7:00 came too early for me, but I knew that I had some great coasters ahead of me, so I was able to drag myself out of bed. Busch Gardens Tampa was on the agenda, as well as dinner at 'Ohana with Susan, Kim and Tony. We both grabbed breakfast in the food court, then started on our way. I had to stop for gas, and it was actually cheaper on property, so I stopped at the station across from Downtown Disney. Kev said he wanted some lemonade, and I was going to grab a bottle of water to take to the park...but I couldn't find any! All I saw was beer, soda and sports drinks! So we ended up with Powerades.
We arrived at the park right before their 10:00am opening. We paid for regular parking but ended up parking in the preferred lot since there was next to no one there!
There were maybe 20 cars in the lot when we arrived! The sky was kind of dark, but it wasn't raining, and wasn't terribly cool. Kevin's admission ticket was his Christmas present, and once we had those in hand, we waited with the other 75 or so people at the turnstyles.
This was everyone waiting to get in at park opening. Yep, you can see them all from here!
The obligatory picture of me and Kevin at Busch Gardens
As soon as the gates opened, we figured that people would go off towards Sheikra since it was the newest coaster. But no...people just wandered here and there, and there was no group headed in any one direction. We made a pit stop in a restroom, then meandered our way to Sheikra.
Once there, there was no one there! I mean, there was seriously no one there! We walked right in and sat on the far right side of the back row. The ride was fantastic! It was nerve wracking being held on the brakes before the drop, but once it let us go, it was awesome! It was smooth, powerful and very intense. After our first ride, we didn't even have to undo the restraints to get a second ride.
After Sheikra, Kumba was the next destination since Kevin didn't have that credit.
We passed Python on the way and went ahead and rode it. It wasn't terribly uncomfortable, but not terribly thrilling either hehe It also took me forever to get a picture of it since there were so few people in the park!
Next up was Kumba, and for a while, we thought we were going to have a train to ourselves! Alas, after a while, a few more people came up to ride. The ride was actually even better than I remembered it! It is truly a top notch coaster, and one that B&M should try to imitate in their other coasters! It was looking really bad though...paint was horribly faded and it was showing a LOT of rust. A little TLC would bring this coaster back to looking as great as it rides.
We headed over into Timbuktu next to take in the rides in that area. Kevin was getting hungry, and said he'd like to get a corn dog.
The first place we stopped sold corn dogs, so he got one. He seemed to enjoy it greatly. While he ate, I found another "catch a ping pong ball in a net" game and decided to play again.
I didn't do as well this time as the day before, but I did manage to get a stuffed duck. Once Kevin was done, it was time for the rides.
The first stop was Cheetah Chase to grab that credit. It was a nice mouse, but a mouse nonetheless. We also rode the Scorpion while we were there.
Kevin rode first so I could finally get some pictures of a coaster in operation, then I rode so he could get pics. This is a very nice coaster also, and I love that it doesn't have OTSRs!
I was feeling a bit hungry by this point, so we ducked into a nearby restaurant. I looked at the cafeteria style offerings and grabbed a giant pickle. Then I spotted cups full of strawberries, and got one of those too. Thinking I wanted just a little something else, I got a garlic breadstick also.
It wasn't until I got back to my seat that I realized that those were three of my four favorite foods! Had I washed the whole meal down with chocolate milk, it would have been the perfect meal!
As I finished up, the R.L. Stein Haunted Lighthouse show was loading, so we went in. The opening was great...like 3D oil paintings. The rest of the show was pretty blah, and kind of predictable. After the initial water spray that came from a Christopher Lloyd spit take, I started covering up the water jets so I wouldn't get so wet. Well, at the very end, a fish in the movie spits at you...and you get completely drenched!
I'm not even sure where the water came from, but my hair was soaked and we both were just shocked at how wet we were!
A liitle spray here and there is ok, but not *that* much water!
When we left, it was starting to rain, so we jumped on the train and rode it around the park.
I can't decide which is more beautiful, the giraffe or the B&M. Eh, I'll go with the B&M!
We got a nice look at the animals and coasters, and by the time we were done with the ride, it had pretty much stopped raining. Kevin stopped for some Combos...
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a hippo head appeared and bit my butt!
...and then we took advantage of some photo ops with some hippos and a zebra pulling a sleigh in the area!
Finally we were heading up to the front of the park again to ride Montu and see if I could get my Gwazi Lion credit.
Um, what inconvenience? Is this just the catch all apology for anything that may have gone wrong during your day? "Remember that thing earlier that you didn't like? Yeah, sorry about that."
We walked through the King Tut exhibit, then headed towards Montu. Again there was no one there to ride, so I didn't get any coaster pictures!
I did manage to get a couple of ones of me hugging a support...
...and rubbing my butt on a support! The ride was great as always, and definitely the second best B&M invert I have ridden (with only Fire Dragon being better).
As we headed over towards Gwazi, we passed the Clydesdale barn and went in for a peek.
Mike, the Budweiser clydesdale
The Budweiser donkey was the highlight of the tour, by far!
He was so cute, and didn't seem to mind our petting him at all. We went over to Gwazi next...and of course...
...Lion was closed. Not that I really wanted to ride it anyway, but I did want to get the credit! Oh well, I have now decided that it is not meant for me to have that credit.
Kevin finds a comfy spot for a pre-beer school nap
For whatever reason, I wanted to do Beer School. Kevin didn't seem to really care, but I thought it would be interesting, so we signed up for it.
I actually thought it was very interesting, though it didn't make me want to drink very much beer! We got six samples...
This is what the samples tasted like to everyone else
And this is what they tasted like to me
Tilt was my favorite of them since it really just tasted like energy drink instead of beer. The Budwieser Select was slightly less horrible than the other ones, but still not something I would ever order. And when pressed to choose, I actually liked the skunky Bud better than the regular! It seemed to have a little more taste to it, instead of just tasting like pee water. The Michelobe Ultra was the worst...just extremely bitter, carbonated pee water. Ugh, why would you drink that?
After the class, we each stopped for a sample of another Anheuser Busch beer, and we both chose the Bare Knuckle Stout. I figured it might be a little more passable than the lagers we'd just tried...but it tasted like coffee!!! The two most horrible, vile liquids on earth have been married in one swift and terrifying act! Neither of us drank it...mine went straight into the trash. Truly horrible.
We were done with the park at that point, so we browsed a couple of gift shops then headed off for Orlando. I wanted to stop for a snack since dinner was still hours away, so we decided on KFC across the street from the park. I got a snacker and an order of potato wedges, and I forget what Kev got. When we got back to property, he decided to pop into the Magic Kingdom for an hour or so before dinner, while I stayed at the hotel.
I got showered, then called Susan to see what her plan was for getting to 'Ohaha. She said she was planning on bussing it, so I said I would just drive her there since we were in the same resort and I was driving anyway. She was still about an hour away (she was taking Magical Express from the airport to the hotel) so I just hung around and started packing up my stuff until she got there. Once she arrived, we drove over to the Polynesian just in time for dinner at 8:00.
Kim and Kevin were already there when we arrived, and Tony arrived within a few minutes. We arrived just in time to watch Wishes from the restaurant, and we were told we had "the best seat in the house" which was great! But it was the fantastic service during this meal that absolutely floored me and the rest of the group!
After Wishes, the waiter came by to explain the menu changes. They used to have grilled skewered shrimp as part of the entree, but that had been replaced by a shrimp dish that I believe was now boiled, tossed with pineapple and some other stuff. I mentioned that I am allergic to the pineapple, and was hoping to get just a bowl of plain shrimp instead. The waiter said he'd see what he could do, and asked if I had any other allergies. Since he asked, I mentioned my aspartame allergy also, and asked if he could be extra careful in making sure I get regular soda (everyone else had ordered diet). He said no problem, but that he would send out the chef to speak with us and tell me about all the dishes that had pineapple.
So a few minutes later the chef comes out, which wasn't necessary I didn't think. But he told me about the shrimp having pineapple in it, and the sausage having a pineapple glaze, and the bread pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert having pineapple in it. To me, had I been able to get a bowl of plain shrimp, and a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert, that would have been a more than reasonable accomodation, and I would have been very happy. But the chef suggested that he could make a special shrimp dish for me with other ingredients, so I wouldn't have to eat it plain. Great! Then he offered me some type of banana dessert from the Kona Cafe menu, and I said I didn't care for bananas and that plain ice cream would be fine. He said something about that not being good enough, and offered me a molten chocolate torte for dessert. Wow! And completely at no extra charge!
Well, my shrimp was FANTASTIC! I'm not sure what was on it, but it was incredible, and I got a big bowl of it (which I ended up sharing since there was so much of it)! The new cheesy potatoes were incredible also...I could have eaten an entire dish of them had there not been so much other food paraded by us! When the skewers came by, to my surprise, the chef had had a skewer of turkey cooked on it's own, without the sausage next to it. That could have been because I mentioned that I don't eat pork, could have been to avoid the pineapple glaze touching the turkey, I dunno, but either way, I appreciated it!
Kim had mentioned to the chef when he was at our table that she wished that they still made the grilled shrimp, as that was her favorite item in the dinner. She wasn't even asking him to make her grilled shrimp, but the chef offered that too! So she was very happy that she got to have her favorite item for dinner also! He brough out two huge skewers of it for her, and left both of them for our table (I guess so the other tables wouldn't start going "But they got grilled shrimp! I want grilled shrimp!"). So at this point we had three different shrimp dishes, plus pork-free turkey!
When dessert arrived, the other four people dove into the bread pudding, and I got a special foo foo chocolate dessert *and* a bowl of ice cream! I swear, we all ate so much, and it was all so fabulous!
When dinner was done, we asked our waiter Blas to bring out his manager so we could thank him for the extra attention everyone had given us. The manager was very happy to hear that we'd enjoyed the meal so much, and we ended up talking to him for quite a while about the restuarant. We found out that the menu changes had been made because someone high up in Disney had come in for dinner and not been happy with the quality of the food. Turns out that the quality had gone down because of budget cut after budget cut. So Disney decided to take a little bit of profit loss and give them more money so they could buy better ingredients, and make a better overall meal. I don't think that profit loss will be very much though, because he told us that Ohana makes around 30 MILLION DOLLARS IN PROFIT ever year!!! And that they work at 18-20% food cost (18-20% of what you pay goes to pay for the ingredients). The manager even joked about breakfast, saying "I can't believe how much we charge for bacon and eggs, and people pay it!" hahaha
Susan, Tony, Kim, Kevin and me at 'Ohana
So overall, dinner was one of the best I've had, and probably the best example I have personally expeirenced of how Disney will go out of their way to make their guests happy. I never expected that I would get a specially cooked shrimp dish, turkey cooked by itsself, and a foo-foo dessert! And Kim certainly didn't expect to get grilled shirmp! And the next time I go, I won't expect that much either. But it was very nice to get!
After dinner, Kim went home, Tony went back to his hotel, and Kevin, Susan and I finished out our last evening at the Adventurer's Club. It was pouring down rain the entire time, but we still had a good time.
We arrived right before the Hoopla (Hoopla!), where Kevin was the partridge in a pear tree during a 12 Days of Christmas skit.
Freezing cold and nearly soaking wet, we all headed back to the hotel around 1:00am or so. Once we dried off, we were in bed and asleep pretty quickly.