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Old 05-28-2013, 05:38 AM   #1
Melcatfish
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Arrow 12 Magical Nights in the Med July \ August 2013 UPDATED 14 Sept-Venice Pt 1 Added

Having had a disaster and lost all my trip notes from our last Med cruise I was so disheartened not to properly finish my trip report that I didn't even do one for our 5 night NYC to Canada cruise last year

So we are back again sailing in the Med with Mickey this summer and I really want to start and finish a trip report! I loved the format I used last time with a section for the Plan and then the Reality so will be repeating that.

First off let me introduce the cast:

Me - Mel, 34 Loves Disney and all things DCL
DH - Darren, 40 Not a massive Disney fan but loves cruising and the excellent service on DCL
DD1 - Isabelle, 8 Loves "Mickeys Special Boat" and all things Disney, favourite Princess is Tiana.
DD2 - Olivia, 5 Also loves DCL. Her favourite princesses are Rapunzel and Belle.

Here we are in the Med in 2010



and on the Magic sailing out of NYC in August 2012 - excuse the strange expressions, this was the ONLY sunny day of our trip and we had to face into the sun to get the Manhattan skyline behind us!



We are sailing on the 25th July 12 night cruise with Venice. This itinerary was a dream come true as I have always wanted to sail into and out of Venice and it worked with the UK school summer holidays. It was however waaayyyy more than we paid in 2010 (and that includes both legs of our 19 night back to back) so we have booked an 11b inside cabin. We did however get our preferred location of Deck 5 forward and I am quite excited to try out a sideways inside.

Only a little over 8 weeks to go!

Editing To Add Individual Post Links:

Day 1 Travel to Barcelona
Day 2 Boarding The Magic in Barcelona
Day 3 Villefranche
Day 4 La Spezia
Day 5 Rome
Day 6 Naples
Day 7 At Sea
Day 8 Arriving in Venice
Day 9 Venice
Day 10 Dubrovnik
Day 11 At Sea
Day 12 Malta
Day 13 At Sea
Day 14 Back To Barcelona and Going Home

Mel
x

Last edited by Melcatfish; 09-14-2013 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 05:39 AM   #2
Melcatfish
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The Plan

I have never liked the idea of flying in the same day as a cruise departs - there's just too many things that can cause a delay and having spent months planning a trip there is no way I want to miss the start of my cruise and have to find a way to the first port to get onboard!

We are therefore flying in the day before on Easyjet from London Gatwick. Our flight leaves at 1pm and lands at 4:05pm local time. We have no intention of trying to sight see in Barcelona, the aim is to grab some food and relax at our hotel, maybe use the pool and get an early night so we are well rested for the next day! We are staying at the Novotel Cornella which is located between the airport and port.

The Reality

I got the suitcases packed the night before and DH loaded them into the car. That only left the hand luggage to finish up in the morning. I was up at 5:45am and got some last minute bits and bobs added to the bags. I got the kids up at half past six and we all ate breakfast and got ready to go.

At the last minute I decided to save time and our cash Euros by pre purchasing our Vaporetto passes for Venice. I got them online at Venice Connected dot com. Particularly useful on their website was a youtube walk through of how to collect the tickets from their machines.

We had aimed to leave at 7:15 but I had built in some wriggle room and we actually left at 7:35am with that awful sinking feeling of having left something important behind! I checked passports, boarding passes, cash and credit cards approximately 100 times and then we set off.

The journey was not too bad, there was a little slow traffic on the A12 and M25 but I had allowed for this and we arrived at London Gatwick at approximately 10:40am. We had done online check in so headed over to the bag drop straight away. Thankfully my luggage scales I purchased had not let me down and our cases were under the limit!!!! After that we made our way through security, the line was pretty fast moving and once through we headed to the Red Lion Wetherspoons pub in the departures area to get brunch.



This was going to be our main meal today so we had cooked breakfasts with chips (fries) As always for airport food it was overpriced but it did fill us up



Stuffed from our brunch the girls and Darren found some seats to wait with our hand luggage while I purchased magazines, snacks and drinks for both the plane and our make shift picnic tea in Barcelona! The departures board listed our flight as "Gate Info at 12:05pm" well 12:05 came and went and there was just a message to please wait. At this point I did wonder if our flight would end up cancelled, however due too a late arrival in from Bilbao it was just delayed. We finally got the gate info at 12:50 and made our way to gate 110 to board. The queue was long and the signs changed to "Gate closed" while we were in the line but we did of course get to board and didn't have to wait long to take off.



The flight was short (1 hour 45mins) and fairly uneventful. Olivia however endeared herself to all around us when, on the approach to Barcelona airport where you fly out over the sea and circle back to approach the airport she announced in a very loud voice "wouldn't it be cool if the plane landed in the water?! All the grown ups would have to help the children swim and the plane would get a really good wash!" Thankfully we did actually land on dry land and we were quickly through passport control into the baggage claim area. Imagine my surprise when our suitcases were amongst the first off the conveyor belt - usually we are waiting for AGES!

It was very simple to follow the exit signs and there is a taxi rank directly outside. No one in our family speaks Spanish so I was the designated one to show the driver the address of our hotel and find out how much. It was simple, he spotted non Spanish speakers a mile off and looked at the paper before saying 24 Euros! We all piled in, with all our bags, Darren forgot we were in Spain and went to get in the drivers side! It was a short drive to our hotel, Novotel Cornella. Check in was quick and easy - the staff spoke good English thankfully and we were checked in and headed to our room where we unpacked our overnight bags.





We were not very exciting and didn't go out to explore! Instead the kids had a bath and hair wash ready for tomorrow and we had our "room picnic" before the kids turned in for the night around 7:45pm. Darren and I used the free wifi, read books and chilled out before getting an early night ourselves. The hotel was perfectly nice but the air con was not very good and we were all very hot in the night which meant we woke up lots.

Last edited by Melcatfish; 08-18-2013 at 08:43 AM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 05:40 AM   #3
Melcatfish
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The Plan

When I did online check in I got a Port Arrival Time of 11am and we intend to take a cab from the hotel to the port to get us there just before 11am. Although technically last time we did check in in Barcelona it was the second leg of a back to back so there was no queuing we just got off the ship, went to the desk, got out cards and reboarded. I hope it is as smooth this time!

I really do prefer Parrot Cay for the embarkation buffet and we will head there to get some lunch before going to check out our rooms. I intend to have a set of swimwear in the carry ons so the kids can swim after lunch if they would like.

Aside from that we have muster drill of course and then dinner. We are booked for early dining and have requested a 4 top table for just our family. I am not anti social but I do find dinner much more relaxed when it is just the four of us.

The Reality

We got up at around 7:45am and headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. There were the usual hotel breakfast offerings, a selection of hot and cold items, as well as breads, cereals and pastries. While we were at breakfast a family at the next table asked if we were going on the Disney Cruise too, their girls were just as excited as ours!

Back in the room we reorganised the plane hand baggage so that everything we neded for the day ahead was in one bag then attached our Disney tags to all the remaining bags. The hotel offered free wi fi which was much appreciated as we took the chance to email home, check the net (and update my trip report!)

At around 10:30 we checked out and got in a cab from the taxi stand outside the hotel. This was no problem and the driver spoke a little English. We got to the port in no time and I was thankful that I had booked a hotel which was located between the port and airport. Including bag supplements the taxi fare was Euro 29.90.

The taxi drivers drop you about 25 feet from the luggage drop off so it really wasn't necessary to get a porter though we saw many people doing just that! Having got rid of all our bags except the carry on we went into the terminal around 10 mins before our Port Arrival Time of 11am and checked in with a wait of under 5 mins. The sign was up saying that the ship was full so I didn't even bother checking about an upgrade. I was quite alarmed that our Key To The World card showed we had late dining. We booked this cruise on the first day it was available to silver castaway club members and our reservation had always shown main dining. I was pleased to see that we were boarding group 3 though

While we waited in the terminal for boarding to start we had photos taken with Mickey and Minnie and collected the Mickey Bands from the Youth Activities station.





Boarding began around 11:50am and we were onboard by noon. Our embarkation pictures were mixed, this one has everyone looking a little underwhelmed, the other one was better of the kids and me but Darren had his eyes closed!



I love the moment they announce your family name and took a video of that as we arrived in the lobby.

Our first stop was Rockin Bar D to sort out our dining issue. This was dealt with very easily and I checked that they had our other requests on file. We were changed to early dining on table 63 with the APL rotation I had asked for.

Breathing a sigh of relief (there is no way my kids would last until 8:30pm for dinner) we headed down to Parrot Cay for lunch. Now this is my least favourite restaurant onboard but as I know it is being replaced during dry dock I suddenly got all nostalgic over it during this cruise! We enjoyed our lunch and the servers made Minnie Bow hats for the children which they loved.





After lunch we had a little walk around the ship reacquainting ourselves with The Magic until 1:30pm as we wanted to check out our room. We made a couple of stops up on Decks 9 and 10, took some photos and even played a quick game of table tennis!





When we returned they were just opening the doors and allowing guests into the hallways. Our room was 5513 which is a Deck 5 forward cabin. It is an inside 11B category in a sideways configuration. I actually really really liked this cabin layout and although a window is nice I felt very at home in this room and it seem far more spacious than the inside cabin on deck 6 we had previously had which was the regular layout. The room has a single steamer trunk which meant that we had ample storage space which makes a big difference.





While we were there we meant our Stateroom Host Roy. He was very friendly and helpful and throughout the cruise we enjoyed seeing him around and he always seemed keen to chat to us and the girls.

We quickly got changed into our swimwear and made our way up to Deck 9 for a dip in the Mickey Pool. This is really Olivias first chance to use the pool. Last year our Canada cruise was so short and (apart from the Day we left New York) so cold that there was not much chance for swimming) prior to that in 2010 she was only 2 and not toilet trained so was confined to the splash area. She really loved spending time at the pool this cruise.



The kids had the first of many ice creams and then it was time to dry off, go back to the room and get ready for the drill. We put a small selection magnets on our door and the it was time for the drill.



Our lifeboat station was G and the drill seemed very quick and efficient with everyone showing up on time and answering quickly if their room was called out. I still think it would be a good idea to return to the old way of having guests put their life jackets on for the drill but we made sure to check out the life jackets in the room and try them on.

We went from the drill to the sailaway, we are not really that big on deck parties but the kids enjoyed a little dance and we all love the countdown to the horn blowing.





The children were eager to go and visit the Oceaneers Club, we had a look around but it was Open House and they wanted to stay in while we did the boring unpacking! So we went across the hallway to the Oceaneers Lab which was allowing children to be checked in from 5pm onwards. Darren and I went back to the room and began unpacking. It didn't take very long before almost everything was away and the suitcases were stowed under the bed and in the wardrobe. After the unpacking was done we collected the girls and made our way to Animators Palette to meet our servers and have our first dinner. Our serving team consisted of Oliver from the Phillipines as our Server, Dwi from Indonesia as our Assistant Server and Jose from Portugal as our Head Server.

The menu was the Let The Magic Begin menu and Darren and I both had Calamari to start, I followed this with the steak and Darren had Seafood Risotto. The girls ate Pizza and Salmon. After their Entrée the kids were eager to head to the kids clubs. This is something they have done on previous cruises and after dropping them off Darren and I enjoyed desserts of Tart Tatin and Kahlua Crème Brulee respectively.

With the unpacking already finished and the children busy at the clubs we relaxed on the loungers at Quiet Cove and watched the sunset.

At around 10pm we went back down to our cabin, our towel animal tonight was a swan and there were Gold Castaway Gifts - this was our first cruise as Gold members so that was exciting! We were a bit sad though as the chocolates no longer had Sleepy on them, instead they were dark blue with moons and stars on... not quite the same Disney Differemnce



We collected the children and turned in for the night at around 10:30pm as everyone was tired after the travelling the day before and a restless night.

Last edited by Melcatfish; 08-18-2013 at 08:43 AM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 05:42 AM   #4
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The Plan

Last time we were here we took the train to Nice, it was ok but not one of my favourite trips. This time we are going to ease ourselves into the cruise with a gentle stroll around Villefranche, hopefully the nice little market across from the tender dock will be there as I got some really cute necklaces from there last time. I don't expect we will spend more than a couple of hours ashore and then just hang out on the ship, maybe swim or sit out on deck. I suspect my children will be keen to get back onboard and go to the clubs.

The Reality

We slept really well the first night until we were rudely awoken by the alarm ringing - I guess the previous guests had been on an early breakfast on their last day as the alam went off at 6am! I hadn't got my glasses on and it was nice and dark in the cabin so I pressed random buttons until it stopped! We then went back to sleep and got up at around 8:15 and slowly got ready. By 9:15 we were in Parrot Cay eating a breakfast of fruit, cereals and pancakes. The children take great delight in having a chocolate donut for breakfast when we are on the cruise knowing full well that they aren't going to get one for breakfast at home anytime soon!

At around 10am Peter the cruise director announced that they were now doing "open tenders" to go ashore. We went down to deck 1 forward and waited a few minutes for the tender to depart. While we were waiting we watched them lower and launch a lifeboat in some sort of training drill.





We took a short ride across to the tender port and had our photo taken by the Shutters photographer.



Then we enjoyed browsing the little market across from the port. We bought a few little necklaces and the girls used some of their holiday spending money to buy a tiara each from one of the stalls.



We called into a souvenir shop to buy a magnet carrying on our tradition of taking one home from each port as a souvenir. Darren called me over to the fridge where he has spotted a diet coke bottle with my name on it. It has been a standing joke among my friends and family that I was really gutted not to find one with my name on back home. Especially when there seem to be ones with different spellings of some names such as Rachel and Rachael! Well we found Melanie (with an accent over the first e) so we had to buy it! When I finished drinking it I washed it out and it was one of my official souvenirs!



We wandered along the harbour front which is really pretty.





It was very hot so we didn't stay onshore very long before heading back to the port building. We remembered from before that there is free wifi in the Villefranche port building so sent a couple of emails and uploaded a photo or two

It was in the port building that Isabelle decided to demonstrate her (non Disney) movie based geographical knowledge. She spotted a map on the wall of the Villefranche area and noticed that Monaco and Monte Carlo were marked on it, she insisted I photograph it because it showed that we were close to Monte Carlo where the Chimps hide out in Madagascar 3!



After our brief wifi stop we were soon getting back onboard a tender boat and making our way back to the ship. We got lunch by the pool, I resisted the call of Plutos Doghouse and got a selection of tasty food from Topsiders.



It was really good and we followed it up with strawberry tartlets, cookies and fruit for desserts! After playing in the Mickey Pool for a while the girls decided they would like to try out the Goofy Pool. Darren and I took them over there, we put all our stuff at a table and then we all went to the pool. It WAS a hot day but I have to say I was surprised and a bit concerned about how very hot the pool deck can get on bare feet. I literally had to run the last third of the way because my feet actually hurt from the deck and when I got in the pool it took a long time before the soreness subsided. I know any material gets hot in the sun but the coloured flooring seemed to get extra hot which didn't seem like the greatest plan for a ship designed to cruise with small children in hot climates....

After our swim the girls wanted to go to the clubs. We dropped them off and made our way up to Quiet Cove to make the most of the peace! We samples the cakes from the cabinet in Cove Café and just sat out on deck chatting and relaxing.

At around 5pm we collected the kids, they wanted a snack so they started on the Cheerios snack packs we brought from home. I went to check out the menu for the evening. We were dining in Parrot Cay and it was the Villains Tonight Menu. I stopped off to get some drinks and on my way back to the cabin I met Fiona & Alex Stewart from our cruise meet thread. We chatted for a while and then I went back to the cabin to get changed for dinner.

At dinner we got to know our servers a little better. Darren had Ravioli, then Swordfish then a Ricotta Crème Brulee, I skipped the appetiser and had a Turkey dish followed by Strawberry Sundae, Izzy ate a burger (oh so adventurous!) and Olivia had Chicken Noodle Soup followed by Mac n Cheese which she didn't like! Both girls stayed throughout dinner instead of going to the kids club. They had their first (and only) Mickey Bar for dessert.





The dinner service seemed a little pacier throughout the cruise and I think that is why they didn't go to the clubs part way through the meal after that first night.

Our Server Oliver offered to do a Magic Trick for the kids. He was very engaging and they enjoyed the interaction but he wasn't quite as good with the sleight of hand as last years server Evandro who did the same trick brilliantly. The kids quickly spotted the crayon which had disappeared was behind his ear however they still asked him to repeat it many times throughout the cruise!

After dinner the children had photos with Goofy in the lobby and then we had some family pictures done.





Then the kids went to the clubs for Plutos Pyjama party. We strolled around the ship enjoying the atmosphere then went up to our favourite Deck 9 Quiet Cove seating to sit and chat, have a drink and relax.

The towel animal tonight was a stingray but the exciting news was the return of the regular Sleepy chocolates. There was much excitement from the kids who were sad about their absence from last nights bed time routine!


Last edited by Melcatfish; 08-18-2013 at 08:44 AM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 05:43 AM   #5
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The Plan

This will be our 11th wedding anniversary. We have two busy days booked for Rome and Naples so La Spezia is going to be a day for the kids to hang out in the clubs - they both want to stay on the ship and have lunch in the clubs. DH and I are going to return to Cinque Terre which we did last visit here. Unfortunately then it was raining but we totally loved the little towns and are keen to return on our anniversary.

We will almost certainly walk up through La Spezia and take the train.



The Cinque terre card can be bought from the newsagent kiosk on the platform and is very reasonably priced at around 13 Euro I think for unlimited train travel and entry to the Cinque Terre UNESCO area.

I have requested a dining rotation that will put us in Lumieres for their rotational menu on this evening, it is my favourite of the three rotational menus so it will be lovely to celebrate the anniversary in my favourite of the main dining room locations.


The Reality

We set my phone alarm for 7am. In my sleepy attempts to silence the alarm in the cabin the previous morning I had somehow altered the time by about 6 and a half hours but at least I shut off the alarm!

We all got up, showered and readied ourselves for the day ahead and were at Lumieres for breakfast by 8am. ON the way to Lumieres we ran into Goofy "in the wild" just roaming the ship. We found that we saw quite a lot of characters doing that this trip which was great.



At the Lumieres podium we saw Oliver, our server who was full of early morning cheery greetings for all of us particularly the children!

Darren ate the Express breakfast and I had the French Toast stack which I had been excited to have again. It was delicious as always. The kids ate pancakes, Mickey waffles and eggs.

By 9am we were ready to leave the ship. As planned we dropped the children in the Oceaneers Lab (the club was not yet open) and let the counsellors know that we were going ashore and would be back mid to late afternoon.

On our previous DCL cruise stop in La Spezia it had been a tender port. This time we docked at the industrial port and there was a cruise shuttle bus taking guests up to the harbour front.





Even including the bus it made the trip slightly quicker although we were dropped off at the opposite end of the waterfront to where we were going to the timings ended up quite similar to our previous tender transfer.

The layout of the town all came flooding back and we were able to walk the simple route to the train station with no wrong turns! We arrived at the station and bypassed the queue in the main station building, instead going straight up to the platform where there are a couple of Cinque Terre Point kiosks to purchase the card you need for entry and travel within the Cinque Terre park area. We had just missed a train but only had a brief wait for the 10:06 train to Monterosso.

We had to stand most of the way to Monterosso as the train was quite full. When we arrived we left the station and headed down onto the beach - I wanted to dip my toes in the Mediterranean sea and stroll along the beach for a bit.





We knew Vernazza was our favourite and planned only to stay a short while in Monterosso so after a brief stop in the shade we were back at the station by 10:55 for the 11:01 train.





We waited and chatted to a man who spotted Darrens Ipswich Town Football Club hat and was a fellow supporter! Then we waited some more and chatted to a couple from Australia or New Zealand (we forgot to ask and I am not good enough at spotting the difference between the two accents!)

Eventually at 11:£0 a train turned up and everyone got onboard. Now with hindsight the layout of the train was completely different and hard compartments within the carriages which should have been a giveaway that this was an express train for longer journeys. IT didn't stop again until we got to La Spezia Centrale!

Undeterred we decided that we were not going to let a train mishap spoil our anniversary. Instead we made our way to platform 4 for the 12 noon train back to Cinque Terre. a approximately 11:59 and 30 seconds they announced that the train would infact depart at 12 noon from Platform 6. Cue a made exodus from platform 4, down the stairs, along the underpass and up onto platform 6! The train was there and we got straight on and found ourselves seated next to the Australian \ New Zealand couple from Monterosso! We had a follow up chat and laughed about our train drama.

We finally got to Vernazza at 12:20pm and en route we had revised our plan to skip the other towns and spend some quality time in our favourite one. I fell in love with Vernazza on our last visit and we were only here for under an hour and didn't even make to the harbour front. We rectified this straight away and walked all the way down to the water.





We took a few photos and then scouted out menus and restaurants for lunch. We ended up eating at the Ristorante Gambero Rosso, the menu looked good and importantly the people eating there seemed happy with their food and it looked and smelled delicious. It also gets good reviews on it's Trip Advisor page although we didn't know that at the time.



I am a bit sad that I didn't take a photo of my lunch but for some reason I didn't. I had a prawn pasta dish called Mandilli con gamberi , the dish was small squares of pasta layered up in a higgledy piggledy fashion with a creamy tomato and prawn sauce with lots of prawns (shrimp) in there as well. Darren has a mixed seafood pasta with mussels, prawns etc... he enjoyed it very much and mine was the most lovely meal of our trip (including Palo which I loved too!)

We ate the pasta, breads and drinks and the billed was Euro 53, we left Euro 60 and went for another wander around the harbour area. We had already spotted a lovely looking Gelateria where we were going to get dessert! We took some more photos before stopping to get the afore mentioned Gelato, I got Fior Di Latte (milk flavour) and Limone (Lemon) and Darren got Black Cherry and Mango flavours. It was absolutely delicious and was a wonderful finish to our Vernazza lunch.



We strolled up through the town and stopped in at an art gallery where we bought two prints on canvas showing the Vernazza harbour area. We thought it would be a lovely memory of our anniversary in Vernazza and one even showed the umbrellas in the bottom corner belonging to the Gambero Rosso restaurant!

We caught a train back to La Spezia Centrale and walked back thorugh the town. At this point I should mention that Darren is really NOT a fan of hot weather. We are both school teachers so the summer is our only option for a reasonably long trip as we prefer to be at home at Christmas so he has no option but to travel in the hottest months but tends to complain about the heat a lot!!! I took this photo of him in front of a pharmacy electronic sign listing the temperature as 29 degrees. Little did he know how much hotter it would get in the coming days!



Darren is also a bit of a heavy metal fan so we had to stop and look in a shop window which had some interesting vinyl records from some of his favourite bands!

We continued our walk back to the harbour front through a pretty park and then along the lovely waterfront area.





On the way back I bought three fans from a stall, one each for me and the girls. We stopped near the shuttle bus for a drink and to use the free wifi, unfortunately the iPad battery died just as I was hitting send on my email so it was all in vain!

We took the shuttle back to the ship and checked in with the kids. Izzy wanted to stay in but Olivia wanted to come out for a snack and then go back for Story Time with Belle. They had both had a lunch in the clubs but Olivia had not eaten much and was quite hungry so once again she tucked into Cheerios in the cabin before insisting we hurry back so she didn't miss Belle!

At 5:30 we collected the children and got ready for dinner. I had especially requested this rotation as I love love love the French Onion Soup in the Lumieres rotational menu and I was really looking forward to it on our anniversary. We got to Lumieres and discovered that it was actually the Flavours of the World Menu instead! Oh well

Darren had the USA Lobster Roll followed by the English Prawn Curry and the English Bread & Butter Pudding. The curry was incredibly mild and infact we have found that on the ships their definition of spicy on the restaurant menus is very different to our idea of spicy! On a previous cruise however Darren was treated to a hotter curry like they serve to the crew which had a bit more kick to it!

I ate the German Pea soup which was nice apart from some kind of sausage pieces in it whichw ere really nasty! I then had the English Thyme Marinated Cod and the French Passionfruit Crème Brulee. Isabelle opted to order Prime Rib from the adult menu and had it with Steak Fries followed by Ice Cream, Olivia had Melon, Roast Chicken and Chocolate Pudding.

At the end of the meal Oliver asked us to wait a few moments before we left, he then brought out an anniversary cake and a whole bunch of servers gathered round to sing happy anniversary to us! We had no room left to eat the chocolate anniversary cake so tiik it back to the room with us!

After dinner the girls were excited to see Jiminy Cricket was doing photos,





we also had several family photos and then took the kids to the Oceaneers Club where they were excited to be having their "Royal Ball."

Darren and I checked out the photos on the Shutters Photo Kiosks and went for a walk up on deck. Later we went to check out the bags in "Up Beat" but I didn't buy any. I quite liked a Fossil one they had in there but decided to have a think about it before buying.

We collected the kids and ordered room service for the morning - when we had longer days or official excursions we took some cookies (from room service) with us so there was always a snack available rather than wasting touring time stopping to locate snacks!

Tonights towel animal was a dog and was arranged with Olivias cuddly dog Ruby which she was very pleased about!



We got a reasonable night as we were going to be up early the next day for our Rome excursion.

Last edited by Melcatfish; 08-18-2013 at 08:45 AM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 05:44 AM   #6
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The Plan

I gave this a lot of thought. Last visit the girls were only 5 and 2 and I really felt that a long trip to Rome would be too much for them and consequently we wouldn't enjoy it either. Recently my older daughter has studied Ancient Rome at school and was really enthused about it. After much thought between doing a DIY trip, a DCL trip or a private tour we have opted to do a full day private tour with smartcruisetours. They are priced more competitively than Romeinlimo but my research has found that they get really good reviews in various travel forums on the net. We are taking a tour based on their Rome Highlights but amending to suit us. We are not doing an interior visit of the Vatican (DH and I have done that before and as it will be the last Sunday in the month and free I anticipate big crowds!) We do hope to go inside the Collosseum and Isabelle particularly wanted to see the ruins of the bath house as well as the Forum so Julia at Smartcruisetours was kindly able to suggest a suitable bath house ruin which we could visit as part of the tour.

I expect that this will be a long day but our decision to go for a private tour was largely based on the flexibility in the itinerary and the fact that we can amend as we go to add or remove stops, insert gelato breaks etc... The cost for the tour for four people is 310 Euro although we got a 10 Euro discount from each tour as we booked another tour with the same company in Naples. I will be sure to review the tours fully - in the lead up Julia who deals with email enquiries has been excellent at making changes, suggesting alternatives etc...

Although our port time is 7:15am until 7:30pm we do not intend to be out all that time. Our pick up is at 8am and we have asked to be back by 5pm - obviously there is a little flexibility in this but that gives us plenty of time to get back and change \ relax \ unwind before dinner.

The Reality

The alarm was set for 6:15 which was a bit of a shock to the system, ouch! This is a vacation, right?! We managed to haul ourselves up and were sitting in Parrot Cay eating what was quickly becoming our regular breakfast of fruit, cereals pancakes and donuts (for the kids) By 7:10am. Having finished breakfast we quickly grabbed all the things we needed including our snacks and drinks and made it off the ship by 8:05am.

As we left the ship we saw quite a crowd of drivers holding up signs, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw someone there holding a sign with "Hand Family" on it. We had booked through Smartcruisetours and had brilliant pre cruise experiences emailing with Julia but there was a teeny part of me that was worried that as they were so much cheaper than RomeinLimo etc... that there would be a problem. Our full day tour with driver (not official tour guide) was 300 Euro for the four of us, the other companies I found were around 500 Euro but I am pleased to report that we got excellent service from Guiliano.

He introduced himself, greeted the children aswell and then took us to his air conditioned silver Mercedes minivan which would be our vehicle for the day. As requested there were booster seats for the children and they were soon settled in their seats and snoozing after the early start!



The drive to Rome was relatively quick and easy as it was a Sunday and Guiliano explained that there was hardly any traffic. In under an hour we were at our first stop, the beautiful church of St Pauls Outside The Walls. We got out here and took a look around, took some photos and used the restrooms. It was really pretty and well worth a visit.





From here we made our way to the Keyhole of Rome. This was really cool - we all had a look through and even though I knew what I would see it is still amazing to peer through a tiny keyhole and get a spectacular view of St Peters.



As we drove around Guiliano gave us plenty of local and historical knowledge. I know that many emphasise the fact that these drivers are not guides and of course they are not but for us it was enough to have a selection of interesting historical and geographical facts and anecdotes and a full on tour guide would have been more than we needed or wanted on this visit.

Our next destination was an area where we could get a view from above the Roman Forum and then walk through to a beautiful square designed by Michaelangelo. We took photos then proceeded down the steps to meet Guiliano at the exact spot he said he would be!





I had previously loved visiting the Pantheon and really wanted to show the girls this amazing building with it's domed roof with a hole in it. How on earth did they construct this all those years ago without the aid of modern technology and tools? We spent some time looking around inside, the girls were particularly impressed with the little plug hole in the floor for draining any rain! I think it would be really cool to be in here when it rains but the only times I have been it has been dry!







From here Guiliano drove us to the closest spot he could get us to the Trevi fountain. He told us to walk a couple of minutes down the little side street and we would be at the fountain. We did indeed get to the Trevi fountain, took a few photos and decided to wander around a little. We had asked Guiliano if this was a good place to get ice cream but he suggested we make that our next stop after we had been to the fountain.



We stood and watched a fantastic spray painting artist make amazing collosseum pictures and then, I have to confess, we stopped in the McDonalds to grab the girls some food. Now there was method in my madness, I knew that we would be doing our Collosseum tour at 12:20pm and wanted to avoid them suddenly "needing" food as soon as the tour started so they ate some Chicken Nuggets Roma style!

So we returned to the car and Guiliano took us to get ice cream. He did say that his favourite ice cream shop in Rome was closed on a Sunday but he would take us to another nice one. It did not disappoint. We all had some delicious Gelato and in the ever increasing heat it was nice to cool off.



After we had finished it was time to get to the Collosseum for our tour. Guiliano dropped us across the road so we just had to walk down some steps and across to get to the Collosseum. It was a little after 12 when we got in and boy were we glad to have our tickets pre booked. We walked past an enormous line of people and went to the reservations window and joined a line which had two families in it! We were given our stickers to show we were on the Underground and third floor tour and directed to go to the meeting point and wait.

We only had to wait a few minutes and we killed time chatting, taking photos and enjoying the shade!



Our guide arrived a distributed handsets on cords which we had to hold upside down to hear her. When held correctly we could hear what she was saying wherever we were within a short distance. I have to say at the start of the tour I was really concerned. She led us through a roped off section to an area on the main level in full blazing sun. She then proceeded to stand there and talk for 15 minutes solid about the history of the Collosseum while we (and several other members of the group) were wilting in the heat. After a few minutes I could see the girls couldn't stand it so we broke away from the group and sat about 25 feet away in a tiny patch of shade!



Darren fancies himself as a bit of a Gladiator so here he is posing!



Fortunately it got much better from there on in. We went down to the underground section which was really interesting. We were shown a tunnel through which Nero flooded a large area to make a lake in Rome prior to the Collosseum being built. We also were shown where the animals and gladiators waited prior to their fights.

After plenty of time looking around this section we were taken up to the main upper floor where we were shown a few exhibits.





Then we made our way up a roped off staircase to the top level. At various points in the tour people tried to tag onto it but they were easy to spot as they didn't have the handset things or the stickers and the guide told them they couldn't join us but they should book the tour!

Luckily at this point she gave us the option of talking the next bit through in the shade of an area just below the open top floor or we could talk about it while we were up on the roof. We, and a few others, quickly said "in the shade please!" so we heard more about ancient Rome from the slightly less hot shaded area. There were some really steep steps to get to the very top but it was well worth it for the great views.







The girls found some little "caves" which they decided to hide in, well it got them a little shaded relief from the heat!





We were finished with the tour and leaving the Collosseum at around 1:30pm and it was seriously unbearably hot. We left the shade of the Collosseum and were hit by the intense heat (remember Darren doesn't actually like hot weather!) We quickly bought our souvenir magnets and some bottles of water which I was extremely grateful to see had been frozen and still had a big lump of ice in the middle. We all literally threw the water down our throats and then staggered back towards the car. I had intended to get the Gladiator photos on the way back but I was actually very concerned that in spite of the factor 50 suncream we were burning (in the end it turned out the factor 50 did us proud and no one burned) and that someone was going to end up with heatstroke.

Never has there been a more welcome sight than Guiliano with our air conditioned Mercedes just waiting for us. He said that the cars thermometer was reading the outdoor temperature as 41 degrees.

At this point I suggest to Guiliano that the remaining items on the itinerary are just photo stop or drive-bys, We drove past the Spanish steps and declined a stop, we took a look at the famous shopping street from the cool interior of the car (I can't afford Prada or Louis Vuitton anyway!) then we drove over to St Peters. Darren and I have done an internal visit to the Vatican and seen the Sistine Chapel on our own, I don't think my girls are old enough to appreciate it and with it being the last Sunday of the month when entry is free and lines are long it was not on our plan today. We did however intend to do a photo stop there. As the car pulled over Olivia point blank refused to get out of the car! Now usually I would point out that I am the parent and she is the child however I could see her point! Darren suggested he stay in the car with Olivia while Izzy and I took some pictures which worked just fine.



From here we had planned to visit Terme De Caracalla, the ruins of some Roman baths which is now a concert venue. However we were all done in so we just stopped by the outside and made the decision to head back to the ship. We were well within the time we had Guiliano for but sometimes I think the mistake is to try to keep going and pack things in regardless of the circumstances. We all enjoyed the Collosseum but it completely finished us for the day so it was definitely the right move to head back to the ship. The girls slept on the way back and even Darren dozed. I chatted with Guiliano and enjoyed the ride back.

We said goodbye, paid Guiliano the balance of the tour plus a tip and the girls had a photo with him.



Once we were back on board it seemed like a good plan to go and have a swim. Suddenly Isabelle realised that her beloved Monkey (she doesn't sleep without it!) is missing and she thinks she left him in Parrot Cay. We take a detour to guest services to fill out a missing persons, I mean lost property, report! She tried really hard to be brave but I could see that she was really upset.

The children grabbed a quick bite from Plutos dog house and then went for a swim. Darren had a slice of pizza and I grabbed a burger. Originally our plan had been to eat in Rome but with a lunch time tour and then the extreme heat we just wanted to drink lots of water and had a few snacks so we ended up being hungry enough that we wanted to eat but knowing that we had dinner in a couple of hours so we didn't eat too much!

When the girls had finished swimming we went back to the cabin to change and were mightily relieved to discover that Isabelle HAD brought monkey back from breakfast but he had been hidden under some bags - huge relief all round!

We got ready for dinner which was Animators palette tonight. The children ate Spaghetti and Meatballs and I had Lemon Herb Shrimp, Andalucian Tomato soup (which was lovely) and Flank steak. Darren had soft shell crab followed by a lamb dish. I could see that despite her protestations that she wasn't tired Olivia was really in need of some down time. She didn't want dessert and I wasn't bothered either so we made a quick exit and headed for the cabin to chill out and watch TV. We did stop for a sneaky Mum and youngest daughter photo stop though!

We found our towel animal waiting for us, tonight it was something which I think is a dinosaur, the others aren't sure!!!



We got into our PJs and snuggled on the bed watching The Little Mermaid. Darren and Izzy stayed for dessert then Isabelle went for a brief visit to the club. However everyone was completely tired out and we were all in bed by 9:40pm after our very long day!

Last edited by Melcatfish; 08-18-2013 at 08:46 AM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 05:44 AM   #7
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The Plan

Today we have our second tour booked with Smartcruisetours. We started off booking Pompeii, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast (which includes stops at Positano and Amalfi) but have made the following changes:

We swapped Pompeii for Herculaneum. DH and I have done Pompeii before. It was hot and a massive site. Herculaneum is much smaller so a short visit will feel like we have seen a larger proportion of it. It is apparently very different with some elements extremely well preserved which will hopefully make it easier for our children to appreciate. In addition we asked that we visit only Sorrento and Positano and drop the visit to Amalfi. I feel like we would rather have a little longer in Sorrento and Positano than try to rush all three. Also our port time is not as long in Naples (7:45am until 5:30pm) and Amalfi is the furthest from the ship - I figured that cutting that will lessen the stress of the return journey.


The Reality

For the second day in a row the alarm woke us up at the ridiculously early time of 6:15am! I tried to focus on the fact that after today we had two more relaxed mornings coming up. We were in Parrot Cay having our usual breakfasts by 7:15am and ready to leave the ship by 8am.

We walked out of the cruise terminal and immediately saw Paolo waiting for us at the bottom of the steps with a sign saying "Mel Hand" on it. We walked over, introduced ourselves and he showed us to his Mercedes Minivan, this one was in a matte black finish! We got the kids in their car seats and Paolo assured us we had no need to worry he was a very safe driver!

Our first stop was Herculaneum. On the way we chatted to Paolo about the local area and discovered that his brother had moved to England and was living very close to where we live. We were dropped off at the entrance to Herculaneum at 8:45am and arranged to meet Paolo back in the same spot 2 hours later.

Herculaneum was lovely but slightly bizarre as it was a smallish archaeological site in the middle of regular modern developments so you literally walked from a street with cafes and shops and traffic through a gate and you are in the site.





Entry was 11 Euros for adults. Because we live in the EU the children were free. I had passports but she didn't check them she just asked where we lived. If you are visiting it is important to note that they do not accept credit cards.



We wandered round and explored the well preserved buildings. In comparison to Pompeii it was much smaller but very importantly for us there was much more shade than I remember at Pompeii.





Darren has a strange habit of posing for photos by statues and imitating them, most embarrassing!







When we arrived at 8:45am there were just a handful of visitors and by the time we left at 10:45 there were certainly more but it wasn't crowded by any stretch of the imagination, we were very glad we had chosen Herculaneum for our archaeological visit.

From here we drove through Terre Del Greco which is Paolos home town and the base for the famous Cameo production and coral jewellery industry. The coral jewellery used to be from the Mediterranean sea but now that area is largely protected and much of the coral they use is imported. We didn't stop at a Cameo demonstration this time, I had seen (and purchased) these before. Instead we carried on in the direction of Sorrento. The children once again fell asleep in the car and when we reached the first of our photo stops they were still sleeping. Paolo pulled the car up in a laybe at the photo stop and we hopped out to take some photos while Paolo stood outside the car with the sleeping children in it (we were only about 15 feet from the car so I wasn't concerned about them!)

We got some photos across the bay of Naples and Paolo told us that the locals refer to Vesuvius as "Sleeping Father."



As we drove Paolo, Darren and I chatted more about life in the local area. Approaching Sorrento there was another photo stop. At this point we discussed our itinerary and Paolo suggested that we switch round and go to Positano first then returning for a late lunch in Sorrento and heading back. He explained that this way round we would avoid a lot of the potential traffic hold ups however he did say it was our day and we could go with the original plan if we wished. It seemed sensible to go with the local knowledge so after our photos we started the drive to Positano.

The drive was breath taking with stunning views, hair pin bends and sheer drops. True to his word Paolo WAS a very safe driver and we never once felt the least bit worried about the sheer drop just a couple of feet from the car! As we approached Positano we stopped for more photos and Paolo took a family shot for us too.





There was a fruit and veg stall at the photo stop and Paolo showed us the Cedri he had been telling us about - a relative of the lemon but sweeter and can be eaten on it's own.



We didn't buy any fresh produce but we did buy some dried pasta and bruschetta mixes to take home with us. We also bought a Positano magnet at the souvenir stand!

Positano was beautiful but absolutely packed with people and the car parking areas made me cringe, they certainly ram them in and I have no idea how you get out if you need to leave before everyone else in the car park. It certainly seemed like the last one in had to leave first and you got out in the order you went in, there were NO passages in and out. Paolo explained that we could park up at the top and walk down if we would like or he could drive us through the town slowly so we could see it from the comfort of the car without walking! If we had several days in the Naples area then for sure I would come for the day and walk around but we had only a few hours so instead we opted for more time in Sorrento and a driving tour of Positano!

We then made our way back to Sorrento, Paolo parked the car and then asked whether we wanted to sit down in a restaurant or get street food. We said that we would like a restaurant but not too lengthy a meal and where children were welcome. He took us to a restaurant down a side street but not too far from the centre. He explained that they cater to a mix of locals and tourists and he was sure we would enjoy it, he also brings his own family here.

Now I am sure that pretty much all the drivers and guides get a kick back for bringing customers in but we were happy with this restaurant. I knew Olivia was likely to be the fussiest so she and I shared a Margherita pizza, Darren had a seafood pasta and Isabelle had a pizza with Proscuitto. Everyone enjoyed their food very much.



The drinks on the other hand were a bit odd, the apple juice was bright green and Olivia didn't like it, luckily she had just had a drink and we had more in our bags so we didn't worry about that!



We ate only bread and main courses and decided to skip dessert opting for a Gelato on the streets instead. After the meal we met up with Paolo who pointed out some nice shopping streets and arranged to meet us at 3:30pm but said if we were back earlier he would be waiting there ready for us. He then went to sit on a shaded bench and read his newspaper while we went to explore Sorrento.

We wandered down some side streets. We went in a shop filled with ceramic items (Girls DON'T touch!) and I bought a Sorrento magnet and an Olive Oil bottle stopper. As we were leaving the girls were showing me different things they had seen in the shop but were very carefully NOT touching anything. The shop owner came and said something in Italian but then said in English... "These are for girls" and pointed to Isabelle and Olivia. He gave them each a decorated plastic fan which they loved!

We wandered around some more side streets took a few photos and then we found a Christmas shop which was very pretty but it was too hot to feel Christmassy so we didn't go in!





We then got some Gelato from a street stall, it was very tasty and predictably Olivia got a very chocolately face!





We also bought some more of those pasta sauce mixes as gifts for family. We wandered back to meet Paolo taking the obligatory photo in the square on the way



We got to the meeting place at 3:!5pm and found Paolo reading on the bench as promised. The drive back to Naples was uneventful, we just chatted and looked out of the window and planned what we would do for the rest of the day. When we got to the port entrance the traffic slowed significantly but Paolo was very pleased to note that he dropped us off at 4:29pm and we had requested to be at the ship by 4:30pm in our booking!

The girls had a photo with Paolo and then we paid and tipped him before saying our goodbyes.



In the port building there was free wi fi available at the Algida Café - we purchased a couple of drinks and got the password. We sent a few emails and Facebooked a couple of photos for people back home to see what we were up to.

It felt really weird having the Gangway open up near guest services where they usually do photos. No-one felt like getting ready for dinner so at around 5pm we decided we would skip the dining room for this evening. Instead the girls wanted to go up and swim in the pool so we got ready and headed up there, Darren and I read, chatted, wrote trip notes and kept an eye on the girls while they splashed around.





Just before 6pm I popped down to Parrot Cay to let Oliver and Dwi know not to expect us tonight. Our head server Jose saw us and I told him I just wanted to let them know we wouldn't be there. He said "You didn't have to come and tell us but thanks for letting us know." I realise I didn't HAVE to but even though we were on a table of our own I still thought it was more polite to let them know.

Back up on deck we got dinner from a combination of Topsiders (which was a buffet that evening not a sit down, and from Plutos.



It was nice after a busy day to have a chilled out relaxed dinner and evening. At 7pm Izzy went to the Club and Olivia joined her a little before 8pm. They did the Toy Story Boot Camp and met Sgt Green!

They stayed in the club all evening, Darren and I hung out at our favourite Deck 9 Quiet Cove spot doing lots of nothing! It was very relaxing!

At 11pm we got the kids and headed back to the room. Our towel animal tonight was a rabbit



Everyone went to bed happy in the knowledge that there was no 6:15 alarm call in the morning!

Last edited by Melcatfish; 08-18-2013 at 08:46 AM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 05:45 AM   #8
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The Plan

We managed to score a 10:30am reservation for Palo Brunch... delicious!

DH and I have rainforest day passes which we may use on this sea day - I guess it will be busier than if we used them on a port day so we will play it by ear. I guess the kids will probably want to spend some time in the clubs as they will have been out and about for the last two days. That will probably mean I will kick back and get into a book or maybe take in a tour or presentation depending on what is on offer. Formal night is tonight, if my dining request comes through we should be back in Lumieres which again, I love for formal night. I am hoping to get lots of photos taken again on the cruise. I try to buy the photo CD and get lots of lifestyle type portraits done as well as character photos.

The Reality

We slept in until 9:15 this morning which was definitely welcome after our previous early starts. When everyone was up and dressed we made our way up to Topsiders to get some breakfast for the kids.

The girls ate cereals, donuts and juice, Darren and I had none as we were saving ourselves for the feast ahead!

After breakfast Darren dropped the kids in at the clubs and I popped down to guest services to check that the Princess Gathering would be repeated on one of the other sea days. On our previous cruises the Princess Gathering has always been at 9:30am so when I discovered it was 11:15 and right in the middle of our Palo booking I was worried that the kids would miss out on one of their favourite activities of the cruise. Fortunately at guest services they let me know that there would be more Princess Gatherings so Darren and I were able to go guilt free to Palo for brunch!

We arrived at Palo and waited just a moment before Evandro our server seated us. On our last cruise Evandro had been our server in the main dining room as well as back in 2009. The cruise last year had been his last as a main dining room server before being promoted to Palo. We had got on really well and he had asked us to facebook him if we wanted to which we did. It was great to have a familiar face, he chatted to us asking after our family etc...

There now follows a small selection of Palo food porn!



















Obviously it would have been rude not to eat lots of the wonderful offerings. We started with seafood items and breads from the buffet, I had some delicious tomato soup and a frittata from the hot selection and Darren had Eggs benedict and Veal Saltembuca. We also shared the sausage pizza (see I told you we are a lot at this meal!) The desserts were much better than I remembered from our previous visit. We have always felt that desserts in general are DCLs weakest food area. There are a lot of odd textures and desserts which seem to be extremely artificial in flavour. However this time I thought they were really quite lovely in Palo and better than before in the main dining room.

Suitably stuffed after almost 2 hours in Palo we thanked Evandro and said we would see him again on Pirate night. We checked at the desk that they had our request to be with Evandro for dinner as well and then we rolled our way out of Palo and down to deck 5 to check on the kids.

Isabelle wanted to stay in the clubs and Olivia wanted to come out of the club and hang out with me in the cabin while we sorted out laundry etc... Darren went off to do the laundry and Livvy and I just chilled out for a bit and she had a snack as lunch in the club had been ok but she was still a bit hungry.

After a while we collected Izzy and started getting ready for formal night. We made our way down to have photos with Captain John





On the way to dinner we bumped into Daisy in the wild!



Our dinner was in Lumieres and the menu was Prince & Princess menu. The girls both had fish nuggets followed by a white chocolate cheesecake which I have to say was really really not good. Darren had Duck to begin followed by Mushroom Ravioli and Bread Pudding. I had Watermelon, LAmb and Lemon Cheesecake which was much nicer than the kids dessert.



After dinner we had a few more photos taken then the children got changed ready to go to the clubs. Before hitting the kids club we stopped off at the Mickeys Mates to buy the girls their princess dresses. They had saved some money and we put some more to it so they could each have a princess dress to wear for the Princess Gathering and a Princess doll. This evening they chose their dresses, no surprise here, Olivia loves Merida and chose the Merida outfit and Isabelle loves Tiana and chose her dress.

The children went to "Girls Chill" at the kids clubs and we did the boring but necessary job of putting the laundry away! After that I checked out the photos so far in the kiosks and then chatted a while to the DVC reps. Living in the UK I find it hard to make the numbers work for us as we can't afford multiple transatlantic trips a year (often not even once a year) so DVC is always on my "maybe one day if we came in to some money or won the lotto" list. I did meet a British family who joined 15 years ago and were waxing lyrical about it. I did look into it in 2004 and at that time the exchange rate and points cost would have made it possible ish at the time but we were just planning starting a family. Today with a poorer exchange rate and increased prices it would cost me twice as much money so I regreat not doing it but lifes too short for regrets!

I was totally zonked out by this point so when I got back to the cabin I slept and Darren went to get the girls. When they came back they showed off their tattoos, nail varnish etc... from Girls chill!



Our towel animal from tonight is below, not sure what it is!



We were all really excited about Venice tomorrow!

Last edited by Melcatfish; 09-14-2013 at 07:26 AM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 05:46 AM   #9
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The Plan

I am sooooo excited about sailing into Venice. Our port time is listed as 1pm so I am hoping to spend the morning on deck watching us sail in and taking lots of photos! We intend to get 36 hour Vaporetto passes and use that to ride up the Grand Canal to St Marks and take a good stroll around and explore with the kids. My online research tells me I should be able to get a Gondola ride for not more than 100 Euro - when you read it it sounds like a heck of a lot for a ride in a little boat but compared to prebooking a DCL private ride it is much better value. We will play this by ear either returning to the ship for dinner or skipping dinner to eat in Venice. This will be our first cruise where we have overnighted in a port and I am looking forward to Venice in the evening!

The Reality

We were really looking forward to the wonderful experience of sailing in to Venice. It was made even better by the fact that we didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to experience it!

We slept in until 9am and got ready so we could amble down to Parrot Cay by 10am for a late breakfast \ early lunch. The plan was to have a bit of the breakfast offerings and a bit of lunch too! At 10:45 Cruise Director Peter came over the PA system announcing that we would shortly begin our sail into Venice. We quickly changed plans and after the breakfast course was finished we decided to go out on deck.

We made the decision to go for Deck 4 Starboard which turned out to be a great idea. We were aft and there were not too many people there. It was busier towards the forward end of the deck but from the middle backwards it wasn't too crowded and we had plenty of space at the rails.





The sail in was absolutely amazing, breath-taking and everything I had hoped it would be. We all enjoyed it although Olivia did get a bit fed up at one point!!







Once we were heading towards the dock we made our way in to get lunch (well to finish brunch) this time heading to Topsiders.

The entry and exit was set up on deck 3. We were very excited to get into Venice and explore. We followed the signs to the People Mover and took the 1 Euro trip to Piazzale Roma. From there we had a bit of trouble finding the Venice Connected machine.

The morning we left I decided to pre purchase our Vaporetto 36 hour tickets with my credit card so we had a bit more Euro cash available so I needed to locate the machine. If you are doing the same thing it is not as simple to find as you may expect! To locate the machine turn left out of the People Mover building. As you look across the square you can see a red building (ACTV ticket offices) and beyond that a foot bridge across the canal. Walk towards the ACTV building and go past it towards the bridge. You will go down some steps before the bridge. At the bottom of the steps turn left away from the bridge and as you walk along you will see the floating docks for the vaporetto stops. The Venice Connected machine is at the first dock which is the stop for the number 1 and number 2 Vaporetto. Once you find the machine it is simple to put in your code and it will print your tickets. There is a second machine next to the Venice Connected machine which validates your ticket

We got on the Number 2 line Vaporetto and enjoyed the view as we headed up towards San Marco. My father in law had been less than complimentary about Venice before we left but I didn't let it dampen my enthusiasm. His comments about it smelling awful in the summer did not tally with our experience at all. In fact we noticed two odours while we were there. Once, when returning to the ship when we were right by the dock it smelt slightly "seasidey", salty and as you would expect in a port. The other smell we noticed was a lot of tourists seem to have forgotten to pack their deodorant and on a crowded vaporetto that was interesting!!!!

As we made our way up the Grand Canal I was totally falling in love with Venice. It was simply magical, having sailed in onboard the Magic and then following it with a vaporetto ride up the canal was perfect and if the truth be told I could have ridden the Vaporetto up and down the canals all day and been very happy.







However my joy was soon interrupted when Isabelle whispered in urgent but hushed tones that she was DESPERATE for the toilet! Oh dear. This was our first ride, I had no clue which stop we would arrive at next nor where we would find a toilet! Luckily the next stop was San Marco, we got off and Darren spotted a sign for the toilets. We followed the sign and then the arrows on the floor with WC written on them!

The toilets, I feared would be as awful as some of the others we have encountered on various trips but having paid 1 Euro 50c (I blagged us both in for that price!) they were actually very clean and reasonable.

Crisis averted we then made our way back onto the street. We then made our way back towards the vaporettos and then past them and in to St Marks Square \ Piazza San Marco.










We took the obligatory photos and wandered round for a bit looking at the Gondaliers and debated taking a ride there and then. Unfortunately the temperature was rising and Olivia was starting to get frazzled. Rather than drag out the rest of the afternoon and evening with a hot and grumpy five year old we decided to head back to the air conditioning of the ship and have dinner onboard.

We made our journey in reverse, my heart broke when Olivia declared that she didn't like Venice, it was too hot and horrible! Our original plan had been to take the children ashore on the first day and then let them choose if they wanted to come with us or stay onboard on the second day. At this point I was really sad that they wouldn't have experienced Venice as I wanted them to because of an urgent toilet visit trauma and a very hot day The ride on the vaporetto gave us a bit of a breeze and helped cool everyone off a little. We went back on the People Mover and walked to the port. Venice was the first port where every passenger I observed has had their passport and key card checked properly.

Back onboard everyone chilled out a bit more. We ate dinner in Animators Palette and it was the Bella Italia menu which was really tasty - what a shame they put it on the night when a lot of people would be eating ashore! I ate a caprese salad minus the mozzarella (I love tomatoes but I only like mozzarella melted on top of pizza \ pasta etc...) and after I tried Darrens minestrone soup Oliver insisted on getting me a bowl of that too. The dining room was really really empty and the servers really were looking for jobs to do. They had more time to interact too - Olivia discovered a talent for hanging spoons off her face and Oliver was most amused by this!



Isabelle had a Minnie Burger followed by Ice Cream, Olivia and I both had the (adult) Spaghetti Polpette Meatballs. Very delicious! For pudding I had Panna Cotta (OK but nowhere near as good as the one in Palo!) I seem to have not written down what Darren had for main or dessert!



After dinner the combination of food and air conditioning meant that both children were in much better moods. They went off to the club and Darren and I made our way ashore to enjoy Venice in the evening. Riding the vaporetto back to San Marco we were able to snag some open air seats at the front.



I took photos and experimented with my camera settings to capture the evening light of Venice (auto insisted on exposing it to look like day time which was not at all what I wanted! My experimental photos were mixed, some disasters, some lovely and lots in between, not great but I like them!)





We strolled around and talked about plans for the next day. I really wanted the girls to be part of our Gondola ride so was hoping that they would come out again tomorrow without too much fuss! We took some more photos in Piazza San Marco as it looked so different at night.







We bought an oil painting in San Marco, I just loved it as soon as I saw it. We hadn't intended buying anything so weren't carrying much cash so embarrassingly we ended up scrabbling around in pockets and bags trying to make the price. Luckily there was a little wriggle room and haggling plus the guy took an English £10 note as well as the Euros we had to make it up to the agreed price!

We had to wait a while to get a vaporetto back to Piazzale Roma so took more photos while we waited.



In the end we got the 9:58pm Vaporetto from San Marco and arrived back at the People Mover just in time for the last tram at 10:50. After the walk back to the port we were onboard and collecting the kids at 11:20.

Back in the room our towel animal was waiting for us and we all went straight to bed ready for another day in Venice tomorrow.


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Old 05-28-2013, 05:47 AM   #10
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I think DH and I are going to book the Doges Palace Secret Itineraries tour for late morning and let the girls play in the clubs. We will then go back and get them and maybe head over to the little islands where they make lace and blow fancy glass. Not really sure, we will see! All aboard is 5pm, I would like to see us sail out but with early dining I am not sure if we will make it. If we are back onboard in plenty of time we will change then head out on deck to see us sail away.

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Old 05-28-2013, 05:48 AM   #11
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We only have an afternoon in this port - 1:15pm - 7pm I think. I expect we will sit out on deck and watch the approach to this port too - I love watching the coast approaching and enjoy sailing into the harbour! We have booked our first of two DCL tours on this cruise for today. We are doing a city tour followed by a beach excursion. I found a site that listed port schedules and there are a LOT of ships in port for this day - a head count of something like 10,000 passengers in a relatively small port. Eeeek. We have never been here before and I liked the idea of a brief tour to see part of the city but then a beach trip as we haven't planned any other beach time in this plan.

Tonight is Pirate Night. I don't mind the pirate theme although we are not big on dressing up as pirates however DH and I both really dislike this menu! So we have Palo booked for tonight. Yummy! The kids will go to the clubs for the evening but we will try to get them back out to go see the Pirate show and the fireworks - we haven't been successful with this many times on our cruises but we will give it a try!

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Old 05-28-2013, 05:50 AM   #12
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Another sea day. On one of these I hope we will have a character breakfast. I love the pancakes with dulce de leche and whipped cream....! Plus I like the chance to get a lot of photos without lots of waiting!

I also suspect we will hit up a Princess gathering on one of the Sea days - although you do have to wait in line for that I like the conveyor belt set up so you only line up once!

No big plans for today - maybe use our rainforest pass if we didn't already do that and then just relax and chill out. Tonight is semi formal night - I haven't planned any outfits yet. Best get thinking!

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Old 05-28-2013, 05:51 AM   #13
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Valletta really blew me away last time. It was so very beautiful and picturesque. We did however get hopelessly lost and took in some sites that weren't high on my must see list (Valletta Driving Test Centre, Valletta Cat Rescure Centre etc...) This time we have booked a DCL tour to do what we really wanted to do last time - Blue Grotto and fishing village. It is only a half day tour so we will still have time to wander round Valletta if we want to. Last time although I wanted to go I was a bit worried how my two year old would do in a little rowing boat seeing the Blue Grotto - at least this time I figure she will understand the need to sit still a bit better!

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Old 05-28-2013, 05:52 AM   #14
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Uh Oh, last full day onboard

I do like having a sea day as the last day as you are not rushing back from port to pack but still it will no doubt be sad. Especially as we know we won't be cruising in 2014 and If we cruise in 2015 I don't think it will be on our beloved Disney Magic. (We are aiming for a summer trip to Florida and a cruise which may be either the Fantasy or *gasp* the RCCL Allure of the Seas.)

What I do know is that we will be saying goodbye to our servers this evening. We don't do the last morning breakfast - too early, too rushed and I find that it can sometimes spoil your memories of the serving team as they are in a rush to turn the room around and get ready so are often not quite as sparkly and friendly as they were the rest of the trip.

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Old 05-28-2013, 05:52 AM   #15
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Instead of going to the last morning sit down dining we will order cereals, milk, juice, coffee, fruit bowls and cookies the night before from room service before it shuts down. The coffee stays hot in the cafetiere overnight and the chilled items are fine in the chiller box over night. We can then eat a less hurried breakfast in the room (supplemented by a topsiders run if anyone needs anything else) before leaving the ship at a less frantic pace!

Our flight home is 14:25 so we will get off the ship as late as possible within the time frame allowed by DCL. I intend to ensure we have some packaged snacks and then cab straight to the airport from the Port. Last time we had a nice mini tour with our cab driver on the way back to the airport which was nice but unless we have Euros left to use up or we are really keen to linger in Barcelona then we will head to the airport and ensure we have fully charged iPad and laptop so the kids can play on there to keep them amused.

We will be flying into a regional airport which we haven't used before (Southend) but it is closer to home than the main London airports and the flight was well priced. My Dad will collect us and take us home where reality will hit with a bang when we have to cook and clean up after dinner!

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