Still with me? Gluttons for punishment, I say. Mwahahahaa! Warning: There's a lot more pictures in this post, and we're getting on Mickey's Tub in here someplace, so this is a long one, folks!
Wednesday 23 January:
The camera est mort. We tried gentle coaxing and were eventually reduced to hurling it across the room (ok, maybe we were not that cruel...we just whacked it around a bit). It is taking pictures of things like fireworks and restaurants, but all I get is a black screen with colored stripes. I cannot believe I am going to the Caribbean for the first time, my first cruise, and I have no camera. AND I have reservations for breakfast with Mickey Mouse. And no camera. We bought a disposable at the Contemporary before breakfast, trying to buy ourselves time. The only reusable cameras on property are three Kodak digital models I know nothing about – and two Hannah Montana $19.99 digital jobbers that hold 40 pictures and are not Mac compatible. I feel trapped. I am not going to buy a camera just because it's here, with no research. I cannot believe I have to use...gulp...FILM.
Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary was awesome. Mr. W. loves a buffet. I love to watch the kids when they're having fun, and when they see characters. The chef came and escorted me around the buffet, showing me what was safe and not safe. She made me gluten free Van's waffles, and gave me separate syrup too. We headed to the Magic Kingdom and picked up our Pirate and Princess Party tickets for Saturday. We rode Buzz, Pirates, and some other small things. Saw Mickey's PhilharMagic which I just love. It feels like the earth is moving under my feet sometimes, even when we're standing still and not on rides. This happened a couple of years ago on another Disney trip - we decided then that I had fluid in my ears, and didn't ride much. I hope it does not mess up the cruise.
After our nap (I love vacation.) we headed for Downtown Disney, with an eventual goal of Animal Kingdom Lodge for Boma: Flavors of Africa. I love me some Boma. Big time. And as usual I left fat and happy. There's a TON of stuff on the Boma buffet for GF people. The chef escorts me around and says “you can have that and that and that and that...but not that...” Usually it’s “You can’t have anything here, or there, but you can have that one over there...” They've even got two GF desserts on their regular dessert menu! I love the Carrot and Ginger soup, and the Kokonut Rice and the curry dishes. And they have an amazing hummus which can be slapped onto GF rolls or veggies. Loads of flavor, loads of interesting, loads of fun. After dinner we headed back to Downtown Pleasure Island. We went to the Adventurer's Club; first visit. I think we should have gone to the Comedy Club instead. It was funny, but a bit too schticky for us, and we left. I am not sure we drink enough to make it funny enough to stay. I got a latte at Ghirardelli, and we watched people.
Thursday 24 January:
Mr. W.'s cheese is slipping. We "left property" (meaning we got in a non-Disney vehicle and left the Disney enclave) and bought a new digital camera at a Wal-mart in Orlando in the middle of vacation. Five years ago he would have told me he hoped I enjoyed my memories. Now he just hops in the car and off we trot. I cannot stop taking pictures now. Common anoles, Smucker's single serving jelly tubs, my omelet, air, cars, anything. Just because I can.
Back on property we tested the camera out in Animal Kingdom and Epcot then headed for dinner at the Flying Fish at Boardwalk n the pouring rain. The food was excellent. Again the atmosphere is very loud, but I think trying to find a quiet dinner at Disney may be the biggest joke ever.
Us at Animal Kingdom - a rarity, pictures of us together.
Pouting Knitter stages a futile sit-in at the former Fountainview Espresso, now Edy's Ice Cream bar. Ten years of tradition ruined by ice cream. I am devastated.
And then, to top it off, no Figment??
China - this was under cover last time and has been finished and revealed
More World Showcase
MELISSA LOVE FIGMENT!!!
Friday 25 January:
Epcot again. Somehow we find ourselves here over and over. No plans for lunch, so we grab a table at the Japan pavilions newly opened Tokyo Dining (formerly part of Mitsukoshi). I ordered sushi, and a fruity non-alcoholic specialty drink. Mr. W. had a bento box and a fruity non-alcoholic specialty drink, but a different flavor. Oddly enough, there are only two of these drinks on the menu and we chose exactly the right one for each of us. For dinner we went to San Angel Inn. I must say that this experience showed me the darker side of the San Angel. I was not impressed at all. Nothing fresh, and not good at all really. My vegetables were from a plastic freezer bag. Ick. Boo. Goo. The saving grace? Much chips and a good Margarita. Illuminations was awesome as always, and the new camera has a fireworks setting. How cool is that?
Saturday 26 January:
Pirate and/or Princess Day, depending on personality. I prefer to be a Princess this time around. Mr. W. is all Pirate. We were going to dress up for the party, but it was raining (cold rain) all day. I love warm rain, especially here where it chases people away so parks seem privately owned, so it does not bother me, but putting on a bridesmaid’s dress, sleeveless and backless, in the cold? Not so much. We spent the morning at...um...ok. We may have a problem here. Epcot. Notice a trend? We spend the majority of our time at Epcot, and it gets worse every visit. We just can't get enough. It's not like we're shopping or eating incessantly. We just really are comfortable at Epcot. I love Soarin' and Test Track and World Showcase and the Canada movie and Maelstrom and...I just love Epcot. We headed to the California Grill for supper. I had sushi, really excellent sushi. Then we headed to the Magic Kingdom. P&P party was just so fun! We gathered boo&y. Mr. W. got more boo&y than me, which I thought was amazingly sexist, but I let it go. I mean, he was getting two strands of beads to every one of mine. AND he got more gems as well. There were games set up in Tomorrowland so you could earn more boo&y, and boo&y stations scattered liberally around the Magic Kingdom. A parade and fireworks capped the evening. We went on more rides, including Small World which always makes Mr. W. whine and cower a little but is required tradition, even the boys know this, and we 'did' Stitch's Great Escape which replaced Alien (no skin off my teeth on that one).
My Personal Pirate – tried it on but wouldn’t buy it
X Marks the Spot - all through the Magic Kingdom, Treasure Stations are marked this way
Smee on Parade!
Tink's treasure float
Sunday 27 January:
This day Mr. W. nearly lost his life. Driving to Port Canaveral to board the Wonder I look over and realize we have no gas. He's said nothing about this. And we are in the middle of absolute nowhere. Some exits in Florida lead to towns and gas stations. Others lead to alligators and swamps. I am the Navigator. It is impossible to tell from the map what is at which exit. The signs in Florida are often misleading. A sign up on the highway that says, for example, "gas" may mean "20 miles that-a way" when you get to the bottom of the ramp. The Driver is responsible for gassing the vehicle. This is not a new concept. In 16 years, the Driver has ALWAYS been responsible for gassing the vehicle. The Navigator is responsible for getting the Driver to his intended destination using maps, guide books, and a certain amount of gut instinct ("Ya know, I have no clue, honey, JUST GO LEFT."). He left Orlando on ‘E’ and headed for Port Canaveral, an hour away. And he never stopped for gas back when stations were plentiful. And he never said “Hey we need gas!”. And I had to pee. And we were in the middle of nowhere. And I wanted coffee. I sat in my seat and did not say all the things that came into my head. (such as "You have got to be kidding me. You have brought me to this alligator swamp of a state with no freaking gas in my car, so that I can sit here with my teeth floating while watching the speedometer and the gas gauge and wondering if Florida has the death penalty, and if killing a man who fails to gas the car on a vacation we've been planning for 10 years counts as justifiable homicide, and can I ensure a jury of married woman and a married woman judge, and will I really care if I get the chair because the simply joy of the act of strangling you right now would so far exceed the pain of the wattage, and if this car dies from lack of fuel and we are not near a bathroom you are so, so in trouble...." You know. Stuff like that.)
I found a gas station in the nick of time (all the way around), and we filled the car, emptied me, and moved on. At this point I was fairly sure Mr. W. was living on luck alone. Sheer luck. One more mile, and disaster would have occurred that could potentially have scarred him for life, or ended his life depending on the level of disaster to and within my car. We arrived at Port Canaveral. It was windy and cold. At the port we got stuck waiting for a drawbridge. It always amazes me how people will inch slowly forward in their cars as if they can, by riding your bumper, make the bridge go down? Or maybe they plan to push you over the edge so they can be first? We pulled into the Disney Cruise Line drop-off area and I debarked from the vehicle (new word! debark! opposite of embark! I always thoght it was disembark, but Mickey says debark...). The baggage guys took the luggage and said I'd see it later outside my stateroom. Mr. W. went and parked the car, grateful to be free of my negative "why did you just try to kill me?" energy. I was scanned and x-rayed and headed to guest check-in. A cast member handed me a card with the number 2 on it. This number represented our boarding number, I had learned this from my favorite Disney info location. 2 is a very good number. It means you board early, which is a good thing. It means you are ahead of the crowds. It meant, in our case, that we almost had the ship to ourselves. While the assembled 2’s gathered their children and strollers and carry-on, Mr. W. and I walked right onto the tub like we owned it.Here's how it works. You arrive at Port Canaveral sometime in the morning. We were there by about 10:30am. You get your boarding number, get your paperwork straight, get your Key to the World card (important, this thing is – charge card, room key, identification, you name it all in one) and then you sit until boarding, which for us was around 11:15am or so. They call your boarding number, sort of like airports, and you approach the giant Mickey Ears. You walk through the giant head-of-mouse and crew members scan your Key to The World card. The computer announces “Melissa M Oakes Onboard” in little LED letters (I was registered with my legal MMO, all written out and hyphenated. For the sake of simplicity they made me MO. I let it go. Um. Sort of.). As you walk onto the ship, crew members ask your party's name, and announce your arrival loudly. "The Oakes' Family!" Other gathered crew members clap and cheer vigorously for you. Then you're directed to lunch at one of two restaurants, Parrot Cay or Beach Blanket Buffet. We chose Parrot Cay and ate fast, then headed off to explore – a tip I got from the Dis Boards. We would have skipped lunch entirely if our dining time was not 8:30pm, and it also gave us a minute to sit and collect our thoughts. First Cruise. We are now officially trapped on this tub for three days and four nights, except for shore visits in Castaway Cay and Nassau. I quickly identified the most important locations on the ship (click pic for details) You're not allowed in your cabin until later, around 1:30 or so, so you can use the time to wander a little and get familiar with unfamiliar terms like aft, forward, midship, etc. I had specific targets in mind - Wave Bands, where, beginning at twelve thirty, one can make or change reservations for meals and such - I wanted the elusive Palo brunch in the worst way (and I got a res for Wednesday at 11!!), then Palo, since I knew we would be having dinner there on Monday and it gave us a good walk up on deck. Then our cabin, and the theaters and restaurants and clubs. We discovered that stairs are often much preferred over elevators. They are empty and often faster. We found a couple of quiet-looking nooks. 'We' discovered that I am a total control freak, and not knowing where anything was, or what was happening next freaked me right the heck out. After a while I settled down, and got the general lay of the land and things were good. But initially I was a bit of a basketcase. Leave the driving to Mickey, I rationalized. I mean, it’s Mickey, right? How bad can it be. Worse than US Air? I think not. We went to our cabin and prepared for drill. We donned our numbered life jackets and reported to our assigned location. For us this meant descending 2 levels to Animator's Palate. When we arrived we discovered that the restaurant was divided into a series of alphabetized stations. We were "T". As we entered a crew member checked off our cabin number (6132) and the number in our party (2) on a clipboard and we were told to seat ourselves at a table in our lettered section and wait. Cabins that did not report within a reasonable amount of time were called off by the megaphone lady. Those who failed to appear were given a letter from Mickey on their stateroom door. I want to know what it says. I will say that most people responded with relative haste, and we were not detained for more than ten or so minutes. The problem came when each alphabetized section's leader (we had six letters in our station I believe) began making announcements through a megaphone. All at once. And not all of the guests shut up and listened. Many tried to carry on their conversations over the megaphones. Our leader, even with megaphone, could not carry over the noise of a whole whack of bored people in life jackets and a whole whack of other people with megaphones. I heard little and understood less, except that in the event of the thing pulling a Titanic, we'd be better off grabbing a random, un-numbered life jacket and heading for a deck where there were life boats.
After drill we chucked (gently and neatly, even) our lifejackets in our cabin and went up to deck 10 midship to get a good view of the Sail Away party taking place on deck 9. They slide a wooden cover over the Goofy pool so that people can fill the space, and a huge screen above the deck allows for complete camera coverage of the event. An area normally filled with lounge chairs becomes a stage for the activities directors and some "special guests" (the kind with fake fur and no vocal cords – Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Goofy, Pluto and Donald). The whole thing was rather awesome and amusing really. I was sad to see so few adults (you know. besides. um. me.) behaving like children. That's what we came for, isn't it?? Yelling, screaming, clapping, dancing on deck? The chance to totally let loose and get wild, be a kid again? Mr. W. got me a spinny streamer thing. 50's music filled the air, and great upbeat tunes with lots of rhythm and simple dance steps led by the intrepid youth activities staff and their furry and feathered friends made for an awesome display. Kids were dancing, people were clapping and waving their spinny streamers, paper ribbons and confetti filled the air. It was just plain old FUN.
After the party we went back to the cabin to change for dinner, and found my first towel origami character - a monkey hanging from a coat hanger. Very cool. This was a highlight every evening for me. Also in our cabin was our Navigator for Monday, which is a printed listing of all activities on board and on land for the coming day. The Sunday one had been in our cabin on arrival. We discovered that a juggling act was on the menu at the Walt Disney Theater for that evening and trotted off, sideways and up and down and sideways some more (sea legs, anyone?) in anticipation. Mark Nizer was great and very funny and sarcastic and wry and good, in spite of some rough seas (8-15 feet, we found out later – you try juggling in that!). After the show we wandered a little until it was time for our dinner; we'd drawn the latest possible seating, 8:30pm. This does leave a bit of spare time on one's hands between the evenings show and dinner. We checked out Studio Sea where they were playing "Who Wants to be a Mousketeer?" (I think. Or maybe it was the other game..."Name That Toon", that was it!), then headed to Parrot Cay for dinner. Crew members are armed with hand wipes at all meals and when you embark from land visits. Someone greets you at the door with a disposable antibacterial, antiviral, anti-skin wipe. I appreciate the thought. I agree in principle, totally. I hate germs as much as the next neurotic person. But my hands did not appreciate the chemicals. Mr. W. seemed to think this was an opportunity to be a good example for the typically germy little children and reticent adults, as if we could spread the good news of germ theory by complying in a public fashion with the enforced hand cleaning ritual. I complied as well as I could for his sake. But having just come from a restroom where I not only washed my hands with a good old-fashioned nurse-style 1 minute (sing the ABC song, including the whole end part) scrub but managed to enter and exit the restroom without touching anything, it seemed redundant to me. At dinner we were seated by ourselves at table 7. I am not sure if they'd placed us alone due to my gluten issues (which Disney often does for allergy folk) or if our intended dining partners had changed their dining assignment, but we were alone - this is not the norm. Usually two or more parties are seated at a table, strangers to one another unless you have a particularly large group in tow. We'd been sort of looking forward to tablemates, hoping for some interesting dining companions that would fill the blog with tales of public burping and scratching, at the least. But alas, it was just us, and we neither burp nor scratch in public. (sorry!)
Now, as I am saying all of this, I realize I have left out the most exciting part of the whole cruise experience for me. Remember back at the Magic Kingdom when I felt a little sloshy after being on simple rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean? Well. We hit "rough seas" of 8-15 feet. Apparently there is fluid in my ears because I, who have never been sea in my life (Once, when the Lake Champlain Ferry was heading into a big storm I heard someone mention water spouts and raced for the rail demanding to know where. My mother spent the whole trip across looking green, but I bounced around like a Tigger on speed. Nantucket ferry in a thunder storm? Nothing but fun. Whale Watches? Fine by me, bring it on.) found myself kissing the porcelain god for half the night, while trying to ignore this annoying ticking and tapping noise in the cabin the other half of the night. The boat she goes up...and the boat she comes down. And she goes uuuuup, and she comes dooown. And my supper....she comes, uh, up. And then she goes down. With the loud woosh sound peculiar to toilet facilities on ships. But in all, it’s pretty and I am adjusting, and things will be better in the morning. Right?