Florida 2016: Day Five – Animal Kingdom and Universal City Walk.

Sunday 12th of June – Day Five:

So, we both woke up to the best sleep of the holidays so far. We slept right through and only woke when the alarm went off at 6:45am. However, we woke up to some more horrific news.

The Pulse Nightclub shooting occurred in the early hours of the 12th of June in the centre of Orlando, approximately 25 minutes away from Disney World. 49 innocent people lost their lives in what was classed as the worst shooting terrorist attack in US history. I can’t get my head around why people feel the need to carry out such horrendous, horrible, evil attacks. We should live in a world of peace, love and acceptance, but unfortunately we do not. My heart goes out to all of the innocent people who lost their lives while going out to have some fun.

I was devastated to learn this news, just as I would have been if I was back at home at the time. However, being so close by really did affect me at the time, I just didn’t feel as safe as I once did. I know this happens all over the world, but Disney World was always the one place I felt completely safe and at ease – discovering the shooter was initially targeting Disney Springs while we were over there did scare me to living daylights. Because of this horrific attack, we parked our ideas of going outside of Disney and Universal for the rest of the holiday. We felt more comfortable doing this as most of Disney and Universal have a strict bag-check, metal detector policy for visitors.

Despite this tragedy, we had to move on with our day. My mam started getting ready, while I had my usual extra half an hour slumber. Apparently, after this I was a pain in the ass to wake but I admit to nothing.

I sharply got ready due to hunger, and we left the room at about 8:15am. There wasn’t really any sort of rush today as we had fastpasses for the rides we wanted to go on in Animal Kingdom so we just took our time instead of rushing to park opening, which was nice. My mam enjoyed her usual cinnamon roll, yogurt parfait and carton of milk from the pepper market while I opted for the Fiesta Platter. This platter was incredible, it included; scrambled eggs with Mexican seasoning, ham, sausages and breakfast potatoes and I bought an apple juice to go with it. My mouth is watering just thinking about that meal right now, yum yum yum.

We finished eating and then headed to the El Centro bus stop; there was a bus due at 8:51, a ‘DHSC’ bus pulled in and then changed to Animal Kingdom after the driver laughed at all of the puzzled faces staring up at him. We got to AK around ten minutes later, just a few minutes after the park had officially opened. There was an absolutely huge queue for bag check, and my mam always manages to pick the longest queue out of them all. It’s a talent of hers, along with being selected for the random security check…again. While I waited for her I face-timed my dad and showed him the AK entrance.

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The entrance to Animal Kingdom

After we scanned our magic bands, we headed straight through Discovery Island to Africa where our Fastpass for the Safari was waiting. We basically walked straight on the ride, and sat in the rickety truck that takes you around the enclosures. Unfortunately we didn’t see as many animals as we would have liked, it must have been the time of day. Oh well though, we would be on it a few more times over the duration of the holiday. On this day, we saw warthogs, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, rhinos, elephants, zebras, antelopes and lions. This is still a lot so I don’t know what was going through our heads when we wrote our disappointment down…

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I apologise for the blurry photo quality, they looked perfectly fine before I uploaded them! 😦

After we exited the safari, we saw a humongous gorilla at the entrance of the Pangani Forest Trail. We walked over and watched him sitting on his behind for a while before making a mental note to return and walk through the entire trail at a later date.

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Our next fastpass was scheduled for The Lion King Show, but this was not until 10:30-10:50 for the 11am show. Because we had a while to wait, we decided to walk back through Discovery Island towards Dinoland USA. On our hot and sweaty stroll, we paused to watch a mini show in front of the Tree of Life, consisting of 10-15 rainbow macaws flying over the audience’s heads to and from a wooden pedestal. They were honestly so beautiful, their rainbow feathers were incredible and we stayed for a good few minutes to watch them before trekking to Dinoland.

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When we got to Dinoland, I was itching to go on Primeval Whirl. For us English folk, that’s basically the Disney dinosaur themed version of the Wild Mouse we see at travelling funfairs ploughed in sticky, mud-covered fields. But, this version was in blazing sunshine, so what better? However, the wait was posted as 20 minutes, which is not at all bad, but the queue was barely moving and it looked like the wait time just hadn’t been updated. So, we decided to give it a miss to my utter devastation. We never did get on that wonderful ride during our holiday, major regrets. Instead, we walked straight onto Triceratops Spin (aka Dumbo) simply because, in the words of my mother, “It was a must”.

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Dinoland

By this time, it was getting extremely hot. We found the nearest water fountain and drenched our cooling towels/flannels in cold water before sticking them to our necks. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing these pieces of fabric are. Admittedly, when my mam ordered them off Ebay before the holiday, I scrunched up my nose confused as to why she’s just paid English money for two strips of fabric, but in the present moment, I was very grateful.

By this time, after a brief nose at the Dinosaur ride, we quickly made our way back to the Lion King show and entered immediately. We got seated in the Warthog section, which every Disney freak knows is only a step up from the giraffe section in terms of the challenge of making a grunt when prompted. Needless to say, this show was breath-taking as per usual. This is definitely our favourite show in all of the Disney parks, the quality is outstanding and gives me goose bumps every time.

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After the show had finished, we headed to Asia (as if it were that easy) towards our next Fastpass choice which was Kali River Rapids. Now, I positively adore this ride, but why for heaven’s sake is it always down when I want to go on it?! My mam tried to hide her delight at not having to get wet while I huffed and puffed like a little girl. As the workers did not know when the ride would be back up and running, we decided not to wait around and instead went off in search of a snack. We picked up a salted pretzel with cheese dip on the way to Discovery Island, and it was marvellous. Island Mercantile was nearby, so I dragged my mam into the cool air conditioning in search of a phone case. Guess what? No luck again.

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The Tree of Life at Discovery Island

By this time, we were both flagging and decided to leave the park. It was brutally hot, and the 15 minute wait for the bus in the lightly shaded bus stop was anything but helpful. We got back to the resort at around 12:30pm, and I had a lovely nana nap for about half an hour while my mam got the overnight bags ready to take to Universal that evening.

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Inside the Disney Buses

We were ready to leave the room at about 2:30pm, but not until after I had Face-Timed Tom. We had a little bit of time before our Mears shuttle was due to arrive at the hotel, so we stopped off at the Pepper Market to get a snack. I got nachos as I was starving, while my mam just got some Lays crisps and planned on eating at Cabana Bay.

As it turned 3:15, the Mears shuttle showed up and it turns out it was only us on board! The driver was really nice, as are most of the drivers we encounter when travelling with Mears in Florida. After the 25 minute journey, we got dropped off at the Universal Studios bus station, where we needed to get a 5 minute shuttle bus to Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Despite being well signposted, it took us a while to find which bus stop we were supposed to go to (I put that down to the heat) and before we knew it we were pulling into the front of the resort.

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Cabana Bay

The hotel was just like the pictures and videos we had watched on YouTube. It was bright, colourful and airy with a really friendly atmosphere. It was really ‘funky’ as it was 50s and 60s themed. We headed to the check-in desk where there was no queue, and within five minutes we were on our way up to the room. Our room was number #5549 on the 5th floor at the end of the main wing of the hotel. It was facing the parking lot and we could see some of the construction site of what was going to become the Sapphire Falls resort. It wasn’t the best, but we were only staying for one night so it didn’t matter too much. Also, we still had a great view and could see Islands of Adventure in the distance, I particularly liked looking at Hogwarts Castle out of our window.

The room was absolutely lovely. Although not as big as Coronado Springs, it was still a great size and we loved it. It was full of bright colours: turquoise, orange and green and had all sorts of patterns plastered around it. When we turned on the TV, we also had a personal message of welcome from the hotel which was a nice touch. After we had unpacked a little, we went to check out our hotel. The food court (Baydiner) was huge and offered loads of choice; it was much better than Coronado!

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Inside our room

On the first floor of the hotel, there is also a bowling alley and a health club, which is pretty cool. We only had a small peek in there, but it looked really nice. There are also two pool areas outside which are both huge: one was the Americana/Continental area, which also had a lazy river, and the second was around the stardust area which had pool slides, a hired DJ and sand play areas. This resort is well good, we would both really recommend it!

We then headed to the bus stop area so we could catch a shuttle to City Walk. The plan was to have some dinner, explore City Walk and perhaps visit some of the other hotels in the Universal area. At the City Walk entrance, there are now not only bag checks, but full-on metal detectors which each guest has to walk through. It wasn’t like this last time we visited, but it made us feel a lot safer, especially after this morning’s tragic events.

Before our reservation at Antojitos, we had a look in a few of the shops to see if there was anything we fancied purchasing, but we were both too hungry to be honest and were desperate to eat some yummy Mexican food.

Antojitos is a very cool looking building, and you’ll see it a mile off. It’s sprayed tie dye in rainbow colours around the outside of the building, but is perfectly classy and beautifully themed on the inside. We got shown to our table within 5 minutes, and eagerly looked at the menu. I have to say, I love it when Mexican restaurants bring you complimentary chips and dip, and Antojitos did. After a long time trying to decide what to eat, I opted for the Chimichanga and my mam ordered the veggie fajita. The food was absolutely delicious, but as always, you got so much bang for your buck that we were stuffed by about half way through our meals.

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The Mexican house band performing on stage
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Inside Antojitos

Instead of ordering some dessert at the restaurant, we left and walked towards Menchie’s. As if by magic, we could squeeze a bit of frozen yogurt into our extremely full bellies. I do love this idea, and wish we had more in the UK. Basically, you fill a tub with however much yogurt and toppings as you would like, and then the weight of the tub determines how much you pay.

I headed (obviously) straight to the birthday cake batter flavour frozen yogurt, and then decided to follow up with some Dulce de leche before I ploughed it with toppings. It was incredible!

After we’d finished our dessert, we headed outside but it started to absolutely (pardon the English dialect) chuck it down. We legged it to the boat dock and hopped on one that was stopping off at the Hard Rock Hotel, as we wanted to have a look. One of my Mam and I’s favourite activities to do on holiday is look around other resorts, and we’d heard the Hard Rock was simply fabulous.

As we approached it, we already loved this hotel. It was so grand, and was really pretty, even with the moist, drippy leaves and quickly evaporating puddles. In the lobby, there is a lot of memorabilia plastered all over the walls, and you can even see actual outfits tailor made and worn by some of the most famous musicians in the world! My mam had heard about an amazing fountain they had out front (we came in the back entrance), so we trekked outside to have a look. It was breath-taking, the fountain was huge, and sculpted by many metal guitars. My mam was even more obsessed than me, which is a first I can tell you.

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The shuttle boats at City Walk

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The Check-In Desk

Before we made a move, we had a quick look in the shop where I ended up buying presents for both my dad and Tom back home. I also bought my mam a bracelet that she had fallen in love with and a couple of entertaining (trashy) magazines and I was done for the night. We caught the boat back to City Walk and walked back to the bus station. As we usually do not stay overnight in the Universal area, we never have had the pleasure of seeing City Walk all beautifully lit up. It was fantastic, and something that I honestly see as one of the highlights of the holiday.

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City Walk at night

As we approached the bus stop, we leaped immediately onto a bus and within a few minutes we were back at Cabana Bay. I had a quick shower before collapsing into bed with the sound of the Mockingjay playing on TV (the Hunger Games was on). Within minutes I was asleep, it had been a busy day.

Tomorrow: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Jess x

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