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John -- August 2004 -- Walt Disney World (Offsite)


Introduction

Because of events at work, we started out our Summer vacation planning late. Our original plan was a trip to Hershey, PA and Williamsburg, VI but we needed to use at least one week of Timeshare so these plans quickly changed. We did a Timeshare search from Canada all the way down the East Coast and the only decent places that came up were in Florida. Doing some math we found out that a 3 week trip to Florida by car would cost less than a one week trip to Hershey/Williamsburg. Our biggest fear was the potential hot weather and attraction lines (neither ended up affecting our trip). As an added bonus we would be overlapping 9 days of our trip with my Sister and her family. Our trip would consist of 6 total days of car travel and 15 days in Florida. We spent 3 nights at the Sleep Inn near Universal Studios and 13.5 nights at “Silver Lake Resort” Timeshare. We originally were going to split the timeshare at 2 different resorts but liked the idea of not moving after the first week.

Travelers

  • Amber (11 year old daughter)
  • Johnny (9 year old son)
  • Nancy (40’s, wife of report writer)
  • John (40’s, report writer)
  • Chris Mara (9 year old nephew)
  • Katie Mara (turning 12 this trip, niece)
  • Billy Mara (13 year old nephew)
  • Jean Mara (40’s, sister)
  • Bill Mara (40’s, brother-inlaw)

This was a huge group!! The reason for this trip was due to "Magical Gatherings", a new vacation that the Walt Disney World Resort is promoting. Mark, Kim, Rodrigo, Stella and Jhani all work for a radio station that was invited to broadcast from WDW and promote all the old, new and wonderful things that WDW has to offer. I was lucky enough to get to go along for this wonderful experience.

Monday August 9th-
I went to work, returned home at 7pm. We packed the car and all went to bed at 8pm.

Tuesday August 10th-
We woke at midnight, finished packing the car and left Rindge NH at 2am on Tuesday August 10th, my son’s 9th Birthday. We drove all day and all night, stopping occasionally for eating and power naps.

Wednesday August 11th-
After 30 hours of driving we reached our hotel in Orlando at 8am. We were staying at the “Sleep Inn Suites” across the street from USF. Since the room wasn’t ready until 2pm (5th floor, room #519) we decided to go check out the Disney and Universal gifts at the Belz Outlets. Before we went we were allowed to eat at their generous Continental Breakfast. We then took a swim and checked into our room at 2pm. We were going to get the standard room through “Hotel Kingdom” but the price went up $8 the day we were booking, so we booked a “Junior Suite” (which was only $2 more). At 4pm we walked next door to the “Wendy’s” and had supper. We were going to go over to “City Walk” but the long drive took it’s toll and we conked out at 7pm.

Thursday August 12th-
I woke at 5am and the rest of the family woke at 7am. We went down to the breakfast room for a delicious breakfast of waffles, bagels, cereal, etc. We decided since we got such an early start we’d go to the Ripley’s Museum. We all seemed to enjoy the many bizarre items on display at the museum. We followed the museum with a swim back at our pool. After swimming we encountered our first Florida downpour as we drove to lunch at “Bill Wong’s Buffet”. When we left the restaurant the rain had stopped and the sun was back out. We went back to the hotel and then decided to do a tour of “City Walk” and the 3 Universal hotels. We love to resort hop at the Disney resorts but had never done the Resort hop at Universal. We walked over to Universal which took us about 20 minutes. We started at the “Portofino Bay Hotel” and toured all it’s facilities. We got a glass of ice water by the pool, played a game of Bocce and moved onto the next hotel. We crossed the street to “Hard Rock Hotel” and did the same tour as the previous hotel (minus the Bocce). From there we found a path that took us to “City Walk”. After looking around for awhile we found another path that took us to the 3rd and last hotel “Royal Pacific”. This was Universal’s answer to the “Polynesian Resort” at Disney. Like the previous 2 hotels this was also a very nice and beautiful place. From here we took the shuttle boat back to “City Walk” and another shuttle boat to the “Portofino Bay Hotel”. From the boat dock we walked back to our hotel. We watched some TV, downloaded our pictures (which I did nightly), prepared for our USF park day tomorrow and went to bed at 10pm, listening to the “Hurricane Charley” warnings.

Friday August 13th-
This was a Friday the 13th to remember. The day started out routine enough. We got up at 6:30am, got dressed and stuffed ourselves with the Continental Breakfast. We packed our knapsack and hopped on the 8am shuttle to Universal. We arrived at USF and arrived at the Universal Studio gates at 8:30am to find the park open. Because of Hurricane Charley they continually announced that IOA would close at 2pm and USF would close at 9pm. By Noon the Hurricane was upgraded to a category 4 so they closed both parks at 2pm. Orlando was scheduled to be hit between 8-10pm tonight. Since I’m getting ahead of myself I’ll go back to this morning. I don’t know if it was because of the pending storm or because students were back in school but we did 10 attractions from 8:30am until 1:30pm, no lines. We did “Shrek 4D” and then “Jimmy Neutron” which were both new rides for us. We proceeded counter-clockwise around Universal Studios visiting “ET”, “Back to the Future” and “Men In Black”. We looked around Universal for awhile and then headed over to “Islands of Adventure” at Noon. First we rode “Cat in the Hat” and “One Fish, Two Fish” in Seuss Landing and then walked around IOA taking pictures near all the icons. We rode “Spiderman” and finished up riding “Storm” 3 times before heading out with everyone else at 2pm. We waited for our bus with the masses and climbed aboard just as the skies opened up. Just as we thought we would get back to our hotel without any more problems, our bus started to experience transmission problems. Instead of taking a chance on getting stranded on this over-packed bus we decided to get off at the next stop. From the Doubletree Hotel we walked back to the “Sleep Inn”. Now the fun began. We started out for a quick meal. It seemed like almost every fast food restaurant was closed in preparation of the storm. After searching for food for over an hour we ended up settling on milk (to use on cereal we brought) and 2 microwave hamburgers. Since the pool was closed we settled in to watch TV. The actual Hurricane seemed to run it’s course from 8-10pm. We went to the lobby during the storm and noticed all the rooms with windows were blocked off. We returned to our room and experienced a power outage and a fire alarm on our floor. Since there was nothing to do after the power went out, we went to bed.

Saturday August 14th-
We were awoken at 1:30am when our power came back on. We went back to sleep and got up at 7:30am. We had our final continental breakfast, packed and headed down I4 to our Timeshare “Silver Lake Resort” at 10am (stopping along the way to view the sites left by the storm). This was a bad move on our part. A drive that should have taken us 20 minutes took us 1.5 hours. We were heading down I4 west with some of the 2 million people that were returning to their homes on the coast. We took the first exit we could and took the back roads through Disney World to our resort. We got to “Silver Lake Resort” and attempted an early checkin at Noon. We were told that the unit would not be ready until at least 2pm so we headed to Downtown Disney. We looked at several of the shops and purchased the Disney CD set. We headed back at 2pm to check on our unit. Still not ready we went to “Old Town”. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed and we later found out that the Kissimmee/Orlando area was given a 4-5 day range for electricity to be turned back on. We returned to “Silver Lake Resort” at 4pm and finally checked in. Tonight we ate a delicious steak dinner and then took a drive to explore the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We are thinking of doing “Boma” later in our trip and wanted to check it out. We found out that “Animal Kingdom” was closed today because Disney wanted to reduce the stress factor on the animals. “Typhoon Lagoon” was also closed today. We went to Publix to do some food shopping and we were back in our unit by 8pm. We watched a little TV and then went to bed.

Sunday August 15th –
We climbed out of bed at 7am. We ate a light breakfast, packed our knapsack and headed to Universal Studios to use the complimentary pass we had received on Friday when they closed all the parks early because of the Hurricane. We entered the park at 8:30am and did “Shrek 4D” and “Jimmy Neutron” with no waits. We again worked counter-clockwise around the park. We rode “ET”, the “Woody Woodpecker Rollercoaster” twice and the kids road the raft ride in Fieval’s Playground twice. The lines were starting to get long so we grabbed “express passes” for the next 3 rides, “Back to the Future”, “Men in Black” and “Jaws”. All 3 “express passes” were for less than 10 minutes from when we got them. As we walked by lines of people I wondered when people would start to realize what an advantage these “passes” are? We watched the “Blue Brothers for a short time, shopped a little and then headed out of the park at 2:30pm. We stopped at the “Premium Outlets” and then went back to the condo to eat. As my wife braided my daughter’s hair for the next two hours, my son and I went out for gas (low fuel light on) and groceries. Since the lines at Publix were extremely long we decided to go shopping the next day. As we turned onto the road to our condo I noticed that there was only two cars in line for gas, so I pulled in and filled up. Once I filled up and started to leave the station I noticed a line of about 50 cars coming off the main road. For some reason very few people realized that there was a gas line from both sides of the gas station? We watched TV and went to bed.

Monday August 16th -
We got up at 8am and had a small breakfast. Since we got rained out at the pool the last couple of days we wanted to get an early swim. We swam from 8:30am until Noon. We showered and then headed to the “Golden Coral” for a delicious buffet lunch. Since my sister was arriving with her family (for 9 days) on Tuesday night we went over to “Port Orleans” to drop off a couple bags of snacks. They would be spending 4 nights at “Port Orleans” followed by 4 nights at the Poly. We planned on hooking up with them on numerous occasions during this trip. After “Port Orleans” we decided to do the “monorail tour”. We parked at the “Poly” and walked the beach. We hopped on the monorail and explored the “Grand Floridian” followed by the “Contemporary resort”. In the past we would go to the 15th floor observation deck on our own but this time we had to go to the observation deck with an escort. We took the monorail back to our car and then headed to the grocery store (Publix) to pick up a few items. Once we got back to the condo my wife and children went to the pool and I went to check email. Then it was back to our room for TV and bed.

Tuesday August 17th -
We finally got to sleep in. The kids were great and let us sleep until 11am. We got dressed, ate breakfast and headed to the pool. The pool at “Silver Lake Resort” is a very large multi-purpose pool. There is an area for water sports, an area to swim laps and a couple of very large swim areas that are all connected. We spent 4 hours at the pool and then headed back to the condo for another steak dinner. After dinner we went to Downtown Disney (my wife and daughter had the best caramel apple they ever had) and then the Beltz Outlets. We were in bed by 11pm.

Wednesday August 18th –
This was our first day to hook up with my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephews (the Mara’s). We planned on getting together with them several times over the next 7 days. We woke at 7:30am, had breakfast and were inside the Animal Kingdom by 8:30am. I am assuming that “Silver Lake Resort” is the closest resort to Disney World considering you can throw a stone across the street and hit Disney property. Using the back roads it takes us about 5 minutes to enter the Animal Kingdom parking lot. Using our AAA pass we were able to park in the second row of the parking lot. Since we were meeting the Mara’s at 10am we did a few rides first. We went straight to “Dinosaur” (which was a walk on). There were a few technical difficulties which made the ride about 10 minutes longer. After exiting “Dinosaur” we headed over to “Chester and Hester’s Carnival” and rode “Primeval Whirl” and “Triceratop Spin”. We then walked the “Pangani Forest” before meeting with the Mara’s at the “Kilimanjaro Safari”. We took the Safari ride together (15 minute wait) and then went to see my favorite attraction in Animal Kingdom “It’s Tough to be a Bug” (no wait). We then walked the “Maharajah Jungle Trek” and explored the many animal environments. At this point the Mara’s went to the “Lion King Festival” and we used our fastpasses to go on the “Kali River Rapids”. It was now 2pm, so we headed back to the Condo (3 minutes away) for lunch and a little rest. At 3:30pm we went to the “Magic Kingdom”. Our plan was to do some of our favorite attractions, see the new “Mickey Philmonics” and see the new “Wishes Fireworks”. We went straight to “Mickey’s Philamonics” and got a fastpass. We then took a ride on the “Winnie the Pooh Ride” (20 minute wait). Once our ride on Winnie was over we went to watch “Mickey’s Philamonic”. This was a great musical 3D movie that we all enjoyed a lot. From here we went to the “Haunted Mansion” (no wait). We did a quick ride on the “Aladdin’s Magic Carpet” (10 minute wait) and then were trying to decide on one of the mountains when the skies lit up with lightning. At this point we decided to stick with the indoor rides. We went on “Pirates of the Caribbean” and then went to Tomorrow Land to get a fastpass for “Buzz Lightyear”. While waiting for our fastpass time we went on the “People Mover” (no wait) and then got very lucky because we noticed that the “Carousal of Progress” was open. We have been trying to do this attraction for years but it was never open in the off-season. Once we were done with the “Carousal of Progress” (no wait) we took our ride on “Buzz Lightyear”. It was now 8:30pm so we took spot for the new “Wishes Fireworks”. This was an incredible show, the best fireworks I’ve ever seen. The show lasted 20 minutes and then we headed out with the throngs of people. We arrived at our Condo, very tired, at 10:30pm. A quick snack and then off to bed.

Thursday August 19th-
We woke at 7:30am. After a lite breakfast we went to the pool. At noon we headed back to the condo, showered and went out to the “NY China Buffet”. This was another very good meal with a great variety of food. After filling ourselves we attempted to hook up with the Mara’s (around 4pm) for a swim at their resort. They were out touring the Parks so we couldn’t get together. Instead we went to the Boardwalk, walked down to ESPN and then back to explore the Swan and Dolphin Resorts. We decided to take the shuttle boat back to the Boardwalk. We got back to the Condo at 7pm, had some slushes, watched TV and went to bed.

Friday August 20th-
We awoke early again and were at the gates of Blizzard Beach by 8:30am. The park opened at 9am and we staked out our chairs near the wave pool. We were meeting the Mara’s at 10am. Again, the advantage of getting to a park early was numerous slides without any lines. We rode 7 slides within the first hour. We rode 4 more slides with the Mara’s before the lines got long. Over the rest of the day we did 5 more slides, lunch (back at our condo), the wave pool twice and the “lazy river” twice. We had a wonderful day and will do a water park again.

Saturday August 21st-
This was to be a down day. We woke up, had breakfast and went to a couple of gift shops nearby. My sister was calling us around noon and we were going to get together for lunch. She was checking out of “Port Orleans” and checking into the “Polynesian Resort”. She called from the “Poly” and they were going to take a bus to “Blizzard Beach”. Since they didn’t have a car I dropped my family of at a restaurant (Golden Coral) and then picked my relatives. The restaurant was less than a half mile from our condo so this plan worked very well. We all had a great buffet meal (delicious steak), looked in a couple of gift shops and then went back to our condo for a few hours. Just as my nephews jumped in the resort pool the skies opened up. This storm lasted a while so we never got back into the pool. Late afternoon I drove them back to the Poly. We planned on meeting them at 9pm for the Fireworks and Water Show from the Poly Beach. We got caught in traffic on Route 192 and didn’t get to the Poly until 9:10pm. The Fireworks were rescheduled to 10pm, so we didn’t miss them. Because of the damaged caused by the Hurricane to the barges they weren’t running the Water Pageant again until September (they did run the parade a couple of nights later). Once the Fireworks were over we took a walk around the resort and then headed back to our condo to bed.

Sunday August 22nd-
We thought we had a great plan but the rain changed that. We were going to MGM in the morning and were suppose to meet up with the Mara’s at Epcot at 4pm. We got to MGM by 8:30am. Our first 2 attractions, “Star Tours” and “Muppets 3D” were done with no waits. We did the next 2 attractions, “Who wants to be a Millionaire” and the “Little Mermaid” with very short waits. We finished off the MGM visit with a trip on the “Great Movie Ride”(no wait). We left MGM at 1:30pm and went back to the condo for lunch. We got to Epcot by 3:00pm. We were going to meet the Mara’s at 4pm. To kill some time we rode “Spaceship Earth”. When we got off Spaceship Earth (no wait) at 3:30pm the skies opened up. The wind was howling and the rain was pouring down. As it turned out, the Mara’s were getting drenched while touring the countries and didn’t make it to our meeting spot until 5pm. We left Spaceship Earth at 4:15pm and started dodging raindrops for the next 3 hours. We spent some time in “Innovations”. We then continued with “Universe of Energy” (no wait) and then checked out the “Living Seas”. Since everyone was a little intimidated, I went alone on “Mission Space” (singles line, no wait). I thought this attraction was nicely done. We moved on to “Living with the Land” (15 minute wait), “Imagination Ride” (no wait) and the “Honey I Shrank the Audience” (10 minute wait) attraction. It was 7pm and we decided to head back to the resort to change our clothes and have supper. Of course, this was when we ran into the Mara’s. We chatted for a few moments and then we headed back to the condo. Since tomorrow is a down day we just relaxed and watched TV.

Monday August 23rd-
We woke at 8am, hung around the condo until 11am. We ate another delicious steak dinner and then headed out to meet the Mara’s at the Poly. We swam in the 2 Polynesian pools, used the waterslide, made frozen drinks with the blender and supplies we brought and spent a wonderful day with the Mara’s. The Mara’s had a meal planned at “O’hana’s” at 4pm so we used this time to go back to the condo to eat and change into dry clothes. We were back at the Poly by 6pm and met up with them just as they finished their meal. In hindsight, we wished we had joined them for the meal, it looked very good. After feeding some ducks, we took the “shuttle boat” from the Poly over to the Magic Kingdom dock. From there we took a boat over to the “Wilderness Lodge”. After exploring the Lodge (the geyser wasn’t working) we took a boat to the “Contemporary Resort”. Earlier in the vacation we were allowed to go to the observation deck but for some reason this evening we were not allowed up there to watch the fireworks. We hurried onto the monorail and tried to get back in time to watch the fireworks from the Poly beach. The fireworks started just as we got off the monorail. We sat on the beach and watched another beautiful (3rd time this trip) fireworks display. After the fireworks we parted ways and headed back to the condo for the night.

Tuesday August 24th-
This was our nieces 12th birthday, so my sister was planning a character dinner (Cinderella’s Gala Dinner) at the “Grand Floridian” with the 5 children at 4pm today. We woke, ate breakfast and took a swim at our resort. After doing some shopping we headed back to the condo, changed and arrived at the Poly at 3:30pm. My wife and I decided that we would take this opportunity (no kids) to eat at O’hana’s. We got 5:20pm reservations. To kill the next hour we walked down to the Wedding Chapel at the Grand Floridian. We got back to the Poly at 5:10pm and were seated at 5:20pm. This is a Polynesian restaurant that serves the meal family style. The appetizers (chicken wings, salad, beans, wontons) were served on a lazy susan and the main meal (turkey, steak, shrimp and pork) was all cooked on skewers over hickory wood. The meal was absolutely delicious. We met up with the Mara’s at 7pm and got back our kids. Since the Mara’s were heading back to the Parks and flying out tomorrow, this was going to be our goodbyes. We said our goodbyes and headed back to the condo, took a swim and went to bed.

Wednesday August 25th-
This was to be our last park day as our trip was winding down. We woke at 7:30am so that we could be at the Magic Kingdom at opening. We went directly to “Thunder Mountain” (no wait) and then to “Splash Mountain” (5 minute wait). We then went on “Peter Pan” (5 minute wait) and “Snow White” (no wait) on our way to “Space Mountain”. While waiting a half hour for our fastpass, we took a ride on the “People Mover”. We rode “Space Mountain” and got a fastpass for “Buzz Lightyear”. While waiting for the fastpass we went to Toontown, rode “Goofy’s Coaster” (10 minute wait) and then took a “train ride” (no wait) around the park. We did our “Buzz Lightyear” ride and then left the Magic Kingdom at 2pm. We ate at McDonalds and then went over to MGM for 1 ride. My son wanted to try his 1st Roller Coaster. We took a ride on the “Rockin Rollercoaster”, watched the MGM parade and then headed to EPCOT. Since lightning was in the air, “Test Track” was closed. We took a ride on “Mission Space” (no wait) and then visited the “Living Seas”. At 6pm we headed over to the “World Showcase”. We took the boat across to Germany. The “kidspots” now offer a mask that is stamped at each country and decorated. My daughter got into this and we ended up going to every country. We made a last attempt at “Test Track” and got in the last group allowed on the cars. We headed out of the park at 9:10pm and went to bed.

Thursday August 26th-
This was our last day to play. We got up and went to “Downtown Disney” to finish up our souvenir shopping and get our last exposure to Disney. My wife and daughter had to get their last caramel apple (which they say is the best they ever had). My son got a giant rice crispy square with M & M’s that he loved. We picked up the last of the gifts and left Disney property. We stopped at Publix for some food items for our last couple of meals and headed to the condo pool at 2pm. This is where we modified our travel plans home. We had originally planed to head home at Noon on Friday which would put us home at about 8pm Saturday night. We thought an early morning arrival would work better for a variety of reasons so we decided to leave on Saturday at 2am instead. We watched TV and went to bed.

Friday August 27th-
We woke and went to the condo pool for 3 hours. We showered and went for another good meal at the “Golden Coral” (our 3rd meal here on this trip). After filling ourselves we spent the next 3 hours packing for our 2am departure. We climbed into bed at 7pm hoping to get 6 hours of sleep.

Saturday August 28th-
We woke up at 1am. It took us a little over an hour to pack and get on the road. Including stops for eating and naps it took us 32 hours to travel from Silver Lakes Resort to Southern NH.

Sunday August 29th-
We arrived home around 10am. After unpacking the car, making a few phone calls and checking our email. we took a 4 hour nap.

Summary:
Once again we had a wonderful time. The weather was very bearable and the afternoon showers did a lot to cool things off. We hit several showers at the parks but never felt the need to use our ponchos. We filled up a water bottle with ice at the condo and filled it a few times with water during the day. Since I only had one 64mb chip, I used my laptop to download the daily pictures (403 pictures) and this worked out quite well. I also used the laptop to update this trip report on a daily basis. My son was quite pleased that he accomplished riding the “mountains”, “Mission Space” and “Rockin Rollercoaster” (I think he was motivated by his cousins) and my daughter (not the thrill seeker) rode “Test Track” and “Mission Space”. We spread the trip (including drive time) out over 3 weeks which gave us plenty of park time and also plenty of downtime, something we never had before. The time spent with the Mara’s made this vacation even more special. After this experience we will definitely consider Summer travel again.

John

chach@worldpath.net


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