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Photo TR: Derek and Nicole back in Florida

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Being the offseason, and still having vacation days left from 2007, we decided to take a little adventure back down to Florida last weekend. Airfare was cheap, hotels were cheap, parks weren't crowded, we had passes for Busch/SeaWorld, and Nicole had never been to either of those parks. And we're always up for a visit to Walt Disney World.


Getting up even before the sun, we were down in cloudy/sporadically raining Orlando shortly after 10am, and pulling into SeaWorld by 11. The offseason is always a risk when going to parks because there is a chance something could be down for rehab. But thanks to the staff at SeaWorld being on their game, we knew ahead of time that everything would be operational, with JtA coming back up from rehab that day. People often think of SeaWorld as just a bunch of aquariums now with a few rides, but the park is really nice, with good landscaping, lots of paths, and plenty to do.


and we finally say goodbye to Sea World with a final walk by the turtles.


Nicole pets some rays, but did not get stung because she's not Australian


and finally, the '09 attraction location from above.


and here's some Kraken goodness


Here you see Journey to Atlantis with Aquatica in the background, set to soft open next month.


Since it's complimentary with the Platinum Pass, let's take a ride on the Sky Tower


Not quite yet, but there are flags on some of the trees


We've stumbled upon the closed pathways in question. Is it possible to see some dirt piles?


Looks like this is where the new coaster shall be going in 2009


Looking at the park map, we see an area blacked out


Thus concludes our viewing of Believe. I am now a believer.


Launch the person, Shamu!


Shortly after this picture, almost everyone down in the splash zone ran up the stairs. Guess they didn't really think they'd get wet


Why, it's time for the Sham Slam, of course!


Oh no, what's going on now?!


Pretty small compared to mama Shamu, but can still give any ACEr a good run for their money at the buffet


Out for some fun is the newest member of the Shamu family, the baby whale born last year at this time.


When at Sea World, may as well see the Shamu show


Final credit at the park, and the longest wait thanks to someone losing their umbrella on the ride. Honestly people, how do you lose an umbrella on a kiddie coaster?!


Coolest themed drop ride evah!


Nicole don't want to work, she wants to bang on the drum all day. All while drinking some Widmer Hefeweizen


AB takes really good care of the landscaping here, even in the winter.


Old and stupid


Though looking like sea weed, this is actually a Sea Dragon. He likes small boys in tights


This dude looks a little stuck


"hello Jahan, Happy birthday!"


In the Penguin Encounter we find the Rehanek Target Penguins, a rare headless breed


Ahhh, giant angry sock puppet is trying to eat my head!


It's like Kumba and Montu had a baby and then sent it 70 miles away


Next stop, Kraken, one of the best floorless coasters out there


Nemo got really lost this time


Nicole was wowed in Journey's giftshop with fish all over the place


We got a little wet on this ride, and we didn't even sit in the front! It was nice to see lots of the effects working again


First ride of the season, Journey to Atlantis, not to be confused with Journey to Atlanta, where you can see Joe cooking unusual things


Oooh, construction wall, that ain't gonna fly in SeaWorld!


First stop, to say hi to the sea turtles. Hey dudes!


Here we be at our first park of the season, SeaWorld Orlando

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After departing Sea World, we decided to check into our hotel for the weekend, Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter. Of all the moderate resorts, this one is my favorite because of its smaller size and only 1 bus stop. Plus it's cool to take the boat to Downtown Disney.


yummy! up next, Pirates and Princesses Party at Magic Kingdom...in a few hours


mmm, hot dough and powered sugar goodness


but the best part of the French Quarter, the Beignets!


The pink clam may get you a little wet


Other cool theming in the pool. I think playing the clarinet would be even cooler if you could shoot water out of it at people


Even though it was only in the 60s outside, some people were still brave enough to go in the pool. We call them non-Floridians


The pool is pretty sweet, with an awesome slide


and you can take a boat to Downtown Disney from here. It may take a bit of time, but it's cool and relaxing, and you get to go past the Treehouse Villas.


All the buildings look really nice, and it's not super huge to walk around like some of the other resorts


The original Port Orleans is themed to, you guessed it, New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter

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^Aah, Port Orleans... home to my first waterslide credit. I used to burn my feet on the 90-degree concrete baking in the sun all day. (Take the good with the bad I guess.)


And I've been trying to convince the family of a SeaWorld day excursion for a while now, to no avail. My sister loves marine animals, so I don't see why the parental units wouldn't go for it.


Great stuff.

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After visiting SeaWorld and checking into the hotel, we made our way over to the Magic Kingdom for the Pirate and Princess Party. Knowing how empty the park is as far as ride waits go, I figured this would be the same thing, so we grabbed tickets a couple months back. The park didn't disappoint, the crowds were lite, and pretty much everything was opened. Plus they gave away some goodies and had special fireworks and such. We managed to ride every ride in the park with the exception of the stuff on a stick in less than 5 hours, and could have stayed for another 2 if we weren't so tired from the flight down and waking up at 4am and such. Well worth the price of admission.


Next up, a visit to BGA with some local friends


Not as good as Wishes, or the Halloween version, but still lightyears ahead of all other non-Disney firework shows


and finally, we caught the fireworks show before heading out


Yay for LIMs on relaxing rides


But we couldn't skip out on doing something you just can't do at Disneyland, the People Mover!


We passed on this, just because I'm still traumatized from my ride in 1986. Even darkride fan Nicole said "can we skip that?"


Even Peter Pan only had a 5 minute wait, which just shows how empty it was that night!


Everyone's favorite white 90s rapper even showed up for a viewing of Mickey's Philharmagic. Word to your motha.


Blurry girlfriend!!!!


Yay for teacups, time to spin ourselves silly


Princesses in space. SM had the longest wait of the night, at about 20 minutes as Alpha track went down halfway through the night, so only Omega was running for the last couple of hours. No ride had Fastpass, as none needed it!


Ah Space Mountain, one sweet ride, all that's missing is a soundtrack. I just make up my own as I ride. Someday I shall win a Grammy for my awesome music.


All the neon looks really neat here at night. This picture would look even better without pseudo-Barry in it


Off to Tomorrowland for some future fun


Pirates was all decked out, and even as one of the most popular rides in the park at this time, the wait was never more than 15 minutes.


At their Halloween event they give out candy. At the Pirates and Princesses event they give out gems and beads, as modeled here


One of the best mine trains out there, and after picking up the new book about Disney's Mountains I have even more appreciation for how cool it is and all the detail they put into it


We don't even mind riding in the death seat because we're at Disney World, not Disneyland


Being at the Magic Kingdom makes us happy. No wait makes us really happy.


Making our way over to Big Thunder (Splash was down for rehab) we find walk on conditions, as opposed to the 80 minute waits earlier in the day.


Jungle Cruise also wouldn't be running, so we took a night ride on it while we could. The giraffes said they miss Wes


Mansion wasn't on the event map, but it turns out it was opened, so we rode it twice. Loved the new scenes and the whole rehab


We also did the really annoying version of the Tiki Room, I'm not sure why, but I'm good for a couple of years with this one


Then we decided to do stuff that Nicole had never done before, or didn't remember, and that wouldn't be opened for the private event, like Swiss Family Treehouse. No Rosie here


Our first major stop was Adventureland for the best food on Disney property, Dole Whips


and I ended up with my very own princess, but we didn't get to stay in the castle


While no longer in Ice Castle mode, it's still freaking sweet looking


Oh wait, nevermind, it's still there. And still very visible to the naked eye, sorry Disneyland


and Cinderella's Castle has been replaced by balloons?!


Much has changed in the last 10 months. Town Hall is apparently now sponsored by Blocko


Armed with my event wristband, goodie bag for booty, and map and times guide, it was off to see the park in what little daylight remained


The park was still opened to the public until 7, but they let us in when we got there at 5pm. And Disney knows how to handle crowd control when it comes to special events


and princesses as well.


Over to the Magic Kingdom where there be pirates...

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Sunday was going to be set aside for park hopping, but we decided to hit Busch instead that day, figuring the traffic could cause more issues with our return to the airport on Monday evening. Of the plans for the weekend, Busch Gardens was the part I was most dreading. At the same time I emailed Sea World to ask their rehab schedule for the winter, I asked Busch the same question. Where I got a detailed report from Sea World, Busch Gardens told me "we don't have that information at this time, please check our website closer to your visit". Well, even up to the day before our trip started, the website was still only giving information for Feb-March 2007. Either nothing would be in rehab, or they just don't update their website, so it would be a crap shoot. But we had passes, so it wouldn't cost us anything, and even if 1 or 2 coasters were down, they've got a great assortment.


Well, turns out we had a pretty darn good day at Busch. Crowds were minimal, the weather turned really nice, and the coasters were running good. Getting to the park just after opening, we easily got into the park and made our way right to Gwazi...and found NOT ONLY were both sides opened, but the crews were doing their best to DUEL them!!! Granted, it didn't work because one lift seems to be a smidgen faster than the other, but they get an A for effort.


and because this PTR is lacking necessary fire, here's a shot for Dave, Beech.


Next on Most Extreme Elimination Challenge: Flamingos vs sea gulls


It's pretty cool to see a coaster in the background of a safari


Animals are doing stuff but I'd rather see Montu go into the batwing. I am a dork


Hi Wes


I also finally managed to catch the train, it always seems like I'd miss it by like 2 minutes


The preshow for Strippin' Stripes will contain chimps with bananas. At least I hope that's a banana


But the star of Jungala will be a new show called Strippin' Stripes, Eroticat at its finest!


This will be used for stuff. Ain't I a great tour guide ;)


More construction, should be opened in April I think


Taking the skyride, we saw some construction of Jungala


The tortoises were too far away for me to wait for them to come say hi, but to show their love for Robb, they were eating.


OMG, it's monkey cock!


While in Egypt, we decided to check out King Tut's Tomb, something I've never done before. What the heck is going on here???


Nicole finds another top 10 ride in an Erick Johnson sandwich


one pretty big sideloop on one of the world's best inverts


and it was looking pretty good too after its paint job last year


Montu was delivering great rides with the midcourse brake barely on


Wow, Rick really changed since I saw him back in September at the Toronado. I'm scared, Rick!


Sprint is the official donkey of this TPR PTR, but shall be replaced by some other cell phone provider soon enough!


and then we saw gray donkeys called donkeys on our way to Egypt


We saw black and white donkeys called Zebras on our Rally


The rest of us just relaxed and hoped we didn't tip over


We volunteered Erik to be navigator for our rally. He got yelled at a lot by our driver, who was pretty awesome. Go Navi-Gators!


Soon we shall answer that age old question, "can elephants jump gorges?"


No coaster track water raft portion for us today, probably not tomorrow either.


Looks like Colin not only broke his car, but also the Vekoma portion of the ride. Oh wait, nevermind, Vekoma portion can do that on its own


Off to Rhino Rally to see some aminals


Kumba was still delivering intense rides, with some head smashing for good measure.


Check out the new interchangeable TPR hoodie, for making 2 guests into 1


Also new on SheiKra, the keeping more water in the pool feature. The Georgians should be happy


The themed area helps give SheiKra the edge over Griffon in my ranks, though it's a shame they didn't have the mist on in the tunnel anymore


I think it also seems more forceful than Griffon. Don't know if it is or not, but it seemed that way


It's big, it's fun, it's floorless, but I didn't really feel any difference from the old floored version


With little crowd, it's time to ride SheiKra. Any ideas how much milk costs around these parts?


The Brazilian tourists made me wish Soren had come with them to visit. I also was sad that I didn't have a flag


After getting Nicole some Gwazi rides (running not nearly as bad as some wood coasters), we met up with the Johnsons, Erik and Eric. The universe didn't explode either!


First stop, Gwazi, or Gwarzi or whatever. Not only were both sides opened, they were actually dueling!! Well, until 1 broke down for like 10 minutes.


Arriving at the park, we find the only things currently in rehab are the flume and some other ride. Woohoo, that should mean all the coasters are opened!

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You're nicer than I am...


I would have made some "this elephant is doing it's San Francisco Tiger impression" or maybe "there were some drunk, drugged up losers on the other side harassing the elephant" caption!


Busch Gardens seems to have gotten its act together lately. I remember about 2 years ago it was worse than a Six Flags park, now the staff seems a bit improved (one person said hello to me on our December visit) and the operations are trying to be more efficient.

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^^I've noticed that too, about the operations.


I was pleasantly surprised when all the coaster were running when I went back on Jan. 15th, and shocked when the Rhino Ralley was actually working. It was the first time I actually was able to do the water part. Now I'm wondering when they will have any of the coasters down for yearly maintenance.

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Great report Derek. Although I was a bit surprised that I didn't see you with a beer in hand and only Nicole. That's not a usual Derek Trip Report.

Anyway, liked the pics and I may sound like a nerd but I can't wait to see Jungala open up. I think it will be a great addition to the park and way better than what used to be in that area...cough...Python...cough.

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