Monday, September 19, 2016

Trip Report - Disney Fantasy - Day 7

August 19

Castaway Cay day is both a fun day as well as a sad day. Fun, because of spending a day on Castaway Cay - sad because it is the last day of the cruise. Luggage is collected tonight and early tomorrow morning you leave the ship for the last time.

Up early for breakfast, I step out on to the verandah to see us approaching Castaway Cay. Knowing that the ship will dock facing away from the island, I know that we will need to turn 180° so that the port side of the ship - where my stateroom is located - is against the dock. As we have breakfast the ship executes that maneuver and I watch the lines being shot out so we can tie up. It will still be a while until passengers are allowed off - the island will be staffed by ship’s crew and they have to disembark first to get ready for everyone. Iris and Brooke will be meeting us and going on to the island, but Sandy wants to go to Serenity Bay as soon as possible, and leaves the ship by herself. I tell her I will meet her there for lunch after noon.

Iris and Brooke show up at the appointed time and we go to Cabanas for a bit of breakfast before we head off the ship. Today is a perfect beach day, unlike the last time we were here in January of 2013 when is was cold and windy. We leave the ship and stop to have our pictures taken at two of the photo stations and then take the tram to the family beach. 

In the past I have always gone straight to Serenity Bay, the 18 and over beach, but since Brooke is with us, we will be spending this morning at the family beach. As we get off the tram, I spot a beach set, containing a pail, shovel, sifter and other cool beach implements which I purchase for Brooke. When we arrive at the beach, there are no lounges or chairs available so we put our stuff in Brooke’s stroller and place it under a tree as we walk down to the water. Sitting at the edge of the water, we sit down and give Brooke a few of the toys from the bag and she promptly starts to have fun with them. She is enjoying her first time in the water at a beach. (She has been in pools before.)

Before we know it lunchtime is upon us and I have to go off to meet Sandy at Serenity Bay. Iris will take Brooke for lunch and hopefully meet Jason. As we head to the tram where I will take the one heading there, we stop to get a cold drink at the Olaf themed stand. I see one with lychees (which I cannot get enough of) and that’s what I get. The tram arrives and we go off in our own respective directions.

At the BBQ over on Serenity Bay I meet Sandy who has just arrived and gotten her lunch and I head over to do the same. Serving food here is DeJan who supplies me with a few steaks, and corn and I load up on fruit and a drink. Sandy has reserved two lounges for us and when we finish our meal we go back to them, and then into the water. Since this morning when Sandy was able to get into deep water, the tide has gone out and you can walk as far as you see and the water goes no higher than just above your knees. No reason then to go way out and I decided to just sit down where I am for a while. As I watch the fish swim around me, I put my left hand down and discover a sea star … I put my left hand down and just beneath the sand is a sand dollar. Very different here where things are quite calm from on the family beach. 

Eventually, about 2:00 Sandy and I decide to head back to the ship. Once on board we find Iris and Brooke in our room - she never was able to meet up with Jason - and I decide to do something that I had been meaning to do all trip … ride the Aqua Duck. With everyone on Castaway Cay, I am hoping that it is not crowded, and it isn’t. I get to ride twice before I head back to the room to get out of my bathing suit and take a shower.

Jason finally is able to get in contact with Iris and we watch Brooke so they can have some time together. Before it’s time to get ready for tonight’s farewell show, Sandy and I get all of our luggage packed and ready to put out just before we go to dinner. Iris and Jason take advantage of us having Brooke to do the same until they pick her up and Sandy and I head to the Walt Disney Theater to see the show.

We meet back in our room to head to dinner which tonight will be back at Royal Court for the third time, but before we get there, we stop at Shutters for a final look at the photos. We decide that a 10 photo digital package will be enough and order it. We will have to pick it up in the morning. Then we go to dinner. Tonight, Brooke is entertaining the folks at the table next to us and we have a good final dinner aboard ship.

Back to our room where we settle in for our final night aboard the Fantasy. Our luggage has been collected and we will next see it back in the terminal before we go through US Customs.

August 20

Up earlier than normal, but not as early as those with the first seating. I take a walk to Shutters to pick up our USB drive containing all the shots. I will decide on the 10 once I am back at home. Iris, Jason and Brooke meet us and we head to breakfast at Royal Court … you have your final breakfast at the last restaurant you had dinner at … along with all our carry-on luggage. Once done, it is time to head off the ship … where we hire a porter to collect our luggage. Disney does an excellent job of keeping your luggage together in a designated area and we have no problem getting all 8 of our pieces. Getting through customs is a breeze and once again we find ourselves on the shuttle back to the Park and Cruise lot. On the way back we have a discussion with a family who have just taken their first Disney cruise, but are veteran cruisers. They marvel at the Disney difference and admit that while DCL cruises are more expensive, they are worth every penny. We agree.

Finally we get our cars, Brooke rides with us and we head back to Iris’s house where we give Brooke back and then Sandy and I make the drive back to our house.

August 21 - 23

We now have one day to pack and get ready to head back to NY until we come back for the winter. During the day I select the 10 photos and download them from the USB stick. I make copies to take back with me to NY as well as send them to Iris.

Next day we leave and close down the house until December and make the drive to Sanford to catch the Auto Train. It is a few hours late arriving from Virginia, but although we board a half hour late, we leave exactly on schedule - and actually arrive in Lorton 90 minutes early! Surprisingly, our car comes off in the first third of cars. 

We encounter no traffic getting through DC and have a smooth trip home to Staten Island, ending our latest trip.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Trip Report - Disney Fantasy - Day 6

August 18

The cruise is winding down with today being our next to last full day aboard. It’s a day at sea as we steam towards Castaway Cay. Breakfast in the room starts the day as usual and then Sandy decides she wants to see The BFG so we are in the Buena Vista Theater early. Since I have seen it before, I find myself dozing off at times until I get a text from Iris that the Diaper Dash is about to start. I excuse myself and allow Sandy to finish watching the movie and I head to the Atrium where the event is about to take place. I see Iris and Brooke and find myself a spot across from them to watch. That is until I find out that they need two adults for the race, and since Jason is not here, I make my way around to Iris before the first qualification heat begins. It’s a good thing too, as Brooke is in the first race of the day. I bring her to the starting line and Iris goes to entice her towards her. However, Brooke is going through a very clingy phase and when Mommy starts to walk away, if Brooke can still see her she starts to cry. I place Brooke into a crawling position and the race starts, but Brooke simply sits up and cries. I try again with the same result. Rather than crawl to Iris, Brooke simply demands that Iris comes to her! Needless to say, she did not qualify to move on and her day in the Dash is over. However, her celebrity is just beginning, as people stop by to say they saw her in the race all day long.

It’s now lunch time and we go to the Royal Court where Jason meets us (Sandy has already caught up) for our meal. 

After lunch we pay a visit to the Rainforest, and then take Brooke for a while so Iris and Jason can do the same. It is more crowded today than any other day of the cruise, but we have no problem getting into a hot tub or finding lounges to lay out on. 

Once we return to our room and take over care of Brooke, we head to Shutters to look at the folders from both of our rooms to see what photos are there. While there are some, we find that we had not taken as many as we originally thought we might so I am considering the different digital packages which I might purchase. We find that as happened in Palo earlier in the week, our photos are all in Iris and Jason’s package, making it very convenient to purchase one package which includes both staterooms.

From here we go out onto Deck 4 and once again allow Brooke out of her stroller and give her the run of the deck. Today she is basking in the fact that people are stopping by having seen her earlier, and once again flirting with every crew member that walks by. She is enjoying herself with all the attention as always. Soon Iris comes by and it’s time for the Dance Party back in the Atrium with the Fab Five! These are the characters that Brooke knows the best and enjoys seeing them though she’s not quite ready to get up and dance with them just yet. When Goofy comes and interacts with her, she is simply thrilled!

From here we decide to take Brooke back to Nemo’s Reef for a little fun in the water. The area is almost empty and Brooke has it all to herself. Soon Sandy and I leave to get to tonight’s show before getting ready for dinner. 

Dinner tonight is in the Enchanted Garden and we meet Iris, Brooke and Jason just before it opens for the late seating. Iris lets us know that Brooke has not napped and is a bit cranky and to expect her to need to be taken out at some point. However, as she gets settled at the table - and not for the first time - she is anything but cranky and is perhaps as well behaved and happy as she is at any meal this cruise. A successful dinner ensues. Brooke has pasta and leaves her mark.

After dinner we decide that this is the night that any souvenirs and/or gifts need to be purchased, so we head to the shops to do just that. It’s time I need to decide if I really want to purchase that watch I saw on the first day of the cruise and have gone back to look at a few times throughout the week. I decided to pull the trigger and buy it. I have not regretted it yet.

That done, we head back to our room (this is when we watch the original Pete’s Dragon) and eventually call it a night. Tomorrow we are at Castaway Cay.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Trip Report - Disney Fantasy - Day 5

August 17

Not a long trip from Tortola to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, and when I wake up briefly at about 3:00 AM and don’t feel any motion, I assume we are already in port. However, I am not getting up to check and promptly roll over and go back to sleep.

Since we don’t have to report for today’s excursion until 10:30, we have our in-room breakfast at our usual 8:30-9:00 … knowing that it will arrive as it always does at the stroke of 8:30. While waiting for breakfast, I get out on the verandah and get a few shots of the island. Once again we are not facing the dock and have some wonderful views available. It does, however, become clear that today will be a terribly hot day.

Iris and Brooke will be joining us today on our excursion to Coral World and to the Butterfly Garden while Jason heads off on his own boating/snorkeling adventure. At about 10:00, Iris and Brooke come to our stateroom and we shortly proceed to the theater where we will gather before leaving the ship. No need for written authorization today since Iris is with us. Once again it is only a short walk from the ship to the bus which will take us to Coral World. There is no question that we are in a US possession as we drive through the port town which contains such staples as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Pearle Vision, and many other very recognizable American businesses. I find it interesting that there is a series of Rainbow Shops - the basic shop and a few specialty shops - since Rainbow was one of the last companies I worked for before I left the fashion industry. At that time we did not have any stores outside of the continental 48 states, nor did we have specialty shops. It makes me wonder if the company is under new management or if the guys who owned the company still own it. (I worked directly with the owners during my time there. Once home I found out it is indeed still under the same ownership.)

While the roads we take are similar to those on Tortola - narrow roads winding their way through the hills - they are better built and maintained than their counterparts in BVI. Similar but without as much of a foreign feeling. We also pass through more modern villages and all that entails. However, while it was warm yesterday, and the bus ride was very comfortable, today the heat is such that even the ride on a open bus provides very little relief and then only if you are sitting on the outside of your row.

We arrive at Coral World and get off the bus, put Brooke in her stroller and head in. Iris and Jason had been here on their last cruise and we had planned on taking some time to walk on Coki Beach and maybe even go into the water, but it will turn out that the heat will totally do us in and while we will see most of what Coral World has to offer, we will need to spend quite a bit of time trying to find a cooler spot to sit and rehydrate. As with Tortola, my main objective is photography, and even with the lack of motivation the weather is causing, I manage to get a series of photos that I am quite happy with. (lorikeets, iguanas, underwater coral, landscapes) In one way, we did get lucky with the weather since it was very rainy on St. Thomas yesterday while we were on Tortola, and that rain today is hitting where we were yesterday.

While we are sitting in a spot with shade and a bit of a breeze, I watch Brooke while Sandy and Iris check out one of the souvenir shops. Just then Jason calls and it seems that he had not brought his picture ID with him as he left for his excursion … just his Key to the World, and cannot get back into the secure pier area where the Fantasy is tied up. Not much any of us can do from here … we are at least a 25 minute drive from the ship. Iris considers taking a taxi back so she can go on board and then bring him his ID, but instead she tells him to find a place to eat or get a drink until we get back on the bus - which isn’t scheduled to leave Coral World for at least another 30 minutes. Happily, perhaps 15 minutes later, Jason calls again (lucky this is US territory and our AT&T cell service is active) and lets us know that thanks to a Disney crew member, he was able to get back aboard, and Iris no longer has to come to his rescue. We continue our time in Coral World until it is time to get back on the bus and drive back to the pier.

When we arrive at the pier, however, our excursion is not finished. The Butterfly Garden which is part of our tour happens to be located right at the pier - just a short walk once we leave the bus. As a photographer, butterflies are one of my favorite subjects. During the International Flower and Garden Festival you can always find me at the Butterfly TentThere are some butterflies here I have never photographed before. 

Sandy and Iris even get the opportunity to have one or two on their hand. Brooke is fascinated by them and would like to hold one too, but we all agree that it might end badly for the butterfly.

Finally it is time to walk back to the ship (which is right here, though we have to take the long way to get into the secure area) and have some lunch. We are able to get to Cabanas just before its 2:00 closing for lunch and then it’s time for Brooke to nap and for Sandy and me to go to the Rainforest at the Spa. Later we will meet up with Iris again for trivia. (On the cruise we will take part in a few bar trivia contests including general trivia and Ultimate Disney trivia.)

The show tonight in the Walt Disney theater is Believe and Sandy and I see it before dinner. We will meet Iris, Jason and Brooke at the table so after the show we get ready and eventually make our way to Animator’s Palate where our rotation takes us back tonight. This evening is the night where we all get to be animators. As we get to our table we find a sheet with a place to draw a character with the supplied markers. After we do so, DeJan collects our “artwork” which we will see again later. Once again Brooke is in her element for dinner and is flirting with everyone who passes by. During the meal, classic Disney clips are appearing on the screens all around the restaurant, but as dessert arrives, the Disney magic occurs. Remember those drawings we all did when we arrived? Now they are integrated into those classic clips … are are themselves animated!! Lots of fun!! When we leave DeJan presents us with our original drawings, now containing a gold seal certifying us as “Official Disney Animators”. When we leave dinner we stop off and get our paperwork for the Midship Detective Agency Muppet Adventure. This will take us on a scavenger hunt all around the ship.

Tomorrow will be a day at sea, and to end our day we see the new Pete’s Dragon in the Walt Disney Theater. (Tomorrow we will also watch the original in our stateroom.)