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Cathy Sowa -- October 2004 -- Walt Disney World (PCR)


Like many people’s trips to WDW, this one really kind of started on November 2, 2003, when I returned home from my last Disney World vacation. I was doing pretty good at not having serious withdrawals, but in the summer people on MousePad started asking about things to do for their October vacations (and I reminded them about the Food & Wine Festival). I contemplated taking a 3-day weekend to go play at the festival, and was inspired in part by trip reports of 3-day weekends and articles about "what to do when you visit by yourself" articles. And then on July 20, Disney announces the details of the F&W festival special events, and then to add insult to injury, on July 30th I received an email from Disney with PIN number for "as low as" $49/night rates at Value resorts which are valid during much of the F&W festival. So I break down and decide to do it (with encouragement from the sister I last visited "the World" with). So on August 11, I call Disney and find out, yes the rate is available, yes they can match the flights and car rentals I found on the internet, yes, they're more than happy to take my credit card number to book a 3-day (2 night) trip for one person! The next day I made reservations for a Food & Wine pairing at Le Cellier, and supposedly I got the last seat for that pairing (yea, glad I didn’t wait any longer!)

Ok, it's now August 12, 2004. This not quite 40 year old single woman (no kids) is going to fly from her home in New Orleans to Orlando on a Friday morning, and return on Sunday evening, just to hit the Food and Wine Festival (F&W Fest) and a few key attractions (including Millionaire and Stitch). This really is quite crazy, but nobody ever said I was 100% sane! Just a little more planning to do, that will have to wait until after October 1 when Deb (www.allearsnet.com) posts the offerings at the booths, and then for October 17 when Steve (<http://pages.prodigy.net/stevesoares/> posts the schedules for the entertainment, which includes Millionaire and Festival of the Lion King -- probably will only go to Animal Kingdom if the stars are extremely well aligned and I get everything done that I want to at Magic Kingdom and MGM Studios on Friday and Saturday).

I've always liked the "A-B-C" scrapbooks people have put together (I crop regularly at my Creative Memories Consultant's house www.creativememories.com) and have always had in the back of my mind that it'd be fun to do an ABC album for Disneyworld -- so I'm going to try to do that.

About Labor Day weekend I get a little nervous about what the weather may bring - with Frances having just hit Florida, right after Charley - and worrying about Ivan (if it hits Florida - oh my for them, if it goes into the gulf - MAJOR worrying about my house/safety) (I ended up evacuating for Ivan, but it skirted away from New Orleans at the last minute.)

Unfortunately, it looks like Stitch may be an issue - I’m not sure how “open” it will be when I’m there (soft or otherwise), and I’m not going to have a lot of opportunities to “walk by” (particularly not on a weekday afternoon) to try to get snatched - so that may just have to be an excuse for another “weekend” before my next “vacation”.

I also got most of the letters at least guessed at for my A-B-C album, and posted a request for help on MousePad - Hopefully I’ll be able to get all the pictures I need! I’ll have my list with my camera, so that as I take a picture I can “identify” what pictures I have got for what letters - fortunately, I may be able to switch some around if necessary when I get home.


Friday: Arrive and be checked-in; on to Epcot by noon (bus transport); Epcot until close with the Food and Wine pairing at Le Cellier

Saturday: Early Magic Hour (EMH) at Studios; boat to Epcot; graze around World Showcase; Head to MK when full and stay until close (watching Wishes and the second rolling of SpectroMagic)

Sunday: EMH at MK if still need to do some things there; head to Epcot and graze heavily until time to leave for airport. If not going to MK - sign up for Great Beers or Tea workshop

Options: AK for festival of Lion King and/or Kali River Rapids and the Kilimanjaro Safari and/or Dinosaur; likely won't 'cause it's so far away, but if do, will likely drive and not rely on buses (and if doing it Sunday, would drive anyway) -- likely only will do if not visiting MK on Sunday, and probably only if Lion King has early enough shows.

Ok, that’s about it for the planning I can do - time for the fun to begin! Well, almost…

Thursday, October 21, 2004:

My flight home from Texas (where I was for work) was delayed - I was scheduled to get in at 8:45pm and didn't get in until after 10 pm. Setting the alarm for the morning was painful, but not as painful as trying to fall asleep when I'm feeling like a little kid! I finally doze off, and I think I got about 4 hours of sleep.

Friday, October 22, 2004:

I got up and dressed and out the door to the airport in plenty of time to catch my flight. I was able to check in and made it through security with no problems (I didn't even get grief for wanting to hand-check my film and camera), and was waiting at the gate in plenty of time. They loaded the not-so-large airplane (one seat on one side of the aisle, two on the other) and we were off. The flight itself was uneventful, but as I was looking out over Orlando, I noticed a lot of blue roofs on the houses. Having grown up in an area where blue metal roofs are not unheard of, I was still surprised at the number of them. And then I realized that those weren't metal roofs, those were tarps covering holes in the roofs of a LOT of houses. It made me really appreciate even more that my area was spared from most of the tropical activity this season.

I made it out of the plane and onto the Monorail, to the car rental counter - and there is nobody in line ahead of me! I was shocked, but happy to take advantage of it. But I do have a beef with Alamo. They rented me an "Economy" car. I asked the gal if the sign by the cars would say "Economy". "Well, it'll say either that or Sub Compact." I get out to the cars, and there are NO signs that say either of those two words. So I ask, and the gentleman out there tells me to take a car from the area marked Compact. So WHY couldn’t the woman inside give me the correct information?

Anyway, I'm off, using very detailed and easy to follow directions from my Passporter, and even saw where the Albertsons was that they recommended for a grocery stop (it's right near the freeway, looks like a fairly easy off and back on the highway). I made it to Pop Century with no wrong turns (always a plus for me!) and get in line to check in. The line was moving a little slower than I would have liked, but I chatted with the woman ahead of me and recommended checking out the Food & Wine fest, so it wasn't too bad of a wait. There was a Cast Member there also handing out information to people and answering their initial questions while we were waiting in line, which was nice. I got up to the front and was helped by a nice gentleman - and shock of shocks, my room was ready. The only request I'd made (when I booked the room) was for non-smoking. They were able to fulfill that and I was in the 50s area near the end parking lot. I was able to get a great parking space, brought my bags up to my room, changed into shorts, loaded the "park" bag and was on my way to the bus stop by 11:45 am. Fairly short wait for the bus (with 2 exceptions that was the case the whole weekend), and I was walking into Epcot shortly after noon.

I took a few pictures, contemplated looking into a FastPass for Mission: Space or Test Track, and decided instead to go to the Rose and Crown Pub to see about the "Great Beers of the World" Seminar. I didn't want to miss out on that, if I could help it (since we had missed out on it last year), but would be limited on the choices because of the Food & Wine pairing at 3:30. Well, I was there right about 12:20, and there was a single seat left for the 12:30 seminar - would I like that? Sure, what the heck. Well, obviously if there's a single seat and all of the tables seat 2 or 4, I'll be sitting with other people. Fortunately, the other single (Hi Wayne) had staked out a table near the entrance, so it was easy enough for me to find "my" seat. There were 3 bottles and 1 can of beer to try, so that's really the equivalent of 2 beers in about 1/2 hour time - on a fairly empty stomach! Wayne and I hit it off, so we ended up hanging out together until about 8:00! After getting kicked out of the beer area (ok, so we chatted quite a bit and didn't listen too terribly hard to the discussion - the beer was pretty good, and I don’t think any were domestic) we went to see about FP for Test Track and Mission: Space. Test Track return was right during the Food & Wine pairing, so that was out - and the wait was too long for a first ride of the trip - so off to a walk-on at Mission: Space. We decided to go to Maelstrom, which wasn't quite a walk-on, but not too terribly long of a wait, and we timed it perfectly to be able to watch the film without a wait (I hadn't watched it last trip, so I felt I should this time around). We did a lap around the World Showcase, and ran into a couple of CMs he knew (he lives in Orlando and exercises by doing ‘laps’ around the World Showcase), and one suggested that he see if there was a seat for the Food & Wine pairing I'd signed up for. Surprisingly, there was a single opening, so he snagged that. We had a little more time to kill, so we went over to the Living Seas to get some Nemo pictures. We never went inside, but I took some pictures of the outside sign. The Nemo "character" was out as well. It just seemed wrong - it's about 3.5-4 feet tall and rolls around and isn’t soft and cuddly at all. We also went and listened to Fiddler’s Joy (at the stage also used by Off Kilter) for a couple of songs, and then it was time to head into Le Cellier for the food and wine pairing.

I’d never eaten in this restaurant (it is on the list, though) and it was a smaller seating area than I’d imagined it would be. They had two long tables set up, with a representative from the wine distributor at each table. Our rep sat right across from me, so we were able to discuss the wines with him quite a bit (and even talked some beer with him). All of the wines served this time around were from South Africa, which supposedly has some of the best values in wine available right now. The first course was grilled chicken with pineapple salsa and a spinach roll, served with Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc (’04). The second course was Butcher’s Tender (beef) with herb gnocchi, roasted mushrooms, and poached beets with Tumara Titan (’01) (67% Cabernet blend). The final course was a Tropical Fruit Ravioli with a Mango Coconut Broth with KWV Steen (‘03) (Muscat). All three dishes were fantastic, as was the wine, and the flavors matched well with each other. The servings were nicely sized - enough for a decent light meal, but not so much that you feel uncomfortable when you leave. I liked how the chef really got creative in coming up with dishes to match with the wines - for instance, the beets were a really nice touch with the hearty red wine, and the fruit ravioli is a creative dessert. In addition to the wine reps sitting at the tables, as each course of food was presented, the chef described the food and a little of her thought process in selecting the various flavors to enhance the wine.

All in all, I really enjoyed the pairing and will continue to sign up for at least one on each trip I make to the F&W festival.

After we enjoyed the pairing, we decided to get FastPasses for Test Track, since Wayne had never experienced that attraction! Now we had time to kill, so we took the Monorail over to the Magic Kingdom, walked to Stitch to see if it was open (no such luck) then went to enjoy Mickey’s PhilharMagic. This opened last year shortly before our trip, and I think it’s the best “3-D plus” attraction Disney has put together. It’s not scary (unless your little one thinks 3-D in general is scary), the “plus” parts (scent, water, air) are very well done, and it hits most of the “new” classics that most of today’s kids know well. My only complaint about it is that some of the human characters seem a little plastic in their animation.

Well, we finished up (Mickey got his hat back from Donald, yea!), and by then it was just about 6:00 (closing time today at the MK because of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party), so we walked over to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin to see if we could get in line - but they were only letting in people with MNSSHP wristbands (even if the FastPass return clock didn’t say straight-up 6 pm). So we headed back to Epcot via the resort Monorail (figuring it would be faster), and got in line for Test Track. We would have been in the next pre-show room, but unfortunately, the ride broke down, so we had to skip it (they were not planning on re-opening that evening). So, we went to the Rose and Crown, had a beer, and parted company.

This is one of the fun things about going by yourself - you get to strike up conversations with complete strangers, and if you hit it off, spend a little time with them! Throughout the weekend, I would chat with people in line from all over the world, offer my 2 cents on various attractions or food choices, or ask for their opinion on something.

Well, at this point all I’d eaten today was a little bit of breakfast at home, and the Food & Wine Pairing, which although nicely sized, is not enough food for a full day’s worth of touring, so time to hit some booths! France was first, and I tried the Coquille St. Jacques au Gratin (having no clue what it was) and the Crepe au Fromage et Jambon (knowing that had cheese and pork of some sort (see, I still remember some High School French!)) - both were checks (on my ‘minus / check / plus’ scale) and the Coquille St. Jacques (it had a scallop in it) was really rich. The crepe seemed almost crispy - not quite what I expected, but ok, none-the-less.

At the Valencia Spain booth I tried the Gazpacho (check plus) - which was nicely flavored and not too much like tomato juice, and the Manchego Cheese and Ham, which only got a check. At the India booth I tried the Chicken Tikka, which was a very solid plus. I was right near Japan, so I walked through the store (didn’t see anything that looked like a must-buy, either for myself or for Birthday / Christmas presents), and I walked through the Tin Toy exhibit. It was interesting, and I’d probably have enjoyed it more if I’d actually recalled owning any tin toys myself.

At this point, it’s almost time for Illuminations, so I stopped by the Piedmont booth (aka the Chocolate booth) and got the Hazelnut Flourless Chocolate Cake (really almost a soft fudge consistency) and a Banfi Rosa Regale (sparkling rose wine) to enjoy. Both were great (as expected) and Illuminations was fantastic as always. The wind was blowing, but I was close enough to the American Pavilion that I didn’t get much/any smoke from the pyrotechnics, though a large part of the crowd did.

I headed to the bus stop (why is your bus always the last stop?) and stopped by the food court, because I needed just a little more to eat. I ended up getting a Chicken Caesar Salad, which was really good (tons of chicken) except they used some of the multi-colored bread for the croutons - I’m just not a big fan of artificially colored foods. I did notice one other thing in the food court: I’m a big diet cola drinker, but on this trip, since I wouldn’t be near the food court very often, it didn’t make sense for me to get a refillable mug. So I was going to get a couple of 20 oz bottles of Diet Coke, and save one for the morning while I was getting ready (I don’t drink coffee, but still want caffeine in the morning). Well, lo and behold, I saw that they had 2 Liter bottles of soft drinks - and the price was less than the cost of 2 20-oz beverages! I got that instead, so I’d have plenty for BOTH mornings! I didn’t notice if they had larger bottles of water, though.

I trekked back to my room and called my sister (who usually is with me on my Disney trips), so I could relive a little of my day with her and hit the sack.

I’d stuck pretty well to my plan - aside from not hitting quite as many festival booths earlier in the day.

Saturday, October 23, 2004:

Today’s plan was to hit the Millionaire show, some Food & Wine fest booths, and then a late night in the Magic Kingdom. Didn’t quite make that, but I’m glad I made the decisions I did!

I got up and went to the Extra Magic Hour at the Studios. Walked on to Tower of Terror, had a 20 minute (posted) wait for Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, and then grabbed an apple turnover at Starring Rolls. It was very good, if a little messy (flaky). The only other thing on my list that I HAD to do in the Studios, was Millionaire, and the first show wasn’t for a while yet, so I walked around, took some pictures (including the Key under the mat at Muppets - it’s behind the turnstiles getting in, so you REALLY have to know it’s there to even think about looking for it) and went on the Great Movie Ride. This was essentially a walk on - I think just two switch-backs in the screening room were full! And since I was a single, they were able to get me on to an earlier tour, so I was quickly off and on my way. We were held up by the gangster (only the gangster side was running) and continued on through the attraction without incident (well, there was that part where the gangster got a little greedy and our original tour guide returned...). I still had some time, but not enough for the Studios Backlot tour, so I went in and met with Mickey for a minute (the line wasn’t long). I also learned that JoJo and Goliath are VERY popular with the preschool set (hadn’t even heard of them, myself). And when I tried to pull the rope at the Indiana Jones show, I didn’t hear anything, so I’m not sure if I just didn’t pull hard enough or if it is broken). And then it was time for Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It!

To say this is my favorite attraction is a little bit of a stretch - but not by much. I don’t have a single favorite, but you’d never know that based on the number of shows I sat through! I was doing fairly well, getting on the top-ten board, but not too near the top at least once in each of the first three shows (in a row) I sat in on. I was happy to be able to help the couple next to me with the fact that Andrew Jackson and Pirate Jean Lafitte defeated the British in New Orleans (though there is local discussion about whether or not Jean Lafitte was a pirate or a privateer), and this was a time I really wished I’d been the complete stranger, since I knew this one 200% (the person in the hot seat guessed Jacksonville, Florida). Oh well. But I still didn’t get into the hotseat! I found it interesting that they did not carry over a contestant in the hotseat between shows at all. Every show I watched started with a fastest finger (which I just do random in a full show, and they all were fairly full).

Well, after 3 shows (two with the same stage manager and host, then the third they switched roles), there was a little bit longer break, so I grabbed a Cuban sandwich with Black Bean Salad from the ABC Commissary. Most (if not all) of the counter service restaurants will offer an alternative side to French fries. The salad was pretty good, and a lot less fat than the fries!

Well, time for another Millionaire, and then another one. The first of the second set had the same stage manager/host as the previous game, and then two totally different people came out for the next. It’s quite interesting how each host/stage manager puts more than a little bit of themselves into the role. Well, the 2nd show of this set, I was on the leader board EVERY time except for the fastest finger, and at the end, when the person missed a very early question (I think it was the 100 point, even). One time I was even in second when they were filling the hotseat, and I’d never wished harder for a cast member, but no luck. I’d figured I’d leave the Studios after that show, but after getting SOOO close, I had to try one more time. So back for show number 6 of the day!

Well, luck finally was on my side. I got into the hotseat as the 2nd contestant of the show! Now this was my 4th overall time to the hotseat (California in Sept 01, California in Feb 02, Florida in Oct 03) - and the last time I’d missed the 500,000 point question - and had previously won a hat and a shirt/hat in California. I REALLY wanted to win that cruise! When the host asked me who was there with me, I said I brought 800 of my closest friends. He then told me that I had to bring some of them with me on the cruise if I won - they were all for that! I made it past the 1000 point without too much problem, and the host asked me if I’d been in the hotseat before. “Yes, but a year ago” and he claimed he recognized me. And then he asked another time - I really wish they wouldn’t do that since it tends to put the audience off a little bit. I ended up using the 50/50 on a question about a rock in Australia that I was pretty certain about, shortly after that break. And then I REALLY wished I still had that at the next question: Who was the PGA Player of the year (or something along those lines) 5 times: Lee Trevino, Curtis Strange, Arnold Palmer, or Jack Nicklaus. I asked the audience, and they were about 50/50 split between Arnold and Jack (as was I). I decided not to ask the complete stranger (though I wish I had) - and ended up guessing Arnold incorrectly. So I walked away with a “lovely” hat with a purple bill and gold 1000 on it. The prize coordinator told me that they’d changed the hat in California after I’d won mine, but they couldn’t get permission (for whatever reason) to change theirs. After we did the paperwork, the show was still going on, and she offered to escort me back to my seat, but I declined since I’d been to plenty of shows that day (and wasn’t with anyone that I needed to meet back up with).

On the way out of the Studios I grabbed a Mickey bar (in part because I wanted a picture of one with a bite out of it, but only in small part because of that!). At this point, my plan to eat lunch at Epcot was out the door, so I decided to head directly to the Magic Kingdom. When you exit the Studios, and are looking for the bus to the MK, don’t go in the direction of the “Theme park” buses - it’s not there - you have to go the other direction to the “Ticket & Transportation Center” bus. I never did see the sign that I should have followed.

Well, after a bus and Monorail (I never did take the Ferry to or from the Magic Kingdom) I was back in the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, I’d missed the flag retreat by a little bit, but there’s always next time. I got a FastPass for Buzz, walked by Space Mountain (too long of a standby wait) and on to Minnie’s house to take a picture of the Oven. (Oven was the only O word I could come up with, aside from ‘Ohana and Oasis, and since I wasn’t going to the Polynesian or Animal Kingdom, those two wouldn’t work - too late I realized that a picture of “Off Kilter” would have done nicely.) After the trip through Minnie’s house, I walked through Fantasyland to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which was posted 40 minute wait. I met a nice mom in line with her son (Dad stayed home this trip) and was able to explain FastPass to them, so I hope they were able to use it later in their trip. I was a little apprehensive about riding this (it had been down last year for a scheduled refurbishment - but it WAS the same ride that caused problems in California) - but I made it without any problems, and then was off for a little plundering and pillaging (a Pirates life for me? No, I think not). Not a long wait, and then it was time for my Buzz FastPass!

Buzz is one of those attractions I will rarely, do without a FastPass, and then only if it’s a short wait. The ceiling is too low and there are too many people crammed into a small area for the noise not to be literally deafening (ok, maybe not literally, but it does not feel good, and usually puts me in a poor mood, until I get on the ride). We stopped for a little while, but for some reason I couldn’t tilt my gun as far low as I wanted to, so couldn’t get the targets I wanted to all of the time. So yea, I helped save the Universe from the Evil Emperor Zurg (who makes a good Z while behind bars at the end) -- Oh, and for anyone who wants to do an ABC album and struggles with words that really start with x for use on the X page - the ride vehicle in Buzz is the XP-37 space cruiser! There’s a large magna-doodle “drawing” at the end of the queue, that proclaims that, and on the side of the vehicle it says it as well. I was VERY happy to notice that one.

Anyway, after Buzz, I got a FastPass for Space Mountain (yes, I should have done that before, but there’s only so much back-tracking I’ll do) and then went to ride the Jungle Cruise. There was a posted 20 minute wait, and this is at 7:30pm. After the ride through the Jungles of the world, including scaring the hippos with the gun, it was time to go get “scared” myself in the Haunted Mansion. It was just about a walk on, too. After that, it was time for a bite to eat - so I got a cheeseburger and carrots at Pinocchio’s. At this point, I used my FastPass for Space Mountain, and I have to say, that is one ROUGH ride! And being 5’10”, I don’t fit “under” the restraints very well without banging my thighs against it quite a bit.

At this point, the first SpectroMagic was rolling, so I thought it’d be a good time to see Pooh-Bear. I’d grabbed some cashews on my way over, and they really helped with the munchies I had (the cheeseburger and carrots really wasn’t enough). After a jaunt through the hundred-acre wood, it was time for Wishes - so I went to the hub near Tomorrowland - almost right below Tinkerbelle’s wire. Wishes was great (as it was last year when we saw it shortly after the debut) and I got some great pictures (just turned off the flash). I did Standby for Buzz on (the waiting area wasn’t full) and noticed the ViewMaster right next to Buzz after the two lines merge. I’d NEVER noticed that it was a ViewMaster before! At this point, it’s just about time for the second rolling of SpectroMagic, so I grabbed a spot on the Main Street side of the hub to wait. This was the only time the entire weekend that I was cool in my shorts and short-sleeves; but not quite cool enough to actually go buy a sweatshirt (which I would have if it had been just a little cooler). After SpectroMagic (I LOVE the way the characters and floats behind Painter Pig change from multi-colored lights to all white and back!) there were QUITE a few people waiting for the Pop Century buses - I think I had to wait for 4 or 5 buses - and this was around midnight at this point!

But I made it back to my room, refilled the ice to cool my diet coke overnight, and slept VERY well. I didn’t stick to my plans very well, but that’s ok ‘cause the only person I had to make happy was me, and if watching 6 Millionaire shows makes me happy, so be it!

Sunday October 24, 2004:

Rise and Shine with a call from Mickey (the phones have speakers, so don’t be afraid to use them for your kids to hear!) - and my bill was on the door --- all in order (considering I hadn’t charged anything to my room, and the room had been paid for earlier) - so just a quick packing of everything, put it in the car, and drive the car around to the front of the resort. I’d debated about driving to the parks, but I wasn’t sure if I could park in Epcot before early entry in the Magic Kingdom, and the buses weren’t so bad that I thought it was a huge risk to my schedule. I did grab a quick bite in the Food court, but the honeydew melon in the fruit cup wasn’t really ripe, and then I got a bite that tasted “off” so I quit eating that before I was really satisfied. And then I had to wait for three buses to be able to get to the Magic Kingdom. There were just a few things I wanted to do in the Magic Kingdom, and I had to take a few pictures (outdoor pictures at night just don’t turn out often enough). I rode Buzz, Peter Pan, and then made it over to Splash about 9:40 - and it was a walk-on. Walking by, I grabbed a FastPass for the Jungle Cruise (it wasn’t operating yet), and went to hang out near Stitch to see if it would be operating. I grabbed a pretzel (since I didn’t eat all my breakfast) and ate it sitting near the Stitch queue, but nothing was happening. So I went to visit the birds of Tiki, and used my FastPass for the Jungle Cruise. Before heading over to Epcot to finish out my weekend, I decided to see when the FP return for Buzz was. (I’d also posed for a couple of “official” photos and wanted to see those, so I had a little time to kill.) As I’m crossing the bridge - I notice that a LOT of people are INSIDE the planters at Stitch!

So I add myself to the line (about an hour wait according to the cast member - but I didn’t care!). I chatted with a nice family from Great Britain, and the time didn’t pass too slowly.

They use the same pre-show set up as before with S.I.R. now named Sarge and in uniform, and Skippy was still there. The concept is that you are security recruits and this is your first day of training. During the pre-show, you get word that a Level III offender is coming in (Sarge just told you there were 2 levels of offenders) - and Capt Gantu orders Sarge to get us in there to help out / witness. You go into the same exact looking setup as for Alien Encounter, with the XS signage changed - but the seats are identical - overhead restraints that come down to your shoulders to allow the full effects to be experienced by all tall enough.

They teleport in this cute little adorable looking alien and Capt Gantu is all offended and wants to know why this mix-up has occurred (clearly this is NOT a level III offender) - meanwhile Stitch figures out that his spit will mis-direct the laser cannons, which causes a power failure and he gets loose (surprise, surprise). He runs all over the place, munches on someone's chili dog, burping in such a way that you experience the FULL effects of the burp, whispering in your ear, tickling the top of your head, bouncing on your restraint, etc. He's then re-captured and sent off and you're released from your training day.

My Opinion: First - in full disclosure mode - I really enjoyed Alien Encounter and would do it multiple times on a week-long trip. I think the height restriction is necessary for the full-effects and it also keeps the very young ones out of the attraction, which is probably a good thing. It's not ALL that much less scary than Alien Encounter, and I think the repeatability is even less than the previous version. To me, it was about the same, just watered down - so it's this cute little cuddly-looking guy instead of a scary alien spitting on you, sneezing, and breathing down your neck (and now he burps, too - yechh) - so I guess it's less scary - but it still goes pitch black and although I didn't hear any kids freak out, it wouldn't surprise me if it happens.

All-in-all, I'll probably visit it on each trip, but doubtful if I'll go multiple times in the same week.

Now, it’s time to see about my pictures and then high-tail it over to Epcot to enjoy the Food & Wine Festival - the stated reason for this weekend trip! Since it was shortly after noon, there wasn’t a huge number of people leaving the park. As I approached the Monorail station, I saw there was a Monorail already there, so I knew I wasn’t going to make it. So I just strolled up the ramp, and was the first person in line for the next one. I asked, “Can I ride up front?” and I could! It was a lot of fun, and it was just me (nobody else asked) so I had the cone to myself (with the pilot). We chatted about normal stuff, and I mentioned the tarps I’d seen, and he told me he’d been out of town when one had hit, and had talked to his neighbor, who told him of the damage on his house - so he left his clothes to be shipped back and packed his suitcase with tarps. He said Disney put them up for a bit of time while they looked for temporary housing, which I think is a very stand-up thing for the company to do. It will be a while, though, before everyone’s life was back to normal.

As I entered Epcot, I decided to get a FastPass for Test Track, and eat a bit, use the FastPass, and eat a bit more before I had to leave. Well the FastPass machine was acting up, so the CM working there ended up giving me a “good any time” FastPass, so I used it right then! After the ride, it was time to enjoy the festival!

First stop, Florida for some Spicy Shrimp with Jicama Slaw and Key West Ale (both were pluses) and then to Peru for some Anticuchos (Chicken Skewer) with purple potato salad. The chicken was a check, but the potato salad was a plus. I also tried the Papas Rellenas (beef stuffed potato), but that was just a check. Then to Ireland and some Guinness Beef Stew (check) and Meade (check plus). It was actually a little too warm out to fully appreciate either of these items, though there was a LOT of beef in the stew. Next stop, Scandinavia for some cold poached salmon (plus) and rice cream with strawberries (plus) - those were much more appropriate for the weather! I tried the Shrimp Lettuce Wrap in SE Asia (check plus) and Knockwurst with Weinkraut and Lowenbrau Oktoberfest at the Oktoberfest (Germany) booth (both checks). It was time for a little break, so I stopped by the American Adventure.

The Voices of Liberty were slated to sing, and it was nice and cool inside, so I was more than happy to wait the 10 minutes. I shared a bench with a local couple who were celebrating their anniversary. After the AWESOME singing (including a salute to the armed forces), I went in to watch The American Adventure, which was great, as always. I didn’t even think about some of the technical information I’d seen last year with my sister on the Backstage Magic Tour - which means that I really am able to let myself be immersed in the “Magic” even on a short trip.

After the short break, it was time for a little more “real” food before starting on my dessert course. The Morocco and Mediterranean booth called my name for some Couscous - which was good, if a little dry, but very plentiful, and then on to Poland for a little Kielbasa with Pirogies. (Both dishes were checks.) And now the good stuff - two “tartlets” first - Australia for the Chocolate Macadamia nut and caramel tartlet (only a check, I had high hopes from the name), and the U.S. for the Apple Cranberry tartlet, which was a strong plus. And, as has become my tradition after 2 Food and Wine Festivals, I finished off the experience with crème brulee from France. This year was a chocolate version, and although it was very good, it almost seemed a little “pudding-like” to me - rich pudding, but not quite as firm of a custard-like consistency that I’ve come to expect from crème brulee.

On my way out of Epcot to catch the bus, I stopped at the “Festival store” to pick up a birthday present for my sister who couldn’t join me. I also made a last stop in Future World for a swing through Spaceship Earth. The exit to that attraction is VERY sad. You’d think they could put SOMETHING in there, besides just boarding it up!

Well, my timing was ok for the bus, and I had a little extra time, so I walked around the resort one last time taking pictures of the icons around the other buildings. Although some of the rooms are a bit of a trek from the food court (and bus stops), it didn’t seem like it would be too bad at the end of the day. The parking, however, looked like there were issues - when I was going to my car Sunday morning, there were a number of cars parked along the curb, and it did not look like they were in the act of being loaded. Since I had gotten in at about noon on Friday, and hadn’t moved the car until Sunday morning, I had no problems with parking.

I returned the car with no problems, checked in with the airline and through security without hassle, and sat in a fairly recently remodeled waiting area for the Delta Connection flight home. They were asking for volunteers on our flight to wait until the next day to get home, but considering we were scheduled to land at 10pm, and I was on a 6:30am flight - there was no way I could do that. Fortunately, they did get their two volunteers, so nobody got bumped.


Overall, it was a great trip (even if I didn’t win the cruise!), although I did pay for it the next day at work. I would definitely go for a 3-day weekend again, even if I had to go by myself. In fact, I’m not sure if I COULD do 3-days with someone else other than the sister I’ve done a number of vacations with. Unless I was only acting as tour guide for the other person, and doing the weekend for them. And although it was fine being by myself (and getting to meet lots of interesting people!) I’m not sure if I’d do a full week at WDW without someone to share most of it.

I think the best “investment” I made a year ago, and was able to use this time around too, was a Brita Sports Bottle. The bottle straps available in the parks fit on it, and it’s a LOT lighter to carry an empty bottle around between refills than it is to carry a day’s worth of bottled water - and a lot cheaper than buying bottles of water in the park.

Next trip - who knows. Maybe I’ll get to go for a week next year (either during the Food & Wine Fest, or in early December when the Christmas decorations are up) - or I may get an itch to go for a weekend after the spring break crowds have thinned, before it gets too blasted hot out.

Oh, and for those that are interested in a Disney A-B-C Album - here’s what I ended up with:

Title Picture - Entrance to Walt Disney World

A = Aunt Cathy in the Studios with Mickey; In front of the train station in the Magic Kingdom; in front of the entrance to Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival (F&W Fest)

B = Buzz Lightyear at the beginning of “his” ride in Tomorrowland

C = Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom

D = Dumbo in Fantasyland; Ride vehicle in “One Man’s Dream” Exhibit in the Studios

E = Spaceship Earth in Epcot, from Future World and World Showcase; Epcot entrance (F&W Fest)

F = Fireworks show “Wishes” in the Magic Kingdom

G = Goofy Topiary at the entrance to Epcot (F&W Fest special); With the car and surfboard at the Pop Century Resort; Greeting guests in the Magic Kingdom; and with Aunt Cathy in Town Square. Green Army Man (from Toy Story) in the Studios

H = Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square

I = Ice Cream stand and Indiana Jones Show, both in the Disney-MGM Studios (and a picture of my Mickey Bar);

J = Jungle Cruise in Adventureland

K = Key under the mat inside the entrance to Muppet-Vision 3-D in the Studios - Kermit just outside.

L = Lady and Tramp Topiary at World Showcase in Epcot (F&W Fest); Large Statues in the Pop Century Resort; Footprints at Tony’s Restaurant in Town Square

M = Mickey Mouse Topiary in the Studios; Mickey & Minnie (with Fork and knife) at the entrance to EPCOT during the F&W fest; Mickey phone in Pop Century resort

N = Nemo and Marlin outside the Living Seas in Future World

O = Minnie’s oven in her house in Toontown Fair ((Though Off Kilter would be good here))

P = Pluto at the entrance to Epcot (F&W Fest); Pumba topiary at World Showcase in Epcot (F&W Fest); Planets at Mission: Space in Future World in Epcot; Mr. & Mrs. Potatohead at Pop Century

Q = Evil Queen in the window of the Villain shop in the Studios

R = Roger Rabbit and Rubik’s Cube at Pop Century Resort; Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster at the Studios; Railroad in the Magic Kingdom

S = Stitch at his attraction in Tomorrowland

T = Tower of Terror in the Disney-MGM Studios; Timon in World Showcase of Epcot (F&W fest); Tiki Room (and Tiki) in Adventureland

U = Main St. U.S.A (MK); Voyage of the Little Mermaid in the Disney-MGM Studios (For “Under the Sea” and “Ursula”)

V = Vulture and Villain’s in the Villain’s shop in the Studios; ViewMaster at the entrance to Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland

W = Winnie the Pooh in “his” attraction in Fantasyland; Walkman in the Pop Century Resort; Walt (and Mickey) in the Partners statue in the Hub

X = Excalibur outside the carrousel in Fantasyland; XP-37 Space Cruiser and the Magna-Doodle descriptions in the Buzz Lightyear attraction in Tomorrowland

Y = Yo-Yos in the Pop Century Resort

Z = Zurg at the end of the Buzz Lightyear attraction

Cathy Sowa


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