1. Follow the DIS on Instagram! www.instagram.com/the.dis

We'll have joy, we'll have fun, we'll have Christmas in the sun...TR Complete!

Discussion in 'Orlando Hotels and Attractions' started by Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. dancin Disney style

    dancin Disney style <font color=blue>I found one to share with some fa

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,411
    I'm totally glued to this report and can't wait to read more. We have decided that we will no longer stay at home for Christmas in order to avoid all the drama......there is almost always an arguement with my mom in the week right before. The kids are thrilled with the idea of going away and for the last week we have been batting around different ideas on where and what we will do. There has been a LOT of Florida talk. I think that with our work schedules FL is the best choice.....we will both be working on the 24th so there are just more options for getting to our destination that night. We visit WDW yearly (sometimes twice) but we decided this past summer that it's time for a break. I'm already missing FL so perhaps taking an Orlando trip that has nothing to do with WDW would be a happy medium. We haven't been to SW in about 20yrs. The Marriot looks really nice and would suit our needs perfectly.....I'll be looking into it shortly. :banana:
     
  2. Avatar

    Google AdSense Guest Advertisement


    to hide this advert.
  3. kirstenb1

    kirstenb1 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Messages:
    3,247
    Gina, I always enjoy your trip reports!! I'm so sorry you all got sick; I've had that happen one time in Orlando, and it was awful!! The silver lining was at least dh and dd's managed to avoid it.

    I can't believe how unbusy Aquatica was----good for you!!! We always go in the summer because of school, and we haven't tried it yet. We love Sea World, so am enjoying your photos.
     
  4. greenclan67

    greenclan67 Callie35

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2008
    Messages:
    1,646
    I am still reading this above comment wondering if it was me that wrote it! Those words have been uttered out of our mouths since Christmas Eve and I think this year we are sticking to it. Cause I can't handle the arguments, the fussing, the work, and my kids are old enough now as well.They will still get a few presents but that would be about it!
     
  5. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    The park was gorgeous....really, really pretty. And at night, it was breathtaking. I can't describe how lovely it looked when the lights all came on.

    This year, the Christmas Celebration dates were November 17th to December 31. They should have their decorations up by mid-November......hopefully the timing will be right and you will be able to see them all when you visit!

    I am so with you :thumbsup2 . I cannot STAND the drama of the holiday season. I have a sister and a couple of inlaws that always cause trouble, which is why we were so supportive of Jake's idea to get the heck out of town for Christmas.

    I think you will find a SW trip would be sooooooo affordable in comparison to Disney, too, allowing you to add in some extra special activities (like Discovery Cove.......if you have never been there before, it would be a FABULOUS addition to a SW trip!). Our vacation package was a steal. 7 nights at the Residence Inn in a one bedroom suite, free buffet breakfast daily, free Quick Queue passes for SW, free park transportation, length of stay passes to both SeaWorld and Aquatica for all three of us, and free all day dining for all three of us for one day each at SW and Aquatica, including all taxes, was only $1330.

    Thank you!! Glad to have you reading along!

    Aquatica is a great waterpark, so very much fun! :banana: If you get a chance to give it a try when you there during the summer months, I definitely recommend you do! Roa's Rapids is worth the visit alone :hyper: .

    Well ladies, you have made me feel better about my dysfunctional extended family situation. lol, here I thought I was the only one with relatives that make me want to scream!

    We did get Jake a few gifts to go along with the trip....I let him pick out a selection of stuff (with Santa setting the budget amount ;)) from his favourite sports store and we ordered it all online, shipped to the Buffalo airport hotel. We picked up his parcel when we picked up our vehicle after returning home. We saved a bundle on shipping by having it sent to an American address, which meant Santa was able to spend more on the order and less on the delivery costs :thumbsup2 . Jake was more thrilled to pick out his own stuff than if I tried to surprise him. ::yes::
     
  6. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    Where did we leave off? Oh, right. The snow globe photos!

    By now, you all know that I have a "thing" for pictures. In particular, I love those corny, unique, one-of-a-kind photo opportunities that make for vacation memories that make you smile long after the luggage is unpacked. Thankfully, the boys are pretty easy to get along with, and are willing to indulge my addiction............so you can imagine my excitement when I learned about the SeaWorld snow globe photos. Let's just say it ranked right up there with the Polar Express on my Christmas to-do list!

    There were two different locations in the park that took pictures inside a snow globe. One was by the waterfront, the other was near Shamu's Happy Harbour.

    [​IMG]

    Fortunately, we had the pictures taken at both locations, because when we went to have the CD made at the end of the day, only the ones by Happy Harbour could be added to the CD (the others were available as prints only from the kiosk at the Waterfront). No worries though, because both sets of photos turned out well, and we really didn't need both. Here are a couple of my favourites from the dozen that they took:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When we stopped for a quick lunch at Mango Joe's, this festive group came strolling along and broke out into an impromptu performance:

    [​IMG]

    They were awesome and had the whole crowd singing and dancing along!

    To indulge my friends who want to see more pictures of the decorations around the park, here are an assortment of the various photos showcasing some of the Christmas adornments:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I can only imagine how long it takes park staff to transform the park into a winter wonderland. I totally want that as my job!
     
  7. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    Over the course of the day, we really did take it easy and enjoy the park at a leisurely pace. We ate and snacked to our hearts content on the dining plan, enjoying just what we wanted, when we wanted. By afternoon, the crowds had increased enough that it was a little longer to get through the line, but we always managed a seat in whatever restaurant we were in at the time. Each location offered a festive special or two in addition to their regular menu items. At the Seafire Inn, for example, I had a breadbowl stuffed with sliced turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy......very yummy.

    We did Turtle Trek for the first time (it is new since our last visit) and thought it was awesome:

    [​IMG]

    Rockin' the 3D glasses:

    [​IMG]

    We rode the Skytower late in the afternoon, but not without a little friction.

    [​IMG]

    We went to enter the Quick Queue line when the regular line had a 60 minute wait time listed :scared1: and a lady near the front (who probably had been waiting for nearly an hour) very loudly informed me that THE BACK OF THE LINE WAS THAT WAY!!!!!!!! I thanked her for her input, and showed her that we had Quick Queue bands and proceeded to make our way to the front of the QQ line. She shot daggers at us with her eyes as a SW staffer takes us right in, past all those poor folks waiting in that unbelievably long regular queue. I guess she did not know that any guest can purchase Quick Queue at the park :confused3 . Ah well, we left her behind for these great views:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The boys rode Kraken:

    [​IMG]

    Look Mom, still no crowds! (well, not huge ones, anyway)

    [​IMG]

    We rode the Sea Carousel.........and it was darn near deserted there:

    [​IMG]

    And the day was still young! We have hours to go yet..........
     
  8. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    We visited the Shark Encounter, a favourite exhibit of Jake's:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We took in the One Ocean show, which never disappoints:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Jake had a ball (pardon the pun :laughing:) at the basketball game in Key West, winning multiple prizes. We could have had one of those enormous super-prizes, but we sadly had to take several of the smaller ones instead as we couldn't figure out how to get the big guys home on the plane :confused3 . We had a good laugh at all the people who would stop to watch him shoot, claiming it was "an impossible game" (the rims were crooked, etc.) and then their jaws would drop when he sunk yet another free throw. The poor fellow running the game was ready to send him packing :rotfl: .

    [​IMG]

    By late afternoon, the programming switched over to the special Christmas shows, and we were elated to catch the first performance of Clyde & Seamore's Countdown to Christmas. It was adorable! The mime made fun of Steve as we went to sit down, banging on his chest like King Kong. Steve was not amused :rotfl2: . But the show was awesome.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then..........darkness slowly settled in, and the park transformed. First, the giant Christmas tree was lit.

    [​IMG]

    Coming up.......SeaWorld Christmas by night!
     
  9. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    Around 5 pm, the skies went dark and the park came alive with the most amazing lights you have ever seen. It was so pretty, you just wanted to stand in the middle of the walkways and take it all in (disclaimer: gawking is not recommended, or someone with a stroller WILL run you over). We had the most wonderful time, just soaking up the sights and sounds of the holiday season.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    We enjoyed a great dinner at the Seafire Inn (loved the cozy atmosphere here). We shopped in the gift shops. As we strolled along under the festive lights, we stopped to watch groups of elves who were putting on performances for the holiday visitors. We admired myriad of trees, all sparkling in the lagoon.

    The ending of our dinner coincided perfectly with the beginning of the Sea of Trees.....we had about 5 minutes before the show began! We found a great spot right along the water to stop and watch the spectacle. And it was every bit as fabulous as we had hoped.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I have a short video of the Sea of Trees, but Photobucket doesn't seem to want to upload it for me :furious:.....I will post it later if I can get the dang system working :mad: .

    At the conclusion of the Sea of Trees, weariness began to take over . We had been at the park since opening, and quite honestly, we were starting to feel the effects of being on our feet (and on the go) all day long. We would have loved to have kept going until 9 pm (the scheduled park closing), but after being under the weather the night prior, we were wary of pushing too far and winding back in bed, sick for round two. So we opted to play it smart, and not overdue it in the name of cramming it all in (not the easiest decision, but certainly the best one). Were there still shows to see? You bet. But we are far from “commando” park people, and like to enjoy the parks at a pace we are comfortable with. And tonight, we felt the need for a soak in the hot tub.

    Tired and content, we made our way to the front of the park. We purchased our photo CD and frames (loved the CD option.....I think we got 28 photos on the CD for $40.....the frames were $5 each with the CD purchase, an absolute steal!). We bid SeaWorld adieu, knowing we would be back two days later to enjoy the park a second time plus take in Dine With Shamu.

    [​IMG]

    Back at the Residence Inn, we had the hot tub all to ourselves under the stars. Every Christmas should be this peaceful.

    Boxing Day fun is up next. Believe it or not, despite our love of shopping, there’s no after-Christmas sales in our future. December 26th is our official “Gator Day”, and we’re headed to both Gatorland and Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours. Chomp, chomp!
     
  10. DnA2010

    DnA2010 Rope Drop!

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2010
    Messages:
    455
    Just found your review! Looks like you had a wonderful time! I love the sea of trees and also the snow globe photos! Can't wait for more!! popcorn::
     
  11. dancin Disney style

    dancin Disney style <font color=blue>I found one to share with some fa

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,411
    Isn't it funny that you always think you're the only one that deals with unpleasant things :rotfl2: Most likely EVERYONE has a 'special' relative. I don't think I will ever understand why the ugly comes out around Christmas. My mom keeps saying that Christmas is not the way she grew up....so in other words we(her kids) have screwed it all up for her.

    My kids love to travel and right now are as excited for NEXT Christmas as they used to be when they were little. It almost feels like we are going to have a year long Christmas eve. I really doubt that we will buy them even small gifts, the trip will be the gift....I buy them things all the time. They are now at an age that it's difficult to buy them gifts anyway.

    Gina....the SW package that you got is incredible. Sounds like it's totally for me. I think you said that you got it through the SW website.....I'm off to check that out.
     
  12. BearcatsFan

    BearcatsFan <font color=green>we finally had a minute to breat

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2011
    Messages:
    8,097
    I can't help myself, I have to shout ...

    I LOVE YOUR SNOWGLOBE PHOTOS! :worship:

    Most especially the one with the three of you tossing snow. Just beautiful! I love all your photos! You're such a picture person like me and I so appreciate it! LOL!! :laughing: (And yes, I too have a love/hate relationship with Photobucket. :headache: )

    I'm anxious to hear about the airboat ride (any chance you can share how much this cost?) and all the other fun things you did.

    Loving your trip report thus far! ::yes::
     
  13. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    Ohhhhhhh......let me know how you make out!! And if you decide to book!!! And where you decide to stay!!!

    Thank you!!!! I thought those snow globe pics were just so neat!! :thumbsup2

    The airboat ride was regularly $111 total for the three of us. Then there was an offer for 50% posted on LivingSocial, so I was able to cancel our original ticket purchase without penalty and rebook using the offer, meaning we only paid about $55, taxes in. It was a STEAL. It would have been worth it at $111. It was totally amazing at $55.

    We would highly recommend Wild Willy's Airboats to anyone looking at doing a tour. I will have full coverage of our adventure coming up soon.

    Before the airboats, though, there will be a trip report update on our visit to Gatorland. I hope to have that up later tonight. I went back to work today (sob!) so less time for updates (boo hoo). But I will continue to try and get something up each day if I can. The airboat update will follow right after Gatorland!
     
  14. greenclan67

    greenclan67 Callie35

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2008
    Messages:
    1,646
    Are you sure we are not related, and/or have the same mother. That is all I got this year, how it didn't feel like Christmas, and Christmas isn't the same as it used to be, ,and, and, and!!! I just kept telling her, it is so commercialized now, that the joy of Xmas just isn't like it used to be. So learn to roll with the punches.
    When I took my tree and decorations down this year, I packed them knowing they weren't coming back out for Xmas 2013. And for small gifts I mean, like new bathing suits, sunglasses, bathing suit covers, shorts, tanks, that I will buy at the end of this season and will put away and pack in my suitcase for Christmas. They would all be stuff they would use there. Oh the fun of planning something different. My kids are more excited about this then any Xmas the last few years!
     
  15. dancin Disney style

    dancin Disney style <font color=blue>I found one to share with some fa

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,411
    I checked the SW site and they don't have a package that includes length of stay passes. I can get a single SW admission and a single Aquatica admission incl. dining for the day. The Residence Inn is approx $1900 but we can get the Springhill Suites for $1400. Springhill only has a fridge and micro which would be OK but I much prefer a full kitchen. However, it's not worth an extra $500. Both places offer all the SW perks....quick que, bus service etc. and daily breakfast.

    I just mentioned it to my youngest DD and she didn't seem to thrilled with the idea. She asked if we could go back to Bonnet Creek and then said that she wants to be in the MK on Christmas morning. To that I said :rotfl2::rotfl2::rotfl2::rotfl2::rotfl2: there is no way we would be in a WDW park on that day.
     
  16. dancin Disney style

    dancin Disney style <font color=blue>I found one to share with some fa

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,411
    You know...we might be related. I don't look like anyone in my family and I'm totally different personality. I joke and say that I was found in a cabbage patch, of course my brother agrees. :rolleyes1

    When she says that it's not the way she grew up she means that we do everything different than what she would prefer. A classic for instance is dessert at Xmas dinner. The 25th is my nephews birthday and so there is a birthday cake for dessert....along with a pie or something else. My mom thinks that it's horrible and very wrong to have birthday cake at Xmas dinner. As if it was being done just to P' her off.

    Funny, just today I thinking that I may never again see my decorations. If this goes well we will do it every year....well, work is an issue for both my DH and I so we will do it for the next few years anyway. It will depend on what day of the week the holidays fall.

    My youngest is almost 14 so things like bathing suits aren't gifts anymore. Your lucky to have kids still young enough to be thrilled with little things like that. Mine want $300 boots and Macbooks.
     
  17. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    When you add the second park (Aquatica) to a SeaWorld package in the eat-all-day offer, it automatically upgrades your tickets to both parks to length-of-stay :thumbsup2 .

    If your DD saw the traffic going into MK on Christmas week, she would NOT want to spend Christmas there. OMG, I have never seen anything like it. We had breakfast reservations at the Poly on December 28th, and it took us 50 minutes to do the 11 minute commute :sad2: . It was horrible. Thousands of cars. No way I would consider a Disney park during the holidays, no matter how pretty the decorations might be!!! Earlier in December, definitely! :thumbsup2
     
  18. Glennie5

    Glennie5 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2011
    Messages:
    647
    Found your TR today and have really enjoyed reading it! Makes me want to give SW a try. Do you usually fly out of Toronto or Syracuse when you fly down?
     
  19. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    Welcome, welcome! :goodvibes

    We have flown from Toronto (2009), Syracuse (Jan. and Aug. 2012) and Buffalo (Christmas 2012). We much prefer to fly from Syracuse and Buffalo over Toronto.........we love clearing customs in our car at the border rather than at the airport before our flight. We also love how small and easy to navigate the Syracuse and Buffalo airports are.

    Syracuse is our first choice, as its closer to us than Buffalo (and we don't have the nightmare of crossing Toronto), but Buffalo was much cheaper than Syracuse this last trip, so it made the extra hour of car travel worthwhile.
     
  20. greenclan67

    greenclan67 Callie35

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2008
    Messages:
    1,646
    I have 3 brothers and 4 sisters! I am the youngest. I am the one and only that has stayed home with my kids since they were born. They can't understand why I would give up my job at a government run daycare to run daycare out of my home.
    Our dessert always has to be fricken Christmas pudding with caramel sauce!!! Not my fav! Not all of my family could make it home this year. One went to California for a vacation, one that is 8 years older then me are expecting their first grandchild this year very soon, and didn't want to leave in case they had the baby. SO alot of the mopping landed on my shoulders. I love my parents, don't get me wrong.
    We are very fortuate with our jobs, my hubby is the Operations Manager for his company so can take holidays when he wants, and I run my own business so as long as I give enough notice we are ok.
    And I have two daughters that are 11 and one will be 13 on Sat. Of course we have to do a big birthday party right after Xmas, cause I vowed to always do it and not make the excuse that it is to close to Xmas, because I have a birthday on Jan 4th (I was 40) and I was always told that. And yes they both want expensive presents as well. They both have laptops, and this year got tablets. So the little things I would buy would just to say they got something, if I decide to go that route. My 13 year old loves clothes.

    Sorry Gina, I took over your trip report. I will stop now. Happy planning for Xmas, we have a trip in less then 2 months, so I have to get that over and paid for before I can book the next!
     
  21. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,548
    December 26th..............its Gator Day! :dance3:

    All week long, the weatherman had been threatening rain for today......not huge amounts, but rain nonetheless. We were surprised and delighted, then, when we opened our eyes and the sun was working hard to make an entrance as daylight broke. What had supposed to be a grey, dreary morning turned out to be really quite spectacular. It was also very warm.....sticky, almost......and Jake’s allergies reared their ugly head, necessitating a trip to CVS before we headed down Orange Blossom Trail to our first stop of the day: GATORLAND! :banana:

    [​IMG]

    Disclaimer: I have a weird fascination with alligators. I think they are super cool in a creepy sort of way. I have always wanted to make Gatorland an attraction to visit when in Florida, but for whatever reason, it just never seemed to materialize. So when we started planning this Christmas trip, I vowed THIS would be the vacation we finally get there. So I was excited. But that’s nothing new.....for heaven’s sake, don’t feed me chocolate!!!

    [​IMG]

    We arrived about 10 minutes to park opening. We weren’t expecting any crowds here......Gatorland actually advertises that it’s a place to go for a good time and to avoid the crowds.......which is why we thought it would be a great place to spend some time during the super busy Christmas week. While our SeaWorld Christmas Day was very much bearable and enjoyable crowd-wise, and Aquatica was darn near deserted, we had been hearing rumours that those folks at the Disney parks were not nearly as fortunate. The staff at the Residence Inn’s front desk kept us up-to-date on crowd reports as we passed by them in the mornings to grab our morning meal in the breakfast room.

    So....we are at Gatorland, and there are maybe a dozen others in line waiting for the gates to be opened. We had pre-purchased our tickets online prior to the trip, so we flashed our vouchers, the lady welcomed us warmly and gave us our “grunt package” cards (entitling us to admission, gator food, and the opportunity to sit on a live gator prior to one of the shows) and send us on our way. Of course, when she found out we were from Canada, she (like almost everyone we encounterd who was born and raised in the south) we had a small chat about the snow back home. We talked alot about snow ib this trip!!! :rotfl2:

    This place was really a fun, wholesome, old-Florida kind of attraction. No flash, no fluff, just gators. Hundreds of ‘em. Maybe thousands. They were everywhere. Big ones. Small ones. Skinny ones. Fat ones (really, really fat.....I think they must feed them small children......or maybe whole goats.......they were HUGE!). White ones. Black ones. Ones I thought were dead (or fake) but were really just lazy. And the humour here was abundant throughout the park.....in a corny, slap-stick, can’t-help-but-groan kind of way. From their silly signs (which despite the humour, usually carried an important message) to their answering machine message (call them sometime, just to hear it), it kind of has a “red-neck” feel (but not in a bad way........and I mean no offense to anyone by the term, I am just not sure how else to describe it!). For the first while, we spent the time just gawking at the sheer number of some of the gators in the various areas. And we had to get a few of these corny vacation photos.......’cause you know I couldn’t resist (for the record.....this was the only fake gator we found in the park):

    [​IMG]

    We grabbed our gator food (large hot dog wieners) then made our way deeper into the park. We toured the Aviary:

    [​IMG]

    And went through the White Gator Swamp:

    [​IMG]

    They were really neat looking. Never seen a white gator before. Very cool. Very different.

    [​IMG]

    We did the full tour of the Swamp Walk (a boardwalk through a basically untouched swamp land) which was very interesting. Lots of little interesting tidbits on funny signs along the way. It was so natural and untouched, I was quite worried we would encounter something frightful like a snake (in fact, they warned you multiple times on those humorous signs not pick one up as they might be poisonous.....oye!) but luckily, we were the only swamp beasts to be found (or the only ones who made themselves known, anyway).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After the Swamp Walk, we moved on to the Breeding Marsh. This is where the lucky gators go, apparently. We laughed, because these were the big, chubby gators in most cases.....not the ones you would think of being the ..... uh..... park studs. However, they all seemed happy. And content. So life must be good. ‘Nuff said. :rotfl:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    While poor Jake was mortified at the prospect of it, he good-naturedly agreed for a ride on the train. And this is why I so love that child. What a good boy. :thumbsup2

    [​IMG]

    Don't go away.............more Gatorland coming up in the next post!
     

Share This Page