This is the second half of today's post. The first half covered our time at the AK, this half covers our time aboard the cruise line bus and the cruise ship.
We got onto the cruise line bus with basically no effort at all. It was pleasantly smooth, after the mixup that AAA had caused the day before. I talked to Debbie as soon as we were on the road, letting her know we were on our way. Her and Nick were on another bus, and were actually well along. I was once again glad to have our cell phones with us. It wasn't long before she called me back to let me know that she and Nick were sitting down to lunch onboard the ship.
The cruise line buses are quite nice. They are plush, and pretty roomy. Much nicer than the buses which are used on property at WDW. Patti and I shared a seat. We did some talking, and some napping. I spent some time cleaning out memory from my digital camera. Every WDW trip, I fill up both the 35 Mbyte memory card I have, and the 10 MByte card. So, I was discarding pictures so that I would have more for the cruise. Next year, I'll probably be traveling with a laptop, and this problem will be gone.
They start the cruise video pretty close to port. It is timed so that
your first view of the ship happens right as the video ends. I'm certain
that this timing is very purposeful.
|I'll add my name to the chorus of people who have marveled at how big
and beautiful this ship is. We did see other ships on our cruise that are
even bigger. The Sovereign of the Sea, for example, is enormous. But, the
Wonder is prettier, more stylized, and more whimsical.
As we were driving into port, we got some beautiful views of the ship, and what I consider to be some nice pictures.
Debbie called me just as our bus was pulling into port, asking for the room number. It seems she and Nick were having a hard time finding the stateroom, and she wanted to double check to see if she had the number correct. I could not, however, give her the number at that moment, as I couldn't get to my briefcase, because we were standing up to leave the bus. I promised to call her as soon as I was actually on board the ship.
All through the trip, Debbie didn't quite get the hang of finding the
stateroom. She'd get into the windowless corridors within the ship and
loose her bearings. Naturally, I helped out with some good natured ribbing.
That helps out, right?
The port building is in itself a gorgeous sight. The entry onto the ship is very smooth, owing to the Keys to The World card and the high tech turnstiles. One swipe, and they had checked the info we had set up back at the Poly, and I was on my way. Disney is very efficient, once again, in handling large throngs of people.
The announcement of the parties as they come onboard is a nice touch. Since I was walking with Patti, we somehow became the Obrin Kelly family. There was a picture in Shutters later of her and I in the lobby together.
Shutters is a neat idea. Professional photographers are around at various highlights of the cruise to snap pictures, which show up some time later at the Shutters store. Periodically, you walk by Shutters, and look around at the photos on display, to see if there are any of you that you'd like to buy. We ended up with several. They aren't cheap, but it's nice having some real professional quality shots (not that this kept us from taking plenty of our own).
If not for Patti, I would have walked upstairs. The mid ship elevators are no place to be during boarding. They were incredibly slow, and we had what felt like an interminable wait. It could be that the aft elevators would have been better, but with Patti's knees, and not knowing how far it really was, we were better off to just wait. If I had been by myself, the best course would have been just to bear the two flights of stairs and short walk to my stateroom. Avoid the elevators at this time unless you have a very special reason (as Patti did, of course) to use them.
I caught up to Debbie and Nick in our stateroom, making one last call with the cell phone to see if she had found her way here. The cell phone was retired after this, I didn't want to deal with roaming out at sea, if that is even possible. Naturally, the ship is much smaller than the parks, and a lot of your activities are preplanned, and guarantee that your whole party will have contact times. So, the utility of the phone really isn't there. But, I will definitely bring them to WDW again.
The room is attractive, but small. I find the split bathroom to be rather strange, when they could have made an almost comfortably sized bathroom by leaving out the extra wall (the shower and a sink are in one small room, and a toilet and another sink are in an adjacent small room). Maybe there's a nautical reason for doing this.
I have heard that the Disney cruise line rooms are generally larger than staterooms on other cruises. If this is true, than I am very glad we were on Disney, because I would not have cared for a room much smaller than this.
The verandah is the best thing about the room overall. I will not do a cruise without a verandah, and there is no doubt it was worth the premium we paid for it. Since the ship floats such that deck 1 is basically at the water line, our verandah on deck 6 gave us a nice 6 story view of the world as we were sitting at dock or pulling in and out of port. It was a spectacular vantage point for our comings and goings, and we enjoyed it enormously.
After a very brief stop in the stateroom, Nick, Debbie, and I went to check into the Oceaneer's Lab. Nick had been anticipating this ever since we started talking about the cruise, and he really had it built up in his mind.
It turned out to be a very nice setup, with lots of games, computer areas, a video wall, an extremely friendly staff. A lot of high tech touches. I thought to myself that it looked like a lot of fun.
And Nick loved the lab. When it was time for him to leave the lab and go somewhere with us, I always had a hard time prying him out of there. He also like to go with his lab buddies up to the buffet for a meal, so we had difficulty talking him into the dinners and plays with us. If your wondering about whether your kids will like this arrangement, the only risk is that Disney had made it too much fun.
Nick was not even really keen on the program times, but very much enjoyed the free play times. I think there is just a ton of stuff to do in this place.
We had a brief orientation with the staff at the lab, and we picked
up a beeper and filled out some paperwork. They are very well organized.
We set Nick up so that he could sign himself in and out, with strict instructions
to him to only do so according to our plan. As it turned out, we were always
with him when he was going in or out anyway. There was another couple there
who whether to set up their 12 year old (Nick was 9) for signing in and
out, but I think it largely depends on the kid, and the parents know best
whether it's a good idea for them.
|After we were finished at the lab, I finally got my lunch. We headed
for the buffet. Debbie and Nick had already eaten, but Nick was going to
swim while Debbie and I sat and talked.
Unfortunately, I barely caught the tail end of the buffet. I was most disappointed because I only got a handful of shrimp, which had been on the buffet table, and didn't make an appearance again for any of the other buffets. As I was going through the line, they were starting to take things away. I did get a few shrimp, some very nice roast beef, and a couple of other nice items.
We ran into Patti and Jan up at the buffet. We had lots of serendipity meetings like that, since the ship is smaller and more focused than the parks.
Well, Nick didn't get much of a swim in before it was time to go.
Nick and I both caught a bit of the sail away party. There was good music, lots of fun. It was neat watching the ship rolling along the waves from the upper decks.
Our first night, we were going to be eating at Triton's, so we had to shower and dress for a nice meal.
I intended to put my wallet, camera, and phone in the safe for the night. But, I had a bit of a problem getting the safe to lock. It turns out it really does matter, as I figured out before going to bed that night, which direction the strip on the card is facing when you swipe it ;^). I really did like having the safe for my phone and camera, as well as my wallet. It was good to be traveling lighter on the ship, giving my camera and phone a rest (accept when I knew there would be a photo op).
I really liked the concept of the Keys To The World card. One card is your resort room key, charge card on WDW property, clearance at the port turnstile, charge card on ship, key to the safe, and key to your stateroom. One card for all of the access you need on the trip. We did need to get a new card in going from the All Stars to the Poly, probably because these were not on the same package. I have to say that I got tired while at the All Stars of having my first name on the card, which is a name I never use (and I believe caused our baggage mixup). AAA caused a lot of trouble for us this trip.
Back to dinner at Triton's! What a perfect experience this was! We sat by a huge oversized portal. We had a wonderful view of the sun setting on the ocean, and the ship steaming along as we were eating dinner, the water streaming by. I noticed that the motion of the ship didn't bother me at all at dinner, though I would have some trouble with it off and on for most of the cruise.
At our little table 29 were Patti, Jan, the Obrins, and a young Japanese couple that didn't speak English. I should mention the way the dinner rotation is set up on a Disney cruise. There are four nice restaurants, in addition to various snack bars, bars and lounges all over the ship. One of these restaurants is an upscale restaurant which is adults only, and for which you have to make reservations. The other three nice restaurants are part of your dining rotation. On a three night cruise, you eat once at each restaurant, at a formal seating time that they assign you. But, the restaurants (Triton's I am sure of, less sure of the other two) are open at other times.
In any event, you have the same table assignment, the same dining companions, and the same wait staff each night. Your waiter, head waiter, and assistant waiter follow you around to each of the restaurants. By the end of the cruise, you get to know them somewhat, and it really adds something to the dining experience.
Especially if you are as lucky as we were. Our waiter, Wesley, and his assistant, Steven, were magnificent. Wesley was from India, and Steven from Scotland. They were knowledgeable, helpful, professional, friendly, amusing, respectful, and efficient. I expect great service at Disney restaurants, but these guys were without equal. They made a huge difference in our cruise experience. They made everyone feel welcome, even Nick. Wesley always had suggestions for menu selections, and they were usually right on. We asked the first night if Patti could have an armless chair. The next two nights (and breakfast on Sunday), that chair was waiting at table 29 (remember, a different restaurant each time) before any of us showed up for dinner. After the first night, they also knew what we were drinking, and the drinks would show up after we sat down, before we ordered them.
My appetizer at Triton's was a shrimp celebration, or something like that. It was excellent. It was a mix of cocktail shrimp, prawns, and some tiny shrimp. In fact, it was better than the main course, which was a good but not wonderful beef dish. It sort of reminded me of a dish one might get at a banquet at a hotel. The deserts, though, were splendid. I ordered cherries jubilee, but a creme brulle also found it's way to my table (I told you I liked this Wesley guy). The creme, especially, was wonderful.
So, the main course was good, but the service, the deserts, and the appetizer put this meal over the top. It was a terrific experience.
We walked around the beautiful ship for a while after dinner. Nick insisted on going to the Oceaneer's Lab, because he had been anticipating it for so long. I really wanted him to go to the play, and I decided later him missing it was a mistake. But, he did have fun.
The Voyage Of The Ghost Ship is a great play, and I only regret that Nick missed it. There are pirates, ghosts, a sea monster, a beautiful princess, a young captain, and an even younger boy on his first ocean journey. What a great way to kick off your first cruise. There are great songs and special effects. The play is bursting with Disney magic. It is a nautical them, without relying on Disney standards, the way the other two plays do. It is just a great show.
We arrived a little late, and sat in the back of the theater. We realized for the next two nights that you didn't have to get there all that much earlier to snag seats in the first two rows. Still, the play was good from this vantage point, but being up close the other nights was better.
After the play, we stopped by the Treasure Ketch, and picked up some throat lozenges and some dramamine. I didn't really need the dramamine, though I came close a couple of time. I really did need the throat lozenges--the malady that had first hit Nick was slapping me pretty hard.
I think I felt the ship's motion the most at night in bed and during the plays. That big, open theater just doesn't seem like it should sway, so I noticed it a lot when it did. Then, of course, at night you are tired, and would like to grab the bed and hold it still, but you can't. I never noticed it while dining, and at almost no other times.
After the play, Debbie and I tried walking around the deck a little bit. We wanted to enjoy being out on the dark ocean on this starry, starry night. But, we didn't quite get the hang of it, and managed to stroll through the diesel exhaust. It blows back, of course, and was also blowing down onto the top deck at this particular time. Since we both were nursing sore throats, we gave up and went to pick up Nick. We went to bed, expecting a big day on Friday.
I got up later, though, and tried walking on the deck again. I wanted to get a little more tired so that the bed would stand still. This time, I had a great walk. The ocean was completely black, and you couldn't tell where it ended and the sky begin. The sky was full of stars. The only light on the ocean was the other ship behind us and the one in front. I enjoyed walking over the stern, and watching the water pouring from the enormously powerful propellers which drove the ship.
I did this walk each night of our cruise, after Debbie and Nick had settled in for the night. I really enjoyed the beauty of the night and the ocean, and the solitude of the ship when most people had gone to bed.
The ships with us at night on the ocean were the Sovereign of the Sea (Royal Caribbean) and a Carnival ship. They left port with us on Thursday, and were within sight at all times, except when we went to Castaway Cay. But, they rejoined us by the time we pulled into port on Sunday. They were also docked with us at Nassau on Friday.
Other ships may even be bigger than the Wonder or Magic now (the Sovereign is huge), but there is something special about a Disney ship. The separate activities for grownups, families, and kids makes the trip better for everyone. The beautiful design and themeing of the ship enriches the experience. There are three cool pools, one kid cool, one family cool, and one adult cool. There are deeply themed, very fun restaurants, that I don't expect anywhere else, and service which is awesome, even by Disney standards. There are world class plays, because Disney can attract world class stage, writing and production talent. Disney magic is just seeping out of everything on the ship. I'd choose a Disney cruise in a minute over any other line, even if I was traveling without kids.