Grateful, Thankful, Blessed: our 25th Anniversary SeaWorld Celebration (Spring ’18 TR)

Discussion in 'Sea World / Discovery Cove' started by Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina, May 18, 2018.

  1. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    Hello everyone, a very warm :welcome: to my most recent trip report! We’ve now been back for a full week, so it’s time to get this show on the road.

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    (The very first post and there’s already been a cat meme :laughing:. I just can’t help myself :blush:)

    I’m never quite certain if introductions are even necessary at this point (I’ve been on the Dis…..and posted numerous trip reports…..for quite some time now) but it also feels like I’m missing something important if I don’t give a brief rundown of who’s who. So, for the benefit of anyone who might be reading along for the first time [I always hope there will be a new face or two in the crowd!], I’ll give you a brief overview of our travelling party.

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    This vacation it was just the two of us: myself (Gina) and my husband, Steve. We’re a pair of mid-40’s empty-nesters; Canadians by birth but currently living in Michigan. While every trip is special, this one was particularly so as we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. While I don’t often feel old, it sure is weird to think we’ve been married for a whole quarter century! :eek:

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    Our dates were May 4th through May 12th, 2018. After a whirlwind start to 2018 which saw us purchase a home here in the USA and move in just 5 weeks before the trip, we were eager to indulge in a week of fun and relaxation……though we’re much better at the first than the latter :rolleyes1.

    We really need to take a lesson from this guy:

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    As those of you who have read my previous reports will know, we love Orlando: and when I say “Orlando”, I mean ALL of it. Disney, Universal, SeaWorld……each are spectacular parks in their own unique way. That said, the SeaWorld parks hold a particularly special place in our hearts, so we knew that’s where we wanted the focus of this vacation to be. Having not visited the SeaWorld parks since December 2016 (we had taken a year off from SW as we maximized our Universal annual passes from last year) we were feeling a burning need to return. It had been way too long since we’d been to our happy place.

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    So, in this report, you will read about our adventures at SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove. Thanks to an amazing friend (who I promised to tag in this first entry…… @chiamarie , here is your shout out! :goodvibes) there was also an incredible Disney day to write about as we celebrated Cinco de Mayo and took in the Flower & Garden Festival at EPCOT. You’ll hear about our visit to Disney Springs, our very sweet experience at the Wonderland Cookie Dough Café, and our stay at Sheraton Vistana Resort. You’ll also get to “meet” a few other Disers, as we had the absolute pleasure of spending time not only with the beautiful @chiamarie , but also with @pattyw and her husband Joe and @JaxDad and his two kiddos (if anyone does NOT want me to post their photos in this report, please be sure you let me know……in no way do I want to cross anyone’s personal boundaries here).

    There will be lots of photos shared……LOTS!! :teeth: .....and hopefully an abundance of fun chatter from my great readers. The good folks that follow my threads are some of the most entertaining people I know :goodvibes. So, don’t be shy! Feel free to chime in at any point in time. Questions, comments or requests for photos of my cats ;) are always welcome.

    Next up: day 1. Onward to Orlando!
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
  2. MommyinHonduras

    MommyinHonduras DIS Veteran

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    I'm here. Sitting in the airport as we fly out shortly!
     
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  4. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    Woot!

    A new trip report!
     
  5. I-4Bound

    I-4Bound Mouseketeer

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    Woo hoo! I'm in!
     
  6. vrajewski10513

    vrajewski10513 DIS Veteran

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    Yayyyyy! I’m here for the ride!
     
  7. Raeven

    Raeven DIS Veteran

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    Following along! :wave2:
     
  8. JenLanDisney

    JenLanDisney Mouseketeer

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    Welcome back, Gina! Your trip reports are a delight to read. I'm particularly interested in this one since my family and I plan to visit the 3 Seaworld parks in November.
     
  9. Penguinempress

    Penguinempress Mouseketeer

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    Congratulations to you and Steve on 25 years together! Looking forward to reading all about your trip.
     
  10. CoachZ

    CoachZ Mouseketeer

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    I too am following along. I so enjoy reading your trip reports! I’ll be in Orlando in 16 days, so I’m anxiously awaiting my vacation!
     
  11. jaceraden

    jaceraden Ringleader to 3 kids in a Disney loving family

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    I'm in!
     
  12. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    Welcome everyone!! Thank you SO much for following along! :goodvibes It's so much more fun to update when I know someone is actually reading :rotfl:.

    @macraven , thanks for letting me have my trip report here.

    @MommyinHonduras , safe travels to you and your family!! Have an AWESOME trip!

    @CoachZ , I'm so jealous!! You'll be there in no time!!

    @Penguinempress , thanks for the congrats :). I still cannot fathom that we've been together so long!! I guess time really does fly when you're having fun! ::yes::

    To all....there's an update coming up very soon.......stay tuned :surfweb:.
     
    CoachZ and Raeven like this.
  13. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    Friday, May 4th: Flying High

    For only the second time in any of our 15 trips, we didn’t have an early morning flight. Normally, we are dragging our weary, bleary-eyed bodies out of bed at some sort of ungodly hour that has even the cats wishing we’d just turn out the lights and crawl back under the covers until at least the sun is starting to peek through :faint:. With giving Frontier a try, however, we had a very civilized 2:11 pm departure [their only nonstop from DTW to MCO of the day]……so we could sleep until normal time, have a few hours to do some final tasks around the house. We did up any remaining dirty laundry, vacuumed the house, changed the kitty litter, ran and emptied the dishwasher, and give the cats some extra love and attention before our town car was scheduled to arrive at 11 to whisk us off to the airport. I have to say, while we enjoy arriving in Orlando as early as possible, it was unbelievably nice to have such a low-key, productive, un-rushed morning on a travel day :worship:. Such a different experience!


    We received a text from Motor City Transportation at 10:30 saying our driver was on his way, so we gave the cats a few treats and were ready at the door when Olu pulled in the driveway. We have had Olu as our driver on previous trips, and I was SO glad to see him again: he is such a fun, happy, jovial soul and the perfect person to see us off on our adventures. He chattered and joked the whole way, which (especially now that we’ve moved a bit more southeast than we were before) is a crazy short commute……we are SO close to the airport here, it still feels so bizarre after years and years of driving to Toronto, Buffalo or Syracuse to fly. I was a bit teary as we left the house (I know it sounds crazy, but I absolutely HATE leaving those cats alone for such a long stretch……I know how much they miss us when we’re gone :sad1:) so I was eternally grateful for his upbeat spirit. He dropped us right at the door to the north terminal at Detroit Wayne International Airport, unloaded our bags, and wished us a great time. He also gave us his personal cell so that we could contact him directly to book any future trips: and you can rest assured that I promptly put it in my phone.


    Heading into the terminal, we found the Frontier desk to be closed and unstaffed, with a sign indicating that they would open 90 minutes prior to our scheduled flight departure. With our earlier-than-scheduled pick-up and traffic and construction-free commute, we had nearly an hour to burn before dropping our bags and heading through the security checks. We found a couple of seats nearby and opted to spend time on our phone and tablets while we people-watched and waited. Steve shocked me by saying, “Where’s your phone? We need a photo! You’re going to do a trip report again this time, right?”. Chock that up as earning major points in the “How you know your married the right guy” category :love:.

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    It's a terrible photo, especially with all the back-lighting, but he was so sweet to want to document our send-off, I didn't have the heart to delete it.

    By the time the Frontier desk opened up, I am not exaggerating when I say the entire plane was there waiting with their bags :crazy2:. We moved quickly enough to the queue that we were about 1/3 of the way back in line, so our wait wasn’t too terrible…..and the Frontier staff were pretty efficient (not super friendly, but not stand-offish either). Once we had checked our bags, we headed to security and wondered how bad the wait would be during the noon hour on a Friday: we anticipated a huge backlog of travelers heading out for the weekend, but were happily surprised to see almost no wait at all :woohoo:. Quite a difference from our early-morning flights, when security was usually backed up on both ends of the terminal with folks panicking about whether or not they’d make it to their gate in time. While both of us made it through the screening without any issues or delays, our carry-on was flagged for inspection so we had to wait while they sorted through our belongings and swabbed for additional testing. I’m not sure why, but one of our carry-ons always (and I mean ALWAYS) gets pulled aside for inspection, so this was neither a surprise nor a concern. Once the TSA agent was satisfied that everything was fine (and I must note, he was super professional and kind…..nothing negative or unpleasant about his approach at all) we headed in search of some lunch before boarding. Knowing that Frontier does not provide any kind of complimentary drinks or snacks, we figured we’d be best served to get on that plane with full stomachs.

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    Having had a good experience at the Coney Island on previous trips, and considering it was RIGHT across from our gate, it was an easy decision to make this our lunch stop. We also liked that it was table service rather than fast food: now that our vacation had officially started, we wanted to be as lazy as possible.

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    Full disclosure: I was not super diligent at taking food photos on this trip, and I’m not sure why :o……so dining pics will be a little bit hit and miss. But, I did start off on the right foot at least, and managed to capture a few photos of our Coney Island vittles. Steve had a MASSIVE club sandwich with a side salad:

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    …..while I had chicken tenders and fries.

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    We both stuck with waters to drink (always a little careful about having happy stomachs before being trapped on a plane for 2+ hours), and our server was kind enough to fill our SeaWorld refillable cup with a fresh supply of ice water while we paid our bill. Service was super quick (another one of the reasons we really like this restaurant) and the food was perfectly good, especially for an airport diner. At right around $25 with tax and tip, it was a decent value and we left stuffed. We gathered our belongings and waddled over to find a seat at our gate and wait for our call to board.

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    Since Frontier was a new airline for us we had no idea what their boarding process would be, but our boarding passes said “Zone 1” and our upgrade to the Works Package on flight purchase indicated we would receive priority boarding, so we assumed we’d be among the first on the plane. Which, we noted, had arrived at the gate and was unloading passengers from wherever it had come. Always happy when things roll along right on schedule! :cheer2:

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    We settled into a spot by the charging outlets so we could top up the power on our phones and tablet before departure. Within a few minutes, we heard a noise outside and then all of a sudden, Mother Nature went WILD :scared:.

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    Seriously, one minute it was fine and the next it was this crazy monsoon that ripped through with winds that carried the rain sideways and looked like it would push the plane right along with it. It raged for maybe 15-20 minutes (during which it completely flooded the tarmac) and then as quickly as it started, it stopped :confused3.


    So weird.


    My work colleagues both texted right around that time to wish us a great trip, so I asked them about the weather at the office. The both said the sun was shining :confused:. I think they thought I had gone a little crazy when I told them about the freakish rainstorm until I texted them the photo. Perhaps it was just an oddly localized system after all.


    Thankfully, all was calm by the time they began boarding passengers on flight 1669. They started with Elite members and passengers requiring assistance, then followed with families who had children under the age of 3 (which was a significant amount of folks……considering we were all heading to Orlando, the most family-friendly destination on the planet, that’s not really surprising). Then, they boarded anyone who purchased their Works Package, so with a little bit of trepidation and nervousness (we are such a pair of old poops, we hate change!) we made our way into the plane.


    Quite side explanation for anyone who didn’t read my PTR (which can be found here, if you want to visit it: https://www.disboards.com/threads/a...disney-ptr-counting-down-to-may-2018.3655226/ ), we are Jetblue veterans through and through. They have been our go-to airline FOR YEARS. Unfortunately for us, they don’t offer non-stops to Orlando from Detroit, so if we fly Jetblue for our Orlando trips, we either need to take a connecting flight (not ideal) or fly into Fort Lauderdale and drive to Orlando (also not ideal…..and to be fair, we tried this for two trips before we decided there HAD to be a better option). Our non-stop options from Detroit are Delta (crazy expensive) or Frontier. Much to my boss’ dismay (her husband works for Delta :bitelip:) we opted to try the much more budget-friendly Frontier, and hoped for the best.


    Through Frontier’s Work’s Package, you get to select any seat you want on the plane with no additional fee. Before purchasing, I had researched what the “best” seats were according to Seat Guru for that specific aircraft, and had went with their recommendation of Row 13, an exit row and one of their “Stretch Seats” (normally a $45 per person, per direction upcharge…..which made the Works Package oh-so-worth-it all on its own). As most of you know, Steve is a BIG guy (6’ 4” tall, broad shouldered, and 300 pounds) so airplanes can be a real source of discomfort for him. Jetblue’s Even More Space seats had been a must-do upgrade for us on all previous trips, and we just hoped that Frontier’s Stretch Seats would be a decent equivalent. We had heard many a horror story about Frontier (how uncomfortable their seats were, how they nickel and dime you to death as they charge for every little thing, etc.) so we were managing our expectations. We just kept reminding ourselves….


    It’s only just over two hours in the air.


    Once we land, at least we’ll be in Orlando…..much better than a 3+ hour drive from the Fort Lauderdale airport had we opted to fly Jetblue.

    Imagine our surprise, then, we found our seats and saw ALL THIS LEG ROOM!!! party:

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    Not only could Steve stretch his big body completely out, but I couldn’t even reach the seat back pocket in front of me (neither with my hands or my toes as I slouched down in the seat) without getting up out of the chair. Frontier officially wins the Leg Room Award. Seriously awesome.

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    Now that said, the seats were a little narrower than Jetblue (which didn’t bother me at all……I still had tons of room……but had Steve feeling a bit of a “squeeze”) and not nearly as padded (though the Stretch Seats were much more cushioned than the regular seats, which had almost no padding at all). Other than that, we can’t find anything to criticize.


    We thought we’d miss having TVs to watch, but honestly, we didn’t miss them even a little. The flight was short (pilots had us on the ground in 2 hour and 5 minutes!), we were pretty comfy, and our big meal before boarding kept us full and content enough that we didn’t even eat any of the snacks we had packed for the journey. Staff were accommodating and efficient, and we could have purchased quite a nice selection of beverages or food if we had so chosen. Steve snoozed most of the way and I alternated between napping and reading (the current issue of O, the Oprah Magazine, had arrived just a couple of days earlier, so it promptly went in the carry on). Other passengers were quiet and friendly (even all the little folks on board, bless their hearts!) and before we knew it, they announced that we were preparing to land. We touched down as smoothly as we took to the skies, and before we knew it, we were inside the terminal.


    Time to get those bags, pick up the rental car, and make our way “home”.
     
  14. verleniahall

    verleniahall DIS Veteran

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    I'M IN! I'm currently re-reading your TR from the holidays at Universal/Sea World fro 2016 - I have been reading portions of it to my DH and we are doing NYE in Orlando just from the holiday stuff you mentioned! (and we are doing the Capone Dinner this year from you recomendation as well!)
     
  15. Penguinempress

    Penguinempress Mouseketeer

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    Wow, that is a LOT of legroom! Like you, I'm a loyal JetBlue customer - we've always flown Jetblue from Buffalo to Orlando and have had great experiences. Now I'm planning a trip to Vegas in the fall (10 year anniversary!) and my only non-stop options are Southwest (their 'free for all' seating makes me nervous!) or Westjet out of Toronto. Both options seem unappealing and after flying Jetblue all the time, I'm getting a bit of culture shock ("What do you mean, I have to PAY to pick my seat? No seatback screens? WHAT?!") But I'm glad your Frontier experience was a positive one! I love the feeling of arriving at MCO and knowing you have a whole fabulous vacation stretching out ahead of you!
     
  16. I-4Bound

    I-4Bound Mouseketeer

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    Aw, I think that's a great picture of you and Steve! I like your Vistana shirt; bet the staff at the resort got a kick out of it! We always drive for our vacations, so it's always interesting to me to read airport stories. I wish we could be in Orlando in 2 hours! But, it's only about a 7 hour drive for us.
     
  17. bobbie68

    bobbie68 DIS Veteran

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    Hi I am in :banana: ...I can't wait to read more. I am very interested in the Vistana Resort. We are going to stay there next June for our Discovery Cove/Sea World trip! I have always been bad about food pics but I am going to try harder on my next report! We are loyal to Jet Blue also. We try Southwest for the first time last year because of really good deals. I think I liked Jet Blue better. However, this is our driving trip in June:goodvibes

    I know about the kitties. We have many and I feel so guilty leaving them even for a few days. It's funny I have a couple of them that ignore us for a bit to let us know they are upset with us:rotfl:. Overall with in about 20 minutes they are all snuggles:goodvibes.
     
  18. Monykalyn

    Monykalyn DIS Veteran

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    So glad Frontier worked out! I have to drive 3 hours for them but for budget or quick trips (and catching $39 fares each way) it made it very easy to visit my dd last fall (think I saw her more at Disney than I ever do when she’s so much closer home at college lol).

    WooHoo to another Gina trip report Currently in line for Soarin waiting out rain and for our Behind The Seeds tour.
     
  19. Gr8t Fan

    Gr8t Fan DIS Veteran

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    Here! Can’t wait to hear all about your trip.
     
  20. pattyw

    pattyw DIS Veteran

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    I'm here, Gina!! Can't wait to hear all the details! I'm fine with our photos being posted here!! What a wonderful evening we had!! Joe really hit it off with Steve!
     
  21. Inhislove

    Inhislove Mouseketeer

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    I somehow missed the PTR- so excited to hear how your trip went!! Congratulations on 25 years! I’m sitting in SVR right now, as extended family is staying here this week (we live an hour away). Your photos helped convince them to book here and we are enjoying our first visit!
     
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