Jan 21

Hotel Review – Executive Hotel Pacific – Seattle

My friend and on a late summer trip to Seattle stayed at the Executive Hotel Pacific in downtown Seattle
When we booked the hotel all look great, good location, amenities, etc.  Right before the trip my friend and was checking things out again and noticed that the hotel was under construction and that there were complaints about the elevators being slow and noise from the work.  She called the hotel and requested a room away from the elevator.
Of course when we checked in we were awarded a room directly in front of the one working elevator. Tired and worn out, my friend did go and complain, but we couldn’t be moved until the following night, but in return would get a bigger room. In the end, there was some noise, but nothing too crazy and our bigger room was nicer with two of us in it.
As for the rest of the hotel.  The rooms tended to have odd shapes and layouts, which is actually something I appreciate, it gives each room a unique feel to it.  The beds were comfortable, the furniture was good and the service was good. The room thing was annoying, but they did do their best to rectify the situation.
The elevator was slow, and actually they completed one elevator and started the new one while we were there, my guess is that both are done now and normal operations continue.
The hotel had a nice cafe attached, good for breakfast in the morning or an ice cream in the afternoon. However, the room could have used more plugs in it, hopefully that’s part of the refurbishment.
Would I stay here again, YES! For the price, location and amenities, the hotel was a good value and offered all we needed.  Another friend visiting in the city stayed in another section and in a cheaper hotel and had no air conditioning and there was a bit of a heat wave for Seattle. We did NOT have that problem and is an easy thing to miss when staying in a hotel in a cooler climate.

Jan 14

Fraser Island, Australia

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. I’ll admit it, I didn’t know there were even that many of them, or that they would be that big and beautiful.  I’ll also admit I was confused by all the trees – it’s a sand island, why are there so many trees?

I never answered any of those questions, but Fraser Island is beautiful.

Of course anything worth seeing is hard to see and Fraser Island is no exception.  You’ll need to take a ferry from Maryborough (2 hours or so north of Brisbane). I believe there is another ferry point and severely limited flight options, but I was more confused the more I looked into it.

Lake McKenzie

So what does the island look like?  It’s covered in very tall trees with sand tracks to drive 4×4’s on.  There are two resort areas that I saw and both were designed to blend into the environment of the island.  There are also lakes a long and gorgeous beach – 75 Mile Beach.

The brush of Fraser Island

What to do on the island?  Most people do a 4×4 tour of the island, but the 4×4’s weren’t what I expected… It was a big bus on giant 4×4 wheels.  That sand roads make for a VERY bumpy ride, probably the craziest ride I’ve even taken, kids will LOVE it! It rained the night we arrived, which made the road much more drivable.  Our guide said they were constantly getting stuck the last two weeks because of the soft sand.

On our 1 day tour we visited Lake McKenzie, it was a bit cloudy and not as pretty as the pictures promise when we were there in the morning, but we also got out of there before the crowds, which made it much more fun for us.  We also did a nature hike and of course a ride along 75 mile beach.

Flying over Fraser Island

On 75 mile beach we saw the Maheno (a ship wreck pronounced Minnow – I’m not kidding) and had the opportunity to do a beach takeoff and landing flight of the island.  Apparently there are only 2 places in the world to do this. I’m always up for a special activity that is unique to a location so of course I spend the $75 to do the flight!  Was it worth it?  Well the flight was short, but I never would have gotten a realistic view of how large the island is and how it looks so tremendously different from above.  It’s one of those things where if you’re on a budget, it may not be worth it, but if you have a bit more money, there is something to be said for taking off and landing on a beach.

The Maheno on 75 Mile Beach



Jan 07

To Fast Pass or not to Fast Pass

In December I visited Walt Disney World for the first time since Disney switched to the new Fast Pass Plus system and thought that in really changed the fast pass experience. But it left me with a question – do you need to schedule your fast passes before arriving at the parks? The answer is, it depends.

Let me explain:

Before arriving at Disney you can schedule your fast pass pluses, 60 days ahead for resort guests and 30 days ahead for other guests. When you schedule the system forces you to schedule 3 for your day in the park, all good! After you use your 3 fast passes, you can book additional fast passes in the park for later in the day, even better.MagicBand_8707

If you’re visiting and want to ride an attraction that is popular (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Ana and Elsa, Toy Story, Soarin) yes, you will absolutely want to book your fast passes as soon as humanly possible.

If you’re planning to visit lesser attractions or attractions with a lot of fast passes (some rides seem to have half the ride dedicated to fast pass i.e. Space Mountain – these rides have an abundance of fast passes) then planning in advance may not make as much sense.

I visited with my 40something year old sister, our attraction demands were not that high.  Yes, we wanted to do many of the headliners (Seven Dwarfs, Soarin, Toy Story), but as adults we’re also able to make decisions about what ride is worth a line and are ok with riding some of the less loved attractions. We also don’t need to ride roller coasters multiple times.  When setting up fast passes I found I was often making at least one for an attraction that we didn’t care if we rode or not – since you have to make 3 fast passes reservations for the day.

Before the trip, I strategically planned the fast passes for 3 of our days in the parks – making the reservations as early as possible so that we could later capitalize on the extra fast passes.  For our 4th day, I made the reservations the night before – except for the super high demand ride of Seven Dwarfs, I was able to get fast passes early in the morning for anything we would want to ride. This actually left us waiting for our fast pass times to come up, of course doing other attractions in the meantime. But still, I had all these fast passes but had to work around them, when incidentally I could have practically walked on most of the rides.

I wonder if I had not made those fast passes and just walked into the park and scheduled as we went along.  Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten all 3 fast passes. But, maybe we would have gotten 4 since we wouldn’t have had to wait for all 3 to expire before getting a 4th. It’s an interesting gamble for two people who didn’t feel like we NEEDED to do anything to complete our trip, during a slower park period. While we did plenty in our 4th day and didn’t need any additional fast passes, I like the idea of testing to see if we needed those fast passes. I suspect we would have done about the same without them, or by scheduling them throughout the morning and we wouldn’t have been locked into the 3 time slots.

Fast Pass Plus Tips

1. If there are any must do attractions book ASAP! Particularly for high demand rides.

2. If you have a bigger group, don’t be afraid to break the group up into smaller groups and try and get overlapping reservations. There may not be 4 fast passes for Seven Dwarfs at one time, but you might be able to get 2 sets of 2 at an overlapping time. Even if the times are not overlapping, it seems to be easier to get a different time for an attraction you have a reservation for, than for one you don’t. Book the fast passes and keep looking around to find times that overlap.

3. Book fast passes for earlier in the day to allow for additional fast pass reservations later in the day.

4. Use the new fast pass system to allow yourself some later mornings. With this new system I did not feel the need to rush out and get to park opening every morning. While park opening still offers a great advantage, fast pass plus makes is possible to plan more later mornings without having to wait in lines all day.

5. Don’t be afraid to go into the park without fast passes booked. You can still book once you’re in the park and the selection may not be as bad as you think.

Dec 24

Queen Victoria Mall – Sydney

Before going to Australia one of my friends kept telling me I had to see the Queen Victoria Mall.  I mostly ignored this advice, until a free walking tour took me to see the mall.  Then I HAD to see more!
 On my tour we stopped at the statue of Queen Victoria outside the mall.  Near the Queen there is also a statue of her dog that says, “Hello, my name is Islay.”  He’s encouraging donations for the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.  The building itself was built in the 1890s as a municipal market and was restored in 1986 as a prestigious shopping centre.

The building is quite beautiful, when I was there it was decked out for Christmas with a Swarovski Tree in the center dome.  The mall also has two mechanical clocks representing different moments in history.  The Royal Clock goes off every hour, on the hour from 9 AM to 9 PM and does a little show with trumpeters and six scenes of English royal history, including the beheading of King Charles I.  The second clock, The Great Australian Clock, includes 33 scenes from Australian history.

Inside the mall are mostly higher end shopping options, and if that scares you away, don’t be. The mall is beautiful n the inside and outside, with stained glass windows, and interesting window shopping.  Because the Queen Victoria Mall is such a destination, I found that the shops went all out with decorations. So even if you’re not in the market for shopping, this is a beautiful building with interesting sites.