Posted in Florida 2013

7th December 2013 (Day 6): Seaworld

SeaWorldOff to Seaworld today, using our free entry which comes with the Discovery Cove tickets.  This gives you 14 days entry to Seaworld in addition to your Discovery Cove entry, as well as Aquatica, so it’s pretty good value I think.

Our first stop was to go to the aquarium which is underneath Manta, which is a pretty hairy ride and not one you will find me on!

Aquarium
Aquarium

The aquarium is a little hidden but well worth a visit.  There is a very large tank full of fish, rays and sharks.

Aquarium
Aquarium
Aquarium
Aquarium

And a tank full of clown fish which you can stick your head into.

Clownfish
Clownfish

New since our last visit is the Empire of the Penguin ride and the whole of the Antarctica section. The ride comes in mild or wild and we picked mild (which had a much shorter queue as well).  The ride was okay but nothing amazing and unfortunately you have to ride it to get to see the penguins.

Penguins
Penguins

They are at the end of the ride and very noisy, and smelly.

Penguins
Penguins

We had some lunch in the Antartica cafe and then went over to see the Manatees.  This area has changed since our last visit as well (when you couldn’t see the manatees at all) and there is now a 360 degree film as part of the experience.

Manatees
Manatees
Manatees
Manatees

Took a quick break to have an ice cream, and of course you can’t not have a Shamu ice cream at Seaworld.

Ice Cream
Ice Cream

The Seamore and Clyde show had been changed a bit for the Christmas holidays and we went over to see this.  The pirate ship was all decorated and the show was all Christmas themed.

Seamore and Clyde
Seamore and Clyde

Finally for this day we took a walk around the walk.  Seaworld had really been decorated up for the holidays with lights and trees pretty much everywhere.

Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights

And in the middle of the lake was the Sea of Trees, which were a huge number of trees all lit up and periodically the lights would go to the music.

Sea of Trees
Sea of Trees
Sea of Trees
Sea of Trees

And a link to a video of the show.

Posted in Florida 2013

6th December 2013 (Day 5): Discovery Cove

Our treat thiDiscovery Coves trip (again) was a visit to Discovery Cove.  This is a limited entry park (think it’s 1000 people per day) which is run by Seaworld and is just across the road from the main park.

Discovery Cove
Discovery Cove

We had some breakfast once we had checked in and then got into our wetsuits to swim.

Wetsuits
Wetsuits

Rosemary loved playing with her mask and snorkel, although we didn’t think she was really old enough to use the snorkel in the water itself.

Ready to Dive
Ready to Dive

The lazy river was a lot of fun and it had changed a lot since our last visit with the addition of otters and marmosets.  Couldn’t get any pictures of the marmosets on my waterproof video but the otters were fun and you could swim up to the front of their enclosure.

Video Link to the Otters

The water in the main reef felt particularly cold (well it was December) and we only spent a short while there.  You can see Rosemary shivering in the video.

Video Link to the Main Reef

We got a really cool buggy again with giant wheels, so Rosemary had a chill out in that and warmed up again.

Beachbuggy
Beachbuggy
Posted in Florida 2013

5th December 2013 (Day 4): Disney Hollywood Studios

For this trip we decided to visit all four of the Disney parks, and bought a 5 day ticket. So to kick off our visits we decided to go to Hollywood Studios (we had also tried to plan out visits using one of the crowd planners so we would be at each park on quieter days).  We’d never been here before, so this would be our first visit.

The park is all 1950’s Hollywood themed and there is a entrance street running up from main ticket entrances. There are really tall palms on most of the streets to add to the California look.

Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios

At the top of the street is the Mickey Sorcerer’s Hat which forms a stage and most of the rest of the park radiates out from here.

Mickey's Hat
Mickey’s Hat

We decided to go into the Art of Animation area first which is where there are a number of character meets and greets.  Rosemary had never done one of these before so we weren’t sure how she would react.  When we visited Peppa Pig World she was a bit freaked by the Peppa there (as she was “bigger than I thought she would be”).  While waiting to see Mickey we weren’t too sure.

Waiting for Mickey
Waiting for Mickey

But when she actually got there everything was fine.

Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse

After seeing Mickey we really wanted to see Minnie as well.  Initially we were really confused as to where she was.  Mickey was in the hall and there was also Mr Incredible and Frozone in the hall (although we didn’t meet them).  But no sign of Minnie anywhere.  We asked a cast member and were told where to go, which was a queue by a door.  Turns out Minnie has her own dressing room to meet guests in which was really lovely and meant it was really private as well as it was just you in there.

Minnie Mouse
Minnie Mouse

After we left we went to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show which was just outside.  This is a live action show which whizzes through  the film at some speed.  Was a good show though.

Little Mermaid
Little Mermaid

And then we went onto the Backlot Tour.  This starts off with some stunt effects which you watch.  There are a lot of water effects and felt sorry for the volunteers as they got drenched.

Backlot Tour
Backlot Tour

The tour then goes onto a tram which takes you round some exhibits including cars and planes from movies, and a couple of props from Star Wars.

Jabba's Skiff
Jabba’s Skiff
Snowspeeder
Snowspeeder

It finishes with a fire and water stunt which is pretty amazing.  Link to a video of this.

We stopped for a snack at the Writers Stop, Mickey gingerbread man for Rosemary and coffee for us.

Snack Break
Snack Break

We had hoped to get Fastpasses for the Buzz Lightyear Midway Shootout but they were basically gone by the time we got there.  But we did catch a few more shows during the day, including the Muppets 3D.

Muppets
Muppets

And we got a few more Meet and Greets in as well.  Queues weren’t too bad, although took sometime to see Mike and Sulley.

Monsters University
Monsters University

Goofy was great and loved my t-shirt, calling over the photographer and “minder” to see it. It was great that he was all dressed up for Christmas.

Goofy
Goofy

We continued our walk around the park, including seeing the AT-AT near the Star Tours ride.  Rosemary was too small for that so we’ll do it another time.

AT-AT
AT-AT

We got something to eat at Rosie’s All American Cafe (seemed appropriate) and then went to see the Beauty and the Beast show.  This is a big production with lots of singing and dancing.  Rosemary loved it.

Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast

And finally we headed back to the Streets of America where the Osborne Family Specticle of Dancing Lights was on.  This was really amazing, with Christmas lights absolutely everywhere.

Dancing Lights
Dancing Lights
Dancing Lights
Dancing Lights

There are a couple of videos of it on my Flickr page which can be found here and here.

The lights are also meant to work with the new Mickey hats which have light up ears and the ears and meant to sync together.  Couldn’t really see this happening and they all looked like they were flashing independently, but they were nice.

Mickey Ears
Mickey Ears

And with that it was time to leave as it was getting very late and we were all pretty exhausted.

Posted in Florida 2013

4th December 2013 (Day 3): Kennedy Space Center

So first day oksc_logout on our trip and something that was for me as much as Rosemary, with a trip to the Kennedy Space Center.Was really looking forwards to this as we’ve not visited since the Space Shuttle exhibit opened and having missed out on seeing a launch (it is STS-125 which was the Hubble service mission, which got scrubbed at the time we were there and ended up happening months later) I was looking forward to seeing Atlantis.

Anyway, we headed out on the road for ~1hour drive to the Atlantic coast at Titusville.

Kennedy Space Centre
Kennedy Space Centre

There were quite a few Christmas decorations about including a giant NASA bauble.

Christmas Baubles
Christmas Baubles

Our first part of the day was to head out on the bus tour which takes you past the launch pads and onto the Saturn V hall.  As you leave they take some green-screen photos which we’ve never even bothered to look at before.  But this one of Rosemary was so cute we couldn’t pass it up.

Rosemary
Rosemary

A lot of work was going on around the pads as NASA closes down the Shuttle programme and sets up as a commercial launch facility with companies like Space-X.  One of the Shuttle pads had completely gone and was being replaced with the equipment needed for other rockets etc.

Launch Pad
Launch Pad

I suspect though that I may have been the only one who was finding that interesting though. But we did see some wild manatees in the rivers and streams around the Space Center. There were at least 3 and possibly 5.

Manatees
Manatees

After watching the recreation of the Apollo 8 launch in the firing room we went through into the main hall.  Rosemary was instantly pretty blown away by the size of the Saturn V.  It is after all the size of a skyscraper.

Saturn V
Saturn V
Saturn V
Saturn V
Saturn V
Saturn V

After looking around for a little while we stopped to have sum lunch at the Lunch Pad underneath the Lunar Lander. We carried on looking around afterwards seeing some thing which probably didn’t mean as much to Rosemary, including Jim Lovell’s flightsuit and the Apollo 14 command capsule.

Jim Lovell's Flightsuit
Jim Lovell’s Flightsuit
Apollo 14
Apollo 14

We did get to touch the moonrock that is on display.

Moonrock
Moonrock

We got the first, of what turned out to be many, pressed pennies. She could spot these machines from miles off and every quarter and shiny penny we got in change ended up being saved back for them.

Pressed Penny
Pressed Penny

And finally before leaving we “excited through the giftshop”.

Major Tom to Ground Control
Major Tom to Ground Control

After leaving the Saturn V exhibit hall we got the bus back to the main complex and went to visit the Space Shuttle exhibit. They have Atlantis on display here (the others are at other museums now) in an orbit position in a large hall.

Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis

As part of the exhibit they have a mock up of the cockpit which you can play in.  Unfortunately the controls don’t actually do anything, which would have been a nice touch.

Flying the shuttle
Flying the shuttle

There are also some tunnels which you can crawl through which are part of the International Space Station exhibit in the hall.  I crawled in with Rosemary but we both freaked a bit when the tubes became clear and decided to head back the way we came. A bit of camera trickery made it look more impressive than it was.

Weightless
Weightless

After this there wasn’t a specific thing we wanted to see but we noticed that you could meet Santa. Expecting a huge queue we decided to take a look and were a bit surprised that there was absolutely no one there.  We spent about 10 minutes with Santa and Mrs Claus and he got us to take all sorts of photos with him, which was a lot of fun.

Santa
Santa

It was getting a bit late and we were hot so we stopped for ice cream, with Space Dots (frozen strawberry balls).

Ice cream
Ice cream

We just about had time to look around the Rocket Garden and try out the various capsules.  How they got into these with all their gear I don’t know.  Must have been hugely claustrophobic.

Mercury Capsule
Mercury Capsule
Gemini Capsule
Gemini Capsule
Apollo Capsule
Apollo Capsule

A final look around the Rocket Garden and then we drove back to Orlando.

Rocket Garden
Rocket Garden
Posted in Florida 2013

3rd December 2013 (Day 2): Relaxing

outletSo first day in Florida, with glorious weather and much hotter than December in the UK.  We decided to have a nice quite day to get over the extremely long day from travelling and get some shopping in.

But first we went to Perkins for some breakfast.

Breakfast at Perkins
Breakfast at Perkins

After that we went  to both the International Drive shops and Vineland Avenue outlets and got a few things.  Mainly for Rosemary.

Shopping
Shopping

For dinner we went back to Perkins for a light dinner and an early bed time.

Perkins
Perkins
Posted in Florida 2013

2nd December 2013 (Day 1): Travelling

Time to go to Florida again and this time we’ve got a little more time (14 nights compared to just 10 the first time) so we can pack a bit more in and see some more things while we are there.

So we left home and headed to Gatwick.  As we had planned ahead we were travelling this time with a car seat which I’d bought off eBay for the grand sum of £5.  Hiring one in the States ran to about $16 a day and as it is part of a child’s luggage allowance it seems like a sensible thing to do.  So I dropped Julia and Rosemary off at the front of the terminal with some luggage which could be loaded onto a trolley.  I then went and parked the car up in the long stay parking at the North Terminal and got the bus to the terminal with the rest of the luggage.

After checking everything in (including some confusion over the carseat, which the check in lady had put the wrong name onto somehow) we went through customs and security and got some breakfast. Fruit and pancakes seemed like an appropriately American breakfast.

Breakfast
Breakfast

We had only a little bit of looking around and it was already time to head to the gate.

Time to fly
Time to fly

And unlike our first trip, this time Rosemary got her own seat.  Which was a relief as she was really a bit big to sit on my lap for 9 hours the first time.

Time to fly
Time to fly

The flight was super uneventful and we watched some movies and in no time at all we landed in Orlando.  We had a bit of a wait going through the immigration lines (I think another flight had arrived shortly before us) but eventually made it out to pick up the car and head to the hotel.  Of course they asked us to upgrade and of course it turned out that they had no economy or budget cars available when we got into the parking garage.  But we ended up with a nice VW Jetta, which was very nice to drive.

Car collected
Car collected

We had booked a suite room at the Residence Inn at Seaworld through the British Airways sale.  At the time of booking the 2 room suite was cheaper than than the 1 room suite so of course this is what we booked for our stay.  We started to get a bit worried at check-in as it was taking a little while and we thought our booking had been lost.  Turned out that the check-in clerk couldn’t believe we’d got the room so cheap.  So looks like we got a good deal for our stay!

The room was really nice with 2 bedrooms, one with 2 queen sized beds and the other with 1 plus we had 2 bathrooms so there was never a queue in the mornings.  We had a good kitchen but the only problem was there was only 1 sofa so I can’t image staying there with 6 (or 8 people which is possible if the sofa is used as a bed).

Residence Inn
Residence Inn

Although it was quite late by this time we were all a little hungry so we went downstairs to the hotel bar and next to it was a little Pizza Hut and we got ourselves a pizza. Pretty sure I was more tired than Rosemary was.

Pizza Time
Pizza Time

And after that, straight to sleep having been up for about 18 hours.