My family and I just got back from a tour of most of the theme parks in Orlando. This involved me putting on A LOT of sunscreen, real pants and a bra, and leaving my beloved cats for a week. It is always tough for a hermit to leave home. So, I tried to book a homey hotel room. I failed.
We chose a Marriott Residence Inn because my husband is like a mega platinum Marriott traveler, or whatever they call them. Plus, they had a two-bedroom suite with a pullout couch in the living room (we took our 18 year old son and his girlfriend on the trip). Usually we love Marriott but this one was a train wreck. The stairwell had a melted candy bar on the floor for three consecutive days—and you can imagine what that looked like after three days in the Florida heat. In our room, one toilet didn’t flush properly (even after the maintenance crew came in to fix it), the tub was full of hair from who knows how many people and didn’t drain properly, there was a busted out window screen, and the garbage disposal didn’t work. Our room was only half cleaned at best on most days, and apparently towels and toiletries are on demand items—they took the used ones but didn’t replace with new. And yes, we did leave a tip every day. When we gave the person at the desk our list of complaints he said, “Well, this is a franchise so you can’t expect the same quality. The corporate owned ones are still top notch but the franchises are looking to just cut costs.” For real? Marriott needs to pull the franchise from this dirty place. To their credit, the hotel did comp us two nights—but remember the Hertz commercials with the slogan, “There is Hertz, and there is not exactly”? To quote my husband’s old boss, this was a “not exactly” experience.
One of the other reasons we stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn is because we were going to Disney AND Universal. So, we didn’t want to stay on property at one place or another and selected a hotel that was in between the parks. Both groups of parks have their good and bad sides. Universal has Harry Potter land, so that is why we wanted to go. It also has larger roller coasters, which my husband loves. The down side is that I had to rename them ScrUniversal because they love to screw you over.
Like most Type-A individuals, I booked this theme park vacation MONTHS ahead of time. When I went on line a few months before our trip to purchase Universal tickets, I was THRILLED to get a special deal. I paid for two days in Universal and Islands of Adventure, and got a third day free. This was AWESOME. Except for the fact that I didn’t think to read the fine print.
When we got to Universal on our first day, the ticket and finger print scanner told me our tickets were expired.
Then, he pointed out the fine print. They had expired a month before. He told us to “Go to guest services and they might just give us a one day pass.”
My head almost exploded. I had paid $750-something (English major, here) for four two-day passes, and they “might just give us a one day pass?” I was going to hurt someone.
So, my husband did all the talking. He is our family spokesperson as I tend to be a wee bit unfiltered and totally too direct. Long story short, after waiting in line for an hour with all of the other people who had been screwed on this buy two get one deal they gave us three day passes for $40 on top of what I had already paid. OK. We were happy to finally get to enter the damn park.
Since we got a late start and didn’t get in until 11:00am or so, all of the rides had at least a 1,387 minute wait. There were signs everywhere announcing that express passes were priced FROM $39.99. So, my husband told us that he would buy express passes for the next day and we could get there early and ride everything without the need to pack a lunch and an air mattress to wait in line.
Guess what? Scruniversal strikes again. Notice how they said express passes were FROM $39.99? That’s because they are NEVER $39.99. On the day my husband tried to buy them they were $99.99 EACH. This does NOT INCLUDE your admission ticket. Bend over. If you want to get on a ride before YOU are 99, it’s going to cost you.
I get that theme parks are a business, and they want to screw grown-ups out of their hard earned money, but when they involve kids, I have a problem. This happens at Ollivander’s Wand Shop in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. When a group enters Ollivander’s a kid is chosen. Well, it’s not always a kid because my son’s 19 year-old girlfriend was a chosen one. That’s how I know what happens. So, the chosen kid is “given” a wand by the actor portraying the shopkeeper. Actually, the kid is told that the “wand chooses the wizard.” Whatever. So, at least five times, the shopkeeper and his assistant tell the kid, “this is your wand.” Then, when the little presentation is over, the kid leaves the room with the wand.
Wait. Does the kid actually get a free wand at Scruniversal? Nope. Not so fast, little wizard. The assistant grabs the kid and asks, “Where are your parents?” Then, she informs them that their child’s wand is $47 plus tax. Now, what parent is going to say no after their little snookums was just told they were the chosen wizard and other such nonsense? My son’s girlfriend bought her wand, and my son bought one, too.
They try to screw you out of your belongings when you use a locker. Instead of having you take a key, or use a pin code, most of Scruniversal’s lockers use those biometric finger print scanners. This is the worst idea ever. Apparently, I would be an awesome KGB double agent, because my fingerprints are unreadable. Every time I used one, and I gave it three tries, I had to get an attendant to open my locker for me. I felt like I was back in middle school trying to get ready for gym class. I got the same panic and pit sweats. There was never a time I COULD open my locker via this magical finger print method. And it wasn’t just me. My son’s girlfriend could not open her locker at the Harry Potter ride. The finger print scanners don’t work for shit, Universal.
Going to The Magic Kingdom was a welcome escape from the messed up Marriott and Scruniversal. Yes, it was hot, and yes there were tons of people, but Disney is always delightful. This is partially because it is SO CLEAN. After all, they hire people who just sweep and empty garbage, all day long, in costume, and usually while singing. That is some attention to detail right there. That is why it was a surprise to see a Magnum condom wrapper on the ground when we were waiting in line for Splash Mountain. I guess that big drop at the end got someone REALLY excited.
Another thing I LOVE about Disney is that selfie sticks are SO banned. The mouse clearly does NOT like selfie sticks. There’s a big warning sign on the parking attendant booths. Then, you receive a flyer with your parking pass. Before you can enter the monorail, you get a thorough selfie stick search. Well, just your bags get searched. It’s not like Goofy is there in a cop uniform with big, rubber, mouse hand gloves yelling “BEND OVER AND SPREAD ‘EM, GARSH DARN IT!! YOU BETTER NOT HAVE A SELFIE STICK UP THERE!!!” It wouldn’t surprise me though as they are damn serious about the no selfie stick rule. It’s great that they ban these things because they’re annoying. People already stop in the middle of walkways to take pictures of everysinglefuckingthing. It’s best not to encourage them to take MORE pictures.
But there are other things that should be banned:
Double wide strollers – Seriously, if you really must bring two children who cannot walk yet, will likely throw loud, screechy fits, and will never remember this super expensive vacation, at least use a normal, single row double stroller. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I would die or lose an appendage when some Starbucksed-up mom (yes, Starbucks has now invaded even Disney World) pushing two screaming children towards some poor bastard in a Mickey costume almost ran me over to get “Mickey’s” autograph, stop her children from shattering peanut brittle with their voices, or both.
Stopping in the middle of a walkway – People really think there is no one else in the world when they just HAVE to take a picture of a shrub shaped like Jiminy Cricket or a mouse ear shaped balloon. Move over to the side if you have to stop walking. There are other people who are trying to get to their next Fast Pass ride. You can schedule Fast Passes for free, by the way. It’s included with your admission. Are you taking notes, Scruniversal?
The Scooter Brigade – In all of the theme parks we visited, it seemed like at least a third of the visitors were in scooters. Yes, some of them were legitimately handicapped. Others seemed to be handicapped only by their sheer physical size, and hopped their obese bodies right out of their scooters to get on rides. It was so common that I told my husband that they really need to put in a scooter exhibit on “Its a Small World.” They could have little dolls from all over the world singing and scooter dancing to that horrible song that accompanies the ride. He replied, “That would work since I’m not sure if they are embracing cultural diversity or perpetuating racial stereotypes. Also, that song will haunt me in my dreams until 2027.”
We did have some good memories from Disney, like the princess meals we had. I booked dinner at Cinderella’s Castle because I’ve always wanted to eat there and because my son’s girlfriend is into all things Disney princess. I knew she would get a kick out of it, and she did. I have the pictures to prove it.
The next day, when my husband I went to Epcot and the teens spent the day at Hollywood Studios, we had an accidental princess lunch. I booked lunch in Norway because neither one of us has ever had Norwegian food and my husband likes fish dishes. We have eaten all of the other cuisines in Epcot, so I wanted to book something different. Once we arrived in Norway, and saw the line of little girls in princess dresses, we realized that we were dining with royalty. I made my husband pose with most of the princesses, which they loved. And so did he. The fact that Epcot is not dry like the Magic Kingdom also made us happy. Norwegian food and Disney princesses go well with good wine.
Overall, it was a good trip. I know I have bitched a lot about things, but that is how I amuse myself. We made a lot of good memories, took pictures (minus the selfie stick) and had Mickey waffles for breakfast daily. We also walked 44 miles in six days so it was definitely a vacation where I felt no guilt eating whatever I wanted. However, the next time I go back, I will be springing for a Disney hotel, though. I feel lucky that I didn’t get bed bugs from the nasty Residence Inn.
I want to hear about your most recent vacation. Was it a theme park tour like mine, or did you read on a beach somewhere? Leave me a comment.