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					What: The Grill Family Cruise

Where: Aboard the Disney Wonder

When: September 2 – 7, 2006

Who: Rodney, Jan and granddaughter Katie

Day 1: The Drive to Cape Canaveral, Radisson at the Port

Jan took off work Friday so she could pack. I don’t know if this is a male/female issue,
or just the fact that I’ve traveled so much, but I just don’t require that much time to put
my clothes in a suitcase. I do, however, require some time to iron, so I took off around
2:00pm Friday. Jan headed across town to pickup Katie after school. She’d spend the
night with us so we could leave early in the morning, and also Jan wanted to make sure
Katie packed enough of the right clothes. After running a few errands, they made it home
around 6:00pm, about the time I was through ironing and packing.

We actually managed to travel fairly light, at least by our standards. We each had a
medium sized suitcase, plus Jan and I each had rolling carry-on’s, Katie had a small
beach bag, Jan had her purse, and I had my laptop in a shoulder bag. We knew to pack
our toiletries and fresh clothes for dinner in our carry-on’s, plus I had all of our camera
equipment and cables for charging phones and such. Really, we might have been able to
get everything into one carry-on (which would have been much better in the long run),
but I had two bottles of wine and a bottle of Scotch (you know, the important stuff), plus
umbrellas and raincoats and my Passporter. Looking back, I think next time (yes, now
you know that there will be a next time!) we’ll take our chances with our luggage arriving
in the stateroom on time and not worry about packing a change of clothes for dinner.

We were in bed just after 11:00pm, and up at 6:00am. We managed to leave the house
around 8:30am, and after a stop at the McDonald’s drive-through for breakfast (vacation
is the only time we ever eat there), we were up to full speed on the highway around
9:00am. We had decided to take I-20 from Birmingham to Atlanta, then I-75 to the
Florida Turnpike, then 528 to Cape Canaveral. We were a little concerned about Labor
Day traffic, but it wasn’t too bad. We had to endure the ridiculously slow speed limits
through the construction zones on I-20, but we ran into no traffic in Atlanta. Traffic on I-
75 South was heavy, but not bad. We were usually able to run 80-85mph except for a
few construction zones. Once we got into Florida and south of I-10, traffic really spread
out. Surprisingly, we only stopped four times (twice for gas, once for lunch, and once
just to stretch). We found traffic on the Turnpike a little heavy. Traffic on 528 was not
bad, but we encountered a thunderstorm that had us moving fairly slowly all the way to
Cape Canaveral. Oh, and it seems like about the time you get up to speed on 528, you hit
*another* toll plaza! I don’t understand why they can’t just collect once when entering
and once when exiting like they do on other toll roads! Then again, I guess that’s an
incentive for locals and regulars for getting a Sunpass. Too bad it’s not cost-effective for
us once-a-year visitors.
We pulled into the Radisson right at 8:00pm EDT. Figuring that we really didn’t get out
of Birmingham until 9:00am CDT, it had taking us right at 10 hours. It wasn’t a bad
drive, just longer than I would have liked. Of course Jan complained that the new car
isn’t as comfortable, but I like it and we have a full selection of entertainment options:
Sirius radio, integrated iPod and rear-seat DVD. Katie ended up getting several hours of
sleep in between movies, and I think Jan did, too. I was pretty happy with the new car
because I was getting just over 23mpg with an average speed of around 80mph. This was
better than the M-Class, which would get at best 20mpg (going downhill with a tailwind).

It was still raining very heavily, and the Radisson had only a very small portico which
was occupied by a shuttle. We saw no bell staff available, so we unloaded our own bags
in the rain , and went to the desk to check-in. They gave us our key and directions to the
room. The Radisson seems like it was probably an old Holiday Inn “motel” that was
added onto several times. Other than one or two buildings of “suites”, the rooms are all
outside entrance style in various buildings connected by very narrow outdoor
passageways. At one point, we even had to go out into the rain to get between buildings.
We constantly had to “excuse” ourselves to pass by people in these passageways. They
were mostly just hanging out and smoking. We finally made it to our room and found it
to be satisfactory – clean and tidy and as good as any moderately priced hotel room, but
certainly not worth $170 per night.

Our first order of business was to get something to eat. We checked out the room service
menu and it didn’t look very appetizing. Besides that, I still needed to move the car. Jan
discovered that she had forgotten sunscreen, conditioner and body wash, and Katie had
left her sunglasses in Jan’s car the day before. We decided to make a Wal-Mart run. I
went to the front desk to find out where the nearest one was located, and was told it was
20 minutes away on Merritt Island. I also asked about parking, and the desk clerk told
me where to leave my car. Katie and I headed out to Wal-Mart and to find some dinner.
As it turned out, Wal-Mart was not so far away (or maybe I just drove faster than the
clerk assumed). Interestingly enough, we found this Wal-Mart to be nearly deserted. I
bet there were fewer than 50 customers inside. It was almost spooky, because most of the
time Wal-Mart is so crowded, you can’t get through half the isles. About 15 minutes and
$80 later, we left with sunscreen, three different types of conditioner, two brands of body
wash, a pair of fashionably oversized sunglasses, and a stack of magazines.

We figured we’d stop at a Wendy’s or Arby’s for food, but we saw a Pizza Hut and that
just sounded good to me. We only had to wait 15 minutes for them to cook a pizza for
us. By the time we made it back to the room, it was after 9:00pm and we were very
hungry. Luckily, the rain had mostly stopped. After eating, I went to move the car to the
designated parking area and noticed that all the other cars had hang-tags on their mirrors.
I drove back to the front and asked the desk clerk (the same one that checked us in and
had given me directions to Wal-Mart). He realized he had forgotten to give me my
parking pass and my breakfast coupons, which he then did. I had expected their cruise
parking lot to be at least fenced in, but it wasn’t. It was just a big, open lot off to the side
of the hotel. It didn’t look “unsafe”, but it did seem it could be an easy target for thieves.
I got back to the room to find Jan ironing. She said she was hoping to keep from having
to iron on the ship since it’s not allowed in the staterooms. Your choice is go wrinkled,
pay to have your clothes ironed for you, or spend time doing it yourself in the laundry
room. We finally got to be sometime after 11:00pm, with a wake-up call set for 7:30am.

The Good: The drive was uneventful. We ran into no major delays and the new car was
fine.

The Bad: The drive took longer than I thought, which meant that for the last three hours I
had to listen to “the girls” whining.

The Best: Finally being within a mile of the Disney cruise terminal! It had been a long
wait!

The Worst: The Radisson! It was overpriced and the layout was annoying. Next time,
we will stay someplace better and park at the terminal.

Next Up: Embarkation!

				
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