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Topic: 3 Weeks isn't Enough

  1. #1
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    Default 3 Weeks isn't Enough

    This is a reprint of a report that I posted on another site when we got back from our three weeks in February. We were away from the 1st to the 22nd, which with the weekends meant I only worked 2 days of February this year.

    A little about us, we are me, my wife Julia, our son Edward, my sister Sandra and my brother-in-law Martin.

    The report really should begin Easter of 06 when it all started... We had been to Orlando for the first time in February 06 with my sister, brother-in-law, cousin and her family. We had all agreed we must go back, for longer next time, but in the harsh reality of the credit card bills in the weeks after that looked like a distant dream. Anyway Easter Saturday 06 saw me working helping a customer who was having trouble due to not reading the fine manuals I had worked so hard on. As I came out of Victoria underground station my phone rang, it was my sister telling me Virgin were having a sale and it looked dead cheap. I told her to go and have a great time, but there was no way we could afford to join them. She was having none of this and offered to lend us the money, I was very grateful, but explained I had no idea how or when I would pay her back and not to be silly. A few minutes later as I was signing in to the customer's office my phone went again with my sister saying she had talked it over with my brother-in-law and they were quite happy to lend us the money. Again I told her not to be silly, it was a great offer but I could not pay her back that year or the next one. An hour into my customer's remedial reading lesson my phone goes again, "I'm sat in the travel agent, you need the 1st to the 22nd of February 07 off work, don't argue it's booked".

    Cleverly Sandra had almost booked the Virgin holiday on-line, then printed the full details and price out and taken them to her favourite travel agent. She told the agent "beat this and you can have the booking today". After a lot of sorting and discounting on the agents part we were booked with Thomas Cook Signature on scheduled Virgin flights and two Alamo cars for a couple of pounds less than Virgin, but several hundred pounds off their list price.

    We stayed in a friend of a friend's villa near but not in Champions Gate for three weeks starting February 1st.

    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 09:59 AM. Reason: Replace photo link
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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    Default Day 0 Feb 1st 07, Getting There

    Why does it have to take so long to get to Orlando?

    We got up at dark o'clock to drive to my sisters where we were getting on a minibus for the drive round to Gatwick, the price is good when you brother-in-law is a director of a large coach firm. We were away from Stevenage by 07:30 and straight into the M25 traffic, we were booked on the second Virgin flight so there wasn't that much of a rush but even so there are better things to do for 2 and a half hours.

    Because we were booked through TCS we had been unable to check-in online, nor pre-book our seats. These negative points were then quickly added to by being charged the 20 a head extra tax that came in that day. I was a silver Flying Club member so we were able to bypass the queue and get checked-in quite fast, but we did end up being sat 3 and 2 with a row between us.

    The flight was uneventful and processing though Orlando was hassle-free and fairly quick. I did fall for the car upgrade, but not without beating the price down by over half of what the guy first asked for. We did like choosing our own car from the parking lot at Alamo and ended up in the green Pontiac in the photo above.

    We had stayed in the same villa last year, with Sandra and Martin having stayed there many times in the past, so the drive down was easy for us. After dumping our stuff we did a quick trip to Publix, grabbed something to eat and went to bed.
    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 10:00 AM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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    Default Day 1 2nd Feb 07, MGM

    Day 1 MGM

    This being the quiet time of year we didn't see any point in adopting the full-on 'theme park commando' mentality and so got up when we woke up, and then took our time over breakfast and getting ready.

    We (me, Julia and Edward) got to MGM around 10:30 and went straight to ToT, only pausing to take this.



    It was a walk-on with no wait at all, other than for the car to arrive in the basement.

    From there we walked down to RnR, on the way a guy walked up to me asking would we like these, holding out 3 unused dream Fast Passes, as they were on their way out of the park. Of course I said yes thanks. As I posted before it was so quiet that day that Fast Pass was not in use, so we have some great souvenirs of the day.

    It was the first time Julia had been on the ride, and it will be her last! Some coasters she loves, other she hates, and I cannot work out the pattern to help her choose in advance what will be what.

    From there it was a quick walk to Great Movie Ride (Gangster version) and onto lunch in the ABC. Muppets 3D followed and then onto Star Tours.

    Star Tours is not a ride for Julia, and I had never been on it due to queue length last year. I have to say that the line is better for the ride IMO, even if we did walk straight past it all. While waiting for our simulator doors to open a Storm Trooper came round the corner and 'checked' us all over, some great looks from the kids in the line.



    We then did the Back Lot tour, noticing that they have added the bone cages from Pirates 2. We walked back along Mickey Avenue, taking in the Animation show, back to ToT where there was now a line.



    This being day one and all of us feeling the travel shock we decided to head off to Walmart to get the stuff I had missed the night before and then onto food and bed. On the way out though we came across this show on Sunset.



    I don't know if any of you have seen it, but it is supposed to be a comedy talent show (maybe finding material for Monster's Inc?). It was just not funny, people stopped to look, heard the material and walked on. I felt quite sorry of the CM's, but after a while we too walked on.
    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 10:07 AM. Reason: Replace photo links
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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    Default Day 2 3rd Feb 07, MK

    DAY 2 Magic Kingdom

    Well, a slightly earlier start saw the three of us there for around 10am, in the showery rain. I should say that Sandra and Martin go to Orlando most years around Feb as he is a NASCAR fan. They tend to do 'other things' to parks now and so didn't get any Disney passes in advance at all. That's not to say the don't like it, or that they didn't go in at all this holiday as you'll see later...



    As you can see it was a bit wet, and there were a few more people around than MGM yesterday.

    This holiday we wanted to try and do stuff we had not done before and so picked up quite a few of the 'lesser' attractions of MK today.

    I take it you've all seen this above the ice cream shop at the top of Main Street?



    We went right at the top of Main Street, into Tomorrow Land and into the back of the massive 10-minute line for Space Mountain. This was our first time on it as last year I never saw it with less than an hour's line. Julia loved it.

    From there we went over to Buzz and picked up a Fast Pass as the line was 30 minutes and the return time was only about an hour away.

    We went up onto Tomorrow Land Transit Authority, which was quite fun, and gave a new angle for photos.



    From there we went on the CoP, another first for us all, and now I can't get that song out of my head again.

    It was now time to ride Buzz, which I won. Of Course.

    We had wanted to have lunch in the Noodle bar, but it was closed the whole time we were in Florida so we ended up in Star Light Rays.

    As we walked up through Fantasy Land they were loading Philarmagic, so we walked right in and were blown away, Julia was in tears by the end.

    Then it was time for one of Julia's favourites from last year, the Haunted Mansion. Despite trying all weeks we never did find the wedding ring outside, but we did see the hidden Mickey in the dining room.

    By now Julia was cold, so cutting through by the restrooms we picked up a Pirates hoddie for her on the way into Adventure Land. I also went down and got our fast passes for the Jungle Cruise as that had now built a line.

    In general this area of the park was busier as you can see.



    Although this may have been something to do with the sword fighting lesson from captain Jack going on. We waited about 20mins for Pirates, further held up by the idiot who decided to stand up just as they were dispatching the boat. There followed yet another demonstration of how good the CMs are at getting their point across while being friendly and polite.

    By the time we got off it was time to do Jungle Cruise, which was it's usual corny but fun self. It got even better when the boat got back to find three others in front of us waiting to get on the dock and the captain got to ad-lib for a few minutes.

    Picking up on the unseen theme we next went into the Tiki birds, which I can only describe as 'odd'. From there it was the Country Bears, which could have done with turning up a few db. I understand they want to keep it down for the kids, but I couldn't hear it all at the back.

    By now BTMRR had also gotten a line so we picked up some fast passes.



    With Julia already cold it was not a day for Splash Mountain, so we had our first ride on the steamboat, which filled the half-hour well.



    As we got to the bottom of the ramp to get on the train on BTMRR it broke down, I have no idea what the issue was but it was another demonstration of how different things are at Disney from the UK parks. Within moments there were CMs everywhere helping guests. As they ushered us out so we were given FOTL access tickets to any ride in MK. It was only while walking away that I noticed they were out of date, but a quick trip to Guest Services on the way out of the park soon sorted that.

    By now we had enough so we caught the train (another first) back to the main entrance for the short drive to the villa.
    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 10:19 AM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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    Default Day 3, 4th Feb 07, Golf & EPCOT

    DAY 3, Golf and Epcot

    After two days in the parks it was time for a rest, so following a slow start we went and played 36 holes of Tiki Golf on I Drive.



    For those that don't know it there are a load of plastic dinosaurs dotted around some holes of mini-golf, and a volcano that goes off every time someone gets a hole in one on the ball return hole.



    After lunch and a nap we decided we did need a Disney fix after all and so went to Epcot to catch Illuminations.

    We got there about 6pm and surprisingly there were still fast passes available for Soarin, so we grabbed them before heading over to see the new Nemo ride. I liked the ride, but I'm not sure it fits in that well at Epcot, being more about the character than the science of oceanography. Unfortunately Turtle Talk was still in rehab so we could only walk around the tanks.

    Edward wanted to try and kill me again this year with Mission Space (Sickness) so we cut through Innovations to that side of the park. We promised ourselves that we really must come back and do innovations properly one day, but it didn't happen this holiday so it is another reason to go back.

    Julia does not do MS, and nor would I if I could put up with the mickey-taking from an 11 year old. It's not the take-off part or the pressure that makes me feel bad, its the final bit where you're trying to land. If the ride ended where the first attempt at landing is I'd go on all day as I think the take off and 'weightlessness' is great.

    Test Track was showing hardly any line so on there we went to settle my stomach down, Julia likes this as well.

    Then it was back across the park to Snoring, which I enjoyed much more this year on a fast pass than last year on a 75 minute wait! It was also Julia's first time and she loved it.

    I was still a bit green from Mission Sickness so decided something to eat would help (which it did) so we had a quick bite in Seasons. Julia and Edward like the kids sandwich meals in here, and since it is a Counter Service place we can get them no problem.

    It was nearly 9 by now so we walked up past the upside-down waterfall to the lagoon.



    We got a spot on the rail no problem, even with only a few minutes to spare before the show.

    I'm a registered pyrotechnician here in the UK, so I love all the fireworks in Disney and Illuminations is their best show IMO. Although for straight fireworks, without the fountains and globe, Wishes has it beat hands down. The company I fire for has done much larger shows than this, and I've worked on many, but for tightness to its theme and audio track Illuminations is stunning. The opening voice-over about being around the fire and the playout song never fail to get 'something in my eye';) .



    After admiring the new laser artwork on the Epcot globe and letting the stroller derby run its course we made our way home.
    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 10:27 AM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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    Default Day 4, 5th Feb 07, Animal Kingdom

    Day 4 saw us get to AK around 11am, with a 17:40 ADR at Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge.

    We went straight to Expedition Everest, and with the standby showing 30mins we decided to queue having heard great things about how well the line is themed.



    It is quite stunning how much attention has been paid to this area of the park, stuff like all the nails used in construction coming from Tibet so they would look right.
    We were lucky enough to ride this last year during the soft opening but always used the single rider line. The ride itself is even better now the landscaping has had time to grow-in.

    From there we went over and got in line for the 12:45 Nemo show, which was great, but let down by some of the worst follow spot work I have ever seen. If I had been LD that day (something else I do as a hobby) the guy auditorium right would have been looking for a new job. He kept missing his pickups and was obviously not watching as the actor would move and then the light would follow a few seconds later. I've trained high school kids to do better in a couple of hours.

    Lunch in the McDonalds was followed by Edward & I doing Dinosaur and Primeval whirl in quick succession. The CM on the line entrance of Primeval Whirl insisted on height checking me (6'4") before giving Edward one of those red tags and asking would we mind going in the fast pass entrance as they needed to time check it.



    The reason I'm pointing is that this was about to 'eat' Julia who was concentrating on getting our picture.



    From there we went back to EE (20mins in single rider) and up to Africa, narrowly avoiding the parade start to get onto the Safari while it was quiet. The only problem was that not many animals were around due to the cold and the late hour. What was around seemed to be heading off somewhere.



    We left AK shortly after the worst of the rush following the parade finishing to head over to AKL. For those who have never been (like we hadn't), it is well worth it to see the savannah out the back and the huge atrium inside, complete with a very welcome fire pit. This is the back view, who in their right mind thatches a building in a hurricane zone?



    Dinner at Boma was excellent, I can highly recommend it. I would describe the food as being American with an African influence rather than the other way round, but very tasty indeed.
    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 10:39 AM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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    Default Day 5, 6th Feb 07, DQ& CdS

    Day 5 Disney Quest & Cirque Du Soleil

    Well today didn't start so well with Julia not feeling great, so Edward and I headed off to Down Town Disney to exchange our Cirque vouchers for real tickets. We already had tonight's show booked (though ATD of course), but I thought it best to do the exchange during the day while it was quiet than just before the show.

    While we were there we decided to take a look in Disney Quest since it was included on our 21 day ultimate passes, also from ATD.



    I didn't really know what to expect from Disney Quest and was pleasantly surprised, although quite what it is like on a weekend evening I'm not sure. Edward & I started with the rapids ride but didn't get on so well with just two of us doing it and neither of us sure what to do! After that we went into the Pirates thing and got teamed up with a mother and daughter about the same age as us which was a lot of fun. I think this is the best attraction in there by a long way. After that we both had plenty of goes on the various arcade machines, especially enjoying not having to constantly feed them money!

    I called Julia to discover she was feeling better so we went back to the villa to get her. With hindsight I could have left Edward in DQ while I did this, in fact I could have left him in there the next two weeks and he would have been happy.

    We had lunch in the Wolfgang Puck Express which was excellent. Always keeping an eye on cost I was not going to pay $$ more for the same meal in the cafe and even more $$$$ to sit upstairs.

    Then we forced our way through the crowds to go show Julia DQ and in particular Pirates.



    Julia and I spent most of the afternoon in the Cheesecake Factory while Edward had a great time going on the arcade machines, but we did all have a go on Pirates together.

    What can you say about Cirque? It is an amazing show, probably the best I have ever seen. For those that haven't been and are wondering if it worth the money, YES IT IS. You don't need to spend money on the top price seats though, all of them give a great view, and it could be argued that some of the cheaper seats offer a better view of the overhead action than the expensive front block seats.
    One thing I did like was that all of the music and singing was live, with the band in two towers either side of the stage and the singers on stage, or more often than not suspended somewhere above it.
    It is an amazing show from the moment the house opens with the pre-show clowns to the final bow.
    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 10:43 AM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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    Default Day 6, 7th Feb 07, IoA

    Day 6 Islands Of Adventure

    It was my turn today to feel unwell, and I should have listened to Julia and taken the morning off. As it was I told her "I've not paid all this money to sit in the villa, there are parks to been done".

    We went up to Universal about noon and decided when we got there to do IOA, since Edward was ready to explode if we didn't get him on a decent coaster! In the gate and straight round to Hulk, where we could have got on the first train if Edward hadn't of wanted to wait for three trains to sit in the front row.



    TOP TIP: If you ride Hulk with an upset stomach, it doesn't make you feel better!

    After a brief sit down in the sun we walked round to Dr Doom where Julia and Edward rode while I had a longer sit the sun. Normally I enjoy this ride, but I didn't want to be reunited with breakfast.

    Round at Spiderman the line was so long I knew I'd be ok by the time we got on. Take a look in the bottom right corner of the picture.



    Julia and Edward enjoyed lunch in the cartoon cafe while I watched them. I did eat Julia's breadstick which perked me up enough to go on the water rides.

    Although it was quite warm it was not warm enough for a soaking so I picked up three ponchos before taking Julia and Edward on Ripsaw falls for their first time. I had ridden when I came out in 05 for work, but it was in rehab during the family 06 holiday. We all enjoyed it and emboldened by the poncho Julia agreed to try Popey, despite getting soaked to the skin last year.



    This sign does not lie.

    We then all went on Jurassic Park, the only people in ponchos.

    Now the problem, we had hired a locker by Ripsaw Falls (why do you have to pay for these ones when the rest are free?) before starting on the water round and had put our wallets in it with everything else. By the time we got back the locker wanted another $2, but we hadn't got that in change and all the bills were inside the locker in my wallet. I went and spoke to the guy checking heights at Ripsaw Falls entrance who phoned someone else for them to come and sort the problem. Then a fellow guest comes up to us having overheard and gives me $2 saying Guest Services will be ages. I opened the locker and tried to give this woman the money back, but she would not take it. I got the idea that she was local, but if I was wrong and that was you can I add another thank you to the ones you got from us that day?

    My bellyache was back so after a slow walk round to the Dragons I sat and watched the Sinbad cast drum up business while Julia walked Edward though the line. Edward and I had said that Julia should see the line even though we knew she would not like the ride, hence she went with Edward and just stepped though the coaster itself when he got on.

    I retreated to bed for the rest of the day while Julia and Edward hung out in the villa.
    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 10:51 AM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


  9. #9
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    Default be back soon

    That's enough cut and paste for one night, I'll post some more later on.
    Last edited by spencem; 13-01-2014 at 07:41 PM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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    Default Day 7, 8th Feb 07, USF

    Day 7 Universal Studios

    We got to USF at around 11am once I had convinced Julia that I was going to live another day...

    Edward is 'into' disasters at the moment, watching the likes of 'Seconds from Disaster' and 'Air Crash Investigations' over and over on Discovery and National Geographic, so there was no doubt where our day was going to start, Twister.

    We were lucky in that they were just loading as we walked up so we didn't wait at all to watch the show. It felt a bit odd to be enjoying an attraction about something that had killed 20 some people just up the road earlier in the week...

    From there we went to Mummy to discover it was down for an indefinite period with "technical problems". No matter another disaster is up the street in Earthquake. Somehow Julia had missed this last year, I've no idea how since Edward and I had been in, anyhow she enjoyed it.

    As we walked hopefully back to Mummy Beetlejuice was just loading so we went in having heard from Sandra that it had changed from last year.



    I couldn't see what she was talking about (not for the first time) but we still all enjoyed the show.

    We then had lunch in this place, as you can see it was another busy day in Universal.



    Mummy still appeared to be down and we had missed the Horror Makeup Show last year so we headed over. I have to say that Edward and I were going in to keep Julia happy, but it is a great show. I was expecting a demonstration of how makeup is done and some trailers for current Universal films. What we got was an interactive, funny and informative show and some examples of great effects of the early days of film. If your passing that way and the show is soon then do go in, it's not what you think.



    On the way to re-check Mummy (can you tell what our favourite ride is yet?) we stopped off at Shrek3D, which is still funny after half a dozen times. Mummy was open at last with a 30min wait, so we rode twice thanks to the single rider line. The first time we got up to the load area with no one in front of us, the second time there were a couple of people there. I'm not sure what the feeling is on here for families who aren't bothered about splitting using the single rider line, but a lady behind us the second time did not approve at all!

    We took in coffee and ice cream on our slow walk up to Men In Black. We had always used the single rider line on this last year but since there was no line we discovered it has a pre-show. Julia and Edward still don't understand how to use the big red button, so I won again.

    I was expecting to find Back to the Future closed by now, but since it was still running I took Edward on for his first ride. I had ridden this out in LA some years back and had come off green, but since it was soon to be gone I thought Edward should get to ride it once.

    Julia loves ET so we walked over there before having a look round a bit of the park we had never visited, the kiddie area. Edward is a bit big for this sort of thing but it looks like a great place to keep little one happy, especially when it is hot with all those water features. Since there was no line and a coaster being a coaster no matter what size we rode the giant Woody Wood Pecker.



    It was getting late by now and Edward wanted to try the NBA cafe for dinner since taking up basketball at school last year so we headed off. Unfortunately NBA was closed for a private party, which provides another reason to go back to Orlando for another holiday. We ended up in Pastermore, which is great. Julia and Edward both had the kids fillet steak, which was far larger and cheaper than an adult would get in the UK. There was no problem at all in Julia ordering off the kids menu, she is so petite it should be no surprise to a server that she has a small appetite.
    Last edited by spencem; 15-09-2019 at 11:00 AM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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