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Updates and NEW COUNTDOWN!!!

So all has been quiet of late in the Crazy Pug life, no proper blog updates apart from reviews for a while, the reason being – My laptop died šŸ˜¦ All my photos and videos from our honeymoon trip and past trips are on there so I have no pictures or anything to do any food reviews or make any sort of interesting content.

I’m finally having all my files taken off this week so that means – NEW BLOGS!

Not only that we have a little trip booked, exciting stuff.

It’s not Orlando, we’re saving that one for a few years to be able to do a longer trip, but we are going to Disneyland Paris over the summer so we can experience The Lion King and Jungle Festival.

I’ve never really been to Paris for any of the special events they have on, I was there twice over the 25th Anniversary celebrations but never to one of the festivals that they have so I’m really looking forward to this one.

There’s a few things I’ve read about it so I sort of know what to expect in terms of the incredible shows that are planned. And those are what I’m most excited to experience. There is one Lion King show and also one based on Jungle Book so I’m really looking forward to seeing what they are like.

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There’s not a great deal of info coming out at the moment as to what other things will be happening, I know there is some sort of Lion King dining experience at Hakuna Matata – which has never been open on my previous visits. It came up as an add-on when I booked my package but I can’t seem to find anything about that online at the moment. It was about Ā£80 from what I can recall so it was quite expensive. I think it gave priority seating for the shows as well as the dining.

I’ll be doing a lot of planning in the coming weeks as this trip we are going with friends who have a 4 year old so this trip is going to be quite different to previous ones.

I’ll be pre-booking dining over the phone so when the time comes I will let you know how that went and I’m already sorting a bit of an itinerary – although with the times for the festival offerings not being available yet that could all change.

What I can tell you is we’re on site at Sequoia Lodge – my favourite hotel in Disneyland Paris – we’re flying over this time and we have the half board dining plan.

I will be taking my own mobility scooter as Disneyland Paris don’t have them to hire so I will be going through the process of booking that onto the plane and also seeing how the Magical Shuttle is booked with it – as you’re not able to book it as part of your package if you have access requirements you have to book it direct. Something that isn’t made clear when you book online, I only found this out when I called to ask about how to book the scooter in.

I’ve also recently got my hands on a VERY handy little Orlando planning guide so I’ll be doing a little review on that shortly too.

 

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Discovery Cove – A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

slothdc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC food

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

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

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

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

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

It’s NEXT WEEK!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

93 Days To Go…

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

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

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

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

Disney Movie and Games Day :)

Today we’re at 94 days, now we’re in double digits it seems to be flying past and with weddings, christenings and all manner of other things planned for most of the weekends up to our trip I think it’s going to creep up on me before I know it!!

I’m constantly buying stuff ready for the trip at the mo, suitcase is out and stuff is being put straight in it ready to pack and today – after weeks and weeks of looking for one I bought this snazzy little number

dressThere’s a few different ones and they’re not badly priced and perfect cool, light material for the Florida heat šŸ™‚ Sports Direct have them if anyone wants to have a look… Disney Dresses I’m after the Beauty and The Beast one and the Cinderella one as well šŸ™‚

Talking of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast they seem to be my movies of choice this week, I think I’ve watched both of them most days this week – I always have movies on when I’m working. I’m still upset that Gus doesn’t meet at Disney šŸ˜¦

This afternoon I will mostly be getting VERY competitive and playing the DVD game of Disney Trivial Pursuit with the family last time I was thrashed by a 7 year old this time I will not be beaten.

I also read a really awesome article today about some of the little details at Disney that sometimes go unnoticed, it’s the attention to detail and the ability to immerse you in a theme that makes Disney so absolutely magical and this highlights some of it, it’s a fab article well worth a read. I read loads of these and its usually stuff I’ve seen or know already this had quite a few things I didn’t know!

101 Disney Details

 

99 Days – Double Digits!! Exciting

This is me today…. double digit dance

I’m now looking at what rides I need to book FastPass for being that they can be used alongside the DAS card and deciding what days to do what parks. I’m determined to do MK at night some of the extra magic hours during our stay stop at 2am so I’m looking forward to being there in the dark and experiencing it at night šŸ™‚

Updates

I am on a much needed half day today so thought I’d do a bit more updating on here. I’ve added a link to some really good info on the DAS card on the Disability page and more info on rides on the MK page – I didn’t realise there was so much there until I started doing this blog!! And how much I hadn’t seen!! If my Fiance is expecting a nice chilled out relaxing holiday this year he’s going to be sorely mistaken!!

100 days to go now, double digit dance tomorrow šŸ™‚ Fast pass bookings in 10 days and I’ll be starting my get fit regime as well in the next few weeks so I’ll be blogging about that as well.

When you have a disability like mine – I have Spina Bifida – there can be limited exercise you can do, especially on your own. I’ve recently discovered that you do actually forget how to ride a bike – the popular saying being a big fat lie!! I have now sort of remembered but I am a bit wobbly and have a tendancy to fall off. A Lot. I have the wounds to prove it so I’m not allowed out on my own on my bike now in case I damage myself!! Shocking at the age of 36 but there you go…

For me the only thing really that I can do is swim. I wanted to be a paralympic swimmer as a kid actually although that never happened šŸ˜¦ I love swimming and I think anyone with the same sort of condition as me will say the same, the water makes moving a lot easier. However I am short and I have muscle spasms in my legs so I panic if I can’t touch the bottom or have nothing to grab if it starts. Leisure centres for me are my worst nightmare, roped off lanes both sides of the pool either for old ladies to pootle in or others to speed swim in, when you’re somewhere in the middle you’re kinda stuck!! I don’t want to be swimming in the middle of a pool when I’m far too small to touch the bottom. Plus you always have those kids who just want to jump in and really it’s more stressful and you never really get to swim.

I’m in the process now of chatting to a few hotels who have gyms and spas and seeing if they can do anything for me. Hotel memberships can be so expensive when you’re only going to be using the pool. I don’t want to pay out Ā£70 a month when I’m only using 10% of the things I’m paying for. Be different I think if it was by choice but when you don’t have the choice its a bit grating to be honest!!

Joining a gym is quite daunting I think as well for people like me so I shall keep you updated as to who I find and how good they are and if I manage to lose the stone I want to lose before we go. I think I’m being a bit ambitious, I’m not giving myself much time!!!

Disneys Magical Express…

So today I decided to find out a little bit more about Disneys Magical Express and find out if it is actually magical or just a regular ol’ bus.

For those of you who don’t know what on earth I’m talking about. Disney’s Magical Express is what you’ll be travelling in from the airport if you’re staying on resort from Disney and have booked transfers.

magical-express-photo magicalexpress2 magicalexpress3

The buses pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel. Apparently I hear your luggage ‘magically’ turns up in your room as well (although I have been advised this can take a little while so it’s best to keep it with you if you can)

The million dollar question is, is it magical? Well yes and no…. I was disappointed to find that there is no characters on it with you (so that picture above is a bit misleading) BUT you are treated to Disney cartoons and videos about the resort so in a way it does start your holiday off in a magical way. I’m hoping for Disney music as well with a whole bus of people singing along but we shall see….

About my Happy Place :)

Hello to you all – or just the one of you – I have no idea who’s going to read this blog or indeed who would want to but after doing LOADS of research into my upcoming Disney holiday and after learning some tips myself on my several trips I thought I’d start my own blog and give you all a few hints and tips and some of the best places to find things that I might not know about yet šŸ™‚

I’m a Disney nut, I was never into it as a kid but after visiting at 19 I caught the bug. I saw Dopey as soon as I walked through the gates of the Magic Kingdom and so was the start of my love affair with all things Disney. Since then I’ve visited 5 times over the last 17 years and am off on my next trip in exactly 124 days…. this will be my first trip staying on Disney property and my first trip with young children which makes it all the more exciting. Having visited with friends, elderly relatives, teenagers and having a disability I think I’m quite qualified now to pass on some of my experiences to others and make their trips a bit easier.

I hope you find something here that makes your trip extra special,

Have a magical day….

CP