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Old 06-09-2014, 02:41 PM   #1
Flossbolna
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If You See It: Eat It! – Via Panama to Disneyland - update 6/21

If You See It: Eat It! – Via Panama to Disneyland

If you see it: eat it! According to our Cruise Director Jimmy that was the motto of our Panama Canal Cruise. So I thought it would make an appropriate title for this trip report. You will have to wait to find out whether we managed to follow Jimmy's instructions.

This trip report is going to cover nearly four weeks in April/May 2014, starting with a few days in Fort Lauderdale, the Disney Cruise Line Panama Canal Cruise on the Disney Wonder from May 2 to 17, 2014 and then one week at the Villas at the Grand Californian at the Disneyland Resort.


Table of Contents:

Introductions (next post)

Day 1: April 28
A long flight to start a long vacation

Day 2-4: April 29 to May 1
A Lazy Start to the Vacation

Day 5: May 2
The Wonders Begin
Settling in!

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Disneyland 1992, 2005 Disneyland Paris 1995, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2x2012, 2014 Walt Disney World 2004 POR, 2007 AKL, 2008 AKL, 2009 Poly, 2010 AKL, 2011 BWV, May 2013 AKV Jambo Disney Cruise Line 2013 Wonder, 2014 Wonder
Trip Reports: 2013 TR DCL and WDW 2011 TR 2010 TR 2010 PTR Dining Reviews: 2009 2008 2007
New Trip Report: If You See It: Eat It! – Via Panama to Disneyland


Last edited by Flossbolna; 06-21-2014 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:46 PM   #2
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Introductions:

Introductions:

First, let’s start this trip report with about the who, why, how and what.

Who:

Magdalene (that’s me) and my boyfriend Michael. I live in Germany and Michael lives in Florida. Yes, it’s not the best, but that’s the way life is and we are just making the best out of the times we can spend together. Like this cruise.

What:

April 28 to May 2: W Hotel Fort Lauderdale

May 2 to May 17: Disney Wonder Panama Canal Cruise from Miami to San Diego with stops in Key West, Cozumel (Mexico), Cartagena (Colombia), Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) and Cabo san Lucas (Mexico) as well as plenty of sea days and one day sailing through the Panama Canal

May 17 to May 24: Villas at the Grand Californian in Disneyland

Why:

Because I really really needed a proper vacation!! In July 2012 I took over a new job at work, which involved a big and very stressful project. That meant that the vacation that I had planned for fall 2012 had to be cancelled. The biggest part of the project was finally finished at the end of February this year, even though I am still currently working on some stuff to tidy everything up. While I was able to take time off last year for a nice vacation, it really did not help long. So I knew I needed something really relaxing after the project was finished.

How:

A word of warning – this is going to be long and lots of words and unless you are interested in how we tried to book this cruise for as little money as possible, it might not be of a lot of interest for you. So, feel free to skip this!

On our cruise last year (see trip report From the Sea to the World) we booked a dummy booking because after my first short cruise, I was just in love with that kind of vacation. Looking at the brochure we saw the Panama Canal cruise and just thought it sounded amazing. We did not think the price was amazing though. So we decided to take our chances and hope for a good rate to come up and then use our dummy booking for something else. We actually ended up moving it to the Westbound Transatlantic cruise in September 2014 thinking that if we won’t get on a cruise in May, that would be nice, too. However, in order to keep our options open, I was sitting at my computer at lunch time on October 17 as that was when the booking for the VGC would open up for us DVC owners who don’t own there. I was excited when I was able to book a studio for 7 nights starting May 17! So with this booked, we kind of started to think that either we are going to cruise to Disneyland, or we will have a pure California vacation with one week at Disneyland. We would have loved that option, too.

For the Panama Canal cruise, the date until which you can cancel without penalty was 120 days before sail date. This is important as after that date Disney often offers special rates that are discounted. They are so called "restricted rates", also known as IGT, OGT and VGT - or grouped together as *GT. The GT part stands for guaranteed, I for inside, O for ocean view and V for veranda. So with these rates, you are not assigned a specific stateroom, but are only guaranteed to get a stateroom within the class that you booked (so an inside if you booked IGT), but you can also be upgraded to a higher class. The stateroom number is usually assigned within 10 days of your sail date. This allows Disney to fill up the ship, but offer other people more different stateroom categories.

I was watching the website constantly to see if any deals would come out. And the they finally posted an OGT rate – which was much higher than last years *GT rates! No IGT, nor VGT. We did not like the price at all… And were rather disappointed. However, I noticed something else: The lowest price for an inside stateroom had gone down and I realised that they had opened up the 11C category again. That had been sold out for a long time already and I also noticed that they would not let you choose a stateroom, your stateroom would be assigned by Disney in the category you booked or higher (called GTY, not to be confused with the *GT rates…; GTY stands for guaranteed). So, our thinking was that if you book 11C GTY, which is the lowest category offered on the ship and it only has a few staterooms, chances for a better stateroom are quite high! And if we moved our rebooked cruise to that, we would get the 10% rebooking discount as well as 200$ stateroom credit. With that the price started to look quite good. So that’s what we did. In our case it actually worked more or less the same as an IGT rate. We were guaranteed a stateroom on the ship that could be any category. Of course, if had booked a higher category of inside cabin, for example a 10B which is slightly larger and has a split bathroom, then we would not get anything below 10B. There are two differences in our case though: If you have an IGT rate, you can no longer change to a Florida resident discount (and those are often even better than those *GT rates) and a GTY room is usually assigned further out. I think we got our stateroom number about 50 days before the cruise.

Of course, 5 days later, Disney came out with an IGT rate that was slightly lower. Fortunately not by much! And the one thing that was good about our rate: If a Florida resident rate had come out for our cruise, we would have been able to switch over to that, would not have been possible with the IGT rate. Unfortunately, a Florida resident rate never came out!! But besides the 200$ stateroom credit from the onboard booking, we also got a very nice stateroom credit from our wonderful travel agent, so that helped as well!

So – that’s the long story of how we booked the cruise!!

Anything Else?

Yes, I should introduce my lovely sister Katharina (nodnol here on the DIS). She used to be my Disney travel partner. She was along for my first visit to Disneyland in 1992 as well as most trips to Disneyland Paris. We travelled together to WDW in 2010 and 2011 (trip reports links in my signature). She was the one who told me to write a trip report about my first cruise last year. And it seems that now it has become kind of tradition… You might also find references to the cruise Katharina and I have planned for next year: 7 nights on the Disney Magic from Copenhagen to the Norwegian Fjords!

Also, I will try to point out all kind of little things how a longer cruise like the Panama Canal cruise might differ from a standard 3, 4, 5 or 7 night Disney cruise. I hope this will help anyone considering a longer cruise. There a differences in how certain aspects of the cruise are organised by DCL, but there are also differences in how I experienced the cruise.

Oh, and finally I should mention that Michael is not fond of his picture being posted publically, so you will only see me appearing in pictures. However, in order to keep the tradition of last year’s trip report, here is an “introductory“ picture of both of us:


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Disneyland 1992, 2005 Disneyland Paris 1995, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2x2012, 2014 Walt Disney World 2004 POR, 2007 AKL, 2008 AKL, 2009 Poly, 2010 AKL, 2011 BWV, May 2013 AKV Jambo Disney Cruise Line 2013 Wonder, 2014 Wonder
Trip Reports: 2013 TR DCL and WDW 2011 TR 2010 TR 2010 PTR Dining Reviews: 2009 2008 2007
New Trip Report: If You See It: Eat It! – Via Panama to Disneyland


Last edited by Flossbolna; 06-10-2014 at 02:55 PM.
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:51 PM   #3
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Checking in. I am looking forward to your trip report.

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Old 06-09-2014, 02:53 PM   #4
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Can't wait!
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:56 PM   #5
Flossbolna
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A long flight to start a long vacation

Day 1: Monday, April 28

Today is the start of the vacation! Actually, I had been off from work for two days (the weekend) already. But it was so much cheaper to fly to the US on a Monday instead of on Saturday or Sunday. And it was really nice to have two full days to prepare for the trip! I was all packed sometime Sunday evening. I had one big suitcase and then one smaller one that was exactly the measurements allowed by Air France for the carry on bag. Yes, I researched that ended up buying a new bag. But it really was just a great excuse to buy a new bag! Air France has really strange measurements, but they are very generous in weight for the carry on. I also had a small handbag with all my documents. I was so happy with my packing results, so I had to take a picture:



My flight was with Air France and was routed through Paris. My first leg departed from Nuremberg at 10:25am and got me into Paris at 11:50am. The next flight left Paris at 1:55pm and got me into Miami at 5:25pm.

The flight to Paris was uneventful. We got a drink and a snack. And I started to read one of the many books that I had put on my kindle especially for this vacation.



Of course, stupid me starts with the really long, long, long book: Games of Thrones (the first volume). And hence I did not get to read any of the other books I brought for the trip… At least I did not add any volume and weight to my luggage thanks to the kindle. The good thing about this though was that I immediately really liked this book and therefore had great entertainment for the long flight!

In Paris we arrived at the 2G terminal which is kind of a shed that they added because they needed the space. While it is very basic, it actually is very good for transferring. I had to get to terminal 2F and there was a direct bus taking me there after I had passed through passport control for exiting the Schengen area (which comprises a number of European countries that share border controls). Thankfully Paris has upgraded their processes for security and now you don’t have to pass through security again if you are connecting from another European country. So I was quickly at the gate for my next flight.

The terminal was rather nice and modern, they had interesting touch screens featuring information on Charles De Gaulle after whom the airport is named:



And they had a shop with French Souvenirs – which had one whole shelf dedicated to Minnie Mouse:





And there were all kind of fancy things displayed about our flight at the gate:



The flight was ok. I had been excited that I had gotten a seat in one of the last few rows of the 777. Air France has 3-4-3 seating in their 777 which makes for very narrow seats! But the last few rows are only 2-4-2. I love window seats, but I don’t like having two people between me and the aisle. So I thought that I had gotten a great seat. But somehow I felt that the pitch was even less for me than in the other rows…

I had an kind of interesting seat neighbour. He was French and only spoke very little English. But before out plane took off, he was very busy with his mobile phone and kept talking excitedly to the people behind us who were travelling with him. He then turned to me and asked me whether I spoke French. After me answering that I spoke very little, he proceeded to tell me half in English, half in French that he owned a horse that was just in its first race ever and got third place. He was very excited about it. I was quite fascinated as I had never know anyone who owns racing horses. I guess I thought that people who own racing horses would have enough money to not have to fly economy across the pond though…

Also, the plane was rather old. But the crew was very nice and friendly and the food was ok as well (even though I think it was better last year). Here is a picture of my food tray:



At some point during the flight we got some ice cream which was a nice treat. I started to watch a film about the life of Yves Saint Laurent. It started out rather interesting, but then got very boring and I stopped watching it after about ¾ of it. I also slept a little while and otherwise really enjoyed reading Games of Thrones.

There was not a lot to see outside, mainly water. I saw one airplane though and with the zoom in my camera got a nice picture:



Before landing in Miami, we also got some kind of snack which was a warm sandwich. That was disgusting! And I also had brought two apples which I needed to eat before entering the US, so I chose those instead of the airline food.

As we were getting closer, I spotted a ship in the waters and it turned out to be cruise ship:



Flying into Miami, I had a nice view of Miami Beach from the air:



as well as of the port, you can make out the cruise ships in this picture:



Immigration at Miami was painful. Partly because I had nearly the whole plane in front of me in line thanks to sitting all the way in the back. But also because at 6pm it seemed like the day shift ended and a number of windows that had been working until then got closed, so that slowed the line down considerably. It took me a little over an hour of standing in line to enter the US. The immigration officer was very nice however. I often hear people complaining about how unfriendly they are, but I really have not had one single unfriendly one ever. Most of them are really nice and chat with you while the computer is doing the checking of the data. This one begged me to take him on the ship with me. Even when I said that my boyfriend would not appreciate that, he insisted that he would be of great use and go and fetch us breakfast in the mornings. It was really quite funny!

Of course, thanks to the long wait, my luggage was no longer on the belt. It seems like this is standard in Miami as they do have a process in place of lining up the bags next to the belt. It seemed that there was still plenty of luggage to be collected from our flight…

After the brief stop to hand in my customs declaration, I made it into the arrival hall to meet Michael! It was wonderful to see him again!!

Our first stop was to go and get some dinner first. We knew that there was nothing really convenient in walking distance of the hotel and we thought it would make sense to get dinner out of the way first

Michael and I had already decided where we wanted to go before I arrived. Michael regularly has lunch at Moe’s: This is a restaurant that sells burritos. They have a special on Mondays for their burritos. Since Mondays at Moe’s are kind of a tradition for Michael, and I have heard so much about them, I really wanted to go to Moe’s. And my arrival day was on Monday. So Moe’s it was.



Michael warned me that those burritos were very large, so we decided to share one. We got them filled with all kind of stuff that you could pick and choose. And then they split it for us and served it on two different trays with chips.



For the drinks they had Coke freestyle machines there. With those you can add all kind of flavours to your basic soda. I tried a strawberry Sprite. And found out that I don’t like it. Neither do I like Cherry Coke Zero. All in all it was a really good meal. I really enjoyed it a lot. It also was very different from the fast food and usually get here in Germany. It even is one place close to my work which had burritos and tacos. But the burritos at Moe’s were easily double in size if not more. After dinner we headed to the hotel we had booked. If I was close to a beach, I wanted to be able to stay at the beach. We had found a very good deal (like 70% off) through a German package tour travel agent for the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. It is right at the beach and a very pretty hotel. Somehow check in took very long. I always wonder what they are doing that it takes so long… And then there was some confusion about the room category we had booked. They wanted to give us a “wonderful room” which is their standard, but we had actually booked a “spectacular room”, however their system did not show that. But my confirmation did, so they had to reassign our room. With all that done, we settled into the room (more about the room in the next update) and went for a brief walk through the hotel and across the street to the beach. I have to say, the beach at night looks rather scary. It was really dark, but that what also because of the turtle lighting being in effect. It was turtle nesting season and therefore they had less lights along the beach in order to not confuse the turtles.

And with that the day of travel and the time change started to really catch up with me and it was time for bed.
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Disneyland 1992, 2005 Disneyland Paris 1995, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2x2012, 2014 Walt Disney World 2004 POR, 2007 AKL, 2008 AKL, 2009 Poly, 2010 AKL, 2011 BWV, May 2013 AKV Jambo Disney Cruise Line 2013 Wonder, 2014 Wonder
Trip Reports: 2013 TR DCL and WDW 2011 TR 2010 TR 2010 PTR Dining Reviews: 2009 2008 2007
New Trip Report: If You See It: Eat It! – Via Panama to Disneyland


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Old 06-09-2014, 03:22 PM   #6
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Count me in!
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Old 06-09-2014, 03:23 PM   #7
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First page! Thanks for the signal flare. I will be back to read and catch up!
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Old 06-09-2014, 03:52 PM   #9
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I'm in and I can't wait for more!!! Love the pictures! The more the better! I'm excited to read all about your trip!
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Old 06-09-2014, 04:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flossbolna View Post
If You See It: Eat It! – Via Panama to Disneyland

This trip report is going to cover nearly four weeks in April/May 2014, starting with a few days in Fort Lauderdale, the Disney Cruise Line Panama Canal Cruise on the Disney Wonder from May 2 to 17, 2014 and then one week at the Villas at the Grand Californian at the Disneyland Resort.

Yay! So excited to see another Panama Canal trip report! We are booked on next year's WBPC, and there just aren't enough reports out there. Looking forward to following along!
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Old 06-09-2014, 04:10 PM   #11
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Joining in. I've never vacationed for a whole month before. Can't wait to hear all about it.
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Old 06-09-2014, 04:31 PM   #12
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I'm here....going back to read!

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Old 06-09-2014, 04:46 PM   #13
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I am so in!
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You light 'em, they fight 'em. A DVC/Disneyland Resort PTR
http://disboards.com/showthread.php?...1#post51407145
You bet your aft we had a good time: a Disney Wonder trip report
http://disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3260751




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Old 06-09-2014, 06:12 PM   #14
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Sunning and thanks for the heads up!!!
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April/May 07 Pop Feb 08 Pop May09 POP Sept 09 POP Feb 10 Pop Oct 10 Pop Aug 11 Pop Oct 11Pop Oct 12 Pop Oct 13 &Dec 13
http://www.disboards.com/showthread....8#post49995478 Where's my Suitcase ???
A PTR: [
[/B][/URL]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3051652Where will Rosie Roam in 2013
[
[http://www.disboards.com/showthread....2#post50321302 Rosie Roamings in 2014
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3212398 Belly Dancing and Bus Mojo The Grannie Trip

http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3278536 Let's Meet in the Dump Shop
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Old 06-09-2014, 06:22 PM   #15
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Okay went back and am all caught up!!!
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April/May 07 Pop Feb 08 Pop May09 POP Sept 09 POP Feb 10 Pop Oct 10 Pop Aug 11 Pop Oct 11Pop Oct 12 Pop Oct 13 &Dec 13
http://www.disboards.com/showthread....8#post49995478 Where's my Suitcase ???
A PTR: [
[/B][/URL]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3051652Where will Rosie Roam in 2013
[
[http://www.disboards.com/showthread....2#post50321302 Rosie Roamings in 2014
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3212398 Belly Dancing and Bus Mojo The Grannie Trip

http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3278536 Let's Meet in the Dump Shop
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