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Old 07-15-2010, 12:22 PM   #1
wishspirit
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15 Days, 6 Parks and 1 Couple- Our June 2010 Trip Report and Dining Review in One!

Introduction:


Welcome everyone to my first real trip report! This was my first ‘real’ holiday with my boyfriend (e.g. more than a long weekend), and his first ever trip! He has always known about my Disney obsession, although it has gotten worse in the last few years, and I finally wanted him to be able to experience my happy place. We have been together for 5 and a half years, so this holiday is long past due!

This is us:



Apparently we look a lot younger than 21, blessing or curse?

We are staying at the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Studios first for 4 nights, then moving to Pop Century for 7 nights, then Beach Club Villas for the last 3 nights. The nights at Beach Club Villas were a gift from my parents for my 21st Birthday, and for Christmas they gave us dining plan for our time there, so we were very excited!

Cast:

Me: My name is Kate and I am 21 years old, just graduated from University with an undergraduate degree in History (I actually found out my degree results whilst at Disney, so you will have to wait ‘till later to find that out! ) I have been a Disney obsessive from a very young age since we won our first trip when I was only 4 years old. This is now my 6th time to Disney, my last time being in September 2010 with my mother. (You can click HERE to read that trip report written by my mom Suzycute). I was most looking forward to showing Murray my happy place, and enjoying the rides and atmosphere.

DBF: His name is Murray, also 21 and just graduated from University with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering. He also got his results whilst we were in Florida, and I was very proud of him! He has never been to Disney before, but went with me to Disneyland Paris in September 2008, and really enjoyed it. I kept trying to tell him how different they were, but he just couldn’t believe the scale of difference until he saw it! He has high expectations, but was most looking forward to the food and spending some time together before he takes his new job up north.

The Itinerary:

Day 1: Finish packing, travel to the airport hotel, sleep!

Day 2: Fly to Orlando International, transportation to Universal Studios, check in at Royal Pacific

Day 3: Islands of Adventure/ Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Day 4: Universal Studios

Day 5: Sea World

Day 6: Last bits of Universal, transport to Disney’s Pop Century including grocery trip, check in

Day 7: Epcot

Day 8: Hollywood Studios, Lunch at 50’s Prime Time

Day 9: Magic Kingdom

Day 10: Florida Mall

Day 11: Animal Kingdom

Day 12: Hollywood Studios/ Epcot

Day 13: The DisUnplugged Meet, Check in at Beach Club Villas, Blizzard Beach, Start of Dining plan, Diner at Whispering Canyon Cafe

Day 14: Epcot, Lunch at Le Cellier

Day 15: Magic Kingdom, Breakfast at Cape May Cafe

Day 16: Last day, Epcot and Return home!

Sorry for that long introduction and onto Day 1!
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Old 07-15-2010, 12:47 PM   #2
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Day one: The craziness commences!

Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of photos in this post, due to the stress of the day we didn’t take any at all! Secondly, on reflection, this post is rather long with bits not particularly related to the holiday at hand. Skip to the bottom or the next post if you aren't interested. (Don't worry, I won't be offended! )

Anyway on to day one:

Today was meant to be a fairly relaxing day of last minute packing, having a manicure and pedicure and taking a gentle saunter up to the train station to get a train to Gatwick in the early evening, then settle in for the night at Sofitel ready for the flight the next day. I decided that as I am not a great traveller (this is a serious understatement), it would be a lot easier for me to stay at an airport hotel so I wouldn’t panic about not arriving on time on the day of the flight, and get a bad night’s sleep. This had worked well in September with my mother, so we decided this was the best course of action. I was feeling a little nervous whilst planning this trip, but I had a lovely folder all divided out into sections to remind me of what to do each day:




Isn’t it pretty? (This is the point when you oooh and ahh over the precision and wonderfully labelled organisation! Or in the case of my boyfriend say 'Bloody hell! That's organised!' I took that as the highest of Disney planning complements! )

With this folder in hand, nothing could go wrong, right?

WRONG!

Rather than the nice relaxing day before my holiday, suddenly it all became filled with worry and stress!

The first problem was that I was still recovering from a nasty case of food poisoning from a week before, coupled with stress for the weeks before that due to University exams meant that I hadn’t eaten properly in about a month! I had lost about ¾ of a stone, and generally wasn’t feeling my best. Secondly, I had been applying for jobs as a teaching assistant in local schools after the end of my exams, unfortunately a lot of the interviews had clashed with my holiday dates! A few days before leaving for Florida I got a call from one of the schools asking if I could interview on the day I was leaving, and that was the only date they could do! Now not only was I needing to get beautified and pack but also go for a job interview for a job I really, REALLY wanted! Plus since I had only just come back from University, my room and all my clothes were in an absolute mess! I felt like I was packing in a disaster zone!

*calm breaths* It would be fine, just make sure I was all sorted before the interview, then get Murray packed and we could still to the leisurely trip to Gatwick. It would be fine!

The morning of our departure for Sofitel I have to admit I felt really nervous! I was really glad I had booked in the spa appointment for the manicure and pedicure, since the moment I sat down in the comfy seats and had that first hand massaged, I started to calm down and feel better. Luckily I got Murray to drop me off and pick me up, so save ruining my nails whilst driving.
However as soon as I started doing the last few bits of packing, the phone rings! It was from one of the other schools I applied for, asking for me to have an informal look round that afternoon in case they wanted to interview me after I got back from holiday! So one formal and one informal interview in one day! Of course I said yes and arranged to go straight from my first interview, but suddenly the packing, especially of Murray’s clothes, which were still in the wash, suddenly needed to be sped up! Luckily he said he’d man the fort, and pack my last bits whilst I went to the interviews. He also tried to get me to eat something, with minimum success, with just under half a packet of crisps being eaten all day!

Both interviews went ok, and I drove home to find my suitcase packed and ready, and Murray’s clothes just coming out of the drier. So we drove to his house to finish his packing, and have dinner with his parents (although I couldn’t eat a thing!). They then dropped us off at the local station to take the train to Gatwick.

Next problem! No trains to Gatwick!!! All of them seemed to be going another way! Luckily we found a guard who explained that there had been an issue on the line, and hopefully the next train will come in about 20- 25 minutes on platform 3. Crisis averted! Now this station is notorious for changing which platform it would be at the last minute, which I well know! We decided to stay on platform 1 until 5 minutes before hand, since we had 2 heavy suitcases and Murray’s had no wheels (silly decision! ). Luckily my intuition paid off, and it did get diverted to platform 1, which saved us a bit of huff and puff! We finally got on around 7.30pm and took around an hour, of which I spent most of it listening to music and Disney podcasts.

When we arrived at Gatwick, we decided to take the lift to go to the main airport, only it decided it didn’t like the look of Murray and I, and decided to not close its doors, then tell us it was out of order! Murray was not impressed as he huffed his way up the stairs with his suitcase whilst trying to help me with mine! Then we had to do the long walk through the south terminal, take a bus, then arrive at the north terminal where Sofitel is located, and eventually our flight would be tomorrow.

Sofitel, as always, was fantastic! Very posh hotel and the service is always excellent, plus I booked this through Quidco so it was only around £80 rather than £88 for early booking or the extortionate prices if you just turn up! Yes, for one night this isn’t a cheap choice, but the rooms are beautiful, the location is superb and the runway view is fantastic if you request it at no extra charge.





These are the photos from my September trip

We basically got the room 2 up from the one this was taken in, on the 7th floor (although the lifts didn’t like us again, but luckily seemed to agree when another guest entered the lift!). The room was lovely as usual, although I wasn’t a big fan of the feather mattress topper as I ended up with some sticking into me in the middle of the night!

At that point I just crashed! A stressful day, and a lack of food and sleep had left me exhausted! So it was straight into bed and to sleep, ready for the flight tomorrow!
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Old 07-15-2010, 01:02 PM   #3
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Yay Kate, I'm SO glad that you're doing a trip report!

Write quickly, please?

(also, seriously, Murray didn't take a suitcase with wheels? I didn't even know you could still buy suitcases without wheels!)
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Old 07-15-2010, 01:03 PM   #4
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I'm in loving it! can't wait for more!
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Old 07-15-2010, 01:30 PM   #5
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Great start. We always stay at the Sofitel too, even though we normally fly out of the South terminal.
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Old 07-15-2010, 02:04 PM   #6
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Great start to your first trip report Kate - I'm proud of you!! (Now all you need to do is finish it!!)
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Old 07-15-2010, 03:27 PM   #7
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Wow, what a stressful start I hope to read further and see that you become more relaxed once in your happy place
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Old 09-13-2010, 03:11 PM   #8
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Just read your whole TR and really enjoyed it
Looking forward to hearing more
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Old 09-16-2010, 04:37 PM   #9
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More please?
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Old 10-17-2010, 06:35 PM   #10
wishspirit
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Day Five- Seaworld Part One!

Again, sorry for my lateness in posting! I have just completed my first few weeks of work, Murray has moved away, redecorated my room as well as 101 other little jobs I have been meaning to get around to! More smacks on the wrist for me! I have also been told that my last post wasn’t as entertaining as my previous ones (from Murray by the way, the boy who isn’t writing the trip report!!) *cough* Anyway, I will endeavour to be more amusing, but just be lucky I post anything at all!

Disclaimer: This trip of Seaworld forever changed my perceptions of marine animals in tanks, after being a fan for many years. I will try not to be too down about it, and I appreciate if you still like Seaworld, but this is my opinion of my experience and how it changed my mind. Please no flaming, I just want to be honest about my experience, I am sorry if you disagree. Also this visit was a birthday and Christmas present from my lovely sister! So to her, thank you so much!

Well, we both woke up stupidly early (after passing out around 9.30 the evening before!), so we mucked around and read until 8.30, since the earlier bus from Royal Pacific wasn’t set to depart until 9.50. However by 9.15 we were bored of the room and headed downstairs to wander, and so Murray could call his parents to find out his university results! He was very nervous especially as this was a masters course- but ended up getting a 2:1, so everyone was pleased! (for some reason we didn’t take a picture of the event! Terrible of us! )

We waited for the bus, which arrived promptly, however since there were almost no seats in the waiting area and no fans, the heat was horrid! The bus, however, was comfortable and fast, but we still got there quite a bit after opening. So we scanned our printouts, grabbed a map and we were on our way!

We headed first to Journey to Atlantis, as Manta had a big queue and I wasn’t sure if I was feeling up to go on it. I have done similar rides, such as Air at Alton Towers, but I wasn’t feeling my best. Sorry for the lack of photos since we had to be charged to lock our stuff in lockers to go on a ride!! I personally hate this ride. The concept is good, and the changing from log ride to rollercoaster is a great idea, and totally shocked Murray. However the theming is terrible, the audio quality was poor so we couldn’t understand the storyline, and the water smelled really funky! Most rides I don’t want to get wet for the sake of getting wet- here I didn’t want to smell like what I am guessing is Shamu-poo for the rest of the day!

After the Journey to the Bog of Eternal Stench (little Labyrinth nod to those in the know!), Murray decided to hit Kracken, which I declined due to my delicate sensibilities... and the fact my knees were knocking just looking at it!!! I instead got out my park map and numbered all the attractions we were going to hit in number order by showtime and location. Geeky or what!?! Anyway it saved us a lot of time and effort deciding where to go, and in theory would stop us from missing shows or spending too long getting from one place to the other, but that didn’t always work.

We decided to go visit the penguins before heading to our first show of the day (Blue Horizons). Murray couldn’t remember this bit at all that evening when I wrote my diary, so I am guessing it didn’t make a huge impression. It was pretty dark and seemed pretty small for that many penguins, but the walkway did stop people from overcrowding, which is a plus! We did take some photos, but I doubt you’d be able to tell what they were!

We then headed over to Blue Horizons, which is a mix of cirque du soleil and performing animals such as dolphins and birds. The show was pretty much packed out, but we got there early and got really good seats



Here are some of the best photos (credit to Murray here, he had just about figured out how to used the camera by now!)















Murray enjoyed it, he thought it was really well performed and choreographed, obviously very well rehearsed. I, on the other hand, had some fundamental problems with it. Firstly I understand the want of people to show off what these animals can do, however I felt I learnt nothing about the animals themselves at all. I didn’t even know the types of animals being used, and what they are like. I felt like they wasted a prime opportunity to educate, but instead made their animals dance to a crowd which ultimately made me feel uncomfortable. Plus the tanks looked pretty small for all those animals to be jumping at once. However I did like the birds, they were a nice touch.
We then headed over to the dolphin cove to see some of the animals up close. From my youth I remember being able to go right up to the side of the enclosure and sometimes being able to feel the dolphins as they came over from time to time. I also remembering them having two feeding times, first come first served for a certain fee. However this time those who were not feeding were placed at the very end of the enclosure, in the shallows where the dolphins didn’t go, the feeding was almost continuous and sectioned off. I understand Seaworld is a business, but I felt sad that the experience of seeing a dolphin up close and even touching one like I had done as a child was no reserved for those who wanted to pay to feed them. However afterwards we wandered down to the underwater viewing area, which was much nicer and less crowded, plus you got a much better view!





We then decided it was about time to head over to my favourite childhood show- Clyde and Seamore! But not before we take the standard Seaworld photos:





Clyde and Seamore take pirate island was one of the best shows of the day, both Murray and I really enjoyed it. The mine at the beginning was hilarious, and the trainers in the shows were such pros! They covered so well when the animals didn’t do quite the right thing, and it didn’t seem to bother them at all.



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Old 10-17-2010, 06:41 PM   #11
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Seaworld- Part Two!

The hilarity of the sea lion show left both Murray and I on the peckish side, so although my plan said to go see A’Lure we decided skip it out to see what food we could find. During my geekish planning earlier on I had flagged up two potential places- Antarctic Market and Mango Joes. Since Antarctic Market was closer, we headed over. Now I don’t know if this was because it was around 1.30pm, or because a show had just got out, but the food there was expensive and looked kind of... well... the polite way to put it would be ‘unappetising’. So we decided to head over to Mango Joes instead, which was further away, but closer to Shamu Stadium for the next show. However by the time we got to the waterfront bridge the rain started to absolutely pour down, I mean torrential thunderstorms with lightning really close by! By the time we legged it to the gift stand half way through the bridge, we were pretty much soaked. We didn’t know how long it would last so we decided to shove on the waterproofs and make a final dash for lunch.
After a LONG, slow queue, where I changed my mind many times, Murray chose the chicken wrap and I chose the steak fajita roll and chips.





After claiming our food, we realised that the rain had driven everyone inside, meaning there were no free tables left. Luckily we found two free seats with a very nice family, who we chatted to until the thunderstorm passed. However pleasurable the company, the food was dull to say the least! Murray really disliked his wrap, so much he didn’t eat that much of it. My roll was decent in portion size but chewy, flavourless and overall pretty gross. Definitely the worst counter service meal we had all holiday!

The rain died down just before 2.30pm, ready for us to see ‘Believe’ with the orcas. Here are some of our best photos:













The good parts of the show:
• The orcas are spectacular, beautiful creatures
• The standing ovation given to US and UK armed forces.
However, to me these were the only good parts. The show, in my opinion, was corny and tacky- all about sentimentality rather than telling us anything about the animals themselves. I thought there were a lot of orcas in one pool at a time- especially for such powerful creatures. Even Murray agreed it was overly sentimental, but was glad that the trainers weren’t in the water any more. Sorry for the very negative review, but this show really disappointed me.

Afterwards we decided to run down the time until our bus came at 6pm- as we are not usually all day at a park people! By now we were flagging for our afternoon nap! We decided to walk through Wild Arctic as the last time I went on the ride I felt stupidly nauseated! We saw some polar bears and some whales.



Murray found the walk through to be pretty dull, especially as the polar bear was asleep and the whales were hiding. I however really liked it, as it was much more informative than the rest of the park thus far, and there were lots of interesting interactive areas. I did wonder how big the enclosures were for such large animals- the poor polar bear looked like it didn’t have much room to move!

We then decided that we might as well go to the Shark Encounter, as I remembered it was pretty cool. My recollections were pretty accurate, which were that the fish and frog areas were really nice and full of information. I also liked the use of moving walkways to keep the pace up. Murray was also very impressed and well thought out, but wondered what impact the walk through tunnel has on the fish living there.





We then wandered over to the Manatee Rescue area, as they are so dang cute!



They were cute, but this was a pretty quick walk through, which could do with a refurbishment to tell us more about them, but then again we didn’t stay to watch the presentation, as we were too darn pooped to stay!
To be honest we kind of wandered around, trying to keep ourselves motivated to wait for the bus. We stopped by the Dolphin Nursery to see if there were any new babies. When we got there I spoke to a member of (slightly disinterested) staff, who told me there were 12 dolphins in the pool, some adults, some babies. This really upset me, the pool looked really small, with very little to do for the highly intelligent creatures. Maybe I got it all wrong, but watching them all swim round in circles made me feel terrible that there were kept like that.

Anyway, Murray and I decided to leave and wait for Pets Ahoy show to start. I was so glad we ended up seeing this show. It was a show of tricks done by cats, dogs, birds, rats and pigs all gained from the Humane Society. Both Murray and I thought this was a really cute show- very cute and well prepared without being overly showy. Plus the animals seemed well maintained and happy to perform.

Afterwards we decided that it was time to get ready to wait for the bus, as we were both shattered! Met some really friendly people at the bus stop- my Harry Potter book ended up as a great ice breaker! The bus arrived right on time, ready to head back to the Royal Pacific for our last night. However when we arrived back to our room, we found an unexpected package!



After a quick call to the front desk and we found that Murray’s parents had sent it to us to celebrate Murray’s results! It was so sweet of them, especially for Murray since I don’t really drink!





Our day overall was mixed, if I had the guts to go on Manta or Kracken maybe my day would of been better! It completely changed how I see marine animals in captivity, as seeing the dolphin nursery really upset me. I was also really disappointed in how little information they gave about their animals especially the orcas and dolphins. I also disliked Journey to Atlantis- eww! However I really enjoyed Pets Ahoy and Clyde and Seamore. I just wish with the other shows that they had given more information, which is an area which I feel Seaworld really lets itself down. So no, I wouldn’t return again as it changed my principles, but it wasn’t 100% bad. I also thought the food was pretty sub par!

Next: Day Six – the move to Disney!
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Old 10-17-2010, 07:02 PM   #12
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Yay, another update!

This is really interesting to read, because I've only been to SeaWorld once, when I was 7 or 8, and we've never had any desire to return. Your trip report pretty much just reinforced that (although I have to be honest, I really want to go on the rollercoasters there, but I'm not sure I'm willing to pay just for a couple of rides!).

SO excited to read about WDW. Pleeease get it up quickly!
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Old 10-18-2010, 09:26 AM   #13
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Great update. I have to agree with you about Seaworld, I've never been much of a fan, because I hate that the animals are kept in such small tanks.

Looking forward to your next update.
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Old 03-20-2012, 05:21 PM   #14
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Hey Kate, I was wondering how did you organized your planing folder,I'm trying to do one... but it's getting more messy than organized!
I'm probably staying at Sofitel since we are flying from Venice at 11pm and arriving to London at midnight so we'll be sleeping there one night and then departure with british airways. Glad you enjoyed british airways as we are taking the same flight! I'm so happy they have the individual screens.
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:11 AM   #15
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Another great report Kate!

I love the idea of L'eau de Shamu-poo

Keep the reports coming! Murray is away and you're off work for half term next week - no excuse not to do another one
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