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Published: November 3rd 2017
We are back!
Ann, Riley and I returned from a fabulous vacation in the Caribbean and at Walt Disney World. I’ve included a couple tips for Walt Disney World at the bottom of this blog as we found them very helpful for avoiding long lines, saving money and generally feeling more efficient.
We flew down on a Friday and had a full day Saturday to get acclimatised before heading to the Port Canaveral cruise terminal on Sunday. We had purchased a 5-day (for the price of 4 days) Disney World pass. Instead of trying to squeeze all 5 days at the end of our trip, we decided to use one before we cruised. We slept in after our midnight arrival then took an Uber car to Disney World Hollywood Studios. We had read that it was the smallest theme park and part of it is under construction (for Star Wars themed area), so great for a half day! We picked up our passes at the gate and used the My Disney Experience App all day long to book attractions, reserve at restaurants, checked the wait lines at rides and shows and where the Disney characters were. It
made our lives a lot easier. Some of our outstanding experiences from the day included: the Muppet Show (very funny), Sarge’s Green Army Men training, Toy Story Mania, the Beauty and the Beast live show, the Indiana Jones stunt show, and Star Tours ride. We hurried our dinner to get to the Fantasmic show but due to thunder and lightning, it was cancelled. We stood out in the rain for the Star Wars Galactic lights show then caught an Uber back to the hotel. A great first day at Disney!
Our first hotel was near the airport as we had a free shuttle back and forth and could get an easy bus to the cruise terminal with Go Port Canaveral. Our next hotel was near the theme parks with free shuttles between so it meant we didn’t need to rent a car for any of the trip. We arrived at the cruise shuttle an hour early and they squeezed us on the earlier bus. It took us about an hour to get to the cruise terminal. The ship didn’t look as big as we expected until we realised that it wasn’t our ship. Our ship was the
next berth over and huge! The Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas was 17 stories high and 360 m long; the largest class of cruise ships in the world. It had a zip line, two rock climbing walls, four pools, a wave rider (simulated surf wave), a garden deck, boardwalk, mini-golf course, running track, two theatres and more. The security clearance was simple and we boarded within a half hour. We registered Riley in the daycare / kid’s zone but he preferred to spend most days with us. We had a 5:30pm traditional seating dinner at the restaurant which was perfect to catch the shows later. We went every night but one. The fabulous dinners were definitely a highlight of the cruise. I had escargots every day, prime rib, duck a l’orange, and four lobster tails one night.
We had an interesting sailing as the ship was redirected twice. The first change was an emergency stop in Nassau harbour for a medical emergency. Unfortunately, this meant we would miss visiting Haiti so we had an extra sea day to continue to Jamaica. A lot of people were disappointed to miss Haiti as it is a fairly challenging
place to visit on your own. We took in all the ships’ activities, including the wave surfing, zip line, outdoor movie showing (Pirates of the Caribbean
, of course), $2 mimosas, soccer tournament (only minor injuries), and the evening Oasis of Dreams aqua show (high dive, gymnastics and synchronised swimming). One day, we went to play Monuments of the World trivia but it was changed to city skylines because the monuments were too easy. We were disappointed that we only got 5/20 correct but surprised to learn we were still the winner out of 30 groups. Tough trivia!
We arrived at Falmouth, Jamaica and the port was like a tourist shopping centre. We tried to escape via the front entrance, but there was so much security and strange characters around that we decided to take a shuttle bus instead. We went to the beach in Montego Bay, swam and played in the water for hours. Riley made friends with a Turkish girl, Renee, and they collected sea shells together. Riley slept on the ride back and we carried him asleep onto the ship. This is when we got the news that a tropical storm was heading up from
the south and we would be cancelling our stop in Cozumel, Mexico. However, the good news was we would be going back to Haiti. While this disappointed some shoppers, it was the best possible scenario for us. Everyone at our dinner table was very pleased that the cruise line had made the effort to take us back. We would find out more about the effort it takes the next day.
We arrived in Labadee, Haiti, the next morning. This is a resort compound operated by the cruise line that hires local Haitians to work there and provide local arts and crafts for sale. The cruise line also provided all the food, drinks, transportation and beach gear at no charge. They must have mobilised several hundred people to get in operational for us. We took a ferry to Columbus Cove. Ann and Riley played in the water while I roamed the compound. I got out to Adrenaline Beach, the lookout to watch the people zip lining, Dragon’s Plaza with replica fort, Nellie’s Beach and the local Town Square. It was a shame that we didn’t get into Haiti proper but we did feel extremely safe and everything was
included. Ann got quite the sun tan that day. I picked up a bunch of gifts including art work and the obligatory shot glasses. Back onboard, we had dinner with our group and saw two shows that night while Riley was at daycare: Come Fly with Me dancing show and Frozen In Time ice skating.
The next couple at-sea days went by quickly. We went ice-skating, swam in the pool, relaxed in the solarium, carousel, saw Cats the Musical, parades and dance parties. We had finished an activity packed week on the cruise and we still had another week to go. The day we got off the cruise, we bussed to our hotel in the Disney Resort area and had the afternoon to go out to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) to see the shops: the Marvel Store, Lego Store (Riley’s favourite), UNIQLO and many others. We had lunch at an amazing Irish Pub with live dancing.
We were ready for our first big day at Disney World Epcot. We got the 8am bus to the park and were in line with hundreds of people for the ‘rope drop’ where everyone runs to their
favourite rides before the lines start. We went to the Test Track, a car ride for Riley, but it was a little intense at the end. Some of our highlights for the day included the Living Land boat ride, Soaring aerial movie, visiting all the replica building in the 11 countries of the World Showcase, Mexican boat ride, Moroccan dinner and beer with belly dancing show, Relaunched: Mission to Mars and getting photos with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy. We missed the Illuminations show as we thought we would be back another day.
Next day was the Magic Kingdom, an almost replica of Disneyland in California but with a couple subtle changes. My favourite difference was they still had some of the old attractions that are no longer at Disneyland, including the Country Bears Jamboree and the original Swiss Family Robinson treehouse. We took the boat from the Transportation & Ticket Centre to the park. Our first ride for the day was the Buzz Lightyear shooter game. Riley liked it so much we did it again later in the day. Some other highlights for the day included: the Speedway (twice), Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room, It’s a Small World,
Tom Sawyer’s island, and the Haunted Mansion (sans Riley). Riley had a nap on the monorail half way through the day so we didn’t have to go back to the hotel. I have to mention LeFou’s brew from Gaston’s Tavern. If you ever go, you must try this truly unique drink, never had anything like it before. We finished up at our reservation at the Lady & the Tramp Italian restaurant (Tony’s). They gave us a special wristband and this allowed us to stay past the regular closing of the theme park and attend the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween parade. Riley got a light-up light saber and ran wild with it. No injuries fortunately. After the monorail and shuttle back home, it was a late night.
We slept in the next day and visited Disney Springs again. After Riley’s nap, we arrived at the Animal Kingdom theme park. We saw Dinosaur Land, a replica Nepal, took an African safari drive, walked the Gorilla Falls trail, and the River Rapids ride (where we all got wet). One bonus activity at Animal Kingdom was the Wilderness Explorer passport and stickers that Riley could collect. He also learned about
animals and the birds and bees, literally. There were also lots of musicians that would set up all over the park. The newest attraction at Animal Kingdom is the World of Pandora (from the Avatar movies). There were up to 3-hour line ups for some of the rides. Fortunately we managed to snag a Fastpass+ and go on the boat ride. The whole area was amazing at night time, all lit up and surreal. We also had a FP+ for the Rivers of Light show so got preferred seating. Ann and I could sip cocktails while the light show entertained Riley.
For our last Disney day, we split up to give Ann a break. She had watched over Riley during all his naps so I had bonus time at the other parks. I took Riley back to Animal Kingdom, which was his favourite and Ann got to take in the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot.
Riley and I went to see Pandora in the daytime, saw the Lion King live show (Riley got a baby Simba stuffy which he has slept with every night since), took the Jungle Safari ride again, explored
the Tree of Life trails, saw the Finding Nemo live show, dug up dinosaurs in the Boneyard, got more Wilderness Explorer stickers and did the Navi River boat ride again. With a Mickey pretzel and ice cream, Riley managed to stay awake until we got back to the shuttle and slept the whole way back. After the late nap, we met Ann at Disney Springs and had dinner at the fancy Planet Hollywood. One more visit to the Lego Store and we went back to the hotel.
And that was it, our final day was Friday the Thirteenth (special for Ann and I) where we took a shuttle to the airport, went through a pumped up security where everyone practically unpacked everything from their bags, stopped over in Toronto, had dinner, then watched movies on the way back to Vancouver.
An enjoyable family trip!
Cheers, Richard (Ann and Riley)
Some tips for the Disney Theme parks
• Use the FastPass+ system to book the rides/shows you want early.
• Try to book your three FP+ for the morning so you can get more in the afternoon. If you
are not picky, you can get in one ride, then book another for 15 minutes later all afternoon.
• If you book restaurant reservations, it will block out more than an hour before or after for FP+ use so only book if you really want to go to a specific restaurant.
• Use mobile food ordering to skip the food lines at the cafeterias.
• Rope drop is a ‘thing’. It means to arrive at the park a half hour before it opens to get through security and the entrance. Then, you rush to your favourite rides or whatever you couldn’t get a FP+ to before the big lines form.
• Highly recommend using the My Disney Experience App to book all FP+ et al. it is so quick and easy. Wifi throughout the theme parks.
• If you want a certain ride or a certain time, keep refreshing your FP+ app as new stuff becomes available all the time. Pick different times.
• Each theme park only needs a day. Disney Studios was a half day (until the new Star Wars land is built).
• Don’t forget the shows, parades, characters. These really make the Disney experience. Most of the rides are just like a roller
coaster you can do at home.
• You can bring in your own food but the kids meals / snacks are often quite a good deal.
• If your child still naps, consider renting a stroller so they can nap and you can keep walking around.
• Don’t forget to explore all the nooks and crannies in the Epcot World Showcase. These are the closest a lot of people will ever get to visiting these countries.
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