What a Carry On! Part 4 – Wednesday 20th August 2008. I am woken a couple of times around in the night, following the wind getting up at about 2.00am – it’s a bit blowy outside too! I doze on until 5.30, and then lie there listening to the weather until Amanda wakes just after 6.00. We rise and start preparing coffee. Beth has asked for a full two hours to get ready this morning (she wants to do her hair, but why you’d spend ages on it in this weather beats me!) so we wake her soon afterwards. We notice an invader: a small frog is climbing up the wall near the front door (it’s probably too wet outside for him!) so we capture and release it back into the wild! The others appear before 6.45 and breakfasts are prepared and eaten. Adam seems to have an uncanny knack for finding monster truck rallies on the cable network and it seems that we have to suffer the things every day. The living area TV is quite impressive by the way, at a life-sized 50 inches or so! I check the weather on the computer: it looks like Fay has bedded in now, and is likely to be spreading its damp joy around us for the next few days. We decide to get on with our plans regardless; so today we are headed to Seaworld. After showers and ritual bag packing etc., we set off at 8.15. I expected there to be some traffic on I4 at this time, but we maintain the speed limits all the way to the Park, arriving at 8.45, only the 10th car on the front row! Not worth paying for Shamu’s Preferred Parking today then! It has been dry on the journey: cloudy, but warm at 77 degrees F. However, a few spots of rain start to fall as we walk to the entrance plaza, setting the tone for the rest of the day. We pass quickly through the perfunctory security check and turnstiles, activating our 5 park Busch/Seaworld/Universal/IOA tickets. After the usual, pre-park restroom visit, we join the modest huddle at the rope drop and await 9.00am. There’s a lot of construction going on, with a large area behind timber screens. Amanda thinks she’s read that it’s a new ‘Manta Ray’ themed ride, which may be something like ‘Air’ at Alton Towers in the UK. We march smartly to Kraken and four of us (mum, Amanda, Beth and self) dump our bags on our timid companions before entering the ride. There’s not much of a line for the front seats, and as mum hasn’t done Kraken before, we wait for a couple of trains to be filled before climbing aboard. This is one incredible coaster! The floorless design and the angle of the first drop are fantastic, and wonderfully complimented by the seemingly endless loops and twists thereafter. Everyone enjoyed it, but as the rain is coming down heavier now, and 65 mph showers can be painful, we elect not to repeat at the moment. Catching up with Adam and Dad, I try to rally support for a Journey to Atlantis next door, on the basis that as we are wet already, it won’t hurt anyone. Sadly, only Amanda and I are up for it, and off we go: I admit to poncho-ing up! The ride is a complete walk on and we are off by 9.30. Good laugh. Penguins next: they seem to have added a new bit, with puffins, unless I’ve missed it over the previous 7 trips! I like this area more than the penguin section! On the way out we see the slightly bizarre sight of a couple of SW CMs herding a flock of flamingos…. We continue on to the Pacific Point Preserve to see the sea lions and harbour seals. This sometimes overlooked habitat lies behind the Clyde & Seymour theatre (filling up for the 1000am show, but none of us fancy it). There are a variety of cute and somnolent mammals on view… .. we reckon that the baby is a dead ringer for our Staffie, Ruby! The rain keeps coming on for several minutes before stopping again – just long enough for us to take our ponchos off and stow them. I get fed up with it after a few cycles, and join Amanda in not bothering! It’s warm enough anyway, and we soon dry out between showers. Off to the Shark Encounter next. Adam and Amanda need a restroom break ...and I don’t! We spend 15 minutes in here (the Shark Encounter, not the restroom!). It’s getting easy to be blasé about these places these days – underwater tunnels with huge carnivores swimming above your head – but we manage to remain suitably impressed. It’s 10.30. We walk to the Waterfront and use a browsing mission as a way of getting out of the rain for a while. I thought this area was beautifully themed when it was new a few years back, and it still impresses, visually, but at the end of the day it’s a thinly disguised shopping experience: in fact, it’s more or less one continuous store! The adults fancy a cup of java now, and we make our way to the Cypress Bakery near the entrance pavilion. While we are making our purchases (black coffees x 4 plus soft drinks for the kids) the rain gets even heavier, and when we leave the shop, we can’t find anywhere under cover to sit and drink them. It’s after 11.00am now, so we take our drinks to the Blue Horizons theatre for the 11.30 show. The arena is already 2/3rds full, so our timing isn’t bad. I think all the under cover attractions will be popular today! We take seats quite high up in the centre section. Discovering that they already have seats there, we dispose of ours and sit down on the ones provided. This is a superb show: Amanda and I saw it a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it then, but there are many elements we’ve forgotten. Mum and dad rate it highly too, and I get the impression that even the cynical kids are pleased! (although this photo suggests otherwise!) 12.00.The rain hasn’t stopped during the show and it’s lashing down as we leave. Amanda wants a Ray encounter (sting variety, not handyman or security guard etc!) and we spend a few minutes at the Ray Lagoon. We make our way across the boardwalk bridge to Mango Joes near Shamu central for lunch. Mum and Dad – Chicken & Beef Fajitas w/fries. Adam – Chicken fingers platter w/fries. Amanda & Mike – Beef Fajita Salad w/fries. Bethany –Veggie Wrap (w/fries!) c. $60 with a couple of drinks. There’s an extensive, covered area here, adjacent to the lake, and we sit to eat our food. The rain is falling heavily throughout the meal - apart from the warmer temperature, it’s depressingly similar to Manchester! The nosh is good, though, and after a restroom or two, at 1.05pm, we head next door to the Shamu Stadium for the 1.30 performance of ‘Believe’. We take seats high up (no, Adam, we’re not sitting in the splash zone) in the centre of the stadium. This show gets mixed reviews on the various forums, but we like it. The storyline is as little cheesy, for sure, but the production and interaction of trainers and whales is superb – and of course, they don’t miss the obvious opportunities to soak the unwary! It’s finished at 1.55 and we join the crowds walking out into the rain. We’ve had enough, and walk back to the car. The drive ‘home’ takes 25 minutes, and we arrive back at the villa by 2.40pm. Mum, Dad and Adam get changed (and showered – don’t forget the showers!) for the pool. I check my emails and browse the web for a bit, being wet enough for one day. Amanda is itching for some exercise, and persuades me to join her for a run. We do a couple of laps around the community, in the rain, naturally, between 4.00 and 4.30pm. Beth’s on the p.c. when we get back, and the rest of the folks are still outside. We try out the oversized bath in our ensuite – I can confirm that it fits two adults quite nicely! Dinner decisions need to be made: after a couple of days of DIY I quite fancy a decent steak, so we settle on the Outback nearby at the Formosa Gardens/192 junction. They have a handy ‘ring ahead’ system that shortens your wait time. Everyone is ready for action by 5.30 and we head out into a notably drier evening, with the temperatures climbing up towards 90. The ringing ahead service ensures that we walk straight in and are seated immediately in a booth towards the rear of the restaurant. We’ve all eaten here before, and are wary of the portion sizes and ‘free’ salads, so we select with care, avoiding previous pitfalls such as the blooming onion and starters of any kind. Drinks are chosen – as it’s happy hour, our wine choices are effectively half price. The kids have coke. Our selections: Beth – mushrooms from the appetisers and Aussie Fries: Adam – sirloin and fries: Mum & Dad – both have the salmon w/veggies: Amanda & Mike: (blue) fillet and fries. The waitress manages to slip us some high calorie bread before the food arrives. Our meals are delicious, and filling, although we mostly find room for desserts: Adam & Mike – chocolate brownie thingy Amanda & Beth – split a cheesecake. Dad – ice cream. Mum – nowt. The bill is a reasonable $172, including an applied 18% gratuity (automatically applied to parties of 6+ - trust me, they wouldn’t get it if the service was poor, but it was fine this evening.) We are all done by 6.45 and head back to the villa. Amanda and I have arranged to meet a few cyber friends tonight at the Coronado Springs Resort, so we phone for a cab. Dad and the kids entertain themselves in the garage/games room, playing pool and table soccer, while Mum reads outside. The ‘cab’ arrives at 7.30 sharp – it’s a 15-seater minivan with a south American driver. He’s polite but quiet on our journey and doesn’t really provide much opportunity for trying my Peter Kay lines out…. We land at CS reception about 20 minutes later to find our Internet friends waiting for us: greetings are exchanged and we repair to a nearby bar, opposite the Pepper Market. Introductions and greetings are made: we are delighted to make the acquaintance of Mags (Gala) and her children, Kathryn & Michael, Jakki (TinkTattoo) and DD Niamh, and Caron. We are joined by Caron’s husband, Barry, and DS Josh. Jakki’s husband Steve and DS Aidhan are absent, and the bar will only allow children to be present until 9.00pm. We chat and order drinks – I’m pretty sure Jakki paid for the first round, so we still owe you one Tink! All too soon it’s 9.00 and the kids have to leave, so we say goodbye to Barry, Caron, Josh, Jakki & Niamh. Mags’ kids are old enough to be bribed, so she sends them away with a few $$ and we carry on nattering the night away. After a couple of glasses of wine, Amanda & I ask the waitress if they have any single malts, and order two double Glenlivets. Something gets lost in the translation though, as they turn up as tall glasses much diluted with water. I explain that what we wanted was two shots each, and the pleasant server takes the glasses away to exchange them. On her return, bearing four single measures, I tell her this is still incorrect, but don’t worry, we’ll take them! This obviously concerns her though, as she returns with a manager who is at pains to remedy any problem, even though we tell him we’re fine. However, and happily, as the prices here aren’t cheap, he informs me that they will only charge us for one drink! We carry on with our conversation, and enjoy the whisky. That’s when he comes back with about another half pint of Glenlivet that they had poured out whilst getting our order wrong – as they can’t reuse it, it’s free! So, in conclusion, we have had more than half a bottle of malt for the price of one shot! I like it here! Time passes easily, in good company. Mags’ children pop back now and again, and she eventually sends them off to bed around 11.30. We stay on until 12.15 before parting (Mags is staying at the CS) and asking the concierge to find us a cab. It’s still raining hard as we arrive back at the villa at 12.45. As usual, after a drink or three, we are peckish and have some supper before getting to bed after 1.00am. It’s been a busy, wet but satisfying day, if a little long. Mike & Amanda. Tomorrow: Animal Kingdom in the rain, and Mall at Millenia.