Friday, September 21, 2018

Europe - Day 25 (Headed home)

I can't decide if this trip went fast or not. It did not go slow..... it seems like a long time since we left home. But we are just now really ready to be home again.
So, today we do it... last flight of the trip.

We had breakfast at our hotel.. with a ton of other people. I was amazed at how many people were having breakfast this morning. Our hotel is much larger than it seemed yesterday. We scored a table in the outside courtyard.
The view up at breakfast. 
Check out wasn't til noon, so we had a nice lazy morning. We decided we were not going to try and get any more sight seeing in today. We have a 4 pm flight out of Newark, so we could have squeezed something in... but at least half of us, need a slower pace. [Editor's note: Turns out that after 25 days of traveling, you aren't as concerned about filling every minute of your time away.]
So we relaxed, took our time repacking and checked out at noon.

We left home with two rolling bags and four carry-on bags. Returning home with three rolling bags and 5 carry-on bags. Is that good or bad for a 25 night trip? Additional rolling bag was purchased, carry-on bag was a pack-able we took with us. 
The part I was the most anxious about today was maneuvering all our stuff from the hotel to Penn Station, where we get the train to the airport. It was a handful of blocks and I find the pace of the NYC streets a bit quick... add the bags and I wasn't sure about this plan. But it all worked out fine. We slowed our pace a bit... didn't try to keep up with the locals in crossing streets and were at the station with no issues.
escalator to the train. 
We took a train out to Jersey, then caught the airport monorail to the terminal we needed at Newark Airport. After checking our suitcases and an easy lunch, it wasn't too long til we boarded our plane. Hubby was feeling a bit worse today. I am feeling almost normal again an our young man is congested, so we decided I would sit with the kids and he could have the other isle for a slightly quieter flight. I sat between the two and we had a nice 6 hour flight home.
Hubby watched some movies, our young lady played games on her kindle and listened to music and our young man and I got half way through a book on audible. With some mild ear pressure coming down, we landed and were headed home right on time.

We did the whole rent a car for the day trick again.... And home was right where we left it. Apparently the local spiders have decided our front door was too exposed, and were working on a nice web to cover it. Luckily I spotted it before I walked right into it.
Ahh. home and bed... let's All get some sleep. We are not up late local time, but its past midnight in NYC, and we are feeling it.

Final stats from the trip
3832 Nautical Miles sailed - From Dover to NYC
Flights: 4
Rental Cars: 5 (2 were at home to get to and from the airport)
Trains: 4-7 (Depending on whether you count light rail: TGV, Eurostar, Paris RER, London Underground, TFL Rail, NY Subway, NJ Transit Rail)
Counties: 6 (Germany, France, England, Ireland, Canada, US)
Oceans crossed: 1 (both ways)
Hotels: 7 (not including the floating hotel, ie: Disney Cruise Line) 
Additional suitcases purchased: 1
Afternoon teas enjoyed: 4 
Number of pictures taken: 1947 (hahaha - oh wow, thank goodness for digital cameras right!)
Castles visited: 3 (if you let me include the castle at Disneyland Paris) 
Cannons fired: 2 (we didn't fire them ourselves...)
Currencies used: 4 (US Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Canadian Dollars)
New Languages attempted: 2

You Are Here Mugs purchased: 5 
[Editor's addition: On this trip, we pre-paid for as much as possible and took currency with us for everything else and basically didn't use any credit cards in Europe. These are the Euros and Pounds that we had left over.]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Europe - Day 24 (New York, NY)

Back in the USA. We leave our floating home for good today. We are not entirely sure we want to, but the process of packing everything up has us all ready to move on.
The Magic is in NYC at Pier 88. We took a few pictures form our balcony of the sights.

I spy the Empire State Building!
Next to us... cool! 
We are glad to be late seating, as it means we get to sleep in a bit longer and go to the second breakfast seating. We were out of our room, with all our stuff at 8, and breakfast, back at Rupunsel's at 8:15 am. [Editor's Note: We had our final time change from the Atlantic to Eastern time zone, so 8:15 am felt like 9:15 am. It was still earlier than I would have liked, though.] A quick breakfast and final goodbye and hugs to our serving team. Maria and Marco were wonderful!
Once breakfast was done, all disembarkation groups were cleared to leave the ship, so we were able to walk off with ease. Suitcases were found and we moved through customs/immigration pretty quickly.
Now for the adventure of getting a taxi (or the like) to our hotel. This was my first real experience with the loud and fast pace of this city... oh, and the number of people!
At least 30 of us were all trying to cross the street to get to the taxi stands (all with suitcases). There were a few guys walking the crowd offering rides places. These guys had nothing indicating they were drivers for a cab company, or Uber or Lyft....just guys walking around... "hey, where you going?" [Editor's note: Some of them had printed out the Uber logo and were carrying it with them to make them seem more legit.] Then a nearby construction worker (hard hat and vest) started yelling at all of us "don't get into any car unless it's a yellow cab!" "Don't talk to those guys" "Keep walking to the taxi line".
Okay... so we all hustled across the street and queued up, but the taxi lane with filled with black SUVs.... more of these non-taxi guys. We waited for a bit and exchanged looks with others from our cruise. Then decided this wasn't how we wanted to spend the next half hour... so we walked about a block a way to give some distance from all the commotion, and hubby called a Lyft.
The other guys could have been Uber or Lyft drivers [Editor's Note: Probably not, since NYC requires Uber and Lyft drivers to have a special license to operate in the city], but we were more comfortable going the official route. Soon we were rolling to our hotel and getting checked in.
The Homewood Suites in Midtown Manhattan was prepared for us and several other families from our ship. The room wasn't ready yet (note: it's still before 10 am) but they tagged and stored our luggage so we could head out to see some stuff.

We headed to the American Museum of Natural History.

Funny, it's another museum with ties to the Night at the Museum movies. But we enjoyed the regular exhibits we were able to explore plus the Unseen Oceans exhibit we added on. Here come a ton of pictures.

This was the coolest! a huge kinetic sand table! with a dynamic projection on top, so as you move the sand... the color of it changes. (Video below) 

This was just what our young man needed... He really enjoyed it. 
The table was set up so people could visualize different ocean depths. They had a cool projector above that changed the color of things based on how high or low the sand was built up. So you could make islands, or trenches. They asked that you stay no longer than 10 minutes if people were waiting. [Editor's note: Lucky for us, there weren't too many people around so no one was waiting.] We want one at home.

After the museum, we took the subway back to the hotel and got into our room. We were able to take a hour or so break before dinner and our evening show!

This seems like real NY pizza to me
Tonight we have tickets to see Frozen on Broadway. We decided on Frozen several months ago and picked up the tickets. But this evening as we make our way around town to get to the show... the kids seem unsure of our choice.

But after the show, they were very glad we did it. Both enjoyed it. Our young man pointed out all the differences from the film and our young lady had the soundtrack on her phone before bed. 

One last stop before we call it... a glimpse at Time Square. 

A glimpse was all I could handle.... Apparently I am not a city girl. 
We had a short hop back to the hotel - now to unwind and get to sleep. Tomorrow home. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Europe - Day 23 (Transatlantic Day 10)

Final Day at Sea
I heard the fog horn! Woo Hoo... I know, I am silly. Actually it was super late last night or early early this morning, but it made me smile.  We still have fog this morning, but apparenlty the visablity is better.

Boat in the distance... lots of fog!

And the cold is making its way through us... our young man sounds pretty congested today, and he slept in rather late, which he never does. So we are adding some extra vitamins for everyone and keeping super hydrated. Our server told me last night that this was making the rounds. At least three of her tables had someone with a cold. Such is life on a ship, I suppose.
Today we are enjoying time on board - the cruise director said to make the most of your day with all the (plethora) of on-board activities. But I am going the other way... enjoy my last day of leisure. Kids are happily entertained, food is all prepared, etc.
Hubby and I get to have brunch at Palo today! Brunch is our preferred Palo meal, and he skipped breakfast in preparation.
As we have experienced in the past it was delicious. And incredible service.
We both felt a distinct difference going to Palo the last day of an 11 night cruise vs the first few days... when you are still in awe of the plethora of food.
We ate less than we ever have before at Palo. The server actually said "No! Really?" when we told him we were done. We might have stumbled onto a strategy for not overdoing it, go the last possible day... we will have to try again next time to see.
The reason we went the last day instead of one of the earlier sea day (Palo is only open for Brunch on sea days) was that this was the first reservation we could get.
If we haven't mentioned it before, this cruise is mostly repeat cruisers. To be specific out of the 1800 passengers only 300 are new cruisers. And over 800 of the remaining 1500 are gold or platinum Castaway Club members (meaning they have completed at least 5 cruises on Disney (10 for platinum)). Castaway club members get early booking for Palo. And even though we are gold members..... the last sea day was the earliest brunch we could get.
After brunch, hubby took a power nap while I started organizing everything we needed to pack. We have enjoyed the luxury of being unpacked for the last 10 days. But everything goes back in its packing cube today.
What does it mean when you have two empty cubes at the end? Did we lose clothes? Are they hiding? Or maybe I am just much better packing now than I was 24 days ago!
Late afternoon, I met our young Lady and a friend of hers for a short movie up on deck. It threatened to rain on us, but once we wrapped up with towels it went away. While I was gone, Hubby dove in and packed our two big suitcases. Those will go out tonight and re-appear tomorrow at the port, everything that is left we carry off the ship ourselves.
Our final show of the cruise is the classic Disney Dreams. They are very proud of this show, I think it's on every ship. We have seen it many times, and Hubby and I would have skipped it, but the kids were both wanting to go. And we enjoyed it once again. 
Then off to Rapunzel's Royal Table for our final meal and show in this fun dining room. Our dining team has been wonderful this cruise (aren't they always?). With eleven dinners to get to know us, we felt very well taken care of. Maria, our server, and Marco the assistant server were amazing. Both took time to try and talk with our kids. And were very respectful of our young man's needs. They also had tea already laid out for us when we were sick and always made wonderful recommendations. If we saw them other times of the day, they always made a point of talking with us. We will see them tomorrow for breakfast, but tonight was the last dinner. Sad. 

Pascal Ketchup.... too fun. 

After dinner our young lady went to the club for the farewell slideshow etc. Hubby hit the last evening variety show and the young man and I got a little quiet time before bed. 
It's almost over. I can't believe what an amazing trip this has been. 

Our last towel animal... is it a mouse? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Europe - Day 22 (Transatlantic Day 9)

St. John, New Brunswick

Oh! It's our last port! I can't believe it.
And we looked out our window this morning to see.....

Hubby mentioned he had heard the fog horn a bit last night. I was out choice of medicine knocked me out. That has improved my overall well-being significantly, although I do love the fog horn.

We were one of the first excursions off the ship today. Our tour was to a place that makes Maple Syrup! How Canadian!
We hopped on a bus and had a easy ride to the destination. The highlight of the ride wasn't the guide's silly stories, but the cable ferry across one of the local rivers.
I had a vision of this in my head, that was much more rustic than the reality (probably for the best). Being a fan of the ferry, this was a treat... and an incredibly smooth ride. So smooth that we didn't realize we were already moving across the river. Fun!

The New Brunswick Flag on our Ferry
Once across it was not long til we arrived.
Our guide on the bus.
Once at Elmhurst Outdoors (our destination for all things Maple) we were given the historical tour of how maple syrup has been made though the decades.

Our local maple syrup expert
Taking a picture of how much sap it takes to make syrup.....
The picture.... 40 silver buckets of sap to make the 1 green bucket of syrup
After our tour, it was back to the lodge for a pancake brunch with maple syrup of course. Now this part was funny as our young lady hasn't ever cared for maple syrup and our young man likes the "fake stuff" (Mrs. Butterworth's or Log Cabin). So we weren't sure how breakfast was going to go. If nothing else... the would get pancakes. 
Turns out our young lady now LOVES maple syrup... but only pure real, Canadian stuff. And, well, we didn't change any other opinions today, but enjoyed the pancakes all the same. They did a nice job... I could have gone for another pancake, as I skipped the sausage. The flour was from a local mill, which made the whole meal local -fun. 
After breakfast/brunch.. it was time for taffy.... what? So apparently you can make a maple taffy by pouring hot syrup into packed snow and then twirling the cooling syrup around a stick. Taffy in the Snow I think they call it.... and well, it was tasty.

(Side note: my great night's sleep helped my cold significantly. I have a few mild symptoms, so am still staying very hydrated and keeping the sugar low. But I am not miserable - yay!) 

Ok, everyone had a taste.. now back to the ship. The difference in boarding the ship midday vs 20 minutes before we leave is huge... almost no line at all to get back on board - awesome. 
Back in town, overlooking the port... the ship seems to be playing hide and seek in the fog. 
back on board... checking out the port area
Once on board we decided to chill in the room for a while. I actually had some emails to send (the real world is quickly approaching). Then around 3 pm we decided we needed something to eat to get us through til our late dinner seating. 
It kind of cracks me up that we are still doing "lunch" at 3 pm. When we were in Europe I felt bad about it... but now it's still another 5+ hours til dinner, so it seems like the thing to do. 
Hubby did pop back into town to pick up some cough drops and restock our medicine supply. 

The show tonight is ventriloquist Taylor Mason. We have seen him before, not sure which cruise it was, but he was good. From there on to dinner. Our last night in Animator's Palate (sad), we got to do the animation show tonight, which was super fun. We had a great view of our creations dancing around. As this cruise is like 80% return cruisers everyone knew what was going on.

My cold has decreased from "I am not sure I should go to said activity" to "this cough is mildly annoying" which is happy. But on that note... I seemed to have shared. Hubby has the throat tickle I started with. Fingers crossed for the kiddos.
Two of us went to bed early and two stayed out late.... for the last time. We all have mixed feelings about being almost done with our cruise. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Europe - Day 21 (Transatlantic Day 8)

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Today we are going from our large ship to a tall ship for a few hours. Our excursion is called "Deckhand for a Day" And our ship is the Silva, built in 1932 (we think) and popular because she had both the sails and a motor.

The Silva
Only one of our party was intersted in helping out on board. They had plently of other helpers so we didn't feel bad. We enjoyed the 2 hours on the Silva, the 4 crew were great and we recommend it as a relaxing way to spend a afternoon in Halifax. [Editor's note: Well, relaxing except for the cannon...]

Helping to raise the sails
great views, local lighthouses

The cruise terminal here is a mini mall of just Canada souvenirs. So we walked through and picked up a couple of items.

Before 5 pm we were floating away from Nova Scotia. Only one more port and one sea day left.
I can't believe it.
I am still feeling icky... I think it's a cold. There have been a ton of people coughing and sneezing in the shows etc. I hope I am the only one from our family that joins in the sneezing. I may be done with desserts for a while.

Tonight's show is Broadway star Michelle Mallardi. She has been in a number of things - the reason we get to see her is that she was Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. She did a fun show that shared her career journey through song. Very, very good.

We had our last meal in Lumiere's. Sad a little... things are winding down.
I decided to leave dinner after the entree and let the family enjoy dessert while I got ready for bed. I know a good night sleep will do me good. Hopefully, I can find the right medicine in my little med-bag to help me sleep.

- Good Night

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Europe - Day 20 (Transatlantic Day 7)

We are back to a run of port days! Which can only mean one thing... we have successfully made it to North America, across the pond, or whatever you want to say. [Editor's note: Yes, we realize that the title of this post still says "Europe". It's going to say that for the rest of the trip for consistency.]
And today we are in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Our excursion is after lunch so we get a mellow breakfast and morning.
Views of Sydney from the top deck
Classic ship picture
Looking out the front
The excursion was to the Alexander Graham Bell museum to explore and for the kids to make kites. If we get some wind maybe fly them.
It was about an hour bus ride out to the museum. Our guide was pretty informative. But it kind of reminded me of driving around with my grandfather, in the kind of information and the subjects he focused on.
people getting ready to go on tours
our bus - rolling along
There was also a little mix up at the museum. It's hard to tell if they were actually ready for us. It seemed that despite the tour info saying kids made the kites, and adults would get that time to relax and explore, everyone was making kites. And they didn't have the space to accommodate all of us. So, they took about 70% of the group and the rest of us checked out the museum.
This had some hiccups as the second group... our group... had significantly less time to make kites... we had a little over a half hour, while the first group, had a little over an hour. Yeah, not sure where the communication broke down. But it all worked out in the end.
We even made it back to the ship on time.

It turned out to be a lovely day
Checking out the museum
Ready to make some Kites
Framework is done
We always enjoy watching the ship depart and today we had a great view.

Skylar keeping the finished kite safe on the way back
Kiddos saw one of these for the first time... and were excited to "figure out" how to use it!
Back on the ship we settled into our "usual" evening routine. The evening show was a acapella group from Florida [The Edge Effect]. They were really good. Dinner we got to return to Rapunzel's Royal Table - Such a fun restaurant.
I am starting to feel congested - more so than just some random allergies. I loaded up on water and took some medicine and went to bed. Fingers crossed it's a fleeting thing.

Over all a nice cruise day!