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Old 06-13-2010, 10:39 PM   #1
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Trip Report! ABD/DCL Mediterranean Magic Part 1 - IMAGE INTENSIVE!

Hello all! So here we go! This is my Trip Report for the ABD/DCL Mediterranean Magic Cruise Vacation. I'm sorry for the delay, but between the stomach virus from Hell that I got on my return to the States, and working to retrieve some of my photos from a corrupted camera memory card, things just did not go as planned!

Days A-B, Travel to Barcelona.

Well, after some fun times (NOT!) worrying about whether or not the ash cloud would affect my flights to Barcelona, the day finally arrived, and everything appeared to be a go. No announced delays, all flights on schedule! Due to circumstances beyond my control and the odd time of my flight (early afternoon on a Thursday) no-one was able to take me to the airport (I *did* have a ride home arranged). So I nervously set up a taxi to take me to the airport. I'd done this once before, and the cab company had called while I was in the shower, and since I didn't answer the phone, they cancelled the order for the cab and didn't tell me. This time, I made sure to research a company OTHER than the one I'd used before, and was pleased when the guy actually showed up *early*! Since I was ready, and just running around checking stuff for the twentieth time, I went out & got in the cab & left early. Better early than late!

I was a bit nervous about my luggage, since European airlines have much stricter weight limits, even on carryons. Fortunately, the checked bag was fine (50 lb limit), and American did not even look at my carryon, let alone weigh it! The flight to JFK was pretty uneventful.

I had a pretty long layover in JFK, so I attempted to connect with Jeff Spencer and his family from our DISBoards Meet thread. It turns out we were *not* leaving from the same terminal. I then found out that I needed to actually leave the terminal I'd arrived in, and re-enter the airport at the new terminal, which meant GOING THROUGH SECURITY AGAIN! Which made my long layover look not quite so long anymore. So I gave up on being able to meet up with the Spencers, and booked over to my new Terminal. By the time I finally connected via text with Jeff, I was having "lunch" in the other terminal. I'd found a nice little wine bar that served interesting food with their wine, and asked if I could eat even if I didn't buy wine (I was worried about getting dehydrated). They said "yes", and I ate some nice, but over-priced salads, cheeses, and other finger-type food. A much better choice that the fast-food hell that was my other choice... I texted Jeff that I'd see them in Barcelona.

The flight from JFK to Madrid was actually not nearly as bad as I'd been imagining it. For one thing, it was a wide-body plane (2 seats, 4 seats, 2 seats) which really helps with the whole claustrophobia thing, and had much more leg room than normal. (I don't normally have claustrophobia, but some planes are just so closed in and tight...) My seat was a bit back in the plane, but a couple who were waiting to board with me asked where my seat was. It seems she was in the same row as I, but the guy had been placed up near the front of the Economy section. They asked me to trade, and since it was still an aisle seat, I said yes. I really liked the seat I switched to. It was on the aisle on the 4-across middle section, near the front. Much better head room. So besides having a decent seat, I'd loaded up my iPad with all sorts of videos and movies, and happily spent the 7+ hours watching Fullmetal Alchemist and Harry Potter and occasionally wandering the aisles of the plane.

(As a side note, they made us enter through First Class. I have NEVER seen a First Class section like this! The seats weren't in rows, and it was almost like they were flying in their arm chairs in their living rooms. It was so cruel for them to make us walk through there...)

I arrived in Madrid in the early hours of Friday morning, feeling relatively good, given that I hadn't slept on the plane (I never have been able to!) But Madrid airport sucks. We'd left JFK about an hour late, but had arrived pretty much on schedule. There was still an hour & a half until my flight to Barcelona left. But, for some unfathomable reason, Iberia had already shifted us to another flight which left 45 minutes after our original flight (which we could have easily made). So I wandered the airport (they didn't assign a gate until about 45 minutes before the new flight left) tried to find a working bathroom (REALLY difficult!) and some simple food (also a challenge). Eventually, I found someone who could tell me my gate, made it to the flight, and boarded. This flight, however, was just a business commuter flight. The plane was a decent-sized plane, but they had crammed as many seats into the plane as was humanly possible, so that there was no leg room, and the seat in front of you was practically at your nose. It was crowded and hot and stifling, and by the time we were half way to Barcelona (less than an hour total) I was feeling pretty ill. Once I got to Barcelona, all I really wanted to do was collect my luggage and get the heck to my hotel. Since we'd done all the passport stuff in Madrid, it was pretty simple to collect my luggage (it all made it! Yay!) and get a cab to the Hotel Eurostars Grand Marina. The cabbie wasn't 100% sure where it was, but I gave him the address I had, and it was the only hotel in the area (right at the port). He found it with no problems.

I checked in, and it was a BEAUTIFUL room! I'd gotten a *fabulous* deal on this room through travelzoo.

Large, nicely decorated, marble bathroom, with a full-wall window/balcony with a beautiful city view of Barcelona.

The weather was kind of sucky (rainy) but the city still looked lovely.

La Sagrada Familia zoomed from my balcony:

I settled in, and decided to head to Las Ramblas (5-10 minute walk) to get some food.

I walked up & down quite a bit of Las Ramblas, but didn't find any sort of a restaurant that I recognized or that looked appealing. There were several outdoor areas set up for tapas, but I really didn't understand how tapas worked, and was still feeling queasy, and couldn't commit. So I went back to my room and ordered from room service (a salad, soup and some COFFEE!) It was all very nice, and really hit the spot. All except for the coffee, which turned out to be cafe' (VERY concentrated espresso). I should have realized that was what I'd get (and learned later that what I wanted to order was Cafe' Americano). But I couldn't face it, and ended up diluting it. I'm sure the chef would have been appalled!

I lounged for a bit and took a shower. Feeling much better, I then got a text from Jeff Spencer saying that they were heading out to Las Ramblas for tapas before heading to the dancing fountains, and asking if I wanted to join them. I was feeling much more human at that point, so I agreed. By the time I was ready, Jeff texted me that they were at the Columbus monument (which I could see from my room), so I headed out to meet them there. I'm happy to say I easily recognized Jeff & his family from their pictures on our Roll Call.

We wandered Las Ramblas for a bit, looking for a tapas restaurant that Jeff had researched. We were unable to find it, so ended up at one of the open-air tapas places right on Las Ramblas. The food was yummy. After dinner, we headed for the Metro Station, as Jeff had figured out how to take it to where the Barcelona Magic Fountain of Montjuīc was. We had set up for anyone who could from our Meet thread to meet up at the Fountain for the nightly Dancing Fountain show. (Sorry to those I was supposed to meet up with at the Eurostars!) We did meet up with some of the folks from our Meet thread (including rashdecision and ICollectBelle & her family) but it seems that we ended up in at least 3 different groups at 3 different locations.

The show was wonderful, and the weather spectacular if a bit on the nippy side. I really enjoyed hanging out with everyone (I'd gotten my second wind, thank goodness!) and watching the show as the sun set.

Click! It's a video.

The fountain & show were built in 1929, and may have seemed a little dated, but I've always loved this kind of thing. And one of the sets was even of Disney songs, albeit in Spanish!

This is a video, too:

Afterwards, Jeff & his family escorted me back to my hotel (thanks, Spencers!). I crashed, knowing I was in no rush to get to the ship the next day, and would just wake up when I woke up, pack, and head over to the ship.

Day 1 - Barcelona - Embarkation Day

I woke up feeling *MUCH* improved. I don't remember exactly what time I woke, but it was a pretty reasonable time, considering. I threw myself together & went downstairs for the buffet breakfast. It was definitely overpriced, but since I didn't expect to get onboard the Magic until after lunchtime, it was worth the splurge. It was a very extensive buffet, with some really nice selections of meats, fruits, breads, yogurt, eggs, etc. And "regular" coffee!!!! I *really* needed that!

After breakfast, I wandered around the plaza portion of the hotel for a bit. The weather was spectacularly beautiful; sunny, high 60's/low 70's, just absolutely lovely. I took some photos (including some obscured shots of the Magic at the port) and then headed back to my room to shower, pack and head to the terminal.

As suggested by Jeff and others, I walked my suitcases to the Columbus monument to take the inexpensive Blue bus to the terminal. Unfortunately, once I got there, no-one knew where the bus stop for this Blue bus was. I wandered around & around, dragging my suitcases behind me, before I found the HUMONGOUS line for the Blue Bus. Seems there were 4 or 5 ships in port, and ONE Blue bus running. A part of me said to just cut my losses & take an incredibly expensive taxi to the ship. But another part of me kept thinking it wouldn't be THAT long until I got on a bus. Well, an hour and a half later, I was the LAST person to cram onto the bus the third time it came around. When I got to the ship, it was almost 2pm. I was really, REALLY glad I'd gotten breakfast at the hotel! The only saving grace was: the weather was SO GORGEOUS that I didn't really mind standing in line all that time waiting for the bus. I missed any activities that might have been going on in the terminal or on the ship, but got my picture taken, and got announced, and then went straight to my cabin, which was, of course, already ready. In retrospect, I probably should have just sprung for the taxi, but it wasn't that big of a deal in the end.

My cabin:

Once I'd settled into my room, I went to meet up with the 2 Adventure Guides for my ABD, who were holding court in Sessions (one of the nightclubs). I met Tina and Robyn, both super-nice! We discussed my dietary restrictions, and they gave me my invite to the Welcome reception which we'd be having later that afternoon, after the muster drill. I then went to the Promenade Lounge to meet up with all the folks from our Meet thread (there were TONS of them!) It was fun putting faces and names to the screennames, although I must admit there were too many to remember. Fortunately, Jeff had borrowed the idea from the previous cruise of having lanyards made up, which had our screennames & RL names on them, and made fellow DISers easy to spot.

Our station for the muster drill was in Animator's Palate, and it was pretty uneventful. But it turns out that while we were at the muster drill, we'd had a short downpour, and decks 9 & 10 were soaked, and needed to be dried out a bit before we had Sail Away. Which was held in the afternoon, HOURS before we actually sailed away.

Christyvoltron & her hubby at Sail Away

Sail away was fun; a typical Disney type of rally. But I left before it was quite done to head to the ABD Welcome Reception, which was *supposed* to be after Sail Away, but wasn't quite because Sail Away got postponed due to the rain... It was a very confusing day!

During a quick stop at the room to freshen up: my first towel animal from room steward Tina:

The Welcome Reception was also held in Sessions, and I really don't think it was a good venue for it. It was dark, and the tables (small) were scattered all around. It was hard to see people's faces, and I really didn't feel like I got people's names & faces & stories all together. In fact, I really wished we'd had a second go at the introductions after a couple of days, so that I *could* associate the names/faces/stories. I still feel there are a few relationships I'm confused about.

There were 39 people on this ABD, one shy of full. There were a couple of large family groups. There was a family of 7, 2 boys & 3 girls. The oldest daughter was getting married (in June!) and they wanted one last family vacation. The daughter who was getting married had always wanted to go to the Med, so here they were. There was another family of 5 (2 boys, one girl who was 4 years old) who were traveling with the mother's aunts & uncles (I think?) who had become parent figures for the mom after, I believe, the loss of her parents. The little girl, Sydney, was adorable (quite the princess!) and really bonded with our Guide Robyn. She was a real trooper and well-behaved, although she did stay on the ship for the longer days in Italy.

There were 3 folks traveling together who, I believe, had met on a previous ABD (one was Walt52 on the DISboards) along with another family group of 3 (woman, adult daughter and woman's boyfriend, I *believe*). There was also a family of 4 (1 boy, 1 girl) who also had some dietary challenges as they ate gluten free. I was very impressed by how all the places on the excursions were able to accommodate their needs. Often, more easily than my "No tomatoes or cabbage or citrus"! There were several couples traveling without children (including Christyvoltron & her husband, whom I'd met in LA), a pair of sisters, and me.

As I said, I did not get all of this straight. It was very hard to tell during the intros who was with whom (only one person per group spoke for the most part) or follow everything they were saying. I was also a little bit late (which was to become an unfortunate pattern) and missed some of the pre-introduction chatter. I don't know. Maybe it's unrealistic to think that I'd get everyone straight, and everyone's story. But I've been spoiled by my last 2 ABD's having only 14 or 15 people. 39 was a bit of a shock! (Not that Tina and Robyn did not handle a full trip easily & with aplomb! It was just -- a different dynamic, both with the number of people, and it not being Adults Only).

There was one bummer that was unfortunate for me, but something I honestly would not have changed, so, oh well. More than once, I had been told by DCL that the ABD folks would not be eating dinner together, so that people on the ABD could dine with other people they might be traveling with who were NOT on the ABD. So I made dinner plans with folks from my DIS Meet thread. (Jeff Spencer and his wife, son & daughter (Susan, Katy & Brian); jedijill, sarahgirl and 2BNDisney (Blake)). We linked our reservations together for dining (ending up at table 32). We all (except Blake, who joined us after the room assignments) ended up getting upgraded to Category 6 rooms all in a row. Table 32 totally ROCKED, and were excellent table mates, and just altogether fun to get to know & hang with, and I wouldn't have missed that for the WORLD! I loved, loved, LOVED Table 32! But it turned out that the ABD folks (minus me) WERE all dining together (same time & rotation as me, but the other side of the dining rooms). The fact that the rest of the group were dining together every night did make me feel a little left out. Wondering if I missed out on some of the group bonding. Oh, well, nothing to be done about that. I joined them a couple of times, but really did not want to miss out on table 32.

They had a cute "Welcome Aboard" sort of show that night.

Dinner the first night was at Lumier's. I have to admit, I don't remember what I had for dinner most nights. The food was OK, but nothing special. Didn't stop me from eating it, but for the most part, it just didn't stand out. I had lamb one night, which is my total favorite; it was bland. Oh, well, I didn't take this vacation for the shipboard food... The company at the table, however, that's something to remember! :-)

Day 2 - Sea Day

The next day was a Sea Day. Unfortunately, the seas were really, REALLY rough, and the ship was really booking to get to Malta. While I wasn't nauseas, my head felt "off" and rather fuzzy. I had a sour stomach off and on for most of the time I was on the ship. Even when I broke down & put on the patch, my stomach just really wasn't happy with being on the ship. For the most part, I was fine on land, but being at sea just didn't agree with me for the first time on a cruise.

I slept in, knowing I didn't have to be anywhere until 10:30am for our DIS group brunch at Palo's private dining room. (Disney Magic's "upscale" restaurant). Even feeling off, the brunch was WONDERFUL. I took a picture of the dessert spread, but the funny thing is, I ended up not eating ANY of the desserts.

The breads they had were so phenomenal that I splurged on bread, not sweets. (They had a stollen bread that was creamy and delicious and to die for.) Bread has always been my downfall, anyways. They also brought us a selection of the pizzas, and I tried the grape pizza. Sounds odd, but it's really, really delicious! Brunch at Palo was definitely the best meal I had on the ship, and the company was excellent!

After brunch, some of us had signed up for a wine tasting which DISer rashdecision had set up. It was fun, and some nice wines. Amazing the difference a little chocolate can make in the taste of a wine.

Then, after that, we had a cabin crawl set up to see all the different categories of cabins that DISers were in. I can't believe I didn't take any pictures during the crawl! I think the biggest revelation was rashdecision's Category 3. Man, was that large & spacious! And since it was aft, he had a *large* veranda. I could get used to a cabin like that. Many of the other cabins seemed to be pretty much the same as mine, with the big division being between veranda/window/locale, etc, rather than the look & size of the cabin itself. DCL *does* have the largest inside cabins I've seen on any ship.

Later in the afternoon, we had an ABD reception with the ship's historian. He answered various questions we had about the ship and the ports we were going to.

I do love this shot of our 2 Adventure Guides: Robyn and Tina.

The show that night was "Twice Charmed", a very cute sequel to Cinderella. Very clever and well done.

Today's towel animal:

Dinner that night was Animator's Palate, but we didn't have the regular AP "show" for that night, as it was the "Prince & Princess" themed formal night.

I thought this was the cleverest way to fold a napkin:

Table 32, all spiffed up:

I knew we had an early morning the next day, so I retired early to my cabin. It had been a full day, and the cruise had barely started!

Continued in Part 2.

Last edited by sayhello; 06-18-2010 at 12:40 AM. Reason: Added link to Part 2
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