Day 13 – Animal Kingdom and being Married by Rafiki

We had a pretty short day in the parks today being as we go home tomorrow night and we needed to pack ๐Ÿ˜ฆย  So this will no doubt be quite a short blog ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

But we headed off to Animal Kingdom and it was so busy! I think the remnants of Irma had gone and flights had started coming back in so the crowds were picking up again.

Pandora this morning was insanely busy and even getting into it was near on impossible so we gave it a miss for now and decided to do all the other stuff first.

The rest of the park was pretty quiet compared to Pandora, it did seem like a lot of people were coming in to do that and not really visiting the rest of the park.

We got a return time for Kilimanjaro Safaris which we love and went off to use our fastpass for Everest. Our favourite ride here I think ๐Ÿ™‚ Amelia always insists that she sits on her own!! I love this picture of us on Everest, she’s loving it me and Paul look as if we’re in class about to answer a question or something!!

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As it was quiet we went on this 3 times in a row! Everest is such a fun ride and you get such a great view of the park when you’re going up the mountain, especially at night. If you look the other way I’ve seen you can see Epcot I think it is but I always forget to look!

We tried to get on Kali River Rapids but it was closed still after Irma so we didn’t get to do that. There was a massive tree down in Animal Kingdom due to the hurricane. Pretty much the only significant damage I had seen through the parks so far.

The safari was great, it’s one of the best things about Animal Kingdom, I love Hippos so that’s my favourite bit and seeing the Elephants at the water hole is always fun to see ๐Ÿ™‚ We didn’t get the time sadly to do the night safari so that’s something for the next trip.

We had lunch today in the Harambe Market, we were in the parks early so it was an early lunch. Animal Kingdom doesn’t have a large amount of choice for table service places to eat and a lot of the quick service looks a bit spicy and not really something we like to eat. So we struggle here. However Harambe Market was lovely. There are a few different windows serving the different dishes and we went for the Beef and Lamb Gyro flatbreads cos the looked the most plain thing there.

It was really really nice. I’d definitely eat there again.

I love the African part of Animal Kingdom the most. There’s a lovely atmosphere here and the street entertainers are great. Particularly the dancers who always get Amelia up with them, they did some kind of song and dance for me and Paul which is a wedding celebration. I got it all on camera so it will be up in a future vlog.

The best show at Animal Kingdom is by far Festival of The Lion King so we had to make sure we saw it before we had to go home.

I love this show. It’s ‘in the round’ so you can see wherever you sit (kind of a theme with the Disney shows all the theatres are like that). It’s not the story of the film but it has a lot of the songs in it and some of the characters. Again little miss has been picked on for this each time we’ve seen it and this time she was even more happy as she was the one who was chosen to interact with Timon today. (Again all on video). It’s a great show, the tumble monkeys are the highlight of it for me ๐Ÿ™‚ย  You do not need to use one of your fastpasses for this unless you want to sit right at the front. It’s a big theatre you’ll get in ๐Ÿ™‚

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Cautious of time we decided to head to Pandora to use the return time we had for Flight of Passage, we’ve talked about this ride the whole trip so we had to do it again. We also had a look at the Banshee rookery which seems to be the ‘big’ merchandise item for Pandora. They look pretty cool and the fact they move and make noise is fab but the harness on your shoulder doesn’t really stay straight and they are really expensive for what they are. I can honestly say I didn’t see many people with them. Amelia decided against getting one in the end, she’d saved enough money to get one, and got herself a little plush one instead that she loves and was much much cheaper!

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I wasn’t overly impressed with the merchandise there if I’m honest but I’m not the biggest fan of the movies.

I did have another Night Blossom though and we got some lovely shots in Pandora with the Photopass.

I hate saying goodbye to Disney and just as I was feeling sad coming out of Animal Kingdom I spotted characters. We missed Meeko but we did meet Rafiki and this was quite possibly my most memorable character meet and one of the highlights of the whole honeymoon.

Rafiki saw our ears and insisted on making us stand in front of him while he conducted a whole wedding ceremony – I’m so upset I didn’t get this on video – it was so fun and something that we weren’t expecting. Amelia loved it being made to stand and hold some imaginary flowers.ย He was such a great character and it made us laugh!!

We had such a great day at Animal Kingdom and it was the perfect way to end the day.

Sadly now it’s packing time ready for our flight home tomorrow but we are spending as much time in Epcot as we can first and we do have a character lunch booked too ๐Ÿ™‚

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Day 12 Wild Florida, Minnies Seasonal Dine and some park hopping!

 

Today was the thing Paul was most looking forward and we headed down to Kenansville to Wild Florida. It’s not just an airboat ride but also has a wildlife park where you can see Gators and Sloths and other animals native to Florida.ย  I was excited for the sloths and we were planning on upgrading when we got there to do a Sloth encounter.

It’s a 40 minute drive from Disney and considering we have no sat nav and relied on the directions on the website we did really well at not getting lost. Although some of the places you drive through do make you think you’ve gone the totally wrong way!

Due to Irma sadly none of the wildlife park was open as it was all flooded but the airboats were still running – the entry to the wildlife park is included in the price of the airboat.ย  The swamp land we went over we were told was probably double the area it usually was and as we were going round our captain was pointing out areas that aren’t normally underwater!

I’ll be honest I was a bit dubious about doing this, I’m a little scared of boats especially these types of ones, they just look like they’re going to topple over at any moment! That water is filled with gators I didn’t fancy ending up in there!!

This wasn’t our boat but this is what they look like, like a bit of tin with some seats on!

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In the end I actually really enjoyed doing this. It’s loud so you’re given headphones to wear and it was quite relaxing skimming over the water and so quiet and peaceful (except for the noise of the boat).

Our skipper was great, he was full of information and kept stopping when he saw signs of gators being around. The best thing about this experience though was helping to rescue a little baby Armadillo. Armadillos are not made for the water and with their scaly backs they do look a bit like a gator when you’re coming up close. That’s what our skipper was expecting when he pulled up to it. Sadly this little baby was in a bit of distress so our skipper pulled him out the water and we had to find some, very scarce, dry land to set him free.ย  After he had this little thing in his hands Paul realised there was actually nowhere for him to put it and he obviously couldn’t hold it while driving, Paul being the animal rescuer that he is (we’ve had all sorts of birds and ducks bought home) piped up slightly TOO excitedly ‘Would you like me to hold it?’ thus giving him a hero moment and the highlight of his whole trip!!

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Thankfully we did find some dry land to set him free on and carried on looking for Gators. We did find some in the end which I do have on video. It’s a great way to see them in their natural environment and I think a must do if you to Florida.

The gift shop was really good as well, and quite cheap and there were some baby gators in tanks that you can see, it’s just a shame we couldn’t see the Sloths, but there is always next time…IMG_8797

Wild Florida was really good value as well I think it was ยฃ20 each and that includes the airboat and the park. So pretty good really ๐Ÿ™‚ We booked the earliest boat we could so we had the rest of the day to do other stuff.

We headed back over to Disney had a quick change of clothes and went off to get all the ‘wedding’ pictures I wanted. My work colleagues were nice enough to get me and Paul bride and groom ears as a wedding present so I was determined to get some nice pictures at all the ‘landmarks’ in Disney with these ears on. Paul and Amelia weren’t quite so keen!!

I also really wanted to see Fantasmic! as we hadn’t yet so we started at Hollywood Studios, about 12ish and it was super hot today. Amelia and Paul wanted to go on Rock n Roller Coaster, I spied Donald as soon as we got in so I waited for him while they went on that ๐Ÿ™‚

We managed quite a few characters meets today including Olaf who was wonderful. The Star Wars ones are amazing though. Both me and Amelia love Star Wars, Paul, well he had no idea who any of these people/animals/aliens were we meeting. BB-8 was cute but really tiny, Kylo Ren was incredibly intimidating! but the best one was Chewy, I had no idea he ‘talked’ but I was so excited that he did!!

This is why I love the photopass, you get to have all of the photos that are taken rather than just having to choose some, which are usually the posed ones. The picture below captures the moment that Chewy ‘spoke’ to Amelia perfectly!!

We sadly missed the opportunity to meet Moana but her meet had turned into a Guardians of the Galaxy one so we got to meet Baby Groot, another one little miss loved!

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We had a booking for Minnies Seasonal Dine at Hollywood and Vine, obviously this was Halloween themed. I’d heard some mixed reviews about this one so wasn’t really sure what to expect, it’s another where you meet the host, in this case Minnie, before you eat and the other characters come to the table. I’ve just noticed putting this together that the photos of that aren’t on our memory maker ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The food was good with some Halloween themed dishes, meaning pumpkin flavoured, we had some incredible pumpkin soup. And the Halloween desserts were so cute.

The weather got pretty bad while we were in here and we came out to find that Fantasmic had been cancelled for the evening. There was evening EMH at Magic Kingdom so we decided to head over there once the rain had cleared. Meet some more characters and get the wedding pictures there.

 

I’m not the biggest fan of meeting the princesses but it’s always fun meeting Rapunzel. No queues this time of night either ๐Ÿ™‚

We managed to get a really good spot right in front of the castle for Happily Ever After – I cried obviously – and we had a really good quick service meal from Caseys Corner. One of my favourites in Disney, the hot dogs are amazing and portions massive.

We did a few rides and spent some of our left over snack credits before heading out of Magic Kingdom for the last time this trip, always a sad moment ๐Ÿ˜ฆ But we did an amazing shot with aย relatively quiet main street behind us!

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Tomorrow we go to Animal Kingdom for the last time ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I hate getting to this part I always feel sad…

Day 11 – Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party and Skipper Canteen

One of the best things about being in Orlando at this time of year is all the Halloween festivities that are happening. Although Universal doesn’t start until the day we fly home (don’t remind me of that I’m not forgiven for booking too early to go). I first did MNSSHP 5 years ago on a trip with a friend and her family and I loved it one of my favourite things I’ve ever done at Disney. I loved meeting the rare characters and the fact you get free candy and can trick or treat around Magic Kingdom is just amazing!

We had quite a relaxing day, had a swim in the morning and then spent the rest of the day trying to buy some white facepaint for our fancy dress outfits, the make up we’d picked up at home we didn’t look at properly and the bit we thought was paint was actually a make up sponge….. We had NO luck at all, even though Disney decided Halloween should start at the end of August it seems the shops didn’t and nowhere could we get any ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

We had decided to dress up this year, Paul and I as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams (mostly because I’d not long seen the musical and loved it) and Amelia, well she wanted to be a Zombie Bride… She’s such a girly, dainty, sugary child! After the face paint failure we decided to get her face painted in MK, it cost us $20 but they would touch it up for free if any of it came off.

We got in the park in time to watch the Festival of Fantasy parade and do a few rides before our dining reservation at Skipper Canteen. I was so excited about this place. I’d watched a few vlogs on it and it was highly recommended. I’d looked at the menu as well and it was different food than you normally expect from a theme park.

This place ended up being my top eatery of the trip!! Food was unbelievable, it was a bit more on the healthy side. But just look at it, everything looked so lovely!

I still dream about this meal now and honestly if anyone wants a good place to eat at Magic Kingdom this would be my recommendation. I will go into more detail about all the places we ate in in future blogs but for now I’m just going to say, the coconut pudding was just, well there are literally no words for how good this meal was!

With the Halloween party none of the events actually start until around 7pm, however you are allowed in the park from 4pm if you have a ticket for the event. We had the park hoppers as well so we could go in whenever we liked.

One of the big draws for these events is the rare character meets so knowing they were the most popular as soon as we finished eating we went on the search for Jack and Sally. There was already a pretty long line and I think we ended up waiting just over 90 minutes to see them. They were great, well worth the wait. Brilliant interactions and Amelia loved them.

We did as many of the trick or treat locations as we could but not many rides, that’s why its a good idea to get in at 4pm if you don’t plan on visiting for anything other than the party, it means you can do rides and then concentrate on all the Halloween stuff during the party.

We watched the Boo-To-You parade which is my favourite parade at Disney. The music is so good and seeing an actual headless horseman riding through Magic Kingdom is something you won’t forget.

As you can see from some of the pictures there are a LOT of awesome magic shots throughout the park for these events and we made the most of as many as we could.

It was a pretty quiet night and apart from Jack and Sally, Moana and Lotso from Toy Story the queues for characters weren’t too bad. Even Seven Dwarves which is normally a good few hour wait was only about 30 minutes.

We missed the Hocus Pocus show which was a shame and proved to me that I think if you can you should go to 2 nights of this. There isn’t enough time in one night to do everything and meet everyone.

The fireworks at this is brilliant, Hallo-Wishes is another of my favourite things at Disney. Halloween themed music and images projected on the castle, it’s a must do and we really loved it ๐Ÿ™‚

It is a late night and Amelia was exhausted after it but she really loved it and especially loved the attention she was getting for her outfit, most people go as Disney characters or something less gruesome than she was so I think she was a bit of change for everyone!

Cost of MNSSHP varies depending on when in the season you go, obviously the earlier you go the less it is and Halloween night itself is the most expensive. We paid about $70 each for our tickets but UK ticket sellers like Attraction Tickets Direct have started doing these and had we bought them from there we would have only paid about ยฃ40 each so it’s worth keeping an eye out for those when the dates are announced.

Tomorrow we are off to Wild Florida to do an airboat ride, this is what Paul has been most excited about doing, I’m a bit dubious I’m not a fan of boats….

 

Days 9 and 10 – Staying at Disney for Hurricane Irma

I love visiting Orlando in September, the weather is perfect and it’s not quite as busy. Not to mention Food and Wine and the Halloween stuff (just don’t mention Halloween Horror Nights, I’m still not forgiven for booking too early for those..). BUT it is hurricane season so you do always run the risk of there being one. I’ve been lucky on previous trips to either miss them or just have to deal with a bit of rain most days. But this time, we were slap bang in the middle of it and saw first hand how it affects people in Orlando and what Disney do for their guests while all this is happening.

There won’t be a lot of pictures in this blog there’s not a lot to photo when you’re just in your room…I’ll try and keep it short but informative for those of you who are worried about what being there for something like this is like.

We were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter which is the smallest of the Moderate resorts and they did a fantastic job in the run up to Irma keeping us updated dailyย with memos left on our beds by housekeeping explaining what was happening. Obviously this changed constantly as weather is really unpredictable. The last update was we had a curfew in place from 7pm last night until 6pm the day after Irma. The hurricane was due to hit in the early hours so during the day apart from it being windy and colder than normal that was all we had to deal with.

The hotel was amazing and it’s a testament to how safe Disney is as a location that a lot of people who were evacuated were in our hotel along with some locals who had decided to decamp to Disney as they knew it was ‘the safest place to be’.ย  The Floridian Mayor had insisted that all hotels open up to people with pets as so many in real danger from Irma wouldn’t leave them and just stay at home putting more of the emergency services at risk. We had dogs in our hotel, I know it’s a bit of a controversial subject, but personally I loved having them around. They didn’t cause any problems, I heard no barking, all dogs were on leads and there was no mess.ย  It just made me miss mine more. I found it quite homely havingย a load of dogs I could pet ๐Ÿ™‚

All the cast members were great and again after speaking to a few it turns out Disney had asked weeks ago for volunteers to work for this, whether it be in the hotels or as part of the clean up crew. Apparently Disney were overrun by people offering to help out. Shows again the extra measures Cast Members go to for their jobs.

The pools were drained and closed so we didn’t have that to do however there was more than enough to keep the kids amused. Arts and Crafts in the lobby area, music and dancing and the arcade on free play as well. By far the best thing was having characters in the lobby, they took part in the arts and crafts and dancing with the kids. We had Chip and Dale, Pluto and my favourite Donald Duck. I had a great time just watching him dancing to Michael Jackson, who knew he had some moves!! Something you’ll see in an upcoming vlog.. I would even say that was one of the highlights of my trip!

Staying at Port Orleans does give you access to both of the resorts there, ours and the much larger Riverside. Being as both were open for food we took a little wanderย over along the riverside to just have a little change of scenery.ย  There is more choice foodwise over that side and it’s where you can see Yee Haw Bob (sadly not while we were there though), we tried the Jambalaya which was so nice and had a look around their much bigger gift shop.

Food in our resort during this time was limited. There was pre packaged meals of sandwiches etc and just Pizza or Meatballs and Pasta. Both of which we had – there’s not a lot to do really apart from eat when you’ve seen the crafts and the characters.

Disney did kindly put Disney Movies on a loop on the channels in our rooms so we did spend the day going back to watch a movie and then off to get more food. Being as we knew we would have to be in our rooms for around 12 hours (much better than the ‘up to 48’ it was originally) we tried to stay out as long as possible. I remember watching Little Mermaid, Big Hero 6 and Brave a good few times.

Not once during this whole time did any of us feel worried, scared or anxious. Watching the news and weather channels on TV the way things were worded made it sound a lot worse for us than it seemed to be. We were lucky where we were obviously it hit worse on the coast and it was devastating for many but Disney is quite rightly a safe place to be.

There was never any loss of electric or water – largely due to Disney having their own supplies of this – and I think the reason so many decamp there.

During the curfew we literally just ate and watched TV, not a lot else you can do. We bought playing cards and colouring stuff but we slept through most of the hurricane. We did get woken up a few times during the night and peered out to see incredibly high winds and a lot of rain, trees were blowing over but apart from that we didn’t see much, it was dark though…

Next morning once the curfew was lifted we did venture out to see what damage had been done and it was mostly just trees and a few signs had been blown off. As I said we were lucky. The rooms were secure and having the TV on did cover over most of the noise of the wind and rain. Had we lost power then it might have been a different situation.

Obviously the pool was still closed and not too many people were about but we went to get food and by the time we’d come back to the room and watched a movie the second trip to get out we were met with a very different resort. It was like nothing had happened, all the debris was cleared away and apart from seeing workmen about fixing signs etc you wouldn’t have known anything had happened.

Curfew was lifted for the area early evening so we headed out to get some food. It was clear once we’d got off Disney property how much damage had been done locally. Literally as soon as we were off site we saw traffic lights out and a lot of flooding, some of the big store signs along the 192 were ruined, blown down or ripped and we could see a lot of places without power.

Not many places were open, social media was so helpful for this, we ended up at Golden Corral near Kissimmee which had queues around the whole building we waited nearly 90 minutes to get in and eat, when we came out the queue was twice as long so we were lucky.

Parks reopen tomorrow so we’re looking forward to Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween party which thankfully is still happening.

All in all we were lucky that we were onsite for Irma, I think if we’d been in a villa we wouldn’t have had it so easy.ย  It’s not put me off coming in Hurricane season again, we were well looked after. Floridians in general are really friendly so if you do normally do Villa holidays neighbours will beย  more than happy to help you out if the situation arose. All hotels would have some kind of policy in place but it would only be resorts on Disney where you’re not likely to lose power.

If you’re worried about booking and the impact that it may have on your holiday I really wouldn’t, missing 2 days in the parks did mean we missed some stuff but most of that could have been done earlier on in the holiday if I’d planned it right. We were upset to miss some of it and having to spend so much time together stuck in a relatively small room might drive some families mad and fray some tempers but luckily we don’t annoy each other too much! I think we panicked when we originally thought we would be stuck for 48 hours and spent far too much on supplies we didn’t need to have so in hindsight maybe we should have waited a little longer to get stuff.

Generally during Hurricane Season you will get rain pretty much every day. However unlike here the weather channels will tell you what time that will be and they’re for the most part incredibly accurate, its usually just a shower and over as quick as it starts. I love it when it rains, people empty the parks and it ends up so quiet, always a bonus. Don’t let it put you off booking!!

I’m glad this all happened towards the end of our trip and it wasn’t something that stopped us actually getting here and it does mean that if it happens to affect us again we’ll know what to expect and family at home might not be as worried as they were this time.

Not too long for us left now which is sad and I imagine we will still have some bad weather to deal with but tomorrow we eat in one of the places I’ve been most looking forward to – Skipper Canteen…

Day 8 – Brunch with Pooh and more Disney Springs

 

Today was a strange day to be in the parks, with Irma due to hit tomorrow all the parks have announced they will be closed for it. Today I was expecting it to be busy with people getting a bit of magic before everything shuts down. Magic Kingdom today, like Universal yesterday was eerily quiet.

We had a dining reservation at 10:30 we got in just before it, this was main street…

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Crystal Palace was one of the dinings I was most looking forward too, I’d heard good things and was excited to try the famous breakfast lasagne. Plus there’s nothing better than getting a hug from Pooh, he’s like a big teddy bear who cuddles you back ๐Ÿ™‚

Again it was quiet in here so I think we got more of an interaction than normal with the characters just strolling about and playing with the kids rather than just stopping for pictures and to sign. I booked at a time so we could try breakfast and still be there when the lunch buffet came out but we were all a bit stuffed so we didn’t get to try that as well.

 

Food here was really good one of the better buffets, and if you are doing breakfast you must have the lasagne, it’s like some sort of heavenly trifle with waffles, pancakes, bananas and all manner of good sweet breakfast stuff.

Weather wise today we did get caught in a few showers meaning we spent a bit of time looking in shops and spending our snack credits. I haven’t had nearly enough ‘Disney’ themed snacks so far so I had a Mickey marshmallow bar which I was most pleased with ๐Ÿ™‚

These snacks are great ways to use your snack credits on a dining plan, the toffee or dessert apples are great too but to me they always look far too good to eat!

Trying to stay away from the dodgy weather we did a lot of indoor stuff today, Philharmagic, and a lot of character meets. Including my favourite Donaldo and Pauls Ariel in her grotto ๐Ÿ™‚

We went to see the boss man today as well in his theatre and this is the Mickey that talks to you. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this one. There’s always a kid in front of us who is seeing a talking Mickey for the first time and their faces are always priceless. It’s a must do for anyone on a first trip and one to fastpass as it does get really busy.

Another first for me today was meeting iCan the robot in Tomorrowland, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve spotted him whilst on the Peoplemover only to get off and find he’s gone so this was a special moment ๐Ÿ™‚ He’s really cool so keep an eye out for him when you’re there.

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I finally got to have my ‘balloon’ photo today as well, it’s one of the magic shots you can get with the Disney photographers, make sure you ask them when they’re taking them if they have any magic ones. It’s fun to see what they are when you check your memory maker ones after. I love this it’s one of my favourites from the whole trip…

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Dinner today was in Rainforest Cafรฉ, not somewhere I generally like to eat. It’s too loud for me and after doing T-Rex as well I wasn’t that enamoured with doing this one. But the weather was getting more and more dodgy and it was the closest restaurant to where we got off the boat from our hotel therefore we didn’t have to walk too far in the wind ๐Ÿ™‚

Amelia loved it here, they got our name wrong when we were asked for it, we were the ‘Buff’ family. I’ll take that!

Food is pretty similar to T-Rex being that it is owned by the same company, we enjoyed it food was good, service was good and we had a few cocktails.

We had a very quick wander around the Springs, the weather was getting worse and more windy and going on a boat for someone who is a little bit scared of them is bad enough but doing it in bad weather and the dark is just not fun so we headed back before it got too blowy and spent the evening watching Disney movies which were kindly put on our TVs for free for the duration of the hurricane.

We’re not sure what tomorrow holds to be honest, no parks are open so we will be confined to the hotel. Disney were great at keeping us informed as to what was going on so for the time being the hotel facilities – minus the pool – are all there to use, including the arcade on free play for the kids and Disney movies in room to keep us occupied. I guess if anything it gives us a chance to catch up on some much needed sleep!!

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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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™‚

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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.

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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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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..

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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 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!

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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 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 5 – Hollywood Studios, ‘enjoying’ Rock n Roller coaster and BE OUR GUEST!

We had a bit of a lie in this morning and arrived at Hollywood Studios about 10 for our dining reservation at 1950s Prime Time Cafรฉ, Pauls favourite from our last trip. It’s a really fun experience putting you in the home of 1950s America serving old favourites such as meatloaf and stuffed chops. The food is so good but make sure you eat your greens and beware of putting your elbows on the table!! You will be told off!!

 

After lunch we had a stroll around the park taking advantage of the memory maker.ย  There are some great photo opportunities here especially for Star Wars fans who I’m sure will love the chance to sit on a speeder ๐Ÿ™‚ I would imagine with Galaxys Edge opening next year there will be so much more like this too ๐Ÿ™‚

 

There is a lot of work going on at the park meaning it doesn’t seem like there is a lot to do currently. I was devastated that I missed the opportunity to do Great Movie Ride one more time it was sad seeing it closed ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Amelia was most excited about coming back to this park, being 2 years older this time and finally big enough for ‘an upside down ride’ she was beside herself with excitement for Rock n Roller Coaster. We had tears last trip as she was too small but this time she loved it!!

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For me once was more than enough and who’s idea was it to be in the back carriage where we all know its far faster than anywhere else? (Note the child chose to sit on her own, I was glad I was NOT getting on that coaster if I didn’t have a grown up with me). She would have ridden that all day if she could!

Onwards to Tower of Terror (for them not me) and even though Paul hates it he was subjected to it multiple times, in the end we were those parents we swore we’d never be at Disney, stood in the giftshop holding the bags while the kids go on the rides! I love this picture she looks so happy he doesn’t ๐Ÿ™‚

Make sure you say hello to Stitch the Bellboy when you come out of the ride too ๐Ÿ™‚

Hollywood Studios has one of my favourite shows on property so we had to go and watch Beauty and the Beast. Again. I love this show, it’s a shortened version of the musical with amazing performers and all the songs we all love, I always get a bit emosh watching this but it is a must see ๐Ÿ™‚ Even more so today knowing where I’m off to eat at tonight!!

The Indiana Jones stunt show is a great way to spend an hour as well, although our show was cut a bit short due to the weather we did still get to see some incredible stunts and an insiders view on how some of the big stunts in the blockbusters we love to watch are achieved ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s great for the younger audiences who are always wowed by the gunshots and the near miss accidents in this show!

After a brief stop at our resort for a nap – not me I might add – far too excited, we headed for Magic Kingdom ready for our dinner reservation at Be Our Guest.

Out of all our reservations for this trip this was the one I was most excited about and it really did live up to my expectations. I’ll do a full review of the food etc in a future blog but I think this is a must do. The restaurant is beautiful the theming is incredible, I *may* have cried when I walked in. We were seated in the Ballroom and I was so impressed with the ‘magic’ windows making it look like it was snowing inside.

The food was great the desserts even better, we all had the grey stuff, it was delicious ๐Ÿ™‚ Although it’s something put on top of puddings and not just a mousse itself which is what I was expecting.

Then of course you can meet the Beast which is the big draw of having an evening meal here. It’s the only place and time you can meet him. I *may* have cried!!

It’s such a magical experience being in Beasts castle, it is actually like being in the film. Definitely one of the highlights of this trip…

Tomorrow we’re off to Universal to spend a night in the Hard Rock Hotel…

 

 

 

 

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!

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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.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.

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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!!

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!!

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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…

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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!!

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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.

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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™‚