27 April 2011

Branson MO April 2011

Our first trip to Branson in 11 years!!! The city has changed in so many ways. 76 is still there, but they have added additional roads to help with the traffic problems. There are at least 2 Wal-mart stores, one Target (no fair) and a massive scrapbook store. All in a town with 6,000 residents! We arrived in the off peak season, which really is a perfect time to visit. Everyone is super nice, there are NO crowds, and it is not too hot.

Everything started with us checking into our time share, Gold Crowne Resorts. You can’t check in at the property, you have to check in about 5 minutes away and then drive to the resort. That was bit strange, but it worked. We walked into the time share (we had 2 days left of the week the family owns, and we had to pay for the 3rd night) and were greeted with a much smaller version than what we had when we purchased the getaway time share room in October. You walk in and there is the living room and kitchen together. The laundry is in a closet right behind the table, and the vacuum is stored in a closet adjacent to the laundry closet. Then you have a bathroom with a walk in shower (no tub L ). It is a fairly large bathroom, and we set this up to be the bathroom for the kids. You then walked down the tiniest of hallways and there was the master bedroom with a very tiny tiny tiny toilet room, a sink in the bedroom and a bath tub in the bedroom. I had to pay more to get a jet tub, the time share that the family owns does not come with the jet tub. We also had a balcony overlooking some of the strip in our bedroom. The tub was not clean enough for me, so that had to be taken care of, but overall the room was clean. I would not want to spend a week in this room as the kitchen is almost nonexistent; there was not even a silverware drawer. Maybe I was spoiled with the getaway room in Oct (but that did cost me quite a bit of money).

The bed slept fine, outlets were in abundance (this is usually a complaint and the reason I travel with an extension cord), and the lighting was pleasing. Overall, I would give the room 4 out of 5.

The first night we decided to hit the strip and see what we could get into. We found a pizza hut and ate there and went shopping at Target to get some essentials (including PUFFS). We hit the sack early because we all were a bit tired from the drive. When we wake, we are heading to Silver Dollar City.

SILVER DOLLAR CITY

I had prepurchased tickets so this was NO big deal at all. We entered the park and started on the way. I really wanted the potato and onions meal, but once again this was not to be (funny I have thought about it for 11 years), but we did see the glass blower and rode quite a few things. The rides are MUCH better than the rides at Holiday World. Hands down!!! The drinks are a tad over priced, but then all parks can’t have free soft drinks like Holiday World. The park is very clean. I never saw litter on the ground and I was looking. There were no long lines for any of the rides and most rides had NO lines. The staff was very friendly and easy to have a conversation with, but then I also noticed that most of the staff were older people, I would say past retirement age. All the staff was clean shaven and dress nicely. A very family friendly environment.

We stayed until they closed and then headed to eat at Fall Creek Steak. The restaurant was very appealing to the eye, tons of memorabilia and old signs. Our server, James was very attentive and apologetic when my order was messed up. I had the catfish and would recommend it. It was a large piece of fish with a cornmeal type breading. No strings in the fish just a large piece of white catfish. It was a bit expensive but we were finding out, nothing was cheap on the food budget. We would generally spend approx $50 on each meal.

TITANIC

This was the one thing I was looking most forward to. We arrived 1 day before the 99th anniversary commemorating the maiden voyage. You may not bring any cameras and your phones must be off. There is a staff member in each area so there is NO way you could have a phone out for a photo. The story is that you are buying a ticket on the Titanic and will be given a boarding pass with you passenger name on it. It will also feature a brief history of your character. You will immediately board the ship. You get to see every class and what things would look like. Starting in 3rd class you will see even a ticket from the actual sailing and many other one of a kind memorabilia. There are many sad points on the tour; the first is here in 3rd class. A man died in the water and they found him, they took off his wedding ring and his family preserved it for many years and this ring is on display for you to view. It was sad to think they took this off his body after he died in the frozen Atlantic. I will tell you another sad tale later.

You will see a 3rd class cabin and then you turn the corner and there it is the Grand Staircase. It looks exactly like it did on the Titanic, which means it looks just like it did in the movie, which means you can visualize Jack walking down to greet Rose before dinner. This was the part where I wish that I could have had my camera. The architecture is extraordinary. I have been on many ships in my days, but the craftsmanship is just not quite like this. A ship in these days is flashy and neon. Princess is classier, but it pales in comparison with this staircase.

Walk up the staircase and you will see a replica of Mr. John Jacob Astor’s room. He was the richest man in America at the time of his death and this room is evident of some of that wealth. You will also see artifacts that can’t have a value they are so precious!!! A deck chair, letters from passengers, mirrors, jewelry, books, and good luck charms….all that belonged to passengers. This is indeed a once in a lifetime chance…think about it, this stuff will be 100 years old next April!!!!

The next room is the bridge (wheelhouse); you can turn the wheel and pretend you are EG Smith navigating this mammoth on its first and last sailing. Then hang a left and walk out onto an actual deck. The stars are in the sky, and it is dark, but you can barely make out an iceberg on the horizon. Now, it is time for impact! You will see 3 decks that are angled just like they would have been that night as the ship was sinking. It is very hard to stand on the deck angled at 45 degrees, give it a try. Next to the deck are photos of the passengers. I had seen some of them in studying the ship, but this was an extensive collection of photos. Some were labeled only photo in existence of such and such. I found my passenger and she was a pretty lady, I did not yet know her fate.

The next room is the room where Dr. Bob Ballard found the remains. I remember this day vividly in my own mind. I had always wondered about the wreckage since I had first heard of the ship and when Dr. Ballard discovered it I was so happy. It was nice to see all the maps and photos of the discovery.

Here is where you experience more sadness….I mean you are sucked into the experience of the thrill of all the artifacts that you forget the death, until you enter the recovery room. There you see photos of bodies being removed, bodies in coffins, and the sailors labeling bodies with number because they have no names and stripping their bodies of jewelry and placing it in bags that correspond with the body number. It was very strange to see the dead bodies of the people, they were bloated and misshapen. You also see letters by the White Star Line wanting money to send the body home; otherwise they would bury them at sea. The one guy they show, was poor his family wanted his body, but could not afford to have it sent home so he was buried at sea.

Next you learn the fate of your passenger. I am happy to say that all of our family survived. Trevor was a fireman and he swam to a free boat. I am sure Hannah, John and I were all in lifeboats as we were all women. Trevor also had a first class dog, and his dog perished….little Frou Frou, you know all the dogs were supposed to stay in 3rd class decks but Frou Frou was so cute, she was allowed to stay with her master in the master’s first class suite. There were only 10 dogs on board, but sadly they all perished.

We bought some souvenirs and then headed to Golden Corral for a big meal. Then a game of mini golf…where I lost.

Branson, we had a great time, thinking about season passes next year. Even without Grandpa’s room, we could stay a couple of days in a motel/cabin/whatever and go to Silver Dollar City. It was a lot of fun!!!