Disney Magic At Sea Staycation Cruise Part 3 – Debaraktion Day, Merch And Final Thoughts

Still here? It’s been a bit of an epic one sharing details of my recent Disney Magic At Sea cruise experience, but with so much on offer it’s hard to do it justice otherwise. In this third and final post, I’ll recap our final morning, debarkation arrangements and share the merch I bought (there’s probably a reason the latest Disney earnings call was so positive haha!). If you missed the previous posts you can catch up on part 1 here and part 2 here.

Now let’s go…!

Tipping and Debarkation Arrangements

Tipping is the norm on board and on the final night of the cruise information is delivered to your stateroom to help you organise this. There are envelopes for your stateroom attendant and dining service team, and a standard amount is added to your onboard account to cover this. If you’re happy with it, all you have to do is pop the slips detailing the tip in the relevant envelope and either hand it directly to the recipient or leave it in an appropriate place (your stateroom for your attendant or your breakfast table for your service team). Of course if you’re unhappy with the tip amounts added, you can visit guest services to amend things. Similarly, if you would like to leave cash then you can pop that in the envelope. We Brits aren’t used to tipping so this is a very straightforward way to manage the process, and by sticking to the amounts added to your account, there’s no risk of insulting someone by tipping too low!

You should also tip your server when purchasing drinks, but this can be added to your bill when you sign for the payment on your account. It’s easy to keep track of your spending in the Navigator app.

As for debarkation arrangements, this is all detailed in the app throughout the cruise so you can plan accordingly. You have the option of leaving your suitcase outside your stateroom the night before (luggage labels are delivered to your stateroom alongside the tipping information) so your luggage is transported off the ship for you, or you can do the “express walk off” where you take everything with you. We only had small cases so were happy to do this. You are also given a time to go to one of the dining rooms for your breakfast. Times are staggered to streamline the process and will likely be dictated by the onward travel information you provide when completing online check-in. Our flight wasn’t until late afternoon so our breakfast slot wasn’t until 8:40, meaning we were around 10am before we were ready to leave the ship. You should note, however, that when you leave your stateroom to go for breakfast you should have EVERYTHING with you as you won’t be able to return afterwards – it will be getting cleaned and sanitised already! Our stateroom attendant came to our door to remind us of this and say goodbye shortly before we left.

Also in our stateroom was a form with a survey to give feedback on our cruise. This helps to identify any issues there might have been and hopefully prevent them happening again. We had a fantastic experience so were happy to rate everything very highly and include the names of staff members who had helped to make things magical.

Animator’s Palate

I mentioned rotational dining in part 2 of my recap. Since there are three dining rooms it doesn’t take a genius to work out that on a 2 night cruise there will be one location you don’t get to have dinner in. To mitigate this, that third dining room becomes your final morning breakfast location on a 2 night cruise. For us, it was Animator’s Palate.

This was actually a restaurant I was keen to have dinner in and would actually have preferred to switch this with Lumière’s so that we could enjoy the show in this one (no show at breakfast time). Lumière’s was great, but I was a little disappointed to miss out on the show in Animator’s Palate and breakfast in Lumière’s would still have allowed me to see the stunning space.

This restaurant is themed to Disney animation and was still stunning even without the dinner show.

Our service team was still there for us and, like at dinner, we could order whatever we wanted form the menu and they would bring it to us. We had juice, coffee, a pastry and a cooked breakfast with some toast on the side. I may have let our server keep on refilling my coffee cup to prolong our time left on board! It was good to fill up before hanging around Southampton for a bit as it meant we didn’t need to get any more food while we waited.

Debarkation

When we finally tore ourselves away from the breakfast table, there was nothing for it but to leave the ship (they keep everywhere else closed so there is nothing to distract you from leaving – they need to get everything cleaned and ready for the next set of guests!).

We took our suitcases to the atrium where we scanned out with our key to the world card and soon found ourselves making our way back down the gangway and into the terminal. We hadn’t left British waters so there was no need for our passports to be checked or anything, and since we had our luggage with us we could walk straight out of there. Very simple.

Merchandise

Let’s face it, there was NO WAY I was going on a Disney cruise without buying loads of merch! I actually had a list of things I was looking for, mostly created from my knowledge of the sort of merch Disney makes anyway and then refined once I watched a couple of vlogs from another cruise. I had plenty of space in my suitcase and after doing relatively little for a year (and more!) was in the fortunate position that I had the means to treat myself. There were some disappointments as some items sold out super fast, but all in all I was happy with my purchases. Here’s a look at my haul:

Loungefly: backpack, lanyard/card holder and Christmas ornament.

Face masks. These were not in the packs I got on Shop Disney.

A lanyard and pins.

Spirit Jersey.

Front

Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T-shirts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plushes (Captain Duffy and Captain Minnie – Captain Mickey was sold out so I’m hoping to find him in future 🤞).

And of course, EARS!!

A pretty decent haul of things I tend to collect anyway, but in their Cruise Line versions.

Final Thoughts

Overall it was an absolutely brilliant experience and I’m so glad I did it. I’ve long wanted to go on a Disney cruise and was disappointed I didn’t get the chance while my sister was working her Cruise Line contract, so this experience scratched that itch. Of course it’s also now made me want to go on a longer cruise, with it now being a bucket list item for me to go on a sailing that includes a stop at Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. I also, of course, want to cruise with Steve as I know he would love the food options and variety of things to do. It may not be any time soon, but I will be back on the Magic or one of her sisters (Wonder, Dream, Fantasy or, currently being built, Wish) one day. I can highly recommend it.

Oh, for interested, here’s where we went:

And if you’re going on a Magic At Sea cruise this summer, I’d love to hear all about it.

Have a magical day and I’ll “sea” ya real soon!

Disney Magic At Sea Staycation Cruise Part 2 – Day At Sea

In this second part of my Disney Magic at Sea recap, I’ll cover what we got up to during our full day on board (part 1 is here if you missed it). We were certainly spoilt for choice as far as things to do were concerned and there was far more on offer than we we could possibly fit in. We did have some “must do” activities in mind, and used the Navigator app to favourite everything we were interested in. This was handy because it meant that 15 minutes ahead of the start time, we got a notification reminding us of the activity and, more importantly the location – make sure you have notifications on so you get these (mine also went to my Apple Watch, which was really handy).

Join me as I recap our magical day at sea…

Cabanas

We had both made an active start to the morning – my sister to the gym and me to the running deck – so were both in need of some food. We chose not to go to one of the main dining rooms as we had a reservation for brunch later in the morning and didn’t want to be too full, so chose Cabanas instead so we could opt for something lighter, just enough to take the edge off! Under normal circumstances Cabanas would be a buffet, but since buffets aren’t happening right now, it is set up with a number of identical stations, each featuring the exact same selection of food, and you simply tell the member of staff behind the counter what you would like and they serve it for you – if you want to pile your plate high with something, they’ll do that for you, no limits! We were required to wash or sanitise our hands before entering and we were greeted by a member of staff who explained the process, reminded us to wait until the party in front of us was finished before going up, etc.

I opted for a Mickey churro (all food tastes better when it’s Mickey-shaped!) and a chocolate chip pancake. The server seemed surprised when I said that was all I wanted, so I felt obliged to explain that I had a brunch booking so really only wanted a snack!

Drinks were also served to us at the drink station rather than it being self service, and here I went for orange juice and coffee. But not just any old coffee, the Joffrey’s coffee I have come to love in Walt Disney World. The first sip transported me to WDW, it just tasted like Disney parks in the morning!

We didn’t stay long as we wanted to fit in some more bits and pieces before changing for brunch, but the food all looked really great – fruit, cereals, cooked items, baked goods – so on another occasion I would have a decent go and trying lots of different things!

Marvel Morning

Although there were no themed events (Disney cruises in the “olden days” were known for things like Marvel Day at sea, Star Wars Day at sea, Pirate Day, etc) we were told that this particular morning would have a Marvel theme. This meant that the background music playing around the ship was Marvel, there were Marvel characters appearing in the atrium, Disney characters were wearing Marvel-themed clothing and there were Marvel activities like quizzes and animation classes. A brilliant morning for the Marvel fan. Since one of my lockdown projects had been to watch all of the MCU movies (just Black Widow to go now), I was looking forward to this.

The characters began appearing in the atrium not long after 8am and this was the first thing on the activity list for the day. With our stateroom being so near, we were able to see Captain Marvel on our way to breakfast, then later in the morning we saw Black Panther and Thor. These were great interactions, with the characters taking time to talk to guests or, in the case of Black Panther, encourage us to pose with our arms crossed over our chests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We didn’t have time for any of the quizzes or the animation class (I would have liked to do that one) but we did join the queue to meet Disney Pals in the cinema (where we had met Belle shortly after boarding). We were there before this started so were one of the earlier groups in and we got to meet Minnie Mouse and Pluto. Pluto was sporting a bandana with an Avengers motif, while Minnie had a Spider-Man logo on her top. Again, we had a lovely interaction.

I imagine the characters would have changed throughout the morning, but the queue was quite long when we passed again and we didn’t have time to wait.

Youth Activities Open House

The various Youth Activity areas are normally the sole preserve of the youngsters using them, however during the cruise there is also an “open house” to allow other guests to see that part of the ship. Having done my homework (read: I watched some vlogs) before our sailing I knew that Toy Story characters could be found in the Andy’s Room section of the Oceaneer’s Club, so we made sure to pay a visit after breakfast. While we were in Jessie was in attendance at one point there was nobody there getting pictures so we were able to spend a bit of time interacting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next to Andy’s Room there was also the Marvel Superhero Academy and although there were no characters there, it did offer some great photo ops and things to look at. I’d definitely recommend popping in here to see it.

Palo Brunch

Palo is positioned as a “chic, adult-exclusive” location and does have a dress code “to preserve the elegant ambiance”. In practice, this means dressing smartly (so no swimwear, shorts, torn clothing, etc). We had both packed a dress to put on so after Open House we headed back to our stateroom to change then went by the atrium to take some photos on the staircase while we were smartly dressed. Of course since we were inside we still had to have our masks on and my sister couldn’t stop laughing at me in my Mickey/Minnie face (as in their actual face) mask as she thought it was a bit too seamless looking on my face haha!

Palo is an additional charge of $45 per person, but I had heard that this was a must-do and my sister, despite working a contract on the Disney Wonder, had not had a chance to experience it so booking a table had been discussed before we even booked our cruise. If you’re thinking about it, I definitely think it was worth it.

We were greeted on arrival and shown to our table, which was by the window, although unfortunately this was at the part of the day when the weather was at its most iffy so mostly we watched a few brave souls stepping out into the rain and clutching their Minnie ears to prevent them blowing away 😂

The meal does include a mimosa (is that American for Buck’s Fizz?) but any further drinks would have a further cost. It was 11am so we were quite content with our mimosa and some water.

Our server David was superb. He was knowledgeable and attentive, without ever feeling intrusive. Although there is a menu, much like any other dining location on board you can order absolutely anything you want. I went so far as asking if there were any limits or “rules” and he told me not at all, whatever we asked for he would bring. And bring food he did! Again, in normal times there would have been a buffet as part of this experience but now everything is served to the table.

Having already eaten sweet foods for breakfast, I wanted savoury options, but we did also have a bread service and some pastries. By far the easiest choice was dessert – Warm Ameretto Chocolate Fondant, yum! This was David’s recommendation, but we had pretty much already picked that one out when we saw the menu!

We didn’t have any tea or coffee (which would have been an additional charge) as my sister was keen to get a coffee in the Cove Cafe and I was happy to go with that.

Overall a fantastic experience with AMAZING food. The only trouble is managing to eat enough of it!

Afternoon Activities

We did get changed again after Palo (I was on my holidays so regardless of the weather I was wearing shorts…with a jumper haha!) Then we got on with the important business of experiencing as many things as possible.

  • We went shopping (I’ll cover more about merch in part 3 of my recap)
  • We returned to the atrium to see the Disney Princesses – Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Tiana and Ariel
  • We took lots of photos at various locations around the ship
  • We went to a Disney trivia quiz.

Highlights for me were the princesses and the quiz. I really enjoyed the socially distanced character interactions as even with guests spread out, the characters took time to interact with everyone and often there were two or more characters there. I would say that any character interaction will be greatly improved if you can bring something to the experience to further the discussion, so knowing a bit of a character’s story is really helpful. I’m definitely getting better at this as I had some great interactions on board. I also noticed that if you happened to be a small child in a princess dress, you got a REALLY great deal when it came to interactions with the princesses!

The quiz was in the Promenade Lounge and there were 20 multiple choice questions. I think we got 15 right, which wasn’t bad since there were some we had to guess. There was quite a moment when the entertainment staff member read out the answers at the end. We had been asked what season Frozen takes place in (Answer: summer. The whole point is Elsa accidentally freezes summer and Anna needs to find her to reverse her magic and bring back summer. Olaf even sings an entire song about summer). But the answer was read out as winter (apparently the presence of snow made it winter – that’s not how seasons work!) and there was such an outcry from around the room that the poor guy had to give a point for summer AND for winter. I bet he went back later to check his answer sheet afterwards – can’t get anything past a Disney fan!

There was also a surprise at the end of the quiz as Donald and Daisy arrived to pose for photos (top tip: characters will likely turn up at most of these kinds of activities). Each table was brought up in turn to get a photo so that we could maintain a safe distance and not form a crowd.

Taking photos was also good fun as there are a number of places on board that make great photo locations. My suggestions include by the funnels on the top deck, by the statue in the atrium and in the large porthole windows along by the clubs and bars. And of course there are frequently characters in the atrium. As we passed back through there after the quiz we had a great interaction with Rapunzel.

After all that my sister wanted to go for her speciality coffee (one she used to have when she was on the Wonder) but I didn’t want to hang around in the cafe so went for a bit of a wander on my own. I got myself a Minute Maid lemonade (another taste of being in America for me) then an ice cream but that made me a little chilly so I got a Joffrey’s coffee (from the beverage station, so no charge) to warm me up again. By the time I got back my sister was having a lovely catch up with the server in the cafe who had worked with her on the Wonder.

By this point it was time to return to the theatre for our evening show, this one titled Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic. Another excellent show and another one that brought a tear to my eyes as it included songs from a number of my favourite Disney movies and had a heartwarming message. We sat a bit closer to the front this time and enjoyed bubbles and “snow” falling on us at appropriate points in the performance. Honestly if you love Disney music and/or live theatre, absolutely take the chance to see these Broadway-style shows if you’re on board. A very talented cast and there is something for everyone. We also got a bonus surprise before this show started as Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald were brought out on stage to perform a little song and dance. I enjoyed that!

When it was our turn to leave the theatre we headed off to get changed (yes, again. I promise each change was necessary and I actually did wear everything I had with me bar one T-shirt). Out turn-down service had already taken place so there was another towel animal waiting for us, alongside our debarkation information.

On the way past the atrium I spotted Pluto who was doing a brilliant job interacting with guests, then on the way back Captains Mickey and Minnie were there again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before dinner we wanted to go to  one of the lounges where the performer who had played Mother Gothel in Tangled the night before had a half hour slot to sing some classic Disney songs. It turned out she was actually Scottish and her performance was excellent. The venue felt safe as tables were spaced out, numbers were limited and we had to leave a space between parties. All very pleasant.

Lumière’s

In case you didn’t know, Disney cruise ships operate on a rotational dining basis. This means that rather than one main dining room, there are three and you “rotate” from one to the next. You have the same table number and service team each time, but get a different experience in each venue. On a cruise longer than three nights you would repeat one (or more) of the locations.

Lumière’s is, of course, themed to Beauty and the Beast. It is an elegant room reminiscent of a ballroom and while there is no show in this dining room, there is a pianist playing live music. The entrance is just off the atrium so we were treated to seeing the princesses again during our brief wait to enter.

Here the food was again fantastic. I’ll never say no to a bowl of French onion soup, the steak was cooked perfectly and as for that dessert…if you get the chance to have this signature offering of a classic Opera Gateau, you have to do it – your taste buds will thank you!

Evening Entertainment

After dinner we passed back through the atrium where Pluto, Mickey and Minnie were once again greeting guests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were on our way to the piano bar Keys. We wanted to have a drink and enjoy the live music. It felt very classy and the pianist was excellent – in the background yet aware of his audience as when we eventually left at the end of the night he drew us into his performance by switching seamlessly into the Mickey Mouse Club’s “Now it’s time to say goodbye” to wish us goodnight.

We both ordered a glass of fizz (we were on a fairly special trip after all!) and while we hadn’t intended staying as long as we did, we were having a lovely chat with our server Natallja and ended up hanging around. That’s something I’ve heard about the service on Disney ships before, that staff take an interest, engage you in conversation and, in the case of servers, remember your order so they can have it ready for you night after night if that’s what you want. From my experience, I would wholeheartedly agree with this. I wouldn’t normally sit on a bar chatting to my server, but this felt really nice, and you get to learn a bit about someone from a different part of the world.

The piano music from Tim Moss was actually the last thing on the activity list for the day, so we closed it down (and managed first activity to last – go us!). By the time we tumbled into bed it was already past midnight (but unlike Cinderella, I still had both my shoes and there wasn’t a pumpkin to be seen!).

 

We both had a really fantastic day and there were plenty of other things we could have done had there been time. For example, the cinema that had been used for character meets was, later in the day, used to screen movies. Had we wanted to we could have seen Cruella, Black Widow or Jungle Cruise, the latest Disney offerings currently only available for an additional fee on Disney+. On a longer sailing I might have considered it, but was reluctant to use up a couple of hours of precious cruise time to do something I could do at home (albeit without the additional fee). Instead, I wanted to do things that were more unique to the cruise experience.

Either way, once on board you can make your experience whatever you want it to be, whether that’s character meets, other activities or simply relaxing by the pool or eating as much as you can possibly squeeze in! I was really happy with our choices and we never had any “dead” time or time I felt was wasted, I just wished I could stretch the day out to fit in more!

 

Look out for my third (and final) Disney Magic At Sea post where I’ll go into a bit more detail about debarkation, onboard merch and my overall thoughts on the experience.

Disney Magic At Sea Staycation Cruise Part 1 – Pre-Trip Planning and Embarkation Day

If you read my most recent Week In Review post, then you already know that I went on a 2 night “Staycation Cruise” on board the Disney Magic, sailing out of Southampton. Even with just 2 nights there is SO much I can tell you, so thought it best to write separately about my experience. With so much to include, I’ve decided to split this into three parts, each looking at different aspects of the cruise. It should be noted that some of these things may change (some things were already different from the initial sailings) and there was so much more available to do than we could possibly fit in, so my account will barely scrape the surface of all the magical opportunities available on board.

Ready to learn about booking and embarkation day? Let’s go!

Booking and Online Check In

When these UK-only cruises were announced, my sister and I found the idea intriguing. In the absence of any other Disney-related travel opportunities this summer, it sounded like something we could do to get our Disney fix, so we kept an eye out for further details being announced. Unfortunately, when those details were announced we initially believed we would not be able to go due to the requirement to be fully vaccinated (which I totally understood and supported). At that point I hadn’t even had my FIRST dose of the vaccine, and with the gap between vaccines standing at 12 weeks back then, there was no way I would meet that requirement within the summer holidays. However when the gap between doses was later reduced to 8 weeks and I found myself with a blue envelope detailing my second appointment date before the end of term, we looked at it again to see if there were any sailings still available at a price point we were prepared to pay (and a time we could sail!). The 2 night sailing out of Southampton was really our only option as everything else fell within the Scottish school term, and the price was ok – a bit more than I would normally pay for a 2 night trip, but in a climate of “revenge travel” and several cancelled trips from 2020, I was happy to pay.

Booking was very simple online. We initially booked the cheapest stateroom available – Oceanview (so a porthole window) on deck 2. We could have paid a little more to go up one deck, but we really only planned to be in there to sleep so it didn’t seem worth it for us. We could either pay in full or pay a deposit, but we just went ahead and paid in full since it was already late June at the time of booking and full payment had to be made before you could check in online (30 days before sailing).

We were also able to book any paid add on experiences we wanted such as spa treatments, wine tasting or photo packages. The only one we wanted was brunch at Palo, an Italian inspired dining experience, since I had heard this was a “must do” and booking brunch rather than dinner meant we wouldn’t miss out on seeing any of the main dining rooms.

30 days out from our sailing date we were able to begin the online check-in process, again fairly simple, just a little time consuming. We had to upload ID (we used our passports), an up to date photo (which would be attached to our account so our ID could be easily verified at any time), attach a payment method to cover each of us for any onboard purchases and then choose a port arrival time.

This was also the moment at which we could book an arrival time to attend an evening show (at this point, just one show which would be performed, twice, on both evenings to allow as many guests as possible to attend) so as to facilitate reduced capacity in the theatre and social distancing, and my sister wanted to use the onboard gym so was required to book a 45 minute time slot (again, a safety measure to reduce numbers). These were both added to our plans in the Cruise Line Navigator app (a necessity to keep up to date with onboard activities and get reminders of plans). This actually changed a few days before our sailing as restrictions began to ease. Rather than have an arrival time for one show, we were notified that there would now be more performances available to us and we could simply choose which one to go to without booking – even go more than once if we wanted to! Similarly, the need to book a time to use the gym was removed, although other safety measures such as arriving ready to work out remained in place.

Health Requirements

As well as being fully vaccinated, there were some other health requirements to consider. Firstly, we had to upload our proof of full vaccination to the account we set up with the third party Disney was using to manage this. Everyone over 18 needed to provide this proof and anyone under 18 (who did not as yet have the option of the vaccine) needed to take a (paid for) PCR test and upload the result to the same website. Once verified, this generated a QR code which was checked at the port before we could advance any further.

In addition, EVERYONE had to take a rapid antigen (lateral flow) test at the port and have a negative result before being allowed to board (no additional charge for this one). Anyone testing positive (and those in their party) would not be able to board the ship. Throughout term time I had been taking these tests for work and my sister had used them too since her job is customer-facing, so neither of us were too bothered by this. But since we were travelling from Scotland to Southampton, we both took tests at home in the days before leaving, particularly the night before, so we knew we were negative for Covid at that point and were unlikely to get a nasty surprise!

These requirements, in addition to the enhanced measures on board – reduced capacity, social distancing, masks, enhanced cleaning, extensive use of hand sanitiser – made me feel confident that this was a controlled environment (unlike going somewhere at home when you have no idea what the vaccination status of others might be) and I was perfectly comfortable to be on board, much like when we visited Disneyland Paris last summer and felt incredibly safe on Disney property, even at a time when case numbers were rising.

Embarkation

All guests have a designated time to arrive at the port, this prevents everyone arriving at once and streamlines things a little more. We left ourselves plenty of time to get to the port and got there about 15 minutes ahead of our port arrival time. We fully expected to have to wait, but one of the many members of staff on hand told us we were fine to go ahead and drop off our luggage then join the queue to begin the pre-embarkation process.

First, our QR code for our proof of vaccination was checked alongside our booking number. Then we were put in the queue for the lateral flow tests. The queue moved quite quickly and there were loads of cubicles in operation (a whole party would go to a cubicle together).

A member of staff from the third party company guided us through the testing process (in essence what we had been doing at home, but with a couple of tiny differences) then took the tests away to be processed. Meanwhile another member of staff guided us to a waiting area and took us to specific seats (think school assembly hall being filled from the front) so we could wait safely. My sister was the lead name on our booking and had also set up the account with the third party testing company (with profiles for each of us) so the results of the tests were sent directly to her email really quickly.

Negative test results in hand, we were able to move into the next room to show ID and confirm our check in, go through security, then into the departure lounge to wait for our boarding group to be called. They were a couple of groups ahead of us so we maybe had 20 minutes to wait, then were called forward to join the queue to board. Our boarding documents/ID photos were quickly checked, and we were on our way!

At Southampton the ship is right there (I think at some other ports there was a bus to take guests to it) and we walked through a gangway to the ship. The part I was most excited for at this point was being announced on board. They have a member of staff to greet you, check the family name then announce over microphone:

“Disney Magic, please welcome on board the [insert name] family!”

During the announcement, guests move into the main area (known as the atrium) and are guided to a spot to stand (social distancing). Meanwhile the staff, other guests and, most importantly, Captains Mickey and Minnie (who were waiting on the atrium stairs) applaud.

Once a certain number of parties have boarded, a crew member steps forward to welcome everyone and everybody’s favourite mice dance to “Come on Everybody, Get Your Ears On”. I loved that the Disney touch was immediate, so there was no doubt about where we were.

From there, a couple more things have to be done and we were guided the whole way. Come to think of it, from arriving at the port there was quite a lot of being shunted from one thing to the next, but everyone is so lovely that you don’t really notice.

First up, we were taken through to Fathoms, one of the evening entertainment venues, where a member of staff made sure we were all set up with the app so it could be used on board.

Finally, we had to go to our muster station for the modified muster drill. Rather than have everyone gather at a certain time and listen to safety instructions, we had to visit the muster station fairly soon after boarding then use the app to take a photo of the sign there to show we had attended. The safety instructions played as a video within the app and on the stateroom tv.

With all that done, we were able to go to our stateroom. Oh, and when we got our stateroom assignment a week or two before sailing, we realised we had been upgraded from deck 2 to deck 5. I liked that location as the atrium covered decks 3-5 so it was easy to pop over throughout our sailing to see what characters were appearing there to wave and interact with guests.

Every guest gets a “key to the world” card which is basically your room key but is also scanned before any purchases to verify identity (that photo uploaded during the online check in), this also allows crew members to address guests by name, which is a really nice touch. On a cruise with port excursions, this would also be scanned as guests leave and return to the ship The cards are on the wall outside your stateroom when you arrive, and your luggage is delivered there too (I believe cases were being sanitised before being brought on board). Our cases weren’t there immediately, but there was still plenty of time for them to get there and next time we returned to our room they were waiting for us.

Within moments of arriving there was a knock at the door and our stateroom attendant was there to welcome us on board, let us know what he would be doing to look after us and see if we needed anything. Our attendant Gede, much like other crew members we encountered, drew our attention to his name badge and repeated his name during the conversation to ensure we knew who was looking after us. He was appropriately friendly and any time we encountered him in a hallway he would wave and call hello. Another touch I really liked as it made me feel welcome, comfortable and at home on board.

Things To Do

We spent a few minutes looking at the app as we were now able to see the activities available. This was when we noticed that a different show was listed for that evening. This was confirmed later when the Cruise Director made a ship-wide announcement letting us know that they were now able to offer TWO shows (one per evening, performed twice each time) and that we were on the first sailing to have this. For our first evening, we were going to see Tangled. A recording of this was actually released on one of the Disney YouTube channels during lockdown last year and I had enjoyed watching it, so was excited for a live performance. At time of writing, the recording is still available here.

We headed off to explore a bit and almost immediately a member of staff outside the onboard cinema asked us if we would like to meet Belle. Of course we did! She was doing a meet and greet and there was nobody else in there, so I had a great interaction with her. I happened to be feeling mermaid-y (what else would I pick for an at-sea adventure?) and on our way out another member of staff gave me a hint about where I might find Ariel the following day.

From there we headed to the top deck where we took some pictures, grabbed a snack then sat down to listen to the mandatory pre-sailing safety announcement. That done, we headed to the theatre (pausing only to peer in the windows of the not-yet-open merch locations!) for the first performance of Tangled (because we were on the second sitting for dinner – the show times are designed to work around that and those on first sitting would see the second show).

The show was excellent and unsurprisingly I shed a tear or two. I think it was a combination of really relating to Rapunzel in lockdown last year, finally being on board and seeing a live theatrical performance. I’m one of those people who cry at Disney anyway so I knew it was going to happen (if I’m honest, I’d already had a few tearful moments) but I think it was the live aspect that really got me.

On our way out of the theatre the shops were open (although there was a queue to get into each of them) so we decided we had time to go into just one (the one with the shorter queue!) whereupon I made sure to buy a pair of ears – I never feel like I’m truly at Disney until I’ve done that! Had I known how quickly some items were going to sell out, I might have got a couple more things at that point rather than leaving it to the next day, but you live and learn. If you’re going on one of these cruises, my advice is if you see an item you want to buy, don’t wait!

Rapunzel’s Royal Table

Next up, we got changed for dinner. While there is no requirement for formal dress (attire is described as “cruise casual”) I did want to put a dress on, not least because I had been in my other clothes since about 3am!

I loved the theming in the restaurant, with replicas of “wanted” posters from the movie, the sun logo from the Kingdom of Corona and lanterns everywhere. Perfect for the Tangled fan.

Menus for each restaurant were accessed through the app, or there was a QR code on each table to help you if you needed it. The menu looked great and although we opted for a standard three courses, the beauty of all-inclusive cruise food is that you can have whatever you want, for example multiple dishes within one course because you can’t decide or want to try something. I was pretty hungry, but was also feeling rather tired by this point and had probably gone past the stage where I could manage to eat a great deal. A bit of a shame, but I did try something from each course (my starter was particularly delicious, and as for that dessert…yum!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We chose to have soft drinks to accompany our meal (included with the cruise price we already paid) but could have purchases an alcoholic beverage should we have wanted it.

Throughout our meal there were mini shows on a stage in the dining room featuring Rapunzel, Flynn Rider and a couple of ruffians (no doubt regulars at the Snuggly Duckling). Each one was a different short scene, with the final one bringing in the service team to parade through the room with lanterns. I suspect this may be a modified version of a show from pre-Covid times, but it was still good fun. My only quibble would be that while the sound was excellent, the view from our table wasn’t the best.

Freezing The Night Away

There were further activities available in the evening, including quizzes, bars with musical acts and adult only areas (for a quiet drink sans children). We wanted to see the Frozen-inspired show on the top deck, Freezing The Night Away. This had been performed a couple of times already and this was the final one (it was only on for this one night). We knew it was set up to be socially distanced, with each party standing in a marked off area, and with it being later on I wasn’t worried about it being really busy.

We had plenty of time and, realising it was quite cool (we were “at sea” by this point, after all) we quickly nipped back to our stateroom. My sister actually put her pyjamas on, along with a hoody, and I grabbed the spirit jersey I had been wearing when we set off early in the morning and flung it over my dress. Not my finest look, but I was glad of the extra layer!

The show was fun and included all the main characters from Frozen either on deck in front of us or on the “funnel vision” screen. At one point it even “snowed” on us! A great way to round off our day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the show we thought it would probably be best to get some sleep,. We both wanted to be up sharp to really maximise our day at sea, and were already exhausted from a looooooong day. We made our way back to our stateroom for the evening (where our stateroom attendant had already been in for the turndown service which included a chocolate each and a towel animal – love those!).

On the way there I ran into my good friend who works in Youth Activities. I had managed to see her briefly not long after boarding, but we had time for a good chat at this point and a quick picture – we hadn’t seen each other since November 2019 since up until the world stopped, she had been based on one of the other Disney ships and was mostly sailing out of Port Canaveral. It was so good to see her in person (plus Chip and Dale were interacting in the atrium at that point too!).

And so, to bed. Next up, details of what we got up to on our day at sea…

Week In Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 72

The arrival of August usually heralds the final countdown to the new school year, but this year it brought a bit of excitement as I was FINALLY going away for a little trip. You might remember that on the very first day of the school holidays I spent some time with my sister making a booking, but I kept the details of what we were planning very much under wraps as any travel right now carries an element of “peril” in terms of the impact Covid might have and we knew that our plans could very easily be derailed. If you happen to follow me on instagram then you might already know what we got up to and I’ll share more in the course of this post. Never fear, the running streak is still very much alive, but being away meant limited workouts and yoga in this particular week – totally worth it!

Monday – 4.5 miles + Hatha yoga via Zoom
Tuesday – 6.5 miles + garden workout + home yoga
Wednesday – 1 mile
Thursday – 3.3(ish) miles
Friday – 3.3(ish) miles
Saturday – (not)parkrun sandwich
Sunday – 8 miles

Before any of the excitement started, I had a couple of days of the normal routine (and a little bit of getting organised). Monday began with some reading in bed then I made sure to check over the weekly scavenger hunt list before heading out for my run. I was keen to get this wrapped up over Monday and Tuesday as I wouldn’t get another chance to hunt until Saturday. I actually got quite a lot of it done on my run and Steve found a couple more items when he was out and about later in the morning.

After my run I had some bits and pieces to do around the house then after lunch I had an appointment. I took the chance while I was out to run a couple of errands in town, pick up my free coffee with my Vitality voucher and fill my car up with petrol. I had planned a few chores around the house in the afternoon, but my sister popped round on her way home from some errands of her own and I was perfectly happy to abandon doing housework in favour of talking to her haha!

By the time we were done I needed to get ready for yoga and get set up on Zoom for the class. Relaxing and grounding as ever. And my day was rounded off nicely by finishing up Behind The Attraction on Disney+. If you enjoyed The Imagineering Story then you should definitely watch this one, especially if you’re a Disney parks fan. I had heard some of the attraction facts and history before, but I enjoy being reminded of them and it was very entertaining (even if it did make me want to get to a Disney park!).

I set my alarm sharp for Tuesday morning as part of a grand plan to make sure I felt tired enough to fall asleep that night ahead of a SUPER early start on Wednesday. I also wanted to give myself plenty of time to do all the things I needed/wanted to before going away – method in my madness!

I did read a bit of my book while enjoying a cup of tea, but was out the door for my run about an hour earlier than has been my holiday habit. I have been doing the Running For Real Together Runs on Wednesdays of late, but decided to listen during this run otherwise I didn’t think I would manage to fit it in. Once again, we began by touching something in the natural world and were also encouraged to do this at the end of our run. I actually ran on a bit to touch a tree since as I came to the end of the podcast the only way I could have touched nature would have been to put my hand into somebody’s garden and that would definitely have been a bit weird!

Next up, getting organised to go away. No matter how long/short a trip, it always takes me longer than I think it will as I make decisions about what I need and check everything off my list. Although I was only going to be away for two nights, I knew I would need clothes for during the day and a change for evening, plus the weather was looking a bit iffy so I needed a couple of options just in case. At least I knew my luggage was being kept secure until I left 😹

I also wanted to take an at-home lateral flow (antigen) test before I set off to make sure that I was testing negative. Taking them twice weekly when school resumes in the middle of the month will continue to be encouraged and I will also want to take tests after my trip so at this point I was basically committing to twice weekly testing again for the foreseeable future – bleurgh!

We took advantage of the dry weather to have a workout in the garden with the good old TRX and press up bars. I could feel my deep core muscles were still weary from the week before, so I guess it must be making a difference. I also had time for some yoga (back indoors) before dinner. We watched a little tv then I made sure to get to bed early so I could try and get some sleep before my middle of the night alarm call!

As it turned out, I had a hard time sleeping. I wasn’t actually nervous about being away from home, but my head was spinning with all the things that were going to happen the following day, so when my alarm went off (ridiculously early) I truly only had been asleep for a couple of hours.

When we went on our miracle trip to Disneyland Paris last August, I ran a mile (around the block) before setting off and although it seems a little crazy, I actually found that it made me feel awake and probably helped me keep on going through the day. This time I did something very similar, running early enough for Strava to designate my activity a “night run” haha!

I was due to pick my sister up at 3:45am (!!) and the first hurdle was discovering that nobody was up. Cue me trying to wake my sister without waking my parents (and I didn’t have a key to their house with me). Thankfully I managed and our departure did not turn into scenes reminiscent of Home Alone 😂

But where were we off to? I hear you ask. Well in the first instance, a very empty Edinburgh airport where we were getting a 6:45am flight to Southampton. Once there, we had a bit of time to kill before boarding the Disney Magic for one of their UK Staycation cruises (please note: I am still irritated by this new usage of “staycation”, which seems to imply that only foreign trips can be considered a holiday/vacation, thus devaluing all my childhood holidays spent in the UK, but this was the official title of these cruises so I feel obliged to use it). We had jumped through all of the hoops we had to in advance with regard to online check-in and health requirements (as you know, i have been super cautious but I was very comfortable with the measures put in place here), and had been following the countdown in the Disney Cruise Line app. It was so satisfying to see it reach zero and thought it was really cure that they used characters in place of the digit!

Our flight was soooooo empty! We flew with Loganair, a regional airline, on a teeny tiny aircraft with about 14 people total (plus one cabin attendant). Their modified in-flight service meant a small carton of water and a caramel wafer (jackpot!) so I’m assuming that in normal times we would have been offered tea/coffee with our biscuit.

Once reunited with our suitcases, we headed into the station (next door to the airport in Southampton) to catch a train into town, a journey of less than 10 minutes. We had been debating whether or not we would need a taxi to the port or whether we would be able to walk (our research suggested it was about 2 miles and we had LOADS of time) but when we stepped out of the station and crossed over the road to join the path for the short walk along to the shopping centre (we needed breakfast!) we spotted this:

Definitely walking then!

Of course it was still fairly early, but the shops were beginning to open so we checked out our options for breakfast. We fancied something filling since we had been up for ages (and an early start ALWAYS makes you really hungry!) but the place we wanted wasn’t opening for a while yet. We decided to wait and found ourselves a place to sit and relax for a while.

We went to a place called Ed’s Diner to eat. It was new to me but my sister had been to one before. Personally, I was sold on the idea of an American-style breakfast so true to form opted for a stack of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup along with a cup of coffee. Perfect!

It was actually really good and I knew that would keep me full until I got on board the ship (where our food was included and I intended to take full advantage!).

Hunger satisfied we set off, luggage in tow, to explore the centre of Southampton a bit. I had no idea what to expect but I really liked it. I got the impression that it was a very historic place, particularly when it came to maritime history, but I also found some Jane Austen references which really interested me. It’s a place I’d love to return to again in future to explore a bit more.

It was quite a warm day and we soon tired of wandering around with our suitcases so we grabbed some drinks and found a nice spot outside to sit and wait until it was time to head for the port. This meant we could take it in turns to go off for a little wander or go back into the shopping centre for the toilets.

When at long last it was time to head for the port, we set off. It was actually a fairly easy walk but my sister’s maps app was a little misleading, causing me to abandon it and try to navigate simply through sight of the ship. It wasn’t perfect (turns out there was only one way to enter the terminal building we wanted so we came up against a rather inconvenient fence at one point) but we were still there in good time.

I’m going to write separately about the cruise itself so I get can into more detail (and share LOADS of photos) but I will include an outline here in case that’s all you’re looking for.

Once at the port we handed over our cases and began making our way through the embarkation process: rapid Covid tests, check in, then a short wait for our boarding group to be called. All in, with a port arrival time of 2pm it took just over an hour to reach the departure lounge and we were on board around 3:25pm. It was only when I saw this that I finally relaxed, knowing we were DEFINITELY doing this!

We made it to our stateroom fairly quickly then headed off to explore the ship a bit.

We were on second sitting for dinner so at 6pm we watched the show, then got changed and freshened up to eat. It was a super long day and by the time we ate dinner, headed out on deck to watch a show there then returned to our stateroom to go to bed, my Apple Watch had recorded 20 hours in which I had stood up and moved around for at least a minute (and 2 I missed – one on the flight and one in the evening show). I had pulled a 22 hour day – no wonder I was exhausted!

Despite the long day, I still woke up before my alarm on the Thursday morning. My understanding was that the best way to maximise the cruise experience was to wake up early and go to bed late. Tiring, but I figured I could manage it for this short space of time.

But first things first: a run. By a quirk of timing (fate? pixie dust?) this was actually day 500 of my run streak. I only realised this after we had booked our trip, but it made me really happy to know that I could mark the occasion in such a special place.

Deck 4 of the ship is designated as a walking/running track and I was excited to take my Minnie-inspired kit on deck to run. I knew the forward progress of the ship would mess up the distance recorded by Strava (I cut down on “stuff” by leaving my Garmin at home and just using the Strava app on my Apple Watch) so I simply decided on 10 laps. I’m pretty certain I did 10, but counting laps is actually quite hard!

I was curious about how it would feel to run on a moving vessel, but I hardly noticed it at all. There were one or two others out using the deck but I mostly had it to myself and it was so peaceful. Probably one of the more unusual places I have ever run!

If you’re interested, my GPS track ended up looking like this. Definitely further and faster than I actually did thanks to the fact we were moving!

While I was running my sister used the gym, then we met up again for a light breakfast (we had a brunch booking later that morning so although we needed to eat something, we didn’t want to be too full). Then our day was mostly spent trying to take in as many activities as we could: character encounters, quiz, shopping, eating, generally exploring the ship and taking photos.

In the evening we once again had a show, dinner (in a different dining room) and we rounded off our day with a drink in the piano bar. It was the sort of place that put me in mind of the bar frequented by Karen in Will and Grace haha!

We managed to stay up so late that it was after midnight before we went to bed, yet once again I was awake before my alarm and ready to head out to the running deck again. We were back in port at Southampton by this point so I knew my GPS would be a bit better in keeping track of the distance, but I pretty much repeated my 10 laps from the morning before.

Turns out my watch still had some bother locking in the GPS, so my identical run looked completely different. It reminds me of Mr Messy haha!

Sadly after that it was time to finalise our packing then head off for breakfast prior to debarkation. A real whirlwind trip but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We actually had a fairly late debark time, probably because the onward travel details we provided showed that our fight back wasn’t until later in the afternoon, so no rush. I did keep letting our servers bring us more food and refill my coffee so as to squeeze out a little longer on board, but eventually we had to leave.

“Sea” ya real soon, Disney!

It was about 10am when we left the ship but we didn’t have to make our way to the airport until around 1pm, so we headed back to the shopping centre where we found a comfortable seat for a while then went for a coffee to pass the time. It was a bit of a pain waiting around, but on the plus side I did complete an experience from last year…

You may remember me doing some “postbox bingo” and I had crossed off all the postbox cyphers available to me. On the way back to the shopping centre from the ship, I spotted a postbox with the Elizabeth II cypher (the one we don’t have in Scotland) so grabbed a picture. Postbox bingo? Completed it! 😂

I arrived home in time for my dinner, whereupon poor Steve was regaled with my tales from the ship, then I needed to get some sleep.

After my adventures at sea Saturday was a real return to reality. I began with a (not)parkrun, but with an air of excitement since this was probably the last (not)parkrun for now. The Scottish Government confirmed our move to “beyond level zero”  from the Monday, thus giving us the final go-ahead for parkrun to return in Scotland. Our home event already had permission in place, so this was the news we were waiting for after 73 Saturdays (73!!!) with no parkrun.

Unsurprisingly, I was pretty tired from my exploits over the previous couple of days, so had a really easy day otherwise, including finishing up my reading from the trip. I do like to theme my reading!

Something fun was opening up a package which had arrived while I was away. I had ordered this mystery box a while back but had been notified that there was a delay because the company wasn’t happy with one of the items. I didn’t mind as this meant they were taking pride in their product and I was happy to wait. I was really pleased with what I got and it was beautifully packaged:

It certainly took the edge off coming home!

Since this fell easily as a cutback week in my mileage, I was happy to keep my Sunday run to 8 miles since I was still feeling tired (I guess a 22 hour day will do that to you!). Having been out at sea I was craving a water view so I opted to run down to the river and follow a route which would take in our parkrun route (I was clearly getting excited about our imminent return!).

I stopped by the noticeboard as I passed back through the park and spotted this, which made me smile.

Other than food shopping (and a lateral flow test – best to make sure after travelling) I had another easy day and finished up the book I had been reading before heading off. Not my usual genre but an interesting idea and I really enjoyed it.

With that, the most exciting week of the entire summer drew to a close. I may have only had a short trip, but it was just what I needed to recharge and feel that Disney magic flowing in my veins once more. If you’d like to read more about my cruise adventure, look out for a separate post soon!

Have you ever been on a cruise or is it something you would like to do?
What’s the most unusual place you have ever run?

Answering Some Disney Parks Questions

Something a little different from me today. I regularly listen to several podcasts on The After Dark Podcast Network including Disney Parks & Beyond, Discover DLP, Mickey Waffles and Disney Dream Girls – got to get my Disney fix somehow in these strange times! Recently several shows on the network had episodes where the hosts discussed their answers to a list of 10 Disney parks questions. I really enjoyed hearing the different answers and discussions, so since listeners were encouraged to think about their own answers, I thought I would use the questions as the basis for a post.

  1. How many times have you visited “the parks” (any Disney parks)?
    For the purposes of this question, a visit was taken to be a trip which incorporated one of the Disney resorts (since counting up visits to individual parks could be pretty tricky!). I’ve been lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World in Florida, Disneyland in California and Disneyland Paris. I needed a little help from my photo albums, but I think my numbers look like this:
    WDW = 17 (1992-1995 with my family; 1999, 2003, 2004, 2006 with my ex; 2008 solo but joining my family once I arrived; 2010 for our honeymoon; 2012-19 with Steve, except 2015. We did visit Florida in 2015 but had a super relaxing trip where we did next to nothing other than hang out by the pool and run, so no park visits). And as a result, a lot of great memories of special moments and things that were only around for a short time/have since been removed:

    Our first visit caught the end of the 20th Anniversary celebrations. I remember watching a daytime spectacular called ‘Surprise in the Skies’ at Epcot.

    Mickey’s Starland became Mickey’s Toontown and is now simply part of the Fantasyland expansion

    River Country. Now abandoned (but perhaps destined to be a DVC resort).

    The millennium decor on Spaceship Earth

    The controversial ear hat at Disney MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

    I once made it to MNSSHP.

    The rotating castle display on the front of Cinderella Castle was there for the 50th anniversary of Disneyland and showed images of all the Disney castles.

    Getting to experience lots of new (to me) things when my sister was a CM.

    Duffy!

    Mickey and Minnie’s 90th birthday

    Disneyland = 1 (1996, before Disney’s California Adventure existed).

    DLP = 5 (2005 with my ex; 2018&2019 for RunDisney; 2019 with the school, 2020 with my sister).

    Ooft, that’s a lot of Disney park visits!

  2. First time you visited each of the parks?
    WDW 1992. This was supposed to be a “once in a lifetime” trip, one and done. But we had such a good time that no sooner were we back than my parents were booking again for the following year, and the rest is history. Eventually they bought property in the area, hence the frequency of trips.

    Disneyland 1996. I’m not sure what prompted the trip to California after several Florida trips, but I suspect a key driver was the fact that my mum has family out there and wanted to visit. She could remember her grandmother making the trip many many years ago and she wanted to see some of the places she had talked about. My memories of this trip are a little dim now, but I hope one day to visit again.

    DLP 2005. At this point in my life a trip to Florida just wasn’t a possibility, so instead a trip to DLP was on the cards. I remember it was July and the weather was super hot. I really enjoyed my visit but it was a good few years before I visited again as I was going to Florida so often.
  3. Last time you visited a Disney park?
    2020. An absolute miracle! I don’t think any of the podcast hosts had a 2020 visit in their discussion since the parks closed so early in the year and we have been unable to travel to the US for over a year now. Although a number of my Disney plans for 2020 were cancelled, my sister and I did have a long weekend at DLP booked in August which slipped nicely into a brief period of time when we could travel without having to quarantine, so I was able to get my Disney parks fix.
  4. Favourite resort you’ve stayed at, or if you haven’t stayed on property where would you like to stay?
    I’ve only stayed in some of the “budget” resorts. As a family we stayed in the All-Star Music resort at WDW for a few nights some time back in the 90s.

    And for my two RunDisney experiences at DLP we stayed at the Hotel Cheyenne and Hotel Santa Fe respectively.
    I also stayed at the Santa Fe on my very first visit in 2005, but this was before it was Cars-themed.

    I don’t remember much about the WDW resort other than the theming around it and we spent little time at our DLP resorts, so I don’t think I can really choose one of those. Instead, I’m going to tell you about some of the resorts I would like to stay at:
    At WDW I’d love to stay in one of the monorail resorts to have easy access to the Magic Kingdom and ever since my first trip I’ve been fascinated by the Contemporary Resort because of the monorail going right through the middle. I know it wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice and there are certainly “better” resorts, but one day I’d love to have the chance to stay there.
    It’s definitely a dream of mine to return to Disneyland one day – I mean, there’s a whole other theme park I’ve not visited – and while there are fewer hotels there, I think the Grand Californian looks AMAZING!
    Finally, although I’m leaning towards off-site hotels to make DLP trips accessible and budget-friendly, I’d love to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. I would have picked Sequoia Lodge, but I think it’s probably fairly similar to the Grand Californian, so I went with something different to mix things up. I’d never afford a park view room, but being right at the entrance would be a real advantage.
  5. Favourite ride at EACH PARK you’ve visited?
    Oh, this one is hard but at least I’m allowed to break it down to each individual park to make it a tiny bit easier!
    Magic Kingdom: I think I’m going to go for the Haunted Mansion. It’s one of my absolute favourites and I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t pick it somewhere on my list!

    Epcot: Here it’s a toss up between Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Around the World but I think I’m going to pick Frozen. I love the themed queue line with Wandering Oaken, ride elements such as Sven with his tongue stuck to the ice and, of course, having a boat full of complete strangers all belting out Let it Go!

    Hollywood Studios: I’ve not yet had the opportunity to experience Smugglers Run, Rise of the Resistance or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and one of these will almost certainly be my favourite just as soon as I do. In the meantime, I’ll pick the Tower of Terror. It’s a ride that always gives me the fear whilst waiting in the queue, but as soon as I’m on there the adrenalin rush makes me want to go right back around again!

    Animal Kingdom: Flight of Passage. Hands down one of the best rides there is. I didn’t know what to expect given I’ve only seen Avatar once and didn’t know a great deal about it, but it’s an amazing experience not to be missed.

    Disneyland (California): I considered picking Pirates of the Caribbean here (I love Pirates and this is the OG version) but one of my strongest memories from our mid-90s Disneyland visit is my sister and I LOVING the Matterhorn Bobsleds. I know we rode several times and squealed with glee as we rode those sleds down the mountain. For that reason, and the fact it’s unique to this park, it’s going to be my pick here.

    Disneyland Park (Paris): It could easily have been Pirates of the Caribbean or Phantom Manor, but I think my pick here is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I love Big Thunder and the DLP version is by far the best.

    Walt Disney Studios: Not so many to choose from here so it absolutely has to be Ratatouille. A version of this is opening at Epcot later this year, but until now this one has been unique to DLP and is a fantastic ride.
  6. Last ride you actually rode at a Disney park?
    Phew, finally a reasonably easy one to work out. For our August 2020 Disneyland Paris trip my sister and I were on a mission to go on as many rides/attractions as we possibly could since there was limited park capacity. To keep track, I took a picture at each attraction so that it would be easier to remember later on. Looking back at those pictures the last ride I went on in DLP was Star Tours. I like Star Tours so I’m happy with that. Imagine if it had been something really silly like the Flying Carpets of Agrabah!
  7. Guilty pleasure snack?
    This question is rather open to interpretation. “Guilty pleasure” is a little different to “favourite” and rather suggests something that isn’t one of the more popular Disney snack foods. If I was picking my favourite then I’d probably opt for a Mickey pretzel (let’s face it, any food shaped like Mickey Mouse is automatically better!) but often when I buy a Mickey pretzel I also buy a pickle in a bag. As in, one of those ginormous dill pickles that’s about the circumference of a cucumber and fairly sizeable. They are individually packaged (which I’m less keen on because of all that packaging) and there’s always lots of pickle juice in the bag as well. They can normally be picked up at snack locations that have big ice chests with drink bottles and fruit buried in them. It’s not a Disney trip until I get one (and the salt is a good way to replace the salts lost in all the Florida sweating!), so this is my guilty pleasure.
  8. Favourite country at Epcot?
    Hmmm. This one I found hard to narrow down. Mexico is good for a frozen maragarita, the character meet & greet with Mexican Donald Duck and that amazing pyramid where it’s always twilight (and cool!) inside. Norway has the fantastic Akershus restaurant (the “taste of Norway” buffet is totally worth it), meet & greet with Anna and Elsa and, of course, the Frozen ride. And France is, well, France! Attractions there are expanding to include Ratatouille and further dining locations so I suspect the next time I visit Epcot the France pavilion will easily take my number one spot, but what about right now? I think on balance I’m going to go with Norway. I have so many wonderful memories from there and look forward to more in future.
  9. Favourite sit down restaurant at a park?
    We don’t often go for sit-down dining on park days as this kind of meal can take up quite a lot of time. I think for this I’m going to choose Bistrot Chez Remy at the Walt Disney Studios in Paris. My sister and I were able to get a booking there back in August (we had both been keen to visit after watching a vlog of the experience) and it was a really good meal. The theming in the restaurant is so detailed – I love that diners are “shrunk” to the size of a rat – and the food was delicious. I’d love to go again with Steve as I think he would really like it.
  10. Favourite character meet & greet
    I’ve had so many character meet & greets across the years, going right back to when they were a real free-for-all rather than an orderly queue, but one in particular springs to mind when I think about my answer to this question. When we went to Florida in 2019 we spent a few days visiting WDW thanks to a bargain ticket offer, and I bought Steve a pair of “ears” colloquially known as “duck butts”. Basically the rear end of Donald Duck, this particular headgear tended to attract attention, most memorably when we visited Mickey and Minnie in the Magic Kingdom. The celebrations for Mickey’s 90th birthday were continuing and we popped in to see them towards the end of the day when it was quiet. Steve’s “duck butts” led to much hilarity and we have so many pictures of all of us (including Mickey and Minnie) doubled up with laughter with all the larking about. It was such a good meet & greet as there was no rush to get through so the characters had time to create a really fun experience. For similar reasons, meeting Donald Duck in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot was also great fun, but this one was in the middle of the day so there was less time for the interaction.

So there you have it. I was definitely thinking about some of my answers as I listened to the various podcast discussions, and it was such fun to reminisce about my Disney park adventures. I know I’m really lucky to have had so many opportunities to visit the parks and hopefully it won’t be too long until I can go again.

Have you visited any Disney parks? I’d love to know your answers to these questions…

A Touch of (Disney) Magic in 2020!

In a recent Week in Review post I touched on my trip to Disneyland Paris with my sister, including my very mixed feelings about travelling under the current circumstances and the decision-making process that led to me committing to going. Things are changing rapidly all the time and I’m very conscious that you might be reading this having been disappointed at the cancellation of a trip (or trips) away this year. I get it. Yes I went on this trip, but I did have far more planned (and booked!) for this year and this particular trip is now looking like the sole survivor of my 2020 plans.

Cancelled trips are certainly not the worst thing to have happened given the global situation right now and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to go anywhere at all. Through the months stuck at home in a weird limbo, one of the things that kept me going was Disney content. I had to believe that one day I would be back in a Disney park and everything else would fade away. I’m not going to get anywhere near Walt Disney World in Florida any time soon, but have still enjoyed following content coming out of WDW as it has allowed me to live vicariously through other people’s experiences, reflect on my own memories of trips there and plan the experiences I would like to have in the future. In the build up to my own DLP trip I appreciated seeing updates from those who had visited in the month or so between the resort re-opening and my arrival. And so I thought I would write a post with more of the details around my trip – including the safety measures in place and operational changes due to Covid – so that those who need a little Disney fix can live vicariously and those who want to learn a little more about what it’s like in DLP right now can perhaps have some of their questions answered. Here we go…!

Very briefly, our travel to DLP involved an early morning easyJet flight from Glasgow airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle (face masks required throughout and enforced), a 9 minute TGV transfer to Marne la Vallée (I couldn’t believe how smooth and swift it was!) and a 2 minute RER connection to Val d’Europe (face masks required again at all stages of the journey) where we were staying in the Ibis hotel right beside the station. This meant that having begun my day in Scotland, I was actually IN Disneyland by lunchtime when the parks had been open for less than 3 hours. Not bad!

To gain access to DLP right now, you need to have both a valid ticket and a park reservation since park capacity is restricted. It was easy enough to sort out – I bought a 3 day ticket online (you can print your own ticket to take with you) then followed the instructions to link it to my DIsney account and make my reservation. The reservation has to be shown either on paper or on a device before you reach the turnstiles, so needs to be available alongside your ticket when you arrive. It is also a requirement for all guests aged 11 and over to wear a face covering at all times on DLP property (except when eating/drinking), so it’s worth making sure you have enough for the duration of your trip, especially if you won’t have facilities to wash reusable ones. I made the assumption that I would want to change my mask during the day so always had spares in my bag. Security checkpoints were, at the time of our visit, exactly the same as they have always been, other than management of queues to ensure physical distancing. Unlike in the US, no temperature checks were required.

You can read more about the enhanced health and safety measures at Disneyland Paris on their official website.

Of course me being me, there was no way I could be in a Disney park without a pair of Minnie Mouse ears, so I was barely through the turnstiles before making a pit stop. I chose Ariel’s Grotto Coral ears (which had been discounted – bonus!) then made sure to get lots of photos at the entrance, on Main Street and by Sleeping Beauty castle before doing anything else. Being in a Disney park (especially a castle park) pretty much always makes me cry with happiness and I was already feeling overwhelmed with emotion at FINALLY being in Disney again, so I was glad of my sunglasses as I shed a few tears behind the shades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling more composed, we headed straight for Hyperspace Mountain since it’s a ride I’d not had the opportunity to experience on previous trips. Having watched all of the Star Wars movies in the early part of Lockdown, I found it really cool to feel a bit like I was in a galactic battle. There were certainly parts of the ride where I’m not entirely sure what way up I was, but it was pretty cool overall.

Ride done, we figured it was time to eat since our airport breakfast had been super early. We headed over to Bella Notte in Fantasyland for pizza and since I was still feeling pretty cautious about eating indoors where there might be crowds, we got our food and headed to an outdoor table to enjoy it. On entering any restaurant, you can scan a QR code which takes you directly to the menu. That makes it much easier to make your decision as you wait for your turn to order. Contactless payments are preferred right now (I use a pre-paid currency card which has contactless facility but did have to use chip and pin for a couple of larger purchases) but I believe cash will be accepted if this isn’t possible. Just another way to limit the handling of items.

Our afternoon was pretty packed as our main mission on this trip was to get on as many rides as we possibly could since lower capacity meant shorter queue lines and a greater chance of getting on more rides. I had added pretty much every attraction possible to my wish list on the DLP app and was checking them off as we went.

In addition to Hyperspace Mountain we were also able to get on It’s A Small World, Casey Jr Circus Train, Lancelot’s Carousel, Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Mad Hatter’s Teacups, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and The Phantom Manor.

We also prioritised getting photos since a number of new photo ops, character selfie spots and Photopass magic shots were being offered (my sister has Photopass added to her Annual Pass so we were able to get digital copies of all our official pictures). This started by the castle where Photopass photographers were waiting in roughly the same area they are during Magic Run Weekend. Photo points were set up to reduce handling of items: you place your Photopass on a stand which has been set up, after the shoot the photographer scans it without touching it, then you can collect your pass to move on. This also allows for physical distancing to continue. It’s also worth noting that cast members are not allowed to take guests’ phones to take pictures for them right now, although of course someone else in your party can if you wish.   Masks must be kept on for photos (and cast members will enforce this if they spot you without a mask) as well as on rides. We claimed our ride photos since they can be added to the Photopass but if anyone in the picture has their mask off, you will not be allowed to have your photo. Thankfully ours were all fine.

And right after lunch we headed into the Princess Pavilion where rather than meet princesses, you could be photographed on a huge red throne.

Before grabbing another in Fantasyland close to Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

We also got a selfie with Geppetto and took pictures later by Skull Island and Aladdin’s lamp.

 

France was experiencing a heatwave over this weekend so it was super hot, but I quite liked getting some proper heat and actually found it ok to be wearing a mask all the time. I really only noticed AFTER taking it off that it made a difference, rather than while I was wearing it, but I think it was just so warm that I just felt hot anyway. It felt reassuring to know that everyone was playing their part to keep each other safe by wearing a mask, following physical distancing guidelines (clearly marked throughout the park and in queue lines) and using the readily available hand sanitiser frequently.

With quite a big lunch and feeling hot and tired from a long day, neither of us felt like any dinner so as the park closed we headed back to the hotel (by RER since the journey was so short and cost less than 2€, but our hotel was only about a mile and a half from Disney with an easy walking route, so that was always an option) to grab a shower and pretty much get straight into bed so we would be refreshed for day 2: The Walt Disney Studios.

The hotel also felt very safe. We had checked in online so simply had to collect our room keys when we arrived (reception staff were protected by Perspex screens). We declined housekeeping in order to limit the people entering our room but were still able to get extras of things like towels and toilet paper if we needed them. I also noticed hand sanitiser at reception and by the lifts on each floor (these were the only public areas of the hotel we were in). The two lifts had been designated separately for guests going up or guests going down, so there would be no head-on encounters when the doors opened. I also spotted disposable gloves and rolls of paper towels next to the sanitiser by the lifts so we could limit our contact with surfaces.

We entered the park separately in the morning since my sister has an Annual Pass so can go in for Extra Magic time between 8:30 and 9:30am. The official opening time for the parks was 10am, however I was let into the Studios a little after 9:30 and, like the day before, I needed to soak up the atmosphere (and shed a few tears) in Studio 1 as I got my first experience of being welcomed by the characters and listening to the catchy “welcome back” song (which was in my head for days afterwards and it only takes a few notes for me to be humming it for hours at a stretch!).

I found my sister and we got some photos, grabbed some breakfast and, of course, got a new set of ears for the day.

Like in the main park the day before, we were able to do so much, starting with some magical selfies in the Mickey & the Magician theatre and some of the Photopass spots in the same area.

Ride-wise we checked off Cars Quatre Roues Rallye, Ratatouille (one of my favourites), Stitch Live (my first time catching it and it was so cute!), The Tower of Terror, Crush’s Coaster (not necessarily an experience I need to repeat, but it’s checked off my list!), Toy Story Parachute Drop, a second ride on ToT since the wait dropped to just FIVE minutes (and we got a different sequence to our first ride of the day) and the Flying Carpets. Quite a few of those were new experiences for me as I had only ever spent limited time in that park, so it was nice to explore a bit further.

We also spotted Mr Incredible on his “hover scooter” and got selfies with Jessie, Olaf, Goofy, Minnie and the Marvel characters. We had hoped to also get selfies with Anna and Elsa from Frozen, but had no luck getting a time slot for the attraction. We did, however, get some fun photos with Rex from Toy Story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A big highlight was dinner at Bistrot Chez Rémy. We booked this way back in January/February when we organised our trip but all such reservations were cancelled with the park closures. Luckily a visit to guest services when we arrived in the parks the day before allowed us to rebook the same slot (5pm so it was super quiet for an indoor dining experience) and we both really enjoyed it. There was plenty of space, the server was suitably attentive whilst keeping a safe distance and the food delicious – we even treated ourselves to a kir as we were calling this our “birthday dinner” (we both had birthdays later in the month)!

The restaurant is designed so that as you step over the threshold you are shrunk to the size of a rat:

From that point on, all the furnishings and decor are made from the kinds of things a rat in Paris might be able to come across, like wine corks, jar lids and cocktail umbrellas:

Along with our kir, we both chose the mixed greens followed by the steak. There was also bread for the table. We both said we would love to eat here again and I know Steve would enjoy it.

After dinner we made our way back out of the park, waving to the characters who were back in Studio 1 to say goodbye, and headed into the Disney Village for a little shopping at World of Disney and the Fashion Store before getting the train back to the hotel to shower and head to bed. Although there were lots of people in the Village, capacity in the shops was managed with separate entrance and exit doors (the same was true of shops in the parks) and if it was busy then you would be asked to wait until someone else had exited before you could go in. There was also hand sanitiser at both the entrances and exits to limit the spread of the virus, although you were discouraged from handling anything unless you intended to buy it. Not always easy since you may need to pick something up to check the price or make a decision about buying, but idle handling of products should be avoided right now.

For our last park day we planned a full day in the main park. While my sister went in early for Extra Magic, I headed off for a run then got myself ready and to the main gates for about 9:30am. I was able to get straight in and spent some time enjoying the welcome from the characters up on the station platform then took the chance to grab a quick selfie with Daisy and Donald. I strolled up to the castle and my sister joined me there for some pictures before we headed off for some rides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our aim was to check off the attractions we hadn’t managed on Saturday and I think we pretty much did it – Autopia, Storybook Canal, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, the Molly Brown, Mickey’s Philharmagique, La Tanière du Dragon, Peter Pan’s Flight, Star Tours, the Nautilus and a return to our favourites – Pirates of the Caribbean and The Phantom Manor – before the park closed. I also hadn’t realised you could explore the platforms above Frontierland where there’s a kind of “town” so had my first walk around up there to see the views and the “jail cell”.

We also went to any Magic Shot sites we found, including Pocahontas and the Phantom Manor, and managed selfies with Mickey & the Chipmunks, the Tweedles, Minnie Mouse, Pooh & Eeyore, Snow White & Prince Charming, Pinocchio and Darth Vader. We also managed to catch one of the impromptu fountain shows and a mini cavalcade featuring Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Stitch. Such fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been insisting since I arrived that I NEEDED a Mickey-shaped food (not so prevalent as at WDW) so got myself a  Mickey waffle with Nutella for breakfast at the Old Mill and it was delicious. Lunch was from Cafe Hyperion but I just had some nuggets and fries as it was so warm that I didn’t want much. We just grabbed some snacks later on to take back to our hotel room since again we weren’t really feeling the need for dinner as it was so hot.

We were there long enough to see the characters waving goodbye from the station again on our way out and it was such a lovely end to our time in the parks. We did, however, nip quickly to a couple of shops in the Disney Village again before getting the train back to our hotel to start getting packed and organised ready to head home the next day. I had quite the haul to fit in my cabin bag – mainly Mouse Ears and 2020 merch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall we had a fantastic time and I’m glad I overcame my anxieties (stemming from living such a sheltered existence for most of this year) about being away from home and around people right now in order to go. I felt very safe in Disney, perhaps safer than that time I went to a large supermarket in the earliest days of the UK lockdown and felt incredibly uncomfortable. I also noticed that even while things were a little different and I was conscious of safety, being in Disney also felt like I was removed from the constant cycle of Covid-related news and refreshing of feeds that have become so much a part of my life in 2020. In that respect, the parks fulfilled their role of being a place where we can leave our cares behind and have fun. I would even go so far as to say that some of the changes – Magic Shots, selfie spots, impromptu surprises such as mini parades, characters welcoming us in and us bidding goodnight, low crowd levels and safety measures – are things I would happily see stay. Ordinarily I love the parade and fireworks, but if I’m honest there was so much to fill my days that I didn’t actually miss them this time!

I’ve mentioned my anxieties about travelling during Covid-19 and have been super careful and risk-averse throughout lockdown, venturing out very little. I’ve previously noticed myself backing away from people and actively avoiding others having been conditioned to consider everyone I meet as potentially “toxic”, so how come I felt so comfortable in Disney?  For me, it was the attention to promoting safety measures such as having hand sanitiser at the entrance and exit of all rides, attractions and shopping locations, mask wearing being reinforced by cast members (and disposable masks available for sale, just in case!), cast members directing the flow of traffic and reinforcing distancing where possible, and the option to ask cast members in shops for “fresh” merchandise to cut down on any handling of products on display. Yes, some places could get a little busier, but there was always room to move into more space so it felt ok. In this respect this trip was probably one of the best things I could do to prepare myself for being back in school and surrounded by people again. I have turned down invitations to pubs and restaurants – especially unfamiliar ones – but in a location I knew well, with plenty of outdoor space and numerous protections in place, I felt ok and my anxiety lifted as soon as I could see Disney!

Of course when people come together there will always be things that don’t run absolutely perfectly and it would be unreasonable to expect that cast members can watch everyone in every queue all the time, but if you are planning to visit DLP while we are living in the shadow of Covid, there are one or two things to be aware of so that you can take steps to protect your own health and safety.

For starters, not everyone is great at social distancing (in France 1m compared to the 2m we have been following here in Scotland) and when groups are together, people don’t always pay attention to the floor markings in queue spaces. I found it best to take responsibility for my own distancing and if a group behind me was getting too close, left extra space in front of me so I felt like I had room. It’s not always easy in DLP to know what language to address other guests in, but I did on one occasion ask a guest behind me to step back a bit. A bit of a “look” also did the trick on some occasions! Often it was simple lack of attention or confusion about whether to stand ON or OFF the markers (the answer is off – you should stand in the spaces between the floor markings, not directly on them, although the French instruction doesn’t read quite the same as the English version).

Also, while I didn’t actually mind wearing my mask all day, even on the weekend of the heatwave, I did, however, have to be careful to drink plenty as it’s easy to forget when your face is covered. I made sure to get drinks often and would just find a quiet bench to sit on so I could remove my mask and drink. That makes for a nice moment of respite from being on your feet as well!

That’s all I can think of right now. I’m so pleased we went and have some great memories to keep me going for a while. Disney is still magical, even if some of that magic is delivered in a different way right now, so if you have a trip booked (and it’s still possible for you to go) I think you will have fun. My best advice is to do your homework so you know what to expect and what the guidelines/safety measures are (especially if, like me, you also consume a lot of content coming from WDW as it’s not exactly the same); download the official app to help you plan your trip and access things like wait times and menus; be conscious of physical distancing and hand hygiene, and be mindful of cast members – they are there to not only help you have a magical time, but to reinforce messages to keep you safe.

Right now I have no idea when I’ll get back to Disney again, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to book a trip sooner rather than later (quarantine requirements are a big factor here). Actually getting a Disney fix at all this year still feels like a miracle to me and will give me something lovely to remember as winter inevitably takes hold. Hopefully things are brighter in 2021.

Disney, I’ll see ya real soon…

The Year Of The Mouse!

In the Chinese calendar, 2020 is the Year of the Rat, but did you know that “the Chinese word shǔ​ (鼠) may refer to rat, mouse, or other muroid-type animals”? (Thanks Wikipedia!). And as any regular reader, or person who actually knows me in real life, is aware, I am a BIG fan of a certain famous (fa-mouse? 🙄) mouse. THE Mouse. The Big Cheese. A certain Mr M Mouse and the theme parks associated with his image. Every year I take at least one pilgrimage to the House of Mouse (more since I joined the fun at the Disneyland Paris Magic Run weekend – if you missed it you can read about my experiences here, here and here) and with the plans I have afoot this year, I will most definitely be thinking of 2020 as my Year of the Mouse!

“But what’s so different?” I hear you ask. Surely I mean I’ll be taking my usual trip to Florida in July and popping over to Paris in September for Magic Run Weekend again? Yes, quite right. But as an added bonus, this year I’ll be squeezing in some extra visits to my happy place.

Last year Run Disney France announced the inaugural Princess Run Weekend taking place in May 2020. With the early May bank holiday falling that weekend, the dates worked out perfectly for us to fly out during the day on the Friday (rather than arrive late at night after I finish work and we get on an evening flight), run on the Saturday and Sunday (more on that in a moment) then fly home that evening as we have previously done on the September run weekends. The only fly in the ointment was that with it being a holiday weekend across Europe, the price of a package (Disney hotel, park passes, race bibs) was going to be so much more than we have paid in the past for September weekends, so we took a risk and booked with one of the off-site partner hotels and booked our flights before they got prohibitively expensive. This meant we were waiting for the bib only sales to get our race places. An agonising wait as French systems tend to be a bit laid back about the specifics of when things might actually happen!

While we were waiting, the themes for the races were announced and if anything this added to my desire to be part of the event (although let’s face it, having got flights and accommodation I was going to DLP that weekend, I just hoped it would be for the runs!). On the Saturday there will be a 5k themed to Ariel from The Little Mermaid (you know, the one with my near-permanent ear worm song and general mermaid-y feeling) and on Sunday there will be an 8k themed to Belle from Beauty and the Beast (my absolute favourite and the princess I relate to the most!). Basically, they announced two themes absolutely made for me and the option to take on both as the Cinderella Challenge (because it’s the 70th anniversary of Cinderella) for a third medal. I already knew I would be disappointed not to get a place, and with the theming it became my mission to get that challenge bib!

Finally we got the word that the bibs would go on sale the first Monday in February. I would be at work but Steve and my sister were primed to get on the case – Steve had space in his diary and my sister booked the afternoon off work to make sure she was available as we had heard so many tales of website crashes and lots of stress with people trying to book bibs for the September races in the past. They were keeping in close contact with each other and updating me with how they were getting on as I sat anxiously at work, keeping my fingers firmly crossed. As it turned out, there had been some improvements to the booking system, and although there were one or two hitches along the way, it wasn’t too long before my sister sent me this:

Getting this actually made a big difference to me, coming so soon after the news of a school inspection. I realised last year that not only does Disney make me happy, but knowing that I have trips to a Disney park to look forward to does wonders for my mental health. You would think that the crowds etc might stress me out, but I noticed last summer that being in Disney World made all the stresses of the year and struggles with various illnesses learning up to that point just melt away. I felt refreshed and renewed, happier than I had been in months. Clearly Walt’s original vision was working for me!

And with that in mind, I knew that having the May weekend races to look forward to would really give me a much-needed mental distraction through what is by far the busiest and most stressful time in the school year. Since getting that confirmation of our places, I’ve had great fun turning my attention to what I plan to wear for those runs (I prefer not to reveal those until race day) and making some plans for our time in the theme parks.

But that’s not all. A few days later I discovered that my sister was planning a weekend at DLP in August, towards the end of my summer break. With flights coming in quite cheaply and the cost of a hotel room (off-site) much less when it’s shared, I decided to go with her for a long weekend in the parks. Ever since my first trip there for Magic Run Weekend in 2018 I’ve had it in mind to do something like that since realistically it’s not too far away and although I LOVE taking part in the races there, I thought it might be fun to have a couple of days of dedicated time in the parks without worrying about getting enough sleep before a run, being tired from having just done a run and just generally building all of our plans around the races. August will be that time.

I know not everyone will understand my desire to do this, but it feels like the right thing for me just now. I’ve not entered any other races, nor do I have plans to, so won’t have those entry fees or travel costs to consider. It’s also going to be much more cost effective for me to join my sister in buying an annual pass for DLP so my park entry will be much less overall and I’ll get some food and merch discounts with it too (because obviously I will want to buy All The Things!). I’m fortunate that I earn enough to have the odd weekend away, but it’s not something I often actually do. Yet with budget flights (booked early) and the option of non-Disney hotels shared between two/three of us, it becomes remarkably affordable. It’s something my sister often does as solo trips, and now I’m seeing the opportunity to join her if the timing is right (which saves her some money too as we’ll share the hotel cost). Frankly, I’m much happier spending my money on trips like this than on lots of nights out, meals out, UK mini-breaks, etc. Don’t get me wrong, those are all fun, but I know time in spent in Disney feels much healthier for me and the memories I create are far more vivid and long-lasting than some of these other ways I might spend my time/money. Given the choice between a night away and a fancy meal or a weekend at Disney, I know what my choice would be!

So to summarise that’s:

  • DLP in May for Princess Run Weekend
  • A couple of days at WDW in July as part of our trip to Florida
  • A long weekend at DLP in August with my sister
  • DLP in September for Magic Run Weekend (we booked our package for that one towards the end of last year so bibs etc are already taken care of).

As if that wasn’t enough, it looks like my sister is also heading to DLP in October when I have school holidays, and with no other plans for that time of year, chances are I’ll join her. It would only annoy me knowing I was sitting at home when she was away having some Disney fun!

And THAT is why 2020 will be my Year of the Mouse. The only question is, how many new pairs of Minnie Mouse ears can I add to my collection? 🤔

Clearly false! 😂

Anyone else planning some Disney fun this year?

Race Report – Disneyland Paris Half Marathon 2019

I hope you like photos, because this post is full of them!

Day two of our weekend of running at Disneyland Paris this past September meant the half marathon. You might remember that the 2018 event had been my first Run Disney experience, and with theming that appealed much more to me in 2019, I was really looking forward to this race.

As with the 10k, the route was changed slightly from the previous year, but with time spent in both parks as well as the same out-and-back section outside of Disney to complete the distance.

And the theme? Couples (in all their forms). I had an idea that I wanted to dress as Belle again, but this time in her “provincial” blue dress, so this made things really easy for Steve who was able to wear his Beast T-shirt from last year again. I even did my hair like hers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you take on one of the challenges (31k or 36k) you have the same race bib (and hence the same number and corral) for every event you are in. This meant we were once more in corral A and my sister further back behind us. This race has the biggest numbers so the expo seemed much busier beforehand, but since the weather was mild (I didn’t need a foil blanket or extra layer) we just headed outside after dropping our bag off and used the portable toilets by the starting corrals as this was going to be much faster than standing in a queue for the ones inside. After this Steve and I got ourselves positioned in our corral ready for the off.

Soon enough, it was time for our wave to start, so I said goodbye to Steve and got ready to go (we were running separately again as he prefers to treat this as a race whereas I prefer to “get my money’s worth” out of the experience!).

Of course, once again I was running in kilometres and the markers in Disney are as exciting as anything else!

The first couple of photo ops were just that – photo ops rather than character stops. First with Hercules and Meg in one of the backstage areas, and then a Lion King display that looked pretty cool in the morning light.

After that, we were into the main park but it was some time before we hit Main Street for the out-and-back run as there were character stops and photo ops before then! Like the day before, I was keeping my sister posted with the characters and who they were switching with so she knew if she wanted to stop or not. Her strategy was to stop at every 3rd, unless it was characters she REALLY wanted to see, so that she could stay ahead of the sweepers.

Pocahontas & John Smith

 

Phantom Manor couple

And then it was time:

Official photo

Clarabelle & Horace

Official photo

From there, a host of further character stops, with all the characters out as couples, in line with the theme.

Aladdin & Jasmine

Tarzan & Jane

Rapunzel & Flynn Rider

Phoebus & Esmeralda

Jack Sparrow (making his way towards Angelica)

Belle & the Beast

Official photo

Buzz & Jessie

It was after this final stop with the Toy Story characters that I realised I was now behind the infamous “balloon ladies” who walk at the back of the pack at a steady pace, just within the sweep time. I wasn’t worried though as I knew I was about to run 10k outside the parks and would soon overtake them (and my sister who had been with me at Belle/Beast but had passed me while I was getting that Toy Story photo). It was such an ego boost to be passing so many people that even at a fairly easy pace I felt like I was flying – and got *that* photo:

Once outside of the parks, it’s a case of running steadily. The route leads away from Disney into a nearby village where we run around a reservoir then retrace our steps back onto Disney property. It’s a great opportunity to appreciate all the other costumes people are wearing and there are lots of what the French call “animations” – musicians, dancers, DJs, etc to keep things interesting.

Then on our way back we cross a bridge where we can see the main vehicle entrance to Disneyland.

Returning to Disney property, the route hits some of the resort areas, starting with a quick pass of the hotel we had been staying at (and where Steve was eating his second breakfast, having collected our one drop bag which he was going to meet me with later, checking us out and taking our luggage to the bagagerie for safekeeping).

Then through the grounds of the hotel we stayed in last time.

Official photo

The route finishes by following the path that leads from these hotels towards the parks, looping the water and passing through the Disney Village before making its way backstage and to the finish line by the side of the Walt Disney Studios.

This time I was greeted by Mickey, Minnie and Goofy.

Before grabbing my medal and snacks:

I got the same snacks as in the 10k, plus these extras

I then grabbed a picture outside of the finish area before making my way back to the expo – a slow business with all the crowds since part of the route was on the way I needed to go, and with Steve finding it hard to get through as well, we agreed to meet at the expo tent.

When I got there I headed on in to get my 31k challenge medal, which funnelled me straight into a photo op.

I wish I’d had my 10k medal for this, but it was with Steve and he hadn’t arrived yet, so my main learning from this is to try and have all my medals handy before getting my challenge picture. But since I was still waiting for Steve to fight his way through the crowds, I grabbed another picture in the expo tent to pass the time and browsed the event merchandise, much of which had by this point been reduced.

When Steve finally made it, we headed really quickly into the main park so I could get some pictures with my medals by the castle before we had to get back to the hotel to change and collect our bags so we could get the Magic Shuttle back to the airport.

And there was just enough time to nip into Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin with my 31k challenge medal since it was themed to Aladdin.

I do really enjoy this event. It actually presents quite an interesting challenge as if, like me, you stop for lots of photos it means the first half is very stop/start, but then there’s a steady section of running in the second half. By this time you’ve probably been on your feet for a couple of hours so that can feel a little harder than it would be otherwise. Still, it’s great fun and I have loved both of my experiences of it. Will I be back? You bet!

Race Report – Disneyland Paris 10k 2019

“One and done” just isn’t my style. I mean, I have previous for this one, such as entering a marathon just to have the experience once…and to date, I’ve run 12 marathons! So it really shouldn’t come as any surprise at all that when it came to my Run Disney experience, “one and done” just wasn’t going to happen.

Regular readers will remember that last year I celebrated a Big Birthday and made a bit of a Big Deal about it, keeping the celebrations going through most of the year, the highlight being my first ever Run Disney experience with the half marathon at Disneyland Paris as part of their Magic Run Weekend.

At the time I wasn’t sure how Steve would take to it and so made sure to savour every moment, not sure when I would have the opportunity to run in Disney again, but when I caught him eyeing up child-sized Mr Incredible costumes in the park shops and wondering if he could make it fit him, whilst simultaneously muttering about having to up his costume game, I realised that we were DEFINITELY going to be back!

This time round I kept things a little more low-key, but at the end of September we travelled back to Disneyland Paris for our second experience of Magic Run Weekend. Unlike in 2018 when we were “only” entered in the half marathon, this time we were able to sort out our logistics so that we could also take part in the 10k on Saturday morning to complete the 31k challenge (and receive an extra T-shirt and medal for doing so). It feels so long ago now, but in this post I’ll share some details (and many, many photos!) from my 10k experience.

First of all, the theme. For the 2019 Magic Run Weekend the overall theme was “Adventure”, but each race had its own individual theme and for the 10k it was “Princesses”. Oh yes, the theming for 2019 was far more “me” than in 2018! Steve, my sister and I decided to put together a group effort when it came to the costumes and I did actual crafts (all new to me!) to make something for Steve to wear:

Anna, Olaf and Elsa

And when it came to the route, I knew that it is changed slightly each year so had no expectations other than to hit both of the Disney parks and spend a little time running behind the scenes as well.

Steve and I had both been lucky enough to get in corral A so knew that we would get underway fairly quickly after the race started as there wouldn’t be too many waves ahead of us, so with this in mind we made sure to get into our corral in good time and enjoyed some of the pre-run entertainment. This year it was all on a big screen rather than a stage, and seemed to mainly feature the Genie from Aladdin.

And then, we were off! With very different plans in mind (Steve running it all as he would any regular race, me stopping for all the photo ops) we quickly separated and set off on our first adventure of the weekend.

As is the norm in France, the route was marked in kilometres and the markers were appropriate to the theme:

The route actually took us into the main Disneyland park fairly quickly and before I knew it I was running up Main Street towards the castle. This is always such an emotional moment for me, and since this was my first sight of the castle on this trip, by the time I reached the Photopass photographers I was fighting back the lump in my throat that was threatening to have me in tears (the fact that the ambient music was the big transformation moment from Beauty and the Beast – my favourite – where the Beast turns back into the Prince wasn’t helping much either!).

Official Photo

And from there I was on a Saturday morning theme park tour, punctuated by character meet and greets, starting just around the corner by the castle stage where Belle herself was waiting for me. Perfect!

(Official Photos)

Belle. Always my favourite.

Moana – the soundtrack to our SUP yoga sessions!

Ariel – I’ve been on such a Little Mermaid kick this year!

Merida. The proud Scots!

And Rapunzel was out on a bridge spanning the route, calling encouragement to the runners.

And as with last year, all the cast members out along the course were full of energy and support. It was such an amazing atmosphere.

As I was running I knew that my sister was in a corral further behind us and that she didn’t particularly intend to stop for many pictures in order to make sure she had plenty of time in the parks later on, but I was texting her with information about where the stops were, which characters were out and, if I had heard it, which character they would switch with in case it changed before she got there. That way she could prioritise any stops she made. Since I was stopping so much, I fully expected her to catch up with me and she finally did at the very last character stop (Merida) so in the end, I wasn’t too far ahead of her in finishing the run, which made it much easier to meet up again in the finish area.

I was having such an amazing time that it felt like the finish line by the Walt Disney Studios was on me before I knew it (even though I was a good hour slower than my 10k PB haha!) At the point when I finished, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck were on the stage greeting runners so I grabbed a picture.

Then went off to collect my all-important medal and assorted snacks.

 

 

We also grabbed a couple of post-race photos before heading back to the hotel to get changed and have (second) breakfast.

So all-in-all a fantastic start to our weekend of Disney running. I definitely recommend the 10k as an excellent event for those looking for a Run Disney experience but without the commitment of the half marathon distance, as well as for those who, like me, love the magic of Disney and never say no to a bit of a running challenge!

Stay tuned for a roundup of our half marathon experience…

Week In Review – Bonjour Encore!

Believe it or not, this post actually brings me up to date with my weekly roundups – the only one still to write is the week we’re on right now! Through circumstance, the first week of the holidays was a “down” week in terms of training (but certainly still a very active week since I was in Paris!). It was a really fun week, but very little training to speak of:

Monday – Disneyland Paris
Tuesday – Paris
Wednesday – travel home
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun open sandwich
Sunday – 8 miles

Yes, you read that right, my week began with a return to my happy place: Disney! This was a new addition to our trip itinerary and it looks set to become a permanent feature after everyone had such a brilliant day. Although some Scottish schools were on holiday, it was far from all areas and English schools weren’t on half term yet. It being a Monday meant locals with annual passes were likely to be at work so in comparison to our visit on Run Weekend the parks were much quieter. This meant I was able to tick loads of attractions off my list, pick up some bits and pieces of shopping I had put off, and see the fireworks (although there was a bit of a technical snag there and for a good 10 minutes I thought they weren’t going to happen. Not going to lie, if I hadn’t been with pupils I would probably have been in tears after I sacrificed the fireworks for sleep on Run Weekend!). It was odd being back there so soon, but I did find the layout of the park felt much more familiar (it is not the same as the Magic Kingdom in Florida) which probably helped me to move quite swiftly through the things I wanted to do whilst still soaking up those magical vibes. Stand by for photos!!

I’ve never actually arrived this way before as I’ve stayed on property and only seen this from a flyover during the half marathon.

The “Ear Rule” was applied!

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch. Yes I did order this. Yes it was tasty.

And for the record, although it was covered up by my trip hoody, I was wearing this top:

In one shop a cast member took one look at me in my Beauty and the Beast-inspired leggings, Briar Rose Gold mouse ears and Arendelle Aqua Loungefly backpack (see below) and said, “so you’re a big Disney fan then?” It took every ounce of control I possessed not to reply with, “duh!” or similar 😂

Not me, but since I do have all these Arendelle Aqua items, it easily could be!

Photo Source: disneyphile.fr

That was probably my favourite day of the whole trip – and the one where there was no rain! Sadly Tuesday was forecast to be the wettest and that is exactly how it panned out, but luckily we had mainly indoor things on our itinerary for the the day.

We started at the Musée d’Orsay, a former railway station which is now an art gallery. I last visited here on my own school trip to Paris (more years ago than I care to count!) and remember enjoying the Impressionist art, so after a restorative cup of tea, that’s exactly where we headed.

From there, I walked the group along the Rive Gauche (left bank of the River Seine) to let them see some of the book/souvenir stalls (bouqinistes) and crossed back to the Rive Droite (right bank) on the Pont des Arts, which until recently was the bridge associated with love locks. Now, the railings have been replaced by perspex panels to prevent people attaching padlocks to them as there were concerns about the weight eventually causing them to fall into the water, potentially causing serious injury since the river frequently has an array of different kinds of boat on it. It’s still a nice pedestrian bridge and a nice spot to view the river and its banks.

This bridge delivers us right to the Louvre and we spent a few minutes getting some photos around the pyramid before heading along Rue de Rivoli to our destination: the Forum des Halles, a huge shopping centre which I can find ok, but I ALWAYS get lost within it’s labyrinthine floors! (Although I can find the Pandora store, so that covers the essentials 😂)

Having sent the pupils on their way, the staff headed to a pavement cafe where we sat under umbrellas, warmed by outdoor heaters, and had some lunch while we watched people scurrying out of the rain. I had hoped for more onion soup but sadly it wasn’t on the menu so I settled for a club sandwich which was really tasty.

Satisfied, we went our separate ways for a bit of shopping. I had a couple of things on my list but took care of those quite quickly so ended up marvelling at some of the creations in the Lego Store.

Around there I bumped into one of my colleagues so we went off for a cup of tea at the cafe beside our meeting point, finishing just in time to meet the rest of the group to head back to the centre for dinner – probably my least favourite selection of the trip as the fish was really bony and not well cooked, the rice wasn’t the best and the veg was cold. At least they had that nice dessert on again!

For our final night, we headed over to the Notre Dame area. Following the fire the actual cathedral is blocked off while it is restored, but we still wanted to have a chance to see it and there are lots of other things to do in the area. Our first port of call was one of my favourite places: Shakespeare & Co bookshop. Not only is it an iconic location, but there is a resident cat called Aggie who is most definitely the boss!

The staff then headed to a nearby cafe for a refreshment and most of the pupils went off to find snacks and souvenirs before heading back to the centre and bed.

Sadly it ended up being quite a late night as we had to solve a problem (not caused by our pupils but affecting them) and with the typically laid-back attitude of the French when it comes to getting things sorted out, this took much longer than it needed to. I can tell you I was not pleased when my alarm went off the next morning.

We weren’t due to be collected from the centre until around noon so had considered heading out on some kind of walk/excursion, but it was clear that the pupils just needed a chance to chill out after several busy days – as did we after our late night! We had to check out of our rooms, but luggage was kept in the baggagerie and there was a fairly nice cafe and seating area, so the couple of hours we had actually passed really quickly. To be honest, it felt like no time at all before we were back at the airport, dropping off the bags and picking up some food to see us until our arrival home.

A highlight of the flight was that this time I was on the left of the plane so saw the daytime view of the Eiffel Tower from the air to complement the night-time view I had when I arrived for Run Weekend. That felt like a nice way to round things off.

Everything went pretty smoothly and by 7:30pm we were back at school and delivering the pupils safely back to their parents. A really nice touch was one parent who turned up with flowers for the staff members to thank them for taking time out of their holiday to take her daughter to Paris. So thoughtful!

My only stop after that was to pick up a Chinese takeaway on my way home since Steve wasn’t going to be in much before me and we didn’t have anything in shopping-wise since I was away. Then I headed for a bath before bed. Wine DEFINITELY needed!

After all that I was EXHAUSTED. I didn’t see much need to run on the Thursday, preferring to get plenty of sleep and tackle some of those real-life errands teachers have in the holidays like getting a dental check-up – quite a comedown from being in Paris!

I did, however, make a point of going to Ashtanga since I wanted to stretch out after all the walking around. I also finally swallowed my pride and asked to be supported for the headstand. Perhaps getting used to being in the posture again, with some help, will be useful in getting me back to doing them solo again. It can’t hurt!

Then on Friday I ended up having another rest day. My errand for the day was my annual flu jab and my arm always hurts a little after so I didn’t bother asking Steve for a session. Instead I made some effort to unpack (properly this time!) and get myself organised. This included opening up this year’s edition of “Nope” magazine from the London Marathon. This year it may as well say “hard cheese” given the image they selected! 😂

By Saturday I was ready to get back to it. Steve was RD at parkrun so he drove down earlier with a warm top etc for me and I ran down. This was the day that Eliud Kipchoge completed his amazing sub-2 hour marathon and in my determination not to miss a minute of it, I actually ran there whilst still streaming the live feed (parkrun in Scotland is at 9:30am, I leave by about 9am latest to run down and he was due to finish at 9:15am so I knew I would probably be arriving, or just about arriving, when he finished). You should have seen me trying to look at my phone screen every time I had to pause to cross a road! By some miracle I reached parkrun without tripping, falling or otherwise making a fool of myself, so there’s that.

I had a fairly good run considering I hadn’t run in over a week. A little slower than I would have liked, but it was actually quite windy which definitely made a difference. I was just happy to be there and enjoyed my run.

I helped to sort the tokens while I waited for Steve, then donned my extra layers while the run was finishing up (I was back in my shorts again after that one super-cold day of capris right at the end of term). Steve being RD meant we headed to the cafe for a bacon roll while he processed the results.

Had to take my own picture since Steve was busy 😂

Then it was back to the usual Saturday glamour of food shopping. Oh take me back to Paris!

I spent the afternoon getting myself up to date with Strictly Come Dancing (to be honest, with two trips to Paris I had pretty much been a bit behind from week 1, but had somehow managed to avoid any spoilers. First world problems lol!). And for those wondering, the kitties definitely missed me while I was away, so much so that Smokey has suddenly become a lap cat – this wasn’t part of his repertoire before I left!

For my Sunday run I had considered 10 miles but ultimately decided that this should naturally become a cutback week since I hadn’t run much, and 8 miles would therefore be ideal. I headed out to the path through the woodland park which I like and just kept the pace easy. It felt good to stretch things out with a run after lots of walking. And yes, still in shorts.

So there you have it. Not much running or training but a super-fun week nonetheless. I mean I was in both Paris AND Disney – how could it be anything other than fantastique!

What was the best school trip you ever went on?
Are you in your winter running kit yet?