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Thread: KSC/Cocoa/Cabana and Volcano Bay – Disney-adjacent TR

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  1. #1
    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    KSC/Cocoa/Cabana and Volcano Bay – Disney-adjacent TR

    Hi all! I feel like I’m terrible at trip reports. I always think, “Yeah! I’m totally doing this so I can remember all the cool stuff we did on vacation!” Then I get back and real life gets in the way and …. That’s it. They just dwindle off. But I’m gonna try.

    The reason I’m posting this is because I’ve been on this forum for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of questions about beaches and Kennedy Space Center, so I thought I’d write about our experience, which may be helpful to those planning a day away from the Mouse while in Central Florida.

    We decided to do this trip because we have APs to Universal, and I just did not have the time/energy/motivation to plan something complicated. However, a week at Universal is a bit much for us, so that’s where the beach and KSC came into play.

    This trip was over the week of July 4. We had a day off from work, and the kids did not have camp for a few days. So that made deciding on the week easy.

    We headed to Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach from our house on Saturday, June 30. It was a LONG drive, y’all. It seemed to take longer than usual to get to the big bend in Florida. We stopped more frequently, and there was a bit of traffic – I guess with the holiday week coming up. We also almost ran out of gas in the stretch between Pensacola and Tallahassee, which was slightly terrifying. But we made it in around 8 that night.

    Driving into Cocoa Beach, I didn’t really know what to expect. We had driven to Port Canaveral before for a Disney Cruise, but we parked at a park n’cruise lot located before the bridge that gets you to the port.

    So we got to the coast and turned onto the A1A. After I saw the third “gentlemen’s club” I was a little nervous. Not that I’m a prude or anything, but those places kind of set a certain vibe. Later in the week I saw a truck with a bumper sticker that read “I [heart] boobs”, and another car with a bumper sticker exhibiting the obscene hand gesture Steven Tyler makes (made?) in the pre-show to Rock N’Rollercoaster. But I digress….

    As we got closer to our hotel, which was a Hilton next to Lori Wilson State Park, the area was a bit more “family friendly.” There were restaurants (that weren't just bars) and at least three mini-golf courses, some kind of ropes/obstacle course thing, etc.

    It was still light out after we checked in, so we dumped our stuff in the room (which as super-tight! If we ever go back I’m renting a condo) and went to the beach. I was happily surprised by the beach. First, the weather was exceedingly pleasant. It had evidently just rained for a while, and it was actually less than 80 degrees outside, which is miraculous. The beach was really nice. The water was pretty clear (which surprised me being so close to a port), and definitely cool. When we go to the beach, we usually go to Pensacola, and I had gone to Destin earlier in the summer. Those beaches are really, really beautiful and I did not expect Cocoa to be as nice. But it was very nice, just different. The sand was a little darker and more firm, I guess – easier to walk on anyway. The water was nice since it was cooler. We had been hearing about sea lice, jellyfish, and bacteria on the Gulf Coast beaches, so it was nice not having to worry about that stuff.

    We wound up eating at the outdoor hotel bar for dinner. Again, eating outside is not something I’m really into doing in Florida (or at home for that matter) in the summer. But it was really pleasant outside, so if there was ever a time to do it, this was it.

    We had no definite plans for the next day. I knew we would have a long drive, and like I said before, I was not into planning this trip, so all I really had planned was going to the beach in the morning.
    Brandi

  2. #2
    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    So, July 1st. We went to the beach in the morning. We loaded up our beach chairs and the kids got their body surfing boards (a Five Below special), and walked out to the beach. It was a Sunday, so it ended up being pretty crowded when we left for lunch, but we had a relaxing morning.

    We went to A N.Y. Pizza place for lunch. It was pretty decent—and a good value. Then we went to the Ron Jon Surf Shop and wandered around a bit, picked up a couple goofy souvenirs (t-shirts, beach towel, etc.), then we went to Publix to pick up some sandwiches and chips in the deli for dinner that night and lunch the next day.

    After that, I think we actually took a nap. We prepared the kids (two boys 10 and 12) that this was going to be a more relaxing vacation than normal. We advised we were not doing any serious planning and they were going to have to go with the flow. My 12 year old is typically pretty high energy, likes to have a plan, and likes to go-go-go (I don’t know where he gets it.) So that foundation was mainly for his benefit. My 10 year old is much more laissez-faire, as long as he gets to eat pizza fairly regularly on vacation, he’s good.

    After napping, we went back out to the beach, and it was nice and cool. The kids got in the water again, but it was too cool for me and my husband.
    Brandi

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    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    July 2

    One thing I did plan was surfing lessons for the kids. I did a little research on surf board rentals and lessons and settled on a place called A1A Beach Rentals. It cost about $130 altogether. It included an hour surf lesson and board rental for the rest of the day. The instructor met us on the beach with the boards. We walked a little further from the hotel and met him at Lori Wilson Park. The Hilton offered lessons as well, but A1A seemed like a better deal.

    Anyway, the instructor was nice and the kids really enjoyed it. The lesson actually lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. The kids were not as successful surfing once the instructor left though. He was better at picking out waves. The company came by the Hilton later in the day and picked up the boards. We left them out by the hotel bar. Easy peasey.


    After spending most of the day at the beach, we went out to dinner at a place called Long Doggers (I can't really recommend it) and went to the Golf N'Gator mini-golf course. Which was unique since it had little alligators in (a caged -in) lagoon on the course. It was pretty fun, but it was pretty hot that night since it didn't rain during the day at all.
    Brandi

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    F43426B6-B310-4FE4-9202-F160277FE5E5.jpg

    The lovely Golf N’Gator lagoon
    Brandi

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    Senior Member ChristineOH's Avatar
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    Glad you're doing a "Disney adjacent" report. :-)

    I'm interested to hear your thoughts on Cabana Bay/Volcano Bay and KSS.
    June 2011 Poly, May 2013 POR, June 2015 CBR, June 2017 POR, March 2018 CSR, June 2018 POR

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    Senior Member momof2boys's Avatar
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    Looking forward to following along, Brandi. We went to Cocoa Beach many, many years ago. Interesting touch with the gators at mini- golf. Sounds like a nice and relaxing start to your vacation!

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    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristineOH View Post
    Glad you're doing a "Disney adjacent" report. :-)

    I'm interested to hear your thoughts on Cabana Bay/Volcano Bay and KSS.
    Thanks for following! I’m glad there’s some interest in these locations.

    Quote Originally Posted by momof2boys View Post
    Looking forward to following along, Brandi. We went to Cocoa Beach many, many years ago. Interesting touch with the gators at mini- golf. Sounds like a nice and relaxing start to your vacation!
    It was a pretty relaxing trip overall, but we started getting up a lot earlier once we got to Orlando.
    Brandi

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    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    There was also a lot devoted to the space shuttle program. That was really interesting. I guess I never paid too much attention to shuttle missions. I remember the Challenger. I was in 6th grade and we watched it launch live. I don’t think I watched another one after that. The shuttle Atlantis is there along with a ride, which was a shuttle launch simulator.

    All in All it was a cool place to visit and the kids were into it— said they’d go back.

    AB8D867E-124F-4A6C-9FC6-22A42111DD88.jpg
    Brandi

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    Thanks for the write-up of KSC - I'm toying with the idea of adding that to a DC/SW/BG trip next summer.

  10. #10
    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smwisc View Post
    Thanks for the write-up of KSC - I'm toying with the idea of adding that to a DC/SW/BG trip next summer.
    You’re welcome, if you have any questions let me know. I’ll answer them if I can.
    Brandi

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    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    July 4

    So this was our leave -Cocoa-go-to-Orlando day. We left around 9 or 9:30 and hit up Denny’s for breakfast. The service was appallingly bad, so we didn’t get on the road until 10:30 or 11.

    We checked into Cabana Bay and left our car near the building where our room would located, and hopped on the bus to CityWalk.

    Let me just say, I love love love Cabana Bay. It is by far my favorite resort ever. We’ve stayed at Hard Rock and Royal Pacific at Universal and CBR, POR, and Pop at WDW. The WDW resorts are just not worth the money to me at all. The hard rock and RP are great, especially if you’re going during a busy time of year to get EPs. But I love the theme and rooms at Cabana Bay. It’s like the better iteration of what Pop should be.

    But I digress. We booked a family suite with an AP rate. Which was just under $200 a night. You get a separated-out bathroom, which is a toilet behind one door, a sink open to the room, and a shower and sink behind another door. There’s a sliding partition between a room with two queen beds and a common area with a fold out sofa, chair, kitchenette with a bar and two stools. There was also a nice sized fridge and microwave with plastic plates, bowls and utensils provided.
    Last edited by nolarookie; 07-15-2018 at 10:54 AM.
    Brandi

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    July 3 — KSC day

    I had entertained the idea of rope-dropping KSC. It was about 30 minutes from our hotel and opened at 9. The fam was against getting up early. So we rolled in around 10:30. Getting tickets was easy enough, there are kiosks out front like little ticket ATM machines.

    I had no real plan. I had downloaded the KSC app which had sample itineraries and attraction descriptions. We ended up following the recommended itinerary for kids older than 10. We didn’t do any of the add-on enhancements.

    F5F897AE-0D46-43AF-B3C9-67034B64E15C.jpg

    The highlight for me was the bus tour. It brought us out to the vehicle assembly building and the launch pads.

    A83D915C-C45F-4E49-BBD8-5CAD1054DD17.jpg

    There’s another museum building out by the launch pads which housed exhibits from the Apollo program, and had a movie about the moon landing. There was also a cafeteria and we ended up eating lunch out there. We had the ubiquitous theme park pulled pork sandwich. It was ok.

    C13B63CC-62A5-410D-9E32-8B0FF8A351FE.jpg
    Last edited by nolarookie; 07-12-2018 at 07:16 PM.
    Brandi

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    Hi Brandi,

    Thanks for taking the time to write up a trip resort. We are actually going to KSC/Cocoa in August for (hopefully) a launch and I've been trying to figure out things to do that don't need any real planning. They've given us a launch window, but you never know for sure when the launch will be. So, we will be in Central Florida for about 5 days and I need to find things to fill those days that are totally flexible and spontaneous, not knowing which day the launch will definitely take place. Not the way I normally like to plan vacations, but it is what it is!

    Ada

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    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ada View Post
    Hi Brandi,

    Thanks for taking the time to write up a trip resort. We are actually going to KSC/Cocoa in August for (hopefully) a launch and I've been trying to figure out things to do that don't need any real planning. They've given us a launch window, but you never know for sure when the launch will be. So, we will be in Central Florida for about 5 days and I need to find things to fill those days that are totally flexible and spontaneous, not knowing which day the launch will definitely take place. Not the way I normally like to plan vacations, but it is what it is!

    Ada
    I think you could totally do two days at KSC. Cocoa Beach was nice, and I’d recommend the surf lessons if that’s something you’re interested in. Our kids loved it.

    Like I said before, I’d look into renting a condo if we go again. We usually rent condos or townhomes in Windsor Hills when we go to WDW, so we’re used to being able to spread out.

    I’ve heard watching a launch is reallly awesome, I know y’all will enjoy it.
    Brandi

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    July 4 continued

    I will conclude my review of Cabana Bay by stating that the pool with the lazy river is super awesome. You do have to either bring your own or purchase a float. We purchased 4 floats for $24 and received a $20 credit to the arcade. Also, the floats are cute, are “cabana bay” themed, and made relatively inexpensive souvenirs. The waterslide pool is nice also, but it’s a little small—kinda reminded of that scene from one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies where the Heffleys go to the community pool.

    Cabana Bay also has a Starbucks, a food court (very similar to a value or moderate resort at WDW), a nice gift shop with a lot of resort themed items, a ten-lane bowling alley that serves food (typical bar menu fare), and a huge fitness room. We did not walk to the parks/CityWalk from Cabana Bay, but relied on the busses. There was always a bus waiting at the resort and very short waits at CityWalk at the end of the night. There was a dedicated bus just for Cabana Bay.

    The only con is that you do not get Express Pass with your stay like at Hard Rock, Portofino, or Royal Pacific. So I was not expecting to do much at the parks. However, as we arrived on July 4th, so did a thunderstorm. We got a little wet making our way to the Mummy after we entered the park around 12:30 or 1:00, but there was a short wait. The posted wait was 30 minutes, but in reality it was 10. After we got off the ride, the rain had slacked off quite a bit, and we experienced just a little drizzle. We pulled a virtual line ticket for the new Fast and Furious ride, then headed over to Daigon Alley and rode Gringott’s with a 20 minute wait. We rode Fast and Furious, which has not been very well-received. It was ok. I’ve never seen any of the movies, and I think you’d enjoy the queue and story if you are a fan. I liked it though. It’s like Kong, but not as disgusting.

    After that we headed to Men in Black and Simpsons. We had an early dinner at the pizza place in the NY area, and headed out. By then our room was ready so we wanted to get settled and go to the pool, which is what we did.

    The next day would be our first early morning of the trip. We were eligible for early park admission, and I felt like we NEEDED to take advantage of it without express passes.
    Brandi

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    July 5

    US was the EPA park during our visit. Our plan was to hit up the EPA rides (Mummy and Gringotts) then take Hogwarts Express to IOA.

    We rolled up to the front gates pretty much right at 8. They let everyone in and just have an internal check point past the Shrek and Minion Mayhem rides to admit people who are eligible for EPA. So others can enter the parks and eat, and linger around to queue up for the regular opening rides, presumably.

    We rode the Mummy twice, then Gringotts. It was a little after nine when we got to the Hogwarts Express, and the people who had lined up for that ride right away were gone. So we had only about a ten minute wait for the train. This is a cool ride in addition to being a mode of transportation to the parks. I’d highly recommend getting park-to-park tickets to have access to it.

    Our plan at IOA was to do all the water rides. We all wore our best quick dry clothing. First up, however, was HP and the Forbidden Journey. Very fun ride and a must-do for a Potter-fan. Then we headed to the Jurassic Park River Journey. We did not get very wet on this ride, but it’s very unique and a lot of fun. I’m sure it’ll get refurbed as a Jurassic World ride eventually, and I’d be interested in those changes.

    Next up was Toon Lagoon. We did Ripsaw Falls, which is similar to Splash, and we got pretty drenched. Next up was the Popeye raft ride, which is similar to Kali River Rapid, but quite a bit longer, and a lot more fun. Once again, we were completely drenched.

    By then it was about 11:30, so we back-tracked to the Jurassic Park area, where we left our bag and shoes in a locker (we had brought in cheap flip flops to wear for the water rides), then had lunch at Thunder Falls Terrace. They have chicken and ribs similar to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. It was ok, and a nice departure from burger and fries park food.

    After lunch we decided to meet Blue in the Raptor encounter, which is a really unique meet and greet, and headed out for a rest and swimming.

    We returned that evening for dinner at Vivo, a little souvenir shopping, and a few rides at night.

    The next day was our Volcano Bay day and last full day of vacation.
    Brandi

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    July 6 Volcano Bay day

    We were eligible for EPA at Volcano Bay, which opens at 7:30 am for EPA. We were there by 7:20, and second in line at the turnstiles. There were not a lot of people there, maybe 80, waiting to get in. We procured some seating by the “fearless river” – this is a fast-moving lazy river type attraction where I spent most of the day, and got a locker.

    IF you arrive early, you have no problem getting seating in the shade. I looked into renting a Cabana, as a splurge for this trip. However, due to the holiday week, they started at $450 for the day, so I passed. I looked into reserved preferred seating when we arrived, but they were sold out.

    We were able to ride the aqua coaster a few times, and about 4-6 other rides during early admission. We sent the kids off to run around on their own for a while and they mastered the Tapu Tapu system. We spent most of the down time in the fearless river.

    For lunch we split a couple of “longboard pizzas” and my husband and I split some beer that was exclusive to the water park. It was really good.

    I’m not big on waterslides, so the kids and my husband rode them while I lounged or rode in the fearless river.

    A storm rolled in around three and the attractions shut down. We gave it about 45 minutes, but it didn’t clear up so we headed out.

    After relaxing back at the room, we got dinner at CityWalk (Margaritaville) and went back to US. A nice group of people from the UK gifted us their complimentary one-day EPs on their way out for the evening, so we were able to ride Mummy, Fallon, MIB, Gringotts, and Simpsons with no wait.

    There was a new lagoon show starting this week, but we were too tired to stay and watch, plus is was raining a bit, and we just weren’t feeling it.
    Brandi

  18. #18
    Senior Member ChristineOH's Avatar
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    It's interesting to me that you also didn't find long waits, even though you were there at what I would assume would be the busiest week of the summer.

    Glad to hear how much you love Cabana Bay. I have wanted to try it, but feared not having express passes. But like I said before... after this trip, I think the parks are pretty manageable without the Express Pass.
    June 2011 Poly, May 2013 POR, June 2015 CBR, June 2017 POR, March 2018 CSR, June 2018 POR

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    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristineOH View Post
    It's interesting to me that you also didn't find long waits, even though you were there at what I would assume would be the busiest week of the summer.

    Glad to hear how much you love Cabana Bay. I have wanted to try it, but feared not having express passes. But like I said before... after this trip, I think the parks are pretty manageable without the Express Pass.
    I was really surprised with the wait times too. I think the weather may have been a significant factor. We’re going to stay when it rains, so I think being willing to walk through the rain may have made a difference. Also using the EPA helped a lot. We didn’t try for Minion Mayhem, Rip Ride Rockit, transformers or Hulk. Those are pretty in-demand rides but aren’t a priority for us. We did Spider-Man one day, I think it was during one of the nights after dinner, and we waited about 25 minutes. After that, our longest wait was for Blue, which was about 35 minutes.
    Brandi

  20. #20
    Senior Member momof2boys's Avatar
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    KSC sounds like a nice day trip. Once our boys are older, we plan to take them. I remember watching The Challenger in 5th grade, as well. Thank you for the review on Cabana Bay. As you said, my fear of staying there is not having EPAs. Happy to hear there was not a major impact for you! You were able to do a lot on your park days :)

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by momof2boys View Post
    KSC sounds like a nice day trip. Once our boys are older, we plan to take them. I remember watching The Challenger in 5th grade, as well. Thank you for the review on Cabana Bay. As you said, my fear of staying there is not having EPAs. Happy to hear there was not a major impact for you! You were able to do a lot on your park days :)
    I think our boys were the right age for KSC (10 and 12). Last summer we took them to the WWII museum in New Orleans and they really enjoyed it, so KSC seemed like a safe bet.

    I really loved Cabana Bay, and would stay again in a heartbeat. We always seem to travel at busy times, but we didn’t miss having EPs this trip. Our last trip was during Mardi Gras and we stayed in Windsor Hills. (It was also a WDW trip). We didn’t feels like we needed EPs then either, but wasn’t really crowded at all at Universal on our days there, which were mid-week.
    Brandi

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    Last day—boo

    Friday we started getting a few calls from home/work that drug us back to reality a bit. When planning this trip, we thought we’d stay all day Saturday and go to the parks, then swim at the resort. We planned to book a hotel near Orlando for the night, maybe in Gainesville or Lake City. But once we packed up the car we were thinking about getting home. We still wanted to go to the parks for a while though.

    We drove over to the parking garage and headed to US. There was still some early admission time left, so we headed to the Mummy and Gringotts. We did a ride on Men In Black and the Simpsons. We headed to IOA and rode along, which no one like but my husband. We learned there are scare actors in the regular queue, which scared the crap out of my youngest. He will now refuse to ride unless we can use the EP line.

    Finally we headed out. The little guy wanted a Spider-Man action figure as a souvenir so we swung by the Spider-Man ride to pick that up. The ride wait was like 55 minutes so we didn’t do that.

    We hit the Starbucks at CityWalk for rode drinks and got a snack and headed home. We left around noon and pulled into our driveway about 9pm.
    Brandi

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    We were there at the same time you were. We stayed 1 night at Cabana Bay with 6 in our room. Loved the room, too! We had 3 teen girls and a 12 year old boy and us 2 old folks. The room layout was nice. They went to the parks and we went to the lazy river. It was awesome!

    My husband and teen kids went to KSC also. I stayed home. They went 6/30. They liked it but it rained so much the 2 weeks we went, that everyone was really tired of the rain. It seemed like it rained, and rained, and rained. Usually it rains and then clears up, but for some reason that week, it rained all the time! We finally EMBRACED the rain and it was fine.

    Thanks for the pictures of KSC.

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    Yeah, it was a rainy vacation. We get a lot of rain this time of year at home too, so we’re pretty used to it. I do think it had a big impact on our wait times.
    Brandi

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    Since we’ve been back I’ve been a little bummed since we don’t have another Orlando trip on the horizon. We went a little Universal crazy this year, but I don’t see us going back to UOR anytime soon.

    I’d like to plan a trip to Disneyland as part of a trip to Southern California, but some real life stuff has prevented me from making any forward movements on that plan (other than concocting the plan).

    I’m also not a fan of flying, renting cars, etc. It all seems a bit overwhelming, but I know many of you do it regularly when visiting Orlando, so I just need to make my reservations and get on with it. If I could just have a few things settle down, I could pick a date....
    Brandi

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