Stigfossen Norway

And we actually saw a troll in the rock. :-)

Trollstigen Norway

I believe this is called the Romsdalhorn.

Romsdalhorn Norway

Our last stop was the Trollveggen, the Troll Wall. It's the tallest vertical cliff face in Europe - over 1100 meters (3600 feet) from the base to the highest point. But of course people have climbed it.

Trollveggen Norway

While standing there we heard, and then saw, a rock avalanche, shortly followed by a snow avalanche down the same chute.

Trollveggen Norway

Our guide pointed us towards the toilettes that were part of an old railway station - the station is closed but the restrooms are still maintained. There were a couple of unisex stalls, and then one with this sign, which we found quite amusing.

Restroom sign, Norway
Railway station near Trollveggen Norway

The drive back to Alesund was about two hours. There was still lots of interesting scenery on the ride back along the Romsdalsfjorden but our brains were kind of on overload by then.

Romsdahl fjord, Norway

We went back through Alesund via a different route and were able to see some of the Art Nouveau buildings that were constructed after the fire in 1904 destroyed so many buildings.

Alesund Norway

We were a little late in returning but since we were on a Disney excursion we weren't worried that the ship would leave without us. And we still arrived 20 minutes before the 5:45 all aboard time. Lots of people had also been delayed in getting back and there was a long line to board. In fact, our table mates were late for dinner because they had been delayed by a bus issue.

We were escorted out of the harbor by a fire boat - the only one I saw on our cruise.

Trollstigen Norway

After dinner we went to the Geiranger lecture by Dr. Marv. He talked about some of the sights we would be seeing as we sailed into the fjord, like the Seven Sisters waterfalls, and "The Suitor" waterfall that's on the opposite side. After the lecture I went chasing down the first three clues in Anna's Chocolate Hunt. They weren't too difficult, though some of the symbols were placed to make them a bit more challenging to find.

Chocolate Challenge

We went to Keys for a while, but the Commodore had told us that we would enter the Geirangerfjord starting about 5:45 in the morning so we tried to go to bed at a reasonable time so that we could get up early. "Early" being a relative term since it was still quite light outside at 10:15 - this was the view when we returned to our stateroom. That was the night of our latest sunset: 11:26 p.m.

Disney Magic Norway Cruise

Coming Next: Geiranger

Peacock towel animal





June 22, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - Part 4, Stavanger

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Disney Magic Stavanger Norway

Monday - Stavanger

Our first port in Norway! As a reminder, it's pronounced "Stuh-VON-gur".

Disney Magic Stavanger Norway

It was an early day for us - we needed to meet for our excursion at 8:15. So we got up about 7:00 and went to Cabanas for breakfast. Lots of other people up early, also.

It was looking like an overcast and cool day. And we were doing a fjord cruise and knew it would be pretty cold up on deck. I thought about wearing my wind pants but didn't - later I wished that I had pulled them on over my jeans. I had a long sleeve shirt, fleece pullover, jacket, scarf, and my new fleece headband.

Stavanger Norway

We were able to walk off the ship to the dock were our fjord cruise boat, the "Fjordfart" was docked. The younger crowd in the group thought the name was very funny. We asked one of the crew who said it means "fjord speed" in Norwegian.

Fjordfart boat Stavanger Norway

Our destination was the Lysefjord, which our guide pronounced as "Loosah-fjord", with a short "ooh" and not a long one. The name means "light fjord".

There was seating inside where we sat when we started out, but we knew we'd want to go out to the open observation deck when we got to the good stuff. We had a good view of some of the Stavanger port area, such as the Petroleum Museum, as we went along.

Petroleum Museum Stavanger Norway

After we got away from Stavanger and started into the fjord we began to see quite a few waterfalls and we went up on deck. It was very cold in the wind and I was happy to have the headband and scarf - plus the people in front of me who were blocking some of the wind!

The boat was very maneuverable and the captain was able to get us very close to the walls - this photo is not zoomed in at all. Interesting grotto. There was something about the rock that I didn't hear, which explains the formation.

Lysefjord Stavanger Norway

See the heart in the rock?

Lysefjord Stavanger Norway

We were able to get in very close to this waterfall, also. This part looked like something out of Lord of the Rings.

Lysefjord Stavanger Norway

There were a couple of goats, too.

Lysefjord Stavanger Norway

One of the landmarks is Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), though we didn't have a very clear view of it. It's quite flat on top. One of the available excursions was a hike to the top. Later in the cruise we talked to some people who did it - it was a long day for them, but they enjoyed it.

Pulpit Rock Stavanger Norway

We got a very up close and personal view of this waterfall, the Hengjane Fall.

Hengjane Fall Lysefjord Stavanger Norway

The captain got close and then spun the boat in a full circle so that everyone got a good look at it. Those of us on top got splashed!

Hengjane Fall Stavanger Norway

The boat turned around at that point. The fjord is 26 miles long, but we only went about 1/3 of the way in. We returned at a much faster speed (we know where it got the "Fjordfart" name!). We quickly went to the back of the observation deck behind the pilot house because, as much as I'd like to say the cold never bothered me anyway, the reality is that it was much too cold to stand in the front. :-) Eventually we went inside where it was warm.

Lysefjord Stavanger Norway

We stopped at a cafe/souvenir shop on the way back where we tried Norwegian waffles for the first time. That's apparently a popular thing, because they were offered on a lot of the excursions. They weren't served hot, and they were more soft like pancakes. They gave us "roome" to put on top, which is not quite whipped cream and not quite sour cream, along with strawberry jam. They were quite tasty, and there was coffee and tea, also.

Norwegian waffles

By the time we arrived back at the dock the weather there had cleared and it was a beautiful day! I had optimistically brought my sunglasses, and I needed them!

A professional beach volleyball tournament was being held that weekend in Stavanger and the waterfront area had temporary practice courts as well as a temporary stadium area. We saw lots of players practicing - but no shorts or bikinis for this one!

Beach Volleyball Stavanger Norway

We had time on our own for the rest of the afternoon. I'd gotten some port info from the Internet, but our first order of business was to try to find an ATM. We found a bank building - but it was the business offices and didn't have an ATM! Though the receptionist told us we should find one downtown. In the meantime we wandered through a neighborhood of old wooden houses. They were pretty, and I saw a lot of lilacs blooming. It seemed late to me, but everyone kept telling us that it had been the coldest May in 39 years, so everything had been delayed.

Stavanger houses Norway
Lilacs Stavanger Norway

The Norsk Hermetikkmuseum - the herring cannery museum - was actually in this old neighborhood. We used our credit card to pay the entrance fee, which would get us entry into several other nearby museums at no additional charge. And we'd also get half off entrance to the Petroleum Museum we were already planning to visit.

Cannery Museum Stavanger Norway

This building was a cannery that was in operation from 1916 until 1958. We joined an English-speaking tour that was partway through the museum. I thought it was interesting. The fish were caught in the morning and had to be canned by the end of the day so they didn't spoil! The cans were made, the fish were prepared, smoked, placed by hand in the cans, sealed, and keys and labels applied all in this one building, which was not very large. The guide turned on just one of the machines and it was very noisy - I can't even imagine how loud it would've been with everything going on. These are the tables where women sat and packed the fish into cans by hand.

Cannery Museum Stavanger Norway

Upstairs they had an area showing old movie footage, which looked like it was from the 1920s. It showed scenes of the entire process from pulling the fish from the nets to someone opening a can to eat them. I thought the old footage was very effective, and more interesting than if they'd tried to do a re-enactment.

We finally found an ATM at the 7-11 - but it had just eaten the card of the previous guy, so we passed it by. We found another at a bank, but it didn't have the symbols that would indicate it would accept our cards. (Though we went back to it later, and it turned out that it worked for us.)

This is the Stavanger domkirke - the Stavanger Cathedral of Saint Swithun. It's the oldest cathedral in Norway.

Stavanger Cathedral Norway

Eventually we came to the Norsk Oljemuseum - the Petroleum Museum. The discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea has made a huge difference in Norway. The government sets aside some of the money in a fund used for health care and university education, among other things, at no cost to residents. As I mentioned before, we understand the significance of that part of the Maelstrom attraction now.

Petroleum Museum Stavanger Norway

The museum had lots of information and interactive exhibits. All of the signs were in English and Norwegian, and the movies alternated showings in both languages. I think it's worth visiting if you're in Stavanger.

Petroleum Museum Stavanger Norway

Outside is an extensive kids playground made from parts of old oil rigs, everything very brightly painted. One of our servers on the Magic actually told us about this - some of the crew had a great time there on their first visit to Stavanger on the Baltic cruise. We were not the first Disney cruise to pass this way...at least not in Stavanger, but we were the first in the other three ports.

Petroleum Museum Stavanger Norway
Petroleum Museum Stavanger Norway

On our way back towards the ship we finally found an ATM and got some Norwegian kroner. We stopped along the harbor and watched the seagulls fishing for herring. As you can see it had turned into an absolutely gorgeous day.

Stavanger Norway

We also visited the Maritime Museum, which was one of those included in our Cannery Museum admission. Lots of stuff on the history of ships in the area, though it wasn't quite as interesting to me. Plus we were getting short on time and I wanted to do a little souvenir shopping on the way back.

Maritime Museum Stavanger Norway

We pulled away about 5:00, and got a good look inside the beach volleyball stadium as we went by.

Beach Volleyball Stavanger Norway

And we also passed a couple of oil platforms.

Oil rig Stavanger Norway

After dinner we watched Age of Ultron, which we hadn't yet seen at home. Once it was over it was after 10:00 and it was still quite light outside - sunset kept getting later and sunrise kept getting earlier as we sailed further north.

When we returned to our stateroom there was a note from "Anna" telling us about the Chocolate Chase. For the next three days there would be clues in the Daily Navigator directing us to locations on the ship where some kind of Arendelle symbol would be posted. We had to write the location and the symbol on the answer sheet, then leave it on our bed on Friday to get our prize. Sounded interesting, and I'm always up for anything to do with chocolate!

towel flower

Coming Next: Alesund



June 21, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - Part 3, Embarkation and Sea Day

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Disney Magic Norway Cruise

Saturday - Embarkation and Sailaway

As I mentioned in Part 2, we were very happy to get to the port and see the Disney Magic waiting for us! Though we really enjoyed Copenhagen, we were ready to begin our cruise to Norway.

Disney Magic Norway Cruise

Disney had added a few touches to the generic cruise terminal they are using in Copenhagen to make it more Disney-like. Captain Mickey was out greeting guests but we didn't wait in line.

As we were checking in they called boarding groups 1-8, so we were able to board as soon as we finished check-in. Love that feature of having Platinum status!

We boarded on deck 1 and not deck 3 - that was very odd. Boarding loses a lot of the "magic" when you don't enter into that beautiful atrium. It ended up that none of the ports we visited had elevated docks, so we ended up always boarding on deck 1.

Disney Magic Norway Cruise

There was cruise staff dressed in Norwegian costumes greeting us as we boarded in Copenhagen, and that was a nice touch.

Disney Magic Norway Cruise

Our first stop was up on deck 3 at Guest Services, since we wanted to check out the available beverage seminars. We were surprised (and disappointed) that there were no wine or champagne seminars. It was hard liquor, like mixology, tequila, port, and even a whiskey and chocolate tasting. And some of them were on port days, which was quite strange. So we didn't sign up for any of them.

We had a nice leisurely lunch in Cariocas. We both had the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app on our phones, so we went through the activities to see what we might want to do on-board over the course of the week. The app worked very well for us during the cruise, and we even used the chat feature a couple of times.

Disney Magic Cariocas

We knew we definitely wanted to see two of the movies that were offered: "Avengers Age of Ultron" and "Tomorrowland." There was also going to be a series of lectures on Norway and the ports we would be visiting. And there were the various "Frozen" activities, too - after all, Disney Cruise Line was visiting Norway for the first time in forever. :-)

By the time we finished lunch it was after 1:30 and we could go to our stateroom. We had a very nice surprise from Jan, our MEI Travel agent - our room had been "Frozen!" Among other things there were snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, and a lovely soft, plush throw on the bed.

Frozen stateroom amenity
Frozen stateroom magnet

We relaxed a bit before the lifeboat drill, and then went up to the Sailaway Party after the drill. No streamers for this party - we received special bottles of bubbles instead. We pulled away from the dock around 5:30.

Disney Magic Norway bubbles
Disney Magic Norway Cruise

On the way out of the harbor we had a good view of some of the windmills and the Øresund Bridge in the distance.

Oresund Bridge

We had the early dinner seating. As usual, we were in Cariocas the first night. I don't know why, but we always get the same dining rotation - Cariocas (or equivalent) the first night, Lumiere's (or equivalent) the second night, and Animator's Palate after that. We were seated at a table for 8, but there was only one other couple at our table. Terrie and Paul were wonderful table companions for the week. We enjoyed their company and we always had plenty to talk about. Our serving team was Darma, from Indonesia, and Liliana from Portugal. They made a good team.

After dinner we went down to the shops to check out the new merchandise. It was obvious that there had been quite a run on the shops when they first opened that evening, but the staff had been doing a good job of re-stocking, and there still seemed to be plenty of merchandise available.

Disney Magic Norway Cruise merchandise
Disney Magic Norway Cruise merchandise
Disney Magic Norway Cruise merchandise
Disney Magic Norway Cruise merchandise
Disney Magic Norway Cruise merchandise

We tried to make it an early night, but we were both still adjusting to the time and, although we were tired, we weren't really sleepy until almost midnight.

Dinosaur towel animal

Sunday - Sea Day

Sea days are supposed to be days to relax, but our day was quite full. We started with the DVC Member Celebration - at 8:30 in the morning. Much too early. But there were almost 500 members on board and it was the only time they could get a large enough room! It cut down on the number of attendees, though...

We were in the North Sea, and there was some ship motion, but it wasn't too bad. The weather was partly sunny but it was quite windy and cold on deck - according to the "current conditions" channel on our stateroom TV, the "Apparent Wind", which takes ship speed and wind speed into consideration, sometimes approached 40 knots! The Aqua Dunk was not in service. :-)

Later in the morning was the first lecture of the cruise: Welcome to Norway, by Dr Marvin Slind - Dr. Marv for short. He gave us an overview of the ports we would be visiting - most importantly, how to pronounce the names!
Stavanger = Stuh-VON-gur
Alesund = OH-leh-sund
Geiranger = Geh-RON-ger
Bergen = BEAR-gun

Apparently the kingdom of Arendelle did not figure prominently into Norwegian history, as he did not mention it. I suppose that's not surprising for a kingdom of isolation...

He also told us about Norwegian sweaters - that when you find the right one it will "speak" to you. :-)

After the lecture we wandered through the shops. I found a nice fleece headband - I'd lost mine in Tokyo Disneyland last year. As the week went on I was very happy to have it! We also bought some t-shirts. I just loved the design of this one - it's very cute and clever the way they gave classic sweater designs a Disney touch.

Disney Magic Norway Cruise t-shirt

Lumiere's was just opening for lunch as we walked by, so we ate there. We had a lovely assistant server named Julia. She's the only assistant server I've ever had who has been so diligent about keeping my tea cup re-filled with hot water! Usually I'm lucky to get even one re-fill. As it turned out she was on our same dining rotation, and her tables were not far from ours, so we saw her often throughout the cruise. She was always smiling and she brightened our day every time we saw her.

Disney Magic Lumieres

After lunch was another lecture, this one on Stavanger and Alesund, the first two ports we would be visiting. We learned a little bit about herring canneries, salted cod, the Vikings, and the construction of Viking ships. And now we understand why the discovery of oil in the North Sea was so important to Norway that they made it part of the Maelstrom attraction in Epcot. Oil has brought in a huge amount of money and had a tremendous impact on the standard of living in Norway. Stavanger is considered the center of the oil industry in Norway.

Alesund is known for its Art Nouveau architecture. Much of the town burned down in 1904, and when it was rebuilt it was all done in the Art Nouveau style. Lots of brick and stone with ornamentation reflecting things from nature such as flowers and leaves. Most of those buildings are still there in the downtown area.

After the lecture we took a brisk walk out on deck 4. Unfortunately, due to work in the stern area and the teen club making a movie in the bow, we could only walk back and forth on the starboard side. Oh well - still got a little bit of exercise.

That night was formal night. We dressed up some, though for this cruise we'd tried to travel somewhat light so hadn't brought our usual formal gear that we would only wear once. Our clothes were a little more multi-purpose.

After dinner we went down to Keys, the piano bar. We were shocked to see that it was PACKED - we've never seen that many people in there! They were all paying rapt attention to the woman who was playing the piano and singing. We found a couple seats at the bar, and recognized the bartender, Fletcher - he was working in Keys the last time we'd cruised on the Magic in October 2013. He told us the reason it was so packed was because of the pianist, Clara Oman. She'd been on the Magic for the Transatlantic cruise, the Baltic cruise, and now the Norway cruise, and had developed quite a following, especially with the passengers (around 200) who had also done all three cruises. She really was very good, with an extensive repertoire, and quite a vocal range.

Disney Magic Keys wall art

Still, it was a relief when her set ended and most of the audience went off to dinner or the show, and the bar was pretty empty again.

We had a nice sunset that night - at around 10:00. And it was just going to get later as we went further north - we were still south of the 58th parallel (Stavanger), and would be traveling north of the 62nd parallel (Alesund). By comparison, Copenhagen is 55.6, San Diego is between the 32nd and 33rd, and Anchorage, which is the furthest north I'd ever been before, is just above the 61st.

Disney Magic Norway Sunset

Jet lag was getting better, but it was still hard to sleep at 10:00. Since we had an early day the next day we needed to try. At least the motion of the ship was nice and soothing...

Teddy bear towel animal

Coming next: Stavanger



June 20, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - Part 2, Sweden & Copenhagen

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Friday

I slept a little better - at least I wasn't wide awake at 2:00. Our plan for the day was to go over to Malmö, Sweden. My paternal grandmother was Swedish, and I wanted to visit Sweden since we were so close. There's a tunnel and bridge (the Øresund Bridge) between Copenhagen and Malmö, and travel between the two takes less than an hour by train or bus.

The Øresund Bridge is apparently famous, so when I asked the Concierge at the hotel about visiting Malmö he asked if I wanted to see the bridge or visit the city. He recommended taking the bus to Malmö and the train back. The bus travels on top of the bridge and the train is under, so the bus route would give us the opportunity to see a little bit more of the bridge.

Oresund Bridge

He gave me a bus schedule and good directions on getting to the bus, but not on how to purchase a ticket. It's a private company and not a service offered by the regular mass transit company, so we couldn't purchase tickets at the regular train/bus station. Turns out you purchase your tickets at the bus itself: cash only. 100 kroner round trip, though we didn't actually need the round trip. The bus made several stops including the Copenhagen airport before crossing the bridge to Malmö. Several more stops before we reached the end of the line near downtown Malmö.

Malmo

We had a tourist guidebook to Malmö that the Concierge had given to me but it took some time to get our bearings. He had recommended walking down one of the pedestrian walkways. Lots of shops and restaurants.

Malmo

Apparently their Starbucks equivalent is Espresso Stop, since we saw them on almost every block.

Malmo Espresso Stop

We saw a pretty Lutheran church.

Malmo church

And walked down to Folkets park. Malmö is not the touristy, historic area that Copenhagen is - more of a residential community. Quite a few people live in Malmö but work in Denmark. We saw lots of people with little kids who were playing in the park.

Malmo park

I liked these cat sculptures along the canal.

Malmo cat sculptures
Malmo canal

In the pedestrian sections we saw lots of of teenagers parading up and down and blowing horns and celebrating and making lots of noise. The girls were all wearing white dresses and the boys were dressed in suits and hats. Lee finally asked one of them what they were doing - they were seniors celebrating their high school graduation with an all day (and all night) party. They were having a great time.

We went over to another park, Slottsparken. This one had a number of different gardens in it. Including a "water-wise" type of garden that looked like something from California!

Malmo waterwise garden

A lot of the flowers were very large!

Malmo poppies

And there was a very picturesque windmill.

Malmo windmill

This building is called the Turning Torso. We weren't that close to it, but it was so tall, and standing off by itself, that it was visible from a long way away.

Malmo Turning Torso

One thing that was new to us: all of the public toilets we saw had attendants, and charged 10 kroner to use them. We didn't have any Swedish kroner, but fortunately they accepted Danish kroner, also.

The trains back to Copenhagen ran every 20-30 minutes, so it was easy to catch one back to the central train station which was about 1/2 mile from our hotel.

After a short break we headed out to take the bus tour of Christiania. We made our way back to the Strøget only to find that Distortion had taken over that part of town. In addition it was a national holiday (Constitution Day) and the streets were blocked off. It turned out the bus was now leaving from a site near our hotel, but we didn't have time to walk back to catch what was going to be the last bus of the day.

Copenhagen Distortion

We ended up at the large mall near our hotel - but all the shops were closed - we assume because of the holiday. Lee found the (closed) Apple Store. :-)

Copenhagen Apple Store

The restaurants were open and we had a good meal at a Thai place - and they served a Belgian waffle for dessert.

Copenhagen Belgian Waffles

We were back in our hotel by 7:30, and just relaxed for the rest of the evening. We were headed to the port the next morning, so didn't have any big plans.


Saturday

I actually slept pretty well and it was Lee's turn to get up in the middle of the night. Jet lag. I think it's been worse than when we went to Asia last year. Both Copenhagen and Hong Kong are 9 time zones away from San Diego, but it's been much more difficult going east than west. Maybe the long days have something to do with it too, since we don't have the cue of darkness to trick us into thinking it's nighttime.

Saturday morning we packed. I laughed when I found this note under our bed. :-)

Copenhagen Note

We took a quick walk downtown to stretch our legs (and I wanted a few souvenirs). Once we returned we paid our hotel bill with cash (saving us a number of fees). The lobby was very crowded with guests waiting for the Disney buses to the port. We had opted to take a taxi so we could set our own schedule - I know from previous experiences that the Disney buses don't get you to port until after boarding has started. Taking a taxi ended up being a lot faster as well as a lot cheaper.

I really enjoyed our time in Copenhagen. It was a beautiful city, and there was a lot to do. There were many more things that we didn't have time for - I would've enjoyed visiting some of the Hans Christian Andersen sites, trying some of the rides in Tivoli Gardens, maybe getting to Helsinger (Elsinore - location of Hamlet's castle), touring the Carlsberg Brewery, the Round Tower, etc. I guess we'll just have to go back!

That said...I was very happy to see the beautiful Disney Magic at the port. I'm not a seasoned world traveler, and this few days of being on our own was the hardest part of the trip. It was a great relief to realize that the hard part was over and we could just leave everything in Disney's hands for the rest of the vacation!

Disney Magic

Coming Next: Sailaway, Day at Sea



June 19, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - Part 1, Wonderful Copenhagen

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Disney Magic Norway Cruise

When Disney Cruise Line announced they were sailing to Norway for the first time in 2015, we thought about it for all of a couple seconds before deciding we wanted to go. Though we did spend more time deciding which Norway itinerary. There were three offered: the seven-night and nine-night Norway cruises, and then a longer itinerary that went to Iceland, also. We went back and forth between the seven and nine, but ultimately went for the seven-night because it was the first - and we like being first. :-) It was in/out of Copenhagen, with four Norway ports, and two days at sea.

We'd never visited any of those places, so we decided to spend several days in Copenhagen first and take advantage of the opportunity to visit "Wonderful Copenhagen".

We ended up staying in one of the hotels Disney used, the Tivoli Hotel & Congress Center, but we got a better rate booking it ourselves and getting our own transportation rather than going through Disney Cruise Line.

Tivoli Hotel

We left San Diego very early on Tuesday morning. We flew United to Newark, then connected to an SAS flight for the trip to Copenhagen. Thanks to favorable winds it was under 7 hours. We landed in Copenhagen about 7:30 on Wednesday morning. But thanks to the 9-hour time difference it was 10:30 pm by our internal clocks.

Our flights were smooth and we were lucky to have no travel issues getting to the hotel. I'd read in advance that using American credit cards is a bit problematic because Europe is mostly chip-and-pin, and our cards, even when they have a chip, aren't compatible. So we'd planned to use our ATM cards and mostly pay cash. In addition there's also often an additional fee for paying with a credit card - and that doesn't count the foreign transaction fee. So that's the long way of saying we got cash at the airport so that we could pay the taxi to the hotel, and have some spending money for later.

The hotel told us we'd have to wait until 3:00 to check in, but that we could leave our bags. We changed clothes and washed up a bit in the restrooms before leaving our bags.

There was an Adventures by Disney desk in the lobby. We talked to Robin, the very nice Adventure Guide, and asked her for ideas of things to do. She suggested all kinds of activities that sounded good and marked the locations on the city map for us.

After leaving the hotel we walked along the canal. It was a pretty nice day, mostly sunny, occasional cloud cover. But it was very windy.

Copenhagen canal

The swans have followed Lee to Copenhagen...we saw this one keeping an eye on him.

Copenhagen swan

We went towards the National Museum first - Robin told us it was free on Wednesdays. Lots of exhibits on the history of Denmark and battles that included gaining/losing Sweden and Norway. We spent a couple of hours there, but were getting pretty tired - starting to feel the lack of sleep.

Copenhagen Nation Museum

The Glyptotek, a sculpture museum, was across the street. Interesting building, but it wasn't free and we didn't go in.

Glyptotek Museum

We went up the block towards Tivoli Gardens and decided to go in and wander around and get something to eat.

Tivoli Gardens

The garden part was really beautiful - lots of flowers and nicely landscaped areas. So many flowers in bloom!

Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens

The first restaurants we came to were mostly Danish, and didn't have much that appealed to us, but we finally found one that looked ok. We weren't feeling too adventurous at this point - we were just tired and hungry and wanted a place to sit down. It had turned cloudy and there was even a passing rain shower while we were inside. I had some fried fish that was pretty good and Lee tried the roast beef with horseradish, which was fine. Mostly it was good to get some food and get off our feet - though Lee was falling asleep sitting at the table. :-)

After lunch we wandered around the rest of the gardens. I've read that Walt Disney was inspired by Tivoli Gardens and I can see why. It has a car ride and even a sort of Matterhorn roller coaster.

Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens


I really liked the carousel with its variety of animals like a tall giraffe and an elephant - there are also teacups on the carousel that riders can spin.

Tivoli Gardens

And while Tivoli Gardens may have inspired Walt Disney, they were selling Disney balloons... :-)

Tivoli Gardens

We ended up not riding any of the rides. Especially not this one. :-)

Tivoli Gardens

It was really a lovely park and we enjoyed exploring it. I'm sorry that we didn't get back there at night when it's supposed to be especially beautiful with all of the lights.

Tivoli Gardens

It was less than a mile to our hotel, and we were able to check in and get our luggage when we returned. Our room was on the 8th floor looking out towards the canal and Amager Island. The room was larger than I was expecting - not too much smaller than an American hotel room. Narrower, mostly. The bed was quite comfortable. The only real problem is that there was no storage - there was a closet with some cubbies, but there were no drawers at all! We had free wifi, and it was pretty good, with decent speed. We both ended up taking naps for a while.

Tivoli Hotel Room

We asked at the desk in the lobby about dinner spots. The guy recommended several places. We checked out the first one but it didn't appeal. We ended up finding a sandwich shop (they were good sandwiches!) and ate at a picnic table along the canal. After dinner we wandered around a bit more. It was after 9:00 by the time we returned and still full daylight, which was really throwing us off. The photo below was taken after 9:35. I think it was 11:00 when we finally went to bed. But we didn't have anyplace we needed to be the next day - we were on vacation!

Copenhagen

I woke up just after 2:00 am...and couldn't go back to sleep. I finally got up around 3:30 and surfed the Internet for a while. I saw a full moon and daylight at 3:40! Went back to bed just before 5:00 and finally slept and didn't really wake up until almost 10:00.

Moon over Copenhagen

There was a little coffee counter type of place in the lobby where we could get coffee/tea plus pastries, yogurt, and fruit. Enough to get us going in the morning. We walked to an area called the Strøget, about 20 minutes away, where we could do a canal boat tour and catch one of the hop-on/hop-off buses. It was a beautiful day! Blue sky and sunshine, though still pretty windy. About 60 degrees, though it felt warmer in the sun.

Copenhagen Canal Boat

We did the canal boat tour first. It was narrated in English and Spanish. Everyone in Copenhagen seems to speak excellent English, so it was very easy for us to get around. But I was amazed at how well our guide switched between English and Spanish - seemingly with very little effort and no hesitation. I speak some Spanish, and I could tell she spoke it very well.

Speaking of language...Before the trip, I was trying to find out the correct pronunciation of "Copenhagen". Is it Copen-haw-gen, or Copen-hay-gen? It seems to depend on the language. In English, it's Copen-hay-gen. In Spanish, it's Copen-haw-gen.

Copenhagen canal boat tour

The tours are done from large flat-bottom boats that hold over 150 people. We passed under a number of low bridges where everyone had to be seated. For some of them, even when seated there was very little clearance!

Copenhagen Canal bridge

One of them was quite narrow, also.

Copenhagen canal bridge

We saw two more swans...

Copenhagen swans

We went by a number of city landmarks, like Amalienborg Castle and the Marble Church

Copenhagen Amalienborg Castle

The Opera House

Copenhagen OperaHouse

The Black Diamond (a huge library)

Copenhagen Black Diamond

The beautiful spiral spire of Our Saviors Church.

Copenhagen Our Saviors Church

And of course the statue of The Little Mermaid. Which doesn't look very interesting from the back. :-)

Little Mermaid

At the very end we went by this row of colorful buildings - this is THE type of photo you often see from Copenhagen. And we were fortunate to have a beautiful day!

Copenhagen buildings

The tour took about 90 minutes. We really enjoyed it. Our guide had interesting things to tell us, but she also didn't talk all of the time.

Nearby we found a fast-food noodles cooked-to-order place for lunch. It was really good, and had free wifi, too!

noodles

After lunch we caught the hop-on/hop-off bus. There were three different routes, but we chose the "Mermaid Tour", which would go by a lot of the sights we'd seen from the boat. As it turned out we ended up walking most of the route - we really didn't need the bus. We got off at Nyhavn - the "New Harbor". This is very picturesque with all of the colorful buildings. Most of the ground floor is restaurants with open-air seating and the area was very busy on such a nice day. Plus there were at least three cruise ships in port, and that's a very popular destination.

Copenhagen - Nyhavn

We found Copenhagen was a lovely city to just walk around - though we had to watch out for bicycles as well as cars! Many people use bikes as their main form of transportation. They have an excellent mass-transit system, too.

This is the Amalienborg Palace area from inside the plaza. There are a couple of palaces, though one is being renovated, and there are guards posted in front. We missed the changing of the guard, which is one of the interesting things to see.

Amalienborg Palace
Copenhagen palace guard

From there we walked to the Kastellet- the old fortress. Outside was the Gefion Fountain.

Copenhagen Gefion Fountain

And a beautiful church.

Copenhagen church

We entered the Kastellet and went up on the ramparts. One thing we'd learned is that there's no stone in Copenhagen, so that's why the walls are steep earthen walls covered in grass and surrounded by water.

Copenhagen Kastellet

We saw more swans in the moat surrounding the Kastellet...

Copenhagen swans

It was a short walk from the northern exit of the Kastellet to the Little Mermaid statue. I was very surprised at how close we could get to it! There were a number of people, but everyone took turns getting their photos. There's nothing else to really see there, though.

Copenhagen Little Mermaid

Though it was still bright and sunny it was approaching 5:00 and the last buses were around 6:00. We caught a bus to Rosenborg Castle and the Botanical Garden. It would've been faster to walk but our feet were getting tired.

Copenhagen Botanical Garden

The garden was large and very pretty. Lots of different flowers and trees, as well as water.

Copenhagen Botanical Garden

There was a large conservatory but it was only open until 3:00 so we weren't able to go inside.

Copenhagen Botanical Garden

There was a large rocky mound in the middle that was beautifully landscaped with flowers and a stream running down.

Copenhagen Botanical Garden

We even saw some old friends from the U.S., like this giant sequoia!

Copenhagen Botanical Garden

Rosenborg Castle was across the street. It was closed, but we could walk around a bit outside.

Copenhagen Rosenborg Castle

We had planned to catch what we thought would be the last hop-on/hop-off bus, but we waited for 15 minutes and nothing came. So we ended up walking back to the main city square area near Tivoli. Lots of interesting buildings and statues and fountains in the square. Flying rhinoceros, anyone?

Copenhagen statue
Copenhagen
Copenhagen Hans Christian Andersen statue

We had dinner at one of the many shawarma/kebab places. Interesting that they all seemed to offer pizza, also! It was a good dinner, and a lot of food for a decent price.

It was STILL bright daylight! We could see one of the signature rides in Tivoli Gardens was running - it had been too windy for it the day before. Looks like Silly Symphony Swings...200 feet in the air!!! Yikes.

Tivoli Gardens

We walked back towards our hotel and ran into some of the "Distortion" crowd. That's a multi-day music festival held at this time of year. Each day it moves to a different part of Copenhagen. Lots of young people out enjoying themselves...

There's lots of construction in Copenhagen and we found we couldn't get back to our hotel the way we expected. So we ended up doing even MORE walking. We were pretty tired - it had been a long day.

Next up - A trip to Sweden.



November 25, 2014

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise - Part 2

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Wednesday - Castaway Cay

We got up early enough so that we could have breakfast before meeting in Evolution at 8:15 for the 5K. The 5K process is much easier than the last time we did it. It's still free, but instead of signing up the morning of, you sign up in advance at Guest Services or the Port Adventures desk. They give you a ticket that you turn in at the meeting place in exchange for your bib and safety pins. The made the process a LOT faster - the 5K group was ready to leave the ship as soon as the cruise director announced that passengers could disembark.

As soon as we walked off the ship it started to rain! We just grabbed some towels and kept walking, and it stopped after less than 10 minutes. It was nice to have it overcast and a bit cooler - this is definitely the best weather I've had when I've done this race.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Stan, Pam, and Tom were again doing the 5K. Lee and Stan ran it, and Pam and I walked it together and had a good time, and Tom finished a few minutes after we did. We all got our "Winner" ribbons with the plastic Mickey head. Starting next year runDisney is doing a new "Castaway Cay Challenge" which will have a REAL medal. Runners who participate in one of the races during either Marathon weekend in January or Princess weekend in February and then take the four-night Disney cruise that starts the Monday after the race have the opportunity to sign up for the Castaway Cay Challenge where they will get that medal when they complete the Castaway Cay 5K. I hope that they will offer this after the Wine and Dine Half Marathon also, since we already plan to run that and then do the cruise next year. There were a lot of people on our cruise that had run the Wine and Dine Half, so I think there would be quite a bit of interest!

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

After the race we walked out to Serenity Bay.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Molly had gone ahead while we were doing the race and saved us some primo spots - including two hammocks! I enjoyed one of those for a while.

They had to leave early since they were having brunch at Palo. Brunch is so popular and hard to reserve that they have started to offer it on Castaway Cay day also.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Lee and I had lunch on the island, and enjoyed a nap in the sun. It was a little breezy and the sun felt good.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We walked back to the ship around 2:00 and stopped for some photos with the holiday decorations on the dock.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

After we boarded we ran into the others who were returning from brunch. They enjoyed it.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Lee and I had another Champagne seminar in the Pink that afternoon. This one was put on by the wine team, and led by the Head Sommelier from Remy. We had four champagnes, including two rose champagnes.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

There was also a bonus champagne - our favorite Moet Ice Imperial. I think the sommelier was a bit taken aback that Lee and I were already quite familiar with it. :-)

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We were again leaving port after we finished, so we went up on deck to watch the sailaway. Not quite as pretty a sunset as the previous evening.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

In the lobby they were still working on the gingerbread house!

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

That night was Pirate Night and we dressed up a little bit. Arrr...

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

In Pink I had one of the Tuxedo strawberries with a glass of Ice Imperial. Yum.

We returned to our stateroom in time for the fireworks - we were on the starboard side, so we could see them from our verandah.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

That day's towel animal was a sea turtle.


Thursday - Day at Sea

I don't think I've mentioned the sea conditions for this cruise at all. It was very smooth sailing - I think the least motion that I've ever experienced. I felt it a little bit the evening we left Port Canaveral, but after that, I could hardly even tell we were moving.

The weather was good, too, at least after we got away from Port Canaveral. We had a fair amount of sun and it wasn't too warm.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Thursday was our day for Palo brunch, though it wasn't until 12:30. We still had breakfast in the morning. We started in Cove Cafe so Lee could get some "real" coffee, rather than the stuff they serve at the beverage stations and in the dining rooms. Cove Cafe had some holiday decorations, too.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

I didn't realize that there was a piece of Enchanted Art in Cove Cafe.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

After breakfast at Cabanas Lee went to a presentation on the Dream and I did another "Midship Detective Agency" case. If you keep the same card you'll get different villains, though the cases themselves done change at all - just a couple of the clues are different. While doing that I checked on the gingerbread house again. You can see the figures of Mickey and Minnie inside.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

There were some holiday decorations in Palo, also. Our brunch was good, though it didn't take as long as it often does - we felt a little rushed. We've always had the first seating before, though. By the time we left very few of the tables were still occupied.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

After brunch we went shopping. They had some nice "Merrytime Cruises" merchandise.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Lee found a Baymax shirt that he bought.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

That night we were in Animator's Palate - there was a pretty Christmas tree outside.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We saw the Turtle Talk with Crush show. Crush got to our area of the restaurant very late, and most of the kids had already left by then, so he didn't really spend any time interacting with anyone in particular. And truth be told, we weren't paying much attention to him because we were too busy chatting with our tablemates.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We got a nice photo of everyone, plus our server, Graziela.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

After dinner we went back to our stateroom to pack. We had to clear "Davy Jones" off our bed so that we could do that, though. We were planning to carry our bags off ourselves, but still wanted to get most of the packing done before we went to Pink to finish our evening.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

There were a few more people who wandered in and out of Pink that night, but no one stayed long, though we heard several lament that they wish they'd found it sooner. We had a nice final evening with Don and Cinthya. We hope to see them next year when we do this same cruise again!

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

I wanted to check out the progress on the gingerbread house so we went to the lobby.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

It was about 10:20 and the "Character Farewell" was going on. We watched that for a while, and also saw the "Dickens Carolers" group. They only performed two songs, though - we were hoping for more.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

The characters came out onto the balcony for one final farewell.

Then it was back to our room for one final night in that oh-so-comfy Disney Cruise Line bed!

Friday - Disembarkation

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We were early dining, so our breakfast started at 6:45 - we set an alarm. We'd had good weather for the cruise, but it was another foggy, grey day in Port Canaveral.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Breakfast on the final day is always a a very quick process - they want us OUT of there. I think we walked off the ship about 7:45, after taking one final photo of the gingerbread house. Walking off the ship is always a letdown after everything else. But all good things must come to an end, right?

The line for Customs was longer than I've ever seen it but it moved steadily and we were on a bus to the airport by 8:20, and checked in for our flight by 9:15 - plenty of time before our 11:45 flight.

So now Part 3 of our adventure was about to begin: fly to San Diego, make a quick stop at the house to repack our bags, and then drive to Disneyland so that we can run the Inaugural Avengers Half Marathon on Sunday. We were looking forward to that!

A few thoughts on the cruise...

We loved doing the cruise after our half marathon! It was a great way to relax and reward ourselves after that. We are definitely looking forward to doing it again next year! We were already planning to do it with a group of friends, and while on this cruise Stan and Pam and Tom and Molly also booked it for next year!

i was glad to get a chance to see the holiday decorations on board the ship - that wasn't something I expected when we booked this cruise. I wish they had done a tree lighting ceremony every night - the lobby just isn't big enough to hold everyone who is interested in that. And it was difficult for those with early dinner seating to make it in time.

I really loved this itinerary: two days at Castaway Cay and a day at sea. I know it's very popular with guests, so I wish Disney would do it more often. Lee reminded me that when all four ships are in the area and visiting Castaway Cay once or twice a week, that the schedule just doesn't work out. Sigh.

We didn't see any of the shows this time - but we've seen them all before. We were glad of the opportunity to see Big Hero 6, since it had just opened the previous Friday. We wanted to see Maleficent, but the timing just never worked out for that one. That's what happened on our cruise two months ago, also.

Next time I'm booking my own transfers or doing something else different so that we don't get to the ship so late on embarkation day. When we're late like that it's a rush to try and eat and get settled in our stateroom before the lifeboat drill. Besides, I want to be able to take advantage of our Platinum status!

The food blogs are still coming - I will include our experiences at Walt Disney World, including the Food and Wine Festival, in addition to our meals on the cruise ship.



November 24, 2014

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise - Part 1

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Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

What to do after running a half marathon in the rain...How about a Disney cruise to the sunny and warm Bahamas???

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Our cruise didn't start out sunny and warm - it was raining in Port Canaveral for much of the afternoon, which is why the Cove Pool is totally empty in this photo. :-) It was still drizzling during the lifeboat drill (though fortunately we were under cover for that), and the Sailaway Party. The Sailaway Party was moved to the Atrium Lobby because of the rain.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We had a late bus from Walt Disney World, and didn't arrive at the port until almost 2:00. The "Merrytime" holiday cruises had just started, and this was the first one on the Dream, so the port terminal was decorated for the holidays.

When we booked this cruise we did it strictly because of the schedule, since it fell right after the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. When I looked at the itinerary I was really happy to find that it was an alternate itinerary, featuring two days at Castaway Cay and a day at sea. The second Castaway Cay day replaced the stop at Nassau. That was great for us - we don't get off the ship in Nassau.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Then just a few weeks before the cruise I found that Disney had moved the holiday season forward, and that our cruise would fall during the "Merrytime Cruise" season, so that we'd get to see all of the decorations and have the opportunity to participate in some of the other special events.

This was our first cruise as Platinum Castaway Club members, but due to our late arrival we really didn't get to take advantage of most of the perks, like early boarding. Oh well. Next time!

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

The Lobby Atrium was already decorated for the holidays with the big tree and lots of garlands. The crew was very busy, since it all had to be done between the time the previous guests disembarked, and when the new guests came on board - that's typically less than two hours!

Our first order of business was to sign up for any Tasting sessions we wanted to attend. The Navigator didn't do a very good job of describing what they were and when - we had to ask at Guest Services. The Stem-to-Stern session had already been booked by a private party, so that wasn't available at all. But there were two champagne tastings: Champagne, and Champagne Cocktails. We booked both of those. My very favorite, Chocolate and Liquor, conflicted with our Palo brunch on the sea day. I was very disappointed.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Since we were so late the staterooms were already available, so we made a quick stop to drop off our packs before heading off to lunch. This time our Castaway Club gift was already on the bed. (Last cruise I had to call three times before they delivered it to us.)

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We had lunch in Cabanas - it was the usual buffet items, such as shrimp, fish, chicken, lamb, salad bar, various hot and cold side dishes, breads, and dessert. Nothing too exotic, but it tasted good.

We wandered around the ship looking at some of the new holiday decorations before the lifeboat drill.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Our suitcases both arrived before dinner, so we had a chance to unpack and change clothes before going down to Enchanted Garden for dinner. As usual, our dining rotation is Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace twice, and then Animator's Palate on the final night. It must be somehow noted on our record. :-) The weather improved as soon as we pulled out of port and there was a nice sunset as we were getting ready for dinner.

I'll have a food blog later...but I wanted to give a shout-out to our tablemates Russell and Annamarie - Russell is an AllEars fan, and he and Annamarie were on their first Disney cruise. But I don't think it will be their last. :-)

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

After dinner was the first of the main holiday activities: Mickey's Tree Lighting Magic.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We'd just barely finished dinner in time, so the Atrium was already crowded when we arrived. But at least we had a spot where we could see the staircase and the tree, so we could see most of it. I thought they might do it every night, but it was only the one time.

Later in the evening was Santa's Winter Wonderland Ball, but we missed that one. That was when Santa Claus arrived.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

The pastry chefs were busy building a gingerbread house in the Atrium, it'll be interesting to see how far they get with it before our cruise ends.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We headed to Pink, the champagne bar in The District. It had some holiday garland - pink, of course. :-)

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

There were a few people in there when we arrived, but they headed out and for a while it was just the two of us and our bartender Don and server Cinthya.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Pink is a nice space, but it's not Ooh La La (on the Disney Fantasy), though Lee prefers Pink. We had a fun evening trying to convince people that were passing through that it was the Biker Bar, and that they should stay. :-)

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

When I'd looked at the Navigator that day I was happy to see the the new movie Big Hero 6 would be showing while we were on board. The first showing was going to be in the Walt Disney Theater that night, and we decided to go. It started at 10:30 in the Walt Disney Theater. There were quite a few guests who had stayed up late to see it. We saw the 3D version, and really enjoyed it, as well as the short that preceded it: Feast. Jeanine already posted a review of the movie, so I'm not going to say much about it, except that we enjoyed it. But we were petty tired when it was over, and ready for bed.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

When we returned to our room we had the first towel animal...ssssss.


Tuesday - Castaway Cay

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

When we awoke around 7:30 we were already docked at Castaway Cay. As you can see it was a beautiful day!

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

After breakfast we walked off the ship. There are some fun holiday decorations on the pier. Some of them were just put into place that morning after we arrived.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Lee tried to hula along with Olaf. :-)

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

I liked how they kept the nautical theme going in the decorations.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Even the tram and tram station were decorated!

Several friends from Team AllEars are also on this cruise, and they were all doing the Castaway Cay 5K that morning. We saw some of the early finishers come in and saw our friend Stan finish the race - the others were walking and were still behind him. I headed back to the ship since I had a massage coming up, but Lee stayed on the island and went to Serenity Bay with Stan, Pam, Molly, and Tom. They had a good time.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

As i walked back to the ship I took a few photos - I was surprised that the Family Beach was still not crowded at all. But maybe because were were visiting Castaway Cay twice, most people didn't have the same sense of urgency to get out there early to get a good spot.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

A nice holiday farewell as you leave the island.

I enjoyed my massage, and had lunch at Cabanas. Then went to deck 5 to one of the Midship Detective Agency stations and solved The Case of the Stolen Artwork. This is a little easy for the adults, but you get your exercise going all over the ship if you use the stairs like I do. There's a second case also: The Case of the Stolen Puppies, and you choose which one you want when you start. On the Fantasy, in addition to these two cases, there's also a Muppets version. That one is also a lot of fun, and more challenging for the adults.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Lee was back on board when I returned to our stateroom, There was a knock on our door later - it was room service delivering our complimentary fruit plate. Another of the benefits of Platinum Status is a free "edible gift" - I'd received a phone call the night before, and we had a choice of a fruit plate, sparkling wine, or a box of chocolates. I'd chosen the fruit. It was a really nice assortment, with fresh berries, grapes, tangerines, and apple, and a banana. The berries were quite good.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Later in the afternoon Lee and I went to Pink for the first of the Seminars we had booked - Champagne Cocktails. Our bartender Don was leading the seminar, and we were delighted when he told us that we would be making the cocktails ourselves! There were 12 of us in the seminar, and three of us behind the bar at a time, each preparing four of the same kind of cocktail. Since there were four different cocktails, everyone who wanted to was able to participate. It was fun to go behind the bar and work with all of the shakers and bottles! We really enjoyed the experience, and Don was an excellent teacher. And it was fun to taste the different cocktails, though most of them we had already tried before.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

And we had to check out the progress on the gingerbread house in the lobby.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

We were juat leaving Castaway Cay when we returned to our stateroom. Even though we'd be back the next day, we couldn't stay docked there over night. There was a colorful sunset as we left.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

It was "optional dress-up" night, ad we looked pretty good, if I do say so myself. :-) We were in Royal Palace for dinner, and enjoyed our meal. After dinner we went to Pink again, but didn't stay really late, since we had to get up in time to run the Castaway Cay 5K the next morning.

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise

Tonight's towel animal! This cabin steward made much more use of the bed throw than we'd seen in the past. We didn't see him very much, but he did a good job, and our stateroom was clean and neat.

Coming Up: Another day at Castaway Cay, including the Castaway Cay 5K.


September 25, 2014

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise - Part 4, The Food

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The end of another cruise...must mean it's time for a food blog!

We started with the buffet in Parrot Cay after we boarded. There were the usual types of selections. The peel-and-eat shrimp is always one of my favorites, and there were some nice salads, too.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

That first evening we were in Parrot Cay for dinner. We met our dining team; Barbie from Serbia was our server, and Tiago from Portugal was our assistant server. They were really good, and worked well together.

I started with the St. Maarten Stack. Layers of grilled squash and mozzarella, with tomato basil vinaigrette. This is one of those dishes I've had several times, but it's always a little different each time. It was quite good - maybe a little bit too much cheese for an appetizer.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee went with one of Barbie's recommendations: Baked Crab Martinique. It's a dip made with crab baked in cheese sauce, served with plantain chips and tortilla chips. He enjoyed it.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

My second course was Spiced Tomato Soup. it was nice and hot when it was served to me - I've found that soups are often cooler than I would like. I wouldn't have called it "spiced", but it had a nice flavor.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee opted for the Parrot Cay Salad with iceberg, red peppers, cilantro, mandarin oranges and papaya. It was a tasty salad.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I ordered an entree salad: Shrimp and Avocado Salad. I was disappointed in this: the shrimp was not very good, and instead of "field greens" it was mostly iceberg. The snow peas, water chestnuts, and shredded carrots add some nice crunch and freshness.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee had the Creole Crusted Grouper. I believe this was new on the menu since the last time we'd eaten in Parrot Cay (two years ago aboard the Magic). It was served over shrimp jambalaya rice with Cajun slaw. He really enjoyed it. I had a bite of the grouper and liked it.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

For dessert I ordered one of the "no sugar added" desserts - the Silky Chocolate Mousse. It was good - nice and smooth, but still fairly light. I did not care for the chocolate on top; it was kind of gelatinous and just odd. As it turned out this was the best dessert I had all week.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I also received a bonus dessert because we were celebrating my birthday (it was the day before). This was a chocolate mousse cake. It was decent, but it also had that gelatinous chocolate on top. Ick.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee tried the Paradise Coconut Pineapple Layered Cake. Which I think wins an award for longest dessert name ever. :-) The cake was moist and nicely coconutty. It was a light and refreshing dessert.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We had breakfast in Beach Blanket Buffet in the morning, but I didn't take any photos. Pretty typical buffet items: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pastries, fruit, cereal, oatmeal.

After we left Victoria that day we went into the Outlook Cafe. There are a couple of refrigerated cases where they put "sweet bite" types of items in the morning and the afternoon. We tried a couple of mini mousse cakes and a brownie. They were pretty good.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

That evening we were in Triton's for dinner. It was the regular Triton's menu, featuring Continental cuisine. I started with the Potage Parmentier - which is the fancy term for potato leek soup. It had a good flavor, but I thought it was too thin.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee's appetizer was Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp, with asparagus and horseradish cream and dill dressing. He didn't make any particular comments about it one way or another.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Next I had a very nice salad: Red Wine Bosc Pear Salad. Arugula, sliced onions and crispy lardons topped with sliced pears poached in red wine. I really liked the pears.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee had the Onion Soup Gratinee as his second course, and I had it as my entree. This is always good - I think I've ordered it on almost all of my cruises and I have never been disappointed. It's a generous serving, and very filling, which is why I ordered it as an entree. (I also ordered a side of steamed broccoli).

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee selected Lobster Macaroni as his entree. Elbow macaroni with gruyere and cheddar cheese sauce, and chunks of lobster. It wasn't the most attractive dish but the flavor was good.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I was not inspired by anything on the dessert menu, so I asked Barbie for a dish of the poached pears that had been on my salad. :-) They were good, though some of them were a little too crisp. They would have even better with some cinnamon-sugar.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee ordered one of his favorites: Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee. This is another selection that is always excellent.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

After dinner we went to The Cadillac Lounge and had some Moet Ice Imperial champagne. I talked about this more in my cruise blog, but here's a photo of the glass, with the sliced strawberries, orange, and sprig of mint. It was very pretty.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

On our first day at sea we had brunch at Palo. This is always a wonderful experience. We were the first ones in the restaurant, so were the first people to see the buffet, and I was able to take photos before anyone had been through it and messed up the arrangement. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

A Peach Almond Souffle is a new offering among the hot entrees. We didn't try it, though now I wish we had - all in the name of research, of course. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I enjoyed a selection of chilled items, such as jumbo shrimp cocktail, hummus, caprese salad and several pastry items.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee's plate was a little more colorful, with a grilled scallop, foccacia, grilled vegetables, cheese, and one of those wonderful sticky buns.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

For round 2 I had some fruit, cheese, marinated olives and artichokes, and salmon mousse. The two cheeses (port cheddar and sage cheddar) were especially good. I wasn't a fan of the salmon mousse.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I ordered the Chicken Parmesan. That a specialty at Palo, and it's always good. Nice crunch on the chicken, but it was tender inside, and I like the tomato sauce.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee is a pizza fan, so he had the sausage pizza. He must have liked it, because he ate the whole thing.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

A glass of champagne, mimosa, or sparkling cider is included with brunch. We also ordered some additional wine - Lee had a glass of Rosa Regale and I had a glass of prosecco. Both very nice with brunch items.

And then there was dessert, of course. I tried a champagne fruit cup, chocolate covered strawberry, and a pastry twist filled with Nutella.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

It was a really nice way to spend part of our morning. There aren't a lot of tables in Palo to begin with, and then they space the diners out so that not all of the tables are occupied at the same time. It's nice and quiet; a very relaxing dining experience.

No lunch for us that day, since brunch was late and we had the early dinner sitting.

We were back in Triton's for dinner again. Because this was a short cruise, Disney combined Pirate Night with Toy Story Night. We had the Toy Story menu in the dining rooms, and the show in the theater, followed by the Pirate Night deck party and fireworks.

The Toy Story menu was new to us, so I was looking forward to trying something different. Many of the menu items were named after characters from the Toy Story movies.

I started with Al's Miso Chicken Noodle Soup. This was supposed to have parsley dumplings in it, but mine had no dumplings, and Lee's had only one. It had a good flavor, with lots of vegetables, but there was no chicken in it.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Next course was Jessie's Flat Asparagus Salad with new potatoes, mache, and endive. This was not at all what I expected; I was expecting lots of greens, and there were hardly any. I don't believe there was any mache - just endive. And radishes, which were not on the menu. But I like radishes, so that was ok.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee had The Prospector, which was flatbread with chicken, red onion, pears, walnuts and blue cheese. He enjoyed it.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

For my entree I chose Pan-seared Filet of Sea Trout "Lotso". This was served with onion puree and sweet pea and herb dressing. This was not what I expected from the description - rather than onion puree it was served over what seemed like mashed potatoes, and the "sweet pea dressing" was just peas. It really needed a sauce as the fish didn't have a lot of flavor. The entire dish was kind of bland. It was also a pretty small serving.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee went with Barbie's recommendation: Sheriff Woody's Favorite Marinated Delmonico Rib-Eye Steak This was a large piece of meat served with sweet potato gratin, collard greens, and baby carrots. He enjoyed his dinner though it was a challenge to finish the steak so he could be in the Clean Plate Club and have dessert.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I was uninspired by the dessert menu, but ordered the Sweet Temptations: Opera Slice, Jessie's White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake (which just took the title of longest dessert name), and Poached Bosc Pear Almond Tart. Surprisingly the cheesecake was my favorite - I'm not much of a fan or cheesecake or white chocolate.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

But I ended up not eating much of any of it because Barbie brought me a different dessert: the Silky Chocolate Mousse I'd had the first night. Other than the weird chocolate stuff on top it was good - better than the other dessert choices.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee ordered the Buzz Light Ice Cream Sundae, which was bubblegum ice cream, marshmallows, fudge sauce, whipped cream and a cherry. It was very blue. :-) And the ice cream really tasted like bubblegum. And Lee's lips and tongue were very blue when he finished it. Lee really enjoyed it. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Overall I was disappointed with the Toy Story menu. The menu descriptions didn't match what I received so I didn't get what I was expecting. Also, the serving size of all the items that I had were pretty small. Now, the selections Lee made (with the exception of the soup) were very generous, so perhaps I just didn't make good choices - but still, I normally expect the serving sizes to be pretty consistent.

On our second sea day we went to Triton's for breakfast. I ordered oatmeal, and fresh fruit and yogurt, with a side of scrambled eggs. Nothing too magic about that. :-) I expected that the fruit would be berries and raisins and maybe bananas, but it was melon - and mostly watermelon, at that. Melon with yogurt was very odd.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee had the Disney Cruise Line Breakfast Trio, with French toast, Belgian waffle, pancake, and bacon. He enjoyed it. The French toast had cinnamon sugar on it, and looked pretty good.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

One issue I've had on Disney cruises with hot beverages, especially at breakfast, is that the cups are ridiculously small. The servers are pretty good about coming around with coffee, but I drink tea, and there's a lot of times I'm not even offered additional hot water for my too-small cup. I found the servers on this cruise were much more attentive, and only once was I not offered additional hot water - and a couple of times it was refilled twice. Of course my favorite was Palo, where they brought me a personal pot of hot water, and then refilled that.

We went back to Parrot Cay for lunch. It was a seafood buffet, similar to what was offered on embarkation day. This is actually Lee's plate.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

He had a couple of desserts, too.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Our final night dinner was in Animator's Palate. The Wonder is the only Disney ship that still has the original technology in Animator's Palate. It still looks good, and had I not seen the newer version of Animator's in the other ships I think I would still be pretty impressed.

The menu has had some changes over the years. I was disappointed that my favorite appetizer, the Rock Shrimp and Caramelized Onion Cheesecake, is no longer on the menu. Barbie said that too many guests were confused by it, and expected it to be sweet when it was savory. Instead I ordered the Tomato Tarte with goat cheese and radish salad. It was excellent - maybe the best appetizer that I had. The crust was puff pastry, and it was nice and crispy. It was also a good-sized serving. I shared a little with Lee, but I ate most of it.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee had the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes. It was tortellini filled with truffle-scented cheese and served with a champagne sauce. He enjoyed them.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Next for me was Arugula and Curly Endive Salad with chorizo, dried figs, and a cider dressing, though I requested that the chorizo be left off. The greens were good and I liked the dressing, but the figs were a bit odd.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee ordered the Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup. This one has been on the menu as long as I've been cruising, and it's always been pretty good.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

As my entree I had the Seared Red Snapper with scallops, served over crushed potatoes. The menu said it was served with salsa verde, but as you'll see in the photo, that's a red sauce and not a green sauce. :-) I don't care for scallops, so I gave that to Lee, but the fish was good. (And Lee says the scallop was very good.)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee had the Ginger-Teriyaki Dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin, served with bok choy, wasabi mashed potatoes and a tamarind-BBQ reduction which he really enjoyed.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

There was a new item on the menu that looked very interesting: Potato, Celeriac, and Onion Gratin, so I ordered that too. It was served over collard greens, which did not appeal to me, but the gratin was very good. Rich and cheesy and very filling. I would order this again, but request steamed broccoli in place of the collard greens.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee and I both ordered the Crunchy Walnut Cake. The name of this does not at all describe it - it's quite misleading. It's really a pretty nice dark chocolate mousse cake with a nut and chocolate crust. It was pretty good. And it didn't have that weird layer of chocolate gelatin on top. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

The next morning we were back in Animator's Palate for our early (7:00) breakfast. As usual, there weren't a lot of early morning diners; only one other couple from our table was there. This is a pretty basic menu - they want to feed us fast and get us off the ship. :-)

I was pretty boring - just had granola and yogurt.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee ordered his usual: The Chef's Farewell. It's an open-faced omelet with peppers, BBQ chicken, onions, and Swiss cheese that he really enjoys.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

And that was our last meal aboard a Disney ship until November, when we'll be back on the Dream for a four-night cruise.

I'd say that overall the food was good but not outstanding. As I mentioned I was pretty disappointed in the Toy Story menu, though the Animator's Palate menu had some new (to me) offerings that I really enjoyed. I wish that the descriptions on the dessert menus were more accurate. There's menu items that aren't at all what I expect based on the writeup, some that when I see them I wish I'd ordered them, and others that I'm disappointed in because they don't live up to my expectations. Lee and I talked some about this after the cruise and he has a theory that sometimes the food that gets delivered to the ship for a given cruise either doesn't have enough of some ingredients or they are not of good enough quality, so the chefs improvise and swap ingredients.

September 24, 2014

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise - Part 3, Sea Days

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Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Wednesday - Day at Sea

Ahhh...the first of two glorious, relaxing days at sea! Though they never seem to be as relaxing as I expect them to be...there's just too many things to do!

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I wasn't sure what kind of sea state we would have once we reached the Pacific Ocean, but it felt pretty smooth. Lots of chop and whitecaps, but the swells were under 5', and in a ship the size of the Wonder we didn't feel it very much.

I got up about 7:00 and went for a run on deck 4. The temperature was in the low 60s and it felt WONDERFUL. We've had an unusually warm summer in California, and I can count on one finger the number of runs I've done this summer when the temperature was under 70. This was perfect. They say that 3 laps around the ship is 1 mile, but I think it's a little short of a mile. I had a nice run, though almost invariably when I needed to pass someone, it was ALWAYS in the narrow sections at the bow and the stern. That's not even 1/3 of the course, so it's odd that it seems to be that way more often than not. (In all fairness I must disclose that on the latter part of my run I passed several people on the wider parts.) Some people are really good about watching for and yielding to faster people, while others are clueless - even when you pass them for the second or third time! Sigh.

We had a special treat later in the morning - brunch at Palo! I know I've said this before, but that's my favorite meal aboard any Disney cruise ship. We were the first people there and had a prime table for two at the window looking toward the stern of the ship.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

There are so many choices for brunch! An entire table of seafood, a table of pastries, another of cheeses and breads, one for vegetables and hors d'oeuvres, and of course a dessert table. It isn't a typical brunch buffet in that there are no hot dishes served buffet style, such as eggs and bacon. Instead, you order from a selection of brunch entrees. There are flatbread pizzas, Eggs Benedict, Florentine, and Julia, a frittata, pancakes, and offerings you don't necessarily associate with brunch such as chicken parmesan and tilapia.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

They had a couple of new entrees available, though we didn't try them - one was an almond/peach souffle but I don't remember the other. There were a couple of different pastry items and a dessert that all featured Nutella - yum. The sticky buns are smaller than they used to be, though that's not necessarily such a bad thing.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

My birthday was the day before the cruise started, but apparently we were still celebrating it. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We went out of there pleasantly full but not stuffed. Such a nice way to spend part of our morning!

Back to our room for a quick change of clothes, and then we were off to the Cadillac Lounge for the Stem to Stern wine tasting session. This was one of the events we booked when we first boarded the ship on Monday. There were four glasses in front of us, but we were in for an additional treat: the American wine ambassador for Krug Champagne was on our cruise. He spoke to us about Krug, and we tried two glasses of Krug champagne - a non-vintage champagne and their rose champagne. Both were good, but a little dry for my taste. He was a very engaging speaker, and we enjoyed his presentation. (There wasn't room for all six glasses on the table, so the photo below shows the two glasses of Krug and two of red wine.)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

The Wine Team had us do a blind tasting for the four wines they had chosen: a moscato, chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. We always find these sessions very interesting, though I can rarely detect the scents they say are in the wines. :-) But supposedly there are no wrong answers. "Pears" for white wines and "blackberries" for red wines always seem to be pretty safe. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

After all that food and wine we were ready for a NAP! :-) We had a lazy afternoon, and watched the end of Cars 2 on our stateroom TV.

Since this was only a four-night cruise Disney combined Toy Story and Pirate Nights. The dining rooms served the Toy Story menu, and Toy Story: The Musical was the show in the Walt Disney Theater. Later on deck was the Pirate Party and the fireworks, followed by the Pirate Dessert Buffet in Beach Blanket.

We didn't bring all of our pirate attire, and instead just wore our pirate tech shirts from Ink-n-Burn, though Lee also had his pirate hat. We saw a number of guests who had very elaborate pirate outfits.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We were in Triton's for dinner again. This was the first time we'd had the Toy Story menu, but I'll have more on that in the food blog. After dinner we went to see Toy Story - because it's only on the Wonder we haven't seen it as many times as the other shows. It was very popular - there weren't very many empty seats in the theater. I think it's very well done and I enjoyed it. Oh, and before the show there was a nice sunset.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

After the show we stopped back in the stateroom so I could change from skirt to pants - I thought it might be cool and windy on deck. It turned out to be a very pleasant night, and I was warm enough with just a light windbreaker. We saw the end of the pirate show with the characters, and watched Mickey make his slide between the two smokestacks, and then the fireworks started. This was the first time they had shot off the fireworks in several months - it's not permitted in Alaska, and the crew had been looking forward to the show, also.

Back in the stateroom our latest towel animal was a crab. I made the mistake of turning the TV on, and we got caught up in watching the last 25 minutes of Cinderella before we went to bed. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Thursday - Day at Sea

We actually slept in until almost 7:30 - that's late for us. Lee went running and I went walking. The ocean was even calmer - no whitecaps and very little swell. It was a little warmer than the day before, but still very pleasant for exercising.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Lee wanted a sit-down breakfast so we went to Triton's. They were busy and it took a while to get our food, but we weren't in a hurry to get anywhere.

At noon we went back to the Cadillac Lounge for the Chocolate and Liquor session. As you can see in the photo below our little table was covered in glasses and chocolate! The tasting paired Tattinger champagne with white chocolate, Lasseter Family Paysage with dark chocolate, Glen Morangie Scotch whiskey with caramel chocolate, and Noval port with parmesan cheese. The port and cheese were really good together - that was my favorite. The port wasn't as sweet and raisiny as they sometimes are. I'm not a scotch fan, but the chocolate really softened the alcohol bite of the scotch.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

The Krug ambassador was at this tasting, also, so as a bonus we received a glass of Krug rose to finish off the session. Very nice. We spoke to him afterward and told him he was be the most popular guy on the planet - spreading champagne wherever he goes! :-)

Partway through the captain interrupted us with his daily ship report - it's a ship-wide announcement that takes over the PA system, so we had to listen. While I didn't hear any boos there was definitely some grumbling - interrupting people who are enjoying chocolate and wine does not make one very popular. :-) In addition to the the usual information on ship position, weather, arrival time in San Diego, etc., he had some additional comments for passengers who would be staying on the Wonder for the Panama Canal cruise. Because of Hurricane Odile, the Wonder was probably going to have to alter its course to avoid the storm and sail further west, omitting the planned ports of call in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. Perhaps even staying an extra night in San Diego. (As it turned out the Wonder left San Diego Friday evening as scheduled, but bypassed the Mexico ports.)

We'd planned to see Maleficent at 1:00 but the session ran a little long, and we were chatting with the Krug ambassador, so we would've been about 10 minutes late. Since we had some time I took some photos of the area around the Cadillac Lounge.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

The adult area on the Wonder is called Route 66 (designed long before Cars came out), and that's reflected in some of the decor.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We went to lunch in Parrot Cay, which was a seafood buffet. We arrived toward the end of the lunch service, and after about 20 minutes they started shutting down the buffet. Though we were told not to rush, it was a little uncomfortable being there when everyone was busy cleaning up and setting tables for dinner, so we didn't linger.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Since we missed Maleficent we went to see Planes: Fire and Rescue at 3:00 instead. We hadn't seen the movie Planes, but that didn't seem to matter. We really enjoyed Fire and Rescue. My dad is a member of a search and rescue team, so the movie had some additional meaning to me. And since we are very familiar with Yosemite National Park, we found the the look of Piston Peak National Park, a visual mashup of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, especially interesting. It was very entertaining.

Hard to believe that it was already our final evening on board...we went back to Outlook Cafe for a pre-dinner drink. It was too warm in the enclosed rooms on the sides, but it was nice and cool at the bar in the middle. I had another Toblerontini and Lee had a Mint Chocolate Coffee beverage. It took a long time for them to make his because they were out of creme de menthe and couldn't find another bottle.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Our final dinner was in Animator's Palate. Compared to the newer ships (and the updated version on the Magic), it looked rather old-fashioned. But I still enjoyed the server parade and their costume transformation from black and white to color, which they don't do on the newer ships.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

After dinner we went to the Cadillac Lounge to enjoy a last glass of Ice Imperial. Our server again brought us berries and truffles. We had a chance to chat with him a little bit - he had also been on the Fantasy's maiden voyage, though not working the bars we frequented.

Once we finished our glass (and our berries and truffles) we went back to our stateroom to pack. Even though we were carrying our bags off ourselves, we still needed to get most of the packing done so we'd be ready to leave in the morning.

We had a cat - looks like the Cheshire Cate, to me.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise


Friday - San Diego

The captain had told us we'd be picking up the pilot about 5:45, but when I woke up at 5:45 and looked outside we were almost in the channel entering the harbor. We'd wanted to be on deck as we sailed into San Diego, so we quickly dressed and went up to deck 10. There were more people there than I expected considering that it was only 6:00. We went by the building that I work in, though not many people were there at that point. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

It was a nice sail-in past North Island and the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. Coronado Bridge is in the background.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We arrived at the dock at 6:30 and the captain blew the "Mickey Whistle" - we could hear it echo through downtown. Good morning, San Diego. :-) He blew it again about 5 minutes later.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Breakfast was at 7:00 for us - we had enough time to go back the stateroom and finish the last of the packing before that. There were only four of us at our table, and breakfast on the last morning is always pretty fast because they are trying to get everyone off the ship. :-)

We finished up about 7:45 and walked off the ship about 8:00. They were still staging bags, so only express walk-offs were allowed at that point. It didn't take us very long to get through Immigration and Customs.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

My friend Nancy came to pick us up - we'd left my car at her house. We dropped her off and then drove to work...not the greatest way to end a vacation, but it saves us a day of vacation that we can use later this year - for our next cruise in November, actually. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Since we were headed to work I don't think we should like quite so happy in this photo!

It was a nice vacation - it just went too fast!

Coming next: The Food Blog

September 23, 2014

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise - Part 2, Victoria

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Tuesday - Victoria

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Victoria was our only port of call on this cruise. Since it's not very far from Vancouver, we spent a lot of the night not moving very fast. :-) We'd already made it into port by the time we got up.

We went up to Beach Blanket Buffet for breakfast. It was about 7:00, so not too many people were up yet and it wasn't crowded. It was a beautiful morning! The last time we arrived in Victoria it was cloudy and drizzly, though it cleared up later in the day.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

My favorite thing to do in Victoria is visit the Butchart Gardens, so we'd booked an Adult only tour. I wish Disney would offer a tour JUST of Butchart Gardens so that we could have maximum time there, but this one included a "short city drive" (others included afternoon tea at the Gardens or a stop at the Butterfly Garden, but they were all the same length of time).

RANT ON
The excursion ticket very clearly said to meet at 8:45 in Wavebands. And throughout the morning multiple shipwide announcements had been made reminding passengers that all adults needed a Key to the World card AND a photo id to depart the ship. At 8:55 - 10 minutes late - a guy shows up with JUST his Key to the World card, and has to run back to his stateroom and get ids for himself and his mother. So we end up being 20 minutes late leaving the ship. Come on, people, show some consideration for your fellow tour members and show up on-time and ready to go!
RANT OFF

The tour started with a drive along some of the waterfront and park areas. Our bus driver shared lots of interesting information about Victoria. For example, Victoria is considered a very desirable retirement location, and has a very high population of retirees. And about half of them are over the age of 80! (Later at lunch we shared a table with a couple of those retirees, who if they weren't over 80, were close, and they were delightful.)

With the city tour the drive to Butchart Gardens took about 45 minutes. For those who don't know the history of Butchart Gardens...it was originally a limestone quarry. After the limestone was removed, which of course left an ugly hole in the ground, Jenny Butchart, the wife of the owner, put the first garden there - the Sunken Garden. Over the years additional gardens were added, but I'll have more on those.

We arrived at the garden and the driver told us to be back at the bus in an hour and a half. That's not nearly enough time to see everything, so I found that quite frustrating. Though at least for this tour we were on our own in the garden, and not expected to tour as part of a larger group.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

This was my fourth visit to the Butchart Gardens over the years. Twice in the month of July, and my most recent visit was at the beginning of May in 2011, when we stopped in Victoria on the Pacific Coast repositioning cruise prior to the first Alaska cruise. All that being the long way of saying that I saw different flowers than on my other visits. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

The Sunken Garden is always a highlight - in addition to all of the flowers there's trees and shrubs and the animated fountain.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

There was a very large display of dahlias in all sorts of sizes and colors. Those were flowers I hadn't seen there before. And some of them were enormous!

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

The last time I was here it was early May and the rose garden was more like a stick garden :-) This time the roses were still in full bloom. I believe our driver told us that are 250 varieties of roses, and over 2500 plants. They were beautiful - there were roses from all over the world.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We also went through the Italian Garden and the Japanese Garden.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I had to rush more than I would've liked, but I still had some time to hit the gift shop before it was time to go back to the bus - we arrived with a couple minutes to spare.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

RANT ON
We arrived on time, as did most of our fellow tour members, and then we proceeded to wait 25 minutes for three people who never did show up. We finally left without them. As far as I'm concerned we should've left sooner. This has happened to me on other tours and it's very annoying to have to wait on people who apparently feel they are special and can do what they want with no regard for the rest of us.
RANT OFF

Once we returned to Victoria our bus driver stopped in front of the Empress Hotel. Anyone who wished to could get off there rather than taking the bus back to the ship.
From the waterfront area Disney had a free shuttle to take us back, or we could walk - it was just over a mile to the ship. Most people stayed on the bus, but a few of us took the opportunity since it would give us a little more time to sight see. Though thanks to all of the late people on our tour we didn't have quite as much time as we should have. We took the opportunity to wander through the Empress Hotel - they were serving tea, but there was a line and I didn't think we'd have enough time to enjoy it.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

This is a weeping sequoia tree in front of the hotel - I thought it looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Our bus driver had recommended Barb's Fish and Chips in Fisherman's Wharf, which was on our way if we walked back to the ship. It's fairly popular and we had a little bit of a wait to get our two-piece combo with chips and coleslaw. It was pretty good, though I've had better.

We enjoyed our walk back - it was really a gorgeous day in Victoria. From the dock we had a very nice view of the Wonder.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We arrived back on board about 2:30 and the Wonder pulled away from the port about 3:30. Once we got clear the captain really started to put on some speed - it was a long way to San Diego (there were no other ports).

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We went to the Outlook Cafe (enclosed area above Cove Cafe) and tried a couple of their specialty drinks - I had the Toblerontini, and Lee had the Toledo Coffee. Both pretty to look at, but I think mine tasted better. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I really like the Outlook Cafe area, but because of the enclosure it gets VERY warm in there if the weather is nice. It was warm enough that we didn't want to sit there very long.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I always find it kind of amazing that even on a ship with 2100 people on board, there's times when it seems very empty. This was taken at 4:11 p.m.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

That night was semi-formal night, though Cruise Casual was acceptable dress as well. The Golden Mickeys was the featured show, but we've seen that before - and most recently at Hong Kong Disneyland, where it is a much better show. Or maybe that's because I couldn't understand what was being said. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We had dinner in Triton's, which is a lovely restaurant. Beautiful mosaic on the wall.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

After dinner, since we weren't going to the show, we went to The Cadillac Lounge, which is the quieter piano bar on the Wonder. Very few people in there. We ordered a bottle of our favorite Moet Ice Imperial champagne. Our server put strawberries, an orange slice and some mint leaves in our glasses - that was excellent! Made it even more refreshing. He also brought us a plate with some strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and a couple of truffles.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

There was a pianist there when we arrived, but he took his break and a guitar player took over. She played music that was much more our style. It was all a wonderful way to end our day.

That night's towel creation was a dinosaur.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Coming Next: Days at Sea


September 22, 2014

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise - Part 1, Vancouver

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Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise


It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since we last took a Disney cruise, and yet this is one that we've had planned for quite a long time!

The Disney Wonder has been over on our side of the continent for several months and made several stops in San Diego this season as it made its way to/from Alaska. When the 2014 itineraries were announced, one of the ones that caught our eye was the four-night repositioning cruise at the end of the Alaska season. Start in Vancouver and end in San Diego, with a stop in Victoria along the way. We just couldn't resist the opportunity to have the Disney Wonder bring us back home!

And since the cruise began on a Monday, the timing also worked well to add a few days in Vancouver to the start of the trip. Three years ago we really enjoyed our day in Vancouver when we stopped there for a day on our back-to-back repositioning/first Alaska cruise, and wanted to have time to see more of the city.

We flew to Vancouver on Friday, September 5, and arrived around 5:00. We hadn't flown into Vancouver before - I thought the international terminal was very nice with lots of interesting displays/artwork welcoming us to Canada.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We stayed at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel in downtown Vancouver. We found it very convenient - almost everything we were interested in was within a 15-20 minute walking distance. And we walked a LOT. Friday night we had a great dinner at Joe Fortes - they had fresh wild-caught sockeye salmon, and it's the best salmon we have ever had. We walked around downtown a big after dinner and went by this really interesting-looking building - it's the Vancouver Public Library - it only looks like the Colosseum . :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Saturday we had a wonderful visit to Granville Island in the morning, and enjoyed wandering through the Public Market (beautiful produce!) and shops.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We also enjoyed sampling some beers at the Granville Island Brewery.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Later in the afternoon we walked down to the seawall and over to Stanley Park, where we saw the totem poles and the 'Girl in Wetsuit' statue, and wandered a bit in the gardens. Beautiful weather that day - in the high 70s.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We had dinner in the Gastown area (lots of bars and restaurants and very reminiscent of our Gaslamp district in San Diego) at a pub called Six Acres, which was very good. On the walk to the pub we passed the Steam Clock, which yes, runs on steam, and chimes on the quarter hour. It's hard to see in the photo, but there's steam coming out the top. (Though it looks old, it was actually built in 1977.)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

On Sunday morning we took the SeaBus (passenger ferry) over to North Vancouver and then took the bus to Lynn Canyon. There's a (free) suspension bridge there (as opposed to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which you pay for), and lots of hiking and biking trails. We got a fairly early start and were at the park before 10:00. When we left around 11:45 there were a LOT more people around. But it was another beautiful day - a little cooler than Saturday.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

That evening we went back to Gastown and had dinner at a pizza place - Nicli Antica. Neapolitan pizza, which was pretty good. And they served the best Sangria I think I have ever had.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We didn't need to check out of the hotel until noon, so that gave us plenty of time on Monday morning to go out and take a nice walk to Stanley Park again, though this time we went to the southeastern side. We finally saw in person this rock sculpture that we'd seen depicted in so many photos and other artwork around Vancouver. It's called an Inuksuk - an Inuit word.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

On the nearby beaches we saw some other rock formations - we call these "hoodoos" when we find them in Yosemite. As you can see below, some of them are pretty impressively balanced!

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

In addition to walking along the seawall we took a couple of trails through the woods. It was a lovely walk.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

As we walked back to the hotel along the harbor we caught our first sight of the Disney Wonder!

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We were packed and showered and checked out by 11:30. It was a short taxi ride to Canada Place and the cruise ship terminal. There were already people there, but it wasn't too crowded. They started boarding not too long after we checked in, so we didn't have to wait too long.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We had studied the Navigator while waiting, so we knew our first stop was going to be WaveBands to sign up for some of the beverage tasting sessions. That was easy.

Next on our agenda was lunch, so we went to Parrot Cay. We were early, and it wasn't crowded when we got there, though that didn't last long. I always enjoy the peel-and-eat shrimp on the buffet.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

After lunch we still had some time before we could get into out stateroom, so we wandered around the ship. I have to say the Wonder still looks really good. It's a year newer than the Magic, which underwent an extensive refurbishment last year, so I was expecting that the Wonder might be showing some signs of age, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The public areas are in great condition.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

I think where I saw the most signs of wear and tear were in our stateroom, but even there it's not bad - just small things like dings in the paint and furniture, and carpet that is not new. Pretty small stuff. We were on the Magic a year before its refurb, and at that time I felt that it definitely needed some TLC, but I don't feel the same way about the Wonder. (One thing missing in the stateroom photo below is our Castaway Club gift - I had to call Guest Services twice, and it was finally delivered Wednesday afternoon.)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

While we were wandering we saw that one of the lifeboats was open, so we took a look inside. That's as close as I ever want to get to the inside of a lifeboat. :-)

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Though the morning had been cloudy and cool, it turned into a beautiful afternoon with lots of sunshine. We really had great weather in Vancouver. It was very nice for the sailaway party, though we were in a DVC Member reception and missed it. We made it up on deck in time to watch us sail past Stanley Park, though.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

We had early dinner seating (which we prefer) and were seated with three other couples in Parrot Cay. (Of course it's Parrot Cay. Our cruises always start with us being in Parrot Cay - or its equivalent on the other ships.) I'll have a food blog later. Our server was Barbie from Serbia, and the assistant is Tiago from Portugal. Barbie is excellent, and one of the best servers we've had. Our Head Server was Simone, from Italy - he was the head server both times I'd been on the Dream, and he's very good.

After dinner we saw a nice sunset from deck 4 and then went to Diversions to watch the Chargers play on Monday Night Football. There were quite a few other Chargers fans in there. Unfortunately they lost because they made mistakes that Arizona took advantage of, but it was still a good game.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Back in our stateroom we found our first towel animal - I think it's a bear.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise

Coming next: Victoria

November 5, 2013

Re-Imagined Disney Magic - Dining Part 2

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It was a short two-night cruise and we only had two dinners on board - but they were in both of the "new" restaurants - the updated Animator's Palate and the new Carioca's.

We ate in Animator's Palate the first night. I shared details of the show in Part 1.

Here are some additional photos of the restaurant.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The artwork in the restaurant now features Pixar characters in addition to classic and contemporary Disney characters.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The chairs and carpet are new.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The menu is quite different than the one we experienced on the Magic a little over a year ago. In addition to listing vegetarian and lighter fare, it also highlights gluten free and dairy free options.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I tried one of the new items - a Tomato Tarte with goat cheese and radish salad. I enjoyed it, it was kind of like a pizza.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee had the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes - pasta filled with truffle-accented cheese served with a champagne sauce. It was quite a generous portion and he liked it.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The Butternut Squash soup is still on the menu, and Lee tried that and said it was good. It's drizzled with sour cream.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I tried the Seared Red Snapper with scallops, crushed new potatoes and salsa verde. The fish was nicely cooked, though the salsa could've used a little more of a kick.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee ordered the Ginger-Teriyaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin, served with wasabi mashed potatoes, bok choy and tamarind-barbecue reduction. It was good, but not the best he's had - he still remembers fondly the tamarind beef from California Grill.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I couldn't decide on desserts so I ordered two. The Duo Chocolate Cake was one of the no sugar added desserts - layers of brownie and truffle mousse with caramel sauce. The top layer was odd - light, but a kind of grainy texture. The brownie layer was better.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The White Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake was just ok - I was expecting something a little more chocolatey.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee had the Crunchy Walnut Cake. This has been on the menu every time we've eaten at Animator's, but it's been a little different every time. Unfortunately this was not one of the better ones - it's usually more of a chocolate ganache, but this was softer, and "gelatine-y".

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

We had both breakfast and lunch at Cabanas on Saturday. (No photos from breakfast, sorry.) Breakfast was largely the usual fare - scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, pastries, though there were some more unusual selections also, like grilled tomatoes. They have a very nice Muesli bar with lots of different dried fruits and nuts, though I wish they offered fresh berries. I get oatmeal from a different station and then visit the Muesli bar to liven it up. And I'm not usually a doughnut fan, but they had a small spherical jelly doughnut that was really good!

For lunch they had all kinds of choices - a much better selection that what is available at Lumiere's (and I think the food is better, too). Lots of different hot dishes - fish, chicken, pork, stir fry, side dishes, vegetables - I think there's something to appeal to just about everyone.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I really like what they've done with Carioca's, the new restaurant that replaced Parrot Cay. It's named after Jose Carioca, from "The Three Caballeros" - I guess it's appropriate that he was a parrot. :-)

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The decor is inspired by festival time in Rio de Janeiro.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I really enjoyed the colorful lanterns.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The restaurant seems much brighter and more open.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The parrot mosaic is still on the wall behind the buffet.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Speaking of the buffet (which is used for breakfast and lunch), at night it's concealed behind this curtain.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The servers have new costumes:

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I like the design of the new china.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The menu is all new with ingredients and dishes inspired by South America and Latin America, like plantains, cassava flour, pork belly, black beans, bananas and pineapple. There were lots of things that looked good - it was hard to decide what to order. For the most part I was very pleased with my selections.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I started with one of the specialty cocktails - a Caipirosa, which was essentially a more sophisticated sangria made the cabernet sauvignon, blackberries, cranberry juice, lime and "leblon cachaca" (whatever that is!). It was very refreshing.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee also ordered one of the specialty drinks, though he didn't realize it was the non-alcoholic one: Panchito with coconut cream, pineapple juice, salted caramel syrup, and lemon juice. The salted caramel syrup gave it a slight butterscotch taste. It was good, but very sweet - he thought it would have been better with some alcohol in it. :-)

Re-Imagined Disney Magic


The bread service was warm banana bread (which most of our table enjoyed) and some seeded rolls, served with a mango mint sauce. Very light on the mint, fortunately.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

For my first course I ordered the Peruvian Causa, which I had first seen on the Disney Parks blog a month or so ago when they did an entry on Carioca's. It's three layers of potatoes: yellow, blue, and white, with olive tomato salsa and huancaina sauce (don't ask me what that is). It was VERY good, though I was surprised that it was served cold. I think it would've been better if it was hot, but I still enjoyed it. It's also very attractive.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee had the Empanadas panzudas de carne - an Argentinian beef empanada with chimichurri. He enjoyed that.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

One of our table mates ordered the Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower with red pepper wasabi, crushed fried plantains, and caviar. Another very attractive dish, and he said it was good.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Another selected the Deep Fried Lobster Croquetas with banana-lentil salad and creamed horseradish. The croqueta was pretty small and there was only one of them. I didn't hear a comment on this one, so I don't know if it was good or not.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

For my second course I tried the Sancocho de Pollo - a spiced chicken and vegetable soup. It was not very spicy, but it was tasty.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee ordered Sopa de Frijoles Negros Habanera - Havana-style black bean soup. This doesn't photograph well but it was excellent. (By the way, both of the soups are both gluten-free and dairy-free. The black bean soup is also vegetarian.)

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I couldn't decide on an entree, so I ordered three. :-) And even with that there were a couple of others I would've liked to try and didn't. First was one of the vegetarian options: Fried Plantain and Malanga Pancakes. It was served over a medley of red and black beans. The pancakes were savory and not sweet - they were just ok. The beans were very good.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

A gluten-free, dairy-free option is the Lobster, Shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Skewers. This was my favorite of the three. It was server over Peruvian quinoa salad with dried mango and pineapple. The quinoa was terrific - the best thing I had all evening. Lee really enjoyed it, too. The lobster, shrimp and mahi mahi were also good.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Another vegetarian selection is Small Corn Tortillas, with Veracruzan refried bean dip, green tomatillo-chile and Salvadoran cabbage slaw. This was very disappointing. For one thing, it was served with flour tortillas and not corn tortillas. I think the idea was to make your own tacos, but the fillings weren't very appealing, and this didn't really feel like an entree.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee's entree was interesting - it was called Jose Carioca's, so I guess that makes it the signature entree for the restaurant. Before it was served our server came out and put this at Lee's place setting:

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The entree includes skewers of grilled Brazilian sausage, adobo chili crusted lamb and beef tenderloin, which are served with Mexican tomato rice, shrimp, chimichurri and lime-garlic orange mojo. As you can see, the skewer stand made for an attractive presentation. Lee said the various meats were just okay - a little dry.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

One of our table mates tried the Slow-Roasted Pork Belly (another one I thought looked good), and he enjoyed it. It was served with crushed sweet potato, creamy grits and collard greens.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

This entree is another one I wanted to try: Grilled Rum-marinated Swordfish with pureed black beans, roasted corn and boniato flakes (gluten-free). It also got a thumbs up.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The two entrees we didn't try at our table: Grilled Orange and Lemon-Marinated Flank Steak with onion, lime salsa and black bean rice; and Chicken Criollo Salad with roasted cilantro marinate chicken breast, papaya, mango, iceberg, endive, goat cheese and red malanga chips with sherry vinaigrette. Both are gluten-free.

The dessert menu had a lot of interesting choices, though you know me, I'm always looking for a rich chocolate dessert. There was only one option on the menu with chocolate in it, and it was one of the no-sugar added desserts. It was also included as one of the Sweet Temptations and that's what I ordered. It included the no sugar added Torta de Chocolate, a layered cake with apricot puree, the no sugar added strawberry cheesecake, and the De la Costa Cream Cheese Flan with caramel bananas and Pedro Ximenez reduction. They were all ok, but not great.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee ordered the best dessert of the evening: Coconut Tres Leches "Three Milk" Cake. It's described as a moist coconut cake soaked in three milks, served with light coconut cream. It was definitely moist and very coconutty, but fortunately it was not overly sweet like "tres leches" desserts often are. It was very good.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

One of our table mates ordered Carioca's Ice Cream Sundae made with dulce de leche ice cream and caramelized apples, with a churro on top. He enjoyed it.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

This is the full-size version of the De la Costa Cream Cheese Flan, which is gluten-free.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The other dessert option, also gluten-free, is Suspiro Alimenea, a baked lemon cream topped with port wine meringue sprinkled with cinnamon.

We really enjoyed the new Carioca's menu, and thought there were lots of dishes that we would enjoy trying on future cruises.

Our final meal on-board was breakfast in Lumiere's. On the short two-night cruise, instead of going to the restaurant we'd been in for dinner the night before like we usually would, we went to the restaurant we had not yet been in.

It was the usual "Farewell" breakfast menu with pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, and various egg, breakfast meats, and pancake options.

I thought I was getting Eggs for the Road with eggs my way, choice of meat, and hash browns, but my server misunderstood and brought me pancakes instead of meat and hash browns. Scrambled eggs are always a crap shoot on board - I ordered them scrambled dry, but they were a little runny. The mini cinnamon roll I had from the pastry plate was very good, though - I really like those little cinnamon rolls!

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee ordered the Chef's Farewell, an open-faced omelet with barbecue chicken, green peppers, onions, and swiss cheese. He's had it before and it's one of his favorites.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic


We enjoyed our meals - and were really glad we were able to try both Animator's Palate and Carioca's. Those two, as well as Cabanas, I think are all improvements over their former occupants.

 


Laura Gilbreath was an invited Media guest aboard the Disney Magic. Her
opinions are her own.

November 4, 2013

Re-Imagined Disney Magic - Dining Part 1

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Since it was a short two-night cruise, we didn't have a lot of meals on board. In this blog I thought I'd share photos of some of the dining locations.

Daisy's De lites replaced Goofy's Galley.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Still the same kinds of foods - sandwiches (including paninis), wraps, salads, and fruit. I especially enjoy the wraps, because the selections change over the cruise. I had a lamb and couscous wrap and a chicken, bacon, and egg wrap which were both very good.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Pete's Boiler Bites replaced Pluto's Dog House. The menu offers burgers (including fish and veggie burgers), bratwurst, chicken tenders, hot dogs, and fries. The toppings bar is outside - I sometimes make myself a salad from the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and other toppings that are available.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Pinocchio's Pizzeria is essentially unchanged. Lee had a couple of snacks here.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Cabanas - I really enjoyed what they did here. It's got an Australian beachy (think "Finding Nemo") theme.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Very colorful.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The carpet has patterns inspired by aboriginal designs.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I think the posts are meant to suggest surfboards, but I'm not sure about that.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

There's beach umbrellas, too.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

One of my favorite things was the seagulls on the ceiling! (Though they weren't saying "Mine, mine, mine!")

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Cabanas has two sides (same food available on both sides). At both entrances there are wooden murals. On the starboard side are Finding Nemo characters from the ocean:

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

And on the port side are Finding Nemo characters from the tank.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Palo received a makeover, including new wood, stone floors, lighting and carpet. The colors are inspired by Venetian artwork.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic


We didn't get to spend any time in Cove Cafe, but it was also redecorated.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lumiere's, though it was not necessarily re-imagined, still got some attention - I believe that the carpet and chair upholstery are new.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I don't remember it having so many blue tones before. It's still quite beautiful.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

In Part 2 I'll have all of the food photos.


Laura Gilbreath was an invited Media guest aboard the Disney Magic. Her
opinions are her own.


October 30, 2013

Re-Imagined Disney Magic - The AquaDunk and AquaLab

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For those who are interested, I thought I would provide some additional details on the AquaDunk and AquaLab aboard the Disney Magic.

The AquaDunk is the new water slide that extends over the side of the ship. It's a body slide - no raft. We thought the AquaDunk was a lot of fun, though a little bit scary the first time. But seeing all of the kids lining up to ride it for the third, fourth, or fifth time is encouraging!

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Guests must be at least 48" tall, and weigh less than 300 pounds. The exact phrasing is: "The slide entry capsule may prohibit Guests of certain body shapes or sizes from riding and may not operate for Guests weighing more than 300 lbs." (Click on the image below for a larger version.)

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

No loose items such as hats, sunglasses, cameras, or shoes allowed - there is a storage area at the bottom for those items. Clothing must not have studs, buckles, zippers or other exposed metal that could damage the slide.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The entrance is on deck 10 on the port side of the mid-ship funnel. There are 63 steps from the entrance up to the loading area in the stack, which is just behind the ship's horns (nice view from up there!) Because of that, the AquaDunk is closed during times when the ship's horn is sounded.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

But it starts with a near vertical drop - the floor literally drops out from under you. You step into a load capsule (people were calling it a coffin) and lean back, feet crossed, and arms crossed across your chest. The crew member closes the lid (which is clear), and it's almost time. This is another one of Donald's nephews' inventions, so Huey (or maybe it's Dewey or Louie) counts down: "Three, two, one" and whoosh, you drop. Even though the tube is clear and extends over the side I couldn't see anything. The slide itself was fun, and not uncomfortable like Summit Plummet. Be a little careful in the splash zone to avoid getting water up your nose. I saw girls in bikinis come down and there were no wardrobe malfunctions, so it seems safe in that respect.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I found the anticipation of the drop to be the most intimidating part. The load process and the drop all happen very fast, so as long as you don't psych yourself out while waiting you're fine. Lee is claustrophobic, so he was concerned about the load capsule, but he did ok with it. He said it helps a lot that the lid of the capsule is clear, and the person running it is right there to open it just in case. And, as I said before it's all very quick - there's usually only about 30 seconds between people, and the actual slide part is only about six seconds! You can see Lee's ride in this video - it starts at about 2:04:

The line was never that long when we looked - maybe 20 minutes. We waited about 10 minutes the first time and 15 the second.

The "splashdown zone" is on the port side of deck 10. Unfortunately that takes up about half of the walkway there, so it gets congested, AND it gets very wet. Even though there's a plexiglass wall, some riders still make a big enough splash to rain water down on unsuspecting passersby. I also noticed that the water does not seem to drain that well, and was 1/4"-1/2" deep on deck. I'm sure they will be looking at ways to deal with that.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Another new water feature is the Aqua Lab on deck 9. There's a version of this on the Disney Fantasy, but I think it's been much better integrated into the kids' pool area on the Magic. Again, Donald's nephews have been busy, and Mickey's Pool has been replaced by the Nephews' Pool.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

On the port side of the pool is the Aqua Lab, where there's all kinds of devices that spray or dump water. A really fun place to cool off.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Next to that, in a shaded area, is the Nephews' Splash Zone, intended for use by kids up to the age of three. On the starboard side there's seating for parents to watch their kids.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Also in this area is another one of the nephews' creations: Twist 'n' Spout. It's an open flume body slide that corkscrews down from the aft funnel, with a splashdown zone on deck 9 (not much of a splash, though).

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The entrance is on deck 10 on the port side of the aft funnel. There are about 40 steps to the top. I though it appropriate that it's a spiral staircase.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I was surprised that there's no attendant at the top - riders sit at the slide entrance and wait for a green light, then push off and lay on their backs for the trip down. (Though a lot of kids were sliding sitting up - which might be one reason they were slow.)

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Imagineer Joe Lanzisero told us the slide was engineered for adults, too, and for the moment the height maximum (64", I think?) has been removed. We were told that Disney is evaluating this on the first two cruises, and will decide whether to make it permanent or not. I hope they will continue to allow adults because it was a lot of fun. And adults have an advantage because of weight - we slide a lot faster than the kids do, so it's an even better ride for us! The minimum height is 38".

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

I loved this whole area - the nephews' blueprints are placed throughout the various attractions - it's just all so clever and fun!

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

October 29, 2013

Re-Imagined Disney Magic Part 1 - Overview

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Lee and I have just come off a two-day cruise of the Re-Imagined Disney Magic. There have been a lot of changes, so there was a lot to try and cover in just two days!

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Disney Cruise Line considers the Magic their flagship, so rather than simply trying to re-make the Magic into the Dream class of ship, they chose to continue to innovate and bring something special to the Magic. While there are some new elements inspired by the Dream class, they developed new enhancements that are exclusive to the Magic, so the Magic retains its own identity.

I found it interesting that even when there were guest favorites that they really couldn't do because of size or structural reasons (e.g. AquaDuck) they still found ways to bring us something that was at least as much fun, if not more (AquaDunk).

As you may know, the first scheduled cruise of the Disney Magic (which we were supposed to be on) was canceled because it just wasn't ready. Despite that extra five days, there's still things that were unfinished, and there were some problems on board. As we were boarding the captain announced they were still "spreading pixie dust". We noticed a number of finishing touches that weren't done - things like missing blinds, masking tape that hadn't been removed, areas where touch-up paint was still required, faulty lights, missing trim, etc.

I will tell you that I was a little disappointed - from what Disney had said, it sounded like the Magic would be a brand new ship. But we saw a lot of areas that needed significant TLC: rust, damaged railings, and dinged up paint. And all of the carpet - I was very surprised that the carpet in the staterooms, the hallways and many of the stairwells and elevator lobbies had not been replaced.

There were some larger issues, also - a group of staterooms on deck 6 had toilets that didn't flush reliably for most of the cruise, and there were hot/cold water issues. Many of the stateroom TVs didn't work (ours didn't, but it was later fixed), and some staterooms were missing refrigerators and/or safes. In addition to the TV problem we had minor nuisances like a shower drain that was stuck closed, and a verandah door that didn't lock - and the handle pulled right off. Our refrigerator did not fit well into the (new?) cabinet and we had to twist it slightly to open/close its door. We saw a lot more technicians and work crews in the hallways and public areas than we usually do - they usually work at night.

That said, it was still a nice cruise, and these things did not really detract from our experience (though if I'd had a non-working toilet I might not feel that way).

So...

There are many things I could write about and many, many details to share about the Re-Imagined Disney Magic, but for this blog I'm going to focus on an overview of the enhancements and my overall impressions. I promise more detail later. Lee is working on editing some videos that will also provide additional visual detail - if a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more is a video worth? :-)

The first thing Lee and I noticed when we were waiting to board the Magic is a modification to the stern - appropriately called a "duck tail". It's 22' long, and adds stability and buoyancy to the ship to compensate for the additional weight added by features like the AquaDunk and AquaLab.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

And speaking of the AquaDunk and AquaLab - those are terrific new additions. The AquaDunk is a body slide through a tube that extends over the side of the ship. It starts at the top of the forward funnel with a vertical "launch" where the where the floor literally drops out from under you and ends in a splashdown zone on deck 10. The drop may seem a little intimidating, but we didn't think it was that bad and the slide was a lot of fun - but it's over really fast. I'd definitely recommend that you try it once.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Another new water feature is the Aqua Lab on deck 9.` There's a version of this on the Disney Fantasy, but I think it's been much better integrated into the kids' pool area on the Magic, where it replaces the Mickey Pool. There's the Nephews' Pool (about 18" deep) and the Lab itself where there's all kinds of devices that spray or dump water. A really fun place to cool off.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Right next to it in a shaded area is the Nephews' Splash Zone for kids three and under.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

There's also a new water slide: Twist 'n' Spout. This is an open flume slide that corkscrews down from the aft funnel to deck 9. At the moment adults are allowed to ride it also, but that could change - I guess they don't want the adults taking over something that's supposed to belong to the kids? I think this is actually more fun for the adults than the kids because we're heavier and we go faster down the slide!

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

You can see Lee's video of the new water features, including his ride on the AquaDunk, below:

The first new thing that guests wlll experience as they board the ship is the new Atrium Lobby. It seems much more open and bright than before: one of the staircases was removed; the Helmsman Mickey statue was repositioned; and the hanging Chihuly glass chandelier was replaced by a very bright (and much shorter) crystal chandelier. The new carpet is lighter in color which also makes it seem larger. I have a before and after photo below.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The kids' spaces on deck 5 were all completely re-done. "it's a small world" nursery replaces Flounder's Reef, and it's full of Mary Blair-style artwork - quite precious. And the attendants there could not WAIT to get their hands on some babies - in fact all of the kid counselors we talked to were overjoyed to have children back on board again.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club were completely re-done for the ages 3-12 set. These are so much fun - I think they make most of the adults (including us) want to be kids - or wonder why some of this cool stuff wasn't put into OUR spaces. Oceaneer Lab has a new pirate theme - there are pirate ship navigation simulators in addition to science projects, crafts and other activities.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

We were intrigued by the Interactive Table (we think it needs a better name than that) which uses a very large touch screen table to play a variety of games, from driving contests to hockey, memory games, and puzzles. There were more than 15 different games.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

In the Oceaneer Club is the new activity that we've been hearing about: Marvel's Avengers Academy. This is a two-day immersive experience where the kids become superheroes, and then have to work together to foil the bad guys. Captain America even makes appearances to help train and encourage the new superheroes. Being adults, WE did not get to experience this, but it sounds like SO much fun!

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee's video shows the spaces, and an interview with Imagineer David Duffy, where he talks about the Avengers Academy in more detail.

Also in that space is Andy's Room, where things are sized to make kids feel like one of Andy's toys. There's all kinds of things under Andy's bed, and an adorable Slinky Dog slide from the top of the bed to the floor.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

There's also Pixie Hollow, with a costume closet in Tinker Bell's teapot home.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

In the Mickey Mouse Club section kids can play video games or play with the magnetic gears on the Wacky Wall. (That was harder than it looked.)

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Almost all of the dining options on the Magic are new or updated - I think Lumiere's is the only restaurant that returns in its original form.

Animator's Palate was totally re-done - technology has changed a lot since the idea was first conceived and developed over 15 years ago.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

When we dined here we had a little bit of a surprise - we'd been told that Animator's Palate would feature the Animation Magic show from the Disney Fantasy, and that's what we expected to see, but instead we experienced an all new show that was developed for the Magic: Drawn to Magic. It draws (sorry) on the original concept of Animator's Palate, where the restaurant itself changes as dinner progresses, growing both more colorful and more, well, animated. On screens all around the room we can watch the animation process as it progresses from simple shapes to sketches, animated sketches, and full-color animated sequences.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Favorite Disney and Pixar characters are featured, and, just as in the original show, the finale includes a procession of Sorcerer Mickey and all of the servers through the dining room.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic
Re-Imagined Disney Magic

We both really enjoyed the show - it's quite different from Animation Magic, but more heartwarming. I think I'd still rather see/participate in Animation Magic, though. Once the Disney Magic starts sailing longer itineraries next year, Animator's Palate will feature both shows on every cruise.

In the video below we have most of the show, as well as images and video of the other restaurants.

Carioca's has replaced the Parrot Cay restaurant. I was happy to see this, because for whatever reason I just never cared for Parrot Cay. The new Carioca's is casual but elegant, and I thought the new decor, inspired by street festivals in Rio, was quite beautiful.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

But my favorite thing about Carioca's is the new menu! Dishes inspired by ingredients and cuisine from all over Latin America, from Argentinian empanadas to Peruvian potatoes (pictured below), Cuban black bean soup, and Brazilian sausage. I'll write more in my food blog, but I had a very hard time deciding what to order...and ended up ordering three entrees just to taste them - and there were STILL three others I wanted to try! We both really enjoyed the new menu.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

On deck 9, the new casual restaurant is Cabanas, which came over from the Dream class ships. It's more like a food court instead of a traditional buffet, where you go to different stations that feature different food selections. (Though unlike the Dream and Fantasy, this Cabanas does NOT have the aft stairwell/elevator located in the middle of the restaurant. For which I am very grateful.) For breakfast and lunch Cabanas serves this modified buffet, but they also offer table service casual dining on most evenings (typically every night except the first and last nights). The menu changes nightly, it's an abbreviated version of one of the other restaurant's menus. Right now that's Pirate Night, Animator's Palate, and Lumiere's.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

On the Dream and Fantasy I've found the food in Cabanas to be a cut above that served in Topsiders and Beach Blanket on the older ships, and that trend has carried through to the Magic. I'd rather have breakfast in Cabanas then anywhere else - the food is good and there's a nice variety of it - all the traditional stuff as well as some healthier options. Lunch also has some very good choices - higher quality food than at the quick-service places but a lot faster than Lumiere's.

Cabanas expanded the former restaurant space and offers more indoor (air-conditioned) seating now. Outdoor seating is still available at the back and up on deck 10.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The quick-service dining has basically stayed the same, but most of the names changed. So you can still get pizza, burgers, fries, and chicken strips, and sandwiches, wraps, salads and fruit at Pinocchio's Pizzeria (same name), Pete's Boiler Bites, and Daisy's De-Lites, respectively. The ice cream station has been expanded and moved - there are three machines now. They also added Frozone, where smoothies and other frozen beverages are available for an additional fee.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The self-serve beverage station is still located on deck 9, port side, aft. It might have been rearranged slightly - I'm not sure about that.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

After Hours is the new adult entertainment district on deck 3. There's three different bars/clubs: Fathoms, O'Gills Pub, and Keys. In the interest of research we spent time in all of them. All of the bars have menus with various signature drinks, though they are all full-service bars and you can order anything.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Fathoms is the show/dance club. It's been beautifully redone with colors and lighting that suggest being underwater. The lighting changes to simulate both daytime and nighttime conditions. During show times it was pretty crowded, but both nights we went in about 9:00 and had the entire place to ourselves - just us and the bartender. Kind of fun having our own private bar!

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

There's a legend behind O'Gills Pub. O'Gills was a fish, and one day he rescued a leprechaun from drowning. The leprechaun gave him a wish, but instead of wishing for stuff or riches (or to be human), O'Gills wished to share a pint with his new friend. Awwwww...

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

O'Gills is the sports and game bar - in addition to TVs all over the room there are some game tables and board games, too. The night we were in there a singer was performing, also. A couple of times each night they put out a small food buffet - things like veggies and dip, wings, chips and salsa, and they had a beef pie the night we visited. It's quite a large space and was not busy on a Friday night - we didn't go on Saturday night, where because of college football I expect it was a lot busier.

Keys is the third bar, and with a name like that, how could it be anything but a piano bar? It's relaxing but elegant (but they let us in anyway!). They had two pianists - one who simply played and one who played and sang. (I have to admit we enjoyed the former more than the latter.) It's the smallest of the three bars but it was also the busiest. Though the crowd tended to come and go, it was almost full at times both nights we were there. While it's not a champagne bar, it does offer our favorite Moet Ice Imperial champagne. We sat at the bar both nights and enjoyed talking to the bartenders and watching them work - they were quite busy.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Senses Spa and Salon is the re-vamped spa on deck 9 forward. This area was expanded and offers additional treatment rooms, as well as some specialized areas like a new barbershop for men, teeth whitening, and the Chill Spa for 13 to 17-year-olds. They also offer some new services like hair coloring and acupuncture.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Lee and I took a tour of the spa on boarding day where we were able to see most of the facilities - he'll have a video on that. I booked a hot stone massage for Saturday, which was quite lovely and relaxing. I tried to talk him into trying the special shave/facial offered in the barbershop, but he wasn't interested.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The staterooms are somewhat different, but I was expecting them to be completely redone. The furnishings, soft goods, and patio furniture are new but the bathrooms and carpet were not changed at all. The bed is a single mattress and no longer supports the split bed configuration - sorry, single travelers. :-( It's very comfortable, though. It's also been raised so that luggage fits underneath. I was hoping for on-demand TV, but that wasn't added.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Our stateroom had two very nice Disney Cruise Line robes and slippers in the closet, though I don't know if that is ship-wide, or due to our category of stateroom (5B).

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Well, this ended up being a lot longer than I intended it to be. But the Re-Imagining of the Disney Magic was a huge project and there's a lot to write about. There are so many details that I haven't touched on at all!

Even though there's still some work to be done, I thought most of the Disney Magic is better than ever and I am looking forward to sailing on the Magic again. I have to admit that the Magic is my favorite of the four Disney ships - while there are things I like about all of them, sailing on the Magic always feels like coming home.

Laura Gilbreath was an invited Media guest aboard the Disney Magic. Her opinions are her own.

October 21, 2013

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

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We were supposed to be on the Disney Magic October 20-25 for the first cruise after its "re-imagining"....but last Thursday we received notification from Disney Cruise Line that the cruise had been canceled. The Magic encountered weather during the Atlantic crossing that delayed work, and it just wasn't going to be ready.

We had planned our cruise over a year ago, when we first heard that the Magic was getting enhancements, so as you might imagine, we were VERY disappointed. In addition to experiencing the new Magic we were also looking forward to spending time with friends on the cruise.

Disney is offering compensation:

"Therefore, in addition to a full refund of their voyage fare, [guests] will also receive a complimentary sailing up to 5-nights in length on the Disney Magic when sailing from Miami or Port Canaveral, Florida, before May 16, 2014. This complimentary sailing is subject to availability, offered in the same category stateroom with the same party mix originally booked aboard the Disney Magic and is non-transferable. Guests who are unable to take advantage of this complimentary cruise offer are invited to sail at a 35% future cruise discount on any Caribbean or Bahamian sailing of up to 7-nights in length, taken by October 31, 2015, excluding holiday and select peak sail dates."

That's quite fair, but it's all still very disappointing because we wanted to be the first guests on board. And the next three cruises are already sold out. We'd also made all of our plans and travel arrangements and had scheduled time off work - not to mention that we were REALLY looking forward to a vacation!

We will still get to see the Disney Magic, though - AllEars has been invited on the Media Cruise scheduled for October 25-27, and Lee and I will sailing then. I don't think two days is going to be nearly enough time to see/experience all of the new things on board, but we'll do our best.

The following is most of a preview blog I wrote before our cruise was canceled, when I was looking forward to five days aboard the Magic instead of just two!


If you're a Disney cruise fan, I'm sure you've been following the posts on the Disney Parks Blog, Twitter, and Facebook describing the changes and upgrades the Disney Magic received on its recent dry dock in Cadiz, Spain.

From the atrium to the staterooms to the restaurants, kids' club, spa, pool, and adult areas, it's all new - in many ways it sounds like a brand new ship. (Click on the photo below for a larger version.)

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

Some of the things I'm most looking forward to checking out:

Dining

Carioca's is the new restaurant replacing Parrot Cay. Named for Jose Carioca, the parrot from "The Three Caballeros", the restaurant will offer cuisine inspired by South American dishes, with decor inspired by Rio de Janeiro.

Animator's Palate has been updated (yay!) and will offer the new Animation Magic show from the Disney Fantasy. I really enjoy this show, and am looking forward to seeing it again. And according to the Disney Cruise Line site, we can also expect to "enjoy a visit from favorite Disney and Disney*Pixar characters too, such as Rapunzel from Tangled and Remy from Ratatouille." Will these be interactive visits? I hope we'll find out!

Cabanas will replace Topsider Buffet on Deck 9...we'll see how this works. I have not been a fan of Cabanas on the Dream and Fantasy (though I have found the food to be much better) because of the way the aft stairwell comes out into the middle of the restaurant, but that might not be an issue on the Magic.

Most of the quick service dining on deck 9 will be changing. Pinocchio's Pizzeria remains, but Daisy's De-Lites replaces Goofy's Galley, and Pete's Boiler Bites takes over for Pluto's Dog House. As on the Dream and Fantasy, Eye Scream and Frozone Treats will be serving soft-serve ice cream and smoothies and other frozen concoctions. I'll be interested in seeing where these two are located.

After Hours is the new adult entertainment area. There are still three spaces, but they've been re-named and completely re-done: O'Gill's Pub, a sports bar, Fathoms, the show/dance club, and Keys, a quieter, more relaxed piano bar. (And I have to admit that after seeing what they did on the Fantasy, I want to see what the public restrooms are like in that area, too!)

Lots of changes in the pool area...The AquaDunk will be the Disney's Magic water thrill feature. It's a three-story body slide through a translucent tube that partially extends over the side of the ship. Apparently it starts with a near vertical drop. I'll try it, but I'm not sure how much I'll like it! There's also going to be a version of the AquaLab, first seen on the Disney Fantasy. That's a fun place to cool off! Kids will have their own new Twist n' Spout water slide, and there's the Nephews' Splash Zone for toddlers.

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

The Oceaneer's Club, for kids 3-12, has been extensively remodeled, and offers four "storybook worlds". I kind of wish I was a kid! I'll definitely be touring it during the Open House they offer on boarding day. There's Andy's Room, where kids will feel toy-sized, which features a Slinky Dog slide. I wanna slide!!!!

Re-Imagined Disney Magic

In the MARVEL'S Avenger's Academy, "Young crime fighters are invited to swoop into this top-secret command post of S.H.I.E.L.D., where earth's mightiest Super Heroes, The Avengers, train and prepare for special missions." And: "Avengers Academy is a multi-day, immersive entertainment experience where children interact with Marvel characters and unleash their inner super heroes." How fun is that???

At the Mickey Mouse Club kids can engage in various craft activities and play games. There's also Goofy Gears, "a wacky, large-scale wall game." That's as much as I've been able to learn about it so far.

Pixie Hollow offers crafts and costumes for dress-up play, in an area inspired by Tinker Bell's pixie home.

The Oceaneer's Lab will be offering new pirate-themed activities and experiments. "Navigator Simulators let young buccaneers steer a ship through the mysterious waters of The Caribbean."

The spa has been renamed Senses Spa and Salon. In addition to the traditional spa services a barbershop and "Smile Spa" are new offerings. The new Chill Spa provides spa services to teens aged 13-17.


We're really excited to see it all, and we'll be doing our best to share it with you. We'll be tweeting like crazy as we explore the ship before we leave port, and you can follow me on Twitter: @AllEarsLaura. On such a short cruise I don't know if I'll write a daily blog - though I hope that some of the Magic's upgrades include better internet service!

What do you want to know about the Re-Imagined Disney Magic? Leave a comment below or use the Feedback Form to send me an email, and we'll do our best to find the answers.

October 1, 2012

Disney Magic Canada Cruise - The Food

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And if you're not all tired of hearing about the cruise by now...here's the food blog.

I didn't enjoy the food quite as much this time as on other cruises - I guess I've seen most of the menus too many times in the last 18 months. This cruise didn't have any specialty menus, which disappointed me. We had the rotational meals in each of the three restaurants, the Pirate menu, and the 'Til we Meet Again menu. Nothing new on any of those as far as I could tell.

We had an excellent server, Vlado, who really kept our meals moving along - no long waits between courses, and we were usually done with dinner in under an hour and a half. It was nice NOT being some of the last people out of the dining room, especially since we had late seating.

Our assistant server wasn't as good - not very efficient in getting the drinks out or in some of his other duties, though he did better the last two nights after we spoke to our head server.

After boarding on Wednesday we went to the buffet at Topsiders. I always enjoy the peel-and-eat shrimp on embarkation day. They had a nice chicken salad on a brioche roll, and a really delicious cheesy au gratin potato dish. We tried a couple of chocolate chip cookies for dessert, which are normally quite good, but these were dry and tasteless.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

As usual, we were in Parrot Cay on our first night. Five cruises on the Disney Magic and Wonder, and we have always had the same dining rotation with Parrot Cay the first night.

I had in mind to try some different menu items on this cruise, but I wasn't always successful - there were some things I had and in looking back at previous food blogs I see that I tried them before! :-) But they aren't always prepared quite the same way I had them in the past.

So....I started with the St. Maarten Stack, which is a couple of pieces of grilled squash with mozzarella and a vinaigrette. It's quite tasty, but a small serving.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the Baked Crab Martinique - I think he almost always gets this! It's a hot crab dip served with tortilla and plantain chips.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Next up we both had the Parrot Cay Salad. This is a very nice salad, with spinach and egg and onion. It's served with what they call "warm bacon dressing" - but it doesn't taste like bacon at all - we've noticed that before on Disney ships.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

My entree was the Pan Seared Grouper. This may have been the best entree I had all week. The fish was delicious. I requested steamed vegetables in place of the rice.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee ordered Vlado's recommendation, the Mixed Grill. This included beef tenderloin, lamb chop, bacon-wrapped sausage and jumbo shrimp, served on mashed potatoes. He enjoyed that.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I actually didn't have dessert, since none of them were worth the calories. Lee ordered the Sweet Temptations, with creme brulee cheesecake, lemon meringue pie, and chocolate s'more vanilla cake.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We didn't do anything special for breakfast and lunch on our sea day, so I didn't take any photos. :-)

That evening we were in Lumiere's. There was no formal night on this cruise, but it was "dress-up night", so that's always my favorite restaurant for the more special occasions. I don't really like anything on the appetizer menu (no escargot for me!), so my first and second course were both off the soup and salad section. I love the french onion soup, so that's what i had (Lee had it as his second course). And it was nice and hot and cheesy. I think the serving size has been reduced over what it was when we first cruised, but that's ok - that was a little too big. This particular dish has been consistently good on our cruises.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee ordered the Smoked Bacon and Wild Mushroom Tart. He enjoyed this. I had a bite, and I would've enjoyed it, too - it was more like a quiche, and not very mushroomy.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

One of our tablemates had the Jumbo Shrimp, which also looked good.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Next course was Market Green Salad with peppered goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. It's a nice fresh salad but unremarkable except for the goat cheese. I enjoyed it, though.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We both ordered Triton's Seared Sea Bass, though I had mine with vegetables again instead of the mushroom risotto. It was another tasty fish dish. All the seafood I had on this cruise was good.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I actually did get dessert that night, and had the Sweet Temptations with creme brulee, chocolate mousse, and a Praline Petite Choux. (Which was a fancy name for a meringue cookie. I don't know where the "praline" part came from, since I didn't detect anything praline'ish about it.) The mousse was creamy and chocolatey and good, and I enjoyed the creme brulee as well.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the full-sized serving of creme brulee and liked that.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Before we went into Saint John we had breakfast at Parrot Cay. It's a breakfast buffet with the usual selections. We often feel that we don't get very good service in the dining rooms for meals other than dinner, but we had an attentive server this time - a little too attentive, since he really wanted to chat and we were trying to eat! But he actually added hot water to my tea cup a couple of times which I appreciated. Those cups are VERY small and often on our cruises I never get a refill, though they come around with coffee frequently. I'm afraid my breakfast choice was quite boring - oatmeal, melon, and yogurt. :-) But they had a few toppings available over by the yogurt/granola area so I was able to add some flax and sunflower seeds to it. I wish they had Craisins since I don't care for raisins.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

When we returned to the ship after our day in Saint John it was too late for lunch so we went up to the fast food places on deck 9. It was an overcast day - I would've liked something like soup, but ended up with a veggie burger and fries instead. The burger was just ok, but the fries were surprisingly good. Lee had pizza - that's his favorite meal.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I think that was the day that we went into Cove Cafe and they had some cookies/sweets in their refrigerated case. They had a "blonde brownie on a stick" that was pretty dry and not very good, but they also had some kind of a layered brownie bar and that was very good! I didn't take a picture though. We went back a couple of other days during the cruise, but were never in time for anything but the brownie lollipops, and didn't try those again.

That night we were in Animator's Palate for the "show" dinner. This isn't my favorite menu and I actually wanted to do dinner at Topsiders instead, but Lee wanted to eat in the dining room...so I wasn't in the best frame of mind for this particular meal.

I started off with the Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup, served with bacon and chives. One of my observations on our cruises has been the sometimes the soups are not very hot by the time they make it out from the kitchen. This one was warm, but not as hot as I would have liked. But it still had a good flavor.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the Sesame Flavored Rock Shrimp and Caramelized Onion Cheesecake, which is what I usually order, too, and it's been one of our favorites. But he said it wasn't as good this time - the shrimp was undetectable and it just wasn't quite right somehow.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

My second course was Smoked Salmon and Trout with Goat Cheese Salad. It was served with sliced almonds and cranberry-balsamic vinegar dressing. This was pretty good, though I found the smoked salmon flavor a bit strong.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the potato soup as his second course.

I usually get the Black Bean Chipotle Cakes, but I wanted to try something different so I ordered Lemon-Thyme Marinated Chicken Breast instead. I should've stuck with the black bean cakes - this was the worst entree I had the whole cruise. For one thing nothing on my plate was hot - only the mashed potatoes were anything more than barely warm. And the chicken was dry. The sour cream mashed potatoes were good, though. I asked for steamed veggies in place of the roasted root vegetables. I didn't eat much of the chicken. Our servers really wanted to get me something else when they saw I wasn't enjoying it, but I'd had enough to eat, and I wasn't in the mood to deal with it.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had one of his favorites, Asian Marinated Beef Tenderloin. And I think he enjoyed that as much as he always has.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

There wasn't anything on the dessert menu that appealed to me so when Vlado asked me, I said: "Nothing for me." And that's what I received. :-)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the Buckled Warm Apple Crumble. Sorry that the photo is out of focus - they had dimmed the lights in the dining room for the procession with Sorcerer Mickey and my camera couldn't focus properly, I'm not sure what makes this "buckled" and opposed to "unbuckled", but Lee enjoyed it. :-)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Though there's no champagne bar on the Magic we checked out some of the other bars in the adult district. We found some champagne cocktails on the menu in Sessions (which was a very nice area - classy, relaxed, with some live music). This is the Elderbubble, which has the same name as the drink we had on the Fantasy in Ooh La La, but this one was a little different - still tasty, though.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We had breakfast at Topsiders on the morning we sailed into Halifax - it was a beautiful morning to sit outside! This is Lee's plate - he had one of the omelets that was already cooked, though they will make them to order if you're willing to wait.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I had oatmeal and fruit again. It was interesting to see that different buffets had different toppings available - I think overall I preferred the toppings at Topsiders. And the oatmeal was always good - not too thick and not too thin.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I mentioned this in my cruise blog already, but I'll mention it again here. :-) One of the food highlights of the trip was definitely the BeaverTail stand in Halifax. These used to be available at the Canada pavilion at Epcot and they were always one of our favorites, but the stand has been gone for a number of years now. I read somewhere that there was a stand in Halifax, so I was determined to find it! (It was easy to find.) Lee ordered a more classic type, with cinnamon-sugar, and I had one spread with Nutella. We watched with eager anticipation as the cook pulled them out of the hot oil, drained them, and then finished topping them. It was tough, but we managed to restrain ourselves from gobbling them down long enough to take a picture! They were soooo good!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

That night was Pirate Night and we were back in Parrot Cay - that's always an appropriate restaurant to be in on Pirate Night.

I started with Pirates Golden "Pot Stickers". These are fried pork dumplings and not really that exotic - but they were still quite good. :-) Served with some pickled vegetables and a good dipping sauce.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had Black Beard's Jumbo Crab Cake. It came with a carrot and coconut slaw. Lots of crab in the crab cake, so Lee enjoyed it.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

For a salad course I had Mr. Smee's Bibb Lettuce Salad. This was more of a deconstructed salad, and not quite what I expected, but all of the parts were tasty.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the Jerk Chicken Salad, with jerked chicken strips, greens, and plantain chips. The chicken was good, and the plantain chips give it a different touch.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

My entree was something I've enjoyed before: Sunken Vegetable Treasure, which is black eyed pea and quinoa croquettes with mushroom sauce. I always think of croquettes as patties, and these look more like sausages. I asked for my usual steamed broccoli with it. I'm a little surprised this dish doesn't come with some accompaniment, since it's not very attractive by itself. It's very good, though.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee tried Jack Sparrow's BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs. I think he always orders these. :-) But why not? They have been consistently good, and these were very tender - falling off the bone. Served with red bliss mashed potatoes and a tamarind BBQ sauce.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

One of our tablemates had Captain Hook's Macadamia Nut Dusted Mahi Mahi, with Jasmine rice, sauteed pineapple and a mild curry sauce. It was VERY mild (as in almost undetectable) curry, and there wasn't much pineapple, either. She said it was good and had a nice flavor, though.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I didn't order dessert, but Lee had the Rum Soaked Chocolate Cake, and he enjoyed that.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

One of our tablemates had the Sweet Temptations, with samples of the Rum Cake, Fruit Cobbler, and Floating Island. I almost ordered the Floating Island, which is meringue and fruit, and I've enjoyed that before.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

The next morning was my favorite meal of the entire cruise- brunch at Palo. I booked this as soon as my booking window opened (which is 9:00 p.m. - sometimes there are advantages to being on the west coast!) The experience had a bit of a rocky start, though. We had a reservation for 10:00, which is when the restaurant opens. We were seated, and then we waited...and waited...and watched other tables get "the tour" from their servers and begin to go through the buffet...and waited some more. Finally, Lee went back to the podium and talked to the head server, who came over and apologized profusely - we'd been seated at the wrong table, and didn't have a server assigned.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

So we got a server and got our champagne and our tour...and multiple apologies over the course of the meal and when we left. I was a little surprised (and disappointed) that they didn't offer us anything more - like free refills on the champagne. But oh well.

There are multiple stations at the brunch. First is "cold foods", with items like crab legs and shrimp, cheese and crackers, grilled vegetables and fancy appetizers like prosciutto-wrapped asparagus.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I always enjoy seeing the ice sculpture.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Next is the station with pastries and fruit. There is a wonderful selection of pastries, and I could easily fill myself up here! But all I usually go for is my very favorite thing - the sticky buns. They are sooooo good! Tender pastry and cinnamon-gooey goodness.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

And then there's the dessert station - but even I don't start there. :-)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

My opening plate, though you can't see the sticky bun hiding in the back.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Instead of a buffet line for hot foods, they have quite a selection of menu items that you order from your server and they are freshly prepared. There's breakfast foods like pancakes, frittata, eggs Benedict, eggs Julia, and eggs Florentine, and brunch items like Oysters Rockefeller, and tilapia and risotto. You can also order pizzas - we had goat cheese and sun-dried tomato.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I ordered the Chicken Parmesan, which is a specialty of Palo, but I'd never had it before. It was excellent - tender chicken and a really tasty tomato sauce.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the Eggs Benedict.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

And he also ordered the Tilapia with Asparagus Risotto. I had a bit of that - the risotto wasn't quite as creamy as when we've had it before.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

There were lots of really wonderful looking desserts, and I did my best to try a number of them. I had chocolate mousse, a mini sacher torte, a fruit meringue, a fruit cheesecake parfait, and some chocolate-covered strawberries. Though they were covered in white chocolate, which isn't really chocolate at all. The mousse was my favorite, and the cheesecake was also quite good.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Because we'd had the Palo brunch we didn't have lunch, but we needed a late afternoon snack to hold us until dinner so I went to Goofy's Galley. I noticed this "sculpture" watching over things - very cute!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I had a couple of sandwiches - one was smoked salmon on a bagel, and the other was turkey and cranberry. It didn't seem like the sandwiches changed day-to-day as much as we have seen on other cruises.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Before dinner we went to Diversions for a drink. Something we'd found out the day before was that they have daily drink specials in Diversions. During certain hours, both the drink of the day and draft beers are two-for-one. And if you're not finished, you can take your drink to dinner with you. We shared that night's two-for-one drink of the day, which was called a High Tide.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

That night was our final dinner on the cruise, with the 'Til We Meet Again menu. We were in Lumiere's for the second time. We both started with the Grilled Potato and Goat Cheese Napoleon. This is layers of sliced potatoes and goat cheese. We'd had this on a previous cruise and loved it, but this time, rather than an attractive stack with layers of potatoes and goat cheese it seemed all glopped together on the plate. There was too much goat cheese - and that's saying something, because I really like goat cheese.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I ordered the Cranberry Salad with mixed greens, Craisins, and cranberry dressing. I requested they leave off the blue cheese. It was quite good - I really liked the cranberry dressing.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the Potato and Leek Soup. That's always been a pretty safe and good choice.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

My entree was Green Pancakes and Stewed Lentils, which I thought was something I hadn't tried before, but in looking back at other food blogs I see that I had. And when I had it before I wasn't that impressed, but this time I really liked it. It looked a lot better than the last time, too.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee ordered Garlic and Rosemary Marinated Lamb Sirloin served with leek and potato gratin and bacon-wrapped asparagus - the latter item was not noted on the menu. He really enjoyed it.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

For dessert I had the Chocolate Decadence. They have a very different idea about what constitutes "decadent" chocolate than I do. :-) The chocolate cake and parfait cup were fine, but I wouldn't call them decadent. I don't get the meringue cookie thing at all.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Lee had the Baked Alaska - he always gets that, so he must like it.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We went back to Sessions for a final drink. This one had champagne in it and I don't remember the name - but it was blue. :-)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

That brings me to the end of this food blog - the next morning we needed to be off the ship early and didn't have breakfast in the dining room.

This was probably my least favorite cruise as far as the food goes. I wanted to try a few different menu items rather than going with all of my favorites, but most of the new items I tried were disappointing. And actually, a couple of things I've enjoyed in the past (like the goat cheese napoleon) were not as good. I tried a lot of salads, and those were all good. The greens were all fresh and crisp, and most of them had some extra ingredient too make them a little more special. But a lot of the desserts were of the "not worth the calories" variety for me, which is why I skipped them so often. Though one thing I've noticed, especially on the desserts, is that the menu descriptions are quite inadequate, and really don't describe what comes out on the plate very well at all. There are some desserts I might have ordered if the descriptions had been more accurate.


September 24, 2012

Disney Magic Canada Cruise - Part 4, At Sea, New York Sail-In

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We went back to the Eastern timezone overnight, so we got back that hour that we lost the other day, which meant we could sleep in this morning - yay!!!

It's another beautiful day - some puffy clouds but sunny. The seas are a little choppier than they have been, but I'd still say they are pretty smooth. I can feel that we're moving now, whereas I felt very little movement the first few days. Our cabin is still nice and quiet, though. :-)

We went out running on deck 4 after we got up this morning. It was a great morning for running - nice and cool. Not too many people out, there, either.

Speaking of people...this cruise is sold out (or very close to it), but the ship really doesn't feel crowded - sometimes we've been out on deck and hardly see anyone at all! But I think there are fewer kids, and a lot of older couples, so the average age is a little higher than usual.

Our big event for the day was brunch at Palo, which I think is my very favorite meal aboard ship.

This time we didn't start off very well, though. We were seated promptly, but then sat there and waited - No one came over to serve us or offer us water or anything. Lee finally had to go and talk to the maitre'd, who apologized - we'd apparently been seated at the wrong table, which didn't have a server assigned. Anyway...things were fine after that, and we had a wonderful brunch. There's always way more things we would like to try than we can eat. They had a cheddar-chocolate cheese this time that was very good. My favorite is still the sticky buns, though.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise
Disney Magic Canada Cruise

I have usually been disappointed in the brunch desserts at Palo, but this time they seemed a lot better than I've had in the past. The chocolate mousse was very good, and so was the "vertical cheesecake". Very pretty and really tasty.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

After brunch we had another wine tasting seminar in Sessions. Still two whites, two reds, and a sparkling wine, but all different than we had on Thursday. (Thursday seems like a long time ago!) These didn't appeal to me quite as much but we still learned interesting things.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

When we returned to our room there were all the reminders that our cruise is coming to an end - our luggage tags and customs form had been delivered. Sigh.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

There was an absolutely spectacular sunset tonight...it just kept getting better and better! Wow. It was just amazingly beautiful.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise
Disney Magic Canada Cruise

So, that's what I wrote on our final day...this part I wrote after we arrived back at home...

That evening they announced that we would be sailing into New York around 4:00 the next morning, and should be going by Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty around 4:45. How often do you get to do something like that? We got up around 4:15 and went up on deck 10 forward. We weren't the only crazy people who were up early!

About 4:35 we were approaching the Verrazano Narrows bridge.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

And we went by the Statue of Liberty just after 5:00.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

While we had could see lower Manhattan and the Tower for quite a while, we had the best view about 5:15. That's a VERY tall building!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

As we sailed up the Hudson River side of Manhattan we had a beautiful view of the lights, with the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in the background.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We went back to bed after that - we had a little time until we had to get up and leave the ship. Disembarking is always rather sad and anti-climactic. :-(

This was the Magic's final cruise out of New York, it's off to Galveston now. Instead of taking on new passengers after we disembark, they will be taking on some contractors who will be doing work on the decks during their five-day trip to Galveston. The crew will stay busy doing a lot of cleaning and inventory and other maintenance. They've called it kind of a mini-dry dock.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

The Magic will be undergoing an extensive dry dock in the fall of 2013. Throughout the cruise we have spoken with various crew members about what the dry dock will involve and what changes might be made. So the following is what we've been told, and may not be 100% accurate.

After completing its Mediterranean cruises next year the Magic will be staying in Europe for a six-week dry dock. Apparently Karl Holz told the crew that it will be an all-new ship with quite a "wow" factor when it comes out. The staterooms will be completely refurbished, as well as the public areas. The pool areas will all be redone. The adult area, Beat Street, will be updated, and converted into five different (smaller) bar areas.

Palo will be expanded. The area that is currently a walkway outside will become seating area for the restaurant. The new part may be more like a patio and only partially enclosed.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Animator's Palate will be updated - though that would only be a surprise if they DIDN'T do anything with it.

Things that we'd like to see in addition to the above...Enchanted artwork, a new ship's horn, Magical Portholes, an expanded upstairs area for Cove Cafe, and video on demand in the staterooms. And a champagne bar. :-)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

It was a really nice cruise. With two sea days and only two port days we had more time to relax than we usually do. It was great to be able to watch some movies and do the wine tastings. As far as the ports went, we weren't really that impressed with Saint John, but we enjoyed Halifax. If Disney comes back to Canada again I'd like to see a longer itinerary which visits perhaps Prince Edward Island and one or two U.S. ports, like Bar Harbor, Maine.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise


The food blog will be coming soon!


September 18, 2012

Disney Magic Canada Cruise - Part 3, Halifax

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Today we were in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When we woke up this morning we were still off the coast of Nova Scotia and the skies were clear - yay! But as we approached closer to Halifax we went into a fog bank again... boo!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Fortunately by the time we docked and were able to disembark, about 10:00, the fog had lifted, and we had a mixture of sun and clouds (mostly sun) the rest of the day. Yay!!!

When I came downstairs after watching us dock I was able to get my picture taken with a certain mouse - such a gentleman!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We had again chosen not to take an organized excursion, but instead to wander around town on our own - there were a lot of sights to see not far from the port, and in fact we didn't have time to do all of the items on our list. We could've used the extra two hours here that we had in Saint John yesterday. (Saint John was 8:30-4:30, today was 10:30-4:30.)

On our way to the Citadel we went through The Public Gardens. This late in the season the plantings were a little disappointing but it was still a very nice area, and quite large.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We saw these G.O.U.S. there. (Geese Of Unusual Size, for those of you who are not Princess Bride fans.) They were kind of scary looking. First giant beavers and then giant geese - is EVERYTHING bigger in Canada?

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

The Citadel is one of the "must-see" attractions in Halifax. It's a star-shaped fort, originally built in 1749, and re-fortified multiple times after that. Halifax is in a strategic position because of its large natural harbor, but (probably because of the defense system) it's never been attacked. It was about a 2-mile walk from the Magic.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Since the Citadel is on a hill above the city there's a lovely view from there, so we were really glad that we had a clear day today!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Inside there are several museums and a couple of movies, as well as costumed soldiers who do live demonstrations. There's a changing of the guard ceremony every hour, and we saw a demonstration on firing a breech-loading rifle.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

At noon every day (except Christmas) since 1856, they fire one of the cannons - the Noon Gun. We were there for that, and enjoyed seeing it - I plugged my ears during the actual firing of it, since it's pretty loud! :-)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We also walked up on top of the walls all the way around. There was a fair bit to do there - we were probably there for a couple of hours and didn't see everything.

I'm sure a lot of you remember the BeaverTail stand they used to have at the Canada pavilion at Epcot. It was always one of our favorites, and we were very disappointed when it closed. Well, before we left home I discovered that there was a BeaverTail stand close to the port (along their Harbourwalk), so that was the #1 item on my To Do list for Halifax!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

And it did not disappoint - yummy, warm, freshly fried crisp and chewy dough. Lee chose the classic, coated with cinnamon-sugar, and I had Nutella spread on mine. Oh soooooo good!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Another recommended sight in Halifax was the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It had quite a few different areas, with exhibits on shipwrecks, sailing and steam vessels, the Halifax Explosion of 1917 (which leveled much of the city), and cabling ships which laid/repaired the transatlantic telegraph cables. The most popular exhibit was on the Titanic - people are endlessly fascinated by that. I thought most of their other exhibits were more interesting, though. By then we were getting a bit tired of being on our feet so probably didn't enjoy the museum as much as we might have earlier. But since it was closest to the ship we did it last since we knew we could get back to the ship in time from there. As I said before, we really could've used an extra two hours in Halifax.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

On our walk back to the ship we saw this cutie in the water. I think he was probably trying to beg bait from some people who were fishing - or maybe he was stealing the bait from their lines and then coming up to gloat.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We'd hoped to do a brewery tour but didn't have the time, but there was a place very near the ship that offered tasting sizes, so Lee was at least able to try a couple of tastes in the short time we had left. As it turned out we didn't really have to worry - at 4:20 the line to re-board was quite long, and we didn't actually pull away until 5:15.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We had a very full day in Halifax and enjoyed the city very much - a lot more than Saint John. It's a place I would return to, whereas I have more of a "been there, done that" feeling about Saint John.

Tonight is Pirate Night... but perhaps Disney should be a bit cautious about advertising that around here... in the Maritime Museum we saw what they do to pirates in these parts!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Tomorrow is a day at sea... it'll be nice to kick back and relax a bit on our final full day on board.


September 15, 2012

Disney Magic Canada Cruise - Part 2, Saint John, New Brunswick

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Today we were in Saint John, New Brunswick (not to be confused with
St. Johns, Newfoundland!). It's on the Bay of Fundy, which is
well-known for its extreme high and low tides (if you've seen the O
Canada movie at Epcot you might remember seeing boats floating at
high tide that are completely beached at low tide), though the tides
aren't that bad here.

It was grey and foggy when we arrived - the forecast called for it
to clear up by lunch time, but unfortunately that never happened,
and it was foggy all day. :-(

We moved into the Atlantic timezone last night, so we lost an hour.
Still, we were scheduled to be in port from 8:30-4:30, so that was
plenty of time. We slept in a bit and had breakfast (buffet) at
Parrot Cay before disembarking around 10:00.

The port building is downtown, so there's plenty of places to walk
to. Lots of old buildings dating from the 1700s and 1800s.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

There's a very nice walking/cycling bath called the Harbour
Passage
that goes along the edge of the Saint John Harbour and
out along the Saint John River towards one of the main tourist
attractions: Reversing Falls. The high tide in the Bay of
Fundy causes the current in the Saint John river to reverse, so the
flow of the rapids changes direction depending on the tide. It's
not really a waterfall but a series of rapids.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

It's a couple of miles from the port, and was a very nice walk for
us, though it would have been a lot nicer on a clearer day. We
could only barely see the Disney Magic in the distance.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

It was just past high tide when we got to the falls area, and we
could really see how fast the current was flowing.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

The Reversing Falls area would be a lot more attractive if not for
this huge pulp and paper mill across the river! There wasn't really
a lot to do there - there is viewing from the Reversing Falls
bridge, where the photo above was taken, and also from Fallsview
Park (photo below), which is another 1/2 mile or so up the river.
That's where the jet boat tours are, and where the zip line is.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We went across the bridge to Wolastoq Park where there were a
number of statues of various historical figures (Benedict Arnold was
one!), including two that told a First People story about Koluskap
and the Giant Beaver. Thanks to him, beavers are much smaller now! :-)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

On our walk back we could see how much the water level had changed
in just a couple of hours - this area was under water when we walked
to the falls.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We wandered around the downtown area and visited a couple of parks
and the Trinity Church. There was a coffee place called the Java
Moose - the three girls working there were all wearing various kinds
of Mickey Mouse ears since our ship was in port. :-)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise
Disney Magic Canada Cruise

And then there was this fabulous site, where, in 1897, nothing
happened. Wow. Who knew? :-) (Lee gets the credit for spotting this
sign!)

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We didn't have to be back on-board until 4:30, but by 2:30 we had
seen what we wanted to see...if it had been a nicer day there were
some other things we would have ventured out to see, like Rockwood
Park and the Carleton-Martello Tower, but with the fog, there wasn't
a view of anything. Tonight when we left port, within about 5
minutes we couldn't see anything around us but fog. :-(

Since we were back early we decided to watch a movie in our
stateroom, and enjoyed that. Oh, while I'm thinking about it I
should say something about our stateroom...unlike most of our recent
cruises this stateroom has been very quiet - no creaking, banging,
vibrating or other bothersome aspects to it. It's just a little bit
aft of mid-ship, so it's a very convenient location, especially to the
restaurants. Though we still get plenty of exercise going up to
deck 9 for beverages and snacks several times a day!

Dinner tonight is in Animator's Palate.

Tomorrow we'll be in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hoping for better
weather there, though it looks like we might have fog again.


September 14, 2012

Disney Magic Canada Cruise - Part 1

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We're back on the Disney Magic for our five-night cruise to Canada!

Before the cruise we spent three days in New York City, and had a
great time sightseeing - Central Park, the Empire State Building,
United Nations, Staten Island Ferry, and the World Trade Center
site. We were in the city on September 11, and we went to Lower
Manhattan that night to see the Tribute Lights. That was
quite beautiful.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

The Disney Magic has been berthed at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal
on the west side of Manhattan while it has been here. It was pretty
easy to find, and it was lovely to see the ship!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We actually arrived early enough to board WHEN our boarding group
was called for a change! I have to admit that, since our last two
cruises have been aboard the Fantasy and the Dream, that the atrium
of the Magic seemed pretty small when we walked in.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

After lunch we walked the length of the ship taking some photos...
and that also seemed a lot shorter. We actually really like the
Magic, and I think we actually prefer it to the larger ships, but we
really noticed the size difference this time.

We're trying an experiment this time, and are in a deluxe oceanview
stateroom rather than a stateroom with a veranda. We figure we can
spend the money we've saved on other things (though alas, there is
no Ooh La La on this ship!). Lee now has his very own Castaway
Club backpack - I laid claim to the one we got earlier this year
(which I brought on this trip as my airline carry-on!).

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

The ship sailed just before 5:00, and of course the highlights were
sailing by the various landmarks of the Manhattan skyline, and then
sailing by the Statue of Liberty. The light wasn't good for photos,
but it was still a great moment.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

Instead of seeing the opening night show we opted to see Brave
in the Buena Vista Theater, since I hadn't seen it. Unfortunately
they had a problem with the sound system and most of the dialog was
very hard to hear. Oh well.

As always, our first night dinner was in Parrot Cay. We've done
five cruises on the Magic and Wonder, and we have always had the
same dining rotation, which starts in Parrot Cay. Sigh. I'll have
a separate food blog after the cruise.

Today was a Sea day. We woke up to clear blue sky and absolutely
smooth water - I couldn't even tell that we were moving.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

For a sea day we were pretty busy, though we had a good time. We
went to the DVC Member celebration (where they served us Mimosas),
then a reception for Gold and Platinum Castaway Club members (where
they also served us champagne cocktails). We grabbed a quick lunch
at Goofy's Galley (salads and sandwiches), and while we were on
deck 9 we ran into Christine, one of our fellow Team AllEars members!
We'd seen her at the Disneyland Half Marathon, but we didn't realize
we'd be on this cruise together until she saw some Facebook posts
from me yesterday!

After lunch we went to a wine tasting in Sessions, where we sampled
two white wines, two red wines, and a sparkling wine. They call
the tastings "From Stem to Stern" - very clever. They gave us a
pin with that phrase on it at the end. We enjoyed that a lot.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

So after all of that wine...we took a nap in the afternoon. :-)

Instead of seeing tonight's stage show, Twice Charmed (which we'd
seen before), we went to the Buena Vista Theater and saw The
Avengers instead. I'm happy to report that the sound system was
working properly today, and we both liked the movie. When we came
out of the show we saw the end of a beautiful sunset!

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

There's no Formal Night on this cruise, but tonight was Dress
Up
night. Dinner was in Lumiere's - that's always a nice place
to be on the night we get dressed up.

Tomorrow we'll be in Saint John, New Brunswick. Looks like
the weather will be sunny and in the high 60s, so it should be a
very nice day to be out wandering around the city!


September 11, 2012

Disney Magic Canada Cruise - Preview

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The Disney Magic has been sailing out of the port of New York this summer, and venturing both south to the Bahamas and north to Canada. Lee and i will be on the final Canada/New England Coast Cruise. This is a five-night cruise with stops in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick, plus two days at sea.

On departure day we'll get to sail out of New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty! I'm looking forward to that.

Disney Magic Canada Cruise

We've heard that both ports are very walkable, so we haven't booked any excursions. I have to admit that one of the things I am most looking forward to in Halifax is going to the Beaver Tail stand! I really enjoyed those when they were in the Canada pavilion at Epcot.

I am planning to blog while we're on the cruise - but as always that will be dependent on how good/bad the internet connectivity is.


April 25, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The Food, Part 3

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(If you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2).

Day 5

On Wednesday we were in Costa Maya. We didn't have an excursion, and were on the ship for lunch at Royal Court. This was one of my favorite meals of the whole cruise.

I ordered the Tomato and Mozzarella Salad, with breasola and argula and balsamic dressing. It was really good.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee had the Chicken Tortilla Wrap, with grilled chicken, peppers, sour cream and guacamole. He said it was good - I think the only problem is that it wasn't big enough. :-)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

I also had the Smoked Duck Breast Salad with brie, walnuts, oranges and pomegranate dressing. The duck was excellent - a wonderful smoked flavor and not gamey at all. Judging from the size of the pieces it was a pretty large duck!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee had the Mild Chicken Curry with rice pilaf and popodum. This was also very good, though a little more heat would have been nice.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

My dessert was the best dessert I had on the entire cruise - it was called Double Chocolate Cake, but that really doesn't describe it at all. It was more like a lovely chocolatey flourless cake topped with chocolate mousse. Really, really good.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee tried the Coconut Cream Pie - a little individual pie, and he really enjoyed that, too. It was also a very attractive dish.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

That night was the Animation Magic dinner in Animator's Palate, which we had really been looking forward to. Dinner was done a little differently, though. Because of the time it takes for us to do the drawings, and for the servers to collect them, they have to simplify the dinner a little bit. They do this by only offering one appetizer and one soup, which are exclusive to Animator's Palate. We chose whether or not to partake in one or both. For entree and dessert we had choices from the menu. The ship-wide menu that night was Prince and Princess, but we received a modified version of that: the entrees were the same and the desserts were mostly the same.

The Crush show is a little too busy for me, and overall I found this one much less intrusive and distracting. And the animation sequence itself, which used our drawings, was really fun. They used everyone's drawings, and it was fun trying to pick them out as they moved and danced across the screen. I wish I'd gotten some video of it.

But, as this is a food blog, onto dinner itself!

As I mentioned we didn't have a choice of appetizer and soup/salad (except the choice to NOT have them). So our appetizer was a plate with three different hors d'oeuvres on it: Marinated Garlic and Herb Shrimp, Prosciutto with Melon, and Sesame-crusted Tuna Sashimi. The shrimp and prosciutto were good (I traded my sashimi to Donna for her shrimp, and I'm told it was good).

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

The soup was very unusual: Corn Three Ways. It was buttered popcorn soup. According to the menu it was topped with caramel corn and spiced cornbread but those were actually served on the side. I thought it was tasty, and I did put the caramel corn in mine, which gave it crunch and a little extra sweetness. The cornbread was also unusual, and I enjoyed that.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

As I mentioned the entrees were from the Prince and Princess menu that was served in all three restaurants that night. I had the Oven-roasted Tom Turkey Breast - green beans, sweet mashed potatoes, rosemary stuffing, giblet gravy and cranberry relish - though I didn't have any cranberries, and I had some dark meat in addition turkey breast meat. The turkey was moist and flavorful, and the accompaniments were good - occasionally there's been some odd spicing in the sweet potatoes and stuffing, but not this time.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee tried the Rosemary-scented Medallions of Lamb - with grilled red peppers, yellow squash and zucchini on a polenta cake with lamb jus. He shared a bite of the lamb with me and it was nice and tender.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

The dessert menu was a very scaled-down version of what was on the Prince and Princess menu. :-( I would have ordered the chilled chocolate souffle by itself, but I had to settle for the sample of it that was part of the Sweet Temptations. It also came with lemon cheesecake (no sugar added) and tiramisu.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee had Princess Jasmine Banana Bread Pudding. It was topped with caramel sauce and macadamia nuts, and he liked it.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Day 6

Thursday we were at sea, and it was semi-formal night, with The Captain's Gala as the ship-wide menu. We were in Enchanted Garden again. I guess most of our table mates had something against Enchanted Garden, since, except for Beci, they were all in Remy or Palo again. (Hmmm...or maybe it was something we said? :-) ) So it was just three of us for dinner. (Our Remy diners, one of whom had been a little hesitant about it, said that it was just incredible. Maybe we'll make it there on a future cruise.)

This menu seemed quite different to me than when I'd had it before on the Magic and the Wonder. It still has the lobster and the lava cake, but a lot of the rest of it looked newer. I started with the Asian Pear, Sweet Corn and Jicama Slaw - with avocado puree and lime vinaigrette garnished with mint leaves. It was a very small serving, but it was quite crunchy and refreshing.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee had the Aged Prosciutto - served with sun dried tomatoes, shaved parmesan and roasted garlic. This certainly looked good, and I think he enjoyed it.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

We both had the same salad: California Mixed Salad Leaves - with toasted pine nuts and orange segments. It was fine - nothing special about it, though.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

There were two vegetarian entrees that I wanted to try. The first was Farro Stew, which Deb Koma had written about on the Preview Cruise. It was described as including "garlic roasted green beans, shallots, hazelnuts and shredded red radishes", but I couldn't find any hazelnuts, and it didn't seem to have very much flavor. It wasn't what I would consider "stew" either - stew should have some kind of savory sauce, and this had no sauce at all. So this was disappointing.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

On the other hand, the Green Pea and Fava Bean Risotto - drizzled with pesto sauce and pine nuts, was really excellent. Perfectly cooked, and the pesto sauce added a wonderful flavor to it. The parmesan crisp on top was yummy, too.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee ordered the Oven-roasted Pork Tenderloin - over creamy cheese polenta with sauteed wild mushrooms and merlot reduction. The pork was tender and nicely cooked and the cheese polenta was quite good.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

I think this was the only night I didn't order Sweet Temptations, because none of the three (amaretto cheesecake, banana creme brulee, and apple pie) appealed to me. And, you may be shocked, but I didn't order the chocolate lava cake, either - because the one I make is better. So I had the Tropical Sundae with rainbow sherbet, coconut macaroon, and rum infused coconut cream. I was expecting the coconut macaroon to be larger and the coconut cream to have a stronger flavor, so I was disappointed in this. It was pretty, though.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee did have the Warm Chocolate Lava Cake, so I tried a bite. Nope, mine is still better. :-) Of course I'm not trying to serve it to several hundred people simultaneously, either. Lee liked it, but he also prefers mine.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Day 7

Friday was our day on Castaway Cay. We didn't really have breakfast because of the 5K, and lunch was the BBQ lunch at Cookies Too. It's just ok.

We were back in Royal Court one last time for the Sea Ya Real Soon! dinner.

For an appetizer, Lee and I had what I think was the best appetizer of the entire trip: Grilled Potato and Goat Cheese Napoleon. It was a stack of grilled potatoes, topped with goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, basil, and a balsamic vinaigrette. It was SO good!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Next I had the Cranberry Salad with mixed field greens, sunflower seeds, Craisins and cranberry dressing. It comes with blue cheese, but I requested it be left off. It was a very good salad, though a few more sunflower seeds would have been nice.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee had the Potato and Leek Soup. That's almost always good - it's often available at the buffet in Cabanas, too.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

For my entree I had a very interesting vegetarian dish, Green Pancakes with Stewed Lentil. This was described as lentils, carrots, leeks and parsnips, sauteed garlic and herbs on a green pancake with lime butter. The pancake was on top of the rest of it, though. :-) And it wasn't really green in color, though it was stuffed with something green (minced spinach, I think) inside. It was...different. Not bad, but not so tasty that I'd rush right out to order it again.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee ordered the Roasted Filet of Beef Wellington, served with mushroom stuffing, wrapped in puff pastry, with fingerling potatoes, baby vegetables, and Cabernet black truffle jus. (I think that was the longest menu description of the week!) He said it was good - I thought they were pretty stingy with the vegetables.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

For dessert I ordered the Sweet Temptations for the final time: Celebration cake, Chocolate Decadence, and Cappuccino Mousse tartlet (no sugar added). But I got distracted and didn't take a photo of it, because we received a special congratulations and cake in honor of our 25th anniversary. Our anniversary was back in January, but in true Disney fashion we've decided that we're going to make it a year-long celebration. :-)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Our dessert was a very nice chocolate mousse cake - it was actually my second favorite dessert of the cruise.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Lee ordered that night's special - Baked Alaska. Sponge loaf layered with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream, covered in burnt meringue (not really burnt - just browned). But we did not get the parade of chefs carrying flaming baked Alaskas like we have experienced on the Magic and the Wonder. :-( He always gets the baked Alaska, so it must be a favorite.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

Day 8

What do you mean the cruise is over and we have to get off the ship???? Sigh. We were in Royal Court for our final breakfast, which for us started at 6:45 since we had the early dinner seating. Yikes.

I ordered something unremarkable like oatmeal that I didn't even bother photographing. :-) And all they had to go on top was brown sugar - no toppings bar!

Lee had the Chef's Farewell, which was an open-faced omelet topped with barbecue chicken, green peppers, onions and melted Swiss cheese. It looked very good (except for the peppers) and he liked it.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 3

And another cruise comes to an end...as does another set of food blogs.

Some Final Food Thoughts

This is the first time we've had the early dinner seating instead of the late seating, and I really liked it. Because of the second dinner seating, we HAD to be out of the dining room in less than 2 hours, and we usually made it in less than 90 minutes. On too many of our late dining dinners it's been at least 10:30 before we got out of the dining room. Early dining meant we had the late show, but it was usually out by 9:30, giving us some extra time to do something else (like go to Ooh La La).

With late seating we've always found that we had to have a small meal around 5:00 to tide us over until dinner, and we didn't have to do that this time. Fewer meals consumed = less weight gained while on cruise. :-)

We didn't eat very much at the Food Court on Deck 11 this time. The pizza at Luigi's was ok, but I was disappointed with the selection at Fillmore's. The equivalent place (Goofy's Galley) on the Wonder and Magic has always had different sandwich/wrap selections throughout the cruise - Fillmore's had the same sandwiches and wraps every day, it seemed - or at least they did on the four days that I checked it out. Now, they did have a better toppings bar on the Fantasy - in addition to shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes for burger toppings they had chopped lettuce and grape tomatoes and dressing to make a salad.

We really enjoyed the Palo brunch again - that's a wonderful treat, and I think it may be my favorite meal on board ship.

I'll give you a few of our "bests".

Laura: Best Entree (not counting Palo): Green Pea and Fava Bean Risotto (Captain's Gala). The Pacific Black Cod from Animator's Palate would have won if it had been accompanied by something more appetizing than sauteed mushrooms.
Best Appetizer: Grilled Potato and Goat Cheese Napoleon (final night dinner)
Best Dessert: Double Chocolate Cake (Royal Court lunch)

Lee: Best Entree: Jack Sparrow's BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs (Pirate Night)
Best Appetizer: Corn Three Ways (Animation Magic dinner)
Best Dessert: Bananas Foster Sundae (Enchanted Garden)

Hope you enjoyed the blogs - thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please use the links below to send a comment or submit feedback.

Our next cruise will be one of the New York cruises on the Magic in September.

April 18, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The Food, Part 2

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(If you missed it, here is Part 1).

Day 2

Monday was our day in Grand Cayman, but we didn't arrive in port until 10:30 or so, so they offered brunch in Palo that day and we were able to go. That's always one of my favorite meals on board! There are so many wonderful things to try, though - and always way more food I want to taste than I have room for.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

One of my favorites is the sticky rolls, which are on the fruit and pastry table (in the covered dish in the center to keep them warm).

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

So I enjoyed things like a shrimp cocktail shot, cheese, olives, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, fruit, the aforementioned sticky roll, Caprese salad, and smoked salmon.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

In addition to the buffet, you can order pizzas and breakfast entrees which are served at the table. Some of the entrees are Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Eggs Julia, Open-Faced Frittata, Oysters Rockefeller, and Rum Raisin Pancakes.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

I ordered another entree, the Seared Tilapia with Asparagus Risotto. This was SO good - the tilapia was good, but the risotto may have been the best thing I had all week. There was some kind of cheese in it, too.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Lee had the Eggs Florentine.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Palo also has a very nice dessert buffet. The desserts are beautifully presented, but I think that the other breakfast foods are actually better than the desserts. Which doesn't keep me from trying a selection of them anyway. :-) (I should just have a sticky roll for dessert.)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

So I had a berry "cocktail", a chocolate covered strawberry, and a chocolate pot du creme.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Lee had strawberry shortcake, a Sacher torte, and pot du creme.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

That night all of the rest of our tablemates were dining in Palo, so we went to Enchanted Garden by ourselves (along with a few hundred of our closest friends). Dinner certainly went a lot faster with only two of us instead of nine at the table! Since we had early seating we were really able to watch the transformation of the restaurant as it went from afternoon lighting to night. It's quite pretty - but the tables are much too close together.

Overall, this was probably my least favorite menu of the cruise, with the least appealing (to me) selections of appetizers and desserts. I didn't order an appetizer - I chose a soup and a salad instead. My soup was the Heirloom Tomato Soup, with sour cream, croutons, and basil. It's a good tomato soup.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Lee had the North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli, in a basil scented tomato juice (it was more like broth than juice). He would have preferred a different sauce, but the ravioli was good.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Next Lee and I had the Spinach and Raspberry Salad, with fresh raspberries and pine nuts and crumbled Gorgonzola. This was very fresh and tasty.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

I decided to go with one of the vegetarian dishes, the Pearl-Barley Cakes with Shallots, Leeks, and Rosemary. It was served over julienne carrots, celery root and leeks with a light saffron sauce. The sauce was excellent and the whole dish was very tasty, though I expected a few more vegetables under the cakes.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Lee had the other dish that I had been considering, the Pan Seared Sea Bass with fava beans and pea risotto, so I was able to try it, and it was also very good, (All of the risottos I had on board were really good, though a couple of times my table mates reported that theirs were under-cooked.)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

I had the Sweet Temptations again, though none of the desserts on this menu really appealed to me. It included a strawberry cheesecake, Sacher torte, and passion fruit tart.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Lee had the Bananas Foster Sundae. Really more of a fancy name for a banana split than a true Bananas Foster.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Our server brought us some other special treats - the one was sort of a cocoa-dusted ganache/fudge, and the other was sugared jellied fruit - apricot, I think. Kind of different, but interesting to try.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Day 4

Tuesday night, day 4, was Pirate Night, and we were back in Royal Court. Royalty and pirates...kind of an interesting combination. :-)

The Pirate menu seems to be fairly standard across the Disney cruise ships - this one was the same as the one on the Dream in October.

I started with Pirates Golden Pot Stickers - deep-fried pork dumplings with tamarind-ginger sauce. These were quite good, especially the sauce.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Lee had Black Beard's Jumbo Crab Cake, with carrot/raisin/coconut slaw in a Calypso dressing. It's more crab than filler and he enjoyed it.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Next up was Mr. Smee's Bibb Lettuce Salad, with bibb lettuce, baby greens, chicory, tomatoes, pine nuts, and raspberry vinaigrette. This was more of a wedge salad, which wasn't what I was expecting. It was fine, but I wish I had ordered the Jerk Chicken Salad instead - which is what Lee and several others at our table ordered.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

And here is the aforementioned Jerk Chicken Salad. It had jerk-seasoned chicken strips (which Lee had cut before I took the photo), plantain chips and fresh greens with citrus dressing.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

My entree was one of the vegetarian dishes: Sunken Vegetable Treasure It's black-eyed pea and quinoa croquettes with mushroom sauce. The shape looked more like sausages than croquettes, though. And the "mushroom sauce" was actually a bed of sauteed mushrooms. Unfortunately it's not a very attractive dish to photograph! It needs some more color. I like the croquettes, though I can't really describe the flavor to you. They are not really spiced at all, but still have a nice flavor. I have ordered them in the past and I would order them again, though next time a side of steamed vegetables to go with them might be in order.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Lee had Jack Sparrow's BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs with onion red bliss mashed potatoes and plantain chip. He really enjoyed this - the meat was very tender.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Pictured below is the Treasure-of-the-Sea Grilled Shrimp and Seared Scallops dish that someone else ordered. It was on a bed of pasta with tomato sauce.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

For dessert I had, guess what, the Sweet Temptations. It was rum soaked chocolate cake, fruit cobbler, and floating island (meringue with marinated fruit). The cake was just ok, and the floating island was actually my favorite part. This is the only menu where the Sweet Temptations did not include one of the no sugar added desserts.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Lee had the Rum Soaked Chocolate Cake, and he enjoyed it.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

This is one of the no sugar added desserts - the Banana-Chocolate Crepe

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - The  Food, Part 2

Stay tuned for part 3!

April 8, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 8 - Disembarkation

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As I write this I am sitting in the Orlando airport, waiting for our flight home, which isn't for another 2 hours. The Maiden Voyage of the Disney Fantasy is over - it went so fast! But it was just wonderful - truly a once in a lifetime experience, made even more special because we were able to share it with friends. And everything went so well. Everyone else at our table was on the Dream's Maiden Voyage, and they all said how much better this one was. Disney obviously learned a few things!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 8 - Disembarkation

Our final night dinner was nice - I think it's a new menu, and it had lots of really appealing menu items - more than I was able to try. Some menus I look at and say: "Well, I guess this would be ok...", but on this menu there were a lot of great choices! The final night is always bittersweet, though.

Like on the other ships, this menu featured the Baked Alaska for dessert, but we didn't get the parade of the flaming baked Alaska and the servers and flags through the dining room like they do on the Magic and the Wonder - we all missed that.

We went back to our stateroom to pack after dinner. And had yet another gift on our bed - a collection of all of the dinner menus with the "Maiden Voyage" notation on them.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 8 - Disembarkation

With all of these wonderful gifts my suitcase is a lot heavier than when I boarded! We wanted to make sure we could get off the ship early since we had an 11:30 flight, so we were planning to carry our own bags off. That meant we didn't have to do ALL of our packing last night, but we did most of it.

Lee went to see the Believe show, which we were told had been tweaked slightly. But when they compared notes later, no one who saw it seemed to be able to tell what was different.

And we finished our evening off, in, guess where, Ooh La La! As I think you can tell we had a great time there. The three Ooh La La ladies, Adriana, Kristina, and Lindsay, were just wonderful, and they made us feel very welcome. It wouldn't have been the same without them, and I'm really going to miss them!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 8 - Disembarkation

It was not too busy when we arrived but the crowds picked up later - I guess after everyone had finished their packing. it was the place to be - we saw John and Nancy Lasseter and Joe Lanzisero in a group there. Someone came in with this towel creation and showed it to John - and John took a photo of it himself! Very clever.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 8 - Disembarkation

All too soon it was time to say goodbye. Kristina told us that they rotate around the various bars and only stay about two weeks at any particular one, so who knows if/when those three will be together in Ooh La La again. But I hope so.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 8 - Disembarkation

We knew when we arrived in Port Canaveral this morning - the stern thrusters started about 5:00. We did manage to go back to sleep, but the alarm went off at 6:00. Way too early. We finished getting everything in our suitcases and went down to breakfast at 6:45. We were the only ones there for a while, but eventually everyone except Beci arrived (and she'd told us she wouldn't be there - much too early for her! :-) ). Breakfast was pretty quick, and we said our goodbyes to everyone. :-( That's always the bad part of every cruise. I miss them already!

We had ordered a photo CD from Shutters, and we needed to pick that up. Quite a few other people were doing the same thing, and the line was pretty long. I thought the process was rather disorganized - we were picking up pre-paid CDs, so all they needed was our stateroom number, but it took a lot longer than it should have - we were probably in line for 20 minutes. The CDs did not seem to be very well organized so that they could find them quickly.

The photo CD contains all the photos from our ruise, but we will only be able to save 10 of them. We'll see how that works.

Getting off the ship and though Customs was very quick - we left a little before 8:00. We didn't have to wait in line at all to get off the ship, and the Customs line was pretty short so it didn't take long at all. We called our Happy Limo driver when we exited the terminal, and didn't have to wait too long for him to arrive. We got some final looks at the Fantasy from the car...sigh. We were at the airport by 9:00 - in plenty of time for our 11:30 flight.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 8 - Disembarkation

And so we come to the end of another cruise. I'll still have a few more blogs, though - the food blogs, some final thoughts, the new Animator's Palate show, and a little more about Europa and Ooh La La. Thanks for reading!


April 7, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

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We'll see how far I get with this blog entry - I missed yesterday's entry, because for a day at sea it was pretty busy, and all the short nights caught up with me so I took a long nap in the afternoon.

We had a big night Wednesday night - new show in the Animator's Palate restaurant, and new show, Wishes, in the Walt Disney Theater!

The Animation Magic show in Animator's Palate was excellent, and a whole lot of fun. I'll write about it in more detail later, but for those who haven't read about it elsewhere: all of the guests get to draw their own character on the "Magical Placemats" provided, and then, with a little Disney magic, these characters are animated and inserted into animated scenes that are projected on the screens in your section of the restaurant. The drawings are returned at the end of the evening.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

I was so impressed by this - it was amazing what they could do with our little one-dimensional drawings, and so much fun to watch them move and dance across the screen.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

We even got credit at the end of the show for being Guest Animators! They use the name you put on your placemat, so you might want to make it look a little more special. (Read more about Animation Magic in Deb Koma's blog, which includes a video interview with Imagineer Bob Zalk, HERE.)

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

After dinner we saw the new show, Wishes, in the Walt Disney Theater. Apparently as of a few months ago, Disney Cruise Line has imposed a "no photography" rule on all the ships. :-( So, no photos. I enjoyed the show - it's about three high school seniors who go for the "ride of their lives" at Grad Night at Disneyland. One tip for this show: I think you really need to sit in the middle section of the theater. We were off to the side so we couldn't see some of the video effects they used in the staging.

I found the plot much less contrived and forced than Believe or Disney Dreams, though I don't think that overall the production numbers were quite as good as those in Believe.

After the show we actually started off in O'Gills instead of Ooh La La - but we ended up in Ooh La La and had a lot of fun. But it was a pretty late night.

When we returned to our room we had another gift - a keel coin for the Disney Fantasy. Very cool.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

We changed timezones that night, which made for an even shorter night. All of the gold and platinum Castaway Cay members on board had been invited to a special reception at 9:30 the next morning in the Walt Disney Theater, featuring a presentation by John Lasseter. Which meant we had to get up a lot earlier than we wanted to. But it was worth it!

He showed us lots of interesting photos and video clips - like of his senior project at the California School of the Arts, a couple of the shorts he made at Pixar for the SIGGRAPH conference, a video of the people at Pixar hearing that they had a green light to make Toy Story, scenes from Toy Story, The Incredibles and other movies, and previews of Wreck It Ralph and Brave. It was a fascinating couple of hours!

It sounds like they might be doing this kind of thing periodically for Castaway Club members. We certainly felt very privileged to be there!

Yesterday afternoon I went to a Champagne Tasting in Ooh La La with Lori (her husband didn't want to go and she offered his ticket to me. Thank you, Mike!). We tasted 4 champagnes and a champagne cocktail - the Elderbubble, which is one of my favorites.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

Adriana, one of the bartenders in Ooh La La, was there, and did the presentation on the Elderbubble cocktail. George, one of the sommeliers, did the rest, and I learned a lot about champagne and the difference between cuvee and blanc du blanc and the difference between champagne and sparkling wine.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

We had a very special show in the Walt Disney Theater last night - a concert feturing Stephen Schwartz and Lea Salonga. It was just wonderful! Stephen Schwartz wrote lyrics/music for Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, and Enchanted, as well as Broadway shows like Pippin, Godspell, and, probably his most famous, Wicked. He started out by playing piano and singing some of his Disney and Broadway songs, like Out There from Hunchback, Just Around the Riverbend from Pocahontas, a couple of songs from Pippin, Popular from Wicked, and Day by Day from Godspell. His wife came out and sang Now is the Time from Pippin.

Then Lea Salonga came onstage and they sang Whole New World (which he did not compose). Then she sang Colors of the Wind. One thing we didn't know - he was the original choice to compose the music for Mulan, but had another commitment. He still wrote some songs for it, though, and Lea sang his version of the "Reflection" song, which was called Written in Stone, and we thought it was quite good. Then she sang Reflection. It was really interesting how both songs conveyed the same idea, but in very different ways.

They performed a few others, but they really brought the house done with their encore, "Unlimited" from Wicked. Wow. It was Amazing.

We of course finished the evening in Ooh La La. It's gotten busier every night which is very nice for them, but it's not as quiet and intimate as it was the first few nights.

No sleeping in for us this morning because we started the docking process at Castaway Cay at about 7:30, and those stern thrusters provide quite a wakeup call for us.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

We were doing the Castaway Cay 5K. No charge for this one, but we were supposed to meet in O'Gills at 9:15. We got there a little early but there were already quite a few people there - Lee found out later that 98 people signed up and this was the biggest turnout they have ever had. Lots of Disney race t-shirts in evidence! They looked at our Key to the World cards and assigned us a numbered bib. No charge, though, which was nice!

At about 9:30 they walked us off the ship and over to the start of the 5K, which is next to the bike rental place. We took some group photos with Donald Duck, and then they started the run. There was a race clock this time, which Lee said he did not remember being there when he did it in October. We ran along the bike path loop, then along the tram route to Serenity Bay, turned around at the end and did the same thing in reverse (another loop around the bike path). It was a warm and humid morning, but a little cooler than normal, for which I was very grateful. There was a pretty strong breeze, too. We both had good times, espespecially considering the heat - 27:50 for Lee and 29:35 for me.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

At the end they had medals for us! That was a nice surprise. And at the shop right next to the finish line they had Castaway Cay 5K shirts for sale. The shirts were $21.95, and we bought them. $21.95 for a Disney race and t-shirt - that's actually a very good deal!

We walked back to the ship and met Deb Wills, and she took this photo of us.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

After we'd showered we headed back out to the island. Our travel agent, Beci, of Mousefan Travel, had been able to book a cabana on the island and had invited all of us to join her. It was really wonderful! The cabana had a cooler inside stocked with fruit and drinks, and there were some snacks as well. There were tables and cushioned chairs inside, plus some lounges and a hammock outside. We had a call button to use when we wanted service. It was really great. Definitely the nicest day I've had on Castaway Cay!

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

The day started out warm and sunny, but quite windy - all of the excursions had to be canceled. After noon the clouds moved in and the wind really kicked up even a little more. We left the cabana about 3:30 (all aboard was 4:00), and by the time we arrive back at the ship it was looking very threatening - and within 10 minutes we had quite a squall, with rain, wind, and thunder and lightning. They even closed all the outside decks for a while.

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

(Lilo and Stitch were greeting guests on the dock and we got a photo with them before we boarded.)

Day 6 and 7, At Sea and Castaway Cay

Tonight we have to pack. :-( I really wish we had one more day!!!



April 5, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 5, Costa Maya

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I usually post photos of our towel animals, and it occurs to me I haven't done that yet. Here is the towel animal that was waiting for us when we returned to our cabin last night - it's always one of my favorites:

Day 5, Costa Maya

This morning we docked in Costa Maya quite early - about 6:30 - and it was quite noisy. I haven't written much about our stateroom. First, let me say that we HAVE a stateroom on the Disney Fantasy's Maiden Voyage, and I'm very happy about that! But that said, it's not what I would have chosen. We are on the stern of the ship, so we are looking behind us instead of on the side where we can see more of where we are going. There's a nice large verandah, but maybe because it's on the back of the ship it's doesn't seem to get much of a breeze most of the time. (Lee has a much more favorable opinion of the stateroom than I do.)

We seem to experience quite a bit of noise and vibration where we are. Not just us, but others who are also in this section. The vibration hasn't really bothered us, but we've heard some people compare it to the sensation of having that oin-operated "Magic Fingers" massager going on all of the time. :-)

This morning when we docked in Costa Maya it seemed to take quite a while, and there was a lot of noise from the stern thrusters. The sea was very choppy and even after we docked we still seemed to be moving around a lot, and sometimes it felt like we were going over a big log or something like that. We were joking that we were actually experiencing more motion while we were docked than we had in the three days we'd been at sea! :-)

The water here is an absolutely beautiful blue, as you can see below, and the port area is very colorful. Unfortunately what you see in this photo is just about all there is in the port area. If you don't do an excursion there's not very much to do.

Day 5, Costa Maya

It was quite windy today, and as I mentioned the sea was choppy, so a fair number of the excursions were canceled. The Bahamian flag flies just below our room, and you can see what kind of breeze there was!

Day 5, Costa Maya

We really didn't have any plans to go ashore today, though. We tried to sleep in a bit, but, as I mentioned, it was noisy. Lee went running and I went walking on deck 4. I like the jogging track on the new ships - they have enclosed the bow and stern areas so they don't usually have to close them during the docking process like they do on the Magic and Wonder. It's a really nice surface, too. 2.5 laps is supposed to be 1 mile, but I think that's a bit optimistic. I haven't been able to measure it with my GPS (being in motion and also going inside the bow nad stern confuses it), but I know how fast I walk, and 2.5 laps just isn't quite a mile. (I ran with my GPS the first day, and had to laugh - because we were underway, it thinks I traveled 15.84 miles in my 40 minutes of jogging! Don't I wish! :-) )

While we were out this morning we saw the maintenance staff already hard at work. Here we are, a brand new ship on its Maiden Voyage, and already they are repainting the railing and re-finishing the deck chairs. But I'm sure they have a schedule, and to make sure all the railings get repainted on time they have to start now! The ocean is a harsh environment, and we've always noticed how good the Disney cruise ships look.

Day 5, Costa Maya

We had a chance to try out the new "photo" game on the Fantasy. Outside Shutters there is a large touch screen monitor. If you activate it with your room key it accesses your photos and brings up a few games that you can play with them. We tried the "Snapshot Smackdown" - it displays your photos and some stock photos, and you have to touch only the photos that are yours. I thought it was a nice addition.

Day 5, Costa Maya

Although we didn't have any interest in going into Costa Maya, we still got off the ship so that we could walk along the pier and take some photos. There was some nice wave action on the rocks along the shore.

Day 5, Costa Maya

The light wasn't great for photos of the Fantasy, but we took some anyway (the breeze was also blowing the smoke from the stack towards us, making it a little hazy).

Day 5, Costa Maya

We got back on board at just about lunchtime, and happened to meet up with our tablemates Mike, Lori, and Aaron, at Royal Court, so we all had lunch together. It was really good - I've been disappointed with some of the lunch menus in the past, but this had interesting selections, and everything I had, and that my tablemates had, we enjoyed. There will be more in the food blog, but I have to say that the Double Chocolate Cake is the best chocolate dessert that I have had on this cruise - it was a very rich chocolatey flourless chocolate cake with ganache and chocolate mousse on top. Yum.

Day 5, Costa Maya

It was a short port day - everyone was due back on board by 2:30. We left port about 3:00. We were up in the Satellite Pool area enjoying the sun and waiting for our departure, and the lovely Miss Minnie Mouse joined us! It was very nice to see her hanging out in the Adult area for a change, and a lot of people took photos of her - but of course I didn't have my camera. Lee was able to get a shot with his iPad, though.

Day 5, Costa Maya

Lee went to the "Conversation with Joe Lanzisero" presentation. Joe is the Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering Creative, and has been very involved in the design of the Dream and Fantasy. He'll share some details of that in a future blog.

Tonight we're dining in Animator's Palate, and it's supposed to be the new animation show, which we have been looking forward to experiencing. And we'll see the new Wishes show, also.

Day at sea tomorrow!


April 4, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

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The rest of our table was dining in Palo last night, so it was just Lee and me in Enchanted Garden for dinner. We had more of an opportunity to talk to our servers since they weren't quite so busy, so that was nice. We also had more of an opportunity to watch what was going on as the food came out of the kitchen...it's pretty amazing watching them carry those heavy trays on one hand as they try to maneuver around the dining room. That seems like even more of a feat in Enchanted Garden where the tables seem a lot closer together than any of the other restaurants.

When our server, Ned, came to offer us fresh ground pepper we noticed that the pepper mill looks like a wine bottle! I don't remember that from our dinner at Enchanted Garden on the Dream last year.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

Last night's show was Larry the Cable Guy, which didn't really appeal to us (though several of our tablemates went and said it was hilarious), so we went to see the Muppet Movie instead. It was really cute, though I thought it started out a little slowly. But I loved the Rainbow Connection number.

The ladies in Ooh La La had told us that one evening on each cruise they had dancers visit Europa and go place to place. It's called Viva Europa, and it was last night. There were different performers - we saw a singer and dancers in La Piazza.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

And there were two can-can dancers in Ooh La La.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

We didn't see any of the others - we stayed in Ooh La La. We are really enjoying it there, though we should try some of the others! Lee had another glass of the Ooh La La champagne. I don't remember if I mentioned it, but it has a picture of Jessica Rabbit on the label.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

When we returned to the cabin we had another gift waiting for us - special luggage tags.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

We've come further south and it was a little warm this morning but I still got my run in. We've had more overcast today, but it's still been quite warm - 86.

We pulled into Cozumel about 9:00 - and not far behind us was the Disney Magic! She docked next to us.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

Neither of us was interested in going into Cozumel, so we've spent the day aboard ship. It's been quite pleasant on board, though there are a fair number of passengers who had the same idea. Still, there weren't nearly as many people up at the Satellite pool when I went up there. I really enjoy that area - it has been a wonderful addition to the Fantasy.

Tonight is Pirate Night, and the Pirate League has taken over Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique! I made a visit there and they transformed me in pirate Bettie Sunbain...Arrrr.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

The process was fun. After I checked in I rolled a couple of dice, and that determined my pirate name - after that I was only called Bettie Sunbain. They took me back to one of chairs and one of the "wenches" did my nails (I had a choice of black or pink nail polish - I chose black - no pink for this pirate!), and the other did my eyes and face (lots of black eye makeup, and "mermaid snot" glitter - hey, that's what THEY called it!). Throughout we had kind of running piratical conversation - I advised them not to even think about stealing the rings off my fingers. And I tried to recuit them as crew of my own ship - the Blue Tiger. We're going to take over the Fantasy tonight when everyone is distracted during the pirate party!

I took the Pirate Oath, though I changed the words a bit - how can a pirate pledge to be "a true and honest pirate"? Hello, PIRATE here. :-) I pledged to false and dishonest.

I also got to pick out a pirate accessory - I had my choice of a hook or a sword (I chose a sword), and I also received a pirate sash (blue or brown), face jewels, a pirate earring, head scarf, pirate medallion, and eye patch. It was $34.95, which I thought was actually a very good deal! The process took about 30 minutes, and the whole experience was a lot of fun. Deb Wills and several other people from our table also did it - you may have seen Deb's tweets. She was rather scary-looking! :-) We all got lots of comments from people on how great we looked.

If you're interested in doing the Pirate League I recommend booking it in advance. I booked the day we boarded, and by the time I called the only times available were 2:00 or 8:00 p.m. It was a little difficult trying to keep from messing up the makeup for all of those hours, so I would have preferred something later.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

Dinner was fun - there were lots of people in costume - including our servers, of course. The "show" tonight in the Walt Disney Theater was the movie John Carter, in 3D. It was interesting...but the story was not much like what I remember from the books. And it was a lot longer than one of the usual shows (over 2 hours!), so we didn't have a chance to get up on deck to get a spot where we could see the Buccaneers Blast stage show. But we stll had a good view for the fireworks from Deck 12, starboard side.

Day 4, Cozumel and Pirate Night

So it's been another great day on the Disney Fantasy. We'll be in Costa Maya tomorrow. It's a short port day - we arrive early and will probably be docked by 7:30, but all aboard is at 2:30!

April 3, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 3, Grand Cayman

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Last night after dinner several of us met in Ooh La La and enjoyed the champagne and the company there. It was the place to be - John Lasseter came in, too. (And in recognition of Formal Night he was wearing a sportcoat over his Hawaiian shirt...)

In the Piazza area of Europa there is a motorscooter and sidecar - it was a fun photo op. :-)

Day 3, Grand Cayman

When we returned to our stateroom there was a lovely gift awaiting us - a commemorative lithograph, signed by the artist, Ducky Williams. Thank you, Disney Cruise Line!

Day 3, Grand Cayman


We were still at sea when I woke up this morning - earlier than I wanted to (6:15). I went up to Deck 11 and 12 to take some photos.

Here's the Quiet Cove pool with no one in it.

Day 3, Grand Cayman

I went for a 3+ mile walk on deck 4 - like yesterday, there were a fair number of people who were also out walking and running, even though it was only 7:00. After I finished I took advantage of the fact that most people were still sleeping to take some photos of the atrium lobby. I really like this "peacock" design on the floor.

Day 3, Grand Cayman


We reached the port of Grand Cayman about 10:00. This is a tendering port - a coral reef surrounds the island and the water is too shallow for a dock.

The Disney Magic was also here in port with us! It was rather odd to be on a Disney ship looking at another Disney ship... but lovely to see the Magic again - we'll be cruising on the Magic again in September.

Day 3, Grand Cayman

We had brunch at Palo with some of our tablemates and other friends - that's always such a treat, and we both really enjoy it. I have to say that I really prefer brunch over dinner, if I had to choose. As usual, there was a wonderful selection of pastries, fruits, cheeses, seafood, hors d'oeuvres, pizza, breakfast dishes, and of course dessert. The sticky buns remain one of my favorites. I had the seared tilapia with asparagus risotto as my breakfast dish - oh wow. The risotto was SO good!

Day 3, Grand Cayman

After brunch Donna (one of our tablemates) and I went to the port. The tender process was very efficient - we walked right onto one, and it left not too long after we boarded. Neither of us had a definite objective in mind, but we wanted to wander around a little bit. To be honest there's not very much to do if you're not into shopping - especially jewelry shopping.

Day 3, Grand Cayman

But the best part about going ashore was that we could see both the Fantasy AND the Magic at the same time. A couple of pretty classy ladies, don't you think?

Day 3, Grand Cayman

We had a pretty early departure from the port - about 5:00. The Magic and the Fantasy both sounded their horns, but we didn't get the "battle" we had hoped for. As I type this we can still see the Magic cruIsing behind us - we think that it will also be in Cozumel tomorrow.

Lee was up on deck watching our sailaway - along with Bob Iger. They had a chat about how classy the Disney ships look compared to other cruise ships. Lee mentioned that the Magic and the Wonder need a horn upgrade so they can compete with the newer ships, and Bob Iger said that the Magic will be going into the shipyard for an extended period fairly soon. He told those around him that if we have any other good ideas about upgrades that we should send them in. (Donna suggested Adult nights in the Kid's clubs - I think we need a magic play floor in one of the adult clubs.)

Cozumel tomorrow!



April 2, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 2, At Sea

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It's a beautiful At Sea day on the Disney Fantasy! Generally sunny, and in the 80s.

Day 2, At Sea

Since I didn't get a chance to post them yesterday, here's some photos and information on the Sailaway Party and other things that happened yesterday evening.

I tweeted some photos of the Sailaway Party, including the champagne toast by Bob Iger, Tom Staggs, and Karl Holz.

Once we pulled away, the Port Staff gathered outside to wave goodbye, wearing their Mickey hands.

Day 2, At Sea

We were escorted out the channel by a couple of tug boats spraying water - that always looks so cool! And thank you to all of the people who came out to the parks and restaurants along the channel to cheer and wave and send us on our way. The captain sounded the horn a number of times as we went out.

Day 2, At Sea

We have early dinner seating this cruise (5:45), so we didn't have time to linger on deck. I'm happy to say that our luggage was delivered to our stateroom very early (it was there when we returned from lunch), so we were able to change quickly.

We were in Royal Court for dinner. As Deb Wills tweeted, we were at the Royal Table in the center of the restaurant (there are nine in our dining party).

The restaurant is quite beautiful, but the menu is pretty much the same as Royal Palace on the Dream, Lumiere's on the Magic, and Triton's on the Wonder. We also noticed that it seemed very loud - we had to yell across the table to hear each other.

Day 2, At Sea

We're used to lingering a bit after dinner, but since we were the first seating we had to get out of there so they could prepare for the next set of diners, and eventually they turned the lights way up - the classic "Get Out of Here!" signal. :-) It was strange to be done with dinner by 7:45! But nice to have some extra time.

The opening night show in the Walt Disney Theater was a comedian, and we weren't very interested in that, so we decided to go into Europa, the Adult District. We wanted to try Ooh La La, the champagne bar on the Fantasy, since we'd enjoyed Pink so much on the Dream.

Ooh La La seems bigger, and the decor is much different - Pink was sort of a funky 1960s look, and Ooh La La is more of an opulent French look - one of the bartenders said Louis XIV. It wasn't very busy, and we had a nice chat with the bartenders working there. We of course tried the exclusive Ooh La La champagne (made by Tattingers), which was very nice.

Day 2, At Sea

Ooh La La has a guest book which you can sign with a feather pen, so we did that. It was nice and quiet while we were there and we enjoyed our time there...so we never made it to any of the other bars.

Day 2, At Sea

So far we like Europa more than The District on the Dream - Europa has that whole "Europe" themed tying everything together, whereas The District is more of a hodgepodge. And the various clubs just seem more interesting.

Last night we moved into the central time zone so we gained an hour, so we slept in a bit this morning. After we got up we went out and ran on deck 4. I was impressed by how many other people were out walking and running this morning - I've never seen that many out there. The seas are very calm so the running was easy, though it's a lot warmer and more humid than I'm used to.

For breakfast we went to Enchanted Garden, where they offered a breakfast buffet. I have my new favorite breakfast now - oatmeal with toppings from the yogurt bar!

Day 2, At Sea

Day 2, At Sea

After breakfast we visited the Midship Detective Agency on Deck 2 (just outside Enchanted Garden) and went out to solve the Muppet Adventure: The Case of the Stolen Show. The two cases from the Dream, stolen art and stolen puppies, are also available on the Fantasy, but use a separate clue brochure. Both brochures are offered at the kiosk, and you have your choice of cases when you activate your Detective Badge.

This is a hoot - we were laughing just at the intro with Kermit and Pepe the Prawn. I found the Muppet Adventure more challenging than the other two cases - for the Muppets we really had to write the clues down and keep track of things, and I didn't have to do that with the others. Some of the tasks we had to do were a little different, also.

Day 2, At Sea

I know I've said this before, but I think the Adventure game is a great way to learn your way around the ship. It takes you to most of inteior decks, so you pass by most of the public areas.

One of the areas we went by on our search were the shops, so we went in to see what they had. The shops were pretty crowded and the lines were very long last night, but today they were not busy at all. We were pleased to see that they still have lots of the non-limited Maiden Voyage attire and merchandise available, as well as a good selection of Inaugural Voyage items, which will be on sale all year.

Day 2, At Sea

This afternoon we enjoyed some of the many things you can do on a day at sea...we had lunch at Cabanas, and then went and played mini golf on Goofy's Sports Dec on Deck 12. We changed into swimsuits and went to check out the new Satellite Sun Deck, an adult-only area on Deck 12 forward. It was very nice up there - not too many people. We sat in the Satellite "pool" for a while and then found a couple of lounge chairs. Ahhh.

(I'm demonstrating Goofy's recommended stance in this photo - each foot pointing a different direction.)

Day 2, At Sea

After a while we moved over to the AquaLab - that's really clever, and a lot of fun. It was a little chilly because most of it was in the shade and the wind was blowing, but it's a fun way to cool off. We noticed a few effects that weren't working, though. :-(

The line for the AquaDuck wasn't too long, so we tried that. This was the first time we'd actually done it together. Something new on the Fantasy: there's a camera on the AquaDuck, and if you put your room key against the sensor just before you get on the raft, it will be able to track your photo. We had intended to see how it worked, but unfortunately the AquaDuck camera system wasn't working today, although the flash was still going off and it looked like photos were being taken.

We watched about the last 30 minutes of Bolt on FunnelVision. It's really a cute movie - we were both laughing at the part where Mittens teaches Bolt about being a dog.

Tonight was Formal Night, so we got all dressed up for that. We were in Animator's Palate, and it was the Crush show, like they have on the Dream, and not the new show, so we were a bit disappointed. But we are supposed to get the new show on our next visit there, on Wednesday.

Day 2, At Sea

We saw the Aladdin show - which is very much like the show we've been seeing at Disney California Adventure for the last 6 years or so. No photos allowed, unfortunately. The flying carpet sequence was well-done, I thought, and some of the newer special effects looked very good. I thought it was just as good as the one in the larger theater in California.

It's been a great day! Grand Cayman tomorrow.


March 30, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Preview

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Lee and I will be on board the new Disney Fantasy cruise ship on her Maiden Voyage March 31 - April 7! We're very excited. The Fantasy will be traveling to the Western Caribbean, and our scheduled ports are Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Castaway Cay. We'll have two days at sea.

I hope you've all seen some of Deb Wills' and Deb Koma's reports from the Fantasy Preview cruise (thanks to that four-letter word that starts with "w" and ends with "k", I was not able to go this time). Here's links to a few of them:

Photos from Day 1
Preview Cruise Day1
Preview Cruise Day 2
Preview Cruise Day 3

The ship looks just beautiful and I'm looking forward to having a whole week to get to know her!

Just in case you haven't heard, here are some things that are new on the Fantasy:

  • The Case of the Stolen Show is the new "Enchanted Art" interactive whodunnit game - starring...The Muppets!!!. I love the Muppets and I can't wait to try this.
  • Animator's Palate offers a totally new dining show experience, where guests get to be the animators. I'm really interested in seeing how this works.
  • New shows! There are two new Broadway-style shows on the Fantasy: Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular, and Disney Wishes. Aladdin is largely based on the long-running show at Disney California Adventure, and it will be interesting to see how they have adapted it to a cruise ship.
  • Europa is the new Adult District, with new themed areas like The Tube, O'Gill's Pub, and Ooh La La. The Disney Fantasy version of Skyline features European cities: Paris, London, Barcelona, Athens, and St. Petersburg.
  • Royal Court - In the spirit of Lumiere's, Triton's, and Royal Palace, Royal Court is the most elegant of the three rotational dining restaurants on the Fantasy, and offers Continental and French cuisine.
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique comes to a Disney cruise ship! Princesses can receive magical makeovers, and on Pirate Night, wannabe pirates of all ages can be transformed into swashbuckling scurvy scum and initiated into The Pirate's League. (I think we're going to do this!)
  • AquaLab - an interactive squirting and spurting waterplay area on Deck 12.
  • Satellite Falls- a new adult-only sunny deck area with a splash pool and rain curtain fountain.

I'm planning to blog each day, if I have internet connectivity - always a big if. If not, we'll post the blogs after the cruise. And yes, I'll post food blogs, too!

You can also follow me on Twitter: @AllEarsLaura


January 25, 2012

Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com shares some of his thoughts and observations from a cruise aboard the Disney Dream back in December. Here is part 2 of his report. On his website he has a full set of pictures and extended thoughts in the Disney Cruise section.


Day 3: December 6, 2011

Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • Today we were at Castaway Cay for the morning and afternoon.  I was eager to go ashore and explore the island so I was done with breakfast and on my way fairly early.   As you will see in the pictures there is some work going on near where the ship docks.  I could not figure out what they were doing and I asked several cast members and they had theories but nothing sounded firm or final.  Does anyone out there know the real deal?
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • Overall I really enjoyed exploring Castaway Cay.   I am not a huge beach person so I did not go with the intent of laying around on the beach or playing in the water.  I went to see the sights and walk the island.    There were plenty of activities to choose from and seemed to be plenty of space if you wanted to claim some sand for yourself to relax (I have to note that I went back to the ship in the early afternoon so not sure if things were more crowded in the afternoon).
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • I was surprised by how much there was in the way of Christmas decorations on the island.  Where the ship docked as well as the walkway leading the family beach there were a lot.  I was expecting less.   As you went further into the island things seemed to dwindle and by the time you reached Serenity Bay there was nothing to speak of.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • Since it was my first time to Castaway Cay I decided I was going to “walk the island”.  I walked from the ship all throughout the family beaches and then out to the airstrip toward Serenity Bay.  I took a detour and walked out to the observation tower which is almost a mile round trip.   Coming back I took a brief tram ride from Serenity Bay to the first stop then walked the rest of the way back to the ship.  This added up to a little over 5 miles of total walking.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • I really enjoyed my time out on the observation tower.  For most of the walk and then the visit to the tower I had the place to myself.  A couple families on bicycles passed by but that was it.  As I was leaving a couple more groups were arriving and you could see the bike riders were finding their way out there.   I thought the quiet time to look over the island was great though! 
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • As I was walking around it seemed like the trams were always running and never looked full, so it seemed there was plenty of access for those that wanted to ride vs walk around. 
  • It was extremely easy to move between the ship and shore.  There were two gangways open and I never noticed a line.  But I am guessing later in the afternoon when more people returned there was probably a minor wait for the screening.   When you re-boarded the ship you had to send backpacks through an x-ray machine, just like at an airport.   I thought this was a little odd since you were on Disney’s Island and everything there they brought but guess you cannot be too safe and it really was not an inconvenience.
  • One thing that really seemed odd to me was at the bars you had to purchase Coke products.  The odd part was at all the dining locations there were beverage stations (as well as ice cream) so you could drink all you wanted there and it was included (free).
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • I finally made it onto the Aquaduck.   Once back on board I headed up to give it a try and went on a handful of times in under an hour.   The longest I waited was maybe 5 groups in front of me.   After my last ride though the line was backing up and visible and it just kept growing as more returned from shore.
  • So what did I think of the Aquaduck?   I really enjoyed it.  This was the first water coaster I have been on (keep saying I need to visit Typhoon Lagoon but have not), so I really cannot compare to others.  The ride itself has a nice little thrill with the couple upward thrusts, but really is not a thrill ride, so it was perfect for just about anyone.   I did find that the information channel lied.  It said the water was 87 degrees.  There is no way that water was.  It was substantially colder.  The first time the water hits you it was cool.
  • As we were setting sail from Castaway Cay Captain Gus came on the loudspeaker to give us an update and say there had been a Medical Emergency so we may be heading back to Nassau or they were looking at other options (in the end we did return to Nassau in the early morning hours).  He updated us the next day that the injury was a bike injury with a severely broken leg.  The guest was in the hospital with their family and resting comfortably.  I thought the follow-up was a nice touch.
  • The evening's theme was Pirates Night.  We were in Animator's Palette for the evening, all three dining rooms served the same menu.   I have to say I was not impressed with the menu and actually ended up eating very little at dinner.   Luckily I had grabbed that snack earlier and did get some more food after so I did not go hungry… but I was disappointed with the offerings.  Also was a little disappointed that our server or assistant server did not seem to take more of an interest in the issue.  They did talk to me and said tomorrow’s menu was better.  But on previous cruises the wait staff had gone above and beyond and if they noticed someone not eating they would offer to find something else and in one case went above and beyond and actually got me something from a previous night’s menu, even.  Here there really was no offer made.  I know I probably could have asked for another dish or something but decided it was not important to me.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • The first show of the evening for me was Mickey’s Pirates in the Caribbean up on Deck 11.  This show featured the Disney Characters and some Pirate activities.  I thought it was a decent kids show but not something that inspired or really entertained me too much.  I was a little disappointed that they had to cut a couple of things due to the ship's movement.
  • In the Walt Disney Theater this evening was a comedy duo.  The attendance was extremely poor but the team was good.  We enjoyed the performance.  It was very typical and not Disney but it still worked as a change of pace.  Especially since we had it sandwiched between two Disney shows.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • After the show we headed up to Deck 12 to find a spot the for Buccaneer Blast Fireworks.  Disney is the only cruise line right now that does routine fireworks on its cruises.  The show itself is fairly short but fun.    I had a tough choice to make.  Did I want a spot to see the stage portion or the fireworks.  I opted for the stage which meant I could see the fireworks but all the pictures came out kind of boring, just fireworks in the air.  I would have really wanted to shoot them from the other side where I could get a funnel or something in the shot to show we were on a ship.   Following/during the fireworks was a Captain Jack Sparrow skit/performance.
  • After the Buccaneer Blast Fireworks  Deck 11 became Club Pirate and was a dance party featuring the performers.    I thought this was a fun activity and seemed well-attended.  I felt bad for anyone with a room on Deck 10, one reason you never want a room right below a common deck if you can avoid it.  I am assuming it was quite loud down there.

Day 4: December 7, 2011

  • Today was Pearl Harbor day. I thought it would have been appropriate to show the film in the theater but no such luck.
  • Our morning started off with the thrusters below again as we pulled into then out of port during the 4am hour to drop off the injured passenger. Usually I am not that light of a sleeper so curious why these woke me up.
  • Since I was heading to a movie at 8:30 my breakfast choices were a bit limited. The buffet in Enchanted Garden did not open till 9am and the sit down service in Royal Palace started at 8:00am which would be cutting it close. So I opted for Cabanas and again had a great breakfast and since it was early it was peaceful too.
  • I made my way down to the Buena Vista Theater and found a seat. They ran into some minor technical difficulties and had to restart the trailers. The second time through everything was good. I thought it was great that the theater on board had first run movies, like the Muppets that was only out for a few weeks in theaters. It could also do 3D, I stopped by to see a bit of Cars 2 and it looked great! The Muppet movie itself was ok. I enjoyed it because I like the Muppets but the film itself was nothing spectacular. I really enjoyed the Small Fry short at the beginning. It features Buzz Lightyear as a happy meal toy and is a fun short.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • At 11:30am a crowd gathered in the lobby atrium for Jack Jack's Incredible Diaper Dash. This was a fun event, what's not to enjoy about baby racing?? The idea is to see who is the fastest crawler onboard.
  • For lunch we did not know what we wanted so we stopped by the Enchanted Garden and were not impressed so we ended up at Royal Palace ordering off the menu. The food was good but the service was a bit slow. They had a bunch of Cast Members, it appeared they were training servers.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • There were three showings instead of two of the main stage show for the day. We opted to go the first one to free up some of our evening, so it was an afternoon, 3:00pm show time of Disney's Believe. They had some technical issues with the show and it was slightly delayed. Also they had some A/C issues going on too. The show itself was top-notch just like the other two Disney productions. I thought the story line was a bit hokey but the performance numbers more than made up for it.
  • In terms of ranking the shows... for sure I would put Villains Tonight on the bottom. And it's a toss-up of Golden Mickeys or Believe at the top. I liked parts of each. I guess the wise cracking Genie of Believe would put it a bit above the Golden Mickeys.
  • After the show we gathered in the Lobby Atrium to see the Sea Ya' Real Soon! character send off @ 4:15pm. The characters came out for autographs then did a brief little good bye. The show was repeated later in the evening at 10:!5 also. I like how they have the little touches, such as the screen that drops down to play some clips and the confetti blast near the end. Here is some video from the send off:
  • Dinner this evening was at Animator's Palate. Tonight was the regular Crush show. I was a little disappointed by the Crush interaction. He made his way around the room but really did not spend that much time in each area. I would say under 5 minutes in each. I understand that you cannot have him in two spots at the same time as that would be bad for guests to look across the room and see him. I thought they could have done a better job of segmenting the room so you could have more than one Crush out. This would give more face time with the character. I think he talked to no more than three or four people in our section. The food tonight was slightly better than last nights, but still a disappointment to me. Again no real steak on the menu!
  • Since we had our evening open after the show we went to catch the Adult Exclusive Wilde and James show in Evolution. This was a repeat of a show they did earlier in the cruise but different than the one they did in the Walt Disney Theater last night. Again we found them very entertaining but their show was short as they needed to wrap up within half an hour for those that had a late seating for dinner. The show was very sparsely attended. Not sure if that was because of the time, that it was a repeat, or what.
  • I was curious why they did the Cruise Staff Farewell so late...it was 11:00pm. I did not make it there due to this and the fact that we had a 6:45am breakfast time tomorrow.
  • I made one more night time pass around the decks to see what was going on and everything was very peaceful this evening. I was surprised that even with the amount of sitting I did at the shows, movie, etc today I still managed to walk nearly 4 miles!

Day 5: December 8, 2011

Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • The ship pulled back into Port Canaveral very early.  Since we had early seating for dinner our breakfast time was at 6:45am down in Animators Palate.  We instead opted for a little extra time to pack up our stuff and went up to Cabanas for the buffet.
  • I was disappointed that the breakfast this morning up there was scaled down from the other mornings.  For example no Mickey Waffles today.  Why??
  • One shock of the morning for us was when I opened the door to go outside and look around it was freezing…  temperatures were in the 40s.  It would have been nice if somewhere they had told us that.  My extra sweatshirt, pants, etc.. were all in my suitcase which meant I could not get warm clothes till after customs.
  • Exiting the ship, customs, and getting a ride back to Walt Disney World were all uneventful.   I thought the process to find your bags and go through customs worked very smoothly but then again we were early. Not sure how it was later in the morning when the crowds were heavier.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2


January 24, 2012

Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com shares some of his thoughts and observations from a cruise aboard the Disney Dream back in December. He has posted a couple of sets of pictures in earlier postings on this blog and on his website he has a full set of pictures and extended thoughts in the Disney Cruise section.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • I have put off going on a Disney Cruise for several reasons over the years ranging from just being lazy to wanting to spend my vacation time elsewhere to the cost factor. I finally decided to take the plunge this year. I had been on a couple previous cruises over the years including one on Premiere Cruise Lines when they had the Disney contract back in the 90s, everyone remember the Big Red Boat?
  • I went about the cruise like I would look at a theme park. Mostly because that is what comes naturally to me and secondly because I wanted pictures. I spent some time learning the layout of the ship and then set about exploring all corners of it. As you will see in the pictures I ended up taking quite a few, about 9,000 over the five days and four nights.
  • I really enjoyed my time on board. The ship was spectacular and offered plenty to do. Castaway Cay was a nice retreat. The number one question I have been asked about the trip so by non Disneygeeks is what about all the kids. I would have to say if you have no problem visiting the theme parks then you would have no problem on the ship. Yes, there are kids, remember it is Disney, but there are so many activities for them and the ship is large enough that I never really gave it any thought nor did they seem to cause any problems or headaches (now for their parents that may be another story).
  • Food: When people think of cruising they think of food. I am not a huge food person so it ranked well down on my list of priorities. There were plenty of choices and the rotational dining was nice. Unlike other cruise lines, on Disney ships you rotate through the dining rooms, each with their own theme. Your wait staff goes with you. I would rate the food as average compared to others I have experienced. I am a meat and french fry kind of guy. Out of the four dinners I only found two nice steaks on the menu. On other cruises there was always at least one to choose from. Also the fries in the dining rooms were not that good...the ones at Maters were substantially better.
  • Stateroom: We had a stateroom on Deck 7 that had a veranda. The room itself felt larger than other ships I had been on and I really liked having the split bathroom. One room had a sink and toilet and the other a sink and tub/shower. The water temperature was never constant for me, it always fluctuated between where I wanted it and cold.
  • Service: Disney Service was up to the levels I had anticipated for the most part. One thing we noticed on this cruise vs others is the crew was international but everyone spoke and understood English with no problems at all. You were able to easily communicate with everyone and anyone that you ran into and they all had the typical Disney attitude of friendliness.
  • Entertainment: The ship offered a different Disney production each night. The main shows in the Walt Disney Theater are what you have come to expect from Disney. Top-notch talent delivering a family-friendly show. Up on Deck they had a Pirates night set of shows as well as fireworks (the only cruise line to offer fireworks at sea). Throughout the cruise there were plenty of other entertainment options ranging from traditional Disney character encounters to traditional cruise entertainment like comedians and singing.

Day 1: December 4, 2011
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Once we arrived it was a quick and smooth process to drop our luggage, go through security and check in. We arrived at the terminal just before 11am. It was less than 15 minutes from the time we got dropped off till I was done checking in and roaming the terminal building taking pictures. Curious if the process is that smooth all day or if it was because of the time we arrived or if we were just lucky.
  • We were in boarding group 5 and were called to board about 11:40ish so I really did not have that much time to explore the terminal but felt I had enough to get a flavor for it. The lighting was a challenge, as you will see in the pictures. There were some Christmas decorations scattered about, too.
  • After lunch I had some time to kill until the first ship tour which was scheduled for 1:00pm so I did a little exploring and ended up in the District. Sort of by accident. The one thing that amazed me was how open the ship was. You were free to roam and take pictures in the guest areas pretty much any time you wanted. I never had a cast member say no to me or ask why I was there. I actually had several say to come back when people are not around or they would point out details to take pictures of. This was great for a geek like me!
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Made my way to the Port Adventures Desk on Deck 5, Midship and waited for the 1pm tour. I was a little disappointed with the tour. First it was only about 20 minutes long and it was really a simple orientation of the ship's main dining areas and entertainment venues. There was no detail or substance to it. It was really a surface level tour. The guides were accessible and willing to answer questions but they just did not take us any place interesting or go into any real details beyond the function of the space. I guess this was aimed at an audience wanting to know where some things were vs one wanting to learn about the ship. It was confined to the spaces on Deck 5 and then down to Deck 3.
  • All of the children/youth spaces were in an open house mode all afternoon. So I took this opportunity to visit them all and get pictures. Once their official activities started they would be off-limits except for the appropriate children and their parents (which would exclude me since no children were in our traveling party). There are five different spaces divided up by age group. The spaces encompass a good portion of Deck 5. You cannot help but be impressed by the amount of space and attention to detail given to each of these areas. Ranging from the scale (the ceilings are actually lower in these spaces to make them more to kid-scale) to the Disney character infusion. Also it being the holiday season all had their own Christmas decorations.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • It's a Small World Nursery! - This is a reservation-only space for infants and toddlers (three months to three years old). The decor is Small World/Mary Blair-inspired. I thought the space was laid out a bit awkwardly with the small lobby then hallway to the main room in the back, but I guess it makes sense to have the Nursery toward the middle, probably more quiet area.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Oceaneer Club - For ages 3 to 10 this space has several distinct areas to play and interact in. Pixie Hollow, Andy's Room, Monsters Academy, and Explorer Pod. I thought this was the most interesting of the spaces to explore. The themed rooms were well done and the detail was great. Luckily when I went through there were very few people around so I was able to get pictures with no problem.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Oceaneer Lab - Connected to the club and targeted at the same ages, this space has a Media Room, Animator's Studio, Wheelhouse, Sound and Craft Studios. This space seemed geared to the slightly older end of the spectrum with less emphasis on the Disney/Pixar characters and more on the activities themselves. Technology reigns in all the areas but here there was an abundance of computers and screens to interact with.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Edge - located on Deck 13 in the forward funnel this space is for tweens ages 11-13. I thought this was a very awkward space and was the smallest of all the areas. But it is targeted at an awkward age group stuck right in the middle so having their own space in a unique location seems to make perfect sense to me.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Vibe - located on Deck 5 forward, this space is for 14-17 year olds. It includes a club space, rooms, as well as a sun deck in the very front of the ship. This was a fairly extensive series of spaces with more of a nightclub feel to it.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • The outside deck has a great location and it was fun to look back and up at the front of the ship.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Not to be left out the Adult Spaces (18+) include the Senses Spa and Salon, which I also toured. This was a good size area on Deck 11 forward. There was also an adults only area around the Cove Pool and up on Deck 13 around the Currents Bar. Both had signs but I saw no active presence to keep families out. The night club area also became adults only after a certain time each evening when the clubs really picked up for the night.
  • The one age group that there was no designated space for would be the older set. I joked with several that there was no place to check in your senior citizens or ways to track and claim them. I guess the closest would be the Bingo in the D-Lounge??
  • I was able to walk through most of the ship before the lifeboat drill and on a first impression the ship is impressive. I did find some odd design choices and accessibility is weird in some spots. Such as hallways that do not go anywhere or elevators that do not go to the floor you want. Or no way to get where you want without going up a deck over then back down a deck. Or one that really seemed odd was if you took the aft elevators up to deck 11 to access the pool area you had to walk through Cabanas. There was no other way to access the area.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • After dinner I attended the King Triton's Tree Lighting Decree in the Lobby Atrium on Deck 3, Midship (I watched from Deck 4). I thought this was a nice, brief ceremony to light the tree and atrium. I found it kind of surprising they only did this on the first night of the cruise. Nothing on subsequent days. I almost did not go the first night figuring I would catch it later but glad I did!

Day 2: December 5, 2011
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • I really enjoyed being up on deck and watching the ship come into port at Nassau this morning. The engineer in me cannot help but to be impressed at how easily the big ship is maneuvered. The ship came into the harbor, made an 180 degree turn inside, then backed into the dock alongside another ship. To accomplish this they have 3 bow thrusters (totally 12,069hp) and 2 stern thrusters (totaling (4,824hp) onboard the Dream. They can turn the ship at a combined 35 degrees per minute rate.
  • Since I had zero desire to disembark the ship and see Nassau we had a relaxing day on board. I had visited Nassau back in the 90s on my "Big Red Boat" cruise and really did not enjoy it. I also looked through the current guides and talked to some who had visited recently and when combining all that thought my time was better spent on the Dream.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Ate a relaxing breakfast at the Royal Palace and took a bunch of pictures since it was not crowded at all. Not sure if it was our timing or what but I was really surprised at how empty and calm the dining room was. It was about 8:30 in the morning so not super early.
  • After breakfast the plan was to give the Aquaduck a try. It was about 10am by the time I made my way up to deck 12 and the entrance. The line was short, posted at 10 minutes only. I walked up the stairs and in reality it was closer to about 5 minutes. But then as the group before me was waiting to board their raft no raft was sent up. The Cast member working looked over the side and started talking on the radio to the one at the exit. It seems someone lost their breakfast and they had to shut the ride down to clean it up. We hung around for a while since the CM said it should be quick to clean up. The cleanup did go fast but unfortunately they were not allowed to re-open until an officer could come and sign off on it and all the officers were tied up in a safety drill till noon. So my first attempt to ride the Aquaduck failed...
  • As a substitute since I had some free time I ended up giving the Goofy Golf course a try on Deck 13. We really enjoyed playing but we were really pushed along by some kids who just did not seem to get the concept of waiting or going ahead of us. Really this is the only time in the four days that stands out to me when some kids were a bit out of control and bothersome. I mean to the point of we were still hitting our second and third shots and they were already hitting off the tee into us and running around. We did return at a later time and played a more peaceful round.
  • I thought some of their scheduling was a bit odd. For example there was a presentation on the Making of a Dream. This was scheduled to start at noon. So it interfered with lunch choices a bit (especially since I wanted to go on another tour at 1:00pm). The Royal Palace lunch was open from noon to 1:30pm only so the only table service option was not going to work. Cabanas was 12 to 2 so again not really a good option. So I ended up with fast food since that opened at 11am.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • The first presentation of the day that I went to was entitled Making the Disney Dream. The Personal Navigator billed it as "Explore the origins of Disney Cruise Line - and the latest and greatest innovations conjured especially for the Disney Dream, in this fascinating and entertaining behind-the-scenes program." It lived up to the exploring the origins part. The rest I was a little more disappointed in. I think my problem was I saw the Imagineers' presentation at the D23 Expo and that taught me more about making the Dream and the special features than this presentation did. I kept comparing to that in my mind and then wishing I had skipped it and gone to a nice lunch instead. For someone who had not seen a presentation on the ship before this would have been a worthwhile endeavor but when combining the timing and the content I walked away disappointed. Not as disappointed as I was with the ship tour yesterday but still not satisfied. One thing that I do want to compliment the presentation material on is how it tied back to Walt and really tried to convey the company history. I did think this was worth mentioning.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • After two strikes in a row I was a bit nervous about the third program I was planning to attend. At 1:00pm I joined a small group in the Meridian up on Deck 12, Aft for a program entitled "Art of the Theme Ship Tour". This was described as "Join us on a guided ship tour and discover the ingredients that make the Disney Dream cruise ship one-of-a-kind". Well, this tour lived up to the billing and then some. I really enjoyed this tour. This tour visited the Meridian, Palo, and Remy and then went down to Deck 4 and the District. It focused on some of the unique spaces on the Dream and how they came to be and our guide pointed out some of the details (some hidden some not-so-hidden) of the spaces we visited. Out of the three tours this is the one I found the most interesting and would recommend to someone if they had to just choose one.
  • Gave the Mid-Ship Detective Agency a try. In this family-friendly game you choose one of two cases (the case of the missing puppies or missing painting, I did the painting one) and you register on Deck 5 and pick up your game guide and card. You then visit several pieces of interactive art around the ship for clues to help you solve your mystery. I would recommend giving these a try to anyone. It is a great way to view some of the art and fun too.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Dinner this evening was at the Royal Palace. I had already explored the restaurant and took plenty of pictures at breakfast so during dinner I relaxed and enjoyed the meal. This turned out to be my favorite meal of the trip. I had the Royal Palace Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin (it also came with lobster medallions that I did not get but many others at the table did and all enjoyed them too).
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • The show this evening was Villains Tonight. This was more comical than last night's show. The gist here is Hades (from Hercules) is losing his evil ways so he wants to assemble all the Disney Villains to increase his evilness. I found the show entertaining but kind of an odd fit to focus on Villains.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2

December 30, 2011

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his cruise aboard the Disney Dream. This set of pictures is from Day 3 as he toured Castaway Cay. For pictures of the ship in general please visit disneygeek.com for his full report from the cruise.

Backing into Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

As we approached the dock a Christmas tree came into view.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations


The Kargo Handling Tram stop had some decorations too.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

As did the welcome sign.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Time to head ashore.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

A photo op near the tree as you got off the ship.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations


The Post Office had some decorations too.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations


Along the walkway some more.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

A closer look.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

The tram was decked out for the season with reindeer antlers.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations


The tram stop.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Along the first portion of the tramway some of the poles were decorated.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations


A better shot of the reindeer tram.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Even the back...

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

As you went further into the island there was less in the way of decorations. So a couple random shots as I walked the Island..

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

The tram to Serenity Bay was not decorated.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Nor was anything out at the bay.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

A group of carolers roaming around the dining areas.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

The cruise activity cast members had holiday shirts on.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

A closer look.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

The characters had a different holiday design.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

I just liked this shot...

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Heading back to the ship...

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

A closer look at the tree.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations


A couple more pictures of the Island from the ship before we departed.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

A better shot of the small building near the ship and its decorations.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations


Thought the light house tree topper was great.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations

One last shot of the photo location to end.

Castaway Cay Christmas Decorations


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Christmas decorations on Castaway Cay. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full update in the Cruise Section of my site, http://disneygeek.com



December 23, 2011

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his cruise aboard the Disney Dream. This set of pictures are from Day 1 as he toured the ship, focusing on the Christmas decorations around the ship and the tree lighting ceremony. For pictures of the ship in general please visit disneygeek.com for his full update.

No Christmas decoration visible as you approach the ship...

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Nor outside the terminal.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

But inside there are some and Mickey was out in a holiday sweater to greet guests.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Inside the terminal there are some wreaths, ornaments and a tree.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

A wreath over the check in area.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


Minnie came out in relief of Mickey for photos.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

The tree.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Heading on board.. a member of the cruise staff waits once you step into the atrium.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Garlands ring the lobby atrium.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


There's a tree off to the side which will be lit in a special ceremony later this evening.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


More garland on the main stair case.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


Back to the main tree which will be lit in a special ceremony later this evening.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

The District Lounge on Deck 4, Aft

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Inside 687. (the tree is almost behind the pole)

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Another tree in the corner.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Back to the atrium.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


The Bon Voyage bar on Deck 3, Midship.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

The Oceaneers Lab on Deck 5.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

This is the room that joins the lab and club.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


Heading next door to the Oceaneers Club.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

The wreath behind the front desk.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Inside Andys room.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


Back to the center room..

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Inside Pixie Hollow.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Monsters Academy.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

The Small World Nursery lobby.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

The Vibe, you can just barely see the tree in the distance.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

This is in the Edge.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


The Outlook on Deck 14.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Next up the Senses area. There are some wreaths in the waiting area.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


This is the Cove Cafe on Deck 11.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


A look into Remy on Deck 12 Aft.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Next door at Palo.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

The Enchanted Garden down on Deck 2.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Waiting for the King Triton Tree Lighting Decree a trio out performing some Christmas favorites.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1


Video of the King Triton Tree Lighting Decree

Now some stills from the ceremony.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Snow fall...

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

The gift shops had merchandise on sale for 40% off... what is Christmas without some shopping?

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

That wraps up the first day and a tour of the Disney Dream Christmas decorations.

Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1

Next I'll have photos of the holiday decorations at Castaway Cay. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disney Dream Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com



October 22, 2011

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

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Our last moments aboard the Disney Dream this morning...the final morning of a cruise I always find to be a let-down - everyone is in such a rush to get us off the ship by 9:00.

It was a beautiful morning in Port Canaveral - but chilly!!! Only 57, and it was only supposed to get up to 71-72 today...that was NOT the forecast when I left home (they were saying low 80s). I'm glad I brought a light jacket!

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

At about 7:30 we were in our cabin finishing our packing when suddenly the voice of the duty officer came on overhead - like right OVER Lee's head. I think he jumped a foot off the ground, and I was very startled, too. I don't think they intended that, because she just got a couple of sentences into the spiel about the Disney Dream being cleared by customs, and then it stopped. But if we weren't awake before, we were awake then. Yikes.

On our other cruises breakfast on the last morning has been pretty quiet, with a LOT of empty tables, but the dining room was pretty busy at 8:00 this morning. Only four of us at our 8-person table, though. Even our servers seemed a little subdued. They were great, and we will miss them.

We're used to just walking right off the ship after breakfast, but this time the Atrium was packed and people were lined up and waiting to get out. We twice heard the "everybody has to get off the ship" announcement before we were finally able to get off. It was not very pleasant, especially compared to our other experiences. But I guess that made it a relief to get off?

It didn't take too long to clear Customs and get out of the terminal and onto a bus headed back to WDW. We were the third stop, and the only passengers to get off at the Boardwalk. It was about 11:30 by then, and our room was actually ready!!! That was a very nice surprise.

I don't remember if we've been in a Studio since they changed the decor - I don't care much for the yellow and pink color scheme it has now.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Our room has one of the malevolent swans glaring down into it...though we are somewhat hidden by a big bush.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

BTW, we have free wireless internet service here, too, just like we did at Saratoga Springs. It's really very nice! I understand that for now this is a trial service - I sure hope they keep it. It works very well and has been very responsive, too.

We love staying at the Boardwalk - it's a pretty short walk to Epcot - the operative term being that you CAN walk - no need to hassle with waiting for a bus (or driving and parking). And since it was Food and Wine Festival time and we were ready for lunch...off to Epcot we went.

Lee's pass didn't work at the turnstile - it's a Premier pass that he renewed at Disneyland in May, and we'd both forgotten that he hadn't been to WDW since then, so they needed to activate it at Guest Relations. Fortunately that didn't take too long - though we wondered why he even had to do that. (The answer, apparently, is that they are two different ticketing systems. The Premier card stock comes from Disneyland, so it is pre-activated for Disneyland if you buy it at WDW, but if you buy it at Disneyland you have to have it activated at WDW before you can enter a park for the first time here. Though I don't remember having that problem with my Disneyland-purchased Premier pass last year.) So the Premier Pass thing continues to be somewhat frustrating - it's a great concept, but in practice it doesn't all work nearly as well as I think it should.

But we finally got into Epcot. It was really a beautiful day - totally clear skies. But a little bit cool (not even 70 at noon) and breezy - if I got into the shade I was chilly, even with a jacket. Not what I expect at this time of year - but it beats 95 degrees and 95% humidity!

The park was a little more crowded than I expected for a Thursday afternoon in late October, and there were short lines at most of the food booths, but not bad - and they got shorter as the afternoon went on. I'm going to have to do a separate blog on everything we tried, otherwise I won't get this one done in time to post tomorrow.

A shout-out to AllEars readers Katie and Dan from Seattle, who recognized us and came over to say hello and tell us how much they enjoy the web site and the newsletter. Thank you!

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Today's standouts: Shrimp Cake from Singapore (Laura), and Beef with Smashed Sweet Potatoes from South Africa (Lee). Biggest surprise - Poland, where both the pork stuffed cabbage roll and the kielbasa and potato pierogi were very good. Best dessert: the Pastel from Portugal (a flaky pastry cup filled with egg custard). We would never have tried it but the ladies at the New Zealand booth told us how wonderful it was. (The Shrimp Cake is pictured below.)

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

After one circle around World Showcase lagoon we took a break and went back to our room for a nap. We ARE on vacation, after all! And went back to the park around 5:30.

At the Desserts and Champagne booth I had a glass of the Moet and Chandon Nectar Imperial. It wasn't quite like having Steven serve me a champagne cocktail in Pink, but it was very good.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

We saw the cranberry bog they have set up in the area between Future World and World Showcase (what is that area called, anyway?). Talked to the guy in the bog about cranberries and how they are harvested. We didn't realize that Craisins were actually developed to make use of what remained of the cranberry after the juice was extracted. And that cranberries are grown from seed - it takes 3-5 years after a bog is planted until it can be harvested...but after that, they keep producing - there are some cranberry bogs that are 130 years old!

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

We wandered down to the Festival Center (former Wonders of Life pavilion), but there wasn't anything going on that late (it was almost 7:00). Continuing our tour of Epcot (have to work off all of those calories somehow!) we went to the front of the park - pretty at night.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Since we had dined with Crush the night before, it seemed only fitting that we visit the Nemo and Friends pavilion.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

We saw one of the tanks that had a number of seahorses in it. (Seahorse means starboard! ;-) )

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

It was around 8:00 by the time we went back to World Showcase, and there were hardly any lines at the food booths. The park was fairly empty since the evening was a little bit chilly. We tried a few more food items, and then watched Illuminations before heading back to our room for the night. We started the day on the Disney Dream, and finished the day at Epcot - not too bad!



October 21, 2011

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

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Wednesday - At Sea

Not a very pretty day for our At Sea day, unfortunately. The skies are overcast and it is VERY windy - the sustained speed has been at least 24 mph all day, with gusts regularly 30-35, and I've seen it as high as 47 mph when I've been watching the "Bridge Report" channel. There's also lots of whitecaps and swells of 4-8'. Remarkably the ship is very stable and doesn't seem to move as much as I would have expected. But the AquaDuck has been closed all day, and they stopped letting people go all the way forward on deck 13 this afternoon.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

Lee and I took a walk around deck 4 this morning after breakfast - the weather was very different on the starboard side of the ship as opposed to the port side! On the port side it was sunny. dry, and quite balmy, but on the starboard side the wind was howling, it was shaded, and it was wet from all the sea spray.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4


On the sunny side we did something we'd never done before, and played shuffleboard. Neither of us was very good at it, but we had fun - even if Lee did knock my 8 pointer out of the box (no matter, I won anyway. :-) )

We stopped at Shutters to look at photos - we had quite a few taken during Pirate Night last night. They have changed how they do the photos, and I think it's a much better system. Instead of placing the photos somewhat randomly on racks, now they are organized into folders - each party/stateroom has their own folder. You use your Key to the World card to find out which folder has been assigned to you. You can also still view your photos on the photo kiosks, like you can on the other ships.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

Just before lunch we didn't something else we hadn't done before - went to Goofy's Sports Deck on deck 13 aft and played mini golf. There were a fair number of people up there but we didn't really have to wait. It was a fun little course. (Technically I won, but there was a weird lip around the next-to-last hole that Lee's golf ball jumped over three times without going in, so we called it a tie.)

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

We had lunch at Royal Palace - it had a much different lunch menu than I've seen before - it was more like a dinner menu (Lee called it a "bonus dinner"). And for a change we had excellent service - generally we've been less than impressed by the service we've gotten in the table service restaurants other than from our dining team, but all the servers we had for lunch were great, and the food was also really good - we would have been happy having any of those items on a dinner menu. Royal Palace has a couple of private rooms - I had a chance to go into the "Tiana" room and take photos.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

And we did something else we'd never done - we saw a movie in the Buena Vista Theater! Cars 2 in 3D. I think it was more crowded than usual because the weather wasn't very nice outside - it had started raining in addition to being windy. We hadn't really heard a lot of good reviews about the movie but we really enjoyed it - except for the family behind us. The parents spent most of the movie explaining it to their kids who didn't speak English, and the kids were on their laps and kept kicking the backs of both of our seats. Very annoying and inconsiderate. The 3D aspects worked nicely - added to the depth of the movie, but without any "cheap 3D tricks", as Kermit the Frog puts it. :-)

After the movie we checked out conditions on deck - it had stopped raining, but it was still very windy. Up on deck 12, we found this little water show that one of the drains was putting on. :-) No idea where the pressure was coming from to make it splash like that, but it was one happy, cheerful little drain.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

My mystery enchanted art on deck 8 forward had yet different artwork this evening (It had been the usual Nassau and Castaway Cay art all morning and afternoon). Two different romantic experience while cruising, featuring Mickey and Minnie, and Donald and Daisy.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4


We saw the show - Disney's Believe. I'd seen it back in January and enjoyed it, but this was Lee's first time. He thought it started off a little slowly but overall he liked it. I really liked seeing scenes from Mary Poppins, Pocahontas, and The Princess and the Frog.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4


On our final night we HAD to go back to Pink, of course. We tried two different champagne cocktails - I had the Blue Angel and Lee had the Pomegranate Passion.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

Bartender Steven and server Abie both took good care of us on our three visits to Pink. We were surprised that it was never very busy - but that was nice for us.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

Abie pointed out the "hidden Dumbos" in the pink bubbles on the walls - very cute. And he also showed us an interesting effect that you can apparently only see on the display screen of a digital camera - but even with a digital camera it doesn't photograph. There are little bubbles projected on the walls and on the bar and they rise like the would in a champagne glass! It was really neat.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4


Our final night dinner was the "show" dinner at Animator's Palate. We had a good table, right against the wall with one of the big display screens. Since we didn't have kids at our table Crush didn't spend much time with us, though. :-( He did come over and pose for a picture - this is his "camera" pose.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

At the end of dinner the displays become static - we ended up with Bruce the shark above our table - scary!

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

One final night in our stateroom - we had a hip towel swan this time. :-) Since we had carry-on luggage we didn't have to worry about packing and getting our luggage out into the hallway by 10:30, so that was nice. We did get most of our packing done, though.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 4

The cruise has gone very quickly, though four nights was a decent length of time to be on board - three nights would have been way too short. And we had most of three days onboard the ship since we didn't go into Nassau and didn't spend a lot of time on Castaway Cay. So I feel like I really was able to see and experience the ship a lot more on this trip.

It was also very nice for us to have the opportunity to relax and enjoy what the ship has to offer a lot more on this cruise - like going to Pink and Skyline (Lee also spent some time in Evolution). Plus seeing a movie and playing shuffleboard and mini golf. And don't forget the AquaDuck! But neither of us made it to the gym at all, though Lee ran on deck once.

The ship was almost full - they said there were about 3800 passengers on board. With the poor weather yesterday I was concerned that it might seem really crowded since most people were inside instead of being at the pool, but it really wasn't bad at all.



October 20, 2011

Disney Dream - October 2011, Part 3

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Day 3 - This is our lazy day on Castaway Cay. We both slept in - and I have to admit that I stayed in bed after Lee got up to get breakfast - it was really nice. He was doing the Castaway Cay 5K run, so he left the ship not long after they announced passengers could go ashore.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

I decided to try Enchanted Garden for breakfast - it's a buffet in the mornings. Pretty standard breakfast fare, but I was really only interested in yogurt, granola and fruit - too much rich food lately. The lighting is different in Enchanted Garden in the morning - the flower lights are blue and not pink.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

As I wandered through the Atrium I was able to get this photo of Cinderella in between guests.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

Up on Deck 12 I saw a completely empty Mickey Pool - and not because it was closed!

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

Lee wasn't back (but he told me he was probably going to stay on the island after the run), so I grabbed my Castaway Club bag and book,camera, sunscreen, and water and headed onto the island. It was another mostly overcast day - I was hoping for some blue sky for some nicer photo opportunities. The clouds started to break up a little bit, but then it clouded over again. And the breeze really started coming up around 10:30, which was good because it made the temperature a lot more comfortable, but it meant that some of the excursions (e.g. parasailing) were canceled.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

I walked instead of taking the tram and found a lounge chair under an umbrella at the first family beach - left my stuff there and went a ways further taking photos - I even got this one of Captain Jack as he went to his next scheduled Meet-and-Greet.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

There's lots of bright colors and interesting things to look at. Alyson told us yesterday that the island was very heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene in August, but you'd never know it - it looks wonderful. She said they had to dredge 10' of sand out of the channel after the hurricane so that it would be deep enough for the ships (particularly the Dream) to get in and out.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3


After a while I went back to my lounge chair and read my book for while, and got lunch at Cookie's BBQ, but by 12:45 I started making my way back to the ship. I know that a lot of people really love Castaway Cay, and it's their favorite thing about a Disney cruise, but I'm not really a beach and water person, so it doesn't do that much for me. I went back to the ship and rode the AquaDuck a couple of times, since the line was very short - 5-10 minutes.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

Our stateroom host Omar is even better than a message system. :-) When I came back to the room he saw me and said that Lee was looking for me a little earlier, and had gone up to the AquaDuck (I'd told Omar earlier that's where I was going). He went to the AquaDuck but didn't see me (took a quick ride because the line was short, though), and then he came down a different stairwell than the one I went up, so Omar told him he'd just seen me, and Lee found me on Deck 11. :-) He had a good 5K run - they even gave them Castaway Cay 5K bib numbers, even though it wasn't a "race". He also went snorkeling a couple of times.

BTW, Lee is pretty claustrophobic, but he didn't have any problems riding the AquaDuck.

I did another case with the Midship Detective Agency - it takes less time when you have some idea of where the enchanted art is located. :-) I looked for the stolen dalmatian puppies this time - I didn't find 101 of them, but I found enough to crack the case. (And no, the guilty party wasn't Cruella de Vil.)

One thing I noticed today - there are two pieces of enchanted art in the forward elevator lobby on deck 8 - and today I found that they are different depending on the time of DAY. They depict Disney Cruise line destinations. I'm used to seeing them in the morning when they are Nassau and Castaway Cay, but in the afternoon they were Mexican Riviera and Alaska, and in the evening, Russia and romance aboard the ship.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

Tonight is Pirate Night, and we brought our pirate costumes. so we dressed up. Arrrr.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

We were sophisticated pirates, though, so instead of rum and grog, before dinner we went back to Pink to have champagne cocktails. :-) The red one is the Elderbubble, which has elderflower liqueur (and raspberry puree - and vodka), and the orange one is the Tropicale, with mango puree. They were both very good.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

Our dinner was in Animator's Palate, and I was really happy to see that they were using the displays around the room to show concept art from lots of Disney pirate things - the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and movies, and Peter Pan. It's a great restaurant to be in on Pirate Night - probably the best of the three in terms of the theming.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

About 10:15 we went up to Deck 12 to see the fireworks, which started at 10:30. Lee got us into what was really a great spot - just in front of the forward funnel on the starboard side.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

It was also a really good spot because they had the deck between the funnel and the area above the pool blocked off, so after the fireworks when they opened the area we had a chance to get right on the rail above the stage on deck 12 and see the Club Pirate show with Jack Sparrow.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

After the show I went to check out the Pirate Buffet in Cabanas. The food lines near the entrance were long, but if you bypassed those and went to the far end where the desserts and crepes were (they were making fresh crepes - yum) then those lines weren't bad at all. The crepes were good but I was disappointed in the selection they had for fillings - the chocolate was just Hershey's syrup, and instead of fresh strawberries they had a syrupy strawberry compote.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

Tonight's towel animal ain't nothing but a hound dog. :-)

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 3

At Sea day tomorrow.


October 19, 2011

Disney Dream - October 2011, Part 2

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Day 2 - we docked in Nassau a little before 9:00 in the morning. All aboard isn't until 2:00 am! It's a pretty short trip to Castaway Cay from here, though. It's been mostly cloudy today - there's been some sun, but also a few rain showers this afternoon. Here's a picture of the Dream in its home port of Nassau.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

We had no excursions and nothing planned for the day, so it's been a nice relaxing day for us. After we finally got up we went to breakfast at Royal Palace - the menu looks amazingly like the one for Lumiere's on the Magic - except without the character names from Beauty and the Beast. The restaurant is very pretty - since it was daytime and not too busy I was able to take a lot of photos.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

There's all kinds of "Princess" touches - one thing Lee noticed that I had missed is that all of the chairs have a symbol of one of the princesses carved on the back, like an apple, a slipper, or a rose.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

After breakfast I joined the Midship Detective Agency to solve a case about stolen paintings. I thought the paintings were very clever - they were Disney renditions of famous "mousterpieces" like Duck with a Pearl Earring, The Blue Duck, Goofy Crossing the Delaware, Minnie Rising From the Ocean, the Goofy Cavalier...One of the clues was in the piece of "Minnie Lisa" enchanted art hanging in the Vista Gallery.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

It's a great way to learn your way around the ship - the Detective Casebook contains a map of the locations of the 13 pieces of enchanted art that are part of the game - so you might have to visit just about every deck from 2-10. The detective badge card has a code on the other side that the artwork can "read", and then you use it to interact with the art - moving it side to side or forward and back, depending on whether you are trying to unscrew something or pop balloons, or sweep away dust, etc. Those types of actions often reveal a clue that gives you more information on who the identity of the perpetrator might be.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

I had a lot of fun with it, and in the picture below you can see the suspect that I identified. There are currently two different cases to solve - I will probably try the other one later in the cruise.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

Lee and I both went to a couple of sessions about the Disney Dream itself. The first one was "Making of a Dream", where Alyson, one of the cruise staff, talked about the history of the Disney Cruise Line, some of the differences between the Dream and the Magic/Wonder, and showed some videos of the construction. I didn't take any notes, but a few things I remember:

1. The Dream is 150 feet longer than the Magic/Wonder, and three decks higher.

2. Maximum passenger capacity is about 4100, as opposed to ~2000 on the Magic and Wonder.

3. There are 1500 crew members (representing 62 countries) on the Dream, and about 900 on the Magic/Wonder.

4. It takes one million dollars' worth of fuel to fill the fuel tanks.

5. The atrium area has hidden lights and speakers (behind the white panels under the Disney art friezes) so they can use the Atrium as an indoor stage for events like the Sailaway Party and Pirate Party that can't be held in the main pool area due to bad weather.

6. The Disney Magic and the Disney Dream are Art Deco in style, while the Disney Wonder and the upcoming Disney Fantasy are Art Nouveau.

7. People have asked about "behind-the-scenes" tours of the galleys, bridge, or engine room. They can't do those for security reason, but there are videos available of those areas on your stateroom TV: Push the MENU button, then Ship Tips, and you'll see the Bridge Tour, Engine Tour, and Behind the Scenes Galley Tour. They are each about three minutes long.

The second session was "Art of the Theme Ship", which was actually a tour around various areas of the Dream. It started in Meridian, which is the lounge between Palo and Remy on Deck 12 - and it's a challenge to get there if you don't know the ship pretty well. You must get there from the aft elevator or stairwell - there's no external access to it from deck 12. Sarah was our tour guide, and told us all kinds of fascinating things about the ship and pointed out lots of little details that you may or may not see, or know what they mean. For example, the little note clips outside each stateroom are shaped like either fish or seahorses - fish are on the port side, because "fish" has four letters like "port" does. For the other side, both "seahorse" and "starboard" begin with the same letter. In the elevator lobbies you can tell where you are by the main color of the carpet - gold for aft, blue for midship, and red for forward. In the hallway carpets, there are starfish, and their top point points forward. The maps in the carpet are also oriented forward.

She took us into Palo, which is even prettier on the Dream than on the other two ships.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

And in Remy, Sarah pointed out that there are a number of "hidden Remys", like these on the back of the chairs.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

It's a very elegant-looking restaurant.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

Next we went down to Deck 5, where we found that the ceilings are lower there - that's because it's where all the kids' clubs are, and making the space a little smaller makes the kids feel a little more secure. That area is also the center of the ship and is the most stable with the least movement.

On Deck 4 went into "The District" to several of the clubs. In 687 she asked if we knew the significance of that name (I did, but I don't think anyone else knew). It was the hull number of the ship in the Meyer-Werft shipyard. It's considered bad luck to refer to a ship by its name before it's completed, so they call it by the hull number. When the keel was laid a coin was placed there, and a replica of the coin is in a case in 687.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

She asked about the highest guest space on the ship - I thought this was the Aquaduck, which I think technically is "deck 15" at the top, but she said it's the Outlook on Deck 14. I went up there afterwards to take a look at it - it's intended for private events, apparently. The only way to get there is via the mid-ship elevator, and only one of the elevators goes up to deck 14. Really a nice comfortable space, though.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

Tonight's show was Villains Tonight, which we saw on the Med cruise last year. This version was a little different - I think it's been polished a bit from what we saw before. It stars Hades, and in addition to Hades it features some of the less-well-known villains, like Yzma and Scar. But really, most of our favorites are in there - the Evil Queen, Maleficient,Ursula, Captain Hook, Jafar, and Cruella de Vil. The Hades character, like the Genie in Aladdin at DCA, seems to have lot more leeway for topical improvisational comedy, and he had some pretty funny lines. Though my favorite line was actually from Pain (or maybe it was Panic) - who in passing made mention of the font they use in the Underworld - Helvetica. (That slipped by a lot of people.) I think the show is a lot of fun, and we both enjoyed it.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

After the show we went to Pink - the champagne bar. Since it was our first time there we HAD to try the Taittinger pink champagne that is made exclusively for the Dream. It came with a "verrine", which was a small dessert, kind of like a panna cotta, with a top layer of chocolate, mango or passion fruit (we had a choice and both got chocolate). It was tasty with the champagne, and the champagne itself was very nice - bubbly and dry, but not alcohol-y. They have a lot of interesting-looking champagne cocktails as well - we'll have to try some of those later. We really enjoyed talking to Steven, the bartender, too.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

Dinner tonight was at Royal Palace. It was also Optional Dress Up night. We didn't bring formal clothes on this cruise, but brought something a little nicer to wear to Royal Palace, so it was good that those nights coincided! Dinner was pretty good - I'll have more on that in the food blog.

Tonight's towel animal is one I don't think we've had before - Tigger, meet Kermit. :-)

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 2

Castaway Cay tomorrow!



May 28, 2011

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise - The Food, Part 2

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After our absolutely beautiful day in Juneau we had a wonderful dinner at Palo with 10 other members of our group. We were in the private room again, which had a gorgeous view of the sea and mountains that we were sailing by. We even saw some orcas and dolphins!

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The Palo menu is HERE.

Our server was Daniel again, but because we were such a large group, Mariana took over the beverage service. First off, Daniel served us several plates of antipasti from the Antipasti Cartello. That's yummy stuff right there!

Daniel also brought us a selection of pizzas - Margherita, Prosciutto, Quattro Formaggi.

My first course was Sicilian Pesto Marinated Grilled Shrimp. This was good, but not as good as I expected, though now I can't remember why. Maybe the shrimp was a little tough.

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Lee had the Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenta. Those Palo people - they can even make something that looks like mud appear appetizing! :-)

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My entree was the Branzino in Cartoccio. Even the description on that one isn't much help: "Sea Bass Papillote with spaghetti vegetables and ginger orange glaze." Though I knew from previous experience that "papillote" meant "baked in parchment paper.". It came still in the paper, but Daniel took care of that and served it up to me. It was very good - the fish was moist and flavorful. Maybe not quite as good as the turbot I had at Palo on the first cruise, but still very good.

This is what it looked like when Daniel first brought it out...

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And after he had finished plating it for me (the vegetables came separately):

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Lee ordered a half serving each of the Lobster and Mascarpone Ravioli and the Chianti Braised Beef Ravioli. The lobster ravioli wasn't as good as it was the first time (when he and Linda almost fought over it) because it didn't have as much mascarpone cheese in it. Daniel brought him a few more later that DID have more cheese, and he really enjoyed those.

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For dessert I had, what else? the Chocolate Souffle. There were a number of those served at our table!

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Here's the Apple Crostata:

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And the Panna Cotta with Strawberry-Basil Sorbet:

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We were also celebrating a couple of anniversaries...Mari and Rawleigh:

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And Carol and Gary:

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The last thing we were served was this little item - I can't remember what they called it, but it was basically a limoncello/vodka slush. Dangerous stuff - it didn't taste alcoholic at all, and it was really good - refreshing and sweet with just a little bit of tartness.

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The dinner was also notable for Mary (different Mary) and I polishing off an entire bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio all by ourselves.

It was a terrific dinner with a wonderful group!

Afterwards we went to the dining room (we would have been in Triton's) to visit Balwan and Tita, and our other tablemates, only to find that Balwan had missed dinner due to an allergic reaction (fortunately he was ok), and they'd had a different server who had RUSHED them through dinner. It was Pirate Night that night - maybe she wanted to see the show?

But here's a photo I took in Triton's on our first cruise:

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise - The Food, Part 2

And the Triton's menu is HERE.

After our day of ziplining in Ketchikan it was time to get all neat and pretty for semi-formal night - the Captain's Gala. We were back in Animator's Palate, and fortunately Balwan was fully recovered!

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The Captain's Gala menu is HERE.

Captain's Gala is probably my least favorite menu, but I tried some things that were different than what I'd ordered the first time. My first course was the Fresh Fruit Cocktail. This was quite pretty, and even though the description said it had orange blossom honey the fruit wasn't sticky sweet. I enjoyed having fruit that was something other than the watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple and grapes that is usually what I get on board.

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I tried the California Mixed Salad Leaves - aka iceberg and radicchio with strips of smoked duck and pine nuts. It was actually quite good. I don't remember what the dressing was, but it was on the side, whatever it was.

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Lee had his usual - the Wild Forest Mushroom Soup. Which I apparently didn't photograph, probably because it looks like a bowl of mud. :-)

As I said, this is not my favorite menu, so I made up my own entree, and asked for a double portion of the Garlic and Herb Shrimp (one of the appetizers) with some steamed vegetables. The shrimp were a little tough, and not as flavorful as they were on the first cruise. Oh well.

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Lee had the Panko-Breaded Pork Envelope. I remembered getting this one on the Med cruise last year and not being too impressed, but he enjoyed it a lot more than I did. It's a pork chop stuffed with ham and gruyere cheese - just too heavy for me.

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This time I went for the Warm Chocolate Lava Cake, and it was pretty good. Very chocolatey with all of the sauce. They are doing a better job of serving it while it's still warm than they used to. I also asked for a coconut macaroon on the side (that was part of the Sweet Temptations dessert), and got a bowl with three of them. Yum. Now that I think about it, I should've dipped them in some of my leftover chocolate sauce! I can't believe I didn't do that. (Lee was a copycat, and also ordered the lava cake AND the macaroons!)

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On the morning of our last full day on board (an at sea day) we had brunch at Palo, just Lee and me. We were among the very first to be seated, so I had a chance to go around and photograph all of the different food stations before anyone had served themselves, so everything looked even better than usual!

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They don't have a menu for the brunch items that you order - the pizzas and entrees - instead they have samples sitting on a counter so you can see what they look like and then tell your server what you want.

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After a last day at sea, it was time for our final dinner on board - we couldn't believe it was our last night - it went so fast! We were back in Parrot Cay for the Till We Meet Again dinner. Here's one last photo of Balwan and Tita.

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The Till We Meet Again Dinner Menu.

I did something a little different and had the Artichoke, Spinach, and Jalapeno Cheese Dip. It was mostly cheesy - I didn't taste jalapeno at all. It was supposed to come with crispy pita wedges, but they were not toasted (or even warm) at all. It was still good, though.

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Lee had the Grilled Chicken Sate again. I think he'd prefer it with peanut sauce rather than the mint-yogurt sauce. This is a pretty generous serving for an appetizer!

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We again had the Potato Leek Soup, but this time it was NOT overly salted and was very tasty.

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I tried something different and had the Till We Meet Again Chicken Salad. Wow...this was huge. It had blackened chicken, corn, tomatoes, and green onions. It came with a "zesty" dressing which I had on the side - good thing, because it mostly tasted like cilantro, which I don't like. The salad was just ok, and I really didn't eat too much of it.

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Lee had the Garlic and Rosemary-Marinated Lamb Sirloin. It was quite good, and the onion, leek, and potato gratin that came with it was very tasty, too.

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It was time for the flaming baked Alaska procession again - that's always a sight to see! We also enjoy the parade of servers, many of them carrying their country's flag. They moved too fast this time and I didn't get any good pictures.

My dessert was (what else?) the Chocolate Decadence. (If you haven't noticed a trend here, then you really haven't been paying attention! :-) ) The description of this one is really not helpful at all - it just says: "This chocolate dessert lets you experience Chocolate in all its glory." Well, not exactly. It's got a dark chocolate cake that's sort of in between mousse and ganache, which is pretty good, and then a small glass containing something which is kind of like a caramel and hot fudge sundae - without the ice cream. The meringue cookie isn't very chocolatey at all.

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Lee of course had the Baked Alaska - I guess he must really like it, since he always orders it!

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Timbra asked for a Mickey Ice Cream Bar - they made it a little more special for her!

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Deb had the No Sugar Added Cappuccino Mousse.. It was a light coffee flavor and not overwhelming.

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We disembarked in Vancouver early on Tuesday, so had a quick breakfast at Beach Blanket rather than going to our assigned restaurant.

It was a great couple of weeks on the Disney Wonder. It was interesting to be on board back-to-back and see most of the menus twice, so I could try some different things the second time around. The food was good - there were a few excellent dishes and some misses. I was impressed with the Taste of Alaska menu - the salmon was just outstanding! I missed the Pirate menu, though - if it were me I would replace the Captain's Gala with the Pirate menu. The desserts still leave a lot to be desired - even the desserts at Palo (except the chocolate souffle) weren't great. But it's also not easy to produce quality desserts in that kind of quantity.

You can all breathe a sigh of relief - I am FINALLY done blogging the Alaska cruise - unless you want to see a ton of photos? No? Ok. :-) Good timing, since things are about to become very busy at Disneyland, with Mickey's Soundsational Parade opening this week and Star Tours and The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure opening next week.

Thanks for reading!


May 27, 2011

Disney Wonder Alaska Cruise - The Food, Part 1

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So here we are, back on the Disney Wonder for another week of fun and food. Or maybe that's food and fun?

Since we did back-to-back cruises, the menus started to look a little familiar. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing - it meant there were opportunities to try things we missed the first time, as well as the chance to have some favorites one more time. There was one new menu, the Taste of Alaska dinner - but I'll talk lots more about that when we get there.

I ate a little lighter on the second cruise, since apparently the sea air had caused all of my pants to shrink and they were feeling a little tight. :-) So be aware of that shrinkage factor when you go on a cruise.

After a lovely day in Vancouver, we re-boarded the Disney Wonder around 1:30 and went to Beach Blanket Buffet for lunch. It seemed to me that the food options here were every bit as good as what was available in Parrot Cay when we boarded in Los Angeles. (No picture of my plate though, sorry.)

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Our dining rotation was similar to what we'd had on the first cruise: Parrot Cay, Triton's, Animator's Palate, Parrot Cay, Triton's, Animator's, Parrot Cay. For some reason every cruise I've been on has had that rotation, so I've eaten dinner in Parrot Cay more than any other restaurant (we ate there three times on the repo cruise!).

We were thrilled to again have Balwan and Tita as our serving team - thank you Beci (and Tektas, our head server) for arranging that. I decided I wanted to get a photo of them every night in their different costumes, and they were very obliging. So here's the photo from Parrot Cay on the first night.

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The dinner menu was the regular Island Menu. This is not one of my favorites - the entrees are good, but none of the appetizers and soups/salads particularly appeal to me. And the featured bread is banana bread with a banana spread - and I'm not a banana fan.

Parrot Cay Dinner Menu

Anyway...I didn't order anything from the appetizer list, so my first course was the Parrot Cay Salad. This was a spinach salad with onion, mushrooms, bacon, and chopped egg. I ordered the dressing on the side, which I pretty much always do! It was a very nice salad, and the spinach was fresh and tasty.

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Lee had the Baked Crab Dip Martinique. It's kind of a crab and cheese casserole. He enjoyed that.

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His second course was the West Indies Romaine Salad - it looked like a caesar salad.

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I was very disappointed in my entree - I ordered the Pan Seared Grouper with basmati rice and snow peas. I love the pan seared grouper at The Brown Derby, but this tasted really unpleasantly fishy to me - even Lee commented on it when he tried a bite. A couple of other people at our table ordered it and it seemed fine to them, though. Balwan offered to bring me something else, so I had him bring me some of the shrimp that were served on the Shrimp and Avocado Salad - Julian had ordered that and it looked really good.

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Lee had the Braised Jerk-Seasoned Pork Chop - it came with a cornmeal cake, and was quite good - moist and flavorful.

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For dessert I ordered the Chocolate S'More Vanilla Cake. This was one I didn't order on the first cruise because it really didn't sound very chocolatey. But as I discovered, this was another one of the menu items where the written description didn't reflect the reality very well at all. The written description is: "Crackling Marshmallow Crust on Vanilla Cake filled with Chocolate, served with Dulce De Leche Sauce." It was really more like a thick fudgey mousse layer on top of a thin vanilla crust - I would not call that "vanilla cake" at all. And then a roasted marshmallow layer on top of that. I really enjoyed it - it was MUCH better than the description made it out to be!

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Lee had the French Toast Banana Bread Pudding. Doesn't appeal to me, but he liked it.

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Someone else at our table at the Lemon Meringue Pie It's very pretty, but rather small.

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On our first At Sea day we had lunch at Triton's. This was my most disappointing meal of either cruise. We were seated at about 12:10, and wanted to make the 1:00 ranger talk - that should be enough time, right? Wrong...the service was very slow - it took a lot longer than it should have for us to get drinks, and then for our server to take our orders. I only ordered an entree, and in hindsight I should've asked the server to bring my entree when he brought everyone else's appetizer.

Lee ordered the Apple Walnut Salad. It was a perfectly nice salad, but I didn't take a photo of it.

They cleared the appetizer plates and then we waited, and waited, for our entrees - it was at least 10 minutes. So finally, at 12:52, I get my entree, the Turkey Melt Sandwich on Whole Grain Panini. It was pretty bad. #1, I'd asked them to leave off the Thousand Island dressing - and they didn't. #2, with a description of "panini" you'd expect it to be a hot sandwich, but no - the bread was toasted, but the inside was cold. I picked at the turkey (where it wasn't contaminated with dressing), and ate most of the potato chips, but then I was out of there to make the 1:00 talk.

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Lee ordered the Grilled Halibut, served on saffron rice. That looked pretty good, and I think he enjoyed it, but I didn't stick around to find out.

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Dinner that night was the Golden Mickeys menu, and we were in Triton's. Here are Balwan and Tita in their formal attire.

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Even our napkins were formal! :-)

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Golden Mickeys Dinner Menu

My first course was the Sangria Bisque - this was like a smoothie, only cold and not frozen, with lots of strawberries and a little red wine. It was pretty good.

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Lee had the Caramelized Bay Scallops. This was served on sun-dried tomato risotto. It was a pretty generous serving.

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I also ordered the Salad of Mixed Baby Greens. This came with sliced pears and pistachios, with apple cider vinaigrette on the side. It was a very good salad.

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Lee had the Crispy Cheese Ravioli - deep-fried ravioli and a light tomato sauce. It was quite good - several people at our table enjoyed that one.

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We both had the Oven-roasted Tom Turkey Breast - this was really good on our Med cruise last year. The turkey was good but the sweet mashed potatoes were a little odd, and the rosemary stuffing tasted like ginger - and too much ginger, at that. I enjoyed the green beans, gravy, and cranberry sauce, though.

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My dessert was (no surprise, I'm sure) The Golden Chocolate Award. I remember when this used to come with a chocolate golden ticket, but not any more. It was pretty good - a thick chocolate mousse with a chocolate cake crust and a layer of ganache on top.

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Lee had the Triple Strawberry Sundae. It included strawberry and dulce de leche ice cream, strawberry sauce, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. With a smiling chocolate Mickey on top. :-)

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On the morning we went into Tracy Arm we had our character breakfast at Parrot Cay. Almost everyone at our table attended, and it was a lot of fun.

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Breakfast itself is anti-climactic compared to the character experience. :-) It's an interesting menu -rather than entrees, this menu has all of the different breakfast items on it, and you just order what you want. I just asked for scrambled eggs, bacon, and wheat toast, but I got a hash brown potato patty anyway. The eggs were not cooked as much as I like them, so I didn't eat much of them. The bacon was good, though - nice and crisp, the way I like it.

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Lee had scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and pancakes. I was surprised he ate all the scrambled eggs, because he dislikes undercooked eggs even more than I do.

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Our servers made all of us these really fun napkin hats.

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On Tracy Arm night we were in Animator's Palate. I enjoy the show here more than the show on the Disney Dream, and I especially enjoy the way that the restaurant and even the servers grow more colorful as the evening goes on. But, I just read the most recent Disney Cruise Line press release on the Fantasy, and it has some very exciting news about changes to Animator's Palate on board the Fantasy. This sounds MUCH more like what I was expecting, and I'm excited to see it next year!

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But back to our meal in Animator's Palate THIS year...Here are Balwan and Tita:

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Animator's Palate Dinner Menu

The Animator's Palate show dinner has some of my favorite cruise line menu items. We both again had the Sesame-flavored Rock Shrimp and Caramelized Onion Cheesecake as my appetizer. One of those "favorites I get to have again". :-) But this time, for the first time in the four times I've had it, I could actually detect little pieces of shrimp that I could even taste.

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I usually get one of the soups, but this time I had the Smoked Salmon and Trout with Goat Cheese Salad. It was another excellent salad - just about all the salads I had on this cruise were quite good.

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Lee had the Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup - I'm not sure why I didn't take a photo of this. But it looked an awful lot like this one from the first cruise. :-)

My entree has been one of my favorites in the past - the Black Bean Chipotle Cakes. Despite having the word "chipotle" in the name, it has never been spicy before. But this time...wow. They were HOT. And it wasn't even the flavor of chipotle, either. Instead it tasted like someone got way too carried away with the chili powder. I barely got through one of them. I'd ordered a glass of Syrah with dinner, but Tita brought me a little bit of a Riesling because she said it would cut the spice - and it did.

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Speaking of that - Tita was very knowledgeable about wines, and her suggestions were really good. We enjoyed everything that she recommended.

Lee was also in the Animator's rut, and also ordered what he'd had on the previous cruise - the Asian Marinated Beef Tenderloin. His was just as good as it had been on the first cruise, though. :-)

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We both had the Double Fudge Chocolate Cake. It was pretty good cake - dark and moist. The whipped cream on top didn't do much for it, though.

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And here's Balwan and Tita, looking far more "animated" than they did at the beginning of the evening. :-)

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The night we left Skagway was the menu I had been most looking forward to - the new Taste of Alaskamenu. And it did not disappoint - I wish I could have ordered off of that menu twice! Here's the menu if you want to check it out yourself.

This was the first evening the servers got to wear their new costumes!

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I tried one of the new specialty cocktails - the Cranberry and Cinnamon Spritzer This had vodka, cranberry and apple juice, cinnamon and club soda. The cinnamon gave it a very interesting flavor - it was quite good.

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I selected the Green and White Asparagus Spears with garlic-tomato aioli for my appetizer. They were good, but cold.

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Lee chose the Cheese and Carrot Souffle. There wasn't much "carrot" in it but it was really good. Warm and cheesy.

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We both had the Yellow Pea Soup, topped with sour cream and bacon bits. It was also very good - had a little bit different flavor than a green pea soup. I don't know if that was because it had different spices or a different stock, or if the peas themselves taste different.

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We also ordered the same entree - Honey-Mustard Marinated Alaskan Salmon. If you're in Alaska you have to have Alaskan salmon, right? It was awesome - I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a salmon dish so much. The honey mustard really complemented the salmon flavor. The sauteed spinach didn't do much for me but I enjoyed the new potatoes.

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I think that was the night we had cheese rolls in addition to the featured bread, which was dark rye. They were both good, but the cheese rolls were especially tasty.

The desserts let me down a bit, though. I tried the Skagway Chocolate Truffle Torte. It was not a torte, at least not by my definition, nor was it very truffle-like. Darker chocolate would have been better, and more like what I was expecting. The white chocolate decoration on top was a nice touch, though.

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Someone at the table ordered the Taste of Alaska Sweet Temptations, which included the chocolate truffle torte, poached pear hazelnut cake, and vanilla panna cotta.

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Lee ordered the Sticky Fig and Walnut Pudding, which again, I missed taking a photo of.

Several of us were intrigued by one of the no sugar added desserts - Chocolate Ganche and Mandarin Curd Tart. We all assumed this was a misspelling of ganache, but after we got it, there was nothing remotely "ganache" about it. The chocolate part was more like a sponge cake. It did come with these really bizarre pieces of "cocoa jelly", which was chocolate jell-o, I guess. It bounced and wiggled and was fun to play with. It did taste a little like chocolate. I've looked up "ganche" on the internet to see if I could find it, but all the references I found seem to be misspellings of ganache. So I still don't know what that is supposed to be.

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More coming in Part 2!




May 21, 2011

Pacific Northwest Cruise - The Food, Part 2

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We were at sea the next day, and went to Palo for brunch with some of the AllEars/Mouse Fan Travel group. Lee and I had never had brunch at Palo before, so it was a real treat for us. We were in the private dining room, with Daniel as our server.

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Daniel took those in our group (there were 2-3 other people, also) who had not been to brunch before and showed us around the different stations. Oh my...so much great food, and not nearly a big enough stomach to try enough of it! It might have been my favorite meal
of the cruise.

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Here's my "first round" plate: Bloody Mary shrimp cocktail, peeled shrimp. some kind of pastry, an olive roll, olives, roasted fingerling potatoes, melon, roasted vegetables, a cream puff,
sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella and tomato salad with basil. There's also a couple of piece of port wine and cheddar cheese under the melon, I think. Oh, and I see the tip of the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, too. And yes, I pretty much ate all of it.

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We were served mimosas to drink - those were yummy (we could have had sparkling wine, instead).

Lee went more artsy with his plate: roasted vegetables, proscuitto-wrapped melon, breasola, some of that port wine and cheddar cheese, a mini pizza, crab leg, shrimp, olives, green beans,
mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes.

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Daniel brought us a selection pizzas to try, though I didn't photograph any of those, but there were margarita, Gorgonzola and grape, goat cheese and sun-dried tomato, and sausage.

In addition to all of the buffet items we could also order from a selection of hot entrees. I had the vegetable fritatta. It was just ok.

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Lee had the Eggs Benedict. He'd never had that before but really enjoyed it and would order it again. They had three kinds of Eggs Benedict - one with traditional ham, one with salmon, and one with spinach.

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This is one of the pastas of the day, with shrimp and cheese sauce.

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My dessert plate - I tried everything that had chocolate in it. There's tiramisu, a sort of walnut cake bar topped with chocolate, a chocolate ganache-covered cake, chocolate cream de pot, and chocolate-covered strawberries.

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Lee's dessert plate included fresh fruit chocolate cream de pot, and a sticky bun.

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It was semi-formal night and the ship-wide menu was Captain's Gala. We were back in Parrot Cay again (third dinner there on this cruise - it was sort of an odd dining rotation on the six-night cruise).

We had the same appetizer - the Garlic and Herb Sauteed Shrimp, served on some thin-sliced vegetables. The only problem with this was that there wasn't enough of it - the shrimp was really good!

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Jeanine had the Oysters Rockefeller on the Half Shell. She said it was notable for having almost microscopic bits of oyster in it.

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My second course was the Garden Fresh Salad with tomato chips and balsamic dressing.

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Lee had the Wild Forest Mushroom Soup. This really doesn't photograph very well, but fortunately it tasted a lot better than it looked.

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I tried something quite different as my entree: Pan-Seared Venison Medallions. It came with marinated red cabbage and potato croquettes. There were three medallions - the first was a little tough but the other two were more tender and flavorful.

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Lee had the Fettuccine with Parmesan-Crusted Chicken. It had a parmesan cheese crust and a cheddar cheese sauce.

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Carol ordered the signature entree - the Baked Lobster Tail. Balwan removed the tail from the shell for her - he gently chastised her for attempting to do it herself. :-)

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As you can see it's quite an attractive dish!

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This is the Gingered Soba Noodles with eggplant and shiitake mushrooms.

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Sesame Seared Tuna Loin with bok choy, daikon, and carrots.

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It was Gary's birthday, and our head server brought us some slices of cheesecake.

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I had the No Sugar Added Chocolate Cheesecake. This was quite disappointing - it didn't have much chocolate flavor at all.

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Lee had the Warm Chocolate Lava Cake. It was covered in chocolate sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. It was warm and very good. Though Jeanine had the same thing, and she thought it was overcooked so it was just cake - nothing lava about it.

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Gary had the Banana Creme Brulee.

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Our final dinner on the repo cruise was 'Til We Meet Again in Triton's. Our napkins were in an interesting shape - Peter Pan's foot, maybe?

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Here's our most excellent table.

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Lee and I had the same first two course - great minds think alike. :-) Appetizer was the Grilled Chicken Sate. This was a generous serving for an appetizer, and the chicken had good flavor.

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Jeanine tried the Chilled Seafood Medley and thought it was very good.

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This is the Sesame-Crusted Tuna Sashimi, with wasabi and American caviar.

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We also had the Potato Leek Soup, topped with sour cream and chives. This was quite a surprise because it was way too salty. Someone got carried away with the salt shaker. :-(

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I made up my own entree - I requested the vegetable streudel with the side dishes from the beef tenderloin - Williams potatoes, asparagus spears and baby vegetables. I was hoping that the streudel wouldn't have peppers in it, but it did, so I had to kind of pick through it. I enjoyed the sides a lot, though.

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Lee had the Yachtsman Steakhouse Center Cut Grilled Beef Tenderloin.

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This is the Seafood Linguini Pasta.

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And this is the Garlic and Rosemary-Marinated Lamb Sirloin with potato gratin.

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It was time for the flaming baked Alaska parade of nations - that's always fun.

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My dessert was the Chocolate Decadence. It's actually a dessert trio, with a chocolate mousse cake topped with chocolate ganache, some whipped cream and chocolate sauce, and a chocolate meringue cookie.

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Lee had the Baked Alaska - that's what he always has. :-)

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Balwan brought Linda a very special dessert.

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It was exactly what she had ordered. :-)

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We were the only ones at our table for breakfast on the final morning, when we were back in Triton's again.

I had a fairly light breakfast - sliced fruit, tea, and Nature's Muesli. This was not what I expected from the description - I was expecting something more granola-like, but it was more like yogurt with small bits of almonds, seeds, oatmeal, and dried fruits. Not something I'll order again.

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Lee had what was his favorite breakfast of the cruise, the Route 66: scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns.

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So, that brings us to the end of the repositioning cruise. We had some menu items we really enjoyed, and some things that didn't appeal to us very much. You'd think that I would've learned by now that the menu descriptions (especially on dessert) don't always match up with what I think I will be getting. I'm not sure if that's because they don't get the ingredients, or the chef wants to prepare it a little differently, or both. I guess it does make for a surprise a mealtimes!

The food blogs for the Alaska cruise are coming soon.





May 20, 2011

Disney Wonder Pacific Northwest Cruise - The Food, Part 1

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Since one of the things that many people seem interested in is the food on-board, here's my blog about our dining experiences on the repositioning cruise. It'll be in two parts, and will include some of Jeanine's photos and comments as well.

Once we (finally) were able to board in Los Angeles, we went to Parrot Cay - they have a really nice buffet lunch available on embarkation day. Salad bar, cheese and sandwiches, hot dishes, carved prime rib, peel-and-eat-shrimp, lots of breads, and of course dessert. Some of those are pictured below, which also show off the presentation, with the edible 'flower' arrangement, the ice sculpture, and the bread sculpture.

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The desserts always look very pretty, but I'm never really too impressed with the flavor - mass-produced desserts aren't usually that good. Though the cake I had (pictured third from the bottom) was pretty good - we couldn't figure out what it was, though. It was sort of like carrot cake without the carrots, though maybe it had zucchini in it. Not overly spiced, but moist and quite tasty.

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Our dinner on the first night was in Parrot Cay - it was their regular "Island" menu. I had something that I think was new since the last time I ate here - the St. Maarten Stack. Grilled calabaza squash, zucchini, and mozzarelly with tomato and basil vinaigrette. It was yummy - the calabaza was thick and gave it some extra texture.

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Before I go any further I have to mention the awesome serving team we had - Balwan from India, and Tita from Hungary. The best we've had (though TJ and Meg on our first cruise were really good, too - since it was our first cruise we didn't realize at the time just how good they were). Our head server was Tektas from Turkey.

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Lee had the Baked Crab Dip Martinique. Lump crab baked in cheese sauce and served with a couple of tortilla and plantain chips. It all disappeared, so I think he enjoyed it.

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We both had the Parrot Cay Salad - spinach with red onions, mushrooms, bacon bits and chopped egg. It came with warm bacon dressing, which Lee said tasted like bacon, unlike when he had it last summer on the Med cruise. It was a very nice salad.

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I've been enjoying more of the vegetarian dishes on-board over my last few cruises, so I ordered the Pearl Barley Cakes with Shallots, Leeks, and Rosemary. It was served over carrots, root celery, and leeks with a saffron sauce. It was very good - I would order it again.

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Lee ordered one of our Balwan's recommendations - the Mixed Grill. It was grilled beef tenderloin, lamb chop, bacon-wrapped sausage and jumbo shrimp with mashed potatoes, asparagus and a Cabernet mushroom sauce. He said all of the meat was excellent. I had one of the shrimp and it was very good.

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Here's the Island-spiced Grilled Rib-Eye of Beef, served with corn on the cob and double-baked potato.

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And the Shrimp and Avocado Salad.

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For dessert I had the Ice Cream Sundae - cookies and cream ice cream, a "fudge bar" and chocolate sauce. It was a very sincere ice cream sundae, and pretty good, though I didn't really detect the "fudge bar".

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Lee had the French Toast Banana Bread, with coconut ice cream and caramel sauce. He loved it.

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Beci had the Sweet Temptations - creme brulee cheesecake, lemon meringue pie and chocolate s'more vanilla cake.

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Day 2 was an "At Sea" day. I did the buffet lunch at Parrot Cay - it had different selections than the day before. Two of the hot dishes were rosemary polenta and gnocchi. They also had carved turkey, but I didn't get any of that.

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Dinner that night was at Palo with Deb and Linda. It was just amazing. Palo has a fairly new menu, and they also got new dishes just before this cruise - we were the first ones to eat off the new dishes.

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Dinner began when our server, Hristos, wheeled and anti-pasto cart to our table and began plating it for us - prosciutto, thin dried beef, several kinds of olives, cheese, artichoke hearts, and peppers. It was really delicious - between that and the bread I could have easily made a meal right there!

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My appetizer was the Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes with Balsamic Dressing. I'd forgotten how pretty they make this - it looks like a flower! And it was very good.

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Lee had the Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenta. I don't think it looks very appetizing, but he liked it.

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He and I also split the Tuscan White Bean Soup with Prosciutto and Parmesan Cheese. This was very good - it was mostly pureed, but thick with a nice bean flavor.

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Linda ordered the Fritto Misto di Pesce con Olie all' Ascolana, a platter with fried calamari, scallops and mussels. She loved it - cleaned her plate!

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Between courses we had a lemon sorbet aperitif. It only came with one blueberry, but for photographic purposes my tablemates decided we need to enhance it. :-)

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Deb, Linda, and Lee all wanted to try the ravioli, but no one wanted a full plate of it, so Hristos brought us both of them to sample. this is the Chianti Braised Beef Ravioli, which Deb really enjoyed.

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But according to Lee and Linda, the winner was the Lobster and Mascarpone Ravioli. Apparently it just melted in their mouths and was really good. (They didn't quite fight over it, but they did clean the dish!)

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My entree was the Rombo al Finocchio - pan seared turbot with fingerling potatoes, porcini mushrooms, pancetta and fennel. The fish was excellent - moist and very tasty.

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Lee ordered the Beef Tenderloin "Palo". It came with their Barolo red wine sauce. He always judges beef tenderloin as compared to the Tamarind Beef that California Grill used to serve - I don't know if this quite reached that level, but it was way up there.

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Deb ordered the Fagotti di Petto di Pollo con Ricotta e Basilico. I believe this is new to the Palo menu - it was chicken breast stuff with ricotta, basil and peppers. I think it
was not quite what she was expecting based on the description, but she still enjoyed it.

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Linda had the Grilled Sea Scallops with Borlotti Beans and Pancetta. As you can tell, she was on a seafood kick that evening. :-) Another wonderful dish.

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And for dessert we had, what else, the famous Palo Chocolate Souffle. As a bonus, I got to eat all of mine and most of Deb's too. (So glad I went to the gym that day!!!)

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Deb had the no sugar added dessert - Apple Crostata with Salted Caramel Sauce. Deb REALLY appreciated that Palo finally got a no-sugar added dessert. The apple bits were perfectly small complimented with with cinnamon spice and raisins -- quite tasty. The cookie on the bottom of the apples was a nice complement and the caramel sauce was on the side. The dessert was light and a great finish to a great meal.

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It was really a wonderful dinner!

Our first night dinner in San Francisco was at Triton's. This was the first time we'd ever eaten there. I think I like the decor in Lumiere's, on the Disney Magic, better, but the
undersea mural is really nice.

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My appetizer was the Chilled Jumbo Shrimp in a lemon-dill dressing. Very good.

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Lee had the Applewood Smoked Bacon and Wild Mushroom Tart.

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Jeanine is braver than we are, and went for the Escargot Gratinee.

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One of my on-board favorites is the French Onion Soup. (It's "Chef Louis' French Onion Soup on the Wonder - as I recall it's Belle's French Onion Soup on the Magic). But it was excellent - nice and hot, with plenty of cheese. That's what Lee had also.

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My entree was Triton's Seared Sea Bass - with mushroom and herb risotto, onion marmalade and a potato chip. It was very good. I think this was where I first noticed that anything on the menu that is described as "seared" or "grilled" is a lot better than it used to be - I don't know if they have changed their cooking method (since they can't use open flame), but everything I had that was prepared that way was good.

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Lee had one of Balwan's recommendations - the Three-Cheese Lobster Macaroni with gruyere and cheddar cheese sauce and penne pasta.

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For dessert I tried the No Sugar Added Chocolate Cheesecake. It was ok - not nearly as chocolatey as I was expecting, and it was pretty light - not as rich as cheesecake usually is.

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Lee had (no surprise) the Creme Brulee. He liked it, but it tasted a little bland to me.

Beci had the Sweet Temptations - creme brulee, chocolate mousse, and a praline petite choux cookie. It looked really good.

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Our second morning in San Francisco we had a nice leisurely morning and had breakfast at Triton's. We were pretty sure we would have a long day in San Francisco, so we wanted to have a good and larger breakfast than usual.

I started off with some fruit, and of course they always offer us a nice selection of yummy pastries. I had the cinnamon roll, but the chocolate croissant looked good, too.

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For an entree I ordered one of Triton's Signature Favorites - Atlantis Secret Tower. It was a stack of French toast and grilled pineapple with strawberry sauce and fruit. It was not bad, but I don't think I'd get it again.

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Lee had Sebastian's Trio - French toast, Belgian waffle, and buttermilk pancake with cinnamon butter, syrup, and bacon. It looked really good and I think he ate almost all of it.

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Jeanine had the waffles, which she said were 1000 times better than the ones on the Disney Dream.

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And here's the Eggs Benedict.

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We didn't have lunch in San Francisco, but we did go to Ghirardelli Square and share a Cable Car Sundae. :-)

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That night we left San Francisco (twice). It was Pirate Night, but there was no Pirate menu on our short cruise - we had the normal restaurant menu, which for us was the Animator's Palate Show menu. I prefer the original Animator's Palate show to the one on the Disney Dream - I like the way the restaurant and the servers get more colorful as the evening goes on. But I'd like to see them update the animation displays and put in some interactive components.

The Animator's Palate menu is one of my favorites. My absolute favorite Disney Cruise Line appetizer is on this menu - the Sesame-flavored Rock Shrimp and Caramelized Onion Cheesecake. It always looks like it's dessert when they bring it out, but it's a savory cheesecake, and not sweet at all. It's quite a good-sized serving, pretty rich, and very filling. It comes with Asian barbecue sauce and micro greens. They posted the recipe for this on
the Disney Parks Blog a couple of months ago, and I made it for Easter brunch - it was very good.

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Lee had the Wild Mushroom Risotto and Porcini Twist. It came with a parmesan/reggiano bread stick. He really enjoyed it.

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This is the Ahi Tuna Tartare, with caviar, chives, and wasabi cream.

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Our second course was the Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup, topped with bacon bits and chives. This is another favorite, though the Butternut Squash soup that's on this menu is good, too.

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My entree was another of my favorites - Black Bean Chipotle Cakes. They are served over roasted corn and brown rice. Very flavorful, but not spicy hot. Deb tasted it and really like it so, she ordered it next time it was on the menu. Clearly there was a different Chef making the chipotle cakes as it was way TOO spicy to eat - and I agreed!

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Lee had the Asian Marinated Beef Tenderloin. This is served with wasabi mashed potatoes and bok choy with tamarind bbq sauce. I don't think this was quite as good as the beef tenderloin he had at Palo two nights before, but it was right up there.

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This is the Phyllo-wrapped Salmon Fillet, with garlic cream cheese and fava beans.

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Balwan got Lee with one of his tricks. :-)

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I love this photo of Balwan and Tita. They seemed to really like each other - they certainly worked well together!

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For dessert I ordered the Double Fudge Chocolate Cake. This is not what I expected from the description, but it was pretty good.

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Lee had the Buckled Warm Apple Crumble. It was topped with vanilla ice cream.

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Deb had the No Sugar Added Chilled Lemon Souffle.

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Jeanine had the Animator's Sweet Temptations - strawberry sable, cranberry and orange cheesecake, and double-fudge chocolate cake.

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Part 2 is coming soon.






May 15, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Disembarkation, Final Thoughts

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I know, you were probably expecting to see this a few days ago - but you know how it is after you get home - and especially if you go back to work the next day! Real life is really not a lot of fun most of the time. I think I get especially spoiled on cruises, where someone asks me what I want to eat and serves it to me, does the dishes, cleans my room...

So, on Tuesday morning we arrived in Vancouver - not actually as early as I thought we would! We got up about 6:30, and the ship was just about to go under the Lions Gate Bridge, and then past Stanley Park.

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There was quite a crowd at Beach Blanket Buffet, which opened at 6:45 - apparently lots of people wanted to get off the ship early. (I never want to, but since we had an early flight, we had to get going early.)

Those of us with flights prior to 12:30 had been advised to go to the Walt Disney Theater and wait until they called us. A bunch of us lined up in the lobby instead, though. :-)

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Once the ship was cleared by customs, the first people allowed to disembark were those who were carrying ALL of their luggage off the ship themselves - those of us who had given bags to Disney (and were the first group, with Chip and Dale luggage tags) had to wait another 15 or so minutes before we could go. So, if you want to get off the ship as early as possible, you'll need to carry all of your luggage yourself.

It was about 8:20 when we got off the ship. There wasn't too much of a line at Customs yet, and they had about 6 lanes open, so that went very quickly. They'd given us the Customs forms the night before and we had already filled them out. We showed our passports and answered a couple of questions and we were done.

And then it was time to find our two bags - which were of course in the furthest row (though at least they were closer to the exit that way!). We were traveling with Deb, Beci, and Michelle to the airport, so we all met up after we'd collected our bags and walked to where the van was picking us up. Fortunately Beci knew where we were going. Apparently at Canada Place the vans/cars wait someplace else, and a dispatcher summons them when the guests who ordered them arrive. It was a pretty short wait, though. With all of our bags the back of the van was packed!

The drive to the airport was 25 minutes or so - city streets, mostly with lots of stop lights, so it took some time. But we were still doing ok on time - our flight was at 11:48, and it was a little after 9:00 when we arrived at the airport.

We had to show our passports I don't know how many times as we checked in, dropped off our checked bags, went through security, and then we went through U.S. Customs. And then we could finally put away our passports. (Each place seemed to have a person who checked the passports as we entered the line, and then another one who actually processed us.) I have to say that the Canadian version of TSA inspired a lot more confidence than the American version.

We found Beci and MIchelle waiting at a Delta gate not too far from where we were going, and since we still had about two hours until our flight we all hung out together for awhile - Deb and several other cruisers joined us there, and most of us took advantage of the free wireless internet.

Then it was one last goodbye as we went to our gate. We were on a type of plane I'd never been on before - the wings were above the fuselage.

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We had an uneventful flight to Seattle, where we had a two-hour layover, but again, we had free wi-fi access (thank you, Google!). I don't know if it made it better or worse, but this light fixture in the food court reminded me of the chandelier on the Wonder.

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The rest of our trip was uneventful - it was VERY nice not to have to fly across country, and to get home in about 5 hours instead of 8. Not to mention that whole not changing timezones thing.

So, some final thoughts and impressions in no particular order...

Before the trip I really wondered what sorts of adaptations they had made to the ship to prepare for Alaska weather - because I've been cold on the ships when we've been in the Caribbean! But I found the temperature to be quite comfortable - I normally wore pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and that was fine. A couple of times I had short sleeves and was ok, too. We did adjust the temperature in our stateroom upwards, and at times I found it a little chilly as compared to the hallway, but mostly it was fine, or I'd put on a light sweater or jacket. The public spaces, even the restaurants, were pretty good - it was only when I was right next to an exterior door that it was (not surprisingly) a lot cooler.

They have increased the water temperature in the pools to about 90 degrees. I was surprised at how many people (mostly kids, of course) were in them, even on days that were not particularly sunny. And people took a lot of advantage of the hot tubs.

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I really miss the hot water in the shower - I never get water that hot at home, and I have to wait a whole lot longer to get hot water out of the tap!

The enclosed area called the Outlook Cafe on Deck 10 (with interior staircases that connect it to the Cove Cafe below) was quite popular - especially on sea days. The bar upstairs serves specialty coffee beverages and tea, wine, and cocktails - Lee says they make a fine mocha. :-) The bar downstairs might have only coffee and other hot beverages, though they offer some with alcohol in them.

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At the front of the ship on deck 10, they have added an awning to the area that has the big plastic wind break (for some reason it reminds me of a huge sneeze shield). Sometimes the temperature on deck isn't too bad as long as you're not in the wind.

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They have also added a hot chocolate machine to the beverage station on deck 9 - that got a lot of use, and it was a lot easier than using the packets of hot chocolate mix. It was pretty decent hot chocolate, too.

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They still have Pirate Night, but there's no special menu to go with it. They still hold the Pirate Party (though the "Pirates in the Caribbean" banners really don't fit) on deck 9, and Mickey still slides down the cable, conditions permitting. But there's no fireworks, and the pirate buffet has been moved inside to Beach Blanket Buffet.

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I really enjoyed the new Taste of Alaska dinner menu that was served ship-wide the night we left Skagway. Alaskan King Crab legs were offered as one of the appetizers, and Honey Mustard Alaskan Salmon (which was excellent and is shown below) was one of the entrees. The full menu is HERE.

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The bbq lunch they served on deck 9 the day we were in Tracy Arm was very good, and a nice change. I think the people cooking it were enjoying the warmth from the bbq. :-) The salmon and halibut were good, Lee said the steak was very good, and they also had pretzel bread sticks! Those were really good. Not as good as Le Cellier, but still way better than regular bread. (We also had cheese rolls at dinner one night that were delicious!)

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I don't know if they've changed their cooking method, or if it's different on the Wonder than on the Magic, but all of the grilled foods in the dining rooms seemed a lot more grilled and flavorful than they have in the past - you can see the "char" marks on the salmon in the photo above.

Tracy Arm was beautiful, but I've been to Glacier Bay and found Tracy Arm a little disappointing in comparison - we didn't get that close to the glacier, and it just wasn't overwhelmingly huge like I remember Glacier Bay being. We also didn't see any calving going on (that's what they call it when a big chunk of ice breaks off and falls into the water). Part of that was because we were there so early in the year, but even if it had calved, we weren't close enough to see it very well. Our on-board naturalist offered some narration while we were there, but because they had turned down the sound due to Alaskan Maritime laws it was almost impossible to hear him. Frustrating.

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I would have liked to have seen a lecture or two on Alaskan history - the naturalist was an interesting speaker, but I really didn't learn much.

I enjoyed all the ports, but I think Juneau is the one I would most want to spend additional time in - I heard our group talk about several other excursions they did there that sounded very interesting. I don't think there's a whole lot more to do in Skagway other than what we did - it's pretty small. And Ketchikan just seemed really touristy - one reason we went zip lining there is that there really wasn't anything else that appealed to us. (Or appealed to us and wasn't really expensive.)

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We really enjoyed the excursions that we did, though, and both the snowshoeing and the Mendenhall hike were a lot more challenging than we've experienced on other Disney excursions (which really were too tame for us even though they were called "Active"). It was very nice to see some options like that available to those of us who want to do something more challenging and interesting.

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It was great fun to see the characters in their new Alaskan costumes! I never saw Donald Duck, but I saw Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Chip and Dale.

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We enjoyed watching the crew members - all of this was new to them, too, and they were just as excited as any of us! We saw them out taking photos and taking in the scenery as we cruised through Tracy Arm and other places, and we know they enjoyed getting into the new ports when they had the opportunity.

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While it's great to finally have a Disney ship on the west coast, we really wish that when they are in L.A. they would do something other than 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises. We simply are not interested in that - why can't they do some three and four-night cruises so that we could take advantage of a long weekend? We talked to one of the crew members who said that she was really tired of the Mexican Riviera - and that was after only three months!

One thing we always have a problem with is having enough electrical outlets to plug in our various electronic devices and chargers. There's only two outlets on the desk, but the power adapter for the Wave phones is so big that if it's plugged in there's no room for anything else! We usually bring a power strip to take care of that issue, but Lee noticed this trip that there is an available electrical outlet behind the TV, as well.

It was a lot of fun being with a group, and it was very nice that it was a reasonably-sized group. Even so I still didn't really get to hang out and talk to everyone, especially those who had the early dinner seating.

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I REALLY enjoyed the Palo brunch - twice. :-) All of those different pastries (the sticky buns were excellent) and the breads and appetizers were really good.

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The desserts looked really good, but weren't spectacular, but I could (and did) easily fill up on the pastries and fruit. (I should've had a second sticky bun for dessert!)

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It was interesting going on the Wonder after being on the Dream. The Dream is beautiful, but overall I think I prefer the smaller ships - not that I would turn down a cruise on the Dream (and we are booked for the Fantasy's Maiden Voyage). Yes, the Wonder was not as "grand", particularly the lobby, but it was still beautiful. The main thing from the Dream that I really found myself missing was the Enchanted Art - I wish they would bring that to the older ships.

The other thing I missed from the Dream was the bed - the Wonder has the same kind of bedding now (those soft sheets and the duvet and throw instead of a bedspread), but even though the mattress is supposedly the same, I didn't find it as plush and heavenly as the bed on the Dream. Maybe that's because the bed can split into two on the Wonder, I'm not sure. One thing, that duvet is VERY warm - it was even too warm for me to sleep under all night. I certainly didn't need any extra blankets!

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Clothes - I was concerned about being warm enough, so I actually ended up with too many warm clothes, and several things that I didn't wear, like my long underwear and fleece vest. We were fortunate to have really good weather, so I didn't need the rain pants except when we went snowshoeing and on Tracy Arm day, but I carried them with me on a couple of other days. Didn't really need the rain jacket to keep off the rain, but it's fleece-lined and was a great heavy and warm windbreaker, and I DID need that. I wore my fleece headband quite a bit, but didn't need the gloves much - though again, I had them with me just in case. I always layered - a long-sleeve t-shirt and a light wool sweater over that most of the time, and then an outer jacket (I had three different ones) depending on how cold it was. In hindsight, I should've just brought the light windbreaker and the heavy rain jacket - I rarely wore the midweight jacket. If we'd had windy and rainy conditions I would have been wearing just about everything, though!

As far as shoes go, I recommend taking one pair of walking shoes that are waterproof - they will be both warmer and more water-resistant than running-type shoes. I hiked, walked miles around town, and snowshoed in mine.

Since we were gone for almost two weeks with the back-to-back cruises we had to do laundry. I found Purex Complete Three-in-One Laundry Sheets at my local supermarket and they worked great - it's detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheet all in one. I tore off the fabric softener part on top since I don't like that, but otherwise used it as it - it seemed to work just fine in the washers and dryers on board ship. It's hypoallergenic, too! You'll want to store them in a ziplock type bag because the detergent makes them a little sticky, and there is a slight fragrance.

The food blogs are coming, I promise! Jeanine sent me some of her photos (from the repo cruise) and comments, too, so I will be adding those in as well.



May 10, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 13- At Sea

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Our last day on the ship - it's supposed to be a relaxing at sea
day, right? Hasn't really worked out that way, though. :-)

Ok, everybody brace yourself, because I'm about to use that dreaded
four-letter word to talk about today: PACK. Sorry about that, but
really, that's what much of today was about.

We've been in the Inside Passage all day, though when we first got
up this morning we couldn't see any land to the west of us. It was
mostly overcast today, though we did get a little bit of blue sky
and sunshine.

We slept in (partly thanks to that hour we lost last night), and I
got up and went to the gym and did a couple of laps around deck 4.
Not too many people in the gym or out walking/running this morning -
other things to do the last morning of the cruise besides exercise!

After I showered we went to Palo for brunch - just Lee and me. There
weren't too many people in there yet, so I had time to walk around
and take pictures of everything before anyone had had a chance to
dig into them yet! :-) Our server was Toni, and he was very nice -
he kept the mimosas coming. :-) And he thought we weren't eating
nearly enough!

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After brunch it was time to do one last shopping trip, so we hit
Treasure Ketch. They had an Alaska t-shirt and hat set that we
hadn't seen before.

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And they had also gotten a delivery of the totem pole statues -
those were selling FAST. They are a stock item, so should be
available on future cruises.

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We also went to Shutters to see if we wanted any photos - we didn't
get as many taken on this cruise, and most of the ones we had were
only good or one or the other of us and not both.

The princesses were holding court in the Atrium - Belle, Ariel, and
Snow White. The lines were pretty long to see them.

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By the time we got back we had a little bit of time to pull out the
suitcases and start with the dreaded "p" word until I had to leave
for my hot stone massage. Ahhh...that was just wonderful!

Got back and did some more of that organizing and "p" word stuff,
and then it was time for the All Ears Farewell Party at 4:00. Beci
and Deb had gotten the Cadillac Lounge for us, and we had wine and
cheese and fruit and veggies - it was very nice.

Deb had lots of very nice prizes that she gave away in a drawing.

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At 4:30 we had a surprise guest - the Captain himself - Captain
Hook, that is. :-) He posed for pictures with everyone, and then we
got a group photo. It was great fun.

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Thank you Deb and Beci and Michelle - it was a very nice way to end
our cruise.

Remember that land that wasn't very close to us in the morning? Not
an issue in the afternoon - at times it was quite close on both
sides! And you can see how flat and calm the ocean is.

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Here's all the magnets on our door that we collected during the
trip.

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The final night dinner was very bittersweet - so hard to say goodbye
to Balwan and Tita and our tablemates: Gail, Julian, Mary, Kevin,
Timbra, and Deb. And the rest of our extended group, too - Beci,
Carol and Gary, James and Dave, and Patrice.

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Our final towel creation...

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We have an early flight out of Vancouver so we will be getting off
the ship as early as we can tomorrow - hopefully Customs will clear
the ship early so we can disembark by 8:00 or so.

It's been a fantastic couple of weeks - I can't believe how fast it
went by, and I can't imagine how it could have been any better.

I'll have some final thoughts, and of course the food blogs, after I
get back home.

Thanks for reading!


May 9, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 11 - Juneau

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Ahhh...another quiet restful night in our stateroom. Beci was
telling us at dinner that she recommends Alaska Inside Passage
cruises to her clients that are afraid they'll be seasick, and I can
understand why. It's so smooth that a lot of the time I can't even
tell that we're moving!

I'm sorry that I haven't had a chance to respond to comments, but
I've been able to read most of them, so here's answers to some
questions:

Our dining rotation is Parrot Cay, Triton's, Animator's Palate. And
then lather, rinse, repeat. :-) Here's the menus and themes for
the Alaskan cruises:

Day 1: The restaurant menu (Island Dinner for Parrot Cay, French
Dinner for Triton's and Show Dinner for Animator's Palate). Dress
is Cruise Casual.

Day 2: (At Sea) Formal Night, with the Golden Mickeys menu.

Day 3: (Tracy Arm) The restaurant menu, Cruise Casual.

Day 4: (Skagway) The new Taste of Alaska Menu, Cruise Casual.

Day 5: (Juneau) Restaurant menu, Pirate Attire or Cruise Casual.

Day 6: (Ketchikan) Captain's Gala menu, Semi-Formal attire.

Day 7: (At Sea) 'Til we Meet Again menu, Cruise Casual.

The temperature inside the ship is pretty comfortable - I get cold
very easily, but I've been ok in the restaurants and public spaces
in just long pants and a shirt - usually long sleeve, but I've been
ok in short sleeves, too.

The show schedule is:

Day 1: Let the Magic Begin
Day 2: Golden Mickeys
Day 3: One of the cruise entertainers
Day 4: Movie (for us it was African Cats)
Day 5: Toy Story The Musical
Day 6: One of the cruise entertainers
Day 7: Remember the Magic

I've seen whales a couple of times - saw humpbacks from the gym on
our first at sea day, and orcas last night after we sailed out of
Juneau. The captain said we might see some very early this morning
(as we were approaching Ketchikan) but I wasn't getting up that
early. :-)

Yes, there are special Alaska pins available. Open edition pins, as
well as a limited edition set on our cruise - I don't know if there
will be other limited edition sets available on future cruises,
though.

Once we got into the Inside Passage (on day 3) there's
several changes they've made due to Alaskan maritime laws. This is
the paragraph that was in the Navigator:

"Disney Cruise Line recognizes the importance of quiet and solitude
to preserve wilderness values and marine ecology, and will minimize
vessel announcements, Funnel Vision audio and music on the open deck
while we are in our ports of call and sailing thru Tracy Arm.
Narration is at maximum levels permitted by local regulations and
may seem quiet."

What that means is that when we were in Tracy Arm the other day we
could hardly hear the narration from our naturalist. They also are
not showing very many movies on the Funnel Vision, though they did
show Pirates of the Caribbean on Pirate Night. (Of course, that
could also be because it's pretty chilly on deck, and no one is up
there watching them!)

I haven't heard them blowing the ship's horn very much since we left
Vancouver, though that might be because they reduced the volume and
we can't hear it from our stateroom. They did sound it just before
we pulled into the dock in Ketchikan this morning, though.


So back to yesterday...we arrived in Juneau pretty early - we were
docked by the time we got up about 7:00. We were really happy when
we looked outside and saw some blue sky! And it just got better as
the day went on.

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The last time I was in Juneau was in 1983, and we had to take
tenders to the port - things have changed since then and we docked
at a pier - though it's the furthest one from downtown, even though
we were the only ship in port.

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Our excursion was the Mendenhall Glacier Adventure Hike.
There were 20 of us and they put us in a converted school bus. The
bus driver, Scott, was one of our guides, and Dirk was the other.
Both very knowledgeable and nice. They also had butt bags for us,
with snacks, water, and a poncho (which they hoped we wouldn't
need!). I think just about everyone on the tour had brought their
own packs so we just swapped the supplies into them.

We drove about 20 minutes to the West Glacier trail head, on the
shore of Mendenhall Lake. The day had turned absolutely gorgeous -
sunshine, blue sky, puffy clouds, as you can see in this photo. We
were so lucky to have a day like that - especially since they told
us it had been raining the day before.

These photos were taken about 1/4 mile up the trail; the best
view we had all day even though we got closer to the glacier. The
trees blocked most of our view the rest of the time. Where's a
chainsaw when you need it?

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They had split us into two groups of 10, and we were with Dirk's
group. Really interesting guy - a native Alaskan with lots of
stories and information on the plants and animals. For example, he
pointed out this furrow in the moss, and said it was probably made
by a bear looking for food.

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And this is shelf fungus...

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And this is lettuce lung lichen.

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The trail was very nice - through the forest largely on a carpet of
moss and evergreen needles. Though in a couple of places we went up
some fairly steep rocky sections. They had cable handrails on one
of them, but the other one we had to scramble up - not too hard, and
Dirk was there to lend a hand to those who needed it.

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By the time we reached our turnaround point (about 2.25 miles in) we
had a few more clouds in the sky and not quite as much sun. Both
Lee and I were hiking in just a single layer, which I certainly had
not expected at all!

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This was the closest view we had of the Mendenhall Glacier. It's
receding - about 300' a year on average. The trees in the area we
were in were probably about 80 years old, so the glacier was there
100 or so years before.

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The sky was a bit clearer over Juneau, and back the way we came
from.

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We returned as one big group (though spread out a ways), and took a
rather steep side trail down next to a stream.

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Here's the view from the lake about 3 hours after the one I took
above - I'm glad I have the earlier photo!

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It was a fun hike, and again, a little more challenging than I was
expecting. Don't get me wrong, I LIKE challenging, and I'm very
happy to see that Disney has added some more active and interesting
choices like these last two we did to their itineraries. Our
guides were again excellent and helped us enjoy the experience even
more.

Over half of us chose to get off the bus in town rather than taking
it back to the ship. Dirk passed out maps to us and gave us a few
suggestions of places to check out. Here's the state capitol
building.

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And a totem pole outside the museum. This is a 4 story totem, and
depicts 4 Haida clan stories. It was carved in 1940 out of western
red cedar.

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And the World Famous Red Dog Saloon. We went inside - there's
sawdust on the floor! (It really hadn't changed much since I was there almost 28 years ago - though it has two gift shops now. :-) )

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Down by the waterfront was the statue of Patsy Ann. She was a white
bull terrier, and in the 1930s she was the unofficial greeter of
Juneau. She was deaf, but despite that she always knew when a ship
was coming into port and met it at the dock.

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It was "Clean Up Juneau Day", and we saw a lot of residents out with
big trash bags picking up trash. So Lee did his part, too. All of
the trashcans in Juneau are bear-resistant (I won't say bear-proof,
because bears are smart, and I don't think there's anything that's
bear-proof!), and have a latch on the lid to make it more difficult
for the bears.

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There were shuttle buses from the tram station to the ship, but we
walked back (and so did some other people - including some with
little kids - we were impressed by that). It was a longer walk than
it looked - over a half mile since we had to go around the far side
of the ship.

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We pulled out of port about 5:00 - it was still a beautiful day with
quite a bit of sunshine! Oh, that reminds me - when we were walking
downtown one of the local residents saw Lee's hat and recognized him
as being from the Disney ship and thanked him for the sunshine. :-)

They were setting up for the Pirate Night party on deck.

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We had dinner at Palo in the private dining room with 10 other
members of our group (thank you Mouse Fan Travel!). As if that
wasn't enough of a treat, we ALSO saw a pod of orcas go by, followed
by some dolphins that were following them! We forgot all about
eating for a while. It was really awesome.

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We continued to have terrific scenery throughout dinner, as we
sailed by all of those snow-capped mountains. Just beautiful - I
can't believe what a beautiful day it was for us!

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Another new towel animal tonight that I hadn't seen before - a
donkey. We still have over half of them placed around our stateroom -
I'll have to do a group photo before we leave. :-)

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It was Pirate Night. Lee actually dressed up and went on deck to
check it out. (Note the earring - one of the goodies in our fish
extender today, though he didn't wear the eyepatch that went with
it. Finding goodies in our fish extender every day has been a lot
of fun! Thank you Mouse Fan Travel, and thank you Sandy, our table
mate on the repo cruise, who made the fish extenders!)

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Lee said it wasn't as cold as during the pirate party as it was
during the repo cruise, though there weren't too many people up
there. No fireworks while we are in Alaska - that doesn't surprise
me. They now set up the pirate buffet in Beach Blanket - he said
there was food in the normal line. Where they have the omelet bar
was a crepe and ice cream sundae bar. And they had other desserts in the usual dessert place. Neither of us was interested in food after our dinner in Palo, though.

I can't believe we only have two more nights left on board - it's gone so fast!



May 8, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 10 - Skagway

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(I got back to the room last night after dinner and just crashed - I was too tired to write and go through the photos. So here's what I should've written yesterday about our visit to Skagway.)

I really like this whole inside passage thing - the seas have been
so calm that not a creak is to be heard in our stateroom - most of
the time it's hard to tell that we're even moving!

As I said in my very abbreviated report yesterday, it was overcast
and raining lightly in Skagway when we arrived around 7:00. The
temperature was about 49.

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Apparently lots of people had early excursions because Beach Blanket
was very busy - of course it didn't help that no one wanted to sit
outside! We spied James and Dave, two of our group, and asked if we
could join them, and enjoyed visiting with them.

Our tour met in the Walt Disney Theater, along with a number of
other groups. There were only 16 people on it, so that was very
nice. As I mentioned earlier, it was the Alpine Snowshoe and
White Pass Railway
tour - they can only do this one for the
first few weeks of the season, until the snow melts, so we were
pretty fortunate to do it. There were two departures - the first
one took the early train, and then took the bus back, whereas we
took the bus first, and then the train back. Considering the
weather, I think we probably had better viewing from the train than
they did.

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Anyway...before we left our three guides outfitted us with
waterproof overshoes - these went on over our shoes, and had a thick
rubber sole and a waterproof fabric upper that came up several
inches above the ankle. They worked really well - we need to try to
find some to use with our snowshoes! I have to say I was very
impressed with the quality and selection of the equipment they
had for us - there were rain pants and waterproof shells (which Lee
and I didn't need since we had our own), and they also had gloves,
hats, and sunglasses. There was also a large "bum bag" for
everyone, already packed with snacks and water. (Since we had our
own packs we took the snacks and water.) They were very conscientious
about making sure that everyone was warm and comfortable. And of
course they provided the snowshoes and hiking poles as well.

We had a nice 30-minute or so bus ride to Fraser, British Columbia.
One thing about this tour - it goes into Canada, so you MUST have
your passport - they checked them when we went into Canada, and
again when we returned to Skagway. Our driver was a young woman,
which is rather unusual, and she was excellent.

We reached Fraser just as the train was arriving, though we had time
for the all-important restroom stop before we boarded! Actually,
once we boarded we sat there for at least 30 minutes before the
train left. But that was ok - it gave our guides time to pass out
the rain pants and shells and bum bags, and time to set up the
"lunch bar" where we could make ourselves a sandwich or two. There
was bread, ham, turkey, and cheese, with mustard and mayo, and also
peanut butter and jelly and tabasco sauce. Dylan, who seemed to
be the one in charge (and he was really a kick - but they were all
great guys), encouraged people to make a couple of Alaskan specials -
peanut butter and tabasco and turkey and jelly. Lee did a half
sandwich of each - he said the peanut butter and tabasco was quite
good! They also had baby carrots and celery sticks for us.

Here's a view from the train stop, where the clouds had lifted
enough that we could see the top of the mountain. And those are
Canada geese out on the water.

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Everything was put away by the time the train pulled out, which was
good, because we only had about a 10 minute ride to the starting
point for our snowshoe trek. The train stopped and we got off -
there's an old boxcar there that a lot of groups use for storage.

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There was a LOT of snow up there, and it was actually snowlng
lightly at the time (but thankfully very little wind). Everyone got
their snowshoes and poles, and the guys helped most people put them
on (Lee and I have snowshoed before, so we were pretty
self-sufficient). I think Lee and I were the only ones who had
snowshoed before, but really, all you do is walk with your feet
further apart than usual.

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All of the guides were carrying large and very heavy packs, since
they were carrying food and water and extras of just about
everything in case there was some kind of problem. Dylan was
leading, and since the snow was pretty soft, there were times that
he would "posthole" and even with the snowshoes on would sink down
2-3'. Oh, and did I mention that he was wearing SHORTS???? (Native
Alaskan, born in Juneau.) Anyway...he did a good job making sure he
had a solid path for the rest of us to follow, so for the most part
we didn't posthole.

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Even though no one else in our group had been on snowshoes before
they all did very well, and everyone was having a great time. Dylan
set a steady pace, and though we got spread out a bit, everyone kept
up well. He stopped occasionally to point something out, or to let
us do something like go sliding down a big hill - since we were all
wearing slick rain pants that was fun.

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The clouds hadn't lifted like I hoped they would, but every once in
a while we could see some of the snow-covered peaks, and we had a
little bit of sunshine. It was still really a wonderful day. Not
nearly as cold as I had thought - I had to take off my heavy jacket
after a while, so I had a shirt and wool sweater on, and I was very
comfortable while I was moving. We stopped for lunch after about 90
minutes, and I had to put the jacket back on. Unfortunately the
clouds had descended by then so it wasn't a very scenic lunch.

Our guides had another surprise for us - they were all carrying
thermoses of hot water (and it was still pretty hot!), so they
offered us packets of instant hot cocoa, cider, or yes, hot Tang.
For the really adventurous (must be another Alaska thing) you could
combine the Tang and cocoa - they called it a "chocang". I'm not
sure anyone took them up on that one. Later on we stopped for some
"yellow snow" - snow with lemon Gatorade powder poured on it.
Sometimes it's ok to eat yellow snow. :-)

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We went probably about two miles in the three hours that we were
out, but we had quite a few stops. It was a much more adventurous
excursion than I was expecting - not that we did anything dangerous,
but it wasn't as tame as it could have been. There were only 16
people in our group, which was a nice number - Dylan said that's the
maximum group size they usually do. I think everyone had a wonderful,
time, and it was a good group of people. I can't say enough about
our guides - they were just awesome. Very knowledgeable, helpful,
and fun to be with. Even if they all had different ideas on which
direction we should go. :-)

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The sun was breaking through a little bit towards the end of our trek and we could see the tops of some of the peaks around us.

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We were supposed to be back at the box car for the train to pick us
up at 2:15 - but the train didn't show up until 3:05. That gave us
time for things like a group photo, though.

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And we had a wildlife sighting - a ptarmigan, which is the state
bird of Alaska. The guys called them "snow chickens", though.

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We were happy to see the train pull up!

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We had a train car just for our party, and Dylan did a great job
pointing things out as we went along. Unfortunately I didn't get
any really great photos, and it was such a gray day anyway.

Here's the flags at the border.

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And here's the old trestle bridge - we came across a newer one.

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We could go out on the platform behind the car, but it was kinda
cold out there.

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Going around a curve. At one point we could look out and see the
Wonder docked down at Skagway - but that pic didn't come out very
well.

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We got back into Skagway about 4:30, and since we didn't have to be
back onboard the ship until 7:30, that gave us time to explore the
town a little bit. Not that there was much of the town to explore -
it's pretty small. About 8 blocks in one direction and 6 in the
other. We went to the Visitor Center for the Klondike Gold Rush
National Historic Park
and saw the movie about the Klondike Gold
Rush and the Chilkoot and White Pass Trail. Yikes - those would-be
miners endured a lot!!!

We wandered around town and saw some of the old buildings - the
front of this one is all decorated with driftwood.

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Very old-fashioned looking - like something out of the old West, rather than Alaska.

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On the rocks walls next to the harbor are all of these painted rock
signs - some of them are ads for businesses, but a lot of them are
for cruise ships - apparently it's somewhat of a tradition for a
cruise ship line to paint their logo the first time they go into
port. No sign of the mouse yet, though!

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We pulled out of port about 8:00 - as you can see it was a beautiful
evening! Sunset was the latest of our entire trip - 9:07 p.m.
(It's also the furthest north we are going to go.)

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Our towel animal was a cool sea turtle.

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I'm a day behind now, but I'll tell you that we had a wonderful day
in Juneau - we had SUNSHINE for most of the day!!! The people in
Juneau thanked us for bringing the good weather. We've really been
very lucky these last 10 days! This is the Mendenhall Glacier. I'll have more about our day in Juneau tomorrow. We have a relatively short day in Ketchikan, so maybe I'll "ketch" up. :-)

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May 7, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 10 - Skagway

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Another terrific port day! But it's been a very long day and I'm pretty tired - not sure how much I will get done.

The short version: It was a cloudy and overcast day in Skagway, and raining lightly when we left the ship for our Alpine Snowshoe and White Pass Railway excursion. We took a bus to Fraser, British Columbia, and then snowshoed for about 3 hours with our guides. There was LOTS of snow up there, but it was pretty soft in places. We had a little bit of snow, and a little bit of sunshine, but the mountains were for the most part in clouds - every once in a while we caught a brief glimpse. Then we took the railroad back to Skagway, going over White Pass, through a couple of tunnels and over a couple of interesting bridges. Lots of great scenery - it took about 90 minutes.

We wandered around Skagway for a couple of hours after we got back - went to the Visitor Center and saw the movie, and walked around looking at the buildings and stuff. We are the first cruise ship here this season, so a lot of the businesses still haven't opened yet.


May 5, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 8 Part 2

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I didn't get a chance to finish the blog entry last night because the internet service was just awful when we got back from dinner. I gave up after a couple of minutes, but then it took me over 20 minutes to get a "log off" screen, so I wasn't sure until this morning that I actually was only charged for a few minutes on-line and not 30!

Anyway...back to yesterday.

Tonight is Formal Night, but they canceled the Golden Mickeys show
due to "technical difficulties". Though we think the real reason is
the rolling of the ship makes it dangerous for the performers. They
have rescheduled it for tomorrow night instead. (I was very
impressed that when we returned to our cabin tonight the new
Navigators for tomorrow had the updated schedule with the Golden
Mickeys as tomorrow's entertainment!)

We'd already gotten dressed by the time they made the announcement,
so that meant we still had two hours before dinner and no place to
go. Mulan had just come onto one of the movie channels, so we
watched that. :-)

We went down to the Atrium and had some more photos taken - there
was a huge line for Mickey in his tux, but we had our photo taken
with the captain.

It was another fun dinner with Balwan and Tita - don't they look
great in their black tuxes? We missed the Golden Mickeys menu on
the repo cruise because we went to Palo that night, so it was nice
to get a chance to have it tonight. (Just a reminder that I will
still be doing my food blog, but I won't get a chance to write/post
it until after we return from this cruise.)

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The towel stingray on the bed reminded me of Mr. Ray from Finding
Nemo - apparently Tigger felt the same way and is attending "school" as well. :-)

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We also had an extra surprise - Disney gave us this lithograph.
It's signed by the artist, Don "Ducky" Williams, and titled
Mickey's Great Alaskan Adventure. Limited edition of 1150. Very cool!

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I'm happy to say that the seas calmed somewhat during dinner - we're
still rocking (and our ceiling is still creaking), but it's not as
bad as it was a few hours ago.

So back to real time this morning...it's 6:35 Alaska time and we're in the Inside Passage so the seas are smoooooth and our cabin is quiet. :-) Gray skies but more light, so it appears the cloud layer maybe isn't as thick today. We hope the clouds will lift when we arrive at Tracy Arm (about 1:00 pm) so that we'll be able to see something.

Deb's Walk the Deck for Breast Cancer Awareness is at 8:00 this morning - hopefully it won't be too chilly out there today, especially since we've slowed down and there isn't so much wind.


Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 8 - At Sea

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What day is it...what time is it? I've really lost track - it
doesn't matter very much here - well, except for being late to
dinner, I suppose. :-) We had a time change last night and we're
on Alaska time now - an hour behind Pacific time. Extra hour of
sleep last night - yay! (Or our very first "Extra Magic Hour", as
Jason, our Assistant Cruise Director, told us this morning. :-) )

Oh, and by the way, it's Wednesday.

Since some of you have asked me, I'll give the nightly stateroom
report from yesterday: slightly creaky, with occasional rattles.
I must be getting used to it since I slept better.

Here's our towel animal from last night - I wonder if the tag is the
towel animal equivalent of an earring?

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Today is cloudy and gray - it's actually gotten a little darker as
the day has gone on. Oh well, this is about what I expected, and
we had a bonus with such great weather on the repo cruise. It's
actually not as cold as I was expecting, though - at least not yet.

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Speaking of cold...thank you to the elves who left two pairs of
gloves in the fish extender outside our door - I thought it was the
Mouse Fan Travel people, but they said no. Just about every time
we've gone outside today there's been something new in it - the
gloves, AllEars trading cards, a Mickey tissue holder, a cruise
itinerary. It's fun!

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I'm looking at the "bridge report" - they have really raised the
temperature in the pools - 89 degrees! They were only 80 degrees on
the repo cruise. I've seen people in the hot tubs, but we'll see
how many are really interested in going into the pools on this trip.

The seas were only moderate this morning, but have picked up as the
day has gone on - now they are "rough" (8-12' swells) and the ship
is really rolling a lot from side-to-side. It's hard to walk in a
straight line. The pools are closed, and are actually rather
entertaining to watch, so here I give you World of Color: Disney
Wonder
. (I hope you're not all sick of the World of Color
thing!)

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I started my day by walking about 3 miles around deck 4. Not too
many people out there today! I had a jacket, but after a couple of
laps I was warm enough that I didn't need it - as I said, it doesn't
really feel that cold out there.

We had an AllEars meet in Cove Cafe at 8:00 - Deb treated those of
us who were there to a warm (non-alcoholic) beverage of our choice.
So those of you who slept in missed out! :-) I tried the Cassis
(black currant) tea - it came in my own personal press pot, and was
very good.

Lee and I went to breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet - it wasn't very
crowded at 8:40 in the morning. We found Gail and Julian and joined
them at their table. And then all four of us went to the Alaska
Park Ranger presentation in the Walt Disney Theater: Special
Places, Special Animals
. The speaker is a former National
Forest Service ranger, who was the District Ranger for the Juneau
area before he retired. He had some interesting stories, and shared
a video on flying squirrels, which are found in the Tongass National
Forest (largest national forest in the world). He also told us
about a lone black wolf that lived in the Mendenhall valley in
Juneau for about 8 years. During that time the wolf (being a wolf)
made off with multiple small dogs, though it would occasionally
play with larger dogs. So his office had to issue multiple press
releases reminding people to keep their dogs on leash, watch out
for the wolf, etc. Well, apparently one time after this had happened,
there was an official-looking press release that was supposedly
issued by the wolf himself. He read us the real release, and then
the wolf's release - pretty funny. Some of my favorite lines from
the wolf's version:

REMEMBER:

DOGS ON LEASH: Keep pets on a leash or leave them home. It's the
law.
BE ALERT: I can be active day and night and can be anywhere. I'm
always watching you.
MAKE NOISE: Try not to startle me, make noise while barking.
Seriously, don't startle me, it ticks me off.
NEVER APPROACH: Give me a lot of space and do not approach me. I am
wild. Get it? I am WILD. I will eat you and your little dog too!

At the bottom of the real press release it says: The US Forest
Service is an equal opportunity employer. On the wolf's release it
states: The wolf is an equal opportunity predator. Love it!!!

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There were lots of people waiting in the pin line when we went into
the Walt Disney theater (we had to go through the line to get
there), but just like the repo cruise, there were still wristbands
left at the end. There's eight different pins - three with an edition
size of 2000 and five with an edition size of 1000, so that's quite
a few. There's still not much Alaska merchandise in the store,
though, but I expect as they continue to find it they'll put it out.

We had lunch at Triton's - it was pretty busy. We were seated at
12:15, and figured that would be enough time to get to the next
ranger presentation at 1:00, but I didn't even get my sandwich until
ten minutes to one. And it wasn't very good - it was supposed to be
a turkey and cheese panini, but although the bread was toasted, the
cheese and turkey were cold. And I'd also ordered it without the
thousand island dressing, but they put it on anyway.

There weren't as many people at this ranger presentation, which was
on subsistence. Apparently for many people in rural Alaska, a large
part of their food supply comes from the land (or ocean) - salmon,
berries, deer and moose.

I had a facial in the spa this afternoon, and that was very nice and
relaxing.

Tonight is Formal Night, but they canceled the Golden Mickeys show
due to "technical difficulties". Though we think the real reason is
the rolling of the ship makes it dangerous for the performers. They
have rescheduled it for tomorrow night instead.


May 4, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 7 - Vancouver Arrival/Sailaway

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The Alaska cruise has finally begun! We're all very excited to be
on board the ship and headed for Alaska.

We woke up to a beautiful morning in Vancouver, BC. Unexpectedly
beautiful - we were expecting cloudy skies and showers.

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And it was also wonderful that we were NOT actually getting off the
ship yet, unlike most of our fellow passengers!

We went back to Triton's for breakfast - everyone else at our table
was doing something else for breakfast so we were the only ones.
Lee thought it was the best breakfast menu he'd seen all week. We
told Balwan and Tita we would see them later.

As back-to-back passengers we had the opportunity to stay on-board
longer, then exit through Customs and re-board earlier, but we
decided not to do that - that we'd head over to Stanley Park and
walk around instead. (That turned out to be the smart choice, but
more on that later.)

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Not long after we exited the port we ran into two of the other
members of our AllEars group - Masayo and Gail. That was fun to see
them.

It was about 1.5 miles to the park walking along the waterfront,
and there was lots to see - several parks and some sculptures.
Vancouver is really a beautiful city.

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The green area you see out beyond the boats is Stanley Park. It's
one of the largest urban parks in the world - even larger than
Central Park in New York City.

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We stopped at the Visitor Information booth and got a map, and the
nice lady gave us some ideas of places we could walk to. We mostly
walked on the seawall, which is right along the water. It has
separate lanes for walkers/runners, in-line skaters, and bike riders!
The first "sight" was the Totem Pole park. It was really cool -
seven totem poles in one group, and a couple of totem "gateways"
and one totem off by itself.

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We went back to the seawall and around to Brockton Point, where we
could look back to the port and see the Wonder - some of it, at
least.

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Further around was the Girl in a Wetsuit statue - which I
guess is Vancouver's version of the Little Mermaid statue in
Copenhagen. Hey, they both have fins!

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The nice lady at the information booth had told us about the garden,
and I wanted to see that. It wasn't Butchart Gardens, but it was
quite beautiful - many of the same kinds of flowering bulbs.

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I thought this magnolia tree was magnificent.

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On the way out of the park we went by the Lost Lagoon - World of Color:
Vancouver
. :-)

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The port, Canada Place, was very close to the Olympic torch plaza.

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I'm happy to report that our boarding experience in Vancouver was
NOTHING like our boarding experience in Los Angeles - we walked into
the check-in area about 1:40 and were on the ship less than 15
minutes later - we walked right up to both an immigration person and
a DCL check-in agent.

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There was this really cool ice sculpture in the atrium - the lights
changed color, even.

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We quickly left stuff in our stateroom (have I mentioned how great
it was that we didn't have to pack and unpack?) and went up to the
Cove Cafe, where the first our our AllEars Alaskan Adventure
meets was taking place. Beci and Michelle from Mousefan Travel had
already been busy leaving magnets on all of our doors, and Deb had
a special AllEars 15th anniversary fanny pack for us, filled with
lots of goodies. It was nice to meet some of the people in our
group - we'll see more of them tonight at dinner and as the week
progresses.

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Deb and Beci had stayed on board, since we'd been told that as
back-to-back cruisers we could re-board before anyone else. But
no one really seemed to know what was going on, and instead of
re-boarding at 11:00, they didn't get back on the ship until noon -
when the first of the new passengers was allowed to board. In
the meantime they stood around a lot - when they weren't getting
moved aimlessly from place-to-place. I'm VERY glad we went out to
do some sightseeing instead!

We had a beautiful day for our Sailaway Party - it was actually kind
of warm up there in the sunshine. Disney gave us the special
"Inaugural Alaska" Mickey hands to wave, and we had fun with those.

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We left port about 5:15 - got buzzed by a seaplane, since we were in
their runway as we were turning around. :-)

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We're going out the way we came in, so we went by Stanley Park -
this is Brockton Point, where we had been almost exactly 6 hours
earlier.

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We're doubling back on what we did yesterday - we'll sail by Victoria
and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific again, and then
turn north and travel up the west side of Vancouver Island. It's
a day at sea tomorrow, and then on Thursday we'll tour Tracy Arm,
which is still pretty much a day at sea since there's no port
involved.

Lee stood in line at Treasure Ketch to see what they had for Alaska merchandise - but people grabbed all the t-shirts before he got in there. They have lots more, apparently, but need to find their stock. Most of the merchandise did not seem to be "Inaugural Alaska" merchandise, so there should be plenty of it.

Ok, so apparently the whole "staying in the same stateroom" thing did
not go completely smoothly - we ended up with the luggage that
belonged to the people originally scheduled to be in this room, and
also their port excursion tickets - I had to go to the Port
Adventures desk to get reprints of ours. I also can't sign up for
internet service, since it has the wrong information associated with
this stateroom (though if you are reading this, that means that problem
was resolved). We need to check with guest services to make sure
that our room charges are actually going to go against the correct
room - that could be very bad.

Fortunately the internet thing was resolved (Deb had problems too, and last I heard she still couldn't log on), so I've been able to upload this blog. We had a really fun dinner with our new tablemates and Balwan and Tita. I'll post a picture of Tigger and our first towel animal tomorrow.

At sea day tomorrow - woo hoo!



May 3, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 6 - Victoria

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Victoria - this is the port I've been most looking forward to on
this cruise! The day dawned gray and rainy, though - funny, there
weren't nearly as many people out on deck for our arrival in port as
there were when we went into San Francisco! :-)

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We had another fireboat performing World of Color - Victoria. :-)

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Lee and I had separate excusions today - he was doing the Orca
Exploration Tour, and I was going to Butchart Gardens. He left 45
minutes earlier than I did, though. Unfortunately they didn't see
any whales or dolphins, but saw lots of seals and sea lions. It was
chilly and rainy for most of his tour, but he still had a good time.
(They provided parkas for the guests, which they needed.)

I had about a 40-minute bus ride to Butchart Gardens - our driver
was pretty entertaining, though I took a short nap. I'd last
visited Butchart Gardens in July 1980, so it had been quite a while!
And that was in the summer - I'd never seen it in the spring before.
I love flowers, so I was in heaven - the spring bulbs were blooming.
We don't get tulips and hyacinths and most of the others in San
Diego because it's too warm, so I really, really enjoyed them. I
could bore you with hundreds of flower photos, but I will restrain
myself! It was overcast but we didn't have any real rain - mostly
just some sprinkles early on, and then it quit entirely.

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I'd forgotten how extensive the Sunken Garden (the former quarry)
is. The Canada pavilion at Epcot has a garden that is somewhat
remiscent of this, but of course not nearly so big!

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World of Color - Butchart Gardens. (These were actually
animated moving fountains.)

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There's the Rose Carousel, which apparently is only a couple
of years old. It's got a lot of very interesting carousel animals!

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This is the Italian Garden.

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We only had two hours, which wasn't nearly enough time. I managed
to get through everything, but I was moving pretty fast. I really
needed another hour. But I enjoyed myself immensely.

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On the way back our driver took us into downtown Victoria, and told
us he would stop in case any of us wanted to get off the tour and
walk around downtown. It was just past 3:30, and we didn't have to
be back on board until 6:00, so I opted to do that. He stopped
right in front of the Empress Hotel - I think most people got off
just to take photos and then got back on, but I went over and
wandered around the hotel a little bit. This photo was actually
taken about an hour later, when the weather had taken a decided
turn for the better!

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I went back towards downtown and went into Chinatown - this is the
Gate of Heavenly Harmony, or something like that.

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Our bus driver had said it was about a 20-minute walk back to the
port from the Empress - I think that he underestimated. It took me
about that long, and I walk a lot faster than most people do. I
couldn't see the ship until I was about 5 minutes away, so I was
starting to wonder, though I'd seen a couple of tour buses go by so
I was pretty sure I was on the right track. (This is the
legislative buildings - Victoria is the capitol of British
Columbia.)

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Turns out I really didn't need to rush - I arrived back about 5:20
and there was a huge line to get back on board - it took about 35
minutes!

We pulled out of port about 6:40 - it had really turned into a
beautiful afternoon. But not too many people on deck - most were at
dinner or the show, I guess. I think it's hard to see in this
photo, but there was a full rainbow as we pulled out of port - that
was really a treat to see! I guess Victoria is the city at the end
of the rainbow.

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We only have about 84 miles to go to get to Vancouver, so we're
moving v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

We had everyone at our table for dinner tonight - it was a hoot and
a half. Balwan showed us another trick. We should have Balwan and
Tita as our servers on the next cruise, so we didn't have to say
goodbye to them.

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Our last towel animal from Angelina - even though we are staying in
same stateroom, she is moving to the port side, and won't be taking
care of us on the next cruise. She's been very sweet - I will miss
her.

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It's so nice NOT to have to pack, and it's so wonderful that this is
NOT our final night on board!!!


May 2, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 5 - At Sea

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I was either tired or I'm getting used to the creaking noises, since
I slept better last night. Seas didn't seem quite as rough, either.

It's another at sea day for us - we have a lot of miles to go to get
to Victoria, though. But we're moving fast (22+ knots), so the
captain says we should arrive just about on-time tomorrow.

We started off with a beautiful sunny day but the clouds have moved
in as the day has gone on. And it's cooler - only about 52, but
we're moving so fast that there's quite a breeze on deck, so the
wind chill makes it feel a lot colder.

Deb Wills sponsored a Walk the Deck to fight Breast Cancer
walk starting at 8:00. We had quite a good turnout, especially
considering the hour and the chill in the air.

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On the way back to our room we saw Pluto coming back up the stairs
from the character breakfast at Parrot Cay. He saw me with my
camera and started coming up the stairs on all fours. Very cute. :-)

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A group of 11 of us got to expererience brunch at Palo in the
private room. Lee and I had never had brunch at Palo before, since
we'd never been able to book it, so it was a real treat for us!
There were stations with a selection of antipasto, cheeses, breads,
seafood, breakfast pastries and of course desserts. For hot entrees
our server showed us the samples of the available selections and then
we ordered them made fresh. We also each had our choice of mimosa
or sparkling wine. It was really just wonderful, both the food, and
sharing it with a fun group of people.

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After brunch I went up to the gym to ride the exercise bike for a
while, and then walked another mile around the deck.

We've had a nice quiet lazy afternoon - i've been watching classic
Disney movies like Cinderella and Dumbo, and saw most of Toy Story,
and the end of The Rescuers.

We received a phone call with some good news - we are NOT going to
have to switch cabins for the Alaska cruise! So we can just leave
everything in our cabin in Vancouver. We still have to get off the
ship that morning to go through Customs, and they'll reboard us
early.

Tonight is the Captain's Gala, and it's semi-formal night. We got
dressed up and went to the Atrium to get some formal portraits
taken. But I don't actually have any pictures taken with our
camera.

As we walked by the woman who serves drinks in the Atrium we smelled
spices - turns out that she had mulled wine in addition to other
beverages. We tried it and it was quite good.

We spoke to one of the crew members, who is the head of Food and
Beverage on-board, and asked him what will be new for the Alaska
cruise. He noticed we were drinking the mulled wine and asked how
we liked it - this is the first time they have served it other than
at Christmas time. On the Alaska cruises they will have a warm
specialty drink every night. Instead of the Pirate Night menu
there will be a Taste of Alaska menu. The Pirate Night
dessert buffet will be in Beach Blanket Buffet, like it was last
night (too cold to do it on deck!). And on the day we cruise
Tracy Arm Fjord there will be a BBQ lunch available on deck 9 - that
sounded very good.

The dinner menu tonight was Captain's Gala, which is just about my
least favorite, I think. The "signature" dish is lobster, which
neither of us like. But Carol enjoyed it - Balwan expertly pulled
the shell off for her, though as you can see she was prepared just
in case he lost control of it. :-)

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Most of our table was dining at Palo, so it was just Carol and Gary
with Lee and me. We celebrated Gary's birthday, though - they
brought out some cheesecake for him that he shared with us.

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Tonight's towel animal is a dinosaur.

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There's a chocolate buffet at 11:00 in Triton's - not sure if I will
make it until then or not. If I do I'll have photos tomorrow.



April 30, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 3 - San Francisco

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Kind of a rough night - neither of us slept well. There's something
about the ceiling in our cabin and it creaks and rattles as the ship
moves. About 2:00 in the morning we started rolling - not sure if
the captain slowed down or if the seas got heavier, but we were
feeling a lot more motion - diagonal motion. It didn't bother me as
far as feeling sick went, but it made the creaking even worse - I
didn't get much sleep after that.

We'd set the alarm for 6:00 because we wanted to be out on deck when
we entered San Francisco Bay. A lot of other people had the same
idea, and there was no way for us to get to the front of the ship.

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We eventually went to the back, figuring we'd have a good view of
the bridge after we went through it.

But there were some nice views as we approached and then went under
it, too!

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The Disney Wonder enters San Francisco Bay for the first time!

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It was fun to see so many of the crew members up on deck taking
their own pictures - this is a first for most of them, too, and they
are as excited as any of the passengers.

It was a gorgeous morning - we really lucked out with the weather.
Only about 50 degrees, so chilly if you were in the wind, but we
were bundled up pretty warmly.

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We sailed past Alcatraz Island.

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And this building looked quite familiar - there's a replica of it at
Disney California Adventure.

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Another image reminiscent of DCA: World of Color - San
Francisco
. :-) This fireboat entertained us for quite a while -
it went out in front of us, and behind us, and spun around. Very
cool.

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This was our view during breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet - not bad,
huh?

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We are back from a great day in San Francisco! I can't believe how
gorgeous the weather was - so beautiful today. We left the ship
about 10:30 and took a town car to the Walt Disney Family
Museum
. When planning the trip I'd decided against taking an
excursion from the ship because it didn't seem like they offered
enough time at the museum, so we were doing it on our own. We'd
planned to take a taxi, but there were none waiting, whereas there
were several towncars, and they were not much more expensive.

The museum is in the Presidio, an old Army area, which is now a
National Park, but many of the buildings have been renovated. Some
are leased as private residences, but others are owned by
businesses, like the Walt Disney Family Museum.

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We had to do this obligatory photo in front of the museum. :-)

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Photos (no flash) were only permitted in the lobby entrance, before
we entered any of the museum galleries. But that's where the Oscar
statues were, as well as a lot of other awards given to Walt Disney.

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And also some of the furnishing from Walt Disney's apartment at Disneyland.

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When we bought our tickets ($20 each), they told us that one of the
ship's tours had just gone in, and recommended we go downstairs to
the theater where they were showing some of the Silly Symphony
cartoons, to give them a chance to get ahead of us. We watched
several - The Grasshopper and the Ants, Birds of a
Feather
, and Music Land. The latter, involving a "Romeo
and Juliet" type story between Symphony Land and Jazz Land, I found
quite clever, but they all had moments that were fun and creative.

We took almost 2 1/2 hours to tour the museum, and we still didn't
experience everything. It's really very well done - there are
hundreds of family photos, movies, interviews, and quotes both from
and about Walt Disney. It's all presented effectively, too. There
are 10 different galleries, covering everything from Walt Disney's
family history and childhood to his early failure, move to
Hollywood, feature films, live action films, Disneyland, and his
death. One thing I really enjoyed was that in most of the rooms
there was a section that talked about what was happening in Walt's
family at that particular time - his parents, Lillian, his daughters
and grandchildren. There were lots of photos and a number of
letters he had written to his sister Ruth, among other things.

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Also in each room there were usually several videos - most only
several minutes long - incorporated interviews with Walt Disney and
others on something they were doing - syncing sound with the first
Steamboat Willie cartoon, making Snow White or Fantasia, dealing
with the animators' strike, etc. One of my favorites was on making
Mary Poppins.

As you might imagine there was also a large gallery on Disneyland.
This one was interesting architecturally, too - after the first two
galleries we'd taken an elevator upstairs for most of the rest, but
the Disneyland gallery took us down a curving ramp back to the first
floor. Really cool, and very effective.

The final gallery covered Walt's illness and death. I had not
realized how fast the cancer took him - he found out in November and
died about 7 weeks later. That was a sad day - I was only 6, but I
remember when he died. So many things left undone.

We had lunch at the Cafe at the museum - it's rather expensive, but
since we were planning on doing more touring around the Presidio
area before we went back we needed something to eat! We both had
a spinach/orzo salad that was really good - it also had cheese and
sun-dried tomatoes. The cafe is run by Wolfgang Puck Catering.

The Presidio's new Visitor Center is just down the street from the
museum, and we wandered in there to get some suggestions on places
to visit on our way - we'd decided to walk back to the ship (about 4
miles) rather than take a taxi. The nice park ranger told us about
the Lucasfilm Ltd offices that are now tenants in the Presidio - and
Lee knew about the Yoda fountain that's there. It was a fairly
short walk.

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The lobby area is open to the public and has lots of props on
exhibit like Han Solo's blaster, and light sabers belonging to Yoda,
Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. They also had life-size costumed
models for Boba Fett and Darth Vader. It was cool!

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From there we walked down a trail called the Tennessee Hollow Trail
into the Wayburn Redwood Grove. The oldest trees are only about 60
years old, so they aren't that tall yet. There were lots of flowers
blooming too.

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We ended up down by San Francisco Bay at Crissy Marsh. This area
has been restored after it was turned into a garbage dump for the
Presidio. There's a beautiful beach there with a great view of the
Golden Gate Bridge, though the light wasn't too good at that time of
day. We saw lots of people out flying kites, walking their dogs,
running, and riding their bikes.

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From there it was a short walk to the Palace of Fine Arts,
which we had seen this morning on our way into the port. It's much
more beautiful up close!

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Part of the path around the water's edge was roped off, but we could
see why - a pair of swans have built their nest there! Apparently
there are six eggs in the nest.

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Our next stop was at Ghirardelli Square. We'd thought about getting
ice cream, but it was really busy, so we just got some chocolate
bars instead.

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It was almost 5:30, so we headed straight back to the ship instead
of going down to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 and all of that -
figure we can do that tomorrow if we want to. It's really not far
from the ship at all.

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We met Carol and Gary, two of our tablemates, in the cruise
terminal. They had done the ship excursion to the Walt Disney
Family Museum, and while they enjoyed it, they said they felt
rushed, and didn't have time to see everything they wanted. So I
feel we made a good call in doing it on our own!

Tigger got to get out and have fun today - in addition to visiting
the museum he got to meet Captain Mickey when we returned to the
ship!

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Dinner tonight was at Triton's - that's the first time that we've
ever been in there. It's nice, but I think I prefer Lumiere's on
the Magic.

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We had a good dinner - three of our table mates were elsewhere, so
there were only 8 of us tonight. This is our crack serving team
(they are awesome!) - Server Balwan from India, Assistant Server
Tita from Croatia, and Head Server Tektas from Turkey.

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After dinner we returned to find a puppy watching TV with Tigger.
The puppy was smart enough to get control of the remote, though. :-)

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Lee and I went up on deck to see the lights of San Francisco at
night. The red you see in front is actually from the crew's pool
area on the Wonder.

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Since the ship won't be moving and creaking tonight I'm really
hoping to sleep a lot better! (Beci commented on the creaking, too,
so it's not just me.)

Just a reminder...if you submit a comment on the blog, please
remember to put the word "blog" in the appropriate box, otherwise it
goes to the "junk" folder. Thank you.



April 28, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 1 - Embarkation

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So...we're on the ship - finally. The embarkation process was not
nearly as efficient as we are used to!

We left our house about 9:15 - we were at the port by 11:20. Lee
left me and the bags and returned the car - it was close enough that
he actually walked back from the car rental agency instead of
waiting for the shuttle! The one-way car rental worked out really
well for us.

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We checked our bags and then went through security - all of that was
quite efficient. As Castaway Club members they sent us over to the
left side once we got inside - long line. And not moving very much.
Turns out there were "technical difficulties" with their computer
system - the line would move ok a little bit and then completely
stop for 5 minutes. They got on over the loudspeaker several times
to thank us for our patience and explain that they were having
technical difficulties, and then announced they were rebooting the
system. Got a big cheer when the line started moving again. (And
I started writing this blog while waiting!)

So...an hour and a half after we got in line we were *finally* able
to check in and board the ship. Yikes. For the most part everyone
in line was being quite patient, and the cast members checking us in
were very apologetic. But still - not at all what we were
expecting, and not a very pleasant boarding process.

Of course since everyone was in line, it meant there weren't a whole
lot of people trying to board the ship all at once - the Atrium was
very uncrowded except for the crew members!

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We met our friend Amy in the Atrium and went to Parrot Cay for
lunch. That really wasn't crowded at all - lots of empty tables.
The usual offerings - salad bar, sandwiches, hot entrees, peel and
eat shrimp, a big selection of breads, soup, and a nice dessert
bar. I always enjoy seeing the various food and ice carvings on the
buffet - I thought these "anthuriums" were very pretty!

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And this nice ice fish near the shrimp.

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They didn't let people into their rooms until 2:00, which was very
late, but by the time we finished lunch it was after that we went to
our stateroom. Gee, it looks amazingly like the one we had on the
Magic last May. :-) Though the bedspread is different.

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We wandered around and explored the ship a little bit. Not
surprisingly it's very much like its sister ship, the Disney
Magic. :-) Though the "Adult" area is themed quite differently -
it's Route 66 instead of Beat Street. I thought they should've
changed this sign when they moved the Disney Wonder from Florida to
L.A., though - it's not 2051 miles to Disneyland from here. :-)

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The ship I've been on most recently is the Dream, and I keep expecting
to see Enchanted Art on the walls. And everything seems a little bit small,
too. :-)

It's really a beautiful day in L.A. today - sunny and warm - in the
high 70's if not 80s. And we better enjoy it now, because it just gets
colder and colder from here! We're supposed to have sunshine but low
60s in San Francisco, but looks like rain/showers and highs in the 50s
as we go further north.

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We did the lifeboat drill at 4:00 - our lifeboat station is actually
in Animator's Palate, so it was very nice to be able to sit down
inside rather than stand outside in the hot sun. They no longer
make you bring your life jackets to the lifeboat drill - that was
also the case when I sailed on the Dream in January, but the last
time Lee sailed almost a year ago we still had to bring the jackets
with us. It was pretty quick and easy.

(For those of you who know me, you can see that yes, Tigger came on
this cruise with us - you'll probably be seeing more of him in
photos in the coming days.)

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The Captain announced that our port departure has been delayed until
6:00 (instead of 5:00) but the Sailaway Party still started at 4:30. But at
the end we didn't sail! I didn't get up to the Sailaway Party until just before
5:00 - and it had just ended. :-) Found Deb and Linda and Jeanine and
some of the rest of our AllEars group, though.

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Lee and I went up on deck at about 6:00 for the real sailaway - we
pulled away from the dock at 6:05. We saw some sea lions on our way
out - one of them was swimming near the ship (I didn't get a photo
of that one), but there were quite a few other opportunistic sea
lions that were swimming just under a fish market - waiting for
anything that might be thrown their way!

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One of the changes that has been made to the Wonder to accommodate
the colder weather in Alaska was enclosing the Outlook Bar. It's
now called the Outlook Cafe, and has a stairway that connects it
with the Cove Cave below. It looks like quite a nice area to hang
out in!

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Our cabin steward is Angelina - she introduced herself when she saw
us in the hallway. I'm not sure what this first night's towel
animal is, though - maybe just the head and front flippers of a sea
lion? Which would be very appropriate, since we saw some of them
today!

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Dinner tonight was at Parrot Cay. There's 11 of us at our table,
and we had a great time tonight. I can't say that I had any real
standout dishes for dinner, but Lee really enjoyed his Mixed
Grill
- steak, lamb chop, sausage and shrimp.

Day at sea tomorrow - and we can even sleep in if we want to!



April 27, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Today's the Day!

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It's finally here! Almost a year and a half since we first heard about it at the D23 Expo, and more than a year after we booked it, it's finally time to begin our cruise of California and the Pacific Northwest, followed by Alaska! I'm so excited. The last few days have kind of dragged by and I am SO ready to get started!

We will be driving a rental car to the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro. Since we will be flying from Vancouver back to San Diego, and not returning to the port, we didn't want to take our own car up there, and all of the other transportation methods I explored were expensive and most had lots of transfers involved. Finally on Trip Advisor I found a recommendation to do a one-way rental from Enterprise, which has an agency very close to the port. Yes, there's a $40 drop-off fee, but even with that it's still a whole lot cheaper than any of the other alternatives I looked at (town car, plane or train followed by shuttle or bus). And it has the advantage that since we're NOT flying, we don't have all those pesky airline restrictions - so we can bring liquids in our carryons, our bags can weigh more than 50 pounds (and Lee's does!), and we can bring things like water that we will consume on board ship.

The other thing that I'm just thrilled about: no time zone change!!! I get to stay in my own time zone!

I'll have lots more over the next two weeks to share with you - at least I hope so. I always have to add the "pending internet connectivity" disclaimer. :-)



March 27, 2011

Even More About the Disney Dream...

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Hey guys! I don't know if you've heard, but the Disney Cruise Line has a new ship called the Dream! And it's 40% bigger! And...wait, where are you all going...?

So OK, maybe you've suffered a severe case of Dream publicity burn-out. I get that. That's why I've deliberately procrastinated on blogging about my Dream cruise until absolutely no one is talking about it anymore.

Since AllEars already has an incredibly comprehensive section on the nuts and bolts of the Dream, I figured I'd just briefly rip off the Betamouse podcast's "Win, Fail, and Meh" segment...because there is really very little anyone could reasonably consider "Ugly" about it.

The Win:

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Enchanted Artwork: The pictures on the walls that are magically brought to life by your presence are, in fact, enchanting. It's technologically impressive, but made even more effective by the unobtrusive way they're presented. Nothing about any of the artwork would make you think there's anything special about them...unless you stop to really look at them for a moment. They work to give the guest the feeling that anything magical could happen at any time.

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Enchanted Garden: I have thought that Parrot Cay was the weak link in the dining room triad for a long time; the Enchanted Garden is a vast improvement. The food quality seems improved and the changing lighting with opening flower lights and fans is a huge step up from what used to be something trading on the Tiki Room nostalgia without providing the same quality of theming.

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Wave Phones: Sure, there's a few problems with their implementation--they don't always work, they're set perpetually on vibrate, and they don't have a belt clip. They're still a huge improvement over constantly having to run across the ship back to your room to see if anyone left you a message. So what if you have to punch "7" 4 times to text "S?"

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Golden Mickeys: It's nice to see this show updated with some of the songs from Disney's newer musical hits. One of the things I've always liked about it is its relatively straight portrayal of the numbers, rather than trying to work them into "hipper" versions--I've never been sure the world needs a beat-box version of "Yo Ho."

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Pirate Night show: Although the fireworks have always been a nice touch, the Pirate deck show has become a little familiar over the years, remaining basically unchanged across time and ships. This version, with the more child-friendly character segment done before the late dinner seating, and the older-themed Jack Sparrow/supernatural pirate dance segment done after, switches it up a little so it feels like a fresher experience.

The Fail:

Royal Palace breakfast: So this was a total disappointment. One thing that's always been fun for us is, when we manage to get up early enough, having breakfast at the sit-down restaurant on board. The menus are usually themed to whatever the dining room is (either Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast,) with item names like "Mrs. Pott's French Toast" or whatever. On the Dream, the breakfast menu had all the character of the menu you get on transatlantic flights, as if they made it purposely generic in order to print the same ones for all the ships. I typically order the same thing--waffles--each time. Here's what it looked like in 2008...

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And here's what it looked like on the Dream:

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I mean, serious? Not only were these not Belgian waffles, as before, they were like Eggo Waffles, made by someone who didn't totally understand how a toaster worked. My Mom had the Eggs Benedict, which came out with the eggs more or less hard-boiled on top. This needs a great deal of work--I couldn't recommend going here for breakfast, versus heading out to one of the buffets.

The Navigators: When I first started cruising, the navigators were pretty much monocolor, with no pictures. They did, however, tell you all about the different events occurring each day, with a map and legend of the ship so you could tell where everything was taking place. Now, the Navigators are in Technicolor, with the front page taken up largely with pictures and advertisements for the shops and repeat booking desk. The back has a list of operating hours, surrounded with more ads for additional-fee opportunities. The inside is a colored schedule which tells you in little boxes what time events are occurring. Unfortunately, there are hardly any descriptions of any of the events, so if it's not obvious from the title, you're pretty much out of luck (what's "Magic Mirror?" "Jet Set Live?" "Family Fun Time?" You'll have to show up, to find out.)

Some things weren't listed at all. On Pirate night, they had their usual Pirate buffet, but put it inside Cabana instead of out on the deck, as on the other ships. While this might have worked out better, it was never listed in the Navigator so as a result, I never found anyone who even knew it was there. By the time I found it, after the fireworks, it had pretty much been broken down already.

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Pirate Night menu: This menu, which I feel is one of the weakest on board, remains more or less the same as always. It really needs an update, unless they're using it to make the prospect of paying the upcharge to eat at Palo that night, more attractive.

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The Meh:

Animator's Palate II: While most of the new eateries were an improvement, this was the only one that seemed like it took a step back. Whereas the old show was an all-encompassing environmental change that utilized lighting, animation, and music to gradually change from black and white to color, the new Animator's Palate is pretty much Turtle Talk with Crush, with Food. It's entertaining enough, but hard to watch without thinking that this is aimed squarely at children, as opposed to the old show which was a little more sophisticated. It's also hurt a little by the lack of server involvement--before the servers used to change vests with the evolving coloration, and do a little parade. On this ship, the concept of the server parade is eliminated, as the dining rooms are serving 40% more people--thus leaving barely enough space between tables for people to squeeze into their chairs a lot of the time, much less character parades.

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There is some hope however, as Imagineer Jerry Rees (http://www.jerryrees.com/index.html) reports having finished a second show, utilizing classic Disney characters, for Animator's Palate that hasn't quite gotten installed yet, but which should alternate with Turtle Talk on cruises that have two nights dining there. A new show that doesn't seem meant for the Playhouse Disney crowd is an exciting prospect.

Believe: The new show created for the Dream. It has a lot of really great numbers, but the framework story really does very little for me. In the first place, I continue to have problems with shows where actresses are playing roles around the age of 10, when they're clearly in their twenties. In the second place, the show revolves around a father and daughter whose relationship is damaged when he has to work on her birthday. Honestly, the idea that the father should be totally guilt-stricken when she has a fit because he won't drop everything and play magic/fairies with her seemed like asking a lot: It wasn't like he forgot her birthday--he had already given her a present and clearly had planned something for her later. Maybe workaholic fathers will relate with this, but it just left me thinking that some children need to learn how to entertain themselves a little better.

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Get beyond that though, and it was a fun show. There was a plethora of really elaborate musical numbers that aren't commonly performed, with some terrific sets. I'd actually rather see it as a straight revue, with the framing story dropped.

Adult activities: Here's the thing: The Dream has a vast number of places and activities dedicated to children, and a bunch of hip and involving areas for teens to enjoy. For adults, there are around 10 bars, and a number of nightclubs. So there's plenty to do, assuming you're a child, or a teen, or you like to drink and/or go clubbing. If you're not...

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It should probably be admitted that everyone has different interests and enjoys different things. In the Real World, however, there are assumptions that people will generally fit into certain circumscribed roles. As an adult, there are usually a handful of things considered appropriate to have as interests: Sports; Politics; Children (yours/others,) Drinking; Nightclubbing; etc. If you don't happen to share those interests, then a visit to the Disney environment can represent a relief from constantly being made to feel like a poster child for arrested development. Additionally, as a non-drinker, I find Disney cruises particularly appealing for not having the same crowds of drunks lurching around, laughing raucously that other cruise lines sometimes attract.

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So it's a little disquieting that virtually everywhere you turn on the Dream, there's a bar. Even more so when it becomes evident that almost all the adult spaces on board, even the pool, are pretty much exclusively designed for drinking. It's not that there's nothing else on board for adults to do, but that there is nothing so evident exclusively for adults to do as drinking that seems a little...unimaginative.

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All in all though, these little complaints are minor compared to the wonderful experience cruising on the Dream really is. It's managed to streamline the whole mechanical process of cruising with great new technology without losing a lot of the little touches that make the Disney experience as magical as we always hope it will be. Happy cruising!

January 30, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise Photos - The Adult Areas

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The Disney Dream has a number of areas that are for adults only - or for adults only during the evening hours, at least. I took some photos of those, too, though unfortunately didn't have a chance to enjoy any of them. Next time...

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The Quiet Cove Pool on deck 11 forward is reserved for use exclusively by those 18 or older.

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Adjacent to the pool is the Cove Cafe, also reserved for those 18 and older. There's lots of cozy chairs to sit in, and it serves specialty coffee and tea drinks as well as mixed beverages.

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The Waves bar is located on deck 12 aft. While not in an adult exclusive area, it certainly caters more to adults, serving beer and other adult beverages.

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The District, on deck 4 aft, is certainly the most extensive adult-oriented area on the ship. Almost all of the lounges are for adults only during the evening hours.

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687 gets its name from the Disney Dream's identification number at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany.

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687 is a sports bar and offers family activities during the day but is reserved for adults at night.

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"Pink" was one of my favorite areas. It's really a beautiful lounge.

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Pink serves a pink Tattinger champagne created exclusively for Disney. In addition to champagne cocktails and wine they serve a selection of scotches and cognacs.

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Skyline will make you believe you're looking out over the city skyline of a different city every 15 minutes or so.

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The art around the room also changes to reflect the current city skyline, as does the background music.

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Rio de Janiero is pictured here, there's also New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. There are themed drinks for each locale, also.

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Evolution is the adult dance club.

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The decor is inspired by the transformation of a butterfly.


AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 27, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise Photos - Around the Ship

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Since many of you seem to want to see more photos of the ship, here's some miscellaneous photos from various areas on-board (and even a couple of exterior shots). I have additional photos from the two shows and the Adult areas that I will post later.

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Play area in the "it's a small world" nursery

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The "Magic Play Floor" in the Oceaneer Club

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Play area in the Oceaneer Lab

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Mosaic near the Guest Services desk

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Gangway on Castaway Cay

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The stern from the dock at Castaway Cay

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Part of the cast of "Believe"

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One of the funnels at night

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Lights on the AquaDuck - it is sometimes open at night.

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Finale of the Buccaneer Blast fireworks show

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Mosaic inside Cabanas

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The ornate women's restroom outside Palo and Remy

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The running track on deck 4 - it is .4 miles around.

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Lounge area on deck 4 above the Atrium.

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Fish sculpture

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The entrance to Animator's Palate

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Dinnerware at Animator's Palate - I loved the palette knife shape for the bread knives.

More photos still to come!

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.


Disney Dream - The Wave Phones

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There have been quite a few questions about the Wave phone, like this from Melissa:

Tell us some more about the Wave Phones, are they meant to leave the room and be carried around the ship? How many per stateroom are there?

We're sailing in March with a family of 4 and were planning on bringing walkie-talkies for each of us. Does this effectively replace that need?

So I thought I would try to answer some of those by telling you what I know about them. For one thing, they have been in use aboard the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder since December.

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1. There are two phones per stateroom. You may rent additional phones but there is a per-day fee for them. They are rechargeable, and plug into a unit on the desk for recharging. You may charge one phone at a time. An instruction manual is included with the phones.

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2. The Wave phones replace the pagers that parents with children in Youth Activities were previously issued. Now parents should carry a Wave phone with them instead, in case they need to be contacted.

3. The phones work aboard ship and on Castaway Cay.

4. If the phones are lost, damaged, or not returned to the stateroom there is a $250 charge per phone that will be charged to the stateroom account. Bear that in mind when deciding who to entrust with one.

5. You may dial Wave phone to Wave phone, Wave phone to stateroom phone, or any shipboard phone to Wave phone. Each Wave phone has a unique number.

6. The Wave phones can send and receive both voice messages and text messages.

7. The Wave phone has calculator, calendar, and stopwatch features. You may also set one-time or recurrent alarms.

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8. You may customize contact lists, caller filtering, audio and display settings, key shortcuts, etc.

9. There are both speakerphone and "mute" modes.

10. The status of the battery charge appears on the display. The battery symbol flashes and a tone sounds when it is almost completely discharged.


Deb Koma's comments on using the Wave phones:

1. I thought they were fairly easy to use. I could figure out the basics even without reading the instructions.

2. The ring was low, but I didn't check to see if you could make it louder. It also vibrated, which is what usually got my attention.

3. I liked that you could not only leave messages, but also send text messages.

4. I made and received calls both within the ship and to and from Castaway Cay, and they seemed to work well.


Deb Wills said that she didn't find them very intuitive, and thought they were a little bit confusing - but also admits she never read the instructions. :-)


Hope that helps answer some of your questions - if you have used them and have any additional information or opinions on them please let us know!



January 26, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise - The Food

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It wouldn't be a cruise without a food blog, right??? :-) Since the cruise was so short, I'm also going to include a couple of meals we had before/after the cruise.

After I arrived Monday night, Deb Wills and I had dinner at Narcoossee's - I'd never been there before. She asked for a window table, which was awesome, because at the end of our dinner we were able to see Wishes from there! Though it was foggy that evening (it had rained heavily earlier in the day) and that obscured the fireworks. Interesting effect, though.

Back to dinner...I started off the the Butternut Squash and Tomato Bisque. It was really good - creamy and nicely flavored. Though if the name hadn't had "tomato" in it I wouldn't have known there were tomatoes in it - I couldn't taste them. Which was fine - it was still a yummy soup.

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Deb had the Caesar Salad - it was a Caesar salad. :-)

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I ordered the Crispy Whole Snapper. Our server Debbie warned us that it was the WHOLE fish - head, tail, fins, bones and all, but I was game to try it anyway. I loved the way it was presented - it looked like it was swimming among some underwater grasses! I had to ask Debbie how to eat it, though - she said to go through the "pockets" that were on the sides. It was a bit of a challenge. It came with a soy-lime vinaigrette, which Debbie said was a little spicy so I asked for it on the side. And I'm glad I did, because it was also full of fresh ginger, which I don't like very much. It was served on a bed of basmati rice and charred green beans with some julienned peppers. The fish was good - nice and moist, but it wasn't great, and it seemed like too much work for too little reward. I wouldn't get it again.

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Deb had the Tanglewood Farms Chicken Breast with green beans, and she enjoyed that.

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Our "dessert" was watching Wishes from our table - that was a sweet treat all by itself!

The next morning Deb and I met Mike Newell (of Mouse World Radio and the WDW Today podcast) for breakfast at The Wave - another restaurant that was new to me! They have been doing a trial run of offering a breakfast buffet (it's currently scheduled through the end of January, but may be extended if guest feedback warrants it) and we all decided to try that. It's $18.49 for adults which includes coffee and juice, so considering the prices on the regular menu, you don't pay much more for the buffet than you would for a regular breakfast. (Kids are $10.99.) It also offers just about everything that is on the breakfast menu anyway, so we could try a lot of different things. One of the things I enjoyed was the sweet potato pancakes. And the cheese grits were also very good. We had a very helpful server and the food was good - I'd definitely do that again.

The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Ok, so *finally* I'm getting to the food on the Disney Dream! :-)

After we boarded we went to Enchanted Garden for lunch. This restaurant is inspired by the gardens of Versailles, and makes it seem like you are attending a (very large) garden party - eating under vine-covered trellises, surrounded by fountains and greenery. The lighting in the ceiling overhead changes from day to night, but since we were only there for lunch we didn't see that. The tables seemed very crowded and close together.

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Lunch was a buffet, with peel-and-eat shrimp and crab legs, salads, fruit, sandwiches, and various hot entrees like chicken, fish, and carved prime rib. Of course we could just help ourselves to the buffet, but we had a hard time getting beverage service - Deb had to flag people down several times (by which point we'd ALL been through the buffet) before someone took our orders. That was disappointing, and VERY atypical.

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Dinner that night was in the Royal Palace restaurant. This was just beautiful - I loved this inlaid marble floor at the entrance.

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It's very elegant with marble columns, crystal chandeliers, and wooden chairs with brocade upholstery. I'd love for this to be my restaurant on a formal night! (Though do they have formal nights on the shorter 3-5 night cruises that the Dream will be making?)

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There were three other lively ladies seated with us - Beryl, Carol, and Dawn, and between us we tried just about everything on the menu. The menu is HERE, if you want to follow along.

I remember what I had, but am not really too sure about anyone else, but I'll offer whatever comments I remember that others made about their dishes.

My appetizer was the Double Baked Spinach Souffle - coated with a three cheese cream. This was pretty rich, but very tasty, and I enjoyed it.

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For the soup/salad course I ordered Belle's French Onion Soup with gruyere cheese crouton. It was hot and cheesy and a good serving size - not too big and not too small.

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DebK and Beryl ordered the Avocado-Citrus Salad with Iceberg and Radicchio leaves and an orange vinaigrette, but were very disappointed in it. Too much iceberg lettuce and very little flavor in the avocado and vinaigrette.

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And the Royal Market Green Salad - cherry tomato, cucumbers, peppered goat cheese, and a raspberry vinaigrette was a nice salad. It seemed as though they should have used this lettuce mix with the Avocado-Citrus salad.

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My entree was the Double Cut Rack of Lamb with a Dijon Crust with fine green beans, gratin potatoes and rosemary jus. I enjoyed this, though the lamb was just a tad tough. The serving size was fine for me, but a bigger eater would've wanted something more.

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DebK tried the Roasted Wild Boar Tenderloin - sweet carrot and onion potato cake with a red currant reduction. Wild boar is something she's had elsewhere, and she said this was good. (It apparently tastes like beef and not chicken. :-) )

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Beryl had one of the signature dishes, Oven-Baked Salmon Royale - Crowned with King Smoked Salmon and horseradish crust accompanied by sauteed swiss chard, truffle-infused cauliflower puree and white wine beurre blanc.

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DebW had the Baked Farm-Raised Organic Chicken Breast filled with escarole, raisins, and pine nuts on wild rice with a red wine reduction.

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For dessert, DebW and I both had one of the no sugar added desserts, Chocolate Ganache served with Breton Sable and mango coulis. I was very impressed with the no sugar added desserts I had on the Disney Magic last year and often chose them over the regular desserts (for some reason the chocolate dessert was often the no sugar added one). This one did not disappoint - it was chocolatey and rich and really good. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

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DebK is a creme brulee fan, and really enjoyed her Tahitian vanilla creme brulee. The pink meringue cookie thing really didn't work with it, though.

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Thursday night was dinner at Animator's Palate. Animator's Palate received a major technological upgrade on the Disney Dream, and is much different than it is on the Magic and Wonder.

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I don't really want to spoil the experience for those of you who would like to be surprised, but I think you've probably already heard enough that if I say it's "Disney Dining Meets Turtle Talk with Crush" that won't give away too much. It's definitely a much more interactive experience than ever before. It was a little bit distracting, though - some people might not like that, but I enjoyed it. If you're not at a table along the sides of the room I don't think you'll feel quite as involved, though - so for a change the tables along the perimeter of the room are the desirable ones! I think I like this new version of the restaurant better, but I have to say that I missed seeing the servers become more colorful as the evening went on.

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DebK was dining at Palo, and DebW was hob-nobbing with Bob Iger and Tom Staggs (I'm not kidding, she really was!!!), so they missed dinner. Dawn had a business dinner, so it was just Beryl, Carol and me. So we didn't have quite as many items off the menu as we did the previous night.

The menu is almost exactly the menu I had at Animator's Palate aboard the Disney Magic last year with the exception of dessert. When I looked back at my food blog from that cruise, I see I ordered the same appetizers and entree this time! LOL! Well, I'm consistent. :-)

My appetizer was one of the best things I've ever had on any of my cruises - the Sesame-flavored Rock Shrimp and Caramelized Onion Cheesecake - with Asian barbecue sauce and topped with micro greens. When they bring it out it looks like dessert! It's a very generous serving. I didn't taste the "sesame" flavor in the rock shrimp, but the "cheesecake" is light and flavored with herbs. I enjoyed every bite!

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Beryl tried the Smoked Salmon Tartare - capers, onions, and micro greens topped with American black caviar, seasoned with Celtic salt.

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There were two soups that looked good, and since I hadn't had much for lunch and was hungry I ordered both of them. :-) The Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup with bacon bits and chives was very good - not as rich and "heavy" as that kind of soup can be. I really enjoyed it.

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But I was disappointed in the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup garnished with chives and drizzled with sour cream. I'd had it on the Magic and liked it, but this was pretty thin and it tasted like squash. (Butternut squash soup NEVER tastes like squash!!!) There were no seasonings that I could taste. I only had a couple of spoonfuls of it.

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Beryl ordered the Curly Endive, Arugula and Watercress Salad - sliced peaches, toasted almonds and tossed with a sherry vinaigrette. She enjoyed this much more than the salad she'd had the night before since it wasn't full of iceberg. She did request more dressing, though.

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My entree was the Black Bean Chipotle Cakes over corn kernels and brown rice topped with tomato-cilantro salsa. It was really good, though not as spicy as I expected with the word "chipotle" in the name. It was also quite filling.

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Carol ordered the Animator's Trio of Veal - Grilled tenderloin, pulled shank and tortellacci pasta with a sun-dried tomato and sage reduction and garnished with a potato crisp. She enjoyed it - she said the pulled veal was especially interesting.

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Beryl tried the Marinated Angus Beef Tenderloin carved to order on wasabi mashed potatoes with bok choy and a tamarind-barbecue reduction. She said the beef was very good.

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The dessert menu was different than on my Med cruise - I think this one had some more appealing selections. I had the Crunchy Walnut Cake - dark chocolate mousse and raspberry coulis. With a name like that I wasn't expecting it to be a chocolate dessert, but it was, and it was quite good.

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Beryl had the Sweet Temptations - trio of Crunchy Walnut Cake, Pineapple Financier and Lemon Mousse.

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Carol had the Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake - with whipped cream and raspberry coulis.

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Our final meal on-board was breakfast back at Animator's Palate on Friday morning. We were the early seating, so breakfast was at 6:45. Yikes. There weren't very many people in the dining room at that hour - none of our table companions were there. I was very disappointed in the restaurant decor - all of the displays were dark when we arrived - not even the "end-of-the-evening" sketches we'd had the night before! Eventually they turned on just the generic "Animator's Palate" logo, though.

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The menu for debarkation day is the same in all of the restaurants - it's a pretty typical breakfast menu. Though one thing I always forget on Disney cruise ships is how they serve the hashed browns - instead of fried potatoes they are deep-fried potato patties.

I wasn't really up for a big breakfast, so I ordered fruit, yogurt, wheat toast, and hot tea. (Which is more than I eat for breakfast at home.) Our server said: "That's all?", so I ordered a side of bacon, too. :-) I should have said a half side - it was a lot of bacon, and I really only wanted a couple of pieces. I had a couple of pastries, too - a chocolate croissant and a yummy twist with some chocolate chips in it.

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I think Deb and Deb both had the Route 66 - scrambled eggs and hash browns with bacon, grilled sausage, or grilled ham.

Friday afternoon after we'd checked in at our resort we went to Downtown Disney for lunch, to the building that houses Pollo Campero, Fresh A-Peel, and, most importantly, DTD BabyCakes NYC.

I went to Pollo Campero and had their 1/4 Citrus Grilled Chicken Meal. There is a choice of sides (with unusual selections like yucca fries and sweet plantains) and I chose the black beans and white rice. It was really good - the chicken was moist and flavorful. It also came with two warm corn tortillas. The price was quite reasonable, too - $6.99.

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DebK and DebW had lunch from Fresh A-Peel instead. DebK had the Savory Chicken Salad Wrap - citrus grilled chicken, with sweet onion, celery hearts, fresh basil, lemon juice, and black pepper for $5.99. It was very good-sized and she enjoyed it.

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DebW had the Citrus-Grilled Chicken Chop Salad - Mixed greens, roasted corn, red peppers, and black beans with pineapple vinaigrette for $6.99. She'd had this before and likes it.

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For dessert we went to the BabyCakes counter (all three are in the same interior space - Pollo Campero and Fresh A-Peel share a checkout area, but you pay at BabyCakes' counter). This is a vegan bakery, so all of their items are dairy free and egg free, but most of them are also gluten free and soy free! You might think they are also taste free but that is completely wrong. Had I not known that everything I tried was "free" of all those things I never would have known. Everything was delicious. They use agave nectar or unrefined sugar as their sweetener. I asked Emily, the manager, what she would recommend for a chocoholic like me, and she suggested the brownie cupcake with vanilla frosting and the chocolate crunch doughnut. They were both terrific, but I think the doughnut was my favorite - it was really more like eating cake. I'd really like to know how they make a yummy frosting without dairy or powdered sugar!

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That night we had dinner at the Turf Club at Saratoga Springs. This was kind of a mixed experience - we didn't have very good service, and while I really enjoyed my dinner, Deb and Deb weren't quite as happy with theirs.

I started with the Tomato Bisque - served with Herbed Goat Cheese. It was very good.

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My entree was the Sustainable Fish, which was snapper, with whole grain rice pilaf, spinach, and Cherry Tomato Buerre Blanc. It was much better than the snapper I had at Narcoossee's earlier in the week and I really enjoyed it.

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Deb and Deb had the Pork Chop - with Three Cheese Casserole and Red Onion Jam. They said the pork was good, but did not care for the casserole, which was pasta shells and cheese.

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Since we still had some BabyCakes goodies back at the room we didn't have dessert.

So there you have it - since it was a short cruise we didn't get the opportunity to have dinner in the Enchanted Garden, but I enjoyed the two restaurants that I did experience. And I was happy to have the opportunity to try several restaurants at WDW that were new to me. The best surprise was BabyCakes - we'll definitely be visiting there again.

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 25, 2011

Disney Dream - Senses Spa

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Senses Spa & Salon is located on deck 11 of the Disney Dream, with some additional treatment rooms on deck 12. The 16,000 square foot facility contains a state-of-the-art fitness center, barbershop, hair & nail salon, hot tubs, and sauna, as well as a variety of treatment rooms offering services such as massages, algae wraps and facials.

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Barbershop
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The Smile Spa offers teeth whitening services.
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The 2,500 square foot fitness center includes equipment for cardiovascular workouts and weight training, as well as group classes such as Pilates, yoga, and spinning.
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Chill is the spa facility exclusively for teens ages 13-17, offering spa services designed specifically for them.
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In the Rainforest guests can choose any number of ways to relax and renew.
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Lay back on heated tile beds with a view of the ocean.
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Or soak your cares away in a whirlpool tub.
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Relax in the dry heat of the Turkish hamam.
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Or if you prefer steam, there's also an ocean-view sauna.
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Refresh yourself in one of the four themed showers - each with its own scents and sounds.
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Relax in one of the recliners as you listen to soothing music.
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The beverage station offers cool water and a selection of teas.
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There are two spa villas, where couples can enjoy a private treatment room and an outdoor veranda with its own whirlpool tub and shower.
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One of the villas is accessible.
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Treatment room
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Guests can have a custom scrub made for them, with either a salt or sugar base plus the addition of herbs of their choosing.
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Spa services may be booked in advance, or while on-board the ship. Book early for the best availability - and remember that spa services are most in demand on sea days.

Ahhhhh......

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 23, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise Photos - Christening, Embarkation, Stateroom

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A lot of you have said you want to see more photos, so I thought I'd put together a photo blog of the christening ceremony, boarding the ship, and a tour of our stateroom.

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Tinker Bell starts off the Christening Ceremony!
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The huge bottle of dreams that will be used to christen the ship
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This was a great moment - Tom Staggs spoke about the crew members aboard the Dream, and how they will be helping to make guest's dreams come true, and then the crew members came to the side of the ship and cheered and waved flags.
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Tom Staggs and Captain Mickey introduce the Disney Dream's Godmother, Jennifer Hudson.
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A helicopter lifts the bottle of dreams and positions it next to the bow of the ship...
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Jennifer Hudson christens the Disney Dream:
"May God bless this ship and all who sail on her."
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The newly christened Disney Dream
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In the cruise terminal, waiting for our boarding group to be called.
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Plaque on the wall just as we stepped off the gangway and onto the ship.
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"The Disney Dream welcomes the AllEars family!"
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Admiral Donald Duck
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The Atrium is three decks high.
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Looking up at the magnificent, Italian-crafted chandelier
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To really see it, go up to deck 4 or 5.
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Heading to our stateroom - the midship elevator lobby on deck 8.
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Our stateroom!
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Getting ready to open the door for the first time!
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Just hold your Key to the World card in front of the black sensor box.
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Our stateroom!

Here's a stateroom tour, from stepping into the room out to the veranda. We were in a Category 5 - Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Veranda. It was on the starboard side, just a little bit forward of midship.

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Place your key card just inside the door to enable the cabin lights.
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Toilet room to the right.
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Closet with safe to the left.
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Bathtub and shower room to the right.
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Sink and vanity in tub/shower room.
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Other half of closet to the left. (Ladder is for access to the pull-down bed.)
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Queen bed on the right. Pillowtop mattress with a duvet - so comfortable! It was a dream bed.
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Artwork on the wall to the left.
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Sofa on the right - converts to a bed.
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Desk, chair, TV, mirror on the left
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The desk, with ship information, light switches and electrical outlets.
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"Wave Phone" walkie talkies - these can be used aboard ship to communicate with those in your party, or those in other staterooms, if you know their number.
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Veranda on the starboard side.

There's still lots more photos to come! If you have specific things you'd like to see please let us know - use the section below to submit a comment, or send email to allearsnet@yahoo.com.

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 22, 2011

Disney Dream - The AquaDuck

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Since many of you seem very interested in the AquaDuck (even my mom's first question to me was: "Did you ride the water coaster?") I thought I'd write about that next.

I was able to ride the AquaDuck three times - and it's a lot of fun. You ride in a raft (which will hold one or two people) through a mostly clear tube on a stream of water. It's 765 feet long and goes down about 46 feet in total. There is a loop that actually goes out over the side of the ship and two little uphill sections. The water flows at a rate of 10,000 gallons/minute.

The ride is shorter than I thought - only about 45 seconds from the time you board the raft until you're getting off in the unloading zone.

Here's a video Lee put together with some AquaDuck footage, including clips from several of my rides:

So how does it work? The access to the stairway is from deck 12 midship, port side,, near the aft funnel. Then you climb about 80 steps (I didn't count them) up to deck 16, which is the loading area. The rafts are carried up to the loading area by a conveyor belt - a cast member pulls off the next available raft and sets it down on the loading belt. You'll be riding an inflatable raft with two seating compartments. If there are two people riding the larger sits in back with the smaller in front. Singles sit in the back. There are handles on both sides to hold onto. When you're ready and the CM gets the ok light on the control panel they push a button and the conveyor belt moves forward, moving the raft into the water tube.

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You're immediately in the loop, moving fast enough that you hardly have time to notice what's going on - especially that you are hanging 12' off the side of the ship and 150' over the water!

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Then you're at the first dip, where you're suddenly propelled up a small hill - you'll get water dumped down your back at this point!

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Then you're in the clear part of the tube on the port side straightaway where you can see all around you, including the deck below - wave to your friends!

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There's a second dip (more water down the back) before you go around the forward funnel.

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You slow down as you travel through the starboard side straightaway, then enter the enclosed tube around the aft funnel.

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Then it's time to come to a stop in the unloading area where a cast member holds onto the raft while you step out to your left and exit down the steps back to deck 12. The cast member takes care of returning the raft back to the loading area.

My observations...it was a lot shorter than I thought it was going to be, based on simulations and test rides I'd seen on the Disney Parks blog - I expected to be on it longer.

The stream of water moves pretty fast in the first half. After you go around the forward funnel it slows down noticeably, and is more of a "lazy river" experience.

I was a little concerned that on the dips I might bottom out or jar my butt or back but that didn't happen at all - I just got water dumped down my back. The water is heated, so it wasn't really unpleasant - just a bit of a surprise the first time. (And yes, I screamed.) You don't get that wet other than that dump down the back - I've gotten a whole lot wetter on Kali Rapids. Someone in the front might not get very wet at all.

I really did not notice that I was hanging out over the side of the ship in that first turn - it all happened so fast.

The raft is very stable - I never felt like it was going to overturn or that I was going to fall out (and even if I did there was no place to fall - you're inside the tube until the very end). In the faster parts (especially the turn) the raft does climb up the side of the tube, but again, it never felt precarious.

They dispatch the rafts about every 30 seconds. The ride takes about 45 seconds from send-off to final splashdown.

I am not claustrophobic, but the tube generally feels "open" because most of it is clear. The only places you can't see out around you are when going around the two funnels and on the two uphill pushes, plus briefly when entering it at the very top. I'd say the tube is approximately four feet in diameter.

There is a height requirement of 48" inches. There is also a minimum weight requirement - I saw one raft get a little bit stuck up near the top because the occupant wasn't heavy enough, but it was only a second or two before she was moving right along.

I have been asked if it is handicap accessible. Unfortunately I forgot to ask that question, but I don't see how it could be - there does not seem to be any access to the loading area other than by those who are ambulatory and can climb the stairs.

The line was pretty short when I was riding it, since the ship was no where near capacity on the Christening Cruise. So my waits were in the 5-10 minute range. I think it's going to be a whole lot longer than that in the future - remember, they only send two rafts per minute. We asked, and at this point there are no plans to implement any kind of Fastpass or reservation system.

Loose items are not permitted, and cast members caution against riding while wearing sunglasses, visors, hats, flip-flops or other items that can come off during the ride. There are lockers on deck 12, just around the corner from the unload area, where these items can be stored temporarily.

I don't know the hours of operation - my observation was that if the pool area was open the AquaDuck was open. If you have better info please let me know.

This is great fun - I didn't see anyone who didn't come off smiling and wanting to ride again. The adults were having at least as much fun as the kids!

If you have additional information on the AquaDuck, or if you have ridden it and would like to share your experience, please use the section below to submit feedback or send a comment.

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 21, 2011

Disney Dream Primer for Repeat Disney Cruisers

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Since we know many of you have cruised on the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, we thought that one of the first things you would be interested in is knowing what some of the differences are between the Dream and the ships that you are familiar with. So Deb Wills and I put our heads together and came up with some things that we thought you might want to know.

These are not really in any particular order, though I have tried to group them logically.

It's all so BIG!
One of the first things you'll notice is that it all seems much bigger. And of course it IS a lot bigger. To me it felt like the distance between the aft stairwell and the mid-ship stairwell was at least as far as between the aft and forward stairwells on the Magic.
Dining rooms are larger.
The elevators are larger.
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There are more decks, so the locations of things like the pools, beverage station, and sports deck are 2-3 decks higher than before.
The Walt Disney Theater is larger, and has a balcony level. It can be accessed from either decks 3 or 4.
There are more retail shops, and the shops are larger, though the duty free shop which sells alcohol has been moved to the retail area.

"You can't get there from here."

You'll have to learn your way around - some things are very familiar, but some things are very different. I found it frustrating sometimes.
Palo and Remy are on deck 12, but you can't get to them from deck 12. The easiest way is to go to the aft elevator/stairwell on just about any other deck, and then go up to deck 12.
If you're on deck 11, then your access to the aft elevator/stairwell is through Cabanas - which turns Cabanas into a passageway. I found this quite maddening and very poorly designed - I don't want to go through a restaurant to get to the stairs!

Staterooms

The staterooms are actually a little SMALLER on the Dream - 10-20 square feet generally. We thought they were just a little narrower.
The door lock mechanism is different - rather than sliding your Key to the World card you just wave it in front of the sensor and the door unlocks.
TAKE NOTICE OF THIS TIP! To turn the lights on in your room you must put a room key in the slot that's just inside the door, and leave it there while you are in the room. If you remove the key the lights inside the bathroom(s) immediately go off - I did that to Deb accidentally one time. There is a grace period for the rest of the room lights, but we didn't test it - it's at least 30 seconds, though. It's an energy-saving feature, so that's a good thing, but if you don't know about it, you could be sitting in the dark! We'd been told about it when we checked in for the cruise, and our stateroom hostess also made sure to tell us about it when she came to our room that first day.
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The TV is a flat screen, which is nice since it takes up less room. It has a menu system when you first turn it on, with categories like information and movies. Honestly, I never did figure out how to operate it.
The pull-down bed was larger than I expected, and not as close to the ceiling. We didn't use it, but there are stars on the ceiling above it.
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The bed does not separate into two beds like it does on the Magic and Wonder. But the bed has been raised and there's room to store suitcases under it now - that was very nice.
There are two clotheslines in the tub area.

Shows and Entertainment

Disney's Believe is an all-new show, featuring lots of great Disney music and some really fun dance numbers. I loved the Mary Poppins scene.
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Golden Mickeys has some new scenes and includes characters from more recent movies, like Rapunzel, UP and Princess and the Frog.
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There are two different on deck shows on Pirate Night - an early more family-oriented show, Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean, and a later show which follows the fireworks: Club Pirate. The latter features Jack Sparrow.
The fireworks show, Buccaneer Blast, takes place more towards the middle of the ship than behind it, which offers good viewing from a lot more locations. Those in cabins on the starboard side of the ship should be able to see it from their rooms.
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The District, the adult entertainment area, has many more options, like Pink, the champagne bar, and Skyline, which showcases different cities around the world.

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Recreation
The AquaDuck is the new 765 foot long water coaster. It's accessed from deck 12 midship. We'll have a lot more information on this!
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Goofy's Sports Deck has a miniature golf course.
The family pool and kids' pools are in the same area, not separated like they are on the Magic and Wonder.
The kid's splash area, Nemo's Reef, is in a shaded area to protect the little ones from the sun.
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Enchanted Art - this was one of my favorites. There are 22 pictures around the ship which look like any of the other artwork, but when people stop to look at it, it comes to life.

Dining
The two new restaurants are Royal Palace on deck 3, and Enchanted Garden on deck 2. They are both just beautiful. Enchanted Garden looks like an outdoor garden on a sunny day during the day, while at night the light changes from sunset to starlight.
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I really loved Royal Palace, with its elegant crystal chandeliers, marble columns, and brocade-covered chairs.
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Animator's Palate has been completely updated with all new technology allowing diners to interact with characters from Finding Nemo. I thought it was a lot of fun.
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Cabanas takes the place of Topsiders/Beach Blanket Buffet. It's not a traditional buffet - instead there are different "food pods", making it more like a food court with selections like salads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, hot entrees and dessert.
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The quick service locations are very much like those on the Magic and Wonder, though with different names. Same types of food, though - pizza, burgers, and salads and sandwiches. There's a dedicated "Eye-Scream" place now. There's also Frozone Treats, a smoothie bar, though there is a charge for smoothies.
There are two 24-hour beverage stations on deck 11 aft, one on the port side and one on the starboard side.
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Shutters is very different. We'll have a lot more details on it, but in a nutshell they have really changed the way that photos are organized, and assign guests a folder in the library where they can store their photos. They use facial recognition technology to help identify the photos.
Senses Spa
The spa area is 16,000 square feet. There are many more treatment rooms.
There is a barber shop for the men, or those who prefer a barber shop to a standard salon.
The new Smile Spa offers a dedicated area for teeth whitening treatments.
There's a hamam - a Turkish bath, featuring dry heat.
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The Chill spa offers spa services to teens and tweens.
There is a "scrub bar" where guests can have a custom scrub made up for them with their choice of ingredients.
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Embarkation and debarkation procedures are the same, though of course with more guests you can expect they might take longer.
Finding your way around is a little harder - the signs identify locations by deck, but do not specify forward/aft/midship.
Some of the public restrooms have the paper towel dispensers under the lights, which makes them hard to find.

I hope this has been helpful. If you have other questions or if you've been on the Dream and have some tips of your own please let us know - you can either comment on this blog or send email to: allearsnet@yahoo.com.

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 20, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise - Day 2

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We're on the Dream!!!

The ship is beautiful. It's been an amazing, awesome, and yesterday and today are just totally overwhelming. We've barely touched everything the ship has to offer.

The christening ceremony was spectacular in true Disney fashion - we'll have a video up on youtube after I get home.

Internet service is not very good, so I'm keeping this short. I just got back after riding the AquaDuck three times - it's great fun!

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.


January 19, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise - Day 1

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Deb Wills, Deb Koma and I are in Florida, where we have will be sailing on the Christening Cruise of the new Disney Dream ship! We have been invited by Disney attend the media events and go on the cruise. We are so excited!

The actual christening is Wednesday, January 19, and there will be live coverage of it on the Disney Parks Blog (http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/) starting at 10:30 a.m. EST.

We will be on the ship from January 19-21, and will be trying to explore every inch that we possibly can so that we can share it all with you. I am hoping to blog each day, internet connection permitting. But you can bet that we will have tons of photos and answers to your questions once we are on land again. If you have any additional questions, please send them to allearsnet@yahoo.com - we'll have AllEars team members on the first two cruises of the Dream in addition to the Christening Cruise.

Deb Wills and Deb Koma will be sending photos on Twitter, especially on Tuesday while we are still in port. You can follow them:

Deb Wills: @AllEarsDeb
Deb Koma: @dcdeb_allears

It promises to be several exciting days - stay tuned!

Tuesday - some clouds in the morning, but it turned into a beautiful day this afternoon!

From the Polynesian I walked over to the TTC and took the Tronorail to Epcot. I really like the look of the Tronorail from the outside, but it's not so great on the inside - the windows are covered with a heavy screen, so it's a pretty blurry view from inside.

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It was really a beautiful day at Epcot - so much nicer than when I was here in December.

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I felt like saving the world, so I signed up to be an agent for Team Possible. With the help of Kim, Wade, Ron and the gang I foiled nefarious plots in the UK, France, Germany and Japan.

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I've done missions in all of the countries now (America, Italy, Canada, and Morocco apparently don't need saving), and Germany is still my favorite. The zombie villagers and singing beer steins are such a hoot.

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I'd missed Voices of Liberty on my last two trips, but I got to see them today. Love their beautiful voices and harmonies.

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As I was on my way out of the park Stitch was mugging for the cameras.

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We're getting ready for tonight's press event at the Magic Kingdom. Earlier today Disney issued a press release on the new Fantasyland, along with some artist renderings. I expect we'll hear more about that in the Media Briefing tonight. We'll also be seeing the new "The Magic, the Memories and You" castle show. We'll have more on that later.

Ok...we're back from the media event. The castle show was really cool - the projections are pretty awesome, with some great effects. I haven't had time to process too much video yet, but here's some footage of Deb Wills interviewing Eric Jacobson about the Fantasyland expansion.

And here's the world premiere of the new show on the castle: The Magic, the Memories, and You:



June 15, 2010

Disneyland What's Next Presentation

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Deb and I attended the What's Next session on Friday morning - Deb Koma and I attended this last year. (I hope that doesn't mean I have to find a different Deb to attend with me next year! I love the two that I have! :-) )

Anyway...this is where Disney tells us about a lot of the things that are upcoming at the Disneyland parks or otherwise related to things going on on the west coast.

Just from the "storybook" backdrop they had behind the stage we had a pretty good idea of what we would be hearing about: World of Color, Disney Cruise Line, Star Tours, Cars Land, and Ariel's Undersea Adventure. Our host was Russ Marchand again, the same as last year - he made some comment about how good it was to see us once a year.

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Much of what the various presenters spoke about is covered in the What's New & What's Next at Disneyland Resort? press release, but here's a few additional details.

Rachel Quinn, Executive Cruise Director for the Disney Cruise Line, spoke about the Disney Wonder's move to the west coast, and also about the Disney Dream. I had heard about the virtual port holes, but had not heard about the "enchanted art" - artwork that will come alive with animated characters. This artwork will also be incorporated into a special adventure game where families can use a detective device to get clues from various places to solve a mystery. Sounds like it might be
something along the lines of the Kim Possible adventures at Epcot.

The Disneyland Hotel is getting a makeover to return the classic mid-century feel. Two new themed suites have just opened, the Fairytale Suite and the Big Thunder Suite. The pool area will be re-themed with more of a monorail station look, with the water slide incorporating a replica of the original Disneyland sign.

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Kathy Mangum, Executive Producer and Vice President, Walt Disney Imagineering talked about Cars Land, opening in 2012 There will be three attractions, plus some merchandise and dining locations. One of them is the Cozy Cones, a snack location serving "Cone-on-the-Cob" and "Chile cone Carne", among others. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree will be on the outskirts of town, and features 22 "baby" tractors pulling guests around in a tractor square dance.

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Luigi's Flying Tires looks like fun - she had video from a mock-up they had built and said the Imagineers and their kids just loved this. There's apparently no controls - you move it by shifting your weight back/forward/left/right.

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Radiator Springs Racers will encompass six acres. During the ride (based on the Test Track technology) you get to meet a lot of the Cars characters who invite you to today's big race. Along the way you go tractor-tipping with Mater and get either new tires from Luigi or a paint job from Ramone. Then it's out on the track, side-by-side with another car. The attraction is about four minutes long. The first test vehicle went on the track within the last two weeks.

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Kathy Rogers, Senior Show Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering, described the updates to the Star Tours attraction. The new story will be set in the time period between episode 3 and episode 4. In addition to pod races on Tatooine, there will be a flight through Coruscant, though it wasn't clear if these would be two separate tours, or somehow included in the same tour. The final flights to Endor will be on July 26 at Disneyland, and on September 7 at the Disney Studios. Her talk was interrupted by some unruly visitors, though Russ' impression of the voice of a certain Dark Lord sent them scampering.

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Lisa Girolami, Director, Show Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering talked about the upcoming The Little Mermaid, Ariel's Undersea Adventure, due to open in 2011. Guests will board clam-mobiles (an omni-mover system like the Haunted Mansion) for a trip under the sea. In addition to Ariel, Sebastian, and Triton, the attraction will feature Ursula, Flotsam, and Jetsam.

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And, Disney saved the best for last. We had the great fortune to see Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel, perform "Part of Your World" and "Under the Sea" with a group of costumed sea creature dancers and puppeteers. It was really amazing, and a wonderful way to end the presentation.





September 12, 2009

D23 Expo - Day 2, Part 1

It's Day two of the Expo, but only day one for Lee and me, since we didn't arrive until today.

I have pages and pages of notes, and we have lots of video that we are trying to get processed, so this isn't complete.

We arrived at the Expo this morning about 8:00 and had some time to wander around before our first session. So we met up with Deb Koma:

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And I got up close and personal with Herbie the Love Bug:

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We met Deb Wills for the Disney Cruise Line session. As I'm sure you've heard by now, the big announcement was that the Wonder will be doing Alaska cruises in spring/summer 2011. They showered us with a bunch of snowflake confetti for that! :-)

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Donald Duck was the special guest, and there was a special surprise for Donald, too:

This statue will grace the atrium in the new ship, the Disney Dream.

Other items in my notes...some of the special excursions for the European/Mediterranean cruises this summer are a Princess and Princess Ball in St. Petersburg Russia, a performance of the St. Petersburg ballet, kids get a chance to paint their own fresco in Florence, adults can take a cooking class in a Tuscan farmhouse, and there's a treasure hunt in Tunis.

In the future, there will be some trips that are a combination of Adventures by Disney and the Disney Cruise Line - there will be more information on that in the near future.

The Alaska cruises will start in Vancouver, and visit Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and the Tracy Arm Fjord. Excursion opportunities will include the Alaskan Railway, salmon fishing, and panning for gold.

The Disney Magic will be returning to the Mediterranean again for 10- and 11-night cruises in 2011.

Castaway Cay is getting a makeover in 2010. There will be a new Pelican Plunge water slide and the "Spring-a-Leak" water play area. Teens get a new hangout called "The Hideout". There will be some private beach cabanas available for guests to reserve - some on the adult beach at Serenity Bay, and some on the family beach. The cabanas come with a personal host.

The new ships, the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy, launch in 2011 and 2012 respectively. They are 50% larger than the Magic and the Wonder.

After the Cruise Line event we had a little time to wander around the Exhibit Hall. There's a great Lego booth where they are building various things out of Legos - like this statue of Buzz Lightyear:

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And in the Disney Technology Magic area I got to interact with Wall-E - they had a small one that is remotely operated and does all kinds of cute things. He was adorable.

And there's a tea table set up for a meet and greet with characters from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, where I had a tete-a-tete with her Majesty, the Queen of Hearts. I asked if there was going to be a croquet game, and she said no, that unfortunately all of the hedgehogs had run off with the guinea pigs from G-Force. :-)

The major event of the day was the Walt Disney Studios presentation in the Arena. Oh my. It was amazing. Disney pulled out ALL the stops for this one! We were not allowed to have any cameras, so this is all from my notes, with a few photos Disney hs made available to us.

The presentation began with about a 20-minute video montage, set to movie music played by a live orchestra accompanied by live singers. There were lots of movies that I'd forgotten had anything to do with Disney (having come out under different labels), like Three Men and a Baby, Crimson Tide, and Pretty Woman. And then there were scenes from classics like Mary Poppins, Pollyanna, and Lady and the Tramp.

Dick Cook, President of Walt Disney Studios, talked about, and showed us, all kinds of things.

The movie theater at the Disney Studios in Burbank will be open to the public for special showings of The Princess and the Frog from November 25-December 13.

Wild Hogs 2 comes out in 2010.

We saw a preview of the new "A Christmas Carol" movie in 3-D. Robert Zemeckis came out and said that he wanted to present the movie like Dickens imagined it.

There will be a new version of "The Beatles Yellow Submarine", also directed by Zemeckis, and in 3D.

There was a very funny preview of Old Dogs, starring John Travolta and Robin Williams. John Travolta, his wife Kelly Preston, and their daughter Ella Blue all appear in the movie, and they all came out together to a very warm reception from the audience.

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Next up, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which will also be in 3-D. Tim Burton was on-stage briefly, and said that at one time he worked in Disney Animation as an in-betweener. He said this new movie uses live action and animation, mixing technologies differently.

Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter: to quote Dick Cook: "Every time we've put [Johnny Depp] in a funny hat it's always been golden." The movie starts March 5, 2010.

One of my favorite parts of the presentation starred the Muppets. First Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and Pepe the Prawn appeared on the big screen looking down at and talking to Dick Cook - until Pepe told him to "go green light something" and he went off-stage. Then the curtains opened, to reveal a scaled-down version of the Mark Twain with Pepe, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear looking out the front...and as it turned the corner, it revealed a whole bunch of Muppets looking out from the side. Kermit finally appeared in the pilothouse and they sang a version of Rainbow Connection (I love that song!). There will be an all-new Muppet movie coming soon: "The cheapest Muppet movie ever made" according to the ad on the screen. :-)

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Jerry Bruckheimer came out and we saw footage from Prince of Persia - Sands of Time, which opens May 28, 2010.

Then Nicolas Cage talked about the movie Sorcerer's Apprentice - he is a huge Fantasia fan, and doing this live action version was his idea - he's also one of the producers. July 16, 2010 for that one.

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Next we saw footage from the new Disneynature film called Oceans, opening on Earth Day, 2010. Incredible stuff!

Dick Cook announced a new label that Disney is forming with Guillermo del Toro: Disney Double Dare You. This is supposed to be sort of spooky, sort of scary - Lee calls it "Light Horror". We got video clip of del Toro who is in New Zealand right now filming The Hobbit. The first release will be called "The Troll Hunters", and it's based on an original idea of del Toro's.

Miley Cyrus came on-stage where she performed her hit song, "The Climb" live for us, and talked briefly about her role in the movie The Last Song.

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We saw some footage from Tron Legacy 3D, which comes out next year, I think? Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Flynn.

Disney has made an agreement with Dreamworks Studios to produce up to 6 pictures a year under the Touchstone label.

Andrew Stanton of Pixar will be producing a trilogy of movies based on the John Carter of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Jerry Bruckheimer is producing a new Lone Ranger movie with Johnny Depp as Tonto, slated for summer of 2011.

And the finale of the event...cue the Pirates of the Caribbean music, the curtain rises and we see a figure on board ship silhouetted behind a sail...the ship turns, and it's Captain Jack Sparrow - Johnny Depp himself!!! Huge cheers from the audience! The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie will be called: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides. Captain Jack came down and spoke a little bit - he'd seen a talking frog earlier and was wondering "Where has the frog gone?" Dick Cook enticed him off-stage with the promise of rum. :-)

It was an amazing, amazing presentation!!!

There was more from today...but that's all I have time for now

February 23, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Is it a Good Value?

Several weeks ago I received an email from Kristin about Disney Cruises, and she asked: "Is it a good value for the money compared to a Disney World vacation?"

In a blog entry I asked you to tell me what you thought, and I'd like to share some of those responses with you now. Thank you to all of y