Disney’s Magic in Norway – The Grand Finale

Lifeboat Drill Lineup

Gracious!  We’d done and seen so much!  Having the last day of our Disney cruise in Norway be a day at sea might seem anticlimactic, but in reality, it was absolutely perfect.  We’d worn ourselves out hiking, kayaking, bicycling, touring and finally, an entire day of relaxation stretched before us.  To make it even more wonderful, the weather was incredible.  Clear, sunny, warm, calm – just spectacular.  Leaving Megan and Joseph sound asleep, Raymond and I took to the upper decks for a stroll – letting the day unfold the way it would.

First we grabbed some breakfast at Cabanas.  Then we walked around soaking up the sights and sun.  Magic-on-Deck6 Magic-on-Deck5 Magic-on-Deck4 Magic-on-Deck2 Magic-on-Deck3We ran into our new friend, Philip Walker, and chatted with him for quite a while.  Moving on, we decided an adult beverage in the form of a specialty coffee in the Cove Café was in order.  Magic's-Cove-Cafe Magic's-Cove-Cafe-MenuMagic's-Cove-Cafe-Foam-MickeyThis little grown-up corner of the ship is a great place to hang out and we visited for a while with a fantastic young couple from Colorado we’d first met on our hike to Pulpit Rock.  Then we just roamed around – trying to squeeze the last bit of magic from the Magic on the last day of our unbelievable vacation.Sailor-Donald

Suddenly, my phone started going crazy with notifications – Disney’s onboard texting service meant our kids could let us know if they needed us for any reason and, based on the number of texts rolling in (accompanied by many exclamation marks), Megan and Joseph were in O’Gill’s Pub and needed us immediately.  Hmmmm – what could that possibly be about?  TRIVIA!  It was Movie Quotes Trivia and we, ancient parents that we are, were actually going to be of some use for that!  We didn’t win, but that didn’t matter – we managed to get lots of correct answers and we had so much fun!Disney-Cruise-Movie-Trivia Disney-Cruise-Movie-Trivia-With-Jo

When the game ended, we realized it was time to do one of only two things we’d planned for the day – See Avengers – Age of Ultron!  In 3D! (Check out Meg and Joe’s tee-shirts – pretty cool, aren’t they?)  Movie-on-the-Disney-MagicWe’d seen the movie before, but something about seeing it at sea made it just as enjoyable as the first time.  Then it was time to get ready for the second thing we had planned – Dinner at Palo to celebrate Joseph’s birthday!

We had to hightail it back to our stateroom and convinced Joseph to take his shower first so we had time to get his presents ready and run them up to Palo.  We’d celebrated Megan’s 23rd birthday two years earlier on the Magic, also in Palo, on our Mediterranean cruise and knew that the Cast Members in Palo would be more than happy to hold Joseph’s gifts until we were between entrée and dessert.  Unfortunately, we’d taken a detour to the shop for a couple of last minute items and by the time we got back to our cabin, we were really pressed for time.

That’s when we discovered that the shower – sure, Joseph got to take his shower – was broken.  The handle was stripped and would just spin around…without turning on the water.  We’re not the type of family to let something minor like this throw us off our stride or make us grumpy.  We made two phone calls – one to the maintenance department and one to Senses Spa.  A repair person would be right up and, of course, the spa had no problem at all with us schlepping all our evening-out-prep-supplies there to get ready.  The spa is so posh and relaxing, it was tempting to curl up and take a nap, but NO!  We had to hurry!!!Magic's-Spa Magic's-Spa2

We arrived at Palo almost on time and looking pretty presentable, if I may say so.  Seated at the very same table we’d had in 2013, we were ready to relax and enjoy some incredible food, provided by exceptional service, in an enchanting atmosphere.  Palo-Entrance Palo-Megan-by-the-WindowPalo-ServerPalo has always been exactly what we’d hoped for, every single visit – and this time was no exception.  We loved our food and Joseph was (or at least acted) surprised when our server brought out his gifts.  I scooped up every moment into my heart and memory as fast as I could. (Joseph loved his new sunglasses!)Palo-Birthday-Toast Palo-Birthday-Joe

What a great way to end one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken!  Two years of planning and anticipation and the results exceeded our wildest expectations.  I cannot wait to get started on the next adventure.  We have plans…big plans!  And as soon as we know for sure they’ll work out, you’ll be the first to know.

Thanks for sticking with me for this lengthy trip report – I appreciate your comments and support here, on Twitter, on Facebook and on YouTube more than I can say.

Links to the other parts of this trip report:

Disney’s Magic in Norway – Geiranger

Disney’s Magic in Norway – Geiranger

This particular day of our vacation was so bazaar!  Commodore Tom had made it clear – the ship’s arrival in Geiranger was NOT to be missed and strongly recommended we make our way to the ship’s upper-most deck at 5:30 am.  Yes, 5:30 IN THE MORNING!  On vacation!  But we were completely swept up in the excitement and did indeed rise (certainly without one whit of shine), bundle up, and make our way up-top to see the famous Seven Sisters waterfall on one side and another waterfall named The Suitor across from them.  RM-Geirangerfjord-WaterfallIf it had been sunny instead of raining, the view would have been absolutely breathtaking.  Even in the rain, it was pretty darn amazing.

What we loved about crowding at the railing to see the ship make her way along the fjord toward Geiranger was the number of familiar Cast Members we saw – their excitement was contagious!  RM-GeirangerfjordAs we approached the quaint and tiny town at the end of the fjord, the excitement built and so did the number of people on deck to watch the show.  Finally, the ship actually spun around – seemingly in place – to be in the right spot for the floating dock to come out and meet her.

We were exhausted.  Exciting excursions, early starts and late nights were taking their toll.  Luckily, our excursion for this day in Geiranger was not until after lunch.  While we normally are the family who does not slow down on vacation, we needed to be more rested for our Sky to Fjord bicycle adventure – I got some strange looks when I suggested a nap, but nobody disagreed that it would be a huge help.  At about 7:00 am, we headed back to our cabin and promptly fell asleep.  Three-and-a-half hours later, we were feeling much better and ready to get out there and discover what Geiranger was all about.Geiranger-Guide-Bicycle-Tour

We met our group in Fathoms at 12:45 pm, bundled in layers.  Our guide was waiting on the pier to lead us on a short walk to the bicycle tour headquarters where we would get our helmets, vests, and gloves.  Bicycle-Tour-PrepIt was cold and misting, but we were genuinely excited about the adventure ahead of us.  Once we’d received our gear, we boarded a bus for the trip up the mountain above the town.  Geiranger-Street-Signs Geiranger-RoadwayAs we made our way along what felt like an endless series of switchbacks on the narrow roadway, our guide (I know, I should know his name, but I don’t) filled us in on the history of Geiranger – which happens to be such a popular vacation destination that the 250 year-round residents are nearly all employed in the tourism industry.  During the short summer months, the population swells with seasonal workers and tourists.

Our guide was excellent and sprinkled his history lesson with safety information – if we see a bus coming as we’re bicycling down the mountain, we should stop well before any switchback as the bus will take up the entire road to make the turn.  Hmmm- Good to know!  We were also informed that due to the steep grade, our bicycles were equipped with hydraulic disc breaks rather than the usual ones.  This was the first indication that this adventure might be terrifying extra exciting!Geiranger-Bus

We kept getting higher and soon, we were above the trees in a wide-open, completely frozen landscape.  The snow walls along the roadside were incredibly tall!  RM-Geirangerfjord-Snow RM-Geirangerfjord-Bicycles Geiranger-Sky-to-Fjord-Frozen-Lake There was a frozen lake right next to the area where our bicycles were set out.  Our first task was to find a bicycle the right size for each of us.  This took a while – long enough for us to start getting very wet from the sleet that was falling.Geiranger-Meg-on-the-MountainThen we were off.  At first, in spite of riding into a stiff wind, I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up with Raymond and Joseph.  Megan was not far behind me.  This lasted only a short time.  I was shaken by the warning signs along the road about the steep grade – I rode very conservatively, breaking regularly to slow my speed on the slick roads.  Especially after that first stop where I learned that Joseph had wrecked and would be sporting a bit of Norwegian road rash as a souvenir.  Geiranger-Family-PhotoStill he was thrilled about this excursion and later announced that is was the best and most fun vacation adventure we’d ever had.  As we rode down that mountain, my attention was completely focused on two things – how hard I was shivering and how much I did not want to plummet to my death.

When we finally reached Geiranger, I felt elated (and traumatized) – Raymond, Megan and Joseph were waiting for me in the bicycle barn.  We spent a few minutes in town looking around in some shops.  We found the merchandise heavy on the cheesy souvenirs with  “made in China” labels.  We decided to wait until the next port to do our shopping.  Soaked to the skin and still freezing, I left everyone else behind and ran the length of the floating dock all the way back to the ship, visions of a hot shower in my head.

Luckily, we managed some first aid for Joseph’s poor elbow (the worst of his injuries is under the Band-Aid) before we left our stateroom for the evening.  Geiranger-Road-RashWe were back in Carioca’s for dinner which was the “Captain’s Gala” and very delicious.  The show that night, The Magic of Light, featured a dance act that had been featured on Italia’s Got Talent called Evolution. Carioca's-Captain's-GalaShow-Magic-of-LightLobster-TowelHonestly, we were too tired to enjoy the show as much as we might have otherwise.  The next day we would reach our final port, Bergen, for yet another big day of excitement and adventure.  Stay tuned!

I was too nervous to even try to film with my GoPro as we rode, but I did manage to film some of our stops.  You can see that video on YouTube here.

Links to the other parts of this trip report:




Disney’s Magic in Norway – Alesund

Note:  This post is part of a series of articles detailing our adventures aboard Disney Cruise Line’s inaugural cruise through the Norwegian Fjords.  Follow the links at the end of this post to read about other parts of our trip.

Our second port in Norway was Alesund.  After our incredible, but exhausting, experience on the previous day’s hike to Pulpit Rock, we were not 100% – Luckily, the kayaking excursion we’d booked for Alesund wouldn’t begin until after lunch.  Of the four of us, Megan was the one feeling the worst.  She was battling a vicious head cold that began the day before with a sore throat and was gaining traction with every passing hour.  Initially, we thought maybe she was having an allergic reaction to something – we are a pretty hearty bunch and are rarely sick.  Even a cold would be unusual.  By the time we were up and about, the situation was undeniable.  With plenty of time to spare before we needed to meet for our kayaking excursion, we decided to see if we could find a drug store in Alesund and pick up a decongestant and some cough drops.

The weather was, big surprise, chilly and cloudy.  We left the ship and made our way into town.  Easy to navigate on foot, Alesund was a tidy and welcoming with a handy drug store not far from a small indoor shopping center we’d explored first.  Alesund-Walking Alesund-Street Alesund-Shopping Alesund-MallA helpful shop clerk was kind enough to direct us.  A wonderfully kind woman in the drug store was sympathetic and eager to assist.  In no time at all we had everything from a multi-pack of travel-sized tissues, to nose spray, cough drops, and Carmex (cherry flavored).  We made our way back to the ship to get ready for the day’s main adventure and by the time we met in Fathom’s at 1:15, Megan was feeling much better.

From the description of our Kayak Adventure in Alesund, we were expecting to explore the town along the fjord where it ran between the city’s colorful buildings.  Alesund-Fjord-ViewThe kayak tour’s headquarters was located right on this waterway.  Instead, we met our guide, Matt, and after receiving some basic kayak instructions and suiting up in our life-vests and kayaking “skirts”, we walked back to the area where the Magic was docked to board our kayaks.  That was the first of several things we found odd right away. (Notice the look of suspicion on Joseph’s face.)  Alesund-Kayaking-Prep Alesund-Kayak-Demo Alesund-Kayak-Guide Alesund-Kayaking-Equipment Alesund-Kayak-AdventureOur guide was from…you’ll never guess….Australia!  AND he’d been in Norway only a couple of weeks.  We realized that we would not be learning about Alesund’s history and culture from an Alesund native – or even a Norwegian.  Our group was very large – so many guests on the same excursion made us worry about how much (or little) we might actually see.  Lastly, the age limit for this activity seemed very low.  Too low, as we would soon discover.Alesund-Norway

This tour was supposed to last about three hours.  We’d already spent 30 minutes on the safety instructions, equipment distribution, and walking to the dock.  There were so many of us, it literally took another hour to get everyone into their 2-person boats.  Since we were among the first to leave the dock, we spent this time sitting in one place, in a holding pattern, among an ever-growing group of kayaks.  We were spending our valuable tour time floating in place.Alesund-Sea-Kayaking

This is where we first notice that we had, in our midst, a loud, obnoxious child who made Dennis the Menace seem like an angel.  He wasn’t just annoying because he yelled everything he said (and spoke incessantly), he was a trouble-maker of unimaginable talent and spent a great deal of our excursion trying to cause problems between his mom and “Uncle Steve”.  Clearly, mom and Steve did not get along, this kid knew it, and fanned the flames of family drama in any and every way possible.  After a while, it became clear that this child, who shared a kayak with his dad, was a chip off the old block.  The whole exercise proved much too difficult for father and son – poor Matt-from-Australia ended up having to tow them back to the pier.  Subjected to the son’s manipulative commentary the entire way.

Once our tour was finally able to get moving, we didn’t manage to go very far.  Our guide was frantically trying to keep everyone in a tight formation as we made our way down the fjord.  To keep us together, we were instructed to stop and wait – over and over.  The water grew choppier as we paddled along, and soon we were spread out over quite a distance.Alesund-Norway2

Megan and Joseph were in one Kayak, Raymond and I in another.  Guys were in front, leaving Megan and I in charge of steering – which involved a definite learning curve as the rudder was operated with our feet as we tried to make sure we paddled in sync with our leaders.  We worked hard and were moving well, in spite of the zig-zag pattern we made.  We were trying as hard as we could to keep up with Matt so we could hear what he was saying about Alesund’s history and what we were seeing along the shore.  Matt’s frustration grew, we were running out of time, and there were too many boats to keep up with.Alesund-Dock

It took an extremely long time for the huge group to cover a short distance.  Then it was time to turn around and head back to the dock.  This (could have been such fun!  Instead it felt like a waste of time and money.  A Cast Member who happened to take this excursion with us) later asked me what I thought about it.  I immediately offered that while the excursion had lots of potential, the group was too large and the age limit too low.  I suggested 16 as the minimum and she replied that she was thinking 18 and would be making a note to suggest a change.

All in all, we had a good time exploring Alesund both before and after kayaking.  We had fun on the excursion because we were together and visiting someplace new.  Sure, we wished we’d booked a private tour in this case, but we still got to have an adventure of sorts.  Dinner that night was in Animator’s Palate and we ran into Viking Goofy along the way.Lisa-and-Raymond-Animator's Joe-and-Meg-Animator'sViking-Goofy

Next up?  The scariest adventure of all!  Mountain to Fjord Biking!!!  Thanks for reading.

Links to the other parts of this trip report:



Disney’s Magic in Norway – Hiking to Pulpit Rock

Stavanger-Title-PicThe evening before reaching the port of Stavanger, Norway, we received a note in our stateroom:

 “Dear Guests, 

Thank you for booking the SV05 Hike to Pulpit Rock in Stavanger.  As you are aware, this is an ACTIVE Hiking tour and we want to remind you to keep hydrated and please ensure you have all the appropriate outerwear and shoes to participate in this port adventure.  Thanks so much and have a great Hike! 

Kind Regards, Port Adventures Team / Disney Magic”

Interesting!  Our first warning from Disney Cruise Line that we’d booked an ACTIVE tour!  We thought it was funny…until…

Disney’s Magic in Norway – Hiking to Pulpit RockStavanger-Port-Norway

Remember, I tried to book interesting, action-packed port adventures.  After being criticized by my offspring for some “boring” excursions on the 2011 Wonder-in-Alaska cruise, I was NOT booking anything remotely mild.  To kick things off, I booked a full day’s activity – an 8-hour tour that started with a motor coach ride to a ferry, ferry ride to more motor coach action, and finally, a 4-5 hour hike up to the world famous Pulpit Rock (and back down again).  This hike was not for wimps!  The stateroom warning card was proof!!!  It was not a cheap undertaking, this port adventure, but if I booked through Disney Cruise Line, I knew I was paying for peace of mind – if we returned later than the all-aboard time, the ship would not leave without us!Stavanger-Norway

If I remember correctly, we were to meet sometime around 8:15 am in Fathoms.  We got up early, bundled in layers and hiking shoes, and hit the Cabana’s Buffet for breakfast.  We were really excited and ready to go on time.  Once the ship had been cleared for all-ashore, we headed out with the other members of our tour group to meet our guide, Paul.  Paul was kind, easy going, and very welcoming as he ushered us along the pier to our very comfortable motor coach.  We’d packed the new backpack we’d received as a Castaway Club gift with trail mix, nuts, granola bars, and water.  We’d actually brought the snacks with us from home, having read that we’d have a long day ahead of us and would want the extra food.Pulpit-Rock-Guide-Paul

By 10:00 am, we’d reached the starting point for our hike.  In the parking lot, Paul distributed our box lunches (included with the excursion and he took this responsibility very seriously) – these were large-ish Styrofoam containers holding an unwrapped sandwich, apple, candy bar, and bottle of water.  There was absolutely no way we could carry these with us, so we left them in our seats on the bus – hoping they’d keep until we returned.  At around 10:15, we started the hike to Pulpit Rock – it was around 52-degrees out and overcast.

Paul was very clear with his pre-adventure warning – it would take us the same amount of time to reach Pulpit Rock as it would to hike back down.  The goal was to reach the plateau by noon (or so) and begin the trip back down by 12:40 pm at the latest.  No pressure!  Personally, I was feeling ultra confident at this point – my family is in excellent shape!  We would have absolutely no problem making the hike in the allotted time period – Paul would need to worry about those other families, not mine!  THEN we started the hike – walking up a wide, gravel path…and it felt like we were walking straight up! (See elevation map a the top of the page.)Pulpit-Rock-Slope

I was out of breath immediately.  Surely this was due to the fact that I was carrying the full backpack, right?  Or maybe it was the altitude in Norway (Louisiana is extremely flat and mostly at sea level).  Raymond took a turn carrying the snacks.  Megan and I were walking together and, for a short time, we could see Raymond and Joseph ahead of us.  They were getting farther and farther away, then we lost them completely.

After the gravel path ended, the real work began.  We were on an extremely rocky, sometimes very narrow upward path.  The rocks were of an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and texture.  Some were slippery where water ran in streams between the stones.  It was like climbing up an endless flight of stairs – where each individual stair was of a different height and angle.  The only way to take in our surroundings was to stop completely for a look around – otherwise, all we did was watch our feet to make sure we stepped carefully!  Every time we stopped, the view took our breath away…or maybe it was the climb.  No matter, we were working hard and had amazing things to see.Pulpit-Rock-Hike-Selfie

Occasionally, we’d get a break in a valley with a wooden walkway or on a flat plateau, but ever mindful of the time constraint, we pushed onward and upward.  We couldn’t help but notice when the path became extremely narrow along the edge of a cliff – one wrong step and…View-Hike-to-Pulpit-Rock

After an hour and a half, we were nearing Pulpit Rock – Megan and I were feeling a great sense of accomplishment.  Coming so close to the edge of disaster over and over completely desensitized us…when we reached the incredible Pulpit Rock, we were able to walk right up to the edge and have a seat!  Pulpit-Rock Pulpit-Rock-Hike-View Fjord-View-Pulpit-RockUnfazed by the danger of falling, we were euphoric!  We’d made it and the final destination was worth every bit of the effort it had taken to get there!

Sure, we were happy, but also really thirsty and starving!  It was time to find Raymond and Joseph and, more importantly, the backpack.  We had about 50 minutes to relax and enjoy the views before we had to head back down.Raymond-and-Lisa-Pulpit-Rock

Now, logic would dictate that going up would be harder than going down – not so in Norway!  The trip back down to the bus was, to me, more difficult than the climb.  Rocky-Slope-Down-From-Pulpit-RockThe rocks were slippery and I fell onto my bottom more than once.  I counted myself lucky – I was well-padded and didn’t suffer anything worse than a little hurt pride.  By the time I reached the busses, the rest of my family had been waiting a little while.  All of us were happy with our first day in Norway.  (Some of us might have been a bit sore the next day.)

We made the reverse trip to the port – back on the bus, the ferry, and the bus again before bidding Paul goodbye.  The next day would bring a new and completely different adventure – Sea Kayaking in Alesund, Norway.

Thanks for following along!  Watch this adventure’s YouTube video here.

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