Princess Cruise to Bahamas and Grand Turk


Over Spring Break, the four of us took a cruise, the first for our sons. As most of you know, Jenny and I love cruising, and we were excited to let the boys try it. In our ongoing quest to try different cruise lines, we chose Princess this round on a recommendation from our friends James and Alexis. They were absolutely right.

Here is our photo album from the cruise.

Here are some of the highlights and thoughts.


Although cruise food has nearly always been tasty for us, Princess definitely served our favorite food of any cruise line we’ve tried. We ate dinner every night in one of the main dining rooms except for one night at the signature steakhouse, Crown Grill. Every meal, every dish featured a gourmet flair…veal cordon bleu, peach soup with prosecco, seared sea scallops, Asian-spiced roast duck, some of the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted. The Crown Grill was a special treat, a high-end steakhouse that serves a slow-paced, highest quality meal that becomes the main event for your evening. The breakfast buffet offered numerous options, many of which changed daily. Even basic items like the pizza were delicious.


Our dinner at Crown Grill

Unfortunately, all the gourmet food that we enjoyed so much made feeding our picky sons a challenge, Brenden in particular. We never bothered taking them to the main dining halls, feeding them separately before taking them to the youth center. Brenden ate lots of hot dogs on this cruise. One of the only things I would change about Princess would be to add a few more kid-friendly food options and to provide trays at the buffet so we parents could carry stuff for our kids.


It probably isn’t fair to compare our cabin to the others we’ve sailed in. Since we were taking the boys with us for the first time, we needed more space and sleeping arrangements for four instead of two. After much research, we sprung for a mini-suite, which had two TVs, a queen bed, a sofa bed, a pull-down berth, full bathtub, and an enlarged balcony. It. Was. Fabulous. The boys took turns in the upper berth, and during the few times we rested in the room, the boys could watch their TV while I watched the moving map of the ship or the bridge cam.


General Vibe

Princess targets a different crowd than our previous cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian) and does things a little differently. They carry few kids (our ship had maybe 150 total under age 18, less than 50 under age 8, during Spring Break out of over 3000 total passengers) and cater more to middle-aged and older travelers. The older cruisers enjoyed our boys, giving me the impression that Brenden and Jonathan reminded them of their own grandkids. Princess felt more like a relaxing, refined pleasure cruise than a nonstop party. The few drunk people I saw were stumbling back to the ship on our Nassau day. The Cruise Director plans some activities but doesn’t blabber over the PA system every morning about how you can play The Newlywed Game at 9:00 beside the pool. They respect you enough to leave you alone and let you seek out the activities you want, so it’s generally quieter. They also seem to personalize things a bit more for their guests, such as printing your name on a card outside your room, leaving a welcome message on your phone, and providing information specific to the children’s program if you’re sailing with kids. I am sold.


Child Care

Although Princess doesn’t cater to families, it does offer an excellent children’s program that our boys adored. The youth center is split into three areas by age. Our sons played in the Pelicans area (ages 3-7), which offered age-appropriate activities such as face painting, crafts, Olympic games, movies, a play structure, and computers. They are used to environments like this from being in school and the gym’s child care, so we figured they would like it fairly well. They wound up choosing to spend every evening there from roughly 6-10pm. They stayed busy and had a blast while Jenny and I enjoyed a delicious dinner, explored the ship, or relaxed in the room. It was like having date night every night for nearly a week.


One more highlight was the kids’ area on Princess Cays, their private resort. It features two large covered areas, one a playground and the other a huge sand pit, and youth workers to watch your kids while you go play on the beach or read a book. Again, the boys had a blast there. If a parent was present to supervise, kids could also swim in a kiddie pool, the only kiddie pool our boys encountered on the trip (none available on the ship).


Since Princess’s focus is different, its entertainment options were a bit different as well. Our ship included one large theater for shows. Jenny isn’t as into the shows as I am, and I only caught one – an illusionist/comedian. He was pretty good. I’m sorry I didn’t see some of the other shows, but we preferred to enjoy the nice meals and relax rather than racing through dinner to make a showtime. In the beautiful three-story atrium, we saw a couple of acts: a pair of acrobats and three Filipino chefs making food art, which Brenden loved. For me, my favorite entertainment offering was Movies Under the Stars. The ship includes a large video screen on one of the top decks next to the pool and plays recent movies at night. They even provide blankets and popcorn. Our sailing included Gravity, Captain Phillips, and Thor: The Dark World. We discussed watching a movie as a family but never found the right movie and night. I, however, did catch an afternoon showing of Top Gun. If we sail with Princess again when the boys are older, we might get to try it. I love the concept.


Port #1 was Nassau, which we had already visited twice but was new to the boys. This time we walked from the dock to a nearby public beach called Junkanoo and let the boys play for a couple of hours. Then we walked another 1-2 miles to Ardastra Gardens, the zoo we visited on our first Nassau cruise that featured the marching flamingoes. The boys enjoyed it but were a bit tired after all the walking. Then the visit took a nosedive when Jonathan lost his balance and fell onto a cactus. We took a cab back to the ship and finished fishing out all the cactus spines before dinner.

Port #2 was Princess Cays, the line’s private resort at the far end of one of the many Bahamian islands. We loved it there – plenty of beach chairs, palm trees for shade, watersports, the kids’ play area, good food, gorgeous beaches. Brenden and I took a 30-minute trip on a kayak, which was lots of fun but more work than I was expecting. This was a very relaxing and peaceful day with ZERO cactus incidents.

Port #3 was Grand Turk, a first for me and Jenny. It’s a very small island that’s the capitol of Turks and Caicos, an island nation that is somehow part of the British Commonwealth. Here Jenny and I initially left the kids onboard in the youth center and enjoyed our only official excursion, a kayaking and eco-walk adventure on the barely-developed north end of the island. I wish we’d brought a waterproof camera so I could have gotten some pictures as this area was rugged and beautiful. We got to see and touch some local, nonvenomous mangrove jellyfish. The guides spotted a nurse shark underwater and tried to grab it (!) but did not succeed. I did get to hold a sea urchin and sea cucumber before paddling back. Then we bought some gifts to take home, picked up the boys, and took them to play on the beach one last time. The island and the cruise lines built a beautiful pier and shopping center to siphon away tourist dollars, and there’s a great beach right next to the pier. We played on the beach with a beautiful view of the ship, which was just a cool experience.


Overall Impression

Jenny and I LOVED Princess. The next time we sail just the two of us, we’ll be strongly tempted to choose Princess again. The food, the quieter and more elegant atmosphere, and the personal touches made this a very pleasant way to travel. If we’re traveling with the boys, we’ll be torn. They had a wonderful time and still talk about our trip three weeks later. However, at least while they are young and picky eaters, we might try a more family-friendly cruise line such as Carnival or Disney to make things a bit easier on us.

South Padre Trip

Over the weekend, to celebrate the end of the spring semester (sure, it was actually before Jenny’s finals, but who’s counting?), we flew the boys down to South Padre Island for a couple of days on the beach. Here are some of the highlights:

New Love Field Terminal

As I’d hoped, our flights used the beautiful new terminal at Love Field. It is truly a great improvement over the old terminal – much brighter, more open and spacious, and many more choices for dining and shopping. Once most of the Wright restrictions disappear in October 2014, Love will become busier and more important for connections, and I really think travelers will enjoy the new facility.


Although Brenden wanted to get the orange and black Dodge Challenger, we rented a Honda Civic instead. (Sorry, buddy) As expected, it was a great car. It drove well, handled our two huge suitcases, provided a comfortable ride, and got great mileage, probably 30-40 mpg. My favorite feature was its real-time MPG indicator that gave me instant feedback on how much fuel I was burning. If all vehicles had that feature, I think most many of us would drive more efficiently.

Black Dragon Pirate Cruise

On Saturday, which coincidentally turned out to be Pirate Day, we took the Black Dragon Pirate Cruise from Port Isabel. It’s a 75-foot replica pirate ship complete with a crew of pirates who put on a show as they sail guests around the bay. The boys enjoyed it, especially Brenden, who had a nice sword fight with the first mate and won a pirate water pistol in the end-of-cruise dance contest. Much of the pirate banter went over their heads, and Jonathan got restless from time to time, but we thought it was fun. The water gun fight and sword fighting lessons were probably their favorite part.

Sea Turtle, Inc.

Sea Turtle, Inc. is a small rescue and rehab organization based on South Padre Island. We toured the site and saw numerous sea turtles ranging from youngsters smaller than a salad plate to five-foot, 180 lb. beasts. All of the permanent residents have been injured or deformed somehow and are unfit to live in the wild, but the organization also works to nurse injured turtles back to health and then release them.

Beach Time

We went to the beach a total of three times during our brief stay. Our hotel had some noisy guests and other issues, but it was cheap and within walking distance of the beach. The early-season cold water limited our time in the ocean, especially for “I’m ccooooowd!!” Jonathan. So they spent more time playing on the beach, running buckets of water from the ocean to the sand, digging holes, making sand angels, and burying their feet. We stayed off the beach when the sun was high and used rash guards and plenty of sunscreen, so the boys escaped without getting burned.


Before flying home, we stopped at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. Despite Brownsville’s small population, its zoo offered a surprising selection of animals, including a Komodo dragon, at least ten giraffes, a rhino, a bald eagle, numerous snakes and lizards, a pygmy hippo, tigers, several primates, and free-roaming peacocks. The boys’ favorite part was probably the playground, which gave them the chance to burn off some energy and run around freely. They get frustrated on our vacations because we have to manage their activities so closely in many locations (don’t jump in with the endangered sea turtles, don’t jump off the pirate ship, don’t ride on the baggage carousel, etc.). They love being able to do as they please for a bit.

We had our share of challenges, including a highly inconvenient poop accident, hotel guests who chatted loudly outside their room for hours every night, a mattress that creaked like the sinking Titanic any time we moved, random meltdowns over silly things, bedtime drama, and the typical battles that occur any time we take them to a sit-down restaurant. But the boys had a blast overall, and we loved seeing them have such a good time. We have no current plans for our next trip. We might try something quick late this summer, but Jenny will be very busy with school this fall, so we’ll have to see what her schedule is like.

Here is our photo album from the trip: South Padre Island May 2013 Photos

Happenings from the Week

It’s been a pretty good week. Here are some items of note.

First Taste of Caribbean Dispatching

In the lower right, you can see the first first I’ve ever gotten to flight follow to a destination outside the continental US, SWA 742 from Orlando to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Honestly, someone else had planned it and followed it most of the way. I took over maybe 10 minutes before it landed. But that still counts, right? I got to plan my first two SJU flights Monday morning. Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, flights to and from there aren’t much different from an operational perspective. We just try not to divert to Cuba.

Uncle Charlie

The saddest part of the week came toward the end. After a long and debilitating battle with Alzheimer’s, my great uncle Charlie passed away on Thursday morning. Nearly all his family and many friends got to gather on Saturday in Wichita Falls to say goodbye and celebrate his life. Although we are certainly sad that he’s no longer with us and will miss him, it’s a relief when long-term suffering ends for someone you love. He was a good man. Several family members shared moving stories about him that gave me a clearer picture of his high character, sense of responsibility, and devotion to his family. Rest in peace, Uncle Charlie.

NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out

This article from USA Today has more details, but this week Washington Wizards center Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in any of the big four American sports. Other pro athletes have been out for many years, such as tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King and sprinter Carl Lewis. Perhaps competing in individual sports rather than team sports made coming out easier. Until now, gay NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL players have always stayed in the closet. But it was only a matter of time, as statistically about 3 percent of people are gay or lesbian. Overall, the public response to Collins’ admission from other players has been very supportive and positive, which is very encouraging. Bravo to Collins for having the courage to take a huge risk and go first by being honest about who he is. Others will follow. You can count on it.

South Padre, Baby!

Soon we plan to take the boys to South Padre Island for a couple of days. In addition to lots of beach time, we also want to visit a rescue facility called Sea Turtle, Inc., take the boys sailing on a replica pirate ship complete with a pirate show, and enjoy some tasty seafood.

Helping West

I decided not to attend the West memorial at Baylor to counter-protest Westboro. My firefighter friend Jeremy did, though, and said it was very moving and well-done. I made a donation to the Salvation Army’s West fund, which is probably more useful than picking a fight with ignorant hatemongers, anyway. My sister and her husband went down and volunteered in West on Sunday, bringing an amazing number of cookies to the displaced residents and helping with the food efforts in person. They were nice enough to bring me some kolaches from Czech Stop, which helps West and me both.

Recent Happenings

We’ve been busy at the Box house. Here are some of the recent highlights.

  • I was off work all last week, and I was determined to be productive rather than good off the whole time. It worked. I polished the car, decluttered our bedroom, gathered clothes for Goodwill, mowed the yard, replaced two normal switches with fancy fan controls, dropped one of the fans and destroyed a fan blade, and completed my annual cockpit time.
  • I also de-babyfied the house, getting rid of Jonathan’s old crib and mattress, the high chair, the booster seat, several toys, and all our baby gates. The bottom floor of the house looks strangely different without all the gates, much more open. I dig it.
  • Last Saturday was Jenny’s birthday. My main present to her was watching the boys so she could go be alone and play for a while. She spent Friday shopping in Canton (I’ll take babysitting over Canton any day!), spent the night at a hotel in Farmers Branch, read a ton, got her nails done, and took a nap. The boys and I ate donuts, played, and went to the gym. Then the four of us went out to PF Chang’s for dinner Saturday night.
  • Another thing I love about my wife? She doesn’t whine on every birthday about how she’s getting older. Instead, she’s just thankful for another year.
  • We spent Easter with Jenny’s family. First, we went to their church for an egg hunt and worship. Their church is very small, which was odd for me, but has good people. The pastor is an old friend of Jenny’s, about my age, and one of the funniest pastors I’ve ever heard. After church, we enjoyed a tasty lunch at her parents’ house and celebrated Jenny’s birthday.
  • That afternoon, Jenny’s dad and I picked up a patio table and chairs from Lowe’s for our backyard. I’ll cover them in a later post with pictures after we get the patio umbrella set up.
  • I passed my annual competency check at work, so I get to keep my job. The big change this year is that designated check dispatchers are giving the checks rather than managers. My examiner started a few years after me but is really sharp and did a fine job. I didn’t apply to become a check dispatcher. It would have felt awkward to be in a position of authority over my peers. I already do that to a lesser degree when I’m training someone, and it’s something I tolerate rather than enjoy.
  • After spending over a week on normal person schedule, it was really hard to switch back to midnight schedule earlier this week when I had to return to work. My body just didn’t want to stay asleep during the day. It’s getting better now, though.
  • I’ve started lifting weights three times a week. Now that I’m getting into that habit, I’m enjoying it more and getting stronger. Our gym also has a core class that I hit once or twice a week to work my abs, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Plus I’m hitting the weight machines and even tried a barbell class. Don’t expect me to transform into Arnold, though. Ain’t nobody got time for dat.
  • Next month, we’re planning to take the boys down to South Padre to play on the beach for a couple days. Jenny will be taking a class this summer, and we wanted to go play somewhere between semesters. We might try some dolphin and/or sea turtle activities while we’re there as well. Southwest now has a nonstop from Dallas to Harlingen that looks wide open, so we’re all over it.

Highlights from Disney World 2013

We survived! Our family trip to Disney World, our first extended family vacation, was both fun and difficult. I’ll cover some of the challenges at the end, but first, here are some of the highlights.

The Boys’ Excitement

We visited Disney World in 2007 for our 5th anniversary and tried the vast majority of the rides and shows, so our focus for this trip was sharing the parks with our sons. As we’d hoped, they had a blast! The crowds were light, so they were able to meet many, many characters and do pretty much every ride and show that interested them. Everything at the parks and our resort was new to them, so our stay was a week-long journey of discovery. Seeing them shoot a bow and arrow for the first time, marvel at the Lion King show and the Pixar parade, meet Buzz and Ariel, kiss Merida, play in the Dinoland and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playgrounds, and ARRRRRR with pirates reminded me what the parks were all about.

Brenden’s favorites included Test Track at Epcot, the play areas, the pirate cruise, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Tom Sawyer’s Island at Magic Kingdom, the resort’s Finding Nemo themed swimming pool, and riding on the bus, preferably in the middle seat in the back row. Jonathan’s favorites included Soarin’ and The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and the People Mover at Magic Kingdom, TriceraTop Spin at Animal Kingdom, both play areas, and hitting on any nearby princesses.

Cars Family Suite at Art of Animation

Last year Disney opened a new value resort called Art of Animation just across Hourglass Lake from Pop Century. We reserved a Cars family suite, which included a separate master bedroom, breakfast area with a table that converted to a bed, living area with a sleeper sofa, two bathrooms, two TVs, microwave, and mini-fridge, plus Cars theming everywhere. As expected, the room was amazing. It provided plenty of space and gave us the chance to have time for ourselves to relax and plan the next day without keeping the boys awake. The boys loved their “secret beds” as well as the Cars decorations both in the room and throughout our section of the resort. Check this photo album for pics of the resort. The resort overall was beautiful and well-designed. I especially loved the airline checkin service, which allowed us to check in for our flight and turn over our four bags and two strollers right there at the resort instead of lugging them around. After a tiring week and a half marathon for me that morning, dropping off the bags lifted a huge weight from our shoulders.

New Fantasyland

Disney has spent quite a bit of time and money remodeling Fantasyland. It won’t be complete until the new roller coaster opens in 2014, but the Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid sections are open and look great. Jenny got to meet Gaston (“If I sweat on you, there’s a fee”) outside his new tavern, and we all got to meet Ariel in her new grotto, neither of which we met last time. Both characters were perfectly cast. The new Voyage of the Little Mermaid ride, our primary destination on Day 1 at Magic Kingdom, does an amazing job with animatronics on the characters inside. Rides like this have come a long way from the days of the Spelunker’s Cave at Six Flags Over Texas that I enjoyed as a kid. Beast’s castle sits atop the new Be Our Guest restaurant, which offers a tasty-sounding medieval-style menu but was always too crowded for us to try. Maybe next time.

Disney Transportation

We rented a car last time and were planning to this time, but our friends talked us into trying the Disney bus system instead. We’re very glad they did because it saved us over $200 and relieved us from having to lug two carseats through the airport. Disney’s Magical Express service took us and our bags to and from the airport, and the busses carried us between our resort and the parks with very little hassle. The only times we had any significant wait came at the end of the day when many guests were leaving at the same time, but even then it wasn’t too bad and saved us from having to walk deep into a parking lot to search for our car. Even better, it’s all free.

Garden Grocer

We wanted to eat breakfast in our room for a variety of reasons – healthier food, less trouble, lower cost. A nearby grocery store called Garden Grocer lets you order food and drinks online and delivers them to your resort, where resort staff can take them straight to your room. So upon checkin, we found bags of groceries in our room filled with fresh fruit, bagels, hard apple cider, milk, cheese, and more. No, it wasn’t cheap, but it definitely saved us some money versus $25-30 for breakfast in the resort food court, and it was much easier than trying to eat there with two preschoolers.

Monsieur Paul

To celebrate our anniversary, we enjoyed an unbelievable dinner at Monsieur Paul in the France region of Epcot. Despite my forgetting four semesters’ worth of French and being embarrassingly unable to speak to our server in his native language, we enjoyed one of the best meals we’ve ever tasted from a table overlooking the World Showcase lake. French red wine, beef tenderloin, white truffle mashed potatoes, orange souffle, escargot, and more provided a welcome change from the pizza and french fries we’d been eating in the parks with the boys. They also noticed our “Happy Anniversary” buttons and wrote the greeting in chocolate on our dessert plates.

Disney World Half Marathon

I covered this race in my previous post.

Other Fun Experiences

We met up with my cousin Bryan, his wife April, and their daughter Breanna for dinner at Epcot’s Tutto Italia the night we arrived. They had been at Disney World all week and were leaving the next day, so I’m glad we got to share a meal with them and get some Disney pointers. Unfortunately, the boys weren’t quite in the mood for an upscale Italian dinner after spending all day in cars, airplanes, airports, and busses. But it was still fun to hang out a bit.

We got to meet LOTS of characters, including the Big 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) both in the parks and at Chef Mickey’s for breakfast. Other scores included Buzz and Woody, Merida, Cinderella, Aurora, Rapunzel, Phineas and Ferb, Ariel, Gaston, Mike Wazowski, and Lightning McQueen and Mater (sort of). And that’s not including the ones I met during the race. We bought the PhotoPass Plus service to get digital rights to all the official Disney photos that their pro photographers took. It wasn’t cheap, but we obtained dozens of great shots that way, including many we wouldn’t have gotten as well or at all without it. Here are links to all of our photo albums:

On our last night we took the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage from Contemporary to the Seven Seas Lagoon to watch the Wishes fireworks show. The boys were acting crazy, so it was a bit stressful for us, but the idea was great and we did enjoy it. We gathered in a conference room for a party beforehand with music, cake, snacks, and drinks plus the chance to take pictures with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. Then we boarded our vessel and sailed out for the show. Our pirate captain learned it was our anniversary, so he had the other passengers sing “Kiss the Girl” for us while we danced in the aisle during the voyage.


As you parents can imagine, spending a week at Disney World with a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old boy can be a bit stressful, especially with boys as active as ours. Despite the relatively low crowds and short wait times, it was still difficult to get them to act nicely in line and to stay quiet and remain in their respective beds in the hotel. We had a few instances where one of them said they wanted to ride or do something only to change his mind once we walked over to get in line. They are the kinds of challenges you’d expect with boys this age in a high-stimulation, high-structure, low-sleep environment like this. Honestly, looking back, I’m a bit surprised they did as well as they did, especially on the days when we rolled the dice and stayed at the park all day instead of returning to the room for a post-lunch nap. We probably would’ve had an easier time if we’d waited a year or two before attempting such an ambitious trip. However, we did enjoy the trip, and the boys had an absolute blast and are still talking about it. We’ll be back, just not tomorrow like Jonathan requested.

Weekend Getaway: Dinner and a Murder

Jenny and I will celebrate our tenth anniversary on January 4. We’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World next month with the boys, but we also wanted to do something for just the two of us. So I bought tickets to a murder mystery dinner theater in Addison at the Hotel Intercontinental and booked a room there for the night.


After dropping the boys off with my parents (thanks again!), we drove to Addison and checked in. We both love staying in hotels and trying new ones, so we generally pick a new, upscale hotel in the area each year around our anniversary. The murder mystery led us to the hotel, and I splurged on a loft suite. I’ve wanted to try a two-level suite for years, but they are rare and usually quite expensive. This one was right at our hotel and somewhat reasonable.

The hotel was beautiful and seemed nearly empty this weekend. The checkin guy kindly switched us to a different suite that overlooked the city rather than the parking garage. In honor of the holidays, the staff had decorated several Christmas trees and hung lights everywhere, giving the hotel a lovely glow. Our room was beautiful as well, classy rather than gaudy, with large flat-screens downstairs in the living room and upstairs in the bedroom. Each floor provided its own bathroom. This would be a great room for anyone who wanted to entertain guests. You could keep the party downstairs while maintaining some privacy upstairs. The bathrooms sported granite and brushed nickel plus a garden tub in the master bath. Both levels included large windows with a great view.

Frivolous? Perhaps. But we loved it. Here are some pictures of the hotel and room.

Murder Mystery Dinner Theater

Around 7:30, we went downstairs, took some pictures, and checked in for our murder mystery dinner. I performed in a murder mystery dinner theater during college at a tiny church, but the show was a traditional play. This show was interactive, like the one Jenny did during high school. Our event included five tables and 20-30 people, several of whom were actors who were actually part of the show, although you didn’t know until later whether or not a given person was a guest or a plant. Jenny correctly spotted at least one from the beginning, but a few others whom we thought were actors were actually just guests. Our host told us from the start to talk to – no, “interrogate” – as many people as possible over hors d’oeurves, salad, main course, and dessert. So we never knew for sure whether to trust the people we were talking to, which makes for an odd but fun dinner party. I won’t give away the plot, but it involved searching the room for evidence, listening and reading carefully as the homicide investigator presented new information and talked to various guests (or are they actors??), and trying to figure out what’s really going on.

At one point, the investigator singled me out as a person of interest, saying that my “background check” had turned up seven counts of indecent exposure (!), charges for which I might be getting blackmailed. I took offense to these accusations, as any exposure I’ve had was perfectly decent! Oh well. He did bring me up to the front briefly for questioning, and after that other guests kept coming by asking for handwriting samples. Since I was already in the hot seat, I tried to act a bit suspicious to mess with people.

The food and service were good, particularly the main course of chicken breast with mashed potatoes and asparagus, although it would have been nice to have a few choices rather than a fixed menu. They smoothly scheduled the food delivery during periods that we were up and around gathering clues and talking to people. The homicide investigator did a great job, deftly blending the script with impromptu guest interactions and bits of humor. (ask Jenny about Mama’s biscuits!) Obviously, this company has been performing these shows for some time and ironed out the wrinkles.

The whole event lasted about three hours, making it a great way to spend an evening trying something unusual. If you’re terrified of interacting with people, this probably isn’t for you, despite the website’s assurances to the contrary. If you hate the idea of getting dragged up to the front and handed a microphone for brief questioning, don’t book the reservation in your name. But if you like mysteries, live theater, and the unusual experience of interacting with strangers who might or might not be whom they seem, a murder mystery dinner theater might be for you. Jenny and I agreed that although it was fun as a couple, going as a group would be even better. One of the tables had a group of seven or eight, and they seemed to have a blast.

One final note…my wife is a genius and almost figured out whodunnit and why by the end. She also cracked a code that appeared among the evidence and deciphered a message from a murderer. However, I was a bit lost and pretty much gave up on figuring it out around halfway through, for two reasons: 1) I am NOT an auditory learner, so it’s hard for me to remember and process information that I hear, particularly names. I’d be a terrible detective. 2) I was a murder mystery noob, so I wasn’t sure exactly where to take my investigation. Was the answer hidden in the physical evidence, held by one of the actors who is waiting for me to ask the right questions, or some combination thereof? When we try another one of these, I’ll have a better feel for how they work and what I should do. That being said, for me they would be even more fun on the other side of the curtain as one of the actors. I wasn’t a fabulous actor back in high school and college, but I did dabble in it and enjoyed the experience. How fun would it be to assume a character and mess with the guests at something like this?