Posted in Florida 2012

15th March 2012 (Day 4): Animal Kingdom

220px-Animal_Kingdom_TPark_ColorWe headed out towards Lake Buena Vista today to visit the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom park. We went there on our previous trip and as Rosemary is very keen on animals we thought she would get a lot out of a day there. The queue for tickets (we hadn’t prepurchased our tickets for Disney as there was no saving in doing so) was pretty long and we had to queue for quite some time.  As we were going to Magic Kingdom later in the trip we got a 2 day pass which saved a grand total of about $4).

Unfortunately a lot of the things we might have wanted to go on (the Kilimanjaro Safari Expedition for example) were really busy with long waits even on the Fast Pass ( a 6 hour return time I noticed at one point).  Plus we weren’t really clear if she was too small or not.  Sure it would have been fine but didn’t want to queue for ages and then find out. So we really concentrated on the animal exhibits.

Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom

The park was very busy (it was Spring Break in the US) and the walkways weren’t really wide enough for the amount of people in the place.  So we were constantly dodging and trying to get through tight spaces.  Not much fun with a buggy (sorry stroller!). We decided to head off the “Conservation Station” on the “Wildlife Express Train”.

Conservation Station
Conservation Station

They have an “Affection Section” there which is basically an animal petting area.  There were some pigs, goats and (behind fences) donkeys and llamas.

Petting Area
Petting Area
Petting Area
Petting Area

Inside the “Conservation Station” they have a number of smaller animals, mainly behind glass such as frogs, reptiles and insects.

Bullfrog
Bullfrog
Bullfrog
Bullfrog

While out at this area (which was reasonably quiet because the only way in or out was by train) we sat down and Rosemary had a lolly.

Lolly
Lolly

We headed back to the main area on the train and then went for a walk around the “Pangani Forest Exploration Trail” which is a pathway leading you through an African animals exhibit. There was a large tank of cichlids which Rosemary liked.

Pangani Trail
Pangani Trail

There were more cichlids in the large pool with the hippos.

Pangani Trail
Pangani Trail

And there is a large gorilla enclosure.

Pangani Trail
Pangani Trail

After this we headed to the “Maharajah Jungle Trek” which is an equivalent walk-through for Asian animals.  The settings had all been very well done and there was lots of interesting details.  The tigers had disappeared though (it was a hot day and they must have been on their siesta), so no pictures I’m afraid.

Maharajah Trail
Maharajah Trail
Maharajah Trail
Maharajah Trail

In one viewpoint there was a colony of fruit bats.  I hadn’t realised that the windows had no glass in them and nearly dropped Rosemary through.  Guess the narrow bars (although big enough for a child to fit) are enough to stop the bats flying through!

Maharajah Trail
Maharajah Trail

The theme is maintained in each area.  This one was in the Asia area as well.

Nepal
Nepal

Next stop was the Dinosaur area.  We popped into the Boneyard briefly but it was full of much older children and I think Rosemary felt a little bit intimidated by them running around.

Boneyard
Boneyard

We stopped to try on some Mouse Ears as well.  Rosemary does a great mouse impression.

The Mouse
The Mouse

As it was time for the parade by then we headed to a relatively non-busy area (by chance just by on of the shops on the main island) and watched that.  No good pictures as I was holding Rosemary at the time.

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade
Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade
Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade
Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade

It was getting to late afternoon by this point so we decided to call it a day, as Rosemary was pretty tired by then and we were getting fed up with the crowds, and head back to the car via a quick photo opportunity in front of the “Tree of Life”.

Tree of Life
Tree of Life

We couldn’t leave without some animal print ears and a Minnie Mouse though.  Although not sure Rosie was that bothered at the time.

Knackered out
Knackered out
Advertisements
Posted in Florida 2012

14th March 2012 (Day 3): Seaworld

SeaWorldHaving had a restful day yesterday we went to Seaworld today. We had booked tickets before we left the UK for Discovery Cove and this gives up to 14 days unlimited access into Seaworld as well.  We paid a little extra to also get Busch Gardens and Aquatica added to that deal, so a lot of our visits were already paid for and think it was a good deal ($199 for all that access). We didn’t rush down to the park but had some breakfast and then took the short drive down International Drive to Seaworld.  Parking isn’t included in the pre-booked tickets and is now a $14 extra. First stop when we got into the park was the Dolphin Nursery so Rosemary could have a look at the dolphins in a relatively quiet place.

Dolphin Nursery
Dolphin Nursery
Dolphin Nursery
Dolphin Nursery

Greatly enjoyed that, asking for “More” each time a dolphin went past. We then headed over to try and catch the “Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island” but got there a bit late and the show was already fully seated.  So we had a quick look around the sealion enclosure instead.

Sealions
Sealions
Sealions
Sealions

The sealions were unusually quiet (it’s always been really loud and raucous when we’ve been there before), maybe it was too early for them and they don’t get up before midday.  Also didn’t seem to be as many as in previous visits.

We then headed across the park to the “One Ocean” Killer Whale show, and having missed the first one we decided to get there nice and early so Rosemary could have an ice lolly.

Jolly Rancher
Jolly Rancher
Jolly Rancher
Jolly Rancher

The show was great, although the trainers are no longer allowed to go into the water with the Killer Whales, and although there are a lot of pictures I’ll just add a few here.

One World Show
One World Show
One World Show
One World Show
One World Show
One World Show
One World Show
One World Show
One World Show
One World Show

As we were then nearby we visited the Wild Arctic area, skipping the video and hopping out the back, to see the animals there.  The area is really dark so getting photos is really difficult so only a couple of shots worth showing.

Wild Artic
Wild Artic
Wild Artic
Wild Artic

Rosemary decided to have a nap at this point and we grabbed some lunch before doing a little bit of shop browsing.

Shamu
Shamu

Once Rosemary had woken up and had something to eat and drink herself we went over to the Shark Encounter where there are some great aquarium and walk through tunnels.  Rosemary wasn’t too sure about the idea:

Shark!
Shark!

But she soon got used to the idea.

Shark!
Shark!
Aquaria
Aquaria
Aquaria
Aquaria
Aquaria
Aquaria

By this time Rosemary was getting pretty tired (we had crammed a lot in) and we decided to do one last thing and go and catch the dolphin show “Blue Horizons”.  Rosemary snacked out while we waited and enjoyed the display, particularly the birds flying low over the audience.

Blue Horizon
Blue Horizon
Blue Horizon
Blue Horizon
Blue Horizon
Blue Horizon

We were all pretty worn out by this point and had done everything we could for one day, and as we planned to come back later in our trip we headed out for dinner.  We rather randomly went to Sizzler, which was cheap and cheerful, and food was perfectly fine.

Sizzler
Sizzler
Posted in Florida 2012

13th March 2012 (Day 2): Chilling

Hawthorn Suites
Hawthorn Suites

So a few more words about the Hawthorn Suites where we stayed. It’s a good value hotel but some of it is a bit basic.  The general decor is a little tired and maybe in need of a little update but the staff were really friendly and for the price it is really good value for money.  I have read that the hotel is due to be rennovated in the next 12 months which would be good but hopefully wont affect the price too much. The hotel is just off International Drive, just down Sandlake Road, and would be a short walk to the restaurants on I-Drive, although we always drove I will confess.  As with everything in the US, you drive everywhere. There is a complimentary breakfast each morning which is cereals and a couple of hot dishes (eggs, sausage or bacon etc).  Nothing fancy but it is free and we used it a few times when we wanted to get something quickly before going out for the day. We had a twin queen room, so you get a bedroom, living area with dining table and small kitchen area and separate bathroom.  This worked well for us as it meant we could put Rosemary to bed and then stay up a bit longer ourselves.

Hawthorn Suites
Hawthorn Suites

Our bedroom included a small child.

Hawthorn Suites
Hawthorn Suites

Kitchen including the banana thief.

Hawthorn Suites
Hawthorn Suites

Our room overlooked the swimming pool which was nice. We wanted a quiet day to start our trip so decided to go to breakfast at Perkins and then head to Walmart to stock up on food and snacks, nappies and such like.

Then went to the outlet stores and see what was available.  Started off at the Vineland Avenue stores.  Not very much unfortunately and some of the reductions weren’t very good.  Just got a few things here and there, the Timberland store had the best offers I think.  In one store they had a $100+ pair of trainers reduced by 60c.  What a bargain! Mainly things bought for Rosemary really as the children’s clothes were where the best offers were. So not as successful as we’ve had in the past.

We went to dinner on International Drive at the Ming Court restaurant on International Drive. Which was quite nice.  Food was OK, but portions were much bigger than really needed for 1 person and Julia’s food was a bit cold when it came out.  Rosemary enjoyed her’s which was a nice box with various things in it. The decor was quite cool with a huge Chinese dragon on ceiling and Chinese roofs  throughout the restaurant.

Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court

Enjoying the Fortune Cookies.

Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court
Ming Court

So nice quiet day and getting used to the temperature (mid 20’s oC) and overcoming the jetlag.

Posted in Florida 2012

12th March 2012 (Day 1): Travelling

Here goes with our record of the trip to Orlando…

We flew out from Gatwick on BA, and booked long term parking at the airport car park.  We booked this well in advance and consequently it was very reasonable and certainly much cheaper than a taxi each way (in fact probably cheaper than a taxi one way) and much easier than getting the train.  Would recommend this route. Checked in (everything is self service these days but we wanted to change our seats if we could) and big kudos to BA as they had spotted we were travelling with an infant on lap and had swapped our seats already to give us a bulkhead seat. Had a quick walk around the airport.

At Gatwick
At Gatwick

And a bite to eat.

Coffee and Cakes
Coffee and Cakes

Got to the gate just as everyone was boarding (not quite at last call but pretty close).

At the gate
At the gate

And boarded the plane.

On the plane
On the plane

Rosemary was brilliant on the plane.  We had packed a lot of small toys to keep her entertained during the 9 hour flight but in the end didn’t need a lot of them.  I also had a lot of episodes of Something Special loaded on my iPhone and these really kept her entertained.  Would recommend the Fisher Price iPhone cover for your iPhone.  Together with some Peppa Pig stickers, which ended up on me, on Julia, on the seat, and pretty much everywhere, these kept her busy for 6 hours.  She then decided to have a nap and slept through landing and to the point of getting off the plane.

Asleep on the place
Asleep on the place
Asleep on the place
Asleep on the place

We cleared customs and collected our bags, although there is a really odd system at Orlando International Airport where you collect your bags but then immediately have to go up an escalator.  With 2 bags plus a child in a buggy we just couldn’t do that (and no lifts) so had to basically recheck our bags and collect them upstairs.  This really added onto the time to get out the airport. Got to the car hire (Budget) to pick up our car.  They always try to get you to upgrade but we had booked an economy car and decided that we would stick to this despite the girl behind the desk telling us we wouldn’t get two bags into the car (and we had a spare seat as there were only 3 of us).  Just how small are their economy cars?  So she comes back and says she’s has given us a free upgrade to a full size.  Of course when we got to the car bays there weren’t any economy cars up there.  So stick to your guns and don’t pay the extra and you may well end up with a bigger car anyway. So we ended up with a Hyundai Sonata.  Nice car but drove like a boat.  Never quite sure where it was going and felt like you were correcting the steering the whole time.

Hawthorn Suites

We had booked a suite room at the Hawthorn Suites Universal on International Drive.  Will come back to a quick review of the hotel in my next entry but generally a nice place to stay, although not an absolutely top hotel and it’s quite basic.  But friendly and nice facilities in the room.

So a very quick unpack and even though it was (in UK time) very late Rosemary was awake we went out to Perkins for a little bit of dinner.

Dinner at Perkins
Dinner at Perkins
Dinner at Perkins
Dinner at Perkins