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Steve Russo -- October/November 2004 -- Walt Disney World (CBR, BWR)


Participants

  • Me - Steve, Disney fanatic and DVC member. Aging like fine wine. As my wife says, “Men are like fine wine. They start out as grapes, and it's up to the women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.” That’s me.
  • Barb - my bride of almost 32 years (Unfortunately, that’s not her age. Just the number of years we’ve been married). Aspiring Disney fanatic - she’s learning.
  • The Goergens (Wayne & Sue) - Our long-time friends and fellow Disney vets and DVC members.
  • Appearances by Kristen (Sue and Wayne’s daughter) and her boyfriend, Matt

Planning

Yeah, we’re going to do it again. The four of us had taken a 2002 trip for the Food & Wine Festival (F&W) and had a great time - successfully navigating several trips around World Showcase (WS) without staggering into kiosks, falling into the lagoon or otherwise piquing the interest of the Disney police. We never even needed the bail money that Sue and Wayne’s son had offered.

For those that have written multiple Trip Reports: How the hell do you keep them fresh? I’m only writing the Planning section here but I’m already trying to overcome the compulsion to explain in graphic detail how we secured flights, rooms, etc. Sheesh! That even bores me. However, I do admit that planning a WDW trip is my favorite thing.

Let’s suffice it to say that, after Barb and I returned from a December 2003 trip, we checked with Sue and Wayne on their interest. It took them 14 nanoseconds to decide that they were in. We booked our respective studios at the BoardWalk Villas Resort (BWVR), our DVC home. Later, we booked flights on Southwest ($247 each) and Sue secured our Tiffany Town Car reservations.

In late spring we learned that Sue and Wayne’s daughter Kristin, and her boyfriend Matt, would be taking a trip spanning our dates and staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR). While they maintain this will be an independent trip, our collective children have always looked to us as their WDW Tour Guides (and usually as their financial backing as well) so I’m certain we’ll run into Kristen and Matt on several occasions.

Sue asked if we were interested in attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) on Halloween night. I had read a number of mixed reviews and wasn’t so sure it would be something we’d enjoy. In the end, we figured it was something we’d never done before so we might as well take advantage of the opportunity. Sue called in June and got us 4 tickets for October 31, Halloween night ($139 for 4). We learned later that Kristen and Matt had also purchased tickets so they’d be coming with us.

As often happens, we started to question our decision to travel down on Sunday. After all, why spend a cold Saturday raking leaves in the Northeast when you could be cruising the kiosks at Epcot - drinking something you can’t spell and eating something you can’t pronounce? We decided to travel down on Saturday, October 30, and spend one night at a to-be-determined WDW resort, basing our resort decision on prices when the AP rates were announced.

In August, I received an email from Disney with reduced rates for Value ($54) and Moderate ($79) resorts. We booked 2 rooms at the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR) for October 30 at a rate of $79. Barb upgraded them to Kings for an additional $15 per room. She also tried for a PS at the Liberty Tree Tavern for Halloween night but there was nothing to be had. We had hoped to have dinner there and then hang out until the start of the MNSSHP. I guess we’ll have to play that by ear - maybe Tony’s or the Crystal Palace?

We have no PSs, which is actually our normal MO. We typically decide on a restaurant based on how we feel at that time - not 90 days previous - and we don’t normally have problems getting seated on a spur-of-the-moment basis at WDW restaurants. Then again, we usually visit in off-peak times. We’ll see if this works.

What are our goals for this trip? Not much, really. Relax and have a good time, which we always do at WDW. I’m sure we’ll spend ample time at the Food & Wine Festival, sampling whatever looks good. We’ll probably visit all 4 parks although there should be nothing new for us since our last trips in December/January - unless we can take part in the soft opening for Stitch’s Great Escape. We found out recently that the AP preview for Stitch begins on November 5 - the day after we leave. We absolutely never get lucky on this stuff. I do want to experience those things that were new on our last trip that we only had a chance to do once - Mission: Space, Mickey’s PhilharMagic and Wishes.

One more change I’m planning is in the rating system. In my TR for the 2002 F&W trip, I neglected to keep copious notes on the prices at the Festival - essentially telling you all that everything cost $28. In fact, most items were considerably more - about $100. I also, for the sake of convenience (mine, not yours), did a less-than-inspiring job rating the many tasty and exotic food samplings at the Festival. Being the lazy slug that I am, I simply told you if something was good or not (excepting the chocolate truffles in France that were, quite possibly, the best thing I had ever eaten. Especially, when accompanied by Remy Martin VSOP Cognac.) This time around, things will be much different. I shall endeavor to provide you accurate pricing on all items, giving you, my faithful readers, the opportunity to judge for yourselves exactly how much Disney is ripping us off. On the tasting side, I have carefully charted out metrics that will allow me to accurately convey the quality of everything sampled, using a scale of 1-10 with ‘10’ representing a chocolate truffle (the truffle is actually closer to a 12) and ‘1’ being, oh, something like sea urchin wrapped in monkey bladder. Get the picture? I’ll attempt, where appropriate, to get evaluations from my traveling companions as well. You lucky readers, you!

We spent the last week before departure getting things cleaned up at work and making sure the house would sustain Stephen (or son) and Gunnar (our dog) in our absence. That typically involves about $3500 in groceries - none of which require cooking. Stephen’s sisters (Michelle and Stephanie) will be looking in and helping out as needed.

We made a few last minute trips to Wal-Mart for the odds and ends that you always forget until the last minute. On Friday night, we packed up the suitcases and loaded them in the car. We were ready.

Saturday - October 30, 2004 - Rod Stewart, Truffles and Nipple Rings

We’re up at 3:40, an un-godly hour. For some reason, I had difficulty drifting off last night and I’m working on about 3 hours of sleep. We get caffeined and showered, say goodbye to Stephen and Gunnar and hit the road about 5:10. It’s an uneventful trip to the airport. We park inside the garage and wheel our luggage to the Southwest counter. Sue and Wayne are already there, having dropped off Kristin and Matt for a flight that was earlier than ours. They take a look at my shorts and laugh. Wearing shorts in the Northeast in late October is pretty rare. We’ll see who’s laughing later.

We get in line but discover that the Southwest counter doesn’t open until 6:00AM on weekends so we have about a 15-minute wait. Eventually, we’re checked in and get our ‘A’ boarding passes. We hoof it upstairs and grab some coffee, then settle in until boarding.

At around 7:10 they begin the boarding process so we get in line with the other ‘A’s. Wayne calls our attention to a guy getting coffee at the shop across from our gate. He’s a dead ringer for Rod Stewart - spiked blond hair with dark roots, pronounced nose, etc. He’s even dressed like Rod. My guess is that, somewhere along the way, someone told him he looked like Rod so he’s been grooming and dressing to perpetuate the myth. Just in front of us, there’s a guy with the world’s worst comb over. His hair is parted just above his ear - and the part dips in the back, cuts across the back about an inch above his neck, and continues up and over the other ear. And all this is combed up and over his head. If I ever go bald, and I pray I don’t, shoot me if I ever do this.

We grab aisle and window seats across the aisle from each other. The flight leaves a bit late at 7:37 but we make good time and actually land early at 10:00. Unfortunately, there’s another plane at our gate so we have to chill for about 10 minutes before we can dock.

We catch the Monorail to the main terminal (my favorite thing) and head to Baggage Claim where our Tiffany driver, Mike, greets us. He indicates that our luggage is already on the carousel - that’s a first. I find our first bag immediately and the second one is about 15 seconds behind. Wayne grabs theirs and we’re on our way. We head outside and wait a quick 2-minutes for Mike to get the car and we’re off to DisneyWorld.

In about 15 minutes, I catch my first sight of purple road signs (my favorite thing). Mike drops us at the CBR and I check us in. As expected, the rooms are not ready yet. I’m told by the Front Desk CM that they’re near each other but not adjoining or connecting. We take our bags to Bell Services where we’re told to bring them outside and look for someone in a blue shirt. We finally find a young girl that puts our bags on a wheeled cart and gives me a receipt. She refuses my offer of a tip with “Save it for the bellman”.

We decide to head to Epcot so we walk to the nearby bus stop and wait about 5 minutes. Barb and I need to buy our APs so we head to the Guest Relations windows where the line is about 8-10 deep. I’m not sure if you can buy APs at the regular ticket windows (found out later that you can) and I try to send Barb over there to find out. She looks and there are no APs listed on the price list. The lines over there are similar length but they seem to be moving much more quickly. We wait, and as I reach number 2 in line, a CM comes from a door around the corner of the building. He asks if he can help and I tell him that we’re looking to purchase APs. He takes us out of line and around the corner where he completes the transaction by shuttling in and out with our IDs, credit card, etc. We finally get our 2 passes ($807.28) and it’s Mickey for Barb and Minnie for me. I really wish they were reversed but they come out of the system in a random order. By the way, it seems, from eavesdropping, that most of the folks in line at Guest Relations were registering a complaint. One woman even had a Security Guard with her.

I had tried to send Sue and Wayne for a ride on Spaceship Earth (SE) while they waited but they just said they’d just camp out by the entrance. We went through the security tables for a quick check. Does anyone else feel that the security tables at Epcot are too close to the turnstiles? We entered our new tickets and biometrically scanned our fingers and we were in. One observation - I think the Leave a Legacy thing is growing on me. We usually stay at the Boardwalk so we almost always use the International Gateway (IG) entrance and I don’t get to see much of these things. I still think I prefer the trees and flowers but I don’t find these monoliths as disturbing as I used to.

We considered a ride on SE but there was a line wrapped around the right side, so decided to hit it later. We strolled through Future World (FW) and just took in the sights (my favorite thing). It’s was so nice to be back.

We decided on a counter-clockwise trek around World Showcase (WS) and the first booth we saw was Florida. If I remember correctly, at the 2002 F&W they offered something with alligator. This time it was a Shrimp Roll for each of us (about $100). Wayne gave it an 8 on our scale while the rest of us scored it a 7. We ate at a small bar table near the kiosk. It’s sunny and mid-80s. Wayne is now muttering that he should have worn shorts. Har, har, har.

Now for something to wash down the Shrimp Roll… we found the Eastern Europe booth and grabbed 4 Pilsner Urquells (about $100). Wayne and I gave these an 8 but the girls felt they were a little too strong tasting - so they graded a 6 on the wimpy, girly scale.

We were all a bit hungry so we decided it was time for lunch. We wandered up to Le Cellier. We were still carrying our Urquells and thought it would be bad form to walk in with them so we grabbed a bench outside the restaurant and sipped. Once we finished the beer, we went inside and were seated immediately in the Manitoba room. I had read that each room is decorated in a fashion befitting its Province so I asked our hostess what distinguished one from the other. She essentially said “Nothing”. She did indicate that the employees knew the layout - which tables belonged to which Province and it provided a reference point for them. I also imposed on her to take a photo of the 4 of us at the table. She kindly obliged.

I had a Labatt’s (2 actually) while Wayne had something lighter (not in my notes) and, I think, Barb had coffee and Sue an iced tea. Sue and I went with the Cheddar Cheese soup (my favorite thing) while Barb and Wayne had the Beef and Barley. Thumbs up all around. We also demolished the breadsticks. We weren’t extremely hungry so we shared entrees - Barb and I split a Vancouver Chicken Sandwich while Sue and Wayne shared the Steak Burger. We all rated lunch a solid 9. The cost was about $100.

We left Le Cellier and strolled past the UK and over the bridge to France. There was the usual France kiosk dispensing wine and some other French glop but… behind it was nothing. This was the spot, in 2002, where they had the small kiosk that sold Cognac and Chocolate Truffles (my favorite thing, really). Yes, those amazingly tasty, melt in your mouth little slices of heaven that Sue and I would give our first-borns, pink slips, and retirement funds for. NO CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES! I have now declared the 2004 Food and Wine Festival a miserable failure. Get me Eisner on the phone.

Sobbing uncontrollably, we traveled the rest of the way around WS. We weren’t hungry or thirsty so we just perused menus and made mental notes for later. Once back to the front of the park, we noticed that SE was a walk-on, so we did. I’m wondering what percentage of our trips begins with SE as our first ride. I bet it’s over 80%. We did notice that Universe of Energy was closed while they remove the signing (is it Exxon that dropped its sponsorship?). Anyway, it was open again later in the week.

It was time to head back to CBR so we exited Epcot and grabbed a bus after about a 5-minute wait. We got off at Old Port Royale (OPR) and while the others used the restrooms, I used the house phone to check on our rooms. Ours was ready but Sue and Wayne’s was not. We were in Aruba, which is a short walk across the bridge from OPR. We decided to grab a drink and a table at the Banana Cabana by the main pool and we just sat and chilled for a while. After finishing our drinks, we walked across and found our room (5104) and called for the luggage. A bit later, we called and got Sue and Wayne’s room (5150). We were on the ground floor while they were in a separate wing of the building on the second floor. For some reason, this really upset Barb. She had made the reservation and requested that the rooms be near each other but, apparently, different floors in different wings of the same building did not meet her criteria. She called the Front Desk and tried to get other accommodations made but was told they were near capacity and that was the best they could do. No one else thought it was a big deal but I think Barb felt guilty, as the room reserver, that Sue and Wayne were banished to the outer reaches of Mongolia. In reality, theirs was a very nice room with a view across Barefoot Bay.

We decided not to unpack anything and just work out of one suitcase because we’d be moving in the morning. It was sunny and 88 degrees so a swim was in order. We met by the Aruba pool and spent an hour swimming, sitting and chatting. While we were at a table, I noticed a guy from New Jersey getting in the pool. How did I know he was from Jersey? I didn’t, but it’s a good guess. As we learned later, most (all?) of NJ has the end of this week off for a Teachers’ Conference and Tuesday off for Election Day. Someone else also said that teachers were on strike, which lengthened the time off. The end result was that WDW was *loaded* with families from NJ. At various attractions, someone would mention NJ and 80% of the audience would applaud - we were definitely outnumbered. Anyway, back to the guy. How did I know he was from NJ? He looked like a ‘wise guy’ and if you’ve spent as much time in NYC or NJ as I have, you’d know exactly what I mean. He had tons of body hair, a gold watch, several gold bracelets on his wrist, gold chokers around his neck (lets him know where to stop shaving) and … two nipple rings! Sorry, but the thought of punching a hole in an ear lobe makes me squeamish. I’d find another way to carry my keys.

Suitably cooled from the swim, and eerily disturbed by the nipple rings, we head back to the rooms for showers and a change. The others now don shorts after having spent the better part of the day envious of my forethought. Our plan was to grab a quick, and light, dinner in the CBR food court and then head to Epcot. I noticed a number of small changes in the food court since our last visit in 1999. The beverage island has moved, making room for a central checkout. The Captain’s Table restaurant has been moved and reincarnated as Shutters. The bakery at the far right of the food court is no longer there. If I were staying here for a longer time, that would be a major loss. Their coffee and muffins was a staple for me.

Wayne and I disagree on something; He maintains that the look of the ‘shops’ is different. He doesn’t recall the upper facade giving the impression that they’re separate buildings on a city street. I maintain (and I’m reasonably certain) that these were always there. We’ll need to check an older video to confirm.

Barb and I grab Chefs Salads and water, Wayne gets a Prime Rib sandwich and Sue goes very light with a fruit cup. While eating, we get into another of those conversations about old Disney TV shows. Can you remember the Disney serials? Spin and Marty were part of the Mickey Mouse Club. There were a number of others (Davy Crockett, Nine Lives of Elfego Baca, Swamp Fox, Andy Burnett, etc.) that were run, as anthologies, on the weekly show; the first mini-series? I’m a guy that has trouble remembering the names of my co-workers but I can sing the theme song from any of these. Not to brag, but I also know the words to the Bonanza theme. We spent some time quizzing each other (mainly Wayne and I) and we disagreed when I said that the Swamp Fox was played by Leslie Nielsen - although Wayne later recanted, indicating he was thinking of the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. I need to check IMDB.com to make sure I was right.

It was time to head back to Epcot so we grabbed a bus and made our way back to WS. World Showcase in the evening; (my favorite thing) is there anything better than the dim lighting on the promenade, the background music that seems to be there only when you want to hear it, the glistening lagoon, the flickering torches, etc? We were looking for Ireland and a Whiskey Flan and O’Mara’s Cream. WS was very crowded and Ireland had a line that’s 20 deep so we kept walking. We stopped at Australia where Sue and I got a Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tartlet (about $100). There was no chocolate that I can taste so I gave it a 7. Sue gave it an 8 because, as she puts it, “It is, after all, dessert”. Next stop was Piedmont - which I thought is a California city but turns out to be an Italian province. Here I opted for the Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut cake while Sue got a Chocolate Bonet (about $100). Can you tell who the chocolate lovers are in this group? Each got a solid 9. I also had a white wine here (Principessa Perlante) while Wayne had a red (L’ Ardi Dolcetto D’acqui). He rated his at 7 but I only gave mine a 5 - tempered by the fact that I have a strong preference for red wine and drink white only occasionally.

As we walked clockwise around WS, we came upon the American Pavilion where Survivor was ending their show. We heard the final strains of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ which, I think was there one and only hit. As I perused the list of entertainers for the F&W, there were a number I would have liked to have seen: Beach Boys, Starship, Kool and the Gang, Eddie Money, etc. We catch one night of Survivor and the rest with Blake Shelton. I don’t want to upset and C&W fans, but I didn’t even know who Blake Shelton was.

This is our luck. We’ve taken a number of trips to Atlantic City; and as you drive in on the Expressway, you pass numerous billboards announcing who is appearing. For every trip, last week and next week read like a Who’s Who of entertainment: the Beatles reunion, Wayne Newton, Meat Loaf, George Carlin, Celine Dion, Bill Cosby, etc. The week we were there? Nancy Sinatra’s boots, Charo, and Shecky Marigami, the Japanese ventriloquist.

We strolled around WS making our way back to Canada where a second surprise greeted us. The Beaver Tails kiosk was closed! I know it’s shut down in the afternoon but this is 7:30 in the evening. Wayne was brokenhearted. First, no truffles… now, no Beaver Tails. Sell my stock.

We decided that we were all tired - 3:40 wakeups can do that - and we could catch Illuminations - Reflections of Earth (IROE) later in the week after we had moved to the Boardwalk. We strolled out through a very un-crowded FW, stopping to take in a fountain show, to the bus stops.

At the CBR stop, we met up with Kristin and Matt. They gave us the horror story of their trip. They were flying United because Matt had some miles to use for free tickets. Their flight was supposed to leave an hour before ours but ended up leaving over an hour late - due to fog in Washington. When they finally got to Washington, they had missed their connecting flight and had to wait for another. They finally hit MCO 3 hours later than planned but did say that United had treated them well. They also indicated they rode Mission: Space (M: S) with a 5-minute wait and loved it. Matt said it was basically a walk-on at 4:30-5:00.

We rode back and all stopped at OPR to grab some sodas and juices. Then it was back to Aruba for some TV and very welcome sleep.

With apologies to Peter King: Things I Think I Think

I think I’m spoiled. CBR is a fine resort and I used to love it there but it no longer holds a candle to the DVC resorts.

I think I really miss the BoardWalk and that short walk back from Epcot.

I think the F&W has gone downhill. No truffles? And no beaver tails?

I think the F&W is very crowded but, being the weekend, it may be a large local crowd.

I think I will never, ever let anyone pierce my nipples.

Sunday - October 31, 2004 - Free Rides, Stitch and a Witch

We were up early. No surprise there. We set the clocks back to standard time this morning, so my 4:30 wake-up is really 3:30. What to do? I brewed up a pot of coffee and we both remarked (again) that it really sucked. I think it’s the Orlando water and vow to either use bottled water or pick up a Brita filter for use in the future.

We drink our coffee, shower and dress and I call Sue and Wayne at 5:50. Not surprisingly, they’re up and ready. I call the front desk and request a taxi - either at our building or the Custom House. They indicate that a taxi or a van to bring us to the Custom House will be out front at 6:15. Sue and Wayne show up and we take the short walk to the turnaround by the parking lot.

Right at 6:15 a Disney van shows and the driver hops out and begins to load our luggage. Barb asks me if he’s taking us to the BoardWalk or to the Custom House for a taxi. I ask him that very question and get a reply “You’re going to the BoardWalk? Let me call in”. We hop in and he drives us directly to the Boardwalk - a short hop, really. But I’m grateful enough to give him a $10 tip - a bargain considering a taxi would probably have cost $7-8. We check our bags with Bell Services.

So we’re checking into the Boardwalk (my favorite thing) at 6:20 and I’m telling Sue and Wayne about our December 2003 trip when we checked in at 6:30 and… the room was ready! As we sign the forms I ask the CM “Are the rooms ready now?” He looks at me like I have 3 heads and says they’re not. The Boardwalk was at capacity last night so they need to wait for checkouts and room cleaning. But feel free to check back as often as you’d like. We get our keys and the welcome package... and a “Welcome Home” (my favorite thing). I bring the welcome packages to Bell Services and ask them to store them with the luggage. They’d be a pain to carry around all day.

We decide to try Spoodles for breakfast but learn they open at 7:30. We hit the bakery for coffee and tea (Sue), and an Apple Danish for Wayne. This is probably an appropriate time to tell you that my friend, Wayne, eats more and faster than anyone I know. Hell, he eats more and faster than anyone you know, too. Side story - we take an annual golf trip with 8 guys. In 2001, we finished off the day of golf with a dinner at a steak and seafood place. While at the bar, peeling and eating several jumbo shrimp, Wayne learns of the restaurant’s specialty - a 46-ounce prime rib for $46 but if you can eat it all in less than 46 minutes, it’s free. A challenge. Not only did Wayne consume this half-cow in its entirety, he did it in 12½ minutes - a new record. People in the restaurant were taking his picture and, I’m sure, waiting to tell their friends “You won’t believe what I saw in Lake Placid…”

Back to the BoardWalk. We grabbed a table and chatted, sipped and watched the joggers until just before 7:00 when we decided to see if anything at the Yacht or Beach Clubs was open. Turns out the Yacht Club Galley opens for breakfast at 7:00 so in we went. We had a great breakfast with a mix of eggs, pancakes, etc. (about $100).

After breakfast, we walked back to the BoardWalk and continued out front to grab a bus to Animal Kingdom, or as Wayne called it, Animal Land. A bus was there within 5 minutes and we got to the park, and through security, by 8:45. At 8:50, they opened the turnstiles and let us in as far as the Oasis where we waited for the official opening. Minnie, Goofy and Pluto arrived on the truck and welcomed everyone. Just before opening they called our attention to Mickey, who was way off by the Tree of Life waving to everyone.

We usually try to hit Dinosaur or It’s Tough To Be A Bug (ITTBAB) first thing, but today we decided to try the Kilimanjaro Safari (KS) first (my favorite thing). We walked back to Africa with the throngs and essentially walked through the queue without really stopping. We had a very good trip. Two rhinos were chasing each other in circles. It’s amazing how fast and agile they are for such large animals. The lion was sitting toward the back of Pride Rock but he was awake and facing (watching?) the ride vehicles. You could just about see his face between openings in the rock formation. Don’t you think it’s time to retire the Little Red storyline?

We then hit ITTBAB, something we always enjoy. We were coming up on the next show for Festival of the Lion King (FotLK) so we walked over to Camp Minnie-Mickey and made our way in. I finally got seated in something other than the Giraffe section and we roared like a Lion (I’m still hoping to be an elephant because that’s the one sound I’m actually good at). It’s funny… I always enjoy this show but, after the fact, I think back on it and say there’s no reason to do it again. My memory sort of underplays its entertainment factor. Nevertheless, every trip, we see it and I am again impressed by the performance. I’m not sure if that thought will make sense to anyone but it’s something I’ve noticed. Anyway, FotLK is my favorite thing.

After FotLK, we walked to DinoLand and discovered a 30-minute wait at Dinosaur so we decided to skip it and try it later. We decided to head back to the BW and try ESPN for lunch. It’s an NFL Sunday and Wayne’s team, the Giants, was playing at 1:00.

We joined the line at ESPN at about 12:30. The line was about 12 deep and was moving slowly. At 12:45 we were about 5th in line when the hostess announced that they were full and there were no guarantees of a table opening any time soon. Lots of folks would spend the afternoon there. We decided to give Big River Grill and Brewing Company (BRGBC) another try. We had dinner there back in 2001 and were less than impressed.

We were seated immediately at a ‘bar table’ and we did have a TV nearby showing the NFL pre-game show. My guess is that these bar tables are fine for drinks and appetizers but they’re painfully small to accommodate 4 people for lunch. After ordering, I picked up the 84-page, leather bound drink menu and the various stand-up advertisements and moved them to a nearby table to try and give us some more room. I mentioned that, in a recent Trip Report, I read rave reviews on the burgers here. So Wayne, Barb and I all ordered the burger. Sue had the quesadillas, just to be different. Wayne and I sampled a couple of the beers brewed on premises but I don’t recall which ones - and my notes are sketchy here (I must be getting older - the memory’s failing). Anyway, mine was an Irish Red (its name was a bit more interesting) and Wayne, I believe, had a lager. Anyway, we both enjoyed them while Barb and Sue had coffee and iced tea, respectively. The burgers, by the way, were very good (about $100).

After lunch, we hit the BW lobby and called about the rooms. It was about 2:30 and they were both ready. Sue and Wayne got lucky and got 2050, a BoardWalk view with a balcony above the Screen Door store. We were in 2045, just down the hall and overlooking the Luna Park pool (3rd time we’ve had this view). Both rooms were on the same floor as, and a very short walk to, the lobby. This is a real first for us as we’re usually forced to walk ¼ mile each way to the lobby. Both were studios, which are the basic hotel room with a queen bed plus a sofa bed and a kitchenette with microwave, sink, coffee maker and refrigerator. Our studio was also a bit larger than Sue and Wayne’s. It was different in how the walls were cut as you walked in and just seemed quite a bit more open.

Wayne and I went to the Screen Door for some essentials (beer, snacks, milk, etc.). I was looking for butter for my morning English muffin (do they actually have these in England? What do they call them? Just Muffins?) but was told they were out and didn’t expect more until Tuesday.

We called for our luggage and spent the afternoon unpacking, resting, napping and watching some football in the room. I visited the Front Desk with a bunch (7) of old Park Hoppers. I knew some had leftover 'Plus' features that would get us into Pleasure Island during our upcoming January trip. It turns out that I have a total of 4 Plus features left. A couple of the cards, from 1996, were actually World Hoppers, which had no Plus Features - those were the days of Flex Features (remember those?).

It was Halloween and most of the CMs were in costume. The guy that handled this for me was dressed as George Burns. He had on a dark suit and thick horn-rimmed glasses and stayed in character the entire time. It was cute at first, but after 10 minutes or so, I was anxious for him to just finish with my tickets and let me go.

At 4:00, we headed to the bus stop. We had plans to meet Kristin and Matt at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom (MK) at 4:30 to get ready for MNSSHP. A word about the BoardWalk buses, and I’ll try not to mention it again. It was hard to pick up a pattern during the week. We typically walk to Epcot and MGM, and bus to MK or AK. The buses from the BW always seemed to pick us up, then stop at the Swan and Dolphin. Presumably, they stopped at the Yacht and Beach Clubs before the BW. On return trips, it seemed they would hit the Swan/Dolphin/YC/BC and then the BW. Not wanting to ride for hours, we always exit at the Swan and take the short walk back to the BW. Later in the week, we discovered a path, near the Swan bus stop, that allowed you to bypass their lobby and head directly to the bridge to the BW - making the walk even shorter.

So we hit the MK at 4:35. They had a separate entrance to the right for MNSSHP and we got our orange wristbands there. We found a waiting Matt and Kristin at City Hall. I got everyone to pose for a picture on Main Street with the Castle as a backdrop. No one was costumed for MNSSHP but Sue and Wayne did have T-shirts. Wayne’s was bright orange and had the eyes, nose and mouth of a carved pumpkin. He was immediately nicknamed the “Great Pumpkin”. Sue’s was black with a silver (white?) carved pumpkin on the front. Overall, the costume of choice was The Incredibles. We saw many families (mom, dad and kids) outfitted this way.

Our first stop was Mickey’s PhilharMagic and we timed it perfectly, getting there as they opened the doors to the waiting room. We saw this back in December and it gets better with each viewing. What a great show. Not to be missed for young and old alike.

We walked through Fantasyland and stopped for a Haunted Mansion trip. We were in the courtyard, at the front, and I asked everyone to watch Madame Leota’s tombstone. Just as Sue said “Why?” Leota’s eyes opened and moved causing Sue to let out a little “Ooh” as she jumped back. Perfect timing. The CM Host was exceptional. As he opened the doors, he simply stared for 30-seconds at the waiting guests. Never left character as he ushered us in and to the dead center of the room. He kind of glided around the circumference, behind the guests and everyone kept an eye on him - expecting him to do something to startle someone.

Next up was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (my favorite thing). It had a 5-minute wait listed but was really a walk-on. We rode toward the front where the ride is typically slower but this was pretty quick. Is the grease warmer at the end of the day? Speaking of warmer, it was in the high-80s and sunny once again.

Wayne decided to pass on Splash Mountain (my favorite thing) but the rest of us rode (no wait), had fun and got just a little wet. It seemed that the park was emptying pretty rapidly. After Splash, we chatted with a CM near the Liberty Tree Tavern who said they were trying to get all the MNSSHP ticket holders into Tomorrowland so they could clear the rest of the park. We dutifully headed there and joined a pretty large crowd. The party wouldn’t start until 7:00 so we figured this would be a good time for dinner. We decided on the Plaza Pavilion and everyone spread out for burgers, chicken, salads, etc. Barb and Sue claimed they weren’t hungry and just had soft drinks.

After dinner, we took a spin on Buzz. Now in December, I had maxed the score at 999,999 and thought I would once again impress my friends with my prowess as Interplanetary Space Stud. Something was obviously amiss with my laser cannon as I came in with a paltry 79,800. A pitiful score but still good enough to trash the yokels I was traveling with.

We had noticed they were running previews of the new Stitch’s Great Escape attraction - the old Alien Encounter. The wait was listed as 15 minutes so we decided to give it a go. The wait was more like 5-10 minutes.

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I won’t give a lot of detail. My impression, however, was not positive. It seems as if management told the Imagineers to make AE more kid-friendly, then gave them a $20,000 budget to do it (a slight exaggeration). There is not much different from AE. Very similar pre-show (it’s still Skippy) but the droid that performs the transportation has been cleaned up and made to look and sound less evil. When you get to the main show, you sit in the same seats with the same shoulder harnesses. The storyline is, obviously, different and less ominous. Instead of the alien, Stitch appears in the center chamber and ultimately escapes into the theater - of course, this part occurs in the darkness so you can get the special effects from your headrest. It’s cute and certainly better for children than AE, but I don’t think it’ll be an every trip attraction for me. The Stitch animatronic is, however, quite good. Oh, and be forewarned - watch out for the chili dog (you’ll get that after you experience the attraction). I’d be curious to get a reaction on this attraction from someone that has never seen AE. It could be much more positive than mine.

We did stop at a couple of Trick-or-Treat stations but, in my opinion, the only stuff worth getting were the M&Ms. They were using the Timekeeper as one of the spots where you could get your complimentary picture taken so we strolled in to a short line. It was depressing to see the Robin William’s robot sitting idle in the front - they used the standing rails as a makeshift queue area.

It was now past 7:30 and we figured we had missed the ride of the Headless Horseman - something I wanted to see but not really a big loss. We made our way around a large crowd in front of the Castle that was awaiting the first parade. The parade was just beginning and it was coming up Main Street so we got a peek and heard some of the eerie music. We took a ride on the Jungle Cruise (my favorite thing) and had a great skipper. I can’t say if I enjoy this more at night - it’s always fun. There’s a point in the ride where elephants squirt some water. Apparently, and I didn’t know this, the arc of the water is controlled by the skipper. I’m not sure if that’s right but that’s what we were told. Anyway, this elephant got a bit too aggressive and shot a stream into the boat. Sue was sitting just to the skipper’s left and she caught part of the spray. The woman on his right took a heftier shot and appeared to be none-too-happy about it. Our skipper actually tried to place himself into the stream and showed us his soaked trouser leg as evidence that he “took one for the team”.

After JC, we took a ride with the Pirates of the Caribbean (no wait and my favorite thing). It was getting close to 9:15 so we walked back to the front of the park and grabbed some benches in front of the Crystal Palace. Kristin and Matt decided that they had already had a long day and were heading back to CBR. I thought it strange they would leave so close to the fireworks but they were obviously very tired.

Wayne and I took a few photos of the castle. Wayne thought it would make a great display to have photos of the castle lit up in each of its nine (?) colors. At 9:15 we left the Palace’s porch and found a spot below by the railings. The fireworks were the ‘old’ Fantasy in the Sky (FitS) with a few Halloween flourishes. Instead of Tink flying down from the castle, it was a witch and there were several times when they would shoot fireworks in a full 360 degrees around the MK. The witch and the 360 were very cool but this just reinforced how much better Wishes is than FitS.

After FitS concluded, we headed to an uncrowded bus stop and rode back to the Swan and walked to the BW. We hit Seashore Sweets where Barb and Wayne had a waffle cone. I walked down to the Bakery and scored a couple of muffins for tomorrow’s breakfast. I also asked if they had any butter - the Screen Door was out. They loaded the bag with enough of the butter packets to last us for the week. Thanks.

We spent some time at a BW table as Barb and Wayne scoffed down their cones. We just chatted and people watched for a while, then headed to the rooms. I watched a little Sunday Night Football and headed to bed.

Things I Think I Think

I think MNSSHP was good but I don’t think I’d do it again. I’m not much for parades, or trick-or-treating, and Wishes is hands down better that FitS.

I think I never tire of hearing “Welcome Home”.

I think I really love the BoardWalk.

I think that with each visit, I seem to like AK a bit more. The construction is coming along nicely on Expedition Everest.

I think Big River is better than I remembered - might have been a bad night last time.

Monday - November 1, 2004 - Mars, Bratwurst and the Jets

Up at 5:30, which is more of a decent hour. I brewed a pot of coffee and we had the muffins I bought at the Bakery last night for breakfast. We had planned to meet Sue and Wayne at 8:30 for the walk to MGM but, as usual, we were all ready early.

At MGM, there was a small to moderate crowd waiting at the turnstiles. They opened a bit early but held everyone at the rope just prior to Sunset Blvd. We used this time to stroll the shops on the left side - looking at everything but buying nothing.

At rope drop, we headed to Tower of Terror (ToT) (my favorite thing) where Wayne waited outside. I think he’s only ridden this once or twice and refuses to go again. It was basically a walk on. I’ve ridden ToT a bunch of times but it still makes me a bit apprehensive as you enter the shaft and the wall illuminates in front of you. Still a great ride though and, in my opinion, one of the best themed attractions there is.

As we exited, we walked past the area of tables and benches on the right and spied Wayne sitting on a bench talking to a blond woman. He joined us and told us that he learned, through conversation, that she was Paul McCartney’s niece. Of course, Wayne may have told her he was Elvis Presley’s nephew first.

I’m the only one that has ridden Rock’n’ Roller Coaster (actually Barb rode once but swears she would never go again) so we bypassed it and headed across the park to Star Tours (my favorite thing). Is it weird that MGM is the only park without named areas? MK has its ‘Lands’, Epcot its ‘worlds’, and AK its continents, camps and oasis. MGM just has streets and boulevards.

Star Tours was a walk on. There was a family in front of us (I believe they were speaking French) with two children. The older of the 2 was a girl of about 10-11. She was giving the parents fits because she didn’t want to ride. A kindly CM noticed this and brought her over to the console where she could see inside the vehicle that was now mid-ride. The CM explained that there would only be motion, no inversions, etc. The girl finally conceded and rode. I learned a bit later that her parents had taken her on M: S and she had a horrible time and thought Star Tours might be similar. I boarded after them and was seated on the left of the Mom, with the little girl on her right. I glanced over several times during the ride and they were both smiling and laughing - a lot. In fact, Mom had basically taken over our shared armrest and was now gripping my wrist. Every so often she would look at me, say something in French (I think) and laugh some more.

Next stop was the Muppets (my favorite thing). In the pre-show, I noticed the ‘net full of Jell-O’ that, for some reason, I couldn’t find in December. We then rode the Great Movie Ride (GMR) and had a female gangster for the 3rd or 4th time in a row. I still ride this but it needs to changed and updated. I enjoy the film clips at the end but the rest of the ride has become a place to get off my feet for a while - a shame.

Next up is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It! (WWTBAM). Over our last couple of trips, I’ve made it as high as #2 on the leader board so this was going to be my time in the hot seat. I made a decision that I would pick a sequence for the fastest finger and go with it as fast as possible. I chose C-A-D-B. Our stage manager was Kevin who I’ve now seen as Jim in the Hoop-Dee-Doo-Revue and as the host in WWTBAM. He introduced our host and he read the fastest finger question that had us putting 4 presidents in chronological order. I tapped in CADB as quickly as I could and then, seconds later, realized that the answer is ACDB. So close. Not to worry, I’ll catch up with the questions.

For the next 8-9 questions, I know every answer before they’re revealed (I’m guessing most of the audience does) and I’m tapping buttons like a woodpecker on amphetamines. When they reveal the leader board, I’m nowhere in sight. Ditto the next time. The person in the hot seat misses a question and they bring up the board. The lady in seat #13 is on top. She declines, having been in the hot seat within 30 days. The next person comes in and promptly blows the 4th question. We’re out of time but they give you a last look at the leader board. Who’s on top? The lady in #13 again.

By the way, I did miss one question during the show. And it’s one I shall never live down. I’ve worked in IT my entire career and the question was “On a computer keyboard, which number is below the %”. No fair looking. Did you get it? For some reason, I thought it was ‘6’ so I watched as the choices popped up - 1 (no), 3 (no), 5 (no) and… I was hitting D as they revealed ‘7’ and I said “Whoops”. I probably spend 4-6 hours a day at a keyboard too.

I was suggesting the 50’s Prime Time Café for lunch but the response was underwhelming so we hit the Commissary. Barb and Sue had Fish and Chips; Wayne a burger (what else?) and I tried a Cuban sandwich. It looked good in the picture. It wasn’t. It was some type of mystery meat (I’m guessing ham and turkey but it could have been emus and yak) on grilled flat bread (foccacio?). Trust your Uncle Stevie on this one - don’t get it. I didn’t finish it. It is not (my favorite thing).

We walked back to the BW and hit the quiet pool. Barb and I were looking for something to carry some ice and a couple cans of beer to the pool. We ended up using the orange plastic Trick-or-Treat bag from MNSSHP. When we got to the pool, we found Sue and Wayne had done the same thing. Hopefully, the other folks thought we were just bringing our M&Ms with us.

It was 88 degrees and sunny and the pool felt great. We swam and relaxed by the pool for about an hour then hit the rooms for a quick nap, shower and a change. (Author’s Note - I find that, as I age ever so gracefully, I really look forward to a good nap. I’m now amused when children give their parents a hard time about going to bed or taking a nap because I can no longer remember a time when I didn’t enjoy sleeping.)

At 4:30, we headed for Epcot through the IG (my favorite thing). We gave Test Track (TT) a look but the standby time was 40 minutes so we picked up FastPasses (FP) for 6:40. Barb and I wanted to try M: S but Sue and Wayne did not. Sue is afraid to try it based upon a blood pressure issue and a slight problem with enclosed spaces. Wayne has ridden it once and that’s his lifetime quota for thrill rides. They said they’d wait for us so Barb and I walked in, thinking if the wait was 10 minutes or less, we’d ride. The wait was posted at 5 minutes and, actually, was more of a walk on.

We took our places, same as our first ride in December, as Commander (me) and Navigator (Barb). We were with an older couple (older than us, anyway) and the women used a cane and asked if we had ridden before. I sensed she was a bit apprehensive so I gave the usual advice of paying attention to Gary Sinise; don’t close your eyes, etc.

We rode. Barb was a little shaky on our first ride but she was fine this time. She said knowing what to expect made it easier. I, on the other hand, had a bit of trouble this time. Here’s my assessment: on my first ride, there were several (2-3) brief moments of slight disorientation. Nothing major and they quickly passed. I did, however, let myself be taken in by the ride and had myself, at least mentally, on a ship to Mars. This time, I found myself concerned and looking for those moments of disorientation instead of letting my mind get into the ride. The result is I was much more conscious of the G-forces at lift off and in the slingshot around the moon. There were also several more occurrences of that brief disorientation. End result? I did fine but I was a little wobbly for about 20 minutes after riding. I will ride again in January and I will force myself to get into the moment rather than looking for the discomfort.

After M: S, we bought a couple bottles of water from a vendor (about $100) and walked across to ride Journey Into Your Imagination (JIYI). That is the newest name, right? Not only was there no line, the boarding CMs were standing around waiting for someone to ride. They basically told everyone (and there were about 8 of us) to sit wherever you’d like. Apparently, no one is riding this anymore. Probably for good reason - the ride is just a bit lamer each time. We lost audio several times and it’s absolutely weird to see Figment with his mouth moving but no sound at all.

We walked, fairly quickly, through ImageWorks and into the pre-show for Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (HISTA). As we walked in, the pre-show was in its final stages, Thank you. I find this version just a bit too saccharin. I loved the True Colors pre-show here. HISTA was, as always, a fun attraction.

We left FW to head through the gardens to WS. We were discussing where to have dinner when a voice behind us started shouting “Watch out, coming through, get out of my way”. Wayne and I had just prepared ourselves to deliver the fatal forearm shiver when Kristin came hopping through. Very funny. Little did she know how close she was to getting thrown into the lagoon. We chatted for a bit and they went back to FW. We continued left into WS having decided on the Biergarten in Germany for dinner.

We checked at the podium, received a pager and were told it would be a 15-minute wait. We wandered out to the courtyard for a beer (Lowenbrau is now the beer of choice here, replacing Becks) so we got 3 Oktoberfests for Wayne, Barb and I. Naturally, as we took our first sip, the pager went off and in we went.

We were seated at a table for 8, taking the outermost 4 chairs. As we began to sit, the woman on Barb’s left jumped up and, quite nastily, said “That’s my chair”. The hostess jumped in and quickly offered to bring over another chair for Barb. I didn’t really understand the whole thing because this group of 4 people seemed to have 4 chairs and a highchair for a child. This woman was sitting to the left of the highchair but, apparently, wanted Barb’s chair. It was a little annoying that she was so nasty about it. Getting another chair was no big deal.

Sue and Wayne had eaten here before but it was new for Barb and me. It’s a meat lover’s paradise and I proceeded to load up plates with sauerbraten, bratwurst, schnitzel and sausages of several varieties. I also sampled my share of the dessert offerings (the strudel was very good). They offer a 1-liter draft beer and there were several in front of the guys at the table next to us. At the end of the meal, however, I watched these guys pour the remnants into plastic cups so they could take them into the park. I’m guessing that beer was also pretty warm by then.

We joined in with several ‘Ziggy, zaggy, ziggy, zaggy, hoy, hoy, hoy’ (that’s got to be spelled incorrectly) and had some fun watching the ‘Oompah’ band entertain. It took forever to get our check (about $100) as our waitress had a lot of trouble with checks at adjacent tables.

We left Germany and walked to the UK where we caught the last half of a British Invasion show. They were, as always, very good and did a particularly good rendition of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ - although they shortened their version of ‘Twist and Shout’.

We re-traced our steps back to France and snagged a couple of Cabernet Sauvignons for Wayne and me and a something-something (white wine) for the girls (about $100). I ordered “2 Cabernets and 2…” and started to pronounce the French name I was reading. The young, female CM immediately finished my sentence for me - in rapid fire and fluent French - and smiled. I gave her an “Easy for you to say” and thanked her for saving me. We took our glasses (plastics, actually) back to a bench and sat, chatted and sipped. Epcot at its best (my favorite thing): dim lights, music, and wine.

While sitting there, we must have directed 50 people from New Jersey to the IG. Many were in Jets jerseys (my favorite team and they were playing on Monday Night Football). I figure most of them were from NJ (I really think ¾ of the park was from NJ) and they all thought they could get to the IG through France which, if you really look at it, is an honest mistake. You can see the IG and its nearby shop from France. It looks like a short walk but, unfortunately, that walk would be across water.

At about 8:50 we walked over to the bridge and secured a spot at a railing for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (IROE) (my favorite thing). I absolutely love this show. I know a lot of folks think the original Illuminations is better - and it might very well be. I prefer not comparing it to past versions and just enjoy it for what it is - a very good show. It’s the one WDW CD I have that gets a lot of play.

After IROE, we strolled back via the IG (my favorite thing) and were at the BW in 5 minutes. Sue and Wayne shopped for a bit on the BW while Barb and I hustled back to the room. I hustled because I needed to watch my Jets jump all over the Dolphins, 41-14. A great ending to a great day.

Things I Think I Think

I think I have been aware of this for some time but never really thought about it. Did you ever notice that the Men’s rooms in WDW parks have no mirrors over the sinks? I’m sure Disney has a study that says that men who linger in a rest room combing their hair spend less in the shops.

I think Star Tours and the Great Movie Ride need an update, soon. MGM is running out of things that will attract me.

Repeat after me: I will never, ever order the Cuban sandwich at the Commissary. It’s an evil Castro trick.

I think when I get back to work I’m going to need a swim and a nap every afternoon at 2:00.

I think that nothing, but nothing, beats Epcot in the evening. It’s beautiful.

I think I really miss the Tapestry of Nations (Dreams). Epcot needs a parade like that. And bring back the same music.

I think the Jets are now 6-1 but I’m still not optimistic. I’ve been burned too often by them.

Tuesday - November 2, 2004 - “I don’t think we’re in Disney anymore”

It’s Election Day and we’re up by 6:00. The four of us have already voted by absentee ballot. I’m not going to get into any political discussions here because, quite frankly, there’s no point. I am, however, very interested in seeing just how our Presidential Election will turn out.

Sue and Wayne call and say they’re heading to Spoodles for breakfast. Barb and I have already had our UK muffins so we pass and say we’ll join them later for coffee. We spend some time browsing in the Screen Door and adjacent shops then head to Spoodles where Sue and Wayne are finishing up. We get 2 coffees in those soup bowls that Spoodles calls coffee mugs.

The plan this morning is Downtown Disney (DD) for some shopping at the Marketplace. We grab a bus and get there by 9:10 - and realize the shops open at 9:30. We decide to hit Saratoga Springs for a quick tour of the newest DVC resort. We had a notice in our welcome package that DVC members could grab a bus to Congress Park and go to room 2607 (That’s wrong but close. I’ve forgotten the #) for a tour and, I’m guessing, a free pin! What I didn’t remember reading, and Wayne reminded me of later, was that the notice said it was open from 5-7:00 PM.

Anyway, we camped at the Saratoga bus stop at the Marketplace and waited, and waited, and waited. There’s a path beyond the stops that appears to go to Saratoga Springs… but we’re not sure. The nearby map with the ‘You Are Here’ arrow basically ends at the beginning of this path.

Being the erstwhile adventurers that we are, we decide to take the path. It winds around but does, indeed, take you to Saratoga Springs. We wandered around checking out the buildings, pools, etc. We have no luck finding room 2607 and finally find a CM to ask. He directs us to walk a bit further to a building that houses the DVC Welcome Center.

We hoof it over there and introduce ourselves and get a “Welcome Home” (my favorite thing). Unfortunately, Wayne was right and there’s nothing for us to see until 5:00 but feel free to look around. It’s a very comfortable lobby and there’s juices and coffee and mini-muffins, etc. We head outside and walk a bit more of the property to find a bus stop that will get us back to the Marketplace (we’ve eventually walked ourselves about 2 miles away).

Saratoga Springs is a very nice resort. We live 25 miles from the real Saratoga Springs and Disney has done a great job of capturing the look and feel of the area. However, the resort is spread over about 6 million acres. If you’re staying in one of the outer buildings, and would like to come down to the bar or restaurant, it’s a long walk or a bus ride. I don’t think I’d consider staying here without a car.

Back to the Marketplace. We all buy a number of Christmas ornaments in the Christmas store. Barb and I have decided to start collecting snow globes because we now have one (our son bought it for us). I also collect Canadian quarters. I think I have 6 now. Anyway, we are looking at various snow globes and the one that caught our attention is the Fantasmic boat. Steamboat Willie is monochrome in the globe and the rest is a reproduction of the Fantasmic boat with all the characters you see at the end of the show. It’s $80 so we’re thinking it over.

Barb buys a white Mickey tee. I buy Mickey ice cube trays. On our last visit I finally bought the Mickey cocktail shaker so… what’s a Mickey cocktail without Mickey ice? Huh? Now when I mix a drink for Barb, I can slip her a Mickey. No? What’s all that groaning about?

Sue buys a box of chocolate truffles. They’re not the same ones that were in France in 2002 but they’re good and they’ll have to do.

It’s getting close to lunch so we decide to try the new Earl of Sandwich. It’s crowded and we get in line. This place gets a rating of 9 from us. Each of us had a different sandwich (club, roast beef, etc.) and they were all very good. And the price is $5-6 per sandwich, which, by WDW standards, is a major bargain. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

Fed, we head back to the BW for another turn at the quiet pool. This time, after swimming we decide to head to the Luna Park pool bar, Leaping Libations (?), for a Margarita (except Wayne gets a Tilt-a-Whirl). Once again, it’s 88 and sunny and these are very refreshing - plus they contain alcohol. Back to the room for a nap (my favorite thing - I know, I know. I’m getting old).

At around 4:00, everyone is rested, showered and dressed. Kristin and Matt have taken the Keys to the Kingdom tour at MK today. They called Sue and said they’d be interested in seeing Fantasmic with us tonight. They meet us at the BW and the 6 of us hem and haw over how to get to MGM. Boat, walk, boat… we finally decide that walking is quicker.

We tried earlier this morning to secure a Fantasmic dinner package but all 3 restaurants were sold out. This happened to me in early 2002 and I was still able to get it by showing up at 4:30 at Mama Melrose’s. That was the plan.

We hit MGM, walked to Mama’s, went inside and asked the hostess if we could get the package. She informed us that they weren’t even accepting walk-ups for dinner. Whoops. So much for not making earlier PSs.

Not to worry. We walked around the corner and into the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and were seated in a ‘limo’ within 3 minutes. We had a great waiter here that had a running banter. We ordered a mix of burgers, steaks, and chicken Caesar salads. The shakes here are excellent and everyone, except Sue, had one. We got our check (about $100) and took our time walking to the amphitheater for the Fantasmic showing at 7:00.

We got there at around 6:10 and it was already more than ½ full. We were part of the traditional wave while we waited for the show to start. They piped in music that was from Radio Disney. At the risk of offending many, I’m not a fan. There was a lot of re-mixed Disney classics (I prefer the originals) and a bit of ‘Rapper Mickey’. I’m definitely not a fan of rap. IMHO, they should pipe in original Disney classics. I’d much rather listen to ‘Under the Sea’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ or ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” than the stuff they were playing.

Fantasmic started a few minutes late (not sure why) and I enjoyed it once again. It seems to affect me much the same way that FotLK does. I’ll think back on it and almost have a been-there-done-that feeling. But when I see it, I always enjoy it.

After Fantasmic, we walked back to the BW and into Jelly Rolls. We first visited this ‘dueling pianos’ spot in 2001. It was a so-so night, mainly due to the overflowing Lotusphere crowd. We felt that, with the right crowd, it could be a lot of fun. We’ve been back twice more and a great time. We were hoping for a similar experience but, unfortunately, we picked the wrong night.

The first 30 minutes were great as the performers were chatting with the audience and taking requests. Later we learned that Tuesday is a special night at Jelly Rolls. It’s Bud splits at 2 for $2.00. This attracts a large group of locals, mostly early 20s, that seem to want to yell, scream and act out over-stimulated libidos in public. There’s a table between us and the stage that is home to 8 or 10 (it varied) guys and girls - average age about 23. They were yelling, toasting and clinking things so loud it was difficult to hear the singer that was miked and 20 feet away. It took about 6 minutes before the first beer was spilled. Their first request of the performers was ‘Juicy’ by B.I.G. They paid no attention to the performers and made it difficult for anyone nearby to hear the songs or the banter.

I’m facing the stage and also the backs of 4 or 5 these folks. Directly in front of me there’s a fairly attractive young girl - low-rise jeans, bare midriff, etc. She’s hugging and kissing the guy seated to her left. At the same time, the guy on her right has his hand wandering all over her butt. She appears to not even notice.

Here’s the highlight: One of the requests comes from a table full of 20-something guys. It basically says that the guy has had his heart broken and needs a song to cheer him up. The performer, Tommy, calls the guy up on stage and sits him on the piano. He then asks for any girls from the audience that would like to help the guy, named K.J. by the way, cheer up. Surprisingly, 5 come up on stage. Most have obviously been drinking and one is damned close to blasted. Tommy launches into ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ and the Bimbos-5 begin to writhe around K.J. The almost-blasted one winds up in front of him and begins rubbing her butt against him, shaking and writhing to her knees in front of him. I turn to Matt and he says “I don’t think we’re at Disney anymore”.

Moral of the story - avoid Jelly Rolls on a Tuesday night. We are certainly not prudes but this was not what we were looking for. We lasted about 90 minutes and headed out, and prayed that most of Jelly Rolls’ patrons took a taxi home.

Kristin and Matt caught a taxi back to CBR. They’re heading to Universal tomorrow so this is probably the last we’ll see of them. We headed off to our respective rooms and bed. I checked the TV for election coverage but most reports said things were still too close to call with Ohio carrying the distinction of being the deciding state. We’ll see.

Things I Think I Think

I think Saratoga Springs is very nice but I don’t think I’d stay there based on its size and location.

I think I need to start making PSs in advance.

I think I really enjoy Fantasmic.

I think I will avoid Jelly Rolls on Tuesday nights.

I think I can’t wait to mix a Manhattan in my Mickey cocktail shaker with my Mickey ice cubes.

Wednesday - November 3, 2004 - The Bird That Hates Me

Woke up at 5:30 and flicked on the tube. Reports are that the election is still too close to call. I have visions of 2000.

At 8:15 we head out to AK to pick up a couple of attractions that we missed the other day. The bus shows up quickly and we’re through the turnstiles and into the Oasis, waiting for the official opening. While we wait, we have a rope on our right that separates us from the folks heading in to have breakfast with Donald. On that side of the rope, there’s also a drinking fountain. As they will, a number of children on our side see the fountain and ask Mom or Dad if they can get a drink. There’s a young boy, about 7-8, in front of us and he’s playing with the rope. On a couple of occasions, he tried to trip or decapitate several smaller children as they made their way through. Wayne waited for an appropriate point when the kid was just leaning on it and gave the rope a sharp tug. It got his attention and he went back to join his parents who were deep into a park map and oblivious to the whole thing.

Mickey was part of the official opening and, although I expected to see Goofy, there was no one by the Tree of Life. We walked to Dinosaur and rode without a wait. A CM at the entrance did give one of those ‘timing’ lanyards to a young boy in front of us. I’m really not sure why because we walked straight in to the pre-show.

We exited into the carnival and took a spin on Primeval Whirl. This ride seems to get a bit more violent each time I ride it. It was a first for Sue and Wayne and, although we didn’t know it then, this ride gave Wayne a sour stomach for a good part of the day.

One of our AK semi-traditions is a late breakfast at Tusker House so we headed over there. To my dismay, I saw they no longer offered the breakfast croissant sandwiches. Shoot. Wayne and I had the scrambled eggs and the girls had cinnamon rolls (although Barb informed me later that she had asked me to get her a Danish. Shows how well I listen to her).

Sue and Wayne had never seen Flights of Wonder so we took a seat there to wait for the next show. About 10 minutes before the show starts, a CM comes out front with a horned owl on his arm and talks about the bird and answers questions from the crowd. It was pretty interesting.

At a point in the show, they bring out a very large condor/vulture (I can’t remember the name of the thing) and he flies very low over the audience. On our last trip, I was lining up for a photo of this thing when he flew over me and grazed my head with his ‘talons of death’. Being much the wiser now, we sat farther back and further left. He ain’t getting me again.

Sure enough, we reach that part of the show and they bring out Rodan. I smirk. They release this thing and doesn’t he fly directly over me? Actually, he flew directly over Wayne but his left wing hit me in the head. Everyone else saw it so, this time, I’m sure it was not my imagination. There’s a bird at AK with a vendetta against me.

Next up is Kali River Rapids. Wayne chooses to sit this one out, the wimp. He takes up a spot on the bridge where he’s planning on blasting us with the elephants but several kids hog the controls and stymie his plans. The ride is good and we really don’t get too wet. It’s mid-80s again so drying out quickly is not a problem. It’s interesting but, during the early part of KRR, as you’re winding through the burning rain forest, you get a very good view of the construction on Expedition Everest. It seems contrary that Disney would allow a view of a mountain in Nepal from a forest in South America.

We’ve now done everything at AK that we needed to do so we head out and to the bus stops. We exit again at the Swan and walk to the BW. Sue and Wayne continue on to the room and we have plans to meet at the quiet pool. Barb and I head into the shops to look over the globes one last time. After a bit of hemming and hawing, we finally decide to buy the Fantasmic globe. I know I can save 10% if we buy it at World of Disney but we can’t remember if we saw it there and we don’t really want to make the trip anyway. We buy it for $80 and have it shipped home for $10.95 - this also saves the sales tax because you ship it out of state. Let New York try and recoup the tax. They also told us to expect it in 10-15 business days. (NOTE - It showed up yesterday, exactly one week since our return. Unfortunately, and despite some impressive packing material, Goofy (one of the characters on the boat) came with a broken nose. We really didn’t want to go through the turmoil of sending it back for replacement so I super-glued his nose back on. So far, it looks like it will hold.)

We headed up to the room, changed and went to the quiet pool for a swim. Sue was there, but no Wayne. He was napping and trying to shake off that feeling he’s had since Primeval Whirl. After about an hour, we went up to the rooms to begin packing - never a good feeling. We planned on meeting at 4:15 for MK.

At about 4:00 (we are ALWAYS early) we headed to MK. Our first stop was one of Wayne’s favorites - the Tiki Room. It’s an attraction I can tolerate. I don’t love it nor do I hate it. It’s fine if I see it but nothing’s lost if I don’t. I do enjoy the newer version more than the old one.

We took a look at BTMRR but the standby was 30 minutes so we decided to take another turn with Mickey’s PhilharMagic. This would be our third viewing and second this trip. We walked in and had about a 5-minute wait outside the theater. When the doors opened, we found ourselves in the 3rd row - much closer than any of us had been previously - and fairly close to the end of the row on the right side. As I enjoyed the show, I had the distinct impression that I was ‘seeing’ things better. The 3-D effects seemed better and more pronounced indicating that sitting closer may be a bit better. I thought it was just me but, on the way out, Wayne was saying exactly the same thing. I’ll have to try it again to be sure.

We were a bit hungry and Barb suggested Casey’s. We grabbed some dogs, fries and sodas and took up residence in the bleachers. All the outdoor tables were full. While ‘dining’ they were playing the Goofy sports cartoon, which is my all time favorite.

It was time to find a spot to see Wishes so we found an area to the right of the hub where we could lean on a planter. Someone mentioned ice cream so I went off to get us some Mickey bars. As I turned the corner on Main Street, two CMs were wheeling the close-up carts by me for storage. Curses, too late. I did find a popcorn cart closer to the Castle that also sold ice cream but the line was 25 deep. I walked back empty handed.

While waiting for Wishes to start, we could hear a lady behind us speaking into a cell phone. She was directing her daughter to find them. I heard her say, “Come down the ramp. We can see you. Look to your left.” I looked toward the Pavilion and I could see a young girl walking, cell phone to her ear, searching the crowd. We started waving our arms saying “Over here”. She was the woman’s daughter and she thanked us.

At 7:05 they announced that they were having technical difficulties and that Wishes would be delayed. Just before they said ‘delayed’ I expected to hear ‘cancelled’. This would be our only chance to see Wishes and I was really hoping it would go on.

At 7:15, the lights dimmed and the music started. A few fireworks exploded and then we saw Tink fly down from the Castle. We walked under the Castle earlier and I glanced up at that wire. My palms were sweaty just looking up. That is one brave person. As part of the Keys to the Kingdom tour, Kristin learned that there were multiple ‘Tinkerbells’ but only 3 were woman. They need to have the upper body strength to pull themselves along the wire in the event something snags or fails. That’s one job at WDW I would not want.

Wishes is a great show and, having seen them back-to-back, it’s head and shoulders over FitS. I have the soundtrack for Wishes but it really doesn’t do it justice.

After the show we bussed back to the BW (via the Swan) and hit Seashore Sweets for a waffle cone (actually Barb got a Sundae). We watched the juggler on the BW while we ate and then went into the Belle Vue Room for a nightcap. I can’t believe it’s our last night and it’s the first visit to the Belle Vue.

We grabbed a table and 4 chairs in the back and were served by CM Allen. He’s been there since our first Boardwalk stay in 2001. We sipped a drink and chatted about the day, the trip, etc. I still maintain the Belle Vue is an excellent close to a Disney day.

Things I Think I Think

I think there’s a bird at Flights of Wonder that has it in for me.

I think sitting up front at Mickey’s PhilharMagic provides a better show. I’ll need to verify this, though.

I think, shoot - I know, that I really enjoy Wishes.

I think I’m not ready to go home.

Thursday - November 4, 2004 - I Don’t Want To Go

Going home. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, I don’t want to leave. I don’t mind going home. I just don’t want to leave.

Tiffany had suggested an 8:15 pickup for our 10:15 flight. Sue was concerned about traffic and airport crowds so she requested a pickup at 8:00. We were, of course, ready at 7:30 and wheeled our luggage outside to wait for our driver. Naturally, Mike showed early at 7:45. We were off and there was surprisingly little traffic on I4 and the Beeline. We hit the airport at 8:15, and had our bags checked by a Skycap by 8:20. It never fails. If you were running late, traffic would be a mess; there’d be a long line for Skycaps; etc.

With plenty of time to kill, we went through Security in about 5 minutes and hit McD’s for breakfast. We lingered and tried to make this take as long as possible. We then hit the gift shop for some reading material. I’m a weird guy so I picked up the NY Times for the crossword, the NY Post for the NY sports stories, and an ESPN magazine (and almost choked when I found out it was $5).

Our flight left a bit late at 10:30 but we made up the time and landed a bit early. There were a few apprehensive moments when the pilot asked the Attendants to be seated because of some turbulence but it turned out to be not too bad. We landed, got our luggage, found our cars and were home in 30 minutes. Another trip in the books.

Final Thoughts

The past few months have been unusually stressful at work. A WDW trip is always the best medicine for that but unfortunately, the results don’t seem to linger as long as they used to. We’re heading back with our 3 children and son-in-law in early January so I only have 2 months to wait. But the waiting is hard.

I’ve noticed that as the frequency of our trips have increased they’re more relaxing. We don’t feel the same need to hit every attraction in every park. We know we’ll be back.

We still haven’t scratched the surface on all the restaurants. There’s always so much more to see and do. It really gives you something to look forward to.

Thanks for reading.

Any questions or comments? Shoot me an email and be sure to put ‘Trip Report’ in the subject line or risk being trashed with the spam.

Steve Russo

srusso@nycap.rr.com


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