Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Florida and Cruise Holiday 2013

This post is something a little bit different for my blog, I hope you guys don't mind. A quick little note that this post is going to be picture heavy and fairly long! So I'll get started…

Exactly this time last year myself, my Boyfriend and my family went on what felt like the holiday of a lifetime. This was probably going to be the last family holiday that we could all go on together so we went for it big time! We have been going to Florida since my sisters and I were little, my younger brother was now at the perfect age to experience everything (even the big rides which we definitely didn't bully him on to, promise) and my boyfriend had never been before. We planned to stay 3 days in Orlando and spend them at the parks, then travel down to Fort Lauderdale to catch our Carnival Cruise, where we cruised around the caribbean for 6 days, stopping at different ports. Then we would drive back up to Orlando for the remaining 3 days and do the remaining parks. Throw in 2 travel days that makes 14 days, 4 countries and 6 theme parks! Lets go!

Day 1 Travel Day.

We flew from Gatwick Airport at around midday with British Airways. I love airports and flying, I don't know why but I get so excited, and of course I love the duty free! We had a great flight, watched a couple movies and I took a lot of photos, I was gutted that New York was covered with cloud when we flew over! We landed in Orlando at about 4pm local time which made it 9pm UK time. So once we'd made it though immigration we went straight to our hotel and to sleep, excited to go to Disney the next day!

Day 2 Magic Kingdom.

The first park we visited had to be The Magic Kingdom. This is just Disney magic at it's best. We walked in and had to stop for a minute to take it all in. If you've been before you'll know what I mean by saying there is so much to see, the detail Disney go into is amazing, everywhere you look there is something interesting and beautiful to look at. It was very busy this day, just after New Year so the Christmas dec's were still up, the place looked amazing. Highlights of the day were seeing the castle, the parade and taking our little brother on his first big ride Space Mountain, which he didn't like very much (oops!).

Day 3 Animal Kingdom.

Day 3 was Animal Kingdom, no one else seemed excited about this park except me, I love the animals!  But after spending a few minutes here I think the Disney magic got to everyone, even though it was a rainy day! I recommend going on Kilimanjaro Safari in the morning as the we saw loads of animals, and try to get at the back of the truck for a better chance of getting good photos! The Lion King and Nemo shows are also a highlight, you'll be joining in and singing along. Also Exhibition Everest roller coaster was a big hit with everyone, I think we rode on it 3 or 4 times.

Day 4 Epcot. 

Epcot is one of my favourites, I think it has something for everyone. For me, I love the world showcase. We did this as soon as we got there and it was really quiet and relaxing as I don't think people had made it round there yet. It was such a nice hot sunny day too, just perfect. I loved wandering round the 11 countries taking photos along the way. Top pick of the rides has to be Sourin' a huge simulation ride where you glide over the sights in California. To end the day we had the best Chinese we have ever tasted from the Lotus Blossom Cafe in the China Pavilion and watched the fireworks over the lake, the perfect end to the perfect day.

Day 5 On Board Carnival Freedom.

Day 5 took us down to Fort Lauderdale to board out next adventure into the Caribbean. We were catching our ship the Carnival Freedom which was absolutely massive! We got to Fort Lauderdale and immediately noticed the temperature change, it was so hot! Once we boarded the ship and found our room which was a breeze, we went up to the top deck ready to set sail. The view was stunning. We didn't know how tall these boats were until we were at the top! We could see over Fort Lauderdale and watched the other ships leave before we did. To top it off we left the most beautiful sunset over the city.

Day 6 Key West. 

When we woke up in the morning we were in Key West. This is the best thing about going on a cruise, you wake up in a new place, or even new country every day. It's such an easy and relaxing way to travel! I would definitely recommend you go for a room with a window, there was nothing better than waking up, opening the curtains and seeing a completely different view. Key West was amazing, I would love to go back again. It felt so tropical, even though we were still in the USA. It was very touristy, but I think thats where it's charm lies. We walked to the harbour and saw the pelicans, then we walked to a beach which was pretty much on the other side of the island. Thats the great thing about going to Key West on a cruise, you can see the whole place in a day! We walked back to the ship along the main street where there was plenty of shops and restaurants, its was great atmosphere!

Day 7 Sea Day.

When cruising you will have 'sea days' in-between stopping at different ports. We had two on our trip and for us they were a welcome rest day which we hadn't had up to this point! I didn't take may photos on these days as we were too busy sunbathing and sipping frozen cocktails! So I thought I'd show you a few photos of the Carnival Freedom.

Day 8 Cayman Islands- George Town.

The Cayman Islands are full of Caribbean charm and breathtaking beaches, and we experienced both of these first hand of our eighth day. The family split up on this day my Dad, Boyfriend and one of my Sisters had booked a snorkelling excursion, which they said was amazing and absolutely worth doing. My other Sister and I went to find the Seven Mile Beach. This beach was the most beautiful beach we had even seen, exactly what you'd expect in the Caribbean, turquoise water, white sand and beach huts. We got a taxi from George Town to the beach, I wouldn't advise walking there. So we topped up our tans for a couple of hours before heading back to the ship for some lunch. We worked on late lunches on this part of the trip, as all of the food was included in the Cruise so we didn't think there was much point in buying food when out and about. The food on the ship was amazing, probably one of the highlights for all of us!

Day 9 Jamaica- Ocho Rios.

Day 9 brought us to Jamaica and to a town called Ocho Rios. It was a bit of a cloudy day but still very warm so not all bad. My Boyfriend and I had booked a chairlift excursion up Mystic Mountain which from the top had some amazing views, and really put in perspective how big our ship was compared to the town! If you do this excursion don't pass by the hummingbird garden at the top of the mountain, it was my highlight! If I'm honest I had higher hopes for Jamaica, the people here seemed a bit more pushy than in other places we'd visited, trying to get us to buy things. Some were quite forceful even trying to put things in your hands! I think this spoiled the day a little bit. On a nicer note though the waterfall we visited was wonderful, Dunns River Falls, my Boyfriend even climbed up it!  

When on a cruise like Carnival they host nights where your invited to dress up a little bit, you don't have to, but of course we did! Carnival is a much more relaxed way of cruising, you don't have a dinner reservation to stick to and there are no dress codes, your free to do what you want, which we really liked. This was on one of the dressier nights!

Day 10 Sea Day.

This was our last day on board which again we spent relaxing in the sun, getting ourselves ready for being back in the parks in Orlando! We made sure we made the most of the cocktails on our last night too! The cocktails were some of the best I've ever tasted. 

Overall we really enjoyed our cruise with Carnival, and would definitely go again. I'd like to do a Mediterranean one. The highlights for me was waking up in a new place to explore everyday, there really is no holiday like it! I think Cruises have had a bit of a stereotype in the past as being an 'old persons holiday' but I couldn't disagree more now, especially on a Carnival cruise!  

Day 11 Back to Orlando.

So on this day we had to get up early and leave the ship, which meant we got back to Orlando fairly early, we went back to our hotel and relaxed by the pool for a bit. We stayed in The Ramada Gateway Hotel in Kissimmee, which was a fantastic location because it was only a stones throw away from Disney. In fact we could see it from the hotel! In the evening we went to The Mall at Mellenia which is a big shopping mall. Florida is great for shopping, branded items seem so much cheaper than in the UK I bought some Hollister items with were more than half the price you pay here at home! Below is the view from our hotel, we could see Tower of Terror, Spaceship Earth and Exhibition Everest among lots of Disney Hotels!

Day 12 Universal Studios.

Look at the view we woke up to on this morning!

Today was the day we ventured over to Universal and went to Universal Studios! I really enjoyed this park, even more than I had done before, not sure why! The weather was lovely again, it had warmed up a lot in Orlando in a week. Highlights for us were the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, this was my brothers first 'proper' roller-coaster, I mean those big ones that go upside down. He screamed all the way round but ran round to get back in the queue to have another go! This was a more relaxing day than we'd spent at other parks, it was much quieter than usual so we ended up going on pretty much everything! The shows are really good at Universal, I liked the animal actors in particular! 

Day 13 Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Disney's Hollywood Studios has always been my favourite park, I couldn't wait to go back here. I love the magic of Hollywood and this park really captures that, in Disney's special way that is! We headed straight to The Hollywood Tower of Terror, this is the only ride that I got a little nervous for, I'm generally good with rides and will go on anything, unless it contains water and getting wet! I think it's the way Disney build up this ride through the queue and the way the ride attendants join in with the haunted hotel theme, it's really good! I was a little disappointed that the Beauty and the Beast show wasn't running, its my favourite. However we got to see the Indiana Jones Stunt show which is always really good, especially the start of it, you know if you've watched it before! I think we went on everything we wanted to, including doing one of my favourite things which is the drawing class in the Art of Animation tour! We rounded off our Disney adventures with a showing of Fantasmic, a show where all of the disney characters come together with fireworks. This was an amazing way to end our days in the Disney parks. Perfect.

Day 14 Universal's Islands of Adventure.

This was the park I was most excited to go to, thats why I kept it until last! Islands of Adventure is part of Universal and within the park are different lands (or islands) including Jurassic Park, Marvel Superhero Island and of course The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! The last time we were in Orlando the Harry Potter section of the park was still being built and as a huge Harry Potter fan I couldn't wait to go. So of course we headed straight for Hogwarts and I can happily say it didn't disappoint. The detail in this part is amazing, just as good as Disney. Ive always thought Disney has had one up on Universal with the detail and themeing in the parks. The ride that was Duelling Dragons was closed but we managed to go on the ride in the castle which was really good, and different to any ride I've been on before, it kind of combined a roller coaster with a simulator!? We also tried Butterbeer which was incredibly sweet. I loved looking round all the shops including Honeydukes, and of course I had to buy something Harry Potter related so I got this Gryffindor Scarf! The rest of the park was great too, I think our highlight was the Hulk roller-coaster, one of the best I think!

So here we come to the end of the trip and this post, sorry it's been a long one! Well done if your still with me! This holiday was just amazing and if you ever get the chance to do a cruise or go to Orlando you should jump at the chance, you'll have am awesome time and bring back some unforgettable memories.

If you've done a trip like this let me know what you thought, or if your planning one and have any questions don't hesitate to ask me! 
© Kate Dickson. All rights reserved.