…are Steve & Renee now?


Maltese Magic Escape

Disney Magic makes a rapid departure from the Malta Port

Okay, so I had a little fun with this one.  This is about 18 minutes of footage crammed into 2.  Just a little frivolity!

PS:  Now you know what the second stack is REALLY for

Winking smile


Malta–First Port of Call

I was*so* excited to visit this location.  The place has an amazing history that dates back before the pyramids at least 5,200BC!

Here’s a rather nice write-up on the islands: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malta

I liked this picture of a prehistoric pygmy elephant (oxymoron)

Malta is a part of the European Union since 2003 and Maltese and English are both national languages.  As our guide told us on the way to see the Blue Grotto “93% of all Maltese people speak English, the other 7% are foreigners

Open-mouthed smile

Approaching the ‘Big Island’ of Malta 7:00am and hazy

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Map picture


Here’s a map of the spectacularly huge port area.  The red pin shows where we docked, it’s quite a site as we entered and exited the port.








The Port of Malta seen from the aft/starboard side of the Disney Magic.















Here we are in port and stopped at 8:10am local ship’s time on Monday May 30th.  This is provided on the in-room ship’s position monitor: IMG_1623

This is displayed 24hrs a day on one of the TV channels in each room.  I tried to remember and capture a shot each day as we arrived in port.

There’s Tunis off to the left, our ‘lost port’… sad not to see the ruins of Carthage.  We we close enough to it overnight that my mobile phone picked up the service from the mainland for awhile.









Today’s Port Adventure is a trip to the Blue Grotto and then off to a ‘typical fishing village’ (Adult Only Departure)
I should mention here that Renee and I have been going to Disney World ‘as adults’ for 10 years and we really love it.  We are fortunate enough to live about 9 hours driving distance and went down the ‘slippery slope’ of DVC (Disney Vacation Club) back in 2003.  This cruise was paid for with 1 1/2 years of vacation points so that’s pretty awesome!  We have taken some friends with us to the parks “as adults” who have young kids and they agree it’s a whole different experience!  One of the joys we have found aboard the ship is that if you don’t want to be around kids… you won’t be hardly at all.  The Adult-Only areas of the ship are great and the ability to isolate sound from one part of the boat to another is nothing short of amazing.  Most of the kids are off having fun all day in the Oceanears Club.  We’ve spoken to many parents aboard that tell us the kids check in there in the morning and they don’t see ‘em again until dinner/Showtime and then they go right back.

So, we booked ‘Adult Only Departures’ wherever possible and we did not have to contend with strollers keeping up.

After about 30 minutes of bus ride, we arrive at a scenic overlook near Wied iz-Zurrieq, allowing us to look down on part of the Blue Grotto area.  There’s also a sign advising “TODAY THE BOATS ARE RUNNING” 

Europe2011 084Be advised! These are open, outboard motor boats that seat 8 people max.  If the seas are running, the boats will not be.  Be prepared to be disappointed if you take this tour as it sounds as though it’s a 50/50 proposition… our native guide was happily surprised to find the boats running!!










While standing at the overlook, I was able to shoot this itty bitty island off on the horizon since the day was so clear.  Shot with an effective 300mm lens, this is the smallest island of the Malta group.

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The overlook itself:


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And what we could see from it:

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Then it was off to the town and access to the protected cove to load up the boats and adventure out to see the caves carved out by the sea:

Here’s a three-step zoom-view from the water back up to the overlook (double-click the pics to see them zoomed up to full size):

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Here’s a quick bit ‘o video at one of the six grottos… it doesn’t do justice to the experience… strongly recommended!!

The Blue Grotto Sneak Peak


So we thoroughly enjoyed that adventures, climbed out of the boats, walked up a steep hill where I captured this candid photo:

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Europe2011 141While we caught a (provided) bite to eat and a welcome drink, I spotted this salty dog and his spotty dog





















So now it’s off to the second half of our day in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk with a whopping 3,200 +/- people

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What a great little slice of life.  Renee and I really enjoy going to the smaller, less travelled locales.  There’s so much to see and a lot of culture to soak up.

I particularly appreciated the local banking hours:Europe2011 150










Marsaxlokk, Malta in late May 2011 during a Disney Magic cruise

Here’s a brief pan of the picturesque waterfront of Marsaxlokk.  Notice (once the clicking of a certain person’s massive camera stops) how wonderfully quiet it is.  I particularly like the fisherman repairing his net right at the end.








After about an hour touring the town, we head back to our floating hotel…



Disney Magic, seen through the buildings near the Port in Malta as we returned from the day’s adventuresIMG_1624:























Sessions_VodkaEnd of the day and we settled into Sessions for some mellow tunes and vodka on the rocks as we sail away to our next Port of Call – Sicily… good night!

Formal Night

Tonight is the evening of our first ‘Day at Sea’.  We’re enroute to the beautiful island of Malta. 



Tonight’s towel animal:



We would get different ones every evening with the turndown service, a briefing on our port of call in the morning (if there is one) and a few chocolates.  Notice which of the Seven Dwarves is on the chocolate (hint: it’s NOT Dopey)















Since it was ‘dress up time’ there were pictures to be taken with the Master of the Magic, Captain John:


…and the Master of Ceremonies


Some of us just HAD to ham it up a bit!

This little item arrived during the dessert portion of the meal, it was cute!


Barcelona–Day 2

Wow!  What an amazing day we had Thursday!!

WARNING!!!  Wayyy long post follows…Surprised smile

We attempted to start out early and found that Barcelona doesn’t wake up much before 10am!

Hooray for Starbucks!  photo7

Interestingly they have no ‘coffee’ machine as we are used to in the States, rather they have extra espresso dispensers and, of all things, a fresh orange juicer (no picture handy).  This thing takes whole oranges and simply crushes them; peels, seeds and all; with juices coming out of the bottom.  It’s about 50% more expensive than a latte, but very popular based on our visits.  If you want coffee the way we think of it, it’s “Americano”.

So today we went in search of some “Hannibal” (watch the video here) badges left behind by our favorite close-up magician.  photo5Hannibal was in Barcelona a few months ago supporting a tech company at convention.  We exchanged some messages and he left us some cryptic clues (natch!)

Link to his site here: http://www.chrishannibal.com/

So we have searched and searched… and we think we have been thwarted by the diligent cleaning crews around Barcelona.




We knew that the likely location of the arena mentioned is the former bullfighting arena (not a very popular sport in the Catalan capital) that has been converted to shopping in recent years.  We were not very near to this site so we looked to Clue #2…

Museo de CeraWe located clue number 2 here at the Museo De Cera De Barcelona.

Searching and searching, we still found no sign of Hannibal having been ‘close to wax’ so we moved on to the next locale…



Hmmm… across the street from “The Snail” gads!

So it turns out that there is an old, famous restaurant called “Los Caracoles” Caracoles street badgethat must be just the place.. 

photo4It’s a lovely, out-of-the-way place with beautiful etched glass windows.  We searched valiantly in the adjoining streets, in the little bits & bobs shops across the lane from here…. 


















We even checked out the shop just across the street from Los Caracolessexshop.















::::::::::::::::::: An hour later ::::::::::::::::::::::::

Okay, so no Hannibal marker found anywhere, despite the fun of the search Open-mouthed smile

We were hungry and thirsty by this point so we went in search of a Tapas bar Renee had read about before we arrived, SagardiBagardi Tapas

They had all kinds of unique and original creations.  You collect a plate and pick the various tapas you want to have.  In the end they ‘count the toothpicks’ and you pay based on the number.  Some folks are fairly ignorant and ‘accidentally’ drop toothpicks before paying… we really hate this kind of thing but otherwise we really enjoyed the great variety and fun of the place.  They were constantly bringing new plates full of tapas from the back room.  There was one that looked like there was shaved coconut on it… but it turned out to be some rally awesome cheese,

We tried their signature ‘cider’ but neither of us found it to be to our taste.  When we came iup to have our toothpicks counted, they noticed we had a fair bit of the cider left in both cups, asked if we liked it, and then didn’t charge us for it… class!

BTW:  We are amazed at how multilingual service is here in Barcelona.  Not only English but we heard Italian and French and lots of German as well.  This is supposedly ‘The’ destination for Europeans on holiday… we see why !




So after the Tapas we stopped in at a place we’d visited in the afternoon the day before… “Mi Burrito y Yo”


Those of you who may recall our little trip to the US Virgin Islands last year may recall the “Donkey Diner” episode… this place just warmed the cockles of our hearts as a result.  Sitting outside, drinking wine, enjoying local food and entertainment

Pan Pipes on the Plaza outside Mi Burrito y Yo in Barcelona



Soooooooooooooo… Now what?

It’s about 11:00pm and we’re not tired so we happen to find an amazing Irish Pub along the way (I know, right?)

Imagine that?

photoGuinness on tap makes up for no breakfast in Barcelona in the mornings (somewhat) so we settled in.  I HAD to buy a hat they had (kinda Perry the Platypus-like don’tcha think?)

Dooby Dooby Doby,

Dooby Dooby Do-wah!!!

1:30am we found our way back to the AC Diplomatic, our base of operations for the pre-cruise…

Renee has some additional incriminating pictures I think…

Barcelona Cathedral

Renee has some spectacular pictures (natch!) but here’s a glimpse from my iPhone


Who Needs ’em?

There’s an entire store for this

Don’t need ’em!


Breakfast @ Tenorio Braseria

Double Espresso for me
Cappuccino for Renee
Croissant for each of us