Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day 4 – Naples, Italy

It was a rough night at sea. The cabin was rocking and creaking all night. When we arrived near the Port of Naples at around 5:50 am things calmed down. The ship docked in Port at 7:00 am. Today we went off on our second excursion, “Amalfi Coast Drive and the Ruins of Pompeii”. We had to meet for the tour at 8:00 am so we had an extra 30 minutes from yesterday. Lumiére’s
opened at 7:00 am and we were there shortly after that. Today we finished breakfast before we left.

This tour met in the Walt Disney Theater most likely because of its size; there were three buses for this one. We were on the second bus, No. 17. By the time we left the port parking area it was around 9:00 am. The first stop was a furniture builder that specialized in inlaid patterns on tables and chairs. This stop also serves as a restroom break, and coffee. There must be some deal cut with the tour groups to bring tourist to the business. It makes a lot of sense. Anyway we were given a demonstration of how the inlaid patterns were made and it was very interesting. The finished tables and chairs were exquisite and had prices to match, however; for the skill that it takes and the man-hours that must be spent I think get what you pay for. After a 30 to 45 minuet stop we were on our way.

The tour involves traveling in a loop from Naples to the south around a point in the land the projects into the sea called Sorrento. As you meander around this point you go thru small towns on steep cliffs around the point as you travel to Amalfi. The ride from Naples thru Sorrento is enjoyable, it is not until you get around the south end of the point that every turn is a breath taking picture. I do not think I have seen anything better when you compare towns with scenery. These views compare with Hawaii and California’s Monetary Peninsula but with history to match. As the large motor coach traveled the narrow winding road, I realized the bus driver we had yesterday in Sicily was a third stringer. This guy passed everything if we were on a two lane road and just about pushed anything off the cliffs that was headed in our direction where we could not fit. As you looked out the window of the bus down some 500 to 1,000 feet over a little guard rail as you raced around hairpin curves you had to have faith in the driver Peppy. Now I know why they were handing out motion sickness pills when we checked in.

Our lunch stop was in a Hotel in the town of Amalfi. It is a four star hotel, if you believe the sign in front. All the waiters had white tuxes on for a lunch serving so that means something. Again bottles of white wine were left on the table and the waiter served us glasses of sparkling wine. Everyone surrounded the buffet style lunch of mozzarella cheese, French fries, pizza, meat tray, and salad. We all thought that was lunch. Then after we thought that was it, out came the main course of pasta and manicotti. Most had filled up on the appetizers thinking that was lunch. After the deserts where served to us we returned to the bus for a one hour trip over the mountains and on to Pompeii. As our tour guide stated it is now time for a siesta.

We were an hour late on our schedule so when we arrived a Pompeii were told we would have to be on a fast pace. We had to stop at a cameo factory where there was a bathroom stop, another prearranged shopping stop between the tour group and a local merchant. We got to see a 30 second demonstration how a cameo figure was carved out of a conch shell. I think that is what they said. There were some expensive items there you get 20 percent discount if you bring cash.

Our tour guide gave us all two way radios with ear pieces so we could hear him during the tour of Pompeii. I felt like security while we waited in the cameo factory. By the time we rallied the group it was raining fairly hard and the temperature dropped. Not to fear we had many vendors selling umbrellas and rain ponchos. Definitely not Disney quality but they way them surrounded use would have made Disney proud. I brought a jacket so I saved 3€. We made our way down the street to the entrance of the ruins and hiked our way up the entrance. It is a good incline to walk up. I did not realize how big the excavated ancient city of Pompeii was. You could have spent all day at this spot. Our tour guide did a nice job in an hour and a halve. We saw enough to say we were their.

We made it back to the ship about 6:00 pm and so did a lot of other groups. Needless to say we did not make the 6:30 pm “On the Nose” show before dinner. We departed Naples at around 7:30 pm. Captin Tom came on earlier and said the winds were strong and we were in for another rocky ride but the weather will get better tomorrow. It was Parrot Cay for dinner. On the off nights there are new menus at each of the three dinning rooms. Parrot Cay – Island Dinner, Animator’s – Show Dinner, and Lumiere’s – French Dinner. I had the grouper and Carol had the shrimp something. Both of us thought the meals were great. I should take a picture of the menu and posts it. We were tired from our trip and went to our rooms. Just going to stay on the ship tomorrow and take it easy by the pool at Olbia, Sardinia.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day 3 – Palermo, Italy (Sicily)

This is the first day we had an early morning schedule and we came through okay but it was tight. The ship docked at 7:00 am as planed. Lumiére’s opened at 7:00 am and we had to meet in Diversions for our tour at 7:30 am. We made it to Lumiére’s at 7:05 am but breakfast was a little slow because they had a mass rush since all the land tours were early. We were also slowed by the fact we finally found our server from last trip, Dom from Turkey. Greetings and small talk resulted in us leaving breakfast before we were finished and resulted in us being the last ones, signing up for the tour as the group was leaving Diversions. Quickly we got our papers in order and ran after the group. We were the first tour to leave the ship, Bus No. 1. We took the Selinunte and Marinella tour. The bus was a nice motor coach that had all the amenities you would expect. A very nice description of the trip was given by our guide who was very personnel and as it turns out made our day. The day was partly sunny and far better than yesterday. The first leg of our trip took us to the ancient Greek city of Selinunte. Founded in the 7th century B.C., Selinunte is now a magnificent Archaeological Park that houses a mass of impressive ruins including the majestic stone structures of the Acropolis. Before we entered the archeology area there was a rest stop. A small bar and shop exists at the parking area. You can purchase coffee, food and wine. I purchased one bottle of wine. A special note to this trip for those that will be cruising later on, and I think other trips as well, is to bring toilet paper. You will not find it on these side trips. This was the most discussed topic on the bus.

Our next stop was the beach of Lido Zabbara in Marinella di Selinunte which was a short bus ride away. This area is a small resort town that the Italians, and others with money, come to in the summer. Since summer has not begun, the town was not busy. I think it would be a different trip thru this town in a large motor coach traveling the narrow streets in bumper to bumper traffic. Our bus driver must have been a cab driver because he drove the bus like a cab and nothing stopped him. The sun was in and out during our one hour rest on the beach and the breeze was a little cool. That did not stop the kids from going in the water. I think the water was cold as well. A buffet lunch was served in the beach restaurant that was outdoors but it had wind block curtains that keep it comfortable. The buffet was filled with local fish, cheese, vegetables and salads. Crafts of white and red wine were on the tables for us to enjoy. I pick a table with a lot kids so there would be more wine for me. The lunch was excellent and the proprietor was wonderful. He keep brings small plates of food to the tables for family style serving. We were give oranges from the orange tree for desert as well as lemon ice. After lunch we traveled down the road a small distance to a wine shop for a tasting.

We purchased three bottles for consumption on the ship, for a total of four for the day. In all we were very pleased with this trip. I was able to show my knowledge of Italian customs when I kissed the tour guide on both cheeks as I said goodbye. Yes it was a pretty woman.

We did not get back to the ship until 5:30 pm and dinner reservations at Palo at 7:30 pm. Carol got ready for dinner while I went to the sail away party on Deck 9 and to take pictures on Deck 10 as we pulled out of the port. Ran back to the cabin, got ready, and caught the last 30 minuets of Michael Harrison’s last show. He did the Parrot and Snake skits, and the drawing pad with the face. The face on the drawing pad is very good and I am not sure I have seen that. What I saw was good but I had my fill of Michael for the trip.

During the show the ship started to rock and it never stopped until we got near port in Naples the next morning. Our luck we are having dinner on the highest point of the ship. I did not think the seas in this area would be rough. Well that is another thing I learned. It did not ruin dinner but it did put a damper on it. The lady next to us could not eat anything but hung in there so her husband could have a full dinner. After two appetizers I had the filet and tuna. Carol had the filet. I had to have the chocolate soufflé and the ice cream, which I did not ask for, and Carol had the cream bruelée. The weather was bad enough that they closed the upper deck and the events that were planned. Not that we were going, but we talked someone on the elevator. So we ended the evening full and uncomfortable. Tomorrow Naples and a long day.

Day 2 – Day at Sea (Updated)

Day two began with the struggle of getting up, but I jumped up at 8:00 am to get coffee on Deck 9 and returned to the cabin to give Carol a coffee injection and we were on our way. Made our way to Lumiere’s for breakfast and then on to the pool. The first part of the day the weather was overcast with some breaks of sun. As the day went it was all clouds and it got cooler and then started to rain. Carol read her book while I proceed to do a food sampling on Deck 9. When it appeared the sun had disappeared for the day, and feeling guilty for eating so much, I went to go workout. When I arrive at the Spa workout area I found other who had the same idea, but since Disney has enlarged the room there was no problem getting a treadmill. There was a line waiting for the orbital’s (I think that is what you call them). After 40 minutes I burned off on desert from the night before. Left the workout room sat in the Quite Cove hot tub until my skin started to shrivel up. Shortly after that I had another taco.

We skipped the Golden Mickeys and took a short power nap. I always feel guilty when I miss a show even when I have seen it many times. I feel it offends Mickey. Tonight was formal night and we were at Lumieres. Before dinner we had the Captain’s Welcoming Reception. I spent a good time talking with the Chief Engineer regarding his staff and there responsibilities. I hinted that I would enjoy seeing the power systems but he did not bite on it.

The last seating has a high percentage of adults which most were in formalwear tonight. We had on Scotchman who wore his kilt; I think that is what you call it. This was a nice change from what I have been experiencing on the past cruises. There has been some mix-up in seating and we have our own table. We were asked if we wanted to join an eight top but we respectful refused. Not that we are unsociable but it is nice having you own table. It is almost like eating at Palo ever night. Well almost.
Michael Harrison, the comedian/ventriloquist had a late show at Rockin’ Bar D that had to run an hour. We had to stand because we got out of dinner late again. I do not mind having a nice relaxing dinner and not being rushed but you can not make it to the late shows. Michael gave his usual performance but it is still entertaining even thought I have seen that act. After some standup he did the talking tennis ball performance. Of course there is the man from the audience that is used through, but is it well done and Dave was a good sport and worked with Michael. Dave deserves some credit but it will not be on his bill.

After the performance it is back to our cabin with a few deserts in case we get hungry during the night. Tomorrow we make our first stop, Palermo, Italy (Sicily) we have to leave on our tour at 7:30 am.

Day 1 – Setting Sail

We booked our reservation for the Hotel Arts so far in advance we forgot we had a Romantic Package that included either breakfast in our room or the buffet. We decided on the buffet. The outdoor terrace was full so we had to eat inside but it was a beautiful place so it didn’t matter. The buffet was very good as well.

After we ate, we got a cab to the port which dropped us off right in front of the terminal (Port of Barcelona - Terminal C). We checked our bags with the porter, verified ourselves with the authorities, went through the customary metal detector and went to the Castaway Club check-in. I think 75% of the passengers are repeaters. I was told by one of the 14 day continuation passengers that 1,100 of the 1,900 were continuing. After I thought about it that does not sound right. I must have misunderstood, however that may explain why there were not as many people at the terminal as I thought would be there. I heard another number of 330, which sounds better.

We waited for a little while, no more that 30 minutes, and we were on board the ship. There is a small duty free shop you can purchase some wine and small pint size bottles of liquor but I do not think it is much of a deal. Bought a couple of relatively inexpensive bottles of wine to get us through a day at sea, assuming we can pick something up at the other ports.

I would have to say the boarding process was smooth with the exception of the on-line registration process which is what I used. Apparently there are three documents to print and sign that are to be brought with you. A Disney representative stated that it is not clear on the web site and apologized. Others had similar issues however they were resolved quickly. The ship is boarded at Deck 1 and you are directed up the elevator to Deck 9 where each family’s arrival is announced as you exit to the deck area. We took the stairs and went directly to the Quiet Cove pool. It was a beautiful sunny day so we took advantage of it. It is ironic that it is called Quiet Cove pool since the arrival announcements were broadcast over the area speakers all afternoon. They also broadcasted the video on the main screen at the family pool. This greatly affected nap time at Quiet Cove! Maybe that is why we were the only ones there for the first few hours. Later in the afternoon people arrived and the pool came to life.

Most of us enjoyed the pool so much that we were a little late for the boat drill. We knew we were late when we saw the drill monitors with the lift jackets on at the pool. Time to go! As we hurried to our room we noticed we were the only ones with our bags still in the hallway. Oh well what’s the rush we have 11 days.

After the drill we unpacked and went to the show. Our cruise director Rachel started the show and introduced the first act the standard “All Aboard! Adventures Away” departure show. The second act was a local dance group Bianchini Producciones Dancers, and then Michael Harrison the ventriloquist. As usual he gave a great performance. The audience participant, a young boy 9 years old almost stole the show. Michael will perform in a few more days and we look forward to seeing him again.

Our first dining night was in Parrot Cay. The menu, “Let the Magic Begin”, was served in all three dining rooms. We had lamb and a lobster dish and both were very good. Dinner was slow which caused us to miss the sail away party. We then stopped in Rockin’ Bar D and listened to a few sets by High Frequency. They were very good. We have not seen them in a while and forgot how good the lead vocalist is. Still have not been able to totally adjust to the time change and that is why I am up writing this and having a glass of wine. Maybe we did nap at the pool!!!!

Day 0 - Up and Around in Barcelona

When we planed this trip some 13 months ago you have some big ideas. One being get to Barcelona a day early and site see. Although I rested fairly well on the plane, and felt good when we got off the plane, I started to crash when we got to the room. If I was pushed I could have kept going but we rested in our room, got cleaned up and made our first trip out at about 4:00 pm. The weather was better than forecasted but it was overcast and the breeze off the water gave a slight chill if you were in the shade with short sleeves. It is interesting that weather predication accuracy is the same all over the world. We sat at the beach and watched a two man game that was a blend of volleyball and soccer. The playing area looks the same but the net is a bit lower as I could compare next the volleyball game next to this game. Although never seeing this before these guys looked pretty good.

The area is full of very nice restaurants facing the sea or the marina. We found some we liked and planned on going back to the room, change and then have a nice dinner at the sea; however, we were hungry and sat down an each had a pizza and a small pitcher of sangria. This is the ideal place in the middle of summer when it is hot and the sea breeze it refreshing as you drink your cool sangria. Although the dinner plan was still in place when we headed back to the room I was worried my date was going to lose interest. We decided not to attend the DIS meet at the fountain since it was further away that I thought and the meet time was in the time transition zone between changing and dinner.

There is a small Casino next to the Hotel that we made a pass through. I did not know there was gambling in Barcelona. My observation was that it does not matter where the Casino is in the world the people who should not be there are. By this time it is getting cooler so we head to the room to implement the dinner plan. When we get to the room we find a complimentary, I hope, bottle of champagne and some chocolate covered strawberries. There went the dinner plans I am sorry to say. It takes us a day to get the lay of the land and now I wish we had another day at the Hotel Arts, but tomorrow we are on the ship.

We Made It

We went down to the wire but we made our flight. (Sorry I am so last in posting this, the internet charge was 20 € for 24 hours so I had to wait. More on that later). It was a full plane, and then some, had us out of Philly a bit late but still arrived on time, 8:30 am (2:30 am EST). The flight was not too bad for seven hours in a coach seat racing thru time zones. Had some undue stress waiting for the bags but they were the last off. Do not understand last on last off?

After giving the currency exchange $141 we got back 100 €. Last time I was in Italy, seven years ago, you got 118 € for $100. Well what are you going to do? Making our way out of the airport we watched people getting caught in the auto revolving doors which held things up for a while. We made our way to the cab stand, which had a line of 30 or more people, but we got our cab and we were off to the Hotel. As we travel down the highway in a thrill ride we passed a cemetery that was cut into the hill side. It was one large mausoleum (did not have the camera out). As we came by the port we saw the Disney Magic and I felt like we were home. The ship arrived just before midnight. Our Hotel, the Hotel Arts is perhaps three miles away and was in site from that distance.

As the cab driver pulls up to the Hotel Arts we are swarmed by an army of Hotel personnel welcoming us, taking our bags and escorting us up one floor to the lobby. At check in we are greeted by a lovely young lady whom asked if we wanted anything to drink. We needed some water and she ran off and got us each a glass of lemon water and served it to us on her little tray. While I waited in line she proceeded to give Carol a map of Barcelona highlighting Museums and Shopping. I can just imagine what the shopping was like. All we wanted to do is lay down in a bed.

After a short wait in the lobby the young lady who checked us in gave us our keys and were we sent to our room. As we approach our room we are greeted by the bellhop who wanted to know where he should put the bags and showed us everything about the room. The service bar is filled with all sorts on goodies but no where are any prices. It is one of those things “if you have to ask how much you can’t afford it.” You have a good idea when the continental breakfast room service is 29 € or $41. Well anyway they gave us a beautiful room on the 28th floor with a view of the city and the marina. They call this the Olympic Village area so it must have been updated when the summer Olympics were held in Barcelona in 1992. As the door closes with the Bellhop behind it we hit the bed and take a nap or what ever you want to call it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Waiting at the Airport

Well were on our way. Sitting at the airport waiting for our flight to Philly were we catch our Barcelona leg. We have four bags and three carryon bags, not bad for two weeks. Arrival time is 8:20 am Barcelona time and about the same time the Magic is due to arrive in port. Weather forecast is drizzly!!! It is close to record highs as we depart.

As we get to our gate we fined our flight to be delayed! This is typical for my vacation travel and is why I booked a flight with a 4 hour layover in Philly, however; the airline changed my flight to a later flight. When I complained they said “no problem making your connection” So here we wait. Still being told no problem making your connectionJustify Full
May not get to Barcelona tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Getting Ready

Well it is three days before we leave for our 11 day Disney Mediterranean Cruise. I have been motivated to begin this Blog by the Davidson Drifters crossing the Atlantic reports during the 14 day Disney Magic repositioning cruise to Barcelona, Spain. It is in Barcelona where Carol and I will board the ship and continue the daily reports. I do not think I can be as clever and funny as their reports, but I give it a try.

Were in packing mode and trying not to over pack. Have put what we think is the minimum, and then fill any empty space that remains.

We leave from Philly on Thursday and arrive in Barcelona on Friday morning around the time the Magic arrives. Spending one night at the Hotel Art and the adventure begins.

Friday evening May 25th we will meet the DIS group at the Magic Fountain at 8PM. We will meet at the base of the fountain near the steps to the Museu National d'Art Catalunya. Still have to figure out how to get there from our Hotel.