The Honorary Swamp Guard

Some time ago, I wrote about our Disney Cruise, in January, 2013 – where the rule, “Don’t pick up the Princesses” was born. At the end of that post I mentioned that there was another great story to be told from the end of that trip….. so finally, here it is.

After spending 5 days on the Disney ship, our plan was to stay in Orlando for  an additional 3 days to visit Disney World and Universal Studios, because, you know, we didn’t get enough Disney on the ship……

We arrived at Gaylord Palms in Orlando. It was a beautiful place, and truth be told, I would have been perfectly happy to have skipped the cruise and just stayed there all week, but 3 days would have to do.

gaylord palms

We arrived in time for dinner – a late dinner – so we didn’t get to explore all that much on the first evening. The next morning we were planning to go to Disney World. Doug was on the balcony – he called me “outside” and said he had just seen Shrek walk though the restaurant down below. This was the restaurant we were heading to for breakfast as soon as DC was out of the shower, so I figured I’d ask about it when we went down to eat.

When we got down to Villa de Flora, I told one of the waiters (Matt) that we noticed Shrek walking by earlier. I asked if this was some sort of character “meet and greet” that they have for the kids, and if so, would they be coming back anytime soon? DC was sitting at the table away from the conversation. I didn’t tell him we saw Shrek earlier and I didn’t want him to hear me ask about it in case they wouldn’t be making another appearance.

The waiter explained that the characters did not work for the resort. They were hired for an early marketing meeting and we must have seen them on their way out.

Then he said “Let me see if I can catch them” – it had been a good while since we saw them from the balcony, so I really didn’t think he’d be able to catch up to them and I wasn’t asking so he’d have to go out of his way, I just thought they were part of the resort. I told him that it was not necessary, he did not have to do that, I hadn’t mentioned it to my son at all, so he didn’t have to worry about disappointing him.

He went to talk to his manager anyway. I didn’t really think much about it after that. DC went and got his mountain of bacon and his bagels. When I got up to get some more coffee, Matt came over to me and said he had been able to catch up them in the parking lot. Again, I said it really wasn’t necessary for him to do that. He told me his manager insisted. He said that by the time he caught up with them they were all already out of their costumes but agreed to put them back on and come back in to meet DC!!!! I couldn’t believe it! I went back to the table to try to tell Doug what was happening without DC hearing any of it.

DC had his bacon and bagels – I believe this may have been the trip where he discovered bacon – so he really wasn’t paying much attention to anything else that was going on.

I saw them coming in on the other side of the restaurant….. Shrek, Puss n’ Boots and the Swamp Guard. I tried to remain calm as not to give it away, but it was difficult.

I started taking pictures. DC was smiling because he saw me with the camera, and that is what he does….. stops whatever he is doing to smile. He was unaware of anything going on behind him.

 

He was so surprised and excited when they made their way to him. He didn’t know what to do at first.  I was taking pictures with my phone. A waitress grabbed my camera from Doug and began taking pictures as well. The staff and customers seemed to be just as excited for him as we were!

 

They were wonderful, the staff and the characters! I couldn’t believe that they would do this for him! The characters stayed and talked with him for a good long while. He was in his glory!

They presented him with Shrek ears and made him an “Honorary Swamp Guard”. Teaching him the Swamp Guard Salute was also included. DC was so excited and happy that he even offered to share his precious bacon with Shrek. Of course Shrek had 2 swamp rats earlier so he was quite full already.

 

He had the best time with them.

He wore his Honorary Swamp Guard, Shrek ears for most of the remainder of the trip.

 

I still can not believe how these wonderful people went so far out of their way for DC. I mean, I only asked a simple question. I never expected any of this. This made his day – it made his trip!

I thanked everyone I could find to thank and went back the following morning to thank the people I could not find the day before.

I tweeted, Facebooked and wrote an e-mail to Gaylord Palms. I wanted to be sure they were aware of the wonderful staff they had working in their resort.

Then, just to add the cherry to the top of this sundae…… I found these on my camera when we arrived home……

 

 

 

I can’t ever thank these people enough…………….

 

 

 

Baltimore, Over the Rainbow and Back – Part 2

Baltimore Over the Rainbow 2

After the fun-filled experience boarding the ship (Baltimore, Over the Rainbow and Back – Pt 1) things were looking up. DC had his cheese burger, I had my wine, everything was calm.
The remainder of the day (Friday) was spent exploring the ship. DC as usual, loved the cabin, as small as a ship cabin is, in his mind it is a “hotel room” and a hotel room is way up there on his list of favorite things.
The “Travel Gods” were on my side too; there was NO Disney Channel in the room!!!! (Happy dance!!!) – so DC moved on to his “default channel” (at home he calls it “Two – Five”) TNT, which is perfect with me.
The lifeboat drill, as usual was difficult for him; not because it frightens him, I don’t think he pays enough attention for it to frighten him, it is just the standing in line in a crowd, for that length of time for reasons that he really doesn’t understand and has no interest in. Thankfully wearing a life vest is no longer a requirement, but it is still torture for him and for me as I held my breath and hoped he would make it without incident. He did make it; he got a little loud at times but he made it. He was not happy, no matter how many times I told him how proud I was of him, it took him a good long while afterwards to get himself out of his “anxiety mode”. I’m hoping the lifeboat drill is one of the items taken into consideration (if it hasn’t been considered already) by Royal Caribbean regarding their new“Autism Friendly” cruise status. I understand that attendance is important for safety reasons, but there has to be another solution – even if the solution is as simple as a designated area away from the crowd.

Saturday was our first scheduled stop in Cape Canaveral; the stop where we scheduled the surprise bus trip to Disney World. DC knew there was a surprise trip coming. He knew the ship was going to Florida, so I was sure he’d figure it out. I asked him where he thought we were going to go when we got off of the ship. He answered “Bookstore”. I told him that I was sure there would be somewhere to buy books on the surprise trip. I asked him again as we were waiting to get off of the ship “What else are you hoping to do on your surprise trip?” – He thought about it and said “Toys R Us!”. I realized that even though he knew the ship was going to Florida, that really didn’t mean anything to him, he didn’t make the connection. He thought he was going to New York City, his other favorite place! Seriously, if you gave him the choice between Disney and New York City, he just might have to think about it!
I was a little worried for a minute that he had his heart set on New York, so I decided I would tell him that no, we were not going to New York City, but I was sure he would love this trip just as much. We were hoping that we would be able to keep it a secret until we were on the bus, or better yet, until the bus drove up to Disney World, but the “Follow your Lollypop” (sign) announcements started and we were sure he would pick up on the “Follow the Disney World Lollypop” announcement eventually; we decided that we would not be able to keep it a secret any longer. Doug gave him a card. He opened it and inside were a couple of Disney World gift cards. It took a minute, but he put it all together in his head and yelled “Disney World!!”
We only had 7 hours including the bus ride, which sounds like a good long time, but at Disney World, it is not a long time at all. We had to plan every move to be sure we made it to all of his favorite places and we weren’t going to worry about the rest.

The first stop as always was the Castle Show. The last 3 or 4 times we were there, the show had been “Like A Dream” – DC knows it by heart; he’d seen it every time we were there (and a few times, more than once in a single visit) and he has also found many clips on YouTube so he has it memorized. Today the show was……… drum roll please; you guessed it…… “Like a Dream” (I don’t really know  if this is the actual name of the show, but it is one of the songs that I have embedded in my brain), but……  it is still 100 times more tolerable than having to watch “Story Time with Belle” once, twice or three times per visit. Story Time is gone now, and I for one am very happy.

We headed next, to Ariel’s Under Sea Adventure and on to Ariel’s Grotto to meet Ariel. I am again, thankful that the Grotto is now located in another area of the park.  It is a whole new Grotto, redone, so now much of the time spent in line is  in the shade (and I suspect that there may be more than one Ariel in there; which makes the line go much quicker than it used to, but I can’t be sure)

Next stop, the Princess room…….

I reminded DC of the rule; “Do not pick up the Princesses” before we got in line. I asked him again while waiting in line about the rule, and he remembered, and one more time just before we went inside….. “Do not pick up the Princesses” he answered,  so into the Princess Room we went….. THE MOST exciting part of his day! He was a charmer, as usual.

 

And then, of course……..

 

I did wonder…. if he had been told ahead of time that he was going to Disney World and the Princess Room……would he have remembered to pack his comb?

We had lunch, rode the Winnie the Pooh ride, It’s a Small World, the train and on the way out, visited the gift store for books. That was really all we had time for. He saw his Princesses and bought some books so the day was a complete success.

Back on the ship, DC single-handedly won Disney Trivia. The most difficult part of the game was getting DC to actually whisper the answers in my ear so I could write them down. DC’s whisper, is not a whisper at all. What he thinks is a whisper is talking in a louder than normal volume in a whisper-like voice. He does not really understand that whispering is supposed to be quiet. After the first few answers, he did finally get it and our team won the game. He knew every single song and the movie it came from, in only a few notes! If they were to ask him the name of  “the voice of” (the voice actor), he could definitely supply that answer as well.

After his big win, he went through his entire script:

“I did it!”

“I am so Proud of You” (DC reverses his I’s, me’s, you’s, ect. – he is telling me how proud I am of him)

“I am so impressed” (again, he is telling me how impressed I am with him)

“Gasp! Put hand to chest” (at which point I have to act surprised, gasp and put my hands on my chest)

Afterwards in our travels around the ship, a few passengers recognized him as the Trivia winner. being the ham that he is, DC was in his glory with all of the recognition.

Next Stop…… Bahamas (oops, shhhh).

DC is not a fan of the Bahamas. We didn’t mention this stop to him. We did tell him that we were going to visit Atlantis and just for that added boost that he always needs when he isn’t really interested in the activity, I added that we are going to search for Atlantis, the Lost Empire . No, Michael J. Fox would not be there, we are just going to look around at the old city (We were actually taking a trip to the aquarium, but the tour was touted as “Search for the Lost Continent”). Making a Disney or favorite movie connection always helps to peak his interest. I always make sure that he does not expect too much, though. I wouldn’t want him to be disappointed.

Two years earlier on a Royal Caribbean cruise, we opted not to take a tour in the Bahamas and decided instead to just go into town and walk and look around. It was hot and it was crowded. To say DC hated it, is an understatement! Anytime the Bahamas was mentioned after that particular trip he would sign “all done” and emphatically shout “No I didn’t! No I didn’t!”

‘No I didn’t’ in DC-speak means “No I don’t want to (go there, do something, etc.)”

He really enjoyed the aquarium. He loved looking at all of the “artifacts” from the “Lost Empire” and he was much more interested in looking at the fish than he usually is. He generally does like to see the fish no matter where we go but, like me, after a few tanks, he’s done. I think the artifacts kept him interested a little bit longer.

Aquarium…..success!

On the way back to the ship, we stopped off at the drum “stage” that I was sure he would remember. At this point he realized he was in the Bahamas.

Bahamas

As you can see, he was not happy “No I didn’t! No Ba-ha-ma-mas!”
As soon as he understood that we were going back to the ship; not going walking or shopping, the Bahamas were just fine with him. He even took a minute to play the drums.

It is now permissible to speak of what was formerly known as the “Island that must not be named”.

To be continued…………..