View Full Version : Mike & Amanda's 'who needs sleep?' tour of New York & Florida, April 2006 - Part 11 - Homeward bound

15-01-2009, 12:20 PM

I am woken from a deep sleep at 6.30am by the alarm – instinctively I look the wrong way for the door, thinking that we are still at the Boardwalk Villas! It looks a bit grey outside, but as it’s not full light yet, it’s difficult to make much of a forecast. We sort our final packing and showers before heading down for breakfast at 7.30am. As yesterday we feast on pastries and coffee from the Orchid Court Lounge. Everything appears normal….until we open the door to the courtyard, where we discover that it’s lashing it down! The only consolation is that it is very warm.

We finish our meal and ask at reception whether we can keep the room until perhaps 1pm, so that we can change into dry clothes after the parks. The friendly clerk is more than happy to oblige, and there is no charge.

As we return to the room at 8am the thunder and lightening starts! We sort our gear for the morning – just basic essentials and no bag – and head off to Citywalk. We are soaked before we reach the security point. We determine that the coasters at IOA will be affected by the weather and decide to visit the Studios instead, as there are more inside attractions.

Typically Universal decide to play it by the book today and keep us waiting until 9am before admitting us to the park. During the wait, we are “entertained” by Jim, a senior CM who obviously thinks he has some small, comedic talent which he delights in sharing with his captive audience. His one liners are appalling, and he obviously needs the services of an optician, as he enquires of Amanda if she is there with her father today! Cheeky sod.

Due to the weather, there is only a modest crowd and CMs attempt to herd us all into Jimmy Neutron and Shrek, advising that the “back of the park” (meaning the Mummy & MIB I suppose) is not open yet. We choose to ignore them and head off through the warm rain to see for ourselves. ET is along the way, and apparently open for business, so we head in. We are in fact the first visitors of the day, and have a whole Surrey bike to ourselves! Great fun, out by 9.25am. It does seem to be raining less than before.

MIB next, a walk on even without flashing our plastic, and Amanda’s aim has improved as mine deteriorates – scores A – 216,000, M – 150,000. Can’t have that, so we ride again, and whilst I remain consistent with 154,000, Amanda’s fluke is exposed when she slips back to 147,000.

We leave to empty walkways and almost dry weather. Across the bridge to Amity, we bear left and walk to The Mummy. No bags to store, and straight on with no wait through the stand by entrance. Another great ride, and we repeat, this time using the UE entry, as numbers are building up with the improvement in the weather.

We leave the park at 10.10am just as the sun breaks through, and enter IOA at 10.20am where it seems much busier. With limited time left, we hit the rides hard and ride Hulk three times in fifteen minutes, followed by Dr Doom and Spidey.

Just time for one more Hulk and then, sadly, we must leave. It’s 11.10am and the sun has dried everything completely now. We wander through Citywalk to Starbucks for a last Java chip frap and a Redeye.

Back to the room by 11.45am, we freshen up and change. One last longing gaze at the view from our window, and time to go.


We use the automated checkout and recover our convertible from the hot car park. If we were sensible, we’d leave the roof up, as we are now dressed in our airport clothes and it’s about 90 degrees….so obviously we drop the top and head off, Bon Jovi blaring out, to the I4.

Traffic is light and we reach the airport at 12.55pm. Car return is quick and painless, (once my wrong turn inside the huge garage has been corrected) and we walk through into Terminal A. Although there is a line at the Continental desks, we enquire whether we need to be processed manually, having only carry on bags, and are encouraged to use the automated check in. We print off boarding passes for both flights, pass easily and quickly through security and take the monorail to gate 7.

There’s a pleasant lounge here, at the centre of a hub with several walkways to various gate groups. It’s busy, but there are plenty of seats available, and a Starbucks, so we pitch camp for a while. I try to phone home again, but fail again, and walk to the Travelex kiosk to get some quarters for another attempt. The lady there kindly explains to numpty Mike how to activate my phonecard (Doh!) and I manage to speak to the kids at last!

It’s nearly 2pm, and we’re peckish. I buy two deli sandwiches and two coffees from Starbucks which we eat in the lounge before doing a browse of the few shops here. For the first time in 11 days I’m curious about the state of things back home and get a Daily Mail which we both read through.

I notice an internet kiosk opposite from our seat and spend half an hour or so browsing the boards.

Around 315 we gather our gear and walk to the gate area. Our flight, to Newark NY, goes onto Bristol, so there are a good number of Brits around the gate. Two irritations.. a US businessman behind us makes endless calls on his mobile which he shares loudly, if unwittingly, with everyone for yards around – personally I wouldn’t have bought those steel stocks at this phase in the market, but hey, he didn’t ask me!

The other niggle is a page for James R Gregg to meet his party at some gate or other, repeated every minute or two for ˝ hour! Aarrgghh!

We board at 4pm and have our preferred seats, 25 E & F. the plane is a 757-200, with 3+3 configuration. The third, aisle seat is taken by a friendly guy in his mid-forties who lives in New Jersey.

We should have been leaving at 430, and are ready to be pushed back, but the captain advises of a delay, due to a ground hold issued from Newark, apparently due to congestion in the skies around New York. We sit on the tarmac until 5.15, and without full engine power the plane is getting very hot and I’m starting to get very uncomfortable. The crew are courteous and hand out water, before the captain announces another, minimum one hour delay, possibly longer, and allows us to de-plane if we wish. We’re out of there like a shot! Many people are concerned about missing connecting flights at Newark (we’re not too bad yet, as we had a 3 hour window) and the rep at the gate struggles to allay their fears, as she can’t get much information from Newark.

We walk back to Starbucks and buy espressos and cookies which we take back to the gate in case the situation changes. Suddenly, at 6pm, they receive news that we can leave, and there’s a mad rush to get back on board! We are pushed back at 6:10… and the plane loses all power! Groan…

Without power the plane quickly becomes an oven, and I’m starting to flap again. Fortunately they rectify this in 10 minutes or so, and airflow is resumed, but the Cap announces there’ll be a further delay as they now need to rest their GPS systems!

It’s finally sorted at 6.35, and we taxi for a smooth take-off at 6.45pm, some 2.25 hours behind schedule.

We chat to our neighbour, who works for ICI and travels to Britain now and again. He is a single dad with a teenage daughter and we compare tales of woe! The crew serve a snack at 7.30, a small, turkey sandwich, a bag of carrots(?) and a single Twix (if that’s not an oxymoron!) We also buy a scotch.

The journey passes smoothly enough after the delayed start, and we land at 9pm. They’re efficient at docking, and we are off by 9.10 and straight to the restrooms before looking for our next gate. Fortunately this is only yards away, and the plane is on stand and ready for boarding. A crowd of perhaps 30, Orthodox Jewish men are praying loudly to the side of the gate, attracting curious glances from many of the passers-by, especially the children.

We board at 9.45, seats 33E & F at the rear of the cabin, and as the flight isn’t full we have the third seat (another 757, with 3+3 layout) to spread out on.

I change my watch back to UK time – OMG, it’s 3am!!! – and we pushback at 3.10, watching the sugary, safety video with chairman Larry for the 4th and last time. We taxi for ages, and as we turn a corner we can see that we are in a long line of jets waiting to take off, which finally happens at 3.45. There are some cracking views of the Manhattan skyline as we climb away.

We spend the flight dozing and reading. The main film is Harry Potter and the Gilded Sprogett or something, which doesn’t appeal. There’s a decent meal at 4.30, consisting of chicken, rice, peas and salad with cookies for dessert. I actually manage about 2 hours unbroken sleep, a record of sorts, and Amanda has perhaps 3 hours. After a final nap, and breakfast of juice, croissant and fruit, we land smoothly at Manchester at 10.15am. I ring Scott who’s already on his way to collect us and we are straight off and out before 11.00 (no checked luggage, remember) and home before 1200.

Mike & Amanda.

The bit at the end

So, how was it? In a word, fantastic! I’ve been very fortunate to have five, family vacations to the States, & two US holidays in adult-only company (40th birthday trip two years ago with my mate, Scott,) and this has been the best of the lot. A few points:

New York

Exceeded our expectations by a mile! What a fantastic city, perfect for us, as it’s compact enough for long days, walking around, so much to see… It was clean, too, and well cared for, and very easy to navigate. We loved Central Park, the Rockefeller Centre… all of it, in fact. We’ll be back, soon, I suspect.

DVC at Boardwalk

Never thought I’d be tempted by ‘timeshare’ but we loved the luxury of (a) being onsite, near my favourite park, and (b) how special we felt as DVC members (if only on rented points!) at the resort! Many, many thanks to John and Jules for their kindness in arranging this for us.


Continental was fine, effectively giving us a free stop-over in NY. Their online system allows you to pick seats and print off boarding cards before travelling, and when I contacted their help line over something they were courteous and efficient. The planes were fine, nothing fancy, but fit for purpose, and the legroom in economy was ok for me at 6’3”.


Perfect! The only rain was on the last morning, for an hour and a half. Mid-late 70s in New York and 85-90+ in Orlando. Magic!

So that’s it…. Until the next time!;)

M & A