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Packing is Such Sweet Sorrow & the Universe Awaits

As we sailed away from Cozumel the reality finally started to sink in, we were heading back to Port Canaveral and the inevitable reality that we would need to disembark from the Harmony. But until they kicked us off, we were going to have as much fun as possible.

Our final Sea Day was one set for relaxation. There was some much we had not yet done on the ship that it was time to get out and explore, experience and enjoy the magnificent ship we had called home for the last week. We took our time getting up for the day as tomorrow was going to be an early morning. We started our morning with breakfast at the Windjammer since we had nowhere to go. Apparently, everyone decided to sleep in today as the Windjammer was not that busy. After the breakfast it was off for a cutthroat road of mini golf. Madison said she had something to prove.

As we got to the sports deck, we realized that wind was going to be a factor. Captain Johnny announced that we were sailing into a 20-mph wind which was going to make things interesting. So after grabbing my driver instead of my putter, it was time to prove who was the real champion of mini golf in the family. After two back and forth rounds, we tied. I was victorious on land and she is still queen of the sea. Guess I need to learn how to putt with the role of the ship better.

After mini golf, I decided I was going to throw my daughter into the Abyss. Okay well not actually, we were just going to try out the 10-story dry slide on the back of the Harmony called the Ultimate Abyss. This would take us to the Boardwalk where we intended to watch Hideaway Heist in the Aqua Theater. This ride came with some restrictions- no sleeveless shirts, must wear a shirt, can't go down the slide wet, no cameras, etc. All the reviews I read described people getting off the slide with chunks of skin missing from hitting the side of the slide on the way down. So, I was not sure what I was really expecting. We grabbed our mats and headed to the opening. The start of the Abyss is interesting. The entrance is at the back of the ship about as high up as you can go. There is a glass railing and glass floor you get to stand on. No biggie, unless you hate heights. Not the most comfortable feeling in the world standing on a clear floor. As we climbed into the slide I looked down into the black hole of the Abyss. The light turned green and we were off. Now I have to admit, I expected to go flying down this slide. I had heard screams of terror and most likely tears to match as we waited. Nope, it was more like a Sunday drive through the countryside. While the slide was fun, I moved significantly slower down the slide and had to crawl out at the end as I stopped short. On the way down there are many different light features and other visual effects that made it interesting, but I would say I was expecting a little more.

After we crawled from the Abyss, we found our spots for the second Aqua Show on the Harmony. We decided to watch the show from the Rock Wall deck. It gave a nice vantage point and did not have as many people as the main theater section. The show was entertaining and again featured some nice high dives and a fun theme. The good news is they caught the bad guys and I didn't have to step in to assist.

Madison and I discussed the plan for the remainder of the day. The plan was to grab some lunch, change into out swimsuits to try the slides and try and tackle the rock wall. The big game was also on- Vikings verses 49ers. So, we moseyed down to Sorrento's Pizza and grabbed a few more frozen treats on the way- Daiquiris and Lava Flows of course. And then headed back to the room to change and to the pool deck for some slides.

Well that did not quite work out right. Apparently 20 mph head winds and a ship traveling at, at least 20 mph into the wind do not mix. So much so that Royal Caribbean decided to close the entire open deck including the water slides. Well at that point, I had enough and was out of here. It was time to teleport off this ship, until I found the sign that restricted my ability to use teleportation. Royal Caribbean is no fun, so many rules. Well maybe next time. So back to the room to change and start packing. The rock wall did not open until after 2 pm so there was no since rushing back down there. The plan for the next day was to use self-assist off of the ship and head straight to Alamo to get our car. So after packing out luggage and returning our towels we headed to the rock wall.

Last year, the wall on the Freedom got the best of me the first time, but I eventually showed it who was boss. This time it was going to be one and done. No second chances. I figured since I trained this summer in Duluth and lost 50 lbs, although I am pretty sure I found most of those pounds this week, I should be good to go. After a short wait, I was off. It took about 10 to 15 feet up on the wall for me to start questioning what I was thinking. You see the rock wall of the Freedom does not face really have view of the ocean and the height that you are really above the ocean. Well the Harmony is not like that. The rock wall is on the back of the ship with magnificent views of the ocean and the true realization of how high you are. This was also the point were both feet decided to slip off the wall and leave me dangling by my arms and a rope of course. So after regaining my footing, I sloth'd my way up that bad boy. As I reach the top, it became apparent exactly how windy it actually was. Now I will tell, I hate heights especially when there is little standing between you and the ground, but I have found that the repelling back down is rather nice. I just have to remember to stop grabbing the rope before I let go of the wall. Madison had decided it was too windy and she did not want to blow off the wall, so she passed the on the opportunity to scale the wall.

As I got down from the wall, I realized the wall got the last laugh. Apparently somewhere along the lines, I cut my finger open and was bleeding all over...Oops. Till next time wall. We then decided that it was time to slow down and bit. I had clearly exceeded my physical activity for the day. So like pretty much every other adult on this cruise ship, I decided it was time for the Carousel. No I mean it, I saw more adults riding the Carousel then I did kids. Madison decided she would ride the Tiger and told me I could not ride the Frog next to her, so I went on the Panda instead. Not much to report, it's a Carousel, it goes round and round and up and down. After finishing our thrilling amusement park ride, we headed for an area where I could watch some of the football game.

We headed to the Promenade and took a seat in the On Air Bar. It seemed to be the only place with the game one and it was packed with Vikings fans. I ran back into the couple from Minnesota from the Escape room and a whole lot more. As the game started, there were cheers and tears and then they shut the TVs off. Not a good idea. The poor bartenders were politely instructed by some to turn the game back on, but they had no control over it. Apparently the cruise staff doing the Q & A with some of the performers did. So after everyone promised to be quiet and yell internally, they turned it back on. Madison decided to retreat to our room for some leisurely reading, although I was a little concerned after she started going the wrong way. But she soon course corrected and made it. After the first half, it became clear there was no reason to watch the game any further and dinner was fast approaching so off to change.

Tonight was the last night in the Main dining room and our last opportunity to have some of our favorites from the week. Tiger Shrimp Night, Asian Style Pork Tacos, Steak Diane, and Peyton Manning's favorite Chicken Parmigiana were on tap for dinner. I splurged again for dessert with Tres Leches which was okay and the Creme Brulee and Madison had the Apple Pie a La Mode again. After our dinner, we met up with Karyn and John, Madison's new in-laws : ), at the Royal Theater. Tonight was an opportunity for the comedians to clean up their act for all the families on the ship. I found the show entertaining but a little awkward. The comedians were clearly out of their element and had a hard time delivering a quality clean show for families. I think it would be better if Royal Caribbean would find comedians accustom to doing wholesome, clean shows like Ken Davis and others. After the show, it was off to bed as we had to get an early start.

D-Day....Not that D-Day, Disembarkation Day. This had got to be one of the most depressing days of the cruise. This is the day that you realize it is back to reality. But it is also the day you get to reflect on all the experiences and fun you had over the last week and the new memories you were able to create with your loved ones. While our cruise was over, the universe had one more adventure in store for us. More on that in a bit. We woke up early and grabbed a quick breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe before we disembarked. As I mention earlier, we did self-assist which means we carry our own luggage off the ship. So we headed to the elevators and quickly learned that we would be walking down the stairs. There were plenty of people with their luggage waiting in line at the elevator, so we hoofed it. I carried the bags and Madison videotaped, wait I just dated myself, she recorded on her phone, in case I fell flat on my face. As we got to the gangway we quickly went through customs and were off. Customs was interesting as they used facial recognition software with our passports to let us back in the county. It was kind of nice.

We proceeded to the Alamo Pick up point where we met the same driver that dropped us off. Despite the shuttle being completely full, the driver made room for us and away we were. The nice part, the driver remembered us, so despite him initially cutting off additional passengers he let us on and we were the first off at the Alamo rental office. We made it to the counter right away and got our vehicle. The attendant advised he was wondering who they were saving the convertible for. He said someone tried to take it the day before. We went out to find a Cherry Red Mustang Convertible awaiting us. Great a bright red sports car, looks like we are driving like an 80 year old on the way back so we don't attract attention. The car literally had 1500 miles on it. This was going to be fun. Madison also found her next car.

The plan for the day was to head into Orlando and spend the day at Universal Studios Orlando. Our flight did not leave until 8 pm so we had plenty of time. After a short 45 to 50 minute drive to the park from the port, we arrived just before the park opened. We decided we would go to the the original park instead of Islands of Adventure and walked right in. We planned out route, which really had not planning. the goal was to see as much as possible ad ride as much as possible before the park got to busy. I found the park to actually be quite slow, definitely not like Disney. It was a Sunday and the hours were limited but we had more then enough time to get to what we wanted. it was also time for the rubber match of mini golf. Only need one word: King of Mini Golf- on land anyway. And that was like 4 words. After hitting all the major rides and some of the shows, it was time to say goodbye to Florida, grab some dinner and dessert and return to the snow-capped cornstalks of Minnesota.

We decided to hit some fast food and found the slowest possible Burger King on the planet to eat at. There were no customers and we watched and stood waiting for 15 minutes to be waited on. The we waited another 10 minutes for our food. I told Madison we could have eaten at Applebees and had faster service. I guess this store was on island time even though they were not on an island. After dinner, we headed out in search of the most important part of the trip- Baskin Robbins Pralines and Creme Ice Cream. After two stores, 10 miles and 30 minutes, success. Except I had to buy a quart and finish it within 30 minutes. Mission Accomplished, with some help.

After filling our bellies and adding 10 more pounds it was off to the airport. Normally you would think this was the end of the adventure. Nope. The plan- drop the rental car off, check in and drop our luggage, change clothes into something more appropriate for a Minnesota winter besides shorts and T-shirts and relax at the gate. Having a plan is great until it all falls apart. We made it through returning the car and checking in fine. Then it was time to change. Madison headed to the bathroom at which time I notice security was rather full. I told her we would wait until we were on the other side of the security to change. We got into line only to notice a sign reading that the estimated wait time was 75 minutes and growing. No worries, we had 2 hours till our flight left, expect the wait time continued to increase and we weren't moving. Met another nice couple from MN on our flight who was returning from a cruise on the Allure of the Seas which left out of Fort Lauderdale. As the minutes passed we wondered if we were going to be spending another day in Florida. Bummer 1 more day in nice weather. eventually they changed out TSA Agents and things started really moving. We made it through security and to the gate in time to walk onto the plane and take our seats, with 30 minutes to spare. With about 10 minutes to spare, another couple we met from MN walked on the plane and just after we neared our departure time the last couple showed up on the flight showed up. After an uneventful flight home, it was back to reality.

Side note of the trip- Having started a small business in travel has opened my eyes to many things that I have and do take for granted. The one thing in life we cannot replace is time. The last week spent with my daughter was and will be one of the most memorable experience I could have done with her. This experience ranks up there with the time spent with my sons and my wife on our individual vacations. How does this relate to the travel business you ask? I have spent the last 6 months helping others plan and some experience (since most have not traveled yet) this same type of memorable experience. While there are memorable experiences intertwined within our daily life with our family and friends, there is nothing like the memories created when you remove the distractions of everyday life and just experience the world around us with loved ones. I will cherish the memories created with Madison this last week, as with all the family vacations and individual trips I have taken. This trip is just another chapter in a book of memories created through travel. I hope to assist as many people as possible create these same memories. Thank you all for following along. Stay tuned for my next adventure with Danielle in February as we travel to Punta Cana to visit the Majestic Mirage AI Resort and then as I travel with my mom on the MSC Meraviglia in March. Until then Travel Safe.

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