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Old 12-11-2013, 03:52 PM   #46
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Jamaica was our favorite port too. As we were sailing away my kids were so sad and J said "I think I'm going to miss the people most of all." Just a wonderful place. Your excursion looks like it was awesome.
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Old 12-11-2013, 09:16 PM   #47
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We’d been at the blue hole for probably a couple of hours, so next stop was lunch! We had worked up a bit of an appetite, after all.

Courtenay took us to Scotchies, in Ocho Rios, for jerk chicken and festival.



I thought I had had jerk chicken before, but not like this. It was amazing. Scotchies is an open air….eating establishment? Seems wrong to call it a restaurant, as it’s nothing like what I think of as a restaurant LOL…


DH is still trying to figure out how he can fit the smoker-oven thing in our backyard!


We grabbed a picnic table and chowed down on a chicken and a half, with red stripe, of course! The girls went through I don’t know how many festival, and then we ordered more to go.



Oh yeah, and there were washrooms there. See, I took pictures!



We were up in the air about what to do next so we asked Courtenay if there was a beach he could take us to for an hour or so. He dropped us off at a small, but gorgeous beach. I believe it was a private beach belonging to a condo building but that he knew the owner and had a pass to let his clients use it. Something like that. There was a large resort next door and they let us know to not go over there, as it belonged to the resort. It didn’t matter. We had more than enough room to enjoy!

To the left:


And to the right:

DH bought us a couple of red stripe at the beach restaurant/bar and we just sat on our towels to enjoy our fantastic luck of having such a gorgeous view! You could rent chairs there (and snorkel equipment & anything else you might have needed) but we weren’t going to be there long so didn’t bother.


That’s another thing we do regret. We had three very busy port days and just did not take enough time to kick back and relax on the beach. We could have stayed longer at this beach but even though our all aboard wasn't till 5:30, I get very antsy if we’re not close to the ship at least an hour before that. Also, as pasty white Canadians, we were starting to get concerned with frying to a crisp in the sun! Yes, we had lots of sunscreen with us but as we know, there’s only so much that can help you with! And it was hot. And beautiful. And sunny. And look at that ocean!


So we stayed here till about 2:30 pm, then Courtenay drove us back to the port.

We wandered through some of the shops as we meandered toward the ship. We bought most of our souvenirs at the first shop we went into – a sundress, some shirts, Blue Mountain coffee, etc. V found a shoulder bag she really wanted but didn’t tell me that until after we left. No worries, all the shops sell more or less the same stuff so we’ll see it again…Nope, never saw that specific bag again so “do you really, really want it?” Yep, so she and I trooped all the way back to the first shop. Did I mention it was very hot? And that the port area is large?


V didn’t know how much it was but she had seen the larger size for $20, so I figured the one she wanted would be around $15. Nope. $24. Gasp! Now understand I can’t bargain. I just can’t! DH rolls his eyes at me but nope, I just can’t do it. When it comes to buying stuff, I leave it to him to chew down the price and I walk away embarrassed.

But no, I was not paying $24 for this bag. And I said that. Out loud. I didn’t really mean to, it was a knee jerk reaction because I was tired and cranky! So they asked what I would pay and I told them $15. Things got a lot chillier but they agreed and V got her bag. I walked out so proud of myself! Of course, the bag is probably only worth $5 but hey, I didn’t pay sticker price!!! Geez, maybe it’s time DH let me negotiate a new car…

Anyway, we finished our wandering through the port. K bought a carved turtle and they even carved her name on the bottom for her. She had recently developed a passion for turtles so decided to collect one from each port.

By now we were hot and sweaty and all the noise at the port drove us back to the ship for a refreshing shower and, of course, the drink of the day: an Ocean Pearl!
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Old 12-12-2013, 12:44 AM   #48
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Some more random Falmouth port photos:




Oh yeah, the machete!

How often do I get to start a sentence like that

While we were driving from Falmouth to Ochie, Courtenay was filling us in on various aspects of life in Jamaica. The unemployment rate is almost 25%, which means folks got to do what they can to survive. A common strategy is just going up into the mountains and clearing a plot to grow something that they can sell at the market – bananas, whatever (no, not specifically that ‘other’ crop, tho’ that may happen as well ). So, he says, if you see guys walking along the road carrying a machete, they’re just farmers heading up to harvest their crops.

Bwahaha…yeah, yeah, sure, pull the other one.…

Hey, look there’s a guy walking up the road…hey, what’s he got in his hand? Holy crap, look at the size of that machete!!! You are sure he’s just farming, right? LOL

So not as exciting as you might have hoped, but it sure gets people’s attention….!

So anyway, we were back on the ship between 4 and 4:30, took turns freshening up and getting into clean clothes. The kids loved the Mickey cartoons on the TV and DH and I relaxed on the verandah with our drinks of the day. We waited until we had left dock and were heading on our way. We were very sad to leave. It was the port we’d been looking forward to the most and just those few hours were not enough!

Tonight’s show was Toy Story – another new one for us!

Heading down to the theatre, we happened to run into this Goofy guy:

I know it was because it was Christmas and they were trying to be seasonal and all that, but the characters really look weird wearing sweaters in the hot, tropical weather!

Oh, and note the great Jamaica shoulder bag that V is sporting. Paid a fortune for that, I did!!!

The show was great. Dh marvelled at the costumes and I marvelled at how much the kids in the row behind me could talk! That was really our only mildly negative experience with kids. I appreciate that they get excited and want to point out things in the show – but jeez, you think mom or dad might have said to them “shhh…we’re in a theatre and you’re disturbing the other people” or even “let’s keep our voices quieter”. It was a bit distracting, but we’ll get over it. There. I’m over it.

I enjoyed the show, but don’t know if I’d go back to see it again. It’s the story of Toy Story. With some songs. Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay…got that. But as always, amazing production!

After the show, we wandered back to the cabin to relax and change for dinner.

It was a moonlit night:

Dinner tonight was Parrot Cay. Assuming they may re-do the Wonder like the Magic, I wanted to soak in as many details as I could. But that’s hard when you’re trying to socialize, and eat, and all.



Look, a (not so) hidden Mickey!



I do like the servers outfits…very cheerful and Caribbean.

After dinner, they were just finishing up photos with Minnie in the Atrium. I wore my polka dot skirt hoping for a photo with Minnie. But we were too late for her but jumped in line because they said Chip and Dale and Mickey would be coming down for photos. I LOVE Chip and Dale! And there was only a few people ahead of us. Aw damn, we’re in the wrong line! Chip and Dale were on the other side of the Atrium. Oh well, Mickey’s pretty good too. And he brought Pluto! We’ll get Chip and Dale another time.

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Old 12-12-2013, 12:47 AM   #49
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Did I mention how jealous I am of that port? I don't know why. I have read tons of trip reports and I wish I was going there!
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Old 12-12-2013, 11:50 AM   #50
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Great trip report! We were on the Wonder about a week or two after you and also went to Falmouth. May I ask how much was your excursion through Courtney Taylor Tours? We had not done much research before leaving so when we got to the port we took a bus to Montego Bay. For a family of 5 it cost us $80 which included transportation, private beach entrace and tip. Not to shabby but wish I had known about this watering hole you had went too!
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Old 12-13-2013, 11:12 PM   #51
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I think it was about $140 for the day. Then lunch & tips, etc on top of that. Well worth it for us to be able to set our itinerary and timelines
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Old 12-13-2013, 11:41 PM   #52
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Grand Cayman


Again, up bright and early. I wander the ship a bit, my morning routine.
I was intending to take some photos from the deck 7 secret verandah (apparently officially called the “aft overlook” according to the sign above the door. But the door was still locked so didn’t make it out.

The door to the 'aft overlook'

That aft ain't just for overlookin'!


Random Aft Cabin


Wow, that's a long walk

Back at the cabin, we watched from our verandah as we anchored and shortly after we were joined by HAL. I was fascinated watching them lowering their lifeboats to use as tenders. I think that would be kind of interesting, to see inside the lifeboat that is…well, to see inside the lifeboat in a non-emergency situation.




Anyway, we decided to do a sit-down breakfast in Tritons this morning as it was still early. We had a private tour booked through Native Way but our meet up time wasn't until 9:30. I was hoping most of the ship excursion people would be up and out by the time we got to the tenders.

At Triton's, even as we walked in, they were very concerned about timing, making sure we knew how long table service would take and did we have an excursion time we had to meet? Are you sure you don't need to be off the ship soon?

Our stateroom host had left the tendering instructions in our cabin the night before. Tendering would start about 7:30 and if you didn’t have a ship excursion booked, you had to go to the Buena Vista Theatre to get a ticket and wait until there was an open tender.

We had all our stuff with us so wandered down about 8:30 or so. They gave us a ticket at one door of the theatre, we walked into the theatre through the left door and walked straight through and out the right door, and then straight down to deck 1 to catch the tender.

Well, that was easy!

We walked onto the tender and grabbed a bench near the back on what I later realized was the bottom deck. It wasn’t till we were at the dock and I couldn’t figure out where the people were all coming from that I finally clued in there was an upper deck as well!

It felt kind of spooky pulling away from the ship.


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Old 12-14-2013, 02:21 PM   #53
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Hey look! Two decks!


Our ship is prettier!


At the port, we walked around a bit to get the lay of the land.

Photo Op!


K didn't care for this fellow

They have shelters set up and we noticed a tall guy with a Native Way Tours shirt on. We went over to see if he was looking for us but he was picking up a different tour, and told us Sharon would be back for us at 9:30 for us and showed us where to meet her.

Our first priority while waiting was to find a hat for K. We’d managed to leave home without one and hadn’t found one she liked yet. Mommy finally put a foot down and said ‘just pick one!’

At least she found one in her favourite colour!

We wandered around the stalls at the port and spent some time looking at all the yummy stuff at the candy store.

Like a kid in a candy store.
Literally!


We made note of a few things that we were going to pick up when we got back. It didn’t seem wise to buy a bunch of melty stuff before we went touring in the heat for the day.

By then we made our way back to the tents to wait for our tour guide. DH chuckled and pointed out that it was pretty easy to distinguish the HAL passengers from the Disney passengers. Let’s just say they raised the median age by at least 30 years

Sharon arrived right on time and we made our way to her minivan to start our tour! Again, given that this was our first time in Grand Cayman, we were trying to squeeze in as much as possible!

Our first stop was the Tortuga Rum Factory. DH had really been looking forward to this. Put the word 'rum' in anything and he is immediately interested .



Chillin' with the locals

My attention was immediately piqued by the 'free wi-fi' sign. So of course, the first thing I did was sign in to see if I had any messages. Bad move. Very bad move.

Now the rum factory isn't really a factory - it's a store selling rum cakes. And offering free samples. Of cake. And rum. Ordinarily, I'm the queen of free samples. I didn't even see the rum samples - DH told me about that afterward. Most of the visit to the store is a blur. Because. I. Checked. My. Email.

And what was in my email? A long string of messages from our housesitter. And not, 'hey howya doing? Hope you're having a great time' kind of messages. Nope, they were increasingly panicked messages about our septic system.

Ugh...the one thing I wouldn't have guessed would be any sort of a problem while we were away!

The last message referred to the septic guys having to come back to dig up the tank.

So rather than enjoying the sights and samples of the rum factory, all I could see were dollar signs flying out the window . So I did what anyone would do in this situation. I bought cakes. Rum cakes. As DH said, there's nothing we can do from here. So, let them eat cake. DH and I complement each other so well. We don't panic together - when one panics, the other stays calm and talks me in off the ledge. So by the time we left the rum factory to head to Hell (appropriately enough) I was ready to put home problems out of my head and enjoy the day.

In between our stops, Sharon gave a running commentary on various aspects of living on Grand Cayman. There are three ways to be permitted resident status in the Caymans:

- get a work visa
- marry a Caymanian
- be very rich

Hmm...I guess our co-workers with the $25 million would qualify.

Although married to a Caymanian, Sharon was originally from an island as well - Manhattan.

Sharon, showing us some of the local fauna


Enjoying the beautiful view


We couldn't get over the clarity of the water! So different from the dark Pacific Ocean in our stomping grounds!


The Old Homestead

One of the oldest residences on the Island and an example of the traditional Caymanian style. Owned, according to Sharon, by an old tightwad .

And then, straight to Hell.
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Old 12-14-2013, 10:33 PM   #54
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And then, we were in Hell:

The main point of going here is to take a picture and get your passport stamped (c'mon, how else can you get documented proof that you went to Hell?)

Oh, and the girls sent postcards to both grandmas to let them know they were having a wonderful time in Hell.

Ah yes, the joke never got old.


There's not much to see there, other than the store and there's an overlook to the rock fields from which it gets its hellish name.


It was more entertaining playing 'spot the iguana' in the trees. Sharon warned us that they occasionally fall out of the tree so avoid standing right underneath them.



Yep, what can you say about Hell other than it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't....okay, okay...so maybe it does get old.

From Hell, and much to K's relief as she had been waiting not so patiently for this next stop, we drove to:


K had developed an obsession for all things turtle so this was *the* place she wanted to see! And yes, she was aware it was a turtle 'farm', she wasn't happy about that, but she understood that there was a conservation side of it as well.

Sharon's husband, whose name I can't remember at the moment..., met us at the entrance of the turtle farm with our wristbands and he took us on our own tour of the facility. He was so knowledgeable that people kind of attached themselves to our group to listen and ask questions.

Both DH and I were taken aback by how BIG the turtles are!




And more iguanas!


K was in her glory, running from tank to tank, trying to decide which one she liked best. And filling us in on facts she's learned from reading *every* book about turtles that the library had!



Whoops...guess she can't read!

Oh, you should have seen her face when she got to this tank. "I get to go in the water? With the turtles?" You'd think Christmas came early for her (which it did kinda 'cause mom & dad are too broke now to buy Christmas presents )


Turtle herding

I guess DH and I could have gone in too but didn't really occur to us. It was more fun watching the kids having fun. Isn't that always the way?


They spent quite some time playing in there...and calls to get them out were strategically ignored. There was still more to see and we wanted to get moving. What finally worked? V was putting one back into the water when DH pointed out, "hey! your turtle just pooped". They scrambled out pretty quickly after that

After that it was to the hatchery, which was sadly empty of any eggs or hatchlings. Eventually we made it to the last stop - the gift shop. Funny how the exit is *always* through the gift shop. Although for months we'd been promising K she could buy a souvenir at the turtle place, so there was no avoiding it. We did forbid her to buy the enormous turtle stuffie! As cute as it was, it would have meant buying a whole extra suitcase. Both kids picked out a couple of souvenirs to prove they'd been there and we escaped without too much damage to the credit card.

Sharon was there to pick us up again and after a brief tour of the Cayman 'hood, dropped us off at the marina to go out to Stingray City!
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Old 12-22-2013, 12:57 PM   #55
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My apologies. Transmission was interrupted by the necessity for Christmas preparations. Apparently it is a Big Thing around here. Who knew?

Anyhoo, you'll notice that so far I have made no reference to stopping for lunch during our visit to Grand Cayman. Sharon offered to stop at the local supermarket so we could buy sandwiches to eat on the boat on our way to stingray city but we were all excited and not hungry yet. We figured we'd just have a late lunch back on the ship. In retrospect, probably not our best decision.

So anyway, we got to the marina just as a previous tour was getting off the boat and heading out so it was only a few minutes wait for us. And we were the only people boarding so we had the boat to ourselves. Well, ourselves and Captain Tom and Taron, his first mate (and his son, if I remember rightly)

It was a good size older boat, and I just realized that taking a picture of it might have been a good idea. Oh well, it was white. And a boat. DH separates boats into the 'can fish from it' and 'can't fish from it' categories. I think this one fell into the 'can fish from ' category.

It's about a 35 minute ride from the marina to Stingray City. For the first part, you cruise through the channel gazing enviously at the gorgeous homes on the water.

Really?
A swimming pool in your backyard.
Your backyard that's right next to the ocean.
Tough life!




This one appears to be under construction. Still time to pick out paint colours!

Once we got out of the channel and into open water, I went 'upstairs' to sit and enjoy the view. The kids alternated. K came up for a while, then went back down. V came up and enjoyed the sea air in her hair!


I remember at one point wondering what their backup plan would be if the engine gave out. Yeah, I always worry about things like that. In my head I was trying to figure out 'well, if it's a half-hour boat ride, and they have to send out another boat to pick us up....will we make it back to the Wonder on time?' Finally I resolved to worry about it only if it happened.

And let's face it, if you're going to get stranded, there's lots of worse places it could happen!


However, we did make it with no engine problems to report! There were only a couple boats already there although more would arrive while we were there.
I loved the jet skis. That would be cool to jet ski out to the sandbar!


As the Captain and his mate worked on getting the boat anchored we had fun watching the water and spotting the rays already swimming by to check out the new arrivals. Finally we were secured and time to get ready to jump in.

I had really, really wanted to buy a waterproof camera just for this excursion. But DH said 'no more cameras'. It's a running joke. Kind of like 'no more dogs'. I'm a good wife so I will listen and obey, until the time comes when I really, really want a new camera. Or another dog. But in this case, I just couldn't justify the cost of a new camera, in light of all the other financial obligations. Or a waterproof case, which apparently cost more than the camera itself! Ah, but the Internet is a wonderful thing and I found out about something called a dicaPac that run about $35 (on eBay). Okay, that I could swing and within a week or so I had my package, direct from S. Korea. Did I mention I love the Internet?

So anyway, the big moment came and I tucked our little Canon point & shoot into the dicaPac and sealed it like it said. I even took the precaution of making sure I put in a blank memory card, thinking that if the seal failed at least I wouldn't lose *all* the trip photos. Mama didn't raise no nimwit! No worries, the dicaPac worked great and for the price, I highly recommend it for those once in a blue moon uses like this. It wasn't perfect - there were some problems and limitations but if I had to be honest (and it's the Internet so I don't really have to be) the problems and limitations were <ahem> mostly with the user and not the equipment .

Now we had picked this excursion (over a snorkelling one) because the kids are not strong swimmers and I figured they'd be better off where they could stand, rather than trying to swim and snorkel and see. What we didn't figure on was the strong breakers rolling in that would push them (and us!) off their feet. The water was pretty much chest high for us, which meant K had to wear a life jacket and try to tread water and that one of us had to hold on to her to keep her from floating away. All of this while we had to try and stay on our feet too because we were getting pushed around. And let's face it, you just don't want to put your feet down without being sure there isn't a stingray underneath!

V made it into the water and although tall enough to stand, she was also having problems trying to maintain position. I think she also was getting a little freaked out by the dark shapes gliding by...and she was feeling the lack of food, which meant her tummy started to give her grief.

So we managed to snap this picture. Notice how the water is a nice level at this point - but you can see the wave that just passed by behind them!

After that, V hightailed it back to the boat to lie down. K managed a little longer but she was getting frustrated with the lifejacket riding up and choking her - or maybe it was mommy's tight hold on the handle of the jacket. If we were doing it again, I think I would invest in our own (more comfortable) lifejackets to take. Eventually she went back to the boat and sat at the back to watch us.

I was disappointed that they weren't going to enjoy the excursion as much as I'd hoped. But on the other hand, now DH and I didn't have to worry about them in the water, so we could at least enjoy ourselves.

Taron had already dived into the water and it was his mission to help us hold a stingray. He started off with this big guy:



But did you know they don't have any handles? And they're very slippery?

So he found us a smaller one. This one also was missing his stinger:


Oh yeah, back to the limitations of the underwater camera case. Well, apparently I forgot to take any photos underwater. Okay, can't really blame that on the equipment. It's hard to remember everything when you're trying not to step on a stingray and/or drown. Now I did take some underwater video. Again, a limitation. With the bright sun and the reflection bouncing off the water into my eyes and having a case on the camera....all this combined to mean I couldn't actually see the LCD screen on my camera. Which apparently meant that when I thought I was 'recording' I was actually turning the video off...and vice versa.... So I ended up with several incredibly short video clips.

Um....Oops?

I made the best of it and put the clips together as artistically as I could:

Stingray City

And chalked it up as another 'learning opportunity'

When the Captain and Taron started bringing out the squid, it became a feeding frenzy around us. One stingray became very fond of DH. In an awkward 'dude, you just gave me a hickey' kind of way

We didn't get around to doing some of the 'must do' things...like the stingray back massage, or kissing a stingray...but we were happy enough. We'd been in the water about half an hour and were starting to feel guilty that the kids were missing out. We worked our way back to hang on to the back of the boat so K could at least get a closer look at the rays from her perch. By then I had swallowed enough of the Caribbean ocean so scrambled on board myself.

I asked the Captain if he'd ever been stung.

"Do you want me to answer truthfully?"

- Sure, I'm not in the water anymore...

So yes, he admitted he'd been stung once and that it hurt like hell for hours!

Good to know....good to know...

Taron found the little one again and brought him up to the boat for K to touch.

The Captain and Taron seemed determined we were going to get our money's worth and we finally had to say 'no, we need to go back now'...V really needed her feet on solid ground and some food in her stomach! So anchor's aweigh and steer the boat back to land!


As we cruised back through the marina, we pointed out a few boats that daddy might like for Father's Day:



This one came already equipped with pirate flag!


This one especially intrigued him:


Talisker is one of his favourite whiskies. We looked for a Macallan as well but no luck.

Back at the marina, by the time we had moored, we could see Sharon arriving with our transportation. V had slept most of the way back and now began to look a little less green around the gills. It was also close to 3pm and the last tender was 3:30 back to the ship. Fortunately on Grand Cayman, you're really not ever far away from anything. We asked Sharon if we could make a quick stop at a beach, so that the girls could get their bit of sand. She pulled over at what I believe was a section of 7 Mile Beach.

Either way, I want to go back, with time to spare for several cold, fruity drinks!



We made it back to port with time to spare (for shopping!) so it was farewell to Sharon and back through the gates.
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Old 12-22-2013, 01:27 PM   #56
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We managed to do exactly the same thing there and didn't stop to eat lunch! It's a busy time and before you know it, it's time to get back onboard!!

Still enjoying the trip report. :-)
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Wandering The Gulf on the Wonder - Inaugural Bahamas Cruise Trip Report
Magic Your Way to the Magic Kingdom...another Galveston trip report
Our Magical Trip From The Lone Star State - Oct 13, 2012

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2000-POFQ, 2005-FW, 2006-FW, 2008-FW, Feb 2009-CBR/POFQ, Sept 2009-ASM,2010 BWI/WL/AKL/DCL Magic Western, July 2011 BWI/DCL Dream, Nov 2011 FW/AKL, May 2012 GF/DCL Fantasy-Eastern/BWI, Oct 2012 DCL Magic-Western, Feb 2013 DCL Magic-Cozumel, Apr 2013 DCL Magic-CC/WDW/KW, Sept 2013 - DCL Wonder-Bahamas, Dec 2013 - DCL Wonder-NYE-Cozumel, March 2014 - DCL Magic-4 night, Patiently waiting for: Nov 2014-Dream, Nov 2015- DCL Wonder B2B-Western & Bahamas-Galveston, DCL Wonder 2015 NYE Cruise-Bahamas-Galveston
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Old 12-24-2013, 04:53 PM   #57
RGirl
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Just discovered your report last night and am really enjoying it.

It's so nice to see the pics of the Wonder - we had our first cruise on the Wonder a couple of years ago to Alaska. So wonderful! We tried out the Fantasy this year.
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Old 12-27-2013, 02:41 PM   #58
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Loving your trip report.
We were "kinda" in a few of your pics. When you were taking pictures from Harbor House of the Wonder coming in, we were on board for our last few hours.
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:16 AM   #59
shoreline
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I have really enjoyed reading your detailed trip report. You seem to really have a knack for writing them. We are first timers going on the last Wonder cruise from Galveston on January 4th. I noticed that you received a lanyard holder for your Key To The World Card upon checking in. Do you know if everyone receives one of these or if its only for the Castaway Club members? Thank you.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:28 AM   #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shoreline View Post
I have really enjoyed reading your detailed trip report. You seem to really have a knack for writing them. We are first timers going on the last Wonder cruise from Galveston on January 4th. I noticed that you received a lanyard holder for your Key To The World Card upon checking in. Do you know if everyone receives one of these or if its only for the Castaway Club members? Thank you.
I am not the OP, but I can answer this! You recieve a lanyard upon embarkation of your 2nd + cruise. They range in color according to how many cruises you've taken on DCL, or as you say, what level you're at in the castaway club. Us first timers would have to buy a lanyard if we want one.
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