Friday, December 18, 2015
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Well…it was another restful night of slee….oh, who am I kidding?! I needed a couple more days to try getting the brain to shut off; subsequently, I was up several times throughout the night, and not because of the ship’s movement. I peered outside around 3:00, and we were nearing Port Canaveral already. By 4:00, I think we were already docked. I tried laying there for a bit longer but couldn’t sleep, so I hopped out of bed to avoid waking Sheri up. Since I now could access domestic networks, I put my phone back into a normal configuration and began going through my e-mails. Luckily, there were no major surprises, as I had anticipated – the world kept on going without me being tethered to electronics (yaay). I also took care of a couple of very important issues that I had let lapse while on the cruise: I logged in and took care of my bases on Clash of Clans and Boom Beach.
Sheri got up around 6:30 or so, and we took care of the rest of the packing. The game plan was to head down to eat with our friends at Animator’s Palate around 8:00 and then disembark to hop on what we affectionately call the “bad bus” (i.e., any Disney bus heading to the airport with people whose vacations are coming to an end). Around 7:15 or so, an announcement on the P.A. system started, with the expected “Hope you had a great time…be sure to grab breakfast…those taking Disney transportation with flights before 1:00 pm need to be on the buses no later than 8 am…”
What did he just say?
Our flight is before 1:00.
But…but…on the documentation that we have, it said that we were welcome “to disembark at (our) own convenience between 7:00 am & 9:00 am.” (Disney Cruise Line (2015). Onboard Airline Check-in Helpful Tips. P. 1)
We saw the above information on the front of the document; however, on the back, it also includes the notification that. “If your flight departs PRIOR to 1:00 pm It (sic) is recommended that you disembark the ship by 8:00 am to allow enough time for you to clear Customs and depart on your motor coach for the airport by 8:30 am.”
The P.A. announcement made it sound a bit more like a requirement rather than a recommendation.
Well, crap…there went breakfast with everyone. Good thing we all exchanged contact information with each other the night before! Luckily, Sheri already had most everything packed, leaving only the carry-on items to be taken care of. We made sure we had everything, triple-checked two more times, and headed out. I had intended to give a couple of our servers an extra tip, so we made our way to Guest Services on Deck 3. The line was longer than I had previously seen, and I hoped that people weren’t trying to remove gratuities. The line moved quickly, and I was able to hand the gratuity envelope to the Cast Member within just a minute or two. As luck would have it, we saw a couple of our tablemates in the atrium area, so we were able to wish them well on their trip home; they were from the Chicago area, so we hoped we’d have a chance of meeting up with them at a later time.
One last look at the atrium, and we stepped on the gangway and back onto land…
…and, with that, our cruise was over.
Welllllllll….we were no longer on the ship, but we still had to clear Customs. We walked towards the exit point and had our cards swiped one final time to let Disney know that we were no longer on the ship. I wondered how Customs worked in the terminal and realized that we didn’t actually go into the check-in/embarkation area. We took an escalator down a level and noticed a cavernous area where people were picking up their bags and getting in line for Customs. Since we were taking Disney transportation, we didn’t have to get our bags (woohoo!!!). I have heard horror stories about the lines at this stage, but I can definitely say that we were done in less than three minutes. Granted, we may have been in between rushes (those wanting to get off early were already off, while those trying to hide on the ship to avoid getting off were still finding their hiding places)…
Disembarkation was amazingly painless and quick. After we cleared Customs (which took all of 45 seconds), we followed the directions to the ground transportation, and, within two additional minutes, we were on a bad bus. We were the last ones to make it on that particular bus, and we were on the road just a couple of minutes later.
For some reason, I found myself looking back at the Disney Dream multiple times as we headed west.
The ride to MCO was eventless, and, thanks to our onboard airline check-in, we bypassed the check-in counter. We went straight to the Disney and Universal stores in the terminal to look around and then (grrrrr) grabbed breakfast in the Atrium area. I joking told Sheri that I wanted to use my Key to the World card one final time, and (as she does every time I make that joke while waiting at the airport after a Disney trip) she rolled her eyes and gave a fake sarcastic laugh.
Plane ride…connection…plane ride…all luggage picked up…drive home…vacation over.
I’ve had a couple of months to digest the experience. The first question that I was asked by everyone was, “Did you have a good time?”
YEP!!!!!! 1,000 times over, YES! YESYESYESYESYESYES
The second question was typically, “Did Sheri puke?”
No; however…we found something out the hard way. Not long after we got on land, Sheri removed the new patch (that she put on the previous night), and she had sea legs for several days afterward. Research and commentary from several friends let us know that it’s often best to wean off of the patch by continuing to wear it for a couple of days until the dose wears off. She seriously felt terrible for 3-4 days…to the point where she was threatening to not take another cruise. I offered an olive branch of bonine for the next cruise :) .
Surprisingly, I received a lot of questions along the lines of, “So, which do you prefer…Disney World or Disney Cruise?”. To me, it’s an apples/oranges comparison. They both can be amazing, but the experience is so different that it’s hard to justifiably compare the two. With Disney World, you get to experience the magic that makes you feel like a child again, without a care in the world. With a cruise (Disney or otherwise), I think you feel like an adult without a care to worry about. Some seem worried about being claustrophobic on a ship; while I can’t speak for everyone, I think that having a balcony stateroom gives the exact opposite phenomenon; you realize just how big this world is when you see nothing but a calming expanse of water in every direction, with the sea gently lapping up against the hull as the ship cuts through it. Do you get an adrenaline rush on a ship like you would riding Expedition Everest or Space Mountain? Most likely, the answer would be “no”…while the Aquaduck is thrilling, it’s not that thrilling.
With a cruise, you get a number of different possible experiences, and the desired experience varies from person to person. Some people like the idea of traveling to many different destinations and only having to unpack once (Norwegian’s Pride of America itineraries come to mind for visiting Hawaii; it visits Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island). Some are content with a book or two, some earbuds, and servers bringing the drinks to their chair by the pool. Others like the all-inclusive nature of the cruise (lodging, entertainment, food, etc. are all covered in the cost of the cruise). Some even consider the ship to be a destination in itself (think of the Oasis-, Quantum-, and Freedom-class ships from Royal Caribbean, the Breakaway class ships of Norwegian Cruise Line, etc.). Some want the ultimate in pampering, with the finest service, the finest food, and the most luxurious of accommodations; others are looking for a quick getaway over a weekend and feel the sea calling their names. With a Disney Park, you get magic, you get thrills, you get emotions. With a cruise, you get what you want (if you find the right cruise).
To make a long story short, I can’t really give an answer for whether I prefer a Disney Park vacation or a cruise vacation. It depends on what I’m looking for in a vacation. I definitely need a cruise of 6+ nights though to get a feel for how relaxed one can actually get on a ship; 3 nights was a good taste, but man, was it short!
Sooooo….what’s next for Mush?
Well, I have another small trip report to post for a Disney World trip that we took in October; Sheri felt guilty taking the cruise without the boys, so she tasked her favorite travel agent to book a quick 3-night trip to Orlando for her, her husband, and her boys (okay, I guess I can’t be 100% certain that she picked her favorite travel agent…).
I also feel like I need to get more familiar with other cruise lines; I want to know what I’m selling so I can provide the best service. I’ve completed training and am certified to sell Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara Club, Norwegian, Princess, and Carnival. Can I book any of these? Yes; however, one cruise does not make me a cruise expert. I’ll be utilizing my network of expertise (Cathy and Michelle from Starfish Travel, LLC., who collectively have well over 100 cruises under their belts) for assistance in making your cruise amazing. I’m already looking for my next opportunity to get on a ship, and I’m working on steps to achieve the “Accredited Cruise Counselor” status with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). I’m a researcher by nature (remember, my other job is an instructional assistant professor), so I’ll continue to gather as much knowledge as I can for the cruise industry, from podcasts to blogs to videos to additional agent training to cruise conferences to whatever else I can find!
Hopefully you enjoyed the trip report and that, while laughing a little, you gained a little knowledge. Thanks for staying with me on this journey!
Saturday, October 17, 2015
We still had about 45 minutes before dinner at Animator’s Palate, and we saw that the line for Captain Mickey was fairly short a level above us. We decided to head up and get a picture with himwhhhoooooaaaahhhhh.
We were rockin’ and rollin’ a little bit on the ship.
#$&@#)!!* Florida Current!
I (stupidly) thought that Sheri perhaps didn’t notice the movement.
She had both hands on the handrail and was contemplating wrapping both legs around it, too, all the while glaring at me with this “I’m-going-to-kill-you-right-before-the-ship-sinks” look.
Honestly, I likened it to a little bit of turbulence on a smaller plane (akin to when I flew Cessnas on the Front Range in Colorado at the Air Force Academy). To me, it was like a slow roller coaster. I mentioned that to Sheri (even putting my hands in the air and going “Woohoooooooo” during a roll), and she contemplated taking off her wedding ring to throw at me.
While in line (it was only about 10-15 minutes), I looked out of the windows to see how rough the seas were. There were some noticeable swells, with an occasional white-cap, so it definitely wasn’t calm. Everyone will have a different perception; however, I didn’t think it was too bad at all. I knew that the seas could be a lot choppier, which would probably equate to a lot more motion. Still, I thought the rolling (which was definitely different from the shimmying we experienced on the first night) wasn’t too bad at all. Sheri, however…
About 5 minutes before we made it to the front of the line for Mickey, the Halloween Storytime began on Deck 3. We got to enjoy that while we waited.
Once we were done, we decided that we had time to look a bit at the pictures that they had for us. We scanned our card at a reader, and the system told us where our pictures were located. Since we hadn’t been in line for any characters (other than the one we were JUST in, and, if they had those pictures in there already, I was going to be REALLY impressed), our folio was really small. We decided to wait until the Mickey pics were in there to decide whether to but anything or not.
We headed back to the room for a brief moment, and Sheri decided to throw on a new scopolamine patch (I think she contemplated putting on an additional patch (or four) behind her other ear). I tried telling her to “go with the roll” instead of trying to keep “vertical”. It’s a trick that I learned when I first started flying: when you try to correct a roll or turbulence, you move in the opposite direction of the roll, and the ship/plane will eventually right itself, which will cause you to correct your initial movement. It doubles your movement, which can mess with your inner ears a lot more than if you just go with the roll. It took me a couple of flights where I had the controls (as well as a Lt. Colonel’s advice) for me to figure it out, but it has worked wonders for me. Your mileage may vary…
We also noticed that the airline check-in documents had arrived, just as Guest Services told us that it would. We tagged the checked bags and set them out for pick-up (hint: make sure you leave out clothes for your disembarkation).
About 5 minutes before our dining was scheduled, we went down to Deck 3 aft for Animator’s Palate. There actually are two separate entrances, and we went to the “back door” one by the aft stairwell (the hosts will direct you to the proper one for your table assignment). We were the first ones at our table, with Ernest and Tina soon joining us. Melissa arrived a couple of minutes later; Jamie decided to stay in the cabin for a little while.
Seriously, it's really a FUN place...lots of things to see.
Our servers gave recommendations, and we ordered our drinks; we decided to go with a cabernet for the meal, and our newly-found wine fan took our recommendation and ordered a glass for himself. I heard a number of people rave about the salmon appetizer, but, thanks to the Food Network’s special, we both ordered the black truffle pasta purseittes. For the soup/salad course, I surprised her and ordered the butternut squash soup. The main entrée didn’t quite match the wine we ordered, but we both went with an herb crusted pork chop.
All of us raved about Believe as well as the rocking and rolling we were experiencing (well, "raved" might not be the best way to describe the conversation). The purseittes were fantastic! One of our tablemates also ordered the salmon as an additional appetizer and also gave it a thumbs-up. Oh…there’s another hint for you: yes, you can order multiple dishes of any (or every) course. The soup…I’ll have to admit that we’re spoiled when it comes to this course. We occasionally are invited to a food- and wine-paired meal at a restaurant that we frequent, and the executive chef (Hi Manny!!!) always makes an absolutely awesome soup course. We’ve had a butternut squash soup before, and it makes any other similar soup pale in comparison. The soup on the Dream was good, but it just didn’t compare to what we get back home at Baxter’s Grille.
As the soup course came out, Animator’s Palate transformed into what it was known for…CRUSH! I’ll leave this part a little vague for those who don’t know what to expect. It was neat to watch, though!
The main course? That pork chop was much better than I expected! Sheri agreed. There was just a hint of mustard, but not enough to be off-putting. Oh, and the cabernet? While it wasn’t a perfect pairing, it worked pretty well. We topped off Ernest’s glass with some from our bottle and then polished off the rest of the wine. I could tell that Sheri (and others) were not the most comfortable with the swaying, but I don’t think anyone was turning a true green color.
Since this was our last evening on the ship, the table talked about plans for the evening. We were going to say goodbye to our friends in Skyline before turning in as well as order pictures. Ernest and Tina had not yet been to Skyline, so we agreed to try meeting up after dinner for a nightcap or three. While we talked, the dessert menu was presented, and I went with the cookies and cream Mickey Sundae, since I kept forgetting to order a Mickey Bar from Room Service (yes, they have them on the ship!). Sheri opted for the “Make-Your-Own Pie”.
The sundae? Just as you would expect.
Sheri’s home-made pie? A bit on the weird side. We had fun playing “guess what sweet was in the side dish”…we seriously weren’t quite sure what all was on the plate. It wasn’t bad…just…well…weird.
There was also a birthday at our table (I won’t divulge who *coughTINAcough*), and they presented the unknown person *coughcoughTINA* with a special dessert to celebrate.
After everything was finished, we thanked our servers and headed out for a couple of minutes. We jumped up to the District; no, it wasn’t for a drink (yet). We wanted to get to Shutters to buy a couple of pictures. As we made our way through the District Lounge, we met up with Olga (the violinist who played before Believe). She had just finished up a set in the Lounge. She talked to us for a minute as we walked together towards the atrium area. When she heard that Sheri was a bit queasy her suggestion to counter motion sickness was to have a drink or two.
Hey, she’s on the ship a lot more than us…who are we to argue with the expert? :)
We purchased our pictures, took them back to our room, and then skipped down to the District. Once again we were the only ones in there when we arrived. We decided to mix things up a bit. I turned in my man card and ordered an Eco-tini (Acai, triple sec, agave nectar, ginger, and lime juice). It even came with a fashionable acai seed bracelet (which I promptly gave to wifey). Sheri had….ummmmmmm…..errrrr….neither of us can remember. For grins, we’ll say she had the New Yorker. They were both awesome drinks!
As we enjoyed the ambiance, we realized that a number of others had arrived. Don told us that all of them were the “regulars” who were doing the same thing as us…saying goodbye to the bar.
Tina and Ernest came in and found us. I applied what I had learned from Don when Ernest asked me what to order. I asked him if he was a fan of Jack Daniels, to which he readily agreed. The Blues was the drink then! We talked Tina into a coco Cadillac, which (we think) was another good choice. We enjoyed the company and wanted it to continue; however, we knew that the next day was going to be a long one. Even though gratuities are already included in the price, we always added a bit more to every tab for them. Since this was our last one, we slipped in one final tip for them without them seeing it. It was well worth it.
Skyline was really hopping at this time…it was near capacity. Ernest and Tina wanted to tour the District a little more, so we said our goodbyes with he hopes of catching breakfast together the next morning. They headed towards Evolution, while we snuck out the other door and walked into Pink one last time to get some of the ambiance.
We were the only ones in there…
…except for Myrna, from the Cove area bar the previous day.
I have absolutely no idea how they do it, but their recollection of faces and/or names is downright scary! She remembered us from the previous day and struck up a conversation. We stopped and bellied up to the bar, with no intention of ordering anything.
Yeah, that lasted about ten seconds.
As we talked, Sheri and I did our nonverbal talking to each other, and either we both agreed to have one final drink or we both agreed to recreate the scene from Titanic where the lead characters run all around the ship trying to avoid Rose’s butler. Since she didn’t run out the door flipping some random older guy off, I felt safe that we agreed on the drink. We put our faith in Don at Skyline and reaped the rewards, so we decided to do the same with Myrna. We simply told her that we’d trust her recommendation. She paused for a second and then said she was going to pull out the stops and give us a glass of Moet and Chandon Ice Imperial Champagne. She started peeling an orange and putting the peel in the glass, followed by some mint and then some ice.
Wait…ice? ICE?! IN CHAMPAGNE?!
Yes, folks, Moet makes a champagne on the rocks. It was their Imperial Ice.
AND IT WAS AMAZING!!!!
I didn’t even want to look at the price of that one, once I heard the names Moet and Chandon associated with the drink LOL. In all honesty, it didn’t cost as much as I had expected.
Unlike Skyline, Pink remained quiet; we were the only ones in there for the entire stay. Pink ranks second for us, behind our beloved Skyline. We never thought that, on a ship with 4,000 people on it, we could find a place that just the two of us could have “to ourselves”. We did…multiple times, too.
After we settled up, we called it a night and headed back to our stateroom to officially call it a night.
No…the trip can’t be over tomorrow! NOOOOOOOooooooooooooozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………..
Monday, October 12, 2015
A lot of family events take place here, along with seminars, presentations, etc.
I continued back to the District and grabbed a few more pics:
Another shot of Evolution
Up next was the Oceaneer Lab which, along with the nearby (and connected) Oceaneer Club, is set up for kids ages 3-12:
We wrap up this day of the trip HERE.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Day 3 (of the cruise) Personal Navigator