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Michael Wolf -- October 2002 -- Walt Disney World (PR)


The Cast:
Michael, 30, fifth visit to WDW (Disney fanatic for past couple years)
Melissa, 28, girlfriend of the fanatic, fourth visit together

The Time:
Saturday, October 19, 2002 to Sunday, October 27, 2002

The Resort:
Polynesian - Raratonga Building, 2nd Floor (as part of the Caribbean Beach Resort refugee program!)

The History:
Melissa and I first went to WDW in September, 2000, and then again for a longer trip in November 2001. (My trip report for the 2001 trip can be found in the Holiday, 2001 section). Our most recent trip to WDW occurred this past July, when Melissa surprised me with a mini-vacation to WDW for my 30th birthday!

The Planning:

Given how much we both enjoyed Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) during our 2001 trip, I started thinking that we should go in October so we could see Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). Melissa and I were firm believers in off-season touring before our July trip (which incidentally coincided with the July 4th Holiday weekend), and definitely continue to believe in off-season touring after that trip. In our view, yes, you get extended hours during the summer season, but the crowds negate the actual value of those hours. I mean, what's the point of extended hours if you are spending all that extra time in line?

I thought that given our trip planning experience, the planning for this trip would be less involved then with previous trips, but of course, that is seldom the case. First, we were unable to find any reasonable nonstop airfare prices, so for the first time, we had to take connecting flights both ways. Next, e-nights were cancelled for September and October, so we would not be able to do the Magic Kingdom in our favorite way. Another issue that came up was learning about Sea World, as we decided to check out that park for the first time.

The biggest issue that came up however was when Disney announced that they were going to close our favorite resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, for rehab in the fall. First, we thought we would only get transferred to another moderate, so we decided to go with Port Orleans for the first time. Then, one day, I learned that Disney was offering the Polynesian Resort for $20.00 more a night than a moderate, so we snapped that up right away.

The Schedule:

  • Saturday, October 19th - Travel Day. Check into PR some time in the afternoon. Dinner at the Cape May Café Clambake, Return to PR to watch MK fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant from PR beach
  • Sunday, October 20th - Go to Sea World. No lunch plans, Dine with Shamu for dinner. Night swimming at PR?
  • Monday, October 21st - Breakfast together at Kona Café, and then split up. Mike: Spend morning at MK. Melissa: spend morning at PR pool. In the afternoon, meet up at MK. Dinner at Ohana's.
  • Tuesday, October 22nd - Start with early entry at MGM. No lunch plans. Leave MGM by lunchtime and spend afternoon at PR. Nighttime, go to Universal Citywalk. Dinner at Marguitaville.
  • Wednesday, October 23rd. - Free day. Dinner at Teppanaki's at Epoct.
  • Thursday, October 24th - Breakfast at Cape May, then spend afternoon at Epcot for Food and Wine Festival.
  • Friday, October 25th - Morning at Animal Kingdom. Breakfast at Donald's. Afternoon at PR pool. Dinner at Tony's Town Square Restaurant, then evening at Mickey's Halloween Party.
  • Saturday, October 26th - Early Entry at MGM. Dinner at Boma's at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
  • Sunday, October 27th - Breakfast at Ohana's, then travel back home.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19TH (TRAVEL DAY)

Parks Visited: None
Special Dining: Cape May Café Clambake for Dinner

As I stated above, this was the first Disney trip we had where we could not find reasonable nonstop airfare prices and were therefore forced to make connecting flights. The interesting thing about this is that we had different connecting cities there and back. On our flight to Orlando, we had a one-hour layover in Miami. Both the flights from St. Louis to Miami and Miami to Orlando were uneventful. Both flights were overbooked and the airline was scrambling to get people to agree to use a later flight. Our only travel troubles started when we arrived in Orlando. For some unexplained reason, it took well over 30 minutes for all of the luggage from our flight to get on the conveyor belts. In addition, our driver from Tiffany Towncar left to go get his vehicle and never came back to help us with our luggage. Given what we paid for the "service", that fact bugged me almost as much as waiting for the luggage! Our Tiffany woes continued when our driver used I-4 to get us to the Polynesian. This was the first time any driver had used I-4 to get from the airport to WDW, and now I know why -traffic, traffic, traffic! At this point, I was starting to wonder if we get to the hotel before nightfall, but finally we got off the highway and drove under my favorite sign in the entire world - "Welcome to Walt Disney World". I don't care what anyone says, there is simply a magical feeling that comes over you once you are officially "onsite".

Once we got to the Polynesian, my bad check-in luck continued, as it took about 20 minutes to check in. (there is ALWAYS some major issue when I check us in at WDW!) We were placed on the 2nd floor of Raratonga, room 2810. I had sent in various room requests and my first two choices were Raratonga-third floor and then first floor so we could have a balcony, but the hotel was booked full, so there was no maneuvering room. I think we both ended up liking Raratonga for its central location more than anything else. The room itself seemed bigger than our rooms at the Caribbean Beach Resort. We had a nice view (through some trees) of the quiet pool. The only real room complaints were a small TV and the bathroom set up, with the sinks inside the bathroom. After we got settled in, we were both starving, so we decided to head over to the Cape May Café Clambake. We got there using the monorail and then a bus from Magic Kingdom. The meal was one of the highlights of our trip. We had eaten there before for the character breakfast, but this dinner was as good, if not even better. I am not a great fan of seafood, but I decided to try some things ("when in Rome" I guess) and liked most of them. All of the non-seafood choices were great and the desserts were incredible. One interesting side note was that when we checked in to the restaurant with our priority seating info, we were given a buzzer and waited maybe 5 minutes, even though the restaurant was maybe only one-thirds full when we arrived! Unfortunately, our transportation woes continued on the way back to the Polynesian, as we waited over 30 minutes for a bus to take us from the Beach Club to the Magic Kingdom. Given that this was a Saturday night, the only night for Spectromagic and Fantasy in the Sky fireworks, I couldn't believe the delay!

After we finally got to the Magic Kingdom, we ended up taking a little steamboat back to the hotel instead of the monorail. The boat services the Grand Floridian and the Poly, and was fun to use. When we got back to the Polynesian, we went down to the main beach area to see if we would be able to watch the MK fireworks form the beach. I grabbed us a couple of "tropical" drinks and we grabbed a couple beach chairs and had a great time just talking and drinking while we waited for the fireworks. It turned out that we could easily see the fireworks from the beach with no problem (although we were not able to hear the music that was supposed to go along with the fireworks). Soon after the fireworks ended, the Electrical Water Pageant began right in front of us. I know I shouldn't complain about free Disney entertainment, as it is becoming rarer and rarer, but this was disappointing. Basically, the pageant is a bunch of barges with images made of electrical lights, all set to some of the most annoying electrical music you ever heard. Finally, after the pageant was over, we started to walk back to our rooms and saw the funniest thing - no one was using the quiet pools except for two ducks!

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20TH

Parks Visited: Sea World
Special Dining: Dine with Shamu (dinner)

We got up VERY EARLY for our first trip to Sea World, as we had to meet our Mears Transport driver in front of the hotel at 7:30 am in order to get to the park before opening. I was concerned that we would not have enough time in the park to see everything that we wanted, so I made us use the first Mears ride to make sure we got to the park as soon as possible. Of course, with my luck, it turned out all wrong! Basically, Mears puts the fear of God in you that they will have pick ups from four other hotels, but it turned out Melissa and I were the only riders except for one other family from the Poly who was going to Discovery Cove. Even with dropping the other family off first, we still got to the front gates of Sea World a full hour before park opening. It was a weird felling being the first and only ones there. Unlike at Disney and Universal, the parking lot for Sea World is right outside the main gate, so we had this huge empty parking lot right next to us. Finally, at about 8:45 am, we got to the rope drop area. I think the way SW opens the park is neat in that they play the national anthem and then the park opens.

Once the rope drop occurred, we hustled over to Journey to Atlantis, which we did back to back. While it is in a way similar to Splash Mountain, I still thought it was a great ride. The themeing doesn't compare to Splash (of course, what does?) but the drop was much more thrilling, and the "secret" roller coaster section was great as well. After two rides on this, Melissa and I were both soaked. We next went over to the dolphin cove, which was already very crowded. By sheer luck, we had timed it right and I was able to buy some fish to feed the dolphins. I was totally amazed at how close you were able to get to the dolphins. It was also neat to see how the dolphins totally migrate towards those who have fish to feed them. I touched a couple of the dolphins then stopped after I saw one snap at a little girl who was touching it. To continue my "touching" phase of the day (Melissa wanted no part of touching any of the animals!), we went over to the stingray lagoon, which was far less thrilling, as the rubber feel of the dolphins was replaced by the fishy feel the stingrays had. I did like how both places had areas to wash your hands after the experience. We then continued to time things right by hitting the first show (10:00 am) in the Dolphin stadium. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the show was.

Since we knew we were going to have a big dinner, we ate an early lunch at the waterfront grill in the center of the park. I got a huge bacon cheeseburger and Melissa's turkey sandwich was even bigger than mine. After finishing up with lunch, we headed over across the park to the Shamu stadium for the 11:30 showing of the Shamu Adventure show, which was as good as advertised. After the show, we walked around by the HUGE children's play area and ended up playing a couple midway games where we won some stuffed animals. If I had kids, I would have been scared to death that I would lose sight of my kids in Shamu's Happy Harbor, as it had to be at least three stories tall. We next went into the Shark Encounter exhibit, which I was disappointed in a bit. I knew that you saw the sharks while riding a conveyor belt, but I thought you would then be able to see them from a second area. I think what happened was that the second area was now being used as park of the shark restaurant that had just opened. We had looked into eating there for lunch while planning the trip, but given how expensive the menu was (even for lunch) as well as the fact that we had a big, somewhat expensive dinner planned, I was glad we decided against eating there.

After seeing the shark exhibit, we headed over to Pacific Point Preserve to check out the sea lions. Some of the sea lions were barking up a storm while others were just sleeping away in the sun. I tried to get some pictures of the sea lions, but as soon as I would come up to one that had been barking load, it would swim away and I would lose my picture! All in all, the sea loins were cute to see. Next door to the sea lions was the Penguin Encounter, which only took a couple minutes to check out. It was right about this time that I realized that we were getting done with most of the park and still had a lot of time on our hands. As a result, we decided to go another ride on Journey to Atlantis. The posted wait time was 20-25 minutes, but it only took 10 minutes to get on a boat. Unlike earlier, this time we were on a full boat, and we both thought the ride went much faster this time than our two previous rides early in the morning. One other thing I noticed on this ride that I guess I missed before was the fact that the ride must have been at the edge of the park property, as you could easily see the highway while going up the chain lift for the first drop. I guess this is what the difference is between Disneyland and Disney World.

Once we were done getting soaked again, we saw the manatee exhibit. I was surprised at how large the manatees actually were. After sneaking a peak at the underwater dolphin viewing area and turtle point (which only had one turtle there, which I thought was odd), we backtracked across the park to check out the 2:30 pm Cirque de la Mer show. Melissa wasn't too excited about seeing this, as she wasn't a big fan of the Cirque de Soleil (sp?) in Las Vegas, but she did enjoy this one. One interesting point that happened before the show was a European lady decided her family was going to sit down where my bag was, so she just picked it up and threw it on the floor like it was her personal property! Anyway, the show was a highly entertaining mismatch of Inca dance numbers followed by a reenactment of a boxing match set to the theme from Rocky. We then rushed over to catch the 3:30 pm Sea Lion show, which was hysterical and as good as advertised. After the sea lion show, we headed over to check out Wild Artic, which was probably the most disappointing part of the day. We waited maybe 15 minutes to get on the motion simulator, which was clearly not in sync with the ride film. The ride would have been okay except for the fact that the next part of the exhibit had ONE walrus, ONE polar bear, and ONE beluga whale. See a trend here? Thank god we had timed it right, as by the time we got out, a Shamu show must have ended, as the line was easily four times as long. (Yet the posted wait time was the same as when we first walked in!)

By now, it was time for our Dine with Shamu dinner. From what I have read, this is a relatively new feature at SW Orlando, but had been around for a while at SW San Diego. Basically, a section of the killer whale pool had been closed off and was now a covered outdoor restaurant, whereby the tables were only a few feet away from the killer whales. While we ate three killer whales swam around in front of us. I liked the buffet more than Melissa did, but I would admit that the meal was nowhere near a Disney-quality buffet. Our seats were right up to the water, which I thought was good at first until one of the killer whales splashed a table and soaked everything on the table. While we were eating, three of the whale trainers came over and talked about the whales and had them do a few tricks. I think both Melissa and myself thought there would be more interaction however. We ended our day by watching the Shamu Rocks America show, which was more thrills and less education than the Shamu Adventure show. Our ride back to the Poly on Mears was uneventful and on time, as we had only one stop before us, and that was at a Downtown Disney hotel. Once we got back to the Poly we went for a night swim in the main volcano pool. We looked for some hot tubs, but were surprised to find out the hotel didn't have any!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 21ST

Parks Visited: Magic Kingdom
Special Meals: Kona Café (breakfast) and Ohana's (dinner)

For the first time on our Disney trips, Melissa and I decided to split up for a few hours. I wanted to get some more time in at the Magic Kingdom, and Melissa wanted to lay out at the Volcano pool. We had breakfast together at the Kona Café, where I tried the Tonga Toast specialty that everyone talks about, but it didn't wow me at all. After leaving Melissa, I got to the Magic Kingdom in time to check out the new character opening where all the characters help to open the park after arriving by train. Once the park opened, I went into Fantasyland and rode the Pooh ride with no wait and then headed over to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain with maybe a 5 minute wait. After Space, I walked onto Buzz Lightyear and had my best shooting score ever. After Buzz, I headed back to the castle to see the 9:45 am castle show, but there was an announcement that the show was cancelled, so I went over and waited for the 10:00 am rope drop to get into Toontown Fair. Once the rope drop, I headed over to have a picture taken with Mickey, but there was already a sizeable light there (maybe people got there from the train?) Anyway, once I saw the line, I turned around and decided to check out the hall of fame character area for the first time. Turns out there were no lines, so I got my picture taken with Minnie, Chip, Dale, Tigger and Eyeore. I next saw the 10:45 am castle show, which thankfully went off without a hitch. After the show, I waited maybe five minutes to get my picture taken with Mickey in front of the castle. While waiting for my picture, a family was escorted by a cast member to get their picture taken with Mickey. The lady in front of me (with a heavy British accent) started to complaint about the line cutting until I pointed out to her that the family was with the Make a Wish Foundation and what that meant. Well, I guess there are some people who can't keep the spirit even in the Magic Kingdom!

Once the show was over, I still had some time to kill before meeting up with Melissa, so I walked around Adventureland, where I got my picture taken with Rifiki and Timon (sp?) from the Lion King and Baloo from Jungle Book. By this time, it was clear that there were more characters out and about in the park than I had ever seen before (and it turned out this was the case at all the parks). Melissa and I had agreed to meet at noon by Tony's unless the weather was still clear, and if so, then at 2:00 pm. I waited for a bit in front of Tony's and watched lots of secondary characters out on Main Street, but soon realized Melissa wasn't coming so I went and got a fast pass for Big Thunder Mountain RR (BTMRR) and got in line for Splash. Since I hadn't been riding anything since opening, I didn't realize how bad the lines had gotten, but it sure didn't feel like off-season! I waited 30 minutes for Splash (the standby time said 20 minutes) and when I came back out, the standby time was 40 minutes! After Splash, I went on BTMRR with no wait using my fastpass, but the standby was 30 minutes.

After BTMRR, I finally met up with Melissa, and we had a late lunch at Columbia Harbor House, where we both wondered how Disney had found a way to screw up chicken fingers! Next, we went to one of our favorites, the Haunted Mansion, which had the longest light I had EVER seen, as the line extended all the way outside the main gate and into liberty square! In addition, the fastpass machines were not running at all! Luckily, the ride is a fast loader, as it only took about 10 minutes to get inside the stretch room. Once we left our ghost friends behind, it was getting close to time for the afternoon parade to start, so we fought through the crowd to go get fastpasses for Splash and then went and waited to watch the Diamond Horseshoe Review show. While it was entertaining, we both thought it would be more like can-can dancers and not just county/western singing. After the show was over, we got a fastpass for BTMRR and then used our Splash fastpass with no wait. Maybe I hadn't noticed before, but Splash was different during the daytime as the light let you see more of some of the sets, so that a bit of the magic went away. After Splash, we went over to try to go on the jungle cruise, but the line was too long so went on the new Aladdin ride, which was no big thrill. Once we got off our flying carpets, we went back and did BTMRR with fastpass. Once walking through the queue, I noticed there was little standby wait, so we went on a second time, even though the stand by sign said 30-minute wait. As our second ride pulled into the station, a CM asked if we wanted to go on again, so we ended up doing Big Thunder three times in a row! After doing some browsing in the Main Street shops, we headed back to the Polynesian for our dinner at Ohana's, which I loved, and Melissa liked, even with its heavy beef emphasis. Once we finished with dinner, we went swimming in the quiet pool and then turned in so we would be well-rested for our first early entry at MGM.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22ND

Parks Visited: MGM Studios
Special Meals: Marguitaville at Universal City Walk (for dinner)

As MGM is our favorite Disney Park, we wanted to get as much time in as possible so we decided to get up early at do early entry at MGM (or as it is now called, the "extra magic hour"). Once the park opened at 8 am, we headed straight to the Rock 'n Roller Coaster (RnRC). I got us fastpasses and then we went on back to back with no wait. We then went on the coaster a third time when a line was starting to form. We were delayed a bit at the boarding station on our third ride, as it appeared that they were adding an additional train to use. After three rides on RnRC, I went over to ride the Tower of Terror by myself (ToT is the only ride Melissa won't do at WDW). When I started to walk in, I notice the Wicked Queen from Snow White and Cruella DeVeil (sp?) from 101 Dalmatians was at the ToT gift shop, so I went back to get Melissa and we got pictures with them, as they are a couple of Melissa's favorite characters. After the pictures, I got two fastpasses for ToT and then went in with little wait through the stand by line (but the line inside the boiler room was the longest I had ever seen). On my second ride I used one of the fastpasses and ended up in one of the new seatbelt rows. Surprisingly, the seat belts didn't restrict the airtime so it was still a great ride. After that, I decided to skip a third ride and went to get Melissa to use our RnRC fastpasses. At this time, I started to notice the wait times on the two MGM majors was pushing closer to 30-plus minutes, and it was only 9:30 in the morning!

After we finished the majors, we stopped at the bakery by the Brown Derby. We both got muffins, but it seemed like the muffins had shrunk in half from our previous trips to this bakery. Once we had some food in us, we went over and did the first Millionaire show, where we both got into the top ten scores, but no hot seat. Next, we got our picture taken with Sorcerer Mickey and then Melissa did some shopping at the Villians store while I tried to get a picture with Lilo and Stitch (which I passed on once I saw the long line.) Walking back from Lilo and Stitch (and through the millions of strollers parked in front of the Playhouse Disney stage), I noticed a line outside the Great Movie Ride which I had never seen before and then saw the wait time posed as 30 minutes, which blew me away, as every time I had been on it in the past, the ride was a walk on. CROWDS I TELL YOU!

So we left MGM and came back to the Poly, where we planned on going to Kona Café for lunch until we looked at the menu and realized we didn't like anything on the menu, so we went downstairs to the Poly's mini-food court and got chicken fingers and fries for lunch. Then we went to the pool for a bit and then left for City Walk. Once again, our transportation problems started up as our van from Mears never showed up on time and was a half hour late. I managed to get Mears to write off half our charges, but thankfully, we still managed to get to City Walk on time. I was somewhat concerned when we saw the crowds flowing into Universal, but it turned out that a convention in town had rented out Islands of Adventure for the night (lucky people!). We had dinner at Marguitaville, which was nothing special (great atmosphere, but very average food). After dinner we did some shopping but didn't find anything to buy before going into Pat O'Briens, where we hung out at the piano bar. This was one of our favorite experiences from our first trip, but this time it had a different feel as we had an older lady and a country man at the pianos. We were both getting tired, so we pushed up our pickup time and headed back home to the Poly.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23RD

Parks Visited: Downtown Disney (if you call that a park)
Special Meals: Rainforest Café (lunch), Ohana's (dinner)

Wednesday was an up-in-the-air day, so we slept in for a while and then went swimming in the quiet pool. We then decided to go to do some shopping at Downtown Disney, where we started off with a good lunch at the Rainforest Café. It was nice to walk right in and eat there, as the last time we ate at Rainforest, we had a wait of over one hour. Once we were done with lunch, we spent some time shopping before going back to the Poly. For dinner, we had planned on going to Epcot and eating at Teppanaki's in the Japan Pavilion, but once we got back to the Poly, it started monsooning outside, so we ended up going to eat again at Ohana's and then relaxing in the hotel room for the night. This was easily our least-eventful day ever at Disney, let it was still relaxing.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24TH

Parks Visited: MGM, Epcot
Special Meals: Cape May Café (breakfast)

We got up early and had one of our favorite Disney meals at Cape May Café. Of course, getting there was an issue. Before going to breakfast, we went into the Magic Kingdom to do some quick shopping. After we were done shopping, we walked over to the bus pickup areas. After three busses had dropped people off from Beach Club but would not pick us up, I asked a CM what we had to do to get to the Beach Club, and they said they would send a bus over to us. Finally we got there, and the drama was worth it, great food and great character interaction. We then took a Friendship boat over to MGM, where we went on the Great Movie Ride. Again, the ride had a line, this time of 15 minutes. It was weird to actually have time to look at some of the exhibits in line, as before, we always just walked right through. We then did Millionaire back to back, starting with the 11:30 am show and then the 12:30 show. In the second show, I ended up finally getting into the hot seat!!!! If the pressure on the hot seat wasn't enough, during the time where the Regis-wannabe talks to the contestant, he asked whom I was there with, and I said my girlfriend. He then asked how long we had been going out, and I said four years. Right about that time, I had a few hundred people all hating me and somehow the host basically got everyone to agree that if I won the game, I would have to ask Melissa to marry me. Unfortunately (or thankfully) I ended up with an impossible 32,000-point question so I lost and fell to the 1,000-point level, which got me a baseball cap and five pins. Melissa said people came up to her after the show saying they were rooting for us. After that, we left MGM and rested back at the hotel before going to Epoct for the Food and Wine Festival.

At Epcot, we started out where we always do - Test Track, where we went twice in a row using the single rider line. Next, we walked across Future World to ride Living with the Land, one of Melissa's favorite rides. For the third time for us (counting all our four trips) it started to rain while we walked over to the Land ride. We waited about 10 minutes in the stand by line (20 minutes posted wait)(by the way, am I the only one out there who remembers when this had little to no line and that the lines started to increase right around the time this got fastpass?) Anyway, after we learned once again how to creatively feed the world, we left the land pavilion, as the rain had stopped. We next headed to the World Showcase, so I could try out the Food and Wine Festival. Melissa had already eaten at the food court in the Land pavilion, as she didn't think she would like any of the festival food choices. She ended up having the right idea. First I tried the cheese soup from the Canada stall. Now this is the same soup that is supposedly served at Le Cellar that everyone raves about, but I was far from impressed. What I thought was hysterical was the fact that all of the soup toppings (bacon and chives if I remember right) had just ran out before my turn, and the CM acted like it was no big deal. Next I got a lamb chop (notice the use of the singular) from the New Zealand booth. Again, the portion size was very small considering the cost. I had read before the trip how the portions would be appetizer-sized and you could share them, but that was far from the case for me. Once I saw how much I had spent and how little I had actually eaten, I decided after the lamb chop that the festival was not for me.

Our bad luck continued as we got stuck in Morocco due to the Tapestry of Dreams parade. It was here where I noticed how they space out the floats much more than at the other Disney parades to make it last longer I guess. Once the parade was over, we headed into The American Adventure just as people were being let up the escalators. After the show, we tried to go on the Maelstrom boat ride in Norway, but it had a 15-20 minute stand by time posted! I have NEVER, EVER seen a line for this ride, so I walked in not believing the sign, but it was true! I guess the festival brought enough increased crowds out to Epoct to create lines at rides that never had them before! Our last ride of the night was back at test track, where we used fast passes so we could sit together. We still had a 5-10 minute wait, but it was worth it, as we enjoy the ride more at night.

After test track, we headed over to England to find a place to watch Illuminations. In the past, we had always done the Rose & Crown dinner, then fireworks trick, but we were both tired of the R&C menu. At our last meal there in July, we had noticed that there was a separate seating section that no one was using. When we asked about it, we were told it was now being used as a bar area. Remembering this, we headed out for those seats about 60 minutes prior to the show, but they were all taken. We ended up sitting down right next to those tables on a park bench, so our view was still okay. As I was starving, I headed over to the fish and chips stand (which had a huge line) to get a late dinner. Once I sat down, Melissa headed over to France to get some ice cream for both of us. Illuminations was great as always, even though we did leave before the finale to get a jump on the monorail crowd (we watched the finale from the entrance to World Showcase). We ended up only having to wait for one monorail before we were on our way back to the Poly. We ended up walking from the TTC to the Poly instead of switching monorails. The walk was no big deal, except it was not clearly lit or well-signed in my opinion.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25TH

Parks Visited: Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom
Special Meals: Donald's Breakfastsaurs (AK), Tony's Town Square - dinner (MK)

Friday was the early entry day for AK, so it opened at 8 am (its old opening time) instead of its now-usual 9 am. We ended up simply using the extra time as our breakfast time, with an 8:10 priority seating at Donald's. I was surprised a bit that we were not allowed to go into the park until opening, as I had seen that done a couple times before in the past. It didn't really matter, as we were still seated in the first grouping (I think it helped that we declined the group picture taking!) The characters at the breakfast were Donald (of course), Mickey, Pluto and Goofy. This was the first time either of us had eaten here, and we both really enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere. After breakfast was over, we headed straight for dinosaur (which was not part of the early entry attractions surprisingly) with no wait. I like this ride, but it is not one of Melissa's favorites. Next we back-tracked all across the park to go on the safari ride, which had a standby time already of 30 minutes. Once I got fast passes, we headed into the standby time, where we only waited 10 minutes. After going on it once, we went right back on again using our fast passes. The first driver was much better than our second driver, even though more animals were out and active during our second ride. Once we had our safari fill, we headed over to Camp Minnie-Mickey, where I checked out what characters were out, but there were none there that I wanted, so we went into the line for the Lion King show. I was excited about this because I hadn't taken any pictures of the show last time (as I was videotaping it) but this show was not as good as before, as they took out my favorite park, when the actors fly using the bungie cords. After leaving the show, we saw Lilo and Stitch out with a small line, so I got in while Melissa did some shopping. After that, I got my picture taken (as always) with Tigger and Pooh by the entrance to Dino Land.

Once we were done with Animal Kingdom, we came back to the Poly to hit the pool. For some reason, the water temperature in the volcano pool was cooler all week than at the quiet pool. After swimming for a couple hours, we went back to the room to rest for a bit before the MK Halloween Party. We got to the Magic Kingdom at about 4:30 p.m., and they were already handing out trick or treat bags. Mickey, Minnie and Donald were out right behind the front gates, so we got a couple of quick pictures. Our priority seating for Tony's was not until 5 p.m., but after we did some quick shopping on Main Street, we were able to get seated for dinner with no problem. At Tony's, Melissa had her favorite of spaghetti and meatballs (Land and Tramp style of course!) and I got the New York steak, which I liked as well. While we had our dinner, I started talking to an older couple that were dressed as baseball players and it turned out they were also huge Disney fans, so it was neat to talk with them. After dinner, we headed over to Tomorrowland and rode the people mover and then did Buzz, where I beat my high score from earlier in the week. Last year, when we did the Xmas party, the park closed at 6 pm and all guests there for the party were asked to stay in Tomorrowland, but this year for the Halloween party, Fantasyland was the open area. When we walked into Fantasyland after riding Buzz, they checked our party wrist bands before letting us in. Once there we did Pooh and Dumbo with no wait and got our picture taken in front of the castle with Cinderella's carriage. After that, we rode Snow White and Peter Pan with no wait. When we were exiting Peter Pan, I saw the weirdest thing; there was this enormous Bear in the Big Blue House stuffed animal in one of those electric scooters. It was by far the largest stuffed animal I had ever seen. It turned out that was actually someone's costume and it was a real person inside there! Once I figured it out I was stunned for a minute. After Peter Pan, we got our party picture taken next to It's a Small World. (The picture came out horrible, as they had us sitting down at a weird angle).

As we were basically done with everything we wanted to do, we got to the rope drop area to get into Liberty Square so we could go to the Haunted Mansion. After waiting about 10 minutes, they dropped the rope and we headed over to the mansion. Now I don't know exactly what I expected to happen, but I thought that there would be at least something different there for the Halloween Party, but it was exactly the same. We next got in line for the first Haunted Ferryboat ride. I had heard good things about this, but we both thought it was a waste of time. After we finally got free from the boat, we went over and rode splash with no wait, but then was disappointed to see that big thunder had a 20-minute wait. (we thought one of the selling points for the party was no waits, but we were clearly wrong) We ended up going to the haunted mansion again and then I got my picture taken with pooh, tigger, piglet and eyeore all dressed up in Halloween costumes. Next, we watched the fireworks from our favorite viewing area, next to the plaza ice cream parlor. We both thought the Xmas fireworks were a bit better. After that, we headed over into Adventureland, as we wanted to meet with a fortune teller. We waited maybe 15 minutes for this and enjoyed it. We wanted to do a night ride of jungle cruise, but the line was too long, so we ended up getting a seat for the parade next to the shooting arcade. We did our bench trick of moving the bench up to the rope line, but some mean bigwig said we couldn't do that and had to move the bench back. By the time the parade started, we saw this idiot do this to other people for no good reason as least five times. The parade itself was cute, but it started to rain about halfway through the parade and right when the parade is about over, it started to monsoon. Not wanting to wait it out (as it was 11 pm, so we only had one more hour anyway), we ran through the rain in our ponchos straight for the monorail to get back to the Poly.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26TH

Parks Visited: MGM
Special Meals: Boma's (dinner)

This was the second MGM early entry day we did, but it was not as crowded as the earlier one, which I figured was due to Saturday being the only day for spectromagic and fantasy in the sky fireworks. We did RocknRoller three times in a row with no wait. Then I headed over to do Tower of Terror twice with no wait. While in line there, there was a young girl who was clearly scared and didn't want to go on, but her family kept giving her crap about it and wanted to force her on until a CM came over and said if she didn't want to go, there was no way he would let her go. After freefalling twice, we went back for two more rides on RnRC, still with no wait. We next stopped for some food at the bakery before doing star tours with no wait. After that, we went and did Muppetvision, which we both like. Next, we did tram ride, which was interesting to see many of the Xmas lights already in position for the Osborne lights. After the tram ride was over, we did Millionaire one more time to try to get Melissa into the hot seat, but were unsuccessful. We did lunch at the ABC commissary and then ended the day at the One Man's Dream attraction. Once we left MGM, we came back to the poly before heading over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to check it out and for dinner. When we arrived at AKL, we both commented on how dark it was, design-wise. We checked out the animal viewing areas and barely saw a couple animals (of course, this was late afternoon). We had a drink in the lounge area before heading down for dinner at Boma's. I tried a few of the African dishes, but Melissa stuck to the mainstream dishes. I thought the meal was good, but we both agreed it wasn't worth the effort to get there, like cape may for example. When we left to go back to the Poly, we had to wait for around 45 minutes for a bus to the MK. I was shocked by this, as there were families trying to get there for the parade and fireworks. In the meantime, while we waited, we were attacked by all kinds of bugs, just to make matters worse. Finally, we got the MK and back to the poly, where we went swimming at night one last time and watched the MK fireworks from the pool area.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27TH (travel day)

Special Meals: Ohana's (brunch)

It's always a bit sad to pack your suitcase up, knowing you have to leave WDW. I thought it would be nice to leave on an up note, so we did the character brunch at Ohana's, which we both really liked. After brunch, it was time to leave WDW, so we hopped in our tiffany town car and headed to the airport. Our driver did not shut up the entire ride, so I was actually glad to get to the airport. Our return flight had a connection in Chicago at O'Hare, but we had no trouble with either flight, and were soon home in our own comfy beds, needing a vacation all over again!

Overall Trip Highlights:

  1. Obviously, getting into the hotseat at Millionaire
  2. Sea World - Great time.
  3. New Dining Experiences - Loved Ohana's, Cape May Clambake and Donald's Breakfastasaurus.
  4. The return of early entry!

Lowlights:

  1. Again, obviously, losing at the 32,000 point question on Millionaire.
  2. Mickey's Halloween Party - Way, way, too crowded (and mean bigwigs too!).
  3. Epoct Food & Wine Festival - Food was too expensive, especially for the portions given out.
  4. Animal Kingdom Lodge - Oh the bugs!!
  5. Disney Transportation - Service down a bit compared to previous trips.
  6. Tiffany Towncar - Didn't receive the level of service we were used to from them.
  7. Magic Kingdom lines - offseason? There's no offseason at MK- never will do MK early in the week again!
  8. Mears-City Walk debacle.
  9. Weather - first time the weather (i.e., monsoon rains) really affected us.

Michael Wolf

michaelpwolf@juno.com


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