East Meets West - A Wonderful Journey

Discussion in 'UK Trip Reports Board' started by dolphingirl47, Jan 26, 2011.

  1. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

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    Prologue

    This was the cruise that was never supposed to happen; and therefore it did.

    Just over two years ago, I heard the first rumours that once the first of the two new Disney ships would come into service, one of the older to ships would go to the West Coast of the USA. At the time, I was pretty sure that this would be the Magic as she had spend the summers of 2005 and 2008 doing Mexican Riviera cruises out of Los Angeles. We decided that if this rumour would come true, we would be on that cruise.

    A few months later, the Port of Los Angeles released a press statement that the Disney Wonder would be home ported in Los Angeles. If anything, this made us even more determined to be on that cruise. My favourite ship is the Magic, but Graham has a slight preference for the Wonder. After doing 4 out of our 5 cruises on the Magic, it appeared only fair that Graham should finally get another cruise on the Wonder.

    It was not until mid September 2009 that Disney Cruise Line finally unveiled the itineraries for 2011 and officially admitted that the Wonder would go to California. At that time, our enthusiasm got slightly dampened. It looked like the cruise would set sail in January. January is not a good time anyway as it is too close to Christmas and still part of the peak season for me at work. It also meant that there would be a very short interval between our Transatlantic Cruise and Panama Canal Cruise. Still, we kept an open mind.

    About two weeks later, bookings opened. We had one look at the prices, laughed and gave up on the idea. Considering what we had paid for previous cruises, the prices seemed astronomical. We promised ourselves that we would look at it again when they would be doing the next Panama Canal Cruise and hopefully that would be at a more convenient time.

    At that time everybody expected that the Wonder would come back East to go to dry dock. Since 2009, the ships have gone to dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas and as the Wonder is registered in the Bahamas, it would have made sense to bring her back to the Bahamas for dry dock. That would have meant a couple of Panama Canal Cruises every two to three years.

    Last summer it became clear that they had no intentions to bring the Wonder back East for dry dock, but that she was going to dry dock in Vancouver instead. We were suddenly hit by the reality that if we wanted to do a Panama Canal Cruise with Disney, that this would probably be our last chance for at least a decade.

    We were still sitting on the fence about this one in the run up to the Transatlantic Cruise, but we had decided to speak to cruise sales person on the ship. I decided to play it safe and get the leave for January confirmed just in case. I figured that I could always cancel it again if we decided against the cruise. However, I knew that I would be in deep trouble if we decided to book it and then I could not get the leave sorted out as the cancelation period had already started about a week before we went on the Transatlantic Cruise.

    Needless to say, we could not resist the temptation. About half way through the Transatlantic Cruise, this cruise was booked. It was kind of a risky proposition as our already high expectations had become even higher after that fantastic cruise. You will be the judge if it was worth it.

    So let the adventure begin!
     
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  3. disney_princess_85

    disney_princess_85 DIS Veteran

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    Looking forward to more! :thumbsup2
     
  4. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

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    Day 1

    It has become a kind of tradition that we spend the last night before a holiday at the Crowne Plaza at Manchester Airport. We only live in central Manchester, but the trains can be a bit hit and miss in the early morning hours and by the time we have paid for a taxi, we might as well spend the night in a hotel, especially as I can often get good travel industry discounts.

    We had decided to treat ourselves to a Club Room. We both had to work that day, but I was on an early shift and the hotel is on the route that we take to and from work so my colleague, who I car share with, dropped me off at the hotel.

    I checked in and went up to our room where I took the first photos of the trip.

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    Once I had taken enough photos, I headed down to the Club Lounge. They have a computer with high speed Internet access there as well as a fancy coffee machine and fridges with all kinds of soft drinks that are there for the taking. At the time, I was the only guest in there so I grabbed myself a bottle of J2O and settled down in front of the computer to tie up a few loose ends.

    I got chatting with the host after a while. I was still the only guest in there and we were glad for each other's company.

    Once other people started to arrive at the club lounge, I vacated the computer and settled down to read. They are serving alcoholic drinks and canapées between 18:00 and 20:00. I had a few very yummy canapées, but turned down a drink and stuck to Ginger Ale instead. I promised our host that we would have a pre-dinner drink once Graham had arrived.

    I decided to take a few photos of the foyer and the Christmas tree and then went back to the Club Lounge to carry on reading.

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    A short time later, Graham arrived. We took his luggage upstairs to the room and then went back to the Club Lounge for out pre-dinner drinks. I had a Gin and Tonic and Graham had a Budweiser. I also completed our online check in for the cruise as I had been waiting for Graham with the new credit cards, which had been delivered that day.

    Once we had finished our drinks, we headed over to the restaurant. They have a fantastic oriental restaurant called Sampans. They had changed the menu since we last ate there in September and this meant that my favourite dish was no longer on the menu, but the new menu was every bit as good. We had Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup, Crispy Seaweed, Steamed Pork Bun and Chicken Satay followed by Sambal Prawns, Massaman Chicken Curry, Egg Fried Rice and Crispy Chilli Beef. We had no room for dessert after this little lot.

    Once we finished our meal, we headed back to the Club Lounge for a short while. Graham had a couple of things to do online and I enjoyed another J2O. Once we were both done, we headed upstairs and went to bed.
     
  5. mandymouse

    mandymouse <font color=red>If It's Not A Bahama Mama Then I'm Moderator

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    Great start Corinna, I am so looking forward to reading your trip report as we had booked this cruise the day the dates were released, but then I chickened out as I didn't want to leave the girls at home in the winter, so we did the Halloween cruise instead

    Lovely pics too ::yes::
     
  6. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

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    I so wish you had been there. It was a fantastic cruise. I will try to get the preliminaries out of the way quite quickly and then I will keep you in suspense once the actual cruise starts. I have so many photos to download and put onto Photobucket, it is beyond believe.

    Corinna
     
  7. ForTheLoveOfDCL

    ForTheLoveOfDCL A Dream is a wish your

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    Corinna--I am so excited for the photos and cruise report...I have to say I am particularly looking forward to the crossing and your pics and comments. Ok I am feeling like quite an idiot....what is J20?
     
  8. kieras nana

    kieras nana DIS Veteran

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    j20 is a bottled fruit juice.they have different flavours.apple/mango,orange/passionfruit,white grape/kiwi etc.my favourite is apple/mango.
    looking forward to your trip report corinna.it doesn't seem 2 mins.since i was reading the last one:)
    tracy
     
  9. jedijill

    jedijill <font color=red>Chiefs fan living in Bronco countr

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    I was waiting for your report. You are off to a great start! I so wanted to do this cruise but just couldn't convince myself to take my whole 2 weeks of vacation for the year in January. :(

    I will live vicariously through your report.

    Jill in CO
     
  10. TotallyAngelic

    TotallyAngelic Disney Addict

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    oooooooohhhhh ... just subscribing to another wonderful trip report by Corinna :yay: I'm looking forward to this :thumbsup2
     
  11. strawberry blonde

    strawberry blonde DIS Veteran

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    Looking forward to next day already :goodvibes
     
  12. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

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    J2O is a juice drink in the UK that is silly expensive. I really like it, but would not buy it. My favourite is the Apple and Raspberry flavour.

    Day 2 is all typed up. I am heading for work shortly, but I will add the pictures and post it tonight.

    Corinna
     
  13. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    Can't wait to hear all about it.
     
  14. ForTheLoveOfDCL

    ForTheLoveOfDCL A Dream is a wish your

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    Ok so some of you I see following all Corinna's trip reports as I do....Am I the only one who when I get on the Dis go straight to see if Corinna has posted:confused3 She is just a great reporter!!:banana: Waiting patiently for this evening...oh who am I kinding(not Corinna) :rotfl: I am dying...:rotfl2:
     
  15. Tammy Stringer

    Tammy Stringer <font color=red>I love babies - all milky and baby

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    Glad to see you have started the report Corinna - can't wait to read more and especially to see more pictures of the voyage through the canal

    Tammy
     
  16. disney_princess_85

    disney_princess_85 DIS Veteran

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    The Crowne Plaza looks lovely!
     
  17. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

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    Day 2

    We got up bright and early, got ready and went down to the Club Lounge for breakfast. They serve a continental breakfast in there. I found out the day before that we also would have the option to have a full cooked breakfast in one of the restaurants as part of the deal providing that they had capacity and to approach the Club Lounge host about this. In the end neither of us was particularly hungry and we just stayed in the Club Lounge and had some coffee, juice, fruit and pastries. We were the only people there. The host approached us to check if we wanted her to handle the check out for us, but we had left everything including our credit cards in the room so had to decline.

    After breakfast, we headed back upstairs to get our stuff and then went to check out. It is normally frantic in this hotel in the mornings, but this time there was only one person in front of us. We were checked out very quickly. Normally there are huge queues for the airport shuttle in the morning. So we often end up walking across to the terminal. This time, we had just missed one shuttle, but we were first in line for the next one, which arrived less than 5 minutes later. This was just as well as it was raining heavily.

    When we got go the airport, there was nobody in front of us at the baggage drop desk. I had done our online check in the day before, but even the normal check in desks did not have much of a line. I think it took about 10 minutes from getting off the shuttle to clearing passport control. This must be a record!

    Security was a bit busier, but even that went smoothly. Something in my carry on raised an alarm in the automated screening system that they have in Manchester now. They thought it might have been either my jewellery or my trading pins, but personally I think it was probably the magnets that I had in there. Anyway, they quickly had a look at it, swapped it for the presence of chemicals and then we were on our way.

    Our plane was already by the gate when we got to the departure lounge and it was expected to go out on time. Graham sat down near the gate and I went shopping. I love MAC make up and managed to get eye shadow to go with all but one of my gowns in Barcelona in September. I did not find anything to go with my pink evening gown though. That was my mission for the day as they have a MAC concession in the duty free shop. I found the perfect eye shadow. She also gave me a bit of a make over, which resulted in me buying the lipstick that she had used as well. It really suits me and it was quite a bit cheaper than what I would have been charged in the city centre.

    Once I had finished shopping, I went and joined Graham and read until we were called for boarding.

    The plane that we were on was a bit newer than what Virgin Atlantic normally has on the Manchester Orlando route. So we got a slightly better entertainment system that had games, too.

    The flight was nowhere near full. There was a couple sitting next to us, but as there were empty rows around us, they moved once we were up in the air. So we had 4 seats to ourselves and could spread out a little. There were no films that I wanted to watch, so I spent the flight reading, playing games and napping. I was positively surprised by the food. Airlines finally seem to have realized that good old comfort food works better than more fancy food. I had Roast Chicken with Vegetables, Roast Potatoes and Stuffing and Graham had Shepherd's Pie, which were both pretty nice by airline standards.

    We arrived in Orlando an hour ahead of schedule. They had changed the immigration system at some stage since we last flew into Orlando. Rather than lining up at the desks, there is now a single line and staff calls people forward. I had read about this before we left. We had also previously experienced this system in Atlanta and found it to be very efficient. It did not work quite so well in Orlando, but I suspect that had something to do with the fact that we got there so early. When we got to immigration, less than a quarter of desks were manned. While we were waiting in line, more and more desks were manned and in the end, the line moved pretty quickly. All in all, it took us about an hour to go through immigration, collect our luggage and clear customs.

    I was positively surprised by Disney's Magical Express. We had used this on our last three stays to get from the resort back to the airport, but we had never tried this to get from the airport to the resort. They no longer send out booklets with luggage labels and transportation vouchers out to international customers and I was a little concerned how this would work. We opted to bring our luggage with us rather than let them handle it. I had been told that I could drop it off again before getting on the train to the main terminal, give them a description and they would collect it and take it to the hotel. This sounded way to risky. When we got to the Welcome Centre, we were asked if we had our booklet and then directed to a desk to get our transportation vouchers. As we were already leaving again the next morning, they also gave us the letter with our pick up arrangements for the next day. We were then directed to a line and were on a bus within a couple of minutes. Once we were on the bus, it took about another 10 minutes before we headed off.

    It was a little strange to watch a film about all the adventures awaiting us knowing that we would not do any of it. We dropped of people at Caribbean Beach Resort and Pop Century on the way. I know a few people that love Pop Century, but first impressions were not too good. Graham and I just looked at each other in disbelief. This is far too in your face for our liking with huge symbols all around and everything seemed to be just a little too bright like you were in the middle of a cheap TV ad.

    We got to Animal Kingdom Lodge around 4 PM and there was no line at the check in. We had booked a standard view studio as we were only there for one night. Our room was ready and to my delight they had upgraded us to a Savannah view on the Sunset Savannah. Our room was also near the lifts so I was happy all around.

    We went to the room and I took some photos. We had towels in the shape of a Mickey Head on our bed and a cute little washcloth mouse with Walt Disney's quote that all started with a mouse next to it. I thought that this was a really nice touch.

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    I admired our unexpected view for a bit and took more photos of the animals and our surroundings.

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  18. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

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    Once the sun had set, I reorganized my luggage, had a shower and then went off to take some photos of the public areas of the hotel and especially the Christmas decorations. I had heard wonderful things about the Christmas decorations at Animal Kingdom Lodge and seen some photos and I was delighted that they were still up.

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    Once I had my fill of photos and had generally admired my suroundings, I browsed in the shop for a bit, got some cash from the ATM and then headed back to the room to get ready for dinner and to wake up Graham, who had a bit of a nap.

    I had originally made a reservation for Sanaa as people keep telling me that I really have to try this. If I am quite honest, the menu never appealed to me and I did not fancy walking over to Kidani Village after a long flight and with our body clock telling me that it was well past my bedtime. So the weekend before we left for Florida, I managed to change our reservation to Boma.

    We were seated within 5 minutes of out reservation time, which is brilliant for Boma. This was also much quieter than what we were used to at this restaurant. Graham had Assorted Salads, Pork Rib, Beef Strip Loin, Durban Spiced Chicken, Orange and Almond Salmon, Basmati Rice, Fries, Macaroni Cheese and Warm Fruit Coppler for dessert. I went for Curried Chicken and Coconut Stew, Pork Rib, Beef Strip Loin, Falafel, Peanut Rice, Macaroni Cheese and for dessert I had Peanut Butter Mousse on Peanut Brittle, Chocolate and Cinnamon Mousse and Zebra Domes.

    After dinner, I decided to take some more photos of the Christmas decorations from the balcony overlooking the lobby. I also just had to take a photo of our door as I like the detail on the doors.

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    When I got back to the room, I set our wake up call for the next morning just in case and then went to bed. We were both in bed by about 7:30 PM.
     
  19. birkner

    birkner DIS Veteran

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    Love your trip report so far!! The pictures are brilliant!!
     
  20. disney_princess_85

    disney_princess_85 DIS Veteran

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    AKL looks lovely at Christmas. :goodvibes
     
  21. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    a good day all round
     

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