Orlando is about a two and a half hour flight from Philadelphia so it wasn't too bad in cattle class, especially since I had an aisle seat going down and exit row on the way back. Only cost $11.20 since we had loads of miles to use. To make things even cheaper I was able to stay at the "event" hotel at the Navy group rate, saving another couple hundred bucks.
After boarding the waiting began. Fortunately they kept us well fed and once his basic duties were complete I was able to spend almost the whole day with our son, meet some of his shipmates and a few of their parents as well.
Since the Waters' top speed is something like 13 knots it took a good long time to reach the launch area. While we sailed the ship's crew kept the food coming - lunch was in the crew's mess and was very good. Will has plenty of experience with the Navy's submarine food (said to be the best in the Navy) and allowed that the civilian operated Waters's fare was much better.
We eventually reached the launch site and sort of tooled around the area while the Maryland got ready to launch. Will and I were waiting just aft of the orange lifeboats you can see in the picture above.
About a minute or so before launch the Maryland sent up a smoke flare and the countdown began. It was pretty cool in a "this is how the end of the world starts" kind of way. For obvious reasons we couldn't take pictures or or record the event but there are plenty of official videos out there:
After the test there was more food as we headed back to port. Will and I hung out in the ship's theater for a while where they were running a full set of Star Wars movies. While were were lounging the Waters' mess crew set up a humongous barbecue on the open aft area of the ship. Steaks, brats burgers, big chunks of (I think) sea bass, and all the the other stuff... And then the rain started thanks to then tropical storm Hermine. The cooks kept at it and produced a terrific steel beach picnic.
By now pretty much everyone was exhausted and we still had a couple hours 'till we made port. Fortunately, Will knew of a compartment with TV and La-Z-Boys (and air conditioning) so we went down there to watch some sports TV (ESPN-U I think - it was all college football).
Well after my bed-time we made it back to port and the buses took us back to the hotel. I'd gotten a "two queens" room and Will got permission to stay over in a comfortable hotel bed and making the next day's connections much more convenient.
The next day we headed out to the Kennedy Space Center, which turned out to be more interesting than we expected, in an unexpected way...