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Old 08-04-2013, 01:23 PM   #1
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Med Cruise with Greece and Turkey July 2013 - We Are Disney Sheep - updated 4/3/14

Now when I say that we are Disney sheep, I should probably clarify that we have never actually been to Disney World. We did visit Disneyland twice when the kids were really little (we lived out west back then). And we have visited Orlando twice since the kids became teenagers, but those visits were to Universal Studios - ooh , the dark side .

Our 'sheep-like' tendencies relate to the fact that not only was this our 7th Disney cruise since 2004, but on this trip we booked all of our excursions through Disney, as well as our hotel in Barcelona, the Hilton Diagonal Mar, and our transfers to and from the port. And that would be despite all of the excellent advice gleaned from this board on how to do everything on your own. So yes, we would be Disney sheep, because it worked out easier for our family that way.


After we did the Baltic cruise in July 2010, we really wanted to do a Disney Med cruise, and we happily booked this July 2013 cruise shortly after the Med itineraries were released in 2012 while we were sailing the Dream for the first time. Although my DH and I have each visited the Med separately in the past, my experience was as a teenager on a high school cruise (anyone remember the SS Uganda?), while my DH did a land based trip with friends back in his single days . Travelling with kids, even when they are teenagers, is a whole different ballgame from our perspective.

On the Baltic cruise we did mainly Disney excursions and had been happy with them - especially when the train broke down at the end of the day on our trip to Berlin and we didn't have to worry about getting left behind. If that hadn't been a Disney excursion, we would have been sweating more than the 40 degree Celsius temps due to the heatwave that day! As an aside, my kids still remember the unbelievably long day of the Berlin excursion as one of the best ports on the Baltic cruise, go figure. But that says a lot for our past Disney excursion experiences.

So, the 'we' for this trip includes me, DH, DD (16), and DS (14). Travel is our main 'vice', however since the kids and I are Celiacs, (which means we can't eat wheat, barley, rye etc ) we often have issues finding food we can safely eat. And yes, this also means that we will often avoid eating in places where we can't speak the language. Cruising is therefore an ideal option for us, and Disney is definitely in our comfort zone.


When choosing excursions, we searched for a balance between my desire to see all of the Greek and Roman ruins I could find , activities that would interest all of us, and the fact that this was a vacation, not a route march! In the end we mixed full day excursions with half days and three quarter day excursions. When all is said and done we felt that we 'mostly' made good choices. And honestly, the excursions that we enjoyed less than the other ones were linked to how we felt about the tour guides we were assigned to...and that would have been the same even if we had booked private tours.

So, 12 days plus 2 in the Med with the Mouse! Let the Disney 'herding' begin!

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Old 08-04-2013, 01:27 PM   #2
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Day 1.5 - The really really long Travel day

Our travel day started with us up early for a very full, very wild day that was a blur of organizing, packing and cleaning to get ready to leave for the airport to catch a 1930 hrs Air Canada flight that would eventually land us in Barcelona, Spain. Emphasis here on the eventually, as Air Canada cancelled the direct flight we originally booked (on our own, not thru Disney) almost a year in advance and instead routed us through to Frankfurt, Germany. The real problem, beyond us now being scheduled to arrive in Spain closer to lunch time than to morning, was that they only left us 40 minutes layover in Germany. Note, this was not enough time to even make it into the airport from the tarmac as we were required to take a shuttle bus (which waits for the last person off the plane, you know, those that they advise to please stay in your seats if you require assistance and they will help you disembark). So yeah, we got to the main terminal drop off just as our plane was taking off somewhere fairly far away in the airport.

Logistically this meant that we could now not even be booked on the 1100 hrs flight to Barcelona because it was already full, and instead we had to wait for the 1315 hrs flight that left late because it was already so full! On the positive side, DS was able to catch a catnap in the airport, since he had not slept during our o/n 7.5 hr flight.



And, even though we were originally all split up into middle seats in four separate rows, it just worked out that people wanted to trade, and DH, DS and DD ended up all next to each other, with me behind them. We arrived in Barcelona at roughly 1535 hrs local time.

Surprisingly, Lufthansa actually managed to find our luggage and put it on our plane. So, with our 4 suitcases and 4 backpacks loaded onto a cart (one man one kit concept i.e. we only bring what we can individually carry) we easily followed the signs through the airport into the well organized taxi line, were assigned a taxi and made it to our hotel, roughly 20 minutes later for a total cost of approx 31 euros, plus tip.

Since it was now late afternoon, the Hilton Diagonal Mar hotel was able to give us one room immediately. We could have had our second room right away, however we wanted the kids to be on the same floor with us and preferably close by, so we chose to give the hotel time to work that option for us. Our room(s) both had two single beds very close together, which was great for the kids. We had the option of upgrading to a king bed for 20 euros per night, but we decided to 'rough it' and let housekeeping simply push our two beds together and arrange the linen as if it was just one bed.



Since we arrived later than planned, at roughly 1700 hrs by the time we checked in and dropped our luggage in our room, our Plan B was to hit the hotel pool. Well, it seems that just after we walked in to the hotel, the skies opened and it not only poured, but there was a sound and lights show of thunder and lightening! So, on to Plan C. We hit the Diagonal Mar shopping centre across the street. Now, since both kids and I are Celiacs and can't eat gluten, it had been a rough travel day from a food perspective. And that made the decision to eat salads at Subway way too easy . It was also relatively cost effective, at roughly 20 euros for 3 salads, a sandwich ( for DH the Evil Wheat eater and three Pepsi (I am a coke drinker and therefore a snob when it comes to Pepsi .

We really enjoyed our meal together. This was our first chance all day to just kick back and relax with each other. We are lucky and really do enjoy meal time conversations with our kids. We followed up our Subway feast with gelato. And since we can't have cones, the small cup option meant that we could choose 2 different flavours each . It was very delicious, and definitely worth the 12.80 euro for our 4 gelatos.


Since we are celiacs, DH got to eat all four pieces of waffle cone.

The Diagonal Mar mall is a fairly large mall, and since it was still raining out, we wandered. My kids were intrigued to check out a Toys R Us and see that the most recent Call of Duty Xbox game would cost $100 US roughly. They are definitely glad we live in Canada .

There were a couple of other more specialized toy stores that we wandered through, but a neat option we discovered was a huge department type store called Alcampo on one of the lower floors, that has a grocery store in it. Fruits, veggies, milk, yogurt etc, but most importantly , an aisle devoted to foods for specialty diets. Yes, they had chocolate covered digestive biscuits that are gluten free!! Woo hoo. And score. And yes, we bought skim milk too, to wash down the cookies (the hotel room had a bar fridge, oh, and a room safe).

Back at the hotel, we fought sleep and headed to the lobby with our iPads in order to take advantage of the free WiFi (8 hours during your stay, code available at the front desk).

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Old 08-04-2013, 03:31 PM   #3
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Awesome, another Med Report! We're like Disney sheep too, We were on the Magic 2 cruises before you. I have my trip report link in my signature if you're interested. I'm sure going to be reading yours!
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Old 08-04-2013, 03:53 PM   #4
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Awesome, another Med Report! We're like Disney sheep too, We were on the Magic 2 cruises before you. I have my trip report link in my signature if you're interested. I'm sure going to be reading yours!
Glad to have you reading along. I have been following most of the Med reports as well and have finally decided to jump in. You have a great writing style and a unique perspective which is neat to see. Now i just have to figure out how to add pictures.
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:40 PM   #5
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Glad to have you reading along. I have been following most of the Med reports as well and have finally decided to jump in. You have a great writing style and a unique perspective which is neat to see. Now i just have to figure out how to add pictures.
Try using a site like imageshack. All you do is make a free account, upload the photos you want. And then copy the forum code for the image into your post! It's really quite easy and I'm sure you could find even better instructions if you googled the subject.
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Old 08-04-2013, 08:00 PM   #6
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Try using a site like imageshack. All you do is make a free account, upload the photos you want. And then copy the forum code for the image into your post! It's really quite easy and I'm sure you could find even better instructions if you googled the subject.
Many thanks for your suggestion. I should probably put my own 'tech squad' on it, that is I will if my kids actually spend some time at home again soon!
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:45 PM   #7
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So pleased to see another Med trip report! We leave one week today for some holiday time pre-cruise and then we will be on the Magic from 17th August. Reading trip reports like yours and disprincess4ever's get me so excited for our family time away!
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Old 08-04-2013, 07:52 PM   #8
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Day 3 - Embarkation Day



Since we were out touring Barcelona all day the day before, we almost missed the Disney reps in the hotel lobby (they were officially done at 5 pm), but they were late leaving and we were able to get their information letter at 6 pm as we arrived back at the hotel at the end of the day. The letter told us our bus to the port transfer time was 11:30 am. We also had to have our suitcases packed and ready for pickup in our hotel room by 8 am.

The night before we had left almost everything packed, except for essentials and hanging up our dressier clothes etc, and had our clothes for the day already laid out. Since Disney wanted to pick up our luggage from one room only, the kids had transferred their luggage into our room the night before. All of this preparation turned out to be a good thing, as just after 8 am, there was a knock on the door and we had to scramble to toss the last couple of items into the bags. DH and I have learned in the past that Disney 'protocal' wrt bag pick up is to start on the upper floors of the hotel and to work their way down, and sure enough, we were on an 'upper' floor. Since the luggage was gone before 8:15 am, DH and I went back to bed until 930 am.

Although the hotel handled it well, breakfast this morning was a bit of a zoo. Not only were we later to the restaurant than the day before, but a lot of the guests were apparently heading out early on a Disney cruise . After breakfast we headed to the lobby to enjoy the comfy chairs and the free internet access. Of course, we discovered right away that our Wifi code was no longer valid, but the desk staff were very kind and gave me the new code as soon as I asked, even though we had just checked out. I must admit that I fully enjoyed the pleasant surroundings of the lobby, especially the comfy chairs and getting to surf the internet instead of waiting at the port terminal.

Our bus loaded up and headed off close to on time. Once at the terminal there were a couple of line ups, but they went very smoothly. Note that since we were using Disney transport we did not get to choose a PAT and we were surprised to discover that we had been assigned boarding group 2 which had been called already. We passed by the long line up for Captain Mickey photos and headed to the ship, pausing only long enough for our embarkation photo. Before we knew it we heard our family name announced welcoming us back onto the Disney Magic .

We were directed to Parrot Cay for a buffet lunch, spent a little time on deck 9 enjoying tea and people watching, and in no time it seemed, our cabin was ready. And now was the time for our culture shock. The last few times we have cruised, we cruised in a verandah room. This trip I had only booked an inside cabin mid ship on deck 7, and boy was it small. Ok, the fact that the kids are now both taller than me, which realistically meant four adult sized people in a smaller cabin than we are used to, made the first day a little challenging. Not only did we not have a steamer trunk for storage in this cabin, we also did not have a split bathroom. Yikes.

Luckily we had prepared a little in advance. First, we pared down our clothing as much as we could. Yes we brought dressy clothes for dinner, because that is part of the experience for us, but we made sure that we had only 'just enough' of everything, rather than choices and spares etc. We also brought 4 small ziplock bags of laundry detergent in order to do up to 4 loads of laundry if necessary. Next, we had brought lots of hangers, the plastic kind like clothes come on at the store as much as possible, as they travel light and you feel little remorse about throwing them out if you need the room at the end of the trip. Yes, There are some wooden hangers in the closet, but no where near enough for all of our dresses/shirts etc. Most of our clothes were hung in the closet, and we used the four small drawers in the desk for socks and underwear. We put DS's clothes on the shelves in the closet since if he can't see something, he probably can't find it...

And finally, although we took four 'suitcases' with us, two of them were duffle bags and two of the bags were Eddie Bauer bags, with one hard side and one soft side. This meant that we could empty out the duffles, roll them up and shove them under the bed in the harder to reach spot, and then share the other two mostly emptied suitcases and roll them under the end of the bed for easy access, i.e. they functioned as rolling drawers. And more importantly with that soft side, they fit under the bed! Note: It was mentioned during the Gold/Platinum Castaway Club function that the beds will be raised when the Magic goes in to refit, which will help a lot, however 4 full sized suitcases would still not fit under the bed.

DS griped a little about his bed being too short for him this trip, but he was soon informed that his only real option was to sleep on the floor. He chose the bed. Getting ready for dinner was our biggest challenge, but we simply handled that in shifts. We definitely missed the split bathroom. Interestingly enough, although the verandah would have been nice, we were ok with an inside cabin. We just spent a lot more time on decks 9 or 4, which ever was the quietest - or closest to the tea and ice cream, depending on our mood . And when we really wanted to 'see' the outside while in the cabin, we turned the TV on to the channel that showed the front of the ship camera... Instant window.

Just after we arrived at our stateroom, DH's bag arrived and the unpacking process began. We settled in with tea from deck 9. The kids decided to watch a movie in the cabin and well, I napped. On the one hand I couldn't believe that I just slept like that, and on the other hand I was surprised that I lasted as long as I did.

And then it was time for the lifeboat drill. As always it was relatively efficient and over fairly quickly. Granted this time I was at the front of the family line as I am now the shortest member of my family, and my kids had a lot of fun teasing me about it. We headed upstairs to deck 9 to find tea (our personal vice) and stayed for the Sail Away party, scoring a reasonable front and centre spot on deck 10, but without my camera since we did not go back to the room after the drill. They handed out the blue Greece bandanas to wave in the air, they were dated June 2013, but no one seemed to object to the free souvenir.


And then it was time to get ready for dinner since we had the early seating. We did not get dressed up for this meal as we were still in the process of unpacking and getting accustomed to not having a split bathroom. We had a four top table next to two other families of four, one on either side. The tables were close, which worked very well as we all had our privacy, and yet we enjoyed seeing each other and chatting back and forth between tables every night without feeling like we had to socialize.

Our head server was Cedomir, our server was Bennett (Strawberry), and our assistant server was Aris. They all worked very well together and were able to accommodate the issues the kids and I have with being Celiacs (I.e. no wheat, barley, rye, etc). Each night we received the menu for the next night and placed our orders in advance. Side note: The Magic does not have as many food choices for Celiacs as the Fantasy does, as we could not order gluten free pizza at Pinocchios. Humph. This was mostly an issue for the kids when they hung out at the Vibe and would go with their friends when the friends went for pizza, but our kids could not eat pizza themselves.

After dinner we headed to the lobby to get pictures with the characters in their Spanish dress, tonight we scored Minnie, Mickey, Goofy and Pluto.

In case you are wondering, Pluto wears a different 'dog tag' for each port when he 'dresses up'. In honour of Barcelona, Pluto wore a Sagrada Familia tag. The kids headed to the show, All Aboard - The Magic Begins, while DH and I headed up to deck 9 for tea and then did several laps around deck 4 both for the exercise and to 'get our steps in' as we each wear a Fitbit... we are geeks that way . After that it was back to the cabin to finish unpacking and to get ready for our first port day!

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Old 08-04-2013, 07:57 PM   #9
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So pleased to see another Med trip report! We leave one week today for some holiday time pre-cruise and then we will be on the Magic from 17th August. Reading trip reports like yours and disprincess4ever's get me so excited for our family time away!
Thanks for your comments and for reading along. Hopefully there will be a few helpful tidbits in my TR for other travellers. A Med cruise is amazing, especially with Disney.
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Old 08-04-2013, 03:35 PM   #10
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Day 2 - Barcelona



It felt very decadent to wake up in a hotel room without our kids . Realistically they were just two doors away and as teenagers they were ok with this. And the fact that they each had their own beds was a bonus, because although DD has mastered the 'bundling board' concept (using pillows and or blankets to divide a bed in two), DS 's rapidy growing limbs always manage to spread out!

We had slept well, but were awake reasonably early. We happily headed downstairs to partake of the buffet breakfast that was included in the cost of the room. And although the two rooms cost roughly $200 US each per night through Disney (since we had booked them early), realistically the included breakfast would have cost 24 ¬ each, i.e. 96 ¬ for the 4 of us each day if we had gone that route. Luckily this way we did not have to decide - And we were happy that it was a good hot buffet breakfast.

Happily full, we got directions to the Metro station and a map at the front desk and headed off. It was only a short distance to the nearby Metro station, but since I can be directionally challenged I was very content to just follow my DH the couple of blocks. The Metro itself was clean and fairly well marked. We bought a T-10 card (for roughly 10¬) to share through the kiosk machine using our Visa and then followed the signs to the subway platform. There are clocks on the ceilings that countdown to the arrival of the next train which was only a couple of minutes away.

Since our objective was the Jaume metro station, we were on the subway for about 7 stops. Again, it was well signed and we found ourselves in the square near Plaza Sant Jaume just after 1030 hrs, which worked well as the first Fat Tire Bike Tour ride of the day was scheduled for 11 am. At first we couldn't see any signs for the Fat Tire Bike Tour, so I asked people who worked in the square. My DD was amused that although the only Spanish we know we can thank Dora and Boots for , we managed to get by with whatever English the locals knew, the similarities between French and Spanish, and some hand signs and showing people the piece of paper with the Fat Tire name on it.

Luckily right about then as we headed in the direction we were pointed, a couple of guys on bikes with Fat Tire t-shirts showed up in the square. Even though we did not have reservations, once we approached them we were rapidly assigned to a group of roughly 16 people, told that we could pay at the end of the tour and set up with bikes, the kind where you sit upright and peddle, with brakes on the handlebars.

The bike did have 3 gears, but I never felt the need to move mine out of first . Our tour guide was Adam from Calgary, Canada, who gave us a short safety briefing and then we headed out en masse.



Now getting to the first two stops, Plaza del Rei and La Catedral were a little challenging, since it was summer in Barcelona and tourist season.


Somehow no one hit anyone, and conversely no one got hit by anyone. By our third stop, Palau de la Musica Catalana, we broke away from the crowded downtown core and got to enjoy the cooling effects of the wind generated by bike travel .

The tour itself was great, we got to see many of the culturally important, historically significant and architecturally impressive sights in Barcelona. And more importantly in some ways, Adam made the sights and the bike ride interesting and fun. And mostly historically accurate... I say mostly, since although I am pretty sure that Columbus and Queen Isabella probably did engage in a personal relationship that might have been part of the impetus behind Spain funding Columbus' trip, I highly doubt that the common people of the time were referring to them as Isa-lumbus . On the other hand, my teenagers remembered Adam's commentary almost two weeks later as we drove through Barcelona to the airport (-is the hand of the Columbus statue pointing to somewhere in Africa rather than the Americas? Probably .

The total time for the bike tour took over 4 hours, but the actual biking was easy and only covered about 11 km. We stopped at the Arc de Triomphe

(apparently M. Eiffel had submitted a proposal for its design but was not the winner of that contract), and at the Parc de la Ciutadella and both were really interesting to hear about and get to photograph up close and personal.


At Sagrada Familia after a brief description by Adam we had time to get a little closer and to take pictures. Realistically this was more than a little challenging and would have been no matter how you visit that site in the summer in high tourist season. There were crowds of people every where.

On a positive note, the other members of the tour were around to snap a photo of you with your camera, so you didn't have to worry about them stealing your camera .

Most of our last hour was spent having lunch at the beach, where you could have wandered off for a swim if you chose, or had a drink, a meal and a dessert from choices on a set lunchtime menu for 12 ¬ Per person. DS chose calamari and DH chose the burger. DD and I chose to only have a pop and ice cream each - although DH did not really get to enjoy his fries since DD and I decided to 'help' him to eat those . Our total bill for lunch was 36¬ in cash.


Our teenagers were probably the youngest members of our group, but there were other Fat Tire groups out at the same time, and I noted that there were younger kids on some of those tours. We also had a flat tire on our tour when one of the group decided to attempt to jump a curb and it didn't work out as he planned. Fortunately not only did Adam handle the problem efficiently, our stop happened very close to a convenience store where a lot of us used the opportunity to buy extra water and fresh fruit very inexpensively.

One last stop was at the square with the monument where the last truly Catalan soldiers were executed. Although Adam is neither Spanish nor of Catalan descent, he successfully managed to impart the feelings of the local Catalan people.

Back at the Fat Tire Bike Tour shop, we ended up having to pay in cash as their darn Visa machine was not working. Grrr. Total cost was 92 ¬, plus a well deserved tip.

Wandering away through the downtown touristy core, we only had to check out a few souvenir stores before I found a highly cheesy ceramic 'touristic' picture frame, my personal souvenir of choice . My DS even found an Assasins Creed t-shirt which made him very happy, and my DH picked up a soccer shirt for the daughter of a work friend. Since it was half the cost of the same shirt in the official brand store we recognized that it was probably a knock off, but realistically the friend will probably appreciate saving the 50 or 60 ¬ and the daughter probably wont care all that much. All in all, a very successful adventure.

At that point we should have just headed back to the hotel, instead since we had lost our previous day in Barcelona thanks to Air Canada, we headed to the subway to head to Park Guell. Getting to the correct stop was easy enough, and we still had our T-10 card for the ride. Luckily we don't mind climbing stairs, because there were a heck of a lot of them, although my DH may have compared the ascent to climbing Mt Everest. There were also escalators on the main route to the top as an option. Once we arrived at the park, we took the left hand path which took us to a really high outlook for a great view of Barcelona.

The park itself however was in the other direction, so we had to climb down to go to the park <doh>.


And I already mentioned that it was summer time, and therefore high tourist season in Barcelona right? And it was hot. By this late in the afternoon it was also just crazy crowded with people everywhere. Which meant that although we got to look around, actually getting to see and enjoy the area was tough. And trying to get photos without lots and lots of other people in them involved a waiting game, which I lost patience for fairly quickly, and which my family lost patience for even more quickly. It didn't take long before our 'fun meter was pegged' and we began the long trek down over the hill.


Arriving at the subway station, we only had two rides left on our T-10 card, and decided to purchase two individual tickets, which were 2¬ each. Luckily we had cash with us, since the kiosk would not accept our credit card this time.The trip back to the hotel was managed in short order as there seem to be lots of subway trains running on a regular basis. The subway at this time of day was a lot more crowded than it had been earlier. Getting off the subway we realized that we could get out of the heat by walking back to the hotel through the Diagonal Mar shopping centre.

Back at the hotel we changed into swim suits as quickly as we could and headed to the pool.

Not only did we need to immerse ourselves in the pool to cool off, we were aware that the pool closed at 8 pm which didn't leave us a whole lot of time. The kids had a lot of fun, and swam until the lifeguard kicked everyone out. After our initial dip however, DH and I chose to rest on the deck lounge chairs. And unfortunately there was no hot tub. Oh well.

We finished our evening by heading back to the Diagonal Mar shopping centre for supper at a steak house. I was surprised to discover that I not only enjoyed the food, but that the atmosphere was neat too. No, it had pretty much nothing to do with Barcelona, but the two man band who were probably from the USA were doing a great job on an eclectic mix of oldies music, and DH and I got to sing along and embarrass our kids . A filling dinner for the four of us, with pop that included free refills cost approx 55¬. And we once again enjoyed gelato on our way out of the mall. After all, we were on vacation so the calories don't count right?

Back at the hotel DH and I headed to the lobby with our iPads, while the kids checked out the tv channels in the room. They found the Disney channel, with the shows in English and the commercials in Spanish. And they also found a kids channel with Dora the Explorer in Spanish. Apparently Dora teaches Spanish speaking kids English words .

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Old 03-03-2014, 05:56 PM   #11
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Thank you so much for all of the interesting info that you gave in your TR. We are booked for the 12 night Mediterranean disney cruise on 7/26/14 and the excitement is building. This will be a our 6th disney cruise. Your TR has ramped up our excitement and gotten us focused on planning out our shore excursions. There are 11 of us (ages 10 - -75) that are traveling together and it sounds like there will be something for everyone. Thanks for all of the great info.
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Old 03-03-2014, 08:29 PM   #12
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Hi Cjjoncas, I am so glad that you enjoyed my trip report. Last year at this time I was reading all of the reports I could find! And I hope that you will enjoy your trip as much as we did.

In the near future I plan to post some of our planning info, lists of books and movies that helped our enjoyment.
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Old 03-04-2014, 12:40 PM   #13
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Hi Cjjoncas, I am so glad that you enjoyed my trip report. Last year at this time I was reading all of the reports I could find! And I hope that you will enjoy your trip as much as we did.

In the near future I plan to post some of our planning info, lists of books and movies that helped our enjoyment.
Any tips or planning tools would be helpful. I have already read the Rick Steeves book on Cruising in the Mediterranean which was great for getting perspective on the area and what we may be interested in doing for excursions.

Your info about Disney excursions was helpful. We will probably be doing a mix of Disney and private excursions so it was helpful to hear about your experiences with the Disney run trips.
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Old 03-04-2014, 07:26 PM   #14
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Travel Related Research - Movies and books and trip reports oh my! :) -Part I

In advance of our trip I reviewed absolutely everything I could find that was related to the Mediterranean, especially the trip reports here on the Disboards. My hat is off to Disney Falcon and Minnie Diva and Lilpooh and Debsters41 and so many others on this board for your fabulous trip reports. Thank you.

My research also included the Rick Steves' Travel Show TV series that I found as a boxed set at Costco. I also enjoyed the Rudy Maxa 'Best of Italy' travel show bluray which I also found on sale at Costco . Both were quite enjoyable and I learned a lot. And I find that watching these travel related shows while I am on the treadmill is good motivation for me .

The best video series I found however, especially since we were headed to Greece and Turkey as well as to Italy, was by John Hale - a lecture series specifically about travel through Greece and Turkey. Dr Hale is an archaeology professor who recorded this lecture series for The Great Courses - note however that I would not pay full price for the Great Courses material since they put their courses on sale on a fairly regular basis. Since we are really hoping to take another Med cruise sometime in the future, I also now have my eye on a Great Courses lecture series about the history of the Renaissance period and Florence, Venice and Pisa, but am taking my own advice and waiting for sale prices .

If I could describe the difference between Rick Steves and Rudy Maxa as compared to John Hale it would be that the first two are like dessert while John Hale, well his programs are like dinner . And don't get me wrong, I love both dinner and dessert .

I also bought the Rick Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports guide which was extremely useful in helping us to decide on our preferred excursions. His books are informative and enjoyable to read. I also found several DK pocket sized guides on sale at Costco, Barcelona and Athens for this trip, and Venice for a hoped for future trip .

Along fiction based lines, my teenagers and I have read all of the Rick Riordan books in the Percy Jackson and Jason Grace book series. These are modern books for kids that focus on the Ancient Greek and Roman gods and myths. The nice thing about my kids reading these books is that they had a clear point of reference in Rome and in Greece with respect to the relevance of the sites we visited. During our cruise DH was busy reading Dan Brown's newest book, Inferno. At one point DH looked up from his Kobo and stated: as soon as you read this book I can see we will be booking a trip that includes Florence! It would seem that my DH knows me very well .

My DS is also very keen to visit Florence and Tuscany, since several video games that he has played are related to that area and WWII. Florence, Venice and Tuscany are the main locations for Assassins Creed 2 - apparently you can even take a virtual gondola ride through the canals of Venice when playing this game.

And as for computer games, DS was very cognizant of the history of numerous sites and their historical background from the computer games 'Rome Total Warfare', Age of Mythology' and 'Medal of Honour Airborne'. Realistically, although I am not crazy about my DS playing war related games, he has learned a great deal about historical battles and has applied it quite well in his high school history classes. (Honestly, if those games were university programs, DS would probably have his PhD by now!). And, he is more than willing to 'school' me about the background in these games. I should make it clear that I am not actually recommending these games since I have no personal firsthand knowledge of them, however IF you are travelling with teenagers, they may already know a lot more about the history of the Mediterranean area than you might initially assume.
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Old 03-04-2014, 07:42 PM   #15
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Travel Related Research - Movies and books and trip reports Oh My! - Part II

When it comes to movies we took our 'research' seriously and devoted numerous weekend evenings, especially cold snowy ones, to enjoying Mediterranean related movies, including the following:

My Life in Ruins (Greece)
Hercules - the Disney version of course (Ancient Greece -sort of )
Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Santorini)
Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 (even more Santorini, including in the bonus
material)
Mama Mia (Greek island)
To Catch a Thief (Monte Carlo)
Cars 2 (Monte Carlo/Italy/London)
Monte Carlo (Selena Gomez movie - Paris & Monte Carlo)
Madagascar 3 (Monte Carlo/Rome/London)
Angels and Demons (Rome)
Roman Holiday (Rome)
The Lizzie McGuire Movie (Rome)
Gidget Goes to Rome
The Last Legion (Ancient Rome)
The Agony and the Ecstasy (the Sistine Chapel/Michelangelo)
Tea with Mussolini (Florence) - surprisingly enjoyable WWII movie
Under the Tuscan Sun (Tuscany)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Venice); and

The Young Indiana Jones television series - several episodes are set in Med locations such as Barcelona, Florence and Athens as examples - so while the episode may only include what I refer to as 'drive by scenes' - oh look, 10 seconds of the Sagrada Familia or Park Guell etc, - the rest of the story is fun enough to intrigue and entertain.

Doctor Who - the 'new' series is filmed on location in England and includes numerous episodes set in 'touristic' London, which we really enjoy watching. Series 4 (ie season 4) has an episode set in Pompeii, right before Vesuvius erupts. Although the actual footage that they filmed in Italy took a backseat to the onscreen story ( as it reasonably should for the sake of the story), the Doctor Who Confidential background material available on the Blu-ray Disc involved David Tennant wandering around Pompeii with an archaeologist which I found very enjoyable as well.

Side note - Speaking of 'touristic' London, the Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson flick Shanghai Knights has lots of great scenes filmed in touristy locations, but then again so does Sherlock Holmes (both the movies and the TV show), but I digress .

All of these movies and shows were enjoyable, some more than others.

Movies that I would not recommend include 'Santorini Blue' and 'To Rome with Love' (this second movie is a Woody Allen flick) -IMHO, really bad acting and/ or lame stories in both movies, and I learned nothing about Santorini or Rome. I mention them because personally I felt like they were a waste of my time and money and I would not have watched them if I 'knew then what I know now'. But I reiterate, IMHO.

In between movies:

When in Rome - the Josh Duhamel/Kristen Bell movie 'When in Rome' was light fare and perhaps only moderately enjoyable, but at least watchable, although definitely not a classic - however what we saw of Rome was limited to 'drive by scenes' of a couple of sites in Rome at the very beginning of the movie with more time spent at a fountain before the majority of the movie took place in New York- and we saw the Rome sites for a very very limited time.

When in Rome - the Olsen twins version - is a teeny bopper movie with an improbable plot and questionable acting, however the way they blended into the storyline many famous Roman landmarks was interesting even if the story itself had me rolling my eyes.

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo - hmm, not even the 'strongest' of the Herbie movies, but hey, it was Disney and had Monte Carlo in the title. It should be noted that I do not remember seeing this Disney movie playing anywhere while on the ship, so take that for what it is worth .

The interesting thing from our perspective is that the movies from my main list have turned out to be even more fun to watch since we have returned since we can now picture ourselves there!
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