Saturday, October 17, 2015

Living the Dream: 2015 Disney Cruise Line Trip Report - Day 4…SERENITY (Bay) NOW, Part 3

Part 2 can be viewed HERE.

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 entrĂ©e 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.

Thanks, Don!

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.


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

Living the Dream: 2015 Disney Cruise Line Trip Report - Day 4…SERENITY (Bay) NOW, Part 2

The first part of this day can be viewed HERE.

We dropped everything off in our stateroom, changed clothes, and decided on the next item to do.  

Sheri: Rest!  
Chris: Do the Travel Agent thing and Tour the Ship!

We both won.

I grabbed the camera and headed out.  Luckily, there were a couple of open houses in the youth clubs scheduled for this afternoon; this provided a perfect opportunity for me to look around.  I made sure to also grab my Midship Detective Agency log to see if I could finish up the case. I had it narrowed down to two people and needed one more clue It was for research, folks…yeah...research.

First up; Edge Tween Club:

Okay...actually, before I got to Edge, I nearly ran into Mickey taking an elevator up to the little-known Outlook Lounge on Deck 14.  We "talked" for a minute while waiting for the elevators.

NOW: Edge Tween Club (for ages 11-14):

Edge is located in the forward tunnel on Deck 13.  I loved the Wall-E picture in the stairwell:

After that, I snuck out to see Castaway Cay one final time for the trip:

I made my way back to down to Deck 4 and made my way aft to check out the D Lounge:

 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:

 District Lounge, where live music can be heard most nights.

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:

At the time I was in there, they were starting an "Anyone Can Cook" (thanks to Gusteau from Ratatouille) event with cupcake decorating/eating.

On the way to the teen-only area, Vibe, I popped into the Buena Vista Theatre to see if I could grab a picture or two in there.  As luck would have it, they were showing a screening of Inside Out to a fairly full theatre.  I stopped and watched for a few minutes before heading out (no, I didn't take any photos with the movie showing).  These are free movies (with some in 3-D) and are typically 4-5 of the most recent Disney releases.

The entrance to Vibe takes a little effort to find, which is probably exactly what 14-17 year olds prefer.  Once I found it, it was pretty quiet as the teens had taken over the AquaDuck for a little bit (it was scheduled, which is why I was able to look around; normally, it's off-limits for anyone 18+):

 Why wasn't this around when I was a teen?  They even had the Bears game on the TV!

 ...complete with a coffee bar...

 The teens-only pool area at the very front of the ship

I loved the color-changing hallway you walk through to enter Vibe.

My mission to check out most of the areas of the ship was complete!

I made it back to the stateroom, and, since we had time, we headed into Skyline for a bit to talk to our favorite crew members (2 Caipirinhas, por favor, or however you say “please” in Portuguese).  While we were in there, a couple others from the Mixology class the previous day popped in, and we struck up a conversation with them (they were on their honeymoon).  They also ordered something that we made in Mixology – the one Sheri and I made that was no longer on the menu – the Coco Cadillac!

Sheri and I looked at each other at the same time.

You can order it even if it’s not on the menu?!

Ummm…Don?  We’ll also have what they’re having, please.

We knew we were going to be cutting it close to make it to the 6:15 showing of Believe, but we also knew that the Cadillac was an easy one to drink (translation: you didn’t have to sip it).  We had a good time talking with the other couple (who were also taking down their drinks quickly to make Believe). 

After settling up, we stopped by the room for just a moment (we loved the location of our room), and I noticed that the disembarkation (or debarkation, depending on who you talk to) package had arrived.  I immediately noticed that we received the luggage tags for those who wish to pick up their bags after they got off the ship.  We had signed up for the on-board airline check-in, so I made a note to stop by guest services after the show just to make sure.

We arrived at the theater and were surprised to find seats on the lower level that weren’t save---err---occupied, and we quickly grabbed a couple.  A few minutes later, the curtains parted in a section on the balcony, and Olga Altukhova, noted violinist performing on the Dream, started playing When You Wish Upon a Star.  The entire theater (well, there may have been one or two kids as an exception) all stopped, turned, and listened. 

Nice touch…perfect timing, Disney…

…and then she had to perform an encore with Let It Go on the violin.

Okay, she performed it flawlessly, and it sounded amazing; had our boys been girls, I might not be burnt out on Frozen as much.  Some of the kids in the audience were singing as she played, which actually did put a smile on my face.

Once she finished, the lights immediately dimmed, and Disney’s Believe started. 

There we go…THIS is Disney firing on all cylinders.  This was an excellent show that hits all the buttons that Disney hits so well.  It has the characters for the kids; it has great music; it has a really good story line; and it tugs at the heartstrings for the adults.  There’s a reason they hold this show to be the last one on the cruise; it’s definitely their best on the Dream!

After the show ended, we stopped by guest services to ask about the onboard airline check-in, since we got the regular tags to pick up after disembarkation.  They told me not to worry because they give those to everyone to ensure they all have the opportunity to utilize the service in case anything goes awry with the airline check-in.  They told us that we should receive the boarding passes and the airline tags later on this evening. 

No issues at all with the Guest Services desk...I think they do a fantastic job there!

We wrap up this day of the trip HERE.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Living the Dream: 2015 Disney Cruise Line Trip Report - Day 4…SERENITY (Bay) NOW, Part 1

You can view Day 3 starting HERE.

Day 3 (of the cruise) Personal Navigator

Once again, I decided that, since I was on vacation and didn’t have to be up at any time at all, I was awake before 6:00.


Well….since I was up, I might as well grab some more sunrise pics.  Sheri was also up and ready to go, so she was already dressed for Castaway Cay by the time the sun came up.

After we were satisfied that the sun actually did come up that morning, we headed up to Cabanas for breakfast.  Emily, our server from lunch the previous day, was manning the hand sanitizer by the elevators, so we talked to her for a brief moment before heading in.  The dance party the previous night must have been a blast that went until 4:00 am (well, it was that or people were on vacation and sleeping in), because we were the first ones into Cabanas for breakfast.  The buffet was similar to what we saw in Enchanted Garden the previous day, and we grabbed a table by the window, as we were just about to Disney’s private island and had started the turn to back in for docking.  While we talked and watched, one of our main servers on the rotation was working breakfast, and he recognized us immediately and called us by name.  We chatted with him for a couple of minutes before he scampered off to help with another table that got seated.  I ran back down to the stateroom to grab one of our cups for ice water...I half-expected to see Reuben (and two clones of himself) cleaning up the room. He wasn't - hopefully he was still sleeping (along with most of the ship).

When I got back up to Cabanas, Sheri had this big smile on her face.  Our server insisted that we should let him get us an omelet, since they had to be special ordered. 

They definitely take care of you on the ship there!

The omelet was presented a couple of minutes later, and it was fantastic!

It was a little after 8:00, and Cabanas was starting to come to life a little bit.  We headed out and up to Deck 13 aft to see the sports area.  We didn’t have the camera with us, so we didn’t get any pictures of the miniature golf course (or the ping pong tables, or the foozball table, or the basketball court), but we walked around it to see all the holes.  I even geeked out at the hole with the math book formulas.

We headed back to the stateroom to chill for a bit while the crew members prepped the island for the onslaught of guests.  I hopped out on the verandah to watch everything going on, and, about two minutes after I sat down, the Buffett music started playing.

I had a feeling I might like Castaway Cay.

Around 8:35 or so, we made our way to Deck 3 mid-ship (in the atrium), and took the stairs down to Deck 1.  This was kind of weird…we hadn’t been on land for over 42 hours, and I was wondering if I was going to like not being on the ship.  We saw Ernest and Tina heading off just before us, so we talked to them for a bit.  Our plan was to walk around a little bit before making our way to the adults-only section of the Cay, Serenity Bay.  They were going to snorkel for a bit before heading over to Serenity Bay for a while.

We swiped our cards (so they knew who was on/off the ship) and stopped at a kiosk to grab a six pack………of bottled………WATER (weren’t expecting that, were ya?) along with a really nice collapsible cooler.  As we started walking, we saw those who were running the 5K meeting up to walk to the start.  We considered grabbing the tram but decided to walk a little to see what the island had to offer.  We noticed that a sign listed several excursions that were either delayed or cancelled for the day and guessed that the higher winds might have played a part in some of the cancellations; the parasailing with those winds would have been an intense ride.

We made it to the Scuttle’s Cove tram stop and contemplated hopping on to make it to Pelican Point (where you have to switch to another tram if you want to go to Serenity Bay).  We passed and kept on walking, taking in the sights.  We saw Mount Rustmore (just Google it :) ) , and, as we continued the walk, I felt like I should have signed up for the 5K, because we were with them the whole time; granted, they were still walking to the start area…

A bit that Caribbean humidity

I think the scientific name of that tree is arborus towerus cellulara

At Pelican Point, we decided to hop on the Serenity Bay Tram for the rest of the way.  We saw Melissa and Jamie waiting for the same tram and chatted for a quick second while we waited.  Not more than two minutes later, the tram arrived, and we hopped on for the ride up the airstrip and to the adults-only area.  The ride only took about 3-4 minutes before we hopped off and made our way to the bea…..

Oh man.

The beach.

I think we were the second tram to arrive, and the first tram must have had only a couple of people on it because we felt like we had almost the entire bay to ourselves.  Melissa and Jamie went left (close to the bar area), while we went right to head north a bit and grabbed a set of chairs and an umbrella to set up camp.  Sheri got stuff organized, while I put the umbrella up and started gooping the sunscreen on us.  We took our chairs and placed them right where the water “broke” and lapped onto the sand.  There’s a break that keeps the stronger waves from the ocean away, leaving crystal clear water for the beaches of Castaway Cay.  The waves are negligible…more of a lapping of water than a large crashing wave.


Good name.

We sat down, and listened.

…and watched.

And chilled.

I decided then and there (but not verbally) that I think a three night cruise was a good sampler as well as good for those who only had a few days to get away; the next cruise, however, was most likely going to be a longer one so I could attempt to try this thing called “relaxing”.  I’m the kind of person that can never turn my mind completely off (as I mentioned earlier, I’m cursed with a combination of both being A.D.D. and wearing multiple hats that constantly has me thinking of a million things).  I'll admit, thought, that, while I didn’t quite shut down, I got close while we sat there.  Sheri expected that just sitting there doing nothing was killing me; nope…I needed about 3 more days of this #EasternCaribbeanitinerary #coughcough.

Eventually, I hopped into the water, which was nice and warm.  I have heard that the water can get rather cold (even for those of us from the north with thicker blood) in the winter months around the Bahamas, but this was September, and it was perfect!  Sheri joined me after a little bit, and we headed out a hundred yards or so, looking at the bottom without snorkel gear.  A tiny fish (not 2 inches in length) swam by and must have liked something about us, because it swam around us for about 5 minutes.  When I say it was “by” us, it was more of a “I want to nibble on you and see what you taste like” proximity.

We saw Ernest and Tina arrive into Serenity Bay (they unknowingly chose the chairs right next to our stuff), and, after talking a bit about the clarity of the water here, they donned their gear and snorkeled in the Bay for a while.  We hopped back into our chairs and just…sat.

Ernest and I talked a bit and decided that we could easily split a cooler (or two) of Coronas over at the Castaway Air Bar.  Disney has thought of everything there…to avoid any glass on the beach, they transferred the beer to a plastic bottle for you (complete with the proper Corona logo and everything).  In the interest of research (of course), a couple of us also ordered some Konk Koolers (white and dark rum, passion fruit, coconut cream, and orange and pineapple juices…WOW!!).  Tina also gave a raving review of the Island Navigator from the nearby hammock.

While we were talking and enjoying the beverages, the aroma of lunch at the nearby Serenity Bay BBQ was intoxicating (ironic, eh?), so we decided to hop over and grab lunch.  This wasn’t your typical backyard grill-out.  Several different salads were there for starters, and a LOT of grilled meats were offered (hot dogs, burgers, amazing ribeye steaks, ribs, mahi mahi, chicken, etc.).  You could have as much of whatever you wanted there, and it was all REALLY good.  Throw in fresh fruit, other sides, chips, etc., and you end up with one heck of a good meal.  Oh yeah…dessert.  How about cookies, pineapple cake, banana bread, or soft-serve ice cream?

We all contemplated where to hide to stay on the island.  I’m guessing 2/3 of the passengers on every cruise do the same thing.

Ernest and Tina finished up and headed out, while we lounged around and people-watched a bit in the BBQ area.  Eventually, we moved back to the beach, but only for a bit longer as it was warming up.  We wanted to be back on the ship a little early to avoid long lines, so we only stayed for a little longer before packing up and heading to the tram stop.  We had to hop off the tram at Pelican Point anyway, so we decided to look around for some souvenirs.

We took the second tram back to Scuttle’s Cove and then hopped off to walk the rest of the way to get a few pics.

Area for the water equipment rentals

Before getting back on the Dream, we popped into the post office to send a postcard from another country to Aaron and Eric.  I honestly don’t think that it has arrived yet (around 4 weeks after the cruise).  Our Keys to the World cards were scanned (yes, they allowed us to bring our remaining water, still in the cooler, back onboard), and we were back onboard.

Castaway Cay – we will definitely see you again!!!

(Continued HERE)