Thursday, February 18, 2016

Chinese New Year Holiday: Orlando

I've been to Orlando, Florida in January 1999, I was 16 at that time. I still remember the old airplane that took the group from GRU (São Paulo) to MCO (Orlando) with a quick stop in Trinidad and Tobago for refuel. The Orlando trip was based on four main Disney parks, Universal studios (at that time the Island of Adventure was under construction or about to open, I guess), Bush Garden and Sea World. At the end we went to Miami by bus, mainly for shopping, and then came back to São Paulo.

Now I had the opportunity to go back to Florida with my family, at this time in February 2016 during Chinese New Year break. The weather is about the same (cold!!!) and now the journey started from HKG (Hong Kong) with stops in SFO (San Francisco) in the outward journey, and ORD (Chicago) when returning.

I've decided to go to Orlando after searching for last minute deals during CNY (about 4-3 weeks before the holiday). The usual cheap trips to Japan or Taiwan were very expensive (e.g. Japan around HKD 20k flying budget airline). Then I found that United was charging HKD 29k to LAX (Los Angeles), and a even cheaper HKD 27k all the way to MCO. Immediately I thought that it was a perfect opportunity to take my wife and daughter to know the United States and of course have some fun visiting the famous Parks in Orlando.

After purchasing the air tickets, I've bought all hotel and park packages by phone. The Disney package included hotel (Art of Animation) for 4 nights, 5-day tickets and meal plan with one snack, one quick meal and one table service per night. The Universal package included hotel (Cabana Bay Beach) for 2 nights, 2-day tickets and meal plan with one snack, one quick meal and one beverage per night. I believe it paid a fair price for those packages, and the meal plan was a very good idea because I did not have to carry a lot of dollars in my pocket.

I've also rented a car on Hertz, after find an offer for the CNY holiday through their Hong Kong website giving 20% off. Awesome! Afterwards, when picking up the car, I also got their GPS which was very helpful.

And last, but not least, I also purchased in advance some tickets for NBA game Magic vs Spurs at Amway Center. Just 40 bucks per ticket (the cheapest available).

A few comments: 
- United Airlines is by far the worst airline company I've ever flew in terms of comfort. They keep their old outdated 747 in HKG-SFO route with no in-flight entertainment. However, you can use your own mobile phone or tablet with their application installed in order to access the internet (for a fee) and watch their movie library (for free). Same for their B737 in SFO-MCO and MCO-ORD routes, but at this time there was no movie library available. United only offered the so called "United Private Screening" on their B777 in ORD-HKG route.
- I needed an additional night at Disney hotel because I've arrived late, night around 1:30am. I was pretty sure that I would be able to request one additional night by checking-in at the resort early. However, their staff just declined and said that the hotel was fully booked for that day. At the end, they even suggested to look for an hotel outside Disney (???) because the other hotels would probably be full as well.  Is that the kind of service that you would expect from Disney staff? I don't think so. They did not even check their system to see whether there was any room available on any of Disney's hotels. At the end, I went to Disney's Pop Century Resort, which is the hotel next to Art of Animation Resort, and I was able to get a room for one night only. 

All in all, I would say that it was a pretty good holiday in Orlando. Both wife and daughter enjoyed a lot! For myself, I also enjoyed revisiting those parks again after 17 years, the NBA night (including some hot dogs) and the experience of first time driving in the USA.

UA 862 to SFO

Somewhere over Pacific

One step outside San Francisco airport

B737-900ER to Orlando

UA 292 to MCO

Jeep Patriot

Amway Center - Magic vs. Spurs

UA 725 to Chicago

B777-200 to HKG


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