Last Day :( – Last visit to Epcot and lunch at Garden Grill

I’ve been dreading this day. I always find the first week of my holiday goes at a steady speed as soon as you get halfway the days just fly by 😦 There is still so much we want to see and do and I’m sad we don’t have time to do it this trip. There will be another one but that’s not the point!

We checked out and left our luggage with concierge so we had room for the ECV in the car and also got them to print out what we still had left on our Dining Plan. (Going to Epcot we knew we’d use snack credits…)

Epcot is my favourite park so it’s kind of fitting that this is where we spend our last day.

I was determined to do Journey into your Imagination. Paul hadn’t done it and I knew he’d find the song irritating so it had to be done. I do love this. Amelia liked the interactive bit when you come out but sadly we didn’t have a lot of time to take it all in.

We did a little bit of eating, knowing we had a late(ish) lunch booked and we found the chocolate stand that we’d looked for on the last visit. We loved everything. There was an amazing item which was hot inside but frozen with dry ice, when you smash it it’s all gooey inside. I have that on video. But the rest of it was amazing.  We are a pudding family!

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Food and wine is amazing! I know I’ve already said that but I loved it. It’s a shame we missed the live music stuff because of Irma but it’s a foodies dream. I think we’ll book for the same time of year for subsequent trips. When the dining plan is free it’s so worth booking at this time, you can really utilise it. Even if you’re paying for it, I think it’ll be worth more when this is on. (I’m going to do a new blog on the Dining now that I’ve used it)

We didn’t do many rides today because of time, Nemo was closed 😦 But we did go on Spaceship Earth again and Frozen cos we loved that.  And we tried on a lot of hats…

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Lunch was at Garden Grill with Chip and Dale. I’d read some really good things about this so was looking forward to it. Problem was we weren’t that hungry 😦 I need to make sure I ONLY book breakfasts in Epcot in future..

Garden Grill is in the Lands Pavillion and it rotates, very slowly though so you won’t feel sick, so whilst you’re eating you can see parts of the ‘Living with the Land’ Exhibit which is cool. Chip and Dale are your hosts for this so you meet them, Mickey and Pluto. I thought they would all be in Farmer costumes but it was just Mickey.

 

Food here is served ‘family style’ which I’m still not a fan of but it was tasty and as much of it as possible is actually grown at Epcot which is pretty cool. The characters were great here we really enjoyed it.  I was just excited that the plates were set out in a hidden mickey when we sat down… simple things..

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We decided to head off after our food so we could use the last of our snack credits in the hotel shop and make our way to the airport. I’m actually not going to put the last pictures we took of the day up, I do NOT look happy in them. I really didn’t want to go home 😦

We had such a good time on this trip. Disney is great for a Honeymoon, I love it anyway but it makes it even more magical when you’re celebrating something.

I’ll be doing full blogs on all the character dines (and normal places) we ate on this trip, about the resorts we stayed in and of course the dining plan.  I have a tonne of video footage to edit together as well to give you some visuals on all of those things as well as hiring an ECV and what it’s like getting about in one – including how well they fit in the back of a car.

Writing these do keep the trip ‘alive’ a bit longer but they also make me want to book again. And for the first time in a while I don’t actually have a trip booked. But for now, that’s the end of this trip for us 😦 So off we head to get on the plane and head home to the dogs!

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Days 6 – Staying at Hard Rock Hotel, Volcano Bay and more Universal

Breakfast this morning was finally at Waffle House after I didn’t get lost and found one! You can always rely on Waffle House for cheap good food and lots of it. Service is always great and the servers do make it a fun place to eat. Plus they have the tastiest and biggest hash browns. We did notice these seem to be everywhere on the 192 and not so prominent when you get to I-Drive so if you fancy trying one of their delicious breakfasts then head towards Kissimmee you’re bound to come across one!

 

I’d heard lots of good things about Hard Rock so we were both really looking forward to staying here. Mostly because of the early entry to the parks and the unlimited Express Passes that come with a room booking 🙂

We checked in about 9ish and were lucky as our room was actually ready for us. The smell of this hotel is unbelievable! I did ask if you can buy it but you can’t, they are missing a trick with that one! Because you get the early park entry with your room you can actually check in as early as 7am on the day of your stay to make use of it. Your room might not be ready but you can leave your bags somewhere safe.

We had a quick look at the room and got changed to head to Volcano Bay for a swim. The rooms are big and spacious and we loved the music channels as well. You can even make your own playlist that you can download to remind you of your trip.

My favourite thing about the room was this, it had me in fits – no-one else found it quite so funny..

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The good thing about staying on Universal is that all the parks are really close and we got on a bus from our hotel to Volcano Bay. It gave us a chance to see some of the other hotels on property as well. It was quick and there is no way to walk there from Hard Rock.

We didn’t actually take any pictures really in Volcano Bay just a few as we went it. It’s a great park. The Tapu Tapu worked great, its given to you as you go in and each of the rides have machines where you can scan it to put you in a virtual queue for that ride. We were lucky it was pretty quiet. Paul and Amelia managed to get on a few slides. The ‘Oh No’ was her favourite. It was a slide which ends 6ft above the pool giving you a free fall drop to the water.

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Volcano Bay has 2 lazy rivers, if you want to chill out and relax make sure you enter the right one. TeAwa The Fearless river is anything but relaxing. It’s like white water rafting in a rubber ring, its so much fun but kind of impossible to get off! The wave surges come at just the wrong time and kept shooting me past the exit, I think we went round 4 times and it’s not a short river!

Disabled Access here is really good, there was an entrance for me on the rivers with hoists to put you in and out of the water, most of the slides had lifts to get you up to them so if you are in a wheelchair you can still experience a lot of the park which is great.

The Volcano is stunning when you see it, and the wave pool in front of it is perfect to just chill out and soak up the sun. Do not forget your sun cream, we were there for a few hours and I ended up with red legs!

We went back to the hotel for a few hours to ease our sunburn and just as we sat down we had a knock at the door and some Champagne and Chocolates delivered as a Honeymoon gift from the hotel which was lovely, we were chuffed with that 🙂 Made light work of the bottle and went off to Universal Studios a little bit tipsy…

 

The Express Passes you get with your room booking are fab. It’s actually your room key that acts as your pass so buying a lanyard is a great idea, it’s a good way to carry them around 🙂

We were straight on every ride we wanted to do. Jimmy Fallon is amazing. We were obviously aware of his show and who he is but you don’t need to to enjoy it. The pre show is fabulous with a barbershop quartet like he has on the show singing some modern classics for you, I really enjoyed that. It’s worth queueing for just for them. And it does keep you entertained while you wait. The ride itself is another 3D/4D ride simulator of which there are quite a few at Universal. The general idea of these is pretty similar yet they are all unique in their own way. This one takes you on a race through New York City taking in all the sights like the Empire State and Statue of Liberty before ending up back in the Tonight show studio.

Amelia had been going on and on and on and on about Rip Ride Rockit since our last trip, it was another one we had tears about with her being so little. Having the Express pass meant she could go on as many times as she liked and I lost count at 5, seeing this little gem after she’d been on it made my day!

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We managed to get on Simpsons, which still makes me feel sick, Men in Black and The Mummy before our day was cut short because of the weather.

I mentioned the photopass in my last blog which we managed to get a good deal on and we did use it as much as we could. It’s nowhere near as good as the Disney one and there isn’t really any photographers about much it’s mostly just on rides and character meets you can use it. There isn’t a lot of those at all. With all the photo opportunities all over Universal and particularly in Wizarding World I think Universal would benefit from having more photographers dotted about. That being said we did take advantage of it today with ET and SpongeBob 🙂

Dinner today was in Mels Diner which I wasn’t overly impressed with if I’m honest. I’d eaten there before and I remembered having jukeboxes on the table but I’m sure it used to be table service. Food was ok, not brilliant and it was quite expensive.

We spent the evening chilling out with cocktails by the pool and sitting in the hot-tub not an entirely bad way to spend the evening. Universal doesn’t have the evening shows like Disney does so the parks do close earlier. You do have Citywalk to explore but being as we only had one night in the hotel we did want to make use of the pool and have a quiet and early night. We need to be awake enough to take full advantage of early entry for Diagon Alley!!

Tomorrow we get the chance to visit Diagon Alley without all the crowds!

Day 4 – Epcot Food and Wine, Akershaus and Biergarten

Today was a day for eating and the food and wine is something I’ve been so looking forward to. In hindsight booking 2 table service meals for a day when we’re essentially eating our way around the world was not a good move!

We started with breakfast with the princesses at Akershaus, we booked it for before the park opened and walking into Epcot with hardly any people about was amazing! It was so quiet I just wish we’d got there a little earlier (we got lost. again.) so I could soak it in a little more.

Akershaus is Norweigan food so lots of fish for breakfast and pastries. You meet princesses here and meet with Belle before you sit down. We had Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora visit us.

 

Food was ok, the restaurant was beautiful. It’s a nice (much cheaper) option than Cinderellas Royal Table. Amelia loved it although I don’t think eating a whole plate of salmon for breakfast was one of her best ideas.

We managed to meet Anna and Elsa after breakfast and get on Frozen all before 9:30! (Little tip, although the showcase doesn’t open until 10am, Frozen does open when the rest of the park does so you can go on that from 9am)

Frozen is wonderful, we ended up riding it 3 times! The technology they use is so good!

There is an awful lot going on during Food and Wine including having some artists around and we were lucky enough to meet the wonderful Larry Dotson and purchased a few of his prints which are beautiful. I always love looking in the Disney art shops when I’m in Disney, I always want so much stuff for the house but we just don’t have the space for everything.  It just goes to show that the Disney merchandise isn’t just for kids!

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We rode Soarin’ Around The World for the first time which is so much better than the original one, I always really liked Soarin so it’s nice to see it a little bit differently.

There was 2 new character meets at Epcot that we were all really looking forward to, well I say all of us, mostly me! And I was super excited as you can see….

Baymax is AWESOME! We were really lucky that there were literally no queues for anything, we were in and out of meeting Baymax and Joy and Sadness in about 30 minutes.

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Character meets out of the way and breakfast fully digested off to do what Epcot is made for and eat!!

I absolutely LOVED food and wine! Our plan was to try and eat something savoury and sweet from each of the booths as we walked round but it quickly became apparent that we are a pudding family (which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows us) and we mostly ate puddings!!

One thing that was really awesome is that if you are on the dining plan you can use your snack credits to purchase items at the booths. They don’t publicise it but that’s what we did. I knew you could use a quick service for 3 snacks from the same vendor but everywhere I looked said no to using snack credits.  It’s a great reason to get the dining plan I think it worked so well for us, we ate loads of stuff!!

The Creme Brulee in France was our favourite sweet and the meatball from New Zealand our savoury.

Epcot is definitely my favourite park, I just love walking around, there’s loads of cool places to take photos and the shops in all the pavilions are so much fun to look around – and great for kids to spend their holiday pennies in as they do have some really cool things at a fraction of the price you would pay to buy anything with Disney on it 🙂

We had dinner in Biergarten so we missed Illuminations. This was one of the places I was looking forward to eating in it looks really cool online but I have to say I don’t think I’d chose to eat there again. The entertainment was fabulous that part of it I really liked but we were not overly impressed with the food. There wasn’t a great deal of choice. It’s also incredibly loud in there so it is hard to have a conversation with whoever you’re with when you’re in there. It’s good for kids, they can have a dance to the band who play, Amelia really liked it but for us we weren’t blown away.

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We managed to get back to our resort without getting lost tonight – tomorrow we go to BE OUR GUEST and I am so excited!!

Disneymoon Blog – Day 1 – Animal Kingdom, Armidillos and Oh Getting lost…

I was up at 4am this morning, unpacking and writing yesterdays blog and went off for a little adventure around the resort while everyone else was asleep being a good wife and getting drinks for when Paul and Amelia woke up.

Port Orleans is such a nice resort as I said yesterday, it has such a relaxed atmosphere and because it is a small resort it’s not crowded which is brilliant. (I’ll do a proper in full review of the resort and the room when I get home)

We had an 8:20 reservation for Tusker House this morning with EMH at Animal Kingdom from 8am. We got there just after 8am and it was packed. Labour Day weekend and obviously Pandora I think were the reasons for that. In all my visits I’ve never seen so many people running towards a park at that time of the morning. As we made our way to Tusker and passed Pandora that crowd did thin out. A Lot.

Tusker House is fab!! It’s a large restaurant so even though it seats a lot of people it doesnt feel too crowded. It’s worth remembering for those of you who aren’t staying on site that if you do have a dining reservation before the park opens that is a really good way to get in the parks. Although you won’t be able to get on anything until it does open for rides like Flight of Passage it would mean you can get in line early.

Food at Tusker is standard for a Breakfast Buffet although it does have a bit of an African twist with things like corned beef hash and curry for you to try. I have a sweet tooth and would highly recommend trying the Banana Bread pudding which was lovely. As is the specialty drink ‘Jungle Juice’ which they give you when you get to your table. I could drink that all day.  I don’t know what was in it but it was lovely and fruity.

We met 4 Characters, Donald obviously, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey.  I do love the character dining it’s a great way to meet the more popular ones without having to be in a line for ages.

Bellys full we headed off to get my DAS sorted on our Magic Bands which was as usual quick and easy from Guest Services.  Then off we went to visit Pandora. We had a fast pass for River Journey and it was pretty quiet which we found a little odd. Turned out none of the rides were running. We did have a little look around and Amelia was fascinated by the big plant that lights up when you touch it. I have to say from that little bit that we saw I was completely gobsmacked. It is stunning!! The theming, the ambience the whole lot of it is breathtaking.  I knew it was going to be incredible after seeing all the vlogs and pictures but honestly none of those do it justice at all. IMG_8114

With Pandora having issues we decided to head up to Kilimanjaro Safaris – I was a bit lame today with taking photos and mostly videoed instead so look out for those when we get home. We saw loads of animals on the safari including a baby elephant which was absolutely the cutest thing we saw all day.

We bumped into Tarzan on our travels which was fab as I’d not met him before 🙂 I managed to embarass myself a little by tripping on my feet and very nearly grabbing his bum…

Off to Everest after that Amelia’s favourite, And a lot faster than I remember it being last time!! Then a quick visit to the river rapids which was lovely in the heat as it was incredibly muggy and hot yesterday.

Disability access for all the rides is so easy – I will go into all that a lot more when I get home – I know it’s something that is really important to know when you go somewhere like Disney.

We went back to Pandora for lunch and off to Satu’li Canteen one of the places I’d been most looking forward to eating in. Again the ambience is breathtaking in there!! Food was amazing, I recommend the beef but not with the grains which basically taste like plain brown rice, Paul went for the sweet potato hash which was lovely so that would be my choice for next time.

No pudding though cos we were full, instead we went and got a Night Blossom from Pongo Pongo. Which tastes like a twister in a glass 🙂

Using my DAS we got a return time for Flight of Passage – a wait of 4 HOURS – and then went back to the hotel for a bit of time in the pool. And we managed to get back without getting lost!!

Bad news when we got back literally just as we got to the pool they closed it due to lightning so instead we went in the arcade which was so much fun.

Back to Animal Kingdom after refilling our resort mugs for the journey, it was chucking it down so it was nice walking in that everyone else was heading in the opposite direction.

Straight to River Journey as they let us keep the fast pass to use at any time as well as giving us an extra for something else too.

Just like Pandora itself River Journey is just stunning!! There is so much to look at as you go round. It really takes your breath away with the sounds smells and noises you hear as you travel slowly around. I decided not to take pictures on this on my first time round just so I could fully concentrate on what was going on and take it all in. Then off we went to Flight of Passage. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do this ride being that the restraints hold your feet forward and also come up to fasten you at your back – 2 things that for me with my condition looked like they would be a little problematic. So I ducked out 😦 Paul and Amelia went on it though and when they came off Paul explained everything to me about the ride vehicle and we decided that I would be able to go on so we decided to go back again another day, instead a lovely cast member who I’d been chatting to while I was waiting actually took us back round so we could all go on again then.

Flight of Passage there are literally no words to describe how amazing it is!! It uses similar technology to Soarin but much more state of the art. Not only do you see all the places you’re flying over on your banshee you smell them as well.  It’s that realistic that you almost forget that you’re on a ride and you do really feel a little worried you might fall off of things might hit you as you fly at them – I had to stop myself putting my hand up to shield myself from some of it!! Because of the incredibly realistic effects it is really really intense. I have strange fears and big waves/tidal waves and things like that do scare me there is a bit where you fly towards a huge wave and I think you fly through it as it crashed over you but I shut my eyes for that so I could be wrong!! 🙂

It was dark when we got off so we were lucky enough to see Pandora at night with everything lit up. It’s beautiful!! You MUST go here at night and see how all the plants and walkways light up in the dark, if there is any place throughout Disney that showcases the talent of the imagineers this is it!! How they come up with the ideas to make these things so real I will never know!!

We did Dinosaur which is probably one of the fastest rides I’ve ever been on, I don’t remember it being that quick – maybe we’re just getting old and things seem a bit faster than they used to be – I was knackered getting off that you get thrown around that much!!

Then last fastpass of the day was Everest about half hour before park closing 🙂 In the Dark with an AMAZING view of the park all lit up!! Highly recommened doing that at night 🙂

Wandering out of the park we saw a little Armadillo which was highly entertaining for all the Brits around us!!

Then we left. To come back to the hotel which we found with no trouble earlier!! Took us an hour again in the dark!! Theme of this holiday is definitely getting lost in Disney!! I’m beginning to regret not getting a decent map or renting a sat nav!!

Off to Islands of Adventure today and Blue Man tonight, I wonder if we’ll get lost coming home.. stay tuned I shall update you tomorrow!!

Discovery Cove – A Review

When we booked our last trip one thing that we really wanted to do was swim with Dolphins and all I’d heard about Discovery Cove was good things.

One of the biggest appeals of DC is the fact that they limit the amount of people they allow in to 1200 so it’s never as packed as the major theme parks.

TOP TIP – book for a weekend, it’s a great time to avoid the busiest times in the other parks.

Whilst DC can be expensive in high season it’s well worth the money I think. Not only do you get to swim with Dolphins if you wish – which is actually quite an emotional thing to do – but the whole day is fully all inclusive. All your food, drink, snacks etc are included, including alcohol for those who are old enough, and there’s not many places, if any, in Orlando where you get that. Literally all you need to take is yourself and your camera.

It’s a relatively small park and is divided into 3 main areas, Dolphin Lagoon, The Great Reef and Wind Away River.

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The image above is what you will have on the lanyard you’re given on check in. This will have a photo of yourself on it and acts as your ticket for the day and also as your ticket for visiting the other Seaworld Parks included in your package after your day at DC.

We checked in at around 9am although the park actually opens at 7:30am for breakfast. If you’re swimming with Dolphins your swim time is allocated when you check in. Our swim was about midday so checking in at 9am was perfect for us.

On checking in you may be lucky enough to meet the lovely Sloth they have, you’re not able to hug him, which upset me, but you can give him a stroke and he was so lovely.  There’s animal encounters throughout the day just by wind away river so if you don’t see him in the morning keep an eye out there.

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As you get into Discovery Cove you have a complimentary photo taken that you can pick up at the end of the day.

You are able to pick up you snorkels and wetsuits once you’re inside. You have the choice of a proper wetsuit or you can just choose to have the jackets which is what we did. There are flotation devices for children as well if you need them.

Our first port of call was the Grand Reef which is a freshwater pool with 100s of fish and Rays swimming beneath you. What I wasn’t prepared for was the temperature!! The Grand Reef is cold! It’s kept at a temperature suitable for the marine life within it and although it will get warmer if the weather is hot, be prepared if you go to it first.

If you have a go-pro or other waterproof camera this is an amazing place to use it!

It’s not a massive area so can get a little packed during busy times and it’s also quite deep so be aware of that for non-swimmers. However there are rocks that you can hold on to as it’s just like a reef you’d find in the ocean.

I absolutely love Rays so being able to see them swim past you and swimming with other fish was amazing, and also not having to be in the middle of the ocean to do it makes it really appealing!

Amelia absolutely loved the snorkeling and we struggled to get her away from it to see the rest of the park!

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TOP TIP Although we didn’t stay all day I have been told that towards the end of the day the fish are fed and will all come up to the surface to feed. This is something incredible to see so it’s worth staying in the park for the day to witness it.

Next place we went to was the Aviary. I am not a fan of birds and they are really quite friendly so if like me you like to look at them from a safe distance then this is not the place for you!! They will land on you, and you will have a job getting them off… I had a little bird sit on the front of my ECV for ages looking at the pictures now it was pretty cute but I didn’t like it at the time!!

Discovery Coves Explorers Aviary has over 250 different birds and it wasn’t a small aviary either. You walk through into different areas with birds from different countries we spent a good half an hour if not more there. Again this is great for kids as you can see…

Wind Away River is Discovery Coves version of a lazy river and as you would expect from somewhere so tropical it’s not your average one. It’s not like you would normally find where you would sit in a rubber ring and float around this one you swim in. There’s no current but it takes you through caves and around islands where you can come face to face with monkeys and otters.

One other thing thats just by the entrance to the Wind Away River is a lovely little bar (and don’t forget all your snacks etc are included) and it’s a nice place to just sit in the bar area in the water and have a drink in the sun.

And now to the good bit, and the main reason most people go to Discovery Cove, the chance to swim with the dolphins.  I was really excited about doing this and it was so much better than I could ever have imagined.

Before you go in the water with the Dolphins you are given a pre-swim briefing that tells you all the do’s and don’t and lets you know exactly what to expect from your swim.  From memory I think it lasted no more than about 10 minutes and it was quite interesting.

You cannot wear any loose jewellery or take cameras into the water with you but if you have people in the party not swimming they can take photos from the beach and each group has a photographer and videographer capturing your time in the water. There is about 8 to a group.

The initial part of your experience is in shallow water – again a little cold – you’re introduced to a few different Dolphins and I remember being surprised by how different each one was personality wise. They reminded me a little of my dogs and the way they react to stuff. You can see that these mammals have genuine love for their handlers as well and they are incredibly affectionate animals.

You’re told in the briefing how to handle the Dolphins and you’re able to stroke them and get close. They are a lot bigger than I thought they’d be. That’s the first thing I thought when I saw one swimming towards me!

I forget the names of the Dolphins we met but we were told that some of them absolutely love being handled and stroked and these are the ones we got close to, they didn’t however like ‘swimming’ with people so we were introduced to a different Dolphin for that.

You’re shown a few commands to get them to do things and then you get to pose for photos. You are not rushed. You get to do this on your own and with your family group as well. Some of ours were taken twice, the photographer was great and made us pose again until she got the best shots.

You’re ‘swim’ is done after this and you are given the choice of staying close to the shallow water or swimming out a little deeper and being bought back.  This is an incredible thing to do. You’re shown how to hold on to them and then off they go. Personally I was terrified!! These are big animals, I am a really small woman, I could barely get my arms round it to hold on!! It’s a pretty quick swim but I’m so glad I did it and would definitely do it again.

One thing we didn’t do is SeaVenture, it looks amazing but its not something that appealed to us this trip as Amelia was too young to do it. It’s just off the Grand Reef and as you will have no doubt seen online is deep sea diving. Allowing you to walk long the seabed and see the fish from a completely different view. It’s not included in your package for Discovery Cove and it is something you pay extra for, it’s around £40 in advance.

The food at Discovery Cove was nice. You do have quite a lot of choice and as it’s all inclusive you can go back for more if you wish. There is one main restaurant and then snack carts around the parks. We ate a lot of pretzels!!

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EXTRAS – You can also have a Cabana for the day here which is an extra cost and can only be booked through Discovery Cove directly, so when you’ve made your reservation for the day you can call them and book one if you like. It’s a good way to have a base for the day and you’ll have a fully stocked fridge all day while you’re there. It’s a nice way to make the day a little more special but it’s not something I would say is essential being as it’s not that busy.

Photos and Videos of your Dolphin Experience are of course extra and there are a few levels of packages you can purchase. We went for the bigger package that was around $190. For that we had all our photos printed and digitally, a photo album, frame, a poster size print and also a Blu-Ray of the swims. I haven’t been able to watch that yet though as our player isn’t multi regional so bear that in mind.

ACCESS INFO – Most if not all of Discovery Cove is accessible. A lot of it is on sand which can be a little tricky for standard wheelchairs, however they do have some outdoor wheelchairs that can maneuver easily on the sand. They’re not self propelling though so someone would need to push you. It’s recommended that you book these in advance. The aviary is accessible for chairs and can accommodate an ECV (just be prepared for the birds to be attracted to it!!) You can do the Dolphin Encounter as long as if you need one you have someone with you to assist you in and out of the water.

There are loads of places in the Wind Away River that you can actually take a wheelchair in the water to to be able to transfer into it. You may need help for some of the other areas if you have mobility issues.

All in all I really enjoyed Discovery Cove and it’s definitely somewhere I’d visit again. It’s a nice relaxing way to spend a day in Orlando away from the constant noise and chaos of the theme parks. It’s somewhere you can just chill out and not have to worry about anything. It’s like a tropical island paradise in the middle of Orlando. Swimming with Dolphins was one of the most incredible things I’ve done in my life and I’d highly recommended it to anyone!

Disneyland Paris Trip 2013 vs 2016

I’ve always had a strange relationship with Disneyland Paris. I visited for the first time the year it opened and to be honest other than Captain EO and buying a cool Star Tours baseball cap that I lost I don’t really remember a lot. At that point in my life I wasn’t really ‘into’ Disney so I don’t think I was particularly bothered about going which is why I don’t remember. My Dad was a coach driver at the time and it was one of his trips I got to go on. I think I was about 11.

It’s always been the ‘poorer’ sister to WDW, it’s smaller and of course you’re not guaranteed the weather like you are in Orlando. About 5 years ago I went with Paul (our first holiday together) and we took Amelia for her first Disney experience. We went in August and we had a great time, we had 2 days in the park and stayed in nearby Val’D’Europe. It was busy but we had amazing weather and seeing her little face when she met Cinderella is another one of those things that stick with you and make you all emotional when you think about it.

She was so little then and she was just excited the whole time. We drove there it took us about 8 hours in all I think from leaving home and getting on the ferry and then driving to Chessy the other side. She barely slept from the time we got there to the time we came home – and I remember her talking non stop for the whole trip.

All in all that trip cost us about £500 so we really did it on a budget, Eurotunnel, Ibis in Val D’Europe and the 2 day park tickets. This was before I worked in travel and I got my tickets then from 365 tickets as they were the cheapest. What I didn’t realise at the time was we were being sent vouchers so that meant a good hour or so queue when we got there before we could go in being as they had to be exchanged for ‘real’ tickets. If you’re doing this on a budget I recommend checking with the ticket provider that they are either real tickets or gate ready e-tickets. Attraction Tickets Direct are a great place to get them from and they do have offers from time to time on their tickets.

That trip changed my mind a little on DLRP but I was still disappointed at the lack of characters, Disney for me as you know is all about them and there really wasn’t that many about. I didn’t see them wandering about like you do in Orlando and it just didn’t make it as magical as WDW was.

Fast forward just over 3 years and I did another trip. No kids just me and my mate Manda (who had spent half a day at Disneyland park over the summer not really being a Disney fan and had sent me a picture of herself there that day with the caption ‘I get it now!’) and she really wanted to spend a bit more time there and experience it properly. We got a really good deal and we went all-inclusive this time.  We flew from Southampton to Orly and it was a short just over an hour flight, had transfers on the Disney Shuttle which is really easy to find when you get to the airport and a great way to get to the park. It was about an hours journey again to our on resort hotel. We stayed in Newport Bay which has been newly refurbished. Check in was quick the staff were really helpful just the Disney attitude I’d been used to.  Newport Bay is in a great location its right near Disney Village and is walking distance to the park entrance. There is also a shuttle bus which can take you to the parks as well which we used and that was really quick. They ran every 10 minutes.  The pool was big and we spent a little time in there, breakfast was included with our package and was a standard continental all you can eat buffet in the hotel. We had to book our time slot for breakfast which we had really early so we could make use of the extra magic hours.

We had the dining package as well which was brilliant. It meant we could eat in some really nice places in DLRP. Amanda is vegan so she was really happy to find before our trip that there was quite a lot of selection for her. We picked our choices of eatieries based on if she could eat more than just pasta or a veggie burger. DLRP advertises that they have an allergen menu as well which was useful for her. However we had issues trying to get the staff in Cafe Mickey to understand what we were asking for. Cafe Mickey is great for character dining, however not so great for food if you have allergies or are vegan. If you have the dining plan it’s worth going to but if you’re paying I don’t think it’s worth the money. In hindsight we wish we had chosen a different character dining experience. Allegen food comes in plastic pots and it’s a lot to pay for something so basic. Characters here rotate so you may get different ones at different times of day.

Inside the park was quiet. We went in September and went during the week. Most rides were walk on (with the exception of Ratatouille) with the extra magic hours we could actually walk up to the castle with no one in front of us at all. That was a moment!!

Knowing that these parks are a lot smaller than WDW I didn’t even think about hiring any sort of wheelchair or taking an ECV (which you cannot hire here). It would have made the trip easier if I had. Instead we had 2 days when Amanda had to push me about in a chair. Which I hired at 20 euros a day and a 100 euro deposit. The parks are a lot smaller and the studios you can walk from one side to the other in about 10 minutes. Next time however I will take a chair with me.

Disability access is not like Orlando. You can get a guest assistance pass and this allows exit entrance to most rides although with some we were given a return time. You can use the card for character meets too and they give you return times so you don’t queue. It works well and I didn’t have any issues with it at all. The rides are a lot closer together than on Orlando and it’s so much more manageable I think.

I had an amazing time on this trip. Staying on site made a real difference and not having to worry about purchasing food was amazing. I’d never had that before and I don’t think I’ll take a trip there without it again. We ate in some incredible places and with the exception of Mickeys the food was incredible. Your dining plan is given to you in vouchers which you exchange whenever you eat. You have vouchers for every night you are staying in the hotel not the amount of days you have in the park.

CHEF REMYS was the place I most wanted to eat in. Seeing all the pictures online the themeing of it just looked incredible. We booked that one quite far in advance as it does get booked up really quickly. I can’t recommend it enough!!

It’s in the Studios park and you can see the ride from the restaurant. Our waiter was amazing the service was incredible and the food was to die for!! Whatever you have make sure it comes with the ratatouille. In terms of the atmosphere and surroundings this was my favourite place that we ate.

CAFE AGRABAH was the place that Amanda was most looking forward to eating it. There was so much vegan stuff on their menu. I love Morrocan food so I was really looking forward to this. It’s an all you can eat buffet and it was so good. It wasn’t your normal boring nuggets and chips buffet it was proper healthy but tasty food. All sorts of rices and different stews etc. Plus it looks AMAZING!!

I loved the feel that you were in a Moroccan market place and outside when in reality you’re in a theme park in Paris and inside. This is a must do for everyone. It will cater to all tastes they do have the chips and nuggets for the fussier ones among us and it’s a nice change to the normal buffets you will find.

ANNETTES DINER is in the Disney Village and we ended up there by accident as we couldn’t get a table in any of the restaurants in the park (which taught us to book every meal and we did that for the rest of the trip when we got back to the hotel, hotel reception can do this for you). I do love a good american diner and Annettes is really good. The food is what you would expect from a diner mostly burgers and hotdogs.

I’d seen pictures of Annettes online and seen cast members dancing on the bar and I’m sure I’d seen them on roller skates (I’ve always wanted to go to a diner where the server is on skates) that never happened when we were there. I’m not sure if it’s something that only happens seasonally or if it doesn’t happen anymore. I was really disappointed by that. The food was good but it’s not amazing.

PLAZA GARDENS we actually ate here twice we liked it so much. Best puddings in the park!! This is an all you can eat buffet and had all sorts of different cuisines. Lots of vegan choice and some really nice stews and casseroles as well as pizza and chicken. It’s in a great location to eat before the fireworks which is exactly what we did. We booked for 7 and when we got to the castle at half 7 we had a perfect front row view of Disney Dreams.

And now onto the interesting stuff!! Rides and Characters!!

There wasn’t a lot new since my last trip. Ratatouille was the newest ride and that was really good but not if you suffer from motion sickness!! It’s really clever but did make me feel a bit sick. I was a bit upset that Star Tours and Big Thunder Mountain were closed. But I knew that before I went. There’s a lot of work going on in Discoveryland ready for the new updated Star Tours due to open in March. Always check online before you travel as the website will tell you all about any ride closures.

Character wise I had an amazing time there were loads of them!! Random ones as well and ones I’d never seen before which was exciting for me and made me a DLRP convert.

I am one of those grown ups who still takes an autograph book with her when she goes to Disney and this time I ran out of space.

We had the photopass included with our package as well which was really good. They could use some professional photographers all over the parks like in Orlando taking pictures in front of the castle instead of us having to take them. Aside from the characters and some of the rides (mostly the ones I can’t go on like Tower of Terror and Rock N Roller Coaster) there isn’t really anywhere else you can use the photopass.

DLRP has some incredible shows. Obviously you have Disney Dreams (which is soon to be replaced with ‘Disney Illuminations’ as part of the 25th Anniversary Celebrations) and you have the parade in the Disneyland Park – again something that’s being updated for the celebrations. The parade in Paris is no-where near as good as the Orlando one, there isn’t many floats and it doesn’t last very long at all. Hopefully the new one will be a little better.

Stitch LIVE! Is brilliant, it’s an interactive show where Stitch talks to the audience and gets children involved in it as well. It’s funny and great for all the family.

The best show at Disney however is Mickey and the Magician. It was due to run for a limited time but has now been extended until 2018. It’s in the studios park and is a must see. It’s in English and French but it’s easy to follow and it’s a music and magic show with loads of your favourite Disney characters and songs from the films. I most definitely did NOT cry!! I won’t ruin it and tell you what happens or what songs/films are included but what I will say is you’d be a fool to miss it. The special effects in this show are incredible as well, I was blown away by it.

All in all I think DLRP has improved massively. It’s a great place to visit for a bit of a Disney fix and with more character appearances and the new shows and parades it can only get better.

Obviously it’s not as big as Orlando and you won’t get the weather but if you go treating it as a completely different place and don’t compare it to Orlando then you’ll have an amazing time 🙂

Updates :)

I’ve been a busy bee today!!

I’ve added a few food reviews here, Chef Mickeys and dining with Minions How To Eat Cheap in Orlando… and some of the best places 🙂 

I’ve also updated some of the disability info and talked a bit about the best ways to get around Orlando Disney (and other Parks) – With Disabilities

Have a read 🙂

It’s NEXT WEEK!!

Excuse me while I squeal a little!! I can now finally say we go next week!! The excitement is getting a bit much now to be honest I may well burst at any moment!

I get asked loads why I love Florida so much and how there are ‘loads of other places in the world’ but you know what? Apart from Italy (and maybe Germany after watching a Vlog about Europa Park) there isn’t really anywhere else I’m that bothered about visiting and I don’t think they’ll live up to my expectations after being to Disney.  I’m not a sit by the pool and drink type so a package holiday being stuck in a resort is my idea of hell I need things to do!!

I get asked why I don’t get bored being that I’ve been before – this will be trip number 6 – I don’t get bored because there’s always something new to see. In the space of 17 years I’ve seen loads of things come and go.  Rides like Snow Whites Scary Adventures and Mr Toads Wild Ride and Toon Town where you could visit the houses of Minnie and Mickey Mouse have gone and are missed and then there are things like Alien which scarred me for life and I’m not sorry to see the back of.

Of course the big new thing is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which has now stretched over 2 parks instead of just the one that there was on my last trip.

Even in 3 years there has been loads of development and new stuff to check out this time. Aside from the WWOHP extension there’s also the New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, the new Frozen show and new parades at Disney. As well as the developments at Downtown Disney.   Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure now has a Raptor encounter and Universal Studios has Transformers and Springfield USA is open.

Seaworld has opened Empire of the Penguin and opened some new shows as well, not to mention the big opening of I-Drive 360 which comprises of the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and Sealife Orlando.

With more changes and new rides/parks opening over the next few years – Avatarland at Animal Kingdom, the Star Wars expansion at Hollywood Studios (or whatever it will be called then…) and Universals Volcano Bay as well as the much talked about Nintendo Partnership at Universal.  And then there’s the King Kong ride that I totally forgot about – I remember the original one!! You can never get bored of Orlando there’s always something new opening!

The other thing I love is how accessible it is and how completely suitable it is for anyone with a disability. Be it a mobility issue like me or more complex needs no matter where you go in Orlando they will do whatever they can to help you and have policies in place for everything you could think of. Nothing is a hassle to them and unlike some other holiday destinations – I’ve been put in upstairs rooms in hotels with no lift and been felt like I’m causing the problem when I’m unable to walk up the stairs!! Here any sort of Disability isn’t seen as a major problem and rather than make a fuss they just figure out how to help you rather than huffing about it!!

The one thing I haven’t done properly in Orlando is a water park – I did Aquatica last time but all I did was bob along in the lazy river – I’m curious to see how they are geared up for someone like me.  There’s quite a few things I’m doing for the first time on this trip, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon which I’m really looking forward to. Discovery Cove which is something I’ve heard nothing but good things about (and that’s not just because all the food and drink is free), We’re doing a Penguin Encounter at Seaworld where we actually get to meet a real penguin – I’m a BIG fan of anywhere where I can cuddle any sort of animal, not sure the penguin will want me to cuddle it but I will give it a try.  We have an Airboat ride as well which I won’t lie, I’m a little bit scared of. I don’t really like boats at the best of times – unless it’s a cruise ship – so being on something that doesn’t look that steady and surrounded by gators isn’t exactly filling me with excitement. I panic in a kayak so goodness knows what I’m going to be like on this.  Also I’m finally getting to do a character breakfast – the bonus of taking kids – we’re doing both Chef Mickeys and Universals Superstar Breakfast (if the tickets get sorted in time) and also the Pirates Adventure Dinner Show. Last time I went to a dinner show I was ill with sunstroke and it wasn’t a pleasant experience so fingers crossed this one will be better.

The only thing that could make this trip even more perfect is that elusive booking at ‘Be Our Guest’…..

7 WEEKS!!! – HHN, getting fit and a bit more about My Disney Experience

7 weeks to go now, thats only 49 days and being as we’re in the middle of a mini heatwave making it feel a bit like I am in Orlando anyway I am even more excited about it if that’s at all possible!!

The fitness regime has started. Lets see if I can tone myself up and lose a few pounds in 7 weeks. I’ve joined a really lovely gym at the Solent Hotel, who more than cater for us people with disabilities. The majority of the classes are accessible and it’s a really comfortable place to be. They have a lot of Personal Trainers and fitness experts who are able to discuss your needs and come up with a programme that is not only helping you achieve your goal, whether it be just general fitness or like me trying to shed a bit of a cake shelf before a holiday but also catered to what you can do. I’m starting aquafit next week. I’ve always wanted to have a go at that I will no doubt look a bit mental but it’s all in an effort to get in that bikini!! Everyone there is really welcoming from the staff to the other members so it’s a really lovely place to be. Decent sized pool and jacuzzi and it’s not too busy either.  They actually have a really cool offer on at the moment for a 4 week trial for £55 well worth it if you’re looking for somewhere to go over the summer and a good taster to what it’s like. Solent Hotel and Spa

Also yesterday we were lucky enough at Voice FM to have the opportunity to have a chat with Universal Studios Creative & Entertainment Director Michael Aiello about Halloween Horror Nights and what’s coming up at Universal Studios, including King Kong and Volcano Bay. If you want to find out what he had to say tune in to the Breakfast Show next Wednesday 8th July 7-10am on Southamptons Voice FM. We tried to get some exclusives out of him but did we succeed….

I’m now in charge of the whole families bookings of Fast Passes and checking us into our hotel. I had a few issues with the booking numbers being wrong, best thing to do is call Disney if you have any issues they connected all mine up to my Disney account while I was on the phone. You need 2 references for MDE, your hotel booking ref and your ticket numbers. If you have booked a package with both it will know and you only need the one. I was really impressed with the Disney call centre they did exactly what I needed and really really quickly. If you have any questions they are happy to help – and I love that they always say ‘have a magical day’ set me up for the day that did 🙂

 

93 Days To Go…

3 days until I can book Fastpasses for the rides I won’t be able to go on with everyone therefore meaning they can’t use my DAS card 🙂 There isn’t many to be honest which is a good thing.

I updated a bit more of my MK page today so there’s more info on rides and attractions on that, just have Adventureland left now and that’s park one finished! It’s been interesting doing it and investigating a little bit finding things that I haven’t seen or didn’t know about. I’m thinking I will DEFINITELY need another few trips after this to make sure I’ve seen it all. There’s a few new things on my list of things to do and places to eat, there’s some cool looking restaurants including this place…

It used to be used for shows according to YouTube and I’m not entirely sure why it isn’t anymore. The food looks good and what a cool little atmosphere to take in.

I’m also starting to collate some information from memory for those with disabilities – and those who just like to know – on each of the rides, how you transfer to the ride cart and also what the ride experience entails. Whether it goes upside down, how much you get thrown about and particularly what type of movements you can expect in places like the 4D theatres. Some of them have things poke you so it’s worthwhile having some of that information before you go. Keep an eye out and I’ll let you know when it’s updated.