Trip report, 2/28 /04 Western
Wow. Where to begin? At the beginning I suppose. This is my first trip report (well, on paper at least, I can't seem to stop talking to anyone who will listen) and I am not sure how to tell a tale that in my head is so perfect, so dream like. It was our second time cruising with Disney, countless trips to the parks, inspired a change 2 years ago to cruising, where we started off with the 7 day land and sea on the Magic (The Wonder was in dry dock). That trip was so wonderful, we went with a 7 day Western this time around. Our Magic Western began Friday Feb 27th when we (DH DS11 and myself) flew from Raleigh/Durham NC to MCO and rented a car onsite from Budget (I should add my travel agent Rana is an ANGEL and got me the best deals all around on this trip send me a PM if you are interested in her number) It was quick and very easy and a lot less expensive than using the Disney transfers. We drove to Cocoa Beach that night and stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott. It is new and nice and even had free wireless for my Mac in the lobby and free high speed in the rooms. Always a plus. We got up late and ate a decent buffet breakfast for 8 bucks for adults and 4 I think for the kids. Then off to return the rental car, fairly easy, had a bit of a wait for the van to take us over, but it was only a 5 min drive at most and we arrived in plenty of time. It was a little different this time around since we are Castaway Club Members and that made check in a breeze. We were soon waiting in line with all the other excited passengers, going over our Welcome Aboard Navigators and exchanging stories. I had one minor glitch, I noticed on my KTTW card that my dining rotation was not the one I requested. I had a moment of panic (I am a micro manager when it comes to Disney vacations, and had planned to be in Lumiere's for our formal nights) but once on board I went straight to the Dining manager Nick and he quickly and easily switched me into the rotation I had wanted. It even turned out there was another couple that had the same problem and we were sat with them. It turned out to be a good match and we really enjoyed their company all week. Next I was off to make my Spa and Palo reservations, Palo being a bit easier than the spa. It really fills quickly so run there first if it is important to you. After that I went to meet up with my family at Parrot Cay for lunch. I had been dreaming of those shrimp since our last cruise. We ate till we could hardly walk and then went off to our stateroom, 8540, the same one we were in last time. It was like coming home. Everything was just as we remembered, perfect. We went onto our veranda and watched them loading supplies for a while and just relaxed. Time for the drill came all too soon, (I hate this part, but know it is important) and we donned our oh so flattering life jackets and went off to our muster station. It was over quickly enough and we dashed back to our room to get them off and go check out the Sail away party at the Goofy Pool. It was our first one, (I was in the spa on our first cruise) and it was crowded and loud (my DS hates a lot of noise) so we went up to deck 10 to watch from above. It was really really windy so we gave up and went in to see if our clothes were there and to relax before dinner. I should mention most everyone there seemed to be having a great time and the CMs were really getting the crowd on their feet, singing and dancing. Nearly all the big characters came out on stage too. Kids, young and old alike loved that. I am more of a quiet side of Disney Gal, Palo champagne brunch, Vista spa kind. I love how Disney pampers me.
It was soon time for our first dinner on the Magic. We went to Animators Palate, my DS11's favorite, but because of the rocking of the ship (I mean ROCKING, the last time we went out in a tropical storm and it was not this bad, people were staggering around like drunks carrying sea sickness bags, thankfully we have our sea legs and were all fine) they cancelled the show for that night and rescheduled it for the next time we would be there. We got to meet our dining companions Bob and Lee and had a wonderful dinner ( I had veal chops, and I swear the portions a much bigger than the last time we cruised) Then it was off to sight see and back to the cabin for bed.
Sunday was Key West day, I was not really interested in FL, so I booked a spa treatment early (The Ionie Thermie Detox, wow I lost 5 inches total, it was great I am still getting results) and then met up with DH for champagne brunch at Palo. The food was gorgeous, and the drinks wonderful. We had a very romantic time while DS played in the lab. Afterwards we decided to take a walk into town and check out the local scene. I was not especially impressed, it was very touristy ( I know, duh!) but also a bit pricey. We ended up going into the Ripley's Believe it or not museum(I would have preferred the aquarium, but was out voted) and the DH and DS11 loved it. I have to admit some of it was not too bad. After doing some more window shopping we went back to rest and shower and get ready for dinner. It was Parrot Cay night so we all went island casual and even stopped to have a dance in the Promanade lounge. The music was fine, but the singing left a bit to be desired. To give them some credit, they are enthusiastic and very nice. They also take requests and knew a fairly obscure song my parents used to dance to. Dinner at Parrot Cay was as usual very good, the menu had many new choices and we all found several things we loved. Sachin, our server noticed I was having trouble choosing a desert, so he brought me out one of each. One of the benefits of having a late seating. Weight gain. Sachin and Botond our servers were wonderful, always anticipating our needs, never hovering but always near by when we needed them. Sachins suggestions were always right on target and every meal was a pleasure.
Day 3 was our first sea day, also our formal night, the night I had been dreaming about for months. We slept in, I got my nails done then lunch at Parrot Cay buffet, it was seafood day there, YUM. I did a lot of lounging that day, the boys played some video games and explored. I went to get my hair done (I have long hair and always appreciate help doing it) and then we were off to the Captains reception where we had drinks and rubbed elbows with the crew. Next it was The Golden Mickey's, where my DS11 was asked to be interviewed on camera. He was in his Tux and I think that had a lot to do with it. We were almost the last ones to go in, and were unaware that he was being broadcast inside the Walt Disney Theater. Probably a good thing, as he would have freaked out if he had known ahead of time. It was a great photo op. for me. We found out from Bob and Lee at dinner after it was over. The Golden Mickey's was true Disney style. You get a glimpse of many of your favorite characters and many songs and a surprise at the end. Dinner was next, Sachin escorted me to our table where Bob and Lee were waiting for us looking especially wonderful. (although poor Lee had a sunburn from the cloudy day on deck. Careful cruisers, those rays are deadly.) Since we had the late seating we were all tired after dinner and all the festivities so we went to bed early, although DS11 did have to order up cookies and milk first. (careful when doing this, they sent us up 20 cookies for 3 people!)
Day 4 was our first shore excursion. We were pulling into Grand Cayman after breakfast (loved the omlette station, hated the waffles and pancakes, always cold and dry) We went up top to watch the scenery while we waited to go ashore. We went ashore early to walk around and see the sights and shop, but as with Key West it was a bit pricey and we decided to save our pennies for Mexico. We stopped for as light snack at the Hard Rock Cafe (familiar for my DS11 and easy for us, it was right in front of the dock we needed to be at for our excursion) and then went down to check in for our Shipwreck/ reef snorkel. The boat was a little late, but everything went smoothly, although I should warn you, you have to walk out into the water to board the ship, so water shoes or something you can slip off would be a good idea. Once settled onboard our knowledgeable and quite funny guides gave us an overview of the area and the wreck we were about to see, then they showed us our equipment and how to use it. It was very simple and then they let us go off into the water to explore for a while. We into the water and found it pleasantly warm. I was worried because it was still so early in the year, but my bigger worry was sea creatures that bite and sting and what did I find the minute I opened my eyes underwater? A large barracuda. I was terrified, it was headed straight for my DS11 who was blissfully unaware of his presence. I grabbed my DH and pointed, he grabbed his camera and started snapping away while I watched in horror and then the large toothed fish swam peacefully away. We all survived and I have a great "the one that got away" story. After our time at the shipwreck we all piled back into the boat and they took us to a gorgeous coral reef, giving us tidbits of information along the way. Things like the types of fish we would see to the formation of the coral reef itself. My DS11 got a lot out of their talk. Then it was time to go in and look around. I wish my words and photos could do it justice, it was so amazing. The quiet stillness, the ever changing scenery, I really could have floated there all day. Alas that was not to be. All too soon it was time to get back on board and go back to the awaiting Magic and get showered and ready for The Castaway Club reception. We were late arriving, so we missed the meet and greet of most of the crew, but we did find Bob and Lee our dining companions and had some snacks from the buffet with them. It was a nice way to see just how many repeat cruisers there are and to have a forum in which to discuss our love of all things Disney. Next it was off to see Hercules, The Muse-ical. My most favorite of all the Disney shows. Pain and Panic crack me up. I especially loved how they had updated the jokes from our last cruise and neither of the Hercules are hard to look at. Anyway, after the show it was off to Shutters to check out our photos and then on to dinner at Animators. Since the sea was so rough on our first night there, tonight was the night they did the show. My DS11 loved it, hearing the music and then looking for the picture to light up. It was a lovely day, and after such a feast we were all exhausted. Time to head back to our cabin and collapse. So much for my grand plan of going out at night now that my DS was 11 and could be trusted alone for short periods. I am sad to say I am getting old. I can't think of a better way to get tired though.
Day 5 was my favorite day. Cozumel. I was a little nervous about the language barrier, but soon found out there was none. We had booked the Jeep Safari tour, and met up with our guides on the pier. Andre and Shelly were great. they led us off the pier through the mall and out the back into a parking lot where we chose our Jeep/Tracker. Most were stick shift, but a few were standard. If you do not drive a stick, do not let that stop you from taking this amazing tour. We went out, single file through town and out to the Pee Pee station for a quick bathroom break (Ladies, this is the last stop for you unless you want to use a bush, after seeing the station, I decided to hold it till I got back to the ship) You are also able to pick up a drink (no beer there anymore) and shop a bit before heading off. Not to worry if you do not have enough time, you stop back there again on the way home. My DH had haggled over a silver choker the first stop and ended up saying no, but then on the return trip he haggled some more and got it for the price he wanted. A bit of advice, the first 3 prices are never the real price. Always haggle. Now after a short trip down the Mexican "highway" we turned off into a private reserve. To say it was beautiful would be an insult. It was breath taking. The roads were horrible, but the view made it all worth it. Andre joked at our first stop about us all having just received a free "Mexican massage". Our first stop was at a small Mayan Temple, where Shelly told us tales of the Mayan people, their beliefs and customs and even had us take part in one. It was a special moment for us all. After we rested our backs and refreshed ourselves with bottled water provided for us, we hit the trail again and ended up at the most beautiful beach I had ever seen. Secluded and seemingly untouched, they had set up huge umbrellas and grass mats for us to relax on while we ate the most incredible Mexican Barbecue lunch (that Shelly assured us was safe to eat) They served fajitas, chicken and beef, cheese quesidillas fresh salsa, (2 kinds, hot and not hot at all) and fresh fruit, chips and the best guacamole I had ever had. Coke products and bottled water as well. All we could stuff in. YUMMY! The sea was very rough, so no swimming was allowed, but DS11 and I could not resist playing in the jewel toned water. It was a Magical place, and I did not want it to end. Unfortunatly we had to get back into our lovely (sarcasm) Jeeps and head back to the Pee Pee Station and then back to the parking lot to conclude our adventure. We stayed a bit after everyone had gone to talk to Andre and Shelly about their lives and to exchange emails so I could send Shelly some photos of the iguanas that had come out to see us at the Temple. Apparently they are a rare sight. Such luck for us. After we gave the Jeep back we talked to Bob and Lee and decided that we could give up our reservation at Palos to get some more of that too yummy for words Mexican food. We went to town and shopped for souviners and gifts to bring home (I am so in love with the pottery, I could have bought my weight in it easily) and then dashed back to the ship to shower up and meet Bob and Lee. We went into town not really having a plan, but after Bob did some chatting with the locals, we found the perfect place. It was called The Mission and it was near, but not on the square. About a block closer to the ship, just before the square. http://cozumel.diningguide.net/data/d100260.htm
. The atmosphere was incredible, from the outside it looks like a hole in the wall. but inside it opens up in to an outdoor cafe. You eat under a canopy of trees, and since it was not too hot out and there were no insects it was heaven. The waitstaff was attentive and the food, I could eat it all day every day. (I had the grilled shrimp dinner and started with the asparagus soup) After a few beers (margaritas for my compadres, Lee even took on the Grande Margarita and lived to tell the tale) we decided to head over the a tequilla bar we had heard about for "dessert" They had over 200 different kids and all were availble to sample. We tried a few, before settling on the bottle we liked best, an actual dessert tequilla (I was joking before, but apparently there is such a thing, who knew?) It is sweeter then regular tequilla and quite tasty. The guy behind the bar even made us margaritas to sample and boy were they good. After all that food and several tequilla samples my DH and I were toast. I am not sure how, but Bob and Lee were still going strong so we left them at Carlos and Charlies to dance and drink the night away. I went back to the ship to soak my aching feet in the Mickey pool, where DS11 and I stumbled upon the Mexicalifragilistic buffet being set up. They had Mexican snack food at one table and gorgeous desserts at another. DS11 hung out and watched them set up and was rewarded by a CM who gave him a handful of gold chocolate coins. He was in heaven, a perfect end to a perfect day.
Day 6 was our semi-formal and another day at sea. We slept in again and hit Top Siders for breakfast. Then We lounged around and got dressed and DH and I dropped off DS11 and went to the stem to stern wine tasting. It was inexpensive and fun. We learned a lot about wines and each other as well. The water that day was rough and we had a seat by a huge port hole and at times the waves were over the top of the window. It was pretty cool to watch and feel, it was in the bow of the ship so we could feel the front of the ship go up then down a wave and then we would see the splash. Some cruisers did not like it, but I am a roller coaster freak, so this did not bother me. Later that afternoon we went to the matinee performance of Disney Dreams and it was as good as I remembered. We got there early enough to get seats right down front (which is how I got all the photos, with my digital, you don't need a flash if you are close enough) and I convinced one of the bartenders to make me my favorite Konk Cooler, which I had been told twice was not available until we got to Castaway Cay. I was very happy, it is very fruity, very cool and very vacation. DS11 had a Shirley Temple in a coconut mug and felt very special. After the show we shopped a bit and then lounged around before I had to go get my hair done for the semi formal night. The boys watched Second Hand Lions (Very cute movie) and I met up with them in time to go to dinner at Lumiere's, my favorite on the rotation. I can't remember if it was this night or the night or our first night at Lumiere's I had the escargot, but I can assure you it is the heavenly taste of them that is drowning out my memory of what day it was. Tender and delicious. Thanks for suggesting them Sachin. DS11 had lobster, something he had been waiting for all week, and knowing this, Sachin managed to get him two. The smile on his face was priceless. After dinner DS11 ran for the "freedom " of going to the room alone and DH and I took advantage of The Promanade Lounge again and had a couple of Konk coolers and a spin around the dance floor. We did not last too long, and had a full day at Castaway Cay in the morning, so we called it a night (a beautiful, romantic night) and headed upstairs. On the way we noticed a group of people lining up for the midnight chocolate buffet. We threw caution to the wind and joined in. I am glad we did, not for the damage it did to my waistline, but for the sheer beauty. It was all gorgeous and all edible. I put in a few photos, but there was so much more than I captured, the smell of chocolate filled Lumiere's and the energy in there was amazing, everyone was so excited. We bumped into Bob and Leora and I was happy to see their plates were nearly as full as ours. Sachin found us some silverware and we stole away to share our goodies with our DS11. A chocolate coma quickly ended the evening.
Day 7, Castaway Cay. Today we got up early enough to eat at Parrot Cay, but decided the omlettes were still the best way to go. After sitting down to eat, we realized we forgot the tickets to the Eco tour, so DH ran to get them while DS11 and I finished breakfast. We met up in the Promanade Lounge and got our instructions from Ricky our fearless leader. I mentioned DS11 was doing a school report when we returned to reality, and Ricky promptly took him under his wing. We walked off the ship and took the first tram to the Serenity Bay area and it was at that point we got water bottles and more instructions and a last bathroom break. (This time, I took it) then we went up the bike path stopping along the way to hear about the islands eco systems, the geology of the island and the people who settled it. DS11 had a million and one questions for Ricky and his team and they answered them all with patience and a smile. DS11 was having the time of his life. We made our way to the other side of the island where the kayaks were waiting. Since there was an odd number of people, DS11 got to ride with Ricky in his kayak and he was thrilled. I was too, it gave me not only an opportunity to be alone w/ DH (rare treat) but also a great angle to get some photos of him. We paddled our way against the wind and the flow of the creek to get to a secluded beach where we got a chance to walk around in the crystal clear water and learn a bit about the creatures we found there. We got to see a conch nearly come out of its shell (they taste better than they look)a few crabs, several starfish, and even a (remember my fear of biting stinging sea creatures here) sand shark. It came fairly close, but did not seem interested in us at all. It was very exciting and again, I lived to tell about it. After we checked out another ecosystem we got back into our kayaks and headed back. One couple had some difficulty and ended up flipping over, but the water is not over 3-4 feet deep at any point ( I brought my digital in a ziploc) so they were laughing and fine. The trek back to Serenity Bay was much faster then the journey out, we stopped and got Ricky's email to add to my ever growing list and then after some more photos and thank you's we caught the tram back for lunch at Cookie's. I had the lobster burger and some fresh fruit and a fresh caesar salad. All was tasty. Then we decided to go rent snorkel gear and say hi to Captain Mickey, something I had never done. DH and DS11 had made it last time, but I was so burned I gave up before finding him. This time we knew where to look which made it easier and more fun. The one thing I found the most interesting was the change in the man made reefs over the last 2 years. There were many more fish and the thing that stood out the most were the anemones, something that was not there at all last time. Disney is working its magic out there, I can't wait till I see it again. After we tuckered ourselves out we headed back to land, and found a couple of lounge chairs and even a hammock open since the day was almost done. DS11 and I grabbed the Hammock and took a cat nap while DH sunned himself in the last rays of the day. When the time came to pack up and go, I heard a voice standing over me saying , "That is one lazy woman". I was surprised but then was told he was referring to the name of my sleeping space. I looked and lo and behold, there was indeed a brass nameplate on my hammock, just over my head that said "One Lazy Woman". I thought that was a sign from above that I needed to take up permanent residence on that spot, but DH and DS11 disagreed, so reluctantly I gathered my things and trudged off toward the awaiting Magic. Talk about a bittersweet moment. Everything was so peaceful, so perfect and I had to leave. I consoled myself with the fact that I still had one more night and DH had laundry duty so I was free to wander and shop and make more memories. After quick showers we decided that a nap was in order, called for a wake up just before dinner (loved the late seating, no mad dashes this time around. Would suggest it for anyone with older kids) and drifted off to the gentle rocking of the waves. Mickey called all too soon for our tired selves, but once we turned on the lights and stepped outside on the veranda to get a breath of sea air we were back on track. Dinner was at Animators Palate, DS11's favorite and even thought the walls did not "do their thing", he did get quite a show when the Chefs came out in a parade with flaming baked alaskas on their shoulders, followed by the waitstaff carrying flags from their home countries. It was a nice way to say good bye to those young men and women who had served us so wonderfully over the week. We all got together for a few good bye photos and I collected a few more emails and then we were off to wash and pack. After we got everything into the hall (nearly 5 mins late, thankfully Gerry, our stateroom attendant was patient with me) I went off to the shops to grab a few last things for the niece and nephews and to wander around on deck and say my own farewells to what I have come tho think of as my Magic. The Captain was going slowly tonight and the wind had died down, so it was a gorgeous night on deck. I went out on deck 4 where the good loungers are and just sat for a while, trying to memorize every moment of the week, breathing in the salty sea air, feeling so at peace and so alive all at the same time. Midnight crept up on me and I knew I should head back to the room as it was going to be an early morning. (One other perk of the late night seating for dinner os you get the late breakfast seating debarkation day. We did not have to be there until 8 or 8:30. Much better than the early seating for us.) I found DS11 sound asleep in his perch and DH on the veranda, saying his own good byes. I joined him and we had a nice moment alone to reflect on the week. We agreed I needed to start planning the next one as soon as we hit land.
Day 8 Debarkation day. Mickey's calls had been cute up until this point, I think. This morning none of us was interested in hearing his voice. We resisted the urge to curse and hang up on him, and hide under the covers, instead we forced ourselves out of bed. DS11 wondered aloud how much it would take to bribe Gerry into hiding us in the cabin, and if the newcomers would mind sharing too much. We all shuffled down to Animators Palate for our farewell breakfast. Bob and Lee had eaten early as they had an early flight to catch for home, so it was just us. We have a family tradition of telling what our favorite part of the trip was, we all agreed it was Mexico with snorkeling in Grand Cayman a close second. It was a tough call, because everything was so perfect. Disney had once again given us a Magical adventure, from champagne and ball gowns and tuxedos to sand between our toes and Konk coolers, all the stresses of the real world had been left behind, in favor of wild waves, salty air and quite a bit of pixie dust. As they say on board, it was EXCELLENT! photos are posted at www.homepage.mac.com/queenk333/