Beard Family Trips & Vacations

Vacation in Florida, on a Disney Transatlantic cruise, in Spain, and in London

May 17 - June 7, 2014


The trip was for Wanda and Matt's 30th Anniversary to Walt Disney World and a Disney Transatlantic cruise from Port Canaveral to Barcelona, Spain.  It was to culminate with 6 nights in Spain (Barcelona and Madrid) and a night in London, England.





Itinerary of the trip:  Plan

PDF file of Detailed Plan

Actual Trip: May 17 to June 8, 2014

Yes, the trip actually ended up being one extra day due to a flight cancellation on the way home.  We spend an extra day and night in London at the end.


Pre-paid expenses:

Total original prepaid expenses = $13,871.44

Total actual prepaid expenses = $4,712.88

Savings on prepaid expenses = $9,158.56


Point used:

Southwest Airlines - 22,600

United Airlines - 60,000

Priority (Intercontinental Hotels) - 90,000 plus a voucher for a free night


Expenses per day versus planned budget for food and other expenses:

Day  Budget   Expenses   Budget (+/-)    Day  Budget   Expenses   Budget (+/-) 
17-May-14  $  100.00  $        64.94  $              35.06   29-May-14  $  200.00  $      105.44  $            368.69
18-May-14  $  100.00  $      105.94  $              29.12   30-May-14  $  440.00  $      646.74  $            161.95
19-May-14  $    50.00  $        55.30  $              23.82   31-May-14  $  100.00  $        74.29  $            187.66
20-May-14  $  200.00  $      107.13  $           116.69   1-Jun-14  $  200.00  $      227.91  $            159.75
21-May-14  $    50.00  $        52.04  $           114.65   2-Jun-14  $  200.00  $      179.64  $            180.11
22-May-14  $    50.00  $          7.19  $           157.46   3-Jun-14  $  100.00  $      181.74  $              98.37
23-May-14  $    50.00  $      110.09  $              97.37   4-Jun-14  $  200.00  $      107.77  $            190.60
24-May-14  $    50.00  $               -    $           147.37   5-Jun-14  $  200.00  $      128.17  $            262.43
25-May-14  $    50.00  $        18.69  $           178.68   6-Jun-14  $  255.00  $      133.21  $            384.22
26-May-14  $    50.00  $        18.93  $           209.75   7-Jun-14  $    70.00  $      124.58  $            329.64
27-May-14  $  200.00  $      169.00  $           240.75   8-Jun-14  $           -    $        28.37  $            301.27
28-May-14  $    50.00  $        16.62  $           274.13          


Total daily planned budget: $2,965.00

Total daily actual expenses:  $2,663.73


Reimbursement with onboard credits from travel agency and Disney Visa: $200.00

Reimbursement of travel expenses charged on Capital One Mastercard using Capital One points: $1,013.69

Total daily expenses after reimbursements and onboard credits: $1,450.04

Total prepaid and daily expenses after using points, vouchers, and reimbursements: $6,162.92

Total savings from prepaid and daily expenses using points and vouchers: $10,372.25

Total cost of trip if not using points, vouchers or having reimbursements:  $16,535.17



Day 1, Saturday, May 17:  Houston to Orlando to WDW

Wanda and I got up at 5:00 AM to get ready to leave the house by 6 AM.  Conner drove us to Houston's Hobby Airport (HOU) and dropped us off since we would be returning from Europe at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).  We got through the check in of our luggage and the security checkpoint within 20 minutes.  It was time for breakfast, so I got an order from Wendy's and Wanda selected items at Pappasito's Cantina.  After we finished up, I bought a couple of bottles of water at the Euro Cafe and we waited at the gate to load the plane.  We made it without a problem to Orlando International Airport (MCO), though we had to wait almost an hour for our luggage.  I've noticed this length of waiting for baggage quite a bit over the last few months as I've travelled for work through the Orlando airport.  They used to be pretty quick.

This waiting was a sore point for us since we should have received Disney baggage tags to use so that the bags would have been sent to Disney for drop off at the resort.  However, we never received these tags though they supposedly had been sent.  They never did show up; this is the second time this has happened to us while using a travel agent.  We're not sure where the problem is occurring.

After getting the luggage, we made the trek to the other side of the airport to get to the Disney Magical Express buses to take us to our resort.  The wait was about 10 minutes for this trip.  They have gotten a lot more effiicient with getting people on the buses with the use of the magic bands.  After the 30 minute trip to Walt Disney World, we were dropped off at Disney's Coronado Resort where we would spending the next 2 nights before our cruise.  Even though we had already checked in online, it still took a while to get checkin completed at the resort.  I've read online that they are trying a new faster way of doing it and actually meeting people who did online checkin, and uses the Magical Express busses, with their packets as they get off the bus.  We'll see how that works next time.

We got room 5140 in the Casitas 5 building and were satisfied with the room.

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort map

Pictures from room 5140 at the Coronado Springs Resort

We had a reservation for a 4:30 PM early supper at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney.  After resting for a bit, we hopped a bus over to Downtown Disney and got to the restaurant a few minutes early.  We were seated without a wait and had a relaxing meal.  We then took a bus over to the Beach Club Resort and walked along the water to the International Gateway entrance into EPCOT.  We then went to the American Garden Theater and got in line for the 6:45 PM concert set by Alan Parson's Live Project.  It was a good concert, but Wanda didn't get to hear all the songs she was hoping to.  There are 3 sets each Friday to Sunday evening (5:30 PM, 6:45 PM, and 8 PM) during the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival and each set runs about 30 minutes.  Over the previous couple of months, I had been able to see The Guess Who and Paul Revere and the Raiders as well as Chubby Checker the previous weekend.

Photo: Seeing Alan Parsons Live Project

Pictures from the Alan Parson's Live Project concert

After the concert, we made our way back to the International Gateway and took a boat to Hollywood Studios where we caught a bus back to our resort.  It was shorter to walk to the boat than it was to go out the main EPCOT entrance to the bus stop there.  When we got back to the resort, we went to the room and called it a night.

Expenses for Saturday:  budget - $100


Day 2, Sunday, May 18:  WDW

We headed to the Magic Kingdom to see if they were having any soft openings for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster that was now scheduled to open on May 28th.  Unfortunately, we were told that only cast members and their guests were getting to ride it this weekend, so we went to our first fastpass ride - Under The Sea - Journey Of The Little Mermaid.  After the ride, we walked around a little, and then at 10 AM, we went and got in line for the Be Our Guest Restaurant lunch service.  I had read that the restuarant opens at 10:30 AM for lunch and that getting in line before then was the shortest wait.  Luckily, it was reasonably cool since there is not any shade in that area where you have to wait outside the restaurant.

At 10:30 AM, they started allowing people inside.  We went through a hallway to an order where there was several kiosks set in a room to order your meals and pay for the food.  We were given a receipt to place on our table so that the servers could scan it and determine where to bring our food.  We walked into the Ballroom first and glanced at all the empty seats and large room.  Since we were one of the first people in the restuarant, we went exploring before selecting our table.  The West Wing was to the right of the Ballroom after you entered, so we checked that out.  We then went back into the Ballroom and crossed over to the left-hand side and entered the Rose Gallery.  We decided we wanted to sit in the brighter West Wing and headed back to there.

We sat down at a table and a server came by and scanned our receipt.  I went to the beverage counters and got our drinks from there and returned to the table.  Our food had already been delivered.

Pictures from Be Our Guest Restaurant

Lunch did not take very long since it was served quickly.  We left at 11:15 AM, which was the start time for our next fastpass, so we walked over to The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh and rode it.  We then went over to Tomorrowland and rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.  This is a ride you can get onto quickly and it is always a relaxing ride around that part of the park.  It was then time for our 3rd fastpass, so we went over to the Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin ride.

For supper, we went to the Pepper Market in the Coronado Springs Resort and ate there.  Afterwards, we went back to the room for the night.  We received a notice about our transfer from the resort to Port Canaveral for the next day.  It stated that our bags would be picked up at 8 AM and that we would get picked up at the main building at 12:15 PM.

Expenses for Sunday: budget - $100




Day 3, Monday, May 19:  WDW to Port Canaveral to Disney Magic

We woke up about 6:30 AM to get ready and finish packing our bags that would be picked up.  We were carrying my backpack and Wanda's beach bag with us onto the ship and sending our 2 medium size and 1 smaller suitcase ahead of us.  They were on time and arrived at our door at 8 AM.  I watched them for a while picking up luggage from different rooms; I assume that they were getting the luggage for people returning to the airport also.


We sat around the room relaxing the rest of the morning and then headed to the main building of the resort to eat lunch at Pepper's Market.  It turned out to be more brunch at that time since they still were serving breakfast items.  Around 11:45 PM, we headed for the fountain area where we were to meet to be picked up at 12:15 PM.  A Disney Cruise Line representative met us at the fountain and told us that we were the only ones to be picked up at Coronado Springs.  he checked on the status of our luggage to ensure it was already gone and we waited for the bus to arrive.  When it came, there were already 4 people on it from a previous stop.  We got on and the bus went over to the Pop Century to pick up another 30-40 people.  The drive to the Disney terminal at Port Canaveral took about 80 minutes.


Pictures from the Disney Cruise Line Bus & Port Canaveral


As you walk into the terminal building, you immediately have to go through a metal detector and have your bags scanned.  Since they handle people from the buses as they arrive, this went quickly.  We then traveled up an escalator to the checkin area where we were done in about 10 minutes; this is where you receive your Disney Cruise Line (DCL) cards that you use for charging to your room and get on and off the ship.  You then walk through the Mickey Mouse head to go through Customs and board the ship.  As you enter the ship, they announce your party and crew members are waiting there to welcome you on board.


Below is the Disney Cruise Line for our table assignments and the restaurants identified for each night:


By 2:15 PM, we were on the ship and headed to our cabin on the 6th deck - 6549.  We had selected on inside cabin since that seems to work well for us and is cheaper.  One of our bags was already waiting for us at the door of our room when we got there.  There was also a gift basket from the travel agency and a bag provided by Disney Cruise Line since we are Silver Castaways (having been on a previous Disney cruise).  We also found our Personal Navigator (the schedule and other information) for the day waiting for us.  These are normally left the night before on the bed.

Welcome letter from travel agency

Pictures from cabin 6549 on the Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 19th

At 4 PM, the alarms sounded for the lifeboat drill.  We went to the assembly point, checked in with the crew members, and waited until the all-clear was sounded.  We returned to the room and another bag was waiting at the cabin door for us.  Unfortunately, Wanda's bag was the one still missing.  We walked around the ship a little, but are familiar with the Disney Magic since we took a cruise in February 2013 on it out of Galveston.  The ship has since been refurbished, but is still very similar to the old configuration.


At 6:30 PM. the opening show was a comic magician named David Williamson (  He used several children from the audience and had everyone laughing as he did his tricks.  He was the first of a great line of performances throughout the cruise.  After the show, we returned to our room to find the last bag waiting by our door.  We started unpacking the bags and then left to eat supper at the 2nd seating which was at 8:30 PM.  During the time in the room between the show and supper, we met our stateroom host - Elmer Martinez.

The restaurant on the first night was Carioca's - named after one of the amigos from The Three Caballeros.  It used to be the Parrot Cay restaurant before the refurbishment.  It is now themed in a Brazilian festival atmosphere and serves South American cuisine.  As we walked into the restaurant we were greeted by the Head Server, Mieethes Bhoola, who we had met and knew from the previous Disney cruise.  We then met our server, Dussell Fernandes, and his assistant, Suardana Surdana who goes by I Wayfan.  Dussell is a very interesting guy who entertained us the whole cruise.  We (Wanda, I, and our fellow tablemates) were very pleased with him and made sure we showed that to him at the end of the cruise.  At the table, we met the three couples that would share the table with us through the cruise and we would get to know well:

It turned out that two of the couples being married 30 years and the other two being married 27 years.  Debbie and Jeremy celebrated their anniversary while on the cruise.  We also had a lot in common and some of the conversations were interesting.  After the meal, Wanda and I returned to our room to finish unpacking and turn in for the night.

Back in the cabin, we found notices waiting for us about the on-board credits we were expecting from paying with a Disney Visa and from the travel agency.


Expenses for Monday: budget - $50





Day 4, Tuesday, May 20:  Disney Magic with stop at Castaway Cay

Personal Navigator for May 20th


We got up and grabbed some breakfast at Cabanas on Deck 9.  Then we stopped by the cabin to get our day bags (camera, iPads, hats, bottles of water, etc.) and headed to Deck 1 to leave the ship around 9 AM.  You have to scan your DCL card here to get off the ship; they remind you multiple times the night before and again in the announcement of when it is time to go ashore.    The dock area has the arrival plaze, a post office where you can get a special Castaway Cay postmark for letters mailed there, and Marge's Barges & Sea Charters Dock for fishing charters and other sea excursions.  They also hand out beach towels for you to use after you get on the dock.  For those of you unaware of it, Castaway Cay is a private island in the Bahamas leased by Disney who bought the 90-year lease from the government.  It had previously been called Gorda Cay and  used in movies such as Splash.



Once you get out of the dock area, there is a tram stop (Kargo Handling Tram Stop) to take you to the other parts of the island with stops at Scuttle's Cove and Pelican Point.  The other two stops are family beaches.  The only other way to get to the other stops is to follow a paved path.  I've seen estimates of it taking about 25-30 minutes to walk from the dock to Serenity Bay.  We rode the tram to Pelican Point and swapped to another tram that only goes between Pelican Point and Serenity Bay; arriving there pretty quickly.  We wanted to get there before the crowds and end up walking about 3/4 of the way down the line of beach loungers and chairs before finding a pair under an umbrella not already taken.  The rest were gone by 10 AM.  We spent about 90 minutes laying out on the loungers and taking turns going into the water.  It was a little cool, but not uncomfortable.  It was pretty relaxing until a visitor decided to interrupt a yoga class in session.



A little after 11 AM, we decided to give up our loungers and walked over to get the lunch served on the island.  There is a location at Serenity Bay with a buffet style setting serving some BBQ, fruits, and other items.  After that we took the tram back to Pelican Point and explored there and at Scuttle's Cove.  We could have walked to the observation tower, or done some of the other activities, but believe we will be returning to Castaway Cay on another cruise in the future and wanted to save some things to do for then.


Pictures from Castaway Cay


Around 1 PM we made it back to the dock where we turned in the towels that  we had used, washed the sand from our feet and shoes, scanned our cards to enter the ship and headed back to the cabin.  After cleaning up, we headed for the 2:45 PM showing of the movie Captain America: Winter Soldier in the Walt Disney Theatre on Deck 4.  Neither one of us had seen the movie before and the theatre was about half full since a lot of people were still on the island.    After the movie, we stopped and grabbed some pizza at Pinocchio's Pizzeria before heading back to the cabin.  A late afternoon snack at with pizza at Pinocchio's Pizzeria or hamburgers/hot dogs/chicken nuggets at Pete's Boiler Bites became a daily necessity since we had the second seating at 8:30 PM each evening.  It's funny how quickly we developed a routine through the cruise.  Somewhere in the afternoon, we decided to go ahead and get a $89 data package (1 GB) to use with our iPads and the laptop we had with us.  The first half of the cruise, we were using the data sparingly trying to preserve it through the cruise.  By the end, we were using it constantly trying to use up all the data before the cruise was over.  I believe we ran out the last night on the ship.


Connect@Sea Log-In Instructions

At 6:30 PM, we attended the musical Twice Charmed.   This musical is a twist on the Cinderella story where the Step-Mother and Step-Sisters make a deal with a wicked Fairy Godfather to try to go back and change what occurred in the original story.   We had seen the show on our previous Disney cruise in 2013, but it was still entertaining.  It lasted about 50 minutes, so we headed by to the cabin until it was time for supper at Lumiere's.  After supper, it was back to the cabin to turn in.


Expenses for Tuesday: budget - $200.00



Day 5, Wednesday, May 21:  Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 21st 


We slept in some and then when to a presentation called Anyone Can Cook Culinary Series.  The class on this day was called Appetizer #1 - Risotto with Spring Peas, Snow Crab & Spicy Pickled Tomatoes and was held at 10:30 AM in the "D Lounge" on deck 4 mid.  The chef in charge of the class was named Brian and his job is to go around to each ship, teach new techniques, and ensure the quality of the food being prepared.  He ended up teaching the majority of these classes throughout the cruise.

Pictures from the Appetizers 1 presentation

After the presentation was over, we went down one level to deck 3 mid and went to Lumiere's for brunch.  At the restaurant, you got to select from a regular menu versus the buffet they had up on deck 9 in Cabanas.  We spent almost an hour at the restaurant and then walked around a little until we returned to the "D Lounge"  to attend a Cheese Seminar.  At the seminar, they talked a little about the different types of cheeses, what wines they went with, and provided us five types of cheese with a glass of wine.

Pictures from the Cheese Seminar

At 3 PM, we decided to attend a Disney Vacation Club presentation.  We have been to DVC open houses before at Walt Disney World over the years and had evaluated the cost effectiveness of joining.  For the previous visits, it did not make financial sense to do so.  However, we had been thinking about how we would like to stay at all the different resorts and we had already stayed at the all the value resorts and the majority of moderate resorts.  By looking at the cost of just visiting the deluxe resorts, of which we have only stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, before the break-even point of joining DVC was more reasonable.  We listened to the presentation, picked up their handouts and promotional gifts, and went back to the room to discuss it.

During the break between the presentation and the evening show, I went down to O'Gills Pub and bought a 20-ounce souviner beer glass with Murphy's Irish Stout.  With this glass, you can fill up the glass for the price of a 12-ounce beer.  You also have the ability to exchange it for a token and not have to carry the glass around with you.  When you want another beer, you give them the token and they provide you with a clean glass filled with whatever type they offer at the bar or lounge you are currently in.  At the end of the cruise, you can take a clean glass home with you or you can take the token and use it on another Disney cruise.  I decided at the end to take the token since we were going to be travelling through Spain.

This evening's show starred a performer who was a ventroliquist commedian named Lynn Trefzger.  She uses various puppets to tell stories and interact with the audience.  She introduced to the audience, since this was a family show, the characters of Chloe, Camelot, Emily and Judd.  Chloe was a 3-year old child, Camelot was semi-drunk camel, Emily was a college-girl young lady with lots of problems, and Judd was a old man that sometimes forgot things or was hard of hearing - only when he wanted to be.  It was a fun show and kept us entertained.

Our 8:30 PM dinner tonight was at the Animator's Palate.  I thought at first that there wasn't really a "show" going on during this first evening there, but during one of the presentations later in the cruise, I realized that there was a subtle show going on throughout the meal.  This was the intent of the creative staff.  I had a nice glass of Apple Icewine from Canada during the meal.  We had sampled some back in October 2013 during the EPCOT Food and Wine festival and I noticed it on the after meal drink menu.  After the meal, we returned to the room and did two loads of laundry before turning in for the night.

This was also the first night that we received one of the cards stating we would lose an hour of sleep overnight.  The first of six for the cruise - I ended up hating to see these cards.


              Towel animal - Stingray

Note: chocolate mints are used as the eyes for most of the towel animals.


Expenses for Wednesday: budget - $50.00



Day 6, Thursday, May 22:  Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 22nd


We again attended the 10:30 AM Anyone Can Cook Culinary Series with Chef Brian who did Appetizers #1 - Pan Seared Arctic Char with Olive Oil Potatoes, Rosemary Tomato Emulsion & Wilted Kale.  We also received a glass of a Washington state Pacific Rim Riesling.  This was also the day when I started thinking that we starting to already develop a routine for the cruise; not sure if that was good or bad. 

Pictures from the Entrees 1 presentation

After the presentation, we again went to Cabana's to eat brunch, though we did wait until 11:30 AM for when they started serving more lunch items.  Finishing up before noon, we decided to see the new movie Muppets Most Wanted in the Buena Vista theater.  Neither of us had seen the movie before and it was enjoyable.

On this day, we did our first walk around the track area on deck 4.  Each circuit was 1/3 mile in length.  Quite a few people used the track no matter when you saw it.  One woman even did a full marathon on it later in the cruise because she was missing a marathon that she had wanted to attend, but it was being held during the cruise.  The ship's captain announced her completion of the marathon length when she finished.  After the walk, we grabbed a light snack at Pete's Boiler Bites before returning to the cabin.

The show tonight was Villains Tonight! which was one we had seen on our previous Disney cruise.  According to the Disney Cruise Line website, Villains Tonight! tells the tale of Hades as he attempts to hold onto the title of "Lord of the Underworld." After The Fates warn him that he may lose his position as supreme ruler because the Underworld is too happy a place, Hades decides to gather the most powerful Disney villains in an effort to make his underground kingdom a bit more wicked. Accompanied by the likes Pain and Panic from Hercules, in addition to some of your favorite Disney scoundrels, Hades sets off on a fun-filled quest brimming with lively musical numbers and wacky antics.  Villains included in the show are Ursula, Cruella De Vil, The Evil Queen, and Scar.

Prior to supper at Carioca's this evening, we stopped by the Promenade Lounge and listened to a Latin Singer.  One of the songs she performed was  Let It Go from the movie Frozen.  For this song, she had several young girls from the audience helping her sing it and her interaction with them made their day.  Following the meal, Wanda and I accompanied Darryl, Mandy, Debbie, and Jeremy to Fathom's Lounge to see an adult's only show called Magic Quest starting at 10:30 PM.  We had thought it was a magic show, but it was really a scavenger hunt with items that each team had on them.  It was a hilarious show from a watching standpoint and included things like showing the host a scar, a bra, a male wearing high heels, etc.  The first few teams for each item would get some points and there was quite a few teams involved.  Sitting toward the stage gave a team an advantage.  Being in the back booths was definitely a disadvantage.  The other four gave a valent effort while Wanda and I sat and laughed at what some of the teams were doing.

Close to the end of Magic Quest, Ann and Chuck showed up and sat with us.  An 80's Flashback show was held at 11 PM in the same lounge.  The audience was divided into three teams with a ship's DJ being their leaders.  The point was for each team to listen to a short clip and come up with the name of the song and performer(s).  Another entertaining show that brought up a lot of laughs.  Jeremy turned out to be a wealth of musical knowledge having worked in the music industry in the UK.




          Towel animal - Cobra 


Expenses for Thursday: budget - $50.00



Day 7, Friday, May 23:  Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 23rd


Today, we skipped the cooking presentation and went to the Buena Vista Theater at 10:30 AM to see the movie DisneyNature: Bears that had just come out in theaters.  The movie was about a mother bear and her efforts to raise a pair of cubs.  Following the movie, we went to Cabana's for lunch and then went to our cabin where we watched Enders' Game on the television.  Neither of us had seen either of the movies, so this was an opportunity to do so.


During the late afternoon, we went up to deck 9 for a snack and then went to the night's show of The Magic & Illusion Of Kyle Knight & Mistie.  An excellent and entertaining magic show.  This husband and wife team provided world-class magic approaching the level of David Copperfield, Doug Henning, and Lance Burton.

Between the show and supper, we went to the 70's trivia game in O'Gills Pub.  Wanda was the primary person filling out the form for this music related game as she is for all the others we played.  This was where a DJ played a small clip of a song (20 total) from the 1970's and you had to guess the name of the song and who sang it.  You got one point for each correct answer.  Wanda is much better remembering the names of songs and the singers or groups involved than I am.   I usually can provide some guesses, but she is the authority for these types of trivia games.  We got 30 out of 40 points for this.  The winning group, made up of 4 people, got 33 points.   We could have used Jeremy for this game.  The game did let me have  a chance to sample a glass of O'Gills Amber.

Dinner was at Lumiere's and we ordered a bottle of wine - Captain's Choice Chardoney.  We only drank about half of it this evening and our waiter recorked it and brought it out for us the next night.  After the meal, Wanda and I went with the other three couples from our table to see the 10:30 PM adult show version of the commedian and ventroliquist Lynn Trefzger.




Dinner was at Lumiere's and we ordered a bottle of wine - Captain's Choice Chardoney.  We only drank about half of it this evening and our waiter recorked it and brought it out for us the next night.  After the meal, Wanda and I went with the other three couples from our table to see the 10:30 PM adult show version of the commedian and ventroliquist Lynn Trefzger.  It was a little more risque than the family show, but not really that much more.


Towel animal - Aardvark (eyes already eaten before the picture was taken)


Expenses for Friday: budget - $50.00



Day 8, Saturday, May 24:  Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 24th


We got up and attended the Anyone Can Cook Culinary Series presentation this morning which was Appetizers #2 - Seared & Poached Halibut with Snap Peas & Salsa Verde.  They served us samples of a Pinot Grigio from the Castillo Banfi winery in Tuscany.

Pictures from Appetizers 2 presentation

After the presentation, we went again to Cabana's for lunch around 11:30 AM and then back to the Buena Vista Theater to let Wanda see the movie Frozen in 3D ( I had already seen it on Blu-ray before leaving home).  The theater was full for this showing.  We didn't have a lot of spare time this afternoon as we went immediately up to Palo's to participate on a tour of the ship called Art Of The Theme Show.  This tour of 75-minutes talks about the decorations and theming of different parts of the guest portions of the ship.  We had been on this tour when we took our previous cruise on the Disney Magic, but was hoping that since they had done a refurbishment, it would be different.  Some parts were different, but some were not.  It was worth doing it again.

Pictures from Art Of The Theme Show Tour

After the tour, we grabbed a light snack again before heading back to the cabin to get ready for the evening.  The 6:30 PM show was titled Disney Theatrical: Tessa Sunniva van Tol.  She had played the role of Arial in the European Theater tour of the Little Mermaid.  This performance was her singing a variety of Disney songs, including Let It Be from the movie Frozen.  She was a Dutch musical star, pop singer, and recording artist who became famous performing pop, rock, musical theater, and classical music.  Her career started after coming in second on the Dutch version of So You Wanna Be A Popstar.

You Tube video of performance from the Disney Magic

This nights supper for us was again in Animator's Palate and there was a very noticeable show during the meal.

Pictures from Animator's Palate

After the meal was over, all of us planned to go see the adult-only show of Kyle Knight & Mistie at 10:30 PM.   Wanda and I made it before the lounge filled up, but the other couples did not.  It was another excellent show.  The only reason it was adults' only was really because of Mistie's customes; of which she changed into a different one (both shows) for each different magic trick.

Pictures from the Kyle Knight & Mistie adult show



This was another late night before getting to bed.  This was probably why we were sleeping in late each morning. 


Towel animal - Dog (and another one of those notices about losing an hour of sleep)


Expenses for Saturday: budget - $50.00



Day 9, Sunday, May 25:  Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 25th 


At 10:30 AM, we attended the Anyone Can Cook Culinary Series with Chef Brian again.  This one was Entrees #2 - Herb Crusted Lamb Loin with Calcannon Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, and Mushroom Ragout.

Pictures from Entrees 2 presentation

We took our time at lunch in Cabana's and showed up for an Art Of Tea Seminar held in the "D Lounge" at 1 PM.  It wasn't as interesting as the cheese seminar from one of the previous days and they did not provide any samples of tea.  I did learn about the large selection that they had for the evening meals.  I had been having tea with dessert each evening and started branching to other varities after seeing this seminar.  I still favor Earl Grey though.

Pictures from Art Of Tea Seminar

As we came out of the seminar, the Disney Vacation Club kiosk was positioned where we had to pass it to get to the elevators we wanted to use.  Wanda and I had discussed some additional questions we had about the DVC and decided to see if we could meet with one of the sales representatives to talk about the questions we had.  The lady at the desk called Joan (one of the presentators that we had seen) and she was available then to meet with us.  They gave us directions to the conference room they were using on Deck 2, printed out our information we had provided so we could take it to Joan, and we headed down via elevator.  Joan met with us for about 45 minutes where we described our desires and asked our questions.  She was very helpful and provided us additional information.  However, we discussed it back in the cabin and decided to wait until we returned home before doing anything.


Tonights show was a group of Beatles impersonators called Beatles Celebration.  This is a tribute to the Beatles and they get very into character.  Wanda and I both enjoyed it though Wanda is the real Beatles fan.


Beatles Celebration



Tonight was also Pirates night and there were a lot of people dressing up as pirates.  We were again at Animator's Palate where they showed a lot of pirate oriented clips and cartoons.  Following the meal, a Pirates In The Caribbean Pary (we were in the middle of the Atlantic) was to start at 10 PM with fireworks being deployed at 10:40 PM.  We had seen portions of the show before, so we rested in the cabin until about 10:30 PM and then went up to Deck 10 to see the fireworks.  The ship slows down drastically for this show and we found out later that most ships in the area will stop and watch the fireworks also.  You could see the lights of several of them in the distance.  After the fireworks, we returned to the cabin for the night.

When we got to the cabin, a note had been left for us from Joan thanking us for meeting with her.




Towel animal - Monkey

Note: the eyes and mouth were chocolate coins (quickly eaten) and they left the regular evening mints on the bed also.


Expenses for Sunday: budget - $50.00



Day 10, Monday, May 26:  Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 26th


 At 10:30 AM, we attended The Anyone Can Cook Culinary series which was the Dazzling Desert #2 - Rich Chocolate Lava Cake with Double Chocolate Sauce.  Chef Brian said that Lava Cake is the most popular adult dessert on the cruise ships and the soufflé is the most difficult.

Pictures from the Dazzling Dessert 2 presentation

Following the cooking presentation, we went upstairs to the buffet to get some lunch and then headed to Animator's Palate for a presentation on "Fun-Filled Funchal" by Charles Richardson that started at 12:30 PM.  He is a guest lecturer onthe cruise line and talked a lot about the Atlantic and various locations we would be near.  In this case, it was the stop on the next day - the city of Funchal on the island of Madeira.

Pictures from the presentation on Funchal history and culture

At 2:30, we went to the free Galley Tour of the kitchens for the restaurants Lumier's and Carioca's.  This tour is not advertized, but one of the other couples from dinner had been told about it, so we did it with one of the other couples.  We had to go to Guest Services and reserve spots for the tour.  We met the group outside the side entrance to Lumier's and then started the tour.  We first met Chef Marcus inside Lumier's and he discussed different facts about the restaurants on the ship and then introduced us to a group of other chefs that were waiting there.  He then introduced Chef Shyam who was the Chef de Cuisine at Carioca's.  Chef Shyam then took us "behind the scenes" of the galleys for the next 30 minutes or so.

Pictures from the Galley Tour

After the tour, we started back to the elevators to go to our room and passed by the atrium where we saw some of the Princesses in a Meet & Great with the guests.

Pictures from the Princesses Meet & Great

We then went back to the cabin to rest for a while, get ready for the show, and then went to the Walt Disney Theater to see this evening's show of Walt Disney: The Dream Goes On.  This show tells the life of Walt Disney from his first creations like Oswald the Rabbit via the premiere of Snow White and the opening of Disneyland until his death.  A very good show that we had not seen before.  Following the show, it was back to the cabin for a little bit and then at  8:30 PM, we headed  to Carioca's for a South American themed dinner.  One of the wait staff had arranged a special Indian dish for us for tonight - a special chicken curry dish (excellent).  Following the meal, we decided to do a couple more loads of clothes and spent the next couple of hours doing so.  Port call at Funchal in the morning.



         Towel animal - Dolphin? 


Expenses for Monday: budget - $50.00



Day 11, Tuesday, May 27:  Disney Magic and Funchal / Madeira

Personal Navigator for May 27th 


Since this was a port of call, we decided to eat breakfast at the buffer in Cabana's at 8:30 AM before going ashore.  We finished up, went back to the cabin for our bags, and headed ashore around 9:30 AM.  I was up a little early this morning and was able to take pictures of the ship approaching the island and docking.  It was interesting watching the activity at the outside auxilliary controls used for docking the ship.

Pictures from the Funchal Docking & Port Area

When we got off the ship, we bought tickets for the Funchal Hop On Hop Off Bus tour from a stand at the dock area.  We then walked to the nearest stop (#3) located at the nearest marina.  By the time we got to the stop, we were wishing we had taken a taxi since it was quite a walk.  Stop #3 is their main stop and we only had to wait about 5 minutes for another bus to leave.  We decided to ride the whole loop around the city first.

Pictures from the Funchal Hop On Hop Off Bus tour

After riding all around, we decided to go to stop #5 where the Funchal cable cars and the Madeira Story Centre are located.  When we got off the bus, it was at 11:20 AM and we went into the Funchal cable car building to use the restrooms and then walked around the park area a little.  We then decided to go to the Madeira Story Centre to learn more about the Madeira Island and the city of Funchal.

Pictures from the Madeira Story Centre

After spending about an hour in the mueseum, we decided it was time to eat lunch and looked at the ones around the museum.   We were stopped by one of the people at the Restaurantee O Violino, a local seafood restaurant, and he convinced us to try their food.  We sat at a roadside table and had a fabulous meal.    Wanda had a sardine lunch special and I had a local fish special.  The head waiter brought us a code to get free wi-fi while we were in Funchal.  We used the wi-fi while waiting for our food.


We finished eating and walked back to stop #5 to get back on the tour bus.  We rode the bus to stop #9 which was in front of Blandy's Madeira Wine Lodge & Museum.   The tickets we had bought to see the Madeira Story Centre was combo tickets with Blandy's that included a tour at the wine museum.  We got to Blandy's at 2:35 PM and was told the next English tour available was at 3:30 PM.  We looked around the public area and store some, then went into the area where there were seats and the tour would begin.  While waiting we accessed the wi-fi again.  There was a good connection at both locations.  The tour started at 3:30 PM and lasted about 45 minutes.  We ended up in a tasting room and enjoyed two samples of the wine as part of the tour.  I then bought a bottle of a 15 year old semi-sweet Madeira before leaving Blandy's.

Pictures from Blandy's Madeira Wine Lodge & Museum 


Instead of getting back on the tour bus (it was now 4:30 PM and we had to be back on the ship by 5 PM), we grabbed a taxi and they dropped us off at the cruise terminal at 4:45 PM.   On the way we talked to the driver about the city and how we were the only cruise ship in port that day.  He said it was abnormal; that there are usually 2-3 ships there each day.  It did mean that the city was less crowded that it would have been.

We got back on the ship and went to the cabin to get cleaned up and rest for about an hour.  The 6:30 PM show was an international comedy and music group named Lost Locos Ole! that had came in from Spain that morning.  From their website - "Gypsy Kings Meets Three Amigos. 3 Latin Machos Duel with their 3 Flaming Flamenco Guitars at a fast furious pace. They play like Paco De Lucia. They sing like Pavarotti. They spit ping pong balls, throw guitars, and smash eggs and cliches."  It was a funny show, but I wouldn't sit near the stage for it.

After the show, I went down and got a refill of my beer mug with Kona Breweries' Longboard at O'Gills Pub.  I was still drinking it when we went to Lumiere's for supper.  It turns out that the restaurants will honor the mug also, so I was able to get a Heineken refill during our meal.    During supper, Beauty and the Beast showed up to dance for a few minutes.  After supper, we were tired, so we returned to the cabin to end the day.


Besides the personal navigator for the next day, a sheet for tipping the room steward, head waiter, waiter, and assistant waiter was left for us along with envelopes for them.  This is how the automatic tipping that they charge you is split up.  You are supposed to break apart the paper and provide each individual with his/her slip in an envelope.  If you want to change the percentage provided, you can go to guest services to do so.  We usually add cash to the envelopes in addition to the slip of paper.



           Towel creation - heart 

Expenses for Tuesday: budget - $200.00


Day 12, Wednesday, May 28:  Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 28th 


After sleeping in again, we decided to go to the 10:30 AM talk about "Malaga: Historic Gateway  To Andalusia" that was presented by Charles Richardson.  This presentation was more of a history lesson with some tourist features in it.  Interesting.


Following the presentation on Malaga, we hurried over to Fathoms Lounge to see a presentation by one of the Disney Imagineers titled "Behind The Scenes Of Walt Disney Imagineering".   This was a packed house and a very informing presentation.  Patrick Rand, who gave the presentation, was the Imagineer that oversaw the refurbishment of Animator's Palate on the Disney Magic the year before and was currently the head Imagineer at the construction of the Shanghai Disney Resort that will be opening at the end of 2015.   He described the work performed on the Disney Magic and how each evening we spent on this cruise was a seperate show that had been choreographed.  This mean they had 4 different shows for this restuarant now.  The refurbishment of the Disney Wonder would include a different Animators' Palate with different types of shows.  He described some of the new technology being used in Shanghai and in other rides being refurbished at the other parks around the world.  At the end, he answered questions from the audience.





After this presentation, Wanda and I headed to the Buena Vista Theater to see a 1 PM showing of Million Dollar Arm.  This is a Disney movie about a real-life story concerning bring Cricket players from India to the USA to become baseball players.  A very moving story that had me looking up what happened to the men involved after the movie was over.  We then went and grabbed some lunch before heading to Deck 4 for a walk around the track and then to our cabin.

The 6:30 PM show this evening was titled "The Music Of Stringfever".  This is a group of three brothers and a cousin from the UK that play violins, a viola, and a cello.  They describe themselves as four world class musicians playing five and six-stringed electric violins, viola and cello in a truly original show.  This included all four playing the cello at the same time, doing "The History of Music in 5 Minutes" where they played 40 different song peices, and an arrangement of themes from the movies.



Supper was at the Animator's Palate and this would be our last night there.  On this night, the show was utilizing some of the latest technology avialable.  Each person drew a figure and it was scanned in to be part of the show later on.  The figures would appear at different times and be animated.



Back to the cabin for the night.  The next day will be an early start in Malaga, Spain.


       Towel animal - gorilla 


Expenses for Wednesday: budget - $50.00



Day 13, Thursday, May 29:  Disney Magic and Malaga, Spain

Personal Navigator for May 29th


The ship was passing Gibraltor during the early morning hours (around 3 AM) and I was interested in seeing the Rock if possible.  I ended up having trouble getting to sleep, which wasn't good later on, so I grabbed my camera and went on deck.  There were about 50-60 other people out and watching the lights go by on both sides of the ship.  I was in time to see the Rock of Gibraltor (silhouette and lights) on the port (left) side and the lights from Morocco on the starboard (right) side as we went by the Iberian Peninsula.  To me, it was an experience, though it would have been better if it had been during daylight.

Pictures of Gibraltor & the coast of Morocco at night while passing

I ended up getting back in bed around 4 AM and had to get up again to eat breakfast at Cabana's around 8 AM before going ashore in Malaga, Spain.  When we disembarked from the ship and got out of the cruise terminal, we boarded a shuttle from the terminal to the front of the port area.  Several people were walking it, but it was a long walk.  When we left the port area, we had trouble finding where the Malaga's CitySightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus was supposed to stop at, though we knew it was supposed to be close by.  We finally realized that it was in the same bus drop off area as the local transportation buses used to the left of the port entrance as you came out of it.  Of course, we walked in the wrong direction at first.

An employee was waiting near a sign for the bus (bus stop #4) where we paid her and had a short wait for the next tour bus to arrive.  We boarded the bus and was able to get a decent seat on top to view the surroundings.  As we started going up to the Castillo de Gibrafaro, the bus had some very narrow streets to maneuver through.  At times, we had to wait for other tour buses to go by us from coming down the hill.   It turned out that there is only one way in-and-out of the location and it wasn't designed for buses.  The buses had to pull in a turnaround in front of the Castillo, unload or load its passengers, and then travel back down.  If they had dropped off people and needed to wait, there was a large parking area for them part-way down the hill. 

We had originally planned to take the bus all the way around the first loop before deciding where to get off, but after seeing what we had to go through to get up to the Castillo, we decided to go ahead and get off at this stop (#9) and look around this structure while we were there.

Pictures from Magala Hop On Hop Off Bus tour

The Castillo de Gilbrafaro was a lot of walking and stairs.  It was worth it for the views of the city and port area.  We could clearly see our cruise ship docked along with items as a bull fighting stadium and a basillica.  They had a small cafe where you could rest and buy drinks and food items.  There was a small museum you could walk through and see some of the historical items from when the Castillo was used to guard the port.

Pictures from Castillo de Gilbrafaro


We spent about an hour at this site before reboarding another bus at 11:30 AM.  We road the bus most of the way through the remainder of the loop, but then decided to swap to the "green" loop at stop #2 which was the main train station for the city of Malaga.  We had to wait about 15-20 minutes and then board a shuttle van for this loop.  We road it to the green loop's stop #3 which was the Museo Automovilistico De Malaga (Auto Museum). 


This museum turned out to be a gem.  It is not in an area where you can find other tourist attractions and was about a 15 minute ride from the main train station.  However, once you got in it, and if you have any appreciation for older vehicles, it is an outstanding location to visit.  There are a lot of vehicles from the USA, but also a large number from Europe that I had not seen before.  Wanda liked seeing the formal outfits that corresponded with the year of the automobile it was shown with.  We went through it quickly since we had specific times that the shuttle van would return.  If we didn't make the 1:45 PM van, then it wouldn't be back until around 3:30 PM.  We did make it and returned to the train station to get on the normal tour bus. 

Pictures from Museo Automovilistico De Malaga

We took the tour bus back to the stop #4 where we had originally gotten onto it near the cruise ship.  We decided to walk into the downtown area and find a place to eat.  One of the coupons we got from the tour bus was for a free tapa at a restaurant named El Pimpi Malaga Restaurant.   So we used the GPS on my iPad to walk through the pedistrian streets to the restaurant and also to view a few of the sites we passed.


After we ate, we took a round-about way back to the entrance of the port area, boarded the shuttles back to the ship, went through security and was back on board at 4:30 PM.  We noticed as we passed the front of the ship on the shuttle, there was a large number of locals parked nearby and taking pictures of the Disney Magic.  It turned out that there had been a lot of publicity about the cruise ship visiting Malaga and a lot of people wanted their pictures of it and with it in the background.


 The show tonight was a crew talent show, so we decided to skip it and rest in the cabin.  I had started not feeling well and developed a serious cough, so I took a short nap.  I really needed it in preperation for later in the evening.  We did make it to supper at Carioca's with a Mediterranean themed meal.  When we were finished, we returned to the cabin to rest some more.


This evening, besides the Personal Navigator for the next day, we also found this special offer for laundry and our luggage tags to use for having our luggage picked up the next night.  The character and the color of the tags would allow us to find the luggage easier in the cruise terminal in Barcelona after we off-loaded the ship there at the end of the cruise.



At 11;30 PM, we left the cabin and went to the Walt Disney Theater to see the midnight premier showing of Maleficent in 3D.


Expenses for Thursday: budget - $200.00



Day 14, Friday, May 30:  Disney Magic

Personal Navigator for May 30th

So the premier of Maleficent in 3D started at 12:01 AM in the Walt Disney Theater.  They had received the harddrive containing the movie while in port at Funchal and announced it on Wednesday.  This had been talked about quite a bit leading up to the announcement since everyone knew it was coming out during our cruise, but there had been nothing to show it being played.  However, schedules had came out with blocks of time not showing anything in the Buena Vista movie theater, so we knew there was a chance to see it.  A lot of the children on board stayed up and dressed up as characters for the premiere.  The 977 seat theater was about 80% full for the midnight showing.  They had announced viewing times in both the Walt Disney Theater and the Buena Vista Theater already, so some people were waiting until a more reasonable time during the normal daytime hours.

It was an excellent movie and added a different view point to the characters of Sleeping Beauty and took away the villain aspect of Malificent.  It was very enjoyable and unexpected.

When we returned to the cabin, Wanda and I found some washers to start laundry in at 2:30 AM.  She then had me go to bed since I was feeling worse and she finished up the laundry around 4:30 AM.  We slept in and got up in time to have lunch at Cabana's at noon.  I had thought about going to the ship's clinic to have them take a look at me; I was feeling that bad.  However, we got up to late for the morning hours they were open.

At 2 PM, we went to see Disney Imagineer Patrick Rand giving another presentation in Animator's Palate called "Disney Behind The Scenes Of Animator's Palate".  He used the restaurant to show the new technology used in the refurbishment and some clips from the shows being shown.  I wish he had given more presentations throughout the cruise.

After the presentation, we returned to the cabin and then at 4:30 PM I went down to the clinic and was able to see one of the ship's nurses and then the doctor.  He wasn't positive if what I had was allergies acting up or the start of the flu, so he gave me some nasal spray and 3 codeine tablets to take after he found out we were staying in Spain for the following week after getting off the ship the next day.   While I was waiting, Wanda came down to find me and see how I was doing.  We returned to the cabin and finished packing our luggage so that the cabin steward could pick it up before 10 PM tonight.

At 6:30 PM, we saw the musical show Disney Dreams - An Enchanted Classic in the Walt Disney Theater.  As the Disney Cruise Line website states, [the show] tells the story of Anne Marie, a little girl who just can't find it in her heart to believe. One night while trying to fall asleep, she is visited by the Blue Fairy, Peter Pan and someone else very special, who have a story to tell. Through the magic of Disney storytelling, singing and dancing starring some of your favorite Disney characters, they teach Anne Marie—and remind us all—the power of dreams and positive thinking.  This is another musical show we had seen on the previous cruise, but it was still entertaining.

We set our luggage outside our room door to be picked up and then went to supper at 8:30 PM in Lumiere's for our last evening meal onboard the ship.  This was when we said our goodbyes to the wait staff and provided the envelopes with out tip slips and cash to them.  It was kind of a depressing meal due to the experience with our fellow table mates and the staff being so enjoyable during this cruise.  We said our goodbyes to each other before heading back to the cabin.  I found our cabin steward and gave his envelope to him and thanked him for his excellent service during the cruise.  We had asked him to provide ice in our ice bucket at the start of the cruise and he made sure we had ice all through it.  We made sure to show our appreciation for this and other services he gave us.


 Expenses for Friday: budget - $440.00 (includes $390 for tips for ship personnel)



Day 15, Saturday, May 31:  Disney Magic and Barcelona, Spain

Personal Navigator for May 31st 


At 8:15 AM, we went back to Lumiere's for a large breakfast while we waited for our time to leave the ship.  We met Jeremy, Debbie, Darryl, and Mandy there.  After an hour, we all disembarked the ship, went through customs, and found our luggage.  We met back up in the line waiting for taxis.  It took about 30 minutes from the time we got into this line to actually get into a taxi.  We said goodbye again to the others and had the taxi driver take us to the Crown Plaza Barcelona - Fira where we spent the next three nights in Barcelona.

Pictures from the Barcelona Port

Pictures from the Crowne Plaza Barcelona - Fira hotel

I had sent an email to the front desk several days previously explaining that we were arriving on the Disney Magic, would be there between 10-11 AM, and wanted to make sure there was a location that we could store our luggage in until we could check in.  They had replied saying they thought a room would be available when we got there.  We arrived at 10:30 AM and the clerk at the desk said the room was ready for us. While we were checking in, Miguel Doblando, the Director of Operations for the hotel, came out of his office and introduced himself to me.  He wanted to make sure that I had his card, which he handed me, and said to call him if we needed anything.   This is a newly opened hotel (April 2014) and it was a great one to stay in.  The location turned out to be good also.

We stayed in the room for the rest of the afternoon to give us time to rest up after the last couple of days.  At 5:30 PM, we decided to walk around the area and see what was around us. 



We found this collection of buses and other transportation in the blocked off street in front of the nearby conference area.  It was there through the weekend and we were in the area when they departed on Monday morning.


We returned to the hotel at 7 PM and had to wait until 8 PM to get something to eat.  It turns out that in Spain, lunch is usually between 1-3 PM and supper is served at 8-10 PM.  Most restaurants don't open until 8 or 8:30 PM each evening.  We had noticed a small family Italian restaurant next to the hotel named Il Golfo Di Napoli and decided we would eat there at 8 PM.  It was very filling, served quickly, and had a nice atmosphere.  After supper we walked back to a fountain area nearby that we had seen earlier.  It is called the Magic Fountain of Montjuic.  The fountain has a music and light show that is supposed to be for 20 minutes long every 30 minutes each evening.  It seemed to us that it ran continuously while we were there.  We found a place to sit and watched it for about forty-five minutes.  There were a couple of nearby kiosks that were selling food and drinks, so we bought a couple of ice cream bars to enjoy while we watched the show.  There were probably 500-600 people in the area watching the show while we were there.

Pictures from the Magic Fountain of Montjuic

At 9:45 PM, we left the fountain and returned to the hotel for the night.


Expenses for Saturday: budget - $100.00



Day 16, Sunday, June 1:  Barcelona, Spain

In the morning , we walked over to the Plaza d'Espanya where we bought tickets for the Barcelona Hop On Hop Off Bus (Barcelona Bus Touristic) tour.  It turns out that each bus has a free wifi hot spot on it, so we could use their wifi whenever we were on it.  We got on the next bus and rode the red loop until we got to the green loop.  Then we rode the green loop around and then returned to the red loop.  At a stop nearest to the Picasso Museum, we got off and walked to the museum.  Unfortunately, the line for the entrance was way too long.  It turned out that admission was free on this day.


We decided then to walk a short distance to the Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata), where we spent about an hour touring it.

Pictures from the Chocolate Museum

After we finished with the museum, we walked back toward a nearby stop on the red loop.  On the way, we stopped at a street cafe and bought a couple of orders of churos and chocolate drinks so that we could sample this Spanish treat.  After finishing these in the cafe, we walked further and found a Subway to have lunch at.  We also found a nearby pharmacy to get some cough medicine since I was still having problems.  Have you ever tried to explain to someone you wanted cough medicine when they don't speak English.  She did understand quickly and wrote out the price for me so I could pay it.  After eating lunch, we got on a red loop bus and rode it to  the main plaza, Placa de Catalunya.   At the plaza, where you change between the red loop and the blue loop, we first looked in the nearby McDonalds to see what they offered on the menu.  Then we walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe Barcelona to buy a mug for a souvenir. 

We then rode the blue loop around and returned to Placa de Catalunya where we got back on the red loop and rode it back to the location we had started at.  We walked back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and ate supper at the hotel's restaurant.

Pictures from the Barcelona Hop On Hop Off Bus tour & walking


Expenses for Sunday: budget - $200.00




Day 17, Monday, June 2:  Barcelona, Spain

 We decided when we got up this morning to go see the Sagrada Familia Basilica and Contemporary Art museum today since they were open on this Monday where a lot of tourist places were closed.  This helped us to decide what transportation we needed to use.  Since we bought 2-day tickets for the tour bus, we could use it, but we didn't want to have to take full loops around, so we decided to use the metro / subway today when it made sense.  After stopping by the hotel's business center and buying the tickets for Sagrada Familia Basilica (with an entrance time) online, we then walked to the Plaza d'Espanya  and entered the metro station there.  We bought a couple of single use tickets and took the metro to the Universtat (University) station.

The first place we visited was the MACBA or Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona which is one of Barcelona's Contemporary Art museums.  It was a little walk from the metro station to the museum, but we finally found it and paid our admission.  We had to check my backpack (used to carry my camera, iPad, and other items) and then we went exploring by first taking the elevator up to the 3rd floor and work our way down.  There wasn't anything that said not to take pictures of the exhibits, but I really didn't want pictures of the exhibits.  We were not impressed with this museum.

Pictures from the MACBA - Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona

We then walked to the Placa de Catalunya to be able to take the tour bus on the blue route again to the Basilica.  As we went through the pedistrian streets, which were crowded with vendors and crowds of people, we had one of those experiences that make these trips to Europe unique.  I'm watching my iPad to follow the path that it says we need to take, with Wanda following behind me, when I see a guy with a camera backing up toward us from the opposite direction.  Then we notice the young woman he is video taping as she was slowly walking toward us.  She is in her early 20's, good looking, and nude.  I also notice the reaction of the crowd around them.  They passed us and we kept going - no, I did not look back or take pictures, unlike other people in the crowd.  We talked about it after getting to the plaza and figure it was some type of publicity stunt or maybe a modern art "display".  We never did find out for sure.

When we reached the plaza, we decided to eat at a KFC located there and then boarded the tour bus to take it to the Sagrada Familia Basilica.  We had arrived to the Basilica about 40 minutes before our entrance time, so we decided to sit in the park across the road from the front entrance and wait for our time.  Since the ticket booths were in the front, we were able to the slow moving long line of people waiting to buy tickets to get inside.  They also would be given an entrance time and I'm not sure what was being given out by that time.  When our time came, we checked at the front gate and was told we needed to enter through the entrance gate on the other side of the Basilica.  there was a short line there and we had to enter through a metal detector and the bags were searched.  Construction on this place was started in 1882 and still is not completed.  They are estimating it will take 2-3 more generations before they complete the original plans.  The official name of the Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia translates into the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family.

There is a booth area to the right at the top of the stairs you have to climb.  This booth has the audio guides that you can rent to tell you more information as you tour.  I had pre-purchased one when I bought the tickets online, since Wanda didn't want one, so I picked it up at that time.  We entered the Basilica and walked slowly around it.  I would listen to the guide and let Wanda know some of the facts involved.  There were attendants all over the place ensuring that people talked quietly and behaved.  One of the places we entered was a small seating area where people could pray in quiet and it was a very calm area.



After finishing the main area, we went out of the building and walked a small path down to a set of restrooms and then into their museum.  This had displays of the building of the Basilica, a work area that you could watch where they created the working models of the pieces they were still building, and a movie about how the Basilica came to be.  We watched part of the movie in the local dominant language of Catalan and then watched all of it in English.  When finished with touring the Basilica, you had to exit through the gift shop.

Pictures from Sagrada Familia Basilica

Following us leaving the Basilica, Wanda wanted to visit some of the local shops to find a souvenir from Barcelona.  This took about 30 minutes and then we started walking toward the southeast from the Basilica to get in a position to take a picture of one of the city icons - Torre Agbar (Agbar Tower). 


After getting the pictures she wanted, we walked to a nearby Metro station and took the subway back to the Plaza d'Espanya and returned to the hotel to get cleaned up and rest until time for supper.  At around 8 PM, we walked around the area surrounding the hotel looking for another place to eat, but couldn't decide on one.  We had wanted to eat at a local Tapas restaurant, but it wasn't open tonight.  So we went back to Il Golfo Di Napoli to eat again.

Expenses for Monday: budget - $200.00



Day 18, Tuesday, June 3:  Barcelona, Spain to Madrid, Spain via train

 We woke up at 7:30 AM this morning, checked out of the hotel by 8:30 AM and took a taxi to the train station.  We were through the security checkpoint and into a waiting area at 9 AM.  At 9:40 AM, we were allowed to check in and was sent downstairs to wait on a platform for the train to arrive at platform 3.  Five minutes later, the train arrived and we board it (#3102) in coach 2 where we had business / first class seats 8B and 8C.  The train left the station at 9:56 AM (scheduled to leave at 10 AM) and started the 2 hours, 10 minute trip to Madrid.

Pictures from the train ride from Barcelona to Madrid

During the trip, at 11 AM we were given a selection of drinks and appetizers to eat.  We arrived in Madrid at 1:10 PM and got a taxi to the Hotel Indigo Madrid, a boutigue hotel in the IHG (Holiday Inn) chain.   The taxi driver had trouble at first finding the right part of the street to turn onto.  It was a small one-way street that he turned into and realized the hotel was on the other side of the main street we had turned off of.  He asked if we wanted to get out there and just walk, but I asked him to go ahead and circle around and get us to the right location.  He did and it was worth the extra time.  By 1:30 PM, we were checked into the hotel and took a rest in the room.

Pictures from the Hotel Indigo Madrid

At 4 PM, we decided to go ahead and try the Madrid Hop On Hop Off Bus tour.  We bought a pair of 2-day tickets at the hotel's front desk and they directed us to the nearest stop for this tour bus.  We boarded the bus on the blue line at stop #8 and rode it around to stop #1 where we had to get off (they make everyone get off at stop #1 for both routes and swap to a new bus.  We elected to swap to the green line and rode it completely around back to stop #1.  We had noticed the Hard Rock Madrid at stop #3 on the green line which corresponded to stop #4 of the blue line.  We swapped over to the blue line and took it to stop #4 and ate an earlier supper at the Hard Rock Madrid.  Following that, we got back on the blue line and returned to stop #8 and our hotel.  We had been discussing having to do laundry, but there was no guest laundry at the hotel due to it being in the part being refurbished.  However, the clerk pointed out one across the small street that was open 8 AM to 10 PM as cost 5€ per load per machine.  Since it was now after 9 PM, we decided not to start laundry.

Pictures from the Madrid Hop On Hop Off Bus tour

We had noticed the Hard Rock Madrid at stop #3 on the green line which corresponded to stop #4 of the blue line.  We swapped over to the blue line and took it to stop #4 and ate an earlier supper at the Hard Rock Madrid.  Following that, we got back on the blue line and returned to stop #8 and our hotel.  We had been discussing having to do laundry, but there was no guest laundry at the hotel due to it being in the part being refurbished.  However, the clerk pointed out one across the small street that was open 8 AM to 10 PM as cost 5€ per load per machine.  Since it was now after 9 PM, we decided not to start laundry.

Pictures from the Hard Rock Madrid


Expenses for Tuesday: budget - $100.00



Day 19, Wednesday, June 4:  Madrid, Spain

 This morning, we hopped back on the Hop On Hop Off bus to take us over the Royal Palace in Madrid.  On each Wednesday of the year, weather permitting, they hold a small changing of the guard at the Royal Palace.  On the first Wednesday of each month, it is a lot larger ceremony and we were lucky enough to be there on a first Wednesday with clear weather being predicted.  When we arrived, we walked along the front of the palace.  On one side, down in a lower area, we were able to see some of the soldiers getting ready for the ceremony.  However, we wanted to be on the other side where the Plaza Armeria and Almudena Cathedral are located. 


I had read that you can join a line of people and enter the courtyard area to see the ceremony inside the Royal Palace where some bleachers are set up, but one of the better locations is on the steps of Almudena Cathedral. That is where we headed and from where we watched the preperations and the ceremony.

Pictures and videos from the Changing of the Guard Ceremony

After the ceremony was over, and people started clearing out, we went to the closest stop for the tour bus and took it over to the Museo Nacional Del Prado.  The Prado is a world-class art museum with works by artists such as Raphael and Rubens.  Unfortunately, they do not allow pictures to be taken inside.  While there, we ate lunch and used the audio guides that we rented.  We stayed at the museum for about 6 hours and then used the tour bus to go back to the hotel area where we then got supper at a nearby McDonalds before heading back to the hotel.  We spent over 6 hours at the Prado.


Expenses for Wednesday: budget - $200.00


Day 20, Thursday, June 5:  Madrid, Spain

On Thursday, we slept in until 10 AM since we had a tour scheduled at 1:30 PM at the Royal Tapestry Factory.  We walked over to a nearby metro station and bought a couple of one-day passes for the metro.  We took the subway over to a station near the factory for our tour and arrived there at 1:15 PM for our scheduled 1:30 PM tour in English.  We had to email the reservation a couple of months prior to when we wanted to do it.  The tour was interesting in that they described how they are the only tapestry factory left in Spain and had a contract with the Spanish government to repair old tapestries and rugs and create new ones.  Since King Juan Carlos I had just announced his abdication the day before, they had to send half their staff to a meeting at the Royal Palace to determine what work had to be done before the coronation of Felipe VI on June 19th.  They still do most of the work by hand and are true artisans and craftsmen at what they do.    There processes, intermingling old equipment with new techniques was fascinating.   No pictures could be taken inside the factory.  They did say that they were currently working on a tapestry recreation of a famous painting  for a client costing 72,000€ as a test case for the client so that he could determine if their quality was up to his standards for the work he really wanted them to do.  This test case was taking 6 months to complete.  There were 3 other couples on the tour with us.

Following the tour, we went back to the metro and took it over to the station near the Reina Sofia Art Museum.  Since we had not eaten lunch yet, and it was approaching 3 PM, we stopped at a KFC and grabbed a late lunch.  We walked over to the Museum Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (or the Reina Sofia Art Museum).  This turned out to be a gem of a European art museum.  Wanda had been wanting to see Picassos and this place had quite a few, including his Guernica.  There was also a large amount of paintings by Miro and Salvador Dali.  She had threatened to extend our trip if we didn't find the Picasso's and Dali's today.

Pictures from the Reina Sofia Art Museum - Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

When we finally left the museum, we used the Metro to head back to the hotel and ended up eating in the hotel's restaurant for supper.  We packed to leave for London the next day and got to bed early sincewe had to be at the airport around 5:30 AM to check in for our flights.


Expenses for Thursday: budget - $200.00




Day 21, Friday, June 6:  Madrid, Spain to London, England via airline

We awoke at 4 AM to get ready and leave the hotel by taxi at 5 AM to check into the flight by 5:30 AM.  We got there in plentyof time, but someone forgot to tell Portugal Air that we wanted to check in 2 hours before the flight took off.    We stood in a long line for about 30 minutes before it started to move.  Even then, it was slow.  After checking in, where they weighed and tagged the carry-on items also, we didn't have to pay anything extra since we were within the weight limits.  I had worried about this, but we were close enough and the calculated the weights for the total party, not individuals.

We then had to go through security and walk over to a gate area where we stood in line for another 30 minutes.  The flight was on time (7:35 AM) and we were in Lisbon, Portugal after 2 hour, 15 minute flight for a 2 hour, 20 minute layover before taking another Air Portugal flight to London.  We did have to go through an immigration area in Lisbon to get to our gate area.  For the flight to London, we had to go down from the gate area, board a large shuttle bus and were taken out on the tarmac to board the plane about a 1/2 mile away from the gate we had been at.  This flight was 2 hours, 40 minutes long and we arrived in London at 11:50 AM. 

It took about an hour to get through customs and immigration.  We headed for the tube station at the terminal and added money to the Oyster cards (cards used for the tube and buses that we had bought back in 2005) so that we could take it to the Earl's Court station.  We checked into the Hotel Indigo London-Kensington and they upgraded us to a Junior Suite since I was a Platinum member.  This was a real nice room.  I still wasn't feeling well, so we ended up resting the remainder of the afternoon.  About 6 pm, since we had not eaten food all day, other than breakfast bars, we decided to eat supper at the nearby Blackbird Pub which we had eaten at in our previous visit.  They have fantastic meat pies and beer.

I did make a quick trip to the Hard Rock Cafe London to get a new t-shirt since the one from our previous trip was starting to fade.  It was only four tube stops from the hotel.  Wanda had me take her Oyster card so that I used one going one way and the other while coming back so that we kept the same amount of money on both cards.

Pictures from the Hotel Indigo London - Kensington

Expenses for Friday: budget - $255.00




Day 22, Saturday, June 7:  London, England

The plan for today was to get up around 6:30 AM, leasurily prepare to leave the hotel, check out at 8 AM and take the tube back to Heathrow Airport in time to arrive there around 9:30 AM.  The plane back to Houston was to leave at 11:40 AM with an arrival time in Houston at 4:05 PM.  We thought we would get through customs and immigration in about an hour and had a car and driver arranged to meet us (cheaper by 20% than a taxi) to take us back home where we expected to arrive by 6:30 PM.  This should have been an easy, but long, day to get through.  We had decided to return on Saturday so that we would have a day to relax at home before returning to work on Monday.

The first indication that something was wrong was when I saw an email status for the flight, while I was getting ready to leave the hotel, that said it was cancelled.  A look on the website stated that it was cancelled due to maintenance and that we were rescheduled for a later flight the next day.  I also noticed that instead of being in Economy Plus seats (extra leg room that we paid for), we were now in seats in regular Economy.  I called the airline (UK office) and the person helped with readjusting the seating.  However, she said we had to go to the airport to get any compensation for having to stay an extra day.  I thanked her and we ended the call.


After taking care of a message to ExecuCar to change our reservation for the car and driver, I went to the hotel's front desk and checked on staying another night there.   Unfortunately, this hotel was booked 100% for the night, so we slowly got ready, checked out, and headed to the aiport.   The trip on the tube (subway/light rail) took about 40 minutes and we walked to the United service desk when we arrived at Heathrow airport.  I explained the situation and what was discussed on the phone.  The lady at the service desk was very helpful and was aware about the cancelled flight.  She provided us with a voucher for the night at the Premier Inn near the airport, vouchers for a pair of roundtrip rides from the airport to the hotel on the local hotel shuttle called Hoppa (normally £4 per person per ride), a voucher for 2 for 3 meals (lunch, supper, and breakfast) at the hotel, and our boarding passes.  Since this was going to be an extra free day in London, and I was feeling better, I thought this was pretty good for us.  She also verified that our checked bags had been redirected to the new flight with us.

Hotel Hoppa shuttle -

Premier Inn - London Heathrow (Bath Road) -

It was still before noon, so we weren't sure that the hotel would have a room ready for us, but figured we could leave our carry-on bag in a baggage room, so we took the Hoppa shuttle to the hotel and went to the check-in desk.  This must happen frequently because the hotel was able to check us in, assign a room, give us meal vouchers very quickly.  I don't think we were the first that morning that they had to deal with.  We went up to the room (2nd floor, room 1218), settled in, and had to deal with what to do with clothes.  I had brought an extra set of clothes, but Wanda had not.  We decided to wash a few things and hang them up.  Wanda went back to the desk to pay for wireless access (this is a hotel where everything extra costs a fee) and came back about 20 minutes later with the code for free.  She had to wait a while as the clerk was helping an elderly lady and the clerk had to help the woman with her luggage to her room.  It would have been only a couple of pounds for 24 hour access, but that was nice of the hotel clerk. 

We sent messages to our kids what had happened and the new plans as well as informing some other family members.   We then went to the hotel restaurant and found out what we could get with the vouchers.   It was a decent meal and we bought a few extra items since we only had breakfast bars that morning.  We went back to the room and spent some time on the internet before deciding to go see Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.  I figured out via a website how we could get there and determined we had enough extra on the Oyster cards (London metro buses and tube) to get from the hotel to the nearest tube station.  We walked to a nearby roadside bus stop and waited for one of the buses we knew would go to the tube station.  We made it to the station, put extra money on the Oyster cards, and went to the Baker Street tube station where the museum is located.  The trip took about 90 minutes in total due to the bus, changing lines on the tube, and wait time.


The Baker Street tube station is also near the Sherlock Holmes Museum which we haven't visited either.  However, by the time we arrived in the area, it was too late to visit it.  As it was, we arrived at Madame Tussauds as they were finishing up letting people into the museum for the evening.  If you made it in, you had 90 minutes to get through the museum.  We paid for admission and started the visit by being taken up in an elevator and deposited on the 3rd floor.  You walked into what was supposed to be a red carpet party with figures of various movie stars and singers all over this large room.  We walked through the various rooms with different themes in it and arrived at Scream - the haunted house portion of the museum.  It was okay, but I wasn't really impressed with this part.  Wanda was having trouble seeing in the little available lighting, so she was concentrating mainly in following me and hardly noticed anything that tried to scare her.

After the Scream portion, there was an exhibit of the history of Madame Tussauds and how the museum started.  Then we approached a theme park style ride where you took car shaped ride vehicles on a track through the history of London.  This was an interesting ride and enjoyable.  You left this ride and ended up in a queue for the Mavel Super Heroes 3D Experience where you ended up in a theater style setting.  The super heroes had their headquarters in Madame Tussaunds and had to battle giant robots and villains to save London from destruction.  Following this experience, you ended up exiting in the gift store and cafe.


Pictures from Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

Statue of Sherlock Holmes standing outside of the Baker Street Tube Station.



Baker Street Tube Station

Following our visit to the museum, we headed on the reverse route back to the hotel so that we could have supper there.  When we board the bus, we weren't sure of the stop (I guessed at which bus line to take at the tube station) and asked the driver about it.  He said that he would let us know as we approached it and he did.  This stop was right in front of the hotel where the earlier stop we had boarded from was on the other side of the road and about a 1/4 mile from the hotel.


We made it back to the hotel, put the camera and carry bag in the room and then went to the restaurant for supper.  This turned out to be a buffet style instead of ordering from a menu.  You also needed a reserved time, so the staff member gave us a time at 9 PM where we would have to wait about 30 minutes.  We sat in some seats in the lobby outside the entrance to the restaurant and about 10 minutes later he came and got us since some of their reservations had not shown up.  There wasn't a big selection, but the food was filling.  The restaurant was really crowded for supper where it was almost empty at lunch.  After eating, we returned to the room for the night.  The hotel wasn't quite to the level we had been staying in after getting off the cruise ship, but it was sufficient for the night.


Expenses for Saturday: budget - $70.00


Day 23, Sunday, June 8:  London, England to Houston, Texas via airline

We got up early and the first thing I did was get online and verify the flight.  I noticed on my iPad that a message had been sent at 3 AM cancelling the flight due to maintenance, but another reinstated it 30 minutes later.  However, I noticed on the website that we were back in the regular Economy seats again.   We decided to skip breakfast, checked out, got on the Hoppa shuttle, and returned to the airport.  We went back to the service desk and explained what we had seen online.  The man we dealt with looked a little at their records and determined that when the flight was cancelled and then reinstated, everything was reset concerning seatings.  He changed us back to Economy Plus and gave us new boarding passes.  He also checked on our luggage and had to redirect them again.  I think that the airline's software needs some work on instances like this.  He warned us that it was a 30 minute walk to the gate and it did take about that long after getting through security. 

The flight took off on time, though there was some confusion with some seats due to the cancellation.  They got everyone settled satisfactorily and it was an easy flight back to Houston.  There was a problem at customs with their automated system.  It is set up that most people should be able to go through it quickly, but in this case due to the cancelled flight, a lot of people were getting flagged and had to go through a manned booth.  The customs agents were a little frustrated due to this causing a long line being formed.  We got through quickly and had to wait for our luggage for a little bit before existing the arrival area.

As we walked out, about 15 minutes sooner that I had estimated when making reservations, I started looking for our driver that was to meet us.  Have you ever tried looking through a group of about 40 people holding signs and all crowded together?  I didn't see our name on first glance and noticed another person arriving near the back of the group.  It was our driver and he had just arrived.  He asked if we had been waiting long and was relieved to find we had just came out.  He took Wanda's bag and led us to the car where he loaded the bags in the trunk and got us settled in back.  The heat and humidity, which we had not experienced during our trip, hit us pretty hard in the parking garage. 

He had us on the road quickly and everything went smoothly until we got to I-45 from the 610 loop south of downtown.  An accident had occurred and slowed everyone down to stop-and-go traffic.  He got us home safely and I gave him a good tip for his service.

It was good to be home.

Expenses for Sunday: budget - $0.00



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Matthew Beard

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This site was last updated 07/26/14