Thursday, 10 November 2011

ORLANDO VACATION BLOG, MAY 2008

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

2:00 AM – YES, you read that right, it says 2 FREAKING
AM……our flight leaves YVR at 5:45 and it takes an hour and a half to get
to the airport, so we really do have to leave at this absurd hour. It’s an
uneventful drive, as you might expect at this hour, to the Airport.

3:30
AM – I drop Tracey and the luggage off at the departures gate and double
back to the long-term parking lot. As I get out of the car, the shuttle arrives…..PERFECT
TIMING FOR A CHANGE…..this vacation is starting awesomely….is awesomely a
word? It is now.

3:40 AM – The Delta Airlines gate doesn’t even
open until 4:10 (GRRR), so we are off to the food court where there is ONE
restaurant open….BURGER KING!! Works for me, I haven’t been to sleep yet
so a burger feels OK to me…. Tracey had some sleep so it feels like morning
to her, so she wants breakfast…..so we’re both happy…

3:41 AM - ……..until I get to the counter to find
out they are ONLY serving breakfast right now….GRRRRR…..this vacation is
not starting awesomely……

4:10 AM – We return to the Delta check-in counter
to find about 50 people in line already….GRRRRRR……so I decide to use the
kiosk…..it gets to the last step and tells me “I’m sorry, you fat bastard,
you cannot use the kiosk, please see an attendant”. Or something like that.
Super. This vacation is starting nonawesomely.

4:30 AM – So we get to an attendant, check in without
any issues, and now have to stand in another monstrous line to get into the
Customs area…….not to actually go THROUGH customs, this is a line just to
get into the Customs area, as it is currently closed. We are told it is supposed
to open at 4:30, but since this is the government, I’m sure it will be closer
to 5 AM before the line starts to move.

4:55 AM – The line starts to move. I am off by
5 minutes. Luckily this line is basically just a guy checking that we have
our boarding passes and have filled in our Customs Declaration Form, so we
breeze through here quickly. We get to the actual Customs line, and although
it is long they have a ton of agents working so this is no big delay. The
Customs officer is surprisingly friendly and doesn’t ask us much or bother
us, and we’re through to security. The security line isn’t that long either,
and we breeze through there…until a guy calls me aside and tells me he has
randomly selected me for a full security search, so after a full pat down
(thankfully they stop just short of a full body cavity search), we’re on
our way. A bit of an inconvenience, but I really don’t have a problem with
extra security checks in this day and age. Anything that gets me to Orlando
in one piece is fine with me.

5:25 AM – We start to board our plane for the first
leg of our trip, which takes us to Salt Lake City. Calling this a “plane”
is probably being a bit generous, it’s closer to a large bird dipped in steel.
I’ve never been on a plane this small. Those of you who have read my previous
vacation blogs probably know how I feel about flying. I hate flying. Hate.
Hate. Do I make myself clear? Getting into this sorry excuse for a plane
is not changing my mind any. Good thing I’m so damn tired that I should be
able to get some sleep.

5:45 AM – The “plane” takes off and I try to sleep.
Unfortunately I’ve never really been able to sleep on planes, and nothing
is much different now, although I doze off a little. 

8:00 AM – We land in Salt Lake City, which is actually
9AM local time…..so…..

9:00 AM – We land in Salt Lake City. Our flight
from here to Orlando leaves at 9:40, so we quickly head off through the airport
to our gate, which is, naturally, about as far away from where we landed
as it could possibly be.

9:20 AM – We get to our gate and start to board
our plane……and it’s a HUGE plane this time, a 757, so I feel a little more
comfortable. They even have TV’s built into the seat in front of you, so
we should be able to watch a movie or something to keep ourselves entertained.
They also have a few actual TV channels you can get, including ESPN, ESPN2
(but not, unfortunately, ESPN8 The Ocho), A&E, NBC…..hey, hang on a second…..NBC????
As in, NBC Saturday Afternoon NHL Playoff hockey?? Game Five of the Dallas
at Detroit series starts at 1:30 Eastern Time, so I should actually be able
to see most of the game before we land. WOO-HOO! This vacation is starting
awesomely!

11:30 AM – The flight is going fine and the game
starts; I am not expecting Dallas to come back and win the series, or even
win this game, but it’s nice to be able to watch the game to pass the time
on this long flight. Man I am tired.

12:15 PM – It’s 1-1 after one period. I fall asleep.
Good LORD, I pick THIS time to fall asleep???????

12:30 PM – Tracey wakes me up as Joel Lundqvist
just scored to make it 2-1 Dallas. Nice. Maybe I’ll be able to actually stay
awake to see the rest of the damn game.

2:00 PM – We land in Orlando without incident.
Of course, it’s 2 hours ahead of Salt Lake City.

4:00 PM – We land in Orlando without incident.
It takes forever to get off the plane, as we were in row 41 and there are
a lot of people to get off before us, of course, but eventually we deplane
(BOSS! DE PLANE! DE PLANE!!) and head down to get our luggage. We intentionally
bought some bright coloured luggage so we could distinguish our bags from
everyone else’s black bags….I swear 98% of luggage is black…..and it’s paying
off now, as here comes one of Tracey’s teal blue bags…..and my orange bag……and
about a million black bags…….hmm…..we seem to be short one teal bag…….GOD
DAMNIT THE F*****G airline lost one of our bags………GRRRRRRRRR this trip is
starting nonawesomely………so we’re off to Delta’s baggage service centre, where
a lady tells us that our missing bag is missing. Hmm. She means it’s REALLY
missing, it shows up in her computer but there are no notations of any kind,
so it could be anywhere……SUUUUUUUPER……..she gives us a claim number and tells
us to tell our resort to expect a bag, and she thinks (hopes) it will be found
and we’ll have it within 24 hours. Sure hope so, since all of Tracey’s toiletries,
both of her pairs of sandals (which we just bought YESTERDAY), and obviously
a bunch of miscellaneous clothes.

4:30 PM – We arrive at the Hertz rental car office,
which is quite a long way from the airport, only to find about 1.7 million
people ahead of us in line waiting for their cars. The rental car lot is
nearly empty; good thing we’ve already booked and paid for our car, so I’m
sure they’ll have one for us. While waiting in line, I notice that Dallas
beat Detroit 2-1 to extend the series at least one more game; nice. What
a comeback it would be if they were able to win 2 more games. Finally I get
to the front of the line, only to find out they don’t have the exact car
I reserved and paid for…….but that’s OK, they actually upgrade us to a Cadillac.
Nice. Other than the fact that the previous renter must have been a chain
smoker, as the car smells not-so-great, it’s a nice car and comes with a
GPS.

6:00 PM – We arrive at our Resort, Orange Lake,
and check in. Staff is unbelievably friendly and the resort looks great.
We get to our room and it’s very nice; it’s smaller than the suites we’ve
had through this timeshare in Escondido in the past, but we expected that.
It’s still very nice and has everything we need, so we’re happy. Actually
there is ONE thing curiously absent; the ability to get high speed internet
in your room…..the only ‘net access you can get is dial-up. DIAL-UP??? Who
the !?*# has a dial-up modem in their laptop anymore??? I’ll have to head
over to the Internet Café that the resort has to upload this blog I
guess. Anyway, we head out to pick up some grocery supplies and some toiletries
to get us by until Tracey’s luggage arrives, and stop at Taco Bell for a
quick bite to eat. We’re absolutely exhausted, even though it’s only 3PM
our time, and we’re looking forward to getting back to the resort to sleep.
Tomorrow is our first time at the Magic Kingdom park, so we know it`s going
to be a very full day.

Sunday, May 18th

6:30 AM – Our phone rings, our wake-up call……JESUS
this is early, I thought I was on vacation for chrissake. Well, we have breakfast
reservations at 9:05 at the Crystal Palace Character buffet, so we have to
get going.

8:30 AM – We arrive at the Magic Kingdom park….the
park doesn’t open until 9, so we get FANTASTIC parking……almost the best spot
in the place……this day is starting out awesomely.

8:40 AM – We hop on board the “Express” Monorail
which takes us right to the front gates. They have a special entrance for
guests who have breakfast reservations, so we can get into the park before
the general public…..nothing is open, of course, but at least we can find
the restaurant and check-in. We do so, and after a short wait, we are taken
to our table. This seems to be nearly a carbon copy of the breakfast with
Minnie and Friends that we have visited a couple of times in Disneyland,
except that this is just “Pooh and Friends”…..during the meal, we get visited
by, and pictures with, Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger. The food is excellent,
of course. They have something called “Pooh’s Puffed French Toast”….. and
I really have no idea what it actually was, it’s nothing like French Toast,
but whatever it is is covered with cinnamon and sugar and it is, in poker
lingo, the stone cold nuts.

9:30 AM – We’re out of the restaurant and it’s
time to take on the Magic Kingdom. Our first ride is always Pirates of the
Caribbean; it’s tradition…..so we head into Adventureland to find it. The
layout of this park is remarkably similar to Disneyland, so finding things
isn’t very challenging (and, well, we have a map too). The big question of
this trip is going to be, is it WORTH coming here? No question that Disneyworld
is much, much BIGGER than Disneyland, but is bigger necessarily better? I’ll
try to answer that question as we go along.

The entrance to POTC is much better here than in
Disneyland; most of the waiting area is indoors, which is particularly good
because it’s already hot, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt heat like this.
It is so freaking humid here it’s going to feel way, way hotter than California,
even if the actual temperature isn’t higher. Oh well, I’m sure we’ll get
used to it.

The biggest thing missing from the POTC is the
Blue Bayou; the restaurant that we always have dinner in when we are in Disneyland.
Nothing like that here. The ride itself is very similar to the Disneyland
version but actually seems a bit shorter. It’s still a great ride, of course,
and we’re very excited to be here. For comparative purposes, I’ll use “CAL”
to indicate Disneyland and “FLA” to indicate Disneyworld.

WINNER: CAL

Next up we move over to the Big Thunder Mountain
Railway. Very similar to the Disneyland version, but a little better….. a
bit longer, a little more exciting.

WINNER: FLA

As we are on the ride, we sense something we are
pretty familiar with: RAIN. Yes, it’s one of Florida’s famous thundershowers
(well, we didn’t hear any actual thunder), we run inside to a gift shop to
wait out the torrential downpour, which lasts about 10 minutes. Next up is
the Haunted Mansion. It’s nearly identical to the DL version, a few differences
here and there, but nothing significant.

WINNER: TIE

We visit the Country Bear Jamboree, which is an
attraction that they featured in Disneyland until about 10 years ago when
they removed it; I remember liking it in Disneyland way back when; but maybe
it was different when I was a lot younger. It was cute, but nothing particularly
special. Still, since they don’t have it in DL anymore, the winner is obvious.

WINNER: FLA

We head through to Fantasyland and we notice a
pretty big line-up (the first real line-up we’ve seen so far) for a Peter
Pan ride; this is one they don’t have in Disneyland, so we get a FastPass
to come back and try it out a little later. Most rides in Fantasyland are
geared to kids, but we’ll check it out anyway.

We go through to Tomorrowland and hop in line for
the Buzz Lightyear ride; in Disneyland it’s called Buzz Lightyear’s Astro
Blasters; it has a different name here which I currently can’t remember,
but it’s almost identical. The only difference is the guns that you get to
use are different; in DL, they are much easier to manoeuvre. It’s still a
very fun ride. Oh, and I kicked Tracey’s ass, as usual :-)

WINNER: CAL

Next up is Space Mountain, which only has a 20
minute wait; we’re very lucky that the line-ups are not significant at all,
at least not yet. For those of you not familiar with this ride, it’s a high
speed roller coaster in the dark; because of that, it’s tough to tell if
the track is any different than the one in DL. Tracey thought this one went
a little faster, but the DL one has music playing and this one does not; also
I noticed that the one in DL is darker, making it near impossible to tell
where you are going; there is just enough light in this one that you get
a small peek at where the ride is taking you, which (IMHO) decreases the
excitement, slightly. Also, the cars are different; in DL, they are 2-seaters,
your partner will be sitting next to you; here they are single seaters, your
partner is in front of/behind you, which doesn’t really matter I guess….but
I also noticed it was much tougher to get in and out of these cars. Also,
the “scenery” that you get to look at as you wait in line for the ride is
much better in DL. Overall it’s a fantastic, thrilling ride in both places.

WINNER: CAL

Now it’s time to go back to the Peter Pan ride.
Even with the FastPass we have to wait about 10 minutes to get on; you get
into a little Pirate Ship, and fly over Neverland, featuring scenes from
the Peter Pan story. It’s not a spectacular ride, but it’s cute and I’m glad
we checked it out. It's identical to the California version

WINNER: TIE

1:00 PM – We decide to take a little break from
the heat and find out how we get to Downtown Disney to do a little shopping.
We have to walk from the park to the nearest Disney resort, which is called
Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and isn’t that far away, and take a bus to Downtown
Disney. It’s really not that long a walk, but we are struggling quite a bit
with the heat and humidity, and we are seriously tired. I actually fall asleep
for a few minutes on the 10 minute bus ride.

1:30 PM – We arrive at Downtown Disney. We do a
little shopping, and only get about halfway through the place before we decide
we need to turn around and get back to the Magic Kingdom, as we have dinner
reservations for 5:20.

4:30 PM – Back at the Magic Kingdom and we have
a little time before we need to be at Cinderella’s Royal Table for dinner,
so we go to Mickey’s ??????????, an animated 3-D show featuring many Disney
characters; Donald Duck is the star, he manages to end up in the worlds of
several other Disney characters, including Beauty and the Beast, the Little
Mermaid, and the Lion King. It’s a very entertaining show.

5:20 pm – We head to the Royal Table for our reserved
dinner. First of all, you get into line and get a picture with Cinderella.
Normally that would be great, but after 7 hours of the heat and humidity,
we looked a lot like……well, a couple of people who had been sweating in the
heat and humidity for 7 hours. Oh well, it’s a nice picture anyway. After
you take your picture, you sit down for a few minutes until you are awarded
a Royal Invitation from Cinderella to go upstairs into the castle, where
the restaurant is located. Dinner consists of an appetizer, an entrée
and a dessert, from a menu that features 4-5 choices for each. Tracey has
chicken, I have prime rib, and everything is absolutely excellent as we expected.
Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother comes out with a couple of rather large mice
and they do a little song and dance. Very cute. After dinner we decide to
call it a day, we had planned to stay all day and see the fireworks, but
the heat has beat us down pretty good and we’re both exhausted. It was a
great day…..however if we had to choose between this park or Disneyland at
this point, it would be a clear victory for Disneyland. Of course, there
are 6 more Disney parks here that could change our minds

6:15 PM – We get back to the resort, expecting
to see Tracey’s missing bag when we walk in the door……nope. So, we call the
1-800 number that Delta gave us, only to find out that the resort signed
for the bag at 4:30 this morning. Hmm, the resort said they would deliver
the bag when they got it, I guess they had some miscommunication. Tracey
calls the desk and goes to pick up the bag (strange that they didn’t offer
to deliver it, I think) and all is well.

6:40 PM – We hear a loud noise in our room. We
aren`t sure where it came from or what happened……but a quick look around
doesn`t seem to reveal anything. Why am I writing this in a blog? Because……

6:47 PM – Tracey runs some water in the kitchen
sink and we suddenly know what the noise was……there is water everywhere,
it seems as if something under our sink came completely disconnected. I didn’t
really want an indoor pool. Hopefully maintenance can get here quickly……………..

7:07 PM – Maintenance guy arrives and re-attached
the garbage disposal, which had come loose from the pipes. He tells us that
our suite had just been remodelled and they must have not put the garbage
disposal on quite right; but everything should be fine now and he’s going
to send housekeeping out to replace all our towels, which we used to clean
up the mess……

10:00 PM – After a relaxing evening of watching
a little TV, we’re off to bed. Tomorrow is another big day.

Monday, May 19th

9:00 AM – OH GOD it’s early and I am still exhausted…..but
up and at ‘em, as today we are heading to Epcot. I expect that this will
be our least favourite park, but it’s Disney so I’m sure it will still be
fun.

9:30 AM – Head to Epcot and we go right to the
attraction that we hear is the best, the Mission to Mars space simulator.
It’s fun. We hit a handful more attractions, including the Canadian pavilion
in the World section (which has a nice little show featuring Martin Short),
and finishing off our day with “Soarin’”, which is identical to “Soarin’ Across
California” that you can find at Disney’s California Adventure park in California.
During the few hours we are here, we have to run for cover from two more
storms. The first storm was kind of cute….you know, you are in a new place,
it’s interesting to see a Florida storm for the first time….. by the third
one, it’s just freaking annoying. Sure hope that there aren’t too many more
of these in the next couple weeks. We end up buying a couple of parkas just
in case we get caught in another one. Also, while in one of the stores near
the “Canada” pavilion, I come across a nice Flames pullover that I buy. Never
seen anything like that back home; amazing I have to fly to Florida to find
something like that.

5:15 PM – Back from Epcot and I feel like I need
a nap. Thankfully we are “taking tomorrow off”, going to sleep as long as
we want and spend the day at the Resort, doing quite a bit of nothing. Still
have 13 more days down here, gotta get rested so we can maximize our enjoyment!!!

5:25 PM – Sit down for a few minutes to write this
blog and relax a bit. “Relax” quickly turns into “sleep”.

8:30 PM – Wake up and order some pizza to our room
for dinner. Can still barely keep my eyes open. Pizza is damn good.

8:45 PM – Can’t get the hockey game here, but check
out ESPN to catch the score, and notice that Dallas is already losing 4-0.
Well, that’s the end of the miracle comeback, but I’m still very proud of
them. Few expected them to beat Anaheim and San Jose, so it still has to
be considered a successful season for them, even if an appearance in the Stanley
Cup Finals isn’t going to happen. Now, it’s time for SLEEP!!! The score so
far: Heat and Humidity 2, Tracey and Dean 0.

Tuesday, May 20th

11:30 AM – Now THAT was the sleep we needed. Today
we are off to the pool, maybe some mini-golf, and not much else. I also intend
to head to the internet cafe to find some high speed internet to upload this
blog.

5:00 PM – We are back from the pool; we spent most
of the day in an inner tube floating down a lazy river, occasionally sipping
on a frosty beverage, staring up at palm trees. I’m not sure life gets a helluva
lot better than this.

6:00 PM – Off to Red Lobster for dinner; this is
quite a treat for me, since Tracey is allergic to seafood I’ve never been
to Red Lobster.....and I love lobster. Tracey has a steak, I have something
called “Lobster in Paradise”, which is a lobster tail accompanied by coconut
shrimp. It was very nice, although the lobster wasn’t quite as good as what
we get at home....but still, pretty damn good. I also have mashed potatoes
covered in lobster bits.....mmmmmmm.....

7:30 PM – Tracey noticed that the top of her head
was a little burned so we headed off to Wal-Mart to find her a “sun-hat”
to keep it from getting any worse. Apparently Wal-Mart is not the best place
for this; we were confronted with the horror of some of the most frightening
hats known to mankind. Tracey picked out a hat that I generously dubbed “the
Tandy”, in reference to Jessica Tandy from “Driving Miss Daisy”. Seriously,
this hat was made for an Octogenarian who putters around in her garden, nobody
else. I was tempted to let her buy that hat, and spend the next day or so
doing my impression of Morgan Freeman from that movie, but I figured the
3rd or 4th time I told her “Yazz’M” or “I’m trying to drive you to the sto”
, she would likely kick me in the nuts....so I decided to tell her how silly
that hat looked so she would make another choice. She did, a much less obnoxious
hat that made her look more like Daisy Duck than Miss Daisy. An improvement,
I guess.

8:00 PM – Home in time to watch a little TV and
hit the sack. Tomorrow is going to be another big day, and according to the
weather report, a HOT one too.

Wednesday, May 21st

7:00 AM – Today we are off to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
Looking forward to this one.

8:25 AM – As we are driving into the parking lot,
I notice it is already 85 degrees. Good lord. Seconds after I make this scary
revelation, Tracey notices that there is a problem with the very expensive
digital camera that we bought, basically just for this trip. GREAT. It’s
broken, so we will have to buy one of those cheap disposable cameras to get
through the day. We didn’t bring the video camera today.

9:05 AM – We have reservations for another breakfast
buffet, at the Tusker House restaurant in the Africa section of the park.
It’s not as good as the other breakfast buffet we experienced earlier this
trip, but it’s not bad. Not as high quality as most things Disney.

After breakfast, we head off to the Kilimanjaro
Safari attraction and get a FastPass to return in an hour or so, then off
to the “Asia” section to experience the Everest ride, one of the two “thrill”
rides they have in the park. It was OK, but I was a bit disappointed. The
biggest thrill of the ride is in a surprise that happens, that would only
be exciting the first time you ride. We then headed over to their River Rapids
ride, and we put on the parkas we had bought the other day to try to keep
a little dry; they worked, as a couple people on the ride got absolutely
drenched. We were wet, but not so wet it wouldn’t dry quickly in this heat,
which was now over 90 degrees. It’s a little less humid today, thank GOD,
but it’s still uncomfortably hot.

Now we head back to the Kilimanjaro Safaris. This
is one of the park’s flagship attractions, you board a bus which is manually
driven (not on a mechanical track” and venture out among some paved roads
into the plains of Africa. You will experience some animal encounters, including
lions, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, and various other animals you could find
in the African wilderness. The animals are about as excited by this heat
as we are, and they are pretty much all immobile. The driver is very knowledgeable
and he explains that lions can be inactive for 20-22 hours a day. Sounds
like our cats.

So...what can I say about this attraction? Here’s
the big problem: Tracey and I have been to the Wild Animal Park in Escondido,
California. This attraction is the same basic idea, but unfortunately the
Wild Animal Park blows this away. It’s not totally analogous, as this attraction
is included in the price of admission, while the Photo Caravan Safaris that
you take in Escondido are about $300 for a couple; but let me tell you, it’s
the best $300 you could even spend. You get up close with the animals, not
100 yards away, and you get to feed apples to rhinos and feed leaves to giraffes.
Although it’s great that Disney has put this exhibit together (which is mostly
for conservation and breeding purposes, the same as Escondido), anyone who
has been to the Wild Animal Park isn’t going to be impressed with this exhibit.

1:00 PM – The heat is doing it to me, AGAIN, and
I’m just about ready to go. We go into the theatre where they are playing
Finding Nemo: The Musical, and watch the show. It’s very good, but honestly
I am too tired to enjoy it as much as I could. Still, it’s one of the best
things in the park to see.

2:00 PM – Six and a half hours in 90 degree heat
is all I can bear, and we’ve seen almost everything we wanted to in the park
anyway, so we head back to the resort. This is a very good park; it’s gorgeous,
well maintained, and the staff is terrific, as you would expect from Disney.
It definitely would have been more impressive had we never seen the Wild
Animal Park.

2:30 PM – We’re home about 2 minutes before I’m
dead asleep. Naps are cool.

4:30 PM – I have a horrible nightmare that Tracey
has completely lost her mind, and she came into the bedroom and attempted
to wake me up from my nap. Surely I didn’t marry someone THAT stupid did
I??? 

6:00 PM - Still tired but I can’t sleep all day
(well, I suppose I COULD attempt it....), so I get up. We have dinner and
chill out in the room for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, May 22nd

9:00 AM – Slept in a bit today, decided to shake
up the itinerary a little bit and go to the smallest park today, Disney’s
Hollywood Studios (formerly called Disney/MGM Grand Studios). Since we were
getting a bit of a later start, we thought it was a good idea to tackle the
smallest park. Great idea! We hit every attraction we wanted to hit (which
was most of them), had lunch, and did some serious shopping, and were still
done by 4 PM! What a great day!

The attractions in this park were all very good,
with the exception of the Backlot Tour, which wouldn’t impress anyone who
has ever been on the back lot tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. This version
of the Backlot Tour pales in comparison. We saw three great shows: Indiana
Jones Stunt Spectacular, Beauty and the Beast the Musical, and the Voyage
of the Little Mermaid Musical. The only complaint about the Little Mermaid
show is that it is way too short (15 minutes). It combines live action with
some scenes from the movie, and if you have not seen the movie, you would
not have a clue what’s going on. I guess it’s short because it’s geared to
kids with short attention spans, but the live action singing is good enough
that they should definitely expand this to a full Broadway-type show.

There is a new Toy Story attraction which has its’
Grand Opening on May 31st; the day we fly home. Oh well.

This park has three significant thrill rides: Star
Tours, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and the Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. We
skipped the first two, as we’ve been on them numerous times (Star Tours is
at Disneyland, the Tower of Terror at Disney’s California Adventure) and
the line-ups were significant. The third one.......well......I’m not sure
exactly how to describe it. Think of Space Mountain....if Space Mountain suddenly
turned evil and wanted to dump you on your head a couple times. It’s an Aerosmith-themed
roller coaster which goes from 0 to 100000 MPH in about zero seconds (KEEP
YOUR HEAD AGAINST THE HEADREST OR YOU WILL BE SORRY!!!!!), and turns you
completely upside down at least twice. It is, in the immortal words of Randy
Jackson, THE BOMB. This is an absolute must-do attraction for anyone who
comes to Orlando.

Overall this was a terrific park, we enjoyed our
day very much. Definitely the second best park we’ve been to so far this
trip, although I expect the two Universal Studios parks to give it a good
run for that coveted 2nd position.

5:30 PM – Home from the park and back to the pool.
It’s not as hot today as it has been, but the humidity is off the charts
again. After a couple turns down the lazy river, we head back to our villa
to dry off, order some pizza for dinner, and relax. We’re going to check
the weather report before deciding whether or not to keep our original plan
of going to one of Disney’s water parks tomorrow, or change it up and hit
Universal Studios.

Friday, May 23rd

9:05 AM – Arrived at Universal Studios, minutes
after they opened. First order of business: high-tail it to the Simpsons
Ride, which has only been only for a couple of weeks, so we expect it to
have the biggest lines later in the day. We wait only a few minutes before
getting in; it is a simulation ride, but it is absolutely fantastic. Very
true to the Simpson’s universe, and a ton of fun.

The heat is already nearly unbearable, and the
humidity today is off the charts; we are going to have to try to get everything
done as quickly as possible, as Tracey is already suffering.

Luckily the park isn’t particularly crowded today,
so we are able to get through all the major attractions in a few hours. There
is no back-lot tour here, as there is at Universal Hollywood; a couple of
the attractions from that tour, the Jaws attack and the earthquake/flash flood
effects, are here as separate attractions. They also have The Mummy: The
Ride, which is one of our absolute favourite attractions in all of California;
the version here is different, but it’s still a great ride. All in all, we
have a great day and get done quickly enough to get out of the absurd heat.

1:00 PM – As we are heading back to our car, we
decide to stop at the movie theatre and catch the 1:10 showing of the new
Chronicles of Narnia picture; actually we’re just really excited about being
in an air-conditioned theatre!!! The theatre is VERY air-conditioned, and
as an added bonus, the movie is very good!

3:30 PM – We get back to our car and start to head
back to the resort. Minutes after we take off, we get caught in another famous
Florida thunderstorm....but this one is much bigger than the other ones we
have seen so far this trip. In fact, without a word of exaggeration, this
is the hardest rainstorm I HAVE EVER SEEN. The cars on the highway crawl to
a standstill. Tracey takes out the video camera to capture it. Think about
that for a second. Two people born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, take
out a camera TO RECORD RAIN!!!!!!! Truly,
this is something I have never experienced before and would be quite happy
to never experience again. I hope the video camera does it justice. Even
with the wipers on high, the visibility is near zero.

About 7 minutes later, it stops completely.

Then 2 minutes later it starts again. And then
stops. And starts. You get the idea. Wow.

5:30 PM – We stop at the grocery store to replenish
a few supplies, we’re going to stay in for dinner tonight....Tracey was planning
on hitting the pool, but the weather has put the kibosh on that. We’ll just
have a lazy evening in front of the TV; tomorrow is a shopping day, as we
have no intention of braving a theme park on a Saturday...and it’s a long
weekend to boot, as Monday is Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 24th

10:30 AM – Nice little sleep in, and I notice Tracey
is still asleep so I guess I’ll let her sleep a bit longer.

11:30 AM – Hmm I wonder if she misunderstood when
I suggested we sleep in........

11:45 AM – It LIVES!!!!

1:00 PM – After breakfast, er, lunch, we’re off
to Downtown Disney......just one problem, another one of those thunderstorms
is drenching us.....so we decide to detour to one of the outlet malls to shop
while waiting for the rain subsides. Tracey gets loose in a Coach store......so
I’m going to have to get a second job when we get back home. Oh, wait, I
don’t have a first job....oh well, I can stand to miss a meal or two. Or
twenty. Shut up, Zimka.

5:00 PM – After spending the equivalent of the
gross national product of Uzbekistan, we are done with the outlet mall and
headed to Downtown Disney, where this day was supposed to begin anyway. We
park and hop onto a free water taxi, which will take us to the other end
of the marketplace. We could have walked, but it’s beautiful and we thought
it would be a nice little ride across a gorgeous lake. Our driver makes a
comment about how he’s pleased that “the weather is over”. I have the urge
to mention to him that the “weather” didn’t stop, the RAIN stopped, but I’m
afraid he might be the type to get into a philosophical discussion about
exactly what might happen if the weather ever DID actually stop, and I just
don’t have the time or energy for such a discussion. We get to our stop and
head out.

6:15 PM – It’s dinner time and we stop at Wolfgang
Puck’s Bistro. GREAT casual dinner.....I have rigatoni chicken alfredo and
can’t even come close to eating it all. As we are sitting there, it starts
to pour. I’m looking around for our water taxi driver to see how he feels
about the “weather” starting up again. This is Florida, however, and by the
time we are finished eating, it’s back to being sunny and 90 degrees. Unbelievable.

8:00 PM – We’re done our shopping and it’s time
to head back to the resort. Game one of the Stanley Cup Finals just started
but we won’t be able to watch it.....I’ll actually have to watch something
stupid like women’s softball on ESPN just to get an update on the score.

8:30 PM – Home and turn on ESPN and what’s on?
WOMEN’s FREAKING SOFTBALL. Geez, I thought I was kidding.

10:12 PM – Turn on ESPN to check out the score
and it’s STILL got women’s softball on....OK, the women out there are going
to call me a chauvinist, and I can live with that, but if women want their
sports taken seriously, they need to at least attempt to compete on the same
level as the guys....these women have CAGES on their batting helmets!! CAGES?!?!?
Are you freaking kidding me? It’s softball for chrissake. CAGES? I certainly
have no love for baseball players, but if they can face a 100 MPH fastball
without a cage on their batting helmet, then these chicks should do the same.
Rant over . Tracey says it`s because women don`t want balls flying at their
face. Insert your own joke here.

Sunday, May 25th

8:00 AM – Tracey wakes me up to start our day;
I had a horrific sleep last night for some reason, so between that and the
fact that we are going to a park on a weekend, this is going to seem like
a long day.

9:30 AM – We arrive at the other Universal Park,
Islands of Adventure, shortly after they open. We head right for the Marvel
Superheroes section; the travel book we bought says that the Spider-Man ride
is the “best ride in Florida”. When we get there, it says there is only a
20 minute wait. Nearly 50 minutes later, we actually get on the ride. It was
well worth the wait!!! I’m not going to say it’s the best ride in the state,
but it’s gotta be pretty close to the top. Fantastic! It thrusts you right
into Spider-Man’s world and knocks you around as Spider-Man fights a group
of villains called the Sinister Syndicate, and then drops you from the top
of a building (simulated, of course, but it feels pretty real).

The downside, of course, is that by the time we
get off the Spidey ride, the two other big thrill rides, the Incredible Hulk
coaster and the Dueling Dragons coaster, already have 60 minutes wait times.
We’ve noticed throughout our Universal Studios experiences that you can almost
double all their wait times; which is quite a departure from the Disney parks,
where a posted 20 minute wait is generally closer to 5. We head over to the
Popeye inner tube ride and get soaked; I don’t mind getting wet on exciting
rides, but this ride wasn’t that great. We then decided to go on the Jurassic
Park ride, which we’ve been on before in California, and enjoyed that. At
this point, the line-ups for the coasters are 90 minutes so there is no way
we are going near either of those. Universal doesn’t feature a “FastPass”
option like the Disney parks do, but they offer an “Express Pass”....for
an additional $50! To top that off, the passes are only good for each ride
ONCE!! Wow, what a ripoff.

On our way back to the park entrance, we notice
an attraction called “Poseidon’s Fury”. I’m not even going to bother trying
to describe this “show”, but it is without a doubt the worst attraction I
have ever seen at any major theme park. It is the type of attraction you
would expect to find at “Fred’s Fun Park”, not a high profile park like Universal
Studios. Even Krustyland wouldn’t feature an attraction this pathetic.

Oh, and the posted wait time was 10 minutes; we
were in line for half an hour.

11:45 AM – We’re done everything we can do here
today, and we’re headed out. We may return mid-week to try to tackle the
other good rides without the 90 minute line-ups.

12:30 PM – Back to the outlet mall to return a
couple of shirts I bought yesterday that don’t fit, and Tracey decided she
wanted to get a piece of Coach luggage that we had seen yesterday. We went
into the food court to have some lunch, and then right out of the food court
when we saw the crowds. If we wanted to face a 90 minute line-up, we would’ve
chosen the Hulk coaster over Subway or Taco Bell.

3:23 PM – Back at the resort and my poor sleep
has caught up with me. Nap time.

6:00 PM – Naps seriously rule.

7:30 PM – Decided to head down the street to Sizzler
for dinner. Big mistake. I have steak and shrimp; the shrimp are stone cold.
When they finally get around to bringing me warm shrimp, they ain’t that
freaking good. Meh.

8:30 PM – Home for the evening. We are back at
the Magic Kingdom tomorrow!!

Monday, May 26th

11:30 AM – Back to the Magic Kingdom again to repeat
some of our favourites and hit a few attractions we didn’t get to the first
time. It’s Memorial Day and we aren’t really sure what to expect in terms
of crowds..... we hit IHOP for lunch first and then head to the park. I ask
our waiter at IHOP if they have skim milk; he says “yes”, and then brings
me some of the fattest milk I have ever seen; it almost looked like buttermilk,
but it was probably homogenized. Anyway, when I tell him I wanted skim, he
says, “ I don’t know the difference”. Good Lord. He goes back to the kitchen
to find out what kind of milk they have; he obviously can’t figure it out,
as he actually brings me out the label along with another glass, since the
label says “2% low-fat milk” he figures that must be what I want. Sheesh.
Well, he tried I guess. So I guess it’s coke with lunch LOL

1:30 PM – Following a tram ride and monorail ride,
we arrive at the front gates of the park. It’s VERY quiet at the gate, it
doesn’t seem very busy....but it’s already the afternoon, of course, and
the park closes at 7 tonight so maybe most of the people who are coming today
are already here. We get into the park and notice that it’s really not that
busy at all; a pleasant surprise. We head into Frontierland, intending to
hit a couple rides and get a good spot for the daytime parade that starts
at 3. We get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain, which is the only attraction
around here with any kind of line-up at all, and then sit down in a prime
spot to watch the parade. After the parade we hit Splash Mountain and then
do some shopping; we have a little time to kill before our dinner reservations
at 5:45.

5:45 PM – We get to the restaurant, the Liberty
Tree Tavern, and get seated promptly. Dinner is served “family style” here,
which means they basically bring a bunch of food to your table and you eat
what you want and as much as you want.....sort of like a buffet that you
don’t have to get up for. There is nothing fancy here; the restaurant has
an “old time frontier” theme, all the cast members are dressed as frontiersmen/women
and the food is simple. Dinner consists of salad with strawberry vinaigrette
dressing, roast turkey, roasted pork loin, grilled beef strip loin, mashed
potatoes, herb stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and apple cobbler and ice cream
for dessert. Dinner was RIDICULOUSLY fantastic. Unbelievable. It was so good
we tried to make reservations for Thursday night but they are booked, but
we will check back on Thursday afternoon to see if they have any cancellations.
Seriously, this is a MUST DO for anyone who visits the Magic Kingdom. We’ve
had several terrific meals this trip, but this was the best by FAR.

7:00 PM – The park is closing so we are heading
home; we decide to stop at Fantasia Mini-Golf for some late night fun. They
have two courses to choose from; one which seems like traditional mini-golf
(windmills, etc) with a Disney theme, and one which looks more like a real
golf course, shrunk down to mini-golf size......lots of bunkers, water, etc.
We choose the latter. I played it just like I play real golf; first shot
off to the left, second shot off to the right, third shot into the bunker....etc
etc.... and yes, I managed to find a water hazard, even in mini-golf. God
I suck. Tracey gets an Eagle. It was fun, but next time we would play the
other course.

9:30 PM – Back at the resort and time for bed.
We have nothing planned for tomorrow; it’s a resort day, so a couple of frosty
beverages by the pool are in order. Today was a terrific day.

Tuesday, May 27th

7:30 AM – You might ask yourself exactly what the
HELL I would be doing up at 730 AM on a day that we have nothing planned.....I
wake up asking myself the same question, until I notice that I have suddenly
developed a whopper of a head cold. FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. After breakfast
I head back to bed, to try to get some rest and make the cold go away.

3:30 PM – Up from my nap, still feeling like crap....but
we decide to hit the pool anyway. After an hour or so of lying in the sun
and tubing down the lazy river, it’s time to head back.

7:00 PM – We order pizza for dinner; the pizza
here has been absolutely great so far, but tonight it might as well be a
steaming mound of curried tofu, as I can’t taste a damn thing.

7:30 PM – I lie down to watch TV and rest and promptly
fall asleep.

11:50 PM – I suddenly wake up freezing......after
lying here for a while, cold and wide awake, I decide to go sit in the bathtub
for a while to warm up and relax. Two hours later, it’s back to bed to get
some more sleep, hopefully.

Wednesday May 28th

11:55 AM – Awake. Still feeling lousy but a little
better, I guess. We were scheduled to go to the Typhoon Lagoon water park
today but I am not feeling up to being wet all day, so we are adjusting our
plans to go back to the Magic Kingdom tonight. We still want to see a couple
shows and the night time parade and fireworks.

4:00 PM – Off to the Magic Kingdom for our third
(and last) visit. By the time we get there, park, and take a tram and monorail
ride into the park, it’s almost time for the 5:40 show that we want to take.
I’m feeling pretty crappy, but it’s tough to be really grouchy here. We see
what we wanted to see, watch a nice parade, and head out of the park for
the last time.

10:45 PM – Back in the resort and time to check
Email and get some sleep. We still are planning on going to the water park
sometime in the next 2 days, but that is up in the air as I think I have
come down with bronchitis, again.

Thursday, May 29th

Not much to write today; sick. Barely left resort.
Tracey went to the pool a couple times, and we went out for a nice dinner
(although I had little appetite, so I just had a salad). Being sick on vacation
SUCKS.

Friday, May 30th

11:30 AM – Feeling a bit better today, and I’ll
be damned if I’m spending my last day of vacation in bed. Not up for a water
park, but we’re going to go back to the Magic Kingdom for a few hours and
spend our last day there. Seems like an appropriate place to finish up a great
holiday anyway.

1:00 PM – Learned one thing from this park; it’s impossible
to predict how busy it is. Today must be “Bring your irritating little puke
to Disney” day, as I’ve never seen so many kids. No wonder Americans have
such a poor reputation for their school system, apparently they give kids
Fridays off to go to theme parks!!! We had to get a Fastpass to go on the
freaking JUNGLE CRUISE for goodness sake!!! 70 minute lineup for Splash Mountain!
LOL No thanks. Oh well, luckily we weren’t planning on a lot of rides today.
We spend a few hours looking around, shopping, and then say goodbye to Disney
and head home.

8:00 PM – Went to Taco Bell to pick up a quick
dinner. There is a big line-up in the drive-thru so I go inside to order.
Below is an actual transcript of the conversation I had with the Asian lady
trying to take my order:

Dean: Hi, I’d like two chicken quesadillas, three
hard tacos and a side of guacamole to go, please.

Lady: (type type type type type type on her little
order machine....at least 45 seconds go by). Three chicken quesadillas

There is a pause here as I am expecting her to
continue with my order, at which point I will correct her.....but she says
nothing else, so I guess she thinks that’s my whole order....

Dean: No, TWO chicken quesadillas, three hard tacos,
and a side of guacamole to go please.

Lady: (type type type type type) OK so two steak
quesadillas...

Dean: CHICKEN quesadillas

Lady: Oh right, sorry, two chicken quesadillas,
three soft tacos...

Dean: NO, not soft tacos, hard tacos....

Lady: Oh OK, two steak quesadillas, three crunchy
tacos....

Dean: CHICKEN quesadillas

Lady: Right sorry, two chicken quesadillas, three
crunchy tacos, and a side of guacamole, is that all?

Dean: Yes

Lady: To eat here?

After she says that a customer behind me laughs
quite loud, at least I’m not the only one who can’t believe this conversation.

At this point I am looking around for cameras as
I am sure I am being punk’d or on Candid Camera or SOMETHING. There couldn’t
possibly be someone this stupid who is actually employed could there? I’m
tempted to tell her that perhaps she should look for something in the janitorial
field, but I resist....... This whole conversation reminds me of the scene
in Do The Right Thing where Radio Raheem goes into the Korean market to buy
some batteries for his boombox.

Raheem: 20 D Energizers

Korean man: 20 C Energizer?

Raheem: D! D!

Korean woman: C Energizer?

Raheem: D mother f****ker D!

You get the idea....if you have never seen this
movie, you need to kill yourself, OR go rent it immediately. It is, quite
simply, the best film ever made.

9:30 PM – I now have a headache which I attribute
to my banging my head on the counter at the Bell......head over to the ‘net
cafe to finish this blog, do the “pre-check out” stuff we need to do so we
can get out smoothly tomorrow, and check my Email. Getting tired, time to
head back and get some sleep, tomorrow is going to be a bitch of a day......flying
HERE was bad enough, at least I had the excitement of the upcoming vacation
to get me by. Spending 6+ hours on a flight home is going to be torturous.

This was a TERRIFIC vacation, even with the little
hiccups of the illness, lost luggage, etc. Only about 131 days until Vegas!

Thanks to all my loyal readers! Engemoen OUT..

Epi-BLOG:

On the plane from Orlando to Salt Lake City, there
were two kids sitting behind us. I was sitting on the aisle, Tracey in the
middle seat, and a lady we didn’t know on the window. The kids were behind
Tracey and the lady. Their parents were on the flight but sitting elsewhere,
I guess they were stand bys. Anyway, the kids got up and down about 100 times
and were constantly kicking their seats....basically being annoying little
kids. I would estimate the girl was 10 and the boy around 7. About two hours
into the flight, the girl, while getting back into her seat, hit the lady
in the head. An accident, I’m sure, but the lady screamed “ow”, and the girl
apologized...at which point the lady and Tracey both pointed out to her (while
laughing about it, actually) that they had been kicking their seats for two
hours. The girl apologized again, and that was the end of it....or so we
thought.

About an hour later, their dad shows up at my seat,
and starts yelling that he didn’t “appreciate someone yelling at my kids”...and
he was being quite a prick about it. I pointed out to him that NOBODY had
yelled at his kids...at which point he turned his anger to ME (and for the
record, I had not said a single word to them). I removed my seat belt and
stood up, and told him that he needed to sit the F**K down immediately or
I was going to send him home in a Sucrets box, which he didn’t seem to like
much.....and after arguing nose to nose for a minute or two (quite frankly
I was expecting a flight attendant to come over by now), he reached out and
pushed me. Now, it was possibly hard enough to knock me down, except that
I was leaning up against the arm rest for my seat, so I wasn’t going anywhere.
My instinct was, of course, to punch this piece of shit in the face, but
just before I actually did that, it occurred to me that I was on a US plane,
and they tend to take that kind of thing fairly seriously ( If I am correct,
I believe it is a Federal offense called something like “interfering with
the operation of an aircraft” or “interfering with a flight crew” or something
ominous like that). Since I decided it wasn’t a good idea to take my vacation
from Disney World to a US Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison for the next
10 years, I refrained from making any actual contact. About now, the head
flight attendant came over and threatened to call the police, which I said
was OK with me since I had not broken any laws...and she escorted the man
away to talk to him, and they eventually relocated the kids. She came back
to talk to us too and realized, I think, that nobody had yelled at the kids,
and that he had probably misunderstood, and asked me if I wanted to press
charges against him for putting his hands on me. I did, I really REALLY did
want to send this guy away for a while, but we had 15 minutes from the time
this flight landed until our connecting flight home, and I would obviously
be stuck in Salt Lake City, the armpit of the Earth, much longer than I wanted
to....so I let it go.

SO, if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day,
our flight home wasn’t exactly uneventful either. Not to mention the fact
that the only two kids on the plane were sitting right behind Tracey and
I, and spent the entire trip kicking our seats (what are the odds??), but
shortly after takeoff the pilot comes on the intercom and announces he has
put the “fasten seat belt” sign on as we are going to experience some “light
turbulence” for a few minutes. “LIGHT” turbulence. Right. And I am a “little
bit” chubby. The next 15 or so minutes were the most uncomfortable minutes
I have ever spent on an airplane, which was dipping and diving and falling
and going left and right and I am pretty sure was even upside down at one
point......I hate flying. I was having visions of the airplane scene in “Almost
Famous”.....I was tempted to exclaim out “I’M GAY!!!!!” but I didn’t think
anyone on the plane would get it. Besides, I’m not gay. Not that there’s
anything wrong with that.

Engemoen OUT, again.


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