23 people on a Southwest plane that seats 120. We took the emergency exit row halfway back (with its gobs of legroom), and were the furthest-back people in the crowd. Between that and getting to fly out of ever-friendly Manchester, this may qualify as the most pleasant flight I've ever had.
Sunday: Setting Sail
"We're walking..." The Disney staff escort a substantial mob of families all the way across Orlando Airport, from the Hyatt to the buses, an exceptional bit of traffic management. Contrary our original guesses (that there would be very few children since school isn't out yet), it's still 2/3 families with children. But it's mostly small children -- lots of pre-schoolers.
The ship sets off, to the tune of "When You Wish Upon a Star", played on what amounts to the world's biggest pipe organ. We (a tad chilled by the steady 30 MPH wind up on Deck 10) make a beeline for Quiet Cove, the adults-only pool. Our first indication that the ship is beginning to rock as we head out into open sea is as we find ourselves gently battered by waves in the small pool, tossing me back and forth.
The Cappucino Cheesecake at Palo, after dinner the first night. It is a perfection of cuteness: a coffee-cup-shaped cheesecake, with whipped cream froth on top, solid chocolate steam coming out the top, and swirled white and dark chocolate making the cup's handle and straw. In terms of taste it is merely good, making it by far the least impressive bit of an otherwise spectacular meal (not quite as good as Campania, but that's praising with faint damnation).
Looking out on the ship's wake after dinner, I begin to get the smallest sense of how *frightening* sea travel must have been in period. The whitecaps we are kicking up are very impressive for about 40 feet -- and beyond that, it is utterly, totally black. And that's with a mildly moonlit night, without many clouds. I can scarcely imagine what it must have been like on an old-fashioned ship, alone in that endless expanse...
The Wall of Straw Hats begins to take shape, on the back of the stateroom sofa. msmemory and I each brought one (she having forbidden me to bring my usual black felt fedora, on the grounds that it would be terminally stupid down here). But my last straw hat is one I've really never liked: it was from a brand I liked, but it never fit properly. My shopping project in the Tourist District of Nassau was a straw hat that I actually like. There, I found a thoroughly cheap western-style one, and later a really nice Panama. So I am now well behatted for the rest of the trip.
At the Dolphin Encounter, msmemory accidentally places her hand a little too close to the dolphin's head. I hadn't known that dolphins could blow a raspberry -- much less stick out their tongue at you. But it's a delight nonetheless, as we are put through paces of petting, hugging and dancing (well, kind of) with the dolphin.
Sitting in "Hercules, the Muse-ical", I find myself playing the game of trying to decide which character matches which Commedia archetype. But really, the better analogy is Spamalot -- it's related to the movie (AFAIK, having not seen the movie all the way through yet), but pretty different, using the stage to fine meta-story effect. Lots of fun, although almost too many high notes without any quiet bits inside this one-hour compression of the story.
Sunset over the water is obscured, but lovely nonetheless. The horizon is thick with low clouds that block the sun, but they break a bit higher, allowing the higher clouds to reflect the colors down. The very high cirrus, and a few small puffs scuddering across at high speed complete a sunset of real complexity.
Walking back to the room with our Happy Anniversary chocolate. Having admitted that this is kinda-sorta our 20th anniversary cruise, the waitstaff sung "Happy Anniversary to You" to us, and presented us with an extra dessert adorned with a slab of white chocolate with a picture of the ship and "Happy Anniversary" on it. The dessert was forgettable (the flavor was best described as "pink"), but the chocolate will be nibbled later.
Tuesday: Castaway Cay
msmemory sitting in the shallow water, in the midst of a great pod of a dozen or so stingrays. After half an hour of trying to come close to them (and not getting within five feet), she applied her great Animal Fu, sat placidly, and let them come to her, close enough to pet them.
A beachside wedding: just the bride and groom (with full satin dress and tuxedo), the minister, photographer and organist, off on a little spit of land. Nearby is a golf cart, covered with flowers and a sign saying "Just Married".
Chasing the Wily Inner Tube: one of the day's activities was gentle tubing in Serenity Bay. But the wind was intense enough to make it a bit of a ride: start at one end, get in the tube, get blown to the other end of the beach, walk back and start over. Which was fine until msmemory's tube got away from her and began accelerating into the Crew Beach. Chasing it down (running full-tilt in three feet of water) was the best exercise this week.