Monday, 30 September 2013

Holiday Time......Family Fun in Orlando, June 2013.

On June 21st we flew with Virgin from Manchester to Orlando. Virgin do two flights a day on this route VS 75 an Airbus 330-300 two class and VS 73 a 747. we chose to fly on the A330 as we had done had flown it in Feb 2013 so know that this fleet has just had its refit, as well as the times being good, departing Manchester at 11.00 and arriving into Orlando at 15.10.
The flight was just OK, the economy seats are quite cramped for a 9 hour flight, the main meal of sausage and mash looked like it had been dropped! and the service in the cabin was sparse. One of our party asked for a second beer and was told they were all gone,  but after asking the SFS about this the beer materialised.
At Orlando airport we had a very long wait, well over an hour for the car we had pre booked through Angus Car Hire, they were using Alamo. At one point we did try the Ford 4x4, but as we needed to accommodate 5 adults and luggage it was not big enough for our party, so we just had to keep waiting till the station wagon we had booked was available.

I had booked a villa from the UK based owner through this web site: http://www.sunshinevillasflorida.net. It was located in an area known as Indian Wells, it was a 5 minute walk to the Walmart, a 15 minute walk to Earl Bronson Highway near to the 'Old Town' Kissammee, 10 minutes drive to the Disney entrance and about 20 minutes to Universal. It had 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms a pool and could sleep 8. It was also very good value for money. I was very please with it and would recommend it to anyone going to Orlando.
For us our first stop was the Walmart to stock up on provisions for the next 15 days, we also purchased a small BBQ ( the one thing the villa did not have) and lots of wine & beer.
I had per purchased the tickets to the parks we were going to visit as it was better value for money doing it this way. We had booked a day at Discovery Cove, with this ticket for an extra $20.00 we got SeaWorld, Aquatica and Bush gardens unlimited 14 day access. I also booked Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, again by booking from the UK we got 14 days unlimited access.
Say one, we headed for Aquatica to chill out on the man made beaches, float on the lazy river and use the waterpark. the Commersons Dolphins were good, but Dolphin Plunge was to busy to get on to.
We did not take food with us as we were told you were not allowed to take your own food in, this was incorrect as we saw many families enjoying a home made picnic. 
Aquatica Food Policy
Day two, we drove to Bush Gardens, from the villa in Orlando it took just over 1 hour. If you do not want to drive there is a free shuttle bus that will take you to Bush Gardens and all its big rides. I really liked Bush Gardens, its got a lot of big rides for adults: Cheetah Hunt, Sheikra, Montu, Scorpion, Kumba and the mad wooden roller coaster Gwazi. Each one of these was ridden at least twice! The Zoo and safari side are great as well. I was glad we made the effort to go to this park as it turned out to be our favourite. 
Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens
Day three, we were joined by our visitor from Dubai, she had flown on a ZED ticket from Dubai to Atlanta with Delta, DL07, then Atlanta to Orlando on DL 2069 getting in to Orlando at 11.30am.
The next day we headed for Sea World, last time we visited here was in 1999, and I don't think there have been many changes since then. The park seemed old, dated and poor value for money. The Shamu show, now called One Ocean,  was a great disappointment as it was mainly a video show telling us all to look after our planet. The dolphin show, now called Blue Horizons,  consisted of performers on swings and performing a show with a poor story line. The best show was Pets Ahoy and Journey to Atlantis was still a good fun rollercoaster but I do not recommend Sea World, sorry!
One of the main reasons for this family holiday to Orlando was to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure.  We were up early an in the park for 08.15, there was a queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but it was moving at a steady pace, and anyway, making your way through the classrooms and corridors of Hogwarts is such fun I did not mind if I had to wait a while.
Butterbeer was drunk in Hogsmead and the long wait for Olivanders turned out to be worth it in the end. We had a fantastic day at Universals Islands of Adventure, the only ride we did not get to go on was Rip Saw Falls, at first it was broken and then the queues were over 120 mins so we just did Bilge Ray Barges a few times and got wet on that instead.
The next day we were back for more, this time to Universal Studios Florida. It was very busy with the new Transformers ride in high demand, at least 120 mins waiting time and this stayed constant from 09.00am to 10.00pm. Despicable me Minions was the same.
This ride will make you feel sick!!
We also visited NASA and the new Atlantis exhibition was open. I really enjoyed NASA and seeing the Space Shuttle was an unexpected bonus.

We did lots of other things in Orlando as well as the main stream parks, we went to the Kissimmee Sports Arena Rodeo, scary stuff seeing 8 and 9 year old boys Bull Riding!

We went to Disney's Celebration for the July 4th Celebrations and were very disappointed! Just another place to sell you stuff.
 
We couldn't keep away from the Wild Side of Florida, visiting Blue Springs State Park. A lazy day was spent here. 

Blue Springs State Park, hire tubes here.
 
 Our check out from the Villa was 10.00am and our flight was not till the evening, so we rented a day room at the Orland Airport Hotel. This was a good move! I spent all day by the pool or standing on the balcony of the room plane spotting.
Virgin Coming in to Orlando to take me back to Manchester.