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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.



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About Norway 2015

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Norway 2015 category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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