The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Seven

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Seven

Day seven already, and despite the title of this trip report and the little bit of enforced last-minute plan changing, you may wonder, what’s with all this Dorian drama? Indeed.

During the last two days, the eleventy billion hours of TV coverage had told us that the long hoped for “right turn” had happened, and Dorian was off up the coast, with Floridian landfall now looking unlikely. Those on the coast would be affected but it seemed we would be missing the worst of it.

This had not stopped Disney going all health and safety on us and closing their parks at 2pm today. I was awake at 6am, looking for Dorian updates and for the latest thoughts from Denis Phillips on Facebook. He is the “go-to” meteorolo…….meeterol……met….weatherman and his updates had given a lot of clarity and calm in what might otherwise have been a stressful few days.

Like the mature rational grown-up I am, I was a little upset that this major weather event which had already devastated several islands in its wake and might yet still do similar to the coast of Florida had denied us of some park touring time, I went downstairs to the TV to see how bad today’s weather might actually be, feeling suitably proud of my selfish attitude. These latest weather reports would determine whether we ventured to a park until 2pm or not.

I had by this stage got about 27 different weather apps on my phone and I spent an overly long amount of time looking at each of those and watching several different weather folks, oddly all on the same channel, predict what would happen. It was amazing that one channel could employ thirty-six weather experts and have them all on at the same time.

All of the above were predicting some quite nasty rain this morning and after much deliberating, I decided to call it, and the parks were off for today. It would not be fun in torrential rain. Instead, we decided to go out for breakfast. If we can’t ride, we’ll eat.

I noted that I was particularly hungry this morning, which would be good news for whichever breakfast place we stumbled upon first. I did notice, with some concern, that as we got into the car, there was blistering sunshine and nothing but blue skies, but this, of course, would all change as predicted by the great and good of the TV. Right?

As we met with the 192 we spotted a Perkins and after a mildly dangerous and somewhat illegal U-Turn, we abandoned the van in the parking lot and made our way inside. Again, as I cast my eyes upwards, there was still no sign of the evil weather coming our way.

We were seated immediately and ordered coffees and juices. I was becoming a little obsessed with the weather at this point, wondering why outside did not look like this…..

Image result for storm gif

I had blueberry pancakes….

Emily and Tom had some form of Eggs Benedict (I did write it down but I can’t read my own writing!)

Louise had this…

and Rebecca had the thing you can see at the end of the table which I have in my notes as “Not sure but something big”. It’s tricky keeping track of what everyone orders with a larger party!

The food improved my mood a little. Outside still looked like a typical Florida day and not mild Armageddon and I was developing a large sulk about it. All I could think was we were wasting the day and that I had made the wrong call to scrap our theme park plans. Its time likes these that the responsibility of being “the planner” lies heavy.

I paid the $85 bill and as it was still sunny we decided to go for it and head for the planned park for the day, Hollywood Studios. At this point, Lousie made that call as she couldn’t take another second of my man baby pouting. I doubt I have driven to a theme park more quickly in all these years. We parked in Mickey 312, trammed and had our sacks poked with a stick.

See, no hurricane!

It seemed that many other people had made the same wrong call that I did and had abandoned their plans.

Seeing such low crowd levels, now would be the time to head for the newly opened Galaxy’s Edge. Join us, as we enter for the first time….

It was clear that most of the people who had made it into the park today were also headed for this area…..

but it was still fairly light in terms of crowds.

It’s always a special time experiencing something for the first time in a park, and luckily when that’s a theme park you don’t get arrested. That’s especially true with something as significant as this. We soaked up the incredible theming for a while, wandered about and got our bearings.

Like a literal tractor beam, we were pulled to the Falcon and were all blown away by the detail, size and scale of the thing….

Did I mention that the theming was impressive?

Full of excitement, anticipation and pancakes, most of us joined the 70-minute queue for Smuggler’s Run. Louise volunteered to stay with Freddie.

Emily was overjoyed to be wearing her spirit jersey, selected to protect her from the air con chills of our breakfast restaurant and not to sweat 12 pounds off her in a raging hot theme park. Another victim of my poor decision making. We all must suffer for the cause from time to time. Tom was bravely sporting his unusual hairy neck.

It didn’t feel like over an hour of waiting to be honest. We were, of course, taking in all the new stuff and admiring what an incredible job had been done.

You will have to excuse the large numbers of photos here, I was a little over-excited.

You can tell it’s a new ride when you feel the need to take photos of the queue.

Even I’m not sure why I took this one….

Once you get into the holding area just before you ride, the theming is eerily identical to the scenes from the films. It’s excellent.

We were allocated our roles and were then just seconds away from riding. I was a little giddy.

The ride itself flashed by in an instant and I cannot remember too much about it. There is so much going on that it will take many more rides before it all sinks in. It is very enjoyable, incredibly well put together and a stunning addition to the park.

I’m sure the last hour had seemed a little longer for Louise and Freddie so we hurried out to meet them now. It was still gloriously hot, dry and incredibly un-hurricane like. We were about ten minutes away from our reservation at Oga’s Cantina. We’d booked this on the M60 some weeks ago, after seeing reservations being released, with little to no clue as to what it was. We were about to find out.

There was a queue and the cast members would wander up and down it shouting out names when they were ready to take you in. We didn’t wait long.

The theming is great. We did wonder why they hadn’t made it much more like the actual Cantina from the film but I’m sure there is good (legal) reason. We were shown to our seats which were shared with two other couples.

We studied the menu…

I made no attempt to write down what we had but they looked like this.

This was mine. I cannot say that I knew what was coming when I ordered it, but it was an experience.

I also can’t say that any of the drinks we had were the nicest of the trip, but of course, this was just about experiencing the new stuff in Galaxy’s Edge and we took it for what it was.

The place was rammed and noisy and not the best place for Freddie so we didn’t stay too long. It was 1.30 now, with the park due to close at 2pm. We noticed that Slinky Dog was showing a thirty-minute wait, so we decided to give that a go.

We set up baby swap, with Louise, Emily and I planning to ride first. Tom and Rebecca took Freddie to ride the Saucers whilst they waited, just too late to benefit from Louise deciding not to ride and instead soak up the last few minutes of sun before Dorian ended the world. Emily and I joined the standby queue.

Spookily as we came to the point where the standby and FastPass queues meet, Rebecca and Tom were stood waiting to merge and joined us. This accidental situation, got me thinking of a slight “hack” here. If you have a large party and one or two people willing to sacrifice themselves you could do the following.

Set up baby swap and say that one or two people are riding first and they join the standby. Whether they queue and ride or not is up to them. This immediately gives the rest of the party a FastPass, intended to be used as the first riders return, but there is nothing to stop those immediately joining the FastPass queue. It’s a stretch to call it a hack, but it kept me occupied thinking about it during the queue. This was a welcome distraction from the army of annoying kids in front us who did nothing but fight each other, climb on the rails and generally be a pain in the arse. Mind you, if you call your kids Hunter what do you expect?

So, in the end, we all rode together on our first ever Slinky as if it was written in the stars after all our failed attempts to get a bloody FastPass for it. The ride is a belter. Just fast enough to entertain the adults and not scary enough to terrify the kids.

The park was closing now. Weirdly the weather was still great and there seemed to be no reason to do so. With that in mind, we decided to go to Disney Springs which had no such plans to close until much later in the day. It was a twenty-minute drive and we parked in the Lime garage.

We walked for too long trying to find somewhere we could sit and have a drink. We ended up outside Splitsville on some high stools and a table. Does anybody else have real trouble making sense of the geography of the place now? My brain just can not reconcile the new layout with the old.

Whilst we rested and drank, a sudden appearance of some Dorian inspired wind blew all the menus off the table, knocking Louise’s red wine all over Emily’s bright white trainers. Being very new and very expensive she was rightly upset but the waitress was brilliant. Not only did the affected drinks get replaced, she returned with some club soda and cloths and we managed to clean any trace of red wine off Emily’s shoes and laces.

With that trauma behind us, we wandered off to the shops. Freddie added to his essential plastic tat collection….

For obvious reasons, the big balloon thing wasn’t in operation.

On our travels, Rebecca got some Up! Mickey Ears for MNSSHP. Before long, breakfast seemed a long time ago and we needed food. With it just being “round the corner” we decided on Olive Garden and we were there in a few minutes.

We were seated immediately and soon had the infamous salad and breadsticks along with our drinks.

I had some non-alcoholic berry thing. It was nice and more importantly not diet coke.

Tom naturally had a milkshake/iced coffee thing and at this point confessed that he’d been hungry for about four hours!

That used to be my plate of salad. We ordered…..

Emily – Five Cheese Ziti

Me – Steak & Alfredo

Louise and Rebecca had the lasagne.

Emily has turned vegetarian since our last trip and this meal was her single greatest sacrifice to date. Olive Garden lasagne was her most favourite meal on the planet so to watch two others eat it was painful!

Tom had the Tour of Italy.

Having skipped lunch (did you notice?) I had Tiramisu.

Tom had a huge chocolate lasagne cake. He was still so hungry that they could have brought him a urinal cake and he would have eaten it!

We paid the $180 including decent tip and made our way to the car. It was getting a bit breezy now and there was to be a curfew starting at 11pm tonight with worse weather to come. We made our now customary stop at CVS on the way home for stuff we apparently couldn’t live without. As we pulled out of the car park using an exit I hadn’t previously used, there may have been a few moments of us being on entirely the wrong carriageway, but I soon restored order with no harm done, save for some colourful words from the passenger seat.

We all watched some TV and relaxed in the villa. As I went to bed I could hear the wind really getting up outside and some pretty heavy rain. Apparently, it was quite a wild night, and the weather was pretty rough too (BOOM!) but I slept through all of that, missing any sign of Dorian altogether! The previous six days of 24/7 TV coverage seemed all the more worthwhile now.

I know these things can be devastating and deadly, and this one tragically was elsewhere, so we were thankful it didn’t cause us any issues other than a few lost hours at Hollywood Studios. Touching wood and anything else that may do the same job, we have in all our touring years managed to avoid any real hurricane impact despite almost always travelling in peak hurricane season. Long may that continue. And yes, I said touching wood…..fnarr.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Six

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Six

Our decision to skip the Magic Kingdom last night was, it turns out, a wise one. Freddie set the tone by sleeping for a full twelve hours and I think we all needed that early night and some extra sleep. Of course, being decidedly middle-aged I didn’t benefit too much as my days of sleeping for twelve hours ended sometime in the early 90’s when the girls destroyed my ability to sleep beyond 8am or have a positive bank balance.

We were all up, dressed and out by 9.30am and unusually so early in a trip, heading for a second day at Animal Kingdom. In its early years you’d be lucky to get a full day out of this park but now it’s all grown up and a place you can spend multiple days with no issue.

Unlike our last visit, we had some useful FastPasses and after arriving and taking the obligatory “I’m at Animal Kingdom” photos….

our stroll brought us to Everest for around 10.20 to use our first FastPass of the day.

With baby swap sorted, Rebecca and Tom rode first and I took the chance to play the “Ready Steady Go ” game again with Freddie over by the wall. The rest of us then rode taking more obligatory photos and screaming in a way that might call into question my masculinity.

It seems that everyone else in our party has forgotten how to do things of a morning. Only I had prepared for maximum touring efficiency by having breakfast in the villa so now we needed to feed people. This will not be tolerated on a long term basis.

We wandered over towards the area near the safari looking for something suitable. As testament to how long it has been since we sought food in this area, we approached Tusker House. In years gone by this was counter service style (I think) and you could sit out back and listen to someone washing up. If you know, you know.

However, now it appears to be a high-end dining experience at $55 per head for lunch, which they were now taking seating for. This was not what we were looking for so we snuck away and went next door to the little bakery thing and ordered some sweet stuff and drinks. I mean, as if any idiot would blow that much cash on a walk-in last-minute lunch in a theme park. Seriously, what sort of fool……I can’t imagine anyone being so silly…..anyway, onwards……

I appreciate that I had already eaten breakfast but if you think I was going to sit and watch everyone else eat without tucking in, then where have you been all these years? The danish thing above was lovely.

I have to be honest, I don’t remember what this is, or who ate it. It looks veggy friendly so probably Emily.

This photo doesn’t do justice to the size of this thing. A phrase I have never used before.

So we sat and ate our stuff for a bit, forming a nice sweat in the ludicrous heat.

Hopefully, you can still see Freddie there despite his camouflage.

Like a hungry chick, he awaits his chunks of Mickey-shaped goodness.

Having wasted vital touring minutes with non-essentials such as eating, we finally moved on to the gorilla trail thing. I accept that may not be the attraction’s formal name.

I apologise now for the nakedness in this next photo.

Freddie found these little chaps fascinating and a kindly cast member allowed him under the rope so he could go right up to the glass for a better look. I promised I wouldn’t tell anybody.

At this point, after a good breakfast, inevitably, we encountered turtlehead.

Whilst Freddie dealt with that, I “toad” him I’d be just next door with this chap.

We continued our tour of the various animals…..

At one point coming face to face with my future reality.

I made a mental note perhaps to skip dessert this evening.

One more photo from the Freddie with animals series…..

These were impressive Zebras….

but next to them were mere cats, so I didn’t take their photo.

We spent a good amount of time watching the gorillas as they were all close to the window and one of them had a newborn. I took several photos, all of them failing to capture it.

I assumed that the baby’s head was that hairy thing inbetween the Mum’s legs. I didn’t want to contemplate the possibility that it wasn’t!

Onwards further along the trail and to the silverback, avoiding decent photos of himself since 1997.

As we exited the trail we had fifteen minutes to kill before being the allowable ten minutes early for our safari FastPass. We spent that time in the shop, browsing and not buying. Some liquids were onboarded though.

We needn’t have bothered killing that time as when we tried to enter the ride via the FastPass queue the signs to the stroller parking for FastPass guests were so confusing and incoherent that it took about twenty minutes to find it. Moist, mad and middle-aged, I harrumphed my way back to the queue.

Eventually, amidst my many tuts, we boarded our truck.

A more paranoid person with hang-ups about their weight may have felt the universe was talking to them….

Overall, with this being almost the middle of the day, we’ve seen more on other safaris, but we did OK.

If you like giraffes this will be your favourite trip report day ever.

Our guide told us that giraffes only sleep for about twenty minutes at a time. That took me back to Rebecca’s newborn days. Clearly, she is part giraffe.

Freddie with his, “why is Grandad taking all these photos” face.

and this may be the most anyone has seen of the lions on any AK safari in living memory…..

It was now 12.55 which left about four and a half minutes to get the next Lion King show. We used all of the available time and just took our seats as the show was starting, with the benefit of not having to learn the hand jive stuff whilst we waited.

I did some more Facebook live-ing here….so if you want to watch it, and why wouldn’t you, here you go.

We left the show high on the joy it always brings and headed for Pandora. We had a Navi FastPass at 13.55. See how our touring experience seamlessly flows when I don’t have to re-plan it on the day.

On our way there, we decided we needed a drink. Normal families might alight at a drinks cart and get some water and cokes and spend about $3.50 each. Not us. We spotted the new Nomad Lounge next to Tiffins and decided to have a look. As I approached the cast member out front, my tired, weary legs spotted the plush looking banquettes (this place is too posh for just sofas) and as soon as the cast member confirmed we could bring a napping Freddie in, still in his stroller, I was sold.

This place is lovely. Very comfortable seating, top class service, lovely cocktails (and the diet coke is fine) and a lovely setting. It’s odd that it is right in the middle of a theme park yet somehow they have managed to make it feel secluded and peaceful.

We chose from the menus, not only ordering cocktails at the price of a weekly shop back home but also some “light bites”. If they want us to keep visiting this place they should reconsider their marketing messaging of their food.

The cocktails arrived first….

Hmm, diet coke…..

Then our lunch.

Those were the sliders, and these the chicken satay….

I had the bread service, because, presented with that as an option, why on earth wouldn’t you?

We spent over an hour here and enjoyed every second. We also Facetimed my Mum & Dad back home….all this and WiFi too! It was peaceful, relaxing and with lovely food and drink. So yes, with multiple rounds of cocktails, we blew $200 on a walk-in last-minute lunch in a theme park, but that figure, which would horrify me back home, meant little. We work so hard to get on these trips that every now and again you have to do things like this and I loved it.

Our relaxing time here meant that we had just gone past our FastPass for Navi. We decided to head there anyway, hoping the ten minutes grace period would save us and it did. Between getting from the front entrance and down the path to the queue, the heavens opened, and we got a few seconds of a drenching, which wasn’t all that unwelcome, other than we were then stood in air conditioning for a few minutes.

This isn’t a thrill ride by any stretch but it’s interesting, and one that everyone can go on, and Freddie spent it pointing at stuff that I wondered how his little mind was making sense of.

With all our FastPasses spent as we left the ride I fired up the app and secured another for the Rapids. restrooming happened and we made our way over to the ride as the time slot for our FastPass was nowish.

On our journey there we stopped to watch some dance party stuff going on but still managed to arrive at the Rapids ten minutes early. Our bands got the magic bleep anyway and we were in. Louise volunteered to sit out with Freddie. We looked with appropriate disdain at anyone wearing a poncho in the queue. That’s like having some soup at home before going out for a large meal so you won’t eat too much. The whole point is that you get yourself wet.

One thing I noticed was the waterproof cover thing in the middle is gone, so if you have anything with you that you would normally put in there, you can’t and it will get wet. Having said that, compared to the mother of all raft rides, Bilge Rats at Universal, this is nothing. Sure, we got a bit splashed, but nobody comes off Bilge Rats without feeling like they sat in a bath for an hour.

At this point, we headed for the exit. We wanted to get back to the villa for showers before heading out to eat. We were home around 5pm and I spent all the time other than the five minutes it took me to get ready resting and watching TV. We left the villa close to 7pm and headed up the I4 to Lake Buena Vista and Bahama Breeze.

The roads felt unusually quiet, perhaps brought on by the incessant TV coverage of everyone’s impending doom at the hands of Dorian, and the restaurant too was pretty empty. We chose to sit outside.

We ordered some drinks, an appetiser combo and a goat’s cheese dip thing.

I had a mocktail.

Tom ordered what I think was called the Dell Boy.

The ladies had stuff like this.

I had a Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad (the hippos today clearly having a subliminal effect on me).

Rebecca and Louise had the Jerk Chicken Pasta

Emily, the Black Bean Tacos

Tom had the Taste of Jamaica

and Freddie the Chicken Tenders.

I sacrificed my Virgin Bahamarita to Freddie who loved it.

As was becoming a tradition now, Freddie laid his hands on the camera and started randomly pressing the button. To be fair, if I hadn’t told you that, you probably wouldn’t have noticed much difference to my photographic skills.

Hippos be damned, I had a Key Lime Pie and Tom had a Chocolate Cake thing. The Key Lime Pie is excellent here and Tom cleared his too, but to be fair that can’t be used as any sort of comment on quality as he always tends to do that.

The bill, driven by a lot of cocktails was a slightly pricey for off-site, $250. The service wasn’t the best tonight, not bad, but we’ve had better, so I only left 15%. I tend to overtip all the time in my attempt to assure US servers that Brits aren’t always destined to leave no or little tip, but when the service isn’t that deserving I will knock a bit off.

Once again, our full bellies and heavy eyelids scuppered our best intentions of going to Disney Springs and everyone just wanted to go to bed. We did so by 10pm allowing our bodies to convert today’s calories into fat nice and early.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Five

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Five

After what have been some very busy and enjoyable days so far, today is a little more low key. It was a welcome rest day, of sorts, and contains acts of eating that you can only attempt with either years of experience, elasticated pants or a death wish.

In my case, as my fellow chunkster Meatloaf might say, two outta three ain’t bad.

I was looking forward to not having any reason to be out of bed. However, at 8.30 Rebecca messaged the group stating that “the boys” were hungry and we needed to make a move for breakfast. What a breakfast we had planned too. Hash House A Go Go was our destination, and …..

Image result for joey gif you boys are about to see something special

We were ready and out of the door by 9.45 and it took about half an hour to drive there. Upon arrival, there was complimentary valet parking. They say a common language divides the UK and US, but on this occasion it was just my hearing and stupidity.

As I tumbled out of the car, the very pleasant valet guy approached. I thought he said, “First time here?”.

So I said “No, we’ve been a few times before”.

It was only when he repeated what he said again, not quite believing how idiotic this Brit in the minivan and tight T-shirt was that I realised I had made an error.

“O……K……What’s your first name?”, he said with a puzzled look on his face.

My appendages shrivelled back up into my body with embarrassment and I didn’t even attempt to correct his “Creg” as he wrote it on the ticket. I took the ticket and scuttled off all sheepish into the restaurant.

We were seated immediately and we were served by Queen. That Brian May took an age to get us our drinks.

Emily had a banana latte….

She declared it tremendous as was her Egg Scramble.

Freddie just had the child’s portion of chocolate chip pancake.

Yep, that’s the child portion.

Tom ordered a Tractor Driver’s Combo with extra sides and Snickers pancakes. I think his face says it all.

Louise and I had a French toast thingy, which lacked in size but made up for it in taste. Louise appreciates that size isn’t everything.

Rebecca had the Snickers pancake but without the assortment of sides that Tom had. Amazingly, Tom finished the lot. Rebecca left a fair bit of hers, and because mine had lacked some girth, I “tasted” some of that too. It was good!

There are lots of places you can go for pancakes and the like in Orlando, and we have. This place is a little different though. It’s definitely more expensive than your Dennys or Perkins, but it’s worth it. Size yes, counts for some of that as the portion sizes are ludicrous. But the quality is exceptional. You know when you put something in your mouth and you can’t quite believe how good it is? Louise again appreciates this concept.

By Satan’s scrotum, we were full. The bill was $180 including a nice tip and I reluctantly returned to the valet chap hoping he’d forgotten my shameful episode earlier. I tipped more heavily than I may have normally and quickly left the scene, heading back to the villa.

We spent some time in and around the pool.

I found it amazing that Tom could move after what he had just shifted, but not as amazed as I was mid-afternoon when he had a bowl of cereal to “put him on” until our evening meal.

We experienced a few rain showers during the afternoon so we retreated indoors and watched some telly for a bit. Freddie played with the fine selection of toys in the villa.

At some point around 5pm, we got ourselves ready and headed out for tea. After such a breakfast we’d only need a light bite surely? Yeh, we were headed for the all you can eat buffet at Trail’s End. We would usually get the boat from Magic Kingdom to get there, but with the rain showers and the logistics of the stroller and a potentially sleeping Freddie later we decided to drive there directly instead.

As we arrived, I was completely taken by surprise by the fact that there was a bus ride involved to get from the entrance to Pioneer Hall.

I had no clue at all about the size and scale of the place having only ever done a “beach landing” previously and walked the few yards to the restaurant and back.

It took us a little while to figure out and ask which bus we needed to be on and be on our way. The bus ride took about ten minutes. The rainy weather we’d had as we left the car and walked to the bus cleared nicely for our stroll to Trail’s End.

We had a few minutes to spare before we needed to check in so we had a look at the horse….

and Freddie spent a little time on the playground.

We were seated just moments after checking in, on the same table we always seem to get here. It’s in a quiet spot but is annoyingly distant from the buffet.

Drinks were ordered, with cocktails for the ladies and then we unleashed ourselves on the glorious grub.

I would commit several low-level crimes for that cornbread. Maybe it was the lingering large amounts of breakfast, but I only managed two savoury trips to the buffet. I had to stop then to ensure I could fit in some desserts, which I did in the form of bread pudding and ice cream. Tom discovered the ice cream machine and what followed is better not recounted here.

Not for the first time today, I swore I would never eat again and waddled out of the restaurant happy yet slightly concerned that I might die. There had been a loose plan to go over to Magic Kingdom by boat and spend some time in the park, but we decided against the boat again. Knowing Freddie would be asleep on the return leg, would make the stroller/boat/bus journeys untenable. We caught the bus back to the car instead, intending to drive there instead.

We were joined on the bus by some folks from the south and I don’t mean Bournemouth. They were if I were to use crass stereotypes, red necks, with more kids than I could keep track of. It was a good thing that there were a few kids, as it helped to spread out the parent’s screaming between them a little so no one child had their parent shout at them too much. They were loud, unruly and unconcerned that he bus they were on contained other people. This, I thought, as I avoided eye contact with them, is why I hire a car, even if we stay on site.

As we got into the car, Freddie had just fallen asleep so any plans for Magic Kingdom were canned and I don’t think anybody was too sad about that. It was a rest day after all. To signify that we were home and in bed not long after nine.

These rest days are the scourge of trip report writing. More, if not better contact in the next one.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Four

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Four

There’s a long history of me being fortunate enough to spend my birthday in WDW. I can’t remember a bad one and today’s events, as yes, it was my birthday, ranked very high on the all-time list.

Touring World Showcase has been a regular event to celebrate my body ageing and resembling a deflating balloon just a little more, and again, we had Epcot planned. Today, however, had a little more meaning than usual, as this would be the last time that I would be watching Reflections of Earth on a birthday.

ROE has been a huge part of our family trips over the years. Indeed, it started on October 1st 1999, which was just a few days before the first visit for the girls, so for that, and many other reasons it has taken on a very special place in our lives and of course our trips.

This birthday started regrettably early at 5am. I refused to leave my bed until 7, reading and internet browsing until that time. I made my way downstairs eventually to be greeted with cards and presents and some football on the telly. I enjoyed some breakfast and Man United failing to win in equal measure and at around 9am, Facetimed my Mum & Dad back home.

Half an hour later everyone was loaded into the van and we made our way to Epcot and Discover 12. It was a short tram ride to a drop off point that led to a walk to the entrance which was longer than the tram ride. Once through security and the finger scanning I took the chance to commemorate the occasion with an “in front of the ball” photo with Freddie.

Today’s FastPasses, having not been made on the morning of our park visit, were in much better shape, represented by Soarin’ being our first. We set up baby swap and Rebecca and Tom sat out first having a drink and some cake in the food court in The Land.

The rest of us made the long walk to the ride.

I have never used the standby line for this ride so I always try to see, with interest, what the interactive stuff is over in the muggle line. I am interested, but not enough to actually queue up to ride.

We enjoyed, as we always do, Patrick’s safety briefing and then the new film for Soarin’. It’s just an excellent ride.

We took over care of Freddie, finished off the cakes Rebecca and Tom had bought, and Louise got some breakfast having failed to prepare by getting some back at the villa. It was a breakfast croissant and some potato things, the latter of which Freddie ate most of.

Once we were all reunited we made our way out over to Nemo. Walking out of The Land, I did so with Freddie walking beside me, holding my hand. It’s these lovely little things that stick in my mind.

It was a walk-on and a welcome sit down. We had a look around the fish and stuff, which I suspect are not their formal Latin species names.

By the time we left, it was 11.50 and time to execute my extra cunning piece of very cunning cunningness that I teased in a pre-trip blog weeks ago. I do fear that I oversold this as some stroke of planning genius, but I shall reveal all now, as long as you promise to keep it to yourself.

One thing that we don’t enjoy about watching Reflections of Earth is the crowded shuffle all the way down to the main entrance, followed by a wait for a tram or a long walk to the car. With that in mind, we always try to tie a viewing of the fireworks at Epcot with a dining reservation somewhere around the Boardwalk so that we may park there. This allows us to leave Epcot via International Gateway, which is not only better than the other option, it is actually a pleasant experience and a lovely stroll.

This year, on this birthday, having lunch or early dinner in any of those locations was not an option as we very much wanted and had booked to eat at Via Napoli. So, bending the rules ever so slightly, I made a rogue ADR for two at Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club.

The idea was that, now, Emily and I would power walk back to the car, drive it round to the Yacht Club, using our ADR to get access to the parking, and then walk back into Epcot to continue our day. Doing this of course does mean that there is a fair chance that you may get charged the $10 per person for missing your ADR, but frankly, that cost is bearable for the six of us to be able to have a leisurely stroll back to the car after ROE, rather than the battle to the main entrance with a stroller and a tired Freddie.

So there you go. If you want to use that trick you can, although, I did find a better trick that we used later in the trip. If I tell you now, you will have no incentive to keep reading, so try not to lie awake thinking about it.

When we arrived at the little house where the security guards live at the Yacht Club, I had my photo ID to hand, and a quick scan of my Magic Band confirmed to him that I did indeed have an ADR and we were waved through. It worked better than we thought as the self-parking at the Yacht Club was pretty full, and he directed us to the Beach Club parking which is that little bit closer to International Gateway.

As we always do when visiting here, we take photos as some sort of homage to how much we love it.

I think this photo has featured in more trip reports than I have.

When I’m having to endure a cold, bleak, work-filled day at home, sat in meetings that make me question my career “choices”, that photo above is where I wish I was instead.

It’s open now of course, but at the time, I had to lift my camera above my head and the boarding to sneak a photo of the new Skyliner station just outside International Gateway.

We discovered that everyone else was down near Mission Space so Emily and I made our way down through the UK and Canada to meet them.

It was a skin crisper today. Not so much hot, as human barbeque.

In another example of ninja levels of planning, just as we met up with everyone, our FastPass for Mission Space, booked 30 days ago, became active. I’m not saying I am good at this stuff, I just let my record speak for itself.

Louise sat out in the unbearable sun watching Freddie who was having a snooze in his shady stroller. As we often tend to do, we waited a little longer than we should have due to some lightweight leaving their lunch all over the ride. We entered, praying that we weren’t sat where the vomit just was.

After a successful mission, and a moment’s silent mourning that we no longer see the wonder that is Gary Sinese’s hair in the now-departed briefing video, we left to find Louise and Freddie.

It was very much lunchtime now and because we knew it was about to get bulldozed, we chose Electric Umbrella just in case it never returns. I didn’t mobile order here for some reason and instead stood staring at the board like it was the first time I had seen words, or food, blurting out numbers to the order taker. Yes, I’m one of those that order here by number.

Alas, the number I got wrong was the members of our party and when we got to our table, I realised, that as I often do in these situations, I had ordered for everybody other than myself. I really couldn’t be arsed queuing again so Louise and I shared a cheeseburger and a few choice words about my incompetence levels.

To make amends, as everyone was finishing up, I left the table and power walked around the corner to the Joffrey’s coffee stand and got us some dessert in the shape of three doughnuts. They are a size of which I approve.

Rest assured, Freddie shared that with his Dad and that means he didn’t get that much of it. These things are awesome and delicious in all sorts of ways. Get some.

We did some wandering around Mousegear and then made our way over to Journey Into Imagination. It will not surprise you to learn that this was a walk-on. After riding I finally had to admit defeat and go to a restroom. I can only hold it so long. The rest of the party took Freddie up to the dancing water fountain things, with which he was fascinated.

Our next FastPass called now, at Spaceship Earth.

It was a walk-on. I await my refund from Disney for this insult.

After riding, Tom went to retrieve the stroller from the ride entrance and Freddie did some modelling whilst we waited.

Onwards to Turtle Talk with Crush next.

I captured some photos of the area, knowing that it was about to be changed forever in just a few days.

Freddie enjoyed Crush and sat through the whole thing pretty well. With that done, it was time to make our way up to World Showcase. The plan now was to say our goodbyes to O Canada, as we had recently heard of an impending revamp and I was very much not OK.

I had checked online before leaving the UK that it would still be open on my birthday and I had, I’m sure, seen that it would be. Upon arriving, a cast member was stood at the top of the steps informing guests that it was now down for refurbishment until January.

I rugby tackled him to the ground and opened several cans of whoop-ass all over him. It made no difference and he point-blank refused to open up the show just for me. I have to say that I was very upset not being able to see this one last time. Please, just give me a moment…….and please appreciate one more time the glorious majesty of this song.

We continued up to the UK and across the bridge towards France as we were now on our way to Via Napoli. As some sort of representation of my distress, we experienced one of the weirdest rain storms we have ever seen in Florida. The skies cried at the demise of O Canada. We’ve seen all sorts of rain over the years but most of it gives you some sort of warning of its impending arrival. This one, as we were halfway across the bridge, came on as if we’d turn the shower on. There was no slow build-up or a few drops at first, but instead a complete downpour of torrential rain from nothing. We started at speed in search of cover. I wrestled the two umbrellas I had liberated from the villa out of Ryan and handed them out.

We sheltered eventually outside the perfume shop in France but by that time we were already soaking wet.

It lasted for about fifteen minutes, just long enough to mean that we now had to get a wriggle on and get to Italy asap, without stopping anywhere on the way.

Those familiar with a Floridian summer will not be surprised to see this next photo and how unrecognisable it is weather-wise from the previous ones.

I power-walked ahead a little, allowing others to restroom and checked us in. We were seated as soon as everyone caught me up.

We ordered various cocktails and with it being my birthday I even ordered myself a beer flight.

To start we ordered some salad and garlic bread.

It pleased us.

But not a much as the pizza did.

Louise, Emily and I ordered individual pizzas, but Rebecca, Tom and Freddie shared the half metre pizza……and it was good.

Emily’s looked like this

Freddie looked excited…..

and we all tucked in, delighted with our choices. This is good pizza.

Service was a little slow, but we honestly didn’t mind. We were just enjoying the sit-down, the lovely food and drinks and making the most of my birthday. To pass the time, Freddie got his hands on the camera and took about three hundred photos that I would need to delete later. He managed a couple that survived the cull.

We ordered some desserts even though we were full beyond all bounds of sensible eating.

Whilst we waited Freddie enjoyed one of his favourite films.

That was quickly abandoned as soon as his ice cream turned up.

I shared a Tiramisu with Emily.

I was so busy eating it that I didn’t take any photos as Louise enjoyed some large chocolate balls. Probably for the best. Tom had ice cream too. If you hadn’t noticed yet, he is quite keen on the odd ice cream.

The bill was large as expected, but worth it. We loved it again. We waddled out into the dusk of World Showcase, which as you know, is one of favourite times and places on the earth.

Inevitable restroomery meant that we loitered here for a while and I didn’t mind one bit. During the meal, I had managed to secure us a Test Track FastPass so we made the long walk there now. It was only as we got within earshot of the ride that Emily pointed out the lack of the distinctive ride noise. I consulted the app, and yep, it was down. Collective weeping at the wasted energy our legs had exerted transporting our very full bodies ensued. It was, of course, my fault and I was forced to walk back up to Mexico, naked, whilst Louise rang a bell shouting “Shame”.

To try and rescue the situation I took us into Mexico as the ride there is just as good as Test Track, right?

Well, Freddie thought it was great!

We then started our journey around the lagoon to our traditional ROE viewing spot on the bridge between France and the UK.

We got there with half an hour to spare and spent that time just being there and loving it.

My camera fails to capture this as do my words.

As I was stood looking out across the lagoon, with *that* music playing, a warm breeze blowing making the temperature just perfect, the lights twinkling aside the flaming torches, this, I recognised, was one of those moments.

All sorts of memories and thoughts came to me, brought to mind no doubt by pizza, beer, my birthday and the impending loss of Reflections of Earth. All the years I have stood here with the girls at various ages, the thought that my Mum & Dad wouldn’t see it again and alongside all of that, the anticipation of what’s to come, the possibilities of Freddie’s life in front of him and all of the trips, experiences and memories we would make together. My heart and belly were full, and that’s the way I like it.

I captured a few moments of it here…

Then, the torch was extinguished and the fireworks began. I captured that too.

There were tears at the end of course. Emily cries at everything, but even Rebecca shed a couple tonight, but I just had something in my eye and I think that pizza had caused the lump in my throat.

We slowly made our way out towards the Beach Club. After such a beautiful, magical evening, it was only fitting that we ended it by waiting half an hour for Louise to have a poo in the Beach Club.

I drove us home. It won’t be the last birthday I spend here, but if it were. it would have been a good way to finish.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Three

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Three

As often happens, the number of folks who turn up to read this nonsense goes up quite a bit when a trip report happens. I’m grateful, but come on, where were you buggers when the rest of us had to endure the weekly grind of me papping on about each minor detail of this trip? I appreciate anyone who tolerates what I churn out here, I really do, but the real heroes are those that are here every week as I struggle to squeeze out 600 words on a failed FastPass booking and a bad commute to work. I salute you.

If you had been around for that, you’d know that the plan was carefully crafted, honed, perfected and laminated over many, many painful weeks. Today, as our third day dawned, I was sat in front of the rolling coverage of Dorian, with my plan in tatters and in need of being put back together. I had time to do so as I had been awake since 5am. At around 7am I made breakfasts for folks, put a wash on and re-engineered the plan all at the same time. If there had been a brush available it would have gone up my rear end to sweep as I went along.

The thinking at this stage from the experts on the telly was that Dorian would “hit” on Monday, some three days from now, and that day on the plan was Animal Kingdom. Today should have been a strategic rest day at a water park, to get us over the inevitable tiredness following the travel day and first-day adrenaline. So I moved that around and brought Animal Kingdom forward to today, thinking that we’d either be in a motel in Carolina or hiding in the bathtub come Monday.

I was making FastPass reservations whilst filling the dishwasher as everyone got themselves ready. As you can imagine, there was slim pickings available on the FastPass front at this late hour.

We left the house at 9.20am, took Sherberth Road and we were pleasingly in Giraffe 42 before too long at all. A tram was waiting just for us and it whisked us to the drop off point which again was still some considerable distance from the actual entrance.

We made our way up the paths and into the park…

Freddie is currently obsessed with Up! and so we were delighted to see Kevin wandering about as we entered.

It does make you wonder what Freddie makes of the whole thing. Having seen this character on his telly for months, to have it there, in front of him, must be weird. He, of course, took it in his stride with a smile and a wave.

Because our last-minute FastPasses were crap, we had nowhere to be immediately so we took the chance to do something we only do with no rides to get on. Or at least we did when the girls were little. We headed, for the first time in many years, to the boneyard.

First, Freddie was let loose in the playground part and did some sliding.

Then we took him over the bridge to the dig.

I said this at the time, but it was incredulous to me that it had been something like twenty years since I was watching the girls do the exact same thing.

It was a lovely half an hour or so watching Freddie fill his shorts with that thing they pass off as sand and then we moved out of the boneyard and Rebecca and Tom took Freddie on the Triceratop Spin.

As they boarded and we got ready to do the “grandparent wave” I bought a couple of tubs of popcorn as it had been many minutes since food passed my lips.

Freddie was looking very hot after his ride so we made our way into the nearest source of AC to cool him down a bit. That happened to be a shop and I left a good few dollars lighter having given in to his pleas for a plastic thing that produced bubbles. He shunned all other models in favour of the Ariel one. I understand that, as I too would choose an Ariel that blows.

We had a FastPass looming for It’s Tough To Be A Bug now, yep, that’s how slim our pickings were. As we arrived to find an unsurprising five-minute wait we took the chance for Freddie to meet two of his favourites, Russell and Doug.

On the way into the ride, I think we were all little concerned at how Freddie might take some of the effects, noises and darkness in this show. To that end, we made sure we were first into a row and of course moved all the way to the end so that should he not be too happy he could be easily taken out.

We needn’t have worried. It seems that this child was built specifically for theme park touring. He loved it all and did not flinch at even the most scary elements.

Lunch was very much on our minds now and as we made our way over to Pandora, at an inevitable restroom stop, I mobile ordered for everyone.

I have no real clue what everyone ended up with, but they looked like this and it all cost $120.

Everybody said their dish was tasty. and surprisingly filling. I had tried to get sangrias for Louise, Emily and Rebecca but had to sacrifice one of them as only I had photo ID and it’s a two per ID limit.

Naturally, a restroom visit followed and as we loitered for that to happen rain came along. Luckily, we managed to find a table with a huge brolly over it to sit it out. Throughout lunch, I had been watching the app to see what the wait times were, as Flights Of Passage had been loitering around the 60-minute mark all morning. Freddie had fallen asleep by now and as the rain continued the app showed the wait time drop from 75 minutes to 60. It was now or never. Rebecca, Tom and I decided to go for it. Emily didn’t feel like waiting for an hour as she wasn’t feeling great.

We left Freddie and an allocated amount of cash with Louise so that they could amuse themselves whilst we rode.

One of the drawbacks of riding stuff for the first time, or at least queuing for it, is that you have no concept of how long you have yet to go. In the end, the wait was more like 80 minutes, but, it was still worth it and that’s from someone who typically has a 20-minute wait limit.

I found the mid-queue Blue Man Group show a little disappointing to be honest.

Having been so frustrated not to get a FastPass for this, although I never mentioned that in the build-up to the trip, of course, I was chuffed that we got the chance to do it without a wait numbering many hours.

We exited and met up with Emily and Louise, full of tales of how good the ride is and we made our way over to Everest as I had managed to secure at least one decent FastPass for today. We set up baby swap with the cast member at the FastPass entrance and Louise and I sat out first with a now awake Freddie as the others rode. I took Freddie over to the wall where you can watch the ride coming down the big drop. He loved it. We played a game of “Ready Steady…Go” for each train as it cam down the drop. This is one of those moments that doesn’t involve a ride, an expensive meal or elaborate hotel but it’s one that I will remember for a long time. It was a lovely thing.

Louise and I then rode. Freddie may well have been at the same wall, watching us as we came down the drop but I was not in a fit state to do any sort of “grandparent wave” as I screamed like a big girl.

Next, we made our way over to the next Nemo show, with a stop for some ice cream on the way and Freddie’s first Mickey Premium Bar.

He made a right mess….just the way it should be.

As we waited for the show to open, he played with his Ariel bubble thing, attracting admirers from all around.

We took our seats in what, I’m sure, where exactly the same place as last year. Freddie did well with this one, with it keeping his attention almost all the way through. I too managed a similar effort. I like it, I do, but it’s no Lion King is it?

Restrooms next of course before heading over to Dinosaur. En route, we took advantage of there being no wait to take Freddie on Triceratops again, this time with me and Louise. There would be no “grandparent wave” this time.

Freddie enjoyed it almost as much I enjoyed riding with him.

Still ultimately heading to Dinosaur we were distracted by the Dance Party thing. Freddie wasn’t too sure about the characters at this stage of the trip, but with some encouragement, he got there.

Finally, we made it all the way to Dinosaur and this time Emily volunteered to stay with Freddie as she has been emotionally scarred by this ride since an early age and now, even at 24, refuses to ride it.

This was a walk-on and as we boarded we witnessed a mother encouraging her young son to get on and reassuring him that he’d be fine. If he’s anything like Emily he may never recover and still blame his parents at the age of 24.

It was 6pm by now and we decided to make a move for the exit so that we could go and eat before Freddie was too tired. The walkout to the exit was a leisurely one involving shops and restrooms and in one of those I picked up some bubble refill fluid for Freddie’s Ariel. I inserted fluid into Ariel whilst Louise was shopping, It serves her right.

We trammed back to the car in what was again incredible heat.

The plan was Applebees but we had to make a twenty-minute detour back to the villa so that the girls could pick up their IDs and a hoody. No, it’s fine honestly.

I programmed the sat nav for Applebees not wanting to take any risk of a further delay to food due to navigational incompetence. It turned out that the Applebees in our sat navs history was the one of the 27, which was considerably further away than the one I would have driven too unaided on the 192. It seemed to take an age to get there but at least we were seated immediately when we finally arrived.

That iPad thingy on the table was a Godsend for gadget-obsessed Freddie, keeping him occupied brilliantly whilst we ordered. Our server, a mixture of Dr Phil and Richard Dreyfuss, was great. He had a comedy routine he clearly rolled out for all his guests but he was funny, knowledgeable and most importantly fast.

Apparently, the trip for the IDs was insisted upon as the girls had remembered that it always seems to be 2 for 1 happy hour at Applebees.

We ordered appetisers of a combo platter plus pretzels and cheese sauce.

These pretzels deserve a photo all of their own, so good were they.

We had –

Me – Strawberry Salad (no, really….)

Louise – Chicken Alfredo

Emily – Alfredo without the chicken

Tom – Ribs

Rebecca – Quesadilla Burger

Freddie had pasta, some strawberries and yoghurt.

Tom managed three, yes, three chocolate milkshakes.

During the meal our server, Phil Dreyfuss, chatted to us about the incoming hurricane, mainly reassuring us that he doubted we’d get any major impact and we also watched with a mixture of disbelief and disdain as the table next to us managed to moan about everything until they got what they wanted which was their bill written off. I’m all for raising issues if you have them but their “problems” were petty much nonsense and they should never have a good meal in a restaurant again as recompense.

We were all too full for desserts and having paid the bill on the tablet thing on the table, it was about $180 but I didn’t make a note for some reason, we made our way to the car.

We had to call at the Publix next door for reasons I didn’t listen to or remember. Louise and Emily went in and the rest of us marvelled at the car next to us which seemed to be a tip on wheels.

After waiting longer than I would have liked, Louise and Emily returned and I drove us home. Full, tired and happy from what was another absolutely lovely day.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Two

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Two

This is what it’s all about. The months of planning, the dark, cold mornings when you drag your unwilling ass out of bed to get to work to pay for these trips and the endless waiting for the countdown to reach zero. The first day dawns like a glorious new era, with all that real-life crap behind you along with the exhausting travel day. The endless possibilities of your trip stretching out before you as your T-shirt fits you the best it will for the foreseeable future.

Despite all of that, waking at 3am as I did was a big fat nope. I managed to get back to sleep until a much more respectable 6.30 before venturing downstairs to make the first of many checks on Dorian’s path. It was still a good few days away but that didn’t stop the TV from having 24-hour rolling coverage.

I showered and waited for others to appear. Freddie was soon ready to go.

and at a decent effort of 7.45am we were out of the door. Having failed at the whole supermarket thing last night, the cupboards were literally bare so we needed feeding and quick.

I had spotted a McDonalds on the way in last night and that was selected by me, without any consultation with anyone else, as it would be quick and not delay our arrival at Magic Kingdom any more than absolutely necessary.

We decided to eat inside and despite having to wipe our own table and order our own food on the big screen thing, it hit the spot. Look at how sunny it was and how it made the photos I took so great.

There were all sorts of sugar and salt-based goodies consumed in short order for the princely sum of $32. It would be the cheapest meal we would consume all holiday.

Not that I was keeping a track of time like some anal time-obsessed idiot, but we left McDonalds at 8.32am and arrived at the gates to Magic Kingdom at 8.50.

Not those gates….

These…

We paid the $25 for parking. Now, you know I am willing to gift Disney all of my money all of the time, but I have to say the parking fee is getting a little silly now. I know we are off-site scum who don’t hold an annual pass, and those are some ways to avoid it, but that is a high fee. Still, it could have been worse. We could have been one of those “characters” who sing to the cast member because they heard it can get them free parking. Just stop it!

We parked in Simba 117 and walked the inevitable walk from the very bottom of the row to the tram.

Getting six bodies and a stroller onto the tram isn’t easy, but by the end of this holiday, we could do it with our eyes closed.

Due to ongoing work, the tram doesn’t take you all the way in currently. It stops just outside of Tampa and you have to walk in the rest of the way.

At this point, some families may have a debate about how to get across the water to the park itself. Not on day one you don’t. Every second counts and anyone suggesting the ferry will be sleeping with the fishes.

There was a torturous wait as Rebecca took Freddie for a nappy change and I hid my burning desire to get into the park quite well I thought.

I mentioned in the previous day that I had abandoned the traditional bright white trainer for a more conservative black pair. To ensure that our party would continue to bring down aircraft with their footwear, both Emily and Louise had taken up the mantle.

We boarded the monorail, all craning our necks for that all-important first glimpse of the castle.

It is difficult for someone like me, with my weak grasp of writing, to express how this time and journey feels. You’ll know if you’ve done it I think. It goes without saying that I would sacrifice most of my major organs (not that one!) to be back in this moment.

Finally….finally….after a journey both real and metaphorical, we arrive at the turnstiles. We start to scan bands and fingers, mere moments from the first walk up Main Street. Wait, what? Emily is having problems. The cast member raises their hand so another one in a different uniform is summoned. Much scanning of bands, clicking of iPads and typing of stuff happens. I even get my photo taken for reasons I don’t understand. All that matters is that finally we are released into the Magic. Apparently, the issue was caused by Emily having her own My Disney Experience account, yet her ticket was linked to mine. That whole linking thing is more complex than Brexit.

Having realised that she had forgotten her magic band halfway to Manchester airport, Emily needed to get herself a new one. We did so in the very first shop we came across after doing a quick Facebook live of our first fateful steps in the park.

I have tried to embed that video here. It’s on Facebook so it may not work for some or all of you. To see it, I guess you’d need to Like the Mkingdon Facebook page, but frankly, if you haven’t done that already, it serves you right.

We linked the band up there and then in the shop and carried on up through the shops on our way to Pirates. We were very much soaking in every aspect of the park as if we’d never set foot in it before. This is a special time.

It was hot and sticky already, so Tom and Freddie took the welcome water of the camel.

Pirates had a fifteen-minute wait posted but it was a walk-on as you’d expect at this time. We don’t tend to use the Memory Maker as we should so I feel compelled to inflict the ride photo on you to feel that I am getting some value from it, despite getting it for “free”.

As you can see, Rebecca had already purchased her bride ears ready for next year. Tom said he’d wait! 🙂

Freddie loved the ride, especially the small drop and the bit where we all got splashed with a cannonball. I know it doesn’t particularly look like it on the photo but the joy of the first ride stayed with us as we left it, and waited for Rebecca to restroom. I collected the stroller and we all moved on to Big Thunder and our first FastPass.

As Freddie’s body clock was adjusting he was now in this state….

so Louise volunteered to sit out with him and she got us all some drinks for after our ride. After the wildest ride in the wilderness, we were headed to Haunted Mansion, but in a spectacular bit of unco-ordinated restrooming, Louise desperately needed to pay a visit. Rebecca, Tom and Emily set off for the Mansion whilst Lousie transferred Ryan, Freddie and other bits and bobs to me. Louise headed off and I set off to catch up with the others.

We were too early for our FastPass but the standby queue was short so I said that I would stay with Freddie whilst the others rode. I wrote up my notes so far, and waited for Louise to bear down and then catch up. After a while, I went to message her to find out where she was only to realise that she had left her phone in Ryan, so that wasn’t going to work. After several minutes of waiting, I got a bit bored, and that’s usually a recipe for trouble…for Louise.

I opened up her phone and did some mischief. Just for clarity, ICE1, is Louise. She is, and I advise you all to do the same, stored as my “In Case Of Emergency” (ICE) in my phone.

I took most joy from the fact that for the ten minutes that Emily, Tom and Rebecca were on the ride they really thought Louise had sent those messages. It’s the small things……

Louise, of course, found it absolutely hilarious as she openly displayed by rolling her eyes and looking at me with disdain and pity once she was reunited with her phone.

Once we were all back together, guess what we did? Yes, we stopped at the Tangled restrooms. Of course we did.

At one of these toilet stops I’m sure I will actually use a restroom at some point.

With Freddie still sleeping we decided to take the opportunity for a snack, which after a quick analysis of where we were and what was on offer, turned into an early lunch at Pinocchio’s Haus thing. We sat outside and I mobile ordered. It’s much easier to do that with a larger group, as every time we all stand at the till staring up at the menu trying to order in real-time, someone or something gets missed.

Once we’d collected the food we sat inside as the concrete was melting outside.

Tom – Nuggets

Rebecca & Freddie – Pasta Marinara

Me – Chicken Parm Burger

Emily – Flatbread

Louise – Bread Sticks as she wasn’t that hungry.

With slushes and sodas all round it was $94.

Naturally, a restroom was required after eating after which we headed out into the now incredible heat and the Carousel.

There was no wait and Freddie absolutely loved it, mastering the “wave at the grandparents” thing like a natural.

Philharmagic next.

Again, Freddie loved it despite not getting on too well with the 3D glasses.

It’s A Small World had a ten-minute standby and offered an escape from the heat so we did that next. This was right up there in the Freddie appreciation charts. He absolutely loved it. Again, I did a Facebook live here and I’ll try to put it here…..

Completing the set of Fantasyland stuff, our FastPass for Pete Pan was due. It’s as if all this had been planned.

As we left the ride, having now used all of our FastPasses, I booted up the app and made another for Barnstormer later that day, so Freddie could ride his first coaster.

As we had done much more restrooming than eating today I tried to remedy that now with some ice cream. We went to Friar’s Nook and got some very tasty stuff.

I won’t name any names, but some members of the group said they “didn’t want any ice cream” but then somehow ate a large proportion of said ice cream once they had tasted it.

That Key Lime stuff that I bought, but Emily seems to be eating, was absolutely delicious. I patted myself on the back for managing to capture such a flattering photo of Louise there.

It was parade time now, and we just managed to catch some of it after walking through the castle and onto one of the ramps leading down to Main Street. It was a great last-minute view and the five minutes of rain that we had at the time was not unpleasant and quite welcome.

It was Barnstormer time now. As we arrived we offered up Freddie for the measuring stick. We knew it would be close, and it took an excruciating few moments for the cast member to reach their verdict. He could get his finger between the top of Freddie’s head and the stick and therefore he couldn’t ride. We were mildly disappointed, but do not give up hope dear reader, that part of the story does not end there.

I cancelled the FastPass and booked Buzz instead. In the meantime, we had a sit-down, a restroom of course and Freddie and Tom played in the water for a bit.

I have always said that there is no “good age” to take kids to WDW. Take them as soon as you can afford to do so and as often as you can….always. Seeing the day that Freddie was having today and would continue to have throughout the holiday, I will wrestle anyone who disagrees.

I took the chance to take some pictures of the progress being made on Tron. It is HUGE and promises to be a significant addition to the park.

As another piece of planning genius unfolded before our very eyes, our Buzz FastPass was now ready so we made our way over there. I do think it unkind of Disney to take photos of folks when they are concentrating on beating their family at shooting targets.

Oh and due to an error on my part, where I scanned the wrong button, we seem to have a photo of a random couple on our account. Say hello!

It is both cool and a little tragic that I turn my cap around so that it does not impede my vision…..

and look at this classic……

Louise sat out in the sun for this one avoiding photographic shaming.

We were done at this point and we headed out to the car via tram and monorail. Tom and I dropped the ladies at the villa so they could begin the getting ready and we went to the Publix that we found closed last night. $220 later, we had a full trunk and soon a full fridge back at the villa.

After showers for all and some waiting for the males, we headed out for Outback at Formosa Gardens. Freddie was a little tired, as you can see….

but he did brilliantly as we ordered and ate.

He watched some Wallace and Gromit on his Dad’s phone and was even entrusted with the camera as a distraction for a while….

We had the customary Bloomin’ Onion….

Then….

Louise – Garlic Medallions of Steak

Rebecca – Sirlion (half-eaten)

Emily – A cheesy pasta thing, being the only Veggie option.

Freddie – Nuggets

I had a lovely steak and shrimp thing, but forgot to photograph it. I get better at this. It was our first night, forgive me.

Tom – An Quesadilla burger which escaped the camera also.

It was all very, very delicious. The bill with a 20% tip, was $178.

We barely managed it home awake. Bed at 10. That, my friends, is a very good effort at an excellent first day. We had a blast.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day One

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day One

One of the greatest challenges in documenting one of these trips is the first day. Here I sit, still a bit jet lagged, the horrors of work on my mind, trying desperately to re-capture the excitement and anticipation I can see in the photos from our travel day. The two moods could not be more removed from each other.

Our travel day starts early these days. With Rebecca not at home we have to do the door photos the night before. It does warm my heart a little that it is the girls asking days before when and how we are all getting together to get them done. It is not just my sad tradition, it is theirs too.

This report starts even earlier than that this time. You find me at my desk on my final afternoon. I am tolerating the back to back meetings that have somehow invaded my diary and counting down to the the time I can leave without being formally disciplined when a text arrived on my phone. Oh good, I can now check in for our flights.

I follow the link and start clicking stuff. Now, my track record with online check in is not good for some reason. It never seems to go smoothly. Anyway, I am moving through the various pages with my natural silky grace and one more click will see us all sorted.

An error appears. That’s odd. I do not make mistakes, so surely this pesky website is playing up. Looking in more detail the error relates to Emily and it tells me to check her status on the ESTA website.

The faint stirrings of nausea appear deep within my gut. I do as advised. Luckily, I have a photo of her passport stored on my laptop so I have all I need to confirm that her ESTA is fine. My hands are shaking a little as I type in her details, mainly as the new red warning message across the top of the ESTA site reminds me that it can take 72 hours to get approval.

So, it turns out she has no valid ESTA. My mind wildly searches for a reason for this, but the only one it can come up with is that I am an absolute idiot. I remember distinctly sitting at my laptop many weeks ago getting everyone’s ESTA either renewed or checked. I had a stack of passports and I worked through each one methodically.

Anyway, finding someone else to blame for this was a job for later. Right now, I had to apply and quickly. With my hands shaking a little more, I somehow got the application done as quickly as possible. As expected, Authorization (sic) was pending. I sat refreshing the page for a bit, but nothing changed.

At this point I called Louise to confess my incompetence. Next I called Emily to confess the same and without saying it out loud, letting her know that she may not be travelling with us. She took it calmly and in her stride which just about stopped me from jumping from the window ledge I was stood on. An hour passed, and panic was setting in and I started googling stuff about recent time frames for ESTA approval. Nothing gave me any comfort, and despite knowing it was very unlikely to make a difference I called the number on the ESTA site. I sat on hold for twenty minutes whilst still refreshing the page constantly.

Whilst doing that I even checked out flight times over the coming days just in case the worst happened and she wouldn’t be able to fly with us.

To draw a veil over the horrors of this afternoon, at 4.35pm, a desperate push of F5 refreshed the ESTA site one more time and, thankfully, the status changed to Authorized. I haven’t felt relief like it since her conception.

Now, you will know that I am a dedicated planner and have been until this point a fastidious, organised type. I could never imagine that I would be incompetent enough to let this happen. Clearly I am that incompetent, as I will prove to you in other mistakes I will document here over the coming weeks. Senility is arriving early. But do please take my failings as a warning to check and double check everything one last time. I can ony think that Emily’s passport was stored in her room and when I gathered them all together I couldn’t count properly and didn’t do hers. As I said, incompetent.

So, with that over with, and I am sweating slightly again just recounting it, we shall proceed with those traditional door photos.

If I had been sensible I may have got the camera out before now to remind myself how it works. Like most of you, my phone is my camera at every other time than a WDW trip so getting to grips with my very nice Canon G7X takes a little time. All of that is an excuse for these being a bit blurry.

They got a bit better as we went along….

Well some did….

Now would be a good time to warn you. There are going to be a lot of photos of Freddie in this trip report. It’s natural of course but it’s best I tell you now.

Now we get into the different configurations….

and a more traditional door photo….

So with that done, we ate our takeaway, finished the packing and all went to bed.

Online check in still wouldn’t work for Emily, so that was one last minor issue we would need to address at the airport. A small price to pay for my stupidity. I had felt panic stricken and on edge all evening to be honest, convinced I had made some other error and it was hard to relax into the holiday feeling.

That no doubt contributed to me being awake from 3am. I rose at 7am for the traditional three S’s, tidied up a bit, put the bins out and got the final bits into the cases and wrestled them downstairs. The taxi arrived early at 8.20. We were ready and after a tearful goodbye to the dogs we loaded ourselves and the cases into the van, with me still questioning what I had forgotten.

We collected Rebecca, Tom and Freddie five minutes later and made our way slowly to the airport with me doing the “you been busy?” thing with the driver as I had to sit up front.

We arrived at 9.20 and made our way to desks 14-24. We were approached by a chap offering us an upgrade. Alas, it was not a free one, and another £800 for the move to Premium Economy could not be justified, especially as I had already, unbeknownst to the rest of the party, paid for extra leg room seats in economy.

Emily’s check in was trouble free and it was a nice feeling to have her boarding pass in my hands.

Security was dreadful. As we had a pram with us we were directed to the Assistance Lane. There wasn’t any assistance that I noticed, but there was a whole heap of waiting. It wasn’t helped by the family in front of us having what appeared to the their weekly food shop in their hand luggage. After about half an hour we finally got through and feeling hangry, we moved through into the departure lounge. Our direct route to food was only interrupted as several of the females needed the rest room.

Freddie made good use of the time.

A bee line was made for Giraffe, our usual Terminal 1 eatery and there was no wait to be seated. The choosing of food was a serious business.

We had…..

Me and Tom – Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich

Louise – (A quite poor) Eggs Benedict

Emily – Veggie Breakfast Sandwich

I failed to capture this but it looked like the sandwich Tom and I had.

Rebecca – Some Mexican themed breakfast thing

Freddie – A generic kid’s breakfast

Coffee and juice for all and it came to £90 including a tip.

Having only just waited outside a restroom mere moments ago, we had to do so again as my daughters laid some cable. With that done, we wandered some shops, I bought a book from Smiths and then we found ourselves a seat to wait for the gate to open. I think even I had a wee at this point. I am only human.

As I did, I wondered, as I often do, what it is that makes men need to dredge up a pint of phlegm as they take a leak at the urinal. The two functions are not connected. Why do I have to have a wee whilst listening to my fellow urinators pulling up bodily fluids from their toes before expectorating it into the piss pot. Come on fellas, sort it out!

We explored the totally authentic UK/Manchester themed area of duty free too.

Yet more restrooming was done as we made our way to gate 27. As ever, there was a long queue which we ignored and just waited until most folks had got on. Inexplicably, Rebecca and Louise needed to restroom again. Is there a doctor in the house? They took just long enough to make me a little worried that the gate would close with us still on UK soil and some heated messages were exchanged before they reappeared.

We boarded and settled in for the flight which was announced as taking nine hours.

Our extra leg room was welcome and looked like this. You will see that I denounced the usual bright white trainers, but fear not, the tradition was not abandoned. More on that later.

As ever, we did not take off at the intended time, instead we left the UK at 3.07, some twenty minutes behind schedule. Drinks and entertainment upgrades were purchased. These not being free is the main difference between Thomas Cook and Virgin in my mind. The available film choice was pretty poor to be honest with few that hadn’t been out for an age. I found Vice and watched that with a few breaks for entertaining Freddie and food, which was chicken pasta or beef stroganof.

At some point, clearly Freddie got his hands on the camera…..

Only the appearance of the ice cream got him back settled in his seat and watching something again.

Freddie was great to be fair on what felt like a very long flight. It was made to feel even longer and more arduous as the woman sat behind Rebecca coughed for 8 hours and 50 minutes of the nine, without once covering her mouth. It was a nasty, “I’ve worked down a coal mine for thirty years” lung wrenching, phlegm factory of a cough that promised to infect most of the plane with whatever she had.

To prove that fact, I developed a runny nose almost immediately and spent a lot of the flight blowing my conk in the toilets, which isn’t a euphemism.

Freddie was tired but wouldn’t sleep so I took him for a walk around the cabin once everything had been served, sold and collected. I spent the rest of the flight watching Big Bang Theories I had already seen and blowing my nose. A sandwich and some cake was served around 10.30pm UK time and the desperation to get there was not eased by that offering.

Our descent took about 45 minutes and we landed at 7.04pm Orlando time. We taxied to the gate by 7.20. We were sat in row two which had me excited about being the first off the plane. Knowing that, the ground staff attached the tube to the middle door instead and we were off behind most other passengers which would prove to be troublesome. I say it every year, but MCO is a mess for arrivals.

Firstly, immigration was horrendous. We had arrived just behind what appeared to be a fight of 3500 Brazilians. We waited for 80, yes, 80 minutes to get processed. Poor Tom had to hold a now sleeping Freddie in his arms for the entire time. Louise was having hot sweats as despite all of her previous restroom visits, there was now a chocolate hostage fighting to be released.

Not surprisngly, our bags were waiting for us when we finally got through. We collected those whilst Louise sprinted for the restroom.

The next parts of moving through Orlando airport also contribute to my view that it is a mess. The whole double bag drop thing is silly, and we always choose to just take them with us, but that involves escalators and/or an elevator before you even get to the monorail.

With a light sweat on, Buddy the Mayor greeted us and we finally made our way to the bit where you walk for miles again, before more elevator nonsense to get down to the car hire bit.

Having been reunited with his pram, Freddie made full use.

There was no queue at all at the Dollar desk and I was in and out like a teenager’s first time. They tried the upgrade thing, the extra insurance thing, the toll pass thing and the sat nav thing. I brushed them all aside and rejoined the group, now on a mission to get to the bloody villa.

We had been directed to row 2 to choose our mini van. My tired brain was confused by the fact that row 2 seemed to only contain SUVs until a staff member pointed out the mini vans were about five minutes walk down that row. What’s another bit of walking at this stage?

We spent a few minutes trying to choose the best van available but gave up and just chose the one we were stood next to. The cases and pram were jammed in badly and we were off. Tom programmed the sat nav and with only one minor detour, as I took a wrong exit somehwere along the 528, after a long, dark and rainy journey we made it to Sandy Ridge. Wait, no, I took a turn earlier than I needed and we were still a few hundred yards away. A quick turn around, and a bit of swearing and we were now on the right development at least.

Now if someone can explain to me why the villas are numbered in a random order that would be great. We were in 206, so obviously next door would be 196 yes? I mean….

Tom Delonge Wtf GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This caused another U turn and some more swearing before the van was more abandoned than parked on the drive and we started dragging the cases in.

Louise found a letter for us from the management company telling us that Hurricane Dorian was definitely going to completely ruin our entire trip. OK, in my tired state I may have over reacted, but the letter was written in a way that pretty much said we would either need to evacuate or spend two weeks in the bath tub. My mood was not a positive one.

Add to that, my dissapointment that the villa seemed to be less than we were expecting. I spent a decent amount of time looking for a cheap (we weren’t supposed to be going remember?) villa with two en suite masters, sacrificing location to get that within our budget. At first glance, the two main bedrooms, whilst being en suite had, at best, Queen beds. Rightly or wrongly, when someone advertises two master suites, I would expect at least King size beds.

As Tom and I headed to the supermarket for supplies, I was, I have to admit, feeling a little downbeat. With the hovering threat of a holiday ruining hurricane and me seemingly having dropped another bollock with the villa selection I was not as upbeat as anyone should be at this point of a trip.

This was compounded by the fact that the nearby Publix closed at 10pm and it was now 10.40, so we had to go across to the WaWa petrol station to grab some milk and cereal for Freddie’s breakfast.

Defeated and deflated we got back to the villa and fell into bed around midnight.

Maybe it is my advancing years but this travel day is a real endurance test. It involved almost 24 hours of being awake, endless queues, waiting, dragging of luggage and frustrations. You may be hoping that things improve or this trip report might not be very much fun. Well, I have to report as I find, but don’t worry, you are, over the coming weeks about to join us on one of our most enjoyable trips. Whether I can write about it in a way that you’ll enjoy cannot be guaranteed though!

Till the next time…….