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Old 29 Jul 14, 04:31 PM  
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Disney with the Dufflers - Day 1 - Travel Day and Arrival at CBR

Day O - The Day Before

Day 1 - Travel Day and Arrival at CBR

So what everyone wants to happen the night before you go on holiday is for you to sleep soundly and be fresh and ready to go! This did not happen.

Did I sleep? Did I heck!

It started well. I managed to get a relatively early night.

Neil wasn't so lucky. He went to visit his best friend (and best man) as it was his birthday that day as well. He got in at 11pm. Not too bad, really. Except that we were up at 4am. And the dogs woke us up at 1am barking because a taxi had pulled up by the house.

So, I think I got about an hour. If that.

The alarm went off at 4am. We were meeting everyone else at 4.45 outside Mumís house. Luckily, we all live within walking distance of each other so a synchronised set off was possible. And synchronised watches? Nah, just kidding. Would have helped us out on the holiday though! Haha!

4.15am. I am up, dressed and ready to rumble. Think Iíll just nip downstairs and have a quick brew and last minute check of all my travel documents.

Neil: Tracey?
Me: Yeah.
Neil: Have you seen my Ipod charger?

Why would I have seen his Ipod charger? Itís his Ipod! I have my own Iphone and my own charger which were both neatly packed away in my travel bag.

So the next ten minutes were spent looking for his Ipod charger. Found Ipod charger. Itís now 4.25am. Maybe I can still have that cup of tea...

We went to zip Neilís case (mine had been zipped up and locked the night before) and I realised there was a padlock on the zip. A locked padlock.

Me: Neil, do you know where the key to your case is?
Neil: Errr, no...

Oh God. Weíre going to have to find a pair of pliars. What if Dave doesnít have any pliars? Weíre going to have to get another case down from the loft, wake up Sue and Dave (Neilís parents), unpack the padlocked case and repack the new case. And weíre setting off in fifteen minutes... :angry:

Neil: Oh wait, thereís a little key on my keyring, maybe thatís it?

It better be.

It was!

It is now 4.40am. No time for tea, no time for last minute check of travel documents. Itís a good job Iím organised.

Sigh. The things we do!

Anyway, we were all assembled outside Mumís house in our three cars. Neil and I had offered up some space in our car to the Dufflers if they needed it but they managed to get all of their four large cases into their car. Very impressive logistical management.

We left the arrangement of our car parking way too late and ended up in Jet Parks 3 for Manchester airport which is basically five zillion miles away from the airport. Mum and Martin led the way and we eventually got through all the roadworks to arrive. Unpacked and left our beautiful new car, Elsa, for two whole weeks.

We had no problems with check in or with our seat reservations. The queue at security was surprisingly short so we were through with no frisking (apart from Mark) and ready for some breakfast.

I was, at first, a little disappointed with the breakfast offerings at Terminal One in Manchester Airport. I wanted to go to Frankie and Bennys, the traditional offering for Terminal Two but no such luck. We had a look at the Grain Loft, but there was nowhere to sit and the queues for breakfast looked huge. So we went across the way to Giraffe.

With hindsight, this was a very very good decision. The breakfast was fabulous. The service was only all right, mainly because they were exceptionally busy and only looked to have two waitresses serving on. However, the food really was fantastic. This was my breakfast burrito.

It sounds disgusting but it was gorgeous! After Jinkys in Santa Monica, Neil and I now have a thing for Mexican breakfast food.

After our breakfast, we had a wander round duty free. Neil, OB and Sam bought some new world cup stickers (I donít want to know how much of our house savings have been sacrificed on the altar of that goddamn sticker book!) and Neil decided to get dosed up on caffeine and bought not one but two bottles of Mountain Dew. With the result that I was sat next to a hyper child for a nine hour flight. Fabulous.

I bought some new perfume from duty free: Nina by Nina Ricci if anyoneís interested.
Before we knew it, it was time to board. Now Iím sure many of you are familiar with the ĎGo to Gate... í and for usually having to allow about half an hour to get there because without fail, itís always the last bloody gate which is actually five miles walk from the main terminal building.

To our surprise, our gate was actually really close. With the result that a lot of our party ended up going too far...

The first of many laughs throughout the holiday.

When we got to the gate, ready to board, Megan started getting really worked up about flying. The last time she had been on a plane, she was two, so naturally, she didnít remember a thing about it. Debsy tried to reassure her, as did we all but the only real way she would get over her fear of flying would simply be to experience it for herself. As Neil rightly pointed out, itís just the fear of the unknown, really.

Anyway, I took a few pictures of us all at the gate, ready to go!

We were about twenty minutes late in taking off but we were soon up, up and away.

Literally the weekend before we were due to go, I got a very pleasing cheque from HMRC for tax I was owed, so I decided to treat us all to a bottle of champagne on the flight. I felt dead posh and important when the flight attendant asked over the PA if anyone wanted some champagne putting on ice. Donít mind if I do!

Some pictures from the flight...

A few observations on Thomas Cook in general...

-All of our flights were on time and landed early. Well done TC.
-The staff were very friendly on both flights and could not do enough for us.
-Seat pitch is okay, I still felt roomier on our last Virgin flight, even though I know that TCís seat pitch is actually bigger.
-The IFE was rubbish. We had the 2-3-2 older plane, so I know that if we ever flew TC again, it would be the nice new refurbished plane. There were four films on a looped system each way. Television entertainment was also looped and there wasnít a great deal of choice.

However, it got us there, into Orlando International Airport, at £200pp cheaper than we would have paid for Virgin Atlantic. So overall, not bad at all. I wouldnít hesitate to book Thomas Cook again because I know that those planes are on their way out.

I do think that Neil and I might splurge for extra leg room next time though, I was very jealous of Mum, Martin and OB who had so much room at the front of the plane. Furthermore, Iíd booked Neil and I a window seat... but there was no window. It was one of those annoying seats thatís between windows so instead of seeing beautiful Orlando as it came into view, I saw... nothing.

Edited at 04:50 PM.
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Old 29 Jul 14, 04:41 PM  
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After what seemed like an age (doesnít it always when youíre on your way there?!) we finally began our descent into Orlando.

When we landed, we unfortunately had a 30 minute (yes, you read that right) delay in getting a walkway attached to the plane. This was nothing to do with Thomas Cook, this was to do with the ground staff at Orlando but nonetheless, very frustrating.

I tried to remember what the score was with other planes landing into Orlando, trying to calculate when we could expect to arrive at CBR... After what seemed like an age, they finally attached a walkway.

I swear you could have seen a dust cloud behind our family as we left the plane and headed through security. No, still not a Nazi. No, still not involved in espionage. Only here for two weeks for a holiday. Promise.

We got our cases really quickly and headed over to the main terminal building and to the Magical Express counter.

I was a bit annoyed with the ME this time. There was no problem when we got on the bus, but there was a HUGE queue at Orlando International (thereíd been no queue in May 2011) and only two people serving on, even though there were loads of people stood about Ďhelping.í Iíd booked the ME over the phone with WDWTC and the lady Iíd spoken to on the phone said it was just attached to our booking. I didnít get a confirmation number.

When I finally got to the front of the queue, the man I spoke to seemed really agitated by my lack of confirmation number. Not exactly what you want when youíve just arrived from a nine hour flight. Eventually, he got our booking and printed off our vouchers.

In no time at all, we were on the ME

And once again, our first stop was... CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT.

I love going on the Magical Express. It really kick starts your whole holiday with Disney magic. The cast members who were sorting everything out even gave us Disney stickers. I mainly took this last picture because I wanted a picture of Neil with a Disney sticker on.

Now there is one thing that you really donít want when you arrive into Orlando. Aside from being eyed up like a terrorist at the security gates. Yes, youíve guessed it. RAIN.

Just as we pulled into the Walt Disney World Resort. Unfortunately, as weíd landed at 2.10 and by this time, it was coming up to 4pm, we had clashed with the afternoon thunderstorms.

By the time we arrived at CBR, however, the thunderstorms had stopped and the Florida heat hit us for the first time. What was worse, the humidity didnít seem to have let up even though it had just lashed it down!

Four words on the weather... PAIN IN THE BACKSIDE.

It rained on all but two of the days we were in Orlando. Unlike the last time we went for the first two weeks in July, the thunderstorms were not prompt at 3pm and lasting for half an hour. They ranged from breaking at 11am, to 1pm, to 5pm, and sometimes this rain did not stop for several hours. Only sometimes did the rain cause a let up in the humidity. We wonít go at that time of year again.

It didnít spoil our holiday too much, as it could have rained every day and we would still have had a good time but there were certain times in the holiday when the rain did spoil our plans somewhat.

Anyway, back to CBR.

We had an exceptional check in at CBR. And I mean exceptional. The place was loaded with people who couldnít do enough for you. Our cases were taken off us straight away and loaded onto bell service carts while Mum and I handled check in. The CM who served us was fantastic, we were straight to the desk, all reservations sorted.

Iíd had a slight niggle from reading on the Dibb that some people who had put in their resort address as their delivery address for their Magic Bands had had some trouble getting them but we had no trouble. I couldnít wait to open our package, I was like a child at Christmas being given a shiny brand new toy! What was more, I couldnít wait to show Neil the personalisation Iíd had done.

Tinks and Grumpy were the names I had on our bands. That about summed us up. Mum had had Mutti, Martin was Marty, Oliver was OB, Mark was Duffler, Debsy was Debsy Do, Megan was Megsy Moo, and Sam was ... Sam.

And then I could have kissed the CM when he finally shared with us (after my persistent nagging) that we were in Aruba. Aruba 55. Hurrah!

I looked at Mum and she looked and me and she knew that that was when my holiday began. Travelling is quite stressful and organising ESTAs, flights, accommodation and dining plan credits for 11 people is no mean feat. But Iíd got everyone there, we were at CBR, our Magic Bands had arrived safely and personalised. Everything had gone to plan. Everyone could start relaxing.

Neil: Still got to get to the room though, havenít we?

He says, with a smirk and a wink at me, knowing that I was irked that he still couldnít get excited.

Bell service escorted us to Aruba 55, which to my delight was nearer to the bus stop than Aruba 52, but further away from Old Port Royale. You win some, you lose some. Neil and I had room 5536 on the first floor, whereas Mum, Martin and OB and the Dufflers were next to each other on the ground floor by the courtyard. To be honest, this probably worked out better. It gave Neil and I a little privacy and distance from the main hub of activity and it was lovely and quiet on a morning as we were round the back of the cluster.

And then, we arrived.

Iíve never seen anything like the explosion that came out of Neil. ĎYESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!í he screamed, clenching his fists and punching the air. Seriously, Iíve only seen this sort of excitement when City score. To think that arriving in our room at Caribbean Beach Resort incited a similar emotion was a very proud moment for me.

This was our room:

We were all pretty tired but the euphoria of finally arriving just took over. Neil and I did the quickest unpacking stint youíve ever seen, located the beach towels and swim wear and it was off to Old Port Royale en masse.

CBR is such a beautiful resort, it really is.

Neil loved the hammocks.

However, some could barely notice the beauty of the resort because they were just so damned happy to be there. This is one of my favourite pictures of the whole holiday because it perfectly captures the euphoria of this moment.

Neil, myself, Sam, OB and Megan hit the pool, eager to be cooled down for the first time since that oppressive July heat had touched our skin, while the adults hit the bar. There was plenty of activity around the main pool area, we ended up getting roped in with a group game where you punched around a massive inflatable ball, keeping it in the air for as long as you could without letting it drop. So much fun. There was music blaring out, bit of One Direction, I noticed, meeting Meganís eyes with a grin.

It started to rain a touch when we were in the pool, so we decided to get out and hit the bar. The Ďadultsí were already well on their way.

But everyone was just in such good spirits, the tiring journey had not set in yet. After retrieving mine and Neilís passports from the room (rookie error), we had a beer and got settled in.

Next, we activated our dining plans and refillable mugs. I got a Caesar Salad with Chicken and a brownie.

However, as always, eventually, the journey hit us. Debsy and Megan were the first to crash. Followed by myself. Neil stayed for another drink with Martin before we finally crashed to bed about half eight.

As I snuggled into the comfy CBR beds and attuned to the air conditioning noise, I had to smile. There was no escaping it. This place was home. And tomorrow, I was returning to my favourite place on Earth. And quite literally nothing was better than that feeling.

Day 2 - Magic Kingdom is here

Edited at 04:58 PM.
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Old 29 Jul 14, 05:30 PM  
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What a fab read! I feel your pain at disorganised peeps. Why does it have to be so haaaaaaard? Love the hammock photo- brill
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Old 29 Jul 14, 06:05 PM  
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Brill ! I will be following this as we are staying there next May :-)
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Old 29 Jul 14, 06:06 PM  
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Love it

Cant wait for more instalements
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Old 29 Jul 14, 06:08 PM  
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Brilliant day, looking forward to more, great photos. Pussycat
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Old 29 Jul 14, 06:33 PM  
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Fantastic read and photos. LOL I have the same little Disney book and pen

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Old 29 Jul 14, 06:38 PM  
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Great travel day thanks for sharing.Lovely pictures.
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Old 29 Jul 14, 07:14 PM  
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What a good travel day, relaxing by the pool with a beer just what we love!
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Old 29 Jul 14, 07:34 PM  
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Fab report. We are staying there next march x
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