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Time to Go
It was tough to get the girls moving this morning. The exhaustion from the week was finally setting in. Thankfully, because we selected the late seating, we got the later seating time for our breakfast on our last day which was at 8am. Had we selected early seating, we would have had to be at the restaurant by 6:30! The dining room you are in this morning is the same one you were in the night before so because our last night we had dinner at Animator’s Palate, we ate there again for breakfast.
Outside the window showed us the stark reality that we were back to where we started. We still had to get up early to shower and pack the remainder of our stuff into our carry-on. Once we finished getting ready we sat out on the verandah for one last view.
Many birds welcomed our ship back by sitting on the life boats. As we sat there, we turned our cell phones back on that had been off for a whole week (that was so great not to have that) and our phones started beeping uncontrollably with all the emails and messages. I refused to look at them all. I just perused to make sure there was nothing urgent.
After a bit more time we took a deep breath, turned to lock the door on our verandah and gathered the rest of our stuff to head out the door one last time.
We had our main servers there one more time.
By the time we left, the line to debark had snaked all the way back to Animator’s Palate. Because of this, the bathroom outside the restaurant was packed so if anyone had a shy bladder, good luck! Not sure why this line got so long. I later would read that the Coast Guard was doing some checks but not sure if that is correct or not.
It took a while for the line to move. It moved very slow at first then all of a sudden it was like the flood gates opened and we steadily made our way off the ship and back down the ramp that led us to the ship eight days earlier. We headed down to the luggage area and found the character that was on our luggage tags, in our case, Goofy. We quickly were able to track all our luggage down but for some reason, Augers had to search a little harder to find all of theirs. Once you found your luggage, you went back into another line, with all your luggage in tow, so that you could get through customs. A few quick questions and we were out the door to a chilly parking lot.
We made our way to the Budget Car Rental line outside so we could wait for the shuttle. We decided that the whole family will go while Augers waited for us. It took about 10-15 minutes before the shuttle came back around and we somehow packed all of us in with our luggage and about three other small families. I was expecting to get to Budget and see the same shit show I had saw days earlier but it was rather calm and quiet there this time around. We quickly got our 12 passenger van, one that not nearly as nice as the one we had before as this one had rips in the roof and vents taped shut with band aides.
Augers couldn’t find Kate’s ear buds so they thought they might have got left on the last van so before I left I asked the agent if they had them. They did not but they said that often the vans from Orlando will get taken back before they have a chance to check them so they might be back there. So I left Budget without Kate’s ear buds. When we got back to the terminal, the traffic was very backed up far more than it was when we arrived. So we sat in line and tried to get back to our group. Someone came walking back and we said we were picking up the rest of our group so he told us to go in the other lane and move up. The guard at the front of the line asked us what we were doing and we told him we were told to come up here and he seemed mildly annoyed. It obviously wasn’t our fault. We just did what we were told. So one vehicle later we were told to go and we quickly picked up the Augers.
It is really amazing at the quick turn around this ship has to do. By the time I was back it was 10:30 which was close to the time we were supposed to arrive and some people can come much earlier than that even. We didn’t even have our full party off the premises and the ship was already getting turned around for the next group of people starting their vacation of a lifetime. While the people on the ship treat you like you are special, this sort of made me feel like we were just another passenger in their lives and that tonight they were going to serve another group of people.
We got off the grounds and headed in the direction of the hotel we stayed at because we didn’t quite know what we wanted to do. Our options were mini-golf or visit a wildlife refuge. My girls, well Kaitlyn, didn’t want to play mini-golf because we did that on the ship. The refuge was a little too far out of the way so we decided to just head towards Orlando and the adults would try to find things to do as we drove.
One hour, and several car tolls, later we got to Orlando still without much of a clue of what we should do. Finally, we just decided to say the heck with it and go mini-golf anyway.
Orlando Food Service
Now came the struggle of figuring out what to eat. Again, didn’t know what to do and couldn’t quite meet everyone’s likes and dislikes so I just decided (because I was driving) to go to Senor Frogs. It took them a few minutes in this empty restaurant to get a table together, but no worries, we had time. It took a while for the waiter to get to us but no worries. Took a while to get our drinks, to take our food order, to get our food. OK, this is getting frustrating but at least we had a guy coming around making balloon shapes and animals.
He worked for tips only so we paid him $5 I think. Sophie wanted a crown and it was a pathetic looking crown so of course she started crying and Heather had to take her away. In the mean time, the rest took pictures with their hats.
One of the kids spilled a big glass full of their drink and it took a while for someone to come with a mop. Oh, they didn’t come with a mop, they came with a bunch of paper towels and rags. OK Brad keep calm. I know we just got off the ship with great service but it’s OK. I know we are in Florida now, the one place where, so far every time I’ve gone, have received terrible service at every stinking restaurant I’ve been to.
We ate and then waited and waited for our check and then for them to come back to grab our credit card and then for them to return our card. Well hell, screw this. One by one the kids left and sat out by the van and eventually Chris and I had left too only leaving the wives to sit there. We sat there for 30 minutes waiting for our server to charge us and needless to say, they didn’t get much of a tip. What is with Florida and their shitty ass service?! Every damn time I go I can’t get one person to wait on me or my group properly! Get your damn act together Florida!
Airplane and Airports
But I digress. We left and still had four more hours before we even had to be at the gate but we didn’t quite know what to do so we just went to the airport. Took our time dropping the van off. Asked the Budget agent if they had any ear buds. “OH Wait. Chris!” we hear from Linda, “I found the ear buds!” They were in one of the suitcases the whole time.
We get to the airport and reorganize our luggage one more time as our carry-on for the airplane is different then what we walked off the ship with. Had to make sure we had our iPods, ear buds, books, and make sure we didn’t have the large bottles of shampoo in our carry-on. We also had to switch our clothes to be ready for the cold weather we were coming back to. Temperatures back home were below zero unfortunately.
Orlando airport has a large commons area to look around before you go through the screening so we sat and had Starbucks and looked through some of the shops. We sat and relaxed as we were all very exhausted by this time. We went through security and got to our gate and started playing one more round of Wizard. I can tell when Linda means business in Wizard cause she starts throwing Wizards down when you think you’ve got a trick in hand. Of course she was winning but we had to cut the game short to get on the plane.
Augers took the kids this time so that Heather and I could sleep (or attempt to) because we had to drive towards home yet tonight.
Thanks to Linda for these last shots. The guy beside me wanted to talk. He reminded me of a meteorology friend of mine (Jason Anglin) so I didn’t mind very much but I did hope he would be quiet long enough for me to rest. He did settle down and I tried to sleep. I suck at sleeping on airplanes so I dozed here and there enough to get a little bit of rest. Heather does much better than I do.
We got off and Chris and I headed for the car. Chris was worried his car wouldn’t start as his battery was low and he was right. I couldn’t find my car right away. We were both in the purple lot but then I finally looked at my ticket and realized I was in the purple lot but on another level. So I went up to get the car, came back to help Chris jump start his car. Mind you, he waited without a coat and I believe he still had shorts on. My heavy coat was in the very cold car so it didn’t help me much. We got him jumped went down and got our families. Gave a quick hug goodbye and hit the road.
We didn’t know if we’d stop along the way and sleep at a hotel or just go the whole way. Our kids wanted to stop for the night be Heather and I didn’t want to unload, and repack and all that stuff so we decided to just keep driving while the girls slept.
We were making good timing as there wasn’t many cars on the road of course but it started to snow lightly about half way into our trip and by Fergus Falls it was all out snowing with the passing lane starting to fill with snow. So now my eyes are very very tired and I am staring at snow flying direction which is making my eyes cross even more. On top of that, I can no longer go the speed limit because of the roads. It’s now around 3am in the morning and I am struggling. I make it to Fargo and I have to hand the steering wheel over to Heather. I tried to stay awake for her but I just couldn’t. I kept dozing off.
The girls slept pretty much the whole way home. We bring our stuff into the house, drop them, put on our pajamas, turn up the heat in the house, and crawl under the covers at 5am thinking we can sleep as long as we want. By 9:30, inexplicably, everyone is up already.
Rocking and Lumps in our Throats
We are like zombies the rest of the day and just mill around in our PJs. We still feel like we are on the ship now and feel like the room is rocking. It is a feeling that stays with us for about 4 days after we are off the ship. Heather and I have big old lumps in our throats. We had probably the best vacation. A vacation we were planning for nearly a year. A vacation I was researching and plotting out for months. And it was all over now. We were back home wishing we were still on the ship. We went back to work the next day and we still felt sad. It took us a while to get back into the swing of work. We so want to do it again but don’t know if we can afford to.
People asked us about our vacation and if it was worth the price and we say every time without hesitation. “Absolutely!”
Thanks Disney for a tip of a lifetime,
Tips for Future Travelers
- Just go on a Disney Cruise once. You’ll want to do it again.