It's 7:15 a.m. and already the laundry room washing machines are full. Apparently several other people are out of underwear too.
Hanging out here though has proved to be a great place to trade tips about going ashore. The ship docks in Olbia (translates to "a happy town"), which from what I’ve heard (and can see out the ship's windows) is a quiet little village with a rocky coastline. A popular place to visit in Sardinia is Costa Smeralda (known as the Emerald Coast), home to stylish cottages, quaint stores and yachts for the rich and famous (although the stores were closed today, which is why we decided not to make our way into town).
A bit of Disney trivia about Sardinia: Disney's 1964 television show, "Mediterranean Cruise," narrated by Ludwig Von Drake, includes visits to Sardinia and Siciliy. Maybe I’ll rent that movie.
One fellow mother confirmed what I’d been told at the shore tour desk -- taxis are not plentiful in this port. Another said she heard that most of the shops were closed today (Sunday), and so they were using this day to rest up for Rome. It was a plan we had been considering ourselves and decided to opt for once we learned it would not be a great beach weather day in Sardinia. In fact, this is a good thing to keep in mind when planning your shore excursions. In Europe many shops are shut down on Sundays (although we heard museums were closed on Mondays in Rome), so be sure to check opening days and times for your ports of call so as not to be disappointed.
Once the decision was made, we were excited to stay on the ship. Now we could have a leisurely breakfast, play basketball, find and hug a few characters (Colin's plan), take a nap, and stay up for the show. We hadn't seen one since the first night. (The moms in the laundry room had a similar lament.) It seemed that grownups and kids alike were worn out.
It was over breakfast this morning that we realized that not only is it hard to choose between the many enticing things to do in each port, it's also hard to find a balance between exhausting the kids during the day and leaving them with enough energy to experience some of the evening entertainment. You constantly feel like you're missing out on something when sailing on a ship like this one, and on an itinerary like the Mediterranean.
So today turned out to be just the recharging we needed. The ship, or more specifically, the pool areas, were a little less packed than they'd be on a sea day; the line for the slide at Mickey's pool was much shorter; and the hot tubs and deck chairs were not as crowded. Colin enjoyed making a (paper) musical instrument and climbing through a secret tunnel in the Oceaneer Club (ages 3 - 7) that popped out in the Oceaneer Lab (ages 8 - 12), right near his brother, who was playing a video game. Prior to the game, Cameron's group was making mosaics of Pompeii. One aspect of the children's programs that has worked out nicely is that they are each split in half within the age groupings, so children age 5 - 7 (in the club) go for a visit or dinner in Oceaneer Lab (and Colin gets to see his brother during this time). As for Tim and me, we had our first true vacation time to read and workout.
The afternoon was equally wonderful. It was spent hanging out at Goofy's pool where we watched "Lilo and Stich" on the jumbo screen attached to the funnel in front of the pool. We could grab lunch from a variety of places on the pool deck: Pinocchio's Pizzeria (serving pizza of course), Pluto's Dog House (serving burgers, dogs and chicken fingers); and Topsider's Buffet (where the salads and other healthier options were located). Hence we all selected our favorite things from various places (plus the chocolate chip cookies from Topsider Buffet) and met at our table alongside Goofy's pool area. After lunch we sat in one of the two hot tubs near the pool and then went for a swim, all, much to the boys' delight, while watching the movie.
Shortly after the movie ended, two Disney crew members (Trent and DJ Mike) arrived by the side of the pool and began sorting out Disney tchotchkes. While doing so, one pushed the other in to the pool, clothes and all. A short while later the other one (DJ Mike) was in too. It was clearly game time. They playfully lead whirlpools, pig in the middle, marco polo, and our favorite, water football. These fun-loving guys had a lot in common with those mischievous chipmunks, Chip and Dale.
Thanks to Chip and Dale, er, I mean, Trent and DJ Mike, the boys were tired enough to nap, giving me a chance to sneak away for an afternoon latte at Cove Cafe. It is here that I learned that Disney has a program for the crew to try out the shore excursions, and upon returning, share their experiences. On the sailing prior to ours, Cristina (who was working in the cafe) tried Disney's Jeep Safari tour, which takes you up a mountain to "one of the most sparkling clean and quiet towns" she had seen, with a beautiful little church, nice cafes, plus a Sardinian snack of fresh goat cheese, salami, bread, and a never-empty glass of wine. I was wondering how I missed this one, but then realized you must be at least 10 for this tour.
Which leads me to something I learned from the Cruise Director, Rachel, who we met this evening after dinner. I asked roughly what percentage of children they anticipated would be left behind on the ship while parents explored the ports (answer: 30 percent); and what has been the actual number thus far. She said it's been closer to 10 percent, and that parents, like us, are bringing their children on many of the excursions. Disney's children's programs operate even in port (gratis, with the exception of the nursery for ages 12 weeks - 3 months). Parents can leave children of any age in these programs while they spend a day ashore. We met one couple who toured without their under-3-year-old, and they were impressed with both the attentive staff in the nursery and by the "yuck bin," where toys are placed for cleaning after a toddler has teethed on them.
I really hadn't thought to do it differently ... that is until I heard about that Jeep tour. But, at least we're all rested now and ready (I hope) for a full day in Rome tomorrow.
From Cameron's Journal
A 10-year-old's perspective (excerpted from Cameron's journal, with permission):