Robin Goble -- April/May 2003 -- Walt Disney World (ASSM, BCR, GFRS)
Since I received so much hate mail after my last trip report because I was so callused as to not take my younger sister, Paula, with me when I went to WDW in November of 2002 ;-), I figured a trip with Paula and her husband was about due. Paula and I had not been to WDW together since May 2001 when we had a splendid time doing "girl stuff" like tea at the Grand Floridian and breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table.
Wes had been to Disneyland several times (honeymoon with Paula, 1st anniversary with Paula--see the trend here?, etc.), but his only trip to WDW had been over five years ago with our whole family right after he and Paula got married. On that trip we stayed off-site in Kissimmee (yes, sadly, I used to be vocally opposed to staying on Disney property. "Why would I pay that much money for a room when I can get a bigger one for less money somewhere else?!"That was my motto). We were pressed for time, we never ate anywhere but off-property and at counter service restaurants in the parks, and we only had one rental van for transportation, so we were limited by everyone's schedule. It was an okay trip, but since then we've discovered the wonders of staying on-site, eating at Disney restaurants and dinner shows, etc. Also, last time Wes was at WDW there was no Animal Kingdom, no Rock 'n Roller Coaster, no Buzz Lightyear. The list goes on and on. *Sigh* So much to do...
I took all of ten seconds to talk Paula and Wes into going. We decided to go the last week in April/first week in May since we had to wait til after April 15th (I'm a CPA), wanted to avoid the crowds at Easter, and wanted to get one more trip in before my annual pass expired on May 5th (See, I can be frugal sometimes). The only problem with the week we are going is that Paula and Wes have a camping trip planned for Saturday, April 26th. They can't get out of it, so we won't be able to leave for WDW until Sunday afternoon (April 27th), giving us one less day than I would like.
One small side-note about taking my sister to Disney: I usually go to WDW with my mother and my 9-year-old nephew, Michael. We are all pretty easy to please and travel very well together. Since we go fairly frequently to WDW, we're not under any pressure to "do it all," because we know that we'll be back again if we miss something we wanted to do or see. With Paula, things are a little different. For one thing, Paula doesn't get to go to WDW as often as I do, so our trips together tend to be more commando than normal. Also, since Paula loves all things Disney so much, I usually try to pull out all the stops for her. This is not a complaint--Paula loves every little detail Disney provides and I enjoy trying to show them all to her and trying to create some extra magic for her. Luckily, Disney makes this fairly easy to do.
When Paula and I were at WDW last, we split our stay between Port Orleans-Riverside and the then newly opened Animal Kingdom lodge. We enjoyed both resorts immensely, but on my last few trips I have split my stay between the Beach Club/Yacht Club and Polynesian. This has worked out great for me as I concentrate on the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom while I am at the Polynesian and do Epcot and MGM while at the Beach Club. I decided a similar strategy would work for us on this trip as well.
The Epcot resort was easy to pick--I love the Beach Club (BC). I toyed with the idea of trying the Boardwalk Inn this trip because I have never stayed there and would like to give it a try someday. However, Paula has at least *seen* the Boardwalk Inn, if only in passing, but has never even visited the Beach Club. Also, I had read some uncomplimentary reviews of the Boardwalk's concierge floor, so I decided to stick with the Beach Club. Plus, I wanted to show Paula and Wes Stormalong Bay (the swimming pool at the Beach Club/Yacht Club), since it is so incredible.
Speaking of concierge, I decided to go ahead and splurge on the concierge level since I had taken my other sister and brother-in-law in June of 2002, and had treated them to the concierge floor. No favoritism here! I decided to book the first four nights at the Beach Club and the final three nights at a Magic Kingdom area resort.
The Magic Kingdom choice was a little harder. I love the Polynesian (PR) and would stay there every trip, if possible. However, I thought that the Grand Floridian (GF) might suit Paula a little better (remember, she is a Princess at heart). I was sure that Paula and Wes would enjoy the Polynesian, how could you not? But, since their wedding anniversary would fall on one of the days we were at our Magic Kingdom resort, I wanted to treat them to something extra special. So, I decided on the Grand Floridian. That way, I would get to try a new resort also on this trip, as I have never stayed there.
Now, if I was a *really* nice (and rich) sister, I would book Paula and Wes their own room for the night of their anniversary--maybe a honeymoon suite. Alas, they'll just have to suffer through their anniversary with me in the room unless we win the Irish Sweepstakes between now and then. I originally booked a garden view room, but after some decent codes came out I decided to switch to a lagoon view in hopes that we could get a room with a view of the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella's castle.
In late December 2002 I booked the rooms with my Disney Club discount (the only discount available at the time). Hopefully, Disney will release some Annual Passholder (AP) discounts closer to our travel dates and I can get a better deal on the cost. (Note: Disney *finally* released annual passholder codes one week before our departure. I was able to get our reservations switched over with no problem. They had come out earlier with several different discount codes that were available to the general public and I had taken advantage of them, but the AP discounts were a little bit better.)
With Paula and Wes not getting back home from their camping trip until around noon on Sunday, April 27th, the earliest flight we could get to Orlando wasn't until 2:00pm. That put us arriving in Orlando at 9:00pm Sunday evening. Since we were losing our Saturday and most of our Sunday, I decided to not come home until as late as possible the following Sunday, May 4th (I usually come home on a Saturday so I have Sunday to rest a little before having to go back to work the next Monday).
Since we were arriving so late on Sunday, I hated to pay so much for a concierge room at the Beach Club just so we could get there and go to sleep. To me, one of the perks of staying on a concierge floor is getting to bypass the regular check-in line and go directly to the 5th floor where you get special attention, snacks, drinks, etc. while you are checked in. The concierge desk closes at 10:00pm so I wouldn't be able to impress Paula and Wes with the magical treatment upon our late arrival and I really wanted them to get the full benefit of all the extras.
I debated getting us a room at the Hyatt in the Orlando airport for our first night (something we've done before when we arrived very late, and it worked well for us), but you all know the call of Disney. If we were arriving *very* late (midnight or after), I would have been more inclined to stay at the Hyatt, but I figured we could be on Disney property by 10:30 at the latest even after we picked up our luggage and rental car. We would still have time to at least look around a little before going to bed!
It was my brilliant mother who came up with the idea of staying our first night at the All Star Movies resort (ASMo). She, my nephew, and I stayed there on our first ever on-site trip and we really enjoyed it. It would be cheaper than the Hyatt and have the extra bonus of being Disney! The theming is so cute at the ASMo, I knew Paula would enjoy just looking around the resort on our first night. The only drawback I could see was that it meant we would be changing resorts two times instead of our usual one. However, since we're only at ASMo for a quick night, hopefully we won't be "settled" in our room, and the move to the Beach Club the next morning will be easy.
I changed our Beach Club reservation to three nights and booked the ASMo resort for our first night. I went ahead and paid an extra $10 for a preferred room location (which means a room in the Fantasia section), because I didn't want to be stuck out on the far nether-reaches of the resort since we were arriving late.
I always rent a car when I go to WDW. Even though we seem to rely more and more on Disney transportation (especially when staying at a monorail resort and at the Epcot resort area where everything is within walking distance), it's something that I haven't been quite able to give up. I like not having to wait on someone else's schedule when getting to and from the airport. Also, it comes in handy when we go to Downtown Disney, a water park, or to eat at another resort.
This trip would be no exception, so I reserved a full-size car with National. The initial rate was fairly high ($281), but I kept on checking their web site and, sure enough, in January the rate went down to $208. In March I was able to further reduce the rate to $111 including taxes! I think that's the cheapest I have ever gotten for a full week. I used my Disney Club discount and a coupon from the Disney Club for $20 off a weekly rental to help get the rate down that low.
MEALS AND MISCELLANEOUS
We are usually not too rigid about meals, but there were a few places that we knew we wanted to eat. As soon as I had our travel dates, I booked the Hoop Dee Doo Review for us. I had tried this show for the first time last June with Michael (my nephew) and his mom and dad. We had a great time, so Paula and Wes thought they might like to try it too.
I knew Paula would want to have breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table (CRT) again since we had such a wonderful time there on our last trip together (for the one person reading this that doesn't know about CRT, it is a character breakfast inside Cinderella's castle at the Magic Kingdom. Cinderella and Prince Charming are always there along with several more princesses and sometimes the Fairy Godmother. It is the single most difficult reservation to make because all five year old girls (and my sister, Paula) want to attend!). At the 120-day mark I went ahead and made a priority seating for the new Princess Storybook Breakfast in Epcot just in case I was unable to get a reservation at CRT (which you can't reserve until 60 days in advance). We also wanted to eat at 'Ohana again and have tea at the Garden View Lounge at the Grand Floridian. I was able to make all of these priority seating arrangements 120 days out.
I told Paula and Wes that I would like to treat them to a nice dinner on their anniversary, so I printed out the menus from Citrico's, Narcoossee's, California Grill, Artist Point, and Jiko's, and some reviews of Victoria and Albert's, and let them decide where the would like to go. I printed the menus without prices because I wanted them to not be influenced by how much the meal was going to cost. In the end, they decided on Narcoossee's and I made a priority seating for them, being sure to tell the Cast Member (CM) that they were celebrating their anniversary so maybe Disney can work some of it's magic. I made the priority seating for 8:00 in hopes that they would be able to see the Electric Water Parade around 9:00, while they are dining.
Since Wes is the only member of my immediate family that hasn't been on an Illuminations Cruise, I knew that I wanted to try to book one for one of the nights we are staying at the Beach Club. There were three nights that would work for us, so I started calling at the 90-day mark. I was unsuccessful my first morning, but able to reserve a cruise on the next two mornings. I decided which night would work best with our schedule and then cancelled the extra cruise.
At the 60-day mark it was time to begin the marathon calling for Cinderella's Royal Table. The very first morning I got up early I was able to get through and get a reservation for 8:30. What a gift from God. It was for the morning that would work the best in our schedule and I didn't have to get up early for three more mornings and keep trying!
For park tickets, I had my annual pass so I was set. Paula still had one day on her park hopper from our last trip, so she only needed a 6-Day Park Hopper. Wes needed a 7-Day Park Hopper. I purchased these at our local Disney Store using my Disney Club discount.
The reinstatement of Early Entry (Extra Magic Hour, or EMH) doesn't substantially impact our park plans. I usually try to go to a park that's not having EMH that day; however, some EMH days coincide with our scheduled days. On those days, we will usually try to utilize the extra time. The Magic Kingdom (MK) will be hosting Grad Nights the last weekend of our trip, thus the MK will be closing early on those nights. Therefore, we will have to do most of our MK touring during the day. Also, no E-Ride nights have been announced for the days we will be at WDW. If they do have E-Ride nights, we will certainly take advantage of them.
Our tentative schedule looks like this:
Sunday, April 27 - flight to MCO, check-in at ASMo, dinner at food court, look around resort
Monday, April 28 - breakfast at ASMo food court or Cape May Cafe (BC), move to Beach Club, Epcot World Showcase in the afternoon, Boardwalk at night
Tuesday, April 29 - breakfast at concierge lounge, EMH at MGM, lunch at '50's Prime Time Cafe, Fantasmic
Wednesday, April 30 - breakfast at concierge lounge or Princess Storybook Breakfast at Epcot, Epcot Future World, lunch at Epcot, swim, Illuminations Cruise
Thursday, May 1 - breakfast at concierge lounge or Chef Mickey's, check-in at Grand Floridian, Magic Kingdom, Tea at GF, Magic Kingdom, dinner at 'Ohana, shopping at Downtown Disney
Friday, May 2 - breakfast at CRT, Magic Kingdom, lunch at counter service, Hoop Dee Doo, Downtown Disney or Comedy Warehouse
Saturday, May 3 - breakfast at GF or AK, Animal Kingdom (AK), Paula and Wes dinner at Narcoossee's
Sunday, May 4 - Paula's Choice, leave for MCO around 3:00
Sunday, April 27, 2003
"Sandwich! Sandwich! Sandwich! Sandwich!" or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Plan: Flight to MCO, check-in at ASMo, dinner at food court, look around resort
It was odd to not fly out to Orlando until Sunday afternoon. I am used to getting off work on Friday and heading out that evening or Saturday morning at the latest. Not leaving until 2:00 on Sunday made us suffer through almost a whole weekend before we left for our trip.
By the time Sunday rolled around, I was a nervous wreck. The plan was for Paula and Wes to drive home from their camping trip Sunday morning, drop their camping gear off at their house and meet at my parents' house by 12:30 so my dad could drive us to the airport. I could imagine all kinds of car trouble and delays to make them late. Luckily, by the time we got home from church, they were already waiting for us at the house.
We loaded our suitcases in Dad's car and left for the airport at 12:30. Check-in was smooth, although both Paula and Wes were wanded at the security gate. We had a quick lunch at the airport food court (Burger King for me, Pizza Hut for Wes and Paula), bought our customary magazines at the gift shop to look at during the flight, and waited to be on our way.
The first leg of our flight (to Dallas) was on a small propeller plane. Of course, the people in front of Paula and me immediately reclined their seats so we had to sit with our knees crushed for an hour until we landed.
We arrived on time at DFW at Terminal A, Gate 0. Naturally, our connecting flight was departing from Terminal C, Gate 26, so we started our hike to the bus that would take us to the tram that would take us to Terminal C. Paula was disturbed at the spelling of the "TRAAIN" that would take us between terminals. (Our flight was on American Airlines which gets great delight in replacing all single letter "A's" in words with their initials, the double "AA.") She insisted in pronouncing the word "Tra-ain" making it two syllables instead of the normal one which sent us all into giggling fits (it was late, we were tired).
We had no sooner sat down at our gate at Terminal C, Gate 26, when the desk agent announced that we had a gate change. Our flight would now be departing from Terminal A, Gate 25. Oops! Back to the Tra-ain for another lovely ride back to the terminal where we originally started. Luckily, we had plenty of time between flights to make the trek.
Our flight arrived in Orlando about 10 minutes early (8:50pm), but it took a long time for our luggage to arrive. It was 9:30 before we finally had all of our bags. We rode down the elevator, walked across the street, and rode back up the elevator to pick our rental car up from National (Emerald Aisle membership allows us to bypass the rental counter). There were only intermediate sized cars on the Emerald Aisle (a new policy which National has just recently started), so we picked out a Camry from the full-size aisle since our reservation was for a full-sized auto. After a few minutes at checkout, we were finally on our way.
There was very little traffic on the turnpike (417), and we were on Disney property by 10:00. The guard at the entry gate to the All-Star resorts checked our names off his list and asked us what our favorite movie was. Soon Paula and Wes were getting their first look at the ASMo resort.
I was surprised that there were several people checking in so late (probably 4 or 5 groups), but there were enough Cast Members (CM's) so no one had to wait in line. Our CM noticed that they had originally blocked us in a room with a king-sized bed, but she changed us to a room with two doubles when she noticed that there were three of us. We were on the first floor in building 8 (Fantasia 2000) on the back side away from the pool (room 8714).
While we were checking in, Paula noticed a small girl about 4 years old whose parents were having a hard time convincing her to go back to their room. "Sandwich! Sandwich! Sandwich! Sandwich!" she shouted as they struggled along dragging her by one arm. Our lunch had been a long time ago and we all felt the same way!
Before we went to move the car around closer to our room, we went out the back of the resort to show Paula and Wes the pool and Andy's Room. They were both suitable impressed with the giant figures of Buzz and Woody and agreed that the theming was very cute. There were two boys in Andy's Room that had somehow managed to get on the back of Rex the dinosaur. I'm not sure where their parents were or how they even got up that high. Paula hopped around on the giant Mickey checkers for a while before we went back through the lobby and out front to move the car.
We drove around back to the parking lot closest to our building, unloaded our luggage and located our room. Paula and Wes both liked the popcorn box light fixture in the room. It was now 11:15, so we decided to grab something to eat before the food court closed at 12:00.
We walked back to the main building where we discovered that the only stations open at the food court were the Rialto (pasta and pizza) and the bakery. Paula and I each got an Italian sausage sandwich with fries and Wes got a meatball sandwich with fries ($19.23). We quickly ate our food and were back in our room by midnight.
I called our mom while we got ready for bed to let her know we arrived safely. We turned the TV on to Toon Disney and watched old cartoons until we fell asleep around 1:00. The last cartoon both Paula and I remember was about La-a-a-a-ambert the sheepish Lion. I woke up sometime during the night and turned the TV off...it was nice to be back at Disney.
Monday, April 28, 2003
"Do you eat cow?" or Disney marketing 101
Plan: breakfast at ASMo food court or Cape May Cafe (BC), move to Beach Club, Epcot World Showcase in the afternoon, Boardwalk at night
I woke up at 6:20 with La-a-a-a-ambert the sheepish lion's song running through my head. I refused to get out of bed, however, until around 7:00 when I got up a got a shower. Paula followed me and then Wes got up around 8:00. Paula decided to put some moleskin on a spot she was already getting on one of her feet. She got the moleskin from Wes and we had a good laugh when she discovered that it would not stick to her foot. Wes admitted that he had had that particular moleskin since he was in Boy Scouts! Luckily I had packed some more current moleskin and Paula was able to use mine.
We decided to go to the food court for breakfast this morning so we didn't have to rush to make our priority seating time at Cape May. The food court was certainly a lot busier this morning than at 11:30 last night. I had a bacon & egg croissant, sausage and milk, Paula had a sausage and egg bagel, and Wes had a bacon & egg croissant and coffee (approximately $23. Paula paid so I don't have the receipt).
After breakfast we stopped by Donald's Double Feature gift shop to pick up an antenna topper for our rental car (which was white) so we could recognize it easier. We later discovered that our car does not have an external antenna, it's built in to the back windshield, so the antenna topper sat on the dashboard for the duration of the trip.
While we were in the gift shop, we discovered Disney's newest clever marketing ploy: build-your-own charm bracelets. They had a table set up covered with little bins filled with charms, beads, initials, and charm bracelets. The charms were only $3 each and had a small latch at the top where you could hook them on to the bracelets without having to take them to a jeweler to have them attached. While Disney has always carried charms, these were smaller and less expensive than the usual ones. They had quite a few of the characters: Mickey, Minnie, Cinderella, Ariel, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Aurora, etc. Some were cloisonné, some were silver, some had rhinestones. They even had a Mickey ice cream bar charm that was very cute. They made very nice, inexpensive souvenirs to take home as gifts.
Several charms, antenna toppers and assorted trinkets later, we headed back to the room at 9:45. We loaded our luggage in the car, set our antenna topper (a sorcerer Mickey hat) on the dash and left for the Beach Club. We pulled in to valet at 10:30. Bell services took our luggage for us and valet parked the car and gave us a key for the elevator to take us up to the 5th floor so we could check in at the concierge desk.
CM Vilma was working on the concierge floor this morning. She always recognizes me and asks about my mom and nephew. I introduced her to Paula and Wes, she got some cokes for us and proceeded to get us checked in. Ah, yes! This is where I belong. Sitting with my ice-cold beverage at the concierge desk while CM's bustle around to wait on me. Don't get me wrong, the All-Stars are great. I think they have tremendous theming and I would take them over a non-Disney hotel any day. But, we've stayed so often at the Beach Club (and the Polynesian) that those resorts feel like home to me. Now if only some wealthy distant relative would die and leave me a small fortune so I could continue to be treated in the manner to which I am accustomed!
Anyway, back to reality. Vilma said that our room was already ready so she called bell services for us to bring up our luggage while we went to check out our room #5687. I had not been to the BC since they refurbished the rooms last November and I really liked the results. The carpet is navy and butter-yellow checked. The bedspreads are mostly yellow with seaside scenes of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Huey, Dewey and Louie (Pluto and the turtle was my personal favorite). The headboards on the beds are still the verdigris wrought iron, but the rest of the furniture is now a soft cream color. The day bed is covered in pastel stripes with beach-scene pillows. There is a birdhouse lamp beside the day bed. The desk has a cute Mickey lamp, a small table underneath that could roll out, and a chair. The curtains are yellow with small dusty pink roses on them (they matched the bedspreads). The whole room looked fresh and bright.
Paula opened the door to the balcony and immediately declared that this was where she was going to sleep! We had a great view of Stormalong Bay (the whirlpool end) and the Boardwalk across the lake (the Crest 'o the Wave section). We also had a giant carp from atop the Dolphin peeking into our room and we could see the BAH (giant sorcerer Mickey hat at MGM-Disney Studios) and the Tower of Terror from our room. It was a great location and Paula and Wes were suitably impressed.
Bell services arrived promptly with our luggage. It was now 11:15 and I asked Paula and Wes if they would rather wait until 11:30 when the lounge opened to get a snack or go directly to Epcot. Paula, who had been at Disney for over twelve hours now and had yet to set foot in one of the parks, opted to go directly to Epcot.
We went out the back of the BC and walked to Epcot, entering via the International Gateway. We could smell the flowers from the Flower and Garden Festival before we even went through the turnstiles. We turned to the right from the International Gateway and began our tour in France.
France had a Belle and Beast topiary set up among their many flowers. Paula and Wes had never seen "Impressions de France" so, since a show was starting in just a few minutes, we stayed and watched that. On the way out from the movie we saw Clopin (the storyteller from Hunchback of Notre Dame). Paula called him by name and had her picture made with him. He was impressed that she knew his name (not a big deal since that was one of her favorite movies) and he went on to say that he wished he had said his name more than just once in the movie because no one ever remembered it. He then quoted the part in the movie where he does say his name, which impressed Paula. It's nice when the CM's really get into their characters. I had developed a really repulsive French accent by now (I seem to pick up the accent of whatever country we are in), so it was time to move along to a new country.
Next, we went to Morocco and looked through the shops there. The Genie and Aladdin were out and both Paula and Wes got their picture made with them. Wes remarked that it was amazing how the CM's even sound like the characters (speaking of Aladdin).
After several purchases we made our way to Japan where we shopped some more. After looking through the entire department store (and making several more purchases), we decided it was time for a Kaki Gori (shaved ice). Wes and I had the tangerine and Paula got a rainbow (strawberry, tangerine and honeydew) $6.75). They were very refreshing.
We also looked at the Flower and Garden Festival display of Bonsai trees on the lagoon side of the pavilion. The trees were anywhere from 30 to 120 years old and were just incredible. As we made our way from Japan to America, a precious little Disney squirrel came right up to us. I felt bad that I had nothing for him, but he came right up to my hand anyway. These Disney animals have no fear.
In America, the Fife and Drum Corp was out so we stopped and watched their show. At the end, one of the members led the crowd in singing "God Bless America," which brought tears to Paula's and my eyes (although this was not our first cry of the trip--we had shed a tear or two over a pin in the gift shop at the ASMo which had a touching quote from Walt Disney on it regarding America). Paula remarked that this was why we always hurry through America, it makes us cry!
In Italy we did some more shopping. They had some beautiful masks that we tried on. I purchased a crystal ink well for my dad and had it sent to our room at the BC. The CM that waited on us was adorable. He was named Mossimo and he let us put the rest of our purchases in the bag with the ink well to be sent to our room. He asked us where we were from and when we replied, "Texas." he was very excited and asked, "Are you cowboy?"
Sadly, we had to tell him no, we were not cowboys. He admitted that most people, when they think of Italy, "think we're pasta or macaroni or pizza." He then inquired, "Do you eat cow?" When we affirmed that we had been known, on occasion, to partake of a cow or two, he was greatly impressed. He told us something about his girlfriend and how she would not eat cow and how they sometimes eat cow in Italy but it's veal and how he really likes a big, thick, piece of cow...etc. He was very cute.
It was around 1:30 when we finally emerged from Italy to discover the Imaginum statue was out. For those of you who have never seen this, it is a person (I have seen both male and female) dressed in white robes with their face painted white so they look like a statue. They will stand perfectly still until someone goes up to have their picture made with them and then they will usually strike a funny pose or tease the person that came up to them. Paula and I had our pictures made with him and then we all stayed and watched for a while since he was so amusing.
There was a cute Flower & Garden Festival Kids' Area between Italy and Germany. They had colorful bird topiaries decorated with seeds and flowers, chimes to play with, giant cattails to swing on, and playscapes to climb on. The display was sponsored by Rubbermaid and the best part of it was the rubber flooring to walk on. It looked like cedar shavings but was made out of rubber and it felt so springy and great to walk on that I could have stayed there all day and just walked back and forth on it. We all agreed that they should pave Epcot with the stuff to be easier on your feet.
We stopped in Germany to look at the Snow White and Dopey topiary and to browse through the teddy bear store. By the time we made it to the Africa Outpost they had the drawbridge up to bring the Illumination barges out onto the lagoon, so we sat for a few minutes until they finished and we could continue on our way. While we sat we discussed our lunch plans. It was almost 3:00 and we were getting pretty hungry but we decided to wait until we got around to Canada so we could eat at Le Cellier.
We moved on to China which had a great Dragon topiary made entirely of bromeliads. It even sprayed a mist of water every few minutes to look like smoke coming out of it's mouth. They also had a couple of panda topiaries. We got to China just as the acrobats were finishing up. Wes and Paula looked through the shops while I grabbed a bench and rested for a while.
In Norway we rode Maelstrom with a minimal wait (maybe 3-5 minutes) and shopped (Paula and Wes had friends who had requested items from almost every country at Epcot so we were "forced" to do lots of shopping).
In Mexico we admired the gorgeous orchids they had and then went inside to ride El Rio del Tiempo (Which had no wait. In fact, we had the boat to ourselves). This brings us to Disney's new clever marketing scheme #2: flag of the world antenna toppers. We had seen the America Flag Mickey ear antenna toppers for some time, but this trip we noticed that they now have almost all of the Epcot countries' flags made into Mickey ear antenna toppers. My other brother-in-law is from Mexico and we wanted to find a Mexican flag antenna topper for him, so we scoured Mexico for one, to no avail.
I decided to wait in line at one of the gift shops to ask the CM about them while Paula and Wes continued looking around in Mexico. While I waited in line, I noticed that the girl making a purchase at the cash register did not look so good. The CM noticed too and asked her if she was okay. The girl replied that she had just gotten off a ride and felt like she was going to throw up. I couldn't imagine what ride close to Mexico that she had been on at Epcot that would make you want to throw up--the song from El Rio del Tiempo maybe? We discussed it later and decided that maybe she had been on Body Wars. That was about the only ride I could think of that has the potential to make you sick.
When it was my turn at the register I asked about the Mexican flag antenna toppers. The CM said she didn't think they had any for Mexico. We could check at the shops at the entrance to the World Showcase or we could get a flag from Italy and just draw an eagle on it! (If you are unfamiliar with the Mexico flag, it has a red, white and green stripe, just like Italy, but also has an eagle on the white stripe.) Don't laugh, that's exactly what we wound up doing several days later when we couldn't find a Mexico flag anywhere.
We were now very hot and tired and hungry so we were glad to see Canada and Le Cellier. We admired the rustic moose topiary on the way to the restaurant. We did not have a priority seating (we didn't figure we would need one since we were having a late lunch/early dinner) but were seated right away after a quick bathroom break. It was 5:00 so they did not have their lunch menu anymore (I think they change at 4:30). Our server was Josh and he was very nice and helpful. Paula ordered the maple glazed salmon with caramelized onions and nuts on a bed of arugula, Wes had the grilled pork loin with cabbage and sausage slaw and apple syrup and I couldn't decide between the rosemary chicken and the mushroom filet mignon. I asked Josh's advice and he recommended the filet so I went with that (filet mignon on wild mushroom risotto and herb buerre blanc topped with fried onions and truffle oil).
We enjoyed our breadsticks while we waited for our food and even had seconds on the pretzel breadsticks (yum!). Our food arrived shortly and it was all delicious! Everyone tried everyone else's food and we all declared it splendid. I would have a hard time if I had to pick which dish was best--they were all that good. My filet was wonderful, tender and perfectly grilled but I found myself pushing it aside to eat the mushroom risotto, which was heavenly, although very rich. In the end, only Wes managed with a valiant effort to finish all of his food and we emerged an hour later, stuffed to the very gills. ($69.20 before tip)
As we waddled to England, we passed the Off-Kilter stage and noticed that they were performing at 6:30 (it was currently 6:10). I saved us a seat while Paula and Wes went on to England to check out the gift shops there before the show. While I waited I was able to hear part of the Flower Power concert featuring Davy Jones as it drifted across the lagoon from America ("Daydream Beliver," if anyone is interested).
Paula and Wes showed up right before Off-Kilter's show time and we all enjoyed their set. I had wanted Wes to hear them as he is of Scottish heritage. I believe he particularly enjoyed their rendition of "I'm Too Sexy for My Kilt!"
After the show we walked back through England to the International Gateway and back to the Beach Club. On the way we saw lots of squirrels including on who was furiously digging in the sand on the beach. I'm not sure what he was looking for (maybe he lost his car keys), but he was really going after it. We were back in our room by 7:30. Turndown service had been by and Wes quickly took advantage of the bed for a quick doze while Paula and I updated our notes. Anyone who read my trip report for May 2001 when Paula and I came together will remember that she mocked me for taking notes on a vacation, but by the end of the trip she was writing down things as well. This trip she started taking notes from day one having admitted that too much happens each day of a Disney trip for you to remember it all unless you write it down.
Paula remarked that she had never noticed until today that the film in France is "*Impressions* de France," and France is known for it's Impressionist painters. The film in China is "*Reflections* of China," and they have reflecting pools in the China pavilion. I, personally, think she's on to something. Why in Canada they have "*O* Canada" and the theater is shaped...like an "O." Okay, maybe I'm stretching a little for that last one.
A little after 8:00 we went down to the lounge to get some dessert and cokes. They had miniature cream puffs filled with white or dark chocolate, carrot cake, cupcakes, uncrustables (yea! my favorite addiction), gummi worms and several kinds of cookies (sugar, oatmeal, and chocolate chip). We had the lounge to ourselves so we all fixed a plate and watched the Princess Diaries on TV in the lounge until some kids arrived a livened things up a bit.
We went back to the room around 9:00 and decided that we were all too tired to walk over to the Boardwalk tonight. We all got into bed and watched Honey I Shrunk the Kids (which I had never seen). We discussed our plans for the next day (currently get up early and get to MGM at 8:00 for the extra magic hour) and decided we'd not set an alarm but just play it by ear.
Wes was trying to talk himself into going on the Rock 'n Roller Coaster (he's not a roller coaster fan, but Paula really wanted him to try this one) and he asked me a million questions about it while he tried to psyche himself up for the ride the next day. We finally went to sleep around 1:00.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
"Grandpa! Quit giving me a wedgie!" or how a CM told us to "go to hell!"
Plan: breakfast at concierge lounge, EMH at MGM, lunch at '50's Prime Time Cafe, Fantasmic
I woke up at 5:45, had a little vote amongst myself, and made an executive decision to go back to bed! I rationalized that this was, after all, vacation. We could go to Epcot again today and do the Future World part, still see Fantasmic tonight, do MGM tomorrow, *and* get an extra hour of sleep both mornings since we wouldn't have to be up for early entry. The crowds had been virtually nonexistent so I felt that we could still see everything we wanted at the parks without having to go early.
Feeling quite pleased with the democratic process, I went back to sleep until 7:00, when Paula and I both got up. There were several hot air balloons over the Boardwalk this morning which were neat to watch from our balcony. We also laughed at the ducks in the swimming pool, saw some baby ducks in the foliage around the pool, had two sparrows sit on our balcony ledge, and watched our mad squirrel digging in the sand around the pool again. All in all it was quite the nature-filled morning.
The only drawback to the morning was that I had the song "Step in Time" from Mary Poppins on my mind and it infuriatingly would *not* go away! Paula and I seem to always wake up with a Disney song on our minds when we are at WDW. This morning, Paula was singing "Step in Time," and the minute she mentioned it to me, it was stuck in my brain.
We all went down to the lounge around 8:30 for a quick breakfast. Vilma was working this morning and we stopped and talked to her for a few minutes about our plans for the day. The concierge lounge had the usual breakfast fare: cereal, toast, bagels, whole fruit, donuts (Krispy Kreme per one of the CM's), coffee cake, cantaloupe and watermelon, muffins, and various spreads and cream cheese. After breakfast it was off to Epcot through the International Gateway.
I like entering the World Showcase before it's officially open. It's always so peaceful and uncrowded. Paula and Wes stopped to take some pictures in the UK since we were the only people around. We stopped and admired the Winnie the Pooh topiary for a minute before continuing on through Canada and into Future World.
Our main goal for the day was to have Wes try the Beverly at Ice Station Cool but it was not open yet (I think it didn't open until 10:00). Paula and Wes went to get us Fast Passes (FP) for Test Track (TT) while I sat on a bench outside Mouse Gears and looked at the Flower & Garden Festival brochure. They soon returned with the FP (with a return time of 10:00-11:00) and we then rode Spaceship Earth (SE) with no wait.
By the time we were done with SE, Ice Station Cool was open so we headed there next. They had the snow going in the hallway so it was very brisk inside. We made a beeline for the Beverly only to be amazed when Wes said he didn't mind the taste!?! He said he liked it except for the aftertaste. Dude! All it *is* is aftertaste! As one child who tasted it said, "Mom, Italy don't taste good!"
It was now time for our Test Track FP, so we went there next. It was Wes and Paula's first time to ride this and they both liked it. We had the car to ourselves as we were in the front seat with no one sitting in the back.
One of my goals this trip was to do some of the Future World attractions that I had never seemed to make time for, so after we finished up on TT, we went to Elen's Universe of Energy (a first for all of us). The show just started as we entered the building, one of many examples of good timing that we had on this day. We all thought the show was okay. I don't think I would want to wait very long to see this one though. I was most impressed with the way the theater seats/transportation vehicles moved. Paula swears that the T-Rex and the Stegosaurus that are battling in the dinosaur room are the same ones that are in the Grand Canyon diorama on the train ride at Disneyland!
After the ride, I was ready for Ellenís Universe of Bathrooms so we ducked inside Innoventions and found the restroom. While we were in Innoventions we looked at a couple of the displays and Paula and Wes sent a video e-mail to a friend. I was bummed that you could only send the e-mail to one person at a time. We also took a quick walk through the Flower & Garden Festival headquarters where some kind of live demonstration was going on (we tiptoed through so as not to disturb). They had an information booth where you could ask your gardening questions, an artwork display, and a booth where you could order just about any kind of topiary known to man. They had a list of all the kinds you could order and it included badgers, loch ness monsters, deer, butterflies...page after page of animals and shapes. We joked that they probably even had javelinas (pronounced "have-a-lena"--a wild boar-like creature) listed.
Next we moved on to Journey into Your Imagination (JIYI--another first for us all), which was also a walk-on. We all decided that this was a "simple, silly ride" that I could never do again and still die happy. If this incarnation of the ride is an improvement over that last non-Figment version, I shudder to think how lame it was before. Although, we all agreed that this ride was still not as bad as Superstar Limo at Disney's California Adventure, the mother of all lame rides and the benchmark by which we measure Disney's failures. The phrase "wallows in lameness" comes readily to mind when thinking of Superstar Limo (see my December, 2001, Disneyland trip report for more riveting details of the lameness that is Superstar Limo).
I know that after Disney removed Figment (the little purple dragon) from JIYI, there was a great outcry from Figment fans which prompted Disney to re-do the ride and put the dragon back in. It seems that Disney was certainly listening when people cried for them to bring Figment back because we saw him *everywhere* on this trip. You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a Figment beanie, keychain, stuffed animal, T-shirt, etc.
After JIYI, it was time for Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (HISTA--also another first). It was cute, although not as endearing to me as Muppet Vision 3-D or It's Tough to Be a Bug. After it was over we decided it was time for some lunch as it was around 1:15. We decided to try the Biergarten in Germany, so we took the Rose Garden path to the entrance to the World Showcase. Along the way we saw the Flower & Garden Festival's Dog-Gone Kids' Maze, which looked very cute.
We got to the entrance of the World Showcase just as a boat arrived, so we decided to save our feet and take the boat over to Germany (some more of that good timing). We arrived at the Biergarten at 1:30 and were seated immediately. Now I must warn you that if you don't have a large party, you will probably wind up sitting with strangers here because their tables seat 8 people and they fill them up before moving on to the next table. We were seated with a family from hell, er, I mean Iowa: Odell, his wife, and their two grandchildren--but more on them later.
Our server was Thorsten who was cute, but completely worthless! We didn't see him for vast stretches of time and had to ask for all of our drink refills (We're thirsty, Thorsten!). Luckily, you don't need much attention here since it is a buffet, so we got along just fine. Also, he was so cute on the rare occasions when he did show up, that he got a decent tip anyway! There was also a strapping server whose name tag Paula thought said "Golf" until we later discovered it was really "Rolf," and a cute little old man named Max (who I am quite convinced is in hiding here in the U.S. for war crimes committed during the Third Reich) whose pot-belly stuck through the gap in his lederhosen in the cutest way!
But enough of that, on to the important stuff--the food! The buffet started with a salad bar that had a wide assortment of salads: tossed salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw, cucumbers in sour cream, tomato salad, sauerkraut with caraway seeds, beets, and a tray of assorted cold cuts and hard salami. Between the three of us we tried a little bit of almost all of the salads and they were all very good. They also had chicken noodle soup and an assortment of rolls, including a pretzel roll, which was very good (but not as good as the pretzel breadsticks at Le Cellier).
The hot dishes included spaetzel (a kind of soft noodle), 2 gravies, bratwurst, roasted pork with apple chutney (delicious), roasted potatoes, wieners and sauerkraut, steamed cabbage, meatballs, breaded veal, more sausages, steamed carrots, and cooked beets. Desserts included apple strudel with vanilla sauce, Bavarian cheesecake (which had a sponge cake-like texture, but tasted like cheesecake--very good), Black Forest cake, pudding, applesauce, and a cookie which had raspberry jam and almonds on it. The food was all very good and I think that even my 9 year-old nephew would find plenty that he liked here.
Once the food and drink started flowing and we began to feel refreshed and rehydrated, we quickly began to get silly. Being in Germany, our "S's" began to take on a "Sch" sound, such as, "I think I will have schome more of that delicious schlaw," or "Are you going to schpew schnot out of your nose?" We were sorry that the band was not playing while we were there because we had an almost uncontrollable urge to schlam our steins of coke on the table and schout out quaint German phrases such as "Jamel, Tramel, Leiterkeit" (which I believe is roughly translated "Jump, shout, knock yourself out!") or "Schlampa!" (translation: "schlampa!")
While we were eating Paula noticed a man sitting several tables away from us that was drinking beer out of a stein that, honest to gosh, was the size of an iced tea pitcher. Seriously, he had to use two hands to lift it. I cannot imagine eating three or four plates of spaetzel and strudel, drinking a beer of that magnitude, and then going out into the heat and walking around and riding rides. Now that's just asking for trouble.
But now, back to our tablemates from Iowa. They went through the buffet in front of us with the adults fixing plates for the grandchildren (probably aged 5 and 7). Grandpa Odell put some salad on a plate for the grandson who promptly said that he didn't want salad. Paula and I watched as Odell just turned the plate upside down and dumped the salad back into the bowl. Yuck! That set the tone for their whole meal. The grandparents tried to get the kids to eat and the kids weren't having any of it. I think they were all hot and tired, and Odell seemed to be in a particularly bad mood. We talked to the grandmother a little while Odell was away at the buffet (probably dumping their uneaten food back into the serving dishes!) and she was fairly nice, although clueless. She kept asking the grandchildren if they wanted to go to Disney tomorrow or go to the Animal Kingdom. Arrrgh!
After they finished eating, the granddaughter got in Odell's lap and that's when the wedgie talk began. "Grandpa, quit giving me a wedgie! Grandpa! You're giving me a wedgie! Grandpa!" All at several decibels above a normal speaking voice. If nothing else, they were certainly entertaining. Luckily, they finished up and left before we did so we were able to have a good laugh and enjoy our meal (which was $52.16 before Thorsten's tip, by the way).
After lunch we headed clockwise toward the International Gateway. As we passed through American, we decided to look in the gift shop (which none of us had ever done). Before that, however, we stepped inside the American Adventure to look at the American flag, which was rescued from the World Trade Center rubble. It would take a tougher human being than me to look at that tattered flag and keep a dry eye, so I don't think it should be held against Paula and me that we cried.
After looking at the flag, we browsed through the gift shop and made a few purchases. Then, we went back to the American Adventure in order to listen to American Vybe, a wonderful and energetic acapella group that sings songs from America's history (not necessarily old songs, though. For example, we heard them sing some Duke Ellington, Lean on Me, and Joy to the World (the Three Dog Night version, not the Christmas carol)). For the Flower & Garden Festival, they had a topiary Minnie Mouse displayed in front of a quilt of flowers. At first glance, Minnie looked like Nightmare-on-Elm-Street-Freddy-Krueger-Minnie because of these long blades attached to her hand--very unsettling! Upon closer inspection, we saw that she actually had a pincushion on her wrist, not sharpened blades of steel on her fingers. We were much relieved.
After that, we made our way back to the BC with no additional stops except for the concierge lounge for some lemonade and cookies/pretzels. We were in our room by 4:00 to rest and update our trip notes. While I was looking through the official Flower & Garden Festival Guide, I noticed that they have a coupon in the back good for a free 18-pack of annuals from Home Depot. The coupon is good through July 31st of this year so be sure and pick one up if you're into gardening because, hey, free flowers.
While Paula and Wes took a nap, I called my mom and found out that she had been sick for the past two days. We finished talking around 5:30 and at 5:40 I heard some loud thunder and a huge downpour began. Around 6:00, Paula and Wes woke up and I went down to the lounge while they got dressed to join me.
This evening in the lounge they had several cheeses, crackers, fruit, vegetables & dip, salmon au gratin, Mickaroni & Cheese (macaroni & cheese with Mickey-shaped pasta), 4 or 5 kinds of hummus with breads/crackers, and the ever-appreciated uncrustables. Paula and Wes arrived after a few minutes and we sat at a table to enjoy our snack and watch the rain pour down. We had the lounge to ourselves.
While we ate, two casually dressed men came into the lounge to get some snacks. I glanced at the tallest one as they came in and thought that he sure did look like Mike Eisner but, surely, Mike Eisner would not wear tennis shoes like those! When he turned around and I saw his face again, there was no doubt--it *was* Mike Eisner! I nudged Paula & Wes and whispered to them. They took one look and were amazed as well. He stayed for just a few minutes and then headed down the hall to his room (or rather, his "suite" I should say. He was staying in the Newport Suite on the same floor as us). After he left, we were kicking ourselves for not having said something to him. Paula in particular was mad that she hadn't asked him for a job on the spot! Another guest was talking to a couple of the concierge CM's about him and the CM's admitted that when he stayed here, they were a little *stressed*!
Our plans for the evening were to see Fantasmic! at MGM. We decided to hang around the BC for a while to see if the rain was going to let up enough for us to go to the park. If not, we decided we'd go see a movie or look around at Downtown Disney. We went downstairs to look around in the gift shop where Was and I decided to purchase ponchos. Of course once we had purchased them, the rain immediately stopped.
We started walking out to the boat dock at 7:30 and caught the boat to MGM with very little wait. We arrived at MGM and quickly made our way back to the Fantasmic! amphitheater. We entered the amphitheater just as they were making the 5-minute announcement for Fantasmic! We complimented ourselves on the good timing that we had been having all day.
The Fantasmic! amphitheater is divided into several sections and each section is named after a Disney character (Mickey, Pocahontas, Ursula, Jafar, etc.). When you enter, they have CM's directing traffic to the closest unfilled section. As we were walking in, a young woman CM pointed us to the next empty section and told us to "please go on down to Hades," which struck us all as funny. We started laughing and the CM, realizing what she was saying, began to laugh too. I was certainly the nicest and most polite way I've ever been told to go to hell!
The show was good as usual. The ending was slightly different from what I have seen before though. The last few times I saw Fantasmic!, at the end they had all the characters come out on a boat and wave their flags around and sing. This time the characters stayed on the stage for that portion. I'm not sure if the weather had something to do with that or not.
After the show we used the "Fantasmic! Dinner Package" exit/entrance that goes backstage for a while before coming out between a couple of the shops. We were amazed at the number of strollers that they have stacked up back there. I would hate to be at the park on a day when all those strollers were rented out!
We stopped at the Villain shop on the way out for some last minute shopping before we made our way to the boat dock. Paula got some duck food from one of the vending machines while we waited on the boat to come and she fed the ducks (with some help from a young child) while we waited.
We were back to the BC by 10:00 and, since we knew the lounge would be closed, we stopped in at the gift shop to pick up some cokes. The same CM that had sold us the ponchos waited on us again and she asked if we were able to make it to Fantasmic! We told her that everyone owed us a round of thanks because we had single-handedly stopped the rain by purchasing the ponchos. She agreed that that was probably what did the trick.
Back in our room Paula and I updated our notes for our exciting evening with the CEO of Disney and we watched TV until around 12:00 before going to bed.
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
"The circle of spending" or a lesson in centrifugal force
Plan: breakfast at concierge lounge or Princess Storybook Breakfast at Epcot, Epcot Future World, lunch at Epcot, swim, Illuminations Cruise
Since we switched days on our schedule, today was the day we were going to MGM. I was up and in the shower at 6:30. Paula followed at 7:30 and Wes woke up at 8:00. It was cloudy this morning with 74% humidity (per the weather channel). The forecast called for showers tomorrow. While Paula and Wes finished getting ready, I called my nephew Michael and talked to him for a few minutes before he had to go to school. I asked if I could bring him something and he said he would take some Yu-gi-oh trading cards from the store in Japan at Epcot.
We went down to the lounge for breakfast at 9:00, stopping by the concierge desk to make a PS for the Prime Time Cafe for 1:45. After breakfast we caught the boat to MGM and were at the gate by 10:15. There was a long line to get through security, but it moved quickly.
As we headed up Sunset Blvd, we heard that there was only a 5-minute wait for the Rock 'n Roller Coaster (RnRC). This was the moment of truth for Wes. Paula and I stopped to get a FP for Tower of Terror (ToT) along the way (return time of 10:55-11:55). While we were getting our FP, one of the lenses fell out of Wes' sunglasses and broke on the pavement.
Wes decided that he would at least *try* RnRC so we hurried through the empty queue and into the recording studio. On the ride, I was in a seat by myself with Paula and Wes behind me. I was holding my purse between my legs so as not to lose it. Ha! At the launch, my purse dropped down into the floorboard of the car and started rolling around. I was harnessed in tight and could not reach the floor with my hands. I knew that any second we would be going upside down and I had visions of my purse falling out of the limo and us having to have the ride shut down so we could get it back. I know it took only a few seconds for all this to transpire, but it felt like an eternity. I felt around the floor with my feet until I finally located my purse in the floorboard of the seat beside me and stomped down on it (it's a wonder I didn't break my shades or something). I kept my leg over in the other seat's floorboard with my foot firmly on my purse for the duration of the ride.
After the ride stopped and I retrieved my purse from the other seat's floor, the CM noticed that my sunglasses had fallen out in the floor also. He nicely picked them up for me. Wes wasn't too crazy about the ride--he just doesn't like going upside down. He did say that he might ride it again sometime (but not this trip) now that he knows what to expect.
After a quick bathroom break and a picture of Wes under the giant guitar for posterity, it was time for Tower of Terror. Paula and I breezed through the FP entrance (Wes rode ToT on his first visit and he said that once was plenty for him). After we finished the introduction and were released into the basement, we waited in line beside a fully-grown couple playing patty-cake. Ooookey Dokey. Different strokes, I guess.
Our elevator had no lap bars (all the seats were equipped with seatbelts) and I missed having something to hang on to for dear life! The CM that loaded us mentioned that the seat belts pulled from the left and fastened on the right so, of course, I immediately pulled out the one on the right (actually Paula's) and was trying to fasten it on my left side (which had nothing but another seat belt). This, of course, left Paula without a seat belt also. The CM, maintaining perfect deadpan, mentioned that I might want to try my *other* left, and we quickly got them sorted out. Our drop sequence had us dropped from the very top with the doors opened onto the park four times in a row. After that we were up and down some more but it was hard to count because I quickly lost track of direction in the dark. Great as usual. My seat belt was so loose from being hastily fastened that I swear I was just about standing on the big drops.
After we met back up with Wes, we decided to head across the park towards the Muppets. On the way we stopped to take the Backstage Tour (another first for me). After the tour you are let out into an exhibit of several movie props (and, eventually, a gift store of course!). They had several costumes from various films and we were struck by how small all the actors must be. One of the suits was worn by Christopher Walken in "Sleepy Hollow." I had always assumed that Christopher was thin, but tall. Judging by this suit, he is really small. Short, as well as rail thin.
Next, we went to see Muppet Vision 3-D where I always particularly enjoy Sam the Eagle's "tribute to all countries, but mostly America." That never fails to crack me up. After the Muppets, it was time to save the empire by defeating the Death Star on Star Tours. Paula remarked that, of all the rides at WDW, Star Tours is the one that most unsettles her stomach.
When we were deposited into the gift shop after Star Tours we noticed a set-up where you could have your picture superimposed over the face of one of several Star Wars characters. It looked like fun so I told Wes & Paula that they should try it. They had their faces put over a single pose with Han Solo and Princess Leia. The end result was so hysterical that they had to purchase a copy.
By this time, it was nearing the time for our PS at the '50's Prime Time Cafe so we made our way to the restaurant. We were seated after a few minutes wait and our "cousin" Lydia served us. We all started with a chocolate shake, which was delicious. Paula and Wes both had the grilled chicken sandwich and I had the fried chicken dinner ($57.98 before tip). Lydia took it pretty easy on us but we did see a young lady get caught hiding her uneaten green beans under her napkin and she had to stand in the corner with her nose against the wall while everyone else scolded her.
We finished eating and were back on Hollywood Boulevard by 3:00. Wes and Paula asked what was next and I told them that I was going to go back to the BC and give them a little couple time by themselves to do whatever they wanted. We split up and I headed out to the boat dock while they stayed in the park.
I just missed the boat so I sat on a bench and fed the ducks while I waited for the next one. I was the only person around for several minutes and it was one of those nice, quiet moments that are so rare at Disney. After a few minutes some more people joined me and I noticed that the next four groups that showed up all fed the ducks also. One little boy pointed out a huge turtle that was in the water eating the duck food.
The boat ride back to the BC was very pleasant and, after stopping by the lounge for a diet coke and some cheesecake, I was back in our room at 3:45. I updated my trip report notes and rested until Paula and Wes came in around 5:00. Paula said they had done Sounds Dangerous and mostly just looked around. We all rested until 6:00 then got cleaned up and went down to the lounge at 6:30.
When we got to the lounge we found two most obnoxious families there complete with wild ruffian children, loud-mouthed wives, and foul-mouthed husbands. Luckily the wives took their children back to the room after a short time leaving only the husbands who, every now and then, would come up with a word or two that would just curl your hair. I don't know why some people feel it necessary to share their conversation with the entire room. We were sitting a far as possible from them but they were talking so loudly we had no trouble following their conversation. Whatever happened to using your "inside voice?"
We went back to the room at 7:00 to change into some warmer clothes and pick up our jackets for our Illuminations Cruise. We were at the Yacht Club marina at 7:50 where we met our captain for the evening. Captain Mike, a.k.a. the Disney god, introduced himself to us and said that if we ever had any questions for him we could e-mail him at email@example.com. Mike was quite the chatterbox. At one point, when Mike had gone inside to put the bill for the cruise on my credit card before we left the marina, Captain Scott (who had been our driver on a previous cruise) came up to us and told us that Mike was not actually human, but an audio-animatronic. He said that supposedly there was an off switch on the back of Mike's neck somewhere in case we got tired of his talking, but Scott had never had any luck in locating the switch! Scott also warned us that Mike only has an 80% return rate for getting people safely home after the cruise.
We were soon off on our boat, cruising towards MGM before making our way to Epcot. Captain Mike asked all the usual questions such as: Is this your first trip? When was the last time you came to WDW? is this your first Illuminations Cruise? etc. It's actually getting kind of embarrassing as to how many times we've done the cruise, but I love seeing Illumination this way.
As we approached MGM, Mike told us that the most expensive attraction to build to-date at WDW is the Tower of Terror, which cost approximately $126 million. The second most expensive is Splash Mountain, weighing in at a cool $94 million. We talked about the new big hat at MGM and Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Mike asked if we knew the name of the wizard from the Sorcerer's Apprentice and Paula quickly answered "Yensid." When Mike asked if we knew why the name "Yensid?" She replied, because is spells "Disney" backwards. Mike was impressed and said that she was the first person to ever get that question right on one of his cruises.
After that, Mike said that, since we seemed to know so much about Disney, that he would skip the regular spiel and we talked some about Walt Disney (whose head is not cryogenically frozen but who was cremated and whose ashes are in a mausoleum in Marceline, Missouri), how much he loves the Haunted Mansion, and how smart Disney merchandising is--tying in movies, attractions, etc. and creating a great big circle of spending. We also talked about how Disney controls the insect population on their property (particularly mosquitoes and palmetto roaches).
Mike said that Illuminations costs around $33,000 per night to perform and that the average cost for fireworks per night at WDW (which includes Fantasy in the Sky fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, and Fantasmic!) was probably close to $47,000.
By this time, we had made it to Epcot and we docked under the bridge between the UK and France. Captain Scott welcomed our boat and said, "Weren't there 8 of you when you left the marina?" Illuminations was wonderful as always and Wes agreed with me that the ride back to the dock while everyone else struggles out of Epcot on foot was our second favorite part of the cruise, aside from the show itself! Actually, another one of my favorite parts is after Illuminations when the boats turn around to go back to the marina. You get to go inside Epcot on the World Showcase lagoon for a great view of the countries while they're all lit up.
We were back at the marina by 9:30 and Paula and Wes decided to walk over to the Boardwalk for a while so Wes could see it up close. I headed back to the room, stopping at the lounge to make a dessert plate for everyone, and get some cokes for us for later.
Back in the room I called home and found out that Mother wasn't any better. Paula and Wes came in at 10:30 and we ate our dessert and watched TV until 12:00.
Thursday, May 1, 2003
"Watch out for Goofy!" or javelinas run amok at Disney
Plan: breakfast at concierge lounge or Chef Mickey's, check-in at Grand Floridian, Tea at GF, Magic Kingdom, dinner at 'Ohana, shopping at Downtown Disney
The plan was to have breakfast at Chef Mickey's this morning so we were up at 6:00, showering, packing and getting ready to leave the BC for the Grand Floridian (GF). It was dark and cloudy this morning and looked like rain was definitely in the forecast for today.
We called bell services at 8:15 to pick up our luggage and bring our car around from valet. The same CM that had brought our luggage up the day we arrived picked up our luggage from the room. He said he would go ahead and load it into our car for us.
When we got down to valet, our car was not there yet. We waited for a few minutes and then Wes spotted our luggage, but it was loaded in the wrong car (actually, a minivan)! We told the CM at the bell services desk and they quickly transferred it for us. Turns out there were two Gobles with cars in valet.
We arrived at the Grand Floridian (GF) at 9:00. We had valet park our car and bell services store our luggage. We decided to wait to check in until after breakfast since our PS at Chef Mickey's was at 9:30 and we didn't want to be late. We went upstairs to the monorail platform and asked the CM there if it would be possible to ride in the front of the monorail. She said she would check for us and, sure enough, the next one into the station had room for us up front. Wes said he didn't even know you were allowed to do that.
We had a quick trip to the Contemporary Resort (CR) and made our way to Chef Mickey's to check in at the podium. We skipped the family picture that they will make for you and sat down to wait for our table. The lively mood at Chef Mickey's is very infectious and we were soon tapping our feet and bobbing our heads to the music as we watched young children being whipped into a frenzy by the sugar bar (you know the one I mean--the food station that has all the donuts and the big bins of candies, chocolate chips, and sugared cereals! They try to put some fruit here and there to make you think that it's healthy, but we all know it's just one big pile of sugar).
We were soon led to our table right across from the main buffet station. We filled our plates and before we had much time to eat, Minnie came around to visit. She looked Wes over and gave a thumbs up to Paula, apparently for her taste in men. Chip came through next. His apron had been untied courtesy of Dale and Paula asked if he would like for her to tie it back for him. Pluto was next and he gave Wes a big lick on his head after I took their picture. Mickey also put in an appearance.
Chip and Dale were in fine form as usual. At one point, Chip tied Dale's hands and arms together with his own apron strings. It took several handlers to get them straightened out again.
We enjoyed the rousing music while we ate and one song in particular caught our attention. It was apparently entitled "Watch Out for Goofy" and, while we didn't catch all the words, it did repeat that phrase several times. Goofy, as you may know, stays out in the foyer at Chef Mickey's to sign autographs and pose for pictures. He does not come around to the tables like the other characters; however, today Goofy would periodically come bolting at top speed through our section and go bursting into the kitchen through the swinging doors or make a wild leap up the stairs to another section to participate in the napkin twirling. He sounded like a herd of mad buffalo when he would come racing through. Watch out for Goofy, indeed. We certainly began to heed the words to *that* song!
I had earlier confessed to Paula that, the last time I was at Chef Mickey's, I was a failure at napkin twirling. Yes, it's a mark of shame I have had to carry around with me for all these years. For some reason, my napkin always gets all twisted up and won't twirl for very long before I have to change twirling direction to get it untwisted. During the first napkin twirling melee this morning, Paula observed some of the CM's and decided that the secret is not in the twirling form, it's...(drum roll, please)...in the folding of the napkin. She was absolutely right! With the proper folding, you can just twirl that napkin like a propeller and it never gets tangled up. I am now ready to proclaim myself Queen of all napkin twirling. Oh yes, I guess Paula does get *some* of the credit too.
We finished up by 11:00. Paula and Wes picked up the check for breakfast, so I do not know the exact cost. We hopped back on the monorail and rode it around to the GF. We checked in but our room was not yet ready so we decided to drive over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) and show Wes around the resort that we stayed at last time Paula and I came to WDW together.
It was beginning to rain when we arrived at the AKL, but we showed Wes around the impressive lobby and then went out onto the Arusha overlook anyway. The only animals out were some pinkbacked cranes. We looked around inside some more and then made our way downstairs to look around the pool area and stop by Mara for a diet coke for me (I had not yet had my morning caffeine) and a smoothie for Paula and Wes.
After we finished our drinks we went back to Arusha rock and talked for a few minutes to some CM's who were working there. One of them said that the animals on this savannah had gone back to the barn for training and food, and that we should check the savannah by the swimming pool if we wanted to see some more animals. We headed down to the pool where we saw some bongos, pelicans, and flamingos.
After a while, we quickly looked through the Zawadi marketplace before starting back to the GF for our tea. I checked in at the Garden View Lounge promptly at 2:00 while Paula and Wes stopped by the restroom and I was seated immediately. Dotty was our server (she had waited on us in 2001 also) and she quickly placed our napkins in our laps for us. We all opted for the "Tea for Two" for three. It's just like the Grand Tea except without the champagne. You get your choice of tea, a selection of sandwiches, scones and jam, and a choice of pastries. We all decided on the Darjeeling tea for our choice and it was quickly served to us.
Dotty brought out our sandwich plates which included a cucumber and watercress sandwich on whole wheat, egg salad on white bread, chicken salad on marbled bread, salmon pate on pumpernickel, poached pear and gorgonzola on pumpernickel, and a bite-size onion tart. Of course, all the sandwiches had the crusts removed.
Next, we had the white currant scones with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam and a small strawberry tart. I think these scones are my favorite part. The scones with a little bit of cream and jam just melt in your mouth. I'm drooling all over the keyboard just thinking about them.
Finally, we got to choose two pastries each from a large selection. I went with a chocolate covered strawberry and a fruit tart (Hey, it's fruit, okay. It's healthy.); Paula had a chocolate covered strawberry and a piece of the railroad cake (an almond cake with colored frosting); and Wes had a double chocolate rum ball and some peach mousse. The total bill was $55.91 before tip.
During our tea, the piano player in the lobby began playing (at 3:00) and the rain stopped, the skies cleared, and the sun came out. All in all the tea was most enjoyable, highly relaxing, and I certainly couldn't complain about my lack of caffeine anymore. While we were there a family came in consisting of the husband and wife, a daughter about 12-13 years old, and a 16-17 year old son. We remarked that he must be the most understanding boy in the world to come to such a "fussy" tea until we noticed that the family was British and he probably didn't consider the tea to be fussy at all.
Around 3:15 we left our beautiful tea and located a house phone to call and check on our room assignment. The CM said the room was still not quite ready yet so we sat in the lobby and listened to the piano player whose songs became steadily more depressing until we were all weeping uncontrollably as he began the theme from "Somewhere in Time." I finally stopped sobbing long enough to check on our room again and it was ready this time. That snapped us out of our funk long enough to get up and go find our room. We were in room 9145 in Big Pine Key which is the building located with the quiet pool on one side, and the beach and the theme pool on the other.
I had faxed a room request to the room assigner at the GF a few days before we left on our trip in which I requested a room close to the main building but with a view of the castle, if possible (with a higher preference for the castle view), and the room controller came through with flying colors. Our room was on the first floor on the east end of Big Pine Key and we had a fantastic view of the Magic Kingdom *and* the Polynesian resort. We were also the only room on that side that had a large pine tree by the patio, which did not block our view at all, but provided shade from the morning sun, which was terrific. We later discovered that, if we left our patio door open (which we did a lot!), we could hear the music from Main Street and hear the parades and Cinderella's Surprise Celebration. We could also watch the various boats and water mice going by outside our room because outside our patio was an approximately 20 foot wide stretch of grass and then the lagoon. I don't think we could have gotten a better location.
With the view checked out, we turned our attention to the next important feature of our room: toiletries! We had seen the GF featured on an episode of Great Hotels on the Travel Channel and had watched with delight as Samantha Brown showed the hotel supplying a box of White Rabbit cotton swabs! Sure enough, it was there! The shampoo, conditioner, lotion, facial soap, body soap, and even the "shower bonnet" are all beautifully styled in Victorian designs, but the piece-de-resistance was the White Rabbit cotton swabs and puffs. Sure, one could argue that they are merely regular Q-tips and cotton balls, but when they are put in a box adorned with the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, they become pure magic!
I tore myself away from the cotton swabs long enough to call bell services to bring our luggage around then Wes rested and Paula and I updated our notes while we kept the balcony door open and listened to the waves and the sounds of the Magic Kingdom and watched the boats go by--heaven!
Our PS for 'Ohana's was at 7:00, so we began to get freshened up at 5:30. I called valet to bring our car around front and we left for the Polynesian resort (PR) at 6:00. Wes had never been to the PR before so we took him through the Great Ceremonial House and out back to see the Volcano Pool. We looked around in the downstairs shops for a few minutes before going upstairs to check in with 'Ohana at 6:45.
We looked in the upstairs gift shop for a while and then found a place to sit until we were called to our table at 7:30. We were seated and the parade of food began. I know that I have described the food at 'Ohana in previous trip reports (this was my 5th time to eat here, Paula's 2nd, and Wes' 1st), so I'll spare you the play-by-play. I do have to report that, sadly, my record of 16 shrimp still stands as I was only able to eat 15 on this particular occasion by foregoing any other kind of meat (Don't get me wrong, I like all the meat that they serve but the shrimp is my favorite and I can't justify wasting perfectly good stomach space on "lesser" meats!).
We were seated in the main part of the dining room right next to where to kids' activities take place. We did not witness any coconut races or Hula lessons on this visit, but the hula-hoop contest took place and it was deadly! Thirty kids of various ages and sizes equipped with hula hoops--now there's just no way that can go horribly awry! Luckily, no one was seriously injured, only a few diners were tripped by the occasional stray hula-hoop, and everyone seemed to have a good time.
After we stuffed ourselves silly, Paula sat surveying our plates filled with shrimp tails, peelings, and meat scraps and she remarked that it was a shame there weren't any javelinas around that we could take the scraps to. I'm thinking I'm kinda glad that there's not! I wouldn't want to have to limp to my car from the Magic Kingdom after a particularly tiring day of touring knowing that I was going to have to face a foot-race across the hot tarmac of the Transportation and Ticket Center with a pack of wild javelinas at my heels driven on by the faint scent of a Mickey ice cream bar or a Dole Whip. It just doesn't strike me as a particularly "Disney" thing to have to do.
We paid out at 'Ohana ($76.65 before tip) at 8:45 and headed to Downtown Disney (DTD), arriving at 9:00. We made a beeline for the new toy store, which Paula and Wes had never seen. We also hit the Gourmet Pantry, the Pin Trading store, the Christmas store, Home Disney, and Pooh Corner before closing time (actually, I collapsed on a bench after Home Disney and Paula and Wes did Pooh Corner without me!). We were all beat down by this time and ready to get back to our lovely room and cotton swabs (I'll bet Paula's glad she's not having to outrun the javelinas tonight!).
We made one last stop at Gourmet Pantry for some cokes and some Smart Food for the ducks outside our patio ($7.43) and drove back to the GF. As we walked from the main building to Big Pine Key, we all remarked at how blue the water in the swimming pool was. We stopped for some ice (which we put in one of our shopping bags to save a trip to the room and back!) before going to our room and collapsing with our cokes and the chocolates that the turndown service had left for us. I mentioned to Paula that my legs were so tired they were cramping and she put "my legs are cra-a-a-a-mpin' " to the tune of La-a-a-ambert, the Sheepish Lion. We quickly updated our notes for the evening and were asleep by 1:00.
Friday, May 2, 2003
"In the sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, sleepy room" or how Peter Pan fell off my charm bracelet
Plan: breakfast at CRT, Magic Kingdom, lunch at counter service, Hoop Dee Doo, Downtown Disney or Comedy Warehouse
I woke up this morning at 4:00 with a pounding headache. I staggered up and took some Advil then fell back in bed and went back to sleep. Paula and I both woke up at 8:30. Luckily, my headache had receded and I felt refreshed. We began to get ready for the day when I looked at my notes and realized that we had slept through our PS for breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table! It had completely slipped my mind that we even had the breakfast today. I knew we had planned to go to the Magic Kingdom, but it never even crossed my mind about breakfast at the castle or I would have set a wake up call for this morning. I was speechless and felt like a complete failure as a tour guide! Luckily, Paula was very understanding about it. She said she had *thought* the PS was for today but couldn't really remember either and it was okay with her because she had eaten there on our last trip.
Still kicking myself for missing the PS (and losing the $30 deposit on my credit card, by the way), we hopped on the monorail and were walking down Main Street at the MK by 10:00. There were several characters positioned around the entrance of Main Street.
Paula was ecstatic that we were finally at her favorite park. We let her pick the first ride of the day and she headed immediately for Adventureland and Pirates of the Caribbean (PoTC). Right before we got to the entrance we ran into Peter Pan with only a couple of people around him. We stopped to get Paula's picture made with him and were shocked by how *tiny* he was. He was wee! Paula is 5-foot, 6-inches tall and he barely came to her shoulder. Paula remarked that he was so small he looks like he fell off someone's charm bracelet!
PoTC was a walk-on and we exited with many an "Avast" and "Me Matey!" We looked around in the gift shop for some time and found a cute book that had many pirate phrases such as, "Arrrgh, the frisky plank!" Upon leaving the gift shop, we ran across Captain Hook and Smee so Paula and Wes had their picture made with them.
Next we went to get Fast Passes for Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road (BTMRR), Wes' favorite ride, and then went straight to the Haunted Mansion (HM). There was about a 10-minute wait at the HM, but we got to watch the Madame Leota tombstone open her eyes and look around periodically. Neat.
After HM we decided to go check out the waits in Fantasyland, but they were all too long. Even It's a Small World had a long line. We had been spoiled by the small crowds all week. We headed back to BTMRR since it was almost time for our FP's anyway. As we walked along the river in Frontierland, we noticed a few people looking off the side of a bridge (a little ways down from where you take the rafts to Tom Sawyer Island). We went over to see what they were looking at and a lady pointed out a half-grown alligator that had taken up residence in the river. We just saw the tail at first but then it swam to the other side of the bridge where we could see it's whole body. It was probably about 3 feet long and seemed happy as a lark to just float around. Someone pointed it out to a CM and they said that there were about 5 alligators living in the water. Surely not. Those javelinas aren't looking quite so bad anymore.
We also saw the neatest crane-like bird on the river that would completely dive underwater. Not like a duck that keeps his rear-end above the surface, this bird went all the way under for long periods of time. At first we thought it was a snake because his neck was so long, but he eventually came out of the water and we could tell that he was a bird. I'm not sure if he was aware of the alligator or not but we were worried that he'd end up as a chicken dinner for one of them.
After our nature study, it was time for BTMRR, which was fun as usual. We were all getting hungry by now since we had skipped breakfast ("at the *castle*!" she says, beating herself about the head and shoulders) so I went to find us a table at Pecos Bill's while Paula and Wes ran to get FP's for the Jungle Cruise.
We had been eating lunch at weird times all week and hadn't really had to deal with a lunch crowd yet, but that was all about to change. It was 12:30 and Pecos Bill's was jumpin'. I grabbed one of the few available tables and when Paula and Wes showed up (without FP's for Jungle Cruise because they didn't have the machines in use), Wes held the table while Paula and I went to order. We all had cheeseburgers and fries and decided to get a couple pieces of their chocolate cream pie (which we had been admiring on other peoples' trays while we waited in line) to share. Two cokes and one diet coke brought the total to $32.62. I had heard good things about their topping bar here (the usual lettuce, tomato, onion, etc., but they also have sauteed mushrooms and onions) and I have to agree that it was good.
We took a bathroom break after lunch and then went to get Fast Passes for Peter Pan. We were astonished that the return time was already 5:30, so we rode It's a Small World (10-minute wait) and then went to Tomorrowland instead. We decided that we could come back to the MK on Sunday (when they had the Extra Magic Hour) and ride what we wanted to in Fantasyland then.
In Tomorrowland we got FP's for Space Mountain (return time of 2:45-3:45) then headed to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin which had about a 15 minute wait. Wes was high score with 191,000, Paula was next with 41,000 and I was last with 30,000. I hate to be sexist, but guys are just better on this ride and I don't know why. I play video games, Playstation, Game Cube, etc. as much as both of my brother-in-laws (well, maybe not *quite* as much), but boy do I suck at Buzz!
After my whipping at Buzz Lightyear, we grabbed a couple of waters ($5) to take with us on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA), which Wes had never ridden. After a quick zip around Tomorrowland, it was time for our Space Mountain FP's. I decided to forego Space Mountain this trip so I waited outside while Paula and Wes rode (another favorite of Wes).
It was now after 3:00 and the parade had started. We decided to take advantage of hopefully shorter lines and go back to Adventureland. We darted across the parade route at the hub of Main Street (the parade was coming from Frontierland and hadn't quite arrived at Main Street yet) and went to Adventureland where we were able to hop on Aladdin with no wait Paula and Wes sat in the front so they could control our height and I got in the back (with the magic scarab who mysteriously controlled the pitch of the carpet). We were hit by the spitting camel and were glad for the moment of coolness.
After Aladdin we went to the Jungle Cruise which had about a 15-minute wait. We dashed to Pirates of the Caribbean again and then walked to the Tiki Room for some much-needed rest. It was so cool and dark and uncrowded in there that we all threatened to lay down on the benches and take a nap. Paula began to sing "In...the sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, sleepy room."
The Tiki Room just finished us all off so we exited that park and headed toward the monorail station. Paula wanted to hop over to Epcot to pick up one of the Flower & Garden Festival brochures that had the free flower coupon in it for her, so she and Wes grabbed the Express monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center and I took the resort monorail back to the GF.
I was so thirsty that, on the way to our room, I stopped by the pool bar and got a coke *and* a non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiri (which was very refreshing). I was back in the room by 5:00 and I updated my trip report notes, changed clothes and freshened up, then called home to check on Mom. There was no answer so I left a message.
My older sister Lisa called right at 6:00 just as Paula and Wes arrived. Lisa said Mom was not getting any better and she had come over to take her to the doctor. Mom had been home when I called but wasn't able to get out of bed to get to the phone. Lisa promised to call as soon as they knew something and we had to get moving if we wanted to make it to the Hoop Dee Doo on time (feeling very guilty for being at WDW when Mother was so sick).
We took the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom and grabbed the boat to Fort Wilderness (with a stop at the Wilderness Lodge). We arrived at Pioneer Hall around 7:00, checked in, and then grabbed a couple of rocking chairs for a few minutes of rest until they started seating us at 7:15. We had great seats again this time. Our table was on the second row of tables, right at the center of the stage. We all enjoyed the show and stuffed ourselves with the salad, fried chicken, ribs, beans, corn, bread and strawberry shortcake. The cost for 3 adults was $147.01. The cost of the show includes an 18% gratuity which I feel the servers truly deserve. Besides getting good service while we were there, our show let out at 9:10 which means that those servers had only 20 minutes to get everyone out of the hall, clean up the enormous mess, and set the tables back up for the next show to start at 9:30. Doing that three times per night would not be my idea of a fun job.
After the show, as we were walking back to the boat dock, we saw (and heard) several peacocks up in the trees. I knew peacocks could fly, but I didn't know they could fly that high. They were way, way up in some really tall pines. At the dock we took a boat to the Contemporary Resort where we saw the tail end of the Electric Water Pageant. I pointed out to Paula that the ending of the show (where the barges all become American flags and stars and they play patriotic music) was kind of like Sam the Eagle's "tribute to all countries, but mostly America!"
From the Contemporary, we took the monorail around to the GF. As we took the elevator down to the first floor of the lobby, two more groups of people crowded in the elevator with us until there were maybe 9 or 10 people total (which was pretty cramped). I remarked that there was no way that the occupancy of the elevator was really 23 people like the sign on the panel said.. Paula said that if the people were Peter Pan size, stacked like cordwood, they might be able to get 23 on there. Another man said he thought they might be referring to 23 4-month old babies.
We got back to the room around 10:45 and found a message from my sister waiting for us. She said the doctor diagnosed Mother with a severe urinary tract infection (Not just in her bladder, but way up into her kidneys. We found out after we got home that her fever had been so high on several days that she was having hallucinations.). He gave her a shot and some powerful antibiotics. I was most relieved that it was something so readily treatable. I called home and talked to Mom for a little while. She was wiped out from the trip to the doctor, but was relieved to get some medicine that would hopefully kick in soon.
While I was talking to Mother, Paula got out my Simply Marbleous foot kit. It contains an inflatable basin and lots of different sized marbles. You fill the pan up with warm water and put the marbles in, then roll your feet over the marbles to get a massage--she said it felt wonderful. Wes fell asleep sitting straight up on the bed with his clothes still on--I think Paula has worn him out. We watched TV for a little while and went to bed at 12:00.
We had just all gotten in bed and turned off the lights when we heard the fireworks begin at the Magic Kingdom. The MK had closed at 7:00 tonight for Grad Nights, which are held several weekends in May where the MK is opened up after hours for graduating seniors. We all got out of bed and piled out onto the patio where we had a great view of the fireworks over the castle. Several other people came out on their balconies as well. There was also a duck standing right by our railing so after the fireworks, Paula got him some of the Smart Food that we had purchased the night before. After enjoying the show, we went back inside and went to bed for real this time.
Saturday, May 3, 2003
"Morocco *is* part of France. Just like England is part of Canadian but they won't claim it. It's a secret society" or around the world in eight minutes
Morning dawned for me at 7:30 this morning. Paula woke up at 8:30 and Wes followed at 9:00. We were all dressed and ready by 10:00. Since this was the actual day of Paula and Wes' anniversary, I planned to drop them off at the Animal Kingdom (AK) so they could spend the day together while I came back to the GF for some serious resting time. Actually I had considered booking some spa treatments at the GF's spa, but I never got around to making any reservations.
Paula asked if I was sure I didn't want to go with them, but I wanted them to have some time by themselves. We picked up our car from valet and I drove them to the entrance of AK. I told them to give me a call when they were ready to leave and I would come pick them up, or they could grab the bus if they didn't want to have to wait for me to make the drive. As Wes got out of the car I patted him consolingly on the arm and told him that the AK just stayed open until 5:00 so, not to fear, that was the latest Paula could keep him at the park today!
After I dropped them off, instead of going back to the hotel as planned I had an uncontrollable urge to go to Epcot (my favorite of the parks). I drove to the Beach Club and left my car with valet then walked to Epcot through the International Gateway. They were playing "La vie en Rose" (a favorite of mine) as I entered the park and I took that as a good omen of things to come.
I got there at 10:45 so the World Showcase was not officially opened yet (it opens at 11:00). I found a bench in the shade and waited for the CM's to open the bridge to France and I enjoyed people watching while I sat. In particular, one group of two men and one woman came by. One of the men was apparently the "expert." He swept his arm around indicating the World Showcase and explained that Disney had made replicas of many countries. "So," he said, "I am about to take you around the World...in eight minutes." Yeah, right, I thought. You'd better tighten those shoelaces before you start jogging.
Once the World Showcase opened, I strolled through France and Morocco on my way to Japan. In Japan I stopped to pick up the promised Yu-gi-oh cards for Michael.
Next was America where I noticed that a showing of the American Adventure was scheduled to start at 11:30. I had never seen this show (as I pointed out earlier, we don't usually linger very long in America), but had always wanted to. Paula didn't want to see it with me because she knew it would make us cry. Since it was now 11:20, I thought this would be a perfect time to see the show.
I went inside the rotunda to wait and immediately noticed that the World Trade Center flag was no longer there. I'm glad we stopped by to see it when we did. Once inside, I listened to a great CM that was working there (I did not catch his name). He went around pointing out various things of interest to people and just generally talking with everyone.
Around the walls of the rotunda are quotes by famous Americans. As he pointed out the quote by Walt Disney, he asked one couple if they knew whom Walt Disney was named after. He explained that "Walter" was a favorite family preacher, and "Elias" was his father's name. The CM pointed out that one of his favorite quotes was by Althea Gibson who was the first African-American woman to be invited to play at Wimbledon (she won, by the way).
He said that the pictures on the walls were all painted by various Disney artists. One picture in particular is an optical illusion. The picture hangs in the corner to the left as you first enter the rotunda. It is a picture of a B-17 bomber from back in World War II. In front of the picture is a grey strip of tiles on the floor. If you stand on the gray tiles and walk back and forth, the plane seems to swivel to follow you. Well of course, I had to go check this out and, sure enough, the nose of the plane seems to move so that it's always facing you. I'm sure I looked like an idiot pacing back and forth in front of the picture, but it was a neat effect. Finally, he pointed out that the voice of Will Rogers in the show was done by Will's son.
By now it was time for the show to begin. A different CM announced the show was about to start and for us to follow her into the Hall of Flags so we could take the stairs or escalator up to the theater (they also have an elevator). I was feeling really stupid because I didn't even realize that this building *had* a second floor.
The Hall of Flags was lovely. It is just what its name implies, a hall filled with flags from America's history. There were flags from various territories and several incarnations of America's flag. They were all hanging so that, as you went up the escalator, you would pass under one row of flags and another row would be revealed to you. With all the different colors and designs, it was a very striking room. The theater itself is also very nice. I thought to myself that America certainly had the best theater of all the countries.
I quickly chose a seat and the show began. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew there were audio-animatronics, but I didn't know that film played a big part as well. I thought it was amazing how the audio-animatronic Mark Twain would lift his cigar to his mouth and smoke would come out.
Now for the moment you've all been waiting for--the tear factor. I thought the first part of the presentation when they talk about the great pioneering spirit of the pilgrims was touching and worthy of a slight misting. Also, the song they use during the section on the civil war was sad. I was fine, however, throughout the middle of the show when Susan B. Anthony and Alexander Graham Bell, etc. show up. In fact, I was thinking that I was going to get out of the show with minimal tearing when, out of the blue, they cued up some stirring music and the song began..."America! Spread your golden wings..." And they began showing a montage of great Americans: Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis. I was still doing pretty good until, suddenly, there was Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog, and the floodgates broke. Honestly, I was crying at a frog puppet! (But,*sniff* Kermit was an American *sniff* and it wasn't easy being green! Waaaaa!). I had to laugh at myself, sitting in the dark theater, crying over a frog. By now, they were showing the astronauts from the Space Shuttle Columbia so I felt better that I could legitimately cry.
After the show was over they announced that American Vybe was performing in the rotunda in just 10 minutes so I stayed and listened to them again.
Thinking I had wept enough for the day I decided to move on to Italy where another of my favorite songs, "Con te Partiro" by Andre Boccelli and Sarah Brightman was playing. What a perfect day. I stopped and bought that Italian flag Mickey-head antenna topper as a substitute for the Mexican one we could never find.
Next, I strolled through Germany where Snow White and Dopey were out, then past the African Outpost and on to China. In China I realized that I was hungry since I hadn't had any breakfast (*or* any caffeine!) so I stopped for an eggroll and a diet coke ($5.31).
After my break, I walked through Norway and on to Mexico where I looked carefully through all of the gift shops to be sure that we didn't overlook the Mexican flag antenna topper. I also looked through the shops at the entrance to the World Showcase to no avail. I did, however, stop at one of the special Flower & Garden Festival booths and picked up a couple of the Flower & Garden Festival pins.
As I strolled through Canada and England, I decided that I would try lunch at Chefs de France. I had looked at their menu on the internet and thought that their lunch special sounded good. As I was crossing the bridge from England to France, I overheard the discussion of the couple walking behind me. The woman was saying, "But Morocco *is* part of France. Just like England is part of Canadian, they just won't claim it. It's a secret society." Now I realize that France was once a protectorate of Morocco until Morocco gained it's independence in the 1950's, but I don't think England has ever considered itself part of "Canadian," and I don't even know where to start with the whole secret society thing.
Anyway, I arrived at Chefs de France at 1:30 and was quickly seated at a table by the windows that looked out onto the World Showcase. Isabelle was my server and she was very nice. I ordered the French Menu (lunch special) which includes french onion soup, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with a green salad, and creme brulee. Isabelle brought out my soup along with a crusty roll and some butter. I'm not a big french onion soup fan, but this was wonderful. The gruyere cheese on top of the soup was excellent. Next came the sandwich and salad. I didn't care for the salad because it was made with bitter greens (those nutty French!), but the grilled sandwich was also very good. It had ham, more of the yummy gruyere cheese and tomatoes on it, and came out hot off the grill. In fact, beware if you order this because it seems that tomatoes have a similar molecular make-up to, say, insulation. They were the molten lava tomatoes of death! They really hold the heat so be sure to give them plenty of time of cool off before biting in.
Next came the creme brulee and it was fabulous. The meal was very filling, so I had eaten about half of my soup and half of my sandwich, but I managed to eat the entire creme brulee.
While I ate, a street performer set up right outside the window where I was seated. He had a table that he stacked chairs on and he was joined by a man who would climb up on the chairs and stand on his hands. At one point, they had at least 10 chairs stacked on top of the table with the man balancing on top. Also while I dined, the man sitting at a table next to me read the entire list of topiaries available for sale at the Flower & Garden Festival to his wife. She looked just about as enthralled as I was.
After lunch ($18.06 before tip), I left Epcot through the International Gateway, stopping at the Beach Club gift shop to pick up some diet cokes for back at the GF. I made it back to the GF around 3:45. So much for my day of rest!
Actually, this day was one of my favorites of the whole trip and a milestone for me--I went to a park by myself and had a wonderful time. I got to go to my favorite park and see just what I wanted to see when I wanted to see it. I rested when I was tired, I ate when I was hungry and I didn't have to worry if everyone was having a good time. Did I ever feel weird being all by myself? Absolutely not. It was nice to discover that, if I ever run out of people willing to go to WDW with me, I can still go by myself and have fun.
Back at the GF I dumped my packages in the room and went down the hall for some ice. I made myself a diet coke, updated my trip report, and called home to check on Mother. Disappointingly, she was not doing any better. I had hoped that the shot and high potency antibiotics would have her feeling better in a hurry. I talked to her until 4:45.
Paula and Wes dragged in at 5:15 looking hot and tired. They both agreed that the AK seems like the hottest of the parks. We exchanged happenings of the day (they rode the Safari twice, saw Tarzan Rocks, ate lunch at the Tusker House, looked around at Chester & Hester's, shopped, saw part of the parade--I'm probably leaving some stuff out) and poor Wes fell asleep on the bed with a handkerchief on his head! Nice.
After Paula and Wes rested for a little while they both started getting ready for their anniversary dinner at Narcoossee's. While Wes was in the shower, I called Narcoossee's and left my credit card number with them to pay for Wes & Paula's meal. As they were getting ready, we could hear the Grad Night at the MK beginning to heat up. They had Good Charlotte's "Lifestyles" blaring on Main Street.
We discussed our plan for tomorrow and decided that we did still want to go to the MK for the Extra Magic Hour at 8:00. I knew that we would either have to be completely packed and ready to go before we left for the MK (and we would need to store our luggage with bell services), or we would have to come back before 11:00 to get our stuff out of the room in time for check-out, neither of which we wanted to do. I called the front desk and asked if we could have our checkout time extended to 1:00 and the CM happily did that for us. Now, we could stay longer at the MK and not have to worry about getting checked out by 11:00.
Paula & Wes left at 7:30 (their PS was at 8:00) to take a leisurely stroll to the restaurant out by the boat dock.
I had considered taking the monorail to the Contemporary or Polynesian for something for supper, but decided to just stay at the GF and go to the Gasparilla Grill since I still wasn't very hungry after my big lunch at France. I walked over and ordered an individual cheese pizza and a couple of cookies to go ($10.04) and took it back to the room to eat. I must have just beaten the rush because there was a long line of people waiting at the grill by the time I paid out.
Just before 9:00, I saw the barges for the Electric Water Pageant (EWP) go past our window. I went out on the balcony where I had a great view of the EWP as it started at the Polynesian at 9:00. As soon as it was over at the Polynesian (9:12, to be exact), it came back past our window and began at the GF at 9:15. I was able to watch it (and hear the music) both times.
Paula and Wes came in at 9:30 and said they had seen the EWP from Narcoossee's. They were both stuffed and said the food was wonderful. They had the Narcoossee's Knot which included their choice of an appetizer (rock shrimp with pineapple pepper slaw and spicy key lime mustard), soup or salad (seafood chowder), main course (seared jumbo scallops with tomato and spinach striped cheese tortellini and roasted garlic butter sauce), and dessert (triple chocolate terrine with carmel sauce and fresh berries).
We watched TV for a little while (until 11:00--early for us) and decided to turn in so we could get up fresh for our last day.
Sunday, May 4, 2003
"I'm pretty sure this is Fantasyland" or celebrity sighting number two
Plan: Paula's Choice, leave for MCO around 3:00
We sat our alarm (for the first time this trip) for 6:00, and we were all packed and ready to go by 7:40. We walked to the main building to take the monorail to the MK and noticed that there was a film crew that filmed the monorail coming into the station and then rode in the front of the monorail.
We got off the monorail at the MK right as they opened the gates. Lots of characters were out on Main Street and we stopped to see Robin Hood (a first) and then get Wes and Paula's picture with him. From there we went straight to Fantasyland and rode Peter Pan, which was a walk on (now that's more like it!).
After Peter Pan we decided to go try our hand at Buzz Lightyear again, but got sidetracked by the carrousel. Paula wanted to ride because all of the horses are pretty, so you don't have to worry about getting stuck riding on an ugly horse. I told her that this would be the shortest wait to ride it that she would ever have, so she hopped on. Wes and I stood to the side of the carrousel and waved to Paula every time she came around like she was seven years old. What am I saying? She is seven!
We did make it to Buzz Lightyear after the carrousel. Paula and I rode together and Wes rode by himself. Paula had issues with the way I worked the joystick and wound up having a lower score than mine. When we were done with the ride and we asked, "What next?" Paula said she really wanted to ride Buzz Lightyear again. I teased her that it was just because she couldn't stand losing to me and she said I was absolutely right! We went back through again, this time each getting our own car since it was not crowded. Luckily, Paula had a much better score this time, beating me, so we were able to continue with our touring.
Next we went to Adventureland to ride Pirates of the Caribbean one last time. As we passed by Aladdin, we noticed that it had no wait so we rode it first, then took our last turn at PoTC.
It was now 9:30 and we decided that Big Thunder Mountain should be next. After our ride we continued on to the Haunted Mansion for one last happy haunt. After the HM we were content that we had done everything we wanted to ride. Oops! Except for the train! We went back to Frontierland and picked up the train there. As we passed by BTMRR, Wes noticed that they actually have animatronic javelinas! There are two of them (right before you get to the man in the bathtub) that have chased a bobcat up on top of a cactus. See, we knew Disney had to have javelinas somewhere. I'm just glad that they're there and not in the parking lots.
We made a complete loop on the train and then stayed on again til we got back to Main Street. While we were at the station in Toontown, some girls behind us were debating whether or not to disembark. One finally said, "I'm pretty sure this is Fantasyland, let's get off here."
Back on Main Street, Paula made one last purchase of a pin for a friend back home and then we sadly said our good-byes and left the Magic Kingdom.
It was 11:30 and we were hungry. Since we still had plenty of time before we had to be out of our room at the GF, we decided to have lunch at the Kona Cafe at the Polynesian. We rode the monorail over and checked in for lunch. They were about to seat us when I noticed that they still had their breakfast menus. I asked if they were not serving lunch and they said that they serve breakfast until 12:30.
Breakfast was not what we had in mind, so we got back on the monorail and decided to try our luck at the Grand Floridian Cafe. They were serving lunch and we were quickly seated and our server brought us a basket of foccacia bread and rolls with olive oil to dip them in. We all ordered the Grand Floridian burger (a hamburger with bacon, guacamole, pepper jack cheese and jerk sauce) which was delicious, but huge. Paula and I should have split one.
While we were eating, one of the hostesses walked by with a man she was seating. Paula remarked that the man sure did look like Drew Carey. I didn't look quickly enough, so all I saw was his back (which, I have to admit, did look an awful lot like Drew Carey's back!). Wes didn't see him either. The hostess took the man to the back of the restaurant and seated him. We then overheard a hostess say to another CM, "Did you see our guest?" Paula insisted that it was Drew Carey, so Wes took matters into his own hands and walked back to where they had taken the man.
Now the Grand Floridian Cafe is on the ground floor of the main building at the GF. The restaurant has huge windows all along one side of it that look out onto the marina, the quiet pool, and the grounds. We watched as Wes went to the back of the restaurant, exited through the back door, walked all the way back to the back entrance to the hotel (past all of the windows in plain view, of course) and came back in the front of the restaurant--very smooth!
When he got back to the table he confirmed that it was, indeed, Drew Carey. We decided that when we finished our meal, we would all leave the restaurant through the back.
After paying the check ($47.90 for the three burgers and three drinks, before tip), we walked through the restaurant and out the back. Sure enough, Mr. Carey was there and we noticed that he was also partaking in the Grand Floridian burger.
Once outside, Wes wanted to walk by the window where Drew (yes, we're on a first name basis now) was sitting and try to take a picture. Paula and I wanted no part of this plot so Wes assured us that he was not going to stop and point the camera at Drew and flash a picture. He would just take a *casual* stroll along the walkway outside the window and snap the picture (with no flash) while holding the camera at about waist level. Paula and I waited while Wes executed another smooooth move and walked by one last time. After we got home and Paula and Wes had their pictures developed, we were proud to see that they have a great picture of Drew Carey's arm!
We walked back to our room for the last time and Wes (feeling very bold now) nicked one last box of White Rabbit cotton swabs and puffs off a maid cart for Paula to take home with her. When we got back to the room, I called bell services to come pick up our luggage. While I was on the phone, housekeeping knocked on the door of the room. Paula told the CM that we were just leaving and would be out of her way in a few minutes (it was about 12:45). The housekeeper disappeared and then came back a second later with a bag full of toiletries for Paula. How nice.
Bell services came quickly and picked up our bags. The CM said he would pull our car around and have it waiting out front for us. Soon after, we made our way to the entrance, claimed our car and were on our way. Since we didn't have to be at the airport until around 3:00, we decided to drive to the Wilderness Lodge so Wes could see how pretty it is.
When we got there, Paula showed Wes around (Paula and I had visited the resort on our last trip together) while I found one of those great adirondack chairs and collapsed (I love these chairs!). My chair was right by the Whispering Canyon restaurant and I enjoyed hearing the antics of the servers while I sat. They held a stick-horse race for the kids and then made the children take the Whispering Canyon oath (a lot of promises to be good, not nag, etc. and, at the very end, a promise not to go to Universal Studios). At one point, a CM stood next to a customer and announced in a very loud voice, "Attention, Everyone! This is a public service announcement! This man is on his second carafe of soda! If you see him in the swimming pool later, don't go in!"
Paula made one final purchase in their gift shop, and then we left at 2:30. We stopped for gas at the Tiger Mart right outside the Transportation and Ticket Center gate ($6.47 total, I think it was around $1.63/gallon). The drive to the airport is always so quiet and long compared to the drive from the airport when you first arrive. We checked our bags in curbside and then returned the rental car. I looked at the receipt for the car and saw that the total was $310! I had to take my receipt to the booth in the parking garage to get it straightened out. It took about 20 minutes of the manager pressing buttons, but he finally got it back down to $110. Much better!
The trip home was long and tiring (as they always are) and magic-free. We got home to find Mother feeling just a hair better. In the end, it took her almost two weeks after she went to the doctor to get back to 100%.
I think the All-Star resorts are very functional. Yes, the rooms are small and the amenities are sparse but the theming is great and I still say I would rather stay at the All-Stars than a plusher hotel off-site. The resort has lots of energy and it is a great place to stay if you have kids. When we stayed there with my nephew, he could always find someone to play with. We didn't stay at the ASMo very long but it served its purpose for an inexpensive room for our late night and certainly got us in the Disney mood.
What can I say about the Beach Club that I haven't already rambled on about in previous trip reports? I love it. I think it is the perfect resort with the perfect location. The newly rehabbed rooms were beautiful, our view was stupendous, the concierge floor is great, and you gotta love that 5-minute walk to Epcot. I hope to be able to stay there every time I go the WDW.
I was also very pleased with the Grand Floridian. I have heard several people describe the resort as "stuffy," but I didn't find it stiff or formal at all. We saw plenty of children and they ran just as fast, were just as excited, and had meltdowns just as often as children at the other resorts. All of the CM's we encountered were very nice and helpful. Our room was super. I loved being able to hear the sounds of Main Street across the lake and seeing the castle all lit up at night. Big Pine Key was very convenient to the main building.
Would I stay there again? Yes, no question about it. Why it's worth staying there if only for the White Rabbit cotton swa...oh, sorry. I don't mean to obsess. But they really *are* cute.
I asked Paula and Wes which resort they liked best and they both admitted that it was a hard decision, but they preferred the Beach Club. Paula said she thought that if they picked up the Beach Club and moved it to the Magic Kingdom, it would be the perfect resort for her. She said that she liked the colors and decorating scheme of the Beach Club better than that of the GF (her exact words were, she liked the "undulating seaweed" on the carpets). Wes said that, although the GF had bigger rooms, he also preferred the design of the Beach Club.
Paula and Wes are now both converts to staying at a monorail or Epcot-area resort. Paula said she was amazed at how much more convenient they are than even the other Disney properties. We both admitted that you don't realize how much time it takes to drive and park, especially if you have to deal with the Transportation and Ticket Center. You just can't beat a 5 minute monorail ride to the MK or a 5 minute walk to Epcot. Plus, there are so many dining options available at either location. At the monorail resorts, you have your choice of the GF, Polynesian, or the Contemporary Resort (or even the MK). And you can add Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness if you take a boat. At an Epcot resort, you have even more choices: the Yacht Club, Beach Club, all the restaurants along the Boardwalk, and all Epcot restaurants. Which brings us to our next topic--food.
I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but the food was all great this trip too. Some of my favorites were Le Cellier, Chefs de France, and, of course, 'Ohana, all of which were excellent. The Biergarten and Prime Time Cafe were also very good and the afternoon tea at the Garden View Lounge has become a favorite.
I think the food at Chef Mickey's is still mediocre, but the lively atmosphere makes up for it. Pecos Bills was good for counter service. Sometimes you just want a big, greasy cheeseburger.
Paula said her favorite meal was the Biergarten, with the chicken at the Hoop Dee Doo running a close second. Wes thought the food at Narcoossee's was the best, although it did not necessarily have the best atmosphere like some of the other restaurants.
For the most part, we had good weather the whole trip. We had the one evening shower (downpour) and one day of rain on Thursday, but it cleared off by the middle of the afternoon. The temperature was hotter than the last time we came in May (highs in the upper 80's and lower 90's) and it was more humid, but you can't really complain about hot and humid in Florida now, can you? (Yes, I can! See my trip report from June, 2002--the weather was *miserable* hot!)
The crowds were very light in all of the parks except for the Magic Kingdom. Is it *ever* not crowded? Most rides were a walk-on or had a minimal wait (5-10 minutes). At the MK, Fantasyland rides had 30-50 minute waits by afternoon, and the mountains (Space, Splash & Big Thunder) were about the same.
With the light crowds, we got to do just about everything that we really wanted. We were disappointed that Winnie the Pooh was closed for rehab while we were there (we knew in advance that it was going to be closed). Wes has never seen it and it is one of Paula's favorites. Also, we usually do the Great Movie Ride at MGM, and it was also down for rehab this trip.
With the timing of Grad Nights this trip, we didn't get to see Spectromagic but that's no big deal. We'll catch it next time. I thought we weren't going to see the MK fireworks either, but we lucked into them on Friday night.
Well, folks, I think that about covers everything. All in all, this was another fabulous trip. I keep waiting for one of these to turn into the nightmare trip of the world, but so far we seem to have consistently great times! I was pleased that we got to try so many of the rides we had never done in Future World at Epcot and that I finally saw the American Adventure. About the only thing that I didnít get to do was go swimming at Stormalong Bay. Neither Paula nor Wes remembered to pack their swimming suits, so we passed on that activity this trip.
Paula said her favorite new (that she rode for the first time this trip) ride was Test Track and her favorite old ride would have to be Tower of Terror (with Pirates of the Caribbean close behind). Wes said his favorite new ride was Buzz Lightyear and his favorite old ride is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Paula said her favorite new activity this trip was the Hoop Dee Doo while Wes said his was the Illuminations Cruise (with the Hoop Dee Doo a close second). He also said the Animal Kingdom could qualify as favorite new activity, since it was not there the last time he visited WDW.
We stuck to our itinerary pretty closely this trip except for changing a couple of days around. I still think it's a good idea to have a rough plan of what you want to do each day, but it's also a good idea to be flexible enough to be able to move things around if something unexpectedly comes up (like rain or early entry days), or if you just need some extra down time.
As far as I know, my next trip won't be until sometime in November for the Food & Wine Festival. Hopefully, Mission: Space will be up and running by then and weíll get to try it out! If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. Thanks again.