David Hastings -- October 2000 -- Disney Cruise Trip
Cast of Characters:
All of us are first- time cruisers.
I'll try to keep this portion of the report relatively brief and just give you an overview of how this trip came about. In April, 2000, my wife, daughter and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to Walt Disney World.
(If you're a glutton for punishment that trip report is also on Brian's site.) We returned to Virginia Beach with heavy hearts not knowing when our next trip would be. My wife's car had seen the last of its days and first order of business when we returned home was buying a new one (2000 Plymouth Neon). Ouch, new car payments. Oh, well, we've been fortunate enough to visit the mouse three years in a row so I guess I shouldn't complain. Disney withdrawal, here we come.
We'd been home about two weeks when Debbie's mom mentioned to Debbie that she had been thinking about taking that cruise that she had always talked about. And here's the best part- she wants to take her family as well. Just so you understand the extent of her generosity, here is what this means. Dot (Debbie's mom) is a widow with two grown children- Debbie and Jimmy. Debbie would include me, her husband, and Caity, her daughter. Jimmy has a son and a daughter who will be going as well. That makes seven cruise tickets for Dot to buy. WOW!! You definitely won't be seeing any mother-in-law jokes in this trip report.
Needless to say, we couldn't agree more that Dot deserves that cruise that she has been putting off. And just to be helpful, Debbie and I were only too happy to head right over to AAA to make the reservations. The week we chose was the week beginning October 29 as this was my next scheduled vacation and was pretty much engraved in stone. We found the AAA travel agency to be excellent. Our agent, Rick, very knowledgeable, very helpful and a pleasure to deal with from the beginning to the end. The reservations were made in short order and that's when the problems started to arise.
It turned out that Jimmy's children could not go due to school commitments which were unavoidable. This was the darkest cloud in our whole adventure. Then Dot decided that she would like to invite a former neighbor of hers named Rebecca. Rebecca is such a great friend and was so helpful to Dot that I think she saw this as a chance to say Thank You. Rebecca had moved to Mechanicsville, VA about four years ago when her husband got transferred. And then Dot shocked Caity by asking her if she would like to invite her friend Maria. Caity immediately got on the phone. As you can imagine, both Rebecca and Maria were very, very excited. Another trip to AAA and the changes were made.
All that was left now was the waiting. It was 23 weeks away but I knew that the time would pass quickly. We have never cruised before so I had a great time checking out the internet for information on cruising in general and Disney Cruise Line (DCL from now on) in particular. I also printed out lots of information on St. Martin/Ste. Maarten and St. Thomas. On Sunday nights I would sit down for a couple of hours and listen to Disney CD's and read through all this material. And, of course, I read ALL the DCL trip reports on Brian's site. I also highly recommend checking out Deb Will's site (wdwig.com). Go to the Cruise Line section and check out all the great links. Another site that is indispensable is The Magical Disney Cruise Guide. This is a guide that you can print out (about 65 pages long) and it contains virtually everything, and I do mean everything, you need to know about cruising with Disney. This guide is an absolute must. I don't know the URL off the top of my head but you can link to this site from Deb's site (wdwig.com). Boy, what did people do before the internet? To be honest, you get almost no information from Disney until about a month before your departure. You really don't need the information any earlier but if you are like me that's just too long to wait. To tell you the truth, there's really very little planning for the cruise as compared to a WDW vacation. The island excursions are about the only choices that you should make ahead of time so you will be ready to sign up once on board. Some of them get booked up rather quickly.
Well, as I stated above the time passed fairly quickly. We had only two scares during that time. Caity, our lovely daughter, attends a Magnet School in our hometown of Virginia Beach. This is a school for advanced students and the curriculum is very strenuous. Debbie had sent notes in to all of Caity's teachers explaining that we would be gone for a week and to please let Caity work ahead and/or give us her assignments that she will be missing. She also sent in a note to her Principal. This school has a strict attendance policy and we made sure Caity took no sick days prior to the trip. Well, about a week later, a letter arrived from the school. I tore open the envelope and I immediately spied the words "Unexcused Absences". Panic time. I quickly unfolded the letter and found a note from the Principal telling us that her week-long absence had been approved. He had also enclosed a copy of the school policy on absences and this is what I had spotted. Boy, what a relief.
The second moment of temporary panic was a letter that I received from the Va. Beach court system informing me of my being chosen for jury duty. I quickly checked the dates and found that I was scheduled to begin the Monday after our return. Another bullet dodged. I guess I could have changed my dates of duty if it conflicted with the trip but I really did not know.
Other than that we had no more problems and our excitement grew with every passing day. About three weeks before the trip Debbie and I stopped by AAA to convert some cash to Travelers Checks. We also stopped to say hi to Rick and our information packet had just arrived. WOO HOO! Needless to say we headed home and spent the evening reading through everything and getting very excited. I've always said that a Disney vacation is good for much more than a week. The excitement ahead of time has gotten me through many a rough day at work. Plus, as I said, this was our first cruise so the excitement was multiplied. Well, I said I would try to keep this brief so I'll skip ahead to Day 1. Thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy the report.
Day 1- Saturday, October 28, 2000:
My alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. just like usual. Time to get up and go to work. NO! WAIT! It's Saturday. CRUISE DAY!! Instantly awake, I jumped in the shower. By 4:30 I was dressed and ready to go. And even more amazing- everybody else was ready too. Maria had come over last night and spent the night because we were leaving so early. Our flight was due to leave at 7:10 so we were due at the airport about 6:10. So we were all ready way too early. Oh, well, better early than late. I guess we could have slept longer but I'm used to getting up at 4:00 anyway so no big deal. Just before 5:30 Rebecca arrived with her husband- Sonny. They had driven all the way from Mechanicsville, VA- about a 2 hour drive. Sonny had his truck which really came in handy with the luggage. On the way to the airport we stopped to pick up Dot and added her luggage and wheelchair to the rest in the back of the truck. I had my car which I planned on leaving in short-term parking so it would be there upon our return. So I did that while the rest checked the bags with Delta. It was curbside checking which was very handy. We had used our DCL luggage tags and would not see our luggage again until it showed up in our staterooms- very convenient.
We had about an hour to wait and used this time to fill out our embarkation paperwork. We had planned on doing this on one of the flights but this gave us something to do while we waited. I'm not a big believer in arriving a whole hour early at the airport as recommended but I knew it would cause problems if I suggested otherwise so I wisely kept my big mouth shut. Our Delta flight to Atlanta was on a Boeing 757 which I have never flown on before. It was smaller and not as nice as I expected. There was very little leg room. We had a 50- minute layover in Atlanta and were a little concerned considering the size of the Atlanta airport and the fact that we would be dealing with a wheelchair. In actuality, the timing was perfect and we arrived just as boarding began. Even though both flights were Delta we still had to catch the train between terminals. Our second flight was on a Boeing 767 which was far superior to the 757. It was a wide-body and much more comfortable with plenty of leg room. Both the flights were very smooth with virtually no turbulence. And, of course, the most important thing- both flights had hot coffee.
When we arrived in Orlando we had no problem spotting the DCL representatives in the terminal. We chatted with them for a few minutes while we waited for a few more passengers. We were fairly close to the Disney Flights of Fantasy store right there in the terminal and I was dying to go in and look around but I resisted the temptation. The other passengers arrived quickly enough and one of the DCL reps. took us down to the buses and we were seated very quickly. I've seen these buses many times over the last few years while visiting WDW and I can't believe we're actually about to ride in one. The bus ride was very pleasant and they show you an excellent video during the trip. I wish this video was available for purchase. The ride was about an hour and the video is timed so that it ended just as we pulled into the terminal. As many have said; it was very exciting getting our first glimpse of the Disney Magic as we crossed the bridge and then curved around to arrive at the terminal. At one point you drive right past the stern and get to see Goofy putting finishing touches to the paint job.
At this point, I was very, very excited. As I have said, we have had the good fortune of going to WDW three years in a row now and I always look forward to every trip. But this was a whole new kind of excitement. None of us have cruised before so of course the newness of it was exciting. Plus, I've seen so much of the Magic on video, in brochures, and on the internet and, of course, I've read all the trip reports but somehow the ship didn't seem real. It was just something to read about and dream about and look forward to. And to finally see it in its full, massive, gleaming splendor is almost indescribable. I didn't realize it at the time but Debbie said I had a huge grin on my face from the moment I had spotted the ship until we pulled into our parking space. It makes me think of the kids who see the characters in the parks for the first time after seeing them in films and videos and the look of wonder on their faces. I know it's kind of corny but after looking forward to this trip for so long it really was very exciting.
When we were finally parked at the terminal we were told to stay in our seats until the baggage had been unloaded from the bottom of the bus. (I guess this was for the people who did not check their bags straight through.) Well, one man at the front allowed off the bus and he made some humorous remarks about only the flunky's being allowed off the bus first. He also wished everybody a great trip. I didn't know who he was but I noticed that he had on a HGTV shirt so maybe he was an on-air talent person here to do a show for cable. Interesting. I'll have to keep my eyes open for him.
Check-in was a breeze. During check-in we discovered that the CM Dee used to live in Virginia Beach and attended Bayside High School which is about 1 mile from our house. And, of course, like an idiot, I had to mention that It's a Small World After All. Nice one, Dave, I'm sure she's never heard that one before. Check-in was done in about ten minutes and then we were ready to enter the boat. I should mention that the terminal is really beautiful and well worth looking around. There are many designs inlaid in the floor (looks like pewter or brushed aluminum) including Cinderella's Castle, the Disney Magic and Castaway Cay. The cutaway model of the Magic is also very impressive. It must be 12-14 feet long. We got in line to enter the ship and Debbie gave them our name and the Hastings party was announced. I felt that we should have been announced as the Dortmundt party since my mother-in-law (MIL) had bought the tickets. We paused momentarily for our boarding photo. Alas, no Jimmy, he had boarded earlier according to Dee. Jimmy lives in Atlanta but he had been booked on an earlier flight.
After boarding, we all headed to our staterooms. We could explore later. We found Jimmy in his room; he had just gotten there about 90 seconds ahead of us. We all spent a couple minutes exploring our staterooms. I was very impressed. The stateroom much roomier than I had expected. As you walk in the door there is a closet to the left. To the right is the first restroom which contains the toilet and a mirror above a sink. Across from the toilet in the corner were some shelves. The appointments were all very nice- marble and stainless steel. The room wasn't huge, of course, but there was plenty of room to do whatever you needed to do. There was also a built-in hairdryer. The next restroom was right next door and contained a tub/shower combination and another sink. The sink was also stainless steel with a marble counter. The tub was not full size, of course, but plenty large enough for a bath. Both rooms offered plenty of space and I never felt cramped. The ladies may have a different opinion but I never asked them.
Just past the hallway was the first portion of the stateroom which contained a bed that was 2 singles together and was as big as a king. The top mattress was one large mattress, no seam. This portion of the room also had two cabinets. The back half of the room contained a large wall unit/dressing table combination. This unit held the TV and also had another mirror. All this was on the left-hand wall. Across from it on the right was a couch which folded out to reveal a bed. Above this bed was another bed which lowers out of the ceiling. The girls took turns sleeping in this bed. In the center of the room was an oval table which could be raised and lowered to fit your needs. The two halves of the stateroom were separated by a sliding curtain. The back wall of the room contained a set of sliding glass doors which opened out onto our (WOO! HOO!) verandah. No luggage yet but we were thrilled with our stateroom.
First order of business- Debbie and I checked everyone's dining schedule to make sure that they all matched; they did. Disney has an innovative dining method where we will be rotating among 3 restaurants. Our servers will change restaurants with us so that they will be serving us all week. Others on the ship will visit these same restaurants in differing order. The themed dinners will be held on the same night for everyone. For example, the Captains Gala will be held on Sunday night in all the restaurants, but the restaurant that you enjoy this in will be based on your schedule. The plan is that you will have one regular meal in each restaurant to enjoy its regular menu and the themed nights will fall on your "extra" nights in those restaurants. Make sense? I hope so. Anyway, here is our schedule. The themed nights will be listed in parenthesis. We had signed up for the early dining option so all our meals would be served at 6:00 p.m. The second seating for dinner is at 8:30 p.m.
Dot and Rebecca made a beeline for Topsiders to check out the buffet. Caity and Maria went to Pinocchio's for pizza and to explore. Jimmy stayed in his room to unpack and settle in. Debbie and I headed to Palo's to make reservations. Palo's is an adults-only restaurant which is not a part of the regular rotation. You must make reservations for Palo's and it is limited seating - first come, first serve. When you eat at Palo's you have to decide which dinner from your regular rotation that you want to skip. We chose to make our reservations for Thursday night. This is the night of the Master Chef's Dinner. Debbie had read the menus out to her mom about a week before the trip (pulled off-line) and this menu appealed to her the least. They all appealed to me (LOL) so I left it up to them. Dot prefers the less-fancy, good old home-cooking kind of thing and the meals offered for the Master Chef's dinner seemed to be the most elaborate.
Palo's has changed their method of taking reservations. As you enter the restaurant you are given 2 cards- one card is for your first choice of night and seating time and the second card is for your second choice in case the first is not available. Since we have the early dining option we put in our request for Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. The only times left open for Thursday were 6:00 and 6:30. The rest of the night was completely booked. I guess being an adult restaurant the later times go first. Our second choice was Friday at 6:00. We dropped off our request slips and headed down to the excursion desk.
When we got there the desk was closed and would not open until midday Sunday (tomorrow). But they had a table set up nearby with 2 stacks of papers. One was a list of all available excursions, including St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay. The other stack was forms to fill out listing the excursions that you are interested in doing and the times that you are interested in going. Some excursions are available at different times. Basically the system is the same as we had just done at Palo's. We chose the Under 2 Flags Island Tour for St. Maarten and the St. Thomas Island Tour. These tours cover the whole of these islands, are fairly quick and basically hit the main areas of interest. We figured that they would give a good overview for first-timers. They are both bus tours and most importantly they are both listed as Mild on the Fitness Level Key. Dot is in a wheelchair but is able to walk short distances and take a few stairs if necessary. We dropped off our request forms and finally headed up to Topsiders. We were very hungry as we had not eaten since very early this morning.
We arrived to find Dot and Rebecca happily working on their meals. Debbie and I got in line to pick up ours. As hungry as I was I tried to exert some restraint as we would be eating a Lumiere's in less than 4 hours. I'm not a huge fan of buffets, anyway. A buffet, by definition, is food that has been sitting around. I just don't think it can compare to food hot and fresh from the kitchen. And, believe me, I'm no food snob. My favorite example of hot vs. cold is the ever-famous Quarter-Pounder with Cheese from McDonalds. If you get one that is hot, fresh and juicy right off the grill it is actually a good sandwich. But if it cools down at all before you get to eat then it is just awful. (Now that I've established my credentials as a food reviewer I'm sure you'll want to keep reading. :-)
Anyway, the lunch was really very good. I, of course, got 6 or 7 of the giant shrimp, a couple of side items and some sweet/sour chicken that was excellent. Definitely not buffetlike (new word?). The chicken was piping hot, moist as can be and had a wonderful flavor. I wish I had been able to sample some more selections. For desert I has a caramel creme, which is what they called what seemed to be a flan, and a piece of chocolate cake. Not at all bad for my first meal on a cruise ship. I would tell you what the others had but that would have entailed looking up from my plate which I did not do.
After lunch we all headed back up to our rooms to start unpacking. In our room, three out of our seven bags had arrived. We unpacked what we could before we had to leave to attend the Lifesaving Drill. Our station was 2 decks down on Deck 4 at Station L. We were actually standing underneath "our" lifeboat. These lifeboats are huge- they hold 150 people. We had 131 assigned to our boat. As a man (you know, women and children first) I was glad to see that there is plenty of room. As a side note, one crew member told me that there are no lifeboats for crew members, just the passengers. However, they do have inflatable boats.
After the drill, which lasted about 20 minutes and is required by law, we returned to the room to drop off those wonderful lifejackets and headed up to Deck 10 to check out the Bon Voyage party. The party was actually taking place at the Goofy pool on Deck 9. Deck 10 extends all around the ship but is open in the middle so that it looks down on Deck 9. Deck 9 contains the Mickey Pool (kids), the Goofy Pool (family), and the Adult Pool. The Goofy Pool has a deck which rolls out covering the pool creating a dance floor. Present at this party was our Cruise Director Rachel, part of the Cruise Staff, the DJ, the Herb Williams Band (providing live music) and an appearance by the Disney Characters. It was a very festive party and we enjoyed it and while some of my group was blowing bubbles I walked around taking pictures and doing some videotaping. While I was filming I did happen to catch the ships horn blowing "When You Wish Upon a Star". Pretty neat. This was a sign that we were about to depart so I went to the dock side of the ship to see us pulling away. The Magic does not need to use a tugboat as it has thrusters and was able to push itself sideways away from the dock. Then the ship accelerated very rapidly and we were underway. I was somewhat surprised by the sense of speed as the water rushed by. For some reason I always thought that on a large cruise ship there would be almost no sense of forward motion. I was happy to see that I was wrong.
The deck party was fun but we had had a somewhat hectic day so Debbie and I decided to head back to the room to watch our departure from the verandah. It was very peaceful out here, the view was great and it was a restful respite from the hot and hectic deck party. In the distance we could see the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA and I was very impressed at its size even from this distance. I was hoping for a shuttle launch close to our time of departure or return as I have heard rumors that the itinerary has enough flexibility to allow the Magic (or the Wonder, for that matter) to wait offshore for a launch. Oh, well, not this time. We have been lucky enough to see two shuttle launches from WDW. One was just as we were exiting the Astro-Orbiter (Boy, Disney theming knows no bounds!!). The launches were very impressive even from that distance.
We sat on the verandah for awhile and just enjoyed the fact that we were finally here. Before long, it was time to head up to Lumiere's (WOO! HOO!). To my surprise Lumiere's tonight was listed as casual-no shorts which was just as well as we were still missing 4 suitcases, including the one containing my suit. Obviously, Disney does this because they know that they can't get all the suitcases delivered by the first seating for dinner. Luckily, anticipating this, I had decided to wear a nice pair of khakis and a polo shirt today (Animal Kingdom embroidery for those keeping score). Almost all of the men in the restaurant were dressed casual but nice and I didn't feel out of place at all. The ladies all changed into long dresses, not formal but very nice.
I guess I should interject my humble views on the dress code. (You can't stop me anyway, can you?) I think dressing Casual but Nice should be fine for most dinners (except for the Captain's Gala, which is THE formal dinner). By this I mean no shorts, no bathing suits or t-shirts; no sneakers or sandals. But a nice pair of slacks, a nice polo shirt or button down shirt and casual but nice shoes should be fine. And, of course, no jeans or worn-out or ratty clothes. I know other people have different views and as I have said I have no former cruising experience to temper my views so take my opinion for what it's worth. The way I look at it, I'm on vacation and I want to be comfortable. I wear a tie everyday at work so believe me I don't feel special putting a tie on. Also, being an old, happily married guy who am I trying to impress? Debbie and I do get dressed up for special occasions but on an everyday basis we like to be comfortable. After all, this is a family vacation, not a singles cruise. If I was a single guy on a singles cruise I would probably love the formality of dressing up every evening. But, having said all that, I do believe that if there is a dress code it should be followed and enforced. If someone does not wish to attend a formal dinner there are plenty of other options. Also, I must admit that on the formal nights everybody did look really nice, including the kids.
Our dinner at Lumiere's was everything that I had hoped for. For my starter I ordered the Shrimp Medley which was 4 large shrimp sitting on top of a shrimp salad made with baby shrimp. All of this was sitting on a bed of shredded lettuce. The shrimp salad was excellent. For my main course I ordered the Beef Tenderloin with Green Peppercorn Sauce and mashed potatoes. The tenderloin was cooked perfect, was very lean (I don't like fat), and very moist and tender. For dessert I had the Grand Marnier Souffle with Chocolate Sauce. The souffle came to the table freshly cooked and still hot. The server (waiters are referred to as servers here) then poked a hole in the top with a spoon and poured in some chocolate sauce. The souffle had a mild orange flavor due to the Grand Marnier and the combination of flavors was excellent.
Debbie had the Seasoned Melon Balls for an appetizer and they looked wonderful. It was a combination of honeydew and cantaloupe. Her main course and dessert were the same as mine. Caity's appetizer was the Fried Cheese (Camembert, of all things). It was good but very, very rich. I don't think Caity enjoyed it much. Her main course was the Cheese Ravioli- she loved that. She decided not to have a dessert. I need to have a talk with that kid. In the interest of brevity (yeah-right) and to hopefully save a few trees I will only list the meals of my immediate family unless something bears special mention.
I should also mention our 2 servers. Our head server was Tommy from Norway and our assistant server was Juri (pronounced Yuri) from Croatia. They were both very good. They will be with us all week for dinner with the exception of Palo's on Thursday. We also had a very pleasant tablemate named Mary who was traveling on her own. She is an optometrist who owns her own store. She has cruised twice before- once to the Greek Isles and once down the Nile. Boy, I would love to do both.
The only dark cloud on the meal was the fact that Rebecca (Dot's ex-neighbor) was very much feeling the effects of motion sickness. She ordered the Herb-encrusted Sea Bass and it looked really good but she just didn't feel up to eating it and went back to her room to lay down (among other things-LOL). We all felt really bad for her and Debbie gave her some Bonine pills that we had brought along. Hopefully, they will help. It must be terrible to be on a cruise and unable to eat. The seas are actually quite smooth but I think Rebecca is prone to motion sickness and had been worried about the airplane flights.
After dinner we went to Mickey's Mates where I found a red Polo shirt with some DCL embroidery on the left breast and a DCL glass and 2 coffee mugs. Then we headed outside to the Walt Disney Theater to see the variety show which was being offered tonight. The first major act was Jean Boucher, a magician- comedian from Canada who was very entertaining. His tricks were good and he interacted well with the audience. His humor reminded me of Matt the Juggler from Disney-MGM.
The second act was Dan Riley, a song playing comedian known for his song parodies. He was also very entertaining and it turns out that he was the man who was let off the DCL bus ahead of the rest of us and had the good graces to joke about it. One of his songs was a parody of a Backstreet Boys song looking at the future when they get older and fat. Caity loved it as she is an N*Sync fan. The variety show also contained a couple of dance numbers and an introduction to some of the crew members. All in all, an enjoyable first night show.
After the show I helped Debbie out of the theater. She has a sore knee due to an injury at work. It's a long story, but it wasn't Debbie's fault and she's been receiving physical therapy thanks to Workman's Comp. and is still far from 100%. The worst thing is that the knee problem keeps Debbie from using the stairs and forces her to use the elevators which are small and sometimes very crowded.
We headed back to our room to find that the rest of the bags had arrived. So we decided that we might as well finish the unpacking. It was time for Debbie's insulin shot and that's when she discovered that her insulin needles were missing. Our bags were locked but she had put her needles in the zipper portion on the front of her suitcase. Anyway, it looked like someone had helped themselves to some free needles. Well, Debbie was upset so I attempted to calm her down and suggested that she call Guest Services. At this hour the Medical Center was closed. Well, Guest Services contacted the nurse and had her call Debbie. Debbie explained the situation and the nurse agreed to meet us at the infirmary. So we grabbed the insulin and Debbie's blood sugar test kit to prove that she is indeed a diabetic and headed down to the Medical Center which is located on Deck 1 all the way in the bow. The nurse was very nice and didn't seem at all put out to be called back after hours. The syringes were very reasonably priced. It's nice to see Disney not applying their usual markup to medical supplies. And, best of all, there was no charge for an office visit as we had expected. I guess because we didn't actually see a doctor. While we were there we grabbed a handful of seasickness pills for Becky. They have them sitting out so that passengers can take them if needed. And, there's no charge. Syringes and pills in hand, we headed back to the room.
I had wanted to visit the upper decks to see them at night but the day had finally caught up with me. I crawled into bed right around midnight. We cut off the lights and opened up the verandah and slept wonderfully to the gentle rocking of the ship and the sounds of the ocean. It has been a great first day and I can't believe that were finally here. Ahhh, this is the life. I vaguely remember Caity and Maria coming in sometime after 2:00 a.m.
Day 2- Sunday, October 29, 2000:
I woke up this morning just before 6:00. Boy, what a great nights sleep. I had ordered a carafe of coffee last night from room service along with 4 large chocolate chip cookies. I had heard that the carafe keeps the coffee hot all night so there's no waiting for coffee in the morning. It all came on a tray so I took this out to the verandah along with my book. I had to step carefully as it was still dark. I turned on the verandah light, poured some coffee (lukewarm- but still hit the spot) and read as I watched the sun come up. It was my first shipboard sunrise and absolutely beautiful. What a great way to start the day. After awhile Debbie came out and poured herself some of the coffee. I won't say who ate the most cookies because it's not really important and mind your own business anyway! :-) Hint- my e-mail name is cookieman and not just because I work for Nabisco. Anyway, we sat and relaxed and I tried to work a little on my trip report but I was having trouble because the sky was full of little puffy, white clouds. No, the clouds weren't bothering me but Debbie was having a great time seeing different things in ALL the clouds and then being kind enough to show them ALL to me. So this is what it's like to start the day without a TV set going.
After awhile we went in for our showers and got dressed for breakfast. We decided to try Lumiere's instead of going up to Topsiders for the buffet. Caity and Maria said they would be along later. They are having trouble getting up this morning. I wonder why? Rebecca did say she would join us and we all headed on down. We were seated at a table directly in front of one of the large portholes that look out over the rushing water. There was another family at the table at the table- Don, Cathie and their daughter Elizabeth (nickname Teeter). Teeter has a disease the name of which I can't remember but she reminded me of a child with Downs Syndrome which I am somewhat familiar with. Don and Cathie, I apologize that I cannot remember the name- I should have written it down immediately. Anyway, Teeter was absolutely delightful and joked around with the waitress a lot.
For my breakfast I ordered the Eggs Benedict and chose a chocolate croissant from the pastry tray. Disney has a special recipe that contains no fat or calories. Yeah, right. (LOL) Debbie ordered the Denver Omelet with potatoes and toast. Rebecca, who was still not feeling well, ordered plain toast and juice. She was actually doing okay until my breakfast arrived. The look and the smell of this somewhat rich breakfast, along with the water rushing by in front of us, proved to be too much for poor Rebecca. She hurried back to her room. I felt so bad for her I almost couldn't enjoy my Eggs Benedict (wink, wink); which, by the way, was very good. Of course, the best thing about the breakfast was the hot coffee. Caity and Maria arrived just after they had shut down the kitchen so they went up to Topsiders.
After breakfast, Debbie went to sit with her mom while she had her breakfast at Topsiders. I went back to the room to finally finish the last of the unpacking. Then I took a good tour of the ship getting plenty of pictures and video. Then I found a deck chair and settled in to read for a while. I know, sounds exciting. But I had made a promise to myself that I would take time to relax while on this cruise. I have a tendency to want to engage in activities all of the time and usually finish my vacations less rested than before. Well, I've learned to drop the commando mode while at WDW and I was determined to carry that attitude onto the cruise. Believe me, there are plenty of things to do if you want to stay busy. One look at the Personal Navigator each morning will confirm that. The Personal Navigator is a leaflet that is left in your room each night listing all the scheduled activities for the following day. This includes shows, lectures, tours, bingo, game shows, movies and about a thousand other things. It also gives operating hours for all the shops, restaurants, snack bars and list the times that we will be arriving and departing from all the different ports. It really is a valuable tool. But the best thing about a cruise is that you can do as much or as little as you want. And I am determined not to overdo it. So I just read for awhile and worked on the trip report some and just had a great time relaxing. Around lunch time I went to the little bar set up on deck and got a cold beer in a tall souvenir glass so I could refill at a cheaper price later if I wish. But I think that was the only beer I had all week. Oh, well, I've still got the glass as a souvenir.
About this time Debbie showed up to see what I was up to. She decided to get a hotdog from Pluto's Dogs. She said it was excellent. Not a cheapo dog like you would expect at a place where they hand them out all day. While we were sitting there Cathie from breakfast came by and offered us one of her extra Dramamine patches for Rebecca. Wow, that's really nice. I have noticed how easy it is to talk to strangers and meet new people while on a cruise ship. Everybody seems more friendly and outgoing. Cathie's family was an example of this and her offer of the Dramamine patch was very generous considering that we had just met over a quick breakfast. She gave us her room number and said to come by anytime. Then Jimmy showed up with his Banjo. He was heading up to Deck 10 to find a quiet place to sit and play for awhile. Debbie and I decided to head into Topsiders to see what kind of desserts they were offering for lunch. I wasn't real hungry from breakfast but I can always find some room for dessert if it looks good. We were especially looking for these cream puffs that we had seen last night but none were there. We each grabbed a little something and found a table to eat it. After a couple minutes a lady asked if she could join us as she didn't want to use a whole table just for herself. Her name was Carolyn and we had quite a nice chat. She saw my Nikon and mentioned that her husband had just come into a small inheritance and spent the whole thing on a new Nikon camera. He spent $10,000 for the camera body and $11,000 for the lens! Wow, I would love to see that. My whole camera was only about $750. Unfortunately , he is not on this cruise. We, she was a very interesting lady and a lot of fun to talk with.
After our snack Debbie went to visit her mom and Rebecca. I decided to take another tour of the ship- this time below decks. I checked out Animators Palate, Parrot Cay, Beat Street (the adult nighttime entertainment district), Studio Sea (the family entertainment club) and a lot of other places around the ship. Looking at the Deck Plans ahead of time the ship seems confusing but it takes no time to learn your way around. While I was out and about I stopped by the room and found Debbie taking a nap. So what could I do? I decided to head back up to Deck 9 and went to Scoops to get an ice cream sundae. (Vanilla with chocolate sauce and peanut M&M's). After awhile Debbie showed up and we talked for a long while and enjoyed the beautiful weather and then she decided to look around the ship so I took her for a tour. She was suitably impressed with everything. When we got back to the room O'Dell, our room steward, was cleaning up so we headed down one deck to Deck 5 where I had found some comfy chairs overlooking the atrium. Obviously, the atrium is the jewel of the ship and hanging above it all is an enormous chandelier by Dale Chiluly who is America's premier glass artist. I only know this because we saw an exhibit by him last year at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk. After about ten minutes we headed upstairs to get ready for dinner.
Tonight we were eating at Animator's Palate. Tonight wasn't the regular menu though. Tonight was the Captain's Gala and the same menu would be offered in all restaurants. I don't remember what I had for an appetizer tonight but I definitely remember my entree. Or make that entrees. Tonight, for the first and only time I ordered two entrees. One of their offerings was a Beef Tenderloin with Béarnaise Sauce- one of my favorites. Another entree was Twin Lobster Tails- what do you know, another favorite. So I ordered both and created my own Surf & Turf. Boy, what a meal, I think this was my favorite all week. Debbie just had the Twin Lobster Tails- rookie. Jimmy, my brother-in-law and now my hero placed the exact same order as me and then half way through placed the same order again. That makes 4 entrees! I don't know how he does it. For dessert we all had the Chocolate Lava Cake with Double Chocolate Sauce. I think this recipe comes either from Spoodles or the Flying Fish Factory on the Boardwalk. I remember reading about it in trip reports and heard they were serving it on the ship. It was very chocolaty and very good- especially with the coffee. So far we are 2 for 2 on dinners. Both were actually very good. I wasn't sure about shipboard food but so far I'm very impressed. And the best news is- Rebecca has finally gotten her sea legs (or maybe the pills are working) and is feeling 1000% better. She kept taking the pills and was not bothered by seasickness for the rest of the trip.:-) As you can see, Cathie, she didn't need your patch but thanks for the offer.
After dinner we all waddled, I mean walked over to the Walt Disney Theater to see Hercules- The Muse-ical. As you can guess, this show is a musical based on the film and highlights the muses. We all thought that this show was OK- but nothing really special. Certain elements of it were good and the performers were very good. The performer who played Hades was especially good at one point doing a dead-on impersonation of Regis Philbin. But the show itself was kind of uneven. Of course, I didn't think the movie was one of Disney's best either. After the show we walked around Mickey's Mates again and Debbie bought some nautical scrapbook stickers. Of course, she's still working on the scrapbook from our April trip to WDW. LOL This was Rebecca's first time in this part of the ship. This whole area from the atrium past the two stores (Treasure Ketch and Mickey's Mates) and leading to the Walt Disney Theater is just beautiful. This is the Magic at its best. I'm glad Rebecca is enjoying herself now.
By now I was very tired and I'm not sure why. I suppose the big meal might have been a factor but I really thing I just needed a couple days to recover from the work week prior to the trip. Every time I take a vacation it seems like I have twice the work the week before and the week after. It's worth it though. Especially for this kind of vacation. Debbie was also tired so we headed back and were in bed about 10:45. Boy, do we know how to party, or what? The girls came in sometime after 12:30 a.m. and they were arguing about something. I didn't know what it was and I didn't really care. I had another great nights sleep looking forward to another sea day tomorrow.
Day 3- Monday, October 30, 2000-
Today started out a lot like yesterday. I woke just before 6:00 and took my cookies and coffee out to the verandah once again. I just love this quiet time and I'm glad I wake up first. Once again the coffee was just lukewarm but I always say there's no such thing as bad coffee, just degrees of good. Anyway, it was another beautiful sunrise with a lot of tall thunderhead clouds in the distance. These clouds were dropping a lot of rain but none of it came our way. It sure was beautiful to watch, though. I'm from Virginia Beach and have seen many rain storms over the ocean. Lightning storms are the best as seen from a distance but no lightning today. In fact most of the sky was clear and as the sun rose it lit up the thunderheads from behind and to the side and I got a lot of breathtaking photographs and video.
Debbie woke up and joined me about 7:00 and had some coffee as we just enjoyed being on vacation. At home I wake up at 4:00 and usually hit my first store around 5:00 so we don't usually get to much time to visit in the morning. I guess if I won the lottery I could live like this all the time but Debbie doesn't play the game very well. She keeps picking the wrong numbers. ;-) After a while Maria came out and said that it was raining really heavy during the night. I knew I had gone to bed exhausted and never heard the rain at all. Today looks to be beautiful just like yesterday. The weather so far has been perfect and the seas unusually calm. The crew members have mentioned a few times how rough the seas had been on the last cruise. Apparently, even a lot of the crew had been sick. Well, its just Day 3 so we'll see how our luck holds out.
Parrot Cay is hosting a Character Breakfast at 8:00 this morning and Debbie has been calling the other 2 rooms trying to rouse everybody. Apparently, nobody seems as enthusiastic as they were last night but said that they would try to be ready. Now that Caity is getting older I'm not as anxious to do the character meals as I once was. I know this sounds like heresy to some of you but you've got to realize that as the cameraman I went years without eating a hot meal at WDW. (I'll never admit it, but it really was worth it for all the great video and pictures.) But I'll make the sacrifice and go with Debbie since she's a big kid anyway and always wants to see the characters. (Did I mention that when she called the other rooms she woke them up singing?) Anyway, I have seen a couple characters around the boat that I wouldn't mind a picture with (Snow White, Wendy Darling).
I waited for Caity and Maria to finish getting ready and Debbie went on down the corridor to get the others. We got to Parrot Cay about 8:15. I ordered the Express Breakfast- Bacon, Sausage, Scrambled Eggs and Hash Browns. We only had one character visit but it was the Big Cheese himself- Mickey Mouse. We had just missed Snow White and Dopey. Rebecca seems to have completely recovered from her adventure with seasickness.
After breakfast I went with Debbie, Dot and Rebecca for a tour of Deck 10. We started at the aft elevator and worked our way up to the bow. Dot and Rebecca had never been up here but had only seen it on their TV where one of the channels always shows a live view overlooking the bow. I guess this is so that if you have an inside cabin you can get an idea what is happening weatherwise or see if we are about to pull into port. Anyway, it is always incredibly windy up here. I would not recommend wearing a hat, at least not one that you want to keep. Come to think about it, I would be nervous in a toupee. We continued our circuit of Deck 10 until we were on the other side of the ship heading towards the stern. We stopped to talk to one gentleman who was observing some flying fish who were swimming (and I guess flying) alongside the ship. We didn't stay to watch but continued our stroll. When we got to the midship elevators (no stairs as we had the wheelchair) we went down one deck and sat at a table near the Goofy Pool to just relax and people watch. Boy, I don't think I've used the word relax so much in my entire life. But, as I said before, my main goal on this vacation is to take it easy. I never thought I could do it but cruising seems to be the magic ingredient. By the way, I know this ship has an exercise room and offers aerobics and the like but you won't see me in there unless I make a wrong turn. My days at work are usually at least ten hours long and I don't stop all day. I'm not complaining, mind you, but believe me I don't have to go out of my way to find plenty of exercise. And, after all, this is a vacation. Besides, I should point out that I've been mostly taking the stairs since the wheelchair takes up a fair amount of room in the elevator. Also, the elevators can be a little slow during the rush hours (mealtime) so sometimes its quicker to take the stairs. Well, I thought I was in decent shape since I walk all day long but on Day 1 my leg muscles were complaining a little bit, but never fear, by Day 2 or 3 we were all taking the stairs like a champ.
While we were sitting and talking and listening to the live band out by the pool we ordered some non-alcoholic tropical fruit drinks to enjoy to quench our thirst. Then Debbie and I decided to run down to Guest Services to pay off our room charges. They prefer you to put down a credit card to cover expenses but we didn't want to be stuck with credit card interest so we periodically took some of our travelers checks to Guest Services to pay off all our room charges. Nothing on the ship can be purchased with cash. Everything must be charged to your room. This includes drinks, souvenirs, excursions and anything else you can think of. With that taken care of Debbie decided to go to her mom's room to visit some more and I told her I would be up on Deck 10 above the Quiet Pool reading and trying to get a little sun. So I changed into my swimsuit and headed on up. I read awhile and then headed to Scoops to get my usual Ice Cream Sundae- you know, the one with chocolate syrup and Peanut M&M's. MMMMMM!
It really hit the spot on a warm but not too hot day. After my snack I laid my book down for a second and promptly fell asleep for about an hour. I'm glad I woke when I did as I was close to getting sunburned. Boy, the sun is definitely stronger at this latitude. I decided that I better head down to the verandah to continue working on the trip report where I am protected from the sun.
Debbie stopped by and asked if I wanted to join her, Jimmy and Maria for Bingo at 3:00. I decided not to go but they all said later that they all had a great time. Apparently, when you are only 1 number away from winning they have you stand up and Jimmy was standing for one game but did not win. But he came close and the prize was over $2,000! I had planned on going to an Ice Carving Demonstration at 2:30 but it was outside by the Goofy Pool and I decided I'd probably had enough sun for one day. I read some more and actually took another nap. I know, how exciting but as I said I had promised myself some serious down time and I was really enjoying it. Do you know how many years it's been since I've taken a daytime nap? Besides, I stayed busier the rest of the cruise but I like the first two days being sea days as this allows you to get into that relaxation mode all the faster. (Hurry up and relax? Doesn't sound right somehow.) There is an ongoing debate on the internet as to which is better- sea days or island days. I can't speak yet on the island days but I sure love the days at sea.
At 6:00 everybody was dressed and seated in Parrot Cay. Except for Dot. She's retired and lives alone and I think all the activity has finally caught up with her. Tomorrow we tour St. Maarten so I think she wants to be well rested. Anyway, I didn't describe it this morning but Parrot Cay is the Caribbean influenced restaurant. The huge portholes are surrounded by large plastic palm leaves and the chandeliers are decorated with parrots and bananas. It is a bright, colorful restaurant- very festive. It also specializes in Caribbean food which I love so this is one of the meals I have been looking forward to the most. This is probably a good meal for Dot to miss as the Caribbean seasoning is probably a little exotic for her. For my appetizer I ordered the Coconut Fried Shrimp with Orange Marmalade dipping sauce. You get 3 large shrimp and 2 large onion rings. The shrimp were absolutely out of this world. I heard Debbie praising the onion rings so I jokingly offered her my 2 for 2 of her shrimp. She actually said yes! Well, I consummated the deal before she could come to her senses. I don't know why she would agree to such a trade but then again she did agree to marry me. Obviously, that girl needs some help.
For my entree I ordered the Seafood Stew. It was tomato based and contained lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels and chicken and was served over saffron rice. It was very good but probably not up to the standards set by my last 2 dinners which were exceptional. The flavors were all very good but there was not enough liquid- odd for something called a stew. I suppose if it was called Seafood over Rice I wouldn't have thought twice about it. Seafood is my favorite but I have never had mussels before always figuring them to be tough (must be the name). Well, they turned out to be very good. Both the mussels and the clams were sitting on the top still in their shells which had opened during cooking. Debbie ordered the Caribbean Chicken and liked it. For dessert Debbie and I both had the Kahlua Trifle. This was very, very good. Other desserts at our table that stood out were the Caramelized Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream and the Bananas Flambe. Both of these looked excellent.
I did notice during the meal that my daughter Caity (13) and her friend Maria (14) were pointing out all the servers who they thought were hunks. And I must say, there did seem to be a lot of pointing going on. It seems like just yesterday that Caity's big goal was to get all the characters to sign her autograph book. How did we all-of-a-sudden go from Disney characters to waiters. I don't know if I'm ready for this. Obviously, she's still to young to date, but the years do seem to go by fast.
After dinner Debbie and the others went to the So You Want To Be A Mouseketeer show. This is a quiz show with audience participation. Top prize was a Disney Cruise for 2. I should have gone along but after the big meal I felt like stretching my legs so I went up top and walked around and enjoyed the beautiful night. After the game show Caity and Maria went to a 10:00 Teen Pool Party. Debbie and I watched the end of Notting Hill on TV and went to bed around 11:30. Tomorrow is Halloween and St. Maarten.
Day 4- Tuesday, October 31, 2000:
I woke up to the alarm at 5:30. I grabbed a quick shower and was up on Deck 10 before 6:00. When I had gotten out of bed the island of St. Maarten was visible in the distance and by the time I hit the upper deck we were already anchored in Great Bay. The lights of Philipsburg (the Dutch capital) were visible onshore. I took plenty of photos and video as the sun was rising beside the island with just enough clouds to make the photos look really nice. It was really nice and peaceful out here on the upper deck so early in the morning with just a few fellow early risers there to keep you company. What better way is there to start an island day than to be there as the island comes awake? The sea days had been so nice that I hadn't really been looking forward to the days visiting the islands. But now that we are here and I can see St. Maarten I'm really starting to get excited. I love visiting new places and this is like two in one. Ownership of St. Maarten is split between the Dutch and the French. The Dutch have 16 sq. miles and the French have 21 sq. miles. Legend has it that the boundaries were established by a contest wherein a Frenchman and a Dutchman stood on the beach back-to-back and started walking in opposite directions around the island. The starting point was one end of the boundary line with the other end being the point where they met on the other side of the island. Apparently, Frenchmen walk faster and they wound up with the larger piece of the island. The islanders are very proud of the fact that they have peacefully coexisted for more than 350 years.
My on-deck duties being completed I headed on back to the room and got back just as room service arrived. No more lukewarm coffee; we gave up on the other plan. Today, the coffee was hot and Debbie had asked for an assortment of pastries to go along with it. Ahhh, life's simple pleasures. Debbie and the girls were both up and dressed and about ready to go. Looks like we'll be early again- this is just getting creepy now. Debbie called her moms and her brothers staterooms and they were about ready as well. While we finished our breakfast we turned on the TV and watched Xena in Spanish. At 8:15 we met the others down the hall and headed to the Walt Disney Theater which is the meeting point for those taking our excursion. Our excursion is called the Under 2 Flags Island Tour. As I said before it is a bus tour (air-conditioned) which makes a complete circuit of the island. We checked in and were given stickers to put on our shirts which would identify us while on the tour. The sticker was red with a picture of Donald Duck. It was hot and muggy out today so we got in line and bought a bottle of cold water for everyone and a DCL strap to hang it from. I got the strap to keep as a souvenir but did not get any water as I will already have 2 cameras hanging on my shoulders. The heat doesn't bother me that much anyway. At 8:30 we headed down to Deck 1 and boarded the tender for the quick ride to the shore. As you leave the Magic a crew member takes your Key to The World card and scans it. This is how they keep track of who is off the ship at any given time. Pretty nifty. The tender was pretty nice and a lot larger than I expected. Dot had a little trouble as she has to leave the wheelchair and negotiate some stairs. The crew members were very helpful. We all got situated and enjoyed the ride to the shore. The water is unbelievable clear and a beautiful turquoise color. This is the harbor where the ship ran aground in Speed 2. Pretty bad movie but a beautiful harbor. Our bus was waiting and we were on board in short order. Our driver was Joe and he was very entertaining.
We drove through Philipsburg with Joe pointing out the sights and telling us about life on the island. Don't worry, I won't go into any of it here. We headed clockwise around the island stopping for a photo opportunity overlooking Simpson Bay Lagoon. Then we continued around to the French side- there are no checkpoints between countries, just a small marker. You wouldn't even know it was there unless you were looking for it. We entered the French capitol of Marigot. This city is much quainter than Philipsburg and definitely has a French feel to it. There are about 70 cafes in Marigot but we didn't take advantage of it as we were only stopping for 45 minutes. The bus stops at the waterfront where there is a large market set up in the square. It's almost like a large flea market back home. There are some booths but a lot of stuff is set-up on tables for you to browse through. Most of the stalls were under canopies so there was some protection from the sun. It was very colorful and apparently there were a LOT of bargains to be had. I left everybody else to their shopping and left to do my usual picture taking and videotaping. I walked around Marigot and even went down some back streets to try to get a feel of the city a little bit away from the regular tourist areas. Don't worry, all the areas seemed safe. There was a restaurant there called La Vie en Rose that Debbie and I had seen on the Exotic Islands show on the Travel Channel. I went and checked out the menu. WOW! I wish we had time for a quick lunch. I got all the pictures that I wanted (in the time I had) including some of Marigot Bay and the fortress on the mountain overlooking the bay. I would have loved to have hiked up there for pictures overlooking the harbor but once again time played a factor. So I headed over to the market and found everyone finishing up their shopping and getting ready to head back to the bus. Mostly they had bought t-shirts (3 for $10) and I think Caity bought some jewelry and a sarong. When we got home we found out that these t-shirts hold the distinction of shrinking more than any article of clothing that we have ever seen before. They must be from the Wayne Szalinski collection. Oh, well, Caity ended up with a lot of t-shirts from St. Martin. Total amount spent was only about $22.
After leaving Marigot the bus headed over the hills toward Grand Case. Grand Case is the gourmet capital of St. Maarten. The restaurants here are supposed to be incredible. They looked fine from the outside as we drove by but that's all I can tell you. The traffic was very heavy on the island; I suppose due to the limited number of main roads. The drivers definitely employ the European style of driving which is basically never stop unless you have to and that separate lanes on the road exist only in theory. Drivers weave in and around each other at dizzying speeds. At one point an ambulance couldn't get by and when our bus driver was requested to move over he yelled "I've got a busload of people here." Boy, I appreciate that they take care of their tourists but I would have hated to have been in the back of that ambulance.
We continued on and passed Orient Beach which is clothing optional. Joe said that some people wear only their birthday suits- and that some of those suits are ironed but some are wrinkled. Pretty funny. We continued on our clockwise tour of the island and re-entered Philipsburg. We could see the Magic still in the harbor sparkling in the sunlight. Philipsburg is very narrow sitting on a strip of land separating the bay from the Great Salt Pond. There are two main roads- Front Street and, of course, Back Street. Both of these roads are great for shopping with Front Street being the most prevalent. So, tour ended, that's where we headed. Well, we didn't last too long. The stores were mostly tourist type shops and, believe me, we have a million of them in Virginia Beach. We walked into 3 or 4 and looked around for awhile. In one shop I found a blue polo shirt with St. Maarten embroidered on the breast. It was only $16.95 which is, of course, very inexpensive by Disney standards. It seemed to be of pretty good quality but I'm sure not as good as the Disney shirts. But I had to have at least one good St. Maarten shirt to add to my collection of Disney shirts. Then I suggested that we head back to the ship. Some of the group were looking pretty hot and tired and I would have liked to explore some more but I didn't really want to spend my whole time shopping and the last thing I needed was to have my wife and daughter spending money all day. (Although I must admit, I'm much worse when it comes to souvenirs, Debbie is much more practical.) Well, it didn't take a whole lot of convincing. I think the worse thing was that Front Street is a regular road with lots of traffic, is very narrow and has very narrow sidewalks. You really are crammed in, especially when the ships are in. So we headed back to the tender dock. The Disney people had set up a table under the canopy where you wait with 4 large coffee urns- 2 contained fruit punch and 2 contained ice water. Both were very cold and very refreshing. The tender arrived in a few minutes and we were heading back. The views of the shore and the harbor were breathtaking. The water was an even brighter turquoise than before and looked very inviting. If we ever make it back we'll probably take one of the beach excursions now that we've seen the rest of the island. All in all ,it was a very enjoyable outing. It was sad to see that most of the islanders live in conditions that would really be considered below the poverty level back home. You passed a lot of ramshackle dwellings in between the tourist areas. I know a hurricane came through the island in 1995 and just about destroyed everything. They are making great progress in their recovery but they obviously have a ways to go. Tourism is their largest industry and I hope that we've all helped in a small way. I think it's good for Caity to see other countries so to better appreciate what we have back home.
When we got back to the ship we all headed to Pluto's Dog House for hamburgers and hotdogs, both of which are very well done here. Of course, it was about 1:00 p.m. and all I'd had since dinner last night was a small pastry so I was very, very hungry. After lunch it was a visit to Scoops and I got my usual. While we were eating our ice cream Debbie showed up with a bunch of Cream Puffs shaped like swans that she had picked up at Topsiders. (She doesn't share Caity's and my love of ice cream.) Well, she went to all that trouble so we felt obligated to eat them. We didn't want to hurt her feelings, after all. At this point we were ready to get wet so Debbie, Caity, Maria, and I went for a swim in the Goofy Pool which is the family pool. This was very nice. The pool is kind of small, as I guess all shipboard pools are, but plenty large enough. Especially today when a lot of people were on the island. After the swim, Jimmy, Debbie and I went to the Buena Vista Theater to see 'Gone In 60 Seconds'. This theater is also very nice but way too small. I'm 6'1" which isn't really all that tall by today's standards but I couldn't straight in the seats because my knees were hard up against the seat in front of me. I had to sit with my legs to the side. But I enjoyed the movie anyway.
After the movie it was back to our room to get ready for tonight's dinner which was back at Lumiere's. The theme for tonight was "Tropicalifragilisticexpialidocus" in honor of our first island day. It was a fun, festive meal which was only added to by the fact that it was Halloween. Many of the people in the restaurant were attired in Halloween costumes and the rest were dressed in bright, tropical attire. We were in the latter group. The evening started with the servers doing a limbo in the center aisle. They were also dressed in bright attire and looked really nice. While Tommy was handing out our menus he welcomed us to our Tropicalifragilisticexpialidocus dining experience and Maria acted like she didn't hear him so he repeated it and she said "What?' again and it became obvious that she was teasing him but he didn't bat an eye and repeated it quickly and fluently each time- even with a slight Norwegian accent. Well, poor Juri didn't fare so well. When he brought us our drinks Maria asked him, "What was the theme of tonight's meal?". In a thick Croatian accent he replied "It is Tropicali...something, something, something. I cannot say. It is too difficult for me." Keep in mind, English is still somewhat new to him and many people can't say that word anyway, but he did at least try. But that's okay, the girls think he's cute anyway because he is so shy and he has that great accent so they loved his response anyway. In fact, they we're very impressed with both our servers. I think it is a great idea too keep the sane servers all week so that a comfort level is reached and the whole experience is improved.
For my appetizer tonight I ordered the Crab and Scallop Fritters with Fried Onion and Honey Horseradish Cabbage. For my entree I ordered the Beef Tenderloin Teriyaki with Spicy Fries and Green Onions. The fries were very good but it was strange not having a baked potato with steak. For dessert I ordered the Baked Coffee Custard with Rum Caramel Fudge. Debbie ordered the Pina Colada Bread Pudding served with warm Vanilla Sauce. Tonight's dinner was fabulous. Lumiere's is definitely my favorite and remained so throughout the cruise. They consistently served food much better than I expected on a cruise ship.
Towards the end of the meal Tommy started teasing the girls about how he just knows they've been chasing after all the "dudes" on the ship. He then proceeded to do an imitation of how these dudes act. I can't do it justice by attempting to describe it here but it was very funny. He even remarked that he was surprised they were taking time out to show up for these dinners. At which time Debbie told him that the girls only show up because the waiters are so cute. Well, that started it. Tommy, instead of getting embarrassed, proceeded to get serious and tell the girls how much he appreciated it. He stood behind their chairs and continued telling them how much it meant to him and I saw a photo opportunity. So I grabbed my camera and snapped a quick picture of him and the embarrassed girls. He saw me so he got on a knee with an arm around each girl and smiled broadly. Just as was taking the next photo Juri came up behind with 2 saucers and gave Tommy 'Mickey ears'. It was a very funny moment from 2 nice servers.
Shortly after this, Stephan, the head waiter who supervises all the servers, came by with his nightly visit to ensure that we were happy with everything. Well, the girls decided to embarrass Debbie by telling him how much Debbie likes it when he comes by because of his French accent. Of course, their plan backfired as Debbie is impossible to embarrass. After this we were finishing up when Tommy came by to give us an overview of tomorrows activities and to make sure we knew which restaurant is in the rotation for tomorrow night. The is something the waiters do every night and it is a very nice touch.
After dinner Debbie and the girls went to see 'Remember the Titans" and the rest of us went back to our staterooms. I wanted to make some notes for the trip report and will try to catch the movie later in the week. When Debbie got back to the room I talked her into going up to Deck 9 for the 'Tropicalifragiliticspookyalighostious' Happy Halloween Deck Party. Yes, that's really the name. It is their usual tropical deck party with the added attractions of a Halloween Costume Parade and Contest for Adults. The kids have a party of their own as well as trick-or-treating. She was tired but agreed to go with me. This party was great and made us wish that we had brought costumes ourselves. Rachel, our cruise director, was the host and was dressed as Cruella de Vil. She looked great. All the crew members in the show were dressed as Dalmatians. Of course, the first song they played was 'Who Let The Dogs Out'. I'm not sure if that is the title but you know what I mean. It seems to be the unofficial song for this trip. We heard it many, many times. Next the Disney Magic players (the same group that performs in the nighttime shows) came out and sang and danced and were very good. Then the Characters came out and joined them for a few songs. The deck all around the Goofy pool (which was covered) was crowded with passengers- most of whom were costumed. And Deck 10 above was crowded with passengers enjoying the show. They also had a huge, gourmet dessert buffet set up with an ice sculpture and some carved watermelons, one of which had the DCL logo. We stayed awhile and enjoyed the music and the costumes but had to leave before the contest because I was getting up early to witness our arrival in St. Thomas. We were asleep shortly after midnight and as was becoming the norm I don't know when the girls got in. I should point out that I have long been accused of being an overprotective father but it was nice knowing that this was a safe venue for letting the girls have a little leeway for a change.
Day 5- Wednesday, November 1, 2000:
Today started off just like yesterday. I woke to the alarm at 5:30 and grabbed a quick shower. By 6:00 I was once again up on Deck 10 armed with camera and camcorder. It was an absolutely beautiful morning. Not as hot and muggy as yesterday. I was pleased to see that we hadn't yet pulled into port. We were approaching the island with the sun rising just to the right of it. It was another beautiful Caribbean sunrise. There were some small islands off to the right which were silhouetted by the sunrise creating a very nice effect. Taking pictures can be a bit of a chore sometimes but the upside is that you tend to see things through a photographers eye. I think you just tend to notice things a little bit more. I remember when we got our pictures back from our first visit to the Maharaja Jungle Trek in the Animal Kingdom. I had taken many photos of all the excellent theming in that section, especially the murals. When Debbie looked at the pictures she kept saying, "I didn't see that." I think that when there is so much to see it is easy to miss a lot. But when you are looking for good photo opportunities you are more likely to see most everything. Anyway, I digress.
As you can imagine, I took plenty of pictures and video as we entered the port. There were probably about 20 or so intrepid shutterbugs out there with me which is surprisingly low when you consider the number of passengers on the ship. Maybe they had more sense than us and were nestled all snug in their beds. But I must say, this port is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm glad I was up here as we arrived. It is much prettier than St. Maarten and don't forget St. Maarten was beautiful. This port was Disney beautiful- almost too good to be true. We pulled into the harbor and then the ship turned 180 degrees using it's bow and stern thrusters. Then we backed into our berth on the dock. The dock is basically a concrete bulkhead which can hold 3 ships placed end to end. The dock does not extend out into the harbor. When we arrived the Grand Princess was already in place and when we backed in we ended up stern-to-stern with her. The Grand Princess is a massive ship and is actually much larger than the Magic. The stern of the ship is flat and rectangular. I guess you could say box-shaped. There are actually staterooms with verandahs located on the stern of this ship. Many of the stateroom occupants were watching our arrival. At the top of the stern extending the width of the ship is a large tube-shaped structure that that probably contains a restaurant or club. I must say, I really think this is an ugly ship. It may be beautiful inside, in fact I would say that it probably is. But this ship just looks like a giant, floating box and has none of the graceful beauty that the Magic has.
As we were backing in the servers came out of Topsiders and stood around the back railing. They were all dressed in the same solid blue and were very impressive. It reminded me of Navy ships coming into port with the sailors lined up along the rails. This is one of the Disney touches that must look really impressive to those on the other ships. Tommy, our waiter was among those standing at the rail so I snapped his picture. After we docked I walked to the bow which was now pointed back the way that we had come and I could see the Royal Caribbean ship Emperor of the Seas entering the harbor. This is another massive ship but it is absolutely beautiful. Like the Magic it has great lines and is very well designed. While I was taking some pictures the Magic sounded its horn and frightened me half to death. It's VERY loud when you are nearby and not ready for it. Good news is, I know my heart is in good shape. I can take a hint and decided that it was time to head back to the room.
Room service had arrived so I had 2 cups of coffee and a chocolate croissant. The ladies were all just about ready and before long we went to get the others. St. Thomas here we come! Once again I find myself excited about visiting a place that I have never been before. We headed down to the Promenade Lounge on Deck 3 to meet up with our tour group. We had signed up for the St. Thomas Island Tour. This tour basically covers the whole island like the St. Maarten tour did and like before we figured that it is a good tour for first-timers. Instead of air-conditioned buses we would be riding in open air safari busses. With today temperatures being a little milder we were fine. After about a 15 minute wait they had us check-in and gave us our stickers for identification. The sticker for our tour group today was a green Peter Pan sticker. Then we headed down to Deck 1 where we had our cards scanned and disembarked. No tender today as we were at the dock. Down the gangplank and we were in St. Thomas. I know that with Dot being in a wheelchair she was very happy not having to climb around in the tender like yesterday. She did have a little more trouble when we got to the bus as it is quite a climb to get inside. These buses look very similar to the safari busses in the Animal Kingdom but there is no platform to help you get on board. But with help she managed and then we were on our way.
We began our tour by driving through the capital city of Charlotte Amalie. The abundance of fast food places and shops like Payless Shoes were a reminder that this is definitely a U.S. Territory. Still, it is a very nice little city. In fact, as we traveled over the hills and around the island we did not see anything like the same level of poverty that we saw in St. Maarten. As we traveled around St. Thomas it seemed like every time we went around another corner we had another great view of one bay or another. We stopped at a few overlooks for pictures. The view overlooking St. Thomas Harbor, which is where we were docked, was gorgeous. The 3 ships were lined up on the dock with the Magic in the middle. It was strange to see because the Magic was dwarfed (pun intended) by the other two ships. In my opinion, however, she is definitely the most beautiful of the ships and has the look of the ocean liners of old. She is one class act.
Our first real stop was St. Peters Great House. This is a former plantation house that has been transformed into an 11 acre retreat on top of a volcanic mountain. There is a walk-through tour of the house, botanical gardens, an observation platform and I believe an area with parrots but I never saw that as we ran out of time. We were only allotted 30 minutes here and that really wasn't enough. My poor mother-in-law had a lot of trouble getting out of the bus with her arthritic legs. It took her a fair amount of time and left her exhausted. By the time she was unloaded she had very little time for sightseeing before she had to struggle back onto the bus. I felt bad for Dot and it was really a reminder of how lucky those of us are who do not yet have to deal with these problems. By the way , the driver was very helpful and we were sure to tip him in appreciation at the end of the tour. I also have no complaints about the tourist sites. They aren't exactly the easiest places to make wheelchair accessible. Almost all of them are on the sides of mountains and a ramp can only be so steep. I think Dot enjoyed herself but if we do this again she will probably stay on the ship and relax.
Anyway, as we entered St. Peters Great House they have some containers of rum punch set up with all the free samples that you would like. They also have regular fruit punch if you would prefer. I held myself to one small cup but it was refreshing. Then we all kind of just roamed around for a few minutes looking around and then I went up top to the observation platform. This is 1000 feet above sea-level and offers breathtaking views of Magens Bay. You can also see some wonderful views of some of the other nearby Virgin Islands. Of course, I took plenty of pictures and video. At this point it was time to be heading back to the bus stopping for just a couple of minutes at the gift shop. Caity bought a St. Thomas souvenir which was a small plate with a beach scene painted on it. I looked at coffee mugs (what a surprise) but they looked way too touristy so I declined. We got Dot back on the bus and continued on our way.
We drove for a few minutes and arrived at Mountain Top which is the highest point on the island. It sounded great from the brochures but to me it was basically just a tourist trap. The bus parks and you enter a large building containing souvenir shops. There is a large deck out back but the great view that I was expecting was just another view of Magens Bay from a slightly different angle. Very pretty, but been there, done that. So I got a couple pictures of us in front of the scenery and then we headed inside to look around the shops. Mostly the shops offered the same kind of junk that is offered at tourist traps worldwide but I did get a couple things. I bought a polo shirt with St. Thomas written on it at a very reasonable price. It is a good quality shirt. I also bought a small bottle of banana-flavored rum which I guess is their specialty. After shopping around for a little longer we headed back to the bus. This was basically the end of the tour except for a quick stop downtown in Charlotte Amalie for those who wanted to look around or shop before catching a cab back to the boat. I would have loved to looked around for a little while but I decided to head back with the others. The bus dropped us right at the ship. I decided to get a few pictures of the Magic as I don't usually see it from this angle. Usually I'm on the ship taking pictures elsewhere. I made sure I got a picture of Goofy painting the fantail. One thing I should point out is that maintenance is a constant thing with this ship. Every time we stop they start cleaning and painting the hull. I don't know whether this is Disney's attention to detail or whether all cruise lines follow this same practice. Getting back on board was a snap. They scanned in our cards and we were required to put our packages through an x-ray machine just like at an airport. Then it was up to our rooms to drop our things and up to Deck 9 for lunch.
Dot, Jimmy and Rebecca ate at Topsiders. Caity went to Pinocchio's Pizzeria. Debbie, Maria and I went to Goofy's Dogs. As I placed my order for a cheeseburger and fries a very irate woman approached the counter and demanded two new cheeseburgers as she had dropped hers. Well, these 2 poor guys behind the counter were working as fast as they could taking orders and preparing food but, of course, it wasn't fast enough for this woman. She kept making smart remarks and yelling at the poor guy who was trying to help her. And he had done nothing wrong, she was the one who had dropped the food. Earlier, on the bus we had been talking about how the Disney crew members on this ship could not have been any better. We could not think of one instance where they were not courteous, kind and bending over backwards to help you in any way they could. And to maintain that while dealing with this kind of passenger is nothing short of amazing. There must be a punching bag in the crews quarters for taking out their frustrations. Anyway, this guy (I'm sorry I didn't get his name) handled this woman with patience and never lost his cool. I, however, did my part in teaching this lady a lesson she will never forget. I gave her a dirty look. Anyway, in all the confusion the poor guy got the orders mixed up and accidentally gave me a hot dog with my cheeseburger. I pointed this out to him and he said, "No, please take it". So to be supportive, I did. And to reinforce that support, I ate it too. I had eaten almost nothing since last night and I was once again very hungry.
After lunch I wanted to leave the ship again to ride the Tramway to Paradise Point. Paradise Point is on the summit of the mountain that overlooks St. Thomas Harbor. It costs $12 for the ride and takes about seven minutes. The nice thing is that the building where you catch the tram in very close by; easily within walking distance. No one else was interested. I guess everybody wanted to take it easy on the ship for awhile. Except for Caity and Maria who wanted to leave with me to visit the Havensight Mall which is next to the ship and very safe. It is less like a mall and more like a shopping center and is really pretty large. There are 7 buildings and over 50 shops and restaurants. It is very convenient to the ship and is supposed to have better bargains than you can find in town. We left the ship and I walked to the Mall with the girls to check it out. Yes, it does seem very safe so I left them to do what girls do best. Then I crossed the street and entered the tramway building.
As I was crossing over I noticed the rumblings of what could only be thunder. I looked up and saw for the first time that the top of the hills on the other side of the harbor were obscured by clouds. Apparently a storm was headed this way. Well, it didn't appear to be moving fast even though the wind had picked up appreciably so I figured nothing was going to happen in the next 7 minutes. So I bought my ticket and got in line for the next tram. Actually, I was the line; no others were waiting. I should point out that this not the railway type of tram but is the cable type. You know, where you are suspended below the cable in a cable car. These cars travel in groups of three and three go up as three come down. The cars are fully enclosed and hold about 6 or 8 people if you really squeeze in. As I waited and the thunder continued I had time to wonder about how much wind these cars can sustain and still remain attached to the cable. I also wondered about such things as grounding and what would happen to occupants in the event of a lightning strike. My concern wasn't too great as the storm was still on the other side of the harbor.
After about three minutes the tram cars arrived. I took the first one and two other groups that had arrived took the other two cars. This worked out good for me as I was alone and able to move about and take pictures and video without hindrance. It was a very pleasant ride with reasonable winds and no lightning close by. At the top I exited the tram and made my way to the guest building. This building contains the Paradise Point Cafe, some shops, some tropical bird shows and has a nature trail nearby. But the thing I was interested in was the large observation deck which overlooks the harbor at 700 feet. The views here are astounding- well worth the $12 fee. You have a great view of the cruise ships lined up at the dock with the harbor in the background. And nestled on the shore on the other side of the harbor was Charlotte Amalie. If any of you have a DCL brochure look for the picture of the Magic taken from above where there is a woman standing at one of those 25-cent binocular machines. This picture was taken from this deck and you can see how beautiful the view is. Once again, I was struck by the fact that the Magic was so much smaller than these other ships. I'm sure these ships are great but one thing comes to mind- the bigger the ship, the more people you will have on board. It just seems like at some point the experience and the services provided must be affected to some extent. How many good meals can you make at one time? But, I could be wrong. I wish I could try them all just to make a comparison. :-) Also sitting out in the harbor was the Ryndam of the Holland America Line and the Norway from, I think, the Norwegian Cruise Line.
I took plenty of pictures and video (big surprise- huh?) and I can hardly wait to see them. The thunder and lightning was continuing but it remained on the other side of the harbor with the clouds still covering the hilltops. Then I sat at a table and relaxed and enjoyed the view for awhile. I almost bought a Dove Ice Cream Bar but the cheapskate in me decided to wait until I was back on the Magic so I could go to Scoops. After awhile I took the tram back down (alone, again) and encountered just a few raindrops. I crossed over the street and went to the Havensight Mall to see if the girls were still there. I never did see them (they had a short time limit) but I did look around a bit and found a nice brown polo shirt with St. Thomas, USVI embroidered on the front. It was marked down to $12. It looked just like a shirt that I had bought from Rainforest Cafe 2 years ago that cost me $48 (except the R.C. shirt had Chi-Chi embroidered on the front).
I reboarded the ship and found the girls in the stateroom getting ready for one of their teen activities. They said that Debbie and Rebecca were in the theater watching Fantasia 2000. So I went up to my usual spot on Deck 9 to get my ice cream and work on my trip report. While I was there the clouds and rain finally arrived. Perfect timing. I was seated under the glass windows that curve around over your head so I really found the shower to be quite pleasant. It was almost like being outside without being outside. I must have been writing for about 2 hours when a nice young Crew Member named Sylvester asked me how my book was coming. (I know, I know, it's starting to seem like a book, isn't it?) So I explained what I was doing and he asked how I liked the cruise so far (Love it!) and we discussed the various shore excursions that are available. He was very friendly and seemed genuinely interested. Also, while I was writing a seaplane flew very low directly over the ship, did a sharp turn to the left and dropped like a feather onto the water. Very impressive. I wish I'd had my video camera.
I decided it was time to head back to the room to get washed up for dinner so everybody won't be trying to get in at once. About 4:40 p.m. it started to rain really hard. I mean it was really coming down. We've really been lucky. The rain this afternoon is the only rain that we've experienced all week and it didn't affect our plans at all. It was actually kind of peaceful so I went out on the verandah. Maria showed up at that point so we chatted awhile while we enjoyed watching the rain come down. After a few minutes the rain stopped and a few moments later the Magic's horn sounded signaling our departure and the ship pulled straight out, sideways, from the dock. After it had pulled out far enough to clear the Emperor of the Seas the Magic's propellers dug in and we quickly on our way. It amazes me how fast this ship can maneuver considering its size. As we passed the other ship I noticed that the verandahs on both ships were crowded with passengers who were watching our departure. The passengers on the Emperor were shouting things like "Come back soon", "See you later", "Have a great trip", etc. Everyone was waving and smiling and filming and it was great fun. We even heard someone with better lungs than I yell "Whasuuuuuuuuuup!". While we were still abreast of the other ship the Magic let loose with 3 loud toots of her horn. The Emperor blew its horn in return with a very long, drawn-out report. Well, at this point the Magic answered with its signature horn blast- you know, the first seven notes from 'When You Wish Upon a Star'. Well, the passengers on the Emperor let out with a cheer that you should have been there to hear. It sent chills down my spine. I was so impressed. This was one of those moments that seem to happen every now and then when you least expect them. How come so many of these moments seem to involve Disney? In no time we were back out to sea with St. Thomas shrinking behind us.
About this time Debbie showed up and then Caity. Just before 6:00 we were all ready for our dinner at Animator's Palate. We were looking forward to this because tonight the restaurant will change from B&W to color during the course of our meal. It didn't do this the other night when we were here because it was a special dinner (the Captain's Gala). We stopped down the hall and picked up the rest of our team and headed down to the restaurant. The design of this restaurant is very interesting. The walls are covered with pen & ink drawings of Disney characters and there are large picture frames scattered about which also feature characters. The pictures in the frames start out in B&W and gain color during the evening. You can tell which picture is going to change because music from that movie will start to play in the background. The pictures also switch from frame to frame so you get a chance to see all the characters from your seat. The columns in the restaurant are actually paintbrushes and the bristles touch the ceiling which if you look is made up of very large painters palettes. Color is added to the palettes and to the paintbrush bristles as the evening progresses. We were seated and greeted by Tommy and Juri who were wearing black and white vests.
Tonight I ordered two appetizers because they both sounded so good. I got the Lobster & Shrimp Wrapper which was a soft crepe wrapped around you know what and came with an Avocado Puree which I left. My other appetizer was Smoked Salmon served on a Crisp Potato Cake. Both were very good. For my entree I ordered the Maple Glazed Salmon with Green Beans and Smoked Red Potatoes. This was also very good. Not quite as good as what I get at Le Cellier but very close. I know Le Cellier is a steak house but I can't resist ordering that salmon. For her entree Debbie ordered the Roasted Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Sauteed Vegetables. She enjoyed this as well. We had a bottle of Korbel champagne with our dinner tonight compliments of Mary, our table mate. Being a DVC member she had a free bottle of champagne waiting in her stateroom when she arrived. Since she provided the champagne we told her we would pay the corking fee. We didn't realize until later that night that we were never asked to sign anything so they apparently did not charge us the fee. I know very little about champagne but I thought this was very good.
The presentation at the end of the evening was much better than I expected. At the end of the meal they dimmed the lights and on a big screen at the back of the restaurant they played a sequence of clips from Disney animated movies than ran the gamut of emotions. The film showed scenes of sadness, love, triumph, etc. It was very well done and all but the most cold-hearted will be moved by it. It reminded me of the film montages that they show at the Academy Awards but of course this was all Disney. At the conclusion of the film all the waiters paraded out of the back dressed in bright colors (reversible vests) and clapping their hands while Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Da played overhead. And, of course, by now the restaurant was filled with color. It was a very nice capper to the meal. As we were leaving I asked Tommy and Juri for a picture and they asked for Caity and Maria to join them. I can see I'll need extra copies of this picture.
After dinner we went back to the stateroom for a few minutes and watched a few minutes of a Gene Kelly movie until it was time to leave for C'est Magique- The Fine Art of Illusion. This is a show about an 18th century magician who is brought back to life. Most of the magic tricks in this show were fairly easy to figure out. Nothing groundbreaking. But then, it is the Disney Magic Players, not a professional magician. It is a very stylish show with a lot of embellishments. The best part of the show was the beginning, when Prospero, the Magician, recruits his helpers by pulling them from paintings, animating statues and one woman that he removes from a stained glass window. This was the most interesting of the effects with a hole being left in the window where the woman had been located. All in all, it was an entertaining show, but not a must see.
After the show Debbie and I decided to go to Rockin' Bar D to check out the show by Tony Duncan who is a world class juggler. I think he was the 1994 World Champion and has been on TV many times, probably some of the late-night shows. I won't go into a lot of detail about his show (a lot of it is hard to describe, anyway) but I will say this; if you ever get a chance to see him perform, do not miss it. He was excellent. Rockin' Bar D is a very nice club, intimate and friendly.
After this Debbie decided that it was her bedtime but I decided to go see 'Remember The Titans' at the Buena Vista Theater. It really is nice seeing a first-run movie at no extra cost. The only thing missing was the popcorn. I did , however, stop by Deck 9 for a cup of coffee. I had discovered a self-service stand on this deck that offers fresh, hot coffee and ice water 24 hours a day. Jimmy joined me for the movie as he had also missed it the other night. It was a very good movie. What can I say? It was a Jerry Bruckheimer movie and I am a guy. But to be fair, the girls all loved it, too. The movie ended about 1:30 and I returned to the room to find Debbie and the girls fast asleep. It was a busy day today and I think everyone was a little tired. I wasn't, however, so I went out on the verandah to read for about an hour. I fixed a little drink of the banana-flavored rum and sipped on it while I was reading. It smelled just like those banana flavored Popsicles that I used to love as a kid. But it tasted pretty good and seemed appropriate for the Caribbean. There was a great light show this night with lots of lightning on the horizon. I'll tell you, Disney sure knows how to do things right. Then it was off to bed thinking that this week is starting to go by just a little too fast.
Day 6- Thursday, November 2, 2000:
I woke up about 8:30. This is about 3 hours later than the last few days. Nice. The gentle rocking of the ship last night was very great for sleeping. Having slept-in our breakfast options were limited so we headed to Topsiders and found the rest of the group there. I got a plate full of the standard breakfast fare but as usual the coffee was the best. I also had another of the chocolate croissants- YUM!
After breakfast Debbie and I decided that we better do some laundry (YECH!). We really should have done some before now but we were thinking that we might be able to make it through without having to do any. No such luck. We only had to wait about 15 minutes for washers but I should warn you- the laundry rooms are very small and very hot. I know, I know, it's a laundry room, what did I expect? The other people who were there doing their laundry were very nice and we enjoyed chatting with them very much. We found this to be the case all week. It must be something about cruising but everyone we met all week were very friendly and small talk was easy. In fact, unlike most laundry's where if you leave your clothes in the dryer and don't return by the time they are done you do not find them thrown on the floor or tossed in a messy pile somewhere. You will more likely than not find your clothes folded and stacked and waiting for you. My first big complaint about the Magic, the laundry rooms are way too small. Also, I wish we could have irons in our room. I know its weird but I have a thing about my clothes being ironed. The washers take 40 minutes and the dryers take 32 minutes. Both cost $1.00. Bring plenty of quarters with you.
After the laundry I joined Debbie, Dot and Rebecca next to Pinocchio's where they were snacking on pizza. I headed to Scoops for my usual sundae with peanut M&M's. Then the ladies disappeared on me and I read and worked on the TR for awhile. It was here that I realized that I had made a tactical error. I did not know that the buffet at Topsiders today was a seafood buffet. People were walking by with plates full of crab legs and steamed shrimp. And here I was stuffed from a large breakfast and not wanting to eat any more until dinner because tonight was Palo's night. As I sit here writing the tears are running down my face as I ponder the opportunities in life that are missed and lost forever. I should have skipped breakfast and done lunch and dinner. Oh, well, life goes on. I'll get over it in time.
After awhile I headed back down to the room and found Debbie and the girls there. Our tip envelopes had arrived so we spent some time getting that all sorted out. It actually is a very convenient system. You get an envelope for your server (Tommy), your assistant server (Juri), the head server (Stephan) and your stateroom host (O'Dell). They provide you with recommended tip amounts but you can give more or less based on the service that you received. With this detail behind us we got ready for dinner.
Caity and Maria went to Parrot Cay to sit at our assigned table to be served by Tommy and Juri. They will be eating by themselves tonight as the rest of us will be eating at Palo's which is the adult-only restaurant. The girls were a little nervous about being teased mercilessly by the waiters but then later they were disappointed because Tommy and Juri treated them in a very formal manner. I told them that this was what I had expected. With all the adults there they can feel free to tease the girls and even to flirt a little in subtle ways. But without us there they were very careful in their behavior. I was very impressed that these young men were always aware of what was proper and what was not and always acted accordingly. The girls did have a good time, however, and I think enjoyed their meal without the adults.
Our reservations were for 6:00 and we got there just a few minutes early. We were all dressed very nicely as Palo's is a more formal restaurant. This is a beautiful restaurant with a much more formal setting and the dresses and ties were very appropriate. As I said, we do like to dress up when the occasion calls for it. This restaurant offers a 270 degree view of the ocean and is located on the top deck (Deck 10) so the view is spectacular. While we were eating the sun went down and that only added to the experience. Mary, our table companion, had joined us tonight and we were all seated in short order. Our table was located right in the center of the restaurant against the window overlooking the stern. Our server was Richard from France. I know it's an Italian restaurant but on the Magic nationalities are interchangeable. By the way, for those who are interested, palos are the poles that the gondolas are tied up to in Venice.
For my appetizer I ordered the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio. This is paper thin slices of beef spread on a plate with some salad greens. It is served cold and was tasty. I've never had anything like it before and when I was done Rebecca remarked that she couldn't believe that I had eaten raw beef. Is that what this was? The beef was red but I figured it was just the preparation. (Later on I found out that it was indeed raw beef. Tasty though. I'm glad I didn't know at the time.) As I was finishing this Jimmy asked me if I wanted to split a helping of the Fried Calamari appetizer. I said sure mostly to be polite because I love calamari but it usually is tough so I have just about given up on ordering it. Well, I have to tell you , this was the best calamari that I have ever eaten in my life. It was seasoned perfectly and fried just right and was just as tender as it can be. If you ever eat at Palo's you must try it even if you have never tried it before. (For those who don't know, calamari is squid). For my entree I ordered the Beef Filet Mignon Topped with Bread Crumbs and Herbs. This was very, very good. Debbie ordered the salad for her starter and for her entree she got the Penne Pasta with Salmon, Vegetables and White Wine Sauce. It looked wonderful. For dessert we all ordered the Chocolate Souffle that Palo's is famous for. It was excellent. It was like a tall cakelike brownie that comes in its own serving dish. It is cooked while you eat and comes out still warm. Then your server uses a spoon to poke a hole in the top and pours in some white chocolate sauce and some dark chocolate sauce. And, believe it or not, I had coffee with it. Richard also brought out a tray containing about three other deserts for us to sample. I thought this was a nice touch. We just passed the tray around and everybody sampled each. One was Panna Cotta, a vanilla custard thing that looked just like a flan without the caramel. It came with fresh strawberries. This was out of this world and was preferred by all even over the famous souffle. All in all, this was a wonderful meal and we all enjoyed Palo's very much.
After dinner we headed on down to the Walt Disney Theater to get our seats for Disney Dreams. I'll say one thing- if you're ever going to see this, get there early. Obviously, this shows reputation has preceded it and even though we arrived with plenty of time the theater was packed. We were seated in the last row and Jimmy ended up standing in the back of the theater. Even so, this was a wonderful show and definitely is not to be missed. Especially if you like all things Disney. This show not only showcases Disney but really the talents of the Disney Magic performers. You really get the feeling that they enjoy performing in this show. Probably because the audience reacts so positively. There are things about the show that I would love to tell you but I don't want to spoil it in case you ever have the opportunity to see it. Trust me, it's worth your while.
After the show Debbie, Dot, Rebecca and I went to Rockin' Bar D to see comedian Steve Smith. He's been on HBO and was in Nightmare on Elm Street. He was VERY funny. Probably as funny as anyone I've seen, and I've seen a lot of comedians. After he was done we stayed to watch the game show Match Your Mate. This is the ships version of The Newlywed Game. It was very entertaining. The had 3 couples that they picked from the crowd. Debbie probably would have loved to have volunteered but you could not pay me to get up in front of a crowd like that. So I sat on my hands and tried to look inconspicuous. I was relieved to see that they were only picking people that raised their hands and shouted and yelled and tried to get the hosts attention. Of the 3 couples, one was married just 8 days, one had been married for 12 years, and one couple had been married for 54 years. As I said the show is played exactly like The Newlywed Game. Well, on that show remember their euphemism "making whoopee". Well, on the Magic the euphemism is "Discover the Magic". When the host asked the 74 year old man what was the most unusual place that he and his wife had "discovered the Magic" he was totally without a clue and said "In the whirlpool upstairs". Well, the room just exploded in laughter and whoopin' and hollerin'. It was a very funny moment. By the way, the older couple won the show, the middle couple did second best and the newlyweds did the worst. But if you think about it, that's the way it should be.
When the show was over it was about 11:30 so we all headed back to our staterooms. Jimmy had left a message about 10:00 inviting me over so I called to see if it was too late. He said it was fine so I headed on over. I was very jealous of his room. He is staying by himself and he is very neat and organized. Even the disposable cameras on his table are lined up with precision. I, on the other hand, have 2 teenagers in my room. Enough said. We sat out on his verandah and enjoyed the ocean and the night while he played his banjo. It was very nice. Boy, I could live like this forever. Once again I must say that I would never take a cruise without booking a stateroom with a verandah. About 1:30 we went in to order some room service; something that Jimmy has done every night. While we were waiting we watched some of 'Mission to Mars' and Caity and Maria stopped by to tell us about their night. They have been having a great time but were heading back to the room to go to bed. By the way, Caity had intended to write a trip report but was staying so busy that she never had the opportunity. The food arrived a few minutes later. Jimmy had ordered Chicken Fingers with Honey Mustard and Potato Chips and a slice of Chocolate Cake for each of us. He also ordered a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich for himself. He definitely took advantage of the eating opportunities while on the ship. We watched the end of 'Mission to Mars' while we ate our food and about 2:30 or so I headed back to my room for some well-deserved sleep. What a great day. Tomorrow- Castaway Cay!
Day 7- Friday, November 3, 2000:
I woke up around 7:00 and looked through our glass doors and saw that we hadn't arrived yet at Castaway Cay. So I jumped in the shower and grabbed my cameras and took my usual trek up to Deck 10. We were pulling in to the dock and it was really neat seeing Castaway Cay in person after seeing so many pictures of it. To my disappointment the Magic pulled in backwards so that our stateroom looked out over the dock area and not out over the lagoon. We knew that sometimes it docks forwards and sometimes backwards so its really the luck of the draw. It doesn't really matter, anyway. We won't be spending that much time in the room. Disney spent an extra $6 million to dredge out the lagoon and build a dock so that the passengers could come and go with ease instead of waiting for tenders to shuttle them to and from the shore. This really made a difference. We decided to go to Lumiere's for breakfast. I ordered the Express Breakfast which was, I think, eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns. I also ordered some pancakes to go with it. The pancakes were kind of cold but the rest was good. Jimmy had slept in and Caity and Maria were signed up for an excursion today so Debbie, Dot, Rebecca and I went back to our rooms to change into our beach gear to get ready to hit the island. In no time at all I had changed into my Speedo and was ready to go. What, do I hear screams of fright? Don't worry, my Speedo was a t-shirt (with Dolphins on the back). My bathing suit was a normal suit.
We all met in the hall and went down to Deck 1 and were out of the ship in short order. The first thing we noticed was a lot of construction going on by the dock area. I'm not sure what was going on and I never did have a chance to ask anyone. As you leave the Magic there is a paved road that circles the Lagoon and takes you over to the family beach. There is a tram that you can catch if you don't want to walk. As we had a wheelchair we took the tram. While we were waiting we got our picture taken by the Disney photographers at a little area that they have set up for this purpose. There is a giant plastic fish posing with a fishing pole and you stand next to it and it appears that he is the fishermen and you are his catch. The sign above says 'Fresh Catch'. It's a cute shot and the Magic is in the background. This ended up being the only photo that we purchased all week. The others just didn't look as good as we would have liked. We also passed the Post Office as we left the ship but it wasn't open yet and we never did have a chance to return to send some souvenir postcards home. It's amazing how time can get away from you when you are having fun.
After the tram dropped us we went over to an area where they have some wheelchairs sitting that can be used on the beach. We're talking huge, puffy tires. You are allowed to use them free-of-charge while on the island. Kudos to Disney for that. We got Dot transferred over to the new chair and headed on down to the beach. We found a spot that looked promising and I went to find a drink for Dot. We had brought our refillable cups as you can also use them on Castaway Cay. I delivered her drink and went to explore. The others stayed behind to swim but I couldn't resist looking around first. First I stopped by the shops to see what kinds of souvenirs they offered and to make sure they had amply quantities of the things that looked like I might be interested in. I had heard that in the past they had a problem with running out of things early. Everything looked fine so I headed on. To the left was the family beach with the teen beach beyond that. On the right was Scuttle's Cove which is the children's play area. Next to that is Monstro Point which is the whale dig site. I also passed Cookie's Bar-B-Q and the adjacent seating areas where we will be eating our lunch later. To the left is the Conched Out Bar which is where I had picked up Dot's drink. It was great seeing all the places on Castaway Cay that I have only seen pictures of before. There is a website on the internet called themeparks.com which has a LOT of great pictures of Castaway Cay. You definitely need to check this out if you are planning a cruise.
I was having a great time and was definitely on island time. I felt no need to hurry but just walked around enjoying myself. Down near the end of the road there is a turnoff which takes you to the runway which predates Disney on this island. I believe the island used to be called Gorda Cay and is rumored to have once been used by drug-runners. I have no idea whether this is true or not. I got to the runway and there was an old prop-driven aircraft sitting there for photo opportunities. I had no one with me so I just took a picture of the plane. The emblem on the plane was Castaway Air. I also noticed that at the end of the runway (looking to the right) a basketball backboard had been set up in case anyone felt so inclined. I thought it kind of spoiled the themeing. The plane and the runway had an air of age about them but the backboard was one of those modern ones that could be moved about. Oh well, no big deal.
I headed down the runway to the left. This heads to the adult beach and is a much longer walk than it looks. I didn't mind though. I really enjoy walking and I was enjoying the beautiful day very much. We really have been very lucky weatherwise. The only shower that we encountered all week was the quick one at St. Thomas (not counting the middle of the night one that I slept through). At the extreme end of the runway is a turnaround for the trams and another Castaway Cay airplane is located just off the pavement. Serenity Beach is straight ahead. To the right you can see the massage cabanas and to the left is the Castaway Air Bar. I walked across the sand to Serenity Beach and walked around for awhile. There were a fair amount of people laying on the beach but only 2 were actually in the water. After a few minutes I decided to head back.
I got back to the end of the runway and decided to wait for the tram. It was starting to get pretty hot in the sun so I decided not to walk the whole way back. I should have brought a hat. I found a palm tree to stand under and the tram came by about 10 minutes later. I hopped on and rode back to the drop-off point which is located close to the teen beach. I got off and decided to head over to the Heads Up Bar to take some pictures of the Magic with the beaches in between. When I got there a wedding had just finished and the bride and groom were being transported off to who knows where on the back of a golf cart. Boy, what a great place to get married. After they left I walked out onto the deck which adjoins the bar and extends a little ways out over the water. From this point I took quite a few pictures of the Magic. This is a beautiful location for a shot and I can't wait to see the pictures. If you take pictures on this island make sure you use a polarizing filter to take out some of the sun. The colors become much more vibrant and the water looks great with the sun's reflections removed. I decided to head back to find the others and headed back down to the water and walked along the family beach until I was back where I had left them. The beach was very crowded at this time and I was having trouble finding my group. I walked up and down and back and forth but I still could not find them. So I kept walking and kept looking. Obviously, they had moved. Wait a minute, a clue. A man walked by eating a cheeseburger. Cookies is open. So I headed in that direction and found everybody under one of the cabanas eating lunch. I dropped my gear and went and got in line. While I was in line Tommy came by and said hello. This is my second Tommy sighting of the day. I had seen him working at breakfast but at another table. These guys work ALL the time. I picked up a cheeseburger, some ribs and 3 cups of fruit punch. I was very thirsty at this point. I had probably walked 5 miles total. The food was a little disappointing. The burger wasn't as fresh as it could have been and the ribs were only fair. But to be fair, feeding the whole ship at once while on an island is not the easiest thing to do. At least on the ship there are multiple restaurants and two main seating times. But, for all you Jimmy Buffet fans, I did get my Cheeseburger in Paradise. After lunch we headed over to She Sells to do some shopping. I bought my usual Disney souvenir- a polo shirt. This one is really nice. It's a white shirt with a Castaway Cay emblem embroidered on the front. I wish they had a color other than white but it really is a beautiful shirt. I also got a deep blue t-shirt with a drawing on the back of a Castaway Cay beach with the Magic in the background. But the neat thing about the picture is Mickey Mouse standing on the beach holding a surfboard. The drawing is not kiddie looking but very adult oriented. It is a GREAT looking shirt. There were a lot of other things that I wanted but I used managed to exercise some restraint (barely).
I did not take the time to go snorkeling but I did get in the water for a little while. I am very cold natured and I found the water to be a little cool for my taste. It actually wasn't too bad and after my walk I was really ready for a swim but after sitting down to eat lunch I wasn't hot any more. But I did enjoy the water for a little while. Now, if you want to talk about cold water I should mention that the water at Serenity Bay Beach was VERY cold. I didn't go in except to walk through it but it was unbelievably cooler than the water on this side of the island. I had heard this before but I found it hard to believe that there was that much of a difference. Well, there is. That's why the adult beach was crowded but only 2 people were swimming. And, now that I think about it, they were floating on rafts. Also, at the adult beach there is a strong, steady breeze that never stops. It feels great if you are laying in the sun or taking a walk but would be very cold if you were wet. In its defense, though, I must say that Serenity Bay beach is incredibly beautiful.
After our final swim we headed back to the Magic to get our showers and to get ready for dinner at Lumiere's. As an aside, I should mention that the showers on the ship are really nice. As I mentioned before, they are very well appointed. During the whole cruise we never experienced low water pressure or a lack of hot water. The shower could be just a little higher (I'm 6'1") but it wasn't too bad. No worse that I experience in almost any hotel. Also, the tub is a good size. As tall as I am, I was very comfortable during my one relaxing bath. OK, OK, maybe I was soothing my sunburn- what's it to yah? ;-) Anyway, tonight's dinner is the "It's A Small World" dinner which offers international foods to celebrate the international makeup of the Magic crew members. I am really looking forward to dinner tonight.
Before heading to the restaurant Debbie and I went to the WD Theater to hear the disembarkation talk that is being presented by Rachel, the cruise director. She basically just explained the process of how to prepare for leaving the ship in the morning and what is required of us in regards to dealing with customs. It all seemed pretty simple and straightforward. We had arrived about five minutes early and saw the end of the last Bingo game. Two people won and shared the jackpot which was over $4,000. Wow, I've never been into Bingo but as I watched the host counting out all those $50 bills to the winners I decided that I may have to try this next time. They had both won back the cost of their cruise!
Debbie and I headed back upstairs and rounded up the others and we all made our way down to the restaurant. As was our experience each night at Lumiere's, this meal was very good. This restaurant was easily my favorite and we were lucky that in our rotation we actually got to eat here 3 times. I had 2 appetizers tonight- boy, will I hate going home and having to pay for appetizers and desserts again. I ordered the Stir-fried Scallops with Thai sauce (Thailand) and the Lobster Bisque (France). Both were very good but I must admit I prefer the Lobster Bisque at Chefs de France in Epcot. If you go there, don't miss it. For my entree I ordered the Roasted Chicken from India. It was prepared with Indian spices and came with Saffron rice. This was very moist and tasty.
As were finishing our main courses the servers participated in a presentation. First, the chefs filed out of the kitchen and lined up in the center of the restaurant. Each one carried a tray on which sat a large, flaming Baked Alaska. For those who don't know, a Baked Alaska is ice cream (Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry) surrounded on all sides by cake and then covered in a meringue. Then it is set on fire. It was very impressive looking in this very impressive restaurant. This was followed by our servers marching out of the back and parading around the restaurant carrying the flag of their country. The assistant servers also paraded but had no flags. While they marched the diners enthusiastically applauded their service for the past week. It was a good way for us to show our appreciation.
When it came time to order dessert a lot of them sounded good to me- especially the Bread & Butter Pudding with Vanilla Cream Sauce from England. But I decided to order the Baked Alaska. First, I've never had it. Second, it was part of the presentation. But mostly I ordered it because our head server is from Norway and Baked Alaska is a Norwegian dish. Shouldn't it be Baked Norway? Anyway, to my surprise, it turned out to be excellent. It was served in slices. The cake was very soft & fresh and the meringue was not what I expected. It was very soft and fluffy and tasted incredible. Of, course the coffee made it taste even better. (I know, it sounds like I should have had a Colombian waiter.) During the meal I took another picture of Tommy and Juri and after the meal we presented them with their tips. This was our last dinner with them but we will see them at breakfast in the morning.
After dinner we went over to Shutters and purchased the picture that we had taken at Castaway Cay earlier in the day. Then Debbie, Rebecca and I went to see the final show of the week. Tonight is Magical Memories- A Farewell Variety Show. It featured Tony Duncan, the juggler from Wednesday night and Steve Smith, the comedian from last night. They were both good once again but Tony's show was much too short tonight. He skipped most of his best stuff from the other night. To cap it off the Magic Players did a song and dance number which was very good and featured ALL the characters from this past week. This includes the standard Disney characters as well as some of the characters from the assorted shows. Boy, I'm going to miss all these great shows after dinner every night.
After the show we headed up to our stateroom to finish our packing. We had done a little here and there today as we were bathing and changing. We finally finished and had our bags in the hall shortly after 10:00. We had until midnight but the hall was already loaded so it looked like most people were early. We filled out our customs forms and then started on the questioneer that they request you fill out. It's basically a long form where you can rate virtually every aspect of your cruising experience. Well, I was bad and left Debbie to it and went to visit with Jimmy for awhile. We went out and sat on the verandah and just hung out for awhile relaxing after a great but full day. I hated to go back and go to sleep because tomorrow we'll be back home. :-( But sometime around midnight I said goodnight and headed back to my room. Tomorrow- Travel Day. UGH!
Day 8- Saturday, November 4, 2000:
When I woke up two thoughts immediately went through my mind. First, I'm on the ship- YEAH! Second, today's the last day- BOO! Oh, how the time does fly. I forced myself out of bed and went out on the verandah and I could see that we were back in Port Canaveral. No relaxing out here today with a cup of coffee. I went back inside and grabbed a quick shower and was followed immediately by the girls. Today we were scheduled for breakfast at 6:45 at Lumiere's. On disembarkation morning you have your breakfast at the same restaurant that you dined in the night before. We all arrived on time and were greeted for the last time by Tommy and Juri and placed our orders. The menu was basically the same as the other mornings but the Eggs Benedict and the Denver Omelet had been removed. Guess what Debbie and I had been looking forward to? Oh well, no problem, we both ordered the Ham & Cheese Omelet. And, of course, coffee.
After Lumiere's it was time for us to disembark and we stepped out of the restaurant into a teeming mass of humanity. The entrance to Lumiere's is right behind the Helsman Mickey statue on the bottom level of the Atrium. And the Atrium was packed with people waiting to disembark. You are supposed to come to breakfast with all your carryon bags so that you won't have to return to your room. After all, in just a few short hours this ship will be leaving with all new passengers. LUCKY DOGS! I think that a lot of the reason for the backup in passengers is that some of the people with second seating breakfast skip their meal in an effort to get out earlier. Skipping breakfast and leaving earlier- 2 concepts that I can't understand. Anyway, this was the first time all week that we have felt like cattle. What they were doing was opening the gates and letting a certain amount of people through before closing the gates again. I suppose this is to keep the customs area from becoming overcrowded. After things cleared out a bit they would let the next group in. I was talking with someone standing nearby who said that on another ship that she had cruised on the passengers waited in their rooms until they were called for disembarkation. She said that it was much more orderly and less confusing. I'm not sure which is better. I am not a big fan of large crowds but we were about the 4th or 5th group to be allowed in so it didn't seem too long. We really weren't in all that much of a hurry as our flight to Atlanta wasn't due to leave until 1:10 p.m.
When we stepped from the ship to the gangway I looked to the side and got a good view of the Magic as we were leaving for the last time. It was a sad moment and it really hit me that our vacation was really at an end. I learned that when your cruise is ending there are a lot of "last" moments just like at WDW. You know, last monorail ride, last visit to Main Street, that sort of thing. I know, I probably make these moments much more melodramatic than I need too. But when vacations are this good you just never want them to end. Anyway, when we entered the terminal I told Debbie that it was so nice of Customs to have a huge table of fruit laid out for us. It was actually fruit left by the passengers who had brought it along for a snack later on. During the disembarkation speech Rachel had stated in no uncertain terms- Do not enter the terminal carrying fruit as customs will confiscate it and fine you $100. Apparently a lot of people didn't believe her. But when the customs official in the terminal explained it in a loud voice to the departing passengers all of a sudden there appeared a table full of fruit. Anyway, I digress.
In the terminal we took the escalator downstairs and entered a large room with racks and racks and racks of suitcases. Rachel had told us that the suitcases would be arranged in order by stateroom number but it ended up being more like blocks of staterooms. There was quite a lot of searching involved and our bags ended up being on three different racks (I forgive you, Rachel). I can understand now why they limited the number of people that they allowed in at one time. Well, it didn't take too long and Disney did provide people to help you search if needed. We had 7 large bags so a skycap was definitely in order. While he was loading our bags, I stopped to look at all the beautiful murals painted on the walls. They were all DCL related and well worth taking the time to check out. Then, somebody, I'm not sure who, took a picture of one of the murals from across the room. Then while we were standing in line to go through customs I saw a HUGE sign on the wall stating that absolutely NO photographs will be allowed in this room. Wow, somebody should tell whoever it was that took that photo. I pointed the sign out to Debbie and the skycap said to be quiet and he would explain outside. We got to customs, handed them our form, and were waved on without even having to slow down. Then the skycap said that they are very serious about this rule of no photos and that this person is very lucky that he did not use his flash. Well, I happen to know that this person did use his flash and was apparently very lucky that no one noticed. I'm sure that this person would have hated to lose some of his pictures due to having his film confiscated. Apparently, this rule exists because some of these customs officials go undercover from time to time. Fortunately, there were no people in the picture that this person took.
Another good reason to have a skycap is that he took us directly to the Delta rep. (bypassing the line) and he immediately checked us in routing our bags all the way to Norfolk. Not fair, I know, but we weren't given the option. I guess they do it this way so the skycap can get back inside to find his next customer. The more trips in and out that he makes the more money he will make. Understandably, these guys don't like to stand around. We tipped him, he headed back in and we boarded the DCL bus.
This ride on the DCL bus was definitely more subdued than our last. Everybody was turning for one last look at this impressive ship as the bus curved around to take us to the airport in Orlando. During the hour long ride they showed us a Goodbye video with Magic crew members saying goodbye in all those different accents. It was great and not an exaggeration. This ship is definitely a microcosm of the world. As an aside to all you parents out there; included in this video was the Mickey Mouse cartoon called 'Boat Builders' in which Mickey Mouse and the gang build a boat which Mickey named the S.S. Minnie. I had seen this cartoon on the Disney Channel many times with my daughter when she was very young. It was very nice seeing it again here. We arrived at the airport in what seemed like a very short time, stepped off the bus and that was the end of Disney for this trip. Or so I thought. There was just one more very small incidence of Disney magic that we would experience. As we were walking through the terminal to grab a seat and wait for our flight we passed the DCL representatives who were waiting for the new cruise passengers to arrive. One of the DCL reps. saw that I was wearing a DCL shirt and remarked that she had not seen that particular one before and how much she liked it. The they all said "Come on, let's go again" as the beckoned us in their direction. I said "OK, you take Visa?". Everybody had a laugh and I was impressed that they would take the time to interact with the departing passengers as well as the newcomers. I won't bore you with any more details about the trip home except to say that when our first flight was about to arrive in Atlanta the girl that I had been sitting next to pointed to my DCL shirt and asked me (in a great French accent, I might add) if I had just gotten off the Magic. I told her yes and she said that she worked on the ship and was heading home for some vacation time. She said she was a programmer for the young kids in the Oceaneer's Club. By the way, programmer is Disney's name for their counselors in the kids programs. To me it is something of an odd term and conjures up pictures of little kids with their eyes propped open with toothpicks as they are forced to repeatedly watch Disney propaganda films. You know what I mean, the voiceover is saying, "You love Disney", "Disney is good", "You will buy lots of Disney merchandise", etc. I know, I know, I watch too many movies. Anyway, the French girl was very nice and asked about our cruise and said that she hoped we would go again. I assured her that we definitely would, someday. (Wait a minute, did I think of that or did she put that thought in my head? :-)
I did have one regret at the Orlando airport. I went into Flights of Fantasy which is the Disney Store located in the airport and there I saw the new Disney CD with music from WDW. This is the new 2001 version and guess what- it contains a medley of songs from Splash Mountain! (Pretty good, sure as you're born...) I was so excited but didn't have any cash with me and when I got back to the others it was time to board the plane. I should have run back for the CD but I figured I could find it online when I got home. Wrong! If anyone knows how I can get this CD, please let me know. I won't be making it to WDW in 2001 but if anyone knows where to get this online or anywhere else PLEASE e-mail me and let me know. I will be forever in your debt. I know I should have bought it when I had the chance but I guess after a week long cruise you lose that sense of urgency.
It was nice seeing the house again after a day of travel but I sure hated seeing one of my best vacations ever come to an end. (And, luckily for you, that means this trip report is near an end.)
Having said that I must mention another encounter that we had with the Magic a few weeks later. We live in Virginia Beach but are right near the border with Norfolk. On December 3 the Magic steamed up the Elizabeth River and entered drydock at the Norfolk Shipyard. Tommy had told us about this so it wasn't a surprise. On Friday, December 8, Caity had a dance at her school so we dropped her off and Debbie, Dot and I decided to head downtown to check out the ship. As we crossed the Berkeley Bridge we were awestruck by the Magic as she sat fully lit and sparkling in the night. She looked big in Florida but sitting here in the middle of Downtown Norfolk she looked HUGE. We crossed the bridge into Olde Towne Portsmouth where we could look across the water and see the skyscrapers of Norfolk outlined in Christmas lights and the Magic sitting in front looking just as marvelous. Needless to say, I took pictures and video. It was at this time that we realized that we had never seen the Magic at night. We were always on board and at sea when the sun was down. Of course, when we picked up Caity later she couldn't believe that we went without her so we went back the next afternoon. Caity kept saying, "I can't believe Juri is right over there and I can't go to see him." Tommy wasn't here as he had taken some time off visit home while the ship was in drydock. By the way the Magic was in for some routine maintenance and for some remodeling. I know that Rockin' Bar D is going to be remodeled because when it was built country line dancing was all the rage but times have changed. I hope some updated pictures will be on the internet soon so we can see what they did.
One thing that I hadn't mentioned in the trip report was the towel animals that we found in our room each night. When our room steward O'Dell came in to turn down our room he would create sculptures out of towels. The girls enjoyed these immensely. It was a really nice touch and of course it was reflected in his tip at the end of the week. Following is a list of what we found each night:
Oct. 29- Elephant in Sunglasses
Oct. 30- Aardvark
Oct. 31- Snake
Nov. 1- Bird in Swing
Nov. 2- Frog
Nov. 3- Swan with Sunglasses
Many times he would have the animals holding our chocolates instead of leaving them on the pillows. The snake had a tongue made out of paper. The sunglasses were mine which I kept on the counter in the bedroom. They were very well done, I wish I could show you the pictures.
Island Days vs. Sea Days- I would have to say that our whole group agreed that we preferred the sea days over the island days. Don't get me wrong, both were great. But for just relaxing and taking it easy there is nothing like being at sea. The whole thing about a cruise is that you can do as much or as little as you want to. We relaxed a lot but seemed to be busy most of the time. Busy, but never rushed. As I had expected, some of my favorite times were just relaxing on the verandah or on the deck near one of the pools. Of course, this isn't counting dinner time which is always my favorite. ;-) The next time we go on this cruise I'll probably still visit the islands but instead of the whole island tours I'll probably pick a nice beach and spend all most of my time there or maybe just take a walking tour in the areas near the ship. (The rest of the group says they all will stay on the ship next time.)
For those of you who have never cruised with the DCL I would highly suggest giving it a try. Our vacation could not have been any better. The ship is absolutely beautiful and I can't say enough about the crew. During the entire week we did not run into even one crew member who was not friendly, helpful and really went out of their way to make sure that your cruising experience was as good as it can be. I always thought that Disney did a good job of hiring and training for the parks, but the level of service on the Magic goes way beyond that. I'm not high maintenance by any means but I can see that this cruise would be great for anyone that enjoys being pampered. Also, I have to say that the food onboard was much better than I had expected. I know that when the cruise line first started running there were a lot of complaints about the food. But, I think that they have those problems pretty much resolved. For the most part, the food was restaurant quality and came to the table hot and fresh. As I said before, there are plenty of activities so you can stay just as busy as you want to. Also, I should add that the kids onboard were not a problem at all. In fact, they were a joy to watch. Maybe it's because I am a parent myself and am used to being around kids. But keep in mind that the whole point of this trip for me was to be able to relax and take it easy for a change. Well, even though there are a fair amount of kids and teens onboard they are so busy with their own activities that its not like they are underfoot. In fact, most of my reading time was spent near the family pool because I like the background noise of people having fun. All the kids in the restaurants were well behaved and a lot of fun, especially on Halloween and the more formal nights when they were dressed up. I think the kids on the ship are much better behaved than you sometimes see in the parks because the kids are not exhausted from walking around all day. In fact, everyone is so much more relaxed on the ship it is very easy to strike up conversations and make new friends. Don't get me wrong, I love the parks, but the cruise has a feeling and an atmosphere all its own. I highly recommend it.
For Christmas presents, I made everyone a copy of my videotape of the vacation. And, of course, we've had to show our copy to most of our friends. This brings back great memories (as does writing this trip report). I also can't wait to get our pictures back. I took about 25 rolls during the week and we decided to wait until after Christmas to get them developed. We'll be dropping them off in a day or so. There are so many great memories that flash into my mind as I am out working or doing things around the house. Little things like seeing the water rush by through the large portholes on Deck 3. Or all the different pictures that are hanging in the stairwells. Or the corridor leading into Beat Street which looks like a city street with buildings silhouettes on the walls that have their windows lit up. Or the beautiful hallway that runs past the retail stores and leads to the Walt Disney Theater. Or the plush chairs on Deck 5 that overlook the Atrium. Or just sitting on the verandah watching the sun come up. I could go on and on listing the things that come to mind when I think back on this vacation. I have said many times that a Disney vacation is much more than the actual vacation time itself. To me, the months of planning and preparation (and expectation) really add to the total vacation experience. Ant the memories that we take home with us are priceless. I don't know when our next Disney experience will be- probably not until 2002. So if you get there ahead of me, make sure you write a trip report so I can enjoy the magic vicariously through you. If you've made this far, thanks for sticking with me. If you've never cruised with DCL before and have been considering it I hope this report has helped you in some small way. If you have cruised with DCL before I hope that this report has brought back some memories for you as writing it has for me. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me. I would love to hear from you. Until next time, take care and as Jamie from Off Kilter says, "Have a Disney day!".
David William Hastings