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Trip Reports
01-07-2007, 08:45 PM
Maria Pepe -- May 2000 -- Dolphin

May 4th to 8th, 2000

Day 1 Arrival

Arrived at MCO on time at around 5:30. We flew Air Tran......and were impressed. The planes are brand new, good leg room. Having Avis Preferred Card is wonderful. You just get your luggage and go into the parking garage. They have a small kiosk, where your papers are ready and waiting, since all you information has been on file with them. The car is ready with trunk open.....takes all of 5 minutes. I had a coupon from my Entertainment Book for one free weekend day that I also presented to them. My rental for the 4 days turned out to be $110 Total, tax included. We had an Impala. We had rented one of those in February and liked the way it handles.

The ride to WDW was simple and easy. I do love using the Greenway, Rt 417. It takes you right to Epcot Center Blvd at the proper exit. Checking into the Dolphin was quick as well since I joined Starwood Preferred Guests at Pat's recommendation. As most of you know, I got an Entertainment rate for a club level room (concierge). I then lost my card here at home somewhere.....so I borrowed and brought my MIL's card with me. Good thing I did, since they did ask for the card. This place is GORGEOUS!!!!! We fall in love with the hotel. We head to the lounge for something to snack on. There are sodas, cheese and crackers, cut up fruit, huge chocolate chip cookies, and a hot appetizer. Tonight's was crab salad in a pastry shell. Yummy.

Then we headed to the boat dock at the hotel and took it to MGM....it goes direct from there. We used Disney transportation more this trip than any other, mostly to MGM on the boat. We were there in the hour before closing, perfect for doing RNR coaster and TOT once. We could've gotten in another ride, but I was getting a little tired. Took the boat back to the Dolphin. Opened up a bottle of chardonnay I had waiting in the room when we arrived as a special touch for my hubby. We were on the 12th floor. From our room, we could see Epcot very well, and MGM also. We could see the final high fireworks from Fantasmic, and almost ALL of Illuminations....we even saw the globe coming into the middle of the lagoon, not clearly enough to see the pictures on it, but enough to be awesome! The fireworks were so cool, we turned out the lights in our room and watched as we drank wine. What a way to end the day! :o)

Day 2

This morning, we do what turns out to be the same thing every morning.......now get your minds out of the gutter. We went to the lounge for breakfast. They had a lot of food for breakfast. Juices, coffee, tea, cold cereals, croissant, bagels, cream cheese (a toaster for the bagels too), yummy Danish and muffins as well. Fresh cut up fruit and containers of yogurt rounded out the breakfast.

We then too the boat over to MGM AGAIN, got there early. Star Wars Weekends was starting today. We saw the Stormtroopers on the roof over the ticket gates. They stared down at the crowd. They looked pretty cool.

They started letting everyone in at 8:30am, but rope drop isn't until 9. So we spend a pleasant half hour talking with CM's and a nice British family. At rope drop, it's wild, even though the CM's try to control things. There were lots of high school kids, since there were 2 Grad nights this weekend. The CM told them straight up if they get to the ride before he does, they go to the back of the line. Cool. We are right behind the RNR CM, at times almost jogging with him and the crowd. We follow him into the lines, we're the first ones! Yay.....we see one kid get snagged as he tries to climb the wall to cut into line! LOL Everyone starts laughing at him and jeering at him. Idjit. We ride, it's just an awesome coaster, and John's favorite. We get off, get a Fast Pass for RNR before heading over to TOT. Not much of a wait, maybe 10 minutes. I love this ride too. We then look around a couple shops on Sunset till our Fast pass time, only about 15 minutes away. We ride RNR with the Fast Pass, then leave.

We drove over to Epcot to meet Arlen Miller. Arlen writes a daily Disney newsletter with articles gleaned from various newspapers. He also has a cool website with lots of rumors on it. And he also runs a bunch of Disney Auctions of collectibles. I know Nancy (cruella 275) has met him at her Disneyana convention. Anyhow, way back when Arlen has offered to show me Disney in a "way I've never seen it before". LOL Nancy and I had a good time interpreting that one! So, since John and I would be alone, we decide, what the heck! So we arranged to meet near HISTA, in the little seating area near the Fast Pass machines at 10 am.

We meet up, and Arlen has a friend with him, Larry. Seems he ran into Larry in the parking lot. They know each other through pin trading. Apparently Arlen is seriously into it.......what with his auctions and all, and so is Larry. But Larry has been collecting pins for years, not only Disney pins. Arlen is a trip right from the beginning. He's a transplanted New Yorker, so we all got along great! He's a schmoozer extraordinaire! LOL Larry was quite fun to be with as well, with a great sense of humor. Larry's pin collection was simply amazing, compared to my pitiful few common ones! LOL

Our first stop was the Eastman/Kodak VIP lounge, hidden behind an innocent looking door to the side ot HISTA. Arlen was friends with Wendy, the girl behind the desk. The lounge was beautiful, comfy chairs and couches. Free sodas/water/juices. We hung out here for a while. Arlen has an endless supply of stories, Disney and otherwise! LOL It was great. He worked for Disney for 10 years, in different capacities. Now he lives off his auctions. Pretty cool. Wendy, the lounge CM, had quite the pin collection as well. She brought hers out, and she and Larry traded a few. Wendy likes Tinkerbell, Larry had a few different Tinkerbells. She traded him for a few exclusive Kodak/JIYA/Hista pins. We could've been back-doored to this attraction, but decided not to, since Arlen only had the morning available.

We headed over to the General Motors VIP lounge, located in Test Track. This lounge was amazing. Besides being huge, you got to see INTO Test Track, watching the cars go through the attraction. Arlen gave us a detailed description of how it works, and why it used to break down so frequently before and why it doesn't as much anymore. He was fascinating. There is also this huge picture window that gives you this great view of Spaceship Earth. I could never get tired of that view! We said Hello to Corinne.....a CM in the lounge that knows Linda's (blssthomas) family. We are back-doored into Test Track.......gosh, it's good to have connections.

We then head over to the Wonders of Life Pavilion, into the MetLife VIP lounge. Again, it's hidden behind an innocent looking door. You're beeped in. It's adorable in here! Looks like a circus tent almost, murals on the walls. VEry neat. The bathrooms are adorable too. We have more sodas here. Then we're back-doored into Body Wars. Very cool. I could get used to this. All the while, we're all talking and talking. We watch Arlen schmooze away......LOL Watching a New Yorker at work is so funny.

After this it was almost 1pm, and Arlen had to get going over to Star Wars Weekend. He'd gotten a bracelet earlier that morning with a bar code.......he was one of the 100 people who got to do a contest, seeing how many times they could do Body Wars between 11 and 5pm. They were identified by this bar coded bracelet. They got to ride over and over. They had to get off but were let in the handicapped entrance and by pass the lines, since they were doing the contest. In an email to me, he says he tied for 1st place with 6 other people, riding 30 times. LOL So, we said our good byes to Arlen and Larry. We had such an awesome time with them!!! Arlen says he'll do IOA with us when we come back in August! LOL I love putting faces/voices with names. And now when I read his newsletters, it's so funny, because I know what he's like! LOL

After we said our goodbye's, John and I drove to DD to eat at Wolfgang Puck's cafe. We love it here. John had a Caesar salad and some kind of pasta dish, was good! I had a Caesar salad and the crab cakes. YUMMY!! After lunch, we head out to check out 2 other hotels we're scoping out for August. Our first stop is the Holiday Inn and Suites Universal Studios. We had a little trouble finding it, but no problem because we got to drive by Portofino Bay!! OMG! Portofino looks amazing!!! The colors used on the buildings are gorgeous. I loved it......I know we'll enjoy our 4 nights there in August. We finally find the Holiday Inn, ask to see the 2 bedroom suite, which is what we have a ressie for. It's just OKAY.

We then head to the Hawthorne Suites on Canada Drive. This place was nice, really nice. Nice lobby, nice breakfast area. They include breakfast and afternoon snacks. The 2 bedroom suite was very nice. We decide to go with this place for our 1st 4 nights in August. We drive the route towards Sea World to see how long it is to there.......and with traffic (by now it was 5 pm) it only was 15 minutes.

We headed back to the Dolphin, this time heading over to the Swan club level lounge, since Pat (dsnydiva) had told me about it. Their evening appetizers weren't any better/worse than ours. We ate there, called it our dinner, since we weren't very hungry, having had a nice big lunch at Wolfgang Puck's. Neville, the CM in the Swan lounge was very nice. We had a nice time talking with him. He was helping us identify some of the buildings in the distance from the 12th floor view.

After eating, we walked down the boardwalk and into Epcot. We roamed a bit, heading over to Mexico to look for another parrot. In our master bathroom, we have 3 parrots so far hanging from the ceiling. John wanted to add yet another! LOL We bought most in the shop outside Pirates of the Caribbean, but he'd seen they had them in Mexico as well. We bought a parrot, then walked down the rose garden path, smelling as we went, looking in the tents selling garden merchandise. We then went over to England, claiming a sidewalk spot for the 8:10 TON parade. John went to get a beer inside the pub, and was standing by there. I was talking with another nice British family. Unfortunately, an announcement came that due to windy conditions, the TON parade was cancelled. Bummer. gosh, I realize I haven't' mentioned the weather much. Warm, sunny days, cool, breezy nights. That was it the whole time.........quite lovely weather! We decided we'd walk back to the room. Walked the Boardwalk way again, got back to the room in time to shut out the lights and watch Illuminations again from the comfort of our room! We didn't have a balcony by the way, most of the rooms on the big "triangle", where we were, don't have them. The only exception was on the suites on the 20th floor.

Day 3

We started out having our breakfast, then taking the boat over to MGM for our RNR/TOT daily fix. We then decided to head over to Star Tours to see what was up with the Star Wars Weekend thing. We saw some characters....Chewbaca, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo, and one of the little furry creatures. People were getting pics/autographs. They were also conducting a "light sabre" lesson. Was cute........they had a Darth Vader guy and a Jedi showing kids the moves like in the movie. We rode Star Tours. Then we looked around some shops, finally went inside Pizza Planet. Then we walked the back lot a bit. There is a show at Lights, Camera, Action Theater on Mickey Ave called the Making of Star Wars. We went to that. Was funny and pretty interesting. Saw the usual Disney characters on Mickey Ave. It was now Noon. We were hungry.

We left MGM and headed to Epcot. We wanted to eat at Alfredo's. Linda (blssthomas) had mentioned something about a new menu, so I wanted to check it out. Well, it was the same one from last July when we ate there, so perhaps Linda had been there before that. We enjoyed our meal. We both had the Insalata Caprese....fresh tomatoes, mozzarella...with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and basil. Then John had the spaghetti with the pesto sauce. Pesto is basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese blended in a food processor with olive oil. It's great. I had the Ziti alla Meditteranea, same as last July. It had tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, basil. Was good. Too full for dessert at the time, we left and walked out the back gateway and wandered around the Yacht/Beach Club a bit. I got to see a Yacht Club room too.......very easy to do when the cleaning lady is cleaning a room with the door open. We then walked from the Yacht/Beach club along the path to the Swan/Dolphin. We stopped at the Dolphin Fountain, an ice cream/snack shop. I was thinking of Diana (Dhester) as I had a sundae with chocolate chip cookie ice cream with wet nuts, hot fudge, AND Oreo cookie crumbs! LOL Think I had my chocolate fix! I was only able to eat half of it. We went back to the room and rested/napped a bit.

I wanted to take a ride to Celebration to see what it was like. So, we hopped in the car, left Disney property, and headed to Celebration. John hated it, hated the look of it, said the houses were too close together. However, compared to many Orlando housing developments, they really weren't. I had read a whole bunch about Celebration when we were building our house, since it was featured in so many home planners books. There are single family homes, along with, say, a block of townhouses on the next block. Then you have apartment/condo's next block over. Some of the homes were huge. All were immaculately kept. I hate to say it, but it DID look like freaking STEPFORD!! LOL I mean, it was sooo perfect looking. It really was. But I really thought it was lovely. All the garages are behind the homes, with a big driveway in the back of the houses. They did this so as not to mar the perfect beauty of the front of the house. I'm telling you, the townhouses look like a picture, they're so perfect looking. Kinda like a themepark look to it! LOL But I enjoyed our drive through. John didn't want to check out the downtown shops......it was all too perfect for him.

We had planned on going to the Comedy Club tonight. We drove over to Downtown Disney......my gosh, the whole area was packed! I mean packed! We couldn't find anyplace to park in all those huge lots. We then saw a sign welcoming Grad Night kids.......so I'm figuring there may have been something special for them. We just drove back to the hotel, took a walk on the Boardwalk, and called it a night.

Day 4

Sunday morning we started out as usual, heading over to the lounge for breakfast, then going to MGM for a quick RNR/TOT run. We then decide to head to Winter Park. Yes, folks, I left the hallowed ground that is Disney. I had read in one of the magazines about Winter Park. It's where old money lives. They have boat tours on Lake Osceola, where you can see cool looking mansions. So we took a very pleasant Sunday Drive. However, when we got there, we discovered the boat is uncovered and open to the brutal Florida Sun. It was a warm day, and the sun beating continuously on my head in the middle of a lake is a recipe for migraine disaster. So we decided not to do it. Oh well. But there is a really nice shopping avenue....Park Ave. So we had lunch at a little outdoor cafe. We did a little shopping. Found a really cool store, bought some trinkets. It was nice. Did I mention how nice they weather has been? Bright sunny and warm.

We headed back to the Dolphin to freshen up and relax a little. We then decided to visit the MK since we hadn't been there yet! We park at the Grand Floridian and monorail over to MK as usual. We went on Alien Encounter. It actually gets more fun the more I do it. LOL We then walked around the park, not going on another ride! LOL We just enjoyed the atmosphere. After this, we were going to go have some ribs. John got a craving for ribs. Well, we were going to do Wildhorse Saloon at PI, but in one magazine it says "admission to PI not required", and another one says "admission to PI not required till 7pm"....so we didn't feel like schlepping over there, only to find out we'd have to pay to eat. SOOO.........we knew there was a Tony Roma's right around the corner from Hotel Plaza blvd. As we were heading there, though, I read in one of my magazines about Jeff Foxworthy's BBQ place on 192. So, we decide to head there. Well, this place was a trip!!! Jeff Foxworthy is a funny comedian who tells lots of redneck jokes. Well, this restaurant was themed "redneck". It was hilarious. Some of the seats were actually tailgates from trucks hanging off the wall. There were mismatched tables and chairs. The booths had automobile seats, you could put the armrest down between you. The lamps on the tables were radiators, rigged with light bulbs, etc......you really have to see it to believe it! LOL John's mom loves Jeff Foxworthy.......so we bought her a comedy VCR tape from their little gift selection.

The ribs were "Memphis Style"...I hadn't known what that meant. But they were the big kind, not baby backs. They seemed to just have a dry rub on them. They were good. They did have BBQ sauces in squeeze bottles on the tables, which we used, since we like BBQ sauce. In all, it was decent food in a funny, quirky atmosphere.

Next we head over to the oldest section of the Disney Marketplace. I had not been there in AGES!! We always seemed to do Westside, and not going any further down than the World of Disney Store. Well, we wander into the home store. Can you say TO DIE FOR??????? I am definitely buying the Mickey polar fleece throw in August! They have several different color schemes/patterns. I love it. The bathroom rugs were TOOOO cute! The Mickey feet rug, the rug that's shaped like Mickey's head.....adorable! We browse the other stores, then head into the Art of Disney. Wow......I love this place. As we're browsing, I see a man.....I say to John, "Isn't that Pete Werner???????!!!!" I think most of you know who Pete Werner is........he has an Unofficial WDW site....it used to be called disneyinfo.com, but now it's wdwinfo.com. I use his site a lot, in addition to dear Deb's site, of course.

*STORYTIME* Time to backtrack for those of you who don't know this story, heck here on RADP most of you don't know this story, since I had written in on AOL last year! LOL You have to know this story in order to appreciate the above story when I finish it! Last June, John, me and the kids were having lunch at the GF Cafe. We love it there. We were sitting at a table along the wall. Well, there is another table right next to you, since the seat along the wall continues, like a booth to the next table. So, now I can't help but overhear bits and pieces of conversation from the table next to us. I hear "Disney" and "webmaster".

Finally I get up the courage to say........."Did I hear you say you have a

Disney website? Which one?"

He says, "Disneyinfo.com"

I say, "You are NOT Pete Werner???!!"

He says, "Yes, I am"

Well.......LOLOL, I proceed to gush like a school girl! This is the closest thing to celebrity I'm ever getting! We chat for a moment, the 2 women he was dining with were *advertisers* on his website, from the Buena Vista Suites! LOL Now, if that didn't tell these women his site was known, I don't know what did! I even have a picture of my meeting with Pete!

Back to Sunday night in the Art of Disney store,

I say, "John, isn't that Pete Werner!!!!!!????" John is clueless so I

approach the man, and say, "Pete? You're Pete Werner, right?" He says, "Yes??"

LOLOLOL Isn't that hysterical! I remind him we had met last year, blah, blah........and of course he then remembers! He says he tells that story all the time, and how the ladies from Buena vista suites thought I was planted at the Cafe! LOL Well, he then introduced me to Carole-Annette....an administrator on his website. I recognize the name, since she uses that name as her user name. He also introduced me to his partner John. We had a great time in the store, going our separate ways to buy stuff, then meeting up again to chat some more. He is very nice, funny guy. We just couldn't believe we were running into each other AGAIN! LOL

Well, by then it was getting later, so we headed back to the Dolphin. Another great day in Orlando!

Day 5/closing comments

Well, this is our checkout day. We start off going to the lounge of course, having our breakfast. We pack the suitcases. With express checkout, you have the bill under your door by 7 am, and if it's okay, you don't do anything! Just leave! So, we headed to MGM AGAIN for one last ride on the RNR coaster........can u tell this is DH's Favorite ride?? Then we head to the airport for another great, uneventful, on time flight on Air Tran.

In closing, this is the 2nd trip to WDW that dh and I did without the kids. Boy, they are wonderful. Since our children have been there 3 times in the last year, I certainly do NOT feel guilty leaving them home! Plus, they'll be coming back in August for our Universal trip as well. Our trips alone are so much less stressful without the kids, and very relaxing. We don't go on many rides. When you've been there a lot, and have AP's, it's just wonderful to be able to say......next time!

Maria Pepe