Since I have a few more days before take-off, I thought now would finally be a good time to indulge everyone in some of the stories that occurred between quitting my job, on July 27th, 2011 and now. Specifically, I’m thinking about the infamous Disney Transatlantic cruise, which for those of you who don’t know, was my preferred mode of transportation for moving from Amsterdam back to my parent’s house in Malta, NY. I spent two weeks on board the family friendly ship as what I suspect was the only woman traveling alone.
Upon telling my peers in Amsterdam about my plans to sail back to America in the wholesome company of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, they were understandably bewildered as to why a single woman would go on a family-oriented cruise. To be truthful, I was a bit concerned about this too. For the past 3 years living in Amsterdam, my interactions with the youths of this world were few and far between, but I was so excited about the prospect of going on any cruise ship that the whole “family-oriented” part seemed like a minor detail. I knew I was meant to sail back home on a ship and I was ready for anything.
The Disney Magic departed from Barcelona on September 10th, 2011 and would spend two weeks traversing the Atlantic Ocean to reach Port Canaveral. It was actually quite fitting that my good friend Paul was there in Barcelona to send me off on the ship as he was the first friend I met in Amsterdam. It felt like the perfect frame for my life in Amsterdam. Though, part of me still thinks that the gang in Amsterdam sent him to Barcelona to make absolute sure that I got on that ship (more than a few hangovers were blamed on me and my multiple ‘going away’ parties).
All was going fine as I entered the terminal and checked in, but once I sat down in the waiting area and was properly immersed in the family atmosphere, the real panic started sinking in. I was sitting across from the creepiest 6 year old girl I’ve encountered to date. She was pissed. What made it so bad though was that instead of throwing a temper tantrum, she was just sitting there with this contemplative glare of death directed toward her little brother. And she did it with that serial killer sense of calm about her. It was unbelievable and the best part was her shirt which said, “All-American Sweetheart.” This was when I think I sent the first of SOS messages to Paul telling him to come back and get me before Chucky’s bride murdered me in my sleep. So far, not a good start.
Then my boarding group was finally announced to board. That was a relief of sorts. All was fine with this process until I actually entered the ship. I don’t know if this goes down on all cruise ships, but it seems as if it is customary and normal to publicly announce the arrival of each family in grand fashion aboard the Disney Magic. After the loud speaker inevitably butchers your family surname, the characters then stop to greet you. I know it’s cute and all, but it causes a big bottleneck at the entrance and prolongs an already cumbersome boarding process. While I was still 2 families back, I tried to scope out an escape route to avoid this spectacle but still ended up face-to-face with a crew member. Luckily she took one look at me and said,
“You don’t wanna be announced, do you?”
“No”, was my response in my most calm serial killer voice.
She sympathized and let me pass Go with a simple, “Well, have a magical day!” I would later discover that “magical days” were the only kind allowed on Ship Mickey.
After shuffling through the welcome brigade I made a beeline for where else but the bar. At this point, our rooms weren’t ready to enter so in my mind, having cocktails at noon was a proper remedy to start fresh again. It was here in the Promenade Lounge where I met and befriended Bruno, my bartender, therapist and resident Portuguese person (Note: I’ve yet to reveal the extent to which I love Portugal, so just accept that I do for now and that I get super excited anytime I meet a Portuguese person). Soon after I set up shop at his bar, he emerged from the backroom with a halo like the second coming of Jesus ready to pour me a healthy glass of coping mechanisms.
“I need a drink because I’m not entirely sure I should be here…” That was all the cue Bruno needed to shift into therapist mode and begin educating me on the sheer awesomeness I was about to experience for two weeks at the hands of Mickey and Co. Naturally I was suspicious of my new best friend as I was sure he had drunk way too much of the Disney corporate kool-aid. Not even a Disney cruise can be as magical as he was claiming it to be. However, Mai Tai #2 told me to give the guy a break and remember to enjoy myself on this cruise.
By now it was time to head to the staterooms, and while I did feel a little more at ease about living on a ship for two weeks, I was still a little weary about what was in store for me with my potential dinnermates. The thought of being sat with the family of serial killer girl was a contender for worst case scenario with the best case being judgmental geriatrics. But since there was nothing I could do about it then, I quit my pouting and spent the rest of the day trying to get acquainted with the ship and the locations of every operational bar.
It’s the second impression that lasts
When I first arrived in Barcelona at the beginning of August 2011, I wasn’t entirely convinced of its status as one of the world’s most amazing cities. Maybe it was the melancholy from recently leaving the home I’ve called Amsterdam for the past 3 years, or maybe it was because I’ve accidentally become the hipster of travel wherein I only like to like cities no one else knows about. Either way, my first impression of Barcelona wasn’t charmed. To make matters worse, almost every restaurant I passed had the “tourist menu”, which is basically code for subpar cuisine that many restaurants pass off on unsuspecting tourists as traditional because they’re struggling to keep up with the overwhelming demand. As someone who takes her feeding experiences seriously, this is just sacrilegious. Luckily, with the help of a former work colleague who lives in Barcelona, I was able to have a top notch gastronomic experience and I was able to leave the city on a more positive note.
It wasn’t until I returned to Barcelona in the beginning of September before boarding the Disney cruiseship that I finally warmed up to the city. I’m sure having a friendly face from Amsterdam to explore the city with this time helped convince me, but more than that, I think it was the extra time I had to make the city a familiar place to me. I enjoyed showing Paul the great restaurants I found on my first visit to the city and even walking through the obvious tourist haunts. It was no surprise then that I looked fondly upon the city as I peacefully watched the sun set from the top deck of the ship. I reminded myself of my previous frustration with Barcelona and remember that in my case, first impressions usually were deceiving.
As I walked back to my stateroom after having had a lovely dinner with my equally lovely and non-threatening dinner tablemates, I felt my previous anxiety about spending two weeks trapped in a Disney-themed hell with hundreds of screaming crumb snatchers melt away, magically of course. I was now ready to heed the advice of Bruno and enjoy my trek back home.
The Disney Files
- Day 2 – At Sea
- Day 3 – Gibraltar
- Day 4 – At Sea
- Day 5 – Funchal, Madeira
- Day 6 – At Sea
- Day 7 – At Sea
- Days 8,9,10 – At Sea
- Day 11 – St. Maarten
- Day 12 – Tortola
- Days 13, 14 – Last Day at Sea & Castaway Cay
- Day 15 – The End