Mike Morizio -- August 2001 -- Walt Disney World (BWR) / Disney Cruise Trip
August 3-11, 2001
Experience: All except Dare are WDW veterans. We've cruised several times, but this was our first time on a Disney Cruise ship.
PART I - The decision is made
We started thinking about this cruise when we were on our last trip to WDW last August. (If you would like to read about that trip, you'll find my daughter's excellent (if I say so myself) trip report here on MousePlanet (Casey Morizio August 2000). A few weeks before, my mother-in-law mentioned that she would like to go on a cruise on a Disney ship. She's been to Disney's Old Key West Resort in WDW with us several times, and on a Premier Cruise with us back in '88 when Premier was running "Disney" cruises (3 or 4 days at sea and 3 or 4 days at WDW, with characters on board and Disney-related activities).
Sharon and I love cruises anyway. Our family went on another cruise in '92, so we started thinking about it (Marge is the easiest person in the world to travel with). Since we go to WDW quite a bit, we decided that the new 7-day cruise on the Magic was for us. Visiting the DVC sales office in the Magic Kingdom and seeing their scale model of the big boat clinched it!
When we got home, Sharon looked into using our DVC points to book a stateroom. We also talked about bringing Nick and Dare with us. Nick is in a 5-year program in computer science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Dare graduated from Temple University last spring. Since they are very serious about each other, we decided to ask them if they'd like to go with us during the Summer of 2001. When we presented the idea to Nick, he balked a little. He thought that Dare might be uncomfortable accepting the trip from us. We told him to tell her to think of it as a graduation present, and I guess that did the trick... by February 2001 Sharon was on the phone with DVC Member Services!
As it turned out, the first week of February was already a little late to book a cruise on the Magic for the first week of August, but Sharon was able to get the cabins we wanted a category 5 stateroom with a veranda and a standard inside cabin, both on deck 7.
Not realizing that we would have to choose between late or early dinner seating when we booked, we hadn't decided yet which we would prefer. No matter the Mouse decided for us early seating was already booked, so late seating it was.
Now we began the process of researching the 7-day cruise. Casey and I had already read all of the Disney cruise trip reports on MousePlanet (I always read everything on MousePlanet) and found them to be very helpful. We also found information and links on another favorite website Deb Will's Unofficial Walt Disney World Information Guide. In particular we found a link to The Magical Disney Cruise Guide. This 60-odd page guide contains all of the information you could want on all of the Disney cruises. I even uploaded it to my Palm Pilot!
The first job that Sharon tackled was to buy airline tickets for all of us, and that turned out to be tougher than we thought. Most of the early Saturday morning flights out of Newark were already full, and the seats that were available were horrendously overpriced. I was a little nervous about flying down on Saturday morning anyway, knowing how lousy the airlines' on-time records have been lately (the big boat doesn't wait), so we decided to fly down Friday afternoon (when the airfares were much less expensive) and staying the night at some (cheap) no-tell motel in Orlando.
Then Casey got a great Idea. "Why don't we stay the night at WDW?" she asked.
"Because it would be too expensive" I replied.
But Sharon remembered that we had some DVC points left, and wondered if we had enough to stay at one of the moderates. A quick call to Member Services determined that we could get a 2-bedroom at the Boardwalk! Done and done!
Now we had to decide on transfers. We had originally planned to take the Disney Cruise line bus from the airport. We really liked the idea of checking our luggage at the airport and not seeing it again until Saturday night on the ship. Alas, you can only do that if you are going to the port from the airport that same day. The bus does leave from WDW on Saturdays, but it doesn't pick up from the Boardwalk the closest resort for us would have been the Swan / Dolphin (why is it nobody ever says Dolphin / Swan?), and it stops at several other WDW resorts before going to the port. We were told by the cruise line that it usually doesn't arrive at the port until 1:45pm.
What we decided to do was reserve a van from Avis (about $67 with a Costco discount), which we would pick up at the airport when we arrived on Friday, and return the next day at Cape Canaveral. Avis' office is only about a mile from the terminal building, and they would give me a lift there after I dropped my family and luggage off. This way, we could leave our luggage on the van at the Boardwalk, and just take carry-ons to our room. For the trip home, Sharon learned that U.S. Airways has a luggage check-in desk at the terminal building, so we could check our luggage as soon as it was released by customs, and take the Disney Cruise line bus back to the airport (about $24 each).
Now, in addition to deciding which (if any) excursions we wanted to do, we had the pleasant task of deciding how to spend our new-found evening at WDW. Casey was dying to have breakfast at Spoodles, so Sharon made a PS for Saturday at 9:00am.
PART II The All-Important Camera Bag: Which one to take and what goes in it
(Those of you who aren't obsessed with what you carry around on your shoulder all day need not read any further.)
I own a number of camera bags of various sizes. Some will hold the contents of a small camera shop and are ideal when I have an assignment. For vacation, however, I bring the smallest bag possible.
On the cruise I brought a Lowepro Nova 2 camera bag. It's about 10"h X 10"w X 8"d just large enough to hold my camcorder, digital still camera, and all the other stuff I like to have with me (see below), and it provides very good protection from moisture (even rain), dirt, and sand. It's not large enough to serve as my only carry-on during travel days, so I brought a soft attache-sized bag on the plane as well. I used that to carry toiletries, a change of clothes, and other things that I would need if our luggage got lost or delayed. Together, both bags are small enough to fit under the airline seat, so I didn't have to knock over children and the elderly for a space in the overhead bin.
Here's what I carried in my camera bag:
This is basically the same kit I bring with me to WDW, so I know it all fits (All right, despite ridicule from my wife and daughter, I checked it it fits). I also threw in a few packets of silica gel (you know, the "DO NOT EAT!" stuff) to help combat the humidity.
PART III - The Trip
FRIDAY, AUGUST 3
Sharon, Casey, and I got up around 7:00. I ran out for bagels and muffins while they got ready. Casey had to attend the last day of a peer mediation seminar that she signed up for at the high school, so I dropped her off and went to pick up Marge (she lives in the next town). When we got home, Sharon was pretty much all packed up. so were able to sit for a few minutes and gather our thoughts.
Sharon innocently asked Marge if she had her photo ID since Marge's driver's license doesn't have a photo, she got a photo ID from the county. The only time she uses it is when she flies.
Well, Marge realized she had left her card in a drawer at home, and now we had just about enough time to go get it before I picked Casey up, raced her home, and the limo driver got there.
We rushed over to Marge's apartment building, hurried in, and saw an ambulance parked in front. As soon as we got in the lobby, we were told that one of the elevators was broken, and the paramedics were using the other!
Marge lives on the ninth floor, and there was no way that she could walk up, so I took her key, she told me where she thought she left the ID, and I ran up nine floors, down the hall, into the apartment, and started searching.
The card wasn't where Marge thought, of course, so I took a few breaths, and methodically began to panic. Marge strolled in, cool as a cuke, fished an envelope out of the drawer, tucked the ID card in her purse, and said "OK, lets go."
See, I never lived through a depression or a world war, and Marge has done both.
We actually had time to go back and drop Marge off before I left again to get Casey. She was already packed and organized good thing about 5 minutes after the two of us got home, the limo driver pulled up.
The four of us and our luggage were a bit of a squeeze in the guy's Lincoln, but we made it, and off we went to the Philadelphia airport, about a two hour drive.
I figured that my heart would migrate from my throat back down to my chest by Tuesday.
We pulled up to the airport, and Nick and Dare were standing at the curb waiting for us! They live in Philly, so they just took a cab. We checked our luggage (lots of luggage with six people) ad went to the gate. Flight uneventful. We picked up our van from Avis at Orlando airport, and made a Beeline (literally) to Walt Disney World.
The nice thing about checking into the Boardwalk villas at 7:00pm is that YOUR ROOM WILL BE READY! In 9 years of DVC ownership, this was the first time THAT had ever happened to me. The unit was fine, we dropped our overnight bags on the floor, having left most of the luggage in the car, and talked about what we should do for dinner.
Sharon had made a 9:00 PS at Boma back in March. Originally we had a concern about making the PS because back then there was a $10 fine per person for no-shows, and we worried about our flight being delayed. Around April, however, I learned from the AOL DVC message board that Disney had discontinued the fine. This was great for us, since we could now just keep the PS and decide that night.
Now it IS that night, and we decided that since we had time, we would do the Boma thing, and afterwards try to squeeze in a shopping trip to The World of Disney in the Marketplace.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is beautiful It has what I later learned is referred to by Disney Execs as a "wow" lobby like the Grand Floridian and the Wilderness Lodge. We looked around a bit, went downstairs to Boma, and waited less than 10 minutes to be seated.
Our server gave us a quick tour of the buffet stations, explained that Boma is Swahili for "shelter in the wilderness" (the low simulated bamboo wall that they built around the seating area for us to trip over symbolizes the high walls they build around camps in Africa for the animals to trip over.) He then seated us, gave us a pitch on African wine (Nick and Dare tried a glass that they said was OK nobody else in our party drinks wine), and we went to get food.
Everything was incredible. The corn chowder was one of the best soups I've ever had. Nick , Dare, and Casey, who were probably the most adventurous among us, had a particularly good time. Nick raved about the couscous, and I really enjoyed the "Potatoes with Afritude." Right before we left I took one of the chocolate chip cookies (and I would only admit this to the 200 million people who go on the internet), wrapped it in a paper napkin, and put it in my camera bag.
We will by returning to Boma. We will bring friends.
After dinner, We dropped Nick and Dare off at the Boardwalk, and the rest of us went to Downtown Disney. Casey was looking for a particular Lion King CD, and figured she could find it at the World of Disney. While Sharon, Marge, and Casey were in there, I bought coffee from Ghiradelli's, sat down at one of their outside tables, and ate the cookie I stole from Boma.
Casey and Marge found me. We waited for Sharon to complete a purchase that was unnecessarily complicated by a particularly nasty CM, and drove back to The Boardwalk Villas.
What I learned today:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 4 Cruise Day!
I arose around 7:00, showered, dressed, and took a quick walk around the lobby and the boardwalk. When I got back everyone was up and getting ready. We had a 9:00 PS at Spoodles for breakfast.
Spoodles was very good, not quite as good as the Character Breakfast at the Crystal Palace, but very good. Afterwards, we all visited the big store on the boardwalk where Casey found the CD that she did not find in Downtown Disney (a CM there told her that it was only available in the Animal Kingdom). We then walked through the lobby to the back entrance, Nick & I got the car, and off we went to Port Canaveral.
I had decent directions to the terminal building, but about 10 miles from the port, we spotted a DCL bus in front of us, so I pulled behind it, and followed it the rest of the way.
Now, this was not just my imagination, Sharon saw it too: As we were crossing the bridge to Port Canaveral, the Disney Magic slid into view. Behind it there was a cloud in the shape of Mickey's head. And no, I couldn't take a photo without killing us.
We pulled into the terminal driveway and right up to a curb on the side of the building. I was barely out of the van when a very helpful porter approached us. She took all of our luggage, gave me very good directions to Avis, and told me where I could meet my family when I got back. Class act! I tipped her, returned the van, and Avis drove me back to the terminal in their van (Avis' computer thought that I drove the van 10,000 miles in 24 hours, but I convinced them that I'm not Charles Lindburg, and they fixed it). I got back to the DCL terminal on about 45 minutes.
Casey & Nick were waiting for me at the building entrance. Sharon had already checked us in, and I was swept onto a fast moving line to board the ship. I had intended to take some photos of the building while we waited, but DCL and my wife were far too efficient for that! I did manage two quick photos from behind the velvet rope.
in about 5 minutes, they announced "the Morizio family." Our photo was taken, and we walked into the atrium of the Disney Magic.
It was incredibly cool. The atrium (and the whole ship, for that matter) has the look of a classic ocean liner from the 1920s. we boarded on deck 3, and two sweeping staircases surrounding a bronze statue of The Mouse led up to deck 4. A reggae band was performing, and Mickey, dressed as Admiral Hornblower, was standing on a balcony and waving.
We were told our staterooms were ready (now I KNOW we're not at Old Key West) and 5 minutes later we were dropping our day bags (except of course for my camera bag, which is attached to my shoulder like a freckle), and off we went to Topsiders for an excellent lunch. I had my first Jamaican beef turnover.
Let me pause here to offer some perspective. Our last cruise was on one of the Celebrity ships back in '92. While we had a good time, the boarding process was a nightmare. Hundreds of us were penned up shoulder-to-shoulder, Ellis Island style, in a non-air-conditioned cage for an hour before being allowed to board. When we did board, we discovered that half of the ship's air conditioning wasn't working, and for the entire cruise they moved the air around so that at any given time half the ship was uninhabitable. We shoulda taken 'em to court.
So if my description of the cruise so far seems a little rosy, I was just thrilled to not be an extra in the remake of Chaplin's "The Immigrant."
We returned to the stateroom where our luggage was waiting for us. we unpacked and I stood on the veranda and looked at Cape Canaveral through my binoculars. I could clearly see the huge vehicle assembly building (basically the space shuttle's hanger).
After a while we wandered down to the Buena Vista Theater to catch a bit of the excursion presentation (I worked on my trip report notes), then we returned to our room, got our lifejackets, and went to the emergency drill. The drill was efficiently run, and mercifully short.
Afterwards Sharon, Casey, and I went up to the departure party on decks 9 and 10. It was crowded but we stayed for a little while and listened to the show while I shot some video. The countdown was cute they fired off lots of streamers and the ship's horn blew the first 7 notes of "When You Wish Upon a Star" (For the rest of the cruise, whenever the captain did this, it drew cheers from the people on shore or on the adjacent ship). We then returned to the stateroom and I watched the Magic leave port from the veranda. Groups of people were camped out on shore to watch the ship set sail, and they were waving, cheering, and yelling "We wish we were going with you!"
It started to rain, and I thought "Oh no, here we go." but it ended a few hours later, and it didn't rain again for the rest of the cruise! I think that the Mickey cloud I saw was a good omen.
At 6:10 we went to the Walt Disney Theater on deck 4 to see the Welcome Variety Show. The show featured the Hills Brothers jugglers, who were excellent (as good as Matt the Juggler), a comic magician who was very good as well, and a really cute closing number. The theater itself is beautiful, with a very elaborate proscenium stage that's like a small version of Radio City Music Hall.
We wandered around a bit before going to dinner at Lumiere's
We met our server Karl (from Jamaica), his assistant Gregor (from Slovenia) and the head waiter Sam. All three were wonderful during the entire cruise. Gregor asked Nick and Dare if they were on their honeymoon!
Marge had sea bass (she's a big seafood fan, while I never eat anything that knows how to swim). Everyone else had either the duck or the lamb, and everything was wonderful. for dessert we had the chocolate mouse cake, creme Brule', the apple tart, and the soufle'. Everyone seemed happy.
After dinner we wandered around the two shops, peeked inside a couple of the nightclubs, and went back to the stateroom. I plugged in my cameras to charge the batteries, and we went to bed.
What I learned today:
SUNDAY, AUGUST 5 Day at sea
We all awoke at about 8:30, and while everyone was getting ready I went up to the exercise room (in the spa area) and worked on the stationary bike. All week I noticed that there was never a wait to get to the bikes, and sometimes a short wait for the treadmills. I guess that the treadmills are more popular and besides, they have a better view since they're right in front of the windows which overlook the bow of the ship. You still get a beautiful view from the bikes, however. On the way out of the spa, I said to the buff young lady behind the reception desk: "I'm gonna go eat lots of bacon now."
We went to Topsiders for breakfast since we wanted to eat fairly quickly. The buffet turned out to be very good, as it was all week (at least for breakfast). I had eggs, bacon, a donut all kinds of healthy stuff.
After breakfast, we found a table and chairs in a shady spot along the rail for Marge and I went up to deck 10 to explore and take photos. I found the basketball and volleyball courts where a bunch of young people were already immersed in a game as if they had been on the ship for days. Then I found the little walkway that overlooks the bow of the ship. The view is breathtaking, and so, literally, is the wind! I wanted Sharon and Casey to experience it so I went back down to deck 9, found them, and brought them up to the bow. They were also impressed, and I got a few photos of them with their hair blowing wildly.
We went back down to 9, where we ran into Nick and Dare, already installed in lounge chairs by the pool. These two would have the time of their lives his week! I shot some video of Nick while he complained and finally covered my lens with his hand, then went over to Marge and shot some video of her. Marge never complains about anything.
At 11:30 I went to the Buena Vista Theater to see a presentation by Malcolm Ross, Vice President of WDW Resort Operations. Casey was going to check out Common Grounds, the teen-only "New York style coffeehouse" (that serves lots of stuff for free but not coffee). Casey had voiced some concerns about not knowing anyone her age on the ship, and although she knew that there would be a lot of activities for teenagers, she was still worried about having a good time.
Well, after the first day, we hardly ever saw Casey except for dinner and when we were in port. She made friends that she corresponds with daily on the internet and was busy every night until the wee hours.
Back to the Malcolm Ross lecture, he was introduced by an assistant cruise director who explained that this presentation was part of the Magic's "Celebrity Series" which on past cruises had featured actors, musicians and authors. When Mr. Ross took the stage, he quipped that "The other cruises got movies stars, you get Malcolm Ross!" Well, I could have listened to him all day.
Ross was VP of Disneyland Paris when it opened (It was originally called Euro Disney) until about 1995. He was then promoted to VP of the Disney/MGM studios theme park, and last year promoted again to VP of Resorts. He was an interesting guy! We gave two talks one on Sunday and one on Thursday. On Sunday he spoke primarily about the opening and first few years of Euro Disney, and about the WDW resorts and what was cooking for the future. I thought he was very candid about the problems they had at first with the French press and the ministry of culture, and some of the mistakes that Disney made that contributed to some of those problems. He showed quite a few slides and some video, including quite a few of the Pop Century Resort, and a few of the recently-announced Bonnet Creek DVC resort. It's planned to be a "grand age" resort, a little like the Grand Floridian, but it seemed to me with a bit of a Mediterranean look. It's hard to describe I wished that I could have taken some photos of the screen, but I was sitting in the second row, right in front of Mr. Ross.
After the presentation Ross held a trivia contest based on some of the facts and figures he gave during his presentation. The prizes were very nice. They included some pins, and one or two boxed pin sets. I raised my hand for most of the questions, but I never got chosen. Just not lucky today, I guess. That's OK, my luck would change on Thursday.
Mr. Ross brought his own prizes. The CD remarked about how the prizes were a notch above the usual giveaways that the cruise line provides for these things. Anyway, Ross carried them in himself in a Vero Beach tote bag, and guess what the CD mistakenly gave away as the last prize! I guess the VP of resorts would have no problem getting another tote bag.
Sharon & Casey were in the theater by now, so we stayed for the shopping presentation, and were Joined by Nick, Dare, and Marge. It turned out to be a commercial for a network of stores that are endorsed by DCL, so we left after about 12 minutes and went to lunch at Parrot Cay.
This is a really pretty restaurant, decorated in coral and turquoise. They had a terrific buffet with hot & cold everything, but alas, I wasn't too hungry so I just had a salad ...and a chocolate mouse ...and a slice of marble coffee cake. I'll hate myself on Sunday.
After lunch Nick & Dare went to the pool, Casey went to Common Grounds, Sharon and Marge went to our stateroom to freshen up, and I wandered around the ship taking photos. I covered Beat Street (the nightclub district) and ended up on deck nine. I got a cup of coffee from the 24 hour coffee station (a wonderful thing) and went to our stateroom. Marge was sitting on the veranda, so I joined her. We chatted, gazed at the beautiful Caribbean (getting more beautiful with each hour) and read. Heaven.
About 3:00 I was getting hungry, so I went up to Pluto's Dogs and saw that Gregor was working the grill. He made me a cheeseburger and fries (it was very good) and I sat next to the pool and ate it. After that I went to Scoops and got an ice cream sundae which I brought back to the stateroom and ate. (My God I can't believe I'm eating like this.)
At about a quarter to 5 Sharon and I went to the DVC member reception in the Offbeat Club and were met by Casey. When we got there, they where in the middle of a trivia contest - something like DVC Jeopardy. We raised our hand every so often, but finally it was Casey who got chosen. She gave the names of the two restaurants in the Wilderness Lodge (Artist Pointe and Whispering Canyon Cafe) and won a drink cooler (sort of foam rubber underpants for a soda can). My daughter's a sharp cookie when it comes to Walt Disney World trivia (as well as lots of other things).
After the contest, they thanked everyone for coming, and gave everyone a DVC hat, which were considerably nicer than any of the prizes they gave out!
Tonight was the Captain's Reception, which was the only formal night. Nick and I rented tuxes, and our very efficient hostess Maureen had delivered mine in the morning. I got ready so that I could free up the bathroom for the ladies, then I called Nick's stateroom to see if he had his tux yet, but they weren't there, so I sat on the veranda for a while. 20 minutes later I called again and now Nick answered. Yes he had his tux, and yes he knew what the studs were for (I know, some dads specialize in asking stupid questions). Nick said that he and Dare were running a little late, but that they would meet us at the 6:30 show.
At about quarter to 6 Casey, Sharon, and Marge were ready, so we went down to the atrium for the Captain's reception. There were ship's photographers everywhere - you could have your photo taken with the captain, with Mickey & Minnie, with Belle (hubba hubba), with Donald, and for an extra few bucks they would thaw out Walt and lean him on your shoulder.
We had our photo taken with the captain, since we didn't know if we would meet up with Nick and Dare in time. We figured we could always have another photo taken with them.
We got seats in the Walt Disney Theater. Tonight was Hercules, the MUSE-ical, and right before the show they announced that videotaping and flash photography were prohibited, but I took some photos of the show with available light.
Hercules was probably the best show of the week. The actor that played Hades was particularly good at one point he did a stand-up monologue that was pretty funny. I'm not sure if Nick and Dare ever got to the show, but we met them outside the theater when it was over, and had a photo taken of all 6 of us in front of the bronze statue of Mickey Mouse dressed up as the Gordon's fisherman.
Dinner was at Animator's Palette tonight (but since it wasn't our regular night they didn't do the color change thing), and after we were seated Karl asked me if I had a camera. When I said yes, he said "Have it ready because you'll need it." I thought he was referring to some sort of server's procession, but that wasn't it at all.
Dinner was great of course. Most of us had the turkey, but Dare had the scallops. When it was time to order dessert, Karl came to the table with Gregor, Sam, and a few other servers in tow. He announced that someone at the table was celebrating a birthday, and they produced a very nice cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to Sharon!
I got the whole thing on tape, including my wife giving me a look she thought I arraigned it, but I didn't know a thing about it! It seems that when you fill out the paperwork for the cruise, they ask if anyone has a birthday near the cruise dates. Sharon's birthday was Thursday, but I guess that's close enough for DCL! Anyway the cake & song was a nice touch, and I told Karl that I appreciated the warning so I could capture it on tape.
After dinner Sharon and I changed into our bathing suits. We went to deck 9 and found the pools deserted. Sharon dipped one toe in the water and decided that it was too cold, so we sat for about 45 minutes on deck 10 and enjoyed the sea air.
Tomorrow we have a dilemma: Our character breakfast is at 8:30, but at 9:00 there is a ballroom dance class that Nick, Dare, Sharon, and I would like to attend.
What I Learned Today:
MONDAY, AUGUST 6 Day at sea
I got up early and used the exercise room. Casey had gotten in from the Common Grounds pizza party at 2:00am!
Sharon and I decided that we would rather have breakfast with the Mouse than take a dance lesson (I'd just hurt myself anyway), so we went to Parrot Cay, which was already overrun with mice, chipmunks, dogs, and chicks in tiaras. On the way there, we peeked in the Rockin' Bar D and saw Nick and Dare in the dance class. I was tempted to grab some video of them, but I dared (pun intended) not.
Karl and Gregor took our order, but the kitchen was very slow today, so at 9:30 Casey and Sharon left for the "Behind the Scenes" presentation in the Walt Disney Theater. Naturally, our food came about 5 seconds later, so Marge and I ate and then joined Casey and Sharon.
The presentation was all about how the shows are produced. We heard from the dance captain, the technical director, and the wardrobe mistress. All spoke, then answered questions. The stage was about half-set for tonight's show: C'est Magique.
After the presentation, the 4 of us went to the stateroom, and discussed where to have lunch (don't forget, Sharon & Casey missed breakfast). Sharon wanted to go to Lumiere's, but Casey and I thought that the Chinese buffet at Topsiders sounded good.
Sharon did not.
I went to get coffee on deck 9 and met up with Nick. We talked for a while and when I returned to the stateroom no one was there! I figured they went to Lumiere's but they weren't there either. YIKES! I'm in hot water again! Sharon probably told me what they were doing, but when I'm alone, I'm with stupid.
I finally found Sharon and Marge in Topsiders - Casey had already bailed and went to Common Grounds. I partook of the Chinese buffet, and I must say, the food was very um unpleasant. If there's anything worse then a wife who thinks she's always right, it's a wife who is. I had some chocolate thing for dessert and that was good.
After lunch, the 3 of us found chairs by the rail near the adult pool. Even with the ship is at capacity (2700 passengers), we could always find lounges, but sometimes it was a little tricky to find them in the shade, especially on a day at sea. We were lucky today, though, and I could even turn my chair around so that I was facing the sea.
I was too restless to sit for long, so I soon got up and explored the deck some more, and took photos of the pools.
At 2:00 Sharon wanted to see "Island Magic" which was billed in the Navigator as a fun musical about Castaway Cay. It was in the Buena Vista Theater (the smaller theater used primarily for lectures and movies). Marge and I tagged along.
I should have known what to expect as soon as I walked in and saw that the theater was full of kids. Remember that drek they used to perform in the show tent in Mickey's Birthday Land? (Disssneeee -Disssneee Afternooooons) this was kinda sorta like that. The show had Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Chip & Dale, Captain Hook, and a young lady named, um, I can't remember.
To be fair, the cast worked very hard and the young lady sang and danced very well. The set was very colorful and the show even had some special effects.
The problem was that they're still trying to sell Captain Hook as a villain. He and the other Disney characters have been working together for so long that I'm sure that after each show they all meet at the bar to hoist a few beers and trade stories about stupid tourists.
Anyway the show ended and after our insulin shots Marge went back to the stateroom, and Sharon and I walked around deck 9 a bit. I got us burgers at Pluto's, ice cream at Scoops, and we sat by the sea and ate. It was almost like a date. After that we both went to the Internet Cafe and sent a few e-mails as fast as our little fingers could type (it's 70 cents a minute).
Sharon went to the stateroom to rest, and I went to use the exercise room again. I spent the remainder of the afternoon on the veranda, part of the time reading, but mostly just staring at the big water.
Casey came back from the Disney trivia contest at Common Ground. Her team won, 40-0!
The show tonight was "C'est Magique". Now, I had read some trip reports that described this show as an elaborately staged magic show. But what we saw was this burlesque book-show about a rag-tag magic troupe who had never performed a successful illusion. It's not that the show was terrible, it's just that it was not at all what I was expecting. I couldn't figure out why it was called "C'est Magique" when none of the characters were French and the show had nothing to do with France. Perhaps the show was reworked and they kept the name?
After the show we wanted to see the Hills Brothers Jugglers at the Rockin' Bar D, but it was packed so we went to the Off Beat Club to see the Dueling Pianos. The pianists for this cruise were twin sisters - they might have been identical but I couldn't be sure. They were pretty good, but this show was their family show, and when they asked all the kids in the audience to come up to the stage and sing with them, we escaped.
Dinner tonight was at Parrot Cay. Nick & Casey had pasta, Sharon & I had the rib-eye, Dare had grilled chicken, and I don't seem to have written down what Marge had, but the fish would be a safe bet.
Casey left before dessert because she didn't want to be late for the teen pool party, so Sharon ordered dessert for her (cheesecake I think), and Gregor put it in a foam clamshell.
We were pretty tired after dinner, and tomorrow was our day in St Maarten, so the old folks went to bed. Casey was at the teen pool party until late, and I don't know what Nick and Dare did.
What I Learned Today:
TUESDAY, AUGUST 7 - St. Maarten
We were up early and to breakfast at Lumiere's. While we were eating, Nick and Dare came in and sat with us since there was room at the table. They weren't sure what they were doing yet, so the rest of us left the ship and took the water taxi to Philipsburg, which is the Dutch capital.
We decided to see Marigot (the French capital) first, so we headed for the bus stop and for $1.50 each took the public bus to the French capital. We walked around the town for a while, but the ladies wanted to do some serious jewelry shopping so we had some cold drinks at a quaint outdoor cafe (Burger King!) and caught a cab back to Phillipsburg, since we weren't near the bus stop.
Philipsburg consists of shops, shops, and more shops, many of them specializing in a precious stone called tanzanite. There's also a few gambling casinos mixed in. Casey was looking for a tanzanite pendant, so she and Sharon looked at a few while Marge went to another shop to look for an opal necklace. I wandered back and forth to see how everyone was doing, and took a few photos on the beach behind the shops (You could see the Disney Magic and the Caribbean Princess docked next to each other with the bay and the beach in the foreground - very pretty).
Casey found her pendant and Marge her necklace, so we walked around a little more and headed to the water taxi. When we got back to the dock, we saw Nick and Dare - They spent the day so far in Marigot, and were going to have lunch on the ship and head to the beach at Phillipsburg for the afternoon, and might have dinner on the island. We thought about joining them at the beach, but after lunch at Lumiere's Sharon, Marge, and I went to the stateroom, where I fell asleep on the veranda. Casey went to Common Grounds to do a teen thing.
About a month before the cruise, Casey had read that the movie "The Princess Diaries" was opening the first weekend of the cruise, and wouldn't it be great if she could see it on the ship? Well on Saturday the CD announced that the worldwide premier of the movie (meaning the first public showing not in the States) would be Tuesday afternoon in the Walt Disney Theater! Sharon, Marge and I decided to see it, and Casey would meet us there.
When we got to the WD Theater, the crew had set up a mock movie opening - they were interviewing people going into the theater, and you could watch it from 2 large video screens on either side of the stage. About 10 minutes before the movie began several crew members escorted a woman into the theater and introduced her as Whoopee Goldberg (she did look slightly like Whoopee). 2 minutes before the movie began, they escorted a teenage girl into the theater and introduced her as Anne Hathaway, the star of the movie. You've probably guessed that the girl was my shy daughter Casey, who took her bows, sat down next to us, and watched the film.
After the movie, we watched a trivia contest at Studio Sea, and went to dinner. Tonight was tropicalifragilisticexpialidocous, and I bought a brand new, very loud flowered shirt just for the occasion. We were at Lumiere's again, and Karl and Gregor asked where Nick & Dare were. When we told them that they were having dinner on the island, Karl pretended to be offended. At least, I think he was pretending.
Casey had the garlic shrimp which she raved about, Marge had the pork loin, Sharon the teriyaki steak, and I the sweet & sour chicken which was OK, but it wasn't prepared anything like it is in a Chinese restaurant.
Nick and Dare joined us. They had a wonderful day on the island. Since they had eaten dinner in Marigot, they only ordered dessert.
Just before dessert came, the tropical procession began. All of the staff gathered by the kitchen and danced in a line through the restaurant. Gregor had on a Rasta wig.
Casey left for another teen party, Sharon and I were thinking of going up to deck 9 to check out the tropicalifragilisticexpialidocous party, but we were too poopedicalifragilisticexpialidocous.
Things I Learned Today:
Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side, Marigot is the capital of the French side.
Marigot and Philipsburg look pretty much alike.
How to pronounce tropicalifragilisticexpialidocous, though I'm still not sure how to spell it.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8 St. Thomas
I was up at 6:00 and watched the ship dock from the veranda. Sharon & Marge were dressed and ready to go to the beach by 7:00. Casey had come in at 2:00 from the teen volleyball games they had to call it quits when the fourth volleyball went into the sea! I really can't say enough about the teen program here lots of cruises have good programs for tikes, but I've never heard of one that had as much to keep teenagers busy, let alone their own facility.
We let Casey sleep (we would bring her food) and went to Topsiders. The breakfast buffet was great as usual, and we went back to deck 8 to get Casey and call Nick and Dare.
Everyone was awake, and in about 20 minutes all 5 of us (Marge decided to stay on the ship and out of the sun today) were in a cab heading to Megan's Bay beach. Sharon had read that this was supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
They didn't lie.
Megan's Bay is a cove about 1/4 mile wide and perhaps 1/2 a mile deep. You're surrounded by mountains on both sides as you look out towards the water, which of course is the typical not-to-be-believed Caribbean blue. At the end of the bay, maybe a little less than a mile from the beach, is a small mountain, perfectly centered. It looks like one of Disney's "weenies" placed by the imagineers.
The beach was fairly empty this early in the morning, so we were able to commandeer a picnic table at the back of the beach, which is only about 50 feet deep where we were. I rented some lounge chairs (about $7 each for the day) and we set up camp.
I swam with Sharon for a while, shot some video of Nick and Dare in the sea, then I sat down at the water's edge, up to my chest, in the soft white sand and watched the waves roll in. I felt like I was sitting in God's lap.
We stayed until about 1:00, then caught the same cab to Charlotte Amalie. Casey, Nick, and Dare went off together, leaving Sharon and I to do some shopping by ourselves.
We went into a jewelry store and Sharon looked at some rings. I noticed that the stores here are a bit more upscale than the shops in St. Maarten. Several of the camera / electronics stores carry Leicas and Hasselblads - pretty pricey stuff. I was curious about how good their prices really were, so I asked at several places for the price on a Fujifilm Finepix 6900 digital camera. I bought one very recently from a mail-order / internet dealer in New Jersey. My wife scoured the internet for the best deal from a reputable dealer, which turned out to be $670 from BuyDig.com. One shop in St. Thomas quoted me $720, and the other $700. Not bad considering there's no shipping, duty, or tax.
Sharon found a really pretty topaz and gold ring and bought it, so the two of us caught a bus back to the ship. On the way we passed the Havensight Mall, which is a strip mall that's only a block or two away from the ship. It's certainly not as quaint as Charlotte Amalie, but I noticed a lot of the same stores at the mall as they had in town.
Topsiders was closed by now, so Sharon and I ordered room service (she a turkey sandwich. me a cheeseburger), which arrived in about 1/2 hour. The burger & fries were hot and very good. After lunch Sharon went to deck 9 to find Marge and I went to the Internet Cafe to send and e-mail. All the PCs were either broken or busy. At the beginning of the cruise, we had briefly considered going for the $90 unlimited internet access package, but I'm glad we didn't. We only spent about $20 for the week, and apparently it wasn't that easy to get on a machine mid-afternoons. I spoke to the woman behind the desk about sending a photo in an e-mail (I noticed no disk drive of any kind at the workstations). She said it was possible as she had a floppy drive on her machine and all the computers were networked, but the drive wasn't working right now anyway. She told me that the outside company that was providing the service had only been on the ship for a year, and still had a lot of work to do. They were planning on upgrading their equipment fairly soon.
I didn't need to send any e-mail that badly, so I wandered over to the atrium, sat down, and worked on my TR notes for a while. Then I went to find Sharon and Marge.
They were back in the cabin by now, so I went out to the veranda to watch the ship leave port. They were preparing to pull in the gangway when I realized that Nick, Dare, and Casey weren't on the ship! I was frantically scanning the dock with my binoculars and thinking of phoning the captain, the Coast Guard, my congressman, and my 8th grade English teacher when Casey calmly strolled out onto the veranda.
I'm such an idiot.
She, Nick, and Dare had lunch in town and shopped. Casey bought a very pretty handmade dish for herself and some things for her friends.
I watched the ship cast off and as we were leaving the bay and entering the open sea I took some photos of the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Resort perched on the side of the hill. I stayed there during a conference in 1985.
The show tonight was "Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer?", and was one of the best shows of the week. The set, music, and lighting effects really gave the feel of the TV show, as did the host, played by the actor that played Phil in "Hercules: the MUSE-ical."
The contestants were chosen at random by seat number, and were allowed to bring a child up on stage with them to consult on the answers. They had 3 lifelines available: 50/50, ask the audience (they used a show of hands) and "ask the panel of experts." The panel was 8 volunteers from the audience who sat in a sort jury box on stage left. They were pretty funny, and they were right 2 of the 3 times they were asked.
The "cash" (actually shipboard credit) prizes went up to $750, and the top prize was a cruise for two on the Magic. The first contestant got up to $300 or so, but the second won $750, but had to back out on the top question, which was "What now-famous actress played in the short-lived Disney television series, 'Wildside'?" The choices were Meryl Streep. Rene Russo, Meg Ryan, and Sandra Bullock (answer below).
Tonight was our regular night at Animator's Palette, so we got to see the room change from black and white to color. It was pretty cool. After Karl and Gregor reversed their vests, I asked them to pose for a photo. They were obviously quite experienced at this. Marge and Nick had the salmon, Casey the veal, and Sharon, Dare and I had the Sirloin. Dare's was a little too well done, so Karl brought her another. Other then that everyone seemed very pleased with their dinners. I had a great piece of chocolate cake for dessert.
After dinner Sharon and I went to the Off-Beat Club to see the Dueling Pianists do their "Adult" show. It was, of course, the twin sisters we saw the other night. We got to the club about 15 minutes before the show was to begin. About 5 minutes before the show the twins came out, handed out some request cards, left the club, and sat down in the Back of Rockin' Bar D to watch the show there! (We could see this from our table near the door.)
This was not a good sign.
They returned to the room just in time to start their show. They were ok, but they just played - there was no banter or anything - so we didn't stay too long. I mean, I wasn't really expecting them to take out pistols and duel, but I was a little disappointed.
What I Learned Today:
THURSDAY, AUGUST 9 Day at sea
I was up around 7:30 to use the exercise room, then Sharon, Marge and I went to Topsiders for breakfast. After breakfast Sharon and Marge returned to the room, but I got a cup of coffee and went down to the deck 4 promenade, where they have these wonderful teak cushioned deck chairs. I sat for about an hour, reading and gazing at the sea. I noticed the mom and daughter of the family that's at the next dinner table to us jogging - they passed me 4 times (the promenade is 1/4 mile around).
It was now around 10:15, and the second of Malcolm Ross' presentations was at 11:00, so I found Sharon - She and her mom were on deck 9, and we agreed to meet in the Buena Vista Theater at 11:00.
To kill the time in-between, I went to Rockin' Bar D to catch the last twenty minutes of a panel discussion with the captain and his senior officers. They answered questions about the ship, this particular cruise, and future plans for the cruise line. The captain pointed out that we had 2740 passengers on board, the absolute maximum the ship can handle, and yet the ship didn't feel crowded. It was true, all week we never waited on a line, could always find a table in Topsiders and on deck 9, and always found good seats in the theaters. The only activity that we passed on because of the size of the crowd was seeing the Hill Brothers jugglers at Rockin' Bar D, and we could have squeezed in the room if we had really wanted to.
At 11:00 Sharon, Marge, and I were in the third row of the Buena Vista theater for Malcolm Ross' second presentation. Today he spoke about his years as VP of the Disney/MGM studios, and about the plans for the "100 years of Magic" celebration. He spoke about the history and development of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock and Roller Coaster, and showed lots of slides of the planned Walt Disney exhibit, the 4 new parades, the giant Sorcerer Mickey hat in the studios (which I actually think may end up looking nice - feel free to write me and insult my parentage), and other stuff planned for the celebration. The parades all look very cool, especially the Safari parade planned for the Animal Kingdom and the Motorcade planned for the Studios.
Ross was very funny when he spoke about the Magic Kingdom's "snow globe" parade. He noted that the parade will have something like 24 globe floats (I didn't write down the number) and said "Now here is shocking news. 16 of the globes will be available in the gift shops! I know you may find that difficult to believe, but I guess we're just trying to make the people happy." He received a huge laugh and a round of applause.
At the end, Ross was joined on the stage by the Asst. CD, and once again the held a trivia contest for prizes. As before, the questions were based on facts and figures that Ross gave during his talk. Sharon & I knew the answers to the first three but didn't get picked. The third question was (What is the size of the giant Sorcerer Mickey hat?. I couldn't remember the answer but Sharon did, so we both put our hands up.
The first person picked got it wrong. The second, third and forth got it wrong. Guess who got picked next!
I answered "size 605 and 7/8" and Ross said "That's correct." The CD informed the audience that I had won one of the large prizes an animation cell from "Mulan." It's beautiful!
For lunch we went to-Parrot Cay, where they had a wonderful buffet set up. It was largely seafood, but there was plenty of choices for us landlubbers. Marge was in her glory, and I think Sharon had shrimp. I had some Swedish meatballs, some rice, and salad. Oh yeah. and a couple of slices of the marble coffee cake.
On the way out we met Nick & Dare in the Promenade Lounge, so we sat & chatted for a while. Then we went up to deck 9 and ran into Casey who had been busy at Common Grounds and hadn't eaten. So like a good daddy I volunteered to bring her food while she went to the stateroom to freshen up. Pinocchio's special today was BBQ chicken pizza, and that's what Casey wanted, but I misunderstood and got a BBQ chicken sandwich from Pluto's Dogs. When I realized my mistake, I grabbed a slice of the pizza too. It was quite a lunch for a teenager who eats like a bird most of the time!
Casey actually ate a little of everything (she must have been starving) and Sharon and I changed into bathing suits while she ate.
Casey went off to common Grounds, and Marge, Sharon and I parked ourselves at the Quiet Cove (adult) pool. We sat for a while, then Sharon and I (GASP) went in the water.
We actually do use the pools quite a bit when we're on vacation, especially at Old Key West, but somehow the opportunity to use the pools on the ship had never arisen. The adult pool wasn't crowded, so we went in for perhaps 1/2 an hour, then rejoined Marge and read for a while.
The show tonight was "Disney Dreams", which was about Peter Pan once again breaking and entering into a young girl's bedroom and teaching her how to fly. He does so by showing her musical numbers from the last eight or so Disney animated features and constantly reminding the girl to "believe in your dreams." At the end of the show, of course, they fly, or more accurately, float. Oh yeah, I forgot: SPOILER AHEAD!!
After the show Sharon and I went to Rockin' Bar D to watch "Match Your Mate." This was a quiz show similar to "The Newlywed Game." They chose 3 couples that had been married 2, 15, and 35 years, and asked all the usual Newlywed Game questions, including "Where was the most unusual place you and your wife 'discovered the magic'." It was pretty cute.
Tonight's dinner was the Captain's Gala, and had been billed as an optional formal night. Sharon and Casey had both brought 2 formal dresses each, and of course my rented tux came with two shirts. On Wednesday night Sharon asked our server Karl how most people dress for this, and he said that no one goes formal anymore it's strictly semi-formal. So some of the dresses the ladies brought never got worn, and Nick and I only wore the tuxes one night (fortunately, we both brought jackets and ties).
Personally, I'm happy with formal, semi-formal, clown suits, whatever but I think it would be best for DCL to drop the "optional formal" language from their literature, and save folks the trouble of bringing clothes they won't wear.
That is my only gripe in the entire trip report.
The long-awaited lobster tail was on the menu tonight, as was the equally long-awaited (at least by me) warm chocolate lava cake. I knew that this is available at the Flying FISH cafe, but since I don't do restaurants that specialize in that four-letter word, this would be my only shot at the MOACC (Mother Of All Chocolate Cake).
Everyone had lobster tail except me. I had the tenderloin, which was delicious. Everyone was very happy with their lobster. Now it was time for dessert.
It's the best thing I've ever eaten.
Warm chocolate lava cake is flourless chocolate cake filled and covered with warm chocolate sauce and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (I understand that at the Flying Fish it's orange ice cream). Gregor stopped by to ask how everyone's dessert was, and when I told him how good mine was he offered to get me another. I declined, but regretted doing so the next day! I'm not sure what everyone else had for dessert, but I know that Casey and Nick had it too, and both loved it.
Everyone except Casey went to bed fairly early tonight, because the next day was Castaway Cay day!
What I Learned Today:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10 - Castaway Cay
We got up at 7:00 and started to get ready. We had been told the night before that the ship would arrive at Castaway Cay about 8:00 and that is would take about 1/2 and hour for the crew to bring the food and supplies onto the island. I went to deck 9 for coffee and tea, then returned to the room and went out to the veranda to watch for land. I got out my binoculars and scanned the horizon near the bow of the ship and after 10 minutes or so I spotted a tiny dot of land. It was really very exciting to see the island grow larger in my binnocs. I'm really glad I brought them on this cruise - I used them quite a bit.
Sharon, Marge, Casey and I went to breakfast at Topsiders so that we could have a good view of the island as we ate. Afterwards I went out to the veranda and watched to ship dock. We met Nick and Dare on the gangway and went ashore.
The entire island is beautiful. Disney did just enough there - the facilities are top-notch, but don't overwhelm the Island. Everything looks natural or like it's been there for years. I think the theme is sort of an abandoned 40's outpost. There's an old rusted airplane on the runway, which I'm told was on the island (the runway, not the airplane) when Disney bought it, and neat little details such as an old-fashioned gasoline pump that's overgrown with foliage. The real name of the island is Gorda Cay, and it is reputed to have been used for drug-smuggling.
Casey went to the teen beach, Nick and dare went on to the adult beach, and Sharon, Marge, and I stayed at the family beach in case Casey wanted to hang out with her parents and grandmother for a while (yeah, I know, what were we thinking?).
We found a group of chairs and an umbrella under a palm tree, set up camp, and the wife and I happily played in the surf for a while. Sharon then went to lie down in the lounge chair while I went exploring and taking photos.
One funny thing we noticed was a fully-clothed crew member pulling a small inflatable boat filled with drinks and ice through the water - if you wanted to buy a drink you didn't even have to leave the sea!
At exactly noon the three of us were hungry, so we headed to the Barbeque pavilion. I thought "12 o'clock - the place will be mobbed", but the place had a bunch of serving lines, and a crew member directs you to the shortest one. We had our food in minutes!
The food was really good too. There were burgers, hot dogs, chicken, lobster cakes (Sharon says stay away from the lobster cakes, though) all sorts of salads, beans, and desserts.
I thought that we would have trouble finding a place to sit, but there are four huge covered seating areas, each with condiments and water/coffee stations. Another class act from DCL.
About 3:00 Sharon, Marge, and I headed back to the ship. Sharon stopped in the shops on the way to look around, while I took a few photos. When Sharon emerged, she took a photo of me sitting in front of the buoys with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy painted on them. (I think they call it Mt. Gushmore).
Sharon made one more stop at the Castaway Cay post office - it has its own special postmark - to mail a few cards, but before she went in she gave me HER camera with orders to take a picture of the family beach (there's a really pretty view from opposite the post office). I took some photos with her camera and mine, and then met up with her on the gangway
I got an interesting glimpse of some of the landscaping techniques that the imagineers use. There is a lot next to the dock - it's the first thing you see when you leave the ship - that I was studying from our veranda on deck 7. From up there, the landscaping doesn't make a lot of sense - there's an odd-looking rectangular berm in the middle of the lot, and some foliage planted in what looks like a random pattern. Most of the lot is dirt.
From the dock, however, you see a wall of lush foliage that looks like it's been there forever. The berm blends into the landscaping perfectly so that you cannot even see where it begins or ends. No dirt anywhere. Very cool.
We were pretty tired from all the swimming, walking, and sun, so we just hung around the stateroom for a while. I went to deck 9 for coffee and returned to our veranda to watch people return to the ship. After a while we got ready to go to the Walt Disney Theater for the Farewell Variety Show.
Nick and Dare met the four of us in the hallway and made our way to the theater. The show had a little bit of everything - It opened with two comic acts. The first was a magician/comedian named Rich Porpuro who was hilarious. He had been on the ship all week, performing in one of the clubs, but this was my only opportunity to see him. For me the highlight of his act was his "Top ten things you'll never hear on a cruise ship." I can't remember them all, but here are a few:
"That's the biggest swimming pool I've ever seen."
"You know, there's never a photographer around when you need one."
"Boy, am I starving."
Rich Porpuro was followed by another comic who played guitar - he was pretty funny as well. The show closed with a long musical number that recapped of all the shows in the WD Theater that week. It was done in front a really nice set which included Cinderella Castle, and some neat special effects.
We did some last-minute shopping after the show, then just hung around until our dinner seating at Lumiere's. Nick and Dare didn't dine with us, because they had reservations at Palos.
Tonight was "It's a Small World" and featured dishes from different countries. Most of us had the fettuccini Alfredo, but we asked Karl if they could add some chicken breast to ours. He returned with separate dishes of diced chicken and ham. And it was wonderful. My dessert was the apple pie - I think the only non-chocolate dessert I had all week! Dinner ended with a procession of all the servers, and this was when most people, including us, presented them with the gratuity envelopes. Just as we were leaving, we met up with Nick and Dare, who told us that Palos was wonderful.
After dinner Marge sent to the stateroom. Nick & Dare were going to hit one or two clubs, and Sharon and I finished packing (we were told to leave our luggage in the hallway by 11:00), then took a slow walk around deck 10 to say goodbye to the ship.
What I Learned Today:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 11 - Departure day
We all got up early, had breakfast at Lumiere's about 8:00, and left the ship. On the Carnival ship, this process involved waiting about 2 hours in one of the nightclubs for customs to release all the luggage. That was 9 years ago, and I don't know if DCL is that much better at this or if it's U.S. Customs that has gotten that much better.
The luggage was organized by the color of the special tags that DCL provided, so it was pretty easy to find. Porters were available to help with the bags, and since there were six of us. We were very happy to find one.
Delta Airlines had a desk out by the bus bays where we checked our luggage right through to the Philadelphia airport. The man at the desk checked our bags and handed me our boarding passes and (I thought) our tickets. There was a DCL bus waiting that was leaving for the airport in a few minutes, and we all got on. The crew members (or were they cast members now?) never checked to see if we had paid for the transfers (which we had months ago).
The ride to Orlando airport was fine, though the driver warned all of us the bathroom on the bus usually didn't work, so we should hold on (literally) until we got to the airport. He showed a 15-minute video that had some pretty interesting Disney trivia questions (and answers).
We got to the airport about 1 - 1/2 hours before our flight. We planned it this way, 'cause I HATE to be biting my nails and racing to the airport at the last minute. I've seen co-workers with whom I was traveling on business arrive at the airport 10 or 15 minutes before the flight departs, and then be amazed when the airline gives them a hard time. I always wondered what they were trying to prove.
At the airport we wandered around the shops for 1/2 hour or so, thinking we had all the time in the world, then we went to the gate and Sharon & I went to the podium with all of our flight folders to check in.
The attendant there looked through our folders and informed us that we couldn't board the plane because we didn't have tickets - only boarding passes!
We realized that the Delta employee at the ship's terminal lifted our tickets and never gave them back to us. He just said "Ok, you're all set. Your bags are checked through to Philly and you have your seat assignments."
We were sent to the customer service desk where a couple of condescending morons accused Sharon and I of losing the tickets. They kept insisting that I search my carry-on, which I did in front of them several times. They wanted to charge us $100 per ticket to replace them!
We told them that there was no freaking way that we would pay $600 when it was a Delta employee that didn't give the tickets back to us. The manager moron told us that it was impossible for a Delta employee to not give us back the tickets, and that in his 20 years with the airline he had never heard of that happening.
He finally agreed to waive the fee, but we would have to fill out a lost ticket form for each one of us. The attendant at the desk did help us.
While we were filling out the forms, Sharon noticed that under the "reason for lost ticket" section, one of the check boxes said "Ticket lifted and not returned by Delta employee."
But of course, that never happens.
We got on the plane with minutes to spare (about 5) and had an uneventful, if very crowded, flight home.
What I Learned Today:
This was one of the most wonderful vacations we've ever had, and I feel very fortunate that my entire family and future daughter-in-law was able to go. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
We all had a wonderful time and in different ways. Sharon & I don't get to see Nick and Dare that much since they go to school in Philadelphia, so this was a wonderful opportunity to have some great conversations. At the same time, they had plenty of time to themselves.
Casey had a great time as well. She made several really good friends with whom she corresponds on the internet every day.
Marge had a good time of course, but then, if you threw her into a hurricane, she'd wash her hair.
PART IV PHOTOS:
Here's a link to my Yahoo photo pages: http://photos.yahoo.com/mmorizio. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading.