Monday, May 2, 2011

Saturday (4/30) in San Francisco----with a group of friends!! we seem to have internet access here in Victoria, Canada this morning and about an hour before time for us to meet up with our shore excursion I will try to catch up with the past two days of missed blogging!

Well as I mentioned....San Francisco was an overnight port for us----so after a long day on Friday, we went to bed and were up bright and early Saturday morning.  On Friday we did not do an official Disney Cruise excursion, as you'll recall---we just ventured out on our own.  On Saturday, we didn't do an excursion through DCL either....but we didn't exactly venture out on our own either.  A friend from a previous cruise (and a mutual friend through many of the wonderful DIS people that we've already mentioned in these blogs) named Michael actually organized a group adventure for a bunch of people for this second day in San Francisco and we were invited to join them.

Now, before I launch too much farther into a description of what we did on this San Francisco Saturday...I should just go on record as saying that I THINK that Michael may have missed his calling in life----because he is NOT a professional tour coordinator, event planner or travel agent....but based on our experience with this tour he created for us, he would probably have excelled in that area!! (And actually....beyond just this port adventure, Michael did many other wonderful things to make this cruise special----the bubble blowers that we used at the sail away were gifts from him, he made door magnets for us, printed Tshirts, etc.!!)

So, to start....Michael didn't just rent a van to take us somewhere and call it a day...he created an entire EXPERIENCE (that, quite honestly, rivaled anything that could have been organized and purchased through the cruise----and was probably an even better value for the money!).  The image to the right is the official "logo" of our adventure with him for the day.  Throughout the day we were all SHOWERED with gifts and souvenirs that bore this logo and carried some significance about our day together----including pins, lanyards, magnets, collector mugs & glasses, T-shirts, etc.  I'll post a picture towards the end of the description of our day that shows all our "booty" for the day!

The event started the night before (Friday) actually, when we returned to our room to find that he had asked our stateroom host to put our "pre-excursion gifts" in our room:  our Tshirts and schedule for the next day and an antique-style stuffed Mickey Mouse that is available only through the Walt Disney Family Museum here in the San Francisco area.  The actual adventure day started very early---6:45am.  I gave Michael a hard time about making me get up that early, but he did do all the work so I couldn't get too bent out of shape.  Once we were all assembled, we were given our first gift for the day itself: a bag with a special name-tag and lanyard and a pin.  Then we all exited the ship and were greeted by a party bus....think a cross between a charter bus and a limousine----replete with large flat panel TV's, cushioned chairs, laser lights, a wet bar----and a STRIPPER POLE!! LOL (This stripper pole, while not very Disney at all...became the fodder of many a joke throughout the day, let me tell you!).  Here are some images of all of us loaded into the bus:
That reflective silver pole to the right is the infamous stripper pole...and yes, we're watching music videos on the TV's----it was like a very sassy (but tame and appropriate) bachelorette party....which is, I'm sure, what this bus is USUALLY used for! *smile*

That guy standing in the polo shirt is Michael, our leader for the day!

Jason enjoying the bus ride.

Us having breakfast on the bus on the way.
The bus then departed the port and we were off.  Morning snacks like juice, pastries, and coffee were served on the bus----including sourdough bagels (sourdough is a San Francisco staple) and coffee (which apparently came from a famous coffee spot here owned by one of the contributors to the creation of coffee megamachine Starbucks!).  The bus took us on a driving tour of the city including Chinatown, city hall, and the Castro (the GAYborhood here in San Francisco) on our way to Twin Peaks.  Here are some shots from the bus ride:
City Hall----the dome on this building is apparently bigger than the dome on the US capitol building...and the building itself is adorned with hundreds of thousands of dollars of gold leaf detailing.

The iconic and very large gay pride flag that flies year-long in the Castro neighborhood.
 When we got to Twin Peaks, a very high point in the Bay Area where you can see both the ocean and the San Francisco Bay...we were met with not only a breathtaking view...but with a catered breakfast with breakfast sandwiches, coffee and juices.  This was a great photo spot:

More of Jason's cool panoramic pictures...taken from Twin Peaks.

More panorama.
After spending some time up at the top of the world looking down and having some breakfast, we took some group shots and then headed off to our main stop for the day:   The Walt Disney Family Museum.  Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of this part that we took ourselves because pictures weren't allowed, but I've pulled some stock photos off the internet.  I will post them at the end of this description of our morning at the museum. 

Here is our experience in a nutshell----This museum is a walking and visual and auditory history of Walt himself...not necessarily of the Disney company (which is why it's in San Francisco, closer to where his family lives, and not in LA or Orlando at one of the parks).  The museum is full of artifacts, recordings, videos, original artwork, awards, etc. that chronicle the life of Walt and how he created what the world knows as Disney....from his birth right up to his death and including literally EVERYTHING in between just about.  We arrived at the museum before it was officially open to the public and we were immediately served champagne (in collector souvenir flutes) or juice to toast the day and be introduced to the museum management.  We were then given a quick PRIVATE tour of the museum by some of the tour guides and got a chance to see every part of the museum before the public arrived.  This was a very quick "cliff's notes" style tour, but once it was over, we reconvened in the main lobby area and when the doors "officially" opened, we were the first group let in and we were given a couple hours of free time to explore the museum and shop in the gift shop.  (Michael had given us all a collector pin from the museum with the logo you see above AND a book about Walt's life, as well.)  Like I said, photography was not allowed, but here are some images I've "stolen" off the internet to give you a feel:
The museum from the street.
One of the display areas showing amazing Disney artifacts from the past.

The main lobby area showing some of the furniture from Walt's original apartment inside DisneyLand and in the back you can see a display case that held all the Oscars that Walt won while he was alive.

Towards the end of the museum, before the room chronicling Walt's illness and death, was this amazing and high tech miniature of DisneyLand and all the advances in the world of entertainment that Walt launched in the last decade of his life.

The museum was amazing.  I learned a lot about both the man and the company as we went through the museum.  Now I'll be the first to admit that I don't necessarily want to deify Walt Disney (his political persuasions were, at least at the time, starkly different from mine & Jason's).....but even still.  It is impossible to review his life and work and not realize what a HUGE impact this one man has had on so MANY people and lives.  It's more than a little awe-inspiring!   We were very grateful for the opportunity to experience the museum and we could easily have spent more time there looking over original drawings and cells from the movies and music with which we grew up and that carried so many amazing memories for us!

Time in the museum had to end, though, because we had to be back on the ship by 3pm and Michael's day for us wasn't quite over yet!  Before leaving, however, Jason and I did manage to stop in the gift shop and get another magnet (as you'll recall, we collect magnets from everywhere we go) AND a new Tigger statue that I don't have and had never seen!  (NOTE:  At the end of this journey I'll try to remember to post pictures of all the magnets we have collected on this journey!)

Our next stop was lunch....but not just any lunch.  Michael had made arrangements for us to have a Dim Sum picnic in a park near the Golden Gate Bridge (catered by a world-renowned Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown here in San Francisco).  Another unique and special experience with AMAZING views (with ANOTHER set of collector wine glasses!).  Here is our lunch in a few pictures:
This tent is where we at lunch.  Bridge in the background.

This is a sampling of the lunch we had.  Very tasty and trendy!
The park where we were eating had an AMAZING view, as well.  Here are some shots (some normal and, of course, some of Jason's panoramic shots):

Once lunch was over....we had just a little time left and a couple more small surprises.  We drove on the bus over the Golden Gate Bridge.  (We had gone over it in our car the day prior, so this wasn't as special for us as for folks who hadn't had the chance to ride over yet...but cool nonetheless!)  One thing that WAS kind of special, though, was dessert:  Apparently many many years ago a snack was created in the San Francisco area....and it kind of disappeared for a while and then it came back...but doesn't appear to have ever taken off anywhere else.  This snack it's called the "It's It" (NO idea where that came from) and it's two oatmeal cookies made into a sandwich with ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, or mocha) and then covered with a chocolate coating.  Michael gave us all an "It's It" for dessert and, while the description may sound a bit odd, they were quite yummy!
Don't I look glamorous eating like a hot?! LOL
After all this it was time to head back to the ship (we had an early departure from San Francisco and didn't want to miss the boat---literally or figuratively!! LOL).  The goodies were not done, however, because upon our return to our room, there was a knock on the door and a room steward delivered a final gift to us as part of the tour----a small collection of chocolates in a very nice box from Ghirardelli which is apparently also based here in the Bay area!  So all in all, here is our haul from today:
Antique Mickey, T-Shirts, champagne glasses, wine glasses, coffee mugs, book, magnet, pins, name badges, chocolates and a custom water bottle!!!
All of these goodies were literally the icing on the cake of a fantastic day.....a day full of surprises and unique experiences experienced with lots of old and new friends.  Michael deserves a TON of praise and thanks for coordinating such an extraordinary experience....and we are thrilled that we were included!!

Once we got back to the ship, we relaxed a bit, had a snack and hung out on deck to see the boat sail back under the Golden Gate Bridge as we left the port of San Francisco.  And then we headed to the evening's show.  The show this night is unique to the Wonder:  Toy Story the Musical.  We have seen this show before once on a cruise we took with my parents and niece. This show is not our favorite Disney Cruise Line show, but we do think the sets and the costumes are really fantastic.  We weren't able to take any good pictures during the show (no flash photography), but I pulled a few off the internet to give a flavor:

At the end of the show, before the lights came up, the cruise director informed us that when we left the theater we would notice the view had changed because during the show the ship had actually turned around and gotten sent BACK to San Francisco because one of the guests onboard had a medical emergency (rumor has it that someone came down with appendicitis----and although I don't think it was anyone that we sucks for them that their vacation got cut short by their illness and I hope they're doing well and recovering and healthy!!).  So we had a quick detour back to port, the guest and their family were taken off the ship and then we were on our way again.

Now it was time to get ready for dinner---PIRATE NIGHT!  We donned our pirate garb and we were off to dinner!
Two of the sassiest pirates you ever will meet!
After dinner there was a deck party with dancing and fireworks.  This is the last cruise they can do fireworks on because they aren't allowed in Alaska (and actually....Disney is the only cruise line in the world that even does fireworks at sea----no other companies are allowed to do it).  We were kind of afraid that we wouldn't get to see the fireworks or show because it was FREEZING and WINDY on deck.  In true Disney fashion, however, the show (& party) must go on.  We all bundled up and danced the night away and the boat actually changed directions slightly so that the wind would be blowing AWAY from the ship and we could still put up the fireworks----it was a cool and a nice farewell to America because the next time we saw land it would be in Canada! :)

After the night of revelry and piracy, we headed back to our room to get ready for bed and were greeted by a pirate monkey towel creature:


  1. The tour sounds fantastic! You guys are just having a blast - jealous!!!! LOL!

  2. What a fantastic tour! I am a Bay Area transplant to Seattle, and I miss my It's Its! (You forgot about the mint ones, though ;) ) My mother-in-law was from Canton, so I have many fond memories of Dim Sum lunches at the Canton Restaurant.

  3. What a fantastic tour Michael arranged for you all!!! GREAT day!!!!

  4. That just sounds like a truly amazing day.