Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Kleinfelter's European Adventure - Part 4 - Transatlantic Cruise

Click here for part 3

September 17, 2016 - Embarkation Day

We arrived at the cruise port by 11:00am and it was already quite busy.  Several people in line introduced themselves and mentioned that they had been reading our blog.  That was fun.
We got a great surprise by being picked to be the family of the day.  We were escorted out of line and they got us all checked in and everything.  When it was time to board, they announced us as the family of the day and then we got to be first to board the ship!  Earlier today, Jacob had unrealistically predicted that we would be first to board, so he’s taking credit for this.

It was very exciting to be selected as Family of the Day. It really was just a skip the lines pass, but it made us feel very special to be escorted around to each area. Some of the areas didn’t have lines anyway, like the kids' club check in.  It was also cool to walk onto a practically empty ship. They did not even let people start lining up until after we had boarded. We did a quick walk around taking pictures of the empty ship first and then we were still one of the first to get to lunch at the buffet. We also got a certificate to commemorate this special occasion.

Our rooms were ready at 1:30pm.  We have connecting rooms which works out great for us.  Plenty of room for us and with the balcony opened up, we have a nice area out there as well.

We took the kids to play at the kids' club.  It’s open house time right now so we get to play with them.  Zachary is thrilled to finally be in the kids' club.  He’s been waiting for this forever – We’re thrilled too!  The only trouble is getting him out of there.  He throws a tantrum when it’s time to go. 

Pixie Hollow
Avengers Academy

The Edge
Jacob and Max have graduated to The Edge for 11 to 14 year olds.  They’re not sure about it yet.  No Minecraft (just as well), and they’re not sure what there is to do there.  I think they’ll be happier about it when there are organized activities and once they get to know some of the other kids.
This cruise has less than 300 kids on board compared to the normal 900, so they will all be getting extra attention (like it or not) and it will be a much quieter cruise than usual I’m sure.

We had the usual muster drill and then the sail away party (although the ship didn’t actually sail away until over an hour after it was scheduled to leave.)  Zachary and the girls liked dancing and seeing the characters.  The older boys liked seeing themselves on the big screen.

Soon it was time for dinner at Animator’s Palate.  The food and service were both amazing!  Really couldn’t be happier.  I think it’s funny how the waiters on cruises are always like, “Are you sure?” when I order whatever I order for dinner.  Apparently, I usually like things that aren’t the best things on the menu.
Our waiter Pedro and assistant waiter Joao are really great! I also really like how Disney does their dining. We rotate between three restaurants and keep our dining time and wait staff the whole cruise. It's nice to have the change of venue while keeping the waiters who have already gotten used to our needs. Our dining rotation started at Animators Palate which starts out all black and white and slowly changes to color, Even the staff's uniforms! Then Sorcerer Mickey made an appearance as well. It was fun and Zach and Zoe seemed especially excited and impressed!
After dinner, Zach and the girls went to the kids club and Kyrie and the boys went to the All Aboard show.  I checked out the rest of the ship and also saw some of the show.  The All Aboard show was familiar from past cruises but had been improved with recent updates. It also features some entertainment that will be highlighted other nights of the cruise.

As I was walking around I happened to notice that some of the kids from the kids club went to one of the lounges to play a game show.  Zach and Ella were there and I figured Zach wouldn’t want to stay, but when I checked it out a little while later Zach was behind one of the contestant podiums. (I could only see the top of his head) and then a minute later he was giving one of the crew members a high five.  I don’t know what it was about since parents weren’t allowed in, but Ella said that Zach got second place out of the four contestants and one was a much older kid.

Marc actually relaxing for a moment on our double balcony
After they marched the kids back to the kids club, I checked to see if they were ready to go back to the room, but of course they weren’t.  By then the other show was over.  Kyrie and I had to coax the older boys into trying out their club.  They were having an introduction to the club and ice breakers so we thought they should go to that to get a better idea of what the club would be like.  They finally agreed to go, but only for a half hour for the introduction.  I made sure they got there okay and then went to a movie.  An hour and 15 minutes later, Kyrie had me check on the boys because they hadn’t come back yet (we haven’t yet gotten used to them having their independence on the ship yet.)  They were in there playing a boys vs girls (“Gender Wars”) trivia game and ended up staying until midnight.  Guess they don’t mind their club anymore!

September 18, 2016

After insisting that he wanted to sleep in the kids' room, Zach ended up sleeping in our bed most of the night.  I kept putting him one of the other beds in our room, but he kept coming back.  Luckily, we got back one of our hours last night and I was able to sleep in (Max and Zach did as well).
Saw a pod of dolphins this morning.  That was cool.  They were going the other way, so I didn’t get to see them for very long.

After breakfast, Kyrie and the boys went to see The Jungle Book in the movie theater and I took Zach and the girls to a Frozen meet and greet.  Zach was a little nervous about Olaf (who was taller than Anna and Elsa) and basically stuck to Anna the whole time. 

The little ones were anxious to get back to the kids' club, so I dropped them off there and got caught up on writing this.

It’s a nice day today (sunny, mid 70’s) so everyone is having some pool time.  Fun to watch movies at the pool!  The kids like the easy access to pizza and snacks.  The kids played a game of poolside bingo to pick the next movie on the Funnelvision – they didn’t win, but the winners picked Tarzan which we haven’t seen, so it worked out.

They served really good Gyros by the pool.  Kind of a hidden gem, no sign and it’s by the kid slide so it’s not obvious. It's attached to the burger and hot dog stand but indeed  isn't obvious.

We’ve been sailing along the southern coast of Spain all day.  We aren’t close enough to see much – we should have brought binoculars.  It’s very mountainous.  Lots of lights at night.
W saw more dolphins in the evening.  So fun! One of the dolphins was very close to the ship. We hear there are likely whales out there too.

Dinner was at Caricos restaurant.  Brazilian themed d├ęcor and food – Neither were the best.  We definitely prefer the other restaurants, but our wait staff is excellent.

Joao did a magic trick for us tonight which the kids will come to expect each night now.
Zachary loves how they always pour ketchup in the shape of a Mickey head and points exactly where he wants it on his plate (even though he never eats his fries or uses the ketchup.)

Tonight was formal night, but we did the best we could considering we only packed one carry on size suitcase per person. We did a little better than jeans at least.

The boys and I went to the Twice Charmed show (kind of alternate ending to the traditional Cinderella story.)  It was entertaining.  Kyrie and Zach watched it on TV in the room because we thought Zach would go to sleep.  He did, but not until it was almost over.  The girls stayed up latest tonight.  They went to Pluto’s pajama party until 11pm.

September 19, 2016

We crossed the straights of Gibraltar in the middle of the night – wish we could have seen that.
Now we are out in the Atlantic.  No sign of land anywhere and it's quite wavy of course.  The blue ocean is more of a navy blue compared to yesterday when it was a dark blue.  The ship seems to be moving faster now, but I can’t be certain of that. 

Filming the Morning Show
It’s in the low 70’s, but with the wind it’s a little chilly to be using the pool.  It’s mostly cloudy too.
Youngest members of the audience
Our sleeping arrangements worked better last night. The older boys took the bottom bunks in each room and the girls took the top bunks. Marc sleeps more soundly than I do, so he and Zach took the big bed in one room and I got the other to myself (except of course when Zach woke up complaining since I can always settle him down.) We figured it would work out well too that Zoe and Jacob were the two kids that ended up in my room Typically they are the earlier risers too, so I figure they will be joining me for early breakfast. But the girls were out late last night, so Jacob and Max actually joined me for early breakfast and we went to the live recording of the Cruise Director's Morning Show too. The others were just leaving for breakfast when we returned.

Every time we passed by these port holes the kids HAD to jump in!

Kyrie , the older boys, and I went to a really interesting presentation about Disneyland today.  It was conducted by Disney historian Stacia Martin who was very informative.  It was all about the beginnings of Disneyland with old television clips and a slideshow.  Today was about Frontierland and Adventureland.  Can’t believe how different Frontierland used to look!

The girls and Zach have been spending a lot of time at the kids club.  They have made some friends onboard - Belle and Betty Sue from the stateroom next door and Aria who was in line with us when we were boarding.

Today the boys took advantage of the fact that you can get Mickey Bars whenever you want from room service. It's not listed on the menu, but it's one of our favorite secrets for sure!
We saw a magician named Danny Buckner after lunch.  He was very funny. 
Ella and Zoe did decide to swim for a while even though it’s a bit cool.  They didn’t seem to mind very much.

The show tonight was called JunNk.  It’s a percussion group that uses everyday objects for their instruments.  It was pretty good, but Zach got bored and I only saw half the show.

September 20, 2016

Zach did not sleep well last night.  He wanted pizza right before bed and he woke up twice during the night to complain about it some more.

A beautifully set table at Animator's Palate
Zach's nightly pizza snack would become routine for the rest of the cruise. The cast member even got to know and expect him. 

This morning was our character breakfast.  Zach really liked seeing Goofy, Mickey Mouse, and Minnie Mouse. But after they’d all been to our table, he said, “I didn’t see Donald Duck” in a sad tone sticking out his bottom lip.

There were only three characters to meet, and it was a bit encouraging you to just stay seated and the character moved around to each seat if you wanted to take pictures. So following are a bunch of pictures I had to include mostly because I don't know how much longer we will see genuine smiles on the older kids for something like this. 

After a sugary exciting breakfast, we saw a movie then spent a little time in the pool figuring this may be our last chance as we head north.

The kids got their club time in too. The little ones came back with "flubber" they made with Professor Make-a-mess. We were surprised when we ran into Jacob and Max walking out of The Edge onto the pool deck where we happened to be with a strut and bandannas. Funny!

The girls laughed at the Disney art mimicking the Mona Lisa. I was impressed they recognized it.

Today was kind of movie day for us.  We watched the newer Pete's Dragon movie this morning and Finding Dory tonight.  I didn't like the Pete's Dragon movie nearly as much as the original, but it was okay.  Finding Dory was a lot of fun.

As we're writing about this day, it sounds busy, but really it was just the right amount of entertainment. We even found time to relax alone a little and open the first bottle of wine (of four) we brought onto the ship. We bought this one in Barcelona but it was a sweet Italian moscato. I liked the very plain bottle. It made it seem very rustic and unique. 

Somehow Marc and I watched the "Frozen Fun" that took place before dinner without kids too. Then we finally dragged them out of the clubs to spend time with us.

May Pole dancing for the Frozen theme of the day

Ella's character
We dined in Animator's Palate for the second time. This evening we were greeted by place mats and markers and invited to create a character. Just after dessert was served we were supposed to see our characters become animated on the screens around the restaurant. It's pretty cool to see them march and dance with real Disney characters. But unfortunately there was some kind of error and none of our characters were included. Bummer.

Tonight they had "Freezing the Night Away," which I had imagined (incorrectly) to be similar to Pirate Night.  I pictured a large party on deck with special food and drinks.  Instead there was a small show on deck.  I was staying with Zach in the room during that since he fell asleep during Finding Dory.  After the show they played Frozen on the Funnelvision screen.

The weather was freezing, so they did a pretty good job theming that. They also gave everyone light up snowflake necklaces to wear to the party. That was the best part.

When I went up there after Kyrie and I switched places, there were only a handful of people watching the movie.  The only related food was a Frozen "After Party" in the Irish Pub on the lower level.  Even there, they only had a few snacks.  Just some Scandinavian food like potato pancakes and fish stuff - and no desserts!

September 21, 2016

We’ve been getting an hour back every other day which has been great.  An extra hour of sleep every other day really helps!

Today we had our first stop at Ponto Delgada, Portugal in the Azores archipelago.  It’s over 1000 miles away from the rest of Portugal, so it kind of reminded me of Hawaii except that it’s not quite a tropical climate here.  It seems like maybe the climate is more like Seattle.  We took a tour of the middle of the island today and the tour guide says that the weather is basically in the mid 60’s and 70’s all year and the island is completely green and lush.

I was amazed by the look of the island.  Definitely like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  The island, Sao Miguel is only 40 miles east and west and 10 miles north and south.  The point at which we crossed from South to North was only a 5 mile drive! It lies near the same tectonic plates that we saw in Iceland, and consists of many mountains and several volcanoes.  What struck me the most about the island is that it looks like the whole place is manicured.  All the way up these mountains are hedge walls dividing fields, There are rows of hydrangeas lining roads, and everything is neatly trimmed.  No doubt the cows handle most of the trimming of grass, but really even the bushes appear pruned.  We saw groundskeepers quite often and they really do seem to treat the whole place as a giant garden.  It’s quite beautiful.

The tour guide said there are six counties on the island and each is responsible for maintaining the cleanliness and landscaping. He made it sound like the people here are very concerned about preservation of this wonderful island including not building up tourism to a point of detriment.

Tea Plantation
We were told that dairy is the biggest industry here.  We saw a lot of cows. The farmers don’t need barns for the animals since the climate is so mild. They just let them graze and then they bring milking trailers into the pasture twice a day to milk the cows there instead of bringing them inside. 

We stopped at Europe’s only tea plantation.  We tried the tea and then had some gelato before heading back on the road.  

Much of the machinery was original or at least pretty close. The place was very small and definitely had a strong smell of roasted tea. 

Boxing loose leaf tea? There were also bagging machines in the next room.
Taste testing

Gelato. Not our favorite of the trip, but still a treat.

Established 1883

We had many great views as we traveled up and down the mountains.  We stopped at a place called Furnas which contains an active, but collapsed volcano.  So the land around there is still very warm (even steaming in places) and the water in this area bubbles and boils from the heat.  

Looking out over Furnas Lake

The view from above over Furnas where pots are cooking

Hole labeled with the restaurant Carlos follows
 In this place, local restaurants and occasionally just regular people cook meals in holes dug into the earth.  A pot of food consisting of meat and vegetables is put in a 5 foot hole, buried with dirt, and then left for 6 hours to cook from the volcanic heat.   We were there when they were adding a new pot for dinner and digging out a lunch pot.  Wish we would have had time to eat there! 

Our tour guide had expertly timed our visit to correspond with this event…he even told us where to stand for the best view as he saw “his” restaurant’s truck pull up.

Putting a pot in for dinner
1 stick=1 pot; 2 sticks= 2 pots
Pulling a pot for lunch out
 We did stop for lunch at the village near there, but just for not so great pizza and sandwiches. 
Our tour guide, Carlos, was fantastic and clearly really loves the island.  He had a lot of great information to share and was good about keeping the kids happy on a long tour.
He also had us stand in just the right places and took nice family photos for us, and left us with a very favorable view of the island and its people. This tour was quite a bargain compared with what we’re paying in New York City for a similar length tour. I can only hope it’ll be nearly as good.

We had cabins 6528 and 6530 They are the furthest right balconies on the first level above the lifeboat.

Bottle #2. From Spain. Not good. It went down the sink.

Heading off to The Edge. Just kidding; but I'm glad he's still young enough to have some fun!

September 22, 2016

All of the kids have been enjoying their clubs.  The little kids continue to go to the Oceaneer Club every time they have the chance, and the older boys have also been enjoying the tween club – The Edge.  Last night they got to “invade” the teen space – The Vibe – which they thought was the coolest thing ever.  I think they’ve especially enjoyed the freedom to leave the club to go get snacks and to stay up late.  I would prefer they come back earlier, so I can get some sleep!

Zoe waiting outside the adults only area

I love to get up early and see the sunrise. One or two or more of the kids usually wake up in time to join me for breakfast too. (Okay, sometimes I wake up Jacob if no one else is awake so that I have some company. He is a morning person too, so I won't have to regret cutting him short on sleep like I would if it were Max, Zoe, or Zach. Ella is kind of in between. She's a little grouchy but her grouchiness never gets that bad regardless.)
This morning Zoe was awake and she accompanied me to buy a latte at the Cove Cafe (in the adults only area, so she had to wait just outside) and to the buffet. Europe has completely changed my coffee preference. I NEED to order an espresso machine when I get home. DCL (Disney Cruise Line) is notorious for bad coffee anyway, but I've lost my taste for weak American coffee now after the rich creamy lattes in France and Spain.  

Just Mom and Zoe at breakfast
It became a habit to go to the Cruise Director's Morning Show for the live recording. Each of the kids had their turns there. It was in a morning show format with interviews and special segments. It was a way to find out more about what was happening around the ship each day and also learn more about the crew and entertainers.

Cruise Director's Morning Show
 The Morning Show ends about 9:30. Usually when we return to our cabins, we catch the others just about to leave for breakfast. Today, we had reservations to meet the princesses. We all waited in line, but only the three littlest actually wanted to interact and take pictures with them. It was adorable that Zach would always wait for the princesses to open their arms for a hug, then give them the longest, tightest, nicest hug you can imagine. It made me miss the days of Jacob's and Max's toddler joyfulness.

"Yeah! I got a hug!"

Our decorated doors and full "fish extender"
We haven't talked about fish extenders yet, but for Disney Cruise newbies, it's worth mentioning. A fish extender is something that hangs from the fish decoration next to your cabin door that people put little gifts in throughout your cruise. You have to join a group online before the cruise to participate in a small group or a large group. You bring gifts for them and they bring gifts for you. You deliver them anytime during the cruise. We brought a "Who is Walt Disney?" book to give to each cabin along with a Disney bookmark identifying that it was from us.  We received all kinds of gifts including a pop up laundry hamper and detergent, t shirts for the kids, lots of personalized door magnets and candy, toys, and much too much to list.

We had another great day at sea today.  Not much to write about though.  The kids played at their clubs and we all spent some time by the pool.  Still warm enough, though the seas are getting a bit rougher.  I’ve really been enjoying getting our hours back as we sail back to North America.

This part of our vacation is definitely the most relaxing without being boring that we’ve ever had…at least since having kids. It’s a perfect finale for our exhausting but great visits to Iceland, Paris, and Barcelona.

We went to another Disneyland history presentation by Stacia Martin.  This one was about Main Street and Disney after dark.  Very interesting. 

A couple funny guys from Spain
We also watched some family karaoke which was weird but fun.

Main floor is tallest then less each floor (forced perspective)
I went on a tour of the ship highlighting the "art of the show". Everything is a show with a story line for Disney. Each area of the ship has its own story. The tour pointed out the scaling (like they use on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom parks) to make the lobby seem taller and the pub to seem smaller and more cozy. Sometimes the theme is more obvious like the way the hallway suddenly turns into a movie theater lobby and other times subtle. The "after hours" section of the ship with lounges for over 21 after 10 pm are dark and boring for kids, but there are still subtle Disney touches like the way the martini glass resembles Sorcerer Mickey's hat. The guide also pointed out a "secret." The big picture of Walt in front of the Walt Disney Theater where the main shows were held each evening has edited out the cigarette that was in Walt's hand to keep more of a family Disney image.
Ceiling gets lower and lower across the pub

Martini glass/ Sorcerer Mickey hat

Lumiere's: The most formal of the main dining rooms

This was our second time dining at Lumiere's themed after Beauty and the Beast. I didn't post a picture of it yet, so here it is. Tonight they made an appearance toward the end of dinner along with their entourage and did a little dancing before dessert.

Seems like we were dining with the real beast

The show tonight was ABBAfab.  I don’t know why, but ABBA is apparently kind of big these days.  When we were on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas last year, there was an ABBA cover band on that as well.  This one wasn’t great, but it was something different to do.

The Oceaneer's Club was having an all-night camp out.  I was kind of surprised that Ella and Zoe wanted to go.  I got a call at 1am that Ella would like to be picked up.  When I got her, I witnessed Zoe wake up and notice that Ella was leaving.  The crew member asked Zoe if she wanted to leave too, but she declined.  I got Ella to bed and fell asleep myself for a couple minutes before I got the call to pick up Zoe!  Oh well, at least they had fun before bedtime.

September 23, 2016

The sea is quite rough today.  It started last night and continues this morning.  Ella and Zoe have both complained about being seasick, but I think most of that is just being overtired.

Today was kind of busy for us.  Kyrie took Jacob and Max to breakfast and I took the girls and Zach when they woke up.  Then we dropped the kids off at the club before going to Palo (the fancy restaurant) for brunch.  It was very good.  I’m perfectly happy with any of the food on board, but Kyrie appreciates the fancy food. 

The quality of the food is extremely good at Palo (without being too fancy for us.) I also appreciate a little adult time. It is pretty rare for us!
After Palo, we picked the kids up and took them to lunch on deck. It was extremely windy which made it feel much colder too. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was playing on Funnelvision, so we tried to watch it for awhile. Catching fly away blankets and rewrapping the kids became more trouble than it was worth.

"To Max- Regards, The Beast"
Jacob and Max went to another talk by Stacia Martin, the Disney historian and artist.  Max won one of her drawings of Beast from Beauty and the Beast.  He was super excited.

She customized it for Max too. It was super awesome that Max and Jacob went to this on their own while we were at Palo and even better that Max won her sketch of the Beast. I enjoyed watching her talk on TV later in the day and seeing the part where she drew "the littlest ticket (it was torn) for the littlest winner" and she gave him the biggest character.

Kyrie and I went to Mixology class this afternoon.  That was interesting and a good value if you like cocktails.

We (kind of) learned how to make 5 cocktails. They were close to full size and most of them were good. It turns out I like a mojito when it's freshly muddled and uses citron rum and hardly any seltzer. I also kind of liked the Double Crown Cocktail even though I've never liked any whisky drink I've ever tried before. We also learned some interesting facts about the various spirits like that the main ingredient in Amaretto is apricot pits, not almonds.

Table set for our mixology "class"
Double Crown Cocktail

Really good Mojito

Apricot Martini with sparkling wine

Our instructor

Marc's well layered shot. Good if you like 1/2 a shot!
 The rest of the afternoon was quiet and Zach and Zoe took naps before dinner.  Max was waiting in the room when we got back from Mixology pretending to be sleeping, but his tablet screen still lit gave him away.

Jacob made a parrot out of his napkin
I didn’t want to wake them up when it was time for dinner because then they would have just been crabby anyway.  So I stayed with them while the others went to dinner.  The “Z’s” woke up a little while later and we went to the buffet for dinner.  To my surprise though, the buffet is a sit down restaurant at dinner time.  There were only about 10 other people there and half of them were the entertainment from other nights.  Half of ABBAfab was there and some guy in a bow tie who I think is the entertainment tomorrow.  Anyway, the dinner menu was similar to the menu in the main restaurants, but a little different and much quicker!  We ate our dinner and were back before the others returned.

Pirate Ella looking realistic with missing teeth

Joao made sure the kids joined the parade at dinner

The monkey is always the favorite towel animal
More sassy than scary
 The show tonight was called Walt Disney: The Dream Lives On (or something like that).  It was quite good.  It was a mixture of telling the story of Walt Disney and mixing in some Broadway song and dance.  It did a decent job of combining the two. And had a lot of unique characters too.

Outside of the theater we spied what appeared to be a Mr. Smee convention. They were playing a game that involved tossing inflated pigs in the air and counting points depending on what parts were touching or showing when they landed. I never really figured it out, but the whole scene was so strange and lively that we couldn't help but watch for awhile. 
It should be obvious by now that tonight was Pirate Night. The pirate party was fun.  It’s definitely the big thing on the ship.  It seemed like almost everyone was there. More people dress up for pirate night than for formal night by far, and I’m talking about pretty elaborate costumes. I was holding Zach during the party and during one of the music parts he said, “Dance us!” since I was just standing there.  After the party was a small buffet of fajitas, turkey legs, and desserts. 

I really prefer to avoid crowds, so I stayed in with Max who was needing rest too. (That's why there are no pictures of this night.) A nice comfy bed and a book with peace and quiet is a luxury worth skipping Pirate Night to me.

September 24, 2016

The days are flying by.  Today is another sea day as we approach Canada.  The ship’s captain says that this area is known for Right whales, so I’ve been looking for them all day.  Haven’t seen any yet, but there have been a lot of flying fish.

Other than that we also went to some Disney trivia.  Kyrie went to a movie (Queen of Katwe which is a new release and was very good.) and I went with the boys for a tweens vs. adults trivia game in their club.  The adults were given the kids questions and the kids were given the adult questions.  The adults easily won, but then the kids made me play Mario Kart with them to put me in my place.

It got quite cold today.  We are basically as far north as we will be the whole trip.  I didn’t hear the official temperature, but it was probably in the 50’s.  Combined with the wind from the ship moving it was pretty cold on deck.  Some kids did still use the pool though, but not ours.  They had blankets on deck for people who wanted to watch the Funnelvision movies or just to hang out up there. 

This afternoon, we attended a "Princess Gathering" at Lumiere's. We received a formal invitation for it a few days ago, and not knowing exactly what it was, sent our RSVP to attend. 

I correctly guessed that it was a character tea party. I had to seriously twist Max's arm to go. This would be something they'd charge upwards of $50 per person to attend if it were at a Disney resort and it would only have half as many characters. 
The boys stopped complaining once apple juice was served

Pastries served

Finger sandwiches

Cookies too

Zach thoroughly enjoyed the whole interaction

It was Ella and Zoe's "cup of tea" too

Minnie chose Zachary as her dance partner

Zach HAD to grab his crown before posing for this picture

Zach really started hamming it up toward the end...    

We watched the sun set from our window

Tonight Kyrie and I went to Palo for dinner.  I’ll let Kyrie describe that since she likes it much more than I do.  It was good though.

Somehow we were the first to arrive to Palo this evening. We had the same table and same waitress we had at brunch yesterday which is fine since both were good. We had a nice view of the ocean as the sun set. One of the impressive parts about dinner at Palo is the antipasti cart that they rolled up to the table to assemble a custom plate for us. The antipasti and bread was the first course. Together we ordered a Caprese salad to share plus the waitress decided we also needed to try the gnocchi. Marc had another salad too and I had a delicious bean soup. Next we ordered two small portions of pasta. One was a risotto loaded with mushrooms and a butternut ravioli. These were really both for Marc. Neither of those is my kind of thing. Marc ordered a portabella mushroom dish as his main coarse, while I stuck with the tried and true filet mignon. The piece de resistance though are the souffles for dessert. I ordered the chocolate of course, and Marc chose the amaretto. Both were delicious! It sounds like a lot of food, but the portions were perfectly small enough to try a lot and not get stuffed. And most importantly it was a very pleasant two hours with my husband.
Palo means pole in Italian. The theme inside is Venice.
Ella, Zoe and Zach ate dinner in the kids club.  Apparently, that was fine because when we tried to pick them up after dinner to go to the show, they still wouldn’t leave.  The older boys ate dinner at our normal restaurant which must have been hilarious.  They said it didn’t take nearly as long as before.

Zach was wearing the “shorts of shame” (our phrase, not Disney's) for the first time when we picked him up tonight. He has been doing an excellent job with going potty on this trip. 

After dinner the boys and I went to the main show which was Charles Peachock, a juggler.  It was an excellent show with some amazing tricks and an entertaining performance.  I think it was the best show of the trip so far. The boys are still talking about this show a day later, so it must have been good. 

These days have been wearing me out. I enjoy getting up early, so by the time we get back from a big dinner, I’m more than willing to stay in the room with anyone else who wants to. This night it was Zach…although he literally fell asleep two minutes before they got back from the show!
Zach read his Mickey book about a thousand times tonight.
Max says he’s getting an accent from hanging out with all these kids from the U.K.

Some people worry that a transatlantic cruise would get boring with so many days at sea, but I can say for certain that we haven’t been bored for a second.  We’ve had so much fun.  I think this was our 6th day at sea with just the one stop in between and there really hasn’t been a pause in the fun.

September 25, 2016

 We are in port at Sydney, Nova Scotia today.  It’s a very quiet, kind of pretty port.  Lots of houses around.  No big city or anything.  We took a walk around town.  Most things were closed because it is Sunday, but a few shops were open and the kids liked playing at a playground nearby.

 Can you find 5 differences from the photo above?
I was surprised that this little town seemed kind of dirty. I noticed garbage in the streets and overflowing trash cans. Then I overheard that there was a big festival on the main street last night and the DJ encouraged everyone to clean it up, mentioning that the Magic would be in port tomorrow. 

The tourism is definitely important to this little place. It’s the tiniest port that I’ve been to. It was really nice that some Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other police officers showed up to greet us and allow us to take pictures with them. I think this photo op was even more desirable than the giant fiddle.

Max added to his collection again. Zoe wanted every souvenir in sight. I took a picture of her with each one so she could decide later which one to buy. I actually got her to hold off until tomorrow's port to make her purchase.

These were my favorite.
Marc actually "made" me go into this Reiker shoe store. They are well known in Canada for quality and comfortable shoes and their prices reflect that. It's not like Marc to encourage me to buy expensive shoes, so I happily looked around and even tried on a few pairs, but they didn't have my size in any of the styles I could see myself wearing on a regular basis. (I'm a practical shoe buyer for the most part.) So I walked away empty handed.
Marc loves to get close to the water to see what sea life he can see
Zach begs and begs until we get to a playground

I always walk behind the crew to keep all the stragglers safe. 

A nice view of the port of Sydney next to the Disney Magic

The fiddle has something to do with their Celtic heritage I guess

Sydney used to be a coal mining town and is now trying to become something else.  Not sure if the coal ran out or just the demand for it.

As we left port we saw a nice lighthouse. 

Tonight was Tangled night.  There were several themed things around the ship for Tangled, including turning one of the pubs into the Snuggly Duckling where you could meet up with some of the Thugs from the show for food, drink, and tomfoolery.  We didn’t have a chance to do that because Jacob and Kyrie were contestants on "So You Think You Know Your Family."  They didn’t win, but we all had a good time.

The Tangled show was good.  We had to force the little ones to go to it because they wanted to stay in the kids' club, but they all ended up enjoying it.

September 26, 2016

We had a nice slow ride to Halifax through the night.  On the map they looked like they were right next to each other, so I don’t think we went very far.

The area around Halifax is very picturesque.  So many trees, the rocky shore and several lighthouses.  The trees haven’t really started changing color yet, but it was still very nice. I wish we could have had more of the ride from Sydney to Halifax during daylight. 

We had a nice time in Halifax.  We spent about 4 or 5 hours just exploring the waterfront.  This is now my favorite port as far as the port itself goes.  I probably like some of the excursions in the Caribbean better, but this was great for just visiting the port area.

 There were two other ships in port, which probably explains why we didn't get to port earlier. The Magic docked in the commercial area and we were quickly bused to the Cunard Center near where the other ships disembarked.  We walked through a large market here where we ultimately returned and purchased most of our souvenirs. 

We also walked through a very large Farmer's Market. The kids acted like they's never seen fresh fruit before. There is fresh fruit available on the ship, but they have not been choosing much of it and frankly this fruit certainly smelled good and called out to us. We bought apples and strawberries for snacks as we continued our walk. 

Girls looking at barnacles 
The kids chillin' out as we purchase rum cake

The kids liked finding another playground.  There are tons of shops and restaurants around.  We had some Canadian snacks.  Some authentic poutine (fries covered with gravy and cheese curds) and beaver tails (kind of a fried dough with sweet toppings,)  Everything was delicious.

Best poutine we've tried, but that's not saying much...still just fries, cheese, and gravy

We shared three deliciously topped beaver tails

We thought about going to the maritime museum but the majority (kids) voted to keep exploring the waterfront. Personally, I wanted to see the crystal shop people were raving about. It was pretty cool to see them blowing glass. I looked through the shop and couldn't bring myself to spend the money for even a small piece though. I'm sure it's pricey because of the quality or something, but whoa!

They had a series inspired by the Titanic that was presented well, so I included a picture.

The kids couldn't pass up this street light art

We thought it was fitting that the kids rode a school bus on this trip where they learned so much without realizing it

A lone bagpiper played for us as we set sail again

Bottle #4, Cava from Barcelona

We had another dinner in Animator’s Palette tonight.  They did the animation thing again, where we get to draw a picture and have it animated, since some of the tables didn’t get in there last time (including ours.) 

The food has been mostly good.  Kyrie’s been getting tired of beef every night, but usually the other options either have seafood or mushrooms which she doesn’t like.  I’ve mostly been having the vegetarian meals which have been hit and miss.  Mostly they have been good, but not always.  Can’t complain too much though!

Speaking of seafood, Marc is not a big fan either, but figured if the lobster was local he should give it a try. I even tried a bite; I'll stick to the beef.

We watched Alice in Wonderland - Through the Looking Glass.  We all enjoyed it.

Tonight the boys had a late night Ultimate Challenge with their club.  It was a boys vs girls escape the room challenge where they had to solve a series of clues in order to win.

 Apparently it was quite difficult (the boys said they had the questions from the teenage club.) But they were happy to announce that the boys won.  There are far fewer girls in their club on this cruise, so I think the boys have an advantage.

Zoe and I stopped to enjoy a nice sunset with one very bright star.

These pictures helped to separate the daily photos.

Ella's new special teddy
When we moved this year, Marc accidentally donated Ella's special teddy bear. It was a bear I bought at the Montreal airport when I was pregnant with her and making a solo business trip. It was the one we took a picture of Ella with every month from birth through her first year. We promised she could replace it in Canada.

She didn't find a bear she liked in port, so she ended up choosing the last Duffy in the shop onboard. 

My quiet morning at The Cove Cafe
September 27, 2016

The weather on our last day of cruising is less than perfect.  It’s a little drizzly and quite windy so the ship is rocking a lot.  The temperature is getting warmer, but the pool is closed due to the waves so I’m sure there are some disappointed kids out there (the adult pool is still open).  I’m enjoying the waves.  It’s nice to actually feel like you’re on a ship once in a while.

My only disappointment on this cruise has been not being able to see land more.  Obviously, while crossing the Atlantic I didn’t expect to see anything, but I was really hoping to see more of Canada and the United States once we got across.  The ship sails too far from land to be able to see anything and even when we are near a port it’s only early in the morning when we arrive, or during dinner when we leave. 

I kind of pictured cruising along the coastline once we arrived in Canada and then sailing past the Statue of Liberty when we arrived in New York.  We will be going past the Statue of Liberty, but it will be 4 am.  Kind of like when we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar in the middle of the night.

Oh, and in case anybody is taking requests, I would have liked to have seen some whales.  Just sayin’.

Goofy getting his conga line together
I guess I thought it was too early to wake anyone up this morning when I was ready to get some coffee so I went to the Cove Cafe on my own and had my latte while enjoying the view. When I returned, I woke up Jacob to go to breakfast with me and to the Morning Show.  Today, someone decided to play a joke on the cruise director and staged a walk out near the end of the show. A few minutes later, we all came back in a conga line led by Goofy. How often do you get to do that?

Okay, so today everybody’s kind of doing their usual thing.  The little ones are in the kids' club, Jacob is at the tween club, and Kyrie’s watching the Disney historian show.  Max and I decided to go play bingo.  It was a lot of fun even though we didn’t win anything.

I went to the lost music of Mary Poppins lecture. It was good. 

Then this afternoon, I went to another animation session with Jacob, Max, and Zoe. Jacob was determined to win a sketch too. He wanted to increase his chances of winning by getting more tickets (by bringing me, Zoe, and Max) but in the end it was actually Jacob's ticket that did win.  He got "Angry Donald."

Everyone making their best angry face

Friendship Rocks
This afternoon the kids' club put on a show with all of the kids.  The ship was still swaying a lot, so it was hilarious watching all of the little ones tumble back and forth with the ship.

I like this "show" because they show a lot of pictures they have taken in the club during the cruise. We saw lots of pictures of Zoe and Ella including a really nice one with their friend and a couple cute ones of Zach too.

Zachary almost dancing out of his shorts (of shame...again.)

Ella really rocking out
It’s always disappointing being on the last day of a trip, but it’s been so much fun.  This has been our longest trip ever and since we just moved into our house a few months ago, it’s going to feel weird being back there again.  We will have to get used to the new place all over again!  It will be nice to be back home, but I’ll really miss having someone else doing all the cooking and cleaning!

Iron Man Zach

Getting along at dinner

Kids helping Joao levitate a spoon

The show tonight was Dreams.  It was a good show that had a mixture of many Disney stories incorporated into it.  The kids liked it a lot, although they didn’t like being pulled out of the kids' club to go to it.

Before the main show, we went to a talent show. Some kids sang, did gymnastics, and even did some magic. Zachary asked, "When is it our turn to go up there?"

He REALLY wanted to; so after the show, I let him go on stage and he did a very quiet, short song as the room was emptying out, 

View of New York at 5am as ship was arriving
September 28, 2016 -  New York City 

I guess our trip lasted one day too many...our final day was a challenge, but still a good experience.  Before leaving on the trip we decided to book a private tour of New York so that we could show the kids a lot of New York City and also have a way to deal with our luggage.

Our disembarkation went smoothly. We had breakfast on the ship and then waited in the lounge until it was close to time to be picked up.

Actually, since we were first seating for dinner on this cruise, we were also assigned to first seating for breakfast on disembarkation day. So we had to vacate our room with whatever we didn't have sent off the ship the night before, and be at the restaurant at 7:15 am. The only problem with this is that our tour wasn't picking us up until 10am. 

It was a super quick breakfast and then we waited in a comfortable lounge on the ship rather than waiting outside. Marc emailed our tour guide to see if we could start sooner and luckily they did agree to get started at 9am.

We didn't have to wait long to go through customs and once we figured out where to go (meaning we started in the right place, then were sent upstairs to the wrong place just to be sent back to where we started) we found our tour guides waiting for us.  We began our tour by driving by the place where the carriage horses are kept at night.  It looks like they even have some horses on the second floor.   Knowing (kind of) what it costs to live in New York City, I'm surprised the horses aren't driven out of the city every night and brought back in the morning.

It was about this time that I realized that I forgot to pack my computer.  I don't even know how that was possible, but it happened.  It was sitting right on top of the desk in our cabin, so obviously our last minute drawer and under the bed searches were of no use. We were only a couple blocks away, so I got out of the car and walked with our tour guide back to the terminal while the driver drove everyone else around the block and back to the ship.  (It was faster to walk there).  The room steward had already notified the lost and found staff about my laptop so the staff sent someone to retrieve it. Even so, it took a LONG time for anyone to get it.  

Meanwhile, the driver got the van parked at the pickup area again and Zach said, "Well, that was a nice drive." and started unbuckling like it was time to get back on the cruise ship.  That was definitely foreshadowing about how the rest of the day was going to go with him.

Who can blame him, really? We woke him up early, then did a lot of sitting and standing around,  followed by more sitting around in a van he couldn't really see out of and couldn't care less about what he was hearing if he could hear anything at all.  

I wasn't doing much better myself at this point. This 6 -7 hour tour cost us $1400 and we just spent the first hour driving around the block and sitting in the van with kids at the port. 

I finally got my computer back and we got on the road.  Our tour guide team drove us all around and told us some stuff as we went along.  Once in a while we would stop and get out and the driver would basically drive around until it was time to pick us up again since there is no where to park.

Our first stop was at Times Square.

The kids thought it was pretty cool, but they were surprised by how small the New Year's Eve ball looked. I really wish we could have spent some time here. The kids would have loved seeing the big Toys R US store, M&M store, and looking for souvenirs.

Poor Zach
Soon after that, Zachary began complaining about everything!  He didn't want to sit in his seat.  He wanted to go to the park.  He wanted something to eat.  He "just want's to go back to the cruise ship and go to the kids' club!".  He continued like this off and on throughout the day.  Forcing me to buy awful, overpriced, dried out soft pretzels not once but twice, so that he could eat one bite and then start complaining about something else.

One of those pretzels was bought in Central Park.  

The contrast of this wide open space with the city in the background was pretty cool

The kids ran off to climb as soon as they got a chance.
We spent about 15-20 minutes walking into the park. It helped me to understand how big it really is. The majority of the touring they did with us was designed to be a walking/subway tour. I think it would have been better if we did it that way. The traffic was horrible and it made parts of the journey pretty boring. The kids would have stayed more engaged being outside the majority of the time too.

The kids didn't exactly appreciate us bringing them to an enormous park and then only staying for 15 minutes.  As they were telling us that, I told them, "wait until you find out there was a zoo here." Then, as if I knew where it was, we drove right by it!

We also drove past playground equipment. That's when Zach let lost it again.

Our tour guide decided that a giant candy store might cheer everyone up, so we stopped at Dylan's Candy Bar and everyone picked out a piece of candy.

Even as we got to the candy store Zach was complaining, "I don't want candy. I want to play!"

Max's piece of candy

It did help for a couple minutes, but it didn't take long before Zach was in his mood again.

It was a pretty cool store and everyone liked picking out their candy. I picked one of the store brand's uniquely flavored candy bars. 

We then stopped at St Patrick's cathedral.

It's a really beautiful cathedral, but after seeing all of the cathedrals of Europe, it just looked like yet another one.

Across the street was 30 Rockefeller Center where many NBC shows are filmed.  The kids weren't impressed by the Today show set.

They were in the process of setting up the ice skating rink in the plaza. 

This would have been another area we would have liked to spend more time in. It would have been nice to go to the top of the Rock and see the view. There was also a big Lego store right here and other stores I would have liked to look at. And if I remember right, Radio City Music Hall is very close too. 
Zach finally took a nap
There was even more traffic than usual according to our driver.  They were filming a movie in one area which took up a ton of space over a few blocks.  So, we really didn't get anywhere fast and our tour guide even ran out of stuff to tell us about at times. In retrospect, it was definitely a waste for us to be in a van. We would have made it through these areas more quickly on foot and would have seen more too.

Our next stop was Grand Central Station.

The kids loved whispering into these corners and being able to hear each other across the way.

For lunch we ate at Famous Joe's Pizza. The pizza was good. They only have three choices of slices and only take cash. A simple but good product.

There was a nice little square in the middle of this area of Greenwich Village. I liked this area. It certainly started looking a lot different than Midtown.

But more importantly, for dessert I had the best cupcake ever at Molly's Cupcakes across the street!  I had the Butterscotch-Salted Caramel cupcake.

Look ma, no hands!

The kids loved the swings at the counter
After a lot more driving around, we stopped at the 9/11 Memorial. This spiny structure is the newly opened Oculus. It's a transportation hub at the World Trade Center site.

The memorial is obviously very moving. The boys are old enough and have heard us talk about this horrific event every year, that I could tell that they were touched too. They have a much more realistic picture in their minds now of 9/11.

Freedom Tower
Our final stop was Battery Park.  We had a nice view of the Statue of Liberty (for those of us that weren't up at 5am!)

It was a nice tour and our guides from Moments2Memories couldn't have been more accommodating.  At a different time, I'm sure it would have been great, but we were all pretty tired and mostly Zach just really didn't want to be there.  Anyway, it was nice to see New York City and someday we will have to go back and let the kids play in the park!

It really was a fantastic trip. Overall it went pretty smoothly considering all of the pieces and all of the people. I'm extremely grateful that we were able to share these experiences together!

What an amazing trip we had!  Europe was everything that I had hoped for and more and the cruise couldn't have been better!  Thanks everyone for reading about our trip!!!