Sunday, 24 June 2012

Trip Report

Hello everyone!

Once again I'm writing to you from onboard an aircraft. Whenever I read Disney Park forums Trip Report posts appear where people either delve into the inane details of their family vacation or provide an in depth criticism of the current state of the parks. I hope this trip report doesn't sound like that.

The last time I posted I was genuinely excited to be getting back to Orlando, visiting the parks and seeing friends. And so I did.

I went to Star Wars Weekends, which by the way is consistently one of the best events I've been to in a Disney park. I can guarantee that you will never see so many grown men get excited about a parade anywhere else.

I managed to get lost while driving. I've got to say I was petrified of driving in Orlando. If I had filmed myself on my first morning driving solo you would have seen me give myself the most epic pep talk of all time. Other than getting lost on the way to TGI Fridays and ending up at the Magic Kingdom I think overall I ended up doing rather well and thoroughly enjoyed being able to just drive everywhere instead of being reliant on Disney buses. It led to a far more relaxing and time efficient experience.

Side note: I LOVED having an annual pass to both Disney and Universal. It meant that I didn't have to find money for parking each day. On this trip alone I would have spent in the region of $150-200 just on parking. It also meant that I could go to the parks for a few hours everyday and not worry about using up a day on my ticket, useful when the majority of the people you're at the parks with are getting in for free.

Over the last 25 years, I've thought of Orlando as being a second home. This trip that changed. This trip I realised that emotionally Orlando has become my first home. Now I realise that probably sounds a bit pathetic to have formed a strong emotional attachment to what is essentially a giant tourist attraction but there you go. I actually wonder how I managed to go 9 months without visiting Orlando and I was counting down the days until my trip like a small child. 2 weeks ago I had already planned a trip to Orlando for November, which was part of the reason that I went for annual passes instead of the specially priced UK residents ticket or relying on friends to get me in for free. That would be an Orlando-free 5 months, significantly less than the gap between my ICP and this trip. If I didn't come back again until the following summer that would be 7 months between visits. So about halfway during my trip, when I was having a depressed moment at the thought of leaving I started researching flight costs for January, after all I already had park tickets and knew a place I could stay for free. The moment you realise that such a trip becomes feasible the excitement level starts building again. Unlike the kids in the Disney commercials on tv I wasn't excited about seeing Mickey, or the castle, just hanging out with my friends. It's like a dose of magic that helps keep me sane for the rest of the year.

That's enough of the old for the moment, let's talk about the new.

The first two parks I visited were Hollywood Studios (DHS) and Animal Kingdom (DAK), and there really wasn't anything new there (or so I thought) other than the yeti looking more off colour than usual. Personally I think it's because she missed me.

Universal. Well, on the positive side the mini golf courses look awesome and the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem was a lot of fun (BANANAS!). The new HD graphics in Spider-Man were a great improvement, especially with the various Marvel-related cameo appearances. And then there was Harry Potter...
Those that have seen my vlog episode from 2 years ago will know what my original reaction to that area was and I really do want to like it ... but ... well ... I avoided the stores completely, mostly because the traditional sweet stores in Cornwall have more ambiance (and probably need my money more) and also because when you go with people that live in Orlando everyone avoids the shops. So we just did the bit that I did like the first time around: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Well, I think Harry Potter and the Broken Journey would have been more appropriate because that's what happened. The one good thing was that it didn't break down in the Aragog section, which as an arachnophobe I was quite grateful for. So...yeah...Harry Potter still leaves me a little cold.

Moving swiftly on... The Magic Kingdom. Well let's see there's Sorceror's of the Magic Kingdom which was pretty fun (I did the Fantasyland section fighting Maleficent), then there's Storybook Circus which felt much more permanent in style than its Toontown Fair predecessor. I loved the poster work and train station in particular. Peering over the barrier into the Fantasyland expansion I could see the Beast's and Prince Eric's castle which are looking really good. The whole area feels really open. I'm not sure how open it will feel once the mine train ride is in there too but we shall see.

Epcot had two new things: lots of cast members I didn't recognise and the Agent P attraction in World Showcase that has replaced Kim Possible. They were testing it when I was there so I didn't get to experience the attraction myself and, if I'm honest I don't think that Agent P's colleagues have as much style as Kim Possible's. Still, I'm looking forward to experiencing it once it's open.

What else can I say about my trip? Well, it turns out I know A LOT of people in WDW. Way more than even I realised. The moment you go and see a movie with friends and see at least 8-10 additional, completely unrelated people that you know it begins to sink in.

Writing this, I am now less than 2 hours away from Heathrow and 78 days from returning to Orlando. "78 days?" I hear you cry, "That's not 5 months!". Well...I decided to plan a completely financially unrealistic trip to Orlando instead of going to Cornwall in September. Two reasons: 1) I am insane and 2) I was heavily exposed to a reggae version of the Halloween music that they use in MK (long story). So while everyone else was packing to leave I was making a spreadsheet trying to work out what such a trip would cost, after all I do already have my annual passes - right? It was looking like a Blue Sky dream as I flew from Orlando to Washington feeling teary-eyed. I was staying in DC overnight and I guess I wished upon a star once upon a dream because this morning....

I was sat at the airport gate with the Sub I'd bought for my flight (icky plane food) and I got called to the desk. They'd overbooked the flight and needed to bump me onto a later flight. On the one hand I was gutted that i could have stayed in Orlando an extra day and hung out with the super awesome people I know there, on the other there was the compensation.

I've been bumped off flights before for 24 hours and ended up with nothing but a $3 meal voucher and a 30 minute bus ride to a Holiday Inn, but today (SUPER HUGE SHOUT OUT to United Customer Service for this one) I got $30 dollars worth of meal vouchers (waaaaay more than I needed) and an $800 flight credit that I can use for any trip as long as I book it in the next year. You know what $800 buys me? Only a return trip to Orlando in September! Hello to THAT Magic Moment! It works out as being about $80 per hour I was delayed which is pretty sweet. I'd have probably flown United again anyway but now I definitely will!

While I remember... I want to say a big THANK YOU for all the comments on the Facebook page throughout my trip. I do read them all even if I don't reply and some of them were really sweet. I've been trying to uploads one of my favourite photos from the trip to my Flickr page each night so feel free to check them out there if you want to see more than what's on the Facebook page.

Blog you real soon!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Over the Atlantic

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