#TravelingWithDC – Star Trek Cruise

Mint in Box

Taking a break from the virus, lock-down, Quarantine Diaries and everything involving it to write about our last vacation.

At this point, our trip seems as if  it happened centuries ago, but it has really only been a couple of months. Please forgive any typos, run-on sentences or just utter incoherence as I seem to have lost all ability to concentrate on any one thing for any length of time during this quarantine.

Those of you that have been here a while, already know that this post is partially a ploy to make you look at my vacation photos. ūüėČ

For those of you new here; this is partially a ploy to have you look at our vacation photos but also it is written with a dash of autism and DC’s perspective (or my perspective of DC’s perspective) of the trip. Do not panic, it looks like a very long post, due to all of the photos – it really is not that long at all.

 

Onward…..

DC was very excited all month to be going on the Star Trek cruise, but in true DC fashion he was already starting to get anxious about when we were coming home before we had even left home.
He remembered the schedule I put on his phone during one trip a few years ago (which helped during that trip but not so much during the next) and asked for a ‚Äúphone list‚ÄĚ-
So that is what I did on he way to the airport.

DC’s Phone List

This time, the list worked perfectly. I did not have to repeat the schedule over and over again (we did have to listen to him recite it to us a few times). He took it out and read it whenever he felt the need to.  What a difference this list made!

In the airport.
DC (yells): I’m getting very nervous about this plane!
This plane does not look very safe to me!
(Line from: Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves)

Because he randomly blurts out movie lines, I always have ask him (when it could be a problematic line for the circumstances) – rather loudly so everyone in earshot can hear…..

“What movie is that from?”, so he can answer just as loudly, “Honey We Shrunk Ourselves” (or whatever movie the line happens to come from).

Bag Tag

 

 

 

We arrived in Miami the day before the cruise. We always try to arrive a day early, just in case. I remember a cruise about 15 years ago that was leaving from San Juan . We arrived a day early because I love Puerto Rico and we wanted to spend some time there. There just happened to be a storm after we left home all up and down the east coast (it was January). Flights were delayed and many passengers did not make the boat. Many had to fly into some of the ports where were were scheduled to stop to get on the ship – missing days of their cruise. Since then, we always arrive a day early, no matter what.

Boarding was quick and easy.

We looked around the ship a bit waiting for the drill and the opening ceremonies.

We were able to get into our room beforehand and DC set up “His Spot”. The spot where we had to climb over him all week, but he did not care.

 

After the safety drill we went to the pool for the opening ceremonies. DC was pretty excited. I don’t know if it was because everyone else was excited or because he spotted Nana Visitor and Brent Spiner, but he was cheering right along with everyone else.

 

 

I had just read the headline that morning in the airport about Kenneth Mitchell’s ALS diagnosis. I did not have the chance to read the article because we were boarding the plane. I assumed he was newly diagnosed. I was shocked and saddened to see that he was already in a wheel chair.¬† I have been a fan of his since Jericho and was happy to see him cast in Discovery in the first season and as I predicted in our Discovery podcast, there was no way they would hire Kenneth Mitchell for one season and just a few episodes. I was correct and they had him back playing a different character in season two.

As I said, DC was really looking forward to seeing Nana Visitor again. You might remember his reaction to her from Star Trek Missions NY (and a Little Bit of Reading Rainbow), but our first photo op was Jeffrey Combs (a favorite of mine). We happened to be in that area of the ship at our scheduled time, so we were there early enough so the line was not bad at all.

We had not gotten our bags yet, so DC was still sporting his “Eureka” shirt (shameless plug: Yeah, That Can’t Be Good: A Eureka Rewatch Podcast)

DC and Jeffrey Combs

 

Nana Visitor was the first of the many long lines he had to wait in that week. He got used to the waiting eventually, but because it was the first line, by the time he made it to her, he was over it and not his excitable self. He was excited, but not AS excited as he would have been. He would get a second chance when it was autograph time later in the week.

 

DC and Nana Visitor

My surprises of the week were how much DC enjoyed meeting Ethan Peck and Wilson Cruz. He started his week excited about Nana Visitor and Brent Spiner but ended it by adding two new favorites to his “list”.

There were signs all around the ship, especially in the photo/autograph lines that read – “No handshaking, Vulcan Salutes and elbow bumps only” – DC took that to mean, at the beginning anyway that he needed to do a salute for each photo. That came in handy when Ethan Peck noticed him trying to do one and asked the photographer to take a second picture.

DC and Ethan Peck (Photo edited to disguise DC’s name)

DC was able to talk with him a few more times during the week; once outside of one of the shows (I let him say hello. I did not want him to bother people when they were out and about, or eating, but I did let him say hello.) He did not seem to mind and did try to get some conversation out of DC, even though it was apparent that DC has a difficult time with conversation (he is on my nice guy list now as well). The next – at his autograph table, where he again went out of his way and took the time to try to get some conversation out of DC.

DC and Wilson Cruz

Wilson Cruz was very personable and high energy, which DC loved both times he met him (once for the photo and again for his autograph). DC was wearing a multi-colored, very bright, paint-splash kind of shirt for the autograph session. Mr. Cruz told him how much he liked his shirt and if you know how much DC loves compliments about his clothing, then you know that “The Doctor” now has a fan for life.

DC and Anson Mount

He wore his Captain’s shirt for his photo with Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and I actually got to attend, on my own (which never happens), a recording of Anson Mount’s podcast, The Well. I have been listening since the beginning and it was nice to be able to watch it live. I missed the first scheduled date due to DC’s photo op schedule so I do not know who the guest was, but I was able to make this one with his guest Kenneth Mitchell.

Anson Mount – The Well

 

The Well with Kenneth Mitchell

The Well with Kenneth Mitchell

 

DC announced to all in the elevator ‚ÄúI cut my toenails all by myself!‚ÄĚ
Failing to acknowledge the torture that his cheering section had to endure while he was doing this earlier in the room.

 

There were plenty of other things to do besides standing in line for photos or autographs.

There was music and dancing. We all know how much DC loves to dance!

 

Panels:

Voyager Panel – DC was pretty good at sitting though the panels. Historically he falls asleep on my arm but he stayed awake for all of the panels we attended.

Voyager Panel

 

Discovery Panel

Discovery Panel

A pajama party with Chase Masterson.

As you might imagine, going out in one’s pajamas confused DC a bit but I was really surprised at how quickly he adapted..

He got a kick out of the “Rat Pack” show.


He did some swimming: DC has not been swimming since he had his first seizure back in 2015. Me, being me and a stickler for “the rules”, after his second seizure, when he had to be put on medication, was told by the ER doctor that I should not let him swim or even take a bath. I kind of “get” this. He is a big guy (he was much heavier/bigger then) and if he were to go under, we not only had to worry about the seizure going on at the moment but “dry drowning” later. DC who always loved swimming seemed to be moving away from it and refusing to go in the water at camp or anywhere else over the previous couple of years anyway, did not seem to mind this at all…

he did not mid at all until he knew we were going on a cruise, that is. He wanted to go swimming. I sucked it up and made Doug promise that he would go into the water with him and stay with him (I haven’t owned a bathing suit since 2005, so I was OUT for the pool). He did and DC was thrilled to go swimming just about every day. I was worried about how I was going to handle camp this year with his renewed love of swimming but as it stands with the virus, there will probably not be camp this year, so I am safe for now.

If you happened to be passing by the
Windjammer buffet at lunch-time yesterday, I was the one screaming ‚Äúno, no, no!‚ÄĚ as DC jumped up out of his seat to take off his shirt and switch it right there when he realized his shirt was inside out.

We watched Star Trek Squares:

I know that DC doesn’t get all of the jokes (and at times that was a good thing) but he seemed to enjoy watching all of these shows and games.

Max Tonight:

Watching the Make-Up artists (they were pretty impressive!)

Oz, Star Trek Style: You all know how DC feels about the Wizard of OZ!

Garrett Wang Stand Up Show.

I think DC’s favorite show of the entire trip was the script reading of “The Devil in the Dark”. He laughed and laughed. Ethan Philips played the “rock monster” and DC got such a kick out of some of the sounds he was making. Of course the cast included his beloved Nana and his new favorite, Ethan Peck so we really couldn’t go wrong, there.

 

 

Me: DC, what was your favorite part of the show?

DC: The Fart! hahahahahahaha

(The noises The Rock Monster made)

We made a nightly visit to Qapla”where DC had his fill of Shirley Temples (they gave him extra cherries there) and I could have a Kahless’s Martini. We went there after the show and DC saw Nana Visitor come in and sit down at a table. No, he wasn’t allowed to bother her and I didn’t want him to yell across the place, but he was happy just to see her there (I mention this for a reason).

 

The following day was his scheduled autograph session with her. He was more excited than the day of the photo op because he was now used to waiting in these lines. Doug prompted him to tell her that he liked her in the show the night before. She thanked him and told him that she had seen him (I imagine in Qapla”) right after the show. He was a thrilled about that.

Brent Spiner:

Unlike some of the others who were too busy to even say hello (we’ll get to that later), I was impressed with Brent Spiner.

First, some backstory from the “Everything is Related Series”Everything is Related: Star Trek and Geppetto – October 2019

Last night we happened to be watching an episode of TNG.

The beginning credits were running. I was not really paying attention when DC said:

‚ÄúBrent Spiner.¬†Not Stromboli in ‚ÄúThe Wonderful World of Disney‚Äôs Geppetto‚Ä̬†(we must always recite the entire title of any movie, book or television series)

When DC tells me that someone is NOT a character, what he is actually telling me is that the actor IS the character; in this case ‚ÄúStromboli‚ÄĚ in the movie he just mentioned but he is not playing that character in this movie or television series we are watching at the time.

DC has been watching his Geppetto DVD ‚Ķ um, excuse me: ‚ÄúThe Wonderful World of Disney‚Äôs Geppetto‚ÄĚ for many years. I had never seen it, but I looked it up and he was correct!

Apparently, DC had not ever recognized him as Data, but he did recognize his name in the credits, because he does know the name of every person who has ever played or lent their voice to any Disney character.

Of course I was going to get a ticket for a photo op and autograph for Brent Spiner! How could I not?

As you might imagine, Brent Spiner had one of the longer lines of the cruise. But still, he took the time to talk to DC a bit during the photo op and when DC called him Stromboli, he looked confused for a moment and then broke out into a Stromboli song! I have no idea if it was an actual song from the movie or if he made it up right there, but needless to say, DC was thrilled!

A few days later we when we went for his scheduled autograph session with Mr. Spiner, the line was just as long as it was for the photo op, so I did not expect much.

But once again, I was impressed.

We had an old Disney promo photo/description for – say it with me – “The Wonderful World of Disney’s Geppetto” for him to sign. He read it, we talked about it, he wondered why Disney Plus does not carry these older musicals, he showed it to Gates McFadden who was at the table with him and pointed out (something that I hadn’t noticed before because now that DC watches his DVD’s on his laptop, I no longer have to watch these things over and over and over again), that Rene Auberjonois was also a cast member.

(Photo edited to disguise DC’s real name)

The cruise was fun and I really had no complaints about the way it was run. There were a few issues, though.

The way that the tickets were sold really needs to be modified for the next time around.

We purchased our photo-op and autograph tickets months before the cruise date. We bought our tickets for specific people.

When we received our tickets on board, they were not for specific people, but for specific “levels”.

We bought a ticket for a photo-op with Kate Mulgrew only because it was a Voyager anniversary cruse, so how could I not?

Kate Mulgrew was a “Gold Level Ticket”.

If memory serves, the celebrities who fell under the Gold level were:

  1. Kate Mulgrew
  2.  Jeri Ryan
  3.  Rom and Leeta in full costume.
  4.  The Captain who shall not be named***

I ran though the crowd to get this pic!

 

The problem with this Gold, Silver and Bronze system is that the tickets are interchangeable. I fully understand the intent; there is a lot going on and one may find themselves with a conflict of some sort at the time of your scheduled op.¬† BUT… it also creates a false expectation of the line size for the organizers.

This is in no way a complaint about the length of the line, it is a complaint about how the celebrity was treated by the venue and the interchangeable tickets and in turn the way DC was treated by the celebrity.

While we were in line but still out in the lobby I heard a group of disabled individuals complaining to their support person/group leader about their experience with Kate Mulgrew (I am a people watcher so I pay attention to everything especially if I think there is a problem that will effect DC). I could not hear their complaints but I did hear the group leader talking to one of the event organizer crew.¬† The event organizer apologized for whatever happened¬† and went on to explain that “Ms. Mulgrew is a very smart and savvy woman who knows exactly what her contract states and exactly the hours she is required to take photos and sign autographs”. I don’t know what she did. Maybe she left and took a break, maybe she was not very pleasant. I don’t know, but I knew there was a problem.

That made me nervous. I started having anxiety that we would be standing in this line forever only to have her leave. That would not have gone over well with DC. We hadn’t had all that many melt-downs during the trip and the ones we had were minor, I did not want him to be disappointed or have a meltdown if something like that happened.

Most of the photo-ops were scheduled around dinner hours meaning that the people with the later dinner time could go to the 6:30 op and those with early dinner times could attend the 8:30. I believe there probably should have been a break for the celebrity in-between ops, but there were so many people in line that I am sure that one op lead right into the other. There were so many people in line, that I am sure her photo op went far beyond the time allotted as well. I understand. That is a long time to expect someone to sit there and take photo after photo.

We have been to many events like this in the past and we know that a photo-op was not the place for conversation and as I said earlier, I was impressed at the number of celebs that did take a little bit of time to converse.

When it was DC’s turn for a photo, she did not even look at him. DC, being DC knows he should be polite and say hello. He tried and tried, but she would not even look at him. He tapped her on the shoulder, just to say hello and still she would not even look at him.

Yes, he smiled for the photo, because any time there is a camera in sight, he will stop whatever he is doing and smile (which is why I cannot ever get a candid shot of him)

He tried to say good bye after the photo but she still would not even turn her head. After we left,¬† DC would not stop insisting that he had to go back and ‘a-polo-gize’ to her because he was convinced that he had done something wrong. It took us a while to make him understand that he had not. DC is not always one to notice when someone is ignoring him (usually because I try to cover it up for him), but he noticed and it made him feel bad.

I never ask for or expect special treatment for him due to his autism, but I do expect him to be treated with common courtesy and he was not.

The next “issue” had nothing to do with the interchangeable tickets, it was just rudeness.

We were in “line” for Jeffrey Combs (there were two people in front of us and NO ONE behind us). We watched him sign and converse with both people in front of us. When DC got to the table and he started signing his photo, his assistant/wife or whoever she was, come up to the table and said “Excuse me one moment”. He turned around and they had a conversation as he pushed the signed photo towards us with out ever turning around again.

Again, THERE WAS NO ONE BEHIND US! This could have waited. Understanding that we were being dismissed and he was not going to turn around again even to say good-bye or thank you, I, rather loudly said good-bye, in a not so friendly fashion. He turned around quickly and said “Oh! Goodbye”.

Casey Biggs, who was at the table with him, noticed this and was nice enough to jump in to thank us for him (even though we were not at his station).

When we left the table – There was still NO ONE behind us.

Doug, who never notices anything (he will tell you that himself), asked me if Jeffrey Combs has been added to my “turn your head and spit” list.

The jury is still out on that one.

Moving On:

I was kicking myself for not bringing DC’s “Lizard Spock” costume with us, when we saw “Gorn’s Galactic Gala”. Me, thinking myself very clever found a Lizard costume years back and because DC absolutely knows Mr. Spock AND loves the Big Bang Theory; especially Rock, Paper Scissors, Lizard, Spock, I thought it would be hilarious for him to dress as “Lizard Spock” for Halloween. Unfortunately, I only succeeded in cracking myself up because no one got it. People who knew Star Trek thought he was Gorn and everyone else just didn’t know at all. DC and I knew, so that was all that mattered.

 

 

He would have fit right in…..

 

 

 

 

As you would find on every cruise – there was the standard towel animal on the bed every day when we came back to the room. DC cannot leave these alone. He just can’t stand that the towels are not in the right place and has to take it apart THE MOMENT he walks into the room.

It was entertaining to see how long it would take for him to notice it and take it apart. It was usually immediate.

More Dancing:

I believe this was the last night on the ship. I don’t recall the name or the theme.

 

 

 

DC wanted to see Brent Spiner again, so we went to his show… Inside the Actor’s Studio. We did not know who the guest would be and unfortunately as it turned out, it was The Captain who shall not be named***. Brent Spiner talked for a good long while before announcing who his guest would be and before bringing him out, so DC got his last “Spiner Fix” and we left when the guest came out.

We had a really nice time and I would LOVE to do this again! I don’t know if I will ever be able to talk Doug into it again – he’s not a Star Trek fan, although he did have a good time too. Don’t let the face fool you.

 

Oh! We did stop in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. John too!

It seems so long ago now. Two weeks after we returned home the whole country shut down. It gives me pause to look at these photos and the crowds.

Do you find yourself having anxiety when watching characters on television shows opening mail, willy nilly (where did THAT word come from?) hugging or shaking hands or is it just me?

I fear nothing will ever be he same again. I hope I am wrong.

****

*** The Captain who shall not be named

I did not write this but I have shared it many times over the last few years as the best explanation I can find…

How William Shatner Betrayed Autistic People’s Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baltimore, Over the Rainbow and Back – Part 3

Part 3
Part 3

Now that is was permissible to speak the name of ‚ÄúIsland that must not be named‚ÄĚ, the Bahamas, I was able to tell DC that Coco Cay, our next stop was also in the Bahamas.

Before I get to that – the evening after we came back from Atlantis, we decided to give the dining room a try¬†for dinner. I am usually not a big fan of eating in the dining room with DC. The tables are crowded with strangers. I get anxious because DC, although pretty well-behaved in restaurants, can get a little bit loud and¬†chewing with his mouth closed does not come naturally to him, he has to be reminded continuously. When he does remember on his own, he feels the need to point it out to me throughout the entire dinner. He likes to¬†bring a book with him whenever we go out to eat, but at these crowded tables, it is not always possible, there just isn’t enough room.

I was never of the mind that other people should be made to¬†just accept DC’s behavior. Yes, if I am trying to manage the situation I can live without the stares and comments – but letting him do whatever he wants in the name of awareness, is not something I ever subscribed to. I¬†do not believe¬†that every behavior¬†can or should¬†be blamed on his autism – it¬†is never used as an excuse. Letting him run around to other tables, throwing items or any other behavior that may have crept up when he was younger, just because he has autism, was not going to happen. I don’t expect other people in a restaurant, who are out to have a nice time for themselves, to have to make¬†allowances for his behavior. In the past and for the most part, when he was younger, I’ve had to take him outside to calm down if it didn’t look like the situation could be managed inside or we’ve left places altogether. I agree that we need to raise awareness and acceptance, I do not agree that we have no regard for other people. To me, and this is my opinion only, that is not raising awareness¬†about autism,¬†but causing resentment. He has as much¬†right to go anywhere and participate in anything as everyone else does and as I said, there were and still are times when he does get too loud or gets too anxious and yes, I do believe that some allowances should be made in the name of awareness, just as allowances should be made for young children that don’t necessarily have control of themselves out in public – we know all children will never be 100% well behaved in public, and we know that our children will not either –¬†but letting them do¬†just anything¬†they want and calling it “awareness” – I just don’t get that.

When we were seated, we were glad to see only 3 other chairs and place settings, this meant (hopefully) only one other family. The other family arrived. They were a very nice couple from New Jersey with a 6-year-old named “Jimmy”. They didn’t seem to be uncomfortable with DC and the very¬†best thing was that Jimmy didn’t seem to be afraid of DC as some young children seem to be!

He put up with him hugging the stuffing out of him and tried to communicate with him. Jimmy’s mother and father didn’t seem to mind being called “Jimmy’s Mom” and “Jimmy’s Dad” whenever DC had something to say to them. DC also had plenty of¬†room for his ever-present book.

After dinner we decided to go to Karaoke or “Okey Okey” in DC-speak. We¬†attended the night before ¬†and DC seemed to like it. He even sang “Over the Rainbow”.¬†Again,¬†people¬†recognized him throughout the next¬†day so once again, he was loving his “celebrity status”.

We tried to pick a different song, but there were so many and I couldn’t come up with one off the top of my head that we could find in all of the listings. We also didn’t want to waste too much time getting his name in because although he seemed to like it, I knew he wasn’t going to sit there for hours waiting for his turn to come up, so “Over the Rainbow” it was…. again.

The crew member¬†running the “Okey Okey” was wonderful, she recognized him right away from the night before. Had I known the introduction she had prepared for him I would have started taping sooner.

(Video edited for time – Over the Rainbow is a long song, you don’t realize how long until you are sweating out the performance)

She was wonderful and the audience was wonderful. He was thrilled. Celebrity status in tact, we headed back to the room – DC’s favorite place.

I do have to acknowledge the random maintenance man who let himself into our room at 10:45 to change a light bulb while DC and I were sleeping. Thanks, sir!

Once in CoCo Kay,¬†¬†we opted for the glass bottom boat tour before hitting the beach. It was only an hour-long so we thought it would not be too much for DC. I am, by nature a “people watcher”. The people sitting across from me may have¬†had the impression it would be much longer trip or¬†that we may be shipwrecked 30 feet from shore, ¬†as they brought most of the breakfast buffet with them. The man next to me was very entertaining as well. He was not having any of this. His wife, on the other hand was very excited about the whole thing. At one point the ship hand began diving under the glass and bringing up live sea creatures to pass around (I suspect they already had these creatures on the boat, but they made a nice production of him driving).

– Passing around sea creatures – I am now holding my breath…….

A BIG THANK YOU to the man seated 4 or 5 seats before DC for dropping a creature,  and taking all of the pressure off РI could breathe again. Even if DC dropped a creature at this point, it was okay because someone had done it before him!

The entertaining man on the other side of me however was not going to be touching any¬†of these creatures…”If I wanted to touch vermin, I would go and pet some rats” – I had to pass¬†every¬†one over him to his wife. He was then required to take a picture of his wife holding each and every¬†one of them¬†(and there were an awful lot of them).

After the boat ride, we spent some time on the beach, had lunch of course and headed back to the ship and at DC’s request, back to the room – “I need to get some rest”.¬† DC was happy to lay in his bed with his books watching reruns of “Bones” (because, he was “Angel”, of course) and “Castle” (“Captain Hammer”) on “Two – Five” and eventually, fall asleep.

Our final stop, the¬†next¬†¬†day was going to be ¬†Key West. DC remembered that there was a Hard Rock – or Hard Rock “Caf” – in DC-speak, ¬†in Key West, so that was all¬†he was focused on.

We took¬†the tour that went to the Hemingway House. We’d been past it or¬†in front of it many times, but we had never taken the time to go inside. We met with the tour guide who announced that we would be walking approximately 2 miles in total, but the tour would take at least 3 hours!

I knew at this point that this tour was a mistake! It takes 30 minutes to walk two miles – 3 hours meant a lot of standing around in the heat listening to stories along the way.

By the time we made it to the Hemingway House, DC had had enough. I saw a look on his face I hadn’t seen in years. Now DC does get anxious when he arrives anywhere, even if it is somewhere he really wants to be. I can always see the change, on his face. He stims, he repeats random words – “Tinkerbell, Tinkerbell, Tinkerbell” or “Another Wendy, Another Wendy, Another Wendy” and his eyes get wide. This was different. This looked like it was going to be a full on meltdown.

I took him off the crowded porch and tried to walk around to¬†the back of the house where there were fewer people. We stayed there until he calmed down. Fortunately, he was able to calm himself down. He was calm enough that he said he would go inside. We quickly went through the house and informed the tour guide that DC was having trouble and we left the tour. It took all of 10 minutes to get to Hard Roc “Caf” and¬†all was fine once¬†again.

Hardrock 'Caf' - DC -speak

Thursday was a tough day on board. It was a day at sea, heading back to Baltimore. It was cold, so not only was every passenger on board but most were indoors. There was not a lot for DC to do. He just wanted to stay in the room but I told him we had to leave for a little while at least so the invisible cabin steward could come to clean the room.

He did participate in the “Wishes at Sea” walk for Make a Wish Foundation.

Wishes at Sea

Unfortunately the walk did not take all that long and it was getting colder and colder.

We tried to go shopping, but it was so crowded that no one could move. We managed to make our way into one store where DC found a Disney coloring book and markers (not that he didn’t have both in the room, but these were NEW). After wandering the entire ship, looking for somewhere for him to sit and color, we found a table in one of the bars, filled with others that seemed to have the same idea. I had more coffee and DC colored happily for a good long while.

cruise 487

Coloring done and believe it or not, I was at “coffee capacity”, we took another couple of laps around the ship and FINALLY it was time for lunch.

After lunch, DC REALLY wanted to go back to the room – “I have to get some rest”. He was happy to be back in the room, reading his books and watching “Two – Five” . He fell asleep as he always does,¬†and fortunately that killed a few more hours and it was time for Dinner!

Thursday, was just hard. I was glad when it was time to go to bed……………..

By Friday morning, DC was ready to go home. He had a great time, but he was ready. Our original plan was to stop off in New York City (Dc’s favorite place) on the way home, but all we¬†heard about during the last few days on board was just how much snow had been falling since we left Baltimore a week earlier.¬† So we decided we’d better just get driving when we got into port.

When we did arrive in Baltimore, there was not one flake of snow on the ground. Our shuttle driver reported that they did have close to a foot but they had some rain in the days that followed so all of the snow was gone.

We decided the stick to our decision to just drive home because we did not know how bad it was going to be closer to home. Fortunately the New York City stop was also going to be a surprise, so DC didn’t know anything about it. The change¬†in plans¬†did not pose¬†a problem.

Home - just a "little bit" of snow!

Home – just a “little bit” of snow!

It was a very¬†good thing we did…………………………..

We had to shovel our way in………

 

See: Baltimore, Over the Rainbow and Back – Pt. 1

and  Baltimore, Over the Rainbow and Back РPt 2</

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…………..

Baltimore, Over the Rainbow and Back – Part 1

Good Morning Baltimore

¬†I really couldn’t write about this trip without including this part of it. This part, Part 1 is a little bit “cranky” – my apologies, in advance.

In early February we set off for DC’s third cruise, his second on Royal Caribbean.¬†We didn’t have to fly for a change because the ship was leaving from Baltimore.
We drove down on Thursday night for Fridays boarding.
There are not many things DC loves more than staying in a hotel, so he was very happy that we were staying overnight. He was even more excited to be in Baltimore, because, of course….. “Hairspray”. I am sure he was expecting Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) to be dancing in the streets (I prefer the Ricky Lake version, but that’s just me)

Our ship was to make stops in Port Canaveral, Nassau – Bahamas, Coco Kay –¬†(private island) also in the Bahamas and Key West, in that order. We booked our tours ahead of time and we made a conscious effort not to mention¬† “Bahamas” because DC just hates it there.¬†¬†The tour we choose in Port Canaveral, was a bus trip to Disney World. We kept this a secret as well, otherwise we would not hear about anything else for weeks before the trip.

Friday morning arrived and we took the shuttle from the hotel to the ship. We made our way through security, filled out our forms and went to check in.

DC is 22, but obviously does not drive. He has a State ID. He does not yet have a passport, but a passport is not necessary to go to the Bahamas. All that is required is a state ID/drivers license and birth certificate. When DC was born, I did not opt for the full size certificate. I was told at the time, that the wallet size was just as official and was much more convenient. I have never had a problem with it.

Just to back up a moment…… I am someone who will “put something in a safe place” and never find it again, so I have always carried DC’s birth certificate, along with my own, in my wallet. It has been in my wallet for 22 years, obviously not the same wallet, but in A wallet for 22 years. The top of the certificate is a little bit frayed, but all of the information and the seal is visible.

After giving the¬†woman at the check-in counter¬†(let’s call her “woman #1) all of our paperwork and identifications (the very same identification used the year before and the year before that) she informed me that she did not know if Key West would accept DC birth certificate! She would have to go and have it checked out.

What??? I explained that this is the same birth certificate we used the previous year.

W#1: “Yes, but Key West is really cracking down and it’s a little tattered on the top”

Me: “Well it’s 22 years old! What will we have to do if Key West decides not to accept it?”¬†– (The last few times it has been out of my wallet, was when we¬†checked in last year and at¬†check in the year before that, so the condition has not changed since they approved it on the last trip)

(At this point Doug¬†is¬†muttering under his breath in kind of that sing-song way¬†¬† “Don’t argue with them!”)

Number 1, that is what I do…

and

Number 2, I was not arguing, I was asking what I thought were valid questions.

W#1: “You will probably have to¬†have someone ¬†fax the long copy over”

Me: “There is no one at home that has any¬†copies of his information”

W#1 “Oh no, well I don’t know”

– so, in my mind, what she is telling me is:

If I had a family member back home who had access to a long version of his birth certificate or another copy of the wallet size they could fax it over and¬†they WOULD accept a fax copy with out the raised seal (???) – I’m sorry, I¬†was¬†now very¬†confused by all this.

We were asked to sit down and wait¬†in a roped off¬† area. The few people who were waiting there, were waiting to be seen by a¬†doctor before boarding the ship – ¬†(we’ll call this the “problem section”).
DC remembering everything, knew that after the check in desk, we should be boarding the ship.

DC: “Time to go to the ship”

Me: “Yes, we just have to wait a few minutes”

DC: “Going to the ship”

Me: “Yes, we just have to wait a few minutes, Bud”

– Now I’m having flashbacks of San Francisco ….

Eventually another woman¬†who seemed to be in charge of the “problem section” came over to tell us that they were still waiting to hear from Key West (we shall call her¬†“Woman in Charge” or WIC for short).¬†She¬†told us¬†that there¬†was an additional problem with DC’s birth certificate; there¬†was no file number on top, just x’s. I had never noticed that and apparently no one else in 22 years – Royal Caribbean, included, noticed either. I took out my own birth certificate, issued in the same city and state and sure enough, mine had a number, his did not.
Now I was really beginning to panic – because this is also what I do. We had been sitting in this area for almost an hour. We were the only¬†people left in the “problem section”. My only thoughts now were:

What if they decide not to accept his birth certificate?

and:

How would I ever tell him we could not get on this ship?

We had been sitting there for more than an hour, now. Suddenly realizing that it was Friday and city and state offices are open, I found the number to the¬†department/office¬†where our birth certificates were issued. Of course, this is a government office so I could not get passed the main menu and any option I choose, led me back to the original menu (there was no “dial zero for an operator” option). I started dialing random 3 and 4 digit extensions and finally a woman answered. I explained our situation. She explained that not everyone is issued a file number. This woman was nice enough to hold while I went to the desk and explained to the¬†“WIC” that I had a city employee¬†on the phone and she told me that not everyone is issued a file number.

The response: “Well YOU have one!”

(“not everyone” to most people, means that some are and some are not)

Me: “Yes I do, but mine was issued 31 years earlier than his!”

I asked if she would talk to the woman from the city, she wouldn’t. I asked if there was something that this woman could fax over to help the process (I didn’t want to lose the person on the phone before finding out what I needed in the event Key West decided not to accept his certificate).

WIC: “It’s in the hands of Key West now, I can not do anything about it”

– so W#1 told us that we would have to have something faxed over if they did not accept the certificate we had with us, but WIC wouldn’t tell me what to have faxed¬†or the fax¬†number to¬†send it to¬†now that I had someone on the line –

While I was standing there with the city employee still on the line, the WIC looked at her screen and announced that Key West has approved his certificate.
~PHEW ~ (as DC would say)

I thanked the woman holding on the phone and told her that they finally approved it and we were all set.

Still sitting in the “problem section”, she directed another woman (we’ll call her woman #3) to begin checking us in. She took our names and paperwork all over again and told us to have a seat because she needed information form the original check in person (woman #1). We sat down again, woman #3 left. She came back to her seat as another passenger walked into this “problem section”, walked up to woman #3, waved to all of the other people working the regular check in line and got herself checked in.

My assumption at the time was that woman #3 was still waiting for woman #1 to supply her with whatever information she had already entered into the system, so she decided to check in this other passenger (who obviously either works for Royal Caribbean or has some sort of connection to the line). When she finished checking in this passenger, she just sat at the counter. The¬†“problem section” was still empty with the exception of us, so she literally sat there, hands folded with a¬†smile staring off into¬†distance as if she was waiting for her next passenger.
Now we’ve been sitting in the “problem section” for another half hour (One hour and 45 minutes listening to “Going on the ship”“Time to get on the ship”). I turned to Doug and said “Do you think¬†we are¬†still supposed to be sitting here? I’m going to go ask”

– “Just wait, they will call us when they are ready. Don’t keep bothering them.”

After another 15 minutes, Woman #3 was still just sitting there, hands folded, grinning at no one. I went up to the desk and asked the¬†WIC who was at¬†the computer behind “Grinning W#3”¬†– “Should we still be sitting here or should we get back in line?”

Apparently, woman #3 should have been checking us in, but decided to wait on her friend in the middle of our check in and then just forgot about us! She wasn’t waiting for information as I assumed, she just thought we were already checked in! After WIC yelled “Why didn’t you check them in? I told you to check them in!” – she finally checked us in.

– More than two hours of – “Going on the ship”“Time to get on the ship” later, we were finally checked in and ready to board.

On the ship, thankfully lunch was still being served (what a catastrophe THAT would have been, if DC missed lunch too!)

A cheeseburger and fries took his mind off of the whole boarding debacle. Everything was right with the world in his eyes.

Cheeseburger, fries AND "Chicken with Bones"

Cheeseburger, fries AND “Chicken with Bones”

I opted for something a little bit stronger…..

Fewer Calories :)

Less Calories ūüôā

 

DC WILL be getting a passport very soon….

 

And who knew it is more difficult to get into Key West than the Bahamas? Who knew?

(to be continued  in Part 2- where our trip does get better..)