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Old 24 Jul 19, 03:27 PM  
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tracey1302
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Disney with the Dufflers - Take 2 - Jul 2019 - Day 1 - Travel day and arrival at Sapphire Falls

Pre-Trip Report

Day 0 - Monday 1st July 2019 - Overnight at the Radisson Blu, Manchester Airport

Day 1 - Tuesday 2nd July 2019 - Travel day and arrival at Sapphire Falls

I woke up on our travel day absolutely buzzing. Neil and I had fallen asleep at about 9.30/10pm in the ridiculously comfy bed at the Radisson and as a result, I was wide awake and well slept by 5am.

The rest of the gang were setting off at 5.45am in a minibus together, so I sent them a picture of Tinkerbell sprinkling pixie dust (I would upload it but .JPG and .PNG images only )

They replied quickly and were on their way at 5.50am.





Neil woke up at 6.20am and went in the shower. I scurried around the room, packing up the last little bits of our stuff and making myself a quick cup of tea. I was so excited to see everyone again (even though we'd been in constant contact the day before and been out for tea on Sunday 30th ). I had a quick peek outside and saw that the weather was clear, and a check of the VA app showed that our flight was all on time.

I was also super excited to fly VA again. We hadn't flown with Virgin since 2011. We'd flown TC in 2014 (our last trip with the Dufflers) and on our honeymoon, Neil and I had also flown TC over to New York. We'd managed to get a really good deal on flights (£512 return for economy) and the boys had upgraded for extra legroom seats. The Dufflers had used their airmiles to upgrade to PE but given that we were sat at the front of the Economy section, we were actually really close to where they were sitting...

Anyway, in all my daydreaming about the Virgin IFE, Neil got out of the shower at 6.30am and we had another message buzz through from the gang. They had arrived!

The minibus driver must have seriously hotfooted it from Halifax... to Manchester Airport in 40 minutes... what?!

Anyway, not wanting to keep the gang waiting, Neil and I checked out of our amazing room at the Radisson and walked over to Terminal 2's departure hall. We were there in 5 minutes. God, I LOVE staying at the airport.

We spotted our lot straightaway. We're not exactly a subtle group I ran up to my Mum and gave her a massive hug. They had already completed bag drop and got their paper boarding passes (still don't know why they hand these out when you get an electronic one on check in?). I was also super impressed when I saw that there was a random ice cream cart handing out ice cream to passengers in the VA queue. Ah, Virgin, I've missed you Neil got in on that action straightaway.

We told the rest of the crew to get through security and we would meet them at our breakfast destination of choice: Frankie and Benny's. We completed bag drop very quickly and managed to actually catch up with them all through security and all headed over together.

We last ate at Frankie and Benny's in 2011. We had another great meal with them this morning. I ordered a smoked salmon, avocado and spring onion bagel...



This was absolutely gorgeous. So light and refreshing. I was going to order some breakfast potatoes, but then I remembered how much they feed you on VA flights, so decided against it

We had a really great breakfast and I wouldn't hesitate to go back.



After breakfast, us girls did a bit of last minute shopping... I bought some earrings and both me and Mum bought some make up from duty free and got a coffee . I also quickly located our gate which was literally right there as you walk into T2's waiting gate area behind the small Cafe Nero stand. We found the boys not soon after... can't take 'em anywhere



We soon all congregated in said bar, although having ordered a bottle of champagne for us to have on the flight (as was tradition), I didn't have anything to drink here and just enjoyed my coffee.

DISCLAIMER: If you've read 2014, you'll know that we do like a drink on holiday... this holiday does not disappoint in this regard. Most pictures are of us with a beer/wine/champagne/cocktail. Don't say you weren't warned

After enjoying our drinks, I soon noticed the best ever change to our flight status...



So we did...



Our flight was the Pretty Woman

As the Dufflers were flying PE, they went on ahead and got through straight away. Us in the cheap seats () waited a good while before we were called to board... in the meantime, we were sent this from the Dufflers... how rude



As our expected time of departure of 9.55am was drawing really quite near, the VA staff started doing pre checks in the massive queue that had formed by the gate and this made the whole boarding process go a lot quicker. We finally got through and were ready to board.

The boys were on row 25, right by the exit. Me and Mum were on row 26 right behind them. We also had a spare seat right next to us which was very handy We were just so happy and excited to get up, up and away...



Our flight time was announced as 8 hours 30, 30 minutes earlier than posted. God bless Virgin.

We had a very smooth take off and I remained so happy once again that we'd chosen to fly VA. Everything seemed to have gone so well already, from check in, to boarding... The IFE was also as brilliant as I remembered, with so many films on that I wanted to watch, I knew that the flight would pass really quickly.



The flight staff were soon round with menus for the flight...



And I approached them about the champagne that I'd ordered, which they promptly delivered in an ice bucket with glasses for me, Mum and the boys.





Lunch was served really quite early... maybe about 11.30, but perhaps that's because we were at the very front of the section, so were served first



Not that I'm complaining, I was absolutely starving (somehow? ). I had the pasta which was really tasty.

I watched A Star is Born which had somehow escaped me at the cinema, but then I started having issues with the volume on the IFE. I couldn't get the volume control to work and I was struggling to hear it. The VA staff quickly supplied me with a laptop which I was able to use much more easily. They also brought us FAB ice lollies. I've not had one of them since I was about 11. It was amazing.

After a bit more chatting with Mum, and having watched one movie already, we were somehow 1/2 way through the flight already and they brought round afternoon tea and offered us another round of drinks.





For the last three hours of the flight, I watched Mum sing her way through Ed Sheeran and George Ezra's albums with some amusement.



I also watched Ralph Breaks the Internet which I absolutely loved.

I was about to watch film number 3, but upon starting Creed 2, which was 2 hours 20, I realised that I wouldn't have time to watch it all before we began our descent, so I just resorted to chatting with Mum and the boys.

We had a few visits from the Dufflers during the flight, who were enjoying their PE experience. I'm sure it was great in PE, but honestly, for me, the economy experience in VA is so good, I'm just not sure it's something I'd pay extra for. Especially given that the boys were able to pay a little more to get loads of extra legroom.

With 30 minutes to go, the pilot announced that we were beginning our descent into Orlando, and as is usually the case, my eyes filled with happy tears. Whenever I am in Orlando, no matter how stressed I get with ADRs and transport (and there were two notable instances of this on our holiday, mainly to do with weather), I am 100% happy and content. I honestly feel like I've returned home.

The ground staff at Orlando were brilliant, and despite a lengthy taxi on the runway, we were straight off the plane (can't recommend our seats enough), however we hit a wall when we got to immigration Us five were the first off our entire plane, but there was a small flight from Mexico that had landed just before us... and there were 3 desks on, with about 20 vacant positions.

We arrived there at 2pm and we didn't get out until 2.45pm

I know for many this would be a good run, but it was still very frustrating, especially given that there seemed to be about 100 staff just standing around chatting. Why weren't they on the desks, letting through the 400+ people on our flight? Sigh.

Anyway, as me, Neil, Mum, Martin and OB were through before the Dufflers and as there had been a delay through immigration, we quickly located our cases on the other side and were ready to roll by the time the Dufflers came through.

We got that all too familiar monorail over to the other side of the airport and headed for the B side of the Terminal to request our Uber XLs to get to Sapphire Falls. Now here, I got a little confused. We went down to Level 2, and then I remembered from 2017 that Neil and I had got our Uber from the tunnel next to the car hire desks where you got the Magical Express. So we went down again to Level 1. Then I looked at my Uber app. It said we had to get the Ubers from Level 2. Whoops.

So, we took the escalator... which took us back to Level 3. Whoops

What? No Fastpass? joked the gang.

Anyway L2>L1>L3>L2 and Neil and I ordered 2 Uber XLs for our massive gang. We waited about 10 minutes and loaded up the cars, heading for the amazing Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando.

Staying on site at Universal was something that Neil and I had loved on our honeymoon. We had adored Sapphire Falls Resort in the three nights that we stayed there and couldn't wait to return. It was a massive first for the rest of our gang, and I knew they were all very excited.

I felt a happy nervous flutter in my tummy when we turned in here...



And were all soon greeted with this incredible lobby.



Everyone dumped stuff on the sofas and admired the view and I borrowed Debsy and Mum for check in as the rooms were in their names. Our check in at Sapphire Falls was slightly disappointing in that our rooms weren't ready. They had one room out of three ready. I know that check in isn't until 4, but when you've travelled transatlantic, it's literally the worst thing you can hear.

If it was just me and Neil, I wouldn't have minded, but when there's 9 of us in 3 rooms, it is a little annoying

In reality, however, during the check in process, Mum's room also became available, and then about half an hour later, the Dufflers' room also became available, and they had been upgraded to a water view room (I think possibly because they had a wait )

Even though our room was beautiful, Neil and I had an access friendly room which meant our bathroom was huge, but that we didn't have that gorgeous walk in shower we had last time. But really, it so didn't matter.

I dumped our cases and I had efficiently packed our beach stuff in the small overnight case that we had used at the Radisson, so I was soon in one of my favourite ever locations, chilling in the hot late afternoon sun with a beer.



Everyone loved the pool area at Sapphire Falls (it is so stunning ), however, we only stayed there for an hour or so. As some were starting to crash, we all had showers and went down to get the boat to Citywalk to get some tea. Even though Neil and I were doing relatively okay thanks to our amazing night's sleep at the Radisson, Mark and Debsy had barely slept at all, and I think Mum said she and Martin had had about four hours.

I soaked in the amazing dock and waterfalls at Sapphire Falls. I'd missed it so much.



Everyone was very impressed with the water taxi.



Me and Neil were just happy to be back 'home'.



In no time, we arrived amidst the buzz and electricity of Citywalk. There is really something special about the water resorts on Universal property. It's just so fantastic to arrive by boat.

We asked someone to take a picture of us all...



I had wanted to eat at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville for tea as it's still somewhere I've never eaten, but on approach, they said it was going to be 45 minutes wait for a table and we really needed to eat as quickly as possible. My thoughts went immediately to NBC as it's so massive and we'd got in no problem when we'd been with our friends in 2017.

I wasn't disappointed. They seated us as a party of nine straightaway. Amazing.

It was tasty burgers all around at NBC...



After dinner, Debsy and Megan really started to crash so we paid the cheque and the gang headed back on the boat.

Neil and I decided to stay and have a wander around Citywalk which was looking particularly beautiful that evening.



We also decided to walk back to Sapphire Falls which was a really lovely walk. However, when you go on the riverside, the signs direct you over some bridge and essentially on the side of the road and through the front doors of Sapphire Falls when you can just carry on by RPR... why they direct you this way is literally beyond me

Anyway, we got back to the resort, bought some water for the room and crashed out in those truly remarkable beds. As I felt myself give in to sleep, I was so overwhelmingly happy to be there. Tomorrow, our holiday would really begin and we were headed in to Universal Studios for early park admission... and for Mum, Martin, OB and the Dufflers, into Gringotts for the first time

Day 2 - Universal Studios and Hard Rock Cafe is here.

Edited at 11:58 AM.
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Old 24 Jul 19, 05:22 PM  
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Cinderella
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Great travel day :-)
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Old 24 Jul 19, 05:30 PM  
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Buggles94
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fantastic travel day
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Old 25 Jul 19, 08:32 AM  
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It sounds like a fab travel day. I love the photo of you on the flight with your champagne. I'm going to pack our swimmers in the carry on bag too as we want to hit the pool after the flight. Thanks for the tip.
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Old 27 Jul 19, 07:15 AM  
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A brilliant start to your holiday. Sapphire Falls looks stunning. We're staying at Cabana Bay next year but might have to go have a look.
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Old 27 Jul 19, 04:34 PM  
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Iím loving your description and photos of your return to SF - such a gorgeous hotel and pool! I reminisce often about those big comfy beds, they are the best hotel beds Iíve ever slept in.
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Old 27 Jul 19, 04:53 PM  
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Excellent travel day. Sapphire Falls looks amazing, very tempted with a wee stay there.
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