Friday, May 9, 2008


May 9, 2008. I started posting this trip report on January 7, the day after we returned. I’m posting this final message on May 9, 2008 (although for now I’m telling the blog it’s posted in January, so the other new posts aren’t hidden in the sidebar), meaning it’s taken me over four months to write this report. Wow.

In that time, life has gone on. My men's chorus, the Vocal Majority, has performed five shows and also competed in and won our division championship, the first step towards the competition for our twelfth international gold medal. I’ve also had bronchitis three times since starting this report. Brandon and Benjamin have each grown an inch and a half. (I wish I were exaggerating!) Brandon now wears glasses. Benjamin's children’s choir performed the program they were working on – and one more since then. And the family I mentioned in the last post, that we sent the Mickey postcard to? They just got back from Walt Disney World themselves – like, yesterday!

But even with all the time that has passed, it seems like the trip really is just ending. In part, I'm sure, that's because I've still got the tune to “There’s a restroom in our volcano, Cinderella’s in our pool!” stuck in my head.

I never intended for writing the report to take this long. At the same time, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being able to put in lots of detail and write in the “you are there” format. It’s like I’ve been reliving all of the fun of the vacation for an additional four months – and from the feedback I’ve received from many of you, you’ve enjoyed it too.

It amazes me the number of readers I’ve had. As I posted last month on my (other) blog, The World of Wombat (which has suffered in the four months of writing this report), I put a free web tracking service on this report’s website and found that hundreds of you, from all over the world, have been tuning in regularly. It's hard to fathom. Thank you for all of your interest and for the encouraging comments I’ve received, not only here on the blog, but also on Stupid Guest Tricks, Passporter, and All Things and WDW.

Many, many thanks are due, as usual, first and foremost to Bob and Linda for making the trip possible; to my parents for the awesome custom windbreakers, and to Chillus for creating them; to my “Disney family” at Stupid Guest Tricks; to Big Wallaby for an awesome KSR tour and for being great company at Ohana and MGM ("MGM"? There’s another change that’s happened while writing this report!); and to Zazu and all of the other CM’s we met – you really make the magic at Disney!!! Thanks also to and, which were great resources for when my notes weren’t detailed enough!!

So now, at last, it’s over. This trip will live on from here on out only in our memories, in photographs, and in this report. Hopefully they will be enough to tide us over until our next Disney vacation.

Speaking of which...

Normally it’s at least two years before we get back to Disney. Not this time! Our next trip is already scheduled for July 2009! Why so soon? Well, remember the mention above that the Vocal Majority will be competing for the international gold medal again? It just so happens that the Barbershop Harmony Society’s annual convention, where we will compete in 2009,... is going to be in Anaheim, California!!!

How could we go to Anaheim and not go to Disneyland???

I have been to Disneyland before, way back in 1982, but no one else in the family has, so it will be a “first” for them. It will also be interesting tacking a Disney vacation onto the end of the convention – especially since I’m sure I’ll be wiped out from rehearsing and competing. Still, all six of us – Becky, our boys, and her parents – are already planning on going, and my parents will be joining us – another “first” – so I know it will be a blast!

So it won’t be too long until I’m posting here again -- and who knows, I may have Disney-related things to post here from time to time, so don't delete this site from your bookmarks entirely. For sure, though, tune in again in the summer of 2009, when I’ll start writing a combination VM competition/Disneyland trip report!

Hopefully it’ll be finished before 2010.

Thanks again for reading! Keep in touch with the doings of my family at The World of Wombat, and please let me know of your trips and trip reports!!


Sunday, January 6, 2008

The final leg

The jet continues east all the way to the west coast of the Florida peninsula and out a bit over the Gulf before turning north. With Disney World behind us, literally and figuratively, we settle in for the flight to Dallas.

I get a ginger ale from the flight attendant and enjoy my M&M’s, and then I doze off. Actually, I sleep – hard. I’m out for half of the flight, waking about forty minutes before landing. It’s a nice way to pass the time.

Becky tells me she dozed some as well, but not as much as me. Benjamin… is still out like a light, draped across his lap tray. It’s pretty cute.

We get another semi-interesting view out of the window as we pass just to the southwest of downtown Dallas. I take a picture of the skyscrapers, and then try to spot landmarks, ending up with finding the red brick, four-story Sammons Center for the Performing Arts, where the Vocal Majority practices each Thursday. We’ve had a few weeks off following our Christmas shows, and I’m ready to be back singing with them!

The flight lands right at 12:52 – Central time, now. Within thirty minutes we have our bags and wheel them out to the Super Shuttle stand. There’s a couple of families waiting there already, but we have a prepaid reservation, and a van comes to get us within a few minutes of our checking in!

Along the ride back to Becky’s parent’s house, Becky calls her friend and fellow church children’s choir worker Tina. Becky and Benjamin actually have a rehearsal this afternoon, preparing for a joint musical debut with another church’s kids! Tina , her husband Rob, and their son Ryan will be taking their first trip to Walt Disney World in a few months, and Ryan was one of the kids to whom we sent a “postcard from Mickey” a few days ago. Becky asks Tina if he got it, and laughs when she realizes that Rob and Tina didn’t realize that we had sent it – they thought it was just a magical Disney thing!

The ride back to Bob and Linda’s house is otherwise uneventful. With a choir practice to get to, we’re not doing the traditional “viewing of the pictures” on the TV, just loading our minivan and heading out. I get my keys from where I’ve left them in their house and pull the minivan around front. We load the luggage, say our goodbyes, and start to leave…

…only to find that the right rear tire has lost some pressure. I get word to Linda to have Bob meet me around back with his air compressor.

I pull to their driveway in the back of the house, and when I get out, the tire is hissing audibly. Uh oh. I must have run over something. Becky and the boys go inside the house to wait while Bob and I work on the minivan.

One tire change later, we repeat our goodbyes and thanks and are finally on the road. We drive through a Wendy’s to grab lunch before getting on the freeway, and eat on the way.

It’s a very different atmosphere in the minivan, compared to the end of our last two Disney vacations. With both of them, we were heading home, settling down after nine days of exhaustion. Now the kids are older and more involved, and we have to hit the ground running. Oh, well, life goes on.

We drop Becky and Benjamin off at their rehearsal, and then Brandon and I stop off at the grocery store and then, finally, head home. We unload the suitcases and put away the groceries. Once that's done, I fire up the computer for the first time in a week and a half. There are 122 emails waiting – and 1,720 new posts on Stupid Guest Tricks!

The adventure never ends.

Stay tuned – one more post coming!

One last Disney surprise!

The time doesn’t drag too much, and before 11:00 we are on the plane. We push back from the gate right at 11:15, taxi to the runway, and are in the air quickly.

We’ve departed to the south, and then make a climbing turn to the east. Usually our flights back to Dallas turn north or northeast fairly quickly. I’ve always wanted to spot Walt Disney World from the air, but so far it hasn’t happened. Although I’ve practically memorized the place from the air by looking at Google Earth and Virtual Earth, and the rest, I’ve never seen it from the air with my own eyes. But having departed south from the airport and then turned east, maybe, just maybe…

Yes!! There’s Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. If we keep going the same way we’re going, we will pass just south of WDW, giving us a perfect view of the World from the air!!!

We do!

We see Walt Disney World approaching. Bay Lake is in the center of the photograph.

Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.

Epcot, with World Showcase at the bottom, the parking lot at the top. The brightly-colored rooftops of the Caribbean Beach Resort are at the bottom right.

Another shot of Epcot.

Seven Seas Lagoon. The Magic Kingdom is just above it, while the WDW Speedway is at the bottom of the picture. Space Mountain is clearly visible at the center right of the picture. Sharp eyes might be able to make out the Contemporary just below it, and even the green roof of the Wilderness Lodge.

A last shot of the same area. The Mickey-shaped water feature at the Speedway is easy to spot towards the bottom of the photograph.

Seeing Walt Disney World for one last time on our way out of town is a real treat. Of course, it just makes me want to go back again!

On our own again

I’ve taken many, many pictures of the Disney Wonder from the bus after our previous two cruises. They are almost all indistinguishable from each other. Even so, I still find myself with my camera out, snapping away. It’s not only a beautiful ship, but there’s also a strong sense of not wanting this moment to pass – or if it must, to have a tangible record of it.

Soon enough, though, the bus turns onto the main highway and starts across the Banana River, and the ship is now behind us.

There’s no departure video, but a Donald Duck cartoon is playing, interrupted frequently by our talkative driver. I’m not sure about his mastery of the facts he is giving out, though. He points out NASA’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building – good so far – but then states that they are getting ready for a shuttle launch “to the moon, this time.” Umm, I don’t think so – the space shuttle is only made for low Earth orbit.

His interruptions continue to point out wildlife. I do spot a dolphin briefly in the water on the left side of the roadway, but after that I lose interest. Before long I notice that the other five members of my family have dozed off – Brandon, in the seat next to me, is leaning on me, with his head frequently sliding down my arm before he catches himself.

I power up my cell phone and find a couple of messages. The first says that our flight’s gate has been changed, from Gate 13 to Gate 12. The second, sent five minutes after the first, says that the gate has been changed again, from 12 to 16. Whatever.

The Donald cartoon is followed by a couple of Pluto cartoons, and before long we are arriving at the Orlando airport. Our group drowsily clambers off the bus, and for the first time in a week – almost to the minute – we are no longer in Disney’s hands.

We take our usual “freshen up” break on the lower level of the airport and then head upstairs to go through security. There’s a substantial line, but also multiple screening checkpoints, so the line moves quickly. I’m the first through, with the boys and then Linda and Becky close behind. We wait several minutes at the exit while Bob is wanded yet again. Thoroughly.

Poor guy.

Onto the automated tram we go, and then to our gate. We have an hour and a half to kill until our flight. I call home and check our answering machine messages. Nothing exciting there.

I notice for the first time that the airport seems to be gently rocking. Becky comments on it as well. As we learned after the first cruise, it’s the aftereffect of rough seas on our internal balance.

Brandon’s wearing his autographed t-shirt for the first time. It’s really cool with all of the signatures on it.

We take turns getting up, stretching our legs, getting a drink. I grab a Dr Pepper, my first in a week – they’re hard to find at Disney and on the ship. Brandon wants a snack “for the plane,” even though we’re still full from breakfast. Okay, sure – it’s still vacation, after all. He gets a bag of cookies and I add a couple of bags of Peanut M&M’s.

When we return to the gate, I half expect Becky to jump at the chance to have some Dr Pepper, since it’s her favorite, but she says, “Not before 10:00.” Within a couple of minutes, though, she’s reaching for “just a sip.”

I toss the bags of Peanut M&M’s into Becky’s purse, sheepishly joking to her parents that “I haven’t reached my chocolate quota for the week.” Bob just smiles and reaches into a pocket – to show his own bag of M&M’s! Great minds think alike.

Out and away

From the gangway we enter the terminal building, into that second-floor hallway we were so eager to walk up three days ago. There’s no one scanning our cards, though. Hmm. We just file down the hall with the other cruisers and head down the escalator to the baggage area.

This place has been redecorated since we were last here. Either that, or it’s just easier to see around the room, with so much of the luggage now being taken directly to the airlines. Either way, there are large sepia-toned murals on the walls depicting Disney cruise ships and characters as if they were around in the golden age of ocean liners, in the early 20th century. The Wonder and Magic with their classic designs would have fit right in.

Unfortunately, this is a customs area, so I can’t take any pictures of the murals.

The ever-friendly and helpful porters are around with their carts, and we’re able to find our bags quickly. There’s a double line for customs, but it moves quickly. We have our passports out, each opened to the photo page.

When we reach the agent, she takes the passports and the declarations page, quickly scans the passports with an optical reader, and waves us through. No questions to us this time, which is good, since I was a sputtering idiot last time.

Once past customs, we follow our agent outside and to the American Airlines desk. There’s no line there. Nice. As on our previous two trips, our bags are placed behind the desk and we hand our eTicket info to the agent, who checks us in, tags our bags, and gives us our boarding passes.

Only one thing left to do – board a bus to the airport. The Disney crew member at the door to the bus checks one of our KTTW cards – verifying that we have the ground transfer – and waves us onto the bus.

We find seats about 2/3 of the way back, and before long the bus is backing out of its spot and we’re rolling to the airport. This whole experience of departing the ship, finding our bags, going through customs, checking in with the airline, and boarding our ground transportation has only taken about 20 minutes. Amazing. It’s a seamless process and a great convenience.