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Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach

Now I know you’re thinking that should have been the end of the vacation to beat all vacations. That was a lot to do. It was supposed to be the end. Bernie had booked her flight home for the next day so I drove her to the airport and said goodbye. I had planned to stay one more day and just chill out by the pool. Then I got to thinking, “One pool is as good as another and Disney has two waterparks that are actually pretty cheaply priced.”. I went back to the condo, grabbed my swim bag, and headed off to Typhoon Lagoon.

I really did mean to only pick one park and relax. However, when I bought my ticket, they informed me it was good for both parks which are near each other and just have different themes. Parking was free at both. Who could resist a twofer, especially two waterparks in one day? Some mountains just have to be climbed so throwing relaxation to the wind, I spent half a day at each park. Typhoon Lagoon has some good slides and a very nice wave pool. Blizzard Beach has a fun gondola ride to the top of the mountain to slide down. The lazy river was a little too lazy for my taste at both.

Cowabunga, dude!Typhoon LagoonLazy river

I do recommend buying the all day drink cup with free refills all day. I think they had them at Disneyworld too.

I can’t decide which I liked better because both were fun but, sorry Disney, Schlitterbahn is still the king of waterparks!

Oh, when the parks were closing, I ran around till I found an ice cream stand still open and bought a great big cone then purposely sat to eat it right in front of the changing rooms so the little kids would drive Mom and Dad crazy whining for one. Sometimes I can be evil. Muwahaha!

I flew home the next day and had a much better drive back using a different route. That was the final end of the vacation to beat all vacations.

Universal Studios–Harry Potter

Yup yup. The vacation to beat all vacations was not over yet! The next day we went to Universal Studios. We are both Harry Potter fans and wanted to see Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. Unfortunately, they split them up between the two Universal parks. That means you have to pay for admission to two parks, not one, and that ain’t cheap. You also don’t get to ride the Hogwarts Express Train between the parks if you don’t buy both tickets. We debated for a few quick minutes then decided this might be a once in a lifetime chance that was worth it. We dood it! We also got a special deal for express passes to jump the long lines. Boy, was that ever worth it! You should also know that security is very tight at both Disneyworld and Universal Studios. They do search all bags so you will stand in line for a bit before getting in. They also charge for parking. Sheesh!

Again, we rented scooters to get around ($50 a day) and took off for Diagon Alley. We spotted the Night Bus and got pictures of it then turned to see people coming in and out of a building. It was actually a façade that hid Diagon Alley. Inside, we found all the famous stores from the books. We purchased a Harry Potter wand at Ollivander’s. It came with instructions and spells but we had a little trouble working it well. Take the time to read before using. You can also purchase different character wands if you like.

London Night BusDiagon Alley

We spent a good bit of time in the Weasleys Wizard Wheezes shop where I got a magic chocolate frog and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Warning: the frog is solid chocolate! I got a Rowena Ravenclaw 3D card with my frog. In another shop Bernie got a Gryffindor hoodie for her granddaughter and I got a Gryffindor lanyard to hold my admission and express passes which you have to show at every ride. Take a lanyard with a plastic pouch on it for each person when you go to Universal Studios! I also got a large Hogwarts school patch.

Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and frog

For lunch, we ate at the Leaky Cauldron. We weren’t super hungry and were worried about the fast rides we would be going on later so we split a fish meal between us which worked out perfect. We both had butterbeers which aren’t cheap at $6.99 each but oh my they were delicious. I want another so bad. It has a lot of delicious foam on top. Mmmm!

The Leaky CauldronDrinking Butterbeer at the tavern.

After lunch, we hit the rides. We did the Flight of the Hippogriff™ roller coaster, the super fast and exciting Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey through Hogwarts Castle, a Quidditch match, and an encounter with death eaters. We also did the Hogwarts Express train which is an adventure in itself though mild, a wild ride through Gringott’s vaults, Men in Black Alien Attack ride where you get to shoot aliens, and the Fast and Furious speedy bus ride. So glad we ate light. On the castle ride, stuff was falling out of my pockets so be sure you secure everything very well. The train does accommodate scooters though you will need to walk on and off.

Platform 9 3/4 at the train stationHogwarts Express trainHogwarts School of Wizardry

Gringott's BankMen in Black ride

In the evening, we went back to Hogwarts castle to watch the light show on the castle walls which is totally awesome. They Harry Potter music and shoot off fireworks too.

Hogwarts night show

When it came time to leave, we stopped at Universal Studios Citywalk at the entrance/exit for dinner at Panda Express. Gotta have my chinese ya know.

We had so much fun that we are both hoping to go back some day and see more of the rest of the parks. It’s expensive but well worth it.

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Disneyworld 2018

The vacation to beat all vacations was not over yet. We didn’t pay big bucks to fly to Florida just for a 5 day cruise. Oh no! When we docked back in Miami, we went to pickup a rental car we reserved and drove up to Kissimmee where we stayed in a nice Airbnb condo we had all to ourselves in a condo community with a central pool. The code to open the door was sent to me via email so no key to deal with. It had a good shower, nice kitchen to use if we wanted, and TV. Parking nearby was easy. I didn’t like the hardness of my bed so I pulled out the couch bed to sleep there. I would definitely rent there again and use Airbnb again.

Since we had to eat and Bernie had never been to a dinner show which I love doing, we got tickets online to go to Medieval Times that night. The food was great. The show was not as good as it could have been due to having new actors who were still learning how to hit and fall properly without hurting themselves. They’ll get better with time and practice. We still enjoyed it for the atmosphere and getting to cheer loudly though our knight did lose.

Medievel Times OrlandoThe Queen and Knighting CeremonyIntroducing the knights

Battle!

Off to Disneyworld we went the next day. I have been there twice before but it was Bernie’s first time. We took the monorail in from the parking lot. We got off at the wrong stop (my fault) and only figured it out after waiting and going through security. Back on the monorail to the next stop and back through security again.

We rented scooters. By the end of the day, I think Bernie understood why. I know I’m too old to walk all over that place all day and survive it.

I got to show Bernie one of my favorite attractions that used to be in Disneyland, the Carousel of Progress. I can’t help it. That music is catchy! We went to the Tiki Room and took the jungle cruise. Did the Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Thunder Mountain roller coaster, and more. Their pass system phone app didn’t work at all for us so we had to go to terminals and manually get passes. It was crowded and lines were long as usual. For handicapped people, they are not as accommodating as they once were so you may want to reconsider going there. At the end of the day, we tried to take the boats back to the parking lot but they broke as we were standing in line so we gave up and went to the monorail again.

It's a world of laughter, a world of fun...It's a small, small world!

 

After a long hard day of working at playing, we went out to Golden Corral for dinner. Yum!

For more pics click here.

Cruising the Bahamas

Since I setup my cruise while still at the gate in Fort Stockton, I had booked a flight out of Midland, Texas so I had to drive there from New Mexico. It wasn’t too terribly far but it was an adventure with lots of construction and traffic blocking my way as I tried to go down the 285 to catch the I20 east. Huge mistake I will never repeat. I ended up turning east as soon as possible and luckily managed to make my flight on time. Since this would be a longer trip than normal as the vacation to beat all vacations, I parked in the more expensive covered area near the terminal. The flight on Southwest was fine though I quickly discovered my packing experiment was a huge failure. I should have taken both my wheeled suitcases and tied them together as usual in a luggage train rather than trying to substitute a non-wheeled duffel for one of them. Duffels are fine for local travel but suck for flying.

I got into Fort Lauderdale very late at night and waited for the hotel shuttle. When it came, there was my girlfriend Bernie on it to greet me. She flew in earlier in the day and checked us into the hotel. She made my night! We got to the hotel too late for me to get dinner so Bernie shared her leftover sandwich with me before we went to bed.

The next day the local shuttle I arranged came and picked us up to get us down to the ship in Miami. Check-in and boarding were pretty fast. The ship was the Carnival Sensation. We dropped off our luggage in our stateroom and hit up the buffet for lunch while we waited to set sail. We walked around the ship and explored every nook and cranny as usual. It isn’t one of the huge ships but I liked it. I booked a porthole room so Bernie would have the light she liked in the room and could try the different type of stateroom. I like porthole rooms as the best balance between having some sort of view with light and price. The area under the porthole is also great for putting your stuff.

Carnival SensationHalloween cruisingBernie loves to cruise

This was only a 5 day cruise with three ports. We usually do 7 day cruises but as I said, this was to be the vacation to beat all vacations so stay tuned. Our first stop was Nassau where we went to Atlantis hotel and waterpark. I was so fed up with salivating over their commercials that I just had to see it. Busses picked us up at the dock. The walk through the hotel to the waterpark was much longer than I cared for though the area is very beautiful. We did enjoy the waterpark. Bernie relaxed in the pool while I climbed the pyramid several times to ride down the chutes. The one that goes through the lagoon full of sharks was great! We finally found the hidden hot tub though it was more like a warm tub. Lunch was good. We had a good time but I have to say that it just isn’t as good as Schlitterbahn. All hail the king of waterparks, Schlitterbahn!

Atlantis waterpark temple slidesFun in the beautiful poolTubing through the shark pool!

Our next stop we both agree was the best. We stopped at Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by Carnival. We took the Eco Tour in a glass bottom boat around the small island and learned a lot. Lunch was served by the ship in a huge pavilion surrounded by smaller pavilions with picnic tables and it was wonderful! It tasted more like a normal American picnic lunch and not like the fancy food you get onboard. Plain is good sometimes. After lunch, we went swimming with schools of fishes swimming by, music playing, and a sand castle contest going on. The water was warm and oh so relaxing. I got to use my full face snorkel mask. We both want to go back.

Swimming with the fishesLunch served on the island

The last port was Grand Turk where we signed up for a rope climbing/zipline excursion. The part we thought would be easiest turned out to be the hardest. Those rope nets to get up the towers were pretty steep to climb. We watched the others struggle to get across the dual logs then easily maneuvered over them ourselves by using what we learned during the waterfall hike in Hawaii. The obstacles were easier to get over than the course I did in Canyon Lake, Texas but still challenging. Loved ziplining out over the cliff and back and then the next to final one where you have to leap off one tower to zip straight over to another with no down angle to help you. We survived the course and had fun though Bernie says once was enough. LOL.

Me climbing the towerOh yeah, we got this!Lovely Grand Turk

For more pics click here.