Month: June 2011

Smooth…

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Tonight, April and I were talking about something to do with our house and I had no recollection of what she was talking about.

So, when she said, “I’m surprised you don’t remember …”

I quickly replied, “I’ve replaced those memories with images of your beauty.”

She didn’t buy it, but it sure was smooth, wasn’t it?

Dear Disney: A Vacation Letter

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Dear Disney,

.
Thank you for yet another fantastic vacation.  Our adventure was, well……magical.  And you help us to believe in that magic (regardless of our age) every time we pass through your borders.  Let me tell you about our time.

We started off our journey with a stay at the Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World.  This was our first time here and we stayed in the DVC Villas at the lodge.  As always, the ambiance was fantastic and cast members were very friendly.  It was amazing how the concierge desk workers always answered affirmatively to any of our requests.

My personal favorite was asking if we could consolidate our “key to the world” cards in to one card each instead of multiple, and you know what?  They did it in the blink of an eye.  That’s what I call amazing customer service.  We suspect though that they used some fairy dust to make it happen.

On our first full day, we were whisked off to the Animal Kingdom by a magical carriage (Disney Bus) where we enjoyed the rides, food and entertainment.  Emily and I learned to “Respect the Power of the Yeti” on Expedition Everest.  The whole family loved the journey down the Kali River Rapids, even Ava – who got soaked the most.  We were also able to enjoy the safari ride, but our driver must have still been ‘earning his ears’ as Emily spotted animals faster than he did.  Ava loved “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” although she doesn’t like wearing the 3D glasses. Of course, we all loved the Festival of the Lion King show from the front row.  The sun was hot, but we persevered and had a Hakuna Mata time.

Unfortunately, Ava was a little under the weather at the beginning of the trip, but once her immune system kicked in, she fought off whatever was ailing her.  We think it may have been the heat.  What a little fighter!

DAY TWO, was pretty amazing as well.  Our magical carriage once again took us to the Disney Hollywood Studios. AND…it just happened to be STAR WARS weekend.  All we can say is WOW.  Em and I headed straight off for the Tower of Terror, where she rode it like a pro.  She is big in to roller coasters and scary rides, which definitely proves that she is one of our kids (not that there was any doubt).  With Ava still just a little too small to ride on the big rides, it meant that we could get double the Fast Passes for Em and I.

After the Tower, Em and I rode Aerosmith’s Rock n’ Roller Coaster a couple times (six times total for the day).  This was Em’s first time on this ride and she sure is a trooper!  She is one of those “throw your hands in the air and scream like you just don’t care” kind of roller coaster riders, which again makes her our kid.  The 0-60 mph in under 3 seconds and loopty loops are amazing!  As you can tell by the picture, we both enjoyed the ride – check out Emily’s eyes (click on the picture for larger view).  And yes, I was having a bit of fun too.  This was definitely our favorite ride of the whole trip.

From there, we cruised the park and caught a few shows.  It was hot at the park on this day and it was good to get out of the sun.  A couple times, we went to shows or exhibits just to get out of the heat.

The girls got their faces painted, played in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area, and met some characters.

As I said, it was Star Wars weekend and what a sight to see.  Not only were there Star Wars shows, characters and attractions, there were storm troopers all over the place.  How cool is that?   You could really tell where all the action was at as there were people dressed up all over the place.  At one point, a storm trooper started messing with April and the girls.  In fact, we later learned that Emily had joined the Galactic Empire. We knew the force was strong with this one.  Don’t worry though,  I told her that we were not the droids that she was looking for and she went on about her business. [Only a few of you will get that.]

DAY THREE took us on a journey via boat to the Magic Kingdom.  Getting in at opening was definitely a benefit.  We were able to experience the Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and Haunted Mansion without any lines.

The Pirates ride was hilarious for us.  Right after we had boarded, the ride experienced unforeseen “rough seas” (or in land-lubbers terms: technical difficulties), which stopped everything from moving.   Since we were seated in our boat at the entry, but couldn’t get out, we were able to see what happens when Steve the Pirate works with Stephan (who clearly is not a pirate or interested in being one) under stressful circumstances.  While these two Disney workers were franticly trying to sort out what happened, Steve would talk in a pirate voice both with the guests present and to Stephan.  Stephan would talk back to everyone in a rather high pitched “non-pirate” frantic sounding voice.  He was clearly not amused that Steve the Pirate was using terms like ‘ahoy, arrr, and savvy’ with him.  We on the other-hand found the entire interaction to be very amusing.

We decided to skip across the park (not literally) and went from Adventureland to Tomorrowland so we could all enjoy the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger ride, which is always a blaster-gun blast (more literally).  We were then able to skip back across the park (again less literally) to enjoy the It’s a Small World ride together.  Interestingly, this ride ALSO had technical difficulties and we were stuck in the middle for a little while.  We learned that this is one ride you don’t want to be stuck on, or you will never get that song out of your head!

At this point, April and Ava decided to slip off back to the hotel via boat so Ava could rest.  [We were playing it a little smarter with her this day.]  Em and I filled the rest of our afternoon riding rides!  From Space Mountain to Splash Mountain to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad we had an awesome time.  We did notice, however, that you like to use mountains as a theme.

After a great day at Magic Kingdom, we all linked up with the rest of the Sanders Clan (April’s mother, father, brother, sis-in law, and niece) at the restaurant T-Rex in Downtown Disney.  The food was great, but our waiter was a little difficult.  The poor guy was from Beijing, China and did not speak very good English.  This meant that understanding what he was saying was very difficult, but fortunately, we were up to this humorous challenge.  Dinner ended up being a great start to the extended Jackson-Sanders portion of the vacation.

DAY FOUR brought us to a new adventure; a 6-day cruise aboard the Disney Dream.  This was a first for April and I.  We are first time cruisers.  And let me say that you did NOT disappoint!  We will be posting “Tips from a first time cruiser” later on our family blog with all of our learnings.

The cruise itself was fantastic.  The food was terrific!  I know we gained back all the weight we had been working on losing for the summer.  There was definitely not a chance that we were going hungry while on this vessel.  There was one night in the Animator’s Pallete (restaurant) where Crush (the turtle from Nemo) decided to select April as his first victim of the night.  He sure had her embarrassed.  Fortunately, Papa (Tommy) was there to save the day with his antics and quickly became Crush’s target.  It was all pretty hilarious!

Now Disney – I must say that while your swimming pools were way too small on the boat, they did provide some enjoyment for the kids.  More exciting for Emily and Destiny was the AquaDuck water ride. That was pretty cool, but the line was really long at times.  I guess that’s what happens when there are 4,000 guests aboard. Emily was able to ride it six times, but found more enjoyment out of a smaller corkscrew water slide for kids (with a shorter line!).  Ava thoroughly enjoyed the kids Nemo and Friends water play area.

I was able to slip off for a massage on the first day, which I know made others jealous, but boy it sure did feel great!  April and I also had a couple’s massage later in the week and April was able to enjoy a pedicure with the ladies later in the cruise.  The Spa was definitely our friend.

For the kids (and parents), we found the Kids Club to be amazing.  We were definitely concerned about our kid’s safety when not in our care, but you put those fears at ease pretty quickly with the way that you run your ship (so to speak).  The Oceaneer’s Lab and Club were fantastic and the kids rarely wanted to leave once there.  The older girls also enjoyed the Mid-Ship Detective Agency adventure, which sent them all over the ship looking for clues to solve their mysteries.  The D-Lounge was also pretty cool for families and we enjoyed all of the kid friendly entertainment.  The Pirate Party was also very cool!!  Argggg!

Cast-Away Cay (which is a Disney owned island in the Bahamas) was a pretty good stop, although we didn’t get off the boat the second visit there.   We took a Jackson-Sanders Family photo there on the beach, but we’ll have to wait and see how they turned out.  Early indications are good!

The beach was enjoyable and provided fun swimming and building sand castles.  Em, Des, Chris and I enjoyed the water slide, although I lost my sunglasses while there.  If you see them at the bottom of the ocean, please send my way.

The next stop was the Bahamas.  And all I have to say is you that you can certainly tell the difference between a Disney owned and run operation and everything else.  We made our way to the Atlantis resort to spend some one on one time with the dolphins.  The experience was a little lackluster, but hey, we got to hold and kiss a dolphin, which was pretty cool.  Me fitting in to a wetsuit?  Not so cool. But again the dolphins….very cool.  Haven’t interacted with them like that before.  Definitely will do that again in the future.

We decided to avoid the shops and other excursions on the Bahamas and head back to the ship.  Personally,  I’m glad we did because bro-in-law Chris and I got to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie in 3-D.  Always nice when your ship has a 3-D capable movie theatre aboard.

Besides all of the fun, the stateroom was very nice and no one got sea sick, which I see as a bonus to a cruise.  There are two things though that I want to call special attention to.

First, the entertainment.  The shows and character interactions were top notch.  Never before have we been able to access Disney characters like Mickey, Minnie, and the princesses with such ease.  Not having to wait under a hot sun for 30 minutes to get a hug, an autograph, and take a picture was pretty great.

The evening shows were also unbelievable!  Every night was amazing.  Definitely Broadway quality and very well done!  We were able to sit in the in the “box” on the side of the theatre a couple times.  The Cruise Director called us out on the final night and we got to lead the applause for the entire crowd at the final show.  The comedians, Alfred and Seymore, were also pretty funny.

Second, I must compliment you on your cast members.  Everyone was extremely friendly and tried very hard to make our voyage phenomenal.  This makes all the difference in the world and you definitely have ‘great customer service’ down.  So, thank you.

End to end – the cruise was awesome!  You definitely made crusiers of us and we are already talking about our next adventure!

After we disembarked (a cool cruise term) for the last time,  we traveled back to the Disney properties and this time stayed at the Boardwalk Inn.  This was another new resort for us that we had been wanting to try.  And again, you did not disappoint.  The room was great, other than it was literally at the end of the world.  Last room, last hallway, somewhere near where the world stops.  I’m pretty sure I saw a pirate ship nearby.

We took the opportunity to head to Epcot for the day.  We were able to hit a few attractions like the Malestrom, the aquarium, the Seas with Nemo, and Turtle Talk with Crush.  I think April was having flashbacks to the cruise during the Talkin’ with Crush attraction.

April and Ava headed back to the room for a nap in the early afternoon, which meant Em and I had some more Daddy / Daughter time to run around.  We were able to take in some more cool attractions like Mission: Space, Soarin’, Test Track, and a real cool robotic arm ride in the Innoventions area.

From there we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed the pool and boardwalk for the rest of the night.  We slept in the next morning and then hopped a flight back to Bentonville.  While it was great to be with you Disney, there is certainly no place like home (which is an entirely different fairy tale)!

What a vacation!

So, Disney…  We want to say THANK YOU again for a fantastic visit and wonderful time.  And as Mickey says, “See ya’ real soon!”

~The Jacksons

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First Day vs. Last Day

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Emily just finished up 2nd grade and I thought it would be fun to compare her first day of school photo with her last day of school photo.  And when I put them side by side I got really sad!  She has grown so much this year!  She also finished the school year with all A’s on her report card!! We are so proud of her!!

First day:                                                               Last Day: