Tim Larison -- May 2000 -- Walt Disney World (Resort Abbreviation) / Disney Cruise Trip
April 30 - May 12, 2000
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
This was our third trip to Disneyworld with the boys, and our second Disney Vacation Club (DVC) trip.
DAY ONE - Sunday, April 30th
We awoke to a cloudy, dreary morning in Denver. The weather may have been dreary, but our moods were not! We have been looking forward to this, our second Disney Vacation Club trip, since we had such a fun time on our first DVC trip in May 1999. We had a 10:30 a.m. direct flight on United Airlines from Denver to Orlando.
The flight was a good one. We flew on a Boeing 757 and were seated in the first 6 rows of coach class - United's new "Economy Plus" section. We had never had such leg room in an airplane - it was almost like we were in first class!
We hit some turbulence as we approached Orlando. "Mom, does this thing have a ton of gas?" asked Andrew, perhaps worried why the plane was shaking. Andrew was reassured, and we landed safely and on time. As we were walking through the airport, Josh remarked, "They speak the same language as us in Orlando!" To a 6 year old boy, a plane trip across the country may seem like a trip to a foreign country.
We got a great deal on a rental car from National - a "premium" car for $72/week for two weeks. This was a special that someone had told us about on the "dvctalk" mailing list last year. Dad had booked the car months in advance, and was a little worried that there had to be some catch to the deal. There was no catch - National gave us a spacious Buick Le Sabre for our stay at the agreed upon price. The checkin at the rental counter was very smooth - very little wait and no hassling about taking the extra insurance most rental companies want to stick you with. We will certainly rent with National again after this good experience!
We drove from the Orlando Airport to Disneyworld on highway 417. Dad has been in a number of cities where leaving the safety of the rental car lot to the hustle and bustle of the city is not a pleasant experience. Orlando is not like that - it was extremely easy to find the highway to Disneyworld (the way was well marked with huge signs). Highway 417 is a toll road and built as a "tourist highway" - it was relatively uncrowded and easy to drive.
We pulled into our Old Key West Resort to hear the guard say "Welcome Home!" The resort was just as we remembered it. The surroundings are incredibly lush, and the weather was absolutely perfect (mid 80's, no wind or rain). We were thrilled to get our first choice in building location - building 23, room 2321. This was a second floor one bedroom unit overlooking a lake. It was within short walking distance of the bus stop, the main pool, the General Store, and the checkin area. The one bedroom unit was quite large - we had a king sized bed in the master bedroom and the kids slept on a queen sized sleeper couch in the living room. The condo was like new - no signs of wear and tear at all even though the OKW resort has been open since the early 90's.
After settling in to our resort, we ventured out for dinner and grocery shopping. We have made it a tradition to eat the first night at Macaroni Grill. The food was again wonderful here. Dad and Mom like the Chicken Marsala. The kids meals are a good bargain ($3.99 for an entree, drink, and large bowl of ice cream). Andrew ate his entire child's ravioli, and Josh ate almost all of his grilled cheese. Dad, however, finished off the delicious chocolate sundaes that both boys got as dessert.
We drove to a nearby Publix Supermarket for our groceries for the next 5 days. Publix has good prices and a good selection. The boys couldn't agree on a breakfast cereal, so we decided to buy two.
After dinner and grocery shopping, we watched the Epcot fireworks from our balcony. Before going to bed, the boys drew a picture in their trip journals (an assignment from their Kindergarten class back home). We then settled down for the night in anticipation of our first day in the parks on Monday.
DAY TWO - Monday, May 1st
We had a good night's sleep and we were all excited to visit the Disney parks today. We arrived at Epcot right when the park opened (9 a.m.). Boy was the park crowded! Last year we found going in early May was a way to avoid the crowds, but not this year. Apparently the Disneyworld attendance is up because of the Milleneum Celebration.
Josh really wanted to go on Test Track with Dad, so Andrew and Mom went on Universe of Energy as Dad took Josh to Test Track (Andrew is afraid of fast rides and wanted no part of Test Track at first - Josh is just the opposite, he loves fast rides).
Dad and Josh were disappointed to find Test Track closed for repairs in in the morning. We would have to save that ride for another day. Instead we rode the AT&T Ride which was enjoyable (one of our all time favorites). By the time we got done with the AT&T ride, Mom and Andrew had finished the Dinosaur ride, so we met up and headed over to the Imagination Institute.
We rode on the new Imagination ride and we were all a little disappointed. The new ride was nothing special, and we all had liked the old ride. Dad had read similar comments like this on the web before our trip.
Next we decided to see the "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" 3D movie. Josh for some reason did not want to go see this movie. We were puzzled that the daredevil Josh seemed afraid of the movie. Josh is also a shy kid and later he told us the reason he didn't want to see the movie, "The guy in the machine talks to me and nobody else in the theatre!" Josh said. It seems that one of the 3D effects with the mad scientist talking to the audience spooked Josh. We finally got Josh to go into the theatre when we told him he didn't have to wear the 3D glasses.
After "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" we stopped at the new Milleneum Pavillion just before lunch. The boys enjoyed the minature golf exhibit here at the Scottish pavillion, and it gave Dad an idea to play minature golf with the family at one of the Disney courses later in the trip. We were running short on time so we cut short our tour of the Milleneum exhibits.
For lunch we ate at our favorite restaurant on the Disney property - Teppanyaki in the Japan pavillion in Epcot. Teppanyaki is a restaurant where your meal is cooked at your table in stir fry fashion. It was as good as we remembered it - Mom said her stir fry steak was excellent and Dad again had very good shrimp here. The boys got "Donald's Kids Meal" of stir fried chicken, vegetables, drink, and ice cream for $5. We also had a bit of a ham for a cook (he flipped the shrimp tails into his hat while cooking); the boys enjoyed his antics. This is a good place to eat for lunch - you get almost as much food as you do for dinner and the cost is much less.
At Teppanyaki we were seated with a family of three. During our conversation we discovered they were taking the same Disney cruise that we were later in the week. Not only that, but their stateroom was to be only a few doors down from ours on the 5th deck. Small world!
After Teppanyaki we headed back to our OKW resort to relax in the hot afternoon temperatures. Mom took the boys swimming in the main pool - a short walk from our one bedroom condo - while Dad explored the Hospitality House area. Dad found that there was an "unbirthday" party scheduled for Thursday in the resort's Community Hall, and he signed the boys up for that.
We took the bus to the Magic Kingdom at 4 pm. Again we were greeted with huge crowds. We went on Pirates of the Caribbean (about a 20 minute wait), before having a light dinner at the Columbia Harvest House. Dad had heard about the bread bowl chili here - and it was as good as advertised. After dinner we had several long waits for rides - the wait for the Indy Speedway was particularly grueling (over an hour). The previous year we had virtually no waits for rides after 7 pm in the Magic Kingdom in May, but not this year. We were to use a different ride strategy that worked better the next two days.
Other than the crowded parks, we had a fun first full day at Disneyworld and we were excited that we still had many more days at Disneyworld left in our vacation!
Day 3 - Tuesday, May 2nd
Today we took a different approach to the crowded conditions at the Magic Kingdom - get there right when the park opens! We arrived at the Magic Kingdom at about 8:45 a.m. and anxiously waited inside the Castle for the opening of the park at 9 a.m.
When the park opened we were able to go on several rides with absolutely no wait. Buzz Lightyear, where we waited 25 minutes the night before, we rode twice with no wait. We also rode the Pooh ride, Snow White, and Peter Pan all in the first hour.
Andrew was a little hesitant to go on Winnie the Pooh, thinking it was a fast ride. "Dad, can you hold on to my hand?" he asked as we got into the ride. Andrew ended up loving the ride.
Andrew did remember, though, that we encouraged him to go on the ride even though he was scared. Dad overheard him telling his brother, "Hey Josh! Let's make mommy go on a scary ride since she makes me go on them! How about Alien Encounter?"
Mom and the boys went on the teacups, and we also visited ToonTown fair all before lunch. Josh was disappointed to find the ToonTown roller coaster closed - he had enjoyed that ride on our previous trip.
Just before lunch we convinced Andrew to try Splash Mountain. It is a tradition in our family to ride Splash Mountain at least once each trip, and then to buy the picture of the plunge down the mountain. Andrew was just as scared as last year, but said he liked the ride. Josh loved it. Even though Andrew appeared to like the ride, he declined future opportunities to go on Splash Mountain later in the trip.
On Splash Mountain we used the new "Fast Pass" system for the first time. It worked great! We had gotten our Fast Passes earlier in the morning, and went back to ride Splash with only a 10 minute wait. New people arriving had to wait an hour without Fast Pass. Fast Pass is a very good addition to the Disney theme parks for the popular rides.
We ate lunch at Pecos Bill's, another fast food place that Dad had read about on the web as a good one. Dad had a delicious "wrap" sandwich there, and Mom had a excellent hamburger. The boys ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we had packed for them back at OKW.
After lunch Dad took Josh on the Big Thunder Mountain ride for the first time. This kid likes rides that are fast! Josh loved the ride. Andrew would have no part of it; instead Andrew and Mom went on the Haunted Mansion. Andrew particularly likes this ride since last year one of the ride attendants gave him a plastic spider as he exited his "doom buggy".
Following our usual pattern, we headed back to OKW in the early afternoon to rest. Today, though, Mom and the boys didn't go swimming as we wanted to get to Animal Kingdom by 3:30 pm (AK closed at 6 pm this day). Dad had learned from a previous trip that the best time to visit Animal Kingdom is for the 2 hours before closing, and the strategy worked great again this trip. Many people were leaving Animal Kingdom at 3:30 pm while we were arriving! We found the AK lines virtually non-existent at this late afternoon time, and we were able to go on a number of rides.
First we went on "Dinosaur" (the "Countdown to Extinction" ride that has been renamed for Disney's new movie). Andrew again was reluctant to go on this one, but after getting assurances that we would hold his hand, he agreed. We all liked this ride - Dad thought it was a little tamer than last time he rode it a couple of years ago (turns out Disney did tone down the ride and changed the minimum height requirement from 46" to 40").
We then went on the Safari Ride - one of Dad's favorite rides in all of Disneyworld. Everytime we go on this ride we see different sites and animals. This time we had a big rhino block our ride vehicle - the driver was even concerned that the rhino might charge us! The rhino eventually moved to the side and we passed him by. In the cool of the late afternoon we have found that you see more animals on this ride.
Next we tried a new ride - the Kali River Rapids ride. Andrew and Dad got absolutely soaked the first time. Andrew laughed harder than we have ever heard him as he got drenched with water - and he asked to go on the ride again! Josh and Mom also loved the ride, while Dad wasn't thrilled with getting drenched and sat out the second ride. There was no wait for the ride as Mom and the boys were able to get right back on.
Before leaving the Animal Kingdom we saw the "Flights Of Wonder" bird show. This show was alot better than we expected - we saw a number of birds do their stunts (owls, hawks, etc). We were disappointed to find that the "Tarzan Rocks" show was shut down for the month because of taping for the Rosie O'Donnell show, but at least we got to see one new show at the AK this trip with Flights Of Wonder (we had seen the excellent Lion King show the past two trips and skipped it this time).
We left the Animal Kingdom at the 6 pm closing time. The evening was still young, so why not visit another park? We drove over to the Boardwalk Villas, had our car parked in Valet parking, and walked from the Boardwalk into Epcot. We were just in time to see the Milleneum Parade - Mom and the boys had a front row seat. During the parade the large stick figures reached down and petted Josh on the head. The parade is a "can't miss" event at Epcot - we enjoyed it.
After the parade we ate at another recommended fast food place - the Yakatori House at the Japanese Pavillion. This was the best fast food we had on the whole trip. Dad had a chicken and rice dish while Mom had steak and rice.
Satisfied by a good dinner, we sat down for a Davey Jones concert at the American Gardens Theatre. Mom liked the concert, especially when the ex-Monkey reanacted a song from an old Brady Bunch episode. Dad wasn't crazy about the Brady Bunch number but liked the other songs - the Monkeys were one of his favorite groups in the early 70's. Unfortunately, the boys chose the concert to have a wrestling match, and eventually we had to leave early as they just couldn't sit still. Later in the trip we figured out a way to keep them quiet during a concert (see day 12's report).
The Flower Power concerts are a nice addition to the annual Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. We went to two of these concerts during our trip and found you can get good seats.
We decided to save Illuminations 2000 for another night, so we walked back to the Boardwalk at 8:30 pm and took our car back home to OKW. We had a much better day today than yesterday in avoiding crowds at the parks, and we looked forward to another day at the parks, including our first visit this trip to MGM Studios, on Wednesday.
Day 4 - Wednesday, May 3rd
We learned a good lesson yesterday that the best time to go to the Magic Kingdom is right when the park opens, so today we again were at the Castle when Disney lowered the ropes at 9 a.m.
Mom, Andrew, and Josh headed straight for the Dumbo ride and rode it with no wait. By the time they were done, there was already a sizeable line. Ride Dumbo the first thing in the morning, or be prepared to wait! After Dumbo we again went on our favorite Magic Kingdom Ride - Buzz Lightyear. We all enjoy shooting our little laser guns on this ride. Each time we ride it we seem to do a little better. This time Dad scored his personal best - 259,900 points. Andrew also had his best score - 28,400. We rode Buzz twice with no wait at all.
Next we went on the People Mover ride - a slow ride that Andrew liked. The ride gave us a good overview of TomorrowLand.
Josh enjoyed Big Thunder Mountain so much yesterday that he wanted to go on it again today. This time Josh went on the ride with Mom, while Dad and Andrew waited. Mom reports that Josh again loved the ride - he was providing a running commentary to Mom on what was coming up next during the ride.
Just before lunch Dad took Josh on Splash Mountain again, while Mom and Andrew saw the Tiki Room show.
For lunch we again ate at Pecos Bill's. Dad saw the yummy root beer floats yesterday, and just had to order one for himself today. The root beer float tasted as good as it looked!
After lunch we said goodbye to the Magic Kingdom for this trip. We had alot of fun at the park. The boys (especially Josh) were able to go on some new rides this time (like Big Thunder Mountain). Josh promised Dad he would ride Space Mountain with Dad next year ("I'm too little for Space Mountain this year," said Josh).
In the early afternoon Dad rested at OKW while Mom and the boys again swam in the main pool.
We headed for the MGM Studios for the first time this trip around 4 pm. As we arrived, the Beauty and the Beast show was just about to start, so we saw this show. Mom particularly enjoyed this show. Dad and the boys liked it, but thought it wasn't as good as the Hunchback of Notre Dame show.
After Beauty and the Beast, we got a late afternoon ice cream and found a good spot to see the Mulan Parade (right outside of the Doug show). We had missed the Mulan Parade on previous trips and we really wanted to see it this time. We were not disappointed. The parade was very good and some of the characters in the parade interacted with the boys.
After the parade we went on Andrew's favorite ride at MGM - the Great Movie Ride. Then it was on to Star Wars. Andrew didn't hesitate to go on Star Tours this time like last year, though he still asked Dad to "hold his hand". It was now time for dinner. We had yummy hamburgers at the Backlot Express, one of the better fast food places at Disney. We then saw Muppets 3-D (Josh again didn't want to wear his glasses), and we saw the Hunchback Stage Show (one of the best at Disneyworld!)
We headed back to OKW around 8 p.m. We gave a thought to staying for the Fantasmic show, but we knew we were going to be back at the MGM Studios for a full day next Tuesday, so we decided to head "home" early.
Today was the last day we would spend in the parks for the week. Our Disneyworld trips always involve something old and something new - we enjoyed visiting our old favorites in the parks the last three days and we were excited about going on our first family Cruise over the upcoming weekend! Tomorrow the boys would first go on a little cruise of their own - the Pirate Cruise at the Grand Floridian.
Day 5 - Thursday, May 4th
Today would be a historic "first" for us - our first full day staying at a Disneyworld DVC resort (OKW) where we didn't go into one of the Disney theme parks. We were to find there was plenty to do at Disneyworld besides the parks, and the time away from the parks made us appreciate our OKW resort even more.
The first activity on the agenda was the Pirates Cruise for kids at the Grand Floridian Resort. This is a little known activity that Dad became aware of when Cora posted a good report on the cruise on the dvctalk mailing list.
We drove to the Grand Floridian and used the free "valet" parking (free other than tip) for Disney Resort guests - this was the first trip we used the valet parking and it sure made parking a lot easier.
The boys dressed up like pirates, and then were led on an hour and a half adventure to find a treasure chest. Two Disney Cast Members accompanied the little pirates (about 15 or so), along with the boat driver - no parents allowed! Andrew reports they landed on an island, got a map, and found the treasure. Andrew claims he was the first to find the treasure. "I didn't want to tell anybody where it was," Andrew said later, "so that me and Josh could split it!"
Each child on the cruise got a bag full of treats from the treasure chest (candy, small toys, etc). The boys also got a snack towards the end of the cruise. The Cast Members led the little pirates in a rousing rendition of "Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A Pirates Life for me!" Our little guys were quiet during the song. When asked later why they didn't sing, Andrew said, "I hate that song!" Josh said "they maked me say yo ho! but I didn't want to." The reluctant singers still enjoyed the cruise - Andrew and Josh talked about it for several days after.
While the boys were on the cruise, Mom and Dad walked around the grounds of the Grand Floridian and had a mid morning snack in the snack bar by the Marina. It is a beautiful resort that we would love to stay at someday. After the cruise, we drove to a nearby Chick Filet fast food restaurant (near the Crossroads Center). The food here was excellent and cheaper than the fast food at Disneyworld. We liked it so much that we paid another visit to the restaurant the following week.
In the afternoon we relaxed at OKW. At 4 pm the boys took part in the "UnBirthday Party" at the OKW Community Hall. The boys played Goofy Bingo, and were given balloons and cake. Andrew and Josh really enjoyed this activity. You don't have to be in a theme park to have fun at Disneyworld!
For dinner we drove to an offsite restaurant that someone on the Disneyzone site had recommended - the Orlando Ale House. We liked the food here, the prices were reasonable, and the portions were huge. Mom wondered at first if it were a restaurant for children as it appeared to be more of a sports bar, but they had a full children's menu and they seated us away from the bar. Dad particularly liked the fried shrimp he had here - better shrimp than he has had at Disney restaurants (except for Teppanyaki).
After dinner we drove back to OKW. We took the boat ride from OKW to Downtown Disney for the first time. This was a very relaxing 20 minute ride. We saw a bald eagles nest on the way to DD.
Downtown Disney was packed with people, so we didn't stay long. We visited the Lego Store, where the boys each got one toy for the trip that Mom and Dad promised they would buy. The boys marveled at the giant Legos displayed, and anxiously wanted to put together their Legos when we returned to OKW. No such luck, though, as we were leaving OKW the next day and we didn't want little Lego pieces all over. The boys soon accepted the fact that they would have to wait until we returned to Colorado to play with their Legos.
We took another relaxing boatride back to OKW and retired early, for tomorrow would be the start of our big adventure on the trip - a three day Disney Cruise!
Day 6 - Friday, May 5th
Today was a day we had looked forward to for months - the day we boarded the Disney Magic for the Disney Cruise!
We left OKW early to drive to Port Canaveral (around 10 a.m.). Good thing because we took a wrong turn on the way and ended up at Kennedy Space Center. We wanted to see Kennedy Space Center, but not until Monday! This only caused us a 15 minute delay, and we still arrived at the port in plenty of time to board the ship.
We pulled into the parking lot right next to the ship - the Disney Magic was huge! We paid $21 in cash for the three days of parking. Dad had concerns beforehand about leaving some luggage in the rental car while on the cruise, but after seeing the secured parking lot he was no longer concerned. There was a guard at the entrance to the lot and it was a very safe place to park.
We entered the Disney Cruise terminal and checked in with no wait. The checkin process was very smooth, and we soon found ourselves on a line at the end of the Cruise Terminal to board the ship.
We boarded the ship around 12:30 pm. As we walked into the ship into an impressive lobby our name was announced, "The Disney Cruise Line welcomes the Larison family from Colorado!"
Lunch was being served in the Parrot Cay Restaurant. It was a good buffet - especially the peel and eat shrimp! We sat next to an older couple from Daytona Beach at lunch. They told us they had received a very good rate for the cruise through a Florida Resident discount. We were to meet several Florida residents who were cruising under this discounted rate during the cruise. Early May isn't the busiest time for cruising, so Disney discounted lots of cabins for local residents in the last month to fill the ship.
After lunch we checked out our cabin - a deluxe inside stateroom on deck 5 (cabin 5022). This was one of only six "inside" cabins that actually had a window. Disney sells these cabins as inside cabins because the window view is obstructed, but we were to find that the view from our cabin was hardly obstructed at all (just a small platform below the window and a couple of ropes to support the platform). We were very glad to have the window during the cruise as we had some spectacular views in the early morning. We really liked the deck 5 location - we were on the same deck as the kids club and the movie theatre (places we were to visit often), and we only had a short walk down the stairs to the restaurants and Disney Theatre on deck 4. We were also only a few steps away from an elevator to get to the other decks on the ship.
We were used to all the space of our one bedroom condo at OKW, so it did take some getting used to our small ship cabin. Dad read that the Disney cabins are larger than those on most cruise lines, and that may very well be, but still the space seemed smaller than a Motel 6 room. We didn't spend that much time in the room during our Cruise, so the small living quarters didn't present a problem. Josh had to go to the bathroom shortly after we entered our stateroom. Upon flushing the toilet, Josh looked like he had seen a ghost! The toilet flushing noise sounded more like a cannon than a flush - it was very loud! Josh didn't flush the toilet again for the entire cruise (don't worry - we flushed it for him).
We then registered the boys at the Oceaneers Club. We were given a beeper where the counselors at the Club could get in contact with us if needed. The club was quite large with lots of activities for the kids.
Dad then went to make a reservation for "Palos" - a small "adults only" Italian restaurant on the top deck of the ship. The restaurant was much smaller than Dad expected - good thing he was on time to make the reservations because there wasn't enough room for everyone on the ship to eat there during the 3 nights of the cruise. Originally we had wanted to eat at Palos at 6 pm on Friday night, but we found the kids club did not open until 7 pm. So Dad made the reservation for 7:30 p.m.
At 4 pm we went to the top deck to watch the ship leave port. There we were greeted with lots of cigarette smoke. We must have been unlucky to be around alot of smokers, because we didn't see many smokers for the rest of the cruise. For the sail away from Cape Canaveral, though, it seemed like everyone was on the top deck and the smoke was a little irritating.
It was fun to see the ship leave port. The ship horn blasted a very loud "When You Wish Upon A Star" tune as the ship pulled out of the dock. We waived to those on shore as we headed out for our 3 day ocean journey. We got the boys pizza and hamburgers at 6 pm at Pinnochio's - this cruise featured all the "free" pizza and hamburgers you can eat. Josh, our little hamburger lover, appreciated that! The boys wolfed down their dinner, then we checked them into the kids club at 7 p.m. Mom and Dad arrived at Palos at 7:15 am and were seated promptly.
Palos was a very classy restaurant. The trip literature recommended jackets for men. Dad didn't want to pack a jacket, so he wore a short sleeve shirt and tie instead. While most of the men had jackets, there were a few that didn't, so Dad did not feel out of place.
We watched the sunset as we had an excellent Italian meal. Dad rated this as the best meal he had on the ship. That night Palos had a special of "veal lasagne" - it was one of the best portions of lasagne that Dad had ever tasted. If you are taking the cruise, I highly recommend eating at Palos one night!
Dinner at Palos was very relaxing. We finished after 9 p.m. and got the boys out of the kids club. We returned to our cabin to find a queen sized bed for Mom and Dad, and two bunk beds for the boys. One of the bunk beds was about 8 feet off the ground - suspended from the ceiling. Both boys had a tendency to fall out of bed at home, so Dad volunteered to sleep on the lower bunk bed for the rest of the cruise, while the boys slept with Mom in the queen sized bed.
We went to bed early, anxious for tomorrow and a full day to explore the ship!
Day 7 - Saturday, May 6th
Today the ship was docked at Nassau in the Bahamas. We had decided before the trip that we were going to stay on the boat today, and not do any of the shore excursions in Nassau. Perhaps next trip we'll explore Nassau some, but since we were only on a three day cruise we wanted to make sure we took advantage of all the activities on the Disney Magic.
We ate breakfast at Lumiere's, one of the formal restaurants on board, and it was excellent. There was also a breakfast buffet offered on board (Topsiders), but Lumiere's was so good for breakfast (the food was made to order) that we never ate at the buffet the whole cruise. Most of today was spent relaxing on board. The boys and Anne really enjoyed the pools. Both Andrew and Josh went on the pool slide. Josh particularly enjoyed it and went down the slide at least six times. Dad and Mom enjoyed playing ping pong on deck. Dad and Mom are not only well matched in marriage, but also as ping pong competitors. We played a number of games and it seemed Dad won about half of them and Mom won about half, with the difference in points being less than five for each game.
In the late morning we saw the Tigger Movie in the theatre on the fifth deck. Josh didn't like the movie too much while the rest of us enjoyed it. The theatre was excellent - a good sound system and large screen. We were to take advantage of the free movies a couple of more times while on the cruise.
For lunch we again ate at Lumiere's, and again the food was very good. In the afternoon it was more lounging by the pool, ping pong, and Dad watching sports at the ESPN Club (the Kentucky Derby was on).
For dinner we ate at Lumiere's for the third time in a row! This time we had a more formal meal, and once more the food was excellent. We almost skipped Lumeieres to eat at Palo's one night - we were sure glad we decided to skip Parrot Cay instead. Mom rated the Lumeieres meal as the best one she had on the trip.
After dinner we put the boys in the Oceaneers Club. Mom and Dad went to see "Keeping The Faith" - a free movie playing in the 5th deck theatre. Back home Mom and Dad often watched a movie on Saturday night after the boys were in bed - so we kept this tradition going on the cruise. The movie ended around 10:30 pm. We picked the boys up from the Oceaneer's Club - on the same deck and only a short walk from the movie theatre. We had another short walk back to our cabin. The boys quickly went to sleep after an energetic day swimming and playing in the kids club.
Day 8 - Sunday, May 7th
A loud rumbling noise awoke Dad out of his sleep this morning. It was the big ship's engines slowing down to dock at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay! Dad looked out the cabin window to see one of the most beautiful sights he had ever laid eyes on - the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean with the tiny Disney island in view. Dad raced to the top deck to get a picture.
We got an early start and headed towards our favorite breakfast spot - Lumiere's - where we had another excellent meal. We got our "beach gear" and we were one of the first off the ship at Castaway Cay around 8:45 a.m.
Even though we were one of the first off the ship, Dad just missed getting the last beach hammock on the family beach. Not to worry, as we were able to secure a nice, shady umbrella with several lounge chairs. The setting was absolutely perfect. The weather was sunny, but not too hot because of a cool Bahamian breeze blowing across the island. The family beach was in a big cove - there were no waves and hardly any bugs on the beach.
We built sand castles, played in the ocean, and relaxed on the beach most of the morning. A Disney band was playing music on a bandstand nearby. Disney had thought of everything. Before the cruise Dad had read of many people raving about Castaway Cay, and they were right! We had lunch at Cookies Barbeque on the island. Dad recognized one of the servers as one of the waitresses at Palo's. The food here was plentiful and very good for a buffet.
After lunch we explored the island some more, before heading back to the ship around 3 p.m. Dad saw another movie in the Disney theatre at 3:30 pm (Mission to Mars) while Mom and the boys had ice cream and played at the pool.
We pulled away from Castaway Cay around 5 p.m., saying goodbye to the Disney Island we will never forget.
For dinner that night we ate at Animator's Palette. This was a restaurant we had heard great reviews of, and it was OK, but it was probably our least favorite of the three dinners we had. The food wasn't quite as good as what we had at Palo's and Lumieres. The room did change colors with each course of the meal, but it wasn't quite as impressive as it had looked in the pictures.
After dinner we went to the only stage show we saw on the whole cruise - Disney Dreams. If you only can see one stage show and you are a Disney fan, this is the one to see! There were several songs and recreations from the classic Disney stories in the show - it was very well done. The theatre gets very packed for this show, so arrive early if you want a good seat!
The boys were very tired after Disney Dreams, so we returned to our stateroom and put the boys to bed. We went to sleep that night sad that our cruise would be ending the next day, but with a bunch of wonderful memories from our three days at sea.
Day 9 - Monday, May 8th
We had an EARLY breakfast today, 6:45 a.m., as Disney wanted to get everyone off the boat so that they could prepare for the next cruise. We ate at the restaurant we had dinner at the night before, Animator's Palette. The breakfast was good but not quite as good as the breakfasts we had at Lumieres the two previous days.
We had to put our luggage out the night before, so we took our carryon bags to breakfast, and after breakfast we were off the boat by 8 a.m. One thing Dad overlooked was the US Customs form that EVERYBODY has to fill out before being let out of the ship terminal. Dad figured he didn't have to fill one out since we didn't buy anything, but the customs officer asked for the form (even if we had nothing to declare). Dad quickly filled out the form at the cruise terminal and we were on our way. The Disney Cruise overall met and exceeded our expectations, and we certainly would do the cruise again.
We didn't even do many of the activities on the ship (we only saw one of the three shows, never made it to any of the clubs in the entertainment district or the on deck parties). There certainly would be plenty of new things to do if we ever took the cruise again.
Things on the cruise that could be better:
Overall, though, the cruise was a memorable experience and one that we will talk about for months.
What is there to do on the Florida coast at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning? That is the question we had to deal with when we got off the boat. The answer - go to the nearby Kennedy Space Center!
The Space Center opened at 9 a.m., but we were able to park and get our tickets at 8:30 a.m. When Dad was waiting for the tickets he was surprised to hear that there would be a launch this day! Dad had always wanted to see a live launch. It wasn't the Space Shuttle, but it was the next largest class of rocket - a Titan launch of a defense satellite.
The launch was set for 9:30 a.m. Because of the launch none of the tour buses were running. We got into position to watch the launch near the Astronauts Memorial, when we heard the disappointing news that the launch would be delayed (this happens often with launches). Still no buses were running, so we spent the morning seeing some of the other exhibits you could walk to. There were two IMAX Theatres (we saw the 3-D movie about a city in space - this is a good one for kids as a young child is the focal point of the story). We walked around the Rocket Garden. We listened to a real Space Shuttle astronaut tell us about what it was like to be an astronaut, and answer questions from the crowd.
The launch was delayed until 12 noon. Sure, we thought, they would probably delay it again, as we settled down to eat lunch in a crowded cafeteria at 11:30 a.m. It took about 15 minutes to get our food (good for cafeteria food). At about 11:55 a.m. we heard the countdown for the launch - the launch was a go! With Mom's blessing, Dad ran to the launch observation area that NASA recommended (near a mock Shuttle and the Astronaut's Memorial). At 20 seconds to go in the count he was joined by Mom and the boys.
It was strange to see a "live" launch. We saw the rocket go up in the air but we heard no sound! Not at least for a few seconds. This was a different experience than watching it on TV. We had a clear view of the rocket ascending into space - it was cool to finally see one of these launches live!
After the launch, the tour buses again started to run. We waited about 15 minutes to board a bus and we were one of the early ones (there were many people that had a much longer wait).
The bus tour was interesting. It stopped at 3 different spots. One for the Apollo program, one for the Space Shuttle, and one for the International Space Station. We stopped at the Apollo and Space Shuttle sites. By 3 p.m. six hours of touring at the space center got to be a bit much for our little guys, so we skipped the International Space Station tour and headed back to Disneyworld.
The Space Center was well worth the visit. Dad was particularly impressed with the Apollo portion, and a chance to see the Saturn V moon rocket (it was huge!) Our boys enjoyed most of it, though Dad thinks they'll get more out of the tour when they are a little older.
We took the hour drive back to Disneyworld where a new experience awaited us - our first stay at the Boardwalk Villas! We pulled up to the Boardwalk Villa entrance, dropped off our luggage, and had our car parked by the valet. That valet parking sure is great! Dad had heard one disadvantage to the Boardwalk Villas over the Old Key West resort is that you have to park far away, but not if you use the valet parking. We used the valet parking every time for the next few days.
We checked into the Boardwalk Villas and found that we had received our first choice in a room - a studio overlooking the back of the resort and the Boardwalk (room 4061). The studio seemed quite large after spending the last few days in a small cruise cabin - it was bigger than your average hotel room and it had a small refrigerator. We were still able to buy milk and cereal and eat breakfast in the room over the next few days (we thought the refrigerator might be too small for that).
After getting settled into our room, we took a drive over to the Orlando Ale House for another good meal. We returned to the Boardwalk, and walked around the resort and the Boardwalk area, before going to bed around 10 p.m. We were able to see part of the Illuminations Show from our balcony at 9 p.m.
Tomorrow we would have a full day at the MGM Studios. While we enjoyed the Cruise, we were anxious to again visit a theme park after being away from the parks since the previous Wednesday.
Day 10 - Tuesday, May 9th
Today it was back to the parks as we were to spend most of the day at the Disney MGM Studios. We had planned this trip to spend 5 days in the parks. Andrew still had three days left on an annual pass last week, so we visited multiple parks on those days. This week, though, we bought Andrew a two day "bounce back" pass which limited us to one park each day. It's funny how the boys view of Disneyworld had changed just in two short years. As four year olds they were very excited to see all the characters and get their autographs. Last year they still liked the characters, but less so (we did four character meals). This year the boys didn't even want to do a character meal! Josh wanted no part of the characters this trip. Andrew still liked getting character autographs, and today we saw more characters than on any other day of the trip.
We again visited some of our old favorite attractions at the MGM Studios today. On the Great Movie Ride we had a different experience - the ride stopped right when we were in the Wizard Of Oz scene and couldn't be restarted! We saw the Munchkins bob their heads up and down and the evil witch appear without any sound. Eventually the Disney workers got us out of our ride car, and we walked to the exit of the ride. We liked the Doug Show, Star Tours and the Muppet Show (once again), and the Drew Carey Sound show. Josh didn't want to go into the Drew Carey show for some reason, but finally agreed when we told him he didn't have to wear the headphones.
For meals we ate inexpensively today. The ABC Commissary at the MGM Studios is one of our favorite fast food stops in the parks - we had a good lunch there. For dinner it was hamburgers at the Backlot Express. We took our customary mid afternoon break. Mom and the boys really liked the pool at the Boardwalk Villas. Mom liked the pool slide, and reported that the kiddie pool was better than the one at the Old Key West resort that we had stayed at the previous week.
We also spent some time at the Boardwalk Community Hall. The boys enjoyed playing the free Nintendo 64 games at the hall - we had a hard time tearing Andrew away from a Pokemon game that was there. Andrew was an expert at the Pokemon game, and even challenged a teenager to a game after Josh didn't want to play anymore. Mom and Dad revived their ping pong competition from the Cruise at the ping pong table in the Community Hall.
When at the Community Hall in the late afternoon, it started raining and raining hard. It was the first rain we had seen on the trip. We got out our rain ponchos and headed back to the MGM Studios for dinner and more attractions. The rain that night prevented us from seeing Fantasmic as we had planned. We really liked the Fantasmic show on our last trip, but we will have to wait until next trip to see it again.
We took the boat to the MGM Studios from the Boardwalk Villas - this was a nice feature of staying at that resort. On the way back we got off at the Swan/Dolphin boat dock and had a late night ice cream at the Dolphin ice cream shop. We all had ice cream sundaes. The ice cream was excellent! Just as good as Beaches and Cream - another favorite of ours in the Boardwalk area.
We saw the fireworks from the Epcot Illuminations show from the Boardwalk. We went to bed early; tomorrow we would try a new activity for us at Disneyworld - minature golf!
Day 11 - Wednesday, May 10th
As our trip was winding down (only two more full days to go), we spent today relaxing around our Boardwalk Villas resort and doing activities outside the Disneyworld theme parks. The highlight of the morning was minature golf at the new Winter Summerland course at Blizzard Beach. We had never played minature golf before at Disneyworld (it is an activity we enjoy back home in Colorado).
The course was set to open at 10 a.m., but they let us on to the course early (around 9:45 a.m.). This was great - as we were the first ones on the course and we didn't have to wait for anyone to complete holes in front of us. If you want to try minature golf at Disneyworld, getting there when the course opens is a good time to go!
The course had a neat holiday theme that the boys enjoyed. Dad had a particularly good stroke this day, as he made 7 holes in one and beat the high score posted on the course the previous day by one stroke. Andrew made a hole-in-one and was thrilled. We had alot of fun playing minature golf and we are sure to try this activity again on future trips (there are three other Disney minature golf courses we have yet to play). After minature golf, we drove to Chick Filet near the Crossroads center for an inexpensive and yummy lunch. Mom bought a present for a friend at a gift store near Crossroads.
Mom and the boys spent some time at the famous StormAlong Bay pool at the nearby Yacht and Beach Club resorts in the afternoon. Mom reports that this pool is just as good as advertised. They liked the sand bottom to the pool, there was a good kids area, and the slide was great!
We also spent some more time at the Boardwalk Community Hall. The boys participated in the "unbirthday" party at the Community Hall - they had fun though it wasn't quite as good as the one at Old Key West the week before. Andrew again challenged all comers to play Pokemon Nintendo 64 with him at the Community Hall, and Mom and Dad played more ping pong.
While playing ping pong we saw a familiar face playing foosball with his kids. It was LaVar Burton of Star Trek, Roots, and Reading Rainbow fame! Must be tough to be a celebrity at Disneyworld, as someone will notice you no matter where you go. We let LaVar have his time with his family without interrupting, but it was fun to see a tv star close up.
In the evening we had one of the best meals of the trip - at the Big River Grill on the Boardwalk. Dad had eaten excellent ribs here on a previous trip. He again ordered the ribs and they were very good. Mom and the boys also had good meals. This restaurant isn't talked about much when discussing good places to eat on the Boardwalk - it is now one of our favorite dining spots.
We played in the Community Hall some more after dinner, and then watched the Illuminations fireworks from the Boardwalk. We had a late evening ice cream treat at Beaches and Cream near the Beach Club resort - very yummy! Tomorrow would be the last full day of our trip, and we would spend it with one last visit to Epcot.
Day 12 - Thursday, May 11th
Today was our last full day at Disneyworld; we spent most of the day at Epcot. It was very convienient to walk to Epcot from our Boardwalk Villas resort.
First on the agenda was Test Track. This was a ride we had missed last week, and Josh really wanted to ride it with Dad. We headed straight for Test Track at the park opening.
Andrew suddenly said, "I want to go on Test Track, too!" He was getting braver trying new rides as the trip progressed. So the whole family got into the Test Track line - we waited about 10 minutes to get on the ride. The Test Track ride was alot of fun - better than Dad had remembered it. Josh really enjoyed going fast (up to 65 mph) on the outside portion of the ride. Andrew said it was fast, but not too scary. Josh and Dad were to ride this a second time later in the day.
After Test Track we went to the Health Pavillion in Epcot. We saw one of Mom and Dad's favorites, the Cranium Command show. This show put you inside the body of a adolescent boy as he experienced a day at school. Andrew also enjoyed the attraction while Josh was bored - I guess only thrill rides get Josh excited.
We also went on Body Wars, but found it not to be as good as the Star Tours ride at MGM Studios.
On the way to lunch we made another stop at the Milleneum exhibit and took the Jerusalem simulator ride (sponsored by the nation of Israel). This was the best attraction we saw at the Milleneum exhibit. We had planned to end our trip as we had started it - with lunch at our favorite Disneyworld restaurant (Teppenyaki in the Epcot Japan Pavillion). The food was again excellent. The boys even seemed to have mastered their use of chopsticks at the restaurant. We sat next to three Disney cast members - we have found that many Disney cast members eat here for special occassions.
After lunch, it was more time back at the pool at the Boardwalk Villas. Mom said this was the best pool of any resort we had stayed at. We returned to Epcot around 4:20 p.m. to see a "Flower Power" concert by the Lovin Spoonful at the American Gardens theatre. This band was a little before Mom and Dad's time, but we still recognized many of the songs they played and it was an excellent concert. We managed to keep the boys occupied by buying them a tub of popcorn - if only we had thought of that last week during the Davey Jones concert at the same theatre! (we had to leave that concert early because the boys were restless, but this time they were well behaved throughout the whole 50 minute concert).
For dinner we tried another new fast food place - the one at the China pavillion. It was OK, but not as good as the Yakatori House at the Japan Pavillion that we had tried for the first time the week before. The Yakatori House got our vote for the best new fast food place we had eaten at this trip.
In the evening we visited some more old favorites (Dad and Josh went on Test Track again, Andrew and Mom went on Ellen's Energy Adventure and the AT&T ride). We had our ice cream treat at the Land Pavillion after seeing an environmental film hosted by Simba, Timon, and Pumba of Lion King fame.
We walked back to the "country" part of Epcot for the Illuminations 2000 show. We were a little late for the show, and we were surprised to find a spot right by the railing near the International Gateway. We were later to find out why this spot was free - a tree blocked the view to the water effects of the show! We still had a good view of the fireworks. Dad had seen the previous Illuminations shows and this one had the best fireworks, though the other effects and the music didn't seem as good as past Illuminations shows.
The boys were tired after Illuminations - we were thankful we only had a short walk back to our Boardwalk Villas resort. Andrew fell asleep in the stroller as we rolled him back to the room.
Tomorrow we would have an afternoon flight back to Colorado, so we still had one morning left to enjoy our Boardwalk Villas resort. Day 13 - Friday, May 12th (fly home day)
We awoke Friday morning sad that our vacation was at an end. Dad walked down to the Boardwalk bakery and surprised Mom and the boys by bringing back a huge cinnamon roll treat.
We took our time getting packed, walked around the Boardwalk area one last time, and headed over to the Crossroads Center for lunch. We had one highlight left on our trip - the hamburgers at Jungle Jims! We each had a hamburger at this restaurant for lunch, and we voted them the best of the trip.
We took the tourist highway (417) back to the airport, dropped off our National rental car (still can't believing what a good deal we got), and waited at the airport for a couple of hours until our flight returned to Denver.
Overall, this was our best Disney trip yet! We again liked the relaxed setting of the Old Key West resort and look forward to returning there many times in the future as members of the Disney Vacation Club. We had our share of new experiences this trip, highlighted by the Disney Cruise. We liked the Boardwalk Villas as a different place to stay - in the future we may stay there on days we have planned to visit Epcot and MGM Studios. And of course the Disneyworld theme parks were as fun as ever to visit - the boys seemed more adventerous this year in trying new rides and next year they'll be old enough to try even more new rides (Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, etc).
Our next trip won't be until late 2001, but we have plenty of memories from this trip to last us awhile!