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Old 07-02-2013, 07:15 PM   #1
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Location: Iowa City, IA (that's IOWA, not Idaho or Ohio)
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Inaugural Magic Cruise to Greece and Turkey - June 15 - 27;DONE with pictures!!

This is the same cruise as MinnieDiva's and abayaflowers, so there may be some redundancies.

I thought I would start this, but probably won't be able to finish it for a while!

Here is the pre-cruise information:

The family - me Deb, DH Eric (who was celebrating his birthday on June 17), DD Jennifer age 22, and DS Mark age 18.

We had planned this to celebrate DS's high school graduation and DD's college graduation, until she decided to add a minor and extend college for another year, and our 25th wedding anniversary later this year (September).

This is our 5th DCL cruise - our last one was last summer to Alaska on the Wonder, and before that, we were on the Dream for a 5 night double dip in August, 2011.

We flew out of Des Moines, Iowa for the first time because we had fewer segments to fly on United - we did Des Moines to Newark, and then Newark to Barcelona. We were supposed to do the same on the way back, but it got badly messed up - more on that later.

We did the Disney pre and post cruise hotel and ground transfers, but booked air on our own, because we used frequent flyers for 2 of our tickets.

The plan:
I had planned to stay in Barcelona 2 days before the cruise, to do some sightseeing and to get adjusted to the time change, and this strategy worked well for us.

I also planned one night in the same hotel after the cruise, to repack (getting all those gels and liquids into the checked luggage, etc) and to SLEEP!
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"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:21 PM   #2
Deb in IA
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When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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June 12, 2013

Travel Day

When I booked the trip, we were to leave Des Moines at 1 pm on Wednesday, June 12, have a 4 hour layover in Newark, then fly from Newark to Barcelona on an 8 hour flight, arriving there at 9:30 am local time on the next day, Thursday, June 13. We live about 2 hours away from Des Moines, and other airports are closer, but would have required more flight segments.

However, about 3 weeks before the trip, United moved up our departure from Des Moines by 7 hours, but the second flight was still the same time! So, now we had to arrive at the airport at 4 am, instead of 11 am, AND we now had a 10-hour layover in Newark. We debated getting a hotel in Des Moines, but I didn't want the hassle of unpacking and trying to setting in for a few hours of sleep, so we just left our house at 2 am, got to the airport at 4 am, and on to the flight.

Once on the plane to Barcelona, we were pleased to see that the plane, a Boeing 757-200, had individual touchscreens on the back of the headrests and each passenger could choose from about 60 movies on-demand! We found out later that this was a result of the United-Continental merger; United had acquired all of the updated Continental planes with this feature (a former Continental flight attendant, who sat with us on the way back told us this). Anyway, the kids really enjoyed this and watched about 4 movies on the way over. We also got dinner, snack and breakfast on the plane.

Deplaning in Barcelona was relatively easy - the terminal was new and well marked, customs was a breeze, we were able to find the Disney representative without difficulty (look for the large white Mickey gloves!). They checked off our names on their list, we got our luggage and were escorted by the Disney people to our shuttle and off to the hotel.
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- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:23 PM   #3
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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June 13 - 14, 2013: Barcelona

Hotel: Hilton Diagonal Mar

June 13, 2013
On the first day, we arrived before check in time. Since we had to book two rooms (hotels in Europe usually only hold 2 people, or at least, this hotel did), we had to wait a bit longer for both of them to be cleaned up. There was some type of medical conference that was ending, so many checkouts were going on. We decided to drop off our bags with the bell service, and walk to the beach (about 3 blocks from this hotel), where there were many cabanas serving sanwiches and salads. We got lunch there while waiting. DS, 18, also saw topless sunbathers for the first time , and we had to explain to him that this is Europe, you know.

DD Jennifer and DH Eric at the beach cabana (we are pretty tired):


After lunch, we got our rooms and crashed. We only woke up to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant - it was pricey, but good food. I had a seafood paella - yummy, but huge! Then back to sleep for the rest of the night.

June 14, 2013
We woke up and headed to the shopping center across the street. We had forgotten to bring electrical converters (Tip #1 - bring converters, if you are staying at a hotel), and our phones, iPad, and laptop were all running low. Unfortunately, we could not find any, and decided we would just wait until we got on the Magic to use our US plugs.

We decided to the the Hop On/Hop Off (HOHO) bus for the entire day. We were able to get a 4 euro discount/ticket by purchasing vouchers at the hotel. The Disney folks were at the hospitality desk in the lobby, and we checked in with them before we left. We were told to have our suitcases packed by 8 am the next day, and leave them INSIDE the room by the door. We were scheduled on the "Chip and Dale" bus at 10 am. The Disney hostess gave us pointers on what to see on the bus line, how long it would take (about 5 hours, if you do all 3 loops without getting off), and a recommendation for tapas at Ciudad Condal, address Rambla de Cataluña, 18, 08007 Barcelona, España, phone 34 933 18 19 97.


NOTE: There are actually 2 different HOHO buses. We did the Bus Turistic company - it has the aqua colored buses.

The other bus line has red buses.


Be sure you get the right bus, once you purchase your ticket.

After that, we headed out. The hotel is on the shortest green route, and the stop was only a couple of blocks from the hotel. One word of caution; we could not get our VISA card to scan on their handheld device. The attendant said something about it needing a "chip". We did not have this problem anywhere else, with similar scanners. Luckily, I had some cash euros, so off we went.

The bus is equipped with a multi-language audio system, and they give you ear buds, so all you do is plug in your earphones, choose your language, and it coordinates with the route. When you want to get off, just unplug the earphone and hop off. Another bus comes by every 10 minutes or so. Be sure to show your ticket when you get on the next bus, plug earphones back in, and away you go. All the stops are clearly announced, as well as transfer points from the three routes (green, blue, red). There is also an attendant on every bus, if you have questions or problems.

Here is a map of their routes:


We got on at the farthest end of the green route, transferred to the red route, and stopped at the Barcelona Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter (not Sagrada Familia - that's later).

We just walked around it, because we could not figure out how to get in. My family, who are huge comic book fans, managed to find a comic book store nearby, so they were happy.

Family at a comic book store in Barcelona:


Afterwards, we got back on the bus and went to the recommended restaurant Ciudad Condal for lunch - excellent, by the way! I would definitely second our Disney hostesses referral!

We got back on the bus and headed to Barcelona's most famous landmark, La Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi.

We did not pre-purchase tickets to go in, and the lines were too long by then, so we just walked around the building, which is pretty amazing. I don't think we could have done the entire church tour and the bus tour in one day, anyway.

We got back on the bus and headed to Parc Guell, another Gaudi landmark. It was very cramped and crowded, and full of peddlers trying to see trinkets, so we didn't stay long, but we did get a panoramic view of the city from here.


After this, we were getting tired, so we just stayed on the bus.
We went by the Barcelona futbol (soccer) stadium, the 1992 Olympics buildings, and World Trade Center and waterfront areas. Then back to the green route and to the hotel.

We freshened up/rested a bit, then headed across the street to a food court area in the shopping center. We started off eating outside, but EVERYONE smokes in Europe, or so it seemed, and the smoke was making DD ill, so we moved inside. Food was good, but service was a bit slow; however this was a Friday night. We finished up, headed to the hotel, and went to bed, excited to finally get on the Magic the next day.
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"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:24 PM   #4
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Location: Iowa City, IA (that's IOWA, not Idaho or Ohio)
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June 15, 2013

Embarkation Day

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Let The Magic Begin
Drink of the Day: Planters Punch (alcoholic), Boy Voyage (non alcoholic) with souvenir glass
Show: All Aboard! Let The Magic Begin

Finally!
We had to make sure the kids were packed and ready, because we were in separate rooms, and we were told to have our suitcases packed, with Disney Cruise tags on, and placed INSIDE the hotel room by the door by 8 am.

However, our bus didn't leave the hotel until 10 am.
So we hung around the room for a while, but then decided to go down to the lobby at around 9:30. By then, our bags still had not been picked up, and we were a bit uneasy leaving them alone in our now-vacant room.

We got to the lobby and checked in at the Disney hospitality desk. We were assured that they would pick up our luggage and that they would be delivered to our staterooms.

We got on our bus and headed to the port.

You know, that first glimpse of the Disney cruise ship always makes my heart jump - and elicited a cheer from everyone on our bus!

We got off and got in line, which moved pretty quickly. I do not remember being assigned an arrival time - I wonder if that is just at Port Canaveral and for the bigger (Dream and Fantasy) ships. We were in the terminal in about 20 minutes, checked in, got our Key To The World cards and lanyards, and amazingly, we got a boarding group 2! Whoo hoo! Our dining rotation was Animators-Parrot Cay-Lumiere's, which I was not thrilled about, because that puts us in Parrot Cay for both formal and semi-formal nights - it just feels weird to be all dressed up in that setting.

We waited in the port for a while - it is basically a large, warehouse-type room, with very few chairs - most people were standing or sitting on the ground. There were some photo stops, and we got a picture with Captain Mickey.

I know this is big, but I just wanted to use this to "introduce" us. From the left, me (Deb) , then DD Jennifer (22) , Mickey, DS Mark (18) , and DH Eric. The rest won't be so big, I promise!


They started boarding around 11:30, if I recall (this is a bit fuzzy). We got on, heard our family name announced (the kids wanted us to be introduced as "The Kumquat Family", but I nixed it )

We headed off to Parrot Cay for lunch. We always prefer Parrot Cay (or Enchanced Garden) as opposed to Topsiders/Beach Blanket/Cabanas - just more relaxing and not as chaotic, to us.

After lunch we headed to the Spa. DH got a cruise-long Rainforest pass, and we signed up for the drawings that we never win. We went to our stateroom (they are open at 1:30), and met our room attendant, Aldo from Peru, who we absolutely loved! He is a real sweetheart, and was wonderful over the course of the cruise!

Aldo:

Amazingly, 2 of our bags are already there! We unpack them and then went to the DIS meet at the Promenade Lounge at 3, and met a lot of DIS'ers, then off to the lifeboat drill at 4 pm. After that is the Sail Away Party - DISCLAIMER: We are not big deck party people, so we only went for about 15 minutes. They did pass out a nice blue and white napkin/bandana with the date, "Greece", and some DCL logos on it to wave during the dances. (insert picture)

Back to the room, and amazingly, those suitcases left at the hotel were all here! Unpacked quickly and shoved those babies under the bed, then off to the "All Aboard" show - yeah, I know the lines almost by heart now, Jeremy wants to be the captain, etc and it is cheesy, but still fun.

A temporary panic occurs when I realize that we do not have any of the tickets for the shore excursions that I booked online; in the past, they have always been waiting for us in the room. I made a quick stop at the Port Adventures desk after dinner, and they are able to look up all of them and reprint my tickets. The CM says that they were all printed earlier, but possibly because there are so many ports, they are running late, and in fact, , our room host Aldo delivers the envelope with them to our room later that night.

After the show, we quickly dressed for dinner and headed to Animators for dinner. We met our server Valentin from Bulgaria, assistant server Erwin from St. Vincent, and head server Deneval (don't know where he's from). Valentin must be one of the oldest servers we have ever had! He tried really hard, but sometimes forgot things - such as when my husband ordered 2 things, like both a soup and a salad. And if you ever order a sundae for dessert, you will get a serenade from Valentin ("Sunday, Sunday . . . ")

Valentin (sorry, I don't know why these came out so dark):


Erwin:

After dinner, DS Mark went to Diversions to meet the Club 18*21 group. Over the course of the cruise, he really bonded with these kids! I was worried, because our daughter previously had not had a good experience with Club 18*21, but Mark really got along well with them and they seemed all to be pretty good kids, including some DIS kids!

After dinner, DH and I head to Studio Sea for Family SuperStar Karaoke. It is pretty sparse in there, not many people. DH, who used to sing with his brothers in a garage band, loves to sing the oldies. So, while the kids were all singing Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, DH gets up and sing "Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding. After this, we went back to the room. Mark came in a bit later. Off to bed, ready for Villefranche, our first stop tomorrow!
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"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:26 PM   #5
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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June 16, 2013

Villefranche

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Animator's - Show Dinner; Parrot Cay - Island Dinner; Lumiere's - French Dinner
Drink of the Day: Deja Vu (alcoholic), Pina Coco Lada (non alcoholic)
Show: Villians Tonight!

Value Package - Nice and Monaco, Adult Only Departure
Meeting time was 8:30 am, at Promanade Lounge.

Unfortunately, we forgot that we had to have photo ID, along with KTTW card - I don't know why; I don't think our ID's were EVER checked when we returned.

So, DH Eric runs back to the room for the ID's.

The Promenade Lounge is packed. There were significant problems getting tenders in this port - the only one where this was an issue. We waited almost an hour before a tender was available - the CM's resorted to asking the audience for jokes to pass the time. Finally the tender gets here, and off we go!

The Magic, in the harbor in Villefranche:


The trip from the ship to the port was fairly short, compared to the next one at La Spezia, so I'm not sure why it took so long. After we debark from the tender, we had our only photo op in a port - I don't know why, I saw other pictures in various ports. Maybe I just missed them.
(insert picture)

We entered the port, and climbed up a hill to our bus for the tour. Our tour guide was a very energetic and knowledgable woman whose name escapes me. She lives in Nice. For this, and all our tours, we used these personal radios with ear buds. We all had a unit that hung around our neck on a strap, and the guide provided narration in their set. This worked pretty well, as long as you stayed relatively close to the guide and there were no big walls between you (this was a problem on Delos Island later).

Our guide gives a little talk about Nice on the way over, and shows us some points of interest, such as the vacation home of Elton John, nestled on a hillside, visible from the road.
The yellow house, to the right of the tower:


She frequently mentions all the rich and famous people who have come to Nice and points out which hotels they stayed at. She shows us a statue of the Winged Victory, and explains that Nice is the French version of Nike, the Winged Goddess of Victory. After arriving in Nice, we get out of the bus and walk along the Promenade des Anglais beside the beach.


The guide mentions that the Tour de France is scheduled to come down this very road in a week (I think this just happened a few days ago). We stop at the Palais de la Mediterranee hotel, and she tells us the rather unsettling story of the disappearance the owners daughter in 1977, how her body has never been found, how her attorney-boyfriend was implicated, and the rumors that her body, or parts of it, are buried under the hotel. Creepy. Her mother, now in her 90s, has kept the case alive in the French courts.


We walk on past the opera house to the flower market, where we have an hour to browse and eat lunch. Lots of seafood places, but DH has been sick since we landed (nausea, vomiting, etc). We are afraid to tell anyone, because he didnt want to be quarantined. I almost always bring Pepto-Bismol tablets, and never use them, so of course, I didnt have any this time. Anyway, he has been really queasy, and we decide to skip seafood and instead, found a crepes place. After we meet up again, we get back on the bus and leave Nice, heading to Monaco. Along the way, the guide tells us about the principality, the Grimaldi family, and after we get off the bus, she walks us up to the courtyard outside the castle. We have an hour here as well. DH doesnt feel like eating, but only wants to find a place to sit for a while, so we go to a café. Im not hungry either, and our kids decide to just share a pizza, but the waitress says no, everyone must order a plate, so DH gets mad and walks out, and DD goes with him. DS and I are left eating food that we really didnt want and DH didnt get to rest, so we are not too thrilled with Monaco right now. DS asks to take the rest of the pizza with us in a box, and we find DD and DH, and DD gets to eat the pizza anyway. We dont have much time left, so we go to the Saint Nicholas Cathedral of Monaco that we passed earlier and go in to see the tomb of Princess Grace and Prince Ranier.

The view from the courtyard outside the palace:




Princess Grace's tomb:


We meet our group and head back to the bus, for our trip to Monte Carlo, which is, of course, that part of Monaco famous for its wealth, casinos, and Grand Prix. We gawk a bit at the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, but mostly we just found a nice park bench to rest until it was time to go.
Here is the famous hairpin turn in the Grand Prix:


Expensive car:


Famous casino:


On the way back to the ship, we pass the medieval town of Eze, and our guide tells us a bit about its history. Then we arrive back at the port of Villefranche. By now, it is almost 6:30, and it takes about 45 minutes to go through security and to get a tender, so we miss the show that night, Villians Tonight, which DD really wanted to see.

We went to dinner and then, Eric and I went to Family SuperStar Karaoke again. Another small crowd. This time, he sings "Just My Imagination", by The Temptations, famously covered by many others, including the Rolling Stones.
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- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:27 PM   #6
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Posts: 15,468

June 17, 2013

La Spezia, Palo Dinner

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Animator's - Show Dinner; Parrot Cay - Island Dinner; Lumiere's - French Dinner
Drink of the Day: Sea Dream (alcoholic), Purple Basil Lemonade (non alcoholic)
Show: The Comedy and Music of JUNK

PISA - Climb the Tower
Meeting time was 8:15 am at Diversions.

When I realized that we would be at La Spezia on a Monday, and that all the museums in Florence are closed on Mondays, I decided that we would skip Florence entirely and just go to Piza. I figured we would benefit from a shorter day anyway, as both our Villefranche day and our Rome day have long tours. The good news is that the tendering is MUCH more efficient today, even though the ship is a lot farther out in the water. We have a guide that takes us to a bus for a 45 minute ride into Piza, where we then take a short train to the Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) , the area of the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower.



We are met there by another local guide. Our group is broken up into two groups to go up into the Tower, and we are in the second group. This was fortunate, because we are there on the Feast (or Festival) Day of their patron saint Rinaldi (June 17), so there was an extra special Mass, with an elaborate Processional from the Baptistry to the Cathedral, with no less than 5 bishops, which we saw while waiting to go to the tower. In the picture above, the Baptistry is the round building on the left, and the Cathdral is the large buiding in the center.

Here is the procession:


We didn't go in the church for the Mass since soon, it was our time to climb up the Tower. This has been on my "bucket list", and DH only saw the Tower from the outside when he came with his family 44 years ago, so it was a thrill to be able to do this! The steps are uneven, worn down in the middle from years of climbers. The Tower was closed from 1990 to 2001 to complete a major renovation and cleaning. The trick, of couse, was how to keep the "lean" and still make it stable. The angle of the lean was straighened by about 5 degrees, to its 1838 postition and lead counterweights were added to the base to prevent it from completely collapsing.


The view from the Tower:


In the bell tower at the top:




After that, we had about 30 minutes to shop, browse, eat, use the restrooms. The guides were very helpful in once pointing out the free public toilet at the "Tourist" restaurant, and we had a gelato there. Soon we head back past the peddlers to our little train, get back on the bus, and drive back to the port.

We ate lunch and rested on the ship, and saw the evening show, which was "Junk" - a comedy/music/percussion act, a bit like Stomp. They had a featured bit in the All Aboard show.

I had booked Palo for dinner this night, to celebrate DH Eric's birthday. Since DS Mark just turned 18 in May, this was his first time at Palo, after all these years of watching us, and later his older sister eating and enjoying it. We had Lazlo (can't remember where he's from) for our waiter; he was friendly and knowledgeable. I had the lobster ravioli, DH Eric and DD Jennifer had the tuna. Can't remember what Mark had. And of course, we all had chocolate souffles for dessert! Wonderful as always.

After dinner, Mark went off to the Club 18*21 (they meet every night at 10), and we waddled off to our room to rest up for our long day in Rome tomorrow.
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- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 08:17 PM   #7
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Looking forward to your report! We leave next week!
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