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Elisabeth Norton -- October 2002 -- Walt Disney World (WL, YCR, AKL)


October 1-7, 2002

Previous trips:

  • DL/DCA: together 2001; Elisabeth 2 other times; Gavin 1 time (age 2);
  • WDW: Elisabeth 1 other time (1992) ; Gavin, 2 other times (last time in 1992)

Cast:

  • me, Elisabeth, Planner and official historian of the trip
  • Gavin, Park Commando in recovery

We've both been to WDW before, but never together, and our last trips were within weeks of each other during the 25th Anniversary year. Since we met 5 years ago, we have always wanted to go to WDW together - and this is our trip!

First I'd like to thank Sheri Niklewski: reading her trip reports got me hooked on this phenomena that was completely new to me till I happened upon one of her reports one day. Thanks as well to everyone else who has written one - I've probably read yours in preparation for this trip! I'm afraid brevity is not my strong suit, but nonetheless, out of gratitude for all I learned from everyone else's reports - here's ours - I hope it helps someone else.

Day 1 Tuesday, October 1st

When will it feel real that we're here?

Up at 3:15 (!). Gavin's brother arrived on time at 3:45 to take us to the airport. Flight left on time at 6:00 AM. Our connecting flight was delayed 30 minutes taking off from Houston due to fog, but we made it and our driver was there to meet us. I had wanted to take a town car service rather than the shuttle; this was actually a large SUV - very nice inside, just not what I'd hoped for - oh well - being there was more important than what vehicle they were driving. Stopped at Publix for water - yeah! They have the Brita Sports bottles that I could not find at home. Then on to the Wilderness lodge - very friendly cast member checked us in. We really liked the lodge and the theming and our standard room has a nice view.

On to the Magic Kingdom via boat, where we buy our passes. We decided just before leaving home to get annual passes, since they were not much more than the 7-day park hoppers we had planned to buy, and we had decided to take a second trip next April (It was much easier to sell my husband on that than I anticipated :)).

Despite the flight delay, we are actually 10 minutes early for our 2:45 PS at Cinderella's Royal table. Very nice view from our table by the window. This is where it really hit Gavin that we were here! Food was good (see the dining board for reviews of this and all our other meals). I got the smoothie in the souvenir mug, but we decided not to pick it up (they give you a fresh one boxed up to take home - not the one you drank out of at your meal) until later in the day. We went to Le Chapeau to get the embroidered mouse ears for the children of some of our -workers, and had them shipped to the Yacht Club where we will actually be by the time they are delivered. I got a magic moments pin and a couple of Walt pins for my lanyard and then we decided to ride our first ride. Gavin was fighting a headache and I didn't wanted to do anything too intense very soon after lunch, so we decided to ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority - I just love this ride! It's so simple but I love how it gives you a chance to ride "through" other rides. By then lunch had settled and we headed for Space Mountain - now I know what people mean by "total walk-on!" You read about it, but it's not the same as bypassing miles and miles of unused, roped off queuing area to get straight to the loading area. We rode the left side of SM. Next we wandered over to Toontown and got our first pressed penny - baby Donald (Gavin's favorite character - you should see how many volumes of the thick story/comic books we have - I know it's over 100). We rode Goofy's barnstormer (again no wait) which was cute - we decided it'd be great for giving kids a nice roller coaster experience without being too long. We caught the train in Toontown, disembarking in Frontierland. Pirates of the Caribbean was a walk-on. We both decided that we like the Disneyland version better, although I couldn't tell you why (Gavin could - he has the most phenomenal memory for detail on rides and things).Just as we got to Jungle Cruise it started pouring rain - we were grateful for the 15 minute wait in line (posted wait was 25 minutes) since it was under cover. The rain ended just before we boarded our boat, and that was it for the rain that day. After we got off the ride, we went to a shop, thinking to buy ponchos in anticipation of the daily showers, but decided against us when they said they were out (!) of Adult ponchos with Mickey on them - How can this be? We were aghast at the sacrilege of WDW selling ponchos without Mickey on them - apparently they are switching suppliers and it will be a while before they have them again. Anyway, we passed on ponchos and headed over to Haunted Mansion - again, no waiting (everyone left with the rain I guess), although we were a little delayed by choice. There was a rather exuberant fellow and his family with us, waiting to enter the attraction, and he was hamming around, yelling through the crack in the doors, to "Open the door" and acting as if he was going to pull the doors open. So we hung back and went through with the next group. From there, we did the following, all with no wait: Small World, Peter Pan (love the pixie dust if you have a magic moments pin), Snow White (I can see why people say it should be called the scary witch ride - there is more about her than Snow White), Winnie the Pooh (really liked how this was done), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and finally Splash Mountain. It was dusk as we boarded our log, and it was neat - by the end of the ride everything looked darker and all the lights had some on - it was really atmospheric. We got something to drink and headed over to find a spot to watch Tinkerbell fly from the castle. Just before we left, they had extended the park hours and added fireworks to the weeknights of our stay - it was great. We watched Tink fly from the spot by the wishing well at the side of the castle, then we walked around towards the front of the castle to watch the fireworks. I just love fireworks and one of my favorite things is the fireworks at the castle. Last year in Disneyland in June, we had to stake out a spot an hour before hand and it was just packed with people - this was so nice, not being so crowded because of the time of year. After a day of no waits in line, I was a true fan of this off-season touring. We shopped our way down main street on the way out. One thing we needed was a watch - I had forgotten to pack one and so we had no way to monitor time to make sure we didn't miss our priority seatings. So we got what turned out to be one of my favorite souvenirs: a clip on watch shaped like a star with Tinkerbell on it. I clipped to the zipper pull on my park bag and it worked great. Neither of us are big on wristwatches, and especially not if it's hot outside, so this really worked well for us. Let's hope I can remember to pack it for future trips! Back to the Wilderness Lodge where we hot-tubbed (pretty weak jets, for any hot tub aficionados out there) and hit the hay after a very long 20 hour day. Tomorrow morning we have a PS at Tony's for breakfast at 8:20 AM.

Day 2, Wednesday, October 2nd

Up early to get our luggage to the valet/bell stand for transfer to the YC (we had express checkout from WL). The plan for today is MK in the morning, then on to Epcot and checking in at the Yacht Club, where we will be for most of the rest of our stay. It was a little hard to get up early after such a long day, but adrenaline and excitement was still carrying us along fairly well. We followed Tyler's ("Chip 'n Dale Express") suggestions for transportation & timing to get to WL to MK for our PS at Tony's Town Square. We caught the bus at 7:30 (maybe a 5 minute wait) for the TTC. Then we caught the monorail to the MK. The character breakfast at Tony's was wonderful; one of many high points on the trip. Our server was Becky, and she was great at interacting with the characters as they came by. I interacted with them more than Gavin - he was almost like a kid - in awe that he was dining with the characters. Another thing his parents never knew was available when they used to come as a family. I don't think they ever must have had a guidebook to tell them these things. I hugged Pooh for Barb from work along with a picture as proof. All the characters were a lot of fun - we were seated near the fountain and Becky, our server, helped Tigger do some magic to turn on the Lady & the Tramp fountain. It was great fun.

What I forgot to put in Day 1 was the fact that, late in the evening, as we were leaving the park, Gavin was going to take a picture of the 100 Years of Magic topiary by the entrance - and (ouch!) he dropped the camera. And it wouldn't work any more. The motor would try to open and close the shutter, but it didn't work. Fortunately, we had only taken 4 pictures on that film, so the pictures from the fireworks were all safe. But oh- how disheartening it was! We went back in to the camera center at Exposition Hall, but no one there really knew much about cameras - they suggested coming back in the morning; that someone more knowledgeable would be working then. So we bought a disposable camera so we could have pictures of our character breakfast, and tried not to let this overshadow the wonderful start to our vacation. Well, after breakfast we headed next door to the camera shop, and sure enough, the knowledgeable guy confirmed our fears - at best the camera might be repairable by a camera shop, but we were definitely going to be buying a new camera. He was really nice - told us we would have more selection etc. (and better prices) outside the park, but since we had not rental car, and we didn't really want to lose a morning doing that, we bought the Kodak camera with zoom that they had for sale. I am glad they sell cameras! But I do like our little Olympus better - it is faster snapping the picture and at taking two pictures in rapid succession. But the trusty Kodak enabled us to go on with our vacation with minimal disruption, for not too much money, and allowed us to use the remaining rolls of film (about 13 at that point!) that I had brought from home.

Fortified with a new camera, we headed off to Alien Encounter (a walk-on), which was not as bad as I feared. But I think it's a "been there, done that, don't need to do it again" kind of thing for both of us. Next we headed to Buzz Lightyear which we both really enjoyed. I can understand why this is such a popular attraction! First time round we were both Space Cadet: Gavin got 48,900 and I got 37,700. We immediately got back on (this was a walk on too) and both achieved the new rank of Planetary Pilot: G-110,500 and me, 63,100. At the end of that round they let us just stay in our car and ride again, which was neat. We were both still Planetary Pilots, but with better scores: G, 168,800 and me, 82,100.

We left on that high note and rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority again (told you in Day 1 - I really like this! Sometimes it's the simple things . . .) We saw Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Rays while in search of facilities - he is really cute - very funny. Then as we left Push the walking talking trash can was out, and it was fun to watch him interacting with everyone.

Heading to Fantasyland, we were just in time to catch Cinderella's Surprise celebration - I loved this! It was like being in a Disney Sing-a-long video! Before coming this was on our "nice if you can see it" list - but it was really great! I'm glad we saw it.

After the show, we headed down Main Street, decided we didn't like the photo the photographer snapped earlier in the morning, and went to the monorail station. We got to ride up front on the monorail from MK to the TTC, and again from the TTC to Epcot. 11:30 AM of day 2 and we have done almost everything at MK, and are entering Epcot.

Spaceship Earth was a walk-on - this was my first time to ride it since my last visit was in August (some years ago) and there were 4 hour waits in the relentless Florida sun for this ride. I liked it, and Gavin liked it as much as he remembered from his past trips. Into World Showcase, we rode El Rio in Mexico - my magic Moments pin lit up a lot on this one. At this point we were hungry so we had lunch at Akershus (no wait, no PS). We love this kind of food because it is familiar to us from where we grew up - me in Alaska 9lots of fish and shrimp) and Gavin in Switzerland. Many of the vegetable side dishes were very reminiscent of things my mother-in-law makes, and some Gavin hadn't had since moving to America a few years ago.

After lunch we went and checked in at the Yacht Club. Quite a contrast to checking in at WL - the CM checking in the family next to us was the only friendly person who seemed to be working. But all was in order wit our reservations, so off we went to our room #4148. All I can say is "Thank You Room Assignor!" A newly remodeled room (the bellman said the stuff was fresh out of the boxes and we were the first to stay in it) with a nice view off the balcony of the Gazebo in the garden below, and beyond that (to our left) we could see the lighthouse on the dock, and the Boardwalk across the water.

After unpacking a little, we headed back to Epcot via the Friendship launch (I love these - great way to save the feet and slow down your pace a little). We caught the end of an Off Kilter set in Canada (I like them - they did not disappoint after all I'd read about them). We walked through the shops in the UK and watched the WS Players do "The Holy Grail" with a great King Arthur from the audience. He interacted really well with them and had some very funny moments. We then wandered over to the area where British Invasion was due to start their next set, but left soon after they started playing. We caught another 2 songs by Off kilter (will we ever see a whole set?) and then watched the movie in Canada. Gavin has a WDW/DL CD and I love the song from the Canada film, and seeing the scenery in the film really took me back to my childhood (scenery's a bit different here in Texas . . .). We came out to another 3 or 4 songs of Off kilter, and then went to France to get Gavin a crepe. There was a great Mime in France doing an act with kids from the audience, and those long balloons you can twist into shapes and hats, etc. He was really good - and some of the kids were just hilarious.

We had a PS for dinner at Le Cellier for 7:10. Our server was Eilish (I wish I could remember the province) and she was wonderful. This was easily my favorite meal of the trip. (dining reviews in more detail on the dining board). Great food, great service. I like how a proper sit-down meal forces you to slow down when it is so tempting to just keep going and going and going.

After dinner, back to Future World for Journey Into Imagination - another one I have never been on in any incarnation. Gavin remembers the original, and I love the original song from the CD (it's been going through my head all day today at work!) Again, a total walk-on and we had not just a car, but a whole "train" of cars to ourselves.

We missed the parades, but by this time Illuminations was approaching. We staked out a spot by the shop on the lagoon side of the walkway in Morocco, and had a wonderful view, although Gavin felt the speaker nearby may have cut in and out a little. I never noticed - I was so entranced by this. I think I could watch this over and over and never tire of it! But speaking of tired, we were, so we walked to the International Gateway, caught a Friendship launch to the YC, and fell tiredly into bed after another very full day.

Day 3, Thursday, October 3rd

Well, I am a realist, and I believe there's one on every trip. You just can't avoid them - not every day can be full of magic and pixie dust, and this was our day for those moments. In order to understand the rocky start to the day, you have to know that neither one of us are morning people - as in - don't talk to me in the morning, please. Especially not till after the coffee ritual which lasts for 20 or more minutes in total silence while I sit on the sofa with the dogs and sip my daily requirement of caffeine. Once the caffeine hits my brain, quiet, brief conversation is possible, but not necessarily desirable, depending on how much sleep I've had. Gavin is not a morning person either, and he has been keyed up with excitement like kid on his first trip to DisneyWorld for two days now. So, I start trying to track down the (in)famous refillable mugs. Hmmm - nothing in the room. Ok, off to Beaches and Cream - hmmm, not open yet. Not good - need coffee. Someone outside the restaurant says they should be in the room. Ok, off to front desk, where I'm told they are in the mini-bar, which we did not get a key to because we didn't see the need. In theory there was information in our room to the effect that they cold be found in the minibar. When said information was found and perused days later, I find merely the words "souvenir mug" and the price - no indication of the refill program. Not really happy with this fellow at the front desk either - this hotel does not seem to have the same upbeat "happy to be here" attitude that we have seen (and will see) at other resorts. Really grumpy now - way past the critical time period when the caffeine should have been administered. Also, we are both really tired from the past two days. So we abandon the YC and take the Friendship 4 to Epcot, where we get breakfast (muffin for me, croissant for G) & coffee. Try to hit the "reset" button on the day and go on Living with the Land (5 minute wait - we both love this), Food Rocks (no wait - and OMG, what does Freddy Mercury think - is he rolling over when he hears what they've done to his song?). Circle of Life had a 13 minute wait - this was really good also. Break for a Mickey bar, and over to Test Track only to find it closed (it would stay closed until very late that night). Rode Body Wars with no wait except the preshow - a first for me, and I think I prefer Back to the Future or Star Tours to this. Cranium Command was also new to me - I liked this a lot - I tried to find a pin or stuffed figure of the little guy who's controlling the brain of the teenager, but never found anything. Saw "Making of Me" with a 10 minute wait. Then on to Universe of Energy with another 10 minute wait. Not having seen any other versions, I had nothing to compare it to, but I really thought it was nicely done. At this point, I was advocating for a return and rest at the hotel. We'd been hard at it for 2.5 days, and I was beginning to feel the toll of the non-stop touring. No waits in line meant that we had been moving constantly over the past days. Gavin was worried that we wouldn't get everything done in Future World that he wanted to do. I reminded him that we had another whole day scheduled for Epcot. We discussed all this while he had a burger at the Electric Umbrella. After he was done eating, we went to Innoventions East and saw the Segway people movers - these are much more impressive in person than on TV, I think. Later we saw cast members riding them in Epcot selling souvenirs during the parades and Illuminations. At the Living Seas, Gavin missed the ride that used to be there (told you he's the one with the memory for detail - me:" There used to be a ride here? Um, I've slept a bit since then, don't really recall . . .") At this point, I finally just had to plead collapse - I headed back to the hotel, he continued to tour. I called my mom to check on the girls (they were fine - spending lots of time playing in the back yard while mom sat on the patio) and took a shower. Feeling much refreshed, I went back to Epcot and got there just in time to see the Tapestry of Dreams Parade at it's ending point in Morocco. I bought a disposable camera (Gavin had the camera with him) - ouch - just don't look at the price when they ring them up! And talked with one of the nicest cast members of my visit in the shop at Morocco. I got (I hope - still waiting for my pics to come back from the developer) some great pictures, and then wandered over to America to see the flag that they found in the rubble at the World Trade Center. Had my quiet moment and then found a place between America and Italy to watch Illuminations again. On the way out, I resolved to buy the CD which I had seen at the hotel gift shop, so that's what I did before turning in for the night. Gavin had continued to tour in FW, including a ride on Test track in the dark when it finally opened, and he also watched the parade in Morocco , as near as we can figure, about 15 yards or so from me! Then after the park closed, he went over to the Boardwalk for awhile, and then on to Downtown Disney, finally making it back about 1:30 AM. Park Commando at his finest! Tomorrow - MGM.

Day 4, Friday, October 4th

Woke to Mickey telling us to get "up and at 'em" as he had each morning since we came. There's something hard to resist when he tells you there's big doin's going on. I was much refreshed from last evening being more relaxed and slower paced. Gavin's internal Park Commando was happy with all that he'd accomplished in the late afternoon and evening, so much mollified we set off to MGM after a breakfast at the Ale & Compass in the YC lobby. This is great if you are cereal for breakfast types, which we are. We took the Friendship Launch to MGM and got there a few minutes after 9, and headed straight back to Rockin Roller Coaster, which was a walk on. Again (as with Figment) we were the only people both in the "recording studio" and then on the coaster. Had our choice of seats and chose the very front - was this wise? Who can say? Wow - what a take off - that was cool - but then the looping in the near dark started and - ooh, methinks this was not such a good idea. Am I getting old? Am I losing it? I, who used to ride Space Mountain 4 times n a row - could I really be losing my edge? Um, it would appear so. Gavin asked the attendant where the lost and found was so we could go claim our stomachs, and I found the nearest bench and looked like one of those little green people who has just gotten off a coaster in Roller Coaster Tycoon (a computer game we play - lots of fun - you have to build a park, maintain it, keep the guests happy, etc.). We stop at the Produce stand and buy a coke, and sit there for awhile. Definite decision to postpone Tower of Terror. Gavin asked what I would like to do next - my answer: "Something slow moving, in air conditioning." So, on to the Great Movie Ride which filled the bill quite nicely. Then the animation tour - really neat to see what they have in development and we love seeing the "process" behind the finished product. Now what did I feel up to - hmm, stomach pretty settled now - how about lunch? Had a PS for dinner at Hollywood and Vine, but decided to go for lunch instead (Brown Derby's menu has nothing that appeals to Gavin). Boy am I glad we did! Hands down - the best character meal ever! Of course, any time Chip & Dale are present, it's going to be fun, but the surprise favorite for me: Goofy. First of all, I love how the characters are not in their usual dress: Minnie is in her glamorous gown and Goofy in his suit. And this Goof y was just the best. As he came to our table, he noticed my Texas Mickey pin that I had bought at the Disney Store before coming, in hopes that I could trade it with someone. Well, he kept gesturing for me to put the pin on his lapel; I teased him that I had brought it to trade, and that that wouldn't really be a proper trade, now would it? But he really wanted the pin. I looked at him (the re were no kids around - we were several tables away from anyone else) and I said, "You must be a pin trader" and he nodded yes. He motioned again for me to put the pin on his lapel - I asked if he would get in trouble for having something non-standard on his costume - he gestured that he didn't care, and so I gave away my pin! Later I went over to the other side of the restaurant (it was so big and only a few families there) and told him I wanted to get his picture so I would have a "record" of where my pin went - he posed nicely pointing to my pin, I thanked him and he kissed my hand, and then went back to my table and got some dessert. Well, the next thing I know, Goofy is sitting next to me with his pin lanyard - he went and got his lanyard and is motioning to me to select a pin. I decide on one of Minnie, since this is "her" character meal (as opposed to Mickey) and it will remind me of this wonderful lunch. Then he motions to me to take a second pin! So I get a 100 years of magic pin - thank you Goofy for the magic you gave to us at lunch! Walt's magic is still there in the hearts of "people" like you! All of the characters at this meal were outstanding in their interaction - we had a whole thing going with Chip, telling us that he's the angel and Dale's the devil, and talking about our dogs with Pluto -plus I love the little song/dance that they do - all in all a true highlight of the trip.

After lunch we went to see the 1:30 Beauty and the Beast show - this is one of my favorite movies (I have 2 versions on Laserdisc - one is the unfinished version that showed to such acclaim at the NY film festival before it was released to theaters). The temperature/humidity gauge on the soundboard just in front of us said 90 degrees and 49% humidity - gees - no wonder I'm sweating so much! The pre-show here was really neat - an a capella group called 4 for a Dollar - and it starts out like they are doing a sounds check - they were really good and very entertaining. We loved the B&B show, and after it was over went to the 2:30 Indiana Jones Stunt Show. Lots of people from Texas picked as volunteers - even one from Fort Worth! Small world . . .

Next we had our picture made with Sorcerer Mickey, and it was funny - just before it was our turn, the attendant came up and redid the snap at the front of Mickey's robe and said something about making sure he was decent - Mickey was really cute - managed to look embarrassed about "having his fly open" - really funny! Looked for Sully and Mike - not out, and then onto the Backlot tour. Boy did we melt in the sun waiting for that tram to get moving - this was nice and it was nice to see the street where the Osborne lights are set up at Christmas. We got done with that just in time to see the parade right where it started - the little host was pretty funny - it was neat how he got the kids involved - one even got a Monsters Inc. DVD. I liked the parade - but then, I'm a parade, fireworks or any other kind of spectacle kind of girl. On to Tatooine Traders for some Star Wars stuff or Neil for driving us to the airport at that ungodly hour.

We decided to get some dinner, and tried Mama Melrose's at 5:10 PM with no PS - got right in, although there was a definite wait by the time we finished. The food and service were ok - not bad at all but nothing I would go out of my way for. I decided to get a temporary tattoo in the Muppet area - how about some Muppet characters? I'd have loved to get Kermit - I got a very cute little Piglet instead. We watched the Muppets 3-D - this is my favorite of all the 3-D movies. There was so little wait we missed the preshow! Then, I decided that my love for Star Tours was such that I would regret not riding it, so off we went - our longest queue so far - maybe 10 minutes? Turns out I wasn't quite over RnR and had to close my eyes during part of the film - In future I will have to try that Mez-stuff that a couple of people on the boards have talked about. On to Sounds Dangerous, just so we could say we did it - with a 6 minute wait. Not bad, but nothing I would go out of my way to do - I love Drew Carey but that's not really him at his best (where's Ryan & Colin?).

Checked out our Sorcerer Mickey picture - will I ever like any of these pictures? I didn't like the one taken by the photographer when we came this morning either. Oh well.

7:20 - headed for seats at Fantasmic - wow this sure beats having to carve out a piece of pavement in Disneyland! Gavin realized we were out of film so headed out to get some, but made it back in plenty of time for the show. And well, I have to say, we were both surprised to find ourselves a little disappointed. We both like the Disneyland version better - I don't know if the show changes from year to year, or if they are different because of the staging limitations that DL has, but whatever the reason, we liked the DL version better.

We headed with the masses to the exits, and decided to take a bus to Downtown Disney, where we shopped - and I do mean shopped! Got the discount by using the AmEx (yeah - I knew there was justification somewhere. . .) and got lots of things for us (including a scrapbook) as well as family. At 11 PM we caught the bus to the hotel (or home as I kept calling it :))

Day 5, Saturday, October 5th

After breakfast at the Lounge in the hotel, we took the Friendship Launch to Epcot and were there just before the gates opened. We stopped at the shop by the International Gateway to buy the Epcot shirt I had been eyeing for days now, as well as some Mickey socks (more unexpectedly fun souvenirs). Then on to Future World to ride Test Track. This was fun, and we didn't have any wait to ride it! Then we went to see Figment again. While browsing in the shop at the exit and buying more film, the CM told us that in their briefing that morning, they were told to caution people about taking their exposed rolls of film home in their checked baggage - I guess the intensity of the x-rays is higher these days and can damage your film. Another reason I was grateful that we brought mailers and had been mailing our film off each day for developing, so we wouldn't have any rolls to take back with us. Also, if you find yourself buying film at WDW, (I brought 16 rolls and still bought film) if you buy a 4 pack, you will get a cute collectible pin of Donald and Tinkerbell - Donald has film all over him and looks frustrated about trying to load his camera. If you buy two disposable cameras, you get a Pluto pin. These were nice pins, and since we were buying the stuff anyway, made us feel like we were getting more value for our money. Also, CMs seemed very interested in those pins for trade. (Yes, we bought enough film that I got more than one pin . . .).

After, JIYI, on to Living Seas, bypassing the "briefing" to continue the interactive exhibits that we cut short the first time. We had great timing - there was a dolphin presentation at 10:45 (just a few minutes after we arrived). This was quite enjoyable and made us think about doing the interactive Dolphins in Depth program on our return visit in April.

We headed round the WS looking for lunch, finally settling on Germany's Biergarten. We were done in time to see American Vybe at 1:30, and then the American Adventure Movie. I love the song from this movie, and some of the lyrics have an extra special meaning after the events of the past year. We walked through Japan, and then on to Morocco. Throughout our trip I kept trying to sell Gavin on Teppanyaki - I really think he'd like it but he's still skeptical - maybe next time. In Morocco we saw Jasmine and Aladdin (no pictures though), and then we headed over to France for the movie. This was our only "extremely annoying uncontrolled child experience" of the trip. I have to give the kids and children credit - the overwhelming majority of kids we encountered as we toured were very well behaved. This little girl (maybe 4 or 5) next to me in the movie chattered, talked bounced, hissed, sang along, repeated phrases of what she'd heard - well you get the idea - through the ENTIRE movie. At one point I looked over and caught the dad's eye - he was completely oblivious. The toddler he was holding was perfectly behaved. Honestly, the social worker in me wanted to test her for ADHD. The dad seemed immune to her behavior. In the end, I ended up feeling sorry for him - he had a "defeated" or tired look about him. Oh well, I am happy that we will be going back and will have another opportunity to see the film, which I think we would really enjoy.

At 3:15 we caught the Friendship back to the YC. Yeah! - the Park commando takes his first mid-afternoon break! After showers and another call to my mom to check on the "girls" we were much refreshed and decided to check out the Boardwalk. After walking in to the bakery, we instantly decide that this will be our breakfast stop in the morning. From the Friendship Launch back to the YC, the captain pointed out an osprey that was fishing. We decided to check out the Beach Club lobby and restaurants. Somehow the lobby felt smaller to me - and the restaurant seemed very busy. Overall impression of a lot more kids than on the YC side.

We caught a bus at BC (no wait really at all) to the MK, and then the monorail to the Contemporary with thoughts of dinner. Wow - was this place busy! Lots of people around. I knew the golf tournament had started - maybe that's why it was so busy? Looked at the menus - didn't want another character meal (how could any live up to our great meal at H&V?) and the menu at the Concourse Steakhouse didn't appeal. What to do? Remembering our server's suggestion about dinner at Tony's Town Square on Saturday, and Terrazzo seating for Spectromagic viewing, we went to guest services to make a PS. Wow - how friendly and warm these guys were - again, the contrast to YC where I was reluctant to even approach the desk for anything. They got us a PS for 8 PM and we headed for the monorail to the MK. Lot's of people flooding into MK for SpectroMagic - we had expected this but after the light crowds all week - it was quite a contrast. We enjoyed our meal at Tony's and it was a great place to view SpectroMagic - a few heads in the bottom of the pictures from the folks standing on the sidewalks, but really quite nice. The fireworks started soon after (we weren't done with dessert yet) so Gavin hopped off the terrace to grab some photos and then came back to finish up. I could see some of the fireworks through some buildings, but not much overall.

We did a little more souvenir shopping for folks back home and watched the goodnight kiss. We asked one of the security guards about the recording that gets played, and they said it's not actually Walt, it's a child, and that it would be quite late tonight since there were still a lot of people in the park. We caught a bus to the YC and drank our champagne and packed up for our move to AKL before going to bed. For anyone interested, I used the WDW florist to deliver a wine caddy with champagne and two beanies (Safari Mickey & Safari Minnie). They did everything as asked and delivery was just as requested. It was worth it to see Gavin's surprise when we came back to the room after touring to see it on the desk (it was delivered on Day 2, our first night at YC). For me, it was worth paying twice as much for the champagne as I could buy it at home, at least in this case. The folks at the florist were nice to work with and I would use them again should the whim overtake me :).

Day 6, Sunday, October 6th

Got up, took our stuff down to the Bell Stand for transfer to the AKL, and checked out of the YC. Took the Friendship Launch to Boardwalk and - mmm - what a breakfast from the Bakery. This is a "must do" on my list! It was nice to sit at the tables on the pier and watch the people and the boats as we ate breakfast and drank our coffee - very nice way to start the day. We have really enjoyed being "Epcot/MGM" based and will definitely try to do this again.

We caught a bus at the BW bus stop for AK - it pulled up as we got to the stop - we have had great timing like this throughout the trip; it's been nice. At AK, the first thing we did was K. Safari - we loved it! Saw giraffes, hippos, elephants, wildebeests, ostriches, lions sleeping ... that was just what I remembered to write down after it was over. This is where we really missed our camera that took it's own little thrill ride on day 1 - it allows you to take two pictures in rapid succession. Because the safari vehicles are very bumpy, you might "miss" a shot and want to take another one really quickly before your past it - well, this Kodak camera takes along time to snap a picture after you press the button, so we found ourselves missing shots that way, and it also takes a long time between pictures. We will definitely have to get the Olympus looked at, but in the mean time, we are grateful for any camera with a zoom.

After the safari we took the Pangani Trail -wow - until you go on this, it is just too hard to picture from all the trip reports and descriptions. It was amazing! Along the trail we saw gorillas, impala, storks, meerkats. At one point, you leave this area with glass walls and think you've left the gorilla habitat, but you really haven't. There were signs describing the stream along the trail as the boundary between the bachelor gorilla's territory and the family's territory. I missed a great photo of one of the bachelor gorillas in this area. <sigh for the Olympus camera>. At 11 Am we saw the Festival of the Lion King show - it is amazing how involved these shows are that are staged multiple times daily. We were in the Lion section - whew - that's a sound I can make. After this we headed to Tusker House for lunch, where we purchased the meal/snack deal.

After lunch we headed to Asia, where we saw Forest Gibbons and Simiangs (sp?) before

Getting Fastpasses for Kali River Rapids - wow - our first Fastpasses of the trip on Day 6! Then we caught the 1 PM Flights of Wonder show - this really is neat. Before the show, an owl named Twister was out with a CM who talked about owls and answered questions. This was a neat show - my mother-in-law loves birds and she would just love this show, and the AK for how many different birds you can see.

After the show it was time for our FP return to Kali River Rapids. Standby was posted at 35 minutes. Even with FP return, this was the longest line of our trip to date. But still the queue moved almost the entire time, and we were on in 10-15 minutes. Yeah! We hardly got wet at all! Some folks on our raft were drenched - I felt sorry for them. I can deal with wet but not wet tennis shoes, so I had worn my river sandals this day, just in case, and Gavin's swim trunks look like shorts but dry faster, so we had tried to come prepared. All in all, we liked the Grizzly River Rapids ride at DCA (which is very similar to this) better - we rode it several times in a row last year, but felt that one time on Kali was fine for us here. Can't really pinpoint the difference - I think Grizzly felt longer, and you are more likely to be drenched on Kali -so the dread of drenching detracted a little for us.

After Kali, we took the Maharajah Trek - again - I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. It was especially neat to be so close to the tigers. After this we headed to Dinosaur at 2:45 PM - only a 5 minute posted wait time. This was good - not as scary as I had feared from everything I had read. And I seem to have gotten some of my coaster stamina back, since it didn't bother me. Since Primeval Whirl was a walk-on, we decided to do it. Somewhere I had gotten the idea that you could control the spinning of your car on one of these AK coasters - I thought it was this one, but if it was, we never saw how to do it. That was fine with me - I don't like spinning and this one spins you around enough as it is. This was the first "Crazy Mouse" type coaster for either of us. It was cute, but not anything I'd wait a long time for. We redeemed our snack & drink tickets for popcorn and a Mickey bar, and two cokes - mmm - hit the spot on a hot day. Gavin has really embraced the "slow down, take a break every so often" philosophy and enjoyed this little break in the afternoon. It was parade time and we found a great spot to watch it. Right in front of the right (as you are facing them) gate of the big carved gates leading to the Africa area - the parade will come across that bridge and there was no one standing with us. We got a TON of interaction from the puppets, and we got great shots with the camera of the characters looking/waving straight at us. Throughout this parade, the camera was flashing a low battery light - we sweated it out and did manage to get pictures of all the floats/cars. This was a cute parade - I liked how each character "packed" different things for the safari, in keeping with their personalities.

After the parade, we bought a replacement battery, and the clerk took our old one to recycle! We thought this was fantastic - you usually have to hunt for a place to take your used batteries for recycling (at home we take them to Target) - so if anyone is using batteries they brought with them 9our old camera took AA's - another plus in it's favor) be sure to stop by a photo/battery cart or shop when you replace them and they will dispose of the used batteries for you (ok - environmental spiel off).

Right after the parade, and buying the battery, we made a beeline for the Safari again. That was another advantage to this spot, since you are seeing the parade near it's starting point, you just wait a minute or so after the last float (a lot of people follow the parade), and it is a free and clear shot for a last ride on the safari. Again - lots of animals. Missed a great shot of the male lion stretching between a lower level rock and a higher rock on the hill (film rewinding) <sigh>.

Left AK and took the bus to AKL to check in. Had savannah view room #3211 - first room off the lobby so there was a fair amount of noise early in the evening. (Dad horsing around with his kids). I think because it is so close to public areas (an overlook area was right next to our balcony) people don't realize there are rooms there and don't watch their volume. It wasn't bothersome for us, but might be for some over an extended stay. Showered and went to dinner at Boma. After dinner we headed to the hot tub, and this is where we learned the cardinal rule of staying at AKL - ALWAYS take your camera with you - no matter where you are going or why. The first spa we saw was crowded so we headed to the other one. Just before we reached it, there was an overlook; at this pint the savannah is the same level than you (unlike Arusha rock) and not 12 feet from us were three giraffes feeding. OMG - me without my glasses or the camera! We watched them for a long time and talked with the attendant (from South Africa I think) - he wanted to know if the stereotypes of Texans you see in movies are true. We had a nice chat with him and then hit the spa - ahh - much stronger jets than the WL (possibly too strong for some, but I loved it). Gavin went and did the pool slide for 10-15 minutes until the lifeguard left at 10:30 - he said it was fun - and after we felt we had worked out some of the kinks from our days of touring, we headed off to bed. I will say that I'm not sure what it was, but this is the only hotel where my allergies bothered me. I would definitely have to take my Zyrtec if I stayed here for any length of time. The room was beautifully themed, and we both agreed that Gavin's mom would love to stay here. We'd love to try to convince the family to join us in April for a family vacation. So much is new since Gavin's family was last here, we really think they would enjoy it.

Tomorrow we check out, and fly home at the end of the day.

Day 7, Monday, October 7th

Woke up sad that this was our last day - not sure when Gavin started asking if we could stay, could we live at WDW, etc. Had express checkout, so took our luggage to the Valet stand to hold till this afternoon, and went to the Mara for breakfast. Man I was missing the Cinnamon yummy from Boardwalk bakery already! Gavin said today was my day p we would do whatever I wanted to do - he's really a sweetie! Had a 30 second wait for a bus to MGM which got us there at 8:45 AM. Went through security, and they let folks in a little before the official opening time of 9 AM. We'd come back for Gavin to ride Tower of terror - I'd decided to weenie out on this trip since I knew we'd be back in April. He headed that direction while I went in to a shop for (yet more!) film. As I wandered through the shops (so much less crowded than the sidewalks) he came back and found me, saying they hadn't let people back towards the rides yet, just onto Hollywood Blvd. He found me at the check-out and whew - I managed to cover up the postcard I bought for him under the souvenir ones for the scrapbook. I had found one that said "I survived the Tower of Terror" and planned to present it to him after the ride. He headed back off to ToT. I meandered my way there, stopping at Starting Rolls for a coffee cake muffin (very good) and more coffee, and just made it to ToT as he came off. I gave him his card and got a picture of him holding the card with ToT in the background for the scrapbook. He said it shouldn't shake me up like RnR. Now that I'm back, and have read some posts about this non-drowsy motion sickness tablet you can get at the pharmacy, I think I am going to try that for our next rip, because I really do love to ride the roller coasters and simulators and this is the first time I've ever had such a strong negative reaction.

We went to the One man's Dream exhibit - we spent quite a bit of time here, coming out about 10:45 AM. Walt was such a visionary. And by pursuing his dreams he has given so much to others. Very inspiring.

We checked again, and found out Mike & Sully were due out in 10 minutes, so we waited and got pictures with them.. The CM in attendance was great about taking pictures of parties with multiple people - he wouldn't let us take a picture of the lady and her son in front of us - said we were on vacation and shouldn't have to work! And then he did the same for us - really a nice guy.

Done with MGM, we caught the Friendship bound for Epcot. Before we boarded, one of the "captains" noticed my lanyard and wanted to trade - he was a really nice guy. I traded him my extra "Donald with film" pin for the Mickey "Pin trading" pin. Then I traded him my last "original" Amex pin that came with my lanyard for the Mickey pin that matched the Minnie pin I got from Goofy at H&V (think I could work any more characters in that sentence if I tried?). Then I regretted letting go of my "white glove treatment" pin - I decided I wanted "my" pin - not an identical one from another CM (every one of them had one of these on their lanyard) so I traded him my second Texas Mickey pin to get my Amex pin back. I was happy and done with pin trading for this trip. We had even gotten a special Beauty & the Beast pin when we ordered our DVD at one of the gift shops in AK yesterday, so I had ended up with a nice assortment of pins.

At Epcot, we got a quick lunch of fish and chips from the UK takeaway window, and by 12:35 we were on our way via monorail to the TTC. Gavin had asked what I wanted for my last day, and I wanted to be sprinkled with Pixie Dust again (my magic moments pin) on Peter Pan's flight. At the TTC, they put us in the front of the monorail to the MK without our asking - we weren't going to ask since we'd already done it - and we had a great pilot - Bob - who actually knew Fort Worth. He stops here about once a year to eat at a local restaurant on a long drive across several states. Well, Bob, guess where we just found out Gavin's office Christmas party is going to be? Joe t. Garcia's - truly a small world. He gave us co-pilot's licenses before we left. That really is a nice touch. On the way in to MK was did a brief survey, and as we made our way in to the park - the only thing we could say was "Where did all these people come from?" Wow - talk about a contrast to the first 6 days of our trip!

Gavin got his picture made with Donald, who had just come out as we neared the front of Cinderella's castle. This is Gavin's favorite character, and in all his family trips, he'd never had his picture made with Donald. On other days, when we saw him and I'd encourage him to get in line, he always said the line was too long, he didn't really need the picture, etc. I'm glad it was a short line this time, and that I insisted because he was really tickled afterwards that he'd had his picture made with Donald. We watched a little of the Sword in the Stone ceremony in front of the carousel, but man - it was hot today - I swear it felt even hotter than any of the previous days. If you stood in one place in the sun, you just started dripping, so we moved on and got fast passes for Peter Pan's flight, which already had a posted wait of over and hour. The other thing I had wanted to do was ride the train all the way around the park - I love the train! So we went to the station in Frontierland - quite crowded! We waited 10 minutes or so for the train, with more people crowding into the waiting area at all times, and finally got on the train. There was a family with a couple of twins, a boy and a girl in front of us (probably less than a year old) - they were so cute! We rode the train all the way round, back to Frontierland, and then on to Toontown where we got off and got a Mickey ice cream sandwich - yum! We waited the ten or so minutes until our fast pass window opened up - man it was crowded in Fantasyland. Got sprinkled with Pixie dust and headed towards the exit. After a 10 minute wait for the bus to AKL (the poor folks waiting for the OKW bus next to us were pretty restless, I think they'd had a long wait) at 3 PM we were headed back to the resort to meet our car service for <sigh> the trip back to the airport. It had taken us almost three hours at MK today to do two things, one of them with Fastpass - what a contrast to the previous days.

We did some last minute souvenir shopping for co-workers and ourselves in the Zawadi Marketplace, and then it was time at 3:45 to load up our stuff and go. As we got ready to walk out the doors, a plaque on the wall caught my eye "Please touch me" - don't things usually read "*Don't'* touch me"? The sign went on to say that it was the tradition of a certain tribe to touch the giant carved shield/plaque next to the sign, to receive safe journey home. We touched it, fought back the tears, and went out to meet our driver. If we hadn't already decided to come back, I don't know if I could have gotten Gavin out the door. Our driver commented about how quiet we were. Well, we'd had such a truly wonderful trip - full of so many different special memories, we were sad to be going. At one point during the day, Gavin asked if we could live at WDW - or maybe at least call in sick and stay one more day.

Security screening at Orlando airport - they swabbed one of our carry ons and put the swab in a testing machine. Their security checkpoint is amazing. At the flight, we were both diverted for extra screening. Both had to take the shoes off - eww Gavin's feet had been sweating in those sandals - those poor security folks! They searched our carry ons very thoroughly - ad one bag had all our toiletries - it took a long time. They ended up scratching Gavin's brand new electric razor and they left a shampoo bottle open. My advise to everyone - check your caps etc. when you get on the plane - if we had we wouldn't have been rinsing shampoo off of everything else in there when we got home.

In Houston, the plane we were supposed to connect to was late coming in, then they had two passengers in wheelchairs so that took an additional half hour to unload before the crews could get to the planes. We didn't really care - Bush's speech was on the CNN TVs allover the airport. Back to the real world. The pilot's must have floored it because they made up about 20 minutes in a 45 minute flight from Houston to DFW, so we were only 10 minutes late. Neil met us and we finally got home about 11 AM. Two happy little doggies to give us exuberant greetings - Gavin said having them to come home to made it easier to come back. If it had been an empty house - it would have been harder.

Epilogue

The next day, mid-morning, I called Gavin to see how he was doing on the first day back. "I had two floater holidays, not one - we could have stayed two more days" he lamented. He had confessed the night before to being in danger of becoming addicted to Disney - I told him there are much worse things in life to be addicted to and I think I can live with that. So with this in mind, my wheels start turning . . . April's a long way away - but December - Gavin's birthday - "How about a long weekend trip with your two floating holidays (I have more vacation time than he does and all his was used up on this trip) in December?" I ask him. Well, next thing you know - we are booked for 4 nights at All Star Music in early December! Disney at Christmas time - we can't wait!

Elisabeth Norton

nortonmail@lycos.com


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