Day 7 – A Deserted Wizarding World, preparing for Irma and meeting a Polar Bear

Today is the main reason we decided to stay at Hard Rock Hotel.

Staying on site gives you the early entry and both parts of the Wizarding World open an hour early for hotel guests. 8am in our case at this time of year. We got up early, checked out and walked to Universal Studios. Literally a 5 minute walk if that! No need to get on a bus, train, monorail or boat.

Nothing else bar Starbucks and a few places to eat were open and we were a little disappointed to learn that Gringotts didn’t actually open until the park did. That being said there is so much to look at in Diagon Alley and we had so much fun looking about and being able to have pictures without loads of people in the background. Paul even pretended he knew what Harry Potter was all about and had a go at being a wizard!

Anyone who’s been here knows how immersive it is and it does really feel like you’re entering the wizarding world. Even with the ride closed the hour we had before opening wasn’t anywhere near enough time to explore it all in peace!

We spent a lot of time doing spells and wondering around the shops and into Ollivanders to see how the wand chooses the wizard. One of the little extra things I really wanted to do that I’d kept quiet from Amelia was visit the money exchange where you can change up your dollars (a minimum of $10) to wizarding money with the help of one of the gringotts goblins. Fully interactive of course.

The money can only be spent in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade or of course makes a relatively cheap souvenir. We kept ours. ย We did video our experience in the money exchange as well as most of the trip so when I can get my head round editing I’ll put all that up as well.

Food in Diagon Alley, well snacks, are magical too. We had the obligatory Butterbeer which comes frozen or normal, and is every bit as delicious as I remember but a little too sweet for some people. We had Earl Grey and Lavender Ice Cream which was lovely but in typical Orlando style even one scoop was far too big! Amelia was sensible and went for a no melt ice cream from the sweet shop. It looked fabulous but was essentially just a pot of frosting, very good frosting but frosting all the same.ย  Pumpkin spice is one of my favourite things in Orlando so we went for a Pumpkin Pasty which was ok and we also bought a cauldron cake – we skipped breakfast so we were all a bit hungry!

I really enjoyed just wandering around and to be honest I could have quite happily walked around all day. But we needed to get as much done as possible as we needed to find a Walmart to stock up on rations for when Irma hit.

We had a quick stop off at The Night Bus and a chat with Stan and the shrunken heads before we took a little walk over to the other side of the park to see a show I’d been dying to watch for a while.

IMG_8453

That didn’t happen straightaway however as Paul nearly had some sort of fit after The Blues Brothers were walking along. He loves the Blues Brothers and we were planning on making sure we caught their show but we ended up seeing an earlier one. Paul even got involved in it, again to be seen in an upcoming vlog!

The Blues Brothers show is one of those must sees, everyone knows all the songs and it’s so entertaining and funny. Lots of audience participation and the performers are really really good ๐Ÿ™‚

Jaws the rideย may now be a distant memory but you can’t visit Universal Studios without finding the famous shark himself and inspecting the inside of his mouth.

IMG_8463

We did try and go to Richter Burger for lunch which does some of the best burgers but sadly it was closed.

The park was very quiet today, eerily so, due I would imagine to the upcoming storm. Most of the people in the parks were on holiday, I think most locals were out getting supplies.

If you’re planning a trip to Universal or have been before and are looking for something different to do, make a spot in your itinerary for the Horror Make Up Show. It’s not something I was overly interested in on previous trips just thinking it would be like some of the animation classes you used to get at Disney which although I enjoyed it wasn’t something I would rush to do again. I actually saw a vlog on it a few months after we booked and I laughed so hard! So we decided to give it a go ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus it’s inside and it’s been raining on and off quite heavily all day.

It’s a live stage show with 2 fantastically funny hosts who show a few techniques for horror make up and blood and then show clips of the movies that they’re used on. And the movies the hosts have worked on. An unsuspecting audience member – sadly not one of us – gets roped in to be made up as well.

There are screens in the theatre – which isn’t that big – so any tricks they show you are shown close up on those ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a great way to spend half an hour, you won’t be disappointed and honestly it’s one of the funniest shows I’ve seen ๐Ÿ™‚

Plus you can have your throat cut by the hosts after if you want to…

IMG_8502

One thing I only found out about recently were the impromptu ‘dance parties’ involving the floats from the Superstar parade. We were lucky on coming out of the show to stumble upon a Despicable Me one. Amelia got picked to be a Minion which she loved and you can have a dance with all the characters to the music from the film. I was just really excited that you can meet the girls!

These are really good fun and kids love it!

IMG_8507

It turns out we were in a great location for meeting characters here, after the dance party we spotted Popeye, Beetlejuice, Scooby Doo and The Simpsons. Some with photographers so we could take advantage of the photopass.

Shaggy and Scooby are always fun to meet. Other places where you can use the photopass are with the meets with Transformers, Minions and Shrek.

I finally got to do the Transformers ride which I wasn’t all that impressed with. The ride tech is brilliant and the special effects are really good but it’s not really that much different to Spider-Man, it’s just the story is about Transformers instead. I prefer Spider-Man.

The Despicable Me ride is one I always enjoy, I love the films and the Minions do make me laugh. Best bit of the ride though is undoubtedly when you exit to a dance floor where you can dance with the Minions ๐Ÿ™‚

61396_090817_000202499

After a quick? stop in Walmart and $200 of groceries later – we were told we could be in our rooms for 48 hours so we needed enough to last – we went back to Port Orleans, without getting lost for a quick dip in the pool.

I really enjoyed the pool at Port Orleans, it’s a great size and has a slide. There’s always activities for the kids as well, at an extra cost though.

There is also a bar that does some brilliant cocktails and an adults only Jacuzzi which we most definitely made the most of.

We decided to spend the evening in Disney Springs. The beauty of staying at Port Orleans is that you can get to Disney Springs on a boat which was fun. They run quite late into the evening as well it’s a less crowded more fun way to get about than the buses.

boat

We had a reservation at T-Rex where I really wanted to try the famed Cottontini ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s basically a martini poured over candy floss (or cotton candy as they call it). I went for the apple one and I loved it. If you don’t like sweet things you won’t like it. The Candy Floss dissolvesย as you pour the drink over it.ย I ended up having 2 and another fruity cocktail as well. You get to keep the cocktail shaker when you order as well so you get a little reminder.

Food wise we really enjoyed T Rex, I’d read a lot of bad reviews about it but honestly apart from it being loud, it is dinosaur themed and comes from the same people who do Rainforest Cafรฉ so you do expect a certain amount of ‘background’ noise from all the things that go on. I don’t remember exactly what happens in T-Rex I think it’s supposed to mimic the demise of the dinosaurs but there are animatronics all over the place and it’sย a great fun place to eat with kids.

After the cocktails we had a rather tipsy wander around the Springs. I love the shops in Disney Springs so much grown up Disney merchandise from homeware and clothes to artwork, I never buy a lot but I just like to look.

One of the things I was super excited about was meeting the Coca Cola Polar bear. I’d watched some videos of him on YouTube and he really made me laugh so finding him was one of the things on my bucket list for this trip. He was brilliant, such a fun character meet and all the photos – in fact all the photo ops in Disney Springs – are included with memory maker. We loved him that much we went back twice.

We also had more cocktails on the rooftop bar at Coca Cola Store. You can have them with all the different coke products you can try in Epcot at Club Cool, I wasn’t brave enough to try the Beverley one so I went for something raspberry flavoured although all I could taste was the alcohol. Don’t forget if you are over 21 and old enough to drink in Orlando you will need to prove it so make sure you have ID with you.

The rooftop bar is lovely, it gives you great views over the Springs, the shop was great as well. It wasn’t there last time I visited so I was excited to have a look ๐Ÿ™‚

Feeling ever so slightly tipsy we went back to the boat to go back, tomorrow is the last day the parks are open before Irma hits so we’re off for breakfast with Winnie the Pooh…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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..

IMG_8392

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.

VB

 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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!

62001_090717_084970

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.ย  It just goes to show that the Disney merchandise isn’t just for kids!

larrydotson

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.

EPCOT_INSIDEOUTCHAR_20170906_404730570813

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.ย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

EPCOT_WRLDSHW3_20170906_404728933723

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

Day 3 – Ohana, Cinderellas Royal Table and Magic Kingdom

Good News, we have the camera back so I have pictures yay!!!

Today we did a LOT of eating with characters starting our day at Ohana in the Polynesian. I’ve never been in there before and I have to say it’s a stunning looking resort. We did find that they don’t have any disabled parking there when we pulled up but instead they give you free valet parking which made us feel a bit special!!

I loved Ohana – I may have had something in my eye when we met Stitch and were seated at a table with a view of the castle!

Food is served Family Style which means it all comes out on the same plate and you help yourself as much as you like. The Pineapple and Coconut bread you get as you sit down is amazing I could have eaten that all day and no Mickey Waffles here they’re Stitch ones!

We met Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto.

On to Magic Kingdom after eating and we signed up for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom which is a really good way to keep kids entertained as they walk through the park.

We did both the mountains (Splash is closed ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) and while we were having a refreshment stop we were asked if we wanted our picture taken in a rocket. This is the rocket!! The cast member insisted I stayed in my ECV so we have this ridiculous photo!! I can assure you this is not a very fast rocket!!

IMG_8278

It was really quiet in the parks today which was lovely most rides only a 25-30 minute wait if that. This is why I love coming at this time of year. Weather is fab – obviously apart from the threat of the Hurricane.

Lots of characters about as well with little or no queue at all. (I’ll put all the Memory Maker photos up when we get home)

Amelia decided she wanted to drive the car on Tomorrowland Speedway which was more of a thrill ride than Thunder Mountain, she can’t steer and I was only just big enough to be able to reach the pedal so everytime it jolted my foot would come off the pedal and the car would stop! I think it took an hour to get round… I am dreading her getting her driving license…

IMG_8289

Gaston is by far my favourite character meet ever! I laughed so much I was crying!! Great use of snack credits today with the LaFous brew I’d been looking forward to since last time. We *might* have made Paul buy a light up rose cup ๐Ÿ™‚ Suits him don’t you think?

We decided to skip the parade today and go on rides instead and it seemed like the day just went so quickly and before we knew it it was time for our 7pm reservation at Cinderellas Royal Table which was Amelias choice of restaurant.

I have to say eating inside the castle is really exciting, the service as you would expect from a $260+ price tag for 3 was exceptional. What surprised me is how small it is inside, there really isn’t that many tables, I guess that’s why its so hard to get a reservation there. I found out from our server that it was actually meant to be Walt’s conference room so that explains why it’s compact in there. That for me made the whole experience so special knowing that this room was one Walt himself had designed.

The food was lovely! Although Amelia ordered chicken which was more than dry! (I will do a full review on the food when I get home)

We met 5 princesses all together Cinderella as you walk in and then Snow White, Aurora, Jasmine and Ariel as we were eating.ย  You get given wands if you’re a girl and a sword for the men – which Paul was a little too happy about!!

IMG_8322

The puddings though were the best bit!

We did more rides after eating and as we came out just before the fireworks started we decided not to attempt to get to the front of the castle and struggle to find a spot so instead we watched from behind which was a really different experience than we’ve done before. I’ve watched a few vloggers film it and if you stand by the tangled bathroom they’re actually all around you which is something to behold.

IMG_8340

We were really lucky after coming out of Cinderella Royal Table we were really lucky that there was a photographer by the Tangled bathrooms doing the Lantern photos, they are amazing and a must do if you’re around when they’re doing them.

On the way out we headed to the photo place near where Mickey meets as we’d had loads of photos on our memory maker not upload and some of totally different families to ours!! We spoke to a wonderful cast member called Katie who is still trying to retrieve some of them for us, we were there for nearly 45 minutes trying to get it all sorted. Once we finally got back to our room we walked in and our phone rang – which is always a worry when you’re on holiday. Katie had found our camera and remembered our name and did some investigating to find where we were staying to make sure she got it back to us. This is why Disney is so special. Cast Members who go that extra mile to make sure you don’t lose things like those special memories. So massive thanks to her for that!!

Next blog will be Epcot tomorrow!! ๐Ÿ™‚

Day 2 – Islands of Adventure, Blue Man Group and a present from Spiderman.

Up a little bit later today and headed off to find a Waffle House for breakfast – guess what? – we got lost and couldn’t find one!! So we ended up in an IHOP near Universal.ย  I remember going to IHOP loads on my first ever trip over here nearly 20 years ago.

Have to say this time we were so not impressed and it wasn’t what we’ve come to love about eating out over here – and boy do we love eating out over here!! We had a miserable waitress who told Amelia off for looking at and smelling the different flavoured syrups for the pancakes on our table and when the – very small – meals came out no cutlery for Amelia, she had to go and ask for it herself.ย  I ordered a breakfast but asked for no eggs as I have an allergy and was told they can’t be substituted so I basically ended up paying 8 dollars for 2 small pieces of bacon and a hash brown!! The food itself was OK but the bad service made it a not very good experience to the day. $40 that cost us. I don’t recommend it at all, if you want a good value breakfast then Waffle House all the way – if only we could find one! They were literally everywhere yesterday why is it when you want to find something you can’t!!

We got to Universal at around 10:30 and to be honest considering it is Labor Day weekend it wasn’t actually that busy until we got to the turnstiles. Inside the park we went to get my Access Pass which I didn’t think I’d get after the rules had changed but it turns out I do so that made our day good again ๐Ÿ™‚

They do ask a few questions about how your disability affects you and that’s how they determine what pass you need. It works really well and wait times less than 30 minutes allow you to go in the express pass lane any longer you get a return time.

We went straight to Seuss Landing one of my favourite lands. I love it. First ride was Cat in the Hat ๐Ÿ™‚ We didn’t manage to do Islands on our last trip so it was exciting toย  be back.ย  We went on the Trolley Ride around Seuss landing too which gives you an amazing view of the whole park.

There’s a cool little show in Seuss with all the characters which we missed by a few minutes but we did get to the meet and greet which was really exciting and only maybe 2 minute wait for each of them. Super speedy!! It was actually really quiet most of the rides were walk on with less than 15 minute wait.

Headed over to Marvel Super Hero Island for Spiderman ride and also to meet the man himself who took a liking to Amelia ‘the girl who can fly’ and we ended up with our print with him free ๐Ÿ™‚

We talked before we left about getting the photo package at Universal and the very lovely cast member at the Spiderman photo op gave us the 14 day package for the price of 3 which was awesome. It’s definitely worth it and I’ll go into more detail about where you can use it etc in a later blog.

21389180_10210139834473036_1534434038_o

No visit to Islands is complete without a soaking on the Popeye ride, we have some fab video of how soaked we got, we may as well of just had a shower that’s what we looked like. Then on to get even more soaked from Rocky and Bullwinkle. One thing we noticed about that ride was how much it really needed a bit of TLC, it didn’t look as clean as the other rides and it looked really unloved, apart from the length of the ride and the way that side of things worked it just reminded us of being at Chessington…

We then made our way over to Hogsmeade which was insanely busy, my only complaint about all of the Wizarding World is how thin all the walkways seem to be you just feel like there’s too many people too close to you and you’re bottlenecked in. Now it may be an illusion because the buildings are pretty high compared to some of the others and obviously we all know that’s what London/England in general is like but a couple more inches would make a big difference!!

We rode forbidden journey which I love, I don’t however love the spiders in it as you can see from the photo above which gave everyone a good laugh!!

After that off to citywalk to try out Toothsome one of our most anticipated eateries and it is out of this world in terms of ambience and service. We loved it even with the $100 price tag however in the grand scheme of things the food itself wasn’t that amazing, the puddings were though so maybe just go there for that side of things. I will be going back before we come home to purchase some sweets to bring home. Not as presents for people, all for me ๐Ÿ™‚

DSCN0056

We ended our evening with a visit to Blue Man, I won’t bore you again with all the info on how awesome it is, I did a pretty extensive blog on that a while ago which you can read here Blue Man Group โ€“ Is it worth it?ย  What I will say about the show is no matter how many times you do it you cannot get bored, it’s still as hilarious as the first and second times I saw it and I cannot stress enough how much of a good time you will have at it and look you can meet the Blue Men after…

DSCN0057

Oh and guess what happened on the way home? We got lost. Again.

Another early morning tomorrow for us, breakfast with Lilo and Stitch ๐Ÿ™‚

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.ย  I don’t know what was in it but it was lovely and fruity.

We met 4 Characters, Donald obviously, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey.ย  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.ย  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.ย  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.ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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.ย  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!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ In the Dark with an AMAZING view of the park all lit up!! Highly recommened doing that at night ๐Ÿ™‚

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!!

Things to do in theme parks without being in a queue – ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE

Last of my Universal blogs on this and I think I’m going to surprise myself at what there is to do here without queuing.

I love IOA and I’m so looking forward to going this trip as my last one we didn’t get a chance to do it all properly.ย  I didn’t even get on Dudley Do Rights!!

The themeing in all the lands here is incredible and you can spend ages just looking at stuff – and taking photos, there are so many great photo opportunities if you’re an Instagram user.

Seuss Landing is fab and it really is like walking into a Seuss book. The Cat in the Hat ride is so much fun and I’ve rarely seen a queue for it – although I would imagine during the summer there would be some. There’s a great interactive playground for little ones here based on ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ and there are splash bits so expect to get a little wet. And keep an eye out for character meets throughout the day as well.

ifiranthezoo2

There are 2 great shows here as that are often overlooked as is the area that they’re in.

The Lost Continent does seem to get a bit ‘lost’ with all the more well known ‘lands’ in IOA. But here you will find the awesome stunts and special effects show ‘Eighth Voyage of Sinbad’ as well as the walk through action show ‘Poseidons Fury’. There’s some really interesting stalls in this area as well so it’s a unique place to do a bit of shopping. You can find the Mystic Fountain here too, don’t tell the kids but he does talk to you so tell them it’s a wishing fountain and watch them jump when it starts to strike up a conversation with them. There are so many little things in this almost hidden area you can do, you can pick a pearl and have your fortune read – these are an extra charge.

IOA is of course where the first part of Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened and it’s here you will find Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.ย  Of course the rides always have a queue but just like Diagon Alley there is plenty to do.

You have more interactive windows for your wands and another Ollivanders not to mention the interesting but odd ‘Frog Choir’ and the TriWizard Spirit Rally.

Ladies make sure you have a wee here in Hogsmeade, you might just find yourself joined by Moaning Myrtle!! This is one of my favourite things here.

Jurassic Park has plenty to do as well as the River Adventure. There’s a great kids play area ‘Camp Jurassic’ with an active volcano for little ones to explore and it’s just as much fun for big ones. Discovery Centre is a real fun and interactive game area where you can learn all about dinosaurs and mixing your DNA with one. You also get to see and handle dino eggs and if you’re lucky you might see one hatch and be able to name it.

You can also have your photo taken with a T-Rex

trex

There’s various side show games for an extra charge and a climbing wall.

Toon Lagoon is one of my favourite themed lands here the shops are fab especially Betty Boops which smells amazing.

There’s lots of water fun here and splash zones are not just found in the kids area they are all over so be warned!!

The jokers among you should head down the small trail to the right of kids playland ‘Me Ship The Olive’ it’s packed with gags such as a miniature ‘school’ of Fish. A must for Dads I think! The ship itself is a three storey watery play area which is perfect for squirting people on the Popeye ride below it.

olive

You can meet vintage cartoon characters here which is always good fun.

Marvel Super Hero Island is a must for boys of all ages and has some awesome features that not a lot of people are aware of. Keep an eye out for anything that looks like a giant speaker they are communication ports that have special messages from the heroes and villains in the area.

commports

The heroes meet periodically throughout the day and appear on their bikes which is a fun thing to watch.ย  Here you will also find a huge games arcade – all at an extra cost.

So you see so much to do here to keep you amused without queuing not to mention all the incredible shopping – of which there is a lot at Universal. Make sure you look in the shop just to the right as you exit IOA that is usually selling off season stock and you may find some stuff at lower prices.

Massive thanks to Jolie for some of these little things I didn’t know about. If you have any others yourself then please let me know.

Things to do in theme parks without queuing – UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

With it being the home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal is now a lot busier than it has been in previous years and is giving Disney a run for its money as a resort in itself.

Although Universal does have a large amount of very popular rides and is popular with the thrill seekers – although it does actually only have 3 rollercoasters – there is almost another whole parks worth of non-ride stuff to do there.

Turning right as you go into the park and into Hollywood you’re sure to bump into Characters as you work your way down the street you’ll find all sorts from Scooby and Shaggy to The Flintstones.ย  There’s live music here as well from the studio Brass Band and I’m sure I remember them playing the Simpsons theme.

Here you also find Terminator 3-D it’s part 3-D film and part live action and is based on the Cyberdyne company from the films – mostly from Terminator 2. It’s really action packed and runs periodically throughout the day and being as it’s in a pretty large theatre I’ve never seen a queue for it.

universal-terminator-2-3-d-ride-reach-out-c

Also in this area is the Horror Make-Up Show which shows clips of horror movies to show us how they have scared us through the years and then show how the make up is done. It’s fun and interactive but not recommended for under 12s. Again there’s rarely a queue and an entertaining way to spend 20 minutes.

There are plenty of play areas for the young ones to keep them amused in KidZone and a whole area dedicated to a huge adventure playground based on Curious George.ย  There’s an indoor play area aimed at the really young called ‘Barney’s Backyard’ and also a Barney live show.ย  Not to mention Fievels Playland with it’s little water slide that Amelia loved and we couldn’t get her off!!

Also here you have Animal Actors on location a live show with real performing animals in which some of the children in the audience are invited up to help with. I’ve rarely seen queues for this and had no idea this even existed until my last trip – we didn’t get a chance to do it them but this time it’s high on our list!

Springfield has loads just to look at while you’re walking around – that’s the great thing about Universal everything is so immersive in a totally different way to Disney. There are so many photo ops in Springfield and a lot of side show carnival games (for an extra charge) but plenty to do if you don’t want to queue for the ride there. Even wandering into Moes for a Duff Beer or a Flamin Moe.

Men in Black is right at the back of the park and since Diagon Alley opened and the Simpsons next to it I’ve rarely seen a queue.

There are lots and lots of photo ops around Universal Studios, so do look out for them. Namely the huge shark from Jaws and the Knight Bus from Harry Potter.

Diagon Alley is always going to be relatively busy but again like Springfield there’s loads to do if you don’t want to queue for the ride. The shops are an experience in themselves and it’s just like being on a film set with loads of places to investigate. Purchase one of the interactive wands and follow the map through casting spells a big hit with kids and adults. There’s entertainment here as well with a re-telling of Beedle the Bard with puppets and songstress Celestina Warbeck.ย  Don’t forget to change your dollars for wizarding notes at the Money Exchange there’s even a goblin host there.

IMG_5620

Heading back towards the entrance to the park takes you through New York where you will find the infamous Blues Brothers show which is definitely not to be missed.ย  There’s also a climbing wall (for an extra charge) and if you look you *may* find the entrance to ‘The Blind Pig’ from Fantastic Beasts and where to find them.

You can easily spend a day just walking round Universal Studios, remember the idea behind it is to ‘ride the movies’ so it is set up to look like a movie set so there’s loads to investigate.

What are your favourite non ride things to do? Have I missed anything important?

The Disneylife Challenge..

Those of us in the UK have the pleasure of being able to have pretty much ALL the Disney movies and classic TV shows at our fingertips with the brilliant Disneylife. For a smallย  monthly fee you have access to watch online nearly everything. I love it there’s things on there I never knew existed so I have set myself a challenge to watch ALL the movies on there that I hadn’t already seen. Obviously I’ve watched all the classics over and over but I never knew there were so many sequels made to those and then you have all the old movies and the DCOMs as well.

As I clearly have nothing better to do with my time I thought I’d keep you updated as to how I get on. I have no idea how long this is going to take me and I’m sure there will be some on there that are a bit rubbish but at least I can be happy knowing I’ve seen all the Disney movies – although Song of the South isn’t on there seeing as it is banned so if anyone has a copy they can lend me it’d be much appreciated…

I fly to Disney in 37 days so I’m hoping to watch as many as I can between now and then…

Todays not seen before movie was THE THREE CABALLEROS seeing as I love Donald Duck and the ride in Epcot based on it I surprised myself that I’d not seen this before. It’s a really odd one and gets slated a lot but I really liked it. It doesn’t have a particularly great storyline and has some questionable bits in it with Donald perving on some live action ladies but it’s Donald doing what we expect and it is pretty funny. Plus it has that great ‘Three Caballeros’ song you come out of the ride singing.

Released in 1944 this was Disneys seventh animated feature and wasn’t that well received with reviews accusing it of having a pretty thin story line and being a little shocked by Donalds reaction to the women. (basically exactly what I thought of it!!)

Watching the older Disney movies has made me realise that they shaped popular culture in more ways than I thought they had. The Three Caballeros features a story all about a little boy who has a flying singing Donkey, now where else have I seen that in the last 20 years….

collage-2017-07-26(1)

Second one today was FUN AND FANCY FREE which is another Disney movie with movies within it, telling a few short stories rather than one main one.ย  I much preferred this one to the Caballeros, this one is hosted by Jiminy Cricket and he tells a little love story about 2 bears – with one of the best songs I’ve heard in a Disney film all about how bears say they love you with a slap, genius! It’s honestly worth watching for that alone.

Second story in this features Mickey, Donald and Goofy in a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. This section is narrated by famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummies Charlie and Mortimer – again one of whom reminds me of something/someone can’t think who…

collage-2017-07-26(2)

Fun and Fancy free was released in 1947 and was their 9th animated feature and got much better reviews that the Three Caballeros!!

The idea for a Jack and the Beanstalk story with Mickey and friends was actually pitched to Walt during the making of Fantasia but was never included in that film and instead kept for this.

Which one of these do you prefer?ย  Anyone else doing this challenge and watching all the films?

Things to do in Theme Parks without being in a queue – HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

The last in my little series of non queuing things in the Disney parks takes us to Hollywood Studios – the home of Star Wars!

This is currently one of the smaller parks – although not for long and to be honest there isn’t as much to do as there is around the rest of Walt Disney World.

Much like Magic Kingdom the main strip of Hollywood Boulevard as you walk in has it’s own citizens who show up to do shoots and castings and are absolutely hilarious!! I’ve seen so many videos on YouTube of this lady Dorma and she is absolutely brilliant! So make sure you hang about to see them you won’t be disappointed ๐Ÿ™‚

dorma HS

There are loads of cool things happening here as you just walk around particularly for the Star Wars fan, the march of the First Order is an incredible thing to see with all the Storm Troopers marching through the crowd.

march-of-the-first-order-00

More Star Wars stuff is the Jedi Training which is fun to watch and you also have the Launch Bay now with props and stories from the making of the Star Wars movies. I love learning all about that sort of thing and seeing movie props so this is on my list to do this trip. There’s a 10 minute show all about it as well.

Although the queue for Indiana Jones can look big the theatre seats 2000 people so as long as you’re there about 5 minutes before it starts you’re likely to get in without having to queue for it – although obviously at peak times the theatre may be full. I’ve never had a problem getting in when I’ve been and turned up late.

Muppet Vision rarely has a queue and is a good fun attraction, it has a really awesome pre show so you don’t even realise if you are waiting a little while for the main attraction. With all the work going on at Hollywood Studios and with The Great Movie ride closing I would imagine that some of the ‘less popular’ rides will be getting a little busier as there are less things to do whilst all the building is going on.

There are a few shows at Hollywood Studios that run throughout the day, Beauty and The Beast is brilliant and there is a new ‘Music of Pixar’ show with characters in it as well. Some of these people will queue for but again the theatres are pretty big so they do let a fair few in.

Hollywood Studios is a fun park to just wander about it and is great for shopping some of the best shopping in the whole of the resort is in this park!! I love movie memorabilia and there is a great shop for that here!