At Sea

Sunday, July 6th was our day at sea. We were still adjusting to the 6-hour time zone difference when we were told to set our clocks back yet another hour. Travelling to Europe is amazing. Dealing with jet lag, not so much.

Today would be a bit of a relaxing day. A chance to enjoy the ship and to prepare ourselves for the upcoming ports of call.

And a punishing 2-hour exercise session at the fitness club. Have to try to keep in shape with all of this eating.

With that, let’s explore the Disney Magic.

The Disney Magic was launched in 1998. She was refurbished in 2008 and went through another refurbishment in 2013. She is 984 feet in length, a maximum width of 106 feet and she can cruise at up to 22 knots. She can hold 2,700 passengers. The Magic has 11 decks.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we were in stateroom 7092. (Click on any image for a larger photo and slideshow).

Stateroom 7092

However, many Disney passengers cannot tolerate a minimalist doorway into their stateroom. All around the passenger decks were doors like this one on stateroom 7043.

Stateroom 7043

When we first entered the ship on deck 3, this was our view.

Disney Magic

Disney Magic

Disney Magic

Deck 3 midships is the main gathering area for many of the shipboard events and it would usually include live entertainment and half a dozen photographers taking family portraits. It could get pretty crowded.

Senses Spa and Salon was where the fitness club was located on Deck 9 forward. A beautiful environment. Although I didn’t take any photos of the fitness area — there are some limits after all — the cardio machines overlook the bow of the ship. It was novel to spin and perceive forward momentum with panoramic views of the ocean.

Senses Spa and Salon

The Magic offers three main dining areas plus a buffet. I think our favourite restaurant was Animator’s Palate. It is a 462-seat restaurant on Deck 4.

Animator's Palate

Animator's Palate

Lumiere’s was likely our second favourite restaurant on the ship. More of a formal, elegant restaurant.

Disney Magic

Carioca’s was a bit of a step down from the other two restaurants. Pleasant but not as unique as Animator’s Palate and Lumiere’s.

Carioca's

And finally, Cabanas. I’ll show you the entrance into the restaurant. Beware of buffet restaurants. All you can eat buffet restaurants can be hazardous to your health.

Cabanas

Unique to the Disney Cruise Lines dining experience is the concept of rotating restaurants. We were assigned a table — for this cruise we were table 1 — and each night we went to a different restaurant. We were served by the same dining team. They become good friends during the cruise and their service is unlike anything I have experienced in a restaurant setting. They knew us by name before we met them. Here was our serving team. First was Cedomir from Croatia. He did so many small things to make the cruise memorable particularly for Matthew.

Head Server

Ralex was our drink server. He is from the Philippines. He has served on the Disney Cruise Lines for 15 years.

Drink Server

And Mehmet from Turkey was our server. Wonderful man. Always kind, attentive and very hard-working.

Server

To close off our tour of the Disney Magic, a few shots from around the ship.

Outdoor Dining

Smokestack

Disney Magic

Walt Disney Theatre

Water Slide

Outdoor Lounge

Cove Cafe

Sailing Away

Saturday, July 5th. Today is the day we set sail from Venice.

Our time to leave for the ship was 11:00am so we had the morning to ensure that everything was packed and ready to go.

Not hard to do when you only have a few bags.

Travel Light

Venice is built on an archipelago of 117 islands formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon, connected by 409 bridges. I  know this because I counted all of the islands, canals and bridges. I also took photos of all of the bridges — okay, not all, but a few. Here is a sample of a few of those bridges. Click on any photo for a larger image and slideshow.

Bridge Over Canal

Bridge Over Canal

Bridge Over Canal

Bridge Over Canal

Bridge Over Canal

We took a water taxi ride to the main transportation hub in Venice. The photo above was taken on board the water taxi. A short drive to the terminal and we were ready to board the Disney Magic.

Disney Magic

The boarding protocol was much better organized this year. Last year at the port of Barcelona, it was a bit of a horror story. We were given the boarding call number 35 in Barcelona. At the time, I did not understand the significance of boarding call number 35. But, as we gathered in a huge, featureless room, it became clear that 35 was not a good number. We arrived to the Barcelona terminal waiting area at about 11:30am and, after half an hour of Disney calling boarding numbers, we were only at call number 4. Why on earth would Disney transport us from the hotel at 11:00am only to make us wait 2 hours or longer to board?

This year, we had the boarding number 12. And we were on the ship within 30 minutes.

Same stateroom as last year: 7092.

Stateroom 7092

Stateroom 7092

We left the port of Venice in the early afternoon which provided us some excellent views of the city from the ship. We did not have to join the crowds on deck as our verandah faced the city.

Venice

Venice

After an afternoon and evening getting reacquainted with the Disney Magic, we retired for the evening. And the first of many towel creations lay waiting in our stateroom. First day at sea ahead.

Stateroom 7092 Turndown

Venice

Our first full day in Venice was Friday, July 4th. We had no set agenda other than to walk the city. And walk we did. According to my FitBit device, we walked about 12 miles.

Click on any photo for a larger image and a slideshow.

We started by exploring the canals near our hotel.Venice is certainly a city that exhibits character. Some view the character as a city in decay. And, in many respects, it definitely is in decay. But it also has character. Like this home. The building is a bit unusual in that it is all brick and the condition of the building is excellent. I wonder about the bars on all of the windows, both first and second levels. Obviously a bit of concern around the security of the building.

Canal

As before, we elected to spend most of our time away from the main tourist areas. The city itself is surprisingly quiet and all of the canals have wonderful highlights like this particular bridge.

Bridge Over Canal

Water taxis are the limousines of Venice: spacious leather-upholstered cabins, open-air seating in the stern, and private captains to chauffeur you up the Grand Canal or on a high-speed run between the airport and your hotel, they offer an experience that you won’t forget in a hurry. And you won’t forget the price either. A very expensive way to travel.

Water Taxi

Water Taxis

There was a surprising amount of graffiti in Venice. There were slogans like this one:

Graffiti

I’m not sure but I think this slogan is a protest against the MOSE project that is currently underway in Venice. This is a project that is intended to prevent flooding in the city of Venice. The project started in 2003 and it is expect to complete in 2016. The cost is roughly 7 billion euros. Environmentalists and some political groups strongly oppose the project hence the slogan: Grandi opere, grandi affari solo per la mafia which roughly translated means great business for the mafia.

You can learn more about the MOSE project here.

Venice is a relatively compact city and you really cannot get lost. Which is why we used a map. We were lost. Lost without our smartphones and GPS.

Lost in Venice

There are restaurants everywhere in Venice. In the alleyways and by the canals.

Eating in Venice

Eating in Venice

Dinner

And how is the food delivered to the restaurants? By boat.

Freight

Although we wandered away from the tourist areas, we were never really that far from tourists. And most of them carried cameras. It was a bit concerning at first as everyone seems to be carrying a camera and taking pictures of you as part of their touring. Then again, I might just be a touch paranoid.

Smile

Lots of selfies in Venice. And yes. I decided to take pictures of other tourists too. When in Venice…

Selfie

Here are a few other shots from the day in Venice.

Canal

Canal

Laundry

Hotel

And a shot of a leaning tower in Venice. This one is at Campanile di Santo Stefano. The Church of St. Stephen was founded in the 13th Century and underwent renovations in both the 14th and 15th Centuries. The lean is quite dramatic.

Leaning Tower of Venice

Travel Day

Every journey has a beginning and an end.

I like beginnings!

We left Kingston around noon on Wednesday, July 2nd. Our first stop was at the home of Lorraine’s aunt and uncle. They are such a wonderful couple and they had graciously offered us a place to park our car for our time away from Canada and they also drove us to and from the airport.

Of course, just getting into Toronto itself is a nightmare these days. We hit heavy congestion outside Whitby at 2:30pm. Although we were not in a big rush, we did want to have dinner with Keith and Marg before heading out to the airport. So we diverted off the 401 and slowly reconnected with Highway 407.

Three hours later and we had completed the first leg of our journey: Keith and Marg’s home.

After an early dinner, Keith and Marg drove us to Pearson. We arrived at the airport shortly before 6:00pm. We were able to walk right through security. We travelled light — only carry-on. So, no baggage check, no lines at the security gate and no customs protocol.

Our flight was supposed to start boarding at 8:15pm but we did not begin the boarding until 8:45pm. We were flying premium economy which allowed us to board early. We were also flying Air Canada Rouge which meant an older aircraft and a pretty basic flight experience. Seats were okay but we were really not able to sleep. I caught maybe an hour or two of sleep before we arrived into Venice at around 11:40am local time or 5:40am eastern daylight savings time.

In Venice, it was Thursday, July 3rd.

We left the airplane and the arrival gate a bit uncertain as to protocol. Unlike entering the United States where a customs official interrogates you with numerous detailed questions, European entry consists of a customs official with a stamp. And all the only thing they did was stamp our passports. No electronic scanning. No questions.

We made our way to the arrivals area hoping that our transportation to the hotel would be there. And, thankfully, a driver with our name on a placard was there patiently awaiting our arrival.

We had about a 20-minute drive to the main transportation drop-off point in Venice. From there we transferred to a water taxi and we enjoyed about a 15-minute trip to our hotel.
The ride along the canals, particularly the Grande Canal, was incredible. Venice is a stunning city.

The water taxi offered us the first view of our hotel — the Centurion Palace is the tallest palace at the centre of the image below (just underneath and in front of the large dome). Click on any image for a larger photograph and slideshow.

Grand Canal

We arrived at the dock of the Centurion Palace hotel in Venice. The hotel is basically at the farthest point of the Grande Canal. We were fortunate to be upgraded to a suite that overlooked the Grand Canal. Our arrival to the hotel was around noon. We had a few hours before our room was ready so we had lunch on the hotel terrace. The terrace is right by the water so we enjoyed a wonderful meal against an awesome backdrop of majestic palaces, gondolas and water taxis. Lorraine and Matthew strategized on our plans for the afternoon.

The Map of Venice

This was the view from our lunch table.

Grand Canal

After lunch, we walked briefly around the area of the hotel. Immediately outside the hotel was an artist with his dog. A very talented dog. When the artist was not painting, he played soccer with his dog. The dog could play. But, with 34 Celsius heat, the dog did not play for very long.

Artist and Companion

One of a number of stores near the hotel. Lots of interesting and unique products.

Gift Shop

We made our way back to the hotel to get settled into our room. By 3:30pm we were ready to walk through Venice.

And walk we did.

We walked 20 kilometres that day.

The Academy Bridge — Ponte dell Accademia — crosses the Grand Canal at the Galleria dell Accademia, one of the top museums in Venice. This is a popular crossing area for tourists as the bridge offers some excellent views of the Grand Canal. It is also covered in locks. Couples buy locks, place them on the handrails of the bridge and then throw the keys into the canal.

This bridge is also one of the main gateways to the tourist areas of Venice.

Here is a candid shot of Lorraine and Matthew on the Academy Bridge. I never, ever posed them for any of their photographs.

Academy Bridge

There are no cars in Venice. Nor did I see any motorcycles or scooters. And no cyclists. Except for the Forever Bicycles display at Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti in Venice, I did not see any road bikes. Well, correction. I did watch the Tour De France on TV both at the hotel in Venice and on the cruise ship. Yes, I know there was some other sporting thing going on — something to do with a soccer ball. But come on. Was anyone really watching anything other than the TDF??

Forever Bicycles

The display consists of 1,179 steel bicycles stacked and connected together. It took me some time to count them all.

As we progressed into the tourist areas, Venice became more and more congested. Even the canal system.

Gondola Congestion

Too many gondolas, not enough canals.

The square around San Marco was also congested with tourists. The main waterfront boulevard was also full of tourists.

Shopping in Venice

The Promenade near San Marco

The trick to touring Venice? Get away from the tourist spots. There are only a few areas where the tourists flock. And walking just outside of those tourist areas offers an entirely different experience of Venice. Here is a set of photos that show the beauty and the tranquility of the less travelled areas of Venice.

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Most of the tourists leave Venice at night. Even the Grand Canal becomes silent.

Grand Canal

And the gondola congestion eases off at night. Although you pay more for a gondola ride at night, it is well worth the extra cost.

20140703_venice_201

We returned to the hotel around 9pm. Exhausted and yet energized by this beautiful and vibrant place.

Magic Ahead

20130824_barcelona_290

This was my first view of the Disney Magic just as we were boarding the ship in Barcelona last year. The Magic was completely refurbished in October of 2013 just after our cruise. An extensive renovation literally from bow to stern.

We return to the Magic in a few days for a cruise that originates in Venice, Italy and makes its way to Greece and Turkey.

cruise

Our flight leaves Toronto tomorrow evening. We fly out at 9:15pm and we arrive in Venice on Thursday around noon local time. We’ll have two and a half days to take in Venice before we board the ship for a ten-day cruise. And then back to Venice for a couple of days.

This is all of our luggage for the two-week adventure in Europe:

bags

I have a small camera bag which contains a Nikon Df body, a 24-120mm and 50mm lens, a Sony RX-100 compact camera, memory cards and a portable hard drive. 8 pounds.

My luggage is in a very tiny Samsonite bag. 14 pounds.

Matthew has a backpack and he is carrying the computer and tablets. 12 pounds for the backpack and 8 pounds for the MacBook Air and two iPads.

And Lorraine has a small rollaboard — which in the picture above appears to dwarf all of the other bags — and that one weighs in at 16 pounds. We carry a surprising amount of clothing in a very small set of bags largely due to the wise advice at OneBag. We will carry everything on to the plane and save on baggage fees and walk directly off the airplane.

Our oldest son will be house-sitting for us. Hopefully no wild parties while we are away.

It has been a crazy few months leading up to this break. I can really use the time to disconnect and unwind.

I’ll post as I am able.

His and Hers

colnago-epq colnago-acr

Colnagos. An EPQ for him and and AC-R for her. I guess I will be doing a few more group rides from now on.

So wonderful to have Lorraine join the cycling community. I will have to help her learn the rules of cycling — all 95 of them.

Mother’s Day

We were away for the Mother’s Day weekend visiting my daughter and her family. In addition to Mother’s Day, we celebrated our granddaughter’s birthday — she is now three years of age — and our grandson’s dedication.

I shot my Nikon Df with a new lens, the Nikon 24-120mm F4. Really pleased with how well the lens performed on this camera.

Click on an image for a larger photo.

New Camera
Smile for the Camera
Baby Dedication
Backyard Balloons
Grandmother

35 Years

Lorraine and I will be celebrating 35 years of marriage on Monday.

We started this way:

rclc20s

And we are currently here:

rclc50s

I am so thankful for Lorraine.