Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Time I Did A Disney Transatlantic Cruise - Days 1 & 2

This is my super detailed, picture-overloaded cruise trip report of to the 11-night trip I took in September, 2015. It was originally posted on On that forum I was writing for people who are already familiar with the Disney cruises and ships. The following is an edited (and yet... expanded) version that anyone should be able to read. (And enjoy? Hmm, maybe!)

Read on, if ye dare....

In September, 2015, I completed my first cruise -- ever -- and it was quite an adventure! I did the Disney Magic's 11-night Westbound Transatlantic from Barcelona to Miami, with stops in Funchal, Madeira (Portugal) and Castaway Cay (Disney's private island in the Bahamas). I traveled solo. I took about 800 photos, but don't worry, you won't have to look at all of them....

Pre-Cruise Stuff

I did a quick self-guided tour of Europe before the cruise... 2 nights in southern Germany, 2 nights in Bern, Switzerland, 2 nights in Milan, Italy, 1 night in Venice, Italy, and 3 nights in Barcelona. By the time September 19th rolled around, I was definitely ready to get on the ship and be able to be in one place (well, sort of) for 11 nights... to be able to unpack, not have to worry about buses or trains or planes for a while, etc. Relaxation? Food? Mickey Mouse? YES PLEASE.

Day 1 - Saturday, September 19th

For the first time since booking the cruise 16 months before, I had a nightmare that I missed the boat. Ack! But I woke up in plenty of time... early, actually. I had to go shoe shopping in Barcelona, as I had nothing but sneakers with me (and I was planning to do the classy Palo brunch on the ship one afternoon). Once the shoe shopping was complete, I checked out of my hotel and got a taxi to the port. 

My port arrival time was 12:30. I got there a few minutes early, so I waited till my official arrival time, then got in line. First I had to show my passport. Then I handed one of my bags to a porter. After that, there was a security checkpoint. Once in the terminal, I stood in a long line to check in. It took about half an hour to get to the front of that line. I got my Key To The World card (a nifty card that's both a room key and an ID card for on-board transactions) and they took my picture. Then I got a ticket with a boarding number on it. My number had already come up, so I got to go through the door towards the boat right away.

From there, another line! All in all, it took an hour between the time I arrived at the port and the time I actually stepped into the atrium. I guess an hour isn't that bad, but when you're so excited, ugh!

I had lunch at Cabanas (the ship's buffet restaurant) and I was delighted with it. I knew that it would be a buffet, but I didn't realize how big it would be! I immediately pounced upon my favorite foods -- macaroni & cheese, french fries, mashed potatoes. (So healthful.) Later, I got a snack from Daisy's (a snack shop)... and some sodas... annnnd 2 ice cream cones. Oh, those self-serve ice cream machines are dangerous!

My room was ready by 1:30. I was in Room 2512, 2nd floor, starboard, forward. I loved having a porthole. Maybe next time I'll do a veranda, though.

I spent my first few hours on the boat getting acquainted with the layout and doing laundry (I had been traveling for over a week by that point). Another passenger saw me wandering the halls looking slightly bewildered, and said he had a helpful hint to give me... that on the carpets, there were stars with 5 points, and the top point always faced toward the front of the ship. That was helpful indeed.

The laundry turned out to be a bit challenging. The detergent dispenser on Deck 2 wouldn't give detergent, but I didn't know if I was just doing something wrong, so it turned out that I swiped my KTTW (Key To The World) card 6 times and those all went through, but... no detergent. A CM (castmember/crewmember) passed by and I told him what had happened. He brought me 2 boxes of detergent. Later, I went up to Guest Services, and they were very nice about taking off the 4 extra $1 charges. When my laundry finished being washed, I had to take it back to the room and hang it up to dry, because 2 of the dryers were out of order and the other 2 were being used. 

A lot of things seemed to be going wrong on that first day around the ship. (This was the first sailing since the ship had been in dry dock for refurbishments.) I saw several maintenance people running around fixing things, even painting things. The ice cream machines weren't working at first. And I had understood (or maybe just assumed) that we'd be sailing around 4pm, but by 6pm we hadn't moved an inch. In fact, a lot of the luggage was still sitting outside of the ship.

At some point, mid-afternoon, we had a muster drill, which is like a lifeboat drill but without the boats. You just hear an alarm and you go to a designated location and they check you off and give you some safety pointers. Depending on which stateroom you have, your muster station might be on deck or somewhere indoors. Mine was in the Walt Disney Theater (yay seating!)

A few hours later, I was once again sitting in the Walt Disney Theater, this time to watch the live show "All Aboard - Let The Magic Begin!" As a Beauty & The Beast fan, I'm thrilled by anything BATB related, and that show includes a short rendition of Be Our Guest. While we were in the theater, the ship set sail -- I could feel the slight vibrations from my seat. On our way at last!

After the show, I went out on the decks to take photos of the ship leaving Barcelona....

Soon it was dinner time. I had "second seating", which began each night around 8:15pm. Disney cruises have you rotate between three dining rooms. Your servers (waiters) rotate along with you. My dining rotation was: 1. Carioca's, 2. Lumiere's, and 3. Animator's Palate. So that first night was Carioca's. I was seated at Table 50, with other solo travelers -- Josh, Joanna, Gail, Bill, Gareth, and Chris.

I didn't keep track of what I ate every night, nor did I take photos every time. I did note that on this night I had the vegetarian risotto, and it was delicious. And here was my dessert....

After dinner I went to the gift shops again, and this time I bought a few pins. I'm not an avid pin-trader, but I do enjoy collecting pins of my favorite characters/movies. We were told that a 2015 Transatlantic pin would become available for sale the evening we departed from Madeira.

(Yeah, I traded away every one of these pins by the end of the cruise.)

By 10:41 pm, we had traveled 77 nautical miles (so said my stateroom TV info channel). I was trying to guess when we'd reach the Strait Of Gibraltar. I figured we'd reach it by the next morning, but I was about 12 hours off (we reached it the following evening.)

First day of the cruise? Good. 11 more to go!​

This was my towel animal that night, next to the brown bear I got in Barcelona, affectionately named Orso.

Annnd chocolate!

Day 2 - Sunday, September 20th

I woke up Sunday feeling a little strange. Falling asleep the night before, I had been very aware of the rocking of the ship. I felt like I was drugged or had the flu. (Again, this was my first cruise, so I had no idea how I'd feel.) Saturday night, I put on the Sea Bands I'd brought and listened to an audiobook till I fell asleep. In the morning, I still felt weird, but hoped those feelings would subside as I got used to the motion.

I had a big, delicious breakfast at Cabana's buffet. Then I went back to the room, where I watched some Robin Hood on the TV. (The stateroom TVs on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have various channels that play loops of certain movies. No On-Demand here. But it's cool. I love me some RH.)

I should mention now that I loved having Disney movies playing on the TV 24/7... even if they did play a few I don't care for. Throughout the cruise I watched 101 Dalmatians, Mulan, Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Dumbo, Cinderella, Pollyanna, and others I can't remember at the moment.

Porthole selfie!

Around noon, I was off to Lumiere's restaurant for a scheduled "Cruisin' Solo" lunch. Three or four other ladies showed up, and we had a nice chat. I ordered a fruit cocktail for an appetizer. For the main course, I had pasta with tomato and mushrooms. Then some kind of chocolate pudding thing for dessert.

One of the other ladies had ordered strawberry ice cream, but before dessert came, she received a message on her Wave Phone (on-board person-to-person communication devices) and told us she had to leave to get to an event on time, so she left. The waiter brought the deserts a few minutes later, and when he saw that the lady had left, he gave her ice cream to me! It was actually tastier than the pudding, so... score! (But yeah, I ate way too much that day. It took me a few days of cruising to learn that moderation was actually a good thing.)

After an early afternoon nap, I decided to drop in on a few different activities.

I watched BINGO for a little while...

...but I never did feel compelled to fork over $$ for that. (It's like $35 for 4 paper cards.)

Then I went to something called "Playmation", which turned out to be an Avengers toy demo in the Promenade Lounge. It was meant for kids, I discovered, and I didn't find it very interesting, so I didn't stay long.

Next I went to O'Gill's pub for something called "1820 Society: Game Challenge." I just thought I'd sit in on it and watch. Besides, I was secretly hoping it had something to do with people sitting around talking about the Regency period. But alas, it was the meetup group for 18-20 year-olds. One of the castmembers (Brian? I think) was there, and he was urging people to come to the TV and play Star Wars Angry Birds. No one else stepped up, so I thought, why not? So I played some Angry Birds!

At 6:15 I went to the Walt Disney Theater for the show of the evening: "Twice Charmed." I enjoyed it very much.

After the show, lots of people went out on the decks because we were passing through the Strait Of Gibraltar, and The Rock was (barely) visible. So much fog!

Yep, there it is.

Tonight was our first formal night of the cruise. I saw lots of tuxes, even some on little kids! Cute. One lady even had a sparkly gown. Me? Well, I'm slightly less glitz-prone.

Dinner that night was at Lumiere's. I had wild mushroom soup (yum), veggie lasagna (double yum), and for dessert, bread pudding. I decided I would not order Disney's pudding anymore, because the texture isn't to my liking.

At 10pm, I went to an Open House at the Oceaneer Lab. The Oceaneer Lab is one of two spaces onboard for kids ages 3-12. Open House means anyone, including adults and kids of all ages, can be in the space. For the first hour, we could just wander around and try the different activities in the lab, like coloring pictures or playing video games. 

At 11pm, we got to make Flubber in an event called "Super Sloppy Science."

"Professor Makeamess" orchestrated the event. There were a lot of adults there, and the Professor only had a couple of helpers, so it took a while to get supplies to all of us. In the end, some people successfully made flubber, and some made... well, messes. We were urged to keep our flubber in our stateroom fridge. I wonder how many people accidentally left theirs there at the end of the cruise?

Back to the stateroom, where I set my clocks back by an hour... the first of 6 or 7 time changes throughout the cruise.

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