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Old 03-15-2010, 11:16 AM   #1
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Cool DISNEY'S FOR ADULTS! (September 2009 TR - Lots of Friends, Food, & Photos!)

As I'm doing a Disney Cruise in May and plan on doing a TR for that, I figured I'd try my hand at a Disney World one first, simply because if there is one thing I know...it's Disney World!

Introduction: I'm a 27-year-old Finance Manager. Currently, I live in South Carolina with my boyfriend of 1.5 years (he's 29), but when we went to Disney in September of last year, we were still living in Connecticut. And yes, that's part of our vacation story

Now, I'll begin this by admitting that I worked at Disney for about 5 years. Did the Walt Disney World College Program, was seasonal while I finished college (returning for nearly every school break/summer), and became a manager after I graduated college. I haven't worked there since 2006 (finally decided I simply couldn't live in Orlando--I loved my job and probably would have stayed were it not for being sick of the traffic and the cost of living). Although I had returned numerous times since I quit my job with Disney (twice in 2007, three times in 2008), our trip this past September was the first time I returned as a true-blue guest. We booked a full-on package--had to take the Magical Express from/to the airport, got the dining plan and the park hoppers with water park access, etc.

This trip was a big deal for my boyfriend and I because we booked it for our anniversary (we were there September 17-21, and our anniversary is the 20th of September). We wanted to make a big deal out of our one year anniversary for a few reasons, namely because (a) we have known each other since 1998 and it took us nearly 10 years to start dating, and (b) we were proud that we made it to one year, despite many obstacles that were out of our control--i.e. the fact that when we started dating, we lived 900 miles apart. Also, the first "real" vacation we took together was a long weekend in Disney over Halloween 2008, so what better idea than returning to Disney to celebrate our anniversary, right?

Speaking of which...here is a picture of us dressed up as Tinkerbell and Raoul from Fear & Loathing, at EPCOT on Halloween in 2008:

We booked our trip during the free dining promotion, sometime around May 2009, and booked our plane tickets with Southwest in August, about a month before we were going. Little did we know, we'd have a sort of wrench thrown in our plans! You see, my company was requiring me to re-locate to South Carolina in October. I found out about this at the very end of July, but was putting off doing much about it because I was seriously concerned that my relocation would mean leaving my boyfriend behind. When I told him what was going on, he immediately started looking for jobs in South Carolina--but we all know how the job market is nowadays, so I don't think either of us was very hopeful about the situation.

Thankfully...we got lucky! He ended up scoring a first interview at the very end of August, and it went so well that they wanted to schedule him for a second interview. The problem was--the only week they could do it, the only week where everyone who needed to meet him would be there, was the week we were going to Disney!

Everything ended up working out, obviously, or I wouldn't be doing this TR He flew from Connecticut to South Carolina on Wednesday the 16th, had his second interview the morning of the 17th, and then flew from South Carolina to Orlando; I took the Southwest flight we were scheduled on originally and met him down there on the 17th.

So begins the first "real" Disney trip I took since August 2001...more to come in a later post

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Old 03-15-2010, 01:45 PM   #2
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Day 1: Arrival

My DB got lucky and didn't have any delays on his flights from SC to Orlando--and he had a layover! He arrived around 4 PM, picked up his luggage (we didn't do the Magical Express tags...a friend of mine had an experience with that where she arrived at Disney at about 10 in the morning and didn't get her bags until nearly 9 PM that night) and although he had a little bit of an issue getting on the Magical Express (they couldn't find his name OR my name on the list! turns out that when we added my friend Jonathan to our room they put everything under HIS name??? kind of annoying) he had dropped his stuff off at the resort and headed over to meet Jonathan at DisneyQuest by about 5:30 PM.

On the other end of the spectrum, my direct Southwest flight from Hartford to Orlando was delayed 45 minutes. When I arrived and picked up my luggage, I walked outside only to realize that I was in the wrong terminal So I lugged my giant suitcase across the Orlando airport and finally found the Magical Express. I actually had the ME tickets with me (I'd forgotten to split them up and give DB his before he left the day before...oops) but even with that available they still had trouble locating my name! Weird. Thankfully, I waited just a couple minutes for the bus and the Caribbean Beach was the second stop (Pop Century being first).

Unfortunately, they once again had trouble finding my name when I checked in! Their explanation was a bit funky--they had screwed something up, changed the address on the reservation, and my name was in the system but not attached to the right room??? I don't know, I was honestly a bit frustrated at this point and didn't ask for a full explanation. I finally got my room key, hopped a shuttle to the Aruba area (which took FOREVER because it was the second-to-last stop from the main lobby, but I was too tired to lug all my stuff there), and found our room. We were on the top floor, in the back corner, of one of the buildings where most of the rooms were being renovated, which was kind of disappointing--we stayed at CBR in October 2008 and had a corner room on the bottom floor in the building right near the beach, and it was great! But no matter, we weren't about to spend much time in the room anyway ;o)

I waited a short time (maybe 10 minutes) for a bus to Downtown Disney and finally met up with DB and my friends Jonathan (who decided to tag along on our trip last minute--which was great for us because we hadn't seen him in nearly a year!) and Marty (who lives in Orlando). They were playing at DisneyQuest, but I was starving and it was closing in about 30 minutes so I only did the make-your-own rollercoaster game with them, then we headed over to Paradiso 37 for dinner.

Now, we had the dining plan, and Paradiso is not included on that--but we had reservations to cover our 4 table service meals already, and I really wanted to try this new restaurant. And I'm glad we did! Although it was a bit pricey for what you get, we were very impressed with the food and the drinks--much more so than Raglan Road or Rainforest Cafe.

DB and DF (is that a term yet? I haven't seen anyone post it, but whatever, there it is, the "f" is for friend in case you're confused!) at Paradiso with their amazing drinks. Note their matching outfits--they swear they didn't do it on purpose. I told them it was okay...tons of people do it on purpose at Disney, every day

By the time we finished dinner and a few drinks, after a long day of traveling we were ready for bed, and it was about 11 PM already anyway. We waited for our bus--again, no more than 10 minutes--and crashed right away, in preparation for an early morning the next day.

Now...I have to say something here about the demise of PI. Was it time for a change? Yes. I hadn't even been to PI since February 2008, and hadn't enjoyed it since my last stint of living in Orlando back in early 2006. But I think closing it entirely was a rash move on Disney's part, especially as they have only tentative plans for a possible adult complex that may open within the next few years. I was tired on our first night, but if I'd had a reason to stay out and have some fun, probably a few more drinks...that would have been more money in Disney's pocket
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Old 03-15-2010, 03:21 PM   #3
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Day 2: Typhoon Lagoon & MGM

First, yes, I know it's Hollywood Studios now, but I refuse to call it anything but MGM

Myself, DBF, and DF met up with another friend of ours, Mike, to go to Typhoon on our first morning in Disney...and of course don't have any pictures because I'm wary of bringing a camera to a water park. My DBF hadn't been since a family trip to Disney when he was 7 or 8 years old; I hadn't been since 2006. I'm not a huge water park fan, but it was a beautiful warm, sunny day and we wanted to do something different We got there around 10:30, rode the water coaster (LOVE that thing) and spent about a half hour in the wave pool. Figures that our timing was crappy and we missed one of the big wave sessions and had to wait so long for the next one :/

We were at Typhoon until nearly 1 PM and got to do the shark reef and a bunch of slides as well. I will say this--that shark reef water smelled TERRIBLE. I don't know if it had just been so long that I didn't remember, or what, but it reeked like a nasty old tidepool filled with dead fish. I doubt I'll ever swim in it again, because I felt like I couldn't get the smell off me for the rest of the morning.

Also, somehow--even though he was wearing them on his face and had been all day, even in the wave pool--my friend Mike lost his sunglasses on the group tube ride. When we got to the end he could see them floating in the pool, but when he tried to grab them the cast member freaked out. I of all people understand that they have rules for a reason, but we could see the sunglasses--and there wasn't another raft in sight yet. Ah well, I guess Mike learned his lesson, but this was just one of a number of things (including my ME and check in issues from the evening before) that made me realize how much guest service has gone downhill at Disney in the past five years or so

After a stop back at the room to shower, we made our way to MGM. I was starving, and for some reason, all I wanted was a pretzel. So we stopped at Anaheim Produce on Sunset Blvd--no pretzels. We walked down toward Tower of Terror, but there were really no other food carts and I only wanted to use a snack from the DP. We finally gave up and walked back to Anaheim Produce--still no pretzels. I gave in and got the veggies and ranch dip. They were rubbery and not very good but whatever, it was something in my stomach without having to use a whole quick service meal from our DP.

What was great about this random mid-September Friday at MGM was the fact that none of the rides really had waits. We got to practically walk right on to Tower, Coaster, GMR, and Star Tours. We did, however, wait just over an hour for the new Toy Story Mania ride. All I have to say is...not worth it. I can completely understand that kids would freak over this ride, and it was fun, but the hour wait kind of ruined it for us.

Here are Jonathan and I, being "hardcore" with our TSM 3D glasses:

We met up with yet another friend of mine, Adrian, and showed up early for our early dinner reservation at the Sci Fi Dine-In Theater and only had to wait about 5 minutes before we were seated...AND we got a car I was pleased to learn that Sci Fi allows you to order one of their milkshakes as a drink with the DP...you really can't beat their cookies and cream shakes! I had a pretty decent Reuben sandwich and DBF had a pasta dish that was pretty good. Personally, I prefer the meatloaf and fried chicken at Prime Time (plus the s'mores for dessert!), but DBF chose the Sci Fi because he's a big sci fi geek.

In our car at the Sci Fi:

After dinner, another friend, Alex, joined us, and we rode Coaster again. Probably NOT the smartest idea, considering how full we were...I definitely felt some rumblings in my tummy during that ride Ah well, live and learn. Now, after our ill-advised ride on Coaster, we walked right up to Fantasmic!, mere minutes before the show started. Did we have the greatest seats? No. But DBF had never seen the show, I hadn't seen it since 2006, and because it was off-season there was no having to get there 30 minutes early just to get in. As soon as the show was over, we bee-lined for the parking lot, hitched a ride back to the hotel with Adrian, and had another early night (if you can call 11:30 PM early, haha) in preparation for what we knew would be a LONG day at EPCOT the next day
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Old 03-16-2010, 02:05 PM   #4
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Day 3: EPCOT & Drinking Around the World!

With hopes of arriving at EPCOT no later than 10:30, we made our way out to the bus stop by 10 AM (after breakfast at the Caribbean Beach Food Court. The Mickey Waffles were nice and fresh and delicious!) Unfortunately, our luck with the buses had apparently run out--we waited about 35 minutes for a bus and therefore didn't arrive at EPCOT until about 10:45 It wasn't so much the late arrival as the long wait for the bus that was frustrating...of course I understand we could have gotten up earlier. However...Disney used to be sticklers about not making guests wait more than 20 minutes for a bus to the park of their choice. Recently, that changed to 30 minutes, and the change in itself was frustrating...then to have to wait even longer than that? No bueno, IMO.

We grabbed Fast Passes for Soarin' (always a must! I hate that they run out of early passes for this so early in the day), rode the Nemo ride (not a big deal for us adults, but at least there was no wait), and decided to grab some of the cinnamon roasted pecans at the nearby nut cart. Instead, I was graced with a sort of deja vous--just like Anaheim Produce and the pretzels from the day before, the nut cart was out of nuts--all kinds--and the cast member had no idea when he would get more. My frustration with Disney's food service was obviously mounting at this point, especially since I worked in it for over four years. I just can't help but feel that the quality of both of the food and the service has plummeted, especially since the early 2000s but also since 2006 when I left

Since we couldn't get our nuts, we made our way to Test Track and the infamous Single Riders line--a must for adults who are traveling without kids! 5 minute wait vs. 35 minute wait? Yes please and thank you

Next was a quick stop at Mouse Gear to buy our gift cards for Drinking Around the World. One of my friends started this tradition a few years ago and it has totally caught on. Who wants to deal with tracking numerous small charges to their debit card, or handling wads of cash and tons of change? Not this girl! A Disney gift card of $80-90 usually covers a full Drinking Around the World Experience, and it helps not having to worry about that debit card or that cash after you've hit half a dozen countries or so

While at Mouse Gear, I found the perfect present for my niece's third birthday. I brought it to the counter and told the girl who was ringing me up that I wanted it shipped back to my room. She handed me the paperwork, and I filled it out--complete with checking off the CBR box and writing down my room number. When I was finished paying, she handed me the receipt and started telling me that I could pick my package up at the front of the park at the end of the day.

Of course my reaction was a bit panicky. I did NOT want to have to deal with package pickup after being in the park for 11-ish hours, in the hot sun, and having a few drinks. I tried to be calm as I explained that I did NOT want to pick it up at the park, I wanted it sent to my hotel, which is why I had written down my hotel information. I was not very pleased that her remedy was to simply scratch off the park pick up information and draw extra circles around my hotel and room number. I swore there was no way it would actually make it to the CBR. Thankfully, it did, but I cannot express my surprise enough that that was the case.

Our table service meal that day was at Les Chefs de France. I had eaten at this restaurant years and years before, and as a picky teenager, hated it--so I knew it was time to give it a second chance. It was cute to have Ratatouille pay us a visit:

Overall, I was pleased with the restaurant, but not amazed. I didn't understand why at the Sci Fi, I could get a milkshake for my drink (their milkshakes cost, what, $5+ if you're not on the DP), but I couldn't get an espresso or cappuccino at Les Chefs as my DP drink with the table service meal! I had to get the regular (read: crappy) Disney coffee. At least the french onion soup and croque monsieur I had were delicious...but my suggestion is to pass on the creme brulee. You would think that, in the Frenchrestaurant, in the France pavilion, they would make a proper creme brulee...not so much. DBF spent a year in France as an exchange student, so he (and myself, now) know what a proper creme brulee is. The one served at Les Chefs was just...not good. It was supposed to be a vanilla creme brulee, but had no vanilla taste to it...it just tasted like regular old custard. Also, it was obviously broiled or something of the sort, and didn't have nearly enough sugar on top. When you use enough sugar and a blowtorch, the top of a creme brulee is a thin layer of sugary delicious crust. Les Chefs de France's version was weirdly spotty on top and burnt in places...no crust at all. Even if I didn't know what a real creme brulee was supposed to look and taste like, I wouldn't have enjoyed this.

After lunch, we rushed over to Soarin' to use our Fastpasses before meeting up with friends to Drink Around the World. Now, I am a DATW champ. DATW means one drink in every country, and we also like to spice it up by decorating a Kidcot Mask along the way! We usually start around 3 PM so that we can both take our time and also finish in time to watch Illuminations. This trip in September '09 marked my 11th complete DATW trip. We ended up with a group of 10-12 this time, and it was a blast. Obviously we started with margaritas in Mexico (have to get the original ones--I and most of my friends agree that the flavored ones are just...not good):

We then moved to Norway, where we bought and drank beers and then waited for Waitstrom--I mean, Maelstrom. I will never understand why this ride always has a 20+ minute wait...it's really not that great...I suppose it's because EPCOT has so few rides. But you can't DATW without riding Maelstrom and of course...taking a picture with the troll!

From there, it's beer for me in China, but DBF had a delicious cantaloupe drink with vodka and a few people tried the plum wine (too sweet for me). Of course we did some shopping...China and Japan pavilions really do have the best stores! And then we moved on to Germany. There used to be liquor here but I guess too many people abused that privilege and they have since removed the opportunity to buy shots outside of the restaurant. Fine with me, though, because I love the Riesling wine they offer and am happy with that. The Franziskaner beer is also popular with my friends.

Next to Italy for Bellinis (not sure what's up with the color change--the first number of times I DATW, they were a pretty peach color...now they're like...brown...but at least they still taste the same!

After Italy, it's time for a pit stop in America...gotta grab a good ol' American beer (usually Sam Adams for us New Englanders) and some greasy cheeseburgers and fries to soak up all that alcohol. Our pit stop usually lasts about 30 minutes, 40 max, because by then we are jonesing for Japan, for some lighter beer...and there's always one in the group who insists on sushi, although I'll never understand why. I know that many people drink the sake or maybe even the plum wine in Japan, but as I can't stand either and do like Kirin, that's my Japanese drink of choice.

Morocco is the next stop, and I have to say that their tangerine daquiries are one of my DATW favorites (probably second only to those margaritas in Mexico!)...except that they turn your tongue bright orange and you look kind of silly for the rest of the evening (yes, at this point it's usually evening)...

At this point it's pretty much dark, and we're getting close to the end of the day. We wanted to catch British Invasion, so we rushed through France with a quick glass of champagne and a picture in front of the fountain

We had just enough time to grab beers at the Rose & Crown before grabbing seats for British Invasion. DBF and I are HUGE Beatles fans so whenever BI is playing when we're at EPCOT, we have to catch them

We had plenty of time after BI to grab Mooseheads in Canada (I was SO happy to see these--I love this beer and before I've only ever noticed them having Labatt) and grab a place for Illuminations. Illuminations is my favorite nighttime show at Disney...always has been and probably always will be, so I rarely miss it if I go to EPCOT.

Despite the usual rush of people leaving the park, we didn't have to wait but 10 minutes for the bus back to our resort. It was crowded and hot, yes, but that's to be expected when you stay at a park until closing. We even hung out in the hammocks on the beach at CBR for a while, which made for a bed time that was probably a bit too late for our wake-up call the next morning
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Old 03-17-2010, 12:00 PM   #5
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Day 4: Magic Kingdom

For our last full day, we had reservations for breakfast at the new restaurant The Wave, at the Contemporary. I always enjoy trying new restaurants at Disney, and as we had plans to spend the day at Magic Kingdom and eat a late dinner at O'Hana, a late breakfast at the Contemporary was just the ticket. I had the Eggs Benedict and although the sauce was a bit different from what I'm used to (it wasn't your usual hollandaise), they were still very good. I also tried my boyfriend's breakfast (spinach & feta cheese scrambled eggs) and they were good as well. If you're not big on buffets and plan on spending the day at MK, I definitely suggest hopping the bus to the MK, walking over to Contemporary, and eating here! Our reservation was for 10:30 AM, we were at the bus stop by 10 and didn't have to wait but a few minutes for the Magic Kingdom bus, thankfully.

Once we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, it was first things first--we picked up anniversary buttons (this was our official one year anniversary), then, because we hadn't taken a picture in front of the castle on our October 2008 trip, obviously we had to snap one this time:

Don't mind the cast member in the background, haha. My DF Jonathan took forever to take the picture...I swear that guy wasn't there when he started posing us!

Of course we spent all day at Magic Kingdom. The lines weren't too bad--we got to ride pretty much everything. DF and DBF even went on Splash Mountain (NOT a favorite of mine, I don't like getting wet on rides) while I grabbed a quick lunch at Columbia Harbour House. Their broccoli slaw and hummus sandwich was amazing! Although their queue system in the restaurant is questionable...I won't go into detail, but apparently very few people other than myself were paying attention to the signs, and I got cut in line about five times before I finally asserted myself and just stepped forward and said "I was in line" to someone who was about to walk right in front of me.

DBF insisted on riding It's a Small World. We waited about 15 minutes in line for it, which was annoying in and of itself...but then the ride got backed up and we ended up waiting to unload for at least 15-20 minutes, which was really bad. Needless to say, he regretted making us go on that ride ;o)

Space Mountain was down for rehab while we were there, which was unfortunate as DBF loves that ride...but we did ride the TTA and snap a few pictures of Space with the lights on:

Back to those anniversary buttons--they were free, cute, and it was definitely fun to have so many people (mostly cast members, but some guests as well!) tell us "Happy Anniversary", all day long!

Another thing we had missed during our October 2008 Disney vacation was Wishes!, which DBF had never seen. However, we had dinner reservations at O'Hana and staying in MK for the fireworks wasn't the best idea...so we did the next best thing and hopped the monorail over to the Poly, grabbed some lounge chairs and watched the fireworks from the beach! I love how it's so relaxing, plus they pump the same music from the loudspeakers. I don't think either of us would have done it any other way.

After the fireworks, we still had a little time before dinner, which meant time for Lapu Lapus at the bar next to O'hana! DF Jonathan was even kind enough to pay for mine and Steve's (they aren't cheap!) as an anniversary present for us

My friend Marty (who had been out with us Thursday night at Downtown Disney, and drank around the world with us at EPCOT the day before) met us at the Poly, and as always, dinner at O'Hana was amazing. The salad, the wings, the shrimp, and the bread pudding... The only things I miss are that (a) the smaller shrimp that they served as an appetizer when I first experienced O'Hana in 2006 were tastier than the giant shrimp they now serve as part of the entree, and (b) the scalloped potatoes they had back then were also far better than the noodles they have now. But still, for the food and the atmosphere this is probably my favorite restaurant at Disney!

Since our dinner started so late (despite calling nearly 3 months in advance, the only dinner reservation we could get for our anniversary--which we really wanted to have at O'Hana--was at 9:45 at night!!!), we went right back to the CBR (Marty gave us a ride--I cannot express how wonderful it is to know people who live and have cars in Orlando!). We were leaving the next evening, but before that, I wanted to take DBF to Animal Kingdom for a few hours, because he'd never been!

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Old 03-17-2010, 04:20 PM   #6
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Day 5: Animal Kingdom & Departure

Before we headed to Animal Kingdom for our final morning at Disney, we had to stop by the main lobby of the CBR to store our bags. Also, DBF and I wanted to change our Magical Express time. Even though our flight wasn't leaving until 5:15, they had us scheduled to ship out on the ME at 1 PM! That's more than just time for error. So I approached the check-in desk and gave my name to the cast member. She works away on her computer for a minute, then says, "I'm sorry, we only have an Amy Walker, not a Tara Walker. What day did you arrive?"

My patience had pretty much run out with this issue of them not being able to find me in the system. I tried to be nice to the girl, but seriously--I had been checked in for nearly four days. I had a KTTW card that I had been using to get in and out of my room, "purchase" meals with my DP, and parkhop. I rode the ME on the 17th and they had sent paperwork for a return on the ME, in my name, to my room. I just don't understand what the issue was. I honestly don't even know how she finally found me, just that it took her about ten minutes to do so and that when she did, she changed our ME pick up to 2:30 PM. And finally, we were able to make our way to Animal Kingdom, without too long of a wait for the bus.

The lines weren't too bad--the only thing we kind of wanted to do that we gave up on was Primeval Whirl. It said the wait was only 20 minutes when we got in line. We waited about ten minutes, didn't move at all, left the line--and even though there were only about a dozen more people in line behind us, the wait time said 40 minutes when we walked out. Not sure what happened but I assured DBF that that ride is not worth a 40 minute wait.

No matter, though--we went on Dinosaur and the safari, and even walked through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail (DBF and I both love apes and monkeys). A bunch of the gorillas were out and we watched them for quite some time!

And of course, a quick photo stop...not sure if you can tell, but we're all sweaty, exhausted, and a bit Disney-ed out:

Other than that, we were lucky to arrive at Expedition Everest early enough when we first arrived that we didn't have to wait at all, and after Jonathan had left us at Animal Kingdom for his much earlier ME and flight, DBF and I made our way back and got to ride Everest a second time, this time by using that trusty single rider's line

Finally, DEF and I dropped in on It's Tough To Be a Bug, again with pretty much no wait (why, oh why, do parents bring toddlers into this attraction? it never fails that they get scared to death and start screaming within the first five minutes). After that, it was starting to get late, which meant a quick bite to eat at my favorite Animal Kingdom restaurant, Pizzafari. I was relieved that they still had one of my favorite Disney meals ever...the Hot Italian Deli sandwich! Turkey, ham, swiss, provolone, pesto sauce, tomatoes, and Caesar salad on muffaletta bread...yum yum yum! Unfortunately, the breadsticks weren't as good as I remembered

And with that, our Disney trip was over. We hopped the bus back to the CBR and had about 15 minutes to spare before boarding our ME. That was a pretty quick process and even with departing around 2:30, we made it to the airport and were checked in and on our way to security by 3:30...which left us over an hour before our flight would board. On top of that, there was some weather in southern Florida, and our plane was coming from Fort Myers, which meant...delay. About an hour and fifteen minutes of delay. Alas, I should know better than to book a late afternoon/early evening flight out of MCO anytime between June and September. Other than that, our flight was okay (and a direct one, for us, so no missed connections) and we made it home safe and sound, so I guess I shouldn't complain.
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