Florida - September 2011

Day 10 - Typhoon Lagoon

Wednesday 28th September

Today is one of our rest days and we’re taking advantage of the good weather by visiting one of Disney’s main water theme parks. Typhoon Lagoon, we think, will be a big thrill for the kids and will, hopefully, provide them with the opportunity to burn off lots of energy such that this evening’s bed-time routine will be swift and painless for Mum & Dad.

The plan was for us to meet Patti at the water park but she wasn’t going to be there until the early afternoon and so there was little need for us to rush, other than to ensure that we had the maximum amount of time in the park. Indeed, this tends to be the big dichotomy that we face each morning. On the one hand, we’re on holiday and don’t want to unnecessarily stress ourselves by rushing out of the door in the mornings but, on the other hand, we also want to maximise our enjoyment by getting the most out of each theme park. It seems that there’s no real way to have our cake and eat it in this regard and the best we can hope for is to find the right balance.

It was Joey’s turn to decide where to eat this morning. For the past few days he’s been on something of a waffle drive and so his choice of the Waffle House for this morning’s sustenance was a relatively secure prediction. Not only did he eat an entire waffle from the breakfast table but he also took one to go and ate it in the car. For the rest of the day and right up until bed-time this evening, he insisted on eating waffles. I predict a waffle iron purchase in the not too distant future, once we arrive back in Australia.

Our entrance to the Typhoon Lagoon water park was covered by our all-access Disney theme park tickets and we made to secure a good spot right after entering the park. Although low season, it was very good weather today and there were plenty of water fun seekers in the park and so we nabbed a spot near a shallow water area thinking that we were lucky to get a spot that was shaded. As it turned out, we needn’t have worried so much about this as there were plenty of still vacant good spots dotted around the park. We even moved into another spot closer to the kiddies play area shortly after setting our stuff out on some of the chairs and loungers.

This being the end of the Northern hemisphere Summer, the water was lovely and warm all throughout the park. Having been to various water theme parks over the years, we know that this can make all the difference. Sandy in particular doesn’t tolerate the cold very well and is usually the first to complain about insufficient temperature but we were clearly in luck today.

Perhaps the biggest feature of Typhoon Lagoon is the huge wave that gets generated periodically in the enormous lagoon that sits in the middle of the park. Every few minutes, you hear a loud whoosh indicating that the wave has started. This can be heard all throughout the park and is usually followed immediately by the screams of the hoards of swimmers anticipating the wave coming. Once generated, the wave then travels the length of the lagoon - some one hundred meters I would imagine - and eventually tapers out as the lagoon widens and shallows. The wave gets up to two meters or so tall and sweeps anything in it’s path - screaming people for the most part - along with it. It isn’t uncommon to be swept a good 10-15 meters from where you were when captured by the wave. At least, that’s what I remembered of the wave from the last visit three years ago. Alas, the wave-making machinery was currently not working and engineers were working on restoring it to good health. It apparently worked briefly earlier in the morning but stopped working before we arrived. It was anybody’s guess as to whether they would fix it in time for us to enjoy it today.

In the meantime, the kids started to thoroughly enjoy a pair of kiddie slides off towards the side of the main lagoon where there was a large shallow water area. They must have went up and down a dozen times or more and it was a treat to see them both holding hands and feeding off each other’s fun and enthusiasm. I had to drag them away from these slides so as to introduce them to the actual kiddies play area just around the corner from where we were. They loved this area even more and were absolutely in their element. I don’t think I’ve seen them quite so enthusiastic before with grins from ear to ear the whole time there were there.

Whilst the kids were frolicking around, I heard Miss Tilly sound off. That’s the name of the shipwreck that can be seen perched atop a volcano towards the rear end of the park. Miss Tilly sounds her horn every half hour or so to indicate that the wave is going to start running for the next ten minutes or so. We wandered over there in anticipation and noticed that there were a couple of divers suited up with tanks on their backs in the water with a huddle of what looked like engineers standing over to the side of the lagoon. It looked like they were actively trying to repair whatever the problem was. After some minutes of anticipation, we saw some waterfalls turning on and then, finally after several minutes of a couple of hundred tense onlookers bobbing in the water waiting with baited breath, the wave whooshed. The crowd went wild and we felt the full onslaught of the water slam into us even though we were some distance from the base of the lagoon. The crowd of engineers started to file away and I took this to mean that the test wave indicated that they were satisfied that the machinery was restored to service. For the rest of the day, the wave worked as advertised and we enjoyed every minute of it - at least right up until Jennifer got water up her nose as we got a bit too far in and I was unable to jump high enough to get above the wave crest. With my tight grip on Jennifer, we were both swept away for several meters before we could get our heads up. Needless to say, this signified the end of Jennifer’s insistence that we continue to experience the wave.

We received an SMS from Patti that she would not be coming until late this evening after all so it would just be us in the park today. This relieved us of a bit of pressure in that we didn’t have to keep going back to our spot to see if there was an SMS or missed call from her. With the now free reign that we had, we took the kids onto the lazy river, which is a 2-4 meter wide waterway that circumnavigates the entire park. Water jets strategically placed here and there ensure that the flow of water is constantly moving the river and all the people in their huge rubber tubes along at a relaxing pace. It takes 15-20 minutes to complete the circumnavigation and it’s a very relaxing way to while away the time in the park. With our underwater camera, we got some of our best shots here today.

We didn’t complete a full circumnavigation on our first venture onto the lazy river. Instead, we got out at the shark reef encounter, which is a snorkelling opportunity in a large, freezing cold, salt water, open-air tank in which various marine life and small sharks (hammer-heads & leopard sharks to be specific) can be seen swimming around. For those not willing to brave the cold, or the sharks, a submarine provides an opportunity to peer through rounded glass windows to see the action below the water’s surface. Since we had the kids, we forewent the experience this time around but the kids had lots of fun spotting the various fish and sharks all the same.

It was by now time for some lunch and so we partook accordingly at the park’s pretty much only food outlet. The fact that there is little other choice in this enclosed and captive area may explain the tediously slow service on the part of the staff behind the counter. Funny enough, the staff on this side of the counter, those that take your money, were actually quite efficient. Despite all of this, I was determined to not allow these minor annoyances spoil the fun and so I suppressed my natural tendency to get irritated and we just chilled out enjoying the junk food that they had to offer. Our kids meals came with a plastic bucket and spade but these never saw any use for the remainder of our visit and so we’ll probably find a spot for them in our suitcases to take back to Australia with us.

With lunch over and done with, we spent a lot more time in the various kiddies’ play areas. There were a couple of water tube rides that the kids were able to enjoy and we even went on the family raft ride, which was a big success despite the 10-15 minutes wait time. There were several other larger and more intense flume rides but there was already so much to keep the kids happy with that we never bothered with these, which they were never going to be tall enough to enjoy anyway.

We tore ourselves away from the kiddies play area long enough to enjoy another crack at the lazy river and this time we stayed on for a full circumnavigation. Jennifer was just about tall enough to stand up in the lazy river and still have her head above water but with the water jets here and there and the slight narrowing of the river in places, there was sufficient enough water flow to want us to keep on our toes to ensure that she never ran into difficulties and so although the kids really enjoyed it, the experience wasn’t quite as relaxing for us parents in the long run. We still enjoyed ourselves but where there’s water and kids in close proximity, you can never truly relax as a parent.

With the shadows now getting longer and longer, we all made one more round of the kiddies play area and one last water tube ride before calling it a day and making our way over to the changing room area ready for our departure from the park. We browsed around the shop for a few minutes and the kids found another penny machine, which cost me another handful of quarters. With one final photo opportunity near the park entrance/exit taken advantage of, we made our way to the car and completed our day of relaxing fun at Typhoon Lagoon.

Before we left this morning, Sandy had pinpointed a nearby shopping mall that played host to a Disney outlet store and so we headed over there to see what they had to offer. Despite me actually watching Joey use the restroom as we were getting changed, we were less than four minutes into our car journey before he decided that he needed to pee again. I wasn’t overly concerned about this, as he had just used the toilet but the look on his face and his proclamation that he was ‘about to go’ very suddenly forced the issue for us. With no clear opportunity to stop the car in the heavy traffic we were travelling in, Sandy leapt into the back and found this morning’s Waffle House orange juice cup to ‘capture’ the situation. Once ‘relieved’ of his predicament, Joey made sure to proclaim to everyone in the car to ‘not drink the orange juice’. So glad he was on hand to clarify the situation for us.

We found the mall, and ultimately the Disney store, and Sandy did pick up one or two small things - not to mention the now practically obligatory daily purchase of either a toy or stuffed animal for each of the kids - but it wasn’t a very large store and the quality of things on offer wasn’t stellar either and so we made our way back into the car and in search of our evening’s dining experience.

Lethargy had set in and neither of us was able to muster enough enthusiasm for any particular restaurant and so we decided to coast HWY 192 to just see what we could see. We found several potential options before Sandy spotted a Ruby Tuesdays, which had previously been a favourite of ours from when we lived here. Although they no longer had their signature chocolate tall-cake desert, one of the reasons why it was a favourite of ours, the food was otherwise excellent, if not the slow service.

Back at the house, we went through the usual routine but this was punctuated by the arrival of Patti and Ben, who are now enjoying the hot-tub together. They will spend the night and Patti will go with us tomorrow morning to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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