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Old 05-08-2010, 11:26 AM   #1
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Sans Friends - Animal Kingdom, Celebration and the journey home

Sunday, 16th November

Once more I’m awake at 5am. I read for a while and watch some news before putting on some coffee and waking Matt at 6am [Matt: “Remind me why exactly I am being woken a k-zillion hours before I need to be on the plane?”]. We’re packed and out of the door by 8:40am. We have to make a short stop at the Carriage House to pay for our one cash night (i.e. the one not free thanks to DVC points) and we’re on our way by 8:45am.

Checking in for our Virgin flight at Downtown Disney is a breeze. There’s quite a crowd in line, but a greeter asks if we’re flying either Upper Class or Premium Economy and we’re ushered to a point which will have us next in line. Another greeter deftly relieves us of the $10 per person fee whilst yet another takes one look at our teeny cases and tells us she doesn’t need to weigh them.

It’s pretty chilly here. A cold front has come in overnight and temperatures are predicted to drop from 83 yesterday to a high of 53 today. I’m sure the shade afforded by the canopy here next to Cirque du Soleil is welcome in hotter weather, but today all the staff are shivering in their coats and we can’t wait to get away. Still, it quite suits us as we’re clad in our “going home” gear. All the staff here are delightful. We’ve found in the past that the US Virgin staff can be a tad brusque, but not so today. Our exit seats are confirmed, so we’re pleased with that outcome and we’re driving away from DTD by 9:05am.

After much to-ing and fro-ing yesterday, we’ve finally settled on Animal Kingdom today. We manage to park close to the entrance and we’re through the turnstiles well before 9:30am. It’s still pretty brisk as we arrive, but the sun soon warms things up and it turns into a beautiful day.













We have no intention of doing anything more than strolling around and taking some photos. We head towards Africa as were foiled in our mission to spend some time there during the washout of an evening EMH earlier in the week. We make the impromptu decision to take a detour to Camp Minnie-Mickey which is all dressed up for the holidays, but we’re too early for the meet and greet trails which don't open until mid morning. We do come across a very lonely Pocahontas, so we stop to keep her company for a while. Matt fancies his chances and I look on pityingly as he gives it his best shot. I'm not sure which of them I pity more - Matt for his woefully inadequate attempts at flirting or poor Pocahontas whose gritted teeth are only barely discernible through her carefully practised, charming smile.







We’ve just missed the start of the first showing of Festival of the Lion King, so we head on out and resume our journey to Africa.









After getting all the photos we want here, we mosey on towards Asia. Even at 10am, an hour after park opening, the little areas down by the water with views across to the Tree of Life are dead.







Strolling on through Asia, we decide we’re not desperate to ride Expedition Everest, so pass on through. We do opt to branch off into Dinoland as the rain prevented us from doing so the other evening and, as the wait time for Dinosaur is just 10 minutes, our feet just seem to take us on in. It’s quite literally a walk on – straight through the pre-show video holding area without stopping, and on to the ride vehicles. Although we’ve ridden this many times, it’s a while since we last did so and I’d forgotten just how intense (read, scary!) it actually is. Even so, I still manage to force a cheesy grin for the photo op.













We complete our circuit of the park and it’s still only 11:30am. We decide there’s little point staying for the sake of it and consider our options. It’s a beautiful day and it seems wrong to spend it holed up inside when we’re going to be forced to spend 3 hours at the airport later and will be home to the UK winter in less than 24 hours. One by one we dismiss the park options and settle on a drive out to Celebration, exiting Animal Kingdom via the Rainforest Café gift shop. With one last wistful glance behind us, we're on our way.

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October 1992 ~ Enclave Suites, I-Drive May 1996 ~ Omni Rosen, I-Drive October 1998 ~ Villa-Clear Creek August 2000 ~ Beach Club/Villa-Sunset Lakes July 2001 ~ Animal Kingdom Lodge/Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns Christmas 2001 ~ Villa-Formosa Gardens October 2002 ~ Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns May 2003 ~ Portofino Bay/Villa-Cumbrian Lakes January 2004 ~ Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes/Villa-Formosa Gardens July 2004 ~ Grand Floridian/Portofino Bay/Villa-Formosa Gardens December 2004 ~ Villa-Rolling Hills/Disney Wonder Cruise/BoardWalk Grand Villa/Contemporary April 2005 ~ Washington DC, Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, Charleston, Savannah, Royal Pacific Resort/Villa-Acadia Estates January 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/Royal Pacific Resort April 2006 ~ Celebration Hotel/NCL Jewel Cruise/Hotel Victor, Miami/Beach Cottage-Disney's Vero Beach October 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/BoardWalk Villa/Rosen Shingle Creek August 2007 ~ Saratoga Springs//Reunion Grande January 2008 ~ Saratoga Springs/Beach Club Villas/Reunion Resort November 2008 ~ BoardWalk Villas/Royal Pacific Resort/Saratoga Springs March 2011 ~ Celebrity Cruise/Veness Towers, a stone's throw from the Magic Kingdom November 2012 ~ Bay Lake Tower/Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota/Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, Jupiter/Saratoga Springs September 2013 ~ Kidani Village/Saratoga Springs May 2014 ~ Beach Club Villas/Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek/Bay Lake Tower
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Old 05-08-2010, 11:27 AM   #2
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The wind has dropped and it really does feel pleasantly warm in the Florida sun. Arriving back at the car, the temperature gauge tells us it is indeed the predicted 53 degrees. It feels positively hot with the sun beating through the windscreen.

We take the short drive along Osceola Parkway and into Celebration. There’s a street market in full swing (which we later discover is a regular Sunday event) and the place is bustling with locals and tourists alike. We make an abortive attempt to get coffee at Starbucks – the line is snaking around the entire place and we’re not in the mood to wait. [Yes, you read that right – coffee. Not coffee liquor. Not even coffee infused with liquor. Just plain old coffee.] We stroll down one side of Market Street and back up the other, then take a look in the book store before crossing to the lake. We briefly consider taking the walking trail around the back of the lake, but opt instead to walk along the front past the Celebration Hotel and back to the car. It’s been a most acceptable hour or so.









On the way out of town, we make the decision to stop by the golf course for a nose around. The course is well maintained and more groomed than the natural Orange County National where Matt played yesterday. I prefer this type of course. The clubhouse bar is also more my kind of thing and I wish now that we’d elected for this instead. The pro shop, though is tiny in comparison. The entire place has more than a murmur (or should that be squeak?) of Disneyesque.







Despite having been through several itinerary drafts for today, neither of us was in any doubt where we wanted to end up prior to making our journey to the airport and we’re seated at our favourite spot at the bar in Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café by 1:30pm. (Points if you guessed it was a bar; straight to the top of the class and a sweet from the jar if you guessed it was TB’s.) Our server from our first visit last week, Bette, recognises us instantly. Upon learning that we're headed home, she makes a call to cancel the extra drinks order she'd placed earlier in the week.

Matt opts for one last margarita. During the course of the next couple of languid, bitter-sweet hours, I make my way through a Flip Flop Orange Drop (Grey Goose L'Orange vodka, Cointreau, fresh orange juice and “from scratch” sour mix rimmed with Li Hing Mui), a Millionaire’s Mai Tai (Cruzan Light rum, orgeat syrup, DeKuyper Orange Curacao, pineapple and lemon juices, topped with a dark rum float) and a Hav-an-a Key Lime (Stoli Vanil vodka, KeKe Beach liqueur and fresh lime shaken, strained and served chilled with a graham cracker rim).



I’ve been looking forward to a repeat of the filet mignon I had during the first of our two stops here last week, but sitting here now perusing the menu it dawns on me that it isn't one of the lunch offerings. Drat and double drat! We order appetisers – the Cooper Island Crab Bisque (Lump crab meat, butter, sherry & cream) and the Loki-Loki Tuna Poke (Fresh Ahi Napoleon, guacamole, soy & sesame oil with island flatbread). I guess you’d describe the latter as a dip, but it puts me in mind of tuna sandwich filling. It’s made with fresh tuna, though, and is very tasty with a hickory smoke tinge. As we’re in no hurry, we wait to order entrees, both eventually settling for one last burger. We’d both fully intended to sample one of the delicious-sounding desserts, but we’re way too full and reluctantly find ourselves having to admit that the holiday is finally over and that it just may be time to wend our way to the airport.
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October 1992 ~ Enclave Suites, I-Drive May 1996 ~ Omni Rosen, I-Drive October 1998 ~ Villa-Clear Creek August 2000 ~ Beach Club/Villa-Sunset Lakes July 2001 ~ Animal Kingdom Lodge/Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns Christmas 2001 ~ Villa-Formosa Gardens October 2002 ~ Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns May 2003 ~ Portofino Bay/Villa-Cumbrian Lakes January 2004 ~ Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes/Villa-Formosa Gardens July 2004 ~ Grand Floridian/Portofino Bay/Villa-Formosa Gardens December 2004 ~ Villa-Rolling Hills/Disney Wonder Cruise/BoardWalk Grand Villa/Contemporary April 2005 ~ Washington DC, Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, Charleston, Savannah, Royal Pacific Resort/Villa-Acadia Estates January 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/Royal Pacific Resort April 2006 ~ Celebration Hotel/NCL Jewel Cruise/Hotel Victor, Miami/Beach Cottage-Disney's Vero Beach October 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/BoardWalk Villa/Rosen Shingle Creek August 2007 ~ Saratoga Springs//Reunion Grande January 2008 ~ Saratoga Springs/Beach Club Villas/Reunion Resort November 2008 ~ BoardWalk Villas/Royal Pacific Resort/Saratoga Springs March 2011 ~ Celebrity Cruise/Veness Towers, a stone's throw from the Magic Kingdom November 2012 ~ Bay Lake Tower/Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota/Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, Jupiter/Saratoga Springs September 2013 ~ Kidani Village/Saratoga Springs May 2014 ~ Beach Club Villas/Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek/Bay Lake Tower
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Old 05-08-2010, 11:27 AM   #3
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As we pull into the car rental return, we’re momentarily horrified to find ourselves at the back of one of three lines the length of the garage, but it isn’t long before we’re being attended to. Being able to saunter into the airport and up to the lobby of the Hyatt without having to struggle with bags makes the small diversion to Downtown Disney this morning worth the effort. We settle ourselves into some comfortable sofas in front of a huge screen to while away the couple of hours until boarding. Matt watches some NFL whilst I catch up with the last day’s trip notes, all the while having drinks brought to us by a very amiable server from McCoy's Bar and Grill which is tucked away in the corner. To be frank, we’d have been happy with Victor Meldrew as long as he kept bringing drinks.

[As we didn't take any photos here, I'd intended to include some library shots, but I haven't been able to find anything worth posting.]

At twenty past six we hop on the escalator down to security immediately below us. Unlike 2 hours earlier when we passed this way, there are no lines at all. This is one of the benefits of the later Virgin flight, which on this occasion is 1950. [I ponder whether two hours of drinking has made us 58 years late for our flight, but find the colon key in the nick of time – that would be 19:50 then, Deb.] We mosey around Duty Free and a couple of the shops airside, but don’t buy anything. By the time we arrive at the gate, boarding is well underway and we walk straight on. It seems we just about have time to settle ourselves and check out the in-flight entertainment options before the ground staff is being asked to leave. We push back 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

Unusually, there are a fair few films which pique my interest and we both start with Love Guru. It didn’t receive rave reviews at the cinema, but we’re both chortling along all the way through – typical Mike Myers in a different costume, but funny nonetheless. Dinner is served part way through the film, but one mouthful and I’m feeling nauseous. For some reason, I can never stomach food on the return journey – a throwback to the times when my fear of flying was nothing short of sheer terror, maybe. Or perhaps it's something far more simple. Such as half a dozen cocktails, for example. I fall asleep about 5 minutes before the end of the film only to be awoken by the combined attempts of Matt and the stewardess to extract my uneaten dinner.

I’m really tired and decide to settle down. Our route this evening is a very northerly one, taking us directly up the Eastern Seeboard before heading out across the Atlantic. On the outbound journey we didn’t cross land until we hit the Florida coast. It’s all been plain sailing until now, but as we head out into the Atlantic (around 2.5 hours into the flight) things start to get bumpy. We’re cruising at an altitude of 36,000 feet and it gets progressively worse. At one point, we do ascend to 38,000 feet, but it doesn’t make a scrap of difference. I nod off every time there’s a smooth spell, only to be repeatedly woken by the turbulence. Had it been smooth going, I think I would have slept reasonably well – I can sometimes sleep through the gentle bobbing up and down – but the side to side buffeting and sudden dipping still make me nervous. But, back to the flight…

The seat belt signs are on for a good four hours. The turbulence settles and the captain switches them off just as the cabin lights are switched on for the cabin crew to start serving breakfast. It’s a choice of filled muffin or bagel, juice and a granola bar. I’m still not feeling like eating and both options contain egg which rules them out for Matt (something about a nasty experience at play group…)

We land at Gatwick 10 minutes ahead of schedule at around 8:30am, although it feels as though we must be well into Kent before we reach our gate. We’re amongst the first half dozen off the plane and, as with the outward journey, we walk into an empty immigration hall with officers lined up waiting for us. We’re first at the baggage carousel, but our luggage doesn’t come off first as it’s supposed to. The holdall we’d taken out inside one of the cases comes off reasonably quickly, but we have to wait over half an hour for our other two cases. This one carousel is soon completely mobbed by the entire inventory of our flight with everyone jostling for a place and we’re both repeatedly assaulted by people from behind hurling themselves at us as they attempt to retrieve their cases. This has happened to us at Gatwick on previous occasions – not always, but often enough for us to believe that the baggage handlers couldn’t care less about getting UC and PE bags off as priority. As this is one of the benefits for which you pay extra, I really think Virgin should get a commitment from Gatwick. We’re repeatedly bombarded with the announcement that “only carousels 4, 5 and 6 are operational”. YES, WE CAN SEE THAT! The others are all needlessly idle. It would be so simple to have the UC and PE bags on a separate carousel as they do at MCO.

Battered and bruised, we make our way to the courtesy bus for Park Plus and… another wait. It seems we’ve just missed one, so we resign ourselves to a 10 minute wait for the next. By the time it turns up, we’ve been joined by around another 40 passengers. As we’re first in line and, thus, first on, it occurs to me that we could find ourselves last off and last in line at the counter. In no mood to hang around any longer, I suggest that Matt gets straight off and leaves me to deal with the bags. I needn’t have worried, though, as there are 4 servers at the other end who quickly and efficiently dispatch everyone ready for the next busload.

We’re driving away from the airport shortly before 10am with the prospect of a two and a half hour drive ahead of us. This is quite possibly the worst part of the whole affair, but having tried various alternatives over the years, this still works best for us. We make an unprecedented stop at Chievely Services for a coffee and to pick up some provisions from the M&S Express there and are soon on our way again, eventually arriving home at around 12:30.

*****

So how have we found this rare trip sans friends? Well, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed two weeks of having no-one to please but ourselves. Without question we’ve missed the camaraderie and outright laughs which come from travelling with companions, but there’s no doubt that it’s been a far more relaxing trip than we’ve experienced in a long time. For some time we've been in the fortunate position of being able to take multiple holidays each year - this has been our third in 2008. With our financial situation having taken a backwards step, we've been very mindful that this is likely to be our last trip for a while and we've savoured every moment. It really has been blissful with barely a cross word between us. It hasn’t been better, but it has been a nice change.

ETA: I forgot to mention that travelling without friends has allowed me to commit to a trip report for the first time ever. There's no pressure to be anywhere at a pre-determined time. If we wake late, we simply leave later or change our plans altogether. If we arrive back at the room after a hectic day and don't feel like going out again, we can do that without inconveniencing anyone else. Previous attempts at writing up trip notes have invariably seen me behind by the third day with no hope of catching up. With no trip to look forward to, writing up the report has been a huge blessing, too. Although it's taken me a lot longer than I'd imagined, I've thoroughly enjoyed re-living the trip along the way and it's wonderful to have a permanent record.
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October 1992 ~ Enclave Suites, I-Drive May 1996 ~ Omni Rosen, I-Drive October 1998 ~ Villa-Clear Creek August 2000 ~ Beach Club/Villa-Sunset Lakes July 2001 ~ Animal Kingdom Lodge/Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns Christmas 2001 ~ Villa-Formosa Gardens October 2002 ~ Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns May 2003 ~ Portofino Bay/Villa-Cumbrian Lakes January 2004 ~ Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes/Villa-Formosa Gardens July 2004 ~ Grand Floridian/Portofino Bay/Villa-Formosa Gardens December 2004 ~ Villa-Rolling Hills/Disney Wonder Cruise/BoardWalk Grand Villa/Contemporary April 2005 ~ Washington DC, Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, Charleston, Savannah, Royal Pacific Resort/Villa-Acadia Estates January 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/Royal Pacific Resort April 2006 ~ Celebration Hotel/NCL Jewel Cruise/Hotel Victor, Miami/Beach Cottage-Disney's Vero Beach October 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/BoardWalk Villa/Rosen Shingle Creek August 2007 ~ Saratoga Springs//Reunion Grande January 2008 ~ Saratoga Springs/Beach Club Villas/Reunion Resort November 2008 ~ BoardWalk Villas/Royal Pacific Resort/Saratoga Springs March 2011 ~ Celebrity Cruise/Veness Towers, a stone's throw from the Magic Kingdom November 2012 ~ Bay Lake Tower/Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota/Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, Jupiter/Saratoga Springs September 2013 ~ Kidani Village/Saratoga Springs May 2014 ~ Beach Club Villas/Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek/Bay Lake Tower

Last edited by UKDEB; 05-09-2010 at 05:33 AM.
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Old 05-08-2010, 11:30 AM   #4
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how can i get to see the full trip report please, i cant seem to find it.
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Old 05-08-2010, 11:53 AM   #5
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Well, the trip was 18 months ago, Phil - I've been compiling the report ever since!

I'll put an index together.
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October 1992 ~ Enclave Suites, I-Drive May 1996 ~ Omni Rosen, I-Drive October 1998 ~ Villa-Clear Creek August 2000 ~ Beach Club/Villa-Sunset Lakes July 2001 ~ Animal Kingdom Lodge/Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns Christmas 2001 ~ Villa-Formosa Gardens October 2002 ~ Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns May 2003 ~ Portofino Bay/Villa-Cumbrian Lakes January 2004 ~ Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes/Villa-Formosa Gardens July 2004 ~ Grand Floridian/Portofino Bay/Villa-Formosa Gardens December 2004 ~ Villa-Rolling Hills/Disney Wonder Cruise/BoardWalk Grand Villa/Contemporary April 2005 ~ Washington DC, Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, Charleston, Savannah, Royal Pacific Resort/Villa-Acadia Estates January 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/Royal Pacific Resort April 2006 ~ Celebration Hotel/NCL Jewel Cruise/Hotel Victor, Miami/Beach Cottage-Disney's Vero Beach October 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/BoardWalk Villa/Rosen Shingle Creek August 2007 ~ Saratoga Springs//Reunion Grande January 2008 ~ Saratoga Springs/Beach Club Villas/Reunion Resort November 2008 ~ BoardWalk Villas/Royal Pacific Resort/Saratoga Springs March 2011 ~ Celebrity Cruise/Veness Towers, a stone's throw from the Magic Kingdom November 2012 ~ Bay Lake Tower/Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota/Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, Jupiter/Saratoga Springs September 2013 ~ Kidani Village/Saratoga Springs May 2014 ~ Beach Club Villas/Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek/Bay Lake Tower
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Old 05-08-2010, 12:01 PM   #6
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yeah i thought that,but i cant seem to find your other days, i always enjoy your reports as my kids are a getting older now so looking at your reports give me good ideas for me and the wife when we go on our own for the first time,we are looking forward to being able to have a drink on the evenings and staying out at city walk etc.
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Old 05-08-2010, 02:29 PM   #7
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Great report Deb, I've thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
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Old 05-09-2010, 02:09 AM   #8
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Deb, love the photos, esp of you and Matt as you both look so happy. I've never seen much of Celebration, except the hospital, so your photos have made me plan a visit when I'm next in Disney.

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Old 05-09-2010, 03:45 AM   #9
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great report lovely pics
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Old 05-09-2010, 05:07 AM   #10
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Index to full report, as promised.
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October 1992 ~ Enclave Suites, I-Drive May 1996 ~ Omni Rosen, I-Drive October 1998 ~ Villa-Clear Creek August 2000 ~ Beach Club/Villa-Sunset Lakes July 2001 ~ Animal Kingdom Lodge/Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns Christmas 2001 ~ Villa-Formosa Gardens October 2002 ~ Hard Rock Hotel/Villa-Formosa Gdns May 2003 ~ Portofino Bay/Villa-Cumbrian Lakes January 2004 ~ Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes/Villa-Formosa Gardens July 2004 ~ Grand Floridian/Portofino Bay/Villa-Formosa Gardens December 2004 ~ Villa-Rolling Hills/Disney Wonder Cruise/BoardWalk Grand Villa/Contemporary April 2005 ~ Washington DC, Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, Charleston, Savannah, Royal Pacific Resort/Villa-Acadia Estates January 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/Royal Pacific Resort April 2006 ~ Celebration Hotel/NCL Jewel Cruise/Hotel Victor, Miami/Beach Cottage-Disney's Vero Beach October 2006 ~ Reunion Resort/BoardWalk Villa/Rosen Shingle Creek August 2007 ~ Saratoga Springs//Reunion Grande January 2008 ~ Saratoga Springs/Beach Club Villas/Reunion Resort November 2008 ~ BoardWalk Villas/Royal Pacific Resort/Saratoga Springs March 2011 ~ Celebrity Cruise/Veness Towers, a stone's throw from the Magic Kingdom November 2012 ~ Bay Lake Tower/Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota/Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, Jupiter/Saratoga Springs September 2013 ~ Kidani Village/Saratoga Springs May 2014 ~ Beach Club Villas/Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek/Bay Lake Tower
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Old 05-09-2010, 07:36 AM   #11
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Thanks for sharing your trip report Deb, it's been a great read and your photos have been fab too
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Old 05-09-2010, 10:50 AM   #12
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BRAVA, DEBBIE! You've produced a final installment as well written and thorough as the rest of your report.

You just thought this trip was taken "sans friends" but have to tell you that a great many of us have been tagging along with you as we read your report.

A special thanks for your choice to post installments with months in between, a clever way to extend the enjoyment. Hugs, Susan
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Old 05-09-2010, 02:41 PM   #13
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A wonderful report Deb, reading it made me feel like I was there...

...and I can now remember what I drank on any given evening, which is a novelty
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Old 05-10-2010, 06:38 AM   #14
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So glad you finished Deb - it was worth the wait and there are some beautiful photos on here.

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Old 05-10-2010, 08:08 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UKDEB View Post
Index to full report, as promised.
I was just going to ask for this. Manage to read 3 days when there have been linked to other posts. Thanks for doing it.
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