What a Carry On! Part 8 – Sunday 24th August 2008 Amanda & I are awake by 6.00am, just before the alarm goes off. It’s still dark, and when I check outside, I am delighted to find things warm and dry. We stick our trainers on and set out for a run round the estate, returning at 6.45. Mum, Dad and Adam are up and about. We breakfast (excluding coffee, for reasons that will become apparent shortly) and shower. Bethany has made it clear she wishes to stay in bed this morning, so the rest of us leave her there and drive off to Celebration High School at 7.30. The shortest route I could find is via the 192, east, turning down a discrete side road (Griffin Road) which cuts a corner off and drops us a good way down World Drive. Celebration High School is close to the bottom end of World Drive, a surprisingly long way out (almost 3 miles) from Celebration town centre itself. Mum and Dad are attending a Catholic mass at the High School – the local church community uses the refectory there while they raise funds to build their own place. We drop them at the gates at 7.50, before the remaining three of us head down to the town centre to see if we can find anywhere selling coffee…. Parking near the top of Market Street, we walk down to Water Street, passing a small Sunday market in the process of being set up. It’s a lovely day – calm and warm. We stroll left, along the lakeside pathway, towards the fountain. It isn’t playing at the moment, and we step on to it for a look – I never realised it had direction arrows and distances to various places. The views back across the water are beautiful: Time for a cuppa. Back around the lakefront and into Starbucks. Two filter coffees (one a redeye for moi) and frapucino for Adam. The sole barista is very friendly and asks about my sleeve tattoos. Naturally we take our drinks to the rocking chairs to enjoy them, and I update my notes so far. The pointed head of a basking turtle occasionally breaks the smooth surface of the lake. Suddenly something pops up in front of us, and it takes us a moment to realise that we are seeing the slender neck and head of a cormorant! It is swimming stealthily and slowly along the edge of the steps in front of us, completely submerged, its head darting out now and again to snap up small fish! Another ‘only in America’ moment: we watch as a twenty-something guy cruises along the street on an electric skateboard, parks up, collects his breakfast and coffee from the Market St Café before heading on home on it! It’s 8.35. Coffees are finished, so we stroll around to look into the hotel forecourt and lobby. Someone’s been having fun with a car here… I wonder if the newly-weds’ room got similar treatment?! Walking back to the centre, we spot ‘our’ cormorant from earlier, drying its wings; it’s obviously a juvenile and has hardly any feathers on them yet. I spot a local estate agent’s car… hmm, wonder if I can run to a Hummer next time? Mass should be over soon so we return to the car and drive back up to the High School. Mum and Dad are just leaving the building and see us coming. They were made to feel very welcome by the local church. I head over to the 192 in search of a gas station on our side of the road. We soon find one and I fill up, at a cost of $50. From here, it’s off into WDW and Typhoon Lagoon, where we land around 9.30. It’s busy-ish, although the car park is only a third full. By the time we secure lockers and change, it’s 9.45 and we join the throng at the rope waiting for the 10 o’clock entry. Mum and dad make camp at some loungers just over the lazy creek, and we arrange to meet up at 12.00. Amanda, Adam and I then head off to do the rides, staring with an impressive looking new one, Crusher Gusher, built outside the original park footprint. Uniquely, you can ride this on a three-person tube, and we join the line waiting for them to be returned. That, and the subsequent wait on the stairs means that it takes 15 minutes or so before we ride.. what must the lines be like at peak times? It’s not bad, and has a couple of new elements, including uphill sections (modest) where high-powered jets of water last you onwards up the slopes. Amanda and Adam both complain that their bums slipped through the holes in the tube at times and made contact with the slide, leaving them a bit bruised (my larger posterior seems to have escaped!). Conclusion? I wouldn’t queue for this again, but we are glad we’ve done it. Back into the main park area and we start to rack up the different slides and rides, staring with Humunga Kowabunga: Adam refused here, and waited for us at the bottom! We carry on and complete repeat rides on the various tube slides and body slides. It’s getting a bit busy now, and the line for the family raft ride is too long for us, so we adjourn to the main pool to be hammered by the giant waves! This is truly exhausting, and after 3 or 4 cycles, it’s time to take things a bit more gently and we go to the lazy river (known as Castaway Creek here!) It’s very pleasant… we drift around for perhaps two complete circuits until almost 12.00 noon when we climb out to meet mum and dad. Once changed, and while waiting for the others, I snap a few shots of the park closest to the entrance. Rather than eat the pretty average junk food available here, and conscious that Beth is ‘home alone’, we drive back to the villa for lunch, arriving at 12.30. The temperatures have recovered nicely now, a couple of days after Fay, and it’s hitting the mid-90s. A lazy afternoon follows, with everyone except Beth getting wet in the pool and spa. (Beth’s only concession to the sunshine is a 10-minute session on a lounger followed by retreating to the shade to do her MSN’ing on the lanai instead of at the dining table!) After a couple of pleasant hours, we start to get ready for our ADR at Spoodles and evening cruise. 91 degrees F in the car at 4.00pm when we set off to the Boardwalk. The guard smiles and waves us in (no limit is imposed on our length of stay) and I self-park before we walk up to the hotel and through on to the Boardwalk itself. We give the folks a quick tour of the hotel area, the Luna pool and then wander the stores for a bit of a browse before dinner. We walk all the way along to the wedding pavilion, taking a few photos, and then back to Spoodles for 5pm. There’s only a few minutes wait before we are shown to our table near the kitchens. Our server, Keith, is very helpful, particularly in trying to accommodate vegetarian Bethany. We order as follows: Mum & Dad & Amanda all have the lobster ravioli, Adam sausage rigatoni, Beth has a cheese pizza and I ask for the pork tenderloin, which I ask for as rare as is safe. Keith starts us off with some lovely foccaccia bread with a dipping sauce and a round of drinks. One of the chef’s comes across to check that I want the pork lightly done – he expresses a personal preference for the meat to be cooked this way too, and they are confident of their source, but has to give a standard health warning to anyone asking for anything under medium. Spoodles is in some ways the antidote to the mega portions in Florida – we have found that the quality of the food is excellent, and the portions are modest and manageable. So it proves today – the meal is lovely without being over-facing. Adam proclaimed his pasta the nicest he’s ever had (hey, what about my tuna pasta bake son? Cheeky!) and my tenderloin is delicious! Having not had a formal starter (although we tucked away two servings of the bread), everyone asks for dessert. Chocolate Cake x 4, an Amaretto Flan, and a Lemon Poundcake. Here’s the display of all the desserts in the foyer: The check (including the apparently standard 18% service charge for parties of 6 and over, which I’m still a bit annoyed at, even though the service has been fine here) is $240. It’s a little after 6pm when we leave. We stroll around for a while, in and out of the shops. (Mum & dad…. married 51 years and still holding hands… my heroes.) The kids drag us into a couple of stores, and Adam gets his granddad to buy him some jellybeans. I suggest coffee, and we rest outside the Bakery to drink them. We watch a couple of street performers/magicians entertaining kids and families nearby. It’s a pleasant, warm evening and the Boardwalk is starting to wake up. As 8.00pm approaches we set off around the lake to the Yacht & Beach Club to meet our cruise host. The setting sun and increased cloud cover offer the chance of a few dusk photographs, and a partial rainbow adds to the aesthetics. We tried and failed to secure a boat for any of our free nights but were lucky enough to hitch room on one booked by Conrad, a board member vacationing alone with his young daughter, Kim. They are easy to spot, and we introduce ourselves. As we wait for the boat captain I notice a few spots of rain although the sky above seems pretty clear! Puzzling! It doesn’t amount to anything though, fortunately. The booking office opens and we check in and sort payment. The kids and I did this a few years ago and it’s now about $100 more expensive, although they do provide snacks and drinks, apparently! Our captain, a slim 30-ish lady called Arrin, (or Arron? my notes were less than clear) arrives and introduces herself. After kitting the only under 12 (Kim) out with a life jacket, and offering them to everyone else (declined), she walks us to our craft, berthed nearby. Everyone climbs aboard. With only 8 of us, there is a luxury of space – it would have taken 2 or 3 more easily. (Sadly, our photographs from this point on were all a bit poor, due to camera shake in the low light levels. I only include a couple of my dad’s efforts during the fireworks. We took loads of the boat trip but they were all disappointing) The rain that was worrying me earlier seems to have passed by. The pilot hands out soft drinks and crisps to anyone who wants them (that’d be Mike and the kids then!) and we set off across the lake, heading away from Epcot and towards MGM (yeah, I know, but it is still how I think of it!), passing the Swan & Dolphin resort hotels. They look much more impressive from this angle. The rear of the Boardwalk is lovely too. Arrin/Arron tells us about the resorts in enough detail to be interesting, and gives us a little background on herself. She has also worked at Universal and Seaworld as an actress and stiltwalker, but prefers this evening job at present as it helps her organise her childcare needs. As we return to the Boardwalk lake, the boat skirts the ‘beach’ at the Y & B Club, where Arrin points out a large movie screen on the sand that I’d never noticed before, about to be used to screen evening films for the residents. And she adds another fact that I didn’t know, although Y & B aficionados will, I’m sure: the pool at the resort is actually sandy bottomed! We arrive at International Gateway at 8.40, and tie up with two other boats under the arches of the bridge. Others are nestled below the second archway, with ‘Breathless’ (a more expensive cruise option, comprising a 24-foot reproduction of a 1930’s runabout) in front of them. We munch our expensive crisps and guzzle our pricey sodas and enjoy the lights twinkling on the lagoon in front of us. Arrin/Arron starts to tell us about the deeper meaning behind the show (story of creation, Big Bang and all that) but then pauses.. where is the Globe? She consults her colleague on the next craft, who is just as mystified, until Tour Guide Mike fills them in about the (hopefully) temporary removal of the ball for maintenance, and the fact that the run of the performance has been altered to cover the hole. They are grateful (I think!) and a bit annoyed that their managers did not inform them! The show commences in its typical fashion and, again, even with the tweaks necessary to cover the loss of the Globe, it is superb. I will never tire of this, but wonder, with years between visits, whether I’ve seen my last one each trip… All too soon the last echoes are dying away, and we untie before proceeding ahead into the Epcot Lagoon proper, in order to turn round and head back to the Boardwalk Lake. Conrad & Kim are parked at the Y & B, but the skipper is happy to drop us at the Boardwalk jetty first. We say our goodbyes and head off back to the car. It’s 9.30. The journey home is pain free, and we arrive by 10.00 pm. We sit outside with a beer or two for an hour, but by 11.00, everyone is yawning and we head for our beds. Goodnight dear readers. Mike & Amanda Tomorrow: Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort for one night, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Blue man Group and meeting some ‘old’ friends for the first time!