Florida 2004  
We stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge which has its own surrounding savannahs populated with all manner of strange and not so strange animals.

With the rapid decline of the dollar, we found that we could easily get better value by booking direct as the brochure prices had been set many months before and the holiday companies were therefore coining it in just a little in our opinion. By buying one annual pass for Walt Disney World (WDW) we could get a huge 40% discount on hotel rates and this far outweighed the cost of the annual pass, let alone the fact that we now had one persons paid entry to the WDW parks for our entire stay. Being on a mission, we researched high and low for additional ways to say money by doing things direct and ended up saving well over £1,000 (yes, one thousand pounds) on the brochure price for the same holiday!

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is impressive. We had visited this hotel on our previous holiday so knew what to expect. We had a room overlooking the Savannah. It was lovely and quiet and quite eerie sitting out on the balcony in the evening hearing the sound of animals munching on grass down below.

Inside the main lobby, the AKL is a massive open space and we remember from our previous visit that it was quite noisy and busy. However, this time it did not seem so, and this was our only worry about the place put to rest.

There are two restaurants within the AKL, one a buffet called Boma and the other a full service restaurant called Jiko. Both are excellent, though you need a second mortgage if you want to try the South African wines in Jiko!

Walt Disney World

We’ve talked about all the theme parks in our last Florida holiday run down so we’re not going to repeat ourselves here. We will, however add some of the bits that we didn’t do last time round.

Keys to the Kingdom Tour

Being the Disney buffs we are, we decided that it was time for us to take a behind the scenes look at WDW. The Keys to the Kingdom Tour is based in the Magic Kingdom and takes a few select guests on a guided tour around the park revealing some of the ‘secrets’ that the general public don’t normally notice. Underneath the Magic Kingdom is a network of access tunnels call the Utilidors (Utility Corridors) and the tour includes a short walk through these. Virtually all shops and rides within the Magic Kingdom have access to the Utilidors so that staff can move about the park without being spotted in a place other than that for which they are costumed up. All the logistical running of the parks is also performed through these tunnels. We thought the tour was very entertaining and are glad that we did it.

Mouse Boats

Most of the lakes within the WDW resort have boats that can be hired by the half hour. On our last holiday we hired a boat for half an hour but didn’t get very far as the boat was underpowered and there just wasn’t time to chug all the way to the other side of the lake. This time we heard that the boats had been upgraded and so we rented one for a whole hour (sunscreen factor 15 for this exercise). We had a great time nosing around bay lake and getting in the way of the ferries to/from Magic Kingdom.

Water Parks

If we had a free afternoon we went along to one of the WDW water parks. There are two parks – Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. They are both similar in that they have a large open swimming area, lots of water chutes of various extremes and a slow moving relaxing outer ring of water which takes you around the whole park on an inflatable. We tended to arrive at about 4pm when the majority of people had already left the park, and the rest were on their way (having been there since opening time to stake their claim to a sun bed!). The parks are open until 6pm so there was plenty of time for a little relaxation and a few water chutes to prepare ourselves for our evening meal!

Busch Gardens

About an hour drive south west of WDW, Busch Gardens is another theme park that we decided to take a look at this time. Formerly a Zoo, Busch Gardens (owned by Anheuser Busch – the beer people) is obviously quite animal orientated. Having said that, they have added a huge array of quite extreme rides that made it quite a fun day out.

Rocket Launch

When planning a holiday to Florida it is always worthwhile keeping an eye on the Kennedy Space Centre Launch Schedule as there are frequent manned and unmanned rockets (as well as the odd space shuttle when they’re not grounded) that take off from this site. Although we have never been lucky enough before, as schedules can change right up to the last seconds before launch, this time was to be different. We made our way to Cocoa Beach to view the launch of an unmanned rocket (sent up to place a satellite into orbit around the earth). Although the distance to the launch site is several miles, it is quite awe inspiring to see and well worth all the effort and the (huge) risk of seeing nothing.

A few odd foodie type discoveries that we’d like to share with you:

Cape May Café Clam Bake

This is a restaurant within the Yacht Club Resort near Epcot. We had high hopes for this place being keen shellfish eaters, a Clam Bake sounds so interesting. We were, however to be disappointed. The Clams were basically boiled, and as this is a buffet style restaurant, over boiled at that!

Taco Bell

A huge chain of eat-in/take away type restaurants all over the USA , we’ve never tried one before. It’s fast food, but definitely one up on a McDonalds!

Krispy Kreme Donuts

We actually discovered these in Vegas but found them again in Florida and were not disappointed. Donuts in the UK are stodgy. Not so here. Thankfully, Krispy Kreme is making its way into the UK and we have one here in Watford already! They also sell them in Harrods…. nuff said!

Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits

We’re always willing to try things that sound odd and the title of this fast food chain does appeal to us. You have to bear in mind however that biscuits in the US are not the same as biscuits in the UK . Theirs are actually buttermilk scones, perhaps a little too salty but nice even so. We really like the Mashed Potato with Cajun Gravy. The chicken is similar to KFC, though it’s available as Spicy or Mild (or Spiceymou as the lady at the hatch bellows very quickly at you, she had to repeat that question three times before we understood and then it was only a process of elimination that got us there!). The chips are good too!