Archive for Fun in the Sun with the Mouse 2013

Gallery: Fun in the Sun with the Mouse 2013

Here is a gallery of photos from our latest trip, what we call “Fun in the Sun with the Mouse 2013” — our cruise on the Disney Fantasy! Click on any of the photos to see the images in a slide show in full size!


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Final report - Disney Fantasy - fun is now over

We’re on our flight now from Orlando to Denver. We disembarked this morning (Saturday March 16), sadly, so I will now go back in time to report on our last three wonderful days on Fantasy.

Tuesday night was Pirate’s night after we sailed out of St. Thomas; we did not do the animation thing yet in Animator’s Palate (that was on Friday night). We had a very good dinner, however, with slow-cooked short ribs as the main entree, while we viewed drawings and production stills from Disney classics that featured Pirates. Afterwards, we got a prime seat at Currents bar on the 13th deck for the fireworks and loved seeing this spectacle at sea again. Steve wore his silly dreadlocks pirates hat and I had a new Goofy pirates hat. Earlier, we saw Oasis of the Seas sail out of St. Thomas (we do that ship in December).

We noted in passing as we left St. Thomas that the Carnival Dream, which left 30 minutes ahead of us at Port Canaveral, arrived a few hours after us in St. Thomas and was still there when we sailed out. Their next destination was St. Maarten, where they had the backup generator problem that led to the early cessation of that cruise. Cruising does have some issues in general, but Carnival Corporation has been beset by so many problems in the last few years. What royally ticks us off about these incidents is that people paint the whole cruise industry as broken, just because the Carnival Corporation has severely mismanaged their fleet (and they also own Costa). We have run into so many people that are terrified to go on a cruise now because of the Carnival sewage and power disasters and the 2012 Costa Concordia tragedy. The senior management at CC need to fix this BS, before they single-handedly destroys the cruise industry. Here’s a fun idea for a completely whacky conspiracy theory: Executive leadership at CC is secretly in cahoots with Al Gore or our current elitist POTUS to stigmatize the cruise travel industry because of “climate change” or because people that have enough money to cruise are “too rich”. Ok, I’m off the soapbox now…

On Wednesday March 13, we arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sharing the port with the Westerdam (HAL). We had booked a shore excursion that was centered around Criollo cooking; this was located at a restaurant in the heart of Old San Juan. We took a van to get to the restaurant, sparing me the walk uphill with my back and leg problems. The class was fun; our cooking participation was limited to a few things we could do at a table, but we enjoyed the flavors of chicken Trifongo and chick peas with chorizo and plantains. Our companions at our table were two older people from Pennsylvania who sail a lot on Disney. He was a mostly uncommunicative grump, but she was pretty friendly. We walked back to the ship after lunch (about 1/2 mile downhill) in the warm sun. We had a perfect evening sailing out of San Juan, then had dinner that evening in the Enchanted Garden, on Deck 2. This beautiful space was like a Victorian garden restaurant and the lighting and colors changed from daylight to nighttime. The food was merely ok (Steve had a steak and I had turkey), but we were both full from lunch, which probably was a factor.

Thursday, March 14 was a day at sea. It was very calm and warm, with rain showers briefly in the afternoon. We relaxed and had a few beverages, then got ready for our dinner experience at Remy. We ate at Remy on Disney Dream in 2011 and found it to be magical. If anything, our experience on Fantasy was even more amazing. We had a seat facing the sea at dusk and we both decided to have the five-course Goût (American) menu, designed by Scot Hunnel, the executive chef at the exquisite Victoria and Albert at the Grand Floridian at WDW. We also decided to splurge on the wine pairings. The total charge was $175 a person. After two amuse bouche tastes (a hot tomato “pillow” and a finely-chopped ratatouille with olive oil ice cream), our dinner started with a grilled marinated shrimp, with Soba noodles and a Wasabi foam. The second course was Alaskan Sable fish (black cod) over a watercress salad. This was followed by a chicken breast preparation using three exotic mushrooms. Our main course was Colorado bison tenderloin, with a side of beef short rib and a parsnip purée. The bison was perfectly done and the short rib was really unnecessary and didn’t add to the entree (the only thing that was less than perfection). All of this was accompanied with amazing French bread offerings (so much for our gluten-free diet; oh, well, it was one night). We then had a French cheese course, followed by dessert, which was a heavenly chocolate mousse in a chocolate bird nest, with a lovely handmade ice cream. But we weren’t done! They brought a large tin of exquisite candies, which we had wrapped to go and ended up giving them to our stateroom host Alvin. The wine pairings were all from France and seemed perfectly suited to our dishes. We had several superb servers, mainly from France and Portugal. This was food heaven and rivals the best meals we have ever had (e.g., Victoria and Albert, Napa Rose, La Reserve on Marina, Pètrus). Well done!!!

We collapsed after this epicurean adventure and slept in on Friday. We had a small continental breakfast at Cove Cafe, having missed the last call for the breakfast buffet at Cabanas. We were docked at Castaway Cay, the perfect Disney private island (this was our fourth visit). We exited the ship and took the tram to Pelican Point, having the first beverage overlooking the waters. It was cool and windy, but sunny. We meandered towards the main area and had a lunch from Cookie’s BBQ, then visited the Conched Out bar. We got back to the ship just ahead of the crowds and relaxed as we sailed out, visiting the beautiful Skyline Bar one more time before dinner. Our last rotation dinner on-board was at Animator’s Palate. On this visit, we finally got to draw our characters before ordering dinner. I did a big cat and Steve did an iPhone with arms and legs. We enjoyed a Cornish game hen entree while watching animated classics, then they did the amazing show, integrating all of the drawings into an animated “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” piece. We saw our drawings twice, which is unusual for drawings from the same table. This was so much fun!! We finished the evening with a port at the lovely and quiet Cove Cafe.

Finally, a few words on our fellow passengers: On our last cruise, in September 2012 on Marina, I documented in detail the elitist, rude, whining attitudes of many of our fellow passengers. It seems like the Disney magical touch eliminates these attitudes from most folks who cruise on them or perhaps the class of passengers is not as spoiled, snotty and cynical. We had many great conversations with other adults on this cruise, including long discussions about cruising in general, Disney, and even other topics. The kids were typical, with lots of sullen (and often rude) teenagers contrasting with little ones who were having a blast. We had only one negative encounter with other passengers. On Thursday, we were sitting in some seats in the Quiet Cove (adults-only) pool area just outside the Cove Cafe. A couple came up, with two small children in tow and the husband asked us if the wife and kids could sit in the chairs opposite us while he went into the Cove Cafe to get coffees. We reluctantly said yes and the husband immediately became hostile because we weren’t smiling and enthusiastic, saying that only the Cove Cafe was the adults only area. We informed him that the entire area, including where we were sitting, was for adults and that they enforced the rules. We allowed them to take the seats, thinking it would be quick (they could have gone ten feet around the Quiet Cove barrier and found a table in the family pool area to wait, but I guess they wanted to be annoying). The husband made a big deal about telling the little boy to be quiet, then went into the Cove Cafe. The boy was very quiet, but the daughter immediately became rambunctious, pushing the furniture around and almost knocking over our drinks and scattering her drawings all over the place. We asked her not to do that and the wife snapped back at us about having patience (she had some kind of French accent). That’s when I told her that children and families have over 75% of the space on the ship and that they should respect the adults-only area and they could have waited for her husband a mere ten feet away without any issues. After a long time (better than ten minutes), the husband finally came out and then had to go back in again and get sugar and was gone for a few more minutes. I must have looked unhappy because he lashed into us verbally and the situation became quite tense. We asked him if he would like us wandering around on Deck 5 and entering the kid’s areas and pushing stuff around. We also told him that we have no expectations of peace and quiet when in the family areas and main dining rooms or pretty much the rest of the ship. He yelled at us about being “sorry for spoiling our cruise”. I think he finally realized that he was being a total jerk and he quieted down and apologized and offered to buy us a drink. We told him to just leave the area. I felt sorry for the kids, but the parents were completely irresponsible and also behaving a lot like the entitled types we found on our Marina cruise. I guess there are all kinds in this world, sadly.

Saturday morning arrived way too early. We got up (I took my shower on Friday afternoon), had breakfast, disembarked, took the bus to MCO and waited for our flight. I wrote my Cruise Critic review before going through security (5+ - a superior experience overall) and we’re heading back home to dear old Ruby.

Steve will post a gallery of photos tonight or tomorrow. Up next: Voyage to the Midnight Sun, in July, on OCL (Nautica).

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More fun at sea, Palo, whales, St. Thomas

Picking up from my last journal entry on Sunday, March 10, I have lots of fun to share.

On Sunday night, we had dinner at Palo, one of the two adults-only fee restaurants on Fantasy. We made our way to deck 12 aft and had a glass of wine at the Meridian bar, located between Palo and Remy. There was quite a bit of ship motion and a stiff breeze blowing outside, so we sat inside at the lovely bar. We were seated around 7:00 pm and had a very sweet young lady from Britain as our server. The food was incredible, from the antipasti to the appetizers and our amazing entrees. We started with the antipasti, with artichokes, olives, grilled peppers and killer Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I then had an appetizer of grilled shrimp pesto done with a light touch of mussels and crab in the sauce; Steve had a yummy Tuscan bean soup for his first course. We both had the rack of Colorado lamb, which was absolutely exquisite. Our dessert was the famous Palo chocolate soufflé with vanilla bean ice cream. For $25 a person, this is an amazing gourmet experience. We finished the evening with a cognac tasting in the Cove Cafe near the Quiet Cove pool (I showed pictures of the actual Cognac area during the tasting; I’m not sure the other passengers appreciated that, but it seemed like a good opportunity). We happily scored another reservation for Palo on the last night of the cruise.

Monday, March 11 was another day at sea. We slept in until 10:00 am, had breakfast again at Cabanas, then enjoyed lots of deck time. I had back pain and spasms first thing in the morning, but fortunately it did improve. We put our swimsuits on and enjoyed the pool area in the Quiet Cove and spent some time in the ocean-facing hot tub. While relaxing on some lounge chairs near the hot tub, I went into whale watch mode, knowing we were near the Dominican Republic and the Silver Banks, the winter mating/calving grounds for a large pod of humpback whales. Sure enough, I spotted whale action and the ship nearly tipped over from the folks running over to the port side to see a few animals spy-hopping and breaching.

We finished our evening on Monday with dinner at the Royal Court, one of the rotation restaurants. Before dinner, we bought all sorts of stupid pirate gear for Tuesday night, which is Pirates night, with the fireworks at sea. The dinner at Royal Court was ok, but not spectacular. We both had the duck breast appetizer (the best thing that evening), followed by French Onion soup and a tenderloin steak entree. The beef was good, but bland (they forgot to bring the sauce). Oh, well - the rotation restaurants are the equivalent of the theme park restaurants at WDW , while Remy and Palo are like the best resort hotel restaurants. The Royal Court was beautiful, however, with mosaic images of the Disney princesses. Our bar journey after dinner last night took us to Ooh La La, in the adults-only Europa district. We had two killer bee champagne cocktails that sadly had the unfortunate side effect of causing heart burn for both of us during the night.

This morning we got up a little earlier because we had a shore excursion to Magen’s Bay Beach for a few hours. We were docked in the first berth across from Charlotte Amalie. Two large Carnival ships shared this dock area, while Oasis of the Seas and the Maasdam docked in a new dock area west of town. The beach was jam-packed; we found a table to sit at in the shade near the bar, which was fine for me. The surf was quite high and rough and I had no intention of getting knocked on my can walking on the beach. Steve did a short walk, then joined me in the shade. We got into a fun and long conversation with two young men from Baltimore cruising on Oasis of the Seas and watched them down quite a few beers. We had a great time with them talking about travel. We came back to the ship about 3:00 pm and Steve was happy to finally ride the Aqua Duck (or as I call it, Le Canard Aqua).

Tonight we’re back at Animator’s Palate for dinner and the interactive show with guest-created animations, then fireworks at 10:15 pm after the loud and crazy Pirates deck show. Our shore excursion in San Juan tomorrow doesn’t leave until 11:15 am, which is great. We’re doing a Criollo cooking class in Old San Juan. We’re having a really good time and think this ship is so gorgeous. Oh, and the Internet is extremely fast, which is quite dangerous.

More from our cruise very soon…

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Reporting from the Atlantic, cruising past the Bahamas on Disney Fantasy

We are settling into a routine on our 7-day cruise on the beautiful Disney Fantasy. Our flight down to Orlando on Friday was uneventful and we were glad to leave Denver just ahead of the March 9 snowstorm. Steve had cashed in miles and we were in first class on United on the way down. A nice young flight attendant on board found out we were going on a Disney cruise and she wanted some information, as she is going with her family on a transatlantic on Disney Magic in May from Galveston to Barcelona. I filled her in on the great places to visit in Barcelona and hints about the ship.

When we arrived at MCO, it was so relaxing to just walk the short distance to the Hyatt hotel. I’m using a cane again because of weak quad muscles in my left leg from sciatica (likely due to a herniated disc), but have been able to walk ok for the most part. After checking in at the hotel, we had some snacks at the bar in McCoy’s at the hotel (very nice place), then enjoyed standing out on our balcony watching air traffic take off and land (we had an outside room facing south).

On Saturday morning, we met an acquaintance of Steve’s at the Hemisphere’s restaurant in the Hyatt. Mike had just flown in from New York to go to a conference at Disney World. We had breakfast (very slow service), then checked out and headed over to the Disney Transportation Center to catch our bus to the port. I had an unfortunate encounter with a Disney employee (very unusual) who demanded to see the cruise booklet and our IDs before we walked another ten feet and showed them the same paperwork at the counter. The booklet was jammed into my purse and I had to set things down to get it out. My hands weren’t working very well, so I struggled a bit and complained about why she had to see this stuff now, when we had to show it again in a few minutes to get in the line for the bus. She accused me of having “anger management” issues and Steve told her, unsmilingly, that I had arthritis pain causing problems. What a stupid process and rude person, which is so unlike the normal Disney experience.

We got on the bus right away and had a very cheerful driver and the time passed quickly getting to the port. We got through security (I guess my life is now going to always consist of pat-downs due to my artificial knees) and were checked in and on board within minutes. It pays to be gold Castaway Cub members, as this is our sixth Disney cruise.

Fantasy is a truly gorgeous ship, full of lovely public spaces and featuring wonderful, huge staterooms. It looks brand-spanking new, although it has been cruising for over a year. We have a veranda cabin, mid-ship, on Deck 6, conveniently located near the elevators (cabin 6076). We enjoyed the Quiet Cove area on Deck 11 forward and the Currents bar on deck 13 before sailing out of Port Canaveral. The weather has been on the cool side, mostly cloudy. We had a little bit of motion last night and you would have thought we were in the North Pacific, judging by how many “dropped like flies” at dinner last night, like they were on a troop ship (even our servers complained about it). The only problem for me with the motion is keeping my balance. I will have to improve my quad strength dramatically before we cross the Drake Passage next February.

Speaking of dinner, our second-seating rotation is “AERAERA”; this bizarre code translates to Animator’s Palate (A), Emerald Garden (E), and Royal Court (R). We will miss the first night at Emerald Garden (tonight) because we are going to Palo, a wonderful adults-only restaurant. We also have a reservation at Remy on Thursday, which is the ultimate gourmet experience, so we will miss the Royal Court that evening. We loved Remy on Disney Dream and can’t wait to do this special meal again.

We were thrilled to see that we had a table for two last night and had a great dinner. We are trying to stay gluten-free as much as possible, so we turned down the bread. I had a mushroom risotto appetizer, a fresh tomato salad, and the beef tenderloin, done in an Asian style. Steve had the same, except he had a smoked salmon tartar instead of the risotto. We enjoyed the “Finding Nemo” animated aquariums and interactive Crush the turtle features. Sadly, we had to listen to an unbearable woman at the table behind us berate her husband and family and act like a complete idiot. The husband and son left the table for a while because of her nasty temperament. As noted above, we also saw a few folks give in to the motion (which we considered to be quite mild); fortunately, there were no “spewing” incidents within our view.

Before dinner, we enjoyed a glass of wine in the charming Skyline Bar, where we admired the animated panoramas of Budapest, Florence, Athens, St. Petersburg, Paris, Barcelona, and London. Europa, the adults-only bar district on Fantasy, has the Tube (London underground theme), the aforementioned Skyline bar, La Piazza (Italian courtyard), Ooh La La (French Champagne bar) and O’Gill’s (Irish pub). A very fun area and we have six more evenings to explore! You can certainly get away from the rug rats on this ship and they seem to enforce the rules.

We slept in this morning (very comfortable bed) before being awakened by some brats in the cabin above us running around like crazy. We then wandered up to the huge and chaotic Cabanas buffet for breakfast (Deck 11 aft) . Keeping with the Gluten-free theme, we had eggs, bacon, sausage and fruit. At 11:00 am, we went to the Tube nightclub for a special reception for Gold and Platinum Castaway Club members. We got to meet both captains (the real one, Captain Marco, and the rodent, Captain Mickey). Mimosas were served and we had our picture taken with Captain Mickey.

We’re enjoying relaxing in the Quiet Cove area now and may (or may not) venture into the hot tub later. Dinner at Palo is at 7:00 pm; we have to dress up tonight, but that’s ok. Life is tough cruising, that’s for sure!

More tomorrow, which is another day at sea on our way to St. Thomas.

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