Introduction So we recently returned from a fantastic 14 night WBPC cruise aboard the beautiful Disney Wonder. I’m going to do my best to provide a comprehensive trip report (TR), enhanced with lots of photos, especially of food, and the canal crossing. In fact, we have so many pictures that I’ll probably throw some of them in, in random places. Like this for example: Yeah, we took a lot of pictures of the artwork all over the ship. I'll insert them from time to time as the prose becomes especially tedious. It's just me and my DW this time. This is only our second time cruising without our kids. We’ve been married for 30 years, and this trip was, among other things, a celebration of our 30 years of wedded bliss (I scored big points there boys!!). We are experienced cruisers, but certainly others have cruised more than us. This is our 3rd cruise aboard a Disney ship, and our 9th cruise overall. We’ve cruised the Disney Wonder once before, in 2004; our first cruise. We’ve also previously sailed on the Disney Fantasy. Sure, we’ve tried other lines: Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival. But even after our 2 daughters have married and moved out, these two empty-nesters find themselves returning to Disney. This TR will be divided by days, beginning with 3 days before embarkation (E-3). For the truly adventurous, and those that appreciate a more immersive TR experience, at the beginning of each section, I will suggest appropriate music for your background listening pleasure. I will also provide a link that will play the suggested song in another tab of your browser (You’ll likely have to endure a few seconds of commercial before the song begins). Please use these powers responsibly; only for good, never evil. E – 3, Thursday, April 20 Music Recommendation: “Should I Stay or Should I Go” The Clash Ok. I’m an idiot. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. I’m about to describe to you a rather huge decision I made on Thursday, April 20, three days before embarkation (E-3), and a lot you are going to disagree with the decision I made. A lot of you are going to say that you would have done it differently. That’s your prerogative. However, remember that you are looking back with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. And, a lot of you are not married to my wife. My DW and I live in Oklahoma, and we had flights booked to Orlando on Friday, April 21. Our itinerary had us arriving in Orlando at about 5:00 pm that Friday evening. We figured we would check in to our hotel (the Caribe Royal in Orlando), have a nice dinner, and retire early in preparation for our swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove on Saturday. It's always been a dream of DW's, to swim with dolphins, and for those that don't know, Discovery Cove in Orlando exacts a hefty fare for the privilege of realizing that dream. Between the entrance fee and the fees for the dolphin swim, I already had $500 invested in checking this off my DW's bucket list. Well, the weather in Oklahoma can be a little unpredictable in the spring, and unfortunately for us, the weather forecast for the day of our flight, was looking bleak. On Thursday morning before work, I looked at the path of the storms, and I reviewed the meteorological forecasts over and over. They were predicting severe thunderstorms from 11 pm Thursday night, through 8 pm Friday night. We were scheduled to leave at around 1:00 Friday afternoon. Now, I know and you know that planes routinely take off and land in rainy weather. That wouldn't be a problem. But more than rainy weather was being predicted. This was a prediction of Oklahoma severe thunderstorms for a 21 hour period. For the uninitiated, Oklahoma severe thunderstorms can, and sometimes do, close airports; they can, and sometimes do, spin off tornados; they can, and sometimes do, flood access roads. I was relatively confident that if our flight couldn't get out on Friday, they would get us out on Saturday, but that would mean we would miss our trip to Discovery Cove on Saturday; no checkmark next to "Dolphin Swim" on DW's bucket list. Adding to my discomfort, the budget airline we had tickets with only flies to Orlando a couple of times a week. Next flight with this airline wasn’t until Tuesday the 25th, and I didn’t know how that would work out if the Friday flight got canceled. So on Thursday morning, on a whim, I decided to see what it would cost to rent a car to go one-way, from Oklahoma to Port Canaveral. Normally, one-way trips of this length are extremely cost prohibitive. I've priced one-way trips like this before at around $1500. The car rental agencies seem to really ding you for not returning the car to the same location. But to my amazement, using the special rate code that I get through the company I work for, it was only $230. That was within the sphere of what I was willing to do. So we can do it, but should we do it?? It’s a long drive, and we already have airline tickets in hand. “This indecision's bugging me (esta indecision me molesta)” The Clash So yes gentle reader, at noon on Thursday, April 20, three days before embarkation, I made the difficult decision to get in a rental car, and start the drive to Orlando, even though I had tickets to fly on Friday. This trip to Discovery Cove had been in the works for so long, and my DW was so looking forward to it, that I just wasn't willing to pin my hopes on the fickle Oklahoma weather. As I left work Thursday at noon to begin the long drive, I explained to my staff that I was either going to be a genius if the flight got canceled, or an idiot if the flight went through as scheduled. Here is my DW's reaction to the decision to drive: You can see in the picture that I’m far more stoic about the whole thing. After all, I’m the guy who had 19 hours driving ahead of him. (Is that a price tag on the visor of my cap? I might as well just paste a giant “L” on my forehead!!) So our goal was to make it to Natchitoches, Louisiana Thursday, and drive the rest of the way on Friday. This would make for a long day of driving on Friday, but, since we didn’t get off until the afternoon on Thursday, it had to be this way. The rest of the day Thursday was spent getting road miles behind us, and DW reading to me from “The Rivers Ran East” by Leonard Clark. It’s a factual account of Clark’s post WWII exploration of the Amazon basin, in search of the legendary 7 lost cities of El Dorado, where there were reported to be vast gold deposits. His journey takes him to some of the most remote, uninhabited places on earth, and he is in constant peril from cannibals, headhunters, snakes, mosquitos, and flies that bore into your skin to lay eggs. Here’s an excerpt: “Laden with saddles and bags and such other gear and supplies as we possessed, we fearfully moved out once more downhill under the vermin-ridden trees. Hoping to find a better way, we turned further inland. Between the trunks, even enveloping whole trees, hung huge silvery spider nets. Enormous hairy yellow spiders ran in and out. Countless insects were trapped in these vast webs. I saw a rare type of Morpho butterfly, with wings measuring eight inches across; there were even small birds and lizards. While underfoot in this vile place was the mygale, a poisonous bird-catching spider some seven inches across. All this horrible mess of stiff and wiry spider webs covered us as we took turns cutting a narrow trail. Our cloths dripped with perspiration. All of us became caked with the whitish pepper-sized isango, a minute blood-feeding insect. In the very midst of the spider webs we came upon a human skeleton, well gnawed by ants.” “The Rivers Ran East” by Leonard Clark, pgs 102-103 Just a little lite reading to get us through the 19 hour drive. (Unintended consequence: With the description of the swarms of mosquitos and biting flies fresh in our ears, DW and I SLATHERED ourselves with insect repellent on canal crossing day. Not gonna be host to no egg laying, blood sucking, infection breeding, blindness causing parasites! Nuh uh, not me.) E - 3 concluded with us bedding down for the night in Natchitoches. One goal accomplished, one leg of this marathon complete. I drifted off second guessing myself. Would the storms in my rear view mirror prove me a genius for making this drive, or an idiot? And really, is there more than a hair’s breadth between the two?