Pat Edaburn -- October 2000 -- Walt Disney World (OKWR)
Final Trip Preparations
This report covers a WDW trip taken by my sister Lori and I during late October/early November 2000. We share a house and also often take Disney trips together. Just to cover the basics, Lori is a 30 year old nurse and I'm a 32 year old attorney (both of us are single if we want to make this the Dating Game <G>)
This would be our second WDW trip. Our first was a fantastic 15 day megatrip during December 1999. I'm sure the trip report for that one is still on the site, but it is pretty long, so brew some coffee if you check it out.
As the day of departure drew near things looked pretty good. We had secured a room at OKWR through a deal with Brian and Barbara Bennett. Among my many side businesses is doing living trust packages so I had made a deal to do one for Brian in exchange for some DVC points.
I'd be happy to discuss this kind of a deal with anyone who is flush with DVC points, by the way. My business e-mail is email@example.com or call me at (209) 951-7837 (end of infomercial).
We'd had a little trouble getting the points spent, though. Due to heavy DVC booking in 1999 we had to delay the DVC trip from late 1999 to fall 2000. A benefit of this problem was that we got to meet the Bennetts, so that worked out for the best.
We'd also been able to secure a wonderful deal on plane tickets, less than $ 200 round trip from Sacramento to Orlando. The only drawback to the deal was our flight got into Orlando at 10:30pm and when we fly home our plane leaves at 6am, so we will be getting up pretty early.
We had used a rental car for our December 1999 trip but found we didn't use it very much, so we decided to try Tiffany Towncar this time. It's round trip to and from the airport for $ 85 with driver tip and that includes a stop at the grocery store.
Everything seemed right on target, so we were both kind of wondering what the crisis of this trip would be. I don't know why you always seem to have a major crisis every time you travel, but we were just waiting to see what this trip had to offer. As it turned out we didn't have very long to wait.
Our first bump in the road to Orlando
As it turns out our first problem occurred, like many problems, in the middle of the night. Around 3am on Thursday morning I awoke to hear some unhappy sounds from the bathroom situation between my bedroom and Lori's. Without getting to specific, just let me say it was the sound of someone bowing before the porcelain god. She unhappily spent much of the early morning making similar runs to the bathroom. We at first suspected it might have been a mild case of food poisoning or perhaps stress, as she had been on the run trying to get ahead at work.
Unfortunately this was not the case and she spent a very miserable day Thursday. As our plane was set to leave Sunday morning, we were a little bit concerned as she did not improve. She stayed home on Thursday but on Friday she forced herself to head to work in order to finish up paperwork prior to the trip.
By late Friday she was making mild improvements and we were getting hopeful again, just in time for the sour stomach blues to strike me. By Saturday we were both considering ourselves lucky if we could keep down a bowl of jello.
But no sickness could stop us from going to WDW, so we stumbled our way through packing and got to bed early Saturday night. Luckily for us this was the night daylight savings time ended so we managed to gain an extra hour. I don't know that we got much sleep that night, but at least we got to rest.
Day One: Sunday October 29: Fly to Orlando and check into Old Key West
Our flight was scheduled to leave Sacramento at noon, so we tried to get on the road by around 9am. We knew this would never happen, but we figured a goal of 9am would get us on the road by 10am, and we were just about right.
We arrived at the airport, tired and queasy, but excited about heading to Orlando. Our first 'meal' in a few days consisted of some frozen yogurt (which is great for settling a sick stomach, by the way). The flight took us to St. Louis. During the flight we were offered some 'meat' sandwiches, but I don't think we would eat them even if we had been healthy. Indeed we later learned that a number of people had passed on the meal and that on some flights they were telling people the sandwiches were spoiled.
While in St. Louis we were feeling a little more adventurous so we decided to split a turkey sandwich. For those who fly into St. Louis, there is only one place that sells sandwiches, and it's a little hole in the wall, so be sure to ask about it. The food was good and we managed to pass the hour layover in St. Louis without incident.
Our next leg took us to Orlando, and we actually arrived a little early, landing about 10:15 pm. We got off the plane and headed to baggage claim. It didn't take us long to find our bags, but the Tiffany Towncar driver was late. In his defense, he'd called the airline and they had told him the plane was landing at 10:40 so based on the information he had, he was on time.
We were tired and still a little queasy but we were in Orlando and headed to WDW, so that was enough to keep us going. We made a stop at Gooding grocery store and were surprised to learn how pricey they are. If you are wanting to do a little grocery shopping, don't stop here unless you have no choice. We certainly won't be stopping there in the future.
We then headed to WDW and drove through the main gate of the property around 11:45pm (can I help it if I love that moment when you drive through the main gates and head into WDW?). The driver pulled up at the Hospitality House, which is the check in facility for Old Key West, a short time later. It took us a few minutes to get a bellhop, but considering how late it was, I don't really blame them.
Check in was smooth, and I do like the 'Welcome Home' theme. Since OKW is a DVC property, they want you to consider the property your home away from home, so they act more like old friends than hotel desk clerks.
Our room was # 5416 which is located towards the back of the property. As you will see in the report this has both positive and negative aspects. We were in a studio room and I must say I was very impressed with the layout. I'll try to describe it a little bit.
Standing in the doorway we looked into the main room which consists of two beds, a nightstand between the beds, a dresser with a TV and a table with two chairs. If you have stayed in a moderate resort at WDW, then this layout is familiar, and this area of the room is more or less the same in a studio or a moderate resort room.
However, not everything is the same. In the moderate rooms there is usually a bathroom which is off to one side of the room. In the OKW studio, this area is instead occupied by a small kitchenette area with a sink, microwave, refrigerator and cabinets. This is all located on the right hand side of the kitchenette area. On the left-hand side is a very nice closet with iron, vacuum cleaner and lots of space. Beyond this area is a very nice bathroom, much roomier than in other WDW hotels (in fact I think it's nicer than the bathrooms at Wilderness Lodge).
Back in the 'main room' area is a set of double doors which leads out onto a small deck area with a table and chairs. In our case the deck looked out onto a wooded area with a putting green just beyond the woods. If I were to be real picky I could point out we also can see the air conditioning units, but I'm not real picky.
Our building was located on the right hand side of the driveway/road which leads back the the main complex. Directly across this road was one of the quiet pool areas. This consisted of a large swimming pool, a spa, a playground area, and a some picnic/bbq areas. The whole area has a nice view of the waterway which flows past the hotel complex.
Also nearby is a footpath which leads down to the edge of the water and offers some nice views of Downtown Disney. We are so close, in fact, that we could see the Pleasure Island fireworks each night, which helped to add a little bit to our trip. These fireworks helped welcome us to the hotel as we were headed to the room around midnight when the fireworks were set off.
By the time we got to the room and got settled it was pretty late, around 1am, and we were both very tired. We took some quick showers and then headed for bed to rest. We didn't plan on much for Monday because we knew we still needed to rest.
One minor incident that happened when we started to settle into the room was that the lightbulb above Lori's bed exploded when she turned it on. Luckily she wasn't hurt, but it was quite a shock, half the bulb on the bed and half still in the socket. It took them a couple days to get the bulb replaced, but we didn't really make an issue of it.
Day Two: Monday October 30: Rest, OKW exploration and Downtown Disney
We didn't want to push ourselves too much as we knew that we were still recovering from both our illness and the effects of jet lag. We slept in until around 10am and then spent most of the morning relaxing in our room and unpacking things. We enjoyed a nice breakfast on our deck while we watched some mindless TV (isn't that a pretty decent way to spend a Monday Morning).
As the day progressed it became clear to us that we were not going to be heading into any of the theme parks today so we decided to have lunch at the hotel and then head to Downtown Disney. One of the things I'd forgotten to pack was a swimsuit, and we figured we could get something nice at one of the shops in Downtown Disney.
We took our time getting ready and also took some time to explore the area around our room, discovering the pool complex described above. We then headed for the bus stop which is located a short walk away from our room. We also checked the room Brian Bennett was staying in but he was not around, which was hardly a surprise since he would be exploring the parks.
One of the things we had to learn was that the bus system in OKW is fairly spread out. The nice part about this was that if we wanted to head up to the front of the hotel where the main pool, shops and restaurants are located, we could take any of the busses because our stop (Southpoint) was one of the first in the route and the main stop was the last. Of course this meant that to go back from the main building to our room we had to wait for the inter-resort bus.
As we got onto the bus, something very interesting happened. The bus was the one from MGM studios, and when we got on, one person got off. I thought he looked sort of familiar, but he also looked a little bit stressed (Editor's Note: I wasn't really "stressed." I was just zealously heading back to the room to "dump" the pictures from my digital camera to the laptop so I could head out to visit some of the other resorts to take more pictures. That was how I spent almost all of the "afternoon breaks" on my trip this time.), so I didn't want to bother him. As the bus started to pull away I realized that it was Brian, a fact confirmed by his heading right for his room. When we got up to the front of the hotel, I called his room and we had a short talk and a good laugh about it all. We made plans to possibly meet that evening at Downtown Disney, and firmer plans to meet the next morning at the Magic Kingdom.
After talking with Brian we decided it was time to get a late lunch (by now it was 2:30pm). We decided to try Olivia's, which is the sit down restaurant at OKW. This is one thing that I noticed about OKW, the lack of variety for places to eat. They have a small place that sells sandwiches, hot dogs, etc located near the main pool, and they have a bar located next to that. But unlike most of the other hotels, they don't have any sort of food court facility. I suppose this makes sense because people have kitchens in their rooms so many probably eat there, and thus a food court probably would not do very well. Still, it is a little annoying.
We headed into Olivia's, which is decorated like a turn of the century seaside restaurant. It looks very much like you'd expect a Key West/Southern Florida beachside diner to look with a little bit of Caribbean flavor tossed in. Old style ceiling fans, a seaside oriented decor and lively island music add to the feel of the room.
We were making this our first big meal, so we decided to go with club sandwiches and pink lemonade. The sandwiches were thick, full of turkey, ham, bacon and lettuce. A huge pile of potato chips filled the center of the plate. The lemonade was tasty and fresh. One nice 'home' touch is that they bring a pitcher of your drink to the table, so you can fill your glass as needed without waiting for the server. The meal was so big that we weren't able to finish, and cost $ 25 including tip.
Once we finished lunch we decided to do a little shopping at the general store, picking up a few things we'd forgotten to pack (considering how we felt on Saturday I'm surprised we remembered to bring ourselves). We then headed back to the room to unload our purchases and drop off our leftovers. It was at this point we discovered the drawback to having a room in the back of the hotel. It's really too far to walk back, and the only bus that could take us back is the inter resort bus which does not run as frequently as some of the other routes. I suppose you have to just be in the vacation mode to deal with that, and I'm sure driving back and forth is no more efficient, but it does get annoying.
We relaxed a little while in the room and then headed to the bus stop for a ride to Downtown Disney. For those who haven't been there, Downtown Disney is divided into three sections.
The western part of the complex is called, not surprisingly, Downtown Disney West Side. It consists of a series of shops and restaurants. The big places on West Side in terms of shopping are Virgin records and the AMC movie complex. Major eateries are Planet Hollywood, House of Blues and Bongos Cuban Cafe. Also located at the end of the West Side is the Cirque Du Soleil.
The central portion of Downtown Disney is Pleasure Island. This is a series of clubs and restaurants. During most of the day you can walk through Pleasure Island, but the clubs are all closed. After 7pm you have to pay for admission to PI, but the clubs are all open. We've never made it to PI when it is open, but plan to do so on our next visit.
The eastern part of the complex is the oldest, and it's called Downtown Disney Marketplace. We tend to spend most of our Downtown Disney time here because the best shops and restaurants are here. Among the shops is World of Disney, the largest Disney store in the world (the planet, not the Florida parks). Restaurants include the Rainforest Cafe, although this one is so busy that we've never eaten there.
We did some shopping, looking for my swimsuit. We didn't find a suit that we really liked because the place we'd planned to shop at was closed for renovation. It seems that the Winnie the Pooh store is expanding, so a couple of shops bit the dust to make room for the bear. After a little shopping we did find a nice pair of No Fear shorts that would serve just fine as a temporary swimsuit, and besides I liked the way they looked.
We headed back to the room around 10, taking the boat ride back to Old Key West. Those staying at OKW, Dixie Landings or Port Orleans can take a boat back and forth from Downtown Disney. We headed back to our room and went to bed early. Our tentative plans called for us to meet Brian and family around 8am the next morning to do some park stuff before eating breakfast at Crystal Palace.
Day Three: Tuesday October 31: MK, Crystal Palace and MNSSHP
We were awakened by the alarm around 6am, and it quickly became clear that we were not going to be getting up anytime soon. By 7am it was clear we were not going to get up in time to make it to meet with Brian, so I made a quick call to his room, talking with his son Allan and then his father in law to let them know we were not going to make it.
Around 8:30 or so we finally got up and prepared to head for the Magic Kingdom. We caught the bus and arrived at the gates around 9:45 or so. We moved quickly down Main Street and over to the Crystal Palace where we met Brian, his wife Barbara, their son Allan and her parents.
We had to wait about 20 minutes or so before we were seated to eat, so we waited out on the patio area and got acquainted. This was before Election Day, so Brian, his father in law and I had quite a conversation about the election and what we thought might happen. We didn't get very much right, as it turns out, but neither did anyone else.
It was nice to get to sit down with people I'd been chatting with for a while. Just in case anyone wonders if Brian and Barbara are as nice as they seem to be online, they are. They were both just as nice and friendly as I expected, and Allan was one of the best behaved young men I've seen at Disney parks. I'm always upset when I see parents let their kids run wild at the parks and so it was a pleasure to see somebody make sure that their child behaved.
We got to head into breakfast around 11am, and were not disappointed. To begin with, the Crystal Palace itself is worth the price of the meal. It looks just like a Victorian era restaurant with a high glass dome, topiary and tons of fine detail.
The meal was also quite good. It's served buffet style and offers everything from fruit to eggs and pancakes along with meat, breads, etc. One of the better buffet meals I've been to. In addition they have the Pooh characters touring around the place, stopping at each table. Lori and I got to benefit from the fact that we had a very adorable child with us (Allan) and so Pooh and friends spent extra time with us. I'm told that a photo of me and Eeyore may be floating around a trip report somewhere online, but I suspect it's just a clever forgery :). The meal cost us $ 35 which is a great price for two people and a very nice meal.
Lori and I still took it a little easy when we ate, but it was nice to finally have food sounding good. Once we finished eating Allan's grandparents decided to head back to the hotel to relax while the rest of us headed into the park. We first stopped by the Winnie the Pooh ride and got some fastpasses so that we could come back later. Then we headed over to Toontown where we rode on the kiddie coaster (a lot of fun actually) and got pictures taken with Mickey and company. We relaxed and chatted a bit while Allan had fun with Donald's boat (which features spraying water for the kids).
By the time we were done in Toontown we were getting close to time for our fastpass, so we headed over to Fantasyland where we rode on Winnie the Pooh. I think this is one of the cleverest rides in the park, it captures the spirit of the fantasy world quite well. After Pooh we made our way to Tomorrowland and rode on Buzz Lightyear, which is my candidate for the first ride to export to Disneyland California. It's one of the most entertaining rides, although I can never seem to score that high (my best record is around 300,000).
After Buzz was done Brian, Barbara and Allan decided to head back to the hotel to rest. We said our goodbyes, hoping we'd be able to meet again soon. I know I've said it before but I think Brian and Barbara deserve some praise for raising such a well mannered child. I hope that when I have a family I can do as good of a job.
Lori and I weren't sure what we wanted to do, but decided to hit a few more rides in Tomorrowland. We went on Space Mountain (wimpy IMHO) and Tomorrowland Transit Authority (to rest our feet). We then moved across the park to Adventureland and rode on Jungle Cruise, Pirates and then It's a Small World in Fantasyland. We also did some browsing in Liberty Square and enjoyed the views of the park.
We also stopped and had some ice cream on Main Street. This is one of my favorite spots in the park. Tables sit along the water and offer nice views of the Castle. It's great to relax and enjoy yourself. For $ 5 you can get two very large cones.
Mid Afternoon we decided to go back to the hotel and rest because we had tickets for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. We took a very refreshing dip in the pool and then relaxed while we ate our leftovers from Olivias.
Around 6pm we caught a bus over to the Magic Kingdom. I was quite impressed with some of the costumes people had put together, and felt almost lazy for being dressed in regular clothes.
When we got to the park we were impressed to see that it had been transformed. When we left the park a few hours earlier it looked pretty much normal, with just a few holiday touches. But now it was fully decked out for Halloween. Main Street had an eerie look and was full of pumpkins, haystacks, spider webs and the like. The castle had been lit in an very spooky manner that made it look like something right out of Dracula. The other lands were similarly decked out, and all things considered I was very impressed.
The characters were also in the Halloween spirit. Mickey, Pooh and all the gang were costumed as various 'scary' monsters. We quickly made our way to the Haunted Mansion on the assumption that it would be crowded after people got into the park, and we were right. The ride was good as always, but there was something special about riding it on Halloween night.
We spent a little while checking out the park, and moved our way to Tomorrowland to ride some of the rides there, including Timekeeper and Buzz Lightyear. My one complaint about the night was that the Trick or Treat system didn't seem well organized. They had various stations where you could get treats, but it was not at all clear where you went to get the bags to trick or treat with. We weren't much in the mood for candy, so we didn't make a huge effort to find the bags, but it was a little disorganized compared to other events we've been to.
After we finished up with Tomorrowland it was getting close to the time for the Halloween parade, so we made our way over to Frontierland to check things out.
The parade begins with the Headless Horseman riding down Main Street and through Liberty Square. It was a pretty neat effect and a nice way to start the show. The parade includes all of the major characters in costume, many at a Mickey Mouse Barn Party, complete with dancing. There are floats for all of the major Disney villains from recent films. Also featured is a segment for 102 Dalmatians, which includes a cage filled with real live Dalmatians. We saw dancing Mickey ghosts, spiders, bats, and so on. It was one of the better organized parades I've seen, although the Christmas parade is still better.
We then moved into Liberty Square for the fireworks show, which is always a treat at holiday events. The show begins with the standard fireworks display, and is then followed up with a second segment for the holiday which ends with a 360 surround fireworks finale, which is quite a sight to see.
One of the funnest aspects of our party came towards the end of the evening. Lori is a huge Donald Duck fan, and he was dressed as a pumpkin for the night. She really wanted a picture with him. We waited in line but at the last minute Donald had to leave to participate in the parade. So we watched the parade again (they do two parades at the party) and waited.
It seemed to take forever for Donald to come back and Lori was talking about giving up. Just then I saw Donald start to slip out of a door and start to sneak into the area. I told Lori we might as well give up and for her to just pose with the background. It took her a while to notice Donald but when she did it was fun to see. The two of them spent about 5 minutes together and even though we are both 'mature adults' I had a ton of fun watching her turn into a 6 year old again.
After the Donald show we began to work our way out of the park and caught one of the later busses back to our hotel. We did have to wait for a while to get back to our hotel. I still don't quite understand why the buses to to the parks are efficient but the same busses headed back to the hotel are not. I suppose it's just something you have to trade off for the relaxation of not driving.
Day Four: Wednesday November 1: Epcot
We got up around 9am, which was pretty good since we hadn't gotten to bed until around 2am the night before. Today was going to be an Epcot day. We got dressed and caught a bus to Epcot, arriving at the main gates around 10:30am. We headed into the park and took some time to check out Innoventions. We stopped at one kiosk and sent some e-mail photos to family and friends. Then we headed over to the Land pavilion and rode on a couple of the rides and looked around.
I do have to say that the Land pavilion is one of the most ignored in Epcot. Most people look at it and assume it is just some boring ride. But it is actually one of the most interesting in the park, offering a complete tour of the greenhouses and gardens where Disney grows much of the food served in the park restaurants. They are also working on various projects with the US and overseas government to help to solve the problems of hunger. Kind of nice to think that a project could help feed some hungry people.
Perhaps it was the ride or perhaps just the time of day but we were now getting pretty hungry. We headed into World Showcase to have lunch at Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion. We'd eaten there last year and were very impressed with the food.
For lunch we had their salmon BLT sandwiches. This is one of the best meals I've had at WDW. They use two different types of salmon. One is hickory glazed salmon which is pan seared and served hot. On top of this they put a piece of pepper cured and is served cold, offering a very interesting contract of taste and texture. On top of the salmon are some big slices of applewood smoked bacon, WDW grown lettuce and tomato, all served on a garlic roll. If this makes you hungry, it should, because it's one of the best sandwiches I've tasted.
The meal also comes with fries or potato salad and 3 types of bread (sourdough, multi-grain and pretzel). The bread is very good and you have to be careful not to overstuff yourself with that. We added a couple of drinks to bring our meal total to $ 30 including tip.
After lunch we took some time to look around World Showcase. This is one of the main reasons I like Epcot better than any of the other parks. We had done the 2 or 3 rides and seen the various movies in World Showcase last year, so we weren't in any hurry to see them again. But just looking around the Showcase and taking in the architecture, checking out the stores, talking with the cast members and so on was enough to keep us very entertained.
In addition the Food and Wine festival was going on while we were there. This is an annual event where they set up dozens of booths featuring food and drink from nations around the world. We spent much of the afternoon nibbling our way through the park and enjoying the extra festive air.
By early evening we were getting hungry for something more than a nibble, so we started checking out possible meals. We didn't feel like eating in World Showcase so we headed down to the Beach Club via the International Gateway and went to eat at Beaches and Cream. This is another neat spot to eat as it offers the feel of a 1950's soda shop, complete with jukebox. It is a little small, and rumor is that they will be expanding the location once the DVC Beach Club Villas open up in 2002.
We considered a number of choices but in the end had to go with the traditional burger, fries and milkshakes. The meal was very filling and it took a lot of effort to finish up most of the meal, we took some of the shakes in a take out cup. The meal cost $ 20 with tip.
Since we were in the Beach Club area we decided to do some looking around and touring down to the Boardwalk area, looking at the various shops. We were partly inspired by the fact that we are considering joining DVC and the Boardwalk Villas is one of the DVC resorts.
We headed back to Epcot and did a little more touring, catching a few of the rides in Future World including Living Seas and Wonders of Life. We never did make it into Spaceship Earth this time, but hope to do so on our next trip. We knew our next trip would include a first time WDW visitor, so we knew that we'd do most of the rides then, so we tried to be more relaxed in our touring this time around.
Trying to leave Epcot we ran into another bus problem. We got to the stop for the bus around 8:25 but didn't see a bus until past 9. Most of the other resorts had several busses come and go during the same time, and when our bus finally showed we actually had two show up at the same time. This makes me suspect they had some sort of problem but when I called the front desk back at the hotel they denied it. I'm not sure if I'd stay at OKW again without a rental car, but perhaps I just hit a couple of bad days since many others at OKW said bus service was just fine.
After we returned to Old Key West we took another dip in the pool (this was one big discovery this time, just how relaxing a quick swim can be after a day of touring. I took some time to call a good friend of mine who now lives in Orlando and made arrangements to meet him on Friday. We had originally planned to spend Thursday at Animal Kingdom, but my friend hadn't seen that park yet so we decided to save AK for Friday and do MGM on Thursday instead.
Day Five: Thursday November 2: MGM and Epcot
We got up around 8am and got ready to head over to MGM studios. We like a few of the rides at MGM but have never been huge fans of the park. It just doesn't seem to quite come up to the standards of the other 3 parks, but I do understand they are planning to work on that though an expansion over the next few years.
When we got to MGM we stopped outside at one of the ODV carts and tried on some hats (eeyore for me, Pooh bear for Lori). We didn't end up buying anything but did get a few cute pictures. We then headed into the park and moved over to the Tower of Terror. This is the one truly spectacular ride in the park and is well worth repeat visits.
After Tower of Terror we moved next door and did Rock N Roller Coaster. I had been a little reluctant about this ride because I'm not a huge coaster person. This ride is the first one at WDW to turn you upside down with a series of loops and corkscrews. It's also got very fast acceleration (from 0-60 in a couple seconds). So we were a bit cautious as we began to ride.
As it turns out we had nothing to worry about. It was one of the smoothest rides I've been on, and in fact I was upset it was over so quickly. Usually on a Disney ride you get to a point you think is the end and then they hit you with one more section. Not here, the ride is over far too quickly, IMHO.
After we finished with ToT and RnR we moved over to the other side of the park and did Muppets 3-D. This is a great show and lots of fun for anyone who grew up watching the Henson magic on TV (Sunday evenings as I recall). We also stopped and did the Drew Carey and Great Movie rides, both with no lines and both lots of fun.
By now we were ready for lunch and so we tried the Sci Fi Diner. We had heard from a number of people that the food here wasn't very good, but I was very pleased with it. We both had burgers and cokes, and the food was tasty. We commented about this to our sever and she admitted that they tend to rotate menus and it just depends on whether you hit a good or bad menu. However the burgers are almost always an option and they are very very good.
At Sci-Fi you sit in tables made to look like cars and watch some old 1950's science fiction as if you are at the drive in. The movies were fun to watch, though my favorite part was the 'tales of the future' segment which told us what life would be like in the 1970's. Somehow I didn't find the listing for the coast to coast rocketships when I planned our trip.
After finishing lunch we headed over to do the Animation Tour. The last time we'd done this was on a weekend so there were not any animators at work. This time we were able to see them at work, and it was interesting to see them work their magic. We also spent some time looking around the area near the Animation Tour, trying to decide if we wanted to do the backstage lot tour. Since we'd done several of these tours over the years we decided not to. Besides, we will probably do it next time.
We finished up with the studios by mid afternoon so we decided to take the boat down to Epcot. For those who don't know it, you can take a boat ride from MGM to Epcot with stops at the various Epcot resorts along the way. The boat dock is located to your left as you come out of the Studios.
When we got to Epcot we spent some time in Future World finishing up a few of the rides we hadn't done. In Future World we did all of the rides except Test Track (closed too much), Spaceship Earth (just didn't get around to it), Universe of Energy (a silly ride, IMHO) and Journey into Your Imagination (a waste of time, IMHO). We also spent a good amount of time just enjoying the feel of the park.
We stopped by the Norway pavilion and had some very good (and very evil) pasteries and chocolate cake. The cake was really good, a sort of mouse type cake, very good. We also got some popcorn to take back to the room. By early evening we were ready to head back to our room because we knew the next day was going to be an early one. We spent some time at the pool and then relaxed in our room and watched some brainless TV (or is brainless and TV the same thing).
Day Six: Friday November 3: Animal Kingdom
We were up early on Friday, around 7am. We got dressed and waited for Pat Martin to arrive. Pat is one of my best friends, we grew up together. He moved to Orlando a few years ago and we always look forward to seeing him when we get to the world. Like many Orlando locals he doesn't make it down to the parks very often and so we actually got to be the ones to introduce him to Animal Kingdom rather than him showing us around.
Pat arrived around 8am and we walked down to the bus stop. It wasn't a very long wait until the bus showed up, but Pat and I managed to get in a long conversation about the election (I suspect Lori was pretty tired of hearing about the election by the time the trip was over).
Weather was perfect, not too hot, not too muggy and with just the right light breeze to top things off. We got to the gate and headed up to the ticket booth to get a park admission for Pat. I had hoped that between our AP, MKC membership, Disney Club membership and DVC status that we could get some sort of discount for him, but it seems Disney doesn't offer discounts on one day passes. Too bad but I still think he should buy a resident AP, so if he wants to spend extra $$ on one day passes, it's up to him.
We first headed through the Oasis. I have to say that while Epcot is still my favorite park, Animal Kingdom is a close second. The landscaping is so realistic that you sometimes forget that you are actually in a theme park in the middle of Florida.
After making our way through the Oasis we took a little while in Safari Village to let Pat get acclimated to the park. I love the way Disney has all of the little side paths around the Tree of Life filled with different birds and animals. It really adds to the feel.
We then moved around Safari Village over to Africa. I do agree that Disney could have done a little better on traffic flow at AK. While I understand the Village is supposed to be like the hub at Magic Kingdom, I don't think it works as well because you have attractions in the 'hub' area (Tree of Life for example). If they would have offered a few more side or back routes to get around the park things might move more smoothly.
We headed into Africa and I was really enjoying Pat's reaction to the park. He was amazed with all of the detail that Disney went to in order to make Harambe look just like a African village. We worked down to the back of the park to ride Kilamanjaro Safari ride.
For those who haven't ridden on KS, this is a ride which covers nearly 200 acres (which is nearly double the size of Magic Kingdom or almost as big as Epcot). You ride in land rover type vehicles, each seating about 15 people. The safari ride is landscaped to look like the plains of Africa. I was on this ride with a couple from Africa and they told me that it was just like being at home.
The plains are filled with animals of every type ranging from cute little birds all the way up to lions, elephants and tigers. I am always amazed at how realistic this ride looks and how close the animals get to you. In fact, on this ride we had to stop a few times to let animals move out of the way. That's the rule on the ride, the animals have the right of way and so if you get stopped by one you may wait for a while. The ride is a little bumpy. I know this is supposed to add to the effect of being on a wild ride through Africa, but personally I wouldn't object if they decided to install some better shocks.
After finishing the Safari ride we headed into the Pangani Rainforest Exploration. Trail. This is a walking tour that gives you a back view of parts of the safari ride so you get a closer view of a number of animals and birds. It also includes a series of aquariums, bird cages and a large area where you can see gorillas in a rainforest kind of setting. Again, the detail that Disney goes to is impressive and you could spend hours just looking at the various animals.
When we finished up with the Pangani Trail it was getting to the late part of the morning and we were getting hungry. We stopped at a snack wagon and got some ice cream to nibble on as we walked over to Asia. To their credit Disney did design a direct route from Africa to Asia so we were able to avoid heading through the Safari trail again.
When we got to Asia we decided not to ride on the Kali River Rapids ride. When Lori and I rode on this last year we got very, very, very wet. To consider how wet you get on this ride, try jumping into a swimming pool with all your clothes on and sit there for an hour or so. Needless to say we weren't in the mood to get soaked again.
We did, however stop off at the Flights of Wonder show. This is an amazing bird show which features a number of exotic birds who swoop and fly around the arena, in many cases quite low (we had birds nearly knock off our hats as we watched the show). It is quite fun to watch.
After the show we moved to the Majarajah Jungle Trek. This is also a walking tour similar to the Pangani Trail, except it features animals from Asia. Among the more exotic inhabitants in the tour are a number of large fruit bats, some with wingspans of more than 4 feet. There is no glass between you and the bats, but since they are vegetarians, it doesn't really matter.
After we finished up in Asia we moved back into Safari Village and took in the 'Its Tough To Be a Bug' show in the Tree of Life. Part of the fun of this show is working your way through the line and examining all of the detail that goes into the carvings that cover the tree. I am impressed with all the work that must have gone into making this attraction. The show was good, as usual, although it seemed to me some of the special effects (especially the parts where your back gets jabbed) were a tad rougher than usual.
After the show we moved into Dinoland USA and rode on Dinosaur. This ride is fun, but it is nothing like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland which it is supposed to match. We also toured around Dinoland and looked at the various exhibits featuring versions of real fossils, including Dino-Sue, one of the largest and most complete T-rex skeletons ever found.
We were getting close to mid afternoon by now so we decided not to bother with the Tarzan show but instead headed to Camp Minnie-Mickey and took in the Lion King show. I've said this in my prior trip report, but I'll say it again, this is one of the best shows Disney has ever put on. It features singing, dancing, acrobats, fire dancers, trapeze artists, puppets and animatronics. You just can't believe how much goes into this show and I can't believe that they do this 7 or 8 times a day.
By now we were really hungry so we headed over to Rainforest Cafe. As I mentioned earlier, they also have a Rainforest in Downtown Disney, but that one is always packed while the AK location is not quite as busy. We took a little while to look around the gift shop before being seated.
We all decided to go with the flatbread pizzas, Lori and Pat had theirs with chicken while I went for the 4 cheese version. The pizzas were perfectly cooked and delicious, we all ended up with leftovers. With drinks and tip the meal ran $ 42 which was pretty good for 3 people.
After the meal we took a little while to shop for some gifts. I picked up a very nice sweatshirt (which I'm actually wearing at the moment) while Lori picked up a couple of shirts and a few knick knacks for friends and co workers. We took the bus back to Old Key West and then said our good-byes. I was glad to have spent a good day with an old friend.
Lori and I decided to go back to Downtown Disney again, maybe looking for something for dinner. We spent a few hours touring and shopping. For dinner we took a hint from Brian and Barbara by stopping for ice cream at Ghirardelli's. This was kind of a funny choice for us since we live only a hour or two away from the main Ghirardelli factory in San Francisco, but we just decided to splurge.
After we finished with 'dinner' we returned to the hotel and relaxed at the pool. I must say that we again had some problems with bus service, but I suppose not everything can be perfect. I do wish Disney would work on it a little bit, however.
Day Seven: Saturday November 4: Magic Kingdom, Epcot and MSEP/Fireworks.
We decided that the rest of our trip would be as relaxed as possible. We'd done everything we wanted to except the night shows and MK and Epcot, so the daytime could be pretty relaxing. Because of this the next few days reports will be relatively short.
We caught a bus to MK and began the day at Tony's Town Plaza to make reservations for lunch. While we waited for our lunchtime to come around we decided to do a little shopping on Main Street. I finally found the swimsuit I'd been looking for and Lori was able to pick up a few things for her Donald collection.
We then went to Tony's for lunch. Tony's is based on the restaurant of the same name from the movie Lady and the Tramp, and is one of the best places to eat in the MK. Last year we both got spaghetti and meatballs (very good). When we ordered the waitress told me she often had it with Alfredo sauce. I didn't try it that way last year but had to try it this time. I must say it was very good. The sauce blended surprisingly well with the meatballs and the garlic helped to enhance the overall flavor. I'd have preferred it with a little more of a kick, but it was still good. Lori also had spaghetti but with meat sauce. Including drinks and tip the meal was $ 35.
After we finished up with lunch we did a few more rides in MK, including Buzz Lightyear, Haunted Mansion and Pirates. By mid-afternoon we were a bit tired of MK so we moved back to Epcot (somehow we always seemed to end up back there). We did some shopping, took in a few of the movies and then had a nice dinner at the UK pavilion. We got fish and chips from a stand and then sat on a bench and watched Tapestry. We had done this last year and it was a lot of fun. The meal cost $ 20 including our drinks.
After Tapestry we returned to the MK to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade. This is one show that I will never get tired of. We didn't have a perfect view because we arrived late, but with the floats as tall as they are you can see the show from most of the parade route, even if your view is blocked. We then sat down to rest and wait for the fireworks show. While waiting we had a nice conversation with a couple from Arizona, and encouraged them to do Animal Kingdom instead of the Studios the next day. I think this is one of the best aspects of Disney parks, the fact that people are so willing to talk with each other and act far more friendly than they would anywhere else.
The fireworks were spectacular, of course, and it we had a great view of the castle. I think we found one of the secret spots in the park to watch, so I'm not going to mention it, but it was a lot of fun.
After the fireworks we went back to the hotel and watched some TV (including SNL, which was actually live for once).
Day Eight: Sunday November 5: MGM, Magic Kingdom, Downtown Disney and Epcot
Today was one of our more unusual days, we ended up hitting three parks and Downtown Disney.
We started out at MGM Studios, hoping to get another ride on Tower of Terror and RnR Coaster. We also thought we might try someplace new for lunch. As it turns out, out advise to our Arizona friends was good because MGM was packed on Sunday. I suppose it had something to do with the weekend and early entry impact, but I hadn't seen any of the parks this full. After a little time in the park we decided to move over to the Magic Kingdom to do a few rides there.
We got to MK and headed over to Frontierland to see about Splash Mountain. We hadn't been able to ride this yet and wanted to see how the lines were. Because Big Thunder Mountain was closed for rehab the crowds packed into Splash. The Fastpass was giving times of 2pm, and this was still around 11:30 am, so we decided not to wait. As it turns out we were glad we didn't.
As many of you may have read buy now a very unfortunate man died in an accident on Splash, and the accident happened right around 2pm. So had we decided to do the ride we would have been either in the line or on the ride during the accident. I feel very badly for the man who died and hope that they are doing well after the tragedy, but I'm also very glad I didn't have to see it happen. We stopped and picked up a bucket of caramel corn to eat while we watched Illuminations at Epcot later tonight.
With MK pretty full as well and no rides we wanted to ride on we moved over to the Beach Club for another meal at Beaches and Cream. The food is good, the atmosphere is wonderful and it's lots of fun to watch people having fun in the nearby pool. We spent a little time looking around the hotel, I always like to look at all of the details the architects put into the work.
After Beaches and Cream we took the bus over to Downtown Disney and finished up some last shopping, avoiding buying many of the more expensive items. Actually Lori did most of the shopping this time while I waited, but she tells me this is good training for marriage (hey, she said it, not me).
We knew we wanted to finish the day at Epcot so we headed there last. We did a little shopping, I picked up a copy of the Illumnations video (well worth $ 10) and a CD of the Candlelight Processional.
Around 7:30 pm we staked out a place for the Illuminations show. We were in the Future World section of the park, just to the right of the boat ramp for the France boat. As it turns out it would have been much better to be to the left of the ramp as the canopy blocked part of our view. But again, most of the show is the fireworks in the sky, so we didn't care.
As many people have said, Illuminations 2000 is an amazing show. I can't begin to describe how breathtaking the fireworks and music are. We enjoyed snacking on our caramel corn (by the way the MK caramel corn is very good) and chatting with people around us. This brings up a pet peeve of mine. People who show up right before the show starts with 5 kids and assume they can just shove us out of the way because they have kids.
I'm sorry, but the rule is if you want to see the show then invest the waiting time. I understand you want the kids to see the show, but that does not mean you have a free ride. To just expect special treatment is, in my humble view, rude.
Day Nine: Monday November 6: DVC tour, Yacht and Beach Club pool, Packing
We had wanted to do a DVC tour this trip and so we scheduled it for Monday morning. We had also wanted to use our DVC privileges to swim in the pool at the Y&B Club, so we packed a carry bag with our suits and such so we could swim after the DVC tour.
There was a little mix up with the tour. We had been told to go up front to meet the DVC van but the DVC people sent the van to our room. It delayed things a little bit but we got things straightened out and rode over the the Boardwalk. Our driver was a nice man who had retired to Florida and worked for DVC part time. He gave us a tour and then dropped us by the DVC information center.
I will admit that DVC does not do pressure sales, but they do utilize a bit of psychological pressure, pointing out that the resort will be sold out 'any day now'. They don't press you or push you, but they do make you anxious to buy in and not miss the deal.
DVC is currently offering a deal where you can sell back some of your points in exchange for cash, providing you agree to 'deed' at Hilton Head in South Carolina. What this means is that you can't make reservations at WDW resorts until 7 months ahead of time while those with deeds at WDW can make reservations 11 months ahead. The deal isn't that good, but I will admit the financing is a good deal better than I had expected, offering 5 or 10 year terms at around 11%.
We were tempted to buy in but decided to resist. The main problem was that to buy into Boardwalk from Disney costs $ 67 per DVC point while buying a resale from a current DVC member costs about $ 5-$ 10 less. Considering that you would normally buy around 200 points, that could mean $ 1000-$ 2000 in savings. We did, however, pick up a very nice (and free) book which is helping us to make our eventual decision on buying in to DVC or not.
One of the nice aspects of the DVC tour is that you get a free lunch. We decided to eat at the ESPN club. We split a hot wings appetizer (not very hot, IMHO). Lori had a roast beef sandwich while I had a chicken sandwich. Both came with fries and we added cokes. For desert we had 'hockey pucks' which are rich fudge brownies dipped in dark chocolate and topped with whipped cream. Very good but we were barely able to finish half of them. I don't know for sure what the meal would have cost since it was free through DVC, but I'd guess the appetizer, meal and desert would have run around $ 50 with tip, which still wouldn't have been too bad.
After lunch we headed over to the Beach Club and prepared for a swim. There are bathrooms nearby the pool so changing was easy. In theory you aren't allowed to use a resort pool unless you are a guest of that hotel or you are a DVC member (or a guest of a DVC member, as we were). I had our DVC info with us, just in case, but we never got asked.
The pool at Y&B is actually more of a mini water park. It has quiet areas to relax in while other areas actually have currents (as I learned when I tried to walk against it). Portions of the pool actually has sand on the bottom, which was a real surprise the first time we felt our feet sink into sand.
We spent a good part of the afternoon at the pool, both swimming and relaxing in deck chairs. Our lunch had been so filling that we never really felt like another meal, but we did stop for ice cream on our way back to our hotel.
At this point we had to face the ugly truth of going home. Our plane was scheduled to leave at 6am on Tuesday morning, so we knew we'd be up early (our shuttle driver was set to arrive at 4am). When we got to our room we decided to do our laundry while we swam in the pool. We managed to finish up almost all of our laundry which meant when we headed home we would have clean clothes, no big bag of laundry to work with.
After our swim/laundry session we returned to our room, packed our bags and went to bed early, knowing that the flight call would come early.
Day Ten: Tuesday November 7: Check out and fly back to Sacramento
Our wake up call and alarm came around 3am, so we were not eager to get up. We shower and cleaned up things just in time for the hotel employee to arrive to drive us up front. I felt bad we had to bother him to drive us, but I couldn't see dragging our bags up front at that hour of the morning.
Our driver arrived right on time. We made it to the airport in plenty of time (why is it if you leave early things go well but if you leave late they go badly ?). I passed the time reading a few newspapers to check the election predictions. Our flight was routine and we were back in Sacramento by 11am. We picked up our car from the long term parking and headed home. Most of the afternoon was spent relaxing, I figured I'd want to stay up late to watch the returns (little did I know what we were in for, I'll finish this report before they finish the election, sigh).
Trip Summary and Some Final Thoughts
All things considered this was a wonderful trip. I was wondering how different WDW would seem the second time around, and I was pleased with the change. While there is always something special about the magic of the first trip, it's nicer when you don't have to worry about doing and seeing everything. I can't think of more than one or two times we were stressed over time, the remainder of the trip was simply fun.
I can't really offer a detailed expense summary since we didn't pay for portions of the trip (the room was bartered and the plane tickets bought in advance). But our food costs averaged $ 20 per day per person, which I find to be a good guide.
Some of the good parts of the trip
Some of the not so good parts of the trip
We were sad to leave but were comforted by the fact that we will be returning in a month. Thanks to some unusual planning we will next visit the world from December 7-17, 2000 as part of the RADP annual meet, planning to stay at CBR resort.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.