My place to share lots of photographs of my random crafty, makery, bakery and cookery projects, as well as random thoughts that might strike me and are too long for Twitter...

Thursday, 26 November 2015

WDW Trip Report 2015: Monday: The One With All the Flying, Pt. II

Monday: The One With All the Flying, Pt. II
You join us where you left us, trudging from the Fake-o-Rail, looking for the car!

After what felt like hours (probably about 10-15mins) walking around the airport with our cases, we found the Alamo desk and joined yet another queue.

I was NOT impressed with Alamo AT ALL. We will definitely not be using them again. Rewind three years to our last trip, we booked the car that we were recommended, turned up to collect it, and were told that it was only suitable for hand luggage and we needed to upgrade. Fortunately that day we got a healthy dose of pixie dust and the upgrade was free. When we went to book this trip, we told the travel agent what had happened last time, that we had been given the wrong car, that we took full-size cases AND hand luggage, and so we needed to book the next size up. OK, no worries, it was all booked and sorted, the car would take our cases.

When we eventually got to the Alamo desk at MCO, the guy took one look at our luggage and said “Are they yours too?” (Noooooooo, my friend, we just picked up someone else’s random luggage to drag around the airport…Duh!) We replied that yes, they were ours. We didn’t look like we were emigrating or anything (you saw John's case in a previous post, mine was a similar size), just one case and one hand luggage item each. He looked at us like we were planning on loading a circus into a convertible.

“They won’t fit in this car, you’re going to need an upgrade. The one they’ve booked you is for hand luggage only.” SERIOUSLY?! Again?! We made it VERY clear that the car we were given last time wasn’t suitable when we were booking this trip, so either our travel agent majorly messed up, or Alamo are trying to scam foreign travellers who are unfamiliar with the makes/models of cars over there out of money at the airport. He point blank refused to even let us try to get our cases into the car we were allocated (I was sure we could have fitted them in if we dropped the back seats), the options he offered were:

Lose the money we’d already paid, and go to a different rental company.

Pay a “small fee” to upgrade the vehicle to one that would hold our luggage, and take up the issue with the TA when we got home, because it was their error not his.

Call a taxi.

This time there was zero pixie dust and a massive $354.88 bill to pay for the upgrade. The guy was REALLY off with us, refused to “waste time” showing us the car, complained that he had to deal with travel companies doing this all the time and it was a PITA, and generally was a total word-that-can’t-be-used-around-preschool-toys. I don’t know how much Alamo were paying this con-artist, but $354.88 was not a “small fee” to us! That was about ⅕ of our entire budget for the two weeks we were there, including money that we had to do some shopping for other people back home who sent us with requests for hard-to-find-in-the-UK items. Fortunately we could just about fit it onto a credit card that we had with us, but if we couldn’t have done that we would definitely have had to cancel some ADRs and change our plans. I was furious! But that was NOT how I wanted to start our magical trip and I already had a headache, so I filed the receipt away to worry about later when we got home.
[Since we returned home I have contacted the travel agent, and they HAD booked us the right car, our luggage would have fitted in it easily. They are currently chasing Alamo to get us our refund! We were lucky that we had room on a card for the extra expense, but losing that much cash would totally ruin some families' trips. We are NEVER using Alamo again!]

So, pockets lighter, cases feeling heavier by the second, we went to collect the car.

I couldn't believe the heat when we stepped out of the airport! So this is the humidity I've heard so much about! I see what you mean now. Wow! I was still feeling really bad so the heat didn't help at all. We decided that, instead of checking in and going straight back out again, we would check in and hang out in our room for a while in the hope that I would feel better after a nap. Soon we were on our way to the resort. I called home on the way to let them know that we had landed safely. They already knew! Dad had downloaded an app on his phone, and was tracking our flight on that, as well as on the computer. It took us almost 2hrs from landing to getting to the resort, so I’m glad they knew we landed safely at the time and weren’t waiting all that extra time to hear from me. They passed the message around the rest of the family too to save my phone bill!

I was so excited to finally get to stay on property. We parked up and headed into Corner House, where “Boris” explained that his real name was actually Anthony, but his room-mate had taken his badge so he had to wear his boss’ and now all the other staff were teasing him. He was lovely, and very helpful. We chatted about the parks, Halloween, favourite rides and shows, and he gave us the welcome info about the resort. Finally we got to the bit I’d been waiting for...Our Magic Bands!! We didn't get the cool Incredibles box, but never mind. Anthony/Boris set mine up first, and I decided to model it right away. Then he tried to set John’s up and it just wouldn’t work! He tried everything, but nope, no luck. Kudos to him for trying for so long, but by now my aching head was really wishing he would just give in and get us a new one! Fortunately John had chosen the grey MB anyway, so having a replacement grey one didn’t really matter, and we were allowed to keep the original as it was the one with his name printed inside. Magic Band #2 worked fine, thank goodness! As we were about to walk away Anthony/Boris said “”Wait a minute! I almost forgot, we have a package for you!” I got so excited thinking that it was some kind of gift or pixie dust treat, haha! Nope. I was so excited to be there that I had completely forgotten that I had ordered something online to be delivered to the resort. It was the shirt I ordered from Trixin Clothing! I’d been drooling over them for ages, but couldn’t face paying shipping/import duty to get it sent to me at home. Fortunately CBR played PO Box and I was able to collect it and stow it in my luggage! Sadly it was WAY too warm to wear it on our trip, but it shall keep me warm now that we are back home! With Magic Bands and mail collected, we were on our way to Jamaica!!

I originally requested Jamaica because of the pretty walk across the little island, and because it seemed the closest to Old Port Royale without actually taking up a room in the immediately adjacent islands, which I thought we didn’t need to do as much as the people with small children, elderly/disabled relatives, etc. Then...They closed the bridge. Hmm. I know we could have contacted Disney and tried to change our request, but honestly, we are both young, able-bodied and capable of walking, and I felt like we should leave the room swaps for the people who needed them more than we did. I’m so glad we did! It seemed there were way less people staying in Jamaica than the other islands, and our little corner of the resort was SO quiet, we only heard other people once during our whole stay.

The resort was STUNNING! We parked up in Jamaica and headed off to find room 4553. One thing I will say about CBR is to save enough energy at night to get back to your room! It felt like a maze to find our door, and the walk seemed so much longer after a full day in the parks! I knew what to expect from the rooms as I had been stalking the DISboards and TripAdvisor, but I was surprised how big it was in real life. I was a little sad that there weren’t any little hidden Mickey/character touches in our room, but it was spotlessly clean and well-maintained, so I wasn’t about to complain! For the brief amount of time we spent there (shower, sleep and shopping storage!) it was just perfect.

Here is a little video of our drive from the airport and a quick room tour. Yes, that is Kermit singing Kokomo. Sadly, what with the split, and the new TV show, Caribbean Kermit (who helped to plan our trip) was too busy to join us, but we wanted him to factor in there somewhere! Plus at least one person on the bus (usually me) would start singing/humming this song on the bus as they announced each island. The day it popped up on the steel band music loop on the bus I just about died!

Once we’d dropped the cases and bags and explored the room, I insisted on meeting Stacey! I was feeling worse, but everyone seemed to rave about the Stacey channel, so I had to put it and see what the hype was all about! Then John took over the remote so I settled down and had a nap, but when I woke up later I felt no better. I was sad that our first night was ruined and that I felt so bad, and we headed to Old Port Royale to cancel our reservation at Planet Hollywood and so that John could get something to eat. It did mean that we fell foul of the $10/pp cancellation fee, but I knew that I couldn’t have eaten anything (I actually tried a few of John’s fries that I managed to keep down until we got back to our room before they made their untimely exit).

I did, of course, manage to snap a couple of pictures on the way to OPR.

How does somewhere this perfect exist?! So beautiful.



No-one wants to start their trip to Disney throwing up...This was not going well at all! I was tired and sad and felt terrible. I couldn’t really hear properly because of my sinuses/ears, but the air-con unit was somehow still SO LOUD to me that it was making me feel even worse.

We had a breakfast reservation the next morning, and a MNSSHP and Hallowishes dessert party in the evening, so we went to bed early in the hopes that tomorrow would be a better day.

It had to be...we were finally in DISNEY!!!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

WDW Trip Report 2015 Monday: The One With All The Flying

Monday: The One With All The Flying

There are only three acceptable reasons to be waking me up at 6am.

1) Air travel.
2) It's snowing.
3) Death. Either my own imminent one, or that of someone important.

Fortunately, in this case it was reason #1. Woohoo!!

There was too-early-in-the-morning bumbling about, getting ready and dressed, doing of make-up (me) and re-packing of cases (John) and all that other non-Disney stuff that no-one is really interested in.

Trundling off to start our long journey. This time tomorrow we will be in Walt Disney World!

I am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning. He is not!

We got a free shuttle mini-bus (mini-motor-coach?!) from the hotel to the airport, checked in our luggage, and headed for Duty Free shopping, where we bought a travel adaptor, having lost yet another one somewhere in our house after our last trip. Where do they all go?! I don't know. We seem to buy one every trip, I do know that. At this point we should have studied the packaging a bit more closely, as the adaptor we bought had a night light which was not only a bright neon green light, but also could not be switched off. Cue anxious nights falling asleep worrying that whatever we had used to cover the glaring light that night would catch on fire. Fortunately towards the end of the trip the bulb in the nightlight started to die so it wasn't on all the time. Unfortunately it was on intermittently, at its own choosing, so we had the choice of covering the light and fearing a fiery death, or leaving the light uncovered, knowing that at any minute we could be awoken by neon green rave lighting flashing away by the bed. Decisions, decisions!!

In an attempt to make our early morning airport excursion as easy as possible, I had booked the Fast-Track security service, and also booked us into the Escape Lounge. The Fast-Track was definitely worth it, at £3.50/person. If we hadn’t needed it I wouldn’t be bothered about wasting so little money, and if the queues had been massive, it would have saved us a LOT of time. As it was we used it, but it didn’t really make too much difference as we wouldn’t have waited that long anyway.

Personally, I don't think the Escape Lounge was worth £18.99/person. If you drink alcohol at 7am in the morning, then you would get your money's worth (and should probably also wonder about getting help for that breakfast drinking if it's a regular thing! ;) ) as it's a free bar for beer, wine, etc, but for us, we just had bacon and sausage sandwiches (which weren't that nice), apple juice that tasted like it had been watered down, and two small (glass bottle) Cokes. The staff weren't that nice either, everything seemed to be too much trouble and, with the exception of the guy checking people in at reception, I don't think I saw anyone else crack a smile! Next time I will save the money and we will just go to Starbucks instead! So much for our lovely VIP travel experience. I was NOT impressed.

"Hey, look. 'Esc-a-pay'. I wonder what that means? That's funny, it's spelled just like the word 'escape.'"

Behold! A very tired man modelling the most expensive breakfast sandwich in the world!!!!

We took a wander around the airport, did a little more browsing, and then set off for our gate.

Lovely weather, we were so sad to leave it behind...NOT!

I really enjoy flying. I love take off, I love landing, I even love the weird little bento-box-esque tiny portioned food, even though usually it's gross. What I absolutely cannot stand is the waiting to fly. That's when the thoughts of my possible demise in tin can of flames plummeting towards a shark-infested ocean creep up on me. I'm an excellent flyer...but I'm an incredibly panicky waiting-to-flyer. Fortunately there were no delays, and we were soon loaded onto the plane and settled in our seats. 

We paid the £4 to upgrade to the Premier entertainment package, and I watched random episodes of The Middle, The Big Bang Theory, and Friends before settling down to watch "Spy", "Inside Out", and "Jersey Boys". I was a little disappointed that there were no really new films on there, previously we've had films we've never seen before at all, but it was nice to watch a couple of favourites, and to see Spy as we missed it in cinemas.

During the flight, I started to feel really sinus-y and like a really bad headache was imminent. I took painkillers, tried to sleep, and used the forehead menthol stick I'd packed, but nothing seemed to help much. The landing was SO painful! I thought my ears would explode. But at least we were on the ground.

We made it through security relatively quickly, even though my picture is AWFUL because I laughed at the little machine squatting down so far to take my photograph because I’m only 5’2”, and then tried to stop laughing because it's an official government thing and usually you're not allowed to smile...So I'm just pulling a horrible face. Fortunately though the guard was really friendly and we got through pretty fast. For some reason, my case is always one of the last ones off the plane. I have no idea why! There were much larger/heavier-looking cases than mine that came off way sooner, along with all the pushchairs, golf clubs, car seats, etc. John Daly was on our flight too, with his partner, they were WAY more careful with his clubs than everyone else’s, I noticed! I was also really disappointed (a week after we landed at home!) when John corrected me that it was John Daly the golfer, who was on our flight, and not John (F) Daley, Dr. Lance Sweets from “Bones”. Boo! That’s nowhere near as exciting! 

I’d heard tell of the mysterious Fake-o-Rail, now I got to ride it! Last time we flew into Stanford, no fancy transport there. John and I have a thing where, whenever we’re heading to the Monorail, we quote the monorail song from “The Simpsons”. Not all of it, just the bit that repeats “Monorail!!” getting higher and higher until we run out of notes. Yup, we’re annoying. It changed nicely for “Fake-o-Railllllll!!” though, much to the confusion of all but one of our fellow passengers. High-five, fellow Simpsons fan!

As we trundled off to the main airport building on the Fake-o-Rail, John pointed out that a woman next to me was about to lose one of her out of control cases right into my foot as she played around with her phone. I may or may not have verbally encouraged her to pay attention to the job in hand rather than her FB account, and keep her luggage under control. Yup, I yelled at John Daly’s wife on the Fake-o-Rail. Whoops! Maybe next time she will not try to mow down random people with her luggage!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

WDW Trip Report 2015: Sunday: The One In Which Our Trip Begins!

Sunday: The One In Which Our Trip Begins!

John and I both had the weekend off before our trip, so we had LOTS of time to be super-organised, get our packing done nice and early, and spend a relaxing weekend packing sedately, visiting with family and friends, go to a hockey game in the evening on Sunday, and then my Dad would drive us to the airport to check in at the hotel. Which, of course, if you know us at all, you will know was never going to happen. Our house felt like every available surface was covered in clean laundry, the dryer was still running, my plans to leave a nice tidy house to come back to went completely awry, the fabric paint on John's costume was still drying and I spent the day in a panic, packing, re-packing and checking my multiple lists in between visiting my parents and grandparents.

Eventually (late) we set off for the game, where I re-wrote numerous packing lists on my phone and largely did not pay attention at all. Then we grabbed take-out on the way home, I can't even remember what we ate, McDonald’s I think, stuffed last minute items into the cases, and before we knew it, Dad was calling to let us know he was setting off to pick us up.

We had a nice clear route to Manchester with no traffic, and soon we were wrestling our luggage through the revolving door at the Hilton. Normally I would be quite excited to stay at a Hilton (Premier Inn is more my level for one-off nights, as cheap as I can get away with whilst still being liveable!), but now the only hotel I wanted to be checking into was a DISNEY ONE!! But I feigned interest (OK, I was still pretty excited, it was all part of the trip after all) and took some photographs of our room.


*yawn*...Where are the Mickey ears?!

It really was that dark in there. Why do hotels object so to their guests being able to see?


The sooner we fall asleep, the sooner we go to DISNEY!!! How exciting!!!!!

£2.50 a bottle and they can't spell their own name correctly? Come on HilTon, up your game! ;)

After a trip to the bar, because I always forget how gross hotel tap water tastes until I am in a room with no bottled water, I had my Hildon water at a princely £2.50/bottle and we settled down to watch some TV and get to sleep fairly early. 6am wake-up call in the morning!!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

We're Baaaack! With a Disney World Trip Report!

It's OK, I'm not dead. I just got busy. For, like, eight months. Whoops! Sorry about that...

For those of you who don't know, we recently took a trip to WALT DISNEY WORLD (sadly not for all of those eight months, just two weeks)!!

As I post my trip report over on the DISboards, I will also share the posts here. :) It's going to get really, REALLY Disney over here for a while, so if that's not your thing, maybe give me a miss. But hey, you're used to that after eight months of no updates. :)

I will try to translate the Disney shorthand as we go along. If I miss something, just ask!

Here goes...

The One With All The Plans

On our last trip, we pretty much just muddled along with no Fast Passes (FPs), Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) or real plans. We stayed off-property and only made one reservation, for Cinderella's Royal Table (CRT). I made sketchy plans before we left and promptly left them at home in my hurry to pack. We had a fabulous time regardless!

This time, however, we were WAY more organised! Like, multiple spreadsheets organised. We also had a great deal which included 14 day park-hopper tickets for the price of 7 days, free Quick-Service Dining Plan, and a $100 gift card. We hired a car as we planned to also visit Tampa to see an NHL game, and go to the beach, as well as shopping trips to the discount outlets, etc. We saved for three years for our trip and it was the first time we would be staying on property (and only my second visit to WDW) so we wanted to do it properly!

Here's a brief run-down of how our trip plans looked before we left. We'll go over how they changed later!!

Resort: Caribbean Beach
Island: Jamaica
Stay: 14 Nights (Oct. 5-20th 2015)
Disney Dining Plan (DDP): Quick Service (QS)

Sun Oct. 4th
Hockey game, then travel to the Hilton at Manchester Airport to spend the night before our earlyish flight the next day.

Mon Oct. 5th
Fly from Manchester to MCO, collect the car, drive to the resort, check in, unpack, etc.

ADR: Planet Hollywood
Spend the evening at Disney Springs

Tues Oct. 6th
Park: Magic Kingdom

ADR: 10:35am - Crystal Palace
FP: 12:25pm 7 Dwarves’ Mine Train
1:25pm Space Mountain
2:25pm Big Thunder Mountain

ADR: Hallowishes Dessert Party

Weds Oct. 7th
Park: Universal Studios/Islands Of Adventure

Thurs Oct. 8th
Park: Disney Springs, Tampa.
ADR: 12:30 T-Rex
Drive to Tampa for Lightning home season opener.

Fri Oct. 9th
Park: Animal Kingdom

FP: 11:05am Kilimanjaro Safaris
1:10pm Expedition Everest
2:50pm Dinosaur

Sat Oct. 10th

ADR: 12:55 Chef Mickey's (brunch)

Sun Oct. 11th
Park: DHS

FP: 2:50pm Star Tours
5:50pm Tower of Terror
6:55pm Fantasmic!

Mon Oct. 12th

FP: 11:30am Soarin’
12:40pm The Seas With Nemo
2:20pm Mission Space

ADR: IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party 8pm

Tues Oct. 13th

ADR: Beaches and Cream 4pm

Weds Oct. 14th
Park: Animal Kingdom
FP: 1:30pm Festival of the Lion King
3:40pm Expedition Everest
5:00pm Kali River Rapids

Thurs Oct. 15th
Park: Universal

Fri Oct. 16th
Park: Magic Kingdom

FP: 11:20am Enchanted Tales With Belle
12:50pm Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
2:50pm Splash Mountain

ADR: 5:55 Be Our Guest

Sat Oct. 17th
Park: Magic Kingdom
FP: 2:45pm Festival of Fantasy Parade
8:30pm Main St Electrical Parade
9:35pm Wishes

Sun Oct 18th
Park: Disney Hollywood Studios/Disney Springs

FP: 3:30pm Lights! Motors! Action!
5:35pm Frozen Singalong
6:55pm Fantasmic!

Mon Oct. 19th

Park: Magic Kingdom
FP: 12:25pm 7 Dwarves’ Mine Train
1:25pm Space Mountain
2:25pm Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Travel home.