Orlando Pool Home, March 2003

Who: Rich and Kathy, Rich’s Parents, Rich’s Brother and Family
What: Rich & Kathy’s vacation to WDW and Dad’s Birthday
Orlando pool home
March 1-8, 2003
Why: Rich and Kathy check out living in Florida for a week and celebrate Dad’s 80th birthday


The purpose of the trip was to (1) escape the record snow/cold during Rich and Kathy’s first and, hopefully, last year in Ohio, (2) enjoy the parks at Walt Disney World, (3) see what living in a pool home in Orlando would feel like, including proximity to WDW and the beach, and (4) get the family together to celebrate Dad’s 80th birthday.

Day 1

Columbus, Ohio to Orlando, Florida

One of the benefits of living in Columbus was the short, two-hour direct flight to Orlando. Also, there was no time change. We left snow and cold behind in Port Columbus at 1:15 pm and landed at MCO at 3:15, embracing the sunshine and warmth. Although the flight itself was bumpy due to stacked clouds, it was relatively painless. As National Rental Car Emerald Club members, we walked right up to the rental car lot and picked out our rental car. We chose a 4-door Buick Century. We headed for Kissimmee to pick up the keys for our pool home with All-Star Vacation Homes, did a quick stop at Winn-Dixie for coffee, cokes, and snacks and were soon checking out our digs for the next 7 days—a four-bedroom pool home.

We unpacked our suitcases and took a quick dip into the pool.

After our refreshing swim, we headed for EPCOT guest services. It was finally time to exchange our Annual Pass (AP) vouchers for the real thing. The cast member who processed our exchange recognized our licenses as she had an ex-boyfriend from Ohio. It was very exciting to use our AP for the first time. We headed for FUTURE WORLD and our first ride—Spaceship Earth. It was an easy walk-on and we enjoyed it as much as the first time.

Epcot – World Showcase

We had 8pm dinner reservations at the San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion in the World Showcase section of Epcot. So, we walked to World Showcase from Spaceship Earth. We took a walk through several of the other country pavilions on our way to Mexico. The weather was balmy, the atmosphere was romantic and we were off to a wonderful start.

Inside the Mexico pavilion, we rode the El Rio del Tiempo boat ride which passes by the diners at the San Angel Inn restaurant. The set up here is similar to the Blue Bayou/Pirates of the Caribbean at DL.

After a delicious Mexican meal, we walked back through Future World and out to the parking lot during the Illuminations fireworks show.

Day 2

Magic Kingdom

We woke up around 7 am, had coffee and cereal from the comfort of the living room couch and enjoyed relaxing in the pool home.

After breakfast, we drove to the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center) and took the ferry over to the Magic Kingdom: This park is the closest thing to Disneyland (DL). Many of the same rides are here, although there are differences. On our last trip, we went to the Magic Kingdom on the last night of our trip to finish off some missed rides but were rained out. So, we wanted to be able to ride everything that we had missed. Unfortunately, we still missed some rides and plan to catch them during our trip in July.

Main Street USA: Main Street was already open by the time we arrived and so we walked down Main Street, glancing at the shops, picking out which ones we would return to later.

Then we headed to Adventureland.

Adventureland: Here we rode Pirates of the Caribbean (Rich and Kathy’s favorite). We used to think that the Disneyland version was much better. But now we prefer the WDW version. We like the fact that the dead space has been eliminated and the ride is shorter with just the good stuff. With a similar dining experience at San Angel Inn, we no longer miss dining at the Blue Bayou. This time we enjoyed the new version of the Tiki Birds and enjoyed a refreshing Dole Whip afterwards.

Frontierland: Big Thunder Mountain was our first ride here. That was fun, although sitting in the last row made the train jerk more. After the bumpy flight the previous day, we weren’t exactly in the mood for more jerking around.

Liberty Square: We visited the Haunted Mansion. The main difference here was the façade – a federal style brick building in WDW, a white-column Southern mansion in DL. Then we headed over to Hall of Presidents. This was the first time we had seen it since George W Bush was president.

Main Street USA: We had lunch at Cindy’s Table inside Cinderella Castle. You can’t inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland.”

We took the monorail back to the TTC and then the tram to the parking lot to pick up our car and drive back to the pool home.

We enjoyed another swim in the pool and a rest until it was time to head out to the airport to pick up Mother and Dad. We arrived early in order to eat dinner at the airport. Orlando airport has been renovated and now both concourses are centered around a beautiful Hyatt hotel. We managed to find a Chilis and had dinner there. We had an interesting and tasty Mexican eggroll and nacho platter.

The parents’ flight was late, although the board announced that it had arrived. Thankfully, there were several other people waiting to pick up people from this flight so we were not alone in waiting and were able to commiserate with one another. Finally, the parents arrived, although there was a problem with the AirTran personnel just abandoning them with the wheelchair. So, Rich took over pushing the wheelchair and Kathy relieved Mother of her luggage. We headed out to the parking garage and drove back to the pool home. It was fun showing Mother and Dad the home and which bedroom suite would be theirs. We sat up talking for a short awhile and then everyone went off to bed.

Day 3

Slept in this morning and visited with the parents while we awaited Bob and Ethan’s arrival. Took the parents to the store for a few essentials, made lunch and ate out by the pool. Bob and Ethan arrived around 1 pm and we gave them the tour of the house and their accommodations. We swam in the pool during the afternoon and rested up. We then headed over to the Marketplace at Downtown Disney and shopped in the World of Disney store. Kathy bought a WDW nightshirt and Rich got a nice red WDW golf shirt. We ate dinner at the Rainforest Cafe and had ice cream at Ghirardelli. If Rich and Kathy had known the hot fudge sundaes would be so large, they would have split one. It was cool and cloudy.

Day 4

The weather forecast of rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon was enough to spur us on to make the trip to Clearwater Beach. Bob, Ethan, Mother and Dad went to a Phillies spring training game and Rich and Kathy drove down the beach to St. Petersburg, stopping at John’s Pass Village for lunch and desert. We had a delicious seafood lunch—Kathy had a shrimp basket and Rich had scallops. We each enjoyed a tasty Margarita. We walked along the boardwalk, enjoying the smell and feel of the ocean, watching the dolphins frolick and had an ice cream cone. We each bought a Jimmy Buffet t-shirt in one of the shops. The sun had, indeed, come out and it was a glorious day. We stopped along Sand Key Beach and enjoyed a nice long walk. We picked up Mother and Dad at the game and headed back to Sand Key Beach Park. Dad sat on the bench while Rich, Kathy, and Mother watched Ethan and Bob ride a waverunner.

Day 5

Epcot – Future World

This morning brought a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-80s. After a quick breakfast of coffee and Krispy Kremes, Rich and Kathy met Bob and Ethan at EPCOT and entered Future World soon after the 9am opening.

Test Track: We headed straight for Test Track and rode it the first of two times.

Honey I Shrunk the Audience: a fun 3D film experience.

Body Wars: similar to StarTours but this time you are inside a human body.

Spaceship Earth: Rode through the geosphere for a look at the history and future of communications.
Universe of Energy: Rode Ellen’s Energy Adventure, a combination of film and back-to-the-dinosaur-era ride. It was pretty cool – the theater seats turn into ride vehicles.

Epcot – World Showcase

Rich and Kathy then parted with Bob and Ethan and headed for the car. We drove throughout the Orlando area, up to Altamonte Springs and the Lake Mary area, scoping out the area for future consideration. Lake Mary seemed a bit too remote for us. We then had lunch at Chevys, something we don’t have in Ohio. We stopped off at Celebration and looked at some model homes before heading back to the home for a much needed rest.

Rich and Kathy took Mother, Dad, and Ethan to the Boardwalk. Bob walked over from World Showcase. We had dinner at the Big River Grille and Brewing Works. Rich and Kathy split a hamburger and Kathy tried a beer flight for the first time and shared with all interested parties. We walked along the Boardwalk, stopped at Seashore Sweets for an ice cream. Then we went home and relaxed.

Day 6

Disney-MGM Studios

We woke up around our usual 7 am, showered, had our usual breakfast of coffee and muffin and headed for Disney Studios.

Hollywood Boulevard: We had intended to ride the Great Movie Ride, a journey into the movies with scenes from famous films, but it was down for refurbishment.

Mickey Avenue: our new favorite attraction at Disney Studios, Millionare—Play It, was addicting. It’s based on the television game but you win Disney merchandise instead of real money. The million dollar prize is a Disney cruise for 4. As an audience member, you play along and the member with the most points gets in the hot seat. We played twice but never got in the hot seat or even the top 10. We can’t want to come back and try again. We also toured the story of Walt Disney in One Man’s Dream, held over from the 100 Years of Magic celebration.

New York Street: We walked through the façades of the New York City backlot.

Sunset Boulevard: We walked through here for a nostalgic look at Orange County, CA produce stands and eateries. It was quite nostalgic for Kathy.

Commissary Lane: We ate a tasty lunch at the ABC Commisary.

We went back to the pool home for a refreshing dip and rest before heading back out to Epcot and the World Showcase for the evening. We headed straight for France and enjoyed one of our favorite desserts—Chantilly de Creme Puff and then tasted a glass of wine. Kathy had Pouille Fousse and Rich had a nice French Pinot Noir. We strolled through World Showcase, stopped off in Norway for the ride and headed over for China for dinner. We each had a beef combination plate.

We were exhausted and went to bed early and missed the arrival of Karen, Erica, and Emily.

Magic Kingdom/Resort Hopping

After greeting Karen, we headed straight for the Poly for our favorite Tonga Toast for breakfast. It was really too much food and Rich would later regret having polished off everything. This will probably be our last meal there.

After touring more of the Poly, reminiscent of our time in Hawaii, we jumped on the monorail for the Magic Kingdom, supposedly just to do some shopping on Main Street. Well, one thing led to another and we didn’t buy anything but we rode the People Mover, toured Minnie’s house and road the train. It was a great way to say good-bye to the Magic Kingdom until Kathy’s birthday trip in July.

We then took the boat back to the Poly. That was a highlight of the day, out on the water. We noticed which wing would be the best one to stay at in the Poly. The Grand Floridian also looked good in the water. We headed for the Poly parking lot to retrieve our car and drove over to the Wilderness Lodge.

In the meantime, the rest of the family also did some resort hopping. Here they are at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Wilderness Lodge

We enjoyed seeing this well-theme lodge again and we would definitely like to stay here sometime, maybe over Christmas.

We then drove over to Animal Kingdom Lodge. We hadn’t seen that before. We toured the resort and loved it, especially the restaurants, lounges, shop. We ate lunch out by the pool. We would definitely like to stay here sometime, too.

We had thought about going over to the Animal Kingdom park but it was just too hot today and there is little shade at the park so we headed back to the pool home to rest up before Dad’s 80th birthday celebration.

Bob and Karen had picked up pizza and a birthday ice cream cake with candles. After a quick bite of pizza, the birthday cake was presented to Dad. He blew out the candles and we dove right into the cake. Then Dad opened his gifts. Bob and Karen and family had given him a CD set of old Radio shows and a nostalgic picture of their 3 sons. To tie in the birthday gift of Dad spending his 80th birthday in the land of the Mouse, Rich and Kathy got him a Mickey Mouse baseball cap that said “The Big Cheese.”

Day 7

Up at 5:00am. We got ready and packed up the house, said good-bye to Bob and Karen and family and headed for Orlando airport. We dropped the parents off at AirTran, retrieved a wheelchair and an employee and said good-bye, heading for the rental car return and Delta to catch our flight back to Columbus.

We arrived home at 12 noon to warmth and sunny skies. We picked up our luggage, retrieved the car in long-term parking and drove the half-hour drive home to Dublin to spend time with our sorely-missed kitty cats. Rich had a day and a half to rest up before going back to work. After this trip, Ohio didn’t seem as bad. At least, it afforded us a short, painless flight to Orlando, one that we hope to repeat in July for Kathy’s big milestone birthday.

About Rich Eckardt

Byzantine Catholic Convert. Knight of Columbus. Celebrant of the Divine Office.