BOTCON  AT  DISNEY
(griffin's 2010 BotCon report)


BRISBANE TO ORLANDO - SATURDAY 19 TO TUESDAY 22 JUNE


This is basically just a diary of events, covering the journey from my home in Brisbane, Australia, to my first couple days in Orlando, Florida, until my first night at the Disney Dolphin Hotel.

I was flying V-Australia this year, due to there being a sale on at the time I booked by trip. So it was the first time since my first BotCon in 1999 that I wasn't flying with QANTAS. At least I could check out the competition to see if it was better, or more worth using on my long-haul flight each year.
I also had to fly on a different day and time this year, as per the cheaper fare.  Instead of flying Monday morning like just about every other year, the cheaper flight was a day and half earlier, on the Saturday evening instead.  This meant a whole different pre-departure routine, and at least compensated for the extra length of travel to the East Coast of America, which meant that I still arrived at the start of a day instead of the evening (wasting the first day/night at the host city and hotel).
A bit of a downside was having to fly via Sydney this year, as Brisbane doesn't have daily flights to America at the moment, by both Australian airlines. It would add an extra 3 hours to the total travel time, but at least meant I didn't have to be at the Brisbane airport 90 minutes early - only 30 minutes, as it was a domestic flight to Sydney first.  That gave me an extra hour to get ready (or in my case, an extra hour buffer zone, as I'm often running late when it comes to travelling).

So instead of an early start in the morning or an all-night preparation like most years, I had most of the whole day to get ready before leaving for the Airport.
I even had a fairly decent sleep the night before (was still excited/nervous about the trip ahead though, so sleep was still a bit restless).

SATURDAY 19 JUNE
Woke up 9am (about 7 hours sleep) and left pretty much straight away for toy shopping.
(long story short - I had organised from a wholesaler a bulk order of about 100 of the new toys that America doesn't have yet, to take to BotCon with me for trading, but they didn't arrive. So had to buy 17 toys I didn't yet buy for myself, and about a dozen extras to use for trading)
Spent 2 1/2 hours at 6 different stores, with the help of fellow fan JustOwen/Justin (who met up with me for most of it), and managed to find all 17 toys I was missing for myself.
Returning home around midday, I gave myself 2 hours to get ready... yes, last minute packing as usual for me with my BotCon trips.
Scheduled departure time - 2pm.
Actual departure time - 3.10pm!

Well, it was a 5pm flight, and I wanted to get there about an hour before I needed to, in case they rejected my luggage item that was a box (of toys), and I knew from past experiance that if I set myself a departure time, I was bound to be about an hour late.  I guessed right, but was still panicking because I didn't leave myself with much time to deal with my box if they rejected it, or imposed excess luggage fees on it (luggage has to be received by their cut-off, not just check-in).
As such, I got there just on 4pm, so had enough time to check in, but still only just, as it was about half an hour later that I ended up at the departure gate, which started boarding soon after.

(quick funny story - remember those 17 toys I bought for myself?  Well, with all the trading toys in the box, and the intention of taking all 31 toys not yet released in America for friends there to play with, I had to pack that remaining 17 into my carry-on backpack and check-in bag.  Unfortunately, they had to all be removed from packaging before I left, or else I wouldn't have the room for them all.  This wasn't something I had factored into my schedule before leaving home. As such, I was frantically cutting off bubbles and 'ripping' open boxes to make up as much space as possible.  Even still, I had to pack the two Powerbots into the box intact, and had all the other toys still attached to plastic inners, shoved into a big plastic bag... the 40 minute ride to the airport was going to be used to remove the rest. The taxi driver was probably wondering what the heck I was doing, not to mention being sick of hearing all that plastic crackling noise the whole way. I managed to get all 15 out of their inner bubbles (the outer bubbles, backing cards/boxes and any insert cards were left at home), just in time.  Getting out at the airport, I filled one of the bins at the drop-off point with 15 bits of inner-bubbles and packed the toys comfortably into my 2 bags.)

The toys I took with me for others to sample/play with.  It was the one time I could bring current stuff to BotCon for others to enjoy.  Previous years I had taken European toys and Actionmasters, which most Americans have never seen or touched before. It's just my small way of giving back something to the fandom, in my own way.

I arrived at Sydney airport about 6.45pm, and for some reason I had written down that my International flight was departing at 10.30pm, so I wandered off to grab a bite before the flight.  Fortunately I checked my printed Itinerary while at the Domestic Terminal Foodcourt, because it was only then that I realised it was 20.30 (which is 8.30pm - I musta had the zero in my head all this time, and was planning to fill in a bit of time at Sydney airport).  A quick dash to the transfer desk, and it was about 7.30pm by the time I had checked-in (a bit of a queue).  Lucky I had my luggage checked all the way through to Orlando (remember that bit, it will be referred to again later), otherwise I was well into the 90 minute cut-off for international flights. I was also lucky that my flight from Brisbane was only delayed 15 minutes. Another 15 minutes, and I may have not had my luggage transfered in time. (I was also lucky to not realise the short window of time while on my flight from Brisbane, or else I would have been panicking all the way to Sydney).
I was half expecting the guy at the transfer check-in desk to give me a 'polite' reminder about getting to the Transfer desk 90 minutes before the flight instead of shopping for food... or worse, saying that I'd missed cut-off and my baggage was already removed from the plane.  As it was, I was the last person to check in on a full flight, so couldn't request an aisle seat.  Me and my long legs was stuck with a window seat.

Anyway, it all ended up working out.  And it was still about an hour before departure, so plenty of time... right?
After all, the bus ride would be about 5-10 minutes to the International Terminal, and that Terminal can't be that big... right? Right?

Okay, since the last time I went through Sydney International Terminal, it was before their grand expansion.  It takes about 10 minutes for the bus to arrive, and another 10 minutes for it to drive all the way around to the other Terminal (even out onto the main road to get there).  It's now just after 8pm, and we are given express passes (lucky, as the flight was already boarding, and I didn't have time to go through security again). Still had to go through Customs to 'check out' of the country, and then do a mad power-walk to the furthest possible departure gate.  Yep, it just had to be the furthest departure gate...
And since the expansion, this was one big mother of an airport.  It took just on about 10 minutes at a fast pace, to get to the gate, and they pretty much closed the door after I got on.
I got to my seat (no one in my row wanted to swap), made myself comfortable, and at 8.30, we were off.

V-Australia had personal entertainment units in Economy like QANTAS, but only about half the variety of stuff.  And most of the movies weren't A-grade, so even with me hardly watching any movies in the last couple years at the cinema, I still only ended up watching Legion, Percy Jackson, and Inglorious Bastards.  The rest of the time was watching some TV shows, trying out their games (their version of Tetris sucked - one of my favourite, addictive games), and listened to some music while getting a couple hours sleep. I even managed to go the 12 hours without having to wake up the two next to me to go to the toilet at all.
Their meals seemed to be very similar to QANTAS meals, and are probably produced by the same catering company.  The one 'frill' I missed, that made the difference for me - the snackbag... After the first meal on QANTAS, they hand out a snackbag to everyone, filled with snacks and water.  On V-Australa, we got the bottle of water, but if we wanted a snack, we had to go and get one from a Snack Station (which QANTAS also have as well).

It seems both airlines can't get the new music system to work with games though.  Before QANTAS did their big upgrade a couple years ago, you could play games while playing your chosen music station. Now though, their games have sound that over-rides any music you want to listen to (even the simple games that don't need to hear their sounds).  And V-Australia allows for your music to play over your chosen game, BUT, only for the current song you're playing.  It then stops and you have to play the rest of the game in silence.

A map showing my 25 hour trip.

Starting from Brisbane (1), down to Sydney (2), across to LA (3) and then to Orlando (4).  The return trip was a little shorter though, with a direct flight back to Brisbane from LA.

No matter what time the flight leaves Australia, it crosses the date line and flies through the night, to arrive in LA the same day as when we leave (about 3 hours before we leave according to the clock).
We landed at LA at about 5pm LA time (about 10am Brisbane time), and parked at a temporary terminal at LAX airport.  It felt so cheap, and wondered what those people who paid 10 Grand on First Class tickets felt about cramming onto a bus with the Economy peasants.

Got through Customs pretty quickly (it took 45 minutes to get to Customs from the temporary Terminal, and then only 15 minutes to be processed).
(Will waiting in line at Customs/immigration I thought it ironic that there are no white people as Customs officers... it feels more like arriving at some South/Central American country instead)

Grabbed my luggage and walked 2 terminals over to the Delta Check-in.
Has a problem with the self-checkin, as it was wanting to charge $325 for my luggage.  Now, I half expected this, based on learning a couple weeks before that Delta charges for luggage, just not that much.  My travel agent assured me that they would waive that with international travellers, so I went to the counter, and told them the problem.  The lady looked it up and was puzzled as to why there was already 2 items checked in (which is why it was giving me such a huge fee, because I entered in 2 items, making it think I had 4 luggage items).  I'm guessing that the person at Brisbane had checked my luggage all the way to Orlando, instead of just to LA (because you always have to pick up your luggage at the first port of entry to any country, for Customs declaration/checking). The Delta lady unchecked the luggage and then checked my two items in, and waived the fee.

The Delta Terminal is quite small, with only a couple of food sources and a newsagent (the downside of LAX airport, with the way it is split up into 7 small terminals - a larger combined terminal allows for more stores and even fastfood franchises). It was past 6.30pm local time by the time I was inside the Terminal, and with about 2 hours to kill before boarding, I grabbed an iced mocha drink and some Coconut flavoured M&Ms from the newsagent (such a weird flavour, and the Airport was the only place I saw them that whole week I was in America).

With all the rushing around up until this point, I was unable to log onto the internet (I was planning to in Sydney, with my Mobile broadband, but misjudged how much time I had), and now while I had 2 hours in LA, I was tempted to, but didn't think it was worth paying a full-day's fee (US$8), so figured I would just wait until I got to Orlando. Besides, it was midday Brisbane time, so by the time I expected to be in Florida and at the hotel, it would be night time back home when most people would be logging in to get the news email I was wanting to do up before I got too tied up for a week.

So I just worked on my computer instead, offline, creating the different pages for this report, ready in advance.
It was so boring... hardly anything to do, or even eat. If only security wasn't so tight that you aren't allowed into a terminal without a boarding pass, I would have hopped next door to the American Airlines Terminal and grabbed some Burger King.

Onto the plane, we left LAX at 9.15pm (2.45pm Sunday Brisbane time), and just like late night flights from Perth to the East Coast of Australia, this flight was overnight, to land just on dawn in Florida.

The surprising thing was to have a Delta flight that had personal entertainment units, and internet access (for a one-off fee, which was reduced to US$6 for 'Red Eye' overnight flights).  I thought that this was more worth it, so signed up. I kinda forgot that I wouldn't have the entire 4 hours to utilise it, as the battery on my computer only lasts 90 minutes on average.
It was still worth logging onto the internet while in flight, just to say I did. Plus, to have a chance to log onto the messageboard after 20 hours of travelling already.

At least I was on an aisle seat this time, but now I was faced with a different 'personal space' problem.

This huge lady in the seat across the aisle from me, keeps doing stretches, and I keep getting this huge ass, literally, 20cms from my face (as she bends over, facing the other way)
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Uuuugh, she's doing it again... (shudder)

I drained the computer of its power, and then watched some TV. Even managed to get about an hour's sleep too.
The weather forcast for Orlando is Thunderstorms for the next 4 days. That doesn't sound good...

SUNDAY 20 JUNE

As dawn was approaching in Orlando, our flight was just landing (4.45am Sunday - 6.45pm Saturday in Brisbane).

The pilot musta floored it, as we were an hour early for what was supposed to be a 5 hour flight.  An extra hour didn't matter much to me, as I wasn't expecting to be able to check into the hotel for several hours anyway.

Not a lot was open in the Orlando Airport, but there was a Burger King... can anyone guess what my first 'meal' in America was???

I grabbed my luggage, and headed out to get a taxi.  Under half an hour I was at the Hotel (about 6am) and the sun was just starting to show.
The hotel I chose was called the Florida Mall Hotel, and I chose it after drawing up a map of where all the major toy sources were located in Orlando (TRU, Walmart, Kmart, Target). After seeing a cluster just west of the Airport (south of the center of Orlando), I looked for a Hotel, and found one actually joined to the major shopping complex (Florida Mall).  There weren't any of those major chains in the complex, but there was one of each within walking distance, plus a Post Office, 2 Comic stores, a grocery store, and importantly... BurgerKing and Wendys. If only the convention centre adjoining the hotel was big enough, this would make for a great BotCon hotel, as it is so convenient to everything when you want to do things outside of Convention hours (and is still close enough to the theme parks to spend the day at any one of them).  It was cheaper than the Disney Hotel as well, and a lot fancier.

Below is a map of the Orlando area. To the left of the Airport is Sky Lake, which was where the Florida Mall Hotel was located (only 10-15kms away, so cheap and quick from the airport).
The 'A' is where Disneyworld is located, out in the middle of nowhere. The earlier departure from Australia ended up being a blessing, as there was no way I would have had as much fun with toyhunting and junkfood shopping if I was stuck at Disney for the entire week.

A close-up of the area of the Hotel (I printed out this map to draw in all the stores I wanted to check out for toys and food).

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And by satellite (I used this one to have a better idea of what to look out for while walking longer distances, like the Walmart that was about 3kms away).

The Florida Mall Hotel. Very nice.

And inside the lobby...

Entering the Hotel, I went to the check-in desk, half expecting to just drop off my luggage and find something to do for 8 hours, but they were so great and checked me in. An extra 8 hours of room access is like getting the room for a free day. Lucky for me that they did though, as it was a Sunday, and the Mall wasn't open for another 5 hours.

It gave me time to clean up, change, check over all my stuff, do some internet things (like that news email I shoulda done before I left home), and plan my day. I wasn't even tired, despite a day without much real sleep.

My room.

And even the bathroom was so flashy, I had to take a photo...

My travelling companion, Dispensor, is such a photo-hog...
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And the view from my room, facing north over the Shopping complex, with Downtown Orlando in the distance.

A little after 10am here (midnight Brisbane time), I left the hotel expecting to find the mall open (the hotel has a big passageway connnecting to the mall), but saw signage that said it didn't open until 11.30, so had to change my plans.
I went out the front of the hotel, and walked around the Mall to the Target store on the other side, and found it was open on Sundays from 8am.


The M&Ms store at the Florida Mall.

In the Target store I went straight to the toy section (of course). I found the NEST Bbee/Swave 2-pack (I want the bonus patch and booklet, so never bought our version), and two Marvel TFs Hulk/Bulldozer, Spiderman/car.
Bought some washing detergent (in case I need to wash clothes to last the week here), and a variety of American snacks/junk to sample that we don't have here, plus my first Pretzels for the week (love those things).


Assorted snacks, including some new M&Ms flavours (including Pretzel, Triple-Choc, and Mint - plus my favourite regular variety, Almond) and a Cheeseburger flavour of Doritos (had a strong taste of pickles). The Collisions pack was actually 2 varieties in the one bag - each flavour was a different colour, and the artificial flavours stick to the chips, allowing you to just pick through the pack for the flavours, or mix them up with a handful.
Hershey's Cookies & Cream - I think I've seen it in AUS, but I just like anything 'cookies & cream', so had to buy it.
Pretzel M&Ms - very nice, but very similar to Maltizers and our Crispy M&Ms we have here.
The breakfast cereals were meant to be posted back, but failed to find a post office, so ended up taking them with me to Disney, and the Lucky Charms came home with me.  The Cinnamon Toast Cruch cereal is my favourite cereal ever! It tastes exactly like Cinnamon Doughnuts, but crunchy... an addictive snack without milk, or in a bowl for breakfast with milk... mmmm!

Most of that food will be eaten OVER the next 7 days, NOT all at once, because I don't trust the variety and price of food at the Disney 'compound', which is at least 10ks away from the nearest food source. I also bought some boxes of 'healthy' muesli bars to last the week as well.
I think I would be dead from blocked arteries if I ate all that junk above in one day.

I walked back to the hotel via the Mall (which was open by the time I got back), and changed into some white cloths (it was a really hot day there, and I was wearing a black TFs t-shirt).

I went out again at midday, and even wearing white, I was sweating out in the open.

In the Mall there were no significant chain stores that sell toys (mostly just clothing department stores). They did have an independant toy store, called A-Z toys, but prices of their toys were close to AUS prices, but in actual US Dollars, making them even more expensive (a lot were double US retail, and very old, due to the hefty pricing). They did have a few imported items, including the 2007 Transcanning Optimus and Bumblebee for US$60 each.
Fortunately they didn't have anything I 'needed', so didn't buy anything from there.

Outside the mall was a huge ToysRUs store, which had a lot of shelf space for TFs, but looked to be light on stock ready for the new mid-year stuff.


They had a huge amount of exclusive mult-packs (Bludgeon vs Whirl, Hoist Vs Mixmaster, Scavenger Vs Icecream twins, Gathering at the Nemesis) and about 50 Animated Ratchets (no Arcee - and no surprise there).
I grabbed 3 of the 4 latest Mighty Muggs (Jazz, Shockwave, Movie Bbee - they didn't have Movie Optimus), A FAB redeco Sideswipe and Gathering at the Nemesis (redeco Megatron, redeco Soundwave, re-released The Fallen).  It was good to be able to buy some toys at US retail though... for example, when I bought some Animated Ratchets to take back for others, they were charged to my card in AU$, at just on AU$15 each.  If only we had Deluxes here for that price...

One of my priorities here was the Crossover TFs (both Marvel and Star Wars), and I had trouble finding them this year. Last year they seemed to be everywhere, but maybe they aren't doing too well in America either.

Next stop, Kmart about a kilometer away (in the heat).
There were very few footpaths there, and no taxis anywhere. I saw 3 busses all day, and one taxi late in the afternoon, but if you don't have a car, it'd be very difficult getting around here.

Kmart had the Lights and Sounds Optimus and Bumblebee (I forgot all about them - and we won't be getting them in AUS). I got one of each, plus an RPMs pack (Rollbar Vs Sideways), Marvel TFs Dark Spiderman/bike and Grey Wolverine.

Then about 3Kms away, was a Walmart. Three long and hot kilometers away, along the side of a busy road with no footpath...
It'd better be worth it.

About half an hour later, I was there, and drenched in sweat.
It was a huge store, but like the TRU store, this one was clearing out its stock, so on the near-empty shelves, I only found a Star Wars TFs Anakin/Twilight as the only toy I wanted.
Ah well, coulda been worse - coulda done the 6km round trip to Walmart and not found anything.

Back at the hotel at 3pm, I had to have a shower (to clean off the 3 hours of sweat and dirt) and change into my third set of clothes for the day.

15 minutes later, the afternoon storms hit, with only a little bit of rain and lightning. But I was 'trapped' until it eased a little after 4pm.

There were supposed to be 2 comic shops near the hotel. At about 4.30 I went out and found one (didn't have anything I wanted), and couldn't find the other.

Went back to the hotel via the Mall.
In the Mall, I checked out:
Disney store (they didn't know anything about the Disney Label Transformers)
The M&Ms store (a store of merchandise and bulk M&Ms in different colours, but they don't sell actual regular packs of M&Ms - how stupid is that? I wanted to stock up on all their US varieties.)
KFC - bought something called a 'Double Down Sandwich' (which was featured on the Intro page, and will have an encore presentation below...)
Another Foodcourt outlet - Gourmet/Deluxe French Fries (covered in cheese and bacon)
And my personal favourite - more Giant pretzels... mmmm, yummy.

Back in the room by 6pm, took photos below, washed clothes, ate, posted on the Board, and fell asleep by 8pm.

My first day of toyhunting in Orlando yeilded these 18 toys from 4 different stores.

For those who weren't already put off by the first viewing of this...

The KFC Double Down Sandwich - it's 2 Original Fillets with 2 bits of cheese and bacon in the middle.
I guess it's for those on a low carb diet.

The actual item, on a tray next to some 'gourmet fries' which come topped with cheese (squirted on from a sauce dispenser) and bacon:

But how could you make this... better?

Add some canned cheese.
Which looks like this:

Cheese in a can - I don't think we have it in AUS, but I've seen it on quite a few US TV shows, so really wanted to see what it is like. It's almost like that party string stuff you get in a can, but edible (probably about as healthy as string).

Out of can:

For the record, the gourmet fries weren't that good, and I didn't eat them all.
Same with the KFC Double Down thing - I only had one bite of it that evening, before being put off.
All that recent health food I'd been eating in the weeks before my trip musta messed up my tastebuds.

I ended up eating the rest of the KFC 'thing' the next morning, with ketchup and canned cheese.

I can't fit into my pants anymore...
(just kidding)
 

(Saw an ad on TV - the 2007 Movie is on TNT this Saturday and Sunday, the same weekend of the convention. An amazing coincedence.)
 

MONDAY 21 JUNE

Woke up at 5am (thought I would sleep longer after going a day without it, and walking around so much in the heat yesterday).

Breakfast consisted of a healthy dose of cold KFC, cheese in a can, and cookies and cream chocolate...

Not feeling the best right now.

Today's itinerary was still up in the air.
I really wanted to go to Universal Studios, but thinking it through, I would have to leave my luggage at the hotel and then come all the way back, before going to Disney hotel in the afternoon.
The alternative is to spend the morning around this part of Orlando (more toy hunting and posting stuff) and then head to Disney after midday (checkout is 11am). The problem then is filling in time at Disney, as my roomie (Simon) isn't expected to arrive until after 4pm.

I decided to take the easier/cheaper option, and not go to Universal Studios, this year...

11am - checked out with just minutes to spare. (packing took longer than expected, as I had to liberate 18 toys to save space).

I was able to have my luggage stored away by the hotel until I came back, and I walked off to the nearby Target store (it was probably only 500 metres away, but the heat had me sweating by the time I got there).
I bought up some more breakfast cereals and some more food supplies for the week at Disney, and decided to call for a taxi. The company that the hotel had recommended were like a private car service, with no actual labelling on the vehicle, and no meter (amounts were guessed or were a set amount based on the destination).
I was glad I did call up the Cab, instead of walking the 4kms (in the heat) to where the TRU store was supposed to be, because the driver was sure that there was no store there, saying that it would have to be a warehouse due to the location.
So I abandoned that destination and gave him the address of where a US Post Office was meant to be located. We drove off, and couldn't find it. This was getting frustrating, because the TRU problem could just be due to Google Maps listing all TRU locations (not just stores), but the USPS address was from the USPS website.

I decided to just head back to the TRU store near the hotel, and the driver only charged $10 after all that running around. Since he was such a good sport, I told him that I was planning to head over to the Disney Hotel later that afternoon, and asked him if he could come back to the hotel at 2pm (saved me calling up again - it counts as an international call for me).

In TRU, I grabbed some Animated Cybertronian Ratchet toys for fans back home, and recognised some Transformers Fans in the TFs section (the first of the 'locusts' had arrived to start stripping the local stores clean). I rushed back to the Hotel thinking it was close to 2pm, but stopped at Sears on the way to buy a cheap watch (because the one I had been wearing was broken - I couldn't alter the time, so had to always keep calculating what time it was in Orlando).
And to prove my point of needing a watch that could tell the exact 'local' time, I rushed back to the hotel thinking it was just on 2pm (for the taxi pickup), and was promptly told that it was midday... the 10 hour time difference on my watch had me thinking it was 2 hours later than it really was.

Fortunately the concierge there was able to contact the cab driver, to let him know that I was ready now, instead of in 2 hours time. (I could have waited out the 2 hours in the Lobby, and do computer stuff, but figured I'd made such a fuss, I might as well head over to the Disney hotel and wait in their lobby for Simon (who was the only name on the reservation, so I couldn't check in without him).

It took about 35 minutes to drive there (see map near the top of this page), passing some theme-parks and quite a few giant, fancy-looking hotels on the way. Entering the Disneyworld 'compound', it really did feel like it was in the middle of nowhere. No suburbia or houses, or civilisation anywhere in the last 10 minutes of driving... just bushes.
The trip from the Florida Mall Hotel to Disney cost $42 (which I thought wasn't too bad for 35 minutes of travelling in a taxi). The bellboy took most of my luggage away to storage, and I was sitting in the outer lobby by 12.40pm with my computer and bag of toys/food.


Above is the Main Disneyworld property, with the four main parks highlighted - Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom.
Below is a close up map of our resort complex (there are other Disney hotels all around the Disneyworld property).

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And below is the satellite image of the hotel area, with the lakes and canals linking it to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

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From the Disney and BotCon websites are the promo photos of the Dolphin Hotel.
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Very futuristic looking design and colouring (in the promo photo), but in the photo below is what it really looks like.
Also above on the right is a photo illustrating the distance of the Swan hotel, for those who got bumped to that one.  My original reservation said Dolphin, and still said that on the online confirmation, but later found that I would have been in the Swan hotel (because that's where Wilkin/Rokdog ended up staying after I gave him my reservation).  It was said to only be a couple extra minutes of walking, but as you can see, the Convention centre is way over on the other side of the Dolphin hotel.  If it took five minutes to get from my room in Dolphin to the Convention Centre, it would take at least 15 minutes from a room inside the Swan, across to Dolphin, through Dolphin and into the Convention Centre. Lucky for me, Simon's reservation wasn't bumped like mine was.

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From the side of the Dolphin Hotel, with the massive fish on the roof...

(my room was actually right under that giant fish on this end)
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Actually, fish seemed to be the theme of this Hotel, not Dolphins. Even inside the hotel's lobby...

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The Swan hotel was covered in Swans...

So shouldn't the Dolphin Hotel be called the Fish Hotel?
I never got around to asking one of the staff...
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The promo photo of the Swan hotel from the BotCon and Disney websites.

Over the next 5 1/2 hours I worked on toy reviews, editting photos taken so far, starting on my BotCon report, and some playing with my new toys.
The outer Lobby that I was waiting in, had a nice ceiling, with stars (lights) and even a shooting start that would streak across every minute. One of those minor details hardly anyone would ever notice.

At about 4.20pm, Brian and some of the main FunPub staff walked into the hotel, but didn't appear to have any luggage, so might have been staying there as a holiday before the convention.

And around 6pm (8am Monday Brisbane time), Simon/Sol Fury on TFW2005 arrived and we checked in.


The room (now go back to the photo of the Florida Mall Hotel which was cheaper, and compare).

And the view from our window.

We were unlucky to have a room that looked over the Convention Centre, which was on the opposite side of the Magic Kingdom, which seemed to have fireworks every evening at 9pm (which I kept missing), judging by the explosions we could hear every night at that time.

We ended up spending the next 3 hours talking about toys, messageboards (from one admin to another), playing with the TFs I brought with me, and planning out our week to see if we wanted to do any of the same things..

At 9pm-ish, we did a bit of reconaissance of the Convention centre and hotels, including the various facilities and restaurants. Some nice options, but most were expensive.

Off the lobby was a model of the two Hotels, showing the scale of each hotel and the convention centre.


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Also managed to get given a map of the hotels and the facilities/restaurants.

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Plus, a map of the Convention Centre, which wasn't necessary after the Recon, but makes it easier to refer to later.  The important bits were the Pacific Hall on the first floor (the Dealer Room/package pickup area), and the Northern Hemisphere Ballroom on the fifth floor (Panels were in the E-section, and the Saturday Dinner was in the A-D section).  The lobby level (3rd floor) was the level accessable from the hotel, so it was always a case of going upstairs or downstairs everytime we headed to something at the convention.

We also picked up some maps/brochures of the different Disney Parks, to prioritise the better ones during our short stay - I only had 2 days free, Simon had 3.

We were back in the room about 90 minutes later.
I ate more of the food I brought with me, while Simon had some room service. I logged onto the Internet (included in the room rate/fee), but found that the access was interferring with my messageboard postings - redirecting after a short while of inactivity, which would lose what I was posting when I sent it. It got very frustrating throughout the week.

After deciding to spend my two spare days at Disney (no where else to go while stuck on the premises), I booked online a 2-day flexi-pass, that allowed me to come-and-go to any of the Disneyworld parks in the day the ticket is first used. That way, if I didn't like one park, or had time to spare, I could go to another one. Also, the discounted convention-rate was still available, so I could pay for it that night, and still be able to pick up the tickets the next morning.  It helped make the expense of Park tickets a little easier to deal with (the cost of each day after the first keeps going down, so the first 2 days are expensive, but after the 3rd day, the total price was like $250, making each day up until 7 days practically free).

For me this was a long day, as I was up at 5am, but didn't really do much though, and was asleep by 11.30pm.

TUESDAY 22 JUNE

Woke up at 7.30 (set the alarm for 9am), and after getting ready, Simon and I left at 9.30 for the front of the hotel (via the lobby to pick up my pre-paid Park tickets), to where the busses leave for the different Disney parks. After a few busses came by with other Parks signed on the front, and despite any notices at the bus-stop saying so, we guessed that we had to go to the lake at the back of the hotel for the ferry to the Hollywood Studios (when we were walking around the night before, we saw signs at the ferry terminal).
We got to the Studios park by 10.30.

MY DAY AT DISNEY STUDIOS PAGE

We spent most of the day there together, and after a late split, I returned to the hotel a little after 5pm.
Simon was still out at that time, so I cleaned up, ate, watched TV and worked on the internet for the next 7 hours - occasionally being interrupted by friends of Simon who wanted to see my toys and buy some of the stuff I brought.

Asleep about half past midnight Wednesday Orlando time - 2.30pm Wednesday, Brisbane time.

Early start tomorrow (7.30am) with an 11 hour tour to Cape Canaveral (NASA) - an hour bus ride each way. Then pre-registration pickup in the evening.
 

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griffin @ otca.com.au

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