Category Archives: Disney

20240201-19_Trip-Prep

NOTE:  This post contains four (4) photos.  First photo taken by me (Bruce) with a Google Pixel 6 Pro.  (All other photos taken by Linda with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

01-19 February 2024 — Preparing for another cruise

Cabella (the cat) has several places around the house that she likes to sleep but, when available, this is her favorite.

I suppose the first thing of note about this month, but not the most important, was my birthday; seven decades and change, and still counting.  Not bad for a guy my height and weight.  I am still in generally good health and feeling good about our active retirement, which is what really matters.  Happy birthday to me.

From the moment Linda had booked the cabins, preparations had been on-going for our upcoming Disney DREAM cruise.  Research was done, and shore excursions were booked.  Our daughter (Meghan) is an excellent and enthusiastic researcher, and she dug in.  Our 5-night cruise included a “Marvel Day at Sea” and a “Pirates Day,” all of which required some kind of suitable attire (or costume) in order to be a full participant in the events of those days.  She also learned that it was common practice to “decorate” cabin doors.  The doors are steel, and the decorations need to be magnetic, but it turned out that such decorations and widely and easily available.  The group ended up agreeing on custom t-shirts, one for Marvel Day and one for Pirates Day.  We each got our own color for each shirt, but the same designs.  (We did something similar a few years ago the first time with did Walt Disney World with Paul and Nancy.)

Linda and Diane try to get-together and walk once a week.  Weather permitting, they meet at Kensington Metro Park.  This image from February 9 clearly shows that the lake was still mostly covered in ice.  (Photo by Linda)

Of the ten of us going on this cruise, only Linda, her sister (Sr. Marilyn), and myself had ever been on a cruise.  Linda and I tried to provide useful/helpful specific information about packing, luggage, embarkation, etc. without overloading everyone.  Each family or individual was on their own to make flight arrangements to/from Fort Lauderdale International Airport, as well as hotel arrangements, but they were all experienced travelers, including the three grand-daughters.

 

 

I got this MURDLE (Murder Puzzles) book for my birthday from our friend Kate,.  Linda and I were at one of our local Panera locations, and I took the book with me to work some of the puzzles.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Linda booked us into the Hyatt Place hotel about 1/2 mile from the Disney cruise terminal at Port Everglades in Hollywood, Florida (Fort Lauderdale area) and shared that location with everyone else.  Our daughter and her husband, his daughter (Katie), and Linda’s sister also stayed there.  Our son and his family made a reservation at the nearby Embassy Suites as they were able to get a room that would comfortably accommodate all four of them.

 

 

 

 

Sadie at home being Sadie a few days before the Disney cruise. (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s about all there is to say about everyday life while getting ready to go a trip.

20240222_T2_The-Family-Arrives-FTL

NOTE:  This post does not contain any photos.

 

THURSDAY 22 February (T2) — The family arrives for the cruise

Katie (our 20-something grand-daughter) arrived from North Carolina ahead of the rest of the family, made her way to the Hyatt Place (via Uber?), and checked-in to the room she was sharing with Marilyn.  We were all hungry so we took her to Carrabba’s for dinner.

Marilyn arrived later from St. Louis, Missouri and waited for our son (Brendan) and daughter (Meghan) and their families to arrive from Michigan.  Once everyone was at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport, they got a cab to take them to their respective hotels.

Katie, Marilyn, and Meghan/Chris all stayed at the same hotel we were in.  Brendan and his family stayed at the nearby Embassy Suites as they got a room that would sleep all four of them.

Marilyn, Meghan, and Chris had not had dinner, so we walked to the nearby Publix supermarket where they pickup up ready-to-eat sandwiches and chips and brought them back to the hotel.  We sat in the breakfast room, which had a high table for six, and chatted while they ate.  Brendan’s clan made their own arrangements for dinner.  ABIR (or learned the next day) they had pizza.

Everyone arrived safely, and with all of their luggage, which were the main things.  (When traveling by air, we always try to arrive enough ahead of whatever we will be doing to allow time to go shopping in the event that we need to replace the contents of a lost piece of checked luggage.)  Air travel is always a bit exhausting, but there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air as everyone was genuinely looking forward to the cruise.

20240221_T1_Prelude-to-a-Family-Cruise

NOTE:  There are not photos for this post.

 

WEDNESDAY 21 February (T1) — A Family Cruise is just around the corner

Our cruise on the Disney DREAM was set for departure on Friday, 23 February at 3 PM EDT.  We like to be in the vicinity of a cruise port somewhat ahead of time, so Linda booked a flight for mid-morning today.  Delta Airlines again, of course, as Delta has a major hub at Detroit Metropolitan (Wayne County) International Airport (DTW) and can get us non-stop to many places in the USA.

We were up at 6 AM, got dressed, set the thermostats on HOLD at lower than usual temperatures, and loaded out luggage into the F-150.  We were going to take Linda’s Honda HR/V, but she got a recall notice yesterday for a possible fuel pump problem.  We could not afford having the problem occur enroute to the airport, so we took the truck.  We left at 6:45 AM and arrived at the US Park facility, adjacent to the airport property, about an hour later.  The shuttle was coming down our aisle as we parked and picked us up along with several other customers.  We were at the drop-off point in the garage attached to the main (McNamara) terminal by 8:15 AM, well ahead of our 10:20 AM departure.

We normally roll our bags into the terminal, print the luggage tags for the two larger bags, attach them to the bags and then get in the self-tagged luggage drop-off line, which is usually long and understaffed.  Before crossing into the terminal, however, we noticed a DELTA self-tagged luggage drop counter in the garage.  It was staffed, and there was no line, so we figured we would try it.  There were about eight kiosks for printing the luggage tags, so we took care of that in short order.  There was a short line at the drop-off counter by then, so we joined the queue.  It did not take long for it to be our turn, and in no time our bags were checked.  The agent asked if we wanted paper boarding passes, so we said “yes”; it never hurts to have a backup.  A good start to our trip.

The next step in the process was clearing through the TSA checkpoint.  We had “checked in” for the flight online yesterday and had our electronic boarding passes on our phones.  This was the first time we would go through a TSA checkpoint since we qualified for the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) and got our Global Entry (GE) cards from the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  We noticed that the boarding passes said “TSA Pre-check” and also said “Digital ID.”  We knew what the first one meant, but we were not sure about the second.

We went to the TSA Pre-check area, showed our boarding passes, and walked right in.  No line.  We were directed to the left where an agent had us stand in front of a camera lens, and then waved us through; no need to show our passport, license, boarding pass, or any other additional ID.  We were motioned towards a scanner lane with no line, set our small carry-on cases and a few personal effects (glasses, belt for me because of the buckle, phone with holder (metal clips), and keys) into a tub on the conveyor and walked through the scanner.  There were no issues and we were through; all without having to remove our shoes!  This was our easiest airport entry ever; more than worth the time and cost to get the TTP/GE program/card (the cost of which was reimbursed by AMEX/DELTA).  All-in-all a much better and less stressful experience than the last time we were here earlier this year.

And with that, there was nothing else to do except wait to board the aircraft.  We always travel with our iPads, which we use for a wide variety of things, such as:  reading, streaming, games/puzzles, research, maps, checking on weather, or logging in to subscribed services, including checking-in when appropriate.  For travel, however, we usually do the final check-in on our phones so that we have the boarding pass / QR code immediately available.  To make sure it is also immediately accessible, we take a screen shot so we don’t have to (rely on) use the app or website.  Sometimes we also bring actual books, but usually avoid the added weight and bulk in our luggage.

Frankly, commercial air travel is not very comfortable nor is it much fun.  I say that as a licensed private pilot.  Most of the seating is too small (narrow) and too crowded together (front-to-back).  Sure, comfort class (if you can get it) and first class (if you can afford it) provide a bit more room, but we choose to spend our money on things like cruises that are slightly less ephemeral.  The dumbest thing about the passenger aviation industry, however, is the way they load the aircraft.

IMHO, aircraft with a single loading door near the front, should be loaded from the rear to the front.  The first people on are the ones seated in the last row.  No “running the gauntlet” and bumping into other passengers to get to our seat.  If the first-class passengers don’t want to mingle with everyone else, create a separate, enclosed waiting area for them.  EVERYONE is limited to one carry-on item that does not exceed the allowed size so that it will absolutely fit in the overhead pin BY THEIR SEAT.  That way, everyone is guaranteed to have a place for their carry-on bag BY THEIR SEAT.  A second small item that will fit under the seat in front is fine with me.

Now that I’ve had my say, I will regain some perspective and acknowledge that, in the end, the only thing that really matters is that the plane takes off and lands safely without any incidents, such as rude/disorderly passengers, or doors that blow off mid-flight.  As for our flight, all’s well that ends well, which ours’ did.

The rest of the family booked flights for the following day.  Once we deplaned at FTL, we headed to baggage claim, retrieved our two checked roller bags, and then headed outside to find the ride-share area.  We booked an Uber, and in short order we were picked up and on our way to the Hyatt Place hotel near Port Hollywood.  We are still relatively new to using Uber, but so far it has worked well for us.

I don’t recall if our room was ready when we arrived at the hotel, but if not, we did not have to wait very long.  Given the price, the room was nothing special, but it was fine for us.  And it had a mini-fridge, which meant we could get keep some beverages cold and/or store any leftovers from meals we ate out.  Besides, we knew ahead of time that the price had more to do with a location that is convenient to both the airport and the cruise port than with the accommodations themselves.

The first two cruises we ever took (2012 and 2013), on the MSC Poetia, sailed from Port Hollywood, Florida.  I suspect a lot of construction has taken place since then, and there was certainly construction ongoing in the area, but neither of us had any specific recollections of the Port to serve as a comparison.

The hotel was a comfortable/safe walking distance to a major shopping area that included a Publix supermarket and several restaurants.  We wanted to stretch our legs anyway, so we went in search of dinner.  ABIR, we ended up at a Poke’ Bowl place and had tasty meals.  We then stopped at the Publix and bought some beverages and perhaps some snacks, but I’m not sure about the latter.

20240220_T0_DCL-Dream-Prep

NOTE:  There are no photos for this post.

 

TUESDAY 20 February (T0) — A Last Minute Thing

By 8 PM, we were basically fully packed and settled in to watch TV before going to bed at bit earlier than usual as, and we wanted to get a good night’s sleep in advance of our flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida tomorrow morning.  But there always seem to be last minute things, and this time it involved the cat’s feeder or, more specifically, the wooden enclosure I built back in August 2023, to house her automatic feeder.  A critter, which turned out to be a raccoon, had been clawing and/or biting the opening where the food drops into a metal bowl, trying to get to the feeder itself.  I decided at the last minute (11 PM) that I needed to reinforce that area before we left.

I made a quick trip to the barn to fetch tools, screws, and see what wood scraps I might have.  I found a couple pieces of 5/8” plywood left over from the original housing project.  They were the same width as the front panel; perfect.  A little drilling, dry fitting, and attaching these pieces to the front with screws, and I was satisfied that the critter would at least be delayed from succeeding until we got home.  So much for getting to bed early and relaxed.  I think that the housing is going to need a metal sheathing at some point in the future.  That point, however, will be when the daytime temperatures are more pleasant for doing this kind of work.

 

20231225_Christmas-Day

Note:  This post contains three (3) photos, all taken by Linda with a Google Pixel 6.

 

MONDAY 25 December 2023 — A Christmas Surprise

Although we do not celebrate Christmas (Easter, etc.) as religious holidays, we have always gathered as a family, if possible, on these days.  Since Madeline came into the world 11 years ago, it has been the family tradition to gather at her parent’s house (our son and daughter-in-law) on Christmas day.  The tradition has always been to have some form of breakfast meal before opening gifts.  That meal has occasionally involved some serious cooking, but more recently has been fruit and bagels with lots of choices of things to put on the bagels.

 

The family at the breakfast table, minus Linda (who is taking the photo).  L-2-R, Chris, Meghan, Madeline, Brendan, Shawna, Sadie and me (Bruce).  Marilyn’s right arm is visible in the lower left of the frame.  Note that Brendan’s family is sporting matching holiday pajamas.

 

Madeline poses in front of the Christmas tree, which is surrounded by wrapped gifts.

Christmas is still a big deal for the two youngest grand-daughters, as the previous photos show, but this Christmas held a special surprise; the revealing of the family cruise in late February 2024 on the Disney Crise Line ship DREAM.  The moment was met with the anticipated squeals of delight.

The girls were, understandably, very excited, especially the 11-year-old (Madeline) who exclaimed (in a high-pitched, excited voice) “I finally get to go on a cruise.”  This seemed to imply that she was “finally” getting to do something that she felt she deserved to do but had somehow been arbitrarily and unfairly denied the experience.  And she was very much aware that Linda and I (Ama and Apa to Sadie) had been on a couple of cruises recently and obviously had enjoyed the experience.  But she had been to Walt Disney World three times and had a very tangible understanding of what it meant to be doing something “Disney.”  We also knew she had been hoping to go a cruise someday (sooner rather than later) and we were pleased at her obvious excitement, and that we were able to make this happen sooner rather than later.

The itinerary was western Caribbean, including Cozumel, but that was not an important detail at this stage.  This was going to be all about the cruise, which would include a “Marvel Day at Sea” and a “Pirate Day.”  Arrrgh, matey.

 

Sadie takes her turn in front of the Christmas tree and gifts.

The 5-year-old (Sadie) was also very excited, of course, especially when she understood that whatever else this experience might be about, it was going to be a Disney-based family outing that included her parents, sister, and everyone else in the room, plus her cousin Katie, who was not able to make it home from North Carolina for the holidays.

Linda had booked the cruise, in consultation with all of the affected adults, and we were covering the cost of the four adjacent staterooms and the shore excursions, with everyone responsible for their own transportation and hotel costs.  So, it was really a big Christmas present for everyone, including us.  There will be blog posts on this family adventure sometime in the spring of 2024.

 

20231203-16_Misc_pre-holiday_stuff

Note:  There are 3 photos in this post, all taken by me (Bruce) on a Google Pixel 6 Pro.

 

SUNDAY 03 – SATURDAY 16 December 2023 — Getting back into home life

 

Sunday, December 3rd, 2023 — Getting the house back online.

When we are away from the house for more than a few days, I deactivate or adjust various things:

  1. I deactivate the water softener and chlorinator/filter by unplugging the AC power adapters.  The coin batteries remain in the controllers, but when the signal for a regeneration cycle, the motorized valves cannot respond.  Thus, nothing happens.
  2. I also turn off the UPS units for most of the electronics in the house. The exceptions are the one in the basement that powers the Xfinity gateway/WiFi-router and network switch, and the one by Linda’s desk in the kitchen, which powers the network switch that the whole-house generator communication module is plugged into.
  3. I also shut off the circuit breakers that feed the RV electrical outlets in our driveway.
  4. We might set some mechanical clock timers to control a couple of lights.
  5. We set all of the thermostats down and place them in a HOLD condition. (The thermostat in the workshop of the barn is set to maintain a temperature above freezing in the storeroom above it.)

Thus, one of the first things I have to do upon our return is reverse all of this.  I plug the water softener and chlorinator/filter back in, and will also typically initiate a regeneration cycle on one of them.  Which one depends on their remaining water treatment capacity.  UPS units are turned back on and electronics are powered up.  Thermostats are returned to the automatic/programmed operation, and light timers are put back in the switched position.  The RV outlet by the driveway in front of the house obviously gets turned on.

Apparently I have the (annoying) habit of laundering EVERYTHING upon our return from a trip.  In the case of RV travel, that includes towels and bedding in addition to clothes; sometimes even jackets, if I feel they need it.  This does not happen, however, in one day.  For one, it’s too much stuff that would take too much time and, for another, that much laundry at one go would overload the septic system.  And nobody wants that.  I suspect that I started on this task today, moving everything to the basement, sorting it, and selecting a load or two to start.

 

Monday, December 4th, 2023 — Chores, Chores, and more Chores

Whatever else we did today, I suspect that I spent part of it continuing to do the laundry.  I don’t mind doing the laundry, in fact I somewhat enjoy it.  In any event, it has to be done and Linda handles the kitchen pretty much by herself, so this duty falls to me.  It’s also likely that I powered up my laptop computer, downloaded e-mails, and started copying photos from our various devices to our NAS.

 

Tuesday, December 5th, 2023 — Winterizing the Airstream Flying Cloud travel trailer

I do not recall why I waited, but according to our calendar I winterized the Airstream travel trailer today.  My best guess as to why I waited a few days was that I had too much else to do on Sunday and Monday immediately after returning home, but it’s also possible that the weather today was more amenable.  Whatever the case, absent any other information to the contrary, I will just have to accept that today was the day for this task.  This is not one of my favorite RV maintenance tasks, but it is what it is and it has to be done, as the RV portion of our barn is not climate-controlled.  Actually, they main thing I really don’t like is having to do it in the cold.

 

This is a photo of the internals of the thermostat in the shop portion of the barn.  I don’t recall why I photographed it, but I obviously removed the cover to check something.  As it turned out, it is wired correctly, and it works just fine.

For the rest of this time period, we attended to various things.  I obviously put the Airstream travel trailer back in the barn once it was winterized.  Linda had a routine medical appointment, did some child-care for the two younger grand-daughters, resumed walking with her friend, Diane.  She also did some accounting work for the bakery, and booked shore excursions for the Disney Cruise Line DREAM in late February of next year.  (NOTE:  The two youngest grand-daughters did NOT know about this cruise yet, but I did not upload this post until May 2024.)

We also had two different HVAC service companies at the house; Lakeside Service takes care of our BOSCH hot-water baseboard heating system, and Schutz Heating & Cooling takes care of our Mitsubishi-Trane Heat Pump system, which they installed.  We had dinner with friends (and fellow Prevost converted motorcoach owners), Chuck and Barbara, and with our friend, Kate.  We also opened up our Boondockers Welcome site to accommodate a special request from a couple who had stayed with us before.  They needed a place to camp for a few nights while they took care of some medical issues at the University of Michigan Hospital.  It turns out that we are one of the few good options for this situation, and we have had other RVers stay here for the same reason.

 

Saturday, December 16th, 2023 — Cloning, ham radio, and a concert

Earlier in the week, I took the 1 TB Samsung 870 EVO SSD (solid state drive) out of my ASUS laptop computer and tried to clone it to a 2 TB version of the same drive.  I wasn’t sure I had done it correctly, so I arranged to go over to Mike’s house (W8XH, from SLAARC, the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club).  He did the clone of my original HDD to the 1 TB SSD a few years ago and used his equipment to do this one.  While I was there, I had a chance to look at some amateur (ham) radio gear that was for sale and for which he was acting as custodian.

 

This Kenwood transceiver caught my eye, but I was equally interested in the HP Signal Generator underneath it.  Ultimately, I had to pass on buying anything as I am not currently active enough in the hobby to justify buying more equipment.

In the evening, we attended the Holiday “Pops” (popular music) concert of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (AASO) at Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor main campus.  The orchestra was good, but our main reason for being there was the Ann Arbor Youth Chorus standing behind the orchestra in the photo below.

 

The AASO and AAYC in concert.  Our middle grand-daughter, Mads, is in the last row, 6th from the left.  She was still 10 on this date, but would turn 11 a week later.

 

20230916-26_At-Home_Btwn-Trips

NOTE:  This post has three (3) photographs with captions and some narrative.  Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.

 

SATURDAY 16 September to TUESDAY 26 September, 2023 — At home between trips

Life returned to “normal” for a few weeks following our Alaska—Hawaii cruise.  That meant walks in the park for Linda as well as accounting work for the bakery, and chores around the house for both of us.  One of those chores was getting our Airstream Flying Cloud 27 Front-Bed Twin travel trailer ready for some Fall travel.

We were no sooner home from our Alaska-Hawaii cruise on the NCL SPIRIT, however, when Linda got the idea that it might be nice to get the whole family to take a cruise together.  That sounded good to me and the obvious choice was, of course, Disney Cruise Line.  The obvious time would be university spring break 2024, both for the two university professors (our son and his wife), as well as our son-in-law, who manages a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan (where things slow down a bit during spring break).  The two youngest grand-daughters would miss a little school, but they are both excellent students and would not miss anything that could not be made up quickly and easily.  Linda’s sister is essentially retired with a fairly flexible schedule, but eldest grand-daughter (Katie) would have to take a few days off of work.  Presuming everyone wanted to go, and could make it, there would be 10 of us!

By September 27, Linda had gotten a commitment from everyone for a 5-night cruise on the Disney DREAM, departing Port Everglades in Hollywood (Fort Lauderdale), Florida on February 23, 2024 and returning there on Wednesday, February 28.  She booked four (4) adjacent staterooms which could be connected in pairs and would allow all four (4) balconies to be opened to make one large gathering space.  Of the ten of us, only myself, Linda, and her sister had cruised before, so this would be a totally new experience for everyone else.  We were very excited about this, but did not reveal it to the two youngest grand-daughters until Christmas Day, at which point they were 5 and 11 years old.

 

Linda tries to walk at least once a week with her friend, Diane.  Weather permitting, they usually walk at Kensington Metro Park as it is located between their respective homes, but otherwise at 12 Oaks Mall in NOVI.  They often see Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife, like the Great Blue Heron shown here.   (Interesting factoid:  the city of NOVI (“know – vie”) was named for the NO VI (number six) stop on the stagecoach trail from Detroit Michigan to Lansing Michigan (the State Capital).

 

Me (Bruce) on the roof of our Airstream travel trailer.  Unlike the bus, I very rarely get up on the trailer roof; there isn’t much room to walk around and I have to be careful to only put pressure on the ribs of the structure.

 

Fall was definitely here by the 25th of the month.  Our Crimson King Norway Maple tree has a lot of leaves, which it generously shares with our rear deck each year starting around this time.