Jim Pertierra -- March 2000 -- Walt Disney World (PR) / Disney Cruise Trip
March 10-18, 2000
Home - Cohoes, New York (just north of Albany)
Pre-Trip and Planning
Actually the planning for this trip started before we took our 1999 vacation at Dixie Landings. Patti and Janet had wanted to take a cruise on the Cruise Line and to finish up at the Polynesian. Patti had done most of the legwork and we had our reservations for the entire Disney package (along with airline tickets) before we left for Florida on April 15, 1999.
Sometime in early 2000 we borrowed the Cruise Line Video from our friends (and tax preparers) the LaForests. We spent a lot of time watching the video and memorizing all the tiny little intricacies that the video gave us.
I was not that thrilled about the Cruise as I was a park person first and last, but, as the time grew closer, I found myself getting pretty excited about the prospect of relaxing on the boat.
Janet and the boys were pretty charged up and I got swept along.
Before we knew it, the countdown had begun and suddenly it was the night before and the packing had been completed and all we had to do was sleep.
The Night Before Thursday (March 9, 2000)
In what had been a pretty dry (snow-wise) and cool winter, the day before we left was a taste of Florida weather. The high was 76 in Albany and we were ready, emotionally for the next day. Pat and Ma arrived just after dinner and we off loaded all their luggage into our van for the departure.
Our neighbor (and once and future Disney companion) Chris Martin was going to take our van back home from the airport and (our once and hopefully future Disney companion) Sue Campbell was taking the rest in her car.
Friday, March 10, 2000 Off We Go
Janet and I awoke at 4:20 AM as Chris and Sue were driving us to the airport at 6 AM. For once, it wasn't a problem dragging the 3 lifeless carcasses of our sons out of bed in the morning. I doubt if they slept much.
Temperatures had returned to normal (20 degrees) but we were all wearing shorts in anticipation of the Orlando area. We were flying Delta Express non-stop to Orlando.
We said our good-byes at the unloading zone and hurried into the airport. We had 23 bags (checking 15) so the good men of Delta earned their wings (and tip) that day.
Not much to be said about the flight as everything was as smooth as silk. Amazing though how little they feed you nowadays. I know that airline food was never any leap in cultural cuisine, but you think that you would get just a tad more than a granola bar for a 3-hour flight. That being said, everything else about the flight (and crew) was wonderful. We departed and landed on time, didn't crash, hit turbulence, or anything, so I have no complaints. Before we knew it we were taxiing to the gate and were about to meet the Disney Cruise people.
We met the Disney Cruise Line representative at our gate and she led us to the airport monorail (Welcome To Orlando International Airport) and over to the luggage area. We were led downstairs to the Cruise Line busses. There were at least 10 busses in the area that we were escorted to, each going to a different destination either in the Park or at the pier. We were soon shown onto the bus to Port Canaveral. The bus was about half full at departure.
A getting acquainted video was shown on board that stretched the Cruise Video a little. It was hard to concentrate on the video with all the excitement on that bus. Two families from New Jersey sat right behind us and they were loud. No complaint as the kids were revved up and nervous about what lie in front of them.
The boat was soon within sight and I took some really bouncy video of the Magic. The boat was very big and very impressive even from within the confines of the bus. We swung around the highway and got to see the Magic from both fore and aft.
We got off the bus and entered the Welcome Center. Check in was a snap and we were each given our room "keys" which looked suspiciously like our passes into the Park. All then proceeded to the "plank". We have definitely entered a new age, as everyone seemed to be armed with cellular phones. Ma, Patti and the boys had gotten ahead of as Janet and I were standing behind a woman going over final details of a business meeting as she moved through the line. I could only wonder what Janet would do to me if I called the office from the gangplank. I can't even bring my portable computer with me on vacation, let alone call the office.
When we boarded the Magic it was, literally, like entering another world. Goofy was up on the balcony and we were escorted to Parrot Cay for a welcoming lunch. Although it was pretty crowded (there were the 7 of us plus all of our carry on luggage) the buffet lunch itself was excellent. I would highly recommend the roast beef. I should know I had 3 helpings.
After lunch we made our way to our quarters. Patti, Ma and Mark were in stateroom 7507 and Janet, Matt, Dan and I were in 7505. The rooms were adjoining. At first, frankly, they seemed pretty narrow, but as the cruise progressed, the space was more than adequate. The staterooms were well thought out and the construction of the bunks was downright ingenious. As others have noted, the sink/toilet area was separate from the shower area and that entire setup was excellent. We had no complaint about the rooms. Due to monetary considerations our staterooms were interior, so we had no balcony. In retrospect, if we had to do it again, we would have sprung for the extra, but we have no complaints.
We took some time in touring the decks. The pools were smaller than they appeared on the video but everything else was just the right size. I had brought along several books but wanted to read David Halberstam's book on Michael Jordan during the trip. I had purchased the book when it came out in early 1999 and figured that this would be the right time to read it. Certainly taking a chair by the pool(s) would be ideal territory to get some reading time.
One comment here: You pay all that money up front to eat and you are entitled to all the ice cream you like, but why are you charged $1.50 for a Coke anyplace on deck? I wonder how much Coca-Cola pays Disney to carry their product? You are a captive audience so why not kick in the cost of sodas? I am a Coca-Cola person and a Disney Maniac. Peaceful co-existence would be helpful here.
Janet, Pat and Ma were off to the shopping orientation presentation in the Walt Disney Theater. The boys wanted to do everything, so I situated myself near the pool and the sun to read while they did their thing. The Jordan book was excellent and the boys had a great time with Ping-Pong, swimming, arcades and the ESPN Club. Matt went to the top deck to see if anyone was up there to play basketball. Finding nobody, he just shot until he got bored.
Next scheduled event was the safety drill, which proceeded the Bon Voyage Party by the Goofy Pool. The drill went without a hitch. I know for certain that if I have to wear that life jacket, I don't want to stand at attention for a long period of time.
The Bon Voyage party was very nice. I wish I knew that it was the only time that the ship's whistle would play "When You Wish Upon A Star" though as I just missed getting it on video. We were moving, no one got sick, so all was right with the world and it was time for dinner.
Pictures tonight were with Captain Mickey and Captain Hook. There is never a shortage of pictures and picture ops. We were on the early seating rotation and our first restaurant was Lumiere's. Lumiere's was a beautiful restaurant. We noticed the roses in the lights with their petals falling. It was here that we first met our servers for the voyage; Laureen from Northern Ireland and Chris from South Africa. I thank God that I did a lot of video taping so that we can revisit them often. They were both special people and we learned as much about them as they did about us.
I had an excellent beef tenderloin. The Crème Bulee was just great. I told Laureen that it was the best thing I had ever had. (Not kidding either) The highlight of the dinner was Dan's comment about how much he was served. "The French must all have small portions!" I thought I was going to die laughing.
After Dinner the Girls were going to see the Voyage of Ghost Ship while the boys went to the theater to see Toy Story 2 (again). I really liked the theater although I wish they served popcorn and Cokes (I would have paid!!!). We had all seen (and loved) Toy Story 2 when it came out and a second look just confirmed our original thoughts. Great movie!!!!
Must have been a tiring day because we were all conked out by 10 PM.
Saturday, March 11, 2000 Nassau
Janet and I both woke at 6:20. Dan was also stirring. After a shower, the three of us joined Patti for an early morning tour of the boat. We went around deck 9 until we found the coffee. I sat down to enjoy the coffee (don't drink much of it anymore) and read the Navigator. It was a beautiful morning and we were docked in Nassau.
Breakfast this morning was in Lumiere's and was nothing special. Good to see our hard working crew though!!!
We went back to the room and met Zita who was tending our cabin. Zita was from Hungary and, IMHO, was a beautiful young woman. We all broke down the language barrier and Zita told us about herself. She worked pretty much 7 days a week for 9 months. The Cruise Cast actually are not paid that much (they depend on the kindness of strangers so tip well!!!!!) but she was happy with the arrangements. She said that she knew that she was going to eat, stay in a comfortable bed and got to visit Castaway Cay on each stop. How bad was that?
The girls were heading off to Nassau to do some shopping and the guys were staying on board. Matt made a beeline for the basketball court while Dan and Mark went to the arcade.
The boys and I had lunch at Pluto's (fast food) and I spent another relaxing day reading and people watching. Amazing how you see the same people many times during the course of the day.
Dan spent most of the day at the Oceaneer's Lab doing activities. Mark only spent the morning as he got bored.
I had a long talk with Carol and Joan at the Disney Vacation Club booth on deck 3. I had gone to a visit at the Vacation Club (before it was renamed Old Key West) back in 1992. If it had solely up to me, we would have been members since 1992, but my ever-practical wife said no. I enjoyed my visit with Carol and Joan (and was sold again) but, ultimately, turned it down again. Janet said that we should look into buying in Kissimmee for our retirement rather than do a time-share. She is right, as always. Regardless, a cluster of Oceaneers came out at one point and all yelled "Hi Carol!" which was pretty cool.
The girls got back and did minimal shopping. They took a tour of the city. They said it could have been longer but told us that we were smart to stay on the boat.
Tonight's pictures were with Goofy and another opportunity with Mickey. Dinner tonight was at the Animator's Palate. Dinner was just okay, but I really wasn't very hungry. I did enjoy the restaurant though and managed to tape the hard to photograph Laureen during the final parade.
The boys and I were looking forward to seeing Mission To Mars tonight. It was opening nationwide today and the theater was packed. We got there early and grabbed "our" seats. No popcorn again though. The movie was very good but you could see a lot of 2001 and Close Encounters in it.
There was an 11 PM fireworks display on deck 9 that was excellent. We all watched it to conclusion, but didn't feel like dancing (it was a long day). Matt and I made a quick trip to the ESPN Club to check on the NCAA Basketball scores and then it was off to bed.
Another nice day!
Sunday, March 12, 2000 A Day At Castaway Cay
Janet and I both woke at 6:40. Pat, Janet and I did our daily walk (and coffee hunt) on decks 9 and 10. It was another beautiful morning and we were already docked at Castaway Cay. We spent a lot of time taking various types of pictures of the Cay. Pat had brought along a Neil Diamond bear (Neil is her favorite singer and she has seen him about 50 times). Her goal was to take pictures of the bear in different settings and then post them on the Internet so that her fellow Neil maniacs could see them. This day the bear commandeered the front of the ship overlooking the crew's swimming pool.
Today's breakfast (and dinner) was at Parrot Cay. I filled out the gratuity forms. Janet always says it is because I have such nice handwriting, but I think that no one else wants to do it. We gave more than the recommended as everyone was so nice. Chris' family was coming in from South Africa soon and he was going to give them a whirlwind tour of Orlando before they all went to London on vacation. He was getting excited about seeing his family. His hopes were to become a cast member at the new hotel going up at the Animal Kingdom.
We disembarked for Castaway Cay. One of the card scanners wasn't working so it was a trifle slow leaving the ship. Fortunately, not everyone was in a hurry to get to the Cay so there wasn't a long line. We all jumped on a tram from the dock to the beach and were one of the first groups on the beach. One word - beautiful.
Our friend Linda Campbell (see April 1999 Trip Report) had told us that a hurricane had done extensive damage to the Cay and that Disney was still in the process of putting it back together. That was very evident at the dock area but not so much at the Cay itself. The beach was pure white and the water just glistened. I walked into the water with Mark and found it cool, but fine. I had brought the liner notes from a Grateful Dead box set with me (along with Michael Jordan) so I sat and read. Mark was building a sandcastle and then joined his brothers snorkeling. It started to rain (but the sun was in the distance) so we knew it wouldn't last long. The boys spotted a giant turtle in their snorkeling.
The girls decided to hit the small shops in the Cay in a continuation of their shopping spree.
We ate lunch in shifts (the second shift protected the loot) at the BBQ Shack. I ate with Matt and we were both surprised that it wasn't bad. Too often these places are hit or miss but this one was a hit.
After lunch Dan wanted to go back to the Magic so I took him. One thing for sure, that boat looks majestic anchored at the pier. It just dominates everything you see. Horizon, sea, Magic. We went to our favorite spot on deck 9 and read until 3 when we went back to the room.
Everyone else arrived around 3 and Mark had a sunburned back.
We all went to a Welcome Home presentation by the Oceaneers Club that included OUR Oceaneer Dan. He was embarrassed to be up on stage in front of a packed house in a typically Dan way. I stayed for the briefing regarding luggage and all the dos and don'ts and then hustled back to get ready for dinner.
Tonight's pictures were with the Captain himself. Certainly we could not miss an opportunity for a picture. Dinner tonight was Parrot Cay. Sitting there I was struck at how much it resembled Tangarora Terrace at the Polynesian. The Tangarora has been closed for 4 years and we all miss the breakfasts there. It bothers us to see that wonderful place vacant.
During dinner we all gave both Chris and Laureen extra cash for their wonderful service. It must be difficult to be a stranger in a strange land especially with a constantly changing clientele. They were never without a smile and we only wished we could give them more.
Laureen surprised me for dessert as she went to Lumiere's and surprised me with a Crème Bulee! I even got a kiss, which made my trip.
Dan wasn't feeling well so he skipped the Tigger movie. I skipped it too, except I just fell asleep for awhile in the theater. I hope I didn't snore.
After packing and putting all the luggage in the hall, we were in bed at 10:15 and the boat was full speed ahead back to Port Canaveral. Another lovely day.
Monday, March 13, 2000 Mainland/Polynesian/Who switched what?
Janet didn't sleep much last night. The boat was rocking and the sliding doors on the closet kept opening and closing. She eventually put some towels on either end so that they wouldn't bang. Oddly enough the doors in the connecting room did not do that. Oh well!
Around 6 AM, Pat, Matt, Mark and I took our last walk around deck #9.
Breakfast was at Parrot Cay and it was sad. It was hard to say goodbye to Laureen and Chris (and this would be our last meal together) but I am sure that they were getting ready for their next guests already. Laureen told us that we could request them if we wanted on another voyage, which was good information to know. We had our goodbye hugs and it was off to disembark.
Let me explain a little about the process. On the last night, when you placed your bags outside your room, there were tags with your cabin number and color on each piece. For example we were Red 7505 and 7507. The bags were collected and, upon pulling into port, they were placed in the appropriate colored area in the Port Canaveral terminal.
When you cleared customs, the luggage was all in the same general area. That was 99% true in our case as one of my Mother in Law's pieces was in an entirely different area from where it should have been. That was our only snag in the entire disembarkment procedure. Typical Disney efficiency.
Before I continue with the Walt Disney World portion of our trip, I would like to say a few words, in retrospect about the Disney Cruise Line. First of all, I think we all enjoyed it a great deal. It was very efficient, organized (no surprises there right?) and punctual.
I found the cruise to be extremely relaxing. Then again, I didn't do much other than walk around, read, look at people and eat. I purposely tried not to eat too much and didn't. I think that the most I ate was at the welcome brunch at Parrot Cay on Friday.
The weather was wonderful all three days (as it would be for the rest of the vacation) and the sea breezes were delightful. As I said before, the only complaint I have was about the Coca-Cola. I realize that they have a plan to purchase X days worth of sodas, but my point is that, once you pay for everything up front, you are a captive audience and (to me at least) if the entertainment is free, so should ALL the food. That being said, I think that my complaint is a minor one and it certainly did not subtract at all from the cruise itself.
Based on what I know now, it would be wise to do the parks first and then do the cruise. After the utter relaxation of the cruise, attacking the theme parks was a harsh return to reality. Interesting that reality would strike you at Walt Disney World. So, if your intent in taking a Disney Cruise was to relax, then you certainly can do that without any problem. We would do it again in a minute.
As a matter of fact, as I am writing this (August 4, 2000 in Cape Cod on vacation) we have just firmed plans to return to do the same thing in February of 2002. Interestingly enough, in spite of what I wrote above, it looks like a 4-day cruise followed by 6 days at the Caribbean Beach. Which also reminds me that I still owe Brian 1996 and 1998 trip reports.
Bottom line on the Disney Cruise - Thumbs Up, Way Up!
There was a Mears mini van waiting to take passengers to the Polynesian. We piled in and waited 45 minutes to leave. The boys were getting anxious, but finally we were on the open road and heading towards my favorite place on the face of this Earth.
And soon came our first disappointment of the trip. Following tons of advice, I had contact CRO at the Polynesian a week prior to our departure to reconfirm the fact that we wanted adjoining rooms (as we had requested a year earlier) on the first floor of what is now the Rarotonga building. We remembered it as Maori but was told that it had changed names. I had also faxed them the day before departure again as a reminder.
We pulled up in front of the Polynesian, unloaded the 4,000 bags, and entered into that fabulous lobby. None of the requests had been noted. It was almost as if I had done nothing in advance. Perhaps it was just the fabulous Pertierra luck or whatever, but I was very disappointed.
Adjoining rooms were available, but not connecting, in Rarotonga. There was one set of rooms on the 2nd floor available that were connecting and an adjoining set of rooms on the first floor. After discussing it with Janet and Pat, the decision was to take the adjoining on the first floor.
The room wouldn't be ready for awhile.
Once that was settled and the passes/keys distributed, Matt and I took off for Disney/MGM and everyone else went to EPCOT.
Matt and I jumped on the first available bus to the Studios and just spent the ride soaking in the sights and sunshine.
When we arrived at the Studios there was a series of huge lines waiting to enter. We picked the shortest and soon were ready to swipe our passes. They didn't work. We tried again with no success. I explained to the Cast Member (gatekeeper) that they had just been issued and that might have something to do with it. The Cast Member told me to head over to Guest Relations to straighten the matter out. After waiting for 15 minutes in one line, I envisioned another 15-minute wait at Guest Relations. Wrong - 30 minutes.
The Guest Relations people told us that our passes weren't valid, but that we were registered and issued us a one park temporary pass in order to get us into the Park.
Now Matt and I were totally confused. But, we were not going to let that stop us as we walked briskly to the Tower of Terror.
FASTPASS VOLUME 1 - I have always prided myself on keeping fairly current on what's up and I knew all about Fastpasses. We decided to pass on them, as we wanted to get inside the Tower Hotel right away. Frankly, I really enjoy the outside queue area in front of the Tower. It is cool with a lot of interesting plants and people to look at, so neither of us had any problem waiting in line. However, a curious thing happened the longer we wound through the queue area. I found myself getting indignant with the people happily zipping through the Fastpass line. By the time we got into the lobby I realized the true worth of the Fastpass. It not only frees you to do whatever you want NOW, but to come back and do something major with no wait. Yes, I know you sacrifice the time waiting for the Fastpass timeframe, but it enables you to spend that time as you wish. (More on our approach to the Tower/RnR Coaster Fastpass later in the report).
My sons, like me, love the Tower. With the changes that have been made to the drop cycles, it just gets better and better. The first time that Matt and I rode it (1996) we were rather shocked when the doors opened at the end and we realized that the ride was over. Felt cheated somehow. Now, we can't get enough. One wish that I have is that they take the picture right at the start of the first drop, not the second. Experienced Tower riders can predict that first drop, but it is always a shock. I think that the expressions would be priceless.
We only had time for one more attraction so we hoofed it over to the Star Tours. The queue area was under rehab and we got right on. This is another Pertierra Family Favorite and it did not disappoint.
We grabbed a bus back to the Polynesian to, hopefully, find out what was going on with our passes. We went to the desk and found out the reason. Turns out that connecting rooms did matter because, after Matt and I had made a mad dash for the bus, Pat and Janet decided that they would rather have connecting rooms and changed us to a second floor connection in Oahu. When they made that decision all of the issued room keys were voided. Meanwhile Matt and I were headed to MGM not realizing we had no means to enter.
Bottom line - the rooms were nice, it was warm - let's rock!
In that we were right next to the pool, we decided to take advantage of the warm weather and water.
Before we knew it, the monorail beckoned for our dinner at Chef Mickeys. We all found the dinner to be very good. Mark took a little bit of everything and finished nothing. I love him so much, but he would be happy with dry cereal most of the time. It is almost a waste to buy him any real food.
We have eaten at Chef Mickey's the last 4 trips whether it be breakfast or dinner and have never failed to enjoy ourselves. We still have not found a suitable substitute for breakfast at the Tangarora Terrace (R.I.P.) at the Polynesian, but Chef Mickey's is close.
Our original plans were to head into the Magic Kingdom to watch the Main Street Electric Parade and Fantasy in the Sky, but it didn't happen. We all decided to watch Fantasy In The Sky from the Polynesian Beach. I really enjoy that. It was a little different this time, as the music was not piped into the Beach area.
When we got back to the room there was a message waiting from our good friend Brian Toth. Brian was working in guest relations at the Disney Village. We arranged our annual meeting for the next day at Countdown To Extinction.
Off to bed at the close of another wonderful day.
Tuesday, March 14, 2000 Animal Kingdom/E Night 1
I didn't sleep well last night. I don't know why. It couldn't have been the arrival day ants in the pants or the departure day I wish I wasn't goings. I didn't want to turn a light on and disturb anyone so I just counted Mickeys. In looking back, I should have put on some shorts and just gone outside for awhile. The peace and the place would have done it for sure. Maybe next time.
Needless to say, we were all up early and grabbed a bus to the Animal Kingdom.
Overall impressions to follow, but we grabbed a fast pass for the Kilimanjaro Safari before heading over to Countdown to Extinction. Janet and I had ridden Countdown in a cast-pre-opening day in March of 1998 and, in spite of all our efforts, neither one of us could remember anything about the ride or its premise other than the time travel. Personally, I think this ride is overrated. I sit here on February 28, 2001 and have very little recollection of what I saw on March 14th.
Anyhow, we were scheduled to meet Brian at the entrance to Countdown and, when we came out, there he was. After spending 15 minutes catching up with "stuff", we made our way over to the Safari to use the Fast Pass. The lines were huge and we buzzed past them right to the front! Wow! Brian begged off as he had been on the hunt more times than he can count. We waved goodbye to civilization and headed out. As have been both of previous safaris, this trip was great.
After the Safari, we took the time to walk around and just check the Animal Kingdom out. Pat and Ma have never been in the Animal Kingdom and their impressions were much the same as ours. The Animal Kingdom is not very easy to get around. You lack the focal point to gravitate to.
We enjoyed ourselves with the bats and the Tigers, but Bug was jammed so we passed.
We decided to get into the Kali River Rapids. The sign said that there was only a 15-minute wait. We passed on the Fast Pass and got into line. After 50 minutes the end of the line was not in sight and we still hadn't got underneath the cover and the blessed shade. We silently cursed the Fast Passers and got out of line. We figured it was better to head back to the Polynesian and use the pool.
We got back to the room and were frightened by the weather forecast for the day after we were getting home - SNOW. Not Blizzard Beach snow, but SNOW. Well, that just sucks.
Dinner tonight was at the Whispering Canyon, which has always been one of our favorite experiences. We grabbed a bus over to the Wilderness Lodge and spent a half-hour just enjoying the atmosphere. The pool area is so nice and the Imagineers have done such a wonderful job in getting your bearings all messed up. This is Florida.
Dinner was great as always and heightened by our lovely server, Deana St. Louis.
After dinner, we grabbed the boat to the Magic Kingdom for E Night.
Janet, Pat and Ma wanted to watch the Main Street Electric Parade. The boys ran to Big Thunder and did that plus the Hall of Presidents and the Timekeeper as we zoomed through the lands.
E Night started at 9 and there were lots of people there. We had done E Night last year and the lines were nothing like this. It was hard to figure just how many people were in the Magic Kingdom that night, but the lines were longer than last year, for sure. We were taking advantage of a second E Night on Friday, so we didn't kill ourselves.
We did Buzz Lightyear, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain and Buzz again and left the Magic Kingdom at midnight. Yes, we were tired and the bed certainly felt great.
Another wonderful day in Walt Disney World.
Wednesday, March 15, 2000 MGM/Epcot 50's Prime Time/Cape May Cafe
We were up early and grabbed some pastries in the Upstairs lobby at the Polynesian before grabbing the bus to the MGM.
There is something special about MGM at opening. The sun always seen to be shining as that blast of California hits you in Florida. I have said this before but one of the subliminal things in all the Disney Parks is the music. It is always there and you never really notice it, but you always notice it.
The boys and I zipped over to the Tower of Terror and did the Tower/Rock N Roller Coaster Fast Pass transfer. I love the proximity and the ability to do one while Fast Passing the other. The new drop sequence on the Tower is just great!
This was our first time on the Rock N Roller Coaster. Really enjoyed the set up with Aerosmith and the film was great. My only word for the Rock N Roller Coaster was WOW!!! The initial burst entering the freeway was just the best!!!
We met up again and Matt joined the girls to hit Drew Carey. Mark. Dan and I went to the Muppets (my favorite MGM attraction), Star Tours and ended up at the Drew Carey Sound Show. I really liked the Drew Show a lot more than I expected.
We went over to Animation but the line was too long and we had PS for lunch at the 50's Prime Time. As usual it was a ball. It was even more enhanced by our kitchen mates from Texas and my main man R.D. He had everyone in stitches and he also finished his dinner.
We left MGM and got off the bus at the TTC to look for our Millennium Brick. We found it right in front of the TTC. Mark and I jumped on the monorail and took a quick trip into the Magic Kingdom to get a box of popcorn. Yeah, I know, but it is good popcorn!
We took our afternoon nap before heading back to Epcot and the Beach Club for dinner.
We checked out the brick again on the way to the monorail at the TTC.
As we approached Epcot, we got our first look at the 2000 Symbol on top of Spaceship Earth. I thought it was very impressive. It was much better than a pink castle.
The boys wanted to stop in Innoventions on the way through so that they might check out any games. They used to be really up on Sega, but now they are Play Station people. As they have grown older my sons have become more computer gamers rather than hand held gamers. They still use their game boys on trips, but that is about it. The computer game that they all play is Roller Coaster Tycoon. I have never had the time to sit and explore the game, but they revel in it.
We sent an eMail postcard to my parents and then headed toward the International Gateway.
This is, without a doubt, my favorite section of Walt Disney World. The walk from the fountains to the end of Future World and then, turning right, through Canada, England and a quick glimpse of France before turning to the International Gateway and then walking to the Beach Club has replaced the stroll down Main Street (in either direction) at night as my favorite.
Of course I am also in love with the Beach Club. It still amazes me to think that the entire Boardwalk/Swan/Yacht and Beach Club area was nothing but a swamp 15 years ago. I can never forget walking out of the Beach Club for the first time in 1998, after the Clambake at the Cape May. The sun had set (it was still very bright when we went in) and the lights were on across the way at the Boardwalk. The pool lights at Stormalong Bay were on and you could also see the lights twinkling on the boats as they moved through the waterways. It just took my breath away. And it still does.
Our waitress at the Cape May was Michelle from Sarasota and, IMHO, she was lovely. For the first time in our Cape May Café careers we weren't sitting at the long table, by the clams and mussels, right next to the buffet area. Someone was at our table!!!! Oh well, if we were sitting there, we wouldn't have seen Michelle!! Dinner was, as always, filling. This, to me, is one of the great dinner values in WDW.
We decided to go to the American Adventure. The front entrance was blocked off and we entered the attraction through the exit. After so many years of going up through the flags, this was disorienting.
The show was wonderful. As many times as I have seen this show it never fails to fascinate me. Couple quibbles - I miss Muhammad Ali since they changed the Golden Dream movie in the mid-90's and I was kind of surprised that Mark Twain and Ben Franklin were still referring to life here in the 20th Century. Knowing the Corporation's attention to detail it was surprising to hear that they had not updated the soundtrack.
On the way out of the American Adventure (through the exit again) I suddenly didn't feel well at all. We raced through the World Showcase and out.
By the time we got back to the room I felt much better. Don't know what it was, but when it hit, it was awful.
I jotted down some notes and then joined Janet for a long March nap. Another wonderful day in Walt Disney World.
Thursday, March 16, 2000 Relaxing Day at Typhoon Lagoon and Night at Epcot
We had no major plans for the day so, for the first time in recent WDW Vacation Memory, we actually slept a little later. Janet and I ran over to Captain Cook's to get breakfast for everyone. Nothing special, just some bagels and pastries with coffee and milk.
We caught the bus over to Typhoon Lagoon where we staked out our usual spot, just into the shade at the right side of the beach. I had finished the Halberstam book so I was armed with the papers and a collection of Walt Simonson's work on Thor to read today.
Mark and I headed to Castaway Creek while Pat, Matt and Dan went to go snorkeling with the Sharks. Mark and I had a great time in the Creek. We always do. Mark never uses a tube. He prefers to wade through like a traffic cop. We bailed out at the Storm Slides so that Mark could do some zooming. We both did Humunga Kowabunga a couple times. It is amazing how uncrowded these three slides have become over the years. When we first went to Typhoon Lagoon in 1992, you were standing in line to go. Now you can almost walk right back up and go right back down. I don't know if it is because of the bigger body slides at Blizzard Beach, but I am not complaining. It is great to both ride and watch.
Mark and I headed back to free Janet up so she could explore. Mark was reading Bone (see last year's report) and I read the papers getting ready for baseball season. It is very relaxing to sit there in the sun reading while listening to surf music.
We decided to eat lunch and we noticed a big change at the hot dog shack right next to us. Last year it was much more free form that it is now. It looks like they have adopted the standard Disney queue philosophy here. Love those foot longs though!
After lunch, Janet, Mark and I did Castaway Creek again before we headed back to the room.
I picked up the Hoop De Doo tickets and also the packages we had sent back to the room.
We changed and headed back to Epcot.
We all headed to the Test Track but they had no fast passes left and there was a long line, so we passed. Since we were in the vicinity, we did Exxon. I slyly managed to get the K man on videotape when he discovered fire. Couldn't wait to get that to bring back to my friend and co-worker Jeff Crosier, who IS Kramer.
Imagination was next. I officially join all the others who wonder what they wasted the Disney Dollars on in refurbishing the Imagination ride. One year later, I can remember absolutely nothing about it other than I won't go on it again. I know that the Dreamfinder ride had aged, but it was always charming. Call me an old dufus, but I liked it.
We split up again. Janet and the boys went to Mexico to grab something to eat while Pat, Ma and I went to Oh Canada and then Impressions of France. There is a lot of talk about changing the movie in Canada, but I hope they let us long time lovers of this attraction a chance to buy it on DVD or Video. I don't care about the 360 (you can only look at 120 at a time anyway) I love this movie. We then were charmed by the lovely Romy, cast member beautiful, in the Cinema at France.
The 3 of us were hungry, so we headed to the American Adventure for some good old-fashioned hot dogs (again). We met up with Janet and the boys in Mexico and strolled out, just beating a monster rainstorm. It looked fine from the monorail.
Back to the room to watch some NCAA action and then to bed.
Another wonderful day in Walt Disney World.
Friday, March 17, 2000 Happy Birthday Pat, MGM/Marketplace/HoopDeDoo/E Night 2
It was my lovely sister in law's 42nd birthday. Just as we had spent her 40th, we were back to the Hoop De Doo that night. This would be our 10th trip to the Hoop De Doo since 1983. It has been our tradition to go there once each visit to Walt Disney World. My sons have grown up watching this show and we have always enjoyed both the food and the show.
Dan, Ma, Janet and Pat headed off to Epcot while Matt, Mark and I went to MGM.
There was a huge group of High School seniors lined up to get into the MGM. There were 6 lines formed, which funneled into 3 lines which effectively bogging down the entry into the park.
We wanted to do our Tour/RnR doubleheader again but in reverse from the last time. We wanted the Rock and Roller Coaster first and the follow it with the Tower. We had to wait for the rope drop on Hollywood Blvd but it did not hold us up from our appointed rounds. We whooshed through the freeways to the Aerosmith concert. Again, it was great! We just have to get Janet on this and the Tower next year. (She has resisted so far).
Over to the Tower and we were in a car with a lot of the seniors. The girl sitting next to me held onto me for dear life. She was actually shaking. I did my best to calm her down. At the end of the drops she was fine and I am sure that it had nothing to do with me. I think she was getting back in line with her friends after she exited. I don't know how I will explain that picture to Janet. Matt and Mark were laughing their heads off.
From there it was over to the Muppets for the last time this trip. As others have noted, Sam Eagle's Salute to All Countries, But Mostly America really cracks me up. After the Muppets we took another ride on Star Tours and then we headed out.
Before we exited we stopped into Sid Cahuehunga's for the first time. What a great place. Lots of Honeymooners and Soprano stuff. My mouth almost dropped when I found an autographed Bill Russell picture. I wish I had the money, as Bill Russell does not sign ANYTHING. It was underpriced, but I was underfinanced.
We took the bus to the marketplace via the Caribbean Beach. First time back through there since 1996. My feelings about the Caribbean have changed since staying at Dixie Landings. When I finally write the 1996 report I will let you know what went on then, but this is now (or was).
This was a bonus day for us. Our two friends who had relocated from the Northeast to work for Disney were both on our hit list today. Brian works at Guest Relations in the Marketplace and we were meeting Linda Campbell, our longtime friend (who does booking for the Sports Complex) for lunch and a walk.
Before all that, we had our 3rd annual picture taken with Mickey (Corporate Symbol). This has become a tradition and a great source of pleasure for us as the boys have grown. Janet never changes. She just stays beautiful. I lose hair and weight and the boys just get taller and handsomer.
We met Brian (in costume) at Guest Relations and got to spend some time with him. I wanted him to do some scouting for us for that future retirement home in Kissimmee.
I miss Brian terribly while in Cape Cod, but it is so wonderful to see him here and that he is so happy.
Linda has been with Disney for 6 years now (where does it go) and loves every minute of it. We met her at McDonalds for lunch. The boys ate quickly and I walked them up to Disney Quest. I videotaped the walk. We still have never spent any time in Pleasure Island when it was open. One of these days. I find the place fascinating.
I hurried back to the World of Disney where I met up with the girls while they shopped. I got to spend some time with Linda just comparing notes. We would really love it if Linda and Mark could join us on our next cruise. They have been on the Cruise many times and it would be wonderful to cruise together.
After shopping, we gathered up the boys and grabbed a bus back to the Polynesian. After relaxing a little and, reluctantly, packing a few things, we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom to grab the boat to Fort Wilderness.
The Hoop De Doo was the Hoop De Doo which is longhand for just great. There were a couple cast changes from last year and the show just rolled on. The boys all loved the 6 Bitz from 1996 and 1998 and were disappointed that he wasn't there last year. We had the 1999 6 Bitz again this year and he has grown on the boys! Dan has seen the Hoop De Doo 7 times and he always cracks up when he hears Oh My Darling Frankenstein.
We did some shopping after the show at the Trading Post. I waited outside and spotted 4 peacocks walking around outside. Wish I had my camera.
We headed back to the room very quickly to drop "stuff" off before heding into the Magic Kingdom was E Night 2. I think that doing E Night on the last night turned out to be a really great idea. When I first heard that E Night was going to be our last night I thought that we would be really tired especially with the Hoop De Doo on that same night. This turned out to be a very relaxing evening. Janet, Pat and Ma went back to the Village to get some last minute shopping done.
Mark, Matt, Dan and I headed straight for Splash Mountain. After we finished our first ride, the Cast Members told us that we could stay on the ride but Mark can't ride without checking out the picture. We bought the picture and jumped right back on the ride. A little Splash Mountain history before we get into the next trip through.
When Splash Mountain opened in Disneyland, the Disney Channel put together a "documentary" called Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain starring the late Jim Varney. Essentially the story was that Ernest was going to be the first Flume Zoomer and would inaugurate the mountain on national television. The show followed him (and Vern) through his extensive training before that first ride. One of the scenes that Mark and I both loved was of Ernest heading up towards that final drop yawning as if he was bored to death. Of course, after going over the top, he is totally petrified. Mark and I decided to do an Ernest as the picture was taken on this trip.
We were lucky enough to be sitting in the front row and we got our timing down for the shot. Experienced Splash Mountaineers know that it is almost impossible not to give into the temptation to look down as you go over the summit and start that exciting drop into the briar patch. Mark and I managed to not look and did our best yawn for the camera. We couldn't wait to see those pictures. They turned out great. Mark and I still laugh about it as it is our favorite Disney picture.
We road Splash Mountain a couple more times and then headed over to Thunder Mountain for a couple rides. It was very noticeable how much less crowded this E Night was than Tuesday. The park was almost empty. Mark and I stopped to get a box of popcorn while Matt and Dan headed over to Buzz Lightyear. After finishing the popcorn, Mark and I finished our mountains with a ride on Space Mountain. The pre-show has really grown on me.
We then met up with Matt and Dan at Buzz for a few shots at the Emperor.
The boys wanted to ride Space Mountain again, so I went over to the Coca Cola Corner to relax and wait for them. It was 10:50 PM and Main Street was deserted. It was almost like a dream from my childhood. I had thought that I would marry Diane Trimarchi (who was 18 and I was 8) and we would honeymoon at Disneyland. I thought, at the time, that the second stories of the buildings were places where you could stay. What would be better than getting up at 3 in the morning and taking a stroll down Main Street? Anyhow, just sitting there with the Music Man music in the air, drinking a Coke and munching some popcorn with Main Street all to myself was the absolute highlight of the vacation.
The boys had enough and we headed down Main Street at 11:15 to catch the monorail back to the Polynesian and to bed.
I know that my dreams were pleasant in spite of the fact that tomorrow was the worst day of the vacation: Departure Day.
Another wonderful day in Walt Disney World.
Saturday, March 18, 2000 Magic Kingdom/Airport/Home
The adults were all up early and we did our best to pack while the boys slept. It was hard to get them up this morning as reality was settling in. We were leaving today.
We called to have the luggage stowed and then checked out.
We grabbed the monorail to the Magic Kingdom for our traditional last day.
Traditions are so great. In the Pertierra tradition the last day is spent in the Magic Kingdom, the last breakfast is at the Main Street Bakery and after breakfast Janet always takes a picture of Dan and Me underneath the tree just outside the bakery. This year Mark joined us for the picture.
We had done the mountains less than 12 hours earlier so we concentrated on Fantasyland this time. We did Snow White, Peter Pan (still love it), Winnie The Pooh (nice but I still miss Mr. Toad). Next to the Pooh ride I bought Janet an early birthday present of a Pooh Music Box. Janet loves Pooh and I wanted to surprise her. I had it shipped home and she was none the wiser.
Then it was over to the Hall of Presidents and the Country Bears. Big Al is still the "bear"!
Matt and the Girls ate at the Columbia Harbour House while Dan, Mark and I went over to El Pirata Y El Perico. We had never eaten there before and it was a real treat. Mark is a big taco fan and this was heaven for him. The food was excellent and we will definitely be stopping there again.
We met up after lunch and headed for Tomorrowland to do the Carousel of Progress before we left. I first was on this attraction at the New York World's Fair in 1964 and it has aged so well. I know that the word is that it is closing and it will be another great loss and a fond memory.
We walked down Main Street and had both Chip and Dale sign Mark's stuffed Pluto. Dale signed Pluto's butt which still amuses us. One other mission before we left was to get a picture of the Dragon from the Marquee for Dan, our artist. He wanted to use the picture to as a framework for a drawing he was doing for school. That accomplished, and after stopping for one last look at the new brick, we walked back over to the Polynesian for our Mears driver.
The airport was wild as there several women's softball teams heading home from a tournament in Orlando and the drop off area was pretty crowded. We made it to our gate and all connections went fine.
It was bitter cold in Albany when we landed and we knew we were home. Our friends, the Martin's picked us up at the airport and brought us home. We had travelled with them in 1999 and will again in a couple weeks (April, 2001) to Dixie Landings.
Even after a dozen times to Walt Disney World, the resort has not lost its appeal. We have tended to slow down a lot more than during our first trips together. There are several reasons for that. Age, of course, but I think that we have gotten a lot more patient as we have gotten older. Where we would once wait in line impatiently for an attraction, we don't do that anymore. I know that we waited at the Kali River Ride for over an hour, but that was an exception.
The expansion of the property has been tumultuous. Thinking back to my first visit in 1973, it is almost incredible to think that all there was was the Magic Kingdom and, even then, it wasn't completed. There is so much to do, but I think that we have learned that you don't have to see it all each trip. There are still nooks and crannies on the property that we haven't explored and there is always the next trip to explore them.
The Cruise was wonderful. We enjoyed it so much that we are doing 4 days on the Wonder in February of 2002 followed by 6 days at Dixie Landings. While I always felt that there would be nothing like the Park, the Cruise was an entirely different Disney experience.
I love Walt Disney World. I love it differently that I did in 1983, but I don't love it any less.
Thanks for bearing with me.