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Kathy Kula -- April 1999 -- Walt Disney World (BCR) / Disney Cruise Trip


April 12 -19, 1999

Cast:

Kathy Kula (28, turning 29 on the trip - me): This is my fourth trip to WDW. I went for the first time in Nov. 1996. I work as a Technical Writer at a pharmaceutical company.

Stan Kula (30 – my husband): This is Stan’s seventh or eighth (I keep learning about other trips he took as a child each time we go) trip to WDW. His first time was when he was five (1973). Stan works in Development at Wagner College.

Background:

Our original plan for our honeymoon was the Disney Cruise. We were booked for one of the first few voyages of the Disney Magic. When we booked our original trip in July 1997, we were very excited about this new Disney adventure. In October 1997 we received a letter informing us that cruises were being cancelled through May 1998. They offered 25% of a re-booking provided the cruise was taken before April 30, 1999.

We spent a lot of time on the phone with Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) over the week or so that followed that letter. We tried to see about stretching the land portion of our honeymoon in order to be on the ship when it was supposed to sail. There was no way it could be done, and it was very important to us to take the honeymoon immediately following the wedding. We asked if they could give us the discount on a WDW vacation, but they responded that they could not book anything at the WDW resorts until after May 1st. For our honeymoon, we ended up booking 10 nights at the Grand Floridian (at full price). We asked them to send back the deposit we had made so that we could put it toward our honeymoon. They told us each time we contacted them that we would be getting a voucher for a discount on a future booking even if we did receive our deposit back.

Once we returned from the honeymoon, we contacted them to rebook. We had still not received the voucher, but the CM told me that once we received it we could have the price adjusted. To make a long story short, it took a lot of effort to get the discount, but we did get it after many phone calls and letters.

Here’s the Basic Plan:

Mon., 4/12/99

Check in at Beach Club, spend afternoon in Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Try to get package LOS passes upgraded to APs. Dinner at Yachtsman’s Steakhouse. Evening at Pleasure Island – Adventurer’s Club.

Tues., 4/13/99

Go to Magic Kingdom (MK) and get a "Today is My Birthday" pin. Have breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Enjoy the MK until about 4:00, then return to the Beach Club (BCR) to prepare for dinner at Victoria & Albert’s (V&A’s). Have a wonderful birthday dinner and then go back to MK for E-Ride night.

Wed., 4/14/99

Spend the morning and early afternoon at Epcot. Then go to Animal Kingdom for the afternoon. Have dinner at Citricos. Go to Marketplace to do some shopping and PI for more Adventurer’s Club.

Thurs., 4/15/99

Have breakfast at the Cape may Café. Go to Disney – MGM Studios (MGM) for the day. Ask about the Fantasmic seating for PS at Brown Derby. After dinner and Fantasmic, go to Jellyrolls. Pack for the cruise portion of the trip.

Fri., 4/16/99

Go to MK to say a quick goodbye and then return to BCR to check out and wait for the DCL bus. Board the Disney Magic and head straight to Deck 10 to make reservations for Palo for our anniversary dinner.

Sat., 4/17/99

Spend the day in Nassau and enjoying what the Disney Magic has to offer.

Sun., 4/18/99

Spend the day on Castaway Cay. Do some snorkeling. Enjoy the Adult beach area. Hopefully we will have our anniversary dinner at Palo.

Mon., 4/19/99

Say goodbye to the ship and head home.

Here’s what we actually did:

Mon., 4/12/99

Our plane was leaving Newark at (yawn) 7:10 a.m., so Stan’s dad picked us up at our apartment with our bags clearly marked for DCL and drove us to Newark airport. It was pretty busy there that Monday morning, but thanks to my father in law we found a spot to unload and then headed to curbside check-in. After I almost forgot to tip the skycap (I had the money in my hand and it wasn’t until after Stan nudged me that I remembered to give it to him). We rushed into the airport and headed for our gate.

There were other people in line at the gate check-in desk that were going on the cruise with us. One family had booked the Walt Disney suite on the ship and they were staying at the GF. There was another family of a dad and his 2 kids that would be staying at the BW. The woman that had booked the WED suite was surprised that anyone would want to do the cruise without children. I’d say we got a lot of that response when we told people we were going to be sailing on the Magic. People would ask where our kids were and how old they are. Once we said we didn’t have kids, people assumed we were honeymooners. I wonder if families that book cruises with Disney realize how much effort DCL has been putting into advertising their package as a vacation for adults without children.

Anyhow, it seems that there was a big problem getting people into the right seats. So, we didn’t actually take off until after 8:00 a.m..

Fortunately, we arrived almost on time in Orlando. As we exited the plane a friendly looking gentleman holding a DCL sign greeted us. We all waited while everyone got off the plane, and then he led us through the airport. At one point he checked to make sure that everyone had used the DCL luggage tags. Some people hadn’t, so they had to go with another DCL CM to get their luggage before they boarded the bus. At another point, they asked anyone who was sailing on that day rather than going directly to the resorts to go in a different direction. We finally arrived at the busses where they had grouped the resorts by area. I found it sort of odd that BW was grouped with the Downtown Disney resorts and CBR was grouped with the Epcot area resorts.

We boarded a bus that was going to CBR, BCR, Swan, and Dolphin. They gave us envelopes to put all of our paperwork into, and we were on our way in no time. We watched a nice little video on the way, which was very similar to the promotional video (I received mine after we returned home). First we went to CBR, and the next stop was BCR. I was so glad to finally be checking in for this long awaited trip. A DCL CM checked through our paperwork to make sure it was all in order and then we got into line for regular check-in.

We were very happy to hear that our room was ready (it was just about noon by that point). We were assigned to a room with a king size bed on the first floor (room 1573 for those of you playing at home). On our way to the room we stopped at guest services and bought E-Ride Night tickets for the following night. Ed, the CM at guest services was very friendly.

I was very impressed with the Beach Club. Stan and had always wanted to stay at the Yacht Club, and figured that since YCR wasn’t an option when booking the package through the cruise line, we would try the sister resort. BCR reminded me a lot of the Grand Floridian (where we had stayed for our honeymoon a year earlier), but it was a little more laid back. I thought that the décor was whimsical and cheery.

Our room was easy to find. We had a king size Murphy bed that was unfolded (in the bed position) the entire time we were there. The only slight problem with the Murphy bed was an area behind the head of the bed that was covered with brown fabric that didn’t seem to fit the theme. We had a patio in a garden-view area, with a sand volleyball field off toward the lake. There was no bedside table, so the phone was on a dresser in the corner and the armoire at the foot of the bed held the TV and the mini-bar. There was also a sink in the main room with some cabinets underneath. Just across the hall from our room was a doorway to the quiet pool.

After we changed into shorts, we headed out to catch the bus to the Magic Kingdom. Once we arrived at MK, we went to guest relations and tried to see if we could have our LOSs upgraded to APs. Unfortunately, the CM confirmed what we had already been told. LOSs purchased as part of a package could not be upgraded. The CM at the next window was trying to explain to the CM we were dealing with that he could sell us APs and discount the retail value of our LOSs, but our CM still said no. As we left the window, I said, "It’s OK, it just would have been good to have APs for when… I mean… if we decide to plan a trip again in the next year." I sort of thought that dollar signs of how much they could earn off of us in lodging and meals would pop up in their eyes and they would find a way to do it, but no.

Oh well, we passed through the turnstiles of the MK for the first time and gazed upon the castle once again. Since it was already nearly 1:00, lunch was the first item on the agenda. We decided to go to Tony’s Townsquare since we had never tried it before. There was a 5 minute wait (we didn’t make PSs since we weren’t sure what time we would arrive). And we were seated on the verandah after our short wait. Stan was amazed that I knew the restaurant was even here because he never knew there was a restaurant in that spot.

Lunch was pretty good. I had a salad as an appetizer and Stan had fried mozzarella. We each had Tony’s pizza for lunch, though I only ate about half. The waiter was very friendly. Each time I thanked him for refilling our water or soda glasses he said, "It’s quite alright." At one point during the meal, a flower from a hanging basket above our heads fell into my water glass. The waiter claimed that this was Disney magic, and told me that there was no extra charge for the flower. We enjoyed the food and the service and found this lunch a fine way to get used to the fact that we were actually lucky enough to be in WDW once again. We had purchased Dining Disney Style (DDS), and used it to pay. I was disappointed to learn that MKC discounts can not be used in conjunction with the DDS plan. Oh well.

So, where to first? Why Jungle Cruise of course! Unfortunately, Jungle Cruise had a 30 minute wait, so we decided to skip it and head to Pirates (PotC). We went onto PotC with no wait, and really started enjoying being at WDW. We did a little bit of "tiny hat" shopping in the gift shop at the exit of PotC, but evidently the wisdom of the merchandisers at Mexico in Epcot hasn’t reached the MK yet.

As we headed toward Frontierland, I noticed that the crowds seemed much worse than when we were there the previous April, and we had planned the vacation the same amount of time after Easter as we did last year. We decided that our next stop would have to be The Haunted Mansion (HM). The line was long, but we only waited about 10 minutes to get in. The worst part was after we left the stretch room where there was a huge bottleneck of people who were having trouble forming a single line where it is necessary. I pointed out the hidden Donald on the armchair to Stan and he was fascinated by my vast amount of knowledge. After HM, we walked through Fantasyland, and noted that lines were fairly long. Since we weren’t in a mood to wait, and we were planning on hitting MK again the following day, we walked to Tomorrowland. Stan was sort of looking for sunglasses, and it was in a shop in Tomorrowland that we first saw the famous model monorail that everyone was trying to get their hands on at Christmas-time. I pointed it out to Stan, and he said a phrase I rarely hear at home: "Whatever you’d like my love. Money is no object on this vacation." I was shocked! We decided not to buy it at that time.

Well, it was at this point that we decided that MK was just too busy for us, and we headed to Epcot via monorail.

As we entered Epcot, I mentioned to Stan that I wasn’t interested in waiting for Test Track (TT) unless the wait was less than an hour. We made a quick stop at Ice Station Cool for a quick, free, thirst-quenching. And it was here that I tasted the teeniest bit of Beverly for the first and last time! Yuch!

As we traveled toward TT, I noticed that there were many big walls up to prepare for the Millennium Celebration. These walls were also seen from the monorail on the way in. Anyhow… on our honeymoon, we each bought a pair of sunglasses at the Centorium. I suggested to Stan that we look for a new pair for him there, but much to our dismay, the Centorium is under construction, and there is a small shop on that side of Innoventions (still called the Centorium) that does not sell sunglasses.

So, we approached TT. This was it, after years of waiting, this would be our first opportunity to actually try it out. The wait board said 50 minutes, so we decided to go for it. There was a gentleman offering the single rider’s line to those who would like to take it, but Stan and I decided to bear the line and do it together. Since I had read the reports that others had written, I knew that there was a huge queue area inside the building, and it was hard not to snicker as we neared the entrance to the building and heard people getting excited about almost being on the ride. I thought that the line seemed to go very fast, especially the portion inside – since there was so much to look at.

Before we knew it, we were in the briefing room, and then we were in a car. We both thought it was great. We were amazed by the information that was on the screen about our speed compared to how fast we felt we were going. At the end of the ride, we decided to buy the picture.

After TT, I had one little "errand" to run before we could go back to the resort and see if our luggage had arrived. We sent an e-mail postcard to my friend (and fellow RADPer), Tara. We were a little annoyed that there were some girls there who had no concept that there might be other people waiting. They kept taking different pictures in different poses. Finally, we had our turn, and sent the post card.

Then we decided that we needed a break. So, we headed back to BCR via World Showcase. At this point I considered making a side trip to Mexico to see if the Mighty Paragon was available, but I figured there would be plenty of time left for that, and we walked toward the International Gateway.

When we arrived back at our room, we were thrilled to see that all of our luggage had arrived safely. We spent a little bit of time unpacking, and they we changed into our swim suits to go to Stormalong Bay.

I told Stan that we had to be sure to have our I.D.s ready, because they would be checked, but it wasn’t too crowded and we walked right in. We explored all of the pools, swam around a bit, and almost tried the water slide, but we only saw kids using it, so we decided not to. It was enjoyable, but I don’t think the shape of the pool matters too much, and I found the sand a little annoying. Personally, I think I would have had as good of a time in any old rectangular pool.

After our swim, we headed back to our room to get ready for dinner. Stan went to the gift shop to buy some sunglasses while I was showering, and he also made some phone calls. I came out into the main room, but he shooed me back into the bathroom until he was done with his calls. There is a phone in the bathroom, but I guessed it was something for my birthday, so I didn’t eavesdrop and ruin the surprise.

Then we walked over to the Yacht Club for dinner. As we passed Martha’s Vineyard on our way to YCR, Stan stopped in to ask if they were doing the wine flights again since he had seen a mention of it in the BCR newsletter. The bartender confirmed what we had learned the year before, they stopped doing wine flights when Ariel’s closed. We also walked past the restaurant to get another look into the YCR lobby. I thought it looked a little too stuffy, but Stan said he liked it, and might want to stay at YCR in the future. Heck, if it means another trip to WDW, I’m in!

We checked in at the podium about 10 minutes before our PS, and were seated after about 5 minutes. We had a table near the window, which overlooked Stormalong Bay and Crescent Lake. It was nice to look out the window and see the Boardwalk across the lake. Stan and I each ordered the tomato and fresh mozzarella salad and we decided to share the chateau briand for two. I appreciate the fact that the béarnaise sauce is served on the side, since I enjoy it, but Stan is allergic to it. Stan also ordered a nice glass of Merlot, while I decided to stick to Diet Coke so I could eat my calories rather than drinking them (tonight anyway). The salads were wonderful. The only down-side was that they had some pesto mixed in with the oil, and Stan is allergic to pesto, so he had to try to avoid it. I’m sure that if he had asked, he could have gotten a new salad, but he was able to just eat the tomato, mozzarella, and basil without dipping it in the pesto. The waiter mentioned that his assistant would be bringing bread, but there was no sign of it. When the waiter came to refill my soda, he asked if we told his assistant not to bring it, and we said that it just never came. So, the waiter brought over the bread, and I was glad he did. They serve it warm with roasted garlic on the side. One of my favorite things in the world is warm, fresh bread with a clove of roasted garlic smeared on top.

Soon, the waiter arrived with the chateau briand, which he carved at the table. It was also served with the most wonderful mashed potatoes and some grilled vegetables. The meal was absolutely wonderful. Then, as we were sitting there digesting, trying to decide if we wanted to venture into the realm of desserts, the most wonderful thing happened. The waiter came to our table carrying crème brulee with a cylindrical cookie with a candle in the cookie. As he placed it in front of me, he wished me a happy birthday. Then he offered to take Stan’s order for dessert and our coffee orders. When he left the table, I told Stan that he didn’t have to tell them it was my birthday, since there would be plenty of opportunities for that the following day. Stan told me that he didn’t say anything, so it was real Disney Magic that I was presented with a pre-birthday dessert.

As we walked back to the BCR, we could see the high fireworks from Illuminations going off above the trees; it was nice to see them as we walked back to our room.

Once we arrived back at our room, we decided that it was about time that we were re-inducted into the Adventurer’s Club, so we went to catch a bus to Pleasure Island. We stayed for a few shows at PI, and when Otis T. Wren asked me where I was from and what I did, he had the opportunity to make some jokes about NJ and the fact that I work for a drug company. It was fun to be part of the show. We were getting a little sleepy, but we decided to stick it out for Samantha Sterling’s cabaret show, which would be the next library show. We sat at the bar, hoping to be part of the action. When Samantha came out, we were surprised to see that it was not the red-head who played Samantha the night we were engaged, nor was it the blonde who played her every time we went there when we were on our honeymoon, but it was the blonde who played Gabby the maid and occasionally Pamelia while we were on our honeymoon. She was a great Samantha. When she interviewed the people at the bar, she first talked to a couple that had been married many years, and they met at a bar. Then she talked to the honeymooners next to us who met in a bar. When she got to us, we told her that we were about to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, and that we too had met in a bar. It was too funny.

After the cabaret show, we headed toward the bus stop, and we both fell asleep on the bus somewhere between the West Side and the Dolphin. We both woke up when we arrived at BCR, and went straight to bed.

Mr. Sockpuppet’s Report: Well, this is my first time writing a trip report, so please forgive me if I leave out some of the details. I started out the trip in Kathy’s carry-on. It was kind of stuffy in there, especially after she put her jacket in there with me. I almost had to say something on the plane when the little boy sitting in front of Kathy kept playing with her window by reaching his arm back to open it and shut it, but I remained incognito, rather than biting the child’s arm.

When we arrived at BCR, Kathy quickly removed me from the bag so that I could breathe, and then Stan stuffed me in his pocket. I was excited about getting to see the Magic Kingdom, but it’s a little more comfortable in the resort room than in the pocket of his shorts. So, the next time I surfaced we were in Adventureland. I thought I had smelled pizza, but Kathy and Stan assured me that if they were eating lunch they would have shared with me. We went on PotC, and I loved it. I was a little worried that the pirate ships with cannons were replicas of the Disney magic, but Kathy assured me that none of the ships we would see on the cruise would have cannons. Then we went on HM. I tell you, this is the ride for me! Ghosts, spooky decorations, seances, I love this place.

The next thing I knew, we were in Epcot. I was afraid to come out of Stan’s pocket for Test Track, but Kathy and Stan promised I could ride it the next time. They also didn’t bother to offer me any Beverly when they were in Ice Station Cool, but I forgive them.

For the rest of the day, I just rested at the Beach Club, in the room. I sort of wanted to go to Pleasure Island, but with all of the excitement that day, I decided it was best to stay in, since I would surely get another chance. You see… I’m a happening sock. I love the nightlife; I love to boogie.

Tues., 4/13/99

"Kathy… Today is your birthday, what are you going to do?" "I’m going to Disneyworld!"

It is such a great feeling to wake up on your birthday in the most magical place in the world. I didn’t even really mind the fact that I’m getting old and gray. I figure that I’ll turn 29 many times in my life (this one being the first), but how many of those times will I turn 29 in Walt Disney World?

Mickey woke us up with his usual greeting, and I was eager to start the day. I really slathered on the sunscreen since I had a bit of a burn on my face from the previous day. We were ready to go by about 8:15, and we headed to the bus stop to go to the Magic Kingdom. We arrived at MK shortly before 9:00, and headed directly to City Hall. I asked if they had a birthday pin, and the woman gave me a large, colorful pin that clearly stated, "Today is My Birthday!" We skipped out of there and headed down Main Street. We paused for a picture in front of the castle, and the photographer wished me a happy birthday. I was walking on cloud nine.

When we arrived at the castle, there were a lot of people there waiting for the rope drop (though the time on the clock in the background of my Main St. photo says 9:00, so you’d think the rope would have been dropped already). We needed to check in for our 9:05 PS. I started out asking people if they were in line for the restaurant, and most people looked at me like I was from Venus, so we started making our way through the crowd to get to the desk for Cinderella’s Royal Table. Then a very un-Disney thing happened. One woman loudly said, "Gee, can’t you wait in line like everyone else? You don’t even have kids." I almost turned around and asked her if she was waiting on line for the restaurant, since that’s where I was headed, but I decided to ignore her and just stand in place until the rope dropped so I wouldn’t make anyone else feel like we were trying to get ahead of them to go to Fantasyland. Stan arrived at the desk at right about 9:05, and checked us in. While we waited for our name to be called, I noticed the throne for the first time and wondered if it was new. Then I wanted to get a picture with Alice, but every time I approached her, a large group of kids would mob her, and I wanted to let the kids go first.

Soon Lord and Lady Kula were called to their table, and we headed upstairs. Shortly after we were seated and we let Lady Kelly know that Stan is allergic to eggs, Lady Kelly made a royal proclamation about my birthday and presented me with a Magical Moments Certificate and a chocolate cupcake. It took a while for the characters to come around to our table, but once they started coming, I was having the best time. When Peter Pan came along, I let him know that although it was my birthday, I wasn’t planning on growing up anytime soon. We let Mary Poppins know that we were thinking about expanding our family soon, and that we may be in need of a nanny. She said she’d be happy to do the job if she was available. Then Snow White came over. She’s my favorite! I gushed and acted like a little kid over seeing her again. She must have thought I was crazy, because I was getting all choked up over getting to meet Snow White on my birthday. We took lots of pictures, and everyone signed my certificate.

After breakfast, we went to Peter Pan’s Flight, because I had promised Peter that I would ride his attraction right after we finished with breakfast. Then we went on the carousel and Snow White’s Adventures. I wanted to spend some more time in Fantasyland, but Stan suggested that we get a locker for my certificate. So, we headed to the train station. While we were there, I suggested to Stan that we should take the WDW RR to see if Bruce Metcalf was working. Stan said that he wasn’t that interested in taking the train, and let me know that he had to use the restroom. Stan seemed to take a long time in the men’s room, and when he finally came out, I suggested we go shopping in the Emporium, and he agreed.

While we were browsing, he was looking at this woman who was also shopping. He nudged me and said, "Hey look, that woman has a book entitled 'Chicken Soup for a Disney Lover's Soul'. Maybe you should ask her where she bought it." I said, "Wow, that must be new. I thought that I had every Chicken Soup book, but I'm not going to bother a stranger."

Then the woman approached me and she said, "Oh, do you like these books? This one is really wonderful, especially the first two stories." Before I had a chance to ask her where she bought it, she had opened the book and placed it in front of my face so I could read the first story. I started reading about a woman named Kathy who found a magical place in WDW as an adult and through her love of Disney made her husband appreciate the magic. It wasn't until the end of the story that I realized that it was a story about me and it had been written by my husband. I started crying, and Stan introduced me to Jane who had put the book together. The second story was about how Stan proposed to me at V&A's. It was written very well - more tears.

Then Jane explained that the blank pages were for us to add additional magical stories. Near the back of the book there was a section where the pages had been cut out in the center, and there was a Minnie charm necklace in the back of the book. The significance of this is that hubby smuggled my engagement ring to Florida inside a hollowed out book, and was almost arrested by airport security when he was reluctant to explain what he was hiding until I had left the area.

Jane did a really amazing job. The book looked like any other Chicken Soup book, and she must have used a professional book binding service to make this one of a kind book. She also said that she'd hire me as a pixie if we ever moved to Florida J .

If you would like the text of these stories, please e-mail me, and I will send them to you as Word attachments.

Well, after that surprise, I was sort of feeling lucky to have such a thoughtful, sensitive husband. We added the book to the locker and I put the necklace on. We headed to Adventureland, and decided to put up with the 30 minute line at JC. I never really had a chance to go through that queue before, and I enjoyed seeing the signs and other thematic touches. Our JC Skipper was less than enthusiastic, but it was the JC just the same. Mr. Sockpuppet really seemed to get a lot out of it, but he can tell you about that later. Then we backtracked to the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Considering all of the hubbub about the DL Treehouse being re-themed for the new Tarzan movie, I figured I better see it while I still have the chance in case they decide to do the same thing in WDW.

Stan went to the men’s room while I bought a bottle of water. It was a choice between a Dole Whip and a bottle of water for refreshment, but considering all of the calories I’d be consuming that day, I opted for the water. While I was waiting for Stan I saw Captain Hook, and got in line for a picture. I figured that if Stan didn’t get there in time, the CM would take it. Stan arrived just after I handed the CM my camera, so he joined the shot, and got the honor of standing on the side with the hook.

Then we headed through a busy Frontierland to Liberty Square, where we decided to go on HM again. The line was much shorter today. We walked through Fantasyland to Mickey’s Toontown Fair, pausing to pay our respects to Toad once again. We went straight to the Judge’s Tent and got in line for our picture with Mickey. We were the last ones in the room, and Mickey saw my pin and gave me a special birthday hug. He also asked if I was 21 years old, and I admitted that I was just a little bit older. The CM was so nice to snap several pictures with our camera in addition to the one we could purchase.

As we were leaving, I heard the film in Stan’s camera rewinding, but we had just put in a new roll at Cinderella’s Royal Table (near the end of the character experiences). There was no way that we had gone through a roll of 36 pictures in that short period of time. I could only think of maybe 12 – 16 pictures that were taken. So, we decided that it would be a big waste to continue using our film in a camera that was only taking half of the pictures, too expensive to buy more at WDW when it ran out, and too expensive to pay for developing a roll of 36 when only half of the pictures were exposed. Therefore, Stan and I decided that we would buy a new camera.

First, we headed through Tomorrowland, and decided to take a spin on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and then we went to the camera shop. We contemplated digital and APS, but decide that for now, the best thing to do would be to buy another 35 mm camera. We considered the fact that we had about 12 – 15 rolls of 35 mm film sitting in our resort room and the fact that my 35 mm camera bit the dust last year. It took a while to get a salesperson to help us, but we ended up buying a very nice camera at a price that I’d consider comparable to the real world based on what I spent on Stan’s a few years earlier and the fact that they had similar features.

Another trip to the locker to put away our old camera, and then we decided to go to the Grand Floridian for Afternoon Tea as a late lunch. We took the launch to the GF and headed to the Garden View Lounge. They sat us at the same table we’d eaten at the three other times we had tea, and Stan and I decided to have the Buckingham Palace rather than the tea for two, for a change. I had the raspberry tea, and Stan had peppermint tea. Dot, our server, didn’t seem to be as pleasant as some of the CMs we’ve seen there in the past. We didn’t let her attitude bother us as we enjoyed our sandwiches: egg salad, 2 kinds of chicken salad, grilled vegetables in a cucumber, and poached pear with Gorgonzola cheese. Since Stan is allergic to egg, I managed to get two egg salad sandwiches while he had my grilled veggie "sandwich". The sandwiches were delightful, but I was having a problem straining my tea because the small leaves kept clogging the holes in the strainer. Then we had scones and tarts. I traded my tart for Stan’s scone, and we munched on these. The she brought the strawberries and cream. The strawberries were delicious. Tea made for a perfect birthday lunch. The only thing that might have made it nicer would have been a birthday wish from Dot.

We took the monorail back to MK. I asked to ride up front when I saw that no one was in the cab. I don’t know if it was the right color train for the GF or not, but since we were just going to MK, Janel, the CM boarding the monorail let us do it. I remembered Janel from our November trip, when she was the monorail pilot the time we did get to ride up front. The CM in the cab wasn’t very talkative, but I got to ride up front on my birthday – woo hoo!

We headed back into the MK and checked our Mickey picture and our Main St. picture. We bought one of each and some photo albums, and then headed to the Emporium where we bought a Snow White frame that was on sale and a Snow White T-Shirt. Happy Birthday to me! I also checked to make sure lockers would be available during E-Ride night, so we would have a place to leave our fancy clothes.

We went back to the BCR via bus to start getting ready for dinner at V&A’s and E-Ride night. When we arrived at the room, we were surprised to see that the bedspread was bundled up in the center of the bed, we were short on fresh towels, and the tip envelope I had left (marked "For Housekeeping") was untouched. We were disappointed in the service.

We left BCR with what should have been plenty of time, but it took a while for a bus for MK to arrive. There were some other people dressed very nicely that were probably also headed out for nice dinners at the MK area resorts. When we arrived at MK, it was almost 6:00, and we had a 6:15 reservation. So, after contemplating if we should go by land or by sea (monorail or launch), we saw a launch headed toward the dock, and went that way. When we arrived at GF, we ran to the main building, and up the back staircase, so we were out of breath when we arrived, but we made it.

We were seated in the same room where Stan proposed (per his request the day before), and our Victoria presented us with our menus. Mine said "Happy Birthday" at the top. For the benefit of those of you who may be thinking that V&A’s is just too fancy, and you wouldn’t enjoy the meal, I’m going to describe what we had for each course. Stan and I also went with the wine pairings, but we’re wine nuts. The food is just as enjoyable without the wine.

Cold Appetizer: We both had the "Cold Smoked Salmon with Spring Harvested Greens, Salmon Caviar, Vodka Vinaigrette". This was a molded cylinder of smoked salmon with small greens on top (that frankly didn’t add too much to the taste and were mainly there for color). The caviar was on the side, so one could avoid it altogether if they chose. There were also some capers on the edges of the plate along with the caviar. The vinaigrette was drizzled on the sides with the caviar and capers. The smoked salmon tasted like regular smoked salmon (delicious). I was a little wary about trying the caviar, since I’m not usually a big fan of it, but I tried one little egg, and I like it, and then I couldn’t get enough. The caviar was very salty, and I thought it complemented the smoked salmon very nicely.

For those of you who do enjoy wine, the wine that was paired with this was a sparkling white (a.k.a. champagne, but it’s not Champagne, because it’s not French – a pet peeve of mine, sorry). I was thrilled to be able to toast to my birthday with a wonderful sparkling wine. This particular wine, Iron Horse Millennium Fairy Tale Cuvée , Sonoma 1993, was bottled specifically for the Walt Disney World Resort for the "Millennium Celebration" (the whole misuse of the term millennium is another pet peeve of mine). The wine is only available at restaurants at the WDW resort and on the Disney Magic. I found it delightful. I’m usually not a fan of dry sparkling whites, and usually opt for the Asti Spumantes, but this one was just sweet enough for me. The limited availability may have made it a bit more delightful in my eyes.

The waitress wasn’t paying attention when she poured my glass, and the bubbles ended up spilling onto the table. She was very casual about it, and just put a napkin under the glass to soak up the moisture. I was glad that she spilled it, because I’m notorious for knocking over wine glasses, and her reaction to the spilled wine really put me at ease.

Warm Appetizer: For the warm appetizer, we both selected the "Champagne Poached Wellfleet Oysters with Peashoots, Horseradish, and Lump Crab". This was sort of like the concept of stuffed clams. They mixed the oysters with some peas, horseradish, and crabmeat, and put it back into the shell. It was a little bit more of a soupy concoction than what you’d see in a stuffed clam, but it tasted really delicious. If this doesn’t sound appetizing to you, the other option was "Chipotle Pepper Barbecued California Squab Breast with Roasted Corn, Spring Onion and Cucumber" (BBQ Chicken with veggies).

The wine that was paired with this course was "Dry Creek Vineyards, Fume Blanc, Sonoma, 1997". This was a really light wine that has a grassy nose and a bit of a buttery/green apple taste. It was something that I’d definitely serve with seafood in my home.

Soup: I had the "Shrimp Curry Cream" which is sort of like lobster bisque made with shrimp instead of lobster. Stan had the "Gamebird Consommé with Fava Beans" which he said was very much like chicken broth with peas. In the three times we have eaten at V&A’s, I have always been very very impressed with the soups. The shrimp soup I had this time may have been the best ever. It was really delicious.

Main Course: There are four choices for the main course. Stan had the beef and I had the lamb. There was also a chicken dish and a fish dish. Stan had "Angus Beef Tenderloin over Fingerling Potato Ragoût, Peppercorn Jus". This was a steak with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. He said it was wonderful. The steak was cooked perfectly medium-rare as he had requested. We found that in many restaurants, a steak ordered medium-rare would be served rare and a steak ordered medium would be served medium-rare. I had the "Domestic Lamb Rack with Elephant Garlic Yukon Gold Mash, Natural Jus". This was lamb chops, garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables. I thought it was delicious. The lamb was very tender, and I’m a sucker for garlic in my potatoes.

Stan had "Edmonds St. John Syrah, California 1996" and I had "Staton Hills, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley 1993". I tried a taste of Stan’s wine, and found it had too much tannin for my tastes, but keep in mind that I’m just starting to enjoy reds. Mine wasn’t overpowering, and I thought it went nicely with a lighter red meat such as lamb.

Cheese Course: This has become one of our favorite courses. We have added a cheese course to our dinner parties at home where we poach pears and serve it with the Royal Stilton cheese. The poached pear/stilton combination seems to be a standard at V&A’s as it has been on the menu each time we’ve been there. A slice of poached pear is served with a slice of walnut bread and a little bit of Royal Stilton cheese. Stilton cheese is much like Gorgonzola in taste. I personally find that the sweetness of the pear offsets the strong taste of the cheese very well. We always enjoy this.

Our favorite part of the cheese course is always the port. Stan is becoming a big fan of ports, and I usually like the ones they select at V&A’s. This time we had "Quinta do Noval, 10 Years Old Tawny, Porto". It was wonderful!

Dessert: Stan had the "Raspberry Charlotte with a Chocolate Tuille" and I had "Spiced Plum Soufflé". The raspberry charlotte was a raspberry cake, with the consistency of a mousse. The chocolate tuille is a curved wall of chocolate along about half of the plate. Stan was expecting something a little different, but he’s not a dessert person, so he just picked at it a little bit. My soufflé was served with warm vanilla sauce, and I really enjoyed it. I had a cup of hot tea, and Stan had coffee made with the vacuum method coffee maker. We have one at home, but it was interesting seeing everyone else’s reaction when they brought out the coffee makers to their tables.

Along with dessert came a rose for the lady (that’s me). They also gave me a chocolate greeting card. Stan paid the bill using our Visa card rather than Dining Disney Style, because this meal would have wiped out our DDS account.

After we left V&A’s, we used the public rest rooms at GF to change into clothes appropriate for E-Ride Night. I was sure to put my birthday pin back on. We packed up my dress and Stan’s suit, and took the monorail to MK. We arrived moments before the 9:00 closing, and put our bag in the same locker we had used earlier that day along with my rose from V&A’s.

The line at the wristband station next to City Hall was a mile long, so we made like salmon, and swam upstream to get to Splash Down Photo where there wasn’t a soul in sight (except the CM who gave us our wristbands). We decided that we had to go on Splash Mountain, since we were there. We were seated in the front row, and we got soaked. We decided to try BTMRR next. We had the front row, and I always feel less nauseous when I’m in the front, so we had a great time. Since the wait was so short at BTMRR, we did it again and had the front row again. Then we went on Splash Mountain again after we greeted some characters. I thought that it was sort of strange that none of the CMs mentioned my birthday pin.

We headed over to Tomorrowland, figuring that we’d come back to Frontierland for a third trip on those mountains. We met Minnie Mouse in Tomorrowland, took a Spin on Buzz Lightyear (my score was still awful), and headed to Space Mountain. They had both sides open, and there was no wait. We did Space Mountain twice – once on each side, and I was in the front car both times. After Space Mountain, Stan and I agreed that although there was still an hour left, we were dead tired, and the bus to the resort was our next ride of choice. As we headed out, we picked up our duds and turned in the locker key. The CM at the exit asked if my V&A’s rose was a gift for her. I explained that it was my rose, and I didn’t want to give it away. Then she saw my birthday pin and wished me a happy birthday. She said I could keep the rose since it was my birthday.

We went back to the Beach Club and went straight to bed. Of the three E-Ride nights we’ve been to, this one had the shortest lines and the most characters. It was also the only E-Ride night where we didn’t stay until they closed the park. Maybe we’re getting old. That was the best birthday I’ve ever had.

Mr. Sockpuppet’s Report: I was peacefully sleeping all night long, when suddenly the phone rang. Then Kathy put the caller onto the speaker phone, and I heard some high pitched voice telling us to start our busy day. I don’t know who it could have been, but why the heck did he have to call so early? Once Stan and Kathy were ready to go, it was back into Stan’s pocket. When I came out of the pocket, I asked if there was chocolate at breakfast that they didn’t share with me. Kathy said that she certainly didn’t eat a chocolate cupcake with blue icing and sprinkles, and she didn’t know what I was talking about. Well, there we were, soaring over the rooftops of London, watching the cars go by. I was a little confused because I thought we were in Florida and didn’t remember another trip on a plane, but then when I saw the Mermaids and the Native North Americans, it all seemed to make sense… Stan must have slipped me a hallucinogen while I was in his pocket. Seriously, it was a cool ride, but I wasn’t able to put 2 and 2 together until I saw that Peter Pan had rescued Wendy on the pirate ship. Before we saw the light of day, I went back into Stan’s pocket (so as not to be recognized by the CMs). Then they must have been on a ride that went in circles, because I was very dizzy. And before I knew it I was watching cut-outs of short men dancing around. This one didn’t take me long to figure out. Kathy watches that Snow White movie more often than she washes her socks.

I was in the pocket for a while, and then I was out in the daylight. We were sailing through a jungle river… we were on the Jungle Cruise. I had waited a long time for this one. I sort of hid behind Kathy’s back so that no one would see me. The one thing that bugged me was that Kathy and Stan had told me all about the corny jokes that they tell, but the skipper was missing half of them, so I filled in where necessary. I tried to keep it quiet, but I felt bad for the other passengers who were missing out on the JC experience, and after a 30 minute wait!

I stayed in Stan’s pocket for most of the rest of the day. It was OK because I would be going to E-Ride night later. Back at the hotel, Stan and Kathy got all dolled up and packed a bag with jeans and sneakers. As they walked out the door, I was trying to get their attention to remind them to come back and get me before E-Ride night, but I guess they didn’t hear me, so they got to ride the mountains at the MK, and I didn’t. It’s OK, I got to watch Resort TV all night, and they didn’t.

Wed., 4/14/99

We woke up and decided to order room service for breakfast. Before we ordered, I jumped in the shower so that we would both be dressed by the time the food came. While I was showering, the phone rang. I had a guess of who it might be, and lo and behold, I was right! Stan came in the bathroom and told me to pick up the phone in there because my brother in law was calling with some wonderful news. My sister had her baby that morning! I missed some of the details about the length and weight, but I was sure to get the name for the hat. Jacob Nathaniel was born at about 2:30 a.m. on April 14th. My sister made sure that he had his own birthday, and didn’t share one with me (when they arrived the night before, she told them she wouldn’t deliver until after midnight). Stan and I were proud as punch to be an aunt and uncle once again (this is our 6th nephew between our 3 sisters that have children). I learned when we returned home that Stan and I will have the honor of being Jacob’s godparents.

I was contemplating eating the room service breakfast on the patio, but the table was very small, so we ate inside. I had a Mickey waffle with strawberries and whipped cream and Stan had sausage and croissants. After breakfast, we made sure that Mr. Sockpuppet was with us, and we walked to Epcot. We decided to do Test Track again first. The line said 70 minutes, but 50 minutes the other day didn’t seem too bad. We also considered the single rider’s line, but Mr. Sockpuppet was with us, and we wanted to get a group photo. So, after an hour and a half, and the ride stopping twice, we finally boarded a car. We noticed that this time the screens in front of us were not operational, and the barrier crash before our barrier test did not happen. The windshield hid Mr. Sockpuppet’s face, so we decided not to buy the picture.

Then we saw Ellen’s Energy Adventure with no wait. After this, we were really hungry, so we decided to head to World Showcase to look for lunch. I had taken a survey on RADP to determine where we should eat. We wanted to try someplace we hadn’t eaten before. My fellow RADPers had recommended Marakkesh or Le Cellier (the top 2 responses). We perused the menu at Le Cellier and decided to head inside.

This was one of the most enjoyable meals of the trip. Chris, our server was so friendly and asked us all about our trips to WDW. Somewhere in the conversation I mentioned that we were celebrating my birthday and our anniversary on this trip. Stan and I each had a cup of the cheese soup and really loved it. I wish there were more pretzel bread. We ate that up in about 10 seconds. For lunch Stan had a burger and I had the steak Caesar salad. We both really enjoyed lunch. We were too full for dessert, but the next thing we knew, Chris and a whole bunch of waiters were at our table singing Happy Birthday while they placed a delicious dessert between us. It was a fruity cobbler concoction, served warm with ice cream on top. I suddenly found some room for dessert. Stan and I agreed that we would gladly have another meal at Le Cellier, and it may be a new favorite of ours.

After lunch, we tried for the Paragon Challenge, and failed. Mr. Sockpuppet was busy trying on and selecting various hats, and I asked a few people if they knew if she was working that day. Finally, one gentleman who asked if I had just been there a few days ago (It must be the RADP pin, you know we all look alike when we wear these) called and discovered that she had the day off.

I returned to find Mr. Sockpuppet surrounded by hats of all different styles and colors. I told him to pick a maximum of three. We bought them and headed out. We walked the long way around the lagoon to the International Gateway, and headed back to our room.

What we should have done is taken a nap or a swim. It’s too bad that hindsight is 20/20. We threw some nicer clothes into a bag and headed to the bus for AK. Once at AK, we had trouble finding a locker attendant, but we finally got a locker for our dinner clothes, and decided to go to our favorite attraction in the park: Countdown to Extinction.

Mr. Sockpuppet was really excited about going on CTX. There was no wait, and we headed directly into the briefing room. When we boarded our time rover, Stan buckled up and then retrieved Mr. Sockpuppet from his pocket. Then we had the incident. The CM who checks seatbelts saw Mr. Sockpuppet and said the worst thing possible. "Sir, Is there a reason why you have a sock on your hand?" Not only did the CM call Mr. Sockpuppet an ordinary everyday sock, he also made Stan feel like he was doing something wrong by holding Mr. Sockpuppet. So, Stan was furious. He was thoroughly embarrassed, and handed Mr. Sockpuppet to me. As we were going through CTX, I was having trouble holding onto Mr. Sockpuppet, and feared that he may be lost forever on the floor of the attraction. (Can you imagine how embarrassed Stan would be if we asked them to search for our purple friend with a pink tongue and blue eyes?) So, I put Mr. Sockpuppet on so that he could enjoy the attraction, and not worry about the possibility of me losing my grasp. As we passed the photo spot, Mr. Sockpuppet spied the big toothy monster and feared that it was all over for him. He realized that there is a reason for the height requirement.

We exited the attraction, purchased the picture, and Stan was still mad. He said that Mr. Sockpuppet might be our friend, but other people just don’t understand. So, we decided that Mr. Sockpuppet would remain in the resort room for the remainder of our vacation.

We headed toward Asia, and both realized that we were a little over-tired. We went on Kali River Rapids without much of a wait, and really thought it was a great attraction. I really like the spot for putting all of your belongings in the center of the boat. Mr. Sockpuppet stayed nice and dry in the bag that our photo was in.

We walked through the Maharajah Jungle Trek. I was amazed at the number of animals we saw. It seemed like much more than we found on the Pangani Trail. I particularly liked the tigers, but I guess they’re the main attraction. I also thought the bats were really cool, but would have liked to see them when they are a bit more active.

After we left Asia, all was right between Stan and myself. We went to Africa to go on safari. There was no line whatsoever, and we went into the waiting vehicle. We were seated right behind the driver, and she made some jokes with the CM loading the vehicle about how important his job was. I made a comment that his job must be at least as important as the person holding the gun, and our driver laughed. Throughout the trip, she made some comments that weren’t in the script for our benefit (since we had obviously done it before and there were few people in the vehicle). She sort of made it more like a Jungle Cruise, and we had a wonderful time.

Stan and I headed toward the Tree of Life, on our way to the exit. On our last trip, Stan and I had a big argument about ITTBAB, because he didn’t want to see it. As we passed by the entrance, I noticed that the sign stated there was a 0 minute wait. I asked if it would be OK if I went to see it myself (though I should have taken Mr. Sockpuppet, he’d look great in bug eyes). Stan seemed a little miffed and asked what he was to do while I was in there. We had a little bit of a fight, and I asked him to meet me by the exit. I saw the film with no wait and realized why Stan doesn’t like it. He feels it is too mean spirited, and I tend to agree after seeing it a second time. I exited and didn’t see Stan anywhere. I had a fear that I would never see him again. I went back to the entrance, and he was sitting there, waiting. He was not smiling.

So, we headed out. Once again, it took a while to find a locker attendant. On the way through the turnstile, my bag got snagged on it and the bar snapped back and hit Stan in the knee. He became really angry and told me not to talk to him anymore. I headed toward a bus to the GF for our Citricos PS. Stan got on the bus with me, but I could tell he was not a happy camper. On the bus ride, he fell asleep. When we arrived at the GF, I told him to get changed for dinner first, then he could go to Mizner’s and have a glass of port before dinner. He changed in the rest room near the GF Café, and I waited. When he emerged, I slipped a $20 bill in his pocket and asked him to please try to relax a little before dinner. I freshened up in the ladies’ room, and when I was finished he was no where to be found. I went up to Mizner’s and found him sipping a glass of port and apologizing to me for his mood. Once he was done, we asked for the bill. The bartender had recommended a $20 glass of port! We put it on DDS when we saw the bill. Next time we plan on asking the price first on wines that bartenders recommend.

We went to Citricos and were seated promptly. I think we had the same waiter that we had on our November trip. Stan and I both really enjoy the food and the service at Citricos, and try to get there once per trip if we can. I ordered a ravioli dish as an appetizer and a beef, shrimp and scallop dish for my main course. Stan had a chicken appetizer and the striped bass. We each had the recommended wine with our main course. As I was contemplating what to order, I said to Stan, "Gee, I’d really like to have the steak, shrimp and scallop combination but it is $40." Our waiter heard this and said, "Go for it! It is your birthday!" I told him my birthday was the day before, but he insisted that at WDW a birthday lasts all week long. My meal was delicious, but it was way too much food. After dinner, Stan ordered a chocolate torte, and I was thinking of skipping dessert, but once again I was reminded that it was my birthday. So, I ordered the Crème Brulee. They brought out a beautiful plate with a congratulatory message was written in chocolate. Unfortunately, this birthday dessert was not free. I was surprised to learn later that we were charged for it, but I had received so many other birthday desserts that I really didn’t mind. Our total bill came to $155.42 (including tip), and nearly wiped out our DDS account.

After dinner, we were thinking about going to PI, but we were really tired, so we decided to do some shopping instead. We wanted to make a WDW Forever CD, but some guys who were just checking out selections (it didn’t look like they were buying anything) were using both kiosks. So, we went to the World of Disney, bought some items for the new baby and some stuff for us (used the MKC card), and we returned to Studio M where we had the computer all to ourselves. We picked out 10 tracks, and paid for our order. We returned a few minutes later to pick it up, and then we caught a bus back to BC. We were both really tired, and fell asleep on the bus back to the resort.

Moral for the Day: Take a nap midday. Even grown-ups get cranky.

Mr. Sockpuppet’s Report: Once again we had a few early morning phone calls. Some kid named Jacob joined the family. Stan and Kathy seemed so excited, but I don’t see the big deal. A kid will just drool on you. I hope Stan and Kathy never decide to have kids. I’ll fear for my life if that ever happens.

Anyhow, I was really excited to finally ride Test Track. I tried posing for the camera, but that darn windshield his my best features. I wanted to get back in line again, but I guess 90 minutes is too long to wait.

After TT, I had my best experience of the trip. I got to try on hats in Mexico. I was in heaven. They had every kind of Mexican hat a sock could ever want. My favorite style is still the charro, and I bought one in red. I also picked up a white sombrero and a cowboy hat with a picture of a horse on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to Paragon. Maybe next time.

Shortly after my best experience of the trip, I had the worst experience of the trip. Some CM on CTX had the nerve to call me a sock. You can imagine how much my feelings were hurt. It was at this point that I decided that thrill rides are not the place for me. I found a cozy spot in the bag with the ride photo and spent the rest of the day there sulking. Imagine! A sock?! Who does he think he was talking to?

I was looking forward to boogie-ing the night away at PI, but after my CTX experience, I was happy to stay in Stan’s pocket, and glad they decided to skip it. We went back to the resort room and I cried myself to sleep.

Thurs., 4/15/99

We went to our PS at the Cape May Café, and Stan and I had a little argument about the amount of food on my plate ( I am supposed to be dieting), so we barely enjoyed the meal or the characters. I usually try to make a big deal about meeting Chip, since I have a kitten named after him, but we didn’t even get to see him L . This meal finished off what was left on DDS, and we charged the balance to our room.

After breakfast we went to Disney-MGM Studios via boat. We had just missed a boat, and it seemed to take a long time for the next one to come. Once inside the park, we went to Guest Services to get a Fantasmic PS at Brown Derby. We already had one set, but we cancelled it to get the Fantasmic seating. After that business was taken care of we went to TOT.

I knew that TOT just wouldn’t be the same without Mr. Sockpuppet along for the ride, but he just didn’t want to leave the room today. Our wait was about 10 minutes, and we really loved the new drop sequence. At some points I couldn’t tell if we were ascending or descending. It was really wonderful. Stan and I headed to the Great Movie Ride and enjoyed that. Then we went to see Voyage of the Little Mermaid. We hadn’t seen it since November 1996, and I was glad we had a chance to do it this time around. After VOTLM, we went to the Animation Tour. Neither of us had ever done this one before. I really enjoyed it, and was weeping through most of the film at the end. I really enjoyed the part where there is a film of the animators talking about how they actually get into the roles of the characters they draw.

After the tour, we decided to grab some lunch. We decided on Spoodles. We thought that the food was good, but the service was slow. We each had a non-alcoholic mango beverage that was really good, we shared an appetizer, and we each tried a different type of pizza. When our waitress finally brought the bill, we figured that it would be automatically charged to our room since DDS was used up. She informed us that it is best to tell the server when they take the card.

After lunch, we walked over to Epcot, and went for a stroll along the World Showcase lagoon. We checked for Paragon, but she had another day off. By the time we arrived at the American Adventure, we were both ready to keel over from the heat. We later learned that it reached a record high that day. We went back to BC to take a rest.

I went to take my contacts out and realized that the left one was missing. I have no idea when I lost it, but I did think that things had been a little blurry for a while. I took a well-needed nap and Stan videotaped around the resort and went for a dip in the pool.

After our rest, we went back to Disney-MGM Studios for our dinner and Fantasmic. We had some time before dinner, so we went to see Muppet-Vision. We love the Muppets. Then we had dinner. Brown Derby had been one of my favorite restaurants, but it was so crowded with this Fantasmic thing, and the service was really poor. I had a lamb chop dish and Stan had shrimp pasta. It was good, but I felt rushed. I finally had a chance to try the grapefruit cake, and it was great. When our waiter took our card, I told him that our DDS was used up, and that he should charge it to the room. He nodded as if he understood. When he returned, he said, "Sweetheart, you don’t have anything left on your DDS account, so I had to charge it to your room. You should have told me." I couldn’t believe his nerve! I had told him. We tipped appropriately and headed out.

We decided to go on TOT once again. The wait was about 15 – 20 minutes, but it was well worth it. That Fear in Every Drop sequence is really very cool. Stan and I decided that he would go get the video camera from the locker while I bought the picture. I waited in line, and when the woman rang me up for the picture, she told me that I had exceeded my credit limit. I knew that was impossible, and asked her to call the Beach Club. The Beach Club confirmed that we had over $1000 of credit available, so she tried to ring it up again. Once again, her cash register told her that my card was denied. Since I only had $10 in my pocket, and the picture came to $10.55, I told her to forget it and walked out, very upset about the room charge situation. Stan and I generally carry very little cash with us to the parks because we appreciate the convenience of charging to the room.

Stan was waiting for me impatiently. I explained what had happened as we walked to the Fantasmic Theater. He said that we could work it all out with Guest Services at BC. We sat in the PS area, and I thought the seats were great. The pre-show bell-hops were booed off the stage. I really enjoyed Fantasmic, and Stan took a really great video of the whole thing. I’ve never seen the DL version, but this was a show I really enjoyed.

After the show, we headed out with the hordes of people. It took less time than I thought it would, but when we saw the line for the resort launches, I was concerned about that wait. We got onto the 3rd or 4th launch, and eventually found our way home. I went to Guest Services to tell them about the problem with my card, and the CM issued new cards.

Once in the room, we heard a message from my mother in law that Stan’s cousin Laura had her baby on the 14th as well. She had a girl and named her Emily.

We had a note from the cruise line that our bags need to be packed and by the door by 8:00 a.m.. So, we did some packing and then went for a swim in the quiet pool. The quiet pool was really nice, I wish we had spent more time there.

Mr. Sockpuppet’s Report: I spent the whole day at the resort relaxing. It was fairly uneventful except when they came back for a rest. If we had only taken a rest yesterday… Oh well, can’t dwell on the past. That darn Zip A Dee Doo Dah Day song is running through my head, and I can’t stop it.

Fri., 4/16/99

WE ordered room service once again, and I checked the hotel bill for errors. I had been charged twice for that TOT picture that I never received. I called Guest Services, explained the situation, and they said they’d take it off the bill.

With our bags packed, we decided to head over to MK to get some hats for the new arrivals. Since Epcot is the EE park, we walked through Epcot to get to the monorail. The CM stamping our hands seemed to think we were nuts for leaving before the park officially opened. We took the monorail to the TTC and took a small detour to visit our bricks. We did a small amount of weeding around the edges of our bricks and then decided to take the ferry to the MK.

Once in the MK, we went directly to the hat shop and waited patiently to buy hats for our new nephew, our nephew Daniel that was born in January, and Stan’s cousin’s daughter. Now each nephew has a hat, and Emily gets a bonus since she was born while we were on vacation. By the way, I told my sister and Laura that if they had their children while we were at WDW that they would receive mouse ears as a gift. Both of them were due after we returned home, but I think my little promise was the incentive they needed. My new card worked fine for charging to the room.

After we picked up the hats, we made our way around to say our good-byes to each land. We managed to fit in a ride on HM while in Liberty Square and a ride on Peter Pan and the carousel while in Fantasyland. I stopped in the Market House on Main St. on the way out to pick up some Mickey pasta. Then we stood near the train station, looked at Cinderella’s castle, and said our traditional good-bye. It always gets me weepy. We promised each other we’d be back.

We went to the bus stop, and arrived at about 10 minutes past 10. A bus arrived at about 10:35 a.m.. When we boarded the driver asked where we were going, and we told him that we were going to BC to check out. He said that we’d never make it because buses share a route in the morning, and that this bus had to go to Poly, GF, and Disney-MGM Studios before YC and BC. I asked if the Swan/Dolphin or BW buses had a more direct route and he said that they also had combined routes. If I had known that, we would have taken the monorail back to Epcot and walked through. He chastised us for not allowing enough time for transportation. (I tend to think that 50 minutes should be more than enough time to get back to a resort unless it is closing time.) Another bus driver boarded and she chastised us too. We had no idea that they grouped routes together, so I don’t know why they were talking to us like kids whom didn’t follow the rules. She said she’d give us a break, and she stopped only at the Poly before heading to the BC. I’m sure it angered the people that wanted to go to the Studios, because they probably thought that we were on the wrong bus or something.

We arrived at the room at about 2 minutes to 11, grabbed our carry-on bags from the bed, and headed to the lobby. I asked for an updated copy of our bill to ensure that the TOT charges had been removed. We waited in the lobby until about 11:30, when they started lining people up for the bus. Stan and I were near the head of the line, and we boarded the first bus with no problems. The video between WDW and the port was really informative. It gave some details about excursions, shows, and shipboard activities.

We arrived at the port and headed to a long line of resort guests. This was "express check-in" since we had already given all of our documents when we checked in at the resort. When we finally arrived at the spot where they scan our cards, neither of them worked. Stan was furious. I assumed it must have been because they re-issued cards the night before. We went to a small room to the side, and within 10 minutes, they had new cards for us which worked just fine.

Once on board the ship, we found our way to stateroom 6070. We tripped over the suitcases that had been placed directly inside the door. I quickly checked our dining tickets and was happy to discover that we had the dining rotation I was hoping for. We were assigned to the restaurant I was least interested in eating at on our anniversary.

We ran up to Deck 10 and joined the line that was already very long at about 1:15 p.m.. At 2:00 they opened the doors and started taking reservations. We had no problem getting a table for 2 at the time we wanted on our anniversary. Phew!

Next we went to the spa to book a surial bath. I had been complaining about a bad haircut all week long, so Stan encouraged me to get my haircut too.

Then we finally had a chance to relax a bit. All of the buffet lines seemed really long, so we decided to grab a couple of frozen drinks and some pizza from Pinocchio’s. Once we were done eating, we headed down to our room to take a look around and unpack. We finished unpacking in time for the lifeboat drill. There were 3 life vests in the cabin, so I guessed that one was for Mr. Sockpuppet, but he decided to skip the drill.

We were in assembly area L, and it must have been about 100° on deck, and the life vests made it seem about 25° hotter than that. I felt like I was ready to faint, and we had to stand there quietly. I know it is important to have these drills, but I wish we could have taken the vests off once they checked our names off. It was also really difficult to stand there without bumping into someone inadvertently. Those things were definitely not made for women with any bust whatsoever.

After the drill, I went up for my hair appointment. Stan was going to book our excursions and rent snorkeling gear for Castaway Cay while I was there. The woman who cut my hair was from Australia, and she was so nice. She did a wonderful job with my hair, and I realized that the two haircuts I was happiest with in my first year of marriage were both by Disney employees. I explained to Stan that I’ll need to return to WDW for my next haircut, but he doesn’t seem to think we can swing it.

After my haircut, we decided to freshen up for dinner. Our restaurant for the first night was Lumiere’s, so I put on a dress and Stan donned a suit. We headed to the Walt Disney Theater for the first show: Disney Dreams. I thought the show was wonderful. It was first class entertainment.

We had some time between the show and dinner, so we had our portrait made in the lobby. Then I went up to the Captain Mickey statue and I asked Stan to take my picture. I slipped on the marble steps and ended up hanging off the statue. I was mortified. It must have looked like I was drunk. They finally opened the restaurant and we found our table. We were seated with a nice couple from Long Island. They own a bait shop on the North Fork, and we promised them we would stop by their shop the next time we go wine tasting on Long Island. The meal was OK, but I was expecting a little better on a cruise ship. Our waiters were named Pawel and Dereck and they are both from Poland. Stan and I are each half Polish, and our table mate Bill is Polish too. So, we had a little bit in common with our waiters. They were very nice, and although there was sometimes a communication barrier, they did a fine job.

By the time dinner was over, it was nearly 11:00 p.m.. We changed quickly in our room, and went to the Comedy Club for the last show. We found a place to sit, but it was a little uncomfortable, and I constantly felt like I was blocking someone’s view. We went up to the room, and I hit the sack while Stan stayed up late, hung out on the verandah in the rain, and bought tickets to the wine tasting.

Mr. Sockpuppet’s Report: The carry-on bag was a nice way to spend the morning. I relaxed there while Stan and Kathy said good-bye to the MK. In the stateroom, I quickly found my way to the TV remote. I get seasick easily, so I knew I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time hanging out on deck. I tried on a life vest, but it was a tad too large. I knew that if we hit an iceberg I’d be a goner anyhow, since I am a stowaway. I know for a fact that all of the Sockpuppets on the Titanic died a terrible icy death.

I spent most of the afternoon and evening watching TV in the stateroom. There were a few movies on the tube, and then there was a station where I could find out all kinds of information about the ship.

Sat., 4/17/99

We had booked the Historical Harbor Cruise, so after breakfast at Lumiere’s we went up to the lobby near the Walt Disney Theater to meet our group. Stan was having trouble with the video camera and determined that the problem was due to too much humidity. The harbor cruise was nice, but really not all that much history was presented. The guide pointed out some homes that belong to famous people, and at the end of the ride we each received a glass of fruit punch.

When we returned to the ship, we dropped off our video camera, and spent a little time wandering around Nassau. Since we weren’t interested in shopping, it was a quick trip around town. At the straw market, Stan and I each bought a hat. We returned to the ship for lunch at Parrot Cay. We were seated at a table with several other families, but nobody spoke to anybody else. It was a little strange. After lunch, we went out into Nassau again. Stan bought a Cuban cigar and smoked it. Then we went on a horse and carriage ride around the city. We realized that we had seen all we wanted to see in Nassau, and went back to the ship.

We went to a Wine Tasting in Palo. Stan and I really enjoyed it. They served a variety of wines, and talked a little bit about each varietal. The last wine was the Cuvée that we had enjoyed at V&A’s on my birthday. They did a neat trick with a knife to pop the cork. Overall, it was one of the better wine tastings we had ever been to. The sommeliers were not condescending at all, and talked to all of us equally, regardless of our relative wine experiences. We each received a nifty pin at the end of the tasting.

We changed into our swimsuits and spent some time at the adult pool. I was pleasantly surprised that there weren’t any children there. We had a lot of fun swimming around the pool and hanging out in the whirlpool. Occasionally, we took a break to enjoy a frozen drink or two.

We changed into shorts and headed to the spa for our treatment. There was a message on our voicemail that they could take us a little earlier, so we tried to get there as quickly as possible. Once we arrived, we ended up waiting quite a while anyhow. The receptionist said we could go into the Rainforest room to make up for the delay, but we’d need bathing suits to go in there, and we didn’t have them with us.

We were led to separate locker rooms and told to come out wearing only robes. Then Stan and I were led to a room where the woman explained what we were to do. There was a bowl with 3 types of mud in it. We were each to shower first, and then start applying the mud to the appropriate areas. Then we could go in the adjacent steam room for 2 cycles, then shower to wash the mud off, and she’d bring some massage oil. Then she left and left us up to our own devices. We had a lot of fun putting the mud all over each other. We must have looked like a pretty silly pair, covered in three colors of mud from head to toe. Then we went into the steam room. There were sea salts for us to rub on our elbows and knees. When the stuff started melting off of us, it created quite a mess. After we were done in the steam room, I poked my head out into the next room and saw that she had left us some shampoos and body washes. They were all aroma therapy type gels, and we enjoyed using them as we took showers that were inside the steam room. Once we were all clean, we sat there in our robes, the woman knocked, and she brought us some massage oil. We gave each other massages, and then she collected us so we could go change. We both really enjoyed the surial bath.

She told me that she would be preparing our bill, so I asked her to add lavender body wash and some de-stressing massage oil. When we were done changing, I went out to add the tip and sign the slip. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the body wash was $39 for the bottle, and the massage oil was $45. I just signed away, and tried to remember that Stan had said that money was no object.

We missed the show for our spa treatment, so we changed for dinner, and headed to Animator’s Palate. We really enjoyed watching the pictures change through most of the meal, and the light show at the end. Once again, dinner was just OK. We bought some pictures at the photo shop, including the portraits, which came out very nicely. We did some shopping after dinner, and we were shocked at the prices. T-shirts were around $40, sweatshirts were about $60. We bought a few items, and headed to our room to put them there safely.

We got out to the deck shortly after 11:00, and had just missed the fireworks. We spent a little time on deck enjoying the band, and Stan was tired, so we headed to our stateroom for a nice restful night.

Mr. Sockpuppet’s Report: I spent most of the day lounging on the verandah. I am so glad I don’t need to worry about sunscreen because that would make things very messy. I’m not quite sure what the big deal is about Nassau. I looked it up on Mapquest, and it directed me to the Western part of Long Island NY. Stan’s sister used to live in Nassau County, so why did we have to take a ship to get here? Couldn’t we have just driven over the George Washington Bridge? Tonight Stan and Kathy bought a cool model of the ship in the gift shop. It will be fun to play Titanic with it tomorrow while they’re lounging on the beach.

Sun., 4/18/99

I woke up early and looked out the window to see an island in the distance. I wondered what island we were passing, and the next thing I know, we were pulling up next to it. I went out onto the verandah and watched the whole process of backing up next to the dock. Our neighbors were out watching it too.

I let Stan sleep for a while, but soon the TV turned itself on, and he woke up. We got ourselves together with swimsuits on under our clothes and went to Lumiere’s for breakfast. After breakfast, I went to Guest Services to take care of the gratuities. Then we went out to go to the island. It was freezing outside! I kept hoping that the sun would come out, but it never did.

First we went to the Post Office and mailed some post cards to using a Disney Magic stamp and a Castaway Cay postmark. We walked rather than taking the tram. Then we had a few pictures taken along the path to the beach area. We saw Minnie and Pluto and had pictures taken with them.

Stan and I went directly to the place where we pick up the snorkel gear to try snorkeling first. Stan is very good at snorkeling, but I do not like salt water, so sometimes it isn’t my favorite thing. They have 2 trails set up. The yellow trail is for beginners, and the red trail is for experts. We did the yellow trail together first. I didn’t have a very good fit with my snorkel, and tasted the salt water. This made me gag, and have a generally unpleasant experience. When we exited the water, I noticed that my left leg had some large cuts on it. I didn’t remember hitting anything with my leg, but they were fairly deep cuts. Stan went to get some napkins to stop the bleeding and then he got some drinks.

After we spent some time lounging on the family beach, near the snorkeling area, we decided to pack up and go to the adult beach – Serenity Bay. On the way, we stopped at the first aid station and the nurse put some antibiotic on my cuts.

Once at Serenity Bay, we realized that it was way too windy to spend anytime there. We were soon back on the tram to the other beach areas. We wandered around for a while and went to a bar that is out on a pier to take some nice pictures of the ship.

Soon it was time for lunch. We each got a burger and some salads (and "Chip" chips). Neither of us was very hungry, so we nibbled and decided that we should go back to the family beach, find some lounge chairs and do some lounging.

We rested near the snorkeling area for a while, and I even napped. Stan decided to go back in the water and do some more snorkeling. He went out and did the red trail. He took the underwater camera with him to take pictures of the "artifacts." There was a Mickey masthead, and some other ship parts that Disney sunk. Disney also sunk some concrete hemispheres with holes drilled in them that they hope to grow coral on. For now, there’s no coral, but the fish love them.

While Stan was out, I got up my courage to go out again. I waited until he returned and then asked if we could do the yellow trail again. I had a much better time the second time out. I think I had the other snorkel, that fit me better, and I loved it. Stan and I found a hidden treasure chest, but we were out of film. I wish I had such a good experience that morning. If I had, I probably would have done the red trail with Stan. It was getting close to time to return to the ship, so we turned in our gear and walked back.

I watched the process as they untied our ship from the dock while Stan was showering. When it was my turn to shower we actually pulled away. Stan said that the crew staying on the island all had giant Mickey hands on as they waved good-bye.

We decided to get ready for Palo although we were going to the show first. We got all dressed up (Stan looks so handsome in a suit). Before we left for the show, I decided to give Stan his anniversary gift. I had a print from the 1998 Food and Wine Festival framed and I brought a Polaroid of the finished product along to give to him. I figured that since the print was made of "paper", and it represented something we did in our first year of marriage that we enjoyed together, it would be the perfect gift. Stan was overwhelmed. He was so happy about the gift, but he thought that the trip was our gift to each other. He felt bad that he had spent so much time planning my birthday that he didn’t even think of our anniversary. I told him that his love for me was the only gift I needed.

The show was a spoof of Hercules, and I thought it was very funny. I particularly liked Hades, because he had some asides to the audience that were great. After the show, we did some more shopping, and we bought a print of the ship and a Christmas ornament (great, another print to have framed). Then we went to the lobby and had some more portraits made.

It was finally time for our anniversary dinner at Palo. Our waiter was from London, England, and he seemed to have a very snooty attitude that I didn’t like. When we asked if we’d like a drink before we order, we ordered the sparkling wine that we had had on my birthday and at the wine tasting. We told him that we were celebrating our anniversary (we had also mentioned it when we made the reservation, but he seemed surprised). I can’t recall what we ordered, but it did seem to take forever for each course (which they had warned us of). The food was good compared to the other two restaurants, but not as good as some of the better WDW restaurants. We also asked his recommendation for a wine to pair with our main course choice (veal). He recommended a wine that ended up being $15 a glass.

For dessert, I had ordered the chocolate soufflé. Stan did not order something in advance because he is allergic to eggs, and a main ingredient in a soufflé is the egg. The waiter did not ask if Stan would like to order a different dessert, or if we would like coffee with dessert. He brought out a strawberry and whipped cream concoction for Stan that he only picked at. Then, after I had finished the soufflé, he brought out and anniversary cake for us to share. The cake wasn’t very good, and we were full, so we picked at that for a while. When he brought the bill, we were surprised that the total for our 4 glasses of wine was ~$50. That was added to the $10 gratuity for the meal. Stan and I were not overwhelmed with the service, so we let the $10 and the automatic gratuity for the wine cover us for the meal and did not add anything additional.

If we were to go on the cruise again, we would not choose to eat at Palo. It is not worth the wait in line to make reservations or the poor service we received.

After dinner, we changed and went to do our final souvenir shopping. We bought many pictures at Shutters. The character photos on Castaway Cay were especially nice. We found the cheapest T-shirts possible and bought a few other knick-knacks before checking out and heading back to the room to pack. The bags had to be outside by midnight, so we started getting creative in our packing techniques. I was glad that we had packed some extra collapsible suitcases. We had arrived on vacation with 2 suitcases and 1 carry-on each and we were leaving with a total of 5 checked bags and 2 carry-ons plus 3 straw hats.

After we packed our bags, I was filling out the customs form, and trying to itemize our purchases. I realized that we were overcharged when we were shopping at Mickey’s Mates. They had charged us for 3 T-shirts when we had only bought 2. I called the store and they said I should go up there to get a refund. I arrived at the store shortly before closing, explained the situation (and the fact that all of our purchases were now packed and being picked up). She credited our account.

I returned to the stateroom to find Stan already sleeping, so I joined him.

Mr. Sockpuppet’s Report: Today they left the room early to go to the beach. It was too cold for me to hang out on the verandah, so I stayed indoors, watched TV, and played with the souvenirs. I also tried to get the video camera to work, but it still was not working right. When they returned from the beach, I went outside with Stan to wave good-bye to the island. I asked Kathy to bring me back some chocolate soufflé from Palo, but they came back from dinner empty handed. When they were packing, I was scared that I might end up in the suitcase with the dirty clothes (one of my biggest fears in life). Luckily, Stan had the foresight to put me with his clean clothes for the next day. Then Kathy stuck me in her carry-on so I wouldn’t be forgotten.

Mon., 4/19/99

I was up early watching the sunrise and our arrival to Port Canaveral. We were supposed to go to breakfast at 8:15, since we had second seating, so we took our time getting dressed, packing up our last few things and saying good-bye to the room. Our room steward, Garfield, knocked on the door because he thought we’d be gone, but we explained to him that we had late seating, so we’d be there a bit longer.

Once we did leave the room, we still had some time to kill, so we walked around the ship, taking pictures, etc. We hung out in the Promenade Lounge while everyone else lined up at Parrot’s Cay for late seating breakfast.

We went in for breakfast, gave the tips to Pawel and Dereck, and enjoyed our final breakfast by ourselves. The couple from Long Island didn’t join us. After breakfast, we gathered our belongings and left the ship. As we entered the building at the port the song that was playing was "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go." It seemed appropriate since we both had to return to work the next day.

In the luggage area, we found most of our bags, but one of the 5 wasn’t there. A porter hunted it down for us, and then he loaded all of our stuff onto a handcart. Customs was easy, we just handed the agent our form and he waved us through. The porter took us to the Continental Airlines desk where we checked in and got our seating assignments. Our bags were put on a truck, and we boarded a DCL bus that brought us to the airport. After a short wait and an uneventful flight home, we were soon back in the real world.

We went to pick up our mail and discovered that our DCL vacation video had arrived.

Mr. Sockpuppet’s Report: There’s really nothing to report. I spent the whole day in the carry-on bag. When we got home, I found my hats among the souvenirs and modeled them for the moose in the bedroom for fun. The moose were jealous that I went to WDW, but if I can’t handle the thrill rides, I know they would never stand a chance.

Kathy Kula

kathryn.kula@pharma.novartis.com


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