Observations From WDW

Last Saturday night we got back from our latest trip to Walt Disney World. We spent a week there, like we do every year, but this year there were several differences. First, we usually go in April/May or October, but this year we went in July. Second, we usually stay in a Disney resort, but this year we stayed off-property. The reason for both is that my parents had a condo about six miles from WDW for the week of July 18 and they asked us if we’d like to go down and use the second bedroom. We had actually decided we weren’t going to be able to afford a trip this year, but we figured since we wouldn’t have to pay for a room, we could probably swing it.

We had a lovely time, though it was hot, hot, hot, rainy at times, and far more crowded than we are used to. I made several observations while there, and I thought I’d write them down. Here, then, in no particular order, are things I observed last week.

Magic Kingdom

  • Having Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority closed at the same time makes Tomorrowland not as much fun.
  • I still adore the Carousel of Progress, but the “future” scene at the end needs updating. “I suppose you’re going to tell us about how you didn’t even have a car phone!”
  • Spectromagic (aka The Parade That Refuses To End) can trap you. We got trapped in certain areas of the MK three times while there.
  • Spectromagic does not need to be presented twice a night, within two hours of each other. Twice a week would be better.
  • Jack-ass teens who fake getting out of an Indy Car at the Tomorrowland Speedway, thus making my son have to wait for another car, should be bludgeoned.
  • Staring at your video camera while filming your ride on the Mad Teacups is a sure way to get motion sick and toss your cookies. (I realized what was happening just in time to keep from hurling.)
  • The Peter Pan ride always has a bizarrely long line, given that the whole ride is somewhat lame, and only about two minutes long.
  • The changes to the Haunted Mansion they made last year were fabulous. I particularly like the staircase room.
  • The Jungle Cruise is so much better at night.
  • Great skippers really make the Jungle Cruise great. “If you’ve enjoyed this trip, my name is Joseph and this has been the famous Jungle Cruise. If you didn’t enjoy it, my name is Felipé and this has been Pirates of the Caribbean!”
  • The Enchanted Tiki Room was so much better before they “improved” it by adding Iago and Zazu.
  • The frozen orange juice you can buy from the counter next to the Tiki Room is still the best and goes down so nicely on a hot day.

Epcot

  • I really don’t like most of the changes they made last year to Spaceship Earth. Jeremy Irons was a better narrator than Judi Dench and the script has been dumbed-down so much that it’s insulting. I do like seeing Woz, though.
  • The descent at the end of Spaceship Earth is a stupid exercise in killing time. There used to be scenes of “the future” of communication, but now it’s a dumb glimpse of “some amazing technologies we happen to know about.” Yeah, like flying cars and autonomous robot servants. Nothing real in that animation; just clichés from sci-fi films.
  • I liked “The Living Seas” far more than “The Seas With Nemo and Friends.” The inside was better when it was “Sea Base Alpha.”
  • Turtle Talk With Crush is amazing tech.
  • Soarin’ is one of the best rides they have.
  • On two trips now, whilst riding Living With the Land, there have been people in the lab at the end of the greenhouse. I always wondered if they actually did anything in there.
  • The old Figment ride in Journey Into Imagination was a lot better than what’s there now, even if the current ride does feature Eric Idle.
  • Ellen’s Energy Adventure still makes me laugh, especially the pre-show.
  • Even though Mission: Space is amazing tech, I miss Horizons.
  • Even though Test Track is a fun ride, I miss the whimsy of World of Motion.
  • It is absolutely criminal that in the American Adventure pavilion at World Showcase the restaurant is burgers and fries that are no different that what you can find at any counter service restaurant all over WDW. We have steaks and such in this country that would be tasty to visitors.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a pale reflection of the Disney/MGM Studios that opened 20 years ago this year. Yes, the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Rollercoaster are awesome, but all the TV- and movie-making are completely gone. It’s just a movie-themed park now, instead of a working studio with rides and shows.
  • Toy Story Mania is absolutely incredible. Get there early and get a FastPass.
  • I hate that they destroyed Residential Street and most of the backlot in order to bring in the Lights, Motors, Action stunt show. It is so hot watching that show in July.
  • The American Idol Experience was kind of lame. Why is Disney/ABC paying Fox for the rights to do that?

Blizzard Beach

  • We haven’t been to Typhoon Lagoon in years because Blizzard Beach is so great.
  • If the water level is too low in the lazy river at Blizzard Beach, your knees will scrape the bottom, which hurts. A lot.
  • Young, teen-aged girls from other countries are really into wearing amazingly small bikinis, some of which can only be described as “butt floss.” Did I mention that these bikinis were amazingly small?
  • Teamboat Springs at Blizzard Beach is worth whatever wait you have to put up with. It’s a long, fun ride.
  • I’m still too chicken to get on Summit Plummet.
  • They really need more than one conveyance to the top of the mountain. It takes a long time to get on the chair lift and then several minutes to get to the top. There are staircases, but it’s a long way to the top, or even the middle where some of the rides are, when you have to take the stairs.
  • They should keep all the pavement constantly sprayed with water. In the summer, that pavement gets incredibly hot and since most of the patrons are barefoot, it hurts.

General

  • When it’s 95 degrees with 85% humidity, you sweat instantly upon waling outside.
  • If you don’t eat meals inside the parks, you can save a fortune.
  • A one-day, one-park ticket is absurdly expensive at $75.

So, that’s pretty much it, though I’m sure I missed a few things I wanted to mention. We did miss not being at a Disney Resort some, because of the perks you get. We like to use the Extra Magic Hours, and it’s nice letting someone else do all the driving. But we still had a great time, and are looking forward to our next trip, which we hope will be in 2010.

Firefly Incident at Walt Disney World

We just got back from 10 days at Walt Disney World and it was great, as usual. I’ll have more to say later, including a critique of the current state of the four parks, and their rides and shows. But right now I have a strange juxtaposition of Disney World with Firefly.

My friends know that I’m an absolute fanatic for Firefly, the short-lived Joss Whedon show from a few years ago. I have watched every episode on DVD multiple times, and have worked hard to evangelize my friends. Several of them have heeded my advice and are now hooked, themselves.

Anyway, on the second day of our trip, I wore a t-shirt with the Blue Sun logo on it. I didn’t really expect anyone to recognize it, but you never know. We were at Epcot that day, and were having lunch at the Garden Grill restaurant. This restaurant is in The Land pavilion and features Farmer Mickey, Pluto and Chip & Dale who come around to each table to see the kids. Mickey came round first. I took a picture of him with Thomas, and off he went. Then came Pluto. He was playing with Thomas, when all of a sudden he (Pluto) starts emphatically pointing at me. I was trying to figure out what he meant, checking my face for food, etc. Finially, it dawned on me that he was pointing at my shirt. I said “My shirt? Is Pluto a Firefly fan?” At that he began jumping up and down, pointing one paw at me, and the other at his nose (as in “right on the nose”). I then said, “So, you’ve got a TV out in the doghouse?” To which he began nodding vigorously, still jumping up and down, and pointing at me. He then made me give him the double-knuckle high-five over the table.

And that was it. I never expected Pluto to recognize the t-shirt, but he did. He was the only one, but it was so funny. I laughed about it for the rest of the day.

Walt Disney World 2006 – Day One

Well, we’re here again at Walt Disney World. I believe this is my 10th trip here. To save money this year we’re staying at a Disney Value Resort, which is nice, but not as nice as our usual resort.

We got here last night around 22:00 after a long drive. We were all tired and ready to hit the hay, but it took quite a while to get checked in. Actually, I think I waited in line for about 15 minutes, but it seemed like an hour because of the obnoxious couple behind me who were complaining the entire time. I really wanted to turn around and ask them to STFU, but I refrained…

So we get our room assignment and drive around to it. The room is located about 20 yards from the parking lot, which is nice. As we approach the door of the room, we hear some cretinous teen-agers on the 2nd floor shouting something about “piss in your shoe, dood!” My wife yells up at them to watch their language, receiving cold silence in return. We make a few trips to unload the car and once done, we decide to walk around the resort for a few minutes before turning in. We exit the room, and immediately hear those same teen-aged jerks upstairs, only this time it’s “the ‘F’ word” that we’re treated to. Needless to say, I don’t want/need my 7 year old hearing that, so we step out from under the overhang and confront them. Some jerk with his baseball hat turned to the side (which causes an instant loss of 23 IQ points, BTW) starts handing out attitude about how it wasn’t him, blah blah blah. After arguing with him for a minute or so, I demanded to see his chaperon. He allegedly tried to find him, but to no avail. Another teen with the same group apologized for what happened and was able to quickly locate the chaperon. Idiot-Baseball-hat-boy is in tow, moaning about how “this guy says I cursed when I didn’t.” The chaperon was much nicer. He gave us his name and room number and told us if we had any further trouble from any of his guys to let him know. That’s service; I like that. While they did make some noise that kept waking me up, we had no further trouble. And… Praise the Lord!… they left this morning. Our vacation is saved.

Today we went to Sea World and had a great time. I have posted photos of today’s fun at this Flickr set and will be posting each day’s photos to separate photo sets located at my main Flickr page. Anyway, we did the backstage “Arctic Tour” that let us touch a penguin and we did all the usual Sea World stuff. We were very disappointed with the newest Shamu show, “Believe.” I knew we were in trouble when they introduced it by saying “it’s the story of a boy…” I thought it was about a whale… The old show was much better, when it really was about a whale. We learned on the Arctic tour that killer whales are not, in fact, whales at all. They are members of the dolphin family. How about that, eh? We also bought two soprano ukuleles…

Tomorrow we are headed for the Disney-MGM Studios. Photos to come tomorrow night.

We’re Going to Disney World!

Our annual pilgrimage to Walt Disney World is rapidly approaching and I’m can hardly sit still waiting for it to arrive. At the sound of the beep, this is how much time I have left until we begin our drive to “The World”

Beeeeeeeeepppp….

Time until WDW: 10.50 days or 252.01 hours or 907,250 seconds

We’re actually doing something a bit different this year. We usually drive down the day before our reservations start and stay that one night “off property.” This year, our usual off property hotel was amazingly overpriced, and it worked out cheaper to stay at one of Disney’s “value” resorts. So our first three nights we’ll be staying at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, but without park tickets. This is by design because the first day is consumed with the drive down from Atlanta, so park tickets on that day would be a total waste. The second day we are going to Sea World. Tammy and I used to go to Sea World every year, but this will be Thomas’ first trip. He’s going to love it. And our third day we are going to Universal Studios Orlando.

Day 4 begins our real Disney World trip. We will leave the ASM bright and early that day, drive over to our usual resort, Port Orleans Riverside (n

Disney World Days 3 & 4

On Sunday we spent most of the day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and had a great time. There’s quite a bit of stuff to do there and lots to look at. Thomas had a great time at the Festival of the Lion King show but didn’t get into Tarzan Rocks all that much. We rode the Kilimanjaro Safaris which is a bus that takes you through the “savannah” where you can see quite a few real animals. Lots of fun and a very bumpy ride, indeed. I took several decent photos on that ride… The theming in this park is excellent, BTW.

After Animal Kingdom we headed back for the resort to chill out in the air conditioning. We decided to head to Downtown Disney to shop and to have dinner at the Rain Forest Cafe, one of Thomas’ (and my) favorites. We had a good meal, but they brought out our meals about 60 seconds after bringing out the appetizers, which really annoys me. I mentioned to Tammy how frustrating that is, prompting Thomas to tap me on the shoulder. When I looked at him he tapped the side of his head and said “Daddy. Think.” (For why this is funny, read this posting.

On Monday (today) we decided to head for Blizzard Beach first thing. We had a great time, but my thinning hair provides no coverage of my poor pate and so now the top of my head is the color of a lobster… It hurts too!

But all was not good in the Land of the Mouse today. No, after waiting over 30 minutes for the stupid bus back to our resort from Blizzard Beach, an almost-full bus finally arrived. The driver openend the door and motionend for us to get on. I climbed to the top step and saw that there was a stroller in the way, meanwhile Thomas had climbed to the second step. The driver was fiddling with the stroller and apparently took his foot off the brake! Before I realized it, the bus was moving and then slamed into a concrete pylon! I was thrown towards the glass but steadied myself and Thomas was thrown to the floor of the step. He didn’t get hurt, but it scared the heck out of him (and us!). The front bumper of the bus wass crushed up against the pylon (and I do mean crushed), Thomas was screaming and the driver was… doing absolutely nothing except looking at me with a dumb expression. No “I’m sorry!” or “Is your boy ok?” Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. I screamed at him “You’ve had an accident! Aren’t you going to call someone?!?” He was still looking at me as if I were from Mars… I finally got him to call a manager. The passengers start to get off the bus, one by one coming over to check on Thomas and offering to serve as witnesses if we need them. Lots of people were duly concerned with what happend, and confirmed that we really did see things exectly as they happened. The managers were very understanding and seemed concerned. We’ll see if they offer us anything… And through all of this, the only thing the bus driver said to me was “You want an ambulance?” That’s it.

That delayed us getting back to the resort by almost 2 hours, so we had a late lunch and came back to chill out for an abbreviated 1.5 hours. After the shortest siesta, we headed out to Epcot for dinner at L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante; it was just ok… I had the Fettucini Alfredo, which should have been the best bowl of Alfredo you can get… Sadly it was not. It was no better than what you can get at any Olive Garden anywhere in America. Our meal came to $56.55 and was nowhere close to being worth it…

So after a lackluster dinner we headed over to the Japan pavilion and got there just in time to see Matsuriza, the Taiko drummers. Excellent performance, as usual. Then it was off to the Mitsukoshi department story. You know… this could be such a cool store with lots of authentic Japanese stuff for sale. Instead they have lots of Anime-related toys and various other crap. I mean real crap, like cheap Chinese toys crap. Stuff that gives no indication that it is anything special in Japan crap. Just crap. Very disappointing.

(Speaking of disappointing, Epcot just can’t seem to keep Spaceship Earth running. This is my favorite ride at Epcot (one of my faves in all of WDW) and the last four times I’ve ridden it, over three trips, the stupid thing has stopped during the ride every single time, which completely breaks the mood. )

After all of that, it was time for Illuminations the amazing music/lights/fire/fireworks show that they do every night. Words can’t describe how amazing this show is. It only lasts about 12 minutes total, but it’s incredible.

Anyway, that’s enough for tonight. Tomorrow we’re going to spend the whole day at Epcot, since we didn’t really get to do much tonight.

And remember, you can see all the photos I’ve taken in my Photo album. Once there, click on “My Photos” and then the day that you care about. I’m creating a sub-album for each day of the trip.

Disney World Days 1 & 2

We arrived in Kissimmee, Florida around 1700-ish yesterday, tired but happy. We checked in to the Comfort Suites Maingate East and were treated to an enormous suite, the absolute largest hotel room I’ve ever been in. It was huge! At Thomas’ request we hit the pool and then went to a TGIFridays for dinner, played a round of Pirate mini golf and then hit the rack. Well, not before pulling all the day’s photos off the digicam and uploading them to my Photo Album.

(If you want to see our trip photos, go to my Photo album, click on My Photos and then on the day that you’d like to see. I’m uploading each day’s photos to a separate album.)

This morning we got up at 0600 and started getting ready. Downstairs at 0700 for a quick breakfast, and then off to Port Orleans: Riverside for our Walt Disney World stay. Things got off to a bit of a rocky start… we didn’t get the building we wanted, but after a bit of work on the cast member’s part, we were at least in the section we wanted. The bad news is when she tells me that three of the four bus stops will be CLOSED the entire time we are here…. Then our room wasn’t ready. She said it would be ready by 1500 and to just call. We ended up staying at the Magic Kingdom for several hours longer than we intended because the room still wasn’t ready. When I called back, they said it would be ready between 1500 and 1700. Guess what… it still wasn’t ready at 1700… They moved us to a new room, which is actually closer to everything, so there’s that silver lining…

We thoroughly enjoyed the Magic Kingdom, even though it was hot and crowded. I talked with two guys in line for Space Mountain and they said that the crowds during the week had been extremely light, which is what I had been counting on when I booked the trip… I took lots of photos, and these can be seen in the “WDW Day 2″ album at my photo album.

Anyway… after finally getting our room, we suited up and hit the pool. We stayed there for an hour or so, then cleaned up and hit the food court here at the resort. Then back to the room to get the photos pulled, scaled and published…

Tomorrow we’re heading for Animal Kingdom which should be fun. It’s the one park that we’ve spent the least amount of time in over the years, so there should be quite a bit we never saw before.