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Old 07-13-2013, 08:36 PM   #1
Realbetis
Earning My Ears
 
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June 8, 2013 Mediterranean via the Magic & Spain Pre-Trip (w/pictures)

Part I – Madrid & Toledo
This is our family’s (Me, DW, DS (11) & DS (9)) third cruise and second with Disney. We went to Alaska about the Disney Wonder in August 2011. We had a great experience during our Alaskan cruise. We were in a one-bedroom suite on our Alaskan cruise, which we enjoyed. For our Mediterranean cruise we chose a Category 4A (#8526), which turned out to be a great stateroom for our cruise. DW and myself have travelled through Europe many times, but this was our boy’s first trip to Europe.

Pre-cruise:

We flew Delta using points through Atlanta from the western US. We arrived in Madrid on the morning of Sunday June 2nd. The kids handled the flights better than expected due in part to our points upgrade. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, Hotel Europa (a Rick Steve’s recommendation, great location on the Puerta del Sol), where we would spend four nights. After some churros y chocolate and a long siesta, we went to the Reina Sofia (free on Sundays) to see Picasso’s “Guernica.” We also enjoyed watching the religious processions that evening for the San Isidro festival that crossed most of the historic center.


Puerta del Sol, view from our hotel room.

View from our bedroom.

Plaza Mayor.

Churros y chocolate.

Calle del Carmen, view from our hotel room.

Day two started at a very important cultural site for our family, Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium tour. This was great for my boys (and me). After the tour we headed to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace). We had pre-reserved tickets for the Prado, which we enjoyed later that afternoon.


Heading down the player tunnel.

Picture from the field.

Palacio Real.

On day three we did a day trip to Toledo. Madrid and Toledo are connected by a high-speed train that takes about 25 minutes. We booked the train tickets in advance via the RENFE website. Once we arrived we found a taxi and asked our driver to take us around the outskirts of Toledo, which gave us an incredible panoramic view of Toledo and the surrounding countryside. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the Toledo Cathedral. We spent well over an hour touring the Cathedral, which is one of my favorites in Spain. Our boys loved their audio guides on this tour, and the various other tours we went on. The rest of the day was spent walking through Toledo’s beautiful streets and touring the many sword shops. We also visited the Sinagoga del Transito, one of two well-preserved synagogues in Toledo. Toledo was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.


View of Toledo from across the Tajo River.

View of Toledo.

Toledo Cathedral tower.

Inside the Toledo Cathedral.

Toledo street.

Toledo street.

Toledo City Hall.

Hebrew inscription from the Sinagoga del Transito.

Last edited by Realbetis; 07-14-2013 at 09:44 PM. Reason: Label pictures.
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Old 07-13-2013, 08:39 PM   #2
Realbetis
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Part II – Segovia & Barcelona

Part II – Segovia & Barcelona
On day four we decided on another day trip, this time to Segovia. Segovia is also connected by a high-speed train that takes about 30 minutes, though the train station is around 15 minutes away from the center of town (connect via bus or taxi). Again we had our taxi driver take us on a tour around the city, including a great photo stop below the Alcazar (castle). Our taxi dropped us off at the Alcazar, which is on the opposite side of the old town from the Roman aqueduct. Our boys really enjoyed the tour of the Alcazar, which had plenty of medieval armor and weapons. We then walked from the Alcazar to the Cathedral, ate lunch in Segovia’s Plaza Mayor. We found Segovia to be very walk able and quiet. It is really a beautiful city. We then headed down to the well-preserved Roman aqueduct, shopping and taking pictures along the way.


Segovia Alcazar from below.

Segovia Alcazar from the front.

Segovia Cathedral.

Plaza in Segovia.

View towards the Roman aqueduct.

Roman aqueduct.

View from top of the Alcazar.

Church in Segovia.

On day five we left Madrid via high-speed train to Barcelona, which takes about 3 hours. From the train station we took a taxi to the Hotel Colon, our hotel for two nights. We loved this hotel; we had a great room with a nice view of the Barcelona Cathedral. We spent the afternoon touring the Barri Gotic, Las Ramblas, the Boqueria Market and the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, for which we pre-booked our tickets.


Spanish countryside from the train.

Spanish countryside from the train.

View of the Barcelona Cathedral from our hotel balcony.

Barri Gotic.

Barri Gotic.

Barri Gotic.

Barri Gotic.

Cone of ham.

La Boqueria Market.

Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

Interior of the Sagrada Familia.

Day six started with the boys heading another important cultural site, the FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium tour while DW shopped and took pictures. While crowded, this was another great experience for the boys. The rest of the day was spent touring Park Guell and other Gaudi sites.


Another view of the Barcelona Cathedral from our hotel room.

View from our hotel room bed.

Camp Nou.

Park Guell.

View of Barcelona from Park Guell.

Last edited by Realbetis; 07-14-2013 at 09:11 PM. Reason: Label pictures.
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Old 07-13-2013, 08:40 PM   #3
Realbetis
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Part III – Embarkation, Sea Day & Villefranche

Part III – Embarkation, Sea Day & Villefranche
Embarkation Day:

We spent the morning walking around the Barri Gotic and getting ready for the “vacation from our vacation” and to head to the ship for our 11:00 am boarding time. Then we experienced the only rain of our trip, a sudden thunderstorm rushed into the Barcelona. The weather had been great, in the 70’s all week long. It turns out that it did not put much of a damper on our day, by the time we arrived at the port via taxi around 11:00, the rain and storm clouds had moved on.

We found embarkation much easier than our previous experience in Vancouver where we had concierge privileges. A porter quickly took our bags, and then we had a short wait to get through security. Before we reached the check-in desk a CM gave us a card giving stating that we were in boarding group 17. When we checked in the CM told us to disregard the card and that we were in boarding group 3. We arrived in the waiting area at around 11:30 and when straight to the kids club check-in. By the time we had the boys checked-in it was time to board.

Upon boarding we went straight to the Rockin’ D Lounge to get Palo brunch reservations, which were readily available. We then went to Parrot Cay for lunch. Soon after we toured the Lab and the Edge with our boys, our stateroom was ready. We were very happy with #8526 and its location. We found it to be a very quiet room and very convenient for getting around the Magic. Our dining rotation for the week was AAPLAPL. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but we had the same table number that we had on the Wonder two years ago. We had two great servers, Halash from India and Marcus from Trinidad & Tobago. We went to the “All Aboard” show that evening, which we enjoyed again.


View of Barcelona from the Disney Magic in port.

Almost there.

Post card from the cruise.

Sea Day:

After a week of touring we were ready for a relaxing day. We had a great night’s sleep. Unlike our previous cruises, we felt very little if any movement of the ship. The Mediterranean was incredibly calm all week, and I believe the mid-ship location of our room helped as well. We were in stateroom 8100 on the Wonder and no matter the sea conditions we felt a lot of movement, especially when docking in port. After the boys headed to the Edge and the Lab, Mom and Dad headed to Palo for brunch. Brunch was great, much like our previous experience on the Wonder. The rest of the day was spent reading, swimming, watching “Lincoln” and playing around the ship. The Mediterranean was very blue and beautiful. Half of us saw “Twice Charmed” while the other half watched “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

Another exciting moment that soccer fans may appreciate, I noticed Inter Milan Captian Javier Zanetti and fellow Argentine teammate Esteban Cambiasso were on our cruise. I saw then several times throughout the week, Zanetti appeared to be recovering from an injury and was in a wheelchair. No pictures, I did not want to bother them on vacation.


The blue Mediterranean Sea between Spain and France.

Villefranche, France:

Our strategy for port excursions was to do half-day tours, getting back to the ship after lunch, in order to not burn our boys out and to enjoy the ship. For Villefranche we chose a tour of Saint Paul de Vence, a beautiful medieval town just north of Nice. The only thing we missed just a little from our previous concierge experience was having our concierge take us off of the ship and directly to our tour bus. For the most part, getting together with our tour group was very easy and efficient. The group heading to Saint Paul was pretty small, taking up only half of a tour bus.

Villefranche was a beautiful port. The tender with our group was quick. Heading out of the ancient port, which was not made for modern tour buses, was interesting. On the way to Saint Paul our tour guide took us through Nice. Saint Paul de Vence was an absolutely beautiful town, with great shops and views of the Cote D’Azur. Waking around the town was very easy, and we were not rushed for shopping and picture taking. We also enjoyed some great gelato (yes, I know it’s France). On the way back through Nice we stopped for pictures at various points along the coast. We were back at the port around 1:30, where we tendered back to the ship. I would highly recommend the Saint Paul de Vence tour; it was perfect for kids and still very interesting for parents. The rest of the day was spent swimming, exercising, and club time for the boys.


View of Villefranche from the ship.

The Magic in the Villefranche harbor.

Leaving the Villefranche port.

Saint Paul de Vence from below.









View of the coast from Saint Paul de Vence.

Candy shop.

View of cemetery and the Mediterranean from Saint Paul de Vence.

View of Nice.

Dinner was formal night. I observed a lot of folks in regular casual clothes. Throughout the week I noticed a lot of people at dinner in shorts, etc., so it appeared that the dress code was loosely enforced. This did not bother us at all, just an observation. The show tonight was the magician/comedian (forgot his name), which the boys enjoyed.


Leaving the Cote D'Azur for Italy.

Last edited by Realbetis; 07-14-2013 at 09:19 PM. Reason: Label pictures.
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Old 07-13-2013, 08:42 PM   #4
Realbetis
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Part IV – La Spezia & Civitavecchia

Part IV – La Spezia & Civitavecchia
La Spezia:

Our excursion today was the Cinque Terre boat tour. This was an incredible excursion, and I highly recommend it. Our boat picked us up right off of the ship. We really lucked out with the weather. The tour takes you out of La Spezia harbor passing beautiful Porto Venere before heading north up the Cinque Terre coast. Though not very rough by any standard, we experienced the most bumps of the whole week while cruising up the coast. We passed all five of the Cinque Terre villages, stopping in Vernazza and Monterosso del Mare. The views were incredible. We really enjoyed touring both Vernazza and Monterosso, sampling gelato and pizza in both towns. This was one of the highlights of our vacation. Again, I highly recommend this excursion.


The Disney Magic in La Spezia harbor.

Porto Venere.

Porto Venere.

Manarola.

Manarola.

Corniglia.

Corniglia.

Getting off of our boat in Vernazza.

Vernazza.

Vernazza.

Market in Vernazza.

Port in Vernazza.

Monterosso.

Monterosso.

Monterosso.




The rest of the day involved swimming, the kids clubs and resting. That night the show was Villians, which the boys also enjoyed.

Civitavecchia:

Both DW and I had been to Rome, and we struggled regarding whether we should brave Rome or take and half-day trip. We ended up taking the Bracciano & Wine Tasting excursion. This might have been an odd choice considering neither DW nor I (or the boys) drink alcohol. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed this excursion. We had a really good guide who gave us a lot of interesting information about Civitavecchia, the Italian countryside we were seeing and Bracciano. Bracciano was a beautiful little town, but our time there was pretty short. We then headed to a winery in Cerveteri. We were able to watch them bottle wine and sample some local food (and wine for those interested). We were then made it back to the ship by 1:00. While we were happy that we took an easygoing day, this tour might have been a little to light for us.


The Disney Magic, NCL Epic and others in port.

Bracciano from below.

Bracciano castle.

Street in Bracciano.

The rest of the day included Wreck it Ralph, swimming, and kids clubs. Dinner for the parents was at Palo.

Last edited by Realbetis; 07-14-2013 at 09:32 PM. Reason: Label pictures.
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Old 07-13-2013, 08:44 PM   #5
Realbetis
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Part V – Naples, Pompeii, Sea Day, back to Madrid & home

Part V – Naples, Pompeii, Sea Day, back to Madrid & home
Naples:

Today we were very excited to visit Pompeii. From the ship you have a wonderful view of Mount Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri. Going with our strategy, we chose a half-day tour of Pompeii. This morning was the least organized for getting excursions together. This was only the second Mediterranean cruise of the season, so hopefully they got it right on future voyages. With that said, we were on our tour bus about 45 minutes after arriving in the Disney Theater.

We had a 25-year veteran of taking tours through Pompeii as our guide, and he did an excellent job. The only odd part of the trip was right after we arrived at Pompeii they took us to a “cameo factory.” Our only use for our 15-minute stop at the cameo factory was to use the restrooms. Soon we were heading through the ruins. One could spend an entire day at Pompeii, but the half-day tour allowed our family to see some incredible roman ruins at a good pace for kids. It felt very warm in Pompeii, even though the temp was only in the 80’s. All in all, it was a great experience for our family. We were back on the ship by about 1:30. While the family enjoyed the ship, I spent a few hours touring Naples. They will give you a lot of warnings about safety in Naples, but I found no issues staying on the main pedestrian roads and using a money belt.


The Magic in the Naples port with a view of Mount Vesuvius.

Mount Vesuvius.

Pompeii.









Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background.



Castel Nuovo, Naples.

Tonight was pirate night. Before the pirate party the show was the winner of Britain’s Got Talent, a percussion/comedy group whose name I cannot remember. This act got fairly repetitive after the first 10 minutes and it reminded us of a poor man’s Blue Man Group.

Sea Day:

We had another relaxing and beautiful day at sea. Again, calm seas and blue skies. A very nice dinner was followed by the Dreams show, which is one of their best. Our servers were great all week. They were a little nervous on the last night because they were informed that they will be serving the Disney Cruise President on the next cruise (both seatings).


Cruising from Naples to Barcelona.


Disembarkation:

Sadly, the day had come. We were not in a hurry to leave the ship; our train back to Madrid did not leave until noon. The early seating breakfast was just after 7:00 am but since we were not in a hurry we asked to attend the lake breakfast just after 8:00. We were able to take our time and we got off of the boat around 9:30 am (there was a bit of a line to get off after 9). We gathered our luggage and spent about 25 minutes waiting in the taxi line.

Before our cruise I read some concerns about the number of smokers on the Mediterranean cruises. This was a non-issue for us. Occasionally, I would smell a smoker or two walking around the decks, but not more then on our Alaskan cruise. For our family our Mediterranean cruise was a wonderful experience. I would highly recommend this trip for families as it provides a great mix of culture, history, comfort and fun. We would love to do this trip again. We found the Magic to be in very good shape with no disappointments. The food was good, similar to the quality we had found on our previous Disney cruise.

More Madrid and home:

After taking the high-speed train back to Madrid, we spent two nights before heading back home via JFK. This time we stayed at the Hotel Opera, another Rick Steves recommendation, and a hotel that I had stayed in previously. The last two days involved shopping, a few more churches and great Spanish food. Our flight home was long, but uneventful. The jetlag hit us much harder coming home than when we arrived in Europe.


Plaza de Oriente, Madrid.

Royal Convent of La Encarnacion.

Leaving the coast of Portugal for North America.

Last edited by Realbetis; 07-14-2013 at 09:41 PM. Reason: Label pictures.
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Old 07-13-2013, 09:07 PM   #6
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I LOVED your trip report! I think it's so cool that you guys did 1/2 day excursions that were a little bit "off the beaten path" so to speak. We had considered the excursions that you took in Villefranche & in La Spezia. It was nice to read a first-hand report about them.

Of all the trip reports so far, I think you guys were also the only ones who did Madrid prior to the cruise. Your pictures are beautiful (especially the Madrid ones). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 07-13-2013, 09:18 PM   #7
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Thanks for posting! I loved it! You sound like us a bit - we are on that same cruise week next year and our boys will be 9 and 11 - and they love soccer!

We too are sort of using the cruise as our "vacation" from the rest of our Europe trip. We are skipping Rome too (going there after the cruise). I think I want to do the Cinque Terre by boat as well... I hope it's not too rocky though?? DS11 and I both get a bit seasick - I will have the patch on from the big boat though, so that should help.

I like the idea of doing half days, we are going to go for that too. We may even stay on the boat on Rome day - we will probably be the only ones on there, hahaha!

Thanks for the pictures and details. I didn't think I wanted to visit much of Spain but it looks awesome! Adding that to the wish list for next trip!

Kim
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Old 07-13-2013, 11:35 PM   #8
Realbetis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gatorfreud View Post
We too are sort of using the cruise as our "vacation" from the rest of our Europe trip. We are skipping Rome too (going there after the cruise). I think I want to do the Cinque Terre by boat as well... I hope it's not too rocky though?? DS11 and I both get a bit seasick - I will have the patch on from the big boat though, so that should help.
There were some bumps on the Cinque Terre trip. Nothing major, but if you normally get sea sick the bumps will probably affect you. Our family takes Bonine/Dramamine Less Drowsy Formula every day of the cruise, so it did not bother us. I did not notice anybody sick on the trip.

It was a great excursion, I highly recommend it.
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Old 07-15-2013, 12:13 PM   #9
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Wow those are gorgeous pictures!! Glad you had a great trip
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Old 07-22-2013, 12:13 PM   #10
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Thanks for all that wonderful information! We will be on the last cruise on the Magic before dry dock. Can't wait!!

Loved all your pictures!!
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:48 PM   #11
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Great report. Love that you spent extra time in Spain. I flew in a day early to Barcelona and fell in love. Spain is definitely a place I want to go back and spend more time.

...and Pompeii is ALWAYS hot no matter what time of year.

Jill in CO
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Old 07-23-2013, 12:09 PM   #12
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A brilliant trip report with fantastic, evocative photographs. I enjoyed reading it so much; thank you!
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:38 PM   #13
DonnaRN
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Beautiful pictures! We are doing the same cruise this year in June/July. We are going to Barcelona first. So excited!!
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Old 01-06-2014, 10:25 AM   #15
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Thank you! I am taking my younger sister on a DCL med cruise in 2015 (if they'd hurry up with date release!). It really is about culture for us and I'm relieved to find a good bit of it in just the normal cruise vibe.
Love the post trip photos! Spain was the first country I visited ... Ever!
Thanks again!
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