Star Wars Day at Sea – At Sea

The first full day on our cruise was just a day at sea. No ports, no nothing.

The first day and the weather wasn’t that great for sitting outside on a deck chair, reading a book and being served cocktails like you would on a 1940’s trans-atlantic cruise, no. It was downright cold in the morning. But there was a lot to do, the ship was always bustling with something and we did…stuff… but for the life of me, I cannot remember what we did that day!

For sure we got in and out of the hot tub/adult pool and had a couple beverages but that wasn’t until mid afternoon, as we got into warmer waters.

Even though we had just spent two days in the park and a day getting on the ship, this day felt like the actual start of the vacation for me. I like to think my lack of memory is based on a great weight had been lifted and my mind turned off for the day and not some sinister “boring old day” excuse. I just went with the flow. No plans, no worries, no needs other than the 2pm/4pm/6pm visits to the unlimited chicken fingers dispenser*.

I do remember we went to Palo that night. The dinner was amazing, as usual and this time I managed to pace myself and made it to the lava soufflé without feeling like I was going to explode. Pro Tip: Force yourself not to fill up on the antipasto or the bread. Trust me on that one. Even though the aged parmesan cheese with basalmic vinegar drizzle with a baby-sized ball of prosciutto is placed in front of you and whispers to you to “eeeeat meeeee… eaaaaat meeeee…”, save room for the mains and the dessert.


 

*Actually I had more free ice cream this trip than free chicken fingers. I feel like I let someone down here.

Star Wars Day At Sea – All Aboard

Before the cruise we had spent two days at Epcot & Magic Kingdom with Sis-in-law Sylvie, Pogo, Shawn and his new girlfriend, Dana (who is utterly cool), which was a blast. Though it did rain while at The Kingdom, we had a great time largely due to Beta Mike and unlimited knowledge of the park – he was the tour guide extrodinaire and would part with nuggets of trivia when we walked by things: “That trash can right there is where they found a human lung.” He pretty much made the entire week interesting and fun by always “being on”.

The morning of the cruise we met at Mike and Johnny’s beautiful home and had a moment with Ms Olive before the dog sitter took over. The other couple we shared the seas with, Thom and Dave, arrived soon after and we set out in two cars to the port. Each mid-sized SUV was packed to the brim with luggage as you can imagine three gay couples would. We stopped in a gas station on the far side of the airport that sold deep fried Gator bits. That people were actually buying. With money.

I. Love. Florida.

We parked and entered the terminal and checked in, no issues. As we waited for our boarding number I wandered in and out of the 4000+ crowd, looking for other 501st comrades and found a few. We chatted and shared our excitement. Nothing compares to Star Wars Nerd Excitement – it’s almost visible in the air and makes cats horny in a 2 mile radius. They should bottle it.

We board. And as you might have read previously, we were announced as the “Healey-Maquette” family. Yeah me and the wooden model. Nobody noticed, we were too excited.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the ship and the first (of many) drinks in La Piazza. When they released our rooms and our luggage was delivered we dressed for dinner and experienced that evening’s sunset (of many). But before the food trough was lowered, we saw that night’s show and then head into the restaurant. Little did we know that we were already singled out by one of the crew…

Dinner was a curiosity. Dave (a staunch Republican) and Thom (a staunch I never got what he was) told us about their plan to adopt a child in the very near future, told to us while Dave carved up raw garlic across his steak. The wait staff were a bit alarmed by the request yet brought him two hearty sized cloves. He folded them into his steak as we discussed diapers and future travel plans. As one does. I snuck a glance to Thom to see if this was normal and got no indication that this was going to be a problem with him. Later. In a small cabin. To each his own, I thought and fattily dug into my 3rd dessert.

Sharkboy and I retired early while some tried out the nightclubs.

There is NOTHING like sleeping on a ship in somewhat calm waters (the weather was super windy, but not, you know… Royal Caribbean windy)

Star Wars Day at Sea

“Please welcome the Healey-Maquette Family!”

With that, the atrium of the Disney Fantasy is filled with thunderous applause.

Okay maybe not thunderous with only 8-9 crew on hand to applaud your arrival onboard the ship, but it was still uplifting, regardless.

We booked this cruise back in Feb 2015 when I was denied a winter vacation due to something at work… which I can’t recall… what it was… I know I was mad and bitter for days after my denial but post-cruise, all that is gone.

During that anger, Disney announced the special Star Wars cruise: Character meet and greets! Special menus! Guest appearances! Horn! Suddenly the money started to burn a hole in my pocket and I rushed to put down the deposit. We were committed.

I can say I never want to book any vacation more than 8-9 months away ever again. The waiting nearly killed me. There is a permanent greasy stain where the Disney Countdown app resides, on my phone’s screen. The worst was around 50 days left to go where time seem to contract and elongate, like Mathew McConaughey diving into an interstellar black hole. But we got through. The day came and we flew out with no issues. More on that later.

Was it worth it?

Hell. Yes.

Look, I love Disney Cruise Lines and I don’t care what people think. Their food may be meh*, their major onboard entertainment may be people running around in foam heads** and their excursions may be pricey, but somewhere after 4 cruises with them, I’ve grown to love the ships and the service. I am sure if I went back to RCL or on to someone new, I’d be judging their service to Disney with a bias

Add the excitement of Disney displaying Star Wars characters up close for interactions and pictures and I’m as happy as a Moof Milker on a Moof farm.

I’ll be adding more later – pics and commentary – as the week progresses. I have to get past this post-vacation blues somehow!


 

*The main dining rooms tend to get a little “showy” with their plate presentation and that’s great, but nothing can hide the fact that the cheddar soup you just got placed in front of you has a skin on it, created by the time it took from kitchen to table. I do have to say that I’ve never had a “bad” meal on any ship. Forgetful ones, but never Bad.

**Good news! The stage shows are now starting to use the remote animatronic heads instead of the fixed eye/mouth ones. It’s just a puppet head but to have Baloo’s mouth move to the music and eyes blink offers a better performance.

Trailer Idea!

A spy, in long cottony robes, is hugging the walls down a dark hallway.

An alarm! She runs! She’s shot in the back! An information disk flies from her hand and skids across the floor. A hand comes into frame and picks it up.

Bottom right corner, a number “1” appears.

Another spy, in black, running in the night! Laser blast all around his feet as he dodges hits. Alas, one hits and he goes down. An information disk flies from his hand and skids across the floor. A hand comes into frame and picks it up.

Bottom right corner the number jumps to “2”

Two spies in a hovering speeder zips across a field of bright yellow flowers. Behind them a massive black tank is in pursuit, churning up the beauty.

The tank shoots! The couple fly from the speeder in the resulting explosion. An information disk flies from their hands and skids across the ground and lands against a tree. A hand comes into frame and picks it up.

Bottom right corner the number jumps to “4”

A large spaceship in the inky black of space.

Laser shot. Ship explodes. An information disk floats through the dark and a robot grappling hand comes into frame and picks it up.

Bottom right corner the number jumps to “208”

A cruise ship, sinking in the dark of night. An information disk can be seen floating on the sea. A net comes and scoops it up.

Bottom right corner the number jumps to “2764”

Cut to: a control room with a beautiful woman in long robes. She says: “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”

Title Card: Star Wars: Rogue One

Audience cheers.

Walking in rhythm

I hit the streets some mornings at 5:30am to get to the gym at a decent, non-busy hour.

This morning, I’m approaching the streetcar stop at Sherbourne and Carlton when I spy a young couple kissing in a doorway.

Only, they’re not just kissing.

He’s in a tailored suit. It looks good on him. He’s young and very… energetic. He’s all over her face like he’s just run out of Bath Salts. It’s like her face was a pumpkin pie and he had attended his first vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. It was like he was a clean kitty and she was a dirty kitty…. you get it.

She… wasn’t pretty. I’m being kind. If you think I’m cruel, then I have no other way to say, politely, that she wasn’t attractive.

They were going at it like Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks but without the blinds.

At first glance I noticed all this, then my ex-catholic side kicked in and I averted my eyes. Then I looked back because… there it was in front of me anyway.

Her face was dirty. Like – coal miner dirty.

Now, it’s dark at 5:30am. She may have just been concealed in shadow, or she had actually come off a mining shift somewhere in Downtown Toronto. But she looked dirty.

I averted my eyes again.

In my head I imagined this is what the final scene in Casablanca would look like if filmed today.

The Oh! Manatee Tour – Day 3

After a breakfast of hot peaches and omelettes (oh my god, you guys!) we hit the road to drive into the Everglades. Naples old folk homes fade into outlet shopping malls fade into strip malls fade into construction into…

Flat.

The road seem to just go for stretches at a time with the odd soft curve, while the trees and shrubs broke every so often to reveal huge expanses of swamp.

After a slight struggle with distances on our map we managed to find the Smallest Post Office in the US. As we drove in a sad minivan sped out of the lot. The only car in the lot, for that matter. When we got to the door a sign welcomed us saying the place was closed for a 2 hour lunch. Typical postal service.

Onward we drove, carefully looking for our next exciting destination: The Skunk Ape Research Center. Nestled in the deepest part of the Everglades is a campground that hosts a small museum dedicated to the mystery of the Skunk Ape – the Everglade’s own Sasquatch. Photos of foot castings and actual foot castings adorn one side of the gift shop, you know, as proof that there was a Skunk Ape. Yet as we looked at these wonders, we were easily distracted by a door out to an adjoining barn. A barn full of curiosity and wonder! Okay a barn full mostly of rescued exotic pets that were abandoned by idiots. And a couple gators.

For $5 we were able to get into the barn, have an amazing chat with the caretaker and take a ton of pictures. Two city boys with big cameras and wide eyes. The caretaker obviously loved his menagerie  and was eager to place whatever creature we were discussing at the time somewhere on our bodies.

He would describe the animal and finish off with: “Would you like to hold him?”

To which both us City Boys would be polite and stall and errr and umm. He would cut us off at the knees and say louder “That is not an answer… WOULD YOU LIKE TO HOLD HIM?”

We would always respond “Yes.”

After spending way too much time there, I left realizing I had not asked one question about The Skunk Ape.

Shrug. The barn was 1000% better.

On to our next destination: The Shark Valley Visitor Center.

There are no sharks here  (or at least we didn’t see any), but it is known for having a ton of aligators that lethargically sun themselves on bike paths. We eagerly rented two.

However, no one mentioned to us that this late in the day, this late in summer, there would be no aligators on the bike path (not my video, sadly). Though we did hear the hiss of one early on in the bike ride and *did*  see one slithering away in the water a few yards away. Regardless, it was a pleasant afternoon 15 mile bike ride. I saw two grasshoppers having sex.

We motored on. At this point I could tell you all about the air boat ride we decided to take before hitting the other side of the Everglades, where the logo was the most misshapen ‘gator I’ve ever seen, where the collection of goons running the operation scared me a bit, where our co-riders were a bunch of yammering idiots, where we felt robbed of $80+ tax and saw only 2 gators, but why bother?

We were tired, so we motored to our next hotel: the Sea Dell Motel. Lovely. All low slung bungalows kept in decent shape, clean and orderly but with nothing older than the 70s. Night time decoration for the Sea Dell was magical Xmas lights along the eaves of the buildings. The pool was “chilled” and most welcome after a day of holding critters and sitting in that car.