one thing i've always hated about cruising is how they make you pack your luggage and set it outside for pickup the night before you actually leave the ship. but they also offered an express option, meaning you got to keep your luggage, pack at your leisure, but you had to be able to handle taking it off the ship without any assistance. well, we'd managed to lug it around the airport on our way to the cruise, so we figured we might as well do it again. plus, we could get off the ship as early as 7:30 or something like that.
that morning, the girls and i got up early to enjoy one last meal onboard. the hub, who isn't much of a breakfast guy anyway, opted to stay in bed for as long as he possibly could. and when we got down to deck 2, we found that a ton of others had selected the express option as well. the lineup was already pretty intense at 7:00.
our breakfast menu was pretty limited, as the staff was also preparing to start all over again with a whole new crop of cruisers arriving that afternoon.
oh, so sad.
back in our room, we found the hub still enjoying his last few precious minutes of sleep. but he got up as we came in, and while he was getting himself ready we did a final sweep of the room to make sure we hadn't left anything behind. we'd done a pretty good job of getting everything packed up, and all that was left of us was our "club roses" from our remy dinner.
the hall was quiet and lonely-looking, as the cabin stewards worked their asses off to clean up after everyone and get the staterooms ready for the next cruise.
and one final goodbye on the monitor as we made our exit.
didn't seem that long ago that we'd come the other way through this terminal. the time had really just flown by so damn fast.
all we had to do was get through customs, which was pretty easy as we had all of our passports ready and our declaration form all filled out. and then it turned out that i wasn't supposed to take any photos in this area. oopsie.
now, a word about disney's magical express shuttle service - we hadn't realized that the bus wasn't going to move an inch until 9:00. it was just after 8 when we loaded our bags down below and climbed onboard. we were sitting in the third row, and that bus was completely full before we finally pulled away from the terminal.
bye, disney magic! thanks for a great trip!
it was a solid 45-minute bus ride, with more disney trivia and cartoon clips and promos for other cruises and disney-run trips. and then we were there:
our resort was, of course, the very last stop. of course.
the grand floridian is one of disney world's deluxe resorts, which we'd managed to score with a sweet hookup via a good friend. it's gorgeous and reminds me a lot of the hotel del coronado, which is one of my most favorite places to stay. but we weren't there to laze about the hotel...we wanted to play in the parks. and with our room not quite ready for us at that early hour, we checked our luggage with the bell desk and hopped onto the monorail to head to epcot.
i loved having a monorail station right there in our hotel. so convenient, with a much better (and reliable) schedule than the buses or the boats across the lagoon. we did have to get off at the transportation hub and switch to a different monorail to take us to epcot, but it wasn't too bad. and then...
i think we can all agree that our favorite part of epcot is the world showcase - 13 pavilions, each representing a different country around the world. there are replicas of famous landmarks, food and drinks and snacks from each country, and a lot of the cast members who work in the pavilions are from those countries as well. some of them come from the disney college program, which accepts students from all across the united states as well as the 13 countries represented in the showcase. it's a really fun way to get a taste of different cultures, and i've been a huge fan of this area since my first trip to disney world in 1987.
while the hub decided that he wanted to enjoy a burrito and some cerveza in mexico, we decided to keep strolling along and found ourselves in china.
we stopped in a quick-serve cafe for some lunch - although it wasn't anything particularly unique that we couldn't get anywhere else, it's what sounded good at the time. like my plate of orange chicken and rice:
the bean's order of potstickers:
and the old lady's beef noodles.
afterwards, we decided to suck up some air conditioning and did a lot of browsing in the shop.
i would've totally taken these guys home if i'd had room for them in my luggage:
but after being told that this would bring fertility into the home, definitely not this one.
the bean got to decorate a paper fan and got her name written on it in chinese:
and then we stepped back out into the heat and walked around a little more. this was in africa:
in germany, we stopped for some caramel deliciousness.
mmmmm, toffifay. these things are so delicious, but i didn't pick any up because 1. i can get them at home pretty easily (and probably cheaper), and 2. they would've melted in the heat and humidity the moment i went back outside.
we did, however, pick up a couple of treats before heading out to find the hub.
we found him at a nearby stand, happily sipping his first cold beer of the day.
by then, it was almost time for our first fastpass of the trip. since it was in the future world section of the park, we decided to save ourselves a little walking and hopped onto the boat that took us across the lagoon.
we'd never ridden test track before. the last time we were here, the bean was still too little (and not quite ready) for any of the fast rides. but now, she's all about it.
inside, you got to design your dream car. using the giant touchscreen monitors, you could adjust the size of the body, the angles, add accessories, choose paint, and even select your fuel type.
using our magic bands (more on that later), we saved our creations and then when it was almost time to actually get on the ride, we touched the band to the sensor and our vehicle popped up on the screen.
you also touched your magic band to the sensors at the end to save your ride photo to your account. i hate to admit it, because i've been rather anti-magic band, but i had to admit that it was pretty nifty.
with that done, we decided to head over to the universe of energy and watch the movie hosted by ellen degeneres. this is a pretty old attraction, and you can tell because ellen doesn't really look quite the same. but it's an old favorite, not to mention air conditioned, so it was definitely a winner.
it's not a trip to epcot without riding the spaceship earth attraction - it's what's inside that giant golf ball-looking thing.
afterwards, we gave in to the lure of the nearby starbucks for some cold caffeine.
and they all gave in to my request to take a cheesy family photo.
with more time to kill before our dinner reservation in japan, we headed back to the world showcase to check out the other side. first stop - canada.
the UK was next.
inside this shop, we found authentic souvenir teacups commemorating the queen's 90th birthday. and a ton of british snacks.
guys, what the hell is "deliciously squidgy energy" and do i want it? malt loaf with currants baked in? ew. i think not.
there was a whole section of beatles paraphernalia, and a few bowie tees too.
this made us all long for france. hard to believe it's already been three whole years since our trip to europe.
and then we finally made our way to japan.
we checked in for our dinner at tokyo dining, upstairs right over the giant department store.
the bean was, of course, overjoyed to order some of her beloved salmon sushi.
i had the bento box, which had a little of everything and was all pretty darn tasty.
afterwards, we checked out the kiosks and the huge department store. and despite our full bellies from dinner, we gravitated towards the snacks. because you know how much we love our japanese snacks!
well, we looked at the toys too. lots of fun.
and there was a whole room dedicated to kawaii culture. that was really fun to look at.
by then, the hub and the bean were just done. the old lady and i were hoping to catch the fireworks show, just an hour away, and so we stayed behind to browse a little more. we found ourselves strolling through morocco, shopping the bazaar and getting the old lady a henna tattoo. it's a tradition for her - she's gotten one of these here every time we've visited.
we were pretty tempted to bring home our very own aladdin lamp, but we managed to restrain ourselves.
the fireworks show was fun to watch, although we were a little bummed when we realized that the park was closed as soon as it was over. we'd been hoping to cap off our night with a crepe from france, but it was not to be.
bye bye, epcot.
the poor hub and bean had gotten stuck waiting forever for the monorail, which had broken down, and ended up having to take two boats back to the hotel. they'd only been back for a little while before we joined them. our room was nice and spacious, and we were happy to finally shower and relax.
i tell you...we probably need a vacation from our vacation. because it wasn't over yet...not by a long shot.