Party Of Seven

I shall start with what the kids these days call a shout out! It is a double one in fact as today is not only Mother’s Day, but also my Mum’s birthday, and a significant one too. Happy Birthday Mum and Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the other Mum’s in my life, Louise, Mary (Mother in law) and Rebecca. You are all awesome and I’ll be seeing you all later to state this in person.

It’s been a busy week of organising what we’ll be eating in 180 days time. This is completely normal. I don’t know what we’re having for tea tonight, but I do know our dining arrangements for late August/early September.

Last week’s post brought news of our first ADR at Whispering Canyon. So far that successful streak has broadly continued despite some hurdles along the way. My spider senses were spot on with my concerns over trying to book Beaches & Cream for a party of seven. My first few searches resulted in a quack quack oops (ah, DLT, may God have mercy etc) and this was disturbing as I really want the Kitchen Sink experience for the newbies in our group.

By reducing our party size I did begin to see some options appearing and eventually booked a table for three at 3.50. Once that was secured, I went to edit it and tried to up the party size to seven. It was having none of it, but it did let me increase it to four. In an act of desperation I fell on my sword and had to make *that* phone call to Disney. Now, I haven’t phoned for an ADR in years so can someone please explain how I remembered the phone number, international codes and all? I spoke with an actual cast member, put on my best Hugh Grant accent and asked for a table for three around the same time. The cast member was lovely, but had nothing. Ah well, at least I had exhausted all options.

So the plan is for four of our party of seven to go and do that and Louise and I, with either Freddie or Mikey to walk up to The Fountain at The Dolphin for a similar soda shop experience, if of course we can’t secure a walk up around that time.

The next day was relatively straight forward in comparison as we were not trying to fit a party of seven into a restaurant the size of our front room. Via Napoli, Emily’s choice, was our aim and albeit a little earlier than we had originally planned we snagged a table for seven at 3.40. I’m fairly happy with that time as by the time we finish, it won’t be long until dusk, when Epcot’s World Showcase transforms from one of my favourite places in the world to one of my favourite places in the world with twinkly lights and fire torches.

Having stated on several occasions that “we don’t need many ADRs” the next day was our first ADR free day so there was no booking to be done. For those who care, it is a day filled with Toothsome for lunch and Applebees for tea (dinner). I see no issue with that, and that may indeed be a problem.

We are now up to the 3rd of September and the plan says it contains one of the few full theme park days. We will be Hollywood Studios and there had been a request from Louise to dine at the Hollywood Brown Derby. With food, as with her men, her taste is for the classy. Now, I had done a little research into the Fantasmic Dinner Package. Despite several years in the noughties where we booked this thing at vast expense only for Fantasmic to be rained off, I am a glutton for punishment and wanted to book that again. Not having to sit on those bleachers for an hour with a numb bum and a bored ten month old appealed to me.

I don’t know why, but currently there are no dates beyond August for booking this package. Whilst this raises a small concern about Fantasmic being down (surely not), for now I have booked us an ADR at The Brown Derby and I’ll keep an eye on things and swap that to the package as and when it becomes available.

Onwards to the next day which again is a non ADR day with just some light bites at Keke for breakfast and Cowfish for tea. I may have a problem. I admit that.

The following day is another of those full theme park days at Animal Kingdom. This always has to include Yak & Yeti or Louise won’t let us go to Florida again. When trying to book this one we came up against the party of seven issue again. Not one option for that party size at all, so we had to search for a party of four. Having plenty of options for that and having booked for 6.30, another search for a party of three returned nothing, with a link to view my existing plans. This suggested to me that the web site knew I had a booking already and for that reason wasn’t letting me book another. We got a bit sneaky at this point, and we used Emily’s My Disney Experience account to search. Sure enough, she was presented with plenty of options and booked for three at 6.15. This seems a lot of faff for larger parties but as all Disney’s top executives read this every week, it’ll soon get sorted I’m sure. If for no other reason that as two seperate prties they can’t automatically add the 18% gratuity for parties larger than six.

Yesterday, I was looking at our plans for the 6th of September, when we plan to do the Not So Scary party. The plan says Olive Garden, but I had a tentative option of trying to get us into Be Our Guest. I was quite amazed to see an option for a party of seven and in a blur of excitement I booked it. It was only when the dust had settled that I realised it was Quick Service lunch at 2.30. With a second look, there are no times being offered beyond 2.30. Usually you can search for any time and just get no results, but there are no later times shown as a search option, so I’m guessing that’s because of the early closing of the park for the party.

Anyway, I cancelled that Be Our Guest reservation as we’ve done lunch there before and it doesn’t compare to the dinner experience so I’ll see if we can get that booking on another day.

So that’s been my week. I’ve somehow managed to fit in a really busy week at work and a gig this weekend too. I am impressed if nobody else is!

We are pretty much done now for ADRs beyond that vague intent to try and get into BOG at some point and Edison. However, if we get BOG, we may have to sacrifice Edison to fit that in. NASA have less complicated plans for space exploration.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after all that.

Till the next time….

Appy Eater

Unlike last week’s pity fest, this post will be a moan free zone….probably.

That is more a case of my restraint from inflicting more of it on you, than there being nothing to moan about, but still, that’s progress on last week, yes?

Our holiday officially started yesterday. Sure, there were still 180 days before we stepped onto the plane but that doesn’t matter. I booted up the My Disney Experience app, updated our touring party and got on with sorting out our first ADR.

It’s not that I expected to have too much trouble getting that first one in the bag but it is still nice to get the first part of the puzzle in place. The hardest part of this ADR for our first day was predicting our energy levels at that time of day and knowing what time to make the reservation for. After the first day awakening sometime after 2am, I am slightly concerned that we may be asleep by 5pm Orlando time, but I think first day adrenaline will see us through.

I don’t expect us to have gone the whole day in Magic Kingdom and then go straight over to Wilderness Lodge, but hey, if we do then that’s a bonus, but in reality I would imagine we will head back to the villa mid-afternoon for resting and showers before driving to Whispering Canyon.

If anyone is feeling a little drowsy then the servers will soon see to that!

I’ve just tried to get our next ADR, for the following day, which will be my birthday. The Disney app is not awake yet and is giving me errors when I try. I am a little concerned about this one as we need a booking for a party of seven at Beaches & Cream. Knowing the layout of that establishment pretty well, that may not be physically possible. Hopefully they will let us book as a seven and then split us between two tables when we are seated.

We have been seated at the counter previously with a party of six, which was OK but I’d prefer a couple of booths/tables. This level of knowledge and preparation for some ice cream could be seen as over the top. You and I know better don’t we?

The time we want may help, as I’m hoping to get us in around 2pm, when hopefully the lunch rush is coming to an end, and once we have ingested a week’s calories, we shall be off for my usual birthday tour of the World Showcase with the day ending with ROE. That is of course unless Disney have replaced it by then. Rumours have surfaced this week that that this is likely and it may not be too far away. Now, as much as I would rather this didn’t happen, I always trust Disney to get the replacement right, but I would rather it happened after I had one last time to watch and appreciate it in a torrent of tears and snot.

It has been a weird juxtaposition this week. With the weather here, walking the dogs has been an absolutely painful experience. I do not handle the cold well, it is obvious that I should be living in Florida’s glorious climate. At times, as the dogs played in the snow, the biting wind was coming close to having things fall off my body, some of them I still use. Literally at the same time I was on my phone, looking longingly at ludicrous wait times for rides and watching a few Tim Tracker videos on the telly (well, I was working from home due to the snow!). Hang on, this is bordering on a moan, let’s move on.

Last night, Louise was out on a do with work, so I took the opportunity to take a beautiful twenty two year old to the cinema. Emily and I watched Game Night and it was very good. I don’t think it’ll be winning any Oscars, but it was really good fun and an enjoyable watch.

In other news, tonight we have a very welcome guest. Rebecca and Tom are off out, and we are looking after this chap.

He is even sleeping over, so we are very excited. However, if he wakes during the night, I shall be less so. Freddie has started on a few spoonfuls of baby rice this week. He is developing so quickly it is scary. Mind you, he does have to get ready for a Doughnut Burger in September so it’s for the best!

On the subject of Freddie beginning his journey with food, this was being discussed this week in our family Facebook chat group. I have to say I was quite pleased with my GIF skills, so in a rare show of self congratulation I shall end this week’s post with this…

Till the next time…..

FastPass Fiesta

Before we begin, sometimes I share with you some of the great search terms folks get to my blog with via a search engine. Usually it is some mis-spelling of mkingdon, or other random phrases that I’ve blogged about in the past. Well, this new one beats them all and if I have achieved nothing else in my blogging “career” (and I haven’t) this shall be my pinnacle. The search term was…

Dwarf sex blogger

I am proud to know somebody came to my blog after searching for that. God bless you.

This week was FastPass+ week. Since the last time we booked any I’m delighted that the time they open up has changed from midnight Orlando time as it means you don’t have to be online at 5am. Instead, it’s a civilised midday start. As many of you reassured me, as soon as it was 60 days from the start of our reservation, the dates opened up and away we went.

I did have a senior moment initially when I forgot that onsite special folks can book all of their FastPass+ rides for the entire trip once you get to 60 days. Having been off site scum for most of our trips I had put notes in my diary each day to book some more. Having overcome that brief dance with incompetence I was down the rabbit hole of ride selection for quite some time.

Of course, despite there being loads of availability for all rides and attractions this far out, you can never book exactly what you want as they put many of the headliners into the same category from which you can only pick one. I also have to say that Disney could make this selection process a little more intuitive from a web site perspective. I like to think I know how web sites work as that’s been paying the bills for a good few years, but it took me a while to get my head around it. Should anyone from Disney wish to pay me huge amounts of consultancy I have some really good ideas on how to make it better.

So here are our selections

Saturday April 22nd – The day we drive back to Orlando from Siesta Key, so we have gone for all PM times in Epcot.

Mission Space – 11:55

Turtle Talk – 1:00

Soarin’ – 2:10

We had an ADR at Sanaa that day and for reasons I couldn’t remember, that was at 5.15pm. To give us more time in the park I moved that back to 8.20pm after which we may do Jellyrolls.

Sunday April 23rd – Animal Kingdom. An aspirational early start, especially if we’ve done Jellyrolls!

Safari – 10:35 (I’d hope to get an early Everest walk on in before this)

Everest – 11:40

Kali Rapids – 1:40

We have an ADR at Yak & Yeti around 5pm. After that we hope to do Everest again but in the dark for the first and if time allows maybe even a night time safari, before Rivers of Light.

Monday April 24th – A nominal rest day, with a morning at Stormalong Bay and lunch at The Fountain but with minimal time in the parks we’ve booked some afternoon Epcot rides as it’s next door to us.

Mission Space – 2:35

Frozen Ever After (for the first time in forever!) – 3:40

Spaceship Earth – 4:40

Tuesday April 25th – Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania – 10:10. Again, I’m hopeful of an early Rock n Rollercoaster prior to destroying all my rivals on this.

Tower of Terror – 11:25

Star Tours – 1:00

Wednesday 26th April – Magic Kingdom

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (with no dwarf sex I would hope) – 9:50. This will be our first time on this ride which after all these years is always a welcome bonus. We should be able to sneak in a Thunder Mountain and maybe Pirates before this.

Splash Mountain – 11:05

Buzz Lightyear – 12:35

We have dinner at Trail’s End around 5pm, so we might be able to book more FastPasses for the afternoon once the last one opens up. Whatever happens we’ll be back in Magic Kingdom at dusk getting ready to watch Wishes for the last time ever. There will be tears.

Fitting planning of this precision into the madness of everyday life is, if I may say, truly impressive. I have more plates spinning than Platey McPlate Spin of Plate Town.

Outside of these FastPass+ bookings I am going to have to have a strong word with myself. We don’t need to charge round the parks like idiots Craig…we’ve done the rides many times before and we can take our time, do what we can, and if things get too busy we can retire to somewhere less busy and smell some roses. I wish myself good luck with that.

Till the next time…..

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I had reason to call Disney this week. It’s an incredible compliment to their brand experience and customer service that having a problem that necessitates an actual phone call isn’t seen as a negative. I even had to hold for over ten minutes to get through to someone and I didn’t mind. I sat and listened to the hold music with my phone on speaker so that Emily could enjoy it too.

When the dreamy American accent on the other end of the line eventually answered, the warmth of the greeting was like a Floridian summers day. I immediately had to put on my “I’m talking to an American” voice so that they would stand a chance of understanding me.

I explained my issue feeling genuine regret that I had to trouble them when I’ve only spent the value of an average house in the UK with them in my lifetime. The agent sounded as if I had just explained that half of my family had passed away and her regret and genuine concern comforted me in its warm embrace.

My issue was that even though I had linked all of our tickets to our party members, when I did a dry run of a FastPass booking to make sure we were ready to go, the app and web site errored telling me one of the party had no valid ticket. Yet I could see the valid ticket against their name elsewhere in the app.

The agent said she would speak to tech support if I didn’t mind holding. Mind holding? I was a few moments away from sending her my house keys and pension details. A few moments passed and she returned to apologise again that I had indeed linked everyone correctly but one hadn’t linked all the way through. She asked me to refresh my web page and there I would see that everything was now sorted. I was asked if there was anything else I needed today and when I confirmed there wasn’t she wished me a magical day and said she was looking forward to seeing us in April.

Emily at this point was close to tears and I felt like changing my will to make the Disney company sole heir to my debts. This does not happen when I contact other call centres. I know they are selling magic and most of their customers love the experience which is hard to match if you sell energy or mobile phones but how they manage to deliver such high standards consistently is truly amazing. In all of my dealings with Disney over thirty odd years I do struggle to remember a negative experience.

I was so misty eyed that I didn’t think to keep them on the phone whilst I tried another FastPass dry run and after putting the phone down I noticed that I was only being offered dates that are 30 days out, rather than 60 as we are on site elite uber customers. I couldn’t face the emotion of another phone call so I emailed them instead.

It may be that the FastPass window only opens to 60 days when you are actually 60 days out from your on site booking? If anyone of you who do the on site thing more than we do know that would be lovely. Otherwise I shall await the reply to my email.

In other news this week, it was announced that it will be the end of Wishes just after our visit. I cannot tell you how upset Emily was. She does have a complete aversion to things changing at Disney. Anything that she experienced during her childhood is not allowed to be amended in any way. I understand that of course but having seen more changes than she has, I know that these things have to happen to keep the parks interesting and of course keep the punters coming back.

Image credit

Image credit

She will observe a period of mourning and the usual guaranteed tears on our final day as we watch Wishes will be increased by a factor of about ten, as she knows she will never see it again.

With Rivers of Light also coming on line and opening dates announced for Avatar and Star Wars Land it’s been a big week for Disney. Anyone would think that Universal have a new park opening soon!!

Image credit

Image credit

I won’t bother with you with my pre-holiday weight loss progress. The least said the better.

Till the next time…..

Disney Does Detail

For us lucky Florida fans, the existence of both Universal and Walt Disney World in close proximity means that we get a whole lot of fun experiences without needing to travel very far. I’ve blogged before about the competition between them being very good for us as it keeps them adding new stuff and trying to outdo each other for your hard-earned dollars.

This week we had the excitement of our theme park tickets arriving in the post. This simple transaction highlighted to me the difference between the two. You probably know that if given a choice between visiting just Disney parks or just Universal ones then the former would win quite easily. There are more of them for a start but they just hold more of a place in my affections for reasons that I can’t easily articulate. Maybe this very small example might help to demonstrate how Disney do the little things very well, adding up to an excellent overall experience.

The WDW tickets arrived first. Each one of the five had a different character picture on it, so for those with smaller kids, the fun starts immediately as two of your children rip each other to pieces as they both want to be Mickey. The cards are substantial, by which I mean plastic and look like they would survive a trip or two down Splash Mountain.


That is if they needed to because of course once you get your tickets you can start to feel ever closer to the magic by linking them up to your My Disney Experience App along with your on site accommodation if that’s what you are doing. Then if you’re staying on site, you can customise your Magic Band, which is basically choosing a colour, but it’s YOUR Magic Band and YOUR colour. This is important!

This makes the whole thing feel real, personal and yes exciting. Seeing all your names, plans and tickets staring back at you from your app makes the holiday come to life. You are immediately anticipating that day when you can start to book FastPasses too. The holiday has already started to some extent. Sure linking up the tickets can be a bit fiddly, especially if you try to do it early in the day in the UK when Disney seem to like to take their servers down during their night-time hours but you don’t mind the faffing and time it takes. This is your holiday!

I’ve often spoken about how a trip to WDW lasts forever. All the planning, ADR booking, FastPass reserving and general planning can take months. Then when you get back, if you are sad, like me, you write it all up too, which takes a while too. It’s all good.

Now of course much of that is true for Universal too, but I do think they are missing a trick here. In contrast to the experience above, a few days later our Universal tickets arrived. Again, they were real tickets, but they are flimsy paper things which wouldn’t last one trip around Bluto’s Bilgerats no matter how sturdy your fanny pack is!


You have to write your name on, manually, in pen and sign it. That’s it. No real excitement, no personal connection, no customisation for your unique trip and tastes. Once you get there of course it doesn’t matter so much as the Universal park experience is excellent, but this is, in my view, where Disney win your hearts and minds and Universal is something you do if you have the time and money to fit it into your plans.

We’ll be staying on site with them too, but I can’t set anything up in their app and the whole thing feels much less personal and engaging. I know there are folks who prefer Universal for all sorts of reasons and that is of course down to everyone’s own taste, but I think Universal could do better here. I did read with interest that they appear to be trialing facial recognition for Front Of Line Access for on site guests. If it works, great! Last time we were pointed at a small self-serve photo booth in the foyer and left to figure out how to create our own (flimsy paper) Front Of Line passes to show. Again, it’s not a big deal, but you pay a heavy premium to stay on site and I think they should give you something to reflect that and your “VIP” status. Flashing some sort of card, band or golden (laminated) ticket would be better and hopefully they are moving in that direction.

I love both sets of park of course and we LOVE the on site experience at Universal. As always seems to have been the case though, they could learn a trick or two in the details from Disney.

Till the next time…..

What Are You Eating Next April?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit

Image credit

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……

Living in Slow Motion

Traditionally, in the coming few days, we should by rights be setting off for another American adventure. The fact that we aren’t, yet, means that the next two and a bit weeks loom over us like some ominous time vacuum standing between us all and where we want to be.

Yep, we are now at that stage in the countdown where time slows down. The rational part of me understands that every minute, hour and day is of equal measure, but right now, the remaining time at work seems insurmountable, chocked full of days that will last for weeks.

Planning wise, I have spent a lot of time this week on the My Disney Experience app and website, booking further Fastpasses. What I only realised this week was that you can also add other stuff to your plans beyond Fastpasses and ADRs. I’ve found it quite handy to add in the entertainment schedule around the World Showcase on the day we will do that for example, so that we can try to have our tour around the countries coincide with the goings on in each pavilion.

Sarah, Rebecca’s friend, who is coming with us this year, popped round this week for a preparatory chat. It is fair to say she is just a little bit excited. I think all of us old timers are just a little jealous of what she is about to experience as a first time visitor and we are definitely hoping and planning to make it as special as possible. She likes rides and food and as such, there can surely be no better holiday experience for her.

We talked her through the essentials to take, which in summary was two pairs of comfy trainers, and an appetite, and walked her though the plan. I suppose it is quite an alien concept to have each day of a holiday mapped out in any level of detail, but as I explained to Sarah, it is key to know where we will be most days as then we know where we will be eating, which let’s face it, is the most important part of the planning. As I talked her though each day all she could greet it with was “I’m SO excited!”. Well, so am I.

Another landmark was passed this weekend with the final Mustard gigs before the holiday. We did two weddings this weekend to bring our “summer tour” to an end. Most of my fellow hard rocking amigos from the band are also heading off for holidays from about now and by the time we are all done we will reconvene in September to begin gigging once again.

wedding 8-8-15

Ryan the rucksack, who has recently been drafted into band duty, carrying around my leads and other musical paraphernalia, will now move back to his true calling as we prepare for departure. He is nothing if not versatile. I will need to ransack a few wardrobes now to find out where I safely stored my bumbag two years ago and there’s a US sat nav knocking around somewhere that I’ll need to blow the cobwebs off before we go. I’ve also noticed that Louise’s passport isn’t in “the folder” with everyone else’s, as she needed it for work recently. Louise, if you are reading this, please return it to “the folder” asap.

As I do before every trip with a few weeks to go, I got “the folder” out this week and went through everything to make sure it was in order. By that, I actually mean in order as in, correct but also, in the right order. I appreciate the OCD nature of this but I arrange the relevant documents in the chronological order in which they will be needed. This starts with passports of course, this year it is then security fastpasses, moving on to the car hire voucher, and well, you get the picture. That picture being that I am a sad individual who clearly needs to get out more.

As my social media is awash with folks currently over in Florida, it is whetting the appetite nicely. If you are one of those lucky folks, I only hope you can forgive me for wishing your holidays away. When you realise you are coming home already and it only feels like you’ve been there for five minutes, you can blame me.

So wish me well with the slog through the rest of the countdown. The struggle is real. I only hope the holiday goes as slowly as the next two and bit weeks will.

Till the next time….