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Western Caribbean 2009 Archives

February 15, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - The Food - Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about, and showed pictures of, the meals we had the first three days aboard - this will cover the rest of the trip.

Lumiere's

Our dining rotation had us eating dinner at Lumiere's two nights in a row - Golden Mickeys the first night, and their "regular" menu - which Disney describes as "Continental cuisine with a French flair."

Unfortunately, it was my least favorite of any of the menus we had all week.
None of the appetizers appealed to me (escargot??? Ewww!), so I had the tomato and basil soup from the soup and salad portion of the menu instead. That was really good, though.

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Lee had the Ratatouille with Piperade Vinaigrette, which sounded ok to me except that it was served cold. So it was almost more like a thick salsa.

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Three of our tablemates decided to try the escargot - it was served "Gratinated in Herb and Garlic Butter". No one said that it tasted like chicken. :-)

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Lee and I both had the Normandy Salad, which had lettuce, diced papaya, hearts of palm and red cabbage. The mixed garden salad came with goat cheese croutons and I asked to have those on the Normandy Salad - they were really good.

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None of the main courses appealed to me - a little too heavy on the scallops, mushrooms and/or sauces, so I ordered the Oven Roasted Chicken from the "Lighter" menu, which came with garden vegetables and baked potato. Not exciting at all, but it was just fine - I actually really enjoyed just the plain steamed vegetables and baked potato after all the richer foods I'd been eating.

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Lee had the Beef Tenderloin Provence, Burgundy Wine Sauce. He said it was a little bit tough. It came with something that looked like large thick-cut French fries, but actually turned out to be fried parsnips. They had a very different flavor, but I thought they were really good.

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Jan ordered the Coquelles St. Jacques which were scallops, though it looked like a potatoes au gratin dish.

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Dessert, though, was where Lumiere's REALLY disappointed me. At a French restaurant I was expecting an outstanding chocolate dessert. And there was NOTHING chocolate on the dessert menu except a no sugar added chocolate cheesecake.

Lee had Creme Brulee - a classic French dessert, and he enjoyed that.

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Paula had the Montelimar Nougat and Pistachio Cream Sauce. (It had a chocolate shell on it, but that doesn't really count as a chocolate dessert.)

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Our server brought out a plate of the Crepes Suzette for all of us to try - too much
orange/Grand Marnier for me, though.

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Animator's Palate - Pirates IN the Caribbean Dinner

This was another menu that was served ship-wide that night - we happened to be in Animator's Palate for this one.

We really rushed this dinner - our seating didn't start until 8:30 and the on-deck Pirates in the Caribbean Party started at 9:45. And our servers had a pirate show of their own to do in the dining room at 9:45, so they were really hopping to try to keep up with everything. I don't think it's fair to the people with the last dinner seating to start the deck party that early - it makes it really difficult for us to participate.

Dinner was pretty good, though I skipped a course thinking maybe I'd get out of dinner earlier - but it didn't work that way.

As an appetizer I had the Pirate's Golden Pasta Envelopes - filled with cheese and I think they were deep fried. Ravioli by any other name, but they were tasty.

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Lee had Black Beard's Jumbo Crab Cake. Several people had our table ordered the same and said it was excellent - lots of crab.

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I think Paula had the Buccaneer's Sun Ripened Pineapple - Fresh island pineapple with a Coconut covered banana and orange glaze. This was very pretty!

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My entree was Captain Hook's Macadamia Dusted Mahi Mahi - with crushed onion potatoes, sweet carrots, roasted broccoli on mild red curry sauce. I enjoyed this very much - I think it was the best fish dish I had all week.

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Lee went for The Black Pearl's Oven-Roasted Beef Tenderloin - with sour sream chive smashed potatoes, sugar-baked carrots with a deep red wine glaze. It was good but not outstanding.

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For dessert I'd really been looking forward to the Walk the Triple Layered Chocolate Gangplank Cake. It sounded a lot better than it was, unfortunately. Nothing wrong with it, it just didn't measure up to the other really good chocolate desserts I'd had.

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After the fireworks we checked out the desserts on the dessert buffet - those were ok, but nothing that was outstanding.

Parrot Cay - The Captain's Gala

We were back in Parrot Cay for semi-formal night - The Captain's Gala. Our tablemates were all eating dinner at Palo that night, so it was just Lee and me at a table for 8. :-)

And we both ordered the same first two courses. The appetizer was Garlic and Herb Sauteed Shrimp - on saffron rice drizzled with pink grapefruit vinaigrette. This was good - I could have eaten a lot more of it.

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The salad wasn't quite as inventive as most of them were - it was just a garden salad with balsamic dressing, though it had some sun-dried tomato chips to brighten it up.

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The most popular item on the Main Course menu that night was the lobster, but neither of us cares for lobster. So I had the Fettuccine with Parmesan Crusted Chicken. Compared to the other main courses I'd had during the week this was huge - mainly because there was so much pasta. There's no way I could eat it all - and I would have liked some additional vegetables with it.

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Lee had the Veal Roasted with Shallots, Fennel and Vin Santo - on chive mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach and pine nuts. He said that was pretty good.

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But the winner of the evening was the Grilled Venison Medallions in Stilton and Red Currant Jus - with Roasted-turned Potatoes and Sauteed Baby Cabbage. When Lee said he was torn between the veal and the venison, our server said the venison was really excellent, and he'd bring it out so we could both try it. So we received three entrees instead of two - TJ put the plate of venison between us so we could easily share it. It really was very good.

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And then we come to dessert...ahhhh. This was my favorite of the whole week. (Even better than the chocolate souffle at Palo.) They served Warm Chocolate Lava Cake - with ice cream and a double chocolate sauce. TJ very carefully put the scoop of ice cream on top after he'd served the cake, just so we could watch the melting ice cream flow down the sides like melting snow. It was really, really good. Plenty of warm liquid chocolate on the inside. Timing is everything with a good chocolate lava cake and I wasn't sure they could do a dessert like that on such a large scale, with hundreds of people ordering it pretty much at the same time, but they did an amazing job. Lee had it too, and so did Kathy, one of our tablemates - she and Joe came by after their dinner at Palo. She'd already had the chocolate souffle, but she topped it off with the lava cake. :-)

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Our final night dinner was at Palo, and I covered that one pretty well in my blog entry, which you can read here:

Castaway Cay and Dinner at Palo

So that brings to the end of a week of fine dining.

Over the course of the week I thought the food was very good - there were a lot more hits than misses. It was really only the one night at Lumiere's that disappointed me. There were several things I wish I'd taken the opportunity to try (but NOT the escargot!!!). I think dinner on our second night, at Parrot Cay, was my favorite menu, though if I were choosing best appetizer, soup/salad, main course, and dessert of the week they would be from all over the menus! :-)

I can't wait to see what they come up with for dinners on the Mediterranean cruise next year!

February 13, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - The Food - Part 1

It occurred to me that one thing I didn't really talk about in my "Conclusions" blog was the food. I wrote about it in the "live" blog as I had time, but there were meals (and lots of photos!) that I had to skip because of time.

So I'm going to put that in a couple of blog entries - I had planned to only do one but it was just too long. Read no further if you want to be spared the details and the photos of a whole lot of wonderful food! :-)

Animator's Palate

We had dinner here our first night. For appetizer I had the Roma Tomato and Portabello Mushrooms on Polenta Cake, which was excellent.

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Lee had the Wild Mushrooms Risotto and Porcini Wafer.

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Next we both had the Smoked Salmon and Trout with Goat Cheese Salad. They could have been a lot more generous with the goat cheese, though. And there was almost no dressing on it. Now, I don't like a lot of dressing, but this was really dry.

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For entrees I had the Grilled Salmon with Creamy Risotto and a Barolo Wine Sauce, and that was very good.

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Lee had the Grilled Fillet Mignon, Seared Scallops with Port Wine Demi Glace. He said the scallops were good but small, and the steak was good.

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Dessert was the Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake for me (I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone) and the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie for Lee. The cake was good -- one of the better chocolate desserts I'd had from Disney in quite a while.

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Parrot Cay

I did have time to cover our second night's dinner at Parrot Cay, so you can find that here:

Key West and Parrot Cay Dinner

Lumiere's - Lunch

On our first At Sea day, we had lunch at Lumiere's. It was actually our first time in the restaurant - we hadn't had dinner there yet. It's so beautiful inside - it's a a Beauty and the Beast theme, and I really loved the lights with the red rose suspended from them.

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The food was presented just beautifully here - I was very impressed. This was one of the appetizers that we shared - the Shrimp Cocktail in a potato basket. It had one jumbo shrimp and some little shrimp, which wasn't really what I was expecting, but it was really pretty, and tasty. Small, though - we should have each ordered one. (And our server had recommended that we do that.)

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We also shared the Barley and Potato soup. Neither of us detected any barley in it, but it was still good.

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I had the Salad Nicoise - lettuce with chunks of tuna, red onions, tomatoes, green beans, anchovies, and olives. It was supposed to have diced potatoes, but there weren't any. But it had some slices of hard-boiled egg, which weren't mentioned on the menu. So it was not quite as advertised (I would have liked more green beans, too), but I still enjoyed it.

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Lee had the Teriyaki Glazed Filet of Cod, served with white rice, steamed bok choy and teriyaki sauce. This was another beautiful dish. The teriyaki sauce had too much ginger in it for my taste, but Lee liked it - though the bok choy didn't do much for him.

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Lumiere's - The Golden Mickeys

That same night we had dinner at Lumiere's. It was Formal Night, when the ship-wide menu was The Golden Mickeys.

As an appetizer, I ordered the Spiced Asparagus and Citrus Delight - asparagus spears with segments of orange and grapefruit with almonds and vinaigrette.

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Lee had the Double Baked Aged Reggiano Parmesan Cheese Souffle. Wow, that's a mouthful. A tasty mouthful, he said. :-)

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For the soup/salad course we both had the Scottish Smoked Salmon and Pear Salad, It was served with a creamy horseradish dressing (which was not too horseradish hot at all).

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As an entree Lee and I had the Rack of New Zealand Lamb with a Dijon-Mustard Crust. It came with gratin potato cakes and Mediterranean vegetables. This was perhaps the most disappointing main course I had all week - the lamb was cooked a little too rare for me, and it was pretty tough, too. There wasn't much meat to it, either.

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Other entrees that our tablemates had:

Jumbo Shrimp and Porcini Mushroom Tagliatelle:

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Oven-Roasted Duckling with a Dark Cherry Glaze, with potato and cauliflower puree and vegetables:

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Roasted Fillet of Beef Wellington - covered with Mushroom Stuffing wrapped in Puff Pastry, served with Fingerling Potatoes, Baby Vegetables, and a Cabernet Black Truffle Jus.

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One thing that I hadn't realized until I edited the photos is that the plates they used for the entrees have the Disney Cruise Line logo along the rim! (You can see it on the photo of the lamb dish.)

For dessert Lee and I had The Golden Chocolate, Chocolate Award. It was multiple layers of chocolate - chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate meringue and chocolate. I like the chocolate Golden Mickeys ticket. And it was made of good chocolate, too! I've experimented a little bit myself with the chocolate transfers that they use to do that kind of thing, so I was very intrigued by the tickets and trying to figure out how they made them in that shape. A custom mold, I'm sure.

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Our tablemates also tried:

Ricotta Creme Brulee - on a bed of honey raspberries:

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Baked Apple and Blueberry Pithiviers. Pith-what???? It looked like a streudel, and was described as apple and blueberry with almond cream in a puff pastry.

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In Part 2 I'll be talking about another dinner at Lumiere's, Pirate Night and the Captain's Gala.

February 3, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Conclusions

In no particular order, some of my thoughts and impressions about things
we experienced on our Disney cruise.

The Ship

The Disney Magic is gorgeous. Just what you'd expect a classic ocean
liner to be. Beautifully decorated and themed and appointed. And a lot
of the Disney theming isn't "in-your-face" theming - it's more subtle
and elegant. The ship is just immaculate and well-maintained. When we
were out and about we always saw crew members cleaning or working on
painting or some other kind of maintenance. Nothing showed any
signs of wear at all - I wish all of the Walt Disney World resorts
looked that good! The ocean is a harsh environment, but they
obviously do as much as they can to stay ahead of the wear imposed
by the elements to keep things looking in perfect condition.

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There is a lot of space - even with almost 2400 passengers
on board there were times when we were absolutely alone (of course, part
of that is because we almost always took the stairs instead of the
elevators.) There is a huge variety of public spaces, of course - three
different pool areas, and a whole bunch of bars and clubs - most of
which we were never in, except as a meeting place for some other event.

The Staterooms

We were in a Category 9 stateroom (the cheapest type that has a
window) on the second deck of the ship, but we certainly didn't
feel deprived at all. It's still considered a "deluxe" stateroom,
and it actually had two bath-type areas. One had a sink and the
toilet, and the other had a sink and the bathtub. Note that it had
an actual tub and not just a shower! It will sleep three - it has
a queen-size bed and a sofa that folds out into a twin bed. The
queen bed can be separated into two twins. (Which is interesting,
since I didn't feel any kind of joint in the mattress.) The bed
was very comfortable.

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There is actually quite a lot of storage space - we had empty
drawers. The closet is not overly deep, but Lee's suit coats fit
in there ok. For two of us there seemed like enough space - though
only one of us could pass by the foot of the bed at a time. There
were also plenty of lights, though it took me a while to figure out
where all of the switches were. And the bathroom lights are
located outside the bathrooms.

The Crew

We were so impressed by the crew members. These people must be the
creme de la creme of Disney cast members - everyone was friendly,
helpful, cheerful - it was really amazing. Any time I passed
someone in one of the passageways or one of the stairways they always
smiled and greeted me. And these people work really hard. They have
very long days with very little personal time, and I'm not sure when
some of them sleep! And they work 7 days a week - as soon as one set
of passengers leaves the ship they have to get ready for the next set
that will be boarding in just a few hours. But when you talk to
them, they all love their jobs, and they never complain about the
hours. My compliments to all of them - I really don't know how
they do it.


The Ports

We visited four different ports - Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and
Castaway Cay. I can't say we actually visited Cozumel, though - we
never actually stepped foot on the island itself! Judging by the
literature we received from Disney before the first three ports, the
major attraction in each is shopping - something that is totally lost on
me. I'm afraid we really didn't do much to enrich any local economies,
and spent very little money in port apart from tips for the guides.
I can't say that what I saw of the ports left me with any strong
desire to return for a longer visit. But if we came through again
on a cruise I know what I would probably do on those days.

The Excursions

We did two excursions - a third was canceled because of the winds on
Castaway Cay. Both of the ones we did departed not long after the ship
docked, so they gathered us onboard ship and took us off together after
a brief orientation. They were very efficient in getting us to where we
needed to be, which we especially appreciated with the Tulum trip, since
it was quite a lengthy excursion with several different modes of
transportation. The guides were fairly knowledgeable and helpful - for
the Tulum excursion we had guides who spoke very good English.

Dining Rotation

There are two dinner seatings (early and late) on the Disney Magic,
and each seating is split between the three three main restaurants -
Animator's Palate, Lumiere's, and Parrot Cay. On a seven-night
cruise you eat in two of the restaurants twice, and one of them
three times. Within each seating the restaurant openings are
staggered and each restaurant opens at a slightly different time - our
seating was the very last one, and so we always ate at 8:30 regardless
of which restaurant we were in. I really didn't like eating that
late - we rarely finished with dessert before 10:15, and then I was
too wired to go to bed for at least a couple of hours - but I'd
still be awake at 7:00-7:30 the next morning. We also ended up having
to eat another extra small meal around 5:00-5:30, otherwise we were
starving before 8:30. Late seating also meant that we missed other
events aboard ship that started at 9:30 or 9:45. We chose late
seating because of the flexibility it gave us to stay longer in our
ports of call. But now that I've experienced all of the restaurants,
in the future I will be more tempted to eat somewhere else aboard
ship on certain nights so that I can eat on my own schedule.

The Restaurants

There are 5 different restaurants and several snack bars aboard the
ship. Over the course of the week we ate at all of them.

Parrot Cay - As you might gather from the name, it has a tropical
theme. The "Island Dinner" we had here on our second night was
excellent - one of my favorites of the week, actually. It would
not have been my first choice for the restaurant we visited for
Semi-Formal night, but it was very nice. This was where our character
breakfast was, and we also had the breakfast buffet one morning -
pretty typical breakfast fare, but it was good.

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Animator's Palate - This is the "special effects" restaurant. For what they
call the "Show Dinner", the decor starts off in black and white,
and as the evening goes one there's more and more color. Lee and
I were both rather underwhelmed - technologically we were expecting
a lot more. But the restaurant is over 10 years old now, and there
have been a lot of advancements in that time. This is one we might
skip in the future.

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Lumiere's - This is really a beautiful restaurant, and I was happy that
it was the one we were assigned to on Formal Night, when we had a lovely
dinner here. Lee and I also had lunch here one day. At lunch the food
was very elegantly presented but the portions were quite small. The
regular Lumiere's dinner menu, which we had on our 4th night, did not
impress me - of all the dinners we had it was my least favorite. Not
that the food was bad, but most of the selections didn't appeal to me.
And the thing that was most disapointing was the dessert menu - how can
you serve a dessert menu in a French-themed restaurant that has nothing
chocolate on it?

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Palo

Palo is NOT on the regular dining rotation - it is fairly small and you
have to make reservations to eat here. There is a $15 additional charge
per person, but other than that it is like the regular dining rooms and you
can order anything off the menu that you want - three appetizers, two
main courses, four desserts, whatever. It's very high-class and
the food and service were excellent. They also serve High Tea and
brunch on certain days - those are extremely popular and difficult to
get into. All available seatings were gone for both of those by the
time I was able to book on-line, and even though we asked to be on the
waiting list we were never called.

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Topsider Buffet

This buffet restaurant is open every day for breakfast, and on most days
for lunch and dinner. We never ate dinner here, but breakfast and lunch
were quite good - there was a nice selection of food. It wasn't fancy
but it was tasty. They had some pretty nice desserts.


Goofy's Galley

We probably ate more meals here (though usually small meals) than at any
other restaurant. It was a small counter service place where you told
the crew member behind the counter what you wanted and he/she plated it
for you. They always had fresh fruit - slices of melons and pineapple,
grapes, and whole apples, oranges, and bananas. In the morning there
were some pastries and yogurt parfaits, as well as boxes of cereal.
The rest of the day they had sandwiches and wraps cut into manageable
slices. Much healthier alternatives, and some very interesting
selections, too - lamb and couscous wraps, turkey and cranberry
sandwiches, tuna wraps, mozzarella and tomato paninis, etc. You
could also get a salad made-to-order - in addition to lettuce they
had diced tomato, chicken, and sliced hard boiled eggs. This was
our favorite snack spot after we returned from an excursion, or
when we needed one of those 5:00 pre-dinner snacks since we could
get something tasty and fairly healthy. It's on deck 9 by one of
the pools, so we often ate up on deck. Or I'd get breakfast there
after working out in the gym and take it back to our stateroom.

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Pinocchio's Pizza

They always had at least 4 kinds of pizza, and it was pretty good, too.
I enjoyed the Hawaiian pizza several times. The pizzas are only about
9" in diameter so the pieces weren't very large - but that's a good
thing.

Pluto's Dog House

Another counter service place, but with quite a variety - hamburgers,
veggie burgers, fish burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, chicken
sandwiches and even tacos. Served with french fries which were also
pretty decent. They had a toppings bar that I took advantage of just by
itself - there was lettuce, sliced tomatoes, carrot and celery
sticks, pickles and olives.

Our Dining Room Servers

The servers moved from dining room to dining room with us. Yolande was
our head server, keeping things organized and making sure everything was
ok - she usually came around at least once per meal to talk to us, and
she also pitched in to clear tables or whatever else was required.
Definitely not a stuffy maitre'd type - she seems very nice.

TJ was our server, and responsible for the food. He always asked if
things were ok and we had what we wanted. And if we wanted to change
things up with the menu he was happy to do that - or to make
suggestions. Like the night he suggested that Lee and I try the venison
because it was very good. So he brought us a plate of the venison in
addition to our other main courses and we shared it. And he was right -
it was excellent. And not something we would have gotten otherwise. If
we wanted three desserts, that was no problem. And I think he was more
upset than I was the night at Lumiere's when he couldn't get a double
chocolate cake dessert for me from Parrot Cay. And I know he worked
very hard the night of the Pirate Party to try to make sure that I was
finished in time to go to the deck party. TJ is from France, and took
it with good humor when we teased him about French things, or asked him
to say things in French. He was really a sweetheart.

Meg was our assistant server, and responsible for our drinks and
setting/clearing the table, and, most importantly, offering us fresh
ground pepper. :-) That became a running joke over the week. She
quickly learned what all of us preferred to drink, and it would
magically show up after we were seated. We saw her in restaurants all
over the ship all week - she'd be at breakfast in Topsider, or lunch at
Lumiere's, or even serving cookies on the Galley Tour! She was a
lot of fun to talk to - that dry British humor - or is that humour? ;-).
From talking to Meg we learned quite a bit about life aboard
ship as a crew member. It sounds like a lot of hard work to me,
but Meg was obviously enjoying herself, and is one of those people
who has Disney in her blood. She is hoping to get a transfer to
cruise staff, and I think she'd be really good at it - maybe we'll
see her in that capacity on our Med cruise!

As we changed restaurants/themes each night our servers changed costumes
- one thing I now wish I had done was to take pictures of our servers
in their different costumes. They both looked very elegant in their
classic black tuxedo jackets and bow ties on semi-formal night.

The Entertainment

I guess this needs to be split up between the theater shows and the deck
parties. We never went to any of the movies or any of the night club
shows.

The Disney themed shows - the Golden Mickeys, Twice Charmed, and Disney
Dreams were all excellent. It was interesting to see the same
performers in different roles in different shows. And the staging was
pretty amazing - we kept wondering how they stored all of the sets
and props! It must be quite challenging to perform on a moving stage -
especially when some nights it's moving much more than others. The
other shows featured the on-board cabaret performers - we saw the
"Welcome Aboard" show with the magician and ventriloquist, but that
wasn't really our thing, so we skipped the other two shows that featured
mainly the entertainers. There was also a movie one night, but it was
two hours and we had other things we wanted to do. I would've liked to
have seen Bolt, which they were showing in 3-D, but the times always
conflicted with something else.

The Sailaway party as we left Port Canaveral was fun. Very high energy.
And the Pirate Party was also fun - watching Captain Mickey fly through
the air was great, and it was very cool to see fireworks at sea. Brent,
the cruise director, was up on stage dancing with the other pirate party
cast members, and that was fun to see.

The Personal Navigator

This was the daily schedule - a multiple page "newsletter" that we
received every night with our turndown service that outlined the next
day's activities. So you knew what port we were going to be in, what
restaurants were open and when, what the big theater show was, what
movies were showing, etc. They had activities listed for kids, families,
and adults. It was really informative.

The Spa/Gym

I visited the Spa several times - I had a manicure, a hot stone massage
and a facial. Ahhhhh. All of the services were very nice and I felt
very pampered and relaxed. I think in the past the employees have
pushed the rather expensive Elemis products that they use, but they did
not do that (which I'm sure is a response to guest complaints). They
all opened the door by mentioning that they would answer any questions I
had about products, but when I didn't step through that door, they
didn't pursue it.

The exception was the personal trainer who conducted the Metabolism
Analysis session that we both attended - he was pushing their
"Detoxification" program a bit aggressively. Though when we went back
to see him later in the week for a personal training session he only
barely mentioned it. And the session was very good - even if he did try
to kill us in 20 minutes. :-)

The workout room is quite large, with quite a few treadmills, exercise
bikes, elliptical machines, weight machines, and some empty floor space
that they used for classes or personal training. It's at the front of
the ship on deck 9 and has windows that look out onto the ocean. They
have spinning, pilates, aerobics, yoga and other classes, though we never
had a chance to do any.

Transportation

We used Disney transportation exclusively on this trip. We used
Disney's Magical Express to get from the Orlando airport to Animal
Kingdom Lodge, and then used the Disney buses to get from the Lodge to
the cruise terminal, then from the cruise terminal to the airport. It
was all very easy. Once we checked our bags in San Diego, we really
never handled them again until we got back to San Diego. We put the
luggage tags that Disney provided on the bags, and Magical Express
picked them up at the airport and delivered them to our room at Animal
Kingdom Lodge. We put the luggage tags the cruise line provided on
them, and they picked them up at our Lodge room and delivered them to
our stateroom aboard ship. We put the next set of tags on them the
night before we got off the ship and picked the bags up back at the San
Diego airport. We had to wait several hours after we arrived in Orlando
before our bags showed up in our room, but otherwise things arrived
promptly.

If you've read this far - thank you, and I hope you've found it somewhat
useful and interesting. As you can tell, we are now BIG fans of Disney
cruises. And we're quite jealous of the people who are now on the cruise,
sleeping in OUR stateroom, getting to know OUR servers... :-)

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We're looking forward to May 2010!

February 1, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 9 and 10 - Castaway Cay and Debarkation

Friday was our day at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the
Bahamas. We were due to arrive about 9:00. Lee and I went up to
Topsider's for breakfast - we each had a made-to-order omelet in
addition to other stuff. Meg was working up there and we were able
to visit a bit more with her between her other duties.

We watched the ship dock at about 8:30 - for this one they backed the ship into position - it's really amazing how precise they can be with
something that large! It was another beautiful sunny day, but there
was some colder air coming from the north, and they were expecting it
too cool off as they day progressed, with the possibility of some
rain. So in his ship-wide announcement, Brent, our cruise director
advised us to get off the ship NOW and enjoy it while we could.

cast1.jpg

It was a very windy day, so several of the excursions (parasailing,
glass-bottom boat, jet skiing) had already been canceled by the time
we got off the ship. We were scheduled to to the Hiking and Kayak
Tour, but after we waited for about 15 minutes we learned that it was
also canceled. The guides live on an island about a 30-minute boat
ride away, and the seas were too rough for them to get to Castaway
Cay. In the meantime we watched a lifeboat drill that some of the
crew members were participating in - the crew member who was
overseeing the excursions told us that this "wet drill" is mandatory
for all new crew members. There were a dozen or so. They had to set
off flares and inflate a life raft. Part of the drill that we didn't
see apparently involved them having to right the lifeboat after it
turned upside down.

We didn't have very much with us because we were planning to kayak -
in hindsight we should've gone back to the ship before we went any
further onto the island. We walked all the way to end of the bike
path by Serenity Bay (the adult-only area), and then walked back to
Serenity Bay - it was probably about 3 miles. We found a couple of
sun beds and sat down and enjoyed the sun for a while. One of the
servers came by and we decided to order a couple of foofy drinks -
that's what you're supposed to do at some point, right? I had a
Tropical Depression - wow, that was pretty strong! Lee had something
called a Konk Kooler - I liked that one better.

cast_ll.jpg

Since we hadn't been back to the ship we really had nothing with us for
spending a day on the beach - like something to read. We had lunch
at the bbq place at Serenity Bay, which was not bad - they had
several kinds of salad, bbq ribs, chicken, hamburgers, fish, and hot
dogs. After that Lee walked back to the Family Beach part of
Castaway Cay, since he wanted to rent some snorkeling gear and go
snorkeling. I had to take the tram back since my Tevas were giving
me a hot spot - but a trip to First Aid for a band-aid fixed that up.
So I wandered around a little bit and saw the crab races and took
some pictures and bought postcards. I'd planned to mail those on the
way back to the ship but the post office was closed for lunch - it's
only open from 10:45 to 4:30 three days a week, and it's closed?
Island time, I guess. I went back aboard for an hour and then
returned to the post office (it was only a short walk from the ship)
and it was open by then.

I went back aboard and enjoyed some reading time in the sun up on
deck 10 - I had it to myself! Lee actually found me up there around
2:30 - he'd come back to get his camera and take pictures around the
ship and the island.

At 4:00 we had an appointment with Brian, one of the personal
trainers, who was going to show us a good workout we could do in 20
minutes, which didn't need any equipment other than a mat. Whew...that
was 20 intense minutes! He alternated us between lower body and
upper body exercises, with some crunches thrown in. And after 20
minutes we felt like we'd really had a workout. And we're both a
little sore today. He also showed us some things we can do with
exercise bands and a balance ball. It was a very good session.

After that, of course, it was time to have a little something to eat
since it was still going to be a while before dinner. We were
dining at Palo at 7:30, so at least that wasn't quite as late as
our normal 8:30 time!

After that it was time to start packing. Our bags were supposed to be
out in the hallway between 9:00 and 11:00 that evening - and we of
course had a late dinner, and would want to pack the clothes we wore to
dinner, so we had to get as much done before dinner as we could. Plus
we had to remember to leave out what we needed to wear to disembark and
travel home.

Palo was actually quite uncrowded. Our server was Laura, from
England (her name was easy to remember!), and she was very good.
We'd heard that Palo was quite difficult to get into, but she told us
that they always have availability for dinner - generally the first
and last nights of the cruise, plus Pirate Night are very quiet at
Palo. Of course, those might not be the most desirable nights, but
hey, they are available!

When we sat down there was an ivory-colored napkin on the plate, but
since we were both wearing black, the woman who seated us returned with
black napkins for us instead. I guess Palo attempts to color-coordinate!

Our dinner started with a basket of bread - several different kinds,
plus three kinds of dipping sauces. I can really fill up on bread,
so I had to be careful - but it all looked good, and the ones I tried
were yummy.

palo1.jpg

Laura came by and gave us a "tour of the menu" and told us about the
night's specials. There was a lasagna which she was was awesome -
she said the servers love lasagna night because they get whatever is
left. She also made some wine recommendations. She warned us that
the pasta dishes were huge - an entree in and of themselves. There
was a gnocchi that I really wanted to try, and Lee wanted some of the
lasagna, but hey, it's Disney so she could bring us a side of both.
:-)

After she took our orders they brought out the Anipasti Freddo - this
had prosciutto, bresaola (similar to prosciutto, but made with beef),
aged parmesan reggiano cheese, a couple types of olives, and
sun-dried tomatoes.

palo2.jpg

For my appetizer I had the Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes with Balsamic
Dressing. This was a gorgeous presentation - the thinly sliced
tomatoes covered the mozzarella in the shape of a flower, with sliced
basil as the bud. It was really good, too.

palo3.jpg

Lee had the Minestrone soup - it was a very large serving! He
enjoyed it.

palo4.jpg

Before our entrees arrived Laura served us an "Intermezzo" - a palate
cleanser. (That sounds so sterile and clinical and not very
appetizing!) It was lime and mint sorbet, which was very tasty and
refreshing.

palo5.jpg

For my main course I ordered the Grilled Monkfish with Braised Radicchio
and Prosciutto, served with creamy Mascarpone Polenta. And she also
brought me a small (though not really THAT small!) serving of the
Pumpkin and Broccoli Gnocchi served with a Shrimp and Grappa sauce. The
gnocchi was quite good, and the sauce was very rich - I really didn't
taste any shrimp in it - it seemed like a cheese sauce of some kind. I
definitely could not have eaten a full serving of that!

palo7.jpg

The monkfish was very nice - firm and with a bit of a crust on it. The
polenta was good, too.

palo6.jpg

Lee ordered the Beef Tenderloin Palo, served with Palo Gorgonzola Sauce.
He enjoyed it, too.

palo8.jpg

He had also asked for a side serving of the lasagna, and he thought that
was awesome - he told Laura that he'd never thought of lasagna as a
gourmet food before, but this really good. He said it was light and
delicate and not heavy like lasagna can be. (Unfortunately it was made
with a meat sauce so I couldn't try it.)

palo9.jpg

For dessert we both had the Chocolate Souffle - which we'd told Laura we
wanted when we ordered our dinner (it takes extra time, so you have to
order it in advance or wait). She brought us the dessert menu just in
case we wanted to try something else, too. I was tempted when she said
they had dark chocolate gelato, but really, I'd had enough to eat.

palo10.jpg

After dessert she brought us a post-dessert drink - it was lemon sorbet,
prosecco (a lightly sparkling white wine), and vodka. Very refreshing
and nice. It was really a wonderful dinner!

palo11.jpg

It was only about 9:30, so we decided to go to our regular dining room
to see everyone on our last night. They were just finishing up with
their entrees. At 9:45 there was a special procession - the chefs came
out carrying flaming baked Alaskas, and the servers came out, many of
them (including TJ) carrying flags from their home countries. There
were a LOT of different flags! We all stood up and cheered and
waved our napkins as they paraded by. (This is neither Meg nor TJ, but
they went by so fast that my camera didn't have a chance to focus and
take their picture - but at least this give you some idea.)

lum3_4.jpg

TJ brought us all dessert menus. The Chocolate Decadence looked good,
but I was full - Kathy ordered it, though.

lum3_1.jpg

And Jan, Paula and Joe all ordered Mickey ice cream bars in addition to
their other desserts - indulging the inner child, obviously. :-)

lum3_3.jpg

Lee actually ordered the baked Alaska, and he ate the whole thing except
for the couple of bites I had. And he had another cup of coffee - no
wonder he was wired and didn't sleep well!

lum3_2.jpg

It turned out not to be the last time we were going to see our servers
and tablemates, since we were all planning to be at breakfast the next
morning. So we didn't have to say goodbye quite yet.

We got back to our cabin with less than 20 minutes left before we had to
have our bags outside, but since we were almost done packing anyway, it
didn't take long to finish and put on the luggage tags. Someone picked
up the bags as soon as Lee put them in the hall!

This is last night's towel animal...snakes...why did it have to be
snakes? Don't asp me...

towel7.jpg

We had rough seas again (8'-13' swells), so things were bouncing
around quite a bit. All of the empty hangers in the closet were
rattling and so Lee had to push them together and drape a towel
over them to keep them quiet. Lee went up on deck to take pictures
and he said it was VERY windy - between the ship bouncing around
and the wind it was hard to hold the camera still.

I'm not sure what time we arrived in Port Canaveral this morning - it
was before 6:00, though. When I woke up we were already docked - that
yellow light coming in the porthole was from a big light and not the
sunrise!

There wasn't a lot for us to do this morning. I looked at our bill and
saw a few charges that I didn't recognize so I took it up to Guest
Services. Two of them were something we had both forgotten about,
but one was a double charge, and they fixed that.

While we were standing in the lobby we ran into Kathy and Joe, so we
chatted with them while we were waiting for Lumiere's, our breakfast
restaurant, to open. Once inside we said good morning to TJ and Meg,
who were ready and waiting for us. They'd already worked the early
breakfast, plus finishing up after dinner last night - I don't know how
they still can be so alert and energetic in the mornings! No one from
their other table showed up for breakfast, so we had them all to
ourselves. :-)

Jan and Paula told us that they'd found out there was 15" of snow back
at their respective homes - they weren't looking forward to returning to that!

We all had to be off the ship by 9:30, so we couldn't linger too
long over breakfast. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone - we
had such a fun week together, and we had such great service all
week from TJ and Meg.

Lumiere's is right next to the gangway, so we really didn't have far to
go to exit the ship. Maybe in this regard Disney is little too
efficient - we didn't have any time to wait and linger. We went off the
gangway and straight downstairs where, since our bags had already been
sent to the airline we didn't have any bags to claim, and so we went
straight to Customs. There was no line, so we handed our Customs
Declaration form to the agent, he quickly looked it over and said we
were good to go. So suddenly we're out the door of the terminal and
headed to the buses that were going to the Orlando Airport. A very
short line there, and within a few minutes we were on the bus, and not
long after that the bus was off to the airport! Honestly, it was less
than 10 minutes from the time we walked out of Lumiere's until we were
on a bus that was on its way to the airport.

So we arrived at the airport about 3 hours before our flight was due to
leave. We already had our boarding passes, and of course Disney had
taken care of our luggage, so there wasn't anything we needed to do. We
went to the Food Court area to wait, where I discovered there was free
wireless Internet access - which was a WHOLE lot faster than it had been
onboard ship! (And it was FREE! Though I did pretty well with the
internet package I got aboard ship - we had 250 minutes and used all but
10 of them.) So I worked on this blog entry while we were waiting.

It was our first cruise, but it definitely won't be our last - we really
had a wonderful time. 2010 can't come fast enough! I'll have more
to say in sort of a "conclusion" blog entry, though.

If you've made it this far... thanks for reading!

January 31, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 8 - At Sea

It was an At Sea day yesterday -- which was supposed to be our day to
relax, but we ended up filling it very well - though some of our
activities were very relaxing!

The weather was just about as perfect as you can get - sunny and about
80. Really beautiful.

Sorry, no photos today -- no time to prepare them.

It was spa day for me -- I had a hot stone massage in the morning and
a facial in the afternoon. The hot stone massage was sooooo nice...I
was like jelly after that. Mmmm. And the lady who did it was really
good - after she finished the massage she showed me about 6 different
exercises to loosen up the areas where she found the tightest muscles
-- my neck and upper back and hamstrings.

The facial was also very relaxing - I think I dozed off a couple of
times. She spent a lot of time massaging my neck and shoulders, in
addition to whatever she was doing glopping stuff onto my face.
I was all dewy and glowing afterward, though -- just in time for
Semi-Formal night!

I assume it is response to guest complaints, but I didn't have any of
the ladies who worked with me do anything to push the Elemis products
at all. They all said I could ask questions, but that was the extent
of it. I was very happy with that.

While I was off getting pampered, Lee was doing educational things.
He went to the Innovations in Theme Parks presentation, where he
learned all about movie makers designing theme parks. Trevor, who
was one of our lifeboat drill crew members (Station K rocks!), was
the presenter - we have seen him in lots of places and capacities all
over the ship.

He also did the Art of the Theme Ship Tour, which he found really
interesting. They wandered all over the ship talking about the
interior and exterior design elements (carpet, colors, art work,
etc.) and how it sets the theme for each area of the ship.
And they learned about the new ships, too - they will hold about 4000
passengers and 1200 crew (as opposed to 2400 and 1000), but they are
supposed to keep the same "not another floating milk carton" design
as the current ships.

We both took the Galley Tour in the afternoon. The Chef de Cuisine
for Lumiere's, Aneel (sp?) took us back into the kitchen and talked
about how they make all the food and how many people there are
cooking it, etc. It was really fascinating. The kitchen is
absolutely spotless - he said that there is a special crew who comes
in three times a day to clean it. One thing he didn't mention, which
TJ told us later, is that every time the servers enter the kitchen
they use a single door, and then immediately wash their hands before
going any further. They exit out a different door after picking
up the food.

Lumiere's galley connects directly with the pastry chef's kitchen,
and that area is shared by Parrot Cay and Lumiere's. There they gave
us fresh chocolate chip cookies -- Meg was actually handing those out
to everyone - we have seen her in a lot of different places over the
week! They bake about 4000 cookies a day!

From there we went into the Parrot Cay kitchen, which looked pretty
much the same.

We also learned that there are 5 galleys on board ship - Lumiere's
and Parrot Cay, Animator's Palate, Palo, and the crew mess below
decks. Topsider's is a satellite galley - the food is prepared
elsewhere, and only reheated there. All of the food is stored on
deck A, and brought up via elevators only accessible in the galleys.

All of the cooking is either steam or electric - no gas stoves or
ovens at all because of safety reasons. The ovens will steam or
roast or both - they can cook 500 baked potatoes at a time in one of
the ovens.

We were also impressed that the kitchens were quite cool - and he
said they are that temperature all the time, even when all of the
cooking is going on.

They are incredibly health and safety conscious. One woman on the
tour asked about allergies and special diets, and he said he has one
chef in the kitchen who works in a "clean" area, and whose job it
is to take care of those needs, and make sure that there is no
cross-contamination.

Last night was semi-formal night - the dinner menu was the Captain's
Gala. We were in Animator's Palate, and all of the servers were in
tuxes - they looked very nice. Our other tablemates were dining at
Palo, so we were at the table by ourselves. So we were able to spend
a lot of time visiting with TJ and Meg, and that was very nice. Joe
and Kathy came to join us after they finished dining at Palo and we
were the last guests in the restaurant. In fact, some of the servers
didn't realize we were still there, and suddenly turned on some loud
rock music, but Meg and some of the others who still realized we were
there were quick to tell them to turn it off since there were still
guests in the restaurant.

Today was Castaway Cay, and unfortunately our final night. We just
finished packing and putting our bags outside to be picked up and
then delivered to theh airport tomorrow. But I'll have to write
about all of that later - maybe on the plane home tomorrow.

It's been a sensational week, and we have really, really enjoyed our
cruise - just in case you couldn't tell. After the way Disney has
pampered and taken care of us for the last week, it's going to be
quite a rude awakening when we have to deal with the airport and the
airline tomorrow.

Sigh...do we *have* to go home?

January 30, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 7 - Cozumel Details

It's a beautiful At Sea day - clear and sunny, close to 80 degrees, and the sea is very calm. I don't know how it could get any better
than this! Right now I can see the coast off Cuba off in the
distance.

So, as promised, I will give a more detailed report on yesterday's
activities in Cozumel.

We enjoyed our extra hour of sleep, especially since we were due to
meet in the Buena Vista Theater at 9:15 to prepare for our excursion.
But since 8:30 was the new 7:30, we got up then and had plenty of
time for breakfast at Parrot Cay.

It was a pretty nice breakfast buffet - among other things I had one of
the cooked-to-order omelets. I was a little disappointed at the filling
selections - no spinach or basil, and only one kind of cheese
(cheddar) - I love feta and/or goat cheese in omelets. My tomato
and cheese omelet was very tasty, though. Since we knew we wouldn't
be getting much for lunch on our tour we tried to fill up on
breakfast.

They were staging the three largest (and longest) tours in the Buena
Vista Theater - they got us all ready to go, and as soon as they
received clearance that we could go ashore, they took us off in our
groups. Two of the tours - the Tulum Ruins tour that we were on, and
the Xcaret Eco Archological Park - were actually over on the
mainland, so we had to take a ferry over to Playa del Carmen, and
then buses from there. We had our own private ferry, and they got us
loaded and we pulled away from the dock by about 10:00. It was a
high-speed ferry, and the trip was pretty smooth (seas were fairly
calm). But it tended to wallow a bit from side-to-side, and the
Disney crew members who were with us offered "Sea Calm" to anyone who
might want it. We still heard some people complaining about how
rough it was, and one woman said she wasn't going to get back on it!
So I'm not sure how she got back to the ship. :-)

They separated us into two groups after we got off the ferry, and led
us to our respective buses. That was kind of an adventure - we went
off through side streets and past shops, and through parking lots and
after about 5 minutes were in a dirt lot with several buses. The
buses were nice and air-conditioned, though!

They got us loaded and underway as efficiently as they could. There
were two buses going to Tulum - we had the faster-walking group on
ours, since we arrived back at the bus lot first. Our driver
was Jorge, and our guides were Enrique and Diego. Enrique did all of
the talking on the way to/from the ruins, and Diego conducted the
tour of the ruins themselves.

The bus ride was about an hour. Enrique talked to us a bit about the
history of the area and the Mayans. There are a lot of natural
wells, or cenotes, in the peninsula - the Mayans called them "chen",
which is where the name Chichen Itza comes from. Tulum means
"fortress" - it was a walled city with walls on three sides, and
the ocean on the 4th. It was actually built relatively recently -
around 900 A.D. But it was abandoned in the late 1500s, and then
rediscovered in 1842.

The coral reef along the coast is the second largest in the world,
after the Great Barrier Reef. The Mayans somehow cut a channel through
the reef, and the two tallest towers of Tulum marked either side of the
channel. The Mayans apparently did a lot of trading - honey, furs,
and tobacco, etc. for silver, turquoise and so on.

Before we arrived at Tulum we had a 25-minute stop at a "Mayan
Trading Post" store - that's apparently where all the tour buses
stop. BIG tourist trap. A lot of the goods (obsidian and wood
carvings, Mayan calendars) are made locally, but it was nothing we
were interested in, and we were back on the bus about 10 minutes
early. As we got back on the bus we all were given a plastic bag
containing a Subway turkey sandwich, some fluorescent orange cheese
puffs, and a fruit and bran bar. There was a little plastic
superhero guy in the bag of cheese puffs. It was all safe to
eat, but the sandwich was pretty tasteless.

cheetos.jpg

When we arrived at Tulum itself, Enrique pointed out where we would
be meeting the bus when we came back from the tour of the ruins. We
were supposed to take a tram from the parking area to the ruins (it's
about a 1/2 mile walk), but one of the trams was broken down and there
was a long line so we opted to walk. And we got there before any of
the trams did! It was a warm day, but not too bad.

Diego took over at that point, and led us into the ruins themselves.
We went through a Mayan arch along the northern wall. The city was
far larger than I had been expecting, and there were a lot more
buildings than I had expected to see.

There was a very nice breeze, but it was hot if you were standing in
he sun, so Diego attempted to find us some shady spots as he took us
to various places to point things out and tell us about the city.
Unfortunately he didn't give us a lot of detail on what most of the
buildings actually were - I had to get that information out of a
booklet I bought at the entrance after we came out. It would have
been much more useful to have that book with me as we were wandering
around the ruins - there were things I didn't see because I didn't
know to look for them. Handing out a map of the ruins to everyone
would have been very helpful.

Things that he DID tell us that were not in the book...they have
found traces of paint on the stones, and think that the city was
painted blue and red. They do not know any of the names of the
buildings, so the names they have were given to them based on
appearance, location, or things they found inside. None of the
buildings were residences (at least not of the common people), but
there are a lot of stone foundations where the houses would have
been. Mayan houses were built of wood with thatched roofs that
would not have survived very long after the city was abandoned.
One of the "towers" on the left part of the main building was part
of their calendar system - when the sun rises on the mornings of
the vernal and autumnal equinox, it is perfectly framed in the
window of the tower.

He spoke to us for about 50 minutes, and then we had an hour and 30
minutes to wander around on our own. From what Enrique told us
earlier, Disney is a lot more generous with time than some of the
other cruise lines - they allow for 2.5 hours at the ruins, and a lot
of the others only allow only one hour, which is just enough time for
the guided tour.

We certainly had plenty of time to cover the entire site, but as I
said before, it would have been helpful to have a map. There were
signs at most of the buildings, but they didn't give the same kind of
detail. Some of the buildings were in good shape and still had a lot
of carvings - this is a close-up of some on the building called
Temple of the Frescoes.

tulum3.jpg

Oh, before I forget, there were iguanas all over the place - many
of them sunning themselves on the ruins. I called one of the
buildings the "Temple of the Iguanas" because there were so many
of them. :-)

tulum2.jpg

There is a staircase at the back that goes down to a very nice beach -
going to the beach had been listed as one of the things to do on
the tour. We spent enough time wandering around that we didn't get
down to the beach in time to make it worth getting our shoes and socks
off and then having to put them back on, but there were quite a few
people there - locals as well as tourists.

After we came back out of the walled city we went to the gift shop
where I found the booklet on Tulum...and there we saw the vicious
jagulars coming out of the jungle.

tulum_cat.jpg

We saw several different ones - they didn't want to get too close to
people, though.

The bus ride back to Playa del Carmen took about an hour - I think
ours was the last of the Disney excursions to arrive because the boat
left not long after we boarded. Again, the trip over was pretty
smooth - and seemed a little faster! We docked the same place we had
boarded in the morning, which was just down the pier from the Magic.
And we went straight back to the ship, so we never really stepped
foot on Cozumel at all!

We had a great view of the bow of the ship, which we hadn't seen up
close before. I hadn't noticed the other Disney characters in the
scrollwork. A bit subtle, but very nice.

magic_bow.jpg

It was about 4:45 by then. As you might imagine, we were quite
hungry, so after a quick stop in our room to drop things off we went
up to Goofy's Galley. Some salad and wraps hit the spot, and would
tide us over until dinner.

But we didn't have too much time to relax - it was Pirate night! We
actually had pirate costumes to put on.

cr0109pirates.jpg

Dinner was at Animator's Palate again, but this time it was the
pirate-themed dinner. We all received a rolled up "treasure map"
menu at our place setting, along with a "Pirates in the Caribbean"
head scarf. Fun. :-)

All the servers were dressed up in pirate costumes, too, and they
looked great. Dinner was rather rushed, though - part of that was
because I asked to receive dessert in time to make the pirate deck
party at 9:45, and the servers themselves were rushing, too. At 9:45
they had a procession with all the servers, and were getting the
guest to do the limbo and a conga line or something like that. Meg
was very disappointed that none of us participated.

I have to give TJ credit - he got my dessert, the "Walk the Triple
Chocolate Gangplank Cake" out to me as soon as the procession ended,
and Lee and I were able to make it up on deck in plenty of time for
the party. It turned out the "real" show didn't start until about
10:15. We went up to deck 10 where we could watch Captain Mickey
preparing to save the day when the pirates took over the stage.
Sorry, this isn't a great picture, but you get the idea.

capt_mickey.jpg

And after that it was time for fireworks in the Caribbean!
Apparently Disney is the only cruise line that does a fireworks show.
They weren't as impressive as Illuminations, but it was still pretty
cool to see them in the middle of the ocean! We learned later that
the wind changed direction just before the show started, and the
Captain had to change course so that the fireworks could go on as
planned.

cr0109fireworks.jpg

There was a dessert buffet set up on Deck 9 so we partook of that.
LOTS of different cakes, and even baked Alaska (though the inside was
really whipped cream and not ice cream). Some really good chocolate
chip cookies, too.

It was a great day, but quite long and full of activities. We were
definitely ready for a more relaxing day at sea today.

So I caught up on yesterday...but haven't had time to write about
today at all. Maybe tomorrow after our day on Castaway Cay...

January 29, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 7

It was a very long day today, so you're getting a very short blog
entry -- I'll try to catch up further during our "At Sea" day tomorrow.

We took the shore excursion to the Tulum (two-LOOM) ruins on the east
coast of the Yucatan peninsula today. It was a lot of travel time --
30 minutes each way on a ferry to the mainland, and an hour bus ride
each way, so it made for a long day. It was well worth seeing,
though. The weather was beautiful -- in the mid-80s and a bit humid, but
there was a nice breeze.

Tonight is Pirate Night, with the special dinner, the deck party,
dessert buffet, and fireworks, so it's going to be a late night.

But here's a couple of pictures from Tulum:

tulum1.jpg

tulum_ll.jpg

At Sea day tomorrow -- it will be to nice to rest and relax! But
remember that extra hour we got last night? We give it back
tonight...

January 28, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 6 - Grand Cayman

The seas were quite rough last night - there was a lot of motion. I
think I'm very glad we're in the cabin we are, since it really didn't
bother us.

We arrived at Grand Cayman ~7:00 this morning - we were already
anchored when we got up at 7:30.

The weather was absolutely beautiful today. It was sunny with some
clouds, but not too warm - got to a little over 80, I think. There
was a pretty stiff breeze, so that helped make it feel cooler.

Grand Cayman is surrounded by a huge reef so there's no spot deep
enough for cruise ships for them to build a pier. So all the cruise
ships have to anchor off-shore and all the passengers have to take
tenders to/from the port. That's kind of a pain.

We had breakfast at Topsider - it was quite a nice breakfast buffet.
The oranges and grapefruit were especially good. They also had some
thick tomato slices that had cheese melted on top, and those were
good, though of course Lee didn't appreciate that.

Since we had a fairly early excursion we met in one of the lounges
and as a group they took us on-board one of the tenders. It held
about 200 people! There was a very nice view of the Magic from the
tender. If you go to the front of the rear smokestack, then go down
to the lifeboat from there, and then a little bit right, we think the
second porthole down is ours.

cayman_magic.jpg

We were doing the Cayman Island Tour and Stingray Snorkel. Touristy,
but it seemed like a good way to at least see some of the island and
do something in the water.

There were only 17 people on our tour, which was kind of nice, and
apparently a bit unusual. Once we got off the tender we got onto a
small tour bus, with our driver, Delroy. Did you know that they
drive on the wrong side of the road here? It's the first time
I've ever been in a country that did that, so it was different.

Our first stop was Hell. Which is a black rock formation on the
island, and a big tourist trap. But I had heard that you can send
postcards from there, postmarked "Hell", and of course make all of
the jokes about having been to hell anc back. There's an older man
there who dresses as the devil and wanders around - and there's a
wooden cutout of him that you can pose with if he's not available.
It was a short stop - only 15 minutes, but that was enough time.

hell1.jpg
hell2.jpg


Next was the turtle farm, where they breed green sea turtles, both to
release back into the wild and for the meat (turtle meat is
apparently very popular in the Caymen Islands). We saw the turtles
they use as breeders - it's a 4-1 ratio of females to males. The
females lay their eggs in the sand and the workers gather them up and
put them in the hatchery.

I had heard this before, but the sex of a turtle is controlled by
the heat of the sand around the eggs. Warmer sand = female turtles,
cooler sand = males. So in the hatchery they decide what they need
more of, and set the temperature accordingly.

You can tell males from females by the length of the tail - females
have shorter tails and males have longer tails. But you can't tell
the sex of a turtle until they are about 9 years old.

We were able to handle the turtles - if they got agitated and started
flipping their fins our guide told us to scratch them under the chin
to calm them down. That worked pretty well. Lee had his looking quite
content and blissful.

turtle1.jpg

There were also quite a few iguanas lounging about, and they were
interesting to see.

Stingray City wasn't quite what I expected - I was thinking of a
beach with a large cove or something. Instead we had to take a small
boat 30 minutes out towards the big barrier reef, where we got to an
area with a sandy bottom that was only about 3-4' deep. And there
were lots of OTHER boats out there too. They put a couple of anchors
in the sand to hold the boat in place and then we were able to get
out of the boat.

The stingrays are VERY used to people and come right up and swim
around, since they expect to be fed. They seem to recognize when a
new boat arrives they have a better chance of getting food, so we had
quite a few of them around us. They were pretty big, too. The older
ones had a more bristly skin, while the younger ones were softer.

stingray1.jpg

The water was not as warm as I was expecting and there was a very
strong breeze, so I was getting a little cold. Every once in a while
a swell would come in and we'd be up to our necks instead of waists.
Lee fed the stingrays (and one of them nipped him thinking his finger
was food!), and he enjoyed it. For me...well, I'm not that much
nto ocean stuff and it was outside my comfort zone...I'm glad I did
it, but it's not something that either of us would rush to do again.

The tour ended about 2:00, and by the time we got through security
and took the tender back it was about 2:45, and we were starving,
since we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We went up to Pinocchio's and
had some pizza, and then I tried a fish burger from Pluto's Dog
House. They had a pretty nice toppings bar, so I ate more of the
tomatoes and carrot sticks and olives and pickles than I did the
fish. Lee also got a sandwich slice and a slice of a lamb/couscous
wrap from Goofy's. They really have an interesting variety of
sandwiches and wraps there - there have been a few different ones
each day.

And then it was time for something we really haven't done much of on
this trip - a nap! Though I also did a load of laundry. I got in
just in time - when I went back to check the dryer all of the dryers
were full, and someone was ready to use mine when it finished.

The final tender returned to the ship about 4:45 and they off-loaded
everyone, closed the door, and we were underway before 5:00.

Tonight's show in the Walt Disney Theater was "Twice Charmed", which
was a re-telling of the Cinderella story - what if Lady Tremayne had
been able to break *both* of Cinderella's glass slippers? Of course
true love prevailed in the end. It was very nicely done and I
enjoyed it.

Tonight for dinner we were back at Lumiere's, with its normal French
menu. And our waiter is French, so that's quite appropriate.

I'd have to say this was my least favorite of the dinners we've had
so far. None of the appetizers appealed to me (escargot??? Ewww!),
so I had the tomato and basil soup from the soup and salad portion of
the menu instead. That was really good, though.

Lee had the Ratatouille with Piperade Vinaigrette, which
sounded ok to me except that it was served cold. So it was almost
more like a thick salsa.

And speaking of escargot...Paula indicated that she and Joe wanted to
try it, so TJ brought enough for all six of us. Paula, Joe, and Jan
went for it simultaneously - Jan and Joe said it was ok (though I
noticed neither of them offered to finish the three that were still
left!), and Paula immediately went for the chocolate milk chaser. :-)
It was pretty funny.

Lee and I both had the Normandy Salad, which had lettuce,
diced papaya, hearts of palm and red cabbage. I had seen the mention
of goat cheese croutons that were served with the mixed garden salad
and asked TJ if I could have those, too - they were good. :-)

None of the main courses appealed to me - a little too heavy on the
scallops, mushrooms and/or sauces, so I ordered the Oven Roasted
Chicken
from the "Lighter" menu, which came with garden
vegetables and baked potato. Not exciting at all, but it was just
fine - I actually really enjoyed just the plain steamed vegetables
and baked potato after all the much richer stuff I've been eating all
week.

Lee (and everyone else at the table except me and Jan) had the
Beef Tenderloin Provence, Burgundy Wine Sauce. And they all
said it was excellent. It came with something that looked like large
thick-cut French fries, but actually turned out to be fried parsnips.
They had a very different flavor, but I thought they were really
good.

Jan ordered the Coquelles St. Jacques which were scallops,
though it looked like a potatoes au gratin dish.

Dessert, though, was where Lumeiere's REALLY disappointed me. A
French restaurant - I'm thinking some kind of outstanding chocolate
dessert, like a mousse, or chocolate eclair, or torte or something.
Well, I would be wrong. There was NOTHING chocolate on the dessert
menu, except for a no sugar added chocolate cheesecake. TJ offered
to get me the Double Chocolate Cake from Parrot Cay (which I had
enjoyed on Saturday night), and Kathy and Jan decided they wanted
that too. But TJ came back empty-handed - since we are in the very
last dinner seating, the Parrot Cay kitchen was already closed. So I
boycotted dessert. Paula offered me as much of her Montelimar
Nougat and Pistachio Cream Sauce
, which had a chocolate shell on
it and I tried that - but it really wasn't substantial chocolate.
Sigh.

Lee had the Creme Brulee, and enjoyed that.

TJ brought out a Crepes Suzette for all of us to try - too much
orange/Grand Marnier for me, though.

I actually have a lot more stories about my dining companions, but
I'll have to do a separate blog on those. We are stll having a great
time together, and we are always one of the last 3-4 tables in the
restaurant.

We had a dinosaur awaiting us on our bed tonight. A small one,
fortunately. :-)

towel4.jpg

The seas are much calmer tonight - during dinner we actually forgot
we were on a ship because we just weren't feeling much movement at
all. Quite a difference from last night!

We turn our clocks back tonight, which means an extra hour of sleep -
yay!!!!

Cozumel tomorrow - we are going on an all-day excursion to the Tulum
Ruins over on the Mexican mainland. (Did you know Cozumel was an
island? I didn't, until this trip!)

January 27, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 5 - At Sea

Ahhh...a day to relax at sea! Or at least what passes for us as "relaxing".

I'm not sure I like the late dinner thing -- we don't get out of dinner
until 10:30, and then we're too full to go right to bed...but going to
bed late means missing out on being out and about early when things are
still pretty quiet.

I really wanted to go to the gym this morning, so I got up at 7:30. We
were in there Saturday evening and there was NO ONE there...that's
because everyone is there between 7:00 and 8:00 in the morning! There
was a spinning class going on, all of the treadmills and ellipticals
were in use, and many of the weight machines. One of the exercise bikes
(which was what I wanted) was free -- but only because it had no TV.
That was OK, I just watched the sea go by as I pedaled away for 40
minutes.

I had a spa appointment scheduled at 9:45, and I still had to have breakfast
and shower, so I got some cereal and a yogurt parfait from Goofy's
Galley, and that worked out ok.

Lee was out having breakfast when I got back to eat and shower.

My spa app't was nice and relaxing -- I had the "Exotic Manicure", which
included a salt scrub and arm/hand massage as well as the manicure. I'd
read that the spa employees can be rather pushy about selling their
products, but Kadina obviously picked up early on that I wasn't
interested, and she never mentioned it. She got a bigger tip, too.

Lee went to the "Disney Innovations: Animation" presentation on the
"Top 10" introductions Disney has made to the field of animation, and
he enjoyed that. They included synchronized sound for cartoons, the
first full-length animated film, a sense of depth (everything from
Walt's original multi-plane camera to using computers), the use of the
photo copier to transfer sketches to cells, and computer generated
imagery (CGI).

We decided to eat lunch at Lumiere's, even though that's where we were
going for dinner tonight, but the menu sounded interesting. It was the
first time we had been in there -- it's really a beautiful restaurant.
And very unbusy -- the servers were really looking for things to do!

The food was quite good, and really nicely presented, but it was a bit
different from what the menu said. I had the Potato and Barley soup --
which had potatoes, but no barley as far as I could tell. And I also
had the salad nicoise, which was supposed to have potatoes in it, but
there weren't any.

Lee wanted to attend the virtual tour of the Bridge and Engine room at
12:15, but we were finished with lunch in plenty of time. He enjoyed
that.

And then it was on to a Wine Tasting seminar at 1:00. Joe, one of our
tablemates, was there, too. It was an interesting session, though of
the 6 wines there were only two that I really liked -- a Riesling
Kabinett from Germany and the Fairy Tale champagne that is made
exclusively for Disney.

Somewhere in there we took a closer look at the Magic's European
itineraries in 2010 and decided that we wanted to sign up for one of the
11-night Mediterranean cruises -- it sounds like it goes to a lot
of interesting places == and it's a "safe" way to see Europe!

We went to a Body and Metabolism analysis session in the Spa. They are
pushing an expensive detoxification program, of which we remain very
skeptical, but we did learn some other good things about our metabolic
rate, lean body mass, fat percentage, etc.

It was 5:00, and dinner wasn't until 8:30, so we went to Goofy's Galley
(since we were already on Deck 9) and had them make us a couple of
salads and some fresh fruit. The wind had REALLY come up, and was
trying to blow the lettuce off our plates!

Then it was time to get all "neat and pretty" for formal night. Lee had
found out that they set up a red carpet outside the Walt Disney Theater
for the Golden Mickeys show, and have "paparazzi" greet the guests as
they enter - and of course that's more fun if you're already dressed up.
We got some very favorable comments.

ll_formal.jpg

We also really enjoyed the Golden Mickeys show - some of it was a little
hokey, but most of the musical numbers were quite excellent - the woman
who performed Colors of the Wind had a wonderful voice.

After the show we still had an hour and a half until dinner so we
wandered around - we did get our picture taken at one of the portrait
stations, so hopefully that will turn out well. There was no one
waiting at the Future Disney Cruise desk and we took that opportunity to
book the Med cruise - we'll even have our same stateroom. :-)

We had a wonderful dinner at Lumiere's with our tablemates - I'm really
glad that Lumiere's was our restaurant for formal night - it's the most
elegant of the three. After four meals together we are all getting to
know each other, so dinners are more fun as we tease each other and our
servers.

No time for a lot of food photos -- but I had to post this one of the special
dessert for tonight -- "The Golden Chocolate, Chocolate Award". It was
very good.

lum1.jpg

Our waiter, TJ, took this picture of all of us -- what you can't see is
the reason we were all smiling so much, and that's because of what one
of his fellow waiters was doing behind his back, as seen in the next
photo.

lum_grp.jpg
lum_tj.jpg

The ship has been rocking and rolling a lot more tonight - the seas
are classed as "rough" this evening with 8-13' swells, and we have
"moderate" gale force winds - whatever that means. Ok, Lee just looked
it up - it's 32-38 mph winds. He was out on deck earlier and said it
was VERY windy.

Grand Cayman tomorrow - we have an early excursion, so we have to be
ready to leave the ship by 9:15.

January 26, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 4, Key West

An absolutely beautiful day today! Blue sky and highs in the 70s.

We were still at sea when we woke up this morning -- we weren't due to
dock in Key West until about noon.

There was a DVC Members' Get Together at 9:00, so we went to that,
though we could only stay for 30 minutes since breakfast was at 9:30.
Just for going we received nice DVC baseball caps and DVC Member
lanyards (good for carrying around our Key to the World cards). And
later on someone posted the nifty "DVC Member" magnets on our stateroom
door -- we had seen those on a bunch of other stateroom doors and
wanted some of our own.

Speaking of: here is our door -- Lee made up decorations of his own
before we left home, and then there's the Bon Voyage from Coleen and
the DVC magnets.

door_dec.jpg

Breakfast this morning was the Mickey's Character Breakfast at Parrot
Cay. We were joined by all but one of our tablemates for breakfast.
We had a new assistant server this morning -- apparently Meg was not
feeling well last night and so Esther was filling in for her.
Meg isn't quite as much fun as Esther -- we will miss her.

Pluto, Minnie, and Dale quickly came by our table and posed for photos.

cr0109minnie.jpg

The breakfast menu included the usual breakfast items -- eggs and bacon,
toast, pastries, Mickey waffles, omelets, cereal, pancakes, etc. One
of the pancake choices was whole wheat pancakes, and Lee tried those
and said they were good.

Goofy, Chip and Mickey were also making the rounds of the tables -
unfortunately Mickey passed us by.

cr0109chip.jpg

We went up on deck to watch the ship pull into Key West and dock. The
water is so blue!

cr0109kwdock.jpg

Over Key West we saw a lot of large birds circling around -- they were
really good-sized. They turned out to be vultures -- apparently the
cold weather they've had in Florida recently had driven them south to
warmer climates. Just a few more snowbirds wintering in the Keys, I
guess!

People started getting off the ship pretty much right at 12:30, which
was the stated time. Lee and I went up to Goofy's Galley to get
something to eat before going ashore - it hadn't been too long since
breakfast, but we knew we'd want something or we'd get pretty hungry in port!

Here's a picture of the Magic from the dock -- this isn't even half of the ship!

cr0109kwmagic.jpg

We'd decided just to take a walking tour of Key West, rather than
booking a tour. There were some suggestions in our Personal Navigator
and also in Passporter. Passporter suggest visting the Chamber of
Commerce for a walking tour map, so we did that. They had a map for an
architectural tour of Key West.

It got us away from the heavily tourist-trafficked areas of Key West,
and that was nice. There were supposed to be pelican signs at each of
the stops, but we only saw two the whole time. Lee did a good job of
guiding us around and reading the info on the various houses. (I've
inset a larger version of the pelican into the photo so you can see it better.)

keywest2.jpg

Our only previous experience with Key West architecture is the Old Key
West Disney Vacation Club resort, and we could certainly see where they
got their inspiration.

Here's a house that shows of several Key West architectural features:
eyebrow windows, deep porches, the shutters, and a widow's walk.

keywest1.jpg

Though that one does not have the signature rail design that we saw on
so many houses (and at Old Key West the cut out has the Mickey ears
shape).

keywest3.jpg

There were also a lot of houses built in a Victorian style with lots of decorative "gingerbread" - I thought this one was especially attractive.

keywest4.jpg

We took a tour of The Oldest House in South Florida, built in 1829. It
has survived several hurricanes and a fire which destroyed much of Key
West in the 1880s. It was owned by a sea captain and his wife, who had
9 daughters. It's not that big a house - we're not sure where all
those people slept! The docent there gave us a nice tour of the house.

We struck out on our own after that -- I wanted to walk down to the Key
West Lighthouse and Ernest Hemingway's house. We didn't go into either
one - we were able to see a Hemingway cat on the porch, and that was
good enough for me. :-)

kw_light.jpg
heming_house.jpg

Lee wanted to see the beach, so we went over to Fort Zachary Taylor
State Park after that. It took us a little while to figure out where
the entrance was, but we found it. There is a self-guided tour of the
Fort - it wasn't really that good, though. Going up on top was the
best part. And then there was a "nature trail", though there wasn't
much to see there. There were a fair number of people on the beach,
and we saw a number of other people who had apparently walked over from
the cruise ship.

ft_taylor.jpg

It was really a nice day for walking - there was a nice breeze and it
was quite comfortable even at a brisk walking pace. We did at least
8 miles. So we earned our dinner tonight.

We re-boarded the ship about 5:00 (All Aboard is 7:30), and we were
hungry so we got some pizza from Pinocchio's Pizzeria. That was
actually pretty good!

And we've been relaxing since then - and I've been working on photos
and this blog entry.

The ship departed quite promptly - at 7:34 we started to pull away from
the dock!

Dinner tonight was at Parrot Cay. Meg must still not have been
feeling very well this morning because tonight she was much better -
much more attentive and energetic and personable. She used to be
a Cast Member in the UK pavilion at Epcot, and she shared with us
some of the stupid questions the tourons would ask. "I like your
flag...but does it come in any other colors?"

Our dining companions all joined us - we all compared our days in Key
West. We all did a lot of walking, and none of us did too much to
enrich the local economy.

Tonight was "banana night" at Parrot Cay - banana drinks, banana bread,
banana desserts - but I don't like banana. Fortunately there were
non-banana choices!

I think we almost all had the Smokey Chicken, Vegetables and Cheddar
Cheese Fritters
, served with Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce. Yummy!!!

pc1.jpg

For the Soup/Salad Course, I had the Cold Cream of Mango and
Papaya
, which was kind of like a smoothie, only not that thick. It
didn't photograph very well, so you're getting a picture of Paula's
Tropical-style Fruit Salad instead.

pc2.jpg

Lee had the Cream of Sweet Onion Soup. He enjoyed it - it was a
good, but I don't care much for cream soups.

pc3.jpg

For the main course I was torn - the Pan-Seared Grouper with Baby
Shrimp Lemon Butter
sounded really good, but so did the Barbecued
Pork Tenderloin with Prickly Pear Glaze
. So I asked TJ if I could
have just a slice of pork with my entree. He ended up bringing out
another order of it, and Lee and I each had two slices of the pork,
which was really excellent. I think I liked that better than the
grouper, though it was also good (but I think the Pan-Seared Grouper at
Brown Derby is better).

pc4.jpg

Lee had the Caribbean Roast Chicken, though I think he got that
mostly because of the mashed sweet potatoes that came with it. :-) He
also enjoyed the pork. Paula ordered the pork, so that is pictured
below.

pc6.jpg
pc5.jpg

In keeping with the banana theme, one of the desserts was French
Toast Banana Bread Pudding
, and several people (including Lee, of
course) had that. They enjoyed it.

pc9.jpg

I had the Chocolate S'More Vanilla Cake, which sounded just ok
from the description: "Crackling Marshmallow Crust on Vanilla Cake
filled with Chocolate, served with Dulce de Leche Sauce." But it looked
really good, and it tasted even better! There was a lot more chocolate
than I expected, and it was a nice firm chocolate mousse-type filling.

pc7.jpg

Paula had the Creme Brulee Cheesecake - that was a very large
piece, and she said it was really good even though it wasn't chocolate.

pc8.jpg

When I got back to the room, Louie the Lobster was waiting for me - he
also was wearing my sunglasses. :-)

towel2.jpg

At Sea day tomorrow, though we have several activities planned on board
ship. And tomorrow is Formal Night, so we'll get dressed up in our fancy clothes.
We're both enjoying this cruise thing!

January 25, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 3

First thing's first - we're on the ship! And quite nicely settled in our
cabin, but I'll write more about that later. It's been a great day.

(This entry will be a bit light on photos since I'm trying to get it
finished up in time!)

They told us at the Cruise desk at Animal Kingdom Lodge that they would pick up our luggage at 8:00 in the morning - but we got a call from Bell Services at 7:45 that they were sending someone up! Fortunately we'd done most of our packing the night before and had actually finished it up already.

We had a quick breakfast at Mara before going off to Animal Kingdom. It was another beautiful morning -- a little chilly at first, but it warmed up quite nicely.

At Animal Kingdom we wanted to ride the Safari again. It appeared to
again be another not-too-busy day at Animal Kingdom -- they were only running one side of the Safari loading area, and we pretty much walked through the Standby line all the way to the loading area.

We again had a pretty good safari - not quite as many animals as
yesterday, but still a large variety. Both the black and white rhinos
were especially cooperative. Our safari drive was not as animated and enthusiastic as Alex, but we actually learned several new things from her:

1. Rhinos have skin that is an inch thick, and they can run 35 mph.
2. Cormorants do not have waterproof feathers, which lets them dive
deeper than other birds, but then they have to spend a lot of time
afterwards drying off.
3. The darkest sable antelope in the herd is the dominant male.
4. The Patterson's eland can jump 6' vertically!
5. Thompson's gazelles can change direction in mid-air.

We had almost no wait for the bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge, and in fact were the only two people on the bus. OK, OTHER than the driver.

It was about 10:00 and the bus wasn't picking us up until 12:30, so we had some time. The only thing we saw on the savanna was this
critter... which was NOT on any of the wildlife spotting guides. :-)

wdw0109truck.jpg

The animal care staff was cleaning up on our savanna, so none of the larger animals were out - just some of the birds.

We went down to Mara to have a light and early lunch, since we knew we wouldn't be on board ship before 3:00 or so. The vegetable flatbread was VERY good -- pesto sauce, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and black olives. Yummy.

After lunch we went over to the Uzima savanna overlook -- and that was a happening place! We saw Thompson's gazelles, nyala, sable antelope, lots of giraffes in the distance (visiting over the fence with the giraffes on the next savanna), and Ankole cattle (when there's only one they're called Ankole cows). There were two cast members stationed there talking to guests, both from South Africa, and we visited with them for quite a while -- until it was time to go out and catch the bus, actually.

The bus arrived pretty much at 12:15 and left on time at 12:30. We had to make a second stop at Saratoga Springs to pick up their cruise overflow, but were on our way to the port by about 1:00. It was pretty exciting to drive over the bridge and catch our first glimpse of the ship in the distance!

Once we arrived we had to go through security check and then through the check-in line, but that all went very fast. Then, something we hadn't read about at all -- they took our picture and mapped it to our Key to the World card -- when we actually boarded the ship they scanned our cards and our pictures popped up on the monitor.

Since we boarded so late (about 2:30) our room was already ready, so we headed there first. A nice surprise awaited us -- Coleen, our travel agent from Mouse Fan Travel, had arranged a Disney Bon Voyage package for us, with stateroom decorations and a very nice cake too!

sr1.jpg

The stateroom is not as large as our studio at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but actually not too bad at all, and there's quite a bit of storage. though our suitcases were too big to fit under the bed, so we had to put them in the closet.

We went up to Topsider Buffet to have a late lunch -- all ship
services ceased at 3:30 for the life boat drill, and it was almost 3:00
by then. But since we had late dinner seating it was going to be 8:30
before we had dinner!

When we got back to the room the rest of our bags had arrived, and we got most of the unpacking done before the lifeboat drill at 3:30. Our station was on the sunny side of the ship and it was rather warm
standing there in the sun, but the drill was over fairly quickly.

And then it was time for the 4:30 Sailaway party. Crew members were handing out shiny streamers for us to wave during the party and sailaway. There was a lot of energy up on decks 9 and 10 and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The ship pulled away from the dock a little before 5:00. We wandered around a bit more - as far to the front of the ship as we could go on deck 9 -- and eventually went back to our cabin for a while.

sailaway1.jpg

At 6:15 we saw the "Let the Magic Begin" show at the Walt Disney
Theater. At the sailaway party they said it was going to feature a
magician and ventriloquist, which didn't thrill us too much, but it was
cute and we enjoyed it - not something I'd want to do very often,
though.

After the show we went to Guest Services to sign up for a couple of
events - the Galley Tour and a wine tasting session. And then went back to the Vista Spa because I needed to try to rearrange a couple of spa treatments, and they were very accommodating. While there we checked out the gym, too. There was only one person there working out.

We had a little bit of time back in the room before dinner at Animator's
Palate. There were six people at our table, and we all had a nice time getting to know each other.

Dinner was quite good. For appetizer I had the Roma Tomato and
Portabello Mushrooms on Polenta Cake, which was excellent.
Lee had the Wild Mushrooms Risotto and Porcini Wafer.

Next we both had the Smoked Salmon and Trout with Goat Cheese Salad. They could have been a lot more generous with the goat cheese, though. And there was almost no dressing on it. Now, I don't like a lot of dressing, but this was really dry.

For entrees I had the Grilled Salmon with Creamy Risotto and a Barolo Wine Sauce, and that was very good.

Lee had the Grilled Fillet Mignon, Seared Scallops with Port Wine Demi Glace. He said the scallops were good but small, and the steak was good.

We do have to say that the portion sizes were quite reasonable -- not
huge but not too small, either. I still didn't eat all of everything
that I was served, but I didn't leave as much as I thought I might.

Dessert was the Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake for me (I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone) and the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie for Lee. The cake was good -- one of the better chocolate desserts I've had from Disney in quite a while.

Animator's Palate is an interesting restaurant - when you first walk
into it everything is black and white, including the server's attire,
but as the evening goes on there is more and more color, and just before the dessert course everything turns colorful -- including the servers!

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This is Esther, our assistant server. She is very nice and fun -- I
think we will enjoy her a lot over the next week.

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When we got back to the stateroom, "Ray" was on the bed to greet us -- wearing my sunglasses. :-)

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So that's the end of our first day -- we've taken a look at some of the
activities, and are not sure how we're going to have time to do a
fraction of the things we want to do.

Key West tomorrow!

January 23, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 1 and 2

We're not actually cruising yet, but we are at least in Florida, so we are that much closer!

We left San Diego this morning at the very civilized hour of 9:30. We usually have crack of dawn flights which require us to get up at 4 a.m. - instead we got up at our usual time and still had time to eat breakfast and read the paper before we left home.

Of course the disadvantage is that we didn't arrive in Orlando until 7:30 p.m. - which meant we didn't get to go to a park at all tonight.

We used Disney's Magical Express bus service for the first time to get us from the airport to the resort. It was quite easy - we put the DME luggage tags on our bags when we checked them with the airline this morning, and then all we had to do was wander out to the DME desk at the Orlando airport and get on the bus they pointed us to - Disney takes care of picking up the bags and delivering them to our room. The bus was completely full (we couldn't get seats together!), but was only making two stops - Pop Century and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Most of the passengers got off at Pop Century. We were at the hotel about 90 minutes after we got off the plane, so that's not too bad. Our bags arrived in our room at 10:40 p.m.

Apparently Animal Kingdom Villas has gotten the memo from Boardwalk Villas, and our studio is almost allllll the way at the end of Kudu Trail - about as far as you can get from anywhere. :-) (We always seem to get the rooms at Boardwalk that are at the end of the hallway.) We are on the 5th floor overlooking the Arusha Savanna - we've been on Uzima Savanna the other times we've stayed here, so I am looking forward to seeing our view in daylight!

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After we quickly checked out our room we made the long trek back to the lobby to get something for dinner. It was about 9:00, but fortunately Boma was still open. There weren't very many people there and they were able to seat us right away. We always enjoy dining here, but tonight was especially nice just because it was so empty! Our server said it had been a very slow night. Boma is usually extremely noisy, and you can hardly hear yourself think, but tonight it was much more pleasant. We enjoyed the wide variety of foods on the buffet - I had a watercress salad and a tomato and goat cheese salad that were new to me, and both yummy. I missed my roasted vegetables, though, but there was an excellent rice dish, and the Marrakesh couscous was also good. For dessert, in addition to the zebra domes and chocolate mousse crunch Lee and I both tried the cocomisu (tiramisu with coconut), and that was really good.

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Empty Boma

It is COLD here - in the 40s when we arrived, and supposed to get down to 28 tonight. Brr. But it's supposed to be 75 tomorrow. I hope that's right!

Ok, it's now Friday afternoon - I wrote the preceding last night after we arrived. So I'll add in Day 2's activities, as well!

We had no place to be at any particular time this morning, so we attempted to sleep in. The screaming baby at 7:00 didn't help, nor did the exercise class that was apparently going on in an open area of the hallway at about 8:15. Oh-kaaaay....

It was a beautiful day outside, though still chilly (~42 at 9:00). The animals didn't seem to be too anxious to be out and about, either - we could see a couple back in the trees, but nothing close.

On our way down to The Mara for breakfast we could see Kidani Village out of one of the big windows - that's the new DVC Resort that will be opening in a few months. We are looking forward to our first stay there later this year.

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After a quick breakfast we stopped at the Disney Cruise Line desk to check in with them before we headed out. Since we are not on one of the Land/Sea packages we can't actually check in yet and get our stateroom key and all of that, but they still needed to take our information for our transportation to the port tomorrow - like knowing what room to come to tomorrow morning to pick up our bags! Which we have to have packed and ready by 8:00. The bus to the ship doesn't actually leave Animal Kingdom Lodge until 12:30, though. We were a bit concerned about that, but the ladies assured us we'd still arrive in plenty of time to be on board the ship well before 3:00. I guess we'll find out for sure tomorrow, but you'd like to think that Disney has this down to a science.

We took the bus to Animal Kingdom after that. That has to be the shortest bus ride between any resort and theme park here at Walt Disney World. Lee needed to get a new Annual Pass, so that was our first order of business. We plan to be back another three times this year.

Animal Kingdom was really not crowded at all. The weather had warmed up enough that it was very comfortable in the sun, but still cool in the shade - I wore my polar fleece pullover all day, but Lee was ok in shirt sleeves.

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Lee noticed that the Lesser Flamingos near the Tree of Life had what appeared to be some much brighter pink feathers than usual.

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After we got a Fastpass for the Safari we went over the Flights of Wonder show - on the way we saw DiVine putting on a show.

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Flights of Wonder was quite enjoyable. They had a bird we hadn't seen before - a sulphur-crested cockatoo named Pogo, who did all kinds of crazy movements when given some very subtle physical and verbal cues. He'd spin around on his perch, flap his wings and shake his head, ruffle his feathers - it was really fun to watch. And they had my favorite - Sluggo the Black Legged Seriema - who slams a plastic lizard to the ground multiple times. (Not that I have anything against lizards, but Sluggo does them in with such verve and enthusiasm!)

At the very end of the show when they bring out lots of different birds, one of the handlers had one we hadn't seen before - a Bateleur eagle, which is found in North Africa.

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We went on a really excellent safari after that - for a change many of the animals on the savanna were actually near the place we enter the savanna rather than where we exit. We even saw a baby giraffe - though from this photo you can't really tell how small it is in comparison to the adults who were nearby. Our safari driver was very good, and very enthusiastic - his name was Alex. He even made the lame parts fairly interesting.

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Next was the Pangani Forest Trail. One of the hippos was actually laying up on the bank of the pool in the sun. The researcher there told us some things about hippos that we didn't know:

1. Hippos forage up to 6-1/2 miles at night.
2. Hippos can run 18 miles per hour!
3. A hippo's mouth opens 150 degrees - it can bite a 10' crocodile in half.

We went to Expedition Everest after that. We hadn't gotten a Fastpass, so we used the single rider line - we only waited 10 minutes or so. For lunch we decided to try the Yak and Yeti counter service place - it's never gotten very good reviews (though it's usually classed as mediocre and not bad), but we thought we'd see what we thought. I definitely go with the "mediocre" label - we get better Chinese food at the grocery store near us.

The entrees are served in a large "Chinese takeout" container. I had the honey chicken, which had rice in the bottom of the container, then some broccoli and carrots, with the chicken on top. Lee had the kung pao beef, which also had rice on the bottom. and then the veggies had been stir-fried with the beef. He said it didn't have a lot of flavor - even though he picked two pretty good-sized pieces of chile pepper out of it. Both of them were nice and hot and fresh, though. Probably the best part of lunch was the two iced teas I got from the Tea Company stand that's across from Yak and Yeti. They had quite a selection of hot teas, and three different kind of brewed iced tea. Lee had the raspberry and I had the "traditional" black tea. They were both very good.

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We wandered around a little bit after that and visited some of the other animals around the Tree of Life before heading out of the park. There still weren't very many people in the park. The bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge was sitting at the bus stop when we got there, and left soon after, so our timing was good.

When we arrived back in our room I went out to the balcony to see what animals might be on the savanna this afternoon. I was not disappointed - there were 4 zebras I could see under the trees, and a giraffe came cruising by soon after. There were a couple of East African Crowned Cranes visible in the distance, as well as a Roan Antelope.

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I caught one of the zebras doing its best "dead zebra" impression. :-)

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It has been fun to sit here and look outside periodically and just see how the animals have moved around. We've seen two different giraffes, several ankole cattle, and a blesbok and a greater kudu.

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Tonight we're headed off to Epcot to wander around and see Illuminations - which is at 8:00 and not 9:00.

And now we're back from that. It was another chilly evening, though not as cold as last night. The night before we left San Diego, since I still had room in my suitcase I threw in a polarfleece pullover and an extra pair of pants - and now I'm really glad that I did that!!!

It was strange going into the front entrance of Epcot - we are so used to coming in the International Gateway since we usually stay at Boardwalk Villas. Also strange was that there were no decorations whatsoever at the front of the park - we almost always come during the holidays, or Food and Wine Festival, or Flower and Garden Festival, so there are special decorations, but not this time.

Though Animal Kingdom was not busy today, apparently Epcot was - at 7:00 at night the standby line for Test Track was 60 minutes and Soarin' was 90 minutes. Wow.

We had dinner at Sunshine Seasons food court in the Land - mainly because it was inside! Though they have a nice selection of food, and after Tangierine Cafe it's probably our favorite counter service place at Epcot.

After that we wandered around Future World and World Showcase, taking some pictures.

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It seemed strange for Illuminations to start an hour early (normally it's at 9:00), and there were quite a few people waiting for it up towards the front of World Showcase, though the crowds thinned out as we got back to one of our favorite spots near Germany, where we only had to stand behind one row of people, and most of them were sitting down.

Illuminations is always a great show!

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It was Extra Magic Hours for resort guests from 8:00 until 11:00. We decided to take a ride on Spaceship Earth. Disney has stopped giving out wristbands during EMH - now they have Cast Members at the entrance to the attractions checking resort ids. We saw several people turned away because of that.

We were quite surprised when we got out of Spaceship Earth that the line was much LONGER than it had been when we got in it! Guess a lot of people decided to take advantage of EMH and ride it.

There was nothing else we really wanted to do so we headed back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. We need to get most of our packing done tonight since they will be picking up our bags at 8:00 tomorrow morning to transport them to the ship.

The cruise starts tomorrow (Saturday) - in 24 hours we'll be on the ship!

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About Western Caribbean 2009

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Western Caribbean 2009 category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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