Wednesday, February 4, 2009

We're back from Disney

It's 12:20am, and we're back from Disney. My family is a bit insane - I never knew what a "full day" really meant until I attempted to follow Kristen around. She was determined to get the complete value out of the tickets we purchased. I know hearing about Disney isn't the most exciting read, but too bad!

We left Poppi, Pelican and Vero Beach behind on Sunday afternoon, and drove the 2.5 hours to Orlando. After days of passing the time on passage, Casey and Kaitlin were amazed at how fast 2.5 hours went by and couldn't believe we had actually arrived at our hotel. The kids ran into their room and immediately turned on the TV, while Kristen and I spent some time trying to figure out the cheapest way to get tickets.

When I had checked in at the front desk, I had asked about purchasing tickets at the hotel. It turns out that Hilton has a vacation timeshare club, and that we could buy our tickets for $250 less if we listened to a 90 minute presentation. If y'all remember our Charleston timeshare adventure, you'll know that we'd normally be all over this - if not for the value, for the fun of watching someone trying to sell vacation time to full time cruisers! I kind of equate it to trying to feed a lion vegetables when he's already eating a steak!

I came back to our room and suggested to Kristen that we save the money and listen to the timeshare spiel. "But it would eat into our Disney time, " she said. "Yes, well, if we're there at 7:45am, they'll feed us a full breakfast and we only have to be there for 90 minutes, so we'll be on our way to the park by 9:15, " I replied. "But the park OPENS at 9:00am!" Kristen retorted. "Yes, but we'll save $250, get fed a free breakfast, and only miss 30-45 minutes of Epcot." Boy, was I ever a great husband trying to find ways to save money, get a free breakfast and only miss a slight bit of time at the park. "But the park OPENS at 9:00am!" What?? Did I hear right? Didn't she hear what a great value I found?

I repeated myself again, thinking that perhaps she missed a part of it. I didn't realize what dangerous ground I had tread on. The look she gave me made me quake more than the 35kt winds and 12ft seas of Cape Fear! "You know what?" I asked her. "Why don't we just get the regular tickets and get to Disney when it opens." I held my breath for a few seconds, wondering what would happen. Was it too late? Was it time to activate the EPIRB, step up to my liferaft and run for the hotel bar? "We can do the timeshare presentation, " she said to me. I knew better than to take the deal this siren was presenting, so I held my ground and insisted that we buy the regular tickets. I'm still trying to figure out how she got me arguing for what SHE wanted in the first place. Oh well. The result? We bought the regular tickets.

Rain was forecasted for Monday, so we donned our foul weather gear and trudged out to greet the first Disney shuttle at 8:30am the next morning. Our plan was to head to Epcot on Monday, and the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday. We had heard rumors that, from a crowd perspective, this was the best time of the year to visit Disney. I have to say that they were right. We were finished with ALL of the attractions the kids wanted to see at Epcot by around 11am on Monday. Between the time of year, the little bit of rain and it being a weekday, the longest we ever had to wait for any ride was 10 minutes. Most times, we walked right through the entire queue without stopping, and stepped right onto the ride.

Some time around 3pm I was feeling a little tired, so I asked Kristen what her plan was and how long she intended on staying. "Until the park closes, " she said. I think she would have added a "Duh!" to the sentence if she had been paying full attention. Amusement parks - even Disney - aren't exactly my thing, and I knew there was a nice shower and a king size bed awaiting me at the hotel, so I feigned ignorance and asked permission to head back to the hotel to rest. With a dismissive wave, Kristen asked the kids what they wanted to do next and I was allowed to return to my room at the castle.

I'll let Kristen and the kids fill you in on the rides and excitement at Epcot. I'd like to tell you a bit about the hotel room. Now, mind you, I love Pelican. She's a wonderful boat, but 40' long and 12.5' feet wide, including storage at both ends and in various spots in the middle, does not make a lot of living space. At the Doubletree we were in a two bedroom suite! It was over 1000 sq. ft. of living space, encompassing two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living area with a couch, dining table and various other luxurious appointments. Amusement park? Bah! Just give me some space in a hotel room to run free and I'm happy!

It took me close to an hour to get back to the hotel, but once there I collapsed into our bed. Now, when I researched hotels I was looking for one that actually had a section of their website dedicated to the bed. I wasn't just looking for a something plain to lie in. I wanted to know that the beds were so nice they actually created a brand name around them! Stumbling across a Doubletree that was actually part of the Disney property, I found what I was looking for - the Sweet Dreams by Doubletree Sleep Experience. Once I saw the "Registered" mark by "Sweet Dreams" I knew they had me. The fact that they called it a "Sleep Experience" was only icing on the cake. A plush top mattress, an "inviting abundance" of jumbo down pillows and "A luxurious linen package of baffle-box down blankets, high-thread count linens with triple sheeting, elegant contemporary bedcovers and matching bedskirts". Oh my god!

I lay in the bed for a few minutes, relishing in its comfort, when, with a start, I realized that I had forgotten something! There was a beautiful, clean and private shower literally 15 feet away! You have to understand - most of the marinas we go to keep very clean bathrooms and shower facilities, and Vero Beach even has small private shower stalls with doors, but since they are used by lots of people it's good to wear flip flops into the shower so you don't end up growing nasty things on your feet a few weeks after you've left. On top of this, we use anti-microbial quick dry towels. They work well, but it's like drying off with a shammy - functional, but not overly pleasant. We don't use our boat shower since we've had to use it for storage.

Here I was, in a hotel room with a clean shower and a literal stack of plush towels! I dove right in and took a nice 40 minute shower and then dried off using three of the towels. I don't think I've ever had such a big smile on my face!

At 5:30 I spoke with Kristen. "What are your plans? Are you going to definitely stay there until the park closes?" I asked, while looking at the pouring rain outside the hotel window. "Yes, duh!" was her response. "I guess I'll find something to do on my own for dinner, " I said. "Sounds good!" she replied as she quickly hung up the phone to run to another ride. I ordered a salad, half a meatball sub and a calzone from a local pizza joint and found that you can't really get a New York calzone in Florida. At around 10pm, I was woken from a light slumber to the sound of knocking on the door. The family had returned, everyone grinning. I couldn't believe they had been at the park for 13 hours and were so happy! I crawled back into bed, and, apparently, Casey showed me lots of pictures from the day, but I don't remember a thing.

Tuesday rolled around and the process was repeated, except I wasn't on the 8:30am bus with the rest of the family. I decided that I wanted an unhurried start to the day and the opportunity to enjoy our hotel room for a few more hours. At 9:30am, while I was taking another shower and using another three towels, a message was left on my cell phone by Kristen. "It turns out it's really cold out here and we're all wearing shorts and short sleeves. Can you grab all of our warmer clothes and bring them to the park?" I obliged them, placing all of their clothes into a bag, packing the rest of our stuff away, carting it all to our car and checking out of our room. I hopped on the bus and the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, and had their clothes to them by 11am. They were a thankful bunch!

We spent the rest of the day at various rides and shows, everyone enjoying themselves. Once again, the park wasn't packed and we were on most rides within 5-10 minutes of arriving at them. Now this was the way to visit Disney! Kristen's Mom was with us for the trip, and she really enjoyed meeting, hugging, kissing and dancing with all of the Disney characters. I have video that I'll post soon - it's fun to watch! I'm going to skip trying to blackmail her with it and just post it. We'll see if she ever talks to me again. We stuck around for the 8pm fireworks display, rode the monorail and bus back to the hotel, jumped in the car at around 9:30pm and then drove back to Vero Beach, and here I am writing a blog entry.

So anyway, as I mentioned I didn't understand the concept of a "full day" until I saw Kristen, her mom and the kids going to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom from 8:30am until close on both days. It was impressive, and I was exhausted just thinking about it. I would recommend to all that you visit Disney at a similar time to us - we were able to visit almost every single ride and attraction at both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom in two days, and without running. I'll leave it to the rest of the family to regale you with stories of the parks themselves.

I have some updating of our blog to do about our time thus far at Vero Beach. I'll try to get to that in the next couple of days, and I'll try to get Kristen writing again. She's been enjoying the time with her parents, so I haven't bugged her about it too much. Thanks for sticking with me, and I'll talk to y'all soon!

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