Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trip Report: Disney Fantasy Western Caribbean [Day 4] Grand Cayman

May 13, 2014 - Grand Cayman

Rachel had gotten up early that morning to run laps around the promenade deck and do her own yoga.  I was waiting for her to come back, but she had been gone for over two hours, so I figured that she must have gone to Mom and Dad's.  I called their room to see if they had her, and then asked them if they wanted to go to Disney Animation class with me.  Rachel was still nowhere to be found, but we went on to the D Lounge for animation class.

Disney Animation - Persistence of Vision

There was a series of four animation classes offered throughout the week, and I had missed the first two (that's okay... I can draw Mickey Mouse on my own time).  The class we attended was entitled Persistence of Vision and covered how Disney animation has evolved over the past 85 years.  We learned how to draw Buzz Lightyear.  The cast member (on the entertainment team... I forget his name, but his slogan was, "Whoop! Whoop!" which you were supposed to call out to him whenever you saw him on the ship) prefaced the lesson by making us swear that we would not judge our own drawings or anyone else's - his included.  Buzz Lightyear is also a very challenging character to draw, especially since he is a three-dimensional character that we were drawing two-dimensionally.

Throughout the class, the instructor draws on a giant sketch pad with a black marker, and his sketch pad is projected onto a large screen, much like at Animation Academy at the Magic of Disney Animation at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  However, unlike Animation Academy, the characters change between each class (unless it is a repeat of the class later that day) and progress in difficulty throughout the week.

My annoyance with the Disney animation classes is quite similar to my annoyance with my freehand drawing class (which I took last semester in architecture).  It frustrates me to do step-by-step drawings.  In freehand drawing, I wanted to draw the landscape/building in the order that I wanted.  And in animation, I really just wanted them to flash up the final drawing of Buzz so that I could draw him.  I think that also may be why I much prefer written tutorials as opposed to video tutorials... I can just scroll to the bottom of the page and see the final result, then go at my own pace.  Now, that being said, there is great value to step-by-step instruction and breaking down drawings into little steps.  I learned a lot of great technique, as well as method, in my freehand drawing class.  As painful as it was for me to wait for the next step, drawing (what felt like) blindly, I'm really glad that I endured it (it was an elective I chose to take that I considered dropping) because now I have a new perspective on how to construct a drawing.... just like I now know how to set up the guides for Buzz.

I know I promised not to judge, but I don't think that my Buzz Lightyear looks much like Buzz.  I mean, maybe there is a slight resemblance.  But his mouth is far too large and crooked.  I was also really wishing that I had a thick pen... like a Pentel sign pen... to draw with.  But in all honestly, I'm not the best in drawing characters or anything that is supposed to look how it actually is, for that matter.

Buzz Lightyear-2


As a perfectionist child (and a perfectionist adult), I do think that I would have gotten very frustrated at animation class.  In fact, I would have cried (actually, I think I did cry as a child drawing Mickey Mouse).  So if you have a child (or you yourself) would like to attend animation classes while on your Disney Cruise, I have a few suggestions to produce higher-quality work and perhaps allow yourself to fix some drawing mistakes...

1. Bring an eraser (or intentionally don't).  They do not give pencils with erasers.  The pencils are actually really crappy golf pencils that may or may not be sharp.  The idea is to use a light-over-dark method which is what I do when I sketch (personally, I sketch with pen) because I think that all of the guide lines and mistakes only add character.  Mess up?  Fine - just draw the correct line and make it darker.  A lot of people don't like to do that, though, so I would suggest bringing an eraser.  However, if you think you or your child might spend more time erasing than drawing, maybe you should decide to leave the eraser behind.
2. Bring your own pencil or pen.  The pencils they give you are very small (golf pencils) and not very good for drawing.  I was really wishing that I had my Pentel sign pen with me.
3. While you're at it, you could bring your own paper or sketch book.  The paper they give you is also really crappy copy paper.  If you'd like something a little more substantial, I'd suggest bringing your own paper, sketch pad, or sketch book - especially if you plan to attend all four animation classes.  Bringing your own sketch book could make a really fun souvenir.
4. Bring colored pencils/crayons/markers/watercolors (probably not for children on the watercolor suggestion... that's a mess waiting to happen).  While there is no time in the class to color, you or your child might want to take some time outside of the class to color your drawing.

After animation class, I returned to the room to find... still no Rachel!  I decided to wake Max up, and a few minutes later, Rachel came in.

Rachel - "FINALLY!  Where have you been?"
Me - "Me?  Where have you been?"
Rachel - "Coming in and out of the room trying to find you, but you're never here!  You or Mom and Dad!"

That's when it would have been nice if we had made a practice of using our Wave phones provided to us (2 per stateroom).  The reason we didn't use the Wave phones was that until then, we didn't really have any trouble keeping up with one another, and the Wave phone was just one more thing to carry around.  Not only that, but they are old school phones that we were having difficulty using (remember the old number keypad texting?) and didn't really want to spend the time to learn.  Also, the speaker was blown on one of my parents' Wave phones, so it sounded like Donald Duck was talking.

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman is a tender port, which means that the ship does not dock, but anchors in the harbor.  Guests are taken to port using smaller boats.  This was Max's first tender port, and as he was asking me about it, we found it really funny that a stranger lady in front of us decided to turn around and answer all of his questions like he was asking her.

Disney Fantasy

Disney Fantasy

Disney Fantasy

I remember the tender ride over being especially miserable because we sat in front of a family that was ridiculing one another about how they pronounce things. "It's CON-see-AIR-juh." "No, CON-see-AIR." "CON-see-AIR-juh." "CON-see-AIR." I would have rather swam to shore.

Grand Cayman

We were in port with the MSC Divina, which is a MSC Yacht Club ship. It's actually their only ship sailing from a US port, and I read recently that they will be pulling Divina from Miami after this year. I'm familiar with MSC because many of their ships sailed in my "home port" of Genoa, Italy when I lived in the Clemson architecture villa last spring, and I was actually in town for the Christening of the MSC Preziosa.

Seven Mile Beach - Surfside

We took a bus from the port to Seven Mile Beach. There was a list with a variety of stops, and we chose Surfside, a public beach, for $5 per person. They really pack you into the vans - every jump seat was pulled out. Max was placed shotgun, and I rode in the jump seat beside him!

7-Mile Beach - Surfside

We were excited to find that this was actually the same part of the beach that we had visited while on the Island Princess Panama Canal cruise over Christmas in 2012. When we were last there, the beach was one huge party. They were giving shots out of the bottle and playing drinking games. While there was still a DJ while we were there, the atmosphere was entirely different. We wonder if they tailor the music and games to the ships in port or the time of the year. At Christmas, we were in port with two Carnival ships.

7-Mile Beach - Surfside

The bright orange towels belong to the MSC Divina passengers. I thought it was funny that all of the Divina passengers looked very stereotypical European.

7-Mile Beach - Surfside

7-Mile Beach - Surfside

They didn't have any White Tip Lager which is a local beer, so we tried Pirates Gold, another Cayman Island beer.

7-Mile Beach - Surfside

The MSC Divina must have had a much earlier departure time than us. Once those passengers all left, the beach was almost empty!

7-Mile Beach - Surfside

Margaritaville - Grand Cayman

Before getting back on the ship, we wanted to do a little shopping. We found the liquor store that we had such great luck in back in 2012... but they were closed to cruise ship passengers! It turns out that they will only deliver alcohol directly to the ship, so they don't sell to Disney Cruise Line passengers because Disney does not check alcohol.

So we went on to Margaritaville. Mainly because Rachel and I wanted to do the water slide.

Margaritaville Grand Cayman

The slide was already really fast.  Then we tried the trick that we learned the day before at Playa Mia, and it was crazy fast!!

Margaritaville Grand Cayman

Margaritaville Grand Cayman

After getting in enough rounds on the slide to hold us over to the next one, we decided to actually sit down at the restaurant and order drinks and food (maybe we did that backwards).  Despite there being no one else there, service was a bit slow, and they didn't notice when my dad spilled his drink.  Or maybe our waitress was intentionally ignoring him so that she wouldn't have to clean up the mess.

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman

We were told that Disney Cruise Line guests could purchase alcohol at the duty free shops right at port and carry them on the ship, but the prices were ridiculous - it was more expensive than the United States! What a rip-off. We did something unthinkable and went a day without buying more booze.

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman

Disney Wishes - Walt Disney Theatre

Max and I were a little late to the show because I had to iron Max's shirt and didn't realize that the laundry on the seventh floor was located in Narnia, all the way at the bow of the ship.  Rachel said that we didn't miss much.

The concept of the show is that three friends are at Disneyland the night before graduation.  The protagonist, Kayla, is Valedictorian of her graduating class and stressed because she still hasn't finished writing her graduation speech.  Her friends, Nicole and Brandon, are boy/girl twins.  Brandon has a major crush on Kayla and is trying to work up the nerve to tell her that he likes her (can you say Kiss the Girl?).  Nicole is getting really annoyed that her friend is too worried about her graduation speech to have any fun.  Kayla makes a wish to have the best night ever on a magical coin that she found the first time she went to Disneyland years ago, and the three friends get taken through Disney musical numbers.  Perhaps it's a bit of an advertisement for Disneyland... but then again, aren't Disney Parks and Disney Cruises, for that matter, advertisement for Disney movies?

The plot is incredibly corny.  The musical numbers, however, are exceptional.  Disney Wishes, in my opinion, had the best choreography and set changes of all three main theater productions.  My favorite number was a hip-hop spin to Pinnochio's "I've Got No Strings".  It's a great remix of the song, awesome choreography, as well as great lighting effects.  Wishes is Disney storytelling at its finest.  The musical numbers are so well-written and cast incredibly talented that I'm willing to overlook the corny narrative.

Ooh La La - Champagne Bar

Max really wanted to visit Ooh La La because he wanted a Bellini.  So Rachel, Max, and I decided to visit for pre-dinner cocktails before our dinner that evening at Palo.  The lounge was almost empty when we entered.  The only other guests were actually cast members on break.

Ooh La La

While we were in the lounge, two other guests came in... and one was most definitely Deb Wills from AllEars!!! I made the mistake of telling Max and Rachel that I knew who she was, and they kept pestering me to go talk to her. "If you don't go talk to her, I'm going to go up there and introduce you to her!" Perhaps I should have spoken, but I was too nervous and didn't want to go do it with these two goofs surely ridiculing me in the background.

Ooh La La

We all ordered champagne cocktails.

Elderberry

I had the Elderbubble which Rachel and I agreed was the best.

Royal Bellini

Max had the Royal Bellini which was his favorite drink of the three.

Blue Angel

And Rachel had the Blue Angel which was very martini-like.

Palo (adults-only dining)

I made a reservation for Palo which is an adults-only restaurant for an upcharge of $25 per person.  I booked it mainly because it's adults only and we're all adults, not to mention, I believe every review I have ever read raves about it.  According to the message boards, Palo reservations are snatched up quickly.  It's true - I was able to book online at 75 days out, and my first date of choice (the second sea day) was taken.

The host who welcomed us was very friendly, and I really liked him. He had us look up before entering the restaurant and told us that the chandelier was created to resemble pasta noodles and spaghetti sauce.

VIC_6596

And then we met our waiter... who was just too much. Perhaps it was because he was over-the-top that he seemed less personable, and frankly, less likable. But we all found him weird and annoying and wished that he would just leave us alone.

Palo

Palo

He did offer to take our picture, though, which was nice. However, after he used my camera, he wouldn't stop asking me questions about it. Whenever he saw me taking photos of my food, he would ask me how I adjust my settings. While that might seem like a simple question to someone who has never used a DSLR camera before, it's not, and I really struggled to think of something quick to say that would kind of (not really) answer his questions. I already feel weird enough taking photos of my food in a fancy restaurant - please do not call me out on it!

Deciding what to order was a bit of a struggle for us.  My mother and father both had the same question, and I think it was my mother who understood our waiter and my father who did not.  There is a wine pairing menu which is $59 per person and includes six courses with pairings.  However, you can order the courses off the wine pairing menu without the wine at no additional cost.  I didn't mess with any of that and just ordered from the other categories.

Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes

I ordered the Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes.  I found it slightly over-salted for my tastes.

Gnocchi di Patate

And Gnocchi. I'll note that the names on the menu are all in Italian which I found slightly obnoxious. In fact, the actual listing is "Gnocchi di patate con Gorgonzola e Asparagi". I had to interpret Italian menus for the five months that I lived in Italy; don't give me that language barrier on a cruise ship owned by an American company. Menus in restaurants don't make you look fancy - they make your guests feel stupid. Anyway, the gnocchi was good. Perhaps the Italian name was fitting, considering the dish actually reminded me of my semester in Italy.

Palo

Palo

VIC_6595

The atmosphere in the restaurant was very dark. Perhaps they were going for a mysterious vibe. But we found really surprising was that the restaurant was really loud. Honestly, it was no quieter than our meals in the dining rooms (well, except Animator's Palate... hard to beat that). Instead of children screaming, it was adults talking loudly... and I guess I can understand why because I had to raise my voice to speak to my mother who was across from me at the giant round table. On top of that, there was a lot of dish clanking. However, there was no background music of any sort which I believe might help to drown out the noises coming from the kitchen.

Palo

Palo

Palo

Palo

Palo

Mom had ordered the Grilled Tuna medium-rare and was incredibly concerned when it was placed in front of her.  She's not a big tuna eater and was worried that the fish looked raw and would make her sick.  Max, who loves grilled tuna, had the Beef Tenderloin and offered to trade, so they swapped dishes.  We realized later that they didn't think to swap silverware, so Max had the steak knife while Mom struggled with a dull knife.

Beef Tenderloin "Palo"

For my entree, I ordered the Beef Tenderloin "Palo", medium-well.  I order all of my steaks medium-well.  Perhaps it was because the cut was so thick... I could hardly chew it.  I had just taken a big bite when our waiter came to ask me if I liked my steak.  I shook my head no, but couldn't chew the bite fast enough to swallow and talk to him.  So our waiter stood there beside me and everyone watched for what seemed like an eternity as I struggled to get down that bite of food.

Finally, I was able to swallow and tell him that I did not like the steak (I did like the potatoes, though, and was sad to see those go).  He asked if I would like a different dish, and Max suggested the Grilled Tuna.  That's when our waiter realized that Mom and Max had swapped dishes.  I tasted Max's tuna and decided that I would get exactly that - no surprises.

Grilled Tuna

The grilled tuna came out shortly.

For dessert, we were still eating our main course when our waiter came to ask if we wanted the chocolate souffle for dessert, which he recommends, because they take about 15 minutes to prepare. We all said yes, but asked to see the dessert menu later to see the other options.

Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate Souffle

The Chocolate Souffle was good. It is actually very similar to the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake on Carnival.

Palo

Now, I hadn't arranged for this to be a special meal for me, but my parents had called beforehand and ordered champagne for my graduation celebration. So our waiter brought out a graduation plate which he decorated for me (doubt he really did it himself, but sure, he can have the credit).

Amaretto Indulgence

Amaretto Indulgence

After looking over the dessert menu, Max requested the Amaretto Indulgence which he loved.... so much that he requested one to go!

Our waiter brought out Max's Amaretto cake wrapped to-go, and we thought we were all set to leave. We had pre-paid for the meal and thought that if we hadn't gotten a bill yet that we weren't going to. So we got up and left.

Well... after getting back to the room, Dad got a call to go back and sign the check. And when Dad went back up, our waiter gave him Limoncello shots which he brought back to us.

Disney Fantasy

We were ready to go to bed, so we put the shots in the refrigerator... where they stayed all week. We actually never took them.

Overall, I was disappointed in Palo.  With all of the great reviews, I was expecting something exceptional.  However, I found Palo to be extremely mediocre.  Sure, the food was above dining room quality (I wouldn't say that's particularly difficult to accomplish), but I don't think it was worth $25 per person.  Rachel suggested that the real appeal of Palo is that it is child-free.  For us, every meal was without children, so eating at Palo wasn't really that special.  But for adults with kids, Palo is an excuse for parents to leave their children in the Oceaneer Club and enjoy some sacred "adult time".


Disney Fantasy

I think it's a scorpion?

Disney Fantasy

Palo - love it or hate it? Comment below!

Next: Day 5 - Falmouth, Jamaica