Mark L. Fendrick -- July 2003 -- Walt Disney World (PCR) / Disney Cruise (Magic) Trip
Dates: June 30 - July 13, 2004
The trip began after work on June 30, which just happened to be Sandy and my 30th wedding anniversary. This was a lucky situation since we had moved the date of this cruise so many times, and this was what was finally available. Our son drove Sandy to my office and by 4:30 PM we were on the road to Walt Disney World. Although on our actual anniversary, we had dinner in a roadside Cracker Barrel, we knew that better things were in store for us, so we just enjoyed the moment.
About 3:00 PM we find ourselves on I-4 headed into the Orlando area, when the skies become very ominous - quite scary in fact. The grayness seemed almost to be something out of a sci-fi flick coming to engulf the city. The rain starts and continues to increase in strength as we approach our exit. At this point we can barely see the road, and if it had gotten any worse we would have gone into the first place available to get off the road, regardless of if it were a hotel, theme park, or anything else. As it turned out, we were able to keep seeing well enough to make it into Pop Century's parking lot, from where we called Iris to let her know we were there. Originally she was going to come over and spend the evening with us, but she and a bunch of friends were going out for the evening after work, so we would connect with her the next day. We checked-in and had dinner in the hotels food court, and then back to our room to relax and sleep.
Day 1 - July 2
The next morning we heard from Iris before we headed out to Epcot, and she would meet us in our room after work that day - about 4:00 PM. We had a number of things we still wanted to pick up before we left for the cruise the next morning, so we would have a short day in Epcot and then take care of business. We wound up spending the day in Future World and never made it over to World Showcase, unusual for us, but not a big deal. We checked out the new Nemo exhibit in The Living Seas, and stopped to spend some time with the manatees.
Fast Passes for Test Track and Mission:Space were well after the time we would have to leave the park, so we skipped them this day, spending time at The Land, Journey into Your Imagination, Innoventions, and Spaceship Earth. Quickly the time to meet Iris approached, and we headed back to Pop Century where Iris was waiting in the room for us. Since this was our son Bobby's birthday, and he couldn't accompany us on this trip, we called him at home and wished him a happy birthday. Shortly after we return home, he and his fiancée will move into a new house, leaving our nest officially empty.
With the rain starting again, we head for the Millenium Mall for a meal at Johnny Rockets (Iris's request) and then some last minute purchases. Most of those purchases will be made across the street at Target, where we head after leaving the mall. Iris then makes a last stop at a liquor store to stock up on a few things to keep in her stateroom on the cruise (we get a few bottles as well) and then back to the room to relax and sleep in preparation for a 10:30 AM departure the next morning for Port Canaveral.
Day 2 - July 3
Today we plan on leaving 10:30 AM to head towards Port Canaveral and board the Disney Magic. We will be met by Iris's best friend and colleague, Lee Ann, before we leave Pop Century. One of the reasons we drove down was that with the 4 of us we would need two cars to carry the luggage, so we will follow Iris and Lee Ann to the port. We meet Lee Ann in the parking lot of Pop Century and after arranging the luggage, we are off. It is exciting as we approach the port and catch our first glimpse of the Magic off in the distance.
We pull up to the terminal and follow the instructions of the Disney CM's to a spot at the curb and a porter unloads our luggage, which we will next see outside of our stateroom. From there is a short hop into the parking lot where the car will stay while we spend the next seven days cruising the Western Caribbean answering that age old question, "Where do CBR CM's go on vacation?" The answer, of course, is that they take a Disney cruise to the Caribbean. When we enter the terminal there is a relatively short line to check in, but as we get into it we are asked if we have cruised with DCL before, and although Sandy and I had not, Iris and Lee Ann had done a 4 day cruise on The Disney Wonder a few months earlier, so we are directed to the Castaway Club line which gets us directly to a check-in window where with little delay we were checked in and ready to board the boat. They announce us and we enter the atrium and are greeted by characters and CM's alike. The timing was perfect as we were told that our state rooms were ready (5650/5150), so we went directly to them to drop off our carry-ons. When we got into our room, there was champagne and "goodies" for us compliments of Lee Ann for our anniversary and for having her join us on this trip.
We then went to Topsiders for a buffet lunch.
After lunch, Iris and Lee Ann gave us a tour of the boat, which is basically the same as the Wonder, with small differences. While walking around, the time came during which we could make Palo reservations, and we made dinner reservations for Sandy and myself for the first night - this would be our true anniversary dinner - as well as for the Champagne Brunch on Thursday for all four of us. As time came for the boat drill, we returned to our room until it was time for the drill.
Once the Boat Drill is over we can get ready for the Sail Away Celebration on Deck 9. It is a perfect day and the entertainment has already started by the time we get there. The music is contagious and everyone is getting ready to have a great week onboard. As the 5:00 PM sailing time approaches, Mickey Mouse starts the countdown and at the count of zero, the ships horn plays "When You Wish Upon a Star" and slowly the ship begins to move away from its dock. Onshore, Disney CM's wave goodbye with their "Mickey hands".
Since we had the second seating for dinner, and since this evening Sandy and I had reservations at Palo's, we would attend the early show - as we would all week long. Today was the Welcome aboard Variety Show, and we got to see some of the performers who we would see in the Rocking Bar D though the week. Because of our Palo reservation, Sandy and I would have to leave a few minutes early before the show was over.
Palo was everything we had expected. Our server for the evening was Gemma, and she made us feel special from the moment we walked in. Yes, we ordered multiple appetizers because we couldn't decide between one and another. For desert I ordered the well known chocolate mousse and it didn't disappoint. The view from the 10th deck aft was beautiful. We could watch the sun set and the ship's wake as we ate.
Meanwhile, Iris and Lee Ann went to our regular first night restaurant assignment at Parrot Cay, and met our server, Clive, from Jamaica and assistant server, Jennifer from London, England. It turns out that our table will be just the four of us for the week, although Iris and Lee Ann will not be joining us the next night in Lumiere's, as they plan on eating dinner in Key West and watching the fireworks, so it will not be until the third night, in Animator's Palette, that all of us will be eating dinner together.
After dinner we spent some time in Sessions, listening to Daryl Lockhart's tribute to Nat King Cole and Ray Charles. Then it was back to our stateroom and to sleep.
Day 3 - July 4
The Fourth of July and we will be spending it in Key West. We start the day, as we would almost every day, with breakfast from room service. Iris and Lee Ann would go for breakfast at Topsiders. After breakfast, the gals would go to the Art of Entertaining session and learn how to create appetizers, and along with tasting what they create, have a little wine. While they are doing that, I relax and then find a great spot on Deck 10 to watch the Star Spangled Banner Celebration. Soon I spotted Sandy, Iris and Lee Ann. While the entertainment is occuring, we are approaching Key West.
After the celebration we head back to our stateroom where we watch the ship dock in Key West from the verandah in my room. At 12:30 it was time to gather for our first excursion of the trip. All 4 of us were going on a Catamaran Sail and Snorkel. We meet in Studio Sea and turn in our waivers, get our towels and head for the dock and our catamaran which takes us about a half hour from the ship to a spot where we can snorkel over a well populated reef.
Unfortunately, the swells were high and the current was strong, so many people, including Sandy, decided to stay on the catamaran. Then many of the folks, myself included, who went in, came back well before the time was over. It was just to tiring to fight that current, so when I found myself not only back at the boat, but being pulled past it, I decided it was time to call it quits. The youngsters, Iris and Lee Ann stayed out the whole time. On the way back, the beer, coke and water flowed freely. Back at the Magic, Sandy and I went back onboard to relax and then go to dinner while the girls headed into Key West. At dinner time, in Lumiere's, we got to meet Clive and Jennifer, and since we were facing a huge porthole in the restaurant, we also got to see the fireworks perfectly.
The girls, along with everyone else had to be back onboard before 9:45 PM so we met them at Rocking Bar D for the evening entertainment, which this night would be the Comedy and Juggling of Jeff Harris. But it had been a long and exhausting day, and even though the next day would be a day at sea, we headed back to the room about midnight.
Day 4 - July 5
Today is a whole day at sea. We have 532 nautical miles to go between Key West, Florida and Grand Cayman Island in the British West Indies. Mid afternoon, Havana, Cuba will be 19 miles off the port side of The Magic. We start our day as usual, with a room service breakfast. On the verandah with nothing but an occasional animal breaking the surface of the water, it is very peaceful in the not yet hot morning air. I join the girls at this morning's Art of Entertaining session, Dazzling Desserts. A glass of port wine along with a taste of those desserts is a nice start to the day. There are a number of activities listed in The Navigator today, but Sandy and I find some lounges on Deck 4 which are so very comfortable, and we spend some time there, simply relaxing. Deck 4 is great, since you don't have the sun beating down on you, but you are outside and there seems to always be a cool breeze blowing across the deck. Iris and Lee Ann take advantage of the Cruise staff lunch for singles, although it really doesn't amount to much. This is still a Disney cruise and not a single cruise, so the number of 26 year olds looking to hook up is rather limited to say the least. After lunch they attend the next Art of Entertaining presentation, Creative Plate Decorating.
Sandy and I opt to see the matinee showing of Hercules the Muse-ical, but less than five minutes into the show, there is an announcement that due to technical difficulties, the show would have to stop. About 10 minutes go by and another announcement is made. The problem was solved, but the show would have to start from the beginning again. Okay, no problem ... as a musical director myself, I am used to seeing pieces of shows and jumping back and forth <G>. The show is a quality show with a lot of talent and full of humor. Show over, and I decide to head back to Deck 4 while Sandy gets a little pool time in.
Now don't think there was nothing to do, it's just that we decided to do as much nothing as possible today. The ship was full of things to do, but you never felt pressured to do anything, and as surprising as most folks might think, we were never troubled by gangs of children. They were always occupied with their own activities, and most people do not realize that Disney actually limits the number of children on any given cruise. We met up with the girls and they planned on getting dressed for dinner before going to the 6:30 performance of Hercules. Since this was formal night - and I love getting into my tuxedo - I had planned on skipping the show and then getting dressed, but since Sandy was in the mood to see the show once again, and I certainly was okay with that, we also got dressed beforehand and all four of us went back to the theater, dressed formally.
When the show was over, it was time to get our pictures taken with a few of the professional backdrops available.
Also, we wanted to have our pictures taken with Captain Thord.
Dinner this evening was in Animator's Palette, as would semi-formal night. In case you aren't familiar with the dining situation about the Disney cruise ships, there are three main restaurants. On the Magic they are Parrot Cay, Animator's Palette, and Lumiere's. (On the Wonder, Lumiere's is replaced by Triton's.) Each has it's own themeing and food specialties. Your table numbers and table-mates remain the same, as do your Head Server, Server, and Assistant Server. You rotate between the restaurants on a schedule assigned to you when you first board the ship. We started out in Parrot Cay, then Lumiere's, and Animator's Palette - then back to Parrot Cay and start the rotation again. After dinner we headed to Rocking Bar D for the evening Cabaret show ... this night with Taylor Mason, a comedy ventriloquist. He was extremely entertaining, and I wish he would be staying on, but he would be leaving the ship tomorrow in the Cayman Islands, as would last night's entertainer, to be replaced by two new entertainers. Taylor's show was followed by a 60's Dance Party.
Day 5 - July 6
This morning we lower anchor at Grand Cayman Island, BWI. Unlike in Key West, and later in Cozumel and Castaway Cay, The Magic would not come to anchor at a dock, but a short boat ride from the island itself. To get to shore you had to take a tender from the ship to shore. If you were leaving in the morning, you needed to get a ticket to do so, but as the demand lessened, you could get on and off at will. For us that would be no problem, as we had an early excursion, and we traveled from Studio Sea to the excursion as a group, including boarding the tender. But there was a twist to today's schedule. Since by necessity we booked late, when Iris made our reservations for Stingray City, we had to split it between a morning and an afternoon excursion. Sandy and I wound up with the morning group and had to meet in Studio Sea at 7:30 AM. After an early morning room service breakfast, we headed out for our snorkeling with the stingrays.
A short walk from the pier to busses which take us to the boat which will take us to Stingray City. Stingray City is actually a sandbar about 45 minutes from the island where fishermen used to clean they catches, and the native stingrays would come for a free and easy meal. Hundreds of them at a time will show up. Eventually it became a place where tourist were taken to stand and feed and snorkel among them. You get into the water and the show up, looking for a handout. Squid is provided so each person has a chance to feed the stingrays themselves. In fact they get fed so well, that Sandy had to finally give up on any ray wanting to eat her last piece of squid.
Later in the day, Iris and Lee Ann would be out to do the same.
Coming back to the pier, Sandy and I do a little shopping and pick up a few Hard Rock tee shirts and a few other trinkets, before tendering back to the ship. The last tender comes back to the ship at 4:30 and we get set to sail for Cozumel, 331 nautical miles away. Tonight is The Golden Mickey's award show. It starts on the red carpet outside of the Walt Disney Theater and then continues onstage. As with all of the Disney productions on this cruise - or in the parks - it is spectacularly done and a lot of fun to watch. We attend the 6:15 show since we have the late seating for dinner.
Dinner tonight was back at Parrot Cay, which we missed the first evening since we had Palo reservations. This was the first time all four of us were at this restaurant. After dinner at Rocking Bar D we saw David Dimuzio a juggler and comedian who came on board here at Grand Cayman Island. Following Dimuzio was the Time Warp Celebration of the 80's.
Day 6 - July 7
This morning we anchor at the Mexican island of Cozumel, where all four of us will take an excursion to the Yucatan Peninsula and the mainland of Mexico, where we will travel to visit the Mayan Ruins at Tulum. We meet at 9:40 AM in the Buena Vista theater, along with the other excursions heading to the mainland, and then head off the ship directly on to a fast ferry which will take us to the mainland of Mexico. The boat ride will be almost an hour in length, and many people buy rather good quality $5.00 (USD) tee shirts on board. I get myself a great hat, which of course in made in China. The ferry docks at Playa del Carmen where we take a short walk to the busses which will take us to Tulum, another hour trip. There are three bus loads, and each bus has its own tour guide. Our tour guide is Jorge, who has every piece of information regarding the Mayans in general and Tulum in particular right at his fingertips. He is very funny, and the trip passes quickly. He tells us how close we are to Belize and Central America (about a half hour drive) and how far we are from the American border. He tells us about the Mayan culture, the language, their numbering system, their knowledge of the universe, whatever question is asked of him. We make a brief stop at a souvenir factory/shop on the way down, which most of us use as a chance to use the rest rooms, and pick up a few snacks. Up until recently, I used to look forward to going to Ice Station Cool in Epcot to have some "Lift", an apple soda from Mexico. Unfortunately they recently removed that selection and replaced it with something else. Imagine my joy when I notice, in the back of the cooler, a lone can of Lift. Naturally I purchase it, wishing there were more I could buy and bring with me.
Just a short ride from the store and we reach the ruins at Tulum. A short tram ride brings us to the site and Jorge brings us in and takes about an hour telling us what we are seeing, and the history of the people who lived there.
When he is done, we have about an hour to explore the site on our own. Aside from the city itself, there is a beautiful beach and views of deep blue water below the cliffs upon which the city is built. The day was hot and humid, but the place was overwhelming.
When it came time to go back to the bus, there were sandwiches waiting for us - from Subway! (The other two mainland excursions got authentic Mexican food, but I guess that wouldn't work too well aboard a bus.) We also got our choice of cold water/Pepsi/Pepsi Light (Diet)/or Sol (beer). Actually - not a bad meal. Back to Playa del Carmen and onto the fast ferry for a return to Cozumel. This time we did not go directly onto the ship, but were let of on the pier where the Magic was docked. Rather than go back aboard immediately, Sandy and I headed into town to do a bit of shopping, while the girls went back aboard The Magic. I also wanted to pick up a few Cuban Cigars - for consumption aboard the boat of course, since they are illegal to being into the US. ;-) I made sure not to buy the cigars on the ferry or at the dock since they were sure to be counterfeits, so I found an official Casa de Habanos and did my shopping there. Sandy and I stopped in a few more places, but quickly got tired of being accosted to enter every store we passed so we headed back towards the pier where the ship was docked, stopping at Senor Frogs and Carlos and Charlie and finally at the duty free shop where we picked up some Cruzan flavored rum and a small trinket for Sandy. Then back aboard the ship.
Tonight is Mexicalifragilisticexpialidocious night and we dressed in our best tropical attire.
At first Iris and Lee Ann were not planning on eating aboard the ship, but staying in town and having dinner and drinks and partying at Carlos and Charlies since the boat was not going to depart until 1:00 AM.
But they decided that they could do both, so we had dinner together and then the girls headed back to Cozumel, while we headed back to the room, exhausted. However, today was the premiere of King Arthur, and the premise intrigued me so I wanted to go to the showing - at 11:00 PM which I did. Only on Disney cruises can you see first run movies and even premieres, because as Rachel our cruise director put it, "we own the movies!" However, I would have been better getting an additional 2 hours sleep rather than seeing the movie. As time has shown, Disney had another flop on its hands.
Day 7 - July 8
Our second day at sea. Breakfast this morning is supposed to be our character breakfast. Since we had reservations for brunch at Palo's we had originally decided to skip the character breakfast, but the kid in all of us got the best of us, and we decided to go for the pictures, but not really eat much. We all had bagels and juice for breakfast, confusing Clive and Jennifer until we explain our plight. That said, we spend out time nibbling our bagels and visiting with Mickey, Minnie and Chip and Dale.
We eventually leave Parrot Cay and head for Palo's and our brunch. Actually, it is more than brunch. As we walk in to the restaurant we are handed a flute of champagne and then taken to our table. This meal actually is three meals in one - sort of a "best of" presentation. You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner menu items as well as additional items created specially for this extravaganza. I couldn't begin to tell you what we had, but trust me ... I thought we would never be able to eat again! After this indulgence, Sandy and I sought out the comfort of Deck 4 while the girls went off to check out some new pictures which had been posted.I would be meeting them in Studio Sea at 1:00 for the next Art of Entertaining session, Creative Napkin Folding. I had to attend this session since it was being given by our own assistant server, Jennifer. Unfortunately, in the Navigator the time was listed wrong and Iris and Lee Ann showed up as we were attempting the final napkin fold.
At 3:00, there will be a Ventriloquism and Magic workshop, and having been interested in and performing magic for most of my life, I was interested in seeing what would be shown. Unfortunately, this was the only thing on this entire cruise that I was disappointed in. Instead of doing any true workshopping, it was simply a chance to sell some magic tricks to the mostly kid audience. I felt cheated and it was not worthy of a cruise line which offered so much.
Tonight was semi-formal night, and rather than wearing my tuxedo again, as some did, I dress in my suit for the show and dinner. The show tonight was Disney Dreams in which "a little girl discovers the power of her dreams. Fly through the air with Peter Pan and your imagination as many Classic Disney Characters spring to life." The shows did not disappoint at all. Dinner tonight, as it was on formal night, was in Animator's Palette.
Tonight in Rocking Bar D the entertainer (and magic trick hawker from the afternoon) was Michael Harrison who was an extremely funny Ventriloquist and Comedian. Following his performance, in keeping with the earlier themes of the week, it was a 70's Dance Party. OH NO! I hated disco when I first lived through it ... why do it again? But Sandy loves the music, so disco ball and imitation John Travolta's were the theme of the evening. How soon the trip is drawing to an end ... tomorrow night at this time we will be packed and ready to spend our last night onboard. But first ...
Day 8 - July 9
... Castaway Cay! Disney's own island in the Bahamas. A one time pirate haven and drug runner base, it is now a Disney paradise. There will be a wedding here while we are on the island and the bridesmaids pass us on our way to the beach. Disney even made sure that the ships can dock right at the island so you can go on and off throughout the day at your convenience.
Once on the island, Iris and Lee Ann stake out a spot on the family beach, while Sandy and I head back to Serenity Bay, the adult only beach. Back there we have our own bar and BBQ, although we will come back to meet Iris and Lee Ann at the main area for lunch. After lunch, Iris and I have reservations to Parasail, something we have been looking forward to. Luckily when Iris made the reservations, we got the last 2 available for the day.
All too soon it is time to get back onboard and start packing. We need to have our luggage outside of our stateroom by 11:00 PM so it can be picked up and moved into the terminal in the morning. We are warned to remember to keep clothes and other necessary stuff with us in our carry-ons, as many folks do forget and show up at customs in their pajamas. It sounds silly, but I can easily see how that can happen.
We attend the Farewell Variety show, and can't believe it is almost all over. Our cruise director remarks on how perfect our weather has been and it has. The small amounts of rain occurred while we were asleep or at meals. Never did weather become a limiting factor in any activity.
Our final supper is at Parrot Cay, and it was the best of the week, where the head chef of each restaurant picks his favorite dish and the menu is the same in all three restaurants. There were a lot of good-byes said all around, and finally we all go back to our rooms for last minute packing and filling out of customs forms.
Day 9 - July 10
We get up early to go to breakfast, from which we will disembark the ship. Final goodbyes are repeated and soon we can delay no longer, and it is time to leave. We get to the terminal and find that although the luggage is set up by room numerically, because the girls and Sandy and I are traveling together, our room host has seen to it that our luggage is placed together. A porter gets all of it on a hand truck (quite a feat I admit) and we head towards customs. Our birth certificates are out, but nothing more than a simple "Where were you born" without a look at the paperwork, and we are through. A short walk into the parking lot where our luggage is put by our cars, and before you know it, we are on our way back to Pop Century. Iris will be staying the night with us, and Lee Ann will be heading home after retrieving her car.
Day 10 and the Trip Home
The final day we planned on staying the day at the Magic Kingdom, but after only a short time, the skies open up and the rains come. This is not going to be your typical summer rain that comes every afternoon and lasts about an hour or so, and after quite a wait, we decide to head back to the room to dry off and relax, since in the next day we will start heading home. When the rain stops, we head over to Downtown Disney and The Marketplace to pick up a few things that our son has asked us to get for his new house - and we add a housewarming gift as well.
The next morning it is time to pack the carry-on's that we used for the night, and start the journey home. Sandy and I say our goodbyes with Iris, and another trip is history
Mark L. Fendrick