2022 Marvel Day At Sea Trip Report
2022 Marvel Day At Sea Trip Report

2022 Marvel Day At Sea Trip Report

You can read the report by day by clicking on each image below. If you’d prefer to read the trip report as one long report, you can scroll down and read the entire report as one long scrolling document.

Trip Report - 2022 Marvel Day at Sea

Meet Your Hosts

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Gayle (Left) and Kara in Monte Carlo on the 2019 Mediterranean Cruise on the Disney Magic.

(I chose this photo because it’s from Monte Carlo, where we got to tour the Grand Prix track from Iron Man 2!)

We are both Platinum Castaway Club, reside in Indiana (USA), and each work in the higher education field, although Kara has recently branched out on her own and launched her own consulting company.

Our Disney Cruise Line experiences include the Bahamas, Caribbean (Western & Eastern), California Coast, Mexico, West Coast Repo, Alaska (only Kara), and Mediterranean. Our favorite cruises have been when 1) we got “stuck” at Disney Castaway Cay for an extra 24 hrs(!), 2) the inaugural Pixar cruise with John Lasseter, and a 25% capacity Fantasy for our “Return to Sailing”. Kara also loved Alaska, which she did with her parents.

If you happen to want to see some our previous Trip Blogs:

There are more - we just haven’t gotten them posted with photos!

Things to know about us before diving into this Trip Blog are that I (Gayle) am the Type A “planner”, while Kara is much more appreciative of the broader experience, more able to appreciate new discovery and finding “joy”! Once the trip gets started, hopefully we will be tag-teaming our narrative of the cruise!

Kara: Gayle’s being really kind. I am a total Type A planner in my professional life. I love my calendar, my to do list, and my notebook where I do my own version of bullet journaling. That said, when I’m traveling, I prefer to try to relax. And, because I’m lucky to have a best friend who also happens to be an exceptional travel agent I am more than happy to leave the details to her when we travel. I am incredibly appreciative of all the work she’s put into this trip and every trip we’ve ever taken.

On that note… Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!

The Origin Story of this Adventure

What a saga this one has been! And keep in mind this ISN’T our first COVID/Return to Cruising sailing. So join me in a Marvel-style time jump!

June 5, 2019 - No kidding. This was a Placeholder from our Med cruise.

March 19, 2021 - Very soon before my birthday, I suggested applying the Placeholder to this cruise, as my desire to experience a Marvel Day at Sea had steadily grown. (Yes, I’m a notable member of a strong Marvel fan podcast - to the point they gave me a nickname! Shout-out to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Podcast with Matthew & Jeff!)

May 20, 2021 - Then we were able to move this reservation # (with the Placeholder benefit) to our first booking on the Wish (Sept. 2023) on the first day reservations were made available to our Castaway Club Platinum level. By now, more than a year into COVID, both Kara and I had each experienced numerous personal losses, all the while watching Disney Cruises get cancelled month after month. Originally this cruise was a “back-up”, presuming our Oct. 2021 8 night on the Fantasy got cancelled. But by this point we decided we would keep it no matter what!

Holdup!

It seems I forgot to mention what precisely we’d booked:

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Because of a terrible change in my work, this was the first time in roughly a decade I could cruise in winter, which is our preference to escape the freeze of Indiana! Plus this was to be our first Double Dip. (But whoops the Oct. 2021 ended up changing to a Double Dip!) And it’s on the Magic, my favorite ship!

Not So Fast!

Per a work situation with Kara (that I will NOT detail here), suddenly we couldn’t take this cruise. Thankfully we had already purchased trip insurance that would cover this situation! (Let me know if you’d like me to explain all the reasons trip insurance is important - & not just related to COVID!) Admittedly we’d had such an amazing time in October, we didn’t really “need” this cruise. But my now, I at least kinda had my hopes up to escape winter (& more) and out of spite for having someone else control my vacation, I still wanted to go out of spite! So let this be a public apology to Kara for pushing to reschedule this.

So in roughly 2 days and scavenging through both our calendars to try to find enough days to travel, we landed on:

5 night Western Caribbean Marvel Day at Sea Feb. 5-10Sure we lost the Double Dip and didn’t care it changed from Bahamas to Western. To escalate the cost as little as possible we took a Guaranteed 7A (Navigator Verandah), because these are our favorite on the Classic ships. It’s our first Guaranteed, which isn’t a risk for us, as we know where they are on the ship and really don’t care, again especially because October was so great.

Honestly the dates are better than the original as it better breaks up the long, dark, cold winter!

Jan. 27, 2022 - Hotel Break

This is something that drives Kara crazy: I constantly second-guess the hotel choice (even though it’s always Marriott, as that’s our loyalty brand). Originally, we were booked (via loyalty certificate) at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, as it’s close to the port and I love water views (since we have none in land-locked Indiana). However, I read this was under a ton of construction.

So I moved us to the Element Brickell. In our tiny bit of regional travel during COVID our preference for a kitchen turned into a requirement so we could heat leftovers or order-in to reduce our exposure. And like we’d experienced in Ohio, this hotel was virtually brand new, opening in Dec. 2021.

Yet in this final week of January, I’m reading reviews about how the hotel was not ready to open, both from a facility and staffing standpoint. The reviews were shocking for a new hotel. So as of today (Jan. 27), “third time’s the charm” as we landed on simplicity (read: near the airport) at the Residence Inn Miami Airport West/Doral.

Jan. 27, 2022 - And more cruise changes!

Only during COVID…. Seriously, I’m not kidding. We were easily expecting this as we watched various islands change their protocols and openings, sometimes without notice. So also today (Jan. 27), we were notified of the expected itinerary change:

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So we lost Grand Cayman (expected), sadly picked up Nassau (& like usual we will treat as a Day at Sea), and the Double Dip is back!

PHEW!

Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!

Complicating the Journey: Landon

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Who’s Landon, you ask? That would be Winter Storm Landon.

Over the weekend of January 29 & 30, I started focusing more on the weather at our destinations, as I was packing. However, the weather at home in Indiana grabbed my attention. A winter weather event was approaching and it seemed to be… significant. By Sunday night things seemed pretty consistent, even if the models and forecasters lacked confidence in the precise timing and amounts.

In short, this storm was supposed to encompass Wed., Feb. 2 - Fri. Feb. 4 (maybe into the 5th with wind), extending from Dallas to Maine! While we didn’t know exactly “what” kind of precipitation we would get, it seemed like we would get a whole lot of “something”! Sunday night I dropped a quick note to my boss in an attempt to start a conversation pertaining to any remote work options or the need to claim additional time off.

Kara: I was also watching the storm and realized that at the least I had to get my puppy, Kona, to my dad and sister early so we started making arrangements to transition him on Tuesday. I am enjoying the freedom that comes with being a small business owner as I am launching a consulting practice so I’m enjoying the freedom of being my own boss.

Monday, Jan. 31 came & went in silence (across my entire college/employer).

The morning of Tuesday, Feb. 1 brought a single-topic staff meeting to our small group. My boss determined we needed input from administrative leadership on the weather issue that day. Remarkably by lunch our boss was back with surprising news of flexibility and options, which was important as the commute times of our staff range from 10 minutes (me) and others nearing an hour.

I flew into action. I began searching for alternative flights to depart earlier than our planned Friday morning. But how much earlier? That night was a rare strain on Kara & my friendship, as I wanted to leave before the 2-part storm arrived, while Kara wanted to “roll the dice” on our booking Friday flight.

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Here I admit to being a bully. I seriously feared if we didn’t go early, we’d have no chance at all. And while staying home warm watching the Olympics always is a draw, by now I really was set on this cruise - especially since the same week it was announced the Winter 2023 itineraries on the Fantasy that are usually Star Wars Day at Sea would now be Pixar Day at Sea. (With this I’m fully expecting the Marvel Day at Sea to move from the Magic to the Dream. This is less interesting to me personally, as I adore the Magic.)

Kara: I admit I wasn’t crazy about this option but I also agree now that we did it that it was the right decision to make. I will also go on record here to say that although I wanted to either leave early or drive to Florida in October for our cruise when the airlines were in chaos, that I lost and Gayle won. I’ll also just for the purposes of record keeping say that our original flight did go out and land exactly as scheduled. That said, for many reasons, these two days in the hotel were very productive and useful and I am still glad we made this decision.

(While it was a notable & feasible addition to my budget - 1 night of certificate and 2 nights on cash - I regret going early now knowing what we know. Regret is a regular companion for a Questioner. But I also know we would have been filled with non-stop anxiety if we’d not gone early.)

With a willingness to cover the extra hotel costs, the afternoon of Tues., Feb. 1 I changed our flight to the morning of Wed., Feb. 2! (First I had to ensure a long layover in ATL for a work Zoom, but luckily discussed the meeting agenda and my role in the meeting with my boss who then excused me from the meeting. Thus, a 2nd change was made for a minimal layover.) BIG shoutout to Delta Airlines for having no change fees! This is one benefit of the COVID era.

After work I dashed home, threw the last of my packing & a couple of extra clothing items in my bag, and made the hour drive down to my BFF’s in Indy. (This is just one reason I wanted to be packed over the weekend; I got the sense I had no real idea of when I might be leaving my house!)

Kara: Unlike Gayle, I am a last minute packer in nearly every situation. I started packing in earnest mid Tuesday but was glad that I was finished by the time she arrived at my house.

Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!

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PRE-CRUISE TIME IN MIAMI

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022

Suddenly Travel Day was now 48hrs earlier than originally planned. A turn of fate had me waking up to my COVID test result (finally) from Friday: Negative! Phew! However, Kara didn’t have time or access to get one closer to our travel, so we’ll see how that goes?!

We left Kara’s around 8:30am to go to the Panera closest to the airport. We got a full lunch meal to immediately eat in the car since we would be masked for COVID precautions non-stop until we arrived at the hotel closer to supper time.

Kara: Nothing like a full Panera lunch at 9:00 a.m.!

One of our many masked selfies. This one is in the Indianapolis airport.
One of our many masked selfies. This one is in the Indianapolis airport.

Due to our late change in flights, our seats weren’t together and I didn’t even have an assigned seat for ATL-MIA. However, we didn’t care as long as we could escape Indiana. Clearly everyone thought something similar as both of our flights were completely sold out.

The Delta App suddenly stopped working, but the gate agents did a great job of altering us and having us claim print boarding passes long before boarding began. To ATL I simply closed my eyes and listened to my calming travel playlist.

Kara: This is a place where I am always prepared. While I LOVE technology, I almost always get a print boarding pass either the night before or when I check in and drop my bags at the airport. That one thing has saved me so much hassle over the years. It did today too as some folks couldn’t get into TSA Pre-check until they went back and grabbed print boarding passes. Thankfully Gayle’s worked at TSA but it did stop working later and she got print passes at the gate.

Our layover in ATL was only 53 minutes, and being experienced at ATL, prepared ourselves for the dash to the underground train to change terminals and scurry to our new gate. ALAS! It was a miracle! We landed at B7 and were departing from B2! What?!

My App still wasn’t working, but I was immediately able to get my seat assignment and paper boarding pass. A quick “pit stop” and we were back in the air. By the time we got to bag claim our bags were already circling.

There was a slight miscommunication about our airport transfer to the hotel, but we really didn’t care, as we were outside in the sun and breeze without winter coats!

Kara: I have to say that the breeze in Miami was fabulous. I can get very impatient waiting for things like this but that breeze was so lovely that the 40 or so minutes we waited was no problem at all.

HOTEL #4

I know, I have a problem. Yes, in the travel changes, I changed the hotel again. Since we would be here for 3 nights instead of 1, that changed the approach. Sadly there was nothing near the water with a kitchen that we wanted that wouldn’t bust the budget. So I simply chose a different Residence Inn - Residence Inn Doral Mall Area. Why? This was slightly further away from the airport, provided complimentary shuttle service (which apparently isn’t as common as one would expect), full kitchen, and hot breakfast. Plus the hotel was only about 6 months old and just blocks from some basic shopping centers.

Kara: I had no idea she had booked four hotels! I’m happy with the one she picked in the end.

Upon check-in we were voluntarily offered an Accessible room. While it didn’t have the usual bar area in the kitchen, the extra square feet were appreciated since we both had to work remotely for 2 days.

Living area of our hotel room
Living area of our hotel room
Kitchen area of our hotel room
Kitchen area of our hotel room

That night we decided to go ahead and stock the kitchen. So it was off to… Publix! (When in Florida….) It definitely wasn’t the biggest Publix, but it had what we needed/wanted for the next couple of days. The biggest win? Peppermint Ice Cream - in February! (I could barely find 1 carton of that in Indiana at the holidays!)

Elusive peppermint stick ice cream
Elusive peppermint stick ice cream

Neither of us could get the Uber App to work, so Kara switched to Lyft. Upon arriving into MIA I received a 10% off my next 3 Lyft rides, so we decided to save that for getting to the Port/back to the airport. What a great choice, because of our outing to the grocery, Kara received a 50% off the next ride! This is great, as it’s probably close to 30-40 minutes from our hotel to the port! Score!

After a dinner pack of taco fixings, it was easy to fall asleep to an early round of Olympic Curling!

Kara: This is what I’d describe as a Publix Neighborhood Market. It was very small but it did have the things we absolutely had to have. I lived in Florida for 18 months early in my career and I miss Publix regularly.

Also, our Lyft back to the hotel from the grocery store was terrible. He was talking on the phone the entire time, missed turns, and was not driving safely. I reported it to Lyft via the app and had a 50% discount off of my next ride which I can only imagine was related to this complaint. I would rather have just had a safe ride.

Thursday, Feb. 3 & Friday, Feb. 4

We were pretty much in self-imposed quarantine as we both dealt with work tasks and phone calls.

Kara watching the snow storm in Indiana on her security cameras.
Kara watching the snow storm in Indiana on her security cameras.

A big shock on Thursday was getting roughly a 1 hour notice prior to an urgent Travel Agent call with Disney Cruise Line. (Let me assure you this is not the norm, which kind of freaked us out! Were they pausing operations? Was our cruise canceled? Was the new Wish going to be delayed?)

Indeed the last of that was the cause. The new Disney Wish scheduled to launch in June is being pushed to July per COVID-related work slowdowns at the shipyard in Germany. Thus my night was spent with a couple of impacted clients, including a large family on the Maiden Voyage. (And just let me say Disney Cruise Line is handling this in an Oprah-like fashion. I and my clients are very happy!) We did squeeze in a 30 minute walk to get some fresh air and movement after full days of sitting (just like at work! Boo!)

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Tonight Kara made her infamous “Stuff”. (If you know, you know.) Then we dug into the Peppermint Ice Cream. (How “terrible” that we’ll just have to finish it all tonight!) I foolishly forgot to take any caffeine and ended up with a migraine at bedtime, so it was a very restless night - even after taking in night 1 of the Olympic figure skating team event. (I adore both Nathan Chen and Hubble & Donahue!)

Tonight will finally be time to turn off all the work, repack, and enjoy more Olympics (& try to limit the anxiety of having to COVID test at the port tomorrow!)

Kara: I was excited to tick a lot of tasks off of my list while my puppy, Kona, is hanging with my dad and sister back in Indiana. I love that little guy a lot, AND he is also an easy distraction now that I’m running my own business and controlling my own time. The two days in the hotel without the distraction of a puppy allowed me to get all of my business paperwork completed and get several appointments scheduled.

Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!

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Boarding Day

5am. We woke up (involuntarily) at 5am. UGH.

We slowly got up, went downstairs to get some breakfast, watched Olympic ski jump, and got ready. Since it was a 30+ minute ride to the Port (Terminal C), I elected to call a Lyft Lux.  The Lexus ride was quite comfortable- except the driver who obviously had an affinity for techno music. Ugh.

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Kara: FUN FACT: Gayle and I have arrived at the terminal by car on four occasions now - once at Port Canaveral when my Aunt and Uncle dropped us off, once in Barcelona, once in Vancouver and once now in Miami. I’ve actually had one more arrival by car when I went on the Alaskan cruise with my parents. Typically, we take the bus.

Let me start with a theme statement: The Port of Miami is NOT the same as Disney’s private terminal at Port Canaveral. (If you ever sail out of Miami, do not hold the terminal & experience there against Disney.) I think it’s safe to say of all the ports we’ve departed from, this was by far the worst experience (for “Disney” standards).

Our Port Arrival Time (PAT) was 10:45am, but a very nice gentleman let us in at 10:30am. (SHHHH!) We were corralled to testing, where a woman was screaming the COVID test instructions to us as we trekked through the queue switchbacks.

Kara: …the woman “running” the COVID testing line. She was a hot mess - asking if we heard her instructions and then asking us to repeat them which she kept changing each time we heard her go through them. This DEFINITELY is not the well-oiled machine of port Canaveral

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Honestly there weren’t that many people there, but it was LOUD.

At this point we could already tell there were more first-time cruisers on this sailing based on their lack of knowing “what comes next” or how to complete the COVID test. The testing itself was streamlined and we soon made our way to the Waiting Area by 10:47am. There were again monitors setup to indicate test results, but we quickly figured out they weren’t synced. It was easier for us to check the Safe Passage website on our phones anyway.

Within 35-40 minutes, we saw the only thing we needed: Clear to Sail!

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Next we were herded to Check-In. (This step is very minimal these days, as most check-in is handled online in advance and key cards & lanyards are in the staterooms.) Interestingly, the Check-In line is where a “different side” of Kara came out.

For this step at Port Canaveral the crowd is divided among 5 lines: First-Time, Castaway Club (loyalty program) Silver, Gold, & Platinum, and Concierge. This is not the case in Miami. There was only one separate, virtually hidden, line for Concierge. This was highly frustrating for us and many other parties.

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I’ll admit it’s a difference between who knows what they are doing and just want to get on the ship and those who don’t. The bigger issue is this is supposed to be a perk for Castaway Club members, which is one in a list of Platinum benefits that have been removed, including not needing to choose a PAT, being given Board Group #1-2, and complimentary Palo.

As we waited in the line we assessed one of the reasons might be the layout of this terminal simply doesn’t allow for that expanded human navigation, or perhaps Miami doesn’t have the staff for the differentiated check-in desks.

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Kara: FUN FACT: This is the sixth terminal we’ve sailed out of together: Canaveral, Long Beach, San Diego, Vancouver, Barcelona, and Miami.

Kara: I am going to dive in a little more harshly on the ridiculously poor check in experience (other than with the very nice person who actually scanned our information and the fact that my amazing travel agent takes care of the vast majority of the check in activities well in advance of us ever arriving at the terminal.)

As individuals on our 15th (Gayle) and 13th (Kara) cruises, we are well versed with the Boarding process and, yet, there was no separate line for Castaway Club members. One of my biggest complaints with Disney in general is that they take loyalty for granted rather than rewarding it. Disney created a cruise loyalty program and then has regularly degraded and devalued this program. This is yet another of those examples. Everyone waited in the same line. The woman working the end of the line also had no idea how to answer questions about this which just was another way Disney demonstrated it does not have its act together in the Port of Miami.

(P.S. Had she had a simple explanation as to why they couldn’t handle this here or even known what we were talking about I don’t think I’d be nearly as upset about this as I am.)

Anyway, we simply showed our passports as the desk agent confirmed we had done everything else online. We were then directed to another waiting area until our Boarding Group (#4) was called. The speaker system here, of course playing Disney music, was inhumanely loud - for no good reason. As we waited I assisted an older first-time sailor in locating her Boarding Group.

I’d guess in roughly 10-15 minutes our number was called and we trekked with others to the ship as most of us traded stories of our efforts to escape Landon. As is our tradition we skipped the pre-boarding photo (& went around about 30 other guests). We showed our QR code virtual boarding pass again and basked in the sun on the gangway.

Kara: I will continue to advocate that there should be a “no boarding photos” express line which could speed this process even more.

Welcome Aboard, Kara & Gayle!

Spoiler! - If you don’t want to see Disney’s unique boarding, do NOT play these two videos! Also did he say “bale”?!

Video URL: https://youtu.be/VI2TikpeGXk

Welcome Aboard “show”

Video URL: https://youtu.be/RVov4lZ2PUY

We have an equivalent of this from the Fantasy, which is slightly different due to the different layout of the ship.

I love the Magic. Yet, it was at this point I remarked how small/narrow the (3 story) Atrium (Deck 3) felt, which I’m sure was in comparison to the Fantasy that we sailed in Oct. Let me assure you, two cruises in four months is NOT our norm!

Kara: Gayle and I talked a lot on this cruise about the differences in the ship and nothing made that more apparently than watching this show on a Dream Class ship and then watching it again just four months later on a Classic ship. The Classic ships are much more intimate which I like. This show really makes you appreciate that though.

We also spied our first Marvel Day at Sea photo backdrop! I was SO excited!

Kara: Me too!!

Marvel Day At Sea Photo Backdrop
Marvel Day At Sea Photo Backdrop

Keeping to the Marvel theme, the next aspect however produced Hulk Gayle. Every guest was directed (assertively) to Fathoms. I indicated, no, we were going up to Deck 4 to handle our required Muster Station check-in. “You  must go to Fathoms.”  What is going on?! This has not been the routine for any of my other 14 Disney Cruises!

Entering the multi-functional entertainment space it was immediately clear they were instructing guests how to access the “Disney-Guest” cruise-only onboard wifi and link their cruise in the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App. I ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DO ALL OF THIS! WHY ARE YOU KEEPING ME IN THIS SPACE?! While the App is not new (it was in place pre-COVID), yes it has far more (required) functionality. I know they didn’t know we’d just sailed recently, but the black Castaway Club lanyard (indicating Platinum status) should have been an indicator to them. At minimum, they could have asked.

Kara: Or told us why we were going there - or better yet - have provided this information in the know before you go information that we STILL READ IN ITS ENTIRETY multiple times before every cruise. As a consultant who has a specialty in IT, I understand why they want to get what is definitely frustrating for many people out of the way right from the start but again, don’t punish those of us who do follow all the instructions in this way.

So there we sat. Trying and not able to join the wifi. No one in the room could access it. And the crew didn’t even have phones to test the App themselves, so they kept instructing as if it were user-error!

I can’t remember if Kara was able to access it, but I definitely was not. As the effort by the crew quickly dissolved, we simply left. As originally intended we headed for our Muster Station. This time I’d noted our station letter and had researched at home the location. Which I didn’t need to do. The stations are based on your stateroom location and since we tend to stay in the same area, we were at our usual Muster location: Animator’s Palate.

Kara: I wasn’t able to access the app until we got into lunch and the wifi kept dropping out. Definitely NOT a user error.

The poor crew member was having to juggle 4 binders of guest lists. Since we couldn’t join the wifi and had no access to the App, we couldn’t complete the photo task at the Muster Station. Luckily the crew member manually checked us off.

Still in frustrated speedy mode, I went to turn toward the elevators to get to our usual Cabanas for lunch. The crew member said something I didn’t catch, but between Kara and him, I stopped and asked. He noted the table service restaurant open for lunch was Rapunzel’s Royal Table.

Stop. Side Note: We typically go to the buffet so we can get exactly what we want and in preferred portions. (Actually I just wanted poolside chicken tenders, as for some unknown reason they taste better here than anywhere on land. Kara thinks it’s the salt from the sea air!) Plus the main dining rooms tend to outline a casual (read: slower) service. However, Kara knows I love Rapunzel’s. In fact, it’s my favorite across the fleet. So trying to shift into cruise mode and knowing we wouldn’t have access to our stateroom for a while, we took one flight of stairs down to Rapunzel’s. Ahhhh.

Shockingly there wasn’t anything I was really excited about on the menu. And not caring as well as knowing we’d have less time on this cruise, yes, I ordered from the kid’s menu: chicken tenders and mac & cheese. (Yum, but still not as good as poolside.) And based on the time it took I will presume the server went up to the pool grille to get my requested BBQ sauce!

I was too busy fighting with the App and trying to figure out what to change with dining, but here’s my lava cake! Dessert is always most important!

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Kara: I love to get the “peel and eat” shrimp at Cabanas but the lobster salad was a delicious choice for lunch today and started this cruise off under the guise of healthy eating. Don’t worry - it won’t last long. Also, I’m not a big Disney dessert fan as I don’t like gooey foods. That said, I had two desserts in a row at Rapunzel’s that were delicious. This one and one coming up later in the cruise.

Here is Kara’s beef empanada appetizer, lobster salad, and carrot cake.

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If you are super interested in this menu, here’s a shot of the paper menu (since the App wasn’t working)!

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Throughout lunch most of the dining room was fighting with the wifi and app. (We later learned they had done a system update that morning between the cruises.) Kara finally got it to work, but not me. I turned my phone off & on. Tried many times. Finally after removing and reinstalling the App all was again right with the world.

Here are some photos of Rapunzel’s Royal Table, a rarity with daylight!

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Fun fact: There are “hidden Pascals” throughout the restaurant!

Kara: The fun of us writing these together and then collaborating after the trip is that I get to add comments like, “I wish you would have reminded me of that on the trip! I love looking for hidden Mickeys and other hidden things. I will add that we spent quite a good amount of time in Rapunzel’s during the day on this trip which gave us the chance to notice a lot of the gorgeous little details that are along the walls - echoing her paintings from the film. It’s hard to take all that in at night during a single or even a double dining rotation in that restaurant so if you get a chance to visit the restaurants during the day, absolutely take it and enjoy the extra special touches you can see in regular lighting that may not even be as noticeable during dinner “show” lighting.

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During my struggles I asked Kara to find our dining rotation in the App. We were assigned AARRL = 2 nights in Animator’s Palate, 2 nights in Rapunzel’s (as requested), and 1 night in Lumiere’s. It seems as if a rotation from a prior cruise wasn’t being applied to ours (plus I have a habit of asking for things that don’t exist), so our first night in Rapunzel’s would conflict with our Palo reservation! Sigh.

The easiest thing to go was actually move Palo to this first night, which Kara accomplished via the App Chat with the Dining team. Since we boarded so early we had confidence our luggage would arrive in time to change for dinner, something we hadn’t anticipated.

Once all this was done, it was only then I felt like I could exhale and truly feel like I was on my Disney Cruise. After lunch we took a bit of time to capture some photos from around the ship. We definitely got the sense this sailing had a bit higher guest ratio than the Fantasy in Oct, which had 1080 guests with a capacity of 4000 (27%). Our Head Server later communicated there were 967 guests on this sailing; the Magic can accommodate 2700 guests. So our ratio was 35.8%. And it definitely seemed like there were more kids, which is expected on a shorter, themed cruise. Finally, there were definitely more First-Timers/lower loyalty guests based on the evening poll in the theater (& general overhead conversations, etc.).

The forecast for our cruise was:

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FYI, we never experienced one drop of rain!

Since our stateroom wasn’t yet available, we secured a quiet end of the Promenade Lounge. Here we spent useful time working through the App and “trying” to mark our “Favorites” to make for quick reference later in the trip.

Due to last minute change in travel plan and other priorities, I hadn’t taken the time I wanted to study for Disney Cruise Line Trivia.

Kara: After lunch we did a little photo safari for G’s travel photo library and then hung out in promenade. We did some studying for DCL trivia and I called my dad and sister for the final time before we set sail.

As Gayle mentioned, I have MANY thoughts on the Disney app - most of them not that good. I’m going to jump around a bit in our trip but compile them all here so you can skip them if you want. First, it’s nearly impossible to find the regular easy stuff you want in the app (I’m talking to you Castaway Cay map and daily weather). These should always be accessible from the page for that location’s activities. Yes - they are there. No - they are NOT easy to find. Second, this is the second cruise in a row that I’ve watched Gayle futz with the app over and over again. While I don’t have exactly the same issues of it not updating that she does (her iphone vs my android), Disney needs to deal with this as Gayle is NOT alone given how many people we heard frustrated by this on the trip. And third, FAVORITES. UGH! I can’t even. I have NO idea if I was seeing only my favorites or our shared favorites in the app. Given that we used to sit with highlighters with the paper navigator (in two colors - one for each of us) on those occasions we wanted to do something different, I still knew where she was from “the app of its day”. This is still a FAMILY vacation Disney. Let me know what my family is doing without having to mentally keep track - and let me know WHO picked which activity (maybe put my avatar in a heart like EVERY OTHER SOCIAL APP ON THE PLANET DOES). And, make the favorites easier to deal with overall. Without loads of scrolling and switching between screens I can’t actually tell if I’ve chosen five different activities in the same time slot (which I did multiple times). In general, Disney isn’t actually good at day to day user technology no matter how innovative and creative they are as a company. They certainly do not take care of the basics in any of their areas from booking to on board apps.

Note 1 about Trivia: This is one of our favorite/regular activities onboard across many subject areas. I honestly don’t remember the first time we won, because at that time they were giving away random gift; ours was a bound journal and maybe some other type of memory keepsake? The one I remember was a few cruises ago because the topic was “Disney Cruise Line Trivia”. I was most proud of this as  it further substantiates my knowledge base to benefit my travel clients! So now I felt pressure to win every time!

Note 2 about Trivia: We were shocked to have won the Marvel Trivia on the October cruise, especially because another guest crushed Marvel Super Fan Face-Off, which is intense! We were happy and relieved for that win, as we openly presumed this being a Marvel cruise, it would have far more and deeper experts on the topic than we are!

So anyway, we also used this time to create some study sheets (while we still had internet access)! Kara will forever be an educator as she joined me to “divide and conquer” some expected facts. We openly embrace #Geeks! (Stay tuned to learn how this turned out….)

Kara also used this time to call her Dad & sister, which was really code for checking in on Kona the Mini Double Doodle.

Kara: Then it was off to our stateroom to meet our host, Saddam from India. My bag was already at the door and G’s arrived about 10 minutes later so we unpacked and enjoyed the verandah for a while.

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Especially on the Classic ships, we prefer the 7A-Navigator Verandahs, which I term a semi-enclosed Verandah. It gives fresh air for both of us, sun for me, and shade for Kara. It’s an especially great choice if you expect your cruise to be windy &/or chilly. In Feb., we expected at least the chilly part. This time we were shockingly and happily WRONG!

No matter when they decide to finally retire the Magic (GASP!), I will be heartbroken. An unfair aspect is we had just sailed the Fantasy in October and it was clear that during her COVID docking, she got a new paint job. Not even when we sailed the Fantasy on her on her 51st week did the white paint appear so bright! All the ships are so well maintained! My one fault on this sailing was with the sofa/fold-down bed. It was immediately obvious our sofa had gotten overworked on one end. Plus, the “mattresses” (I use that term loosely) on the sofa beds aren’t really intended for grown adults.

As Miami is the busiest cruise port in America, we were all lined up: Norwegian, one of the “monster” Royal Caribbean, us, and a Carnival. It usually feels like we are the first or last to leave the dock. So true to form, we were the first ones to set sail. (We’re pretty sure this is intentional when possible, as they blow the “When you wish upon a star” horn at least once as we go sailing by the other ships, which they undoubtedly find super annoying! LOL!

Kara:

We went up on deck for the sail out from Miami. It was pretty, but it was no San Diego. In terms of the sail outs we’ve done, it’s easily into the third spot behind both San Diego and Vancouver.

Gayle:

Agree. South Beach has nothing on the others.

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Due to the timing and schedule change, we’d already attired ourselves for dinner, now that we were going to Palo.

(Kara thought it was weird I wanted to stop by our main dining (Animator’s Palate) to let our team know we wouldn’t be there. It felt respectful, and likely aids their pacing. That definitely made an impression on our Head Server. Then back up to Palo where the App issue continued….)

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Kara: We made our way outside to Deck 10 Aft where it was time for our dinner in Palo. The guest services team member I had chatted with through the app earlier had not actually put our reservation in the system for Saturday. That said, the incredible Palo team handled it beautifully and we were quickly seated where we met Igor (Croatia), our server. Or perhaps, were reintroduced. Igor and I both agreed that we think he served us once before.

The amuse bouche was a fried gnocchi in a wild mushroom sauce which was divine. I had the Caprese salad, the pappardelle, the pan roasted mushrooms, and the mixed berry gelato.

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G had the arancini, pappardelle, and, of course, the Chocolate Soufflé.

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The pan roasted mushrooms and the gelato were fabulous. We both thought our pasta (and lobster) was slightly overcooked - but still delicious. Gayle: I was also disappointed in the arancini. In addition to rice, it is supposed to have a filling, most commonly cheese. Neither of us could detect any discernible filling.

I would have preferred just a little more salt on the Caprese Salad but it was also beautiful and delicious. While these may sound small, this is the first true food “miss” we’ve had in more than 20 combined meals at Palo so it is shocking. Gayle: But my souffle was as perfect as ever!

And don’t forget our parting “shot” that is a combination of prosecco, limoncello, & something else?

Kara: I think the something else is apple brandy

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This was the second time we have eaten off of the new ala carte menu in Palo and we’ve found that our selections do change a bit and we definitely went lighter than we’ve gone before. In order to take advantage of the Platinum benefit ($45 off your meal) you are required to spend at least $45 which both of us barely got to. Additionally, there is now an 18% auto gratuity added to each check which is split amongst the entire Palo service team and then anything additional goes directly to your server. I’m not sure how the other service team members had been paid prior to this change, but our belief is that people were not tipping appropriately in Palo and Palo servers started to see reduced wages after the deduction taken for the other service team. I don’t know if that’s right or not, but it’s a reminder to all that the experience of Palo is not free and you do need to properly recognize your server.

We wrapped up in Palo just in time to head down to the theater for the show, with a quick stop in the shops on the way (unimpressive yet again). Gayle: The shop merch is definitely saving my budget, as yet again I purchased nothing. Disney Cruise Line - Please stop making most of the ladies apparel in white or white horizontal stripes!

The show, Disney Dreams, is universally one of our favorite shows.

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(Gayle: It’s my favorite across the fleet!) Just like in Oct., we were seated 3 seats from another party and every other row empty. While I didn’t need Frozen added to this show and I thought Elsa was way, way too much in this specific performance, overall it was very good. Circle of Life continues to be one of my favorite parts of this show. Gayle: I was creeped out by Elsa! She would have made a great Cruella! We’re also pretty sure they might have been understaffed with the Entertainment staff, as I remember more characters in the previous Under the Sea section. Yet, no “normal” cruiser would have ever noticed.

After a long embarkation day combined with a little heat we were both exhausted so it was back to the room to journal and bed before the big MARVEL day at sea tomorrow.

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P.S. I was super excited to see the chocolates are now not only Disney Cruise Line branded, but officially also Dove! (Now if Dark Chocolate were an option….)

Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!

Marvel Day At Sea

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From lack of sleep/exhaustion and ⅓ of a Dramamine, other than one time of surprisingly being too cold, I blissfully slept 11pm to roughly 7am. Wonderful. Except I still didn’t feel fully rested.

After a quick shower, it was up to Cabanas for a quick breakfast. After feeling miserable (over-stuffed) last night, today I tried to commit to only eating when I was hungry. I’d heard on a different podcast the Magic now offered Churro Mickey Waffles. I initially wondered if this was a holiday-only item, but there they were! Sure enough they had deep-fried Mickey Waffles & covered them with cinnamon sugar. (FYI they would be better with the chocolate sauce instead of the strawberry.)

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Kara: As we were sailing out yesterday, the Captain gave a weather report for today which said he would rock us gently to sleep during the night and we’d wake up to gorgeous weather. He couldn’t have been more right. We both slept very well and woke up just before our 8 a.m. alarms.

Neither of us was hungry but decided juice and coffee were in order so we headed up to Cabanas and noted that they had the Mickey Churro Waffles!!! This possibility is one of the many wonderful fun things that traveling with a travel agent who is so experienced with Disney can give you. Gayle knows about all these possible little special surprises. And these were delightful. So, two mini waffles and some strawberry sauce along with some Greek yogurt accompanied my coffee. (Not hungry on a cruise - blasphemy!).

Being Marvel Day at Sea many guests were arriving in various level of attire from ignoring the whole theme, to basic Marvel shirts, to full-on ComiCon-level costume! One of the things I love about Disney Cruise Line is there is always wonderful Disney music in the background playing throughout the ship. And on theme days, the music will match. So as I’d hoped, we consumed breakfast with the Avengers Theme setting the tone for the day.

We also overheard rumor of a “horn battle”, which usually means one thing. While we missed the battle, from the Cabanas patio we spied the Disney Fantasy.

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She also left her port yesterday, which was Port Canaveral on a modified 7 night Star Wars Day at Sea sailing.

Since it was early enough, we headed for Marvel Origins in the Buena Vista Theatre at 9:30am.

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(Thanks BFF Kara for the Iron Man pin!)

This was a look-back on how the company began, historical evolution, summary of the main Avengers characters, reminders of current film & D+ streaming series, and all that’s announced for the future.

Kara: I liked that this included both a narration by a cast member and the video features from Marvel.com. The cast member said if you were a super fan you probably didn’t need Origins. That said, while Gayle and I are definite MCU fans, I wouldn’t describe us as true super fans - especially not where the comic books are considered so we both agreed we still learned something.

Having some time before our next scheduled event, we wandered the lobby, seeing “Arrive & Wave” (socially-distanced “Meet & Greets”) with various characters like Black Widow, Hawkeye, Dr. Strange, Thor, & Loki.

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While I would have enjoyed Thor & Loki, the line (as expected) was quite long. With these you also never know when they will swap out the characters or which characters will be appearing at certain times.

This is a significant change since COVID, as the App used to show precisely which characters would be available at a particular time. If I were intent on meeting a specific character, I wouldn’t be very happy with this change. Even if they cannot do it for all the characters, at least try to do it for some. We are presuming and hoping the current practice is simply an issue of COVID-related understaffing???

We then quickly headed for the shops. There was only one key display of Marvel merch and another rack behind it.

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Most was kid-focused. There was only one style of t-shirt for all ages and it wasn’t very interesting. Thus, the merch situation was completely disappointing. The crew had on Marvel Day at Sea shirts with the small iconography. Perhaps these had been offered in years past? Anyway, I was way more interested in the crew’s attire than what was offered in the shops.

We then waited outside for our pre-registered Character Encounter with Iron Man & Black Panther at 10:30am. (Usually these Activities are available to schedule when your pre-cruise booking window opens aligned with your Castaway Club level. Thus, ours should have been 120 days in advance. However, due to COVID, they only posted these online 60 days in advance for everyone. :(  (And in years past this also included Spider-Man.) Luckily, they had times virtually all day, so claiming a slot wasn’t a problem.

Walking into D Lounge the entire space was draped in Marvel.

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The line first took you to Iron Man and then Black Panther, both with their own Disney Photographers. Unfortunately the activity is still social-distanced and requires face masks during the photos. (I’d heard if you had a photo with the official photographers, you could briefly take off your mask, but that didn’t seem to be the case.)

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Kara: I agree that not being able to take off our masks made this a little more disappointing. The photographers also didn’t try to stage the photos well and gave no real indication of when they were shooting.

Iron Man exceeded my expectations. He had either pre-recorded sayings or a voice simulator that sounded JUST LIKE TONY!. The armor had blaster (lights) and even the whirl sound when they were firing up! Well done Marvel! It was a fun encounter and I wish it had been longer. (Actually, I wanted to take him home!)

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Black Panther embodied the royalty and formality of the character, making it feel authentic.

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(There was also a Character Encounter with Groot, but we didn’t sign-up for that one.We heard on a different Marvel Day at Sea Peter Quill was a surprise addition with Groot - and so was Spider-Man!!! Grrrr.)

Kara: We don’t know that Spider-Man was in the encounter on our trip.

We were actually done with all of that by 10:30am. So we were able to get to the Marvel Comic Academy by 10:45am. (This was an animation class.) I was excited we were drawing Iron Man for 2 reasons: 1) He’s my favorite character and 2) The character is more geometric, and easier for me to draw! (Kara has always done much better at these drawing classes than I ever will.)

I was trying much harder than usual and am quite pleased with the outcome!

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Kara: We cruised through the shops (meh) and then headed to the Promenade Lounge for Marvel Comic Academy which is the animation drawing class on Marvel Day at Sea. These are ALWAYS one of my very favorite things to do as I love to learn to draw more things. Gayle is sometimes hit or miss on whether she enjoys these or just finds them stressful. Thankfully, she really enjoyed this one as it was Iron Man - both of our favorite characters. We both did a great job following along and ended with great creations that we were quite pleased with.

Another activity they had was Marvel Vault, which was simply where they lent you iPads with various Marvel Comics to read.

We took a very brief break back in our stateroom to keep up with this blog, Kara rested her eyes for a bit, and we discovered the Marvel Day at Sea window cling on our verandah window. I also got an App reminder about ordering our Platinum treat, which we’ll do later in the cruise.

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Kara mentioned Rapunzel’s (my favorite!) is again open for lunch. While we usually aren’t ones to do the sit-down/table service lunches, we had enough time and interest to do that today. And we have to fuel-up, as it’s a full day and night of Marvel adventures!

Kara: While, again, neither of us was really hungry, we opted for the quieter sit down lunch in Rapunzels. Today’s lunch was a piece of halibut on saffron rice with a tomato sauce with olives and a grilled tomato on top. The halibut was a bit overcooked but the simple addition of those olives in the tomato sauce made it very delightful for me. One of those things I need to remember when I get home to try.

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Note the themed plate of the seafood! ;) Then it was pecan pie for Kara and another flavored (hazelnut maybe?) lava cake for me, which was delicious!

Next it was off to the Walt Disney Theatre for Journey into the Mystic Arts with Dr. Strange at 1pm. This was a show about the use (& misuse) of the Dark Arts/Dimension as Dr. Strange trained his new apprentices. It was better than I expected from reading past reviews.

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Kara: I can’t quite give this a “better than expected”. I hadn’t read anything about it before we boarded so I didn’t know what to expect but I didn’t like the portrayal of Dr. Strange. I just thought that actor was quite weak.

Apparently they had to make COVID-related changes to the show. As I understand, it previously included children from the audience.

Note: While most all of the activities today were only 30 minutes, we did end up standing in line or biding time in an event venue. Since many of these venues already have limited space, it was important to arrive early to get seats due to their social-distancing protocol.

Kara: This left us with a LOT of waiting time. Our main topic of conversation during these lulls on this trip so far has been developing better appreciation for the nuances of the various ships. I’ve always been very much of the belief that any day on ANY Disney ship is better than just about any day anywhere on land. That said, that view does keep me from anticipatory joy about what the subtle differences are on each ship. For instance, on the Magic you have Rapunzel's which during its dinner show features live music and a lovely show. Another example - on the Dream, you have Vanellope's - their epic sweet shop. These nuances are very important and they can enhance your enjoyment of a cruise.

After an uncharacteristic late start with Dr. Strange, we headed to Fathoms for the Star-Spangled USO show at 2pm. If you are into 30s/40s swing music, this is the show for you!

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A duo of crooners and a trio of chorus girls, we were transported with their period singing and dancing to such classics as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Sing sing sing”. From my days of tap classes, I wanted to hit the (available & empty) dance floor in front of the stage! Of course the finale included stirring inspiration from Captain America. So far, this was the hit of the day!

Kara: Gayle and I both agreed that this was the highlight of the day thus far. We’re both music nerds and love this kind of music so it’s not surprising.

With 50 minutes before trivia, it was a chance to pop back to the room for a bit.

Because I’m a big geek, I watched the Star-Spangled USO show again at 3:30pm while Kara napped in the stateroom!

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I brought cups of ice back to the room before we went to the 4:30pm Marvel Trivia in O’Gills Pub. Having not prepared, we did “ok”. (There were roughly 3 other times for Marvel Trivia, which we would usually do, but there was so much offered today!)

Kara: We had a pretty long break before our next plan which was Marvel Trivia (which we won when we were on the Fantasy in October 2021) which we planned at 3:15 so we headed back to our stateroom for a short rest. I am an ENORMOUS ADVOCATE of naps. I’ve been working on shorter naps (20 - 30 minutes) but the ship just has this way of lulling me to sleep. Gayle woke me briefly to tell me she decided to forego early trivia and go back to see the USO show a second time. I opted to get in an excellent long nap.

She returned to the room around 4 and we headed up to O’Gills for the next scheduled Marvel Trivia. O’Gills was making fresh popcorn so I grabbed a container of that and we settled into a corner seat for trivia. (FYI just like the concession stand by the theatre, the popcorn had a fee. We know they are trying to recoup their COVID losses, but since O’Gills usually has a complimentary appetizer bar, this felt like a rare “nickle & diming”.)  O’Gills is another of those subtle differences on the ships. O’Gills is by far my favorite of the “sports bar” themed clubs on any of the ships.

Trivia went well but we did not win. We ended with a score of 10/15 and had the second highest total correct. There was a tie for 12 correct which they broke and a dad and son won. Yay for them.

At some point we stopped in the empty Atrium for a few more pix to commemorate the themed cruise.

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They also offered the Marvel Super Fan Face-Off. While we didn’t get to this on this sailing, we had experienced it in October. So wanting to provide comprehensive information, we’ll go ahead and share a description here. This competition is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 is general Marvel trivia (movies, TV, comics, etc.) for all the teams or families that have gathered for this event. Roughly the top 5-6 have one player then move onto Part 2. This is where the players are given questions to answer on a dry erase/whiteboard paddle. (Our October game had a mix of kids and adults.) Then the top 2 from that make Part 3 - the final round. This final round is FAST and INTENSE as each finalist has to name as many characters as are shown to them on a monitor within roughly 30 seconds! You definitely have to be an expert on all-things Marvel to win this one!

Next we went up to Deck 10 for a “dance party”. We don’t precisely remember the name, but it was something along Mickey & Friends Super Hero Celebration at 5pm. This is for the littler kids, where Classic Disney characters are in Marvel-inspired attire. It was cute.

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VIDEO of the end of SUPERHERO CELEBRATION

Kara: They brought each classic Disney Character (dressed in their own Marvel outfit) on stage one by one and assigned a dance move to the character they represented. Then, they put them all together. I was set and ready for disappointment that Pluto would be completely left out but they even brought him out at the end - albeit unassociated with any specific character. It was a glorious day to be out on deck and the show was cute so all in all a good time.

We had a few moments to grab evening items in the stateroom prior to our 5:45pm dining in Animator’s Palate. True to the day’s theme, it was a Marvel-inspired menu. My favorite parts were the matching black and white graphics on the LED screens. (These were all true black and white, but no matter what I did, my iPhone read them as yellow! Clearly I’m no photo expert.)

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We were gifted with our multi-page menu in comic book-style, which we were able to keep.

I swear I took a photo of this!

We finally were able to officially meet our dining team of Server Ashley (India), Assistant Server Somang? (Indonesia), and Simone (Italy). Ashely is a veteran of all the ships, while Somang is brand new. (This might have been his 2nd sailing with Disney after years with Norwegian.)

Kara: At Gayle’s suggestion we actually went to Animator’s Palate last night and met our head server and server. The Dining Team is one of the key features of a Disney Cruise and they can make or break your experience. On what, for us, is a very short cruise, building a relationship with them is hard so we stopped in to at least introduce ourselves. This made quite the impression as our head server sent us a fruit and cheese platter as an extra appetizer during our meal tonight.

The crab cake appetizer was excellent. Then we were presented with a surprise cheese plate. Our cod was good, if a bit bland. Ashley also brought us a bonus gift of gnocchi with tomato sauce, which was amazing. I ordered the chocolate Devil’s Food cake, while Kara got a Mickey Premium Bar. Then we were again surprised with a Marvel rocky road sundae.

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Kara: Ashley also made us a napkin Groot which was adorable!

As is custom we were presented a spatial analysis game; this one was a physical puzzle, which was new to us. Surprisingly we struggled. Also, I got surprised by a trick ketchup bottle, which we will not discuss.

Kara: We’ll discuss the ketchup bottle a little. Ashley asked if we wanted more sauce for the gnocchi and had a traditional red squeeze ketchup bottle in his hand. He squeezed it and a red string of something came straight at Gayle. My first reaction was OH S*#&@ but then I realized it was just an actual string. That said, I know Gayle doesn’t like things like this but a quick check in said she was doing okay which was good because I couldn’t control my laughter (inappropriate laughter is unfortunately one of my hallmarks).

Completely stuffed we wobbled back to the stateroom. While we could have gone to Marvel Trivia again at 7:45pm, we expected people to start gathering early for the evening show, a Marvel Day at Sea highlight. It begins at 8:30pm (for us since we are on Main dining).

We left our stateroom at straight-up 8pm. Our experience gathering for “the deck show” was quite different on the Magic than on the Fantasy back in October. Primarily, there was no guidance to viewing “spots”, nor was there any social-distancing. We BARELY got a spot on the deck 10 railing with a view of the stage and Funnel Vision.

Finally at 8:30pm we were treated to Marvel Heroes Unite.

SPOILER WARNING! If you ever want to see this onboard and NOT be spoiled, skip to the “Spoiler Warning End” below! I will be providing key details to this show.

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First, this was THE BEST “top deck” stage show I’ve ever seen on any of my 15 sailings!

To get things start, a new Captain was steering the ship….

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The premise was simply for Tony to unveil new power technology and had invited a few friends. However, you knew chaos would ensue. It started with F.R.I.D.A.Y. announcing the show along with a “reporter” and 6 camera views from around the ship.

It began with, of course, Tony, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Captain America. Then “gloriously” Loki showed up in an attempt to steal the new Core Power source. So Thor needed to intervene.

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However, Red Skull showed up, but so did Black Panther who Cap had on stand-by should they need additional help. Red Skull made his appearance at the top of the aft funnel as two of his goons repelled down.

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To counter, Black Panther dropped down from the forward/Funnel Vision funnel!

One of the reporter’s cameramen had been in disguise only to later engage in the battle as it was actually Spider-Man! He both repelled up the aft funnel AND dropped down from the forward funnel!

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Red Skull had sent drones, which Tony had to fight off. He blasted off the ship (via fireworks)! There were fight scenes (filmed) from all over the ship.

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Seeing those scenes truly made it feel like an immersive experience - especially when Iron Man blasted a baddie right outside Cove Cafe!

Later Captain Marvel also zip-lined into the action, as everyone worked together to defeat both Loki and Red Skull.

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At the end the Guardians of the Galaxy arrived to take the Core Power to their home planet & keep it safe.

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In a bit of an oddity, a finale dance battle broke out between Star-Lord and Spider-Man.

Let me assure you, most deck parties have at most one character repelling/zip-lining between the funnels, but this had 4?! Imagining the fireworks being Tony fighting drones was awesome. However, this wasn’t a “fireworks show” in and of itself. (FYI more than one other cruise ship was easily viewable in the distance as they “borrow the view of our fireworks”!)

NOTE: We are NOT professional videographers. Yet, thanks to THE BEST FRIEND EVER, Kara for the endurance of video recording the entire show! I consider this an awesome early birthday gift!

SPOILER WARNING END!!!!

As everyone was dismissed we waited for the crowd to dissipate. We grabbed some ice at the drink station and it was back to the room around 9:30pm to write this, putting out the overnight room service order for breakfast, and start packing for tomorrow. Packing? Yes, as…

Kara: After the show we stopped to refill our water bottles and headed back to get some shut eye. We’ve done the basics of getting our bags ready for tomorrow and we put out our breakfast order which will be delivered at 7 a.m. before we have to start hopping in the virtual queue to debark at Castaway Cay hopefully a little after 8:30. Weather looks like it will be an amazing day which we are both looking very forward to. We’ve also agreed that it will be our last morning with an alarm clock before the dreaded debarkation morning when Disney makes sure you’re awake and no alarm clock is actually needed.

Tonight was my favorite “towel character”. Even if it is the simplest, it’s definitely the Mightiest! (And we kept it in-tact for the rest of the cruise!)

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Castaway Cay - Stop #1

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It was an early 7am alarm (but luckily a smooth night of sleep from 11:30pm). The continental items we ordered from Room Service the night prior arrived about 10 minutes later at the same time we began our approach to Castaway Cay.

At just past 7:30am we joined the virtual queue to disembark, which was to begin at 8:30am, While we were #83 in the queue, we were downstairs, swiped off the ship, and on-ground at the island by 8:47am.

Kara: I had a rough night of sleep due to a migraine so I was a little slower getting up this morning when my alarm went off at 7. But, when room service arrived at about 7:15 I hopped into action and grabbed the tip and let in our server.

We enjoyed breakfast casually while we chatted about the day. I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart’ on this cruise and it’s a good reminder to discuss expectations to allow for clearer communication.

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Luckily before we left the ship the sun introduced a cloudless sky. We took our traditional tram to Stop 1 to look in the Sally Sells shop and then decided to walk to Stop 2 at Pelican Point.

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Kara: As we headed down to deck 1 to disembark, it was unclear where the gangways were located. To our surprise we essentially just walked off the ship as we were able to exit AFT!!!

I want to add a note on the shops. A LOT of the merchandise is themed to the 5K. While I do still have this on my to do list for Disney, I don’t want this merchandise all the time. I do wish there was more variety on the island AND on the ships.

We took the same approach as in October. Since there were so few people onboard we decided to stay on the Family 2 beach at the very far end. We set up in Kara’s favorite lounge chairs next to the Sand Bar & palm trees as well as under an ocean-colored umbrella. (Can you tell she wants/needs shade?) I, however, need some sun. I was ok except for the fact the wind had become “moderate & sustained” to the point a couple of times I covered my shoulders & legs with my towels. Yet that was short-lived.

Kara: A bit more about what has now become one of my favorite spots on the island. On our last trip, a gentleman brought canvas and paints to the beach and painted a lovely scene with the ship in it. This was the spot he had on that trip.

Did you know the island has its own soundtrack? From nearly every building is a playlist of instrumental island (cue those steel drums!), a bit of Calypso, and a rare pop tune, such as Kissing You, Not Missing You by ???. (Seriously I cannot find this song at all!) It perfectly sets the tone for a private island escape.

The morning passed smoothly, mostly in quietly contemplating life. We headed for Cookies Too when it opened at 11:30am. Like from October I had the delicious sweet potato salad and just a small piece of snapper. This time we were prepared to Mission: Big Island Cookies. (If you’ve read any of my prior trip reports you know I have a dedicated addiction to these and work to take some home every chance I can. More on this topic a bit later.)

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During lunch we let our Head Server, Simone, know we would not be joining the team for dinner. While he surprisingly offered to have anything from the main dining room delivered to our stateroom (a perk usually only for Concierge guests), we knew we were likely headed for a low-key evening, embracing the true vacation environment.

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Just prior to lunch a bunch of people sailing as a group associated with a notable fan site podcast community setup next to us. (After this experience, let me assure you I will not be a patron of that podcast/site ever.) By lunch we knew we couldn’t enjoy the island situated next to them. It was at this point we realized we’d made a great error in not reverting back to our tradition of stationing at Serenity Bay.

We both tried to read, but their overly loud conversation drew all the attention and dashed all ability to relax. (The roughly dozen people had circled up their chairs and were nearing “South Beach at Spring Break” level.)

From our options we decided to head back to the ship around 1:30pm, as we were getting toasty, but knew the water was likely too frigid for us.

Back onboard we dropped a few things at the stateroom and headed up to the Adult Pool area. As we suspected most folks were still on the island, so the area wasn’t packed and only about 10 people were rotating in/out of the pool. While Kara stayed at the lounger, I headed to the pool to cool down a bit.

Wrong.

I’m the one who’s always cold, but this water was almost too warm for me! (FYI all the pools are always heated, but I don’t remember anything being this warm!) Talk about “bath water”! Some water was better than no water, so I hung out a bit. Eventually Kara joined me as we chatted about mostly random topics.

Kara:. I was getting ready to get in just as she came back so we both got back in the water. When we came back to our seats we realized that we were right in the area outside of the smoking area and the smell was awful so we headed to find shade on the other side of the pool deck to dry off a bit.

By 3:30pm we were headed back to the stateroom to each shower and watch the sail-out. It was the first time in a LONG time we were on the port side and could watch them throw off the lines, move away from the dock, and pull-out from the island. This view is forever emblazoned in our minds. (See the 2010 7 night-turned 8 night cruise for reference.)

Kara: After our dip in the pool, it was time to shower and get ready for the evening. We both enjoyed spending some time on the Navigator Verandah watching folks coming and going on the island as we each showered and got ready. The ship departed promptly at 5 pm and we headed up to deck 9 to grab a light snack before we went to see Disney Dreams again.

By this time it was after 5pm and we planned to go to the early show since we were skipping Main Dining. On the pool deck Kara grabbed a pre-show appetizer of grapes & a small chicken Caesar wrap, which I had a small Krispie treat and mini chocolate croissant!

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We arrived at the Walt Disney Theatre just as it opened at 5:30pm. As the 2nd to arrive, we were shown to the front row aisle seats! Typically I’d never want to be this close to the stage, but I’ve luckily seen this show plenty of times. It intrigued me to see it from a different viewpoint.

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While this was the 2nd night of this show and being an island day, we were still stunned to see the theatre maybe ½-⅔ full. So I knew the cast deserved for us to be a bit more vocal & responsive.

Kara: The front row was a fun spot to watch the show from and see a different perspective. The show was, as always, fabulous, although Tinkerbell wasn’t working properly at many points during the show. The cast just went with it and it was absolutely fine. Again, Circle of Life was, by far, my absolute favorite number. The cast got another well deserved standing ovation.

It had a couple of small tech glitches that only someone who had seen it plenty of times would notice, it was still as great as ever. (If Kara hadn’t been with me, I probably would have gone back for the 8:30pm showing too!) It was then back up to the Pool Deck for actual supper. Kara was going to try the Shwarma, but they were all out. So she finally got her chicken strips, and since I’d had almost no protein all day, grabbed a burger. It was just ok per all the toppings and I was again reminded, nothing beats the chicken strips!

There weren’t activities that were really calling us tonight, on top of having an early morning, and Kara being awake in the middle of the night with a migraine. So it was back to the room to begin typing all of this.

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“Needing” dessert, I called Room Service. The Cake of the Day was chocolate mousse, which I got as well as chocolate chip cookies. This time they even asked if we wanted them warmed. Yes, please! When they arrived, low & behold… there they were… a blast from the past that I never thought I’d see again - the Big Island Cookies!

These used to be the standard Room Service cookies, which is where I’d get them as my bounty to take home. Then a few years ago they changed to a much smaller, less tasty cookie. This saddened me to the point of likely putting this in my feedback/survey a few times. So here’s to the Return of the Big Island Cookie on the ship! And yes, I will be providing feedback of my appreciation of their return!

Kara: Tomorrow is our relaxing day - a.k.a. Day of Sloth although we do have a few fun things planned including one new experience which I’m excited to see.

Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!

Next up: No-ssau

Rapunzel Day

Instead of calling this “No-ssau”, I’ll refer to this as Rapunzel Day. More on that later.

Kara: While Nassau may be the Port of Registry for the Disney Fleet - a fun fact that will play an important role a bit later today - it is NOT a destination we enjoy exploring so we stay on the ship on Nassau days.

After an early sleep starting at approximately 10:30pm (when I couldn’t keep my eyes open), we each became “cognitively aware” probably around 7-7:30am, just before we felt the ship make its approach into the dock channel at Nassau.

Kara: Today was a no alarm day! Our first of this trip actually. We woke up around 8 which for both of us meant a wonderful full night of sleep.

The Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas was on one side of us and the Carnival Sunshine on the other. While the Disney Magic isn’t the largest of these, it has a distinct look (& horn), which gains attention wherever she is. We always feel proud sailing on this line.

Since we weren’t leaving the ship and had no early activities, it was a slow & luxurious start to the day. By roughly 9:30am we made our way to Cabanas for breakfast. Honestly, I tried to find something on the more nutritious side, but alas. It was a banana, crispy bacon (finally!), 2 pieces of French Toast, & 2 (more) Mickey Churro waffles. (The French Toast was a bridge too far this morning.)

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At the end of breakfast I began “cramming” for

DCL Trivia

. Yes, I know we won it a couple of cruises back, but now it’s a goal! I took note of some common topics from past trivias and gathered some easy research online prior to leaving Florida on Saturday. So we spent time on the veranda studying and quizzing. #Nerds

Kara: During breakfast we discussed plans for the day which included one of our favorites - Disney Cruise Line trivia. We won this once before as a team and I somehow won it one other time on my own, I think on the Alaskan cruise I took with my parents when Gayle wasn’t with me.

As we were finishing breakfast we pulled out our not so official dossier on Disney Cruise Line to brush up on our facts and figures for trivia. My task was to remember all of the atrium statues as well as bow and stern characters. Gayle had everything else to memorize.

We went back to the room and studied a bit more and then quizzed each other a bit (yes, this is what vacation with nerds looks like). Then it was off to trivia in the Promenade lounge. Btw - the home port of Disney’s fleet was one of the questions.

At 10:45am we headed to Guest Services to apply my gift cards and then headed for the 11:15am DCL Trivia. Out of 25 questions, we got 21 (& were hoping for a perfect score). Sadly two groups got 22 and had a tiebreaker (which we knew the answer to) to declare the winner. Watch out - next time I’ll be back stronger & even more prepped!

Kara: We always say we are going to do more stairs and study more for trivia between cruises and we rarely ever do. Perhaps before our next cruise we will finally live up to these expectations.

Still not hungry, we decided to walk Deck 4 to try to work off breakfast/get hungry for lunch! We noted how perfect the weather was. Of course we were in the shade on a covered deck and also the light breeze. At some point I bailed onto one of the Deck 4 loungers.

Kara: We headed out to Deck 4 to get in some steps. As we finished our mile (3 laps = 1 mile), Gayle did something very unusual - she stopped on the super comfy deck chairs and we sat and enjoyed the fresh air and the breeze. These, in my opinion, are some of THE MOST COMFORTABLE LOUNGERS ANYWHERE. While I’ve gone out and enjoyed these chairs many times, Gayle is normally too cold to do so but today’s weather was absolutely PERFECT. So, we enjoyed some time here just resting and relaxing.

I dozed off (my usual) and soon G was waking me to urge me to go to Cabanas for lunch before it closed. I had shrimp-a-palooza and tried butter chicken which has been on my list of dishes to try for a while. It was good and I’ll definitely consider ordering it from my favorite Indian place back home.

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Side Note: The Deck 4 loungers look simple with no interesting characteristics. However, it’s expected to see the few of them full virtually all day. We’ve never had or taken the time to try them. Today we learned the secret: they are surprisingly comfortable. My rationale is they have your legs a bit elevated and the cushioning is quite good. Both of us soon had our eyes closed, drifting off.

At 1:15 I noted if we were going to get to Cabanas for some lunch, we’d better go, as they closed at 2pm. At first I didn’t think there was anything of interest and was ready to grab more chicken tenders from the pool grille. However, Kara picked a few items and I decided something nutritious was long overdue. So I claimed a plate of carrots, peas, and some gloriously sauced shrimp. This was followed by a double portion of Warm Chocolate Pudding (which is really just warm chocolate cake with chocolate sauce). It’s better than it sounds and is quite similar to the Warm Chocolate Banana Torte with Rum Glaze I used to specifically order for our Disney Institute private Dessert Parties.

Soon we were headed to Heroes Quote Trivia at 2:15pm. Warning: This isn’t what we thought it would be. It seems like most, many of us presumed this would be Marvel or maybe Marvel + Star Wars, etc. with the term “heroes”. However, Disney took great levity in translating that to mean “main characters” of their animated movies. Boo. If we had known, we would have skipped this.

Next door at 2:45pm was Photo Moment with Rapunzel’s Lantern in “her” restaurant. I was super excited about this, as it’s a unique offering and the Lantern scene of the movie is among, if not my favorite.

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We walked in to see the usual stage with the lantern scene and now there was a podium with a lit lantern. The photographer posed you with the lantern and did a separate “magic shot” (Spoiler: with Pascal). I loved the entire concept. Sadly, and as expected, none of the pictures (including the official Disney photographs) were decent. Plus, it’s super difficult to get excited about photos where you’re wearing a mask.

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We then tried our luck on Deck 4 and found empty loungers! We spent plenty of time here until a family decided to play shuffleboard next to us. When they were done Kara asked if I wanted to play. First, we/I’ve never played shuffleboard in my life. Second, Kara said she overheard from them the “how to play”. Why not?

We setup and honestly took a bit to realize the effort we had to apply to get the pucks into the score zone. I ended up the winner. It was only when we were done did we see the instructions for how to play listed on a small plaque above the poles & pucks! I had NEVER noticed this - & it was my 15th Disney Cruise.

Kara: I only scored points because Gayle knocked one of my pucks into a score zone when she hit one of hers.

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Around 4:15pm we headed inside. I was curious what was available at Frozone Treats, as I’d been craving a slushy-like concoction for 2 days. (Having to wear a mask so much made me incredibly dehydrated.) However, it didn’t appear they had anything like that, so we headed back to the stateroom.

For some reason (probably from getting stuck at Castaway Cay for an extra 24 hours once), we both enjoy watching leaving port - watching if anyone is late/gets left!, pulling in the lines, starting up the engines, making necessary maneuvers, and always, sounding the on-brand horn next to other cruise ships! So we took all that in from 4:45pm-5:15pm.

Kara: We watched the last family get brought back on golf carts and scurry aboard right at 4:45 - the all aboard time. They were greeted by 4 officers waiting outside.

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At this point we needed to get ready for dinner. This was the night I had been looking forward to, as we were having dinner at Rapunzel’s Royal Table; it was the night of the “dinner show” of Rapunzel’s birthday, and “Tangled: The Musical” would be in the Walt Disney Theatre.

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Our meal of pretzel bread, shrimp, sea bass, and the Fry Pan were wonderful. The “dinner show” wasn’t as good since the thugs would usually stroll about the tables (a COVID no-no). However, “I See the Light” with the servers walking lanterns through the restaurant was as dreamy as I’d remembered.

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Kara: I don’t talk all that much about how awesome it is to have a travel agent as a best friend and travel companion in these posts as I do in my daily life. But there is a reason we were once again super lucky to have a table near the stage so we had a great seat for the show (hint, hint - use a travel agent who knows Disney Cruise Line. They make magical little things like this just happen. My travel agent is the best! You really should use her.)

Afterward we quickly dashed to O’Gill’s Pub at 7pm. Based on this night, we presumed it would be the “Snuggly Duckling takeover”. However, this sadly wasn’t offered. I need to investigate if this is only on the longer sailings, etc. We bounced over the Keys (what Kara termed “club-hopping”, which was technically accurate), but surprisingly the live music hadn’t begun. So it was back to O’Gill’s for 90’s Music Trivia at 7:30pm. We are just ok at this, but it’s always full and a really good time!

Kara: In case you’ve lost count - yes - this is our third trivia in one day.

When we discovered that the Snuggling Duckling Takeover wasn’t happening, we realized we had some time to spare so we decided to go to Keys for a bit first. As we walked the 40 feet or so between the clubs, I asked Gayle if this constituted club hopping which got a good laugh.

As to 90’s Music Trivia - let’s be very clear - I ADORE music but I am TERRIBLE at knowing song, title, album, etc. So, out of the 30 possible points (15 questions - one point each for song and artist), I added a total of maybe 3 points to our final score. All the rest was Gayle. Music Trivia is done like my college music theory professor did “drop needle” tests. You get a very small snippet of a piece and you have to immediately write the title and the artist. I can hum the tune all day long but I cannot get the words until I start to actually hear the lyrics.

In my opinion though, the best part of 90s music trivia is the answer checking section when the host plays longer snippets of the songs and the entire bar starts singing along. It was tons of fun and two teams had perfect scores so they faced off in a tie breaker which was answered with a song I’ve never even heard before.

Ah, the joy of a misspent youth.

As soon as trivia was done we dashed upstairs. While the doors to the theater hadn’t yet opened, a line all the way back to the shops had formed. We hadn’t seen this since we experienced the stage show of “Frozen” on one of the other ships, and frankly hadn’t expected it tonight for this show! The doors opened at just past 8pm and per social distancing the theater was full long before the show began.

Fun Facts: The only place on the planet you can see Tangled: The Musical is onboard Disney Magic! Also, Alan Menkin who penned the music for the film collaborated to create new songs just for this production!

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I adore Tangled, the film. For this production it took Raps a bit to find her groove, but Flynn, the Mother, and Max (puppeteer) were wonderful! I don’t know what it is about this show, but it just feels like something is missing. My thought tonight is background music to connect the scenes?

Kara: This is a sweet adaptation of the film Tangled which has zero fluff in it. The songs are wonderful, the story is efficiently and effectively told and the cast always does an amazing job. I agree with Gayle that something is a little lacking and maybe it is background music. The scene changes in this are intense so kudos also to the stage crew who certainly have their work cut out for them on this one.

Afterward it was back to the room to pen this; order our cookies ;); claim our Platinum truffles, and prep for our 2nd stop at Castaway. It’s now 11pm - time for sleep!

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Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!

Next up: A Castaway Double Dip!

The “Double Dip”

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For you non-Disney Cruise Line people, “double dip” refers to getting two stops/port days at Disney’s private island, on one cruise. We thought we might not ever get one of these. Now this is the 2nd in 5 months!

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Spoilers Alert: Today was much like Wednesday. A slightly later start meant a 7:30am alarm for a Room Service delivery of 7:30-8am. Kara was on the virtual queue, today getting #53 and an expected departure of 8:40-8:50am. It was right on schedule as usual.

Kara: We decided last night not to “rush” things this morning so we put a 7:30 - 8:00 wake up time on our room service order ticket last night. We were both awake before this as the sound of the ship docking is nearly always a wake up call.

A note on the 24 hour room service. The speed on this cruise was astounding. We use them a lot on all of our cruises and we could not get over how fast room service was every time on this cruise. That said, they made a slight error in the order as they only gave Gayle one piece of toast and gave me two croissants. My error was the bigger one in that G’s toast was wrapped up with a bagel and, as G said, I didn’t feel up the breakfast breads well enough so she ate half the bagel before realizing her toast was actually at least partially there.

As we disembarked to the island, there is a lovely couple ahead of us in line with someone we presumed to be their daughter. The older woman was wearing a Happy Birthday crown so I made sure to wish her a happy birthday. She giddily turned and informed me she was 90 years old!!! And, not to be outdone, her husband would turn 90 the very next day!!!. I hope I’m still Disney Cruising at 90 years old. #lifegoal.

For some reason Kara elected to stay on the Family side of the island (vs the adult-only) and picked the exact same spot. The shade of the building apparently won-out over likely dealing with the loud group again. It was just a touch warmer today, more likely from virtually no wind. (Also kudos to Kara who got me new swim shoes and swimmy cover-up for Christmas; both were perfect!)

The morning began lovely in the shade & under the umbrella each of us read novels. Then the sun came out, and with no wind, it got a bit stifling pretty quick. We again headed to Cookies Too for a slightly different lunch. This time I got a cold corn salad and honey-glazed salmon; both were great! (And more Big Island Cookies - shhhhh!)

The afternoon was tougher as the heat & sun remained, but the water was too “refreshing” for us to plunge into. On that note Kara originally said she would do a water slide on Pelican Plunge, but that was never realized. I was reading a magazine, but got too hot to concentrate, even on consuming my water.

Kara: We both stuck our feet in the water a couple of times today but decided those February nights were still making it too cold for us to get in and play (alas, I decided not to do Pelican Plunge today since I remembered we’d be back in September on the Wish when it will likely be sweltering and we may also fit in a May cruise when it will also be sweltering).

It’s a challenge to describe this, so far it sounds sweltering. However, before the sun was full-on, it was my perfect temperature day - but we have no idea what the temperature was!

From the first visit I really wanted a fruity drink. (Actually I just wanted a popsicle, but those aren’t an offering.) So Kara and I split a virgin strawberry daiquiri, which was perfectly refreshing! Soon we were a bit torn, not wanting to leave paradise, but the sun took its toll - & knowing all the tasks to still be accomplished. So we headed back to the ship just after 2pm.

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Kara: We both read and just laid in our chairs enjoying utter tranquility (My book this trip was Brene Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart”. This is definitely not a light beach read but an enjoyable book nonetheless if you’re interested in learning more about the language of emotions and feelings. Tranquility was one of my favorite emotions or experiences to read about in the book - especially doing so on Castaway Cay.)

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One note on food at lunch. We enjoyed lunch and I, stupidly, went back for more salmon and ended up with fruit and a brisket sandwich (I just wanted to try the brisket and didn’t realize it was on a sandwich). The brisket was not good - tasting almost slimy to me. I’m from America’s Heartland. My people know how to smoke a brisket. That was NOT IT. The salmon though was delicious and I felt absolutely stuffed after all that food.

We headed back to our beach spot and most of the beach had completely emptied out. We read a bit longer and then I could tell Gayle was getting too hot (her chair was a bit less shaded than mine was). We took another stroll in the water and then she decided to go find a fruity beverage of some sort - something she’d been talking about the whole trip. She came back with a single daiquiri split between two glasses which, for us, was absolutely perfect. As she said - a slush strawberry popsicle. I would NEVER have thought to ask them to split the drink between two glasses but it was absolutely the perfect sized serving. Thanks again Bestie!

Back onboard we headed to Guest Services (before it got crazy) to break some bills, put a Placeholder on my Disney Visa card (different than my onboard account charges), and for Kara to apply a gift card for extra tips. Back at the room I began the worst task ever on vacation - packing. I was steadily at work while Kara showered and then we switched. (Per the cookies I think there is a high probability my bag will be overweight. I told you the molasses in them is heavy; plus they aren’t called “Big Island Cookies” for nothing!”)

Before 4pm we’d done as much as we could at this point, as we’d still have a clothing change from dinner to bed to add to the task. Kara also penned and organized the tip envelopes and we each applied the new luggage tags to our bags. We enjoyed our verandah until we left the dock just after 5pm. Again the temperature was perfect as we left the verandah door open as we went back and forth continuing to get things ready.

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Kara: The island crew did a wave off tonight which I mentioned being sad they didn’t do on our first day on the island. We talked a lot about how frenzied Castaway Cay has to be right now with all of these additional double dips the ships are doing since so many ports are still changing/closing as a result of COVID. I wondered but we’ve not checked if the send offs by the island crew can only really be managed on days when they don’t have another ship coming in the next day and therefore don’t have quite so much work to completely prep the island again before another ship comes in the next day.

Soon, we were underway at a very gentle cruising speed since we only have about 50 miles to travel to make it to Miami. Normally, the sail back to Port Canaveral is “brisk” but this will be a gentle overnight sail - even if it is supposed to rain a bit. Overall, these have been the calmest seas I’ve ever experienced on a cruise. Given all the first time cruisers on this ship they are not getting a realistic experience of cruising as there has been almost no motion at all throughout the entire cruise.

Gayle and I had packed, showered and readied ourselves for dinner and found ourselves just sitting and staring at the walls with a few minutes left to go before it was time to go to dinner so I asked Gayle if she wanted me to do a dance or wanted to go explore a bit. She opted for me dancing. She queued up Aladdin and I improvved a dance to it. Thankfully the music was on her phone so she couldn’t video record my silliness.

With that bit of fun out of the way we were off to dinner in Lumiere’s.

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We headed down to Lumiere’s for our final 5:45pm dinner. This is a meal we have virtually every cruise, as the menu is a staple for the Atrium restaurant: Chilled shrimp & lobster appetizer and pasta with lobster for our entree. The pasta sauce is a heartier (Kara says rustic) version of the Palo pappardelle, It is delicious to the point Kara and I both finish every bit of that dish; the issue is that it’s so filling! Kara also added a farmhouse salad.

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Kara: This is a pretty restaurant but of the four existing atrium restaurants it is the most plain of all of them. We had a table by the door which I was a little concerned about at first but it actually ended up being excellent (stay tuned).

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Ashley and Kemong took care of dinner service in excellent fashion. I like to cook and so indulge me here for a moment as I chronicle as much for me as for you a bit more about our dinner. Tonight is my favorite bread service - a simple French bread with an olive and caper dipping sauce. Until tonight, I’d not figured out the capers and have made just an olive and garlic version of this back home. I actually now know why I like my version better but I may experiment with capers or maybe just a little lemon back home. Additionally, this is a favorite appetizer/salad course. The appetizer is cold shrimp with a light olive oil/dill dressing and a piece of lobster. I’ve made this shrimp dish several times and put it on a salad back home. The farmhouse salad is also one of my faves - with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, tomatoes, a goat cheese crostini and more of that wonderful olive/caper dressing.

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During the appetizer/salad course it was clear that cast members were coming in to prepare for a little show with Mickey and friends. This is where our placement right by the door was a real win as we got the first view of all the characters including my main squeeze - PLUTO!  The show was cute and gave everyone in the restaurant an opportunity to see all the characters and get a little bit of interaction.

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Here is a quick video of the celebration:

For dessert Kara only got a Mickey Ice Cream bar, while this time I got both the Grand Marnier Soufflé and the vanilla creme brûlée. The issue is usually one of them is off. Last time the Soufflé was really under done; this time it was perfect! The sugar top of the crème brûlée was perfect, but something was off with the custard that possibly it wasn’t properly mixed or had separated.

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Kara: Have respect. There is no ONLY about a Mickey Ice Cream Bar with Mickey Head sprinkles.

We said our farewells and presented the gratuity envelopes to our serving team. The plan was to head to the piano bar, but the live entertainment didn’t start for another half-hour. So it was back to the room to change, finalize our bags to set outside the room to be taken down to the hold tonight, and write this. Thus, we won’t be going back out to the piano bar or to enjoy the air & sailing on an open deck. (It’s supposed to rain tonight anyway, and apparently we are moving through a cold front, so it’s only going to be in the high 50s when we dock in Miami!)

As usual we aren’t ready to get off the ship, but alas. While tomorrow is simply a travel day home, I’ll create a post about it and more so what is/might be coming up in the future! Stay tuned!

Kara: Our stateroom host, Saddam, was outside our room and said he’d prepared a special surprise for us. While neither of us are really fans of this particular animal, it was the first time we’d ever had this as one of our towel animals.

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Here is a video of us walking into the room as Saddam was outside our room when we arrived and he warned us of his special creation for us.

Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!

Heading Home - Booooooooo :-(

Kara: I was NOT looking forward to today at all. Our trip home from Orlando in October about did me in. There was nothing specifically bad about it - it’s just a really LONG day in a mask moving around all those people. I used to enjoy air travel a LOT. I find it abysmal now.

That said, all in all, it was a simple and easy travel day. We had good flights. I did have trouble with my headphones so wasn’t able to watch a movie but I read and played Sudoku on the way home.

I’m incredibly grateful to my dad and sister for watching Kona The Mini Double Doodle while I was gone. This is the second trip in a row where they have been kind enough (or ready enough for him to go home) to be waiting at my house when we got home.

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This also marks the end of my “vacation” that I gave myself after leaving my job and launching my consulting business. If you are in need of executive coaching, meeting design and facilitation, consultation in technology and education, and/or training and development for creative problem solving, please reach out to Monarch Strategies. I’d love to help you.

It was a fairly eventless travel day, which in these times, is a good thing. Kara’s bag was exactly 50 lbs and mine was 49, so PHEW! We long ago learned the best way to offset the sadness of a cruise/vacation ending, is looking forward to the next one. (We used to start planning the next one, but with our schedules, we now plan FAR into the future.)

So what’s next? Well we’ve both blocked some time in May. We might travel; we might not. While it was never initially a dream, during COVID I realized I would finally qualify for my IATA card - “the only industry credential recognized worldwide for travel professionals”. One of the best parts of having an IATA card is some of the perks. So if it works out, we might take advantage of an option through this in May.

Otherwise the next big event is sailing the new Disney Wish in September! (This is also the last of our “old” Placeholders, so we took the last possible 4 night before the expiration date!) Beyond that, here’s hoping we can keep Kauai & Aulani in 2023 (my choice) and something in Europe for Kara in 2024!

Similar to Kara, if there’s anything I can do to assist you with any future travel planning, please reach out to gayle.hartleroad@offtoneverland.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gayle.offtoneverland

Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency - Off to Neverland Travel. Contact me today for a no-obligation quote!