Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Europe, Here We Come!

On Tuesday, Disney Cruise Line finally made their long-held "secret" public: The Magic is going to cruise the Mediterranean in summer of 2007. I use the word "secret" loosely, as it's been fairly common knowledge among Disney-obsessed internet communities.

Last year, the Magic did cruises out of California to celebrate Disneyland's birthday. My husband and I couldn't spare two weeks for a repositioning cruise; we were booked on the West Coast itinerary in July, but we had to cancel it due to work obligations. This time around, we're hoping to do the trans-Atlantic repo. It would be so wonderful to bring the Magic home from Barcelona! Better yet, I hate flying, so if we do the repositioning, I only have to fly one way. And if we do the cruise back to Florida, we get the air part out of the way early. The time change won't be as bad, either, as we can ease ourselves back into the U.S. time zone as the ship chugs across the ocean.

My only hesitation is that the cruise features six days at sea. That's a loooong time for a land lubber! I wonder if I would go stir crazy confined to a ship for nearly a week, with no opportunity to set foot on solid land. But Disney is expert at implementing fun activities, so I imagine that the time would go fast. I'd probably be working a lot of the time anyway; thankfully, both of my businesses are conducting mostly online. I just hope that I'll be able to get a reliable satellite connection for my laptop out in the middle of the ocean. The biggest danger will probably be gaining extra pounds, as cruise ships are notorious for rich, bountiful meals...and who wants to exercise when you're on vacation?

Disney made the announcement at the entrance to World Showcase in Epcot. Since I am a veteran of 49 Disney cruises, with something like nine more currently booked, I probably qualify as an obsessive. Therefore I decided to take a ride to the park to see it live and in person.

I figured I should have plenty of time if I reached Epcot by 9 a.m. I dragged my lazy carcass out of bed at 8 a.m. and forced myself into consciousness. I was on the road by a quarter to 9; by the time I arrived, the early birds were already being let through the parking plaza. I joined one of the snaking lines and flashed my annual pass and AAA Diamond parking pass. Thank goodness for that AAA gem...I pitied the poor souls stuck in the regular parking conga line. I zipped past them and off to the special parking area, located near the handicapped parking. The AAA lot had plenty of spots, so I maneuvered Canyonero into one and headed toward the park gates.

It took a while to get in, as I had to submit to a fanny pack search and then wait in another line to get inside. I was hoping for enough time to grab a Soarin' Fast Pass before heading to the stage where the cruise line announcement would be made. It seemed like everyone else in the park had the same idea about Soarin', as I found myself in a moving wall of people. Dozens upon dozens converged on The Land pavillion, and even though the park had just opened, the standby wait time was already approaching an hour. I got a Fast Pass for 10:45 to 11:45, pocketed it quickly, and headed to the World Showcase entrance.

I thought there would be a lot of guests milling around, but mostly there were just media people and cruise line cast members. The general public wouldn't be let in until the media was situated, so I waited near the entrance. I saw a few people who I know, both among the cruise line people and the spectators, so the time went quickly as I chatted with them. I was surprised to see that even Captain Tom, the Magic's commander, was present for the big event.

Once we were let in, I got a good spot with a view of the stage. I was amazed that the number of guests was still sparse, but the announcement wasn't publicized too widely so I don't think most people knew. They were probably too busy rushing to Soarin' and Mission: Space to wander near the far end of Future World. Those of us who were present were Disney Cruise Line obsessives, and our level of anticipation was almost palpable. All of us seemed to be in agreement that the Med would be the new destination. Hawaii and Alaska had been bantered around, but I dismissed those long ago. The Magic is not a cold weather ship, considering that its three pools are not enclosed, and there are immigration challenges with U.S.-only cruises. My money was definitely on Europe (and World Showcase was certainly an appropriate place to announce that destination).

Shortly before the announcement, a passel of Disney Cruise Line workers filled in the spectator area. They seemed to be just as excited as the rest of us. Promptly at 10 a.m. we heard the first strains of music as a group of dancers took the stage for an upbeat introduction, along with several Disney characters. Then the president of Disney Cruise Line took the stage along with Mickey. The Chief Mouse himself unfurled the banners to a backdrop of pyrotechnics: Spain, France, and Italy! The rumors were true, and I was already drooling with anticipation of a trans-Atlantic repositioning voyage.

Even though it wasn't a surprise, I still enjoyed the hoopla surrounding the official announcement. In this day and age, the internet makes it almost impossible to keep a secret because it's too easy to access port records and foreign news reports. But it was still fun, and Disney Cruise Line poured fuel onto the fire by posting various clues on their website. Many of them involved the dying art of Morse Code...I was too lazy to interpret it myself, but my husband took a stab at it. Most of the clues were cryptic, but in retrospect they make sense.

After the announcement, I still had time before my Fast Pass started, so I headed over to Test Track. I was hoping to get a quick ride in the Singles Line, but during Spring Break I discovered that "quick" equals 30 minutes. Actually, it was closer to 45 because the ride broke down while I was waiting. Thankfully they got it up and running pretty quickly, so I managed to fit in my spin before heading to The Land.

I decided to have a quick lunch before riding Soarin' because I had skipped breakfast, and I didn't want low blood sugar to make me feel motion sick. I ate a beet and goat cheese salad and then hopped into the Fast Pass line. The standby line was up to 100 minutes, and the Fast Passes being handed out weren't good until 6 p.m., so I was glad I had stopped by early.

While waiting, I chatted a bit with the party in front of me. They had ridden Soarin' once before, but they didn't realize that the three rows of seats had moved so that one was higher than the others, with one in the middle and one towards the bottom. I ended up in the first seat of the middle row, which is right above the person at the control console. I was torn between watching him and the screen; it's a good think I'd gotten my sugar level up because it was quite disorienting to switch my visual field from the huge screen in front of me to the console and back again. Finally I lost interest in watching the cast member, as his role seemed limited to pushing buttons and then making sure that everything was running smoothly. Instead, I immersed myself in the familiar images of California, combined with the scent of evergreens and oranges and an uplifting musical score. Ah, I love Soarin'!

On my way out, I decided to get a pastry at the bakery and watch the fountain. Every 15 minutes, there is a water show choreographed to music. It's amazing, especially when they use "Standing in Motion" by Yanni (there are multiple songs rotated randomly). Sadly, when I emerged from the shop with my cake to take a fountainside table, I realized that the water was turned off. Darn! No water show for me. Oh well, I still had my boston cream cake to enjoy.

It was tempting to stick around a little while longer, but I knew that work awaited at home. I'd managed to slip in a bit of play time, but now I forced myself to head back to Canyonero and return to reality. I couldn't help but feel excited as I drove back to Celebration. Up until now, my visits to Europe have been limited to World Showcase. But next summer I'll be seeing it in the best way that I can imagine...onboard the Disney Magic.

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1 comment:

Kathy Holmes said...

How funny to have cruised so much and be a "landlubber." :) We love to be at sea. That crossing sounds great!

While I love Soarin', it also makes me soooo homesick for California.