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Old 02-03-2013, 04:20 AM   #1
mindy32
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Our USA, Cuba, Cancun trip (with 5 days at WDW!)

Hi All!

I've never done a TR before of any kind, and never keep a journal no matter how good my intentions are but I've loved reading everyone else's PTR and TR and thought it only fair that I share! I'll try to be briefish since the majority of our trip wasn't even Disney related, but I know some people were interested in the Cuba part when I mentioned it ages ago! Who doesn't love reliving their trip though?!!

So the travellers were myself, Belinda (26), DH Daniel (26) and best friend Jacqui (29).

LA
We arrived in LA at 8am on the 8th of November after a not so fabulous flight with United Airlines. No entertainment, argh, wish I'd checked that before we booked! We were tired but excited to be there, particularly me since it was my first trip to the USA! Checked into our hotel in West Hollywood (which was great, especially for the price I thought, such nice rooms), walked down to some main street and had lunch and then caught a taxi to the Chinese Theatre/Walk of Fame, etc. Wandered around for a little bit and then ended up doing a movie star homes tour which was fun for something different. Was crappy weather though so couldn't see everything I'm sure you normally would. I forget which way around we did it but one of the days we did Universal Studios which we really enjoyed. And the other day we did the Warner Bros studios tour which I thought was great! Ellen was filming a special show that day, a One Direction concert. Unfortunately we didn't get to see them but we could hear them singing live and Ellen talking which was cool! No spotting of famous people at all whilst we were at the studios but I was super excited when I realised I was standing next to a guy from a tv show I love (Make it or Break it, noone knows of it lol) on the Subway. Daniel and Jac didn't believe me but she took a sneaky picture on her phone for me, and after googling him and showing them his picture they believed me lol. I had to prove it! One of the nights we went for dinner at Mel's diner, a cute 50's themed dinner with AWESOME cocktails! Another night we just had i-Hop, and the other we went to a Lakers game! This was at Daniel's insistance but we had a lot of fun, and spotted Jack Nicholson courtside.
Us (L-R: Daniel, Jac, Me)

Losers at Universal lol

Lakers Game

Me on the Central Perk set from Friends


San Diego
After 3 nights in LA we then picked up our hire car for the day for our drive down to San Diego. Picked it up at about 8am, allowing ourselves the entire day to drive and check out the beaches along the way. Beautiful views, stopped for lunch at Huntington beach which was great, did a little shopping in Venice Beach. Arrived into San Diego as it was getting dark and checked into our hotel, the Hilton Resort and Spa on Mission Bay. We loved the resort, great pool, nice restaurant and bar, awesome staff. Not overly new or fancy rooms but perfect for us. It was a taxi ride into town, not really any way to walk in but we loved being right beside the water so it was fine for us. The next day we decided to stay at the hotel for the whole day, hired jetskis for an hour and a half in the morning. Then hung out by the pool in the afternoon and hired a surrey bike to pedal along the pier at sunset. Had dinner in the hotel restaurant, went in the hot tub with cocktails that night. Was a perfect, relaxing day. The next day we did Seaworld which was fabulous!! Absolutely loved it. We walked there which took longer than expected, about an hour lol. Stayed all day, saw most of the shows, rode all the rides. Jac wasn't feeling well that night so stayed at the hotel whilst Daniel and I went into Old Town (like being in Mexico!), and had a great dinner at a huge Mexican restaurant. Again, hot tub that night (and every night we were there lol). On our last full day in San Diego we did the zoo which is a great zoo. I'm not the hugest animal person so could have done it much quicker than we did but D & J loved it. We taxi'd into the Gaslamp Quarter that afternoon and looked around, then ended up back in Old Town at the same restaurant for dinner all together. We were up super early the next day for our very early flight to Vegas.

Laguna Beach

Beautiful view while on our surrey bike

Awesome afternoon by the pool reading


Vegas
Daniel and Jacqui were the most excited about Vegas, and it lived up to their expectations! I liked it, but could have left after a couple of days. 5 nights was too long for me. Loved our hotel though, the Bellagio is beautiful! We did the typical Vegas things, gambled a little, drank a little, did all the free shows (ie. Treasure Island, etc), shopped a lot. We went to iCandy Burlesque one night which I have to say was fantastic, totally loved it even if my husband did have girls all over him (we were the middle of the front row!) haha. And Daniel and I had a date night and went to Cirque Du Soleil which we loved.

Bellagio

The Strip

View from the Stratosphere


Road Trip
In Vegas we then picked up a hire car for 5 days so we could drive out to New Mexico to visit friend's Daniel made whilst in the US for work 4 years ago. The first day we stopped at the Grand Canyon which I thought was beautiful. Walked around for a little while and then made our way to Flagstaff were we stayed for the night. The following day we were up bright and early and drove all the way to Clovis (not far from the Texas border), arriving late afternoon. The following day was Thanksgiving so our hosts cooked an AWESOME Thanksgiving meal, the full works, and we just hung out all day. Next day we drove to Albuquerque, just to have a look at the views which was nice but nothing to write home about. We ended up making good time and while deciding where to stay decided we'd head right back to Vegas for the night, and head out to Hoover Dam the next day. Stayed at the Stratosphere which had fabulous views, and Daniel and Jac rode the crazy rides that dangle off the edge of the very tall building!! I was exhausted and ended up asleep quite early. The next day we went out to Hoover Dam in the morning and then did some more shopping in the afternoon before checking into the MGM Grand (we had always planned on staying this last night in Vegas as we had an early flight the next day). The check-in line was ridiculous, it literally took close to 2 hours. I have never seen anything like it at any hotel! But it was worth it in the end as we were upgraded from our standard room to an $800 a night suite! Had two separate bedrooms, two bathrooms with spas, a huge dining table, lounge area and a POOL TABLE! We had intended to head out to Freemont St that night but wanted to make use of our awesome room so just went accross to New York New York to ride the rollercoaster (never again!), and ended up grabbing takeaway and eating in the room before going to gamble a little.

Grand Canyon



New York
I've totally lost track of what we did what day in New York but over our five days we: Saw Spiderman the musical, I went and saw Bring It On the musical while Jac and Dan went to Madame Taussads, ate at Bubba Gump's, saw a comedy show at the NY Comedy Club, did the 9/11 Memorial, did the Staten Island ferry, walked along battery park, went up Rockerfeller Centre, saw the Christmas Tree Lighting (this was magical. Freezing cold, huge crowds, but I loved it) and ended up going to a movie and bowling on a day when the weather was awful. I feel like we did more too but can't remember!

View from Rockerfeller Centre

Christmas Tree

Central Park


WDW!!!!
This was my favourite. I loved all of the USA but thinking back on WDW almost brings tears to my eyes, it was magical for me. Even Daniel liked it a lot more than he thought he would! He was amazed by the sheer size of it. We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside which I would highly recommend, I thought it was a beautiful resort, the facilities were great, and the transport at Disney was fantastic. We loved the hot tub at the resort (I've since learnt my DH is a spa freak!), went to it nighly and soothed our tired legs. It was an awesome opportunity to meet lots of friendly Americans, a few of us ended up there together every night, was quite cute and a great way to end each day.
Arrival day at WDW we didn't get in until about 11pm so just hit the spa briefly for some wind down time and then jumped into bed.
Day 1 at WDW we went to Magic Kingdom. It was the taping of the Christmas parade so I didn't quite get that 'moment' when you see the castle as there was stuff and people everywhere on main st, but it was still awesome. We were so lucky the whole time, not too long a wait for rides, got good fastpasses, etc. Only unlucky part was getting stuck on Space Mountain! We were stuck at the peak right before the rollercoaster really begins for about 10 minutes and then the lights came on and we rode with the lights on. Was quite bizarre, constantly felt like our heads were going to smash into beams! But we got to ride again in the dark (they escorted us to the front of the line) so worked out well in the end! Just ate Counter service for lunch. We saw all the shows we wanted, and when Wishes finished (which was one of the most magical moments ever for me) we were beat! I think we were there for about 14-15 hours that day but we knew it was our only day at MK so wanted to make the most of it.
Day 2 we did Hollywood Studios which I think was possibly my favourite park. A toss up between it and MK for sure. Saw all the shows which we loved, rode the rides and left right after Fantastmic. Got back to the hotel around 9pm and ate in the food court (love the make your own pasta!).
Day 3 Jac stayed back at the hotel for some relaxation time while Daniel and I went to Blizzard Beach. It was absolutely awesome! I'm not usually a water park person but the day was average weather (though still warm enough) and there was practically noone there. We literally never waited for more than 1 person ahead of us before getting on a ride! The lifeguards around the lazy river chatted to us while we were going past because they were so bored. Felt like we had the park to ourselves and after being there for 3 hours we had done everything (and lots of things 2-3 times) so decided to head back to the hotel and hang out with Jac by the pool before going to Downtown Disney that night. Ended up at T-Rex for dinner that night which funnily enough ended up being the best place on our entire trip in terms of them helping with my fructose intolerance! I got to eat pasta because the chef came out and sorted something out with me, I was so grateful. We did a little wandering around the shops, made marshmallow sticks at Goofy's Candy Co and then caught the boat back to POR.
Day 4 we went to Epcot. Did the usual, rides, shows, etc. Ate and drank at a couple of places in World Showcase and left early afternoon. Again we ate at the hotel's food court and relaxed that night.
Day 5 we did Animal Kingdom which I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would! Loved some of the rides, thought the Lion King show was amazing. Left mid afternoon to head back to the hotel and get ready for dinner at California Grill. Just Daniel and I went, we had a great night. The food was fabulous! We've eaten at some high end places in Melbourne and it definitely compared in our opinion. Was a wonderful last night in WDW.
Day 6 we relaxed for a little in the morning, before catching the Magical Express to the airport at Midday. I was incredibly sad to be leaving but glad our holiday wasn't over yet! Unfortunately it was for Jac, she was just with us for this four weeks, she headed home today whilst Daniel and I continued on for the last 2 weeks alone.

So excited on our way to MK I can't keep still lol:

Most magical place on earth!


Us in front of the castle

Our hotel
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Old 02-03-2013, 04:21 AM   #2
mindy32
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Cuba
We arrived in Havana on the 7th of December (after WDW we flew to Cancun, where we had an overnight stop at an airport hotel, before flying onto Cuba the next day) early evening. We checked in and I admit, going from our beautiful USA hotels to what I would consider a 1 star hotel by our standards was hard at first! But it's about as good as Cuba gets so what can you do. We were starting a tour the following night and happened to meet another Aussie on our first night who was also doing our tour. So the following day the three of us jumped on the hop on hop off bus and toured Havana. We didn't actually get off the bus, just used it to look around which worked out well for us. Cuba is an amazing place. The people are incredibly friendly, the scenery can be beautiful, but poverty is very obvious. It was almost confronting at some points but we loved our time in Cuba. On our tour we spend a couple of nights in a secluded beachside village, Maria La Gorda, which was absolutely beautiful. Crystal clear water with fish swimming up to the shore, white sandy beaches, just perfect. We then spent 3 nights in Vinales, a gorgeous valley. Tobacco fields, beautiful mountains, organic farms, horse and carts, and a great little salsa club: it was quintessential Cuba! We did a bit of hiking with the group, went to an organic farm, watched a tobacco demonstration, I rode an old bike with some of the girls whilst Daniel went rockclimbing. We also did a day trip out to another pretty beach were we relaxed on sun lounges and took a little paddleboat out for a while. Salsa dancing with some random friendly Cuban men was a highlight for me, a great way to embrace their culture! We went back to Havana for one last afternoon (with a trip to a rum factory and cigar factory on the way), where we toured the beautiful old city. These buildings have been restored and are very different to the rest of Cuba, but beautiful nonetheless.

Organic farm

Cayo Jutias

Vinales Valley

Rooftops of Havana

Old cars

Typical country transport

Maria La Gorda

Salsa dancing

Tobacco field and traditional drying house


Cancun
Since we had to fly through Cancun to get to Cuba (no direct flights from the USA) we thought we might as well stay for a few nights. We booked an all inclusive resort, and wish we'd had more time, it was amazing!! The hotel was beautiful, the food at all the restaurants was awesome, the pool was great, the entertainment was great, the views were stunning and there were dolphins in their lagoon! We ended up swimming with the dolphins which was a huge highlight for us, totally amazing. Our final full day in Cancun was our first wedding anniversary so we had booked a private day tour to Chichen Itza, a cenote (underground swimming hole) and Ek Balam. Both ruins were great, loved seeing Chichen Itza in person. But the cenote was the highlight, it was beautiful!! Photos do not do it justice at all.

Our hotel room

View from our room


Swimming with the dolphins


Cenote



Chichen Itza



We flew out of Cancun on the 18th of December, arriving into Orlando at about 1am. Checked into the Hilton at the airport and in the morning spent our last day at the Orlando Premium outlets doing Christmas shopping! That night we flew out, with a super tight stopover in LA (literally ran from one gate to the other, stupid plane was late) and another stop in Sydney, it was a long trip home, around 26 hours in transit. But totally worth it for such an amazing, unforgettable trip. Wish we could go back tomorrow!

If anyone has any questions about hotels, attractions, anything, ask away!

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far!
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Old 02-03-2013, 04:45 AM   #3
aussie shaz
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WOW! What a holiday. Thank you so much for doing a TR. I just love reading about other peoples holidays, even to places I'll probably never get to!

My son would love to get to a Lakers game. We were at Disneyland August 2011, and will be back in May this year, but it just never happens when the Lakers are playing.
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Old 02-03-2013, 04:50 AM   #4
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Fantastic pictures and what a great holiday!


How on earth did you get that picture of you and hubby in front of the pyramid at Chichen Itza without people in it? Did you beat the tour buses there?
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Old 02-03-2013, 04:55 AM   #5
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OMG, so happy to have read your trip report
The whole trip sounds amazing, you fitted so much in, all the must see things.
But even better to read your trip to cancun, we leave in three and half weeks for a trip to Mexico Guatemala and Belize, like your accommodation in Cuba I'm not expecting much in the way of hotels for our three week tour, but we also booked three nights in cancun at the end of our tour, it also coincides with our wedding anniversary.
What hotel in cancun did you stay at? We are staying at excellence playa mujeres, so looking forward to it after our three week basic tour.
Thanks so much for your trip report making me excited, Chichen Itza here I come
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Old 02-03-2013, 05:02 AM   #6
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Thanks Shaz! Was pretty cool seeing the game, we were just very lucky it worked out that one of the 3 nights we were in LA they were playing!!

Haha PrincessInOz, we did indeed beat the tour buses there! That was one of the benefits of our private tour, we left nice and early and got there when pratically noone else had arrived. A lovely older couple were the only others ones wandering around the pyramid on our side so we got them to take our picture (and therefore eliminated them from our photo haha!).

Your trip sounds fabulous gogo! Are you doing a tour? We stayed at Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa but the majority of the resorts all looked amazing so I'm sure you will absolutely love it.
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Old 02-03-2013, 05:49 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by mindy32 View Post
Thanks Shaz! Was pretty cool seeing the game, we were just very lucky it worked out that one of the 3 nights we were in LA they were playing!!

Haha PrincessInOz, we did indeed beat the tour buses there! That was one of the benefits of our private tour, we left nice and early and got there when pratically noone else had arrived. A lovely older couple were the only others ones wandering around the pyramid on our side so we got them to take our picture (and therefore eliminated them from our photo haha!).

Your trip sounds fabulous gogo! Are you doing a tour? We stayed at Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa but the majority of the resorts all looked amazing so I'm sure you will absolutely love it.
Hi mindy, I'm sure ill love cancun too
We are doing a tour with tucan tours, who did you do your Cuba tour with?
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Old 02-03-2013, 11:07 AM   #8
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I've only had time so far to quickly skim through your report and look at the photos, but I'll have to have a proper read tonight.

Your trip looks like it was amazing. I love the look of Cuba with it's cool old cars and beautiful old buildings.
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Old 02-03-2013, 02:30 PM   #9
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Oh this looks like such a fun TR to read! I too have only had time to skim it this morning (recognized POR which was our hotel too) but am really looking forward to reading it tonight!
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Old 02-03-2013, 05:22 PM   #10
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Fantastic TR Mindy32! It sounds like you had a blast and really saw a lot. Cuba looks like a lot of fun, another entry on my bucket list! Cancun, Chichen Itza, aaaah the memories. Looking at the cenote I'm sooo wishing we'd done that too. It just looks serene.

Thanks for dropping back in to share your adventures with us.
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Old 02-04-2013, 02:32 AM   #11
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Thanks everyone! We had an absolute ball.
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Old 02-09-2013, 04:53 PM   #12
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Loved reading your trip report-certainly lots of great experiences in your 6 weeks. Gogo6 I have a friend travelling around Belize, Gautemala, Cancun in Mexico right this minute-she has been posting some amazing photos and notes on FB. It wasn't on my radar before but it is rising up the list!!
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:21 PM   #13
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Loved reading your trip report-certainly lots of great experiences in your 6 weeks. Gogo6 I have a friend travelling around Belize, Gautemala, Cancun in Mexico right this minute-she has been posting some amazing photos and notes on FB. It wasn't on my radar before but it is rising up the list!!
Oh thanks so much for letting me know it is making me so much more excited. 19days to go
My problem at the moment is I have started planning my 2014 trip, so keep forgetting I'm going on a trip next month
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:39 PM   #14
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really nice to see the variation of cancun and cuba! thanks for posting these piccies.
to date my experience has only been the ride in the mexico pavillion with donald duck
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:43 PM   #15
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loved your TR, thank you for doing it.

we also found 5 nights in vegas too long for us! love hearing about your trip to Chichen Itza - it is on my list of 'must see' places
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