Kevin Hardman -- July 2002 -- Walt Disney World (CBR, Offsite)
Friday, July 19, 2002 - Monday, July 29, 2002
Amy and I started planning our third-wedding-anniversary Walt Disney World (WDW) trip as soon as we returned from our second-wedding-anniversary Los Angeles/Disneyland trip. We decided then that we needed to see WDW at Christmas time. And it only seemed appropriate that we plan a long summer trip and buy annual passes to the World. So we did. This would be a WDW-exclusive trip. There were some concerns about filling a full ten days with just WDW, especially since we had just spent three-days in December and four-days in the summer of 2000. As we learned once the trip began, this would not be a problem. There were still things left undone after our time was over.
After extensive searching, we settled on Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR) for our lodging accommodations. Originally, I booked our ten-day stay with the annual passholder discount. Eventually, however, American Express offered a slightly better discount and we were able to switch our reservation to the newer-slightly-lower rate. I attempted to obtain some Disney Vacation Club points through a rental. The Boardwalk Villas were calling to me ever since our holiday trip. Despite negotiating a good price through an offer on the DIS boards, we were unsuccessful at getting a standard view studio for the whole time of our stay. I was not interested in splitting our stay between two hotels and could not afford (nor did we need) a larger room that would have been available. Maybe next trip.
I debated whether or not to rent a car. Amy and I both like to go when we want to go. And that convenience won out. Besides, I received a good price for a compact rental car from Dollar-Rent-A-Car (with discount code found on mousesavers.com). I also signed up for FastLane privileges that I found would come in handy later.
I had just enough frequent-flyer miles (thanks to recently obtaining a Delta American Express credit card) for one round-trip ticket to Orlando International Airport (MCO). Unfortunately living in Cincinnati and flying Delta has one great disadvantage - COST! Since we live in the northern suburbs, we have the Dayton International Airport (DAY) option. We bought a ticket for Amy at about $90 less than what it would have cost to fly out of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). The folly of it all - we have a short layover in CVG (on the exact flight that we would have preferred to fly out on had the price been reasonable). The flight was scheduled to arrive in MCO at 11:57 p.m.
With such a late flight, it did not make any sense to pay the WDW-lodging premium just to sleep for the night. More importantly, getting off the plane and driving for a half-hour to check-in did not interest me. We got a great rate for an AmeriSuites just a mile away from the airport. It included a deluxe-continental breakfast. Perfect way to start Saturday morning and head straight out for our start to WDW.
About 60-days-out, I made all of our priority seatings (PS). I rather extensively planned our ten-days but was willing to be flexible. I also made reservations for the Keys to the Kingdom tour. This was a part of my anniversary-day surprises for Amy. Here is the day-to-day rundown of daily plans:
Extensive DIS board lurking and continuous visits to MousePlanet.com and other Disney web sites would lead up to the big day. Until it was finally time to leave for WDW.
Day One: Friday, July 19, 2002:
Our trip up to DAY following a full day of work for me and a full day of packing for Amy was uneventful. We checked in approximately one-hour-and-a-half before our scheduled departure. Our plane was on time and we were on our way to CVG. We were in the air for a total of 15-minutes. Simply astounding. Unfortunately, the trip from CVG to MCO was not going to be as hassle-free. We hit an hour-long delay for our flight to MCO. As we waited for boarding, we witnessed an interesting exchange between a Delta agent and a passenger. The exchange ended with the Delta agent screaming across the entire boarding area. Whatever the passenger was asking for in no way deserved such poor treatment. Once we finally boarded, the ride was swift and we mostly slept for the two-hour trip. We arrived at MCO to a most deserted airport at 1:00 a.m.
After gathering up our luggage (which all made it safely to MCO with us), we checked-in at Dollar. Upon our arrival, a customer was having trouble reconciling her bill with her reservation. Fortunately for us, our FastLane privileges got us straight to the front-of-the-line. Even at 1:00 a.m., there were people waiting to get their rental cars. No line for us. We were promptly checked-in and handed the keys to our car for the next ten days. Our Kia Rio waited for us in the garage. At first glance, it appeared to be of a "puke-green" color. As we learned later in our trip, that description only fit the color under that particular lighting.
Within minutes, we were out of MCO and parked at our AmeriSuites for our good night's sleep before WDW. Within seconds of landing our heads on the pillows, Amy and I were fast asleep dreaming of the fun and excitement only hours ahead.
Day Two -- Saturday, July 20, 2002:
The alarm woke us at 7:00 a.m. We both leisurely showered and dressed for the day, making it to our deluxe continental breakfast at about 9:00 a.m. I couldn't seem to keep my cereal and milk in the bowl. I ended up making a mess all over our table. Amy wanted some toast with her breakfast. Unfortunately, she was somewhat intimidated by the commercial rotating toaster. As my chivalrous self, I volunteered to take on the machine returning to the table with a few finely toasted slices of bread for my wife. I will always be her hero. We were checked out and on our way to WDW at 9:30 a.m.
Overall impression of AmeriSuites: The rooms were rather small for a suite hotel. We received a fantastic $49 rate through valuetrips.com. The room was perfect for what we needed: a good night's sleep, close to the airport, cheap, and a quick filling morning breakfast.
We checked in to CBR at 10:00 a.m. I checked us in as Amy wandered around the Custom House. As I needed to confirm some of the anniversary surprises, I needed Amy somewhere other than in line with me. This was apparently a good check-in time as I only waited a few minutes for the next available cast member. I faxed some requests to the hotel four-days prior so was hoping to receive a nice room selection. We had a non-smoking-king-bed room reserved. I requested a waterfront view in either Martinique or Jamaica. The original placement was nowhere near that selection. The cast member was very nice about helping find a different room and we ended up with a waterfront view room, non-smoking, king bed, in Jamaica (Room 4216). We were right next to the Jamaica quiet pool with the beach hammocks calling for us to hop in. Our CM confirmed all of our PS and even printed them out for me. I confirmed delivery of my special anniversary package for Amy and made arrangements to pick it up on Wednesday. We paid with our American Express card and were handed our AMEX white glove treatment lanyards and special pins. Finally, I bought two tickets for Tuesday's E-Ride night and then met back up with Amy. Our drive to find our room allowed us to take in what a large and sprawling resort CBR is. One could definitely get lost wandering around here in the dark.
We quickly found our room. The Caribbean décor was quite nice. We unpacked our suitcases and settled in for a great ten-day vacation. Before heading out to Epcot, I did a little search for the room safe. It was completely hidden from me. I finally decided that I was mistaken that the CM told me there was a safe in the room. We found a place to stash some of our valuables and made our way out to Epcot.
At about 10:30 a.m. we were on our way. And it was HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! I think that message is appropriately conveyed. We parked at the Boardwalk and walked to the International Gateway entrance. We arrived at the International Gateway at 11:00 a.m. Before entering, however, we upgraded our annual passes to premium annual passes. I was expecting to spend about $200 on the upgrades but the bill came to only $85. As best I can figure, we had a Disney Club discount and they prorated the upgrade amount for the time that was left on the original annual pass. After reading many discussions on this topic on the DIS boards, I was pleasantly surprised to receive such a result. It just depends on where you go and what CM you get. The International Gateway Guest Services window seems the one to choose.
Upon entering Epcot, we promptly headed toward Future World (FW). The Characters on Holiday bus was due at Showcase Plaza at 11:15 a.m. so we decided to hang around for them. We ducked into the store at the Showcase Plaza to get out of the heat (just standing still, sweat was pouring out of us - it was that hot). A few minutes later the double-decker bus came heading down the street. On board were 17 of everyone's favorite Disney characters: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, Dale, White Rabbit, Baloo, King Louie, Rafiki, Smee, Gepetto, FoulFellow, Friar Tuck, and the Sheriff of Nottingham. I had to capture Amy with white rabbit. She recently watched our Alice in Wonderland DVD and she truly found it an absolutely fantastic animated masterpiece (that is sarcasm).
We headed out of Showcase Plaza to Test Track for our first FastPass (FP) of our trip. I suggested detouring through MouseGears for air conditioning. Amy took it as an excuse to do some shopping. Although no purchases were made this first trip through, we did manage to get an interesting picture of me with a variety of Mickey cooking gear. Once out of MouseGears, we obtained our FP with a return time of 3:25 p.m. at 11:38 a.m.
Looking for refreshment, we made our way across FW to Ice Station Cool -- a perfect place to cool off and enjoy liquid refreshment from around the world. Amy was unfamiliar with Ice Station Cool and as such unfamiliar with the pleasant-tasting Beverly cola from Italy. Unfortunately, she is too curious for me and I was unable to sucker her into trying this lovely concoction. She was reading the labels on the machine and noticed that it was described as "bitter." Having done my research, I sure wasn't going to try it and find out how bitter it really is. I did find the watermelon-flavored cola from Japan to be rather tasty.
We then decided to check out the annual passholder lounge at the Land pavilion. It was rather busy and not as nice as I had hoped. As hot as it was, I really wanted some ice, cold water. All they had was lukewarm water from a jug. Amy had some soda from a very unusual looking soda dispenser. I then left Amy for a few minutes to go down to the Garden Grille (GG) to confirm PS and rehitching ceremony. I attempted to do so with the CM at the passholder lounge but she was unable to do so. It actually seemed that she wanted us to forego the GG and just stay in the lounge as the characters came up there too. I found that a little strange. I did, however, obtain a priority-seating card for the 4:30 p.m. Shockwave performance. To make that performance, I would have to push back our PS at GG for a few minutes. I confirmed that was okay with the CM at the GG check-in and also confirmed that they had information about our anniversary. It took a little while to catch an elevator back up to the third-floor lounge. There were a few wheel chair bound guests on the second-floor that were having even a harder time getting on the crowded elevator.
While at the Land, Amy and I decided to take in a performance of Food Rocks. You've got to truly love what Disney has done to those beloved songs of the '80s. Ton Loc has never sounded better! After leaving Food Rocks, we attempted to ride Living with the Land, but (1) couldn't get FP yet since not 1:38 p.m. and (2) wait time was posted as 45-minutes and we didn't want to wait that long. This is one attraction we have yet to see. Instead we headed over to Journey into your Imagination (JIYI) with Figment! On our trip over, Amy and I got to talking about the '80s nature of Food Rocks. It sparked some creative thoughts about using some 90's/00's musicians and their music. In particular, can't you just see an Eminem M&M. This also resulted in my new refrain for the trip, "Guess whose back ... Figment's Back ... Back Again!" Yeah, I thoroughly embarrass my dear wife sometimes.
Upon exiting JIYI, we noticed that the next show of Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (HISTA) was about to begin. We queued up, picked up our 3-D glasses and made our way to the auditorium for the Inventor of the Year awards. I have never been particularly fond of the mice and my feet promptly got rested onto my seat as that part approached. The poor six-year-old girl sitting next to me did not have the same advance knowledge that I possessed, however. Her feet were promptly up on her seat as well and didn't touch the floor again until the show was concluded. Regardless, she appeared to enjoy the adventure. As we left, Amy threatened to pilfer the 3-D glasses. A few weeks prior, during our visit to Amy's parents, we took a trip to Cedar Point. 3-D glasses are offered for a $1 charge on one of their rides. Amy thought this way we could avoid paying the buck at Cedar Point. I put my foot down and would not allow such criminal behavior. I was truly disappointed.
Although the heat was stifling, the skies threatened throughout the day. Upon exiting HISTA, the skies were even more ominous. I was actually hoping rain would come, as it would help cool things off slightly. We walked toward Innoventions West and I stopped for a drink at the talking water fountain. (Amy still thinks I'm nuts, "Water fountains cannot talk.") I patiently waited as young members of a Brazilian tour group played with the water fountain oblivious that anyone was waiting for a quick drink. As I finished up my drink, the rain I hoped for started although it turned out to be only a light shower. Amy and I went for a tour of Innoventions West.
Our tour started by sending a picture postcard to Amy's sister and boyfriend. I gave Amy a kiss but all I got was a snub of her nose at me. We then tried to play some video games but find at our age we could not figure such sophisticated play toys out. Exiting Innoventions West, we headed over to the East side. I tried to get Amy to do the D-video e-mail but she was not interested. Here comes the understatement of the report: Epcot is not Amy's favorite park! That combined with the heat and some oncoming hunger meant she was not having the greatest of times. We cured the hunger with a little snack. Amy wanted popcorn, but the popcorn was not popped. We settled for a bottle of water and a very soft and hot pretzel. We found a seat on a bench outside Ellen's Energy Adventure and enjoyed our pretzel.
Only a few more minutes until the next Ellen show, so we were off. I marvel at the way you get shuttled around inside this place. We were able to sit on the floor for part of the pre-show. I believe this to be one of the best parts of Amy's day - her nap on the floor of the Universe of Energy. As we traveled through the Universe of Energy, I became a little startled as a dinosaur sneezed upon me. The sad part is that I was startled despite the fact that I both saw and knew it was coming. We then walked to the Wonders of Life and both played with the interactive exhibits and watched Cranium Command. Body Wars makes our bodies sick so we passed on it this trip.
By the time Cranium Command was concluded, it was 3:40 p.m. and time for our TestTrack FP. We were right into the pre-show with very little wait. Unfortunately, exiting the pre-show was slightly slow. I was almost crunched by doors of another pod exiting a pre-show. We were quickly loaded into our vehicle and were on our ... no, not quite. We were waiting for the green light when we experienced a slight delay. Our ride CM told us it should only be a few minutes and then a few minutes later we were informed, "No, the ride is shutting down." We did get come back passes for later. We are beginning to think that we are jinxed on this ride. Both times we have attempted to ride TestTrack, it has malfunctioned.
With little time to spare and a long walk to the opposite side of World Showcase, we walked our way to the American Gardens Theatre for Shockwave! As we traveled, we could see storms heading our way. We were hoping to make it through Shockwave! and back to dinner before they arrived. Our priority seating got us great seats a little to the left of the stage and in the third row only minutes before the start of the show. What a great, fun show with some truly amazing brass players.
Shockwave! concluded with just enough time to make it to our 5:10 p.m. PS at GG. We had a very short wait before being seated. It took us a while, however, to get to our seats. Pluto apparently did not want us to get by. What a pushy dog he is. He actually asked us for money to get through to our seats. Eventually I thought maybe a kiss from Amy would get us through. Well not only did it take two pecks on the cheek but some Eskimo nose-rub kisses before he would permit us access to the restaurant. The food here was quite good (steak, chicken, corn, catfish, veggies, mashed potatoes served family style) and the character interaction was absolutely superb. Pluto kept coming around threatening to take Amy away from me. We watched Dale knock over our waitress' entire tray of drinks. Dale gave Pluto a swift kick in the rear at one point. I tattled to both Chip and Mickey but they knew it was just Dale being Dale. Mickey and Pluto joined us at the end of dinner for the rehitching ceremony. We had a very "loud and scary" manager who did the honors of "rehitching" Amy and myself. The ceremony concluded with Amy and I having to kiss to the count of 100 (counting 1-10 and then by tens to 100). After three years of marriage, I've finally found a way to get my wife to kiss me, so we'll have to do this one again! We also received our very own special anniversary cake. Way too much for only two people to eat, but what we had of it was delightful.
As we exited the Land, the big rain had passed over while we were eating. Perfect timing. There was only a light sprinkle, although it got heavier later as we traveled back to our car. TestTrack was still listed as "Delay," so it was not going to happen this evening. Instead we got some pictures of the "golf ball," checked out Pin Central, and then made our way out of Epcot the way we came in. As we made our way to the Boardwalk parking lot, the rain became even heavier. Would not have been a problem, but we became frustrated trying to locate the car. Apparently, the car changed colors on us while we were in the park. Serious. It was no longer the "puke-green" I remembered it being when we picked it up at MCO. It became a much shinier and darker green and we passed by it several times before realizing that that really was our rental car.
We stopped quickly at Old Port Royale (OPR) upon our arrival back at CBR. We bought a refillable mug for Amy. Then, we perused the shopping areas of OPR. I found several neat shirts, the baseball cap that I would eventually buy, and then headed back to our room in Jamaica. Before collapsing into bed, I located the hidden safe behind the curtain. I was happy to know that I was not making up the exchange I had with the check-in CM earlier that morning. Exhausted from a full and hot day, we slept.
Day Three - Sunday, July 21, 2002:
Our wake-up call came promptly at 7:00 a.m. I was really looking forward to Mickey's happy little voice greeting me as he did in December when we stayed at the Contemporary for the weekend. To my surprise, however, it was not Mickey greeting me. My grogginess at 7:00, though, prevented me from really understanding what was said or who was saying it. Could it have been Stitch? I knew that I would have to pay more attention tomorrow morning.
I got up, got showered and dressed, while Amy continued to sleep in. After a short back rub, I walked over to OPR for Amy's morning caffeine fix. CBR was quite peaceful this morning, although there were several early risers wandering around. I struck up a conversation on the way back with a man also staying in Jamaica. He was raving about TestTrack and I shared with him our "delay" story of yesterday. Upon arriving back at the room, Amy was getting ready. She decided to wear one of her cartoon T-shirts but I witnessed a very interesting exchange between her and the dresser. As she opened the dresser drawer, I heard the following in a very high-pitched voice: "Oh, there you are. Hello Kitty!" Amy then took out her Hello Kitty T-shirt and I couldn't help but chuckle.
We made it out of the room and headed for Animal Kingdom at 9:30 a.m. Prior to entering, photographers stopped us for a little photo session. Three poses later and a good laugh as Amy needed some extra direction to determine what her back is; we made it inside the entrance gates at about 10:00 a.m. (The pictures turned out quite nice and we ended up purchasing two of them at the end of the day.) Our first stop would be straight back to Africa to pick up FP for Kilimanjaro Safari (KS). Our FP return time was between 10:45 and 11:45, perfect timing following our PS at Donald's Breakfastosaurus. On our way to breakfast, we passed Baloo, King Louie, and DaVine. I missed the turn-off for Discovery Island so we had to backtrack when we realized that we were running into Kali River Rapids (KRR).
We arrived at Donald's Breakfastosaurus about five minutes before our 10:30 a.m. PS. We skipped the pre-picture and waited patiently to be seated. About five minutes later, we were called in and learned the history of Donald's origination from the Duckosaurus about 65-billion-years ago. Our waiter, Luis, took very good care of us throughout breakfast. He turned out to be a big roller coaster nut and shared with us the many amusement parks he has visited. We enjoyed chatting with him about Paramount's Kings Island and Cedar Point (our hometown parks). Early in the breakfast, however, we noticed that we were being dripped on. Our first thought was that the roof must be leaking somewhere, but couldn't quite figure out from where. Later, we discovered that another server had a squirt gun. There's the explanation. He stopped by our table later to brag about how funny we looked randomly glancing around whenever we got a little wet. That also explained a group of super soakers that I noticed lining the wall of the restaurant earlier. A little girl at another table, however, got even for us. At the end of breakfast, we watched as she repeatedly squirt the guy directly in the face a number of times. We cheered her on!
The later breakfast time worked out great for character time. Donald, Goofy, Pluto and Mickey visited us throughout. Goofy was a little unhappy with Amy's "Hello Kitty" t-shirt and Donald was jealous of the Mickey on my chest. They were indeed fun to goof around with. However, these characters kept hitting on my wife! Donald snuck up twice behind Amy. We sat next to a very nice couple and their child that worked out great to swap picture-taking opportunities. As breakfast wrapped up, the restaurant was turning over for lunch that meant finding our way out was a little difficult. Eventually, a CM pointed us in the right direction.
It was now time for our KS FP, so we headed back to Africa. Again, it was a pretty hot day. We stopped on the way to get a KRR FP with a return time of 12:15 to 1:15. We were also stopped by picture guy, Josh (the same gent who took our pictures coming into AK). He lured us down to a great tree of life photo spot and we got a picture with both their camera and ours. Our picture actually turned out nicer than theirs so our decision not to buy this one was a good one.
The standby wait time at KS upon our arrival was only ten minutes, but we used our FP anyway. The heat apparently kept the animals rather inactive but we did save Little Red from the poachers. Upon exiting KS, we decided to travel out to Rafiki's Planet Watch. We toured around Affection Station petting some goats and sheep. I sure wouldn't want to have that wool covering my entire body in the 90-degree weather. There were some very testy donkeys and an extremely ornery cow also hanging out in the barns. I've never heard such a loud moo and groan. After a quick wash of our hands at the elephant fountain, we were back on the train and headed to KRR. Let's just say when they say, "You will get wet," they are right. When they say, "You might get soaked," they are even more right! We were thoroughly drenched and the shooting elephants at the end caught the entire raft by surprise. Upon exiting our raft, Amy looked like she had just entered a wet t-shirt contest.
We then traveled down the Maharajah Jungle Trek to try and dry off, although the clouds were looking ominous. We watched three separate Bengal tigers pace their territory for a short time. At the viewing windows, one of the tigers leaped up against the glass for a real up close and personal experience. There was another tiger sun-bathing on his back after having relaxed in the pool of water for a short period of time. As we headed out of the jungle trek, the rain came and came and came and came. We took shelter with many others in a nearby store on Discovery Island hoping it would be just a typical, short, summer storm. 45-minutes later we figured out it was not going to be short. We were entertained for part of our wait by a little boy singing and dancing in the rain. Very cute.
The rain started letting up a little, so we made a run for It's Tough to Be a Bug, not realizing how long the outside queue line was going to be (although there was no wait). Amy forgot about the maggots, etc. that have to leave the theatre before us at the end. As we exited the show, the sky was still spitting at us, so we decided to leave for the day. First, of course, we picked up a couple of pictures. Again Josh waited on us and we bought two of his pictures from the start of our day.
Back at CBR, Amy and I took a little nap as the rain continued. Around 6:00 p.m., we walked over to OPR through Parrot Cay for dinner. Amy and I both had pasta and then decided to head over to Downtown Disney (DD) for the evening. Here we engaged in a great deal of shopping at the World of Disney (WOD) and the new pin shop. I had not brought my AMEX card with me thinking that I could just use my room-charge and get the AMEX discount of 15-percent for resort guests using AMEX. The CM informed me of the policy that you have to charge directly to the AMEX account. Fortunately, for us, she bent the rules and charged our hefty purchases directly to the room and gave us the discount as well. Build-a-Pin was a fun experience. We bought two - one for Amy and one for me. We then decided to walk around Pleasure Island for a short time. We stopped into the Adventurer's Club for a short while before the next Comedy Warehouse (CW) show. We caught a few adventurers competing for the Balderdash Cup in the library and then exited out to wait in line for CW. The improv was quite entertaining and we hoped to make it back again before the end of the trip. Around midnight, we were back at CBR and went straight to bed.
Day Four - Monday, July 22, 2002:
Again, we were greeted with a phone call at 7:00 a.m. It was STITCH! It's still too early for me to grasp everything he said, though. I showered and went to pick up some light breakfast. I passed by the Character Caravan (CC) at OPR. Rafiki, Timon, King Louie and Goofy had all arrived to greet the guests. There were lots of children surrounding them even at this early hour.
Back in the room, Amy and I leisurely prepared for our day at Blizzard Beach (BB) while dining on our chocolate milk, cinnamon bun and fruit bowl. Caught a little of bubbly Katie Couric hamming it up with a genius, young, autistic pianist and then a little of even-more-bubbly-than-Katie Kelly Ripa and Reege. We were out the door and on our way to BB at 9:30 a.m. There we were greeted with a throng of people with the same idea for a Monday morning at WDW. Amy was having a little trouble getting her annual pass working yesterday and it continued this morning. The CMs let us in with no hassle but we were hoping that it would eventually register correctly. I stopped to buy some goggles (since I forgot mine at home and did not want to lose my contact lenses). The CM at the gift shop happily invited us to stop by again when we realized that we forgot something else. While I waited in line for a locker key, Amy went to scope us out a resting spot.
About ten minutes later, we were on our way to the big slides of BB. We took a quick ride up the mountain on the ski lift to take an even quicker ride down the mountain on Teamboat Springs (TS). The idea of not knowing what's coming next really added to the suspense and fun of this family raft adventure. A long winding road back to civilization followed TS. We ran into Goofy in his full beach gear during the expedition. Eventually we found our way back up the mountain to wait ... and wait ... and wait ... and wait for Summit Plummet (SP). While in line a young man fainted in front of us from dehydration. Our total wait was about one hour (the longest line we would wait in during our entire WDW trip). It was a quick and fun trip practically straight down but I would have liked to have had the hour back. This is one attraction that really must be done right at opening of the park (or maybe later in the afternoon). Following SP, we did the toboggan slides. First, we raced with five others straight down and then, did the curves (quick and fun).
We started to get a little hungry by now so we stopped for lunch and drinks. We picked up a kid's chicken strip meal to share and bought the BB refillable mug. We took our food and drink back to our lounge chairs where we ate and re-applied our sunblock. We also discovered that leaving a stick of chapstick in the direct Florida sunlight is not a wise decision. Amy reached into her shorts pocket to apply a little chapstick and brought out a gooey, icky mess of melted wax.
After lunch, we made our way to Runoff Rapids (RR) for a double-tube ride. Being the gentleman, I offered to drag the tube up the long-winding stairs to the top of the slide. After a quick ride down, we went back up for single rides down the enclosed tubes. These were extremely dark and fun to travel down, really not knowing when you were going to drop or turn next. Upon exiting RR, we decided to take a spin around the lazy river. A train of some fifteen-plus people made the first couple of minutes a little difficult to relax but after they passed the remaining few minutes went by uninterrupted. Our trip came to a conclusion when Amy started imagining seeing alligators walking around up by RR. We exited and sure enough, there was an alligator. A very playful and colorful alligator. I posed for a picture and we moved on. We detoured through the wave pool on the way back to our seats and a quick refreshment. Amy nearly drowned on the way and we realized that getting underwater pictures with the underwater camera was not going to happen.
As we exited the wave pool, we noticed clouds and with them rain was approaching. We picked up our seats and stuffed everything into our locker as we went back up the mountain to Slush Gusher (SG). Can you say airtime? WOW! I really thought I was flying off the slide. We waited in line as a steady sprinkle covered us. I also bruised my butt going down this one. After SG, we made our way to the last slide of the day but "inclement weather in the area" caused the park to temporarily close and the park was cleared. We packed up and returned to CBR having spent a very nice day at BB.
A message awaited us upon our arrival. Our package from DD - WOD was ready for pick-up at OPR. After showering, I walked over to OPR to pick up our goodies purchased the night before while Amy continued to prepare for the evening. About 6:15 p.m., we drove over to the Beach Club resort for burgers and sundaes at Beaches & Cream. The table next to us ended their dinner (about seven of them) with a Mud Slide, a No Way Jose, and a Kitchen Sink! That was a lot of ice cream. The Kitchen Sink - a whole can of whipped cream, eight scoops of ice cream, and every possible sundae topping they have in the place. It truly is the kitchen sink! Our burgers and sundaes were delicious as well. Beaches & Cream is a great place to eat and relatively speaking a good bargain.
Following dinner, we walked to the International Gateway entrance and entered into Epcot. We walked straight up the World Showcase to the American pavilion. As we arrived, Tapestry of Dreams (TOD) began. We found a nice spot in front of America and stopped to watch the parade pass by. Following TOD, we did a quick look around the American pavilion gift shop and then started looking for a good Illuminations viewing spot.
I found an empty bench right outside Japan and decided this was a perfect viewing location. As we waited for the start of the show, a very nice lady and her husband, who are also regular WDW visitors, joined us. We engaged in conversation while listening to the music of Shockwave! coming from the American Gardens Theatre right next to us. They shared with us a story about the Keys to the Kingdom (KK) tour as they had gone on the behind-the-scenes MK trip the day before. During their tour, the elevator broke down (and he was wheelchair-bound thus the elevator being the only option for travel). They apparently did not mind too much as they received a great deal of special amenities for their inconvenience. It was very difficult for me to keep my mouth shut as we had plans to do KK Wednesday morning. Amy, however, did not know this, as it was part of her anniversary surprises. I was successful which is unusual for me - usually Amy will have weaseled her surprises out of me by this point in time. Our bench turned out to be an ideal spot for viewing Illuminations. The spectacular view made for a great end to the day.
As a side note: Amy had stopped off at the restroom prior to joining me on the bench and came back with a very troubling story. While in there, Amy ran into the "scariest mother in the world." She apparently scared every person in the bathroom. That is, everyone except her own child. The child was obviously immune to the abuse at this point and clearly had no reaction which obviously only made the mother that more maniacal.
On our way back to the car at the Beach Club resort, we stopped by the Beach Club gift shops. We drove back to CBR and used the key card access to get into the resort. Earlier in the day, I asked the guard if our room key would grant us access to the resort in that manner. His response, "Yes, you can - but it won't give you change." We were safely back in our room off the Jamaica beach at 9:45 p.m. and asleep not too long after that.
Day Five - Tuesday, July 23, 2002:
Amy got up first this morning, as an early start for the day was necessary. After a shower, I made a quick run to OPR for the morning drink. We were out the door at 8:10 a.m. and headed to D-MGM. We are early enough to park in the Mickey lot; we are in the very first row. We take the short walk to the entrance gate where we were greeted by a big-blow-up version of Stitch. Stitch could also be seen peering over the top of the 100 Years of Magic sign at the D-MGM entrance (actually I believe he is taking a big alien bite out of the sign). After a confusing search for the line to get in for our PS to Hollywood and Vine (H&V) - we find it to the far right and are greeted by the check-in attendant with a big, "Happy Anniversary."
We waited for a few minutes with all the other guests with 8:30 PS and are finally let into the park while those without PS watch our line move. We walked down empty Hollywood Boulevard and got some pretty good pictures of the Sorcerer's Hat without people obstructions. We then headed to H&V for our morning breakfast with Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale, all dressed in their Hollywood-best. Toward the end of breakfast, we were served our own special little cupcake with two balloons for our anniversary. We gave the balloons to the two little children sitting at the table next to us. The little girl lost hers up to the ceiling and our waiter (celebrating his own birthday on the 24th - actually our official anniversary date) had to climb on top of the booth to capture it. Minnie hit on me during breakfast and I simply responded to Amy that it was about time I received some special attention. Minnie inquired whether Amy and I had children and she acted quite relieved when we responded, "No." I'm still not sure how to take that. While eating, we enjoyed Goofy and Minnie doing a pretty neat swing dancing set that ended with Goofy falling on his rear.
Following breakfast, Amy and I made our way to the Tower of Terror (TofT) for FP. After grabbing the FP with a return time of 10:35 to 11:35, we reported to the Great Movie Ride (GMR) for a tour of the movies. An old-west bank robber who met HER demise trying to steal the jewel in the Indiana Jones scenes held up our car. And everyone learned that anything is possible in the movies. After unloading from the GMR, we had a few more minutes before the 10:50 a.m. showing of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It (WWTBAM). We took the time to do a quick tour of Walt's One Man's Dream (OMD). We enjoyed viewing all the nostalgic items. It was interesting to note that there was not a single visible Mickey Mouse (at least not one I could readily ascertain) in Walt's studio office. Amy and I both marveled at the Mickey Mouse etch-a-sketch from the 1970s. We figured we could pick it up on e-bay for about $15 - right? We didn't have time to catch the movie, but we would indeed be back later in the week (if not later that day) to see it.
We left OMD to make the 10:50 a.m. show of WWTBAM. We made it to the entrance as they were letting in the standby line. Unfortunately, neither Amy nor I made it to the high scorer's board even once. I felt like a real dumbhead. The Orlando-Regis was quite witty. A little girl from Scotland made it to the hot seat first. Our host had a hard time understanding her name (Kari). Even after asking five times, he still got it wrong when he introduced her to the audience. She readily admitted to not really knowing the answer to the fastest finger question. She made it to the 1,000-point level. Of course, she did that with a little help from the audience. As the host said, "there seemed to be quite a few hissing snakes in the crowd," referring to the "c" sounds we were making to assist Kari in making her final answer. The second hot seat participant made it to the 32,000-point level - missing on the trick question of Walt's birthplace (Chicago not Marceline).
Our TofT FP time had arrived as we let out of WWTBAM. Before boarding, however, I ran ahead of Amy and picked up FP for Aerosmith's Rock 'n Roller Coaster (R'nR) with a return time between 12:50 and 1:50. We brought out our pennies to try and float them on the drop. The family in front of us had received the same tip and they also had their coins out ready for the floating experiment. We all ended up just having a bunch of coins fall to the ground of the elevator all around us. It was quite comical to hear them all chinging against the metal. It was too dark to actually see them take flight, but they obviously did.
In our last two trips to WDW, we had yet to see the Hunchback of Notre Dame (HND) show. As a result, we trekked clear across D-MGM for the 12:30 p.m. show. We picked up a frozen lemonade and bottle of water on Sunset Boulevard before heading over because again it was HOT! We quickly learned that the theatre for the show was also. We truly enjoyed the puppetry and fantastic performances throughout the show. The Singin' in the Rain umbrella attracted quite a crowd as the show exited. We also noticed that Stitch had taken over the New York City skyline, which prompted us to walk over to the Animation Courtyard to pose with the wacky, blue fellow and his good friend, Lilo. We waved to Sorcerer Mickey, Pluto and Minnie (outside their trailers) on our walk down Mickey Avenue. There were only a handful of people waiting for Lilo and Stitch so we goofed with them for a little, took a picture, and shared a few dance moves.
We stopped at the Sorcerer's Hat, where we purchased an annual passholder pin and a 100 years of Magic Christmas ornament. We then went browsing through the small Christmas store back by MuppetVision-3D (MV-3D). Our real intent was to check out the menu at Mama Melrose to determine whether or not Amy would want to eat here for our Fantasmic! dining experience. She did not. We then perused the dinner menu for H&V, of which we did approve, before walking back down Sunset Boulevard to R'nR. Upon our arrival and to our horror, we found it out-of-order. Amy said it was our first Disney ride out-of-order, to which I promptly reminded her of TestTrack. She then replied, "That doesn't count because it is always broken." One point for Amy. We then decided at 2:00 p.m. to call it a day. After a quick stop at Guest Services to make Fantasmic! dining PS at H&V (3:30 p.m. on Thursday), we sauntered to our who-knows-what-color-it-is-today car.
We intended to go back to CBR and enjoy some swimming, lounging in the beach hammocks, walking around the lake - as soon as we entered the room, however, deep sleep for a couple of hours actually occurred. It was a nice way to relax after another HOT morning at the parks. Upon waking up, we drove over to the food court for a chicken and turkey dinner. I really enjoyed the Caribbean rice. Amy scolded me for taking my BB mug and filling it with ice water. She referred to it as "stealing water." The sky looked treacherous as we finished dinner, so we decided to drive back to Jamaica and pick up our ponchos before our evening at MK. Good thinking because we drove directly into the storm!
A sea of yellow flooded the MK as we entered with our E-ride tickets in hand. We waited in line to obtain our bracelets with hopeful thoughts that the rain (and lightning) would stop SOON! We were not so fortunate. It did begin to lighten slightly as we walked up Main Street. Protected by our ponchos, we staked out a great spot in the hub for SpectroMagic (SpecM). We spoke with a young CM regarding the weather whose comment was - "They don't decide to cancel 'til five minutes before and this is nothin' (referring to the light drizzle)." So, we grabbed our piece of pavement and waited about 45 minutes. While waiting, we enjoyed watching a CM cleaning water off the sidewalks with a squeegee. And then, at about 8:45 p.m. (15 minutes before SpecM was to begin), the announcement came. "Duet to inclement weather in the area, SpecM is cancelled." Bummer and wrong decision because the weather just got better from that point on.
We, plus the rest of the park apparently, walked into Fantasyland to ride a few non-e-rides before 10:00 p.m. That was not going to happen. The lines for everything were posted at about 60-minutes. I thought kids were supposed to go to bed early. It's a Small World (IASW) did have a short line and we hopped on. We informed a group of people behind us that there was no SpecM tonight so they could relax and enjoy the ride a little bit more. After IASW, we walked up to Liberty Square and sat in Country Bear Jamboree for a few minutes. Then, I realized that it was an E-ride and we left for other things. Pirates of the Caribbean (PofC) and the Jungle Cruise (JC) were both walk-ons, so we did. Our JC skipper, Meaghan, was in a top-notch, giddy form. We started our cruise with a trip backward and then she delighted us with the usual corny jokes and I think a few extras she added for our enjoyment. Good show! The little cubs playing with mom's tail is always a precious moment during this ride.
Leaving Adventureland, we walked back to Liberty Square and visited with the 999 ghosts of Haunted Mansion. We survived with a couple of hitchhiking ghosts attached to our sides. We walked through Fantasyland to Tomorrowland and it was amazing how quickly the area had cleared out from only an hour-and-a-half earlier. Our first stop was Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (Buzz). I scored 57,500 points - still only enough for Space Ranger/First Class - but I still beat Amy. Space Mountain (SpaceM) was next. Always a fun ride through the darkness of space never knowing when that next dip or turn is coming up. For the first time, we rode the cars to the left. It really felt different than the ride to the right, but I'm sure they are identical and it was just my brain playing tricks on me. Alien Encounter was the next Tomorrowland stop but it had quite a wait. And it was getting quite muggy. We had a nice little scare although I can't say the same for the little girl who started screaming, "I want out NOW," about halfway through the ride. Fortunately, the CMs got her out (I'm sure a usual occurrence on this attraction).
A walk across the park to Frontierland led us to Splash Mountain (SplashM). You get fantastic nighttime views of the MK from atop this mountain. They were only dimmed by the girls in the back of our boat throwing water on themselves and shrieking throughout the ride - "Goggles!" The shrieking continued even upon their exit from the ride. We did have a cute couple sitting in the front who were caught holding onto each other as they plummeted down the flume - great picture moment. We finished off the mountains with a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMR). This is definitely a different ride in the dark. As the evening is nearing an end, we ducked into the Country Bear Jamboree hoping (with a few others waiting with us) to catch the final show of the night. We waited for quite some time before the CM came out to usher us into the theatre. The show experienced a few technical glitches during the performance. For example, the characters were exposed as we entered the theatre and the band missed a couple of cues. Having never seen the show, we found "Blood on the saddle ... blood on the ground," to be hilariously depressing. It was 1:30 a.m. as we ventured back down Main Street with Cinderella's Castle changing a variety of colors at our backs. The Main Street Bakery provided a wonderful cherry turnover for morning breakfast and a chocolate milk for the return drive to CBR. We were back to the room at 2:00 a.m. and asleep with an early awakening for our anniversary morning.
Day Six - Wednesday, July 24, 2002 (Our Third Wedding Anniversary):
Stitch actually had the nerve to call us at 6:00 a.m. - only four hours since we went to bed. A morning trip to OPR for me while Amy got ready for her anniversary surprises. I told her last night what we were doing in the morning since I had to make sure she would actually get up. I almost blew the surprise earlier at Epcot when our Illuminations neighbors were talking about their "caught in the elevator" experience.
So, a mere seven hours after leaving the MK, we walked back into its gates. We parked at the Ticket & Transportation Center with front-row parking since the gates to the park had not officially opened yet. We told the CMs that we had tour reservations and they gave us access to the monorail while still holding guests without early PSs at the center. Our tour guides were waiting our arrival as they proclaimed, "Are you Amy and Kevin?" After placing our lunch order and grabbing a bottle of water, we joined Fred and our tour group full of Massachusetts people for the Keys to the Kingdom tour.
Walking down Main Street, we first learned the importance of Safety, Courtesy, Show & Efficiency. Fred quizzed us on examples of such at the MK. Fred then pointed out the Main Street windows, referring to them as the "rolling credits" of WDW. He told us a few stories about a few of the names on the windows, pointed out the tricks of perspective on the second and third floors, and the gradual revelation of the "show" as you walk past the train station (WDW's theatre curtain). Leaving Main Street, we stopped to discuss Walt's meager beginnings with a rabbit - Oswald the rabbit. And then we roamed to Adventureland. MK is deserted at 9:00 a.m. We went to JC through the exit and were loaded on the next boat with our skipper Paula while Fred manned the intercom. He pointed out the "unofficial" hidden Mickey" made out of gold plates under the snake in the tunnel. Paula showed off the fact that she doesn't really steer the boat, it's all just part of the show, and she didn't steer at all during this tour of the world's rivers. We learned about all the real plant life in the JC (despite Amy's protestations to the contrary). It was quite interesting to hear the ways that have been devised to keep some of the exotic plants alive in the Florida climate - some of these plants have their own special heaters.
We had some spare time so decided to take a quick tour aboard PofC. Fred pointed out, before boarding our vessel, the "official" hidden Mickey that can be found right after the jail scene. On our way to PoC, we talked a little bit about the Tiki Hut, in particular it's straw roof. At least, what looks like straw. Not really, this Tiki Hut roof is made of aluminum. Following PofC, we took our first trip backstage.
As we walk backstage, Fred pointed out some lines and marks on the ground. There is a special line designated backstage where once CMs cross it, they must be in character. The other marks are sensors in the ground that keep track of the floats throughout parades. We toured the parade float storage area. Hanging on the walls was some fascinating memorabilia of WDW-days-gone-by. We also got some glimpses of the back of SplashM or is it more accurate to say the non-existence of a back to SplashM.
Arriving back onstage, we made our way through Frontierland and over to the HM. We went through some special doors to take us right through to the HM pre-show. Unfortunately, as we reached the doom buggies the ride shut down. Apparently, someone injured himself unloading from the attraction. There would be no riding HM today for us. Instead we backtracked and went upstairs at the Columbia Harbor House where lunch was waiting for everybody but Fred and me. We dined with a nice couple (Dale and her husband). Before we entered, they were sharing with us a story about a quick visit they made to Cincinnati about 25-years-ago. Dale tried to convince her husband to take her to the Beverly Hills Supper Club as they passed through but she was unsuccessful. That turned out to be for her benefit. The Beverly Hills Supper Club burnt to the ground that evening killing many of the diners inside. Dale and her husband heard about it on their radio as they returned home. We received a very nice KK pin with the stern warning not to be posting it for sale on e-bay as we finished lunch.
After lunch, we tried to return to HM but is had closed. So, we made our way back to Main Street. As we passed through Liberty Square, however, Fred pointed out how none of the men in the area are permitted to wear short sleeves - as to comport with the fashion of colonial times. We entered the Emporium and crowded all 17 of our tour group into a small closet in the back of the store. It was from there (with the door shut to the onstage area) that we opened the doors in the wall and entered again backstage. We looked around at some hippos and crocodiles from the JC and saw what they look like without being in water. Then up to the office area of MK and then into the tunnels. The utilidors are color-coded with picture signs for the different lands to assist CMs in maneuvering around them. As we resurfaced, we realized that we came up on the opposite side of Main Street. Once we walked back onstage, it was hard to believe from where we had just walked out. The tour was a very nice way to spend our morning at the MK.
We took a quick look around the gallery - always some interesting artwork contained in there. There was an original castle painting that was selling for $30-thousand-plus. A little too expensive for us but maybe we'll start saving. Then, it was time for Amy's next surprise.
We grabbed the next resorts monorail and rode around the Seven Seas lagoon to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (GF). I dropped off Amy for her 50-minute massage despite her reluctance. She doesn't much like surprises and she's never had a massage before. I probably should not have surprised her with this one. She figured it out during the monorail ride over which only helped her anxieties over the situation flare up a little more. As Amy got massaged, I went back to pick up the car. Unfortunately, the ride took a little longer then expected as the monorail was stopped a few minutes for air conditioner maintenance. I got in the car, drove back to CBR, stopped at the Custom House, picked up Amy's surprise package for evening dinner, changed our Fantasmic! dining reservations, went back to the room, unpacked the package, and then left for the Polynesian Resort (Poly). 'Ohana is not open at 3:15 p.m. to my dismay. I spent some time trying to find some help and eventually a bartender at the lounge helped out by hunting down a manager. I left her a message with all the information about Amy's special surprise gift to be delivered following our dinner. I made it back to the GF at 3:45 p.m. - just in time to pick up Amy. She had a look of bewilderment on her face. Her words to describe her take on the massage - "traumatized, stunned, shell-shocked". I didn't know about the head and the face part of the massage so I could understand some of the reaction. Overall, I think she enjoyed part of the experience. I will not be surprising her with any type of massage ever again, however.
We drove back to CBR where (as has become custom by now) we took a short nap - overruling again a trip to the pool. About 7:15 p.m., we left CBR for our trip to the Poly and our dinner at 'Ohana. We, as cousins, were warmly greeted by "Aloha." They toured us through the place showing off the variety of desserts, specialty drinks, and most importantly the fire pit. We were seated at a small table for two with a nice view of some of the longhouses and a somewhat obstructed view of the MK. I ordered a Lapu Lapu - a fruity drink served in an actual pineapple - and we sat back and enjoyed a fantastic dinner. I don't know how they expect you to eat all the food. The appetizers alone were enough for an entire dinner. But of course, there has to be leftover room for the pork, tiger shrimp, beef and turkey. Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum. We watched the kids take part in coconut races and hula-hoop contests while admiring a couple having their rehearsal dinner. As the pineapple w/ caramel sauce was delivered so was Amy's present. She had a nice look of surprise on her face - I think I was successful with this one. I ordered a print of Cinderella and Prince Charming that I had framed on art.com. Amy at first thought the package was something from the resort for our anniversary. They did bring us a little cupcake dessert with two candles. We attempted to blow them out together but I beat her to it. Amy claimed it was some kind of omen and I simply hope that she is wrong. The electric water pageant floated by during dessert but our view is too obstructed to watch, so we simply enjoyed the atmosphere and the food.
Rather than watch the MK fireworks, we decided to make a trip to Fantasia Gardens for miniature golf. The gods had another plan. Lightning strikes overhead caused closure of the course for the evening "due to inclement weather in the area". So, instead, it was off to the Marketplace of Downtown Disney. We shopped at the Pin Trader's Shop and got our picture pin on our anniversary. It took four pictures before the guy got the picture correct. And then, we were unable to get our second sticker sheet because the printer ribbon broke. We would have to come back tomorrow to pick up the second sheet. We then spent some time in the Christmas shop but decided to wait before buying. On the way out, the pouring rain finally arrived. A group of young girls were acting quite strange running from shelter to shelter. We watched as one of them took a very nasty plunge on her rear in her over-exuberance. As she got up, she asked her friends if anyone saw that. Uh, yeah, a lot of people! We casually walked between the raindrops back to our front-row parking spot and back to CBR for the end of the evening. What a great way to share together our third wedding anniversary.
Day Seven - Thursday, July 25, 2002:
Stitch woke me up at 7:00 a.m. I finally figured out the entire extent of his comments. "What's up! What's up! Stitch here. Time to play! See you at Disney-MGM Studios." We were out the door at 8:45 a.m. We stopped at OPR for milk and water and then drove off to Typhoon Lagoon (TL).
The 9:00 arrival at TL was definitely wise. I got a locker rental (with no wait) while Amy wandered off to find a lounging spot. Amy and I met up and made our way to the slides. We conquered each of them one-by-one and were done with all of the slides in about an hour-and-a-half time. I even managed to swim and snorkel with the sharks and other little fishies. On the family raft ride, we got to the front of the line when the CM asked a little boy behind us if he wanted to see something funny. The little boy responded, "Yes." With that response, the CM kicked water at Amy. That made the boy laugh - thus I'm assuming he found it as amusing as I did. We enjoyed a little time in the wave pool before wandering back over to our chairs to dry off in the sun.
After drying off, we left TL at about noon and decided to return to the Marketplace at Downtown Disney and pick up our sticker sheet. We checked out some other pins and then toured the Art of Disney shop. We made several purchases here before walking over to the Christmas store to review our choices again. We left Downtown Disney about 1:00 p.m. and drove back to CBR for a little rest before our Fantasmic! dining experience scheduled for 4:00 p.m. While I did some trip report notes, Amy snored. And I was reminded how much I truly love her!
About 3:15 p.m., we left for D-MGM. Despite plenty of visibly open parking spots in the Mickey Stage section, we were directed to the back and the Donald Music rows. We parked and headed into the park saying hello to giant Stitch on the way inside. We walked down to get FP for R'nR with a return time of 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. (Perfect!). We checked into H&V a little early (about 3:45 p.m.) and were ushered in after a very short wait. Great selection and variety in the buffet meal. The highlight was the dessert table. Strawberry shortcake, pineapple upside down cake, chocolate brownies, red velvet cake, key lime cake and make-your-own sundaes, were all set out for us to gorge ourselves. Amy and I shared a sample of each. All restaurants should serve dessert this way!
We left dinner at 4:35 p.m. and noticed that people had already started claiming pieces of concrete for the Stars & Motor Cars parade. We joined them finding a little spot with some shade right near the Sorcerer's Hat. A nice picture spot, we thought, as it viewed the turn of the parade. We started off in the shade against the fence but quickly realized that people would be standing in front of us if we stayed there. We moved up to bask in the sun for the next 30-minutes. A fun parade with Stitch joining the cavalcade of stars. He was acting his usual self as he stuck his fingers in his ears at us as his chauffeur drove him by. As we stood following the parade, I noticed that the sweat that had gathered while we were seated created a very interesting and somewhat embarrassing pattern in my shorts. Hopefully, not many others would notice before it dried up.
We walked down Sunset Boulevard for the 6:15 (and last of the day) show of Beauty & the Beast (B&B). It's a packed house but we were early enough to have second-row seats. Four-for-a-Dollar warmed up the crowd with a great a cappella set. It's hard to believe there are no instruments backing these four men up based on the sounds they create. B&B was enjoyable and Amy noticed how the chorus was lip synching since none of them had microphones.
A ride in the front seat of R'nR with the music blaring in our ears was a great follow-up to B&B. Next stop was the Backlot Tour where they have integrated Pearl Harbor references into the pre-show. As we passed through Catastrophe Canyon, it looked like the weather was no longer going to cooperate. Buckets of water began dropping from the sky as we exited the Backlot Tour. Dressed in our yellow ponchos, we walked from the far-back corner of the park to the far-front corner of the park for Fantasmic! Lots of heavy rain and lightning followed us as we made our way to the amphitheatre through the special priority seating entrance next to Oscar's. By the time we made it to the Fantasmic! amphitheatre, however, it had been cleared out and all people were being directed to the B&B stage for cover. We stuck around hoping the rain would let up and the show would go on. Unintentionally, we were "entertained" by a rehearsal of a musical by a group of CMs - Return to Birdie. Repeatedly, we were given a disclaimer that this was not a Disney production in case anyone was to be confused. At 8:45 p.m., unfortunately, the "due to inclement weather" announcement occurred and Fantasmic! was cancelled. After waiting for the storm to clear a little, we exited with the rest of the masses and drove back to CBR.
We got out of our wet clothes, hung up our dripping ponchos, and then walked over to OPR. Despite our great dinner, we were craving some food so Amy and I shared a small pizza. Then, the air hockey challenge was made. Game 1, Amy won thanks to my ability to score on myself repeatedly. Game 2 and 3, I learned from my mistakes and won both, making me that month's air hockey champion. As we left, a guy asked if I let her win. I promptly responded, "No way." After all, we're not newlyweds anymore, we 've been married three years. As we walked back to Jamaica via Parrot Cay, we fed the ducks in the dark. Upon returning to the room, it was lights out and we were fast asleep.
Day Eight - Friday, July 26, 2002:
A long day awaited us. Due to the rainout of SpecM, today was the rain date and we were already scheduled for MK during the day for the Share a Dream Come True Parade (SDCT). We decided we would just stick it out and make it an all-day at the MK day the night before. We planned to arrive before 9:00 a.m., park at the Contemporary, and walk over. That did not happen.
Stitch called at 7:00 a.m., but we were not moving. Amy got up about 7:30 a.m. I didn't make it out of bed until a little after 8:00. We didn't make it out of the room until a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. No trips to OPR this morning, but I filled my BB mug with good 'ole tap water from the sink and drank up on the way to the MK. Considering our tardiness, we decided it made no sense to park at the Contemporary and drove into the Ticket & Transportation Center. We parked in Pluto 19 and I remarked 19, like my age. I figured that comment would cause either myself or more likely Amy to remember where we were parked at the end of the night. I was correct. Amy enjoyed causing me some slight embarrassment by retelling that comment to the couple sitting next to us on the monorail ride back to the Ticket & Transportation Center after SpecM.
We arrived at the MK around 9:30 a.m. and went directly for the fun of Fantasyland. Remarkably, no waits at any of the dark rides this time of morning. In succession, we rode Pooh, Peter Pan and Snow White. We took a quick turn on Cinderella's Carousel before moving back out to the hub and claiming some pavement for the 10:30 (and first) showing of Cinderella's Surprise Celebration in the castle forecourt stage. A very fun character show - but also VERY HOT - as no shade and the sun beat down. I should have just put my clothes on without drying off from the shower this morning after the drenching in sweat from sitting and watching the show. A man was standing next to me forcing me to continually scoot over as a steady line of sweat dripped from his elbow onto my knee throughout the show. Still, the show was well worth sitting around in the heat for a little while. The characters one-by-one opened their gifts of love, laughter, strength and friendship. The evil queen set a trap with a gift of evil easily defeated by Peter Pan, Genie, Mulan and the genius of Mickey Mouse. Donald Duck tried to help but all he was capable of doing was faint. A few loud "Bibbidy, Bobbidy, Boos" from the audience vanquished the evilness for good. Following the show, several characters surround the hub for meet & greet time. We headed over to say howdy to Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. That Robin Hood started hitting on my wife. I've got the pictures to prove what a flirt he was. Of course, Amy flirted back and kissed that furry little woodland creature. These little animated rascals are quite the competition.
We then ventured into Adventureland and our first ride on Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride. We followed that with plans to dine before/during the noon show of Diamond Horseshoe Revue. We arrived about 11:15 a.m. and the previous show was still going on. We didn't really care for the menu selection so instead we walked further into Liberty Square and enjoyed a child's Macaroni and Cheese from Columbia Harbor House. After lunch, we retraced some tour locations from the day before (like the secret door to the Columbia Harbor House, sensors in the walkway, gate to backstage) and picked up FP for SpashM with a return time of 1:20 to 2:20 p.m. We then met up with Iago and Zazu at their jointly owned Enchanted Tiki Room. Quite an update. Amy remarked that it was good that we had a chance to see the original in California as it helped explain some of the "under new management" banter/theme.
Since neither Amy nor I had ever been over to Tom Sawyer's Island, we hopped a raft and floated over for a few minutes. We traveled through the caves and mines, visited the fortress, and explored many of the trails around the island before returning. It is a very relaxing spot away from the rest of MK. Our ride back to the mainland led us right back for our SplashM FP time. But before our trip to the laughing place, we stopped at the Briar goodies sore. Amy found an adorable brer rabbit that I could not resist buying for her. We shipped it back to the hotel and learned that it was the shop CM's first day on the job. She earlier commented on Amy's "innocent" Tinkerbell t-shirt so she obviously had good taste.
After SplashM, it was time to stake out a good viewing spot for SDCT parade. We found a great spot as the floats exit the hub onto Main Street. About an hour before the 3:00 start of the parade, we laid out our ponchos and took our seats. Amy ran around doing a few things while I saved our spots. While she was gone, she snuck a picture of me sitting patiently. Then I got the chance to wander off for a little while - but not before finally getting myself a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar. Amy just wanted a bland old Coke. I snuck a picture of Amy while I was wandering around but got her a little annoyed at me as I was gone a little too long and the parade band and grand marshals were on their way around the hub as I returned to our seats. The snowglobes are quite fascinating and all of our favorite characters were there. And, of course, it all started with a mouse, Mickey Mouse!
After the parade, we got FP for SpaceM with a return time between 5:55 and 6:55 p.m. We used the waiting time to enjoy Timekeeper. I remembered a little about the show from my WDW trip as a teenager. Indy Speedway called on the way out of Timekeeper. We did a quick tour of the ToonTown store and then headed through Fantasyland to Liberty Square to visit the Presidents. On the way, we checked out the ToonTown and lagoon character selections. Nobody we haven't seen in ToonTown and yucky villains hanging out around the lagoon. Hall of Presidents always stirs up strong patriotic emotions. A little boy sitting next to us exclaimed to his parent as "W" began to talk, "Are they real?" Cute kid.
We walked back down Main Street deciding to get some dinner before our ride on SpaceM. We thought about Tony's Town Square but thought $19 for a plate of spaghetti wasn't really worth it. The line to pick up pictures at Exposition Hall seemed a little too long so we searched out another dining venue. We stumbled upon the Plaza Restaurant and it turned out to be a great choice. I had a strawberry chicken salad while Amy enjoyed a HUGE grilled chicken sandwich. Both of our dinners equaling the price of one plate of spaghetti at Tony's. Another cute kid was sitting at the table next to us. He was very graciously scolding his father about not double dipping his French fries in the catsup. Of course, no visit to the Plaza would be complete without dessert. So, Amy and I shared (although I ate most of it - and actually left some on the plate) a delicious chocolate chocolate cake.
It was now time for SpaceM. As we walked through Tomorrowland, we felt drops of water. I told Amy it was just somebody shooting a water gun at us. She then pointed out the one dark cloud in the sky following us through Tomorrowland. No worries though, it would not storm today. We took the right side of SpaceM today. It did seem like a slightly different ride from e-ride night. The voice echo throughout the ride is a pretty interesting sensation.
As we left SpaceM, it was nearing 7:00 p.m. so we decided to go back to Exposition Hall and check out our pictures. On the way, we noticed that several people were already lined up for SpectroM. Out of an abundance of caution, I grabbed a great spot on the corner of Town Square in front of the Emporium while Amy went to check out the pictures. Good thing. Amy didn't make it back for about 15 more minutes and the crowds were lining the pathways by then. While I waited, Amy went around the park taking more pictures. She got a chance to view some of the Sword in the Stone ceremony in Fantasyland before heading back to roost. She let me take a little walk around and I came back with a WDW/Cinderella castle pin. So, of course, Amy had to go shopping. She found some really neat Small World stickers and an ornament. While I was gone, however, Amy told me about the rain dance a CM had several young ones perform. Actually, it was a "No" rain dance - and it worked!
SpectroM went off without a hitch. Amy convinced the people sitting next to us to stay where they were - I can't believe they were actually thinking about moving down toward the castle. The little pig turning all the white lights to color and back was a spectacular sight. Our close-up seat got us out of the park very quickly. We caught a brief glimpse of the electric water pageant as we walked to the express monorail back to our car.
We decided to play 18-holes at Fantasia Gardens tonight and headed directly there. We were informed that it would take us at least an hour to get through the whole course since a lot of people were on the greens tonight. What a fabulously themed miniature golf course. The hills are definitely tough ones to play. We lost track of the number of times the ball went up the hill only to come right back down at us. When Amy asked for tips from the CM, the CM told her, "Whack it up the hills." We should have heeded that advice a little more carefully. Amy did lose one ball on the greens and the nice people behind us lent us a spare. I got Amy another one during the next waiting period. Fortunately, I was not made to sing a Disney song as the CM told us we would have to do to get a replacement for a lost ball. I did, however, practice all the way back up to the entrance. Of course, I won. But we'll keep that part a secret.
The end to a long and fulfilling day came at about 11:30 p.m. I grabbed some ice for fresh, cold water in the morning and initiated snoring. Great summer day at WDW.
Day Nine - Saturday, July 27, 2002:
Stitch attempted to wake us again at 7:00 a.m. We did not wake up. That is OK since it is a vacation. We were both showered and ready about 9:15 a.m. and have no trouble arriving promptly at 9:30 a.m. for our PS at Goofy's Beach Bash Breakfast at the Cape May Café. Goofy, Chip and Dale toured the dining room while Minnie awaited visitors in the front of the restaurant. They were all dressed in very cute swimming outfits. We captured on film some great moments including the obvious flirtations between Minnie and myself.
We were then off to the AK. When we arrived about 10:45 a.m., we took off to DinoLand first. Primeval Whirl had FP for 11:40 to 12:40, so we picked one up and walked over to Dinosaur. A short ten minutes later the dinosaurs were scaring our pants off as we traveled through time. With time to spare, we wandered around the shops of Din-O-Rama. Amy got an interesting picture of me in a dinosaur hat. We decided to play Whack-a-Saur and were the only two playing. I made it to 150 points first and took the prize (Amy was at 140). What was the prize - a real, live, talking, playful, green, little dinosaur. We adopted him and named him "Digger." Digger had fun entertaining us throughout the rest of the day at the AK. At least, he entertained me.
We had only a few minutes left before the noon show of Flights of Wonder. Digger and Amy headed inside the theater to get seats while I picked up FP for KRR with a return time of 12:50 and 1:50 p.m. The birds were fantastic. We met Frasier the crane, a beautiful bald eagle, and a parrot that could sing remarkably well. A very funny and entertaining show. Who knew that birds could be so entertaining?
Our intent at this point was to get some refreshment and try and make the 1:00 p.m. show of Festival of the Lion King (FTLK). Things did not quite occur that way. Instead, we decided to check out the annual passholder's lounge at Pizzafari. Some lukewarm water and no air conditioning greeted us. We didn't stay there long but I did find out that Pizzafari was offering a discount on food and beverages for annual passholders and that there was a special seating area for the afternoon parade.
Several characters attracted our attention on the way to Camp Minnie and Mickey. Flik, Princess Atta, and Turk all beckoned us to stop, so we did. As we got to the entrance of the Festival theatre, we decided to get character pictures before getting soaked on KRR. So we decided to forego FTLK until later. We waited a little while for a picture with Mickey. A "biting" squirrel entertained us while waiting. I tried to introduce Digger to the squirrel but they would have nothing to do with each other. Amy then tried to convince me to leave Digger on top of the trash can as we left Mickey. Her kind heart, however, would not let her leave him sitting alone atop the trash. He really looked so pitiful sitting atop the garbage can all by himself. Since the show started while we waited for Mickey, there were no lines for our visits with Minnie, Daisy and Goofy. We quickly interacted and walked out of Camp Minnie and Mickey. We were stopped for a short time to meet up with two naked little chipmunks. Some talking weeds along the walkway also entertained us. Digger was most intrigued.
Our trek to KRR was when we first learned of Digger's talking abilities. He was amazing us not only with his talking abilities but his leaping abilities as well. He did fall on his head at least once but it didn't seem to faze him. Despite his desire to ride KRR, we had to stash him in the dry, middle compartment. Again ... soaked! We did, however, get the chance to soak a few people ourselves as we exited the ride. I also suffered a tragic wound to my elbow during the ride. We violently stopped and were jerked a different way causing my elbow to skid in the rough loading area of the raft. It still hurt as I was wrote my trip notes that night.
Wet, we decided to dry out by walking back to Camp Minnie and Mickey for the 2:15 p.m. showing of FTLK. We were warthogs for this one. It's tough to sound loud while snorting. Digger enjoyed the show from the cheap seats at our feet. After a debate about whether or not to take pictures (concluding before the show with the decision to not take pictures), as soon as the show started, Amy decided, "Yes, we do need more pictures." After all, we were seated at a different angle. So, I obliged and took plenty pictures of the action.
Dry, we still had a few minutes to spare before parade time. We walked to the front of the park to examine our Safari Mickey and Minnie photo session results. They were too adorable not to purchase. At that point it was about 3:25 p.m., so we figured that we should head up to the AP parade viewing area. On the way, we made a few pin purchases, including one of the every elusive Stitch. The AP viewing area did not appear great for picture taking so we rejected it for a much better spot at the bend, just a little ways up toward Africa. Before getting seated, we grabbed drinks and snacks with our AP discount at Pizzafari and a tub of popcorn.
Amy and I would agree that Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade was our favorite parade of our trip. We had fabulous seats since nobody could sit on the left side of the parade. As such, we received the complete attention of all the characters that passed on by. Digger sat stuffing himself with popcorn throughout the parade. He did catch the eye of Turk as he walked by although I thought he was just thirsty and wanted Amy's lemonade. It is a shame (although not for us viewing) that so few people stuck around to enjoy the 4:00 parade. It was great fun and the music had a contagious beat to it.
We followed the parade off Discovery Island and made our way to the exit. Waiting for us outside was a whole new bunch of characters - Rafiki, two of Cindy's mice friends, and Baloo. I got a quick picture acting baboon-like with Rafiki before we boarded the next ride to Unicorn 27 and the multi-color Kia Rio. At the car, of course, we took extra care to buckle up Digger in the backseat.
As we arrived back at CBR, we stopped at the Custom House to pick up some extra guidemaps. We also made another Fantasmic! PS for Sunday night at the Brown Derby. We stopped at OPR before going back to the room for drinks and to pick up our theme park packages. We also talked with the pin-trading folks and realized that we were lucky to have found our Stitch pin at AK today. Back to the room to refresh ourselves before making our way out for dinner. While I checked cell phone messages on the porch, I am joined by a couple of blood-sucking nuisances. One took a spot on my chin while the other found a juicy spot on my neck. They both created two itching, yucky bumps. I'll get those darned mosquitoes. And then, it was off to dinner at the Boardwalk.
The Boardwalk was a very busy place. It took us a couple of trips around the parking lot and then a trip across the street before finding an available spot. We made it to Spoodle's shortly after our 7:00 p.m. PS and were seated right away. I didn't realize it was quite the style of Italian food that it was so it was a little difficult for Amy to make a food selection. She found something, though, and I had a most delicious filet mignon with mashed potatoes - and a tropical surprise drink. Amy had sangria but only when she realized that I was going to have a drink. We finished dinner about 8:00 p.m. and left no room for dessert this time. It was then, as Stitch would say, "Time to play!"
We headed for Downtown Disney but had to make a pit-stop at Exxon first. If the Boardwalk was busy, Downtown Disney was a madhouse. This must be the place for Orlandians to be on a Saturday night. We parked between Planet Hollywood and Pleasure Island and walked our way over to the Marketplace. We did our final shopping at WoD, Pin Traders and the Christmas shop. We spent a few dollars but all for a good cause - US. It took us a little longer to get all our shopping done than I had hoped and I was getting unusually grumpy. So, we skipped DisneyQuest (maybe next trip - whenever that will be) and went back to CBR. After all, Digger and Brer Rabbit had been left alone for quite some time, who knows what they had done in the room alone for a few hours. We joined them back at the room around 11:00 p.m. Amy spent some time prepping postcards and I wrote some trip report. But I couldn't keep my eyes open and I stopped abruptly and fell quickly to sleep.
Day Ten - Sunday, July 28, 2002:
Our last full day at WDW had arrived - only one more day to wake up to Stitch. His voice became much clearer over our trip so I must have got used to hearing from him every morning. I forced Amy out of bed to insure our early start for BB. She abused poor Digger before heading into the shower and I used the time to finish up last night's trip report before jumping into the shower myself. Digger and Brer Rabbit wanted to say thanks to the housekeepers so I included them on the thank you note with our daily tip.
We were out the door and on our way to BB at 8:30 a.m. Amy wanted to stop at OPR first for some strawberry milk and water. On the way out, Amy jumped from the car (with a busload of onlookers) to get a picture of the CBR entrance sign. And then it happened. In an effort to open her milk container, Amy seemed unable to peel off the top. So, she decided simply to stab at it with the straw. The milk erupted all over her! Drips of strawberry milk hung from her hair. Milk ran down her side and back. And sprinkles of pink decorated her face. And me - I couldn't stop laughing hysterically.
We were among the first arrivals at BB. We tried to take some pictures again with our disposable underwater cameras but the heat variances caused the lenses to become all fogged up. It was very difficult to take any pictures since we could hardly see what we were taking pictures of. We forewent the locker and found some seats in the same area as our last visit. The first spot I picked was a designated smoking area so we promptly moved elsewhere. Slush Gusher started our day. The five-minute wait was much better than the 45-minutes we waited the other day. We walked up quite a few steps throughout the morning. Downhill Double Dipper ... Teamboat Springs ... lazy river ride ... Runaway Rapids (enclosed) ... Storm Chasers ... a walk through the wave pool ... and then back to our lounge chairs was the morning itinerary. We dried off in the sun and made our way out of BB at 11:00 a.m. We were disappointed that we could not find a BB postcard on the way out for Amy's scrapbook.
We walked next door for miniature golf at Winter Summerland. We took the sand course (summer) as there appeared to be fewer people. Cute theme and surf music played throughout. I was - I scored a 44 - the lowest score of the day thus far. I got my name, score and home state put on the leader board on the way out. We decided to grab a bite at OPR as we were slightly hungry. We shared a turkey wrap and I tried the awful-tasting cole slaw that came with it. Yeck! While inside, we pressed a quarter. I guess we found another thing to collect. We then decided to do a little swimming at OPR. But first, we had to feed the ducks. As soon as Amy got food in her hand and we walked down to the beach, the ducks came waddling. In their eagerness, one of the little guys bit Amy. What ever happened to not biting the hand that feeds you? We cooled off with a swim in the pool and then sat poolside to dry off before walking back to Jamaica. Upon our arrival, I received my own personal hammock photo session. I finished reading The Emperor of Ocean Park while Amy diligently wrote postcards.
Amy and I freshened up for our evening at D-MGM. While Amy finished, I walked over to OPR to pick up our packages from Downtown Disney. On the way, the sky started to look dark. I simply hoped that it would rain NOW so that Fantasmic! would proceed as scheduled. We were on our way back to D-MGM at 5:00 p.m. Cars in the parking lot were sparse compared to our arrival earlier in the week. Our late arrival had us parking only in Film Goofy. Music Donald was completely empty. (Goofy was only half-full.) Our tram guide fashioned himself a regular stand-up comedian. He decided to ridicule some teenage girl because of a comment he overheard her say to her parents.
We went directly to Brown Derby for our PS Fantasmic! package. We were seated in a very nice booth where Amy and I could cuddle while we dined. I enjoyed some delicious grouper while Amy had the surf & turf. She shared the surf as well as several bites of the turf. We split the white chocolate cheesecake for dessert. It came decorated with a little sorcerer's hat and yellow ears - it was all edible. A little boy at the next table was quite envious of the delicacy. He dared me to eat the hat (not believing that it really was chocolate), so I took a chunk right off the top. It was our most expensive dinner of the trip but well worth it.
The back doors of Brown Derby funneled us right out to Mickey Avenue. It was ten minutes before the last showing of WWTBAM. Thinking the crowd would be relatively light; we decided to try to become millionaires. Well, the place was full and we sat in the very last row - still not a problem playing the game. No fastest finger because there was a hold-over from the last show. We found out they had their youngest millionaire winner today - a nine-year-old made it all the way to the top. Discovered that a "trick" question always seems to come at about the 8,000 point level - i.e. the Walt's birthplace question (with Marceline as one of the choices), what month "procedes", where was Waterford crystal first made. Despite Amy causing a distraction by goofing with the little two-year-old boy sitting next to us (he was awfully cute with a dinosaur cousin of Digger he was dragging along), I made it to the leaderboard twice at the 1000-point level. I was number 9 and number 10. Moving up from the other day. A few more chances to play would come tomorrow. I was really hoping to get to the hot seat before we left.
With a considerable amount of time left before Fantasmic!, we decided to watch Walt's movie - One Man's Dream. How inspiring. It's told almost entirely in Walt's own words. We took another little tour around the museum while waiting for the film to start. The theme park models are extraordinary. How much time and effort must go into making each one of those with such painstaking detail.
Following Walt, we walked directly down Hollywood Boulevard to the Hollywood Hills Theatre via the entrance next to Oscar's garage. We were warmly welcomed to our second shot at priority seating for Fantasmic! It was a little after 8:00 p.m. and the regular seats were filling up fast. There was lots of room in the reserved section. We got great seats in about the fifth row - although we could have sat in the first row. That was too close and the bars would be in the way of our pictures. The "light-selling" guy led us in some crowd games. It was amazing how we were able to get the entire theatre to follow us in whatever action we began. Fantasmic! was fantastic! I didn't really remember how different it was from the Disneyland version. There seems to be a greater focus on the villains in the WDW version. But hey ... some imagination. We noticed how the Swan and Dolphin are turned off during the show. The folks beside us also bought some neat plastic bottles that hold two separate beverages and have glowing ice cubes in the bottom. It was very interesting.
We exited with the masses from the theatre and went looking for the Fantasmic! postcard. We stopped at a shop right outside the theatre. The guy said he did not have any and told us that only the Hollywood Boulevard stores would be open down in the park. He was wrong! The villains store was open and they had the postcard although they moved it from its location earlier in the week. A query of the CM located them for us and the purchase was made. The lights in the sorcerer's hat and the Brown Derby attracted us with our camera. We took a few shots (and a few with Amy in them to preserve her cute little "Tink" t-shirt) before exiting the park for the night.
The trams to the parking lot were waiting our arrival and we hopped aboard. It was only a short drive back to CBR and once there we started packing up the room and all of our souvenirs. We were asleep by about 11:00 p.m. with hopes of getting up early for Character Caravan and our last day at WDW. I did not want to leave!
Day Eleven: Monday, July 29, 2002:
Stitch woke up Amy at 6:30 a.m. She claimed that he was completely coherent. She must be fluent in alien because it took me at least four days to figure out what he was saying. I still got out of bed before Amy and started getting ready. While Amy finished, I started early packing preparations. Our express checkout bill had not come yet so I called the front desk. I was told it should arrive by 8:30 a.m., so I patiently waited and helped (not a whole lot) Amy pack up the bags. She had a whole system to insure the security of our souvenirs while being flown back in the plane cargo compartments. We said our be safes to Digger and Brer Rabbit as they both took deep breaths that would last them all the way home to Sharonville. Gosh, the lung capacity of stuffed dinosaurs and rabbits is remarkable. About 8:15 a.m., I took the bags out to the car. Still no bill as I left the room but it was waiting for me on the doorknob when I returned from the parking lot. A final check of room 4216's drawers, a final tip for housekeeping, and we said farewell to CBR. But first, we had a little time left to catch the character caravan at OPR. I called last night to find that the characters visit from 8:10 to 8:40 and again from 9:10 to 9:40. We were pushing it but hoping we could make the last ten minutes of their morning visit. We made it. King Louie, Rafiki, Goofy, and Meeko (or as Amy said, the raccoon) were all there waiting to meet and greet us. Goofy was not attracting too much of a crowd and was wandering aimlessly. Amy decided to keep him company - she's such a great lady. I knew Goofy thought so too. We had never met Meeko, so we waited in a short line to take a picture with the cute, little guy. We passed on King Louie and Rafiki in favor of making our way to D-MGM for park opening. We stopped inside for drink refills and chocolate milk before getting back into the car. I successfully got the top off my milk without eruption - lucky me!
At D-MGM, we were early enough to park in the Mickey lot again. We forewent the tram for the short walk to the front gate. A small mob had conglomerated there - we hoped they were all buying tickets. No such luck, they were all waiting to enter the park at 8:55 a.m. And an unbelievable 25-minutes later, we finally were in the park. A little ridiculous that one of the longest lines we waited in all of our trip was the line just to get into the park. It was quite disappointing. But the sight of the big blue sorcerer's hat at the end of Hollywood Boulevard put us quickly back into a happy-go-lucky Disney mood.
The line had emptied us out just in time for the first showing of Playhouse Disney at 9:30 a.m. We went directly to the show and grabbed a great couple of seats on the floor. A fun show - although we really only went to enjoy Bear doing the cha-cha-cha! The show ended a little bit before 10:00 a.m. - which was the opening time for the Animation tour. We expected no line and our expectations were met. We were ushered right in to enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at Disney Feature Animation in Florida. The comical Cronkite/Williams Return to Neverland film was quite delightful to start off the tour. We then watched and listened to a real-live Disney animator draw Stitch. As we entered the corridors, we got to see works in progress below us. I believe we saw some early production of Bears, which is due for release in 2004. We were informed that Lilo & Stitch was the second (after Mulan) animated film done entirely in Florida. A final film of Disney's animated classics finished the tour running through a list of human emotions. What amazing storytelling has come from Disney animation through the years. Of course, I could spend hours exploring the animation store at the end of the tour but we had to move on. It was nearing 11:00 a.m. as we exited and decided to make our way to MuppetVision 3-D (MV-3D). On the way, I convinced Amy to let me get a FP for the next showing of WWTBAM (12:10 to 12:20). We also picked up a light snack - big pretzel and water. We swung by the Singin' in the Rain umbrella - the maintenance guys hanging around showed me what to step on to get it to rain. We then took a seat on the steps of a New York brownstone, ate our pretzel, while enjoying the music of the Hunchback show. After dining, we noticed that there was no line while Buzz, Woody and Jessie were on a break at Al's Toy Barn. I thought it made sense to wait for their re-arrival and avoid a line. Probably not the smartest idea. We waited for about 25-minutes before Buzz, Woody and Jessie appeared. We were among the first in line, got our pictures taken, and then were off to visit with Kermit and friends.
We had made it early enough to see the entire pre-show film. Quite humorous. But the Rizzo as Mickey Mouse finale (after all we are just a bunch of tourists and will never know the difference) is a hoot every time. After Bean's declaration of a "cute ending," we were out of the theatre and on our way to WWTBAM at 12:15 p.m. We made it to the stage with precious seconds left in our FP window. It was going to be a full show of 650. The stage manager of the show was one of the "Regis - the next generation" from earlier in the trip. I missed the fastest finger question but the guy who won was out-of-the-game on the 100-point question. Here's where it got fun! I made it to the leaderboard three separate times during the show. Each time, I crept a little closer to the number one spot. I was number-5, then number-4, and when they were calling down a new hot seat contestant, I was number TWO! Probably turned out OK since I would have lost the 1000-point question. Something about what color is associated with newness, beginners - the answer was green. I didn't know that one and the lifelines would not have been much help. The audience was evenly divided on that one as well. No small feat, however, Amy made it to number-5 on the leaderboard when I was number-2. It still did not convince her that we needed to spend the rest of our day playing WWTBAM. The people behind us were overheard rooting on #208 when I kept popping up on the leaderboard. Quite encouraging.
WWTBAM let out around 1:00 p.m. and we went in search of a Bean Bunny for my lovely wife. After all, she did make it to number-5 on the WWTBAM leaderboard and certainly deserved a present for the accomplishment. No Bean, however, but I did get run over by a steam roller in the process. Long story, but it sure did hurt!
We intended to see the 2:15 p.m. Indy show before lunch, so we decided just to take in the D-MGM atmosphere for a while. Walking to the sorcerer's hat (down a not-too-often traveled street for us), we noticed a Monsters, Inc. character greeting area. Yep, Sully and Mike were due to arrive any minute (1:10 p.m. to be exact and it was 1:15 p.m. when we passed by). And sure enough, the garage door opened and there they were. We waited in line with the kiddies and Amy posed with the spectacular scream team. Characters were scheduled to be at the sorcerer's hat, so we went to see who was there. We saw none and wandered down Sunset Boulevard. Amy stopped for a frozen lemonade while I picked up a FP for R'nR. The return time was 3:50 to 4:50 p.m., which was a perfect fit for the finishing plans of our day. We spent the next several minutes wandering the stores of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. I wanted it all! But I exercised restraint, except for a couple pressed pennies and quarters.
Indy showtime had arrived and we made it to the theatre with only five minutes to spare. We still managed some decent seats in the fifth/sixth row. It was a good vantage point for a couple good action shots - especially the boulder scene. I suspected one of the so-called audience extras was a "ringer." I was right (although I had forgotten from our previous trip). He was quite amusing, however, and really played the part of a tourist remarkably well. I think he even legitimately cracked up the stunt double with his antics. We were headed out of the theatre just in time for our 3:00 p.m. PS at 50's Prime-Time Café.
This proved a great way to finish off our vacation. I did not let on to Amy all the little entertainment of the restaurant hoping that might lead to some fun (and potentially embarrassing) moments. Unfortunately, she caught on by observing the other diners and reading the menu warnings while we were waiting to be seated. She then intentionally chose the only menu item that did not include vegetables. That wife of mine is sneaky that way. She even cleaned her entire plate and struggled with great difficulty to keep her elbows off the table throughout our entire dining experience. Aunt Elaine did not get a single opportunity to scold us for our poor manners. We were definitely the perfect little kids in our section of Mom's kitchen. At least when Aunt Elaine wasn't watching. While she was away, Amy chewed with her mouth open and played with her food - but of course, she didn't get caught. We couldn't say the same for the tables around us. One guy couldn't seem to keep his elbows off the table - a woman at the same table tried to hide her green beans - and another was just being downright nasty. Two of them ended up in the corner with the two-finger-scolding from the entire restaurant. S'mores were for dessert and they were yummy. This was when we got our own special attention. Aunt Elaine cut both Amy and I a very large piece of marshmallow, graham cracker and chocolate and then ordered us to feed each other. The aftermath on Amy's face was quite humorous. As we were preparing to leave, I noticed a "cousin" at another table really getting into his role. He was feeding his cousins by using the "choo-choo train" technique. He then taught them a new one involving a camel in the desert. Another cousin helped him out by adding additional elephant noises. I forgot to mention that he had a train whistle in his pocket to assist with the "choo-choo train" feeding technique. Another cousin took great interest in a child's "Bear" stuffed animal at the next table. At one point she referred to poor Bear as having "gas." And Amy thought I was bad with Digger?
Dinner concluded about 4:15 p.m. and we made our trek to the final ride of the trip - R'nR. We waited for another trip in the driver's seat. There was a kid with an Aerosmith T-shirt in front of us who referred to it as the "best ride ever." I wouldn't go that far but it was a great thrill - especially in the front seat as you watch some of the signs light up right in front of you. Good pick to finish off the trip.
We stopped at Sid Cahunga's store before exiting D-MGM and leaving WDW behind for now. After perusing, we found our Kia Rio about 5:00 p.m. and were on our way to MCO after a fill-up at the Boardwalk Exxon. An uneventful drive to MCO and return of our rental car is proceded (see WDW can be educational without you really knowing about it - they don't need all that EPCOT stuff to hit you over the head with) by a not-so-pleasant flight check-in encounter. Acting as if he was doing us a favor, the ticket agent informed us that he was re-routing us through CVG to DAY instead of Atlanta. (Huh!) He said this way our flight would get to DAY at 11:40 p.m. instead of 1:00 a.m. (HUH! - we were supposed to be arriving in DAY at 10:22 p.m.) Not quite understanding why he was re-routing us on the same flight we were supposed to be on to begin with but putting us on a later flight out of CVG to DAY, I asked questions. He did not really seem too interested in answering my questions nor did he seem very interested in offering a better resolution. I would still like to know why he could not just check us in to CVG and let us get off there since we were now going to be an hour-and-a-half later than originally confirmed. He just seemed to think he was doing us a great favor by putting us on the plane I had originally confirmed a flight upon rather than making us go to Atlanta. I became a little testy and I directed some of that testiness at Amy, unfortunately. This did not make the horrid bag x-ray machine at MCO any more fun. We had to empty out the seventeen-rolls of film before sending the bags through to get checked.
The testiness subsided though as we made our way to gate 77 for departure. A last minute fix of Disney magic at the airport Disney Store was the key. Eleven days of WDW, numerous shopping experiences, and there was still merchandise I had not seen. I bought a black t-shirt with each of the parks icons and the fab-five characters. My excuse was that I did not own any black t-shirts, which is true. The Disney magic worked again and the smile was back on my face. We, however, boarded our plane tired and ready to be somewhere other than the airport. Unfortunately, the weather decided not to let us leave MCO and we were delayed for an additional 45-minutes to wait the storms "passing over." I began finishing the trip report while Amy began to sleep. And some 40+ legal-sized pages later the report was finished.
It must be the suspended reality that makes it all so special for me. The intricate details everywhere that lead you to believe that there is no other world outside the Disney World you have transported yourself to. The thrills of a coaster and the raw emotion of a great show truly shoot flames through the heart and soul. Kind gestures of the "keepers of the magic" showing you that dreams really do come true add so much to the experience.
Amy notes that the coolest thing for her is the fact that you can visit a park seven-plus times in two years and still notice "touches" you had never seen before. She gives WDW an A+++ but found Disneyland to be wonderful too.
I have had this far in my life great fortune to spend three remarkable Disney vacations with a woman whom I adore and cherish. She is my own special princess whose attraction is magnified by WDW's fairytale surroundings. I am luckier than any man could hope to be to have my own Cinderella to share with me the dream come true. I pray that our future holds many more of these memorable and magical moments!