Monday, August 25, 2008

Mickey at Sea

Note: I was saving this post for when I finished processing some more pictures. However, my laptop drive crashed and, at the moment, every damned picture I took this summer is unaccessable (hopefully only temporarily). So you get it sans images.

After the icebox trip to the port, we were all grumpy (and still soggy). A Disney cruise tradition (and possibly for all cruise ships) is a two-part entry ceremony. First, you get your family's picture taken in front of some appropriate backdrop. Then you are announced onto the ship with applause by nearby staff (which has to be genuinely mind-numbing for those poor folks).

Having passed by the fairly long check-in lines thanks to a resort-end check-in, we found ourselves stalled in the photography line. Being grumpy and soggy (and still freezing), none of us were in any mood to be shanghaied into getting our pictures taken, so I unhooked a nearby lane strap and passed my family into the center of the aisle, bypassing the entire event. When we looked back, we saw a goodly percentage of the folks behind us opting to do the same thing. Nice to be a trendsetter. Unfortunately, we could not avoid the silly announcement process, but at least that was quick.

Our stateroom (deck 8) was nothing special (typical family room - queen bed with pop-out bunk beds for the kids, separate shower and toilet rooms, nice-sized veranda for watching the sunset). Our stateroom hostess was very nice, however, and took good care of us for the whole trip.

For those who have never experienced a Disney cruise, I must say that they do a wonderful job at providing for the entire family. A lot is kid-oriented, of course, but there is a significant amount of teen-only and adult-only entertainment both on-board and at Castaway Cay.

The main deck (9) has three swimming pools - one for kids only, which includes a long, spiral waterslide, one for the whole family which has two hot tubs in the corner and a massive viewing screen above the one end on which are played various Disney movies pretty much continuously throughout the trip, and a third for the 18 and up crowd only (also with hot tubs, I believe).

The very top deck (10) has a sports bar (adults) and the Loft, a teen-only (13-17, I think) club.

Deeper in the ship are the Oceaneers' Club and Oceaneers' Lab - the former for the 3-7 crowd, the latter for the 8-13 (or so) crowd. There is also a nursery of some sort for the very young.

Down on Deck 3 are a variety of adult-oriented clubs - one like a sports/gentlemen's lounge, one a nightclub, and one a piano lounge. The nightclub has most of the evening events in it (karaoke, etc.) along with a variety of dance music.

There is also a regular movie theater which shows a variety of movies, including first runs and even an occasional world premier movie (since Disney owns most of the movies, it isn't hard for them to get the rights for these things!). Finally, there is a show theater where they give a different Broadway-style musical each night of the cruise.

Every night, you eat in a different themed restaurant (we like best the food in the French-themed Triton's and the show in the Animator's Palette). The cool thing is that your wait staff follows you to each restaurant, so you can build up a rapport with the people who handle your dining needs.

The first night, we headed out to sea and got unpacked (once all our luggage finally caught up with us). After eating a yummy meal at Triton's (and meeting our most-excellent servers, Radu and Monika), I registered the girls for the Oceaneers' Club, then took them down to see the first night's show, The Golden Mickeys.

After the excellent show (my favorite of the three), the girls demanded a swim. What the hell - it's vacation, right? Swimming at 10pm it is!

The next day we docked at Nassau, which Sue and I consider kind of a dump. (Exception: The relatively-new Atlantis Casino, which is not a dump but which is seriously expensive to experience.) We stayed on-board the whole day, most of which we spent by the kids' pool, where the girls tried to see how much water they could absorb in a single day. (They beat it the next day anyway.) That night we ate at the awesome Animator's Palette, which starts out all black-and-white and slowly morphs the walls, pictures and, by the end, even the wait staff into full color. The show of the evening was Toy Story, the Musical. This was my least favorite show overall. Supposedly they pulled the best of their music writers together to create the songs...but I think they got ripped off. They were merely "okay" for the most part (some terrible). One exception: Sid (the destructo-kid) had a wonderful, hard-rock song ("Make a Little Noise") which was a blast! I wish I could find a video of it. The cool thing, however, was seeing how they portrayed the toy-sized world from the movie. The costumes were incredible - it looked exactly like the movie - huge Mr. Potato Head, Slinky, everything. Two thumbs up for excellent costume and set design!

After the show, everyone crashed but me. After changing and relaxing a bit, I headed down to WaveBands (the nightclub) and sat through my first-ever karaoke session. It wasn't as painful as I expected (although the first song I heard, a guy singing Bon Jovi, was the best of the evening). No, I did not go sing. Around 1am, I headed back up to our stateroom for snoozes.

The next day, I woke up very early (pre-7 am) to see us slowly moving towards the dock at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. CC has it all (well, if you like tropical islands) - beaches, parasailing, snorkling, jetskis, bars(!), quiet kid-free cabanas and adult-only beach, and even some hiking trails. Events folks even started the day with a 5K run! (I skipped, thanks.) The girls entered the water as soon as we found an open chair under an umbrella and rarely came out before dinnertime. They checked briefly into the equivalent of the Oceaneer's Club, but decided that was too hot and abandoned it after lunch to spend the next 5 hours or so never leaving the water. Amazing. I spent most of the day running here and there - back to the ship for something forgotten (long, long trip there and back again!), off for food, in the water with the kids for a while, retrieving some alcohol, and occasionally even sitting on my butt reading a book. Sue, much wiser, stayed in the shade (except, it is to be well-noted, not noticing the sun moved from behind the umbrella to illuminate her nice, white, unsunblocked legs for several hours) and made sure the girls didn't drown.

That evening, we dined at the Caribbean-themed Parrot Cay restaurant onboard. My (American-style) food was great - Sue's was much less than great. The girls had fun. Our servers, as always, were a hoot. The final show was Disney Dreams...An Enchanted Classic. It was a charming little show which showcased the favorite songs and characters from a bunch of Disney movies. Apparently, it is the favorite of most people who go, and it really was very enjoyable. I still liked the Golden Mickeys better (possibly because it had villains as well as heroes... and a giant Ursula appearance, complete with huge tentacles that could reach to the audience!).

After that show was a major deck party based on Pirates of the Caribbean. Lots of character appearances and line dancing and way too crowded. I had to take turns putting the girls on my shoulders just to see (and I was only about 5 people from the stage). The awesome part - besides Mickey zip-lining down the length of the midship! - was a pretty cool fireworks display at the conclusion of the show. Apparently Disney is the only cruise line in the world permitted to do a fireworks display at sea.

After the fireworks, we dumped the kids at the Oceaneer's Club for an hour and a half (it's open till midnight!) in order for me to drag Sue down to the nightclub for a bit, where I think she was fairly unimpressed overall. However, she was surprised to see the Disney dance crew performing a sexy dance to the somewhat un-Disneylike song, "Save a Horse [Ride a Cowboy]"!

In the morning, we woke up already docked at Port Canaveral. We actually had to put out our luggage the night before in order to take advantage of Disney's transport services (it was picked up by 11pm). We grabbed our backpacks and headed to our scheduled 6:15(!) breakfast at the Parrot Cay, served as always by our wonderful hosts. We snapped some pictures of the kids with them (also temporarily lost) and headed off the ship and onto a (cold) bus for the ride to Orlando airport.

At the airport, we grabbed a rental car and drove off to Tampa for part C of the vacation, a (fairly) restful week at a friend's house. More later!

No comments: