Saturday, May 22, 2010

Photos from the trip

In conclusion, we had over 400 photos from this two week trip. We were really happy with the adventure overall. Definitely a trip of a lifetime. The jet lag coming back was not too bad. We had Saturday night and Sunday to recover prior to braving work and life once again. We were very happy with Disney, the ship, the ports, etc. If you are planning or considering a trip like this, go for it. Here are a few of our snapshot memories.

Photos - Scott with the kids in the Coliseum in Rome, Erin with the kids in Sorrento, a family photo overlooking the Amalfi Coast, and a family photo in Pisa.

Add Image
Add Image

Add Image

Add ImageAdd ImageAdd ImageAdd Image

Friday, May 14, 2010


We made it to our last port! What a great trip this has been. The weather was predicted to be passing showers, but we ended up with another lovely spring day. For our itinerary on this trip, the stops in Villafranche and Corsica were reversed since the Gran Prix conflicted with the stop in Villafranche. However, now, the day in Corsica was a religious holiday in Corsica. Many of the stores were closed, but the tourist places opened for our ship and another European cruise line.

We were told that the market and other port related activities would be opened until noon, due to the holiday. We slept in a little, but were able to get off the ship by 10 a.m. Luckily, we did not have to tender and we walked right into the town of Ajaccio. There was another little petite train ride near the port. This was a 45 minute ride that hit the major tourist attractions of Ajaccio and had a 10 minute stop at one of the monuments. Ajaccio was the home of Napoleon. My thought is that Americans and maybe others do not have the same appreciation for Napoleonic history. It was slightly interesting, but not enough for me to really want to tour the home he was born in, etc.

Ajaccio is filled with tons of cafes and bars on every street. There are mountains and other islands within view. We walked around a few of the streets and found the open air market. Vendors were selling cured meats, cheeses, wine, and pastries. There was a vendor with buy it by the weight candy in so many different shapes and colors. The kids got a little bag of candy and we sat by the market. We kept walking and found a play ground. We played with other cruisers and natives for 30 minutes and then we went back to the ship due to kid bathroom needs. It was a nice taste of Corsica.

Back on the ship, we changed into bathing suites and went to the pool. It was not very crowded and the boys decided to try the large, winding Mickey slide. It goes very slow. They loved it and tried it over and over. When the sun went behind a cloud, it was chilly. The boys swam and did the slide, then we went back to the room to bathe them, then lunch. It was a fun, relaxing day. There was a promotion for a back massage, so I had 30 minutes R&R in the spa. Other highlights include Josh loosing his tooth. It has been loose the entire trip. The tooth fairy came last night and left them each one Euro. When in Europe, the tooth fairly delivers the currency of the related country.

Before dinner, we got autographs with Daisy and Donald. Then, we saw Mickey and Minnie. All characters were dressed in their French costumes.

Scott and I had dinner at Palo's for our anniversary. It was a great, relaxing day and the entire family celebrated our anniversary.

Today we are at sea. It is our last day. I will be packing and we are hopefully going to swim a bit. The weather is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. You would not believe how many movies play around the clock on the TV, in the theater, and in the kid's club area. Seriously, it is a chilly day, so we may not be able to swim. A special thank you to Jessica for helping keep my blog alive.

I will update the blog when we are home and post some photos and final thoughts. Ciao friends.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Villafranche and the French Riviera

As we approach the tail end of our trip, there are lots of tired kids and tired parents. I started to notice more kids having meltdowns and several parents having meltdowns as well. There was one mom crying hysterically, upset with her kids on the tender leaving the ship this morning. Luckily, it was not me, but I know the feeling!!!

Last night was the Pirate Party. We dressed the kids in their pirate costumes for dinner. There was pirate training and face painting after dinner in the kid's club. Before dinner, we had photo opportunities and autographs with Captain Hook, Smoot, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Chip and Dale and others were also in pirate costumes. At 10 p.m., the dance party and show started on the outside deck. There were games, dancing, our photos on the big screen, etc. Then, Mickey rode down on a zip line from the top of the ship's stack down to the stage. I was not feeling great for the person dressed in a Mickey costume who had to ride a zip line in the dark on a moving ship. The party ended with fireworks. Joy. That was a real treat. Then, an outdoor buffet. We were exhausted and headed back to the room.

The morning we arrived in Villafranche. It was another port where we needed to ride a tender to get to shore. The tender in Villafranche was much nicer than La Spezia. Villafranche is a beautiful port and our ship pulled in with a very good view of the town, outskirts, and mountain cliffs surrounding us. The French Riviera is breathtaking and so unique.

Due to our extensive travel and touring over the last few days, we had no set plans for this visit. We slept through breakfast, got lunch on the ship, then headed to town. Many people traveled by bus or train to Nice or Monte Carlo. The boys were really not up for a very adventurous day, so we just winged it. Outside of the port, there was a small train ride you could take around town. The cost was 6 Euro for adults and 3 for children. It left every 25 minutes. We were excited for the train ride, since we really did not know what we were going to do in town. The train took us around town past the Citadel, the pier, harbor, and up the hill into the upper part of town. We were able to get the feel for the town and if you listened very carefully, the guide was speaking English with a very heavy French accent. Scott thought he was speaking French. After our tour, we walked the streets and up to some of the streets higher on the cliff. The boys counted the steps (almost 100 steps up at one point in our treck) and I attempted to go in several of the shops. Shopping with the family does not really work, but we got a sense of the pretty, quaint town. We purchased a few souvenirs and went to a cafe.

Scott ordered a cappuccino, me a double espresso, ice cream for the kids, and two crepes - one savory and one sweet - Gran Marnier and one veggie. It was actually called "ratatouille." We enjoyed the view of the boats and several huge yachts in the harbor, walked around some more, then headed back to the ship. The journey was about three hours and very relaxed. We had some sun and a little spring breeze. There was a small beach that you could walk to if the weather was a bit warmer.

Tomorrow is Scott and my ten year anniversary and we have dinner reservations at the nicer restaurant called Palo. Our waiter brought us an anniversary cake tonight at dinner and they sang to us. After dinner, the kids went to the super hero party at the kid's club. Scott and I walked one mile around the ship and went to the show. It was a tribute to Walt Disney. It was a mixture of movie films from the Disney archive with Walt, the movies and creation of the parks, and singing/dancing.

Tomorrow is Corsica. We received notification that our planned excursion was cancelled - the Train Tour - due to technical difficulties. We will explore a bit on our own and maybe go to the pool if the weather holds up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rome and Pisa

The evening before Rome, the kids did not want to leave the play area. Snow White and Dopey came by to play duck, duck, goose and other games. Josh and Max really don't like the princesses. Last night at dinner, all the princesses came by and went to every table. We saw Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Since they stayed late and played the night before Rome, instead of PJs for bed, we just dressed them for our day in Rome. It was a lot easier to just have them hop out of bed, eat a bagel, and go.

Marco, the owner of Rome Connection, met us outside the ship. He is popular with Disney families, since he has seven kids of his own and is obviously kid friendly. He does not charge for the kids, which is also a plus. Disney was writing down all the names of the people who had private excursions. I guess since Rome is over an hour from the ship, they want to know who is going out without them? With Marco, we were able to see all the highlights of the city and zip around from place to play pretty easily. We started at the Coliseum. Instead of waiting in line for tickets, he bought them from a kiosk on the way so we would not have to wait. First, we went up on a bluff and he showed us the before and after photos of the Coliseum. We listened to the rich history and took great photos overlooking the Coliseum. We have a few really nice family photos from this trip. Then, we drove down to tour the Coliseum. We saw the ruins and lots of replicas of the gladiator armor. They had images and information on all the different types of animals that the gladiators fought and replicas of the pulley system that brought the animals from the holding cages under the stage up to the fighting ring. We walked around the entire Coliseum, watched the movie, and bought mini gladiators as toys/souvenirs.

After the Coliseum, we drove by several monuments and got out to tour Circus Maximus. Then, the Pantheon. We were getting hungry for lunch and Marco took us to a family friendly restaurant near the Vatican for pizza and pasta. After the break, gellato. I have been resisting gellato, but finally gave in. Scott had caramel, Max chocolate, Josh strawberry, and I had cinnamon and pistachio (you can get two in one cup). Yum. Next stop, Trevi Fountain. It was very crowded, but we enjoyed the huge fountain. The kids put their hands in the fountain and some Japanese tourists wanted to take their photos with Josh and Max. We stayed at the fountain for awhile, then walked the streets. We stopped for coffee and the kids had lemon soda. It was so lemony and they laughed and laughed at how the tart taste and the bubbles tickled their lips and tong. We went to a large square with several fountains next. The kids chased the pigeons and each other. They were getting wild and exhausted. We found a toy store and purchased Pinocchio marionettes, then decided to head back to the ship. It was a whirlwind of a day, but very exciting. Marco also gave us a bottle of wine as a gift.

The kids went to the play area after dinner and we went to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D.
Today, we arrived in La Spezia, Italy. It is a smaller, military port near Pisa and Florence. The sky was grey and the cool weather seems to be back. We had to take a tender from the ship to the port. Quite a few people were heading on buses to Pisa, like us. It is a one hour drive to Pisa, which is an incredibly crowded tourist destination. In Pisa, we received little headphones attached to radios so that our tour guide can speak into a microphone and we can hear it right into our ear. This is a great thing, so tour guides do not have to yell and everyone can hear. We went into the church and baptistery and took lots of photos outside the tour. We only had 30 minutes of free time after the guided tour. It felt a bit rushed. On the way back to the ship, the weather really let loose with rain. Luckily we had okay weather in Pisa. Disney sends photographers out to the major tourist areas, so we also had professional photos taken at the leaning tower.

Tonight is Pirate's Night. Captain Hook and Jack Sparrow will be in the lobby for autographs and pictures. If the rain stops, there will be a dance party and fireworks outside on the deck.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Amalfi Coast

We arrived in port this morning and the first question of the day from Josh was very cute... Are we going to Staples today? Yes, today we arrived in Naples, not to be confused with Staples. The weather was a perfect spring day and we had booked a private driver to see Sorrento, Positano, and the Amalfi Coast. Private car was a good choice, since the coast is incredibly treacherous and these are huge cliffs overlooking the sea. They are basically one and a half lane roads that wind from town to town along the coast. Buses are really not able to cover as much of these towns as you can in a car or van. We booked our tours today and tomorrow in Rome through Our driver was Geatano and he was native to Sorrento. Most of Giovano's job today was to drive us safely from town to town and he highlighted the history, terrain, agriculture, and politics of the area. The drive from the port of Naples to Sorrento passes by Mt. Vesuvio, a volcano that towers over Pompeii. We opted out of a visit to Pompeii since we will see so many ruins tomorrow in Rome. Our first stop (about 40 minutes) was to Sorrento. We spent an hour of free time around Sorrento and enjoyed shopping. Sorrento was our favorite stop of the day. It was clean, lots of open air cafes, and interesting shops. Scott purchased three silk ties and two leather belts. I purchased new shoes. I am wearing them now.

After free time in Sorrento, we drove through Positano and stopped along the way for several photo opportunities. Since Geatano was from Sorrento, we took some back roads by vineyards and lemon orchards. We stopped by his friend's home and they gave us a homemade bottle of wine to take back with us on the ship. How cool was that? On the cliffs of Positano, we stopped to try some blood oranges. For lunch, we wanted pizza, pasta and a view. There is my version of lunch with a view and the Geatano's very literal version. He took us to one of the highest lookout points on the coast near the town of Ravello in a town called Pontone. The restaurant has a web site, so I am hoping if you go here, you can see this place... We tried the gnocchi, pasta with clams and mussels, pizza margarita, and pizza with mushrooms and olives. Scott and I had an espresso and the kids had lemon profiteroles. Sorry for the spelling errors! We ran around outside the restaurant and then spent time walking and enjoying Ravello. I had a latte and Scott and the kids had lemon ice. The kids slept on the way back to the ship and we compared notes with Geatano regarding schools for our kids, politics, economy, and life.

The show tonight was the showing of the new release Disney movie Oceans. The fish danced on screen in a Disney animated sort of way set to wonderful, dramatic music. There were lots of big eyed fish and wonderful colors. Big fish eat little fish, so chomp chomp. Makes you think twice about Sea World and Orcas!

Last night, the show was Once Upon a Song. It was a show with five very talented singers singing the best Disney power ballads - from classics like, "When you wish upon a star" and more recent Phil Collins and other movie mash ups. If you like Broadway, this is the right show for you. I enjoyed, but if you want Mickey, look elsewhere.

The other exciting thing is that we finally acclimated Josh and Max to the kids play area. Last night was Ninja Dodge Ball and Boys Club (the girls went to the other kid area). Yeah!!! Free time for us. It only takes our kids five days to get acclimated, so luckily this is a ten night cruise and there is some R&R insight for us.

Cheers. Tomorrow Rome.

Updates from Malta and Tunisia

We were thrilled when the boat arrived in Malta. The stone buildings with brightly painted doors and windows were very inviting. The landscape was arid, but there were wonderful colors and decorations. Our boat arrived late in to port and the evening prior, we received a rescheduled time for our tour. We were happy to be postponed from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. We were able to have a leisurely morning on the ship to get ready, eat lunch, and make our way to meet the bus. We had a very nice tour guide and learned about Malta. It's location is 70 miles south of Sicily and it is only 17 by 9 miles in length and width. It has a history of occupations by Romans and others and there a lots of stone walls, watch tours, and castles used to protect itself over the years. Our first stop on the bus was the Blue Grotto, which is a series of caves along the Med. with the most blue water you could imagine. The bus took us most of the distance, then we had to walk down about .25 miles to the boats. The motor boats held about 8 to 10 people. We went in all the caves and our boat driver tried to tell us some info, but he was difficult to understand. The local language is Maltese, but most speak British English, since Malta was a territory until the 1960s. After the boats, we purchased postcards and made our way back up the hill. Oh boy. At the top, we had our Disney "snack" break. We were able to choose a drink and everyone got a trio of bread with tomato and tuna, marinated white beans, and some other unidentifiable dip. We sat overlooking the water. Josh spilled his juice all over - yikes. We sat in the sun to dry off. Then, we were able to walk around in the stores and shop. We bought the kids ice cream cones and enjoyed the scenery. We went back to the bus, which took us to a fishing village. The Disney promo pictures showed this town with brightly colored fishing boats with "eyes" on them as superstition and protection. We walked through the market. The boys wanted the knight figurines. Max wanted the biggest ones, which were about a foot tall. We compromised on the 4 inch knights and walked the entire market and took pictures by the fishing boats. We really enjoyed the scenery and atmosphere in Malta.

Back on the boat, we were right in time for dinner. After dinner, I was exhausted. I went back to the room to rest and Scott took the kids to the magic show. I did two loads of laundry, especially after the OJ spill (and several other spills we have had along the way). Well, turns out Scott was picked from the audience along with several other men for the magic. I TOTALLY MISSED IT. In addition to the levitation thing he tried with several of the guys, the illusionist stole Scott's watch. The kids loved it.

Today was Tunis, Tunisia. We arrived to bands playing and camels waiting for our ship. It was very festive. We had changed our excursion yesterday from just a bus trip to an excursion where we could walk around the town more. We started at the Bardo Museum, which is the museum to display tile work and mosaics. The museum is being rebuilt in a new location, so I would say it was only so/so. There was a Disney activity for the kids to make their own tile mosaic. They did like it, but did not want to be left alone while the parents toured. Scott and I took turns staying with them. The tile mosaic project was pretty cool. After the museum, we went to the market and to look at the main monuments in the area. Since Tunia is an Arabic country, the culture was the least European of all our destinations. Keep in mind Tunisia is in Africa between Nigeria and Libya. I was not very comfortable in the market, but it is good to experience new cultures. I really hate bargaining, so was reluctant to shop. I hate haggling. I just want a fair and reasonable price from the start, then move on. We were able to look at an entire gallery of hand made rugs from silk, cashmere, and burger. Very cool. I did buy a real Pashmina scarf and was able to get the shop owner to include two stuffed camels for the boys. The tour was five hours and did not include a snack break. It was a bit much for everyone. The day was a success, but not my most favorite port. I would give the Bardo Museum and Market tour for families a "B minus." Tomorrow is Naples and we are so excited for pizza and gellato.

Back at the ship, we were able to swim and have lunch. There was a character party at the pool and the staff had games, performances, and activities. The kids love the pools. Dinner tonight is at Animator's Palate. This is our Show Dinner night, which means the staff will perform. This is the restaurant where the walls transform from black and white cartoon pictures to colored images as dinner progresses. Last night, Beauty and the Beast performed at dinner. The beast was really enormous. We also posed with Goofy and his son Max (of course) and Mickey in his sorcerer costume.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Update from the Cruise!

Technical issues with the ships internet have prevented my postings. Our blog web site is blocked by the satellite internet provider. Luckily, if you are reading this, we are using a work around with the help of our friend and Scott's coworker Jessica. Thanks!!!
Two days in one posting... The last afternoon in Barcelona... The weather was still a bit rainy in the morning, but we were able to sit on top of the hop on hop off bus. The view was so much better from the top of the bus. We visited La Sagrada Familia. Instead of going inside the church, we found a children's playground across the street and let the boys swing, slide, and run around. We toured the entire blue line. The trolley car and cable car ride to another hill top were closed. This was really disappointing. We decided to have lunch in an older part of town. I think it was called Saria. It was a very nice part of town and less touristy than Las Ramblas. Lunch in a small cafe with a very traditional Spanish owner. Fried hot dogs, fried eggs, and French fries. Very Spanish. Not so great for cholesterol. The owner gave the boys ice cream to go. I had to find a pharmacy; with all the rain the day before, my cold that I had tried to leave behind in the US started to come back. We drove by the Barcelona soccer stadium. It hold 100,000 people. I think they said it was the largest stadium in Europe? Don't hold me to the facts, but I seem to recall them mentioning it on the audio tour. Around noon or 1 PM, the sun finally started to break out from behind the clouds. Por fin.
If you were wondering, Disney would not check our bags at the hotel. They would be happy to sell us the transfer from the hotel to the ship. Not. We had stored our eight bags in the morning. With all the ships docking that morning, the hotel lobby was filled with people disembarking and waiting for rooms. We got our bags and got a taxi to the ship. Yeah. Everyone was excited and bouncing around. The taxi was very inexpensive from the hotel to the ship. Maybe 10 or 12 Euro. We got to the port later than most - around 3 p.m. It was not crowded at all. Our taxi pulled up to the check in area. Porter took the bags; we checked in within 20 minutes. By checking in late, we did not get to see Mickey, but we were happy to miss the check in chaos.
The room was ready and is very large for cruise standards. Josh's comment was, even though the room is small, he still like it. Hmm. I had to explain that this is one of the largest rooms available, on the highest deck, and that it has a deck and patio. I think he got my point. The kids jumped all over the room, played hide and seek, and checked out the balcony. We were able to see the Barcelona cargo area loading and unloading ships.
Muster drill was not too bad. We attended the sail away party on the deck and got to see all of the characters. Our dinner server is from Bulgaria, which fits us well. Most of you know our friend and former nanny is Bulgarian. We were able to easily bond. First dinner was in Animator's Palate. It was a black and white background. The kid's food is great. The boys had fruit, mac n cheese, and veggies. Of course, dessert was ice cream on sticks in the shape of Mickey ears. The evening show was well done and we got a taste of our performers for the week. We have a hilarious ventriloquist from England and a talented, but a bit strange Illusionist from Paris.
Day 2, sea day - This morning we had our character breakfast. Then, the kids went for 1.5 hours to the kids area. They made flubber. We have taken to family games of foosball on the outdoor deck. Today was all about relaxing and getting acquainted with the ship. We had a 2 p.m. meet and greet with our friends from the disboards - the Disney message boards where we have been posting and sharing info before the cruise. We keep joking with the kids trying to get them to believe that the Disney characters are real. Max's funny comment was that he was going to take their heads off to check.
Tonight was formal night. Honestly, I could do without it, but whatever. Since we dress up for work, who wants to dress on vacation? I felt bad having to dress the kids. They did not want to have to wear ties. Josh slept through dinner and only awoke to eat three shrimp. We saw the family version of the ventriloquist's show - so funny. Everyone enjoyed. Then, the evening show was Twice Charmed, a twist on Cinderella. Very well done. I loved Bippidy, Bobbidy, Boo. Today was princess day, but we did not really partake in any princess activities.
Tomorrow is Malta. XXX/OOO