Christmas 2012 Florida

Many thoughts about this trip, but in all we had a great time.

We have always had a very high opinion of Disney, but this trip I would have to say that Universal was a hands down winner. We spent 5 days total in the parks with 1.5 days at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, 1 Day in The Magic Kingdom and 1 day in Disney’s Hollywood Studio.

Universal really impressed me. I felt that the tickets were reasonably priced for the experience they provided.

  • $49.23 Average Daily Price Per Person – There was a deal to buy 2 days and get the third free.
  • Photo Connect Program – Allows you to collect your park photos in digital format. For $40 we were able to download all of the photos taken of us in the park, at the gates, with the characters and on the rides (Harry Potter was the only exception).  These were edited for us at no additional charge each night.  The images were available almost instantly on our cell phones to be posted to Facebook or emailed.  We loved this Program and had about 65 images for the money.
  • Crowds were managed well with employees directing traffic in congested areas.
  • Reasonably priced food. – Mythos was a wonderful sit down meal for $10-$18 per person.


I don’t want to down Disney.  We did have a good time, but I felt that the experience was not worth the price that we paid.

  • $91.66 Average Daily Price Per Person
  • Disney PhotoPass is comparable to the PhotoConnect, but the price is more than 4 times as much @ $169.
  • The crowds were horrible.  We were told that they were at capacity, but that must have been the # of people allowed by the Fire Marshal not what they could service well.  The other travelers were extremely rude.
  • At the Magic Kingdom – The Buzz Lightyear ride was closed for most of the morning and the lines in the new Fantasyland were multiple hours.
  • At Hollywood Studios – Toy Story Midway Mania was an awesome ride, but the wait was over 3 hours.  We got a fastpass early that morning and were able to ride it once around 10pm.  We were also disappointed to find that multiple attractions in the park close at 5pm.
  • We did dine at Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood Studios and the food was great.  We did have to wait an hour to be seated and the average cost was $35 per person.  I also felt that we were being rushed out to free the table for the next group.



To end on a fun note watch Jessie and Bailey on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket.  I will say that he had been on this ride before and multiple times after this video.  Fear was not an issue, but you couldn’t tell that from his expression.

Bahamas 18th Anniversary 2011

It has been a while since we have had a real break.  This short trip seemed to be exactly what we needed.

From Bahamas 18th Anniversary 2011

We stepped from the gangplank and onto the ship around 1:30 Friday afternoon.  We were ready for 2 1/2 fun days at sea as well as a day in Grand Bahamas and a day in Nassau.  We took a very unconventional approach to this trip.  The port was chosen for convenience and price, but we do have a history with this ship.  Carnival’s Fantasy was the ship that we spent our honeymoon on 18 years earlier. We are a family of 6 with children ranging from 5 – 16 years old and this would be the first vacation without the kids in over 8 years.  The purpose of this vacation was relaxation.  We did very little planning, no excursions were booked.  We planned to simply do as much or as little as we wanted at any given moment.  We were simply looking for a chance to be away and carefree.

Our first stop after boarding the ship was with our Maitre d.  We were able to switch from a table for 8 to a table for 2.  The meals and service were unbelievable each evening.

The days at sea were enjoyed on the Serenity Deck.  This is the child free, adult retreat on the back of the ship. It provided sun or shade, plenty of chairs, two hot tubs and very little noise. It was most enjoyable during the rain on the day we departed.

We booked no excursions.  As we disembarked in the Bahamas we would look for transportation.  Each day that turned out to be scooters/mopeds.  After returning to the boat in Freeport we discovered that Carnival does not recommend using mopeds because “they are very dangerous”, but we are rebels and did it again the next day.  The mopeds combined with the geocaches that I had printed before we left home provided a great adventure.  The caches had been placed on the paths less traveled.  In most cases these locations were both deserted and breathtaking.

I would recommend taking a look at CruiseCritics Secret Tips to cruising. There was a lot of good information though some of it has changed over the years.  On this ship they no longer provide free playing cards at the pursers desk.

Bailey at Camp Bob Cooper

Continuing with the Summer Camp theme, Bailey has begun a week at Camp Bob Cooper.  She was greeted with smiling faces in her dorm and a beautiful view of the lake.

Sunday – Jan 10, 2010

Sunday – Jan 10, 2010

Universal Orlando … here we come ..

so today was Bailey’s turn to pick the color of the t-shirts and of course …. she picked PINK ….

here are some of the pics from today … plus all the dirty details

the alarm went off at 7:00 … but …. everyone was still sleeping …. the irony is just CRAZY !!!!
if we were at home … Jordan would have been up by 6:00/6:30 and would have woke everyone else up too.
but not today …. I hit the snooze …. so then the alarm when off at 7:10 … and everyone was still snoozing …
so I hit the snooze again …. not it’s 7:18 … and my hubby has the good sense to get up and get moving and he reminds me that we have to be at the shuttle by 8:10 at the latest.

Ok … so …. there are 6 of us and getting everyone ready and out the door is one of my biggest irritations … and generally takes at least an hour but always MORE!!!!
so … we have less than an hour … and everyone is still asleep … and we need to get layered up … and everything together for a day in Universal.

the little 2 had “swam” in the tub last night … so I didn’t have to worry about giving them a bath … but I did need to lay out there clothes with lots and lots of layers.
Jordan was probably the warmest of us all … he had on thermals … then t-shirts and jeans … then his one-peice zip-up Spiderman outfit.
KK was pretty warm too … she had on tights with blue jeans … long sleeve shirts … sweatshirt … then t-shirt … plus her jacket
Bailey insisted I was wrong and that she was not going to be cold … (the I told you so came very soon after getting to the parks) …
I finally convinced her to put on a couple long sleeves under her t-shirt and at least take a jacket
We also had to get the teenager to wake up … and we stuck him in the shower in hopes of getting him awake and clean at the same time.
Not sure if he really got in or if he just let the water run while he slept on the toilet …LOL!!!!
I tried again to explain how cold it would be … but with him being so smart …. he didn’t even bring his heavy coat because I was not correct about it being cold in FL … ummmmm

I jumped in the shower but didn’t even bother to wash my hair … I knew I didn’t have time to dry it and I knew I would need to wear a hat to keep from freezing to death.

And … we should get an entry in Ripley’s Believe It or Not … because we were all dressed and in the van … pulling to the front to catch the shuttle … BEFORE 8:10.
We even remembered the camera and the tickets !!!!!

I’m not sure what the temperature has been today … because the van only says “ice” … I know it goes down to 30 degrees because we saw that yesterday …
but when we left this morning it said ICE … and when we got back in the car around 4:00 … it said ICE …. it has been freezing all day … in FL!!!!

Needless to say we did not get near anything with water … but we really didn’t have to worry about it … MOST of the rides were closed!!!
I couldn’t believe it!!! We have a 7 day pass … so I wasn’t all that concerned about it … but if I had paid regular price for a day pass … I would be highly upset.

Our shuttle left the hotel at 8:15 … and it only took a few minutes to get to Universal … but the park didn’t open until 9:00 … so … we had to wait around in the cold for quiet a while.
We did wander around in some shops to keep warm … but not a really great idea with 4 kids … there was stuff they REALLY wanted to buy in every store.

We decided we would head towards Islands of Adventure first … Bailey is finally tall enough to ride the Hulk and Jordan was ready to see Spiderman …
so we figured that was the best place to start … once inside … We took a quick detour to ride The Cat In the Hat so we could warm up for a few minutes … since it’s an inside ride!!!!

Then we headed towards the Marvel Comics area …but the Hulk was CLOSED!!!! they said it was too cold!!! …. this turned out to be the theme of the day …. Dr FearFall was also closed …

BUT … Spiderman was NOT!!!! …. it’s an inside ride and the wait was very short …. the little kids aren’t sure if they liked it or not … LOL!!!!
Let’s just say … I can’t convince them to ride it again … and their eyes were sooooo big during the ride … and they were really quick when it was time to exit the car 🙂

We walked all the way around Islands of Adventure … but most of it was closed because of the cold …. or would not be open till 11:00 … at this point it’s not even 10:00…
and we have been outside since at least 8:30 … and I had lost feeling in many parts of my body!!!
We made a quick stop at the Dinosaur Center … but they said they weren’t ready to open yet and ran us out (along with other peeps trying to keep warm) …
so we kept walking … and wandering around … and we ended up back at the Cat in the Hat again … so we rode again … and got nice and warm ….
And decided it was time to go to Universal Studios instead …. so we walked over there …

At Universal Studios …. we headed for the Shrek show …. then the Jimmy Neutron Ride … got our picture with Sponge Bob … and then headed to ride the Mummy.
FYI … it was still freezing …. people were bundled up and shivering in line … it is the total opposite of being here during the summer …

We did the child swap for the Mummy … KK and Jordan weren’t tall enough … but KK waited in line with me, Bailey, and Jessie … while Jordan and Jamie waited in the child swap room
Even in the building where you wait to get on the Mummy (an indoor roller coaster) it was cold and drafty.
When we got to the que for the ride … they guy was going to let KK ride … and she chicken out … or I should say freaked out … and started screaming …
I had to run and take her to the child swap room 🙂 … after that long of a wait … I didn’t want the 3 off us to miss our chance to ride
It was probably a good thing .. but I was hoping to get her past some of her “fears” 🙂 … at least Jordan got a little nap while he waited ….

By the time we waited in line for the Mummy …. and did the child swap … it was lunch time … plus we never did eat breakfast ….
so we decided to stop for lunch … I hate doing lunch in the parks … the food is yucky and cost a fortune!!! ….
but that was the only option we had today … of course, the kids thought the food was awesome … go figure 🙂
(I will take in groceries the rest of the week or eat at the hotel)

after a very long lunch break … remember you have to wait in line for the over-priced food too …. we headed to ride ET …
I think everyone enjoyed the ET ride … at one point … Jordan was holding on so tight … his knuckles were white!!!! …. probably traumatized another kid with our love of theme parks!!!!!

At this point …. we had to decide if we were ready to leave or not …. there are only 2 shuttles back to the hotel … one is at 3:30 and one is at 7:30 … and the park closes at 6:00 …
since it was so cold … and everyone had been such great sports about the weather and waiting in lines … we decided to end the day while everyone was still happy!!! (hard for me to leave early)

So we headed back to were the bus was to pick us up …. the little guys love that part too … with all the moving walk-ways and escalators … they think that’s part of the rides 🙂

We ended up being early for the bus but enjoyed waiting because the bus was warm!!!

Once we got back to the hotel … we took a quick tour of the welcome center for the hotel/resort/condo/whatever-you-call-it ….
the pool looks awesome … even a little water park for the kids … and YES … they did ask if they could get in …. they are tooooo crazy … of course I said no …
the play room no longer exist … but the signs do … so we spent a little time on a search for something that wasn’t really there 🙂
there is also a small game room … but I’m not into putting quarters into machines … so … with nothing around there to do …. we headed back to our room!!

Once in the room …. everyone wanted to get warm in the big tub …. so we had to take turns “swimming”!!!!

and that’s where we are now ….

everyone is warmed up again … and watching Sponge Bob on TV …

I made a shopping list for Jamie and he is taking Jordan and Bailey with him to grab some food for the room and maybe a few more hats and gloves for tomorrow

and I’m typing this up and trying to get my toes to thaw out!!!!

I think it is suppose to be warmer tomorrow and even warmer on Tuesday … so I”m sure our adventure will continue at a much faster pace!!!!

Heading to Orlando (Morning of Saturday, 1-9-10)

Morning of Saturday – January 9th 2010

Well … we put a few miles on the “mini-dutchman” last night …. and stop for a rest once we crossed into GA around midnight …

Getting all the kids out in the FREEZING weather and up to the room was a chilly experience …
BUT not near as exciting as trying to get everyone to sleep … or some of them back to sleep as the case may be!!!

Jordan had fallen asleep … so he felt that his couple hours were enough for the day and was ready to go … he found it all very exciting!!!!
PLUS … the room at 2 beds and a VERY small pull-out bed … so …. no one was happy about the sleeping conditions … but …. when on adventure …. you must roll with it …
We finally decided on on Jamie and Jessie in a bed …. Bailey and I in a bed … and Jordan and KK on the tiny bed …
(Jamie and I NEVER sleep apart … so I think he was the most unhappy about the situation)

Well … needless to say that never actually worked … I finally separated KK and Jordan …. and had KK get in bed with Bailey till I could get Jordan to settle down ..
Then I got back in the bed with Bailey … and needless to say KK would not get in the bed with Jordan ….
this is not surprising because KK is ALWAYS sneaking into my bed at night … so that fact that Bailey I were going to sleep in the same bed … well …
she decided that she was going to sleep with us too!!! … and the beds were not our spacious king bed like we have at home …

So … I didn’t get much rest … but I did spend plenty of time praying for peace and joy on our trip 🙂

In the morning … everyone was ready to hit the road again … we woke around 8:45 … and started getting everyone dressed …
the little guys insisted on taking a bath … new facilities … they are so funny … they thought the hotel room was just the coolest …
and thought the hotel bathroom was not to be left out of the adventure

Then it was on the road again … still have lots of miles to put behind us before we make it to Orlando ….

We made a quick detour around 10:30 … The Smallest Church in America
It was very cute … very pretty … and the kids enjoyed ringing the bell

Then for breakfast/lunch we stopped at Cracker Barrel so everyone could get their tummies full and stretch their legs again …
of course they needed to potty too … once again … Jordan found the facilities to be amazing …
and he is telling everyone that will listen that he is going to see Spider Man …

Day 21 – Thursday – Williamsburg, Ohio

Today was spent hanging out with Papaw Fred and Mamaw Mary’s house in Ohio.

We arrived after long drive from St Louis last night and early this morning … to a very excited and waiting family. My mom said she had to stop looking at the pics on our web site because it was making her miss us even more 🙂 So … she was waiting in the yard when we arrived … she was jumping about 3 feet off the ground!!!

Today was very calm and uneventful. Papaw Fred had his last treatment this morning. They are not going for a cure … just trying to lessen the growth and the pain .. the drs have given him another 6 months … so we hope to make a few more trips with mom this year to visit our family here.

Today was spent recounting our adventure … sharing pictures and laughs … the kids getting to play with mom and showing her all the things they had “collected” along the way.

We ended the evening with pizza … and I actually fell asleep sitting on the couch with everyone talking around me … it was great to have help with the kids!!!

Day 20 – 3rd and Final Stop – St Louis Arch

Today was a very big and busy day …. the kids (and I) loved all 3 stops we made … and we were able to put some miles behind us …. we will not be stopping tonight … want to have time with our family tomorrow … so we will drive as much as the Captain can thru the night …

The Gateway Arch was very cool … I had no idea all that stuff was under the Arch … the kids headed straight for the Jr Ranger station … and Jikkal grabbed our hiking medallions from the gift shop …. it was already after 8:00 but I was excited to find out that the Arch stayed open till 10PM … so we had plenty of time to check out the museum and complete our workbooks …

Day 20 – Stop #2 – T REX Cafe in Kansas City

There are only 2 T Rex Cafes …. the one in Orlando … and this one in Kansas …. it’s kind of like a Rain Forest Cafe …. the older 2 have been to the Rain Forest Cafe in Orlando … but the little guys have never seen anything like this …. Dancing Mermaid says she didn’t remember Rain Forest Cafe …. so … this was a huge treat for them … they were so excited when we walked inside … and went crazy when we told them that this was were we were eating lunch … I love surprises!!!!