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Old 08-27-2008, 09:33 AM   #76
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Saturday, August 23, 2008 Sea Day

We are almost halfway through the cruise. We had a great day to celebrate! First thing this morning is we went to the Princess picture session. Snow White, Cinderella and Belle were in the lobby to visit with the kids. While we waited, we saw a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the ship. They are so beautiful!

We got our pictures and then had a special surprise. Last night, Kat from the Hotel Director’s office called and said that she told Chip and Dale how sad Jessica was about missing them and they agreed to meet her for a special photo and autograph session. She said to meet them at 10:45, so we did that and all the girls and I were there. It was fun and Chip and Dale were really fun with the kids. What a nice memory! Thanks Kat!!!!!

After that we went to brunch at Lumiere’s. We got our coffee and juice and some cereal and I remember that I was supposed to meet Sarah for a game show. So I excused myself and met Sarah at Diversions. I don’t think I have been to this place more than once before. It is neat because it has about 40-50 games that you could sit and play with your family. I will be back here someday in the next week!

The game was a Disney Version of Wheel of Fortune. We were on team three and we did okay. We were losing pretty badly until the very last round. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a dramatic finish we won! We each got a medal.

This afternoon we did a few fun activities including getting registered for the best boat competition. My husband is excited about doing that with the kids. They have a week to build a boat using random items and then they are judged in one of three categories.

We had Tea with Alice this afternoon as well; it was really cute but quite short, probably only about 25 minutes. Alice showed everyone how to properly pour tea, hold out your pinkies and sip away. They had apple juice instead of tea. They also had cookies for everyone. It was nice and relaxing and we got to do pictures with Alice at the end.

We were supposed to have Palo this evening, but we found out that we were going to have the Show dinner at Animators and we knew that Jessica would really like that so I went up to Palos and asked if I could change it, they said sure and gave me the same time tomorrow evening. How nice!

Then we swam and had nap time and the show tonight was the Hypnotist. The kids and I heard it was supposed to be really funny so we wanted to go. Jessie’s nap lasted too long, so the kids went by themselves. They really enjoyed it and said it was super funny.

Then we went to the game show “So you think you know your family” in Rockin’ Bar D. Sarah especially loves going to the game shows! They do a nice job of picking who gets to participate, they give you numbers when you walk in the door and if they call out numbers, so everyone has a fair chance of playing. They called off 5 numbers and Sarah’s number was called as the last one! So she needed to pick an adult to play with her and she picked me. They first sent the kids out of the room and asked each of us 3 questions and we had to see if we could guess what the kids would answer. I got ALL 3 of Sarah’s correct! We were the only one with all 3 correct answers. Then we adults were sent out of the room and they had to answer 4 questions. One of the girls picked was 5 years old and had some really cute answers…her mom looked to me to be at least 40 but the girl said 25. It was cute. Sarah guessed all of mine correctly except MY AGE! WHAT? I suppose, I did just have a birthday, but come on. Later she told me that she knew what year I was born in, she just forgot what year it was NOW! Oh my, good thing school starts the day we get back. So we tied with another family to win the game and got hats that say “winner” on them.

Dinner was the show at Animator’s Palate; it is always a nice dinner and was fun for Jessica. The only issue that I noticed was that some of the lighting wasn’t working. It is perfect timing for the ship to go to dry dock and get a new makeover. She could use a little sprucing up. Mind you, she is still fantastic and you would never know that they are giving her a makeover because they still keep everything perfectly up to par. But she needs a little touch up. For example, on days that it rains hard, there is leaking in some of the halls and my son said that a bathroom was flooded on deck 9. So, just a few minor fixes and she will be as good as new! Our server told us that she is getting all new flooring, new carpet, new window treatments etc. He said that they take the ship up to Virginia. He also said that they will get 2 days off while they are in dry dock, but otherwise they work hard and help out the contractors. The good news for them is that they will only have to work regular hours like 8-5.

Today was had several more dolphin and turtle sightings and lots of flying fish and lots of birds! I find that a little weird as we are seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. I am really enjoying the verandahs as some of us just love to sit out there and chill.

Our room keeper is really awesome. Very respectful of the fact that half of us sleep until noon or so (the teens). His name is Geronimo and he makes awesome towel animals too!
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Old 08-27-2008, 09:38 AM   #77
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Sunday, August 24th, Spa, Wine Tasting and Palo

The day started with a surprise at the end of the evening last night. As we were leaving dinner, Toto said that we had Character breakfast the next morning. So instead of getting to the spa early, we all went to breakfast. Our servers knew I had to leave early, so they made sure to get my food to me quickly and I even got so see Goofy and Pluto before I had to leave. The breakfast was at 9:45am. I think it is later because we have 2nd seating. I ran out and headed to the spa.

I met Amy and she took me to my Spa Villa. I got the 2 hour “alone time” package. The Spa Villa has a private verandah with a hot tub outside and a day chair. The inside has the treatment area with peaceful music playing. Amy had a pitcher of water with cucumbers in it waiting for me. She asked me several questions and then put some fun stuff and bubbles in hot tub and left me for about 40 minutes. I sat in the hot tub and enjoyed the quiet and the view. We had some birds flying alongside the ship that were fun to watch as well. Then she came back and got me and I got to enjoy the massage part of my package. That was very relaxing and she did a great job. After the massage, I went back to the verandah and she had some tea and fresh fruit prepared and 4 chocolate covered strawberries. Yummy! Just as my time was done, I saw another pod of dolphins cavorting in the seas. That always makes me so happy!

I ran out and discovered that I was there for 2.5 hours. How pleasant and nice to get away. I really enjoyed that time!

We basically had to go right to the wine tasting seminar. So Andrew agreed to hang out with Jessica while we went to the Wines of France tasting. It was enjoyable. The Master Sommelier that presents is from the Napa Rose at Grand California hotel. His name is Michael Jordan and he is NOT a basketball player. He is a fun presenter and loves to talk! We sat with a nice lady who was on her 21st Disney cruise. Wow!

After the wine tasting we did our usual afternoon fun. Swimming, ping pong, ice cream etc. Tonight is the Prince and Princess dinner for Semi Formal night. So we got our tiaras and gowns on and went to Twice Charmed. That is a really nice show with lots of music and a good story line. Jessica seemed to enjoy it as well. After the show we did more character pictures and rounded up the rest of the family for dinner. The boys didn’t want to go so it was just the girls. We took them to the dining room and ordered food for Jessica and left the 3 girls in the good hands of our servers. Then off to Palo we went.

Our server was Cecilia. She was very pleasant and knowledgeable. The menu is just a little different than the last time we were here but still had the usual favorites. I had the tomato and mozzarella salad and the signature steak for dinner, Jay had a salad and the steak as well. It was good and the atmosphere is nice but we both felt like we had been there done that and we really prefer to be with our regular servers. The great part about it though was that we got to have nice adult conversation and not cut up anyone else’s food. Just as we were starting dessert we got a page from the kid club. Sarah was supposed to drop Jessica off after their dinner and we would pick her up when we were done. Jay went and called the room to see if the kids would pick her up and they were very willing to do that. So we finished dessert and headed to the room. We chatted with some of the kids about their evening and then noticed that Jessie wasn’t there. Casey had taken her to get something to drink and hadn’t come back. After about 30 minutes I went to go see what they were up to. They were watching The Incredibles on the big screen up on the top deck. It was near the end so I joined them. It is really fun to be outside on deck watching movies at 11 at night. There were probably 40-50 people watching. Some were kids sleeping of course too! As the movie was finishing up, Jay joined us. He probably wondered what happened to all of us too! It was kind of funny. After the movie, we called it a night and went to bed. All in all it was a great day, but too many things happened to be scheduled that took me away from the kids. I will have to try a little better next time.

I almost forgot 2 things, when we got to the room after dinner; there was a Ducky Williams lithograph of the Magic with some Peter Pan characters in each of our staterooms and the stars at night are beautiful.
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Old 08-27-2008, 09:40 AM   #78
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Monday, August 25th PANAMA CANAL CROSSING!

Today is the big day and I am so excited for it! When we went to bed last night we asked the kids when they wanted to be wakened for the big day. Andrew wanted to get up ASAP and the rest of the kids said to wait until we got to the first lock. We set every alarm we could find and had a wake up call. Of course, I was too excited and woke up at 5:55 and we weren’t even supposed to be getting our pilot until 6:30am. I could see the glittering lights of Panama in the distance and got my camera and everything all set. I got Andrew up when I could see the pilot boat approaching. Jay wondered around on deck and said that it was crazy up there.

Last night Christian announced that they were removing all the chairs from the forward viewing area on deck 10 and that no one could put any there. I think that it because they had some issues on the last crossing with some people sleeping up there and trying to save spots etc.

So, we had a lot of activity with different boats coming to the ship picking up and/or dropping people off. We just hung out on the verandah for awhile watching all the activity. Then Andrew, Emily and I went up to Topsiders for breakfast. It was pretty quiet up there and already quite hot. It was only 7am too…After breakfast we wondered around on deck 10 and watched as we made our way towards the first lock. We were right on schedule as we went under the bridge of the Americas. It is a beautiful bridge and we were excited to be on our way.

They had a narrator board the ship as well and he came on over the loud speakers and on a few of the television channels with lots of good info about what we were doing etc. As we approached the locks he pointed out some crocodiles on our side of the ship. That was neat! We decided because of the heat and crowds that we were going to watch from the room. So we got to see the “mighty mules” up close. They are the little trains that we are hooked up to on each side to keep us from moving side to side. We watched them hook up their cables and we slowly made our way into the first lock. Since the process takes awhile, we wondered up to deck 10 and found some people still sleeping on some deck chairs about midship. We thought that was pretty funny as they went through the effort to save some chairs but were sleeping through everything! They had photographers wondering around taking pictures of people and even had some photographers on the ground taking pictures of everyone on their verandahs. That is a really nice touch. On the other side of the ship from our side, there was a huge container ship going through the locks. That was interesting to watch as well. The actual process of going up or down was pretty short (I think someone said it took 8 minutes) but we couldn’t feel ourselves moving or anything.

Andrew and I went and watched a little from deck 4 and played “Panama Canal Shuffleboard”. Same rules as regular shuffle board, we just did it in the canal.
Disney is really awesome at doing the little extras and today was no different. They had people walking around with pastry trays and had water, lemonade and coffee stations set up all around the ship. We really appreciated the water as it was so darn hot! That reminds me of another nice Disney extra; when we got back to the ship in Cabo there were other cruise ships docked as well, but Disney was the only one with hand wipes and water or lemonade waiting for us even before we got on the ship. They sure know how to do it right!

It took us several hours during the morning to make it through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks and into Gatun Lake. We spent a lot of time on our verandah watching. I estimate it takes and hour per lock. Our side of the ship had the Railroad lines on it and we saw a train come through. Again, something fun and interesting to watch.

They had a deck BBQ set up for everyone as well with some really good food choices. The kids wanted to swim, but the pool was packed! So we did some ping pong and ice cream. As we made our way through the beautiful canal, we marveled at how very impressive it is that they were able to do this. They said the switchboard was installed in 1910 and they still use it. Amazing! As Jessica and I were wondering around the ship, we noticed Ducky Williams and the “Fab 5” signing autographs. We rushed up to the room, got the lithographs and a book dad has and got them all signed. That is a nice touch!

As it hit about 2pm, I checked the pools and they were much less busy, so I got the kids and they all swam. Jessica really like the Mickey pool and can play in it for hours. We put so much sun screen on them, but she got a little pink and Sarah got pretty pink too. It just seems that for Sarah, there is nothing we can do except cover her skin. Being this far south even the best sunscreen can’t seem to protect her from everything. Everyone else seems to be surviving the sun very well.

All of the sudden, we noticed it getting pretty breezy and dark. I went to the back of the ship and saw some storms coming. This was just as we were getting to the Gatun locks. The storm can quickly and loudly. It was one heck of a thunderstorm. As it was still far away, I convinced Jessie to get out of the pool, it was easy as she heard the first thunder crash. I took her and got her to sleep quite quickly. The kids stayed in the big pool until they got kicked out. The storm was pretty loud and there was so much lightening. Casey and a bunch of people saw lightning strike the water and they all were amazing. I couldn’t believe all the people out in the rain with their fancy cameras trying to get pictures of the lightning. It was a really interesting part of the day and Jay and I agreed we were happy to have had the storm. We did sit still for quite awhile when we got to the Gatun locks. I am not sure if it was from weather or a back up. But we were delayed quite a bit. But it didn’t matter at all for us as we have late dinner. The early dinner people had to miss the last locks if they wanted to eat, but I don’t know how much or if people cared about that. The storm relented and the large container ship next to us started to make its way into the locks. We went in next to them about 30 minutes later. We were very fortunate that we were in the left lock this time so we could watch the APL container ship go through right from our balcony! They had a very friendly crew and during the entire passage through those locks, they waved, whistled and shouted. They seemed to be having as much fun as we were. They took lots of pictures of us and we took lots of pictures of them! It was no longer storming, but lightly rained the rest of the transit. We continued to wander around the ship seeing the transit from other angles. We heard the container hit scrape the edges a few times. Oops. We even went to deck 3 and were below ground for a little bit. It was a great place to see exactly how close we were to the sides of the lock. It was dark and the kids were swimming still and we were exiting the last lock. I went to Deck 9 aft and it was an amazing view of the locks all lit up and some ships coming into the locks behind us. So I got the kids out of the pool and we watched us maneuver out of the last lock, we watched our ropes get dropped from the mules and the lock doors close. It was a great ending to a really amazing and interesting day.

The show this evening was WallE playing in the Walt Disney theater, the kids wanted to see it in there, but we knew it was playing daily for the rest of the cruise, so they kept swimming. Dinner this evening was a special “When the East meets the West” theme. They had special commemorative menus for us to keep as well. We had a nice dinner and off to bed we went. It was a very exciting and memorable day and Disney did a great job of educating and entertaining and helping add to the excitement and fun!

(We did find out later from the retired pilot that the ship did hit the sides of the lock 2 times. A friend of ours said that she saw them painting the sides of the ship to fix up the scratches when we were in Cartagena.)
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Old 08-27-2008, 10:03 AM   #79
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Thank you so much for the update! I love reading your reports! I get on the Magic one month from today and I can't wait!!!
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Old 08-27-2008, 10:26 AM   #80
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Please say hi to Toto. Tell hom the big group from Florida with all the boys said hi. He put his tables together so all 16 of us could sit together.
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Old 08-28-2008, 08:41 PM   #81
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Great report

I have really enjoyed reading it
Stacie
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Old 08-30-2008, 12:43 AM   #82
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Love hearing your trip report love.. I watched you guys in the locks.. didnt get anyword done LOL but it was great!
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Old 08-30-2008, 07:52 PM   #83
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Love hearing about everything!! Like many other DIS'ers, I didn't get much work done on Monday while I watched you go through the locks!
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Old 09-05-2008, 09:08 PM   #84
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Are you back yet

I am still patiently awaiting your trip report and 21 day adventure, cant wait to see more. I am sure you are super busy, yet you have an interested audience
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Old 09-14-2008, 09:51 AM   #85
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Please come back!!

Your loyal fans miss you!!!
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:14 AM   #86
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Tuesday, August 26th Cartagena

Since we left the canal a little bit late, it looked as if we were going to be a little late pulling into Cartagena and when I woke up, it was pouring rain. I didn’t wake the kids up until about 8:30 as we were supposed to be at our excursion meeting place at 9:30am and it did look as if the weather was clearing a bit. They had breakfast and I got all our stuff put together for the excursion. We did the Las Americas Resort excursion. This is the only Disney excursion we had planned and were really looking forward to it. We did split up though as Jay and Andrew wanted to do a more historical tour and the rest of us thought a day at the beach would be more fun.

We passed some islands and pulled into port. We waited around the meeting place for about 30 minutes before they cleared the ship. We peaked out the windows as we headed out and saw an awesome display from the Columbian people. I couldn’t wait to get outside. All of the excursions we trying to leave as once and it was a little hectic trying to get off the ship and stay with our tour group. Once we got off the ship we were greeted with such warmth, it was amazing. They had people lined up with fruits, balloons, pinwheels, fans and all sorts of free things to give to us. There were at least 30-50 reporters and camera people taping everything. They had dancers and school children lined up as well. It was a fun feeling and a fantastic greeting. We were put on a small bus and given a driving tour of the city on the way to the resort. The city is beautiful and very old. We did see some interesting “sights”, one was a taxi driver peeing in the bushes. The other was a person giving us the bird as we drove by. He was yelling something too, but I couldn’t hear and I am sure I don’t want to know what he was saying. Otherwise, most people were waving and seemed happy to see us. The fort was HUGE and awesome and they even let us get out and take a few pictures. There were lots of vendors selling everything from Columbian coins to hats, sunglasses, jewelry etc. One guy was even walking around with a sloth to take pictures with. It was only supposed to be a 1 minute picture stop and I got a little carried away by the beauty and the people and almost missed getting back on. YIKES! I figured they didn’t want to be with 4 of my kids without an adult, so they probably would have come back for me. We then drove past the mangroves and really old homes. There were lots of flowers and vines and all in all it is a pretty and historical city. One thing we all noticed was the amount of dogs everywhere, along with vets and pet stores. They clearly like their pets here!

We then got to the hotel and unloaded. At the hotel they had a fruity welcome drink and more dancers and people to greet us. They had a huge pool and an immense beach with umbrellas and perfect waves. The sand was black, that surprised the kids and they were a little hesitant at first, but then they just jumped in and swam in the waves and really seemed to enjoy it. The water was so warm!

We basically had about 4 hours to spend here, so we moved back and forth between the pool and beach. We brought Jessica’s little floating inner tube thingy and she loved floating around the pool in it. She also tried it in the ocean and enjoyed bouncing around in it. We found lots of little shells and there were hundreds of sand dollars. The difference though, was that they were ALIVE! I didn’t even realize that sand dollars were living creatures, so that was a treat. We of course left them all there and just took pictures. One even crawled about 4 inches while we watched in amazement.

The kids were really helpful with Jessica and I got to walk around the resort for a bit by myself. I watched the little oyster shaped creatures bury themselves in the sand; I looked in the shops and checked out the animals they had. There were some giant parrots and a small talking parrot (he only spoke Spanish though). They also had fish and turtles in little ponds. They also had tons of things for kids and you could tell it was a very family friendly resort.

The tour included a huge lunch buffet. The food was excellent. They had steak, chicken, fresh fish (my favorite) and lots of fruits and even plain noodles for the kids. They had water, lemonade and coke to drink. Before I got to the table, Emily had drank a full glass of water and I was a little worried about water quality, but it was too late and I hoped that Disney would have warned us if we shouldn’t drink it. During lunch they had some dancers perform to live music. That was really interesting and some of the dancers were fantastic!

We basically just chilled out for the rest of the day, Casey and Sarah played water polo for at least 90 minutes and really enjoyed that too. We also found a little 18 inch deep kiddie pool, Jessica loved that!

Then we were early at our meeting point for the end of the day as this was one place I really didn’t want to get left behind at, especially without Jay. This part was a little crazy as there were so many people on this tour. We had to find our guide and wait for our bus. It probably took a good 30 minutes before we were on our way. Our tour guide and driver were really very kind and seemed to be happy to answer questions and were very knowledgeable. On the way back, we went past the old walled city. It was beautiful! The wall is super thick and the one bit of history that stuck with me was the fact that it took 194 years to build. I bet they had a super huge celebration when that was finally done! They don’t allow busses in the old part of the city, so we just drove around the outside and looked in where we could. The architecture was inspiring! As we got closer to the port, you could tell we weren’t always in great neighborhoods, there were a lot of gates and barbed wire and even some upside down broken glass bottles on the tops of walls.

All in all, I am really glad we did the excursion and really glad that Disney chose to stop here. I am sure there will be people who complain about the port. It certainly isn’t Disney perfect, but it is a very unique and different place and was stunning. The welcome we got was a great unexpected surprise to me. They seemed truly happy that we were there. The only negative for me was that the vendors seemed pretty aggressive. I will have Jay report on his excursion, but he did mention that his tour guide said we were the first ship of the season, so that may be why!

When we got back to the ship we must have arrived at the same time as every other excursion, both doors were open and there were lines going hundreds of feet from both entrances. Christian came on our bus and apologized and said we could wait on the bus, but no one took him up on that offer and we just got in line and waited. I am sure some people will complain about that, but we didn’t mind and the line moved quickly.

The kids went and got some food and Jessica and I went to the room and she had some quiet time. No nap, but she was in a good mood and had a nice day.

After we boarded, the kids and Jay went to Diversions to play Clue and Life and Jessica and I were treated to the most beautiful sunset I had even seen. The backdrop of the sunset was the new city of Columbia. The sky turned more and more deep orange and red as we pulled out of the Cartagena area and sailed past hillsides glittering with lights and into open water. It was amazing!!!!

We did some pin trading and visited characters and had a really nice evening. The kids and Jay went to the show, it was 2 people from the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast singing and telling about their experiences. Andrew and Sarah actually left early and the others said they didn’t really enjoy it. I am sure they weren’t the target audience for the show, but I was surprised to hear the negative comments. Oh well, not a big deal. We all met for dinner and shared stories of the day. It was a really fun dinner together and we laughed a lot! It was a Mouseketeer dinner and at the end of dinner, Mickey and his buddies came and marched around the dining room. The kids got to join in and march around with the characters and everyone seemed to be having fun. It was also the Tropicalifragilistic Deck Party after dinner. We went up to that just in time to see the characters dancing and having fun. I love the deck parties, there is just something fun about dancing around on the top of a cruise ship at 11:00 at night being warm and happy. After the party, we all went back to the room and crashed, well, except for Casey and Sarah, they went to see PS, I love you. I think they have seen at least one movie a day. But hey, they love doing that and as Sarah said, it is saving her lots of money.
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:15 AM   #87
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Wednesday, August 27th Day at Sea

We didn’t have a lot planned today and I was looking forward to a day at Sea. When I woke up this morning, I was treated to beautiful views of the mountains in Columbia. It even appeared that there were a few snow capped mountains. It was very fantastic scenery. We enjoyed a quite morning and ate brunch at Lumiere’s. I was surprised that the menu was different than the last time we ate there. I guess you would think that the menu for brunch would be the same.

The girls went to see WallE and Jay and I went to a Wines of Germany tasting. I enjoyed that as it was all Rieslings and I don’t know much about them. The ones I have had in the past were so sweet and I didn’t like that, but now I know there are many different dryness/sweetness levels and I will be a little more open to them in the future. There were 2 that I really liked.

I left a little bit early as the kids had Jessica for quite awhile and then Jay went to a tequila tasting. Yikes…2 tastings in a row. He said that they had 2 shots of tequila to start, and then they tried 2 margaritas and had another shot of nicer tequila. He came back to the room a little happy, but not out of line or anything. He and the kids went to Diversions and played Clue. They really enjoy doing that. Jessica was sleeping so I was stuck in the room and they didn’t come back, they went straight to the magic show. The show was touted as being really good, but the older kids didn’t really like it. They said the guy did a lot of singing and little magic. I don’t really know as I wasn’t there. Emily (11) did like it.

We went to dinner after more pin trading and character pictures. It is fun being on the ship this long as everyone seems to know little Jessie. The photographers especially know her since it seems to be her goal in life to meet every character possible. She really enjoys meeting them and hugs and kisses them and plays around with them. They seem really receptive to her hugs and I think they can see how happy they make her. She has the ship down pretty well and even knows which floors the shopping, pins, lobby and characters are.

We called it a night after dinner as we are going to Aruba tomorrow.

Oh, one more thing about today, the ship was going soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo slow! We didn’t have very far to go between Cartagena and Aruba, so we just puttered along. We were going about 9-10 knots all day. The kids were kind of disappointed as it felt like we could swim faster. They thought we should anchor and let everyone jump in and swim for awhile. I think that would have been a fantastic idea as the water was a beautiful calm blue and looked very inviting. I’ll have to ask Captain Tom if he could arrange that next time. Ha Ha!
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:28 AM   #88
poohmomof5
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Thursday, August 28, 2008 Aruba and Aly and AJ!!!!

The day started out a little quiet so Emily, Jessica and I decided to go to the breakfast buffet at Parrot Cay. Everyone else was sleeping and we haven’t had breakfast here yet. We had a very nice breakfast and started to head back to the room, we walked past a few people heading in and I didn’t think anything about it, but Emily grabbed me and said, “mom, that was them”. Them who? ALY AND AJ! She was so excited. In case you don’t know who they are, they are teen age sisters that sing several popular songs and star in some Disney Channel shows and movies. They were walking into the restaurant, so I told Emily to go to the room, wake Sarah up and go get breakfast again. So she did…

The singers and their family were seated on the other side of the dining room in an area away from everyone else. Jay and I went down to check on the girls and he wanted to eat too. The girls kept peeking over in the direction of the singers and were pretty excited. The big show is tonight. Then our Officer friend that arranged for Jessica to meet Chip and Dale walked by. We talked to her for a little bit and said how excited the girls were to meet Aly and AJ and she said that they were going to do a picture and autograph session later in the cruise. How exciting! She came back later and said that the signing would be tomorrow. I love the Disney staff, they are really great at customer service. The girls and Jay finally were done eating, so we left to get ready for Aruba.

Aruba is a port that we think can be pretty easily done on our own, so we didn’t book any excursions. I had done some research ahead of time and spoke to several of the crew members about what they did last time and decided that we would just grab a taxi and wing it. Last boarding call is at midnight, so we didn’t rush and we left the ship at about noon. We walked into the cruise ship terminal building and discovered some cute little shops, we checked them out and they had some pretty nice stuff and reasonable prices. Then we headed out and asked an information person which beach we should go to. She said that Palm Beach was nice, calm and had water sports etc that we could do. So we walked out and they had a Security Guard calling cabs over and no vendors. That was a nice change. They also had the prices posted for the taxis and all the rules listed. That was so nice, now we could feel comfortable knowing how much to pay and not worry about being taken advantage of. The only problem is that they only allow 5 people in a cab, so we would have to split up. Not a big deal as the beach was only a $10 fare.

We waited a few minutes and then a taxi driver came, the security guard had stepped away and we asked the driver if he would take us to the beach. He asked how many we were and I said 7, and I told him that we would split up. He looked around and said…just get in; I will take all of you, but don’t tell anyone. Yippee! So we got in and drove for a few minutes and asked him about doing a short tour, he said he would get into too much trouble will all of us in the cab. We said, that was fine, we certainly didn’t want him to get into trouble. Then after a few more minutes of chatting, he said he would take us to a few quick places as he didn’t want us to not see anything. He was a very good tour guide and very pleasant. He was also knowledgeable and I felt very lucky to be able to do this together. He took us to a Lighthouse, Windmill, along some pretty views and through some neighborhoods of beautiful homes. He also talked about the climate and how it is a desert climate even though it is surrounded by water. He said they could go 5 months without rain! There were lots of cacti and exposed coral reef. It was very unique and we all agreed that we liked it. We saw some goats and lots and lots of lizards and iguanas. Big ones, dark one, bright green ones, teal ones, small ones. That was fun.

Then he took us to the beach and charged us only $40 for a one hour tour. I gave him $50 and then he introduced us to Claude who would help us out at the beach. Claude got us some beach chairs and told us what we could do and where to go. He charged $5 for each chair. We were fine with that and settled in and the kids played in the sand and ocean for a few hours. We each got a beer, they were expensive! We paid $6.80 each for a Corona and a 10oz Miller Lite. Where we were on the beach was between the Hyatt and an all inclusive Occidental resort. They were both beautiful and had excellent beach front and views. We used the restroom in the Hyatt and noticed how awesome their resort was. There were cute little and medium lizards everyone. One even jumped out of a tree and landed about 4 feet in front of us and then scurried away. That was a little startling! (We couldn’t use the Occidental because we didn’t have their wristbands on.)

We didn’t do any water activities and decided to head back because the girls wanted to get in line early to see the Aly and AJ show that night. I thought the easiest place to catch a cab would be at the front lobby of the hotel, so we walked through the Hyatt and saw their shops and Casino. (That would be fun, but no kids allowed of course.) Then the bellman said he would have to find 2 cabs that would take us when we were wet, I guess only certain cabs will do that. He also said we could take the bus and stay together and the busses run every 5 minutes. So I said, “Let’s go”. We walked to the bus stop and sat for a few minutes, and then a local said that there was some construction, so we should walk to the next stop about 2 blocks up. That was so nice! So we started walking to the next stop but the kids were drooping a little as it was quite hot. Then a taxi drove by and I flagged him down and asked if he would take half of us and told Jay to grab the next one, but he looked around and said “jump in, I will take you all for $15”. That is kind of funny that both taxis we had took all of us, but we really appreciated it as we of course prefer to stay together! He was also very nice and talked about how unusual it was that there was no wind. He said this was an unusually hot day because of that. He blamed hurricane Gustav and said that the hurricanes steal the wind.

We got back to the ship and the girls got ready and immediately headed to get in line for the Aly and AJ show. They were so excited!!!! The concert was fun and fantastic. My girls were right up in front and shook hands and high fived the singers a lot. Even the boys and Jay watched the show and they really seemed to enjoy it. What a nice surprise for the tweens and teens. I heard some people complaining that they didn’t know who Aly and AJ were, but so what…the show was obviously for the kids and the kids really really enjoyed it! Jessica fell asleep during the concert while sitting on my shoulders, it was pretty cute, so we went to take some pictures with the characters while she was sound asleep, the photographers and characters loved it! My neck didn’t though…

After dinner, Sarah went to see the show again and the rest of us just chilled out and played some shuffleboard etc.
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:41 AM   #89
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I didn't finish the rest yet...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for being loyal readers, I haven't finished the rest yet, I promise I will, but we got home at 10pm on Monday, Sept 1st and the kids started school the next morning at 7am. That was a little crazy but they all did GREAT!

We are home now and getting used to back to school etc and had 2 birthdays (Sarah and Jessica) and also had 2 students from Germany stay with us for a few weeks. They just left last week. They were wonderful kids and we really enjoyed time with them and now we feel like we have a hole in our family!

Then this weekend the 2 older girls and I put on 600 miles driving to all parts of Illinois for cheerleading competitions. The girls and their teams did GREAT and it was fun, but again, BUSY!

Needless to say, things have been completely insane! I do thrive off of insanity though and the more I have to do, the more I get done...I have always been like that though. Thanks for hanging in there and reading along on our adventures!!!

I promise that I will finish up sometime soon!!!
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Old 10-21-2008, 11:45 AM   #90
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Thanks for the Updates!

I have been enjoying your TR a lot. DBF and I did an Amtrak-Cruise combo in June as a graduation present to each other. We took the Coast Starlight from Central CA to Seattle, then spent some time with a friend there, and proceeded on to Vancouver for our Alaska cruise. The train is a great way to get in relaxation mode before your cruise (so much less stressful than the airport!). We had a roomette, which was great, since it meant we always had somewhere quiet to go hang out and read or chat.
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