Tag Archives: Vacation

The Vacation Brain Dump

24 Feb
Walt Disney World Resort logo
Image via Wikipedia

Since I was immersed in the world of Disney over the past week, this is all I know or care to know right at this particular moment. Here are some observations from my first stay on-property at Walt Disney World.

1. Avis gave me a Toyota Camry. I checked, and it did have an “N” setting in the gearshift, and I checked again and discovered that I could pop the car into “N” even when the accelerator was pressed. All done “unexpected acceleration”.

2. We stayed at a “moderate” resort on-property called the “Caribbean Beach Resort”. Because it was school break week, it was exorbitantly expensive. Perks included free parking at the theme parks and extra hours at the parks when the general public couldn’t be there. We booked through AAA and got “Diamond Parking” which basically enabled us to park in a lot adjacent to the handicap lot, within walking distance of the entrance. The resort’s nightly cost was far in excess of comparable luxury suite hotels nearby like the Hilton Grand Vacation Club properties or the Sheraton Vistana Villages. I think it’s the last time we stay on-property, although I’ve always wanted to stay at the Contemporary Resort (the one with the monorail through it) since I was a little kid. The problem is that the cost of a deluxe resort last week was akin to booking first class travel to Europe. Given the choice, I’d book first class travel to Europe. Maybe some other time.

3. Disney’s web access is poor. They have a deal with Verizon, so the park app is only available to its subscribers. The mobile web site is poor. There is no free wifi on site – only an ethernet cable for an extra $10 per day on top of an already inflated price for what amounts to a glorified motel. There is no easy way to access the Disney Dining site on a mobile phone when you’re out and about, and the Disney website is atrociously slow and difficult to navigate. Restaurants on the Disney property are booked months in advance, and I’m not a Disney poweruser so with the exception of one character dinner, we didn’t make any reservations in advance. The Disney Dining phone line was ok, but time-consuming.

4. Magic Kingdom is great, as always, but if no one goes on the Stitch ride or into Mickey’s Philharmagic, why bother keeping them around? It’s a Small World dates back to the 1964 NY World’s Fair, but people still flock to it. I’m sure they can figure out something to put in there. Also, the “Tomorrowland Speedway” uses two-stroke engines that are probably giving those cast members emphysema. Maybe in “Tomorrowland” they update those cars to something electric.

5. Epcot’s future world is looking dated, but the handful of rides are pretty great – Soarin’, Mission: Space, and Test Track are all fantastic. The updated Spaceship Earth is also pretty cool and generates a video featuring your face which you can download. Hard to explain, but it was pretty neat. Over at World Showcase, which is basically another grouping of Worlds Fair pavilions, a “Kim Possible” spy game is available to kids and we had a lot of fun solving the mysteries and the game was integrated into the park in an amazing way. Also, Japan has the best store, and the British pavilion’s restaurant has mushy peas.

6. It used to be a tradition to go to the Wolfgang Puck restaurant at Downtown Disney. Never again. Think Shanghai Reds in an 80s atmosphere. It was lovelessly made banquet food delivered in a careless way. On the other hand, another tradition held up wonderfully – we had an incredible meal at Emeril’s at Universal CityWalk.

7. Save money and get breakfast fixins at Publix at Osceola Parkway and the 192. $40 for the week for cereal and yogurts and stuff to keep in the fridge, although we did take the kids for Krispy Kreme a few times.

8. Chevys.

9. The Nemo Musical show at Animal Kingdom was really wonderfully done. We rode the Everest roller coaster a few times and did the great but campy safari. The wilderness walk in Africa was also relaxing, and the setting there is lush and tropical. We didn’t spend enough time there.

10. Hollywood Studios has some great features that not a lot of people know about – you can get a drawing lesson from a Disney animator. We skipped the American Idol thing, but the parade was great for the kids, and the Rockin’ Roller Coaster is great, as always. It’s a compact park that has a lot for big and little kids.

11. It’s incredible to me that these parks put on such amazing fireworks displays almost daily.

12. The kids absolutely loved this vacation – it was so full of stuff to do that we never used the hotel pool, and they didn’t complain about it once. When we found out we needed another day on a multi-day park hopper, guest services will add a day on for a whopping $4 per person. The customer service was impeccable.

13. This on a 24-hour loop as the default TV station:


So, there’s the Disney brain dump. Now, back to reality.


20 Apr

A huge thank you to Christina Abt, Paul Wolf, Evan Parker Pierce, Mamacrat, and Robert Harding, who all took turns contributing stuff here over the past week. I greatly appreciate it.

We were on Grand Bahama Island, a rather strange island that was built essentially from scratch beginning in the 50s – it’s run by a private corporation called the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The beaches are wonderful, and the island has a colorful history, but suffers from that 50s design plague of cul-de-sacs and sprawl. When visiting a foreign country, I love to explore a bit. In Freeport, apart from beach-hopping, exploring mostly means going from shopping plaza to shopping plaza. If you’re not in and around Lucaya Harbor, you need a car.

The first day we arrived, the hotel we had booked was pretty run-down, but we were willing to deal with it. After all, they promised to have the AC fixed within a couple of hours. At 9:40, just as I was putting the kids to bed, the fire alarm went off. We were on the 12th floor (the 13th floor, where Howard Hughes spent his final days, is closed), and made for the emergency stairwell.

It was pitch black for most of it, so at floor 6 we had to get out and take the elevator down the rest of the way. When we reached the “lobby”, we had to wade through scalding water pouring out of the ceiling and running down the hall. Interestingly, all day there had been well-dressed, not-touristy looking guys on laptops, using the free wifi, and yelling into headsets in either Spanish or some unidentifiable language. I have a feeling they were up to no good. Maybe I should learn Spanish and whatever the hell other language the guy with the leather flip-flops and oversized sunglasses was wearing.

We mustered in the main lobby and spoke with the other 4-5 rooms’ worth of people who had also evacuated. Every single room – the two Italian couples who had endured 14 hours’ worth of flights and connections to get there, the group of girls on vacation with their parents, and a few more couples in their 50s – none of us stayed in that hotel that night. Some waited around for the hotel to set them up with something different. I just got on the phone and found alternate accommodations that way. I wasn’t going to waste a moment of vacation I didn’t need to. Luckily, we had a car, so it only took 5 trips to get all 6 of us and our stuff completely out of the old room and into the new one. My Tripadvisor review is up and running.

Our alternate accommodation was the Westin at Our Lucaya – a beautiful facility that is well-kept and well-run, was completely relaxing, and across the street from the outdoor pedestrian mall/marina of Port Lucaya Marketplace. After checking in to that Westin, we only had to use our sad little Nissan Almera Classic (which is actually a Renault Samsung production) a couple more times.

One other interesting thing about Grand Bahama is that the car that can’t get sold on a used car lot in the States or Japan could easily end up there. It’s where old Nissans, Hondas, and Toyotas go to die – most of them RHD.

Also – would it kill US Airways to honor seat selections made months in advance, to offer ticket sleeves, pillows, and blankets? The last bunch of times we’ve flown, it’s been JetBlue or Southwest. Anyhow, back to reality.

Vacation, Have to Get Away

12 Apr

That’s right. I just quoted a Go Go’s song. I am secure enough in my manhood to cite the 80s era girl band to think up a title.

I’m leaving on this jetplane today:

And the blog will be well-tended and manicured by people such as Paul Wolf, Kevin Hardwick, and Buffalo Geek. A few others have been invited, but haven’t replied yet.

So, I’ll leave you with a couple of “random thoughts”, with apologies to Dan Meyer:

1. Baby Joe Mesi got into a bar fight the day he announced for the State Senate? I don’t know which is dumber – a candidate getting into a bar fight, or a bar patron fighting with a professional boxer.

2. Jon Powers is now the endorsed Democratic candidate for Congress in ever county in the 26th District, except Erie. Monroe County endorsed him yesterday, evidently unconcerned with the notion of a Kathy Hochul candidacy.

3. One of Powers’ potential Republican opponents, Iraq War Vet David Bellavia, apparently said this:

“You can have your Tiger Woods. We’ve got Senator McCain,

When mentioning Tiger Woods, Bellavia was referring to Barack Obama. Classy.

He explained it thusly:

“My children will emulate and admire people who risk their lives in the duty of their profession,” Bellavia explained. “Soldiers like John McCain, firemen, policemen, not sports figures and celebrities. That’s where I used Tiger Wood’s name.”

So Democratic kids emulate Tiger Woods? What a silly world we live in.

Powers replied thusly:

“On that, I think this is a once in a generational election we have going on. We have got to lift this debate above everyday politics and attacking each other. We have got to talk about the issues. We got to talk about how we are going to get Western New York back on its feet. And attacks like that aren’t going to be the way to do it. Thank you.”

What a particularly Tiger Woodsian Barack Obamian reply. Good for Jon.

4. Anyone who keeps repeating that Jon Powers should be holding fundraisers at “Chuckie Cheese” [sic], or that he “cannot win” should probably just STFU and be pleased that he still makes a living out of a form of extortion.

5. Mike Ranzenhofer has announced his candidacy for the State Senate. He’s never voted for a tax increase, he says.

He’s really sorta kinda never done much of anything in the legislature, and he supported and backed every fiscal step and misstep taken by Joel Giambra that led the county to fiscal meltdown. “Cut spending”, he said. But then, when the tough decisions had to be made about what cuts to make to bridge a $200 million gap, he was absent.

The three things that Albany desperately needs are reform, reform, and reform. When it came time to reform Erie County, Ranzenhofer voted against the creation of a Charter Revision Commission; the one that gave the Comptroller more power to declare a deficit (thanks, Nancy Naples), and mandates performance-based budgeting, thus rendering the 2008 budget patently illegal.

During the spendiest and tax-cuttiest days of the Giambra administration, Ranzenhofer was the majority leader, and introduced and pushed through every one of Giambra’s time-bomb-failure ideas. He deserves a promotion!?


6. Part of Buffalo Rising‘s mission is to get people to move within Buffalo city limits. Part of Buffalo Homecoming’s mission is identical. Unfortunately, they both miss the forest for the trees and play a game of make-believe that Buffalo survives as an island, not surrounded by any things, places, or people worth any time or effort. If you’re trying to attract people from out-of-town to move to Buffalo, why wouldn’t you show them, and give them the option of Williamsville? East Aurora? Orchard Park? It makes no sense, because by lifting up the county tax base, you help lift up the region and the city.

With that said, click here for an interesting thread about city schools, and explanations as to why the ease with which some cajole people to move into the city oftentimes runs headlong into specific reality. I don’t know about you, but my kids aren’t some abstract experiment or concept in city-growth. They get one shot at an education, and I don’t want to have to pay tuition for it, nor do I want to have to fight and compete with others, or seek out special permission to get into a particular city elementary school or Charter School. Really, the pursuit of Charter Schools or moving into a particular neighborhood to enhance your kid’s chances of getting into Olmsted is no different from my moving into a particular neighborhood to get them into Williamsville’s or Clarence’s school district.

Enjoy the week. I’ll try to check in from time to time.