The Generation Game Tour 2023 – Day One Tuesday 16th May

Here we go again. I’m not sure if being locked into a perpetual cycle of writing trip reports is some form of heaven or hell, but here we are. The title of this trip was obviously derived from our touring party covering an age span of one to eighty-four. In fact, Dougie had his first birthday the day before we set off.

This day started like most travel days, with an early start. I never learn. I always set my alarm for the time needed to catch the plane, but Louise is up and about before that by some hours. It was 3.30 when I first looked at my phone. Not to worry though, we got to bed nice and early around midnight. It’s not as if these travel days are gruelling or anything and I’m sure this one will go very smoothly. Right?

I got up to sort the dogs out. They were giving me very confused looks as we stood outside waiting for them to pee. Even they thought it was early.

I emptied the kitchen bin, as I’m sure you all do when going on holiday, made my Mum a brew (she had stayed over at ours to make the getaway as simple as possible) and then showered and dressed. For reasons that do not need explaining I also took a little helper to get me moving in the bowel department. Look, I know that’s not the detail you need but I need to say it to explain how many times I go to the loo during this day.

I loaded the car and we were away at 6.10am after saying our goodbyes and don’t burn the house down to Emily. I was already feeling tired and the drive to the airport was a subdued one, with an undercurrent of excitement that accompanies any Flortida trip.

Even at this hour, the traffic was bobbins, and the infamous concrete tunnels where the M61/A666 meets the M60 presented the usual delays (one for the locals) but we pulled into the car park at 6.40. We were forced to use a meet and greet option as our usual T2 West car park was full. I don’t like the faff of leaving my keys etc and the last time we used this service it was a bit chaotic.

Today, it was much better. A smooth dropoff and no crowds waiting to drop off their keys.

Whilst we waited for the rest of the gang, Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and Dougie to arrive we got a Starbucks and Louise went to test the toilets. As she returned I felt the same urge and to cut a long story short by the time I had returned, everyone had arrived.

There was no queue at check-in and we were relieved and surprised to see us come in underweight. Our luggage that is. I can make no such claim for my BMI.

We had to walk down to the oversized desk, which I thought was harsh. I had lost a few pounds in the run-up to the trip. Turns out that was to deposit the huge bag containing the boys’ car seats.

Security as ever was bobbins. The queue was long, every traveller incompetent and the staff were surly and disinterested.

My Mum’s bag got pulled so we had to wait for her to be examined before we could proceed through to the terminal and some much-needed breakfast.

Taking the queue for breakfast as some sort of post-Covid recovery marker, things are looking up. We only waited a few minutes and even managed to get a table for all seven of us. By now, I am pretty familiar with it, but we looked anyway.

We ordered –

(Disclaimer – there are seven folks on this trip and often times I did not capture the exact names of everyone’s dishes. I have photos for most stuff, but sometimes due to being at the other end of the table, they aren’t great. What do you want from me??)

Juices and coffees

Me and Louise – The Full Works Sandwich

Mum – Scrambled Egg on Toast

Rebecca and Tom – Full English thing

Dougie’s pancakes are also visible in the above shot.

Freddie had this.

We gave Dougie some of his birthday presents for yesterday, the ones which were small enough to carry and might occupy him for a few minutes on the flight.

Freddie took some photos.

Dougie, you may notice, was waiting to get his first haircut on Main Street.

I made light work of my breakfast and the bill was £105.

Off I went to the loo again, but, you’ll be glad to hear, I felt much better for it. You? Not so much. All I’ll say is that I may never look at Stick Toffee Pudding in the same way ever again.

I met the others and we wandered duty-free for a bit. Sadly Louise could not find the perfume she craved. I wept for some considerable time. Tom got some aftershave and Freddie some Jellybeans. I’m not sure who did best out of the two.

WH Smith next for our flight essentials and I picked up a Marvel card game that Freddie had been admiring. It is my duty to spoil them!

It was already time to head to gate 204, which was a long old walk. When we got there Rebecca changed Dougie (his nappy, not for another child) and we boarded what would turn out to be a half-full (or half-empty) plane. Louise was looking forward to her flight time treat of peanut M&Ms. That was until it was announced that someone onboard had a serious nut allergy. She was gutted.

Rebecca noticed that her seat was broken and it would not stop reclining. They were moved to another empty section further down the plane. My Mum stayed with us. This meant everyone had more room and it worked out really well.

We pushed back at 11, taxied for about a week and took off at 11.25.

Drinks were served. On Aer Lingus, soft drinks are free, but alcohol is not. Complementary popcorn was soon demolished and not too long after that, our meals were served. Louise and I chose the peppercorn chicken. I am convinced whatever you choose it tastes the same. It was edible and filled a gap.

Freddie came to visit for a bit so we played with him enduring his never-ending query about our arrival time. He was excited.

I then popped down to see how Rebecca and Tom were doing and ate my ice cream whilst there. I then managed to get Dougie to sleep and returned, the conquering hero to my seat with four and a half hours to go.

I found a golf game on the TV so played that for a long time. The final snack arrived just in time to be eaten before we started our descent. I had a potato, spinach and cheese pastry. It would challenge any amount of Rennies to a duel and probably win.

We had a slow bumpy descent (great name for a band) and Louise embarrassed herself by screaming out a couple of times at some of the bumps. She’s better at flying these days but not totally comfortable.

We landed at 3.15 local time into Terminal C. Again, we spent about an hour taxi-ing to the gate and once released we walked up many ramps to the baggage claim area. If you didn’t know, in the new Terminal C you get your bags before immigration. A big improvement for those with strollers.

We had our cases in ten minutes and joined the queue to be immigrated. It took an age.

Now we had to make the long arduous journey over to Terminal A as that is the only place to pick up the Toll Pass thingy. Elevators, monorails and walking were experienced. We went to get the car sorted first and found the Dollar desk. Of course, out of all the hire companies on offer, only Dollar had any form of queue. Here started the worst car pick-up experience in my 40+ years of going to Florida.

There were three people serving and the queue contained about 15 parties, although nobody was celebrating. You have to question the processes and systems used to give someone a hire car when each one takes about 15 minutes minimum. It took over an hour to get served. Tom and I had left everyone else up near the Toll Pass booth thinking we’d just be a few minutes. We were visited by Louise to enquire what the hell was going on.

We were finally told which space to go to. We did not get the Toyota Sienna we had booked, but it was an 8-seater Kia. We always knew it was going to be tight but this was a nightmare.

To start, one of the middle seats had been removed from the car and left in the trunk. So we had to drag that out before we could try to get everything in. It took about 20 minutes to work out where to put the car seats, luggage and everyone else and then discovered that the car seat from the trunk was still sitting outside the car. I tried to ask men in High Viz vests what to do but few spoke English and none of them cared.

So I walked back to the Dollar booth at the top of the garage to ask for advice. I explained the situation and asked if we could leave that extra seat with them until we returned. The guy I spoke with reacted as if I had spat on his mother.

He literally called me stupid and said that was just not possible. I asked what we could do then. He didn’t really care. He said we could go and get a bigger car, to which I was open, but that meant another hour in the Dollar queue so I wasn’t doing that with everyone feeling exhausted and stressed. It ended in a shouting match in the middle of the Dollar garage. I don’t often lose my temper but I did here. I understood the problem was mine, but as this guy shouted over me, I was just saying, “Well help me then. What can I do?” I was tired.

He offered no suggestions and walked away from me. He has featured heavily in the review I submitted to Dollar when they emailed me asking for a review of my experience.

Somehow, we reconfigured things and got the seat in too. It was uncomfortable and maybe unsafe but it is hard to express the exhaustion and heat at this time and we all just needed to get to the villa. Tempers were frayed.

Then, as we waited at the gate to exit the garage, there was another delay of seemingly endless minutes as the staff member doing whatever they need to do was doing it at a snail’s pace.

Safe to say I would rather set myself on fire than use Dollar again.

At this point Dougie was inconsolable. He cried non-stop and around Lake Buena Vista we had to take a detour to find him some milk. We did so at the shop opposite Olive Garden at LBV. I nipped in picked up a bottle and went back to the car.

It was a few minutes later that I realised that the US have different colours to denote which milk it is. Blue, which is full-fat in the UK is some 2% nonsense and Dougie couldn’t have it. He had calmed down a bit by now and I stopped again at the 7-11 close to our villa to get him the correct stuff/colour.

A little traumatised by recent events we got to the villa at 7.30. It was lovely.

I nipped out to Publix to stock up and brought some pizza back for anyone who was still awake. It’s a shame that you are always so tired during these first shops as they are quite a significant and exciting milestone. You have done all the hard stuff and now comes the fun. Both the boys were asleep so the grown-ups ate too much pizza and then went to bed, glad to have today behind them.

Till the next time…..

Going, Going, We Keep On Going…

With another trip done and written up, what the hell do I write about now? Hmmm…

Well, I like to plan, you know that, and I am fairly good at it, but where I find myself now, with the perfect synchronisation of the end of my latest trip report last Sunday, leaving just one Sunday free for a blog post to confess to you all that we are going again, was pure luck.

Yep, we fly out to Orlando again on Tuesday. We booked in late February and timing it perfectly, as far as these Sunday ramblings go, I unconsciously left myself the perfect one-week window to allow you all to collectively eye-roll at the news.

We really didn’t mean to go. I don’t mean that I fell over and landed on my keyboard, pressing several “Book It” buttons all at once. It was less accidental than that, but not by much.

As we returned from the trip you’ve just read about we had some tentative, back-of-the-mind intentions to maybe go on holiday, maybe to Orlando, maybe not, just Louise and I, around September time, but there was no planning going on.

For those who actually read this stuff and pay attention, you may remember that Rebecca, Tom and the boys had booked to go this April, but for boring real-world reasons, they had to postpone/cancel that trip. Well, we got chatting and the idea of all going together (alas Emily had used all her holiday entitlement on other trips with her boyfriend) at some point came up. Initially, as we often do we looked at non-US destinations. As ever, we inevitably drifted back to Florida due to its familiarity and the guarantee of it suiting us and particularly the boys.

We started looking for Florida trips at the end of August into September and spent many minutes laughing at the prices. When did the prices for school holidays become so ludicrous? We went for years at the end of August and we were skint! Hmm, maybe that’s why we were skint.

We then started to work our way back through the summer, trying to find dates that would work for everyone. To cut a very long story short, we had limited options and it ended up being May.

To be honest, May was probably too early for us, and certainly too early for Louise and another trip to WDW, but the carrot of being able to go with Rebecca, Tom and the boys and to see Freddie and Dougie experience Florida overcame all sticks easily.

The compromise was that Louise insisted that we spend a week at a beach. This kicked off the most complex trip I have ever organised, as a week at the beach wouldn’t suit a five-year-old and one-year-old, so I began the process of planning multiple itineraries within one holiday.

Flight-wise, the lowest cost was the order of the day, so Aer Lingus won this time and we are all in economy on the 16th of May. As we have a lap sitter in our party in Dougie, I was unable to book our seats online, but their WhatsApp service was excellent and that was sorted in minutes.

The basic plan was to get a villa for most of the stay, but Louise and I would go off to the beach for a week, with Rebecca and the crew joining us there for a night or two, before they would return to Orlando for theme parking. Alas, our favourite villa was not available for our dates, so we chose what we hope is the next best thing from Airbnb.

In a strange and not to be repeated turn of events Louise chose our accommodation at the beach. I had wanted to go to Vero but hens have more teeth than they had availability, so we opted for a previous destination in Daytona, and Louise did five minutes of searching and informed me we would be staying at the Hard Rock there. Rebecca, Tom and the boys would join us for a couple of days at the beach and then return to Orlando and the villa.

Then, to finish off the trip, and to use up the three-day park passes still owed to us by Hurricane Ian, we booked to stay at our usual place, Royal Pacific at Universal.

I secured us a mini-van and would later return to the issue of how Louise and I would get back from Daytona to Orlando as Rebecca and Tom would be taking our main car back to Orlando with them.

It was about a week after sorting all this, (which I have massively over-simplified above by the way, please show some respect for my planning skills), that Louise and I chatted and thought we should invite my Mum along. Clearly, the complexity of the trip was not sufficient to test my planning expertise.

Mum took a little convincing, unsure about undertaking her first trip without my Dad, but was soon on board when we asked her what Dad would have said! It’s been a while since she has been to Florida and for her and let’s face it for all of us, who knows when that trip might be your last. They are physically demanding so making hay in the sunshine is important.

So I then went about adding Mum to the flight and messaging Aer Lingus to change all our seats again from two sets of three to a four and two, booking her a room at Daytona (she will come with us to the beach) and finally adding her onto our room at Royal Pacific. We will share for the few nights we are there to avoid huge expense.

Park tickets and then of course park reservations were bought and made for all.

One of the most complex issues now presented itself. The car.

With seven people now on the trip and with car seats and strollers and oodles of luggage, the standard seven-seater van we had reserved would not cut the mustard. With every seat taken, there was just no way we would fit all that into the thing. That kicked off a ridiculous amount of time looking at alternatives, some of which would involve me getting my HGV licence, but the answer was presented by Rebecca, who suggested I look at what car we got the last time we had 7 people on the trip.

Finally, I found a use for my obsessive trip reporting and went back to that trip and found the make and model of what we had. On that trip, we also had a stroller and all that goes with a small child so we could be fairly sure it would all fit.

Of course, none of the main car hire sites listed this 8-seater Toyota Sienna, so I reached out to Andy at Discount Florida Car Hire, who I had booked with and explained our predicament. He was incredibly helpful and located one and secured it for us via Dollar. What an 80’s pop duo are doing in the hire car business I do not know.

Hopefully, we are all sorted now as I didn’t fancy driving a 12 or 15-seater thing, especially as Tom would be driving it around for a week during his first time driving in Florida.

I have even booked the three beachgoers a car for a few days in Daytona, crucially giving us a means by which we can drive back to Orlando. For our first two days in Daytona, we will all be together with Rebecca, Tom and the boys then driving back to Orlando at the end of day two, after watching the baseball, which we have always enjoyed in the past. Once the three of us are done with Daytona a few days later, we will drive back to Orlando, drop our hire car at the WDW car centre and have Tom pick us up before heading to check in at Universal.

So, I think that’s everything?? Still with me? Complicated isn’t it?

If anyone still has any appetite whatsoever for another bloody trip report, and even I barely do, I’ll be back here in June popping another one out. I can only apologise.

As ever, the Mkingdon Facebook page is your source of any live updates during the trip and I’ll see you back here in June if you can stomach any more of the same old guff.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 – Day Fifteen Monday 23rd January

Monday 23rd January

So here we are, another travel day back to the UK after what had been a lovely couple of weeks with some new experiences, plenty of memories and emotions and of course a few more pounds than we arrived with accompanying us home.

To start the very long and tiring journey right, I had a crap night’s sleep. Too much food, eaten far too late and my middle-aged body punished me accordingly. I was awake for good at 6. We chatted to Rebecca for a bit and at around 7 we started to (literally) get our shit together. There were showers and endless packing with a nice sprinkle of sadness thrown in.

When we were nearly done I went out onto our balcony to soak in the view for one last time. I genuinely got angry at those folks breezily going about their day when we had to go home. I was envious of them being able to stay when I could not. Having indulged my inner toddler for a few minutes I went back inside, crammed the last few things into a bag of some description and bang on 10am we left the room. Have I mentioned that I was sad?

I walked out to the car and drove it back to the entrance to load people and cases into it. We were Disney Springs bound for the traditional last-day panic buy of gifts that we had nowhere to put. Fortunes were spent, mainly in the World of Disney. My mood when making my notes (whilst sitting at the gate in a few hours from now) was bleak and therefore detail is scant.

We were done by 11.30 and after a fuel stop on the way, we made it to The Cheesecake Factory for our farewell, overeating bonanza. We had not booked and there was no wait as it was midday on a Monday.

As we settled in preparing to order our Nachos, our server delivered news more devastating than our impending return to the UK. A broiler was broken and this meant several dishes were not available. This included our beloved Nachos. Tears were shed, furniture thrown across the restaurant and violence brought upon those responsible.

Once the dust had settled we ordered alternatives, which to be fair, were excellent.

I had the egg roll sampler

It was probably one of the nicest things I had all trip.

Emily – Macaroni Cheese Balls with fries.

Louise – Quesadillas and fries.

We all forced a cheesecake down, but my notes are so poor for today (that always seems to be the case for the travel home day) I did not note what each one was.

Louise had a couple of wines and the bill came to $140. We were still sad but now full, which marginally improved the situation. I say marginally, as I cannot remember feeling so sad to return home, but that was probably more a memory thing.

It was a little early to be heading to the airport so we just sat in the car for half an hour in the car park feeling overly full and whistful.

Eventually, we drove to MCO, and did a painless car drop (I was very sad to let that car go, I loved it). Check-in was very quiet, swift and incident free followed by the exact opposite at security as ever. Forty minutes to get through there before we could monorail out to gate 83. We sat and waited and I visited the shop as I needed a pen and something to read. The only pen in the shop was $20 so that was a nice kick in the nuts to round the day off nicely. We got some drinks, waited some more and then boarded.

At that point, my notes stop and I have zero recollection of the flight home. I think I may have slept for a decent chunk of it, but it did not make the re-entry into normality any less horrific.

We were soon home, and happy to see the various animals again.

Returning to the UK is rarely a good thing after a Florida trip. Doing so in January, to the bleak mid-winter horrors of the weather does not help.

The trip was a good one with many firsts. I thought Caribbean Beach was great and the Skyliner a marvel. I just wish we could have used it more. I would stay there again for sure.

The parks this January were much better than the previous one. Things were still busy and our greatest frustrations seemed to centre around Hollywood Studios which seems impenetrable without Genie+. All the other parks were OK, putting aside the absolute insult of having to pay extra for Genie+ of course. Things seem to be settling a little and maybe the pent-up demand post Covid is running out of steam now. Either that or the extra costs and the state of the world’s economy are just now starting to curtail visitor numbers.

I seem to have created an impression that we disliked the cruise. This could not be further from the truth. We were often in awe at the experience (including the alcohol expenditure!) and our lack of research and abundance of ignorance saw us fall foul of a few beginner’s pitfalls. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and took away some valuable learnings should we ever do one again.

So the latest in a flurry of recent trips comes to an end. Who knows when we may return? ūüôā

Thanks as ever for reading along. I am increasingly amazed that you still do and it is appreciated.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Fourteen Sunday 22nd January 

Sunday 22nd January

To be nothing if not consistent I was awake by 7am. This Disney-imposed alarm clock to book stuff was training my body nicely.

Louise had not slept at all and was not feeling fit to be up and out in a theme park anytime soon. Emily and I got ready and left her to recover some sleep and kitted out with Genie+ and a LL reservation for Splash Mountain at 1.05 on its final day, we set off.

We arrived and parked up in Simba 116 by 9am and used the car locator thing in the app as we had for most of the trip. A handy tool for tools who can’t remember where they parked.

The park looked busy but we saw that Big Thunder was only showing a 25-minute wait. Despite not believing that at all, we headed there anyway. Once we got close to Frontierland it quickly became clear what sort of day this would be in this neck of the park.

We fought our way through that and round to somewhere close to the entrance to Big Thunder and its 25-minute wait. Yeah….

Amazingly, we were on the ride in about half an hour.

Having obeyed the rule that a ride must be ridden upon entering the park before eating is allowed, we now sought out some food. Again, options were very limited and we ended up back at Sleepy Hollow.

I mobile ordered and we loitered in the vicinity. Having done that for a bit I looked at the app and realised I hadn’t clicked the “I’m Here” button, so I did that now like the idiot I am. After another ten-minute wait, our food was ready and then there was a ten-minute wait at the pick-up window. Emily had pounced on a table as one became free and I joined her now with the food.

As I got there there was a kerfuffle going on at the next table. Once it had all calmed down Emily filled me in. It seems that some weird lady, bedecked in her Disney nutcase outfit had walked into the seating area and declared loudly that due to medical conditions, she had to sit down so who could she join. Some helpful, and now regretful family had obliged. As she sat there an ECV user at the next table had reversed somewhere close to her and this lady had then kicked off as if someone had firebombed her house.

She was yelling at the whole party about irresponsible ECV users and how she could have been killed etc. I caught the tale end of the row and she was just bloody nasty and horrible. She stormed off much to the relief of the poor family who had accommodated her and the young girl in the ECV was inconsolable. Some people are just horrible.

We started to eat as all this played out and therefore, alas, the camera was too late.

I had made a LL for Buzz despite the distractions going on around me and we headed there now. My tactic for today was to simply book whichever Genie+ LL was available soonest and see how that went. It was BUSY today.

The LL queue for Buzz was not short but we were soon on.

In front of us were a couple of young parents with four kids. It looked like they were under attack, with kids hanging around necks, being dragged along the floor and screaming and crying. I felt sorry for them and grateful it wasn’t me in equal measure.

I managed to secure my highest-ever score but have no idea how.

Emily could not compete on this occasion.

As we exited I booked a LL for Ariel and walked in that direction. We browsed a shop or two until our slot rolled around.

Once our slot opened we were on within minutes. I am far too mature to be making any jokes about Ariel’s slot opening up…..that would just be in poor taste.

The 12 o’clock parade had started minutes ago over in Frontierland so we walked down through the castle, to catch it around the hub…

You can see from the blur how fast we were travelling as I took that photo. With just Emily and I, we were in full-on theme park commando mode.

Whoosh…

We grabbed a spot up the side of the castle on one of the ramps.

As we waited for the parade to arrive we watched with amusement the endless number of Instagrammers posing for photos in front of the castle. Typically a young, pretty girl getting their less attractive friends to capture their “natural” poses in front of the castle.

The view from here is great, especially if your camera has a decent zoom.

Ariel appreciates a good fork…..

Peter was just showing off….

I didn’t know Harry Styles was a cast member….

As Mickey and Minnie passed us we escaped back up through the castle and headed for the LL I had booked for It’s A Small World. On the way, Louise messaged to say that she had just arrived on the bus and would be with us shortly.

After some recent social media hoohah about the boats on this ride we noted they were all scrubbed and shiny.

After meeting Louise, with perfect timing we headed for our LL for Splash and one last ride. The LL queue took about 30 minutes and it will not shock you to learn that we were all very thoughtful and a little upset about my Dad, with whom we had ridden this thing countless times. It being this ride’s last day, for some reason, brought back many memories and feelings.

The standby queue was horrific.

I went live on Facebook to share our last journey on this, Splash’s last day. Luckily we secured the front row for a clear view.

Emily cried all the way around and it took some effort not to join her.

Lunch now and we used the “what is closest” rule to select our eatery, and we entered Pecos Bill, which was a surprise to him.

Emily had previously enjoyed the best Impossible burger ever here on a previous trip so of course Disney had removed it from the menu now. She had to settle for just Chips and dip whilst Louise and I had nachos.

After enjoying those we walked down to Philharmagic which had no wait time posted.

After the show ended, it was coming up 3pm and time for the parade….again. We returned to the same spot as earlier, this time with Louise in tow.

More influencer gold was happening.

What do you mean you’ve had enough parade photos already???

Ariel sees me in the crowd and hopes I am single….

But then spots my wedding ring and her hopes are dashed….or maybe it was all just an act…

Alright love, don’t over do it.

Amidst all the influencer nonsense, one little chap there deserved to have his photo taken as much as he liked….

Again, once the last float had floated by, we escaped through the castle.

As it had just re-opened, we, well I, decided we would ride the train. We went to the station near The Barnstomeer but restrooms were required by weaker members of the group so I had a wander into the Big Top shop thing. It is a shadow of its former self and half-empty. This used to be a great place to see and buy a large range of merch.

The queue for the train was long and we had to wait for the second one before we could get on.

We did a full loop of the park plus one stop, getting off at Main Street.

We took a minute and watched the flag lowering ceremony.

Whilst enjoying these.

Our next LL was for Haunted Mansion at 6.20 so that was our next destination. One the way, to kill a little time until our slot rolled around we rode the Steamboat for the first time in about 20 years.

For anyone interested, I dug out the video of some of that 2001 ride.

Onto Haunted Mansion and a ten-minute wait for our LL booking.

There are a lot of contenders for “worst photo Craig ever took” but this will be top 5.

Maybe 6 now…

OK, 7….

Louise didn’t fancy Space Mountain so Emily and I went on whilst Louise wandered down to Main Street. It gets rougher every time, which seems to correspond with me getting older every time I ride.

We walked down to meet Louise on Main Street to say our goodbyes for this trip. We never know when we’ll be back….

Fighting back a few more tears we made our way out. It was a quiet walk to the resort monorail to start our journey over to O’hana.

Emily had stopped crying by the time we got there.

We checked in and were seated after a few minutes. We didn’t get a great table but food was imminent so that was all that mattered.

The food was certainly plentiful….

We ate far too much of it and at one point the fireworks happened at Magic Kingdom and the music was piped in. Our table location made it hard to appreciate that.

Mainly as Louise ordered a bottle of wine at a silly price, the bill was $320. Far too much for a meal for three people, and despite the volume of food I wouldn’t say we were blown away by it.

We paid, left and took the long way around the monorail all the way back to the TTC. A tram was waiting for us which was considerate and we found the car and undertook the sad drive back to the resort for the final time.

Louise and Emily went straight to the room leaving me to get some water from the shop. I got to the room to find them in the corridor as their magic bands wouldn’t open the door!

Packing would be left until the morning as bed was badly needed.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Thirteen Saturday 21st January 

Saturday 21st January

So we are back at WDW and the cruise is done. Not that my opinion matters but I realised I didn’t summarise our thoughts on our first cruise experience, so here goes.

It was very good.

Now, shall we move on? Oh, OK, some detail….

Well, many folks predicted we would fall in love with it and never want to do any other type of holiday again, and to be honest, we didn’t. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and there were some highlights and things we will never forget, but it did not grab us by the short and curlies.

The ship’s sheer size, scale and impressive nature were mind-blowing. It oozes quality and is relatively new, so everything is in pristine condition. The cast members were awesome and could not do enough for us and Cataway Cay was everything we hoped it would be. A real paradise destination. The entertainment was first class and our evenings in the piano bar were just lovely. We felt privileged to have been able to experience it all.

The bits that weren’t for us…

  1. Sharing a table for all our evening meals. I know we sound anti-social and miserable, but that’s probably because we can be. I have to make small talk with people I don’t know or in some cases, really like at work all year so having to do so on holiday felt like hard work at times. Our table sharers were lovely of course and we had no problem with them at all, but the food on our holidays is very important to us and being able to relax in our own company and enjoy it is a big part of our trips.
  2. Queues for food. We expected it and this had been a big reason we hadn’t cruised before. It wasn’t too bad at all, but it felt a bit “holiday camp” at breakfast and I am too weak and unfit to be fighting for my food.
  3. The food. Honestly, everything we ate was lovely. However, the selection was limited and a bit repetitive over the course of the cruise. You know how much we base our trips around food, so a small menu of basically meat, chicken or a veggie option every night wasn’t perfect for us.

Now, of course, having done one, the next time would be much better as we would have some clue about what we were doing. Would we ever do so? I probably would as having just moaned about it above, I really do miss elements of it and would like to try it again. Louise is less keen and is very Disney’d out after a lot of recent trips so if we do a cruise again it would likely not be a Disney one. Although that worries me as all the other ships we saw looked like second-hand rust buckets compared to The Wish!

I am really glad we did it and feel lucky to have been able to, and if the chance presents itself I would definitely say try it.

Now, where were we?

Ah yes, in bed, having a lie in after a long tiring day yesterday. The plan said today was to be a day by Stormalong Bay, alas the weather prevented that being an option as it was bloody chilly. So we would need a plan B. Whilst Louise stayed in bed, Emily and I went down to the Marketplace and got a couple of breakfast sandwiches and a coffee each and had those in the seating area in the shop. We took breakfast back to the room for Louise who was now up and about.

We weren’t sure what to do and with precious time now left on our holiday we did not want to waste a day. Deciding against shopping, we opted for some mini golf and made a bee line for Fantasia Gardens which was handily placed just over the road.

A mixture of tiredness and incompetence saw us miss the entrance for that and have to carry on down the road for ages before finding somewhere to turn around. As the turning around place was Blizzard Beach we decided just to park up there and do the Winter Summerland course. It did not look too busy…

However, as we checked in we did see a fair few folks waiting to play so we had a wait of around half an hour.

We found ourselves a table to sit at and watched the ants carry huge chunks of food around whilst we chatted.

The game was great fun. It had been many years since we had played over in Florida and we were all glad we did.

Trivial things like who won or lost did not matter. What was important was having fun together and that is all I will say on the matter.

Once we were done and I had snapped my putter over my leg and thrown it in the bin, we drove over to the outlets that are Premium at Lake Buena Vista. As ever parking was harder than a moon landing but eventually we stumbled across a car pulling out and started in Gap, getting Dougie a cute Disney outfit. There weren’t too many shops in this part of the mall (we had parked over the road from what I consider the main bit) so we went over there and again luckily came across someone leaving and parked up.

For reasons nobody can explain Louise bought a handbag. It will look nice sat next to all the other new handbags stuffed into our wardrobe back home.

I was hangry at this point and food was required. I decided that we would go to Ford’s Garage, as I had heard many good reports about it.

I had booked us a table on their website as we pulled into the car park, but we would have been seated immediately anyway. I just couldn’t take that risk in my state of hunger.

We were not messing about here. We ordered an appetiser each, much to the incredulity of our server.

I had the pretzel rolls to start

Emily, the Fried Pickles

Louise, of course, Nachos

Then I had a Burnt Ends Sandwich

Emily the Veggie Burger

and Louise a Chipotle Chicken Sandwich, the most enjoyable part being Louise trying to say Chipotle when ordering it.

Apologies for the blur…

We were so full it hurt and we left short of $170 which included a large tip.

Our planned end to the day was over at Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks. We trammed in during the lovely dusk…

We had no intentions or plans to do anything but the fireworks so we just sat on a bench near the flag at the bottom of Main Street and people-watched. I wandered off over to Joffreys near Space Mountain to get some drinks and I would wager good money that was the longest queue of the whole trip.

Other than that we just watched Main Street be awesome as it went dark.

Our selected viewing spot was 99% due to its proximity to the exit and 1% due to the view, but it still wasn’t bad.

We saw a proposal….

and just enjoyed being here….and thought about those who couldn’t be.

I had a wander into the fire station on the way back from a wee….

And got ready for the show…

Emily is always in bits during these things but I admit that I too got the same way on this occasion, thinking about my Dad, and how much he loved the Magic Kingdom and the fireworks. I missed him a lot at this moment.

We were turned and headed for the exit on the b of the last Bang and were so quick off the mark we could get on the pleb monorail with no wait and did not have to resort to the resort one.

The journey out was subdued yet painless and after getting some water from the shop in the lobby at the hotel, we were tucked up in bed and asleep in no time.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Twelve Friday 20th January 

Friday 20th January

Today started with a 6.45 alarm. Yay for being on holiday. Was this early rise required for onerous cruise departure activities? No. It was required as Disney think it’s OK to have their guests be awake at 7am in order to get on some rides at additional expense. Have I said I don’t like this?

As 7am rolled around I secured a Guardians virtual queue group and a LL for Remy. We were headed for Epcot once we got back to Orlando so I was sorting out all the admin related to going to a theme park.

We rose, showered, dressed, and packed our final bits into our hand luggage before heading for breakfast at 8am. We were eating in the Roy Disney restaurant.

We started with pastries.

I also had muesli as I am all about healthy eating.

You can tell we were dining alone now as my food photo game is back on point.

For balance, I also had French Toast.

Louise had what I wrote down as “scramble”. Make of that what you wish.

Emily had Eggs for the Road

It was all very, very nice and it made us a little sad that we hadn’t managed to get breakfast here earlier on the cruise.

We said our farewells to Edi, our server and went to sit in The Bayou until our group number was called to disembark. I Facetimed my Mum whilst we were waiting and gave her a brief tour of the ship.

We left the ship at 9 and it took about fifteen minutes to queue to get through customs.

We were soon back in the car and we had a smooth and painless drive back to Orlando. It took one hour and ten minutes until we pulled up at The Yacht Club.

We dropped our cases at Bell Services and headed out towards Epcot.

I do find it hard, no matter how often I try, to express my love for this place.

It felt good to be back in my spiritual, yet expensive home.

We stopped for a drink by the pool where we were joined by this delightful lot.

We continued our walk to the park…

arriving just after 12. We started our journey of the countries in the UK and as always tends to be the case, after a swift breeze through the shops, left again. This pavilion needs a show or a ride.

Then, O Canada.

The show may have changed, but thankfully, for their sake, Disney saw fit to retain the song and I soaked up every second of it and I think I even went live on Facebook to inflict it on others too.

We continued around the showcase heading now for Mexico. The queue at the Margarita stall could have benefitted from Guardians’ style virtual queue. It was enormous!

There were similar scenes inside the pavilion for the Tequila bar too. It may have passed me by in previous times as we were busy with small kids but the Epcot alcohol thing seems to have really become a thing in recent years.

We did our duty and rode the Three Caballeros ride.

I was feeling a little peckish at this point, having only had the three courses for breakfast, so I got an Apple cake thing from the Norway Pavilion bakery. It was pure filth in all the right ways.

We wandered on through the countries until in Italy, we got some light bites. I was served by a CM called Guiseppe (yes really), who was so good looking he made me reconsider my life choices.

Freid Mozzarella and Ravioli.

We found a quiet spot to eat them.

I honestly don’t think I had ever noticed that there was a ship here before.

We were joined by a very friendly seagull, hopeful of some pasta, but he was scared away by some idiot teen who thought chasing it was a fun activity. What is wrong with people?

We browsed around Italy for a while and then it was time for our Guardian’s return time. Yes, we were the furthest point possible away from it!

We stopped off sort of on the way at Journey Into Imagination to look in the shop for a Figment T-Shirt that Emily wanted. We were a little surprised to find hardly any Figment merch there.

We entered Guardian’s at 2.30 for Emily’s first ride. This time we got Tears for Fears as our soundtrack. This ride just makes me smile all the way around. It is tremendous fun.

I have to admit to feeling a little dizzy afterwards and we had ten minutes on a bench people-watching.

Now, our slot for Remy was close and yes, we were the furthest possible point away from that too. We set off on the long walk to France.

After a long wait since it opened and a few failed attempts, we finally got to ride it.

It is a very clever ride and I am glad we did it. I am resentful that we had to hand over a load extra dollars to do so but such is the way at the moment.

Having not watched “the film” in France since the old one years ago, we stopped into the Beauty and The Beast sing a long show and despite the low numbers made our way to the end of the row.

We now made our way back to Italy for our dinner reservation at Via Napoli.

On the way, we paused in Morocco to watch the belly dancer there. This was always a favourite with my Dad and not for the first or last time this trip, he was in our thoughts.

We checked in and were seated after about ten minutes. We had a table at the back of the restaurant.

We had a great server and great food, as always tends to be the case.

I had a beer flight.

We ordered –

Emily – Mozzarella and Tomato salad….

White pizza

Louise – Same starter, then four cheese pizza

Me – Rice Balls (but CVS would have a cream for that)

Piccante pizza

Something weird happened as we were ending the meal. Our server, out of nowhere asked Emily if she was a cast member or used to be and she said yes. He chatted with her about folks he had known from the UK pavilion and a load of other stuff and we never worked out or asked how on earth he knew that. We did ask if he recognised her but he said no.

Anyway, he then proceeded to give us a cast member discount and I responded with a very large tip.

We left at 6.30 and headed for the theatre at the America pavilion to watch the Broadway show.

I am always staggered to find these things are not packed out hours in advance. They are superb, but we are big musicals fans.

Tonight’s show was from a husband and wife duo. He had played Tarzan and she was in the Newsies Broadway show. The songs they chose weren’t particularly known to me, but we enjoyed them very much.

We were all flagging a bit now. It had been a long day. We walked back to the UK pavilion to catch the 8pm show from Command Performance. We found a bench thankfully and despite the band striking up and almost frightening a poor rabbit to death, the show was great if not a little short. It was empty when we arrived but very soon filled up.

We let the crowd disperse before making the short journey to the bridge and our usual firework-watching spot. I think you know by now that I was not the biggest fan of Harmonious and again as much as I could appreciate the technical skills of the show, it felt devoid of any soul and feeling. It was just random clips of songs with no real theme or message. I appreciate I may be trying to give a fireworks show too much gravitas here, but Reflections of Earth did it and spoiled it for all other fireworks shows.

I spared you the usual collection of blurry fireworks photos.

We walked slowly back to the resort and asked Bell Services to send our cases up to our room. Once we got there I realised that I had a distinct lack of cash for any tip. I cobbled together a few dollars in coins and handed that over sheepishly to the poor chap who delivered our bags.

We enjoyed the view from the balcony briefly.

Before being asleep by 10.30.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Eleven Thursday 19th January 

Thursday 19th January

Today was our day at sea, which ironically means there will not be much for you to see and read about. We had a slower start to the day than yesterday with nowhere to be anytime soon and we did not surface until after 9am!

We went for breakfast up at Marceline. We had by now discovered that you could have a sit-down breakfast in some restaurants but our lie-in meant we had missed those by now.

By now we had also discovered tables out on the deck so we found one of those to eat at after sourcing some food from one of the food stations. A bit of queuing today but nothing too bad.

I forget how, but we learned that the boat had made an unscheduled stop during the night somewhere around Miami to let off a cast member with health issues that needed a hospital.

Breakfast was very tasty, and I shall not disclose how many plates were involved.

Trying to figure out what that coastline was defeated me. My sense of direction and geography are woeful.

We left this lovely location to go to another up on deck 14 to find some sunbeds. It didn’t take us long to work out that the first ones we chose were not right as the sun was shining on the opposite side of the ship so off we toddled to some beds around there.

Everything was idyllic for a good while until a multi-generational Brummie family arrived on deck and began shouting conversations from one end of the deck to the other. It’s not that I am anti-social, I just don’t like people much, especially those who think anyone else needs to hear their conversations.

Throughout the day we ordered drinks, including a bucket of water bottles as the temperature was a scorcher today. There were a few coolings off in the shower/pool when the sweat hit places long unseen.

Mid-afternoon I went down to the Inside Out themed ice cream parlour. I got three tubs, each with three scoops in for just $19. I asked the CM to repeat that at the till as I wasn’t sure if he’d said $90. I would have been shocked at the latter but not as much as I was at getting all that, on a Disney cruise for $19. The bargain of the cruise and the contents were awesome too. Clearly, I had now been conditioned to Disney cruise prices from all the rounds of drinks we had bought.

Emily had retreated to the shade, beaten by the temperatures today.

Me – Rocky Road

Emily – Chocolate

Louise – Cookies & Cream

We made it until 4.30pm before letting the sun win, as it was showing no signs of going anywhere. We made our way back to the cabin for showers and some packing.

The characters were out and about.

The way checkout works, and that was what we’d be doing in the morning, you have to leave your cases outside your cabin the night before. Not ideal, but understandable. It would be chaos if every guest were dragging their luggage around with them.

At least we got all that packing out of the way now and we left the cabin at 5.45 headed for the Aladdin show in the theatre. We ordered some drinks and took a seat right at the back of the circle upstairs.

The show itself was great and we really enjoyed it, or would have….

but we left the theatre with mild PTSD after the utter chaos and lack of manners displayed by almost every guest around us. Unsupervised kids next to Louise were throwing food and drinks on the floor and constantly standing up, shouting and walking around. A family a few rows in front of us always had at least one of their number standing up, leaving or coming back to their seats. It sounds very first-world problems and it’s difficult to write down just how rubbish the experience was, but they need more CMs in the theatre to watch out for this stuff. Clearly, some people just don’t know how to behave in a theatre.

With the show over, we retreated to The Bayou for a calming beverage. We took the only table available right in front of the currently empty stage but this was a huge stroke of luck. Not long after this, the band turned up.

They were called The Wishes and their first set was full of interesting versions of Disney tunes. As many of you know, I am a rock God who frequently performs on stage, so I am well qualified to pass comment on a bunch of musicians who have forgotten more than I will ever know.

We really enjoyed their first set and were sad to see it end and dinner time approach. We left at 8.15 and went to the Roy Disney restaurant for our dinner.

This place is lovely.

We had…

Me – Tomato Soup, Filet Mignon and Cheesecake

Emily – Pasta, Tacos and a Sundae

Louise – Pasta, Filet Mignon and Bavarian Cream thing (not the official title)

Our table sharers for the cruise had to leave early in the morning to catch their flight home so would not be joining us for breakfast so this was to be our last meal together. We said our goodbyes to Stephanie, Bill and William…

and this was our excellent server Edi….

With dinner over, we returned to The Bayou and really enjoyed two more sets from the band. Honestly this for us was a real highlight of the cruise and we just wish we’d discovered them earlier.

We were dirty stop outs until after midnight.

We were at the stage of looking forward to seeing what the towel creature was on the return to our cabin each evening and the final effort did not disappoint.

Till the next time…….

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Ten Wednesday 18th January 

Wednesday 18th January

We were awake at 7am, excited to be at Castaway Cay today. Look, there’s a bit of it….

Wanting to avoid the scrum situation at Marceline Market and still not aware that some places did a more civilised sit-down breakfast, we had ordered room service last night. It was Continental in nature and absolutely fine. We wanted to be up, ready and poised to get off the boat as soon as possible so it worked well.

The view promised much for the day ahead.

We dressed and made our way to what we hoped was the right place to disembark and struck very lucky. As we stumbled out of the lift, still not sure where to go we arrived with perfect timing at the start of what looked like a long line back up the stairs that most folks had used to get there. After a five-minute wait we were allowed to disembark and we started our long walk to the beach.

We had decided to head for the adults-only beach. Look, I love kids…..that are related to me.

Being one of the first off the ship, my inner theme park commando wanted to set a blistering pace to stay ahead of the hordes of folks behind us, but due to Louise’s inability to sprint for a few miles at a time, we had to let some folks past us. It hurt.

We walked for ten minutes or so and arrived at the main area of the island. We asked a cast member where the adult beach was (we knew it was still a good distance away) and opted to take the tram the rest of the way. This took us there down the airstrip and to the adult beach.

We found a spot.

As we readied ourselves for a day of not much, I quickly discovered that Louise (you had one job) Williams had failed to put the sun cream into Ryan. I wandered off hoping to find a shop where some could be acquired. There was such a place but it meant getting back on the bloody tram and going back to the main area of the island. I was the only person travelling that way at this time of day, so I undertook a weird lonely tram ride. As I arrived back at the shops, I rolled from a still-moving tram, raced to the shop and hoped to get the thing bought and get back on the same tram before it set off again.

I was thwarted by some folks buying bloody souvenirs and deploying about 17 different discounts which meant the CM had to press more buttons than Rick Wakeman (ask your Dad) to process the sale. I watched the tram set off for where I wanted to go just as I took my receipt for the one item I had purchased.

I trudged back to the tram stop and settled in for my day ruining ten minute wait for the tram to return.

Oblivious to my struggles, as I returned Louise had done the ridiculous thing of starting a conversation with the family next to us. Appalled, Emily and I did our best to not get involved.

This family, from deep in some Deliverance-style Southern backwater, were telling Louise about how they went out to shoot things regularly and how we should try eating frogs and Gator tails. Hey, I eat Doughnut Burgers so who am I to judge?

We soaked up just being here all morning.

Until we were hungry enough to go and eat lunch. That was about one minute past 12.

It was a BBQ affair at the place just off the beach (no need to tram anywhere thankfully).

I finished with a cookie worthy of its own photo.

After lunch, on the way back to our beds we stopped at the bar for a drink.

I forget what the ladies had but I panic ordered an Aperol Spritz, which to my unrefined palette tasted like medicine.

Emily made a more successful order.

As we arrived back at our beds our Louisiana family next door had moved on, probably to shoot something, so we just lapped up the sun a little more.

Thinking I couldn’t come all this way and not venture into the water, I waded out a long way into the sea. I couldn’t walk far enough to get out of my depth. The water is crystal clear, and of course in January, chilly. I spotted a few Starfish, thankfully none of them chocolate. I returned to my sunbed and waited for the twins to descend out of my body cavity.

As the afternoon went on, the beach emptied, and that delightful late afternoon “golden hour” was just lovely and peaceful.

Louise and Emily ventured into the water for a little paddle before soaking up the last few minutes of sun. We had to be back on board by 4.45 so got the tram around 4.30.

It is a long old trek all the way back to the ship, with a change of tram halfway.

There was a security check as we re-boarded which didn’t take as long as waiting for the family in front to dig out their cabin keys for the crew to scan from the very bottom of the huge beach bag they had with them. As Scar says, be prepared!!

We went straight up to deck 11 and Marceline Market for a soft drink, with a nice view.

Back at the room we all showered and left again at 7.15 after a few photos of the view.

We stopped at the Star Wars bar (probably not its real name) for a drink.

The drinks menu was on some George Lucas style iPad.

The drinks were weird. My beer was a fruity one.

Louise’s wine was pretty standard other than the man sat in it.

The names and contents of Emily and Louise’s cocktails were really something I should have written the names of in my notes!

It was an unusual and pretty cool experience, but a bit loud, so like some noise-weary pensioners we moved next door to Nightingales.

We ordered our “usuals” and listened to some more piano playing.

With those finished, we were back in Arendelle tonight for dinner so we headed over there.

I ordered –

Crab Cakes, Jerk Chicken and Cheesecake.

Here is the Chicken.

Louise had –

Samosa, Jerk Chicken and Banana Bread Pudding…

Emily –

Samosa, Stir Fry and Banana Bread Pudding

All of the food was good, but we felt the desserts were a little tasteless. We of course still finished them all.

Tonight was Pirate’s night, for which we had not dressed up, but it was nice to see many had, including all the servers. After dinner, we went to Deck 14 to watch the Pirate Band perform at 10.15 and then catch the fireworks.

It got quite busy of course, so once that was over we hung around and watched the dance party for a bit until the decks had cleared a little.

We went back to Nightingales again for a nightcap and then returned to our cabin to meet my personal favourite of the cruise…

A lovely day and Castaway Cay is incredible.

Till the next time…..

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Nine Tuesday 17th January 

Tuesday 17th January

Following a decent sleep for Louise and me, we awoke to Emily’s tales of some people snoring nearby keeping her awake. These walls must be very thin if she could hear snoring from next door as it cannot have been coming from within our cabin.

We got up around 7.30 and slowly got ready for breakfast. We watched the ship arrive into Nassau from the balcony.

Once I was satisfied that the captain no longer needed my help guiding him into port, we headed up to Marceline Market and it was pretty busy.

One of the reasons we hadn’t cruised before was a “fear” of being captive in a defined space with a load of people and having to queue for stuff. This was realised at this breakfast sitting as there were long queues for all the food stations. Had we known what we were doing we probably would have gone to the Roy or Walt Disney restaurants for a sit-down do rather than battle through these crowds.

We found a table and took turns going getting food which was decent.

We left about half an hour later and started the search for somewhere to spend the day sun-worshipping. We had decided not to go ashore into Nassau, mainly due to some things we had seen on-line about safety concerns which were probably unfounded, but to be honest, having committed to the cruise, it would be good to spend time getting to know the boat etc.

We found some chairs up on the adults-only deck, which disappointingly only meant that children were not allowed on it.

We enjoyed the view.

This was our neighbouring boat.

We left after about half an hour as the chairs we were in were not suitable for long-term sunbathing. We moved to another location where we found two sunbeds and ordered a drink. Whilst the ladies enjoyed those I set off on a walk of discovery, hoping to find a quieter area where we could all sit or lie down at once.

Our spot on deck 14 from yesterday bore fruit and I went back to collect Emily and Louise and relocated us up to a much more civilised spot.

We would settle here for the day.

My phone told me it was 73 degrees but it felt much hotter, to be honest. It was lovely.

We had more drinks and didn’t do a great deal for the next few hours. More drinks, relaxing, some reading and I think I went for a wander at some point.

You will notice that we did not have lunch, a side effect of a late, large breakfast, but after Emily had gone back to the room around 3 to catch up on some sleep, I sourced ice cream from a still very busy Marceline Market around 4pm.

At 4.45 we went back to the cabin. We quickly showered and changed and were back out at 5.25 heading for the Walt Disney theatre for the Ariel show.

It was quite a different take on the tale (get it?) but very enjoyable and Emily cried.

The show lasted an hour at which point we wandered to the Nightingales piano bar for some pre-dinner drinks.

The pianist soon arrived and performed songs themed around classic 90’s Disney movies.

This drink became a staple for me over the next few nights. I can’t remember its name but it came with a hammer to break the ice ball and release the drink. It tasted a bit like Baileys so was more dessert than a drink.

I mentioned the price of alcohol in Disney earlier in the trip. I would say that this was our main expense on the cruise. Of course, that is because pretty much everything else is included, but I would say a round of three drinks would be costing $50+ a time with a tip included. I don’t drink much so I don’t know if this is too shocking but it certainly added up over the duration of the cruise. Enjoyable though they were!

We left at 8.05 for our dinner sitting in Arendelle at 8.15. We were greeted with a huge queue to get in.

We were seated quickly enough and looked over the menu….sideways.

The dining experience here is a good one. There is a show being performed pretty much throughout the meal and our food was good.

Emily started with whatever this is.

I think Louise and I had soup, that was more pie than soup.

I had wondered where The Corrs were these days.

Louise had the chicken dish.

I had the Ribeye steak which was a bit fatty for my tastes but I think it is supposed to be?

Before dessert arrived Olaf did a tour of the tables.

Apple cake for dessert was very nice.

When Edi, our server, asked Louise what she wanted for dessert she said nothing. So he brought her a plate with the word nothing written on it in chocolate sauce.

We finished eating around 10pm and we were, to be honest, knackered and full and needed to go to bed. We had a slight detour on our way out of the restaurant. Having lost our bearings we wandered into a backstage kitchen area before several cast members pointed out we shouldn’t be going that way. We did then find the exit and made our way back to the cabin.

We were greeted with this belter.

A lovely day of doing nothing came to an end with me already realising that writing about sitting in the sun leads to short posts!

Till the next time…..

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Eight Monday 16th January 

Monday 16th January

Up at 7am to the horrors of packing. The plan had been to use one case for the three of us for the cruise, which was where we were headed today. We would then leave the other two in the car. It soon became clear that this would not work and we would need two cases.

It took over an hour to get everything strewn around our room into our cases and bags before showering, making a coffee and then heading to the car at 9am.

As ever, breakfast was a priority and we decided to go to an IHOP and the closest was up on the 192.

There was no wait to be seated and we chose –

Me – Split Decision

Louise – French Toast

Emily – Omelette

It was all very tasty and very good value.

It was still only 10.30 when we finished eating and we assumed far too early to be heading to the ship. We went for a bit of a drive around Celebration as we hadn’t been for a while.

We stumbled across some delightful properties.

Proper picture book stuff….

We left before we got arrested for taking photos of strangers’ houses.

We then set the sat nav for Port Canaveral, which showed an arrival time of 11.45. Our boarding slot wasn’t until 1.45pm, so we had no clue what we would do to kill that time once we got there.

This added to my overall feeling of anxiety at doing something new. I had no idea how any of this cruising stuff worked and I didn’t like it. Some research may have eased that anxiety but life had been busy pre-holiday so here we were, heading into the unknown.

We did the uneventful straight drive out to the coast.

In the photo above you can see our Toll Pass thingy. I would certainly say that the extra few minutes it takes to pick one of these up at the airport is worth it. You can just sail through the Sun Pass lanes and not have to worry about finding change etc.

Enough pictures of roads now?

Have some water instead.

Back to roads again.

As we neared the terminal, I naturally turned down the radio so I could concentrate and luckily was able to follow a Disney Cruise bus into the right place.

As we entered the relevant area at Terminal 8 someone directed us to a spot to drop off our luggage. We handed them over and in my “I don’t know what I’m doing” state, I handed over a $20 tip rather than the $5 I intended. If America could make the notes look different to each other that would be great. What do you mean $20 was correct??

We drove into the car park, paid $95 and left the car there.

As we headed for the check-in bit Louise of course needed a restroom so Emily and I stood with the cases starting at the entrance to the terminal, so close but yet so far.

After about six hours (I do not exaggerate) Louise returned and we made our way in. I need not have worried about killing that extra time before our check-in slot!

We were still a little ahead of our boarding slot but I figured we’d see how far we got.

As we got to one of the check-in cast members the first hurdle and therefore small piece of advice I can share is, they need a physical copy of your ESTA. I did not have one. Luckily I had mobile data on my phone and she had to wait whilst I logged onto the ESTA site, retrieved each one and showed her the copy on my phone.

Not stressful at all.

Next, we went through security before heading up to the place where you waited until your boarding group was called.

We sat for about an hour before that happened. Once group 22 was announced I had no clue where to go or what to do, so wandered about until we found the right place. We were boarding!

As we reached the entrance a CM asked for our surname and we were announced onto the ship. A lovely touch and the environment into which you arrive is really impressive.

It felt like we were surrounded by professional cruisers who were not randomly wandering about aimlessly like us. But we enjoyed the wander while waiting for our room, sorry cabin, to be available. Getting your bearings on the ship is probably the single biggest asset to getting the most from the cruise, so do more research than I did.

Eventually, we found our way up to deck 14 and took in some of the views.

At 2 we headed to the room. No luggage yet but we dumped our bags, including a very heavy Ryan, and headed back out to explore.

Any concerns about the size of the cabin, especially with three adults in it were dispelled. It was fine and our bed was probably the most comfortable one we had all trip.

We had some lunch in Marceline Market at 2.45. Just some chicken tenders and burgers with some beer, wine and rum for Emily. She was at sea now!

Sam, a UK chap behind the bar, somehow talked me into spending $16 on that beer glass. It was mine for the whole cruise (you get a card to redeem for a glass) but as I drink about three beers a year I doubted I would remember or have anywhere near enough beer to get any value from it.

We continued to explore.

I didn’t think we were getting to Nasa until tomorrow?

Ah, sorry it’s Nassau we are heading to!

We stopped in another bar called the Keg and Compass and I had a Guinness, Louise a wine and Emily another Rum and that took us almost to our sailing time. I appreciate that may not be the correct technical term.

Rather than join the crowds watching the sail away party we returned to deck 14 where it was more peaceful and had some fab views as we left port.

Whatever the coming few days had in store, at least we weren’t on that boat.

There’s something mesmerising about the sea when you live 50 miles from it. I couldn’t stop looking at it and taking photos.

Back in the room, it has to be said that Emily and I did not feel well. We had not yet established our sea legs and despite the huge size of the boat, we could feel the movement. We rested a bit and then got ready for dinner. We stopped in the Bayou (a bar) for a drink but I couldn’t finish mine as I had to go back to the room to take care of business and my upset stomach.

When I returned we wandered around the very posh jewellers onboard, expertly buying nothing before heading to the Marvel restaurant for dinner.

In another spectacular example of how little research I had done prior to doing this cruise, we were, it has to be said, shocked to discover we were seated at a shared table. Best efforts had been made to match us up with similar folks, in that it was another party of three, two middle-aged parents and an adult child in their twenties but that is where the similarities ended.

Don’t get me wrong, they were lovely people and we would get to know them better over the course of the cruise, as yes, you sit with them at every meal, but we may as well have been from different planets.

As we made awkward small talk and Paul Rudd did some acting all around us (not in real life), we had –

Me – Soup, Steak and a Sundae

Louise – Soup and Steak

Emily – Rigatoni and Gnocchi, who I thought played for AC Milan.

Not great photos, but you try explaining to three strangers from South Carolina why you need to take detailed photos of all your family’s food before they can start eating it.

The food was good and Edi, our server, excellent.

We got some sea-sickness drugs from the shop after the meal and that sorted us right out. We didn’t feel sick at all for the rest of the cruise.

We toddled off back to our room and had a welcome early night. The towel art was off to an impressive start.

Till the next time…..

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Seven Sunday 15th January 

Following the only logical way in which you should do the WDW parks, naturally, today was to be Animal Kingdom. If you don’t do them in the order in which they opened, seriously what gives?

I was awake around 6am which gave me enough time to ready myself for the app shenanigans required before riding some rides.

When the time came I secured an (expensive) LL for Flights Of Passage at 12.35, but for once there were choices to be had and it wasn’t the experience previously seen, where you just smash all the buttons presented as quickly as possible and see what time falls out the back.

Of course, Genie+ was bought again accompanied by a good amount of resentment.

After making enough noise to wake everyone else up we left the room at 8.30. The nipple-hardening chill took me by surprise and as we walked to the car I did suspect I was a little underdressed for the conditions. A fifteen-minute drive saw us parked up and on a tram.

Somewhere amidst all this, I had booked a LL for Everest at 9.15 so we walked there first.

See how I expertly and effortlessly have the camera focus on the very important fence rather than the irrelevant characters in the background.

There was already a 40-minute standby queue so our previous trick, when old school FastPasses existed, of riding it once with a FastPass and then going through standby before the queues built up was scuppered.

It was as we made our way down the first hill on the ride that I realised this was going to be life-threateningly cold. We ended the ride with ringing teeth and bright red cheeks but with a smile on our faces.

Breakfast was required. None of the parks cover themselves in glory for counter service breakfast options and here was no different. We ended up at Yak & Yeti for some breakfast bowls.

They were tasty to be fair, yet a little spicy which would no doubt be resulting in some Rennie a little later.

It’s Tough To Be A Bug had no wait so that was chosen next. On the way, we got Emily a hot cocoa to avoid a trip to a medical facility. We walked all the way to the end of a row and enjoyed the show. I think only one small child needed taking out during it this time.

I had at some point secured a Lion King LL for the 10.30 show so that was our next destination. We entered the relevant queue only for Louise to come over all hot sweats and gripes. That is not a rap act, it was a condition that needed a restroom without any delay. She left us to attend to that so Emily and I loitered just before the entrance to the theatre hoping she would return before the show started. She did, but only just which meant we were sat right at the top of the bleachers.

The show, now back to its usual format and not the Covid version, was of course excellent.

Here, the show mirrors my oesophagus following that breakfast bowl.

We then caught the train up to Raffiki’s Planet Watch. It had been some years since we had done so.

It was too cold for the animals to be out and about so they were all sheltering in their heated stalls.

Look at that ass….

I chatted for ages with a Cast Member called Roy or Ray. He had been working for WDW for 39 years and had loved every day. We had a really interesting discussion about the animals and his career. I sent a cast compliment off as he was a proper gent and a gem.

We caught the train back at 12.30 for our Flights Of Passage LL and got there at 1.10. After a ten-minute wait, we entered the first room and eventually got on the thing at about 1.25.

We were all loving the ride and with about 30 seconds of it to go (we were literally coming in to land) the ride crashed and we were plunged into darkness. A CM appeared, released us all and then took us to another room where we immediately rode it again! It felt like we had got slightly more value from our LL booking!

We were heading for our LL for the safari now but stopped in Harambe for some authentic African cuisine. I had a pretzel, Emily a muffin and Louise some Lays.

Despite being LL, we still waited about fifteen minutes before boarding. It was mid-afternoon, traditionally a time of few animals when Florida is hot, but the very cool temperatures meant there were a good number of animals wandering about.

A show that has grown on us over the years is the Nemo one here at Animal Kingdom. Whilst never quite forgiving Disney for removing the Tarzan show, this is something we seem to enjoy more each time we see it.

This being my favourite bit…..I do have history with large turtle heads of course.

Louise was tired at this point so she went to have a sit down whilst Emily and I went off to ride Dinosaur. This is probably Emily’s least favourite ride in WDW, but I wanted to ride it so here she was.

As if the Disney Gods were smiling upon her, as we got to the entrance the CMs were announcing it was down. We still entered, hopeful the downtime would be brief, but after twenty minutes and with an impending ADR coming up, we gave up and walked over to Yak & Yeti to meet Louise for dinner.

We were seated immediately, upstairs.

Oddly, at this exact moment, one of my nostrils became unbelievably runny. No amount of blowing and sniffing would sort it. I feared I was coming down with some holiday illness, but (spoiler alert) I never did and this was just a very strange thing that lasted a few hours.

We started with Pot Stickers and yet took no photo.

Lo Mein for me and Emily

Sweet and Sour for Louise.

With wine and cocktails for those that could the bill came to $165.

We endured a very chilly walk back to the tram and drove to Walmart and spent $58 on things for my nose and other bits. Once back at the resort, I went to put a wash on, despite my severe illness and ate the rest of Louise’s Gideon’s cake whilst I waited for it to finish. I went to sleep at ten with a tissue up my nose.

Till the next time…..

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Six Saturday 14th January 

Saturday 14th January

Usually, I might moan (who, me?) about being awakened by an alarm, but after my recent sleeping woes, I was quite pleased to sleep until it went off at 6.45. Nothing says I’m on holiday more than setting the alarm for 6.45 right? Thanks Disney.

With us heading for Hollywood Studios today I knew I had to be up at that time to try and give them a load of money to ride something I had already paid for and to get Genie+. I have moaned extensively already that this park is really struggling currently and always has horrible wait times.

I did what was needed and handed over the money to experience Rise of the Resistance and secure Genie+. $120 lighter (yes, you read that right) we all got ready, layering up for what was forecast to be a very chilly day. It was currently 5 degrees.

We took the car today as we didn’t want to be waiting for the Skyliner in very low temperatures later tonight, which was a shame as I really enjoyed taking advantage of the Skyliner. We parked in Mickey 305, right at the top of the row. We made it into the park behind yet more ticket and finger incompetence and made our way in.

Breaking every rule of theme park touring, we all agreed that we needed food before anything else could be considered. We walked over to Toy Story Land and for the first time tried Woody’s Lunchbox, which I think is a film you can find on the dark web if you look hard enough.

We ordered two breakfast bowls and one Plant Totchos. Everything was very tasty. We got hot drinks too.

It was about $40 and we sat outside in close-to-freezing temperatures because we were on holiday.

Because the Genie+ system works so well, I was forced to book Slinky Dog for 3.40pm before all the slots for the day went and this now meant that I couldn’t book anything else for ages. Every ride already had a really long wait time (yes, I know we should have ridden something before eating!) so all we could do was wander around Galaxy’s Edge for a bit.

In the end, we did a full loop of the park, basically killing time until we could use Genie+ to get on something. We were, it has to be said quite frustrated at this point.

We were headed for One Man’s Dream to kill some more time when Emily spotted that the wait time for Rock N Rollercoaster had dropped to twenty-five minutes from over an hour. Sceptical, yet hopeful we headed over there. It would appear that half of the guests in the park had spotted the same thing and were also heading there. Surely Disney would not post a false wait time to drag guests to another area of the park?

There were a lot of big school groups in the parks today so if you timed it wrong, the queue you entered could be adversely affected just by one of those if they were in front of you. We joined the standby and it took about 35 minutes to get to the alley. Not bad for a busy Saturday morning.

We returned to our previous plan and headed to One Man’s Dream, and on the way, finally able to make another LL booking, I booked Toy Story Mania for 11ish.

We hadn’t watched the film for a while so it was lovely to see it again.

It was nice now to make use of some of the money I’d spent on Genie+ and to get inside where it was warm as I inflicted a crushing defeat on Emily on Toy Story Mania.

181,000 was the best in our car and still woefully short of troubling any records for the day or week.

Our slot for Rise was approaching so we went back to Galaxy’s Edge and stopped for a drink and a sit-down.

Emily was excited to finally get to experience Rise for the first time as we waited for our slot to roll around. We finished our drinks and I got a notification from the Disney app. Rise was down and our booked slot had now been turned into an “any time today” slot. FFS.

You can imagine what this did to the wait times everywhere else, as everyone who should have been waiting for Rise looked for other things to do. With our LL booking ability still tied up, we found ourselves with another hour with nothing to do unless we wanted to spend it all standing in a queue. As we walked past Rise the CM outside was pretty much saying this felt like an issue that could take a while to fix so it would be best to not hang around and wait.

We consoled ourselves with some Gelato from the cart outside the Muppets. We people-watched for a bit until it was time for our lunch ADR at Hollywood & Vine, booked solely to get us into Fantasmic again without a long wait.

We were seated at 1.50. We hadn’t been there in years either. The food was decent and plentiful as were the characters. Being an all-adult group, we sacrificed Emily as tribute and she was the one to stand up and get photographed with them all. She was not too upset by this.

It had been a while too, for all kinds of reasons since there had been any character hugging. It was nice to see that again.

We each constructed plates of oddly thrown-together food combinations and filled ourselves up.

During lunch, I had booked Smuggler’s Run for 2.50 so that would be next. On the way, we called into the droid shop to pick out Freddie’s present. On a recent Facetime, he had expressed an interest and desire for something Star Wars and robot-related. Whilst we didn’t do the build-a-droid thing we did get him a talking droid soldier which would be very tricky to get home. Louise seemed not to care and made us buy it anyway. It was about two feet hight. I do have a bit of a catchphrase in WDW shops when Louise points at something…

“But how do we get it home?!?”.

It has saved thousands of dollars over the years. It didn’t work today though.

We rode Smuggler’s Run, and each time we do I manage to take in a little more of the story and detail. I am even beginning to have a clue what the aim of the mission is and how to do better at it.

Now, the Genie+ famine turned into feast and our Slinky LL, made hours ago, was due so we went straight onto that.

These people here demonstrated exceptionally bad skills when trying to undertake the complex task of scanning their magic band to get in.

We went past them as they all stood trying to figure out what the thing on their wrist was but as we got into the LL queue further up it turned out we had managed to get ourselves in the middle of their group so Louise let the incompetent stragglers past us much to my annoyance.

Having somehow wrestled the two-foot droid I was carrying into the very small seating area, we rode.

By jingo it was cold.

Whilst doing all of the above I booked us a LL for the next Indy show at 4.30. As we left Slinky I saw on the app that Rise was back up and it looked to have just done so. We altered course and marched straight there. The LL queue was snaking for miles already but we joined it, as we were riding this bloody thing if it killed us.

In the end, we waited just ten minutes to get on. I think some part of the ride was missing, but at least it was up and Emily got to experience it. It was, is and probably always will be an awesome experience.

We took advantage of the aforementioned booking for Indy at 4.30.

Before returning to our new favourite, the Tap House, for a drink. Whilst doing so I was amused and horrified to see…

Whilst enjoying that and layering up for Fantasmic (Ryan had been bulging all day with extra clothing) I eeked out a little more value for money from Genie+ and booked Star Tours for right now, bypassing a 30-minute standby queue.

Once we were done we walked down to Fantasmic. We were in at 7.15 and grabbed a box of popcorn for the wait.

Another awesome show was enjoyed and after a painless exit from the show and the park, we were quickly in the car and back home by 9pm. We got changed and headed for a club until about 3am.

No, sorry, I mean we were in bed moments later.

Till the next time…….

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 РDay Five Friday 13th January 

Friday 13th January

Here we go with another one of our infamous “rest days”. No parks today so there was no rush to be awake, up or dressed. That did not stop my body being aroused (not like that) annoyingly early again. We lazed in bed for some time before hunger drove Emily and I to get up. Louise wanted to stay in bed so we got ready and walked over to the main building at the resort in search of breakfast.

Being a master of multi-tasking, on the way to eat we dropped off a washer load of dirty clothes into a suitable machine and left that to do its thing whilst we ate.

I had left the camera back at the room so you are spared more blurry food photos of Emily’s Avocado on Toast and my Bacon & Cheese Bagel. Both were very acceptable for food court fare and we set off back to the room, with another bagel in the bag (literally) for Louise. It was coldish and a bit drizzly on our walk back but still significantly warmer than back in the UK.

Whilst Louise ate and got ready I transferred the washing to a dryer and then when that was done, collected it and brought it back to the room.

Our plans today were Disney Springs, mainly as the weather meant we couldn’t do anything related to sitting by a pool. We parked in Lime as ever and I once again got pulled at security.

After watching more vlogs on it than probably any other subject in the last few years and still having never done it, our first job was Gideon’s. It was now, as we stood by the fountain at the bottom of the stairs from Lime garage, that I realised that I had absolutely no clue where it was. I broke Google Maps out and followed it.

The virtual queue was “only” an hour so we checked in. Not having a US phone number meant we could not get a text alert, so we just had to come back at the relevant time.

To fill that hour we walked down towards Splitsville and browsed stuff in that area. We got Freddie a T-shirt and Facetimed Rebecca from outside of the M&M store.

We walked back to Gideon’s at the appropriate time and waited a few minutes in the queue to get our cookies. Mad isn’t it?

Well yes, but they are spectacular and the shop is very well-themed and interesting.

These were our choices.

I had the Pistachio Toffee.

Emily the Banana Bread Chocolate Chip.

Louise had a “piece” of cake. The Peanut Butter one….

Emily and I had the Peanut Butter Nitros just in case there wasn’t enough sweet stuff going on.

Is it worth all the hype and waiting? Well, yes, if you take it in the right spirit. This is an experience, not just grabbing a cookie. They are superb and very, very delicious. Of course, it is expensive but as a one-off “on holiday” thing, yes, absolutely worth it. We sat on a nearby bench and enjoyed them. I finished mine, but Emily and Louise saved a good deal of theirs for later. I will save you the bother of wondering. I ate the rest of Louise’s cake at some point in the coming days.

We continued to browse many shops and bought very little. Some hours passed (yep, I don’t make good notes about shopping), and around 3pm we had a “light snack” at the Earl of Sandwich.

I seem to have taken one photo and have no clue which one it was so….

that was either a Veggie (Emily), Chipotle Chicken (Louise) or an Earl (me). We sat inside as it was still a bit chilly, mainly wondering how we were going to get ourselves hungry for our dinner reservation in a few hours.

A bit more browsing happened as we made our way back to the car. Back at the room, resting and napping happened before we got ready to go and eat again. At around 7.15 we set off for the Skyliner for what would be one of the most well-executed journeys ever conducted on Disney property.

It was proper cold by now which made everything blurry.

We boarded a Skyliner gondola heading for Epcot, on our way to The Swan for our reservation at Il Mulino at 8pm. The ride was a little rocky as the wind was getting up, but we arrived safely and we were ready for the chilly stroll around to the Swan. As we came down the exit ramp we spotted a Friendship boat boarding and decided to get on that instead.

As we sat down, the doors closed and off we went. It was getting close to 8pm now and I figured we’d be a few minutes late arriving at the restaurant once we had called at the Boardwalk and Yacht Club. It’s always lovely to travel around this area at night, no matter how you do it, so we enjoyed the ride.

We docked at The Swan and walked into the restaurant, arriving at 7.59. This journey will be written about in the history of WDW as how to perfectly execute a multi-vehicle trip. Feeling very proud of myself I checked in and we were seated in a few minutes.

If you read about our experience here during our last trip you will know that we loved it, twice. It’s funny how an experience can change on different visits. We still very much enjoyed tonight but had it been our first time we would not have raved about it, as we did previously.

The place was much busier/noisier for a start and we were sat in a different part of the restaurant which didn’t feel as intimate. The food was still fab.

Bread service to start and I of course ordered the Rice Balls, as I have on every visit now as they are superb.

Louise had the same and Emily just polished off the bread. Emily and I had a Corona and Louise ordered a bottle of red.

I failed again with the food photos.

Louise and I both had the Rigatoni Funghi and Emily had Ravioli. We thought we were ordering the same as we had last time, but it didn’t seem to be when it arrived. Again, it was lovely, just not what we experienced last time.

I ended with some Gelato.

It was a dear do at $230 including a tip. Again, the service tonight was fine, just not exceptional as we found it last time.

Fighting every urge to just go home and let our tired, full bodies go to bed, we undertook a very chilly walk to Jellyrolls.

There were no tables free so we loitered at the back near some stools (honestly, the cleaning standards in WDW these days!!) having a drink and enjoying the music.

After a while, a table looked to be becoming available as the folks on it started to get ready to leave. I made a bee-line for it, feeling slightly guilty for the people I excused myself past who were discussing if they should go and sit there.

The view was better. Overall we stayed for a couple of hours before making our way out. I was aware we had a theme park day tomorrow and didn’t want us to be out too late.

Using the Lyft app, I ordered a Minnie Van from the Boardwalk entrance which arrived in seconds. We had a lovely driver in a stunning Suburban. I thought I wanted one until I googled how much they are. She took us back to the resort via some back roads through Pop Century I think and it cost us about $30.

Despite being in a foreign country, and being driven by someone who does it for a living, I could not fight the urge to mansplain to our driver that actually we were staying at Caribbean Beach and not Pop Century and she was going the wrong way. Bless her, she explained that she knew a shortcut ever so politely and managed to save her cursing of me until we left the vehicle no doubt. We were home and in bed by 12.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 – Day Four Thursday 12th January

Thursday 12th January

I won’t go on about how I was awake at 2.40am. I’ll just mention it once. Nobody wants to hear about my interrupted sleep pattern, do they? Granted, that was very early, but I should just crack on and not linger on this boring detail. Especially as, after a pee, I slept on until 5. Yeah, best not to mention it.

That was just my body clock naturally making sure I was awake in time to undertake all the admin required on the Disney app to try and get on some rides. When the relevant time slots came around I bagged a boarding group for Guardians and bought Genie+ again. Disney, you robbing bar stewards.

We were all ready and out of the door by 7.45 and did the short drive to Epcot. We were one of the first to arrive and parked right down at the front. There was, it may not shock you to learn, a decent queue at the “turnstiles” so we picked a line that would naturally move slower than all the others.

Our ability to select the line that sees the party ahead of us have issues with their tickets, fingers, magic bands and competence levels is top-notch. At one point the CM was taking photos of them all with their iPad thing, hopefully, to go on their criminal record for holding us up. We used an alternative scanner thing, leaving them there. I still don’t think they are in the park.

We arrived at the front, scanned a band, laid a finger down, and were in.

Early entry time again so we waited about ten minutes for a rope to drop and headed, at a brisk walking pace, to the Land with Soarin’ on our minds. This chap was on the scrim boarding near the rope drop.

Despite hordes of folks heading the same way as us, very few actually turned into The Land which surprised me. Where were they headed? Probably up to O Canada to wait for it to open at 11, right?

Despite knowing by this stage that we would be able to just walk on to Soarin’, the urge to walk faster was almost irresistible for me. Louise loves that.

We did indeed walk straight on and after a briefing from Patrick, we took our seats.

Join us as we ride Soarin’.

I allowed breakfast now. We went to the only just opened food court in The Land and got three breakfast sandwiches, one without Ham for Emily and I had some overnight oats. I’m sure CVS have a cream for that though. $38.

With Genie+ in the bag and a feeling that today wasn’t going to be that busy, we went on Living With The Land for the first time in about two decades. It was very interesting and much better than we remembered.

It would turn out that our Genie+ purchase today wasn’t essential. The only queues all day looked to be Remy and Test Track. We walked down to Spaceship Earth next and tolerated a fifteen-minute wait to board. There should be a refund option by a certain time of the day in these situations.

Restrooms next for Louise so Emily and I went into Club Cool and tried a couple of weird sodas.

Once we had Louise back we walked over to the Seas and rode Nemo. That’s the sequel you won’t see on Disney+.

A ten-minute wait for the shells. We disem-shelled and didn’t do anything else in there as we normally might as our LL for Test Track was now imminent. On our journey over there we could see the progress on the build of the “Moana thing”. It’s this level of detail that you read this crap for, right?

and whatever this will be.

I also booked another LL as we walked, this time for Mission Space, for “now” so we could ride that immediately after Test Track.

We didn’t bypass too much of a standby wait before joining the main queue to design our car.

Once that was done we spilt out of that room into the next part of the queue which is a real mess. All the doors dump you into a corridor where you have to jostle for position and everyone tries and fails to keep their parties together whilst not wanting to appear rude.

After enjoying the ride we made the short trip across to Mission Space where it was absolutely fine that Emily chose the Orange side and not the Green, honestly.

I still miss Gary Sinise’s hair in the old briefing, to be honest, but I was just glad to enjoy the ride and not feel like I wanted to revisit my breakfast afterwards. We got a couple of coffees and a water and had a sit down for a bit near Guardians and did some people watching for about forty minutes. We were just killing time until our boarding group came up and that happened at 1.25. It took about half an hour to get through the queue and pre-shows. Having ridden it once before we knew that it’s better to be over on the right in the pre-show room as that is where the door opens.

What I had forgotten was that there are two pre-show rooms. In another episode of “you couldn’t write it”, I was standing up against the door on the right in what turned out to be the first of two rooms (I had forgotten that fact from our one previous ride). As that show came to an end, literally to the second, behind me the doors opened and I turned ready to Dad walk to the ride. Turns out that a CM just happened to be coming in through that door at that exact time and said, politely, “Where are you going?” as I tried to go into what was clearly a backstage area.

I assumed the same position in the next room and did manage to get us down to the ride ahead of 95% of the folks in our group. Top tip, stand to the right, but in the second room.

Anywho, the ride was tremendous again and we got Tears for Fears this time.

Having conquered most of Future World, I allowed us to walk up to World Showcase now. Being the Festival of the Arts, we wandered past a lot of art.

Breaking every rule in the book, we bypassed several countries and went to China. Louise needed food for her medication and the quick service in China seemed the best option based on the queues we saw in Mexico and there only being cakes in Norway. Today was not our official World Showcase day so it was almost OK to do things abnormally.

We were amazed to find zero vegetarian options for Emily other than a full meal of a veg stir-fry thing. Louise and I shared some pot stickers and egg rolls which allowed her to take her tablets. I may have over-ordered.

Conscious that Emily hadn’t eaten in at least a few hours, we left Louise to finish up and Emily and I speed-walked over to Italy with the intention of getting Emily a slice of pizza from the window at Via Napoli. It was of course closed. Onwards we marched, determined to find something that did not include meat. You can imagine that the BBQ place in America was not the one, but just past that Emily settled on a funnel cake as a nutritious way to fill a gap. I left her to buy that whilst I restroomed. I may have helped finish it off as we sat at a table outside the American pavilion and we messaged Louise to tell her where we were, which was not Italy as we had said. She didn’t reply for a worrying amount of time so we walked back to Italy hoping to find her there.

We did. She was oblivious to our search around the world for food, as her phone was in Ryan and he was on my back.

We went back to America again as the Voices of Liberty were due to start. We even managed to get a seat.

I did a Facebook live of this if you wanted to watch their show.

After watching this and the drummer folks in Japan, again this was starting to feel like “old WDW” may be returning in some ways.

We continued our wander around World Showcase.

We just browsed in most pavilions along the way.

before making our way down through the park to the exit.

We drove back to the resort for showers and readying and headed out for tea at Bahama Breeze. We were not starving it has to be said but we’re on holiday so who cares.

We were seated immediately and served by a Scottish chap called Euan who we struggled to understand so heaven help the Americans.

Cocktails for the ladies.

and a lovely Diet Coke for me.

No appetisers tonight, just straight to the mains.

Me – Chicken Tostada Salad (again).

Emily and Louise had the jerk pasta, one without chicken.

The bill was $119ish and we paid using the device on the table as we needed to be on our way. We were headed to Port Orleans to watch Yeeha’ Bob!

We were incredibly lucky to find just one table left in the bar as we arrived so we bagged that and ordered some drinks. Bob did his usual wander around the tables gathering information on where folks are from etc.

I had Pomegranate Lemonade, Louise, wine and various cocktails for Emily.

If you want to see videos of almost his entire show, head over to Louise on Facebook, as she posted them all there!

We loved the show and Emily enjoyed it for the first time.

We did witness some absolute shithousery from a couple in front of us.

Not long into the show a table emptied and a couple came to claim it. It was a large table which could easily seat eight people. It was in fact two tables pushed together. Not long afterwards another lady wandered up and very politely asked the lady from the first couple if she minded if they took the other half of the table.

Well, the first lady did mind, very much, but couldn’t bring herself to say so. You could see her mind racing, looking for a reason to say no, but she could not. Instead, she just literally said “Whatever” and then proceeded to try and wrestle the two tables apart for about five minutes, failing miserably. She sat there with a face like a slapped arse.

Her partner returned to the table and they proceeded to look at the food menu. After quite some time and several chats with their server, the chef appeared. He had a long conversation with them, taking copious notes and nodding earnestly as this couple talked at him. He went way to construct what would no doubt be the world’s most complex meal, despite the menu only offering bar snacks.

Then their server brought their drinks. That order had taken about ten minutes too and the minute the drinks hit the table the man took one sniff (yes, sniff) of his drink and handed it back. The server showed him her pad where she had clearly written down his exacting request, but no, he was not having it.

“I never usually send things back,” he said as the server wandered away back to the bar.

Eventually, he was happy with his drink and their food arrived. What had been the result of their long consultation with the chef?

Wings.

Look, I know folks have allergies etc, but these two were bellends who just wanted to feel important. Their entire demeanour was horrible and there was just no need for it. It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice, right?

Thankfully they buggered off soon after, leaving the other family on the table to enjoy the rest of the show.

Whilst that was an interesting diversion it did not stop us from enjoying Bob’s show and we left around 11pm. The drive home was thankfully short and sleep did not have trouble finding us.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 – Day Three Wednesday 11th January

Wednesday 11th January

At the risk of these becoming a daily journal of me moaning about my sleep patterns, again my rest was fitful. I was awake at 2.40am, went to the loo and then managed a glorious sleep until 8am. Today was a rest day so this was fitting.

I say rest day. Regular readers will know this is seldom the case for a full day. It was a relaxed start to the day, so we lounged in bed for a bit. In fact, it was 10am before we were up and doing stuff. That stuff involved showering and thinking about where we may go for breakfast with no park to go to…yet.

We kept it simple and went to Dennys. It was the one next to the Olive Garden we went to a couple of days ago at Lake Buena Vista. There was no waiting for a table and we were in and ordering by 10.30.

Louise – Some skillet thing

Me – A dipping beef sandwich thing

Emily – A Beyond Cheeseburger

It was very tasty and as we were finishing up we Facetimed Rebecca. As we were doing the obligatory silly noises and waving at Dougie, our server returned to the table and joined us in doing so. She was lovely and earned herself a 22% tip, which still only made the bill $65. It isn’t fine dining, but if you want filling up with decent food for a good price, Dennys will do that for you.

Whilst we had dined, discussions turned to Louise’s ongoing condition. She had an ear infection and despite going to the doctor a few days prior to travel, had not been able to secure any antibiotics, probably as the UK seemed to have run out of them! It was causing her some grief and we made the decision to bite the bullet on this rest day and go and see our old friends at Centracare which was across the road from where we were eating. It would be good to catch up with them all again and use our frequent visitor discount!

The whole thing took 90 minutes and $336 but we emerged with what turned out to be the strongest antibiotics known to man and they sorted Louise out in short order in the coming days. Despite being told by our UK GP that “it would clear up by itself” the American doctor assured us it wouldn’t and it needed killing with fire, or with the more powerful drugs they prescribed.

We went back to the resort to “take care of business” and we were out again around 1pm and heading for the Skyliner. It was a ten-minute walk from the room and we were headed for Hollywood Studios. I had secured a Fantasmic Dinner Package for today so the plan was to do that around 3.30 and do what we could in the park until the show later that night.

The journey to DHS was short and enjoyable. It was Louise’s first Skyliner experience and despite her absolute fear of heights, all went well.

After a nice journey to the park, once we got in, the place was a mess. The wait times were horrific for everything and my conclusion now is that of all the parks, DHS suffers the most from Genie+ and whatever else is going on.

The only thing we could do was Muppets so we did.

With every other wait time being over an hour at best we decided to go to the Tap House for a drink and sit down.

I had a beer flight as the Skyliner meant I was not driving.

The ladies had some Tequila thing.

We stayed there until about 3.30 and it is a lovely place to “hang out”. It was time for our ADR at Mama Melrose so we wandered over there and checked in.

We were seated immediately

and our Dinner Package included two courses. We were still pretty full from Dennys earlier but if we’d paid for two courses, we were eating two courses. We started with Fried Mozzarella

oh, and a bread service!

Me – Chicken Parm

Emily – Mama’s Pasta

Louise – Meatballs

It was all very tasty but a bit quick and we were out in less than an hour. The Fantasmic Package is $54 each. A bit pricey for the food involved but it saves any long waits to get into Fantasmic and you have good reserved seating right in the middle.

Our early finish meant we could make the 5pm Beauty and the Beast show so we walked over to that now. We stopped on the way to get some water so that Emily could take some painkillers. Her face had gone inexplicably flushed and we could only put it down to the Tequila thing she had at the Tap House.

We were sat behind the desk so I could check that they started on time, and they did.

The wait times for almost everything were still silly, but Star Tours was down to ten minutes so we did that next.

The ride was ruined by some kids behind us. There were four of them, probably ranging from six to twelve, riding with their parents who managed to ignore them despite their ridiculous racket. It’ll sound like I’m over egging it now, but they literally screamed and shouted at the top of their voices for not only the entire ride, but the queue and the pre-ride instructions. Once we got going we could hear nothing but…

“Aurora!” screamed by the boy of the group repeatedly and endlessly at a decibel level not good for human ears. I know they are kids at WDW and probably excited but these were just horrible and well done to the parents for completely ignoring them ruining the experience for everyone in that “ship”.

After that, we needed a drink so we went back to the Tap House.

Emily moved away from the tequila and had California Sunsets instead. I had a cider.

Despite the cooler temperatures, this was still a lovely place to sit and people-watch from.

We stayed there until 7pm. I had a wee and we wandered down to the Fantasmic “stadium”. The wait times were still silly by the way.

We waited for about half an hour.

We got a bit bored and demonstrated why we don’t include many photos of ourselves in these posts.

At 8pm the show started. Now, I have to admit that emotions were felt. Emily blubbered through the entire thing and I have to say I felt a lump in the throat. This felt like “old school” Disney and our trips in the past. My Dad came to mind.

I posted a couple of videos if you wanted to see some of them. The start of the show and the end.

This was another sign and reminder of WDW getting it right again and nobody or nowhere else being able to come close in my view. Did I mention that we loved this? The changes to the show have also enhanced it. It’s punchier now, with less of the water projection stuff and more live action.

We did the slow shuffle out of the show in the big crowds, feeling all warm and a-glow.

There was a decent queue for the Skyliner but it was soon over and we were airborne and on our way back to the resort.

On the way home we could see the Epcot fireworks going off and I photographed them badly.

We were back at the resort and room in no time. I managed to read until all of 10pm, until sleep took me.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 – Day Two Tuesday 10th January

Tuesday 10th January

There’s no such thing as too early when it comes to being awake, up and ready to get to the theme park on your first day to maximise that time difference. Unless it’s 2am. Then it stinks.

I managed to get back to sleep until 3.45 and that was it. Emily and Louise started getting ready around 5am and during that saga I was on the app booking expensive stuff in the hope of a decent day in the park. For reasons I cannot explain I was able to buy Genie+ at 6.15 and not 7am. Once 7am rolled around I booked our first LL. We were out the door by 7.20 and did the short drive to Magic Kingdom.

I know we’d been awake for hours now, but it was still pleasing to be at the TTC at such an early hour. As you can see, my post-wake-up exercise regime had already burned an impressive amount of calories.

Whether you were last here a few months ago or a few decades, there is something quite special about that moment when you get through the turnstiles and see this.

Prior to this, we had walked in from our very near the front parking space (Aladdin) and I had been pulled at security again, this time due to a glasses case and we had taken the monorail, which involved no queue. A good sign compared to last year.

We did the usual walk up Main Street, full of smiles, relief and anticipation for the holiday ahead and took a clumsy Facebook live video which you can probably still see on the Mkingdon Facebook page if you wish.

We were using our special on-site early entry access at this time. This is not something we have been able to do too often over the years as we are typically off-site idiots and treated accordingly by Disney. So I was pretty excited to get at least a dozen rides in during this half an hour special period.

My conclusion about Early Entry? It’s bobbins. Here’s how it went.

Because we had the audacity to wander up the castle and have a look around, there were huge crowds gathered at all the rope drop locations by the time we figured out this was a thing.

We joined the back of one of the rope drop crowds and waited about fifteen minutes for 8.30 to roll around. At that point, it quickly became apparent that only a handful of attractions were open and they all immediately gained huge queues as all the on-site folks piled onto them. The Seven Dwarves coaster for example saw its queue end somewhere around Dumbo within minutes of the rope drop. We walked down towards Haunted Mansion, seeing any ride that was open being attacked by a swarm of on-site early entry folks only to discover that it was not on the list of rides opening early and so we joined another rope drop crowd until 9am.

We were right up at the rope for this one, so we were within the first dozen or so folks to get onto the ride that day. Come on Disney. Either do Early Entry properly or don’t do it at all. This is a chocolate teapot for most people. It should be for an hour and all rides should be open. Unless I’m staying off-site then it shouldn’t exist at all. Capiche?

Having been on WDW property since around 7.30 and having conquered zero rides in early entry and one by 9.10, breakfast was the next priority. There was literally nowhere to get food anywhere in Frontierland or Fantasyland so we walked back to Sleepy Hollow and joined a very large queue there. Why have early entry and have nothing open?

We eventually got one of these each and a coffee.

I had made a 9.45 LL for Splash earlier so that was our destination now. It was a priority as we knew its days were numbered. Louise decided not to ride as she did not want to get wet in the current temperatures.

I took more photos than I normally might for posterity, which did nothing to improve their quality.

I was particularly proud of this one.

Now moist, we headed over to the Buzz LL I had booked since entering Splash. You just have to be constantly thinking about when and what you can book next to get any value out of the extra expense for Genie+.

I moan about this a lot, but again on this trip, we were beset with line ditherers. This is people approaching the LL entrance with no clue or concept as to what they were doing. They engage in endless conversations with the CM on duty about who knows what, causing us to stand and twiddle our thumbs waiting to get in.

You either have LL or you don’t. There is no conversation. Also, have your tickets out ready to scan, or FFS get a magic band. The number of people we stood behind whilst they searched desperately for their park ticket at the bottom of the largest bag on the planet was incredible. Just a little bit of thought and preparation means that everyone gets on stuff nice and quickly.

So yes, this happened now at Buzz.

Here he is recreating my expression whilst we waited for a family of 27 to try and scan their blockbuster video cards at the entrance to the ride.

All this vexed me enough to inspire my highest-ever score (I think).

Emily and Louise accepted defeat graciously. Emily and I walked over to Philharmagic now as Louise needed to evacuate and it was wise to be as far away from that as possible. We grabbed a water on the way and booked another LL, this time for Pirates for 12.15 and then sat on a bench waiting for Louise.

I like to get a lot of stuff done whenever we are in a park, but it is also nice to sit and people-watch at times. Just for a few minutes though and then we have to get back to it!

After Philharmagic it was parade time so we walked over to the Diamond Horseshoe to watch from there. I went live on Facebook again, so you can watch the parade if you wish.

We made the short trip across to Pirates next. You’ve probably already spotted that today has been a much easier and more pleasant experience than last January? The post-pandemic calm-down seems to be happening and whilst there are still lots of things “not quite right” yet, the signs of a return to what we all know and love are growing. One of those little things happened now.

As we were approaching the ride Emily got a tap on the shoulder and Captain Jack was there, asking her what “that thing in her nose was” (she has a piercing). Despite Emily going as red as a beetroot, this brief interaction and thirty-second chat were lovely. It just couldn’t happen last year (in my view) as things were so busy and of course, characters being out and about at that time wasn’t a thing. It put a smile on all our faces and was a really encouraging sign that the future may get close to the past.

Once we had ridden, getting much wetter than I can ever remember due to those canon shots, food was next on the agenda. I mobile ordered from Caseys as we walked in that direction and waited about five minutes for it to be ready once we got there. Louise went off to search for a table and found one over by the Plaza across the street.

Me – Corn Dog Nuggets

Louise – Chill Cheese Dog

Emily – Plant-based slaw dog

It was all very tasty. Over to Tomorrowland now and Laugh Floor. In between the LL bookings, we were able to mop up the show-type stuff, which typically were walk-ins, so this was working pretty well, with the exception that we shouldn’t have to pay extra for Genie+.

Emily considered Laugh Floor a success as once again we managed to avoid getting on camera.

Onto the People Mover now and the longest queue of our day at 20 minutes.

Everyone was grateful for the sit-down.

As ever I tried to capture the latest shots of Tron.

It feels like this has been in construction for about a decade now.

Of course, we now have an opening date which is awesome.

Continuing our tour of stuff that usually has no wait, we did Carousel Of Progress next and experienced a first. Due to technical issues, we had to watch the first scene twice.

See….

It extended the resting for us and I think I almost fell asleep at one point. I was able to do so as we had walked all the way to the end of the row, despite the attraction not being full and therefore I was at peace.

Earlier I had booked Space Mountain for 2.50 so Emily and I went on that next. Louise declined due to the rides increasing roughness or maybe that’s our increasing age.

I was convinced the seats had changed recently?

Regardless, the need to clench for the entire ride has not changed as you can see. I’m not sure what the chap behind me is sat on, but it seems I had a lucky escape.

At this point, we were done and headed for the exit around 3.15. We browsed some shops on Main Street and took the monorail over to the Poly.

We were hoping to get a drink and sit down for a bit. We tried Trader Sams’s but there was a three-hour wait to get in, so instead, we went outside onto the patio area and ordered some drinks. I was on the mocktails but the ladies had a number of harder options.

This was our view.

My pretend cocktail

and real ones

I think we had three, maybe four rounds of drinks. Perhaps it’s because I don’t drink much at home and I am out of touch but I do find the cost of drinking in WDW especially a bit crazy. Those rounds cost us $170!! We were to experience similar on the cruise later, but I’ll moan more about that at the relevant time.

We got the monorail and looped all the way around to the TTC.

After a cocktail-induced restroom for Louise, we walked out to the car. We had a reservation at The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and those Nachos were calling. We were actually an hour early for our reservation but bless them they seated us within five minutes. We were served by the excellent Jo and started with the bread service and more drinks.

This was my lemonade.

We ordered two lots of Nachos, one with meat and one without between the three of us.

More cocktails….

and absolutely no room for dessert. We were ashamed of the lost opportunity to have cheesecake. The bill, including wine, cocktails and food was $110 including a good tip. We drove home, full and sleepy. I don’t know how the other dwarves got home though.

We were in bed by 8.30! It had been a long day.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 – Day One Monday 9th January

Day One – Monday January 9th

Here we go again. In case anyone missed the one post I was able to cram in about this trip before we went on it, the runners and riders were myself, Louise and Emily. The plan was a mix of on-site Disney hotels and an all-new (to us) Disney Cruise experience.

I should explain the title I suppose? Well, despite having lovely weather for January we did have a couple of very chilly days when almost every layer we had taken with us was worn, Joey from Friends style, so that explains the coats element.

Clearly, a big boat played a large part in this trip so that bit is obvious and the little scrotes part relates to the seemingly never-ending collection of screaming/naughty/noisy kids that haunted us at every turn.

Now look, this isn’t our first rodeo, and of course, you go to Disney, you get kids everywhere. At times we’ve even taken some of our own, but this time it felt different. Never have we encountered such a collection of screamers, shouters and all-round nuisance kids. I won’t be documenting each episode of this along the way as nobody wants to hear that, but trust me, we suffered, in a first-world problems kinda way.

Having gone through the usual pre-departure stresses and strains, mainly around Louise ironing everything in the house and cleaning anything that stood still long enough, we managed to get to bed pre-midnight, having been to pick up our house and zoo keeper Jack in the early evening. He would have his work cut out managing our menagerie and I spent most of the evening passing on instructions on all the weird stuff our house and pets do.

Alarms were set but not needed as Louise was up before them and therefore so was I. I had my usual stresses and worries about cases shutting and being overweight, but it was too late to start any diets now.

Having let the dogs out for very early wees, I put them back to bed with Jack and we made our escape after I had got a nice sweat on loading the cases into the car.

We were of course fifteen minutes later leaving the house than I had requested. We could only hope they would hold the plane for us.

Very few of you will know/remember or care what the weather was like in the early morning hours of January 9th, but let me tell you it was bloody awful. The drive to the airport was horrific and it felt like I held my breath the whole way there. Strong winds and sideways rain, in the dark on a motorway does not lead to pleasant motoring. I was very grateful to pull off the motorway and down the slip road to Terminal 2 at Manchester airport.

Entry into the car park was painless and despite it being full as always, as we had driven just one level up a car was pulling out and we gratefully accepted this gift, whilst at the same time cursing whoever made UK parking spots so narrow and/or cars so wide. The cases were released and as I always do, I took a photo of our location for when I have no memory of parking a car at all in two weeks time. A brief walk to the terminal and no queue at all for Premium check in. Yes, we are “those people” on this trip.

Security too was easy enough. No long queues which made me punch the air at not having spent all that money on a FastPass for it. Little wins!

Then as we waited for our stuff to emerge from X-Ray, we saw two of our trays had made it to the dark side. The side where a human needs to do things to it. So we waited.

Imagine about 30 minutes passing at this point……

There were two members of staff doing this checking and each bag seemed to take about a week to check. They were not, it is safe to say, busting any guts either.

Eventually our trays got to the front of the queue. Louise had a small tub of Vaseline in her bag and that was quickly resolved. Ryan on the other hand was to undergo more tests than a Russian athlete. The end result was a small bottle of talcum powder had caused all the fuss and there had been no reason to hold Ryan back after all. How we laughed.

Still, better that they are over cautious so we don’t get blown up mid air I guess.

With food and toilets on our mind we pressed on. With one of those taken care of we joined what now seems to be a customary queue to get anything to eat. I am not a fan. Open more restaurants FFS.

After twenty long minutes we were seated in San Carlos. From this menu….

We chose our breakfasts. To be fair we had chosen them about 18 minutes ago whilst stood in the queue.

Me – Full Works Sandwich

Louise a (not as good as the ones I make) Eggs Benedict

Emily – Avo on Toast

We had both coffee and juice as is the rule for airport breakfasts and quickly scoffed the lot. Still being hungry, we then ordered some toast too.

£54 lighter we set off to the shops where, despite having weeks to plan and pack Louise felt the need to buy a swimsuit at the airport for the highest price in the North West of England .

With more than enough shopping done we set off on the long walk to Gate A4. Boarding was both delayed and happening right now, so Louise’s need for evacuation had to be curtailed with a few encouraging messages from me along the lines of, “suck it up or stay behind”, and she appeared just in time for us to be the last to board.

Our first look at Premium revealed that it was all very nice. To be honest, it’s probably what Economy should be like as the seats are comfortable and your knees don’t touch the seat in front, but we were more than satisfied. Our plane today was Miss England, but we probably wouldn’t.

There was Prosecco and juice as we waited to push back at the obligatory later time than promised, but at around 10.12 (I checked) we left the gate and did the usual two and half hours of taxi-ing to the part where we actually took off.

Drinks were served and I watched a film called Unchartered with Tom Holland. I don’t know what he was doing on our flight but it passed about 90 minutes. I was inexplicably thirsty all flight and had to request three waters. I could have drank thirty but did not want to be a pest.

Safe to say our first “screaming child experience” happened for the entire flight. I’ve been told a million times that I can exaggerate too much, but that statement is fact. Food came.

I know it looks like apple crumble but it was Shepherd’s Pie and it was decent.

Louise had the same and Emily some meat free pasta thing.

I read a bit.

I played Solitaire on my seat back screen, no doubt annoying the person in front as I tapped away.

A bit later I watched another film, Bullet Train, which was much better than expected and that passed a lot of time quite nicely. We were about an hour out now and snacks arrived. Sandwiches and scones.

I played Solitaire again for the entire descent and all in all the flight passed quickly and was very good. The plane of course was a petri dish of disease. How much more are we aware of this stuff post pandemic?

Every cough (and there were so many) is noticed and it seemed 90% of the passengers were carrying some form of disease. Louise included, but more of that later!

We touched down at 19.30 UK time and we were one of the first off the plane, speed walking to immigration. We waited just a few minutes there and a few more for our cases before setting off on the frankly silly route to the main terminal. We had not, as I expected we might, arrived in Terminal C, and I had remembered to go to the A side as that is where the Toll Pass booth is. On the way we had to stop at Firehouse Subs in the food court for a drink as Emily needed to take some pills. Nine hours of a screaming child can do that.

There was no queue at Alamo. Has that changed? I seem to remember back in the day that you’d wait for ages to get your hire car. The last few trips there has just been me at the desk. I also no longer get any attempt at upsell. Maybe they sense my Jedi like powers and experience?

Over to the garage and we were pointed at the relevant row of cars. We did spend a good amount of time picking our transport and we did very well. In fact, I’d say it was one of the best cars we’ve ever had. I loved it. A Jeep thing. Here’s a photo taken much later in the trip.

It was in great condition and was a lovely drive.

We managed to get all the cases and ourselves in and then Louise and I had an argument as she couldn’t adjust her seat and this clearly was my fault. I stopped programming the destination into my phone, undid my seat belt, went round to her side and found the relevant button and all was well again.

Our route took us down the 417 and took about 25 minutes. We had seen via the app that our room was ready and as we arrived at Caribbean Beach the security guard scanned my band (not a euphemism) and directed us to Trinidad 3809. I had requested a room close to the Skyliner and it was about a five to ten minute walk away.

Our room was lovely and much more to Louise’s taste than the very themed rooms at Port Orleans on our last trip.

Louise had to pick up her toilet business from where she left off at Manchester airport so whilst she did that I unpacked my stuff. Louise did moan that I had taken all the drawer space up, but you snooze, you lose. The laides decided not to unpack and driven by Emily’s hunger (her snack option on the plane was inedible) we went out to eat. We let Emily choose and she plumped for Olive Garden.

There was no wait to be seated and we looked over the (very familiar) menu.

Naturally we started with salad and breadsticks. It is the law.

Me – Shrimp Scampi (this was chosen as it was light on the calorie count. Travel day always tends to involve about seven meals across multiple time zones so I wanted to do what I could to limit the damage this early in the trip).

Emily – Five Cheese Ziti

Louise – Chicken and Stuffed Ravioli

It was all very good and we were all very full. I paid the £100 bill on the machine on the table and we went over to the food mart across the road to get some waters for the room. I think I paid $10 for 24.

Back at the room we were all ready for bed. As we started to get ready to do so, we realised that Louise, only having one job to do for the holiday (get everything and everyone ready for it) had forgotten toothpaste. So I put my shoes back on and went out in search of the main building and a shop. It was a decent walk, but I didn’t mind as it obviously would burn off all the food I’d eaten today, right?

I got toothpaste, plasters, wet wipes and pain killers. Essentials for any of our trips. I had a quick look around too.

By the time I got back to the room everyone was asleep so I spent some time with Matthew Perry before closing my eyes around 8.15.

Till the next time…..

Tiers, Tears and My Third Trip in a Year

Hello again, it’s been a while since we had a normal, non-trip report post. Much has happened, most of it unpleasant and I won’t be going into a lot of detail about that stuff here.

All I will say is that most of it hasn’t sunk in yet I’m sure. We all feel like we are in some surreal alternative dimension with regular attacks of grief and disbelief.

We miss Mary and my Dad every single day and I think that’s all there is to say about that.

Anyway, before this gets too dark and depressing I wanted to clear something up. I was inundated with a question from one reader last week, desperate to know if the work we were having done out the back ever got completed.

Well, I could write a six thousand word post on this subject, covering the trials and tribulations we have been through, not to mention the enormous expense, but to cut to the chase, yes it is done!

We haven’t had a chance to “tart it up” yet with pleasantries like plants, flowers, lights and furniture mainly as it has rained non-stop here for about six weeks now, but you get the idea….

Before….from above…

and from below…

During (these give me PTSD)…

And after….

The journey to those three new tiers where once was grass resulted in more than three tears being shed. One of these days who knows, we may be able to remove the covers from the fire pit (top tier) and table and chairs (middle tier) that have barely been used in the two summers we have had them!

Being distracted by the declining health of our respective parents played a significant part in the job drifting a bit and the first set of workmen (yes, we eventually fired them), taking the piss a bit. The second lot were excellent, turning up every day at 8.30 on the dot, mob-handed and got the thing sorted in under two weeks. It only took them as long as two weeks because they had to undo most of what the other chancers had done and do it properly.

We are delighted with the results, just not so much the extended time to do it and added costs.

With that boxed off, I have just this one post before we go away again on another very indulgent trip to Florida. It is odd behaviour for us to go again so soon, but I suppose this is what the mortality and passing of close loved ones does. We are all definitely in a weird state and we’re just doing what feels closest to right, for right now.

The plan was pretty much sorted and dictated by another odd/new thing, the inclusion of a Disney cruise, so the rest of the schedule just fell into place around that. As tradition dictates, here is a rough outline of our plans. I am very satisfied with them, mainly as I managed to get a couple of “hen’s teeth” in at the last minute, in the shape of O’hana and a Fantasmic Dinner Package. Doesn’t it feel good to secure stuff like that when you’ve trying for weeks and weeks to get them?

If you didn’t know, the travelling party is me, Louise and Emily.

Monday 9th January

We fly tomorrow (still sounds weird and unreal), from Manchester with Virgin. We have for the first time booked Premium both ways.

We pick up our car from Alamo at the airport and drive to our first accommodation, Caribbean Beach Resort. This was chosen almost exclusively for the Skyliner option from there. We wanted to stay on-site, but didn’t want to pay for a Deluxe for the bulk of the trip and this option gives us car-free access to the Boardwalk area.

Tuesday 10th January

You know we will be in Magic Kingdom as it is our first full day. At the risk of becoming a bore, I have made a reservation at the Cheesecake Factory for 7.30pm for some Nachos.

Wednesday 11th January

Some resting, and the weather forecast looks OK with temperatures above 70 degrees, so we may be able to do some pool time in the morning. After many, many weeks of struggling to do so, over Christmas I managed to book us a Fantasmic Dinner Package at Mama Melrose (I would have taken one in any of the eateries) at 3.45, just to get us into the reserved seating for Fantasmic. With it just returning, we suspect queues for it will be long and this avoids that horror.

So we will pop into the park for that meal and kill a few hours until we need to take our seats around 7.30pm.

Thursday 12th January

It’s an Epcot day, focussing on Future World. We have plans to go and see Yeeha Bob again at Port Orleans in the evening so we will be leaving the park around tea time to do so. Drink may be involved.

Friday 13th January

Not due to any superstitions about the date, we are planning a full rest day today, anticipating some mild hangovers. I do have a park reservation just in case we want to bother, but the evening sees a return to Il Mulino at The Swan and hopefully a few hours at Jellyrolls.

Saturday 14th January

A full theme park day at Hollywood Studios today. Hopefully, Emily will get to do Rise for the first time. I know a Saturday at DHS may be crowdtastic but we’ll play it by ear.

Sunday 15th January

Another park day at Animal Kingdom with a dinner reservation at Yak & Yeti. We will need to pack to leave Caribbean Beach as tomorrow…..

Monday 16th January to Friday 20th January

We board our cruise.

Friday 20th January

We leave the cruise early doors and head for our final resort of the trip, our old favourite the Yacht Club. We plan to do World Showcase in Epcot in the afternoon and evening with some fireworks to finish things off. Dinner is booked at Via Napoli.

Saturday 21st January

Hollywood Studios again today, mopping up anything the crowds have denied us thus far.

Sunday 22nd January

Magic Kingdom of course for the last full day. Along with the aforementioned Fantasmic Dinner Package booking, I was very pleased to get an elusive reservation at O’haha around 8pm.

Monday 23rd January

We check out, kill some time at Disney Springs no doubt and head to the airport for our flight home.

I do have some trepidation about the WDW parks after our experience last January, but I am hoping things are a little more settled, with less “catch up” travel following the pandemic and Genie+ having a year under its belt to sort itself out. I see that from Jan 1st, the change to only allow Genie+ bookings on the day will be in effect so that may help?

Anyway, we have much to do today, starting with me checking in for our flights as soon as I post this. Louise has been really ill this week with a flu-type thing so the packing and prep have been a struggle. Hopefully, she is through the worst now and she doesn’t forget anything of mine or there’ll be trouble!

As ever I’ll use the Mkingdon Facebook page to share stuff along the way, and I’ll see you back here in late January.

Till the next time……

The No Parks and Recreation Tour 2022 – Day Fifteen

Monday 3rd October

It won’t be too shocking to you to hear that Louise didn’t really sleep too well. She was up most of the night and I rose at my now regular time of around 6am.

We watched a bit of TV for a while and then got up, got ready and finished packing. I nipped down to Fuel again and got some coffee and breakfast. I had some overnight oats which I suspect are one of those things that are portrayed as healthy but probably have more calories in them than a Christmas dinner.

I had a look at our hotel bill on our TV and it was completely unfathomable. I am a man of moderate intelligence but the endless litany of debits and credits just made no sense whatsoever. I was in no mood to be picking over it, so I just clicked “Checkout” and thought any issues could be dealt with later.

We were out of the room a whole five minutes before the 11am deadline. By the time we arrived in the lobby I had already realised that I had left our keycard in the room and now had no means by which to get us out of the car park. So I had to go to reception and tell them this tale that they no doubt hear about 112 times a day.

Once in the car with all the luggage, with my freshly issued key card between my lips, I was delighted to see the barrier just rise automatically making my ten-minute wait in the queue at reception all the more worthwhile.

Of course, we needed an extra case as we couldn’t fit everything into the two we came with, so our first stop was Premium Outlet Malls to find one. We quickly found the Samsonite shop and discovered that the Premium in Premium Outlet Malls stands for the prices. $199 lighter, we left with an unremarkable averagely-sized case. Again, shopping around for a cheaper option was not something either of us felt like doing today.

Back at the car, we shoved the extra stuff currently loose in our trunk/boot into the case.

Our pre-airport meal was to be another visit to the Nachos capital of the world, the Cheesecake Factory. On the way, I stopped to fill the car up and a real sign of the economic times saw a $50 pre-payment not fill the tank from just under half full.

The place was empty but it was barely noon on a Monday.

Having learned our lesson on the last visit, we were just going to have some Nachos today, and possibly a slither of cheesecake too. We would play it by ear!

Isn’t that a magnificent sight? These were again all kinds of awesome and we cleared the lot.

With our return to the UK now imminent and a good deal of upset and unpleasantness in our immediate future, we battled on and got some cheesecake down us.

Mine was called an Old Basque for reasons that escaped me.

Louise had the Banana Cream Pie one. Can anyone say that without hearing Fozzy’s voice?

It was 1.15 now and having failed to fill the tank up on the first attempt, I stopped again for fuel and put another $10 in. The needle still didn’t look to be all the way to the top but that would have to do.

There was nothing left to do now and no time left to do it, so we headed for the airport. We arrived at 1.40 and returned the car with no fuss in car return B. I remembered to drop off the toll pass thing in one of the bins provided and we now had a bit of an adventure getting to the very newly opened Terminal C.

There’s a sign for Terminal C which says you can take the monorail and it will take five minutes or you can walk there in twenty. Unless you are running sub-four-minute miles this is nonsense. It is bloody miles to Terminal C. Even when you get off the monorail there was an enormous trek up and down multiple levels to get to the check-in area. I’m sure all this will improve over time but it was a real faff.

We waited about twenty minutes for check-in to open and we were headed home in Business Class. Aer Lingus invited me to bid for an upgrade before we left the UK and I did, bidding the lowest amount they would permit and we got it. We endured a large family group with many children making a load of noise as we waited. They were those parents who speak to their kids in a way that makes it clear they want everyone around to hear, and know what fun parents they are and how “entertaining” their kids are. Many of the party had those entirely amusing pink Stetsons on that you may see on a Blackpool hen do. Sure, I can be a snob when I want to be.

My tolerance for other people’s kids can be low at the best of times. Right now, it was not abundant.

Anyway, soon enough a camp man with an impressive tan opened up our check-in and we got a glimpse into what it is like to travel like wealthy people. I liked it. He really looked after us. He had a passing resemblance to Emperor Ming (ask your elderly relatives).

Security was empty and we were through to the new terminal. Most of it, not quite open.

I got changed into UK clothing in a loo before we checked into the Business Class lounge. That too was a bit makeshift, but we got free drinks and some seats in a quieter area behind some curtains.

To top the trip off we’d been hearing from Rebecca that Freddie was in the hospital! So we chatted to her to get updates and crossed our fingers that by the time we landed all would be better. In the weeks to come, he would be back in the hospital to undergo a scheduled operation to remove his tonsils as they were the root cause of an endless stream of infections and illnesses. Touch wood, he has been fine since!

We boarded at 5.30.

There was fizzy stuff and juice as we sat down and overall the experience was a good one. The food was a clear step up from the economy stuff. We had a very acceptable bit of steak.

The seat was able to go all the way down pretty much but neither of us managed much sleep as it just wasn’t that comfy, but that is churlish as the comfort levels compared to these night flights in economy was obviously much better.

The flight went pretty quickly thanks to a tail-wind and I have no clue what happened next as my notes finish there.

To say this was an odd trip would be an understatement. It was the first time Louise and I had been on our own and I have to say I really enjoyed the more relaxed, easier to plan and decide what to do element of that. Of course, I also enjoy the large family group trips too. They each have their merits. It was also just nice to have time for just us two.

Clearly though the trip was over-shadowed by firstly the hurricane and the now, in the context of later events, seemingly inconsequential disruption that brought upon us. Throughout the trip, we had the over-arching worry at all times about Mary and her respite care and of course, the worst happened so close to the end of the trip. Having cared for her at home for nine months prior to the trip, it was heartbreaking to lose her whilst away for just two weeks.

We returned home to arrangement-making, putting affairs in order and generally sorting stuff out for Mary. We weren’t to know that within two months my Dad would pass too. He had been a long-time prostate cancer sufferer and the bloody thing got him after 13 years, helped by Covid and a fall that meant he had to have a hip operation. He never came out of the hospital following that operation and his decline was shockingly quick. We are all still trying to process what we’ve been through this year.

It was that rapid decline of my Dad added to Mary’s passing that inspired us to return to Florida so quickly after this trip. We were very much in a “F*ck it, we have to do it whilst we are young and fit enough” mood, driven by what we had seen with our respective parents.

So almost immediately after getting this trip written up, we go again, this time with Emily along for the ride(s). Hopefully, we can enjoy a less stressful trip with no weather disruption and without the concern around Mary’s care and condition on our minds.

If you’ve not had more than enough already, it’ll be here for you to endure soon enough.

Till the next time…..

The No Parks and Recreation Tour 2022 – Day Fourteen

Sunday 2nd of October

We’ve experienced all kinds of things in Florida, the vast majority good of course, but you don’t visit a place as much as we do and avoid encountering upsets, arguments and downright upsetting stuff over all those years.

Today, however, is something I have no idea how to write about. Only my type A, OCD need for completing stuff sees me sitting at the keyboard and having to get through it. So here we go….

I was still waking up at 6am despite the holiday being almost over. Thanks, body clock. We watched another episode of Dahmer via Netflix and I think Louise nodded back off for a bit. Emily was with Mary back home and we were calling and messaging constantly with the latest updates etc.

At around 8.55am Florida time, Emily sent us two words. “She’s gone”.

She immediately called us, and Rebecca joined the call from her home too. We had all been preparing ourselves for this moment for at least eight or nine months since Mary had a stroke in December 2021 and had to come and live with us. There had been many times in those months that we thought she was leaving us, only to bounce back like the fighter she was, but all that preparation did not make it any easier now.

There were lots of tears, of course, accompanied by a numb feeling of disbelief. After a while, we all hung up and we began the process of informing those who needed to know and arranging things such as a funeral director. Thankfully, technology and much-improved roaming contracts made this much easier than it may have been a few years ago.

We also spoke to the nursing home and went through what would happen between now and when we would get home. As much as Louise feels incredibly guilty about being away when her Mum passed, any attempt to fly home earlier than scheduled, once we suspected we may not get back in time, would have seen us either in the air or in an airport at this moment, unable to make arrangements or speak with the girls as easily as we could now, so if there can be any good thing about a moment like this, we should cling to that.

Amongst all this, I had nipped down to Fuel in the Dolphin’s lobby, their take-out food option and got some breakfast and coffee, mainly as I didn’t know what else to do.

Once all the calls we could make were done, we had no idea what to do with ourselves so we just went back to the pool again around 11.30. Louise cried pretty much all day and I felt like a fairly useless spare part, lying there in the sun, feeling like we shouldn’t but not wanting to sit in the room.

More calls were received and made during the afternoon and I handled as many of those as I could to prevent Louise from having to.

At around 5pm we went back to the room and had showers and got dressed. At some point during the day, I had looked for somewhere to eat this evening and just chose the closest thing I could find, The Yachtsman’s Steakhouse at the Yacht Club. We were booked in for 7.30.

We walked over there, the gorgeous surroundings feeling all the weirder at a time like this.

We arrived with a little time to spare so we went into the Crew’s Cup bar for a drink. Louise had red wine and I had a chocolate martini again.

On a day that probably called for it, we had a second round, this time I swapped to a beer.

We checked in next door at the restaurant at 7.25 and we were seated after a five-minute wait. It was odd to experience the world carrying on as normal, with the Cast Members doing their jobs and greeting us happily. We were served by Marty and during the meal, we chatted with the couple at the next table who were from Minnesota. They were frequent visitors too and it’s always nice to talk to other folks bitten by the bug and pick their brains about all the stuff you haven’t done yet.

We started with another lovely bread service.

I ordered the New York Strip.

Louise, the Filet Mignon.

We had creamed spinach and mushrooms as our sides.

We were too full for pudding, which was the second saddest thing to happen today.

We strolled back to the hotel slowly, soaking up the environment.

With some perfect timing, the Epcot fireworks started right at that moment and I took far too many photos of very poor quality.

You know I love this place and I lingered longer than was probably needed just to soak it in a little more. I always think about the horrid winter waiting for us back home and how I have to charge my batteries with the life force from this area just to get me through it.

We were back in the room and quickly asleep after a day we will never forget, full of all sorts of emotions. The next day would see us fly home.

Till the next time…..