Where Have You Been?

Thankfully I couldn’t get the new Ipad, Terri, and WordPress.com on the same page the last 10 days.

Did this instead:

Walt Disney World Resort

Then decided we needed a vacation so we did this:

English: Beach at Rum Point, North Side - Gran...

With some of these:

English: Monkeys in a barrel

And of course I’m always ready to share my thoughts!  Here goes.  Questions welcomed.  Comments and gripes appreciated.

On Disney’s Magical Kingdom:

Fast Passes 

  • Not every ride has a fast pass.
  • Fast Passes can only be obtained every two hours physically at (or nearly at) the particular ride.  If you get a Fast Pass for a ride, decide you don’t want to do that Fast Pass ride but another Fast Pass ride instead, sorry Charlie.  You still have to wait two hours before you get another set.
  • As soon as you walk in the park, go get a Fast Pass for a ride you want, then go stand in line for a ride that doesn’t have a Fast Pass or maybe two rides, and head back to use your Fast Pass assigned time.  On the way, try to pick up another Fast Pass if it has been two hours from the last ride.  Or better yet, take along a very loving youngish Aunt who will run all over the park snagging your Fast Passes for the family as soon as your two hours is up so you’re never missing out on your Fast Pass opportunities.

Eating with the Princesses 

  • Didn’t do it.  Was told we should, but I can’t plan when I want to eat months ahead for crying out loud.  After our first day of eating only pork shank (I’m on a special diet called GAPS), I decided we might do better with a sit-down restaurant rather than the busy walk-in places, and I was getting a little caught up in the Magic on my empty stomach.  Character or not, ALL of the sit-down, calmer restaurants were full-up and not able to take walk-ins.  A bit discouraging.
  • So I started doing some checking on the sit-down restaurants at the end of Day 1.  There’s an online site you can make Disney restaurant reservations on, and my Ipad functioned quite nicely for that at 10:00 pm before I crashed into bed.  In fact, we could have even seen the Princesses at the castle (ssshhhhh…don’t tell my girls) at 9:00 am on Day 2, but we were on vacation and not prepared to wake everyone up at 7 am to dine with costumed human beings.  And you know what, even at 7:30 am the next day, I checked again, and the Princess breakfast was STILL open!  But we honestly admitted we would never peacefully get the five of us around by 8:00 am for the hour trek to the park.  But, don’t neglect to check for last-minute openings!  They are there!
  • We opted for Winnie the Pooh characters at 1:00 pm at The Crystal Palace.  We all enjoyed it, and the food was actually great for the special rehabilitation diet I am on (aka GAPS)!  So many good foods for me, and I didn’t have to lift a finger.  Just pay a bill.  Huh.  But I am glad we did do a character restaurant.  The kids were enthralled.  The restaurant was running about 15 minutes behind (I took the opportunity to go grab a Fast Pass), and it was a bit hectic outside the building.  Inside, it was cool, spacious, and organized.  I had marked “food intolerances” on my online reservations, and the chef came and walked me through all the 50 or so dishes and answered my questions.  I haven’t had so many selections in front of me since I started eating this way in June!

Lodging  We rented a condo about  5-7 minutes from the park.  Saved tremendously.  Suited us great.  Very quiet.  Driving was NO issue.

Parking  We ONLY went to the Magic Kingdom.  However, I read online somewhere to park at Epcot’s simple squarish parking lot, make an easy walk up to the check-in area, get your bags searched (for what I have not a clue), and then take the tram and then another tram to the Magical Kingdom.  We did this and it worked great.  I don’t know what I missed by not parking at the Magic Kingdom, but I read the parking at the Magic Kingdom is a bear; you are so far away and isolated from the check-in/search area you must take a shuttle “bus” to get there.  Then, you still have to take a tram.  On the way back, you take a tram, you are tired and still have to wait on a shuttle bus and try to figure out where you are parked.  Our way, on the way back, you got to zoom all the way around Epcot, looking in, before you were brought to a stop and deboarded the tram for a pretty simple walk straight to the car.  Our way:  short walk, bags checked, tram, tram, Magical Kingdom.  Reverse the process home with a lovely view over Epcot to end the day.

Crowds  Horrible.  Terrible.  We resigned ourselves and went with it.  The customer service at Disney is spectacular!  Amazing!  Kudos to each and every employee we encountered.  Kudos.  The Orlando airport was a rude awakening after the service at Disney!  Disney needs to come to every airport and teach crowd efficiency management!  They could do it, I know!  The people they move through their park with the kind, smiling helpfulness of their well-trained employees is miraculous.

Strollers  Day 1 did not have a stroller.  Day 2 I got a stroller.  Cost $15.  They have little parking pads by the rides for all the strollers.  You may find yours politely moved if it’s not in the right spot.  Don’t panic.  It’s there!

Fireworks  At the end of the day about a half hour before the parade and light show, we made our way over to the hot dog shop on the corner of Main Street there on the circle in front to the Magic Kingdom.  We miraculously found a free table.  While the kids ate, we had a great view of parades, light show, and fireworks while sitting on our butts.  This is worth attempting to get.

Grand Cayman:

This was our third trip to Grand Cayman.  We like it because it’s safe, has good infrastructure, and we can stay off of a resort and feel comfortable.  As we like a gentle pace, we stay in the area known as Cayman Kai.  Rum Point is the beach pictured above, and it looks just as pictured.  We feel so relaxed there.  The cove has no waves, is shallow, and is perfect for young children.  My youngest daughter calls it “the beach with no waves.”  Although it can get fairly busy, I seldom feel crowded here.  There’s enough people to do some people watching and interaction with new people if you wish, or you can quietly park yourself on a chaise with no distractions.  Before 10:30, you have your pick of chaise locations and after 3:00 pm.  In between times, there’s still plenty of space, just maybe not quite where you want or next to who you want.  We always took up residence right to the East of the long dock in a little cover there.  It’s shallow way, way out, and my kids love that.  They can snorkel there underneath the dock or around the rocks.  Sometimes it’s marked “for Disney cruise ship”, but they never took all the lounges so I didn’t fret about taking a few.

During the day, there is lunch right there on the beach at cute colored picnic tables, from Wreck Bar and Grill.  (If you have dietary restrictions, you can order a salad with an order of grilled fish–you can even have them put a double order of grilled fish on there– or the big, double burger and have them leave the bun and cheese off.  Feed the fries to someone in your party who can eat them or have them substitute a salad.)  Just have a seat, and a wait staff member will come take your order for drinks and/or food.  Or walk in to the bar to order a simple drink or ice cream bar for the kids.  No need to leave or put on a cover up!  At night, if you choose, you can eat fancy at the fancy restaurant (check schedule, I think it’s closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights).  No matter what, Grand Cayman food is expensive–grocery store or otherwise.  But groceries are the cheapest way to go, for sure!

We enjoyed “fancy” dinners at The Lighthouse, Tukkas, and Rum Point Restaurant.  All three are good for different reasons.  The views are spectacular at each.  The Lighthouse is especially nice at sunset.  Don’t forget to take something long sleeved even if it’s warm, sometimes the breeze really whips up when you’re sitting on the water at these restaurants.  The Lighthouse gave me, my mother-in-law, and my daughters lovely “shawls” (clean and newly pressed) to wear when this happened to us!  Tukkas Fresh Fish Friday was great!  We saw the fishermen carrying in a 4 foot something fish–it’s that fresh.  Two other things stick in my mind about Tukkas:  the lionfish ceviche and they have some dairy free desserts!  Although all seemed to able and happy to accommodate food intolerances, Tukka’s had a bit more for me.  Rum Point ordered in a lovely cake from Georgetown for my daughter’s birthday and put a fun sparkler on it for her!  It’s nice with kids because you can walk the kids out to the beach while you wait for your food, if the kids are antsy.

Several casual meals were ordered at Over the Edge.  The food has been consistently reliable here through the years.  The price more accommodating.  Very casual.  Breakfast still cost us about 50 bucks.

The best reason to come to Grand Cayman is to snorkel from the beach!  Nearly anywhere around the island, as the island is nearly surrounded completely by the reef.  We like to drive along the North coast, find a little parking path, park, and swim out to check the reef.  Sometimes it’s awesome and sometimes we have to try again.  Our favorite spot was Babylon Reef.  Go East from Rum Point past Frank Sound Road.  Look for a largish, cleared grassy area with a wooden sign reading “Connelly’s Cove.”  Park in here.  It has been open every time we have come here this trip and two years ago.  Often, there is one other car parked there or someone sitting on the beach.  If you get to the Queen’s Monument (NOT much to look at!  Don’t think “large queen lady standing there” or anything like that–it’s a plaque on a concrete platform) or see a house called “Babylon Reef”, you’ve gone past Connelly’s Cove.  Turn around.

At the beach, we walked to the east about 50-75 meters (I always base this off of the 100 meter dash I ran on track and field day in elementary school) and swam out.  We wear water shoes for entry and getting out.  We do not wear fins as we worry about navigation through the coral with fins.  It really is easier to get around without fins if you’re a pretty good swimmer (and I’m not talking swim team or anything).  It’s a bit rocky/smooth coral getting in and sea grass until you get out there.  You can see the waves breaking right at the reef.  That shows you where to swim to.  Then, we snorkel our hearts content down toward the west with a gentle current.  Sometimes if the wind is a bit high, your water will cloud up.  Bummer.  Anyway, at first the swim is a bit deeper–maybe 5-8 feet, and then shallows up more as you move westward.  The coral and scenery changes from east to west, and we enjoyed it all.  Where we got out, there were lots of tiny sea urchins.  I wonder why they don’t poke through water shoes.

The fish life is amazing.  The coral beautiful.  Here is a better description:  http://snorkelblog.tumblr.com/post/1213678603/queens-monument .

However, even in front of our rented house (Coral Gardens), we saw two huge lobsters and a flounder!  It was very shallow but sandy.  We really have had good luck just stopping along here and there exploring the northern shoreline!  I love being able to do that.  Simple adventure:)

At Rum Point it gets a bit busy, and I worry about boats.  But we liked to swim around the rocky point and snorkel here.  When you swim out, you can see the area is marked “Marine Park” on a little red circular sign.  Good fish life.  An occasional baby stingray.  Beautiful sea fans.  Up closer, there are some sunken boulders or old coral that has a bunch of fish, also.  It is convenient to take the children out here.

Well, I’m tiring out.  We like Grand Cayman.  We don’t stay on Seven Mile Beach.  Rum Point is picturesque, calm enough yet busy enough for us, and great for young kids.  The food on Grand Cayman is delicious and fresh, but it is super expensive.  I try to pack light.  I still always overpack.  Swim shoes are a must if you snorkel.  Ditch the fins if you are a comfortable swimmer.  Buy sand toys for the kids when you first go to the beach.  Don’t fret.  The Caribbean is really a place you can relax and let go.  Don’t worry about how dorky your husband looks in his tank top.  Nobody cares but you.

I’ll field any questions.  thehomeschoolingdoctor@gmail.com

Best to you and yours!

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