Monday, June 25, 2012

Patience

Question: what does waiting in line for Toy Story Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios and waiting for a running injury to heal have in common?

Answer: both require patience.  and lots of it.

(I thank and credit grumpyfan.wordpress.com for the above)


It will be five weeks tomorrow that my orthopedic surgeon told me that I had a femoral neck stress fracture, and that I had to be on crutches, "for a couple of weeks...".  Well, even though literature suggests that it often takes at least 6 weeks on crutches, I became a bit impatient, and after only one week I started to weight bear, and I came off crutches for a week ... limping badly.

Limping so badly that I aggravated it, and my orthopedic surgeon said "two more weeks."

Well, this past weekend, my wife and I went out to dinner with some friends, (at Daniel's Bistro in Point Pleasant, which was phenomenal by the way), and I did not like the prospect of hobbling in on a crutch and attracting attention when I wanted to have a nice night out.  So, exactly like someone who did not learn his lesson before, I left my crutches in the car, limped a couple of blocks to the restaurant, and needless to say, after dinner, one of my friends had to literally carry me back to the car.   Literally.  As in pick me up carry me back like a load of laundry.  Great, how's that for attracting attention.

Two days later, today, my groin still aches.

I had planned on resuming my training for the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon on July 1, next week.  Because I wasn't patient enough, now I have to be more patient.

 Life has a way of teaching you a lesson over and over until you learn it.


And patience is what I need, given that I move around slower and get to places later.  On the plus side, being forced to slow down actually forces you to slow down!  Look around.  Appreciate things.  A couple of weeks ago I went on a Disney Cruise (see my trip report) on a crutch.  Looking back, it wasn't a hindrance, or a pain.  It was relaxing actually.  I did not feel I had to rush to get anywhere, because I knew I couldn't run there.  So my wife would stroll leisurely with me, and I got to actually see the ship, and experience the atmosphere.

In a few weeks we will going to Walt Disney World.  Will I be on crutch?  Maybe.  But if so, I will be happy to slow down and look around.  Really look around.   I am always telling people about Disney's attention to detail, and the intricate theming of everything from the streets to the garbage cans to the smells to the attractions.  Now instead of running to Space Mountain, I will be able to really appreciate Main Street USA.

But while I'm contemplating doing that, let me pull out my obsessive-compulsive touring plans!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New York City Disney Cruise Part III

Trip Report: NYC Disney Cruise, 2 night weekend getaway
Part III

So the alarm clock on my phone awoke me 7am on our final morning, the morning of debarkation, and I felt like I missed an opportunity.  The day before, the Captain had announced that we would be passing the Statue of Liberty at around 3:30 am, and, along with that, we would have a nice view of the New York City skyline.  I didn't think much of it at the time, having been born in NYC and having grown up in the suburbs ... but seeing the skyline by way of sea, and sailing in, would have been very unique.  Oh well, there's next time.

I looked out our verandah and instead of the open water I saw New York.  Beautiful city, but it meant we were home and the cruise was over.



We had left our one luggage outside the night before (gave it to our hostess Donette actually), with the color-coded Orange Goofy tag ... so just a quick shower, and a sweep of the room we called home for a few hours really, hehe, and off we went to our final meal.

I was initially expecting to rotate in only two of the three main dining rooms, it being a 2 night cruise, and traditionally the debarkation breakfast is held in the dining room of your last dinner, but the pleasant surprise was that we were scheduled to rotate into the third dining room.  Great surprise because it was Animator's Palate!!  Animator's Palate was revolutionary in its technology in the early days of Disney Cruising.  Throughout your meal, the room, which started out as black and white in color scheme sketches, would gradually transform into brilliant animated color, and your servers would change costumes as well.





There was no gradual change, and the menu was the See Ya Real Soon menu (again, not a restaurant-specific menu), but we were so thrilled to see the dining room show and animation at the end of the meal, and the room did transform.  It was beautiful, and the perfect way to end our trip.  When we first boarded and I saw that the Animator's Palate was not included in our rotation, I regretted not having requested it, but ending with it was perfect.  The meal itself was fine, I opted for a toasted bagel and lox with cream cheese, and coffee. (hey, I was back in new york city!)

Disney Cruise Line has mastered the debarkation process.  You are given color coded luggage tags, and your luggage (if you choose) is carted out the night before for sorting.  On this particular cruise, one thing different from the Dream was that you were also given an assigned waiting area, until your luggage tag color was called, before debarking.  We did not have to go there as our color was called before breakfast was over.  Debarking was quick and smooth, no line.  Our luggage was there immediately, and we did not have to go through customs because we did not stop in any ports.

We waited for our car service then went home with the satisfaction of having a wonderful cruise.




Final thoughts:  This weekend cruise getaway was a wonderful weekend!  I thought it would feel too quick, and too short ... which it was, but I had the mindset of it being a weekend versus a long vacation.  The best part was that it was local and we did not have to trek to the airport and fly down.  That was a huge plus!
The boat itself?  I walked onto the Magic after having sailed three times on the new, gorgeous Disney Dream.  My first impression was that it was nice, maybe dark and small in parts ... but after this weekend, experiencing the charm of it, thrilled to be on the original Disney ship, enjoying the wonderful DCL service ... I finally got it -- It wasn't "dark and small", I saw how others view it as "cozy and intimate".  Expensive?  who knows ... depends what you value.  I valued every minute of this cruise with my family, and for that it was worth every penny.

Oh, and my running injury for which I used a crutch the entire cruise, my femoral neck stress fracture??  It feels better already.


Monday, June 18, 2012

New York City Disney Cruise part II


Trip Report: 2 night weekend getaway on the Disney Magic 6/15-6/17/12
PART II

(be sure to read Part I first HERE)



So I awoke spontaneously as I try to do every morning on cruises to catch the sunrise ... it never gets old.  Going out on the verandah, seeing nothing but the ocean around you.  In terms of real estate value, this is the ultimate water view.


(port side view from our verandah ... ok, this is a few hours after sunrise, but beautiful nonetheless)

When I had originally planned this cruise, I scoped out the Deck plans for a running track.  On the Dream, it was on Deck 4, and the length worked out to 2.5 laps = 1 mile.  Here on the Magic the running track is similarly on Deck 4, but shorter, 3 laps = 1 mile.  I was originally anxious about getting in my long run, as the cruise fell on a Saturday, and I think at this point of marathon training, I would have been scheduled for at least a 10 mile long run.

But no matter, I got injured, on a crutch now, so it wasn't even an issue on this cruise.  Made packing that much lighter too, not having to bring running shoes and gear.  But my wife went down to check on the track and get her run in, but reported that the ends of closed off ... crew said they were working on something.  So instead of running back and forth along one length she ran up to Deck 10 and found there was ample room to run around there as well.

I loved running on the Disney Dream, like running along the shore, pretty empty early in the morning, and just knowing that you were on a Disney ship.  I missed it ...

Anyway, at this point I realized one thing about the stateroom that I didn't notice the day before ... the curtain between the sleeping and the living areas is NOT a blackout curtain.  Not a criticism, just an observation, and a warning to those who want to sleep in.  (The curtain to the verandah IS blackout, so you can close that ) ... but by no means did I want to sleep in on this one and only day of the cruise!


So after my wife came back from running we headed up to Topsiders, mainly because Parrot Cay wasn't open until 9:30am and didn't want to waste precious hours on this short cruise.  We weren't sure what to expect for Topsiders breakfast buffet, since we were not overly impressed with the embarkation lunch.
Well, I'm happy to report that the Topsiders breakfast buffet was good!  Pretty much standard American breakfast fare, but it doesn't take much to impress me for breakfast though, give me an omelet station, some fruit and coffee, and I'm good to go.  We sat outside where it was cool and windy, but perfectly nice.

The service I have to say again and again was excellent.  Crew members offering to help everywhere you turn (Thanks Kristi from Estonia!).  Smiles all around.  Little things like walking around picking up bits of empty sugar packets that blew off your table.  Just my opinion, but those are the things that make a cruise all worth it to me.

Now, this was both the first and the last day of the cruise.  Our captain made a very funny announcement overhead,

"Good morning, I have the unique opportunity to both welcome you on the cruise and to also thank you for sailing with us, because this is the first and probably the last time you'll hear from me." LOL!


All in good fun!  After breakfast we went to Decks 9 and 10 to take a stroll.  At this point on the Dream, we would have to scope out some poolside seats.  Well, on this cool and windy day ... a mad rush was not necessary:




(To be fair, it did get crowded poolside later in the day, but we managed to snag a couple of seats).

The rest of the day was really about relaxing, and fitting in activities as they came around.  My wife and little one took obligatory pictures with the characters in the lobby, which brings up a point...just yesterday I read a user review of the Magic which criticized that there were "not enough characters," and that "Characters should be EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME!"  The author criticized that the Disney cruise should have "more Disney decor."


Wow.  I really don't know where to start.  The reason I love Disney Cruise Line, is that, although I am an avid fan of Disney, I appreciate that you're not overrun by Disney everywhere.  The feeling and atmosphere is that of class and elegance on a Disney ship.  I love the decor and the subtle Disney references and hidden mickeys throughout.  The interior of the ship does not look like a tacky cartoon ... it's just beautiful.  Character appearances are limited, but goodness there is a schedule outlined right on the daily Navigator.

We did check out the cooking demonstration, in this case it was a Salmon wrapped in Phyllo dough.  Definitely more of a demonstration than a class, by the Chef de Cuisine of Topsiders ... pretty good tasting, the pleasant surprise was that it came with a tasting of a Chardonnay.



So...going along with the Cruise Director's statement that "the biggest decision you will face is where to eat next", before we knew it it was lunch time already!  So back to Topsiders we went, mainly because the chef at the cooking demonstrated mentioned something about a seafood buffer.  We had some room service the day before, which was quick and convenient, as quick and convenient as the fast food offerings they had on Deck 9, but seafood buffet sounded good.   Not a bad a buffet, there were mussels which I like, and crab legs which my wife likes, and the phyllo-wrapped salmon of the earlier demonstration.  I would like to forget about the dry halibut, but the best part was the crepe station!   It was a buffet, but I didn't overdo it.  I had one plate of food, and didn't go back for seconds.  Maybe my crutch made the whole prospect of going back for dry halibut and trying to carrying it back an ordeal, and I didn't feel like having my wife or one of the crew get something for me.

I did make my way at some point to the ice cream station outside for soft serve banana and chocolate!

As an aside, this was my fourth cruise, and I've only cruised Disney.  I cannot compare it to anything but itself.  People ask me how I can justify the price of Disney and how it compares.  I imagine there are many things on the Disney cruise that I just take for granted, things that other cruise lines don't offer.  Unlimited soda, ice cream, characters, second-to-none kids clubs etc, are the obvious features I guess, but the extra cost is for the "Disney touch."  Whether you believe in it or not, I think it's there.


We made our way poolside and my kid loved the Mickey pool and the slide.  The slide on the Magic appears bigger than the Mickey slide on the Dream, but the Dream has the aquaduct.  I did not get in the water and my wife and I were perfectly content sitting out there people watching, until it got too cold and we went back inside to watch Charlie Peachock, an enjoyable comedian/juggler who was on America's Got Talent:


Here's a quick clip from our camera:

video

The amazing thing was that he was able to juggle in the relatively low-ceilinged space of Rockin' Bar D.  Pretty impressive.

Afterwards, a little bit of shopping then we ran into our stateroom hostess and she mentioned that she left us some debarkation luggage tags in the room!  What?  No!  we just got here!  And we have to think about packing and leaving already? Booo.  short cruise!

Next thing we knew it was time to watch the show Dreams: an Enchanted Classic.  I won't say much about it, other than I am a huge Disney music fan (my favorite cruise show is the Golden Mickeys) but this show did not do much for me.  Others in the audience seemed to love it of course.

After the show we waited out in the Atrium lobby to get some "formal" pictures and here is where I noticed a huge difference in atmosphere between the Dream and the Magic.  At least in my experience, the feeling in the Atrium Lobby of the Disney Dream, especially around dinner and show time, is almost like a wedding reception or a classy cocktail hour.  There is nice live music, most people are dressed up, walking and standing around, with drinks and what-not, and there always seemed to be officers in their white uniforms mingling with the guests.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was a team of tuxedo wearing hosts with plates of hors-doerves.

Now, I don't know if it was because this cruise on the Magic was much shorter, but this did not have the same type of elegance.  The space is smaller, there was no music, people were not as generally dressed up, and I saw very few if any officers.  Again, this cruise was different, shorter, and more casual, so the comparison might not be fair.


And then dinner time!  This time we went to Lumiere's.  Again every restaurant rotation had the same menu, this time the Till We Meet Again menu.  I had the tuna sashimi appetizer which was more a seared tuna than straight up sashimi, but still good.  The seafood/lobster bisque was more tomato soup than anything, but fine as well.  I really enjoyed my beef wellington in puff pastry, and ended with a nice chocolate decadence and again a really good cup of coffee.  We have never really ordered anything that was not on the menu, and at least two head servers we have had previously made it a point to say something like, "Please ask me for anything, think of something, please challenge me."  On our very first cruise (The Disney Dream 3 night Bahamian Cruise, March 2011), our head server told us that if you think of something and they didn't have the ingredients, they would try to get it when they got to the next port!  Wow, that's service, but my wife and I never really took advantage of it.  At a nearby table, a couple was making use of the wonderful service and ordered a French Onion soup, salad, and a fish dish, none of which looked like it was on the menu.  That's fine, and wonderful, and the staff should be commended.  This time my wife for the first time tried to order something not on the menu -- creme brulee.  Our server said it would be tough, so we didn't push it.  That's not a big deal.

The Youth Activities counselors came around and picked up the kids to bring them to the clubs while we finished dinner (another awesome feature of the Disney Cruise Line).

Best part of this dinner was the cruise dining staff celebration and congratulations.  This is definitely something they should have on the Disney Dream.  Your dining servers (who follow you from restaurant to restaurant throughout the cruise) are introduced in festive fashion, and parade around the dining room with international flags.  This is complete with cheering, and high fives.  This was wonderful to see and to give due compliments to your servers on this two night cruise ... I could only imagine the cheers and the well-wishes, and perhaps even tears, on a longer cruise.  Imagine the bonding that the guests have with their servers on a week long cruise, and then this is their moment.  Loved it.




So we said our thank yous, and our initial good byes, really feeling how short this cruise was.  We also gave our tip envelopes at this point.  This was something new for this cruise:  Tips were added automatically!  Now, I liked the convenience of not having to go down to guest services to add tips to your account, but initial feeling is that this may do a disservice to the staff.  Now that the tips are added automatically, guests will not have the incentive to add to tip, because they will have to go down to guest services.  Hopefully the staff will continue to have incentive to provide their excellent service, and guests will have incentive to give more.

This was the second and last night, so before we turned in for the night, we checked out Beat Street, the adults-only evening area.  The juggler Charlie Peachock had a nighttime version of this show, just as amazing, but we enjoying chilling out in Diversions, the sports bar.  I can see where the Dream improved upon this with their 687 sports bar in their adult area called the District ... which has a darker, smoother feel, with rich wood tones and artifacts from the ship.  Still, my wife enjoyed her margarita and I my Boddington's just the same.  Especially with the bar food spread ... chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, what can go better?


Then we turned in for the night, sad to know that the next morning this short but certainly sweet cruise was going to be over.

Stay tuned for Part III coming soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New York City Disney Cruise!!


Cruisin' with Crutches

Trip report: 2 Night Weekend Getaway NYC on the Disney Magic. 6/15 - 6/17/12
Part I.


(official DCL promo photo for NYC cruises)


To be honest, this cruise kinda crept up on me.  To date, I had been on three previous Disney cruises, all  on the Disney Dream, which had  a rather short reign  of being Disney Cruise Line's newest (and grandest) ship until the Disney Fantasy made its debut earlier is year.  We as a family looooved our first Disney Dream voyage so much that when DCL announced that its 2012 itineraries would included cruises from New York City,  booking one was a no-brainer.  Why?  Not only am I  a huge fan of  DCL, Disney service, and the "Disney touch," but  we're from New Jersey.  The thought of enjoying the magic of Disney without having to fly down was amazing.  So book one I did,  and this  2 night cruise to nowhere  sounded like fun. 

But with my femoral neck stress fracture, and me being on crutches (going on 4 weeks now), I almost forgot about this cruise. I wasn't looking forward to cruising with crutches, but come on, being on crutches on a Disney Cruise must be infinitely better than being on crutches at work, right?  We literally packed at the last minute, because hey, it's just a weekend, and waited for our car service.

Day 1, 6/15/12:  Car service promptly picked us up, and from 9:20am to 10:30am we hit no traffic from the Jersey shore to NYC, missing rush hour, until we hit the West Side Highway.  Our official port arrival time  that we got was 12-12:30pm, so we had plenty of time, but we like to be early for things.  So we sat in traffic for a while when it hit me...when  we got a glimpse  of the  unmistakable red smokestack with the mickey head emblem of the Disney ship,  I admit I got excited.

Warning: unavoidable comparisons to the Disney Dream (and Port Canaveral) ahead (because that's all I know).

Drop off at the NYC terminal was ok ... Located at 12ave and 55th street, easy to find ... Signage was ok, but just look for the big ships.  It was congested, it's New York City  for goodness sake, but not at all chaotic.  I was born in NYC, and grew up in Jersey,  it felt like a typical day in the city.  So we got  dropped off right in front of the ship.   The Disney Magic is smaller than the Disney Dream, but this is THE original, with the classic shape and theming of cruise liners of days gone by, with the Mickey colors done in an elegant style.  The exterior showed some wear and age, but this ship is about 14 years old, and at least from the outside, it's beautiful.




Being that the NYC terminal  is not a Disney-exclusive  nor a  Disney-permanent port, the "disney cruise" signage  looked temporary,  but you couldn't get lost.  There were people with disney signs pointing the way, there were porters to check  in your luggage.  We arrived exactly at 11am, and  found no line to get inside.  There's an elevator to go upstairs to check in, then a security checkpoint which was smooth, and then actual check in.  The terminal itself is ok, again some temporary disney  signs,  banners, random people waving Mickey Hands.  At this point I don't know if they are official Disney cast members  or local employees or what not.  But friendly for sure.  Check in lines were split amongst first timers, gold and silver castaway club members,  platinum castaway club members, and there was a separate area for concierge.  By FAR the longest line was for the gold and silver castaway club members.  Most people on this cruise clearly had  cruised Disney  before.  Also, clearly most  of the passengers were decidedly local like we were.  New York, New Jersey,  Pennsylvania.  I was born in NYC, and grew  up in New Jersey where I am so proud to  live right now, and it takes one to know one, with the dress and accents and overall appearance.  This weekend cruise looked like it  had more adults and less kids than other Disneg cruises, and that people were  going to party.  (disney style anyway).

So we were on line for I guess 10-15 minutes (i know not long but surely longer than any checkin at port canaveral) and the actual check in could not be smoother.  We then went to the Youth Activities registration area, and there was no line at all (this line is the longest at port canaveral.  Again, less kids at NYC).  Waiting in the port, everyone was crowded with many people standing  in the area  right next to the boarding gate.  But  just look around,  there is a large seating area near security, in front of youth registration, where we sat and waited for our boarding #9 to be called.  there was a small stand with coffee, drinks, and sandwiches, something Port Canaveral  didn't have last time we were there.

Oh yeah, Goofy was there.

Boarding was FAST.  They started boarding at 12pm and they called our #9 in what felt like 15 min.  And there was really not much of a line to get in, with the  picture taking to the swipe of the Key to the Worl card.  This part at Port Canaveral seems to take forever.  Here, at  NYC  I guess with a smaller ship and less people, it was a breeze.  Now from the key swipe to the actual ship there is quite a bit of a walk, probably more than half the ships length, outside, then with a snaking gangway/platform thing.  So I hobbled along with my crutch, and again there didn't feel like a mad rush of people trying to get on the ship.  The timing of the boarding numbers being called was paced just right.

We were greeted and our family names announced by the crew members with the familiar white formal uniforms, and the familiarity of that was awesome.  Seriously, something about the youth and the class and international accents of the crew just transported me instantly, we were on  a Disney cruise again!

The lobby of this 14 year old ship is of course smaller and in a way darker than the openness and opulence of the much newer Dream, but absolutely no way less in the character, theming, and magic of the whole thing.




Embarkation brunch:  both the Parrot Cay and Topsiders appeared to be open, so we headed for Topsiders, mainly because we were so impressed with the Cabanas lunch on the Dream, we were expecting somewhat of a counterpart.  Instead of being negative, I'll make this a positive comment and just say that Cabanas is a wonderful improvement over Topsiders, at least for the embarkation lunch.  What, with the endless pods of lamb, pasta, turkey, stone crabs, clams, shrimp, vegetables, etc etc etc in the comparitively bright and open and flowing Cabanas....what's not to love.  But that's on the Dream.  This was Topsiders on the Magic.  I'll leave it at that.

So we walked around a bit, checked out Deck 9 and 10 before our stateroom was ready.  There were not too many people milling about yet.  That's one thing I definitely liked about this cruise, although smaller, with smaller spaces, it just didn't feel like it was crowded or chaotic.  I felt that the service was a bit more special too, and that the crew didn't seem as harried.  I'm assuming too that me walking around on my crutch prompted more servers to offer, "can I help you with something? Can i carry that for you? Can I get something for you?".   I was perfectly capable of using one arm for my crutch and the other to carry my plate or whatever.  One server even seemed genuinely sad that I refused her help.  The Disney Cruise crew works so hard!  Kudos to them!

Check out what was parked just yards from the Disney Magic: the Space Shuttle Enterprise!!!




Our cruise director Peter humorously said, "The Magic has sailed out of Port Canaveral for 15 years, (next to the Kennedy Space Center), but we had to go to New York to see the Space Shuttle!"

So we checked out our stateroom.  Category 5C, deluxe family stateroom with veranda.  Located on Deck 6, closer to the aft than the midship elevators.  I liked the location.  It was very quiet, and close to the elevators, which I actually used less than I expected.  People OFF crutches would definitely find it convenient to run down a flight or two for the kids clubs, shops etc, and just 3 flights to get up to Deck 9 pool etc.  Elevators are very small.  Those with wheelchairs  and scooters  waited a long time for an empty elevator during busy times.  The side stairwells were also narrow at parts, people would have to wait or take another route when I was hopping down them on my crutch.
So anyway, the stateroom itself was fine.  I think split bathrooms should be mandatory in every family hotel, what a great feature!  Bed was comfy enough, there were a bunch of drawers, nice desk space, a little living area with convertible couch, and the verandah of course.  I supposed we could've stuffed  our one piece of luggage under the bed (which would have to be lifted a bit), but really, on this short of a cruise, we didn't really unpack, and we just  kept it in a corner.  Overall  smaller stateroom than the Dream, but perfectly fine, and  other than a few expected signs of age and wear, I couldn't find  much  to improve upon.

After the mandatory and uneventful muster drill, we went to the Adventures Away party.  It was the expected fun, spirited, high-energy  sail away party with a really good cruise-activitied host, Tisha, characters, music, confetti, and  what I look forward to the most ... The countdown followed by the "When You  Wish Upon A Star" horn.  The Magic  version had bit less sentimentality but the New York skyline in the background  and the New York crowd  elevated the energy.




And off we went passing by the Freedom Tower:



...and the Statue of Liberty ...



Then we dropped the little one off at the kids clubs, there are the Oceaneers Club and the Oceaneers Lab for those ages 3-12.  Now, I know there has been some debate and heat over the "open houses.". Basically the open houses are hours during which "families can enjoy the clubs together with their children.". The problem is that during these hours you have to physically be with your child and you can't drop them off.  I thought this was going to be a bummer but the Magic solves this problem by alternating the open houses between the Club and the Lab, so they'll shuttle the kids between each. Problem solved.  The club and lab themselves looked great, beautifully themed, with a pirate ship and the like, and plenty of organized and free-play activities.  No kid looked bored, and as usual I felt completely comfortable leaving my little one in the hands of the yellow-shirted counselors.

Then we hit the Promenade Lounge to let the weekend begin.  The Promenade Lounge is something that the Dream should have, in my opinion. It's located a few steps off of the Atrium Lobby, a perfect location as a meeting place or what not.  I suppose the Bon Voyage bar on the Dream would be a counterpart, but the huge difference is that the Promenade Lounge is much larger, with ample seating, a dance floor, and enough space to hold events, live music, and the like...

And thus we found ourselves in the middle of a Disney Trivia game, and ... I actually won!  Questions ranged from what year was Beauty and the Beast released? To What is the name of the High School Musical mascot.  The prize on one of the trivia games on the Dream was a bottle of champagne, so I was excited and expected similar ... but instead I won this plastic medal, hehe.  And fun, memories, and laughs:


(hmm...looks vaguely familiar to the plastic 'winner' medals they gave to every participant in the Castaway Cay 5k)


After some more exploring ... Dinner time! (second seating for us). At Parrot Cay for us.  This was the inaugural 2 night weekend getaway from NYC, so there was some online speculation online about dining options, if  it would be the same restaurant both days, which menu, etc.

Here's the brief rundown:
On our 2 night cruise, we rotated through the THREE restaurants: for dinner 1, dinner 2, and for the debarkation breakfast.
The menu was the same for all restaurants at the same time: Let the Magic begin, Til we meet again, and See ya real soon menus.  That means there was no restaurant-specific theme menu.
Palo was open as far as I know, but we didn't make reservations.

Our servers were Greenidge from India, and  Widi from  Indonesia.  In the brief time we spent with them, i found their service as excellent as any other DCL server I've ever had.  There was some speculation online that the servers would not be as engaging  or  whatever on a 2 night cruise.  I found them excellent.  Of course you can't "bond" with them over 2 nights as you can over  5 or 7, but they were perfectly fine.

Food was ok on the Let the Magic Begin Menu.  I don't really complain about food, and I eat anything, so I don't have much to criticize but that the food was unremarkable.  I already forget the details of what I had ... Flavorful chicken bastelo for appetizer, clam and seafood chowder soup which didn't look nor have the texture of a New England chowder, but flavor was just as good, and a rather tough Yachtsman Steakhouse Sirloin.  Dessert was fine, I got some sort of trio.  Coffee was really good I must say.

It was Pirate Night, but the huge thing I noticed is that I didn't notice.  There were very few cast members milling about in Pirate gear during the day.  Our servers did not wear pirate costumes.  They did not leave any red bandanas in our rooms, so I didn't see any fellow passengers in them, and I really didn't see the amount of passengers in all-out pirate costumes around.

So the Pirate show and Mickey's Buccaneer Blast fireworks went off.  Very cool that the Disney Cruise Line is the only one allowed to have fireworka at Sea.  Oh yeah, one more thing: the main show was Villains Tonight!  But we skipped it as we had seen it three times previously and most recently two months ago on the Dream.  Presumable the Magic production would have their own impromptu jokes, but we were content skipping it this time.

So...embarkation was smooth and perfect,  and so far service was wonderful.  Tomorrow would both our first and last full day, but I didn't care--we were on a Disney Cruise, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Stay tuned for Part II soon!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Hurts The Most

I know others have much more serious medical ailments than I do, but this stress fracture has caused me to undergo a wide range of emotions, especially over the past few days. But basically, it comes down to this:

It hurts more NOT to run than it hurts to run.

The weather's getting nicer, and every day on the way to and from work I see runner's on the road, and around the reservoir near our house. I wish I was out there. It felt so good to run. And I was so happy to have found a physical activity that I loved.

I was feeling much better last week, i actually got myself off crutches for a few days. (under the advice of my orthopedic surgeon, of course, to play it by ear and try weight bearing). I was limping, and my groing would hurt after a bit of longish walking, but there was no way I would bring my crutchea to work.

By Saturday, at work, (which requires a lot of walking and a lot of standing), I was hurting. I could do this, I thought, just some positive thinking, it's fine. No problem. But I had to be honest with myself. I ran into my orthopedic surgeon's partner in the hall, who suggested I get back on crutches.

So I swallowed my pride, ran home to get one crutch ... And it was the best decision ever.

So I've been using one crutch at work for the past couple of days. I've had a same conversation a million times a day ... "yeah, stress fracture... femoral neck... Yeah running... No I didn't fall... Yeah it hurt more so I'm back on crutches."

And invariably, the others' comment is,
"well, I guess no more running for you!"

No.

I swallowed my pride, accepted my pain, and realize the need for healing and recovery, but that's one thing I will not accept.

I am a runner.
I will run again.
I will run the Atlantic City Half Marathon in October 2012.
I will run the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2013.
I will run the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge in January 2014.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

I signed up for the Walt Disney World Marathon (in secret!)

Shhh!!!  I have a secret.  I registered for my first marathon, the Walt Disney World Marathon! 

Why is it a secret?  Well, hopefully it won't be a secret for long ... but I am currently recovering from an injury (those who are following my blog know that I had a femoral neck stress fracture, and had been on crutches for two weeks).  Most people are telling me "no more running!"  or "you're crazy if you run again!"

But is it crazy? 


I say absolutely not.  Long distance runners Kara Goucher (2012 Olympian, 3rd place 2008 NYC Marathon, 3rd place 2009 Boston Marathon), Meb Keflezighi (2009 NYC Marathon champion), and others have suffered stress fractures and have come back with a vengeance.

The key to recover smart.  And train smart.  That is my goal.

There is no question in my mind that I will be returning to running ... when I'm ready.  I need to set goals, and one of those goals is to run the Walt Disney World Marathon this January 2013.

I want to keep a positive attitude and if I announce this too soon, others will continue to discourage me, and frankly, I do not believe that is good for overall healing and recovery.

I am excited about this being my first marathon, and for the fact that it is the 20thWDW Marathon!  Walt Disney World is my favorite place on earth ... how exciting would it be to run my first marathon through those theme parks, that setting, the atmosphere, the feeling of YES I'M AT DISNEY AND I'M RUNNING!!

I've posted this before, but they unveiled the new course for the 2013 walt disney world marathon:


awesome.  I can't wait.  shhh! it's a secret!! (but not for long!)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Two weeks, thank you

It has been two weeks since my last run ... an injury sidelined me, and today I give thanks, because today is the first day that I am completely off crutches.

I am still limping, mind you, and certain positions still ache, and stairs aren't easy, but I didn't even think about crutches today.

That was fast. Now, it is far from over, and I am not allowed to do any impact exercises, but wow, a few days ago I could barely weight bear. What surprised me was this progression. Of course I have been researching femoral neck stress fractures and femoral neck stress reactions. Many sources cite a 6 week crutche/non-weight bearing period because of the location, high risk of nonunion, risk of progression to full fracture, etc. I was actually apprehensive when my orthopedic surgeon said I would on crutches only 1-2 weeks. But he was optimistic, and he was right.

Now, don't get me wrong. I will not be jumping into anything. I will be careful. I will follow doctor's orders.

I do NOT want to get injured again.
I will run healthy. I will run happy.
I will run.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Walk before you run

You need to walk before you run.  And today I'm walking!!  I've been on crutches almost two weeks now, and started to weight-bear about 3 days ago.  Today I'm walking -- limping, but walking, definitely less use of crutches.

and soon I will run again!

My goal, however, is to prevent this, and any other injury, from happening in the first place.

I am not a sports physician, an orthopedic surgeon, or a professional athlete, but I want to learn as much as I can about sports-related injuries, for myself really, since I do not want to be sidelined again.

Concepts regarding this for further exploration: gradual progress, proper form, and proper shoes.  Controversial?  We may look into this further in upcoming posts.  For now, let's get myself better and ease back into activity, exercise and eventually running again.  My sights are still set on the Walt Disney World marathon and the Goofy Challenge.  But there is no hurry.