Live blog of our 2008 holidays. The blog had been updated (almost) daily from September 20 to October 4, 2008.

Day 15: End of Vacation

We have to get up early today, because we’re scheduled for having breakfast at Lumière’s at 8.15 AM. After that, we have to disembark. When picking up our luggage in the cruise terminal hall, only two of our three bags seem to have made it – my large duffle bag (where are the dirty clothes are in) is missing. The hall is pretty empty, and the bag is nowhere to be found – we have to fill in a form with all the details about our missing luggage, and Disney will have to take care of it. We board the bus to the airport, and after only 45 minutes we’re at Orlando International. The missing bag has not been found yet, and therefore, we proceed to the check-in. We check back with Disney’s Lost and Found before we go on to the gate – and that’s when we’re told that yes, they found the bag in Port Canaveral but no, it will not make it to the airport in time. They will have to ship it, then. Nobody can tell us what happened to the bag – most likely, somebody took it with him and later found out that it’s not his, and then just left it somewhere. Our plane to Charlotte, North Carolina takes off at 1.50 PM. In Charlotte, there’s only one hour layover time – just enough to have a cup of Starbucks coffee before boarding the plane to Frankfurt, Germany. We touch down at 6.30 AM local time – two hours later, our third flight in a row takes off for Zurich, where we arrive at 9.20 AM.

Day 14: Castaway Cay, again

Before breakfast, we go to pick up a map and instructions for the Scavenger Hunt on Castaway Cay island. It’s a very entertaining riddle game and doubles as a self-guided walking tour, as you follow the hints all over the developed part of the island. We succeed in finding the answers to all questions and therefore find the place where we can claim our treasure, a medal with a Mickey head. We then head for the snorkeling lagoon at the family beach. There are some quite large and very friendly fish, and there are some sunken “surprises” like a statue of Minnie Mouse to explore. But on the other hand, there are just too many snorklers, there’s not too much to see and the visibility in the area is not too good. After having had lunch at Cookie’s BBQ, we head straight for the adult-only Serenity Bay area. When we get there, it starts to rain. Nevertheless, we start a snorkeling tour of our own in these shallow waters. We discover a lot of tiny little interesting marine life, and the visibility here is quite superior to the one in the snorkeling lagoon. We have some fun taking some underwater picture while all the other adults abandon the beach because of the rain. When we get back to the beach, there’s hardly anyone left – but right now, the sun comes out again. For the last hour or so, we share the whole beach with only three other guests. After 4 PM, we walk back towards the cruise pier. On the way, we encounter some of the island’s wildlife, like lizards and birds, and also have a look at the beautiful plants and flowers. At the Bahamian post office, we drop of the postcards we’ve just written at the beach. We’re back on the boat by 4.30 PM, we are among the last ten passengers to have returned. We chill out in the pool, before we have to go and pack our bags. Our last dinner takes place at Lumière's restaurant – it’s the last time we share the table with our friends from Texas, and the last time we’re being served by this great waiter team: Conrad, Dwaight, Alenka, Alvin and Michelle. There’s a last goodbye in the Atrium, with all the Disney characters and the crew members. It finally rains some “pixie dust”, which marks the official end of this cruise. Our large bags are being picked up outside the room by our stateroom host.

Day 13: At sea, again

The Disney Magic is on its way from Cozumel to our second stop at Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. We will be at sea for the whole day and there wont be much to do. Therefore, we get a bit more sleep and have late breakfast. We then head for the outside area on deck 4 in order to just relax, read a book, listen to music and write yesterday’s travel blog ☺ We have some lunch at Parrot Cay restaurant and then proceed to the Towel Folding lesson that is held by the housekeeping staff. Every evening, our stateroom host sets a towel animal on our bed – today, we can learn to do some of these animals ourselves. One of the folding instructors happens to be our own stateroom host. His name is Made and he’s from Bali. In the afternoon, we head for the Fitness Center on Deck 9. There’s of fitness equipment just in front of forward facing windows. This way, when working out on the home trainer, you feel as if you are actually going somewhere ☺ After working out, we jump into the pool on the outside deck. We have some coffee at the Quite Cove adults-only Café as the sun sets behind the boat. Today, there’s an award-winning show in the Disney Theater, and we’re not going to miss that. The show is called “Dreams” and is very well done, with lots of Disney music, Disney characters and some special effects. Dinner is at the Parrot Cay restaurant – it’s a seafood-based Captain’s Gala Dinner, but luckily, they also serve also the “normal” food. It’s delicious, as always. At 11.01 PM, there’s a Movie Premiere at the theater. The picture is called “Beverly Hills Chihauhua” – it’s pretty funny and very cute, with lots of talking dogs. Lots of families with kids attend the premiere, and some of them brought pillows and blankets with them. Since we have to change back to the Florida time zone, it’s around 2 in the morning when the movie is over – and many moms and dads have to carry their sleeping children up to their staterooms.

Day 12: Cozumel, Mexico

¡Hola! This morning, our ship pulls into the cruise ship port of Cozumel. This Mexican island is famous for it’s diving spots. Therefore, we chose to go on a two tank Scuba tour (visiting some ancient Mayan ruins would have been another option). The dive boat picks us up right at the cruise pier. The boat is rather small for the large group of scuba divers they take on the tour. We’re lucky to get a seat in the shade. The all Mexican boat crew and dive masters are very nice and friendly, but the equipment is not in the best condition. Setting up all the dive gear is quite a bit of chaos. It takes a lot of time until everybody is equipped with everything he needs in the right size, and all the gear is set up and working. In the mean time, we get to know an American couple. The guy’s name is Kenny and he actually works for Disney as a diver at the Living Seas Aquarium in EPCOT – among other things, he does the underwater video taping for the Dive Quest adventure (what we took part in last Tuesday!). After 45 to 60 minutes Mexican time – definitely way more than an hour in my time – we arrive at the first dive site. It’s called “Santa Rosa” and is a drift dive along a wall. The water temperature is great at around 30°C – we probably wouldn’t even need to wear wet suits. The current is not too strong, but since we’re diving in a group of eight divers plus Dive Master you always have to pay attention in order not to pump into someone. We do not encounter a lot of marine life, but the reef is otherwise pretty nice and we can even dive thru a kind of natural bridge. Maximum depth is around 20 m, dive time is 40 minutes. When we come back up to the surface, the boat is picking us up. Off we go to today’s second dive spot, called “Paradise Reef”. Here, there’s hardly any current and we encounter way more fish, among them a nurse shark and a moray eel. There’s also a large hermit crab and an octopus, and I saw to of really cute tiny little trunk fish – they look like swimming balls of about 1 cm diameter, all black with yellow dots. Most of the fish are really friendly down here – they tend to come really close, small ones and large ones - fish can be so cute! I love fish – not to eat them, but just to look at them ☺. The dive takes place at pretty shallow depths, less than 13 m, and lasts for almost 50 minutes. 

Since everything on the Scuba tour took way longer than we thought (Mexican timing) we’re back on the cruise not before 3 PM. We have some snacks like Panini and slices of Pizza for lunch, before we head back to the island. The cruise ship terminal area here is quite nice –unlike the port and town area on Grand Cayman. There  are lots of  shops which sell mostly souvenirs, but hey, there’s also Starbucks! We first go for a walk along the shore area, where there’s a lot of shopping going on. They call this the “international zone” around here – it’s frequented by cruise ship passengers like us. We also go one or to block further away from the main street, where one starts to find the more genuine areas. Overall, we it’s pretty nice to take a walk here. Of course, every time you pass a, owners will try and pull you into their “tienda”, shouting things like “I’ll give you 99% off”. But hey, its Mexico! We head back to the ship to pick up our laptops before we go over to this Mexican Starbucks café, where they promise to have free internet access. We order a cajeta (sweet milk, almost like Caramel) Frappuccino and try to get connected to the internet – well, while it does work if you are very patient, it’s obviously not the best of internet connections. But hey, it’s free and allows us to download some Emails and upload some pictures to our website. We go back to the Disney Magic for dinner – today, we’re in the Animator’s Plate restaurant, where the pictures on the wall change from black & white into color during the meal. Which was, by the way, delicious – so delicious actually, that Pierre ordered his main course (Pasta Alfredo) twice, instead of having desert. We go back to Cozumel for a short evening stroll and then we go to bed even before the all aboard time, which is 1 AM.

Day 11: Grand Cayman

The day starts really early with the alarm clock going off at 6:30 AM. Luckily we turned the clocks back one hour last night. It thus is not as early as it seems.

Today we are at Grand Cayman. The water in the harbor being too shallow for docking, the Magic lays anchor off the coast. Tender boats ferry the guests to shore. We meet at 8 AM with our SCUBA diving group and transfer all together. At shore we are taken care of by a fine crew of Red Sail Sports, a local dive operator. After a short check-in procedure, we board a boat to our first dive site.

Shortly before we reach our first dive site, we get some liquid sunshine. The rain doesn't last for long and does not change our plans. Our first dive ist at the "Caribbean Club Sand Shoe Site". This wall dive turns out to be not all that exciting. Actually we both did not see the actual wall. The second dive takes us to the "Oro Verde Wreck". This cargo ship was intentionally sunk in order to create an artificial reef. Over the years hurricanes have taken their toll on the wreck. It now is more of wreck of a wreck of a wreck. An curious tradition here has it that dive instructors leaving the island ride their bikes from the boat into the ocean. We get to "ride" one of the bikes we find on the ocean floor. We also create our "Titanic moment" on the bow of the wreck. Then we head off onto the reef. Shallow waters allow for a lot of light. We get to swim with several large schools of fish.

After the second dive we return to port in Georgetown. Here we drop off our suitcase with dive gear at the Disney security check station. We plan to take a walking tour of the city. This is however cut short by the high temperatures and burning sun. Anyways we find the area no to be that attractive. It is a harbor area as unsightly as you would imagine. All there is too see are the many jewelry and gift shops. Here we find Swiss watches of brands we never heard of. All in all Grand Cayman leaves us with the impression of a tourist trap. They sure could do better in presenting themselves as an attractive holiday destination.

Back on the Magic we grab Pizza for a late lunch. Then we head to the Walt Disney Theatre for a screening of Wall-e, the "new" Disney-Pixar animated movie. The characters are really cute. So is the story. Yet Wall-e fails to measure up to the like of Monsters, Inc. or Finding Nemo.

Tonight is Pirate's night on board. After lunch the "Pirates in the Caribbean" party is held on deck 9. The party culminates in a fireworks show. Seeing fireworks from a moving ship is something really special: you are constantly moving away from the balls of light created in the sky.

After a long and strenuous day we are ready for bed. Good night!

Day 10: At sea

Today we sail from Castaway Cay to Grand Cayman. For us guest, this means a day at sea.

We start the day lazily with a late breakfast at Topsider Buffet. We get a glimpse of the coast of Cuba. We learn that we had passed Havanna around 8 AM. 

Before lunch we go see a presentation on "The making of the Magic". Disney Imagineers based the exterior design of the Disney Magic upon those of the classic cruise ships. The Disney Magic was built in Italy. Unlike its sister ship, the Wonder, it was built in two pieces which were welded together at midship. Both ships have a capacity of 2700 guests and 990 crew members. Presently all guest cabins are filled, but the ship is not booked to full capacity.

For lunch we head to the Italian buffet at Parrot Cay.

In the afternoon, we take the "Art of the Theme Show Ship Tour". We learn a lot of details about the attention that went into every aspect of the interior design. On the Magic, one can find about 100 styles of carpeting. Other cruise liners are usually limited to about a dozen. Here each area has a carpet to match the theme and the purpose of the location. Carpets leading to the pool are blue. Those leading to the theatre are red. Decks with only staterooms show dolphins in front of the elevators. Entertainment floors show anchors. We also learn about the subtle differences between the Wonder and the Magic. While sharing the exact same layout, some of the restaurants have different names and theming on the Wonder. Then we go see where the two halves of the Magic were welded together during construction.

Finally it is time for some quiet time. We head to a lounge chair on deck 4 to do some reading. A couple comes up to us and asks for us to take their picture. Indeed formal night is coming up. Many people have already donned their best dresses and have their pictures taken. It turns out this very couple is from Germany. We really wouldn't have figured we'd run into Europeans!

Next we get dressed up ourselves to go see "The Golden Mickeys" show at the Walt Disney Theatre. This Broadway-style show features scenes and songs from many of Disney's famous animated films.

While others already enjoy their lunch, we go to the fitness center for a short workout followed by a dip in the adult pool on deck 9.

Then we dress up again for our 8:30 seating for dinner at Lumière's. The restaurant manager comes to our table to explain that he has to switch our table over to another team of servers. Usually, one has a team of two servers who follow guests on the dinner rotation between restaurants. Even though one visits a different restaurant each night, one always keeps with the same servers. Not us. Starting today we are looked after by another team. For the inconvenience, we are rewarded with a complimentary glass of wine each.

Even though we spend two nights at the same restaurant, today's menu is different from yesterday's. Food is excellent nonetheless. Actually the Cheese Soufflé I have for an appetizer is so good that I have another one for desert.

Day 9: Castaway Cay

When we wake up this morning, our ship already docks at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, which is part of the Bahamas. Weather looks pretty awful, a thunderstorms seems to have passed. We have breakfast at Parrot Cay restaurant – the buffet is just awesome, stocked which all the good things Americans love to eat in the morning, like scrambled eggs, waffles (in the form of Mickey heads), Muesli and so on. Fortunately, the weather improves a lot during the time we eat breakfast and it’s pretty sunny when we get off the ship. In the morning, we take a guided walking and kayak tour to explore the island. The walking part is not so much fun – it takes part on a paved bike trail. But the kayaking is very nice. At first, we explore some Mangroves and then, we set off to a secluded beach.

Around noon, we’re back at the island’s adults-only beach at Serenity Bay, where a BBQ has been set up. After lunch, we head for the beach and go swimming in the crystal clear waters. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our snorkeling equipment, but at least, we brought our all new waterproof camera. Therefore, we were not able to directly observe the fish and especially the huge stingray we encountered, but we were able to take pictures of them – which you can see on today’s photo page.

We have to be back on the ship by 3 PM. We leave Castaway Cay for today, but will be back for a second stop towards the end of our cruise (that’s why people also call this a “double dip” cruise). Back on the vessel, we attend a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Member Celebration, where we’re provided with some DVC goodies and even more information about DVC’s future projects and how to get involved. After that, we spend some minutes outside on deck in order to warm up – air conditioning on the ship tends to be too cold for me. We see quite a lot of other vessels – the seas in this area seem to be pretty busy. After having dinner at Lumière’s, we go to see a magician-comedy show before we return to our room for a good night’s sleep.

Day 8: All aboard!

The day starts with a surprise. The Bell desk wakes us with a phone call at 8 AM to inform us that they will shortly pick up our luggage. As we won't leave the hotel until 12:30 PM, we cannot quite believe this. We stay in bed only to have the Bell boy knock on our door 5 minutes later. We haven't even started packing our luggage!

We pack in a hurry and have the luggage picked up a short while later. Then we go back for some more sleep. Check-out isn't until 11.

After leaving the room, we head for breakfast at the Mara fast food restaurant. By this time they are only serving lunch items.

Around 12:30 PM we board the bus to port Canaveral. The transfer takes about 1 hour. Security checks and check-in only take a couple of minutes. We are now ready to board.

When we arrive at stateroom 6514, our luggage is already waiting for us. It had a 5 hour head-start! We have a category 8 stateroom with a large porthole. The room is obviously smaller than the one at Animal Kingdom lodge, yet it has a dual bathroom.

Our first task on board is to secure reservations for the renowned Palo restaurant. Next we head for a buffet lunch at the Topsider restaurant on deck 9. Next up is the mandatory security drill where all passengers meet up on Deck 4, each wearing their life-vest.

Finally we get some time to explore the Disney Magic. It is one of Disney's two nearly identical cruise ships. The Magic is usually assigned to the 7-day Caribbean cruises. It sails with 990 crew members who cater to our every needs. There are 7 restaurants, several bars, 3 tax free shops, a show theater, a movie theater, a spa, a fitness room, 3 pools, dedicated areas for adults, teens and children and much more...

On deck 9 the first party has already started. We celebrate the start of our cruise. Shortly past 5 we set sail.

We leave the party to get a last view of the shore and to continue exploring our home away from home.

At 7:30 PM we have reservations for Palo. This is an upscale restaurant with a rather strict dress code. A Lacoste sweatshirt doesn't do the trick. A shirt with collar is required. Sebastien, our French server, takes good care of us. He obviously enjoys chatting with his guests.

We have the most excellent dinner. For starters we have Mozzarella and Tomato. This variation on the popular dish is served with peeled tomatoes, pesto sauce and Balsamico. For main courses we respectively have a risotto and a rack of Lamb. While food at Tusker House and Boma was excellent, this is better yet! The dinner culminates with a Chocolate Soufflé for desert. The manager promises to get us the recipe. We look forward to serving this exquisite dish at home.

Day 7: Hollywood Studios & EPCOT

Today we again start early. We want to be at Disney's Hollywood Studios as the gates open. This is the best way to beat the crowds.

We start by grabbing Fastpasses to the Hollywood Tower of Terror. Immediately thereafter we ride it as some of the first people for the day. This is one of the best rides available at Walt Disney World.

Unfortunately it also is about the only decent attraction in the Hollywood Studios park. While we wait for our Fastpass period of validity, we ride the Great Movie Ride. Tourguide Mike did not recommend this one. For a reason.

We also go on a very informative self-guided tour to an exhibit about Walt Disney's life and achievements.

After our second visit to the Twilight Zone at the Tower of Terror, we head out of the park.

Our next stop is EPCOT. Today is the first day of the yearly "Food and Wine Festival." The "Cities in Wonderland" theme materializes as small food booths scattered all over World Showcase. Each booth represents a city and serves typical dishes.

We eat Samosa with Tamarind Sauce in New Delhi, Durban Spiced Chicken skewer at Cape Town and a vegetarian quiche in Lyon. I can't resist ordering a "crêpe au sucre" in French. Food really is excellent.

Next we stop by the "Bocuse d'Or USA". 8 chefs compete for the chance to represent the USA at the Bocuse d'Or come January. There are 12 judges. 6 will judge the fish courses. 6 will judge the meat courses. All happens in the presence of Paul Bocuse himself. Bien sûr, Mosieur doesn't speak a word of English. We watch as the first 2 fish dishes are presented to the jury.

We then resume our culinary visit by stopping for Meze in Istanbul. We wrap up lunch with a selection of 3 excellent cheeses.

After riding  "Innoventions: The Road to Tomorrow" inside "Spaceship Earth" - the EPCOT landmark - we head home for the Uzima Pool.

Dinner takes us again to the Boma buffet. The selection is largely the same as last time. Food is still is as good as we remembered it. 

We end the day with a stroll through Downtown Disney and its many shops.

Day 6: EPCOT & Magic Kingdom

We start the day very early - too early for me :-) At first, we drop the rental car off at the Car Care Center. Before we do that, we have to fill up the tank - the vehicle drinks 12 gallons, for a 300 plus kilometers drive, that's twice as much as our "european" car needs! From the Car Care Center, a shuttle bus takes us to EPCOT, were we arrive just a few minutes before the park opens. We head straight for the Soarin' adventure, a really cool indoor ride which lets you believe you're flying over California. We grab a Fastpass so we can ride this thing a second time about an hour later. We then do a the "Living with the Land" ride, which takes us thru greenhouses and a fish farm. We'll do this ride later for a second time, just to take some pictures - there are really no wait times this morning. After having crossed over to the Future World - East side of the park, we ride "Test Track". It's a not too exciting, but pretty fun ride. It's soon time to grab some lunch, and we walk over the World Showcase part of EPCOT. I have a veggie platter at Tangerine Café in Marocco, while Pierre enjoys Chicken Teriyaki just next door in Japan - it's a small world, after all :-) We head back to Future World and successfully search for a Coca Cola store where you can sample soft drinks from all over the world. Before we leave EPCOT for today, we have to visit The Living Seas aquarium - that's the place we dived two days ago. Today, we can have a look at the turtles, dolphins, sharks, rays and other fish from the dry side of the glass windows. We do the family ride "The Seas with Nemo & Friends" just for fun and because there's no wait at all - it's a really cute ride with all the famous characters from Finding Nemo.

Finally, it's about 3 PM when we leave EPCOT and go back home, to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. By now, we're really tired. While Pierre has to do some work, I immediately fall asleep as soon as we're back in our room, and I only wake up more than one hour later. We decide to go downstairs to Uzima Pool for a quick swim and then take the bus for Magic Kingdom, where we arrive around 6.30 PM. At first, we walk over to Fantasyland where we have pizza at Pinocchio Village Haus. Just "next door" in Frontierland, we do the famous Big Thunder Mountain ride and get wet on Splash Mountain. On our way to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, we come across the evening parade, very beautiful with hundreds of colorful light bulbs. There's virtually nobody at the Pirates ride after the parade, around 8.45 PM, and we just exit the ride to see some of the fireworks display - we also got a gimps at Tinkerbell flying across the sky - always a very "magic" moment. As soon as the fireworks is over, we run with the crowd for the bus and get back home.

Day 5: Ginnie Springs

Today we venture "off property". Having gone to bed late yesterday night, the alarm clock is set to 8 AM. It also happens to be switched off. We get out of bed only at 8:40.

We have a reservation for a car which is waiting for us at the "Car Care Center". This, we have been told, is close to Magic Kingdom parking lot at the Disney Transportation Center. After packing all our dive gear - 1 suitcase and 2 backpacks - we first take a bus to EPCOT. There we want to board a Monorail train to the Transportation Center. Before we do so, our bags get a thorough security check. At the Transportation Center, cast members direct us to the kennel. The staff here calls for someone from the Car Care Center to come pick us up. It really isn't easy to get to our rental car!

We get a free upgrade to a "novelty car" which turns out to be a HHR - a car with an interesting shape that truly has not been designed for aerodynamics. The flat trunk will turn out to be a very convenient platform for slipping our buoyancy compensator vests on and off.

Susanne does all the driving today. It takes about two hours to get to Ginnie Springs. At the park entrance, we rent diving equipment. Then we are off to dive on our own.

First, we head for the Ginnie Spring. This area is made of a bowl shaped depression measuring over 30m across. A 45m run connects the basin to the Santa Fe river. The river however is dark with debris suspension. Visibility is close to zero. We head back to the main basin. At the deepest point of the basin is the entrance to the "Ballroom" cavern. We are not aware that we may enter despite lacking certification for cave diving. We did not bring lights and probably wouldn't have dared entering anyway.

We get back in the car - all wet - and drive the very short distance to the "Devil Spring System". We enter the water at "Little Devil". From there we swim to the "Devil's Eye", a 6m depression. Swimming on, we again hit the dark river. We return down into the "Devil's Eye". Then we head back to the "Little Devil". This time around, temptation is stronger than apprehension. We dive down 10m into the narrow fracture.

Now we are ready for a hot shower. At 22°, the water in the spring was not actually cold, yet not nearly as warm as the tropical waters we are used to.

We end the day with an abundant dinner at "Boma", the buffet restaurant at "Animal Kingdom Lodge". The buffet includes a variety of delicious African dishes: curries, sweet potatoes, couscous, coconut rice, humus, ... 

We conclude a way too copious meal with an absolutely delicious chocolate mousse. 

Day 4: Dive Quest & Halloween Party

We start the day late and take a bus to EPCOT around noon. From there, we take the walkway to Disney's Boardwalk Resort - the sun is burning and unfortunately, we did not apply any sunscreen lotion because the sky was pretty cloudy in the morning. Weather conditions change quickly here. While we are having lunch in one of Boardwalk Resorts restaurants, a tropical rain shower goes down. After lunch, we have the opportunity to see a model room of Boardwalk Resort - it looks very nice, bright and spacious. We continue strolling along the waterfront boardwalk and get to the Beach Club Resort. One of the front desk concierges kindly shows us one of the DVC studio rooms they have here. Finally, it's time to go and search for the bus to the EPCOT front entrance, were we're supposed to be at 5.15 PM for our Dive Quest adventure. That's when we have to find out that there only boats from this resort to the back entrance of EPCOT. A hotel concierge tries to figure out how we could get to the front entrance - it would be a rather complicated procedure, and we would never make it in time. That's when he decides to call one of another staff member who would take us over there by car - that so helps us out! We make it to the EPCOT front entrance just in time - thanks to those nice people at Beach Club Resort front desk!

Along with five other divers, we are being welcomed to EPCOT's aquarium The Living Seas where our Dive Quest is to take place. After a short introduction and some explanations behind the scenes, we change into our dive suits and start our dive in the aquarium. There were so many cool things about this dive - like the sharks, which came really close, the sea turtles and the rays. But there was another very interesting thing to this adventure: the audience on the other side of the thick glass windows. It's so cool to play and interact with them, kids and grown-ups as well. After 40 minutes, we have to get out of the water and go back to the changing rooms, walking right across the aquarium building in almost full dive gear and fully soaked :-)

It is about 8 PM when we finally leave EPCOT and head for Magic Kingdom. We have tickets for tonight's "Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party". The park is very busy, some of the guests dressed up "Halloween style". We do the Space Mountain roller coaster, see the 3-D show "Mickey's Philharmagics" and ride the Haunted Mansion - and most important, we stop by some of the "trick or treat" stations to collect lots of sweets :-)

Day 3: Typhoon Lagoon & Specialty Cruise

Yesterday evening, we decided to go to Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park today instead of Sea World's Aquatica Water Park, which is quite expensive and difficult to get to without a rental car. We arrive at Typhoon Lagoon around noon. The weather is cloudy but dry so far, the park not too busy. Due to that, we are able to do the "Crush 'n' Gusher" water coaster six times in a row, before heading on to explore the rest of the park. Floating on a tube, Castaway Creek takes us around the park in a 20 minute ride. We then go on to snorkel with Sharks, Stingrays and colorful reef fish in Shark Reef. It is a fascinating experience, even for scuba divers like us. The water temperature is very low, but nevertheless, we do "the ride" twice. We go on to do some more water slides, like all three Storm Slides, the Humunga Kowabunga slide and the rafting adventure Gangplank Falls. Meanwhile, raindrops start to fall, but it doesn't really matter. We don't want to miss Typhoon Lagoon's Surf Pool and jump right in. It's a huge pool, actually, which produces impressive single waves - it's really nothing like other wave pools. In the distance, we can hear thunder. At this point, visitors are asked to leave the pool and all water attractions are being closed. Within minutes, a fully grown tropical thunderstorm develops. It's around 3.30 PM by now. We decide to wait for a while, but the rain is not going to stop, and therefore we decide to leave the park, heading back to Animal Kingdom Lodge.

For dinner, we take a bus to Downtown Disney - Marketplace and have delicious sandwiches at the Earl of Sandwich. From Downtown, we take another bus to the Yacht Club Resort, where we board our Specialty Cruise to see EPCOT's Illuminations fireworks display. We share the boat with only eight more people - it was a really nice ride on the lake, and the Illuminations show was just amazing. We disembark at Yacht Club Resort and walk over to EPCOT, were we plan to take a bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. First, we get to the back entrance of EPCOT, where a kind security guard informs us that we are now between France and England (well, until now, I was pretty much convinced of being in Florida ...) and that we need to get to the EPCOT front entrance. The guard opens the gate for us. We cross EPCOT, which is quite a walk, in order to get to the bus station. We arrive back at Animal Kingdom Lodge around 10.30 PM.

Day 2: Animal Kingdom

This is Day One at Disney World. We choose to visit Disney's Animal Kingdom, a "theme park meets zoo" place, where exciting rides meet real life animals. We follow the recommandations of Tour Guide Mike and have zero wait time all the day :-) And we are actually able to do the Expedition Everest roller coaster ride twice, currently the most popular attraction in Animal Kingdom. We do the pretty scary Dinosaur Ride and also ride Kali River Rapids and get all soaked (don't worry - clothes dry very fast). Both the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and the Maharaja Jungle Trek are very well done walking routes were we encounter lots of animals from Asia (Maharaja) and Africa (Pangani). Lunch is at Tusker House Restaurant, an "all you care to enjoy" (as they put it) restaurant with an African touch. It's really delicious - you easily tend to overeat! After lunch, we do the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride, a fun tour thru an African Savannah filled with African wildlife. On our way to the park exit, we do the Discovery Island Trails, a stroll around Animal Kingdom's landmark, the Tree of Life - more animals! And we just love animals :-) 

We leave Animal Kingdom Park at about 3 PM and head for the Saratoga Springs Resort. Since we forgot to bring our Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member card, we need to go there in order to arrange for a new one. Additionally, this is a good opportunity to see our DVC home resort for the first time - it's huge! However, we do not especially like it's New England style. 

In just a few minutes time, we receive our new DVC card and head back to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a late afternoon break at Uzima Pool. We do all the travelling using Disney Transportation busses - no rental car needed, so far. 

For the evening, we decide to pay a short visit to Disney's Magic Kingdom. The park will be open an additional three hours this evening for Disney Resort guests only. With all the lights in Main Street U.S.A and the illuminated castle, the park looks really beautiful in the evening. We do the Monster Inc. Laugh Floor show, which is funny but in the end not really worth the more than half an hour it lasts. Restaurants all over the park are closing pretty early, so we really have difficulties to grab something to eat. By now, we are really tired - we're still on Central European Timezone, I guess. We plan to do the Space Mountain ride, but when we get there it's temporarily closed - and so we head for the park exit. While heading for the bus stop, we are able to witness a kind of light parade on boats taking place on the lake just outside Magic Kingdom park - it's really cool!

Day 1: From Zurich to the "World"

We kicked off our holiday by paying Starbucks Coffeehouse at Zurich Airport a visit. Susanne's parents treat us to a delicious Java Chip Frappucino.

Our US Airways flight first takes us to Philadelphia. From there we catch a flight to Orlando. At Orlando International Airport, we board a Disney's Magical Express bus which takes us to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our luggage is being taken care of by Disney - it'll be delivered to our room some three hours later.

We get a nice room at the really far end of Animal Kingdom Lodge. The balcony is facing Sunset Savannah, home to different kind of african wildlife like Reticulated Giraffe, Ankole (Watusi) Cattle, Ostriches, Antelopes and many more.

© 2008 Susanne & Pierre Bernard - Text & Images