#reverb10 22: Travel (Disney Cruise)

How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

I’ve traveled to many cool places this past year. I went to Qatar just last spring and a few weeks ago, my parents graciously paid for a Disney Cruise.

Since I’ve been struggling to do these #reverb10 prompts, I figured a short an excruciatingly, long blog about my cruise would be perfect for this one. And for those of you who do not know what #reverb10, don’t worry. It’s another challenge I’m doing that I’m thoroughly not enjoying.

Day 0 – The Flight

First off, we had dinner at Swiss Chalet. One of the few westernized restaurants that my kids will eat at.

Of course, they still give us drama about it...

In preparation for the trip, I bought myself yet another iPad accessory. I needed it though. I wanted to take a lot of pictures just for this blog! And I did take a slew of pictures. So it was all worth it.

I NEEDED the camera connector! I really did! Honest!

The last time we were on a plane was for the Elumir Family Reunion cruise (I think) and the airport has this great off site parking garage that has a monorail to the airport!

Everytime I say monorail, I am reminded of this song from the Simpsons...

No more waiting about for shuttles because the monorail takes you there! And because it’s new it’s all clean and shiny and futuristicky and stuff.

It also tells us how long we have to wait. So awesome. Now I know if I have time to pee or if I should hold it...

Very nice. Of course, we kinda got lost trying to find it because they didn’t have a 6 story garage lot the last time and we couldn’t see the monorail. In the end, however, we found the place, gawked at the price (about $100 for the week, or more) and waved bye bye to the car.

I parked here. Very fortuitous I took a picture, because one forgets where one parks... that 'one' being my wife.

You may be thinking, “Wait. You’ve been showing us pages of pictures and we haven’t gotten to the actual cruise yet!” That’s because I haven’t told you about the wonderful time we had in customs.

And that’s not sarcasm.

Shockingly enough, going through US customs, we had the nicest customs officer EVER. And I don’t use that hyperbole often. Ok, maybe I do, but this time I mean it. And I’m serious, he was awesome. He teased the kids, he joked how that if they did not behave, and if there was crying, or whining, he had the power to keep them out of the US. He then let the children stamp their own passports. He didn’t even ask us anything about our trip. He just talked to the children.

He wasn’t grumpy. He wasn’t tired. He didn’t take us to a back room for groping. Nothing bad happened. It was a pleasant experience. Wow.

Would you let that face into your country? I probably wouldn't.

We made it on the plane and was soon off. You have to pay $3 for crappy earbuds, and a kind man gave a pair to Zoe. I had to give my pair to Ekko so that they could watch their TV shows. I wasn’t watching videos, just playing games, so I didn’t need any sound for my ipad. But in my day, we didn’t have all these new fangled gadgets on planes. We had to cling to the wings with nothing but a piece of twine to hold us in place. And now they get to watch movies and Treehouse shows? No wonder kids these days are entitled. I should go upstairs and discipline them now.

I suggested they watch Secrets of Mayan Hieroglyphics. They were not interested.

We arrived a day early and spent the night in a hotel. My sister, her family, and my parents were already there and had everything pre-arranged. In fact, my sister arranged the whole thing. The only thing I had to do was eat and go to the bathroom. It was wonderful.

My children love hotels. Give em a pool and a book and we could vacation down the street. It would be cheaper.

Day 1

The next day we took the shuttle to the port. This is not the kids first Disney Cruise. This is the their second. And is it because I have so much money that I like to spoil our children? No! The first cruise was paid for by my work. And back then, I didn’t tell the children they were going on a Disney Cruise. And we did the same thing again.

You know what I wish I did? Took the video camera so that I could have videotaped their reaction when they finally realized where they were going. It wasn’t as crazy as the kid in the below video, but it was still great as a parent. 😀

When we arrived at the port, we went through more security and then signed up for all the Disney Goodness. I took pictures of the kids coming up the escalator to the main port area, but officials saw me doing it and asked me to delete the pictures. He also watched me do it. Was a bit hard to take a security official with huge Mickey hands seriously, but I did. Apparently, you aren’t allowed to take pictures of security procedures. I was fine with it, they were nice about it, I was just not thinking about nefarious activities. I was just taking more photos of my children. I have a lot, not just the piddly sixty-four you have on this page.

As soon as we were registered and got our cabin keys, we boarded the ship! The kids were very excited. Heck, I’m excited just thinking about it now.

Nothing like large mice to make children happy...

When we entered the boat, an announcer announced our names, and we were greeted with applause. Well, there were about six people applauding but it was nice. We were ahead of my sister and parents, so when they announced them, I made sure I cheered like an obnoxious drunk.

Next up was food! Huzzah! I was so hungry by then. There was a buffet on the 9th floor at the back of the boat. Or maybe the front. I never could tell.

Here is a pic of food. I had this for lunch. I love buffets.
The first game reference? I'm losing my touch...

You know what that reminds me of? Infocom’s Cutthroats. In normal text adventures, you had to type ‘North’, ‘South’, etc. in order to navigate the game. But in Cutthroats, because it was nautical and you were on a boat, you had to use directions like ‘fore’ and ‘aft’. I still can’t remember my ‘port’ and ‘starboard’. So even though I spent a whole game eventually getting used to all those directions, fast forward about 20 years, and I can’t remember a thing. So I stare at the maps on the ship trying to get my bearings, and I can’t find a thing.

Eventually, I gave up on the map and just committed to memory the locations of food and bathrooms. Those are important.

It took a bit for our room to get ready so we just explored the boat. Here are some pics of us on the 10th floor. I didn’t go up there that much,

Finally, our rooms were ready and we went to check them out. They were sweet. For some reason, we were UPGRADED! Huzzah! Bigger rooms, and we got a WINDOW. The room we had on our first cruise was much smaller and on the inside of the boat with no window. It was really nice to be able to look outside and have all the space!

This room is not to scale. It is much bigger.

Furthermore, there were two bathrooms! How freaking awesome is that? One for a toilet and sink, the other for a bathroom and sink. As you may have gathered from this post, bathrooms are important to me.

And just when I thought my joy could not be overcome, we got SWAG! Apparently, since this is our second time, they gave us a gift bag. All sorts of goodness. It had things in it that I will probably not use, but they did give us a cool bag. Oh, and some Rice Crispy treats that were actually good and not nasty like those one you buy at the store.

Oh ya...

After we unpacked, we checked the night for festivities. Sadly, I had missed the showing for “The Prince of Persia”, because I was too blown away by the size of the room and the two bathrooms. Next time, I will check that schedule so that I can go to the onboard movie theatre. You may be thinking, “You’re on a cruise! Why go watch a movie?” Because it’s FREE! And I haven’t seen that one. Also, when you turn the TV on, it’s 24/7 Disney. Sometimes I had a hard time leaving the room because a Pixar film was playing.

Anyway, we had to go for meals. They gave us meal tickets so that we knew where to go and where we were seated. The ship was huge and it’s easy to get lost, but the crew is everywhere ready to say hello to you. They also know how to navigate the ship and are familiar with fancy terms like ‘fore’ and ‘aft’.

They kept changing where we were eating. Nothing would keep me away from food, though.

Speaking of the crew, have you ever been to the Mandarin Restaurant? Chinese Buffet chain. You know what freaks me out there? How friendly the waiters and waitresses are. Every staff member greets you with a huge grin and enthusiastically tells you, “Welcome to Mandarin.”

Welcome to the Mandarin! Let me smile at you some more...

I eat at a lot of Asian Restaurants and if you get the waiter to notice your table, consider yourself fortunate. But at the Mandarin, it’s like the Stepford Wives for Chinese or something. Totally creeps me out.

That’s how the Disney Staff are on the ship. Every person is obligated to greet you. And they all have name tags, so next time, I’m just going to first name basis everyone there.

To continue, we have the disembarking celebration, we go for food, I take pictures of the food, waiters introduce themselves to us, and we have a great time. They do the “Hot Hot Hot” song and the children go into a huge conga line to do the limbo.

And every night, our steward comes into our room, pulls down the bunk bed, and makes a Towel Animal. The girls love the Towel Animal. The steward also leaves chocolate. I’m not too keen on my kids having chocolate. They’re hyper enough as it is.

Day 2 – Nassau, Bahamas

The next morning we arrive in Nassau, Bahamas! The sun is shining, and it’s significantly warmer than it was in Orlando. We go for the buffet breakfast and I have eggs.

Afterwards, we decide it’s time to explore Nassau. We get off the boat and and take the compulsory pictures.

Now, the last thing we want to do is buy stuff. However, an enterprising young gentlemen convinces us to go on a horse and buggy ride and explore the town. We agree to it, because Ekko and Zoe love horses, and we experience Nassau from the eyes of a Bahamian. Of course, he just pointed to signs and read them aloud to us, but sometimes he would indulge a little bit into the local history.

My wife especially wanted a picture of this.

After the ride, we asked what would be a good place to eat that wasn’t westernized. He pointed to this place, where there was a lineup of Bahamians. That was good enough for us, and we ordered a chicken dish with some rice and peas.

If a restaurant is filled with foreigners (us), then we don't go to it.

At this point, Ekko was tired. So we decide to head back to the ship. Ekko wanted to see Tangled in 3D (showing on the ship) and Zoe and Mommy wanted to explore more. Of course, we didn’t want to tell Zoe that we were seeing a movie, so we just headed back.

While we were on the ship, Zoe used her conniving ways to get her hair braided for lots of money.

And now they are back in the room watching Disney shows.

And there is a tradition that we do on cruises. We go for our afternoon fry snack. This is why my gut isn’t getting any smaller and why I’m so happy the room can contain my girth. Unlimited fries is not a good thing, no matter what anyone tells you.

What am I teaching my children? The horrors of gluttony...

And then, because Zoe hadn’t seen it, we took in a 2nd show of Tangled. Yes, the movie had just opened in theatres, but Disney OWNS it. So new movies are shown on the ship as well. Heck, if I had gone two weeks later, I could have seen Tron Legacy! How cool would that have been? They may have had a crazy Tron Opening Premiere Party!! Of course, the only one who would’ve been excited would be me. My family aren’t exactly geeks. I’m training my kids though.

Later that night, we go for dinner. Ekko was looking forward to having escargot again. She’s only had it on the Disney Cruise but she remembers it and loves it. That’s my girl.

That's my niece, Joy. I haven't really got permission to post pics of them, which is why they're rarely pictured.

Zoe, finds out that her Auntie freaks out when she does her eye thing to her. This pleases her greatly.

Who teaches my children these things? Certainly not me. My eyes dry out just looking at this.

We return to retire for the night and are greeted by an open bunk bed and a Towel Animal. The Towel Animal Folding Standards have become a bit lax though.

I think it's supposed to be a rabbit... or maybe a praying Gungan.

Day 3 – Castaway Cay

You may not be aware of this, but Disney owns an island. They’ve imported the sand, perfect seashells for children to pick, and probably eradicated every insect. On this island they have food, fruit, and beaches. It’s wonderful.

When we first arrived, I immediately headed for the hammocks. They’re in the shade. I was wary (i.e. warned) not to bring my iPad so I figured a good resting would do. Of course, the whole trip had been nothing but rest, but it was amazing how tired one got from doing nothing. At least I could bring my camera.

My view looked something like this, except larger.

Ekko started collecting seashells. In the end, she claimed to have collected 218 sea shells. As I mentioned before, the sand is littered with little shells and for the next few days, we will find these shells about our clothes, our bags, our room, our car, our house. Sad state of affairs.

They also have pre-drilled holes! They're just enabling us to become useless and unskilled in shell drilling...

We needed to be on the boat for 5pm and we stayed as long as we could. The weather was nice, not too hot, and not too cold. My dad enjoyed looking for fish in the water. I enjoyed playing in the sand. They served barbecue ribs. I got some mango. And the hammocks. Can’t forget the hammocks.

Time to return back to the ship! Our dinner didn’t start until 8:15, so we lounged about until then. We did our daily fry run, and we also explored a bit. Oh, one thing I did forget to mention was the third floor. It’s decked out in this 1960’s motif and with the port holes and the water and such, it so reminded me of Bioshock!

So many geek references and no one to share it with. Next trip I take I'm bringing nerds with me.

We do have another tradition, and that’s to sit in the hot tub for an hour until dinner starts. There was some football game on so there were a number of people watching it on the big screen. One was watching it in the hot tub with us, but with the three children bounding about in the hot tub, she soon left. I wanted to see the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which was playing in the theatre, but I figured I should spend time with my family because they tend to do things like cry and whine.

My sister wanted to get a family pic by the Christmas tree, so we had to gather for that before dinner.

We did get a nice family one, but I'm not scanning it in.

Our dinner, our last dinner, was held at the Animator’s Palette. I can’t recall what we had, but every night I had beef of some sort. Keren had expensive wine. Oh, that reminds me, the coffee sucks on this ship. I liked everything about the cruise, except the coffee. I don’t know if it’s the cream, or the coffee, but I just didn’t enjoy it. At least it’s free, you can’t go wrong with that! And there are unlimited fries. Who can complain when there are unlimited fries?

My kids were getting pretty tired of the picture taking...

After dinner were the pictures with the princesses. My sister took them. My wife and I were spared from this because we had to return the pagers and wristbands to the ship. What were they for? There are places where you can leave your kids so that the parents could partake in wonton, feral, jungle passion elsewhere. We, unfortunately, didn’t abuse this privilege enough.

For the final time, we return to our room. The steward left us the last Towel Animal. Personally, I think he stopped trying.

I think it's a Stealth Fighter now....

Final Day – The Return Home

And that’s it! We had to make sure that we could pay all the stewards, waiters, assistant waiters, head waiters, etc. There is a lot of compulsory tipping that needed to be done. And the next morning we had to get up early because disembark was at 9am.

We stayed another night in Orlando which was wonderful. We went shopping at the mall because we actually didn’t buy anything on the ship and we needed to feed our unbridled addiction to consumerism. The girls got some Rapunzel doll with 17 inches of hair. I bought myself an iPad Compass stand. I needed it. Honest I did.

Yet another critical device I need to enhance my ipad gaming...

Our flight was at 7am so we had to get up at an insane hour to make the shuttle. At least the hotel had make your own waffles! They provided the batter, you poured it in, you flip over the griddle, and after a few minutes, BING! Waffle done. Very cool.

Early and our hair is messy, but we got waffles!

On the flight up, we had some issues with the ear pressure thing, so I made sure to scour the hotel for gum. They didn’t have any. “Oh well,” I thought, “I will get some at the airport.” They didn’t have any there either.

Ekko asked the cashier why there was no gum. Apparently, people stuck them all over the place, and now they don’t sell gum. They probably don’t sell gum in the states at all. Rotten gum stickers.

We returned home to snow and cold. But it was good to be home. As I mentioned before, Keren forgot where the car was parked, but I downloaded that pic to my iPad. Thank you, iPad! Thank you.

Ekko was excited about the snow. That's my girl...

Would I recommend a Disney Cruise? Yes! If you have kids, love to laze about, eat, and be pampered, go! It’s also better when someone pays for you.

See all of that? I don't have any of it. Mostly because of the children.