Jim Pertierra -- February 2002 -- Walt Disney World (PORR) / Disney Cruise Trip
Home - Cohoes New York (just north of Albany)
Pre-Trip and Planning
The 2002 trip had been planned and booked well before we left on our April 2001 trip. Pat had taken care of most of the details and everyone was very comfortable until...
September 11, 2001. We all have our own memories of that day. I work for Verizon, formerly Bell Atlantic, formerly Nynex, formerly New York Telephone. Our building at 140 West Street is right next to the World Trade Center. I have been in that building countless times and have walked out the door in the constant shadow of those twin towers. IN 1983, Janet, Pat, Ma and myself went to the top for the first and only time. I have friends who were in 140 West Street when the planes hit and was in conference with them as the ceilings were collapsing. Fortunately they made it out to bear witness to the devastation of people and property that followed.
Without politicizing, needless to say everything was changed by 9-11.
US Airways, the owner of Metrojet, suspended and finally discontinued all Metrojet flights so we were up in the air (pardon the pun) in regards to our means to get to Orlando until late December. We were booked on a regular US Airways flight via Pittsburgh on the way down and Philadelphia on the way back. No more direct flights. They were a Metrojet exclusive.
Amidst all this were the changes taking place in Walt Disney World. I was severely disheartened to read Brian Bennett's report from his September 2001 trip. Brian has been the guiding light to so many of us who have tried to emulate his wonderful prose and to just hear the frustration pouring out of his words in that report was devastating. We had no idea what to expect this time down. We were, regardless, going to make the best of it. Disney World was, after all, still our favorite place on Earth.
This was going to be a different trip for us for many reasons. First of all, Janet and I had never gone to Walt Disney World without our next trip planned and booked. This would be our fifth consecutive year (a new record for us, breaking the 2001 record by one! <G>) and the first time we had been down twice within a 12 month timeframe.
I had purchased annual passes after returning from our 2000 Cruise/Vacation figuring that we would be able to use them within 12 months of activation. So, we go the passes at 2000 rates and were using them in 2002. I understand that the Annual Pass has now changed to 12 months from purchase rather than 12 months from activation so it appears we got in just under the wire. Getting a break is a first for me.
Secondly we had never been to Walt Disney World any earlier than March 4th. Matt is now a freshman in high school and on the freshman basketball team. Dan does modified wrestling and Mark is still playing CYO basketball. With their age and involvement not only in sports but all on the high honor roll, we cannot justify taking them out of school anymore. Pat's job limits her to just when she can go (not allowed out of Massachusetts, even for a Neil Diamond concert in April) so February vacation seemed like the perfect time.
All that being said, the trip just snuck up on us. I had always counted down the days from a year away but not this time. First it was Christmas, then it was here. Wow!
We said our good-byes The Night Before Saturday (February 16, 2002)
I woke up on Saturday morning knowing that I had a cold coming on. I had one for 3 week's around Christmas and thought I was rid of the stupid thing, but you know when they're coming and it was definitely coming. Matt and I went to a Siena basketball game in the afternoon with our friend Ross Izzo and I was coughing much more than I cared to. Oh great, a cold on vacation. That turned out to be the least of our worries.
Our Disney friend Sue Campbell bravely decided to take us to the airport at 3:30 the next morning along with Ann Marie Costello who will be tending the cats and bringing in the mail. Before we went to sleep though, life had one more bomb to drop on us.
Patti had lost her dog of 17 years, Scruffy, in November after a long illness. Scruf was her best buddy and it was a great loss for her. Within a week she had gotten a new dog, not so much to replace Scruffy (who was irreplaceable) but as a new friend. The new dog, Rockie, was a year old and full of energy. A lot of fun to say the least. In all prior trips, Pat had left Scruffy with my brother in law and sister in law outside of Boston. This year the beginning of our trip was coinciding with the Daytona 500. John and Vicki were big, big, NASCAR fans and had made the annual trek down there for many years. Pat made arrangements with a friend of hers locally to watch Rockie. At the last minute, Vicki didn't go to Daytona, but Pat was comfortable with the arrangements.
Matt and Mark had to serve at 5:30 Mass on Saturday Night and I was lectoring, so Ma and Pat met us at Church. I had been up since 3 in the morning and was pretty tired so I went to sleep at 8 PM knowing that 2 AM was going to come very quickly.
At some point I heard the phone ring and went back to sleep. Then it rang again. Mark came upstairs and woke me up to the horrible news that Rockie had been the victim of a hit and run. They had taken Rockie out for a walk before bed and he had run away to the other side of the road. In the process of returning the poor dog had been hit and instantly killed as the driver broke away.
Pat's friend had called right away to tell her. Pat was grief stricken. The poor girl had suffered another painful loss. We volunteered to call the vacation off, but she said that we shouldn't. In retrospect, without sounding callous, her friend should have waited. She would have to know eventually, but her vacation that she had planned for two years was now not going to be much fun. We all got to bed, but none of us slept much.
Sunday, February 17, 2002 Off We Go
Janet and I awoke at 2:20 AM. Everyone got up fairly quickly and we were at the airport by 3:45 AM. There was a long line at US Airway, but it did move very quickly. We did not have boarding passes from Pittsburgh to Orlando, but we were issued them, which made us all breathe a little easier.
The cold had me totally out of it so I dozed off while we were waiting to board. Soon Janet was tapping me on the leg and we were boarding. With about 10 minutes to takeoff, the Captain announced that there had been a security breach and that we had to take all our bags and get off the plane. There was a big, collective sigh and an Oh No! as everyone calculated how much time they had for their connecting flights.
They announced that our new departure time would be at 7:45 (instead of 6:55) and that the landing time in Pittsburgh would have no effect on anyone's connections. Reloading the plane took about half the time it took originally and soon we were on our way.
I dozed through the entire flight. I sat with Dan who nudged me when they came with the drinks and nudged me again to drink it before they collected it! What a son!
The gate in Pittsburgh was not a haul and we were loaded into the last part of the connection in minutes.
I dozed through the entire flight (again). Dan did his thing (again) and we soon landed in Orlando. It seemed rather surreal to see the palm trees again.
There were definite changes from 2000 in how the Disney Cruise Cast Members were allowed to meet your plane. 2 years ago they were waiting at the gate. This year they had a location in the main waiting area (by the Hyatt Hotel) where everyone gathered to be escorted to the busses.
Our bus to Port Canaveral was completely full and everyone was excited. It was a beautiful day with the temperatures in the high 60's as we made the 45-minute trip to Port Canaveral. We had sailed on the Magic in 2000 and the Wonder was exactly that to behold as we snaked around it to the disembarkment area.
Once inside that huge building, Pat and I went into separate lines to check in. Soon Janet and Ma had spotted the return guest line so we made a quick right and were checked in very smoothly with hardly a wait.
It was around 1:30 when we finally boarded the ship and made our way to Parrot Cay for the luncheon buffet. The buffet was every bit as good, if not better, than it was 2 years ago. Everyone had their fill (and possibly more) not realizing that we were in the first seating in only 4 hours.
It was here that I found out that my major complaint for 2000 had been addressed. (No, probably not because I said it, but because enough brought it up.) You could now buy refillable mugs (was not in any of the pre-cruise literature) for $20 for the trip and fill them to your heart's content. Finally! I had forsaken my much beloved Coca-Cola Classic for Diet Coke a year and a half ago, so this was a godsend. I don't drink nearly as much Coke as I previously did, but $20 would be a bargain. We snapped up 4 mugs right outside Parrot Cay and were on our way.
The rooms were ready (2030 and 2032) and were slightly different from our rooms on deck 7 in 2000. First off, we each had a porthole, which gave us a lovely view. Secondly, on deck 7, you entered the room (toilet and shower first and then into the couch (bunk bed) and, lastly was the queen bed. Here the bed and bunk was reversed. Made sense as you could then sit on the couch during the day and watch the world go by.
Mark was going to sleep with his Grandmother and Aunt while Janet and I would have our two oldest with us. The Navigator told us that we were in the first seating at table 5 and that Triton's would be our first stop, Two years ago we had started at Lumiere's, gone to Animator's Palate and then to Parrot Cay. This being a 4-day cruise we would repeat one restaurant and that would be Tritons.
I was still under the weather and did not feel like doing much. I think we were all emotionally under the weather to be honest. We went to the Walt Disney Theater for the Fire Drill (much better than standing outside like cattle in 2000) and then went back to the room to dress for dinner.
Mark was adamant that he was going to wear his shorts and Janet was just as adamant that he wasn't. Mark is hot blooded enough to wear shorts and cut off shirts ALL year and not be cold. His teachers were not conditioned to seeing someone doing this year round and it caused a series of distressed phone calls home inquiring as to whether we were aware what our son was wearing. All that has passed now, especially since his average has moved within a whisker of 96 this year.
Anyhow, Mom won, Mark lost.
We all sampled the menu at Triton's. I had the ravioli (very good) and there were several beef tenderloins and fish entrees. No one complained and the crème brulee was excellent as I remembered it. We had Raj from India and Ciprian from Hungary as our servers. Both were especially attentive to our needs.
After dinner, Matt went to play hoop on deck 10 with Mark and I went to Never land, literally. After sleeping nearly the entire trip down, I knocked right off before 8 PM for the second night in a row. I sort of remember Janet getting into bed and giving her a kiss, but that was about it for me until 5 AM.
All in all, a splendid start to the vacation.
Monday, February 18, 2002 Nassau
I was up at 5. About two years ago I had purchased (obsessive fool that I am) all the available James Patterson books involving Alex Cross and did not start reading them until I read Along Came A Spider last fall. In late December I read Kiss the Girls and Jack and Jill back to back and was now almost done with Cat and Mouse. I woke and read 5 of Patterson's trademark 3 page chapters before turning the light off and dozing again until 7:30. Janet and I awoke at the same time. This was the girl's day to take the glass-bottomed boat in Nassau. The boys were staying on board for another day of doing next to nothing.
There was a showing of Walt, the Man and the Myth (broadcast on ABC in October) in the Buena Vista Theater that I wanted to see. We had breakfast at Parrot Cay and went our separate ways,
The movie was very good and it kept both Mark's and Dan's interest for an hour and a half, so what could be wrong with that!
It was a quiet day for all as it turned out. The girls had a long walk from the Wonder to their boat. They were subjected to the Tijuana like Straw Market bartering, that Janet just loves, on the way. They didn't see much that was extraordinary through the glass bottom, but they had a relaxing time.
Matt played hoop and read. Dan hit the arcade, and read. Mark did data gathering and watched TV. I finished Patterson and read the Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperback, which was enjoyable. At one point I thought I was cursed. The battery ran out in my CD player in the middle of Springsteen, and we had no spares. I had to recharge the camcorder batteries and, when I went to start writing this report, the battery had run down in the portable. Everything needed to be recharged!
Dinner tonight was at Animator's Palate. Raj and Ciprian were there to greet us. We pretty much split between the Salmon, chicken, beef and pasta. Everyone's meals were fine. Nothing extraordinary, but nothing less than very good. Raj surprised us with two servings of crème brulee at dessert. I did a right turn from my dessert (cheesecake) and straight to the crème brulee. This guy was setting himself up for extra money! <G>
None of the boys wanted to go to the premiere of Return to Neverland tonight in the Walt Disney Theater. Pat was still feeling her loss, so she decided to pass also. However, much to Matt's dismay, we decided to get some pictures taken with the Big Wheels on the Wonder; the Captain and Mickey. (Sounds like a group!) We had 5 different pictures taken (and bought 4 the next night). Patti and the boys headed back to our room while Ma, Janet and I went to deck 4 for the premiere.
Disney did their usual illusionary job for the premiere. They had a red carpet rolled out and Cast Members dressed as fans, photographers and reporters situated everywhere taking pictures and video. There was no film in any of the cameras, but it was fun walking down the celebrity path!!! When we got into the theater (now selling candy and soda (no popcorn yet)) we realized that we were being videotaped walking down the red carpet and it was being shown on delay timed to your entry into the theater itself. This caused about half the kids in the audience to leave and clown it up for the camera.
The movie itself had a special side note for me. Back in 1953, my Aunt Dolores, then a sophomore in high school took her soon to be 4 year old nephew, Jimmy, to his very first movie - Peter Pan. That movie remains, to this day, one of my all time favorites. (Although the reissue of Pinocchio in 1954 (my next movie) wound up surpassing it as my favorite Disney animated feature.) I still remember the long lines winding down State Street in Schenectady, New York leading to the outside box office of the Plaza (now deceased) Theater for that movie. My Aunt and I still talk about it to this day. She has gotten younger while I have aged somewhat! <G>
I am not a big fan of Disney remakes. Toy Story 2, Return of Jafar, and the Rescuers Down Under are exceptions. I feel that the Studio has been lax in pursuing a bold creative direction since Jeffrey Katzenberg left. Remember Walt was the idea guy, Roy was the moneyman. I always felt that the same existed between Katzenberg and Michael Eisner. No repairing that bridge, but when I see advertisements for Return to Neverland, Lady & The Tramp 2, (the soon to be released on video) Hunchback of Notre Dame II, how far off can Pinocchio, the Return of Monstro be?
That being said, the movie was delightful. The kids were roaring at the antics of the Pirates during the entire film and the animation was first rate. As good as London looked in the original, it was better here AND Peter has a personality this time around. So mark me down as against remakes but loving this one. I must also confess that my favorite movie of all time was The Godfather. When I first saw Godfather 2, I liked it, but was not in love with it. Now, I consider the two of them to be one movie and my favorite bar none.
After the movie it was back to the room. Pat was dozing; Mark was watching TV; Matt and Dan were reading AND watching TV. We scanned the Navigator for tomorrow and went to sleep.
Another nice day!
Tuesday, February 19, 2002 A Day At Castaway Cay
I woke up at 3:30 and had no luck getting back to sleep. I figured, what the heck, it made no sense to just lay there, so I got up around 5, kissed Janet and went up on deck. Surprisingly, I was not alone. There were the two wives from the dinner seating next to ours, drinking coffee and enjoying a cigarette. I grabbed a cup of coffee and just sat to listen to the ocean for awhile. I grabbed a refill after about 20 minutes and decided to walk around. As I approached mid-ship, I could see the big screen from the ESPN Lounge though the windows, so I decided to head up there for a spell and watch Sports Center. I sat up there until 6:20 and then went back downstairs for a walk. As I neared the basketball court, I saw Mark shooting baskets by himself. Patti was with him waiting for the sunrise. Soon Janet was with us.
When we had arrived two years ago, the area was still rebuilding from a devastating hurricane. The dock, while serviceable, was being repaired. It looked great now and the Cay glistened. None of us were in a hurry to disembark when they dropped the gangplank at 8:30, so we made our way back to the room for another breakfast at Parrot Cay. We took our time at the buffet. Matt wasn't feeling well today. I hope he hadn't caught what I was still battling.
Ma, Janet and Pat were going over to stake a claim at the family beach. The boys and I were going to follow over at lunchtime to sample the barbeque, which, as we remembered, was very good. I went over to the beach with them so we would know where to go. Mark decided at the last minute to go over also. Dan was in the game room and Matt was back in the room covered up, reading. I didn't think he would be moving too much today.
We spent some time at the beach as the weather had turned from cool to less cool to bordering on warm. A breeze was blowing, but it wasn't a cool breeze. Mark decided to go back with me, so we boarded the tram to head back to the ship at 10:20. I was going to try starting this report and to write for an hour before coming back.
As we were coming up the gangplank, we ran into Matt. He had decided to give it a try. Mark's eyes brightened when he saw him and he volunteered to show his brother where everyone was. I went back to the room and did not see Dan. My guess was that the air hockey king was taking on all comers in the game room. I grabbed my portable and went up to my favorite spot on deck 9, where I could see the game room in case Dan ran out of money or opponents.
The next thing I knew, Matt was back. He had spent about a half-hour down there and had enough. He had decided to try the pool here before going back to the room to rest.
About 11:50 I found Dan and we headed back to the Cay for lunch. The sun had taken effect by then as it had really warmed up. We met Janet and Pat coming off the beach, looking for us. I went down to get Ma and we went to the Barbeque Shack for lunch. The only thing I managed to eat while it was hot were the ribs (excellent) as Mark wanted a hamburger with the works, so I volunteered to get it for him. When I got back to my lunch, everything was cold, so I didn't bother. I didn't need it anyhow, so it was not a waste.
Dan and I spent another hour with the girls before heading back. Mark decided to join us. The beach was pretty crowded now and people had moved the chairs right to the water. No DMZ here.
When we got back on board, Matt was just finishing his book before he started to tackle "Brave New World" which he had to read for school. Required reading !!!!! Sucks, right? On vacation yet! I will give him credit though. He's doing it. I am very proud of him, but don't let him know I said that. He is doing 3 sports and staying on the honor roll. When I went to high school my average dropped from 97 to 77 overnight and I never recovered. One of the big regrets in my life is that I wasted high school. Times have changed and I have great sons. They take after their mother.
The girls soon returned from the beach and we all sat around by the family pool just chatting and plotting. Pat seemed to be regaining her normal form and was talking about her next dog, so the pain is decreasing a little,
We have now decided that we will return in 2005. It will mark several landmarks in our collective family. First off, it will be my brother in law Frank's and his wife Millie's 10th wedding anniversary. Matt will be graduating from high school and Janet and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage. We will not be back to Florida until then, so we will do this one big. At least 10 of us, including my Brother in Law Chris (and possibly my brother in law John and sister in law Vicki) so we would like to spend a week at our favorite hotel (Polynesian) followed by 4 days at sea. Patti and I rushed down to see if we could book the cruise. They are not taking reservations past 2003 right now, so we will book 11 days at the Polynesian in early July of 2005 (another first, July!!!). We can always adjust the days based on when the cruise is available.
We were dining at Parrot Cay tonight and then the adults were going to watch Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer. First prize was a free 7-day cruise for 2. I wanted that!!!
Dinner was good. I had pasta for the 3rd night in a row. Pat joined me in having the stuffed shells. Janet, Matt, and Ma all had prime rib. Mark went for pizza and macaroni and cheese while Dan had the seafood Creole. Dan loves his seafood!!!
Everyone's dinner was great. We ran upstairs to check on the pictures that had been taken the night before and spent the requisite money to get a copy of each. Copies will follow later.
Who Wants To Be a Mouseketeer was great. They did 2 shows and we got into the late show. After the first two contestants, they called my row and I held my breath. No luck as it was further down the aisle. The boy in the chosen seat was only 5 and his mother was not around. They made a deal with him (and his brothers) that if they could find a parent before the show ended, then they could play. 15 minutes later, the mother came dashing in and it was one of the women who had normally been seated next to us at dinner. Turns out that they were from Albany!!!! Small world! No one won the big prize but everyone went home pretty happy. A very enjoyable evening.
Again it was almost straight to bed. The boys were watching Who's Line Is It (a rerun) and we could hear them in the hallway. The last routine was coming up and it was one of my favorites, the helping hands where Ryan/Colin were showing Drew how to make a hot fudge sundae. We all nearly died with laughter.
Matt fell right to sleep, but he was breathing pretty heavily so I am not sure if recovery was close.
Another lovely day.
Wednesday, February 20, 2002 A Day On the Atlantic
I woke up at 5 again. Like yesterday. I figured what the heck, it made no sense to just lie there, so I got up, kissed Janet and went up on deck.
Stepping onto the deck it was hard to miss that it was a lot warmer than the previous day. My two friends were in their normal seat smoking. I made my way down to the coffee and up to the ESPN Skybox for Sports Center. I found that I had my CYO team on my mind a lot. They played their opening game in our tournament last night. Last cruise/trip, they won the Capital District CYO Championship while I was gone. (They don't need me as long as Ross and Bill Murphy are around!) (postscript - We won!)
You know I could almost live like this. I did several laps around the decks just waiting to see if I ran into Pat, Janet or Mark. No luck today, but I did get into a very nice conversation with a lovely woman from Charlotte, North Carolina who was a cast member at their local Disney Store. I had asked her the day before where she had gotten her Mickey Flag hat and sure enough didn't I ask her again.
I finally ran into Pat and Mark playing ping pong and watched them for a bit. We all soon headed downstairs to get ready to eat. Breakfast today was to be at Triton's. We all ordered different things, and I shared my French toast with Pat as it was done just the way she liked it, soggy!!!!!
Janet wanted to get some laundry done during the day and it seemed like everyone had the same idea as the washers and dryers on the 2nd deck were all jammed. Eventually we filled two machines with clothes.
My job was to attend the debarking briefing at 11:30. Cruise Director Rick (also our 2000 Director and a prime Disney asset IMHO) was running it. Before that, we had a half hour Q&A with the Captain, the Engineer, the Hotel Manager and the Food Manager. Captain John was great and answered a lot of questions. Most surprising to me was when someone asked him the life expectancy of the boat. I had thought 40-50 years. The Captain said that it was 10-15. That got me spurred to ask the question about if there was a replacement for the Magic in planning now as it takes 2 years to build. The Captain said that 9-11 has moved several announcements back, but there will be one in the future in regards to West Coast and Mediterranean sailing. The Disney Cruise Line is doing very well.
Lunch was catch as catch can. Mark and Dan went to the Chinese buffet and everyone else but me ate on deck. I passed on lunch just because I am not used to eating 3 meals a day and don't want to get into the habit now. Since I was diagnosed with diabetes last year, I have been careful about what and how much I eat. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying myself, but I don't want to stuff myself.
Janet and I bought Patti a birthday present (3 weeks away) of a Disney Cruise 2002 Towel (something she wanted) on deck 9.
The atmosphere on the ship today was very laid back. The weather was almost perfect and, for the first time in our two cruises, we were at sea for the entire day. People were very relaxed and it showed. Tomorrow we will be getting into full Disney Park mode, so we are enjoying this.
Pat and I were going to see Monsters Inc. at the Buena Vista Theater at 2. Soon it was everyone but Dan. The theater was nearly full and the movie was just superb!!!! Another Pixar biggie. Lots of laughs. You know its good when you hear Mark laughing hard. He is a tough audience.
That brings me right up to date because I am on the aft forward section of deck 9 typing this. Tonight is dinner at Triton's again. Big difference is tonight is the Chef's Menu Night. They take the best of all the Disney Chefs and put them on one menu in all the restaurants.
It was a fine dinner. I had the pork tenderloin with polenta and mushrooms from the California Grill. Just great!!! I figured it would be the closest I came to dining in the California Grill in my lifetime, so I better give it a shot.
After dinner we did some shopping and then back to the room for packing and bed. I drifted off somewhere about 9.
A really nice day.
Thursday, February 21, 2002 Mainland/Dixie Landings/Magic Kingdom
We had breakfast at Triton's. Procedure dictates that you breakfast on the last day where you dined the night before. Raj and Ciprian were there and I told them both that I spelled their names wrong under Cast Members Who Made A Difference on the survey. They didn't believe me fortunately. 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 Yellow 2030 and 2032. The bags were collected and, upon pulling into port, 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. We walked off the boat, cleared customs and were outside in 3 minutes. 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 Sunday.
The weather was wonderful all four days (as it would be for the rest of the vacation) and the sea breezes were delightful. 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.
I think I enjoyed myself even more than I did two years ago and I didn't think that it was possible.
Bottom line on the Disney Cruise - Thumbs Up, Way Up!
There was a Mears mini van waiting to take passengers to Port Orleans. 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.
As we approached the property, I found myself breaking out in a huge grin. It had only been ten months, but I had really missed Walt Disney World.
Check in went very smoothly. In spite of not making any room requests (or with Pertierra luck, because of not making any room requests) we were in building 15, rooms 1531 and 1532. This was ideal for my Mother in Law and cut down on her walking.
What was striking was how absolutely UN crowded it was in Port Orleans. Even with the French Quarter being closed and only 2 buildings open in Magnolia Bend, Alligator Bayou was deserted. It was actually pretty nice.
The room was not ready, so we stowed everything and put a frantic call into Mears as Matt had left his fleece in the van. They said that the driver was returning with it, so we jumped in a Disney Bus and headed for Epcot. Matt and I were staying until 11 because we had to return for the rental van. The annual passes still worked like a charm and we were soon in Spaceship Earth. After Spaceship Earth (it has lost a little oomph), Matt and I left and everyone else went over to Universe of Energy.
The room still wasn't ready, so Matt and I waited for the van. And waited, and waited, and waited. Turns out our travel agent was supposed to have told us that we had to call the day before to be picked up to take us to the van over by the Magic Kingdom toll plaza. She had told Pat that the van would be delivered to us.
Matt and I grabbed a quick bite in the Cotton Mill before National showed. We got a red Venture (we drive a gold Venture) and hustled back to Dixie Landings. (I can't help myself). The room was finally ready so Matt and I walked over to wait for the luggage. Two minutes after we opened the door, Janet and the troops returned and we were soon reunited with our luggage.
We left around 3 for the Magic Kingdom as we were eating at the Liberty Tree tonight.
We just missed getting into the Hall of Presidents, so we hustled over to the Pirates. I did notice that there was no mention of Superstructure anymore. Isn't that politically correct?
Dinner was fine and the character interaction was excellent, especially Pluto and Goofy.
We were all tired and didn't feel like watching Spectromagic or the fireworks, so we headed back to the car and went back to the room for a long winter's nap.
Another fine day.
Friday, February 22, 2002 Rain, Rain, Rain, Rain/Big Dinner at Cape May/E Night
We slept later than normal (7:30) and Janet filled us in on the forecast. A soaking rain at that. We started off to the Cotton Mill for breakfast and, as we went in, the rain picked up big time. Soaking was the word for it. Steady sheets of rain. I know that Florida needs rain, but.....
Mark had now caught the cold and was definitely not himself. He was very quiet and withdrawn. It might be the best move just to let him watch television today.
Tonight was our long planned dinner with our guests, Linda and Mark Campbell (see 1999-2001), Brian and Janice Toth (see 1999-2001) and my second cousin, Mary Hernandez. A little explanation.
Linda Campbell worked for RPI, along with Janet. Linda, Janet and I had done aerobics together in 1986-1988. She took an early retirement from RPI in 1995 and Mark and her moved down here without a job. Linda soon caught on at Walt Disney Travel and has been there for 7 years. Brian was the caretaker at the Surfcomber Hotel in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts. We have stayed at the Surfcomber since 1986. Brian and I would spend many hours just talking about Disney, the Parks, and retiring there. Brian pulled up stakes in 1997 and just moved. Janice works in Celebration Health and Brian now works in Engineering between the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian. Two years ago, the last time we saw him, he was in Guest Services over at the Village. We didn't meet up last year because their number was changed. The Cape May is Mark Campbell's favorite restaurant. We had dinner on Easter Sunday there in 2001 with them and the Martins. Our last night in April, the Campbells took us out to Boma for dinner. It was a dinner I enjoyed immensely. When we had sent them their respective Christmas cards, we told them, 2/22, 5:30 at the Cape May. All is now locked in.
Finally, my cousin Mary. Mary is the older daughter of my cousin Ann Marie and her husband Joe. Ann Marie is the youngest child of my Father's older brother Tom and his wife Mary. My Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom have been dead since 1987, but Ann Marie's daughter Mary is the spitting image of her Grandmother and namesake. She was in an apprentice program from school and was working at the shops in the Magic Kingdom. I called her a couple weeks ago and Mary couldn't wait to join us.
Unbelievably, it was everyone's day off. But what a rotten day.
We altered our original plans for Epcot to the Disney - MGM. Tower of Terror and Rock n Roller Coaster were both inside as is Who Wants To Be a Millionaire so we figured we were protected. We all got into the 2nd Millionaire show and enjoyed it. I got the questions all correct, but must not have been quick enough as I never made the top 10 throughout the half-hour. Regardless of the popularity of the show, Play It is a great attraction.
The girls all headed towards the Muppets and the boys were going to do the Tower/Coaster duo. We grabbed a fast pass for the Tower and ran over to the Rock n Roller Coaster. About half way through the line, we noticed that no one was entering the building. They soon closed it with no announced starting time. Oh well, there will be another ride so we hustled over to the Tower to cash in our fast pass. The crowds were down, but the Tower was the best yet. We went up to the top (and the open doors) 3 times this sequence. We dropped 6 times. Just great.
Not having much time, we hustled back to meet the girls so we could return to the room and dry off before heading to Epcot the rest of the day.
There was no break predicted for the rain, so we dried off the best we could before heading over to the Beach Club. Dan and I ran over to Epcot to see Canada and Impressions of France before dinner. We looked through the store in Japan for a Gundam poster for Dan. They were out of the poster he was looking for, so Dan was a little disappointed.
We made it back to the Beach Club lobby just as everyone started to arrive.
Mary was the first and she was a sight for sore eyes. I hadn't seen her since my parent's 50th anniversary party in 1996 and she had become a beautiful woman. Linda and Mark came in right behind her, followed quickly by Janice and Brian.
We soon sat at our table and spent the next 3 hours just talking. So much was said that it would be impossible to recant here. Needless to say, it was a great dinner. I hated to see it end.
Linda and Mark were going back to our room with Dan and the girls, while Mary, Matt, Mark and Me were heading into the Magic Kingdom for E Night.
The rain was still drizzling down as we caught a Magic Kingdom bus at the Beach Club. There weren't many people at E Night. Regardless, the rain put a big damper on the night. We did everything we wanted, but it was more light dashing from here to there to get out of the rain, rather than to enjoy the rides. We did Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain and were on our way back at 10:20.
Mark and I did our annual pose on Splash Mountain. This year's pose was that we were both sleeping. We do something different every year in honor of Jim Varney in Ernest goes to Splash Mountain. Somewhere between Splash Mountain and Buzz Lightyear, the picture became separated from the bag. I checked with a cast member out front and they said to check in at lost and found tomorrow.
We were sad to say goodbye to Mary, but we were hoping to see her onstage tomorrow. She was going to be in one of 3 Fantasyland locations tomorrow.
We were back in the room and asleep by 11:20.
A wet, yet wonderful day.
Saturday, February 23, 2002 Rain, Rain, Rain, Rain/Village/Epcot
We slept again and, with the rain, altered plans again. It looked like it was off to the Village to do shopping today. Matt, the Girls and I went to the Shopping Village around 10. It was still raining, with no end in sight.
We helped boost the Florida economy in a couple hours. The World of Disney is a heckuva store, but I think I found my new favorite store, the 2 R's. Lots of reading material. I wish I had more money, as there were 2 good books on Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks that looked like prime additions to my Disney book collection.
While we were there, we ate at the Wolfgang Puck Express by the Christmas Shop. Given the temperature, I had the Tortilla Soup and, next to the Canadian Cheese Soup, it is now my all time favorite soup, bar none. It really hit the spot.
We headed back to the room. There was no let up in sight for the rain, but it had slowed a little. Dan, Janet, Pat and I were going to go back to Epcot. We were dropping the girls off at the Transportation and Ticket Center and then were going to park at the Polynesian before heading into the Magic Kingdom to briefly check on last night's missing Splash Mountain picture. We had changed our Crystal Palace reservation to one here at Boatwright's. Given the weather, we did not want to do much more dancing in the rain.
We dropped the girls off and quickly parked at the Polynesian. Dan and I were going, if we could, to try making our 2005 reservations. On the way into the lobby we noticed that the pools (where the fish swim) just before the entrance were drained. No fish! The lobby was under renovation and there was a mob to check in. Dan and I headed upstairs to catch the next monorail.
We dashed into the Magic Kingdom and over to Lost and Found at City Hall. The Cast Member told us that everything had been transferred to Lost and Found right by the Transportation and Ticket Center. I grabbed a box of popcorn and we jumped in the Express Monorail to the T&T Center. Why was I not surprised that the picture was there? What a place!!!
We then walked back to our car and drove over to the Beach Club. We had made arrangements to meet Pat and Janet at the American Adventure at 3:30. We parked, cut through the International Gateway and made to it the American Adventure by 3:20. American Vybe was right in the middle of Duke Ellington's It Don't Mean a Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing and doing a fine job. We also caught Minnie the Moocher and America the Beautiful before they finished. Really nice group.
I don't think I have seen the American Adventure this crowded in a long time. I don't know if it was the rain, or the burst of patriotism we are now all feeling, but it was the first time I had ever heard applause BEFORE the show started.
All of my mini peeves have now been taken care of, as now Ben Franklin refers to John Steinbeck from being from "back in the 20th Century". I still miss Muhammad Ali though! We stopped in Japan and Dan picked up a Gundam poster and model. One more trip to France followed for that incredible movie.
It was still raining, and now raining harder, so we went back to the Beach Club to grab the car and go to the room to dry off before dinner.
With the rain it is still hard to gauge the crowds here. We should have a better idea tomorrow as it is supposed to be sunny in the high 60's. The resort is not that crowded and we have not run into any large crowds in our brief trips to the parks.
Dinner was very good. Matt and I both had the ribs. Janet and Dan had the chicken, and Pat and Ma the pot roast. Mark wasn't hungry (didn't see anything he liked on the menu) so he asked us to bring him something back from the Cotton Mill. Dinner was very pleasant and I would do it again.
We filled the mugs and dodged the raindrops back to the room. None of us lasted that long and soon the rooms were very still.
Another rainy, but nice day.
Sunday, February 24, 2002 No rain!!
I woke up at 5 again. My back was killing me, but it has been every morning since we got off the boat.
There were hints that the sun was actually in the sky and the rain had stopped. We were going to follow the sun to the Magic Kingdom this morning, dine at Palio's (another first for us) at 6 and then catch both the parade and Illuminations at Epcot tonight.
Mark was feeling much better which was great news. The noise level had arisen along with the laugh level. My mother in law had inherited the cough. I hope she doesn't get it!
Dan spent time this morning making his model. He is so single minded and dedicated.
We drove over to the Polynesian to park, then it was the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom. On the drive over we saw that the lines were huge going into the Magic Kingdom toll plaza. We knew right away that the lines were going to be long today. The Magic Kingdom was jammed. It was a beautiful day and everyone was out enjoying it.
We decided to go to the Hall of Presidents first as we had just missed it the other day. It was 9:45 and it was due to open at 10. The narrator was new but the narration was not. George W. gave a speech now and Bill Clinton stood at the rear. I counted 6 Presidents (all still living) since the first time I saw this attraction in 1973.
After the Presidents we went right over to the Haunted Mansion for another ride.
The girls then went into Fantasyland and the boys ran over to Frontierland to get a fast pass for Splash Mountain. We got the Fast Passes but Matt noticed that there was no wait to get in right then, so the 4 of us got an almost free ride. We got drenched by the splash from a diving boat, but enjoyed it a great deal. Dan, as always the wise son, had worn his RPI jacket (waterproof) and stayed dry.
We ran into Pat, Ma and Janet and hustled right back on. A good ride spoiled by a malfunctioning camera. No picture!
We split up between the Columbia Harbour House and the Pirate and Parrot. Both places had good lunches, which we all enjoyed.
Carousel of Progress was still closed down so we went looking for Mary. She wasn't starting until 2 so we would miss her today.
We split up for the rest of the afternoon. Janet, Dan, Mark, Ma and Pat went over to Epcot via the monorail while Matt and I went back to the room for awhile to just catch our breath. It was a stunning day, especially in comparison to the lousy weather of the last two days.
We set a meeting time of 4 o'clock at Canada. Matt and I parked at the Beach Club and made it to Canada in plenty of time for the meet. We all went in to watch Oh Canada (snuck us in the side door) and then we made our way to America as my Mother In Law had not seen the American Adventure yet this trip.
We got out with just enough time to catch the boat over to the Swan for our 6 PM seating at Palio's. The boat ride was much better than the dinner. None of us were too impressed by the food. The service was very attentive, but the food did not measure up to the location or to the service.
Originally I had made reservations (2 years ago) for the Hoop De Doo tonight. We had changed them around Christmas time, as we all wanted to do something different. In retrospect, we should have kept them. This is the first trip that Janet and I have made to Walt Disney World that we have not gone to Fort Wilderness to enjoy the show. I know that it is an expensive proposition, but the show is one that we all enjoy and our 18-year streak is now snapped. Maybe in 2005.
We passed on our plans, again, to watch Illuminations and returned to the room. In spite of all good intentions, none of us made it past Malcolm in the Middle.
Another fine day in Walt Disney World.
Monday, February 25, 2002 A different day
I woke up at 5 again sharp. Should be no problem at all getting up at 4 on Wednesday morning. I have had the Cohoes basketball team on my mind a lot. I was the official scorer for the team this year and, when I left, they were about to enter the sectionals. I got word that they won as well as my CYO team while we were on the cruise. Both teams were due to play this past weekend. The CYO team had just about clinched our 3rd title in 4 years. If the Varsity won, I would be able to go back to my scorekeeping duties, possibly in a rematch against our archrival, Lansingburgh. They are a special team and I was hoping for one more opportunity to watch them play. Jordan Ryan, the coach's son, is one of my favorite people in the world. Jordan is not only a fine basketball player, but he is also a fine man! (note - They won!)
I tossed and turned, but never fell back to sleep. Ma wasn't feeling well and neither was Matt. Matt said that he had a wicked earache, so Janet made plans to get him to a doctor. Dan, Mark and I were heading into Disney-MGM for the morning.
We grabbed a bus for the MGM and got to the entrance at 8:45. Official opening was at 9, so everyone was congregated down around Hollywood Boulevard. Our plan was to do the Rock N Roller Coaster/Tower Fast Pass first. I grabbed the fast passes and met the boys in line at the Rock N Roller Coaster. Turns out the Fast Pass was not needed. We got right on the coaster and it was superb! That acceleration is tremendous. We came off, went back to check the line and there was no wait. So, no hesitation, we did it again. It was even better the second time. We didn't get the picture even though it featured Dan's hair flying straight back.
We then went to check out Millionaire. The next show was still 35 minutes away and the Cast Member said that there would be no fast pass needed. So we went back to the Walt Disney Story. The exhibit was just wonderful. I could have spent a lot more time exploring as the Company did a great job on their leader's memory. I sometimes find it hard to believe that he has not walked on this earth in over 35 years. It has never seemed like he has left.
Dan made the top ten board in Millionaire, but that was as close as we came. The hostess was great. I cannot remember her name, but she did a wonderful job.
After leaving Millionaire, our next objective was the Muppets. We stopped along the way to grab an ice cream for the boys and then went right into the Muppets. Still one of my all time favorites as it has aged extremely well. Next stop was at Star Tours with absolutely no wait. What was going on here! We could have gotten right back on if we wanted, but I wanted to get back to the room to check on Ma and Matt.
Turns out the Janet had to take Matt for shots as he had strep. He was resting on the bed and felt much better. Ma's doctor had called in a prescription for her so Janet, Pat and I headed over to International Drive to pick it up.
The day was lovely so we stopped at the Marketplace to pick up a couple last minute presents for the Costello's.
Ma did not feel up to dinner and Mark decided to stay back and protect her. Our reservation for 7 at the Rainforest became a reservation for 5. We drove over to the Rainforest Café at the Animal Kingdom. This was the first time that any of us had eaten there.
It was very different pulling into a near empty parking lot and watching most of the cast members walking out of the park as we were walking towards the gate. We were seated in the Gorilla Room and had a fine meal. I had the pot roast, which brought back memories of my Mother's. I had not had pot roast in years and it was a treat. Pat and Janet had the hamburgers, while Dan had the seafood over pasta and Matt had steak. All of us were very happy with dinner.
We took the trams over to our van in Unicorn and, again, decided not to go into Epcot for Illuminations. We knew it was our last shot, but we had bags to pack and we were tired.
We were soon back at the room and we quickly took care of business. Ma and Mark both ate the Clam Chowder we brought back for them and it hit the spot. Ma was not feeling up to par, but she was coughing less and that was a good sign.
I don't remember getting much past the opening of Everybody Loves Raymond before drifting to sleep.
It was another fine day at Walt Disney World.
Tuesday, February 26, 2002 Going Home and Recap
I woke up at 5 again sharp.
We were all packed up and we just had to move our baggage over to storage before Mears picked us up at 1:30 for our 4:15 flight. I was not looking forward to the airport for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was remembering how long that security line was getting to the gates.
I think we were all looking forward to getting home, regardless of how much we enjoyed ourselves. It was a fine trip. It was also a very laid back vacation. We did not get up early to rush anywhere this time. The rain in the middle of the Park visit put a damper on most of our touring plans. On the other hand, that same rain really thinned out the parks and we did see things very quickly.
We did not wait in many lines even for the major attractions. The lines at MGM were surprisingly short or non existent yesterday enabling us to really race through the park while walking, not racing.
Epcot remains the favorite park of most of the family. It never appears crowded due to its size. Our only disappointment was that Test Track was closed each day when we made our attempt. That was the only major ride that we missed. Dan and I got to see Canada together twice. We both hope that the movie remains unchanged until 2005, but are not hopeful.
The Magic Kingdom was always crowded, even in the rain. The lines in Fantasyland were really long on Sunday, while the rest of the Park did not seem to be affected. The average line we saw in Fantasyland was 55 minutes (even at Small World) while we walked onto Splash Mountain twice.
Main Street was as charming as ever. There were huge pockets of activity at each end of Main Street and then again above the Hub, but Main Street itself was very peaceful. There have been major renovations at the Bakery and they are now selling caramel apples at the Confectionary Shop. As I have said before, Main Street and the walk in the World Showcase from Canada to France remain my favorite parts of the entire complex.
We spent some rainy time and some sunny time in the Disney Marketplace (which I still call the Village by force of habit) and both trips were fine. They don't appear to be losing any money at the World of Disney.
The cruise was great, the parks were great, and Port Orleans Riverside remains a great place to stay. I know I worried based on Brian Bennett's experience last September but, other than the necessity of increased security entering any of the parks, we noticed that the Cast Members were just as friendly and helpful as always. The Parks were clean and we can not wait to get back again.
Our plans are to go to California to visit friends next year, and we have no plans to return here until 2005. This is going to be a long stretch for us, and certainly a lot of things are going to change in between this trip report and the next. The parks are going to change, things are going to close, and things are going to open. The only new project we can see on the horizon is the Space Pavilion over at Epcot. Your guess is as good as mine as to what is NOT going to be there, but I will be watching each of your reports for details over the next 3 years.
As always, I would love to hear from you, so don't hesitate to write.