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We have about four of these now in various places in the house and they are used to a varying degree depending on mood, laziness etc.
This is essentially a plastic track with a ball inside which cats chase up and down so provides exercise and fun. It comes in four parts which are easily (ish) slotted together. You can either have it in the snake configuration shown in the picture on put it together to make a donut shape. You can also if you have more than one set make a bigger figure of eight circuit. We have got a variety of shapes.
The figure of eight if you have two sets is good for bigger cats (like our maine coons) and if you have more than one cat as we find they will play together and chase it round. However it is not great for small kittens as they tend to not have enough power to shoot the ball right round so it comes back to them and so they get bored quickly.
The circle is good for kittens as they can easily bat the ball round and they like using it as a place to curl up and sleep in.
The snake version is good for them to play with another cat and bat to each other. It is not so good for the less than smart cats who stick their paw in and trap the ball at the end and then can't figure out why its not going anywhere!
The track also seems to be good for the cats to try and pick up in their quest to try and figure how to remove the ball and so end up turning the track upside down! They also get a bit frustrated if they get a bit of kibble (don't ask!) in the track which stops the ball free rolling.
A new addition has recently been that you can buy seperately light up balls which has bought a new degree of facination to the proceedings. There is also a race track version with bumps but we haven't tried that yet.
Advantages are that it is relatively cheap about £8 on Amazon and is entertaining for hours if you have a playful cat or a kitten
Disadvantages are if your cat is not an active breed don't bother!
Right now before we start I have to say I am a little bit biased as I am lucky enough to be a breeder of these magnificent animals. Currently we are lucky enough to be slaves to 10 of these beautiful babies so hopefully I know a thing or two about them!
What is a Maine Coon? They are the largest breed of domestic cat with boys growing to around 7-9kg when full grown and females around 4-6kg. They are a slow maturing breed so don't finish growing until they are about 3-4 years old. They are classed as semi long haired. This means that they have a long flowing coats with a ruff round their necks and a massive bushy tail which is about the same length as their bodies. They are often referred to as the tail with a cat on the end! They get a thicker longer coat in winter and shorter in summer. In fact in summer some of them look almost short haired. They have some quite distinctive features (other than their size!) such as long tufted fur between their toes, big paws and big ears with lynx tips on the ends. They have big eyes too. There are a variety of different colours and patterns (more than 60!) which they can be so just about anything goes. Mostly Maine Coons don't meow, they make a unique chirping sound and of course have a very loud purr :)
What is their behaviour? They tend not to be lap cats like some breeds preferring to lay alongside you instead. But to be honest who's got a lap big enough for one anyway! People often say they are the dog of the cat world and certainly their behaviour can be more in tune with a dog. They are easily trainable like dogs and are loyal companions often selecting one person as their slave. They are a very active breed and retain their kitten like behaviour all through their lives. That's great and we love the fact that they still love playing when they are 3 or 4 unlike most breeds that once over a year spend zero time playing and 90% sleeping! However that does come with its drawbacks. While it might seem cute a kitten climbing your curtains not so much when its a 8kg monster! But they are brilliant fun to be around and love games and chasing.
Keeping more than one? Maine Coons are addictive and one is never enough. However I also believe cats especially Maine Coons benefit from a companion. They need another cat to play with and socialise with. To the point where I will not usually home one of my kittens to somewhere where they will be an only cat (doesn't have to be another MC). It also keeps them out of mischief if you are for example out at work.
Feeding a Maine Coon? Hmm being a big cat they do have big appetites. We feed a mixture of dry, wet and raw food to ours. Royal Canin do a Maine Coon dry food which has bigger kibble ideal for them as otherwise they eat about 10 at a time in a mouth full. We buy high quality, high meat content food online as if you were feeding supermarket wet pouches they could easily eat 7 or 8 pouches in a day. Feeding a special raw complete food (not just some chicken fillets) also helps to give them a natural diet and keeps their coats silky.
Health problems? Maine Coons aren't without health problems. Because of their size they can be prone to hip problems so it is important to ensure they don't become too overweight. A heart condition called HCM is also prevalent in the MC population and therefore it is worth finding a breeder who has genetically screened their cats for the rogue gene. However even this doesn't mean your cat wouldn't be at risk as most HCM cases are gene negative but regular vet screening is a good idea. Other than that they are a generally healthy hardy breed.
Being a cat breeder and owner of a number of pampered spoilt cats I have tried possibly every variety of cat litter products out there. We have tried clumping, non clumping, sand, woodchip and everything in between and I can say that they all have plus and minus points but I have never found one they all like or one that doesn't stink the house down. However I may now finally have found it!
OKO plus is a clumping litter which is safe for all cats including kittens. Usually clumping litter isn't suitable for kittens as it can cause an obstruction if they eat it (gross but they do i'm sorry!) but this is bio degradable and is perfectly safe for them.
It is a small pellet litter and when the cat does there business it turns to a kind of jelly and clumps together nicely which makes it really easy to scoop out the lumps. The lumps can be flushed down the toilet although I am a little dubious about that so would not recommend if you have a lot of cats like we do! Once the lump has been removed the litter left is still perfectly clean. This means that trays really need to be emptied and fully changed. We just top up litter when it gets a bit low and do a full change every couple of weeks. It seems to be acceptable to all our cats, none have objected to it which makes for a very happy cat owner. I would recommend filling the tray about half full and then topping up as required. It does seem expensive initially compared to other brands but because it lasts so long we are finding we spend about half what we previously spent on cheaper litters. There is also very little smell which is a huge bonus point for us. It really does lock in the smell so keeps the house relatively odour free.
Advantages- it clumps together really well so easy to remove the waste. It can be flushed or composted. It lasts for ages we use a 40l bag a month for 12 cats so is good value. It is importantly acceptable to most cats!
Disadvantages- it seems quite expensive initially about £25 for 40l but then last for ages. It does track a lot, we sweep the loose litter every day and put it back in the tray but I have found bits upstairs that they have tracked through the house!
To be honest I was a bit dubious about this when I first saw it. We have tried the other new flavours such as strawberry laces but I was a bit worried about smelling of chocolate but we as a family are converts!
We always have a hand wash at the bathroom sink and kitchen sink so thought we'd try it first at the kitchen sink before deciding if it was worthy of a place in the bathroom :)
Like all carex hand wash it comes in a handy pump action bottle which always works well. Some of the cheaper supermarket brands I find the pump action often doesn't work which is very annoying. But this always does. I find Carex ones are good for the skin too and don't leave my skin too dry like some of the other brands. They leave my skin feeling soft and moisturised.
Anyway it smells divine, just the right balance of chocolate with a bit of orange so it doesn't make your hands smell totally of melted chocolate. The dispenser puts out just the right amount of liquid for hand washing, not too much or little so the bottle lasts a while. We are a family of four and a bottle lasts around a week or two.
It would be better if they made these bottles in different sizes so you could have a family sized one but I suppose it wouldn't fit so well on the sink then. At the moment they seem to be on offer in all good retailers either half price at around 85p or bogof so its worth giving it a try especially if you are a chocolate orange fan, get the smell without the calories :)
If you shop online or even sometimes offline then signing up to Quidco is a no-brainer! If you are going to spend the money anyway why not get some money back?
Quidco is a cashback site that offers various rates of cashback for hundreds of well known and not so well known online stores. Everything you want to buy there is bound to be a store on Quidco for it. It has many of the big names such as Play, M&S etc on it. It is easy to use just sign up, enter details of how you want to be paid and at how much for example when your account balance is £20. Then all you need to do is search for the store you want to use and click the link. Everything you then purchase should track through Quidco and you will be paid an appropriate amount some weeks down the line. To begin with if you're like me it takes a while to get used to going to the site first but it soon becomes second nature and you can always set it as your homepage.
The main advantages are that you get paid for spending money you were going to spend anyway. Cashback rates do vary and can even vary by retailer on different categories. For example Play and Boots both have different rates of cash-back depending on what you're buying. Some stores such as Amazon only offer cash-back on certain categories and they change from month to month for example one month it could be jewellery or clothes. Other stores such as Tesco offer cashback on their non supermarket lines such as clothes, tesco direct.
There are so many ways to earn money through Quidco, I recently got £90 back for booking a holiday. You can also earn extra cashback often for signing up for new mobile deals or with sky. You can even earn it for spending nothing such as getting insurance quotes.
Advantages are you are getting paid for nothing, you were going to spend the money anyway so why not get some money back. Usually purchases track and cashback is paid in a couple of months. Sometimes bonus offers such as shopping so many times in one place to get extra.
Disadvantages are none really. If cashback doesn't track it can be a pain to raise a claim but I have found claims are usually settled in your favour.
I have to admit i'm a bit of an Amazon junkie. I like looking through different things they have to offer, I love the 'recommended for you' that comes up on the page based on previous purchase and I have about a million things saved in my basket. I clearly don't get out enough! I think I probably used to spend most of my card earned cash on Amazon but I have cut back drastically (haven't we all!!). There are some things I like though.
Subscribe and save- I like this feature which they now offer. It means that some regular items (mainly cat food) I can get each month delivered with a 15% discount (for having 5 different items delivered) without having to worry about it. I have started adding other things now such as shampoo, razor blades and dishwasher tablets! You do have to be careful not everything is a good deal and I certainly wouldn't advocate regular grocery type products as they are invariably cheaper in the supermarket.
Trade in- have used this a couple of times for old games. Yes it is a bit of a pain putting them each in but trade in value can be higher than other sites and I haven't had a problem.....yet.
Kindle- I am afraid i'm a sucker for books and when the kindle came out I said no way am I getting one, I love the feel of the books turning the pages blah blah. Yes that's gone out the window now, I am a kindle convert. Gone are the paper books. So now I can't help having a look on Amazon (yes probably every day) to see what the daily deal is and if there's anything that looks interesting.
Christmas- I'm sorry but I'm getting too old for dragging round the shops Christmas shopping so if you can't get it on-line, you're not getting it. Amazon was made for Christmas shopping, everything in one place for a good price.
The bad things- yes there are some too. Delivery is one, I'm sorry but I shop on-line to get it delivered not to go traipsing round post offices trying to pick up my parcel. If I'm not in leave it in the shed for goodness sake! Also tax avoidance, I work long hours and expect people and companies to pay their fair share of tax like I have too shame on you Amazon :(
As a cat breeder with 10+ cats finding somewhere that stocks everything they need at a price that's right can be a complete nightmare. However Zooplus has everything and more!!!
Food- We feed our cats on a high quality diet, not supermarket food and finding places that stock food with a meat content more than about 10% is hard. But Zooplus do a wide range of foods such as Bozita, Applaws and Animonda Carny which our cats love but is also great for them. Not only that it is a comparable price to much lower quality foods from supermarkets. We also buy 10kg bags of dry food too which not only saves having to carry it from a specialist store but again is the cheapest i've found it.
Cat trees- Our cats love playing and climbing and Zooplus have stocked a range of cat trees to suit all cats and all budgets. Each month they have different ones on offer and so its worth keeping an eye out if you see something you like.
Other items- we also as you can imagine get through on a regular basis toys, bowls, kitten food, litter trays and cat litter and again Zooplus stocks it all at a good price.
The great thing about having it all in one place is that it all gets delivered together and you don't have to worry about shopping around. They have monthly offers on a great range of items including toys and food so you can always find things suitable. They also do discounts such as 10% off your first order, breeder discounts, a stock up discount of 5% if you spend over £75 and they sometimes offer long term loyalty discounts. We spend around £300 a month with them and tend to buy most things from them now. You can also get cashback usually through certain sites.
Customer service- if you do have any problems such as things missing or damaged in Transit they are only too happy to help and the few times we have had something go wrong they will refund the product and you get to keep it too.
Problems- There are a couple of things to watch for. One is packing isn't always great and I try to organise deliveries so that for example food is separate to cat litter so that the bag doesn't get split.
Other than that I would definitely recommend.
We have a lot of cats! And they tend to enjoy using our settee as a giant scratch post. After trying every method possible to stop them someone suggested getting some scratch toys for them to attack instead. So we now have about 6 various scratch toys for them to claw and rip to shreds including a couple of these brilliant caterpillars.
The cats love to use them for clawing and sharpening their claws. But they also love lying on them too and using them to sleep on. The main problem with that is we have Maine Coons and they just don't fit (apart from the kittens)! However they try their best even if they can only rest their heads on them. All our 12 cats love them they jump on them push them around.
The good thing is that they have been surprisingly long lasting. To be honest being made of cardboard I expected them to not last long at all. But even after relentless attacks they are holding up very well. They are also really good value, they do vary from month to month but I think this month I paid around £7 which for a toy and furniture protector which provides hours of fun is well worth it. It also comes with a little sachet of cat nip so if you find your cat is getting a bit bored then just sprinkle some on and it soon gets their interest again.
I would definitely recommend to people to give it a try, its long lasting, fun and inexpensive. The only drawback is they need to make them bigger so my big babies can stretch out! Attacks to our settee have all but stopped too so much cheaper than replacing the sofa!
As a breeder of Maine Coons having good insurance in place is absolutely essential as vets bills can soon mount up. Luckily we have had little cause to use it, touch wood! However three years ago we had a young cat diagnosed with IMHA (a type of anaemia) where her white blood cells attacked and destroyed the red. Sadly despite extensive and intensive treatment she passed away a few days later. However over the period of treatment she had oxygen therapy, blood tests, blood transfusion, scans and in-hospital treatment. All in all the vets bills for five days were over £2000!!! Because we were with Petplan and the vet could make a direct claim all we had to do was fill in our details and policy number and pay the excess and they took care of the rest. A real relief when you are struggling to cope with what's happening and especially as she passed away we knew we didn't have additional worry over dealing with bills. Petplan text me within 7 days to say the claim had been paid. They even sent a card to us when they knew the cat had died.
The benefits of Petplan are that most vets can do a direct claim so you don't have to pay upfront and then try and get the money back. They also have a good range of policies to suit people. They offer ongoing treatment for ongoing conditions. They are quick to settle claims. They also don't massively increase premiums if you make a claim!
The draw back is the cost, they are a bit more expensive than some other insurers but I know they will pay out for my cats whereas I am not convinced of others.
We give out 4 week free insurance policies with our kittens from Petplan and I always recommend owners get insurance. Yes its expensive if you never have to claim, but vets bills can quickly run into thousands of pounds. Insurance is always a waste of money until you have to claim and then its amazing!
I actually came to this book by accident, having read 'my sisters keeper' but I am glad that I did! The first thing to say is that I actually suffer from the same condition as Willow and so have a somewhat in depth knowledge of OI and the effect it has on both sufferer and their family. In many respects having OI made it a very difficult read on a personal level as it raised questions about my own place in the world and the way people view disability and abortion.
The story is about Willow, a child born with OI (osteogenesis imperfecta) which is a genetic form of brittle bones. Although she features centrally the story is told from other peoples perspectives. So there are chapters written from her mother, father, sister and friends perspectives, each telling how it is for them and the effect that Willow has on their lives, often in a very positive way. We learn that although only 5/6 Willow is extremely intelligent, she gets on with her life and really complains despite having had numerous fractures and operations. There are a number of difficult issues raised in the book. The main focus of which is that her mother decides to sue her best friend, who was also her obgyn, because Willows condition was not picked up until late in pregnancy so the family did not have a choice whether to continue the pregnancy. This on the surface seems very callous and in many respects is. However Charlotte loves her daughter very much and would never have aborted her child, but having a child with OI is extremely costly in terms of medical care and equipment and so Charlotte sees suing for wrongful birth as a way of providing for Willow for the rest of her life. There are a number of different dimensions to the story. For example Amelia, Willows sister has had difficulties dealing with her sisters condition and in particular the attention that Willow receives, leading to self harm etc. There is an interesting part of the story which involves them going to an OI conference and Amelia meets a teenage boy with OI and she feels out of place because everyone else there has the condition but she doesn't and so pretends to have it to fit in!
Charlottes husband Sean plays the character of the sufferer. He feels upset because he cannot provide all the financial support. He loves Willow and is devastated that his wife would be willing to go to court and say that she wishes Willow had not been born.
The story is carried along quickly and I found it difficult to put down. The research into OI is great and the way that it impacts everyone not just Willow. There are also interesting and uncomfortable insights into the breaking of bones, the struggle for independance and a normal life. There is also a piece about child abuse and how often OI has been mistaken for neglect or abuse.
The final chapter is told from Willows perspective, and is told sometime after the final court case. It is a devastating conclusion, in many ways unexpected but in a sense satisfying too. It is obvious there is to be no happy ending but the ending shows that it doesn't matter how much you prepare and think that you know whats coming that something unexpected can still happen.
From my own perspective I found this facinating even though I suffered the condition myself. However I think that it shows that even with a severe medical condition people can shine through. My own story is somewhat more positive. Once I reached my teens, like most people with OI, I stopped breaking so many bones and have gone on to have my own children (OI free) and a fulltime career, although I can no longer walk.
The West Midlands Safari Park is situated in Bewdley near Kidderminster and is accessible from the M5 among other routes.
It is divided into 2 sections, the drive through safari and the walkthrough area including the 'theme park'. In order to access either area you pass through the drive through ticket booths. It currently costs £11.50 for adults and £10.50 per child or you can buy a family ticket for £40.00. You can pay this either by cash, card or tesco clubcard vouchers. The entry price entitles you to drive through the safari as many times as you want and to access all other areas. However if you wish to go on any of the rides these are charges seperately. At the ticket booth you can also purchase guide books and animal feed. The ticket also gives you a free, yes free, return visit at some other time during that season. I think that this makes it excellent value, although obviously you need to live within driving distance to take advantage of it!
Once through the gates you can either choose to park up in the large car park or make your way by car into the reserves.
The drive through safari is approx 5 miles long and will take anything up to a couple of hours to get round. There are NO monkeys so you do not need to worry about your car being taken apart!! The first section has grazing animals deer, rhino, buffalo, zebras and giraffes. Gradually you move through into different sections encountering animals from around the world. There are lions, including the only UK pride of the beautiful white lions. The last time I visited there were several gorgeous cubs. There are also wolves, tigers (orange and white), african wild dogs which are a personal favourite, in wet weather they seem very active and come upto the car, and my absolute favourite the cheetahs. There are also wallabys and elephants. If you don't want to go through the dangerous animal exhibits there are bypass lanes into the other areas. The safari can get very busy at times and so it is best to avoid lunchtime.
The rest of the park is made up of animal and other attractions as well as a variety of shops and food outlets. One of the most original animal exhibits is the free flying bat cave. Not for the faint hearted or those with a delicate sense of small the bat cave has a number of small and large varieties. It is quite dark and may be frightening for some people so be aware. Other animal attractions include sealions, leopards, hippos, goats, aquarium and reptile house. At the far end of the park is the amusement area. There are a number of rides for all ages and dispositions including log flume, a couple of coasters, including a childrens version, carousel, river raft and bungee type ride. All of these need to be paid for either using tickets which can be purchased from a machine. Each ride takes either 1 or 2 tickets. Alternatively you can purchase a wristband for around £10 which is much better value if you want to go on more than a couple of things.
The safari park is open from Feb to Nov and certain dates in December for christmas special. It is well worth a visit with its variety of animal species and other attractions, there is plenty to do for a full day of family fun!!
I graduated from the Marjons (as its affectionately known!) about 4 years ago and I have to say there are many good and bad points about it!
Traditionally it was a teacher training college and one of the best known. However since then it has diversified and now offers a fairly wide range of courses such as ICT, PR, Leisure and Tourism, English etc as well as the teacher training. Many of the courses are sports related and therefore there are excellent sports facilities available, including fields, tennis courts, as well as indoor facilities such as pool and gym.
Its a small college which brings the benefit of having a more family atmosphere and the campus is very close knit. The staff are always helpful and lecturers are excellent. However many of the facilities are dated and could do with updating. Having said that some of the facilities have been recently built with more modern ICT facilities and even some air conditioning!
There is a large library set out on several floors. Within the library there are are quiet study areas and an ICT suite. There is a wide range of books but unfortunately many are out of date or there are not enough copies of popular texts. There are a large number of journals though which I found extremely useful. It is also possible for books to be ordered in from the central library if there is something you need which they do not have. There is also a student book shop near the main entry into the college. They can get any books on your text book list within a couple of weeks(amazon is probably cheaper and quicker though) and they have a reasonable amount of the popular texts in stock. They will also buy back your old text books which is a useful facility.
There are several places to eat and drink. Cafe del Rosa is a 'posh' cafe selling nice but rather expensive sandwiches and bagettes as well as jacket potatoes, chips, pies etc. They also have some rather nice cakes. If you want a basic cheaper option, the dining hall is next door. They sell more standard student grub, greasy but tasty breakfasts etc. There is also the student union bar, 'the sub' upstairs.
Personally I didn't stay in halls so don't know fully what is available. The halls are in several standard blocks with single rooms and en suites. I have been told that they are reasonable. There is also a launderette facility.
For parents there is a nursery on site. I used this for one of my children and found it to be great. It is open long hours and the staff are great. It is relatively low priced too and 3/4 can get free places.
The location of the college is of both benefit and curse. It is set out of Plymouth, close to the moors. It is close to Derriford hospital, the regions main hospital, ideal for those 'college accidents' and the 'one too many' nights. It is also situated right next door to Plymouth Airport, I mean right next door, you can see the planes from the car park!! Parking is a problem there is no-where near enough for the number of people and because of its isolated location most people have cars because the bus service is rubbish! Nearby, well about 5 minutes drive is a large tesco and asda for your shopping needs. Home Park, home of Plymouth Argyle is about 10 minutes away as well as Plymouth city centre.
I enjoyed my time at Marjons. It was friendly and welcoming. The staff were good and I came out with a good degree (not teaching!). However in the past Marjons has not had a great reputation academically. In fact in the late 90's they lost their university status and degrees were issued from the university of Exeter (like mine) but I understand that they are officially a uni once more. If you want a closeknit community feel, more homely and you have a car then Marjon is for you. If you want somewhere close to the action then maybe not.
An Accidental Light is the first novel from Elizabeth Diamond and hopefully it won't be her last. I came across it by accident on Amazon through one of their 'other people bought this' recommendations and it is excellent.
The book tells the story of two families who are struck by a terrible tragedy. One night on his way home from work as a police officer Jack Phillips knocks down and kills a young girl Laura Jenkins. Whenever you hear or read about these incidents the focus is always on the victim (the dead person) and their family, but this book explores the fact that there are two sides and that the victim can also be the culprit. This was an accident with no-one at fault, a rainy evening with the light fading, a child stepping out thinking the way is clear and a man unable to stop when she steps out in front of him.
Anyway the story follows the Jenkins family as they struggle with their grief, Laura was an only child and the glue that held the couple's marriage together. The husband becomes fixated on Jack and begins a hate campaign against him. Lisa, his wife wants to move on and slowly begins to rebuild her life, doing things she's never done before, getting a job.
On the other side Jack is overwelmed by the situation. He blames himself and cannot sleep or function normally, having visions of the accident and the aftermath. Obviously no charges are brought against him but it doesn't stop him feeling guilty. He has time off work through anxiety and stress and starts to see a counsellor. However other people, work and family keep telling him to pull himself together and get over it. Eventually he quits his job and his marriage breaks down. Slowly he begins to get on with life by revisiting issues in his past including his fathers abandonment and his mothers suicide which have all led to this point.
Jack and Lisa meet and begin to form a friendship each of them helping the other come to terms with what happened.
I really enjoyed this book, it is very detailed and the author has given the charactors a lot of depth. It was interesting to read a book on an emotive subject which looks at both sides and how a tragedy has reprucussions for all of those involved. It is uplifting despite the subject with the central characters ultimately finding something out about themselves which enables them to build a different life. There is also a lot of sadness too, the death of a child is never easy and as a parent it makes you shudder realising how easy it is for something to happen like this. Definately worth a look.
I have travelled with Virgin and Virgin Holidays on a number of occasions including in Feb this year to go to Florida. To be honest I can't imagine travelling with anyone else anymore! I booked my holiday over the telephone about a year ago. This was a smooth process and I was given the booking reference which enabled me to pre book my seats. This is free with Virgin (I believe a number of other operators charge for this). The holiday was well priced in comparision to other comparable operators. I always choose them when we go to Florida as they fly into Orlando International which is only about 15 minutes from the main hotel centres, whereas most Charter companies Thomson, Airtours etc use Sanford which is about 60 miles away. Anyway I booked our seats online, managed to get the bulkheads with extra leg room on way out. On the way back I could only get 2 rows of two so put son and hubby in front row with extra leg room. About 6 weeks before we had a letter to say that unfortunately our hotel was closing and we were given a choice of 3 others we could choose at no extra cost. Once at the airport check in was quick and easy. They have an excellent luggage allowance too 2 bags of 23 kilos each whereas most operators only allow 1 bag of 20 kilos. The flight was good, a bit of turbulance but hardly Virgins fault!! Free drinks including alcohol available throughout the flight. There was also a good entertainment selection with a number of recent films to suit all tastes as well as tv channels. Once we arrived in Orlando baggage claim was simple as was picking up our rental car, Virgin have their own hire car desks at Orlando airport. Got to the hotel and was given some free meal tokens because of the hotel change. On our return trip we were able to drop our cases off at their downtown disney checkin area at 8:30 in the morning which is great, it means you don't have to carry your cases round all day. Although I had pre booked the seats they offered to change them so that we all got the extra leg room. All in all a good experience. My only problem with them was that there was a mix up with the car hire as we were staying 16 days but they had only booked the car hire for 14 but it was easy to sort out. Will definately go with them next time.
I have recently returned from Florida and had the pleasure to visit Discovery Cove for the first time. Now there's no point pretending it's cheap...it's not. In fact it cost about £700 for four of us. However that did include a 14 day ticket for Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica. There are cheaper tickets available which include 7 day tickets for Seaworld or non dolphin swim tickets but this was the best all in package for us.
Anyway the day was fantastic! We first arrived at about 8:30am and were shown into the checkin area which looked more like a hotel lobby. We were given our passes (these were for entry to other parks too), map and told what time our dolphin swim would be and where. We were then shown to where we could get breakfast. This consisted of things including pastries, muffins, cereal as well as drinks. After we had finished we were guided to the changing area where we were given wetsuits (or wet vests), snorkels etc. I believe they even had prescription masks for those who needed glasses. The changing area and showers were spotless with large fluffy towels, shower gel, shampoo etc was all provided free. Once changed you can head to various areas. There is a walk through avairy where you can feed the exotic birds with pots of fruit which is extremely beautiful. Alternatively there is the stingray lagoon. The water here is waist deep and full of a number of rays, all of which are perfectly gentle. The kids in particular love it. My two spent hours in there. If you are lucky you might get to feed them too which is fun as the rays crowd round and try to 'climb' up you when they sense food! There is also the tropical lagoon. In here there are thousands of tropical fish and extremely large sting rays free swimming. Here the snorkal comes into its own as the view under the water is stunning. There is a novel touch in there too as there is a viewing area under water where you can look through glass at sharks and baracuddas. If you prefer a relaxing swim there is a warm pool (about 85f) and lazy river which circles the park. The lazy river also allows access to the avairy via a waterfall which you swim through. Finally is the dolphin swim. You are taken down after a short pep talk to the dolphin lagoon in groups of 8-10. You then spend around 30 minutes in the water with 'your' dolphin where there is plenty of interaction touching, feeding and playing and the opportunity for a tow to shore by the dolphin from deeper water if you choose. Whilst in the water a team films your experience and takes photos which you have the opportunity (at a price!) to purchase later. All food and drink is included in the price including a lovely lunch with a wide choice of sumptous food, and you can go back for seconds or thrids! At the end of the day is the opportunity to purchase your photos and DVD's. This is not cheap. The full package is $139 which includes a cd of your photos including dolphin swim and any others taken round the park such as in the avairy and rays and several prints and keyrings. The DVD of your dolphin swim will cost an additional $50. Although expensive it is a truly magical day. A limited number of people (1000 max) are allowed in so it never feels crowded. You are well treated with staff on hand to help with everything you need. If you have disabilities you are well catered for with special wheelchairs that go across the sand and into the water. All in all brilliant!!!