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Day One: Ft. Lauderdale

Posted on March 8th, 2012

Dave!Greetings from onboard the mighty Island Princess.

Embarkation was a breeze... a pleasure even... which is not something I can say about most cruises I have taken. Not only did everything go quickly with a minimum time spent waiting in line, but the stateroom was ready before I even stepped foot on the ship.

After a nice buffet lunch, a safety drill, and smooth sailing out of Port Everglades, we were at sea, sailing away from grey skies towards a sunnier climate...

Passing Liberty Of The Seas

Passing Ft. Lauderdale Beach

Dinner, as usual for a cruise ship, was excellent. They have a decent Fettucini Alfredo as a standard menu item, which is pretty sweet. And then, before I even realized it, the sun went down and the night was here...

Lido Deck at Night

Tomorrow is a "day at sea" which is not my favorite thing, but I'm sure I'll manage doing nothing just fine.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Animated Character...

Bad Monkey and GIR

This was a complete no-brainer. There are a lot of animated characters I like (Batman, Sully Monster, Stitch, etc.)... but my hands-down favorite is GIR from Invader Zim. His crazy antics crack me up every time, and they managed to give him a personality that is something really special. Oh how I wish that they would make more Zim cartoons. I've seen the existing ones so many times I'm starting to memorize them.

   

Day Fourteen: GHOST SHIP!

Posted on September 17th, 2010

Dave!Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later... RAIN!

I'm just lucky it decided to wait until all the port excursions were over.

After the incredibly beautiful weather I've had since day one, it's impossible to complain about things now. In a way, it's perfect, because I can just kick back and relax without feeling any pressure to do anything. Except pack. And pay my bill. Blech...

Storm on the Sea

If there's one benefit of having crappy weather, much of the ship is abandoned...

Ghost Ship!

Ghost Ship!

Ghost Ship!

Ghost Ship!

But the best part of my day? I got to have breakfast with Mickey Mouse...

Dave2 and Mickey!

Fortunately, I was dressed for the occassion.

Onward to Barcelona...

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Day Twelve: Ajaccio

Posted on September 15th, 2010

Dave!Pulling into the Corsican port of Ajaccio under flawless blue skies, I'm once again thankful for my unprecedented luck with the weather. On every other cruise I've taken, there's been at least one port that's overcast and rainy.

When it came to shore excursions for Corsica I decided on the long drive to Corte, the former capitol. The tour description promised a look at Corsica's rich and interesting history, which was all I needed to know.

Surprisingly, the road to Corte in the interior of the island is pretty rugged and mountainous...

Corsican Mountains

Road to Corte

Road to Corte

Corte itself is a nice city with some interesting places to eplore...

Corte Corsica

Corte Corsica

Another day gone. My vacation is passing all too quickly.

   

Day Eleven: La Spezia

Posted on September 14th, 2010

Dave!Most people on the ship seem to be taking a long bus ride into Pisa or Florence from our place of landing here in the port city of La Spezia. Since I've already been both places, I decided to try something different and visit the coastal cities of Santa Margherita and Portofino.

It turned out to be a good decision.

Both cities are absolutely beautiful... rivaling even the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. Santa Margherita is the larger of the two, and has a beautiful cathedral that's a little plain on the outside, but magnificent on the inside. In a disturbing turn, they seemed to be selling tribbles at the fruit markets here...

Santa Margherita

Santa Margherita

Santa Margherita Statue of Mary

Santa Margherita Fruit Market Tribbles

Santa Margherita Cathedral

Santa Margherita Cathedral

And, as if Santa Margherita wasn't beautiful enough, along comes Portofino. The city is just fantastic for tourists, and has terrific gelato...

Portofino, Italy

Portofino, Italy

Portofino Gelato

Portofino, Italy

Portofino, Italy

I never get this lucky when it comes to vacation weather. I'm guessing a thunderstorm will be coming along any minute now...

   

Day Ten: Rome

Posted on September 13th, 2010

Dave!Blah blah blah... Vatican City... Blah blah blah... St. Peter's Basilica... Blah blah blah... The Colosseum... Blah blah blah... The Pantheon... Blah blah blah... Trevi Fountain... Blah blah blah...

FETTUCINI ALFREDO!

As I've mentioned more than a few times before, my favorite restaurant on earth is Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa in Rome. So when the ship docked at Civitavecchia, I jumped at the chance to take a bus into the city so I could have my favorite meal...

Fettucini Alfredo

It was, as expected, beyond delicious.

Other than that, I just wandered around The Eternal City... killing time until my bus returned to port...

St. Peters Basilica

St. Peters Basilica

St. Peters Basilica

St. Peters Basilica

Colosseum

Colosseum

Fresco Painting

The Pantheon

Trevi Fountain

Rome is very beautiful and exciting... but it's the Fettucini Alfredo that makes me want to come back.

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Day Nine: The Amalfi Coast

Posted on September 12th, 2010

Dave!Though I've been to Italy three times, I've never made it to the Southern part of the country. After seeing the beauty of the Amalfi Coast in a number of movies and travel shows, it's someplace I've always been dying to go.

Today was the day.

Not finding a shore excursion tour that I liked, I booked a personal car and driver. It was expensive as hell, but I wasn't going to quibble over cost when it came to the destination highlight of my entire cruise. Being able to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted was invaluable. And, hey, sometimes you just have to say "forget food and rent, this is something I have to do."

The problem is that the Amalfi area has been besieged by torrential rains and flooding over the past couple of days. Yesterday, there were landslides which tore through a small village just south of Amalfi itself. When I woke up this morning, I was wondering if it would even be possible to go.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

My driver told me that today's weather is about as good as it gets... blue skies and sun with minimal haze. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled at my good fortune. The day started in the city of Sorrento...

Sorrento View

Sorrento Square

Sorrento Church

From Sorrento I was dropped down the coast in Positano. Easily one of the most beautiful places on earth...

Positano View

Positano Steps

Positano Church

Positano Beach

Positano Beach View

After Positano, the driver dropped me in Amalfi for a while...

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi View

Amalfi Beach View

Amalfi Beach View

Amalfi Church

Amalfi Church

And the final stop was the beautiful city of Ravello...

Ravello View

Ravello Villas

All in all, it was an amazing day. The best day. And the night views of Naples back onboard the ship were pretty spectacular too...

Moon Over Naples

And who knows what adventures tomorrow will bring...

   

For anybody Googling information about the Amalfi Coast and looking for a car and driver to see the sights, I give my highest possible recommendation to Sorrento Limo. They specialize in handling cruise ship excursions, and are able to go places that the big tour busses cannot. But even more important, my driver Genarro asked questions to find out my goals for the trip. Once he found out I was interested in photography, he went out of his way to create the perfect itinerary and find spectacular photo spots for me. I could not have been happier with the service I received, and give them my highest possible recommendation.

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Day Eight: Tunisia

Posted on September 11th, 2010

Dave!And here I am back in Africa... this time in beautiful Tunisia.

The first stop was in ancient Carthage, which was a major city back in its heyday. There are a number of ruins around, but the tour I had focused on the colosseum and Roman baths... both in pretty bad shape, but still very interesting...

Colosseum at Carthage

Roman Baths at Carthage

Roman Baths at Carthage

From there it was a quick stop at The Bardo Museum, which was something I was very much looking forward to (and the only criteria I had for picking a shore excursion package). Their collection of mosaics is fantastic, and to be able to see them in person is like a dream come true. In many ways, mosaic is somewhat like the early days of computer pixel art, and I've always been fascinated with the stuff...

Bardo Museum Mosaic

Bardo Museum Mosaic Detail

Bardo Museum Mosaic Four-Panel

Bardo Museum Mosaic Tree Man

Bardo Museum Mosaic

I could have easily spent a full day here, but with a mere 40 minutes I just pushed my way through as many rooms as possible before heading off to the Tunis Medina. Much of the Medina market was closed, which ended up being a total blessing. With many of the side-streets vacated, I was left with photographic opportunities literally too good to be true, but still had some excitement to experience down the main passages...

Tunis Medina

Busy Main Passage at the Medina Market

Medina Lighting Seller

Medina Empty Alley

Medina Market Toys

Medina Market Door

Medina Market Wiring

Roof View of the Medina

Time for a lunch break...

Arabic Coca-Cola!

Since the tour group consisted mostly of Americans, the guide was kind enough to then drive us through the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial, where soldiers from World War II are buried. As it was 9-11, the flag was flying at half-mast...

Tunis American Cemetery

Flag Half-Mast at the Tunis American Cemetery

The final stop on the tour was the beautiful blue-and-white city of Sidi Bou Said (sid-dee boo sigh-eed). Much like Santorini, all the buildings are colored to compliment the sea and sky. I could have stayed here for days just photographing the amazing doors that permeate the city...

Mosque of Sidi Bou Said

Blue Doors

Blue Doors

Blue Doors

Blue Doors

Many of the doors have beautiful decorative nails pounded into them. The guide explained that Muslim houses are typically very plain on the outside so you can't tell what's inside. To illustrate how wealthy a person was, they used to decorate their door with ornate silver and gemstone patterns. Now-a-days, of course, any such valuables would be stolen immediately, so the painted nails are used as a symbolic expression of how the decorations used to be.

After an exhaustive day running around Northern Tunisia, it was back to the ship for dinner and one amazing sunset at sea off the African coast...

Africa Sunset

And that's the joy and hurt of a cruise... they allow you to see so many wonderful places in a single journey, but only for a very short time. As I boarded the ship I wanted nothing more to run back to the dock and lose myself in Tunis again but, alas, I'm off to new places and new adventures...

   

Day Seven: Malta

Posted on September 10th, 2010

Dave!Visiting Malta was a big plus on this trip, because there are not one... but two Hard Rock properties on the island (three if you count the cafe extension at the airport). I've been meaning to visit here for years, but the airfare and hotel cost was always high compared to other "Hard Rock Cities" in Europe. Now, however, neither airfare nor hotel were required. Cruises do have their benefits.

My day started with a tour through the current capitol city of Valletta and the previous capitol city of Mdina. Both places were filled with wondrous things to experience, so having only a single day ashore made seeing it all impossible. Cruises do have their drawbacks as well.

First stop... the current capitol of Malta, Valletta...

Approaching Valletta

Approaching Valletta

Valletta Cat

Valletta Church

Inside Valletta Church

Valletta Church Skulls!

Then to the former capitol of Malta, Mdina...

Mdina Church

Mdina Church

Mdina

Mdina Alleyway

Then a pricey taxi ride to the other side of the harbor for a Hard Rock Cafe visit...

Hard Rock Cafe Malta

Inside the Hard Rock Cafe

Then back to Valletta for the Hard Rock Bar...

Hard Rock Bar Malta

Inside the Hard Rock Bar Malta

Alas, this ends my first shore excursion.

   

Day Six: Somewhere In The Mediterranean

Posted on September 9th, 2010

Dave!As I am not so much the cruising type, I always try to pick itineraries with the fewest days at sea. If a cruise has more than two days in a row with no port call, it's eliminated. If a cruise doesn't spend at least 3/4 of it's time in ports of call, it's eliminated. Not that there's not a bunch of stuff to do onboard... far from it... there's all kinds of activities and non-stop eating to keep you busy. But, for me at least, time on the boat is wasted time. No matter how nice the ship is it still feels like I'm trapped with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

And it's not like you have the internet to keep you occupied.

Because the internet is outrageously slow (when it works at all) and even more outrageously expensive ($150 for 500 minutes... which is actually more like 150 minutes because of the slow speed, or around $1 a minute). Not really an option unless you're made of money. Which I'm not. Especially after paying for this cruise.

Anyway... internet aside, the Disney Magic is a pretty amazing ship.

A lot of the more impressive elements (such as a grand atrium) that you find on other cruise ships have been sacrificed to make room for more kid-based activity areas, but the more adult-oriented activities and area are still here as well. This is a win-win, because the kids are pretty much segregated so adults traveling without kids aren't having to deal with screaming children all the time. On the contrary, I rarely see any kids unless I'm passing through an area they frequent. Even at dinner, they seat people without kids with other people without kids. So, despite being a "ship built for families," I find the Disney Magic no more annoying than any other cruise I've been on child-wise...

Kids on the Disney Magic

Disney Magic Mickey Kids Pool

This was a very pleasant (and very welcome) surprise.

Disney Magic Sports Deck

So far, all the food has been amazing in both quality and variety. The service is impeccable. Everything is clean to the point of being spotless. The ship itself is beautifully-designed. This is pretty much par for the course with all cruise lines, but Disney takes it all to new levels by adding their unique theming to everything. Restaurants are all Disney-inspired. Amenities are all Disney-branded. Disney characters are always making appearances around the ship. It's Disney through and through so, if you're a Disney-whore like me, you couldn't ask for anything more.

Disney Magic Donald Duck

Disney Magic Outdoor Screen and Pool

If I have to be trapped on a giant boat at sea, I'm glad it's this one. With Mickey Mouse as the ship's captain, how could I not be?

   

Day Five: The Disney Magic

Posted on September 8th, 2010

Dave!Wheeeee! I'm cruising with Mickey Mouse!

I am not much of a "cruise person" as the idea of being trapped on a big boat full of idiots is not something I find relaxing or entertaining. Taking a Disney cruise is doubly heinous because being trapped on a big boat full of idiots AND THEIR KIDS sounds like a form of torture I have no intention of enduring. At least not while sober. Or conscious.

Buuuuuuut...

The Disney Magic ship.

The reviews I've read rave about Disney, and they had an itinerary that looked interesting, so here I am.

All I can say so far is that chocolate pudding is excellent.

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