Hi Everyone! Welcome to our East Bound Panama Canal Repositioning Cruise. Or EPCR as most of you know it who were on the cruise! I started this TR onboard, typing as we go, and am posting the first time on Christmas. So some of this happened live, some of it I wrote late, and some of it is happening now...so please hang on to your hat. Before I get any further, I really, really want to say hi to three folks who made our trip very special...Doug, Audrey and Zac. I'm certainly not trying to leave any others out of this as we really enjoyed all of you, but spent the most time with these three. Guys, you sure made our trip fantastic and know that we will stay in touch far into the future! Getting that out of the way, it's time to introduce our cast of characters... DW - aka DedeDisney, aka Deanna - The Matriarch of our little trip, organizer of all things Disney and vacation, and of course the best partner in crime I could ever ask for. Yes, she is the one who has to put up with me all the time while you are only stuck with me as long as you keep paging through our TR!! She is also the keeper of the journal...so that 12 months from now when I am finally finishing this up I am able to remember the little details. Don't believe the 12 months? you clearly have not read my past TR's! Go do it now. Go head. We will wait. All issues with facts, etc, are entirely my fault and not hers. As she will point out through this journey known as a TR. And here she is in all her glory when we boarded the ship! DH - aka DisneyZell aka Drew - That's me, the writer of the trip report. Or TR. Have you even noticed how many acronyms are used on the DIS boards. Is DIS an acronym? Is the sky blue? These questions will be among the many that will be asked but not answered along the way. Anyhoooooo, I'm the one along for the ride. DW does the planning, I do the TR writing. But to warn you right off the bat, this will likely be a boring trip report because I plan on being very boring and lazy the whole time. And here I am! DS10, DS14 - oh wait, they aren't here. Ha! no kids! Yes we left the kids behind. We do actually have children, and we generally enjoy being around them, but 14 days with no kids and no time constraints and very little that we *have* to do uh yeah, that might be ok. Some of you will remember this picture from our door magnets. More on that later. But these are the kids that we left behind! And that sweatshirt looks familiar...hmm...maybe I wear that a *bit* too much Why am I writing this as if the trip has not happened? because unlike my past TR's (yes I've written a few, the links are all down there in my signature. Go ahead and go read them all. Go on. I'll wait. go ahead. yup. OK all done now? anyway, unlike my past TR's where I have had to hijack DW's journal to write (what, you didn't know that? Then you didn't really go look at my other TR's. Trust me, you are going to have a rough ride if you are going to have that attitude the whole time you are with me. But whatever. This time I'm going to try to write it as I go. Note the "try" because I do have a tendency to get distracted. "squirrel" ha! get it? did you get the "UP" reference. Geez, come on, I can't keep telling you all my secrets, you do have to do some of the thinking on your own. but I digress. I am, in fact, writing this particular installment sitting on my balcony as the Wonder makes her way down the coast of Baja California. At least I think that is where we are. We can't see land at all which I find kind of funny. I wonder if we have to be a certain distance out to sea, and cannot cruise with the coast in sight (I'll bet the Costa passengers would like a rule like that. OK, ok, bad joke!). Another question that will likely not have a answer unless one of you comes along and answers it. Yes this is supposed to be interactive people! ok, so after I said that I had to go do something, and then returned and when we returned we could see the coast as demonstrated in this photo: Land Ho! This whole thing started back in February. Or March, or maybe April. I'm sure DW will correct and interject to make are I used the right dates. It makes her feel good so I'll leave it at that. Anyway, DW found an unbelievable fare for the Panama Canal cruise. Something I have always wanted do do, combined with a 14 night cruise, also something I have always wanted to do. Why? because we have done many 7 night cruises (which you would know if you bothered to read my other TR's. Not that I'm bitter or anything. Nope, not me. ), and I have always said that I would like to do a longer cruise because it is usually about day 6 that I'm truly unwound, usually just in time to get packed, off the ship and the stress of going home. But this time about day 6 we will be settled in. So this great price was for a guaranteed inside stateroom. For those of you who have no idea what that means, it means that we are guaranteed a room but not a specific stateroom. In other words you don't get to pick. You also had to pay for it all up front no refunds on that one. 14 nights that's a long time .and the kids have school so a decision needed to be made. questions needed to be asked (and not the kind that don't have answers this time!). DW called her parents to see if they would come up and stay with the kids. The great thing about having parents that are retired is their ability to do this. We have many friends who's parents have not yet drifted into retirement yet and so they cannot enlist them for things like this. Luckily we do, and they agreed to come and stay with the boys. So that was the first question answered check. The next was slightly more complicated. At that exact time I was changing roles at my company. I work for a software company and being new I felt a *little* uncomfortable (well, ok, A lot uncomfortable) asking for time off within the first week of changing jobs, even though the time off wasn't for 8 months or so. But I decided to man up and make the call, which I did. It was a tough call for my boss, though because we were just starting up a project which was due to end about the time I would be leaving. But I talked them into it and we had the approval that we needed, all questions answered. Now we had to book it. We booked through Dreams Unlimited so that we would get the onboard credit that they were offering. We used a person who had been recommended several times on these boards, but unfortunately we didn't feel like we got anything out of it. She never really contacted us past that first day, never telling us it was time to book excursions, time to sign up for Palo things we expected. Since we booked this DW has become a travel agent and so we were a bit disappointed knowing that she would and will provide those basics. Apparently this was common, however, as we were in the terminal and chatting with a woman and her mother who had a similar experience she was looking for any information about the cruise, what could and could not happen, cell phone service, basic things and she was told that she was essentially all on her own. Our favorite advice that this woman got was that she should stay at LAX for 4-5 hours vs. going to the port. Because there is so much to do at LAX. So clearly the travel agent that was used for that woman had no idea how Disney worked, and we recommended they change travel agents next time! but I digress. Fortunately we have done this a few times (this is trip #6 first time Gold Castaway Club, woohoo!). So we didn't need the reminder. Ah, one more digression on this topic. The woman we met who had the bad experience said that maybe it was because it was a cheap cruise that the travel agent didn't provide the service, and perhaps that was why ours didn't really do anything as well. That's silly because you never know what people will do next .but I guess that is an excuse! Anyhoo, sorry for wandering off topic. But again if you have read my past TR's you know that I do that a lot. Dang, I don't even know where I am in the story now. Please hold while I read back. OK, I'm back. So we booked the trip, and for the first time ever we decided to get travel insurance. We were both a bit uncomfortable with the fact that we could not cancel so we decided it was a good idea. And I kind of like the idea of having protection should something happen medically. I believe we used a website to check the prices and we got the website from the Disboards of course. So do a search to find the website where you can search. We went with a company called Squaremouth (which I think is related to Square Trade whom I happen to have all my electronics warranties through!) It was the best price for the benefits that we wanted so we went with it. Quick and easy to do and I recommend it. We will likely do this going forward. It's been a while since that point obviously, nothing really major to report except for a short cruise that we took on Carnival for a family reunion. It was a 3 night cruise and let me just say that I will not cruise Carnival again. Or at least I don't plan to. I don't want to hijack this TR and plug in another one but I think for the most part it is summed up by what happened when we walked onto the ship. We went up to the pool deck to hang out as a family (I think there were 19 of us). The music was so loud that you couldn't hold a conversation with someone that was 2 feet away from you. I realize that Carnival is known as a party ship but there were tons of kids and the music was just too loud. I know, I know, I'm clearly getting old! Scary!! But beyond the loud music about every 2 minutes the DJ would come on the intercom system and say "Come on People! Grab a drink! you need to be drunk by 5!!!". Again, this wasn't just once, it was over .and over .and over and over and over and over and over I think you get the idea. Disney certainly likes you to purchase alcohol, but Carnival pushed it on you constantly. Even at breakfast in the buffet area they had a bloody mary cart wandering around trying to sell you those or mimosas. Just too much. The only positive I will say was that I won $50 in the casino on the last night. We had $20 in onboard credit which we had not used so I cashed that in and me, my cousins and one of their wives played electronic blackjack. We had a great time and I walked away with cash. Nice! I am probably ready to go to Vegas and be a whale in one of the casinos, but for some reason they don't seem to be calling me!! Crazy I know! But even with that I'm glad Disney does not have a casino on their ship the smoke around it is insane and not any fun. But again I digress. At some point we told our kids needless to say they were not happy and continued to bug us up until the point of us leaving. My oldest was hurt by it the most but not because he was hurt he was not going on the cruise, but I think because he was more affected by us being gone for 2 weeks. He has always been the kid who didn't want to be away from us. Connor (our 10 year old) was the one when he was in preschool that didn't even say goodbye as he ran over to play with the other kids. The way we sold it was that Grandma and Grandpa were going to be there with them and that they were getting older and there is only a limited time that they would get to spend with them. Did this work? no, but it made us feel better! So the plan was set, we made reservations to fly home from Miami on Jet Blue, and decisions needed to be made about Fish Extender. We, of course, are taking part in Fish Extender because it is just fun to do. DW is *very* creative and she came up with the idea to make clipboards for the older kids, crayon books for the younger kids, a CD of music for the adults and an envelope for keepsakes. Oh, an envelope Won't that be easy. Just draw a nice Mickey Head on the envelope and call it a fish extender gift. Nah, that wouldn't be hard enough. No .we must paint it red and black and put a yellow ribbon across the middle and two white dots on the red side. to make it look like Mickey. There were several iterations of the envelope Deanna trying to figure out how to best paint the envelopes roll on the paint, spray paint naturally she figured it out (combination of both!). And they turned out really good. More on that later. The CD was no big deal to burn out but printing the tops of the CD's took FOREVER. I've done video stuff for a long time, including printing the top of the DVD's but the most I ever did at one time was about 20. This time I was doing 80. One at a time. That was an adventure, and one of many things on my list of to-do's before we had to head out. The cruise is happening at a perfect time right before Christmas, and those of you who are reading along and were on this cruise you know that it's no big deal to be gone the two weeks before Christmas. Returning on 12/23 leaves you plenty of time to shop for Christmas. Ha! That was probably the hardest part knowing that we wouldn't have the time to shop when we get back we had to get it all done. So there was a lot of shopping, a lot of wrapping (ok, DW did the wrapping, I got out of it this year ). But we somehow managed to get it all done and on the morning of Saturday 12/8 we went and got a rental car, packed up and it was off to Southern California!! Only a 5 hour drive so it wasn't a big deal. We were able to stay with some friends down there and have dinner with them, so that was quite nice and a good start to the vacation. Funny thing is as i'm writing this, and as you will read it I can't say for sure how great a vacation it was my assumption is that it will be great but until it's over I can't say! Note from after the cruise: Yup, it was great. next up: Day 1: Checking in, upgrade? and Day 1 on the Wonder!