Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Disney Cruise Line Trip Report, Aug 6-13, 2005

I totally forgot that I had posted this TR to the DIS Board before I started blogging so I thought I'd put a copy here to future reference. I can't believe it's been 3 years since we sailed on the Magic - it's time to book another cruise with DCL soon!

6 August 2005, Saturday - Downtown Disney, Disney Cruise Line Embarkation Day

This morning was much more relaxed since we didn't have to check out until 11 am and would not be picked up for the cruise until after noon. We were up around 7:30 am and packed up the rest of our stuff to be checked in leaving the suitcases by the door (inside the room). Breakfast was at Storyteller's cafe which we had enjoyed that first morning. Many of the same characters were there with a couple of new ones - Koda instead of Kenai, and Meeko for instance. The funniest moment on the trip so far was when Rhys was examining the menu trying to decide what he wanted to eat and sat back stating "I want Beaver Eggs". (Keep in mind that he's just turned 6.) DH and I both looked at each other and couldn't remember seeing them on the menu last time but thinking that this was a frontier themed restaurant, Beaver Eggs seemed to fit right in. I asked Rhys to show me where the description was for Beaver Eggs and Rhys pointed them out to me...."See, right here......'Beverages' says Beaver Eggs!". ROTFLOL! Well, instead of Beaver Eggs, Rhys had the Toad in the Hole (hey, doesn't any more weird than Beaver Eggs) which is a fried egg cooked in the middle of a piece of toast on top of a piece of ham. Amina had the Mickey waffles which was 3 or 4 small Mickey head shaped waffles. DH had the bran something-or-other with a side of bacon and I had the fruit with cottage cheese and carrot bread again - that was just perfect for me last time.

After we finished breakfast and met with some of the characters, we headed out to Downtown Disney right before 10 am. Amina and I went into Club Libby Lu while DH and DS walked over to check out the Lego store and the "Star Wars" store (as DS called it) which was actually the store that sells old memorabilia and just happens to sell some Star Wars memorabilia too. Amina walked around in a daze picking up every other thing in the store trying to decide what she wanted and admiring the girls having their hair done. She had seen the little girls walking around the parks earlier sporting jewel stars on their faces, sparkling lip gloss, and wild hair do's and was in total envy. We asked the girls working at the store how much it was to be transormed into a rock diva and found out it was just $20. Amina rips her purse open and fumbles through it counting her Disney dollars to see if she has enough money to do it. LOL. I tell her that I will treat her to the up-do and we make our way over to the cash register to make an "appointment" after DD gives me a great big hug. The wait was only about 15 minutes and DD was given a large pink back sack and instructed to pick out 5 items from the Mix and Match section. She selected a small purse shaped make up case with a mirror, shimmer lip gloss, and a few fancy feather pens. Soon, it was her turn to be worked on and she sat down on the seat in front of the giant heart shaped mirror like the princess that she is and the Libby Lu gal applied eye shadow and shimmer lip gloss. DD had already had her nails done before we left for the trip so she turned down having her nails done again with glitter polish. Her hair was parted in rows and then twisted with the bottom ends flipped up like a fan along the back of her head. Glitter hair spray went flying everywhere, a black and silver earphone/microphone set was applied, and her transformation was complete. While I was waiting for DD to get done, I started chatting with an oriental woman next to me who commented on how cute the girls look. We were admiring a little oriental girl - probably about 2 years old - being done up and sitting so perfectly still for the Libby Lu gal. Each of us was thinking that little girl was the other's. Turns out her name was Linda and that she had 2 older boys, Kai and Lee, but no girls. She was commenting on how she would love to have a girl. We joked a bit about having more kids - neither of us were the least bit interested. I took a few pictures of Amina after her transformation and met rest of Linda's family including her DH, Doug.

DH and DS returned from the World of Disney with a pirate sword and cool Buzz Lightyear sunglasses. More pictures of the kids in their respective outfits. We walked over to the tattoo cart where the guy touched up both DD and my rose ankle tattoos at no charge. DH gets a multicolored dragon applied to his forearm. We stop by the jewelry cart and DH surprises me by purchasing a brown and tan tropical looking necklace. In over 10 years of marriage, I have NEVER seen DH wear a necklace. He's really gotten into this vacation now it seems. We have enough time to run back over to World of Disney and look around. I find a really cute golden sandal with crystal Mickey heads necklace, and a black Mickey head crystal toe ring while DH finds a Disneyland magnet (we always buy one when we travel for our fridge), DD gets a pair of sunglasses and a Sleeping Beauty locket necklace. It's getting close to check out time so DH and the kids head back to the room to get the remainder of our stuff while I make our purchases. I stop by the front desk to check out (which really wasn't necessary but I was just checking to make sure everything was in order since we had time) while DH and the kids wait in the same lobby seats that they waited in while I had checked in, stopped by the stamp machine for a stamp to put on the Cast Member appreciation card that I had made and addressed to Ryan at Town Hall Guest Services to thank him after the Fantasmic fiasco last night. I dropped the envelope off at Guest Services where they said it would be delivered as is (had to have a stamp on it though) with no other address other than "Town Hall Guest Services". Very cool.

We head over to the hotel's conference center front desk which is where we are supposed to meet for the bus to the port. We check in with the cruise CMs. It's strange and not very Disney but there were quite a few people waiting around this area and there were NO seats. Everyone was sitting on the floors around the front desk. We have about a 1/2 hour wait when they announce that we are ready to board the bus. Our luggage had already been picked up from our room and was on its way to the port ahead of us. The bus was very large - a luxury touring bus painted with Disney characters and "50th anniversary" all over it. We selected a few comfy seats and met our bus driver then we were finally off. I just can't describe how nice a feeling it was that even though the land portion of our vacation was over, we were not disappointed because we still had a week on the cruise to go so it wasn't sad to leave the Disneyland Resort. We watched a cruise promo video during the 40 minute bus ride to the port. As we cross over the bridge to the port we can just make out the smoke stacks of the Magic. I snapped a few pics of the the kids looking out the window of the bus and the Magic's red smoke stacks in the background.

We arrive at the port and are tortured with a small delay as we wait for the bus in front of us to pull out. The kids are off the bus lickety split and we wait very briefly in line as we head into the building. We make our way up the escalator and I pull out my camera but am reminded by a CM that photos in the terminal are not allowed. Oops, I forgot. We are directed to bypass the regular check-in line and get in the shorter Concierge/Resort Guests line. Nice. We turn over our documents and receive our Key to the World cards and head for the dock stopping by once in the terminal and once on the gangway to have pictures done. As we enter, our names are announced by the CM and all the other CMs lined up along the hall start clapping. That's such a nice Disney touch. We locate Parrot Cay for lunch and sit down to the buffet which was pretty good. I had the chicken, some fruit, and, of course, the peel-and-eat shrimp which was awesome - very big shrimp. Yummy and it really hit the spot because it's almost 2 o'clock now. We find our stateroom - no luggage yet, and drop off our stuff. We stop by guest services to drop off my pillow cases and t-shirt for autographs, pick up Tea with Wendy tickets, check out the Oceaneer Lab and Club (had a hard time getting the kids to leave there already), order the wine package for dinner, and make it back to our cabin to find 2 of our pieces of luggage waiting for us. We start some unpacking and then grab our life jackets for the drill. We make our way up the stairs to the Walt Disney Theater and have a seat (nicer than other cruise lines where we stood out on deck waiting for the drill to be over). They counted and notated cabin numbers and gave a brief speech then off we went to put our stuff away and head for the sailing away party.

One more bag has shown up near our door. Later, as we returned from the sailing away party, we found one of our bags near a cabin DOWN THE HALL. Yikes. I'm glad we were walking over from foreward rather than aft and saw it. After stowing our stuff in the cabin (there are plenty of hangers in the closet), we head up to deck 10 for the sailing away party and to meet some DISers. We bumped into Linda and her family and finally started putting some names to faces. We met Vickie, Wick, Kenney, and Sara first and then Jenny with Brynee. DD was really itching to go downstairs to the pool deck to dance so we head down the stairs after DH gets us some strawberry/pina colada/rum type drinks in DCL glasses. The sailing away party was a blast and Amina was having so much fun dancing (heck so was I) - even DH and DS were getting into it. They had bubble blowing machines and a band followed by the Fab 5 doing a quick dance routine and then the cruise director started the countdown to launch and we were off as the ship's whistle blew that wonderful tune. We stayed until the party was over dancing, chasing bubbles, and having a great time.

Back in the cabin, the kids are watching tv while we try to get some more unpacking done. Our last piece of luggage has arrived - whew! Our stateroom attendant had turned down the beds and brought out the pull down bunk. There was a towel shaped like a swan sitting on our bed with a few pieces of chocolate. We caught the Welcome Aboard show which included some singing/dancing, an award winning juggler, and a guy who did some comedy/magic/ventriloquism. Dinner this night is at Animator's Palate. We didn't get the dining rotation that we had requested, bummer. There's a long line to get in to the restaurant and we finally get to our table - #18. Vickie and her family are already seated - we're just a little late. We meet Noel our server and Karim, the asst server/beverage server. The kids order off the childrens' menu which has a set menu including cheese pizza, chicken fingers, Minnie's mini burger, etc along with a changing menu each night. It was almost 9 pm by the time we started eating dinner and I can't even remember at this point what I had for dinner. Rhys fell asleep after eating 3/4 of a slice of pizza. The restaurant's "show" was ok - I guess I was anticipating more. We sat by a picture of Ariel which lit up then became black/white again a couple of times. The dinner was enjoyable but we were all pooped out. Seth carried Rhys back to the room half-asleep and we were all asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

7 August 2005, Sunday - Day at Sea

Our clocks had moved forward an hour so it seems like we slept in this morning. We had our character breakfast scheduled at 9:45 am which, at first, seemed really late for breakfast but it worked out great for us as we got to sleep in. The kids went straight to bed the night before so they really needed a shower this morning. Amina didn't want to "mess up" her hairdo so she just "rinsed", lol. We took our time getting ready and headed for our character breakfast at Parrot Cay. I even toted laundry and threw them into the washers on deck 2 - just 2 loads. Most of the washers were free. A few people came in and out to iron their clothes.

We were seated at our usual table with our usual servers - Vickie and her family were there minus Kenney who sounded like he had a great time until very late and was sleeping in a bit. Vickie and Wick were just having coffee - they had reservations for brunch at Palo this morning. I ordered the fruit cup and lox/bagel which was fine - just the right amount of food. DD had the chocolate pancake and Mickey waffle. Rhys ordered a "regular" breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, etc. Each Disney character came around to the table dressed in tropical wear - the kids got a few more autographs after I ran back to the cabin to get their books. I did stop and snap a picture of the cute vacuum cleaner in the hallway with the smiley face on it. We got some great pictures of us with Goofy and Chip that the CM took for us. Chip and Dale led the room in a couple of dances which included some napkin waving. DH and I thought that their laughs (giggles, really) sounded almost a little naughty as though they were up to no good. After breakfast, we dropped the kids off at the Oceaneer Lab and Club which they were REALLY looking forward to. DH and I then found the Cove Cafe to have a cup of coffee. The DCL travel coffee mugs were really nice - pricey ($22 filled with coffee), but nice so we bought a couple. I had the frozen mochaccino which was delicious and they did put it in the coffee mug for me. We sat for a little while and then wanted to get some good seats at the Michael Harrison magic/comedy/ventriloquist show at noon so we headed over there.

The show was really funny - geared more towards families and Seth enjoyed it a lot. I thought he was pretty funny and entertaining too. We had seen him the night before at the Welcome Aboard show. After the show, we attended the art auction which was being hosted by the Auction at Sea folks that I had seen on another cruise. As we were headed over there, though, I noticed that my beeper had gone off stating that Amina wanted to be picked up. I found them at a lounge and asked Amina what happened - she said she was "bored" and didn't want to stay. Later, we found out that she had had a disagreement with another little girl and her play microphone (part of her rock diva outfit from Libby Lu) had gotten broken. We previewed some pieces - nothing really stood out at me but DH was curious to see what the Muhammed Ali/Beatles picture would go for so he marked it with his small stickey tag. In the meantime, Amina decided that she would try the Lab again as the next activity sounded more interesting so I checked her in again. We had fun at the auction - bidding on some of the "mystery" pieces. When the Ali/Beatles picture came up, DH bid on it - the first and opening bid (for $2600!) and won. Yowza!! He was so proud of himself for finding such a "treasure" and commented on what a great investment it would be as Ali is having more and more trouble signing autographs. We left the auction right after winning that piece to go over to the Stem to Stern wine tasting. There are 4 sommeliers on the ship and they each "coached" us on a glass of wine. There were 5 wine glasses - 3 white, 2 red set out and a champagne glass. We did the "S" approach: see, swirl, sniff, savor, and swallow with each wine. They were quite good.

We didn't stay for the sparkling wine as we had 3 pm reservations for Palo's High Tea so we headed up to that and arrived slightly late. We were immediately seated and given a plate of finger sandwiches: salmon, a mild curry chicken, cucumber, and prawns. There was a tiered dish with raspberry macaroons (my favorite), eclairs, and fruit cake. I ordered the chamomile tea and Seth had the blackberry tea. They brought the most delicious scones I have ever had with clotted cream, strawberry jam, as well as apricot jam. Everything was delicious. They also brought us a trifle dessert which neither of us tried - we were too full!

Seth went to the fitness center next while I picked up the kids and ordered them room service - the All Hands on Deck plate (cheese, crackers, fruit) and the fruit plate which only took 15 minutes. I got ready for the formal evening while the kids ate then I got them dressed as well. We wanted to get to the Walt Disney theater to get good seats for the Golden Mickeys show. We watched on screens as they held live "interviews" from the red carpet (which was just outside of the theater) - they interviewed kids as they were coming into the theater for the show. I wish my kids were braver and willing to do something like that but I knew better than to try and get them interviewed on camera. The Golden Mickeys show was absolutely wonderful. Although DH had been commenting on how some parts of the ship smelled funny (sometimes like dirty sea water, other times like a dirty diaper), you really can't beat Disney entertainment - they really have it down. They gave Golden Mickeys to the best friends, the best couple, the best villains, etc. The music was wonderful, the actors/dancers/singers were very very good. The whole show concept was awesome. It's close to one of the best shows I have ever seen. When Amina squealed at the sight of her favorite princess, Aurora, tears came to my eyes at her pure joy. Rhys got scared during the villain part (especially when the villain of The Little Mermaid dangled her huge glowing tentacles over the sides of the stage) and held his hands up to his ears. After the show, we stopped by the shops to pick up some toiletries that we needed then got in line in the lobby for pictures. We had dinner in Parrot Cay where I had the BBQ pork that was different, but good. For some reason, I'm having a lot of trouble remembering exactly what we ate each night. I think overall we've been more impresed with the food on other cruise lines.

Rhys did stay awake through dinner this time. We dropped the kids off at the Oceaneer club/lab and went to another Michael Harrison show which was for adults only. He was very funny and his routine was quite different (obvious why it was adults only though there was no profanity or anything). Afterwards, we picked the kids up and returned to the cabin where there was a turtle waiting for us on our bed made out of towels. We were in bed around midnight. What a long day!

8 August 2005, Monday - Day at Sea

Our clocks went forward an hour again. This was probably just one of 4 reasons why we all slept in so late this morning.....staying up late, no nap, and a very very DARK cabin probably also contributed to why we didn't roll out of bed until after 10 am. We finally got Amina to take her hair down and wash the curls and glitter out and that was only after swearing to her that she did have an appointment for hair braiding on Wednesday. Another tip: many many people just assumed that you could "stop by" for hair braiding but you must have a reservation. We made them on the first sea day and by the next day, the appointments were booked up for most of the early part of the week already. I can't remember the kids EVER sleeping in so late - I woke up before they did and worked on my trip report for about an hour before they even woke up. By the time we finally got going and out of the cabin, they were serving lunch! LOL! We caught Daisy at the character signing in the lobby and got her autograph. The buffet at Topsiders was Asian which was ok. We took our food out on to the deck and watched the wake of the ship. I did have a really good dessert, though, a pear and almond tart as well as a slice of a hazelnut tart. Those were REALLY good.

DH took DS to the Oceaneer Club while Amina and went to the shops to do a little shopping before checking her in to the Lab. Amina bought Minnie bride ears with a veil. One thing I found a little irritating with the Oceaneer programming for the kids was that check-in/check-out followed the schedule and if the kids were up on deck 10, you had to go up there to "check-in". If they were eating dinner, you had to wait until the next scheduled activity before you could check them in. I guess I was expecting to be able to just drop them in at any time at the Lab/Club. A few times, we were ready to drop them off but had to delay for 30-45 minutes until the "right" time.

I met DH at the 2nd wine tasting event at Sessions after dropping DD off at the Lab. On my way, I bumped into Jenny, Brynee, Cathy, and her DD who had gotten her hair braided. I didn't know that they did just regular braiding as well and found out that some girls don't tolerate having corn rows put in their hair because of the pullling and pain. I took a picture of her braids to show Amina and make sure that she knew about the corn rows and that they involved hair pulling.

DH had gotten coffee at Cove Cafe and they had filled his coffee mug again. The wine tasting was slightly different than the first one with the same 4 sommeliers. This time, we stayed through to the end and got to watch one of the sommeliers open a bottle of sparkling wine by using the base of wine glass and running it up the seam of the bottle and popping the top off - glass and cork together. It was really interesting. After the wine tasting, Seth went to the cabin for a nap and I tried my hand at Bingo. I'm not very lucky at Bingo but you never know and I figured it would be fun. For $25 I got to play 3 cards during each of the 4 games. I came very close to bingo with the first game but the rest weren't even close. The lady sitting next to me won $400. Afterwards, I stopped by the cabin to pick up my laptop and worked some more on my trip report. DH was asleep in the cabin. I sat out on deck which was only a little bit windy and typed for about an hour and then went to pick the kids up before they went for dinner. We stopped by Scoops for ice cream (which was actually low fat frozen yogurt) and had vanilla/chocolate swirled in a cone with sprinkles on top. We returned to the cabin where I ordered room service - 2 fruit plates and another All Hands on Deck plate. We wanted to take the kids to the 6 pm showing of The Pacifier in the Buena Vista theater. The food had not arrived yet to our cabin - this time it took about 30 minutes - so I waited while DH took the kids to the theater. I took the food with me and we watched the movie which I thought was so-so. Seth thought it was cute.

After the movie, we dropped the kids off at the Lab/Club again so that we could enjoy dinner without them at Lumiere's tonight. I stopped by the shops to do a little pin trading and found some nice pins for the kids. I also went back to Sessions to see if DH's coffee mug was there - he had left it after the wine tasting demonstration. Unfortunately, his mug was nowhere to be found and the bartenders even called guest services to see if one was turned in. No luck. The bartenders were so sweet - they said that if we came back later that night, they would get us a new one. I was surprised that they did this - it was so nice of them.

It was also nice to be able to have a conversation with our table mates during dinner without being interrupted and, besides, Amina wanted to go to the girls' pajama party tonight. The decor of Lumiere's was very nice with the roses in the glass cases hanging from the ceiling and the mural with Belle and Beast. I had the cauliflower soup which was very good and the duck that was also very good. For dessert, I had the apple tart with vanilla ice cream and Seth and I shared a Creme Brulee. Dinner was quite good this night. After dinner which was nice and unrushed, we picked up Rhys and went back to the cabin where a crab was waiting on our bed. Amina's pj party didn't end until 11 pm so I went and got her a little later after picking up a new DCL/Cove Cafe coffee mug for DH at Sessions. We ordered room service again - cheese pizza - because the kids were hungry. They were eating pizza, drinking soda, and watching cartoons at 11:30 pm! Don't know when we'll ever do that again! Another long but enjoyable day.

9 August 2005, Tuesday - Puerto Vallarta

No time change this time but we still got up quite late - about 9:30 am. Thankfully, our shore excursion didn't leave until 12:40 pm. We got our bathing suits on and went up to Parrot Cay for the breakfast buffet at about 10:30 am. It was kinda cool to walk out and see the port through the windows. Suddenly there were buildings and trees instead of just water. After breakfast, we went up to deck 10 to snap some pics and the kids bugged us to death about swimming in the Mickey pool so we went down there and they played in the pool and went down the slide a gazillion times We had a quick bite to eat from Pluto's Dog House - hot dogs, of course, and some fries. We then headed down to Rockin' Bar D where we were to meet the group for our shore excursion to Paradise Village and the beach.

We picked up a few towels and signed our waivers. We got Timon stickers to wear when we turned in our signed waivers and were reminded to have Key to the World cards as well as picture IDs before leaving for our excursion. We headed down the stairs to the gangway located on Deck 1 forward. We each had our card swiped as we exited. The ship was docked right at the pier and we just walked down a little way and were divided into busloads. We were the first to board our bus and took the front row. I snapped a few pictures of the ship as we drove past it on our way to Nuevo Vallarta where the beach resort was. There must have been at least 3 busloads of people going on this excursion. The resort was ok - the layout was kind of quirky. After we were oriented by the activity staff, filled out info for a drawing (free week's stay at the resort), and had our free beverage (there was a choice of alcoholic drink vs non-alcoholic - we chose the former), we found a shady spot with a few loungers and I walked back through the lobby, out past the "zoo" (couple of tigers, mountain lions, black panthers, and some spider monkeys), and around the corner to the activity center to rent a couple of pails, shovels, and other beach toys for the kids. The guy at the activity center kept my Key to the World card, otherwise there was no charge. I walked back and was sweating quite profusely - it was really hot since we docked at this port. Getting near the water felt much better and the kids had an absolute blast playing in the sand, playing with a couple of boogie boards we also "rented" with a Key to the World card, and finding sand dollars. The sand was blackish with lots of gold specks - beautiful. The water was very very dark, though. We spent 3 hours just playing in the water and sun - didn't take the time to explore the rest of the resort. At about 3:40 pm, we gathered our stuff, rinsed the sand off as best as we could at the outdoor showers, and stopped for gelato. We got back on the bus (after I had run the boogie boards and then the beach toys back and retrieved our Key to the World cards). The ride back to the ship was pretty quiet - everyone took a brief nap on the bus. I even felt drowsy after being out in the sun and water all afternoon.

Our bags were searched prior to getting on the gangway and our cards were swiped. We headed straight for our cabin and took showers - I wondered if the kids had left any sand at the beach there was so much in the tub. After we showered and were feeling much more refreshed, we got the kids dressed in their pirate t-shirts and black pants. I had bought gray t-shirts from Hobby Lobby and inkjet printable iron-on transfers. The fronts of our t-shirts said: "Yo ho! Yo ho! A Pirate's Life For Me!......Pirate Night, Disney Magic Mexican Riviera Cruise, August 9th, 2005" with the picture of a skull/crossbones on a black flag. On the back: "Arrrrgh...." and our names along with our pirate names that I had gotten from a website that generated pirate names when you put in your real name. I had a lot of fun making those. We went upstairs to the beverage center and got something to drink then played ping pong for a little while. We took the kids, who reluctantly went, to the Lab/Club and grabbed our coffee cups to get something to drink at the Cove Cafe. I had another Mochaccino which was yummy and caught up on my trip report some more.

We returned to our cabin to find a snake on our bed wearing Amina's red sunglasses and a note reminding us to turn our clocks back an hour. We changed into our pirate t-shirts and grabbed our pirate party stuff and went to pick up the kids. We stopped by the lobby and had our pictures done then headed to Animator's Palate for dinner. The waiters looked so cute in their pirate outfits. I passed out the flashing pirate skull pins that I had gotten from Oriental Trading company - and gave one to our server, asst server, and head server as well. There were so many items on the menu that it was so hard to choose. The menu was printed like an old treasure map and were ours to keep. We put on our red bandanas that were sitting on the table and wore our flashing skull pins. I had the chicken wings for an appetizer and they were very good - Rhys ate more of my appetizer than he did his (the pineapple with coconut covered banana which I thought was also delicious). I had the cold honeydew/mango soup which was very good and the pasta with scallops and shrimp although I thought the scallops and shrimp were way over cooked. For dessert, it was basically bananas foster called something else. During dessert they did a dance in the dining room which included a limbo and the kids got up and danced when Noel, our server, grabbed them.

After dinner, I passed out the glow necklaces and bracelets to all the DISers and we all headed towards the deck party. I also finally met Renegade (Joanna) and her dad. We had a blast dancing and watching the fireworks on deck 9. Captain Hook, Mr Smee, Minnie and Mickey, Goofy, Chip and Dale, and Stitch were all dressed as pirates. It was really hot on the deck and we were sweating like crazy. When the ship really got going, a breeze cooled things off slightly. We stopped for some drinks at the beverage station and headed back to our cabin to get some sleep. Mazatlan was on the schedule for tomorrow and we have a 9:15 am excursion to catch.

10 August 2005, Wednesday - Mazatlan

We had to set the alarm this morning as our excursion - the Mexican Family Ranch Party - was at 9:15 am. We woke the kids up and after a very slow start, headed up to Topsiders for breakfast. We were already docked at the Mazatlan pier - it was going to be a HOT day again. I had a bagel with lox and salmon cream cheese, some fruit, and sausage. It was typical breakfast fare. While we were eating, the Carnival Pride pulled up alongside us and we watched it, literally, parallel park in front of us. It was really interesting to watch. Why can't we have lateral thrusters like that in our cars? LOL. We then headed down to Diversions to check in for our excursion. There weren't as many people waiting for this excursion as the Paradise Village beach excursion yesterday. We turned in our signed waivers and got Donald stickers, grabbed a few towels and waited. Soon, we headed down to deck 1 and boarded buses for the 45 minute drive to the ranch. Along the way, Josephine, our tour guide, explained about the history of Mazatlan and about the ranch. The bus stopped at the nearby chapel first for pictures. Amina fell asleep on the bus. Rhys and I got off and looked around, took a few pictures, and visited the chapel. I caught sight of a very long iguana rounding the corner of the chapel before it ducked into a hole. We re-boarded the bus and were taken down to the ranch which looked beautiful and quite large from the chapel. Josephine handed out drink tickets as we got off the bus - we each got 2 complimentary drinks which included beer, lemonade, bottled water, and soft drinks.

The first thing we saw upon arriving at the ranch was a goat and her baby in the front yard. The kids called it the "burping" goat as every time she opened her mouth to say something, it sounded just like a burp. There were baby bunnies in a small pen too. We headed straight for the pool along with everyone else. There was also a bus from the Carnival there and an earlier excursion from the Magic which was the horseback riding excursion. The kids jumped into the pool and before I even had a chance to settle down on a lounger and order some drinks, Rhys was sitting along the side of the pool examining his foot. Of course, when he realized that his foot was bleeding from a shallow laceration, he started crying. DH picked him up and handed him to me and I parked him on a lounger and went off to look for something to clean up his foot. Apparently, he had sliced the bottom of his foot on a piece of tile while in the pool - the gash was not too deep but pretty long and bleeding briskly. I asked the bartender for some first aid supplies and mopped up the blood with some napkins. One of the tour guides came up to us with a bandaid and neosporin. We had lots of people check on him to make sure things were ok and one of the tour guides had me fill out an incident report. Rhys wouldn't get back in the water again so we went back to look at the bunnies and goat until lunch was ready.

At about 11:30, they seated us for lunch in the dining area right near the pool. We were seated with another family from California. We ordered more drinks from the nearby bar and each got a bowl of tortilla soup which was a bit plain. We then waited, and waited, and waited....and finally when we realized that the other tables were getting their dessert we flagged down a waiter who finally took our order. We could either order beef or chicken so I opted for the beef while DH got the chicken. The waiters were terribly disorganized and brought us soup, again. We declined the soup and waited for our lunch which, when it finally arrived, was pretty awful. The beef was like leather. I did eat the 1/2 chile relleno although they were stuffed with more onions than cheese and ate Amina's chile relleno too as she had filled up on tortilla chips and soup and wasn't interested in eating her lunch. She had gone off to go swimming in the pool again. For dessert we had flan which was pretty good. When we finally got done with lunch it was almost 1 pm. DH did let one of the tour guides know that we were unhappy with how long it took for us to get our lunch.

The kids played in the pool for a little while longer then got out to get ready for the pinata. Amina also had a shallow paper-cut like laceration on one of her toes that we had to put a bandaid on. We walked over and looked at the horses and goats and then went to the pinata breaking. They lined the kids up - boys on one side and girls on the other. The pinata was huge in the shape of a flower basket. The kids broke 2 pinatas open and scrambled for candy which was mostly gum. Afterwards, we boarded the bus for the ride back to Mazatlan.

This time the bus stopped in the shopping district before dropping us off at the pier terminal. I even fell asleep and took a nap on the bus along with Rhys. At the terminal, we had to walk through a bunch of shops to get to the trolley that took us to the ship. We did stop by a shopping stall and bought 3 bottles of vanilla for $20 US. We got back to our cabin and DD took a shower and washed her hair really well to get ready for her hair braiding appointment. We dropped off laundry at the launderette but all of the washers were full so we headed up to deck 9 and stopped by the arcade to pick up another arcade card. I had been stopping by each day to pick up spent arcade cards to keep as a souvenir - each day's arcade card had a different design on it and I thought it was the least expensive (free!) and one of the coolest souvenirs on the ship. We ran into Dolores and her DD, Rebeca, outside the arcade and formally introduced ourselves and chatted for a little bit. Our DD's had already met in the lab. We then had DD's hair braided - she chose straight braids instead of corn rows and picked out blue/pink/white beads. This took less than 15 minutes as another little girl was getting her corn rows with tears streaming down her face and sobbing cries as the CM braided her hair. I guess I never realized how much it hurt to pull on those hairs.

When we got back to the cabin, DH went upstairs to take care of the item we had won at the art auction. I ordered room service for the kids (fruit bowl, chicken noodle soup which DS loved, cheeseburger and the mexican fiesta pizza) and then threw some clothes in the laundry which was still pretty busy. I left my detergent in the launderette for others to use and it was all used up by the time I returned to put my clothes in the dryer. One woman told a horror story where her clothes (and apparently others' clothes as well) this morning were removed from a dryer and left on the floor by someone else. I returned later to pick up our clothes and we quickly folded them and headed out to see Twice Charmed.

The show was very cute and innovative with a combination of live acting/singing, movie magic, and pyrotechnics. The story was very good and the cast is quite talented. I did like the Golden Mickeys better, though. After the show, we dropped the kids of at the lab/club and headed back to the cabin to get ready for dinner at Palo's at 8:30 pm. We arrived about 5 minutes early and were seated. Our server's name was Florencia and she was excellent - so attentive and friendly. She worked so hard to make everything just perfect for us. The menu selection was incredible - it was so hard to decide on what to have. Florencia made some excellent suggestions and even told us that we could order 1/2 sizes if we wanted to try more than one thing.

I had a sparkling wine/white peach bellini as a cocktail. There were a selection of breads and bread sticks that came with dipping sauces (garlic, roasted pepper, and olives), and antipasta: prosciutto ham, fresh parmesan cheese, olives, roasted garlic, and sundried tomatoes. For an appetizer, we ordered the pizza with prosciutto ham and pesto to share and I had the portobello mushroom which was excellent. My main course was just so-so, salmon which was overcooked for my tastes. I dug around the middle of the huge piece of salmon to get the part which was less cooked and more to my liking. Florencia asked me what happened to my dinner and I shared with her that I thought the salmon was overcooked. She took the salmon right away to the chef and gave him my comment and offered to bring me some of the tuna. I was stuffed but curious and willing to sample it. It wasn't what I expected and although cooked well (ie basically raw) it wasn't like the sashimi grade tuna that I was used to. I passed on it after a few bites. For dessert, I ordered the tiramisu and DH had the souffle. We also ordered a souffle for the kids to go. They brought both of us a souffle just so I could try it. Chocolate souffle is not my favorite but DH said it was quite good and ate mine too. The tiramisu was excellent but I was just to full to finish it. Florencia then brought us palate cleansers - lemon sorbet mixed with vodka and champagne. It was really good.

We finally left Palo after about 2.5 hours. We didn't make the 10:15 pm magician/illusionist show that we wanted to opting instead to pick up the kids and heading back to the cabin. DH picked up Rhys and headed back to the cabin to have some souffle and I had to wait around for Amina to get done as they were filming a commerical and she wanted to stay and watch it. We finally got back to the cabin at almost 11:30 where DD finished the rest of the souffle and we all got to bed.

11 August 2005, Thursday - Cabo San Lucas

The phone rang at about 7:45 am to let us know that our breakfast that we had ordered the night before was on its way. We had ordered it for between 8 and 8:30 but they were a litte early. We had cereal, milk, coffee, doughnuts, and oj. We got ready for the day and headed for the Buena Vista theater to get our tender tickets and to wait for the next tender. We didn't wait long at all and boarded the tender for Cabo San Lucas - it was just about 9:15 am. It was already warm out and we took the short tender ride to the pier and then started walking. We went on the first glass-bottom boat/land's end tour we ran into and negotiated a 45 minute tour for the 4 of us for $36. There was one other family on the boat. As we were making our way to where the Dos Mares boat was, Rhys had dropped his sunglasses off the pier into the rocks. Fortunately, the natives were very nice and hopped down onto the rocks and fished his sunglasses out of the water. We boarded the Dos Mares and were taken out to see the fish, Lover's beach (which is between the 2 oceans - the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez), a colony of seals laying on the rocks, and around the Los Arcos rock formations. The captain of the boat was nice, informative, and let the kids each take a turn at "driving" the boat while we took pictures. We were dropped off at the pier again and by now, it's REALLY hot. We walk along the pier and stop at the first bar we see to get some water and drinks. I picked out 2 bottles of water and 2 cans of 7-up. I gave the guy 50 pesos (worth about $5) and he asked for $8 US more! I was floored and left him standing there with the water and drinks - it was ridiculous. We made our way into a shopping strip and stopped at another place to get a couple of bottes of Fanta and a large bottle of water. This time, it only cost 35 pesos. We then walked into a souvenir shop and picked out some t-shirts and a tank/shorts set for Amina. The total was $53 according to the guy helping us for only 2 t-shirts (one child sized) and the outfit for DD. I talked him down to $45 but still felt like I didn't get my money's worth. In retrospect, we paid WAY too much for those shirts. Ah well, live and learn.

We went outside and walked to the Plaza Paradaiso shopping mall which was indoors and air conditioned. It was a nice place to shop and had a nice bathroom. We walked around for quite a while and finally found a souvenir store where most everything was $5 or less. I had to borrow cash from Rhys since I had used everything I had for the boat ride and t-shirts. We picked up a magnet, few packages of khalua and tequila chocolates, a necklace for me, and candle/shot glass for our Au Pair. We were given the Disney Magic discount too and paid only $15 for everything. Amina got a sandalwood fan and a morroco. Rhys got a set of pan flutes for $3.50. We were getting hungry so we headed back to the ship listening to the kids complaining the whole way. It was really really hot at this point and we were all sweating profusely when we finally got back on the ship. The kids were really dragging...

We went to Lumiere's for lunch and had the 2 most attentive waiters so far outside of Palo's. I had the potato skins for an appetizer and the chicken casserole followed by the fruit compote/white cake for dessert. At this point, the kids were SO tired, DH took them back to the cabin for a nap which I'm sure he was really looking forward to as well. I took the opportunity to catch up on my trip report at this point and then joined another family that I had met in the launderette in a game of Cruisin' for Trivia at the Promenade Lounge. We were close - had scored 21 out of 25 but the winner correctly guessed 22 out of 25. He won a DCL bag. Who would've known that the most common name for a street in the US was "second" (not Main) and that the most recorded Beatles song was "Yesterday". LOL. I picked up another arcade card - this one actually said "Castaway Cay" on it and then went to the Cove Cafe to watch some tv (using wireless headphones) and relax while waiting for DH and the kids to wake up. It's hard to believe that our cruise is almost over. We have our last day at sea tomorrow and return to LA in 2 days. At least we gain an hour tonight. DD really really wants to watch Sky High which shows tomorrow in the Buena Vista theater at 3 pm.

When I get back to the cabin, the kids are up. I ask them if they each would like a chocolate chip cookie that we had gotten earlier from room service. It should have been my first clue, in retrospect, that something was up with Rhys as he actually declined the cookie. He lay on the sofa and complained of a stomach ache for a little while. He felt very warm and was complaining of being "seasick". DH had gotten up and gone to the fitness center so I took the kids up to deck 10 to get DS some fresh air and to get his bearings figuring maybe it was a combo of being overheated, tired, dehydrated and a little motion sick. Our morning water taxi ride did take us over to the Pacific side which was pretty rough water and the kids got very hot walking back to the pier from the shopping mall. Sitting up on deck 10 and sipping some water didn't help so I took DS back down to the cabin and put him in the bath tub to sponge him down. He drank a cup of ice water and after sitting in the tub shivering, said that he felt a bit better. He felt cooler and we got ready to go to the 6:30 pm show - Twice Charmed. He also drank a glass of orange juice.

Well, it was mostly downhill from here and probably (unfortunately, lol) one of the most memorable nights we have on the entire cruise. Still figuring that DS had a bit of heat exhaustion, we picked up some Chip and Dale crackers that resembled goldfish crackers and found some seats closer to the front of the theater. As the show started, DS looked like he was falling asleep so I picked him up and put him in my lap. The show had barely started when DS threw up all over me. I hissed at DH to take him and the 3 of us snuck out - DH holding DS and me cradling my tank top and skirt to keep the vomit from hitting the floor. I tried to rinse myself off as best I could clogging up the sink - thank goodness there was a bathroom just outside of the theater. DH was in the other bathroom rinsing DS off who was crying now and apologizing. I led him back to our cabin still holding my top and skirt up without being too revealing and put him in the bath tub. I won't go into the other gory details here but suffice it to say that I rinsed off DS and put him to bed. DH had gone back to DD and watched the rest of the show. A cast member was sent immediately to our seat with a bucket to clean up but DH said that there really wasn't anything to wipe up. I had pretty much caught it all on my top and skirt. As DS slept, I watched the Twice Charmed show on the cabin's tv. DH and DD returned to the cabin after the show was over and we decided that DH would stay with DS and I would take DD up to dinner at Lumiere's and bring back something for DH.

We enjoyed dinner at Lumiere's - it was semi-formal night so I put on the outfit that I had worn to Palo's as my semi-formal outfit was drip drying in the bathroom. I had the grilled shrimp appetizer and the lobster tail which was quite good. Dessert was a mango ice cream sundae with a coconut macaroon (which was more like a piece of meringue cookie) and Noel, our server from India, had already sent over the shrimp/lobster tail/ and chocolate dessert to DH in the cabin which was very sweet of him. After dinner, DD and I headed back to the cabin and called it a night - a very eventful night.

12 August 2005, Friday - Our Last Day at Sea

Fortunately, DS slept all night and when he woke up in the morning - he was feeling a lot better. DH and I were looking at each other when DS got up, got himself dressed, brushed his teeth, and put his shoes on all without being told to. He was waiting by the door ready for breakfast, lol. It was about 8:30 and we headed to Lumiere's for breakfast. DH and I had reservations for Palo's brunch at 10:30 so we just sipped on some coffee while the kids ate breakfast. We then dropped the kids off at the club and lab after agreeing to meet at Diversions for the DVC presentation at 9:30. DH stopped off at the gift shop to get DS a sweatshirt and dropped by the cabin to give him an ibuprofen just in case. We watched the DVC presentation and were quite impressed with the on-board incentives to join. I had a colleague and friend of mine already contact DVC last year and they sent us a large brochure and DVD but we just never got around to joining. I really wanted to meet with someone face to face and to get a tour of the facility before committing but we just never had the time. After 3 major trips to WDW, a few small trips to WDW, this trip to DL and on DCL, we should have joined DVC a LONG time ago! We left a bit early to make our 10:30 reservations at Palo's but did sign up for a private consultation at 1:30 with Amil. People were booking these consultations quickly after we got up and booked ours.

We headed to Palo's and were seated in Florencia's section again. She gave us the "tour" of the buffet which was wonderful. A seafood area with huge crab claws, crab legs, large shrimp, sevruga caviar, cold smoked salmon, sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, etc. A cheese area, a bread area with fresh whipped cream and fruit (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries). The pizza chef was cooking up pepperoni, mushroom, cheese, and sweet pizzas (raspberry sauce, mango slices, fresh blueberries, and mascarpone cheese). The dessert area had huge chocolate dipped strawberries, slices of tiramisu, cheesecake, key lime pie, etc. There were also made to order eggs (benedict, florentine, etc) and some pasta dishes - we didn't have time nor room to try these. I think I liked the brunch even better than the dinner. Regular and honeydew champagne was also incuded. I also had a glass of Martinelli's sparkling cider which did cost extra. Jenny was seated at the table next to us with someone she had met (I think it was Susanna) and I got to try a piece of the mushroom pizza when they ordered one.

We thoroughly enjoyed our brunch and found out from Florencia (originally from Argentina) that she has been on the Magic for a very long time - the other staff call her "Mama". Apparently, Florencia had been on the Magic when it left Italy after being constructed. She then served on the Magic for 2 contracts and then went to the Wonder when it left Italy for another contract. At the end of that term, she returned to the Magic and has been on it ever since. Her husband is the head chef at Lumiere's. What a totally awesome arrangement. We didn't ask about kids. I highly recommend asking for Florencia if anyone is planning on Palo's - she is very knowledgeable, sweet, and has a wonderful personality (and I got such a kick out of all of the crew members' different accents).

After brunch, I went to check on DS who was just finishing lunch at Animator's Palate. He looked a little worn out but was no longer warm and wanted to stay with the group to watch Finding Nemo at the Buena Vista theater. DH had gone up to Wide World of Sports to check on DD who we had given signing out privileges today so that she could go and meet her favorite princess, Aurora, who was in the atrium at 11 am. DD was thrilled to be able to sign herself out and holding her own room key but I made her swear that she would see Aurora and then go right back to the sports deck and rejoin the kids from the Oceaneer Lab.

We then met at the DVC desk and waited briefly for Amil Arroyo who took us down to deck 2 into a converted inside state room designated as a "conference room". We had looked over the available DVC destinations during brunch and had formulated a few questions but Amil really anticipated all of our questions. We had decided beforehand that DVC was really something that we wanted to invest in. The onboard incentives were an $8 per point credit to be applied towards the downpayment (saved us about $2400) which, effectively, brought the price per point down from $98 to $90; a March Use Year which means that the points we would have received on Mar 1 of THIS year we would get to use or bank for next year even though it was the middle of August; pro-rated dues; and no closing costs. We were already sold after the initial presentation, lol. Amil welcomed us as new DVC "family" and we were to return later that night to sign the contracts as Amil was running way behind.

DH headed off to the fitness center/nap that he usually does in the afternoon while I went to the spa for my 3 pm appointment for a foot ritual and pedicure. Joanna from England did my pedicure and there was no sales pressure whatsoever as I had indicated on my check-in form: "No Sales Please. Thanks!". It was relaxing and Joanna did a great job. We didn't take the kids to see Sky High after all since their Disney Sea University graduation rehearsal was at 4 pm where they would receive their DSU t-shirts and caps and the graduation was at 5 pm in the Walt Disney theater. DH and I headed to the theater early to get good seats but the last jackpot bingo game was still in session and the theater was PACKED. I did find 2 seats near the middle in the 4th row. I'm so glad that I didn't try to get closer as those who were playing bingo or had come into the theater and sat in the first 2 rows had to move after the game was over - the first two rows were "reserved". The graduation was so cute! We were absolutely amazed at how the counsellors handled SO MANY kids. The older kids (including DD) came down the stairs through the theater and the younger kids came in from the side doors. They just kept coming and coming and coming all wearing their DSU t-shirts and graduation caps which were really NICE with the DSU patch on it and, of course, mouse ears. It was a photo-taking mad house - especially when Mickey Mouse himself came into the theater wearing a graduation outfit. Mickey and Minnie recited the DSU alma mater and they showed a video with picture slide show of lots of kids at various activities. It was close to being a tear-jerker. The kids were then herded off the stage and we went up to the Lab and Club to pick them up. The line into the Club was out the door and around the corner so it took us quite a while to get DS. We then went down to the atrium to meet the other DIS folks as we had decided the night before to meet for a group picture at around 6-6:15 pm. Let's see if I can remember everybody's nick: Me (kidoctr), Vickie (Schultzfamily), Cathy (Catnip0113), Barb (Jilljill), Jenny (Itinkso), Kazu (hzj77hv), Jinny (Jasak), and Wongmao (Lisa).....and all of our families. We got situated around the statue of Mickey Mouse at the wheel of the ship and I just grabbed the first CM that came by who was very very gracious to agree to take our picture. It was hilarious since soon he was inundated with about 8 cameras and another CM came by to help him take some pictures. Afterwards, he pretended to walk off with all of our cameras. We wished we had a picture of the CMs taking our picture! Unfortunately, my group picture came out too dark so, hopefully, one of the other DISers will email me a copy of the group pic.

We finished up and rushed to the theater for tonight's performance - 'Til We Meet Again which was some singing, dancing, conclusions of the skits from the first show, a magician who was very good, and a rock-n-roll comic who was so-so. DS seemed to be feeling a lot better during the show and did not throw up again though I was watching him like a hawk and we sat waaaay in the back this time, lol. Since it was the last night, we let the kids buy some candy for the show - sour cherry balls for DD and sour gummy worms for DS from the little snack shop right by the theater. After the show, we went back to our cabin to finish packing as we had to have our bags out before 10 pm which meant that we wouldn't be returning from dinner in time to finish packing. While we were packing, DS fell asleep on the bed. DH scooped him up and we went to meet with Amil after getting a call that he was available. We went over the final details of our DVC membership, signed a couple of contracts (we bought 350 points and split them up into 2 contracts with the intention of giving them to our kids someday). We got a huge bag full of gifts - a scrapbook, DVC member caps, member lanyards, a travel portfolio, etc. and snapped a photo with Amil who would be our new personal DVC consultant in case we had questions in the future. He gave us each his card with all of his phone numbers including his cell phone number. The kids got some exclusive DCL pins. He's been with DVC for quite some time and he, along with his partner Mike, were brought aboard the Magic to be available to meet with the Disney CEO who was supposed to be on the next cruise. He made us promise to stop by and visit him the next time we were at WDW.

During our meeting, DS woke up but sat quietly and looked very bleary-eyed. He was warm again and DH had given him some ibuprofen before we left the cabin. Poor little guy. We went to our final dinner at Animator's Palate and he had a few bites of pineapple before falling asleep on DH's lap. I had the garlic/artichoke dip, mushroom soup, and seafood pasta (angel hair with scallops, shrimp, and clams) - delicious. The waiters did the baked Alaska thing and we handed out our pre-printed, pre-stuffed thank you envelopes that I had put a personalized thank you card and their gratuities in. I'm so so glad I did that before leaving having gone to the bank to get exact change and putting cash into each envelope so that all I had to do was put their names on the envelopes. I added some extra money for Noel, our server, who did a fantastic job and was so friendly and accomodating. Nazim, the asst server, seemed to warm up as the cruise got going but he doesn't really strike me as terribly comfortable with kids. For dessert, I had the creme brulee with sauteed bananas and, just because I hadn't had a chance to get one yet, a Mickey ice cream bar. DH had already taken DS back to the cabin before dessert was served so I ordered the chocolate cake for him to take to the cabin. It was almost 10:30 when we got back to the cabin and our bags were already gone. I dropped off dessert and then took DD to the gift shops to spend her last Disney dollars. She selected an Aurora play set and we picked out one of those light up, twirling wands for DS. Earlier, DH and I had shopped a little and I got a Wishes CD, a pair of black Mickey slippers, and a keychain with the Mexican Riviera cruise logo on it that we thought would convert easily to a fridge magnet to add to our collection. We had also ordered some Christmas cards from Shutters and purchased a few prints that came out nicely earlier during the day. We finally headed back to the cabin and got to bed.

13 August 2005, Saturday - Disembarkation

We had breakfast scheduled for 8 am at Animator's Palate. It was nice to get together with everyone again before leaving although Cathy (Catnip0113) and her family had already disembarked to catch an early flight. One of the benefits of 2nd dinner seating - we had breakfast on the late side - breakfast for the first group of early dinner seating was at 6:15 am! We ate a leisurely breakfast, were given Donald stickers to wear, and snapped a few pictures before getting off the ship. That was my 2nd and last lox and bagel breakfast. As we got off the ship, CMs were waving with Mickey gloves on. At first, we were surprised to see that the passport line was much longer than the passport/birth certificate line. I had read the opposite on DIS but it turns out that most of the people in the passport line also had birth certificates for their kids and had to move to the other line. The passport line really did move a LOT faster than the BC line.

We went down the escalators and were directed to where our bags were - we had Pluto tags on our bags and there were rooms clearly marked by character so finding our bags was easy. There were plenty of porters around to help. We then went outside to the buses which were all lined up and marked with destinations. Our bus was pretty full and we waited for a little while before we left - at around 9:40 am. I had read about pre-checking our bags at the pier but there was no such service available - I had even asked a CM and was told that there was no pre-check. It would have been nice because by the time we got to LAX, it was incredibly crowded and busy.

We arrived at LAX about 10 and there was mass confusion. DH and I are completely disenchanted with American Airlines right now - it was completely disorganized with a bunch of airport people standing around doing who knows what when they should have been at the doors directing people where to go. Many many people were tired and irate. The line to use the self check-in kiosks was like getting in line to get on Peter Pan at about 1 pm. We thought we were in the wrong line since I had tried to check-in online yesterday while still on the Magic and it wouldn't let me so we moved over to the regular AA line which wound back and forth a few times in the terminal, then went OUT the doors, down the sidewalk, and wound back UP the sidewalk. People were in line for hours and some even missed their flights. We had heard that there was a bomb scare earlier and the terminal was shut down for about 45 minutes. I went BACK to the self check-in line and waited there, which moved much faster than the line DH was in and asked the American Airlines agent who was checking itineraries of everyone in line if I was in the right line. She said yes so I called DH to come over with the kids and our bags. When we reached the kiosk, it would NOT let us check in. We waited and waited for an agent to help us and she ended up being the rudest person we had seen for the last 10 days. One of our bags exceeded the weight limit by 6 pounds so we shuffled our stuff around. Thank goodness our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 2:45 pm. Once we got our boarding passes, this nasty woman wouldn't take our bags! We were directed to take our bags to the opposite end of the terminal to be x-rayed so we haul our stuff across the room and get in another line just to drop off our bags in a holding area. We tried to take the first escalators we saw but, nope, it was for first class passengers only. Where were the escalators? At the other end of the terminal, of course. We found the right escalators and went up to get in yet another line to pass through security. At the top of the escalators were 2 airport workers gossiping when there was mass pandamonioum going on downstairs. I commented to DH that if the airport was handed over to Disney, we'd all be a lot happier and the lines would have been waaaay more efficient. We stop for lunch at Chili's which, thankfully, was only a short wait for a table. After lunch, we find our gate and find out that the flight is delayed. After a gate switch, we finally get off the ground almost an hour late amidst feelings of doom and gloom as our connecting flight window of time was about 45 minutes. Sure enough, we arrive in Dallas and the agent at the gate calls our gate to find out that they had just shut the door of our connecting flight. We are directed to another gate to wait as stand by passengers on a later flight. We basically wait for another hour only to be told that there was no more room on the flight and that we would have to spend the night in Dallas. What a nightmare. We get to the hotel at around 10:30 pm with dinner vouchers from American Airlines only to find out the hotel has NO dining facilities. We're so fed up when we get to bed only to be up at 5 am to make a 7:44 am flight to OK city. What a terrible ending to an otherwise wonderful trip. We did make it home this morning at about 10:30. DS has been asleep since we got home, lol.

Friday, July 11, 2008


One of the attractions at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine is the MagiQuest game. I could find very little about this interactive game on the internet - the MagiQuest website is not terribly informative as far as the "rules" of the game or any game-playing tips.

When we arrived at GWL, the kids immediately went downstairs to the 1st floor to check out the MagiQuest store as well as the arcade. My sister went ahead and bought them each a MagiQuest wand. After checking in and finding our room, we went back down to the Magiquest store where I bought myself a wand and also bought the kids "toppers" for their wands.

Each of us had a different topper representing different clans. My "clan" was the healing clan but that's all I remember about the clan. I should have remembered to take a picture of the clan descriptions on the walls of the store. Each of our wands had to be activated and you pick a name to associate with your wand. Amina chose "Angel", Rhys chose "RhysTS" and I chose "Kidoctr". The wands were $14.99, it was $9.99 to play the game, and each topper was $14.99, I believe. Each player is given 4 days to complete their game. Each player is also given "the Ancient Book of Wisdom" which is your guide to the game - you really should read pages 2 and 3 of the book. We didn't take the time to read it and learned the hard way by trial and error how to play the game.

To "activate" your wand, you jiggle the wand a bit and you can see the light in the topper light up then when you point the wand at the "Q" symbol on any item, it will activate that particular item. The Ancient Book of Wisdom lists the "Key to MagiQuest Locations", aka the hotel floors' names. For example, the 1st floor (where the MagiQuest store is located) is called "Dragon's Hall". There are 8 floors total in GWL Grapevine and every floor must be visited multiple times to complete Quests, collect "runes", and complete Adventures. Each time you use your wand, you collect gold pieces and experience points, aka XP. Some quests require you to have a certain number of gold pieces.

The kids were told by other players that during the game, you must use the stairs. Taking a wand into the elevator apparently subtracts XP from your score although I haven't confirmed this to be true. The stairs are called the "Hidden Stairwell" and tell you which floor is above and which is below your current floor.

You can go around and wave your wand at everything to see what happens - we did this for a while before figuring out how to start a quest. There is a training room to get started in on the 1st floor in Dragon's Hall.

To start, you must find a Quest tree. There are only 2 floors where the trees are located: Floor 1, Dragon's Hall and floor 6, Pixie's Perch. To move on to other quests and adventures, you must return to a tree, wave your wand at it to start, then choose the quest or adventure you wish to try. Listen carefully to what the Quest Master says and be sure to "accept" the quest that you have chosen otherwise everything you do won't count on you wand.

Each rune quest is listed in the the Ancient Book of Wisdom and are ranked in order of difficulty. The quests become more difficult because the descriptions in the Book become more vague. There are 10 runes in total to collect and it takes completing 11 quests to collect all of them. There are 3 adventures to complete as well but each adventure requires a certain set of runes in your possession in order to complete the adventure. We just completed the rune quests pretty much in order and then went on to complete the adventures.

The game worked well in terms of all the computers and such. There was only one quest (the Wolf Rune quest) that was malfunctioning.

When we got to this quest, we simply went to the MagiQuest store and this rune quest was "uploaded" into the wand as completed. Oddly, the entire hotel with all 8 floors only had 4 elevators which were constantly busy with guests going up and down between their rooms, the restaurants, the waterpark, etc.

The stairwells were also constantly busy with kids going up and down the stairs doing quests. I was particularly irritated by the numerous unsupervised children running up and down the stairs, yelling and screaming (and at one point even asked a little girl to refrain from screaming in the stairwell) but had to chuckle at the out-of-shape parents/grandparents who were trying to keep up with some of the the children on the stairs. Some quest and adventure items were also located inside the stairwells.

The stairs connected each floor's "lobby" area and the game did not extend past this lobby area as there were guest rooms down either side of the lobby.

Items needed for the quests are located everywhere on either side of the lobby area around the elevators as well as the long hallways leading from the elevators to the waterpark entrance/MagiQuest store (floor 1, Dragon's Hall), the main lobby area (floor 2, shopkeeper's hall) and the Camp Critter Bar and Grill (floor 4, Enchanted woods).

Some items are hidden around the corner in an alcove:

Other items are located on the celing:

To check what items and runes you have collected, and how many gold pieces/XP you have, consult the Status Stations located on various floors:

Once we finished collecting all the runes - which took several hours the first day and about an hour the next day (we got the hang of it and did these quests on our own - Amina and Rhys finishing theirs and me finishing mine in very good time), we started the 3 Adventures one by one at the Quest Tree. The Adventures are trickier as there are no clues in the Ancient Book of Wisdom and we had to frequently consult the Status Stations to find out what our next item was. As you found each item, you had to oftentimes listen carefully for important instructions from that item- where the next item was located, how to use the runes/symbols properly, etc.

As I was finishing up the last few quests on my own, I started keeping track of some of the items I hadn't used yet as I found them by writing them down in the Book and notating which floor they were on. This came in handy later when we were searching for these items to complete Adventures and we finished the Adventures much more quickly than the Quests. Some of the quests and all of the Adventures require the use of the Hover Crystals. These crystals were located near the Quest Trees and had to be charmed (eg waving your wand at it) in order to complete some of the quests and adventures. We learned a lot about the game just by watching other players. Kids were also frequently looking for a specific item and would stop to ask each other.

Here are the kids completing the Amulet Adventure:

The last Adventure we did was the most difficult - it was the Dragon Adventure where we had to battle the Red Dragon. After many tries and watching others try, I finally figured out how to time the game and defeat the dragon. I defeated the dragon with my wand then went on to defeat the dragon with both kids' wands as well. I also ended up helping 2 other little boys finish their adventures too.

The game was really fun and the kids really enjoyed it too. We got to keep our wands and hope to use them when we stay at the GWL in Williamsburg in October while we're on our Adventure by Disney Spirit of America tour. Each of us are "Master Magi" now.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Rhys' 9th Birthday in Grapevine's Great Wolf Lodge

It was not hard to convince Rhys to spend his birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine. As his birthday approached, he got more excited than he has ever been in the past in anticipation of our trip. The kids talked me into leaving on our trip one night early. I booked a room in Norman, OK for Friday evening at the Hampton Inn so that we could take our time on Saturday morning driving the rest of the way to Dallas/Grapevine. I really dislike long-distance driving as the monotony practically puts me to sleep.

We left for Norman after I got off work and had dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise in OKC. Rhys ate almost an entire hamburger and the kids enjoyed the guy on the stilts who made balloon animals for Rhys (a puppy who had eaten a "burger" and a rabbit - Rhys' favorite animal). We checked in to the Hampton Inn at around 9:30 pm. It took about 45 minutes to realize that the A/C in our hotel room was not working properly. The thermostat was set at 65 degrees but the room still felt like it was 80 degrees. The A/C would kick on for about 10 minutes then turn back off again just as the room started to cool down. I called down to the front desk and was assured that the temperature would improve within 20-30 minutes. It didn't. After a couple more phone calls, I finally went downstairs to complain about the heat in our room and pointed out that we were not staying in a cheap $40 hotel. The hotel was almost completely booked up and we were offered either single smoking rooms or one handicapped room on the ground floor with a double bed for all 3 of us. I was also told that the Fairfield Inn across the parking lot was also booked up. I finally had to REQUEST a fan be put in our room.

It sounded like a plane taking off all night but it did cool the room down a bit. The following morning, we had breakfast and moved our things to the car. I returned back to the front desk to check out and decided that I would test the hotel's "100% satisfaction guarantee". I told the front desk clerk that our stay was not in the least bit satisfactory because of the malfunctioning A/C. She apologized immediately and acknowledged that we would not be responsible for the room charge. I filled out a small form with information and signed it. The room rate was credited back to my credit card. I have to admit that the Hampton Inn really does honor their policy and I was not made to feel guilty in the least bit. My experiences at Hampton Inn has always been good - this was the first time that I've been dissatisfied and they did make it right.

We drove to Dallas and stopped by to pick up my sister, BIL, and mom. My mom did mention that she was having dizzy spells because she mistakenly doubled up on a blood pressure medication that she mistook for her thyroid pill. I didn't think much about this. We then followed my BIL to the Rainforest Cafe at the Grapevine Mills Mall for lunch.

Rhys had an enormous pizza for lunch and we all shared the Volcano Cake to celebrate his birthday.

We left the restaurant and headed straight for the hotel which was just down the street.

There was a short wait at the reception desk to check-in. I chatted for a moment with the guy behind me in line who was at the GWL for the second time. He had brought his family to the lodge in March but they were turned away because the hotel had been overbooked by about 100 rooms. He thought that the internet reservations were not matched with the other room reservations and there were simply no rooms to offer them. They were not given gift certificates or any sort of apology despite having come from Little Rock, Arkansas. This had happened shortly after the hotel had opened for business and he described many very very angry people in the lobby that day. Check-in went smoothly for us, though. While I checked in, Jason, Dee, and the kids went downstairs to check out MagiQuest.

I booked a Wolf Den suite as a party of 2 adults and 2 children even though Seth was in Las Vegas at a Board review course. The cost was the same with 1 vs 2 adults. Guests could bring friends to the water park for a fee of $30 so I figured the extra "guest" in our room might come in handy - it did. As the kids were looking around downstairs, I took some of our luggage to our room. I was given 2 "room key" wristbands and 2 regular wristbands at check-in which was really ingenious, imo. The wristband got you into the water park and also acted as your room key by waving the wristband in front of the door handle where you would normally "swipe" a room key card.

Our room was very spacious and we had a nice view of the outdoor water park from our window.

Everyone soon came up to the room where Dee and Mom rested while Jason, the kids, and I went back down to play MagiQuest. I'm going to blog separately about MagiQuest and the waterparks. After playing MagiQuest for a bit, the kids wanted to visit the waterpark before dinner so Jason ran Dee home so she could rest and he could get his swim trunks, while my Mom waited in the room. Jason got to use the other wristband to get into the water park for free.

After a bit, we went back to the room and got ready for dinner. We decided to have dinner at the Camp Critter Bar and Grill rather than the buffet (Loose Moose Cottage). Rhys had opened a few birthday presents in the room already (from Amina).

Dinner at Camp Critter was really pretty good. It was unreal how many guests were celebrating birthdays this evening. By the time we finally got done with dinner, we had already overheard about 1/2 a dozen other birthdays. I had ordered another caked from Cher-Den's in Enid - this time chocolate in the shape of a computer to represent the laptop computer that Rhys asked for but didn't get for his birthday.

The restaurant staff sang him a birthday song and he opened the rest of his presents.

After dinner, Jason took my mom home and wanted to go back to the water park with us in the morning. The kids and I played MagiQuest right up until it closed for the evening - 11 pm.