Posts from the ‘Cruises’ Category

Singing on an Alaskan Cruise Ship ’09: Link to Blog

I was going to transfer my Alaskan cruise ’09 blog from MobileMe to here, but MobileMe’s layout (mainly the separation of print and pictures), although super-easy for blogging, doesn’t make it easy at ALL to transfer. So if you would like to read about my travels on Holland America’s ms Zuiterdam, visits to Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay or Ketchikan Alaska, singing on the ship with members of Sing Live UK and Sing Live USA, and how many salmon was caught when John Morris and I went salmon fishing, just click here and follow the links from my Welcome Page or click here for a direct route to the archives.

Disney Cruise ’08: Day 4 & Going Home

Today we got to sleep in, with plans to meet at Beach Blanket at 10am. However we were woken up around 8:30am with an in-room announcement: “Mr. Mob, Port. Mr. Mob, port.” Hmmm. Mob was, of course, MOB, which was, of course, man over board. Nice. I wondered if it was for real or if it was a drill…I was in the shower when the secondary announcement was made that it was a false alarm. We found out later that a parent left her kid near a balcony and when she got back, one of the kids was missing. So her first thought was that the kid had gone overboard. After some investigation, it turned out that the kid was just hiding in their cabin, but if nothing else, it made for some interesting conversation during the earlier part of the day.

Before we met for breakfast, I left the cabin early to get some “real” coffee. As it turned out, the Cove Cafe didn’t have that…they had espresso and cappuccino drink but nothing that was “normal” coffee. Shit…except for possibly Palo (we had reservations for that on Tuesday but cancelled them because we were having too good of a time with everyone), there was no real coffee on the whole goddamn boat!?!? So I got a double espresso with water (essentially a Cafe Americano, minus the hot milk) and just added cold milk to it, instead of steamed. It was OK…not as good as “real” coffee, but eons better than that Nescafecal stuff.

I still had some time before meeting everyone for breakfast, so I went to the gift shop and bought Rande a birthday present that we had seen the other day, and then met everyone up at Beach Blanket. Because the girl at the gift shop was nice enough to gift wrap the present, I was a bit late in getting there, but that was OK because after my day of decadence yesterday, I was being careful and only had a bar (brought with me from home) and 2/3 of an apple, so it didn’t take me very long to eat at all.

About 10 minutes after I arrived, the gang decided to go see Wall-E at the Buena Vista Theater. I saw Wall-E when it first came out and didn’t see any real need to see it again so I did shopping and offline blogging while they saw the movie. I also stopped by the DVC desk, since I had seen a CM there who looked like Claire’s friend from the U.K. Turned out it was her. This went on top of Tyler bumping into someone he used to work with, who (get this) was with someone that Rande used to work with. Small world, huh?

After the film was over and Joe coincidentally met me in our cabin (the movie was only 90 minutes but the sign by the theater said it was 105 – I just happened to still be in the room when Joe coincidentally went there after it was done), we (the two of us and Tyler, who had come back to the cabin maybe 5 min before Joe did) met Kyle and Rande at Cove Cafe, where we imbibed in some specialty coffee drinks and martinis, while Randy and Jodie went to a DVC presentation.

Once the presentation was over, most of us hung out in Diversions to play (or observe) a game of Jumbo Jenga and a word version of Suduko (I was more of an observer and videotaped the Jenga game and blogged during the Suduko).

There was a tour of the galley at 2:30pm. We had gone on that tour during our last cruise and all I remembered of it was the fellow Guest whose fly was wide open (grin). As it turned out, Joe and I had bought some Kahlua earlier in the day (gotta have plenty of Kahlua to make my famous Kahlua brownies) and inadvertently left it in Diversions so I went and got it while they went on the tour and met them at the end of their tour, in Parrot Cay.

We all decided we were hungry so went up to Deck 9 and grabbed some tacos, paninis, burgers and stuff and ate them on deck.

Next up was a tour of the architecture and theming if the Disney Wonder, with Jenn from Australia. We met at Palo and, over the course of an hour, visited the various restaurants, lounges, kids’ areas, lobbies, etc, and learned about their various theming and stories. It was a relatively interesting tour; better than the ridiculous cake decorating class that I took last time.

An interesting note during our tour was the on board announcement that, due to a medical emergency, we would be arriving at Port Canaveral tonight instead of tomorrow morning. However the gangplank was only going to be lowered for the medical personnel and patient/family members involved in said emegency…everyone else would be allowed off the ship tomorrow morning, same as always and the ship’s activities would remain as scheduled.

Joe and I went back to the cabin after the tour, me to catch up on my email and him to start packing. He was on his way to see Disney Dreams by 5:45ish and since I had no interest in seeing it (refer to my comments on DCL shows), I took that time to pack my big suitcase.

I left the cabin a few minutes before 7pm, picked up some hot tea from Deck 9 and meandered down to Diversions for another round of Disney Wheel of Fortune, scheduled for 7:15pm. Alas, the Villains lost this time, although it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Dinner was at 8:15pm and we were scheduled for Animator’s Pallate, the restaurant that begins as black and white and eventually changes into a rainbow of color. I started my meal with the butternut squash soup and went on to a lighter fare for my main course, with roasted chicken breast, steamed veggies and white rice. As simple as it was, the chicken was REALLY good. Dessert was peanut butter and chocolate pie, which was fabulous!

After dinner, we went to the Atrium to see the characters for the last time. However it was nearing the time that we needed to have the luggage outside our door and I still needed to pack a few things, so I gave the camera to Joe and went back to our room.

With luggage all done by 10:45ish, I went back downstairs and met the rest of the gang for the Cruise Staff Happy Hour. Randy, Jodie and Tyler strongly recommended it, saying it was something like a Hoopla, with an atmosphere where the cruise recreation staff could let their hair down. The show they put on was HYSTERICAL, very much the touted 18+, and yes, something akin to a Hoopla, especially when they sang the Beer Song and “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” like the Colonel does (M instead of B though. Messed me up for a while, because I can do B without thinking). They had a contest to give away a free bottle of champagne to the loudest table…gee whiz, guess who won? (wink)

We left the party right around midnight, since the Hoopla part of the event had been replaced by dancing. Not really “us”. Plus we had a 6:45am wake-up call for a 7:45am breakfast, so off to bed we went.

The next morning was a quick breakfast and a non-stressful return to real life. I was happy to discover that I didn’t dislike the Disney Cruise as much as I remembered…but I think that had a whole lot more to do with the company than the cruise itself. At least I’m willing to go again.

Disney Cruise ’08: Day 3

Today was our day to visit Nassau. After our last visit during a previous Disney Cruise, I wasn’t looking forward to it. As it turned out, it was everything I remembered and more. Or, rather, less.

We woke up at 8am, with plans to meet for breakfast at 9am. We decided to eat at Tritons, a sit-down restaurant (Beach Blanket yesterday had been a buffet) where I had an omelet with mushrooms, onion, spinach and red peppers, with a side of hash browns (today was my designated decadence day). The coffee was still nasty Nescafe but at least it was better than Beach Blanket’s.

After a quick stop at the Buena Vista Spa so I could make an appointment for one of their “Nassau Specials” (it sounded like a good deal – more on that later), the 5 of us (Rande and Kyle stayed in the ship) disembarked and slowly made our way to the taxi stand to grab a taxi to Atlantis (no “Hey Shorty, you want your hair braided?” this time but the offer to “Rent a scooter and go to the Hooters” amused me). The guy charged us $4 each (the Disney excursion was something like $32 apiece) and, once he had a full van of 9 passengers (while we waited, other taxi drivers tried to “steal” us…they reminded me of a bunch of seagulls, all trying to grab each other’s food), we were on our way.

Our goals for Atlantis were for gambling (them, not me) and to see the Chilhuli glass that’s in their casino (me, not them). Oh, and Jodie wanted a shot glass to add to her collection, so we did that first. There wasn’t a whole lot that I found interesting in the gift shop, although Tyler saw a really cute T-shirt that would have been PERFECT for him.

Shot glass in hand, we went into the casino. A lot of the slots and tables were out of our league (well, their league…I don’t like gambling) but after some wandering, they found some penny and nickel slots. I was just an observer but from what I could tell, the best anyone did was Joe – at one point he was about $20 or $30 ahead in slots. Tyler was about $10 or $20 ahead in Blackjack and managed to play for about a dozen rounds before he was done. And poor Jodie & Randy lost all of their gambling money in the first 20 minutes or so.

After the gambling bug was out of their systems, we wandered around Atlantis for a few minutes, then decided to go back “home.” The taxi ride was the same price going as it was coming, although this taxi driver took us on a bunch of back roads…all of which reinforced how icky Nassau really is.

We got back on the boat in the early afternoon and decided to go to Triton’s for lunch. We gave Rande and Kyle a call to let them know where we were and they joined us about halfway through the meal. My decadence continued and I had shrimp cocktail as an appetizer and macaroni and cheese as my main course, all with a properly chilled adult beverage on the side. And the mac and cheese came with steak fries, which just made my day. I enjoyed every mouthful!

As we left Tritons at 2pm, we went past “Mr. Toad’s Wild Race”, which was listed in our navigators as a “family” event. Randy, being Randy, decided to play (against the 2 to 4 year olds) but I decided to challenge him. Alas, he beat me. In fact, he won all of the heats and won a cup! WOW! Nice guy that he is though, he gave the cup to the little kid he beat.

We all broke up around 2:30pm, with most people planning to take naps. Joe & I certainly partook and slept from 3 until 4:30 or so. My spa reservation was at 5:45pm though, so after lounging around a while after my nap, I went up to the Buena Vista Spa around 5:30.

The spa special was listed as 2 hours of treatment for $125, with the treatment including a full back massage, facial, scalp massage, foot/ankle rub and use of the Tropical Rain Forest (special room where they have a sauna, special showers, etc.), all with chocolate covered strawberries and a glass of champagne. I’m sorry to say that I felt very ripped off in the end. The treatments (done by Jenna from South Africa) were all done very well but the back massage was no longer than 30 minutes, with the scalp and foot/ankle massages done during the facial, while I had a masque on. I was done in just under an hour. Access to the Rainforest was $15/day for anyone, which mean I paid just over $100 for one hour of service, 3 strawberries and a glass of Korbel (I saw the bottle. Korbel, ugh). Shit…just what I was trying to avoid. Of course, I could have avoided the issue entirely, had I asked for specifics on the services but, shrug, I know better for next time. Actually, since I now know better, there won’t BE a next time, period. I’ll stick to my local places and people for spa services, cruise or no cruise.

Anyway, the rest of the gang had plans to see the Toy Story show in the Walt Disney Theater during the time I was in the spa…I had no interest in seeing the show since I had seen it on YouTube and I could tell that it was a typical Disney Cruise show…not something I was going to like a whole lot. So while they were all still in the show, I went up to our cabin to change clothes and get ready for our “formal” night at dinner. As it turned out, I arrived at the theater about 10 minutes before the show ended so I saw the last little bit of it…let’s just say that I’m glad I didn’t see the whole thing (grin). Even after I met up with everyone, they were saying it wasn’t the best show they had ever seen…although the technical aspects were great, only 2 of the songs were decent and they changed the story line too much. So it looks like I made the right decision for me. The only comment about the show that was “above and beyond” was from Kyle…he said that he really liked Buzz’s package. You’ll have to ask him about that…

Our “formal night” diner was at Tritons, which meant we were going to wind up eating there for all 3 meals that day (grin). Everyone looked terrific in their spiffy duds. As this was still my designated day of decadence, I had a salad, the braised lamb AND the duck breast (cuz Sharon loves her lamb and her duck!). Both were great, although I liked the duck more. None of the desserts sounded all that terrific to me, so I just got some vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

We went back to our cabins to change clothes after dinner (we did various stages of changing…some went from totally formal to shorts and T’s, Joe just took off his jacket and I kept my dress on but changed my fancy shoes for my orange Crocs – I must’ve been a sight to behold, hehehe) and went to Studio Sea for the Disney Karaoke. I was all ready to give it a shot with “God Help the Outcasts”, but virtually all of the entrants were age 12 and under, so we bailed pretty early and went to the dance club, where we watch the hot and not-so-hot guys dance. That lasted less than a half-hour (thank god. I was miserable and spent my time catching up on blogging) and we decided to go to Diversions because it was more quiet. I was starting to get more and more tired by this time and I guess it was starting to show because Joe recommended I go back to the cabin and go to bed (grin). So I did.

Tomorrow: our Day at Sea.

Disney Cruise ’08: Day 2

We woke up at 8am (Kyle called us, which was perfect because I had set our alarm clock for 8am but didn’t actually set the alarm) and were out the door before 9am (just for the record, I got up first, hehehe). We stopped off at Beach Blanket for a quick breakfast…I had some nasty oatmeal and some even nastier Nescafe coffee (mental note: tomorrow I BUY coffee).

We exited the ship and walked to the water area, after taking a cheesy picture with Capt. Jack Sparrow. We walked around the family beach for a while, before taking the tram to Serenity Bay adult beach.

We rented some floats for the day but honestly, with the amount and height of the waves, we were better off without them. I spent my time jumping the waves while Joe eventually wandered off. After a while, I went to look fir him and it turned out he had found the rest of the gang further down the beach.

We hung out for a while, some of us just talking, some enjoying the ambiance of being in the Bahamas. Eventually we got hungry though. Tyler was still enjoying his book and ambiance but the rest of us wandered over to the adult lunch place. The choices were chicken, ribs, steak, cheeseburgers, veggieburgers, salad fixings, and fresh fruit or soft serve ice cream. I was decadent and enjoyed a cheeseburger, potato chips and soft serve cookie dough ice cream for dessert. Yummy!

Some of us decided to work off some of those lunch calories and rented bikes for an hour. Randy, Kyle, Joe, Jodie and I followed the 2 bike paths that Castaway Cay offered, complete with overlooks of Serenity Bay and the “uncivilized” part of the island.

After we returned our bikes, Joe, Kyle and I checked out the Castaway Cay gift shop, which had a whole lot of not much that piqued our interest. We took the tram back to the ship and, after Kyle helped us with another “cheesy photo” opportunity, we went back to the room to enjoy a well-earned nap from 2:30pm to 4pm.

We all had made plan to meet at the gift shop 6pm. We looked around…some stuff was typical Disney crap but there were a few things we figure we’ll pick up before we’re done.

We still had over an hour until dinner, so we went over to Diversions. Tyler and Kyle started up a game of checkers, while the rest of us played a modified version of Disney Trivial Pursuit.

They had a game of Disney Wheel of Fortune at 7:15pm…it was our team of 7 (we called ourselves the Disney Villains) against 4 other teams. It was typical Wheel of Fortune but all of the puzzles had a Disney theme. And MAN, did we rock! Especially Randy, who was getting the answers without any letters in the board. Needless to say, the Disney Villains won the game and we each got a prize…either a no-spill cup, a baseball cap or a medal. It was fun.

It was almost time for dinner after the game – it was Pirate Night and we were scheduled to eat at Triton’s. With all of the bad stuff I had eaten at lunchtime, I played it safe for dinner and had ta light salad appetizer and the poached mahi mahi, baked potato and steamed veggies for a main course. And I skipped dessert altogether.

We went outside to see the pirate show after dinner…it was more Disney style action and “good wins over evil” and I just wasn’t in the mood, so I worked on my blog some more. This show also had some fireworks at the end – now, I know it’s supposed to be a big deal that they have fireworks on a ship, but after having Wishes and various holiday fireworks practically in my backyard, I was less than impressed.YMMV.

It was Karaoke night on the ship and we all agreed to meet at 11pm to partake in the festivities. As it turned out, he 2 members of our party who were willing to give it a try (Kyle and I), didn’t. Kyle never showed (he and Rande went to bed early) and they didn’t have any songs that I was comfortable singing. We stuck around for the first few songs but more of the singers sucked than didn’t, so Joe and I left and went back to our cabin. Once again, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Disney Cruise ’08: Day 1

So here I am on the Disney Cruise, on the Disney Wonder. After closing the Club last night and doing some more last-minute packing, I finally went to bed at 2:40am…with my alarm set to go off at 7:00am. Oh joy. As of this writing (1:15pm Sunday) I haven’t self-destructed yet but I figure I’ll have a sleep meltdown sometime between now and dinnertime.

We (Joe, Tyler and I) arrived at the DCL just before 11am (Randé, Kyle, Randy and Jodie were THE first people on line. I think they camped out overnight, hehehe), strategically after the obsessive early birds (not that I’m mocking obsessive early birds…god knows I’ve been one myself, once or twice in my lifetime) but before the airport and resort people. We had no wait in line to get our paperwork in order and, thanks to our friends the early birds, still wound up being some of the first people on the ship.

Our first stop was the Vista Spa, because, as per Randy and Jodie (who had taken part on their last cruise) they were supposed to have some good deals on Spa packages before we left port. Not anymore. The “specials” only saved you about $20 or so…at an average of $100/hour, they could keep it, as far as I was concerned – vacation or no vacation, I could get a massage for roughly $1/minute at home – but some of the gang signed up for some of the services.

Next was a stop at Parrot Cay, for lunch. They had lots of “salad stuff”, so I was happy (the last time I was on TDC, I gained about 5 pounds. I will NOT let that happen to me this time).

After that was the Quiet Cove pool. Randy, Jodie, Joey, Rande and Kyle went in, while I (still in regular clothes) dipped my feet. Tyler stayed on a lounge chair, relaxing. We hung out there for an hour or so and once 1:30pm rolled around and we were allowed to go into our staterooms, I went and put my bathing suit on so I could join the gang in the pool. By the time 2:30pm came around though, we only had an hour before our muster drill would begin, so Joe and I went back to take showers.

After the muster drill (“in the event of an emergency, wear warm clothing before meeting here to go on the life boats. Hello, it’s 85 degrees outside…I didn’t bring any warm clothing), we met everyone on Deck 10 for the Sail Away Party. It was typical Disney, with lots of music, dancing and characters. It was 30 straight minutes of energy, but was kinda cute.

After a quick detour so Randy could shoot some hoops, we went to the Walt Disney Theater to watch The Golden Mickeys stage show at 6:15pm. I was hesitant to go to this show because I really didn’t like any of the shows we had seen on our previous 2 cruises…the talent was always good but the premise was always stretched really thin. The Golden Mickeys didn’t seem to have much of a plot to begin with, so I figured how bad could it be? And I was right…it really wasn’t bad at all. The performers were very talented and the technical aspects of the show were very well done, but the premise of the show was as silly as ever. If they had gotten rid of the whole “awards show” part, it would have been almost as good as Encore in TDS.

After spending some time in the Promenade Lounge, it was time for our 8:15pm dinner at Parrot Cay. Our server was named Boniface (BON-eh-fahs) and he was from India. After the first look at his name tag, it was all I could do to not call him Boneface (grin). And it only got worse as I drank more of my wine with dinner…Bonehead, Bonefish, hehehe. Our drink server was Stephanie (a nice, easy name) and she was from France. Anyway, I ordered the lettuce wedge with tomato dressing as an appetizer, then then the mixed grill (beef, lamb chop, shrimp and bacon wrapped sausage, mashed potato and asparagus) as a main course – it was WONDERFUL. Finally, I got the S’mores thing for dessert…graham cracker base, chocolate mousse and a roasted marshmallow top. It was pretty good and I ate about half of that.

After dinner, we went our separate ways…Randé and Kyle had already gone back to their cabin before dessert, Tyler went back to the cabin the 3 of us were sharing and Joe, Randy, Jodie and I went to the movie theater to see National Treasure but I left after just a few minutes because I was so sleepy. I got back to our cabin and, after unpacking a few more things, fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.