On this rare occasion in which I allow you all to take a glimpse into my life, I will weave for you a tale of what happens when I try to travel.
On Saturday (June 17, for those keeping track of what day it is), I arose at the unholy hours of the morning to meet my very courteous cab driver in order to begin my journey. What journey? Why to the Magical Kingdom itself, of course! You see, my beloved husband had been in Orlando since the 9th at this point, enjoying the bounties of this Kingdom as well as getting his charm on with the ladies and gentlemen of InfoComm (it’s a big geeky-type tech convention; part of the biz). His stay extended through to Monday the 19th so he says to me ‘The Chelle, come down to Florida and we shall enjoy the fruits of the Kingdom together!”
This was my reaction:
So, I ditch my spawn, pack my things and beat feet to that airport post haste… only to wait for FOUR HOURS thanks to a delayed flight. FOUR. HOURS. I drank a lot. Mimosas are $14 each at the airport – did you know that? Well, they are but I had nothing better to do so down they went! My conveyance eventually arrived and off I went to Orlando with more mimosas, this time free of charge, consumed on the way there.
I arrive in (not) sunny Orlando and the vacay begins!! Please reference the picture above for my reaction to visiting Disney World in (almost) all its glory. We visited the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom over the course of Saturday (what was left of it) and Sunday. Here is where things will now get lengthy as I describe my first visit to this place of wonder.
- Having grown up in SoCal with Disneyland right around the corner, I, honestly, expected a little more out of the ‘World’ bit. Granted, I only visited two parks of the four but the two I saw were both fantastic and slightly underwhelming all at the same time.
- Their customer service is greatly lacking. No, they are not unresponsive or blatantly rude or anything like that BUT… I require certain accommodations because of my disability (no ankles, just leave it at that) that are mostly covered by renting a scoot-scoot (which I did) but in some instances, the scoot-scoot just doesn’t fit/work/etc and then the accommodations are required. Except, they were not given. “Everything is scoot-scoot compatible, ma’am, you’ll be fine” – LIES! Everything is NOT scoot-scoot compatible and sitting on a swinging chain isn’t really my strongest talent! Needless to say I was rather disappointed in them on that aspect. Happiest place on Earth – if you’re normal or have a mental disability (and, omg, don’t even get me started on that one); if you have mobility issues just suck it up with your little scoot-scoot and move on! Pfft.
- I am too old for the “wonder” of the Magic Kingdom. That is all.
- Pandora = awesome! I LOVED the new area based off the movie “Avatar”. Everything was lit up and glowy, made awesome noises and then I got to ride on a banshee!! Yes, a banshee!! It is a VR simulated ride and they make no qualms about it being so. You are fully aware that it is a VR simulator cuz they “link you” with an Avatar so you can experience flight as if you are really there. This is what hooked me – obviously the ride moves and shifts as if you are on the back of this giant winged dragon-looking-thing but I felt the banshee breathing between my knees; I could smell the scent of the earth and water, the fungi that we flew over. Wind rushed my face, water sprayed me as we soared through it. I believed that I was flying on Pandora! It was, hands down, the single most amazing ride of the weekend.
- King Ray – Who is King Ray, you might ask? Well, I will tell you. King Ray is a kind old retired navy vet named, obviously, Ray. We met him during the Lion King spectacular (very good show btw, highly recommend). We struck up conversation and he kept mentioning how well he knew the cast members, how great the show was, etc, etc. At first, we believed it all to be the boast of an old man – I mean, really, how could he possibly know all the employees and cast members of a park (several parks) the size of Disney World?? Well, because, as it turns out, the man has been coming to the park EVERY WEEKEND since 1971 except when deployed. As of 2001, when he retired and moved 10 miles from the park, he has been coming DAILY other than horrible, horrible weather or days when he is ill. Again, such a thing must be a boast, we thought… until every single cast member of the show waved to him, said hello, or blew kisses in his direction. WHAT?!?! Mind totally blown! This guy spends ALL his retired time at Disney World!! He has been “crowned” King at Belle’s castle because he is there so much and the cast decided that since there is a prince and princess (Belle and Beast, naturally) there must be a king – BAM! King Ray. Amazing.
- Evening dance party in Tomorrow Land – totally awesome.
Overall, I enjoyed Disney. I prefer Animal Kingdom over Magic Kingdom but, still, I considered it to be a good weekend. We even got to see Wonder Woman (AWESOME!!) Sunday night and were prepared for our flight the following afternoon.
Monday morning rolls around, we have a leisurely start to the day, gather our things and then make our way to the airport. Rental car is returned, bags checked, we settle in to have a nice lunch since we’re definitely early. No big. I will now point out that the entire weekend (and week, from what I understand) it rained quite a bit. Not constant, but enough that it was always wet and the clouds never really left except for brief moments when the sun fought its way through the cloud cover. So, it was no surprise when we saw rain while eating lunch and a little wind.
Our flight was delayed 30 minutes because of the weather. No big, right? Cool. 15 seconds after the delay was announced, everyone at the gate starts looking at their phones (us included) – flight canceled. Come again?? What happened to delayed? We sorta skipped right over that part!
As it turns out, while we were getting on and off rain, DCA (Reagan International for those of you not in the DC area), where we were scheduled to fly into, was getting slammed with a massive storm that quite literally stretched up the whole of the eastern seaboard. Uhm… ok, then.
We, along with everyone on the same scheduled flight, promptly queued up to figure out what to do next. We managed to get a flight going out at 3:35p to Dulles instead of DCA. Can! We had some time, went to kill said time and then the phone vibrates again – flight delayed 1 hr to 4:30p.
This was now my face:
Since there was nothing that could be done except wait it out, we proceeded to kill our time only to be frantically called back to the gate at 3:35 to begin boarding the plane – – we’d been clear to fly.
Boarding begins; we are group C. Half way through group B, the check-in guy gets a call on his little red phone: something is wrong. We finish boarding and are told that in 20 minutes, they would make an announcement. Please refer to the face at the left.
Twenty minutes passes, it is announced that we are temporarily deboarding the plane as all flights have been grounded due to the wind in Orlando. Fine. Thirty minutes and a Starbucks tea later, we are allowed to board the plane again. We pull away from the gate, get the whole safety schpeal, roll out to the runway and… stop. Uhm….
DCA has grounded all flights due to weather. Plane must return to the gate and everyone has to get out; again. Yet again, please refer to the face above. We are told that we would have an announcement within 30 minutes, to hang around, blah, blah, blah. Flight is then delayed until 6:50. Time to kill more time. While we are doing so, the phone vibrates again: flight canceled.
At this point, we are tired, hungry, cranky, and ready to go home except that we cannot go home. An hour later, we finally make it to the counter for alternative options and the first alternative option is a flight that is, wait for it, Wednesday morning!
F*@& Ducks! Yes, that was my actual statement while I laughed like a loon at the absurdity of the entire situation. Please, let me now remind you that it was Monday and we would not be leaving until Tuesday.
Trapped! Stuck in the “Sunshine State” until Wednesday!! I very much felt like poor Fluttershy in this image:
Not to be detered, however, my wonderful husband tried to make the best of the very annoying, nearly enraging situation. We get yet another rental car, book a cheaper hotel (that is not covered by the airline btw cuz weather isn’t covered by their whatever whatever clause), and go to find food first since we’d not eaten a thing since noon. Check in to hotel, then promptly turn around and go to Universal City Walk for dinner as it is now, at that point, the only thing open with food. It was good food too (Bubba Gump Shrimp Co).
Tuesday, since we’re now stuck in Orlando’s grasp until the following morning, we decide we are not going to sit in our stanky, mold-infested room (which we moved out of, btw). No, sir! We are going to have fun! We are going to see Harry Potter!
Having already visited Disney and, having been to Universal Studios Hollywood on many occasions, I expected Orlando to be similar if bigger. Imagine my pure, unadulterated bliss when I learned it was better. Not only better than Hollywood, but better than Disney!
I am not entirely certain that I will be able to adequately put into words what our experience at Universal was like, but I will try. If it seems flustered and chaotic, just refer to the picture at the left because that’s pretty much how I was the entire day.
1. Universal already started off with a major win in their guest relations department. Once again, I rented a scoot-scoot and, having experienced idiocy at Disney, I inquired about their disability services so that I might be prepared for the idiocy at Universal. Except, there wasn’t any idiocy. I was assured – many times – that every ride and location would be accommodating to my needs whatever those might be. Alright, I was willing to go on faith and then had it tested…
2. When we made it up to Diagon Alley after taking tons of pictures of old cars and neat things at the beginning of the park. Diagon Alley was PACKED so, in order to not run anyone over, I opted to park at the nearest convenient location and hoof it as best I could. A kind old man named Lee standing at an open door asked as I got out of the seat why I was in the scoot-scoot so I explained. He seemed rather surprised, but didn’t really question my weird feet issues further and then asked if we were there to have lunch. We didn’t actually know where ‘there’ was until he told another group of people trying to enter the door he stood at that the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron was further down and the wait was almost a full hour. Not really hungry, I said, no we can come back another time when the wait is not so long. He then insisted, however, that he would simply walk us in through the exit, that “he was allowed to do that sometimes” and did exactly what he said he would – he walked us through, told the head host of my mobility issues and we were immediately seen to a register to order food/drink and be seated. All told, we stood for maybe 10 minutes and no one rushed us (I’m slow, like snails). I was so impressed and touched by this kind man that I gave him a hug on our way out. The food was amazing, the decor of the Leaky Cauldron impeccable. The squeaking was well deserved.
3. Being Harry Potter fans, we easily spent nearly 4 hours JUST inside Diagon Alley. Keep in mind, there is ONE ride there and the rest is shops and things to see. It was that impressive. We bought wands, drank butter beer and fire whiskey, shopped for cloaks, took pictures and all along I moved my scoot-scoot as best I could until I could not and then walked around a bit until I needed to sit. Cast members helped me find parking spots so I would not be in the way or else helped with crowd control when they saw me. We did get on the one ride there (Escape from Gringots) and asked how to queue up – normally a little buzzer is given like for dinner reservation times and you go when your buzzer buzzes. However, since I had the scoot-scoot they didn’t even give us a buzzer – we were just ushered right in and quickly accommodated without question. I was floored. FLOORED! Those who have been reading this blog know that I have been to several theme parks in the last week and I have rented a scoot-scoot each time. NONE have been as understanding, accepting or accommodating as Universal has. Even when there was a line (on the Hogwarts Express) that I could not skip through, I was allowed to sit out of the way on my scoot-scoot to wait for our turn on the train.
4. Hogsmeade was just as amazing as Diagon Alley and more time was spent there before we floated through the rest of the park. We did not get on any other rides since the majority of them were water rides and neither of us had any desire to be DRENCHED so we walked around, scoped out the park for the kids, got lost twice, and thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of Universal Studios and its employees. I cannot gush more about these parks than I already have. Everyone was having fun, every child smiling and happy, every family or group kept together – even a broken ride did not alter the joviality of the cast. We did the wave and clapped and wiggled in our seats until the ride could be fixed. It. Was. Amazing.
We ended our Tuesday evening with an early screening (ha!) of the new Transformers film which, we also enjoyed for it’s incredible humor and action sequences. I won’t spoil anything for those wanting to see it. We did, finally, make it home today (June 21), the first official day of summer, returned safely to our blessed reign of ChAoS.