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John and Diane's 125-day Adventure at Sea


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - Day 105

At Sea en route home

Our first (of seven) sea day heading toward home has been a busy one, but a good one. The mornings of this next week will follow our usual routine, but each day will have its own schedule.

Today’s first job was to arrange for two of our six bags to be shipped home via FedEx, which is being carried out by Sarah Coles, an HAL employee who has been doing this job as long as we’ve been needing the service. We figure that if we have two of our large bags shipped home we can each check two of the remaining four. We get one free bag each on our United flight and pay $35.00 for the additional one. The bags being shipped should take three to four days and by then we’ll have the first four unpacked and put away.

Next it was time for Trivia (in which we came in third) and then lunch in the dining room (for the first time all cruise) with Michael and Susan, friends from 2015 who wanted to get together one last time before April 26. We’ve made up our mind that we’ll have breakfast in the dining room at least once this cruise, and we’d better get to it, as we’re running out of time.

This afternoon was a much anticipated event: the Indonesian Crew Show, which filled every last seat in the Queen’s Lounge and had people dragging in folding chairs and standing in the back of the room. It is always such a treat, with Indonesian crew members singing, dancing, playing in an angklung orchestra, and acting out legends of Indonesian culture. Tomorrow we’ll get another treat: the Filipino Crew Show, and the room will be just as crowded. One thing you can say about HAL passengers, especially on the WC - they love their crew members and treat them very well.

After the show I needed to rush right up to our cabin to watch a film that was shown yesterday but not at times I could make it. It was Hidden Figures, a movie about three African-American women who worked at NASA in groundbreaking jobs. It was a great story and a good history lesson about an aspect of civil rights with which most of us are not familiar. I recommend it highly.

Instead of going to the Crow’s Nest before dinner, we’ll be going to a “Spotlight” performance by Brianna, one of the Amsterdam singers. She has a beautiful voice and I love to hear her sing Broadway tunes. She told us that for this performance she’ll be singing a variety of songs. We really like hearing the singers’ solo performances, since each of them is so very talented.

I’m really looking forward to the next six days at sea, but I’m also looking forward to getting home, getting settled, and seeing friends and family after four and a half long months.

 

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Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Day 106

At Sea - Day 2 of 7

According to the captain’s announcement at 12:30, we’re playing hide and seek with several storms across the Atlantic. Apparently it rained fairly heavily last night, but today, while it’s pretty chilly, there is almost no rain - just a few showers midday. We can see on the shipboard monitors that our path has been somewhat erratic to avoid the worst of the weather.

Yesterday I mentioned Brianna’s spotlight performance before dinner, and it was absolutely spectacular. During an “Amsterdam Singers and Dancers” show, the singers’ routines are tightly scripted and can be somewhat limited, but when she did her own show, Brianna showed the full range of her abilities. She was very comfortable with the audience and sang selections from Broadway, Disney, and opera. She has such a wide vocal range that when she sang the duet from Phantom with Ollie, her voice climbed into the stratosphere, and she even got a standing ovation in the middle of the number. The comment I heard the most after the show was, “Gosh, I had no idea she could sing like that.”

The highlight of the day’s activities for me was the Filipino Crew Show. We did enjoy the Indonesian show yesterday, but today’s entertainment just seemed to have more energy, and it helped that we knew a large percentage of the performers. The fact that Filipinos make up the beverage and front office staffs was probably the key there. Our friend Nestor, the senior wine steward, performed his well-known act in which he dresses one side as a man and the other as a woman and then sings a “duet” with himself, turning to and fro.

Our wine steward, Kay, as well as several of the young ladies who are beverage servers were dressed in traditional and colorful Filipino attire, and they danced gracefully and beautifully. For some reason, although I have a much weaker memory for names than John, I do know most of the young ladies who are beverage attendants while John has a hard time keeping them separate in his mind. Regardless, however, they were lovely and it was very entertaining to watch them dance.

This evening we’ve invited Jessica, the young woman who is in charge of guest chefs, the Culinary Arts Center, and such things, to dinner. We’ve gotten along quite well over the period of the cruise, I think because she knows that we’re good friends with Denise Vivaldo and George Geary, two of the more popular guest chefs. We invited her to join us in the Crow’s Nest for wine before dinner, and she told me this morning that she had even altered her exercise schedule to be sure she could. Her comment was, “I’d much rather be having cocktails than exercising.”

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but we think that a good way to get to know the ship staff is to invite them to join you for dinner. Obviously you can’t invite crew members who have to work during that time, but most officers and other ship employees are happy to join passengers to get to know them better. Tonight we have Jessica coming to dinner, in two nights it’s formal so we’ll have our regular Dr. Dave as well as Oliver and Maddy, our singing friends, and then the next night we have Erin, the new cruise director. She will have to dash out to introduce and close the 8:00 show, but she’ll be with us most of the time. You might think that only “important” passengers will be noticed by officers, but actually it’s those passengers who are friendly and welcoming that officers prefer.

Two days down, five to go. I’m loving the unstructured time until we have to begin packing.

 

P. S. In answer to your question, no there has not been anything about a Pacific cruise, but today the 2019 (tentative) itinerary was distributed. It goes down South America, across the South Pacific, round the usual suspect ports like Singapore, KL, Mumbai, and Aqaba, and then briefly through the Mediterranean before heading to northern European ports like Norway, Ireland, Amsterdam, etc. It's certainly different, and I think a lot of people are pleased with it.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Day 106

At Sea - Day 2 of 7

P. S. In answer to your question, no there has not been anything about a Pacific cruise, but today the 2019 (tentative) itinerary was distributed. It goes down South America, across the South Pacific, round the usual suspect ports like Singapore, KL, Mumbai, and Aqaba, and then briefly through the Mediterranean before heading to northern European ports like Norway, Ireland, Amsterdam, etc. It's certainly different, and I think a lot of people are pleased with it.

 

Thank you for responding. It would be greatly appreciated if you have the time to notify us if there is any news on the Grand Pacific.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Day 106

At Sea - Day 2 of 7

According to the captain’s announcement at 12:30, we’re playing hide and seek with several storms across the Atlantic. Apparently it rained fairly heavily last night, but today, while it’s pretty chilly, there is almost no rain - just a few showers midday. We can see on the shipboard monitors that our path has been somewhat erratic to avoid the worst of the weather.

 

P. S. In answer to your question, no there has not been anything about a Pacific cruise, but today the 2019 (tentative) itinerary was distributed. It goes down South America, across the South Pacific, round the usual suspect ports like Singapore, KL, Mumbai, and Aqaba, and then briefly through the Mediterranean before heading to northern European ports like Norway, Ireland, Amsterdam, etc. It's certainly different, and I think a lot of people are pleased with it.

 

Wishing you good weather and smooth seas for the remainder of your World Cruise.

 

Are you and John tempted by the tentative 2019 World Cruise itinerary, which is certainly different?

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As always, your reports from the WC have been wonderful. I am sorry to see our adventure ending next week but it sounds like you are ready to head home. Are you feeling differently this year than in previous years? I hope that if you choose a different cruise next year you will take us along!!!!! Thank you again for letting us travel with you. Cherie

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Friday, April 21, 2017 - Day 107

At Sea - Day 3 of 7

The weather still stinks, with cool temperatures, cloudy skies, and occasional rain showers. That doesn’t seem to bother most people, since I bet fewer than 25% of the passengers have even been outside today. One look out the window and no one wants to brave the elements.

Last night we had our third clock turn-back in three nights, and I think people are getting a bit cranky about it. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if passengers were haunting the hallways and public rooms at 5:00 this morning. We do have to set clocks back a total of five hours in seven days, but I would think that skipping a night occasionally would be a bit easier on our internal clocks. John and I are dealing with it by going to the show until 11:00 and then up to the Crow’s Nest for a nightcap and a couple of dances until midnight, which then becomes 11:00 before we turn off the lights.

Last night’s show was exceptional. The four-person group was called “Island Magic,” and they were a steel band. Now I think almost all of us are familiar with steel bands playing reggae and island music on the back of the ship during sailaway, while we indulge in the cocktail of the day. This group, however, is 180 degrees away from that picture. There are three men and a young woman from Trinidad, and for last night’s show they played not island favorites but Broadway songs and classical numbers. Their steel drum version of “Can Can” had the audience clapping and cheering. What’s great about watching these musicians is the obvious fun they have while performing.

I don’t usually attend “Good Morning,” but I wanted to today because Jessica was interviewing the band. We learned that they had begun as a “back of the ship” steel band, but after watching evening shows on the ships, their leader decided he wanted to move up from “musician” to “entertainer.” His three bandmates weren’t interested, so he found new ones, and they’ve spent about the last twenty years perfecting their craft. They have over a hundred songs in their repertoire, and on Monday night they’ll be back with a new show. That is great news!

Last evening we had Jessica to dinner at our table, and I learned that her official title is “Culinary Arts Host.” She was great company and we found out that today is her 33rd birthday. Since HAL is eliminating several positions on cruises and Jessica’s is one of them, she has set her sights on being a Port Lecturer, a position filled by Barbara Haeni, who knows more about ports than anyone ever could. Barbara can tell you what time the green bus will pick you up to take you to the cultural museum and how long it will take you to get there. Jessica knows she has a great deal of learning to do, but she’s a very focused young lady, so I’m sure she’ll accomplish what she sets out to do.

 

Tonight we have no one coming for dinner, which is fairly unusual for this last week, but tonight’s show answers a lot of questions for us. We’ve seen four young women around the ship recently, and since the average age on board is 72 (true story), we wondered who they were. It turns out that they’re tonight’s entertainers, so I’m anxious to see their show. Tomorrow evening is formal with a 9:30 ball instead of a show, and then we’re down to only a few days in our world-wide adventure.

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Last night’s show was exceptional. The four-person group was called “Island Magic,” and they were a steel band. Now I think almost all of us are familiar with steel bands playing reggae and island music on the back of the ship during sailaway, while we indulge in the cocktail of the day. This group, however, is 180 degrees away from that picture.

 

We had the pleasure of seeing "Island Magic" on one of our cruises as well - what a talented group they are! We loved that after every round of thunderous applause, the fellow would reply with a very quiet, humble "Thank you." I would advise anyone if they are on your cruise - take in their show, you won't regret it!

Smooth Sailing! :) :) :)

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We want to thank you for once again sharing your adventures with us. Vicarious cruising is great!

Have you heard anything about Gene Youngs health? We're looking forward to him as Cruise Director on this fall's Grand Asia, and hope he will be well enough to join us.

 

Cheers,

Sandy

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Saturday, April 22, 2017 - Day 108

At Sea - Day 4 of 7

We are rocking and rolling again! Apparently there is a series of storms across the Atlantic and, although Captain Jonathan is swerving this way and that, we can’t avoid all of them. For some reason I couldn’t sleep very well last night, and every time I awoke I enjoyed the rolling back and forth and back and forth and . . . well, you get the idea.

While I was on the elliptical cross-trainer this morning, I had to hold on with both hands to make sure I stayed on. It’s like mechanical bull training all over again, similar to our crossing from Guam to Osaka.

Right at this moment (noon on Saturday), we are exactly halfway between Madeira and Ft Lauderdale. The captain’s noontime announcement told us that the closest point of land is the island of Barbuda.

Yesterday’s spotlight, following up the four singers’ separate performances, was done by the Amsterdam dancers, and were we ever impressed. They danced separately, in pairs and as a group and they can do things in dance that would put me in the chiropractor’s office in a second. Tom, one of the singers, did a routine with Vasily, one of the dancers; I didn’t know Tom could dance and I didn’t know Vasily could sing. It was a great show.

Today is Mariner Appreciation Day, with a cocktail party in the Queen’s Lounge at 6:45 for late seating diners, and we’ll officially be awarded our platinum medallions. Gold is 500 days and platinum is 700, but although we hit that number earlier, we’ve held out for receiving our award on the WC so that the obligatory photo will have officers that we’ve known for years, i. e., Captain Jonathan and Henk Mensink, the Hotel Director. Actually, the information given to us by the front office says that at the end of this cruise, we’ll have 811 days, not including extra days added by purchases or whatever. Once in a while we are asked by other passengers if we’re in President’s Club, but I don’t think we’ll ever be there. It would take 600 more days, and I just can’t see that.

Several of our friends are receiving various awards: silver, gold, whatever, and they’ve told us of finding their medallions on their beds. We received an invitation to today’s reception with the notation that we are to receive an award, but we haven’t seen any medallions, on the bed or elsewhere. I stopped by the front office and spoke to the young lady who’s in charge of such things, and she said that our awards were left in our room seven days ago. I assured her that they were not, and after a bit of friendly discussion, she went into the back and came out with two navy blue boxes, each containing a platinum (colored) award to be worn on the ribbon around our necks for the reception. John just hates things like this, so we’ll have to see what actually happens at the reception. They are pretty, though - a lot better than the copper ones we received at the end of our first WC to represent 100 days or more. Those stayed on the bed when we left.

It’s a gala dinner with Dr. Dave, Maddy and Oliver, and afterwards, at 9:30, there is the Masked Ball in the Queen’s Lounge. I know some people complain about it being at 9:30 rather than at 10:00, but the hotel department tries to keep in mind people who eat at 5:30 and don’t want to stay up for hours awaiting an activity. What amuses me is that some of the people who complain don’t even attend these activities, so I wonder about that. We actually like the balls, and one of the nicest things is that many of the uniformed officers attend so that single ladies (and the occasional married one) are asked to dance, even though the dance floor is a crush.

Although I’m enjoying all the free time, I’m actually getting to the point where I wish we’d just get there. We compromised on the beginning of packing for Monday, since I argued that it couldn’t possibly take us two days to do so, and as soon as the luggage is set out, we will hardly be able to move in our stateroom. Many of our friends are either partially or completely packed, and I imagine that will be us by dinner time on Monday - and then on Tuesday we’ll have to figure out where to sit.

 

P. S. According to his colleagues and family, Gene is doing well but has to rest his voice, and he's not being patient about it. We too wish him all the best.

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John & Diane

Thank you so much for taking us with you on your World Cruise.

You are a colourful and interesting correspondents and it seems as though we have all been travelling on the Amsterdam with you.

Good luck for the return home and I and many others look forward to sailing with you again soon.

Mick:)

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Sunday, April 23, 2017 - Day 109

At Sea - Day 5 of 7

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare

OK, so what would you expect of an English teacher?

Since this is day 5, I guess it’s logical that last night would be our fifth (in a row) time change with yet another hour back. We kept to our plan of staying up late to try to get ourselves adjusted to the new time, but last night was a problem. I changed my watch before bedtime but I forgot to change my bedside clock, so when I woke up - wide awake - at what the clock said was 5:15, I didn’t want to wake John so close to getting up time, so I threw on some clothes, grabbed my book and headed up to the Lido for tea and reading. As I grabbed a cup, I glanced at my watch and saw that it was only 4:15, so there went the idea of reading. Back to bed I went and this time I actually went back to sleep - until 6:30, at least.

Last evening was just too much fun. We met a group of friends in the back of the Queen’s Lounge for the 6:45 Mariner Reception. For some people, that just means “free liquor,” and that’s true, but it’s also fun to see everyone all dressed up (formal night) and chat with friends. All the President’s Club members are seated in the middle (on the “dance floor”) and they get Dom Perignon Champagne. We really don’t care so much about President’s Club, but we would have like a couple glasses of that sparkly!

Since we were getting our platinum medallion, we were called up to have our photo taken with Captain Jonathan and Henk Mensink, but I don’t know when we get the photos. Then it was back to our friends to wait for the rest of the platinums (we were second), the golds (500 days) and silvers (300 days) to be called and have their photos taken with the big guys. There is a bronze medallion for 100 days, but there are so many of them that Erin made an announcement after the silvers that anyone else who’d like their photo taken with the captain and Henk could come up and take turns.

Then it was into the dining room, this time to the big center table where all eleven of us could sit. Since it was the last formal night, we had Dr. Dave along with Oliver and Maddy, who will be performing tonight. When we had been in Nafplion with Rich and Ginni, we walked past a tee-shirt shop and saw, hanging in the window, one of their best products which said, “With a Body Like This, Who Needs Hair?” We immediately thought of Dave, since he has lost a lot of his hair and shaves the rest. On our first formal night back, we made the presentation and he loved it! Last night, he had to wear his formal officer uniform, but over his formal shirt and under his formal jacket he had put on the tee-shirt. He was so proud of it that after we all appreciated it, he headed over to the captain’s table to show him. I went with him to explain where we had found it and how all four of us knew it was meant for Dave.

Dinner was, again, great fun, with cork-forking and prizes. We had to stop at some point, however, since the masked ball (masks provided at dinner) began at 9:30, so we headed out at 9:45 for forty-five minutes of dancing. Then, since it was only 10:30 (only 9:30 after the clock change), we went upstairs to the Crow’s Nest for more dancing and a nightcap (I do love limoncello). John danced as much as his knees would allow (and then some), so I took a couple of turns with our tablemate Bill, who is a great dancer.

 

Finally it was time to turn in, and with the clock change, it was 11:00. It would have been, but of course I didn’t turn the clock back. Now there are only three days and nights left, no more time changes, and packing begins tomorrow morning. Oh no!

 

 

P. S. I asked Tina, the Future Cruise Consultant, about the 2018 Pacific cruise and she said it's not out yet but should be in about a week.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017 - Day 109

At Sea - Day 5 of 7

 

P. S. I asked Tina, the Future Cruise Consultant, about the 2018 Pacific cruise and she said it's not out yet but should be in about a week.

 

Thanks so much for keeping me posted. I really appreciate it.

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Monday, April 24, 2017 - Day 110

At Sea - Day 6 of 7

In six world cruises, we’ve eaten breakfast in the dining room once before, I think in 2008. Our friends Will and Nancy, however, eat there almost every morning, and they’ve been asking us to join them for about a week. Well . . . it turned out today was the day. The La Fontaine Dining Room is really a beautiful space, and during the daylight, especially at a table overlooking the ocean, it’s even better. We had no sooner been seated and began perusing the menu (something we’re not used to at breakfast) when Presty, the Assistant Dining Room Manager, came by the table to chat with us, as if to ask, “Why are you here now?” We laughed about the fact that it’s unusual for us but complimented him on the view and the menu.

In the Lido, where we eat almost 100% of the time, I just grab toast and a yogurt, cereal, or occasionally half an omelet, shared with John. In the DR, however, there’s an actual menu, and of course I ordered too much: two small Belgian waffles (with strawberries) a side of bacon, and hot chocolate. It was delicious, but I felt like a lump the rest of the day.

Today was packing day! Wan, our room steward, brought our last piece of luggage this morning, we spread them out on the bed and the couch, and 90 minutes later, we were packed, keeping out clothes for two dinners, daytime tomorrow, and an outfit for the airplane on Wednesday. We have a total of six bags, four airplane maximum size and two which could be carry-ons, even though we never do. We’ve arranged to ship the four large ones and just check the smaller ones once we arrive at the airport. The best thing about that arrangement, besides not having to wrestle six bags to Ft. Lauderdale Airport, is that they won’t arrive for 5-7 days and we won’t have to unpack them until then.

Our guest for dinner last evening was Erin, the Cruise Director. She’s just 25 years old and has been suddenly placed into a really difficult job - replacing Gene Young, her mentor, who trained her last year. She’s doing an admirable job, though, and almost everyone is being as supportive as possible. Since she had to introduce the evening show, she joined us at 8:10 and then had to scoot back to the Queen’s Lounge to close the show at 8:35 before joining us for the main course and dessert. It turns out that Erin is from Temecula, California (sort of in our neck of the woods) and went to school at Chico State, not too far from where our kids live in Davis, California. Everyone enjoyed her company and peppered her with questions about her family, her feelings about her new job and her future plans. She was a great sport and told us she enjoyed her dinner as a dining room guest, something that was new to her.

The show that Erin introduced last evening featured the Amsterdam Singers and Dancers, and was called “Steppin’ Out.” It was unlike their previous productions in that it had a definite story line and characters and featured songs that had to do with dancing. We really enjoyed it, but as Maddy had warned us earlier, it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and some people didn’t like it as well as earlier shows.

This evening is the “Grand Farewell Finale” by the crew of the Amsterdam, a show that no one wants to miss. In past years, it has primarily featured a video of all the different departments of the ship, many of which, like the laundry, the passengers never see. It’s cleverly filmed and very funny. This year, however, Erin has said that it will be a show featuring many of the crew members of all levels and she told us to be sure to bring Kleenex.

Well, one more sea day and we’re done with this year’s wonderful world cruise. We’re taking full advantage of each of the last days, and even though this afternoon brought quite a bit of rain, it’s getting warmer and more like Florida.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - Day 111

At Sea - Day 7 of 7

Well, here we are on the last day of our 111-day WC adventure (not including our 14-day trans-canal cruise). Wandering around the public rooms, it seems like a pretty normal day, but walking down the stateroom hallways it looks like a luggage garage sale. We are all to have our luggage outside our rooms by midnight, but most people are trying to let the poor room stewards spread the job out over the day instead of having them haul thousands of pieces of luggage down into the bowels of the ship from midnight until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning - and then have to “turn” the rooms for new passengers tomorrow morning. We have four of our six bags packed, tagged, and sitting outside our cabin, while the two small ones are still in the room. I think one of the small ones will go out after dinner tonight, since it will have the dress and shoes I’ll wear to dinner, and the last one will be our “carry off” bag with toiletries and such in the morning.

Last evening’s show was one of the best ever. Island Magic, who performed a few days ago, came back with a completely new show, including music from the Caribbean, the Beatles, and finished with “Hallelujah,” a beautiful piece of music. We sat between a couple of rows of officers and entertainers and we clapped and cheered and gave a standing ovation at the end of the show. Some of them were drinking “wang-wangs,” a drink somewhat like a Long Island Iced Tea, but with 7 (yes, 7!) shots of liquor and topped with tropical juices instead of Coke. I stay far away from anything like that since I really don’t want to need assistance finding my cabin after the show.

Today is our last day of Trivia, but there wasn’t a large group playing yesterday when we tied for first with about six other teams. The reason behind the absences was quite clearly that Grand Dollar Redemption was taking place at 1:00 (Trivia’s at 11:45) and the line began at 11:00. I don’t get it! I’m sure there was pushing and shoving to get a better place; I’ve seen these lines before and I avoid them like the plague. Apparently the reason for the early queue was that the Amazon gift cards were limited in number and each person could only get one. Sure enough, they ran out early, and a lot of people were disappointed and cranky. I had a little over 600 grand dollars left, but I wasn’t going to get in that line, so when I saw my friend Joyce and she said she was a bit short for what she wanted, I just gave her mine. It’s not that I’m a generous or even a nice person; I just would have rather eaten ground glass than been in that line.

Tomorrow we have a flight from Ft. Lauderdale at 11:30 (changed from 11:50), and our baggage tags identify us as “Grey 2,” to disembark at 8:30. We’re hoping that it’s earlier than that since customs and immigration at this port are legendary in their delays. I’ll print boarding passes this afternoon, just in case we get to the airport late and have to run to our gate, but hopefully we’ll get there in time to relax, check in our bags, and buy a lovely Starbucks skinny cappuccino with a pump of non-fat mocha - my all time favorite. Time will tell.

I guess this will be my last post for a few days, until we get home, get settled and have a bit of time to consider the whole experience. See you then.

 

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I guess this will be my last post for a few days, until we get home, get settled and have a bit of time to consider the whole experience. See you then.

In that case, have a safe, comfortable (is that possible?) flight home, and an enjoyable last dinner and evening.

Thank you, once again, for all the interesting reports.

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Congrats on your pretty new medallion. I had to laugh because we just got the bronze one which I took a picture of along with the invitation to the ceremony, then framed the picture, lol. Thanks again for taking us along on your Grand Adventure!

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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As always, it's been wonderful following your amazing journey again this year. You are an excellent writer and all posts are filled with so much info and such positive remarks about each day. Safe journey home and thank you.

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Had to laugh at your comment that you would rather eat ground glass than join the queue for Grand Dollar Redemption. I would feel the same way.

 

Thank you once again for your most enjoyable thread sharing your WC experiences.

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