Travel Dates: June 2012
Resort: Yacht Club
Cast of Characters: Marlin, 35; Coral, 33; Nemo 1, (N1) 10; Nemo 2 (N2), 5.
Disney Experience: Multiple prior trips
Dining: Good Ole Dining Plan
I enjoy pretty much every trip report here. Nothing can break up a stressful day like a vicarious trip to WDW through a good trip report. So here is my humble contribution.
I wont, however, hit on a usual trip report theme. For those of you who read these looking for bargain tips, Im not going to take the typical tack of relating how much I spent and saved at various places. For one, uh, I didnt save a lot. For two, theres a great theory by Malcolm Gladwell (I think) about the outliers of society who can rustle up deals, and those who are adept at finding them. I suspect the online Disney community has a disproportionate ratio of both.
Instead, Ill try to hit on some underserved topics. I notice that there are comparatively few trip reports from middle aged dads. Ill touch on some things that dads think about while in the parks, but dont blurt out. Hopefully it will be original and entertaining, but please take everything for the light fare silliness its supposed to be (especially when we hit the poop jokes).
Day 1: Welcome Home
To squeeze in maximum vacation time, we booked the first flight of the day from Texas to Orlando. It seemed like a good theory until the 3:45 alarm. From previous trips we remembered that a Saturday Orlando flight brought chaos at the baggage check in and security, but we breezed through security and onto our plane before the masses arrived. It seems no matter where I sit on a plane that the person in front of me will recline his or her chair fully right after take off. This time was no exception as the lady in front of me pushed back and pulled out her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. I can see how a dawn flight full of playful kids put her in the mood for that.
The Magical Express is one of those love it or hate it things. I love it. Since I commute to a downtown office every day, a perk of vacation for me is not having to fight traffic everywhere. Weve always had our luggage arrive with no trouble. This time was no different. Our bus was waiting, and we were at the Yacht Club less than an hour after touch down.
Once you stay at an Epcot resort, you will never want to stay anywhere else. Epcot and DHS are easy walks, even for kids (and no commuting!), but the true gem is Stormalong Bay, the huge pool complex complete with waterslides and pretty CMs bringing beer. We planned to spend good chunks of each day relaxing in the pool.
I know its a seductive marketing thing, but having a CM greet you with a Welcome Home! upon your arrival rings true. Its funny how even if youve been away from WDW for several years, you can within minutes feel right back in the swing of it. For example, we arrived at lunchtime. Instead of opening our eating spree with a burger at Hurricane Hannahs, we decided to take advantage of the world (showcase) of dining options a short walk away in Epcot. We strolled right out of the lobby, around Crescent Lake, and through the IG, like it was as familiar as our own neighborhood.
The weather was glorious: low-80s, slight breeze, overcast, just perfect for perusing the park. We put off a planned dip in the pool, reasoning we would have plenty of chances the next few days. Hold that thought. Even the crowd levels blessed us. We hit Space Ship Earth, Nemo, Crush, Three Caballeros, Living with the Land and Maelstrom, none with more than 15 minutes of wait. Most were walk ons. Was this really crowded, hot June?
Our good mood extended to people watching. I have a theory that WDW is not the happiest place on earth, but the geekiest, and in a good way! People really do make themselves at home. Think of all the nerdy things you can do that are normal at WDW but that would get you strange looks in the real world. Just that afternoon we saw the following:
1. Adults in Kids Clothing: Forget Mickey or Tinkerbell shirts. Those are benign. Try strolling your mall in mouse ears, pirate hooks and Jedi robes with your face painted as Tigger and see what stares you get. At WDW, you can rock that look with pride.
2. Adults Dressed to Match: Now its time for a hard, hard truth. When guys see a group of women over age 21 or so all wearing matching, themed T-Shirts, we assume they never got dates in college. Im talking about the bright orange with something like 2012 Road Trip Were Gettin SASSY printed on them. Elementary teachers, Im sorry. You had to be told. But at WDW, roll along with your group of 12 in matching shirts. Its endearing there!
3. Fanny Packs: It always amuses to see someone on the or 1 mile walking trail strapping enough supplies to rescue the Donner party. Invariably such a walker will have a giant fanny pack along with water bottles, changes of clothes, etc. What is packed in there, 1989? For WDW, though, fanny packs are still fashionable and functional.
4. Pool Comfort: Im lucky to get to run every day and be fit. Still, I wouldnt relish getting into a swimsuit around my co-workers. And, I know for women that thought is, conservatively, 683% worse. But at WDW, youre surrounded by people in the same predicament, and that youll never see again. I have good news to report: folks are comfortable in the pool and wont care about how you look. Its a great relaxer, so much so that its almost TOO relaxing. My fellow dads, remember to hitch up your trunks. I saw more long divisions in Stormalong Bay than in sixth grade math.
After supper we came home to the YC. We debated sticking around for Illuminations but wed been up early and the rain had started. Surely it wouldnt last.
Day 2: Two by Two
We slept without an alarm, and I awoke to the sound of what I thought was Coral in the shower, but turned out to be rain on the balcony. Ominously, the iPhone reported 90% chances of rain all day. Uh oh. Since it was a light drizzle, we set off by bus for the Magic Kingdom.
Theres a poet (and I wish I could remember who) who had a great work about moments in your life you wish you could bottle up and save. Mine came that morning when we took our boys through Fantasyland, precisely when I saw N2s face riding Pooh. Wed planned to hit Adventureland first, but with the small crowds we plowed through to Fantasyland and walked on to Pooh. We rode it 4 times in 30 minutes, then hit Dumbo, Barnstormer, Small World and Tea Party twice each. Dumbo has a Fastpass now. The new Dumbo is over by the Barnstormer near where Mickeys country house used to be, but the Fastpass is by Philharmagic. Good thing the crowds were light, since we missed it completely. We then swung through Tomorrowland and did Buzz, Space Mountain (for N1), and Buzz twice more again. By this time the rain was coming down significantly.
Since it was lunchtime, we ducked into Cosmic Rays to eat and wait out the rain. Apparently everyone else in the MK had the same thought, since Cosmic Rays was packed packed packed. With the crowds and the water, I was amazed how clean they were keeping the place. MK maintenance did an overdrive job.
The rain was all anyone could talk about. I had this conversation while in line:
Guy in front of me: Sure is a lot of rain. So, did you pack an ark?
Me: No, but I Noah guy.
I dont think he got it.
We trudged through the rain through Main Street shops, then headed up to the Haunted Mansion. The canopy over the line had sprung several leaks, and I felt badly for the people who had parked their scooter under one. After HM, we headed over to Hall of Presidents. The Hall mustve had the air set for default June weather, and in our wet clothes we were freezing. We skipped out before the show, and headed back to the YC.
We had an ADR for Ohana at 6:30, and left at 5:15 assuming that the bus might take some time. Luckily, our bus to the MK had us there before 5:30, and we were up the resort monorail ramp. Unfortunately, Monorail Orange was having some difficulty, so it was after 6 before we boarded Monorail Blue. Still time for the ADR, right? Not so much. Orange broke down again while we were in the Contemporary station, and a third time while we were at the TTC. We would have walked from the TTC if not for the driving rain. We finally pulled in to the Polynesian at 6:30, and went to check in. The podium had an animated discussion going. Apparently the CM couldnt find the ADR of a large group, which they claimed theyd made in February. After a long conversation, which included gripes from the group about how hard it is to get a reservation at Ohana, the manager came over and solved the issue. The next guy in line stepped up and had this conversation.
Guy: Id like a table for 6
CM: Wonderful, and what is the name on your reservation?
Guy: No reservation, just want next available for 6.
Wed eaten at Ohana before, and while it was as tasty as I remember, I dont recall it being so rushed. It seems like our cousins dropped off the salad, then immediately the meat arrived. Are they trying to turn tables more quickly there?
The monorail issues resolved, we made it home easily and watched Illuminations from a covering outside the YC. I fell asleep to the weather report. Wait, did they say a tropical storm was hitting us?
Day 3: Debby Does Disney
Uh oh. We have an explanation for the rain. Tropical Storm Debby stationed herself in the Gulf south of the panhandle. Six inches of rain had fallen the day before, and the forecast was for heavy rain all of the next three days. Wonderful. Wed planned to spend this day at the Animal Kingdom, and decided to stick with it. We headed down to the bus station, and were the only family on the AK bus.
Im convinced that Disney Transportation was the original inspiration for WALL-E. You remember how WALL-E went about his trash cleanup every day, despite the mountains of trash and the deactivation of all other robots? We expected to run right to the AK, but sure enough the bus pulled off for a stop at Blizzard Beach. Keep in mind we were alone on the bus, had chatted with the driver about going to the AK, its 9 in the morning, and, yeah, its raining cats and dogs since theres a tropical freaking storm hitting, yet Disney still keeps its routine and hits the water park stops.
We went right to Kilaminjaro Safari, and as we boarded the sky really opened up. I despaired of seeing any animals, but many came out and played in the rain. We got great looks at the rhinos and elephants. The Little Red storyline is gone, and our driver did a great job of just talking about the animals and plant life. The boys lapped it up, so we went again.
I should mention here that Im a health care lawyer, and scheduled a vacation for the week the Supreme Court was going to rule on Obamacare, just the biggest decision of my professional life. We expected the decision at any time, so I lurked in a gift shop while Coral and the boys rode Everest. They rode it 6 times in 30 minutes! The rain kept all the people away. IPhone told me the decision would not be that day, so we headed to DinoLand
I laughed when I saw that Primordial Whirl had a Fastpass machine, but despite the small crowds it took 30 minutes to navigate the ride I standby. Yes, the same time theyd ridden Everest 6 times. At lunch, we were afraid that the restaurants would be swamped again, but Flame Tree was practically empty.
We took in a few shows (Lion King, Nemo), then headed back to the YC. Supper was at Epcot, then our pruny hands and wet shoes got the best of us, and we hit the room. Debby, you vixen, go away.
COMING IN PART 2: WDWS BEST PLACE TO POOP