Michael Sanders -- May 2005 - Walt Disney World (PCR)
We leave around 3:00 as planned and drive through the night. Amy spells me at driving for two two hour stretches and we arrive in Orlando at 10:00 AM EST. While we are tired, we plan to visit the Beltz Outlet Malls and Downtown Disney before checking in. The night drive was easy as there was little traffic, but it is boring and hard to stay awake. Our route takes us through St. Louis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and the Florida Turnpike. At night there is not much to see.
Sunrise finds us in Valdosta, Ga. where we have breakfast at IHOP.
Sunday May 22
As we exit the Florida Turnpike we can see the outlet on our left. The exit involves a lengthy spiral and now we can no longer see the Outlet Mall! Somehow, we end up in the Universal entrance before we finally get to the Mall. I look back now and think it must have something to do with lack of sleep. Anyway, once at the mall we visit the two stores and find many bargains. I recommend anyone who can get to the mall do so.
We proceed to Downtown Disney and man is it hot. The reasons we came down here at this time was the (Hopefully) low temps and crowds. We havenít been here in ten years and this place (DD) has really changed. We walk around looking for nametags and no one knows we are talking about. This is a recurring theme for most of the week. After lunch at McDonalds we head for POP Century.
The drive into this resort sets the theme for our week. Retro signs and immaculate landscaping abound. Proceeding to the reception desk there are perhaps 50 people ahead of us. We are tired and I wonder how long it will take. I must remember that we are in WDW and no pessimism is allowed. All desks are open and we receive our room keys in less then 20 minutes. Our receptionist is Asian and has a button saying she is from Hong Kong. I ask her about her training and she is exited as she is leaving for home tomorrow. We find out there are over 500 trainees from Hong Kong getting OJT for the new park.
We are in the 70s section, building 6, third floor. We know nothing about this resort, but are given a detailed map and find our way to the 70s parking lot. We find it is a long walk to our building with luggage, but the building is centrally located and QUIET! We face the Hourglass Lake and cannot hear anyone around us. Not knowing what building to pick we took our chances and we couldnít have picked a better location. This is how our entire vacation went. This building is close the Classic Hall and the Hippy-Dippy Pool. If we had youngsters, the PopJet pool is right outside this building.
The girls want to eat at Joeís Crab Shack in Kissimmee, so off we go for supper. This was a lot of fun and we plan to eat here later in the week. Back at the POP we take lots of night pictures of the property and the neat icons all over the resort. Let me mention here that I gave my daughter my Powershot A70 camera for a graduation present, so that meant I had to buy another for myself. This ended up being a Powershot S70 digital camera. Every time we come home from a vacation we always say why didnít we take more pictures. This trip I plan to take so many pictures I donít know how I will download them all. My fantastic wife said go buy a laptop, so who am I to argue! This takes place three hours before we plan to leave, so some hectic moments ensue. BTW we took over 200 pics a day, totaled over 1200 total, so the laptop was vital. I also took 7 hours of video.
What a great first day in the World.
Monday May 23
EPCOT is my 2nd favorite park as I teach computers and networking, so I enjoy the tech part of this park. Remember that we have not been here in ten years, so there is lots of new things to see. The hand on Spaceship Earth is impressive up close. We use the Photopass here and use it all week. The photographers will even use our camera to take a picture of us. We all agree to do Mission:Space and then Test Track first. What can I say if you have not experienced M:S. It is awesome. Test Track was interesting, but we wonít ride it again. The weather is cool, so we are really enjoying ourselves. The crowds are still low as it is only 8:45, so we head for Soariní which we end up Fast Passing. We do the Circle of Life to kill time and have a seat. We now do Soariní and I have a new favorite ride, or should I say experience. The way this attraction is setup makes for an enjoyable, gentle ride. To watch others pick up their feet while crossing low over the landscape tells you how realistic this is. We will ride this again.
We walk on to Honey I Shrunk the Kids and have considered this our favorite 3D movie. This will change. Feeling hungry, we head over to the Sunshine Seasons for a snack. The girls split a huge chocolate chip muffin and I have a lemon poppy seed muffin. There are lots of good-looking things to eat here and we will be back. I am sure there is a good reason for having to walk all the way around the Land building to get to Soariní or the food court, but it is lost on me.
Ice Station Cool is next and of course we try the Beverly. Yuk! The humor for us that Beverly is my wifeís name. We do like the watermelon and the Israeli drink.
We spend some time in Innoventions and FastPass Mission:Space. Our original plans called for us to leave the property and eat lunch in Kissimmee, so we head into town and eat at Subway. We return to POP and the girls swim while I download the memory card from the two cameras and take a nap. This turns out to be one the better ideas we had as the rest (nap) got us ready to back to the parks. We eat at POPs food court for the first time and Amy and I have meatless lasagna while Alison had the Parmesan crusted chicken. Alisonís meal looked so good I will have it the next time! We go back to EPCOT around 6:30 and intend to see Energy and Living Seas. Little did we know these attractions closed at 7:00, so Plan B called for us to ride Mission:Space once again. We head over Canada for their movie, which I enjoy but the girls donít. We then stake out a spot on International Bridge for Illuminations. This turned out to be bad spot as we could hardly see the globe that sailed into the lake. Next time, we will try to be closer, but Illuminations is still awesome.
I get lost for the second time driving from EPCOT to the POP. We had a map of WDW, but when you canít find the street names, the map is useless. Are we blind or are their no street signs at intersections?
We return to POP and are in bed by 11:00.
Tuesday May 23
While waiting for the girls to take a restroom break, I notice a CM dressed in his TOT outfit leaving for the day. All the way down Sunset Blvd I observe him picking up trash laying on the ground and throwing it away. Good Job!!
We head back to POP for swim/download/nap and go into town to eat at a Chik-Fil-A as Amyís choice. The news is calling for a severe storm in Central Florida and we want to see Fantasmic. There are two Highway Patrolman in the restaurant and when I ask them about the weather, they donít know what Iím talking about.
We return to MGM and stake out seats two hours early like the discussion boards say. However, with the low crowds, we could have arrived at 8:00 and still got a good seat. The wait was worth every minute as this show is not to be missed. What a fantastic mix of fireworks, music, special effects, and pure Disney magic. We had seen several items we wanted to buy, and decided to wait until after the show so we wouldnít have to carry them. Bad idea. Everyone else had the same idea and the shops were mobbed. Lesson learned. When we got back to POP, we just had to try the tie-dyed cheesecake and this capped another perfect day.
The storm never appeared, the temps were in the mid-80s, and the crowds never got bad. Another magical day.
Wednesday May 24
This the day for us to visit a new park, AK. It opens at 9:00, so we sleep in until 7:00. Both girls are night owls, not early risers, but they have been doing great so far. We all agree that the first hour in the morning is important to seeing the popular rides.
All of my planning has been through these reports and discussion groups, but it is still a new park. We arrive after 9:00 and head directly to the Safari. The wait is around 25 minutes, no problem. On our walk to the back of the park we were amazed at the full, lush growth of vegetation. Amy wonders how this can grow so big in a short time. I assure her it must be pixie dust. Am I right?
Safari was a great ride and we see lots of animals. I find it ingenious how they separate the enclosure so unobtrusively. This is the only day the sun wasnít shining and the temps are cool. On a whim we take the train to Rafikiís Planet Watch, which is so-so, except we meet Pocahontas, Rafiki, and Stanley. Maharajah Jungle Trek is next, which I really enjoyed. We walk past the Expedition Everest construction and this looks like it will be a great ride.
At this point we come upon DinoLand USA and I can only think of carnivals and county fairs, which isnít Disney in my opinion. We are further disappointed with the Dinosaur ride. It beats the heck out of us, is dark, and we did not enjoy it. I believe each park has a feel to it, and this park does not feel too Disney, as in Walt.
Anyway, we proceed to ITTBAB and now we have a new favorite 3D movie. Just the walk into movie as you pass the roots of the Tree of Life is awesome. I always have mixed feeling about stopping and just looking at something as I also get frustrated bumping into people who suddenly stop in front of me. I guess they need passing lanes so if you want stop you can. One strategy we worked out was I would let the girls get far enough of me so they could slow to take pictures. I let Alison take control of my digital camera while I used the camcorder and she really took some great pictures during the week.
I realize this park takes a certain frame of mind to appreciate and I really tried hard to enjoy it, but we can go the St. Louis or Springfield zoos here in Missouri, so we left at 1:00 and returned to the POP. The previous three days the girls went swimming while I napped and downloaded pictures. Today they napped. Our room was always ready for us and we now have a towel angel in our window. Housekeeping has been great and resort is always so clean. At some point in the day they evidently power wash the grounds as it is clean. I cannot imagine what a deluxe resort must be like.
We return to EPCOT to see the attractions that close early and we see our old favorites, Living Seas (What happened to the Sea Cabs?), Imagination (Liked the old one better), Energy (Like this one better than the old), and again, Soariní with a FP. Every time we walk by 150-200 people in the standby line I wonder if they are aware of the FP option. How can someone stand there for 80 minutes? The crowds and heat in August of 1995 is one reason we have waited so long. This FP option is such a good idea, I applaud the author of this plan. Donít mess with it, Disney!
We eat at the Seasons again and all have the childís sub-builder meal.
We ride Soariní and since it is 9:10 PM, I think we will beat the Illuminations crowd to the exit, but for some reason the show is ending as we walk under the big golf ball. We manage to get on a tram with an announcer who has fun telling us humorous anecdotes. The family in front of us speaks limited English and they are confused as to where their car is. They jump off while the tram is moving and run off into a parking lot. Good luck. Incidentally this is the last time I drive to a park. The buses are too efficient to justify driving. After one wrong turn we arrive back at POP and the girls head to the pool. I download and go to bed.
I canít believe what a great trip we are having.
Thursday May 25
This is THE DAY! My favorite park, the MK! Wanting to take advantage of EE, we are on the bus at 7:15 and wonder why there are only 3 others on the bus. We arrive at the park and are amazed at the lack of people. There is a perfectly good reason for this: this park doesnít open early today, it opens early tomorrow. Itís now 7:45 and what to do. The Monorail is running and I suggest we take a ride. At the station I ask if we can ride up front and we ride the entire resort loop with the engineer! What a thrill to be up front. The driver told us of his history at WDW (8 Yrs) and how much he enjoyed it. He along with others were counting the days until Eisner would leave. I heard this sentiment several more times. The CMs were also talkative about the 2004 hurricanes and their effects on WDW.
We enjoyed the pre-show at the train station and this park oozes pure Disney magic. At the rope drop we proceeded back to Splash Mountain, picking up a FP for Jungle on the way. I make the mistake of sitting up front and my camcorder and me are soaked. We both dry off and proceed to BTMRR. There is no one in line and we walk right into the ride. I ride in front of the girls and turn the camcorder around to film them. I can flip the LCD viewer around to see what I am recording. I had purchased this camera only a week before leaving and was still learning how to use this. I wouldnít recommend doing this, but circumstances required it. The camera is an Elura 90 from Canon and it worked flawlessly. I can even take still shots with it.
We have just ridden two mountains and it is now 9:30. Our FP for Jungle is for 10:20, so we do Pirates (walk on), Swiss Family, the new Tiki Room and then Jungle. Our driver was very funny and we heard some new jokes.
We eat at Pecos Billís and have our only run in with a CM. The lady taking our order kept interrupting and yelling back to someone she NEEDED CHANGE!. After 3 interruptions I wondered how she ran out of change 20 minutes after opening. Are these people considered CMs?
HM is next and is still Alisonís favorite. We see Philharmagic for the first time and WOW! Now we canít decide if ITTBAB or this one is our favorite 3D movie. Not wanting to pick one over the other, we call it a tie. We FP Space Mountain and do TTA and Carrousel of Progress. Again we walk past 100 people and are done with Space in less than 19 minutes. The wait time was 65 minutes. I guess the less people that use FP, the better for us. We ride Buzz for the first time and we will be back. I miss Dream Flight, but this is fun! At the Emporium I finally find name badges for us. After buying them we go across the street to a jewelers where they engrave our names. The girls do not understand why I have wanted them until CMs start calling us by name. They think this cool and wish that they had them earlier in the week.
We head back to POP and we have ridden 13 rides today. No crowds and FP, what a combination! Our bus driver entertains us by asking if we enjoyed EPCOT. The kids all go ballistic trying to correct him and he then conducts a trivia contest. He catches someone with the Unofficial Guide open and we all boo. Do you know why MK and EPCOT each opened on Oct 1st?
We eat in the Classic Hall food court and I have Chicken penne and it is quiet good. Amy has a childís plate of pasta and Alison has the same as I.
Back to MK and we stake out a spot on Main Street for Spectromagic. While waiting we talk to those around us and everyone is having a good time. Spectro is a very appealing and we love the music. We wonder down Main Street with the crowd to the hub for Wishes. We have not seen this show either, so we donít know what to expect. Well, this show is definitely a Disney classic and worth watching. Alison has experimented with camera settings and has taken some awesome pictures. I tape the whole thing and find myself ignoring the camcorder while caught up in the majesty of this show. Again I canít adequately describe this to someone who has not seen it. There is a huge crowd leaving the park, but we are on the second bus back to POP. We have had good luck all week with transportation.
Reality sets in that tomorrow is our last day, but we look forward to going home.
Friday May 26
Our last day and we intend to see several things again. We go back to MK and do Space, Buzz, and Philharmagic again. Small World is next and then HM. The crowds are still not bad.
We then monorail over to EPCOT because I want to see the rest of Innoventions.
More magic occurs as we sit in the monorail and observe a gentleman talking with a Korean family. He is explaining pin trading and shows them his pins. They do not understand the concept, so he gives each child (3) a pin to start their trading with. Nice thoughts go out to this man. How did I know they were Korean? I complimented him on his generosity and he and been there many years ago.
There are lots of interactive activities and we try most of them. One last trip through Ice Station Cool to drink some watermelon and watch others drink the Beverly.
At this point I ask the girls how they want to finish our vacation and they want to do ToT at MGM. For a change we take the slow boat to MGM and get to see Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin for the first time. The Swan and Dolphin are huge!
For the first time we hit a park that is crowded. It is Star Wars weekend and a CM informed us that three-day weekends also bring out the locals. We get FP for ToT and have a 1:20 wait, so the info board says Star Tours has a 5-minute wait. There are characters all over the place and we can hardly get through the masses. The force is not with us as the line stretches out to under the AT AT. We go the bookstore nearby and look through their selection, where I promptly fall asleep on a comfortable couch. The girls wake me up and we do ToT one last time.
With a sigh we head for the bus and return to POP around 4:30. I toy with the idea of doing Wishes again, but we want an early start tomorrow. The girls swim and we head to town to try Joeís Crab Shack again. The wait is over an hour(itís Friday night, start of Memorial day week-end) We see Moeís Southwest Grill nearby and try it. Itís fair, but we wonít be back. We head over to Everything POP for some last minute shopping and then pack our bags. Our last night in the World.
Saturday May 27
We get up and plan an early start. I have asked for express checkout and am told it should arrive between 6:00 and 8:00. We want to leave by 7:00, so we load the car and wait. I spy CMs hanging documents on doors, and they go right by my room, so I call the front desk and am told that since we have no outstanding expenses, no document is needed to leave. I guess I should have asked earlier.
We pull out of POP at 7:30 EST and head home. It is the first day of Memorial weekend and the traffic is heavy. We arrive home in the Ozarks at 11:50 CST 1175 miles later. WE canít believe we were in WDW that morning. I drove the entire distance home and for our next trip we will leave early morning and drive through the day, not all night.