Cram Packed Planning

Thanks for your votes and thoughts last week. For those interested, it seems we are a trusting bunch around these parts…

a-poll

How productive was your week? I had a good one and got lots done, despite being at work for far too much of it.

As soon as we booked our next trip I added calendar reminders to my work diary on the days we could book the ADRs we wanted. That way, nothing silly like work would make me forget to get those sorted asap. Last week saw three of those reminders pop up and I snaffled them all with great gusto. Who he is and why there was a magician at work I don’t know?

We’re only on Disney property for four nights, so four ADRs seems an awful lot for someone who keeps saying they will be eating off site mainly. Whichever idiot planned to only have four nights on site at WDW is now desperately trying to cram in all the stuff we need to do and it may not be pretty. For example, our only day in Epcot (which is at least a two-day park) is the day we leave Siesta Key and check in at the Beach Club. So half the day, or at least half the morning will be taken up traveling back and checking in etc, so we won’t get into the park until close to lunchtime I think. I am planning on setting fire to the Siesta Key rental in the early hours of that Saturday morning just to make sure we’re all up and out nice and early though.

To make matters worse one of our must do ADRs (Sanaa) had to be on that day, so we’ll need to leave the park in the late afternoon to allow getting ready time (seven minutes for me, a couple of hours for Louise) to get to our reservation in time. It’s an early one as I want us back into Epcot before 9pm to catch Reflections. That may seem tiring but hey, we’ve just done a week at the beach, so be prepared to use up all that saved energy in the next few days.

So with only a few hours for such a large park I was getting a little concerned. At Emily’s suggestion I checked to see if Epcot had Extra Magic Hours that night, with us being on-site superstars and all that but alas it did not. However, I did see that Epcot has EMH the very next night. Well, that works nicely as we are at Animal Kingdom that day, which closes early at 7pm. So once done there, having eaten at Yak and Yeti (an ADR success from this week) we can head back “home” to the Beach Club, and stroll on into Epcot for another couple of hours until 11pm. If our legs can carry us, heck, we can even do Jellyrolls after that if we want to. It’s on our doorstop!

Sure we have to be up nice and early the next day to get to Hollywood Studios for another twelve hour park day but we have a whole nine hours of sitting down to do on the plane home a few days later so it’s all good.

Our final ADR is becoming a little bit of a tradition. Trail’s End is a nice way to break up our final day which of course is always at Magic Kingdom. A lovely boat ride over to the campgrounds, an all you can eat buffet that will threaten to sink that same boat on the way back in to the park just as the sun sets. That’s always a favourite and magical time for me and I love the parks at that time.

In theory we could do a park on the day we fly home but usually we spend that shopping for all those gifts we saw on day two and said something like “we’re here for ages, we’ll get it later” and then have to panic and run around in the final hours trying to remember where we saw it. That and eating. Speaking of which, I posted a few weeks ago about the Toothsome place at City walk.  I’ve also posted recently about WDW and Universal being good for us tourists as they have to compete. Well, as if I knew what I was talking about, did anyone see the extreme milkshakes that are on the way at the new Planet Hollywood place?

Image credit to Inside the Magic

Image credit to Inside the Magic

Yes, one has a full slice of cake on top, what of it?

The problem now is of course, I have to shoe horn these buggers into my plan too. I’m not sure what will kill me first, the calories or the stress of planning.

Till the next time…..

What Would You Wish For?

Who’d want to be a Disney Imagineer eh? Well, me for a start. For location alone it’s in my all time top four dream jobs just behind millionaire, musician and best selling author. As good as the job seems they and in turn Disney will, in my view, always be between rocks and hard places when it comes to developing the rides and attractions. The challenge of keeping up with the noisy neighbours at Universal, introducing new stuff to keep folks coming back as well as retaining the magic and memories that everyone is so attached to is a delicate balance to maintain.

I will personally never forgive the Imagineers responsible for Stich’s Great Escape, but that’s one aberration in a long line of success.

This quandry was brought to mind this week when I saw a rumour posted into my Facebook timeline (thanks Val Ramsey!). The article suggested that Disney were testing a new fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, postulating that this may be to replace Wishes.

Now, that is just a guess and is a million miles from confirmed. They could just be testing the fireworks for the Christmas stuff they do which will be starting soon, but a new fireworks show could make some sense.

  1. There is currently no night-time parade at MK and they need to announce one for when the Halloween and Christmas parades finish. A new set of fireworks could fit into that.
  2. Wishes has been around for a good while now and it could be due a refresh.

Now something like this is going to draw mixed reactions from the Disney faithful. For some, like Emily, their reaction is horror and instant mourning for something that hasn’t yet died. For Emily, Wishes is all she has known so perhaps the reluctance for change is understandable. For others of course there’s excitement and anticipation for what may be to come. I honesty can’t remember what came before Wishes but I know I will have seen it and as sad as it may be for Wishes to be retired, I do wonder what the next generation of fireworks show may look like. I’d expect Disney to up the ante though with technology now being available that wasn’t when Wishes came along.

There have also been rumours that Paint The Night will come to the Magic Kingdom so of course nobody really knows, unless you’re the boss at Magic Kingdom. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Some folks have even been bold enough to suggest that there will not be a replacement parade at all. Claims that cost cutting will be at the root of this drastic action. Personally, I cannot see that at all. The Magic Kingdom and parades are synonymous, and I just can’t contemplate that Disney would be so silly as to break that tradition.

Whatever happens I’m confident enough to trust that Disney will get it right. The nighttime activities at MK are a show piece event and they have to maintain a standard so that it will mesmerise and entertain their audience, as well of course, making sure it makes a good proportion of them cry, or maybe that’s just Emily?

In twenty years or so, when some other idiot is blogging about Disney changing whatever does or doesn’t come next, there will be a similarly split reaction I’m sure and I just hope I’m still going there to see whatever it is.

So, time for your thoughts, what do you want Disney to do?

Till the next time…..

What Are You Eating Next April?

Our holiday started today. I know that the countdown flew by and I didn’t celebrate the single digit dance and all that, but that’s because of course we aren’t really at that stage. But, crucially today I booked our first ADR. I now know where I’ll be eating dinner on the 14th of April 2017.

Earlier today I booted up the My Disney Experience app and did the deed. It is so easy these days to organise stuff like this and I’m all for it. If there is ever an option to do something online, I’m all over it, so Disney’s move into web and app based bookings suits me completely.

However, there is a very small part of me which misses the butterflies in the stomach feeling of calling Disney to make your reservations. Stood in a dank and dreary Bolton, talking to some ray of sunshine in Florida somehow always seemed to cheer me up. The hold music alone had the power to transport my mind to happier and sunnier places but then talking to a Cast Member who couldn’t pronounce my name and wished me a magical day was a special treat to behold.

Anyway, the booking I made for Friday the 14th of April 2017 at 8:15pm was at ‘Ohanas. It’s been a long, long time since we ate there. The beauty of chronicling all our trips over the years is that I know exactly when it was…

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Yep, I know for sure that it wasn’t the 1/3/2002 as it says on that photo. That was caused by me replacing the batteries in my digital camera and all the dates being reset. So every photo from that holiday has the wrong date on it. Sigh….The actual date of our last dinner there was Saturday the 16th of August 2003.  The girls would have been eight and six at the time and I also know we ate at 6.30pm. I knew there would be at least one good reason for writing up every single trip in ludicrous detail.

Here is my detailed and thought through review of the whole experience…

Our server was very good and very friendly to the kids, who of course won’t shut up at home, but become mute when other people talk to them.

The starters were lovely, and like the pig I am, I ate far too much of them so I was full by the time the meat arrived. The girls had a hot dog as they are really cosmopolitan and exotic.

Louise had a back scratcher cocktail from the bar, and I had a lovely Diet Coke! 

The meal was very nice indeed. I think maybe we were a little tired at this point and didn’t get the most out of it. $75 was fair enough I thought as Louise’s drink was $8! 

We submitted to exhaustion at 8.00 and we drove home and were all in bed for 9.15.

I suspect we’ll be paying a little more than $75 this time around, down to Brexit and the fact that Emily can now also drink those cocktails. Crazyness!

So one ADR down and not may more to go. Our on-site dining experiences are select and few and far between. To be honest the motivation for booking ‘Ohana was Emily spotting this dessert on some blog or other…

Image credit Touringplans.com

Image credit Touringplans.com

It is Banana Bread Pudding and it will be in my belly on April the 14th. What will you be eating then?

We just have ADRs for Sanaa and Trail’s End to add on for later in our trip and the rest of our eating will be done off site, in my comfy shorts.

I did have a mild panic this week after reading some stuff on the internet about Easter being insanely busy. Not that we can change it now, as it was hard enough to do that once. I think on reflection that we should be OK. The first five days we are there is the start of the traditional Easter school holidays but we have Front of Line and five days to get around two parks so that should be fine. Then we spend a week away from Orlando at Siesta Key and only head back to the parks as everyone else (hopefully) travels back home for the start of school.

Even if the parks at WDW are very busy we’ll just FastPass the stuff we absolutely want to do and if we can’t do the odd ride, well, we’ve done them all before of course, and if you ask me when, I could probably look that up too! We can always go and drink cocktails somewhere instead!!

Till the next time……

Tonight Matthew, I’m Going To Be a Whinger….

It has been a music filled week, with a band rehearsal on Monday, a trip to a gig on Tuesday and a gig of our own on Friday. I have indeed had the music in me this week.

The gig we watched on Tuesday was Level 42 at the Lowry and it was superb. I know they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but the level of musicianship is incredible. Louise came to see them for the first time ever and was impressed with the quality of the whole thing. Before the gig we also had an all you can eat Chinese buffet so it would take a pretty horrendous gig to bring me down from that high to be honest, but there was no danger of that.

If you fancy a watch of what we saw here’s a song from the night. Not my video by the way so thank you to whoever filmed it and put it up on You Tube.

The gig of our own on Friday was our first with our new singer and just to make that transition more interesting we have changed the majority of the set too. The venue wasn’t quite as grand as The Lowry in which we enjoyed Level 42, but any performance with a load of new stuff to think about reminds you what the colour of adrenaline is.

It went well. Very well in fact, considering it was a first time through that set so we were pleased.

The other thing which seems to have dominated my thoughts was of course Hurricane Matthew. Naturally, most of my social media feeds are dominated by Florida content so it was inevitable that I would see a lot about it. With the current state of the UK, living overseas has been even more appealing recently and of course my first destination of choice would be the sunshine state. Aside from the recent threat of Trump getting elected there aren’t many things which have ever put me off living in the US and specifically Florida, but the threat of these severe weather events is one.

We have been incredibly lucky over the years considering that we’ve nearly always holidayed in peak hurricane season. Sure, we’ve had some rain and the odd impressive storm but our timing has been impeccable in avoiding anything major. I do remember missing Charlie by one day and turning up at Cypress Pointe to see a chuck of it not where it should be. In fact during that trip we saw one of the most impressive and scary storms we’ve ever had in Florida. I think it might have been that same year that we were also the last flight out of the airport before it was closed due to an incoming hurricane/tropical storm.

You don’t mess with this stuff!

With this in mind I was dismayed at various points last week to see lots of questions and more worryingly moans going on in the lead up to Matthew arriving about what I would politely call first world problems. Nobody has to tell me how important these holidays are and how much time effort and money goes into them but when an entire coast is being evacuated the fact that you’re going to miss your Be Our Guest reservation doesn’t register on anyone’s give-a-shit-ometer. Complaining that it was going to be hard to entertain two small kids during the curfew or not getting a refund for your Not So Scary ticket immediately are other examples which make you a knob.

I have to be careful here as the last time I mentioned a mild opinion on these Facebook groups about Orlando and WDW, I was promptly banned from one of them for having thoughts on my own blog that *might* have been about that one group, despite me never having posted in it. The internet is an odd place sometimes. Typically when any internet forum or group gets to a critical mass the moderators can have a tough time keeping their fingers away from the ban button. After this post I may find myself losing my broadband provider and eligibility for an ESTA for offering my own opinion on my own blog about no Facebook group in particular.

As I say, I do understand how gutting it can be to spend all that time planning and saving, having almost each moment planned in fine detail only to have some world event or force of nature spoil things. When shit goes down on the scale we saw last week, I’m afraid you suck it up, count your blessings and move on.

It was good to see Matthew move off the coast a little and give most parts of Florida an easier time than predicted but there has still been some horrendous damage and even deaths in Florida which is just awful. I can’t even begin to comment on the horrors seen in Haiti. Those poor people…..

So if you pissed and moaned anywhere about anything other than serious damage to your property or injury to a loved on, then shame on you. If I haven’t been banned from all of the internet for daring to have an opinion and still have access to my own blog next week I hope for cheerier stuff to blog about.

It’s great to see Florida almost back to normal since and if you’re over there I hope you can pick up your lives. holidays and anything else that was put on hold for a while.

Till the next time…..

Roy, Joy and a Significant Birthday

What were you doing forty-five years ago? Somewhere on former swamp land in Florida a significant event was happening which would affect mine and a lot of your lives in a way which nobody could have predicted.

A quiet, proud man stood next to a five foot tall mouse and declared the Magic Kingdom open for business to delight, entertain and enchant visitors from all over the world. At about the same time I was probably only concerned with where my next meal was coming from and soiling myself on a regular basis. In both cases, not much has changed.

Many words have been written I’m sure to commemorate the 45th birthday of what is now Walt Disney World Resort, so I’m not sure I have much to add other than my personal thoughts and reflections. The place holds a large part of my heart and a significant chunk of my earnings and I suspect that will always be the case. Looking at the crowds there yesterday, as much as I love it, I’m not sure I would have liked to have been there to be honest, but I celebrate the event in my own way nonetheless.

I have documented many times that my love affair with the place started way back in 1980 when hair was long, shorts were short and we had no idea what we are doing.

Magic Kingdom 1980

And so it begins….

The fact that I am holding a park map demonstrates our rookie status during that first visit. It’s crazy now to think that the place had only been open for nine years then. My memory may be playing tricks on me but I think at that time Epcot Center was under construction, but we didn’t know what that meant at the time.

Since that first time I have been more times than I can remember and loved every single visit. I’ve tried and failed on many occasions to try to capture my feelings about the place and what it means to me and my family so I’m not going to try again now. Nostalgia, outstanding service, the weather, the food and down right great family entertainment with endless experiences are some of the words I might use if I were trying, but I’m not so I won’t.

Having not been on it’s hallowed ground for over twelve months now the pain and longing is real and something doesn’t feel quite right if I’m honest. It’s like not seeing one of your family for a long time I suppose. A few years ago we were lucky enough to do the Keys to the Kingdom Tour, which I would recommend to anyone with an interest in and/or a love for the place. I won’t do any spoilers about the content, other than to say that it gave me an absolute respect and admiration for a chap called Disney, and it wasn’t Walt.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Walt was a visionary, an inspiration and the absolute driving force behind what is now a mammoth empire. I can watch the film about his life in One Man’s Dream endlessly, but the person that came out of that tour with my ever lasting admiration was Roy Disney, his brother. Not only did he look after Walt in their early years but he was the chap who made Walt’s dreams and plans into a reality. He was the money man, somehow raising the funds needed for Walt’s visions time and time again. He was the steady Eddie who did the boring practical stuff that Walt did not have the time or skills to do.

When Walt passed away, sadly before the Florida project was complete, it was Roy, who despite his grief and own poor health took on the whole project, called the place Walt Disney World, and stood next to Walt’s creation on the 1st of October 1971 and declared it open. He did not like that limelight and it took an enormous effort to do that. It wasn’t that long after the Florida project was complete in December of that year that Roy passed away. It was as if he kept himself going just long enough to see his brother’s ultimate dream come true.

Thanks Roy!

Thanks Roy!

If it were half as catchy, in my view it should be called Walt and Roy Disney’s Resort, or the Disney Brother’s Resort, but it isn’t and I think it says a lot about Roy that he ensured it carried his brother’s name as it does.

So today I tip my hat to Roy as without him, this thing which takes up far too much of my money and thoughts would not be what it is. It may not exist at all. I hope he and his brother are looking down and loving the legacy of joy and happiness their combined efforts continue to give to millions of people.

Till the next time….