• Published 5th Aug 2019
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My Little Pony Friendship is Magic What If?: Volume 9 - SuperPinkBrony12

The ninth installment of a What If series that involves the rewriting of episodes. This one covers two Season 2 episodes, one from Season 4 as well as 6 and 7, and five from Season 8. (Warning!: Rewrites based on personal opinion. Please respect it!)

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S7 E21: Once Upon a Zeppelin (What If?) (Bonus Chapter)

Author's Note:

If you're wondering about Diamond Tiara being Twilight's student and why that's a thing, it all stems back to a writing decision made at the end of my rewrite of "Celestial Advice" in which I turned it into a two parter. That rewrite can be found here.

Now the episode proper is a bonus chapter because of two big details: The first is Spike being a part of the zeppelin cruise since in the original episode he was acknowledged as family by Twilight, but then stayed behind and that was the last we saw of him throughout the episode. And I feel like it missed out on a golden opportunity to show him interacting with Twilight and Shining Armor's parents.

The second and more glaring is the return of Iron Will, who serves as the antagonist for this episode. Which is quite jarring considering the worst he did in "Putting Your Hoof Down" was give Fluttershy bad advice that he wasn't around to witness. He even politely went away when Fluttershy told him she wasn't going to pay him for his services (even though he was well within his rights to demand so and admitted that Fluttershy was overdue). So I decided to borrow inspiration from my other long term rewrite of the series, My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic: Stallion Edition in which the ship captain is not an antagonist and it's an honest misunderstanding that results in Twilight's family getting roped into the princess themed cruise.

I also took the advice of Comickook who suggested the appearance of Princess Luna and Princess Celestia to confirm that the cruise's theme was being looked into and that they were aware of similar themes. Not to mention the idea of Starlight watching Diamond so Spike could on the cruise.

I decided to replace Cadence's advice to Twilight with Celestia and Luna, since Princess Cadence ultimately suffers from the expanded media suggesting she isn't happy with her job. And I also took out the air sickness jokes with Shining Armor, which quickly stopped being funny.

The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well (Redo)
Ponyville Confidential
Daring Don't (Bonus Chapter)
Dungeons And Discords
Once Upon a Zeppelin (Bonus Chapter)
School Daze Parts 1 and 2
The Maud Couple
School Raze Parts 1 and 2

Twilight was hard at work in her study in her castle. Sometimes the life of Equestria's youngest and most popular princess could be quite demanding. Lots of ponies wanted her to sign things for a variety of reasons. And Twilight just never had the heart to turn anyone away, no matter what.

She only stopped signing when her quill broke, causing her to let out a groan. Fortunately, Spike was on the scene within seconds to deliver a new quill.

But then suddenly the little dragon felt an ominous rumbling in his stomach. Without warning he let out a huge belch, then promptly breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank goodness. I thought I had too many deep fried gems for a moment."

"I told you not to eat those, Spike," Twilight lightly scolded and then read over the scroll that had been belched up from Spike. When she had finished reading it her eyes lit up and she started to happily prance in place. "Spike, great news! It's from my parents! They just won a free zeppelin cruise and get to take the whole family!"

"Whoa! Awesome!" Spike fondly exclaimed. "So when do we leave?"

But Twilight only frowned and sighed, before sitting down at her desk. "We can't go, Spike. I wish we could, but I'm far too busy. The first annual Friendship Festival will take place in Canterlot in just a few weeks, and I'm up to my neck in important responsibilities. There's just too many princess duties I need to take care of."

Spike groaned as he walked over to Twilight, trying to persuade her. "Come on, Twilight. Even Princess Celestia takes a break sometimes, and she raises the sun. Surely you can do the same. Heck, if anyone needs a vacation it's you!"

"But if I did, who would take over my responsibilities on such short notice?" Twilight commented. "Don't forget that Diamond Tiara's staying the weekend here again as part of her studies."

Spike rolled up his non-existent sleeves as he declared. "I'm not taking no for an answer, Twilight! You're gonna go on vacation and you're gonna like it! I can keep track of the friendship log, boost community morale, and answer fan mail for a few days. Okay?"

Twilight remarked. "But, Spike, you're as much a part of my family as anypony. I can't just leave you here to do all that work. You're my son, and this vacation is for the whole family!"

Starlight trotted into the room at that very moment. "Not to worry, Twilight, I'll take care of everything. I'm sure I can also keep Diamond Tiara under control until you get back."

"Yeah!" Diamond Tiara cheered. "You're lucky, you know. I can't remember the last time my whole family went on a vacation together, and liked it," She looked up at Twilight. "I promise I'll behave. I won't sneak treats from the pantry, I'll make sure to be in bed at my assigned time, and all that stuff."

"You and your son go on that zeppelin cruise and have a good time," Starlight declared. "If you need to reach me, we can just use the enchanted locket we used when you were in Canterlot."

Spike eagerly scooted close to Twilight as the young alicorn commented. "I guess I could use a little time off from being a princess. You're the best, Starlight!"

Starlight smiled. "Hey, what are friends for? Now get packing, that zeppelin's not gonna wait forever!"

"Okay," Twilight declared as she trotted away. "I'm gonna go pack everything neatly into one suitcase!"

As Twilight left to do just that, Spike looked across to Starlight and Diamond and told them. "Wait for it..."

Almost as if on cue, Twilight shouted out from the hallway. "Cruises have activities, right?! I should probably make a schedule?!"

Spike grinned. "And, there it is." Needless to say, he was looking forward to the cruise. But neither or Twilight were prepared for what was to take place on it. The theme of the cruise especially was going to take them by surprise.

Twilight and Spike met up with the rest of the Sparkle family (including Cadence and Flurry Heart, the latter of whom was stored safely in a mobile basket that was held by Cadence's magic) at the zeppelin's dock in Canterlot. Lots of ponies waited to get onboard the moment the ramp was lowered.

Amidst the happy chatter of excited cruise ponies, Twilight Velvet fondly exclaimed. "Oh gee, it sure feels nice to get away from it all. Feels like it's been forever since I left my writing desk, even though I'm now semi-retired. I for one am just looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation."

Night Light giggled as he whispered to Twilight (who happened to be within ear shot). "Better watch out. She'll never admit to it, but I know my darling Velvet better than anypony. And when she says 'relaxing vacation' what she really means is doing something completely crazy. On our last vacation she ended up bungee-jumping over Luna Bay! Oh well, you can't help who you marry. And Velvet's thrill seeking nature is just what I like about her."

"What was that, hon?" Velvet called, apparently not having heard (or maybe she had and she was just feigning ignorance).

Night Light quickly (and nervously) replied. "O-oh, nothing, dear. I was uh... just telling Twilight here about my new bingo strategy book! It's a, heh, real page-turner!" Then he gave a knowing wink to Twilight.

"Well I think it'll be nice to have the whole family together on this vacation," Velvet commented. "Having Spike along for the ride sure brings back memories. Oh, just thinking about it makes me feel old."

Night Light retorted. "What are you talking about, darling? You haven't aged a day since I met you, and you're still as beautiful as ever."

"Oh stop it, you. Not in front of Spike and the little one." Velvet playfully teased.

Spike just grinned. "I'm not that young anymore, Twilight says I'm a big boy," Then he looked at Flurry Heart. "Besides, I'm sure she's heard stuff like that all the time from her parents. Isn't that right, Flurry?" The infant alicorn just giggled, wiggling her tiny hooves.

Shining Armor proudly declared. "Well I can't wait to get onboard this zeppelin and fly like a pegasus!"

Twilight looked at her brother and teased. "Oh really? Because I seem to remember you getting airsick on Admiral Fairweather's Wild Ride at Pony Island."

Shining was quick to counter. "You must be imaging things, Twily. Besides, I outgrew airsickness a long time ago. And even if I did still suffer from it, which I don't, I could always just take medicine or use a magic spell."

Princess Cadence spoke next as the family boarded the zeppelin. "I just hope Flurry Heart behaves herself. She's only been outside the Crystal Empire once before."

"I'm sure she'll be fine, Cadence. Sunburst made sure to get her up to date on all her spells," Shining reassured his wife. "There'll be no magic outbursts here."

Then suddenly the loudspeakers on the zeppelin crackled to life. "Mares and gentlestallions, colts and fillies of all ages, on behalf of Royal Airlines your captain would like to welcome you all aboard!" A moment later, the ramp was withdrawn and the ropes that held the zeppelin to the dock were pulled up. The zeppelin's engines whirred to life and the mighty machine was soon cruising above the clouds as it departed Canterlot.

The Sparkle family decided to go straight to their assigned cabin so they could unpack. They were most surprised to find out that they had gotten a royal suite, and that it only cost them a bit to the bellhop who showed them the way.

"So this is what it feels like to be big-time contest prize winners," Night Light commented in amazement as he surveyed the room. "Color me impressed. But it's funny, I don't remember signing up for any contests with a zeppelin cruise involved. Do you, Velvet?"

Twilight Velvet shook her head. "I'm sure I'd remember something like that. Oh well, I'm not complaining. An opportunity like this doesn't come often."

Twilight blinked upon hearing the pair of statements from her parents. "Wait. You don't know where the prize comes from?"

Velvet eagerly replied. "This is a gift horse that's not worth looking in the mouth, Twilight. When somepony offers you a free vacation, you just sign the papers on the dotted line and don't ask questions!"

Spike then commented. "Seems like there's no catch so far, the tickets were valid and everything."

"Exactly, and now we all get to fly off together!" Night Light proudly declared. "Gosh, feels like it's been forever since the whole family was together like this. What should we do first?"

Twilight grinned. "Funny you should mention that. I did a little bit of research into the cruise and found a list of potential activities. So I took the liberty of organizing all the different things there are to, creating a schedule organized by each of our interests. It's even colored coordinated," She pulled out a long sheet with various colored bars, each with a different name written on them, as well as a pointer that she directed to the first colored bar. "Dad, you're easy. Bingo tournament right here."

Night Light fondly declared. "You know your old stallion well. I never was into games like Dragon Pit or Ogres & Oubliettes. Give me a bingo sheet and I'm good to go," He let out a happy sigh. "Ah, bingo. I just love how the numbers and letters are organized in their little boxes. It's so satisfying."

Twilight directed the rest of the family to the next colored bar. "Shining Armor, they've got a tiny boat race in a tiny pool here. We can race each other."

Shining Armor briefly looked at his daughter, before he smiled at Twilight. "Aw, sis. Only you would remember I love tiny things. But don't think I'm gonna go easy on you because of that, that's not how I roll."

Flurry Heart babbled as Cadence smiled. That brought Twilight to her next item of importance, the next bar on her chart. "Cadence, there's a Peewee Princess Playtime here that Flurry's gonna love!"

"Oh, how wonderful!" Cadence exclaimed. "My daughter will finally have a chance to make some friends."

Twilight Velvet eyed the schedule next, and an unmarked colored bar caught her attention. "Hmm, this here barrel ride at Neighagra Falls sounds interesting. I don't suppose I could do that?"

"Figured you'd say that, Mom. Even when you were raising Shining Armor and I, you always had a love for adventure reflected in your stories. I still remember the ones you used to tell about Meghan and the Rainbow of Darkness," Twilight smiled, before pinning the schedule to a wall in the room. "Spike can spend time exploring the zeppelin, there's tons of other activities I couldn't squeeze in with our schedule. Though while I do want you all to have a good time, this actually works out perfectly because it means we'll have room for the one thing I wanna do!" She pointed to the last colored bar of the chart and happily explained. "Our ship passes the Frozen North at sunset, which is the only time you can see the astrological phenomenon known as the Northern Stars. It's like the stars are shooting out of the setting sun!"

The rest of the Sparkle family (except for Spike who had learned of Twilight's intentions earlier) all oohed in amazement. The Northern Stars were a rare phenomenon, something that only a few ponies had ever seen with their own two eyes.

Cadence simply commented. "Well, we definitely don't want to miss that. Better make a note of it now."

"No worries, I've got it covered. I'm pretty much used to taking notes for others by now, even on vacation." Spike explained as he jotted down the time the Northern Stars would be visible, attaching it next to the chart for all to see.

"Good, it's settled then," Twilight happily declared, before eyeing her schedule more closely. "Although it seems like we have anything to do right now. The bingo tournament isn't for another half hour or so. Anypony have any ideas on what we should do until then?"

As if in answer to that question the loudspeakers crackled to life again, and the voice from before announced. "Hey there, cruise ponies. Here's a friendly little travel tip for you all: Don't let this zeppelin cruise be a bore. Why not leave your rooms and try the tour? Satisfaction is one hundred percent guaranteed."

"Well, I guess it can't hurt to take up that suggestion," Spike commented to the others. "Wonder what'll be on the tour?" He and the rest of the Sparkle Family promptly left their room, even Flurry Heart came with them.

Once out on the deck, Shining Armor stuck his hooves out to feel the wind as it whistled past him. "Hey, look at me! I'm flying! I'm—" He began, only to suddenly feel his stomach lurch and his face turn at least two shades of green.

Cadence quickly approached her husband and gave him a knowing wink. "Hey, dear, I'm afraid Flurry might be airsick," She spoke with trained precision. "Since I know that isn't a problem for you, would you mind taking her below for me?"

Shining happily accepted his wife's "excuse" and after picking up Flurry Heart he quickly went below deck to recover. No one said a word.

Spike, meanwhile, was enjoying his time with Night Light and Twilight Velvet. He hadn't seen them in a long time, and neither had they truly seen him. The last time any of them could remember being together was during Twilight's coronation.

Velvet happily stroked the little dragon's chin as she cooed. "Oh, just look at you. You're definitely not the same little dragon who would crawl all over the place and make messes for me to clean up. I remember my husband and I would watch over you every day while Twilight was attending Celestia's school."

Night Light chuckled. "Don't forget the time he ate one of your necklaces, and Twilight tried to make him cough it back up. Or how he always kept calling her 'Mama' even though she'd insist she wasn't because she didn't lay his egg."

"Oh, it was just so adorable. It always melted my heart!" Velvet fondly exclaimed. "I just hope Flurry Heart doesn't grow up as fast as little Spikey-Wikey did."

Spike blushed, even though he adored the attention and affection he wasn't exactly thrilled with the embarrassing nature of it. "Come on, you guys. You're embarrassing me."

"All part of what parents do when their children have children," Velvet cooed. "If someday if you have kids of your own, you'll understand."

Cadence simply smiled as she trotted over. "You've definitely grown into a handsome young dragon, Spike. Sometimes I forget that the same Spike the Brave and Glorious who saved my empire, is the same Spike I'd help Twilight take care of whenever I foalsat her. Not that I minded, it gave me another 'excuse' to get close to Shining Armor," And she playfully ribbed Twilight. "And you always thought we were gross just for making out."

"I was just a little kid, I thought romance was mushy stuff that belonged in fairy tales." Twilight sheepishly replied as she threw up her wings to cover her blush.

But just then, Twilight overheard parts of a conversation going on between her and her parents. More specifically, her father.

Night Light was talking to a random cruise pony and appeared to be smiling as he told the pony. "Well, 'Royal Grandparents' sounds a little too fancy for my tastes, but of course you can take our picture." And that was exactly what happened as Twilight heard a camera click.

"Wait a minute, what was that all about?" Twilight questioned her parents. "Who said anything about 'Royal Grandparents'?"

Velvet chuckled. "It seems words got out that there's a princess on board, though some of the information is a bit... mixed up. Probably just some over eager tourists."

"But how could anypony know about that?" Twilight pondered aloud. "Something's not right here."

As if to confirm Twilight's fears, Cadence tapped a hoof to the shoulder of her fellow princess. "Uh, you might not wanna see this... but..."

Against her better judgement, the young alicorn spun around. To her shock and horror she saw several cruise ponies wearing tacky masks of her and Princess Cadence, which were defined by their hideous buck teeth that were supposed to resemble smiles! However, rather than freak out, Twilight took a deep breath and calmed herself. Still, she was anything but pleased with the sight. "Okay, that does it. Something funny's going on here, and I'm gonna get to the bottom of it. Does anypony where I can find the captain? He or she has a lot of explaining to do."

Twilight soon made her way up to the captain's deck and threw open the door. She couldn't quite make who was at the wheel though, the glare of the sun blocked her vision. Even so she wasn't going to leave without getting some answers. "Excuse me, captain," She commented in a stern tone of voice. "What's the big idea?"

The captain turned quite suddenly, as if not expecting to hear another voice. It was revealed to be a unicorn stallion of medium build. He sported a gleaming white coat, a dark blue mane and tail styled into waves, eyes that seemed an innocent ruby red in color, and a cutie mark depicting an anchor. He was decked out in a white captain's hat and matching uniform that had blue on the sleeves. "P-Princess Twilight!" The stallion nearly jumped in surprise. "What are you doing up here? Shouldn't you be with your family?"

"Well I was, until somepony let it slip that a princess was onboard," Twilight frowned. "Just what do you think you're doing selling a princess themed cruise to my parents without them knowing about it? Did you really think I wouldn't find out?"

The captain nervously replied. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Princess Twilight. Your family should've gotten a form in the mail telling them all about the new Cruise of the Princess Experience. We already run themed cruises based on Princess Celestia and Princess Luna," Then he added. "You can call me Captain Anchor, by the way."

"Well, Captain Anchor," Twilight frowned anew. "I'm afraid I'm gonna have to pull the plug on your little princess cruise scheme. My family was promised a free zeppelin cruise, and you 'conveniently' left out what it would involve."

But Captain Anchor gulped as he answered. "What do you mean? Your family should've known ahead of time about the cruise. A form was supposed to go to them to pass on to you and Cadence. Unless... oh dear!" He put his hooves to his face in horror! "I must've gotten the forms mixed up by accident, and sent the 'prize winner' form to them by mistake!"

"You're saying you didn't mean to trick my parents?" Twilight questioned the captain.

Captain Anchor firmly nodded as he used the soft golden glow of his magic to produce a long form. "This was the one I meant to send to your parents. But as you can see it uh... kind of looks similar to the form informing ponies they've won the free cruise. I am really sorry, princess. Royal Airlines has been going through some tough times lately, and as you might have guessed we're a bit short staffed at the moment," He set the form down as he sighed. "I think we'd better talk to your family and try to clear everything up. Oh, I'm going to be fired for this for sure!"

After setting the ship on auto-pilot (and instructing a crew member to stay by the wheel in case anything should come up) Captain Anchor followed Twilight back to her family, and then everyone went below deck to the royal suite where Shining Armor and Flurry Heart were waiting. They soon learned what had happened.

Captain Anchor was beside himself with grief. "Again, I'm really sorry about this, Mr. and Mrs. Sparkle. And you too, Shining Armor and Princess Cadence. I never meant for any of you to get mixed up in something like this."

"It's really our fault," Twilight Velvet reluctantly admitted. "But in my defense, as I always say: When somepony offers you a free vacation, who reads the fine print?"

Captain Anchor put a hoof to his head. "Doesn't anypony read the fine print?!"

Night Light gulped. "I suppose that's a lesson we'll need to remember for next time. But what are we going to do now?"

"We'd better think of something, it looks like there's a lot of ponies out there eager for a chance to mingle with a princess. And I think I know which one they want." Spike nervously observed, looking out the suite windows to see the faces of several ponies pressed up against them.

One pony even shouted! "I love you, Princess Twilight! I'm your number one fan!"

Cadence reluctantly commented. "Well as much as I want and would enjoy a family vacation, I don't think I could entertain all these cruise ponies. My hooves are pretty full taking care of Flurry Heart. And I think Shining Armor feels the same way."

"Yeah. Nothing personal, but this just isn't for me. I need some quiet time, and I don't think I'm gonna get it on a vacation like this." Shining nodded his head in agreement. Although he'd gotten over his airsickness he was still feeling a bit weak.

Velvet spoke next with a noticeable frown on her face. "I guess we were just so excited by the idea of a family cruise. We should've been paying attention to what we were getting into."

Captain Anchor simply hung his head. "I promise you'll be greatly compensated for this."

Night Light then sighed quite heavily. "There's no need for payment, this cruise was free. But all the same I suppose we'd better get this ship turned around and head back home. So much for our vacation."

But Twilight quickly threw up a hoof and locked eyes with Captain Anchor! "Wait a moment! It's not fair that everypony should be denied a vacation over a misunderstanding!" And she suggested. "Captain Anchor, what if we made a deal?"

"A deal, princess? What are you proposing?" Captain Anchor questioned.

Twilight quickly explained her proposition. "It's me the cruise ponies came all this way to see, so why not give them what they want? If I agree to do whatever princess activities youwant, will you promise that my family gets to do all the activities they want?"

Captain Anchor put a hoof to his chin. "Well... I suppose that could work. You sure that's what you want, though? I don't want to pressure you into bailing me out for my mistake."

Shining Armor quickly spoke up in protest. "Sis, you don't have to do that! Everyone wants you to be happy and enjoy yourself too. You should get to do the things you want to do too."

Spike nodded his head as added. "Come on, Twilight. I'm sure we can just do a smaller scale Sparkle Family get together at some point in the future. Maybe after the Festival of Friendship in Canterlot?"

Even Flurry Heart seemed to be concerned if the nervous babbles she was giving off were any indication.

But Twilight shook her head. "This whole thing is one giant misunderstanding, but I don't want the vacation to end now or let down all these ponies who were looking forward to seeing us. This way, everyone gets what they want. You all get to do your activities, the cruise ponies get to see me, and Captain Anchor doesn't have to lose his job."

"But what about what you want?" Spike protested. "It's not a bad thing to think about yourself for once. The cruise ponies will understand."

Alas, Twilight had made up her mind. "What I want isn't important, I didn't become a princess because I put myself before others. And I'm not about to change that now!" She looked at Captain Anchor as she asked him. "So, Captain Anchor? Do we have a deal?"

There was a moment of silence as all eyes fell upon the captain, waiting to see what he would do. The moment soon passed and everyone got their answer as he stuck out his hoof. "We do, princess! You have my word, your family's activities will not be disrupted and we'll make any and all accommodations necessary to ensure that."

"Great!" Twilight beamed. "So it looks like we have some time before Dad plays Bingo at the tournament."

"Which means there's just enough time for the first princess activity of the cruise," Captain Anchor declared. "The winner of the grand-prize raffle. Come on, everything should already be set up!"

Twilight was ushered away as she nervously commented to herself. "O-oh, well who doesn't like prizes?"

The raffle took place on the main deck of the zeppelin. Ponies of all sorts gathered as Twilight and Captain Anchor stood on the upper deck with a huge barrel full of slips of paper.

Captain Anchor proudly declared. "Alright, cruise ponies! It's the moment you've all been waiting for! As the zeppelin flies, it's time for somepony to win a prize!" The gathered crowd burst into thunderous applause and deafening cheers as Twilight approached the barrel.

"Thank you all so much for being so gracious and respectful to me and my family," Twilight briefly spoke to all the cruise ponies, before turning her attention to the barrel. "And now, without further ado, the winner is..." She pulled out a slip of paper, unfolded it, and read the name aloud. "Star Tracker! Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy your prize!" Then she turned away. "Okay, Dad! You've got a date with the bingo board!" But as she walked away she bumped straight into a grayish blue coated earth pony stallion. Said stallion had a light gold and very pale green mane and tail that seemed to be in a most unusual curl, brilliant light blue eyes, and a cutie mark involving a couple of upside down horseshoes beneath a star.

"Uh, hi, I'm Star Tracker. And... I'm here for my prize." The stallion introduced himself, getting a little too close to Twilight in the process.

Twilight blushed as she stepped back a bit. "O-oh. I'm sorry, but I don't actually have the prize on me."

Star Tracker just giggled. "Uh, you are the prize. Or rather, your family is."

"What?!" Twilight blinked in surprise.

Captain Anchor took hold of a microphone as he announced to the cruise ponies gathered below. "Congratulations to Star Tracker, who wins the grand prize – spending the day with Twilight as an honorary member of her family!" A series of fireworks shot off and several ponies cheered!

Twilight was speechless for a moment, before she found the words to express her shock! "That's the prize?! How that is even possible?!"

Star Tracker just laughed. "Hey, it's okay, I won't get in the way of you and your family. Although now I'm kind of part of your family." He said that last part with a nervous chuckle.

"I... see. Well... I guess you should come along with us then, honorary family member." The young alicorn reluctantly commented.

Night Light trotted up and put his hoof around Star Tracker. "Couldn't have put it better myself! Come on, there's always room at the bingo table! I've got a good feeling about this!"

As it turned out the bingo tournament was princess themed. That was to say, Twilight as princess was the bingo caller. "Is everypony ready?!" She called into a megaphone. She could just barely make out the presence of her dad and Star Tracker, even as Spike was close to her.

"You bet we are, sweetie!" Night Light eagerly called! "Go ahead and give that bingo cage a whirl!"

But Night Light was too far away for his daughter to hear him properly. "What did you say, Dad?" She asked through the megaphone.

Star Tracker suddenly appeared next to her. "He... He said to, uh, uh, give it a-a whirl. Heh. Just uh... just thought you should know that."

"Oh. Um, thanks. I think." Twilight blinked in surprise.

"Come on, Twilight, bingo is still bingo," Spike commented. "Even if you're the caller," Then he suggested. "Maybe you could get your dad a microphone so he can hear you?"

But a nearby cruise pony shouted in protest! "Hey, that's not fair! How come the princess' dad gets his own microphone and we don't?!" An uproar soon started.

Twilight simply sighed. "Well, Spike, why don't you see if you can find enough microphones for everypony. And in the meantime I'll... try to make do with what I've got."

"You sure you don't want me to go over to your dad and keep you informed?" Spike suggested to Twilight. "Maybe some kind of spell?"

But Twilight shook her head. "No, Spike, that would be cheating. I have to set a good example for all the cruise ponies, and that means not giving my dad special treatment," She shooed him away. "Just go fetch those mics."

Spike reluctantly obeyed, not one to disobey an order from Twilight.

As for Twilight, she occupied herself in the role of the caller. Unfortunately, without any mics it was impossible for her to determine if her dad was getting any of the numbers and letters she was calling out. And it didn't help that Star Tracker seemed to take it upon himself to inform her if he did. At one point he even told Twilight to her face. "Twilight is my favorite time of day. And it's also your name," He delivered each sentence with a laugh. "So I just thought that was cool."

The bingo tournament lasted for a while, and Twilight did feel a little bit better when she saw that her dad won the whole thing. She wasn't quite as thrilled with the prizes he got for doing so: A matching set of Princess Twilight and Princess Cadence calendars. It seemed like the princess theme even extended down to the prizes for the various events.

The young alicorn quickly tried to push those thoughts to the back of her mind as she headed off to the next activity she'd planned for her family: The tiny boat in the tiny pool, which took place near the rear of the zeppelin.

Shining Armor was already there, looking just the faintest bit queasy for a second before he seemed to light up his horn.

"Well, I'm here now," Twilight commented as she plopped down into the other tiny boat. "You ready to do this, B.B.B.F.F?"

Shining nodded his head very slowly. "Yeah, I am. I just hope you're ready to lose!"

Twilight snickered. "I don't plan to lose either. And it's a good thing Flurry Heart's not here to see my whip your sorry flank."

Twilight Velvet quickly came up to the two and politely but firmly told them. "Now now, you two. That's enough trash talk. It's not whether you win or lose, what matters most is having fun. This isn't like your sibling supreme contests, there's no crown waiting for the winner."

But Captain Anchor spoke up. "Actually, Mrs. Sparkle, Princess Twilight is only supposed to officiate the princess paddle boat races. Every last one of them."

Velvet didn't take kindly to that idea and she quickly voiced her disapproval. "I'm sorry, Captain Anchor, but I can't let you do that. Twilight will gladly officiate every other race held in this tiny pool, but she owes her brother a boat race. It shouldn't take long. And a demonstration might be just the thing to get the cruise ponies excited."

Captain Anchor sighed. "Very well, if that's what Princess Twilight wants she shall have it. But make it quick, we've got at least ten heats lined up!"

"Not to worry, I've got it!" Velvet declared as she took hold of a flag and excitedly declared! "Racers! On your mark, get set, go!" And she waved the flag!

The two boats quickly whirred to life, splashing through the pool! In a matter of seconds though it was all over, and Twilight won. "Haha, looks like I win again, big brother." She couldn't resist flaunting her victory just a little.

"What are you talking about, Twily?" Shining commented as he slowly stepped out of his boat. "I... I let you win. I couldn't let the princess lose in front of all her fans, could I?"

Twilight couldn't help but rib him. "You sure you're not still airsick, even just a little bit?"

"Of course I'm not!" Shining protested. "Now I think I'm just gonna head back to the cabin and get some rest."

"Why don't I come along?" Spike suggested. "We can play Ogres & Oubliettes together, and I can finally show you all the new tricks my character's mastered."

Shining grinned. "It's like you can read my mind, Spike. Come on!" He and Spike promptly left the tiny pool.

Captain Anchor, meanwhile, approached Twilight. "Okay, princess. You had your fun. Now you need to keep your word and officiate all ten heats!"

Star Tracker giggled with excitement. "Ooh! I'm gonna write about this in my journal tonight! This is great!"

Cadence wasn't really aware of any of the developments that were occurring after Twilight made her deal. She did learn about a couple of things after the fact from the rest of the Sparkle family. But her biggest focus was on caring for Flurry Heart until it was time to take her to the Peewee Princess Playtime.

However, Flurry Heart's idea of fun seemed to involve stacking other foals on top of each other like blocks. This frightened Cadence a great deal, but none of the other parents seemed to share her concern. Not even when the pile of foals toppled over and Flurry tried to pick them up again with her magic.

Cadence moved to block Flurry's horn with a wing, just as Twilight arrived wearing a ten gallon hat. "Cadence, I'm so glad you got in the Peewee Princess Playtime!"

Cadence smiled. "Flurry is having a wonderful time. Although I do wish she'd play a little less... rough with the other foals."

"Oh, I'm sure she doesn't mean any harm, Cadence. Not with you around to keep an eye on her," Twilight reassured her fellow princess and sister-in-law. "Glad to hear you're having a good time as well. I'm just on my way to take some old-time Appleloosan photos!"

Star Tracker appeared, wearing a ten gallon hat as well. "Themed photo shoots are the best!" He declared, unaware of the look Twilight seemed to be giving him.

Twilight waited for Star Tracker to disappear and then resumed talking. "I wish he'd stop doing that, it's getting annoying," Then she changed the subject. "Anyway, after the photo shoots I just need to do a quick question-and-answer session on becoming an alicorn before Mom's barrel ride at Neighagra Falls! I really hope I don't miss that."

Cadence frowned upon noticing the distraught look on Twilight's face. "Twilight, are you sure you don't mind doing all of these princess activities? You're not invincible, you know. You can't make time in your schedule for everypony who might need or want you."

"Cadence, I already told you, what I want isn't important. Besides, everypony else is having fun and that's what counts, right?" Twilight asked with a nervous giggle. Then she sighed. "I have to make sure these cruise ponies are happy if I want to be a good princess. I promised them a princess themed vacation."

"No, Twilight, the cruise promised them a princess themed vacation," Cadence corrected. "You're already a good princess, Twilight. You don't need to prove it by throwing away your own happiness. I know how you feel, you tend to internalize these things a lot. But if there's one thing I've come to learn since Flurry Heart was born, it's that sometimes even a princess needs to take a little time for herself."

Twilight was quick to reply. "Which is why as long as I get to see the Northern Stars tonight with everypony, I'll be happy."

"Hey, Twilight, you'd better hurry up!" Spike called from afar. "I think Star Tracker's getting impatient."

The young alicorn sighed. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I gotta go take some pictures. See you later!" And she sped away without saying another word.

Cadence sighed and shook her head. "Twilight." She unhappily remarked despite knowing that her sister-in-law was too far away to hear her.

And the princess of love soon had her attention drawn to more urgent matters. One of the mothers in the playtime was pushing her foal close to Flurry Heart while suggesting. "Why don't you play and make a princess friend?" Several other parents proceeded to shove their foals directly into Flurry Heart's face.

Cadence quickly came over and picked Flurry Heart up with her magic. She'd had enough. "Uh... I am so sorry, everypony, but it looks like Flurry needs her nap. Pronto." She declared and trotted away with a most concerned look on her face. "Treating my own daughter like some kind of zoo animal. What's this world coming to?" She thought to herself, before her thoughts turned to Twilight. "Twilight, I don't think you realized just what you've gotten yourself into. You made a promise you couldn't keep."

The zeppelin had been docked at Neighagra Falls for quite a while when Twilight came rushing down the ramp! "Oh, why did that last question have to be a two-parter? I just hope I have time for one barrel ride with Mom!" She commented to herself as she made a mad dash to the barrel loading dock.

Alas, Twilight was too late. She arrived just in time to see the last barrel plunge over the falls and for her mom to poke her head from said barrel a few seconds later. Velvet's mane flopped around due to all the water from the barrel, but her face reflected a look of sheer amazement! "Oh! Neighagra Falls was amazing!" She happily exclaimed while rocking back and forth in the barrel, causing her mane to flop into her face. "The endless open air, the water in my mane! Oh! The small confines of the barrel! What more could a mare ask for?!"

Night Light came trotting up, a camera clutched close to his chest as he gave his wife a knowing wink and laughed. "Another 'relaxing vacation' in the books, hon."

"Really? Look who's talking, Mister Bingo Tournament Winner," Velvet teased. "I still think we're gonna have to give those matching calendars away," Her barrel tumbled to its side and she spilled out a second later, coming face to face with her daughter. And she knew from experience just by looking at the face what was troubling her daughter. "Oh, honey, I know you're disappointed, but we waited as long as we could. This zeppelin can't stay docked here forever. You know, maybe you should take a break from all of these princess things. We've barely seen you all day."

Twilight tried to defend herself as best she could. "Me? Disappointed? No! I've just been answering some detailed questions about alicorns is all! You know how much I love details!"

Velvet stood up as she declared. "Well I just want you to remember, it's your vacation too. Even Spike seems to be having more fun than you are. And he's been playing Ogres & Oubliettes with Shining Armor."

"Which means it's a totally successful vacation for everyone, just as I planned." Twilight asserted even as her lips quivered ever so slightly.

Night Light reluctantly commented in response. "All right. Well, uh, we can't wait to see those Northern Stars tonight!" And then he and his wife went back up the ramp to the zeppelin.

Twilight came back onboard a moment later, and Captain Anchor was waiting for her when she did. "Okay, princess, this cruise has been going great so far. I kept up my end of the bargain and ensured your family got to do all the things they wanted to do," He declared. "Now all I need to ask of you is just one more favor, and then you're free for the rest of the cruise."

"And that would be what?" Twilight innocently questioned.

In response, Captain Anchor set down a booth and declared. "Okay, everypony, this is your last chance! Please, get in line if you want the princess to sign! Books, calendars, socks! You name it, she'll sign it!"

Twilight tried to get through the long line of ponies as quickly as possible, but it seemed to take forever for the line to shorten. Night was starting to encroach on the cruise as the last ponies left the line after getting their princess signature.

But Twilight was most indignant when she saw Star Tracker, who she could've sworn hadn't been in the line when it first opened! "How long have you been waiting in line? Couldn't you have just asked for my signature at any point before this?"

"Sorry, never crossed my mind," Star Tracker apologized. "Uh, might wanna make it quick though. I think the Northern Stars are about to start."

"Oh no!" Twilight gasped in horror as she rose from her desk, hastily signing Star Tracker's journal. She arrived just in time to see a distant flash of light, and a couple of stars whiz past the zeppelin! She had managed to catch only a faint glimpse of what she'd been looking forward to all day. "I missed them? I missed the Northern Stars?" She said to herself as the tears started to roll down her cheeks.

Her family was nearby and heard the sobs, so Twilight quickly spun around to avoid looking at them. She didn't want any of them to see her upset.

"Twilight, is everything okay?" Spike asked the pony he looked up to so much and felt so strong a connection to. "I'm sorry, we meant to check on you sooner but we were all having so much fun that we forgot."

Night Light spoke up next. "The Northern Stars sure were something. We really wish you'd been here to see it with us, sweet-pea. But we're sure you were busy making a whole bunch of cruise ponies happy."

With tears in his eyes Star Tracker commented. "I'm so happy, I could cry! This has been the best day of my life!"

That comment caused something to snap inside of Twilight as she dried her eyes and spun around, glaring at her family. "Oh, yeah," She bitterly remarked. "The cruise ponies are happy. My family is happy. Even the captain is happy."

Spike gulped. "Twilight, please don't get upset. You're scaring Flurry Heart."

But Twilight simply trotted forward as she declared. "Well you know who isn't happy? Me! That's who!" She turned around, stepping right onto Star Tracker's front right hoof by accident.

Star Tracker yelped as he held his reddened hoof. "Augh! My hoof!"

"Oh, I'm sorry, really," Twilight replied, still in her angry tone of voice. "But maybe that wouldn't have happened if you weren't practically standing on my tail! Not even my real family stands so close to me! It's been getting on my nerves!" Then she groaned and walked away.

No one knew quite what to say, but if they had been looking closely they might have seen Spike writing something down on a scroll. In his mind he was thinking. "There's only one pony I can think of who could help Twilight now. I just hope she's available on such short notice."

Twilight was alone on the top deck of the zeppelin, looking out over the night sky.

Suddenly, there came a brilliant flash, and the familiar form of Princess Luna descended from above. "Greetings to you, Twilight Sparkle." She warmly greeted as she flew close to the zeppelin (but did not land on it).

"Princess Luna!" Twilight gasped. "What are you doing here? Spike doesn't need his dragon sitter this time, he's been having the time of his life on this zeppelin cruise."

The princess of the night simply shook her head. "I'm not here for Spike, Twilight. His dragon sitter is here because his mom is the one in need of support. He told me everything."

Twilight sighed. "Of course he did, that's my son for you. I really raised him well, didn't I?"

Luna nodded her head. "Indeed you did, Twilight. He's a fine young dragon, and I couldn't be prouder of him if I tried," Then she changed the subject. "I know about the deal you and Captain Anchor made, about the... theme of the cruise. He wasn't kidding when he said they do cruises like this based around my sister and I. Which is news to us considering we never show up for them."

"Well, he had to have your permission somehow." Twilight commented.

"Oh, we always suspected such a thing, we just didn't feel it was right to drop our royal duties. Even for something like this," Luna explained. "But tell me, why did you make that deal even though it cost you your happiness?"

The young alicorn sighed, looking at the princess of the night. "What I wanted was for everypony to be happy, to enjoy their vacation. They didn't deserve to have it ended prematurely because of a mistake."

"But in trying to correct it, you made a much bigger mistake. You made a deal you couldn't commit to fully," Luna told Twilight. "This feels not unlike when you didn't want to say anything to my sister and I about our quarrel. And we all know how that turned out."

"Really, Luna? You know I can hear you, right?" The familiar voice of Princess Celestia commented.

Twilight looked around. "Princess Celestia?! Is that you?! I can't see you!"

The voice of Celestia just chuckled. "I'm not actually here, Twilight. I'm speaking to you telepathically, only you and Luna can hear me," Then she asked Luna. "So, what's this all about, exactly? I was just on my way to bed."

"Apparently, Twilight Sparkle got roped into a princess themed cruise vacation, and tried to please all the cruise ponies because of a misunderstanding. At least, that's what I got out of it." Luna explained to her older sister.

The voice of Celestia commented. "Twilight, it's nice that you wanted to please so many ponies. But sometimes, even as a princess, other ponies can ask too much of you. Asking more than you can hope to give. It can be hard to draw the line, it's something that takes time to learn."

"Even I've struggled with it from time to time," Princess Cadence spoke up as she came trotting up to Twilight. "Forgive me for intruding, Aunt Luna and Aunt Celestia, but this has been troubling me all day."

"Oh, hey Cadence," Twilight greeted. "Let me guess, you're here to offer your advice too."

Cadence nodded. "Advice I gained first hoof when Flurry Heart was born. I couldn't spend as much time as I used to be able to with my subjects, Flurry kept demanding more of mine and Shining Armor's attention, even after Sunburst more or less became our go to foalsitter. I had to learn the hard way that you will always have obligations as a princess, but you also have an obligation to yourself."

"Couldn't have put it better myself, Cadence," Luna commented. "Well, I think I'd better go now. I've been away from the dream realm long enough."

The voice of Celestia added. "And I'm heading off to bed. Twilight, I hope you and Cadence enjoy the rest of your vacation." Then Princess Luna disappeared as mysteriously as she'd come, and the voice of Princess Celestia could no longer be heard by Twilight.

Back in the suite, Velvet was tending to Star Tracker's injured hoof by levitating over an ice pack. "Aww, how's that, dearie?" She asked in a gentle tone.

"Much better. Thanks, Mrs. Sparkle," Star Tracker commented, before he heard the door open and into the room trotted Twilight. Star Tracker nervously gulped. "Uh, I think I should go! Bye!"

But Twilight quickly prevented Star Tracker's escape. "No, Star Tracker. You should stay. I have something to tell you. All of you," She paused to take in a deep breath. "Listen, I'm glad you all got to do the things that you wanted to do, but I should have stood up for myself so that I could do what I wanted to do, too," To Star Tracker she added. "It wasn't fair of me to lash out at you. Regardless of how felt about you standing so close, I didn't have any right to treat you so bad. I wasn't even really mad with you, I was mad with myself because of the deal I made with the captain."

"Hey, you were only doing what you thought was right." Spike told Twilight.

Twilight trotted over and nuzzled Spike. "But thanks to a certain dragon, I realized that I messed up," She turned to face her family as she apologized. "I'm sorry you all to had see that on the deck. What do you say we do something off the schedule for a change?"

Everyone in the room gasped, and Star Tracker commented. "Who are you? You're not Twilight Sparkle, she always does things by a schedule."

Twilight just giggled. "Don't worry, it's me. We're gonna do something I want us to do, as a family. Honorary members, too."

Star Tracker protested. "No, princess, you wanted a vacation with just you and your family. I've already intruded on that enough, I really should go. I'm glad I got to meet you though."

But Twilight firmly insisted. "You're part of my family until this cruise ends, Star Tracker. Now come on, we're going for ice cream. My treat."

However, when the family got to the front deck, they were shocked to find a mob of angry passengers all swarming around Captain Anchor! "Where's the princess?! We want the princess!" They demanded and shouted.

Captain Anchor nervously protested. "J-just hold on a second, folks. I-I'm sure the princess will be here any minute."

Twilight flew over to the distressed captain and grabbed his mic as she told him. "It's okay, I'll take care of this," Then into the mic she told all the gathered cruise ponies. "It's okay, everypony," She cleared her throat. "First of all, I want to thank all of you for coming. It means a lot that you'd spend your hard-earned bits just to be with a princess. I'm sorry that there was a mix up, and my family accidentally got drawn into something they didn't know about. But I honestly came on this cruise to take some time off from being a princess. I'm just a pony, too, after all. And even though I want everypony here to be happy, I'd really like to spend the rest of the cruise relaxing with my family. If that's okay with all of you."

"Of course, princess," A cruise pony declared. "We've already asked so much of you today. You deserve some time off."

Twilight then added. "Well if you ever want to see me, you don't need to go on a zeppelin cruise. You can always come to Ponyville, my door is always open. And it's the same for Cadence in the Crystal Empire."

Captain Anchor took back the mic and announced. "You heard it here, folks. This is the end of princess involvement on this princess cruise. On behalf of Royal Airlines, I wish to sincerely apologize for the abrupt cancellation. You're welcome to request refunds upon our return to Canterlot in the morning," He proceeded to turn to Twilight. "There, now we're even, princess. You did me a favor, and I did you one."

Twilight nodded. "Thank you, Captain Anchor." And she watched as he left to return to the captain's quarters. The crowd dispersed a short time later, which meant there was no line for ice cream. Everyone got their favorite flavors and sat down to enjoy the tasty frozen treats.

Velvet smiled as she took her husband's camera and snapped a picture of everyone huddled together on the front deck. "Now this is what I call a relaxing vacation." She said with a grin, as the zeppelin flew back towards Cantelort with the rising sun.