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Old January 20th, 2011, 07:53 PM
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Dinner, Ist Night

We had dinner in Animator’s Palace last night. I find the only time I have to write is before dinner, ands it is now just before dinner on day #2.

Animators Pallet is not like anything I picture the namesake restaurant on Wonder/Magic to be. On those ships the restaurant starts in black & white, with representational sketches by artists that throughout dinner “magically” fill in with color. I have not seen this, but it sounds like a somewhat unobtrusive process. The NEW Animator’s Pallet was just the opposite.

When dinner started there was already a din to the room (background noise) that was noticeable but not annoying. The waiters were unusually outgoing, which should have indicated to me this was not going to be the subtle experience I envisioned. Sure enough, very shortly after we were seated we started hearing cartoon voices coming in over the loudspeakers, the starfish from Finding Nemo. The voice was loud. I looked around and could not see anything moving on any of the “windows” however. But soon I spotted her, a tiny starfish on a big screen, but with a voice that boomed far too much for her size.

Soon the star appeared, “Crush,” the hipster turtle from Finding Nemo. His voice filled the room, but once again the problem was we could not see him. We saw a table somewhat near us all staring at a wall we could not see, so I figured he was there. Then the voice continued in the same tone, but that table had resumed eating, so I figured he must have moved.

If you haven’t figured it out yet here is the situation; we know Crush visits from table to table and speaks to someone different from each table, but the problem is that his voice is always coming over the room PA system, not from the screen where he appears. This not only takes way from the “surprise, I am here” aspect of seeing Crush appear at your table, it pretty much just annoys everyone else. The voice never changes its source.

I think this was the least impressive bit of “magic" on the whole ship, and surprisingly it had been touted as one of the more impressive. The fix is simple, Disney, install a directional surround-sound system so you can coordinate Crush’s voice with his physical location in the room; That way people will have a quiet dinner until he shows up at THEIR table, and then he can dominate ONE conversation – much better atmosphere for non-involved dinners, and a much more personalized approach for the table Crush is visiting. To be clear – the sound system was LOUD, so much so that we had to shout over it during most of our meal, and we really didn’t care what was happening at other tables.

That was dinner – afterwards I decided to take in a bit of 3-D movie magic. “Tron” was playing in the Buena Vista Theater, the truly beautiful Art Deco cinema onboard specifically for showing 3-D movies.

I took a seat when the theater appeared quiet, but within 20 minutes there were over 100 people in there. I found myself nodding off and got up to go to bed.

Day 2:
I awoke at 9:00 and discovered I could not find the number for room service anywhere in my room. I am told it was left on my bed but I have now cleaned my entire room and cannot find it.

So I called guest services. I was on hold for 20 minutes, so put it on speaker-phone. When they finally picked up… “Can I help you” I said “What is the number for room service?”

“Can I help you?” they asked again, I replied again. They couldn’t hear me (one-way speaker-phone?) – so they hung up. 20 minutes without coffee, 20 minutes on hold, and they hang up… ERRRRRR….

I put on my shorts and went and bought coffee, $3.45, at a coffee bar on deck 12 and walked it back to my room. Not a good start to the day.

First thing in the morning – an interview with the President and many of the designers. I had heard it all at the shipyard, but many hadn’t. This is a very impressive ship.

They discussed how popular the virtual portholes are for the inside cabins. They discussed how much the kids like the magic floor.

Then it hit me – this is a ship with something for everyone, but also the ship with not so much for everybody. I have an outside cabin, but I want to see the virtual porthole. I am an adult, but I want to play on the magic floor.

I wasn’t picked to ask a question (ever been someplace where you feel invisible?) but later I cornered the head of Disney Imagineering and I asked him, “Have you thought of making these things (virtual portholes and the magic floors) more accessible so everyone gets a chance to try them?"

It is like letting the teens in the adult disco - but in reverse.

I got the usual, “no comment.” He said, “well, we have these things that have made our inside cabins almost more popular than out outsides, So, I don’t know if we will change that.”

By the way, if you don’t know a “virtual porthole” is one where you get a “window” in an inside cabin that is really a video-screen. But it shows the live feed from a point of view camera – and every once in awhile an animated sea creature; the Nemo starfish, Crush, the shark from Nemo and even dancing hippos, also pop up on the screen.

So, I said to Bruce, “here is an idea, of course you could easily put them on the TVs in all cabins, but instead, since they are point of view, why don’t you create a lounge with several of them, each showing the various POV shots from around the ship, and you get let people go there and see them all – make it a lounge, the "Point of View" for example. One of the other engineers listening in said “Good idea!”

After the meeting I ate lunch. I ran into some friends and convinced them they had to try the AquaDuck. After all, it is one of those things we all know we want to try, but we usually let our self-image talk us out of it. So, putting aside our bloated pride we made a pact to all show up at the AquaDuck at 1:00. We all made it.

So, I went on the Aquaduck. It turns out, so you know, they prefer to take couples first, so if there is a line and you are alone you have to stand aside and let five couples go ahead of you. I one of colleagues got in the front (a lovely lady over 6-feet, which means about 5 inches taller than me), and I got in the back.

Off we went – she was screaming. I was just enjoying the ride. I can tell you, it moves too fast for you to realize you are out over the ship, because that happens in the first few seconds. They should have put that jaunt later in the ride when it is far more leisurely. Basically, the ride gets slower as it moves along, but it does start out rollicking fast and fun. I certainly did not find it scary, though – fine for all ages.

After drying off I went to a tasting in Remy’s, the first Michelin-starred restaurant on a cruise ship. Now, Michelin stars belong to the chefs, not the restaurants, and Remy’s has a menu designed by two different Michelin-starred chefs, so it arguably has two Michelin stars.

Our two tasting tidbits were sensational – I almost hate to describe them for fear of not doing them justice, but first was “langoustine” with a Caesar foam topped with tiny slices of vegetables and bit of crisp something. The other was a piece of buffalo with 15 different toppings – each of them tiny (the entire tidbit was two bites).

They came with a class of Tattinger’s Champagne with a raspberry, apricot and mint leaf – along with a splash of vodka; Delicious and heady.

Next we ran off to see a preview of a Disney musical called “Believe.” This was my first Disney show and it was every bit as good as I expected. They use actual actors and a story line. There is excellent comedy, great dancing, wonderful special effects from highly technical to good old fashioned stage “practicals” which is what you call a prop that moves by itself (with a hidden trigger, for example). The show was about two regular people, but along the way we were joined by the Genie from Aladdin, the Fairy Godmother, all of the famous Disney Princesses, Tinkerbelle and at the end Micky Mouse.

I kid you not – this is the essence of Disney. When Mickey appeared on the stage an audible swoon swept through the audience. Now you may be thinking, “how corny, I don’t want to so a show with a bunch of automatons who get hypnotized by anything Disney.”

You know what, just allow yourself to enjoy their excitement empathetically, and you soon get in the spirit. It’s all good. The show is excellent; first class relevent, funny and touching with and a positive message.

Sure, I love Blue Man Group and any show with Fosse choreography, but this is feelgood entertainment, nothing wrong with that.

After the show I finished photographing the ship. There is SO much going on. This is a big ship, comparable to Celebrity Solstice or Voyager of the Seas. There is a lot to do. The décor is beautiful everywhere, one of the more beautiful ships I have seen. Not high-tech (not low tech, either). Very tasteful and detail oriented. My pictures will tell the story when I have time to get them online over the weekend – all for now.
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