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!