Beware, this is a long post.
Woke up bright an early even though we were in the premier inn across the road from Gatwick, but the excitement for our pending holiday was all too much to stay in bed any longer than 8am. We opted to stay at the hotel so we can relax about getting to the airport and start the holiday off in a nice calm relaxed manor. We checked our bags in and then just looked around the airport and grabbed so food in one of the restaurants there. It was not long and we found ourselves boarding the plane for the flight at around 11am.
The flight was pretty smooth and lasted around 9 hours, however the excellent on board entertainment on the flight and the constant delivery of food and drinks made this flight quicker and relatively enjoyable (despite the taste of the food). The staffs however were great with my partner who was a nervous flyer.
On landing in Florida we were off the plane through border control with a luggage and at Alamo within the hour. After hearing a lot of horror stories about Alamo and having never driven in US I feared the next hour or so, however picking the car up and driving to the hotel was relatively easy and enjoyable. We were soon checked in to The Rosen Inn @ Pointe Orlando and moved in to our room. We grabbed something to eat at Pizza Hut across the road as we needed food first after all the travelling, had a little look around Pointe Orlando area and off to bed ahead of a big day tomorrow.
Woke up early and met with our Virgin rep down in the Rosen Inn sports bar. She was very helpful and helped us write up an itinerary for our stay ensuring we got the most out of 14 day Disney pass and flex ticket plus. We also opted to purchase a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre and a Florida Trip from the rep for a few days away from the park, this was all done by 10am and we were ready for our first day. We drove down to Sea World and were shocked at the parking fee as I did not read about this when researching; however appears to be a norm across the parks. We also got our early entry to Island of Adventure voucher.
Sea World however was a great place to start, and to get used to the temperature and humidity of Florida. We managed to ride most of the rollercoaster Mantis, Kraken and the Water Slide (which was better than I thought). Around riding rollercoaster’s we managed to see the Sea Lions show, Dolphin show and Shamau Rocks. Unfortunately we did not get time to feed the Dolphins as we needed to get in the line for Antarctica an hour before park close (which was great only 40 mins to get on after the line had been 3 hours or so all day) and I am pleased we did it this way as I do not think it was worth the wait. The most enjoyable part of the day was the Sea Lion shows, which is a story about a Pirate and an Island, the animals were great and the cast/trainers were amusing. We managed to grab some food at the park and then headed out to the Entertainment McDonalds that has an arcade was great fun.
Up nice and early again (I sense a pattern here) and into the car after a quick snack. Into the car and we headed out on our first taste of Disney (but as it was a Saturday decided to opt out of the main parks) and headed to Blizzard Beach water park. The park was beautifully themed with a few good slides, some of which had long lines. We did a fair few of the slides but spent most of the time in the Lazy River and main ‘beach’ as we was using this as a day to relax. Just make sure you do not miss any part of your body with your lotion or you will be very sore in the morning as my partner learned the hard way. The park is definitely worth a visit just to see the themeing. This is also where we met our first Disney character (Goofy), and my partner transformed in to a big child and we had our photo taken and received a photo pass which collates all the photos taken during your stay with the option to purchase from their website.. We then grabbed something to eat at the park, it is more expensive than eating out but if only two of you I would say it is reasonably priced.
We then decided to leave the park around 15:00 and decided to head back to Sea World as my partner really wanted to do the dolphin feeding experience and feed the stingray as we had not paid out for Discovery Cove. So we did this and took in some of the shows again. We then headed back to the hotel and walked to Sizzler so I could have a beer and in for an early night ready for tomorrow's adventure.
After our first taste of Disney we could not wait to get back, but with it still being the weekend we decided to stay clear of Magic Kingdom and instead headed off to Animal Kingdom. We got there quite early before the gates opened to make the most of the day. Soon as we were in we headed straight to Africa as advised by our Virgin rep to get on the Safari ride, we were on this within 15 minutes (would of been hard to get there as quick as we did with children as we walked fast). This Safari in the African zone was amazing and great to see some amazing animals that look like they’re being treated very well (much better than many zoos). I think it lasted around 10-15 minutes and they do stop for photo opportunities. This is definitely a do not miss attraction. For those with children the fast track option would be the best where you get an allocated time for the ride. We used this for the Everest ride, however we never got on the ride as in allocated time the ride was closed down due to lighting which was disappointing, but we used this time to see the Lion King show instead which amazing and great fun for all the family. We also purchased an autograph book and went to some of the character meet areas and got a few good ones at this park, such as Chip n Dale, Pocahontas and Doug and Rus from Up and some more as well as some more great photo ops. Even if you’re not with children, do this it is a great experience and really fun. Unfortunately we did not get to see the parade here due to bad weather, lightning mainly, but got one last ride in before calling it a day, which was the rapids these are great fun, but you will get soaked, and if it rains straight after as it did for us you will remain drenched for a bit longer.
This could well of been the best day of my life. We rose early and jumped in to the car around 6am to ensure we got to Island of Adventure to make use of our early entry we received from the Virgin rep. We was nearly the front of the queue when the park opened and walked straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is incredible! My advice is do not get distracted by anything here and keep walking to the castle where the ride is. We walked through the castle looking at some of the amazing things in the queue lines as we past, but thanks to early entry we was on to this ride in around 5 minutes, and this ride is incredible for all Potter fans and the closes to living the fantasy you will ever come. After the ride we took the chance to explore the rest of Hogsmede, from the Oleanders (a great theatrical short and then in to the shop – where I had to purchase a wand). We then stopped for breakfast at the Three Broomsticks and enjoyed a butterbeer. Get one between two they are sickly and quite pricy, but we did pay for the special cup too. There is a Coaster in this area too for children past Hagrids hut we did it was fun, but it is for children. The bigger coaster for adults opens around 11. We then headed off around the park and done most the rides as we went.
By 11 we had done most of the park apart from the one ride in Harry Potter World, Marvel Island. The queues by this time had picked up and we took a lot of time queuing for Cat in the Hat (Partner works in a Nursery so wanted to do these). We did however eventually get Hulk road and the last Harry Potter ride, as well as met some of the avengers. We headed away from the park feeling very tired at around 5 and made our way to the hotel. We had a nice Italian meal and relaxed in the hotel room as a day at a theme park is extremely painful on the feet. We also went to Wal-Mart this day (what a place!) and bought bottled water for the fridge and some milk and beer (need a beer before bed, I’m on holiday and British).
After a tough day we had a bit more of a relaxed one lined up. A day at a Aqutica water park, a park ran by Sea World. We also got here for around 9 for the opening time. We must of picked a good day as there was no storms or lightning this day and the park was empty. We therefore managed to ride most things by 11 and we were taking it quite easy and enjoying the lazy river (although not even close to as good as the ones at Disney). The big billed slide at the park is a sea through one which goes through the dolphin tank, however there is so much spray in the slide and you only go through the tank for 1-2 seconds it is next to impossible to see anything as you go through. I think we popped in to a KFC in the way home around 5pm and ate a huge meal. We then spent the evening looking around I Drive before heading off for another early night ready for Wednesday.
We rose early again and headed back towards Universal to go in to the main park. On arrival we went past Shrek, Donkey and Fiona meet and Despicable Me rides which was a bad move. The lines for this were long later in the day. We instead walked up to The Mummy ride and rode this, it took us all of 5 minutes to get on and do the ride. We then headed up to The Simpsons area which looks amazing, shame some work is still going on there but we visited the Quicke Mart and saw in Moes Tavern, Krusty Burger and Androids Dungeon although none were open.
We also rode the Simpsons ride which is a simulation of a rollercoaster. Made me feel quite sick but had to ride it as a lifelong Simpsons fan. There were a few rides/live action shows we did. These are great and some of the most enjoyable so do not miss them, we did however not get time to see ‘Fear Factor Live’ but I hear the pick on the crowd so may not be the worst thing to miss. It was a long day of rides and shows but very enjoyable; we also grabbed a meal here although I was getting fed up of the overly salty fries they serve everywhere. As the day got on and we were doing more and more rides we decided it was time to go back for the Shrek and the Despicable Me ride. The line for this was long but was worth it to be a minion for 5 minutes. We stopped off and bought a Subway Salad on the way to the hotel to rest and get over all the fries.
I was woken early this morning, by an eager to get out the hotel partner. It must mean only one thing. It was Magic Kingdom day! Time to spend a day in the real magic of Disney and revert to the child I once was with love for all things Disney. On arrival at the park we were over whelmed by the beauty of the park and the incredible centre peace. The Disney Castle! We could see it was a very busy day but it was mid June so was expected. Today was not a day of Coasters and big rides, but of magic and wonder.
I therefore let my partner take the lead on the decisions on what we did, this cumulated in a couple of Hours spent in the Fantasy Land of the park. Where we rode nearly everything there (the Peter Pan Ride is amazing). We also took part in Belles story which is a live action show. This took the best part of the morning. We then headed off to Futuristic Land and got a Fast Pass for Space Mountain which is a must do at Disney as it is iconic to the park. And grabbed so food in this restaurant as we knew it was a long day as we were staying for the Parade and Fireworks).
We then went on a mission to be photographed with and collect autographs of as many Disney characters as possible but never made it to the Princesses this would have to wait. We took in different shows around the park constantly referring to the show time list and ventured to over parts of the park. The day progressed and it was hot and tiring but was worth sticking around for and getting there early for the Electric Parade and Wishes Fireworks which just capped off the most perfect day. By the time we were back in the hotel it was gone 12 and we passed straight out.
We had now been here more than a week and it was taking its toll on us and we had scheduled in another busy day at Epcot, we however switched this and instead went to Typhoon Lagoon. This is a great park, I would say the best Disney Water Park and if you only have time to do one of the two, do this one. We were not going to do many slides but instead enjoy the lazy river and just chill out. After lazing in the river for a few laps of the park we decided it was time to look around and saw the snorking area. We decided we wanted to do this, but then saw if we paid we could spent 30-40 minutes with oxygen tanks in a less crowded area we instead did this and saw some great fish, little sharks and sting rays. My partner and I have since decided to learn to Scuba dive and get our qualifications. If you can afford this experience do it, it’s great and you are not scuba diving the oxygen keeps you afloat in the way it is warn so even great for children and people who are not combatable in water. We left the park around 15:00 and drive down to downtown Disney to take in the shops and some live music later in the evening and just relax.
Today we was getting away from the parks and I was about to venture on my longest drive (it was really easy, nearly just one road). Most of the journey was on the beachline express which was a nice road to drive on but there was a lot of toll plazas along the way, so if you are going to make sure you got some dollars ready in the central console. O, I forgot to say where we were going, we were heading to the Kennedy Space Center which was something I really was looking forward to doing as I am a geek for all things space. This was a very educational day and I learned a lot about the space programme. I would recommend this to anyone. This day has less walking to do an quite chilled out day. I would recommend you see both the iMax movies (Hubble Telescope and International Space Station) as these are very interesting and contain some beautiful images.
Make sure you go on the bus tour, this is a must as you will learn a lot on the way and get to see the Saturn rocket in the hanger at the end. Also Atlantis will now be open which should be great, unfortunately it was just being finished off when I was there. The space shuttle launch simulator is not too extreme so suitable for most, however I would not say it is a must do.
Sunday, we decided to brave a Disney park on a weekend, not that it seemed any more busy than going to any of the other parks on a weekday. This was another long day, but what a park it is. This Disney Park is definitely for older people, as oppose to the childish appeal of the other parks. This park has two great rides which are not to be missed I would say, these being Tower of Terror. Get to this as soon as the park opens, you will be on the ride within 10 minutes and it is great fun, based on the film the twilight zone. Then get off to get your fast passes for Rock n Rollercoaster and the Toy Story ride as these are also great fun.
We planned the rest of our day to get as much done as possible and we done all the main rides and live action shows, these are great and give you an insight into what it is like on a working movie set. Make sure you take in the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, Beauty and the Beast stage show and Lights, Motors, Action. This is an incredible car stunt show where they also show us how some of the magic of cinema is created (if you got kids, may want eat plugs, this can be loud). We also managed to get a few autographs and photo opportunities here and with some of the Disney Junior characters to show some of the younger members of our families when we got back to the UK. We also decided to take in the pop idol experience as audience members which was fun, but we only really went to get a break from the heat and enjoy the Air Conditioning.
This was also a long day as there is a show that closes the park called Fantasmic, which is a light, water, fire show with music and all the beloved Disney characters, this show is NOT to be missed, and we were told by a helpful member of staff to get there early as seats are limited and many are reserved for Disney Dinner guests. So we got there an hour or so before and got great shows. It is worth it. Do not miss this show. We once again ate at the park and soon as we got to the hotel soon passed out. To try get as much sleep as possible.
Today was an easier day and we got a bit of a lay in. We had to meet outside Sizzler for this tour we had booked on with ‘Florida Dolphin Tours’ and this is just across the road from the hotel. On arrival here we were taken into Sizzler as the day included a buffet breakfast. The breakfast was around 30-45 minutes long but I got my share of eating done, and met some of the other people from the tour and discussed our holidays so far which was great.
We then boarded a bus that drove us away from Orlando and down towards Inverness, this was a chance to see some of Florida out the window. Look out the window so many things to see. When we got to our destination which was a clear river we were given our snorkeling apparatus and told which boats we were going out on. The aim of this was to try and spot some mantee (the area is protected to help the mentee prosper). We had a great guide who spotted a few and we got the chance to swim in the water and look at what lives there as well as a close encounter with the manatee.
After this we re-boarded the bus and set off towards a Florida State run nature park where they showed off some of the native animals, unfortunately the park is small and some of the enclosures were not as nice as I expected, and may be upsetting to an animal lover. However there was some nice places to sit and eat the pack lunch provided by the tour company which were pretty good and tied us over till dinner.
After just over an hour here we boarded the bus again and drove another 45 minutes and went to WIld Bill's Airboat rides and took a ride to spot some of the wildlife along the river, such as Alligators etc. This was great fun and is a must do when in Florida. We also got a chance to hold a baby gator, which was great fun. After this we headed back to Sizzler to be dropped off. This was a great day out and a chance to rest up. We headed out for a meal and few drinks in the evening and just relaxed, as the tour gets back around 18:00
Back for our final trip to Disney on what had been an amazing holiday. Today was for Epcot. I wish I had done this earlier as I found this park to be quite disappointing, there are a few rides but nothing too extreme. The main attraction is the around the world section at the top of the park which has lots of different countries built such as UK, US, China, Japan and a few more. These were beautifully built and did enjoy exploring them, but most of the areas just contained restaurants, so it is a great place to try different foods.
There are a lot of cultural shows in different areas which can be good fun to watch, we however spent our time collecting more autographs and photos. Taking the chance to meet Alice, Mary Poppins, Aladdin and Jasmine and many more. However by 14:00 haven eaten we decided we wanted one last chance to take in Magic Kingdom and took the tram system there which took around 20 minutes I guess from Exit to Entrance. We used this chance just to look round the park and see the castle one last time and get some photos for the memory books. We also decided as we did not manage to last time to meet the Disney Princesses, which was a long wait, but it's Disney so you can’t really miss this. So we got some more Autographs and photos. Don't skip these things because you're adults these are fun with or without kids we loved these things once has a child and they don't break character so you can have some amazing conversations.
We then headed back for Fireworks at Epcot, however the heavens opened and it do not look like it was letting up and the sky was being brightly lit by lightning. We therefore decided to head home as the show kept getting delayed, so sadly did not get to see this spectacular.
The end of the holiday was fast approaching, which was sad as we didn't want to go, but couldn't wait to tell our friends and family of the trip. Today I was driving even further than I ever have in the US and heading to Tampa. It was Busch gardens day. This park could take 2 days to do as their are a lot of roller coasters and lots of animals and shows to take in. This park was a lot bigger than I expected. We done a few coasters first thing in the morning, however decided we were sick of rides and decided to take in shows and see the animals. We therefore booked and paid for the safari (this is a must do) however by the time our slot came lightning was coming so it was postponed and we re-booked for much later on in the day.
So we went off to see some animals all of which looked great and well looked after in spacious enclosures. We took the chance to feed some Kangaroos which was amazing. I would say do not miss the Iceploration show, this is incredible show of acrobatics, acting and ice skating. I would however say Madagascar show can be missed unless your kids love it.
We finally got out on the Safari later in the day and got to see so many amazing animals who all looked so content in a large space to roam. The man who took our safari was great and really informative (even when people were not listening which annoyed me, but people will be people) this however meant he gave me and my partner more time and explained things to us about the animals and the Busch Gardens breeding schemes etc. The highlight of this tour is getting to feed and stroke the giraffes, these are great big majestic creatures and was an amazing and humbling experience for myself.
When back at international drive we ate and had a few drinks to celebrate what had been an amazing holiday and packed up our bags.
It was here, it was our last day. Our flight was not till 19:45 which gave us the whole day so we loaded our bags into the car and checked out the hotel. We did have Disney Check In but decided we wanted to spend our last day in water to just have some fun and not too many queues, so decided not to do this.
We instead headed to the last thing on our tickets we had not been too Wet n Wild. We just wanted to relax so we spent some time in the lazy river and main pool which was nice. We also did a few of the slides. I also ventured on to Bomb Bay which was great fun and over in seconds, this ride involves standing in a bomb shaped capsule until the trap floor dropped leaving you to drop onto the slide and shoot down from 76 feet up. We spent the rest of the day here just chilling out and grabbed a snack. We then headed off to the airport and checked in a few hours before our flight just to know we were there and not rushing about was a great relief. We took this chance to do some shopping at the airport for last minute gifts (all major attractions had a shop here) and had a meal before finally boarding our flight. The flight home was shorter but was tough to sleep on as Virgin planes do not have much room for stretching out. So be prepared for a long day.
Our amazing trip had now came to an end, and I am gutted to be back in the UK.