Epcot. This is definitely a 2-day park. There is so much to see here, but not a lot of rides. We got into the park right away and did all the Fast Pass stuff that Toby had planned for us. We had some evening things to do (Dive Quest for me and Toby and the Fireworks show for everyone), so the middle of the day was open. We all elected to go home and take naps to be extra refreshed for the evening. It was a good decision. At 5p, Toby and I went back to Epcot to do our scuba dive in the Living Seas aquarium. It was an hour long ‘back stage’ tour of the aquarium facilities (6+ million gallons of water). Then a 40-minute dive in the tank that was 200+ feet long. It was a great experience. Jan brought the kids over to the glass and they watched us swim around for a few minutes. It was very fun.
At the start of the Fireworks show, we had a great location. We were enjoying some big explosions when a large piece of expended cardboard firework canister came down and hit Roly in the face. There was a Disney employee nearby who saw what happened and went right into action. Roly wasn’t visibly injured although he said that the cardboard was hot when it hit him. We had a couple of managers come over to fill out the incident reports. Toby and Roly and the managers went inside a store to get the information recorded, and to help Roly calm down, they gave him a marshmallow treat. When the rest of the kids saw this (from outside the store), they began scheming how they could be injured to get some swag. We had to wait for a higher level manager to come over, and so all the kids were offered soda and other sugar snacks to pass the time. This incident was a great example of the premium quality of Disney employees and the whole Disney experience. The people involved were over the top excellent. They were very conscientious of asking about the welfare of the entire group. They were working hard to make sure that this negative incident didn’t ruin our whole Disney experience. To that end, when they asked Toby if there was anything they could get us, she said that we didn’t have any Fast Passes to the Snow White 7 Dwarves ride. They gave us two special slips of paper that gave our whole party 2 FP trips to any ride in any park. Not that I would wish my son to get hit in the face with Fireworks debris again, but I appreciate how much Disney worked to ‘make it right’. In the end, Roly was fine.
Back to Disney. Today was spent at Disney Hollywood Studios. Toby had done a ton of research and planned out our park days to give us the most efficient time. In the 30 days before our trip, she had organized our Fast Passes to get us on the best rides with the least amount of waiting in line. The only ride she was not able to get us FPs for was the Snow White 7 Dwarves ride at Magic Kingdom. Those Fast Passes were already completely given out! The Rock N Roll roller coaster was a FP ride we had that Roly was too short to ride on. We asked how to do the switch with him, and we were given an extra FP ticket for the waiting rider. It turned out that this FP was good all day (not just the 1 hour window) and was good for 3 riders! Max didn’t feel good and dropped out of line, and the Ride Operator gave him another FP ticket. So we now had 2 switched FP tickets which was enough for most of our group to ride again. Woo Hoo! We then began dragging Roly all over to get these cool Fast Passes.
I rode Tower of Terror with the entire Bernards family, but none of my family would join me. Toby really wanted to see the Fantasia light / fireworks show, but we were late to it. She ended up getting a pretty good seat, but the rest of the Theules had horrible seats. The Bernards opted to do another ride on Tower of Terror. Nathan got separated from them and ended up waiting at our reunion spot. Kudos to him for waiting 30 minutes alone.
The anti-Disney day. Mr. Kelly McGuire happened to be in Florida with a broken plane, so he had the day off and drove up to Orlando to visit. We all went to Gatorland in the morning and saw some great shows. Max was called on stage and held a huge python with a couple of other people. He was described by the presenter as ‘the kid with the high socks’. Lucy and Roly also held the python for a picture. Nate was pulled from the audience to pick out the ‘gator that would be wrestled for the Gator wrasslin’ show. Squirt was about 8 feet long and the wrassler said that he was one of the largest in the pit. Also, Nate got to pose on the back of Squirt for a photo op. Ga
After lunch we went out to Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours for a ride in a flat-bottomed airboat. We 9 were in our own airboat and the Captain did a great job showing us some of the nature of central Florida. Roly had a hard time finding the alligators in the water. At one point he was very frustrated and said “I only see rocks”. A few seconds later he exclaimed, “Hey, that rock is moving!” After that, he seemed to do OK with gator spotting. We also saw a bald eagle perched high in a tree.
For all of our transportation, we had been utilizing Lyft and Uber. With 8 people in our group, we always needed two vehicles, but they were never more than 10 minutes apart. Kelly had rented a car for his drive and so the Bernards rode with him during the day. The Theules used Lyft to get to Wild Willy’s, but didn’t discover that Wild Willy’s was outside of the Uber/Lyft pick up area until we were ready to head back. We all 8 passengers piled into Kelly’s Nissan Altima sedan for a ride back into the ‘pickup zone’. Kelly dropped us at the very edge of the zone and then left to catch his flight. It was quite an adventure and everything worked out. It was funny to be on the corner of a highway with a stroller and a bunch of kids, waiting for 2 different cars to pick us up.
We spent today at the Disney Animal Kingdom. We saw a ton of animals (it is part zoo, after all) and rode the Safari Train. The Lion King show was an easy one for me to fall asleep in, it was so dark. Expedition Everest was a highlight ride, and Roly enjoyed beating me at Whack-a-Mole.
Toby is a bit bummed. The weather forecast has various days of rain next week while we are at the Disney parks. My experience, and what residents have told me, is that the weather changes daily in Orlando, so I’m not going to spend any time looking at weather forecasts farther out than the prediction for the next day. We got out of the AirBnB condo in a weird way. Toby contacted the owner to ask for late checkout (11a rather than 10a) and she said it would be OK and that she would talk to the management company. At 10:10a, the management company rep knocked on the door. Toby explained the situation, and the lady said she would come back at 10:30a, so it was a rush. When we started taking the luggage to the car, the lady and the cleaning crew were waiting in the hallway. It was a bit awkward.
We went to Disney Springs, which is like Universal City Walk and had a great lunch at Raglan Road Irish Pub. They had Irish dancing and music during our lunch and we had a great table. There was a little girl on vacation who got up on stage and did a couple of numbers with the musicians. She wasn’t wearing her dancing clogs, but it was impressive nonetheless. At 4p, I got the family situated in the rooms at the Vacation Village at Parkway Resort. We have a 2 bedroom unit and the Jan Bernards family has a 1 bedroom unit across the hall. The units could use a refresh, but have a lot of space for my brood.
I had to return the rental car that I had while working, so I met the Bernards at the airport and rode home with them in an Uber. Orlando does not let Uber pick up at the airport without paying a protective tariff. So we hopped on a local hotel shuttle and called the Uber from there. Being Saturday night, it took longer than normal for the car to get to us, and the hotel shuttle was returning from its trip to the airport when the Uber arrived. We got a fairly stern glare from the shuttle driver as we pulled away.