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Old 06-30-2013, 01:24 PM   #1
souls on vacation
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Disney Dream - Extended Family Vacation at warp speed - 6/27-6/30

Bear with me, as I believe this is the place we are to compose our trip summaries, but, as a newbie, I am still learning the ropes!

We found out about this cruise as a gift from my mother-in-law. She wanted to bring all of her children and their families on a Disney cruise (wonderful gift!!) She also invited my parents. They happily accepted, as they had not been on a cruise in 20 years(!)

First things first, I am a terribly OCD planner, and have found the DIS boards invaluable in planning our cruise. I felt very well prepared, and by using your collective tips, I truly believe we got a lot more than we would have gotten, had we come aboard unprepared. So thank you!!

Pre-trip, we decided to participate in the FE exchange. Being completely uncreative, without an artsy-craftsy bone in my body, I did the best I could, but the final result was rather bulky! I had to carry on a huge back packed only with FE gifts! Before getting on board, we were thinking this was going to be our first and last FE exchange! More on that later...

We drove down from Jacksonville the Wednesday before the cruise and checked into the Country Inn and Suites. We arrived just around 3 o'clock, and were able to check right in. We shared a one bedroom suite with my parents and our 2 children, girl 9, boy 5. We could actually see the port from our 3rd floor room. The hotel was clean, the staff was very efficient, and, admittedly, it isn't the Four Seasons, but for a pre-cruise accommodations, it fit the bill.

We ate dinner at the Backwoods Steak house, which was just 2 miles down the road (A1A) on the left.


The cocktails were delicious, the appetizers were plentiful, steaks were beautifully cooked, and the prices were reasonable....as was the wait. We were there early (5 o'clock) and got right in, not bad for a party of 6. After dinner we went back to the hotel and just relaxed and chatted. We all went to bed relatively early, but I dare say none of us slept very well...can't tell if it was excitement or the very, very soft beds!


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Old 06-30-2013, 01:55 PM   #2
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continued

When we awakened early on Thursday morning (6:30 am), we peeked out of our windows to see that the DREAM had arrived in port! It was beautiful! And Gigantic! It dwarved the other Carnival cruises flanking it. Our kids were psyched!


We had breakfast downstairs at the Country Inn and Suites buffet, and let me tell you, that place was *happening*! There were TONS of people there. There was a decent selection of food, and there appeared to be sufficient seating although we did have to pull over a couple of chairs to one table so we could all sit together. They had eggs, sausage, potatoes, ready-pour waffle irons, fruit, cereals, bagels, toast, assorted muffins, pastries, etc. Their orange juice was really good, too! Once everyone had enough to eat, we loaded up the car and headed to the port at about 9:30-9:45 am. We decided against the shuttle service due to bad experiences on prior issues with different cruise lines. I have to say, it was nice not to have to wait around for someone else's schedule!

We pulled into the port and were directed to the parking garage (which confused us, because, from these boards, we knew we were supposed to drop luggage first), my parents, who were right behind us, were directed to drop their luggage first, then park. GO FIGURE, right?

We parked right on the front row of the first level of the parking garage, where we met up with the rest of our family. Luckily, a porter came and took our checked baggage off of our hands, and we all headed up to the 3rd floor to wait to be let into the terminal. At that point it was about 10 am and I'd say we were about the 10th family in line (give or take). We took a few pictures in front of the ship from the front of the garage, and it wasn't long (about 10:30) before we were led into the terminal.



Check-in went smoothly and quickly, we had our photos taken for the photo recognition software, got our KTTW cards, and got our boarding number (Number 4). After check in, my husband and I headed straight over to the kids' registration desk to get the bands for the kids' club (we had already pre-registered online, one less thing to do once on the ship, right?) We were first in line, but unfortunately their computers were down, so we had to stand there for quite some time.

After the computers re-booted, we got the Mickey bands on the kids, passed out lanyards for everyone's KTTW cards, and got out our Ziploc bags with pillowcases/fabric pens to drop off at Guest Services. Before we knew it, it was time to board!



We were having our picture snapped, our family name announced, (followed by my brother in law, who had to do one better by calling them selves the *real* Smith family when they boarded immediately after us!) We turned the corner around the elevators and right up to Guest Services. NO LINE! (Love you guys, really, mean it!)

We dropped off our pillowcases (complete with candy treats) and signed up for the mixology class and the martini tasting. Easy peasy. We then headed up to the pool and the Aqua Duck! We had our pick of seats, and best of all, practically no line for the Aqua Duck! I will double and triple vouch for the hot, hot, hot pool deck. I did not wear water shoes (I made my kids and husband, but they didn't match my outfit!!) and basically got third degree burns the first time I stood on line for the Aqua Duck. We rode several times, to our hearts content. I wish some one would have given me a heads up about the picture they take of you while riding the slide, because, YIKES!

After the Aqua Duck, Mickey Slide, pool time, lounging, and a couple of poolside "drinks of the day," it was lunch and ice cream time. The food at Cabanas was plentiful and very good. I think I ate my weight in shrimp cocktail! Love that stuff! (They won't let the guys in without a shirt though, my husband found out the hard way, oops!) By then, it was after 1:30 and time to check out the cabin!


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Old 06-30-2013, 02:43 PM   #3
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Continued

We were traveling with a very large group: Myself, my husband, our 2 children, my parents, my husband's mother, his aunt, his brother, brother's wife, and their 2 children, his sister, sister's husband, and their 3 children, and his step-sister, her husband, and their 2 children! Whew! It was a big crew to keep track of all of the time, for certain. All of our cabins were on deck 8, and 3 of our cabins connected and had connecting verandas, which was so cool!

We were in 8102, and the cabin was gorgeous! It truly felt more like a hotel room than a cruise ship cabin. It had the split bathroom with the toilet and sink and shower/bath and sink. This was fantastic. I found there was more than enough storage space in bathrooms, the closet. and shelves for a three day cruise. We may have needed more room for a 7 day, but storage, in general, was no issue. No need for an over the door or closet hanging organizer. We unpacked right away, hung out our fish extender, showered, and dressed for dinner prior to the muster drill.



We are not huge on crowds or being hot, so we skipped the "Sailaway" party in favor of our own private sailaway party on our balcony. The kids were loving it! We saw sea turtles and stingrays swimming alongside the boat, and mixed our own cocktails in the room. We probably missed out a little on the "magic," but we didn't feel like it!



Our first MDR was the Enchanted Garden. It was beautiful! I think it was the prettiest of the three restaurants, in retrospect. Our head and assistant servers were great (head server was Pogi, the assistant's name has already escaped me!) My husband and I did get stuck at one end of a passel of children, though, so we requested that next dinner that the kids (age range 13-4) all be seated together at a "kid's table."

I had the Ahi tuna/Avocado tower (fab), the baby spinach salad (delectable), and the grilled NY strip (standard, potato was a bit dry). For dessert, I could not decide, everything looked delicious, so I had the "Sweet Temptations" with a little bit of everything!



After dinner we distributed our FE gifts, wandered around, took some pictures, and got in line early for the "Golden Mickeys."



We were rewarded with second row seats, and felt like we were part of the show at times (my husband swears Cruella DeVille was making eyes at him!!) I will admit I bawled like a baby during a good portion of the show (not a 38 year old woman), and loved seeing the look of wonder on my babies faces. True magic. Then, my son lost his first tooth! Right toward the end of the show! He was so excited. We swung by guest services, and they gave him a chocolate gold coin and a Cheshire Cat (my fave) pin stating "I lost a tooth!" They really do think of everything, don't they?



As much as there was going on after the show, my kids were clearly whipped, so we headed back to the cabin to fun surprises in our FE, much to the delight of our kiddos!



We tucked them into bed with some Disney cartoons playing softly for company, visions of tooth fairies dancing in their heads, and headed back out to relax on the balcony with a few cocktails and our ipod player. My husband even went out to the buffet later on a cocktail run and picked up some coconut shrimp, fries, and jalepeno poppers. What a guy! We watched a blood red moon rise, as well. Kind of creepy, but neat.



So we felt, with boarding as early as possible, that we got an extra day on the ship, which was good, because this felt like the fastest vacation of our lives! The only thing I think I may have done differently was at least peeked in on the Sailaway celebration, just for the kids to see all the hullaballoo, otherwise, I think we pulled off day number one perfectly!

Last edited by souls on vacation; 07-01-2013 at 01:26 PM. Reason: content forgotten, photos
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Old 06-30-2013, 03:20 PM   #4
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Where, pray tell, was there a late night buffet that served coconut shrimp ?? I could bankrupt Disney eating on those little critters.
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Old 06-30-2013, 03:33 PM   #5
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Where, pray tell, was there a late night buffet that served coconut shrimp ?? I could bankrupt Disney eating on those little critters.
I believe it was outside one of the District bars, between 687 and Pink. It was Yum-o. This was at about 11:30-ish at night. My husband had a hell of a time bringing up a plate of food and two cocktails, he is multi-talented!
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Old 06-30-2013, 04:11 PM   #6
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Day 2

Day 2 began at 6:30 am. My son takes after me in that he does not want to miss *anything.* I was awake in bed, awaiting the ring of the 7:15 wake-up call, when my son crawled to the bottom of his bunk bed and whispered, "Mom, let's go out on the balcony!"

Well, who am I to resist a sweet invitation like that??? We went out on the balcony, to the sunrise over blue waters, no land to be seen for miles. A sight to which my son instantly furrowed his brow and worriedly swiveled his head back and forth and declared with much consternation, "WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! Are we LOST?" Such anxiety for a 5 (almost 6, year old boy!) After a few minutes of reassurance, all was right with the world, and we enjoyed having the balcony, the sun, the wind, and the sea to ourselves. This is probably one of my more favorite cruise memories, for certain.



I had spa appointments starting at 8 am, so after a time, we went back inside to get ready for the day. It was a Nassau port day, but we had, 1) recently been in Nassau in January, 2) were not overly impressed with Nassau, and 3) wanted some more of the ship to ourselves! I headed to the spa for a pedicure and facial. The timing of my pedicure was perfect! I got to watch from the large spa windows as we pulled into port, and I had a fantastic view of it all. High points of the pedicure was the view and the hot stone massage (ahhhhhh!); low points were the upselling ($18 extra dollars for a scoop of bath salts in the foot bath? No, thanks!) and the attitude of my attendant when it became obvious I was no upsell mark, she was borderline rude. Next was the facial, which was my first facial ever, and the one I picked (apparently) was for old wrinkly people, so surprise, I got upsold to the oxydermy facial. However, I have to admit, it was sooooooooo worth it. The most relaxed I was the whole cruise! I made it clear I was not buying any cleansers, oils, capsules, etc., and she did not even try after that, which was nice!

I met my mother in the lounge after her facial and together we met my father and husband just outside the spa in the adults only pool area. My husband had taken the kids to breakfast, gone to the gym, and was soaking in the pool when we arrived. We joined them and enjoyed the kid-free pool in blessed silence! We also met a few nice, friendly people whilst soaking in the pool. Everyone we met was very pleasant (for the most part, any way!)

After enjoying the pool and some cocktails poolside, we headed down to shower (at this point, I still had not eaten and was feeling really fine!) Right out of the shower we got a text that the kids were ready to be picked up, so we picked them up and met my parents at the Royal Palace for a sit down lunch. The kids had the Mickey Pasta, and I had the vegetable quesadillas and the Fusilli Pasta. All very good, but I had not eaten for over 12 hours at this point, so I was not being terribly picky!!



Back up to the room for a bit to dig through our FE loot, then the kids went back to the Oceaneer's Club, and we met the majority of our family in the Skyline lounge for the much anticipated Mixology Class! In the class all but 4 people were in our immediate family, so that was pretty fun. The other 2 couples were super cool and fun about it, though! Two of our family members bailed early when they found out they had to get behind the bar to mix one of the drinks (chickens!) So we kindly took over their first drinks for them!



We made mojitos (plain, melon, and raspberry), "Fun" (because on Disney, they aren't allowed to say certain words, LOL!) on the beach, a real vodka martini (ewww) or a Mae West (more palatable), and a layered shot with Kahlua, Baileys, and Grand Marnier (rough!) We were feeling no pain by the end of the class. It certainly lived up to billing, and we would definitely do it again!

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Old 06-30-2013, 04:41 PM   #7
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Day 2 Continued

It was Pirate Night that night, so after Mixology, we stumbled back past the kids' club, collected our children, and got them cleaned up for dinner. We all brought something to dress-up in for pirate night, but my husband went full-on Jack Sparrow. It. Was. Awesome. He got several comments from passing strangers and frightened a poor baby in the elevator!




Our dinner that night was in Royal Palace, as well, and tonight, all the kids were at one table, and the adults were at another. This was much more fun! I had the escargot, and, as it goes, it was probably one of the less well seasoned that I have had, it was well cooked, but the seasoning was less wine/butter/garlic and tasted more "earthy," which I did not enjoy. I also had the French Onion Soup, (delightful), and for dinner, the beef tenderloin (which did not come with lobster on our menu, much to my dismay, but shrimp). For dessert, sweet temptations of peanut butter mousse, mango cheesecake, and mmmmmmm creme brulee! (Next time, I'm ordering 2 creme brulee!)

After dinner, we took some formal pictures in our pirate gear (long lines, arrgh), and then the kids were dying to get out of their costumes, so back up to the room to change into their pjs.





We went to Villains, Tonight! We thought it pretty hilarious, actually. Hades was making some obscure "I Love You, Man" references like "Totes my goats, " and "Schlappin' the Bass." This was amusing to us. Yzma was the only villain we didn't know a lot about, since I don't think we have ever seen "The Emperor's New Groove." We really would have liked to see Dr. Facilier, instead. He's my favorite villain.

After the show, my parents planned on taking the kids, who were almost asleep in their seats during the show. We had no doubt they were not going to make it to the Pirate show or fireworks, so we just took them back to my parents' room, where, we were told later, they were out in about 5 minutes.

Next we made our way to the upper decks and found a great place to sit to watch the fireworks at the lounge by the Currents bar on the 13th deck. Downside was we could not see the actual show going on on the decks below, upsides were that there were no kids (18 and up only!) and once the fireworks started, it seemed like the fireworks were right in front of us!

After the fireworks show we explored the front of the ship (hardly any wind up front at all!) and then decided to take advantage of a kid free night in our room by ordering room service (Pizza, Steak Fries -by far, my most favorite snack item on the ship, and chicken wings, which were BBQ, not Buffalo, to my husband's disappointment) and watching an on demand movie (Jack the Giant Slayer). I think I may have made it 30 minutes into the movie and I was out. So much for a wild and crazy kid-free night for us!


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Old 06-30-2013, 06:20 PM   #8
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Day 3

Day 3 was the day to which we were most looking forward....Castaway Cay! Originally we had decided to do the Castaway Cay 5K, but we couldn't find any volunteers to get off the boat that early to take our kids, so I was a little frustrated. Grrrrr. My parents had ordered room service for breakfast for the kiddos early (around 7), and by breakfast, I mean donuts, sugary cereal, and hot chocolate! (Gotta love grandparents!) So, once they were well sugared-up, they send the kids back our way. We all greased up with sunscreen (we may be the whitest people on the planet, well, all of us but my son), packed our water and beach bag, and went to the Cabanas buffet to grab some food for ourselves.



Then it was off the boat to take some pictures with Donald Duck,



Captain Hook, and Mr. Smee.



The kids were so excited, and my daughter was hugging everyone she saw! We stopped for a quick family photo in front of the Dream, and it was on to the tram. We took the tram to the second stop by Pelican Plunge and walked past the lifeguard stand to the palm trees in front of the Sand Bar/Cookies Too. It was a great spot, shady, not too crowded, in view of the slide, and close to the bar and ICE CREAM!



We brought our own music, so we had our tunes going, and were just chilling out when the waiters came by for drink orders...when in Rome, right? Well, we got our first drinks by roughly 9:45/10 am. It's 5 o'clock somewhere, right? Slowly we gathered the rest of our family around us where we were sitting on the beach. I walked the length of the beach scouting for some of them, (and to make up for no 5K), then swam for a bit. We also got to see Captain Jack Sparrow and get pictures with him *Le Sigh*



When we had enough fun in the sun, we came back to the boat to shower. So. Much. Sand. I was very thankful for the tub, the kids really enjoyed the soak! Then it was on to Monsters University movie in the Buena Vista. Let me tell you, I am never cold, and it was c-o-l-d in that theatre!



After the movie, we split forces, my husband to sign up for our next cruise! Me to martini tasting at Meridian with my SIL. Martini tasting was, in some ways, more fun than mixology. There were 6 of us total, we had a gin martini, an appletini, a pom-cosmo, 2 chocolate martinis, and a coconut rum martini the bartender named after my SIL! Meridian bar is between Palo and Remy on the back of the boat, so we were able to watch Castaway Cay disappear into the distance while we did the seminar. Lots of laughs and fun to be had! Soooooo, we were a little late to family pictures in the Atrium. OOOooopsie. In the doghouse for a bit. FTR, I was unaware of formal planned pictures prior to the tasting.



All was smoothed over quickly, and it was on to dinner in the Animator's Palate. There was a bit of a storm brewing, so there were some waves kicked up. It was the first night I felt the ship move at all. Our kids were seated all together, and right near one of the big screens, which was cool for them. I had the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes (nom), the Baked Potato/Cheddar Cheese/Bacon Bit soup (rich), and I was torn between the Pennette Pasta and the Tenderloin, but the server recommended the Tenderloin, so I went with that (very tender, but not what I wanted). I after realized that would make steak for the 4th night in a row (!) Eeek! My husband had the risotto, and I wish I had just ordered that for dinner, it was lovely. I had the Cookies and Cream Sundae for dessert, and it was delicious!



Next was shopping, a cute Mickey/peace sign/hearts shirt for the girl, Phineas for the Boy, and then line for the Believe show. There were a lot more people there than usual because it was raining up on deck, and we ran into our first "seat saver" that night. I don't mean one or two seats, but a whole row. Really ticked me off. We still got good seats, though, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Funny enough, the little girl main character was wearing the same shirt we had just purchased for the girl! If you can, seat your little ones on the aisle seats during the shows. Characters are forever running up and down the aisles during the middle of the numbers! We were in the 5th row toward the front, and our niece was in the front to the right of the stage, both got necklaces from the cast during the "Dig A Little Deeper" number, and were super excited!

After the show, the kids wanted a few last minutes in the kids' club, so we dropped them off there, and did the "flight of the bumblebee" packing. We got the bags out with about 3 minutes to spare before the deadline. We went and got our picture disc, picked up the kids, got them in bed, and spend our remaining few hours on the veranda with my BIL and SIL reminiscing about the past few days and drinking the last of our carry-on vodka. And then, we turned out our lights, went to bed, and when we woke up, our cruise was over......

Of course, it was the most difficult to get up on the last day. I got up and showered, as did my husband. We had grand illusions of going to the MDR for sit down breakfast, but our kids would barely even be awakened by the loud overhead announcements for debarkation! They dilllied and dallied so much that we decided to just forgo breakfast altogether. We walked right off of the ship, found our luggage immediately, and sailed through customs. We were out of the terminal and into our car in the garage in less than 10 minutes! We were driving out of the port by 9, and home in Jacksonville before noon (had to stop for breakfast!!) We are already in full planning mode for next year's cruise...consider us hooked!

We will definitely do the boarding process and book the tastings the same way. I would like to do more character events, but our kids showed very little interest in those (they did get to see a few of them in the clubs, though). The kids loved the FEs so much, we decided next year not to wait so last minute, and will have to pack smarter and lighter since we will be doing the 7 day Mediterranean cruise, but it was too much fun NOT to do it again! Overall, I wish we had slept a little later so we could have stayed up a little later. Everything fun seemed to start at 10 pm, and my kids just could not hack it until then, it was all they could do to make it through the shows each evening! I can't imagine not having a veranda, we used ours consistently this whole cruise, and I would not want to go back. I would not do the spa again, relaxing, but *too* expensive, and I don't appreciate being pitched to when I am trying to relax. I would try to ride the Aqua Duck at night. The line was just always too long to be worth it to me! Hmmm, think that's all for now. Have no idea if this is helpful or not, but I really liked reading other people's report, so I thought I would add my voice!

Last edited by souls on vacation; 07-01-2013 at 01:19 PM. Reason: more thoughts, photos
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Old 07-01-2013, 10:46 AM   #9
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Thanks for the great report! We're going on the same trip next week. So excited, I mentally checked out of work last week!
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Old 07-01-2013, 01:02 PM   #10
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Thanks for the great report. 3-day cruises are crazy fast. For shorter cruises I like the 4-day cruises to get that extra day at sea. But when a cruise is given to you - you take it!!!!

If you loved the three day on the Dream you are going to love the longer cruise! So more laid back. It will be on the Magic (newly renovated if it's next year) which is a smaller classic ship but I love the classics too. Each ship has it's unique quality.

I love the spa treatments I've had done but it's so difficult to justify spending two to three times the expense of what it would cost on land. But as you said, the scenery is spectacular!!
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Old 07-01-2013, 02:35 PM   #11
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Thanks for the great report! We're going on the same trip next week. So excited, I mentally checked out of work last week!

Haha! Thanks! I'm certain you will have a fabulous time! I'm trying to figure out how to mentally check back in....back to reality tomorrow!!
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Old 07-01-2013, 02:37 PM   #12
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Thanks for the great report. 3-day cruises are crazy fast. For shorter cruises I like the 4-day cruises to get that extra day at sea. But when a cruise is given to you - you take it!!!!

If you loved the three day on the Dream you are going to love the longer cruise! So more laid back. It will be on the Magic (newly renovated if it's next year) which is a smaller classic ship but I love the classics too. Each ship has it's unique quality.

I love the spa treatments I've had done but it's so difficult to justify spending two to three times the expense of what it would cost on land. But as you said, the scenery is spectacular!!

You are so right! We were so thankful for what we were given, it just was over so quickly! We would turn around and do a 7 day tomorrow if we had unlimited funds and vacation time!
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Old 07-01-2013, 02:39 PM   #13
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Pictures

Yikes, sorry, the pictures are huge! I am not terribly tech-savvy. Many apologies if it is hard on the eyes...any tips on making the images smaller?
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Old 07-01-2013, 03:43 PM   #14
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Fantastic report! Thanks for sharing.

Jill in CO
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Old 07-01-2013, 03:49 PM   #15
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Haha! Thanks! I'm certain you will have a fabulous time! I'm trying to figure out how to mentally check back in....back to reality tomorrow!!
I forgot to mention that the first part of your report freaked me out just a tad because it looked like I had written it! My in-laws surprised us with this trip. 14 of us! 4 couples, 6 children! And I'm the fanatical planner.
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