Tag Archives: family holidays

Our experience: Disney Water Parks

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As part of our 5-day ticket to the Walt Disney Resorts, we also got 5 days worth of water parks (and other things, but we only took advantage of the water parks). Visiting water parks is something that we discovered last year, when we went to Lido de Jesolo in Italy. We loved it, the girls had so much fun and we actually enjoyed going with them on the rides (unlike me going on carrousels).

So we were quite happy to go to both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. I won’t go on too much about it, but comparing to the one in Italy (Aqualandia), the Disney water parks have some work to do. Aqualandia had so many attractions that Beatrice enjoyed, not silly baby rides, proper kid rides and the reason she was happy about it, was because many of them could be enjoyed by parent and child on the same floater. They had some really good rides, but also live shows. I was actually surprised that Disney water parks didn’t have anything “off water” for the kids. Well, it could have been water related, like the one in Aqualandia; it was Peter Pan’s story, but the actors were all divers and had some acrobatic dives in a pool hidden in Captain Hook’s ship. Anyhoo, enough about Aqualandia (a place we would definitely return if ever going back to that area) and on to Disney’s parks.

We had to change our plans slightly the morning we were visiting our first water park. We were supposed to start with Typhoon Lagoon on a Tuesday and go to Blizzard Beach Park on Friday or Saturday (I can’t remember bow), but after calling WDW customer service to try to book their umbrellas, we found out that Blizzard Beach was going to be closed for the weekend we planned to go, so we swapped them around. Ah, we couldn’t book the umbrellas on the phone, apparently you cannot do that on the day you are visiting the park (and they were all booked for the other days we wanted to go; you can still book on the day at the venue).

Blizzard Beach

We took longer than expected to get in because it was our first day at any of the Disney parks, so we had to queue to collect our cards. We then went to rent umbrellas, one of the last 8 available! I must say that because we didn’t have a clue of where to go, what to do or expect, we took our time to take action. Some families got there before, were already in line for the park and/or rentals, while we were looking for bathrooms, looking around, taking photos. Back to the umbrellas (they are called something else there): it cost $55 per set of 1 umbrella + 2 chairs + 2 lounge chairs. You will get a special arm band to go in and out these areas, although no one checks. There is a free option of chairs and umbrellas, but those are first come, first serve. Some of them are close to the rides and pools, so quite convenient. And there is a more private option, for bigger groups (and bigger budgets too). These are also located around the parks. Depending on the day you go (eg. mid week), all you need is to arrive early and go and find the free chairs; it’s much easier when is not your first day.

Two of the adults (bigger kids) rides – Summit Plummet and Slush Crusher – were closed “due to bad weather”; just a funny way they found to say they were shut for maintenance. We went to Blizzard Beach Water Park twice, with five days in between them and the rides were closed on both days. For some reason, we had the impression that this park was more child friendly and better for smaller kids like ours, which it is, but the second time we went, the girls didn’t enjoy as much.

There were a few rides that splashed water on their faces and they weren’t happy about that. One of these rides was the Teamboat Springs, were we went as a group – maximum 6 per raft, we were 8, so we split up and shared a raft with a few teenagers (funny kids). We got up there via the Chair Lift, which is slower than walking, but the girls thought it was fun.

On our first day, we took our own floaters, but we were told the kids couldn’t use them in the park. The ring ones, that is. They need to have the leg protection, so kids don’t go through them. Either that, or we have to use theirs… they have vests at different spots of the park, but if I can be honest, they were awful for Beatrice. The kid was trying to swim and the thing kept tipping her over because her legs were too light.

There is a toddler area (Tike’s Peak) that we spent some time with Beatrice. It was too simple for Laura, but Bea managed to have some fun. I got bored after a while, as I couldn’t do anything with other, other than just look. Most of the kids in the area were babies, under 1 is my guess.

Laura went to the Ski Patrol Training Camp, as there were a few activities that she could do. She said she liked it, but she didn’t want to go on the second day we went there.

We all went to the Cross Country Creek (there is something similar in the Typhoon Lagoon), which was also a way to go to some of the rides from our umbrella site. It’s a shallow stream, nice to relax or for the kids to have a swim. The wave pool was mild, but Beatrice didn’t enjoy it that much. Laura was ok with it the second time.

We (I?) didn’t go to many of the non-kids attractions, but the second day was easier – one of our friends wanted to relax, so he looked after the kids for us. 🙂 I went to the Downhill Double Dipper – the worst I’ve been in both parks; I was so scared that I couldn’t even scream. It’s not bad and for people who enjoy these steep falls, it’s pretty fun (very quick though). It didn’t help that a bunch of very big guys were screaming their lungs out, making it look worse than it was. I went to the Run-Off Rapids a few times. There are three toboggans, one is a closed tunnel, which is the “scary” one. Laura went to this one and screamed all the way down; she didn’t want to go again. She loved the other ones and went a few times. The swimming pool is quite deep though, so we were a bit worried, as she doesn’t know how to swim. I went in all three of them and the tunnel one is quite good – I was scared at first (don’t like not knowing what to expect) but then it was very good. I went a couple of times to the Snow Stormers, the zigzag ones. First time, I lost my grip, banged my head on the side and lost my sunglasses. After than I kinda got it and was ok. Also got some water in my nose, which wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t go to the Toboggan Racers, but the boys said it was cool.

Typhoon Lagoon

Although we found this slightly less child friendly than Blizzard Beach (for our kids’ age, that is), the girls managed to have a lot of fun… playing on the sand and on a small kiddy pool by the Crush ‘n Gusher ride. Beatrice tried to swim there, the life vest not letting her, and still she was happy and didn’t want to leave.

The rides are pretty much the same in both parks, changing the names and intensity. The Surf Pool is pretty cool, but the waves are quite strong for small kids. There are a couple of kiddy slides next to it (Bay Slides), but even these splashed too much for Bea. The Castaway Creek is exactly the same thing as the Cross Country Creek in BB. The girls had a bit of fun at the Ketchakiddee Creek, an area for smaller children. Gangplank Falls is the group raft – a very short ride compared to BB, but also very rough. A lot of banging, splashing, and the kids hated it. We were a bit like “is that it? all this queueing for this?”. We – the adults – went a few times on the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, because the queues were small. We went on the double ones, as the single ride line was way longer. It’s quite fun (again, I was scared at first, but once I tried it, I was happy to go a few more times). Laura was too small for that one (there is limit of height). I didn’t go on the Humunga Kowabunga, but hubby did and said I would sh*t myself if I did. Keelhaul Falls was pretty smooth and Laura enjoyed it. Same for Mayday Falls and Storm Slides, although not as smooth… the pools were deep, so we were a bit worried, but she was alright. One different attraction was the Shark Reef. Although it was ok for Laura’s height, she freaked out very close to the start and left. I must say that after swimming in this tank (with a few sharks, rays and other fish), I think she would have hated it and would be scared. It was really good though and there is no limit of time to stay there. I do get a bit anxious under water and with snorkel + mask. (I’m basically a chicken, scared of almost everything). We didn’t go on the Mountain Trail… honestly going up the stairs holing floaters and rafts was already enough exercise for my poor legs.

Going during the week surely made a difference in terms of waiting for the rides. In some of them, the wait was 5 minutes, which was pretty good for us. Towards the end of the day the queues are also shorter, as people with smaller kids just left. We stayed until the very end, so managed to go to some of the rides a few times.

In both parks, the food was bad. It’s fast food, so can’t expect much. The boys had the turkey leg, which I found very salty. Overall I thought that the parks were dated and simple, but it was a nice break between the real Disney parks, the girls have fun, the sun and temperature were perfect and most of the rides were enjoyable. It was worth adding them to our tickets – but not sure if there are better water parks there, we didn’t even think about trying any other.

Here are some photos, but very few as we didn’t have a water proof camera with us.

The area where the umbrellas are located. There are a few of them around the park, but not many.

The area where the umbrellas are located. There are a few of them around the park, but not many.

 

The private area where you have 6-8 chairs, a safe and a completely covered area. I also saw some people having food delivered to them, but not sure if it is exclusive to people renting that.

 

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The map of Typhoon Lagoon. The circled area is where our umbrellas were located.

 

The three girls used these a few times, but not the most friendly of the life vests in my option.

Laura wearing her vest on our 3rd day of water park 2nd visit to Blizzard)

 

The wave pool in Typhoon Lagoon is much cooler than the one at Blizzard Beach Water Park.

Castaway Creek in Typhoon Lagoon is the same as the Cross Country Creek in Blizzard Beach park.

 

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And we’re back!

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It’s been almost a week since we returned from holidays, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I managed to unpack our last luggage and wash the last holidays clothes.

The holidays were great and intense, we got back exhausted and suffering from mild jet-lag and the girls are nearly fully recovered. Going back to the routine was (is being) a bit harder than anticipated, because we had a few changes just after the holidays. To start with, Laura doesn’t go to breakfast club or after school club anymore, so we are getting used to different things in the morning and afternoon. Anyway, we will get there soon.

I am in the process of going through all the photos and sorting what to publish or not, so soon a bunch of Disney/Florida related posts. In the meantime, this is just to leave main details of our trip, even if for my future reference (I tend to forget where I went, what I did, where I stayed…).

We had a quick stop as our flight was to and from Miami. Orlando was way too expensive!! We booked the flight via an agency called Omegaflightstore.com, after a good research. It was expensive but the cheapest option for the dates we wanted. Note to self: Easter break is a very expensive time to fly around Europe and USA because it’s spring break and everyone is on holidays.

Our flight was British Airways, flown by American Airlines. With all due respect to the Americans and all the great things they have, airlines are not one of them. American Airlines suck big time and I don’t think it will ever change. Three days before flying, the agency contacted us saying that the airline (BA) had cancelled our flight and we – passengers – had to contact them to sort it out. So we booked with an agency, the airline kicks us out of the flight and it is our problem. Good. Mr. C was on one line with BA and I was on another with the agency. BA saying it was the agency’s fault (for not reissuing another eticket, when the flight time was changed in December), the agency saying that it was BA’s fault, because they did everything they had to. The agency had indeed sent us a new etickets, which we told BA and of course, BA realised that somebody their end screwed up. And this is where AA comes to play. American Airlines simply cancelled the flight and didn’t tell anybody or tried to sort the problem. An hour later, lots of panic, several private messages with BA on Twitter, hubby on hold on the phone, BA finally put us on another flight, two hours later. At least we were going. The agency told us that we could ask for compensation at the airport, but at the time we didn’t understand what they meant. At the airport, finally the penny dropped. American had “cancelled” several flights (overbooked them and had to kick passengers out of the flights) and was giving $800 for those who volunteered to go on a different flight. The thing is: they didn’t tell us that – they acted like it was all normal and let’s move on. When we asked them about the $800 compensation (there was a paper on the check in desk), the lady then told us to go to customer service and ask about it. We were tired, late to go through security but we decided not to go until this was sorted. So now we are the “happy” owners of $800 voucher to spend on a trip flying American Airlines. Yay…

In Miami, we stayed in a one bedroom flat in Mare Azur by Grand Bay as we arrived late and didn’t want to drive to Orlando on the same day. The apartment was really good, spacious (now this is something I am so jealous of the Americans: space), well equipped, great view, free wifi and, although not by the beach, it was 20 min drive to one. Parking is available at $15/day.

Speaking of parking, the car we rented had to be upgraded due to the amount of luggages (and people) we had. We rented via easycars.com but the provider was Alamo. The car was really good (it was almost like climbing a hill to get to it, but I’m short, my bad) but consumed a lot of petrol. Luckily, big cars are common in the US and it was easy to park it everywhere. Something like that in the UK wouldn’t even get through some roads.

I need one of those! Washing machine and tumble dryer occupying minimum space.

 

Swimming pool at Mare Azur. We didn’t use it, but the water was nice and warm.

 

The “little” kitchen that had it all. The microwave is huge compare to ours. The fridge/freezer too.

 

The view of our flat in Miami (Mare Azur)

The view… I could get used to that every morning.

 

Flat in Mare Azur (living room)

There was a king size bed in the bedroom and a sofa-bed in the living room.

 

Car in Florida

Our car during our holidays

 

She was very comfy at the back (3rd row)

Our accommodation in Kissimmee was great too. We rented a four-bedroom house with private swimming pool that we only used one day. The house was just next door to Medieval Times, but we didn’t go to this one. The house was arranged by a friend Luciana Misura, who is a Disney travel agent in the US (she is Brazilian, but fluent in English) and sorted out most of our trip. She didn’t charge anything to suggest an itinerary, book the tickets and the house, and it was really good to go via her as her suggestions about busiest park days, etc, were spot on. She also booked the character lunches at Hollywood Studios and Epcot Centre for us, but we were late to decide what to do and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique was full for the days we were there.

We had a minor incident with the house and the emergency numbers – one of the bedrooms door was locked from the inside and the couple that was sleeping there couldn’t get in. All their things, money, Disney passes, clothes, etc, were in there, so it wasn’t like they could leave it to the next day. We called the emergency number but they didn’t show up at all – we saw a missed called at 11am and we guess it was from them. In the end, we had to go to Walmart to get some tools to open the room. This was in the evening and we had a late night because of that. All sorted though and the agency was actually good at sorting other things for us, like getting a toaster and a frying pan that we didn’t have, and – oh dear, I see a pattern here – unlock the main door that we managed to lock from the inside. The later was easier to sort, because we were ready to go to the parks and had all our stuff (except for the other family’s Disney card) with us. When we returned home, it was all sorted for us. So, despite the issue we had, I do recommend the place (Bella Vida Resort) and would stay there again. I must say that we didn’t use any of their facilities, like common swimming pool, gym, etc.

Our private pool, protected by net. Now this was something that surprised me – all the houses that we saw had this net at the back. I though it was to keep alligators away, but it’s just for insects. 🙂

 

By night

 

The kitchen-living area. Did I mention that I could easily live here?

 

From the kitchen…. 

Don’t forget:

Travel insurance – this is a must. The prices will depend on what you choose and the cover. We mainly took for medical costs. We used Insure and go, but I can’t really recommend it or not.

ESTA visa if you are British – British citizen don’t need to apply for visas to enter in the US, but they need to have a valid ESTA. It costs $14 per person (including kids) and you will need to apply at least 72 hours before your trip. Once you have it, it’s valid for a couple of years.