Just thought I'd do out a little report from our recent honeymoon to Orlando. We set off on the the Sunday morning from Dublin airport at 09.25 in the morning on Continental airlines. Our flight was to Newark airport and from there we were catching a flight to Orlando. The flight itself was very comfortable and had a good selection of movies and other programs to watch on the little screen in front of you. The legroom was brilliant compared to some of the charter flights I have been on. We landed in Newark sometime in the morning at about 11.30 local time. We had to collect our bags and go through the customs people which took us no length of time. We then put our bags on the transfer carousel and off we went to our departure gate for Orlando. What made it better is that we were checked in the whole way from Dublin so we were no length of time in Newark by the time we had a walk around the duty free shops. What struck me most was how helpful the Americans were at Newark in spite of all the security measures. They are so different from the tourists that we get here in Ireland.
We caught our flight to Orlando which took us a little over 2 hours and we also got to watch another movie which passed the time a little for us. I think it was about 16.30 or so when we arrived at Orlando airport. We got on the shuttle that brings us to the main terminal buliding where we were met by our American holidays rep. We collected our bags and
went downstairs to get our transfer to our hotel. The company that brought us to the hotel was Mears transport. It was a very spacious minibus and we had only 2 stops before we got to our hotel the Rosen Plaza. The driver was very helpful and very informative on the way about the different attractions in the area so we learned a great deal on the way.
We got to the hotel and checked in which was straight forward enough. Our room was great. It was very spacious and comfortable. It had two double beds, T.V and all the usual stuff that is in a hotel room. We were on the tenth floor and had a great view which was great as I'd brought my binoculars with me. After we'd unpacked we went across the road for a
stroll to Pointe Orlando which was right opposite our hotel. Was a little dissapointed with some of the shops that was there. While we were out we decided to eat so we went back across the road to the Ming Court Chinese restaurant and ate there. It was a little bit on the expensive side but was delicious. After that we had a couple of drinks in the hotel.
As we'd been travelling all day we were a little wacked so we were in bed very early that evening.
Got up the next morning early as we had to go to our welcome meeting which was in the pub called the lucky leprachan. This was the only pub that I know of on International drive that you could smoke in for any of you smokers out there. Me personally I don't smoke but my new wife likes a fag with her vodka and Diet Coke so for her it was great. For the 1st time in my life I was asked for ID or carded as they say in America so make sure you have your ID with you when out for a few bevys. After the meeting we got the I-ride back to our hotel and as the weather was very cloudy we decided to go and do a little shopping. We took the I-ride down to Belz outlets. It's a good place but it is really spread out and quite big but there was bargains galore. 2 pairs of Levi jeans for $50. It costs me 50 euro for 1 pair here in this greedy little country that I live in. I also bought 3 Nike long sleeve tops for $20. Again a fantastic bargain.
That evening we ate at the Sizzler which was just beside our hotel. It is an all you can eat buffet style restaurant and is always busy but there's always a good supply of food available. I ordered a steak which was delicious and then it was help yourself which we did and stuffed ourselves all for $13 or $14 each or something like that. The next morning we got breakfast there which was about $5 each I think. Again it was a case of stuffing ourselves but we didn't eat a thing for the day as it does keep you going and you can get a Daily Mail for all you Brits out there so you can keep up with the news back home.
We went to Universal Studios that day and what a day we had there. It was the best craic I've had ever. We done all the rides except Jaws because it wasn't working that day and the Mummy returns cos the queue was ridiculously long compared to the others. Definitley the Back to the future ride is the pick of the bunch in Universal studios. Shrek 4-d and
Jimmy Neutron were also excellent. After that day we were well and truly knackered so we caught our bus back to the hotel which is provided free of charge by the Rosen plaza. Just tip the driver a dollar and he's happy.
The day after we took a trip down to Wet and Wild waterpark. We first had our breakfast at the Ponderosa that is down near there. It's basically the same as the Sizzler that I mentioned earlier but I think this one was a little cheaper. Wet and Wild was a scream. We both had so much fun there but BEWARE......make sure you have plenty of suncream with
you as you will burn very easily walking around this place and mind your feet as they will get very sore from walking around on the hard ground. The best rides here were The Storm, Der Stuka, The Bomb Bay and the Black Hole. Make sure you are a decent swimmer for the Storm as it's a bit deep when you drop out of the bottom and the current is very strong. Also the Bomb bay will have your stomach coming out of your mouth. 76 feet high.
After we were finished in the park we got back to the hotel and swiftly changed our clothes and headed to the Premium outlets which are at the other end of International Drive past Seaworld. We got some great argains here. We got perfume and we also got more Nike stuff and we also got stuff in the Adidas superstore. I got a pair of trainers that was reduced from $120 to just $19.99. I couldn't believe it when I saw the price and they look every inch a $120 pair of trainers.
That evening we took the I-ride down to the Mercado centre and ate in a Chinese buffet style restaurant. I think it was called the China Jade(I think). This was very resonably priced and had a lot of nice dishes to choose from. As usual we stuffed ourselves as we
are great fans of the chinese food.
The next day we got up and again headed for a massive breakfast at the Sizzler. We then headed to Seaworld on the I-ride. We had another good day here and got some good photos. We done all the rides here too but the one that really sticks out is the rollercoaster called Kraken. What a thrill it was and is really a brilliant coaster which will have you on the edge of your seat. The one thing I noticed was that at all these parks the
soft drinks are a complete rip off and are way overpriced so your better off bringing an empty bottle and filling up from the many water fonts around the parks as the water is nice and cold and it tastes good too which is another thing I found out about American water. Also another thing if you are going here is if you do any of the attractions that
you get wet on it would be a good idea to do all these while you are wet and have a change of clothes with you so that you can change after your're finished as it can be a little uncomfortable walking around in wet clothes especially if its a little cloudy as you won't dry as quick as you would in the sunshine.
We ate at another Chinese buffet that night but the name of it escapes me at the moment but I know it is beside a massive souvenir shop on the same side as the Holiday Inn. It was the same sort of food as the china jade and this one sold alcohol which as I forgot to mention about the other place it didn't sell alcohol.
The next day we got the courtesy bus from our hotel to Universal Islands of Adventure. Another fantastic day was had at this park but my wife didn't go on any of the coasters as she's a little afraid of them so I was on my own for all of them. If anyone hasn't been there yet make the Hulk rollercoaster your first ride. Definitley the best of the coasters in Islands of adventure. We both went on the Jurassic park ride which was brilliant but again we got soaked but it was worth it. Spiderman 3-d was also excellent if your into that kind of thing. There was also the Duelling Dragon was was a decent coaster and the Unicorn which I mangaed to coax my wife on to which she suprisingly enjoyed.
The next morning we woke up which was Saturday the fun and games really started. I woke up and reached over to put the clock radio on to Magic FM and low and behold it was replaced with the local TV station broadcasting news of the impending hurrican Jeanne. As you can imagine panic started to set in with my wife but not with myself as I thought
this was a fantastic opportunity to see what a hurricane was really like. Now please don't think for a moment that I wasn't sorry for anyone who lost their homes in this monster but to experience it was unbelievable.
As I said the hurricane was all over the news and radio. We couldn't really go anywhere because the weather was gradually getting worse and the wind was starting to blow a little harder. We walked down to the sizzler to get our breakfast and the place was alive with tourists talking abou the impending hurricane. We got back to the hotel and as I said we
couldn't go anywhere far from the hotel as the curfew was coming into effect from 8 o'clock that evening so we walked over to Pointe Orlando and went to watch a movie to waste away a few hours. We watched Wicker Park starring Josh Hartnett which was brilliant. After that
it was about 5.30pm when we came out of the cinema and already the shops in Pointe Orlando were starting to board up the windows with plywood and the weather was really starting to get worse. We got back to the hotel room and read for a while and got up to date on the latest news on TV. Thank god for travel scrabble. We brought this with us and it saved our minds as it was pretty boring otherwise.
That evening we had to go down to the hotel for dinner as the curfew was in effect. The place was packed out with people. They were probably people who chose to leave their homes and stay in a hotel while the storm passed. We were very lucky in one sense as that American
Holidays had left a message for us that they had extended our stay at the Rosen Plaza till the Tuesday. This was great as we were to check out on the following day which was Sunday and I had horrible thoughts that we were gonna have to check out and have nowhere to go but American Holidays were brill. The food that evening was a buffet style but wasn't
great at all. There wasn't that much of a selection and it was a little expensive for what was on offer but it was adequate as there was nowhere else to go with the curfew. After that we headed back up to the room with a couple of cans of Bud and a bottle of vodka which we were able to buy in the hotel shop which was very well equipped with
everything and anything that you would need. While we were out they had put a leaflet under the door to tell us to fill our bath tub in case we lost power so we could flush the toilet and to keep the curtains closed in case of debris smashing the windows and to keep in touch with the news stations. After another game of scrabble we drifted off to sleep for the night but during the night I couldn't help getting up and having a little
peek out the window to have a look at Jeanne as she passed us by. It was certainly an experience watching big palm trees bending right over in the wind.
The next morning we got up and turned on the news to find out the latest only to hear that the curfew had been extended to 5.00pm so we couldn't leave the hotel till that evening. We went down to get some breakfast and catch any info from the locals that we were talking to. When we'd finished breakfast which might I add wasn't very early in the morning we went back up to the room and as I was looking out the window I could see some people out walking around with the binoculars. The original curfew time had passed so there were no police around so it wasn't really enforced that much. I decided to go for a little walk around the place to see what the story was and was anything open much to my wifes
objection but I managed to convince her in the end as the weather had calmed down a lot since the hurricane passed us by and the wind was no more than what we would be used to here in Ireland. I went down to the sizzler to see was it open as the thoughts of another night eating the hotels food had really started to turn my stomach. There was a load of
other tourists, mainly British who had the same idea as myself but to our dissapointment nowhere was open. So back to the hotel I trudged to tell my wife the good news.
There seemed to be very little damage around the place other than the odd few twiggs and branches blown around the place and some canopies off shops blown down. So that night again we dined in the hotel but to our suprise the food was a little better than the last few nights. So that night was much the same as the night before. Everything was going to be back to normal the following day so it was looking good to check out and head for St pete's beach.
The next morning which was Monday we got up and went to have some brekkie in the Sizzler. The weather was fabulous which was so hard to believe considering that a catergory 4 hurricane had just passed us by. Things just seemed to go back to normal very quickly on International drive. Myself and my wife were saying that if something like this had
happened at home everyone would be up in arms and in chaos. It's just shows how far behind we really are in this part of the world. After brekkie we headed down to the holiday Inn where the Dollar rentals are to collect the car. When we got there the place was in chaos. There were people everywhere filling out forms for accident damage from the hurricane.
We got our car with no hassle at all and they didn't even try to sell us anything extra. In fact the bloke didn't give us any information at all which I will go into in more detail in my 2nd week report.
He then told us to go out to the front and wait for our car to brought around. We waited about 3 minutes then this Dodge Stratus pulled up in front of us. I couldn't believe it as we'd only booked a normal 2 seater car and were expecting a Hyundai or something small like that. It was bigger than my car at home and a lot more comfortable too. So off we headed back to the hotel to gather our stuff which we had already packed
up. We rang the Tradewinds Island Grand in St Pete's to make sure our reservation was ok as we were a day late. Everything was fine that end so we checked out and said goodbye to Orlando.
To sum up our week in International drive.
1 Rosen Plaza Hotel. 8 out of 10.
Two marks deducted for expensive food and bad selection.
2 The whole of International drive is excellent. It really is
a good place to stay as you're in the centre of everything.10 out of 10.
3 Universal Studios. 8 out of 10. Deducting marks for some of the attractions. Twister and the earthquake weren't that good. Drinks and food are a little expensive.
4 The buffet restaurants are very good value if you have a family with you. The food is delicious in them and there's lot's of variety.10 out of 10.
5 I-ride is the best way to get around International Drive. Very cheap and quite regular. The drivers can be fun too and are great if you need any info. 10 out of 10.
6 Belz is brilliant. Loads of shops and great bargains to be had. It's a little to well spread out and can take you ages to get round it but well worth the visit. 8 out of 10
7 Premium outlets are brilliant. Loads of choice and plenty of bargains. Very pleasant place to walk around. 10 out of 10.
8 Seaworld was great fun. Like the rest of the theme parks it is expensive to eat and drink in but the shows are worth the visit and some of the rides are excellent.10 out of 10
9 Wet and Wild. Brilliant waterpark. Great rides in it. Thrill a minute. 10 out of 10.
So that was our week in Orlando, hurricane and all. If I think of anymore interesting stuff I'll post it up. If anyone has any questions then fire away.
Its the same report I posted in UKdish for anyone who read it in there.
We arrived down to St Pete's beach in just over an hour and drove along Gulf Blvd till we found the Tradewinds Island Grand. The weather was absolutley fabulous and a lot warmer than Orlando. We checked in and went to look at our room before unloading the luggage from the car. When we checked in we didn't have to pay for parking at all. They normally charge about $12 a day for it but thankfully it is included in the price so we were ok. They have a thing called an explorer pass and it entitles you to towels at the pool and use of the paddle boats around the hotel and tennis courts, use of the gym and other stuff. The room was ok. It wasn't as nice as the room in Orlando but it was very clean and had a microwave,Fridge and dishware. We decided not to bother asking for another room as it seemed very quiet where the room was located and out of the way as it was up on the 7th floor. The only downside to it was that there was no window. The only one was beside the door which only looked out on to the balcony. The rooms were more like apartments than hotel rooms. Masonettes would be the word I would use to describe them.
We then went to get a bit of shopping in at the local walgreens. Compared to when we go shopping over here it is very cheap in America. We got lots of stuff like Corn flakes and milk and even a few bottles of Bud Light for a fraction of what it costs in this country. After we got back we headed down to the pool for a little while to chill out and catch a few rays of sun. There is 2 pools at the Island Grand. One of them is supposed to be adult
only but this is crap as there was kids in both of them. There were a lot of kids around the hotel because a lot of families decided to evacuate to this side of Florida during the hurricane so it was a little noisy.
That evening we dined in a lovely restaurant not far from the hotel called Skidders. I cannot recommend this place highly enough as it's a brilliant place to eat and has a great selection. I think the bloke that owns it is of Greek descent. He had a lot of Greek stuff on his menu along with Italian also. The price of the meal was not very expensive either and there were huge portions. We also went down to a pub called Annie Moores which is done up to look like an Irish pub. It wasn't very good but having said
that it wasn't very busy either which is why the atmosphere wasn't great but the plus side to it was that you could smoke in there which my wife thought was brill.
The following morning we got up and had brekkie in the room as we'd bought a few things in for breakfast which was great because it made a change from the buffet we had every morning in Orlando. It was just laze by the pool time then for the rest of the day. The weather was really scorching and you burn in about 10 minutes so we made sure there was plenty of suncream on us. As I said the pool was a little busy with kids around and at times it was a little annoying as they would be splashing around and would occasionally splash your sunbed. It could have done with being supervised a little as it was an adult only pool.
That evening it was over to Skidders again for a lovely meal and then we went back to the hotel for a few drinks before bedtime. The hotel had 2 bars. The drink was very expensive in the hotel bar. We were paying about $9 for a vodka and diet coke and a pint of Bud. In the bars we were paying $6 for a round which was a lot cheaper.
The next morning we got up and headed for Busch gardens. It took us about 40 minutes to get there from our hotel. Finding it was easy as there were signs all over the place on the Interstates. On our way I saw something that was brilliant. The State Troopers had a car pulled over on the side of the freeway, obviously for speeding. I couldn't believe
the car the State Trooper was driving. It was the same type of car that used to be in the series Knightrider all them years ago. I just said to my wife Only in America. Anyway we got to Busch gardens and parked the car which cost us $7 for the day. They have a kind of trolley system that you board which takes you to the entrance to the park which is
brill as it saves all the walking. We got into the park and headed off for the 1st ride which was the Gwazi. Of course my wife wouldn't go on it as she's a bit nervous of them things so I was on my own. What a coaster. It certainly rattles you around a bit. My legs were like jelly when I got off it but it was worth it. We headed for the congo river rapids then and got absolutley soaked but it was a warm day and we'd bought a change of clothes with us that we'd stored in the locker so we didn't mind getting wet. As we were already wet we decided to do all the water rides first. We went on the stanley falls ride which was brilliant and again got well and truly soaked. The tanganyika tidal wave was another good one too which is well worth a try. After that we got on all the coasters. We took the
skyride across to the Egypt side of the park. The skyride was brilliant as it goes right across the safari bit and you can see all the wild animals.
The next coaster was the Montu. It's one that your legs dangle out of. I went on by myself first and really enjoyed it as my wife stood by and watched. When I got off she asked me what it was like and I said it was brilliant. I couldn't believe it when she said she wanted to give it a try. Apparently she saw smaller kids getting on which changed her mind a
little. She didn't want to come back to Ireland without trying at least one so off we went to the Montu. She had the time of her life and really enjoyed it so much. All she said when she got off was "I can't believe what I've been missing all these years". She was that impressed that she wanted to try another one so we went on them all and as I said she loved them. My wife also said that she would never be afraid of a coaster again
so she has been converted at last.
More to follow.
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