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Old 09-03-2007, 10:36 PM   #1
WvT3rd
Earning My Ears
 
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Red face My rather long Westbound Transatlantic trip report

You have been warned. This is my first time doing a trip report.
Overall, I had a great time.

Grab a drink and a snack, please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, and let the magic begin!

Part one
Arriving


Aug. 08.
We’re scheduled to fly out today. The cruise does not begin until the 18th, but we are flying first to Hamburg, Germany, to meet up with my DSS (Disney Step Son), who has been spending the summer with his father. We will be staying for a week at my mother-in-laws house. This plan accomplishes three goals;
1. Pick up DSS
2. Visit with DW’s mother
3. Get over jet lag
The day does not start out well. I needed to drive the DW to work (she worked today, as we have a late flight. About five miles from the house my engine light comes on. We take the next exit and make it back to the house. Change to her car, and I drive her up. Figured we would just wait until September to get the car looked at.
Morning goes by quickly. We have a Towncar coming at 2:15 to take us to the airport. As we live about 60 miles from the San Francisco airport, we give ourselves plenty of time to get there.
Theoretically, we are already checked in with Boarding Passes printed. We just need to drop off the bags at British Airways and go through security then wait for our 18:50 (6:50 p.m.) departure.
The Towncar is nice, and shows up right on time. Fits our four bags plus carry-ons in the trunk and we are off. It’s nice to be able to relax. The driver makes good time and we pick up the DW at work and make the airport in record time. We still have a good three and a half hours until departure.
….or so I thought. The line to just drop off the bags is long and slow. They are also still processing people for the earlier flight (Our routing is San Francisco – London Heathrow- Hamburg, and there are two flights daily to London). The bad news is that our late flight is delayed. By two hours. This means we now are landing right about the time our connecting flight is departing (sigh).
We finally get to the counter after about an hour waiting in line.
The reason the line has been slow is because they are rebooking connecting flights for people. So, now having been handed a new ticket for the London to Hamburg portion of our flight (on a competing airline, no less!), we breeze through security and go have a bite to eat, as we now have a long wait in front of us.
We finally board at 9:00 p.m. Get cozy. And sit. And sit. They announce the reason. There is a motor scooter in the hold to which they cannot find the documents for at the moment. Finally, after a hour sitting in the plane, we take off. British Airways is trying a new entertainment system in Coach. This increases your entertainment choices no end. One problem. It is new, and is powered by Windows Vista.
Nearly every time they pause the system to do an announcement, the system freezes or crashes, and takes about 25 minutes to reboot after a crash. Still, I was able to take in a couple of programs.
We get to London about 4:00 p.m. London time Aug. 09.
Plenty of time to go through Security and find Terminal 4. I wish we had stayed in terminal one for awhile, for it definitely has the better shops. Still, found a bookstore and bought the new Harry Potter book for the boy and made the late plane to Hamburg ( I say late because our connecting flight was also delayed, this time only a half hour). My wife has tried to call her mother, but apparently missed her. We are in line at the Hamburg passport control before she finally reaches her. Seems she has been at the airport all this time and has just got home. It is now 11:00 p.m. German time. We grab our bags (they all made it!)
And take a taxi. We arrive just before Midnight.
Of course, my mother in law has a light dinner for us waiting. A quick bite and then bed. For some reason I am tired.

August 15th
I’m now skipping forward to our arrival in Barcelona. DSS showed up in Hamburg the day after we arrived looking well. We went into town for shopping only once, which was enough, as we actually sent a large parcel home from there containing most of the DSS’s clothes that he will not need for the cruise, plus a few other items.
We take an early Air Berlin flight from Hamburg to Barcelona, which means we are up around 5:30 a.m., picked up by Taxi at 6:00, and at the airport at 7:00. The flight takes off only five minutes late, and we arrive in Barcelona just after noon. All our bags arrive (yes!) and we exit the baggage claim.
Now, I have paid for transfers along the way. This is the first one, and I wondered what we should be looking for on our way out. Easy to spot, as the woman there has a large clipboard with Disney Cruise Line on it. We walk up to her and she says “You must be the von Tagens, welcome!” She introduces us to Sonya, who will be driving us to the hotel. We follow her outside where a nice Mercedes Benz Classic Car is waiting. We manage to get all the luggage inside, as well as all of us, and we are off into town. Sonya speaks excellent English, having lived a year in London, and gives us helpful tips as well as explain that we shouldn’t be surprised to see so many shops closed, as it is major vacation time for the townspeople.
We are staying at the Hotel Hesperia Presidente, on the Avenue Diagonal. It is one of the Disney recommend hotel, and we chose it from the list of five for two main reasons – it is fairly close to bus, subway, and tourist sites, and most important for the DW, it has a hair dryer.
We are able to check in right away to room 1001, a lovely modern room with some nice views, especially from the very large shower window (loved the shower – 3 different combinations for how the water hits you). Once we get settled in, the DW announces we are going to take a walk to lunch.
Three hours of walking later…..seeing most of the sites on and around the Passeig de Garcia, we have lunch. Then another forty five minutes walk back to the hotel for a nap.
I do have to point out I got a bit of a kick out of this one traveling fair located at the intersection of the Passeig de Garcia and the Ave. Diagonal. They must have known Disney was in the area, as almost all their rides were Disney themed, including this one ride titled “Euro Disney”.
We nap fairly late, then walk to the Passeig de Garcia (it would become our main hangout for the next two days) for food and ice cream.
I should mention the weather. Warm, not as humid as I expected, usually cloudly with a bit of rain in the mornings, then clearing in the afternoon.

August 16th.
Breakfast is typical European breakfast buffet, served in the first floor restaurant.
We inquire at the desk about the tourist bus, and are given maps and told that the bus stop is about three blocks to the right.
The Barcelona Bus Turistic covers three routes, Red (North Route), Blue (South Route), and Green (Forum Route). Here you can ride to various tourist spots where you can hop off for awhile before getting the bus again.
With your ticket, you get a small guidebook about what you will see and a pair of headphones. As they are Double Decker buses, you can go on the uncovered top or stay below. The headphones plug into a box where you can select the language you want to listen to the tour as you ride. I can’t swear to it, but the voice sounded a lot like Jeremy Irons on the English tour.
The Red and Blue connect over a couple of points, as do the Blue and Green.
Tickets are good for one day (or you can buy a two day ticket, as we did) and can be used for any of the routes.
We take the Red Tour first, which covers first most of the route we had taken the day before on foot, before heading towards the famous Sagrada Familia Cathedral and a northern route through the city until we return two hours later at our stop at the Francesc Macia – Diagonal. We shop at a nearby department store for snacks for lunch plus a few other things we are running out of, then walk back to our hotel. We nap, then walk back to catch the southern Blue route, which takes us around the waterfront and up the Passeig de Garcia where we got off for dinner.
Be aware that the buses have varied operating hours, and these are listed at each stop. We weren’t, and that’s why we had a nice walk back to our hotel.
The next morning (Friday, Aug. 17th) we were at the bus stop and found out we had an hour before the bus would start arriving – and I want to add here that the wait for buses was generally short, no more than ten minutes apart.
Since the purpose of our early rising was to get to the Sagrada Familia before it got really crowded, we decided to take a taxi. I could not believe it – what had taken over a half hour on the bus to get to turned into five minutes by taxi. Add to that taxis are a very cheap mode of transport in Spain. We tipped generously and went into the cathedral.
I cannot describe my feelings looking just at the outside of this magnificent building. The mix of architecture, the history and beauty of this project. We rented audioguides that gave the history (you had to leave either a picture ID or 50 euros as a deposit), and spent the next two plus hours in, around, and under the church. Leaving here, we picked up the bus at the stop across the street (we had to wait for a couple of buses, as this was one of the busiest and most popular stops). We rode to the stop for the Park Guell, where we wandered and took time out for a snack. You have to walk uphill (with a steep climb at one point) for about three to four blocks from the bus stop, but at least it’s all downhill when you exit. : )
We got back to our hotel in time to check in at the Disney desk. The purpose of this would allow us to forego lines at the terminal and get onto the ship quicker. I was able to sign in right away – after filling out a couple of forms that weren’t included in the documents either online or delivered (more on this in a moment). However, upon finding that DW and DSS were not US citizens, we were informed that we would have to check in at the cruise terminal. This is because they need to take the DW’s and DSS’s green cards for the duration of the cruise. We take this in stride, nap and go for our last dinner on land for the next two weeks.

Consider the following a sidebar rant.
1. We were encouraged to use the online web site (which was very good) to take care of documents and provide flight information for transfers.
The site did not take into consideration that passengers may be flying in from International Airports besides London and Charles DeGaulle (The airport closest to Disneyland Paris). As we were coming into Barcelona from Hamburg, I needed to call for help on this (they basically took the information and overrode the system)
2. I know that there are many Disney cruisers who are not U.S. Citizens.
Disney, IMO, should consider and make plans to allow these cruisers the opportunity afforded to U.S. Citizens for preboarding as I was able to do at the hotel.
3. Not covered in my commentary yet, but we are Castaway Club members, this being our third cruise (the last one being the first Panama Canal crossing, with the infamous pin incidents). At the port, there are Castaway Club lines, which we could not use. Why? Because they do not have a desk for non U.S. Citizen travelers. Again, I think this service should be considered in the future.
4. One more thing – delivery of documents. We had booked the cruise via the Disney Vacation Club back in April of 2006. Would it kill them to get our documents out a bit early? I knew that they said we would get our documents 21 to 10 days before the cruise. But I was leaving the country 10 days before the cruise. The day before we left at four p.m. I was on the phone to DCL explaining I had not yet received my docs when my doorbell rang. I asked the person at DCL to hang on a moment. It was the docs. Cutting it close is not conductive to being relaxed at the start of vacation. End of sidebar rant.


August 18th
Having had our packed bags properly labeled at waiting for pick-up at 8:00 a.m.
They were picked up promptly on time. We presented ourselves in the lobby at 10:15 for an 11:30 bus. The bus showed up early so we were allowed on board early. Everyone checked in, the Disney employees waved goodbye as we set off for the port.
We got to the port, waited for about an hour in line (see sidebar above)
Once done with that, we found out our Boarding number was just being called and we could board right away (it was now nearly 1:00 p.m.). We got our picture taken, handed over our Key to the World cards for the first time, and boarded the Magic for our first Transatlantic voyage.

End of part one.
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Old 09-04-2007, 02:10 PM   #2
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I'm patiently waiting for the next installment.
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Old 09-04-2007, 06:22 PM   #3
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Waiting for more sorry to hear you had a stressful start to ur vacation
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Old 09-05-2007, 03:10 PM   #4
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More please.
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Old 09-06-2007, 01:09 AM   #5
WvT3rd
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Part 2 - August 18th Rediscovering the Magic

Part Two
Rediscovering the Magic



August 18th, cont.
We last left our intrepid travelers handing over the Key to the World cards and boarding the Magic. Guess what. My Key didn’t work. They had to rekey or something before I boarded. But I made it. And then duly disinfected my hands.
I don’t know if this was just for the Med and Transatlantic Cruises, but we boarded on Deck one and was whisked up to Deck nine for our grand introduction. I missed the Deck three introductions. Just seems a bit grander entering via the atrium. I did notice that the intros were being broadcast on the Ariel Screen. Too bad you could not watch yourself boarding, however.
It was around one o’clock in the afternoon by the time we boarded, so we made our way down to Topsiders and grabbed a bite to eat.
This was perfect timing, as we could not get into our rooms until 1:30 p.m. anyway. After lunch, it was time to find our stateroom. 6040, Deck six, about halfway between forward and midship on the port side. Except today Starboard was closest to the port….never mind.
I love the staterooms. We have always had a Category six stateroom, as the DW (the one who MUST have a hair dryer) also must have a verandah, which is fine by me. In the past our staterooms were on deck seven, so I was a bit surprised when we got deck six. I love the décor of the staterooms, the picture of Walt and Lillie on Deck, the POC artwork above the steamer trunk, and the bar of music above the bed. We had two navigators waiting for us. The usual daily navigator, and a “Voyage Personal Navigator”, which gave an overview of the entertainment (Where I learned we would be entertained by Jim Brickman and Susan Egan.), plus deck parties and the lecture series by Kevin McCarthy (no, not the actor from “Twilight Zone” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”).
As we are Castaway Club members (I heard that over 60% of the passengers aboard had sailed with Disney before), we also had a gift waiting – a nice passport/document holder embossed with the DCL logo. Nice. And small, which is a good thing, considering on the Panama Cruise we got a large blanket. At least this will be easy to pack.
We set off re-familiarizing ourselves with the Magic. No shops were open, as we were in port, and Shutters would not open until after the Lifeboat Drill.
I did manage to book myself a massage for the first sea day however, and quickly check out the Stack while delivering the DSS there (it was basically “okay, thanks, go away.”).
Luggage began arriving around 3:00, and once more we got all bags safely (although in two batches, but hey, it all got on board.). So then my DW took charge and before you knew it we were entirely unpacked and the luggage had all been put into the closet (Not an easy fit, considering we each had two pieces. Luckily some of the smaller pieces went into the larger pieces.).
Now it was time to don our lifejackets and get ready to assemble on Deck 4. Disney seems to have changed the Lifejackets. These did not stick out like a sore thumb from your body. The safety drill went off without a hitch, in our section at least, and we were dismissed.
Since we had early sitting (one of the advantages of booking so early), we got ready for dinner. Our rotation was PLAPLAPLAPLAPL (try saying that three times fast). We presented ourselves at Parrot Cay at 6:00 p.m. and was introduced to our server Hemant and assistant server Gigi. We have always been lucky and had great serving teams in the past, and this proved to be no exception. Hemant was great to talk to and quickly learned our preferences, and Gigi kept my ice tea coming. Whoever gets them next are lucky.
We were at Table 40. All alone, as our dinner companions never showed up that night, so we had a nice view of the restaurant, as we were quite close to the entrance. As we were alone, we moved quickly along with Dinner – the “Let the Magic Begin” menu – and were done by seven. As the show didn’t start until eight-thiry for us, the DSS (Disney Step-Son) went to the Stack, which would become his hang-out during the trip, while DW and I wandered about a little, checking out Rocking Bar D and Studio Sea.
It was on this wandering that we caught up with Kris and Magdalen, our tablemates from the Panama Canal Cruise. We had struck up a friendship over all the meals and desserts during that cruise and had kept in touch. Just before we left for Europe I had emailed them, as they had mentioned that they were going to take the last Med cruise, and was wondering if we could possibly meet up for lunch on the 18th, the crossover day. That’s when Kris told me they had gotten a great deal on an inside stateroom on deck two that was upgraded to an inside stateroom on deck six for the Transatlantic voyage!
They had late dinner, however, but we would soon be having lots of time together. Seeing them again was the highlight of the day. They said they had seen our picture at Shutters, and commented on how much the DSS had grown.
As they were on their way to dinner, we made plans to meet up later.
Now keep in mind the DSS also knew Kris and Magdalen, but didn’t know they we also going to be on the cruise with us. When asked about them, I told him the truth…that they were on the cruise before ours. I also promised that our cruise would have a couple of surprises.
DW and I then went to Shutters and found our picture. We purchased a photo plan and went to the Walt Disney Theatre. The DSS met up with us and we went to see “All Aboard”. I still like the show, and this time Michael Harrison picked a kid in the audience that was hilarious in his own way. I like Michael Harrison, but does anyone else think he needs to expand his act a bit? Much of it I remembered from two years ago.
After the show, we went to Rocking Bar D, DSS in tow since his event at the Stack didn’t being until 10:30 p.m.. We found a table near the main entrance, and were seated when I noticed Kris and Magdalen walk in. I told DSS, who’s back was to the entrance, “Remember that I told you there would be surprises? Turn around”. He gave me a quizzical look but did so. It took him a moment to register what he was supposed to be seeing, but broke into a big smile. He left soon thereafter for the Stack and we had time to renew our friendship.

A magical first day, If I do say so myself.

The DW and I were in bed before midnight.
DSS came in at 1:30 a.m., a practice which would continue for the rest of the voyage.

Which leads to a subject my DW brought up. Why do they scheduled the teen activities to end so late, especially on Port Days, when the next morning they have shore excursions?

End of Part 2.
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Old 09-06-2007, 04:50 AM   #6
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Subscribing TFS
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Old 09-06-2007, 01:20 PM   #7
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Yes more plese you are brining back some great memories.
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Old 09-06-2007, 06:08 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WvT3rd View Post
Part Two
Rediscovering the Magic



August 18th, cont.



Since we had early sitting (one of the advantages of booking so early), we got ready for dinner. Our rotation was PLAPLAPLAPLAPL (try saying that three times fast). We presented ourselves at Parrot Cay at 6:00 p.m. and was introduced to our server Hemant and assistant server Gigi. We have always been lucky and had great serving teams in the past, and this proved to be no exception. Hemant was great to talk to and quickly learned our preferences, and Gigi kept my ice tea coming. Whoever gets them next are lucky.
We were at Table 40.
Hi, we were at table 39! Hemant and Gigi were our servers on the July 28 Med cruise and we loved them so much that we asked for them again for the repo. Are you the table we shared the huge chocolate chip cookie dessert with?????
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Old 09-07-2007, 11:00 AM   #9
WvT3rd
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Table 39

Quote:
Originally Posted by bellelinus View Post
Hi, we were at table 39! Hemant and Gigi were our servers on the July 28 Med cruise and we loved them so much that we asked for them again for the repo. Are you the table we shared the huge chocolate chip cookie dessert with?????
YES! I wondered about you! the DSS said you were French, I said you were from New York (I think two of your daughters were at the Susan Egan Q&A)
Well, nice to finally meet you! : )
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Old 09-07-2007, 01:48 PM   #10
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Really enjoying your trip report!
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Old 09-07-2007, 02:06 PM   #11
bellelinus
You have liberally applied fluff as filler as well
Let's not forget to feed our hearts and minds as well
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Originally Posted by WvT3rd View Post
YES! I wondered about you! the DSS said you were French, I said you were from New York (I think two of your daughters were at the Susan Egan Q&A)
Well, nice to finally meet you! : )
We are from New York City, but we had just come from 10 days in Paris (probably what your DSS overheard) . . . yes, the two younger ones were at the Susan Egan signing . . .

I can't wait to read the rest of your report!
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Old 09-08-2007, 05:33 PM   #12
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Smile Part 3...a foggy day, in Monserrat...

Part three
Aug. 19th
A foggy day…
The next morning we woke up around six (I should say I woke up at six. The usual routine became I usually woke up first, showered, shaved, and then woke up the DW who would get ready and then wake up the DSS), and after everyone was ready we had our first breakfast at Topsiders (we planned this trip to have breakfast at least one day at Lumiere’s’. Except for the last morning, where this was our only choice, this never happened.). I never noticed any problems with the breakfast food only that it seemed some mornings they only had one side operating. I always saw the Mickey waffles and pancakes. The only shortage I noticed at the very end was the type of bagel they offered changed.
I usually had a mixture of fruit, followed by a bowl of oatmeal or cream of wheat (foregoing the offer of baked beans), bagel with cream cheese, and two small hash brown wheels. I would then add a small glass of orange juice and a large one of ice tea, and I would be set for the morning.
One of the reasons we had gotten to Barcelona early is that we wanted to visit Montserrat on our excursion day – which is why we then reported to Rockin’ Bar D for the half day excursion. We were in group one (We’re number one!, we’re number one!) and was led off ship to meet with the tour bus and guide.
Now it was raining outside heavier than I had seen it in the past view days, so the Cruise line gave everyone ponchos to wear - which I thought was nice. These were rather sturdy, I should add, not the thin plastic you usually get at the parks.

Our local guide was female and very informative. However, she was rather monotone and sometimes hard to hear. Her attempts at humor did not translate well, and near the end of the tour she made imo what amounted to a racial slur against the Chinese which I did not care for at all.
It took about an hour to drive to Montserrat, where we disembarked and transferred to a funicular railway that went up the mountain to the monastery.
The rain had pretty much stopped, but we felt like we were inside a cloud, with visibility lessening to at one point during the day the fog was so thick you could not see people five feet away from you.
Once at the monastery, the guide noticed that the viewing of the Black Madonna would be ending soon because of services. So she shuttled our group into the viewing queue with instructions on where to meet back.
Made it thru the line into and up until we saw this beautiful relic, and then a quick walk down again and outdoors. We had time before we met up again, so we shopped in the museum store (deciding there wasn’t time to go into the museum itself and appreciate the artwork inside), and then had a drink at the café before meeting up again. The sun had finally decided to start peeking out and the clouds began to lift so we could appreciate the view of the valleys below and the waves of mountain that surround the monastery.
The bus driver had driven up the mountain whilst the rest of us took the railway, so we boarded the bus and began a winding trip back to Barcelona and the ship.
The bus dropped some people off near the entrance to Las Ramblas, the long open market that Barcelona promotes as one of the largest in Spain (it certainly always looked crowded from the two ends of it I saw), and then took the rest of us back to the ship. It was about 1:30 p.m., giving us just enough time to scurry up to Topsiders for lunch.
We then went and had a nap.
Because of the weather, the usual sailing away celebration was held in the Lobby on Deck 3 (Makes sense, we were welcomed on Deck 9 instead of Deck 3, so why not have the sail away party on Deck 3 instead of deck 9?).
We searched out the cast members who were handing out the …well, hands
(What do you call those things, anyway? Wavy Sticks?) and joined the celebration.
I had to put mine on the floor, though. I heard the captain say “All hands on deck”.
By the way, I told that joke to someone on Deck 4 and a few minutes later my DW saw the joke being told to someone else.
Just remember, I was first.
So, at five p.m. we did the countdown, and by five thirty we had shoved off and the voyage really started!
Tonight we were at Lumiere’s’, and the menu was “French Dinner”.
Now, I’m not a gourmet. I’m the meat and potatoes type. I wasn’t interested in the escargot – goes down way too slowly – so I ordered steak. It was good. In general, there was really only one menu that I really, really could not find anything to enjoy, and we always saved room for dessert. We met our tablemates tonight – a Grandmother, Mother and Son (who was not there because he was doing Topsiders with the Oceaneers group.) The Mother was having an allergic reaction to something (they finally figured out it was Diet Pepsi – which has uses a different formula in Europe from the diet drinks in the U.S.), so ate sparingly.

After dinner we went to the first “Disney Mania” show of the cruise. Because of the length of our voyage, DCL decided to have four rounds of this game and bring all the winners back for a championship round.
“Disney Mania” is unfair. To be chosen you must have one adult and one small child. What about us parents of teens? Singles? Married without Children? Why can’t we have fun hitting buzzers and answering questions????
May I suggest at least one adult’s only or adult and teen version? Maybe with slightly more difficult questions?

The performer that night was French magician Phil Keller. He had a great looking assistant. Some of his act can be seen here on his website:

http://www.philkellermagic.fr/spectacle.html

While he didn’t have any animals with him, nor put anyone through anyone else, he was fairly impressive (one exception: His “Levitation” routine.), and better yet had his slightly clad blonde (or blonde-wigged) assistant with him. His act ended with a routine featuring four people from the audience which required no magic, just physics, but was funny nevertheless.

We returned to Studio Seas for a round of “Name that Tune”, for which we did okay, although some of the questions were very difficult.
And then, to bed.

Aug. 20th.
First Day at Sea

Now, this is the way to spend a day at Sea. DW and I got up early and hit the gym on the ship – I like the expansion they’ve done. I used the treadmill, and I never had to wait when I wanted to use one.
Breakfast at Topsiders – they didn’t open until 7:30 am on Sea Days – and then back to the room, change into swim clothes and go to the Cove Pool to swim.
We had wanted to go to the lectures that began at 11:00 a.m., but we were still swimming at that time. DW saw a repeat of it later on the Television
(surprisingly, I watched very little television on the cruise. DW usually watched while working out on the treadmill. I usually viewed the Cruise conditions channel or tried to keep up with the news.)
Being DVC members, we attended the 12:30 DVC “Member Celebration”. Just for being there we received a beach bag/backpack with a DVC cap (in red) and a few other items. I also found out that they sent members a rather large beach blanket, complete with plastic sand spikes to tether the blanket down with, before the cruise. Guess it will be awaiting us when we get back (good thing, too, as we probably wouldn’t have packed it anyway).
We hooked back up with Kris and Magdalen at they DVC event, and went to Parrot Cay to have lunch (the original plan was Lumiere’s, but we couldn’t find enough items on the menu that everyone would enjoy).
One great thing that happened as we were getting ready to leave. We were seated near a porthole, and as I was looking out, I suddenly saw two dolphins (or porpoises) leap out of the sea. So cool.
The four of us (DSS had abandoned us for the Stack after swimming) went out on Deck four and found lounge chairs. We sat and talked, enjoyed the view and the company. Now, I am told there were about 2100 on board. It is me, or did there always seem to be lounge chairs available? I don’t think there was ever a problem getting one or two to use.
Anyway, we visited until it was time for me to go for my massage at the Spa. It was so nice. My masseuse was was male, from Transylvania, and was a black belt in Karate. Which made me hope he was concentrating when he was doing the chopping thing on my back and legs : )
I got so relaxed that time just seemed to stand still. Just what you want in a massage.
I got back to the room just in time to change for Dinner. Formal night tonight, and we were in Animators. It was the Golden Mickeys tonight in the Walt Disney Theatre, and I have to say I thought we had an excellent Ensign Benson. We then went to Rockin’ Bar D (which we hung out at in the evening more than we ever did before.) and listened to the band (From Hungry) and saw Michael Harrisons’ “adult” performance ( which I would probably rate pg-13). He’s good, but his act has not changed. I still laughed.
Gibraltar tomorrow, and so to bed.

End of Part 3
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Old 09-09-2007, 02:31 PM   #13
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Part 4 - Where's Alcatraz?

Part 4
The Rock

I don’t know why they call Gibraltar “The Rock”. I thought they filmed the movie in San Francisco….
Okay, okay. This, I think, was my favorite European port of the cruise.
We woke early, just as the sun was rising and we were docking. I have some nice shots of the sunrise (Just in case you think this log is long, you should see the pictures I’ve taken…and I haven’t even begun to log the thirteen hours of tape that I shot…anyway, I plan to post a link to some of the pictures in the near future.).
We had gone back and forth on what we wanted to see in Gibraltar, and whether we could go on just one excursion. DW, who had been there before said if we needed to walk a lot, one excursion might be too much (as it turned out, I didn’t think the walking was much of a hardship.). The end result is we decided to do one excursion in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Our morning excursion was to be to St. Michaels Cave. We disembarked, climbed aboard a small bus, and was whisked through small streets first to Europa point, the southernmost point in Gibraltar, and a mere twenty mile across the strait to the Continent of Africa. We also had a good view of a half sunken ship – The New Flame (which, by the way, is still there as of this writing) – and a so-so view of the coast of Africa, mainly being able to see the peak of Jebel Musa, the other legendary pillar of Hercules. From there we drove up towards St. Michaels. The cave has a small entrance, but once you get inside the cavern expands with stalagmites (the rock columns coming up from the ground) and stalactites (the columns coming down from the ceiling). Strategically placed lighting added colour and atmosphere to the cave. We walked down, around, and found ourselves in this massive cavern that was used as a theatre and concert hall. We were able to walk onstage before exiting up thru the audience and out….leading to the souvenir shop outside. Once back on the bus, we had one more stop. We visited with the Barbary Apes. Our guide was very good in telling everyone not to take anything out of the bus except our cameras, that everything would be safe in the bus. As it was still morning and not to hot outside, the apes were fairly active. As soon as we parked one leapt onto the roof, and others were scampering on the road wall and viewing platform railings.
One poor woman in the group had the pleasure of one climbing onto her – talk about having a monkey on ones back – with another one following the first one.
And then the two monkeys started fighting with one another! The woman did the right thing and just froze. The monkeys scampered off chasing each other.
We had a fantastic view of the strait from here, and could see the Magic docked in port. The cable cars were also operating nearby (I heard later that some people wanting to use the cable car had to wait up to an hour in the line – that’s nothing. Try getting on “Finding Nemo” at Disneyland anytime after the park opens and see how long you have to wait.) , and if you positioned yourself just right you could photograph a monkey, cable car, and Disney Magic all in one shot.
Our tour was still not through. We drove back through town, and then OVER the Gibraltar Airport Landing strip to the other side where we could see the border between Gibraltar and Spain. Fortunately, there are view Planes landing there and there is a warning system set up for the cars and pedestrians.
It was back to the Boat, where we had an early lunch and time for lounging on Deck 4 (okay, I napped on Deck 4) until it was time for our afternoon excursion.
Back down to Rockin Bar D, disembark, get on the small bus, drive to Europa Point (much windier, I liked the light of the morning excursion better – I do a lot of photo and video shooting.), go see monkeys…sorry, go see apes (much more laid back and the area was a lot more crowded with tourists than the morning) and finally get to the point of the afternoon – the Gibraltar Siege Tunnels. These have only recently (in the last couple of years) been opened to the public. We were shown only a portion of the tunnels dug out of the Rock of Gibraltar, mainly by the British forces, during World War 2. Ironically, our tour guide was German. He told the story of having an ex soldier who had worked on the tunnels on one of his tours. As they talked, the ex soldier said had the tour guide been there during the war the ex soldier most certainly would have had to shoot him.
We walked out onto Jocks Gallery, a small outside outcrop of rock that overlooked the cemetery below and the eastern portion of the airstrip. It was a tight fit at one point and the tour guide said that earlier that day apparently a “large” passenger got momentarily stuck passing thru. I made a note to hit the gym on the next sea day.
After we exited the tunnels (in all we spent about a hour to a hour and a half inside) we went to a hut near a couple of the very large guns that are still there, and had a drink and souvenir hunted until it was time to get back on the bus.
It was a downhill drive all the way back to the docks and the Magic. It was after five when we got back aboard, and as we had early dinner there was no time to go and explore the town (should’ve done it during lunch, I know.). I would have liked seeing the Governors’ House, and there was a shop called Goldfinger that I would have like to get of photograph of. Ah well, next time I’m there.
We’re back at Parrot Key tonight for the Island Dinner. I’m beginning to notice the table next to ours….even though they arrive after us they are immediately served a salad….and they rarely look at the menu choices. Special Diet?
I also finally notice that all they do to cover the buffet tables used during lunch is pull a drape across the area. Guess that’s what happens when your tablemates don’t show up again and you start looking around. Of course, our table is very close to the entrance.
After dinner the DSS did his disappearing act, and the DW went up to Deck 9 for the narration from the bridge as we went through the Strait of Gibraltar towards the Atlantic. The sun was just setting, and you could see lights from Morocco off the Port side. We run into Kris and Magdalen, and I compare this evening to the day we went through the Panama Canal, except the weather right now is not as warm. For a rush we go up to deck 10 and to the bow, where the wind is blowing hard through the strait, having had nothing in its way to slow it down since the Caribbean.
Soon after we go down for tonight’s show, Michael Harrison gets to play the big room. Usually, the rotation is for the entertainer to play the big room, and then does a cabaret act in Rockin’ Bar D. Having this reversed is a bit like watching the dress rehearsal and then seeing the actual show. He does introduce a new puppet – Anna Conda, which is very ingenious. Other than that, it becomes a part of his Cabaret Act again.

After the show, we went down to Deck 4 to experience the crossing down there. Although the sun had gone down, there was still enough light to make out the coastline. We were now probably the closest to Africa we would be. That’s one of the neat things about this cruise. We may not stop, but we get to see three continents on this trip. And the Bahamas. Top that, QE2.
We wandered into sessions, to hear Tim Moss and his tribute to the Rat Pack.
He’s a good piano player, but his vocals leave a lot to be desired. And he completely screwed up the lyrics to “Everybody Loves Somebody”. We left after three songs.
Meanwhile, High Frequency was doing it’s thing next door in Rockin’ Bar D (they’re the Hungarian Band), and then Phil Keller did his act, culminating in a rather nice variation of the classic Metamorphous trick, this one involving a volunteer from the audience (He asked for a gentleman wearing a jacket. No one was wearing a jacket. Should have asked on Formal night. In the end, a volunteer wore Trent’s’ jacket). Trent, by the way, is the Rockin’ Bar D manager/emcee. I’ve been enjoying telling him my observations/jokes, and he’s been kind enough to laugh.
We know we have a long day tomorrow in Cadiz, so even the DSS gets to bed by midnight.
End of Part 4.
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Old 09-09-2007, 05:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WvT3rd View Post
One poor woman in the group had the pleasure of one climbing onto her – talk about having a monkey on ones back – with another one following the first one. And then the two monkeys started fighting with one another!
That would be me! It was the infamous monkey knife fight:


I'm really enjoying your reports. It helps make the withdrawal go a little easier.
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Old 09-14-2007, 07:44 PM   #15
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Part 5 - Cadiz!

Part 5
Bonding in Cadiz

August 22nd
We are in Cadiz, on the Atlantic coast side of Spain. It’s relatively close to Gibraltar, which is less than 60 miles away as the crow flies – Seville, the destination of one of the excursions offered, is about 63 miles away from Cadiz.
Cadiz, according to Discover shopping flyer we received, is considered the oldest Western city in Europe. There is evidence of a settlement dating back to around 1000 B.C. It is also where the Spanish Constitution was written back in 1812. It still has City Walls, although now the gates are wide open, and a welcoming atmosphere about it.
We chose for our excursion the walking tour of Cadiz – I guess that’s what we were training for in Barcelona on our first day there. Now, the ship was docked on the inland side of Cadiz, which is essentially an island connected by a bridge to mainland Spain, rather like the Florida Keys. The docks were quite close to the old town and the Ayuntamiento de Cádiz, which is where the tour proper started. In fact, the starting point of the tour was roughly one third of a mile away – say about a ten to fifteen minute walk. So of course to start your walking tour they load you onto a bus and drive you to the starting point. Now, the entire width of Cadiz is only around a mile, if not less, and from the top decks of the Magic you could see the Ocean on the other side. The tour itself, if you went just from the starting point to the end point covered less than a mile. We started just after nine a.m., and returned to the ship at one thirty in the afternoon. Now throw into the mix about a half hour rest stop, and say a half hour on the bus, and you are still talking a three hour tour on foot.
Luckily, the weather was nice. Not too hot, not too much humidity, even towards the end when it was afternoon. We walked the narrow streets and sometimes went up alleys, looked into the foyer of some apartments and listened to our very good guide. We saw important monuments and churches, learned why Cadiz has two patron “saints” (martyred roman soldiers), saw the remains of a roman theatre, and dodged cars as we walked (often we had a lookout as we walked single file. If a car was approaching from the rear, the lookout would yell “Car!” and the message would pass up the line.).
Around noon, we reached a tower that had been turned into a Camera Obsurca.
Now think of this as a periscope that instead of having one person looking into it, is projecting what it sees onto an oval bowl that is about five feet in diameter. By focusing the image, you are watching what is happening in real time outside. This dates back hundreds of years, and is one of the forerunners of both photography and videography.
The one downside to the one in Cadiz, is that it is at the top floor of the tower, and there is no elevator. So we climb. Staircase after staircase. Sometimes the stairs are spiral, sometimes not. And we climb.
Now, I was doing fine outside in terms of the heat. Inside, there is no breeze. And the room itself is rather small, as we have to go in groups to view it, the walls are black, the windows shuttered, and they didn’t start the ceiling fans until we are inside the room. A bit stifling at this point and I feel no need to visit the gym later. The shower, yes, but not the gym.
The views are great. You can see the cars driving past, and we see the ship docked as well as two sea forts on the west side of town (we started on the east side). More about the forts later.
After viewing the Camera Obscura, we go upstairs onto the roof. Great views and not as stifling heat.
Once everyone has seen everything, we make the long descent down (btw, to get into training, I suggest going from deck 2 to deck 10 by stairs. Repeat.
That’s how many steps it seemed.) to street level. We now backtrack slightly to a nearby market square where we get our drink voucher and are given a half hour break. Three cokes, please.
I must say that I found all of the cities we visited very clean, and I can only think of one or two homeless people that I saw, and that was in Barcelona. I never felt threatened, and can’t recall being hassled by beggars (Of course, we never did do Las Ramblas in Barcelona which I understand has both beggars and pickpockets). I was also able to get by with my next to no Spanish, as many merchants and all the guides spoke English (by next no Spanish, I mean I know two phrases – No habla Espanol (I don’t speak Spanish), and, thanks to all those Matterhorn rides, “Permanecer sentarse, por favor” (remain seated, please). This means I can combine the two to say “Remain seated, please, I don’t speak Spanish”. Not much call for that one.).

After our break, we proceeded towards the western part of the city, and the small bay formed between the aforementioned sea forts. Facing out to sea, the fort on the left was the Castillo de San Sebastián, and the one on the right was the Castillo de Santa Catalina. The beach a very popular one, and was busy even though it was Wednesday and around noon. We got to tour Castillo de Santa Catalina. Passing a small marina of sailboats, including at least one rowboat that had sunk and never been moved.
Santa Catalina was a beautifully preserved fort, with Palm trees and wide ramparts inside, with great views of the sea and of Castillo de San Sebastián across the small sea passage. Just what you would imagine a Spanish Sea Fort to be. All that was missing was the Pirate Ship attacking it.
I never realized you could be in Cadiz and see Cuba. What’s that you ask? I found out that Castillo de San Sebastián had been used in the James Bond film “Die Another Day”, doubling as a Cuban Medical Clinic. And the beach
was where Halle Berry made her entrance in the film rising from the sea in the orange bikini. That’s two James Bond locations on this trip – Gibraltar had been featured in the pre credit sequence of “The Living Daylights”. Being a long time Bond fan that’s icing on the cake for this vacation.

Anyway, here is where the walking tour ended for us. The bus had magically reappeared while we were inside the Castillo, and it took only fifteen minutes for us to get back to the ship. We arrived back at 1:30, just in time to take the elevator up to Topsiders for lunch.
After lunch the DSS did his disappearing act, promising to return for dinner, and the DW and myself went over to the promenade lounge, arriving just in time to participate in Wii Wimbledon – that’s videogame tennis on a large screen. I won my first match, but lost in the quarterfinals when I had to play on the left side of the screen. But, hey, it was fun, and that’s the important thing.
It was naptime after that, and we got up in time to make it back to the promenade lounge to catch up with our friends Kris and Magdalen. They had traveled to Seville today, and had just gotten back. They also experienced great weather, which they were told was a rarity for this time of year, as usually it is much hotter.
We had to leave to go to dinner at Lumiere’s’ again (I think this have been the evening when robsmom’s son (possibly rob?) injured himself.) How is he doing?

Flavours of the Mediterranean was the menu tonight. I had a steak. By the way, my speculation about the healthy diet of Table 39 was tossed out the window – I mean porthole- by seeing the fairly large plate of French Fries being delivered to their table.
There was a special screening of POTC3 tonight at 9:30 in the Walt Disney Theatre. Having seen it twice, we decided to do other things. First, DW and I checked out the “On the Nose” Game show in the aforementioned theatre at 7:45 p.m. We left after two questions. It was very lightly attended, and I think the game itself is better suited to Studio Seas rather that the WDT.
We went down to Sessions, where Christian was playing. I liked him a lot more than than Tim Moss, and I wish I could have heard more of during the cruise.
Since we weren’t going to POTC, the DW retired to the stateroom and I caught the last two thirds of “Meet the Robinsons” in the Buena Vista Theatre. I had forgotten how well done the film is, and I enjoyed it very much.
It was getting late by the time I got back to the stateroom.
Tonight was the first night where we had to change the clocks back one hour.
Probably explains why the DSS didn’t get in until two thirty in the morning, or three thirty on the old time.

End of Part 5.
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