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From Valdosta Ga we headed to Clearwater Florida. We had a bit of a late start since my mom and I were both hacking up a lung and feeling lousy. This virus had just sucked! On the way we saw an overturned Miller Beer truck. If you ever want to experience a considerable drivers gap drive through an overturned beer truck! My mom offered to pull over if I wanted any. Not a Miller girl so we continued on our happy way. Actually getting to Clearwater involves a fair amount of driving the causeway. Now that is just peachy for most people. Me on the other hand not so much. I have a HUGE phobia of bridges and open water. So obviously I was not the one chosen to drive that part of our trip. It involved me in the back seat with my eyes closed pondering why in the bloody hell I hadn't packed some Atavan. Once we were in Clearwater things were dandy. Princess Bear has been in love with Winter the Dolphin since the movie Dolphin Tale was released. I alway like when she can see that someone or something had some adversity to overcome and does it in a way that she can respond to and want to imitate. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium although spread out was actually smaller than I thought it would be. The downside is that there is a roped perimeter about 3 feet all the way around Winter and Hopes tank. So getting good pictures just wasn't happening. Everything had bars from the partition or were shots of them swimming underwater. Nonetheless PB had a smashing good time.
We had toyed with the idea of going to Busch Gardens in Tampa but it was a very rainy day and we decided to just head for Orlando. I called our travel agent and she was able to get us into the Art of Animation at WDW a night early. The rooms we had were in the Little Mermaid part of the resort so PB was thrilled from the word go. The resort of course had a HUGE gift shop and PB was in heaven figuring out what she wanted to blow her money on. The next day we had to move rooms since our original reservations were for a different Little Mermaid room. I will say that in usual Disney fashion they make things as easy as possible. Luggage services came and picked up all of our bags. When we were at the park that day I received text messages telling us what our new room numbers were. After dinner we went back to the hotel and our luggage was in our room waiting for us.
The Disney Magic Band is something new since I'd not been to Disney in a very long time. It's a band that you wear your entire stay and its basically your key to everything. It is how you get into your room, it's how you access your Fast Pass+, and its how you charge things. It is a very handy way of keeping things streamlined.
Our first day there I'd arranged Fast Pass+ for Ariel at her Grotto, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Under the Sea~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. PB had a wonderful time with all of those. Meeting Ariel was just huge for her. The biggest thrill for her was meeting characters and getting autographs and pics with them. It almost makes the $35 autograph book from Etsy worthwhile! The staff the entire time was beyond wonderful with PB. At Enchanted Tales with Belle she didn't want to participate in the show but she tried going up to Belle afterwards for an autograph. Since giving autographs isn't the norm for that attraction I thought she was going to be disappointed. Nope! One of the cast members took PB's book and told us to meet them outside. They had Belle autograph her book and gave her a special bookmark. She was thrilled beyond words! The crowds in the evening weren't bad at all so we used our Fast Pass+ for Under the Sea and were able to go on a second time after that with no Fast Pass+ but only a 15 minute wait. After that we did some shopping in Belle's special store. PB bought a stuffed Beast that cost WAAAAY too much but thrilled her beyond belief and a Belle t-shirt. After that we were off to Be Our Guest for dinner. Oh my gosh! The restaurant looks exactly like the Beasts castle in the movie! Right down to it snowing outside the windows! The Beast is one of PB's very favorite characters so this dinner was truly a thrill for her. The Beast goes through the restaurant about every 45 minutes and he also meets with people for pictures. Our waitress explained to PB that the Beast has a very had time giving autographs with his paws so she brought out a special autograph from Belle. All of the characters play their roles so well. When PB went to meet the Beast she was holding her stuffed Beast doll. The Beast took her stuffed Beast and acted like he was going to put it on the mantel and keep it there. To say that she loved it would be a huge understatement.
I must also give hats off to Disney in the way they've really tried making time standing in lines easier for parents. We went on the Dumbo ride early in the day. It was a 20 minute wait. Nothing horrible but still not great when there isn't much to do. Disney has it set up so that you stand in a very short (less than 5 minute line) to get a pager. Then there is a play area for kids and seats for parents to chill until their pager goes off. You turn in your pager go stand in line for a few minutes and its your turn to ride. Way easier!
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