I Seethe At Genie

It’s one of those weeks were horrific events somewhere in the world make the trivial nonsense here even more offensive. Usual caveats apply in that regard.

There was a brief moment around Wednesday, with a couple of White House Covid briefings that some semblance of hope surfaced about border news. It turned out that they were all about the booster jab programme and nobody even said the word border.

It was silly to hope but it’s what we do I suppose. With the passing of that potential update, hope for October is now all but extinguished I think. I am prepared to be wrong yet again but I don’t see us being allowed to go. It feels to me that the US administration are completely focussed on the Delta variant (and of course more so Afghanistan now) and getting that under some sort of control before they do anything. Battling with the governors trying their best to extend the pandemic is probably taking precedence over allowing tourists in.

The White House announced it was extending the travel restrictions for Canada and Mexico until September 21st this week so we know from that, the UK will be the same until that date and most likely beyond.

Now of course the thinking and theories could be that they will get those boosters delivered before they open the border. That would be a good few months. Overall, I guess they just want to get case levels down to a more reasonable level. As ever, the frustration is the lack of transparency. Most folks just want to know they aren’t going if they aren’t.

It’s tragically sad in its own little first world problem kind of way.

Then to kick a man when he is down Disney unveiled their plans to introduce paid for FastPasses. I honestly couldn’t be arsed to research it in much detail but I will share my uncalled for uninformed opinion regardless of course, as is the way on the internet.

As usual, it appears more complex than it needs to be but I think it’s $15 a day which on its own in the scheme of the holiday doesn’t sound too bad. But for UK folks doing 10 to 14 days, for a family of four it adds up to between £600 and £800 to your holiday. Sure you don’t have to buy it every day, but it just makes for a two tier system in the parks. You can probably ride all the lesser attractions, but if you want to get anywhere near Rise Of The Resistance or Flight Of Passage as examples, then you are paying extra for the Lightning Lane stuff, which, however you cut it, is a bit of a piss take. I know all the parks do it now, but any model where the park makes more money by being a bit crap at processing large volumes through rides only benefits one side of that deal. Who am I to suggest that they may intentionally inflate wait times to up their revenues.

Maybe the free version will manage the crowds in a way that will reduce the longest wait times, but you have to think that if that happened nobody would be buying the paid for versions and as much as we all love Disney, I think we know how that one goes.

I’m sure park reservations and the new Genie thing give WDW unimaginable data and insight on crowds in the parks and will allow them to marshal folks to quieter areas and rides and I can see the theory that this will make for a more enjoyable experience. I doubt it will get you onto the headliner rides though unless you get your hand in your pocket. Having shelled out over $20 to park, $15 a day per person on top or potentially unlimited amounts of the Lightning thing sticks in the throat a bit as it isn’t as if the park tickets are particularly cheap. It would have been a nice gesture to say, because of this we commit to not increasing park ticket prices for two years or similar. Again, this is pure fantasy I know. They are there to make money.

It’s another stage in the slow death of the feeling of excitement surrounding these holidays. It’s becoming a dark cloud of doubt and uncertainty hanging over us rather than a beacon of joy and excitement that we can look forward to. We don’t stay on-site typically but I have seen many folks bemoaning the slow removal of almost every previous benefit of doing so. It makes you wonder what the thinking is behind it. Maybe WDW has data that says that off-site guests are more profitable? Hard to imagine that is true but why else would they upset their own resort guests?

Usually I am very supportive of any change WDW come up with. I trust them to protect the experience and brand. It’s probably a symptom of my incredible frustration that we cannot be there, or even know when we might, that I am lashing out like some bitter ex.

I did briefly look at ADRs early in the week, mainly just to try and remember what it used to be like doing exciting things like planning. The pickings were not just slim, they were skeletal. I appreciate that I missed the 60 day window due to apathy and no belief that we will be able to go, but unless you plan to eat at Disney Springs there is nothing to book. I managed to find a couple of things we would be happy with but I’m just creating more things to cancel later.

I know it’s not like me but I will end with a couple of small positives, that are probably too late to save our current dates but may go someway to helping with later ones. On Friday (I think it was) the US delivered over one million jabs in a day for the first time in months. Even Trump endorsed getting the jab at his latest MAGA rally. He was booed of course as you can’t fix stupid, but maybe some of his less challenged followers will take the hint that all the MAGA dolts undermining the vaccine have had it. If that continues and cases start to plateau who knows, we may get in.

In summary, I am worried about how I am starting to feel about WDW and Florida. I have a real fear that things will never be a special as we perceived them to be in the past and if that is the case what a shame that will be. All this angst may well melt away once we are back to being able to go when we want to. In the meantime I shall continue to spit my dummy all over the interwebs in a vain attempt to make myself feel better.

The truly tragic part of that is that you have to tolerate or avoid it as you see fit.

Till the next time…….

A Bob Iger Come and Get Me Plea….

I have often suspected the senior leadership team at Disney sit poised to read my weekly blog. Having just last Sunday laid out my own personal gripes in great details about the FastPass tiers, specifically at Hollywood Studios, I was pleased, but not too surprised to see them take my thoughts to heart and change things up.

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway has been added to the top tier of FastPasses at Hollywood Studios. Coincidence? I think not. There may come a point when I need to start invoicing them for my consultancy services.

With three rides now in that tier that can only help to spread the demand out and make it even easier for us to fail in getting one for the two we really now want and begrudgingly settle for one for Slinky Dog.

In terms of career aspirations, I don’t harbour too many any more other than for a better commute and enough money to fund further trips to WDW, but if I could be one of those folks you see wandering around the parks in slacks, a remarkably non-sweaty shirt and an earpiece, then yes a position somewhere within Disney management would appeal. Imagine going to work every day to do something you are truly passionate about. The downside would be that if we did live in Florida I would need to be winched out of my front room within 12 months of our arrival as the smorgasbord of culinary delights on offer would see me behave like some sort of adult Augustus Gloop in a place where everything is seemingly is edible and either covered in Cinnamon or double Cinnamon.

This new railway ride opens in March. Demonstrating once again why this isn’t a blog you should rely on for up to the minute Disney news, I have no clue what this ride is. There are no height restrictions which is good for a party like ours with a Freddie in tow, so it won’t be rivalling Rock n Rollercoaster for thrills, but these family “everyone can join in” rides are for me, really important for WDW. I believe that the whole idea for the parks came from Walt having to sit and watch his daughter’s go on fairground rides without him. There are times when you do want a G force laden thrill a minute ride, but there is equal joy, perhaps more, in watching the face of the younger members of your party experience rides that everyone can do together.

On better Disney blogs than this one I’m also seeing rumours of Disney abolishing free FastPasses and the ability to book them ahead of time. That, to me sounds like a very bad idea. Not only do I not want to pay more for what I now get for free, but Disney must surely realise that the complex planning that a lot of WDW visitors do months in advance is very much part of the trip. The rumour is that you would only be able to buy FastPass privileges on the day and then I guess see what you can get.

That way carnage lies. A trip to WDW is already VERY expensive and no doubt by the time we get back there it’ll be costing somewhere close to $100 to park for the day, so charging for FastPasses as Universal does for off-site guests would be a very unpopular move in my view. Hopefully, it holds as much water as most WDW related rumours do and this never comes to pass.

Knowing as I do that all the top Disney execs read this, here’s my advice –

  • Leave the FastPass system alone
  • Stop increasing parking costs every few weeks
  • You need to either build a fifth park or undertake some major expansion to one or two of the others.

I say the last point as the continual addition of new resorts and rooms means they are pumping more and more guests into parks that have a finite capacity. Sure, there are new rides and lands, but the real estate they are in is pretty much what it always was. There are no longer any real quiet periods at WDW now, with Disney doing a fantastic job of inventing seemingly endless events and festivals to get people in.

This is good, as it gives them higher revenues which to their credit they then re-invest into the parks, but we’re coming to a point now where people will stay away if the very crowded scenes that happen at peak times continue. There’s little to no fun in that scenario.

Now, I do know that in December 2019 Disney bought 235 acres of land just west of Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.

In January 2019, Disney also bought 1,575 acres for $11 million in Osceola County and before that, it bought 965 acres for $23 million from nearby B-K Ranch in December 2018.

Disney has made no announcements about potential uses for the land, but it is located near other Disney golf courses. It would be an anti-climax if all that land was for golf, as much as I do like a round of that in Florida.

With Universal launching a new park in, I think 2023, it is usual for Disney to respond so I’m hopeful we get that long-awaited “fifth gate”. For as long as I can remember, a Villains Park has been rumoured. I think to be honest that rumour has just been a product of internet speculation and it may be more likely that another land is added to Magic Kingdom in that theme, as that to me would work well.

The worst-case scenario could be that they just use this newly purchased land to build more resorts. That would just compound the issues in the parks now. It’s almost as if I’m suggesting that some idiot from Bolton knows more about the workings of an organisation than those who run it.

So Bob Iger and the lovely Disney execs. I am available for consultancy and/or full-time employment at competitive rates and will take partial payment in food.

Till the next time…..

FastPass Tiers and Tears

As we endured the 74th week of January last week, I was pleased to see it whizz by quite quickly. Work was busy, and so that hecticness stole away some more hours of my life I’ll never get back. As I hurtle towards my half century I have come to the realisation that most of my life now seems to be spent either communting or recycling.

In the whirl of normal life, I remember seeing some news that the FastPass+ tiers have been amended at Hollywood Studios. That was pleasing but you have to remember that it usually doesn’t affect us as our account on My Disney Experience has been blacklisted for all the rides everyone wants FastPasses for.

You may remember me from such films as “Flights Of Passage? Are You Having A Laugh?” and “Slinky Dog? I Should Cocoa!”. But, like Charlie Brown, once again trying to kick the football as Lucy holds it, I’ll be there on the relevant days going through the motions anyway just to fail spectacularly.

It’s a Safari FastPass for you!

Sumggler’s Run has now been opened up to FastPass bookings which is nice. That and Slinky are grouped together so I suppose the upside is that we may finally stand half a chance of getting one for Slinky Dog. We did ride it last year, but to date have not been anywhere close to a FastPass.

At this rate, we’ll be easily snagging FastPasses for Rise Of The Resistance when we go for Freddie’s 18th birthday. It is the theme park version of the circle of life. I’m old enough to remember rides like Test Track and Soarin’, being THE ride to get a FastPass for. It was only five minutes ago that I was dad jogging all the way through Animal Kingdom to get an old fashioned paper FastPass for the Safari as that was the headliner at the time. These things come and go and if you are mature and sensible you’ll realise that and not spend your Sunday morning pissing and moaning about it in a blog post.

For anyone who missed it –

Tier 1 will include: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog Dash. Guests will be able to pre-select one of these attractions as a FastPass+ reservation in advance of their visit to the park.

Tier 2 will include: Toy Story Mania!, Alien Swirling Saucers, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Disney Junior Dance Party!, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Muppet*Vision 3D, Fantasmic!, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage. Guests will be able to pre-select two of these attractions as a FastPass+ reservation in advance of their visit to the park.

So Tier 1 is going to be a bit competitive isn’t it? Not for us of course. We’ll just end up with the dregs, but it won’t affect me and I won’t go on about it endlessly.

We are 205 days out now. It won’t be long until we can begin the ADR process and we have a few to do this time. Disney are smart in allowing ADRs 180 days out. It makes the upcoming trip exciting earlier and for longer, having to imagine what and where you want to eat several months out. Then after me moaning about not being able to get some of them at the time or day I want them, a few months later I can do it all again because I can’t get onto a theme park ride without queuing.

Anyway, there’s no planning I can do right now, so I am away to tick off my list of Sunday chores. It’s amazing how upon opening my eyes on a weekend morning I can see a full day of nothing laid out in front of me and within moments it becomes filled with stuff that “need” to be tackled and tackle I must.

See you back here next week for more upneat musings and moaning.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Thirteen

There was a hint of a lie in this morning. It was a leisurely 9.30am by the time everyone was vertical and as I am a rat race drone, conditioned by years of monotonous work-based drudgery and now incapable of sleeping beyond 8am, I spent that time doing fun things like putting the bins out and putting a wash on.

With our days remaining dwindling now our kitchen cupboards were looking a little empty but I managed to find Freddie some Cheerios and we watched some TV whilst he ate them.

All this dilly-dallying would normally have had me gnawing my limbs off, but with us being hard at it, pace-wise over the last few days and having had a late night last night I was super chilled daddio. No rush to be out this morning….honest.

Despite the later start nobody managed to feed themselves so we stopped at the local McDonalds for breakfast. I parked the van and as we all tumbled out of it we were being waved at frantically by what looked like some of The Village People from inside the restaurant. It was not a 1970’s themed promotion but instead, a sign that the one particular McDonalds franchise we had chosen, from the millions available, was closed for refurbishment.

Their exaggerated arm gestures did suggest that drive-through was still open so we all piled back into the van and made our way there. Six hungry people in a van, with a seemingly unintelligible northern England accent in a foreign country….what could possibly go wrong?

What fun I had shouting over my shoulder into the dark recesses of the van to gather information on food requirements to then shout it out of the window at a small intercom which responded with crackles and scratches. That only took ten times longer than I would have liked.

Naturally, we were asked to park up and wait for our food so we did. A few minutes later a brown bag was delivered to us and we very quickly discovered the shocking news that our order was wrong as we were missing Emily’s veggie option and Freddie’s drink. So round we went again to shout some more into the void of the intercom before being asked to park up again whilst they fixed their errors. Sigh. Fast food?

More minutes passed and another brown bag arrived. We soon discovered that Emily’s meat-free burger was actually the very meaty version. Emily point blank refused to go round again and said she’d get something in the parks, should we ever get there. Tom ate the meaty burger as an act of selfless sacrifice.

Finally, we were heading to Hollywood Studios and we parked in a very hot Mickey and trammed our way to the entrance.

Having spent a lot of time 30 days ago making FastPasses for this morning, upon realising that we weren’t doing mornings today, I had seamlessly shifted them all to the afternoon. You may find it as hard to believe as I did that we only entered the park at 12.20.

After a restroom stop for Freddie we quickly made our way to the 12.30 Frozen sing-a-long show. We had all enjoyed it enormously the other day and we were a little disappointed that the male storyteller wasn’t the same hilarious one we had previously. We enjoyed it still but didn’t laugh as much.

More restrooming before heading into Indiana Jones for the 1.15 show.

We were seated just as it started only then to find them having serious sound issues for a good while. Eventually, the show got started….

Freddie wasn’t too keen on some of the loud bangs we were very close to so I took him out, or at least up to the back of the theatre where he felt much more comfortable and we watched the rest of things from up there. We were the first out of the place as the show ended and the others were not too far behind.

This brought us to one of our FastPasses at Star Tours. Louise assumed Freddie duties whilst the rest of us rode. As we rejoined Louise, it was time for a Freddie nap so we decided to wander some shops to allow him to fall asleep in his stroller. He didn’t so instead we headed over to the Dance Party for which we had a 2.25 FastPass.

I know this may seem like a silly thing to say, but there were a LOT of kids here.

Rebecca and Tom sat on the floor with Freddie and we found some actual seats towards the back.

Dancing happened. See how Freddie has already perfected the “Brent”….

Two thoughts occurred to me.

  1. Imagine being a cast member at this show and seeing that six times a day.
  2. It was good but comes nowhere near the classic version we took the girls to all those years ago which included the legend that is Bear in the Big Blue House.

After experiencing all those kids in such a confined space, we needed sustenance. Emily and I had a cheesy pretzel, but I was confident CVS would have a cream for that. Louise, Emily and Rebecca had a Hollywood Lights cocktail from a cart next to the pretzel booth thingy. We all had a sit down for a bit whilst those things were consumed.

After that, we did some shop wandering on Sunset Boulevard, killing time until our Rock n Rollercoaster FastPass at 3.40.

Rebecca and Tom rode first and we discovered that somebody has built a whole new bit of the park here. Nobody told me….

It was too hot to do anything silly like walking around that new area so instead, we used a bench to people watch and rest.

It was soon our turn to ride. See how we naturally attached ourselves to the exit door to gain those vital few places in the queue……

After riding, we caught up with Rebecca, Tom and Freddie in the Pixar shop before then riding Tower of Terror via standby which was a very palatable few minutes. I did not ride, instead, I took Freddie on a full lap of the entire park as my way of saying goodbye to it for now. I know this may sound odd, but strange things happen towards the end of a WDW trip…for me anyway.

As I was trying to soak in as much of it as I could by not blinking unnecessarily, Freddie was enjoying the ride (I was walking at full man pace) waving at cast members. As we came to the end of the loop we stopped to do some hula hooping. Well Freddie did, I’m not sure they had my size.

We met up with everyone else at the top of Sunset before making the sad final journey to the exit and the official goodbye to the park for this year. Emily cried a little whilst I just buried the hurt and upset deep inside like you are supposed to.

We made our way back to the car….and notice how Louise blows tens of dollars on an official WDW spray fan thing when we have just two days to go…..

We were headed for City Walk for dinner tonight. We arrived at 5.57. I know that’s an exact time check. The reason I know that is parking becomes free after 6pm, so we pulled to the side just before the payment booths and waited for three minutes. I’m not proud of it, but at the same time, not ashamed either. It is what it is.

We parked, for free, in Cat In The Hat 360 and made the long journey on foot through security and to City Walk.

We went straight to Cowfish as we were hungry, of course. We were seated immediately.

I went all crazy and abandoned the diet coke and went for one of their delicious milkshakes.

There was wine and cocktails for the ladies and Tom joined me in the milkshake…..we didn’t share, he had his own.

Louise returned from a restroom visit with disturbing tales of shallow bowls and furious hand washing. Despite this, we ordered…..

Rebecca, Tom and I had the Cheeseburgerooshi. I know we’ve eaten some terrific stuff, but I have to say, and Tom agreed, that this was the tastiest thing of the entire trip.

Undeterred by shallow bowls, Louise had an upside-down Spicy Burger.

Emily had the Veggie burger option….

Freddie had the grilled cheese sandwich and loved it.

Tom managed a deconstructed chocolate cake and I had a coffee. The bill was $206 including an 18% tip. We loved it here.

We had a slow wander around City Walk. It was one of those lovely dusky, twinkly light times, made better by the glorious warmth. We soon came across the fountains and Freddie was straight in.

He loved playing here as much as we all enjoyed watching him. This was one of those unplanned, glorious memory moments and one I think we’ll all remember for a long time.

Being very wet, Freddie was then whisked off to the restroom to get changed into the spare set of clothes a very organised Rebecca and Tom had with them.

Whilst they did that the rest of us sat on some chairs next to the fountains, again soaking in the surroundings, weather and all-round gloriousness of where we were, banking it to somehow get us through the bleak cold winter to come.

With everyone back together we made our way over to Voodoo Doughnuts. We were not in any way hungry, but we’d vowed to try them and we wouldn’t be back here this trip, so sacrifices had to be made at the altar of gluttony.

Emily and I queued and chose a selection of six.

We sampled the wonders of the glorious pink box, which I’m sure is one of those films you can buy on your TV in hotel rooms, but most of the doughnuts came back to the villa with us to be eaten later.

We made the long journey back to the car and after those 10,000 steps we made our way home stopping at a gas station for fuel and some milk. We were home by 9 after a very lovely day.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Eight

With a full day’s park touring ahead of us, now that Dorian was behind, or technically North East of us, it was handy to be awake nice and early. Alas, that did not result in us being out of the villa similarly early.

By the time everyone had done whatever everyone needed to do it was 9.30am and let’s face it, the day was ruined already. Right?

All those days ago when I booked our FastPasses for today, some sixth sense, or maybe years of experience told me not to book our first FastPass until 10.35, so our late start was not as dramatic a disaster as my protruding bottom lip might have had you believe.

Signalling another quiet day, despite our tardy arrival, we parked too close to the entrance to warrant a tram and we breezed through security without significant sack intrusion and we were into Hollywood Studios.

On the whole subject of favourite parks, I can never give a sensible answer when asked. In fact, it seems that whenever I enter any park it assumes the position of my favourite until I go to the next one. The warm virtual hug each park gives me as I enter is one of the best things about this place.

We were making our way to Toy Story Land and as you can see, the emptiness we were seeing was pleasing and encouraging.

As many now inconveniently restroomed, we observed a squirrel showing un-nerving familiarity with people for a while.

Our first FastPass was for Alien Swirling Saucers. It was upsetting to see it only had a ten-minute standby queue.

To avoid the discomfort only experienced by sardines in a can, I rode separately so that Louise and Emily could ride together. I spent the ride taking Grandad photos of Freddie and attempting the grandparent wave at high speed.

As we disembarked, Toy Story Mania was showing a meagre ten-minute standby time so we headed there. Just as we reached the ride entrance it changed to twenty-five. We joined anyway and ended up waiting for fifteen. A decent compromise.

I rode with and resoundingly thrashed Emily. I don’t always report the results of these types of rides, but when I win, it seems right and proper to do so.

As we queued, we had discussed, agreed and booked our dining plans for the day, securing Sci-Fi Diner for later. I could sense a milkshake in Tom’s immediate future. Not knowing how Dorian would play out we had left things a little free and loose, but enough about my extra large eating shorts.

Speaking of food, now it was time to tick off our list one of the snacks we had ear-marked as essential in our planning stages. A Num Num Cookie!

I secured a number of them, along with some coffees of varying hotness and coldness from Joffrees and we snacked, well. By jingo these things are superb. Soft, warm, moist….all the good words apply here.

As we scoffed, we spotted a show of some sort starting up right at the bottom of Pixar Courtyard so we wandered down that way. It was an Incredibles dance and play type affair and Freddie was up for it.

Like his Grandad before him, women naturally gravitated to him, and he spent the latter part of the show limboing with Mrs Incredible.

This was one of those unplanned, stumbled across moments that will live long in the memory. You can’t beat them.

Having wooed Elastigirl, we moved on to Ariel, as we had a (redundant) FastPass for the 12.05 show. We had to kill ten minutes in the Launch Bay before being allowed to enter.

Freddie met Darth Vader. You’ll have to trust me as it was un-photographed.

We used the FastPass entrance at Ariel with no requirement to do so and settled in for the show.

Freddie is asking his Mum why Ariel is staring at Grandad.

Freddie loved the water spray, bubbles and the laser effects and sat through the whole show enjoying what was a very good Ariel.

Outside, in the courtyard, Freddie did some character meeting…..

We did have a FastPass for the Disney Junior Dance Party show, but as that again wouldn’t be required on such a quiet day, we decided to not do that and instead we headed for Tower of Terror which was just showing a ten-minute wait. Louise was on Freddie duty, otherwise known as sunbathing and the rest of us enjoyed the ride.

We were all kinds of ready for lunch so we decided on the first place we came to after riding.

Louise and I shared a Chilli Cheese Dog

Emily had the Fried Tomato Sandwich

Tom had a foot long, but that’s frankly none of my business.

Rebecca and Freddie shared some Nuggets

We finished eating with perfect timing to walk over the road for the 2pm Beauty & The Beast.

I can’t be the only one to wish for the return of Four For A Dollar?

An enjoyable show as ever, with Freddie’s attention being kept throughout. I agreed to enter some shops after this solely because my love handles were melting.

Louise looked at and even tried on some retro style dresses in the now ever so posh shop, but decided against buying one. I had no opinion on this….

Image result for anchorman gif super duper

I chose two T-shirts as part of my birthday present package and we admired some lovely Up! art work.

See, very free and loose….

Rebecca and Tom got themselves a couple of Up! T-shirts for their MHSSHP outfits and then we ended this shopping nonsense and set off to explore Galaxy’s Edge a little more. On the way, we phoned home and spoke to Louise’s Mum, discussing time differences, the weather and Los Cadbury’s Fingres.

Freddie nodded off in his stroller during the walk so we just had a general wander, who is a lesser-known character in the Star Wars films. We started in the driod shop where we would absolutely not be paying $200 for one. Many others seemed to have no such objections.

We wandered some more…

Having taken more photos than one of those speed cameras in motorway roadworks, we left Star Wars behind, heading for another product of the Seventies, The Muppets.

This might just be me, but the layout here is a bit odd. You have Galaxy’s Edge, separated from Star Tours by The Muppets, the courtyard and the pizza place. I am surprised that they didn’t extend Galaxy’s Edge out to Star Tours, relocating the Muppets elsewhere. It just feels like a weird break in theming to have that in between the two Star Wars things.

We arrived halfway through the pre-show, but it seemed to me that the film shown in the waiting area has changed. This is not acceptable as I was not consulted. The show remains untouched and despite the challenges of the 3D glasses Freddie managed to sit through the whole thing. He was particularly fond of Sweetums and the bubbles which appeared at some point.

We wandered the adjoining shop for a bit before making our way to Star Tours.

Louise, Emily and I rode first. It was a walk-on so we didn’t have to wait too long for Rebecca and Tom to do the same. As they rode we watched some Jedi training and then went to check-in at Sci-Fi Diner and they joined us once they were done.

Darth Vader there, with a similar “red pencil” that Oli, our Old English Sheepdog, has from time to time.

Freddie was very taken with this car and spent quite some time posing in it and playing with the other kids doing the same.

After a fifteen-minute wait we were seated and despite the gloomy conditions, managed to order.

Rebecca and I had the BBQ Burger

I gave up with the photos after that one due to the absolute lack of any light.

Emily had the Falafel Burger, Louise and Tom the Cheese Steak and Freddie the child’s burger. Milkshakes all round, which were superb and we all loved this meal and experience. I failed to write down how much it came to, but I didn’t care. I was full of milk shake and happiness.

We had half an hour to kill until the next showing of the Frozen sing-along, so despite our bulging bellies, Tom and Emily joined me in a speed walk to Tower of Terror which had no wait time. I’m not over exaggerating when I say that we queued for less time than it takes me to start peeing.

We avoided throwing up and left the ride into the lovely dusky atmosphere of Hollywood Studios looking its best. Freddie was spending this little bit of free time getting his hula hoop on.

I spent it filming randomly for the benefit of Facebook and of course for myself who can now watch it months later, in a cold dreary November.

Parks at dusk are special and especially special when they are as quiet as Hollywood Studios was at this time.

Frozen was superb. It can depend on which cast members are appearing and we struck lucky with a couple of hilarious ones and Emily laughed so much I feared for her underwear.

By now, darkness was approaching and again, the place looked glorious.

To end what had been a superb day we headed to Fantasmic now, picking up drinks and ice cream on the way. It had been ages since we ate!

It was right about now that I got that sinking feeling of incoming illness. Damn that woman on the plane! The inevitable arrival of a cold was not welcome, but for now, I pushed those thoughts away and enjoyed the show.

As happens in most situations that involve fireworks, nighttime shows and characters, Emily was emotional. I have to say that ending “Some imagination huh?” does manage to get me every time. I love it.

We were too tired (or ill in my case) for the Star Wars fireworks so instead, we headed for the car. We were home and in bed by 10pm, resting nicely in the afterglow of a glorious full theme park day. More please!

Till the next time……

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…..

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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…….

Handmaid’s Tales and Grandparent Fails

This is happening a little later than normal as we’ve had a bit of a lazy day. Normally, weekend days are just a series of tasks and chores that need to be done, but today we’ve ignored them so far, and spent our time binge watching stuff.  We are currently knee-deep in The Handmaid’s Tale. We like to be right on the cutting edge of the latest releases! Next, we move on to Bless This House.

There’s a tip run that should have happened as we have our old blinds and a microwave which exploded spectacularly during the week to get rid of, but they sit outside our back door making our house look like Steptoe & Son. It’ll do no harm. I mean, I’ll go tomorrow when it’ll be nice and quiet…..on a Bank Holiday Monday, right?

Speaking of nice and quiet, this week Disney announced that Hollywood Studios will be opening at 6am from the 29th of August for a few days. That’s our first day in Florida, so technically, with the typical first morning wake up in the early AM, we could be there for that. Not a chance. We shall we making our way to the Magic Kingdom which will hopefully have the crowd levels of an Accrington Stanley reserve game. I think that time is only for on-site folks anyway, but regardless, down that path lies a perfect example of how not to enjoy a theme park.

I suspect DHS will be carnage for our entire two weeks, but we will strategically dip in and out to hopefully do stuff and specifically Toy Story Land, hoping that will be quieter than our last trip and we shall retreat gracefully to somewhere else should we encounter the cast of Ghandi.

Our countdown as of this morning sits at 114 days, so two weeks today we shall be gliding gracefully into double digits. Bring it on.

In other news, wedding plans continue to be made. Cake tastings happened this week. That I have to say has been one of my highlights for obvious reason. Less interesting (to me) conversations are ongoing about bridesmaids dresses etc and I think there’s a suit try on looming on the horizon. That’s all fine, but it’s no cake tasting is it?

Louise also had some good news this week. Ages ago, she went through the application process to return to study, this time, to move into midwifery. After weeks and weeks of waiting she heard this week that she had been offered a place. It’s a mighty fine achievement as the competition for places is very tough, so all things being equal, on our return from Orlando she will be back at Uni, at UCLAN, learning how to get babies out of women. I think that’s the correct technical term.

To finish the brief trip through our week just gone, I shall leave you with a masterclass in grand parenting. Yesterday, whilst Rebecca and Tom went to the cake shop to return with the samples I hoovered up, we were looking after Freddie. Louise nipped out to the shops to buy him more stuff we could spoil him with and I was in sole charge. We were playing, and he was doing his usual thing of wandering around the house fiddling with stuff and pressing every button he could find. I was with him of course, and as he made his way to the washing machine I thought I’d get my phone out and take a picture.

Here it is.

The button he was to press one second later actually started the washing machine with a loud whoosh of water. It shocked Freddie so much that he jumped backwards and in complete slapstick style landed bum first into the dog’s full bowl of water.

His little face was a picture of shock and horror as he sat there waist deep in cold water. I whipped him out immediately of course, which was not easy when laughing so much. He was stripped off and wrapped up cozy on the couch watching Paw Patrol by the time Louise got back a few minutes later.

There’s no need to involve social services.

Till the next time…..

Ride Or Ride Not, There Is No Try

As you will know by now, I like this blog to be right on the bleeding edge of Disney news. I understand that many of you count on it as your one and only source for all things Disney related, and as such I spend every waking hour researching and being one step ahead of every other Disney blog on the planet.

So, I can now reveal, way before you will have heard it anywhere else that the opening date for Star Wars Land has been announced. I know! Exciting stuff right, and I appreciate that this breaking news may take some time for you to digest.

Had we been going this year (and I never say never, as those lucky lottery balls may yet drop in our favour) this would not have been the welcome news you may think it might be. The date of the 29th of August is slap bang in the middle of our usual touring time, and an opening like this is enough to ride the proverbial coach and horses through my laminated spreadsheet.

Having seen what happened when Toy Story Land opened, those wait times for Slinky will seem like the blink of any eye once the Star Wars lot descend upon Hollywood Studios. Had we been there this summer, at opening, I think it would have more or less wiped DHS off our plans to be honest. That opening week will be like a scene from Ghandi, and I don’t mean that everyone will be wearing a bed sheet and sandals.

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The crowds generated by Disney vloggers (Hey Guys!!) alone would be enough to fill Wembley Stadium three times over and the chances of getting anywhere near a ride would be less than me growing a fringe.

So it’s good news that we have no trip planned for this summer right?  Right????

Ironically, the nominal date I have plucked from the ether for our potential travel in 2020 will be the one year anniversary of the opening, so that should mean that those at the back of the queue on opening day will just be leaving the gift shop as we get there, hopefully armed with FastPasses galore.

In the grand scheme of things, this opening is of course a good thing for many reasons.

  1. DHS has been half a park for long enough whilst they built the two new lands so it is fantastic to see those plans completed.
  2. I love Star Wars
  3. Nearly every park (come on Magic Kingdom, get that Tron ride built) now has new headliner attractions and it will spread out the crowds and FastPass desires of guests meaning that some of the current bottlenecks and frustrations around the likes of Flights Of Passage and Slinky will be alleviated.

The parks are in good shape, and with plans recently announced to renovate and modernise the Epcot entrance area, as ever Disney aren’t resting on their laurels, which is one way to justify their prices to myself.

There is a slight anxiety that big new stuff brings of course. The planner in me finds it easiest when I am scheduling stuff we’ve done before. With so much new stuff, I am poking around in the dark a bit hoping for success, although that is something I am relatively familiar with if I am honest. It doesn’t come much bigger than a whole new land, and as I sit in the comfort of my armchair this August, watching the absolute carnage that is Hollywood Studios, I shall be grateful for two things.

  1. I am not in those crowds.
  2. The internet, that will allow me to watch other folks navigate it and enable me to have a better stab at planning our assault on it a year later.

Over that time, there is much to do, not least trying to get Freddie to watch all the Star Wars  and Harry Potter films in readiness for our trip. That may well be a challenge at his age, but I’m sure his Dad will look after the Star Wars side of that bargain.

So if you are going this year after the opening I’d be interested to know how you feel about it. Are you happy or has it put a bit of a cat amongst your planning pigeons? Let’s be honest, I wish we were going too and I’d deal with whatever carnage that created, but if I can lie to myself that there are some benefits to not having a holiday then I shall cling to them like Rose did that piece of wood in Titantic.

Comment away folks….

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Till the next time……

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Nine 6th September 2018

I mentioned right back at the start of this report that I made some errors in the planning. I am sure you cannot believe this and as you read each glorious pleasure riddled day, you must all surely wish that you could pay me a lot of money to plan your trips. I would do that, but to be honest, I love my current job too much to do that, no matter what financial rewards you may offer me.

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Anyway, I also said that I was the most tired I had ever been on one of these trips and the pace I set may have been a little too aggressive. I am not too proud to admit that…again. All that preamble is just an excuse for yet another shoddy late start to the day this morning.

After a twelve-hour day yesterday, a slower start had been planned for by my majestic forethought and considerate nature, but getting out of the villa at 11.15 was taking liberties.

We were bound for the Studios again, and we arrived into the current shambola of a car park and entrance around 11.50, barely making our arrival in the “am”. Pitiful.

We all split up looking for the shortest security lines as usual. Mikey picked wrong this time and we waited the longest for him to have his sack examined. Naturally, arriving at this time, we were all hungry and lunch was needed, so we wandered down Sunset Boulevard and the average burger counter service place pulled us in like some fat soaked tractor beam.

We watched as much of this as we could without actual standing still.

I think I mobile ordered and had more success than we did at the Magic Kingdom a few days ago. We all had burgers or nuggets I think. It was $95 and pretty average really.

We were visited by a cute squirrel who was a bigger fan of our food than we were, so we shared some.

I noted that a Beauty & The Beast show was due to start at 1pm so we made the long journey across the street and entered. We were fairly close to the start time, so there was not a huge amount of choice for a party of our size so we split up over a couple of benches. The one I chose had a family spread out across it for no reason. As we signalled our intent to enter their area, they did not respond. I am not unfamiliar with this concept.

I edged a little closer and they did get eventually get the message this big sweaty bloke standing at the side of them meant that they would need to SHIFT DOWN THE FECKING BENCH!

They had several young kids with them and they proved to be a gigantic pain in the arse throughout. They must have got up and left their seats at least six times between them during the short show. I have never tutted as loudly in my life. Sit down, shut up, pay attention and don’t move until it finishes unless one of your party is on fire.

There were brief moments when we could see the stage.

The show was superb of course and Mikey stated it was his favourite so far. After consulting the app, we decided to do Ariel again. She loves a bit of it.

We wandered all the way there in the searing heat and joined the short queue.

Ariel was much better this time and we all enjoyed her very much.

As we left, rain had started so we made a quick dash to the Star Wars Launch Bay thing which was quickly becoming our go to destination for rainy times.

Freddie was intrigued by the these chaps who interacted with him and us all for quite some time.

We had a wander around the various exhibits avoiding the rain and in Mikey’s case having a wee. He was allowed as there was little else to be doing.

This lady was wandering around again, talking to cast members and characters. We saw her in the First March thing the other day. I think she lives here now.

Whilst wandering, I had again multi-tasked superbly to consult the app and had seen that Tower of Terror has a measly ten minute wait, so that was our direction of travel now.

We had a FastPass for Rock n Rollercoaster so we snuck that in now before the Tower. We baby swapped on both but Louise sat out with Freddie for TOT. As we all returned from riding Freddie was just waking up and he seemed very hot. I know that seems an obvious thing to say when you are on Florida in the summer, but he was exceptionally so. We tried drinks and wiping him down etc but it wasn’t helping. To be sure he was OK we walked to the medical centre near the entrance just to get him checked. This is a great service, thank you Disney. They gave him some Calpol type stuff and an iced towel to bring his temperature down.

We needed to get some cash so we slowly wandered to the ATM whilst Rebecca and Tom took Freddie into the Brown Derby to change him and keep him cool. When they returned, Freddie was no better at all and we decided it would be best to leave and get him back to the villa.

We were quickly back in the car after a tram ride and home in about twenty minutes. Freddie chilled out, literally and Rebecca and Tom decided they would stay at the villa with him tonight rather than come out to dinner. A wise decision to make sure he was better for tomorrow.

The rest of us showered and got ready, whilst the largest takeaway order of McDonalds in history was made by Tom. The delivery guy needed a small truck. We headed for Bahama Breeze with me once again forgetting the camera. Bear with me now whilst I transfer the photos from that evening from my phone….

I’m back.

Cocktails were ordered.

I had a diet coke.

Appetisers were a must here.

That dipping sauce you can see with those onion rings was more addictive than crack. We had a spinach dip in addition to those onion rings and both were bloody lovely.

Me and Mikey had Buttermilk Fried Chicken with free heart bypass.

It was superb. Again, that sauce you can see is one of the wonders of the world.

Louise and Emily, as they always do here, had Jerk Chicken Pasta

I know that looks like a lot of pasta, but who doesn’t always make ten times more pasta than they actually need?

This is what full looks like.

We took three slices of Key Lime Pie home for those we left behind and the bill was $210 including a 20% tip for great service.

It was an early night!

Till the next time……

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Six 3rd September 2018

After a bit of a fragmented day yesterday, today was much more like it. It was all theme park, all day and some of the night too. As KC and his band of sunshine once said, that’s the way, ah ah, I like it, ah ah.

I was awake at seven. Today was a day that we needed to be out at a decent time so I was rushing round trying to get Ryan filled as required, the relevant items charged, and lots of bodies up and out of bed. Rebecca and Tom needed no such help as they had been up for a lot of the night with Freddie who had decided that he didn’t need to sleep.

It was soon clear that the early start I had been looking for would not be forthcoming. I mentally adjusted our plans to at least get to Hollywood Studios before the end of our first FastPass window at 10.35. We left the villa at 9.20, and then again at 9.21 once a couple of folks had wandered back in to pick up sunglasses or vital medication that frankly they could have done without.

Naturally, we couldn’t pass Walgreens without calling in. We needed bin bags, pills and some “bits”. I went in to get them as I didn’t trust anyone else to do it quickly enough.

Once back in the car I did force the pace ever so slightly, conscious that we may well miss that first carefully planned and painstakingly acquired FastPass. We parked up at 9.50 and did the tram in from Film 53.

With all the work going on here the entrance is a right mess to be honest.

This is the new Sky Way thing which looks a long way down the road to being ready.

It took a painful ten minutes to get through security. I would support a change here to the x-ray style thing they have going on at Universal. It’s much quicker and less intrusive than someone poking around your sack with a pointy stick.

We were finally through the gates and as I turned to see where everyone was I could see Louise a few gates down…….taking a survey!!!!!! Luckily, she quickly drew that to a close before I had to give her one of my looks, and we were headed towards Tower of Terror for that first FastPass. It was now 10.15.

I tried to balance my insatiable desire to get to the ride in time for our slot with the need to take in my surroundings. Over the years I have become adept at taking photos whilst walking at full speed.

At the entrance we arranged the baby swap thing and the cast member tapped their pad a bit, scanned some bands and everyone but Rebecca and Tom rode. Every time I ride this it amazes me all over again. From the theming…

to the ride itself, it always puts a smile on our faces. Sometimes a very strange one!

As frequent riders it is easy to take for granted the pre-show in the study and the theming of the boiler room. Mikey was taking all this in for the first time of course and luckily we also had a good cast member seating us to add to his mood of apprehension and terror.

There was much screaming and a lot of laughter as we were dropped several times. We exited to watch Freddie whilst Rebecca and Tom rode. Whilst they did that, the rest of us walked down to Starbucks to get some breakfast. It would be my second breakfast, but I’m on holiday, get off my back! Emily and I queued, listening to the absolute nonsense being shouted out by the folks dishing out the orders.

“Snail foam and phlegm mist with a lemsip shot for Savannah!”

“Flattened grass and armadillo tears frappacino for Tyler!”

I just wanted a coffee and a cake.

The ordering is so complex here that I wrote it all down on my phone for fear of ballsing it up. We sat outside on the kerb waiting for Rebecca and Tom. As we did the first order wandered past a couple of times.

The cast member was keen to get into one of my photos.

After middle breakfast we wandered up towards the Chinese theatre and towards one of our favourite shows.

Not sure what that lady is up to if I’m honest.

One the way, it was a little surprising to see a shiny black helmet.

It was now time to enter Ariel.

It had been a while.

We didn’t have a FastPass and there was a decent queue so I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t make it into this show, but we did, just. Freddie joined the Ariel fan club and danced his way through the show. I’ll be honest, I’ve had better Ariels than this one, but I’m being picky! It wasn’t helped by some gimps behind us talking all the way through, and why, oh why, is it that EVERY TIME we watch this show some bell end feels the need to take a flash photo at the end of the puppet section?

It was now time for a first. It’s always exciting and this was to be our first experience of Toy Story Land.

It’s down there somewhere.

It was scorching hot and the place was busy. Everyone wandered about for a bit taking photos etc, but eventually I rounded us all up and herded everyone into Toy Story Mania for our FastPass. A few years ago, this FastPass would have been a prized possession, but now it was the poor relation to the other newer stuff.

We rode with just a five minute wait. I really wish they would fix their scoring system as it was clearly broken again.

At the exit, Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and Mikey joined the queue to see Woody and Jessie. It was a long one so Louise went off to find a seat in the sun and Emily and I loitered ready to take some photos once they got to the front. The incredible heat was clearly going to be a precursor to a storm which we could see forming above us. It was now a matter of which would come first, the storm or the meet and greet.

As we were waiting, spookily, I also met Woody. Not the one in costume but a Dibber and long time blog reader, Woody and his wife who had seen from a Facebook post where we were and had hunted us down…I mean sought us out to say hello. We had a chat and they very kindly tried to give us a FastPass for Slinky in a few days that they were just about to cancel. Even though we tried literally as they cancelled, we still had no joy. Lovely of them to think of us though, so thank you both!

The other Woody and Jessie had been for two “short rests” in the time it took to get to the front of the queue and literally as this photo was taken, the heavens opened and everyone ran for cover.

Poor Mikey was next in line and missed out.

We made a mad dash for One Man’s Dream which is where Louise had run to as the rains came. So had half the park so it was a bit busy. We had a wander, Freddie was fed and we waited for about fifteen minutes until the worst of the rain was over.

Some of the concept art models for Star Wars Land look amazing.

The rain hadn’t stopped but it was less torrential so we poncho’d up and struck out.

We had a FastPass for Rock n Roller Coaster and a little but of moisture was not going to deny us.

We did the baby swap admin again with Rebecca and Tom waiting out with Freddie initially. Mikey, who if you hadn’t gathered yet, isn’t a huge coaster fan, loved it and screamed all the way round to prove it.

We then waited with Freddie whilst Rebecca and Tom rode. With the weather still a bit bobbins we were looking for indoor activities so we headed right back to where we had come from and did the Star Wars Launch Bay thing, not really having a clue what it was.

On the way the girls shopped for a jumper each. I had a very vivid flashback to 2003. Our day in MGM had been a wet one and before heading into the Brown Derby we got them matching jumpers so they wouldn’t freeze to death whilst eating. With those secured we moved on to….

Our ADR for Brown Derby was fast approaching so we only had time to watch the film. Louise had opted to stay out and wander a shop or two and as we were really cutting it fine by the time the film ended, I messaged her and told her to go and check us in at the restaurant.

We got there just a few minutes late, Freddie was changed and we were seated in what was a half empty Brown Derby.

We were hungry, and the waiter started us off with some warm bread which was more addictive than crack, or so I imagine. I inhaled it within seconds.

It was a set menu with not a lot of choice and we had –

Me, Tom, Rebecca and Louise – Steak

 

Mikey and Emily – Chicken

Freddie – Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Desserts were just brought with no selection required or sought…

It was nice food. They were, what I would call, “poncy bollocks” portions, but very nice.  It was an enjoyable meal and a nice peaceful break from the park but the bill was a ludicrous $550. Even adding in the Fantasmic guaranteed seats etc, that is just silly and we won’t be doing that again.

With full(ish) bellies we decided to do the Frozen sing a long next. With a little time to kill before that we watched the full First Order March having just caught the tail end of it earlier.

We took our seats in Frozen and I have to say this show was excellent and totally exceeded any expectations I had for it. It was just great fun. Sure it’s just the songs from the film but the cast were great and everyone loved it.

With that having somewhat made up for the bill at Brown Derby we moved on to our final FastPass for the day at Star Tours. I had secured this whilst eating as I am clearly a very able multi-tasker. Louise sat with Freddie in the now much better weather and Tom especially liked this one as he is a huge Star Wars fan. At the exit we watched a few minutes of the Jedi Training too.

Being in the area and being pretty sure that there hasn’t been a wait longer than five minutes for the Muppets since 2003, we headed over there.

On the way in we passed a food stall selling Corn Dogs. Pretty much everyone had been looking forward to trying one during the countdown to this trip, so the plan was to grab one once we’d seen the show. I told you they were “poncy bollocks” portions in the Brown Derby.

After enjoying a salute to all nations but mostly America, we walked back to the stall to see it closed. Gutted was not the word. We found Louise and Freddie and spotting, via the app, that Tower of Terror was just a fifteen minute wait we walked (all the way) over there to ride it.

The random drops were much better this time.

Fanstasmic time now. On the way in we got some drinks and we got Freddie his first obligatory light up toy, a Buzz Lightyear. We had a great view (not a $550 view, but still), and Freddie this time was less tired and loved the whole thing, even the loud stuff.

It goes dark quickly in Orlando.

I found a selfie mode on my camera and annoyed Emily with it for a bit.

The show was great, until, just as the “finale” started, the gimps on the row in front of us all stood up to leave to “beat the crowds”. That’s exactly what I wanted to do to them and I let them know with major tutting and disgusted looks. They made a token gesture of bending down a bit and scurrying away. Idiots.

Once the show was over I noticed one of them had lost their Magic Band. I picked it up, hoping they were staying on site and I could charge a million pounds of merchandise to their room.

Instead, I carried it out to the exit and handed it in to a cast member instructing them that the owner should be banned from every Disney park for life for being an early leaving knob.

We collected the parked stroller and shuffled out to the exit. Despite the thousands doing the same, a tram was immediately waiting to take us back to the car. How do they do that? You can’t get out of the Trafford Centre car park in under two hours at a weekend.

We were home by 10.15, after a ding dong twelve hour theme park bonanza. Love it.

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Four 1st September 2018

The exertions of the last few days resulted in me sleeping for a full nine hours, according to my notes. This pleased me. There was no rush to get anywhere this morning as I had once again built in a lazyish morning, unsure of how everyone and especially Freddie would be coping with the journey, heat and time zone change.

Speaking of the latter. I’d like to claim this as an act of planning genius however you wouldn’t believe me, but as I enjoyed my breakfast this morning in the villa I found a channel on the TV that was showing live coverage of Liverpool’s footy match. Freddie watched with me.

This was glorious and it ended (in glorious victory) just as everyone was almost ready. So I then took my usual seven minutes or so to shower and dress and still be stood waiting at the door for everyone else.

It was around 10am when we made it into the car. This included, and would on most days, at least one person coming back into the villa to get something they had forgotten just as I had set the alarm.

We were Epcot bound again (don’t question the plan) and we parked in Explore 78 amidst some serious heat. For the first time this trip we needed to get on a tram from the car. This meant collapsing the stroller, which I left to Tom as it was his honour to do so and not because I didn’t know how.

Security was busy. I know it’s necessary and a reassurance but jeez it can be a pain in the arse when all you want to do is get into the park and start doing stuff. It was about 10.30 when we got into the park and with a FastPass for Spaceship Earth at 10.50 we wandered some shops and loitered a for a bit until we could ride.

We scanned our bands at 10.45 and joined what turned out to be a ten minute wait.

 

 

As it always tends to, the ride stopped three times on our journey. In addition to this outrage, mine and Emily’s photos didn’t work. I await the results of my compensation claim.

Right, so with the first ride done and it being at least 11.30, clearly it was time for lunch. Regular readers will know what happens next. We stand around for a few minutes with me reciting all the options available to us for lunch before they are all ignored and we end up in Electric Umbrella again.

The beauty of eating so early is that the place wasn’t rammed and we quickly ordered.

Me and Louise – Brisket sandwich

Emily, Mikey, Rebecca and Tom – Burger

We all devoured our selections and then Freddie had a pot of something whilst the rest of us toured Mousegear for a bit. Rebecca and Tom stayed with Freddie, he wasn’t abandoned with a spoon!

Once we were all back together and fed we walked over to Soarin’ for our FastPass.

Rebecca, Tom and Emily went on first and the rest of us rested outside for a bit. There was a very odd rain shower for a few minutes which we missed as we had luckily chosen to sit just under the cover of the entrance to the Land.

We rode next with our FastPass taking just ten minutes, which wasn’t at all bad for Soarin’.

We did get called forward as a party of three which cut down the wait a little and allowed me to roll out my smug face as I “excuse me’d” my way to the front of the queue. Upon exiting Rebecca had messaged to say they had gone to Mousegear, as they hadn’t had a chance to look round when we did as they were feeding Freddie. I left Louise and Mikey at The Land and walked at a pleasing pace to get them.

Of course we then walked all the way back to Louise and Mikey as we were then going to ride Journey Into Imagination.

You may be shocked to discover there was no queue for this one. There was some mild concern that Freddie may not like the dark bit, the train noise and the loud blast of air, but he didn’t flinch and danced his way through every part of the song.

Continuing our theme of zig-zagging from one side of the park to the other as much as possible, Mission Space was next on the agenda. On the way, I decided we should do Crush as we were (relatively) close and I was confident there’d be no wait. Ten minutes saw us taking our seats and enjoying one of the hidden gems of WDW (in my view).

OK, now we were allowed go to Mission Space to use our FastPass. Freddie had been put to sleep by Crush so Louise sat out with him whilst the rest of us rode.

With a nervous Mikey wondering what Orange and Green meant, we were in, definitely doing Orange. Rebecca and Tom were assigned to one pod with me, Emily and Mikey in another.

Mikey’s anxiety was not helped by the briefing video (by the way, where has Gary Senise gone? This is unacceptable!), and the wait to board in the corridor.

The ride was as impressive as ever and Mikey felt suitably unwell afterwards which is always a good sign of it going well.

Time had marched on and now I had to as well. Our ADR for Via Napoli was imminent and there wouldn’t be time for us to stroll up there at the group pace, so I was despatched at full speed to check us in.

World Showcase was busy again and the ten minute walk was littered with body swerves, tutting and the occasional naughty word as I weaved my way through the eating and drinking hordes. I arrived, glazed in a nice sweat, with a few minutes to spare. I explained that everyone else would be here shortly and took a seat to wait in the scorching heat in the courtyard at the front of the restaurant.

Somehow I missed everyone passing me and got a message on my phone to ask where I was. I joined everyone at the entrance, confirmed we were ready and with just a few moments wait we were seated.

We had last eaten in the restaurant in Italy over a decade ago and had been very underwhelmed, so we were hoping for a better experience in the new version.

Pizza was very much the order of the day….

Me – Pepperoni

Mikey & Louise – Spicy Sausage

Rebecca and Tom – Large Marge

Emily – White Pizza with artichoke

This, at the risk of going overboard, was THE best pizza I have eaten in my life. Let me confirm what you are thinking too. That is quite a large sample size on which to base that conclusion. It was delicious.

We also discovered that Freddie likes pizza too.

This is Freddie’s pizza face and I think we’ve all been there.

Desserts were ordered –

Me & Emily – Shared a Tiramisu

Rebecca & Tom – Shared a Tiramisu

Freddie & Tom – Shared a Chocolate Mousse. I applaud Tom’s “two dessert” tactics.

Hmm, that reminds me of someone….

Mikey – Cannoli

Louise – Ball Things (may not be the actual name on the menu)

During dessert Rebecca and Emily asked if we could do Fantasmic that evening. This blatant disregard for the plan was shocking and went against all of their training. However, high on pizza and pudding, I agreed and right there and then secured a FastPass for Ariel at Hollywood Studios that we should be able to fit in before Fantasmic.

It turned out that we needed to “nip back” to the villa before heading to Studios as Freddie’s ear defenders (bought for fireworks shows etc) had been left there. Sat at the very rear of Epcot, in a World Showcase fuller than my underpants, there was no “nipping back” about it. Time would be short and we needed to get going.

It took a while to navigate the crowds and walk all the way down to the main entrance.

Next was the tram, then into the car, all taking too much time.

Why we then stopped at Walgreens (again) was beyond me but apparently it was essential. We bought some more toilet roll, amongst other things, so I could see how that might be essential without resorting to ruining the villa’s towels.

Time in the villa was strictly limited by me standing at the open door with the car still running shouting “hurry up” a lot and we were then on our way to DHS. Many other annoying delays like traffic lights and other cars/people inevitably increased my heart rate but we eventually arrived into the park, after the delay inducing long walk from the tram caused by all the work underway, at 7.20 ish. Freddie needed changing so I despatched everyone other than Rebecca, Tom and Freddie up to Ariel, clinging to the vague hope of getting into that before Fantasmic, whilst I waited for Freddie to have a clean bum.

We then walked up to meet everyone else, but upon realising that Freddie now needed feeding, Ariel had to be sacrificed and we sat on a bench whilst Freddie ate. With that done we walked all the way back to Sunset Boulevard and got some drinks and slushies on the way in to the show.

There was only ten minutes to wait before the show started and it became apparent very shortly after it did that Freddie was too tired to be putting up with it, so Rebecca and Tom took him out whilst the rest of us watched.

We met up after the show with Freddie safely tucked up in his stroller and walked to the tram stop. So that we didn’t need to disturb his slumbers, Rebecca, Tom and I walked back to the car and let the others tram it. We all arrived at the car together anyway.

We set off for home, and for some reason that I will never understand we stopped at Walgreens again. Home and bed at 10.30.

Till the next time….

Skecher Buy Golly Wow

Before we do this, I should warn you that this one may be longer than anything you’ve been used to.

Look at that. Even the innuendo engine is getting a warm up as we near take off.

Seriously though, this one goes on a bit and if you’ve ever (always) read these posts, marvelling at how sad I am that I spend so much time and effort over planning stuff, then this one may not be for you. This, dear reader, goes to a whole new level.

By the way, at Louise’s request I have added a few links to Disney terms in this post for folks reading this that are not au fait with da lingo.

Firstly, the important stuff.

Ryan is home and he will ride again. The lady did a great job on him and he is literally as good as new. You can all now rest easy.

Shit got real this week. It’s probably about time that I started blogging about my upcoming holiday don’t you think? You all must be dying to hear some of the detail by now.

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Tuesday saw the start of our FastPass+ journey, and it wasn’t good. It would be very sad if I had booked a meeting room at work to retire to just before 12pm so that I could concentrate fully on the task at hand. Yep, it would. These things are too important to be interrupted by a phone call or work based emergency.

On the off-chance that Disney would open up the date I was waiting on earlier than expected, I sat refreshing the site for a while, before finally seeing the new date appear at exactly 12pm.

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Bloody sticklers. Here we go, I thought, I’ll just quickly nab three passes and be on my way.

I am sorry to say that the site on which FastPasses are booked is not, or certainly was not on this day, fit for purpose. It was continually crashing, often so tantalisingly close to the end of the process that I almost cancelled the whole holiday. OK, maybe not, but it was bobbins.

After about ten minutes of frustrating red-faced repetition there was still no sign of success. Ooh, more innuendo…..once it is unleashed there is nothing to stop it…..ahh, now I am in an endless innuendo loop.

After a further twenty minutes I finally had one in the bag for Haunted Mansion, at 10:05. As pages loaded and then vanished, all I was seeing was the list of available attractions shrinking as my blood pressure and frustration grew. The whimsical error pages that Disney use when things go wrong were very quickly losing their appeal.

It was almost forty minutes after 12 that the site seemed to settle down and I was able to finish the job. I bagged Big Thunder Mountain at 12:25 and then, with Freddie in mind, Dumbo at 2:20. I totally understand why this could be an alien concept to normal holiday makers, but all these bookings fell nicely into place, not by accident I should say, with our plans for the day. Yes, I have planned to this very sad level of detail, mainly because I can. Knowing the park layouts so well, and how the day generally goes, my thinking is this.

We should be there before the park opens, and after a wander around the shops on Main Street and an inevitable Starbucks, position ourselves near Casey’s for rope drop. We shall saunter, nonchalantly left, using the stroller as a weapon of mass destruction across the bridge into Adventureland for Freddie’s first ever ride in a Disney theme park, on Pirates. With that being  pretty much a walk on, he said confidently, we shall then continue our journey to Splash Mountain, where the standby wait should still be tolerable and we can hopefully get that under the belt too. Of course, Freddie will have to sit this one out.

That should then allow us to wander down to Haunted Mansion for 10am ish to use our first FastPass. By then we’re at 10.30 and if previous first days are any form of precedent then we’ll need lunch, which I haven’t planned. I’m not a monster!

We shall probably eat, drink and see what we get on in Fantasyland, such as Philharmagic, the Carousel, and It’s A Small World should wait times be bearable.

Then our Big Thunder FastPass kicks in so we can walk back up there for that before amusing ourselves until the 2pm parade. The previous travel day and time difference will be kicking in by now and we’ll hopefully just manage our Dumbo FastPass before heading for the exit.

We have a 5pm Whispering Canyon ADR, so we’ll have to make a call at this point whether we try to get back to the villa for a shower and change or, if time is short, we do something like head over to the Contemporary for a drink in the Outer Rim bar. It has been declared that this place serves the best Long Island Ice Teas on the planet and this may be the only time we have this trip to get to sample one, apart from the mug who is driving.

I know this level of detail may sound nuts, but with a lot of expensively acquired experience and knowledge it’s possible and for me totally sensible. Hopefully it makes the day smoother, less stressful and more rewarding for all concerned. As long as time is allowed within this mental level of over planning for the metaphorical smelling of roses, photos in front of the castle and other good stuff all should be well.

The following day saw similar levels of thought and….

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We’ll be at Epcot, but not until the late afternoon/evening. Again, experience tells me that we suffer on day two. The jet lag, journey and adrenaline of day one can make another full day in a park a bit of a strain. So we’ll be at the villa for most of the day, celebrating my birthday a bit until our Beaches & Cream ADR at 3:50. I could only get four of us in for that so if the others can’t get a walk in we’ll eat elsewhere. So we expect to be in the park from around 5:30. When trying to slot some late in the day FastPasses in, thought was needed. The last thing you want to be doing is crisscrossing the park, so a route is needed.

With this in mind I secured The Seas with Nemo & Friends at 5:45. We can enter via International Gateway, wander down to Canada and watch Martin Short before I cry at the song. We will then make our way down to Nemo. We can then take our time to get back up to World Showcase, no doubt via Mousegear, to start the traditional tour of the World Showcase pavilions for my birthday. Of course, that allows us to do Frozen and a FastPass is sorted for 7:30. With ROE not until 10pm that day, that should give us enough time to wander most of the showcase before ending up in “our spot” on the bridge near France to watch the fireworks. We did have a spare FastPass slot left but there’s no point in cramming one in just for the sake of it. We probably wouldn’t get time to use it and that just means some other folks who would might miss out.

The next day we could book for this week oddly would see us in Epcot again (don’t question my planning!). Yes, don’t, as I honestly can’t remember why.

Anyway, this is a full-ish day in Epcot allowing for a later start due to the late ROE the night before. So again, thinking of a sensible route between FastPasses, we start with Spaceship Earth at 11:50 followed by (I am chuffed to say) Soarin’ at 12:25. That is always the prize FastPass for us, despite Louise’s trepidation and fear of “flying”.

In a blaze of glory we then move on to Mission Space at 2:35, timed perfectly just before we eat at Via Napoli at 3:40, saving us revisiting our food somewhere on the way to Mars. Whether we will be able to get on Test Track via standby or single rider, we shall see. One cannot be too greedy of course.

Yesterday we were able to book for the 3rd of September and that is Hollywood Studios and Labor Day too. I had to drop Emily off at the train station just before 12 as she was heading to London to watch Heathers. This meant that I was in central Manchester at 12, reliant on 4G and a following wind to secure what could be a tricky set of Fastpasses as, with Toy Story Land open, this would likely be the busiest park of our trip.

It was effortless. Aside from Slinky Dog being immediately unavailable a few seconds after 12pm, I easily secured Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Rock n Rollercoaster. I was pretty pleased with that. With that first one running until 10.35 we may be able to endure a bit of a queue to get onto Slinky if we are at the park for opening. We’ll see.

With FastPasses done for as far as I can do them, thoughts then moved on to other pressing matters. Yesterday was also new trainers day. They have to be bought a few weeks prior to departure so that they can be worn in nicely. After last year’s change from the traditional all white affairs, I must admit that I am now sold on a Skecher and wanted another pair of those. Usually, I buy everything online, but trainers, for a WDW trip have to be tried on in person. I cannot over emphasise the importance of comfortable footwear and no chances can be taken.

With that in mind, after dropping Emily off I headed for some actual shops. I ended up in Bolton town centre and despite living here all my life, I did not recognise the place. A few fruitless shop visits later and I was relying on google to find somewhere that actually stocked Skechers. My last resort was Debenhams and they had at least three pairs to choose from.

It was like a scene from Are You Being Served with an actual person attending to me, getting the right size from the back and at some point almost trying to apply some sales techniques to close the sale.

I walked away with a pair of comfy loveliness just in time to get back to my car before my 80p of parking ran out.

 

With that daring show of leg, I’m done, as I suspect are you.

Till the next time….

Book Cover

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Fifteen April 25th 2017

We didn’t leave for Hollywood Studios until 10am. Anyone might think we’d done something stupid last night like stay out past 1am drinking. Rest assured I felt great and was my usual ray of sunshine as we drove over to pick Mum and Dad up.

It must have been a morning for things that never happen. Not only did I have a mild hangover for the first time since I had hair, but by some strange alignment of the Gods, we parked at the very bottom of the row. This never happens to us…oh apart from EVERY OTHER TIME WE HAVE VISITED A PARK….EVER!!

I wouldn’t have minded so much but we were poised to be put at the very top of a row but the evil and vindictive cast member chose the line of traffic I was in, rather than the one at the side of me to make the long journey to the Mordor of the car park.

We slowly, very slowly, made our way back to civilisation.

Oh I never did show you a photo of our hire car did I? This is what happens when you refuse all the upgrade hard sell.

We were parked in…

by the way. I didn’t take that photo to remind me where we had parked. I took it to identify the evil cast member responsible for our six-mile walk so I could exact painful revenge.

We boarded the next tram to arrive only having to man handled half a dozen small children out of our way. Maybe this is why I don’t drink very often?

As we flashed our bands though the entrance Dad made his way to the garage to hire himself an ECV. When I had made our first FastPass of the day some sixty odd days ago, I had not taken into account spending the previous evening out with Oliver Reed and Richard Harris resulting in such a late start, and so I was a little tense as the process of hiring said ECV was taking an age and the end of our FastPass slot for the most popular ride in the park was approaching more quickly than my need to buy some elasticated trousers for work.

Once Dad was in his vehicle we mowed down anyone silly enough to be in the way as we headed up to Toy Story Mania.

In the end we made it with a few minutes to spare and we barged our way past the ever-present entrance loiterers (why do you do it people, why? Either go in or get out of the way!!) and made our way through the queue.

I scored a bang average 137,000 but that was enough to shame all other family members which is, let’s face it, more important.

My natural talent for planning was demonstrated once again now as we had to walk all the way to the Tower of Terror for our next FastPass. Dad cared not one jot as his machine was fully charged and he sped off looking like Richard Hammond before his next hospital visit.

Even though he absolutely should not have done so Dad rode with us, but Mum sat out.

This is one of those rides that, no matter how many times you do it, every time you leave, your love for it is reaffirmed and increased. The theming is just incredible and the ride is just a load of fun.

We had a walk over to Rock n Rollercoaster next to see what the standby queue was like. Mum & Dad were not riding so we three joined the half hour standby line. It took a little less than that and as ever much of our waiting time was spent stroking the beady door. Just us?

With adrenaline pumping, the ladies needed a restroom as we exited. I took the chance to capture the same photo as I have on every previous trip.

Feeling the need for a snack we stopped at the fruit stall thing opposite Beauty and The Beast. We didn’t buy any fruit of course, we’re not monsters. Instead we had some hummus, well I didn’t, I had a huge pretzel with some cheese that I’m pretty sure didn’t contain any actual cheese, but it tasted great. I was to be thirsty now until the end of July.

Nothing is more nutritious than a cheese flavoured pasteurised cheese snack.

Full of stuff that is produced with genetic engineering, we made our way into the 1pm Beauty and The Beast show. With Dad in his ECV we were directed to a special area of the theatre, which turned out to be the front row. With this in mind I Facebook Lived the whole thing, mainly for the benefit of Rebecca back home.

The show begins these days with a chat from this chap before he mortifies some teenage girl on stage by singing at them.

Emily spent her time appreciating the sentiment of the pre-show but thanking her lucky stars she was not picked for it.

The show was great of course, all the better for our unfettered view.

You should appreciate the talent it takes to both Facebook live with one hand and take photos with the other.

With Dad keen to test the top speed of his ride we decided to motor on over to the Great Movie Ride next.

There was a show in progress as we walked past the “bit where the hat was” and these were waiting to go on…

It was a twenty-minute wait to ride, which we could have avoided if Dad hadn’t parked up outside and walked in. ECVs were being directed to the front of the queue. I don’t know which idiot told him he’d have to leave his outside.

The ride has been a favourite of ours since we first started the trips with the girls. Rebecca especially always wanted to ride this. I don’t think I knew it was closing as we rode for what would be our last time but my notes do record that I thought it was looking a little tired. The standard of the acting seems to have gone downhill in recent times or that could just be the fog of nostalgia from when I first rode it as a child.

With no regard for my own safety, we walked across to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid next. As long as we sat the back where Ariel couldn’t see me, we should be OK. She gets upset looking at what she could have won.

Luckily ECVs were being directed to the very rear of the theatre.

As ever some absolute knob took some flash photos during the opening puppetry scenes. I imagine they also did not move all the way down to the end of their row.

As we exited I noticed that the March of the First Order was imminent so we took up a position to view it.

Feeling all Star Warsy now, Emily and I went to ride Star Tours. Louise, Mum and Dad opted to sit out in the sunshine and have a drink.

The wait was the full half hour promised but we were rewarded with a new (to us) story line.

It was 4.15 now and time to head out of the park to eat.

Bahama Breeze was on the plan, one of our absolute favourites.

We arrived and were seated without delay around 5pm. Our server had a hint of headmistress about her and we found the service to be a little rushed even though the place was fairly quiet.

To start we ordered some cheese bites and chips and guacamole.

It might just be us, but we find it really annoying when entrees turn up with your appetisers still on the go. They did.

We had –

Me, Louise and Emily – Jerk Chicken Pasta

Mum – Burger

Dad – Steak

I was a little late with the camera!

As is the law here, desserts must be had and it must be Rebecca’s Key Lime Pie. We were, it has to be said, missing her today.

The bill was $180 including a good tip. We headed straight back to Hollywood Studios and parked in Stage, yep, right at the bottom of the row.

We trammed again and wandered the shops for a while.

I say again, dusk is just a fabulous time to be in a theme park at WDW.

Dad not only had a means of getting about but also his very own personal seat to be in as everyone else walked around the shops.

Having got several gifts, mainly for Rebecca and Tom, we made our way over to the Muppets, and I don’t mean the gimps taking flash photos of the Little Mermaid show earlier.

Of course, much of this park is a building site currently.

Next, the long trek all the way across the park to take our seats for Fantasmic. Mum and Dad stayed at the back with the ECV, but we three made our way as far down as we could, mainly so that Emily could see as she had forgotten  both her contacts and glasses.

It goes dark quickly in Florida.

As ever I took some awesome photos.

I threw my camera into that fire.

We had a moment of rare disappointment as the show ended. For reasons best known to Disney, the Star Wars firework show we really wanted to watch started the precise second Fantasmic ended. This of course meant that we were shuffling our way out of the show instead of being stood watching it. We could see the odd firework in the sky above us, but this seemed a very strange bit of timing. Maybe Disney think it will make you visit the park twice?

 

It was a long walk out…

We met Mum & Dad at the stroller/ECV return and then stood admiring the view as Louise had a long meeting with the porcelain. There are worse places to wait.

The tram took us back to the car and we dropped off Mum & Dad before getting back at home just after ten.

A lovely day in one of our favourite places.

Till the next time……
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Best of Orlando


The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Thirteen

Day Thirteen – 8th September

Well, who would have thought we’d still be here, writing and reading about a holiday that ended months ago? Apologies for how long this is being dragged out over but I just haven’t had the time (and often motivation) to churn more than one a week of these things. There’s still some way to go so I’ll see you at the end, which will be sometime in the early summer!!

After all this recent beach nonsense, today saw a return to sanity and some theme park action. After spending a day or two not charging from one FastPass and/or dining reservation to the next, I was suffering withdrawal symptoms and was therefore quite keen to get off to a nice early start.

Ah the joys of being the planner of the group. My notes tell me I was quite stressed this morning as this sense of urgency was not shared throughout our touring party. I stood around for what seemed like hours, seeing FastPasses die right before my eyes. It was a grumpy me that eventually bundled everyone out of the front door, regardless of their state of readiness at just after ten. Yep, you heard right!

No matter how awesomely I drove (and I did) there was no making up for that shoddy late start and I had a right good sulk all the way to Hollywood Studios. After parking in Film 28 we boarded a tram. My childish sulk knew no bounds and I even got frustrated with the seemingly endless safety announcements and procedures needed before the tram could depart. I ranted a bit about how, no doubt, the actions of one absolute bell end who managed to somehow injure themselves when sat on a tram now meant that every single guest had to have a briefing routine similar to astronauts heading for space before a tram that does no more than fifteen miles an hour could carry them half a mile.

I pined for the simpler days in the eighties and nineties when boarding said tram was like a scene from Mad Max, with a Hispanic family of seventeen crammed into one row with an unfolded stroller.

Finally, we were deemed safe to depart and we made our way, slowly, ever so slowly, to the entrance. It was just before 11am when we made it past the turnstiles. My expertly planned FastPass+ for the Rock n Rollercoaster expired at 11 so I set the pace (at high) as we made our way down Sunset Boulevard towards it. Why we just hadn’t stayed in the park after Fantasmic last night I don’t know. It would have been much easier.

We entered, using our FastPasses at a few minutes past eleven (thank you Disney for your common sense and leniency, my touring party know not what they do). We walked, with customary smugness past a forty minute queue. There was little to no appreciation of my skills in getting us here just in time as everyone was too busy wheezing and trying to wipe the sweat from their bodies.

This is the best ride to start a day with. It really blows the cobwebs off and gets the adrenaline pumping. Our next, expertly planned, FastPass+ was naturally for Tower of Terror, and it was now active so we went straight there. You will note that my sulk and need to rush everyone everywhere so far has meant that I had neither the time nor inclination to take any photos yet.

Everyone loved this ride. Even Louise, who “hates it”, enjoyed the random drop sequence. Two great rides that went some small way to putting my bottom lip back into its natural position.

It was 11.35 and it appeared that the day may be salvageable after all! With our two early FastPasses complete I allowed some time for the wandering of shops and even a visit to the restroom for those who needed it. Our next FastPass+ was not until 1.20 so we had lunch on our minds. I hadn’t booked anywhere for lunch in the park, assuming we would do counter service, but as we were walking in that general direction, I thought we’d try the Sci Fi Diner, as neither Sarah nor Nana and Grandad had done it before. It would also be interesting to see how hard they laughed at us for asking if they could take a walk in for a party of six.

The Gods rewarded me for my patience and good grace this morning by having a table/car immediately available. We were seated and went on to have a lovely meal.

We had –

Me – Chocolate Shake and a Reuben Sandwich

Louise, Nana and Sarah – Chocolate Shake and a Turkey Sandwich

Grandad – Salmon Salad

Rebecca – Oreo Shake and a Turkey Sandwich

Everything was excellent, despite a drinks order mix up which of course meant the diet coke I ordered, as well as my shake, somehow got missed and then when it arrived, it was a Cherry Coke. I drank it anyway, enjoying it much more than I thought I might. I seemed to be cursed with food order woes this trip.

The bill was $130 for the six of us and we left just after 1pm.

It was incredibly humid so we slowly made our way to the Stunt Show for our next FastPass+.

I know we go in August/September, so only have ourselves to blame, but bloody hell it is uncomfortable on those bleachers during this show. Of course, the bum numbness is a factor but it somehow feels about ten degrees hotter than anywhere else. My folds and crevasses were found by every bead of sweat.

For me, not being a huge car freak, the show is just OK. There’s too much talking in it for me, probably as I have seen it multiple times and most of the time you can’t really hear what is being said. They seem to have shoe horned in some of the characters from Cars now which, again, for me wasn’t really worth it. Having two girls, Cars was never a film we embraced too much in our house so the characters don’t mean much to us. I suppose for those with kids of the right age and gender this enhances the show so who am I to grumble?

We left the show and sought out much needed drinks. We decided to call it a day and head back to the villa as it was just too hot to do anything else. We got there just after 3pm.

We all rested, read and swam enjoying the heat much more in this scenario. We had arranged to collect Emily at 7pm from her apartment so we got ready and set off amazingly on time. We were even early enough to pop back to the Premium Outlet mall to return some shirts my Dad bought the other day and for Louise to get something pierced. I think it was some other part of her ear. She had tried on our last visit but didn’t have her ID with her so they refused. Now she had her driving licence so she could prove that the ear she wanted a hole in was actually hers and not someone else’s.

Dad was a little upset that the Izod shop wouldn’t swap his shirts for a different size. Apparently their closing down sale in which he bought them meant there were no returns or even exchanges. He informed them of his displeasure and we moved on.

We waited at The Commons for Emily until 7.15 but it was clear she wouldn’t make it back in time, mainly as she messaged us and told us she wouldn’t make it back on time so we had to leave for our ADR without her. We made it to the Wilderness Lodge for 7.45.

We checked in and found some seats in reception to await the buzzing of our thing.

We were seated just after 8 and had the usual good fun and hearty food.

Me, Sarah, Rebecca and Grandad had the ribs.

Louise and Nana had steak.

As you can see the portions are huge, which of course is great.

We of course had to ask for ketchup….

Rebecca was put in jail by a passing server as he said he had seen her on her phone throughout the meal. She had been messaging her boyfriend back home and she, he said, had to be punished.

It did not however, deter her from future crimes.

It was a dear do at $300 but it was declared the best meal of the trip so far. We went next door into the Territory Lounge for a speciality coffee. My friend and colleague Steve and his wife Di, have this down as one of their favourites when they visit so we had one in their honour and of course taunted them on social media with photographic evidence.

Overly full and more than a little tired we dragged our bodies back to the car and I drove us home. Luckily all of my sulking this morning had worked and turned the day into a success!!

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Twelve

Day Twelve – 7th September

There’s a very good reason you probably won’t find too many trip reports of beach holidays. The material for such is a little monotonous and uninteresting as I shall now demonstrate.

We were awake around 8am and of course had to pack, ready to check out. With that unpleasantness done, we went down to the free breakfast. It was very nice and buffet style, so I shall let you draw your own conclusions about how that went.

Nicely full, we took our luggage out to the car before making our way down to the beach and more expensive sunbeds.

I can summarise the next few hours in two photos.

As the second one demonstrates, it was very, very hot and few of us were suffering from a little too much sun yesterday.

The rest of the morning meandered away with little or no activity to report, which of course is the sign of a good beach day. Rebecca, Grandad and I ventured into the very rough sea for a little bit, followed by some more lying around. Riveting this isn’t it?

Around lunch time we experienced a very strange rain shower. There were absolutely no clouds and yet we were sprinkled with not unpleasant drizzle. As this rain was persisting a little longer than we wanted it to, Louise suggested that we drive out somewhere for a lunch a little more varied than the burger van fare available on the beach. With that decision made we packed up and decided we’d head back to Orlando after lunch and so we said our goodbyes to Daytona.

We love Daytona and of course Vero. I do find it a bit odd that we have always done beaches on the East coast of Florida rather than the more traditional destinations such as Clearwater and St Pete’s. One of these years we will put that right I expect, but there is always that dilemma of trying something new or sticking with that you know you will enjoy.

We drove aimlessly around Daytona for a bit learning that the eateries featured in our sat nav were now sadly out of date, with many of them now closed. This should not have been too surprising as it hadn’t been updated since we bought it in 2011 (I think).

We ended up on the road out of Daytona back towards Orlando and spotted a large mall, which was called Volussia. As unappealing as that sounded to me, being a mall, it had an Applebees attached to it and so that made our decision to stop an easy one.

As we waited to be seated, perusing the menu, our decision to leave the beach proved to be a good one, as the heavens opened and stayed open for a good few hours.

We had –

Grandad – Shrimp Starter and then Won Ton Tacos

Me – Appetiser Sampler as my entrée, which was made up of Nachos, Mozzarella Sticks and Boneless Wings. I didn’t have a starter as I’m not an animal.

Louise – Same as me, but with Quesadillas instead of wings

Rebecca – Same as me

Sarah – Mozzarella Sticks and then a Fajita Wrap

Nana – Fish and Chips

I must have been hungry as those two photos were all I could manage.

With some Margaritas and a wine or two the bill came to $130 including a tip.

We left and drove west toward Orlando, through the rain, arriving back at 4.50. The plan had been to collect Emily on our way out to Hollywood Studios, but she told us she was knackered after work and just wanted to sleep, so we changed our plans to leave a little later, taking the chance to nip to Publix for more bits, which essentially consisted of wine and high sugar goods.

We left the villa at 7.30, arriving to see the Studios looking glorious in the dark.

Tonight was the final Frozen Firework party thing of the summer and so we made our way up to DJ Chill who was expertly playing other people’s records in front of the Great Movie Ride.

My ability to take a blurred photo knows no bounds.

The girls got their groove on to the “banging tunes” for a bit, whilst Nana and Grandad wandered off to the shops and to get a drink.

After battling their way right to front for more throwing of shapes they returned to us to watch the fireworks.

We enjoyed the fireworks so much I took another blurred photo.

We then battled our way down Sunset Boulevard for the 10pm Fantasmic, stopping in the villains shop on the way for drinks, souvenirs and more crowd battling.

Once inside a very full and busy stadium we took our seats.

Clearly not feeling myself, I agreed to buy Louise some lighty up ear things and after fighting my way to a vendor and all the way back to my seat, imagine my delight when they didn’t work. The joy continued when the show started, as after about a minute it stopped again due to the increasing rain. Our history of rain and Fantasmic is surely now legendary?

We waited a few minutes and the show started up again…..only to stop once more after not long at all. With our patience at full stretch, we stuck it out a little longer and we were rewarded with the rest of the show without interruption.

Here is my traditional eulogy about Disney’s ability to disperse thousands of people via seemingly a couple of trams without fuss, queue or complication. Within minutes of leaving the stadium (after swapping out Louise’s defective ears) we found a tram waiting for us, with no queue at all and we were whisked away to our car and we are on our way on amazingly uncongested roads. In the UK, if you dare to attempt the Trafford Centre at any time other than 2am on a weekday you sit on the car park for forty minutes waiting to get off.

We did witness some truly scary driving from some folks on the way home, with last minute lane switching and the cutting up of other folks, but thankfully my experience, excellent road sense and The Force saw us home safely. I was so busy keeping us safe that I did miss a junction so we took a lovely scenic route home, which was nice. We were home by 11.40 and I managed about a page and a half of my book before my eyes closed.

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Seven

Day Seven – 2nd September

Not only was I awake again at 6.30am, full of snot and loathing for my own body, I was tackling some work emails too. My inability to switch off from work was probably the reason that I had been cursed with illness on my holidays. I only had myself to blame. Nobody likes a kiss ass.

It was only another two hours and ten minutes until everyone was ready to leave. We left the villa for Hollywood Studios at 8.40, yes, it goes without saying, about twenty minutes later than I might have liked to.

It took us that same twenty minutes to get there and park up in Stage 46. We boarded a waiting tram and headed for a day of fun.

I really have no idea why I felt the need to take that last photo.

Today we had two early Fastpasses booked quite close together, so with us running a little behind (my) schedule I was a little stressed and concerned that our first one, Toy Story Mania, would take too long to do and we’d miss our second.

With that in mind I pushed the pace as we made our way into the park.

Still, I had the time and skills to take superb theme park photography on the way.

I know you are impressed with those masterpieces and you are welcome to use them but please, make sure you credit me!

We got to Toy Story at 9.40 and my fears were unfounded. Unlike previous years the FastPass line was, well, Fast and we didn’t have any wait at all. Naturally, I won, easily with a fairly respectable score of 146,000. Everyone else’s score was so far short of that sort of awesomeness that I did not even bother to record it in my notes.

Having triumphed with my fast-moving wrist action, I felt the need to replenish my energy levels and we stopped at a coffee caravan (honestly, it was) for drinks and some of us had a Danish. I’ll leave you to guess whether I had one or not.

We sat outside One Man’s Dream whilst taking calories on board before going in for a quick look around.

We couldn’t stay for the film, which was a shame, as I always enjoy it. We had to leave to get to our next FastPass appointment, this time with Ariel. It was a little odd that upon arriving at our FastPass time of 10.30, we found the next show didn’t start for twenty minutes. As the park didn’t look busy, rather than stand in the pre-show area for that length of time we decided to have a wander around the gift shop instead. Thankfully after just a few minutes we heard music coming from around the corner which turned out to be what I have cleverly captured in my notes as “The Frozen Thing”. We walked over and took up a spot to watch that.

Ah, that’s what it was called….

I tried to Periscope this but the WiFi connection was bobbins and it kept bombing out.

With perfect timing, as this ended we wandered into Ariel and took our seats just as the next show was starting. We were sat on the far right which meant the sound wasn’t the best for this show, but it was as great as ever.

In an unusual twist, the ending seemed to have changed to one where Eric was mauled to death by an Old English Sheepdog.

We left the police to clear up the mess and made our way up to the Great Movie Ride. Louise had a weird leaky eye thing going on so she missed the ride to sort that which allowed me to take photos of a nicely trimmed bush.

We ended up waiting almost twenty-five minutes but it did give us a chance to see the new sequence of film clips. Seeing new things like this always brings mixed emotions. Of course, seeing rides updated and refurbished is great but then you automatically pine for the old stuff and feel sad that it will never be the same again. Or is that just me?

The ride itself isn’t that different once it gets going but Richard Attenborough seems to have returned from the dead to appear in one scene.

It was now time for our third FastPass at the Tower of Terror so we walked over there. Nana wasn’t feeling great today so she declined to ride, instead browsing the shops and carrying everyone’s bags. It is always upsetting to see a small standby queue when you have a FastPass as it restricts one’s ability to gloat. We made the most of sweeping majestically past the ten minute queue.

This is one of my favourite rides. The theming is probably the best on Disney property and the ride itself, now it has the random drop sequences, is just great fun.

The obvious destination after this was Rock n Rollercoaster, where we saw a twenty-minute standby time posted. We were even more delighted to see that this was nonsense and we walked on, straight into the studio pre-show.

This is another superb ride, so good that everyone except Grandad rode again straight away.

It’s the law that this photo must be taken.

We then made the long trek across to Star Tours. The trek was so long that by the time we got there we wanted feeding again so we popped into the Backlot Xpress counter service place next door. We had –

Rebecca, Sarah and Louise – Hot Dog

Me – Chicken Salad

Nana – Burger

Grandad – Chicken Nuggets

We rode Star Tours with full bellies and we got the Darth Vader story. I say that assuming that what I have heard is true and there are a number of options to experience.

After a brief look around the Star Wars gift shop we turned left towards the Muppets.

This too had a small change in the pre-show with the “Evil Kermit” from the most recent film making an appearance. Having not seen that film, it just made it a bit weird. After seeing this show more times than I can remember it was lovely to see and hear Sarah laughing out loud as a first timer.

In what was turning into an excellent theme park day, in terms of the amount of stuff we were getting done, next we trekked all the way back across the park to catch the 3pm Beauty and The Beast show.

It was incredibly hot by now and I lost about a stone in sweat as the show progressed.

It was now time to go and pick Emily up after her work meetings this morning. It was no bad thing as the heat was making the whole theme park thing hard work now.

We drove to The Commons, only to find once connected to their WiFi that Emily was stuck in meetings still, so we decided to drive back to our villa and come back for her once we were all showered and changed.

That turned out to be around 6.30, and with another stop at The Commons to collect a daughter, we then drove on to Kidani Village for our reservation at Sanaa. We self-parked (of course) and made the quite long stroll into reception.

Not surprisingly it is a mini version of Animal Kingdom Lodge. We watched some of the animals from a balcony for a little while, enjoying the place very much.

We checked in at Sanaa and had a ten minute wait for our table. We viewed the extensive menus but the appetiser had been a done deal for months….

One of the main reasons we had booked this restaurant was for the Naan bread appetiser…

I know it looks good on those photos, but there is no camera on the planet that can capture it’s awesomeness. It was incredible.

We then continued with –

Me – Tandoori Chicken

Grandad, Emily, Rebecca and Sarah – Butter Chicken

Nana – Butter Chicken with Steak

Louise – Butter Chicken with Lamb

I took a few photos, but alas, I can’t remember which is which….

Safe to say that everyone was very happy with their choices. Fuller than we had any right to be, we went for it and ordered dessert too.

 

With plenty of wine, beer and soft drinks the bill was $365.

Frankly, unable to make it all the way to the car in one go, we sat in a lounge off reception for a little while giving our body’s time to adjust to their new weights. Once able we walked, slowly, back to the car, dropped Emily off and headed for home. Having learned nothing from previous visits we stopped at Publix to be reminded that it closes at 10pm. We were in bed twenty minutes later.

Till the next time…..