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Independence 5 night Western Caribbean 11/17-11/22


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T-2 Packing and stressing out 

Who?  

Welcome to the Skis crazy family travels.  I'm Mel, married to Mr. Ski and we have 4 kids:  DD18 College Ski, DS15 Football Ski, DS12 Soccer Ski and DD7 Cutie Ski.

I'm not a great blogger and I'll be without my computer this trip.  All updates and pictures will be on my Iphone.  I'll try to remember to upload the daily activity sheet and I'll send Matt the Cruise Compasses after the cruise.

Where?

This sailing will be Independence first regular Caribbean cruise after her TA and the "Bliss" clothing optional cruise.  Yes, I have medical grade sanitation wipes to wipe down the stateroom.  This 5 night Western Caribbean takes us to Labadee and Falmouth.

Why?

Why this cruise instead of the amazing group cruise on Symphony also going on this week?  I'm having a bit of FOMO but this works better for us.  We typically go to WDW every 2 years this week and I just couldn't do it again!  WDW is the exact opposite of a relaxing cruise vacation.  So in January, I looked at cruises and felt that we got a good deal during a school holiday for 2 connecting Junior Suites. Also, in the mix was College Ski.  She wanted to spend some time at home seeing friends.  So the 5 night was a compromise.  I want my kids to want to vacation with us as we will most likely only be able to do family vacations with everyone for a few more years.

What could go wrong?

Flying separately on 3 flights over 2 days.  Soccer, Cutie and I will fly out tomorrow.  Weather looks good.  I'm not worried which probably means I should be!

And here comes the drama(s).  When I booked in January, I knew there was the slimmest chance Mr. Ski and Football Ski would not make the cruise.  That slim chance has become a 50-50.  DS HS football team is in the quarterfinals (awesome) and if they win Friday night Mr. Ski and Football Ski will not be on the cruise (bummer).  I have to root for the win even if that means missing the cruise.  If the team loses tomorrow night, they will fly out Saturday morning.  A day of the cruise flight and it would be horrible to lose and then miss the cruise due to a flight delay. 

Next, College Ski is in the path of the nor'easter that is hitting today.  Hopefully by Friday night, it looks that by tomorrow night it will be dry.  This is her first flight by herself to somewhere other than home and school.  I've checked the aircrafts entire path for tomorrow and other airlines flights out to FLL.  Fingers crossed.

Starting to question the decision to take this trip.  Too much pre-cruise excitement and I haven't started packing!  Speaking of packing, I should start!  I'll come back with plans, excursions, etc.  It will be my reward for packing.  Brothers Osborne "It Ain't My Fault" is my packing theme song!

 

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I'll be following along closely, we are 2 sailings later on her!  Thanks so much for taking the time to blog it, even if the updates are short and sweet it's greatly appreciated!  With less than two weeks to go I'm ready to soak up every little piece of information in anticipation 😄

Best of luck with the travel, sounds insane but it also sounds like you are doing everything you can prepping for every possibility.  Something my wife and I can relate to.  Looking forward to hearing all about it!

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Writing quickly as I'm about to pick up Soccer and Cutie early from school and head to the airport.  We'll get in around dinner time and I plan on just using Uber Eats.  If anyone has a suggestion for Uber Eats near FLL, I would love to have it!

As of now, College Ski's flight out of the northeast is on time and I'm happy to see an earlier flight already departed from the airport.  In 10 hours, we'll find out the fate of Mr Ski and Football Ski!  

Excursions

Day 2 - Cruising and I scheduled the On the Roll Sushi class for myself, College and Football.  It is at 11:30 so a perfect lunch!  

Day 3 - Labadee.  The ship is here from 7:30-3:30 which is quite early to me.  We have the Dragon's Breath Flight Line scheduled at 7:30 for 3 of us and the Beach Bungalows.  Both of these IMO were a great deal.  $78 each for the flight line and $197 for the bungalow.  It was just a random sale and I haven't seen it that cheap again.  I actually have 2 bungalows booked and need to cancel the more expensive one.  I couldn't figure out online how to cancel only one and not both.

Day 4 - Falmouth - No plans.  We've done Blue Hole and loved it but didn't want to make the drive again.  I was thinking of the white water river rafting but never booked it.

Day 5 - Cruising

I never saw any Sky Pad reservations on the Cruise Planner.  I plan on asking once onboard.

Dinner Plans

We love MTD and plan on eating in the MDR each night.  I am not sure what I did but I didn't book the MTD reservations accurately.  The first night I included all 6 of us but the other nights I didn't.  When I figured that out the 6:15 slot wasn't available and we'll be eating at 7:15.  It may actually work a bit better for us as it gives us more time to enjoy the pools in the afternoon, get a snack without feeling like you could ruin dinner, etc.  We'll see if it works for the shows too.  

Trip Insurance

Some of you may be wondering if I have Trip Insurance and I do.  I do not have Cancel for Any Reason Insurance.  I did investigate and read the fine print but from what I saw I would need to cancel at least 3 days in advance of the trip under the Cancel For Any Reason clause.  For this trip, I would need to cancel about 18 hours prior to the cruise.  We knew the risk and we were accepting what could happen.

 

 

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3 hours ago, melski94 said:

In 10 hours, we'll find out the fate of Mr Ski and Football Ski!  

If Football ends up going to the semifinals, will Soccer end up getting treated as a solo cruiser? I'm assuming it's you and Mr. in room 1, Soccer and Football in room 2, and College / Cutie in room 3.

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5 hours ago, JLMoran said:

If Football ends up going to the semifinals, will Soccer end up getting treated as a solo cruiser? I'm assuming it's you and Mr. in room 1, Soccer and Football in room 2, and College / Cutie in room 3.

We actually only have 2 JS.  I made a last minute switch so I am the one who would be solo.  

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Update: College Ski made it in.  Football has had close first half but now a rough start to the 2nd half.  Barring an incredible comeback, Football and Mr Ski will be on the cruise. Sad but happy, is that even possible? 

We are at the Springhill Suites by Marriott airport and cruise port. It’s a dated but clean hotel.  We just need a hotel to sleep as we typically come in late the evening before.  I like a free breakfast especially when traveling with kids.  We ordered from Uber Eats when we arrived and food came in about 20 minutes.  

Pictures of the 2 queen suite. 

CD1192F0-2CDD-4625-B5FF-FAA714BA2C0C.thumb.jpeg.ac2e24b6880f03edec3fb993fdf02af0.jpegBB804033-6A71-4491-AC8B-78258CA3A684.thumb.jpeg.e8202b98c1d67b785ca6295c5f6821ac.jpeg2E870D3D-BF6E-4D53-A1A9-032D11BB3423.thumb.jpeg.45dfe258e9648097ec79ebd264edc7d7.jpeg

 

 

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Cruise Day:

All 6 of us are onboard.  Left the hotel at 10 and they were boarding at 11:30.  We were the first on the ship!  A quick photo drop.

Suite area pier 1854744D7B-B322-43E9-800D-62C1328E10C2.thumb.jpeg.78822dff326bbf82094db32cbbc01606.jpeg

i don’t remember seeing umbrellas in splash away bay. 860F2330-F2AB-4F5D-95BB-FCF7E5D5EE84.thumb.jpeg.7062c0bf85a0612c9bb0b9c1d7b18268.jpeg801DFE1E-4C09-4B4F-8130-8999B26CBD7F.thumb.jpeg.592086ea63b0d55d7f93dcac3d07faee.jpeg 

Handwashing stations in windjammer673B3028-8563-40D0-BD8B-4E0384C892C3.thumb.jpeg.ecc63c2bf4d898c74436850544be870f.jpeg

skypad fun. I’ll describe later. BCF430CF-1004-4930-A0B7-86C40AB1B238.thumb.jpeg.265281fcb42c90c81bb31579c5028bed.jpeg5D83D462-5027-4482-B17F-F3F90E4B98A4.thumb.jpeg.b185aaee7f6ad72603ce753f22b861bb.jpeg

JS toiletriesEFE7CAC1-6895-449B-87C0-65AAD0A86BDB.thumb.jpeg.90454fa8c5063bf3ea96d226541a954e.jpeg8C1202F8-5865-4553-B167-64AC5901A9CD.thumb.jpeg.a34a7182ccc52a9816ed8d36e9a6f1c9.jpeg

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Day 2 highlights- few days late as Voom has been slow and I’m struggling to upload pictures

Windy sea day.  Slides are fun and had low lines throughout the day. 

1C3DCB18-3400-4880-97B8-3BBB84601795.thumb.jpeg.84ae5a3ce7869d51adea696f4e14d274.jpeg

Sky Pad

Sky pad it was open from 9am-7 pm.  The sky pad had long lines (60-90 minutes) almost all day.  The kids waited once during the day for over 60 minutes and tried it again around 5 pm and only waited 30 minutes.  There’s a staff member who weighs each person and you are given a wrist band saying the number of bands to be hooked up to.  It’s about a 30 minute wait at this point.  They say you can choose your adventure: candy, space or music.  I’ll try to get a pic of the choices.  My kids didn’t have the greatest luck choosing their game and the headset would slide down from Soccer’s and Cutie’s heads. College felt a bit sick after it and so did I.  I think next time we’ll try without headsets.  You are allowed to do flips if you don’t wear a headset. Overall it is a fun experience but I would suggest getting there first thing or around dinner time. 6B162E8D-0D29-4D2C-9A12-3F031CC0CB22.thumb.jpeg.3d9d9ba5b69dbe1c0ada9a47c480c53e.jpeg

 

Sushi making class.  College, Football and I did this class and it was offered at 11:30 on day 2.  Really fun class and a great lunch.  EBF5D2CE-13FD-490E-B74D-BD31399EAA51.thumb.jpeg.3de39b75894437d33ed0ab9bd947973f.jpeg

 

Windjammer is crazy. During breakfast, there were announcements asking people to leave tables if they were finished eating.  Some groups had set up card games! 

 

MTD crowds.  Make a reservation! The line to check in without a reservation extended to Studio B on the first night.  The second night wrapped around the side towards the ladies bathroom as the photographer was set up in the middle.  

 

Formal night was night 2.  Food good but the beef is slightly over cooked.  I usually like my beef cooked to medium but it’s more on the medium well side.  Here is the menu for formal night.  D22357F9-8754-4C40-9158-D8DE367F4F1A.thumb.jpeg.8b29ace3edb00d527b8ab4fd18ee53e0.jpeg

Speaking of the MDR, am I the only one who hates the production of the waiters singing? They sang some Italian song last night.  While I love the wait staff, I think this completely interrupts the meal timing and conversation.  I would never expect my wait staff on land to sing especially in a high end restaurant. 

There are 1140 children on board.  

 

Grease was shown on night 2 at 6 and 9 pm.  This is the only showing of the cruise.  I walked in at 8:55 and found decent seats with College Ski.  Mr Ski hates Grease and saw it with me on Harmony but won’t see it again.  That worked out well as Cutie had a rough night and needed to go to bed early. 83127711-BF07-4010-9A4B-E2AC91AAF207.thumb.jpeg.7b362c066c31bb392313832daf8fff18.jpeg

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10 hours ago, melski94 said:

No tickets for any shows.  

Voom has been ok for texting.  The problem has been pictures.  When you check out Facebook and the pictures don’t load or try uploading to this and get failures.  A bit frustrating. 

Facebook has had a couple of outages this week.  You may have experienced one of those.  Also keep in mind at certain times the ships satellite dish has to lock onto the next satellite coming over the horizon and at times Voom may be slow or non-existent during switch over.  Lastly if there is heavy rain in the area Voom can slow down quite a bit.  Try again today.

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Day 3 Labadee

E8E23FC9-DF61-4AA7-BBDF-B2A2593AEA40.thumb.jpeg.362dd5f91e8317466ff60f9361adc160.jpeg

Ship in port from 7:00 -3:30? I don’t know what time the all aboard time really is.  Captain said 3 but all the cruise compass and boards at disembarkation said 3:30.  Its the little things that were very confusing.  I can say they were getting us off the beach at 2:40 but on our way back a zip line tour was in the truck headed up to the top.  

 

So we had the dragons flight zip line at 7.  The time changed from 7:30 to 7 and here is the notice we received.  

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Mr Ski, College and Football couldn’t get off the ship until 7:15 and they were back onboard by 8:15.  They loved it.  Mr Ski and Football had to stay in the ‘landing’ position the entire way down.  Mr Ski held on with one hand and filmed with the other.  College was in ‘torpedo’ position half way then she was to go to landing.  There was one smaller child in the group who was told to stay ‘torpedo’ the entire way down. FE30C7BF-2D35-412D-A9BA-879ED40B3C24.thumb.jpeg.dbd527e8481e507556e1191d9e954301.jpeg

 

Then we took the water taxi to Columbus Cove with our beach bungalow.  IMO the bungalows are the way to go if you have kids who like playing in the sand.  Sand very smooth, beach uncrowded.  The crowds were significantly less than when we were on Harmony when fights almost broke out over the lack of space.  

Never seen this before for bungalows.  I never did it and there wasn’t any issues.  C9E4BA25-B970-44CB-91F7-CC12BBEF9E0C.thumb.jpeg.5d340bc0b28531cbf6b9ab2881918020.jpeg

Here is the MDR menu 47F0E5E5-F218-42A6-A6D0-FA64AAF0655B.thumb.jpeg.cbe6753123f3dd2431f4f78e6adef453.jpeg

 

For those who like to plan:

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 I clearly can’t keep up as I just submitted day 3 on day 5.  I’m going to try to get you some pictures tonight and possibly my random thoughts as I write them when I get a chance.  Then I may finish this tomorrow on our way home. 

day 4 we were in Jamaica.  We just walked the pier.  Here is the daily planner and dining option.  Note: Playmakers for breakfast and no Johnny Rockets. 4836836B-1DEF-45E7-AC68-92793BCF8FFD.thumb.jpeg.fd5fa50b4135a0eebc341d2ed9204b20.jpegAD30AC21-05BF-4860-B1F6-BD5B3A316971.thumb.jpeg.f4d460932f6b699f813ecbdc2945e4bc.jpeg

Playmakers

Playmakers has been a huge hit and packed every night.  I was skeptical when we first embarked.  Tennis and soccer were being shown on a Saturday.  College was hoping to see her school’s football fame as it was on ESPN2.  We didn’t don’t ask but assumed no football feeds.  Later,  ESPN, ESPN2, sky sports and Prime one (I believe that was showing a Fox Feed)  .  No problem with seeing NFL games (also shown during the day at the pool). Evenings at Playmakers have been packed and I see quite a few people purchasing food.  Mr. Ski and I disagree about the food.  He thinks it’s a great price for really good nachos and wings where I think most food especially snacks should be included.

 D3AC95A6-625A-4725-91A5-DF3EEDBE17C9.thumb.jpeg.d8954dba4ef718b7193d82d582307690.jpeg

 

Breakfast has been crazy on board.  A small buffet was set up at Playmakers on days 4 and 5.  Johnny Rockets is not open for breakfast.  Playmakers breakfast set up:4F7AB233-ACA1-4C59-9E66-FFA0E10B35DF.thumb.jpeg.56f52dc874bedb2f83e7333c34a74469.jpegF39A401B-15A8-45D2-B19B-98B877AB6762.thumb.jpeg.8c84b521a9b51fe07b9ab0731c188d83.jpeg

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As always, thanks for all of this!!

I wonder if the timing of the trip is the cause for some of these observations.  Bunch of extended families who have never been on cruises could account for the craziness of Windjammer because they don't know about other options and are oblivious to the proper protocol (plus my experience makes me think the big families on once-of-a-lifetime trips tend to be more "I spent all this money, I'm doing what I want" mindset).  You aren't the only one mentioning buffet crowds.  Same with lines at MTD, seems (from my prolific reading) a lot of new cruisers choose MTD but then still go to dinner at 6 every night.  Also the number of kids makes me think a bunch of teens with VOOM clogging up the bandwidth.

Or at least, that's what I'm telling myself as my embarkation date quickly approaches.  Hope disembarkation goes smoothly, but if there is drama make sure to document it 😄

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@melski94 was Playmakers breakfast complimentary?

@NS8VN I've wondered many of the same things you have while following Mel's blog. However, it is worth it to note that many reviews of Indy also echo what Mel has observed as far as crowd levels. Time will tell. I must admit though, I am getting a bit nervous since we are on the NYE sailing. I expect that to have large crowds....

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  We are sitting at the Miami airport.  Disembarkation was fairly smooth.  Little crowds at WJ at 7 am and no problem finding a table for 6.  We did self disembarkation and were in line at 8:15, off the ship at 8:45 and waited 20 minutes for our Go Airport private van (scheduled at 9:15) and 30 minutes later at the airport. I’m going to come back with day 5 and some final thoughts.  

@Lovetocruise2002 and @NS8VN  the cruise was very diverse.  Much more so than I’ve experienced so that could lead to the difference.  We usually cruise over prime Spring Break so we are used to large extended family cruises.  It wasn’t bad just different and I somewhat felt like I was trying to stay ahead of the crowds.  

Playmakers was complimentary.  Very basic scrambled eggs, sausage, baked beans.  I do appreciate the effort of the staff to try to disperse the crowds.  

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Dining

I should say, I don’t know if it’s the staff or passengers.  I think I’m on a bit of a different cruise in terms of passengers who are not acting in the typical cruise manner. I think the crew is trying to adjust but they are frustrated too.  

I’m not a fan of Windjammer but have eaten there more than all my other cruises combined.  

Breakfast- this used to be a secret but not this cruise. It opens later than Windjammer and there has been a line waiting for it to open.  Huge buffet set up plus the usual menu.  Service and food were slow.  Once again it could be that so many tables are taken about 15 minutes after opening and the galley is overwhelmed.  Actually hit Windjammer on day 5around 9:30 and had no problem getting a table.  

Lunch -ate in the MDR once.  Windjammer twice and once in Johnny Rockets.  We arrived at JR at 12:02 (opened at noon) and by 12:08 the tables were full.  Never seen a cruise so food crazy.  

Sorentos offered a light lunch option.  There were some chaffing dishes but missed what was actually in them.  

Dinner (MTD) in the MDR is slow.  I don’t know if it’s because we are sitting at 7:15.  Cutie has had a hard time there and felt sick each night (she is prone to motion sickness but I feel like 90% of it is in her head).  We gave up on night 4 and ate in WJ.  Not impressed by the dinner selection in WJ but it was packed.  We were lucky to get a seat.  Of course, lobster was served on night 4 in the MDR and we missed it.

MDR menus night 5

DAE80B50-56C2-4E37-9A8D-59E1480AD9A9.thumb.jpeg.065f157f552b445d3455198b62c16db3.jpeg9C100B3D-BD9B-4A46-AA1A-200F761C7426.thumb.jpeg.bdc2be0029355bc0fe94547b826a53bf.jpeg

Windjammer night 5 desserts2ADC2331-420B-4C18-8082-4761C987A3AC.thumb.jpeg.65ec5898b8ba3f144ee5144870b429fc.jpegDB8AC5F9-809A-4ED4-BB86-C448022C43DB.thumb.jpeg.e43851ab19e116aec07950debff78c92.jpeg14458FF5-4BDD-4768-904B-8C513DE995A4.thumb.jpeg.fd878d13368f1812b28161df10c41605.jpegTypical RC desserts.  They look amazing but taste very dry.  So disappointing! 

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Sky pad was a hit with my family.  I posted on it before but it had good hours.  Cutie and I got in line at 8:52 for a 9:00 opening and we’re finished at 9:18 on day 5.  We tried going again around 5pm but the line was closed even though it technically closed at 7pm.  Mr Ski thinks the line reopened later but my kids were wet from the slides.  No need for shoes but you do need shorts.  Weights were 20 to 240 lbs.  under 7 could not use VR.  No flips if you used VR.  Here are some pics of the 3 VR quests and Cutie doing a flip. 4D8996C7-46FC-4460-AE60-7B8F603783B4.thumb.jpeg.727bc33231099f30bcb8a4eacfec5e8f.jpeg98F8B8B2-3714-477A-A5AC-A4383133245A.thumb.jpeg.4c336ef9910c93d2400d3dc83f31be39.jpegE0D761A4-1434-45F7-9260-8B77FA102A44.thumb.jpeg.bafb027bfb54ff397dfdb66b570a950c.jpeg684EE541-F80D-421A-8BD2-64E312726A35.thumb.jpeg.8826a7fb3c7416aaccdee8a134823972.jpeg

 

Slides

Always a big hit for us.  Mr Ski set a personal record by going down 25 times on day 5 including 12 times in a row with cutie.  There is a weight limit on the yellow ‘typhoon’ of 220 and the blue slide is 250.  

 

Laser Tag was only offered twice and so we never did it.    On embarkation day and another night from 10:15 pm-midnight.  If you want to try it,  I suggest you wear closed toe shoes when you embark.  

 

No Captains Corner.  There was a Q&A with the entertainment staff which included a backstage tour on Day 5.  I thought about going but was enjoying the pool area too much to head down. 

 

Freestyle machines: only by Sorrentos and in the WJ.  Constantly out of ice and many flavors.  

 

Ice water by the pool. No grab cups and pitchers of water at the bars by the pools.  Bartender says for sanitation reasons yet you can get your own water at the Cafe Promenade.  Very long lines at bars which is a pain when I just wanted a few bottles of water. 

Completely random but stateroom 1328 had bunk beds.  887506E3-7693-4762-A778-FEDAF9843D69.thumb.jpeg.72f3b02f222a8fe395477ec96af3949b.jpeg

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Quick Recap

  • The first few nights in the MDR were typical ‘I didn’t know I would need a reservation’ newbies. However, with us sitting at 7:15, we saw an interesting dynamic.  There would be many empty tables and a long lines around 8/8:30.  I think this comes from RC’s desire to try to keep you at the same table with the same wait staff (IMO it comes down to potential extra tips).  They could be efficient by sitting a party of 4 at any table but since they wait for ‘your’ table to clear it causes needless backups.  Certain inefficiencies amaze me with such a large company. 
  • After being spoiled with quick MTD in the past, the long wait times between courses was tough.
  • We missed the many free food options on Harmony, especially the Park Cafe.
  • The only thing that really, really annoyed me was the lack of water in the pool area.  Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!  Could take 20 minutes waiting at a bar to get my 2 bottles of water!   I could run back down to my stateroom and fill a bottle of water quicker which once I had a bottle I could do that.  I don't believe the sanitation excuse since at the Cafe Promenade I could fill my own cup. 
  • Entertainment was ok.  Surprising that a big production show like Grease is shown only one night.  No one said that would be the only chance to see it.  
  • We loved the Amp'd features of the Sky Pad and Slides.  
  • I loved the extra space of the JS.  We were in rooms 1300 and 1302.  The only connecting rooms available when we booked.  Only problem was right below the pool deck and the music you could hear when they did the pool party dancing late one night.

Not the best cruise but 5 nights on a cruise is better than being at home!   Five nights is really short and we prefer the 7 night cruises.  However, we are glad to be back in time to pick up Thanksgiving dinner and have a 3 day weekend to start decorating for Christmas.  

I do have a spring break cruise on Adventure which I'm a bit worried about but I need to set my expectations to be similar to this.  I think I will look at Oasis or Harmony for Spring Break 2020.

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