Lance Caros -- February 2005 -- Walt Disney World (FWC, Offsite)
This is a bit of a different trip for us. We decided to heed the call of other vacation spots (and our children) to make this our last WDW trip for a while. I’m sure we’ll go back eventually but it prompted us to live it up a little this year. I’m extremely cheap frugal when it comes to our lodging but decided that if we could get an annual passholder discount we could stay for a portion of our trip at the Fort Wilderness cabins. So, I made the reservation in September. The discounts came out around November I believe ($144 per night) and I was able to apply it to our stay. We decided on 5 nights at the cabins and the rest of the trip offsite at a 3 bedroom condo at Cypress Pointe ($86.91 per night through www.hotelkingdom.com). We thought 5 days onsite seemed about right for both the budget and the amount of time we wanted before we moved into the larger condo. After reading (www.disboards.com) a lot of comments from other campers saying how nice it was to have a golf cart I decided to really splurge and rent one ($44 per day).
I made the rental car reservations through Dollar and with no discount code it came to $224 per week for a minivan. I was hoping for a better rate but it never came around and eventually most of the companies were completely booked by the time we left. The only thing left to book was the flight. I hate playing the airfare waiting game. I had farewatcher programs running through Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity but they were all similarly priced in the $250 range from Seattle to Orlando. We’ve flown for as low as $150 before but it’s usually a bit over $200. I once again decided to splurge and for $325 booked the Alaska direct flight (they are the only carrier who flies nonstop from Sea-Tac). The kids are great travelers and frequent flyers but we will all really appreciate not having to stop along the way this year. With the time change it always makes for a very long day, the direct flight should really help.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The Alaska counter was fairly busy but I noticed way on the other side they had a separate line for people that already had their boarding passes and just needed to check bags. I had done web check-in the day before and printed out our boarding passes so that saved a few minutes. The security lines were fairly long and we had about a 10 minute wait. We got to our gate about an hour before the flight and picked up some hash browns and cini-minis from Burger King. They started boarding the plane about half an hour before the departure time. We were in line about to get on when they closed the doors and said there was a mechanical problem and the flight would be delayed 30 minutes. After 30 minutes we were told it would be another 10 minutes; after that they said another 45 minutes. It was a long wait with Bryce being especially antsy but he’s a 7 year old boy so what else would you expect?
We never found out what exactly the problem was but we finally got on the plane and departed about 85 minutes after our scheduled time; so much for getting in (relatively) early. It was still vacation though and you have to go with the flow. At least we still got to fly. For a while I was worried they would need to get another plane or possibly not even get our flight out today. The flight was oversold and they were offering a free ticket to fly out tomorrow but we were too anxious to get our vacation started. We were pleased when the captain announced there was a tail wind and we would arrive not much later than our original time which furthered my belief that airlines are getting even worse about padding the published flight times so they can leave late and still meet their on time percentages.
No entertainment offerings on the plane other than some rental DVD type machines but they only had a few that sold out quickly. I worked on the trip report on my laptop. I got out the new Wario game for Bryce’s Nintendo DS that I had been keeping secret. He didn’t do much else for the rest of the flight. Meg worked on some homework and read. Jenny mostly read and rested. We all listened to our mp3 players. Breakfast was ham, egg & cheese sandwiches with a fruit cup and a very good spice muffin. The captain came on and said we weren’t making up as much time as they anticipated and we would end up about an hour late into Orlando.
We finally arrived about 6:15 and I couldn’t help but wonder why the flight crew who were quite pleasant still never offered an apology or explanation of the delay. I can understand they probably can’t or don’t want to talk about maintenance issues but even an “I’m sorry for the delay folks” would have done it for me. Anyhow, once we landed Bryce and I went to Dollar to get the minivan while the girls went for the luggage. There was no line at Dollar so after a quick denial of the insurance pitch we had our paperwork and then the girls called (on the walkie talkies) to say they already had the luggage; perfect timing.
We got our navy blue Dodge Caravan and set off for Disneyworld. The readout said it was 73 degrees outside which was a nice change to the freezing temperature we had left back home. I told Jenny I would just follow the signs to WDW this year and not worry about which road we took out of the airport. So, we got on the south exit 417. I thought it would take us to just north of Downtown Disney but it turned out to go much further south and after Jenny suggested we take the 535 exit which would have taken us exactly where we wanted to go I continued on and finally took the Osceola Parkway and came out by the Wide World of Sports so we got to see most of the Disney property on our way all the way back to Downtown Disney and then back out to 535. We found the Winn-Dixie and got a few breakfast, snack and drink supplies. I wasn’t very popular after the detour but we got our groceries then took the back road (Vista Drive) to Fort Wilderness. Check in was quick and easy. The Disney dining experience office had faxed over a letter for our discount since we signed up too late for our card to arrive prior to the trip. I also asked about the golf cart we had reserved since it was after 6 and the bike barn was closed. I had called yesterday when I realized we would arrive after it closed and they said no problem, just tell the front desk and they would page somebody to open up the bike barn again for us. All of the people from the bike barn though were at the campfire program but within half an hour after we got to our cabin they called to say it was ready. We got cabin 2529 which was great. We had requested the 2500 loop since it was close to a pool but it turns it the pool was closed so they said we could go to the main pool or even the Wilderness Lodge pool which is cool. The only downside to this cabin is that it’s close to the road and right across the road from the bus stop so we do hear the buses. We drove over to the trading post and Jenny drove the van back while I walked over to the bike barn with the kids. There were two cast members waiting to help us. One of them was new and “earning his ears”. They were both very friendly. We all laughed as he was going over the rules of the golf cart and he told us to watch out for the boats before he corrected himself to say buses.
We went back to the cabin and unpacked a bit and then decided we were still a bit hungry and figured Crockett’s Tavern would be the best choice. We drove the golf cart there which was a blast. We could tell already that the golf cart is really going to totally make the stay here great. Crockett’s is basically a bar but there were lots of families and it was a nice atmosphere. It’s basically at the end of and on the bottom level of the Trail’s End Buffet. Jenny and I had beer, Meg had water, Bryce lemonade and we shared an order of nachos and Buffalo wings but decided to have the wings plain with the sauce on the side since we thought it might be too hot for the kids. The wings were very good. The nachos were OK. Nothing special and not very large portions for the price but it all hit the spot. The bill ran about $35 total with tax and tip. As we left the kids saw the electric water pageant in front of the marina so they ran down there and we met them. That was a fun way to end the evening. I considered a horse and carriage ride but we had fun just riding the golf cart around.
We went back to the condo and watched the Disney resort channel and tried to pretend we were sleepy. It was 10:30 here but only 7:30 back at home. Megan got the top bunk, Bryce the bottom and Jenny took the double bed in the same room. I didn’t think I would fit too well in there so I took the Murphy bed in the living room which was fine. I worked on the trip report and turned out the lights about 11:30.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Megan and I both have digital cameras on this trip and she’s really into being the family photographer. Jenny gave her an idea of getting shots of all the interesting doors she could find. There were some good ones at the Tower so she spent a few minutes doing that.
Rock N’ Roller Coaster was next and there was no real wait. Megan got a picture of the marble door. We sat in the middle and the ride was great. That initial launch is such a rush. We had such a good time we went right back on once again with no wait. This time we sat in the back which I much prefer. It just seems like you go faster in the back, kind of like on Big Thunder Mountain. At the exit Jenny ran ahead and I figured she was going to the restroom. I told the kids to wait for her there while I got more Tower Fastpasses. I put Jenny’s in first and it didn’t give me a valid Fastpass but then the rest of ours worked. The cast member came over and gave me one and we figured out that Jenny’s ticket must not have been scanned through the gate this morning so it wasn’t allowing her to get Fastpasses. I met back up with the kids who were still looking for Jenny. Meg had gone into the restroom and not found her. Just about then Jenny came out of the companion bathroom. Turns out the reason for her hasty exit was that she needed to call someone named Ralph on the porcelain phone. She was OK after that but we figured another ride for her probably wasn’t a good idea. Megan and I took a quick ride on the Tower while Bryce and Jenny shopped. Jenny then went off to first aid and rested for about half an hour while I took the kids to the Great Movie Ride. I love seeing all of the Indiana Jones stuff which is my favorite movie.
We met up with Jenny under the big hat and she was feeling much better and hungry. So, we walked towards the backlot looking for a pretzel stand. We finally found one on the NY street and that seemed to do the trick for Jenny and settle her stomach. We walked around a bit and then saw Muppetvision 3D which is always a favorite of mine but not of Bryce.
I took the kids on Star Tours but we decided Jenny should probably pass on it and do some more shopping instead. There was no real wait at Star Tours, we pretty much walked right up to the row and then waited one minute to get in. We sat in the front row all the way to the right in front of R2 which was cool. I told Megan that Jenny and I waited for over an hour for this ride back when it opened at Disneyland. She was amazed that such a lame ride would have such a long wait. Sigh, kids these days.
We met Jenny at the 50’s Prime Time Café at noon which was our priority seating time. We waited just a couple of minutes and were happy that we got a table with one of the televisions. Our server was great, just the right mix of sweet and sass. She asked what we had done at the park so of course we had to tell about Jenny’s adventure. The kids had lemonade and hot dog kids meals. Jenny had a half order of pot roast and I had the fried clam poor boy and a diet Coke. I hadn’t really had anything to drink and was parched so I sucked down my Coke in short order. The server gave me a bad time and brought out two more glasses (both of which I eventually drank). During the meal Meg finished off her lemonade and the server said “I see which side of the family she takes after!”. We all visited the restroom and got asked by our server if we washed our hands. Jenny let me try a bite of the pot roast and it was fabulous, very tender with no fat. The poor boy was great with a mild Cajun remoulade. After lunch I realized that I had forgotten the Disney Dining Experience letter so we didn’t get our 20% discount but that’s life. I remembered to keep it in my wallet when we got home.
After lunch we walked back to Sunset Boulevard and found a few Christmas ornaments at the Christmas store before a final Fastpass ride on the Tower. Lately I’ve been collecting all of the original Twilight Zone episodes on DVD so the kids are very familiar with the old series. In the library room Bryce spotted the fortune telling machine from the “Nick of Time” episode starring William Shatner. Then we went to Beauty and the Beast but first picked up a couple of frozen bananas for Megan and me and a strawberry bar for Bryce. They were the best bananas, normally they are frozen rock solid but these were just right. We saw the last bit of Four for a Dollar and they were very good. Jenny really likes the Beauty and the Beast show and the rest of us think it’s OK. Megan and I did giggle a bit at the prince’s mullet as he changed back from being the beast.
It was about 2:00 and we decided not to push it on our first day so we left after looking around for pins. I’ve held off pin trading for the kids for the past several years but Bryce especially is pushing to get at least a pin or two this year. I told him we would look at all of the parks since we would be back to each one again and he could get his favorite after looking them all over. We found a waiting tram that took us right to our minivan.
We spent just enough time at the condo to get changed and head out to the pool. I’ll probably say this several times through our stay here but I can’t imagine being without the golf cart. It’s a good half mile or so to the pool so it was great to zip down there in our cart. The pool was fairly cold and Megan lost interest after about half an hour. I eventually took her back to the cabin where she worked on her homework. I filled up a mug of the good stuff, Gallo paisano wine from a screw cap jug (yes, I’m a man of wealth and taste) and then drove back for a long swim with Bryce. After that I worked on the trip report by the pool.
About 4:00 we went back to the room and got cleaned up. Unfortunately Bryce threw up which I believe was a combination of the junk food he’s been eating and the pool water he’s been swallowing. He felt fine after that though and was hungry again which was a good sign. Megan and I were hoping that we would be next in the cycle of Caros family members to barf on the first day of vacation. Jenny took us on a ride in the golf cart to the 300 loop which had a trail to the beach. She had read on the DIS boards that it was a good place to watch the fireworks from. We walked out there and saw that it was a good spot because Discovery Island wasn’t in the way.
We decided on Chevy’s for dinner and went to the one at Crossroads around 6. The kids ordered from the kids menu while Jenny and I just shared an order of nachos and a couple of beers. Of course after a couple of baskets of chips and salsa we weren’t so hungry anymore. The kids’ meals are nice because they come with a small ice cream cone for dessert.
We went back home and not long after I took the kids on that trail off loop 300 that we had been on earlier. We pulled up just as the Wishes fireworks started at the Magic Kingdom. They were great, especially the heart shaped red fireworks. I’ve never seen anything like them. We hurried back home since the new season of Survivor was just starting. We were all pleased to see that the bossy (and pleased with herself) Jolanda got voted off.
We watched TV for a while and went to bed at 9:30
Friday, February 18, 2005
We got through security quickly and entered right at 8. Unfortunately, Jenny’s ticket again denied her entrance but the cast member let her through. We are going to have to get that fixed so we can get Fastpasses. We walked through the Tomorrowland Terrace restaurant which was boarded up for it’s refurbishment to an Asian noodle place. Buzz Lightyear had no line so we went right on after waving to Buzz Lightyear himself who was by the Fastpass machines and all alone. I rode with Meg and got a score of 290,000. Meg sulked a bit at her score. We went to Space Mountain and picked up Fastpasses and then got in the standby line which was very long and not moving. After about 2 minutes of not moving and seeing other people leaving the line we also bailed out and decided to just wait for our Fastpass time later. We went on Stitch’s Great Escape which was as horrible as everyone says. Bryce liked it but that chili dog with onion breath of Stitch’s was nasty at 9AM! Megan voted Stitch the worst attraction ever.
We cruised over to Fantasyland and had a 10 minute wait for Winnie the Pooh. We then went to Peter Pan before lines got too long and still had almost a 15 minute wait. Bryce rode in his own ship; our little man is growing up. We then went to Mickey’s PhilharMagic and pretty much walked right in as the theater opened up so we had no wait. It was a great show but there was a very annoying family behind us who talked quite loudly throughout the entire show. We shot them the “be quiet” movie glare a few times without results. We then went over to the Haunted Mansion and walked right into a waiting stretch room and doom buggy after that. Bryce wanted to ride alone again but I ended up in the buggy with him.
We went back to Space Mountain and rode with our Fastpasses and very little wait. We got more Fastpasses for later. Meg was happy to ride in the front. It was a blast. I’ll still always love the Disneyland version especially with the Dick Dale soundtrack but I love the dips in this version which the other doesn’t have. After that we took a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority where Bryce rode alone in his own vehicle again.
We were all hungry so went for an early lunch a little before 11 at Pinnochio’s in Fantasyland. Bryce got a kids hot dog meal, I got the Figaro fries and the girls shared Figaro fries and a turkey sandwich. The fries were very good but the girls said there was too much bacon. I wasn’t familiar with that phrase since it isn’t in my vocabulary. I thought they were very tasty and you can never have too much bacon. The restaurant was almost empty when we went in but when we finished about half an hour later it was packed.
It was also packed outside the restaurant. Fantasyland was now extremely busy. We got the heck out of there and went to Liberty Square for a visit with the Hall of Presidents. I always like this show. There were some folks behind me voicing their displeasure of the president. I’m no Bush apologist but I really think people need to silence their opinions and respect the dignity of the presentation for at least the duration of the show. There were several of the 42 presidents I’m not a fan of but I didn’t choose to heckle their animatronic likeness.
We went back to Tomorrowland where it was so crowded we had to laugh. We shuffled our way over to Space Mountain Fastpass line and were on in less than 10 minutes. What I thought was weird was that on both Space Mountain trips we had another couple in the back of our car and both times they were completely silent. I’ve been on Space Mountain at least 100 times and I don’t I’ve ever been or could be silent. You’ve just got to laugh or something during the ride. At least an older gentleman at the exit was in the proper mood. As we were on the long moving sidewalk he sang “Whistle while you work”. I love to see older folks who love WDW.
Things were so packed that we decided to get the heck out of the Magic Kingdom. On the way out we went over to guest relations to try to get a new biometric scan for Jenny since hers wasn’t working. The line was really long though so we just bagged it and figured we would take care of it tomorrow at Animal Kingdom. I checked the pedometer and we walked 9193 steps.
A boat came pretty quickly and we rode it back to Fort Wilderness. There was a nice cast member named Woody on the boat who won our “friendly cast member of the day award” that we decided we would look for each day. He chatted with Bryce about his day. Back at the campground we got our golf cart and rode back to the cabin. Housekeeping had already been by so we grabbed a bunch of towels and went down to the pool. It was still pretty chilly so the kids didn’t last too long but we sat down there for a long while and relaxed. The snack bar was open which was nice.
We cleaned up and at 5:30 left for the Wilderness Lodge by the boat again. We checked into Whispering Canyon about 5 minutes before our 6:10 priority seating time and were told it was a 15 minute wait but they would try to get us in earlier than that. The wait turned out to be just over 30 minutes which was starting to get irritating but they were busy so what can you do? By the time we got seated we weren’t much in the mood for the playful antics of the restaurant. Luckily, we got seated at the back and had a laid back but friendly server who was just right; not too much in our face which we wouldn’t have appreciated this night. We all got the all you can eat skillet. It was $21.99 for adults but only $8.79 for each kid. That was a great deal for Megan. Bryce pretty much made a meal of the corn bread which I thought was just OK. I loved the salad though. It was nothing special in terms of the iceberg lettuce but the cider dressing was delicious. The big platter came out soon after and consisted of pork sausage, pulled pork, roasted chicken, pork ribs, corn on the cob and cowboy beans. The chicken and pulled pork both had a very good herb flavor. The sausage was kind of greasy and not my favorite. The beans were actually very good. The ribs were probably the best part but not the best ribs I’ve ever had. Overall I’m glad we went but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to return. I did get the 20% Disney Dining Experience discount which was nice.
We took the boat back and just hung out in the cabin and watched Monsters, Inc. before turning in a little after 9.
Saturday, February 19th, 2005
We drove to the Animal Kingdom and got to the parking lot about 7:40 and it wasn’t open yet. At 7:45 they opened and we parked quite a ways from the entrance so rode the tram to the front. We stopped at guest relations to fix Jenny’s biometrics. The cast member said we could do that right at the gate; wish we had known that earlier. We got in line and Jenny told a cast member that her biometrics didn’t work but she tried it and it did work this time! As we were waiting at guest services the kids were talking to a cast member who asked them where they were from and the cast member said he had a granddaughter that had gone to Meg’s middle school. What a coincidence.
We went right to the Safari which had quite a long line but it moved continuously until we got onto the vehicle. We sat in the last row and had a very good safari. There were lots of animals out and we had a good look at the bongos, opakis, both white and black rhinos, the male lion and 4 cheetahs among other things. It was really cool to see the cheetahs so active.
After the ride we hit a shop and bought Bryce a Toy Story starter pin trading kit with a lanyard and 4 pins. He made an immediate trade for a Pluto pin with the cast member who spent a lot of time with him explaining how the process worked. She was very sweet and won our cast member of the day award. We went over to Dinoland and I got Fastpasses for Primeval Whirl and it also gave me a surprise Fastpass for Dinosaur for up to 6 people, sweet. We rode Dinsoaur since there was no line. I seem to like this ride more as the memory of the much superior Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland fades somewhat.
We went into a shop and Bryce found a cast member to trade pins with. She had a “mystery pin” that was turned around and said he didn’t have to keep it if he didn’t like it so of course he chose that one. It was one of the whales from Fantasia 2000 and he really liked it. We went on Primeval Whirl in the standby line which had a very short wait. I really like this ride. The dips are fun and the spinning is just great. We almost went a second time but didn’t feel like we should anger the gods of nausea who had already tormented half of our family. Instead we went over to It’s Tough to Be a Bug and got right into the theater which was completely packed. It made for a really fun show since there were a lot of first timers. There were lots of reactions at all of the different effects. I was anticipating a lot of wailing children but noticed the bug spray part with Hopper was much less intense than in the past.
We went back to Dinoland for a quick ride on Dinosaur but it was not operating. The standby time said 70 minutes! We went back to Primeval Whirl and used our Fastpasses and got on in less than 5 minutes. Once again I enjoyed the ride but this time got the feeling the ride is equal parts pain and pleasure. You really get jostled around; it’s not a gentle, smooth ride by any means.
We got a couple of frozen bananas for Megan and I and a Nestle Toll House sandwich for Bryce as we headed to Tarzan Rocks! Jenny agreed that Tarzan rocked when she let loose with some lusty whistles when he entered. Damn that hardbodied cast member for setting up unrealistic expectations! The show was good (as were the frozen treats) but right about the time Terk came out Bryce discovered that he had lost his new whale pin. There were a few tears shed before we left the theater early and assured him that we would buy him a replacement pin.
We were all hungry so we went to the Flame Tree BBQ where I ordered two seasoned French fry baskets, an order of seasoned onion rings, a kid’s hot dog meal and a couple of drinks. I love the onion rings here, they rank right near the top of my all time favorite rings (when you get a batch that is fresh out of the fryer like these were) and the seasoned fries are also very good especially with the two types of BBQ sauce. Bryce decided he didn’t want the hotdog so we split it three ways amongst the rest of us. It wasn’t very good. Come to think of it we haven’t had a good hot dog yet; guess we will have to wait for Casey’s at the Magic Kingdom. I forgot to ask for my Disney Dining Experience discount but it wasn’t a major purchase. I’ll have to start remembering it though if we are going to breakeven with the $50 card price.
After lunch we looked through some shops and eventually ended up using our Fastpasses for Dinosaur which had a very long standby line but we cruised right in with Fastpass. Is there any greater feeling than walking right by all of the people in the standby line? I sat in the back left (after being in the back right last time) and once again noticed that this is quite a rough ride especially for a big guy. The picture at the end was funny with Bryce looking somewhat terrified and Jenny looking like she posed for the shot.
It was noon and quite busy at the Animal Kingdom. We decided to just go through a few shops on the way out. Bryce found a baby Eeyore “cutie” pin which is kind of like Sanrio (or Hello Kitty for those not familiar with the Japanese phenomenon). He was quite pleased with it and it made up for the loss of his other pin earlier. Jenny also bought a photo album. I checked the pedometer and it was just over 4 miles which was quite a bit for the 4 hours we were in the park.
There was a waiting tram and we caught it back to our van. On the way home we made a stop at the Winn-Dixie and got a few snacks and beverages. Back at the cabin housekeeping had already been through which was nice. We decided to change and drive over to the pool at the Wilderness Lodge which we had been told was OK since the pool next to us was closed. We had no problem using the pool but finding a chair and table was another matter. We finally decided one wasn’t being using despite an old towel on a chair. The kids enjoyed the pool. Megan didn’t swim too long but did some homework and listened to her MP3 player. Bryce enjoyed the slide. Jenny and I relaxed. I worked on the trip report. There was an older set of British grandparents smoking next to us but it wasn’t bothering me. They reminded me of stories I heard of Jenny’s British grandparents so I wouldn’t have had the heart to say anything to them. I got the kids some drinks, a vanilla cupcake for Bryce and a chocolate covered rice crispy Mickey for Megan. Bryce reported an overflowing coffee station to the cast member (also named Megan). It was leaking all over and causing quite a mess.
We went back to the cabin and noticed that the pool next door was now open so Bryce and I went over to it but after swimming for about 5 minutes they announced that they were closing it because one of the underwater pool lights was damaged and posing a hazard. We relaxed back at the cabin for a while and then Jenny took us on a ride in the golf cart so we could explore more of the campground. She went out earlier to start a load of laundry and now we all went there to check on. Bryce went inside with Jenny. Megan and I decided to take off in the golf cart and hide from them. I started out suddenly and Megan fell off the back! I was relieved that she wasn’t hurt except for a bruised rear end. We went through the tent camp loops which looked like fun but we later compared them to Baltic and Mediterranean Ave. as compared to the RV loops with the huge expensive rigs which we compared to Park Place and Boardwalk. I would guess we are somewhere near Marvin Gardens with the cabins, maybe Pennsylvania Ave.
Since we had been snacking during the afternoon and had our fill of meat the night before at Whispering Canyon we decided to skip our Trails End priority seating and go to Jungle Jim’s at Crossroads instead. We got in at 6 with no wait and ordered the deluxe chicken nachos with the free appetizer coupon I had as well as a beer for Jenny and lemonade for Bryce. For dinner we split a honey BBQ chicken sandwich and a monte cristo. The chicken was dried out and tough and I’d probably stick to beef next time. The monte cristo was fabulous as always. We had more than enough food for all four of us and ended up taking part of the monte cristo back with us. The bill was only $19.97 including tax so I left a nice tip.
We came back to the cabin and everyone was tired so we just relaxed and watched TV.
Sunday, February 20, 1995
We walked over and rode Pirates of the Caribbean which had no wait. The kids spent a long while in the Pirates gift shop. Bryce picked out a Mr. Potato Head pirates set and a jawbreaker on a stick. Megan got about half a dozen of the rubber bracelets with different sayings for her friends back home. The bracelets are like those yellow Lance Armstrong Live Strong bracelets. Meg loves them.
We used our Splash Mountain Fastpasses and the older cast member said somewhat sarcastically “you really need those today” and he was right. We ended up just in front of the people walking next to us in the standby line. There was just a minute or two wait to get on the boats. After we got off the first lift I led the traditional rocking of the boat in the flume. I sat in the front row with Bryce and we took one for the team (the girls in back) by sitting upright on the final drop and bearing the brunt of the soaking. We all noticed that the exterior of Splash Mountain looked great like it had been recently repainted and the interior didn’t have the musty smell that it had in the past.
We were all warm and shed our fleece. Jenny volunteered go take it along with the kid’s purchases and store it all in a locker on Main Street. I took the kids to Adventureland and got Jungle Cruise Fastpasses and then we had some fudge samples in the candy shop before moving onto the shooting gallery. Bryce had a blast with this and it sure evoked some strong memories of doing the exact same thing with my dad at Disneyland. Of course it’s light beams now instead of real BB’s back then but it was just as much fun.
We met up with Jenny at Casey’s on Main Street at 11 (using our FRS radios) and split two ¼ pound hot dogs and two orders of fries; Yum, cheese, ketchup, mustard, onions and sauerkraut on mine. They were delicious as always. Bryce played the pinball style baseball game inside the restaurant which I also loved at his age. He challenged me to a game and soundly thrashed me 22 runs to 24 which he proudly announced to anyone willing to listen for the rest of the day.
After lunch we used our Jungle Cruise Fastpasses and got a cast member (Emily) in training from Hong Kong Disneyland. We didn’t realize that at first and I thought it was weird to have a guide with such a poor grasp of English. By the end of the ride though (and after she explained she was training for the September Hong Kong opening) we gave her a rousing round of applause for her humor. We were stuck at the end of the ride for about 5 minutes in a backlog waiting to dock. She said her boss was at the dock watching her performance. As we just sat there and waited with nothing to do she kept repeating “still having fun, peas, peas (please), still having fun” over and over in a sing-song voice until you couldn’t help but laugh. Throughout the rest of the trip the phrase “peas, peas still having fun” was often used especially when someone was grumpy or something didn’t go our way. It always lightened the mood.
They hadn’t collected our Fastpasses as we boarded so as we exited I found a family of four to give them to. It’s always difficult giving away Fastpasses. People look at you like you are trying to sell them a Florida timeshare condo. I saw the family walk into the Fastpass line though and hopefully they appreciated their 30 minute reduction in wait time.
The kids shopped for a bit in some of the Adventureland stores while I went and got two Dole Pineapple whips and a pineapple spear. The very nice cast member gave me two pineapple spears saying that the first one seemed cut too small. I cracked up at the couple in front of me. They were from somewhere near NYC based on the accent. The wife had a chocolate whip and the husband got pineapple flavor. She asked for a taste of his and said “Oh my gawwd! I should have got that!” and then told everyone waiting in line to get the pineapple. It was pretty funny and reminded me of some of the people in NYC that I work with every day. The kids scarfed down both the pineapple and whips but gave me a taste and both were delicious.
We decided to go over to Tom Sawyer’s Island since it was getting somewhat busy. We took our raft over and cracked up at the people next to us. They thought the raft was going on a cruise around the waterways (like the big riverboat). When we docked at Tom Sawyer’s Island the wife said she was claustrophobic and couldn’t stand being on the raft after all the other people (on the island) got on. We explained to her that we were all exiting to the island before the other people got on the raft and that there was a lot to do on the island. They were amazed. The dad later joined us in the rocking chairs at Aunt Polly’s which overlook the Haunted Mansion and said “just give me a cigar and I never want to leave this place!”
Bryce was our tour guide around the island and was leading Jenny through all three caves since he knew his mom was kind of claustrophobic. Injun’ Joes cave was particularly nasty smelling today. We high tailed it out of there. The dad in front of us who was also racing out said “I think Injun’ Joe died in there”. We then went to the fort where Bryce tried shooting each of the rifles. I loved doing exactly the same thing with my dad. I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
We took the raft back to the mainland and walked over to the Haunted Mansion but the 20 minute posted wait and line past the covered walkway led us to pass. We just shopped our way down Main Street but didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without. I checked pedometer and it read 4.12 miles and 10,135 steps. We left the park at 1 and caught the bus back to the campground. I can’t say enough about how cool it is to hop on the golf cart right at the marina and ride it back to the cabin. I’ll never stay at the cabins without a cart, it totally makes the experience.
We went to the pool right next to our loop and had a great time for a couple of hours. Bryce had his mind set on a frozen raspberry lemonade so I drove him over to the main pool to buy one and then came back and swam some more. Megan went back to the cabin and did some homework. We sure are blessed with a diligent student, she takes after her mom. Bryce on the other hand seems to be a clone of his old man. Bryce swam, Jenny caught some rays and I worked on the trip report. We came back to the cabin and relaxed a bit before dinner and watched the Disney resort channels. Bryce played with Pal Mickey.
We went to the Trails End Buffet for dinner at 5:30 and waited about 5 minutes to get in. Our server was excellent and kept us stocked full of drinks. The buffet was very good and in my opinion one of the best values at Disneyworld. I had several excellent pieces of fried chicken that were moist and flavorful. The ribs were very good also. The short ribs were kind of fatty. The mashed potatoes were excellent as was the carved ham. The salad bar had a good variety I didn’t try any but the rest of the family enjoyed the cheddar broccoli soup. There was also chili, corn bread and mahi mahi. I had more fried chicken breasts and some apple cobbler with vanilla sauce for dessert. It was a really great meal that I thoroughly enjoyed; nothing fancy, just good food and a good value. The total bill with the Disney Dining experience discount including tax, tip and a beer was only $53.
We all left completely stuffed and decided to just chill at the cabin for the night. I worked on the trip report and the kids took turns playing with the Nintendo DS doing their mom’s hair and giving her a back rub. How come dad never gets the special treatment?
I went to sleep at 9:30 then was wide awake at 3:30 and got to play Nintendo DS for a few hours before Bryce woke up around 5:30 and threw up. Poor guy, he didn’t eat too well the day before and he has a bad habit of getting a lot of pool water in his mouth (and swallowing some) when he swims.
Monday, February 21st, 2005
I was in luck because a really nice front desk guy named Hugh helped me again this year (same guy as last year). Within 2 minutes I was all set with the keys for our 3 bedroom unit that met all of our requests (not facing the parking lot, ground floor, newly remodeled building). The unit was just perfect. There was a slight smell of smoke but after opening the doors for about an hour it was perfectly fine. Directly behind our unit is the Winn-Dixie but there’s a fence and trees and quite a bit of road between us. Our unit is very private and quiet. The remodeled unit is very nice. Each of the rooms has its own bathroom, TV and DVD player. The TV in the living room is high-def, widescreen and probably 35” or so. We got Bryce set up in bed with cartoons playing while we unpacked. We were unable to get into the second master bedroom (the B side of the unit which has its own separate access) since the battery in the card key reader was dead and the internal door between the two units was locked. I called security though and they came and took care of it. It felt great to have so much space and so many bathrooms. As much as we loved the Wilderness Cabins I’d still have to say we prefer Cypress Pointe.
Bryce was drinking some water and not getting sick but was very tired. He wanted to take a bath in the Jacuzzi tub so we set him up with that and he was happy he could still see the TV from the tub. The rest of us were starving so I walked over to the Winn-Dixie which was a little awkward to get to with the fence surrounding the perimeter of the complex. I’ll probably just drive next time. I picked up some sandwiches from the deli which were actually pretty good and very cheap. The main reason for the trip though was some chicken noodle soup for Bryce. He wasn’t in the mood for it yet but we wanted it handy for when he was feeling hungry again.
Bryce fell asleep, Jenny went to the pool, and Meg did some homework for a while then joined Jenny at the pool. I signed up for the $20 per week high speed internet access and streamed some music videos, did some work, worked on the trip report and uploaded pictures from the trip to my yahoo photo albums. Bryce slept for about an hour and felt better and drank a lot of liquid once he woke up. He continued with his Fairly Odd Parents marathon while Megan and I watched an Ellen DeGeneres comedy concert on the HBO comedy channel (a nice perk at Cypress Pointe). I noticed we also get the Disney resort channel here which is cool. Bryce got up and out of bed to tour the condo which he hadn’t seen yet. He was amazed by the picture in picture ability by the big TV and happily watched HBO family on the main screen and Cartoon Network in the PIP. He eventually ate a little bit of chicken noodle soup and some toast.
We went to the Macaroni Grill for dinner. Jenny and Megan split a-create-your-own pasta with bow tie pasta, garlic cream sauce, artichoke hearts and onions. I had a sausage and pepper pasta. Bryce just colored on the kid’s menu and butcher paper table cloth. Everything was very good and very reasonable at around $20 since we didn’t have much.
We debated what to do after dinner. Bryce still wasn’t in the shape to take in Illuminations so he stayed at the condo with Jenny while Meg and I went to the West Side for an hour. We mostly looked through the Virgin Megastore which Megan loves. We didn’t find anything that we couldn’t live without though and just wandered around the street except for a stop in Starbilias. We came back and watched Extreme Makeover Home Edition which is a favorite of Megan’s.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
We went to Wonders of Life and found almost nobody in there. We passed on Body Wars and walked into Cranium Command just as the pre-show was starting. There were about 10 other people in the whole show. One of them was a family with a daughter using a reflective captioning device. I got a kick out a dad behind us who must have been seeing the show for the first time and was laughing hard throughout. We all played around for a while with the fun hands on exhibits before heading back to Test Track. We saw the Jammitors just finishing up a show in front of Mission: SPACE as we walked by. The Test Track Fastpass line had just a couple minute wait. I’m constantly amused by the crowd gathered outside any Fastpass line just waiting for their time to arrive. Go do something else people, that’s what Fastpass was designed for.
Bryce was happy to explore the Hummer in the showroom at the exit of Test Track. We just missed Kristos performance as we walked over to Journey into Your Imagination but got to watch a bit of the International Fountain show which I really enjoy. There was a several minute delay at the Imagination Institute as it appeared something was wrong with the ride. We got on and the first room was fine but then all others were out of sync and we didn’t hear any audio or were stuck in between rooms. No big deal though, the real reason we came was for Imageworks and we sent a few email picture postcards to friends back home. Bryce did the one where he morphed into a monkey and it was hilarious as was Jenny turned into a tiger.
We had an 11:30 priority seating for San Angel in Mexico so we headed over there, asked for a table by the water and within 2 minutes (just enough time to get some pictures of everyone in sombreros) our pager went off. Bryce got the chicken fingers kid’s meal since it came with rice and beans which he was more interested in than the chicken. We also got him a side order of tortillas because he loves to make his own burritos. Megan got the quesadilla from the kids menu which was very good but she insisted on mispronouncing it like Napoleon Dynamite’s grandmother. Jenny and I shared the nachos which were good but fairly small and quite overpriced at $12.95; with a couple of baskets of chips and salsa though we had plenty of food (in fact probably too much for a warm afternoon stroll around World Showcase). I used the Disney Dining Experience discount and was asked for ID again. The service was better than usual for this restaurant. The total bill before tip but after the discount was about $21. We had to ride El Rio Del Tiempo so we could get that song stuck in our heads (Meg wanted to mention that she can play that song on her flute).
Pal Mickey was sure talking up a storm as we walked around World Showcase. He was getting to be quite the know-it-all about the countries. He’s almost coming across as smug as that guy Bill in the Test Track video.
Norway’s Viking ship once again proved irresistible to our boy. We had about a 10 minute wait for Maelstrom which allowed us to hunt for what I had thought I remembered reading was a hidden Mickey in the mural. None of us found it though. I also thought there was a Viking wearing Mickey ears somewhere but never spotted it. We made the traditional hasty exit through the movie theater into the gift shop where for once we didn’t take a picture with the troll. We probably have more pictures of that thing than we do some close relatives. The kids got a chuckle out of the of the long Norwegian candy names.
We looked for a restroom in China without success although I assume there was one inside the Nine Dragons restaurant. We looked around the big store in China but didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without. We blew past the Outpost so we could get to the restroom in Germany and then spend some quality time with the model railroad setup. Typing that reminds me that I forgot to take pictures of it for my railroad enthusiast buddy Steve. I’ll have to do that on the next visit. We saw that Imaginum (living statue) act was just starting in Italy so we watched for a few minutes. They are always amazing and fun to watch with people who have never seen them or aren’t quite sure if it’s a real statue, animatronic character or human. Megan and I shared a pistachio gelato from the nearby cart before moving on to the American Adventure. Voices of Liberty was just finishing their show so we got into the theater fairly quickly. We were a bit tired from our lunch, the heat and walking but I think we all managed to stay awake. I’m always embarrassed at crying during the Golden Dreams movie. For some reason the image of Ryan White, Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan, Jim Henson and the Challenger crew always gets to me. I added Johnny Carson to that list this year. So, much for that laconic Clint Eastwood image I have of myself.
Our only real mission in Japan was to buy rice candy for the kids. Megan also got a small origami kit. We decided to take the Friendship boat back to Future World from Morocco. Once there we made a stop at the pin trading station as well as Ice Station Cool. I drank my recommended daily allowance of 30 cups of Vegi-Beta. We also tried unsuccessfully to convince some Germans that the Beverly was delicious. Our attempt at international diplomacy was foiled by their inability to speak English and us German. Spaceship Earth was our last stop and we got right on of course. It was the same as always but it was kind of a bummer not having any of the AT&T exhibits to play with at the exit.
It was a little after 3 when we left Epcot and drove back to the condo. The kids swam in the volcano pool which they much prefer to the Fort Wilderness pool. I took some pictures and video of them and worked on the trip report.
About 5:30 I took the kids to Disneyquest while Jenny stayed back and did laundry. Disneyquest was not too crowded at all. We played in the create zone for a while then both the kids designed a coaster at Cyberspace Mountain. I took turns riding with each of them. Bryce’s coaster was pretty tame and rated a 3 (out of 5) and Meg’s was pretty wild at a 4. From there we mostly just hung out and played pinball and video games. Bryce enjoyed the snowmobile racing game and Megan liked the ATV racing.
We left at 7, picked Jenny up from the condo, drove to the Beach Club and went through the International Gateway back into Epcot. Dinner was three orders of fish and chips from the UK. The line was very long but moved very fast. What was very funny was that I did not hear another American in line. Everyone was from the UK! Seriously, all I heard was British accents. Jenny and the kids had found a spot on the curb by the British Invasion stage. They started playing just as I walked up. They were great and it was a real treat to have our humble dinner there with the band playing. After dinner we went over to France where Megan got a chocolate crepe which she said was pretty good (but not as good as what she makes). Meg also looked at the henna art in Morocco and wants one of those sometime before we leave.
The girls shopped for a bit while Bryce and I went on a quest for ice cream. The outdoor vending carts in Morocco and Japan were closed but we found one in America and got the cookies and cream Mickey ice cream sandwiches for Bryce and me and a Toll House ice cream sandwich for Jenny. I also got a package of cinnamon glazed almonds which Megan enjoyed but the rest of us were too full to eat. We found our usual spot along the wall in Morocco to watch Illuminations and lined up about 25 minutes early. The crowds seemed pretty small and we didn’t have too much trouble saving our spots. Illuminations was spectacular as always and very moving. We took the long back to the car and came straight back to bed. I worked on the trip report until 11 and then it was lights out.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
We got to Blizzard Beach about 5 minutes before opening and it was packed. I suppose that was since Typhoon Lagoon was being refurbished and the 10AM opening time allowed lots of folks to get there at opening. Anyhow, we found a good spot in the Ski Patrol area and immediately got on the chair lift before any lines formed. We got right on Teamboat Springs and froze especially through the waterfall at the end. We warmed up though by climbing the 127 steps to Runoff Rapids three times in a row. We all rode the single rider enclosed tube and then did a couple of rides on the double tubes which are a blast.
We weren’t climbed out yet so we went around front and climbed up to Downhill Double Dipper and then Toboggan racers. Bryce got in a bit of a snit that he came in last in the race. That happens every time he goes on it. Thankfully the pouting didn’t last too long today. Jenny went back on the slide again while I took the kids back to our spot where there was a really big bee that wouldn’t leave. He kept doing a predetermined flight path and seemed very territorial. Meg was kind of freaked out by it because she was wereing flowers on her bathing suit. I saw a few others of the same bees throughout the day doing the same thing.
The kids wanted to go into the (bobbing) wave pool so I took them there for a long while. We found a tube after while for Bryce although he was doing pretty well at keeping afloat without it. We met up with Jenny at our spot then all went for two laps on Cross Country Creek. The kids spent most of the time without tubes. They prefer just swimming along. We went back and grabbed an order of chicken strips and fries to get us through until dinner later. After our lunch we went back on Teamboat Springs which had a long line but moved fairly fast. We left around 2 and went back to the condo.
I took the kids to Disneyquest and we spent some more time playing video games. I could spend all day in the retro games section but the kids get easily bored by it. Megan sent email postcards from the Wonderland Café internet terminals. We also went to Magnetron out on the West Side just to browse. It’s the kid’s favorite store. I can’t believe how many magnets are there. We almost got Jenny one that said “life without Mexican food is no life at all”. And one for my mom that said, “When mom says NO, call 1-800-Grandma.”
We picked up Jenny at the condo and went to the Animal Kingdom for our 6:10 priority seating at Boma. We received a pager and had a 10 minute wait. We wasted no time digging into the buffet. I was really in the mood for some chicken strips and that great Boma mustard they have over at the carved meat section so I loaded up on those, the potatoes with Afritude and nut crusted salmon. I also got a bowl of the coconut curry soup which was fabulous (so good I got another bowl later). Jenny had the prime rib which looked OK and the 3 bean and sausage gumbo which I tried and it was very good. We all made two trips through the entrees as well as a separate dessert plate. I liked the coconut tiramisu, zebra domes and chocolate mousse but loved the pecan tarts. We had two servers and they were both fantastic and very friendly. I used the Disney Dining Experience discount so we are almost getting are money back from it now.
We were completely stuffed but took a brief walk out to one of the savannas although a cast member said there were no animals around due to the wind and suggested we go to some of the other areas. We’ve seen it before and were too lazy to go there so just went back to the condo and watched “Lost”. I love that show. Megan always gets mad at me for predicting what’s going to happen in most movies or TV shows. That doesn’t happen often with Lost. They keep me guessing. Around 9 I got a call from a business friend, Ken, who was in town for a few days with his wife and two sons. Ken said he had a down day of relaxation planned for tomorrow so I told him our plan was for Islands of Adventure but I’d give him a call and maybe meet sometime later in the day.
I worked on the trip report for another hour and turned out the lights at 10.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
It is such an easy and quick drive up Turkey Lake Road to Universal. That $9 for parking is a gouge and is not covered by our seasonal Power Pass. We took the long walk to the entrance and the park was already open about 10 minutes prior to 9. We went straight to Hulk. This was Bryce’s first ride on it and he claimed “that was the slowest ride ever and it’s not scary at all”. He did great with it so we rode again with no wait.
We then rode Spiderman twice in a row with no wait. I’ve been on it many times but every year on that first ride I remember what a great ride it is. The part where you are ascending and then falling among the NYC skyscrapers is just amazing. I got Express Passes for later also. Jenny and Megan went on Dr. Doom’s Fearfall while Bryce and I played in the arcade. This was the only ride he wasn’t up to on this trip.
We continued on and just passed through Toon Lagoon but looked around a while in Jurassic Park since the kids saw the original movie a few months back and were really intrigued by how similar everything is to the movie. Our goal though was Dueling Dragons so we continued there and rode Ice first with no wait. This was Bryce’s first ride on a suspended coaster and he loved it so we got right back on with no wait and rode Fire. We all decided we liked Fire best. I think we flip flop on our favorite every year. As we exited I got a set of Express Passes.
We were all getting hungry so we continued around our clockwise loop and went back out the exit to Margaritaville for an early lunch a little after 11. I’m not quite a full fledged Parrothead but I really like Jimmy Buffett a lot so this is my kind of place. I had read on the DIS boards that the volcano nachos were great and the cheeseburgers here were better than at the Cheeseburger in Paradise chain. So, Jenny and I split an order of nachos and the kids both got the children’s cheeseburger meals which they loved. Bryce even ate his entire meal which is a rare thing. The kid’s burgers were what I would consider full size and a very good value for just over $5 with fries and a drink included. The nachos were absolutely huge and delicious. At $7.95 they were a fantastic deal and more than enough food for the two of us. Our server was also great. We all enjoyed watching the videos and the margarita volcano eruption. Overall it was one of our best meals and was only about $20. It’s a good thing we don’t have a Margaritaville close to home because I would be wasting away there often. I called my friend Ken and set up a 5:30 dinner meeting time at Chevy’s.
We went back into the park and took another ride on Spiderman using the Express Passes I had picked up earlier. We had a 10 minute wait even so. There was a family behind us that was on it for the first time and the two young daughters squealed at every twist which made it fun. We then visited some of the characters in Seuss Landing (the Grinch, Things 1 & 2, Sam I Am), browsed through the shops, took pictures and eventually rode the Cat in the Hat. There was no standby line and we actually got to the front of the line just before the couple that entered before us in the Express Pass line. Just as we got there though the ride broke down and we had a 5 minute wait before it started. For a kid’s ride I’m always surprised at how jerky the spinning is on this one. I wouldn’t be comfortable taking a very small child on it.
We continued on to Dueling Dragons and rode Fire with the Express Passes although we thought the standby line probably wasn’t any longer. We spent a long time in Jurassic Park looking at the Discovery Center and then rode the River Adventure which had absolutely no wait. Bryce wasn’t crazy about riding this again. At the big drop he bonked his head and shed a few tears but no permanent damage was done. He was OK as we exited. We let him pick the next ride so of course it was the wettest one in the park, Popeye’s Bilge Rat Barges. On the way we stopped at the Dudley Doo Right Ripsaw Falls water cannons where you feed a quarter into and then spray the riders below. Those things are such wicked fun. Give me a couple of rolls of quarters and I could amuse myself all day there. We found a particularly nasty one that sprayed right at face level. My strategy (which embarrassed Megan tremendously) was to wave and give a hearty yell down to the riders and distract them while the kids blasted them from the other side. It worked like a charm and the looks on people’s faces (and mostly laughs from them) was a riot!
We finally got to Popeye where Jenny wisely sat it out. There was no line at all. We loaded up and took off our shoes and stored them in the center. Megan won the wettest rider award and got drenched. Bryce and I were pretty close behind though and we took a long wet walk back to our van at 3:00. The pedometer showed 5.5 miles for the day.
I did a lot of email work today as things were busy at the office but I multitasked and worked on the trip report and uploaded photos. We met Ken, his wife Jody and their sons Nolan and Will at Chevy’s and despite our families never having met everyone had a great time and really hit it off. We talked over drinks for an hour before even ordering the adults meals. We ordered the kids meals early on to keep them occupied. We all compared notes about touring the parks and just had a very pleasant evening. Jenny and I shared an order of nachos again. Ken graciously picked up the tab on his business account. We said goodbye after two hours and hoped to get together to share pictures back home sometime.
We made it home in time for Survivor and watched Ashley get voted off the Island. It was lights out at 10.
Friday, February 25th, 2005.
It was very cloudy today but warm and humid enough to not need a coat. There was an 80% chance of rain but we got lucky and it didn’t arrive until about the time we were leaving. Our first stop was Revenge of the Mummy which opened a few days after our visit last year. It was a blast to go on a new ride. The line was very detailed and reminiscent of Indiana Jones at Disneyland. We got right on with no wait. None of knew quite what to expect. It started off similar to Indiana Jones but there were some great surprises. We all loved it and Bryce ranked it as a new favorite. The coaster part was fun but really not that great as far as coasters go. My guess is that after you’ve been on it a few times it’s really going to lose its repeat ride value.
From there we went all the way over to Men In Black and rode twice as well. Bryce was a bit perturbed that he had the lowest score in the car on the first ride but was pumped up when he had the highest score on two separate guns on the second ride. Back to the Future was the next stop and we had about a 5 minute wait. We were on the top row on the far right in the theater full of DeLorean’s which kind of ruins the effect when you see all of the other cars. I forgot how jerky the ride was but it was still fun.
One of the things we all commented on was the music in the park. The music in the Disney parks is also great but it’s predominately Disney music. It’s really cool to hear newer popular music throughout the park as well as songs like New York, New York in the NYC portion and San Francisco (by Scott McKenzie) in that area.
We walked back and rode the Mummy again using the Express Passes I picked up earlier. I went and checked on the line for Shrek but it was 40 minutes. There apparently is no longer an option to get Express Passes like in the past. Jimmy Neutron was a 30 minute wait and the Express Passes were 2 hours away so we passed on both those and went to Twister. The wait was about 20 minutes and it seemed like we somehow didn’t move for one cycle of the show while we were in line. Megan loves this show and movie. We were in the back row and got drenched when the rain started.
It was only 11 but we were all starving so we went to the Monster Café where Jenny got a salad. We went over to Mel’s and got fries and a chocolate shake for Bryce. Megan and I went to the Louie’s Italian restaurant where she got fettuccini alfredo and I got a meatball sandwich. We brought it all back to the Monster Café and ate together there.
After lunch we debated what to do and ended up at Terminator 3D which we all enjoy. It’s one of my favorite 3D movies. The blending of live action, movie, animatronics and theater effects are great. I did notice that there seemed to be some changes in the show such as no motorcycle roaring through the audience.
We didn’t have too much else we wanted to do except Shrek so we toughed it out and waited in the 35 minute line. The show is great though and worth the wait. You’ve got to love the big green guy. We even saw him and Fiona outside the theater posing for pictures.
We left the park about 2:30 and shopped for a while in the endangered species store which both the kids really enjoy. When we exited it was raining very hard but it was just a short walk to the parking garage so we were spared.
Back at the condo we rested a bit and I did some work before we took off for an early dinner at the Crab Pot which is close to the condo and a favorite of Jenny’s. She got the snow and Dungeness crab combo which she really enjoyed. Megan got the appetizer platter that had coconut shrimp, calamari and crab and artichoke dip. Bryce had a huge bowl of clam chowder. I had cioppino which was good but not great. They were very generous with the seafood in it but the stew wasn’t that flavorful. Our server was very good.
After dinner we debated on what to do, the kids voted for miniature golf at Winter/Summerland but instead we ended up at the Coronado Springs resort and went out to the pool area and fooled around at the playground and arcade. We looked for ice cream at the pepper market but they didn’t have a very good selection. We didn’t stay too long, just enough to have a look around. We all really like this resort. It’s just a fun place.
We came back to the condo and watched a Twilight Zone episode called “The Little People” which is one of my favorites and then watched “Twister” on TBS. Megan really enjoyed that after having been on the ride earlier in the day. Lights out at 10 tonight.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Then we saw Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Jenny’s request. We walked right into the theater as they opened up the doors so we had no wait. I really like this show but the Ariel this time had a somewhat weak and quiet voice; still a good show though. We stopped and got a jalapeno cheese pretzel for Megan and a chocolate shake for Bryce before moving to Indiana Jones which was just starting; once again great timing. The show was the same as always but the kids enjoy it. We then walked back to the Tower and used our Fastpasses for one final ride and it turned out to be the best of the three with lots of air time. The random drops, fantastic cast members and outstanding theme of the ride make this one I’ll never get tired of.
It was getting pretty crowded with all of the ESPN hoards. It was remarkably similar to Super Soap Weekend except there weren’t any people crying as they caught a glimpse of Susan Lucci. Okay, so maybe I got a little misty at seeing Stuart Scott. Actually, there was a time when I watched a lot of ESPN but once the kids came along I pretty much lost interest in most sports so none of that stuff appealed to me.
A little after noon we left the park and took the boat over to the Boardwalk for lunch at the ESPN club. Bryce had the kid’s “slider” burgers which he loved, the girls split an excellent buffalo chicken tender sandwich and I had a very good Rueben. Service wasn’t too great but with good food and the Disney Dining discount I wasn’t complaining. Next time I’ll get that buffalo chicken sandwich though, it was really tasty.
The kids made bags of (expensive) candy at Seashore Sweets on the boardwalk but it entertained them for a while back at the condo later as they traded. We caught the boat back to MGM and then walked out to our car and drove back to the condo. The pedometer said we walked 3.35 miles. Jenny took a nap and the kids sorted their candy and watched Sponge Bob. I worked on the trip report.
At 5:30 we left for the West Side and it was completely packed. We had to park a long ways out but finally got to La Nouba and picked up the tickets at will call. Jenny had the kids in the gift shop telling them we were just looking around. I came in with the tickets and asked Bryce if he wanted to go (Megan was already in on the secret). He thought I was kidding and said no. I said “too bad” because we’re going. Then he got excited. We got to our seats a couple of minutes before the 6pm start time. The clowns were performing and then the lights went out and we were in awe for the next 90 minutes. Cirque is a difficult thing to explain. I always think of it as a fantastic dream. We all loved it. There is so much to watch at any given time that’s it’s next to impossible to take it all in. We each had our favorite parts but everyone especially loved the Asian diabolo performers and the trampoline sequence with the building. Half way through the show I saw Bryce squirming in his seat and realized he needed to find the restroom. I took him out and we realized the men’s room was on the other side of the theater and he just took off running for it. He made record time there and back so we hardly missed a thing.
After the show we went straight over to the House of Blues where I had an 8PM reservation. We beat most of the Cirque crowd over there but there was a long line out the door. I heard one guy say he was told it was a 50 minute wait. I’d hate to think how long the wait was if you were at the end of that wave coming over from Cirque. There was also a big crowd gathered for a Flogging Molly concert. Anyhow, we were seated within 2 minutes which was nice. We got our drinks and ordered our food right away. It took about 40 minutes though for our food to arrive. We didn’t mind too much as the kids menus kept all of us occupied with the games and we played hangman. Our server would best be described as brusquely efficient. Jenny had the Flatiron steak salad which looked very good with corn, onion, avocado & cilantro. Megan had the kid’s meal chicken tenders and fries which were very tasty. I had the jambalaya which was excellent and plentiful. Bryce said he wasn’t hungry so we didn’t order him anything but by the time the food finally arrived he decided to eat most of his sister’s fries. So we ordered another plate of fries for them. I got a 20% discount with my annual pass.
We stopped by the Candy Cauldron on the way back to the car where Bryce got a Dori cookie, Megan picked up a jawbreaker sucker for a friend and she and I shared a coconut coated marshmallow on a stick which was very tasty. Back at home I watched Saturday Night Live on E! and worked on the trip report. Lights out at 11 for me, everyone else went to bed around 9:45.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
We got to Epcot a few minutes before the 9 opening and there were very few cars in the lot. Bryce and I donned our ponchos and headed straight to Mission: SPACE. The girls had an umbrella and went to the Art of Disney store then Innoventions to send postcards. Space was a lot fun but as usual one ride was plenty. The girls refer to it as Mission: BARF and refuse to ride after getting queasy on it last year.
We met up at the Living Seas. Bryce and I had to wait about 10 minutes to get into the hydrolators even though we skipped the briefing room. We all saw the first showing of “Turtle Talk with Crush” which was completely amazing. It’s cool how he reacts with the audience but mind boggling how they animate him in real time. I’m guessing it’s some sort of motion capture type thing but however it’s done we were entertained so much that when it was over we hopped right back in line for the next show. Bryce got to ask Crush a question, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” Crush explained how he had 128 brothers and that all sea turtle egg groups are either all male or female depending on the warmth of the sand. He asked a little girl what her favorite food was and after she said “pizza” he asked her if it ever gave her the “bubbles”. Then a stream of bubbles went up behind him and he told us to pretend we were Dori and just forget that little incident. As my friend Tony would say “comedy!” We almost rolled on the floor laughing. We all left the theater saying “dude” for the rest of the day as directed by Crush “because your parents will really love it”. We checked out the manatees, the dolphins, Nemo & Friends before moving to Innoventions.
The girls sent some postcards and Bryce and I played the find the fire game which was fun. We then moved to the video games in the back of the room and played some Finding Nemo on PS2. A gal came up next to us with a young child and I glanced at her thinking she looked kind of like a very young Kelly Ripa. She looked like a teenager though and I figured the child was her younger sister. Bryce and I moved on and a minute later Jenny called on the radio and said she just ran into Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos and their three children. They were being very low key and not attracting attention but not hiding out either. I was surprised at how tiny she was. Megan is bigger. Mark is not very tall either but a very handsome fellow (or so I gathered from Jenny staring at him from afar!)
We moved on to Honey I Shrunk the Audience which Bryce balked at but finally agreed to see. I don’t know how a kid that loves Terminator 3D, Tower of Terror and the Hulk can have issues with this show but for some reason it seems to scare him a bit (which he won’t admit).
We were all hungry and decided to stick with our plan of Le Cellier for lunch. We hadn’t been there in a very long time. It’s a bit swankier than I remembered. We were seated in the middle of the restaurant which wasn’t too bad as it wasn’t very busy. We were told by our server that this was Epcot’s top restaurant. There were actually two servers; one was in training and very nervous. The experienced one was a bit full of herself. We all enjoyed the three types of breadsticks but especially the pretzel bread. Bryce had the kid’s cheeseburger meal; Megan had the kid’s portions of the cheddar cheese soup and side salad; I had the burger with blue cheese; Jenny had the chicken sandwich. Everything was very good although Megan didn’t care much for the soup due to the beer flavor. I enjoyed it though. Jenny and I both liked our meals a lot. The kids also had chocolate and raspberry shakes which they loved. I got a sip and it was delicious. The service was not very good. I never got a water refill during the meal. We asked for more bread and had to ask again 10 minutes later. Considering how slow the restaurant was, how many wait staff were around and the upscale image they present I expected more; bottom line though we would go back again.
After lunch the rain had stopped which was great. It had been a solid downpour up until that point and the ponchos were getting old. On the upside though, I have never seen so few people at Epcot. Since the weather improved we walked to France but the next showing of Impressions de France wasn’t for half an hour so we went back to Future World. We saw some cars going around Test Track but once we got there we learned it wasn’t going to open for at least another 45 minutes. We moved onto the other side of Innoventions and spent longer than we should have (my idea) waiting for the build your own robot in the plastic exhibit. I had read about it and thought Bryce would like it. It was cool to get a free little plastic robot but not really worth a wait. We had no celebrity sightings in this half of Innoventions. We then took in the 45 minute show at Universe of Energy which I really enjoy because I think Ellen DeGeneres is hilarious and I like Bill Nye a lot also. I cracked up at the young, Spanish speaking guy in front of me who was very jumpy. The dinosaurs came out and he jumped. A loud noise and he jumped. I kept secretly motioning like I was going to poke him or scare him, which mortified Megan and she held my arms down.
The kids needed one last binge on Vegi-Beta this trip so we loaded up at Ice Station Cool. Vegi-Beta is really good because it’s not very sweet and not carbonated. That Fanta Kolita from Costa Rica is almost sickly sweet. We headed out of the park at 3. On the way back to the condo the ever-present Radio Disney was interrupted by the emergency broadcast system (not a test) that a tornado warning for eastern Osceola County was in effect for the next hour. We came back the condo briefly and dropped off Jenny then I took the kids to the marketplace side of Downtown Disney and we hit most of the shops there but didn’t buy anything. It was fun just to look. Everything was packed of course since it was a rainy day and rain just seems to attract people to Downtown Disney.
We went back to the condo and watched some of the endless red carpet Oscar coverage on E! before leaving for the Polynesian at 6. There was quite a crowd at ‘Ohana but we got our beeper and were seated in less than 10 minutes. Dinner was excellent. Megan and I both love the won tons and went through three bowls of them. We all like the salad with the very tasty cilantro lime dressing and the green beans were also a hit. Bryce mostly stuck to the bread, Jenny the shrimp, Megan the won tons and wings which left me the burden of loading up on meat. I was up to the challenge though and loaded up on the steak which was excellent. The turkey was very good and moist. The pork was just OK and a bit dry. The service was very good and we had more of whatever we wanted right away. The pineapple and caramel is always a nice finish to the meal. I used the Disney Dining Experience card again although our waiter mentioned that it was only for Florida residents. I told him that had changed last month and it was now available to annual passholders (at a rate cheaper than for Florida residents). I also paid with my Disney rewards card which gives 1% back from the Disney Visa charges on a separate debit card. I had been using it for many of the meals and this meal finally finished off the balance on it. This meal reconfirmed that ‘Ohana is our favorite restaurant at Disney. However, it wasn’t quite the same this year without my friend Tony along. We all ate a chicken wing in his honor.
After dinner we hopped on the monorail. I asked if there was any room up front and they had two seats available so Jenny and Bryce rode there with another mom and her daughter and they had a good chat. Megan and I rode in the back. We made a full loop and arrived back at the Polynesian with just enough time to walk out to the beach and all the way to the overlook area just as the Wishes fireworks started. It was very windy out and I was surprised they still had the fireworks but they were beautiful.
We drove the back way out Vista Drive to the condo. Near the end of Disney property I made a rolling “California” stop at a stop sign with no other cars in sight. It turns out there was a car nearby though, a cop car! I soon saw flashing lights and felt that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I pulled over hoping he was going by me but that was wishful thinking. I stayed in the car and he told me over the PA to come back to the cruiser and bring my license. He said there was a stop sign back there, not a yield and that he was going to give me a courtesy notice and would send me on my way in about 5 minutes. He told me to go back to my car and wait. It actually took very little time to run my license before I heard him say over the PA “Lance, come back to the car”. It was in a somewhat mechanical voice which set off the rest of my supportive family into a fit of giggles. I wasn’t quite sure what the courtesy notice was but I was sure hoping it wasn’t a ticket and it turned out it was just a warning. After reading about the increased police presence on Disney property I had been very mindful of my speed and driving in general but just had a momentary lapse. I apologized to the officer again and was on my way. Of course I got razzed by the supportive family the whole way back to the condo. The phrase “Lance, come back to the car” was repeated frequently.
We watched the Oscars (I love The Incredibles but Shrek 2 go robbed for best animated feature) and I worked on the trip report until 11:30.
Monday, February 28, 2005
We got to Islands of Adventure at 8:50 and it was open early as it had been on our two previous visits. Megan and I both commented that you wouldn’t hear this type of music at Disney as we sang along to “My Band” by D12 and Eminem. We went right to Hulk and rode twice in a row with no wait. After that we did the same thing with Spiderman. I love walking through empty lines. We kept up our good fortune by high tailing it over to Dueling Dragons where there was once again no line. The only four people waiting when we got there were in line for the front row so we lined up behind them on the Fire side. It really does make a difference riding in the front. When you come to the top of the lift and then you hurtle straight down with nothing below you it’s an incredible rush. The coasters weren’t synched up so we missed the cool part where it looks like you are going to run into the other coaster. We hopped right back in the re-ride line (which is a big time saver since the line is so long) and rode in the front of Ice this time. We switched our opinion from our last visit and decided Ice was better. We had such a blast that we went a third time (Fire). It wasn’t even 10:30 yet and we had been on the three most popular rides a total of 7 times; score!
From there we just took it easy. We wandered around Jurassic Park looking for the Triceratops Encounter which apparently is no longer there. When did that close? We ended up at Camp Jurassic and the kids played for about an hour. It’s a great place to run around and explore. I had a blast chasing after them. One interesting area was a tall outlook and the kids noticed inside there was a dark area which appeared to lead down. They wanted to go down but only if I went first. It turned out to be one of those multilevel things like they have at Chuck E Cheese where you slide between levels and work your way to the bottom. Except this was almost completely in the dark and had some quite tight levels. I was glad I didn’t get stuck and have a Winnie the Pooh moment. We were all saying how Jenny would completely hate this. If you are even the slightest bit claustrophobic this would really freak you out. We all made it out fine until we rounded a corner and a huge dinosaur roar came out of a cave and scared the bejeebers out of us. We then went along the pathway with the dinosaur footprints that you step on and hear the dino roar. Bryce was a might jumpy after that. I then got a cool picture of the two kids holding onto the electric fence with the 10,000 volt danger sign next to them, just like in the movie. Jenny was relaxing on a bench while we were running around. She struck up a conversation with a dad from Michigan who said they drove because the affair was all the way up to $69 each way to Orlando. That sounded like a steal to me compared to driving all that way but to each their own.
We were all hungry but feeling like pigs after almost two weeks of eating poorly. We went in the Terrace Falls restaurant which over looks the Jurassic River Ride. There was no one there so we got a table right next to the big splash down of the ride. This is just a counter service place but they had a pretty good menu. We got a couple of chicken wraps. They were OK but the nice part was they came with an ear of corn on the cob and either rice and beans or roasted potatoes so we got one of each and shared everything. It was so nice to have a meal where nothing was fried and seemed almost healthy. We went back to Camp Jurassic to show Jenny the creepy area we had descended earlier. We couldn’t talk her into going down it but she did say it reminded her of a few nightmares she’s had.
We headed into Toon Lagoon and the water cannons at Dudley Doo Right’s Ripsaw Falls with a fistful of quarters. Life doesn’t get any better than this. We all gathered around our beloved cannon #5 and innocently waved and shouted to the people on the logs below and while they were distracted we pushed the button and blasted them from the other side. Another fine lesson in the Golden Rule for the children!
We took lots of pictures, went through shops and ended up at Popeye’s Bilge Rat Barge’s with a few spare quarters and doused the unsuspecting riders with the “shower” effects. Then we got smart and went to an upper deck of “Me ship, the Olive” and found the free (but less powerful) squirt guns. The fun thing about these is that they are somewhat hidden from the riders. Our mission was to always pick out the mom in the group and soak her. We were very successful. I got a kick out of the burly English guys next to me (who sounded a lot like the Beatles) giggling at soaking everyone. One guy below spotted us and stuck out his tongue which of course meant “fire at will” to us. He tried to hunch over and take cover but Megan fired a stream straight down the back of his shirt. It was sublime, there was no doubt she was my progeny.
I had picked up Spiderman Express Passes when we rode earlier then used them now to ride one more time with no wait. Standby was 30 minutes so we were glad we had the passes. After that we went to the “If I Ran the Zoo” area. The kids had a blast and played for about an hour, mostly in the water area. They took turns standing the shower area and having the other person control the lever to spray around them. We all took off our socks and shoes and cooled our feet, it felt wonderful. We finally corralled them and headed out of the park about 1:30. We stopped for a couple of lemonade slushies and while driving out of the park Megan squeezed her plastic cup a little too hard and ended up with a lap full of slushie. During that commotion I got turned around twice but finally found Turkey Lake Road back to the condo. It was a nice warm but windy afternoon. We hung out at the pool. I worked on the trip report and tried to finish off my fine box of merlot while listening to “Red, Red Wine” by UB40 on the MP3 player.
I took the kids to Winter/Summerland for a round of miniature golf. Winter was closed so they did Summer and had a great time. It really is a cute course. Megan took a ton of pictures in between golfing. One thing new is that they now space out the parties of golfers with tee times. Ours was about 10 minutes away and just long enough to keep the folks in front of us from slowing us down.
We picked up Jenny at the condo and went to dinner at TGI Friday’s. The server was very nice. Jenny and I had Bud Lights. I ordered the Jack Daniels burger; Jenny had the Southwest Chicken salad; Megan had the pizza and Bryce had a burger. Everything was very good and really hit the spot. Bryce also had a “cup of dirt” which consisted of chocolate pudding, crushed Oreos and gummy worms.
After dinner we drove over and parked at the Beach Club and went through the International Gateway into Epcot. We caught a showing of “Impressions de France” which was very nice except for the family behind us. The mom kept crinkling some plastic bag, the daughter kicked our seats and they all talked through the movie.
We looked at all of the shops and the patisserie but didn’t find anything that we needed. In Morocco Megan got a very pretty henna tattoo on her forearm for $15. We all spent a long time in Japan looking at store. Bryce got some Pokemon cards for his best friend back home. We took a quick look around the museum in the back and enjoyed the exhibit of tin toys.
We found ice cream in America and then got our usual spot in Morocco for Illuminations. It was not at all crowded and there appeared to be lots of good viewing spots available. Jenny and I embarrassed Megan by singing the “We go on” song on the way out. It was a long walk back to the Beach Club and we were all tired. Bryce fell asleep on the ride back to the condo.
I stayed up until 11 working on the trip report and reading my favorite technology website, Engadget.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
After that we went to Men in Black and rode three times again without seeing more than a few people. There was a mom and son riding in the car opposite on two of the rides and they whooped us. Their average score was well over 300,000. I’ve gotten close to that once or twice but usually stay in the 100,000 range. I’ll have to read where the high scoring targets are for future rides (and pass them along to Bryce so he won’t have to pout at getting the lowest score).
After that we walked back to Jaws and got right on the boat. We sat in the front row and got fairly wet. It was a cool morning so it wasn’t too welcome but thankfully I bore the brunt of it on the left side of the boat. The girls are less amused than Bryce and I about getting wet. The park seemed pretty much deserted. Megan spent a long while taking pictures of doors in the San Francisco area. It was very enjoyable to walk around and hardly see other people. We used our Jimmy Neutron Express Passes which we probably didn’t even need. I really like this show but it would be very cool in 3D. It’s fun seeing all of the Nickelodeon characters in the movie. At the exit we looked through the gift shop. We let the departing crowd dissipate and then we saw Sponge Bob was all alone but just as we walked up another show let out and the line to see him was crowded again. It wasn’t quite 11 but we had done most of what we sat out to do and we wanted some pool time so we headed back. The kids stopped in the Endangered Species store again and we ran one final gauntlet through the Universal credit card hawking solicitors. They are worse than hari krishnas in airports back in the 70’s.
After getting turned around each of the past three visits while leaving Universal, Jenny wisely suggested that we just take I-4 home this time. We changed into our bathing suits and took right back off for Caribbean Beach Resort. We parked at Old Port Royale and went to the pool there which Bryce really liked. The Spanish fort theme is kind of like Pirates of the Caribbean. It was still a little cool (low 70’s) but that never stops the kids. I swam for a while and tried the water slide with the kids (although in my case it was more like a water scoot as I wasn’t sliding much). We went into the food court next door and got a buffalo chicken sandwich meal and a chicken strips meal both with fries. Megan has my taste in food. We both enjoyed the buffalo chicken sandwich. She was also happy to have honey mustard to dip her fries into. We ate at the tables by the pool and had to fend off the very aggressive birds. I felt like Tippi Hedren. It was nice having the pool bar there also and we had several draft beers for the adults and virgin pina coladas for the kids.
After about 2 hours though the kids decided they liked the condo pool better so we drove back there and they got their fill of swimming for the trip while Jenny got her fill of sun and I worked on the trip report. At 4 the kids went back to the room and cleaned up. We left for Downtown Disney at 5.
We parked close to Planet Hollywood and got right in. They gave us a terrible table on the second floor right next to the host station so I asked for something better and they put us by the railing which was much more fun. Bryce got a plate of fries, I had a Mexican cheese burger, Jenny had mini tostados and Megan had the chicken crunch. We all enjoyed our meals. Everything was good but not great. I’m not a big fan of Planet Hollywood but Megan wanted to see it so it was worth it. I gave the waiter our Disney Dining Experience but noticed later after we left that we only got a 10% discount off the food only.
We went into Disneyquest for a turn on Virtual Pirates of the Caribbean. While in line we were discussing who was going to be the captain and the kid behind us said we could have it set to autopilot. That sounded cool so we tried it and it was fun to have all of us firing the cannons. In fact we got the top ranking this time and our highest score (around 4,500). That one ride was all we did at Disneyquest and we walked from there all the way over to Ghiradelli’s at the Marketplace. I had signed up at Ghiradelli’s website to get their newsletter and they sent a buy one get one free sundae coupon. I got two cable car sundaes which we all shared. All of the seats inside were filled so we got a table outside and it was chilly but we didn’t waste much time in finishing off the ice cream. It was delicious. We went back home about 7:30, packed up, watched American Idol and worked on the trip report.
The return trip home is always depressing so I’m not writing about that. Everything went smoothly though and that’s about all you can ask for. It was nice to get home by 2 and have time to unpack and get things sorted out although we all fell asleep by 8pm trying to adjust to the time change.
It was a bit sad to think this would be our last Disney trip in a while but we have some fun plans for cruises, Europe and Hawaii over the next couple of years. Reflecting back on the trip and our first stay onsite we loved Fort Wilderness and staying on site but considering the cost and the additional space you can get offsite we probably wouldn’t do it again. We always spend a lot of time visiting the resorts regardless of where we stay so if we are offsite we don’t feel like we miss out much on the magic.
There wasn’t that much that was new this trip but the two new things to us that we absolutely loved were Turtle Talk with Crush in Epcot’s The Living Seas and Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios. Both are fantastic additions to each park. This trip solidified my choice of the Tower of Terror as my favorite ride (although Islands of Adventure’s Hulk and Dueling Dragons are close behind). We had some great meals this trip and no really poor ones. ‘Ohana is definitely a must for us on each trip.
We got home a little poorer but rich with family memories, I guess that’s what family vacations are all about.