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Old 07-02-2013, 07:15 PM   #1
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Location: Iowa City, IA (that's IOWA, not Idaho or Ohio)
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Inaugural Magic Cruise to Greece and Turkey - June 15 - 27;DONE with pictures!!

This is the same cruise as MinnieDiva's and abayaflowers, so there may be some redundancies.

I thought I would start this, but probably won't be able to finish it for a while!

Here is the pre-cruise information:

The family - me Deb, DH Eric (who was celebrating his birthday on June 17), DD Jennifer age 22, and DS Mark age 18.

We had planned this to celebrate DS's high school graduation and DD's college graduation, until she decided to add a minor and extend college for another year, and our 25th wedding anniversary later this year (September).

This is our 5th DCL cruise - our last one was last summer to Alaska on the Wonder, and before that, we were on the Dream for a 5 night double dip in August, 2011.

We flew out of Des Moines, Iowa for the first time because we had fewer segments to fly on United - we did Des Moines to Newark, and then Newark to Barcelona. We were supposed to do the same on the way back, but it got badly messed up - more on that later.

We did the Disney pre and post cruise hotel and ground transfers, but booked air on our own, because we used frequent flyers for 2 of our tickets.

The plan:
I had planned to stay in Barcelona 2 days before the cruise, to do some sightseeing and to get adjusted to the time change, and this strategy worked well for us.

I also planned one night in the same hotel after the cruise, to repack (getting all those gels and liquids into the checked luggage, etc) and to SLEEP!
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Deb

"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:21 PM   #2
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Location: Iowa City, IA (that's IOWA, not Idaho or Ohio)
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June 12, 2013

Travel Day

When I booked the trip, we were to leave Des Moines at 1 pm on Wednesday, June 12, have a 4 hour layover in Newark, then fly from Newark to Barcelona on an 8 hour flight, arriving there at 9:30 am local time on the next day, Thursday, June 13. We live about 2 hours away from Des Moines, and other airports are closer, but would have required more flight segments.

However, about 3 weeks before the trip, United moved up our departure from Des Moines by 7 hours, but the second flight was still the same time! So, now we had to arrive at the airport at 4 am, instead of 11 am, AND we now had a 10-hour layover in Newark. We debated getting a hotel in Des Moines, but I didn't want the hassle of unpacking and trying to setting in for a few hours of sleep, so we just left our house at 2 am, got to the airport at 4 am, and on to the flight.

Once on the plane to Barcelona, we were pleased to see that the plane, a Boeing 757-200, had individual touchscreens on the back of the headrests and each passenger could choose from about 60 movies on-demand! We found out later that this was a result of the United-Continental merger; United had acquired all of the updated Continental planes with this feature (a former Continental flight attendant, who sat with us on the way back told us this). Anyway, the kids really enjoyed this and watched about 4 movies on the way over. We also got dinner, snack and breakfast on the plane.

Deplaning in Barcelona was relatively easy - the terminal was new and well marked, customs was a breeze, we were able to find the Disney representative without difficulty (look for the large white Mickey gloves!). They checked off our names on their list, we got our luggage and were escorted by the Disney people to our shuttle and off to the hotel.
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Deb

"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:23 PM   #3
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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June 13 - 14, 2013: Barcelona

Hotel: Hilton Diagonal Mar

June 13, 2013
On the first day, we arrived before check in time. Since we had to book two rooms (hotels in Europe usually only hold 2 people, or at least, this hotel did), we had to wait a bit longer for both of them to be cleaned up. There was some type of medical conference that was ending, so many checkouts were going on. We decided to drop off our bags with the bell service, and walk to the beach (about 3 blocks from this hotel), where there were many cabanas serving sanwiches and salads. We got lunch there while waiting. DS, 18, also saw topless sunbathers for the first time , and we had to explain to him that this is Europe, you know.

DD Jennifer and DH Eric at the beach cabana (we are pretty tired):


After lunch, we got our rooms and crashed. We only woke up to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant - it was pricey, but good food. I had a seafood paella - yummy, but huge! Then back to sleep for the rest of the night.

June 14, 2013
We woke up and headed to the shopping center across the street. We had forgotten to bring electrical converters (Tip #1 - bring converters, if you are staying at a hotel), and our phones, iPad, and laptop were all running low. Unfortunately, we could not find any, and decided we would just wait until we got on the Magic to use our US plugs.

We decided to the the Hop On/Hop Off (HOHO) bus for the entire day. We were able to get a 4 euro discount/ticket by purchasing vouchers at the hotel. The Disney folks were at the hospitality desk in the lobby, and we checked in with them before we left. We were told to have our suitcases packed by 8 am the next day, and leave them INSIDE the room by the door. We were scheduled on the "Chip and Dale" bus at 10 am. The Disney hostess gave us pointers on what to see on the bus line, how long it would take (about 5 hours, if you do all 3 loops without getting off), and a recommendation for tapas at Ciudad Condal, address Rambla de Cataluña, 18, 08007 Barcelona, España, phone 34 933 18 19 97.


NOTE: There are actually 2 different HOHO buses. We did the Bus Turistic company - it has the aqua colored buses.

The other bus line has red buses.


Be sure you get the right bus, once you purchase your ticket.

After that, we headed out. The hotel is on the shortest green route, and the stop was only a couple of blocks from the hotel. One word of caution; we could not get our VISA card to scan on their handheld device. The attendant said something about it needing a "chip". We did not have this problem anywhere else, with similar scanners. Luckily, I had some cash euros, so off we went.

The bus is equipped with a multi-language audio system, and they give you ear buds, so all you do is plug in your earphones, choose your language, and it coordinates with the route. When you want to get off, just unplug the earphone and hop off. Another bus comes by every 10 minutes or so. Be sure to show your ticket when you get on the next bus, plug earphones back in, and away you go. All the stops are clearly announced, as well as transfer points from the three routes (green, blue, red). There is also an attendant on every bus, if you have questions or problems.

Here is a map of their routes:


We got on at the farthest end of the green route, transferred to the red route, and stopped at the Barcelona Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter (not Sagrada Familia - that's later).

We just walked around it, because we could not figure out how to get in. My family, who are huge comic book fans, managed to find a comic book store nearby, so they were happy.

Family at a comic book store in Barcelona:


Afterwards, we got back on the bus and went to the recommended restaurant Ciudad Condal for lunch - excellent, by the way! I would definitely second our Disney hostesses referral!

We got back on the bus and headed to Barcelona's most famous landmark, La Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi.

We did not pre-purchase tickets to go in, and the lines were too long by then, so we just walked around the building, which is pretty amazing. I don't think we could have done the entire church tour and the bus tour in one day, anyway.

We got back on the bus and headed to Parc Guell, another Gaudi landmark. It was very cramped and crowded, and full of peddlers trying to see trinkets, so we didn't stay long, but we did get a panoramic view of the city from here.


After this, we were getting tired, so we just stayed on the bus.
We went by the Barcelona futbol (soccer) stadium, the 1992 Olympics buildings, and World Trade Center and waterfront areas. Then back to the green route and to the hotel.

We freshened up/rested a bit, then headed across the street to a food court area in the shopping center. We started off eating outside, but EVERYONE smokes in Europe, or so it seemed, and the smoke was making DD ill, so we moved inside. Food was good, but service was a bit slow; however this was a Friday night. We finished up, headed to the hotel, and went to bed, excited to finally get on the Magic the next day.
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Deb

"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:24 PM   #4
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Location: Iowa City, IA (that's IOWA, not Idaho or Ohio)
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June 15, 2013

Embarkation Day

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Let The Magic Begin
Drink of the Day: Planters Punch (alcoholic), Boy Voyage (non alcoholic) with souvenir glass
Show: All Aboard! Let The Magic Begin

Finally!
We had to make sure the kids were packed and ready, because we were in separate rooms, and we were told to have our suitcases packed, with Disney Cruise tags on, and placed INSIDE the hotel room by the door by 8 am.

However, our bus didn't leave the hotel until 10 am.
So we hung around the room for a while, but then decided to go down to the lobby at around 9:30. By then, our bags still had not been picked up, and we were a bit uneasy leaving them alone in our now-vacant room.

We got to the lobby and checked in at the Disney hospitality desk. We were assured that they would pick up our luggage and that they would be delivered to our staterooms.

We got on our bus and headed to the port.

You know, that first glimpse of the Disney cruise ship always makes my heart jump - and elicited a cheer from everyone on our bus!

We got off and got in line, which moved pretty quickly. I do not remember being assigned an arrival time - I wonder if that is just at Port Canaveral and for the bigger (Dream and Fantasy) ships. We were in the terminal in about 20 minutes, checked in, got our Key To The World cards and lanyards, and amazingly, we got a boarding group 2! Whoo hoo! Our dining rotation was Animators-Parrot Cay-Lumiere's, which I was not thrilled about, because that puts us in Parrot Cay for both formal and semi-formal nights - it just feels weird to be all dressed up in that setting.

We waited in the port for a while - it is basically a large, warehouse-type room, with very few chairs - most people were standing or sitting on the ground. There were some photo stops, and we got a picture with Captain Mickey.

I know this is big, but I just wanted to use this to "introduce" us. From the left, me (Deb) , then DD Jennifer (22) , Mickey, DS Mark (18) , and DH Eric. The rest won't be so big, I promise!


They started boarding around 11:30, if I recall (this is a bit fuzzy). We got on, heard our family name announced (the kids wanted us to be introduced as "The Kumquat Family", but I nixed it )

We headed off to Parrot Cay for lunch. We always prefer Parrot Cay (or Enchanced Garden) as opposed to Topsiders/Beach Blanket/Cabanas - just more relaxing and not as chaotic, to us.

After lunch we headed to the Spa. DH got a cruise-long Rainforest pass, and we signed up for the drawings that we never win. We went to our stateroom (they are open at 1:30), and met our room attendant, Aldo from Peru, who we absolutely loved! He is a real sweetheart, and was wonderful over the course of the cruise!

Aldo:

Amazingly, 2 of our bags are already there! We unpack them and then went to the DIS meet at the Promenade Lounge at 3, and met a lot of DIS'ers, then off to the lifeboat drill at 4 pm. After that is the Sail Away Party - DISCLAIMER: We are not big deck party people, so we only went for about 15 minutes. They did pass out a nice blue and white napkin/bandana with the date, "Greece", and some DCL logos on it to wave during the dances. (insert picture)

Back to the room, and amazingly, those suitcases left at the hotel were all here! Unpacked quickly and shoved those babies under the bed, then off to the "All Aboard" show - yeah, I know the lines almost by heart now, Jeremy wants to be the captain, etc and it is cheesy, but still fun.

A temporary panic occurs when I realize that we do not have any of the tickets for the shore excursions that I booked online; in the past, they have always been waiting for us in the room. I made a quick stop at the Port Adventures desk after dinner, and they are able to look up all of them and reprint my tickets. The CM says that they were all printed earlier, but possibly because there are so many ports, they are running late, and in fact, , our room host Aldo delivers the envelope with them to our room later that night.

After the show, we quickly dressed for dinner and headed to Animators for dinner. We met our server Valentin from Bulgaria, assistant server Erwin from St. Vincent, and head server Deneval (don't know where he's from). Valentin must be one of the oldest servers we have ever had! He tried really hard, but sometimes forgot things - such as when my husband ordered 2 things, like both a soup and a salad. And if you ever order a sundae for dessert, you will get a serenade from Valentin ("Sunday, Sunday . . . ")

Valentin (sorry, I don't know why these came out so dark):


Erwin:

After dinner, DS Mark went to Diversions to meet the Club 18*21 group. Over the course of the cruise, he really bonded with these kids! I was worried, because our daughter previously had not had a good experience with Club 18*21, but Mark really got along well with them and they seemed all to be pretty good kids, including some DIS kids!

After dinner, DH and I head to Studio Sea for Family SuperStar Karaoke. It is pretty sparse in there, not many people. DH, who used to sing with his brothers in a garage band, loves to sing the oldies. So, while the kids were all singing Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, DH gets up and sing "Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding. After this, we went back to the room. Mark came in a bit later. Off to bed, ready for Villefranche, our first stop tomorrow!
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Deb

"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:26 PM   #5
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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June 16, 2013

Villefranche

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Animator's - Show Dinner; Parrot Cay - Island Dinner; Lumiere's - French Dinner
Drink of the Day: Deja Vu (alcoholic), Pina Coco Lada (non alcoholic)
Show: Villians Tonight!

Value Package - Nice and Monaco, Adult Only Departure
Meeting time was 8:30 am, at Promanade Lounge.

Unfortunately, we forgot that we had to have photo ID, along with KTTW card - I don't know why; I don't think our ID's were EVER checked when we returned.

So, DH Eric runs back to the room for the ID's.

The Promenade Lounge is packed. There were significant problems getting tenders in this port - the only one where this was an issue. We waited almost an hour before a tender was available - the CM's resorted to asking the audience for jokes to pass the time. Finally the tender gets here, and off we go!

The Magic, in the harbor in Villefranche:


The trip from the ship to the port was fairly short, compared to the next one at La Spezia, so I'm not sure why it took so long. After we debark from the tender, we had our only photo op in a port - I don't know why, I saw other pictures in various ports. Maybe I just missed them.
(insert picture)

We entered the port, and climbed up a hill to our bus for the tour. Our tour guide was a very energetic and knowledgable woman whose name escapes me. She lives in Nice. For this, and all our tours, we used these personal radios with ear buds. We all had a unit that hung around our neck on a strap, and the guide provided narration in their set. This worked pretty well, as long as you stayed relatively close to the guide and there were no big walls between you (this was a problem on Delos Island later).

Our guide gives a little talk about Nice on the way over, and shows us some points of interest, such as the vacation home of Elton John, nestled on a hillside, visible from the road.
The yellow house, to the right of the tower:


She frequently mentions all the rich and famous people who have come to Nice and points out which hotels they stayed at. She shows us a statue of the Winged Victory, and explains that Nice is the French version of Nike, the Winged Goddess of Victory. After arriving in Nice, we get out of the bus and walk along the Promenade des Anglais beside the beach.


The guide mentions that the Tour de France is scheduled to come down this very road in a week (I think this just happened a few days ago). We stop at the Palais de la Mediterranee hotel, and she tells us the rather unsettling story of the disappearance the owners daughter in 1977, how her body has never been found, how her attorney-boyfriend was implicated, and the rumors that her body, or parts of it, are buried under the hotel. Creepy. Her mother, now in her 90s, has kept the case alive in the French courts.


We walk on past the opera house to the flower market, where we have an hour to browse and eat lunch. Lots of seafood places, but DH has been sick since we landed (nausea, vomiting, etc). We are afraid to tell anyone, because he didnt want to be quarantined. I almost always bring Pepto-Bismol tablets, and never use them, so of course, I didnt have any this time. Anyway, he has been really queasy, and we decide to skip seafood and instead, found a crepes place. After we meet up again, we get back on the bus and leave Nice, heading to Monaco. Along the way, the guide tells us about the principality, the Grimaldi family, and after we get off the bus, she walks us up to the courtyard outside the castle. We have an hour here as well. DH doesnt feel like eating, but only wants to find a place to sit for a while, so we go to a café. Im not hungry either, and our kids decide to just share a pizza, but the waitress says no, everyone must order a plate, so DH gets mad and walks out, and DD goes with him. DS and I are left eating food that we really didnt want and DH didnt get to rest, so we are not too thrilled with Monaco right now. DS asks to take the rest of the pizza with us in a box, and we find DD and DH, and DD gets to eat the pizza anyway. We dont have much time left, so we go to the Saint Nicholas Cathedral of Monaco that we passed earlier and go in to see the tomb of Princess Grace and Prince Ranier.

The view from the courtyard outside the palace:




Princess Grace's tomb:


We meet our group and head back to the bus, for our trip to Monte Carlo, which is, of course, that part of Monaco famous for its wealth, casinos, and Grand Prix. We gawk a bit at the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, but mostly we just found a nice park bench to rest until it was time to go.
Here is the famous hairpin turn in the Grand Prix:


Expensive car:


Famous casino:


On the way back to the ship, we pass the medieval town of Eze, and our guide tells us a bit about its history. Then we arrive back at the port of Villefranche. By now, it is almost 6:30, and it takes about 45 minutes to go through security and to get a tender, so we miss the show that night, Villians Tonight, which DD really wanted to see.

We went to dinner and then, Eric and I went to Family SuperStar Karaoke again. Another small crowd. This time, he sings "Just My Imagination", by The Temptations, famously covered by many others, including the Rolling Stones.
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Deb

"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:27 PM   #6
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Join Date: Aug 1999
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Posts: 15,474

June 17, 2013

La Spezia, Palo Dinner

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Animator's - Show Dinner; Parrot Cay - Island Dinner; Lumiere's - French Dinner
Drink of the Day: Sea Dream (alcoholic), Purple Basil Lemonade (non alcoholic)
Show: The Comedy and Music of JUNK

PISA - Climb the Tower
Meeting time was 8:15 am at Diversions.

When I realized that we would be at La Spezia on a Monday, and that all the museums in Florence are closed on Mondays, I decided that we would skip Florence entirely and just go to Piza. I figured we would benefit from a shorter day anyway, as both our Villefranche day and our Rome day have long tours. The good news is that the tendering is MUCH more efficient today, even though the ship is a lot farther out in the water. We have a guide that takes us to a bus for a 45 minute ride into Piza, where we then take a short train to the Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) , the area of the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower.



We are met there by another local guide. Our group is broken up into two groups to go up into the Tower, and we are in the second group. This was fortunate, because we are there on the Feast (or Festival) Day of their patron saint Rinaldi (June 17), so there was an extra special Mass, with an elaborate Processional from the Baptistry to the Cathedral, with no less than 5 bishops, which we saw while waiting to go to the tower. In the picture above, the Baptistry is the round building on the left, and the Cathdral is the large buiding in the center.

Here is the procession:


We didn't go in the church for the Mass since soon, it was our time to climb up the Tower. This has been on my "bucket list", and DH only saw the Tower from the outside when he came with his family 44 years ago, so it was a thrill to be able to do this! The steps are uneven, worn down in the middle from years of climbers. The Tower was closed from 1990 to 2001 to complete a major renovation and cleaning. The trick, of couse, was how to keep the "lean" and still make it stable. The angle of the lean was straighened by about 5 degrees, to its 1838 postition and lead counterweights were added to the base to prevent it from completely collapsing.


The view from the Tower:


In the bell tower at the top:




After that, we had about 30 minutes to shop, browse, eat, use the restrooms. The guides were very helpful in once pointing out the free public toilet at the "Tourist" restaurant, and we had a gelato there. Soon we head back past the peddlers to our little train, get back on the bus, and drive back to the port.

We ate lunch and rested on the ship, and saw the evening show, which was "Junk" - a comedy/music/percussion act, a bit like Stomp. They had a featured bit in the All Aboard show.

I had booked Palo for dinner this night, to celebrate DH Eric's birthday. Since DS Mark just turned 18 in May, this was his first time at Palo, after all these years of watching us, and later his older sister eating and enjoying it. We had Lazlo (can't remember where he's from) for our waiter; he was friendly and knowledgeable. I had the lobster ravioli, DH Eric and DD Jennifer had the tuna. Can't remember what Mark had. And of course, we all had chocolate souffles for dessert! Wonderful as always.

After dinner, Mark went off to the Club 18*21 (they meet every night at 10), and we waddled off to our room to rest up for our long day in Rome tomorrow.
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"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:29 PM   #7
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Posts: 15,474

June 18, 2013

Civitavecchia

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Animator's - Show Dinner; Parrot Cay - Island Dinner; Lumiere's - French Dinner
Drink of the Day: Mamma Mia (alcoholic), Mango Smoothie (non alcoholic)
Show: The Comedy and Ventriloquism of Paul Zerdin

Jumping Back into Eternal Rome:
Meeting time was 7:40 am at Walt Disney Theater.

HUGE line for this in the morning, that stretched all the way back, past the Treasure Ketch shops, into the lobby area by Guest Services and the midship elevator.

A lady was having a meltdown at the entrance to the theater, because she didn't have her passports. We were told several times that Rome would require us to have our passports, not just photo ID,when we left the ship. It is also printed right there on the excursion tickets, clear as day, "ORIGNIAL PASSPORT REQUIRED!". The lady was insisting that she was told that they only needed a photocopy of their passports. I don't know what finally happened, as I stepped past her and went in.

We got on a bus at the pier that took us to the train station. On the train, our group was split into two rail cars, but we had the "whisper" radio transmitters/earphones, so we could hear our guide Elena.

We met another guide after we got into Rome named Katia, and Elena and Katia worked together and stayed with us all day.

We went to the Coliseum first. We spent about 90 minutes there. The guide got our tickets and we were able to skip the long lines and go into the interior. There, she gave a detailed tour, pointing out details (where the emperors sat, some early Christian signs). It was quite through.


Here we are, just before my camera died:




From there, we walked past the Arch of Constantine to our bus, and we drove to Trevi Fountain. We had about 15 minutes there, to toss in our coins, use the public restroom (our guides pointed out the free ones), and grab a gelato.


Unforutnately, our the AC on our bus was not working, so at this point, it was taken in for repairs, and we walked the rest of the way through Rome.

We went to the Pantheon, and our guide again gave us a great description of the builiding and its history.


From there, we walked to a piazza (I forgot the name) and had about an hour for lunch. Our guide pointed us to a street with many restaurants and shops. She was very specific on where and when to meet again.

Afterwards, we walked to the Vatican. It was very helpful to have 2 guides when we crossed the streets; one would go in front with a flag and the other one would help stop traffic until our entire group made it across. At the Vatican, our guide purchased our tickets and we went through security. When you enter St. Peter's Basilica, shoulders and knees must be covered, for everyone - men, women, and children. Some of the women brought scarves or sweaters. We stopped at the amazing Pieta, and heard about how it was terribly defaced by a lunatic years ago, and now sits behind bulletproof glass.


We rubbed the right foot of the bronze statue of St. Peter, passed the grotto of the tomb of Pope John Paul II, and went through the sanctuary. We did not go to the Sistine Chapel as this was not on the tour.

Bronze statue of St. Peter


After this, we walked back to our train station and said goodbye to our Rome guide and got on the train, where we were given a bottle of water and a chocolate/hazelnut biscuit. At the port, we took a bus again for the short trip back to the ship.

Getting back to the ship, we were exhausted. The show that night was Paul Zerdin, a comedian/ventriloquist, which we decided to skip.

We made it to dinner at Animator's for their show dinner. We also had DH Eric's special birthday celebration that night with the main dining room wait staff. DS Mark head off to the Club 18*21, and we went to bed - and had to turn our clocks forward an hour, losing an hour of sleep. Our character breakfast was scheduled for tomorrow, but was changed to the next day, because of the time change.
__________________
Deb

"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:30 PM   #8
Deb in IA
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When do we leave for that nice long Hawaii vacation?
I'm a wimp, and I don't like food that hurts to eat
 
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Join Date: Aug 1999
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June 19, 2013

At Sea

Captain's Reception

Evening Attire: Formal
Dinner Menu: Prince and Princess
Drink of the Day: Mai Tai (alcoholic), Strawberry Smoothie (non alcoholic)
Show: Twice Charmed, An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story

We decide to sleep in a bit - well, the kids did. DH Eric and I are up by 8 and head off to the DVC Members Celebration at 9 am at Rockin' Bar D, to sign up for the prizes that we never win. Oh well, at least they had food and drinks!

DH Eric also discovered the Tasting Classes this cruise, which are offered on Sea Days. We go to Guest Services to sign up. He had stopped drinking, making a deal with our kids to not drink until they were of legal drinking age, but since drinking age is 16 - 18 in Europe, even our youngest is now legal, so Eric is back to enjoying his alcohol! I can't drink very much (I have the Asian alcohol dehydrogenase deficiency, also known as Asian flush), so he signs up for the Martini Tasting at 4 pm in Diversions and the Whiskey Tasting at Cove Cafe at 10:30 pm. The Old Wine Tasting was full . I think the tastings were $15 - 20.

Oh, we also found out that all non-European tourists had to hand over their Passports in accordance to Greek Immigration policies, and they were set up to do this in Studio Sea from 9:30 to 12:30. We were told that we would get these back after we left Mykonos, and to keep the receipt they gave you to get your passports back. We were also under the impression that they would be stamped by Greece, but when we got them back, we looked, but didn't see any stamps.

Next, we head to the Gold/Platinum Castaway Club reception at 11 - more food and drinks! The captain tells us a bit about the big Dry Dock coming up in August-September for the Magic, and all the changes that will be happening. There is is big cheer when he says that Parrot Cay is going away.
The Vista Spa will be remodeled and will be more like the Senses in the Dream and Fantasy - I just hope they don't get rid of the Exotic Rasul (more on that later). And, of course, the new "AquaDuck lite".

By now, it is almost noon, and we go back to rouse the kids so that poor Aldo can clean the room. DS Mark goes to the Club 18*21 lunch at 12:15 (they do this on all the sea days), DH Eric goest to another DVC presentation, determined to try to win a raffle prize, and DD Jennifer and I go to The Art of Entertaining class to try to learn how to make a lobster, crab leg and shrimp martini appetizer at Studio Sea. They demonstrate the dish and give you the recipe and samples, along with wine pairing! YUM, and no cost!

By now, it is almost 2 pm, and DH and I go to our Exotic Rasul at 2 pm. This is the only spa treatment he will do. He hates massages; just doesn't like having strangers rubbing him all over. But the Rasul is fun , and all the lotions and exfoliants make our skin feel great! DD is embarrassed and goes to the Towel Folding class in the Promenade Lounge, where Aldo is one of the instructors, and helps Jennifer with her elephant that doesn't look as good as his.

Eric goes to the Martini Tasting at 4 pm, where a group of already-inebriated people are so loud and obnoxious, dropping and breaking glasses, he couldn't hear what the host was explaining about each of the drinks.

We all get back and get ready for formal night and the Captain's Reception - more free drinks! The show is Twice Charmed, a twist on the Cinderella story. We take formal family pictures between the show and dinner - we got the picture CD to get all the photos, and use them for our Christmas family picture. Then dinner at Parrot Cay, and Mark goes to Club 18*21, and Eric to his Whiskey Tasting at 10:30. He reports this group is much better behaved! Eventually we all get back to the room and to sleep.

So, for a "relaxing" sea day, we were quite busy!
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Old 07-02-2013, 07:30 PM   #9
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June 20, 2013

At Sea

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Bella Itala
Drink of the Day: Cool Breeze (alcoholic), Mint Tea Fruit Punch (non alcoholic)
Show: The Vocals of Grant Norman

Slept in a bit again, but this morning, both kids have pedicures booked at Vista Spa. DD Jennifer had the Fire and Ice at 8 am, and DS Mark had the Sole Delight at 9. (The kids getting pedicures on the cruise is sort of a tradition for us).

Then immediately after that, we head to Parrot Cay for the character breakfast at 9:45.

DD Jennifer and DH Eric go to the 11 am movie "Chimpanzee" - they also have a tradition to see one of the Disney animal/nature movies on every cruise, while I go off to do some laundry, and Mark goes to the Club 18*21 lunch.

I went to the Art of Entertaining session at 1, and learn about sea bass wrapped in parchment paper with vegetables and salmoriglio sauce. The chef is Stephan, the chef de cuisine from Palo, and he is a riot! Once again, yummy samples with a bit of wine.

DH Eric went to the Beer Tasting at 4 pm at Diversions. I can't remember what the rest of us did - maybe took naps.

We all went to the show that night, which was Grant Norman, who is a Broadway actor/singer, who has been in Phantom of the Opera and has played both Beast and Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. Both DH and DS are singers, so they were interested in his show. He sang both Disney songs and others (Bring Him Home from Les Miz was one that I remember). Good voice, nice presentation, but I don't think we were exactly blown away by him.

Dinner was at Lumiere's tonight, and since we were at Palo's for our first night here, this is the first time we've been here for the cruise.

After dinner, Eric goes to the Cognac Tasting at Cove Cafe at 10:30 pm. Mark heads for Club 18*21, and all of them are going to the 12:01 PremEAR at Sea for Monsters University at the Walt Disney Theater. The rest of us pass on it (they show the movie several more times during the cruise), because we have to be at Rockin' Bar D at 7:25 am tomorrow for our Athen/Acropolis excursion!
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Old 07-02-2013, 07:31 PM   #10
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June 21, 2013

Piraeus

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Greek Menu
Drink of the Day: Planters Punch (alcoholic), Banana Lime Ginger (non alcoholic)
Show: Walt Disney: The Dream Goes On

Athens Sightseeing, Acropolis, and New Acropolis Museum - Adult Only Departure

Meeting time was 7:25 am (changed from original time of 7:15) at Rockin Bar D.

Greece at last!
The inaugural stop in Greece!
The port, new and modern, has a nice "Welcome Disney Magic" sign on it, and there are folks passing out olive branches to us as we get off the ship.
We are still a bit groggy, as this was one of the earliest excursion times we have.


We are led off the ship by Morgan, and we meet our guide, Irene, and get on our bus. Later, we find out that Morgan is one of the performers in the Walt Disney Theater. This is the first time we've been on an excursion with one of the CM's, and it was quite interesting. Both our kids were in the musicals in school and all of my family sings, so we were able to ask him a bit about his background and experiences. He plays "Peter Pan" in the closing show Disney Dreams - a big role! He also had 2 shows that night, and we didn't get back to the ship until 4:30!

As we drive into Athens, Irene fills us in on the cities of Piraeus and Athens, and how they have essentially grown into one big metropolis. We drive past some of the 2002 Olympics buildings, and Irene tells us those Olympics are sort of a sore spot for many Greeks. They had wanted to host the 1996 Olympics, as this was the 100th anniversary of the Modern Games, which were revived in 1896 in Athens, but they were beat out by Atlanta "and CokeCola". So, Athens got Olympics in 2004, which was the first Games after 9/11/2001. As a result, Greece had to spend 4x as much on security as they had originally planned, not as many visitors/countries participated as had been hoped, and many of the buildings were built for specific events that are not common in Greece and, as a result, have been mostly empty or unused since then. The guide seemed to indicate that the financial woes of the 2004 Olympics started Greece's current economic slump, and she bemoaned their 27% unemployment rate and the ineffectiveness of the policiticians to change anything.

We drive by the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, which are just a few pillars.


We also go by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Greece, and just happen to be there for the changing of the guard. The soldiers wear the traditional Greek uniforms.


We make a quick stop at the Olympic Stadium for a photo op - did not have time to go inside:


Next, we head to the Acropolis. This is a very congested, very confusing area. Irene points out our meeting place (the snack area) and the restrooms. Confusion follows. Irene goes off apparently to get our tickets, and some of us head to the restrooms, and others thought we were going to climb up first, and hit restrooms later. Irene gets back and we all start up the hill. When we get to the top, Irene sits and points out some of the architecture, which is intersting, but I would have liked more explanation of what buidlings were what. There are several buildings on the Acropolis, with the Parthenon being the biggest. It would have been nice if Irene took us around a bit and explained more of what we were seeing. Anyway, she gives us about 40 minutes on our own up there, which is really only enough time to walk around the Parthenon. Also, the Parthnon is under a lot of reconstruction, so there is scaffolding everywhere. You can't walk into it, and it doesn't look like the pictures.


Us, at the Acropolis:




Forgot to add: The snacks here are ridiculously expensive. We got a frozen lemonade, an iced coffee, a coke and a short can of Pringles - cost 16 euros - that's $22.40!!

After this, we all meet and walk down to the New Acropolis Musuem. Note: All backpacks have to be checked before entering. You take your bag to the coatcheck and they check it for free. Also, NO PHOTOGRAPHY in the museum - they are pretty strict about that. Irene gets tickets and gives us a guided tour of some of the artifacts in the museum. It is pretty spectacular, but we only have about 30 minutes afterward to explore it on our own.



Next, we walk through some narrow streets and almost get run over a couple of times, on our way to a "taverna"; according to Wikipedia: A taverna is a small restaurant serving Greek cuisine, not to be confused with "tavern". We sit on the rooftop terrace, and are served bread, wine, appetizers (including meat in grape leaves), a delicious chicken and vegetable kabob, and an assortment of pastries and bakalava for dessert. It was yummy!

Here's where we ate lunch:

We then walk over to a shopping area, and have about 30 minutes for shopping. The kids get t-shirts, DD gets a tote bag, and she and I get some silver bracelets with the Greek key trim design.


Then we head back to the ship. We get cleaned up and go to the show, where we see Morgan in the "Walt Disney: The Dream Goes On" show. Funny to see him onstage after spending the day with him. We had not seen this show before; apparently, it is only done on the longer cruises. Anyway, it is a nice show about Walt and his legacy, up to today.

Dinner is back at Animator's. They are trying a new Greek menu tonight. Again, I didn't take pictures but remember everything being good.

Then to bed after a long day.
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Old 07-02-2013, 07:32 PM   #11
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June 22, 2013

Kusadasi

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Mediterranean
Drink of the Day: Sirtaki (alcoholic), Strawberry Smoothie (non alcoholic)
Show: Mysteries of Anatolia

Best of Ephesus - Adult Only Departure

Meeting time was 8:15 am at Rockin Bar D.

Turkey!
For this inaugural stop in Kudasadi, we were met by greeters at the port, who gave us a Turkish evil eye pendant. This is to ward off bad spirits.


We met our tour guide, Mustafa and got on our bus. On our seats is a tourist packet, with maps, another small evil eye pendant on a safety pin, and a small clay jar with the image of the Virgin Mary on the side. (insert picture). Mustafa says that we can use this to fill with holy water at the House of the Virgin Mary for free. Mustafa was a former history teacher, so he was very knowledgable about the country. He gave a narration as we drove through the countryside, as it takes about 45 minutes to get from the port to our first stop, the House of the Virgin Mary. Mustafa talked about the history of Turkey, from ancient times to the Ottoman Empire to modern reforms established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established a secular democracy. He spoke of the fact that Turkey is in Asia Minor,and is not part of Europe, and thus, is not in the EU and does not use euros (although they are accepted here). He also talked about how although Turkey is about 98% Muslim, they are not typically Islamist. Girls and boys are educated in a co-educational setting, women have had the right to vote since 1933, and there has been a female prime minister.

Along the way, we saw some roadside souvenir stands that were selling "Genuine Fake Watches" - which we thought was hilarious:


On our way to the House of the Virgin Mary, just outside of Ephasus, Mustafa spoke about the fact that Mary is revered in Muslim tradition as well, and that she is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the Bible. Legend or tradition has it that the apostle John brought Mary to Ephasus for the later part of her life, and had a house built for her in a remote, quiet mountaintop that was fed by a fresh water spring. There are conflicting stories about whether she died here or in Jerusalem. This house was described by a nun in Germany in the early 1800's, and later, in 1881, a house matching that description was found and was assumed to be Mary's house, and it has been visited by several Popes. We get to the area, which is pretty crowded with lots of tour groups. As we walked up the path to the house, we passed what appeared to be a Mass in English being held. We are given about an hour to go up to the House, fill our bottles with water from the stream, and to go to the free bathroom and walk through the stores before meeting back at the bus. You can fill up the clay jar, or, for a donation, you can buy a plastic bottle to use. I did this, because I wanted some thing that would not leak (the clay jars have cork stoppers) and wouldn't break in our suitcases. Mustafa warns us that the pedders selling "old coins" usually just bury them in the ground last year to make them look old.


Inside of house:


After this, we get back on the bus and head to the main ruins of Ephasus. This was an amazing place! Even folks who are not too thrilled with seeing ruins should not miss this. This is also one of the best preserved sites. Mustafa started us up at the top and it took about 1 1/2 hours to work our way through this entire site. Some of the highlights included the agora, or meeting place, near the top:



The Temple of Hadrian:


The Temple of Artemis (Diana):


The main theater, which still has incredible acoustics:


and the incredible two-story Library of Celsus:


And right across the way from the library, was the brothel, which as connected to the library by an underground tunnel (Jennifer thought it was funny that she was sitting in the "brothel"):


Mustafa pointed out to us a sign with a left foot, indicating that you should turn left here to go to the brothel:


It was also here that we had the best quote from a tour guide. Mustafa got a bit upset with some other groups (again, it is very crowded here, lots of tours) for taking too long in one area. He muttered, "Never follow the Japanese. They never follow the rules!"

We ended near the Marble Road, where Cleopatra and Marc Anthony once rode:


and here, the tour company presented a brief show with actors protraying a procession, dancers, and a gladiator duel that they might have seen here:


By this time, it is almost 12:30, and we saw the last show of the day. It was a bit jarring to see our "ancient dancers" walking by us, talking on their cell phones.

At the outskits of Ephasus, we saw the graveyard, which was always located outside of the city:


We left here, and got back on our bus, for our next destination, the ruins of the basilica of St. John, where it is believe that St. John the Evangelist preached to the Ephesians. He was also reportedly buried there. Here also is a relief map of the area, and Mustafa points out to us that there are actually 5 sites that were Ephasus.
(insert photo here)



The baptistry:


The tomb:


After leaving here, we head to a waterpark (?) for lunch. I didn't catch the name of the park, but I think it was this, the Aqua Fantasy Water Park:


We were so hot and sticky, the water looked so good! But DS noticed that only a few of the water slides were actually running, and we saw few people actually going down the slides and water coasters, so I don't know how much of it was acutally working. Anyway, we are taken there for lunch, which is buffet style. Lots of salads, food, and desserts! Mustafa also tells us about the local liquor, raki, which he proclaims is better than its more well-known cousin, the Greek ouzo. It is often mixed with water, which makes it turn white, giving it the nickname "lion's milk":


So, of course DH has to try one at lunch.

After lunch, we go back to the port, but not before one last stop, at the Harem Silk and Wool carpet store. Mustafa tells us that they will give us a demonstration of how they make the carpets from silkworm cocoon to the final product, and they will also offer us a variety of drinks, from pop to tea to wine, to raki, and that it would be impolite to refuse a drink. We decided way before that we would politely listen to their talk, but no way were we going to buy a carpet. Naturally, we ended up with a carpet.
They do a great job with the demonstration, and provide a great show with unrolling at least 100 carpets of every shape and size. The workmanship is amazing, and the colors are incredible - it actually changes hue as you look at it from different angles. While many people left without buying, it is easy to get caught up in it. Also, we felt good that we were able to bargain our way down from the $2700 price on the sticker to $1250. Afterward, more raki for DH!

Here's our carpet:


We decided to have our carpet shipped for free, even though it is not very big. Given our problems with lost luggage on the way home, this was a good decision! We actually received it a couple of days ago, and here is the carpet:
(insert photo here)

At this point, we headed back to the ship.

The show that night was "Mysteries of Anatolia", which sounded interesting. We thought it would be folk songs/dancing of the area. It had some dances, but they were mostly people stomping around in costumes and lost our interest quickly. The narrator had some language issues, and even with reading from cue cards, it was more like amateur night at the improv than what we expected from Disney-level entertainment.

Dinner was at Parrot Cay, with their Mediterranean menu. Mark goes to the Club 18*21 for a while.

I believe we also went to the 10:30 pm showing of "Monsters University" at the Walt Disney Theater. In the Navigator, I thought the 10:30 pm show at the Walt Disney Theater was the 2D show, and the 10:45 pm show at the Buena Vista Theater was listed as the 3D show. We are not 3D fans; I don't always see the effects, and I think the 3D washes a lot of the color out of the movie. When we got to the Walt Disney Theater, we were a bit dismayed to find out it was also 3D. Oh well . . . the movie itself was OK. I don't think it was as good as the original - it was one of the rare Pixar movies that didn't make me cry. And frankly, I was so tired I had a hard time staying awake. While it was fun, I was really ready for bed afterwards!
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Old 07-02-2013, 07:33 PM   #12
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June 23, 2013

Mykonos

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Master Chef
Drink of the Day: BBC (alcoholic), Pineapple Surprise (non alcoholic)\
Show: The Magic and Illusion of Scott Pepper

Delos Island - Adult Only Departure

Meeting time was 10:15 am at Rockin Bar D.

Finally, a later exursion! We appreciated the chance to sleep in a bit!
Mykonos is a beautiful island - what people think of when they picture a Greek island. Beaches, white houses on the rocky hillsides. I've heard it was the inspiration for the setting of "Mamma Mia" - don't know if that is true or not, but I can believe it.







We head off the ship and walk a short distance to our ferry for the trip to Delos Island. We were not impressed with the ferry. We were told that there were no restrooms on the island, and to use the facilities on the boat. After we arrive, DH asks for the bathroom before getting off, and was refused. The ferry guys told us to use the facilities on the island, which, of course, we knew there were none. The guide tells us that there are restrooms at the museum, but that would be about 2 hours later. We are not happy, but we survived.

Our guide gives us a bit of lesson in ancient mythology. She tells us that Leto used this island for the birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis, children of Zeus. For many millenia, it was an important trade center, and has an abundance of ruins from those times. But as it has little agricultural capacity and limited water, it later became uninhabited. Today, only a few people live on the island, and they are involved in the ongoing archeological excavations.

After heading into the ruins, our radio devices do not work very well. I think it is because the rock walls are much higher here and block the radio transmissions, so we didn't get to hear much of what the guide was saying.



In general, we thought the ruins here were not in as good a shape as those in Ephasus or Athens, probably because there are nobody living here anymore. However, we did think the mosaics here are pretty impressive. Here is the one on the floor of the Temple of Dionysius:



A detail of that floor:


This is the theater - I begining to think every ancient city has a theater or two:


Us, at the theater:


And what remains of the statue of a huge statue of Apollo, which is almost unidentifiable. I think the first one is of Apollo's torso with his hair on his shoulders, and the second one has holes where it used to have a bronze belt.


Then finally, we get to the lions. Our guide tells us that these are actually reproductions; the actual lions are in the museum on Delos, with the exception of the one that was removed by the Venetians and shipped to Venice to guard their arsenal.



At this point, we head to the museum (and the bathrooms, which DH tells me later are open air!). No flash photography in here. While small, the museum has some pretty cool artifacts.

The actual lions:


Some displays:




By now, it is about 12:30, and we head back to the ferry. It was already pretty crowded, but we were able to find seats along the side of the boat, on a narrow bench. Everything was fine until someone decided to stand right in front of us and light up (we were about 3 feet behind him). I guess smokers don't think they are bothering anyone if they are outdoors, but when you are that close to someone, it is annoying.

We get back to Mykonos, and the ferry drops us off in the town. Our guide tells us to walk past the beach to the buses that will take us back to the port, but the directions are not very clear. It is about a 10 minute walk to the buses, and when we get to the first one that has a "Disney Cruise Line" sign on the front, the driver says "First come, first served", but it is obvious he doesn't want us on the bus. OK . . . He points us to other buses in front, and then we understand. What he really meant was "Go to the bus in the front of the line".

We get back to the ship and eat and nap, I think.

The show is the magician Scott Pepper, who I think we have seen before, because I remember his closing act of making it "snow".

Dinner is at Lumiere's. Menu is Master Chef, and I think we had the parade of nations that night also.

Shortly afterwards, we headed off to bed.
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Old 07-02-2013, 07:35 PM   #13
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June 24, 2013

At Sea

Pirates IN the Caribbean Party

Evening Attire: Pirate or Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Pirate's Menu
Drink of the Day: Sunken Treasure (alcoholic), Pirate's Surprise (non alcoholic)
Show: Disney's Once Upon a Song, a selection of Disney music from across the years, featuring the vocal talents of members of the Walt Disney Theatre Cast

OK, I can understand the fun of a Pirates IN the Caribbean day/party if you are in the Caribbean, but here, in a completely different sea, a continent away, it just feels weird and a bit "forced" to me. Oh well, all in good fun, I guess.

So, winding down by now, we sleep in a bit again, but I got up to try to get some laundry in the guest laundry before everyone hits it on a sea day.

Since we've left Greece, we are now supposed to go and retrieve our passports at Diversions from 9 am to noon. You have to bring your passport receipt that they gave you went you turned in the passports, so don't lose them! We were hoping that they would be stamped from Greece (we like collecting those), but alas, we didn't find anything, so I'm not sure why they collected them in the first place.

After that, Eric, Jennifer and I went to the Art of Entertaining: Dazzling Dessert at 10:30 am. The dessert was Chocolate Lava Cake - yum!! The chef that day told us how chocolate, can be really different in the US versus Europe versus Australia, where he is from, in regards to the cocoa content, and how they really have to take that into account when using it for baking. He also told us a little history of the Chocolate Lava Cake, and how it was created by accident, as are many cuilinary dishes! Anyway, the results were yummy!

Mark gets up in time to go to the Club 18*21 lunch.

There are still some tickets for the Tequila Tasting at 2:30 pm, and I managed to get Eric a ticket. Yeah, another tasting for him!

I think Jennifer and I went to the Fitness Center in the afternoon to try to work off some of the calories we consumed this past 10 days!

We go to the show that night, Once Upon a Song, which features 5 of the WD Theater performers, singing various Disney songs. It was a pleasant and enjoyable show, and the performers were certainly talented.

We are not big Pirates people, but Eric does wear one of those big faux leather pirate hats with the Jack Sparrow braids to dinner, and I tied the Pirate bandana around my head. We tired to get our picture with Jack outside of the WD Theater, but he was just leaving by the time we got there . . .

Dinner was back at Animator's, and the menu was the Pirate's Menu.

The Pirates Deck party started at 9:45, and with second seating for dinner (at 8;30), it is almost impossible for us to get there. Like I said earlier, we are not big deck party people anyway, so after we finished, we decided to watch the fireworks, and still avoid the crowd, by going to Deck 4, starboard, midship. We had a great view, and no crowds!

They always have the late buffet on Pirate Night at 10:30 in Topsiders, but since we just finished dinner about 30 minutes before, we decided to skip that as well, and headed to bed. Boring people, aren't we?

Oh, but good news - we get to turn our clocks BACK an hour tonight, for another hour of sleep!!! We get that hour back that we lost on June 18 - 19.
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Old 07-02-2013, 07:35 PM   #14
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June 25, 2013

Malta

Evening Attire: Semi-Formal
Dinner Menu: Captain's Gala
Drink of the Day: Paradise Punch (alcoholic), Pina Smoothie (non alcoholic)
Show: Alfred & Seymour

Blue Grotto Boat Trip and Fishing Village - Adult Only Departure

Meeting time was 8:15 am at Promenade Lounge.

Very quick gathering and departure today. We were led off the boat by Ashley, who we later found out was another one of the Disney Theater performers! In fact, whe was one of the singers from last night's Once Upon a Song show! Very nice girl, very talented and friendly. Ashley led us through the stateroom area of Deck 1, so we were quite a sight!

We met our guide and boarded our bus. We noted that Malta has British driving rules (steering wheel is on the right, and they drive on the left side of the road). Our guide tells us a bit of the history of Malta, and we discover that this small island nation has been invaded and ruled over the years by many people - the Romans, the Arabs (in fact, our guide says that he can understand some Lebanese, because it is similar to his native language), the Knights of St. John, the French during Napoleon Bonaparte, and finally, the British (thus, the driving). Malta finally became an independent state in 1962. We drive about 30 minutes through the city, and stop first at a fishing village. It is early in the morning and the boats are still in the harbor. They are very colorful, and have that same evil eye motif:



DH, who, by now has a taste for the local liqueurs, has heard about the local Bajtra, which is made from the prickly pear cactus:


We see some in the roadside market in the fishing village, so he buys some for later.

We get back on the bus and drive to a scenic overlook to view the Blue Grotto. It is breathtakingly beautiful:



We get back on the bus and drive down to the dock.
(Side note: While we are waiting to get into the boats, one of the other guests starts to talk to Ashley, and goes on and on about how Scott Pepper, the magician, should not be allowed to do the "sawing a woman in half" trick, because it is too dangerous!?!!?? For heaven's sake, that is a classic magic trick! And I don't think she was actually sawed in half. . . Really, what does she expect Ashley to do about it? Anyway, Ashley is very gracious (I have so much respect for what those CM's have to put up with!), and tells the lady that she will certainly pass on her concerns .)

We have to divide into groups of 7 - 8 to get into the small skiffs that take you out into the Grotto. The Grotto has a series of caves, and the boat goes by each of them. The boat captain also points out interesting rock formations, such as an elephant foot.
(insert picture here)
Be warned, though that the water can be very choppy. Life jackets are mandatory. And hang on to your hats!




It takes a while for our whole group to finish, since we are in several boats. We leave the Grotto, and then go to the KingFisher Restaurant where we are given a snack to sample Maltese food. Let's just say that we were not impressed. Mark had a friend to warned us NOT to try the dark, cola-type drink ("It's not good!"), so we went for the 7-Up. The snacks were some type of mashed broad beans (think: lima bean paste), a puffy bread with a thin meat-type filling, and a salad/slaw thing. The sign in the front says that it is "under new management", and while they were certainly very friendly, it is a TINY place and was pretty overwhelmed by the bus-loads of Disney cruise people.




After our snack, we get back on the bus and go back through town and to the port. We walk around and down through the terminal, past some duty-free shops and there is the ship.

While walking back, I noticed the hidden Mickey in the design that I never saw before. Don't know how I could have missed it all these times :


We get back to the stateroom and decide that the "snack" just didn't do the trick for us. We head up to Pluto's Dog House for burgers, chicken strips, hot dogs and fries, and soft serve ice cream (I LOVE that machine!). We sack out for a while, then I go to the fitness center and the kids hang out in the room.

The view, looking forward, from our verandah. Sometimes we see Captain Robert on that little balcony from the bridge:


Leaving Malta, from our room:


Tonight's show is "Alfred and Seymour", and Peter the Cruise Director warned us not to be late. We soon found out why. They are merciless in pointing out, and making (lighthearted) fun of people they saw still coming down the aisles. Boy, were we glad we were seated! We have not seen them before, but thanks to these boards, I had heard of them and knew that a lot of people liked them. They were pretty hilarious! They actually made some racially-questionable remarks about themselves and talked about things like farts. While this may be a bit inappropriate for the under 10 crowd, since our kids are 22 and 18, they were almost in tears from laughter!

We get some more family pictures, since this is Semi-Formal night. Then off to dinner at Parrot Cay. Tonight is also Captain's Gala, so that means Lobster Night! Yum!!

I think we headed off to bed shortly after dinner. Mark, again went to the Club 18*21. He stayed out progressively later and later with them, as they got to know each other better, and they seemed to be a good group that really clicked with each other.
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"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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Old 07-02-2013, 07:36 PM   #15
Deb in IA
Knows that KIDS are better than cats
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Location: Iowa City, IA (that's IOWA, not Idaho or Ohio)
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June 26, 2013

At Sea

Evening Attire: Cruise Casual
Dinner Menu: Til We Meet Again
Drink of the Day: Blue Margarita (alcoholic), Banana Lime Ginger (non alcoholic)
Show: Disney Dreams

Palo Brunch

Wow, can it be our last day ALREADY?? When we booked this cruise, we thought that a 12-night would almost be too long, but it seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye! And again, that feeling of "I can't believe it is almost over!"

I got up early - couldn't sleep - and threw some clothes into the guest laundry, hoping to beat the big rush later today. I hate packing dirty clothes!

I start getting the kids up around 9:30 for our Palo Brunch. We get there at 11. This is DS Mark's first brunch, so we get the grand tour again - which is good, because even though we've done it so much, its nice to have a refresher! Of course, it is wonderful, with SO MUCH yummy stuff! For the entrees, DD Jennifer gets the Eggs Juliet (eggs benedict, but with smoked salmon instead of ham), and DS Mark gets the Eggs Benedict. I love the Oysters Rockfeller, and DH and I share one of their famous Chicken Parmesean. And, of course, tons of dessert!

DS Mark, despite having just eaten, heads off to the Club 18*21 lunch at Parrot Cay at 12:15, more for the company than the food, I think, while Eric, Jennifer and I linger over brunch.

Eric doesn't do any of the tastings today; they have Chocolate Tasting at 12:30, Martini Tasting (which he did already) at 2:30, and Mixology, which he wasn't that interested in, at 4:00.

Also, the Art of Entertaining was Battle of the Chefs. This is sort of like the Master Chef competition on TV, where two of the ships chefs de cuisine have to prepare a dish with a "secret ingredient". Last cruise it was Mickey Sprinkles. But we couldn't make it because this was at 10:45, and our Palo reservation was at 11 . The chef de cuisine at Palo, Stephan, who had previously done the Sea Bass in Parchment Paper demonstration, came to our table to see how we liked the food. I asked him why he wasn't one of the contestants, and he said he was there to "sabotage" the other two! Oh, and the secret ingredient this time? A TEA BAG!!

I think we finished the laundry in the afternoon and started packing. The sea started to get really choppy - we were getting 10 - 15 foot waves by late afternoon, and this was definitely the strongest waves we've had all cruise. As I was trying to focus on folding clothes, even I got queasy - and I usually don't have any problems with motion sickness. DD Jennifer, however, was really having a rough time. Not to be too graphic, but she ended up losing most of her brunch, and she said that caviar was definitely better going down than coming back up.

The show is, of course, their signature show, Disney Dreams, with Anne Marie having one night to discover her dreams, aided by Peter Pan. Since we knew Morgan (from our Athens day) was playing Peter, we wanted to see it, but there was no way Jennifer, who was clutching a trash can, lying on the sofa, was going to make it, so the three of us went.

After the show, we go back to the room to finish packing - suitcases have to be out between 8 and 10:15 pm. We get our luggage tags from Aldo - we are green Tinkerbell, and set out 4 bags.

It was also just the 3 of us at dinner, at Lumiere's. Deneval noticed that Jennifer was not there, and we tell him she is really sea sick (the boat is still rocking pretty badly). He says that ginger ale, green apple and crackers are good for this. He brings back a plate with this for us to take back to her - what a nice guy!

Alfred and Seymour were supposed to do their "adult show" that night in Rockin Bar D, but like they said last night, "there's like about 8 chairs there". So, Peter the Cruise Director announced that they were able to move them to the Walt Disney Theater, and the show started at 10:45 pm. It was PACKED!! And most everyone was there on time! Again, they are very funny. Jennifer is feeling a bit better now, and the waves have died down a bit. She really wants to see them again, so we all go to the show. Mark is in the front row with his Club 18*21 friends. I thought they were going to be pointed out by Alfred and Seymour, but they escaped!

By the time we get to our room, it is about midnight. We head to bed for our last "sleep" on the Magic for this cruise.
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"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
- Herbert Hoover, 31st President, native of West Branch, Iowa

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