Orlando / Miami trip report 26-11-2004 to 10-12-2004
This report lists our recent trip (4 adults) to Orlando and Miami. We stayed in a private 3 bedroom / 2 bathroom villa in Orlando, 1 night in Homestead and 2 nights in Miami. The villa in Orlando was situated on the 92/27 junction about 15 minutes drive from Disney World. It was rented at a cost of £ 300 per week. We hired a car (4WD gold package) at a cost of £ 420 for the fortnight. Flights with Virgin Atlantic both ways (LGW-ORL and MIA-LHR) at a cost of £ 325 per person. Total cost for the fortnight per person was £ 580 excluding food/drink/petrol/additional hotel costs. Park tickets were pre-purchased from the UK at a cost of £ 160 each (2xDisney Hopper, 1xUniversal, 1xGatorland, 1xKennedy Space Centre and 1xSeaworld). Additional costs have been mentioned in the report for those interested in working out spending costs whilst in Florida.
VS27 LGW-MCO departed about 40 minutes late and arrived at 16:00 local time. The flight itself was pretty uneventful with good cabin crew staff looking after your needs with efficient and speedy service. We passed through customs and immigration and had our luggage by 17:15 hrs. We collected the car from the car hire company but they issued us with a 15-seater van rather than the booked 4-wheel drive. It was to be exchanged the next day. We accepted this. We drove to the villa and arrived at 21:00 after having some trouble finding it and stopping on the way for essential provisions. Drove to a Chinese for a meal for 4 to take away (US$ 42) which was enough food to last us for 2 days!
Cloudy start to the day. First thing first and we exchanged the van to the booked 4WD. We had lunch at Pondorosa on I-Drive (US$ 8.99 each, eat as much as you can) after which we played a round of minigolf, also on I-Drive. As the weather was gradually getting worse, we decided on a bit of retail therapy. We drove to the bottom of I-Drive and visited the Nike factory outlet for some cheap sports gear. On the way back to the villa we stopped off at Walmart to get some more and this time cheaper provisions. The evening was spent in the villa outside on the terrace with a rather burned pizza out of the oven and quite a few bottles of Bud.
Not a cloud outside and the sun is shining. The perfect day for what we decided to do: a day to Daytona Beach. We set off at 09:00. The drive down took 2 hrs on a relatively deserted I4 motorway. On arrival we were met by a ghost town. The beaches were deserted and the cold Atlantic winds prevented us lying down and soaking up the rays. We opted instead for a long stroll on the very clean beach. As there was nothing else to do, we decided to try the greyhound dog racing as we spotted it next to the Daytona racetrack. Unfortunately by the time we got there only 2 more races were scheduled, so we opted against it. We had a late lunch at a typical American diner (US$ 10 each) on our way back towards Orlando. Back in Orlando we went to some Beltz retails malls for some more cloths shopping. Dinner in the villa and plan making for the next day.
A misty start to the day. After breakfast we went to Seaworld. We arrived just after 09:00 and noticed an almost deserted car park (US$ 8 for the day). It was not crowded at all, and that was how it remained all of the day. The most we had to queue was 10 minutes. We took in most of the shows on offer (circus act, whale show, show with domestic animals) as well as the few rides on offer. We had lunch (US$ 21 pp) at the restaurant with the sharks, which was very good. Left the park just after 6PM and after a quick shower and change at the villa to TGI Fridays on the 92 for a snack (US$10 pp) and some more drinks
A hot day with no cloud in the sky. Breakfast at Sizzlers on the 92 (US$ 3.99 eat as much as you like). After breakfast we went to Gatorland. This is a half-day attraction. 100 female and 30 male alligators roam the park - all gated off of course. There were various shows on display and we watched the alligator wrestling and live feeding of two massive alligators. On the way back to the villa we stopped at the garage for our first full tank of petrol (19 gallons at US$ 38 ) and charcoal for our afternoon barbeque round the pool at the villa. The day was rounded off with a game of tennis and more drinks in the evening.
Universal Studios was on the agenda. We got to the park at 09:30. Once again during the whole day there were no queues at all. We took in all the rides and a couple of shows. As we did not have a flexi pass we were limited to the one park and we choose Universal Studios over World of Adventures. We could have upgraded for US$ 20 each but did not have enough time to warrant this. We had a rather bad lunch at the park (US$ 15 pp). We left at 7PM and picked up a Chinese on the way back (US$ 12 pp).
A very cloudy day. It was one of our rest days. It was spent doing more shopping for bargains in the retail outlets. We got lost for the first time getting to I-Drive from our villa and had to take a 30 mile / 2 hr detour through areas of Orlando tourists usually do not venture. We tried to find a pub to have a drink in the evening to no avail. Orlando does not seem to cater for just drinking establishments. We settled for TGI Fridays instead where a happy hour and karaoke were in full swing.
A bright and sunny day. Disney's Epcot was on the agenda. We got to the park at 09:30. It was the first time we had to queue for rides (about 15 mins per ride). We took in all the rides on offer. The latter part of daylight hours were spent at Magic Kingdom where we took in 3 more rides before the 6PM kicking out time. Back to Epcot for a Chinese dinner and some drinks (US$ 35 pp) after which we watched a spectacular 20-minute fireworks display that makes our local UK display look like a Mickey Mouse display (pun intended). Back to the villa after trying to find our car at Epcot for about half on hour at about midnight totally exhausted.
Left at 09:30 for our next attraction: Kennedy Space Centre. We arrived just after 10:30 after a relaxing drive. We started off with an impressive 3D Imax movie showing the ongoings on a space shuttle mission in space. After visiting some of the displays we went on the 3 ½ hr tour by bus of the complex. We got as near as 1 mile from the shuttle launch pad. After Kennedy we had dinner at Cracker Barrel restaurant for a very good meal (US$ 11 pp). Evening spent at the villa with some more drinks.
Back to Sea World to watch the feeding of the dolphins. We had a free return ticket from our fist visit and it therefore did not cost us anything apart from the US$ 8 parking fee. We went straight to the dolphin encounter to feed the 20 odd dolphins (US$ 4 for 3 fish) in order to have an opportunity to interact with and touch them. The afternoon was spent with more retail therapy. In the evening we went to a dinner show called Arabian Nights. We choose the VIP package (US$ 60 pp), which included priority seating, meeting of the artists and horses, a 3-course meal and unlimited alcoholic and fizzy drinks. The show lasted after 1 ½ hrs and is recommended especially to those who love horses.
Our last day in Orlando before leaving for the Miami area for the remainder of our fortnight. Our party of 4 was split into 2 with girls off to Magic Kingdom and the guys to MGM. We left at 08:15 and dropped the females off at Magic Kingdom and we arrived at MGM just before 09:00. Once again there were no queues. The rest of the party joined us at 2PM thanks to the hopper ticket. We had lunch consisting out of a giant turkey leg each (US$ 8 ). We took in the Fantasmic show just before close of the park at 8PM. McDonalds on the way back and drinks in the villa
Left the villa at 7AM and we made the 250+ mile journey to Homestead. We had breakfast at Burger King on a service station. We had a leisurely drive and arrived at Homestead at 3PM. We checked in at the Days Inn motel (£ 27 per room), which was clean but not recommended for stays longer than 1 night. We had dinner at a Golden Corral (US$ 15 pp) eat as much as you like with free refills on non-alcoholic drinks. The evening was rounded off with a couple of games of 10-pin bowling (US$ 3.50 per game pp).
Continental breakfast at the motel, which was included in the room price. We then headed into the Everglades and took an 1 hr private airboat ride (US$ 50 pp) and an alligator show after. We stopped at a Walmart for a sandwich (US$ 2.50) on the way to Key Largo where we spent the rest of the afternoon. We drove to Miami South Beach and checked into the Holiday Inn (£ 70 per room per night). Evening meal at the Outback Steakhouse (US$ 15 pp).
A sweltering hot day, which was spent soaking up the sunrays on the beautiful Miami South Beach. Lunch at subway (US$ 8 pp). We had dinner and quite a few drinks and cocktails at Finnigans on Ocean Drive (US$ 50 pp) in the traditional Art Deco area of Miami.
Time to head home. The morning was spent around the pool after which we dropped the car off at the hire company at 2PM. We arrived at the airport at 14:30 in time for our 18:40 VS6 flight back to Heathrow. Service on the plane from the flight attendants was the worst I have ever seen from Virgin. After take off dinner was rushed and almost thrown on your lap and quickly cleared. After two hrs into the flight, the lights were dimmed and no member of the crew was to be seen until 1.5 hrs before landing when breakfast was served. During our return journey we were offered one drink - that was it. The plane landed on time at a very cold and damp LHR - back to reality.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Thanks again for your time in doing a great easy to read holiday report
At Universal we had lunch at one of the outlets inside the park itself, not outside where the NASCAR bit is situated - a great mistake that was. I can not remember the exact name of the outlet but it looked like a hotel building which turned out when inside to be a fast food outlet that served very soggy chips and a not very tasty at all piece of chicken wrap.
When we go next to Florida again, will try the suggested NASCAR restaurant instead.
Also, has anybody else noticed when you get back from Florida how dirty our streets and amusement parks really are. In all the parks we visited you could almost eat your food from the street and the toilets could not be any cleaner. Even the streets you walk on outside the parks are clean. Compare this to good old England with rubbish all over the street, dirty public toilets and you sometime wonder why we live here!
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