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Sue Holland -- December 2003 -- Walt Disney World (OKWR) / Disney Cruise (Magic) Trip


Note:  As Sue spent time at Pleasure Island and in other adult venues,
on this trip, this report has some information that may not be appropriate for young readers.

Who/When/Where

Who:

  • Sue (me), DVC member
  • Sheila, frequent cruise companion

Dates: December 3 - 11, 2004

INTRODUCTION

This will be my 15th cruise, and probably the 7th or so on Disney. Sheila has done all but 2 of the Disney cruises with me, and she & her son Colin joined my son Chris & me on a HAL cruise last year. We’re sailing on the Western Caribbean itinerary, which is the exact cruise we did together in November 2003 and which I repeated on HAL in May 2004. We love cruising, and the #1 goal is always to relax for a week. We don’t care if we see the shows or not, generally prefer not to go ashore, and don’t even mind skipping dinner in the dining room. We don’t tolerate cigarette smoke, so the Beat Street clubs are off-limits to us at night. We also both tend to rise early, and enjoy letting the sunlight wake us rather than using any alarm. I plan to work on my tan this week, maybe see a couple of movies, hang out online with SB, and perhaps “train” for our walking of the Disney half-marathon next month.

We’re booked in a category 9 cabin on deck 2 (#2578), which is pretty much mid-ship if I remember correctly. I like deck 2, as the window in the cabin is huge and I like being that close to the water. On HAL I always get a nice verandah, but the verandahs on the Disney ships aren’t worth the extra cost for me. We’ll probably see Golden Mickey’s because Sheila has never seen it. Whether we attend any other shows is questionable - generally we’d prefer relaxing with a glass of wine (in a non-smoking lounge) vs. being in a crowded theater seeing a show we’ve already seen at least once. I requested a large table, with no children, so hopefully we’ll have interesting dinner companions. One night we’ll eat at Palo, and I’m looking forward to the new Pirate night menu - although I will not be wearing a bandana! We’ve talked about trying brunch at Palo. Everyone raves about it, but we’ve always thought there’s no way we’d have room for dinner after that. However, we might try a 10:30 brunch time since our dinner is 8:30. We’ve done the dinners so many times, we could even skip dinner (it’s no big deal) or just eat an appetizer or two instead of a full meal.

We’re going to a wine & cheese party hosted by someone on the DIS board, in their 1-bedroom cabin. It’ll be fun to see what that looks like, and to spend time socializing with fellow Disney enthusiasts. We’ve had a thread running on DIS for several months. I brought a bottle of the Rosa Regale I bought at the Food & Wine Festival, and think Sheila will like it as well. Last cruise we bought Chambord and mixed it with a bottle of champagne someone sent me - the Rosa Regale should taste even better and not have to be mixed.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing the holiday decorations on the ship and on Castaway Cay, especially since this will likely be my last Disney cruise. I used to be able to squeeze several weeks of vacation away from work, but that’s no longer the case. I have to limit myself to 4 weeks, which means a week for Hilton Head, a HAL cruise, and then there’s just 2 weeks left for WDW. I’m not willing to give any of that up for a Disney cruise, so the cruises have to go.

The current plans (subject to change) so far...

Fri 12/3: Drive to WDW after work, check in OKW
Sat 12/4: Board Disney Magic, book Palo
Sun 12/5: Key West
Mon 12/6: Sea Day, Wine/Cheese Party, Golden Mickeys
Tue 12/7: Grand Cayman
Wed 12/8: Cozumel
Thu 12/9: Sea Day
Fri 12/10: Castaway Cay
Sat 12/11: Leave Magic, return home

DAY 1 - FRIDAY DEC 3, 2004:

Plan: Drive to WDW after work, check in OKW
Actual: I left work around 5:30, met Sheila in a McDonald’s parking lot around 6, and then followed her to her parent’s house in Sebring, FL. We left my car parked there, and she drove us the rest of the way to Old Key West. Check in was a breeze at almost 9:30 at night! We were given a 3rd floor studio just across the street in building 14. Since I knew I needed to access every heavy piece of luggage I’d brought, I asked if there was a ground floor studio available. The best they could do was a 2nd floor unit in building 40, so we decided to stick with #1435. Climbing to the 3rd floor really isn’t that much worse than climbing to the 2nd floor. During the drive my boyfriend SB & I had talked a few times, and then he called as we got to the OKW parking lot to say hi, and then called while we were at the front desk to say he missed me - basically to make me laugh since we’d just talked 2 minutes before!

We brought our stuff up to the room and then drove over to the Marketplace to find something to eat. There was no line at Earl of Sandwich, so we shared a caprese sandwich and ate it there. Sheila had never heard of it being a sandwich, but she liked it. Sharing it was just enough food, too - neither of us had wanted very much. We drove back to OKW, getting there around 10:30 or so. I got online and Sheila read the cruise Navigators and menus I’d printed from www.castawayclub.com <http://www.castawayclub.com/>. SB called a few more times, just quick calls but the last time he & his buddy had it set up so Barry White’s song “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” was playing for me. They were NOT drunk or anything - just being a little silly. The electrical outlets in this studio really suck - when I plug the phone charger in it just falls out to the floor, so I had to use the one in the kitchen. Every time SB would call I’d go flying out of bed and running across the studio to get the phone before it went to voice mail - while Sheila just laughed at us.

Overall it was a long day, but it’s good to be here on the eve of another cruise. It was really nice being a passenger for the 2nd half of the trip, since I hate driving after dark. The frequent calls from SB were really cute - I’m going to miss talking to him on the phone once the ship sails.

DAY 2 SATURDAY DEC 4, 2004:

Plan: Board Disney Magic, book Palo
Actual: I woke up around 7:30 and decided to get my shower out of the way. I think Sheila was probably awake over on her side of the room - she was watching TV when I came out of the bathroom. For breakfast I made some cappuccino and ate a piece of biscotti, while Sheila went to Goods to Go and got a cup of coffee and a snowman-shaped rice krispie treat. We hung out in the studio talking about our plans for the week. I talked to SB for a while, and Sheila talked to her dad - finally about 10:00 we decided to leave OKW.

We stopped at Publix to get some wine for the wine/cheese party on Monday afternoon. They didn’t have any wines with a screw cap, so Sheila also bought a corkscrew. I bought a champagne bottle stopper, which we can use to keep the Rosa Regale from going flat. We don’t drink enough to finish a bottle of anything in one sitting. She bought a bottle of merlot and I got a nice Riesling. Unfortunately, she only likes the reds and I only like whites - so we generally can’t share a bottle (Rosa Regale will probably be the exception). After leaving Publix it was an easy drive to the port, with no traffic at all. She dropped all of the bags off (including me) at the terminal, and went to go park the car while I went inside. The line was long at security, then long again waiting to check in, then longer still waiting to board! By the time we got inside they were already letting people on the ship, and by the time we finished checking in the boarding line was pretty short.

SB and Chris (my 18 yr old son) both called while I was waiting for Sheila to return from the parking lot. One weird thing - they used to send you a Bahamas form ahead of time (with the cruise documents) but this time they did not. At the terminal they gave the forms to everyone, which means people had to slow down and go fill the stupid thing out! That was a bit aggravating. Soon we were checked in, and I saw we had the dining rotation expected: LAPLAPL (Lumiere’s / Animator’s Palate / Parrot Cay) since we were an adult-only party.

Getting on the ship we bypassed the embarkation photo opportunity. We wouldn’t buy it, so there’s no point having it taken. We went directly to Rockin’ Bar D to book our Palo reservations, which didn’t take very long at all. We got dinner for Sunday night at 7, and brunch for Monday morning. PJ booked us at 11:30 but told us to just show up at 10:30 and he’d be able to seat us right away. With that done, we headed up to Topsiders on deck 9.

The lunch was the usual buffet, and we were both a little hungry. I had some cucumber salad, a small chicken breast, a roll, some French fries & a little of the orange mango soup. It was all ok - not bad but not anything special either. Sheila I think had the salmon, fries, cucumber salad, and some shrimp. We shared a small chocolate tart that was nothing special either. It was getting very cloudy, the wind was picking up, and I was starting to get really cold. I dressed in what I thought would be warm clothes this morning, but it wasn’t warm enough! We wandered around, grabbing a chocolate chip cookie for each of us as we passed Scoops. We took a few photos around the upper decks, and then stopped at the spa/fitness center.

The fitness classes are complimentary, so we checked the schedule and I went into the gym to sign us up for several of them while Sheila stood in line to book the Spa Taster (massage & facial). She did this last time and really liked it. The sign up area was torture, thanks to the unruly children screaming and jumping all over the sofas (so much for keeping the under-18 year old people out). I complimented the lady behind us on how well-behaved her young daughters were, and she told me her girls were appalled by the other brats who were there. Finally Sheila got through the line, and we were out of there. I had thought about getting a haircut before the cruise, but with my traveling I had no time. I checked the ship prices - the haircut I can get at home for $15 is $52 here! After the initial shock, I decided what the hell - it’s only money, and I don’t have time to take care of it at home. So, I booked a haircut for tomorrow.

We walked around some more, checked our cabin and dropped off our carry-on bags. The luggage hadn’t arrived, unfortunately. We went up to the internet café so I could get that started, but it wouldn’t work until 3pm (about 45 minutes later). We wandered around some more - found a neat gingerbread house built on deck 3. It was real - I could see where someone had broken the ears off some of the Mickey-shaped cookies on the roof. We checked out the Cove Café (coffee/wine place) and found they’ve got some nice outdoor tables but they all have ashtrays on them. A couple smokers were there, and it was absolutely disgusting! We went inside and sat for a while, where it didn’t stink. Around 3 Sheila went outside to call her son Colin (he’s away in the Air Force now), and I went back to the Internet Café and signed up for the unlimited plan to keep in touch with SB. I let him know I was back online, Sheila arrived, and soon we returned to the cabin to check on the luggage. I saw on AOL it was 59 degrees - no wonder I was so damn cold!

The luggage STILL hadn’t arrived - we’ve always been fully unpacked & settled before the lifeboat drill, but that was not going to happen this time. At 4 when we went up to the drill it still hadn’t arrived! One nice thing about the cold weather is that we weren’t hot & sweaty during the lifeboat drill (gotta find the bright side). The drill was miserable - too many whining, crying young children who were really too young to understand why they had to be there. Michael called during the drill, and I was relieved to hear that a work situation we expected to be very difficult actually turned out pretty well. I’d been worried about him, so it was good of him to call. We kept talking on the way back to and inside the cabin - Sheila took my life jacket off for me, which was nice. I sat at the porthole, enjoying our view - 2 large construction dumpsters and pallets of trash from the previous cruise. We laughed that we were in the dungeon on our last Disney cruise and this time we have a dumpster view. Once we sailed though, the lousy view was left behind!

My luggage arrived, and I was able to start unpacking. We had maintenance come to reset the safe because there was a problem with it. We went up on deck for the sail-away, but didn’t bother with the party. It was too crowded and too noisy. We wandered around the forward area and I noticed a Christmas tree up on the mast. At 5:00 SB called to say Bon Voyage, and soon we were sailing away. The countdown and blowing of the ship’s horn didn’t happen until 10 minutes or so later (we left at 5). Once we got out to the open water we headed back downstairs, where we found Sheila’s luggage had been delivered.

We unpacked and figured out what to do tonight. I’ve been on the road for quite a while, except for 3 nights at home right before this trip. I was surprised to find I had 17 pairs of underwear in my suitcase - more than enough for a 7-day cruise, lol. I also discovered I still have no sense of direction on ships. I know where forward & aft are, but invariably I turn to head forward and hear Sheila say “no Sue, this way”. It doesn’t matter what cruise line, what ship - I rarely make the right turn.

I was not hungry at all, but we’re going to go to dinner at Lumiere’s. It’ll be nice to meet our table mates, and I don’t have to order much if I’m still not hungry. We changed into casual evening clothes and went upstairs in time for the 6:30 Welcome Aboard variety show in the big theater. The show was ok - it featured the Disney cast & characters doing a few production numbers, and in between they had the magician Mike Super and the comedian Gary Delena. The acts weren’t bad, but they certainly didn’t “wow” me either. The comedian made up song parodies, which was entertaining.

When the show ended we left the theater and stood at the railing on deck 4 to wait for the tree lighting ceremony that was scheduled at 7:45. They delayed it, citing the show getting out late as the reason, which made no sense to us since we came from the show after it ended and had been standing there quite a while. Seemed like a Disney fib to me. Finally it got started, and they insisted on the crowd singing 3-4 Christmas carols. We were both wishing they’d just light the damn tree, lol - sounds grinch-like but that’s what we wanted to see. Neither of us is into the singing around the Christmas tree scene - a little too sappy, I think. They had a large number of guests turn out for the lighting, along with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto.

We stopped at Preludes to get a couple of wine glasses, then returned to the cabin and poured a glass of each of our wines. It felt too cold to be out walking the deck, so we stayed indoors. Our dinner tonight is in Lumiere’s, the French restaurant (the fanciest one). Dress is casual ship-wide tonight, which is a change from how they used to do things when the cruise line first started. Back then Lumiere’s used to request better dress, while the other 2 requested casual attire. Now the dress code for the evening applies to all three. We headed upstairs to dinner around 8:25.

We were at a table for 6, with first-time cruisers. There was Dawn & Diane, a mother & adult daughter from Ohio, and Bonnie & Dennis, a husband/wife from New York City. Everyone was very nice, once the conversation started flowing. We were the last to arrive, and the other people were seated on either end of the table, across from their other half. Sheila & I sat across from each other at the inside chairs - but it worked out well because it was easy to talk with people on either side.

We met our server and assistant server, and got the “excellent” speech. He wasn’t too pushy, though. The food and service were excellent throughout the meal, and everyone enjoyed their meals. I had the mixed garden salad (love the goat cheese topped croutons) and the rigatoni pasta with 4-cheese cream sauce. I remembered having the pasta once before, and it was very good. Sheila had the fried camembert cheese, mixed garden salad and salmon for her entrée. The others had either the beef tenderloin or the duck, along with shrimp cocktail, escargot, cream of cauliflower soup, chilled vichysoisse soup and the fried cheese. For dessert 3 of the people had the honey cinnamon apple tart, which was a very large portion. I ordered the sugarless chocolate mousse, but it had a funky taste. It must have been HAL where I had a sugarless chocolate mousse that was good! Sheila & Dennis skipped dessert, having just coffee. Our server also brought a couple of portions of crème brulee for us to share and omigod was that good! I left my mousse uneaten and ate over half of one of the crème brulees! I don’t normally like it, but this was very good.

When we finished eating I excused myself and went to the internet café to hang out online with SB for a while, then returned to the stateroom. Sheila was already in her bed reading. DVC had delivered a “Welcome Aboard” packet with a couple of lanyards and some information I’ll look at later. The member reception is tomorrow morning at 10, and we usually attend to get whatever freebies they’re handing out. I’ll try for a baseball cap for SB. I finished up the report for today, then got ready for bed and looked over the DVC stuff and tomorrow’s Personal Navigator (schedule of activities).

Today was a nice day, other than the weather being much colder than we’d like. It’s great being back on a cruise ship, and there is a benefit to repeating the same cruise - the ship is familiar right from the start and other than heading in the wrong direction it’s a breeze finding everything.

DAY 3 - SUNDAY DEC 5, 2004:

Plan: Key West, DVC Reception, Palo Dinner
Actual: I’d forgotten how wonderful it is sleeping on a cruise ship! Hearing the faint hum of the engine, hearing the waves hitting the hull - it’s very soothing! The beds & pillows are comfortable, too - and we had no human noise from anywhere (the hall, other cabins). It was really nice.

I’d set my little travel alarm for 6:30 and got up shortly after that. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and found Sheila up watching TV when I came back out - one nice thing about traveling with her is we both like to get up early. She probably gets up earlier than I do, in fact. The ship’s channel said it was 75 degrees outside, which was good news. It also reported a strong breeze, which is not so good - definitely bad for the hair! We got dressed, put on our sneakers, grabbed some water and headed up to deck 4 to try to do 15 laps (5 miles). I wore my pedometer to track our walking.

The pedometer ended up not working properly - it was measuring distance way too fast. 3 laps is a mile, but it registered a mile after 1.5 laps. We used it only for measuring time, and I was disappointed at how slow we were! We ended up doing only 3 miles. Sheila had trouble with her toes going numb, and I decided to stop when she did rather than continue. We’ll walk more after it cools down (how funny yesterday we were freezing and today we want it to cool down). Sheila went to Cove Café to buy a café mocha (which was not very good) and I went to the stateroom to get my cappuccino (just added water at the beverage station).

We met on deck 9 & had breakfast at Topsiders, eating outside on the sunny deck. It was gorgeous out there, and not busy at all! I was amazed by the number of people eating indoors - they can do that at home, so why waste the chance to eat outside on deck?? We each got one of the small Mickey waffles and some melon. I also had hash browns and a piece of plum tomato with melted cheeses and oregano on top. Sheila had some scrambled eggs. Everything tasted good, and it was really nice sitting outside.

After breakfast I went to Cove Café and got online for a little while, and Sheila wandered around up on deck 10. We met at the DVC Member Celebration, which began at 10am in Diversions. It was well attended, but not mobbed like last time. They talked about what’s new in DVC, and asked if people who had used their points at non-Disney places. Most of the people there had used their points for a cruise prior to this cruise. Personally I think the # of points it takes to cruise now is ridiculous, and has been for a couple of years. They drew tickets and if the person answered a question they got to pick a prize. Most people got picked, including both of us. We each got one of the blue dvc bags they gave as a gift one night on the last member cruise. The event ended about 10:45 and we went back to the stateroom to get changed into swimsuits.

One thing I noticed today is things were much louder than necessary. The music at the Goofy pool could probably be heard in Cuba! Even the “quiet” adult pool had a guitar player singing and his volume was pumped up so high we chose to take lounge chairs next to the basketball court to get away from the noise. He wasn’t bad - it was just too loud! The ship was cleared for people to get off earlier than planned, which was nice. The big crowds disappeared at that point and we were left with a nice peaceful ship & a beautiful warm sunny day. HAL’s Veendam pulled in after us, and docked in front of us at Mallory Square. We were at the other dock, near the shops - and a Carnival ship came in and docked behind us. I imagine the port was busy with 3 ships in today!

Around 12:30 I went to Pluto’s and brought back an order of chicken tenders for us to share. Actually we each ate 1 and we threw the 3rd one away - we didn’t want to eat much before our Palo dinner, but we did find room to each have a chocolate chip cookie! Certain priorities remain even when on vacation or when a dinner is scheduled! I talked to my Dad up in Boston for a while, and read a couple of magazines, then just closed my eyes and rested a while.

Sheila left just before 2 for her massage/facial at the spa. I stayed until just before 3, then packed up our stuff and made a brief stop at the internet café to get online before returning to the stateroom. I changed back into non-swimsuit clothes and went up to the hair salon just in time for my 4pm haircut appointment. The stylist was a nice girl from South Africa. She didn’t talk much, but spent a lot of time working on little sections of hair & making sure everything was perfect. Afterwards she sprayed some stuff on my hair to separate the curls, but it dried all stiff and I didn’t like it (I didn’t say anything, since I’d given her the ok to do it in the first place). I was surprised that the charge for the haircut was only $30 instead of the $52 I saw on the price list yesterday. That’s really not bad considering we’re on a cruise ship.

I stopped at Cove Café and found SB online. We instant messaged for a while, and then my son Chris called so I talked to him a bit, too. He thought I should be off the ship, enjoying Key West, but I enjoy the ship more than Key West! Eventually I went back to the stateroom, arriving just before 5. Sheila was out running around the ship somewhere, so I went ahead and took my shower, rinsing the spray stuff out of my hair!

After drying my hair I had just enough time to get up on deck for the Key West sunset, so I went up and took a few pictures for my friend Missy. Santa Goofy and Chip & Dale were posing for photos in the atrium, and Pocahontas was up on the 4th floor near the elevators. I skipped all that, and returned to the stateroom, running into Sheila out in the hall on her way back. She’d spent the rest of the afternoon reading on deck 9 & now was back to get ready for dinner. While she showered I had a glass of wine and downloaded her photos onto my laptop. Yesterday her memory card filled up (there were lots of photos from before the cruise), and she said she’d just buy another card. However, after nearly having a stroke when she saw the price of the cards on the ship (I stifled a chuckle at this point) she decided to maybe look for one on shore at Key West. I suggested that we download all of her photos onto the laptop instead, and then when I get home I can burn them all onto a CD for her since she’s never been able to get them downloaded onto her computer. She liked that idea, so that’s what we did. I can even upload hers to Ofoto when I get to my hotel Sunday since I’ll have high speed wireless internet then rather than dial-up like at home.

Sheila poured herself a glass of wine once she finished getting ready, and we hung out in the stateroom until shortly before 7. At Palo we were seated right away by PJ. We had him as our head waiter last year, and he is one of the nicest people on the ship! Our server was Andrew from the Philippines, and he did a fantastic job for us. We started with the stuff they bring everyone - breads, spreads, antipasto, parmesan cheese & prosciutto. We ate what we liked, and left the rest - the garlic mayo spread was great on the bread, especially with pieces of parmesan cheese or a clove of garlic on top - mmm! I planned to order a glass of the Moscato wine, but it was not on the menu or the wine list. I asked Andrew about it and he said they still have it - it’s their most popular wine. I guess they’re keeping it a secret by not having it on the menu??? He brought me a glass, and it was great. Sheila brought a glass of red wine with her, and didn’t need to order another one.

For appetizers Sheila had the fried calamari, which she said was very good. I had the tomato & mozzarella salad, which had a really interesting presentation. They used plum tomatoes but took all the soft & seedy part out, leaving just the shell. They placed 5 small balls of the fresh mozzarella into a pile in the center of the plate, and then placed 4 tomato pieces on top to completely enclose the cheese. They had some leaves sticking out of the top, and some pesto and balsamic vinegar along the side. It looked nice, and was absolutely light & delicious. I also ordered today’s special appetizer, figuring we’d share it. It was slices of melon and strawberries in balsamic vinegar, with a bunch of prosciutto shaped into a big rosebud. It looked pretty, but I don’t like prosciutto and the fruit was a little weird with balsamic vinegar. The melon was incredibly ripe - it almost melted in my mouth. The melon at breakfast was nothing like this, unfortunately!

For entrees Sheila had the penne pasta with crabmeat & topped with several large shrimp. I got the filet mignon, which is presented with a gorgonzola sauce topped by mashed potatoes with some sort of leaf and a Portobello mushroom on top, and the filet on top of that, topped off with skinny asparagus spears and a cherry tomato. It looked very nice, but the filet was huge. I ate around the edge and ate some of the potatoes but left the rest. Andrew had told us he’d ordered a chocolate soufflé for each of us, but also had us order something else from the dessert menu. We were feeling ok after the appetizer, but dessert did us in! Besides the 2 soufflés we ordered the pistachio torte (me) and the panna cotta (Sheila). Everyone at surrounding tables was looking at us when we had 4 desserts on the table! We noticed people who had sat behind us (a couple) had 2 soufflés EACH, plus the tiramisu. We were amazed anyone could eat 2 soufflés, and I’m not sure why anyone would want to! We both liked the other desserts better than the soufflé - and neither of us ate more than half of the soufflé. I never would have thought I’d be saying this, but it was just too rich & chocolaty. Our dinner took just about 2 hours from start to finish, and it was a wonderful meal.

We headed out on deck to try to walk off some of our dinner. We started on deck 10 but it was a bit cool in the wind, so we went to deck 9 but ran into obstacles where they were pressure cleaning the deck. We ended up on deck 4, and probably walked 1-2 miles all together. We pretended the funky suits stored at the bow of the ship were attacking me, and got caught by a couple of ladies who were out walking and stopped to look & laugh at us. Sheila headed back to the stateroom to watch a Tom Hanks movie she wanted to see, while I did another lap around the deck and then spent quite a while instant messaging with SB in the internet café. The ship sailed at 10:15, but I was online and missed it. In the dark there’s not much to see anyway - Tuesday will be better since we sail at 5.

I got back to the cabin sometime before 11, and saw we had another blanket animal. We haven’t had any towel animals yet. Last night we never did figure out what our blanket creature was - it looked like a blob. Tonight it was a swan - a big brown swan, lol! I was about to take a picture of it when Sheila destroyed it to spread it on her bed. She tried putting it back for me, but it looked really pathetic, so she pretended to stab it and kill it, and I took a picture of that instead.

I finished up the report & then got ready for bed. I always read the Navigator for the next day before going to sleep, and I did a little reading since I wasn’t that tired yet. Today was a terrific day. I love having the ship to myself when everyone else has gone ashore! It’s so peaceful & relaxing laying on a chaise lounge without 100 other people crowded nearby. Dinner was top-notch, as always. Even my haircut was a pleasant surprise, and it’s one last think I have to deal with when I get home next week!

DAY 4 - MONDAY DEC 6, 2004:

Plan: Sea Day, Palo Brunch, Wine/Cheese Party, Golden Mickeys
Actual: Today is our busiest planned day, and since it’s a sea day and the pools will be mobbed it made sense to me to plan it that way. We have 2 fitness classes, a fitness seminar, brunch, a party, captain’s reception, a show, and probably dinner (if we’re not still stuffed from brunch).

I got up around 7, dressed and went up on deck 4 to walk for a while. Sheila was awake by the time I left, and we agreed to meet here in the cabin for our exercise class. I noticed my knee was a little more swollen than usual, and remembered (duh) the doctor telling me to avoid stairs while recuperating. The past 2 days we’ve been using the stairs almost exclusively, climbing 7 flights at a time like we normally do. I’ll have to lay off that and start using the elevators when going that far.

Because I wasn’t sure about the knee I only walked a mile - plus it was pretty warm on the sunny side of the ship! I went back to the stateroom and got stuff to make a ½ cup of cappuccino. I added the water up at the beverage station on deck 9 (using the elevator this time), then rode back down to deck 3 and went to the internet café for about 15 minutes. Back in the stateroom I told Sheila about a trivia project a friend is working on and we watched CNN to see what was going on in the world. Around 8:05 we headed up to the fitness center for the 8:15 Body Energizer/Fit Ball class.

The class was full, with too many people actually. Some of the guests had to be down a little hallway just to find room. The class used resistance bands and the fitness balls - it was a tough class, but it felt good to be doing something. A couple of exercises were impossible because of my knee, but in one case I was able to use the ball to adapt it, and in the other the instructor just had me do something totally different. Darn, I thought I was going to get to just lay there and do nothing. After the class we walked around on deck 4 for another mile, and then headed inside. Sheila went to the stateroom and took a quick shower, while I headed to the internet café and spent time instant messaging with SB.

I got back to the stateroom in time to dress for brunch (resort casual - no shorts or jeans), and we made it up to Palo right at 10:30. We asked PJ to put us in Andrew’s section again, and Andrew was glad to see us. It was nice that he already knew many of our likes and dislikes, so he just took care of us without a lot of question. They hand you a glass of champagne as you enter, which you can leave at your table. Andrew took us up to the buffet portion of the brunch and explained what everything was. They had big shrimp, giant crab legs, and Florida stone crab claws. There were a lot of funky things I’d never try, a whole breakfast selection, a fruit & breads/pastry table, cheeses, and a whole dessert buffet. In addition, they make pizzas to order and have 3 breakfast and 3 lunch entrees, along with a couple of soups. The breakfasts were eggs benedict, omelet or pancakes. The lunch choices were tilapia, pasta or beef tenderloin. Everything looked amazing, and the service was impeccable.

We went through the buffet, but neither of us got very much because we knew we’d be too stuffed to try much else. It’s amazing to watch the other people though - they had plates full of food, and ate like they would never see another meal again! We tried part of a sticky bun, which was probably the best sticky bun I’ve ever eaten. I had a little cheese, and tried a stone crab claw but wasn’t impressed. Sheila had some shrimp and some cheese, and I’m not sure what else. I tried the chilled gazpacho, but barely ate half of it. It was very good, but so spicy my throat was burning and Sheila said my face was turning pink! We shared a margherita pizza, and that was also very good. Sheila skipped the entrée, but I ordered the eggs benedict just to try it. I don’t normally like it, but I figured here at Palo it would probably be excellent and I was right. Everything about it was just perfect - I didn’t finish even one half of it, but I ate more than I planned because it was so good. Andrew brought us a selection of desserts, including a strawberry tart, ricotta cheesecake and tiramisu. We tried them all and decided the cheesecake was the best by far. Sheila went up to the dessert buffet to see what else she might want, but came back with just another of the small cheesecakes. I helped her eat it, but knew I was not going up to look at the desserts because I was too full as it was!

We were at brunch for about 1.5 hours, and it was a wonderful experience. If I was going to cruise Disney again, I’d definitely do this! We left Palo and went down to the shops, where I picked up a couple of things a friend had asked for. After dropping my purchases off in the stateroom and changing back into my shorts and tank, we headed up to do some walking around deck 10.

My jaw dropped when we stepped outside down near the Mickey Pool - it was an absolute mob scene in that whole area on decks 9 & 10. Think Magic Kingdom on the most miserable busy day of the year, and that’s what it reminded me of. There is no way in hell I would be able to stand being in that area, so I’m glad I never brought Chris on a cruise until he was old enough to be off on his own! We fought our way past the seventeen million deck chairs, strollers and running children and found it almost as busy at the Goofy Pool. The adult pool wasn’t too bad, but it was still very busy - more crowded than I like. The decision to do non-pool stuff today was definitely the right one. We did a few laps, and then went down to deck 9. Sheila stopped by the spa and I went over to Cove Café and instant messaged with SB for a little while until she returned. We walked on deck 4, but I was getting tired and just wanted to go inside. She stayed on a deck chair and I went to the stateroom and updated the report. I could have used a nice long nap, but that wasn’t going to happen!

Our cabin steward hadn’t serviced our room yet, and was beside himself apologizing for that. We didn’t care, but I did let him know that we usually leave the room early in the morning, so we agreed he’d clean our room around 8 each day. That should work well for everyone. Today he’ll come back at 1:30 when we leave, and I imagine we might be his last stateroom to do.

Around 1:30 we popped open the Rosa Regale even though we were still full from brunch. We poured a couple of glasses and took them with us up to the wine/cheese party where we planned to eat NOTHING. The party was hosted by someone on the DIS board who had booked a 1-bedroom suite (#8522).

We enjoyed meeting the other DIS people and we stayed about 45 minutes. Everyone was leaving at that point, off to do other stuff. We decided to skip the 3pm exercise class and see the 2:15 matinee of Golden Mickeys. We got there just as it was about to start, and enjoyed the show. Sheila had never seen it before, which is why we went. We walked a lap on deck 4 after the show, then I went to the internet café and she went to the stateroom. We met back up in the stateroom around 3:45 and went up to the spa for the 4pm seminar on strong backs and flat abs. The seminar was interesting, and we learned a few Pilates exercises. One couple who was there we’ve run into everywhere it seems!

We wandered around on deck 9 for a while, but it was very windy. Scoops didn’t have any chocolate chip cookies - I’ll have to complain to DCL (kidding). I went inside to shower & dress for the evening, and Sheila hung out on deck for a while. After I was dressed I went up to the internet café to send a quick email to a friend, and ended up instant messaging with SB for most of the time. I ran back down to the stateroom shortly before 6 and Sheila was there. She changed into her evening clothes and we headed upstairs to see the 6pm showing of National Treasure. We were going to see it Thursday night, but by doing it tonight that leaves us Thursday free in case we find something else to do. Originally we were going to see Golden Mickeys tonight, but got that done this afternoon. Whew - it’s tough work being on a cruise!

The movie was excellent - I loved it! The theater was almost full, which surprised me on Golden Mickeys night. When it finished we had just 15 minutes until dinner, which tonight was in Parrot Cay. It was a challenge finding our table since it was our first visit. I wondered why nobody was helping guests to their tables but then realized we should have been at the character breakfast here this morning (no thanks). All of our table mates were present, and we had another great dinner. Our serving team really does a good job, and they serve us promptly. I had the tropical fruit appetizer, while Sheila had the crab appetizer and a garden salad. The others mostly had the crab, except for Bonnie who had the chicken wings (very tiny wings) and some had the soup. For my entrée I chose the baby back ribs this time, and they were delicious! It’s too bad it took me 7 or 8 cruises to find the best thing on this menu! Sheila had the rib eye steak, which she said was good. For dessert she had the lemon meringue pie, which was an adorable individual little pie. I got the crème brulee cheesecake to go. I stopped at the internet café after dinner to meet up with SB online, and chatted with him for a while. We’ve always ended our day being together online, even when I’ve been at Comedy Warehouse and getting in late. It’s a nice routine, and one I would miss if I hadn’t done the internet package.

I went down to the stateroom, where Sheila was in her bed reading tomorrow’s navigator. We’re not late-night people at all! Tonight we had a towel animal - it looked like a dog - no more blanket blobs. I finished up the report & got ready for bed; snacking on some of the cheesecake since I wasn’t sure it would keep overnight (the plate is too big for the fridge, so we put it over the ice bucket).

We survived our busy day! It was a good day, and everything went really well. The Palo brunch is a definite don’t-miss for anyone cruising, and if you haven’t seen National Treasure yet you need to!

DAY 5 - TUESDAY DEC 7, 2004:

Plan: Grand Cayman
Actual: After another night of sleeping well on the ship, I woke up just before 7am and saw we were already at Grand Cayman. The big Carnival ship (Miracle) was just outside our window. I quickly got dressed & headed up on deck. On the other side I found Celebrity’s Century, and coming in was HAL’s Zaandam. I started walking on deck 4, and Sheila joined me once she was up & dressed. I did 3 miles, and she did 2, then we decided to have breakfast up on deck. We both got some fruit, then Sheila added scrambled eggs and I had them make me a small tomato/cheese omelet. We’d stopped at the beverage station and made our own café mochas with a mix of decaf coffee and hot chocolate. She said it tasted as good as the one she bought at Cove Café the other day (which wasn’t very good). I thought it was ok, but will stick with my regular cappuccino from now on.

After breakfast we changed into our swimsuits and headed up to deck 10. It wasn’t crowded at all, and we spent most of the day there either dozing or reading. Around noon I went to Scoops and Topsiders and brought us back a plate of fruit and a couple of the chocolate chip cookies. Around 2:30 I’d had enough sun, so I stopped at the internet café and then went to the stateroom to take my shower. Sheila was partly in the shade, and she’d just started my friend Leanne’s novel - Highland Wishes. I knew she’d have trouble putting it down! I finished up the cheesecake from last night, updated the report, and then headed back up to the internet café for a little while. An issue had come up at work, and I wanted some assurance they were taking care of it.

SB was online, so after checking on the work thing we spent almost an hour chatting. I’d meant to get back to the stateroom before we sailed away, but never did. Sheila came up to confirm that I was going to miss the sail away - she figured I was busy talking to him and had lost track of time. She headed out to watch the ship sail away, and I finished up with SB - giving myself almost 10 minutes to return to the stateroom, dress for the evening, and meet Sheila upstairs for the Castaway Club reception. It doesn’t sound like much time, but I did it!

We were in line shortly before they started letting people in, and were ushered into Rockin’ Bar D. The spread looked the same, but I noticed the chicken tenders were missing. The hot items were spring rolls, chicken wontons, coconut fried shrimp & fried jalapeno poppers. There were the usual cold canapés, but I never know what is on them and so I never take any. They said there were 700 repeat cruisers on board, which is the highest % of any cruise line. However, I know that’s not true unless they’re ignoring HAL for some reason.

We got a rum punch (the complimentary drink) to go, and went to the movie theater at 6 to see Mr. 3000. This is a baseball movie, about a real player. The lead guy was a total jerk, but developed into a decent person by the end of the movie. It was a good movie - not as good as National Treasure, but certainly worth seeing.

After the movie we found the atrium to be a mob scene because some of the characters were out. There were so many people in the area the noise was deafening, and the kids were especially obnoxious (parents, if the kid is screaming in line perhaps you should skip the character greet). We ran into some counselors and kids from the club, who were literally crawling on the floor in a very congested area by the elevators. I was appalled, and shocked when I saw the crawling was something the counselors were telling the kids to do - it was very inappropriate in that setting (and dangerous)! We decided to remove ourselves from the mobs, stopped by the Promenade Lounge for wine glasses then returned to the stateroom.

I wrote out a note for a friend who works for DVC - one of the cast members on board will email her at work to get the message to her for me. Sheila poured herself a glass of wine, but I wasn’t in the mood for any tonight (after 1.5 rum punches I had no room for more alcohol). I headed up to the internet café and Sheila watched some TV for a little while before meeting me up there.

Tonight’s dinner is the Small World menu, with choices from various countries. Bonnie & Dennis are eating at Palo tonight, but the rest of us will be in Lumiere’s again. I ordered the chilled cucumber & mint soup, which was good. I also had the Greek salad, which was pretty bad. The feta cheese was way too salty, and the onions were too strong - I couldn’t eat it. Sheila had the lobster bisque, which she said was good this time (it was too salty last cruise). For entrees Sheila got the salmon and the rest of us ordered the chicken fettuccine alfredo. Everything at this course was excellent. For dessert the other 3 got the apple pie, and I ate part of the ice cream sundae with butter pecan ice cream. Our server also brought a portion of bread pudding - Diane and I each tried it, but neither of us liked it.

After dinner Sheila went for a walk, and I got online. Back in the stateroom we had a towel rabbit from our steward, and a card reminding us to turn the clocks back an hour. Sheila watched a movie & I did some reading after finishing up the report for today.

Today was a nice relaxing day - exactly what I expect cruising to be like! Some people might think it’s strange to skip the ports, but we like the ship much better than the ports.

DAY 6 - WEDNESDAY DEC 8, 2004:

Plan: Cozumel
Actual: Since the clocks were supposed to be turned back an hour last night when I woke up at 7:30 it was really 6:30 ship’s time. Sheila was awake, so we got dressed & then I set her up on the laptop to review her photos and delete the ones she didn’t want to keep. Around 7:00 we headed up on deck and walked 2 miles together, and then she sat in the shade while I did one more mile. It was hot on the sunny side of the ship, so I walked inside in the air conditioning on that side.

Along the way we noticed a few things worth mentioning - one good, the others not. First, we kept seeing instances where guests had been somewhere and walked away leaving their trash on the floor even though a trash can was not more than 2 feet away. I picked up stuff and threw it in the trash, not understanding why people have to be such pigs! Second, why do people feel it’s appropriate to come out of their cabin and be in a public area while still wearing their pajamas??? There was no mistaking that it was pajamas we saw, and it wasn’t only on the children (although that’s just as inappropriate). It seemed really low-class, and not what you expect on a cruise ship. Third, walking on deck 4 is tough because it’s not wide enough to accommodate the joggers & walkers. You constantly have to get out of the way, which is a real pain. I’ve complained about the crappy deck on the Disney ships before, so enough said for today. Fourth - this is the nice thing we saw: There’s an older man on board who every morning is out on a deck chair with his 2 kids, reading to them. We’ve seen him every day. The kids are elementary school age, and sit there quietly, listening to whatever novel the guy is reading from. You don’t see that much, but it was nice to see.

We returned to the stateroom to drop off stuff and get my cappuccino, then went up to Topsiders on deck 9 for breakfast. It was much busier than yesterday, since the ship was still sailing. We both started with fruit again, and then Sheila added eggs & a Mickey waffle while I went to the omelet station and got another small tomato & cheese omelet. She found us a table out on deck, which was a stroke of luck since it was so crowded. As we were eating we got close to Cozumel, so we went to the edge of the deck and watched the ship pull into the dock.

There was a Celebrity ship anchored offshore, NCL’s Norwegian Majesty at a dock ahead of us, and Celebrity’s Galaxy sharing the dock we were assigned to. We were docking in San Miguel, and I could see several other ships at the other dock 3 miles down the road. As we pulled in the captain sounded our horn, and the people on the Galaxy’s deck cheered and clapped! The dock is narrow, so we were really close to each other. The Galaxy looks like a nice ship, although I don’t like they way their promenade deck is on 2 different decks and requires you to climb stairs to get from one end to the other - that’s tough on anyone in a wheelchair or anyone wanting to jog. The NCL ship - well, let’s just say I’m not a fan of NCL and consider their ships (even the new ones) to be bottom of the line cruising - kind of the Wal-Mart of the cruise ships.

Once we were secured at the dock we returned to the stateroom to change into our swimsuits and headed up to deck 10 by the adult pool. It was another gorgeous sunny & breezy day, and it was delightful being out there for about 4 hours. We napped, read, chatted a bit, and today Sheila went on the lunch run. She brought back fruit and chocolate chip cookies. She claimed 3 of them stuck together so she just took them all, forcing us each to eat 1.5 cookies - somehow it wasn’t a hardship for either of us. I went back to the stateroom just before 2 and got my shower out of the way, Sheila returned after I was done - we had plans to go ashore to do some shopping and figured we wanted to be off the ship by 3. I headed up to the internet café to instant message with SB while she got her shower & got ready. All too soon Sheila arrived - dang, I wouldn’t have minded if she took hours to get ready.

We headed off the ship, and were surprised to see quite a few police officers carrying M16 rifles. That seemed a bit much, but we just took it as a cue to not do anything stupid. Cozumel hasn’t changed - it’s still congested, thanks to all of the cruise ships. The sidewalks in front of the shops are pathetic - huge holes covered with pieces of plywood or tile. Heaven help anyone in a wheelchair! The constant solicitation by the shopkeepers trying to get us into their store got tiresome, but we knew what we were looking for and ignored them all. Sheila bought a pretty slide for her mom for Christmas, and a necklace to wear with her dress tomorrow. I just got some vanilla for a friend. I’ve been here enough times there isn’t anything else I want or need.

We returned to the ship around 4:30 or so, and decided to finish our wine while watching the sunset. We took the wine up to deck 10 but the sunset was not the greatest - too many low clouds. It was fun watching several of the cruise ships sail away, however. By 7 or 8 we were the only ship left at this dock area. We walked around on deck 10, doing a mile up there, and then went down to the stateroom. I poured the rest of my wine, and went up to the internet café for about an hour. When I returned Sheila was out, so I headed up to do some walking on deck 4 since there was plenty of time before I needed to dress for the evening. Deck 4 was partially closed off, so I went up to deck 10 and walked 2 miles up there. When I returned to the stateroom Sheila was there - she’d been wandering around decks 9 & 10 but we never ran across each other. We hung out in the stateroom until it was time to go up to Animator’s Palate for our 8:30 dinner (which feels like 9:30 to us).

Tonight is the special Pirates of the Caribbean menu, which I’m looking forward to. They also give everyone a bandana, but I refuse to wear stuff like that. I don’t do the little Dutch girl hat on HAL cruises, so I’m certainly not wrapping a bandana around my head here! Tonight Dawn wasn’t feeling well, so it was just 5 of us at dinner. Diane & Sheila had the crab cake appetizer, Dennis had the crab/shrimp/salmon appetizer, and Bonnie & I ordered the pineapple. This was a fresh pineapple spear accompanied by a coconut-covered banana & orange glaze. It was fabulous! I also ordered the chilled honeydew & mango soup, but didn’t like it because the mango flavor was too predominant. The others had a salad or spicy vegetable gumbo soup.

The entrees were really terrific. Three of them had the shrimp and scallops over pasta, Bonnie had the roasted pork loin, and I decided to try seafood even though I generally hate seafood. My friend Michael is a big seafood lover, and before the cruise we’d talked about red snapper - he showed me sites on the internet, and thought I would like the flavor of the fish. Tonight it was coconut crusted oven-baked snapper (Dennis said it was red snapper), served over fried rice. I cautiously took a small bite, and loved it - I ate almost the whole portion! The coconut really added to it, giving it a nice sweet flavor.

During dinner I had one of those moments where you just want to crawl under the table and disappear. We were discussing the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and I commented that I might be the only woman who found Johnny Depp to NOT be appealing at all. Sheila piped up to explain to everyone that it’s just because I don’t like men with beards & long hair. Dennis was seated to my right, with his full beard and long hair pulled back in a pony tail! I wanted to smack her! - and I didn’t know what to say to Dennis that wouldn’t make it worse than it already sounded. Sheila did that for me - she told Dennis that didn’t mean I wouldn’t speak to him, just that I wouldn’t want to snuggle with him. HELLO????? His wife was happy to hear that, but I certainly had no desire to snuggle with anyone other than SB. Luckily Dennis didn’t hold this little conversation against us, and afterwards it did seem a little humorous.

The servers all did the limbo parade, getting most of the guests up in the process. We ordered dessert - Dennis tried the sugar-free rice pudding, which was so awful he didn’t eat it. The rest of us had the white chocolate cheesecake on a macadamia barnacle bottom - that was very good and pretty light for cheesecake. We were finished with dinner just in time for the deck party and pirate’s buffet. Sheila headed up on deck, but I went to the internet café where SB was waiting online. The fireworks were due to begin at 10:45, and I almost missed them. I left the internet café at 10:40, took the elevator up to deck 10, climbed back down to deck 9 (the fireworks are shot from deck 10 near Palo), then climbed up the stairs to deck 10 mid-ship. Just as I got to the top of the stairs the fireworks started, scaring the crap out of me! I have to admit - I was impressed with the fireworks. I wasn’t expecting much, but they were a nice big display and overall “more” than I thought they’d do. I wasn’t impressed with the deck party - I hate those things because they’re too crowded & noisy. I guess I’m not a party animal! Deck 9 by the Goofy pool and deck 10 in that area was wall-to-wall people. The characters were on stage, except for Mickey, who was up on deck 10. I didn’t see or hear the show they did, since I’d rather be talking to SB than watching the characters (not that he’s not a character every now & then). We decided to get out of the crowd and headed back down to the stateroom.

I updated the report and Sheila watched some TV. The clocks get moved forward an hour tonight, so tomorrow we’ll actually be at the time we started out at. Our steward left us a towel frog who was wearing my sunglasses. He’s never taken away the other animals, so we’ve got quite a zoo developing in our stateroom. We’re starting to run out of room for them, too!

Today was another great day. I just love cruising, and especially being on the ship during port days. The weather has been perfect, we got our shopping done, dinner was one of the best menus yet, and the fireworks exceeded my expectations.

DAY 7 THURSDAY DEC 9, 2004:

Plan: Sea Day
Actual: I woke up before 7, and decided to get up and start the day. After I got dressed Sheila was awake, so I headed up to walk on deck 4 and agreed to meet her there when she got upstairs. It was very windy today, and the ship was moving pretty fast. I did 3 miles, and I think Sheila did 2. We went inside to the internet café to send some stuff to Mary, and found SB online. Sheila sat back where she couldn’t see our instant message, which was very considerate of her. We got the Mary stuff taken care of, and I stayed to talk to SB for a while longer. This unlimited internet package has been so great - worth every penny!

I met Sheila up on deck 9 for breakfast, which we ate outside in the sun. We had the usual breakfast foods - why mess with success? After eating we stopped at the shops so I could buy a 2004 DCL photo album, and then returned to the stateroom to change into our swimsuits. Since the ship was going to be so mobbed today we decided to lay out on the “secret” deck 7 aft. There’s also shade there, which is important for Sheila.

We were up there from about 9:30 until afternoon. I had my sunny spot, Sheila stayed in the shade, and different people came & went throughout our stay. I finally left shortly after 2, having had enough sun at that point. Sheila was engrossed in Leanne’s novel, and just moved her chair to follow the shade. I took a brief break to jump online, catching SB just before he headed out for a while. On the way back I stopped on deck 9 to get a banana for my lunch and a chocolate chip cookie for each of us. Deck 9 was sheer bedlam - I don’t know how people stand it, even though they have small children. Once I left for good I returned to the stateroom and updated the report, then worked on the photos taken so far (downloading, naming, deleted the unwanted ones, etc). My hotel Sunday night has high -speed internet, so I wanted them all ready to be uploaded while I was there.

After finishing with the photos I went up to the internet café and spent another 45 minutes chatting with SB. By the time I finished I was starving, so I went in search of food that wasn’t fruit or chocolate chip cookies. Up on deck 9 I settled on a single chicken finger, which hit the spot. I took it back to the stateroom and found Sheila there. We had about 15 minutes before our 4:30 Fitball class up in the spa.

There were only 5 people taking the class - 2 men, another woman and us. I’m convinced the instructor is possessed by some evil force. That girl has more energy than a kindergarten class, and had everyone sweating up a storm. It was a great class, but it’s also a tough workout. When it ended we walked a mile on deck 10. It was so windy we only lasted a mile before heading back down to the stateroom shortly before 6. Once the sun sets it gets cool really quickly, particularly with the wind.

I updated the report and Sheila filled out the tip stuff & took care of that at the front desk. I took my shower first and then ran up to the internet café while Sheila showered. SB and chatted for about half an hour, then I returned to the stateroom and poured Sheila and I some of the Rosa regale. It should be gone by tonight - provided we each drink 1.5 glasses, which is easy to do. Around 7:30 we went upstairs to sit in the Promenade Lounge and do some people-watching. The lounge was hopping, with lots of people on the dance floor.

At 8:30 we went to Parrot Cay for our dinner. Everyone was at the table tonight. Tonight is the Captain’s gala dinner, with semi-formal dress. We saw several people dressed appropriately (looking very nice) but also way too many yahoos who either don’t know or don’t care how to dress. I’ll admit - this is a pet peeve of mine, and I go more casual than normal because I know Disney doesn’t enforce their dress code - enough complaining though.

This dinner menu is not one of my favorites - in fact the warm chocolate lava cake is the only thing that really appeals to me out of the entire meal. For an appetizer I ordered the tropical fruit salad, but only ate the 3 pieces of pineapple because I didn’t like the other fruits. Others had the fruit also, or soup and Dennis had the clams. I skipped the soup/salad course - others had the cream of mushroom soup, the chilled tomato consommé or the garden salad. For an entrée Sheila & Dennis had the lobster tail, which was quite large. I tried a taste, but I still don’t like lobster at all. SB absolutely loves lobster, and it had been a long time since I’d tried it - I was thinking maybe I’d developed a taste for it after all, but that didn’t happen! When Dennis finished his our server came over and asked him if he wanted another lobster tail - which he gladly accepted. Dawn had the grain fed chicken breast, Bonnie & Diane had the pasta, and I ordered the halibut. Again, I’m not a seafood eater - but nothing else on the menu really appealed to me. The fish was ok, but not something I’d seek out in the future.

Dessert was the highlight - Bonnie ordered the cherries jubilee, Dennis ordered “just coffee”, but the rest of us had the warm chocolate lava cake, which now is served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Our server brought over a covered plate to Dennis, and asked him to remove the lid. On the plate, written in chocolate, was “just coffee”! After dinner I went back to the internet café, for my end-of-the-day talk with SB, and then met up with Sheila out in the atrium. There was a holiday program with a choir and Mrs. Claus just ending. We went out to deck 4 and walked a couple of laps before returning to the stateroom to update the report (me) and get out of uncomfortable shoes (Sheila).

Tonight was the dessert extravaganza in Lumiere’s at 11:15, and for whatever reason we decided to attend. I don’t think either of us wanted to eat a single thing, but if anything looked too good to pass up we’d take it to eat tomorrow. We headed upstairs around 11:05 and joined the back of the line that had already formed. They started letting people in early, which was a good thing. I thought the dessert “extravaganza” was a big disappointment - it consisted of several tables with a few cakes on each one. Who wants big slices of cake? The desserts should be smaller sized so you can try a number of things. Nothing really looked great to us, either. I took some photos and Sheila carried a plate. We ended up with a petit-four thing and what might be a truffle. The plates were warm, so the chocolate started to melt right away. In the stateroom I transferred the chocolate into a Ziploc bag and when I tasted the chocolate that had gotten on my fingers I didn’t like it at all. Oh well, I told Sheila this was probably a good thing since if it tastes lousy I won’t eat it tomorrow!

Today was another relaxing day, filled with a couple of my favorite things - lounging around on a deck chair and talking to SB. Tomorrow is our last full day, and we’ll both be sorry to see the cruise come to an end.

DAY 8 FRIDAY DEC 10, 2004:

Plan: Castaway Cay
Actual: This morning I woke up around 7:10 - definitely too late to make the 7:15 Fitball class! That was ok though, as I was more in the mood to just walk. I got up and got dressed, then found Sheila awake when I came out of the bathroom. We agreed to meet up on deck 4, and I headed out. SB had said he’d look for me early, but I thought 7:20 was too early. However, I took a chance & he came on just after I did. We talked for a while, during which time Sheila dressed & started walking on deck 4. When she didn’t see me she figured I was talking to him. I caught up with her eventually and we walked 2 miles this morning.

After our walk we stopped at the stateroom to get my cappuccino then headed up to Topsiders on deck 9. We had the usual breakfast stuff, plus at Sheila’s suggestion we picked up cereal, milk & yogurt for breakfast tomorrow. That way we won’t have to sit in Lumiere’s and can avoid the screaming kids, strollers and suitcases that will be crowded into Topsiders. It’s always such a mess on the last day - Disney really should take a lesson from HAL on how to handle this better.

We ate out on the deck and soon the ship turned around to back into Castaway Cay. After eating we changed into our swimsuits and walked off the ship with just a few minutes wait. The “winter wonderland” I thought existed on Castaway Cay was a huge disappointment. It’s basically a tree and a plastic snowman couple on the dock - with the fake snow blowing. Once you get onto the island itself, there’s no holiday stuff. They did decorate the trams with garland and antlers, which was cute. However, I guess I was expecting more.

We decided to set up camp at the far end of the family beach. The downside was screaming, crying kids but the plus side was convenience and what we feel is actually a prettier beach than the adult beach. We were the first to arrive out that far, so we got a hammock, umbrella and chairs in the front row. It was beautiful for almost an hour, but then it got very cloudy and windy. I was actually cold in the hammock! We gave it a half-hour and it turned nice again, so we ended up staying until 2pm (4 hours).

We had lunch at Cookie’s BBQ - we each had a little potato salad and half of a cheeseburger. I looked at the ribs, but I always take some and they’re never that great. This time I was smart and skipped them. We walked back to the ship so we could take photos along the way, including some by the “winter wonderland” scene. Once we were back on the ship I went to the internet café briefly and Sheila worked on redoing her fingernails. I downloaded the photos from both of our cameras, and copied a few of mine into her directory so she’d have them too.

When that was done we went up on deck to walk around. Deck 4 was partially closed off because they were washing the lifeboats, so we headed up to deck 10 and did several laps up there. The final stragglers were returning to the ship, with everyone due on board by 4:30. I stopped in Cove Café and talked to SB, while Sheila wandered around some more. Just before 5 I remembered the sail-away, but got there after the ropes had been pulled in and the ship had pushed away from the dock. I usually enjoy watching that, but given a choice between SB and sailing away, I don’t mind that I missed the sailing away. It’s a little sad that this is probably my last visit to Castaway Cay, which is a very nice island. However, that’s by my choice - there are just too many other things I want to do more, and Disney prices for DVC members have gotten truly ridiculous.

I returned to the stateroom once I saw there wouldn’t be a nice sunset tonight, and found Sheila getting ready to take her shower. I started my packing while she was in the shower and she started her packing while I took mine. The Captain came on and warned everyone that the ‘high’ temperature tomorrow is expected to be around 60 - I’d already checked online and knew a cold front was passing through tonight. They were expecting windier conditions than any of the previous nights, due to the cold front.

After we’d packed as much as we could we went upstairs and took some photos by the Christmas tree, then came back to the stateroom and downloaded them. When that was done we headed upstairs in search of alcohol. I wanted a glass of the Moscato, but that isn’t sold everywhere. We stopped by the piano bar lounge on Beat Street (Sessions?) but neither of us liked the stale cigarette stink in there so we didn’t stay. I knew Palo had the Moscato, so we headed up there. PJ was outside the restaurant and assured us we were welcome at the bar.

I got my wine, Sheila ordered a Kahlua & cream, and we both enjoyed chatting with the bartender for the next hour. We left around 8:00 and stopped at Cove Café, where I got online briefly to chat with SB. Just before 8:30 we entered Lumiere’s for our final dinner of the cruise.

Dinner was excellent, and tonight they did the parade of nations and the baked Alaska presentation. Our serving team had a great sense of humor, and it’ll be a shame to leave them. Our dinner companions were all very nice - but also very interesting in a number of quirky ways I’ve chosen to leave out of the report (I did verify they don’t read Disney stuff online).

Tonight’s menu had the appetizer chicken tenderloins coated in cracker, with honey mustard sauce. That’s my single favorite appetizer, so I ordered that. Dawn & Bonnie did also, and Bonnie liked them so much she asked to skip her salad in favor for another chicken appetizer. Sheila and Dennis had the crawfish & lobster bisque, and Diane had a salad. Dennis also had some seafood thing with shrimp, salmon and I’m not sure what else. For my entrée I ordered the roasted red snapper (to give it a try) and it was perhaps the best non-Palo entrée I had all week! I was so surprised that I really liked it, and I ate the entire portion of fish (granted, it’s not that big, but still). It was served on a spicy orange sauce, which had a nice kick to it. Sheila & Diane had the seafood linguine, Dennis had the boneless lamb and Dawn & Bonnie had the beef tenderloin.

I skipped dessert tonight - I’ve had most of them before and for me at least, none are worth the calories. Dawn & Bonnie had the Chocolate Decadence, which is a small ice cream sundae with a chocolate mousse pastry & chocolate cookie. It sounds a WHOLE lot better than it ever was when I ordered it. Diane had the banana napoleon and Sheila had the deep dish apple cranberry pie (very good). Dennis skipped dessert also.

I said my goodbyes to the group and headed back up to Cove Café to meet SB online at 10. My friend Maria instant messaged me just before SB got on, wanting to know what the hotel tax rate is on Hilton Head Island. I laughed - do I look like a freakin’ South Carolina tax expert? I had to sweetly remind her I don’t pay hotel tax, being part of the DVC elite. Sheila arrived while I was instant messaging with SB, and sat on one of the couches to read more of Leanne’s smutty book. Seriously, it’s an excellent book - Sheila just keeps blushing at all of the sex and smut because she knows the author. She didn’t think Leanne thought like that, but you can’t get that book out of Sheila’s hands without risking losing a limb!

When I finished with SB I went over and joined Sheila. We sat there chatting for a while, and I ordered a Café Toledo - chocolate flavored coffee with baileys, Kahlua and whipped cream. It was very good! We got back to the stateroom before 11:00 and finished with the luggage we wanted them to handle for us. I finished up today’s report and Sheila continued her smut-fest reading Highland Wishes (a book I highly recommend to anyone).

Today was a beautiful day on the island, except for the brief period when it was pretty chilly. It’s been a wonderful cruise, but I’m ready to get back to the real world again.

DAY 9 SATURDAY DEC 11, 2004:

Who: Sue (me - 46), DVC member

Sheila (46), Cruise Companion

Plan: Leave Magic, return home

Actual: All good things must come to an end, including cruises. When I woke up at 5 we were already docked in Port Canaveral. I turned on my phone but didn’t get up until 6. After getting dressed I went upstairs to make cappuccino and get online at the internet café (basically killing time – I knew SB wouldn’t be up that early <g>). Sheila stopped by after she got dressed, then we ate breakfast in the stateroom (cereal & bananas from yesterday). Around 7:45 she saw people leaving the ship, so we grabbed our luggage and headed out. Getting off the ship was a breeze, but getting out of the terminal was a pain due to the long lines of people. The people working did the best they can – there is just an awful lot of people in the same place at the same time. We were on the road by 8:15, which wasn’t bad at all.

We stopped in Sebring, where I had left my car at Sheila’s parents’ house, then I continued home to Ft Myers on my own. The trip home from the ship took just about 4.5 hours, which feels like a very long time after being on a cruise for a week!

SUMMARY:

This is the first time I’ve finished a Disney cruise without having another one booked or at least planned. However, I keep looking at the points chart and cannot bring myself to book it even though I technically have enough points to do so. If I’m going to use my cash, I’ll book HAL – so I’m afraid my DCL days are over. I will miss the ship, as it’s almost like a 3rd home (after dvc resorts) to me, and I’ll especially miss Palo.

We both had a wonderful week. Sheila is the perfect travel companion – we get along well and both feel free to do things together or separately. Our next trips together will be 1 night in January for the Disney Marathon, and then we’ll spend a week in Hilton Head in April (provided there is still availability when I call this week).

I took several photos, including the holiday décor. The album can be found at http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?c=34p4jkm.8iefnwv7&x=1&y=-ufll02

MAGICAL MOMENTS:

  • The holiday décor on the ship was really pretty, and the Christmas music in the background was a nice touch. Finally being able to see this made my final Disney cruise a little extra special.
  • The internet package made it so easy to stay in touch with SB during the trip. We’re living in different states right now, and are used to talking several times a day. The thought of going 6-7 days without that contact was not a good thing, so I was very glad to have the internet available. Perhaps someday Disney will let guests access the package from their own laptops – that would make it perfect!
  • Palo dinner & brunch were both excellent! The restaurant is beautiful yet comfortable. The service is top-notch. The food is excellent and is served with an excellent presentation. There’s simply nothing I don’t love about Palo – except perhaps that I can’t eat there every night <g>!
  • Staying onboard while in port was an excellent decision for us. We both cruise with the single goal of relaxing, and there’s nothing more relaxing than lounging around on an almost deserted cruise ship all day! We’ve cruised enough that the ports are “been there, done that” to both of us, but we really enjoy seeing everyone else disembarking!
  • The new fireworks display was a very nice surprise. I had no idea they were starting this, and was quite impressed by what a nice job they did. It’s a don’t-miss for any future Magic cruisers!

Until next time - thanks for reading.

Sue Holland

WDW1972@aol.com


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