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Jack Lebby -- October 2002 -- Walt Disney World (PR)

  • CAST: Jack (me) 48 year old computer programmer and Disneyoholic (like you since you are reading this). Marie, queen of the domicile, my lovely 46 year old wife.
  • WDW Experience: Rookies (1 1/2 WDW trips a long time ago).
  • When: October 2 through October 12 2002.
  • Where: The Polynesian Resort, garden view room.
  • How: Plane and Disney transportation
  • Goal: To see the 4 parks while still getting that relaxing 'on vacation' feeling.

Boring Background Exposition

Since this web-site provided so much good information for our vacation I felt obligated to give back something and write a report. Sit back with a cup of coffee (decaf) and I'll spin you a long-winded tale...

Can you be over-prepared? I am willing to take that chance. I have absorbed every scrap of information I could find in an unhealthy obsessive way for the last 9 weeks, but my 'Disney bug' started long before this trip.

Growing up in Southern California I was never more than an hour away from Disneyland and always took full advantage of that fact by visiting often. On many childhood summer evenings my dad would drive us down and park on the Harbor Blvd freeway overpass (it was legal then I think) so we could watch the fireworks for free. I know now where my cheapskate gene came from.

And ever since WDW was built, I have always thought that visiting a larger Disneyland could be nothing but cool.

In 1982 my lovely wife and I took a 3-day Disney commando vacation (green beret variety) to Walt Disney World to see the seven month old Epcot and the rest of the 'world'. On this trip we stayed at the Howard Johnson's "Main Gate West" wrongly thinking that like in Anaheim the "Main Gate" is really at the Main Gate. After a rude awakening of just how big WDW really is and how long it takes to drive into the resort we vowed to come back and someday stay on-site.

For 20 years now we have hoped to bring our two girls to Florida, but you know how mortgages, jobs, kids etc, get in the way of your plans. Now that we are almost empty-nesters I figured it's time to make good on that promise at least to my wife.

Don't feel bad for my daughters though. We visited Disneyland several times a year and even splurged on family annual passes for the last 2 years. So this report will be filled with comparison's to our favorite place. P.S. regarding family AP's with older 'children': This was a great way to keep the family having fun together, but giving them their own 'space'. (I never really did figure out the correct teenager-to-adult space ratio according to them).

Too Much Planning

Back in 94 I was lucky enough to have a short business trip to Orlando (yes boss, I really attended all the conference sessions, or at least I was in the room when they started). I scoped-out the hotels at night and by booking a late flight back squeezed in a visit to the then new Disney-MGM studios. Between this, and MousePlanet I had a good idea of the pros and cons of most of the hotels.

Staying off-site is not an option. Disney magic is more important to us than the advantages of the other hotels. From our past trip and our frequent Disneyland visits we've always encountered far more pleasant cast members and tourists on the Disney property than off. Vacations can be stressful, so you will always bump into someone having a 'Cruella' day on any vacation, but staying on site cuts these occasions down.

Additionally, staying at a monorail resort and being able to easily return to the room would be helpful. Marie is recouping from a lengthy illness and still occasionally becomes fatigued. Plus, the easier it is to get to and from the hotel, the easier it will be to reel in those Disney commando tendencies.

The one hotel that bowled us over was the Polynesian. The Grand Floridian is much more elegant, but we've always had a special place in our hearts for the South Seas/Tiki motif.

After deciding on this hotel the next step was how can I afford to stay there? After reading about mousesavers.com from this web site I was surprised at what great deals could be found. I was able to book nine nights with a garden view starting on October 3rd for only $199 using a discount code. A little steep, but I can't complain. On special occasions we've stayed at inns and resort hotels that charge equal or higher rates. But they never had Mickey waffles!

Since I was being extravagant with the choice of hotel I needed to save some bucks on the airfare. After much power-internet surfing I was very pleased to find America West offering a $189 roundtrip fare from Ontario California to Orlando. The only catch was I would have to leave a day earlier than I planned since this was a 'Wednesday only' special fare. Oh well, I wanted to add a day to the trip any way since I was staying at the hotel of our dreams and we should take the time to enjoy it.

I thought about booking a cheaper room somewhere else for one night, but once I unpack Mr.Toothbrush, I'm home. I don't want to spend more time talking with bellhops than my wife. That extra day at the Polynesian came at a higher rate as that fell outside of the time period for the discount. Even with an AAA discount it was $249, ouch.

I was going nuts waiting for the 9 weeks to pass (as I'm sure most of you are aware of this condition). So I made a few reservations at restaurants that we did not want to miss. I occasionally called to ask questions about the dinner shows, menus, etc. It was very therapeutic to just talk to the cast members, and to a person they were all great. Marie kept ribbing me asking if I was known by name yet or if Disney had call-blocked our number. We even stepped up our exercise regimen, as we knew we would be walking a lot.

For you non-WDW veterans we highly recommend the Burnbam WDW guide as well as the book 'Walt Disney World for Couples (with or without kids)' by Rick Perlmutter. Burnbam has the best book around and the 'couples' book had specific information for, well, couples. Between these and this web-site we created our daily game plan on highlights to see and things that wouldn't interest us.

Another time and money saving idea we had is packing cereal, instant coffee and cocoa for breakfast. With a heating coil you can have a quick hot 'waker-upper' without having to do the zombie walk for morning caffeine. Most nights we would buy 2 milks and 2 bananas at Captain Cooks ($5) and put it on ice for the morning cereal.

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2002 - Are we there yet?

By forcing my daughter to drop us off at the airport I save money on the parking (there is that cheapskate gene). It was a long flight, complicated by a 2 1/2 hour delay, but even post 9/11 I love to fly. And another post 9/11 reality; unless you can live on peanuts and biscuits, don't forget to bring your own food.

We booked round trip seats via the internet with Mears shuttle for $56. This is the cheapest option for 2 people. After being directed to a shuttle van we sat for 30 minutes before leaving. The dispatcher was very harried and disorganized. A few people that were picked up at the other side of the airport had been waiting longer. This is hard to take when we're almost there. Finally, we are on our way.

It's fun to see all the 3-D billboards along the freeway as every company in Florida tries to one-up each other as they vie for the tourist (multiple) dollar. They have smoke, they light and they shake and shimmy.

After a 45-minute drive we walk into the beautiful garden lobby of the Polynesian. I like to think we don't have to wait to check-in because we are VIP's, but it's really because it is close to 11:00 PM.

I faxed the wonderful, caring, hard-working room assigner 4 days prior, requesting a quiet non-smoking room with a balcony in the Tahiti building. We love relaxing out on a patio when the view is good and I figured that building would be the best.

We were assigned an even better room than I requested. We were in the far eastern end of the Rapa Nui building, room 3125, which faces north. This meant the balcony was always a shaded sanctuary from the sun for us. Additionally, we were half way between the Ticket and Transportation Center and the Polynesian's lobby. So this gave us additional transportation options.

The room is very nice done in a light tropical style with two queen size beds, a small day bed, a armoire, a table, a ceiling fan and an in-room safe. I can see that it is large enough to fit a family of 5 comfortably. The safe is very convenient for when you want to go to the pool but want to lock up valuables. The fan turns out to be very useful keeping the room from being stuffy while we sleep.

There is a very large garden area with trees separating this building with the Tahiti building across the way.

Only my dad would like the rooms in this building that face south since all you can see is the parking lot. He is never comfortable on vacation unless he can see his car from his room.

In our room there was paperwork including the warnings about the mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus. Ahh....Florida. I forgotten that these bugs can carry off small children. (Drum shot please....bada-boom. Thank you, thank you, you've been a great audience. Don't forget to tip your waitress and try the veal....).

Before we booked this trip, Marie was slightly concerned about this virus, because of her illness. But I used our family catch phrase "Don't be a Tata". This is in honor of a now gone Grandmother who worried about everything for 97 years. I have to switch to Disney mode and for the duration of this trip and just say "Hakuna Matata". As a precaution we douse ourselves with repellant regularly and there is no problem.

We walk around the lush grounds and have a snack at Captain Cooks, the fast food café at the Hotel. We finally hit the pillows at 1:30 since we are still on Pacific Time. Even though we are exhausted, we have trouble sleeping since we are all keyed up.

Thursday, Oct 3, 2002 - Ready?...Set?.....START WALKING!

The Plan: 1/2 of Epcot and sightseeing at the Boardwalk.

We let the Florida sunshine wake us at 7:30 (ugg, 6 hours of sleep). Marie say's "Do you smell that? It's Tonga Toast!" We had seen that breakfast on their menu at the Kona Café and we're anxious to try it. She also added; "Besides, there must be a park open somewhere..."

We get a table by the window overlooking the monorail and the garden and enjoy this breakfast. It is like a French toast sandwich with banana's inside and covered in cinnamon. A very tasty way to start our vacation. The Kona coffee if very good also.

Properly caffinated we walk (briskly ) to the TTC and buy 2 annual passes for $782. Since we were staying so long this was our best option. We would not be using any of the 'plus' options that you get with the hopper passes and we plan to use the discounts the AP gives you.

These AP's are much easier to buy than Disneyland's. There you have to buy your ticket in one line, then stand in another inside the park while they take your picture and collect all your information. This second step cannot seem to be done very efficiently and very long lines develop.

We hop on the monorail for a quick trip to Epcot. No lines anywhere so far, and this continues through the day. Our first view of Epcot after 20 years is magical. I want to pinch myself to prove that were finally here.

Adding our two cents in the controversy over the giant Mickey hand icon and the sorcerers hat at Disney/MGM, we loved them. I know they are tinkering with tradition, but for us it works. I wonder if we would have the same option if we come to WDW regularly and grew conformable with the old views?

As a native So-Cal I'm jealous over the 4 great parks here and we only have one and a half. Don't get me wrong, California Adventure has some great things about it, but it still needs to grow. They also need to burn to the ground there the worst thing Disney has ever built, Superstar Limo.......Oops, I'll get back to my vacation now. Hakuna Matta....Hakuna Matta.....

Speaking of SL, for the very few attractions that do not please us we will be using the SLSR rating scale. This stands for the 'Superstar Limo Suckage Rating'. SL is so bottom of the scale, jaw-dropping bad that for the rest of the day you board attraction vehicle's thinking "could this ride be as bad as that".

Test track is down for the day so we start with the slower paced attractions in the Land pavilion.

'Listen to the Land' is Maries favorite at Future World and I like it alot. It's informative and interesting. The 'Circle of Life' movie with Pumba and Tumon was a fun 'C' ticket attraction. You'll have to ask your Grandpa if you don't know what a 'C' ticket attraction is. Marie liked the gift shop and food court selections since everything here was not the same offerings that you find all over the world.

Using the SLSR rating Marie put 'Food Rocks' as 1 point above SL. I was slightly more forgiving since I liked the oldies that they parodied. We know that this was supposed to be a light weight show, but having cardboard cutouts pop-up and move like a cast member is underneath with a long stick is not entertainment. Not in my local mall's pizza joint and definitely not at EPCOT.

Over at the Living Seas I like that you can choose to skip the movie to go directly to the Hydrolators and the exhibits. That's a cute trip to the ocean bottom that set's the mood nicely. We enjoy everything here and the kids around us did to.

Since we are getting hungry we decide to stroll over to the World Showcase for our start of the 'snacking around the world' tour.

We stopped by the English fish and chips stand to split an order (I wonder where that fish craving came from?). Very tasty and the Woodpecker sweet cider is not bad also. The total bill was $11.

Note that sharing smaller meals became our theme. This is so we could try more of everything and not be stuffed and have room for dessert. "Dessert's are First" is our motto.

I noticed that Off Kilter was about to start a performance on the stage next to Canada. They are a rock band that features a bagpipe player. I never liked the bagpipes so of course my daughter played in the high school band that had stinking bagpipes leading every event! Three years of torture!

Having said that, I read many good things on the trip reports about Off Kilter so I buried my loathing and decide to give them a listen. I'm glad we did because it was a great show! I'm a now a fan and bought their latest CD, 'Etched in Stone'. I hope it is as good as their stage show, although I'm sure it won't feature the great sense of humor they showed between numbers (P.S. it's a great CD).

They drew a good crowd at first since the sun was behind a cloud. However, after the sun blazed forth everyone had to slip into the shade or be turned into a raisin. Most found shade, but the people who didn't just left. What a shame to miss a great show like that but it would have taken the re-formed Beatles to keep people's attention in that heat. Disney; more umbrella's for Off Kilter please!

Speaking of the Beatles, I wanted to see the "British Invasion" next door in England but the show times never matched our schedule. Better luck next visit.

We slowly meander around the lake for the rest of the day soaking in the ambiance. Not seeing any of the movies or attractions until we got to Mexico.

At the French stand we passed on the desert crepes since they are only warmed up, folded over and squirted with chocolate sauce. We've had better fruit filled Crepes at our local country fair. Marie is disappointed, since she had been looking forward to trying a true French crepe.

In Morocco's Tangerine counter service restaurant we split a very tasty order of Taboelli wrap with cous-cous and lentil been salad ($9). Not our usual bill-of-fare, but when you have a chance to explore why just eat burgers, chicken or pizza?

In the German candy store we spilt a thick chocolate chip cookie with a glob of caramel and covered in coconut/chocolate shavings. I asked what they called these diet busters in Germany and they paused and said "a cookie". Good, much easier to pronounce that way. These become our favorite WDW desert, and there is considerable competition.

Our feet are starting to get tired so we decided to break format and ride an attraction. Norway's Maelstrom is down for rehab so we chose the 'River of Time' in Mexico. The slow boat ride with air-conditioning fits the bill. It was OK, just like we remember it 20 years ago.

I normally don't like Mariachi music (why does the littlest guy always have the biggest guitar?). But the large group they have here is great. Afterwards, the pavilion and the music give me enough subliminal messages to try the margarita stand in front. I had bypassed it on the way in since it was $8 and not made by a blender but burped from a slushy machine. I wasn't so discriminating after being serenaded.

Since it was hot I gulped it down and experienced the new ride 'Soaring over Epcot'! I'm no tea toddler, but that drink had quite a kick. I told Marie that she would have to drive the monorail back tonight!

By now it was 6:00 and we had to head back to the hotel to rest our feet. It had been a much longer day than planned and we hadn't even seen the Boardwalk.

At the monorail station no one had asked, so we got to ride in the front. The driver pointed out the deer along the way and chatted on how Disney should expand the tracks. We agreed.

After a small rest and change of shoes we went in search of a quick and easy dinner along the monorail path. The café at the Grand Floridian wasn't open for dinner so we tried Gaspirella's food and games, their fast food place.

The food was suprisingly good. Marie had a baked potato with all the fixin's and I had a freshly made turkey sandwich. We tried to eat a romantic dinner at the water's edge, but two bugs did a kamikaze dive into Marie's potato. Talk about a mood killer! Back inside for us. The nice CM didn't even charge us for the baked potato when she asked Marie why she was getting seconds.

A great first day.

Friday, Oct 4, 2002 - Jack gets a bad attitude.

The Plan: Part of Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney.

Today is the day we take advantage of the 'Extra Magic Hour' at the Animal Kingdom. This is not to be confused with the old 'Early Entry' program. I'm sure a Disney exec received a big bonus for changing the name since it comes with an extra noun.

That means, no sleeping in for us. We have our cereal breakfast in our room and after a longer bus ride than I anticipated, (35 minutes), we arrive at 8:20.

We are just floored by the beauty of the Oasis entrance area. Even so, we walk by on the way to everyone's destination, the Kilimanjaro Safaris. At 8:40 it's only a 15 minute posted wait, but turns out to be 10.

We both loved the authentic safair feel and get up close to the Rhino's. A lot of animals are out including the lions staking about.

Afterwards, we wandered around the park, soaking in the mood of the place. The feeling of the wilderness creeping in around the paths is great. We both feel transported into the wild.

We turned a corner and stepped into Dinoland. I laughed at first, since this reminded me of all those tourist traps my parents would stop at during family vacations. But that nice moment is gone quickly. What's that I see? Eeek! Carnies! Hawking pitching games! I thought that little piece of Hades was reserved for California Adventure.

After 2 minutes Marie said "Take me away from this scary, noisy place". I agree. It is much too jarring and succeeds too well in being tacky. It's like a garish carnival dropped into the middle of a beautiful town.

We walked onto Dinosaur and enjoyed the trip back in time. I think these vehicles, which are the same that the Indiana Jones attraction use, is the most innovative things Disney has created since the Omni-mover. Being able to stop, go backwards, bounce around adds greatly to the excitement.

We arrive about 15 minutes before the Tarzan Rocks show and get great seats. We enjoy the show, which is like Starlight Express meets Tarzan at a Britney Spears concert. The live rock band and the dancers were very good.

This show should be called "Tarzan Rocks.....Eventually" since the muscle guy shows up halfway into the performance and only for one big (and good) number in the air. For the ladies I'll say Tarzan is very hunky (and Jane ain't so bad either, not that I was noticing).

We go straight over to the other big show, the Legend of the Lion King. Another good show and we are impressed with the large cast of performers who, as in the Tarzan show, are all very good.

It's yet another hot building, which gets hotter when they turn the show lights on. Do they punish a bad dancer by making them wear the hot animal costumes until they improve?

By now it's 1:00 and we realize we are hungry, hot and tired. Our plan is to escape to the Animal Kingdom lodge and have a waitress served meal. I then turn into the grumpy American tourist when a poor CM tells me that both restaurants are only open for dinner. I wish I noticed her name so I could send her an apology.

By default we try their food court, Mara, although I am still grousing about having to push a tray to get some mediocre meal. My attitude turned 180 degrees around when we split the sugar cane chicken with a side salad ($12). It was a cut way above the average mall food court I'm used to. The other items looked equally yummy.

Afterward we viewed the attractive grounds. There are many places that overlook the animal 'wild'. Unfortunately, it is so hot that most of the animals appear to be hiding in the shade, which makes them smarter than me. We decide to go back to the hotel before ONE of us gets cranky again.

We take the bus back to the Magic Kingdom and transfer to the Polynesian boat. On the way the boat stops at the Grand Floridian and Marie decides that we need to get off and have the tasty make your own sundaes at Gaspirilla's Grill and Games. My attitude adjustment was now fully completed!

After a nap and shower we monorail over to the Magic Kingdom at 5:30. Our plan was to eat at Downtown Disney, but the magnetic lure of the Magic Kingdom cannot be denied.

Wow, everything is so big here! I'd forgotten that Cinderella's Castle is large compared to Sleeping Beauty's at Disneyland's. Did Disney super-size it when they signed that agreement with McDonalds?

We started to watch the Cinderella Surprise Celebration show in front of the castle, but it is still too hot and there is no shade. The show appears to be geared more towards the little ones.

Marie cannot wait until our PS on Sunday so we check out Cinderella's Royal Table. Not really expecting to get in we are told a table is waiting! I thought we would get a spot in the back by the kitchen, instead we are shown a table by a beautiful stained glass window with a view of the carousel! Too Cool! On top of the view, Captain Hook and Peter Pan keep running by the outside window walkway on the way to the C.S.C. show.

The room is a little noisy, but still very regal. We cannot wipe the smiles from our faces. Marie had the encrusted salmon and I had the flounder (sorry Ariel) on garlic potatoes ($58 with tip and no drinks). We steal liberally from each other's plate. It's heaven.

We walk all around a quiet Magic Kingdom to work those calories off. Occasionally we stop like all the 'old folks' and sit in the rocking chairs scattered around Frontierland. Several times those young-in's run by, trying to get as many rides in as they can in the last hour.

I had to take a peek at 'The Tiki Room, Under New Management'. I loved the show, but Marie thought Yago and Zazu were too big in comparison to the other birds. She also did not like that they had fir instead of feathers. They looked like any old stuffed animals. It didn't make the SLSF rating, but she prefers the 'old' management. .

I decided to check out the Alien Encounter alone since Marie does not like to be scared (I'll hide the Visa bill from her). Very impressive! I love the slight creepy feeling in this attraction, although there is much humor too. I'm going to have to try this again on this trip!

Buzz Lightyear calls. It's another ride with no wait. Very, very fun. My score is 85,000 which I hope is OK for a rookie. Marie gets a girly 12,000. Next time she wants to drive the spaceship.

The fireworks are very nice, but we are spoiled by the Disneyland's 'Believe, there's magic in the sky' show. Everything is timed to the music in that show.

As we exit to the boat Mickey stands up on the train station and say's goodbye to everyone. This is a way above average way to end the day.

We finish out the evening in a hammock on the quiet beach admiring the lights around the seven seas lagoon. This also is way above average.

Saturday, Oct 5, 2002 - It's 'take pictures with the Tiki's' day.

The Plan: Relaxing day sightseeing around the lake. See Spectramagic.

It's our sleep in late morning, so we make it till 8:30. This is about as late as you can sleep with the hyper-active kids running in the hallway.

Our only real goal for the day is to take stupid pictures of me with all of the Tiki statues around the Polynesian. We had originally planned to see Spectramagic at the Magic Kingdom since this was to be the only night it was offered. But several people we talked with through the day said it was packed at the MK. The schedule that they gave me at check-in says it will be offered again on Wednesday, so we postpone it (More on this later).

We stroll along the bay and find several Tiki's with fun expressions for picture taking opportunities.. We end up at the beautiful wedding pavilion. We want to lookie-loo inside but the sign say's that a wedding is already in progress with 2 more planned and 2 rehearsal sandwiched in!

A nice CM invites us into 'Franc's planning office'. Although we don't meet Martin Short, she give us an informational video. You never know, our 19 year old daughter is single and she may marry Bill Gates Jr someday. Marie Ooooh's over the decorations and dresses on display. What a girl!

Back at the hotel, we rent a water mouse and we're off for 45 minutes ($24 with AP discount). What a blast this is. The CM told us we won't go very fast with 2 adults, but that's just fine with us since we want to talk as we tour. The weight limit is 320 and since we've passed on the buffets, no problem there!

We circled what used to be Discovery Island in Bay lake. This was a favorite place 20 years ago, but now it's closed and overgrown. There were still many buzzards, Pelicans and other birds hanging around. Probably still waiting for some tourists to sneak them some popcorn.

After a light snack at Captain Cooks of fruit and salad ($7) we hang out at the Volcano pool. Since I saw an occasional adult try the tunnel slide I figured I wouldn't look like a dufus trying it with the 7 year olds. It was just fast enough for us older kids, but no to scary for the small ones.

By afternoon we freshened up and got our 'usual' table at the Kona Café. Both my pulled pork sandwich and Marie's soup was good. The main course of course was desert, a plate of Koko puffs to share. It was the bomb! Total with tip was $23 with AP discount.

We transferred via the boats to the Ft. Wilderness campground hoping to rent bikes, but it was closing soon since it was 5:30. We reviewed the campground via bus; Very nice as long as you get a site away from the busy main road.

The bus deposited us off at the Wilderness Lodge so we checked that out for any future visit. Our concerns are that this is an expensive hotel, but you are not on the monorail. Also, the food selections at Blazing Forks, their fast food café, leans toward the heavy meat selections.

We bus over to Port Orleans Riverside so we can compare what a moderate hotel would be like. The grounds are very nice with lots of area's to sit out by the water, but no balconies. The main pool is very nice.

We peek at a room being refurbished; Small, but pleasant. I think any combination greater than 2 adults and 2 children would make it very crowded. There are 2 sinks outside the bathroom which is nice, but there is no closet door. I don't know if this normal or part of the repairs.

The selections in the food court looked very good. In hindsight we should have eaten there instead of Boatwrights. The food was average, we split a halibut dinner, but the service was lousy. The server forgot our appetizer and generally forgot about us.

We take the boat to Downtown Disney to continue our sightseeing. At 9:00 on a Saturday it is wall to wall people. We see some wild animals that we have missed so far on this trip. We observe the 'Wild American teenager' which is indigenous to mall's and other gathering places. This is obviously 'The Place' on Saturday night. Also, it's the only place open after 9:00 PM. After two McFlurry's and a little browsing we decide to exit to the quiet of our hotel.

The Pleasure Island bus stop is crowded and in the middle of a hot, exhaust filled parking lot. From now on we only use the marketplace stop as it is a little more shaded and has ceiling fans.

I look back on this night as the turning point when we started to dislike the busses. Let's face it, you glide on a monorail, you float on a boat, but that's nothing but a B-B-Bus. That probably makes us sound like snobs, but they were usually standing room only. Maybe they need to add more buses, or better yet, extend the monorail.

Sunday, Oct 6, 2002 - Losing their religion.

The Plan: Animal Kingdom. Lunch at Cinderella's Royal Table

Disney no longer offers church service at the Polynesian, which disappoints us. I had heard about this from a Christian friend who was on vacation here last July. He had bused over to this hotel only to find out that it was a wasted trip. We sent a polite complaint letter last month and received a follow up call.

It's like we thought; Disney doesn't want to be involved in offering different denominational services. If they leave someone out, they are afraid they will be insulted. What a shame that another Christian tradition falls to political correctness. Things are bad enough changing it to the holiday break instead of the Christmas break. Religious rant is now off...back to our scheduled vacation.

We're back at the Animal Kingdom at a little after the 9:00 opening. It's another uncrowded day.

We start with Rafiki's Conservation Station, but there is not a lot for adults to do here. We return to ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris with our fast pass and bypass the 10 minute wait. It's just as much fun as the first ride and this time I saw Little Red. Somehow on the first trip I missed the little guy.

We have a relaxing and good egg breakfast at the Tusker House on the patio after they opened at 9:30. The potatoes are spicy, not just the usual potato cakes.

The bird show is next, and it is OK, but nothing to write home (or the internet) about. We stroll the Asia trail and try not to let the bats creep us out. This path is another great example of the detailed theming here. It looks like a crumbling temple.

Marie doesn't want to get wet, so I use a fastpass to ride the Kali rapids water ride alone. The ride is very fun, but short and I'm able to get wet, but not soaked. I like the similar ride at California Adventure better, but the higher level of theming here is very noticeable. This queue is an interesting visit into another land, while at California Adventure is mostly 'Six Flags light'. The ride here tells a nice story in line with the park while in California it's just a wet ride through a mountain.

We skip 'It's Tough To Be A Bug'. I think it one of the best 3-D attractions Disney has, but we've done it to death lately. We walk around the Tree of Life. Everything we've read about its beauty is true. Pictures don't do it justice, but I snap a bunch anyway.

We never did find the 'hidden trail' that many guide books talk about and we took every path we could find all over the park. We'll find that on another trip.

After wandering through the Oasis, it's time to get back to the room by 2:30 for a nap and a shower (did I mention that it was hot?). Nothing in Animal Kingdom comes close to the SLSR. We forgive Dinoland since it is supposed to be bad...err....tacky.

I tried unsuccessfully, several times to cancel our PS at Cinderella's Royal Table, but they don't make it easy. You have to call the reservation line and be placed on hold for longer than I want to wait. I'm not on vacation to hear about how important my call is and please hold.

By the evening we float over to the Magic Kingdom on the large ferry from the TTC. On the way we see a 4 foot alligator swimming by. In Marie's opinion it was much larger that that, but I'm typing this report...

We try Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café since the fixin's bar looks to good to pass up. I order a big-ol cheeseburger and Marie has the vegitarian burger. Both were less than mediocre, but the fixin's made it acceptable.

Marie got carrot sticks instead of fries and asked for ranch dressing to dip them in. The CM's looked at us like we just asked for fried monkey lungs. Explanations did not bridge the understanding gap between us so no dressing for Marie. We guessed that this must be a west-coast thing. I bet if we asked to deep-fry those dudes they would have understood.

Sunny Eclipe's cheezy entertainment is cute. It will make you groan, but it's fun. I liked his tribute to his home town on his planet, 'Yew Nork, Yew Nork'.

We rescue an 'eeeeh' dinner by ordering yummy sundaes from Mrs. Potts cupboard in Fantasyland then wander over the Alien Encounter so Marie can see it. I loved it again, but she only tolerated it. It wasn't bad, but just not her cup of alien tea. Some people just can't see the entertainment value of paying to have gross stuff sprayed on you.

Monday, Oct 7, 2002 - The attack of the Disney club salesman of the darned.

The Plan: Epcot and sightseeing around the Boardwalk.

Marie's fighting a cold, so we reject the idea of getting up early. Instead we use the hotel's secondary wake up alarm; There is always a noisy kid in the hall who cannot wait to meet the mouse. Sure enough at 8:00: "Did we MISS early entry yet dad?".

Since we are slow today we monorail into Epcot by 10:30. Even though we are late it is very quiet here. Most attractions are 'walk on's.

Ellen's energy adventure with Bill Nye is first. This is a nice update to the old stuffy show I remember before. The theatre seats/vehicles are half the attraction for me. Marie rates it a 'C' ride.

Our fast pass for test track is useless as there is only a 5 minute wait. It's fun, fast and nicely themed. Since I love cars I like it better than Marie, but she's game for another ride later (but we didn't make it).

In the Wonders of Health building a CM tells us that the Anicomical players have been kicked to the curb, so we check out Cranium Command. This becomes my favorite show at Future World. Everything Walt would have liked. Humor for the whole family and a little information. It helps that I never got tired of Hans and Frans from Saturday night live. A interesting tid-bit; I attended a celebration of Beauty and the Beast this summer attended by one of the two directors of that movie. The pre-show animated movie here is how his team was picked to take over that film. They impressed Disney's top-brass since the pre-show was done well, and more importantly "quick and cheap".

We skipped Body Wars since in my declining years the simulators make me nauseous. It takes the Star Wars or Star Trek characters to get me locked into one of those lunch-tossers. Marie doesn't mind.

Tried the cokes at Ice Station Cool. Even after being warned by the interent, I tried the Beverly flavor. It actually doesn't have a bad taste at first, but that nasty aftertaste really will get you.

Over at the Imagination pavilion we split on the Journey to the Imagination attraction. I think it's only OK since I'm still a Figment fan. Marie gives it only 2 points above the SLSF scale since it's cheap and dull.

We sent some goofy (ugly faces, not the Disney character) pictures via e-mail to work and friends in the Kodak exhibit. The exhibits there are entertaining.

We look at the lunch menu at the Coral Reef and decide to try it now instead of waiting for the PS for dinner on Marie's Birthday. The menu is the same, but the prices are about $10 less, plus you can get an AP discount.

The food is good, not great, but it's all about the view. The restaurant was fairly empty, so we got a table by the aquarium. I don't remember what seafood we ordered, but it was $39 with tip and no drinks.

Besides the great view of the fish we watched several people swim in the tank as part of one of the behind the scenes tours. It looks like you are only allowed to float up by the top of the tank and not dive down where the fish are. A little pricey for just snorkeling, but it would be a once in a lifetime experence.

Marie's a little worn out, so at 1:00 we go back to the room for her to nap and me to do a load of laundry ($4). I hang out in the quiet pool while doing my domestic duties and am joined in the water by a pair of ducks. They don't mind me but are smart enough to hit the road when a kid appears nearby.

At 5:30 we monorail back to Epcot to walk on SpaceShip earth. I am much more impressed seeing this attraction this visit. Twenty years ago when I boarded the vehicle I didn't believe we were actually going up into the sphere. I assumed this was another Disney trick and we had ducked into a show building behind it and the globe was a fake front. What a goober I was!

After reading A book on Epcot I saw the pictures of how they built this attraction and cannot get over how an impressive feat this was as well as a being great attraction. I now promise to believe everything that Disney tells me. I believe the Living Seas is really below the ocean and Bill Nye the science guy has the ability to transport me back in time.

Test track has a 70 minutes wait and no fastpasses, so we continue on.

We try a Beaver tail with cinnamon outside the Canada pavilion. A yummy surprise as we were expecting it to be crisp, not soft and doughy.

We check out in the resorts around a quiet Cresent Lake. There is a display area by the Boardwalk showing the rooms available through the Disney Vacation Club. As we slowly stroll by the club representative comes out and tries to give us a sales pitch. After three polite "Thanks, but just looking" from us we decide that it would only take a 2x4 to get this guy away from us. He gets insulted after we say firmly to "go away". I should have held up a cross and recited: "Back....Back you spawn of a commissioned salesman you!"

We cannot find a quick dinner place that doesn't just serve hamburgers or pizza so we go back to the Tangerine counter service restaurant at Morocco. This time I try the seafood wrap, but I cannot finish it as the fish is very cheap tasting. I steal some of Marie's Taboelli wrap, which is as good as the last time.

We watch Illuminations from the Italy area and are very impressed. Flames, lights, fireworks and fountains all coordinated to a great soundtrack. We have to see this again.

Afterwards we slowly wander out and drool over the animation art in the shop near the entrance. By loafing around we miss the line up for the monorail.

Tuesday, Oct 8, 2002 - The Return of the Disney Commandos.

The Plan: 1/2 of Disney-MGM studios

We have relaxing intentions of leaving the studios early today, but the lower humidity and the heavy cloud cover lull us into spending the day here (more on this later).

First thing in the morning the Tower of Terror posts a spooky 13-minute wait, so I cannot pass it up. Marie was going to go out the chicken exit in the boiler room, but was intrigued by the queue and pre-show enough to ride an elevator. She was glad she did, as we both really loved it! I even laughed at all the Hollywood Hotel souvenirs available at the end of the ride.

It's crowded today, but the wait time on most of the rides is not bad at all.

We really like the voyage of the Little Mermaid. The combination of the puppetry, live singers and effects captures the mood very well.

Marie and I are huge animation buffs, so we've been looking forward to taking the animation tour. It's different from 8 years ago, as you cannot see the main animators work on 'Bears' for very long. They close the blind quickly after the presentation and move you on. You can hang around the background and camera people, but not much is going on there. Maybe they changed it because I 'stalked' the animators for an hour last time I was here. Overall though we enjoy the attraction.

The 'magic moments' movie starts our usual conversation how Disney likes to bump off the mom or the mom is already gone when the story starts. The Lion King is an exception to this rule, but even there Mufasa's spirit comes back. We think Disney is anti-mom and we plan to start a protest group. I can hear the chants now: "Bambi has rights too...Cinderella's of the world unite!"

The Great Movie Ride wait is only 10 minutes long, it was 30 minutes the first thing in the morning. We ride the gangster side and give it two thumbs way up.

My favorite modern animated movie is Beauty and the Beast (see, another missing mom), so the show is a required visit. Marie likes it more than I do, but it is very well done.

We circle the park and skip the attractions copied in California, Although the Millionaire show is tempting. My 15 minutes of fame occurred in July when I got in the hot seat and won a polo shirt. That ego gratification is addicting. I recommend this experience highly, although it is hard to get back to the proper humbleness afterwards.

Much to our chagrin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame show was closed a few weeks ago. We missed it the year it was at Disneyland. Oh well, another show now in Yesterland.

As the kind wife Marie is, she waits while I ride the Rock N Roll Roller coaster (15 minute wait). She likes coasters, but doesn't do loops and this one has three. Great-googily-mooga, that was good. I love the launch. It is also used on another favorite of mine, the California Screaming coaster at California Adventure. This ride has great theming in the queue that puts that coaster to shame. The 'Screaming' queue is not even decorated unless you count painted railings.

The 'Disney stars and motor cars parade' starts, but just then we get our only rain shower, so we run to use our fastpasses at the Indian Jones Stunt Show. The CM's are letting everyone in regardless of fastpass to keep people dry. That was nice since this is a huge arena and we'll all get in anyway. We enjoy the show.

By 4:30 I have a blister on my foot that looks like a 6th toe (thank you first aid for the Band-Aid) and Marie is just plain tired. She has discovered that the park guides are just the right size to fan yourself with. They just don't build Disney Commando's like they used to!

As we leave we discuss this park. Marie rates it on par with California Adventure (once their version of the TOT is finished). I like this park better because it is an actual animation facility and the theming is better. No SLSF rating here.

The boat rides are quickly becoming our favorite mode of transportation, so we decide a relaxing boat ride to Epcot for dinner will perk us up. On the way I notice that a performance of the Voices of Liberty will start soon at the American pavilion, so we 'hot foot' it over there after docking at the Beach Club pier.

The performers are excellent, however the attraction is down, so we'll have to come back on another day.

Dinner is Cali-Maki sushi rolls for me from Yakitori House in Japan and a open faced turkey sandwich from Norway's Krinsk bakeri Og Kafe for Marie. Both are good.

It's now 8:30 and I'm limping like Walter Breenen after an all night hoot-nanny so Marie once again has to drive the monorail home. At the hotel we watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks as we walk, unsteadily, back to the room with a carrot cake from Captain Cooks. This is Marie's second favorite treat at the world after 'the cookie'.

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2002 - Peco's Bill, Lunch Nazi

The Plan: The Magic Kingdom.

We vow on the growing stack of park guides to take it easier today. We float over to the Magic Kingdom at 9:30. It is very light day crowd-wise.

We check out Winnie The Pooh first thing and there is only a 5 minute wait. What a very cute ride! The words being blown off the page is a very nice effect that reminds us of the cartoons. The bouncy car with Tigger and floating down the river are nice touches that separate this from the other Fantasyland attractions.

Over at Tomorrow land we walk onto space mountain (right side track) and enjoy it, but think Disneyland's is faster. I wonder how the left track is?

I miss the old Disneyland Peoplemover so we ride the TTA in its memory. We glide by two rides and two stages that are closed. It's annoying that the Carousel of Progress and TimeKeeper are both closed in the off season. I thought I remembered paying full price for admission. Why does Disney think it's ok to supply less than what I paid for? I understand shows being cut back, but the attractions should remain open.

Buzz lightyear has just reopened after being closed for technical difficulties, so we walk on. The wait after us rapidly climbs to 35 minutes. I make it to 105,000 and Marie improves to 35,000. They really should clone this to Anaheim; I'd never stop ridding it.

After a little souvenir shopping we stop for an early lunch (11:00) at Peco's Bill's. It's practically empty, which is why we were surprised to find our first (and only) cast member with a bad attitude here.

After ordering I ran to get a fast pass from Splash Mountain leaving Marie to pickup our food. The customer in front of her asked for less ice in his drink, and the older CM behind the counter said rudely, "No, you should have asked when you ordered!". The customer had to call the manager to get it corrected.

When Marie asked for an extra plate she was told "No, we only give one plate for the salads!". She insisted and settled for a burger box instead. It was like the 'soup nazi' character on the old Sienfeld TV show; "No soup for you!". As someone in line commented: "How un-Disney". I figured Michael Eisner must have slipped something unpleasant in his fruit loops the morning. You can only laugh when seeing people like that.

Bad attitude aside, the chicken salad was very good, and the mushroom's from the fixin's bar made it better. ($9 with one drink and no extra plate for you).

Splash Mountain was down and so were the fastpass machines, so we hopped abord the train and headed to Mickey's Toontown Fair. On the way we had a laugh as the recording said "Listen carefully in the forest, and you may hear Pocahontas singing.....HAVE YOU EVERY HEARD THE....!" Obviously, you don't have to listen very carefully because the volume of that speaker will make all her forest friends deaf.

While browsing in the Judge's Tent shop we meet the most helpful CM ever when trying to find my name on the Mickey zipper pull's tag. A manager type went out of his way to find the two other shops that have that item and when they are restocked. I appreciated this effort for a small $5 item. It turned out that we never did find my name, but the excuse to do more shopping was all we needed.

The hot fudge sundaes at Mrs. Potts cupboard were so good last Sunday we get another pair. F.Y.I., this is the soft serve ice cream which we like, not the scooped.

While eating, we watched Snow White's evil young queen give out signatures to the kids. I loved her steely glare and the way she briskly whips the autograph book and pen back to them. It's not enough to scare the kids, but it still in character.

We saunter down Main Street and visit the Disney display in the Town Square Exposition Hall. A nice diversion and we enjoy taking more crazy pictures with the cartoon cutouts.

Back at the Polynesian dock at 2:00 for a nap and a dip in the pool. The south-seas motif persuades me to try a Pina Colada ($7) at the pool bar. I thought that they had a real bartender here, but instead I get a lousy slurpie machine version with no umbrella! Vacation Sacrilege!

This is how I missed Spectromagic. I could not find my Magic Kingdom guide book in the large pile of papers and receipts that was growing back in our room. Being lazy, I called the front desk to find out when the show started and they told me incorrectly that it wasn't being performed tonight. Next day I found the guide and was irritated at the mistake, but no major deal.

We float over to the Wilderness Lodge for our PS at Artist Point. This wasn't necessary for a 5:30 dinner, as it was very quiet. The restaurant is decorated in a beautiful Yosemite, Frank Lloyd Wright style.

We have a couple of dinner salads and split their specialty, the super fresh salmon on a plank cooked with whiskey. A very, very good meal. We plan to get a desert later as we wander. The wine paired to the meal looked tempting, but we passed and just had water. Total bill, $44 including tip.

Since we no longer were going to see Spectromagic we decide to bus to Downtown Disney and get our major purchases at the World of Disney. Since most of the souvenirs around the world are the same, you can get them there in one visit and receive a 10% AP discount. I had read that there were better prices at the nearby outlet stores, but we didn't want to mess with the transportation hassles.

We stop at the DD Gourmet Pantry for deserts. A white chocolate raspberry cookie for me and a chocolate-chocolate cake for Marie. Can you tell we like Chocolate? Calories ahoy!

DD is a mad house again, but suprisingly the CM's in the World of Disney are cheerful and knowledgeable when we ask for items. I would lose the will to live after being in here for more than an hour. For being such a large store, it is laid out very well.

Thursday, Oct 10, 2002 - There are only Cheeseburgers in Paradise

The Plan: Magic Kingdom.

After a good breakfast of two croissant and eggs, hash browns and OJ's at Captain cooks ($18) we boat (of course) to the Magic Kingdom. At 9:15 it is much busier than the other days, but the lines are still not bad.

We walk on to Splash Mountain. This is way better that the west coast version. The story of Briar Rabbit is told much clearer here, as well as the mood of the ride is much more cheerful. The drop doesn't seem as big though, but that is a minor criticism, as everyone in our log loved it. We follow those thrills with a fun ride on Big Thunder railway (10 minute wait).

Since it is not too hot yet we raft to Tom Sawyers island.

Being here revives my childhood memories of Disneyland's version as my tired parents would sit while my brother and I would spend half the afternoon happily running amuck. Unfortunately, the West Coast version now resembles a crime scene. Yellow tape closes off everything fun and the Suspension Bridge has been 'temporarily' under repair for quite a while. Sigh.

Here, everything is in prime shape for Tom Sawyers of all ages. The fort actually has some minor auto animatronic figures. The mill has a small reference to the Disney cartoon 'The Old Mill'. A bird in it's nest is inside a broken cog of the mill wheel. Marie beats me in a game of checkers at the landing.

Back to Adventureland, we walk into the Country Bear Jamboree. I've wanted to visit here ever since Disneyland's version was closed to build the Winnie the Pooh ride. We haven't seen the original show in many years as they had the summer camp and Christmas versions running. If they don't already, I hope they bring these to Florida since they are cute.

However, judging by how much everyone enjoyed this show, they probably don't want to mess with it. The blase 'been there, done that, bought the t-shirt' crowd in California never enjoyed the bears as much as this Florida crowd did. There was clapping, singing along and belly laughs here. I thought one lady was going to have a seizure when Big Al came out to sing Blood on the Saddle. It was great to see Marc Davis's attraction still 'wowing' the crowds.

We enjoyed the Haunted Mansion (10 minutes, 20 posted) and saw Madam Leota statue watch us in line.

For lunch we split a yummie Chicken Salad at Columbia's Harbor House. They make it with different ingrediants than Peco's Bill's. It's to hot for it now, but we plan to come back tonight for the soup in a bread bowl which looks great (more on that later).

The Hall of Presidents is a packed show. Very impressive and inspirational.

Over at the Golden Horseshoe we snag a balcony table overlooking the stage 15 minutes before the show. We were expecting rope tricks and dancing girls but got a M.C., cowboy guitarist and a card trick comedian. It was a corny, but fun show as the performers really worked with the crowd. I would not recommend it if anyone in your group were impatient to ride more rides. Many people were there just to take refuge from the heat.

We stroll out of the park not finding a desert that peak's Marie's interest. I had enjoyed a root-beer float in the GH. She is very happy once again with the CCCC (Figure that out yet? Captain Cooks Carrot Cake).

Swimming in the quiet pool we are once again joined by the same pair of ducks from Monday. Marie likes the piped in Hawaiian music, and you can hear it better at the small pool. The cabanas even have ceiling fans. We are put in the mind of a Hawaiian vacation.

At 5:30 we go back to the M.K. to finish seeing Adventureland. The wait on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin is 20 minutes in the sun so we skip that, no loss. We walk on the Magic Kingdom stair-stepper, otherwise known as the Swiss Family Treehouse, then the Jungle Cruise and POC. I talk like a pirate until Marie threatens divorce. (Arrrrr maties. Can you lads say 'community property'?)

Of course no SLSF rated rides at the Magic Kingdom, although a thumbs down for closures.

Our plan was to have a fast food dinner, ride some rides and see the fireworks and the kiss goodnight. However it's 7:00, one hour before closing, and we find that you can eat anything you want....as long as it's a cheeseburger or turkey leg! Every fast food joint we wanted to try is closed early. Speaking of arrr!

Because of this, what is left open is mobbed. The rides we were going to re-ride have a 30 minute wait so we decide to go back to the Kona Café for deserts and dinner.

We split the Chicken Asian stir-fry with two salads. The desert is Apple Betty (Walt's favorite) for Marie and Banana (Turk's favorite) Crème Bruelee for me. Marie makes history by being the first person ever to ask for the Apple Betty slathered in whipped cream, which is our favorite way. Both are served warm and excelent. The food is very good here, but the reason to come is the deserts! $39 with tip and no drinks.

Another night closed off by sitting on the beach and watching the boat light parade. A low-tech affair, but watch-able.

Friday, Oct 11, 2002 Marie's Birthday, but I get treats too!

Disney/MGM studios (Marie's birthday choice).

We arrive at the rope drop at the Disney/MGM studio's. It's a very light crowd day.

Marie decided that this would be a fun place to be on her birthday as long as we arrive and leave early as it is going to be the hottest day so far. Next time I'll just avoid the doubt and plan a vacation on the surface of the sun.

We picked up a birthday pin at guest relations and walk on to the Tower of Terror. This time we get the row 6 suicide seats (no lap bar to clutch). This gave us an even better ride, although the camera around my neck almost beats me senseless.

Once again, kind Marie waits in the gift shop while I ride the Rock n Roll Coaster (another walk on so I don't feel so bad deserting her on her birthday). After two thrill rides in a row on an empty stomach my sissy head is spinning. They don't build thrill-seekers like they used to.

We get a tasty breakfast at the ABC commissary of eggs for me, pancakes for Marie and two OJ's ($13). It wasn't busy there, so seeing Marie's birthday pin the entire staff came out to sing her 'Happy Birthday' and give her Danish (which Marie cannot finish so I get most of it). It was very sweet thing to do and I was sure to send them a thank you letter with a picture of the event.

Walking down Mickey Avenue it is appropriate that the big cheese himself dressed as the sorcerer's apprentice gestures Marie over to get a picture with him. It's a favorite shot of mine that sits now on my desk.

We step back when Mickey must work hard to get two little ones not to be scared and come over. Who ever teaches 'Mickey' the tricks to do this deserves their own special Oscar. I remember my joy when someone took the time to coax my shy girls over. Even when it was not successful they would talk about it on the way home.

In the Studio Backlog Tour I volunteer to be a deck 'swabbie' in the Pearl Harbor portion of the tour. Disney is really missing the boat on this (no pun intended). For us ham's that goof around in the show you cannot buy a tape of your 'performance'. Not only that, you cannot see the final results like the rest of your tour group can.

All's they have to do is run a VCR during the show and we'd probably cough up big bucks to show the folks back home. My other brush with 'fame' on Who Want to be a Millionare (have I mentioned that enough times?) is the same. I'm sure there are licensing costs, but they charge $14 bucks on every other ride for a long-shot of you screaming with your ride buddies. Why not here?

On the tour we can see the work being done for the Osborn Christmas lights. Looks like it would be more wattage than the Las Vegas Strip. The API movie exhibit is enjoyable to. I enjoy the boneyard of old prop vehicles the best and Marie say's she enjoyed the cute swabbie from the Pearl Harbor show (sweet talking will get you better birthday presents).

If you are a Disney fan, Walt Disney: One Man's Dream is a required stop, if not it's probably a little dull. We enjoyed the exhibits.

We decide to do the Great Movie Ride one more time requesting the cowgirl side. It's another fun ride, but last Tuesday's gangster was into his role more.

At 1:00 it's officially sweltering and the major rides have a 40-minute wait, so we b-b-bus back to the hotel. We pickup a salad and vegetable and cheese dip from Captain Cooks ($7) to enjoy by the busy volcano pool.

We never take the time to see Fantasmic. It's a favorite show of ours and I wanted to see the studio's version. But if you 've seen Mickey battle a huge fire breathing dragon once, you've seen it a thousand times ;)

We noticed that every pool at every hotel has a hair wrap person with a line of customers. Anyone visiting with females should budget for this item, as it appears to be a required purchase. I think the boys are required to purchase a silly hat. The larger the better.

By 5:00 were back in Epoct. Everything in Future World is busy so we make a PS for a 6:00 dinner at Mexico's San Angel Inn. We both order the vegetable and avocado soup and split an order of shrimp and pasta covered in enchilada sauce ($35). Very good, but the hot sauce brings tears to my gringo eyes. Marie is much tougher. The restaurant is noisy, but it is worth it to have one meal here.

Bypassing a 45 minute wait, we us our fast pass to ride the 'Listen to the Land', as we enjoyed this so much the last time. Afterwards we ride the friendship across the lake (love these boat rides).

We purchased 2 more of the 'cookies' from Germany. I bought two because of a case of 'Miss Piggy' eyes and wanted one all to myself. However, they are just to big, so we split one now and saved one for tomorrow.

I cannot believe the huge line up for food at the Liberty Inn when several other counter places are quiet. People, people, people; Branch out from those hamburgers and chicken when you're on vacation.

We finally get to see a performance of the American Adventure after missing it on this trip. What a stupendous way to end the evening. I had forgotten that this is the best attraction at Epcot. It's patriotic, respectful and still technically amazing.

We had to stay to see Illuminations one more time and chose the bridge near the International Gateway. I had forgotten about the warnings about the smoke and ash that fall here. We end up feeling like we just survived a forest fire, but it is still a fantastic show. A fitting way to finish our vacation, with two of the finest productions at Epcot.

Saturday, Oct 12, 2002 - And now it's time to say goodby to all our family....

The Plan: Resort hopping, pack and go home. (Nooooooooo!)

Marie decides to watch the sunrise from the beach by the volcano pool. I join her shortly with cocoa after being fortified by the super java from the stand in front of the Kona Café. It's so early the CM didn't have the register open yet, so a couple of us zombies just tell her to "keep the change" ($5).

By 7:00, you can faintly hear the music from the Magic Kingdom entrance start up. A nice touch. We have been enjoying hearing the train whistle as it waifs across the water all vacation. Another perk for the Polynesian.

We enjoy a slow walk over to the Grand Floridian. On the way we stop at the wedding chapel and get some pictures at the 'wedding picture spot' on the island. This is a raised ivy trellis that has a beautiful framed view of Cinderella's Castle. I can imagine the thousand of wedding pictures that have been taken here. I hope they all enjoy as good a marriage as we have (25 years and counting).

At the GF café we have a last big celebration breakfast. A great vegetable frittata for Marie and I splurge on the Japanese Bento breakfast. This is scrambled eggs rolled up, smoked salmon, rice, seaweed, pickled vegetables and fruit all artfully arraigned on a compartmentalize tray. A very different breakfast and very good. With OJ's and large tip for our excellent server and photo assistant it came to around $46.

A final ride on Marie's favorite boat and we relax by the pool. We debated about going to a park for one last look, but we had done practically everything we wanted and some things twice. This had been a 'dream come true' vacation for us and we were super-mellow by now. Enjoying our 'Pacific Paradise' sounded very appealing.

The night before I had asked if we could have a later checkout and it was OK'd till 1:00, Woo Hooo since Mears picks us up at 1:45.

We dawdle at the pool then go back to the room to hurl our clothes into the suitcases. The clothes only real function is to cocoon the purchases. Since we find I actually have a little more room, I buy one more box of Mickey coconut-chocolate cookies from the gift shop for the gang at work.

I noticed that a Mears bus had come at 1:00 and then at 1:30. I asked this last driver if we can hop on and he's happy to oblige. I don't know if this is normal, but it worked for us.

My last story is the case of 'reverse sticker-shock' I received after lunch at the airport Chile's restaurant. I thought the waiter had not charged me for a meal as it was so cheap. You become accustom the 'resort inflation' prices and I had to adjust back!

Summary From A 'Dream Comes True' Vacation.

  • Have a game plan. Even with the luxury of time you need a loose schedule since there are many things that you can only see on certain days especially if visiting "off season".
  • Stay on site. Here is our vote in that age-old debate. I know you can get more for your money off-site, but in my opinion being in Disney's 'world' is what you are on vacation for.
  • The Polynesian is mostly a very quiet resort. I suspect, though, at any property in Orlando you'll have more than the usual number of over-stimulated kids (and adults) making noise. We think that with it's sandy beaches and quiet gardens this is the most romantic hotel at the world.
  • If you request a balcony during the hot months make sure it's on the shady side of the building.
  • If you have an option, always use the boats for transportation. It may not be the fastest but it really was a 'stop and smell the roses' moment in our busy days.
  • Use the Disney transportation. We usually waited only 10 to 15 minutes for a bus or boat, and never more that 5 for a monorail. Only twice in 10 days did we wait 25 minutes for a bus (At DD and the campground). I whined like a 2-year old about the crowded buses, but it still beats driving through traffic and parking in huge parking lots where you have to wait for a tram anyway.
  • Plan some breakfasts in your room. Cereal or donuts (Mmmmm donuts). It saves time and money.
  • The cutbacks in the shows, attractions and restaurant hours are noticeable, but it doesn't stop you from having a good time.
  • Early October is a very good time to come, crowd wise. It's hot and muggy, but not much rain.
  • Use this web sites chart to plan which park is least busy on a given day. We found it very accurate.
  • If you don't mind a day not filled with roller coasters and singing dolls don't miss the Animal Kingdom. I hope the internet rumors are true and this beautiful park gets a new E-ticket thrill ride. That will only encourage more people to see it (and then they might extend the hours they are open).

Jack Lebby

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