Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I was coming home from class and decided to go to a shop that required me to drive through downtown Chicago and I had to smile when I saw the double Decker bus. It reminded me of Paris and Rome. This was a fun way to see the city when the time was limited.

Seeing this made me smile.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

DCL Bath ammenities

I happened to like the DCL bath amenities- but they are different from the ones at WDW. These fine products are made in Chicago- not too far from where I work. They are having a warehouse sale on Saturday! Too bad I will be at work!

Here is a link to what they sell at the resorts and cruise:

I like the lotion at the resorts better, but I really like the shampoo and conditioner on the boat- worked fine.

Two of my favorite items for the trip

I found two items that I really enjoyed using on the trip:

1- I purchased a small day pack/purse made by pacsafe, that I purchased at REI. The items made by this company are well crafted and made with safety in mind. I was able to clip the main zipper onto strap clip on the side so that entry into the main pocket would have been increasingly difficult by someone trying to steal something. The straps are cut proof and in between the layers of fabric is metal mesh- so that someone could not attempt to slash the bag and take the contents. Of course- should someone really want my bag- I would give it to them. I'd rather do that than be injured- but I purchased this bag after researching how to prevent the most common thefts. I was pleased with the purchase and would highly recommend it. I also purchased a camera strap that appears to be the typical neck strap- but it is a covered steel cable- so they can't come up to you and cut your camera cord and run off. There is also a release on the strap- so it can't be used to strangle you.

Check out their fine products:

Another great product for reducing your luggage size was this great compression sack from Granite Gear. I could see why this item was named one of the best camping products for 2007. This is the perfect thing for socks, underwear, etc - items that you don't care if they are wrinkled- you place everything in the bag- cinch it shut and then place the "Lid" on the top and pull the straps down. It takes the air out of the items and compresses it into a much smaller space. While this will not cut down on your weight- it will cut down on your space.

It was pretty cool and they one I had came in lime green:

I also had a little dry bag that was great and really light weight. When I find it- I will put it on the blog.

Oh- you can ship from the port- DON'T do it. I was tempted and gave it. I sent a small box that was less than 12 pounds and it was rougly $300!! YIKES- just pay the extra bag fee, it will probably be less!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Do you see what I see? My patient & I are in CT scan and this is the view from the window. The large black building is the John Hancock building in downtown Chicago.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Notre Dame

Arch de Triumph

Eiffel tower
This message was sent from a T-Mobile wireless phone.

I freakin hate it when that happens!

There were supposed to be picture from the Louvre- it must be fate since I couldn't remember who one of the sculptures was of or who did it.

There aren't any pictures from the Louvre- as they won't let you photograph them.
Paris! This photo will only be funny to two people- Jennie and I. Our room had these beautiful wooden beams and we were being silly and throwing our shoes at the ceiling because Char and Andy were above us. We accidentally took a small bit of the paint off with our foolishness.

This is the entrance for the Louvre, where we got to see lots of great works of art. We had used prerecorded tours of the museum by Rick Steves, which were good but things had been rearranged after the recording, so it was a little confusing. But it was free. You might want to see what they offered or shop online for a more recent tour. Did you know that anyone under the age of 18 is free? All you need is documentation of your age at the entry point. You don't even need to get a ticket.
This was Jennie and I at dinner in Villefranche. After diving, we went back to the boat and hung out with Char & Andy- then we got ready for dinner.

This was Andy's yucky eye. I think he was blowing too hard trying to clear his ears and blew some blood vessels in his eye. It progressively got worse over the next few days. We all stayed up to see the fireworks and then we went to bed. We spent the last day on the boat packing, napping, and doing a few activities.

I usu

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Where did the time go? I'm in traffic driving into the city to drop off papers regarding my ankle at work.

This was the first thing I ate after my flight. I missed oreo shakes!

Monday, June 11, 2007

This is a test of the emergency broadcast system


My husbands arms and the smell of my boy's hair....

Sunday, June 10, 2007

$50.00 well spent...

Well, I made it to the airport in one piece and with plenty of time to spare. I am flying home on American- thank heavens for no more IBERIA! I always see this offer on, which offers a one day pass to the Admirals club for $50 and I decided to use it. It should make it so I can shower when I hit Boston, which will be lovely! Yes, you can use it until you reach your final destination. So, I am sitting here using their computer and eating and drinking their food! Very nice! The food is not anything special- cookies, fruit, and basic airport kibble (pretzels,etc)- but you can bet your britches I will grab a few coke lights and stash those in my bag!

Can I also tell you how nice it is not to be watching CNN?

Au revoir!

Paris is very sleepy at 9:15 am on a Sunday morning. I too, am as well.

My fellow travellers left about 3 hours ago and I booked a different shuttle to afford myself additional sleep.

I would say that 98% of all businesses are closed today, including cafes. However, some of this should change as even on a Monday, shops do not open until 10 am.

Paris is a beautiful city, very different than those of Europe. It is grand. Although I have been here for 5 days, I know I have barely scraped the surface. Especially with my self imposed exile to bed yesterday. I am eager to return to work this coming week, and didn't want exhaustion to enter the picture. Normally, I would be horrified with the notion of going back, but with my increased time off of work due to my ankle, I am excited to have an income again!

Most of all, the end of my journey brings me back to my family. The last 5 days have been bitter sweet, seeing Lady Paris has robbed me of time with my boys.

Over the past week, I have heard increasing strain in Robb's voice as he tells me of the daily happenings of my family sans one member. Neither of us are overly fond of being a single parent when the other travels.

So, despite the long journey ahead, I am pleased to be making it. I also look forward to the return of my laptop so I can edit some of these post- finally looking at grammar & spelling! I plan to add more detailed information as time allows and arrival of a disc from Char & Andy. Did I mention earlier that I couldn't find my camera before I left? With the exception of the photos from my cell, which have been posted, I have relied on them to be my visual historians.

Be sure to check out yesterday's podcast for special information on luggage and flights! Make sure you know the rules, or you'll pay the horrid fine some of our fellow DCL cruisers did!

Also I have info on shipping from the port, which country has the best bathrooms, Disneyland Paris, and public transport in all three countries.

Although this is goodbye from Europe, my journey and blog are far from over!


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Friday, June 8, 2007

Foiled by the French!

Well, I have attempted to update the podcast multiple times and even purchased a phone call, with the hopes that I could dial into gabcast and do an update. For some reason, the french telephone system will not allow me to call into a toll free number, even with a calling card or on my cell. If anyone has any suggestions, please free to post.

I may try to get my hands on a mic and do it via internet later.

We are currently in Disneyland Paris!
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This was our lovely lunch between dives. We were diving in the bay of Villefranche, the boat took us to Nice for lunch while they refilled our tanks and we did the surface interval.

This where DCL was after our second dive. It was neat to come out of the water and to see the ship.Villafranche was beautiful! I would love to come back. The city also did fireworks for us.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

working on Villefranche....podcast update later tonight.

I checked the disboards today and this is what I wrote:

My honest impression is that this would have been a much better tour, had the trip been done over 14 days. I am TIRED!!! I am sitting here in Paris and Andy and I are plugging along on the computers- he is on the sucky French keyboard that has all of the keys in weird spots and I am on his laptop...
First of all, I loved the cruise- but I think that people who go on this cruise with the expectation of actually "seeing" Europe will be disappointed. Or those who have the expectation of having a relaxing cruise and seeing Europe will REALLY be disappointed. I know that it is hard for individuals to get 14 + days off for the cruise- but I think they should have done one or two cruises in the med that were that length, that would have also allowed for more rest and relaxation between ports. I seriously don't how to 10 day people are going to do it.
In Palermo, I did a land tour. The guy who was our tour guide was AWESOME. I did some more updates last night and I posted my top 3 favorite things. I had a really hard time deciding between Florence and Palermo- but it was the fact that our guide in Palermo took more time to tell us the history of the area and was also willing to schedule our trip according to our needs. We stopped for bathrooms, we stopped for gelato, we stopped to look at huge cows with bells, and I probably saw one of the coolest churches I have ever seen. It was also like we did all or most of everything DCL offered in their other excursions: we saw the churches,history, beaches, etc. It was just great.
However, I still think a private tour for Florence is a MUST- unless you're fine with getting there and not seeing much. My room mate and friends took the DCL bus into town- got on the first bus and didn't get off of the bus until around 11AM. By that point, we had already made three stops and were entering the David. It also took them well over two hours- almost three to get back to the ship and they left Florence before we started Pisa.
For Rome- you just have to accept that all you are going to get is a brief overview. For that, I really liked the way we did it. We booked our train tickets in advance, which was no problem, but not necessary. We took the train to the LAST stop, which was 3 or 4 after the ST. Peter's stop and got on the open bus tour from the beginning. We then got off at one point and walked to the Spanish steps and did the Trevi fountain. If you are with little kids- skip the steps as it isn't overly magnificent and hit the fountain- it it a must do. We than ate lunch and hoofed it back to the bus and went to the Vatican. We walked through St. Peters, which was free- so that was a bonus.
I also liked the idea of doing some trips via train- so that if you were with your kids and they had a melt down- you're not freaking out because you are holding up others. You can take the time to sit in a park, eat more ice cream, or just go back early- because you want to. That is a major plus for me.
Someone also asked about tickets for Pisa, while on the Florence tour that I did. The company made reservations for us for the David and gave me a link, which is on their website, to make reservations for Pisa. It was really easy and I did it all online and paid via credit card.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Okay, I'm seriously lagging behind and my roommate is sleeping as I peck away at this little keyboard!

So people don't miss out on opportunities because I am a little fatigued, I am going to pick my favorites.

Want to feel like you are flying?

I had a blast on the segway tour in Barcelona! I learned tons about the city and had a blast doing so! Try

My favorite tour:

I had a hard time deciding between Florence and Palermo. I honestly have to say that Palermo one. DCL had poor selection on the history of that area and the excursions were pricey. I have not finished my posts on Palermo because I was still having growing pains with remote posting and lost data. Our guide Davide was not only knowledgeable, but we REALLY got to see nest things that you would never get to see otherwise and he was awesome!! My travelling companions continue to talk about that being our favorite. We learned and saw lots!

You have to email this address with tour in the subject line- please ask for Davide, you won't be sorry!

Best dive and most picture perfect port!


This is what my mind made Provencal France into and here it was! I haven't begun my post on this location yet, but you should absolutely!!! Go diving here! We had great creature hunting here, a wonderful dive instructor who got me to dive with 4 kg weight, and a super, super great time!! If there are cast or crew reading or if you have your gear- do not miss diving with Alex Diamond! Nothing could have been easier and I haven't had a better dive yet! I am going to leave out the juicy details for now, but trust me- go dive there with him, you will kick yourself for not doing so.

You might want to ask about resort dives- aka taking non certified divers down, I don't know if he does, but you might want to ask!

Gotta hit the hay!

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Marsielle photo and answers

This is the pier where our dive boat was, it was beautiful!

Here are some quick answers to questions; my ankle is feeling much better, thank you. I still have decreased rotation and some pain. I'm a little concerned because it remains mildly swollen- I meet with the doctor next Monday.

In regards to the blackberry: I have t-mobile with blackberry internet. I was able to have t-mobile add on an unlimited email plan for $20 for one month. All of my photos I send cost me. 0.40 usd to send and I currently have had to pay $1.00 per minute for the podcasts because I called from my cell phone. I could have called for less with a calling card, but I was too lazy.

I am not getting paid to recommend any of the vendors, nor am I getting paid to do the blog. Everyone who w has been with me can tell you that I paid the same rates as they did. It is just a carma thing.

Like I have said before, these are just my own opinions, thoughts, and suggestions.


I guess growing up and taking junior high French, that I had a certain preconceived notion of what the Provence region would be and was disappointed when then port was industrial and not French looking.

Directly off of the ship were little shops selling regional items such as soaps, lavender, olive oil based products, paintings, and various wares. AA I have a thing for soap and we didn't have a chance to shop in the town post diving, I purchased many goods from the vendors.

There were many metered taxis just outside of the ship. Our driver estimated that it would cost 25 E for the trip, but due to increased fares on Sunday and traffic, it was 38 E. We arrived at Atoll dive club and found it a difficult to find someone who knew what we were there for and who spoke English. I wasn't aware what to expect or who to ask for. Once we found our guide and got on the boat everything went well. It was a little different than what we were used to as we had to gear up and weight our BCDs prior to getting to the boat. After arriving at the pier, we then assembled our regs on our tanks and had to lift our complete assembled gear onto the boat. I was nervous to get onto the boat carrying over 40 pounds of gear, with the boat moving slightly and knowing my ankle was still injured.

The dive site was near the Cassis area that DCL did a shore excursion to. The water was approx 57 and visibility was fair. We were able to see eels, a lobster like creature with purple eyes, and many fish.

I was also surprised that the climate was so different. There were less trees and vegetation than other areas. I struggle to accurately describe the area other than as arid in appearance, but not hot.

The cab ride back was quicker, but more expensive.

Diving with Fanni at Atoll diving was very enjoyable and we had a great time. If you are an avid diver and are not intimidated by being the only one not speaking French, then you will have a good time, with a great group of people.

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I totally hate to be a bossy cow, but...

Someone posted a comment regarding VAT not being paid on the ship- as the people who got on the ship today can confirm- YOU DO PAY VAT FOR ALL ITEMS PURCHASED ON THE SHIP! If you spend over 120 USD, on non-consumable goods, DCL will let you fill out a for, to get VAT back- but it all of the purchases have to have the same signature, or they won't allow it. I am working on getting caught up on the previous posts and we just arrived in Paris today. I love you travel agents, but I frequently have found that often when it comes to certain things- sometimes it is different. However, the process for VAT was easy- DCL had you drop off your receipts for Shutters and the other stores and then they filled out the forms and stuck it all under your door on the last night.

Basically I spent yesterday in bed and packing.

Gotta run-I'm using the computer in the lobby and there is a line.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


France won't let me podcast!! Sorry folks, the audio portion will have to wait!

I will do the written portion later!
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Saturday, June 2, 2007


Forgot to mention, the port is about 2 hours away from Florence, so keep that in mind when doing your planning. Also due to tendering- plan for more time- give yourself 45 to 60 minutes.
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Fulfilling dreams!

Today I was able to do and see things that I have always wanted to do. They wouldn't allow us to take photos inside, so this is just slightly outside- as you can see from the glass. It was amazing to see the great detail of the piece, from the veins on the neck, hands, and feet. You can also see the forced perspective as the piece was initially supposed to be on a hill: the top half of the body is larger than the bottom. The hands themselves is amazing!

This is the bell tower by the Dummo. We climbed to the top of the dome- ALL 463 steps UP!! The view was beautiful and it was well worth it. I will post the photos from the top when I get home. The cost to climb to the top of the dome was 6 Euros, well worth it.

Our final stop was at Pisa and we climbed to the top! I was given a link by our tour company where we could prebook our time to go up the tower.

Our driver Servio has been wonderful and has provided us with information about the area and has allowed us to maximize our time. We have been able to see many more things- than we would have if we were having to deal with a large group. We also didn't have to wait in lines as our guide was able to reserve our spots for the David, we just paid for the tickets at the box office and they helped me book the Pisa times.

We also walked around Michelangelo square, a church with a monastery, the old bridge and Piti palace.

The drive through the country side was worth it alone! It's not snow on the mountain side, its marble!

Due to the distance from the port and the ship- I highly suggest looking into a private tour that will maximize your time in Florence. It is much harder for me to leave Florence, than it was Rome, since I haven't been here before. It has left me, wanting for more.

I am happy to recommend the company I used, everything was flawless and well executed!





We tendered today. The process was very long as the ship held approx 400 people.
It took about 45 minutes for the entire process. The boat ride itself was very short. Today is Republic day, similar to July 4th, but I don't think it is celebrated the same.

The town is beautiful as you come in from the sea. Yellow, orange and cream homes with the terra cotta tile roofs. There are slight sprinkles today and the high will be 71. Our tour driver was there waiting for us, with a large Mercedes van. Very nice car with lots of leg room and my fellow passengers are taking naps.

Florence itself is more modern, than the surrounding area. We are getting ready to see the David, I am very excited!

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Rome photos

As my photos didn't go through last time and I am now on land, I thought I would try again. This was from the top of the open trambus.

This was just after I threw my coin into the Trevi fountain. We got off the bus and walked over to the fountain & Spanish steps. I don't have photos as I was looking for sunscreen.

I am currently in the van riding into Florence. The drive is as beautiful as one would imagine!

Inside St Peters.

More info on getting into Rome- there is a pass for ?9 that will get you in and out of Rome and will also allow metro use. Please know that with the shuttle DCL offers to the front of the port, that the walk is only 10 minutes and it is flat. Don't spend the $70 for the bus into Rome unless you are really uncertain about travelling on your own. It was really easy!

Friday, June 1, 2007


Hey guys,
I had someone question me regarding VAT, maybe I need to clarify. I have been doing the entire blog on my blackberry and it is very hard to edit and I don't have any ability to do spell check or any of that. My screen is roughly 1 inch square- I have the blackberry pearl. ;-)

VAT is not charged on the price of your cruise. However, it IS charged on everything you purchase on the ship- drinks, photos, spa treatments, gifts, and even baby sitting. I believe there is 7% on baby sitting and drinks.

Items purchased at the gift shop- are subject to 18% VAT. If you purchase more than $92 at Mickey Mate's you are able to fill out a form- that your return in Spain and your VAT will be returned via check. You cannot combine your purchases from shutters with those from the ship's stores.

Usually when you cruise with DCL, you do not pay sales tax on the items and they are duty free. This is where cruising here differs. I will take pictures tomorrow of the forms and post those tomorrow. Who ever at DCL that said you didn't pay VAT, IS VERY, VERY wrong! There are forms all over in your stateroom- even reminding you that if you send your laundry out to be washed- there is 7% VAT.

If you haven't learned that the people who you call at DCL are frequently wrong, you have been lucky. I have a very, very long example of that, but I will save that post for another day.

Also, please forgive me if I am not answering your comments. As the internet is not working well from the ship, I have not actually been looking at the blog. I am really bummed to see that my photos from Rome didn't post. They showed on my blackberry, but not on the computer here from the ship. Tonight they are actually working semi decently, I'm so pleased.

I sat with my table mates tonight at dinner seeing if they had any suggestions for anyone....
We thought that taking the train into Rome would be a great option for someone with one or two young children. You would have to be able to get yourself onto the train with your strollers, but the train is very, very cheap. It would allow you to do Rome at the pace that is acceptable for you and your family. You would also be able to leave when you wanted VS when the bus leaves. It might make you more relaxed as you can do what works best for you and if you have to leave right away, you wouldn't feel horrible as you wouldn't be shelling out a small fortune for transport. It would be less than 10 Euros for round trip transport, per person.

The open air bus we went on, would probably be very boring for younger children- as you are just driving around. If you had a young baby, it might give you a bit of rest- as he/she might sleep as you went around. I know my DS, who is 8, almost 9- would have liked it as we were out in the open and he would have thought that was fun. There was minimal explanation on what you were seeing, but if you walk up to the stand and purchase tickets (or on the train) they are around 16 Euros- so it isn't too expensive. We used trambus- the 110 line. ( If you search trambus or trambus open- you should find it.) I prepurchased our tickets online and they were about $25 and were good for two days- even thought we only used them for one. We didn't want to be bothered with carrying and exchanging Euros, so we prepuchased what we could. We took the train to the final stop from the ship and started there, which was the beginning of the tour. I am really bummed that my ROME post didn't go through as I spent some decent time posting that- and I also have to pay to post photos, so that kind of stinks. Any ways- for those of you who haven't been to Europe before- the transport agencies frequently strike. Yesterday, the taxi's were on strike and we knew before hand. Additionally, there was a demonstration and something at the Vatican. Despite these things, other than a little extra traffic- it wasn't bad. There is always traffic in Rome, so it was hard to tell the difference other than the tourist buses were a little delayed.

We took the bus around Rome doing the general tour- as it gave us a good over view and we were able to see many items this way, that we wouldn't be able to see on foot. It was a beautiful day and we all really enjoyed sitting in the open air looking around. We got off at the Vatican and stood in a really, really long line for St. Peters. I was really discouraged and thought we would be in the line for at least an hour- we got through in 10 minutes. This was the line for security and where they screened your outfit for modesty. There wasn't any charge to just go into the church and it was really, really beautiful. If you do nothing else, you should go there- and I am not catholic. The only bad thing about doing St. Peters without a guide is that you are not going to get all of the history you would normally, but we looked at this trip to Rome as an introduction. If you want to truly get the flavor of Rome and it's history- it isn't possible to do so in one day.

The combination of the bus trip, walking to the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain- and then the Vatican was enough for us. We were all ready to head back. This trip has been really, really fun- but very tiring! I really feel sorry for those on the 10 day without the sea day in the middle. Start working out NOW! LOL

I hope to do another podcast tomorrow from Florence and I will try to get some more photos posted.


A Day @ Sea!

Wow, I thought it would never come! I seriously needed this day at sea. This cruise has been very busy and full of lots of walking. After being off of my feet for a few weeks prior to the cruise, walking a few miles daily has made me much more tired than I normally would be.

I signed up for a few more DVC points today, because DH and I love AKL. I also slept in until 8:30, which is the latest I have slept this cruise. After my DVC appointment, we went to the presentation from the CEO of DLP. They will be having a few new rides out June 9! One is an indoor, dark roller coaster, something to do with crush.

After that point, I went to the CC party for repeat guests. Capt Tom gave possible sites for 2009; Baltik region, Hawaii, and Alaska. Tom McAlpin also spoke and seemed to dispell the belief that the current ships couldn't go to Alaska. Very strange after being told for years that they couldn't. Even if he didn't talk about it being possible for 2009, he did make it sound like it was plausable when the new ships came out. Personally, I think they will perminately put one of the ships out on the west coast and it will do Alaska in the summer. I also see this ship possibly doing Mexico and Hawaii in the other seasons.

Well, I am going to catch a quick nap. I am currently using my blackberry to send messages as we are close to land. I officially have given up on using the ship's internet, it is esp. Bad this cruise and ends up costing 20 (@ 0.55/min with package) or so for what could normally be done in 5 minutes or so.

I will give a few tips before I nap:
1- plan on wearing capri pants on shore excursions due to modesty regulations and churches. Men could use those pants that zip off. I haven't observed the europeans wearing shorts, even in hot weather.

2- if you are travelling in Naples, I would either plan on leaving them on the ship or doing a DCL excursion. The traffic is so crazy and the city is so busy, that I couldn't recommend taking children under 12 on the streets. It would be too easy for something to happen. I was thinking about my son the other night and came to that conclusion.

3- did you know that DCL has free video podcasts on the region and shore excursions on I-Tunes? It might help you decide what to do. I wouldn't recommend downloading them unless you have cable or dsl.



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