A bit of background.... Every year the Bubba family visits Florida....we spend time with family and stay onsite at Universal. This year, DH & I decided to add a 4 night Disney Cruise to our annual trip to celebrate our October wedding anniversary (a bit early). 4 nights on the Wonder and Double Dippin' at Castaway Cay.... ....a split stay at the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal, and a week at my FILs..... This is our story........ The night before - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 This is where our vacation begins. DH worked a normal day, Bubba went to the movies to see KungFu Panda with his daycamp and I had the day off. I was finishing up some laundry and packing throughout the day...a "quiet" day to myself...for the most part. I was having a mid-afternoon shower and it hit me...I totally forgot to check us in online with Southwest! Crap! So, I rushed through the rest of my shower and checked us in online.... We got "B" passes Oh well...we'll make due....plane is going to the same place whether you're in the front of it or in the back of it, right? By the time DH got home from work (4:40pm), we had some dinner, packed up the car and we were ready to leave. We did need to make one tiny, little stop along the way however...we had to pick up my Mom. Mom was coming along this year. Mom has not been to Florida in 20+ years and has never been to Universal. We arrived at Mom's and realized..."uh-oh".... trunk was full and Mom has 2 bags. Hey Mom! How do ya feel about riding on the roof? Somehow, DH managed to squeeze her one bag in the trunk of my Honda Civic and she put her smaller one in the backseat with her. We soon realized that this could be a problem at the rental car place at Port Canaveral, as we only rented an economy size car! Whoops! (This is what we normally rent, because we are a family of 3 people and usually we have plenty of room in an economy size car) ....guess I dropped the ball on that one... We left Mom's and were on our way to the Sheraton Four Points hotel at the Philadelphia airport. DH wanted to get there around 8 because they are paving the Schuylkill Expy which is THE main road to Philly besides the turnpike. He didn't want to get caught up in traffic and I didn't blame him. We arrived at the hotel and DH grabbed one of those luggage carts. We loaded all our bags on it, wheeled into the hotel and I checked us in at about 8:30pm. I was a little ticked that our Park 'n Fly package only included 10 nights of parking, not the 14 that I thought...but, we were only charged an extra $30, and for the airport area, that's a deal! Putting that behind me, we headed upstairs to our room. I figured we'd need that same luggage cart in the morning, so we decided to just kept it in our room. The hotel wasn't busy, it was later in the evening and we were checking out first thing in the morning...and I mean EARLY! For Heaven sakes, I put in a request for 4:15am wakeup call....I know, I know...call me crazy! We got settled and I called my Homie Tracie because we were supposed to meet at the hotel that night. I was confused when I got her voicemail, but left my info anyway. I didn't hear from her, (who, I would later find out, was sick and sleeping) and I was a bit worried and bummed.... but, oh well....time to start getting ready to go to sleep. I NEVER sleep well the night before our flight....I think it's a subconscious thing about running late and missing the plane... About midnight some moron in the parking lot, just below our window, couldn't seem to figure out how to turn his car alarm off...... After a couple minutes, Einstein finally figured it out. I did manage to catch some zzzz's....but, as usual, never enough. Day 1 - Thursday, June 26, 2008 This brings us to FLY DAY! 7:10am Southwest nonstop from PHL to MCO. We were all up about 4:15am and started getting ready. This is the boring part of the trippie, because this morning was uneventful. We were downstairs, caught the shuttle and at our gate by 6am....normal for us. I always bring breakfast with us (danish and donuts) and Mom & I went to Burger King to score some milk....since we were departing (for the first time) out of "D" terminal??? I think the new boarding system is wonderful (when most people adhere to it! ) Even though we were "B" boarding passes, we were just half-way back in the plane. Mom sat across the aisle from us and Bubba took his usual spot next to the window, with me in the middle. We took off and Bubba and I cracked open my laptop and watched The Chipmunks movie. It was a very cute movie....and, as always, it passed the time extremely quickly. It was a very uneventful flight and we even arrived in Orlando 20 minutes ahead of schedule! We made our usual 'stop' in the terminal before heading to baggage claim. We were pleased to spot our driver there waiting for us. We all headed over to our carousel and he helped us with our bags. We had a scheduled grocery stop on the way to the Portofino Bay Hotel and we discussed our wanting to purchase 'warm' beer. He asked us 'why' we wanted it warm and we told him our plan was to take it on the cruise in a few days and we didn't want to have to worry about keeping it cold until then. He said he wanted to know why, because he wanted to know which Publix to stop at.... (apparently only some of them sell it warm?) He took us to a new Publix...the ONLY store open in the entire (new) stripmall. They had warm beer, but not OUR brand ....dang. After about 20 mintues of grabbing some ice, milk, juice, chips, bagels, cream cheese, cold beer and warm wine, we headed back outside and our driver seemed confused why we had ice and no warm beer. Told him our brand wasn't there. He then offered to stop and pick up some warm beer for us for when he returned to the Portofino to pick us up for our cruise in a few days. We gave him $20 and trusted he'd keep his word. We arrived at the PBH and checked in just before 11am. We had a Portofino Suite, but only the parlor was ready...not our king bedroom. We decided to take the luggage up to the parlor and then head to the parks. We were in the West Wing (which, I recommend if you want to be close to the boat dock) in rooms 3452 (parlor) and 3454 (king bedroom). Pictures of the parlor: 1, 2, 3, minibar, 4 and the pullout bed, (which, Mom said was comfortable). Let me show you the bathroom area, Keurig coffemaker by frontdoor...(close up of the Keurig), parlor bathroom.... complete with bathrobes, a phone and the shower. We had the Beach Pool view from our suite. Pic 1, , Pic 2, Pic 3, and Pic 4. We emptied the rest of our ice into our cooler, along with some water and a few beers .... and headed to Sal's for lunch. View 1 from elevator lobby. View 2. A picture from a distance along the way. I didn't realize until the last day, that Sal's is right next door to Mama Della's. Duh! Place your order at the counter, and find a seat. They'll bring your pizza to you. And...it IS VERY GOOD! Pic 1 and Pic 2 Tummies full...what do you think our next plan was? Yep...SIMPSONS!! Bice & Thirsty Fish on the way to the boat to the Studios. We had to stop at Electronic Ticketing outside the Studios to pick up Mom's AP. I swiped the credit card I used to purchase it online and viola! there it was in my hand. We were ready to head to the entrance! A note: If you are doing Electronic PickUp, there are 3 windows at each kiosk. If there is a line, find another window or kiosk. So, we headed for the Studios, having our picture taken upon entry. (Last year Lucy was there waiting for ME...this year it was Marilyn...) Simpsons were also out for photo op, but nobody wanted to wait in line for a picture...so, I shot a couple of my own pictures. The Madagascar crew moved their meet and greet to Hollywood Blvd and I believe a car used to be in front of this Hollywood sign....people seemed to get their picture taken in front of it...? The Simpsons Ride was excellent!! INFO Booth and the Refreshment Stand and Willie's Milkbottle Game. I think they did a great job of pulling it all together for an attraction. However, if you are unlucky enough to get the top tier, you won't have the story behind the ride and what's going on. (Not that you really NEED it...but, it is nice.) I don't think it is as rough as BTTF was, but it is a bit jerky. My Mom has a bad back, and she would only ride sporatically. The TMs were telling the tall people to sit in the front row...but, we never listened to them..we put the kids in the front as the adults were fine in the back. I can see the ride becoming rough down the road though...just like BTTF did. After 2 spins on the Simpsons, we headed to MIB. (Picture for Tricia). We scored fairly well for the first time in a year, carrying our car to winning the suit...as usual. I think we took 2 spins on MIB before proceeding to Jaws. For some reason, my son does not like Jaws. I think because he thinks it's 'lame' (he's a coaster freak), but I explained it's like a "show" and you have to get "into" it. Since he didn't want to go, I went with my Mom. I was VERY glad the chum bucket wasn't very full...since we were in the last row!! After the ride, I retrieved my boys, and we then decided to see the new Disaster! show. Last we were there, it was Earthquake! and let me tell you...I really like Disaster! much better!! The technology was awesome and the 'volunteers' each time really make the end of the ride funny! It's a sort of "different" show each time. Before the attraction was Disaster!, we could do Earthquake! one time per trip....this time, we did it 3 times out of the 6.5 days we were there. After Disaster!, we headed toward Mummy. Bubba did not want to ride (yet another one I can't figure out?), so we left him with Mom. We entered the EP line and walked and walked and walked... right up the steps to the loading area. The only time we stopped walking was for the TM to tell us which line to go in. At the beginning, the Mummy wasn't popping out of the coffin....and the ride stopped quite a bit. Takes away from the ride, but I thought that was the revenge for literally walking onto the ride. After we finished, we decided to sneak in another ride...being there was NO line the first time through. We ran out of the gift shop and back through the express line. We did encounter a small line this time...but then the ride also didn't stop as much either. After our second ride through, we found Mom sitting on a bench outside Finnegans. She was having a conversation with a lady on the bench and she was waiting for her family...for an hour now. (They did NOT have express.) Mom said we were gone 25 minutes. Then I told the lady she was sitting with that we rode TWICE! She just shook her head and then I explained the express to her. Don't know if they were offsite or day guests from a Disney resort or what, but the look on her face was priceless! We noticed the Blues Brother's show was starting, so DH went into Finnegans to grab a beer, and I got a cup of ice for the boy (to pour the rest of his water in). I decided to call my homie Alison. They were in the front of the park walking my way. I told her I was on the corner outside Finnegans watching the Blues Brother's show. We exchanged what we were wearing so we could find each other. Not even 10 minutes later, she was standing in front of me! We chatted and took some pictures, with the husbands and then with the boys..... ...and then, the rain started. They "called" the Blues Brothers show on account of the weather and we decided to head to the Mummy to ride together....(again, Bubba staying behind with Mom.) We got front seat on the Mummy, and God Bless Alison, she pointed out the King Kong tribute to me. Honestly, I doubt I would have ever seen it without her pointing it out..... ya know...that "blonde" thing..... It was still raining when we finished, so we decided to do Twister (since we hadn't done that yet). She said to me, "You know....you get a bit wet in Twister too." Told her..."Nah...just be sure to get the last row and stand all the way back...the wet will be in front of you." We did just that and stayed dry. However, it was still raining, rather hard, on our way out of Twister. We had really wanted a picture in the Monster's Cafe chair, but not in the rain. They decided to head back to PBH to grab wet shoes and clothes and head to IOA. Our crew decided to keep going around the park....Jimmy Neutron was up next. Here is where I made my second mistake of the trip (and I'm only on Day 2 of 17!) and our family now has a new rule because of it. I have about a dozen dollar store ponchos I take with me every year to the parks....and every year, I don't even open 1. Well, guess what I forgot to bring with me this year?? Yep...freakin' ponchos. So, as a result of being caught in the rain many times this trip (without our ponchos), the new family rule is: unless we are wearing 'wet' clothes, ponchos are to be brought to the park...even if chance of rain is 20%! So, we run through the raindrops to Jimmy Neutron. We didn't wait long and got in the next show. Mom enjoyed the show, but declared it was 'rougher' than Simpsons. Whatever... It was still raining when JN was over, so we ran across the street to Shrek...and we managed to get in the next show. Score. It was still raining after Shrek and didn't seem to be letting up at all. We decided to buy 2 ponchos (which killed us) and hold them over our heads. DH & DS under one, me & Mom under the other. We had come full circle around the park and we were all getting hungry, so we decided to try Pastamore at CityWalk for dinner. Now...here is as good a spot as any to mention that, for some reason, my Mom could NOT get "City" Walk down. She kept calling it RiverWalk, StreetWalk and even WalkWalk....kept correcting her till she got it right. Surprisingly, we walked in to Pastamore and were seated right away. Even the take-out counter didn't look busy. Guess the rain sent everyone back to their hotel rooms?? Oh, and being wet, it was cold in Pastamore! It wasn't very busy inside..there were a lot of empty tables. We placed our drink order and shortly thereafter, our dinner order. We got our drinks, breadand DH's soup. Pastamore Menu: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Kids Menu: 1, 2, 3and 4. I'm sure you can probably guess what Bubba got.... It seemed to take a really long time to get our food...especially since there were a LOT of empty tables!?? Finally, after what seemed to be a half an hour, our food arrived. And, then we sent it back...it was all cold! Now, we're pretty ticked, because we didn't order anything extravagant or complicated, just basic meals AND they weren't busy. They brought out DH's first (because he sent his back first). Then, the chef himself brought out a new plate for my Mom and I (we ordered the same thing). He apologized (as did our server) and mentioned something about being swamped... uh...okay? My son had a cheeseburger, we had the cheese ravoli and my DH had the fettuccine alfredo. Since they were now warmer, not hot, warmer, they were very good...and my son had tried my ravoli and loved it...matter of fact, I think he at almost half of what I had! We had asked for separate checks (Mom was paying her own way), but we didn't get them. We paid the bill, which was reasonable for what we got and headed to the boat back to PBH...since it was still raining. We sat in the first seats that face each other on the boat. To my amazement, Alison and her family sat down beside us! She told me they never made it back to the hotel and IOA, but had dinner at Margaritaville instead...and had a couple a margaritas! We arrived back to the Portofino and since we were in the West Wing (right at the boat dock), I told her to come up and check out our room. I knew what our parlor looked like, but I didn't get the call on my cell that our bedroom wasn't ready until we were on Disaster! earlier in the afternoon. They came up and checked out our suite. Pic 1,Pic 2 and Pic 3. Our rollaway wasn't there, so I knew I had to call about getting that when we got back. And, we had our welcome gifts and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries for our anniversary....(waaaay early!) That I was NOT expecting, but my husband sure did enjoy them! (I don't care for strawberries). We had a tub/shower and double sink. A storage tower was also in the bathroom. I swear, I coulda set the rollaway up in that bathroom! I had to walk about 4 normal size steps/paces from the door till I reached the toliet...LOTS of clearance there! We also had the coffeemaker at the front door. Then...I wanted to see Alison's deluxe room, so we left Mom and the 3 of us headed to Alison's room in the Villa Wing (their last night there). Their room was great!! They had plenty of room! My son and her son enjoyed crawling through the window over the tub to the bed...until they got yelled at Then, they proceeded to engage in a pillow fight...they really had a lot of fun together! ...while....Alison, her DH, my DH and I sat around and talked, laughed and caught up on chitchat. We were probably there about an hour and we decided it was time to go (we were up at 4:15 that morning..remember?) We said our goodbyes and headed "home" where Mom said they knocked asking if we wanted turndown service and she mentioned we were supposed to have a rollaway bed. She said they had just delivered it before we got back. This is where we set the rollaway up. We moved the chair out of the way, to put the rollaway in the corner. Pic of rollaway...after being slept in! That would end our first day...it's usually a long day because of getting up early in the morning to fly...but, being excited to finally be on vacation takes over the tiredness....until bedtime. We all slept very well that night....especially us, in our king bed.