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Back from Florida (Oct 2009)

Author Topic: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)  (Read 9695 times)

davewasbaloo

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #30 on: November 05, 2009, 08:53:20 AM »
Great trip report. I adore Epcot, it really does renew my faith and optimism in humanity. The original Tomorrowland in California used to do this too, before Disney lost their way.

I agree with a lot of your assessment except for the toons, I don't like them invading Epcot one bit. But everything else is great (and yes, Illuminations is tied as my fav Disney show, the other having been Remember Dreams Come True at Disneyland, but the music of Illuminations cannot be beat!).

Did you see any of the live performers in World Showcase?

Sadly I cannot seem to open the photos. Did you set it up for open access?
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
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experiment627

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #31 on: November 05, 2009, 10:55:23 AM »
Quote from: "davewasbaloo"
Great trip report. I adore Epcot, it really does renew my faith and optimism in humanity. The original Tomorrowland in California used to do this too, before Disney lost their way

I would dare to say that Epcot was the death sentence for Tomorrowland. (Especially at WDW.)

Quote
I agree with a lot of your assessment except for the toons, I don't like them invading Epcot one bit.


You know, I thought I would mind that - but I just didn't. The Three Caballeros are a great fit to the Mexican pavilion and finally make that ride fun.
I think it's a question of how to apply Disney characters and franchises to the parks. I didn't work out well with Monsters, Stitch or even Buzz in Tomorrowland. But it feels like the Caballeros belong to this ride and pavilion. (Maybe because the original movie was already an "add" for Mexico to begin with...)
I don't feel the same way about Nemo at the Seas - but this might be more of an application of the characters to the pavilion.


Quote
Did you see any of the live performers in World Showcase?


Off Kilter (the Canadian music group) seemed to play every time we passed the stage. We saw glimpses of the comedy acts in UK and France and the acrobats in China.
I didn't really make a point of watching any of the shows. They are nice "add-ons", but for me, not the main attraction of World Showcase. (It feels a bit like the street perfomers you get to see while doing a shopping trip on a Saturday...)
The only one I really wanted to see again - and missed due to scheduling - was the candy artist in Japan...

Quote
Sadly I cannot seem to open the photos. Did you set it up for open access?

I changed the link - hope you can access the pictures now: http://http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=332092&l=2d6f8a70c5&id=786560205
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »

dagobert

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #32 on: November 05, 2009, 01:10:21 PM »
Epcot is our favorite park at WDW, too.

The park has great attractions and World Showcase is really amazing. You could easily spend a whole day in the World Showcase part of Epcot.

Soarin' is one of my favorite Disney attractions. I hope that Disney will build this attraction at DLRP, too. Although you always experience the same movie, it never gets boring. I just loved the ride.

Spaceship Earth was also great, although not everything was working, it was just a soft opening.

I have to agree with you that Test Track and Mission Space aren't pavillons, like the others in Future World. Nevertheless I enjoyed both attractions a lot. Unfortunately my girlfriend didn't want to ride Mission Space again. It was too intense for her. Besides Soarin' Test Track was our favorite attraction in Epcot.

Why do Americans think that Germans put pickles on their Christmas trees. Although I'm from Austria, people asked us all the time about the pickles. I've never heared of this tradition before I spent half a year in the US. Very funny.

You are right, the "Löwenbräu" is not the best Bavarian beer, but still better than all the other beers you can buy in the US. I was very happy to get a "real" beer.

We also spent a lot of time in all the different shops and I had to buy a t-shirt ("Wir sind Cordoba") from Adidas in the Germany Pavilion.

The rides in World Showcase aren't the best, but still very enjoyable. Our favorites were El Rio del Tiempo, Maelstrom and the movie in the France Pavilion. Unfortunately the attractions at Canada, China and American Adventure were closed.

We didn't get a table at the San Angel Inn, so we tried the Bella Italia Restaurant. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't eat there anymore.
What I also liked in Epcot is, that you can order alcohol. I'm not an alcoholic, but in a sitdown restaurant I really enjoy a glass of beer or wine to my meal. I'm not a big fan of softdrinks.

Now I want to say that your pictures are great. Thanks for sharing them with us!!!!
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davewasbaloo

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #33 on: November 06, 2009, 11:38:06 AM »
Lol, it goes to show people get differrent things out of their Disney experiences. For us, last time we went into Epcot on at least 8 occassions on the last trip and spent nearly 4 full days there. To me, Illuminations, the dining and streetmousphere are the reasons why I really love the place.

Sadly, I feel Futureworld has lost a lot of what made it so great when it first opened, the Edutainment. But I do love Soarin'.
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Hibernia

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #34 on: November 06, 2009, 12:38:56 PM »
Hi again
Great reading , it sounds like you had a faboulous time there.

On the Studios i'm glad you enjoyed it so much. Everyone i speak to says their surprised how much fun it is.
Toy Story was one of our holiday highlights this year with the major bu bear the same as yours , the Queue. We went in September which is not usually bad for queues but this 1 was always 45-hour but the end justified the wait for us 3 times in total :)
I've never seen a Fast Pass machine actually run out of time slots before , didn't jnow it even could!

When you did the Star Tours did you see any of the Jedi Training Schools? Something new their doing where a Jedi Master takes on about 15 "younglings" from the audience and trains them to fight against the Dark Side. Darth appears and they have to take him on 1 on 1. It's very entertaining and if you have a kid along a great experince for them.

On Epcot , i again agree with all you say. I like the Nemo bit in the Living Seas bit really miss the old moive and Aquavator ride down to the sea lab.

I'm impressed with the new Spaceship Earth and like you love the ending with the personal Touch.

Soarin we like but only if you get the top tier to sit in , far more imersive. Is it just me or could they have done the film show a little better by adding in "fades" between the zones , maybe just a cloud fade or something like that? Cutting from Desert to Sea to Mountains just didn't seem right to me.

Imagination , they should either go back to the old figment ride or shut it down. I can't even see kids impressed with what they offer just now. Was a real fan of the old ride :)

We didn't do the Mission Space this time as we were all quite ill a couple years ago. I believe they now offer a less violent ride along with the more intense  one? Did you go Green or Red (i think their coded) when you did it?

Great report and nice photos , ty for taking the time to do this.
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experiment627

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #35 on: November 06, 2009, 05:47:39 PM »
Quote from: "Hibernia"
When you did the Star Tours did you see any of the Jedi Training Schools? Something new their doing where a Jedi Master takes on about 15 "younglings" from the audience and trains them to fight against the Dark Side. Darth appears and they have to take him on 1 on 1. It's very entertaining and if you have a kid along a great experince for them.

Walked by the Jedi Training Academy a few times. Seems like a cute show, but I didn't bother stopping. I don't know why, but shows with audience participation always give me the shivers. Even though I was already a huge geek as a kid, I probably would have gotten a panic attack being there on that stage... (And now I'm doing presentations for a living - and am quite good at it... Yes, I am weird.  :wink: )

Quote
Soarin we like but only if you get the top tier to sit in , far more imersive. Is it just me or could they have done the film show a little better by adding in "fades" between the zones , maybe just a cloud fade or something like that? Cutting from Desert to Sea to Mountains just didn't seem right to me.

Mhm... maybe the effect of changing scenes wouldn't be as big if you knew that a cut was coming? Don't know. But I don't really mind the "hard cuts", either.

 
Quote
Imagination , they should either go back to the old figment ride or shut it down. I can't even see kids impressed with what they offer just now. Was a real fan of the old ride :)

Never got a chance to go on the old one. I don't know why this ride comes off so flat. It's got some cool "ingredients" like the Figment AAs and Eric Idle... but yeah, I wouldn't bother doing that again.

 
Quote
We didn't do the Mission Space this time as we were all quite ill a couple years ago. I believe they now offer a less violent ride along with the more intense  one? Did you go Green or Red (i think their coded) when you did it?

I went on the intense (orange) version. But didn't find it that intense or thrilling. For me, Rock'n'Rollercoaster's launch is much more intense.
The ride is ok, but it just lacks... something. Atmosphere. A proper pavilion. Something that tells me that this is the most awesome adventure I've ever been on...
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experiment627

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #36 on: November 06, 2009, 07:04:00 PM »
Now, let's take about my new favourite Disney hotel:



Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Oh, what an amazing place! The African design and art, the gardens, the animals, the cast members, the food!

First, I'll just mention one or two things that weren't working out too well at the Lodge...
Transportation was an issue. (But that is the general rule at Disney World...) The hotel is at the farthest end of WDW and it takes a good half an hour to get to the Magic Kingdom or to Downtown Disney, for example.
Also, it is really unfortunate that you can hear the nearby Interstate so clearly. The hotel looks so beautifully remote - but you just can hear the stupid traffic. Bummer.

But these are just minor points. Because overall we just loved our stay. From the moment you arrive and step into the awesome lobby. Check-In was incredibly swift. And then we marched over to our room, which was on the Giraffe trail and seemed to be miles away from the frontdesk...
Our room had a savannah view and was quite nice. Not as spacious as some other rooms we had enjoyed on our vacation, but good. Closet space was a bit limited, I would say... (But then again, I guess most American tourists don't go on a shopping spree through Florida's outlet malls before going to WDW.  :wink: )
We enjoyed the view of the animals from our room, though they arrived rather late-ish in the morning. (Around 9 o'clock.) We saw a few giraffes, gazelles, antelopes and lots of little Thommies. (= Thompson Gazelles... They're so beautifully small, I think I could keep a whole herd in my 2-room-flat.  :D ) Strangely enough, we hardly saw any zebras, not even on the main savannah. (The lodge has got several savannah's instead of just one big one... I guess that makes sense...)

But animal viewing at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is fantastic. And there are lots of Cast Members available to explain about the habits of the animals. (And many of these CMs are from Africa, similar to the Epcot CMs being from their respective country.) On the savannah next to the pool, you can also view animals during the nighttime with night-vision goggles. Quite cool. But me being me, I didn't see any animals.

I was amazed at how much the Lodge had to offer in regards to animation and entertainment. There seemed to be something going on all the time: animal viewings, storytelling for the kids etc. A far cry from the hotels in Paris that seem more like "bed bunkers" for the theme parks instead of resort hotels like at WDW...

Even though the week was a bit chillier than the week before I managed to spend some time at the pool, which is quite nice - though there are better pools at WDW.
Weird thing: it seemed like the pool was a bit overstaffed lifeguard-wise - and this at odd hours. Between 10:00 and 20:00 (when usually most guests are at the parks) there were four life guards on duty. And then none.
Weird.

Food at the Lodge was also really good. The counter service place - "The Mara" - was a bit poor on décor, but really good on food. (Loved their African stew, served in a bread-bowl...)
"Boma" had an amazing breakfast buffet, which we went to twice - just because it was that good. And at $17 decently priced. (And the great Euro-exchange rate really helps, too.  :D )
I wasn't too impressed with their dinner-buffet, though. It was good. But when it came to variety just not as good as the breakfast. The food was also rather bland, I thought. But the couscous was great. And the desserts devine...
We didn't get to check out "Jiko's" unfortunately (did that in 2006 and loved it).

Did I forget anything?
Mhm... to sum it up: Animal Kingdom Lodge offers great theming, good service and a wonderful, unique experience with being so close to the animals.
It is definitely a Disney experience in the old classic style. I loved it.
And would go there again in an instant.

Photos: http://http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=331260&id=786560205&l=dea84d8204
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davewasbaloo

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #37 on: November 06, 2009, 09:09:17 PM »
Yep, I hear you on AKL. We stayed there a few years ago, and we loved the architecture, the animals, the cast and the restaurants, as well as the pool. I hated the bus situation though. Not only does it take forever to get to the other parks, but the buses are few and far between. It got to the point where it nearly ruined the trip.

If we stay at the lodge again (which we would like to, it is great), we will rent a car.

And yep, Boma for breakfast is great. And the Mara is a fab counter service option.
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experiment627

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #38 on: November 11, 2009, 12:55:27 PM »
To sum up the Disney-part of our Florida-vacation:

We had an awesome time. Even if I tend to make a lot of critical comments, this was one of my favourite Disney visits ever. It was also a much needed one, which got me thinking into new directions after having had to deal with some less than stellar news right before getting to WDW.
Disney managed again to take me out of reality. I relaxed and I got to breath. I loved our hotel, I loved Animal Kingdom and Epcot, was pleasantly surprised with the Hollywood Studios and got to meet some great friends again...


Now some general thoughts on:

Transportation
The big, fat sour spot of our time at WDW. It is quite startling how inefficient WDW's transportation system is.
It still kind of works when you only want to get from your hotel to a theme park. (Though we had to wait a good 20 minutes for a Studios bus... why can't the bus run on timetables??) But trying to get to another resort hotel or - heaven forbid! - from Downtown Disney to a theme park takes a lot of time (more than an hour, to be exact) - and nerves! I also takes forever to load these busses... After a week at WDW, I was looking forward to some good old European "stampeding"!

In all honesty, I cannot recommend anyone to not take a rental car during a WDW vacation.

Food
To make it short: It was great. We didn't have a bad meal during our entire stay. (Though we didn't have an outstanding one, either.) Counter service food at WDW is much more varied and generally of a  better quality than at DLP - and it is acutally *fast* food. There's no waiting for an hour for a shabby burger like in purgatory... uhm... I mean Café Hyperion.  :wink:
Best counter service places: Flame Tree Barbecue (AK) and Seasons (Epcot).
And, thanks to that wonderful Euro-exchange rate, the prices were not too bad, either...

Cast Members
They were all... nice.
I mean, I cannot really say we encountered bad service. But it all seemed so... bland. They weren't really in character, either. I missed a bit the CMs' playfullness that you can encounter in Paris at rides like Pirates, Phantom Manor or ToT. At WDW, I found they were "just" friendly. But not much more.
The best CMs we met were actually in Epcot... That lovely vendor at the Japanese department store and our waiter in ... France.
There was also something odd about seeing so many very old people working for Disney. And obesity is a problem, too: at ToT, I saw a girl working in khakis and a white shirt. I suppose there was no bellhop costume big enough for her...
Then there's another big "bad show element" with all the location managers at WDW (and there are A LOT of them) wearing regular street cloths. So you see ladies in their GAP blouses standing behind the tills at the Emporium or a guy wearing a pink shirt standing next to the engineer on Animal Kingdom's steam trains. At times it felt like there were more CMs wearing street cloths than costumes...

Maintenance
I have to say, the parks and resorts looked spotless. At least to me as a casual visitor. I didn't notice any paint issues. Or any trash lying around.
But then there were certain maintenance issues, especially the show effects. Like the steam boat on Splash Mountain that was not rocking. Or the Yeti at DAK that was not moving. Or when during "it's tough to be a bug" the amazing Hopper-AA just didn't show up...
Gardening also seemed rather "dull" - especially compared to our visit at SeaWorld which as a beautiful tropical gardens...
But, all in all, everything looked great.

I went to Disney World and got something for free!
Yes, indeed. It happened that it was my birthday on one of the days that we were at WDW. So I could benefit from this year's "Celebration theme". It didn't make much sense getting the free park admission ticket as we had multi-day-tickets anyhow. It wasn't that busy either so the VIP-Fastpass also was not that appealing. BUT: you can also get a gift card for the same value of a one day / one park ticket. Which comes to more than 72 dollars.
So, I went shopping with that. Thanks Disney!  :D

Favourite Moments
- having dinner at "Chefs de France" and chatting to the young waiter in French
- visiting at Epcot for evening EMH
- watching animals from our hotel room
- seeing old friends again
- having a blast on Toy Story Mania (after the "Queue of Terror")
- having people ask me about the Super Mario t-shirt that I bought at Japan
- breakfast at Boma
- viewing Illuminations on our last night: we stood there for about an hour. Then there was a family coming up with two small boys. We let them slip in front of us. And they politely said thank you. Loved it.  :)


...and that concludes what I have to say about our week at WDW.  :)
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dagobert

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #39 on: November 11, 2009, 02:38:33 PM »
Thanks a lot for your great trip report. I really enjoyed reading every part of it. Thanks for sharing your WDW experiences with us.

Are you going to post a report about your other vacation destinations in the US?
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Soap

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #40 on: November 12, 2009, 01:26:27 PM »
Thanks for sharing your story :)
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experiment627

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #41 on: November 21, 2009, 09:16:55 AM »
Sorry that I haven't picked up the rest (or better yet: the "beginning" of my trip report) any sooner.
Real life is keeping me a bit occupied...

Now that the Disney-part is done (which we did in the 2nd week of our two-weeks-vacation), I'll give you a run-down of what we did and where we've been before getting to the Mouse's mega-suburbia that is Walt Disney World...


DAY 1 - Getting there...

We got a good deal going from Munich to Orlando via Charlotte, South Carolina, with Lufthansa. (I would highly recommend checking-in online 24 hours in advance... seats were filling up fast!)
The thing that really bugs me about flying is not the flying itself, but the time you need to get to the airport, to check in and drop of your luggage (HUGE lines in the morning), going through the security, having your passport checked and - because the US are as paranoid as one can get - going through a second security check...

The flight was alright. We had really good service, the food not too bad, I watched "ICE AGE 3" (which was dull at its best moments... but I also thought the other two Ice Age movies were way overrated...) and episodes of "30 Rock" and "How I Met Your Mother"... (which I love) and managed to read Patrick Süskind's "The Perfume" ... Not bad for a 10 hour flight.

Our flight was about an hour late when we got to Charlotte. Which shouldn't have been much of a problem as we still had about two hours to catch our connecting flight to Orlando, right?
Well, enter "The Department of Homeland Security" and the US immigration officers. We got out of the plane and were immediately yelled at by some bloke TO STAND AGAINST THE WALL before we had to move on to a a large room that reminded us a bit of how cattle is being welcomed at a slaughter house...
The line barely moved. The only nice person in the room was an elderly Lufthansa-employee who made sure that we had all filled out our green form (that they hand you on the flight) correctly. After about an hour and a half (and 30 minutes before our connecting flight to Orlando, I might add...), we finally managed to get to one of the officers...

...a guy, I could describe with various profanities, but then this post might get blocked by one of the admins. This guy made Grumpy look like Snow White. On drugs. On Christmas Eve. Getting lucky.
It was really the worst treatment - and I'm not even speaking about the fact that it feels like you are a criminal when you get into the US. I almost lost my temper with this guy. Which would have been bad. VERY BAD. I already saw myself sitting for hours in one of the small rooms they've got... Thing was, we had printed out our ESTA-forms. But of course, the forms only have a number on them and not the name of the person. (My guess would be because of personal data issues.) We were three. He was not happy with that. He was yelling at me how he should know which form applied to which of us.
I guess they like yelling at US immigrations. Most be the artificial light, I guess.
Finally, we left our fingerprints and he took a picture of each of us and we were "welcomed" to the United States...
My dad later remarked that it used to be easier to get into Eastern Germany in the 70s and 80s than to get into the US...

We had about 20 minutes left to catch our USAirways flight to Orlando. We were understandably stressed. Luckily we didn't have any trouble with customs and neither at the security gate that we had to pass. (And these people were NICE again... Unbelievable... it was like a whole different world.) It was easy to get around the Charlotte airport, so we actually managed to get on our flight in time.

The rest went very smoothly: the flight to Orlando. Arriving at MCO with its kinda cool tropical 70s look - and its free WiFi. Getting our luggage and getting our rental car.
Of course, coming from Germany and having been in air conditioned areas for almost 20 hours, the heat and humidity of Florida hits you like a wall when you get out of the airport...

As we didn't have a navigation system in our car (...) it took us some time to find our hotel, the Residence Inn by Marriott near SeaWorld.

We got there about 21:30, check-in was swift and we had finally arrived...

To be continued...
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davewasbaloo

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #42 on: November 21, 2009, 10:27:08 AM »
Enjoying the rest of the trip report. That Residence Inn used to be quite nice, what is it like these days?

And yep, immigration in the US and the UK is always a nightmare for me. I'm American and my wife and kids are Brits. So they treat us with suspicion both sides, even though I have lived in the UK longer than some of the UK immigration officers have been alive.
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dagobert

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #43 on: November 21, 2009, 12:01:36 PM »
We had the same experiences like you when we entered the US in Chicago. We were also treated like criminals. The homeland security guy was very unpolite and asked silly questions about our student visa, about the relationship between my girlfriend and me.

I didn't expect a nice treatment at the border, because the people in the US Embassy in Vienna were also very unfriendly.
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experiment627

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Re: Back from Florida (Oct 2009)
« Reply #44 on: November 24, 2009, 06:55:31 PM »
Quote from: "davewasbaloo"
Enjoying the rest of the trip report. That Residence Inn used to be quite nice, what is it like these days?

The Residence Inn was alright, but nothing overly special. The rooms were good. (In fact, it's two rooms + a small kitchen.) I would recommend the hotel to families.
The negatives were the rather loud air condition and the breakfast (which was included in the hotel's rate). The selection was limited and I am just not a fan of having to eat from plastic plates at a hotel...

The hotel is being advertised as being in walking distance to SeaWorld - which is true. But that doesn't mean that you are supposed to walk: there are no signs directing pedestrians to the park. Also, I wouldn't let my grandmother cross a road in Orlando: you almost have to run before the red light switches again.
Then when you get to SeaWorld, there's a huge sign directing cars one way and pedestrians another. Problem is: there is no walkway. You have to walk along the road and then cross the entire SeaWorld parking lot.

To be fair to the hotel, though, they do offer a free shuttle service.
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