Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day 11 + 1 – June 6, 2007 Barcelona, Spain

The standard Disney Magic departure, breakfast at the dinning room on your last night, early seating is first. Since we were second seating breakfast was at 8:30 am. We were in no hurry because we were staying an extra day. Everything went well, even though we waited until it was suggested we get off, as we picked up our bags and made our way out the door the cab line was longer that we experienced at the airport. It looked like a lot of people were staying in Barcelona. The wait was 45 minutes to and hour but we finally got our cab. Anyone making there own arrangements and flying out the same day better get out early and add an hour for getting the cab.

We stayed at the Eurostar no more than 2 miles for the pier. This is a five star $$$$ like the Hotel Arts but not as good a deal. This is also on of the hotels that can book with Disney. We did the booking ourselves. As we checked in and waited for our room the 10 day cruises were coming in the lobby to assemble for their bus transfers to the pier. I was able to spend some time pumping them up with excitement.

Enjoying a glass of wine at a cafa in Barcelona marks the end to a great vacation!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Day 11 – June 5, 2007 Day at Sea

This is our last day of this memorable cruise. The plan is to spend the day at the pool. As usual I make my way to Deck 9 and get our coffee. We have to have our bags packed and out for pickup by 10:00 pm so we start getting read for that as we wait for the sun to break through the clouds. Carol marks our spot at the pool and we continue getting the cabin organized for departure. We skip breakfast at our favorite restaurant and get some fruit at Goofey’s Galley. It was a good thing we skipped the standard breakfast because it was the outdoor barbeque at the main pool. This is another newbie that was very enjoyable. In addition to the barbeque, they have a sea food buffet in Top Sider. I made stops at both.

We enjoyed a full day at the pool. The only real complaint of the cruise was the lack of control of smoking on Deck 9. I think Disney is trying to not turnoff the Europeans that were on board. There was a group of Italians on board that pushed the boarders of the smoking area. During the trip they just keep moving closer from the smoking area at Quite Cove to the pool area until the last day everyone was smoking while sitting at the side of the pool as both staff and officers walked buy. I made a comment to one of the pool side waiters that they need to control the boundary but he was more interested in explaining where the smoking areas were. During Pirates night they had tables pushed together at the family pool deck chain smoking and the staff said nothing. At one point there was one lady smoking at the family pool. Grant it that it was 7:00 pm and not many were left at the pool but this type of bending of the rules just fosters more of the same. I have to admit that I despise smoking and less tolerant that most because I have personnel family experience with the killer cancer it results in but just set the rules and enforcement them. Most decent people abide by the rules and do not need to be told.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Day 10 – June 4, 2007 – Villefranche, France “French Riviera”

Today we made our way to the French Riviera. Same routine as yesterday, wakeup call, breakfast at Parrot Cay and meet for the Excursion. Today’s shore excursion is “Monaco, Monte Carlo, and Eze”. Again we have to tender into port from the ships resting spot in the harbor. The town of Villefranche is between Nice and Monte Carlo. The charming harbor is very small as compared to the other ports we have docked at on this trip; however, it is the most beautiful setting we have had. The harbor is protected from the north winds by the mountains and deep cove the harbor resides protects it from the sea. It is calm body of water and it a beautiful day.

This is a busy town in a busy part of the Côte d'Azur. A couple of features that make it attractive to visitors are the seaside, with long sandy beaches, terrace cafés and restaurants, and the very nice old town, vieille ville.

Things went quite well from the check in to the boarding of the tender and the short walk to the bus we arrive on the motor coach at about 10:00 am from our 7:45 am met in Walt Disney Theater. Our first venture was Monaco a tiny European kingdom that is now home for the rich. The motor coach ride to Monaco takes you along the cost line about midway up the side of the mountains along the Lower Corniche. The view looking down cliffs at the harbors is spectacular. As we arrive in Monaco you can tell you entered a special place in the world. Feriers, Merceds and the like everywhere you look, not to mention the yachts. The first stop to walk around is the “Rock of Monaco” geological structure daringly jutting over the sea where the Monaco Palace is. We were given a guided walking tour of the exteriors of the Oceanographic Museum and the Monaco Cathedral where Princess Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III are entombed. We were able to take a tour of the majestic Prince's Palace. Here you were given a headset and get a guided tour from room to room.

The Monaco Grand Prix Motor Race was held a week ago and the stands and guard rails along the highways could still be seen. The course runs through the twisting streets of the city. The Prince and Princess of Monaco make an appearance in a ceremonial lap to begin the race.

We boarded the bus and made our way a few miles trough the streets of Monaco to the Grand Casino of Monte Carlo, surrounded by gardens, the spectacular Hotel de Paris and the famous Cafe de Paris. We were able to visit the exquisite casino built in 1863. The Grand Casino interior is more amazing than its exterior. Glass chandeliers, carved marble and woodwork make this look like a palace. 45-minute ride back to Villefranche.

Lunch was served at the Café de Paris. After a long wait for the bus to pick us up after the trip to the casino, we traveled to the medieval village of Eze. This was about a 30-minute drive. This was a community perched on a craggy peak above the Mediterranean Sea isolated from the passage of time. You have to climb steep cobblestone streets through the village to see the shops that are now housed in the homes people lived in. It does remind you of a medieval village you seen in movies. It is then another half-hour ride back to Villefranche where you have move views of the coast and sea before you arrive back at the port for the tender boat ride. We were about an hour late from our scheduled arrival back which meant we missed the show “Dreams” which was okay for use we have seen it many times.

The dinner this night was “Captain’s Gala”, a semi-formal affair that is the only night that features lobster on the menu. We dressed for the occasion but I would guess the less that half dressed in semi-formal and many dressed what I would consider attire for working the docks. It may have been a result of getting back to the ship late.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day 9 – June 3, 2007 - Marseille, France

An early arrival into the Port of Marseille. Marseilles is first of all, ancient. Started by the Phoenician around 600-BC (ignoring of course the Ligurians who already lived here), taken over by the Greeks in 540 BC, and conquered by the Romans two thousand years ago, it is full of sites and artifacts of ancient times. Marseilles is the second-largest city in France.
This is a day of two Shore Excursions, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. The first excursion was a bus tour of the city in the morning and in the afternoon we went to a winery and the el castle. But first it was Parrots Cay for breakfast our new favorite breakfast dinning room. I did not get to eat much because we had a very talkative sever. He was from the Philippines and I mentioned how well his fellow country man did in the talent show. Well after that I thought he was going on the tour with us. It was okay though, it’s not like I needed more food.

We made our way to meet up with our morning tour and boarded our bus. The morning tour was a ride around the city of Marseille. The tour was on a double-decker bus with the top deck being open. Although the morning air was a little chilly we took the upper deck.

Our journey started with a drive through the Vieux Port. This old harbor is filled yachts and fishing boats. The bus traveled along streets of Marseille as we made our way up to the focal point of Marseille - the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica.

The Basilica is at the highest point in the city and was built in 1853 by architect Jacques Henri Esperandieu in the Romanesque-Byzantine style. As our bus got to the top of the hill it broke down. At that point we all exited the bus and made our way to the stairs leading to the Basilica.
We made our way up the 120 steps to the golden statue of the Virgin Mary gracing the top of the bell tower. When you reach the top you have a magnificent view of the city.

After we walked around the Basilica, a new bus picked us up and continued the journey along the rocky coastline and lovely views of the islands and the rising hills of the Marseilleveyre Massif.
We were to have an hour of free time along the Old Harbor but that never happened. I assume it was due to the bus problem but there were other spots listed in the tour descriptions that we did not see. The recorded audio tour guide on the bus was poor. I would give this excursion a rating of good; however we did cover a lot of area and did get a glimpse at many city sites, we just did not know what we were viewing.

We were taken back to the ship where we had time for tacos and pizza at the pool before we made it out for our afternoon excursion. It was a sunny day at the pool and that made it difficult to leave.

Our afternoon excursion was a trip through the southern French countryside to a winery and a wine tasting venue. This trip gives you and a hint of the leisurely lifestyle in the south of France.
The beautiful winery and olive oil producer was set in the hills of this peaceful area. After a tour of the grounds we were taken to the tasting room were we tasted wines and olive oil. We purchased both wine and olive oil but only the olive oil will make it home.

The second leg of the afternoon excursion was to the village of Le Castellet. Le Castellet is a typical hilltop village in the Provencal area, a large region in southern France boarding the Mediterranean Sea. This hilltop village is perched on the wooded hills of the Var Region which is dotted with vineyards and olive groves. Var inland is rich with vineyards, olive groves, spectacular lavender plantations and charming medieval villages up to the striking beauty of the mountains. This region is well positioned between the mountains and the sea. It stretches from the 250 miles of magnificent sun-drenched coastline of the Mediterranean across impressive hinterland landscapes.

The well-preserved walls of Le Castellet once served as a stronghold for the feudal Lords of Les Baux. The village features a restored 12th-century church and a castle built in the 11th century that now serves as the town hall. The village has two fortified gates, Le Portail or Le Portalet that allows access to the village. Our guide provided an interesting guided walking tour of the narrow cobblestone streets of the medieval town. There are now numerous arts and crafts shops and traditional French cafes throughout the village.

The Mediterranean climate of this area provides around 300 days of sunshine per year. This was an exceptional place to visit and provided a wonderful example of southern France to ‘experience and adventure’ with all the attractions on offer.

Tonight’s show was “When Mickey Dreams” another new show. Mickey’s dreams come to life, including nightmares. This show had little dialogue and was more of a mixture of Cirque de Soleil® La Nouba, EPCOTS millennium parade and Dreams. It was quite a production.
The dinner theme this day was Pirates IN the Caribbean, although were in the Mediterranean. As I learned the Mediterranean had its share of Pirates. After dinner its Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party. The party, and the buffet, seemed to be well attended. Having the late seating, you miss the start of the party and you are too filled to enjoy the buffet. Tomorrow it is our last port. It is hard to believe.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Day 8 – June 2, 2007 – La Spezia, Italy

Well today was our worst day of the trip. We arrived into port around 7:00 am. The weather was partly sunny and the temperature must have been in the high 50’s to low 60’s. After breakfast in Parrots Cay we made our way to our shore excursion meeting location. The excursion is “Portofino & Santa Margherita”. This was the first port where we had to tender into port. I do not know if that was the problem but we waited 45 minutes before we made our way to Deck 1. We boarded the tender boat and we were on our way. The ride was about 15 minutes to the dock.

We meet our tour guide and boarded the motor coach. The ride to Santa Margarita was a little over and hour and was on the highway and not very scenic. The only view was when we got off the highway near Santa Margarita.

We got off the bus and boarded another boat and off for a 20 minute ride to Portofino. By now the clouds thicken and there was no sun. In Portofino we had a walking tour that was informative however whole we were up on the top of the hill it started raining and it did not stop until we were about an hour from leaving. Lunch was advertised as being pizza. The restaurant packed us in one room and the pizza must have been set out an hour before we arrived. The two bus loads of cruiser were not happy. There were many complaints back at the ship and I am sure Disney will make changes, but it is my advice to stay away from this excursion. There is not enough time in Portofino and if the weather is bad it ruins the excursion. To make matters worse when we arrived at the dock to get our tender boat we were told the weather was too bad for the boats and we had to wait on the bus. We waited less than 30 minuets and were able to board the tender boats and make our way to the ship. It was a tough day.

Tonight was the talent show. This is where the Disney Cast Members show of their talents. This has only been done on the Panama Canal crossing and was done on the 14 day crossing. Much to my surprise this was a good show and some of the talent was excellent. The young man for the Philippines was in my opinion the best. Joey and Kim of “Dancing with the Stars” were on the cruise and performed in the talent show.

Day 7 – June 1, 2007 - Day at Sea

After a long day in Rome everyone needed a day at sea to rest. No wakeup calls today. The plan was a pool day, workout and brunch. We had reservations for the Palo Brunch at 11:30 am so no need for breakfast. Went up to the pool before brunch and worked out to make room for the brunch. As usual the brunch was beautiful. We filled up on the buffet items and there was no room for the hot items. There was room for the deserts!

When we got out of Palo and went back to the pool. It became cool and windy and everyone was bundled in towels to keep warm. I made a motion to go to the movies, it was second and we were off to the show for the rest of the afternoon, but first we stopped to get a glass of wine for the movie. The movie was Invincible, the true story about the guy who tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1977 and made the team where he played for three years. I enjoyed the movie.

After the movie we watched the art auction for a bit and then went back to our cabin relaxed and got changed for the show “Twice Charmed” and made our way to the theater for the show. The show is relatively new but I have seen it last year when it first came out. It is a musical twist on the original Cinderella Story.

It was a Semi-Formal Dinner and we were at Parrots Cay. This dinning room has not been our favorite and it is does not present itself well during formal and semi-formal. However; during this trip the place grew on us. One reason is the great table we had next to the window in the back corner. Carol got the Portabella Ravioli, and I got the leg of lamb. My lamb was tasty but dry. The sauce that came with it was very good but not enough to take away the dryness. I was able to finish Carols’ ravioli and they were excellent.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Day 6 – May 31, 2007 – Civictavecchia, Italy (Rome)

Day Six was a long day. Wake up call at 5:45 am and at Parrot Cay for breakfast by 6:45 am. We have come to the realization that for the sake of time Parrot Cay is the best for breakfast when you have an early shore excursion.

We did the “Jumping Back into Eternal Rome” shore excursion. Meeting time was 7:45 am. We boarded the bus to take us to the train to Rome for a tour of the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Navona Square, the Trevi Fountain and the Vatican.

The train was the “Roma Express” a private train that was very comfortable. The train takes you to St. Peter's Station where we board a motor coach. The coach ride took us through Rome for a one-hour tour through its historic streets. Our first stop was at the Roman Colosseum. We were able to avoid the long line of people waiting to purchase tickets because our tour either purchased them before or that is how it works. We received a 60-minute guided tour outside and in. The tour guide did a very good job but her English was not the best so we struggled a bit with translation. It was still good. This is one thing I wanted to see during the visit and I was not disappointed. Like all things in Rome you could have spent more time at this stop. We then took the bus to the Via del Traforo tunnel, and a walking tour of the Trevi Fountain. This area was very crowded with tourists. You could barley move in the streets. The Trevi Fountain is a sculpture of Neptune and the Tritons. You are supposed to toss a coin into the fountain, because legend has it that when you do, you are guaranteed a return visit to Rome.

We then walked along the Via del Corso, once used by the Romans for chariot racing, and make your way to the "Temple of the Gods", the 2nd-century Pantheon. Considered one of the most important buildings in the world, the Pantheon is an exquisite example of ancient Roman architecture, and is home to the tomb of the Renaissance painter, Raphael. We had lunch at a hotel near the Vatican at “The Dome – Hotel Michelangelo”. The lunch was good and the setting was very nice. It was enjoyable.

After lunch we walked to the Vatican. This was about a 10 minute walk. We stood in line in St. Peter's Square for about 45 minutes to enter St. Peter's Basilica. Once inside, you are in awe at the spectacular architecture and art in this massive structure. We spent about 45 minutes in the Basilica. After that we had about 10 minutes to shop and then boarded the bus to take us to the nearby St. Peter's Station when we took the Roma Express train back to the ship. In all the trip covered many things and was loaded with information that was difficult to retain but it gave you a good task for Rome.

Dinner was at Animator’s Palate, and it was the first time I had two entrees on the trip which I though was good that it lasted that long. I had the Chef’s Recommendation that was a sea food wrapped in a shell. Our server, Emmanuel, stated that one of his guests in the early seating did not care for the dish. So I ordered the rib eye as a backup. Carol got the Beef Tenderloin. I found the Chef’s Recommendation was very good and the rib eye not to be what I am use to having.