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Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Not-So-Magical Beginning

Setting sail on board the Disney Magic began for us in Galveston, TX – or at least – that’s where the cruise voyage began.  But let me take you back just a little before the actual departure day.  For you see, the voyage, with my lovely bride, actually began about 2 months ago when I first presented the opportunity to sail with Disney Cruise Line to her.  Indecision was the word of the day, along with a number of other words – trepidation, uneasiness, and an overall sense of uncertainty.  This went on for several weeks until just before the absolute cut-off day where a decision must be rendered and given to Disney in order to secure ground transfers from the airport and purchase airfare.  That was 3 weeks prior to the sailing – so for roughly 5 weeks there was a virtual, mental game of ping-pong taking place in our household.  Finally the decision was made, and there was no turning back.  It was to be a couple-voyage, and not a solo trip.  :-)

Once the airfare had been secured, and the ground transfers arranged, now came my bride’s largest conundrum – finding the right clothes to wear and bring on board.  The concept of “Formal Night” just threw her for a loop.  You see my bride doesn’t wear dressy clothes unless she absolutely has to.  She is very much a shorts & a t-shirt, or jeans and a sweater gal.  In the 18 ½ years we’ve been married – she’s probably only worn a dress the equivalent of a month’s time.  I LOVE it when she does get dolled up, but it just doesn’t happen very often.  So it was a quest for her to find something appropriate to wear.  And that filled the next 3 weeks, between clothing, footwear and accessories.  Phew – I’m glad that’s over, and she has something already to wear again the NEXT time we cruise together.   :-)
Our flight plan was with Southwest Airlines, so we had to fly in to Houston Hobby airport, which is better since it’s located on the southern side of Houston, and closer to Galveston.  We had the Disney transportation, which in Houston is not a nicely identified bus as they have in Orlando, but still quite functional and comfortable.  They did play the standard onboard video however, which once we got going, was quite enjoyable since we had not previously experienced that particular onboard video before.  But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

We knew that we had to be onboard the ship no later than an hour prior to departure, and the various flight times out of Indianapolis weren’t super conducive to that, so we were scheduled to fly on Friday night.  Our kids were not going with us, so they needed to be dropped off where they were going to be staying.  The eldest attends the local public high school (he’s a junior), and the other two are still home-schooled.  So there were inherent scheduling differences built in to our child-care situation.  So the two younger ones stayed with another home-schooling family (who happen to be the best friends of the two youngest anyway, so that was really cool), and our eldest stayed with another family who we’re good friends with (their son is a senior).  So there was some good compatibility vibes going from the get-go.

As soon as school was out for our eldest, we drove over to the house where the younger ones were going to be staying.  It was going to be a nice time of about 15 minutes in order to be able to say goodbye, etc – but as we drove up to the house.  Note I said WAS.  Ridiculous how your best laid plans can go haywire at the last minute, isn’t it.  Sure enough, as we pulled up in front of their house – my Jeep got a flat tire.  There must have been something in the street, because it just blew the air out so quickly with such a loud hissssssssss!!!  Ugh.  My wife pulled up in her van just as I was getting out of my vehicle, and yeah, suddenly instead of a nice farewell, it became a mad rush to change the tire to put the “donut” tire on.  I DID NOT have time for that!!!  We had already cut the time to get to the airport close enough, but now this.  I was frantic, and not very happy at all.  Both boys sprung in to action to help move the luggage around while I quickly worked to jack up the Jeep and make the switch.  Let me tell you this, I have changed many a tire in the past 26 of driving, but never once has it been done as quickly as I did it that Friday afternoon.   As soon as it was done, I quickly went in their house to wash up, and we were hugging, kissing and saying goodbye as we drove off headed for the airport.  WHAT a “fun” way to start a trip!

After the then near-frantic drive to the airport (45 miles on the spare tire), and fear of being late, we arrived at the airport only to learn that the plane we were waiting on was delayed due to weather.  Fair enough, and sighs of relief all around.  I had planned on getting dinner in Chicago (yes, we had to fly north to ultimately go south), but with the delay I suggested we just get it there in Indy.  Finally after nearly 30 minutes of waiting beyond the scheduled boarding time, the sighs of relief began to disappear.  Once again the anxiety began, as the originally scheduled hour and a half layover time was shrinking away.  Upon boarding, we got comfortable in our seats, and awaiting the door being closed, and the requisite safety announcements.  But they didn’t happen for quite some time.  Soon the Captain came on announcing there was some sort of delay that would keep us at the gate for a “few more minutes”… which quickly turned into 20 minutes.  Ugh.  By this time we knew we would be running between gates.   Sure enough, we landed at 7:10pm Central Time – 5 minutes AFTER our plane was supposed to take off.   And the worst part of it was that they parked at A19, and we had to run over to B18.  We were not happy, but set out on our way to see if there was any possibility that our plane was still there.  Thank goodness we had made the decision to fly in the night before! 

After lots of running and weaving through the crowded airport, we finally arrived at our gate, and praise the Lord, the plane was still there.  There was a large number of passengers from our first flight onboard the plane, all huffing and puffing as we had done.  Wow.  We were able to sit down, but sadly not together.  We both ended up in middle seats in different rows, but I was just behind my lovely bride, so we could at least chat from time to time.  She read, and I worked on my computer catching on some business things since it was a WI-FI enabled flight.  But we had to wait once more before we could taxi and take-off… we all wanted our luggage to be transferred too.  :-)  Finally we were in the air, and on our way to Houston!

I had selected a hotel moments from the airport, and not having a bus transfer until 11:00 in the morning, we were able to have a leisurely morning enjoying breakfast in the on-site restaurant.  With just a 4 minute shuttle ride back to the airport, we were there with plenty of time to spare.  I checked us in with the Disney cast member wearing that ubiquitous 4 fingered white glove, and sat down to wait until they called us.  It was only a wait of about 10 minutes, and we were soon herding our way over to the bus with about 70 other people.

The ride to Galveston was quite pleasant, and the stresses of the prior day were finally washing away.  Soon we were pulling in to the port area, and saw the beautiful red stacks, white middle and black underbelly of the Disney Magic sitting in the port just waiting for her next load of eager passengers.
The unloading of the bus was fairly quick, and the short walk inside the terminal was brief.  The line for the security checkpoint went smoothly, and soon enough we were in line to check-in!  How exciting.  The Cast Member was so pleasant and so excited for us.  Her name was Eva, and told us how envious she was of us, since she still hadn’t been on a cruise – not a Disney Cruise – but any cruise – and she’s worked for the company for 10 years!   After taking our pictures for the Key to the World cards, and processing our passports, she then gave us our boarding group number (16) and directed us to the chairs over to the side to wait for the announcement that we so wanted to hear – when we could board!  And our wait was extremely short, as just as soon as we sat down did they announce on the PA system that groups 1 through 17 were able to board!  It was time to go!

We went through the last portal on the lower level of the terminal and worked our way up the escalator to the gangway.  We had our picture taken, and then we were on our way inside the beautiful ship’s Central Atrium.  Ahhhhh, despite all of the mishaps and frustrations of getting there - it felt so good to be on board that ship. 

Until next time,


Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Magical Overview

Sailing with Disney Cruise Line has been a dream of mine for many years, and last week it came true.  My lovely bride and I set sail out of the port of Galveston, Texas on a Western Caribbean cruise itinerary on the Disney Magic, the original ship in their fleet.  It was a 7-night itinerary sailing south through the Gulf of Mexico to the largest of the Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman – then on to Costa Maya, Mexico, followed by Cozumel, Mexico before returning once again to Galveston.  The sailing included two full at-sea days, then three port days, and finally another at-sea day.  I know many of you readers have sailed with Disney before - but we hadn't - so bear with me as I go through and share all about OUR voyage and some of the experiences we had, and memories that we made.  For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of sailing with Disney Cruise Line - or this particular itinerary or ship - hopefully it will be of some benefit to you.  And of course, again, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a travel professional, and would be more than happy to help you get booked onto the Disney Magic (or one of their other ships) if you are interested in sailing with them in the future.  But aside from that comment, the rest of these DISNEY MAGIC entries will simply be our experiences and memories - with some personal opinion thrown in from time to time.  And, my lovely bride has even consented to provide a guest feature with her own view of the voyage.  So be sure to watch for the female point of view in the days to come.   

The Disney Magic originally set sail at the end of July 1998, and has been sailing all over the world in the 14 years since she first set sail.  Just as Disneyland, Walt’s original park, was a proving ground for theme parks yet to be built in the years and decades following his death, the Disney Magic has been just that for the fleet of Disney ships.  It certainly has some great things going for it, as well as some flaws /drawbacks that have been modified or improved on the Wonder, Dream & Fantasy.  But for a first time sailing with Disney Cruise Line, we were very pleased to begin our DCL career onboard the beautiful Magic. As my lovely bride stated on Facebook to a friend asking about our trip, “Disney’s ship lived up to its’ name…Magic.”  

There are just so many things to talk about regarding the cruise, I simply cannot do it all in writing.  So I will be breaking it down into various categories – food (yes, I've even got a whole lot of "food porn" - we got pictures at just about every meal), entertainment, port adventures, transportation, shipboard amenities, fellow passengers, deck parties, Fireworks at Sea, the ship itself and more.  We took well over 1,500 pictures during the week, and I will be sharing a good number of them, but of course not all of them.  We had such a good time, and cannot wait to be able to return to the sea and sail once again with Disney.

During our sailing, we enjoyed the food and their legendary service; we really enjoyed their stage productions; the spa; the adults-only areas including the pool, hot tub and after-dinner entertainment in Rockin' Bar D.  They provide a wide array of port adventures, and the crew does an absolutely amazing job with entertainment for both kids and adults alike.  For too long I've heard from friends and clients alike that Disney Cruise Line is really only for families traveling with kids - but - that is hands-down, absolutely NOT TRUE.  We sailed without our kids - and had a simply marvelous time.  There are so many terrific things/areas just for the adults, which totally debunk the myth that Disney is just for kids.  I'll share more about that soon.   

Until next time,

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The MAGIC Begins NOW

It has been a LOOOOOONG 55 days since I was first able to book my sailing on the Disney Magic leaving out of Galveston, TX for a 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary – but the day has finally come!!!  My lovely bride and I are currently in Houston, TX, getting ready to head back over to the airport to catch our bus down to Galveston.  We’ll soon be going through the boarding process, and then heading across that gangway onto the beautiful Disney Magic, the first vessel in their fleet.  How fitting that this, our first Disney cruise, is aboard their first ship.  Just as our first Disney theme park experiences were in the original Magic Kingdom – Disneyland. 

© Disney 
Full disclosure, of course, I am a travel professional selling through my franchisor, CRUISE PLANNERS, and from time to time do include information about my services in my blog posts.  This is a business research and building trip.  It is a FAM, or familiarization trip, offered to travel professionals so that we might experience first-hand the ships & itineraries for ourselves, so that we can then have a better understanding of what we sell – and of course, to be able to sell even more of it.  But beyond the deeply discounted price, there are no special perks that I’m receiving as a result of going on this voyage. With all that said, I am so very excited about this sailing.  I have expectations certainly, but am excited to watch and see how the stories I’ve been told; the research I’ve done; and yes, even the information that I’ve shared with my clients ) comes to life for my lovely bride and me.  So I’m trying to put off any pre-conceived notions or ideas about the legendary service, the food, the accommodations, etc, etc and just see how it all plays out for us.  

Our western Caribbean itinerary includes stops in Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel.  We’ve picked out some fun-sounding port adventures, and we are excited to get out and explore a part of the world that we haven’t personally been to yet.  The best part is that we’re doing it together.  (The last adventures I went on were solo, so it will be nice to share this with her as well).  Another fun thing is that we are – gasp – NOT taking the kids along.   What with school schedules and all, we just had to leave them at home.  Ah the joys of being a travel professional and having to work on a cruise ship! ;-)

So, I will be sharing about this experience in the week ahead, but really not until AFTER we return home again.  I will be taking lots of pictures, and documenting our journey.  Lots of information will be coming here in stopher’s stuff.  I’ve pre-loaded several items to broadcast throughout the week while we’re on board.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy those, and then return to read more about our MAGICal adventure thereafter.  I do try to include a variety of  information on this page.  Yes, it’s heavily Disney, but there are other nuggets about cruising, and other destinations as well.  So thank you, stopher’s stuff readers for stopping by and checking out what I have to share.  I know that some of it won’t appeal to all of you, but hopefully most of you will find something appealing and then tell your friends about me as well. 

In the meantime, I'd love it if you would like my Facebook page, or follow me on Pinterest, or on Twitter, or circle me on Google+ or simply check out my websites:  and  

October is National Cruise Vacation Month!  The cruise lines are offering some of the BEST deals of the year throughout the month, but the absolute best deals will be offered between October 21-27 - National Cruise Vacation Week!   You can learn more about that here. As a member of CLIA (Cruise Line International Association), I have access to all of the different lines and their specials.  So if you'd like to go somewhere in the months ahead and need some help with it all, I'd be delighted to help you out.  

Until next time,