2017 WBPC: Zen, Self-Deprecation, and Reflections of a Life Well Cruised

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by JohnGalt, Jul 5, 2017.

  1. JohnGalt

    JohnGalt Who is JohnGalt?

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    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:

    Review1.jpg
    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.

    Review2.jpg


    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:

    Review3.jpg
    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?

    Review4.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  2. JohnGalt

    JohnGalt Who is JohnGalt?

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    E – 2, Friday, April 21
    Music Recommendation: “On the Road Again” Canned Heat



    So the big thing today was road. Lots of road. We got an early start and my DW settled in for a big driving day that for her, alternated between napping and reading more about Clark’s adventures in the Amazon jungle. Me? I had my eye on my watch. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 12:51 pm central time. Of course I had checked the weather on my iPhone before we left the hotel, and from the looks of the storm system over northeast Oklahoma, ….genius! Often times, storms come through in well-defined squall lines that are scary severe, but they pass in 25 minutes and then the storm is over. Not so this morning. Northeast Oklahoma was covered up crazy with storms. Sweet vindication. Hero, not zero. Genius.

    I kept having DW check the weather throughout the morning, and it was always the same story. Oklahoma was under water. Sometime around 11ish, we entered our flight information into the flight tracker on Kayak so that we could see if it was listed as on time, delayed, or (dare I even hope) canceled. The first time we checked, it was already listed as delayed, but only 15 minutes. I told my DW that this is what airlines always do. They would continue incrementally extending the departure time hoping that the storm system would pass. At some point, they would have to make the unpopular decision to fly the next day, or cancel the flight altogether.

    We checked the flight status again at 1:20, and again, the fight had been postponed. It was now showing 1:45 for a departure time. This was the predictable pattern I expected to see throughout the day. At 1:35, feeling rather full of myself, I texted one of my colleagues, “Genius or Idiot?” He quickly responded to me, “I don’t know. I’ll let you know in 8 minutes”. It was somewhat satisfying when I didn’t hear from my colleague in 8 minutes. I figured he checked, the flight hadn’t taken off, and he resigned himself to having to acknowledge my prognostication prowess. I started doing my touchdown dance from the driver’s seat of our rental car. My celebration, it turns out, was premature. This same colleague sent another message about 20 minutes later. It stated very simply, “Flight left at 1:45.” Now, his text didn’t articulate exactly what he meant to say. I’m his boss, and he couldn’t say exactly what he wanted to. But he and I have worked together for a lot of years, and I know what he meant. Here is what he meant: “Flight left at 1:45. Idiot.”

    I quickly asked DW to check the weather app on my cellphone, and a remarkable change had ensued since the last time we looked. Somehow, in the intervening hour, the skies had cleared, the heavens had opened up, and evidently, the thunderstorm that was supposed to last until 8:00 pm that night, decided it was done at about 1:30 that afternoon. The plane we could have been on, SHOULD have been on, took off only about an hour late. It probably flew right under a rainbow.

    IMG_0231 (Copy).JPG


    Deflated, I sat silently at the helm of the rental car for the next hour, and ticked off the miles as they went by. I looked at my watch and calculated the approximate minute that the jet would be passing us overhead. DW took it in stride and settled in for another nap. I became pensive. When DW woke up, I commented that it was probably not nice of us to hope that the flight would be canceled. There were most certainly a hundred other people on that jet, whose plans with family and friends and work and vacation, were just as important to them, as our vacation plans were to us. We had invested in insurance. The cost was a little bit of money and 19 hours of driving. Whatever. I tried every platitude I could think of to make myself feel better about it, with little success.

    We arrived at the Caribe Royal hotel in Orlando about 3 hours later than we would have, had we taken the jet. I had planned on taking my wife to a nice dinner in Orlando that night. Maybe Fogo de Chao. Maybe the Capital Grille. Instead we had to settle on Chez Wendy’s. It’s not as if nice restaurants weren’t open. They were. But we were just exhausted from the road. It was time to eat something quick, go to bed, and put this embarrassing chapter of our trip behind us. Tomorrow we could get up, go to Discovery Cove, swim with dolphins, and maybe pretend I’m not an idiot.
     
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  4. JohnGalt

    JohnGalt Who is JohnGalt?

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    E – 1, Saturday, April 22, Discovery Cove Day
    Music Recommendation: “Perfect Day” Lou Reed


    With the day’s promise of frolicking with 500 pound mammals in artificially clear saltwater occupying our thoughts, we got up early, got our coffee, and headed to Discovery Cove. DW politely agreed to NEVER bring up the mistakes that were made at the start of this trip. Unless it would be humorous at my expense. Which is always.

    As it turned out, this day, the day before embarking on our cruise, was nearly perfect. For those who have never been to Discovery Cove in Orlando, it’s something you should try at least once. There’s a great, winding, lazy river to float around on; they feed you twice (breakfast and lunch); there is a huge salt-water pool where one can swim with all manner of salt-water fish; there is an aviary with exotic birds; and finally, the highlight of the day, you can schedule yourself (for extra cost) to swim with the dolphins.

    So cut to the chase. Here is a picture of DW and Capricorn:

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    DW posted this picture on her Facebook page with the caption, “Dreams really do come true”.
    That’s real nice, isn’t it? Very special. But it’s not my favorite picture of the day. Heh. Check out this picture:


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    That’s a mealworm dangling precariously from the bird’s mouth. Here is another picture, different angle:

    IMG_1033 (Copy).JPG

    Two seconds after this picture was taken, that bird bit the mealworm in half and the bigger part of it ended up in DW’s hair. So here is today’s moral dilemma: Let her be blissfully unaware that she has a bisected mealworm oozing out worm guts into her hair, or, tell her, at the cost of her being totally grossed out and maybe experiencing her breakfast all over again.

    I decided to tell her. Life’s short. You’ve gotta savor the moments.

    She took it well. And after disinfecting her scalp with the miniature bottle of hand sanitizer she keeps conveniently attached to her backpack, she was ready to go swimming again. Here are some more pictures we took at DC:


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    The shininess of the dolphin in that last picture makes it look like it was Photoshopped, but I assure you, that is the original picture without any editing.


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  5. TCB in FLA

    TCB in FLA DIS Veteran

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    Those pictures made the previous day worth it! Enjoying your TR!
     
  6. JohnGalt

    JohnGalt Who is JohnGalt?

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    Here’s a quick list of tips for Discovery Cove:

    · Plan your day to get there right when the park opens, especially if you plan on doing the dolphin swim. The guests that get there early have the first choice of dolphin swim times.
    · Try to go to the aviary early in the day, even before you eat breakfast. The birds are hungriest first thing in the morning, and they will more readily perch on your arm to eat from you hand.
    · Bring a cheap, disposable, underwater camera. There are a ton of cool fish in the salt water pool.
    · Get a locker first thing. They’re free, easy, and they help you manage all the stuff you brought into the park.
    · Don’t bother with your own sunscreen. They have plenty of free sunscreen dispensers near the lockers.
    · They have really good shower facilities near each of the locker bays, with soap & shampoo dispensers. We used these at the end of the day and it was much nicer than driving to the port still covered in sunscreen and sand.


    In summary, we had a blast at Discovery Cove. It’s not necessarily a cheap blast, but the math does work out. Consider this:

    Day Resort Package for 2 People............................................................. $ 360
    Dolphin Swim add on for 2 People............................................................ $ 160
    That moment when an exotic bird drops half a mealworm in DW’s hair.............Priceless


    Satisfied with a great day seeing and doing some really cool things at Discovery Cove, we left the park discussing how fun it would be to bring our kids here, and hopefully someday, our grandkids too. As we climbed into our car to make the quick, one hour drive to Port Canaveral, my DW just couldn’t help herself. She had to gig me a little. I’m sure she had been formulating this all day, and she was giddy like a schoolgirl to finally spring it on me. “Now, are we driving to Port Canaveral, or are we flying. I never really know with you” she quipped. Heh, everyone's a comedian. I countered, “That’s pretty funny. Almost as funny as when you had worm guts in your hair.”

    For the night before embarkation, I had booked us a room at a B&B in Titusville, Casa Coquina del Mar. It was outstanding! We really didn't take any pictures at Casa Coquina, so let me Google that for you:

    http://lmgtfy.com/?t=i&q=Casa+Coquina+del+Mar

    The accommodations were very comfortable, the breakfast was great, and the innkeepers were friendly and informative. If you've never tried a B&B, or even if you have, try this one! The place has history. Al Capone stayed here! It was built in the 1920’s and at some point during the depression, it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Later, in the 50’s, it was used as an orphanage. The current owners bought it in 2013 as one of their retirement projects. I think it’s fantastic. It reminds me of my grandma’s house. Something about the ambiance, even the smell. Not an unpleasant smell; it’s the smell of history. Metal tubing runs in various places along the walls and around the ceilings. These metal tubes contain the electric wires to the sockets, and to the lighting fixtures. They snake out across the interior walls and ceilings as if electricity was added to the building as an afterthought, and it may well have been. The décor is an interesting assimilation of Victorian, post-modern, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s; it’s never boring or understated. Although people once lived here without air conditioning, thankfully, our room had 2 window units that kept the temperature quite comfortable. If we have opportunity, we will definitely stay here again.

    For dinner that night we drove to the port and ate at the highly recommended Fishlips. Again, we weren't doing pictures that night, so I will defer to Trip Advisor's many pictures:

    https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaur...ll-Port_Canaveral_Brevard_County_Florida.html

    If you go to Fishlips, I have 2 words for you: Clam. Chowder. If you don't try this, you've missed it. For the main courses, DW had fish and chips, and I had baked cod. It was all great, but the clam chowder was exceptional. I'd go back just for that.

    After dinner we headed back to Casa Coquina. We went for a walk along the Indian River and then hurried to bed. Embarkation was the next day and our excitement was palpable. It's like you're 8, it's Christmas eve, and your Mom tells you that the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner Santa will come. I reflected on the day's activities and the fantastic meal we had at Fishlips, and I thought of the lyrics to "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed: "It's just a perfect day. I'm glad I spend it with you."

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    That's it for E-1. Next up: Embarkation Day.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017
  7. chamberlain

    chamberlain Mouseketeer

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    Can't wait to read the rest of your trip report. Love your song choices. I don't blame you for renting a car and taking off. It is so stressful to fly out with bad weather predicted.
     
  8. princessmommyx3

    princessmommyx3 The Disney Cruise Mom Blog

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    I'm loving your trip report! I was on this same cruise and I look forward to seeing it from another's perspective. I've also been wanting to go to Discovery Cove for a long time so I really enjoyed your pictures and tips.
     
  9. lorimay

    lorimay Celebrating 32 Ears

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    Looking forward to your report.....

    We are also married 30 years and love Disney cruise line with or without kids and grandkids!
    We have done 15 DCL cruises with 16 & 17 booked.
     
  10. bcwife76

    bcwife76 DisneyMomma

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    Following and gobbling up every word! Love your writing style!

    And I think you still made the right choice in driving. Yes you arrived a bit later than your flight did but in the end you got there without the whole "oh my gosh what if our plane NEVER takes off" fear in your throat.
     
  11. Jodyfarmgirl

    Jodyfarmgirl Earning My Ears

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    See my avatar? 1930s tornado in NW Oklahoma. Your concerns make sense to me.
    Love the TR.... More, please.
     
  12. thumpie's mom

    thumpie's mom Mouseketeer

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    Great trip report! We are celebrating our 30th on the EBPC in October. :)
     
  13. happy wanderer

    happy wanderer Mouseketeer

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    WBPC is on our bucket list...am very much looking forward to your report!

    Also, your musical "suggestions" are pretty awesome.
     
  14. poohs4me

    poohs4me DIS Veteran

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    Another vote for genius!!
     
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  15. JohnGalt

    JohnGalt Who is JohnGalt?

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    Thanks everyone. I'll have some time tomorrow afternoon and I'll see if I can get embarkation day posted. This is very cathartic, confessing my travel mistakes to the Disney masses. And embarkation day will be no exception. I made a few that day too! Stay tuned......

    JG
     
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  16. sbridgeman

    sbridgeman Mouseketeer

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    Great review, can't wait to read more! FWIW I would have rented the car without question.
     
  17. JohnGalt

    JohnGalt Who is JohnGalt?

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    Day 1, Sunday April 23, Embarkation Day
    Music Recommendation: “I Wanna Be Sedated” The Ramones


    Is there anything quite like that feeling you get on embarkation day, when logic tells you that getting to the port at 8:00AM is completely useless, but you just don't care? Logic's got nothing to do with it! This is a Disney Cruise! I seriously needed to be sedated. And in the excitement and anticipation of boarding the beautiful Disney Wonder - I made a couple more mistakes........ Rookie mistakes!

    IMG_1087 (Copy).JPG

    Look, I'm an experienced traveler. My company has offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bogota, Colombia; Quito, Ecuador, and also Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. I frequently fly to these destinations on business trips. There is an old adage that says, "The more you travel, the less you pack," and that has certainly been true for me. But for whatever reason, I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to bring in a case of bottled water in one of our backpacks. BAD IDEA! I made this decision on embarkation morning because we had packed a case of water for the drive to Florida, and we really hadn’t made much of a dent in it. So, why not fill up my backpack with all the remaining bottles? Well, this completely threw me off my travel game. I normally have a specific spot to store my phone in my backpack. My passport and wallet are normally stored in another convenient backpack pouch that I can access quickly for security. But filling the backpack with water caused me to store passport, wallet, and phone in other locations on my person (mostly in the vest pockets of my sports coat).

    IMG_0058 (Copy).JPG

    So this lame decision I made to fill my backpack with water ended up being a detriment in several ways. First, we men have a tendency to discount the effort required to carry something heavy for an extended period of time. And that may have been an ok mistake to make……..when I was 24. But at 54, the additional weight was really a drag. For one thing, I was wearing a new sports coat that we had bought for the trip, and I felt like the weight from the shoulder strap of the backpack was about to tear the fabric of my coat! So, I tried holding the backpack at my side by the straps, ……….creating this fashion statement that screamed “Man Purse”. After seeing myself in a window reflection in the terminal, I decided that a tear in my coat was preferable. Then, we get to security, and I can’t find my passport. It’s not conveniently located in the aforementioned pouch of my backpack, because every pouch of my backpack is filled with bottled water!

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    Well, there was this TSA lady working the security line, and she is staring at me, rolling her eyes, and giving me that “this dufus can’t find his passport” look. Right about the time when she was about to press the big red button that would open up a hatch in the floor sending me to the depths of the hadean realm, I found my passport in my breast pocket. They give me the go-ahead, and I proceed through the metal detector. The alarm sounds,… of course. I check that I had given them my keys and my wallet, and I had. I figured it must be my belt buckle. The TSA Maleficent lady told me to step aside into the “we’re going to frisk you whether you like it or not” area.

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    This kindly TSA gentleman approached with his magic metal detector wand and proceeded to “wand me” up and down. Yes, my belt buckle did cause his magic wand to sing, but I had also made (yet another) mistake. In all the excitement, and with all the rearranging that had taken place to accommodate the water, I had neglected to take my phone out of my breast pocket. The magic wand cried out as the gentleman waved it across my chest. I fully expected Maleficent lady to begin her dragon transformation, so I apologized profusely to Wand Man. “I’m so sorry Sir, I forgot that my phone was in my breast pocket.” The kindly Wand Man responded, “You’d be surprised how often that happens,” and he sent me through.

    And let me just pause the narrative here to express my gratitude and appreciation for all TSA employees working hard to keep us safe. The 30 second delay that I experienced was my own disorganized fault, not theirs! They are providing an important and necessary service, and I for one am extremely thankful for their attentiveness.

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  18. adSimba

    adSimba On the next Alaska Cruise!

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    I just found your thread! I love the perspective, usually trip reports are posted by the wives and this is a fun change of pace.

    I've recently been doing a lot of work with sociology and have seen a lot of "tests" where people need to choose to gamble for a prize (say you either get $100 or nothing) or accept a lower cash amount for certain. Just because the wheel spun the 100 doesn't mean that you made a bad choice, you did what it took to be sure that your needs were met for certain. Winning at a big risk certainly does not make someone a genius (perhaps stupid but lucky).

    Anyway I'll be following along to see what happens, this is a great story and the soundtrack is superb so far.
     
  19. buteraa

    buteraa DIS Veteran

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    I love your trip report so far and the dolphin swim is amazing. I did this in the Bahamas years ago. So excited to hear more!
     
  20. SixtoMouse

    SixtoMouse Earning My Ears

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    Love, Love, Love your report so far and your awesome song choices.
     
  21. tink1970

    tink1970 DCL Platinum

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    I keep giggling and DH is asking "what are you reading?" Your writing style is hilarious and I love your music choices!
     

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