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Trip Florida Florida   Walter C (US)
USA

Florida

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  • 10Mar 2013

    1 Rough Start 03/10/2013 USA —

    Kissimmee, USA

    Description

    The trip to Florida has arrived, on what could be my final spring break trip. I decided to take another trip to Disney World, plus visit the Kennedy Space Center and SeaWorld as well.

    I have been to Disney World 6 times, with the first time being in 1984. That was also my first memory of riding an airplane. Since then, I went in 1989, 1991, 1994, 2006, and 2012. Most of them were a lot of fun, but there was one time that I wished I did not go, when I went with my cousin's family (who are people I want nothing to do with, but that's a story for another time).

    I am an on and off Disney fan, having seen all of the 52 animated movies, plus the 13 Pixar films. I have grown up watching the movies every Sunday night in the 80's, on the Wonderful World of Disney. Also, I used to be a huge astronomy buff, and used to want to be an astronaut, hence for the Kennedy Space Center.

    Before I get started, I want to say, that this blog may be different from other ones, in that, in addition to sharing about this trip, I will also be looking back at my previous visits to the theme parks, sharing some memories. Also, I will be treating this as if this was my first time, so I will be uploading a lot of photos and writing pretty lengthy entries. So yeah, a huge load of everything.

    I headed to the Philly airport, and got there with enough time to do the usual stuff (check-in, security). Then hopped on a flight, heading to Orlando. Once there, I went to the Mears Transportation desk, to get a shuttle to the hostel that I was staying at. But the lady there, told me that they don't go there at all. I was surprised, considering how I read online, that Mears does go there.

    I considered other options, then decided to take the shuttle van to Disney World. That would take a while, as I had to wait for the next one. Then picking people up, then dropping them off. In other words, I was the first one to get on, but the last one to get off. That took up a lot of valuable time.

    I arrived at the Transportation & Ticket Center (more about that later), and waited for the next Lynx bus back into the town of Kissimmee. When it came, I hopped on, and rode it to the Lakefront Hostel. Once there, I checked in, and would spend the next 10 days there. I asked the owner if Mears does go there, and he told me that they do. So someone is not telling me the truth here. Hmm.

    I rested for a little while, then went out to do a little shopping. I stopped by to get some lunch, and buy some supplies like sunscreen. I was really annoyed that a local CVS did not have any 3 oz sunscreen, so I ended up buying the bigger bottle of the brand that I prefer, knowing full well that I would have to throw it out when the trip ended.

    I hopped on the Lynx bus, and finally headed to Walt Disney World. During the ride, I could not get past the fact that someone was lying to me. I thought about waiting until the end of the trip to call customer service, but it was eating me up inside. So I called during the bus ride, and told them what happened. Turned out that Mears does go to the hostel, and they apologized and gave me a free ride back to the airport. So that was a good thing, but I hope the lady who lied to me, will get reprimanded. :(

    I arrived at the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC for short), and looked around the place for a bit. The TTC is the main hub for all transportation in the Walt Disney World Resort, with buses and monorails taking people to the 4 theme parks and hotels within the Disney resort area. The 4 theme parks are the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. There is also Downtown Disney and DisneyQuest, among other options. More about those places later on.

    So I walked to the monorail platform, and hopped on the one, taking me to the first theme park I'm visiting, which is Epcot. I always thought the monorail was a nice way to kick off any visit to Disney World, and my preferred way of getting around the resort area.

    I would often get really excited when the monorail does a little loop in Epcot, as if it was previewing what this theme park has to offer. Normally, there is a voiceover, telling what the attractions are there, but for some odd reason, there was none on this ride.

    In any event, I have arrived at Epcot. The next series of entries will be more focused on the theme park that I spend majority of the day at, with photos of that theme park only.

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  • 10Mar 2013

    2 Epcot (Part 1) 03/10/2013 USA —

    Lake Buena Vista, USA

    Description

    Once I arrived at Epcot, I got off the monorail, and ran to the entrance, and had to go through a bag check. Then went to a ticket window, to possibly upgrade my ticket. I got to talk to a Disney theme park employee (called Cast Members or CM), who was originally from India. We talked for a little while, then I had to go when another customer came behind me. I went to get my ticket scanned, and into Epcot.

    Epcot was the second theme park built, opening in 1982. It is divided into 2 sections: Future World and World Showcase. I first visited Epcot in 1984, back when it was known as EPCOT Center. At that time, EPCOT stood for "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow", though at times, it would jokingly stood for "Every Person Came Out Tired". Epcot was suppose to be a planned community of tomorrow, proposed by Walt Disney himself. Basically, an Utopian city where people lived and experimented with new technology. Obviously, that did not happen, due to Walt Disney's death in 1966.

    The first time I went to Epcot, I hated it. So much so, that I would wait outside the ride, while the rest of my family went on it. I was 8 at the time, and just did not find it interesting at all, especially Future World. But with each visit after that, I started to like it more, and got sad when hearing about some of my favorites getting replaced or being changed completely.

    Once I got into Epcot, I headed to Spaceship Earth, which is a ride inside the giant golf ball. It has been a personal tradition of mine, to go on this ride first. Having arrived in the afternoon, there was a line. But the wait was not long. Probably one of my favorite rides in this theme park, though have to admit, I liked the earlier versions of the ride. Not really a fan of the interactive part, where you "choose your future".

    After the ride, I just decided to focus on Future World, with the limited time left, and trying not to do too much at one time. So I went to Test Track, where I chose to stand in the single rider line. This one is where parties may be separated apart, as they treat every person as party of one. It moves so freaking slow.

    After Test Track, it was to Ellen's Universe of Energy, which is powered completely by solar energy. But the wait in line could be very long, not to mention, get fried, as the building reflects the sunlight. After that, I went on the milder version of Mission: Space. First time that I went on both Test Track AND Mission: Space on the same day. Never done that before.

    Along the way, I decided to stop inside, for some character meet-and-greet. These are throughout the theme parks, where people get in line to get autographs and get their pictures taken with a character. Well, after telling my brother-in-law "no", when asked if I got a picture with Mickey Mouse, I decided to get one this time. So I stood in line, being the only adult with no kids there. A little nervous, but so what. I ended up getting a photo with not only Mickey Mouse, but also Pluto and Minnie Mouse as well.

    Then to the east side of Future World, where some of the attractions were already closed. It started to get dark, and some of the attractions were already closed. The only ones open, were Soarin' (where the line was so freaking long), and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. So I went to The Seas, where the line was not long and moved fast. It used to be The Living Seas, before getting rethemed in 2003. Now, in addition to the small aquarium, there is a ride that takes you through the story of Finding Nemo, the 2003 film.

    After the ride, I looked around for a little bit. Then decided to leave Epcot, and head to Disney's Hollywood Studios. I had to take one of the Disney buses to that theme park. Once I got there, I headed straight to the amphitheater. More about Hollywood Studios later on.

    So I got to the amphitheater, and watched the night show, Fantasmic. More about the show in a review, at a later entry. I arrived early to get a seat.

    After the show ended, I decided to take a trip to the Magic Kingdom. So I had to take the bus, and hopped in a crowded one. I arrived at the TCC and took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Then entered the theme park.

    I stopped by a place to pick up some spell cards, for a game in the theme park. More about this in a review and later on this blog. After that, I just stayed in the nearby area, to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade.

    After the parade, I went on a few rides, and staying in the theme park past midnight. The park was open until 1 AM. Then had to take a taxi back to the hostel. After a rough start, it ended up being a great day, mainly because I have returned to Disney World. But now, I will have to take a "break" from Disney.

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  • 11Mar 2013

    3 SeaWorld 03/11/2013 USA —

    Orlando, USA

    Description

    I tried to get up early, but did not, since I went to bed late last night. So getting up later than planned, I ran across the street to the supermarket, to get some breakfast, as well as possibly getting some supplies for lunch and dinner during my trip, as a way to save money. So I did some shopping, plus decided to buy transportation and ticket to the Kennedy Space Center, for the next day.

    But this day, I decided to visit SeaWorld Getting there, would take a very long time by public bus. Once there, I headed to the entrance.

    It has been a very long time since I went to SeaWorld. I have only been there once, back in 1989, when I went with my mother and sister. Judging from the outside, it will definitely be different this time around, as I noticed a couple roller coasters. Never thought this theme park would ever have any rides, as it was mainly about marine life.

    I entered the park, and looked around for a bit. That was when it hit me, that I really don't remember much about this place. The only thing I do remember, is getting nearly wet from Shamu. Did I really find it that boring? I don't remember feeling that way. Well, now that I am finally here, I am about to see what this place has to offer, and see for myself, whether it was really worth my time.

    I went to the information desk, to get a map, and info on some shows. Since I arrived a lot later than planned, I would miss one show. Plus I had to figure out a plan to see as many shows as possible, along with attractions. After that, it was time to see some marine life.

    I started by seeing the sting rays first, passing by one of the roller coasters. I am not much of a roller coaster fan, and in this visit, I won't be going on any (I know, I know!). Then went to see the dolphins, first above ground, then an underwater viewing.

    The only attraction that I did go on, was the Turtle Trek. I passed by a few habitats, one with manatees, and another with turtles. Then Turtle Trek, which was a 3D show in an IMAX-type theater. It was fun.

    Afterwards, I headed to the Seaport Theater, to catch the animal show, Pets Ahoy! This show featured dogs, cats, and even rats and a pig, performing some tricks with some humans. Very cute (for the most part), and worth watching for any dog or cat lover. Being a cat person myself, I enjoyed the show. The other great thing about this, is that it's indoors and air-conditioned.

    Next, I went to the show, Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island, in an outdoor theater. Basically, it's a pirate show featuring sea lions, otters, and a walrus. While the animals are fun to look at, I thought the show was kind of dull. It may appeal more for kids, but not for me. I found myself tuning out at times. I barely remember seeing this show as a kid, and even then, I did not find it too entertaining.

    After that, I went to Blue Horizons, which is the dolphin show, located near Dolphin Cove. Now, this show was a lot more entertaining. Basically, it was acrobats doing some tricks along with the dolphins. It is actually better than the way I'm describing it.

    After the show, I saw the tower, where people can get a panoramic view of SeaWorld. Unfortunately, it was closed. So I went to the other side of the park. I stopped by the buffet restaurant, which was an all-you-can-eat of Italian food. Basically, pizza and pasta. I loved it very much!

    I went to see the Shamu show, named One Ocean. I remember seeing it more than 20 years ago, but obviously it will be a lot different. For starters, there are a couple of flat-screen TVs, which did not exist back in the 80's. Similar to the dolphin show, it was performers doing some acrobats along with the killer whales. And there are more than one. The name "Shamu" was given to the first whale that performed in the late 1960's and 1970's. That whale died in 1971, but the name continued to be used for all the shows in all the SeaWorlds.

    After the show, I walked around the rest of the park, with the remaining time left, seeing the variety of marine animals. They would include polar bears, sharks, walruses, sea lions, and more. They were located throughout the park, and it was quite a walk to get from one place to another.

    Closing time was approaching, and I went towards the exit. I stopped by a few more places, to see the aquariums inside. Then exited the park.

    I went to the bus stop, where I hopped on one, and headed back to the hostel. Then just ate some dinner, and relaxed for the rest of the night.

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  • 12Mar 2013

    4 Kennedy Space Center 03/12/2013 USA —

    Cape Canaveral, USA

    Description

    I had to get up really early, and make a quick stop at the market, to buy some water and snacks. It was also where I would get picked up in a shuttle, to go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex . I did the shopping and waited until the shuttle came. I had already paid for transportation and admission the day before.

    I got on the shuttle van, and ended up riding with a guy who was from Pennsylvania, about an hour away from Philly. We talked the entire time, as he went to a hotel to pick up more people. Then went to a shopping center, where we had to wait, for the main bus to take us to the Kennedy Space Center, courtesy of Gray Lines.

    This would be a tough day, as it started to rain. The forecast did call for rain, but I hoped it was stop by the time I got to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). I got on the bus and was on my way.

    When I was in elementary school, I used to have a huge interest in astronomy, and used to memorize so many facts about space. I even wanted to be an astronaut, along with a friend, and we talked someday of moving to Cape Canaveral.

    I slept during most of the journey, and by the time I woke up, the bus arrived at the parking lot. Everyone was given a ticket and map of the place, as well as a poncho, since it was raining hard. I can see this will not be a good day. But I am already there, so just have to make the best of it. The thing that I hate the most about rain, is wet socks. Since I was wearing a cheap pair of shoes, I am sure the socks will get wet. And they certainly did, and I walked around with soggy feet.

    I went towards the entrance, seeing a fountain and memorial to John F Kennedy, who made it a goal for sending the first man to the moon in speech in 1961. Thus starting the Apollo program, that would send spacecrafts to the moon. The space program really started to get going, as the US had to play catch-up to the USSR, as the Soviets had already sent the first satellite into space, as well as sending the first man into space.

    I entered, and went to the Early Space Exploration, which is the museum on the history of space travel. It got into the Mercury and Gemini missions, which included sending the first American (and second person overall), Alan Shepard, into space. There are various space vehicles on display, along with the Mercury mission control room and the early space suits and equipment.

    After seeing the museum, I walked around the Rocket Garden. This area has a bunch of rockets on display. At this time, it had stopped raining for a little while. I looked around, and at the map, seeing that there were a lot of things to do, and I won't be able to do all of them.

    I went to the Robot Scouts, which was mainly about rovers and other spacecrafts sent to Mars, and whether there was life on the red planet. After walking through it, I went to the Exploration Space building, which is an interactive exhibit on not only space exploration, but also on our solar system as well. I considered seeing the I-MAX films, but the lines were too long. So I got in line for the buses, that took people to the Apollo/Saturn V complex.

    Along the way, I would see the actual launch site, and the bleachers where people can sit and watch the shuttle launches. Arriving at the complex, I went inside, which was relief from the rain and humid weather. It starts with a video presentation in a room, with a replica of an Apollo mission control room, giving the feel of what it was like for an actual launch. Then to the main exhibition area.

    Immediately, there was an actual display of a Saturn V rocket. That thing is so huge! It was "broken" up into different stages. There are displays relating to the Apollo and Skylab missions as well, including the spacecrafts themselves, and the space suits that the astronauts had to wear. And I even got to touch a rock from the moon, though it does not look like much. And another video presentation on sending the first man to the moon.

    After seeing the complex, I took the bus back to the Visitor Center. There would be some things that I could not do, due to time. So the virtual ride and I-MAX shows were out. So I walked around the rest of the Visitor Center, and saw the memorial to the astronauts that lost their lives while on duty, including the Challenger disaster in 1986, and the Columbia in 2003.

    I walked towards the exit, and stopped by one more place on the KSC, which was mainly about wildlife on Merritt Island, which is where Cape Canaveral is located. A huge departure from the theme of space travel. After that, I headed back to the bus, which took me back to Orlando area.

    I slept during most of the journey, before being dropped off at a hotel. Then the shuttle van took me back to the hostel. Once there, I had to get a new pair of shoes, since the one I had, was worn out completely. So I went to buy a pair, then back to the hostel.

    It will be back to Disney after being away from it for 2 days.

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  • 13Mar 2013

    5 DisneyQuest 03/13/2013 USA —

    Lake Buena Vista, USA

    Description

    Well, it was back to Disney World. But not to the theme parks, but to DisneyQuest. Since it opened later than the theme parks, no need for me to wake up so early. So I took my time.

    After sometime, I hopped on the bus, and headed to Disney World. Once at the T&TC, I had to walk to the Polynesian Resort, and hop on one of the Disney buses, to go to Downtown Disney. Passing by the resort, and seeing the monorails overhead, makes me wish I stayed at one of those resorts, mainly for the convenience to the theme parks. But I digress.

    I had to wait a while for one of the buses to come. When it did, I rode it all the way to Downtown Disney, which was far from everything else. A reminder how big the Disney World complex really is. The bus would drop me off at the farthest spot from DisneyQuest.

    So I walked through Downtown Disney, which is basically the place to shop. I did not linger too long, but did stop by a few shops, seeing the usual merchandise, like stuffed animals of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters. And a bunch of restaurants along the way, plus a movie theater as well. The highlights were the LEGO displays of various scenes from Disney movies, such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Toy Story. One could spend the entire day to see this place. But my main reason is to see DisneyQuest.

    I arrived, and showed my ticket. This place required separate admission. DisneyQuest is an indoor, interactive theme park, with a lot of games and other things to do. I read that it had a lot of old school games, so I had to check the place out.

    I went inside, and saw a statue of Wreck-It Ralph, from the 2012 Disney film of the same name. Nearby, was a bunch of video game cabinets, of "Fix-It Felix", a fictional game from the movie. Now, there are actual arcade games of it that people can get to play. I played it, and it was a lot of fun. Basically, it was one of those old-fashioned games, where the goal is not to beat it, but to get the high score, and how far you can get.

    I could spend all day playing that game, but I had to check out the rest of the place, to see what arcade games are at this place. Much to my huge disappointment, there was no Double Dragon or Mortal Kombat games. I guess no Mortal Kombat games due to the violence in it. But there were games like Q-Bert, Burger Time, and Ultracade, where I could play Street Fighter II and Final Fight.

    With the unlimited credits, I got to play and beat the game, Justice League Heroes United. An okay, beat-em up game, where you have a choice of 5 different heroes. But the ending (or lack thereof) sucks big-time, considering how many credits it took to beat it. I was not happy at all!

    I would spend most of the time playing video games. But then, decided to do the other attractions within the DisneyQuest complex. Some of them were okay, and some of them were bad. But none of them were worth doing it again.

    The other highlight for me, was the Animation Academy, where you get to learn how to draw a Disney character. It is done with a light pen on a computer screen. I wish I knew about this earlier, so I would have drawn all of the Fab 5 of Disney characters. I was only able to draw 2 of them, which were Goofy and Mickey Mouse.

    Closing time approached, and it was time to leave. So I exited, and walked through Downtown Disney at night. Looked around for a bit, then headed to the other side, to catch the bus back to the T&TC.

    Unfortunately, that would be the last stop, as there were not many buses going there. Plus being so far away, it took a long time to get back. As a result, I ended missing the last public bus back to the hostel. So I had to take a cab again!

    One of the things I forgot to do, was ask the driver to turn the meter on. Luckily, this driver was honest, and charged me the right amount. I got back to the hostel, and went back to the room. It would be back to the theme parks.

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  • 14Mar 2013

    6 Epcot (Part 2) 03/14/2013 USA —

    Lake Buena Vista, USA

    Description

    Another late start to the day, as I had a change in plan. Originally, I was going to rent a car, and drive to Clearwater, to catch a Phillies spring training game. But changed my mind, and decided instead, to add another day at Disney, as I could not get enough of this place.

    After getting ready, I went to a check-cashing place, to buy a weekly bus pass, thinking it would be more economical for me in the long run. But it ate up some valuable time, as I was really itching to get back to the theme parks, and I had a hard time finding the stop to the correct bus. I was able to buy the pass, but walked around for a while until I finally got on the bus, taking me to the theme parks.

    I arrived at the T&TC, and rode the monorail to Epcot. Once there, I would try to finish up with Future World. There were a few more attractions to see there, on the East side. So I went to the Land pavilion. Inside, was the Living With the Land, a boat ride through some greenhouses, seeing the variety of plant life, as well as some fish, as they farmed the fish there as well. Basically, the name would indicate what the ride was about.

    Next, I went to Soarin', and got a Fastpass for it, even though it meant coming back in the late evening. I had to go on this at least once, and while I devote the day to Epcot. Then went to see a short video presentation, Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable, featuring Simba, Timon, and Pummba from The Lion King.

    I then headed to the Imagination pavilion, to go on the Journey to Imagination. Then it was to see a 3-D show, Captain EO, starring Michael Jackson. I remember first watching this show back in 1989, and the lines for this attraction was really long. Plus whenever a Cast Member said his name, people would scream. Michael Jackson was huge back in the 80's and early 90's. Flash forward to 2013, where the lines were short, and the mention of his name got no reaction at all. And watching the film, I can't help but think how dated it is. It was so 80's, and very cheesy. And I kept comparing in my mind, how it was in 1989 and 2013. The show left Epcot in 1994, and was brought back in 2010, about a year after Michael Jackson's death. I was all for bringing back old attractions, but this one, has me feeling differently.

    I was done with Future World now, and it was time for the World Showcase. This is the section of the park, has pavilions of 11 countries and actually staffed by Cast Members from those countries. It supposedly gave the feel of the culture of those countries. When I first visited this part, I actually liked it, as I did have some interest in world history.

    It has always been tradition for me to go clockwise, as I would start at the Mexico pavilion. From there, it would go Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. Only half of them have actual attractions, while all of them have restaurants and shops, giving people the chance to sample the culture of those countries. Still, no substitute to actually visiting those countries, and I hope to visit the ones that I have not been to, or have not been in a very long time.

    The only pavilions with attractions are Mexico (Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros ride), Norway (Malestorm ride and film), China (film), The American Adventure (show), France (film), and Canada (film). Most of these are worth doing, though some of the short films just come across as just tourism advertisements.

    Also along the way, I would get to see various Disney characters for the meet-and-greet, mainly in areas that may correspond with the country. Like Mulan with China, Belle with France, and Mary Poppins with the UK. But the lines were just too long for me to get a photo with them. Plus there were topiaries of various Disney characters throughout the park, in both Future World and World Showcase, as it was the annual Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.

    It was time to get back to Future World, to ride Soarin'. This was a ride imported from Disneyland, a ride over California. After the ride, I went back to the World Showcase, for the nighttime show, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. This show is told in 3 acts.

    After the show ended, I headed for the exit, and took the monorail to the T&TC, where I transferred to the one to the Magic Kingdom. It was a short stop, mainly to pick up some Spell Cards, which I am collecting. Then back to the T&TC, where I had to catch the Lynx bus back to the hostel.

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  • 15Mar 2013

    7 Disney's Hollywood Studios 03/15/2013 USA —

    Lake Buena Vista, USA

    Description

    It was always a challenge for to me to get up on time, and make it to the parks at the time it opens. After eating a quick breakfast, I took the Lynx to the T&TC. Then had to take one of those Disney buses, taking me to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

    This was the third theme park at Disney World, opening in 1989. Originally named Disney's MGM Studios (MGM for short), as this one was themed to Hollywood and the movies. MGM's involvement was mainly in the attraction, The Great Movie Ride, allowing Disney to use the name and movies from MGM's film library. The name of the theme park was changed to Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2008. But everyone just calls it Hollywood Studios, including me.

    I first visited Hollywood Studios in 1991, which was that trip with my cousin's family, who I don't like. But in this case, it was just me and my sister, as my cousins thought it would be a replica of Universal Studios and a waste of time. Back then, I thought it was okay, but definitely not on par with Universal. It did not have nearly as much to offer back then. In fact, I could only remember 3 rides and 2 shows. I would not visit again until 2006. By then, a huge difference, with a lot more rides, and more shows to watch. It has improved significantly, though not sure how it compares with Universal, since I have not been to Universal since 1994. But that will have to be another trip.

    Once I got there, I went through the ticket and bag check, then entered the park. First thing I had to do, was make a mad dash to the Toy Story Midway Mania, to get a Fastpass, since they tend to run out very quickly. Once I did that, it was time to ride the most popular and vomit-inducing rides. Starting with the Tower of Terror, where the wait time was relatively short for the time being. Then it was the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, then to Star Tours: The Adventure Continues. Doing all 3 back-to-back, was probably not a good idea, as it did make me feel sick. But I got nearly all the biggies out of the way.

    After that, I had to figure out a plan to take in as many stage shows in this park as possible. It was tricky trying to coordinate all the times. Some ran continuously, like Voyage of The Little Mermaid, and the only one that is indoors. And others had a limited amount of showtimes, some of which, ran about an hour. It's not just the starting time, but also the location and length of time. It was tough enough for me to get to all of them, and I was by myself. I don't think those with kids could get to half of them in 1 day.

    I did get to see the stunt shows, which were the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Both were worth watching, and a chance to sit down and relax my feet for a bit.

    In the middle of the day, there was the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun parade. An upbeat parade, featuring characters from the Pixar films, though none from Finding Nemo, the 2 Cars films, and WALL-E. I would write a review about it, but the parade ended its run in April.

    I was finally able to get on the Studio Backlot Tour. Every other time I went, the attraction was closed. But this time, it was open, and I made sure I got on this one. I got to see props used in various movies, like Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, among others. It starts out as a walking tour, seeing a demonstration of some stunts, then a walk through the prop room. Then comes the tram tour, where see more special effects happening, like an earthquake or a flood in Catastrophe Canyon. Plus go behind the stadium where the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show takes place.

    I did come back to Toy Story Midway Mania, which was a ride and game at the same time. I did not score too high, but it was a lot of fun. Plus rode The Great Movie Ride, one of the few originals left since the park's opening. Basically, it was a ride through the movies, with the tour guide being involved in the action along the way. And the 3-D film, Muppet*Vision 3D, which is very enjoyable, and very much worth it for Muppet fans.

    I was able to go in and out of One Man's Dream, a museum about the story and life of Walt Disney, and the Disney Company. I did enjoy the history on Disney, though it was more about the parks than the studio itself.

    Nearby was the Magic of Disney Animation, basically a show telling how animated characters come to life. An okay show, but it does not help that the annoying Mushu (from "Mulan") is involved. Towards the end, I am like "shut up already".

    Hollywood Studios has a nighttime show called Fantasmic, but I did not see it on this day. But for this blog, I included them here to tie them to this entry. This has to be the best show in Disney World. A lot of references to the Disney movies, all of which, I have seen. No trip to Disney World is complete without seeing this show.

    After seeing just about everything at Hollywood Studios, I left and headed to the T&TC. Then to the Magic Kingdom, mainly to pick up some more Spell Cards. I could not stay long, so it was back to the T&TC, and back to the hostel.

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  • 16Mar 2013

    8 Magic Kingdom 03/16/2013 USA —

    Lake Buena Vista, USA

    Description

    I tried to get to theme parks early, and around opening time, just to get a head start on the rides.This day would be devoted mainly to the Magic Kingdom.This park is the first one, and the one that has the most to offer.

    Originally part of The Florida Project, as Walt Disney wanted to build a Disney park on the eastern seaboard, and a planned, futuristic city called EPCOT. But he would never get to see this happen, because he died in 1966. His brother Roy continued the project, and would rename it "Walt Disney World" in dedication to his brother. A few resorts were also built in the area as well, and Walt Disney World would open in 1971, which at the time, included only one theme park, the Magic Kingdom.

    The Magic Kingdom is what people first think of, when it comes to Disney World, and often use the 2 names interchangeably. But it is only one component of the Walt Disney World Resort. My first visit was back in 1984, as I remember arriving and getting there at night. It is my favorite of all the Disney theme parks, and the one that I am always itching to get back to, from any of the other theme parks.

    I always prefer getting there by monorail, which is a lot more fun than taking the ferry and takes up less time. Once I arrived and entered, I went to the Main Street Firehouse, to pick up more Spell Cards and learn how to play the interactive game, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. I would be playing it along the way, as it has me going to the different areas of the park.

    The Magic Kingdom is divided into 6 different lands, which are Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, and Adventureland. Starting with Main Street USA. I looked around for a bit, then hung around at the roundabout, for the street party, Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party. Once the floats stop moving and the characters get off of them, that is when the guests can interact and dance alongside with some of the Disney and Pixar characters that appear. There are different songs that play during the street party, enough to get people into the dancing mood, led by a DJ on top of one of the floats. Plus there are a few that remain at the top of the floats, like Genie and Sebastian!

    After the street party, I went into Tomorrowland, and did most of the attractions there. My favorites there, are the Buss Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, which is both a ride and a game, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, a ride around Tomorrowland. And I did get to go on Space Mountain.

    I headed to Fantasyland, and would pick up some Fastpasses for some of the rides there. Then checked out New Fantasyland, which opened this past year. I went on the Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid ride, then looked around the place for a bit. Then went back to the old part of Fantasyland, and doing the attractions there, like Mickey's PhilharMagic, It's A Small World, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride.

    I made sure that I arrived in time for the afternoon parade, Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade.

    After that, I resumed playing the game, and visit attractions in both Adventureland and Frontierland. But more time was devoted to the game itself, which took up a lot of time. Reminds me of the days when I collected baseball cards and Garbage Pail Kids (remember those?).

    I went through the Swiss Family Treehouse, and rode Jungle Cruise and the Pirates of the Caribbean, while trying to play the game. When it got late in the day, I decided to put the game on hold, and finish it on another day. The finding of portals around the park, does take up a lot of time. I did not do much of Frontierland, and very unfortunate that Splash Mountain was closed.

    Funny thing, is that I tried to drink water from the fountains, and it was freaking nasty. Tasted like metal. Probably done deliberately, so people have to buy bottled water, which is overpriced big time!

    There is just so much to do in the Magic Kingdom, that it would probably take 2 days to do everything. And that's just the attractions alone. There are also a bunch of shows and parades as well, which can take up a lot of time as well.

    I would leave the Magic Kingdom around nightfall, and head to Hollywood Studios. First, to see Fantasmic for a second time. Then I went to Guest Services to upgrade my ticket. That took some time, due to a glitch on their computers. Once that was solved, I went to take one of the drawing classes. In this one, we learned to draw Dale, of Chip & Dale.

    After the class ended, I headed out of the parks, and back to the hostel.

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  • 17Mar 2013

    9 Disney's Animal Kingdom 03/17/2013 USA —

    Lake Buena Vista, USA

    Description

    I got up and was able to catch the next Lynx bus on time, and was able to get to the T&TC at an earlier time. From there, I took the bus to Disney's Animal Kingdom.

    This was the 4th theme park in Disney World, opening in 1998. As the name would suggest, the theme was all about the animals. I got to visit this theme park for the first time in 2006, and while my least favorite of the 4, I still enjoy the place in its own way, even if it's not on par with the 2 animal parks in San Diego.

    I arrived into Animal Kingdom, and the first thing that I do, is walk fast to the other end of the park, in the Africa section. I walk fast rather than run, because I did not want to wear myself out quickly, as it was only the beginning of the day. I got to the Kilimanjaro Safaris, and got a Fastpass. Then went to the Asia area.

    Once that was done, I went to the Kali River Rapids, going through a replica of a Khmer temple (I assume). This was one of those river raft rides, and I did get soaked. After that, I did see some kind of monkeys, at some ruins, in an enclosure.

    Enough time passed, that allowed me to get another Fastpass. So I got one for Expedition Everest. Then back to Africa area, and used my 1st Fastpass for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. I'm guessing this is similar to the ones in Africa, where a safari vehicle takes people through the safari.

    I would see a variety of animals in their natural habitat, like elephants, giraffes, and hippos. And a bunch more that I had no idea what they were. There was a chart in the vehicle that help identify the animals, but it went too fast to keep up, not to mention, take photos of them. (Note - I had to use Youtube to identify some of them here on TB, but was not able to do all)

    The ride can be very bumpy at times. I've been told that the morning is the best time to do this ride, because that was more likely when the animals are out.

    After the safari, I went back to Asia, and to Expedition Everest, and rode that rollercoaster, which went forward and backward. Once that was done, I got the biggies out of the way. Then I stopped by, to eat some lunch, which I packed.

    After that, I went on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, then caught the stage show, Flights of Wonder, and walked the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in the Africa area.

    After all that, I finally worked up the courage to do the attraction, It's Tough to be a Bug! I read that those with a bug phobia should not do it, so I avoided in previous visits. But this time, I felt like it was about time, as I tried to do just about everything. This was a 3-D show, based on "A Bug's Life", featuring Filk and Hopper. There were spiders coming from the sky, and a stinger in the back. Turned out, it was not as bad as I thought it would be.

    I went to see the Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade. When I first saw it last year, I did not like it, as it was not as fun as the other parades. But when seeing it this time, it was actually more enjoyable. How can that be? Well, that was because of spending the day at Animal Kingdom, and fitting with the theme of the day.

    Then walked in the Camp Mickey-Minnie area, and got to meet Donald Duck, who was just walking around. Then went to see the Festival of the Lion King, based on the 1994 film. After the show, I went into DinoLand, U.S.A.

    I went on the Dinosaur ride, which was based on the 2000 film of the same name. It was very bumpy, and did make me feel sick. With my glasses off, it was hard to enjoy it, since I could not see anything. But turned out, it would have been okay to keep them on, as I saw other people wearing them during the ride. And I asked a CM, just to be sure!

    I went on the Primeval Whirl, which was a spinning Wild Mouse-type ride. Then went to see the show, Finding Nemo - The Musical, which was fun to watch. Then rode the TriceraTop Spin, which was just like the Dumbo ride.

    Closing time was approaching, and I started to head out. Animal Kingdom does close early, normally around sunset. Makes sense, since the animals would need to sleep, and hard to see at night. I did not get to see Rafiki's Planet Watch, which was located far from everything else, and only accessible by train.

    I left Animal Kingdom, and took the bus to Hollywood Studios. Then went straight to the drawing class. In this session, there was a vote taken for which character to draw, Jiminy Cricket or Jack Skellington (from "The Nightmare Before Christmas"). I chose Jiminy Cricket, and he got more votes, so we drew him. It was a lot of fun.

    After the class, I went to the Magic Kingdom, and caught the show on Cinderella Castle, called "Celebrate the Magic". More about that in a review here.

    After that show, I left Disney World, and headed back to the hostel. Another fun day, but my toe was starting to hurt. Hopefully, a night of sleep will heal the pain.

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  • 18Mar 2013

    10 Last Day at Disney (With Not Much Planning) 03/18/2013 USA —

    Lake Buena Vista, USA

    Description

    The last full day of this trip, and not surprisingly, I decided to spent it at Disney World. My goal was to see the things that I did not get to in the previous days, plus go on some of my favorite attractions again.

    When leaving the hostel, I headed to the Magic Kingdom. Once I got there, and got my daily pack of Spell Cards, I went to New Fantasyland. And got in line for the new attraction, Enchanted Tales With Belle. Guests enter into Maurice’s cottage, then “pass” through a magic mirror, to Beast’s castle. They then see Madam Wardrobe, as some guests are cast as some of the characters from the film. Then into the library, where they can see Lumiere and Belle herself. The ones that volunteer to take part in the show, get to meet and get a photo with Belle, while the rest just sits in the audience.

    The attention to detail in the cottage and castle parts are very impressive, as well as the special effects of the audio-animatronics of Madam Wardrobe and Lumiere. Just amazing to look at. Unfortunately, those were the only small positive things I could say about this attraction, as there are a couple big problems.

    The first one is the line. There is no Fastpass, so you have no choice but to wait in the standby line. And it moves so slow, in the sunlight. A very big problem in the Florida sun. The other, is that it’s not much of a show, just Belle being surprised on her birthday, then posing with the guests that did volunteer, in a photo, and they get a souvenir, which is… get this… a bookmarker! I guess it makes sense, since it’s in a library, and Belle loves to read! The ones that did not volunteer, just have to sit and wait until the show ends.

    Overall, the attraction was okay (and that’s being very generous). But after waiting in line in the sun for over 20 minutes, okay is not good enough. Unless you have kids, and/or a fan of the movie, this attraction can be skipped.

    After that, I did some of the attractions again, in Fantasyland. Then looked around another new part of it, which was a replica of the world of "Tangled". There was Rapunzel's Tower, and the lanterns around the area. Plus a few other references that I recognized from the movie.

    Back to the other side of Fantasyland, the newer part, where Mickey's Toontown Fair used to be. I remembered when it was used to be called Mickey's Birthdayland, which was built for Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday in 1988. This was basically a playground, and the place where people can meet their favorite characters. Now, part of Fantasyland, where the Dumbo ride was relocated.

    I went inside Pete's Silly Sideshow, which was a tent building of meet-and-greet of characters. I came there, to see Goofy. After getting my photo taken with him, that completes my list of the Fab 5 of Disney characters. :)

    I also decided to finish up the game, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, going between Adventureland and Frontierland. I was able to beat the game, but was told the level was set to easy. Oh well. And do more attractions again, in different parts of the park, and take closer looks at some as well.

    Unfortunately, my toes were hurting so much. Turned out, I had some blisters on them. I tried to tape around it, using it as bandage, but that did not help much. It made walking difficult, and forget about running.

    I left the Magic Kingdom, and took the monorail to Epcot. I rode a couple attractions there, and stopped by the doctor's office there. I told the doctor there, about the blisters, and she gave me a couple of band aids for them. I put them on my toe, and it actually helped.

    I returned to the Magic Kingdom, and do a few more attractions, like Big Thunder Mountain and the Hall of Presidents. Turned out, I would not get to do everything on my list. I would leave, and head to Hollywood Studios.

    I went for the drawing class, but the line was very long. With limited seats, I could not get in. I planned to see Fantasmic, and was advised by a CM, to go directly to the amphitheater. But being stubborn, I decided to squeeze in a ride, the Great Movie Ride. After the ride, I went to the amphitheater, and learned that only standing room remained. I considered just standing, but my feet just could not endure that.

    I was surprised to see it more crowded than it was in the previous days, and learned from a CM, that it was due to Extra Magic Hours. That is when the park remains open later than the posted closing time, for guests staying on Disney property only, which does not include me. No matter, as there was a later show.

    I went back to the drawing class, and was able to get in. In this class, we drew Donald Duck. After that, I did talk with some CMs, and decided to go back to the Magic Kingdom to see Wishes, as I have not seen that yet on this trip.

    So I went back there, and saw the fireworks show. More about that in the review here. Then again, making the stupid decision to squeeze in another attraction, Haunted Mansion. After the ride, I went to the monorail, where the lines were so long. Well, I did not make it to the T&TC in time, to catch the last Lynx bus. So I had to take a cab back. Not a good way to end my time at Disney.

    But at some point, it had to end. And no matter how hard I try to script this, it often does not go according to plan, due to factors out of my control.

    I started to pack up a little, and had a guy in my hostel room, playing his laptop loud. That was annoying. But he turned it off around midnight. I went to bed.

    The next day, I would return home. And the end of my spring break trip, which turned out to be the final one.

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  • 11Nov 2018

    11 Club Med 11/11/2018 USA —

    Port St. Lucie, USA

    Description

    This will be a summary of the trip, instead of a day-by-day. Mainly because there was not really much to differentiate between the days.

    This trip was arranged by my family, mainly for my mother's 70th birthday. We would spend 5 days at a Club Med in Florida. I would travel to Florida, with my mother. And shortly after, meet up with my sister and her family, at the West Palm Beach Airport. We would go to a Club Med, which was an hour away from the airport.

    Once we got there, it was basically like an oasis, to just relax and do whatever activities they offer. There was a lake with a bunch of swimming pools. And things to do on the lake, like kayak and sailing. Admitting, it was nothing that appealed me. The part that did appeal to me, was the all-you-can-eat buffet, though that became too much after a few days of it. And did see a few shows along the way. One of them was a concert of performers, imitating some famous artists throughout the decades. From Elvis to Taylor Swift.

    I considered taking a day trip somewhere, but it would have cost too much time and money to get to and from the place. Plus not really enough time to fully enjoy those places. Instead, it was just walking around, and drinking and sleeping quite a bit. Not alcohol for me.

    There was arrangement to get the birthday cake to my mom for her birthday. We requested vanilla cake, but it ended up being chocolate. And tasted like it has been stored for some time. The cake was okay.

    One night, I would get picked to be part of an improv show. And oh boy, how nervous I was. I had a hard time following what the guy was trying to tell to do, but I did the best that I can. And would lie on the floor for a little while. I was relieved when it was finally over. I hope it does not end up on YouTube. The fact that I say that, should tell me that I should not be a YouTuber at all.

    Overall, it was an enjoyable trip. I did have fun on it, even if it became too much of a good thing after a few days. I would definitely not rule it out, and think it would be a good place to be, after an intense trip or something along those lines. But not for situations similar to mine.

    I did put my cat, Lucky, into boarding for the entire trip. When calling the vet, I was told that he was doing good. I could not wait to get home, just to get him out of there, and back home.

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  • 26Mar 2019

    12 Delayed to Orlando - Start of 2019 Visit 03/26/2019 USA —

    Orlando, USA

    Description

    I decided to take another trip to Florida, which was originally planned in 2018. But something came up, and that trip never happened. But this one will, as I would make a return trip to Orlando, and make my very first visit to Tampa Bay. I would be resuming my baseball stadium quest, and hoped to finish within the next 2 years. And visiting the theme parks, including SeaWorld. But no Disney this time.

    Started the day, by packing up. Since my mom was my ride and had to leave early for something, I would leave home very early. Dropping off at the train station, I took the train first, to Temple University. I would use the computer, to buy a 2-park ticket. Then bought lunch, but no time to eat, as I had another train to catch. Arrived at Philly Airport, where I ate my lunch. Then went through security.

    I walked to the gate, and later found out that my flight was delayed by 1 hour. Then a second time, and the final one being about 5 hours. Meaning that it would not be until night time, as the Frontier Airline had to get another plane, as the current one has mechanical problems. When asking about booking with other airlines, they could not do it. So I looked at other options, and saw a cheap flight with Spirit Airlines. After some thinking, I decided to book that.

    Luckily, the gate was just across the way. No need to change terminals. I told some people what I did, and thought that refund was not possible. But one of them, told me that he got a refund. So I asked for one myself, and got it. Though, the Spirit one cost a little more than Frontier. Still, reduced the cost for me. I tried to get on an earlier flight, but it was full. So I just waited and charged my devices.

    When it came time to board, I was able to get on the plane, having the aisle seat. And shared the row with 2 other people, also from the Frontier flight. It turned out that this plane was not full, so the middle seat person sat in a different row, giving me and other person some leg room. The flight took off, leaving Philly, and back to Florida for me.

    Arriving in Orlando, where it was that odd feeling that I would not be going to Disney World. I took that familiar tram, and to the curb. I decided to take Mears Shuttle, since it was well after sunset. It costs more, but it would be faster and safer.

    I would ride in a cab, and the only one in it. I had to say, to go to Magic Castle Inn, since Mears does not go to the hostel, since it was the closest location that I can think of. The ride took longer, as part of a highway was closed off due to police activity. But I was able to get to the Magic Castle Inn, which itself, was not easy to find, due to the setup of Highway 192, and how the hotel is not visible from the street. I just decided to get off, a block away, to save the driver the trouble.

    Being in the familiar area of Kissimmee, I walked to the 7-Eleven, to get a coupon for Rays game. Then walked to the Palm Lakefront Hostel, which was farther than expected. The same one from 2013. It was only $20 per night, so it was unbelievably cheap. But I knew that I would get what I paid for.

    Arriving at the hostel, I checked-in, with Julia at front desk. We did talk for a bit, as we were going through the process. Then I went to the room, and met a guy named Luis. He was from Colombia, and traveling through the US. We talked for a bit, as I got settled in the room. The room did feel hot, as the air-conditioner did not seem to work properly.

    After a long day, I finally made it, even if the hostel seems more rundown than before. I did not have anything originally planned, so I was not upset (much to my surprise). Just wanted to get as much rest as possible, mainly for the next 2 days.

    That was when this trip will really begin!

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  • 27Mar 2019

    13 Visiting Tampa For First Time 03/27/2019 USA —

    Clair-Mel City, Tampa, USA

    Description

    Started the day, getting up early enough, so I can make it to Maingate Lakeside Resort. This was where I would catch the bus to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Plus I wanted to stop by a pharmacy, to get some things.

    Leaving the hostel, I went to the bus stop, to catch the Lynx. I hopped onto one. When looking up directions on Google Docs, I had a feeling that I got on the wrong bus. I did ask the driver to be sure, and it was the wrong one. I got off, and waited for the correct bus. When it came, I rode it to the Maingate Lakeside Resort. Once in the area, I stopped by the Walgreens.

    Afterwards, I walked one way, but realized something was not right. So I called the hotel, and found out that I went the wrong way. So I backtracked, and found the hotel. This was where I waited for the shuttle bus to Busch Gardens, getting there early enough. So in the meantime, I took care of some times, and waited at the stop. And it started to rain.

    The bus came, and I got on it. It made one more stop, then headed to Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay. The ride took less than 90 minutes, as I had the row to myself. The bus arrived into the Tampa area, as I finally made my first ever visit to the Tampa Bay area.

    Arriving at Busch Gardens, I saw that it was already crowded. I had to get in line, first a bag check, then a ticket scan. Only that the paper that I printed, was not actually a ticket. So I had to go back out, to the kiosk, to get the 2-park ticket printed. Then had to go through the same 2 lines again.

    After all that, I was finally in Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, or BGT for short. I have seen this place for various TV shows. Picked a park map, and just went basically, in a counter-clockwise direction. I would only focus on the animals, as I did not really have a desire to go on the rides.

    Started with the American alligators. Then to the Myombe Reserve, which was a walkthrough, that has chimpanzees and gorillas. Then came close to riding the Serengeti Express Train. But decided not to, as I was hungry. I have not eaten anything so far, this day.

    I came to a stand, as I had an All-Day Dining Deal. I decided to get this, so I can eat as much as I wanted to, and not worry about the costs. But it would not be accepted everywhere. I got a chili hot dog, which I did enjoy.

    After the meal, I would see some more animals in the same area. Then went through Animal Connections, and Edge of Africa after that. Toured around this area. Then continued on to the Egypt area, where I saw cheetahs. Then backtracked to the main path, which would take me to the Animal Care Center.

    The Animal Care Center is the animal hospital, featured in the TV show, "The Wildlife Docs". I went inside, and looked around. There was a display, on the veterinarians that are often appeared on the show. I saw the different rooms, then sat on a keeper talk, as a keeper held a snake. It ended with a Q&A.

    I left the building, then saw some Asian elephants, before entering the Pantopia area. This part has a more Asian look. I did stop to try to get some snacks from a stand, but my card was not accepted. But I went inside a restaurant, where my card was accepted. I just got a cheesecake and soda, and learned that All-Day card is only accepted in certain places. I just sat and enjoyed my food, and even got to see a performance on stage, where 2 ladies would sing some 80's songs.

    Afterwards, I continued on, to the Congo area. This was where I considered going on a ride, the river rapids. But I did not want to get wet, and had no place to store my bag without paying. So I just watched the rafts passing by, and seeing the riders getting squirted by a spray, which is activated by people. As if some type of target practice, or an amusement park game. Kind of relaxing, though I stood the whole time.

    After a while, I continued on, seeing more animals along the way. Too numerous to list here. And considered getting on the train at the Stanleyville part of the park. Even got in line, but had to make a decision, whether to ride this, or see the rest of the animal exhibits. I asked myself, which one would bother me more if I missed it? I decided to see the rest of the animal exhibits.

    I would enter into a couple aviaries, and a kangaroo area. And I'm glad to decide to see these things, as it would have been more disappointed to miss them. I did hurry myself, as I still wanted to ride the train. So after seeing the rest of the animal exhibits, I walked to the first station of the Serengeti Express Train. I decided to ride only half of it, and get off at Stanleyville.

    Getting on the train, it went into the open field, with the African animals roaming free. I would see rhinoceros, which can only be seen from the train ride. And there is a possibility of the animals blocking the tracks, as there is no barrier around it. Also saw giraffes and kudus as well. Thus, my visit was complete. More about visiting the park and more photos in the review, in the zoo blog.

    Arriving at the Stanleyville area, I got off, and just walked towards the exit. I would get some bottled water, which is covered by the All-Day Dining Plan anywhere. Then browsed a little at a shop, before exiting the park. Closing time was approaching, as well as the time to catch the bus before it left.

    Exiting the park, I went to the bus with enough time. When the time came, the bus left Busch Gardens and returned to Orlando. Arrived back at nighttime. Getting off, it was really chilly. I took the Lynx bus back to the hostel.

    Once there, I just unloaded my bag there. Then looked into doing laundry there, but none were available at the time. So in the meantime, I went to a nearby shopping center, stopping by a Panda Express, thinking about dinner. But decided not to, to save money, and it was getting late. So I went back to the hostel. Also had to make sure that I knew when the front desk opened, so I can check out early.

    Back in the room, I packed up a little, and ate some of the food that I brought from home. And talked to the roommate, Luis for some time. We were the only ones in the room. Took care of some things, as this was my final night at this hostel.

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  • 28Mar 2019

    14 Return to SeaWorld 03/28/2019 USA —

    Orlando, USA

    Description

    I got up early, so I can check out of the hostel, and head to my next hotel. Packed up my things, all done by 7 AM. This was when the front desk would open up. Returned some things, and left the hostel. It is very cheap, and even more rundown. Still, I won't rule out staying here again, mainly due to the cheap price.

    I took the bus, taking me into Disney World. This was where I had to transfer. When waiting there, it was weird that I would not be going to Disney World at all, even if I am in the Orlando area. The next bus came, and I rode it towards SeaWorld Orlando. I would arrive at the Days Inn by Wyndham Orlando Convention Center.

    I was disappointed to learn, that there is a $45 fee for checking in early. I really needed to unload some things. But I was still able to store my bag there. And learned that there is a free shuttle bus to SeaWorld. Something that seemed to have gone missing at hotels on Highway 192.

    I waited until the shuttle bus came. Then rode it to SeaWorld Orlando. Got off, and walked to the entrance, as this was my return trip since 2013. Since I started visiting zoos and aquariums, I decided to give SeaWorld another visit, and see it with a different set of eyes. More like an aquarium and less like a theme park.

    Started this visit with breakfast, as there was still the All-Day Dining Plan, and I have not eaten anything. After that, I started with Dolphin Nursery, which has dolphins in a pool. I assume this was where dolphins were rehabilitated. Seeing them above and under water. Then decided to see re-trace my steps from my 2013 visit.

    Seeing the flamingos, Stingray Lagoon and Dolphin Cove. As I wanted to see all the shows, I walked to Dolphin Theater. I got there, and it was already crowded. But I did find seating in the shade. The show was called "Dolphin Days", which was different name from 2013. Still the same type of show, but not boring at all. I did really like it.

    Then a short time after, I went to Sea Lion and Otter Theater, to catch "Sea Lion High: The New Class". Getting there, not nearly as crowded as the dolphin show. I thought this one was okay, but not as good as the dolphin show. But better than the 2013 show, which I originally thought was boring.

    I did make multiple stops at Voyager's Steakhouse, which I learned about, from Youtube. I decided to get lunch, as the lines were shorter this time. I would get the sample meal, which included large portions of ribs, sausage and chicken. And it was so good! After lunch, I saw more of the park.

    I would see the manatees, where they were rescued and nursed back to health. And the only attraction that I did, was Turtle Trek. And did visit some places that I missed in 2013, like the Jewel of the Sea Aquarium, and the Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. And some repeats from 2013, like Pets Ahoy! in Seaport Theater and One Ocean at Shamu Stadium. I liked both of those shows as well.

    Afterwards, I would try to see the rest of the animal exhibits, like Wild Arctic and Shark Encounter. And eat as much as I can. But one thing that I would miss, is the Pacific Point Preserve, with the sea lions. And finished seeing the marine life with Manta Aquarium. More about visiting this park and more photos in the review, in the Aquarium blog.

    I would end my visit with one last meal, the last with my All-Day Dining Plan. And I would say, I got full value of it, and more, eating a lot more than if I did not have it. Then browsed through a couple shops, as I was tempted to buy some things. But I did not, and left the park.

    I walked back to the hotel, and finally checked in. Then went to the room, to get settled. I decided to spend more, for a nicer hotel for a change. And relaxed until I went to bed.

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  • 29Mar 2019

    15 Laundry and Pin 03/29/2019 USA —

    Kissimmee, USA

    Description

    Getting up early enough, I wanted to make sure that I got the laundry done, as I ran out of fresh clothes. So I did that, but after the dryer part, my clothes were still wet. And I did bring this issue to the front desk, but all they did, was get someone to check out the broken dryer. I should have asked for a refund.

    I would dry out my clothes, until checkout time. So I got some breakfast, and later, picked up my rental car with Enterprise. The rental place was only a block away, so very convenient. And got to talk some sports with the agent, who came from Minnesota.

    Back at the hotel, I waited as long as I can. Luckily, I have a car, so no need to pack all within my bag this time. I would check out and went to Highway 192, in the Kissimmee area. I came to some non-assuming building, as I was dependent on Google Maps, away from the main street. Inside, was a collection of stalls, sometime I would normally see in other countries.

    I came to a place called "Booster Packs and Beyond", which has mainly Disney pins. Sold cheaper than in the parks, as I heard about it from Youtube. And thought about starting a collection of pins. I wanted my first ever pin to be a Disney pin, and decided to check it out, as I did not have any set plans.

    I browsed, and saw a variety of pins, whether related to movies or the parks. And even some non-Disney pins as well, like Pokemon and Toothless from "How to Train Your Dragon". It was tough, trying to decide which one will be the first, as there is that tendency to go crazy. After a while, I would get a 2019 Disney pin. After my first one, I would get more later on, whenever that will be.

    Leaving, I decided to go to a Subway, to get lunch. I ate there, and after getting a drink, I was leaving the Orlando area. And driving to Tampa.

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  • 29Mar 2019

    16 Unique Hostel in Tampa 03/29/2019 USA —

    Clair-Mel City, Tampa, USA

    Description

    Driving to Tampa, I started to feel tired. So I would stop by a parking lot, and rest for a little while. Basically, sleeping in the car. After that, I stopped by gas station, to get some water. Then resumed on the road, towards Tampa.

    I arrived into the city, and got confused by the directions, as I tried to follow manually. I would end up going in the opposite direction, so I had to turn the GPS on my phone back on, using some valuable bandwidth, which is limited on a monthly basis. After doing that, I was able to get to the Gram's Place Hostel. Turned out, relying on GPS ended up saving me a lot of trouble.

    I arrived at the hostel, and was able to check in, as I got to meet Rhonda. She was the owner of the place, and very interesting person to talk to. As she showed me around, I could not help but be amazed at the type of hostel this place was. It was almost as if, it was some type of treehouse. I would stay in the Amsterdam room, upstairs. There was an outdoor kitchen and shower. Very unique place, and possibly an attraction of its own.

    As I got to the room, which does look very promising. And already better than the Orlando one. Looked around some more, and bought a Rays ticket on my phone. I chose to get the more pricey one, for better seats at the ballpark.

    But I could not stay long, as I wanted to get a head start to the Rays ballpark, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. So I left the hostel, and back on the road.

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  • 29Mar 2019

    17 Seeing Rays 03/29/2019 USA —

    St. Petersburg, USA

    Description

    Leaving the Tampa hostel, I would drive to St. Petersburg, which was separated by Tampa Bay (referring to the large harbor). A long bridge connects the 2 cities. And the drive was not as disorienting as I thought it would be.

    Arriving into St. Petersburg area, I was able to find free parking, with favorable hours. So this will help save some costs. I took picture of intersection, so I can refer to ti later, when finding the car. Then walked to Tropicana Field. When getting there, it was not open yet, so that gave me some time to walk around part of it.

    When realizing that there was nothing noteworthy, I just turned around, and to one of the entrances. I did notice a lot of Astros fans in attendance. When the gates did open, I was able to enter Tropicana Field. Also known as "The Trop". And even ran into some Phillies fans, who I talked with, for a bit.

    This ballpark has been around since 1990, and even once home of the Lightning. The baseball team started play in 1998, originally as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Then just became the Rays in 2008. As I walked around, I wanted to see some of the attractions before the game started.

    First was the Rays Touch Tank, which was a pool full of sting rays. But it was empty, and would not have rays until start of the game. I did not feel like waiting, so I had to skip it. Disappointing.

    Second was the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame. This was basically a mini version of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. And for its size, it was pretty extensive. As the name would indicate, there was a display on Ted Williams. Plus there was a series on the Negro Leagues, and different hitters that made it to the Hall of Fame. And some on baseball in the Tampa Bay area, and more. A bunch to see, and worth seeing. Especially for baseball fans.

    Leaving the museum, I would see some sculpture out of the wall, of a guy catching a fly ball. Hard to describe. Then went to the Rotunda, which turned out to be the main entrance of the ballpark. I did check back at the Touch Tank, but still no rays. So I just went to my seat, which was a quite a distance. And my time was short, as I wanted to get to my seat before the start of the game.

    I was able to make it with barely enough time, sitting in the middle of a row. It was a great view, being on the home plate side. I think that I got my money's worth, for the most part. I looked around, as I am glad that this stadium has a roof. And would be surrounded by people, who were very knowledgeable about baseball.

    During the game, when trying to get a photo taken, I would get to know an usher, named Marshall. And we would talk for about 2 innings, about the stadium and even the other sports. It definitely was an interesting time.

    The Tampa Bay Rays played the Houston Astros, the 2nd game of the season. This would be the earliest that I ever attended a game in a season. And I noticed a lot of Astros fans, which was common to see more away fans than home fans. Almost all of the scoring was done in the 3rd inning, with the Astros jumping to a 2-0 lead. But the Rays scored 3 in their half. Then the Rays scored another run in the 6th inning, from a home run. And it ended that way, with the Rays defeating the Astros, 4-2.

    After the game ended, I went to lower levels, for better photo opportunities. Then went to a gift shop, to browse for a bit. I looked at the pins, and thought, maybe later. Then I left the ballpark.

    I thought it was an okay stadium, not as bad as I thought it would be. Just that I hate that there was hardly any reliable public transportation, hence why I rented a car. Walked back to the car, having trouble finding my way. And very good thing that I took photo of the intersection signs, which proved very helpful. Otherwise, who knows how much longer.

    Getting in the car, I drove back to Tampa. Even listening to a station playing 80's music. Made it back to the hostel. Then went inside, to unpack. Took care of a few things, as this was the final night, before going to bed.

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  • 30Mar 2019

    18 Delayed Again, and Stuck 03/30/2019 USA —

    Clair-Mel City, Tampa, USA

    Description

    I was able to wake up early enough, to get ready and pack up my things. I did eat the rest of my snacks, as breakfast. And got to talk to some people, who were traveling around Florida for a bit. Then just left the hostel, as there was no formal check out process. I will say, this was one of the most unique hostels that I ever stayed at. And would not mind staying here again.

    I drove to the airport with no problem. But getting in the area, there was the issue of refueling the car. I had to look up where any gas stations were, and did find one, that did not stray too far. Just had to go to this one, to refuel the car, which was a 7-Eleven. After that, I went back to the airport. And dropped the car off there.

    I walked to the terminal, to check-in and print my boarding pass. That was when I learned of a lengthy delay. When getting to front desk after waiting in a long line, and telling the agent that I would kill time by going into the city. But the agent warned me that the delay time can change to an earlier time. So if I missed it, it would on me. So I was stuck here.

    As it turned out, the delay was reduced by 1 hour, but still a long time. I took a tram, and went through security, to get to gates. But when unloading some things there, I saw that my camera was missing. After security, I went through my things again, to make sure. And yes, it was not there.

    I filled out a form online, and called the hostel first. It was not there. Then called Enterprise a few times, but no luck. Then it hit me, from the day before, when I threw my jacket in the car, I heard a thumping a sound. That was when I realized that my camera may have fallen out, I had to call the airport Enterprise. And turned out, they did have it. I was relieved.

    So I went back to the car rental center, and did get the camera back. So I guess the delay, and the fact that I did not venture into the city, were blessings in disguise. Because I would have been devastated that I could lose those set of photos. The camera sometimes, is the better option than the cell phone.

    So back to the gates, and got lunch there. Luckily, that place allowed free refills of drinks. And just waited for time to board. A long wait, but after all that, I really should not complain. When the time came, I did finally board. And sat with other people, who I got to talk to.

    The plane took off, leaving Tampa, and arriving back in Philly finally! But taking the train back, took longer. But I did finally made it back home!

    This was an interesting trip, and possibly the first of 2 visits to Florida this year. And got to visit another stadium, as I visited Tampa for the first time.

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