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Thread: WDW 2019 - the "who knew" trip!

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    WDW 2019 - the "who knew" trip!

    TRIP REPORT : WERE GOING BACK TO DISNEY!
    KENNEDY SPACE CENTRE, & WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT, FLORIDA

    Cast : Carolyn happiest when trip planning, or actually on a trip
    DH - grateful not to have to do any planning!

    Experience :
    Carolyn - 17 trips to Walt Disney World, 2 to Disneyland, 9 to Disneyland Resort Paris, 1 to Hong Kong Disneyland, 1 to Tokyo Disneyland, 1 cruise - Disney Dream
    DH - 10 trips to Walt Disney World, 2 to Disneyland, 5 to Disneyland Resort Paris, 1 to Hong Kong Disneyland, 1 to Tokyo Disneyland, 1 cruise Disney Dream

    Resorts : Radisson Blu, Manchester airport
    Best Western, Cocoa Beach
    Disneys Caribbean Beach Resort

    Transportation : Personal car, aeroplane, hire car

    Dates : Wednesday 27 November to Saturday 14 December 2019

    PLANNING
    As usual, this trip began life when Disney released their special offers for UK guests in April 2018, for the 2019 trip year. We had already discussed going again in 2019, and decided that we would like to take a trip closer to Christmas in order to fully experience all the wonderful holiday offerings and dcor that Disney has from mid-November onwards. We seemed to conveniently forget that when we have done this previously, we have panicked somewhat on our return to the UK, when Christmas is quite close and we are nowhere near ready! In addition, for the first time in almost 20 years, we are hosting a family Christmas lunch at our house this year and there will be exactly one week between our return from Florida and 25 December .

    So, we decided to book 14 nights at Disneys Caribbean Beach Resort. We had been intending to stay there in 2017, but as the refurbishment turned into major rebuilding works, eventually we moved our booking over to the Port Orleanss French Quarter resort. We really loved the idea of trying Caribbean Beach though, and since the works had finished the resort was getting great reviews, so I duly booked our trip. 14 day tickets for the price of 7, free Quick Service Dining Plan, free Memory Maker photo package, and a $200 Disney gift card, all included. Nice.

    Of course, as is usual with me, it didnt take me long before I was thinking, thats an awfully long way to fly for just 2 weeks ., plus there was a conversation with DH about how much we loved Kennedy Space Centre, and that led to me booking 3 nights at the Best Western Cocoa Beach hotel, prior to our 14 nights at Disney!

    I booked flights at the 11 month period with Virgin Atlantic, and bearing in mind that DH is 64 tall, most of which is legs, opted to pay extra for the exit row seats again. Weve done this before and it was a really great investment. Although I had to choose row 24 this time, as our usual row halfway down the plane was already unavailable. I also booked our airport parking at Manchester airport, with an overnight stay the night before we fly meet & greet parking, with one night at the Radisson Blu. This was quite reasonably priced, and we much prefer to stay overnight before we get the flight, as the idea of being held up by roadworks or an accident as we drive there on the day gives me nightmares!

    When I went to get the tickets for Kennedy, I was surprised not to be able to get multi-day tickets, so I just bought 4 adult tickets, which could be used on any day. DH expressed an interest in visiting the Warbird Museum, which would be only a short drive away from our hotel in Cocoa Beach, so I scheduled this in to our itinerary; tickets for this could be bought on arrival.

    The car hire seemed quite expensive this year, so I just booked an intermediate, instead of our usual SUV, thinking this is what we always used to have anyway, so it shouldnt be a problem for just the two of us. I used the same company I have been using for years, an agent called Rentalcars.com, and we had an intermediate through Dollar.

    I was made aware of a new venture this year by the Central Florida Expressway Authority, called a Visitor Toll Pass. This is a pilot of a free to use, electronic tag that you register for, and then you hang the tag in your rental vehicle. This automatically triggers a sensor in the toll pass lane, which puts a charge on the credit card you linked to your tag. It looked really easy to use, so I signed us up and received a confirmation email straight away. This system looked as though it would save the usual frantic scrabbling around for change for the toll booths as we drive to and from the airport!

    Next I began to look at the special events taking place during our visit. We decided to attend the Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party event, as we havent done this for a few years, and love the way it offers up opportunities to ride our favourite rides with less wait time, plus the special shows and parade too. I had put together an itinerary for our stay this year, and thought that the best date for us to attend the Party would be 05 December, coincidentally on what would have been Walt Disneys birthday. I also wanted to treat DH to the Fantasmic Dessert Party Fantasmic is his favourite Disney show, and we have attended the Dessert Party before, really enjoying it, so I booked that too. Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot is something we have done once before, but we were really interested in doing this again, so we agreed to just spontaneously sign up for a tour one day when we were in Epcot.

    As we only have the Quick Service Dining Plan this time, I didnt need to make any dining reservations. However, we wanted to have breakfast and lunch, (on separate days, were not that greedy!), at Be Our Guest, so I booked us a breakfast slot for our first morning at Disney, and then looked for a lunchtime slot. There wasnt anything available for any of the dates we would be in the Magic Kingdom, so I used a tip I had read about on a Disney fan website, and booked for just one person, hoping I could increase the number to 2 closer to the date.

    FastPass booking date arrived and I had chosen to work from home that day, in order to give myself a full hour of uninterrupted time to get the bookings we wanted. I managed to successfully get everything we wanted, although I had to juggle some times around on some days. I was lucky enough to get two separate FastPass slots for Flight of Passage DH has ridden this before and loved it, but I was too chicken on our last visit, (and also, if Im being honest, too fat to fit!), and I was determined that this year I would experience as many new rides as I could, so I really wanted to get on this. I have lost a considerable amount of weight since our last visit to Walt Disney World, and was looking forward to being able to fit on more rides, more comfortably, this time around.

    I was looking at the free Magic Bands offered by Disney, and at the time there were no new colours on offer we had most of the original colours. So I decided to buy us one of the upgraded designs on offer, keeping this as a surprise for DH until we got there. I got myself a red & white polka-dotted band themed to Minnie Mouse, and ordered a light grey one for DH, with a Pirates of the Caribbean design on it. These would be waiting for us on our arrival at Caribbean Beach.

    I suddenly realised about 2 weeks before the trip that I had forgotten to apply for a temporary disabled parking placard this year I have degenerating discs in my back that make walking for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time rather painful, and for the last few visits to Florida I have been able to get a parking placard that enables us to park near the front of the car parks, which is really helpful. I quickly emailed the Tax Collector department, sending them copies of my UK Blue Badge and also my passport, and in less than a week I received the parking placard in the post. They do give an excellent service!

    I discovered that one of our packing cubes had a broken zip, so I ordered another set, which was quite useful as that meant we now have 2.5 sets, giving me a few extras to use. These are a great innovation, I wish I had discovered them years ago. I am able to pack one cube with toiletries, one with medicines, and one with electrical chargers and sundry items, then the clothes all go into one cube of socks & pants, one of shorts, one of t-shirts etc. I also scheduled our Owners Locker storage box to be delivered to Caribbean Beach on our day of arrival there, although that meant we would be without the bits in it for the first few days of our trip, so I had to take some stuff such as adaptor plugs, charger cables, etc., something I dont normally have to bother taking any more. I did ask them if they could deliver to the Cocoa Beach area, but they dont deliver that far away from Disney, unfortunately. Perfectly understandable though, and I wasnt too bothered about this.

    A couple of days before departure, I printed off all the info, tickets, directions etc. that we would need, and organised them by date order in a folder. I also added travel insurance details, a shopping list for Walmart, opening hours of all the Disney parks, a list of FastPass dates and times, and a copy of the itinerary. We were ready to go!

    DAY MINUS 1 - Tuesday 26 November

    Plan : Last minute packing, sort car, get ready to go

    Actual : I had arranged to work from home today, and logged on by 8.00 a.m. so that I could finish early, before our drive to Manchester airport. In between work, I managed to do the last minute packing while DH took our bearded dragon, Zelda, to the reptile boarders that we use he was going on his holidays, too! I packed overnight things into our hand luggage so we didnt have to open the suitcases until we got to Florida, and also put together a hotel picnic, having bought a couple of meal deals the day before. I did the usual things of bleaching the loos, making the bed, ensuring the fridge was emptied of anything perishable, unplugging the kettle and toaster, and emptying the dishwasher, before logging off from work and helping DH to load the car. 3.00 p.m. and we were off! We had a good journey from Birmingham to Manchester, but some roadworks and several sections of motorway with very heavy rain meant that the journey took us twice as long as it would normally do, and almost 3 hours later we pulled into the Meet & Greet parking area at the airport. This was as easy as normal, and the staff there are very helpful and welcoming as we walked up to the desk in the airport, having parked the car in the lane marked, the guy behind the counter was very smiley and chatty! We handed over our car keys, took the slip of paper he gave us and tucked it away safely in my purse.

    We walked the short way through the airport and across the covered skyway to the hotel, and were checked in very quickly. By 6.30 p.m. we were in a lovely room, tucked up in bed with our hotel picnic! We watched some TV, sent some emails and texts to family and friends, I checked us in online for the flights the next day and also paid for one extra suitcase going out, and we finally turned the lights off at about 11.00 p.m.

    DAY 1 Wednesday 27 November

    Plan : Fly to Florida
    Actual : Surprisingly, we both had a rather disturbed night, and woke up with the alarm at 6.30 a.m. feeling quite tired. The bed was really comfy and we were neither too hot nor cold, but I think it was a combination of excitement and slight trepidation that kept us awake. We were excited to finally be getting back to Florida, but also slightly worried given that this time last year my mum had been very ill, (although, we thought, getting better or we would never have left her to go on holiday!), and we had had to return from Florida less than 24 hours after arriving. Sadly, she died before we got back, but my dad, who is 82, has struggled without her and although he is relatively fit and healthy, given his age, it didnt stop us from worrying again this year.

    Anyway, we got up and ready for our trip, and we left the hotel and were at Terminal 2 by 7.30 a.m. Check-in was easy and we found a queue that was really short, so that was no problem. However, by contrast, security was a bit of a nightmare lots of different security officers shouting instructions at people, quite often giving conflicting information. It was very busy and very stressful DH suffers with anxiety, and he was really unsettled by the whole experience. Next year, Im going to get him a Sunflower Lanyard, to see if this makes any difference. This is a new initiative backed by the government, for those with hidden disabilities such as mental health issues or autism, etc., and is meant to assist by drawing airline and airport staffs attention to these issues quietly and without fuss well see how this works next year. I think Ill also request special assistance to see if we can get through security without too much fuss, DH was in a terrible state by the time we finally got through to airside, having had to endure the full body scanner and also having been wanded, for no apparent reason.

    We walked through duty free, DH stopping in the room of shame to get some cigarettes, while I had a look at the Jo Malone store, although I didnt buy anything this time. From there I popped to WH Smiths to get the usual bottles of water for us.

    We then headed for breakfast we prefer to get this in the airport than have it at the hotel, and we decided to go to The Spinning Jenny it looked nice, not too busy, and the menu was good. DH chose a full English breakfast, and I had a bacon roll, both with coffee. It was all really good, if expensive, but we expect this in an airport.

    After we had finished breakfast, we found a departure board but our gate hadnt been called yet, so we both went to the restroom before going to a food kiosk so I could get a cheese & tomato baguette for later, in case the food on board the plane was full of things that my IBS hates garlic, onions, cooked tomatoes, curry, and peppers. It usually is.

    After this, we noticed our gate had been announced, so we trotted off to gate 208, which seemed miles away! We sat in the gate area, and watched everyone else forming a huge queue, which is pointless as everyone has to wait until their rows are called to board anyway! Eventually, they called row 25, and we boarded, still on time despite being towards the end of the boarding process. Wow, what great seats! Normally we sit in row 45, which is near the loos, and whilst that is handy, it does mean that everyone queues right in front of our seats which can be irritating, plus you get the various smells from the toilets all flight long. But row 25 is right next to the entrance door! Brilliant, we can be off the plane really quickly, we thought! Plus the seat next to DH was free, which gave us somewhere to keep the blankets and pillows when we werent using them, and also things like our bottles of water etc., not having seat back pockets to put them in. DH put our hand luggage bags in the overhead lockers, and we settled ourselves down comfortably for the flight.

    We took off on time, and were really excited here we go! We decided to watch a film together, again this is something we usually do, (although my sister thought it was weird when she came with us last time!), and chose Fishermens Friends, as we love their music, having seen them a couple of times at festivals. It was a lovely film, although predictably it made me cry at the end. Lunch was served towards the end of the film, and I was surprised at how delicious this was one of the best meals weve had on a Virgin Atlantic flight. Chicken in a mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, and peas. Yummy! The salad was nice, too. I gave DH my (garlic) cheese spread and crackers, and also my dessert as it was a chocolate & ginger Gu pot, and Im not a fan of ginger. He said it was really lovely. We both had apple juice to drink, plus cups of coffee.

    Later on, we were given a tiny bag of Skittles instead of the usual ice-cream, which was fine. We watched another film, Rocketman, which we both really loved, (in fact, I bought it for DH on DVD as a Christmas gift later), although I think I was tired and over-excited at this point because the end made me properly sob! We had more coffee, and decided we had time to fit in one more film, so we watched Disneys live-action Aladdin, which was quite nice, but not something we would rush to watch again.

    At teatime, I had my cheese & tomato baguette, as the sandwich we were given was a roll with mozzarella and green pesto on it, so I gave it to DH. However, I did eat the scone with jam and clotted cream, that was really nice.

    We made good time flying, with very little turbulence, and landed about 20 minutes early. As we approached Orlando airport, we looked out of the window and could see Kennedy Space Centre we saw the VAB, 3 launch pads, and the runway for the space shuttle, it was really exciting! As soon as the seat belt sign went off, we grabbed our bags and would have been first off the place, except that there was a little girl who had been barfing for the last half of the journey, according to her parents, who were standing by the door at this point. She was still heaving (urgh!) into a bag, so we let her and her parents off before us. Everyone else tried to follow but we barged our way in front of them as we werent letting anyone else off before us, blooming cheek. The immigration hall was totally empty! This has never happened to us before! We were through there in seconds, it was brilliant, although we then had to wait AGES for the luggage to come out. We got our cases eventually, and made our way to the monorail, (we love this!), over to arrivals.

    Our first task, after grinning like lunatics that we were here, and me wiping away tears of joy, having cried from the minute we landed until we got to the arrival building, was to locate the Visitor Toll Pass booth. (Although DHs first task was to find a restroom, I told him to go before we landed, but did he listen? No!) We found the booth really easily, and the staff there were great, we gave them a credit card to link to the account and they gave us the hanging pass for the car, and instructions on how to return it at the end of the trip. Easy peasy.

    Next up was to collect the hire car I braced myself for the inevitable hard sell from the rental company, as we headed to Dollar. However, they werent too bad, although I did enjoy telling them we have a Visitor Toll Pass when he tried to sell us a Sun Pass, ha! Plus we had brought the Satnav that I bought in June with us, which is loaded with USA maps, so that was something else I could turn down from him. And in addition to that, I already had an excess insurance policy already, again something I had bought in June (for our trip to the West Coast at that time), that was an annual policy so was still valid. All in all not his best customer for upselling! He did try to get us to upgrade the car, but I rebuffed that as there was only 2 of us with 3 cases, albeit one of them had an extra, empty case inside it.

    Anyway, we headed over to the parking garage and selected a lovely, black Chevy Mirage that we liked the look of. We loaded up the trunk and back seat with our cases, and I got out the map I had printed off to direct us to Cocoa Beach. We also set up our Satnav with the address of the Best Western hotel.

    Soon we were happily driving through the gorgeous Florida sunshine. It was only mid-afternoon, and we made really good time getting to the Cocoa Beach area, driving past the port where we had boarded the Disney Dream in 2016 for our cruise. We struggled to find the reception for the hotel though, as the hotel itself was made up of 4 or 5 different buildings spread over several small side roads, which was extremely confusing! We found it after a few minutes, parked up, and went in to get checked in. There was a life-size astronaut model just inside the doorway, which was lovely to see! As I had joined the (free) Best Western rewards club when I made the booking, I was told by the really friendly guy checking us in that we were eligible for a free room upgrade nice! So instead of a King room, we got a King suite. We set off to find our room which turned out to be just as difficult to find as reception had been, but we got there in the end. There were only a couple of disabled parking bays, one of which was unoccupied, so we parked up and took two of the cases with us, opting to leave the third and fourth cases, (one inside the other), in the car, as the back windows were quite dark and couldnt be seen through.

    Room 1311 was HUGE, and gorgeous! We had a full balcony that overlooked the ocean and pier, a sitting room with sofas and TV, a kitchenette with a fridge, oven, etc., and the usual bathroom and bedroom. It was a lovely suite and we were really happy to be there. I made us some coffee and we relaxed for an hour by which I mean, DH slumped on the bed with the TV remote in hand, and I scurried around unpacking toiletries etc. I didnt unpack clothes as we could live out of suitcases for 3 days. I did manage to sit down and relax for half an hour!

    We were very tired, and also a little hungry, so we made ourselves go out around 6.30 p.m. We walked a little way to the Cocoa Beach pier it was so beautiful, the sun was going down over the ocean and the pier was pretty, and quite busy too, which gave it a really lively yet relaxed atmosphere. We wanted to grab something light to eat, but there were only busy restaurants and bars there. We walked to the end of the pier and back again, and at the entrance to the pier was a snack stall; however, she was about to close up, so the selection was very limited from there. I wanted a pretzel but they didnt have any, so I had to settle for a bag of Cheetos. DH had a hot dog and a bag of Lays chips; we also got some soda. There was some outdoor seating nearby, so we sat there and had our food.

    We walked back to the hotel, and agreed that the beach area was so lovely, we would have to try and get back there during the daytime so we could actually walk on the beach at some point. (Spoiler alert we were so busy during our time at Cocoa Beach that we never actually got back there on this trip!)

    I made us some coffee, we watched TV and tried to stay awake! But at 8.30 p.m. we gave up, we were jetlagged with the time difference, plus we hadnt slept much the night before, so we got into bed. The bed was incredibly comfy and it wasnt long before we were both in the land of nod. Wonderful first day.

    DAY 2 Thursday 28 November - Thanksgiving

    Plan : Kennedy Space Centre
    Actual : We amazed ourselves by sleeping in till 7.00 a.m. this morning! We got up, showered, and got ready for the day.

    Around 8.00 a.m. we went to find the dining room for breakfast. It wasnt too busy, and we found a quiet table tucked away at the back of the room. There was quite a good selection of breakfast items, (sadly no bacon though), we both got scrambled eggs with grated cheese, and I made us 2 pancakes each using the automatic machine they had. I was surprised to see they had passion fruit, orange & grapefruit juice, which here was just called tropical juice, but in Disney it is known as POG juice and is very popular. Rightly so, too, as it was delicious! We also had some coffee, DH had toast, and I got a bowl of freshly prepared fruit cocktail over which I spooned a strawberry yoghurt.

    We popped back to our room after breakfast to collect our bags for the day, and then drove the 2 miles to Kennedy Space Centre, parking in the disabled parking area near the entrance. We paid $10 to park for the day.

    We noticed how different the entrance was since the last time we visited, a few years ago the Astronaut Hall of Fame has been moved here to a new building, as it used to be in a separate visitor centre down the road. There was the addition of a new conservation information building, and several new cafes too.

    We decided that as we had two days here, we would start by taking the bus tour today, so we queued up for the next bus. We had to wait for about 20 minutes, which was fine, but DH decided he was thirsty after we had been in the queue for 5 minutes, and we hadnt had chance to visit a supermarket to stock up on bottled water yet. Luckily, I spotted a nearby vending machine, and although I grumbled at the cost, ($2.50 for a bottle of water!), I went over to get him a bottle. Irritatingly, the machine only took cards! So I had to pay for a bottle of water on my credit card. Mildly annoying, as I try not to use a credit card whilst on holiday if I can help it.

    Anyway, we got on the bus, and managed to get the front seat behind the driver, which I love because it has the best views. While we were travelling to the building that houses the Saturn rocket, we saw a baby alligator, (cute!), herons and egrets, and 4 bald eagles, including the huge eagle nest that has been in a particular pine tree now for many years. According to the KSC website, the nest was built in 1973, but was inactive for the first two years. It has been used almost every year since that time. The estimated diameter of the nest is 7 feet. The "KSC SR 3 nest" is well-known, and drive-bys are a regular part of the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex tours. However, our tour guide also said that it will probably only be used for the next couple of years or so because the tree it is in has died of old age, and will soon become too weak and dried out to support the nest, so he said that the eagles will have to find a new tree soon to build a nest in. Im sure the KSC staff will track the eagles and find out where the new nest will be! I was a bit disappointed not to see a manatee or any dolphins on this tour, unlike the last time we had done this. However, we did see the newly constructed Space X buildings, which is the replacement, reusable rockets for the Space Shuttle/International Space Station programme, which was exciting to see.

    When we arrived at the Saturn building, we disembarked and went it. The first sight of the HUMUNGOUS Saturn rocket never fails to astonish us, and we spent some time taking pictures, and looking around the nearby exhibits, some of which were new to us. We got about halfway down the exhibition hall and realised we could probably do with some lunch, so we went into the Moon Rock Caf and had a look at what was on offer. We both chose chicken tenders & fries and coffee. I also got DH a Moon Pie, which turned out to be like a huge Wagon Wheel marshmallow covered biscuit, covered in chocolate. I got a blondie for dessert, but then was too full for it after lunch so popped it in my bag for later.

    After lunch we walked to the end of the hall, pausing briefly to listen to a free talk/tour about the Saturn rocket being given by a member of staff, (and very interesting it was, too!), before going into a movie theatre to watch a film about the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. It was very dramatically shot, but an amazing film, which we really enjoyed watching. After we had explored the right hand side of the hall down its whole length, we walked back along the left hand side and looked at all those exhibits, before finally going outside to see the (again, new to us) Apollo 11 garden. As the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing had been celebrated in June 2019, Kennedy Space Centre was full of never before seen memorabilia and exhibits, and this garden was part of this celebration. It was really lovely, with an amazing statue of the 3 Apollo 11 astronauts in the middle, and some trees grown from seeds taken to the moon in 1969!

    We had a quick look in the shop after this, but decided to do our main shopping in the big gift store back at the Centre, as there is more choice there, so then went to wait for the bus returning us back to KSC.

    On arrival back at the Centre, we had a quick break outside, picking up some coffee and soda and sitting in the outdoor seating area in the middle of the Centre. Then we went into the big store for some shopping! I needed to replace my oven gloves, I love the ones from here and have had a couple of pairs over the years, they are shaped like astronaut space suit mittens and last really well. This time, I got some in bright red which are designed like space shuttle suit mittens. I also got a really lovely Christmas tree decoration, gold-coloured and made of a very finely cut metal. We picked up a t-shirt for our young granddaughter, with Failure is not an option! on the front, a white NASA t-shirt for me, and a grey one for DH. DH also secretly picked up a few Christmas gifts for me, (an Apollo 11 50 years celebration t-shirt and mug, a pack of cards with various pictures of Mars landscapes on them, and a book about how to survive life on Mars!), and then we went upstairs in search of some pins for DH and mission patches for me. We noticed there was a very short queue for the astronaut meet & greet, which was just about to start. That particular day the astronaut was a guy called Norm Thagard, a (now) 72-year old who was the first USA cosmonaut. So we joined the queue and were soon meeting him he was a lovely guy, very shy and quiet, but I got his autograph in the back of my trip report book, which was fun.

    After this, we went into the IMAX theatre to watch another Apollo 11 film, showing lots of footage taken by the astronauts themselves and NASA, none of which we had ever seen before fascinating, we really enjoyed it.

    By now the Centre was closing, so we took a slow stroll out, having had a really smashing day there. We drove back to our hotel, (seeing the Disney Dream in harbour on the way, which got us quite excited as we sailed on her in 2016!), and decided to take a dip in the pool for an hour. We were the only people in there, and it was quite windy out there, so we stashed our shoes, room key, and glasses in the (empty) used towel bin while we pottered about in the pool.

    Once back in the room, I made DH some coffee and I had the sachet of hot chocolate which I had taken from the breakfast room in the morning. It is made by Swiss Miss and is gorgeous, very smooth and not too sweet. TV, followed by bed. Happy Thanksgiving!

    DAY 3 Friday 29 November

    Plan : Kennedy Space Centre
    Actual : We slept really well, got up at around 7.30 a.m., and after getting ready we headed down for breakfast. We had pretty much the same as yesterday, getting the same table as yesterday, too. As we went back to our room I grabbed a couple of sachets of Swiss Miss hot chocolate for later.

    We picked up our bags and drove to Kennedy Space Centre. The Disney Dream was still docked, so we waved happily in her general direction as we drove past! We arrived at the Centre, and were surprised that it seemed so much busier than yesterday.

    We parked up and entered the Centre. Our first destination was the Nature & Science exhibit. This was a small, walk-through exhibition showing how KSC works with nature and conservation in the area, and was really interesting. Next, we went into a theatre to watch a 3D film called Touch the Stars, which was awesome! It was a fascinating film about planets in our solar system, and the information we have learned from probes sent into space by NASA and other space agencies. New fact of the day most of the outer planets in our solar system have rings, not just Saturn! We really enjoyed this film, it was so interesting.

    After this, we walked to the space shuttle Atlantis exhibit. Even though this was the second time we had seen this over the last few years, we still really enjoyed it. As we exited the area where Atlantis is revealed for the first time in all her glory, we stopped to chat to a rocket scientist, who was really friendly and chatty. On our last visit here a few years ago, DH had descended from the top floor to the bottom on the shuttle descent slide, which is supposed to replicate a space shuttle landing on earth. I had been too chicken to do this last time, so Id gone down the steps. But this year I was determined to try as many new experiences as possible, so after we had pretended to be flying like a space shuttle over the oscillating ramps, we tucked our shoes under our arms and slid side-by-side down this huge slide! It was loads of fun, I shrieked with delight, but unfortunately I fell over at the end oops, shuttle crash! A few random people scattered around the end of the slide laughed with me, as I tried to get up without losing too much dignity.

    We explored downstairs a bit more, then realised we were hungry, so went into the Orbit Restaurant just round the corner from the Atlantis building. DH had a double Angus cheeseburger and fries, with cherry lemonade. I got chicken strips and fries with Minute Maid lemonade (I love that stuff!). After lunch we went in search of the Mars Rover which was supposed to be in a hanger next to the restaurant, but the building was all closed up and we have no idea where the Rover was, so we went for another walk around the shop. I got some socks for myself that look like astronauts boots.

    It was now time for another 3D film in the Imax Theatre Journey to Space. This was good, but not as good as the one we had seen this morning. We went into another building to watch the Mars Live show, but this, in our opinion, was pants, so as soon as it finished, we left without waiting for the Q&A session. There was a guy dressed up on an astronaut suit posing for photos nearby, so we joined the very short queue and DH took a picture of me with him. I tried to chat to him about stuff, but either he couldnt hear me, or wasnt into interacting with guests, as he totally ignored me!

    We walked over to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and had to wait a little while to get in, but eventually we were led into a large, round room, where we were surrounded by stars and watched another 3D film about astronauts. The exhibition was fab, so much better than when it was in its old location, up the road. We saw a fantastic display of the names and mission details of inducted astronauts, including Norm Thagard, whom we had met yesterday. There were also displays of personal items belonging to the astronauts. We saw a genuine Gemini capsule, which the first ever EVA had taken place from.

    When we were finished looking round everywhere, we exited into the Rocket Garden. The sun was setting by now, and everywhere looked beautiful, we took loads of pictures of rockets with the sun setting behind them. There were also lovely Christmas decorations and lights everywhere, it was such a lovely place to be. We got photos of the moon rising behind a Saturn 5 rocket, too.

    Eventually, we made our way out of Kennedy Space Centre, went back to our car, and began our journey back to Cocoa Beach. We found a Publix supermarket and popped in there for some supplies, getting a pack of bottled water, boxes of flavoured drinks powders, bags of Cheetos and Lays chips, (including Dill Pickle flavour, yum!), white cheddar Cheezits, a tub of onion dip, some latte Oreos, peanut butter crunch bars, and a small box of brownies. This would keep us going for a few days until we got to Disney and the free dining plan!

    Back at our hotel, we had a few snacks from the haul, I made some coffee and hot chocolate and we watched TV for a while, before turning in. Another great day!

    DAY 4 Saturday 30 November

    Plan : The Warbird Museum, drive to Caribbean Beach Hotel
    Actual : After another good nights sleep, we dithered this morning about whether to pack up before or after breakfast, and ultimately decided to eat first. So we went down to breakfast, only to find the dining room was so packed that people were sitting in the reception hallway eating cereal! That decided things for us, so we went back to the room and did our packing, which didnt take long. We took the cases to the car, and then checked the dining room again luckily, it was a lot better by now, and we were easily able to find a table.

    We had a slightly different breakfast today DH made himself a toasted sausage sandwich, and I skipped the fresh fruit bowl but still had some yoghurt. I also snaffled a handful of Swiss Miss hot chocolate sachets as this would be my last chance to do so!

    We eventually left our lovely hotel, regretting the fact that we hadnt found time (or energy) to explore the beach and pier properly, having never got back down there after our first night. We began our drive to the Warbird Museum, and as we passed the cruise ship dock at Port Canaveral, we spotted the Disney Fantasy cruise ship, which was bigger than the Dream.

    We found the Warbird Museum quite easily, after about a 20 minute drive. We parked up, and went into the entrance, paying $18 each to enter the museum. It was a fabulous place, so full of history, and we hadnt realised that a guided tour was included in the entry price. We were shown round with a small tour group, by a young lad who looked about 14 but was so polite and incredibly knowledgeable about everything he showed us! His mum and dad were on the tour, and told us afterwards that he is mad about any kind of aeroplane and always has been; we told them that their son was a credit to them, he was very bright and clever, and such a nice, polite young man! We saw lots of different planes, including a gorgeous Dakota, all in various stages of restoration or repair. Some of them were already airworthy, and appear at local air shows throughout the year. We had a really great couple of hours; the only downside was that it was a lot more walking than we were expecting, as the site is very sprawling and large.

    At the end of the tour, we thanked our tour guide and went off to explore the museum of war memorabilia. This was a small room but with a lot of memorabilia in, it was really interesting. We had a quick look around the tiny shop, and then finally went into a small room with tables and chairs in, where you could help yourself to a cup of really good, fresh coffee, for a small donation. We got chatting to a lovely ex-pilot who is now a volunteer, he is 80 years old and only stopped flying when the government made him, 3 years ago!

    We drank our coffee, visited the restroom, and prepared to leave. While DH went off to one side for a cigarette before we hit the road, I noticed the elderly volunteer was sitting on a wall nearby, so I talked to him for a little longer. He was such a sweet person! I shook his hand and told him it had been a pleasure to meet him.

    We got back into our car and began the next leg of our adventure. 40 minutes later, we were driving under the purple arches and welcoming ourselves to Walt Disney World! We located the new Skyliner, and followed it to the Caribbean Beach Resort far easier than trying to follow Disneys signs, which start out okay but seem to disappear every now and again. We pulled into the resort, telling the security officer that we were checking in, and drove what seemed like quite a long way to find reception. We parked up in one of the disabled bays, and headed in wow! What a lovely resort! We loved the theming, it was so bright and vibrant, and reception smelt lovely.

    There was a small queue to check in, but I was soon being assisted by a helpful and friendly Cast Member. She completed the paperwork and handed me a map to our room. I asked about our Magic Bands, and she trotted off to collect them. These were the upgraded ones I had ordered, and we both loved them. Then I asked if there were any parcels for me to collect, and after checking, the Cast Member brought us out a big box, containing (so I thought) the Lion King popcorn bucket that a friend of ours had kindly picked up for me, when it was released in Disney World a few months ago. (This was a Christmas gift for our daughter-in-law). I had to pay $6 to receive this parcel. As lovely as this Cast Member was, she did have to be prompted for everything I then asked her about opting out of mousekeeping. She told me that we could do this, and would receive a gift card for $10 per night, emailed to me, so I agreed to this. She said that we could ask for a room clean at any time, although we would then be charged $10 for this, but that we could ask for toiletries or coffee as we needed them. She didnt mention the trash & towel service, but I just assumed this would be done every 4 days or so, as per previous years.

    We put on our Magic Bands, and DH took the big box out to the car while I checked out the food court. When he got back, we went into the snack store and picked up our free refillable mugs, being very happy to get the Christmas design, (although they only had one on display, a Cast Member had to check out the back for another one for us), then he went to find a table while I ordered some food. We hadnt eaten since breakfast and were quite hungry by now! We both had bacon cheeseburgers and fries, plus this was the first time we had been able to order alcohol with the dining plan, so I got DH a Fat Tire beer, and I had a Stella Rosa Pink wine, although we did save both of these to enjoy later. (Spoiler alert we never did drink these while there and brought them both home with us!) While waiting for the food, we got some coffee (him) and peach lemonade (me) in our refillable mugs. We were delighted to see that the soda drinks machines were ones where you pick a base flavour, and then add in other flavours we love these as you can mix up the flavours for a change, although having said that, DH does tend to just stick with coffee! The food was very good, hot and fresh, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The food court was a really nice area too, plenty of seating and a light and airy space.

    After eating, DH went to fetch the car round and I asked at Guest Relations for our Owners Locker box, which a very kind Cast Member carried to the car for me. The drive round to our room was quite lengthy, we were in the furthest away area of Aruba, section 53, room number 5325. However, when we went to open the door to our room, the Magic Bands would not work. We suspected the battery in the door lock was at fault, as the Bands are not normally faulty, so we drove all the way back to reception. The Bands were indeed okay, so we were sent to go back to the room and await maintenance, who would be with us immediately, we were told. Just in case, we tried the Bands on the door again on arrival uh-oh, they worked! The engineer arrived just then, and said he would change the door battery anyway, in case it was indeed faulty.

    That done, we hauled all the cases and our locker box into the room. DH gravitated to the bed, TV remote in hand, while I unpacked and made some coffee. It was fun to unpack our locker box, we hadnt seen the contents in 2 years! I also opened up the box that our friend had sent to us, and as well as the Lion King popcorn bucket, (which I had paid him for), he had included a fun book about the 12 days of Christmas from his hometown, (Kentucky), which was very kind of him! (This friend is one half of the couple we were seated with at our dining allocation on the Disney Dream in 2016. We got on with this couple like a house on fire, they were of a similar age to us and we just had so much fun with them, we exchanged contact details and stayed in touch with them to this day on social media, not something we normally do).

    After we were unpacked and had rested, an hour later we decided to explore. Taking our refillable mugs with us, we walked around and found a small pool very close to our room, which also had a laundry room useful. We could see the Skyliner overhead, and there appeared to be a station nearby which would merit further exploration at some point. We managed to locate the nearby Coke Freestyle machine, and I got some pink lemonade.

    Having walked round in a loop, we arrived back at our room and decided to relax and watch TV, before lights out. Fabulous day, and we were back at Disney!

    DAY 5 Sunday 01 December

    Plan : Magic Kingdom
    Actual : We were up by 6.15 a.m. as we had a breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest today! We quickly got ready, had some coffee, and were soon out of the door. The weather today was sunny and hot, but very windy. We parked at the Ticket & Transportation Centre, got onto monorail silver, and were arriving at the Magic Kingdom by 7.30 a.m. Unfortunately, Extra Magic Hours had been added to the park opening hours since I made our reservation, so we were asked to join the main (huge!) queue when I tried to check in at the tapstiles with a Cast Member. Our reservation was at 8.50 a.m. and I had anticipated being in a short, uncrowded queue, but that had gone out of the window. We were eventually let in with all the hoards at 8.00 a.m., most of whom were running to get to 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, so were going in the same direction as us what a nightmare!

    The Christmas decorations were out in force, and looked gorgeous. We paused on our journey to watch the opening show on the castle forecourt stage, which was lovely. I was hoping to get in a ride on 7 Dwarfs with a very short wait, but by the time we got there the queue was already at 30 mins standby, so instead we headed round to Ariels Undersea Adventure, which never has much of a queue. I always forget how long the entrance walkway to actually get on this ride is! We were straight on though, and enjoyed our adventure with Ariel.

    We found a nearby bench that wasnt too wet from the early morning cleaning, and just sat watching the world go by for a little while. At 8.40 we finally entered the Beasts Castle, and joined the long breakfast queue. I ordered Belles Prfr bacon, brie, and 2 poached eggs on a croissant. DH ordered Gastons Feast, which is basically a full English. We also got a pot of melon and grapes, and a plate of pastries, plus I ordered a chocolate milk, but was shocked to be given the childs size bottle. Clearly a cost-cutting move. As the drinks station is self-serve, I got us both some coffee, and apple juice for DH. I got myself a glass of orange juice, but I think the machine was running out as it was incredibly watery, so I threw that away and just got some lemonade. The dining rooms were all very crowded, but we managed to find a table in Belles Music Box room which had just been vacated, and a cleaner cleared the table off for us. Breakfast was delicious, and we polished off everything including the plate of pastries between us!

    A quick rest room visit, and we bade farewell to Belle and her beau, and took a slow stroll through the Emporium, just for a look at what was new. I have developed a bit of an obsession with Disney spirit jerseys over the last 12 months, and had a mental list of ones to get this year, so I was on the look-out for them. I spotted the new, fluffy white one, which is gorgeous, but $10 more expensive than the regular jerseys. Having seen it in the flesh/fluff though, I thought it would be worth the extra cost as it is so soft and furry, yet lightweight. (What I didnt realise until buying it at a later date, taking it home, and wearing it with black velvet trousers, is that it also sheds like a white fluffy kitten!)

    We emerged near the Fire Station, and made our way over to City Hall. I had decided for the first time to try and get a Guest Assistance Pass this year. My issues with my back mean that standing for long periods of time, such as when in a long queue, becomes increasingly more painful after about 5 minutes. Im okay if Im constantly moving, such as walking round the parks or in a queue that is constantly moving, but standing still is agony after a few minutes. With the Pass, you can get a return time from a dedicated Cast Member near an attraction, which is equivalent to the standby line time. This means that instead of standing in a regular queue for an hour, for example, you can get a return time of one hour later, and go and find somewhere to sit while you wait. When you return to the ride, you enter in the FastPass line, thus meaning less standing in a physical queue.

    We waited in City Hall for a short time, and then were waved forward to speak to a Cast Member. I asked about the Pass, and he asked me what my concerns were regarding queueing. I explained my condition to him, and he then happily added the Pass to our Magic Bands, explaining how the system worked. I was really pleased about this, and thought it would greatly help me this year.

    As all the Disney parks had recently become smoke free, we had already checked online to see where the smoking areas would be, and the one for the Magic Kingdom was outside the entrance. (I dont smoke myself, but DH does, although he is trying to give it up, (again!)). So I sat on a bench outside the Chamber of Commerce and occupied myself with checking our FastPasses for the day, while DH went out to the smoking area. This turned out to be near the bus stops, quite a walk away!

    When DH returned, we made our way to Frontierland for our first FastPass of the day, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is my favourite ride in the Magic Kingdom, and we had a great time! We were on the ride in about 10 minutes with the FastPass, and were in the front row not my favourite row, but we still had fun. Our next FastPass was for Pirates of the Caribbean, so we headed over that way, but were about 15 minutes early so found a nearby wall to sit on and just relax and enjoy being there for a few moments. Once our pass time was open, we made a quick walk through and were seated quickly, again getting the front row. This is our preferred row for this ride, as there is no-one in front to mask the views. Fun!

    After a brief browse around the store at the end of the ride, we walked through Liberty Square and visited the Country Bear Jamboree, being surprised at how popular it was today. There were lots of folk laughing, and clapping along with the songs, it really made for a great atmosphere and a fun show.

    Next we took a slow stroll round to the Hall of Presidents, which had been updated with new scenes and the addition of a Donald Trump animatronic since we last visited. We really enjoyed the show, and thought that Trumps hand movements in particular were excellent. We are both always amazed by the realism of these animatronics, the way the figures turn to look at each other when they speak, the way they stand up and sit down again, adjusting their trousers at the knees before sitting, it is all incredibly realistic.

    We walked over to Memento Mori for a look around, but were a bit disappointed not to find anything of interest to us this time. I had been keen to look for the gravestone salt & pepper shakers, but they didnt have any, nor anything else we wanted to buy, which was a shame, so we left there and went to the Haunted Mansion as it was time for our final booked FastPass of the day. Standby was showing at 45 minutes, but we were on in about 5 minutes and had a thoroughly fun ride!

    When we exited, I spotted an ice-cream cart and suggested we stop for a Mickey ice-cream sandwich, which I paid for with 2 snack credits. We stood in the shade at the side of Memento Mori to eat these, as there was nowhere nearby to sit. While we were there, I used the My Disney Experience (MDX) app to book FastPasses for Its a Small World in about 15 minutes time.

    After a quick restroom stop at the lovely Tangled-themed toilets, we walked round to 7 Dwarfs Mine Train to see if we could use my Guest Assistance Pass for the first time, getting a return time of one hour later, (standby was 70 minutes at this point). Then we went back to Small World to ride. There was a young lad in the row behind us in the boat, who kept saying, oh god, theres more .. at each room, which we found hysterical!

    Next up was Mickeys Philharmagic we both love this show, and as we went to walk past, we noticed it appeared to have no queue. We took the long walk through the queue area, and the show was just about to start loading. It was great fun, we never tire of this! I always make sure to look pointedly behind me at Donalds butt at the end of the movie, just in case anyone around me misses it.

    It was now time for 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, the park appeared to be getting more crowded but we swam our way against the masses and arrived at the FastPass line. We tapped our Magic Bands on the Mickey tapstile, and the lights turned green yay! We were liking how this pass worked, we have always been big fans of FastPasses anyway, and I was finding it so much easier and less painful to go on a sitting-down ride or even just take a break somewhere while waiting to utilise the Guest Assistance Pass.

    After our exciting and fun train ride, we realised that we were getting tired. The park was really crowded to start with, and now guests for that evenings Christmas party were starting to arrive, making the crowds even worse. Plus there was only a couple of hours left before the park closed to regular guests anyway, and we thought we had achieved a lot for our first park day! We had a wander through the Emporium, DH was looking for a new watch, but we couldnt find anything other than a womens Minnie watch. I asked a Cast Member, and they said to try the jewellery shop on the other side of Main Street, so we went over there. However, they only had the expensive, designer-type watches, and we only wanted an everyday one for him. Again, I approached a Cast Member for advice, but she said that the cheaper watches were being phased out and suggested we try Walmart or Target I was quite shocked! Im not sure how true this is, as I know that sometimes Cast Member information can be a bit misleading, so I hope we are able to find him something on a later visit.

    We headed towards the exit, although I stopped at the merchandise cart near the right-hand exit in order to pick up a pair of the new Christmas Minnie ears, which are peppermint candy swirls, and a flashing jingle-bell Mickey necklace. We really had a struggle to get out of the park, there were only a couple of exits open in the line of tapstiles and hordes of guests were streaming in. We decided to catch the ferryboat back to the Ticket & Transportation Centre, and had a short wait for the next boat.

    Once back at our car, we debated whether to just go back to the resort. The original plan had been to eat at the Polynesian before going to Walmart, but we were tired and in no way hungry, so we decided to skip dinner and just head to Walmart. We drove to our favourite store, on the 192, at West Vine Street and Bass Road. Once there, we picked up a few things, although we were intending to come back and do a big shop later in the holiday. We got a couple of really nice walking sticks, (DH has been using one occasionally since he had a virus earlier in 2019, leading to some unsteadiness and light-headed feelings, and I borrowed his sometimes, finding it really helped to ease my back pain), some socks for my daughter, 2 t-shirts and a pair of Frozen 2 pyjamas for our granddaughter, a bottle of alcohol-based antiseptic wash for the ulcer on DHs leg, and a pack of cheap, disposable lighters for him too. We also picked up some Folgers Coffee Bags, a tub of Coffee Mate, (the one in our Owners Locker was out of date by now, having been in there for a couple of years), and some snack items.

    We then drove back to our resort, and parked at reception so we could explore the resort store. It was quite large, and had a good selection of merchandise etc. DH picked up a Caribbean Beach Resort pin, and I got a couple of Rice Krispie treats with snack credits. We got some coffee in our refillable mugs, and then returned to our room, where we relaxed with some TV before bed.

    DAY 6 Monday 02 December

    Plan : Epcot
    Actual : We both slept really well, and awoke to our beautiful room, all light, colourful, and large, with a huge, King-sized bed. Another gloriously sunny day was dawning outside, and we got up, made coffee, and got ready for our day, deciding to take our walking sticks with us today to help us walk. DH was battling an ulcer on his leg which he had had for a couple of months, (as a result of a DVT he had a couple of years ago), he was getting it professionally dressed at our local GPs office on a weekly basis, and had brought some dressings away with him, but it was still hurting and giving him problems with walking.

    We headed towards Epcot, but thanks to a huge amount of roadworks, ended up taking a wrong turn which led us to the Cast Parking area at the back of Hollywood Studios! We could quite clearly see the back of Galaxys Edge mountains on sticks! which was a surprise, as normally backstage areas are hidden from guests. Anyway, we managed to find a nice Cast Member who didnt laugh at us too much, but directed us back onto the road. The roadworks, plus a lack of signage, were very confusing normally we know our way around Walt Disney World really well. Anyway, we eventually got to Epcot and parked up in the disabled parking area. We had expected some construction work at this park, but were still a bit surprised at the sheer amount of it. Everywhere we looked, old, familiar areas and/or stores were being ripped apart, hopefully for the better. We were heading for The Land pavilion, but on the way we noticed that Spaceship Earth had no line at all, so we decided to detour there, and were very glad we did it was loads of fun, although the camera at the beginning didnt capture my image so our future at the end didnt include me!

    Our first FastPass of the day was for Soarin, so that was our next destination. Despite the construction, it was so lovely to be back at our favourite park again, and we were really happy. Soarin was only showing a 25 minute standby line, which was a surprise this early in the morning. We ended up on the 2nd row, but didnt complain as we were just happy to be there. We had forgotten how wonderful the new film is, and that it ends Soarin over Epcot!

    Living with the Land was next, or as our friend Larry calls it, Living with the Lettuce. As we were walking through the FastPass queue, I noticed signs up saying to visit at night for the holiday overlay, and then as we sailed through the biodomes we noticed what looked like fairy lights draped in lots of places, so we made a mental note to visit again in the dark. Anyway, the ride was lovely, as usual. This is one of our favourites at Epcot, and we were pleased to see that there was lots of fruit on the trees and plants.

    After this we went into Sunshine Seasons for some late breakfast, there was only 5 minutes of breakfast serving time left so we had to make some quick choices. We both opted for the Bounty Platters, and noticed the food wasnt quite as hot as it could have been. It was okay, but nothing special. We also got coffee.

    After breakfast, we headed back to the hub, I found a bench to sit on, while DH went back to the very front of the park to find the smoking area. I relaxed in the sun, (which was very warm but there was a cool, strong wind), and gazed at the area where Starbucks and Club Cool used to be. All that was left now were concrete shells, and even those were being demolished bit by bit. I was quite surprised that the Electric Umbrella and Mousegears were still open and trading, as I thought the East and West sides were being demolished simultaneously.

    DH returned and we went to use our final FastPass of the day on Spaceship Earth. While we were in the queue, I went onto MDX and got us a FastPass for Test Track, starting in 30 minutes. Spaceship Earth was lovely, although the camera still didnt capture my image so poor DH ended up with a future without me, again! Normally we play the skeleton building 3D game before exiting Spaceship Earth, but both earlier this morning and now it was rather busy, and neither of us wanted to wait ages to play, so we just exited.

    We then went to Mousegears for a look around, and I spotted a dress I knew had recently been released. It is a gorgeous swing-dress, printed with the silver grey geographic print of Spaceship Earth, and a silver leather belt. DH loved it, and told me to buy it. But it was $130! So he made me use the gift card we had received for opting out of Mousekeeping, and I readily agreed. I was shocked to find they did one in my (plus) size, and when I held it against me, it was clear that this would fit perfectly. I also picked up the white fleece spirit shirt that I had fallen in love with. We had both items sent back to the resort.

    We walked round to Test Track, and rode single rider, which was loads of fun and only had a 5 minute wait time. Then we did the green version of Mission Space, although I am still a bit disappointed that you no longer go to Mars on this but merely see a view of Earth taken from the International Space Station. After this, it was time for our Test Track FastPass, so we were able to now ride together. We designed our car, and then pitted this against the basic car DH had designed earlier when we went on single rider. We had a great time doing all this.

    We decided to visit the Electric Umbrella for a late lunch, and DH went to find us a seat while I ordered, although it wasnt very busy in there by then. DH had a pulled pork burger, fries, and I also got him a can of Heineken beer, thinking this was a good idea. He was a little taken aback I think, as with hindsight he would probably have preferred a coffee, but he was a good sport and dutifully drank the beer. I had chicken nuggets and fries, and a strawberry margarita slushy, which was absolutely delicious! I was determined to make the most of being able to have a cocktail with my lunch!

    After this, DH went back to the front of the park to the smoking area, and I sat on the wall outside the Electric Umbrella. I got chatting to a Cast Member who was working the merchandise stall nearby, and expressed my surprise to her that the Electric Umbrella and Mousegears were still open. She was adamant that this area was not closing at all, and when I said I had heard that this whole area was being redeveloped, she insisted that it was only the East side. In the end, I just nodded and agreed with her, even though I knew she was wrong, and since our return from Florida, both of these establishments have been closed down or relocated temporarily, and the buildings demolished.

    DH came back and we walked round to the Odyssey building, which is housing an exhibition on the future of Epcot. We went into a small, circular interior building in there, which was showing a film on a loop about what was going to be built there. We also looked at a concept model, which looked really good. We walked around the outer area of this, and there were 4 or 5 little scenes set up to help guests visualise what the future of Epcot would look like, each with a Photopass photographer, so we had some pictures taken at each scene.

    It was now late afternoon, and the sun was quite low in the sky, meaning we were feeling the chill from the wind. We were also quite tired by now, and had a chat about whether to stay for the firework show tonight. My favourite ever firework show, Illuminations, had ended some months previously, and there was a new, temporary show in place called Epcot Forever, which we were quite keen to see. However, we were also tired and cold, so decided to watch the show at a later date. We walked back towards The Land pavilion, and DH, whose leg was hurting quite a bit by this point, waited for me on a bench near the Imagination pavilion, while I went into The Land to secure a Guest Assistance Pass for Soarin. We were then going to explore the Imagination pavilion while we waited for our pass time to open up. But when I got to the Cast Member for Soarin, he gave me a return time of 20 minutes later, despite the standby line being 60 minutes at that point, so I knew we wouldnt have time to ride Journey into Imagination before Soarin. I went back to fetch DH and we walked slowly back to The Land, where we sat near the restrooms and waited for 10 minutes. Once we entered the Soarin queue, we were assigned the 3rd row and had a wonderful time on the ride. Living with the Land was showing as a 10 minute standby, so we rode that next. We had forgotten about the holiday overlay, though, and were amazed at the gorgeous, twinkly lights in the sand and draped over and around the plants and trees. It was so pretty! The biodomes were dark, with no extra lights like normal, so the holiday lights really showed up, we loved it.

    After this, we took a slow walk out of the park, which was extremely busy with folk pouring in for some reason. We drove back to our resort, stopping at the food court for coffee (him) and hot chocolate (me). We had another browse through the resort store, and I spotted a new Disney H20 body lotion - grapefruit and bergamot, ooh! I tried the tester and absolutely adored the scent, so I bought a full-sized bottle for $20. Back to our room, TV, bed. Another wonderful day.

    DAY 7 Tuesday 03 December

    Plan : Animal Kingdom
    Actual : We got up to another sunny but unseasonably cold day, which was a bit worrying as we didnt have any warm clothing with us! Anyway, we got ready, had some coffee, and drove to the Animal Kingdom, which looked particularly busy. We struggled to find a parking space in the disabled area, finally finding one in the very last row, although this was actually closer to the park entrance, bizarrely.

    Expedition Everest was our first FastPass today, but as we approached Asia, the ride seemed very quiet and we couldnt see the cars running. I checked MDX on my phone, to see that there was a note on our FastPass saying that the ride was currently unavailable and that our FastPasses could be used for another attraction up to 6.00 p.m. that day. We stood near a fence around the lake to debate what to do next, and suddenly heard what sounded like ride cars running we looked over to Everest and it did appear to be running again, so we went over to check it out. It was indeed working, so on we got! We enjoyed the ride, although for some weird reason it seemed to be faster and steeper than we remembered it being, particularly the backwards bit in the dark, which seemed to have a very steep and long drop. We agreed that we would ride it again at some point, just not quite yet!

    We took a slow walk back towards DinoLand, and saw Kevin from Up! She was loads of fun, it was difficult to interact with her as she didnt keep still for more than a few seconds at a time, and kept flapping her tiny wings and squawking at everyone. She was gorgeous! We hadnt seen her before in a park, so were quite excited to finally meet her, although DHs photo of me with her was a bit rushed as she kept moving about and there was no Photopass photographer around.

    Continuing the theme this year of trying new things, I had decided that I would give Dinosaur a go. Ive never ridden it before, as the pre-ride warnings made me a bit wary, but DH rode it for the first time a couple of years ago and thought I would be able to handle it. We approached the building, and saw the standby line was 35 minutes, so I went and got a Guest Assistance Pass time for 30 minutes later, and we found a nearby bench to sit on and wait, which was nice. When we went back in, instead of going through the FastPass line, we were directed to a lift which bypassed the whole queue, and we ended up at the exit area. A Cast Member looked after our walking sticks for us, and we were loaded into the next available car. I thought the ride was great fun, I really enjoyed it! It is a bit bumpy in places, but I then wished I had ridden it years ago because I had a super time with the dinosaurs, and bonus we didnt get eaten by anything!

    After this we walked over to Kilimanjaro Safaris, which we rode with our FastPasses. I always forget how large the area is that you cover on this ride. We saw 3 baby giraffes, one of which was only born in April 2019, and had been born unexpectedly during the day right in front of one of the ride trucks! There were lots of Rhinos, we just about saw 3 sleeping lions, (2 female, 1 male), and we also saw a cheetah striding around, which we hadnt seen before.

    Once we returned from our 2-week safari, we realised we were a bit hungry, so went to the Yak & Yeti Counter Service for brunch. I got us both honey chicken with rice, and then got Sprite for DH while I had a Bud Light. With hindsight this was a bit of a mistake, I was so obsessed with getting alcohol just because we could, that I seemed to forget that neither of us really drinks much alcohol at home, and beer in the middle of the day just made me want to sleep! I struggled to finish this, and eventually gave up and just threw away the last couple of mouthfuls, (it was a pint, not just a bottle). Anyway, the food was really good, we always enjoy the honey chicken. The seating area was quite busy, we ended up on a long table and were eventually joined by a couple of guys who didnt speak to each other, never mind us, despite me smiling at them in a friendly manner.

    Next we walked back towards the park entrance, and I sat on a bench while DH used the smoking area nearby, and then we went to Pandora. We were starting to develop a routine with the Guest Assistance Pass, in that I would book a slot for whichever ride was fairly nearby but we didnt have a FastPass for, then we would ride something using our FastPass, before making our way back to the ride with the GA Pass. So as we had a FastPass for Flight of Passage next, I first of all went to Navi River Ride and booked a GA Pass time for that, with a return time of 60 minutes later, and then we headed over to Flight of Passage. I was really excited to be riding this for the first time, but the standby line was crazy long, about 120 minutes at that point, and this was a shame as I would have liked to experience the theming in the regular queue line. But not enough to spend 2 hours slowly shuffling through it! So we made our way rapidly through the FastPass line, and pretty soon I was experiencing the pre-show, which was fun. We stepped into the simulator room, stashed our bags and sticks in the locker space at the back, and I boarded my banshee and put on my 3D glasses. I was a little nervous, I am not a bit fan of heights or the sensation of falling, so I felt somewhat apprehensive as I didnt know what to expect from this ride. However, I need not have worried, it was AWESOME! My banshee was breathing gently between my knees, and she didnt fall from anywhere, she swooped. Every dream I have ever had about flying happened in real(ish) life right there it was an incredible experience, I absolutely loved it. Best ride EVER. DH said afterwards that he enjoyed the ride more with me shrieking and gasping, than he did riding it alone last year!

    We needed a coffee break, so went to Satuli Canteen, which looked really nice. Pandora was rapidly becoming our favourite area in the Animal Kingdom! We got coffee, but I also got DH a blueberry cream cheese mousse, and I had a seasonal dessert peppermint white chocolate mousse. Both of these were a perfect dome shape, very attractive, and they were both utterly delicious! Very light mousse, with lots of flavour, plus mine was pink and white, so pretty.

    A quick restroom break, then back over to Navi to ride with our FastPass. A really lovely boat ride, we particularly like the shadows of the frog-like creatures on leaves above your head, and the singing Shaman.

    From there DH took a smoking break, then we walked over to check out the times of Up! A Great Bird Adventure show. A show was scheduled to start in about 10 minutes, so we joined the queue and were soon seated about halfway down the auditorium, on the left hand side. We hadnt seen this show since the addition of characters from Up!, and we really liked it, although I dont think we need to repeat it very often. A huge owl flew right over DHs head at one point, and I liked that they had left some elements in there from the original show, such as telling people that if they ducked when a bird flew over their heads, the bird would only fly lower!

    As we left the theatre at the end of the show, there were some Dwali dancers doing a Bollywood dance demonstration nearby, so we stopped to watch that. It was really vibrant and colourful, and the dancers really engaged with the audience.

    After this, we were beginning to get cold and tired. The sun was setting and we really felt the cooler weather, so, much as we wanted to experience Pandora at night and the Tree of Life night-time projections, we made the decision to leave both of these for another day, and took a slow stroll out of the park. We drove back to Old Port Royale, which is what the reception area of Caribbean Beach Resort is called, parked up, and went into the food court to get coffee and hot chocolate in our refillable mugs. We werent hungry for dinner, so just picked up a chocolate chip cookie for DH and a rice krispie treat for me, using snack credits. I also collected yesterdays shopping in Epcot from the resort store.

    We drove back to our room, where I had a shower while DH watched TV, then we had our drinks and snacks, and it wasnt long before lights out and we were snoozing.

    DAY 8 Wednesday 04 December

    Plan : Hollywood Studios
    Actual : We originally had quite an early start today with our FastPass for Star Tours, but last night I managed to change this for a later one, as we had quite a late night planned today. Therefore, we slept in a bit this morning, and woke up to a sunny and warmer day, thankfully. We got ready for the day, had some coffee, and then drove across 2 car parks to park near the Skyliner station at the yet-to-open Riviera Resort. We struggled to find somewhere to park, and ended up in the next car park across from our room this would be the last time we took the car to the station, as we realised it was only a few minutes walk from our room.

    We walked into the station with ease, and were welcomed by the Cast Members there. The Skyliner station was quite quiet, and we were the only people in the carriage, which was a Princess & the Frog wrapped one. I have to say, we LOVED this mode of transport! It was so smooth and we loved sailing over the top of the resort, looking down at the beautiful views around there. A cool breeze flowed through the carriage and kept it from being too warm, and we could see for miles from up there. We disembarked at the main station, and crossed the station to the Hollywood Studios line, (there is also one that goes to Epcot from there), boarding a non-wrapped carriage for the next trip. This was lovely too, we loved just sailing over the traffic and within a matter of minutes we were descending into the Studios station. DH hates driving to the Studios, the disabled car park there is a nightmare too small for the number of cars wanting to use it, and you have to cross the path of the bus lanes to get there, so to know we didnt have to drive there but could use this really fast and exciting way of getting there was amazing!

    We walked towards the park entrance, with DH stopping for a quick smoking break before we went in, and headed for the Hyperion Theatre to use our first FastPass of the day at the Frozen Singalong show. The show was great fun, although the Historians seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be funny and because the female was speaking so quickly and over the top in order to try and maximise the laughs, we unfortunately missed several of her lines. She was a tiny bit irritating with how much she was swooning over Hans, too, in a really over-dramatic fashion. Anyway, we still enjoyed the show, and there was a holiday overlay at the end which was lovely.

    We were thinking about getting some lunch, so headed towards the Backlot Express, but then we saw that Star Tours only had a 10 minute standby queue, so we diverted into there! It was a really great show, every scene we saw was new to us, and lots of fun. After this, we went into the Backlot Express and DH went off in search of a table, (it was busy in there), while I went up to order. Backlot burger (with pulled pork) and fries for DH, chicken tenders and fries for me. Coffee for him, and I got another strawberry daiquiri slushy yum! For someone who barely drinks alcohol, and doesnt like rum at all, I was really enjoying these!

    When we had finished lunch, we left our outside table and walked towards the back of Indiana Jones in order to get to the lake area, and as we walked past another table, a small child in a pushchair grabbed my walking stick, pulling it backwards towards him. Luckily, I had spotted what he was going to do a fraction of a second before he grabbed, so I was able to slow my stride and gently pull it off him, laughing off his parents horror! I was fine, and there was no harm done. Little monster, LOL!

    I found a bench near the Sci-Fi Dine-in, and sat there with our bags, while DH went back out to the front of the park for a smoking break. When he returned, we headed for Galaxys Edge for our first exploration of this new area here. We were keen to see how it compared to the one in Disneyland, which we had visited six months before. We mooched our way around till we got to Smugglers Run, which had a standby queue of 60 minutes, and I got us a Guest Assistance Pass return time of 40 minutes later. We carried on strolling around, and had a look around the marketplace. Our consensus of opinion was that this land seemed a bit less intensely themed than Anaheims land had, but Floridas Galaxys Edge is a lot larger and so plants and trees from Earth were a lot more prevalent, giving it a greener feel.

    We sat on a wall for a short rest, feeling tired again, but then realised we had been exploring parks for 7 days in a row without a break. Next time I need to book us a rest day after 3 or 4 days there. I always used to do this, I have no idea how this slipped, but we really needed a break by now!

    Anyway, we finally went into Smugglers Run, and were assigned the role of pilots. I was very excited about this, in California we had only been engineers, but I felt we were ready for the step up in role. However, it turned out to be too much pressure and responsibility for us! It was a great ride, but as we were riding with a family group who didnt interact with us or each other at all, we felt that we had to perform perfectly as pilots and therefore came off the ride completely exhausted after keeping the Millennium Falcon safe! Next time, I think we will try to be something other than pilots. As we left the ride, we were surprised to see that Galaxys Edge was closing at 4.00 p.m. that day, and there were lots of TV crews and screened off filming locations around, so we wondered if there was going to be a soft opening for the media of Rise of the Resistance, which was due to open to the public tomorrow.

    We took a slow stroll over to Muppets 3D, which had a 10 minute standby queue, we still love this show after all these years and still laugh in the same places, even though we can quote most of the script off by heart!

    In need of a coffee break, we went to the Trolley Car Caf (Starbucks) for an Americano for DH and a peppermint mocha Frappuccino for me, which we enjoyed sitting just round the corner in the seating area. It was nice to escape from the crowds for a short while.

    When we had finished, our FastPass time for Star Tours was open, so we went round there, and as we approached the attraction, a Cast Member sent us up a disabled entrance ramp that we hadnt seen before. This took us straight to the loading room, and we were very quickly being lined up at a simulator. This was another great ride, again we had all new scenes. The only downside was that the woman sat next to me shrieked loudly all the way through it! So annoying. Also, after years and years of riding this, I still have yet to be selected as the Rebel Spy, despite my deliberately looking particularly spy-like on every ride. Also annoying.

    After this we went to explore Toy Story Land, which was new to us in this park. What a fab place, it is huge, and so well themed, we loved it. Our last FastPass of the day was for Slinky Dog Dash, so we paused at Toy Story Mania to set up a Guest Assistance Pass first. It was dark by now, and I had really wanted us to experience Slinky Dog in the dark, because I had read that it was more exciting in the dark, with all the lights, so I was really pleased I had managed to get our FastPasses for later in the day. We boarded Slinky Dog, and sat there a little nervously. I was just about to pull a scared face at a lady waited to board the next train after us, when she shook her head vigorously at me and pointed at her young daughter, who was standing with her and looking terrified, so I changed my expression to one of fake excitement and enthusiasm, and yayyed! at her little girl, hoping that would make her think the ride was fun. Anyway, we loved the ride, it was very fast but very smooth and so much fun! It really was fantastic in the dark, although Im still not sure I would class it as a family coaster, we thought it was a bit too high and swoopy for small kids.

    We got off the coaster, and, slightly wobbly, made our way back to Toy Story Midway Mania, to ride with our GA pass. We love this ride, but we are very competitive on it and fiercely try to beat each other! For the first time in all our goes on this ride, we scored EXACTLY the same at the end! We both got exactly 13,100 points, although DH scored 28% accuracy and I got 21%. It really was a great game first of all DH lead, then I went ahead of him, then we were neck and neck for a while, it was so much fun.

    When we left the ride, it was almost time for our Fantasmic Dessert Party, so we took a slow stroll down Sunset Boulevard to the Fantasmic theatre, and went up to the party check-in desk. We were given a lanyard with a light-up disc on it, (although mine didnt last very long and the battery had gone flat before the end of the show, weirdly). For our drinks in the light-up mugs we both chose pink grapefruit Shoffenheiser beer, which was delicious! A very light ale, with a sweet fruity twist. Yum! We also got a large tray each with a branded cover, which contained Babybel cheeses, crackers, chocolate mousse in a tiny cup, 2 bright blue macarons, a few other cakes, and a large handful of grapes, plus a tiny bottle of water each. We found our way to the reserved seating area, and got as comfy as we could on the hard bleachers. We both ate about half of our goodies, and kept the rest for later as we werent very hungry. The show started, but lots of small things seemed to be wrong Mickeys fingers didnt spray sparks at the beginning, only about half of the love scene boats came out, and then just before Chernabog rises up all big and menacing, the film projecting onto the water screens suddenly froze. All the lights came on, and an announcement was made that the show was cancelled due to technical difficulties! We were so disappointed, as was the rest of the audience.

    We followed the rest of the audience out of the theatre, it had been full so there was suddenly a lot of folk spilling into the park, so we just decided to leave. (We had originally been going to wait around for the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam fireworks and projection show after Fantasmic, but everywhere was so packed with guests, we decided to skip it). We walked out of the park, and towards the Skyliner station. We could see there was a huge queue for the Skyliner, but luckily this is a very high capacity form of transport and the queue went down really quickly. We changed carriages at the Caribbean Beach main station, and on the second leg of the journey we were joined by two guys whod clearly been to the soft opening of Rise of the Resistance they were talking about it to each other. We asked them about it, and they said the soft opening had been for press and Cast Members, (which is what we had thought earlier). They told us the ride was absolutely great, it has 4 segments and lasts for about 20 minutes. We wouldnt let them tell us anything else about it though, as we want to experience it ourselves next time we visit. We werent willing to get up at 4 in the morning to queue for Boarding Passes to ride it this time round!

    We collected our car and drove to Old Port Royale, where we got coffee and hot chocolate in our mugs. We were really tired and somewhat cold now as well, so we headed back to our room for TV and relaxation before turning in. (When we got back, I emailed Disney Guest Relations to complain about the Fantasmic Dessert Party as we obviously felt a bit short-changed. I know we did get the light-up stuff and the food/drinks, but the show itself obviously wasnt running properly and then it was cancelled mid-way through. Had it just been a regular showing, and I hadnt paid extra for the event, I wouldnt have bothered. Anyway, they responded the next day and gave us a full refund for the party tickets, which was nice of them and much appreciated).

    DAY 9 Thursday 05 December Walt Disneys birthday

    Plan : Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party
    Actual : We slept in a bit this morning, and then just relaxed in the room until about 1.30 p.m., drinking coffee and having our leftover desserts from last night for breakfast. We then packed up a bag of laundry, grabbed a washing pod from our Owners Locker box, and headed over to the pool for a couple of hours. I put the washing into a machine, paid $3 by credit card to do the wash, and then we pottered about in the pool. It was really quiet there, we could watch the Skyliner sailing overhead above us, and the weather was gloriously sunny and warm. We felt very relaxed. Once the washing had finished, I put the underwear in the dryer, and spread the t-shirts around on some loungers the pool area was almost completely empty, there was only one other family with a small child there, who stuck around the shallow end of the pool, (we were in the deep end), so I felt okay about using up a couple of loungers to dry our washing!

    At around 3.30 p.m. we collected the laundry and went back to our room. We took it in turns to use the shower, and then I hung up the t-shirts that hadnt quite dried in the sunshine earlier. We finally left our room at 4.30 p.m. and drove to Old Port Royale to get coffee in our mugs, as we knew the food court would be closed by the time we returned later. DH went off to get coffees, while I took a parcel to reception for posting a friend of ours was expecting a baby boy and we were sending the couple some things I had hand-knitted for the baby, and a tiny vest with a UK flag printed on it! We also had some Christmas cards to friends and family in the USA that I wanted to post. A Cast Member took care of all this for me, and I was really happy to pay Disney for the parcel to be delivered and not have to try and find a post office myself to do this.

    We then drove to the Magic Kingdom for our Christmas Party night. There were a lot of people streaming in, and we hoped the park tonight wasnt going to be too crowded. We have done this party before, and our strategy is to go on as many rides as possible while wait times are low, such as when families with young children are watching the first parade, and then to watch the second run of the parade ourselves, fitting in the shows as and when we are in the right area for them. We then watch the firework show, and wait for everyone else to leave before either continuing with our rides, or leaving ourselves, depending on how tired we are at that point.

    We rode across from the Ticket & Transportation Centre to the Magic Kingdom on the monorail, collected our party wristbands as we went in through the tapstiles, and then headed for City Hall. I wanted to get a birthday badge, and got a Cast Member to write Happy Birthday Walt on it for me. With hindsight, what I thought at the time was a wonderful idea, turned into my spending all night having to say, not me, Walt! to every Cast Member who wished me a happy birthday!

    We noticed that Christmas Party attendees were being ushered in through a backstage entrance, over to the right hand side of the entrance hub, where the parade sometimes goes into. Everywhere backstage was all decorated up for the party, and immediately as we entered there was a couple of Cast Members handing out sugar cookies shaped like Minnie Mouse from a large cart full of them. (These cookies were really yummy, they were strawberry flavoured!) DH bought an event pin from a merchandise cart, too.

    Because of the party start time, and the time we were expecting to get to the Magic Kingdom, I had only managed to book one FastPass for today, and this was for the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, so we headed there first. The ride was great fun, and we were happy to be in the Magic Kingdom, having had a relaxing day.

    We realised we hadnt eaten much all day and were starving, so we went to Cosmic Rays. Big mistake. It was absolutely heaving, DH went off to find a table and I stood in a queue for over 45 minutes before getting the food! They were prioritising mobile phone orders, which is fine but the rest of us were just left standing there like lemons. I waited over 20 minutes from placing my order to actually having the food delivered to me as I stood at the counter and watched a zillion mobile order people collecting their food. What a waste of our precious party time! Anyway, we got carved turkey sandwiches and fries, which were delicious but we barely tasted them as we were so hungry by then. DH had had to give up his table twice, as he waited ages and then came to look for me to make sure I wasnt looking elsewhere for him, then he had to find another table. I remember reading somewhere that other folk had said to eat before you go to the party, but I forgot about that. Never again!

    Anyway, after we finished with Cosmic Rays, we walked back to the Fire Station so I could collect my Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card, not that we ever play the game, but I like to collect the special event cards. We walked back to the hub and watched the Frozen castle light up show, which was amazing. Then we went into Adventureland to check out Pirates of the Caribbean, but were very surprised to find it wasnt running at that time. Captain Jack Sparrow was doing a meet & greet in front of the stage where he used to do his pirate tutorial show, with a very short queue, so we went to meet him. He wished me happy birthday, and I pointed out it wasnt me, it was for Walt, you know, your boss. He gave me a very withering stare and said that Captain Jack has no boss except for Captain Jack. Hilarious! We got some photos taken with him before he dismissed us with a contemptuous wave of his hand brilliant character.

    We tried to get over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but got stuck as the first parade was going through and we couldnt even get close to the walkway to cross during a break, it was a bit frustrating. The park seemed to be really crowded, much more so than we had expected for a ticketed event evening. Eventually, we managed to get across to Big Thunder, as did loads of other people, and were pleasantly surprised to see there was only a 5 minute standby queue, and we were on the ride really quickly. We love this ride anyway, but in the dark it is really great fun, you are not sure where the drops are and it makes it much more exciting.

    After this, we walked round to see how busy the Haunted Mansion was. There was a 25 minute standby queue, so we got a GA Pass and went to sit on a nearby wall, as we then had a 10 minute return time. Once the 10 minutes were up, we boarded through the FastPass queue and were on the ride within 5 minutes. We had a lot of fun, although the doom buggies did stop a couple of times for a minute or two each time. It was now nearly time for the fireworks, so we made our way to the hub and found a fence to lean on, to wait. Minnies Holiday Fireworks was a wonderful show, we thoroughly enjoyed it. There were loads of fireworks, pretty snow, and Tinker Bell flew from the top of the castle, it was all lovely.

    Afterwards we went to Tomorrowland and got some apple juice and gingerbread cookies from The Lunching Pad, and then went to ride the People Mover, always good for a lovely view of the hub and a nice sit down. Next up was Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, we were on that within 10 minutes but were quite shocked at how appalling the guns were on the cars, they barely worked. DH beat me by miles!

    We walked to the end of Main Street to use the restrooms, and then debated on where to stand to watch the parade. I couldnt see a disabled viewing area, so asked a lovely Cast Member, (called, ooh, I want to say Derry?), who instead pointed us in the direction of a bench on the other side of the road, with no-one one it or around it, and it was outside of a roped off area. We thanked her profusely, and made our way over to the bench. There was no-one in front of us, and we were directly in front of the roadway, it was amazing! We could see all the other guests giving us daggers as they were all crowded in together, up against a rope. After a couple of minutes another Cast Member came over to us and tried to get us to move by telling us this area was for disabled viewing only, but we said Derry had put us there and as soon as she heard her name, she backed off, apologising! No idea who Derry was or how important she was, but she clearly had some authority! A PhotoPass photographer came over and gave us a happy holidays sign to hold while she took our picture, it was really cute!

    When the parade got to us we had the most amazing view we have ever had in all the years of going to Disney parks, it was just wonderful. All the dancers and characters waved to us, we felt so special! I was singing the Once upon a Christmastime theme song for weeks .

    Anyway, after that was over, we were very tired, so decided to call it a night. Overall, we had had a wonderful time, but the sheer numbers of people has put us off doing one of these hard ticket events again for a while. These events used to be great, ticket sales were very controlled and we used to be able to get lots done at them, but of late I think Disney have greatly increased the numbers of tickets sold, making it as crowded as a normal day now. Its just not worth the high admittance price to us any more, for just a handful of cookies and cocoa, which is what it now boils down to once you factor in the hugely increased attendance.

    It had been a bit of a cool evening temperature-wise, and we were glad to have worn our sweatshirts that night. We fought out way out with the hordes, heading for the ferry, and luckily we didnt have to wait too long for a boat to take us back, we managed to board the 2nd boat to arrive. We drove back to our resort, watched a bit of TV, and then lights out and a well-deserved sleep.

    DAY 10 Friday 06 December

    Plan : Epcot
    Actual : We got up today to a much warmer and sunnier day, thankfully. I was checking my emails while waiting for DH to get ready for the day, and I had received an email from Disney to say that Test Track, our first FastPass today, was currently down, so we took a bit more time getting ready to leave. Once we set out, we went to the car to collect our walking sticks, and then walked to the Riviera Resort Skyliner station, which only took us about 5 minutes definitely not worth taking the car!

    There was barely any queue, and we were soon happily flying over the resort to the main Caribbean Beach station, where we changed lines for Epcot. The carriage stopped briefly a couple of times, but we were soon pulling into the International Gateway station, where we disembarked. We walked through the Gateway and headed to The Land to get some breakfast.

    Once at Sunshine Seasons, we both had coffee and a Turtle Brownie, which was really yummy as there was a lot of caramel in it. I checked MDX, and Test Track was still down, so we decided to use that FastPass to ride Soarin instead. The ride was great fun as usual, we were on quite quickly and seated in row 2.

    A quick restroom stop, then we went outside and walked round to Spaceship Earth to use our 2nd FastPass of the day. The vehicle slowed to a stop twice during our ride, and then the camera didnt pick either of us up for the photo, just some random female and a cartoon character, which was very weird as it was supposed to be our future! After the ride, we checked out the build a skeleton thing in the foyer, which we normally stop to do as we enjoy this, it is fun, but it was really busy with a long queue both sides, so we left it for now and exited. Test Track? Nope, still down.

    I found a concrete bench to sit on while DH went outside to the smoking area, and I relaxed in the sun for a while. When he returned, we took a slow stroll around World Showcase, starting with Mexico. The park was really crowded today. As we walked, we checked out the Festival of the Holidays food booths to see whether anything tempted us, but we really didnt fancy anything at this point. After we had completed a complete circle of the Seven Seas Lagoon, we felt quite tired with achy feet, so we decided to head back to Caribbean Beach for a late lunch and some down time. We therefore went to the Skyliner station, boarded a carriage and relaxed while gliding peacefully back to our resort. We were loving this form of transportation, it was so easy, fast, and relaxing.

    Back at our room, we changed into sandals, grabbed our refillable mugs, and drove to Old Port Royale. I went to order lunch while DH fetched us both some drinks. I ordered us both chicken tenders and fries, and DH got himself some coffee but dithered over what to get for me, so I took over and filled my mug with a base of Minute Maid lemonade, (I love this, it is so lemony and not too sweet), then added a shot of both peach and orange flavours this was delicious, and I was quite thirsty so finished that off while I wanted for our food, so had to pick up a second cup! The food arrived quickly and was hot and tasty, just what we needed.

    After lunch, we drove back to our room. DHs ulcerated leg was really sore, so he decided to just have a nap now. I picked up my Kindle and my phone, and went to the resort beach nearby, where I relaxed on a lounger for a couple of hours in the sun; this was just what we both needed, and we really enjoyed some down time. The problem sometimes with our trips to the USA is that we feel like we need to be on the go all the time, and we dont often have days where we just relax and enjoy winding down; we really need to start doing that, but then neither of us wants to waste a potential park day, either!

    After a while I went back to our room, to find DH had really enjoyed his nap and was now sat up in bed, watching TV. I got our stuff ready for tomorrow, as we were planning a shopping day so I needed shopping lists, extra money, coupons, etc. We had some snacks from the room, made coffee, and watched some TV before settling down for a fairly early nights sleep.

    DAY 11 Saturday 07 December

    Plan : Shopping
    Actual : We took our time getting ready this morning, and finally set out for Walmart late morning. The weather was hot and sunny, not the ideal weather for shopping, but this was our designated day! We arrived at our favourite Walmart at around 11:30. We got cinnamon toothpaste (for my sister), packs of solid Dove and Secret deodorant sticks, some antibiotic cream, boxes of Cheezits, bags of different flavoured M&Ms, sachets of sugar-free flavoured water powders, and a myriad of other things we cant get in the UK. I was delighted to find boxes of Swiss Miss hot cocoa, and bought a box of 20 sachets of this, plus another box of 20 sachets of sugar-free cocoa. We had a look for a Disney watch for DH, but couldnt find any. However, their range of ordinary watches was really impressive, and we picked out a couple of lovely watches that DH liked. They were only $13 each! We also got him a couple of pairs of inexpensive trainers. Really pleased with our haul, we head for the checkout, and joined a queue with only one other person in front of us. As I was loading up the conveyor belt, I was idly scanning what the family in front of us were buying, and my eyes narrowed looking at their purchases, I suspected they were Brits as they had very similar items to ours, things like huge tubs of paracetamol, packs of white sports socks, the M&Ms in flavours we cant get over here, etc. I managed to catch the eye of the guy and casually said hello to him, whereby he responded and he was indeed from the UK! We had a brief chat, laughing together about the things we all tend to buy.

    We loaded up the car, having spent just short of $300, (although this did include a few Christmas presents such as Frozen pyjamas for our granddaughter), and drove out of Walmart, turned left, and drove to the Super Target just down the road. We pulled into an almost empty car park, and I commented to DH that it looked really quiet for a Saturday. We parked up, and DH opted to stay in the car, so I walked towards the entrance, but it looked to be closed. Suddenly, a very nice young lady who was walking past told me Target had moved to just down the road about 8 months ago! I thanked her, and sheepishly made my way back to DH. Oops!

    No harm done, we drove down the road a bit further and found a bustling Super Target! I was on the lookout for some Harry Potter themed housewares here that I had seen adverts for, I was hoping to pick up some items for my daughter in law as Christmas gifts. However, I was really disappointed to find no HP themed anything, really. The store was a bit of a let-down overall, there just didnt seem to be much I was interested in getting. I did find a very small, Frozen-themed hard plastic box full of themed sweets for our granddaughter, and a pink grapefruit lip salve for me, but that was the sum total of my purchases there.

    Back in the car, we felt quite hungry so decided to go to Taco Bell for lunch, as we hadnt had any breakfast that day. I LOVE Taco Bell! We parked up and went it, it was fairly quiet in there so I sent DH off to sit down and I got our order. I had 3 crispy tacos and a soft drink, (Minute Maid pink lemonade), and for DH I got 3 soft tacos, a bean burrito, and a pot of fiesta cheesy potatoes, plus coffee. Yum.

    Our next destination was Disney Springs, but to get there we had to drive past our resort, so we decided to take a quick break in the room and also unload our purchases so far. DH had a quick power nap for half an hour, and when he woke up I tried giving him ibuprofen, which seemed to relieve the pains in his leg better than paracetamol was doing. We had a quick coffee and were off out again.

    We drove to Disney Springs, and parked in Grapefruit garage, finding a disabled spot quite easily on the same floor we drove in on. Disney Springs was going to be very busy from the looks of it, Orange and Lime parking garages were already full according to the signage. From there, we went up a couple of escalators and then walked over a footbridge and into the Marketplace, which was indeed absolutely packed with shoppers. Our first destination was World of Disney, where I managed to get most of the items on my list. We spotted the new Belle Bronze clothing range for sale, which was not due to be released for another 24 hours! I got my sister a Spirit Jersey in this new range, it is really pretty. DH said he liked it a lot, and asked if he could have one too, so I picked one up for him I dont think he realised how sparkly it was thought until he looked at it later, but he still wears it, so it must be okay! I found a kiosk where we could collect the $200 gift card we had received as part of our booking, and promptly spent the whole thing! I picked up some beautiful Arandelle Aqua Crocs for myself, they are really sparkly, and a pale aqua colour, and also got a small bag in the same style as a Christmas gift for my daughter. We got some Christmas cards, a Christmas tree decoration in the shape of Mickey ears painted to look like peppermint candies, some Minnie Mouse biscuits for a work colleague and for my bosss kids, and a handful of Rice Krispie treats in Christmassy designs. Phew!

    All paid for, we took everything outside and I sat DH on a bench nearby with the bags, while I made my way round to Goofys Candy Company. I got some Lion King themed popcorn to go with the popcorn bucket for my daughter in law, and also got a couple of bags of candy cane popcorn for myself, plus Star Wars themed Rice Krispie treats, and some Chip & Dale caramel nuts for my dad. The Cast Member that served me allowed me to use Quick Service Dining Plan credits for sets of 3 snacks, which was great as we had loads of these at this point!

    I left there and went to the Pin Trading store, to see if I could get a Slinky Dog Dash pin for DH. He likes to collect pins from rides or attractions that he has ridden/seen, but we had struggled to find one for Slinky Dog, so I was really pleased to find one in here for him.

    Then I made my way back to DH the Springs were so crowded, I had to battle my way through to him, it was madly busy. I dropped my bags with him and headed into Basin for some soap. I really love the different scents of soap in here, and it is really good soap, too, lasting for a long time. I got a bar of Christmas soap for us, it was clear soap with a penguin and snowflakes in it, and smells gorgeous crisp and fresh. I also got us one with ground coffee in, which works as an exfoliator and also smells amazing. I bought my daughter a bar of Mickey snowflake soap.

    Back to DH, and because the Springs were so busy and crowded, we decided to call it a day. We would have liked to have a look around some of the other stores, get a drink from Ghirardelli, and enjoy a mooch around, but there were just too many people around for us to do this easily, so we picked up all our bags and headed back to the parking garage. The lift and escalator had both stopped working, so we had to carry all those heavy shopping bags back up 3 flights of stairs! We finally got back to the car feeling exhausted.

    We drove back to the resort, and stopped at Old Port Royale to get some coffee and hot chocolate in our refillable mugs. I also bought some stamps for the Christmas cards I had taken with me to post to family and friends in the USA; the Cast Member offered to hand the cards over to the postal delivery service for me, which was nice of her. While in the resort store, I picked up a tiny bottle of hand sanitiser in a Minnie Mouse case and attached to a key ring for another work colleague, and DH found a Star Wars Galaxys Edge t-shirt that we hadnt seen anywhere else, so I got him that.

    We then went back to our room and unpacked all the shopping. DH collapsed onto the bed to watch TV, while I sewed up the waistband of my favourite white skirt, as it was too big and every time I wear it, it feels too loose. Luckily, we keep a small sewing kit in the Owners Locker box. We shared some leftover Christmas Party cookies for dinner, watched some TV, and finally went to sleep.

    DAY 12 Sunday 08 December

    Plan : Animal Kingdom
    Actual : We were up bright and early, and after coffee were on the road to the Animal Kingdom. Our first FastPass today was for the Navi River Journey, which was already showing a 70 minute standby time, but before going there, we walked round to Flight of Passage, where I booked us a GA pass time of 12:46 this ride was at 165 minutes standby at this point. We went back to the River Journey and rode with our FastPass. We both really like this ride, it is relaxing and fun, and so beautiful to look at.

    After our trip on the Pandora river, we went into the Satuli Canteen for some breakfast. We both had coffee, and I got DH chocolate cake which was dome shaped, with a crunchy base and a banana cream swirl on the top, while I had the seasonal bombe again peppermint white chocolate mousse. They were both delicious, mine was a really light and fluffy mousse with a strong yet not overpowering mint flavour, yummy. The Canteen was quite quiet at that time of the morning, as it was pre-lunchtime really. We like the theming of this place a lot.

    After breakfast, we took a slow stroll over towards Discovery Island, going into the Discovery Trading Company where we picked up Briar Rose Gold Spirit Jerseys for myself and my sister, (she had asked me to get her a couple of Spirit Jerseys and had given me the money in advance, the Briar Rose Gold and the Belle Bronze), and I had also decided to buy her the white, fluffy Spirit Jersey for her birthday, which is in February, as I knew she would love this one as well, so I got one for sis and one for myself. We had everything sent back to the resort. The Cast Member who assisted us here was a bit weird he offered me his pen to complete the necessary form to have our purchases sent to our resort, then said I could keep it as a gift, so I went to put it in my bag. He then promptly said that guests werent allowed to keep them and asked for it back! He didnt smile or appear to be joking with me at any point, he was just a bit odd.

    Anyway, it was now time for our FastPass for Dinosaur, so we took a stroll round to DinoLand. This time we walked through the whole of the FastPass entrance, which was fine by us, and had loads on fun on the ride. I was more relaxed on it this time around, so enjoyed it more. When we exited, we sat on some sheltered benches nearby to drink some water and relax for 10 minutes, before heading back to Pandora. Standby for Flight of Passage had dropped slightly to 130 minutes, but we joined the short FastPass queue, and as we made our way into the building, I was looking at MDX on my phone to check out our next FastPass, where I discovered that my Guest Assistance passes show up in the My Plans section very helpful! I hadnt realised that would happen. We boarded our banshees and once again this was a breathtaking and exhilarating ride. My favourite bits are when you swoop very close to bodies of water and get a light water spray on your face. I also noticed today that you experience different scents in different areas during the ride, good grief I love this ride!

    After our ride was over, we walked around the corner to the park entrance, where I sat on a bench so that DH could go to the smoking zone. This is the closest of the smoking areas in the parks, it is not out of the park entrance but is tucked around a corner in a small, open area. DHs leg was also feeling better today, he had decided to forego his socks and trainers in favour of sandals today, which was less restrictive on his ankles, and I think taking ibuprofen instead of just paracetamol was also helping.

    When he returned, we walked over the Asia, riding Expedition Everest with our next FastPass. The ride had a 70 minute standby wait at this point, but we were on relatively quickly. Great fun! I am normally terrified of the bit where you go up the very long, steep incline, as the track looks very narrow and I am convinced I am going to fall over the edge, but having experienced this ride many times over the years and having NOT fallen off, I am now a bit more relaxed and try to look around a bit more on the ascent.

    The time was now approaching 3 p.m., and we realised we were hungry, so we went to the Yak & Yeti Caf where I got us both honey sesame chicken and rice, with Sprite for DH and chocolate milk for me. While we enjoyed our lunch, I used MDX to book us FastPasses for Rivers of Light later on, as we had now used all our official FastPasses for the day so could book another one.

    A quick restroom visit after lunch, then we made our way over to the Maharaja Jungle Trek we love this walk-through attraction. We saw the Komodo Dragon, (very cute!), and there was one tiger visible in one of the two enclosures, but there was no sign of the other tiger or the 2 babies, sadly. To my dismay, the bat enclosure was closed, which was a shame as I really like bats. At the end of the Trek, we boarded the Wildlife Express after only a short wait, and enjoyed the ride over to Rafikis Planet Watch, but were really disappointed with the area. The whole of the centre section that used to be interesting display boards of animal facts, a meet and greet area for live animals such as snakes, and Rafiki himself, was now taken up by seating for an animation drawing class. The booths of animal sounds were closed, so we looked at the reptile and snake enclosures before heading back to the train station. There really wasnt much going on in that area at all, which was very odd. I know it had been closed down for a while, looking as though it wasnt going to reopen, so I was really surprised to find that nothing new or fun had been added.

    When we arrived back on the mainland, we decided to take a quick coffee break at the nearby Kusafiri, which has outdoor seating. Fully rested, we then took a slow walk back to Asia to take our seats in the theatre for Rivers of Light. We were a bit early and had to wait about 45 minutes before the show starting at 6.30 p.m., but we used our time wisely with some star gazing, and managed to find both Venus and Saturn in the sky. When the show started, it was really beautiful. We have seen this a couple of times before, but always forget how lovely it really is.

    Once the show was over, we walked to the Tree of Life, where we were able to watch a beautiful snow projection show on the tree. Then we made our way to Pandora. Weve never been in this area at night before, and had been wanting to visit it during the dark for ages, so tonight was the night! Wow - we were totally blown away by how gorgeous Pandora was at night! The walkways and rocks are painted with bioluminescent paint, and glow and shimmer as the low lighting hits them, it is just amazing. Most of the plants also glow, and the trees twinkle. We spent a while just walking around and admiring how this area looked, it was so beautiful.

    One of my other objectives for visiting here tonight was to try the Pongu Lumpia from a food kiosk called Pongu Pongu. These are deep fried spring roll wrappers filled with pineapple cream cheese and dusted with powdered sugar. We found the kiosk and I joined the queue, while DH took a seat nearby. The queue was quite long, but eventually I got to the kiosk and asked for 2 Pongu Lumpias, only to be told they were not selling them at this time. Grrrr. I asked what he meant by that, and the Cast Member just said they were out, and moved onto the next guest without any apologies or anything, he just dismissed me. I was a bit cross, but more with his attitude than anything else, so just gave up and walked away. DH was disappointed too, but we knew we would be back here again soon, so we would try again then. We walked around Pandora a bit more, and found a Photopass photographer to take our picture in front of a waterfall. It turned out lovely!

    We decided we were ready to leave then, so popped into Creature Comforts on our way out for a look around first. I picked up a really pretty, animal-print trimmed, Mickey ears-shaped handbag that I had admired several times when Id seen it around today, and decided to buy it. I also tried to pick up some bags of Lion King themed candies in exchange for a Dining Plan Counter Service credit, but the Cast Member who served me said they couldnt make that exchange there, so we didnt bother buying them, as I knew I could get them elsewhere for the Plan credit.

    As we were walking through the car park to our car, we saw loads of coaches unloading what looked like hundreds of kids who all seemed to be going into the park. I looked this up when we got back to our resort, and it turned out to be something that the Gary Sinise Foundation does annually. Children of fallen soldiers and their surviving parents get to go to Disney World on the Snowball Express trip annually, thanks to this Foundation how wonderful! We drove back to our resort, stopping off at Old Port Royale to get coffee and hot chocolate, and watched some TV before turning in. A long but lovely day, again.

    DAY 13 Monday 09 December

    Plan : Magic Kingdom
    Actual : We were up bright and early to another hot and sunny day. Well, we were up, Im not sure it was that early, so I nipped onto MDX and changed our FastPasses for slightly later ones. With hindsight maybe we should have got going a bit earlier, as by the time we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, (our choice of crossing from the car park to the park today was the ferry), it was really crowded. We saw loads of kids from the charity foundation that we saw last night, making for an extremely busy park.

    Our first FastPass today was for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, always a favourite, so we swam against the current of folk and thoroughly enjoyed our ride on the Wildest in the Wilderness. Great fun. Having missed out on breakfast, we headed into Pecos Bills for an early lunch. I got us both bacon cheeseburgers with tortilla chips, for a change from fries, and loaded up at the fixings bar lots of cheese, dill pickle slices, mushrooms, and some onions for DH yum! We both also had chocolate milk to drink. All was very good, and we found some outside seats after a hunt around.

    After lunch, we unfortunately got trapped by the parade, so we ended up watching most of it, although we could only see the high floats! After it had passed, we made our way to Splash Mountain, riding this for the first time in a few years. We had FastPasses, which was a good job as the standby line was 100 minutes! We were on in 10 minutes, and got totally soaked faces and bums we constantly forget how wet we get on this ride, which is why we only go on it every few visits. Ah well, we still really like the theming. Which is a shame really, as next time we see it, it will probably have been re-themed to the Princess & the Frog!

    We walked round to Tortuga Tavern for a coffee break, only to find they dont actually sell coffee, so we sat outside on a wall for half an hour for a rest. Pirates of the Caribbean had horrendous wait times, so we just chatted for a while and enjoyed the atmosphere.

    Moving on, we tried Sunshine Tree Terrace for coffee success! Although there was a huge queue, but I was keen to try a new flavour of Dole Whip here, so I didnt mind waiting. DH secured us space on the wall nearby in the shade, while I waited, finally getting coffee for him and something called Redds Revenge for me. This is strawberry soft-serve Dole Whip swirled into strawberry Fanta, decorated with a strawberry flavoured white chocolate pirate hat. It was gorgeous! DH isnt a fan of strawberry flavoured food, but I love it, so this was exactly my kind of thing!

    After this we walked over to Tomorrowland, deciding to give Monsters Inc Laugh Floor a go, as we hadnt seen this show for several years. The wait time was supposed to be 15 minutes, but it took much longer than that for some reason and it was more like 30 minutes before we were seated. However, the show was very funny and we enjoyed it, although it probably isnt a staple each time for us. As we exited, we noticed that the Carousel of Progress was just loading, so we raced over there to get in, as this show we really do love, and it is one of our regulars. It was lovely as usual, but we are starting to think that the last scene is incredibly dated now. Maybe its time for an update, everything that is futuristic in this last scene is actually going on or available these days.

    We checked out the line for the TTA Peoplemover, which was very long but constantly moving, something I can cope with, so we joined the line and were soon seated on this great ride, we really love this one. While on there, I made us another FastPass on MDX, for Pirates of the Caribbean. Afterwards, we checked out Mickeys Star Traders for a holiday Spirit Jersey I was after, but I was beginning to realise I had maybe missed out on this one as once again they only had size small left. I had been looking for this everywhere we had been so far, but they were either sold out or only available in small.

    We took a quick restroom break, then walked over to Adventureland to ride Pirates with our FastPasses. As we got to the start of the first shipwreck scene, I noticed a skull-shaped rock for the first time, I dont think its new, I think I just hadnt seen it before! Anyway, the ride was fun and we sang along tunelessly yet lustily, although hopefully without annoying other riders, unlike the folk who decide to take flash photographs throughout the ride grrr!

    We walked back to the hub and down Main Street, and while DH went outside the park to the smoking area, I went into the Emporium to pick up one of the new Belle Bronze collection long-sleeved t-shirts for us each, as we had seen these earlier and really liked them. They are a sort of pinky-bronze and black graduated colour, really nice. I opted to take them with me rather than have them sent back to the resort, as we were nearly finished at the Magic Kingdom by this point.

    We met back up, and went to the disabled viewing area to watch the Happily Ever After firework and projection show on the castle. The area was absolutely packed, (as was the whole hub area), and we were told by the Cast Member at the entrance that there was no more room in there, so we had to stand next to it. A couple of guests already in there kindly moved around and made room for us, as they were in there to accompany family members and werent actually disabled themselves, so we ducked under the rope barrier and managed to get in, then a young teenage girl insisted on giving me her seat on a wall in there. DH and I took turns to sit down for a few minutes each while we waited for the show to start.

    The show was beautiful, and as everywhere was so crowded, I had to try not to cry and sob like I normally do at Disney firework shows! Once the show had finished, we thanked those around us who had been kind, bade them farewell, and shuffled our way along with the crowds down Main Street, stopping at the Main Street Confectionary store to pick up 3 HUGE Mickey-ears shaped rice krispie treats, in boxes, for Christmas gifts for family. I was surprised that the choices that had been shown online werent all available, and they only had the ones with M&Ms stuck on the top with white chocolate, but that would do so I got them. They were $20 each, and very heavy!

    We drove back to our resort and were too tired to stop at Old Port Royale for drinks, so we just went back to our room and I made a decaf coffee for DH, and made up a sachet of Wla Miss hot chocolate for myself. TV, bed.

    DAY 14 Tuesday 10 December

    Plan : Hollywood studios
    Actual : Another very hot and sunny day dawned, and we got up still feeling exhausted from yesterday. We got ready for the day, and then walked to the Skyliner station to travel to the Studios. It was so lovely to sit back and relax during the journey, watching the world pass by beneath our feet. The views were fabulous, we never tired of looking out and around us as we travelled.

    We paused at the entrance to the Studios so DH could visit the smoking area here, then made our way through a very busy park to Toy Story Land for our first FastPass of the day Slinky Dog Dash, which had a 70 minute standby line when we arrived. The ride was loads of fun! We figured the park was particularly busy because of the opening of Rise of the Resistance last week. To ride, you have to obtain a Boarding Pass for a particular timed session, and every day these Passes were all gone by 8.30 a.m.! We decided that we would be happy to wait to experience this ride, and mentally put it on the list for next time. Neither of us are huge Star Wars fans, I may have mentioned this before, but we have a passing interest and do like to try the majority of Disney rides, so I know we will get round to this at some point.

    From there we walked round to One Mans Dream, which I knew was currently showing the original film rather than an excerpt from whatever the latest release was, so we wandered through the exhibits before going into the film theatre. DH managed to stay awake for the whole film, unlike a previous visit when he slept through it twice in a row! It was a lovely film, so Im glad he finally got to see it.

    After this we walked round to Star Tours for our next FastPass, and were sent up the disabled access ramp again, straight into the boarding area. We were allocated seats in the front row, which I really like because the simulator throws me about the least sitting at the front, rather than further back. We had an excellent ride, we got Wookie World, (which is my favourite!), followed by Jar Jar Binkss underwater world. We also got an ending we hadnt seen before, we thought the pointy-nosed craft was going to smash through our windscreen like it had previously, but instead the pointy end broke off on the screen! It was so funny, the droid was incandescent with anger, yelled at us, and then threw a bucket of yellow paint towards us!

    We were still laughing about this as we left the building, and then headed to the Backlot Express for lunch. I got us both chicken tenders and fries, coffee for DH, and strawberry daiquiri for me, which was all really good. I was loving these strawberry daiquiris, they are frozen so very slushy and refreshing. We had a chat about our next moves. We really wanted to watch Fantasmic, in fact we had FastPasses for it at 8.00 p.m., but we were feeling so exhausted that we didnt think we could stick around the park for the rest of the afternoon. We decided to go back to the resort for a rest, and then return later to see the show. Therefore, after lunch we tool a slow stroll back out of the park and to the Skyliner station, and from there back to our resort. DH lay down for a nap, and I changed into my swimsuit and went to the nearby small pool for a couple of hours. I was the only person in the pool for ages, and anyone else that came in stayed in the shallow end, leaving me to float and paddle around on my own. It was so relaxing, and after about an hour and a half I wrapped myself in towels and went back to our room for a long shower.

    At about 6.00 p.m., I woke up DH, who had been asleep for most of the afternoon, filled him up with coffee and ibuprofen, and we headed back to the Skyliner station. We both felt a lot better for having a restful afternoon. We made our way to the Fantasmic theatre, and when we got there, I got myself a Mickey pretzel and some lemonade, and a hot dog and Sprite for DH as we hadnt had any dinner yet. We settled down to watch the show, and this time it ran faultlessly, and was fabulous, we really loved it. After the show, we left the park, went back to our resort, and TV and bed followed. Surprisingly, despite have slept all afternoon, DH also slept all night! We must have been really tired, but it had still been a lovely day.

    DAY 15 Wednesday 11 December

    Plan : Typhoon Lagoon, Epcot
    Actual : A cloudy, humid and warm day. We woke up a bit late, and as per usual we decided not to go to Typhoon Lagoon today. We always build a water park day into our plans, and then decide in the end to leave it until next year, preferring to use the pool at our hotel. I can only assume this is down to laziness, as we really do like the Disney water parks, and enjoy ourselves when we do go to them. Although this year, we were a bit worried about getting sand in the ulcer on DHs leg, so that did make us hesitate, then we checked the weather report and rain was forecast, so that made us decide not to go. We opted instead to just relax in our room for the morning; DH watched TV and napped, I played online games and unwound a little. I made us some coffee, and we nibbled on snacks, (I had some Cheetos, yum!).

    At 2.30 p.m. we set off for the Skyliner to travel to Epcot, and really enjoyed the journey, something we cant normally say when we travel to the parks. We had FastPasses for rides later in the day, so decided to potter about a bit first. We turned right at the crossroads and headed for the Canada pavilion, as I was on the lookout for a pair of pyjamas I had seen someone had bought, called pyjamoose which I thought looked really cute, but there was no sign of them in the Canada store, and a Cast Member told me that they had been something that they sold a year or so ago, which was a shame. From there we walked back to the International Gateway to check out the store there, as I was still on the hunt for the red Christmas Spirit Jersey, but again they only had size XS left. I had a look at the blue one, which had Chip & Dale and strings of Christmas lights on and was quite nice, but those were only available in XS as well! We walked to Mousegear for another fruitless Christmas Jersey search, then exited the store at the back and went to Test Track, where I booked a GA Pass which opened up 20 mins later, but we were told we could use it at any time after that. We were pleased to see that the park seemed a lot quieter today, with less crowds.

    We needed proper food, so went to our staple at Epcot, the Electric Umbrella. Oh how we will miss this place when it goes! DH went off in search of seating, and I went straight up to the counters with no queues, and ordered an Angus bacon cheeseburger with fries and coffee for DH, and chicken tenders with fries and a frozen strawberry margarita for me. I also picked up a Mickey gingerbread man reusable straw as a Christmas gift for our granddaughter. The food was really good, as usual, and we enjoyed our mid-afternoon meal.

    When we had finished eating, DH went to the smoking area out of the park, while I went back into Mousegear and bought a different Christmas Spirit Jersey, a black one with a peppermint candy striped Mickey silhouette on the front, and WDW on the back in the same stripe pattern. I also bought our granddaughter a spinning Elsa with a light-up skirt, which we know shell love. I completed the form and had it all sent back to our resort.

    DH returned and we went to ride Test Track with our GA Pass, which was fun as always. Spaceship Earth was showing a 5 minute standby but was actually a straight walk-on, so we rode this finally our photos were taken and showing up this time! Our first FastPass time was approaching, so we walked towards The Land pavilion, but on the way there I happened to mention to DH that Id always wanted to meet Baymax, and we knew he appeared in a Character Spot on the way, so we popped in to see what was going on. The queue to meet him wasnt too long, but as we walked towards the queue, Baymax went on a battery recharge break, so we left it and carried on round to The Land.

    We noticed that Living with the Land was a walk-on, so it felt like a waste of a FastPass but we tapped it anyway. The ride was so lovely, this is one of our favourite Disney rides, it is just so relaxing and we love the plant biomes. Soarin was next, again this looked like a walk-on although it was showing 20 mins standby, so we used our FastPass and got row 2. However, the ride was somewhat spoilt by a young off-duty Cast Member who was with a small group of what looked like his friends in the ride queue he kept yelling, Its Joe Swanson! all the way through Patrick Warburtons speech, along with another name that I think was Kronk, I presume the character from The Emperors New Groove film. This guy was so loud! We tried to ignore him, but when we were seated, he sat next to DH and then proceeded to point everything out and describe it loudly to his friends. Eventually, I leaned over DH and asked the guy to keep it down a bit, please. He apologised and lowered his volume, but still didnt shut up completely. When we got off the ride we had a quick restroom visit, then went back on Soarin through the standby line, which showed 15 minutes but was indeed a straight walk-on. This was a much better ride without Mouth Almighty telling all us stupid people what we were looking at!

    After this we took a cake and coffee break at Sunshine Seasons. DH had a red velvet Whoopie Pie, and I had Key Lime Pie with soft meringue on top, which was really sharp tasting and delicious. All very good, and we enjoyed our break.

    We walked back to the Character Spot and went inside to meet some characters, something we dont normally do. It was fairly quiet in there and we joined a short queue to meet Mickey Mouse, followed by Goofy, and then Minnie Mouse, and we had Photopass pictures taken with all of them. They were fun to meet and interact with, Goofy was particularly playful with DH, and Minnie loved my Minnie ears, that day I was wearing ears made of a pale pink and orange geometric design, called sunset Epcot, which Id purchased from a private crafter. We then joined the queue to meet Baymax, and he was really lovely! We both fist-bumped him in the way he does in the film, which was fun, and then I asked if I could give him a gentle hug so I didnt squash him, which his handler said was okay. I had so much fun meeting him, it was brilliant, and again we got Photopass pictures with him.

    After this it was time for our final FastPass of the day, for Spaceship Earth, but again the ride was a walk-on and we didnt really need our FastPass, the park was really quiet today! We walked back over to the Seven Seas Lagoon to find a spot to watch the Epcot Forever fireworks show, and easily found a good space near Canada. We hadnt seen this show before, it was the temporary replacement for Illuminations - Reflections of Earth and we were quite excited to see it. Well, it certainly didnt disappoint we loved it! There were fireworks, voiceover quotes from Walt, clips of music from old rides and shows, (such as clips of some of the scenes from Horizons!), lasers, and these amazing kites being towed by what looked like jet-ski riders, with moving lights and fireworks actually on the kites, they were fantastic. It was a great show and we really, really enjoyed it. We thought it was gorgeous, and a fitting filler show until the new one is ready to be launched.

    Once the show was over, we took a slow stroll back to the Skyliner station, and made our way back to our resort. We had really enjoyed today, a bit of a relax and rest to start with, then we had explored our favourite Disney park in a leisurely manner, ridden our favourite rides, eaten well, and even met some characters! Bed.

    DAY 16 - Thursday 12 December

    Plan : Animal Kingdom
    Actual : We got up this morning to a cloudy and rainy day, not ideal for visiting the least sheltered Disney park! However, we persevered with our plans and drove to the Animal Kingdom, finding the car park quite busy again. We grabbed our umbrellas out of the boot as when we arrived, the rain was pouring down, although it did get a bit lighter as we entered the park.

    Pandora was our first destination this morning, we had a FastPass for Flight of Passage. The standby line was already at 120 mins, and we were quite early arriving today, although not quite at rope drop. Luckily, the FastPass queue was totally empty, so we were quickly in the briefing room where there were a handful of other guests. We stashed our bags at the back of the room, and boarded our banshees. This ride is just breathtaking! Every time I ride this, it makes me want to cry the feeling of freedom, total exhilaration, the occasional scents and light water spray, the sensation of flying, it is just incredible.

    After the ride, we realised we were near the Pongu Pongu food kiosk so I checked if they had Pongu Lumpia today, and they did! So we finally got to try these treats, and they were gorgeous. Warm and soft, pineapple in cream cheese, surrounded by crispy spring roll yum! These awakened our bodies into needing more food, so we went into Satuli Canteen for coffee and breakfast. I had the peppermint mousse again, and picked up a blueberry cream cheese mousse for DH, and we found seating inside the Canteen to relax and enjoy our quick break.

    After we had finished, we left Pandora and walked back to the park entrance, pausing to watch some otters frolicking in their enclosure they were so cute! DH popped to the smoking area, and I waited for him on a nearby bench. Then it was time for our next FastPass, which was for Expedition Everest, so we took a stroll over to Asia. The weather was extremely warm and humid today, lots of cloud cover resulted in a number of rain showers, some of which were quite heavy. I was glad Id worn my trainers today instead of my usual Croc flip-flops, as my feet slide all over the place in them when it rains, making walking very difficult.

    Our Expedition Everest ride was fun, although a bit stingy in the rain! After the ride, we went into Zuris Sweets to pick up some Lion King themed popcorn for our daughter in law, and also some Lion King gummies. We were still a bit too early for our next FastPass, so we took a 20 min break on the nearby seating, making sure we werent taking up a table and seats from anyone who needed them for dining. Once our FastPass time opened, we headed into the Kilimanjaro Safari, and were soon on our journey. There werent too many animals about today, probably due to the weather, but we did see a LOT of rhino, both black and white. Apparently, the black are rarer and dont often loiter in areas where they can be seen easily, so we felt lucky to have seen them today. There was no sign of any cheetah, and we could only see the odd lion leg or top of head, they were very well hidden!

    We had done everything we wanted to here today, and the rain was preventing us from exploring any further, so we took a slow stroll out of the park and drove back to our resort. We decided to eat at Old Port Royale, and I got DH a turkey sandwich and fries, while I had chicken tenders and fries. I also got us both a mango smoothie, but they were horrible! The flavour was nice, fresh and fruity, but the texture was really weird, almost jelly-like, and we struggled through about half each before giving up and chucking them away. We filled our refillable mugs with coffee, then DH took these back to the car while I went into the resort store and spent 10 counter service credits on $178-worth of Goofys candies, rice krispie treats, cookies, and tubs of Chip & Dale cheesy biscuits. We were nearly at the end of our trip, and knew we wouldnt have chance to spend all of the counter service credits we had left, even if I used some of them to pay for other guests meals, which weve done before. Therefore, I wanted to get some things we could use as gifts for family and friends on our return.

    Back at our room, we set about packing two of our cases with all our purchases from this trip, and luckily everything fitted! This only took 40 mins to do, too. I took some washing over to the laundry room nearby, and left it to wash while we watched some TV and relaxed. Then I put the washing in the dryer, and went back to make some coffee and hot chocolate, which we had with a small fruit pie each from Walmart, (we really love these little pies, its just a shame they dont keep otherwise we would try and bring some home). I collected the washing once it was dry, folded it ready for packing tomorrow, and we finally turned in for some much needed sleep.

    DAY 17 Friday 13 December

    Plan : Magic Kingdom
    Actual : Another warm and rainy day dawned. We were up and out fairly early, driving to the Magic Kingdom for our last full day at Disney. The rain was very heavy as we left the resort, but lessened somewhat as we were parking up at Magic Kingdom, although the cloud and humidity persisted.

    Our first FastPass was for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and although there was still some drizzle, we didnt get too wet, luckily. We had great fun on this ride, the whole train was very excitable and vocal. After we exited the ride, I wanted to check that it would be okay to extend our lunch reservation at Be our Guest to 2 persons, as if this wasnt going to be okay, I would then cancel the reservation and we could dine elsewhere. However, the Cast Member assured me that this would be okay, after I explained that my husband had changed his plans for the day and now wished to dine with me, (teeny fib!). We then went to the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction, with our next FastPass. It was very cute, and we really enjoyed it, although since his debut as Wardrobe in 2016, DH is very critical of whoever plays that role, as his was clearly the Laurence Olivier performance of Wardrobe. Huh.

    After this, we walked round to Journey of the Little Mermaid, and rode this standby, which was a straight walk-on. This is such a cute little ride! Then we walked round to the circus area, partly to see the poster of Goofy juggling with tigers, which I really love, and partly to have a look at Big Top Treats, which apparently had a fire yesterday, and we wanted to see whether this was true or it was open. There were no outer signs of a fire, but there was a Cast Member standing guard outside the closed door, who had a look of dont ask me about a fire! about her, so we carried on round to look at my favourite poster, then round to have a look at the Tron building work to see how much progress was visible. Quite a lot of work had gone on since our last visit, and it was really interesting to see how far they had got with the construction, none of which seemed to be screened off from view.

    DH suggested a trip on the Peoplemover, so we walked round to Tomorrowland to check out the wait time. There was a bit of a queue, but it looked to be moving quite quickly, so we joined the queue and were soon seated in our car, gently swooping above the crowds. This is one of our favourite Disney rides, and we try to do this several times each trip, if possible.

    It was now time for us to check in for our lunch reservation, so we headed back to Be our Guest, and when I checked in I explained once again that there would be 2 persons instead of one due to changed plans, and they were kind enough to allow this. We were seated in the Ballroom, although we dont actually have a favourite room here, they are all beautiful and so wonderfully and deeply themed. DH ordered the French Dip Sandwich with fries, and coffee to drink, and I ordered the Coq au Vin with mashed potatoes, and pink grapefruit beer to drink. The food arrived quite quickly, and was absolutely terrific DH said his beef was really tender, and when dipped in the au jus it just fell apart, (in a good way!). My mash was creamy and delicious, the chicken was tender and flavourful, and the tiny, lightly roasted tomatoes were lovely. We thought the quality of this food was definitely more table service than counter service. My beer was so sweet/tart and refreshing, I really enjoyed it, and I dont normally drink much alcohol. We really enjoyed our lunch, and thought it was a fantastic use of counter service credits on the dining plan.

    After lunch, we decided to leave the park as the rain had now stopped but everywhere was still very damp, and humidity was high, plus the park was really crowded. There was nowhere we could sit and take a break to let our lunch go down as all outdoor seats and low walls were still wet. The parade was about to start, so in order to bypass the folk waiting down the sides of Main Street for this, we cut through the Emporium, although we didnt stop to browse or buy anything. When we exited near the Fire Station, I left DH standing outside and I went into the Main Street Confectionary Store and spent 34 snack credits and one quick service credit on a range of things from there fudge, chocolate pecan puddles, packs of large chocolate coins packaged into a hidden Mickey shape, and rice krispie treats. To be honest I was surprised at the number of snack credits we had left on the dining plan, we normally use a lot more than this. Having said that, we normally visit during the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, where we spend a lot of snack credits eating around the World, but as our visit was a bit later this year, we had barely spend any of them at all so far.

    We hauled this lot back to our car via the ferry, and then drove to the nearby Speedway service station to fill the hire car up with fuel. It cost $30 to fill up completely, and then we drove back to our resort. We parked up at Old Port Royale and took a walk around the resort and main pool area to take some photos. The main pool looked lovely, it was a shame we hadnt had time to visit there this year, (but also we get put off main pools at these resorts because they are always very busy, and we much prefer a quiet pool with no-one splashing us or getting in the way of our relaxation time!). We filled our mugs up with coffee and hot chocolate, and then drove back to our room. We were a bit surprised that the room hadnt been cleaned at all during our stay; we had expected a trash & towel service after 4 or 5 days, but hadnt received anything. This hadnt really been a problem, we are quite clean and tidy, and we use our own coffee, coffee whitener, etc., so didnt need those, and we had asked for a couple of extra toilet rolls whenever we saw a mousekeeper near our room, plus there were loads of trash bags in the room for us to use and then we just handed them to a mousekeeper occasionally. But going on previous experience, we had expected the occasional visit from them, even if it was just to ensure we werent lying dead in our room!

    We relaxed for half an hour and enjoyed our hot drinks, and I checked us in online for our flight tomorrow with Virgin Atlantic. We then packed up the suitcases and our Owners Locker box. Showers, TV, bed.

    DAY 18 Saturday 14 December

    Plan : Epcot, leave for home
    Actual : We were up bright and early today, and once we had got ourselves dressed and full of coffee, we packed the last few bits, loaded up the car, and said goodbye to our beautiful room. Our first destination today was Old Port Royale, where we dropped off the Owners Locker box, which was scheduled for collection at some point today, and then went into reception to check out. I had a short wait, (DH wandered off and looked at something or other), before speaking to a Cast Member. I mentioned the lack of mousekeeping, and she told me that if you decline the service, then you do not get any service at all now. I was a bit surprised, but at the end of the day, it hadnt impacted our stay at all plus we had been grateful for the extra spending money!

    We left Caribbean Beach resort for the final time this trip, and drove to Disney Springs to drop off our cases at the Virgin Atlantic check-in desk, which is located at the back of the Cirque du Soleil building. In the past we have struggled to find a car parking space here, but today we were quite lucky and found a disabled spot quite easily, which was good news less car park to drag the cases through! We loaded ourselves up with 2 cases each plus our hand luggage, and joined the queue of people to check in for Economy flights. I knew this service cost $10 each to use, so I got a $20 note out in advance. However, when we reached the front of the queue, I was told that they only accept cards now, not cash, which mildly irritated me as I try to minimise card use in the USA nowadays if I can, but I grumbled internally, tucked away my $20, and pulled out a credit card instead.

    We weighed all the cases, and one of them was 1.5 kg overweight. We pulled out some of the heavier bags of candy and shoved them into one of the lighter cases, making all good. Cases sorted, we watched them being loaded into the back of the huge container lorry, and were then called over to the counter to receive our boarding cards. Once we had these and were happy with everything, we went back to the car and stored our hand luggage in the boot.

    Last night we had discussed our plans for today, and had agreed that rather than spend a few hours in Epcot as originally planned, we would instead stay at Disney Springs for a few hours, as we hadnt had time to explore the area properly this year our only other visit here had been cut short due to the crowds and our tiredness that day. Therefore, once we were case free, we drove the short distance to the Grapefruit parking garage, once again finding a parking space quite easily.

    It was a very long walk from the parking garage to the Marketplace, and the elevator was out of order, so we had to go down 3 flights of stairs! We trekked our way round to Alex & Ani, I have been looking for a Hollywood Studios bangle for several years now but have always been told that no icon for the park was ever settled on, so no bangle was made. (I already have one for the other parks, I love these bangles and wear them a lot). And today was no exception! Still no bangle for the Studios. I did purchase a rose gold-coloured bangle with a really pretty snowflake charm, and a silver bangle with a Mickey head made up of red gemstones charm. DH had gone to the smoking area while I did this, so I collected him again and we headed over to Ghirardellis, where we were given a complimentary peppermint bark square as we entered, (my favourite flavour!). We used 2 Quick Service credits to purchase 8 bars of assorted chocolate, (they were on a buy 3, get one free offer), and I also picked up 5 sachets of peppermint hot cocoa whilst at the counter, they were $1 each. (I knew my hand luggage case was almost empty, and that we would be able to fit our shopping into it.)

    We were ready to eat now, so we went to the Earl of Sandwich, which was really busy. DH went off to hunt for a table, and I joined the queue. It moved quite quickly considering how long it was! I ordered DH an Hawaiian BBQ sandwich, and an Original 1761 for myself, also getting bags of crisps and coffee/lemonade. I used 2 Quick Service credits for this, leaving us with 1 remaining and no snack credits. Im not keen on this dining location purely because it is always really crowded, making it difficult to balance bags of food, hot and cold drinks, bags of crisps, and then negotiate my way outside to find DH. But we really love the food here, so I just put up with the crowds and difficulties. I found DH perched on a wall outside, there were no tables to be had, so we just sat on the wall and had our lunch.

    A quick restroom break, then we had the long haul back to the car - up 3 flights of stairs! Ugh. We began our drive to the airport, although as per usual we managed to start out by going the wrong way, and ended up by the Crossroads shopping centre, where we had to turn around and go the opposite way. There were no airport signs around, our satnav was in the Owners Locker box, and the roads around this side of the Springs had changed since we were last here. Anyway, we eventually found our way to the airport and finally arrived at 2.15 p.m. We found the car rental drop off area, and returned our lovely car to Dollar with no problems.

    As we entered the airport, DHs leg was hurting him a lot, plus we were our usual hot, tired, and slightly anxious about being on time for everything now, so where I had wanted to visit the little Disneys Earport store, (which has changed its name and is now called The Magic of Disney), DH just wanted to get through security. We were having problems negotiating our way round the airport, all the gates have changed and we couldnt find our check-in gate, it was on the opposite side to where we are used to going. I got a bit tearful and we were bickering a bit by this point. We finally found the departure security gate, and there was a timescale of 50 minutes wait, which made us panic a bit more, but we joined the queue and were actually through in about 20 minutes. The area was very crowded, there were lots of kids running around and parents with pushchairs, and we were very fed up by the time we managed to get to the other side. Everything was okay in the end though, and we were soon boarding the monorail to take us over to the airline departure gates. Ours was gate number 83.. We still had a little time to kill before actually going to the gate, so we managed to find one empty seat in the central hub, where we took turns in sitting down with the hand luggage and going off to the shops. DH went to the Duty Free store for some cigarettes, then I went to something that looked like a local newsagents and got some Minute Maid Lemonade to take home, had a look at the M&Ms in case they had any flavours I hadnt seen before, and also bought us both a lovely Orlando t-shirt in bright colours, as they were on offer at 2 for $20.

    Finally, we made our way down the long corridor to gate number 83, and sat down to wait for boarding. Im always surprised by how short a time is given to board a plane, given that usually over 300 people are waiting, and today we were a bit late boarding. There seemed to be a hold up, which turned out to be a new innovation digital face recognition. Fine concept, but it wasnt working very efficiently! It also meant that only 5 rows at a time could be boarded. We were a bit worried, because as we have the exit row seats, the overhead lockers are behind us and on return flights are normally totally packed with all the stuff other folk take home with them. However, when we finally got onto the plane, we were really pleased to find there was still loads of room in the overhead lockers for our hand luggage, phew! We were on the right hand side of the plane, in row 25 again, which was good. We settled ourselves in for the long return flight, and only took off about 20 minutes late.

    The flight went okay. We watched a 2-hour long documentary called, Beside Bowie the Mick Ronson Story, which was really brilliant, we loved it. Dinner was surprisingly delicious. DH had garlic and tomato gnocchi, and I had pulled pork with a sweet barbecue sauce, mashed potatoes, and baked beans, although not baked in tomato sauce, thankfully, (Im not keen), and it was all really good. We also got a bread roll, cheese, crackers, water, and a Cakelove Key Lime Pie for dessert. We both had coffee, and then DH chose a bottle of red wine whilst I had a bottle of Amarulah liqueur, although I ended up bringing that home with me. I tried to sleep for a while, and managed to doze off twice, but once an imaginary fly flew into my eye and woke me up, and the 2nd time I snored myself awake, so I have up and listed to a couple of music albums instead. (David Bowie at Glastonbury, and David Bowies Blackstar album), while just sitting with my eyes shut. DH managed to sleep for a few hours.

    DAY 19 Sunday 15 December

    Plan : Arrive back in UK
    Actual : We made up for the time we lost by taking off late, probably because the flight is all downhill coming home, and we landed a little early. Being in these great seats meant we were off and out to the luggage collection point within 15 minutes! Oh my life it was COLD here! We then had to wait for an hour before the cases came out though, but we eventually got them, all looked okay, so we went to collect our car. This was a really easy process and there was a note with our car keys to say that the tyres had been inflated for us while we were away good service! We drove home, making really good time, and only got stuck once due to a rolling roadblock after an accident. We made a stop at one service station to pick up coffee, use the restrooms, stretch, and get some fuel for the car, and were home by 10:15 a.m. The house was FREEZING, as the heating had obviously been off while we were away.

    We lugged all the cases inside, and shoved them into our front room to deal with later. We then sorted out all our post, collected my front door keys from our neighbours, (who keep an eye on the house for us while we are away), fished some parcels out of the recycle bin, (darned delivery drivers!), and then while DH made us a quick cup of coffee, I rooted through the suitcases to find the Simba cookie and sweets we had bought for our daughter-in-law and add them into her birthday gift bag. We had a wash and brush up, changed clothes for something warmer, and then drove over to a restaurant called Buffet Island which is where we tend to celebrate family birthdays and is about 30 minutes drive from us, where we met the family for our daughter-in-laws birthday lunch. We had a really lovely time, despite feeling desperately jet-lagged and cold. My dad wasnt feeling well so he didnt join us, but he did ring me later on after we had returned home.

    FINAL THOUGHTS / COMMENTS

    This was a fabulous trip, we packed in a lot and managed to experience lots of new things. We had a really great holiday, but had no idea that this would be the last time for a couple of years that we would be back. Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing, and now it is March 2021 and we are running out of the stuff we normally buy in Florida each visit, as I usually buy enough to last us until the next time. I was delighted to find Swiss Miss hot cocoa in Walmart, and had brought a couple of boxes back with us, but when they ran out I had to resort to buying them in boxes of 50 sachets from Amazon; luckily, they werent much more expensive than the ones I had bought from Walmart. I also got my sister some more cinnamon toothpaste from a health food store as she was running out, she loves this toothpaste as regular minty toothpaste makes her gag. I have around 2 or 3 sticks of Dove deodorant left at the moment, so will have to supplement this with something else until we can get back to the States.

    We were due to visit Walt Disney World again in November 2020, we would have been staying at Disneys Coronado Spring Resort, and were taking a friend with us who was recently widowed and had never been to WDW before. I had two rooms booked there, through Disney Holidays UK, for roughly the same time of year as 2019 last week of November, first week of December. Just before I was due to book the flights, it became apparent that this friend of ours was becoming too close for comfort to DH, and was fixating too much on him. She was an old family friend, and because he was afraid to hurt her feelings, he found it difficult to deal with the way she was becoming over-attached to him. In the end, after trying to talk to her about the situation, getting nowhere and being lied to consistently, I had to make the decision to drop her from the booking. Unfortunately this was pre-COVID, and so I lost the 50 deposit I had paid for her, (which she has never paid me back, despite many requests). Therefore, I booked the flights just for the two of us, and began to plan the trip accordingly.

    As Coronavirus took a hold on the world and spread, it began to dawn on us that the trip would probably not happen. By the time the balance was due, in August 2020, our flights had been cancelled and so we had to make the decision to move our dates. We decided to transfer the booking across to 2021, but the latest that Disney would let us book was September; weve never travelled at this time to Florida, but we thought wed give it a go and therefore moved our new booking to September 2021, deciding to also move the resort to Disneys Art of Animation resort wed stayed there overnight before taking a Disney Cruise in 2016, loved the resort, and as Ariel is DHs favourite princess, I had promised him a longer stay there some day! This brought the cost of the booking down a little as well, prices had increased for 2021 and Coronado Springs had gone up by a couple of hundred pounds. I was also able to move our flight dates with Virgin Atlantic. I hadnt made any other bookings or plans such as car hire etc. yet, which was a good job really, given the way things were going. So, fingers crossed for 2021 then!

    In other news, DH has had some more health problems in 2020, which may or may not have been attributed to his smoking, and so with the help of nicotine patches, he has now given it up not easy for him I know, and Im proud of him for doing this. He should be well enough to enjoy our next trip a bit more.

    I hope you enjoyed reading this trip report, thank you for coming along with us, and heres to the next one!

    Silvercat

    (Enjoy reading trip reports? Why not try my books, "Tiggerific Travels" - all 4 books available now as e-books)

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  3. #2

    Thanks for posting such a detailed report. It was fun to read. Hope you get here in September as planned!


  4. #3

    Oh my goodness I'm so excited that you've posted a new trip report! Yay for pre-covid trips! Fingers crossed for trans-atlantic travel in 2021 and for your upcoming trip to WDW. Thanks for the TR!

    Jan

    "A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference." --Eeyore

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    Loved your report. I am going to staying at Art of Animation in October. Hope you have a great time. Thanks for sharing your journey with us


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    What a fun trip report! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it up with so much detail after so much time has passed. I loved reading it in a British voice in my head and all the words and terms that are different from us in the US gave the report a bouncy air to read! I only had to look up 2 words to see what they mean and they were both during your trip to Walmart.

    Thanks again and I hope you have a wonderful trip in Sept. and that it isn't delayed again. Be prepared for much more humidity in Sept. vs. Dec., though.

    Karin


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    Registered User Silvercat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karin View Post
    What a fun trip report! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it up with so much detail after so much time has passed. I loved reading it in a British voice in my head and all the words and terms that are different from us in the US gave the report a bouncy air to read! I only had to look up 2 words to see what they mean and they were both during your trip to Walmart.

    Thanks again and I hope you have a wonderful trip in Sept. and that it isn't delayed again. Be prepared for much more humidity in Sept. vs. Dec., though.
    Thank you for your kind words. You have me intrigued - which words did you have to look up? I always try to write using universal words, rather than purely British ones, but sometimes I get carried away in the moment of writing and forget to not use words that are familiar to us!
    Silvercat

    (Enjoy reading trip reports? Why not try my books, "Tiggerific Travels" - all 4 books available now as e-books)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silvercat View Post
    Thank you for your kind words. You have me intrigued - which words did you have to look up? I always try to write using universal words, rather than purely British ones, but sometimes I get carried away in the moment of writing and forget to not use words that are familiar to us!
    Trainers (sneakers) and paracetamol (ibuprofen). I also love reading British and Canadian trip reports when folks use a "u" in words like "colour" and "favourite".

    I did have a question, though, early on in the report you used "whilst" and later on you used "while". Is there a difference in those words in Britain? I love "whilst". Soooo British and I wish we used it more (always) in the US.
    Karin


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    Registered User Silvercat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karin View Post
    Trainers (sneakers) and paracetamol (ibuprofen). I also love reading British and Canadian trip reports when folks use a "u" in words like "colour" and "favourite".

    I did have a question, though, early on in the report you used "whilst" and later on you used "while". Is there a difference in those words in Britain? I love "whilst". Soooo British and I wish we used it more (always) in the US.
    Ah yes, "sneakers" - I forgot that! But ibuprofen is different to paracetamol, we have both drugs in the UK and both are mild painkillers, although ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory drug. Paracetamol is what you would call Tylenol, it's an acetaminophen product.

    "Whilst" and "while" mean the same thing, but "whilst" is a more formal way of saying it, and tends to be used more by Brits, it has apparently died out in the USA! I tend to use either word without thinking about it, really.
    Silvercat

    (Enjoy reading trip reports? Why not try my books, "Tiggerific Travels" - all 4 books available now as e-books)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silvercat View Post
    Ah yes, "sneakers" - I forgot that! But ibuprofen is different to paracetamol, we have both drugs in the UK and both are mild painkillers, although ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory drug. Paracetamol is what you would call Tylenol, it's an acetaminophen product.

    "Whilst" and "while" mean the same thing, but "whilst" is a more formal way of saying it, and tends to be used more by Brits, it has apparently died out in the USA! I tend to use either word without thinking about it, really.
    Good to know on both accounts, thanks!
    Karin


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    Sacramento, CA

    What a wonderful trip report, Carolyn ~ I thoroughly enjoyed it as always! I didn't remember you were still planning a WDW trip for 2019, since you had visited Disneyland in June 2019 (I still regret not being able to meet up with you then!), so this was definitely a lovely surprise!

    I just returned from a trip to WDW (and am working diligently on the hefty trip report!) and wished I'd known about applying for a temporary disabled placard for our rental car as well, as my health has also declined these last few years and walking in from those large parking lots (the trams are currently not running) was definitely a challenge for me! I don't think a cane (e.g. walking stick) would have helped me in the long run, so I opted to rent ECV (electric scooter) on our theme park days ~ I wouldn't have made it otherwise! The downside is that I miss a lot (e.g. the flowers & animals) when I'm concentrating on not running anybody over!

    I hope both you & DH are doing well and will have a wonderful trip to WDW this fall! The downside to going in September is the heat & humidity, so take plenty of breaks (don't forget to add in your rest days again!) and drink lots of water (while stationary ~ LOL!). Hopefully by then, things will be getting back to normal (aka pre-COVID)! I look forward to reading that report as well!

    Pam
    DL trips: too many to remember actual dates, but they began in the 60s!
    WDW trips: 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013



  12. #11

    Looking forward to your WDW trip report, Pammer! I've loved reading some of your Disneyland ones in the past!

    "A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference." --Eeyore

  13. #12
    Self-Proclaimed Disney Queen! Pammer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Sacramento, CA
    Quote Originally Posted by wdwjan View Post
    Looking forward to your WDW trip report, Pammer! I've loved reading some of your Disneyland ones in the past!
    Thanks so much, Jan!!! I'm about a third done already and have the pictures already uploaded and ready as well!!!
    Pam
    DL trips: too many to remember actual dates, but they began in the 60s!
    WDW trips: 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013



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