The Great Grandmother Trip Report of All Time
Who: 75% of the Scopa Family (Mike, Carol, Mike Jr.)
When: July 7-22, 1997
How: Traveled by car from Merrimack, NH to Orlando (2 days)
Last: July, 1994
Where: Wilderness Lodge (WL) and the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR) (Village of Martinique)
I thought it necessary to say a few things before you, my audience, read this report. Please note that our last trip was July 1994. All WDW changes mentioned in this report are based on observations I made based on what I recalled from 1994.
Please note that my purpose in preparing this report is to inform, educate, assist, and entertain....not necessarily in that order. At the same time you must also realize that from time to time I will freely give my feelings on certain aspects of the trip and I would hope that everyone keeps in mind that these feelings do not reflect those of the site master whose site this report appears on or anyone else other than myself. Along those same lines this trip report is NOT to be duplicated on any web site without the expressed written permission of Mike Scopa.
I would like to dedicate this trip report to those individuals who are key in making any Walt Disney World vacation an enjoyable experience; the Walt Disney World Castmembers. It is these people who really can make or break a trip. Too many times they go unnoticed and unappreciated for their efforts. I know that if it weren't for these individuals, I would not have returned to Walt Disney World time and time again. There are many small good deeds that I will remember for years to come and will always have a place in my memory of my trips. Here's hoping that these individuals hear this appreciative "Thank You" and that they never stop in their daily routine to help everyone "Remember the Magic."
Trip Report Standards
I'm hoping that worldwide we'll all come up with some set of standards for trip reports. I hope that I can come up with some for this report. For this report I would like to try a new approach to some ideas. When I have some information that I think is worthwhile to point out I will separate this information with a header called "Trip Tip". That will allow those who just want the trip tips to quickly find them.
Also, to save time and space I will use acronyms throughout the report. Don't panic as I will first use the proper name and in parentheses indicate the acronym for future use.
Fasten your seat belts.
Put on your Mickey Ears.
Ladies and Gentlemen, submitted for your approval, The Great Grandmother of all Trip Reports...
Saturday, July 5th - Holly's Decision
"I have often dreamed
Of a far-off place
Where a great warm welcome
Will be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I'm meant to be
I will find my way
I can go the distance
I'll be there someday
If I can be strong
I know ev'ry mile
Will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere
to feel like I belong"
I got up early and started going over my lists. When leaving for some 20 days and driving for 1500 miles you need to have a few thousand lists made up of 1001 things to do.
Everything seemed to be running smoothly. Mike was taking care of his stuff, gathering his CD's, Carol was checking on some last minute stuff, and I was....you guessed it, checking my lists.
Holly, although not going with us, was busily packing her stuff as she was preparing to stay with her grandfather.
Everything was running smoothly....too smoothly. My schedule had us leaving around Noon. At about 10:30 or so Carol mentioned to me that Holly had said, "Mom, I made the wrong decision."
Apparently, with the day at hand Holly realized that we were actually leaving that day and she would not be joining us. It was her decision and we let her decide on her own if she would prefer to take one last family trip with us or stay home. She opted for the latter, claiming that she needed to work and earn money.....even though I had offered to pay her any lost wages....go figure.
Anyway, I continued to get everything ready and we were all set to go a full hour ahead of schedule. Holly was sitting at the table...looking pretty sad. I tried to cheer her up and asked her if there was anything we could bring her back. She looked at me and tears surfaced from her eyes, "I want to go with you." she cried and hugged me.
Okay I'll be the big macho man and say, "Hey sorry kid...your decision."
Nope. I also started to cry and told her that if she wanted to come then we still have time to make some last minute changes and....
"No..." she said, "...I can't! I can't leave my campers!"
Obviously she was torn between her responsibilities at her job (camp counselor)and her desire to go on vacation with us. It's tougher to say no when the day to leave for Orlando arrives.
For months Holly had struggled with this decision. Most of her friends had given her advice on this and Holly would in the end have to make this decision herself.
We talked for a long time and even though Carol and I were ready, willing, and able to quickly adjust to bring Holly along, our daughter was not 100% comfortable with leaving.
This was truly one of the most difficulty moments I have ever experienced as a parent. Here was our last chance to enjoy a family trip together and at the same time see our daughter struggle with an adult like decision that she wanted to be right for the long-term. Neither one of us would be granted the fantasy of having both...yeah...where's that Genie now?
The decision stood. She would remain. I did a last check and locked up the house. Holly put her stuff in the truck and we all gave each other hugs and said we'd see each other in a few weeks.
Holly's decision was made with her head and not her heart. Decisions made from the heart are accompanied with a smile....not so for "reasonable" decisions. As Holly drove one way and we headed South I can honestly say that it was a bittersweet moment for me. On the one hand it was a proud moment for me as my daughter had made a decision based on her recognizing her responsibilities to her job and her campers and to herself. On the other hand I was sad in that a milestone had passed in our lives...a milestone that made me realize that another milestone had passed....back in 1994....our last family trip to Walt Disney World....it was OUR REAL LAST FAMILY TRIP TO WALT DISNEY WORLD.
As we headed South Mike, Carol, and I discussed what had happened. We were all comfortable in that at least we had revisited the option of all going and that Holly was allowed to make that decision.
We drove until we reached Chambersberg, Pennsylvania. Stayed the night at the Comfort Inn. I think we at a Shoney's that night.
While Mike and Carol got ready for bed I pulled out my briefcase that had things like our reservations, notes to myself on what I wanted to do, tape, research, and so on, plus notebooks (for this trip report), and maps. Also included was a gray binder that contained vital information including menus of the restaurants and other important info (to me), like Mickey and Disney secrets.
When I opened the notebook my heart dropped. It wasn't what I thought it was. Instead of my trip binder I had taken the binder I use to teach my Walt Disney World Vacation Planning course. It just doesn't have the same type of info.
When Carol saw my reaction she said, "What's wrong?"
When I told her about the mistake I had made when I packed the briefcase she said, "Well it looks like you'll be spending your vacation like everyone else."
My mistake was not labeling the binder...it won't happen again.
The challenge was definitely there to depend upon past trips and what I had recalled from reading and planning to do the things I wanted to do. Sure I had Birnbaum and Sehlinger with me but they couldn't help me. Should I drive home and get the right notebook? That thought crossed my mind but I immediately eliminated that as an option...glad I did...as you'll find out. There are things that I wanted to do but guess they'll have to wait until my next trip.
Sunday, July 6th - Route 81: Roadkill Restaurant
We woke up early and took advantage of the free continental breakfast and were on the road by 6:30.
Saw a lot of road kill this day. I'm talking everything from dogs and cats to raccoons and even turtles. We took the route affectionately known as the Blue Ridge/Smoky Mountain/Shenandoah Valley route. It's very scenic and is also very much of a trucking route. I think I saw more trucks on this route than I ever saw when I took route 95. It's a mountainous route and I think 99% of the cow population of the world lives on Route 81. We saw brown cows, white cows, black cows, brown and white cows, black and white cows, polka dot cows...the only cow I didn't see was a cash cow...that's in Orlando. Believe me, it was a cow-tipper's dream come true.
The weather seemed pretty cool for this time of year....that was fine with me.
Around mid-day we called home to see how Holly was doing. She seemed okay and was dealing with her decision in the best way possible. She had a busy agenda for the week ahead so we felt good about that.
We made a few pit stops along the way. As I checked the map I realized that by adding maybe three to four more hours of driving time to this day that we could pull into Orlando sometime that evening. We decided that we would rather get to bed early and wake up early, hit the Florida Welcome Center, and get into Orlando about mid-day.
We stopped at Brunswick, GA (on route 95) at a Day's Inn, or was it another Comfort Inn? I forget. We ate dinner at an Appleby's and after a long day on the road, welcomed a good night's sleep.
Monday, July 7th - Welcome to Florida
Ya gotta love these continental breakfasts...free and fast. I paid my bill and noticed that with every stay guests are entitled to two little figurines from Disney's "Hercules" movie. I asked the desk clerk if that meant me. "My nephew would love Pain and Panic." I remarked. Haw.....they are MINE!!!!
I proudly displayed my two new friends to Carol and Mike over breakfast and they both wondered why I didn't take Hercules or Meg. "These two are more interesting", I answered.
I forgot what time we got on the road...somewhere around 8 or so.
We arrived at the Florida Welcome Center around 8:45. This is always an adrenaline boost for me. It looked a lot different than my last trip. As a matter of fact the old building was gone and a brand new Welcome Center was in it's place.
Trip Tip #1 - Visit The Florida Welcome Center
This Trip Tip is to suggest to those who drive to Florida to make an effort to stop at the Florida Welcome Center. It offers travelers so much in the form of information, discount coupons, and of course, Orange/Grapefruit juice.
This one is organized much better. Once you enter you face several alcoves containing brochures, maps, coupon books, and other tourist stuff. Each alcove is devoted to a specific region of Florida. In the middle of the floor is a kiosk that lets you do things like order attraction tickets and stuff. To the left is the free orange/grapefruit juice.
We enjoyed our juice, grabbed a few booklets, and called New Hampshire again. This time it was dear old Mom. She told us that Holly was fine and not to worry. Okay Mom...gotta go....Mickey's waiting.
Anyone driving to Florida should take note that at the Florida Welcome Center there is an area to the right where special environmental T-shirts are usually sold...we are talking 3 shirts for $20 and they are very nice shirts with designs that are combos of fish, flowers, birds, and other animals. We picked up a few for ourselves.
We flew into Orlando around 1 P.M.
I suggested that we drive over to the Disney Village, have lunch, and secure a room for the night. We were a day early...our CBR reservations did not begin until tomorrow.
The Disney Village had changed quite a bit. I won't go into details because words cannot do it justice. Gee the topiaries look like real trees.
I'll say that The World of Disney (Character Shop) will confuse you when you first walk in because it's so huge. I'd say there are about eight rooms tied into one another with each room containing it's own specialty. For instance, the green room with the centerpiece with the likeness of the crocodile from Peter Pan is definitely the timepiece room.
We made a brief tour of this store before heading over to The Rainforest Cafe (RFC). All along I had planned for my first meal to be there. This is a can't miss place. If you go to Orlando you must go here. The outside looks like a volcano and there are huge butterflies around the entrance as well as some water loving elephants and a very hospitable gorilla.
We waited 12 minutes before we heard, "We're ready for the Scopa Family, you're adventure is about to begin." I forget what room we sat in but it was neither the elephant nor the monkey room...it was still fun. At times the entire restaurant becomes animated and there are occasional thunderstorms. We had a great waitress. I don't recall what everyone had, I had a great salad and a Portabello mushroom sandwich. Everything on the menu looked good.
I regret that this was the only time we ate at the RFC. We never got back to it and because of that we never bought souvenirs in the store. There was one shirt I wanted but on this day they didn't have the color/size I wanted.
This restaurant again was TOPNOTCH. It's not a Disney owned restaurant but part of a chain. Don't go to Orlando unless you also plan to stop in at the RFC. The atmosphere is great....check out the unusual fish in the aquariums and the audioanamatronic activity from the hissing snake overhead to the wise old tree along the wall. There are even animatronic baby alligators on the counters. Keep in mind that if you eat well then you will probably be paying well. The atmosphere is good, the food is spectacular, and the prices are also in line with the quality of food and service. The value is there.
After looking through the shop one more time we started back to the parking lot and along the way I called the Walt Disney World Central Reservation Office (CRO). We decided we'd spend one night at the Wilderness Lodge (WL). I called the CRO and asked for an Annual Passport (AP) special at the WL for one night. The Castmember on the other line didn't think there was an AP special being run this month. I asked her to please check.
Sure enough there was an AP special at several moderately priced resorts starting that very evening. I secured the room and then asked her if I could show up with just the AP vouchers or if I had to redeem the vouchers. She suggested that I redeem the vouchers before going to the WL.
We drove over to the Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park (MGM) and I convinced the Castmember (CM) attendant that I was an AP guest and didn't have to pay to park...she waved me in.
Since it just after 3:00 we could see and hear the Hercules "Zero to Hero" Parade. There was no one at Guest Services. We processed the APs and entered the park so we could record our fingerprints with the card. Once we got the hang of putting our fingers in the reader it was a piece of cake.
Now here is where the excitement of being in Orlando clouded our minds. We went into MGM for just a short while to try out the APs and to buy some postcards. We should have bought the postcards at the Village. Why? Simple...we could use our Magic Kingdom Club (MKC) discount at the Village but not at MGM. So the 20 cards we purchased for $7.50 would have been $6.75 at the Village. Until you begin to add it all up it doesn't sound like much.
Trip Tip #2 - Buy at The Village
When in Walt Disney World take note of any souvenir you intend to buy and purchase it at the Disney Village. This lets you use your MKC discount. Of course merchandise specific to a resort, park, or attraction will not be available at the Village.
I looked at some shirts. Whoa! Look at those prices. During the two weeks we were there I saw price range from $12 to $50 for shirts. I think the $50 shirt was either in the Grand Floridian or in Boardwalk. I'm used to seeing the $24-28 price range.
We were in and out of MGM in less than 10 minutes. Is that a record?
We drove to the WL. Carol wanted to write out some postcards and Mike wanted some pool time.
Mike and Carol sat in the lobby while I checked us in. The Castmember who checked me in got all flushed when she saw my name. Her boyfriend's name is Jerry...Jerry SCOPA and she asked if we were related. We weren't. She was very courteous and even said that I didn't need the AP's for the rate I got. Maybe so...but I think that's because she thought Jerry and I were paisans. We went upstairs and checked into the room......Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.
A quick change and down to the pool. Mike swam, Carol wrote, and I took a stroll around the Lodge with my trusty video camera. I taped several angles in the lobby and in the courtyard and went back to pool side. After relaxing for awhile we checked out the gift shop. Nice shirts but the prices wow! Would I ever bite the bullet and get myself a shirt? Read on.
We took a walk down to the Roaring Fork. It was 7:30 and we were a tad hungry but not in the mood for a big meal. I still had not broken my vegetarian diet that I had begun on January 1st. I knew I'd do it sometime in Orlando but it was not to be tonight. Mike and I noticed that the Roaring Fork no longer offered Buffalo Burgers. As Mike put it, "Someone must have given them a clue that it was stupid." It was a relatively inexpensive meal.
While in the lobby we didn't see any characters. While at the WL you may see Chip, Dale, Bre'r Fox, Bre'r Bear, Pocahontas, and Meeko....although Pocahontas pretty much is limited to Artist Pointe.
WE went back to our room. I don't recall if there were hairdryers in the rooms back in 1994...but they are there now.
The room was so comfortable and the beds were so...zzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
Huh wha? It was time to go down and catch the Water Pageant. When we got down to the Courtyard we noticed that the sky was about to rain upon us and boy did it rain...big drops...cold drops....so much for taping the Water Pageant tonight.
Soon the storm was in full force so we decided to turn in for the night.
Tuesday, July 8th - G'Bye Wilderness Lodge/Hello Martinique
This may sound odd to many of you but although I got up at 5:30 I did have a good night's sleep. Can I help it if the adrenaline keeps my sleeping hours down?
After jotting down a few notes I did some stretching exercises and sit-ups. I woke Mike up. He had told me the night before, "Dad, if you're gonna run please wake me.....and don't give me an option!" I didn't.
He got dressed and we walked down to the courtyard and began our run near the water. We ran towards Fort Wilderness and made stops at Pioneer Hall, the petting zoo, River Country, and other places to check stuff out. We also ran through some of the loops and back.
Along the way we passed several rabbits, quail, turkeys, and ducks. We even ran past a small deer who didn't even budge. After seeing the road kill along Route 81 it was nice to see a live deer.
When we finished our run we jumped into what we thought was the hot spa. The water was quite relaxing...makes you really think about having one in your own house. We then jumped into what we thought was the cold spa. Guess what? Wrong! The first spa was the cold spa. This was the hot spa....even more relaxing. Carol came down to the pool area. She was hoping to catch a photo of the geyser. It's supposed to erupt every hour on the hour from 10 to 10.
Mike and I went up to the room to shower and get ready for breakfast.
Carol met us in the room and we all went down to breakfast at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. The restaurant was at maybe 15% capacity. Where is everyone? We figured they were all having breakfast with Pocahontas and friends at Artist Pointe. We had a nice breakfast. Where else will you find a restaurant where they give you a bottomless carafe of cranberry juice?
Our waitress was kidding the chef about his singing and when he came out we tried to get him to sing. It was at this meal that I had my first meat for 1997. No big fanfare...had a sausage.
Our waitress was Belle-Star....another waiter in the restaurant had the name tag Tom-A-Hawk.
Remember, Whispering Canyon Breakfast...all you can eat. For the three of us the bill was $36...not bad. Oh...by the way...the chef's name is Mike Tinsley....when you see him...tell him the folks from New Hampshire said "Hi."
We left the restaurant, returned to the room to pack up, and headed for the CBR. We were anxious to unpack the van and relax for a couple of weeks.
Here are the CBR changes I noticed since my last visit:
Buena Vista Drive has/is changing. There are thankfully more lights along this roadway. The CBR was in desperate need of lights. Before the end of 1997 Buena Vista Drive will be a six lane stretch of road. Trust me.
The security shack (whatever) has been moved. You approach this structure about 1/8 of a mile into the CBR. The CBR is much more secure than it has ever been. This is true for most of the resorts we visited.
I pulled up and told the guard my last name. He verified our reservation and told us where the Custom House was (my fourth visit to the CBR I would hope I knew it by now).
Here's where I made another mistake. I should have checked in later in the day. It was just after 11 A.M. and it was a long shot that our room would be ready. I was right. We would have to come back for the resort ID's to be coded to get us in our room. Hmmm, what to do.
Easy. We headed over to the Contemporary Resort (CR). Mike was concerned about his workouts and with football season coming up he had asked me if there were any gyms on the property where he could work out. Before leaving for Florida I had called down to check this out. We ended up getting a family length of stay membership at the Olympiad Health Club at the Contemporary. The length of stay family membership cost $35 and gave us unlimited access to the club. Good deal. There are other health clubs on the property but as far as I know this is the only one that does not require you to be staying at that particular resort. I think the others are at the Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk...but don't quote me on this.
Of course I was also thinking of the side benefit. Parking at the CR every time we went to The Magic Kingdom (TMK) worked like a charm.
The Olympiad Health Club is on the third floor in the CR. You can't take an escalator to the third floor. Instead you take the elevator.
We went in and checked it out and signed up. They have everything...all the machines you would ever need as well as a sauna, shower facilities, massage room ($65/hour for a massage), and trainers if you need them. Mike and Carol did their workouts and I jumped on a couple of machines and tried a few things. I tried a treadmill, Stairmaster, Nautilus, leg and biceps machines, and a life cycle. There were machines that let you focus on shoulders, legs, etc. In summary...well worth the $35.
After we left the gym we checked out the Concourse Steakhouse and Chef Mickey's. Chef Mickey's is open for breakfast and dinner but not lunch. We then checked out the merchandise in both Fantasia and Bayview Gifts. I saw a neat CR shirt and priced right so I bought it...Carol got one too. By this time it was well after 3:00 so we returned to the CBR to get our key cards encoded and finally unpack.
Again there was a long line at the CBR Custom House. Maybe everyone was doing the same thing. When I finally got to the window I was told that I was getting new cards. I held onto the card that was marked for the Olympiad Health Club.
Also when I checked in I was told I had a message. It was from Steve Vore...something about him wanting to buy me dinner at Victoria and Albert's and....oops...just kidding Steve.
We checked into Martinique. First time we were ever in building 2 (room 2238). We were on the second floor. I called Steve but he wasn't in his room....probably having a Dole Whip across from Aloha Isle.
We were finally in our room. After unpacking the van and finally getting there it was about 5:00. Okay gang...anyone up for MGM? It was unanimous. When we opened the door Mother Nature quickly changed our mind. A nasty thunderstorm was just beginning. We decided, what the heck, let's check out Old Port Royale (OPR). We really weren't hungry...a bit thirsty maybe.
We immediately took advantage of the thermal mugs ($6.95). These mugs pay for themselves after only four or five trips to the Beverage island. We got one for Holly.
By the way...we never used the mini-bar at the CBR...never even looked at the price list until the last day. When I did look at the price list I was surprised at the prices. They really weren't that bad. Most of the snacks were in the 99 cent to $1.25 range. Soft drinks were 99 cents. Of course when you get to the Pina Colada ($3.59), camera $12.95), and Island Adventure Pack ($29.95) you seriously think about flushing the mini-bar key down the toilet.
When we left OPR the rain was coming down good....so much for MGM. We tried calling Holly with our prepaid calling card. Couldn't get it to work. 1-800-Collect worked fine. Hi Holly...everything was fine.
At around 7:30 the rain let up. Sort of late to go to EPCOT or MGM...not so for TMK. I suggested we check out the Boardwalk (BW).
Boardwalk is close to the CBR. It took about 5 minutes to get there. The Boardwalk Resort is very pristine and I'd even say "quaint". We checked out all the shops. There is a big ESPN presence there. The restaurant is next to the merchandise area and you can buy a shirt that says, "Bac...back....back..." or "He could go all the way." The ESPN Club is very loud and looked very busy....almost hectic. Fans of ESPN and Sportscenter will like it.
Hey....we had breakfast at Whispering Canyon and hadn't eaten anything since then...no wonder we were hungry. Let's try Spoodles. The food at Spoodles is very spicy. Over the past year they have been changing the menu and they feel that it's pretty stable now. I enjoyed my meal. I wrote down what we had. Let's see. We had the Mediterranean Sampler, Hillbilly Greek Salads, Little Ears Pasta w/rigatoni, ice tea and desserts. The bill was in the same neighborhood as The Rainforest Cafe...but well worth it. Life is short...play hard.
Oh yeah...must point out...walked right in...no waiting. Spoodles reminded me a wee bit of a Bertucci's Restaurant.
Of course yours truly was trying to figure out where the name Spoodles came from. Is it a combination of Spicy and Noodles? Is it a combo of Spoon and Oodles? No one knew.
We left Spoodles and walked towards the other end of BW. You can see Stormalong Bay from across the water. It was on this night that Carol's vacation would be made. We strolled towards the other end of BW and I wandered into the Atlantic Dance Club. I actually taped the act that was onstage. Oops...was I supposed to do that?
Hey? Where's Carol and Mike?
I went outside to find Carol and Mike outside the club. Carol had been asked to show an ID. That's a request that is not made to many women who have two teens, one a Junior in college and the other a Senior in high school. Carol did not go in because Mike could not go in.
The same held for Jelly Rolls. I didn't bother going in Jelly Rolls....couldn't tape in there either? Why not?
We went into the Boardwalk Inn (I think it was the Boardwalk Inn) and found the lobby to be pretty nice. If you get a chance check out the lobby and seek out the seated area with the miniature carousel. Every once in a while you will see the carousel light up and go into action and play music. Pretty special.
Across from the front desk is a model of a wooden roller coaster. It is in a special glass case. I wonder if this is the model of the wooden coaster they had originally planned to build on BW. Those plans were squashed when they realized that the coaster had to be a certain height to be operational and that the coaster would then be visible from inside EPCOT....not a particularly good idea, especially with the Swan and Dolphin monstrosities being already visible from within the theme park.
The gift shop had some very nice shirts. I could not justify the prices so I let them be.
We left BW and headed back to the CBR. Overall I'm not sure if I would stay in BW. It's worth a visit and I expect that my next trip to WDW will include a meal at Spoodles.
While I'm thinking of this let me say that Disney has figured another way to cut costs by using the same resort ID card for all resorts. In the past each resort had it's own specially designed card. Not anymore. Everyone has the same card. It's coded strip on the back and special numbers on the front probably identify the resort.
Also, regarding security. It's crystal clear to me that Disney wants guests to feel as comfortable as possible and also wants to control the accessibility to certain areas to insure guest comfort.
Also, for those who have not been to the CBR within the last three years. There is now one entrance/exit area. Your resort ID can be used at the gate to make the gate go up. You slip the card in a little slot and the gate goes up. When there is a line at the guard shack this comes in real handy.
The last bit of information I discovered on this day is that those refillable mugs can be purchased at OPR too. But don't do that. We noticed that the price at OPR was $1 more than if you purchased them from your room.
First night sleeping in our CBR room. Lights out at 11:30.
Wednesday, July 9th - A Day at MGM
Woke up real early and Mike and I ran 4 miles. We ran around the CBR Lagoon (Barefoot Lagoon?) and other areas. We checked out an area to the Southwest of the CBR. It looked like an area designated for Castmembers only. There were some colorful structures there including one building that had a huge castanet next to it.
We finished our run and jumped into the Martinique pool to cool off. After a quick shower we headed off to MGM. Okay class what did I forget to do? Yes, the young gentlemen with the blue shirt..... That is correct. Give that man a Dole Whip. I forgot to check as to which park was having a surprise morning. It was MGM. We were already there when I realized this.
Trip Tip #3 - Beware of Surprise Mornings
Surprise mornings may appeal to you and they are actually quite useful. You must keep in mind that if everyone who is in a Disney resort room took advantage of the Surprise morning then the park would be even more crowded than a non-surprise morning. Take my advice and either avoid the Surprise mornings or do no more than two hours in the park and then leave for breakfast.
We entered the park around 9:30-10:00 and Mike and I made a beeline for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TZTOT). The line was well out to Sunset Blvd. and I would guess that the wait was about 75 minutes. No thanks. On the way back we ran into some friends from NH and they said the lines were like that all over. I hoped to prove them wrong. I suggested we try the Muppets. Good move. We got in for the pre-show and enjoyed the theater....the real star of this attraction.
We left Kermit and friends and walked over to the replacement for Monster Sound Show. The new show is called "One Saturday Morning." While waiting for the show I was selected as one of the participants.
The Castmember brought us into the attraction before everyone else and told us what to do. It was set up like the old Monster Sound Show except that there were specific sound effects stuff geared for the new film which is basically 101 Dalmatians. We went over our stuff and then the crowd was brought into the theater. I was given the job of providing the voice of Jasper, one of the two thugs who helped Cruella. I thought I did a good job.
We left that attraction and walked along Dalmatian Avenue...wasn't that Mickey Avenue back in '94? Just outside the animation tour attraction we saw Hercules, Pain, Panic, and Meg. Please make an effort to see Meg. I never got a chance to ask her if she was wearing contacts or she in fact was blessed with the bluest eyes you ever saw. I almost forgot...we also saw Jasmine, Cruella, and Pocahontas. Not too many people were around Jasmine so I asked her if she would take a photo with me. Of course she obliged. I never got a chance to take one with Meg. She had to get ready for the parade. I mentioned to Carol and Mike that we should probably seek out a position along Hollywood Blvd.
Trip Tip #4 - Parade Viewing Hints
When looking for a spot to watch a parade please remember that if you plan on taking photos or video then try to get a spot with the Sun to your back. Also, on the hot days try to find a shady spot. Finally, find someplace that has a barrier around it so you won't have anyone squeezing in around you.
I thought this "Zero to Hero" Parade in MGM was quite enjoyable. Carol and I made sure we saw the movie before our trip. We were glad we did because the parade and the characters made a lot more sense to us than it did Mike who didn't see the movie.
Of course even though we had staked out a good spot to watch and film the parade some guy and his wife and kids tried to get in 2 minutes before the parade. I was leaning against a trash can and the guy put one of his kids on the trash can.
It was hot. So he put a towel on the can and then put the kid on the towel.
Mistake number two.
The kid kept slipping. The kids weren't enjoying the parade. I felt bad for the kids. Their parents did not have the foresight to figure out how to pacify the kids to wait for a parade. I'm not about to give up my spot, especially since I committed a chunk of time to claim it.
When the parade ended I realized we were committing a Mortal Sin. It was about 1 p.m. and we were in a park. It was bad enough that we were in the surprise morning park for that day. But we had an excuse...I had made priority seating arrangements at Prime Time for an early afternoon meal.
Trip Tip #5 - What is Priority Seating?
Let's talk about priority seating. It is not a reservation. Priority seating means that you can call ahead and place your party in a queue for a table at a certain time. For instance if you call ahead and ask for priority seating at 2 P.M. then you will be placed in a queue for that time and the first available table that can accommodate your party will be given to you. this does not mean they will hold the table for you but will give you preference over the walk-ins. I strongly suggest that if you do this show up at least 15 minutes before your time and you will always be seated by your preferred time. This works out very well for the restaurant in that they will always have occupied tables and won't be holding tables as in the past. It will work out for you if you take the time to call ahead and also show up well in advance of your time....sounds like a Trip Tip to me.
We had some time before Prime Time so we tried the Hunchback show. We ended up sitting way in the back....they squeezed us in. The seats weren't real good but we had walked right in and it gave me a chance to see the show before taping it later in the week. Again I cannot stress how important it is to see these films before you attend a show or parade linked to the story. I saw many people leave this theater (behind the Muppets attraction) well before the show was over. It was an amazing show and the performers were outstanding. My vote for best performance goes to the Castmember who portrayed Clopin....he did an outstanding job. I was so happy this show was still around. I could watch it over and over again....it's much better than the "Beauty and the Beast" show.
After the show we came out into the NY Streets and noticed an umbrella attached to a street post. From time to time it rains on the umbrella....take a photo or tape it....you too can be Gene Kelley.
Somehow we fell right into the Toy Story shenanigans in the NY Streets. The characters come out lead by the green soldiers and they do a few things. It's definitely for the younger set.
On the way to Prime Time we managed to cool off by checking out a few shops like "Buy the Book" and also some Streetmosphere. They are in desperate need of new Streetmosphere performers. Only two were left from our last trip (make that three) and the rest were new and in need of seasoning. At least Roman Holiday was still there.
We went into Prime Time and waited for our table. It was our longest wait of the trip, including attractions. The reason for the long wait was simple. It's a Surprise Morning park and everyone is here.
We sat in an area close to Ghasson but we were not served by him....he's still funny. Our "mom" was probably the best one we ever had. She sat down with us and never got out of character. I can still hear her saying she gave us the best years of her life. You can use your MKC discount here only for the dinner menus. Always ask.
When in Prime Time I stick with Granny's Pot Roast....always a winner. We left Prime Time around 4:15 and we were pretty tired. We went back to the CBR to freshen up.
I had a message waiting for me. It was Steve Vore. Steve and I played phone tag quite a bit. It was pretty funny. I would leave a message for Steve telling him what we were doing and he would do the same. He told me he'd be wearing a straw hat that night with his guest of honor badge on it. I happened to have a shirt that had "New Hampshire" on it. We would spend the next 24 hours looking for one another.
We went over to EPCOT and passed on Spaceship Earth and looked into Innoventions West. I went over to the AT&T area and sent out some e-mail. It's not the greatest place in The World to do this because your e-mail cannot be replied to and you are also limited to certain websites. If you use JUNO or HOTMAIL then don't even bother going to Innoventions West to check your mail.
Trip Tip #6 - Sending E-Mail From WDW
For those people who have JUNO/HOTMAIL accounts I suggest you go to Innoventions East and try to send E-mail at the Oracle exhibit. The browser isn't Netscape but it's still more than adequate for surfing and sending mail.
While in Innoventions West I talked with a Castmember doing some Sega demonstration with a huge 50" screen. I asked him if he could get me to my HOTMAIL account. After a few moments we were there but I didn't want the whole world to see my mail so I did a quick check to see if I had new mail and then got off.
We left Innoventions and walked over to Horizons. In '94 this attraction was closed. We walked right in and enjoyed this attraction for the last time. I think Journey Into Space or Inner Space Journey or something like that will replace Horizons.
I glanced over to Test Track...it's huge. There is a big sign that says "Opening Soon." Yeah but will it open soon ENOUGH?
It was getting late and we had to choose between Ellen's Universe and Illuminations. I figured more people would go to Illuminations. We went to Ellen's Universe. There weren't that many guests there. After the host Castmember told everyone that if they stayed they'd miss Illuminations, the attraction lost about another 10% of the guests. My heart was broken.
I think that this attraction is much more entertaining than it's original design. Ellen Degeneres' endless blabbing may get to you but her little quips make the show very enjoyable. I think this was a good move because the show retained a lot of it's educational value and boosted it's entertainment factor. The last time I was in this attraction I napped...not this time. You Jeopardy fans will like it too.
When we left Ellen's Universe we walked towards World Showcase but not all the way and watched the end of Illuminations....a lot of fireworks but what the heck is that music?
After Illuminations we headed towards the front of the park. We stopped in the Centorium and checked out the merchandise. This store can offer many bargains. I always feel there is one bargain in this store for everyone who visits EPCOT. Is there one waiting for me? Maybe.
I saw the 25th Anniversary Watch at the Centorium. Looked real nice but I could wait a week before really shopping for a watch.
We left the park with everyone else. We got back to the room and felt some hunger pangs. We took a stroll over to OPR and split a pizza. Of course we had our mugs so we didn't pay for drinks. Every time we went to OPR I would always grab several little packets of Mrs. Dash and stuff them in my fanny pack...not all restaurants had Mrs. Dash.
That night I had a nightmare...the dream had us returning home for some reason.....I thought it was against the WDW resort code to allow guests to have nightmares? Oh well.
Thursday, July 10th - Return to Space Mountain
Boy am I getting lazy. I didn't get up until 6:30. I took a real quick shower and took off for OPR to get some muffins and juice....something we should have done last night. Too bad the bakery was out of "Courage Croissants" because today was "SSSSSSSPAAACE MMMMMOUNTAIN DDDDAY!!!!"
"Good Morning Orlando" had a lead story about some person who died in his apartment and no one knew he had passed away until his next door neighbor complained to the police about an odor. The police came and when they entered the apartment the deceased was gone....well actually the headlines could read, "Man Consumed by Dogs."
Yep, I guess this guy died and his dogs got hungry and....talk about a character breakfast..."Yes Pluto and Goofy (he's a dog too isn't he?) were enjoying a delicious breakfast..." Brrrrr.
On this morning we drove to the CR, parked the van, and walked to TMK. We did not pass go, we did not collect $200....we went straight to Space Mountain. Carol took the video camera and said, "Bye...have a nice time!" and left us there. She showed a tremendous amount of courage. Here she was, all alone in TMK...by herself....doing whatever she wants...and all I was doing was trying to gather enough courage to take on a thrill ride that had "thrilled" me so much the first time I rode it in 1975 that I hadn't even attempted it since then.
Heck the last time I experienced Space Mountain Elvis was still making records, Sean Connery was still making James Bond films, and Capitol Records was still making 8-track tapes. That's a long time ago.
And of course lucky me, since there were only two of us we got to cut through a number of people. Hey Castmember...don't do me any favors. As we got closer and closer I regretted never getting my last Will and Testament drawn up. Oh yes...cut in front of more people....only two? Come on down!!! I get into the space sled and wonder "How the heck does anyone over 6' 2" ride these things?" Even at 6' I'm barely fitting in this thing. There's no turning back...I begin to go up and I start having visions...there's me as a little baby...there's me in my grandmother's boche alley helping her pick grapes..there's
I ask myself, "Whaddya think? Wanna open yer eyes?"
"You might as well open up your eyes...there's nothing else you can do!", I said to myself.
"So much for that idea!"
I held on for dear life and kept willing the ride to end. Meanwhile the woman who rode in front of me continued her impression of Annie Oakley,"Whoooo....yeowwww...wopppeee....eyahhhh."
I hate sadists!
Then it was over. Mike supported me on the way out as Carol took a picture of me limping out of the exit, all the while hanging on to Mike. Gee at least she could have been waiting for me with a Dole Whip.
She was happy....Mike was happy......and I was happy....happy that I was still alive and all my parts were still working. I knew who I was and where I was so I decided that I could continue to function.
Trip Tip #7 - Dynamic Duos
Unless you want to experience an attraction as a family (Like Splash Mountain, TZTOT, Space Mountain etc. you are best served as groups of two. A family of four may get through an attraction faster if they go as two pairs of two instead of one group of four.
As far as my thoughts in riding this attraction after 22 years, I noticed that the cars are different. They are much safer. Back in 1975 there were no individual seats like they have now. The lighting effects for the ride are more intense than they were back then. There's more going on.
After Space Mountain, Carol asked Mike to do the Indy Speedway with her. I let them go while I recovered in a safe attraction....the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA). I sat back and relaxed while this peoplemover whisked me about Tomorrowland. When we went through Space Mountain I looked up and said "Haw...piece of cake." Honestly speaking I think I could have handled the attraction better a second time....would I get that chance?
While on the TTA I could see Carol and Mike close to getting on the Speedway. It looked as though they had a 15 minute wait. When I finished my TTA ride I went over to the Speedway. Along the way I checked out The Merchant of Venus for that Alien Encounter (AE) hole in the wall. It wasn't there. Take everything you read on the Internet (except this trip report of course) with a grain of salt.
Carol and Mike came off the Speedway and I asked them if they'd like to try AE. Everyone was queuing up for Space Mountain. Carol decided she would sit this attraction out too. If you don't like small spaces and confined areas you also may wish to skip this attraction. It's intense. We went into AE and were in the pre-show area in 15 minutes. We saw the little demo of matter transportation and I was thinking, "Hmmm, this looks pretty good so far." Skippy looked like a distant relative of Figment.
I had heard that this attraction is more intense if you sit up front. Mike and I positioned ourselves so that when we went into the main chamber we would get that first row. I think it's true....the illusion works better up front then from the back. For the best intensity sit in the first two rows and as you enter the chamber, go to the right...to get a good view of....our host.
We did not let the shoulder bars come down all the way. Maybe that prevented the attraction from giving me the full effect. I sat on my hands until the bar was set...then I sat down. Now is it me or was some of that screaming part of the audio track? I thought it was. The show went on and I kept saying to myself, "I wonder when the real intense stuff starts?" I won't go into details as to what happens as half of you reading this probably know what happens and the other half...well you wouldn't want me to spoil it for you would you? Would you?
I've been told that AE is the first Disney Park attraction in which a human dies. Cool. Mike and I didn't think the attraction was scary but that cannot be said for quite a few children who came out of that chamber. Many of these 8, 9, 10 and 12 year olds were pretty shaken up.
I think there will always be a hung jury on this attraction. I do think more people enjoyed this attraction than were disappointed by it.
Trip Tip #8 - Getting the Most Out Of Alien Encounter
To make the most out of a trip to Alien Encounter sit along the right side of the chamber and no more than two rows up. Add to your entertainment pleasure by sitting near a family with small children. And please....fight that urge to touch or grab the shoulders of the person sitting in front of you....I did...but I can't promise I'll hold back next time.
We went from AE to see The Timekeeper with Robin Williams. We waited less than 10 minutes for the next show. I remember the original Circlevision show and was amazed by it. This journey through time with Jules Verne was pretty good but I'd still like to see the old Circlevision show. It's obvious to me that the entertainment factor is a major concern of the imagineers as I am beginning to see a trend here....entertain and still educate.
We left Tomorrowland and made priority seating arrangements at the Plaza Restaurant. Carol then suggested that Mike and I go to the Frontierland Shootin' Gallery while she does some shopping. More on what she shopped for later.
What have they done to the Shootin' Gallery? If you point in the general area of anything you aim at you hit it. I'm not sure I could outshoot Stevie Wonder at this place. Mike and I headed for the restroom around the corner that connects Frontierland and Adventureland. When I came out and looked for Mike I heard, "Hey Mike!!" It was old buddy Mike Daugherty all the way from Texas. Mike and I shared a couple of projects and softball championships together some 15 years ago. Mike and family had originally planned to go to WDW in June but pushed it back to July. We talked for awhile before my son reminded me that we were to meet dear old Mom at the Plaza Restaurant FIVE MINUTES AGO! Oh..oh! See ya guys.
Carol was waiting for us but the restaurant wasn't crowded. I thought we got a good deal...$52 for lunch for the three of us.
From there we went to Adventureland. We got there just as they were starting a scavenger hunt for an idol. You are given clues and a map and 30 minutes to find this 18 inch idol. I walked right by it. Some girl found it. She won a special pass that would get her immediate access to any park attraction. Whew! That was close. If I had found that thing I'd probably soon find myself in space again riding shotgun for Annie Oakley. Timing is everything.
From there we walked over to Splash Mountain. It's early afternoon so of course the line is down to The Crystal Palace...only kidding. Actually, it was way down to Pirates of the Caribbean. Mike and I both said, "See ya!" We would have plenty of time to ride it. The actual estimated wait time was 2 hours.
We went through to the Walt Disney World Express and rode to the front of the park. From there we walked over to the Contemporary and the Health Club. Along the way we couldn't help but stop and read some of the bricks. It looked as though all the spaces for bricks to the CR were filled except for the more expensive granite ones. It seemed like everyone in the world had a brick but us....sort of cursed myself for not getting one three years back. Then I could have seen it every time I walked from TMK to the Contemporary. I started putting together an argument for getting one this trip.
Mike and Carol did their routines and I fooled around with some stuff. Again Mike maxed out the Nautilus and I didn't. I also did some bicep curls, 10 minutes on the life cycle, some time on the treadmill and Stairmaster, and also spent some time on a machine that lets you do leg curls/extensions. Obviously I was feeling guilty about not running that morning and was trying to make up for it.
After 45 minutes the guilt was gone. On the way back from the CR we stopped at Car Care Central to get gas. Considering the location, prices were decent.
I always use the Bluebonnet Creek Parkway to and from TMK. World Drive seems so much longer to me....it did this day.
We got back to the CBR for a little pool time and to relax. I called in for priority seating at Chef Mickey's for dinner.
Let's talk about Chef Mickey's. This restaurant resides where the old Contemporary Cafe used to be. The conversion to the present restaurant has given a wide open atmosphere to the place. Chef Mickey's is open for Breakfast and Lunch. Mickey, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale are there and there is music and there are games being played. Children get to go over to Chef Goofy and dip their cupcakes in all kinds of neat stuff. Every once in a while Mickey and his friends get everyone twirling their napkins and singing...it's a hopping place.
The characters make frequent visits from table to table and these characters are really geared towards making everyone happy. I think Mickey stopped by our table at least three times...and there was no one under 17 at our table. I saw more smiles at this restaurant than at any other restaurant at WDW. If you are limited to one character meal make it Chef Mickey's.
I think that the assortment of food at Chef Mickey's (it's buffet style) is not as large as it was with the old Contemporary Cafe. I think there is a definite step down in salads, hot dishes, and desserts. Yes you can still get prime rib. Even though the food is not on a par with 1900 Park Fare I think the atmosphere and the character visits more than make up for this.
Please don't get the wrong idea. The food is still excellent but again I'm comparing it with the old Contemporary Cafe Buffet. It may very well be exactly the same...it's much more spread out than the old cafe.
After a very pleasant meal at Chef Mickey's we walked over to TMK and went into the Welcome Center. We looked at all the Walt Disney World mementos from the past 25 years...hey I've got a candy dish just like that one...and in the package...wonder what it's worth. We got our buttons...Carol and I got 1975 buttons and Mike and Holly got 1990 buttons.
For you WDW veterans youll be happy to know that the character mural is still there. Its covered by some sort of curtain. The Castmember told us that they dont know what they will do with it and are protecting it by covering it. Its behind the podium.
We watched the movie...cute.
We then went out and saw the model of a portion of the Animal Kingdom Park and listened to a speech by the Castmember. We talked with her for a long time and tried to get some information on the college program down there....something Holly might be interested in.
We got our rolled up print of Mickey walking up to the castle with the standard seven year old child and made our way towards Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMRR). Splash had a pretty long line so we went over to BTMRR. It looked short and again fear began to overtake me. I kept thinking "Roller Coaster...Roller Coaster." Carol grabbed the camera and said, "Have fun!" Mike and I started up the ramp. When we got close to the loading dock I felt sort of woozy...was it fear or was it the unusually high temps up there? I don't know. Mike didn't think I was going to make it...neither did I. I tried this attraction in 1990 and closed my eyes...haven't been on it since then. By the way...the total wait time was just over 15 minutes.
We got in our runaway train.
Trip Tip #9 - BTMRR Tip
This comes from my son. When you board BTMRR always try to ride on of the rear cars (as if you have a choice). That way you constantly seem to move. If you sit up front the train seems to wait until the whole train is on top of a hill before going. Maybe.
We took off and I asked Mike to let me know where the drops were. "What drops?" he said. He was right, Big Thunder is not really a roller coaster ride but in fact a runaway train ride with a lot of turns but no real drops. Halfway through the ride I actually opened my eyes. Not too bad. Now why didn't I like it back in '90?
I came out of Big Thunder feeling pretty good. I might even do it again.
Spectromagic was going on so we used that new boardwalk to make our way over to Liberty Square and the Haunted Mansion. As we headed to the doors of the old mansion we were waved in by the Castmember...no waiting at all for this one.
Same old same old Haunted Mansion...within a few years...it will change.
We tried to get a good spot to see the fireworks and ran into the Daugherty's again. We talked while watching Fantasy in the Sky. We stood at the edge of Main Street about 150 feet from the castle to the Crystal Palace side. The castle blocks out a lot of the fireworks. I tried taping but I was sure I would need to re-tape the show.
Mike and Carol and I then walked over to Pirates and once again we walked right onto the attraction...no wait at all...the boat wasn't even at 100% capacity.
Saw all the politically correct changes...I still think it should be politically correct for the time period the attraction represents...it's Pirates of the Caribbean not the Oafs of Orlando.
From there we headed over to Fantasyland...really hadn't been there and we did have to wait for Snow White. The wait was 2 minutes. I like the change in the ride. Best part was when the Wicked Queen turns around and...go see for yerself.
Hello Mr. Toad. Why is this attraction so popular? We waited 5 minutes for this one....a lot of fun but short. I keep wondering when this will be replaced.
We were getting tired and made our way over to Tomorrowland. Carol said something about checking out the line at Space Mountain. The line stretched all the way to the Astro Orbiter.
My heart was broken.
We went on the TTA to cool off. It's even more refreshing at night.
Alien Encounter (AE) looked pretty empty from the TTA so we got off and jumped into the queue. Carol almost went in but changed her mind. This visit to Alien Encounter can be classified as a walk-on as we got in the pre-show and Mike and I planned to sit one row up and to the right to get a good view of the....
I let the shoulder bar rest on my shoulders a bit more than last time and tried to give the attraction the benefit of the doubt. There was a family in front of us who had some preteens who were scared out of their wits. The kids were crying. Mike thought about touching them on their shoulders during the height of the show...tough to do because of the harness...plus I figured we'd have a tough time scraping the kids off the ceiling. Again we exited the attraction surrounded by crying kids.
We went across to the Starlight Cafe to check out the audioanimatron that was serenading the few people in there. His name was Sunny Eclipse and he was not my cup of tea.
It was getting late so we made our way back to the front of the park. Along the way we would stop in the shops and check out some things...especially those items we know we could get at the Village using the MKC discount.
It was a long day. We got back to the CBR well after Midnight. I think I fell asleep sometime after 1:30.
Friday, July 11th - Vores, Wongs, and Watches
I can't remember the last time I slept until 8:47...and to do it while in Orlando is something totally unimaginable...at least in my book.
I immediately took a shower, dressed, and went out to the van to get my other pair of sneakers. The pair I had been wearing was a little uncomfortable. Along the way I see a young family walking through the pool. Hmmmm...straw hat...Guest of Honor badge. I hear "Hmmm...New Hampshire Shirt..." Ahhh the meeting of the minds. It was Steve Vore and his family.
Steve and I chatted for awhile. He mentioned a few things they had done and I won't go into detail since they're probably in Steve's report. It was nice to hear Steve say "Where are the crowds?" because I didn't think anyone would believe me when I tell them "Oh yeah we were down in Orlando in July during the Walt Disney World's 25th Anniversary celebration and we were never in a line for more than 20 minutes.
We both had places to go and things to do so we said, "Have a great time!" and headed off to our destinations.
Mike, Carol, and I drove to Belz. The Character Warehouse has tons of merchandise...more so than ever before. If you get a chance visit Belz and the Character Warehouse...you never know what you'll find. We found a slew of stuff that we picked up as souvenirs for friends...many of the items we grabbed were listed at half their original price. We strolled through the Mall and checked out the shops. There's one shop that has some real amusing T-shirts...Carol saw a jacket she liked but couldn't find the right size...plenty of sizes larger and smaller than she needed but none in her size.
TRIP TIP #10 - Discounts Coming
I'm thinking that pretty soon a lot of the 25th Anniversary merchandise will be discounted. I know that in late Summer of '92 I was able to buy some 20th Anniversary merchandise at a discount. Here's a suggestion to those guests going in the Fall to keep an eye out for discounted merchandise. This merchandise will probably hit the Character Warehouse early next year. Why do I mention this? Could be that a CM suggested that discounting may soon start...sounds like there's too much inventory. Sounds like a good reason to extend the 25th Anniversary celebration another month or so...oops they just did that...hmmmm.
We left Belz and stopped off at Bill Wong's for Lunch. This remains a great a great lunch bargain. The bill came to $31.80 and that includes the tip. Bill Wong's is an Oriental Buffet that has a pretty good salad bar, prime rib, and a lot more. It's a very nice restaurant and when you enter you expect to pay more than the going price. Whenever we are in Orlando we are sure to make a stop at Bill Wong's for lunch.
We checked out a few more shops and decided to give The Disney Village a good visit. We stopped off at the Village and Carol suggested we check the watches. I had promised myself I'd get myself a nice watch for my birthday. We entered the World of Disney and made our way to the green room where all the watches....erh, make that, timepieces are sold. We looked at the 25th Anniversary watches.
The third and final limited edition of these watches has a silver and gold band with a silver face and a gold Sorcerer's apprentice image on the face. The second hand is in gold with a star on the end of it. The numbers (they aren't numbers but small gold bars are as are the hour and minute hand). On the outsider of the top of the watch are Roman numerals for the hours and a gold braid surrounds the top of the watch. It's pretty nice.
Oh let's stop beating around the bush...I bought it. After the MKC discount was applied it came to $81 and change. Without the discount (if you buy it in the parks) it would probably have been an extra $10-12 (tax included). My watch is #191 of 5000. It comes in a very nice box...suitable for display. If you look real quick at the watch you could mistake it for a Rolex. I say this because at least three different people have said that to me.
We left the Village but drove past Planet Hollywood. It was packed. The time was 5:30.
TRIP TIP #11 - AP Privileges at Planet Hollywood
So you're thinking about going to Planet Hollywood for a meal? Did you know that Annual Passholders (AP) can get special seating (sort of like priority seating) at Planet Hollywood? Ah yes...a little known fact.
Not only was Planet Hollywood packed but it started to rain...both factors discouraged us from checking the place out...maybe later in the vacation.
We looked for a Publix. I tried some "shortcuts" and couldn't get there from here. A few subtle changes in the roadways can really screw you up. Let's say it took a little longer to get to the Publix than it should have. Some new twists and turns in a few roads make it a new road. A new road but an old brain makes for a bad combination.
We bought some muffins, cookies, and water and headed back to the room.
This day was rather strange. From 11:00 A.M. on the clouds had pretty much overtaken the Sun and the rain was threatening all day. The sky was really threatening so we figured that with an impending rainstorm brewing, why not get some laundry done.
We returned to the CBR and the rain had not started so while Mike and Carol did some laundry, I walked over to the Custom House to cash a Traveler's Check.
While at the Custom House I asked if I could make priority seating at 1900 Park Fare for tomorrow night. I decided what the heck I'll have my birthday dinner at the Grand Floridian.
My trip notes tell me to mention in my trip report how much the MKC card has saved me so far. I don't know exactly how much but with the MKC rate at the room and the few purchases we had made at the Village and, oh yes, the Annual Passports, the savings were already adding up.
When I returned, Carol and Mike were not at the room but had gone to OPR for a drink. They mentioned how it seemed that all the CBR guests had decided not to go to a park tonight. The rain was beginning to come down pretty hard so it seemed like a good decision at the time.
I do recall hearing a story from a friend who said she was in one of the parks during a rainstorm and she and her daughter decided to eat a late lunch (it was around 2:30-3:00) and when they finished their meal the park had emptied out...and the rain had let up. Needless to say they enjoyed no or little lines for the rest of the day.
Rain, rain...it's expected in Florida. I said to myself...hmmmm rain...Ruth and Randy Lowell must be in Orlando. The rain follows Ruth around...she probably owns an unbelievable vegetable garden...but she's in Florida...must be a drought in New Hampshire. As it was, when I arrived home the weathermen were saying that it was the second driest Summer on record.
Saturday, July 12th - Happy Birthday
"Happy Birthday to Me,
Happy Birthday to Me,
Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeeeee,
Happy Birthday to Me."
Four out of my last seven birthdays have been spent in Walt Disney World. Too bad you can't get something other than a special birthday cake and song sung to you at a restaurant.
I woke up at 4:30 in the morning. talk about making up for the previous morning. I stumbled about in the dark and thought about running. It would have been a nice quiet time of the day to get some exercise in but decided to just lie in bed and think about what we would do....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....
Next thing I knew it was 6:30. We all got up, showered, and had our "continental breakfast" and drove over to Disney MGM Studios. Talk about getting there early...we were the 10th car in the parking lot. Now THAT'S the way to start off a day in Orlando. We were in the parking lot around 8:15. It was not a surprise morning so the park was slated to open at 9:00.
All the parks have Castmembers who are given the horrendous task of confronting guests for a photo..."Take yer picture folks? No obligation...just stand right there and...erh....have a nice day."
No thanks...just ask a friendly security Castmember to take your picture...they never refuse. The rope was up so we roamed around the stores on Hollywood Blvd. looking for a shirt for Holly.
The rope came down at 8:40 and Mike and I headed down Sunset Blvd. to the Hollywood Hotel a.k.a. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TZTOT). I expected more people there but tweren't so. I'd say we were around 50th in line. We were maybe 10 feet from the porch. I noticed some changes since we opened the attraction back in 1994.
I thought the garden looked better, although I thought the illusion of a old hotel worked better with an overgrown, unkept, and weed-filled garden.
Also, for some reason I don't remember such a winding path up to the porch. We were standing in line for about 10 minutes when a voice came over the PA system saying that the attraction was experiencing some difficulties and there would be a slight delay to it's opening. The actual reason given was "problems with the service elevators."
Now at first I thought, "That's pretty cool. Now before we even get into the attraction they are planting the seed that the elevators are not in good shape." Hmmm, added stuff to the script...nice touch.
The Castmember went on to say that if you have any problems or questions regarding this please see a staff member. Huh? I began to doubt my original assumption.
A few minutes later another announcement is made. This time we were told that the Hollywood Tower is temporarily out of service and to please check back later in the day. ARRRRGGGH! I'm thinking, "Swell, the queues are already established at the other attractions and here we are in a great position only to be turned away."
Not so bad after all....on the way out of the garden we came across Castmembers who were handing out passes to TZTOT for that day. All those who were in line received these special passes which would allow you to go to the head of the line later in the day.
I later found out from a Castmember that this was "cable day." Approximately once every week to ten days the elevator cables are replaced on all the service elevators. This is done for safety reasons. There's only so much stress the cables can handle and they are periodically replaced. Now I'm not sure but I would hope that there are more than cables supporting these elevators. I guess over a period of time these cables stretch and they are probably analyzed each day and today was the day to get 'em changed.
We walked over to The Great Movie Ride (TGMR). It took about 6 minutes to get into our tram. There was a small child in front of us on the tram and during the Alien portion of the ride became very frightened. Is it me or is it time to change this attraction? I really like it but I'd like it more if there were a few wrinkles added to some of the segments...maybe even replace Tarzan.
We left TGMR and tried Star Tours. Once again I noticed the time on my watch as we walked through the front and got in line...12 minutes and I was buckling up for my voyage. I thought about videotaping this attraction but I'd do it only if I had no one next to me...I'd be afraid that I'd whack the person with my camera.
We were on a roll. We walked over to the Backstage Tour and a Castmember was waving us onto the tram...no waiting. This tour seemed a bit different. I noticed we passed several areas which in the past had an accompanying dialog...the tour guide did not acknowledge Mickey One as we passed the plane.
We were up front in the tram so we got a good glimpse of the truck coming down at us at Catastrophe Canyon.
I still recall a film on either this tour or the Animation tour where we see Mickey sporting a Michael Eisner watch. I still regret not secretly taping that film. Instead of that film, they now show "The Making of...." and talk about a recently released film. Oh well...I'm not into Evita but...you guessed it...big favorite with the South American tour groups.
We finished the tour...going through the prop room and the large area where the props, costumes, and posters from some famous movies were kept under glass to Dalmation Avenue.
Ahhh!!! Characters! We took pictures with Jasmine, Chip, Minnie, Phil (from Herc), and Winnie.
We just missed getting into the next Voyage of the Little Mermaid (VOTLM) show so we headed over to the Animation Tour. We got into line behind some family from...should I say it...Bra....no I won't say it.
We were in line for no more than 3 minutes when we were heading into the building. The father of this family in front of us had just lit a huge cigarette...I thought it was a straw...did he think he was going to smoke it in there?
The CM tells him he needs to dispose of the cigarette. Puff...puff, gotta get that Cancer hit. Just before going in the building he tosses the cigarette. As he goes through the turnstile another CM is escorting his two kids out because they can't bring their ice cream bars (which they had just started eating) into the attraction. The whole family decided to leave the attraction. Yes Virginia there is a God.
We went through the tour and in at one point I walked over to the guide and said, "Gee, there aren't any animators working today...must be because it's Saturday, huh?" He looked at me and sheepishly agreed that he should have explained to the tour group why there weren't any animators behind the glass.
A new portion of this tour has a live animator talking to group about his work. This little speech takes place in a room that was used before as a small theater which showed a small animated feature on drawing. The best part of listening to a real live animator talk about his work was to hear him describe how animators strive to put personality in their drawings. During his talk with us he told, not asked, a guest to put away his video camera. No it wasn't me. I was a good boy today. It was my birthday.
While in this attraction I saw bits and pieces of "Mulan", "Tarzan", and "Fantasia 2000" (formally known as "Fantasia Extended"). These three projects as well as one simply known as "Dinosaur", are all in various stages.
Of course you exit out of the Animation Tour into a shop that contains all type of merchandise affiliated with Disney's animated films. Carol and I noticed some three-dimensional sculptures based on some of the Disney Classics. There were scenes from "Pinocchio", "Cinderella", "Bambi", "Snow White...", "Beauty and the Beast", and others. We asked the Castmembers there if these were available in the Disney catalogue and they said they were available only through the parks but we could always call down and order one through the mail. We tucked away this bit of information for future use.
We had done a lot for this day and were hungry but didn't want to each much...1900 Park Fare was waiting us later in the day. We walked over to Hollywood & Vine for a very light lunch. While we were there a large group of teens from a certain country...guess where...came in with their tour guide. They all were in front of the dessert case and the tour guide explained each one of the deserts to his horde. I guess they were coming in for dessert only.
We finished our lunch and strolled over to Hollywood Blvd. where some Streetmosphere was going on. I asked Roman Holiday for his autograph and he gave me a hard time...then he told everyone that I was stalking him. Too bad this Castmember's compadre's weren't around because those CM's who did Streetmosphere with him in the past were very good.
It's about 2:25 in the afternoon and Carol suggested that we try the TZTOT. We have the pass and we have to use it today.
We walked down Sunset Blvd. and as we approached the end of the street we didn't see a line. The attraction must be operating...we hear screams and see elevators dropping. We go into the garden and there is no line. we pass a cast member and I ask where the line is....she says it's up at the porch...doesn't she know sarcasm when she hears it? We go up on the porch...what line? We turn the corner and barely see some people going into the lobby. We walked right in. I guess I'd categorize this as either a walk-on or a two minute wait...but it was fast nonetheless....didn't have to use this pass. As a matter of fact I still have it...will use it as yet another memento of our '97 trip.
This journey was somewhat amusing. As we were herded into the library a family of about five was having trouble. The "matriarch" of this family was pinning herself along the wall and looking up with the look of anguish. The Castmember assured...no make that, tried to assure this woman that this was not the elevator that she had seen fall as she walked to the attraction. I'm not sure the woman believed the Castmember.
After Rod tells us the story of the Hollywood Hotel this woman's family is trying to get her to hurry up,. "Don't touch me!!!" she yelled, "I'm scared."
Now I'm sure there is a little mischief in all of us and Mike and I thought about playing a trick on this woman. We thought about doing something in the boiler room like at one point grabbing a rail and yelling, "Hold on, here we go!" But then we weren't sure if anyone in the crowd would know CPR and be able to save the poor woman...but the thought crossed our minds.
Once again the "party of two" angle worked in our favor as we cut a number of people. I was fine as long as I didn't end up in the seat belt seat. I didn't. Row 4 aisle seat...kinda crunched up. We begin our journey.
First floor...hmmmm yep...everything looks the same...there they are...hi folks...no...sorry...can't join ya...oops...there goes the hallway...best part of this illusion is the continuation of the star field in the elevator.
Next stop...The Fifth Dimension...door opens...yep everything blue...there we are in the old eyeball. Rod tells us it's time to meet our own terror.
Now is it me or does the TZTOT and AE have something in common...like canned screams? I could almost swear this was the case. When the door opens and we are looking out onto Sunset Blvd. I hear the same scream every single time.
Blah...blah...blah blah...and it's over. Three "drops" (still don't like referring to them as "drops"). What was that flash? No flash back in 1994...must be for the picture.
I'm sure 99% of the guests like going down several times for each visit. I guess I like it too. I think the final trip down is shorter than it was back in 1994...not really sure about this.
Oh yeah...also don't remember the little twist at the bottom of the drop. We checked out the picture...pretty funny...Carol took a photo of the picture. We looked through the gift shop. There are more than several different TZTOT shirts to choose from. I didn't care for any. On the way out we passed a Castmember who in the past was Streetmosphere's "Otto." He was interacting with a young family just outside the gift shop. He's also been seen on TNT's "Thunder In Paradise."
As we walked along Sunset Blvd. we told Carol, not a participant in this attraction, as to how the TZTOT attraction has changed since 1994. We turned the corner and saw some Streetmosphere going on. Mike was standing next to a streetlight and a Streetmosphere CM posing as a farmer's daughter came up to him and asked him what his name was and sang to him.
After she sang to him she asked him if he was doing anything that night. He said no and she also said she wasn't busy. He asked her if she'd like to do something and she jumped up and got real excited. She told him she'd meet him at the Brown Derby in a corner booth, "9:00 P.M. Sharp!" and walked away.
We left the park and when I reached for my key chain I noticed that my van key was gone. It must have come loose. Okay class now what do I do?
Trip Tip #12 - Extra Keys
If you drive to WDW it's always good to have an extra car key handy. I usually take one or two pairs of sneakers (running shoes) and one pair of sandals with me. I usually wear the sandals around the resort but always wear the sneakers at the parks. I thread an extra key in the sneaker laces. The head of the key rests at the bottom of the laces and the long end lays flat towards my instep. You can't feel it and you can hardly see it...but if you lock yourself out of the car, you've got an extra key right at your finger...erh...toe tips.
I bent down to unlace my sneaker but didn't have to...the key was lying on the pavement in front of the car. Phew!
We got back to the CBR around 3:30 for a little pool and nap time. We freshened up and left around 6:00 for the Grand Floridian. We actually had some difficulty finding 1900 Park Fare. We went in the lobby and over to where we thought was the entrance...nope. We finally found it. They had switched the opening. Originally it shared the same "foyer" with Flagler's and I guess it confused a lot of guests so now the entrance is from the front left end of the lobby.
The Grand Floridian Buffet Dinner with Mickey and Minnie is something that every family should experience. 1900 Park Fare is not a very large restaurant. It is elegant and the food is topnotch. Mickey and Minnie make their rounds to all the tables and I would guess you would see these two at least twice during your meal.
I had only one piece of Prime Rib. I asked the chef if he could "burn" it for me. "No way!" he said...then he laughed. "Sure" he said. "I'll bring it in the back...it will take a few minutes." He brought it in the back and I hung around for awhile. He told me to go back to my table and that he would bring it to me...he did.
Omigod a birthday cupcake. Our waiter brought a cupcake with a birthday candle on it and announced to the entire restaurant that it was my birthday. Minnie was there and I was serenaded. Then Minnie took out the candle and frosted my nose. Hmmmm...back in 1994 I got a whole cake. It seemed that every table had a birthday that evening....fat chance. I guess if every "birthday guest" got a cake they'd run out of cakes pretty fast.
Next to us was a middle-aged businessman obviously dining alone. Mickey stopped by and this man asked Mickey to join him. Mickey sat down and the guest asked Mickey how business was and Mickey nodded and signaled thumbs up. All of a sudden the man gets up and says to Mickey, "Wait here and I'll get you a steak!"
Mickey gets up and stops the man and gestures that he has to visit everyone. The man lets him go.
About 10 minutes later Minnie comes by. The man gets up and hugs Minnie. She hugs and kisses him back. He turns to her and says, "I know your kind Minnie. You come over and give me a hug and a kiss and as soon as my back is turned you go back to Mickey...you woman are all alike." I can imagine that the cast member had a good chuckle, as did we when we heard that.
Park Fare is an excellent choice for dinner. Including tip the bill was less than the Rainforest Cafe or Spoodles...and the food was of high quality and plentiful. If you're torn between Chef Mickey's and 1900 Park Fare...there's more fun and noise at Chef Mickey's and better food and a more serene and elegant atmosphere at 1900 Park Fare....families with younger children (10 and under) should stick with Chef Mickey's.
We left 1900 Park Fare and Carol and Mike asked me what I wanted to do. The time was around 8:30 and I thought about going to TMK but then a thought popped into my head that this would be a great time to check out Fantasia Gardens. I proposed this and we all said, "Why not?"
Fantasia Gardens is located near the Swan and Dolphin hotels. There are two miniature golf courses at Fantasia Gardens. One course (to the right) offers you a basic miniature golf course experience using portions of "Fantasia" as a backdrop to the holes. there is a clue at the beginning of each hole and this clue tells you how to make a hole in one. The other course is a bit more challenging. I think it's 18 holes and slated to take the average golfer about 2 hours to complete. The holes are more challenging and somewhat difficult.
During our golfing we saw Illuminations and Sorcery in the Sky. I had two favorite holes. One took place in a cave and if you were lucky the cave lit up and you caught a glimpse of Chernabog. The other hole was towards the end of the course and the hole was surrounded by the infamous brooms. The brooms held the buckets of water and from time to time these buckets would shoot water over your head and into a waiting area...pretty neat.
Trip Tip - #13 Fantasia Gardens Tip
Fantasia Gardens is a good 90 minute to 2-hour time drain. It is something fun to do but in the Summer I'd do it at night or in the late afternoon when you need a break from the parks. It may also be worthwhile doing just before heading to Blizzard Beach (BB) or Typhoon Lagoon (TL) Also, keep tabs on the weather...not much cover on those courses.
Wow, what a day. We pulled into the CBR and as always Mike asked for the key to the door...he always went ahead of us to the room. When we got there Carol and Mike started to sing Happy Birthday to me. There were presents for me.
The first present was a shirt that had Goofy on a space ship and the shirt read, "Mike Survived Space Mountain." Yep, I'm The Man.
The other present was in a flat bag. When I pulled it out it was an Official Certificate of Authenticity for a "Walk Around the World" Brick. It said:
The Scopa Family
Okay so when did Carol and Mike get the brick and the shirt? Carol told me how she went about getting the brick.
It all started when she was reading the Wilderness Lodge newspaper on the table in our room at the Wilderness Lodge. There was some information in the paper on the Walk around the World program and Carol and Mike thought it would be a good idea for a birthday gift.
When Mike and I ran that morning at the Lodge Carol went down to Guest Services to find out how to go about getting a brick. They directed her to the parks.
The next day we went to MGM. While Mike and I went over to TZTOT Carol went to Guest Services. They gave her an 800 number to call and a brochure and told her about the Walk Around the World tent at TMK. She needed to go there.
The day we went to TMK and while Mike and I waited in line for Space Mountain Carol went to Guest Services who directed her to the tent. Carol went through the process of ordering the brick and picked out the design and chose what to put on the brick. There are AP and MKC discounts available for the brick purchase. Carol happened to have her AP that day...I usually carry them in my pouch. Carol also found out that you cannot use the Disney name on the bricks because it would be self-promoting. I think that before discounts the bricks go for $110. Carol asked for 2 certificates...one will be in my office. She was told that the brick will be completed by the end of October so if anyone happens to be staying at the Polynesian this Fall from check it out.
Oh I forgot. Carol ran back to the Plaza Restaurant where she was to meet us for lunch that day. She had the certificate sent to our room. That's why Mike went up to the room before us each day...to hide it if it had been delivered that day. Pretty neat huh?
Guess that brick is a guarantee that we will have to return someday and check it out. I'm still not sure where she got the shirt although I have this feeling she got it at The Merchant of Venus.
She had a hard time deciding what to put on the brick. The cast member seemed to think that no one else had ever put "Remember the Magic" on a brick. Also, Carol picked out a new design for the top of the brick. It's two Mickey heads in hearts. She couldn't fit "July 12, 1997" so she opted for "July 12, 97".
Quite a birthday. It will be one that I'll never forget.
Hey...time to celebrate a bit more. We all went over to OPR to have some ice cream...I had a birthday banana split. I will certainly "Remember the Magic" of my 47th birthday.
Sunday, July 13th - Good Morning EPCOT, Good Evening MGM
What can top yesterday? Not much.
I got up early and ran about 3 miles...trying to run off my birthday banana spl it. I run with headphones and it helps to find a good station with music. Unfortunately on an early (5:30 A.M.) Sunday in Florida your choices are limited to either Gospel Music or what was described as NASCAR Radio. I was hoping to find ESPN Radio...no such luck. Oh well....maybe the next time I run I'll get better music. If you are down in Orlando tune to 105.9. It's an oldies station...except early Sunday mornings.
We decided to go to EPCOT this day. When we got there we aimed for "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" While in the Pre-show they really tried to crowd us in. Carol decided to sit this one out. I'm sort of glad she did as she is not a big fan of SNAKES. We were in the first show of the day so we really didn't wait long...I'd say we waited maybe seven minutes.
While in line I remarked to Mike that the family next to us may be making a mistake by bringing their little girl to the show. Seems like an ideal baby swap moment to me....albeit a long one.
I wish I had taped the monitor on the left hand side of the stage. You may want to check this out. Pay close attention to the portion of the show when the little boy gets on his hands and knees and peers into the audience. As he is looking at us I seem to remember seeing little fingers along the sides of the walls....later on they are supposed to be his fingers when he carries....oops don't want to give it away. Please check this out...did someone goof? Are his fingers there before they are supposed to be?
The woman next to me decided that after the incident with the mice that she was going to do leg lifts for the remainder of the show. She also asked me to let her know when the snake part was over. "Hey lady...it's only a movie."
And, oh by the way, that little girl was screaming bloody murder...over a cute little kitten. If possible people should really check out attractions before bringing children into them. Disney does a decent job of pointing out to it's guests if an attraction is too intense for small children and I don't think eople take these signs seriously. There are also books on WDW that do a pretty good job of warning readers on certain attractions. "Honey..." is in this category of attractions as is Alien Encounter, and still to a degree, Snow White's Scary Adventure. I don't think TZTOT, BTMRR, Splash, or Space Mountain fit this category. They are all thrill rides with Space Mountain and TZTOT vying for the number one slot.
From "Honey..." we went to the Land Pavilion and took in Food Rocks.
That's a neat show. While waiting for the show (11 minutes) we saw Timon. We noticed that the Land Pavilion was filling up quite a bit with a lot of, ahem, tour groups so we left and went over to the Wonders of Life Pavilion. More tour groups, one in particular which had blue shirts with the words, "Proud to Be a Brazilian" on the back. If they're going to put that on the back of the shirts then why not put something like "Please Excuse Me...I'm Brazilian" or "Watch Out...You're Looking at a Brazilian."
Okay, have fun with this one....Disney could sell a zillion shirts that say, "Proud to (fill in the blank) a Brazilian." How about "Proud to be the person who found a way to improve the behavior of a Brazilian!" or something like that.
We took in the Anacomical Players. There's so much to do in the Wonders of Life Pavilion that these Castmembers and their shows are sometimes missed. They are very entertaining....if you can stomach the puns.
We checked out The Sensory Funhouse and I noticed a slight change in some things from previous visits. I think changes in this area for this pavilion is a good thing.
Another fun show to do is Cranium Command....6 minute wait. In 1994 I wanted to tape this attraction. This year I didn't. I enjoyed it....good show. Hmmm The Castmember who ran the show must have been in her 60's...late 60's....been noticing some older Castmembers.
Of course Mike and I go over to the Metropolitan Lifestyle Kiosks and paint them a very unhealthy lifestyle of ourselves. Boys will be boys. Mike and Carol also tried the Health Cycles. Time to change the tape on these things. How about giving us three different views of MGM, EPCOT, and TMK?
I was standing next to the cycle Carol was on and I noticed a small boy anxiously waiting for her to finish so he could get on. Before she got off Carol asked me if I wanted to try it. I had done these many times before plus that boy looked pretty anxious. I said, "I'll pass." and we left the machine. The little boy was just about to get on the machine when this adult practically pushed the kid off the cycle so that he could ride it next. I mean, what's the big deal? You pedal and see a video....oh yes...it also tells you how many calories you burned....uh-huh!
We spent quite a bit of time in the World Of Life Pavilion....maybe 2 hours. We walked over to Innoventions East and after a bit of a wait I was able to jump on one of the machines in the Oracle Exhibit. I was able to surf a bit and get to my HOTMAIL account. I sent out a few messages and then said to myself. "Wait a minute. What am I doing? I'm at a keyboard all day long. I don't need this." So I got up and walked away. So for those of you who didn't receive any mail from me please try and understand. We left Innoventions West (I'm beginning to not particularly like Innoventions....more on this later) and headed off to the Contemporary as today was slated as a workout day for Mike.
When we got there Carol and I decided we didn't want to work out. Carol found a place to rest and read while I went exploring. My first stop was The California Grill.
I took an elevator to the top floor and when I got off I was immediately aware of something bright from the right side. When I turned to the right I was looking at The World....monorail, The Magic Kingdom, Seven Seas Lagoon, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Water Sprites....The World.
"Can I help you?" the Castmember from behind the desk asked. "Huh? Oh...ah, well,um...ah, yes, just came up to check out the menu." She showed me the menu. Nothing on the menu appealed to me. I then walked over to the windows. If you have never been to 15th floor of the Contemporary you have to go...and if possible, go at night. The view from the top is breathtaking. You cannot get a better view of The Magic Kingdom portion of Walt Disney World anywhere else.
Be advised....bring your camera. I was up there for a good 30 minutes just sitting down and watching everything. It's a great place to go to relax. I kept asking myself why I had never gone up there before....hmmmm...are you asking yourself the same question? I will always make that visit.
From there I went down to the first floor for some ice tea. Of course I spent some time in the Food 'n' Fun area. Played some real pinball, played a few of those basketball games....don't play them....you don't get free games just tickets...but you need 5,000 tickets to by a plastic toy that collects dust. I also played a few racing games.
From there I went back up to see how Carol was doing. She was in deep thought with her book. We chatted for awhile and talked about plans for that night and the next day. I told her about the view from the top of the hotel. We went over to the Olympiad Health Club. Did I mention you can't get there using an escalator? Mike was just finishing up and from there we all went back up to the California Grill to check out the view. They too were amazed at the panoramic view.
We returned to the CBR to freshen up a bit. We thought about where we'd like to go for dinner and thought about our last trip and where we hadn't gone yet this time that we had gone last time. Carol suggested The Olive Garden restaurant. Sounded good. If you're down in Orlando and would like a pretty good Italian meal for a very decent price check out one of the several Olive Garden Restaurants in Orlando.
We had a great meal...several courses, bottomless ice tea, dessert. The bill came to about $50 with the tip....it was a good tip too...not bad.
We left the Olive Garden and drove to MGM. My plan was to watch and tape "Sorcery In the Sky" (SITS). Mike walked around the park while Carol and I stood right where we knew the rope would be placed. We were directly in front of the Great Movie Ride. As soon as we saw the CM's starting to put the rope in we sat down. Sure enough they walked right in front of us and we had front row seats for the show. Mike joined us 10 minutes before show time. Of course our host was no longer Vincent Price but the CM who plays "Otto" in Streetmosphere. The fireworks and music for this show is tied together real well...I think that is the main reason why I like it so much. I think another good place to tape SITS may be from in front of Crossroads.
After SITS the park started to empty out. We walked around and I caught some real nice footage of MGM at night. We strolled down Sunset Blvd. and I struck up a conversation with a Castmember. I asked him a question regarding a wire that ran the length of Sunset Blvd. It looked like something for a trolley car but I had never seen a trolley in MGM. He wasn't sure about the wire. He was part of the Opening Team for Disney's Animal Kingdom. Since he volunteered that information I started to ask him questions about Disney's latest planned theme park.
"Is it true all the concrete has been laid?" I asked.
"I can't comment on that." he replied.
"Is it true that most of the trees and grass have been planted and are being given a whole year to thrive?"
"I can't comment on that."
"Is it true that the size is ...." I continued to ask questions which he would not answer.
The most interesting part of all this was that he and other Castmembers appeared to be extremely cautious about when exactly DAK would open. Some of them weren't talking May 1998 for the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Instead I heard phrases like "late Spring" and "early Summer." Hmmmm, wonder if they've been getting beaten up on Test Track. Gee, I wonder if it's new opening date is now something like 150 days beyond the originally publicized date.
Well, we pretty much closed down MGM and headed back to the CBR. It had been a full day. It was an especially tiring day for me...hmmmm did running at 5:30 have something to do with that?
Monday, July 14, 1997 - Sea World and Beyond
I did not run today. I had been dragging towards the end the last two days and thought I'd give the legs a rest. After I showered I walked up to the Custom House to cash a Traveler's Check or two. I figured that by the time I returned Mike and Carol will have showered and gotten dressed.
As I was walking through the Barbados Village I noticed a family running to catch a bus. They missed it. Too bad. I'm sure they'll catch the next bus...should be coming soon.
Well I walked across to the Custom House, waited in line for a few minutes, cashed my checks, left the Custom House, crossed the street, and walked by the Barbados bus stop. That family was still there. You can have the busses....I'll take the car.
We felt a little adventurous today. We checked out Coronado Springs. It looked like it was close to completion. Don't know if I would stay there. I don't like spending a vacation in a resort that is also a convention type resort. Maybe that's why I frown upon the Contemporary, Swan, and Dolphin. Of course a Disneyana Convention is another story. I'll be curious to hear the comments from those who stay at Coronado Springs.
We drove over to Disney's World of Sports. If you've ever played, coached, or heck even watched a sport you'll be amazed at this complex. Needless to say, as in many cases involving Disney....you have to see it to believe it.
We continued our exploring and found Celebration. We drove through a portion of Celebration and I didn't really get a good feel for it. As a matter of fact it gave me too much of an urban taste. We left there a bit disappointed. Celebration is big and offers many different looks. At times I could have sworn I was driving down a street from a Northeast city and then when I turned the corner I was back in Florida. I just didn't like it.
We were on our way to Sea World and when we got there we figured we'd see whatever we could see during the first half of the day and see what type of deals were being offered for a second day.
Trip Tip #14 - Best Kept Secrets on Discounts
Best discount for Sea World Admission appears to be the AAA discount. This may be true for a number of places we never visited. I know that one trip to Florida paid for the AAA membership in AAA discounts alone.
The first show we saw was Clyde and Seymour. Of course the best part of that show is the pre-show where we get to see the mime poke fun at everyone.
After the Clyde and Seymour show we went over and enjoyed the Golden Dragon Acrobats. A Sea World employee told us that today's performers were "borrowed" from Splendid China. They were pretty outstanding. We had front row seats and I wasn't too trusting of seeing someone mount nine chairs on top of one another and then seat himself on the bottom of the topmost chair.
The next attraction we visited was Terrors of the Deep. While in there we noticed a family who talked to us about our friends from Brazil. The children were pretty upset about something....not sure what it was. I While in this attraction we just let the Brazilian groups go by and we hung around towards the back....it worked out well.
After Terrors of the Deep we then went over to the Sea World Theater to watch the Water Fantasy Show. When in Sea World this is the place you want to go to cool off. It's also a good show.
When we came out of the theater we noticed an overcast sky. We were hungry but everywhere we went were Brazilians. We decided to leave the park and come back a second day to finish the attractions. The second day cost $9.95 apiece.
We left the park and went to a Sizzler. It was empty because there was construction going on...fine with us as we had a pretty nice and quiet meal.
Since we were right down the street from the Disney Village we decided to stop in and do some shopping. Remember those three dimensional sculptures we had seen in MGM at the Animation Gift Shop? Well we saw them here and we bought several of them including a huge sculpture depicting the 25th Anniversary logo. We had them shipped to our room and prayed that they would get there unscathed.
One of the Castmembers who packed the sculptures saw my Guest of Honor badge with my town on it said, "New Hampshire! I'm from Vermont."
"Our daughter goes to college in Vermont."
"I do too...which college?"
"Me too. what's your daughter's name?"
"Holly Scopa? I serve on the Student Senate with her."
I took out my camera and asked her to say hi to Holly.
We grabbed a few more souvenirs and then headed over to EPCOT. Just before we went in we called dear old Mom back in new Hampshire to see how things were going. she assured us that everything was fine and not to worry.
We entered EPCOT and walked around World Showcase. Of course with both Me in EPCOT and Ruth Lowell in Florida the rain was a sure bet to fall...and it did.
We went into the Mexican Pavilion and took a ride on the River of Time...dunno what it will look like next time but it should be better.
We went into China....Carol loves to look in the shops here, and Mike and I played games like, "Can you guess the ridiculous price for this lamp?"
Mike and I had this one guest believing we were going to buy a $750 vase. I told Mike I'll buy two so they'd match. I think the woman who overheard us talk actually believed us.
We continued to walk around World Showcase....boy EPCOT is never crowded except for Illuminations. You rarely see strollers in World Showcase.
Mike was really taken by the glassworks in the Germany gift shops...especially the crystal works, mugs, and steins. While Carol and Mike were in the shops I strolled into the Biergarten and checked it out. The menu was posted outside and the prices were reasonable. From the foyer the restaurant looked like a fun place to go...we never did. I thought the prices were pretty low for a World Showcase Restaurant.
Next time you go to EPCOT check out the miniature train village in World Showcase. This village must have a track that runs about 250 feet in length and supports a train or two that go through hill and dale with all little neat houses. It must be less than three years old 'cause I don't recall it back in '94.
I really should have kept track of time. We continued to walk around World Showcase. It was closing in on 8:30 and we were in Italy. Still hadn't seen any statues and didn't expect to see any at this time of night either.
Some band was playing at the American Gardens Theater and some woman, I could have sworn it was Oprah, was singing "Minnie the Moocher". I figure it was the performer and the song that accounted for the huge crowd of TWENTY-FIVE PEOPLE watching the show....pretty embarrassing.
I know Chuck Mangione was appearing in EPCOT this week but he wasn't on stage. I must admit that the American Gardens Theater is used quite a bit. It would bode well for EPCOT to seriously think about adding more places for shows...maybe that would bring in more people.
We thought about going into The American Adventure Pavilion but instead decided to keep walking around as Illuminations was closing in on us. This was to be a mistake as I was forgetting something...didn't think of it at the time. We sort of approached Illuminations halfheartedly. We never really connected with the show as we did the other two nightime fireworks shows.
While in Morocco we noticed the Castmembers closing shop. They told us that they close at 9:00 P.M. That bothered us a bit. I would think they'd stay open until 10 P.M. Maybe the amount of business between 9 and 10 does not justify the cost of staying open. Maybe this is a way to start flushing guests out of the park. Either way we thought it was odd. Actually EPCOT is in serious trouble and something needs to be done or that park will drop to position #4 when Disney's Animal Kingdom opens in 1998. Within the last few years there have been many signs that indicate the park's attendance problems:
The closing of the Odyssey Restaurant. Name another Disney theme park restaurant that has been closed for over a year.
The lack of attendance in the restaurants. My last four visits to Orlando have been in the Summer and I have noticed a distinct drop-off in the number of patrons at EPCOT restaurants...just a microcosmic example of the overall EPCOT problem.
The makeup of Innoventions. Let's face it. Innoventions West is a video arcade. Sure there are some areas to learn....but not enough. Returning guests are not in there...first timers.
The change in Operating Hours over the last several years. The old trick of going over to World Showcase when the Park first opens it's gates worked real well. Everyone else was in Future World and you had World Showcase to yourself. Then someone came up with the bright idea to stagger the hours. Gee we'll save on the overhead....won't have to pay Castmembers to work WS for that first hour. Well did it ever occur to these wizards that most guests realizing this decided not to spend as much time in EPCOT because of the limited hours? Also, think of it another way. You have this theme park that generates revenue for you. Why not encourage your guests to go deep into the park early on (World Showcase) so that you have more opportunities to generate additional revenue within the park? Isn't more likely that the further you walk in a theme park the more likely you are to spend money?
I think Test Track may be the first of several true noteworthy steps to bring EPCOT into the 21st century. More thrill rides are needed. More reasons are needed to bring the family to EPCOT. Didn't Walt want his theme parks to appeal to all ages? Remember the story with his daughter and the carrousel and, well you know. Someone is missing the boat at the Environmental Prototype Community of the Future.
Okay, enough of that. We quickly walked through Morocco and Japan and France. You don't want to get stuck around France during Illuminations....nor the United Kingdom. And if you have more presence of mind than I had that night you would also realize that you NEVER, EVER want to be near Canada during Illuminations. Read on.
The bridge near the International Gateway has an obstructed view. You don't want to be stuck here for Illuminations. There are more trees along the World Showcase Lagoon on the Eastern side than on the Western side. And these trees are getting taller every year. Also, is it me or are there more obstacles or buildings along the water on the Eastern shore?
Finally, and this may be the NUMBER ONE REASON why you never should be near the United Kingdom and Canada during Illuminations, 95% of the time the wind currents blow West to East. Since Illuminations is the lowest level fireworks display of all the parks and since the wind is blowing to the East...catch my drift?
I forgot these rules and during Illuminations25 we kinda walked real fast through that portion of EPCOT. By the way, THERE WERE voiceovers early in the program and the music was not what I expected (didn't sound like the track on the "Music From the Parks" CD). We saw most of the show near Canada and the Plaza Towers.
I will however, be the first to say that Illuminations25 gives you more bang for the buck than the other fireworks shows in the WDW resort....but I prefer a good tie-in with music and lasers.....didn't happen for me here.
Once Illuminations was over wooosh!....big time sea of people making their way to the front of the park. Heck we weren't trying to catch a bus or anything so we let everybody rush ahead and we took our time. Carol went into a couple of shops to look for a pin she had seen earlier in the week. She didn't find it. Will we ever learn?
We went into one of the shops under Spaceship Earth....the AC was out of order....talk about humid....one of the few times I really felt the humidity while in Florida....no air circulation.
We left EPCOT and returned to the CBR. We walked over to Old Port Royal for a light snack and went into the Video Arcade where I hammered my son in basketball. By the way, I told the CBR that they need to do some serious rehab on the Arcade. I think they need a billiard/pool table in there.
When we returned to our room we found the room keys to be less than friendly. Mike couldn't get the green light to come on. After about 20 tries I got it to work and made a mental note to get this straightened out in the morning.
Tuesday, July 15th - Good Morning EPCOT
I woke up late. Boy was I mad at myself. I said to myself, "That's it...last time!" and set the TV alarm to go off at 5:30 A.M. That will get me out of bed...to turn the thing off. The small travel alarm clock we brought is too user-friendly...maybe a dozen beeps and then it turns itself off....too easy to turn over and catch another TWO HOURS OF SLEEP.
I like getting up at 5:30. I can do some stretching, run a few miles before the Sun really heats up, jump in the pool to cool off, take a shower and get ready for the day's events and still be well ahead of 75% of the rest of the people in Orlando.
Hmmm, Good Morning Orlando had another interesting story. Lightning hits house....house catches on fire...fire trips sprinkler system...sprinkler system douses flames. Okay, I'll buy it.
Before leaving the room this day we called to make priority seating at Mama Melrose for dinner. We were a bit disappointed in EPCOT the previous night. We should have gone to the park a bit earlier.....so we decided to hit EPCOT this morning. We got to EPCOT around 9:30 or so...forgot to eat breakfast.
As we were walking through Future World Carol noticed a Brazilian teen fooling around with a camera. He was trying to take film out of the camera. Don't know how that story ended as Carol noticed it was one of those throwaway cameras.
We headed over to World Showcase and by the time we got to American Adventure it was 11 and we were really hungry. Mickey and Minnie were outside and we managed to get a Castmember to take a picture of all of us with them. We ate in the AA restaurant and as I finished I said to Carol, "Gee, maybe I can get into the Rotunda and get a good spot for the next Voices of Liberty show." She thought that was a good idea so while she and Mike finished up lunch I left for next door. I would meet them there.
I walked into the rotunda and noticed that on the left was a small corner devoted to the American Teacher Awards and that there was a film being shown. I immediately went over to a spot near the center of the rotunda and I faced the left side. Sure enough right on schedule the Voices of Liberty, a.k.a. Liberty Voices, a.k.a. Derrick Johnson singers, came out and started singing. When the Star Spangled Banner came I readied myself to catch the chorus from the second floor....there was none. I thought about asking one of the singers about that after the show but never did.
Carol and I wanted to see a special "Mickey and Friends from Around the World" show at the American Gardens Theater and Mike wanted to do some shopping so we agreed to meet after the show. The show was neat as in included Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip, Dale, Beauty and the Beast (France), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Geppeto, and Winnie the Pooh. Towards the end of the show all the main characters posed on stage for pictures.
We met Mike after the show...hey where's your stuff? He sent it back to the room. We walked counter clockwise around World Showcase. I told Carol and Mike that after catching some video of the miniature train village that I would catch up to them. The last time I had seen it there was no train running...it was there today. I was to meet them in Morocco.
When I got to Morocco there was a big crowd near the hut near the water. It was Jasmine and Aladdin....but this Jasmine was not the same as the Jasmine I had taken my picture with in MGM just a few days before. I thought the Castmember who played Aladdin was a good choice. His mannerisms were just like those from the animated figure in the film.
There were some Moroccan dancers performing in the plaza. One performer did some weird dance as if he were diving into water...but there wasn't any water...weird.
When we got to France we checked to see if there was any Disneyland Paris merchandise. If there was I would have bought something for Holly...nope...nothing there.
It was approaching midafternoon and were were satisfied that we were able to cover what we hadn't been able to cover the night before. We drove to the Contemporary for Mike's scheduled workout. While Mike did his thing Carol and I rode the monorail. Since it was early afternoon there was virtually no one riding...we probably should have taken a shot at riding up front.
We noticed where the Walk Around the World bricks would be placed in the Poly. When we got back to the Contemporary we had an ice cream and then went into the video arcade. I asked Carol if she felt like Bowling. "Huh?" she said. I brought her over to the side of the video arcade and showed her this portable bowling alley and she bowled one string of candlepin.
After that we met Mike and headed back to the CBR to freshen up.
When we entered MGM that night I couldn't believe what I saw. Halfway up on Hollywood Blvd. I noticed some girls flanking some guy as their friend took a picture. I'm thinking Streetmosphere but it wasn't. I was looking at a human Smurf.
This guy was about 6' 2" and had green hair and his entire body looked like a tie-die shirt. I have to say that he was tattooed (or painted) from head to toe and to this day I have no idea if he was Caucasian, Asian, or Black. I videotaped him and he blessed me. Ah yes the sights and sounds of WDW. I would have loved to have seen see him interact with the Streetmosphere crowd from a few years back.
Would someone please tell me what the heck are these people doing walking around Disney theme parks with cell phones? I'm talking guests. Are they calling their stockbroker? Are they calling work to see if they are missed or needed? Are they calling another family member in another part of the park to see how the line is at Splash Mountain, The Great Movie Ride, or Honey I Shrunk the Audience? Maybe they are calling for priority seating at their favorite restaurant. What's the deal with the cell phones?
when will this wheelchair abuse stop? Do I dare tell you about the family of...6, 7, 8? Hmmm, don't recall exactly how many were in this group. Anyway they come out of Star Tours and the kids were fighting over...get this...WHO WAS GOING TO RIDE THE WHEELCHAIR! Unbelievable.
We head over to Mama Melrose's and Mike finds a hidden Mickey near the phones. We call Holly.
"Hi Holly. What's up? We are in Mama Melrose's...luv ya."
I can't imagine being on the other line listening to family members tell me that. She was okay. We used a calling card we had purchased the week before. I think it was $14 for 200 minutes....good deal.
When a birthday was celebrated in Mama Melrose's the lights would flicker. Carol figured a way to embarrass me and told the waitress it was my birthday. In Mama's the lights flicker and about seven or eight servers come out and yell, "Hey everybody it's Mike's birthday." I had to stand up while they sang their birthday song to me. It went something like this...
"This is our Birthday song,
It isn't very long...HEY!"
Before we left the restaurant I must have heard that song about 748 more times...seems everyone had a birthday that night including the people at the next table...definitely from my homeland in Europe...yes we will travel a zillion miles and go to a restaurant that tries to cook like we do at home...I really think they should have gone to the Brown Derby, Sci-Fi, or Prime Time. They must have been longing for some home cooked meal.
We left Mama's and took a shot at the TZTOT. Hmm, line a bit long and our pass was now just a piece of paper. Okay, let's take a shot at Indy. We managed to get seated for the final show of the day...seems we always sit on the right side.
The Indy show had some subtle changes to it. I guess after a while the performers just don't do the show as "fresh" as they should. I thought the performance was lackluster. Also, the guy who played the German was pretty bad and I thought Indy and Marion would be in my lap before the explosion.
Remember at the end of the show when the plane goes? Well imagine that the show is close to the end and the music rises to a crescendo as Indy and Marion run from the plane and BOOM! Well they were practically walking and the music was over when finally the explosion came. They had this timing down perfect in '90 and '92. In '94 we saw a late explosion as did this night. Jeesh do I have to show them how it's done?
We left Indy and most of the crowd headed to watch "Sorcery..."
We started for the front of the park and along the way picked up a shirt for Holly. We watched Sorcery from Crossroads of the World and from outside the park. Looked pretty good. You would be most impressed with Sorcery if you watched it from the MGM Parking lot. Then you get a feel for how much the fireworks dwarfs TGMR and all of MGM..
Wednesday, July 16th - Universal Studios; Today and Tomorrow
Got up at 5;30 and ran 4 miles. Took a dip in the pool, showered, and went to OPR to get muffins and juice for everyone. Today was Universal Studios day. We were in line at Universal Studios at 8 P.M. Pay attention to my recall of this day and you'll really appreciate how important it is to be an early bird.
Universal Studios has gone nuts. They now have a huge parking garage. We parked in Kong 308. From there we walked to a moving sidewalk. This took us to another moving sidewalk. This took us to a central area where there is this huge hourglass in a rotunda type area. The sand in the hourglass marks the time before the Islands of Adventure theme parks open.
From there we walked probably another quarter to half mile before getting to the front of Universal Studios. I think that the Islands of Adventure will be additional theme parks and not extensions to the present theme park. As we walked to the front of the present theme park we saw the construction going on. This is an honest to goodness big deal of a project.
I don't remember when they let us in but it wasn't 9:00...much earlier. Carol wasn't into some of the attractions Mike and I were curious about doing to so she told us to scurry ahead and she would catch up to us. She knew that we were heading for Back to the Future (BTTF).
Of course when we turned the corner and saw T2 D2 (Terminator 3D attraction) we halted in our tracks. The park had just opened, we were among the first to go in, and we were standing at the opening of the latest attraction in the park. I turned to Mike and said, "Now what shall we do?" "Let's go for it!" he said and we went in and saw the first show.
Here's my take of this attraction. The pre-show is pretty good. It sets you up by describing this company that plans on improving the quality of life. During the film there is an interruption and a pirate transmission from, ol' buddy Linda Hamilton who warns us to get the heck out of the building and that this company is a bad dude and all that stuff.
When we entered the main theater I was highly impressed with the Universal Studios Castmembers who made sure that people did not go halfway down a row and sit own. Instead they told them to get up and go all the way to the end. They got points from me on this.
I won't get into the rest of the attraction but I will tell you that you will be impressed with the film. It's action packed and has an assortment of 3D special effects. Besides this very impressive film there is live action, audioanimatronic action, and other stuff going on. I think "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" had better effects. I say this because I remember "Honey..." more than T2D2.
As we exited the show we saw Carol who luckily had seen us duck into the building. We all made a beeline to Back to the Future (BTTF) and Carol waited as Mike and I walked up the structure that houses the attraction. We went right on...maybe a 5 minute wait.
We sat in the back seat of the Delorean. Unfortunately I saw a bit of the simulator to our left...kinda took away from the illusion. I think being in the front seat would have helped me focus more on the screen. Here's a mini-tip...try to sit in the middle of the back seat. I like BTTF and think that it really has paved the way for future simulator attractions.
Keeping pace with the crowd we went to Jaws. It took 15 minutes to get on our boat. We cut in front of about 20 Brazilians who wanted to ride together...happy to oblige. I asked the Jaws Castmember if I should video tape, "Your camera may get wet." he said. Okay, I put the camera away...mistake.
I waited a long time to see Jaws. We had never done it before...the attraction was always down. My reaction to the attraction? WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? I expected way more than what I got. The ride was alot shorted than I expected, the "attack" was cheesy, but the bit in the boathouse was passable. The real "thrill" occurs towards the end when the steam hits you. All in all I thought this attraction was pretty lame. I wish Carol had gone on this ride.
From Jaws we went to Earthquake (EQ). I could sense the crowd flow and noticed that the queuing was beginning to establish itself. The line for Earthquake moved rather quickly, maybe it's because I was writing down notes while we snaked our way into the attraction. The EQ Castmember at the last turn told us what the attraction would be like. Carol decided to opt out of this attraction. It was just after 10 A.M. and we were about to do our fourth attraction. Heck who needs those Florida Vacation Guide books you see in the bookstores? Just do what we did. In EQ there are several pre-shows and then the Earthquake. Again I was disappointed. Excuse me but Catastrophe Canyon gives you a better thrill.
Okay next stop Kongfrontation. Now the lines were starting to really queue up. We entered the NY Train Station to Kongfrontation at around 11 A.M. and we were through the ride by 11:30. Yawn again...I expected more...what banana breath? What I remember most about this attraction is the sea of pennies along the NY streets as you walk up the ramps. There must be several million coins down there.
Well all the major attractions that we were concerned about doing were completed. We decided to eat early so we went to the Italian Buffet at the Studio Stars Restaurant. Excellent choice. Our server noticed that Mike and I were lefties and said that "We were in our right minds." While we were at the restaurant, a US Castmember came into the restaurant and he was made up to be like the Nutty Professor character Eddie Murphy played.
Lunch was good. Carol then wanted Mike and I to see this Islands of Adventure preview area next to Kongfrontation. During our battle with the big ape she investigated this area and was really excited about it.
Universal Studios is adding two theme parks to it's present park. This expansion project expansion is overwhelming. Imagine adding five roller coasters to the present slew of attractions, as well as major areas devoted to such themes as Marvel Comics, Jurassic Park, Dr. Suess, and Popeye.
There is also a new area called "CityWalk" that is scheduled to open next year. It will be made up of shops and restaurants with special themes, plus E! Television Center, a 16-screen theater complex, and a new Hard Rock Cafe. There's more but I forgot some of it. Some of the other expansion plans have yet to be announced.
There's no doubt that when all this is complete Universal Studios will be looking at multi-day passes probably within 10-15% of what WDW charges for it's 1997 multi-day passes.
We left that Preview area and noticed that the Blues Brothers (BB) show was scheduled sometime soon. I planted myself in front of the NY stoop where the BB would perform while Carol found some shade. The show was pretty good...I was hoping for some better songs but the songs they did were good. The person who portrayed Belushi could have been Belushi...that's how good he was...the guy portraying Ackroyd was too tall and too thin.
From there we walked over to Mel's Drive-In and listened to the Hi-Tones. This is a singing group that appears to have stepped out of Grease. They sing 50's tunes acappella and have great range. I think they would be better if it was an all male group. The single female voice seems to be out of place.
Next we hustled over to the Wild West Stunt Show and Carol and I both wondered about the performer who played the mother for the two bad guys. She sounded like a 1990-92 WDW Streetmosphere performer known as "Hanna."
After this show Mike and Carol went back to listen to the Hi-Tones while I walked around looking for Movie Stars. There were none to find. I went into the Tribute to Lucy and spent some time there. That's a good place to kill time. There are tons of things to read and see in there.
I returned to listen to the last few Hi-Tones numbers and then we went over to see The Lost World exhibit. This was pretty good as they had taken props from the movie and put together sets and made you feel like you were in the movie. One of the trailers that fell off the cliff was there as well as some other props. There is one portion of this exhibit in which you pass a huge footprint that has rainwater in it. Every once in a while you hear a big boom as if a dinosaur is approaching. When you hear it the water jumps...similar to a scene in the movie. I enjoyed this little attraction.
We then took in Alfred Hitchcock's attraction...it hadn't changed.
Wheelchair abuse continues also in Universal Studios. I think a policy should be adopted in which only one person can accompany the wheelchair person. Actually make that up to two people. Thus if there is a party of four two will always be together and no one has to go solo.
Oh yeah, Mike got to do that stuff with the special effects of someone falling off the Statue of Liberty. This post show follows the main Hitchcock show. Do you know that AH is in every one of his movies? Cameo of course.
We walked towards Jaws because Carol had seen something that might be worthwhile picking up for a friend, or was it Holly?...or was it for Carol? Along the way you pass this Amity kind of village with the Coney Island type of games of chance. We came to this guy who had the old take the hammer and hit the thing and try to ring the bell. I coerced Mike into trying it. Now Mike had been working out with weights every day and maxed out the Nautilus machine at the Olympiad Club at the CR and still he couldn't get the little thing to go more than 2/3's of the way up. Of course the teeny-bopper Brazilian girls were impressed with Mike's feat but he refused to give them autographs. Mike wanted me to try. No thanks.
There was a basketball game of chance where all you had to do was get one basketball in the hoop out of three chances. Seems easy except that the hoop is small and you have to shoot the ball so that it drops cleanly through the hoop. I did this in MGM once and Mike remembered. I usually have luck with these basketball games. Mike really wanted me to try and do this. If it wasn't for the strong breeze blowing from the upcoming storm I would have...Universal was lucky that night.
We got to the shop and we picked up a few things. I think Carol got some Jewelry and I got a Universal shirt for next to nothing...I think it was $12.
From there we made tracks to the BeetleJuice Show. We got there about 45 minutes ahead of the show. The skies were threatening and we were hoping to get under cover in the theater before the rain started. We did. The show is pretty good. Imagine Beetlejuice, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, The Werewolf, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Bride of Frankenstein putting on a rock and roll show. that's what it was...best part is listening to the Robin Williams type banter from Beetlejuice. One wonders how Robin Williams would have betrayed Beetlejuice.
From there we went to the front of the park and checked out a few shops. While in the main souvenir shop Mike and I was walking through when we saw this large woman yelling at her son Patrick.
"Where's my Cup Patrick? Where's my cup? WHERE'S MY CUP PATRICK?"
All the glassware in the park must have trembled at her voice. I'll bet the dinosaur footprint in the Lost World Exhibit was shaking. Heck. Mike and I were shaking. Here lady, take all these cups, mugs, and glasses...just keep yer mouth shut...heck I gotta sleep tonight...don't want any nightmares. God she was scary...more so than Earthquake...Jaws...Kongfrontation...
A long day was ending. I would guess it took almost 30 minutes for us to get from the front of the park to the van. It just adds to the fatigue. It was the first time in the entire trip that we did not take a break in the middle of the day and we could feel it. I was dragging too. Getting up at 5:30 and running 4 miles contributed big time to the fatigue.
On the way back to the CBR the van felt funny...must be the humidity.
Back at the CBR we went over to OPR to have a small snack. It took an effort as we were really bushed. Good night Mick...zzzzzzzzzzz.
Thursday, July 17th - Sea World Part II
Although we had fallen asleep around 10 P.M. we still slept until 7:30. So much for a) running, and b) catching a glimpse of the returning space shuttle. Today was to be an odd day. I called for priority seating at Artist Pointe at the Wilderness Lodge.
We got dressed and drove over. Hmmm, Van still seems funny...guess it doesn't like the heat and humidity in it's old age.
At Artist Pointe we got a corner table that overlooks the waterfall in the courtyard...nice table. I'd say there were between 50 and 60 tables at Artist Pointe. While we were there no more than 15 occupied tables. Pocahontas came over to see us and I asked Pocahontas if she was looking forward to the 25th Anniversary celebration coming to a close. She remarked how she and her forest friends are anxious for "...the return of our castle." Amen!
Who would have thought that the castle would evoke as much emotion as it has during these past 12 months? It is the most photographed structure IN THE WORLD! That means people don't like their castle being tampered with and hopefully it will never be pink again.
While at Artist Pointe we received several visits from Pocahontas, Bre'r Fox, Bre'r Bear, and the Mischievous Meeko. Also, at one point a cast member dressed as a scientist took all the children and some parents out to the Courtyard for an Eco-lesson. I thought that was kinda neat.
If your kids are into the Pocahontas characters then by all means visit Artist Pointe. If your kids are into a good breakfast go to Whispering Canyon Cafe.
At Artist Pointe you can eat as much as you want. Your breakfast is brought out on separate plates. Each person receives a platter that has several pieces of sausage (2), bacon (2), pancakes (3), eggs and hash browns. If you ask for seconds you will receive a smaller platter that has less food. Are they trying to tell me something? If you are hungry go to Whispering Canyon.
Why is there such a big difference in the philosophy of the two restaurants? Maybe it was the time (10 A.M.) of day. At Whispering Canyon they can't wait to give you food, more food, and more food. We actually had to tell them to hold off...I don't like to see food wasted. Not so at Artist Pointe...nothing to waste.
It's true...Meeko steals your biscuits.
This is the type of day that happens once with every 14 or 15 day visit to WDW. We decided to take in Sea World for a second day today but first we thought it best to send out some more postcards and do some laundry and get in some pool time. And we did just that before heading off to Sea World.
While in Sea World we first did the Shamu show. Be advised that the splash area now includes the area that contains the cameras. Yep, these fish have gotten mighty strong...we're talkin' 20 rows folks...a "whale of a splash" you might say.
From there we did the BayWatch Show. Instead of fish doing tricks we saw humans doing some pretty athletic stunts.
From there we headed over to see the manatees. Had a lemonade on the way.
After the manatee exhibit we took in the Whale and Dolphin show. Before the show began I noticed that there were dolphins swimming in the tank and looking at the crowd. Now we all know that the animals respond to hand gestures...but of course we don't know what behaviors are represented by certain gestures. I guess then we'll never know what gesture someone made to one of the dolphins that caused the animal to splash a guy in a blue tank top who was taping the dolphin with a pretty expensive Sony Handycam. Boy was he mad. I was mad too.....that I didn't catch him getting soaked.
While we were waiting for the show a Sea World employee asked a guest what time it was..."Who cares?" she said, "I'm on vacation." I'm sure he didn't appreciate that. I told him the time and he thanked me.
Y'know, from the time we entered the park until now I hadn't noticed those people with the same colored shirts and led by a shirt with a flag...but I didn't want to say this out loud as I didn't want to curse myself.
By the way, I don't want to spoil the show but let me say that at one point the audience was caught off guard. Before the show be very observant and you won't be caught off guard.
After the show Dolphin Cove. Along the way we peeked at the construction site for the Atlantis project. Yup, looks like their claims will be true. The Atlantis attraction will have the highest Flume ride in Orlando...until the next one is built.
We visited the penguins, puffins, turtles, and rays in that order.
The sky looked threatening. Everywhere we had heard Hurricane Dan, Hurricane Dan, outer reaches of Hurricane Dan. Winds weren't to be a problem...just moisture. Of course I kept referring to the storm as Hurricane Ruth...no one understood. Sea World shirts are expensive.
It started to rain real hard. We dashed from cover to cover and made it to the last shop in the park. We bought a few items. I got a mug.
As we left there we noticed the rain had slowed down a bit. I'll be curious if the fireworks show goes off. We didn't stay to see it. I'm told that rain or shine the fireworks displays usually go off. Phosphorus fireworks work in the rain. I guess I believed them.
We walked back to the van hoping and praying that we can get there before the skies open up. While trying to exit Sea World we had to wait for the people in front of us to exit the park. They hesitated because they didn't understand the exit signs. When you exit Sea World you go over this thing-a-ma-jig that, if you decide to back up, will total your tires. After a few minutes these people finally figured it out.
I tried to get back to the CBR as fast as possible. I hate driving in rainstorms...especially a Florida rainstorm...ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT! It poured but we got back to the CBR and our room. Wow we hadn't eaten since breakfast and we were hungry.
We went over to the OPR and had supper. We ate at the OPR more than anywhere else. The variety and convenience is the draw...after a long day. Oh yeah, while there we saw a teenager with a BWO shirt. Only ECW fans know what that's about.
After dinner we got some breakfast grub (muffins) and walked back to the room. It's still raining but not as hard...no pool tonight.
Friday, July 18th - Power Failure
Rise and shine. We ate breakfast in the room and took off for The Magic Kingdom. We headed right for Splash Mountain and got in line right near the Crow's Nest. It's that shop near Pirates of the Caribbean!!! Yipes. I'm not waiting 2 hours for this...but Carol went up ahead and checked. It's a 20 minute wait. Huh? They were not queuing people up inside the mountain. They hold off doing that until 10 A.M. This way they sort of convince people to go to other attractions and spread out the crowd. Good idea. We were in Splash Mountain in 10 minutes and in our log in another 8 minutes...not bad.
We were in the second row in the log. The first row had one person and he was in front of Mike. I had no one in front of me and I was sitting on the right side. As we headed into the actual ride I got cooled off rather frequently. First as we circled around the big drop I caught the splash from several logs coming down.
Oh yeah, no little bunny yelling "FSU" just before the drop. Guess it's a random thing. It's there...confirmed by an FSU student. Bre'r Rabbit is till hopping and we still see that arm holding him. I got soaked on the drop and also wet from that waterfall on the right side elsewhere in the ride.
When we got off I told Mike that I'd buy the photo. He went to get Carol...who videotaped our plunge. Of course when he got to her he played a trick on her and said, "Dad's sick!" That didn't go over too well. He immediately set her straight.
In an Universal Studios mode of action we immediately went over to Big Thunder and found that line to be pretty good...15 minutes. Of course the Brazilian Tour groups were there chanting away.
I have decided that each one of them is the Anti-Christ. Weren't there Brazilians in all the "Omen" movies? I really thought Mike was going to kill these Brazilians. At 10 in the morning who wants to hear their chanting, which by the way was initiated by their tour guide or leader. Now if I can only get him to walk off a short pier.... The formula is simple...eliminate the tour guide...eliminate the tour group.
I think my son may have converted me into a Big Thunder Mountain RR fanatic. On this, my second ride of the vacation, I really enjoyed it. That's because I have finally been convinced that it is not a roller coaster ride.
When we came out of the ride Carol told us about a discussion she had with a cast member who was a grad student studying medicine and health. She actually had done studies on these tour groups and mentioned some interesting things:
Most of these tour groups will average teens ranging from 14-17.
Brazilian girls are told early on that their primary objective in life is to attract a man with the intent to secure a husband. Thus the approach to makeup and clothes. The Castmember put it this way "to get a man."
The girls who wear the real snug clothes will have bladder problems later in life. This Castmember said that during the "formative years" that restrictive clothing really hampers the development of the internal organs like the bladder. So from that moment on when anyone saw such a sight we immediately yelled out, "Bladder problems!"
We took in the next Country Bear Jamboree show. We had a 13 minute wait. It's cheesy but it's cool. This show is not that popular anymore...I wonder if it is an endangered species...nahhhh.
We hadn't made any plans for lunch so we scurried over and made priority seating for Tony's. We came out and was serenaded by the World Marching Band. Carol, who really found out a lot more stuff than me on this trip, talked with the conductor and found out that Major Mike was in Disneyland Paris for a few weeks and has been bumped upstairs. I wonder if he'll just do the TV shows now.
Any golfers out there? If you have an extra SEVENTY DOLLARS hanging around you can buy a Disney golf shirt at the new sporting goods section of the Emporium.
We hung around Main Street U.S.A. taking in the sights and sounds before heading over to Tony's. We were the very first family seated for lunch and were asked if we had a preference as to where to sit. We didn't. I'm sure the kitchen was buzzing, "Hey remember the guy back in '94 who ate three salads? He's baaaaaack!"
I tried the Turkey Picatta. It was so good that two days after we returned home I tried the recipe...tasted just like the meal I had in Tony's...got it out of the Cooking With Mickey Cookbook, Vol. II.
After lunch we went to the castle forecourt and we watched "Every Day's a Holiday." It was odd to hear "The Easter Parade" and "Jingle Bells" being sung. The castle shows are always good...also hot. I almost didn't notice the pink backdrop.
It was workout day so Mike walked over to the CR and Carol and I found a spot to watch the "Remember the Magic" parade. We settled on a spot in front of the train station. If you do this go more towards City Hall. You'll have a good spot to see the Little Mermaid Castmembers dance with the guests. If you like Beauty and the Beast then sit in front of Disneyana.
The people next to Carol had just arrived in Florida and were asking us all kinds of questions. The people next to me had also just arrived in Florida. They live just 20 minutes from Disneyland, as does fellow Disneyholic Jody Newell, but came to WDW because their granddaughter wanted to come there. These people were also asking me questions. Carol and I were holding court and giving advice left and right.
A Castmember came over and put "Little Mermaid" stickers on a few kids. Her name was "Holly" and we told her our daughter's name was Holly and that she was back in New England working. The cast member gave Carol a sticker. Carol was going to participate in the parade.
When the parade coaches came out and called out everyone who had stickers Carol noticed she was the only adult. "I guess I'll sit this one out" she decided. Good move Carol although it would made for some good video.
The parade comes down Main Street U.S.A. towards the train station...the reverse of the Spectromagic parade route. Remember that the parade will take about 30 minutes to reach the Town Square. There were some definitely recycled floats and some new floats and some that had come from California. It is a fun parade with an upbeat version of "Remember the Magic." A Castmember told me that this parade will be around well after the 25th celebration ends.
After the parade we walked over to the Contemporary to get Mike and headed back to the CBR. I got some gas at Car Central and then got us back to the CBR in no time. Mike showered and Carol relaxed while I headed over to the Custom House to get some stamps for postcards...and to cash some Traveler Checks. As I left the Custom House I held the door for the woman behind me.
"Gracias!" I heard.
"De Nada!" I returned.
On the way back to Martinique I noticed the skies looked angry. Once in the village I went up the stairs and used the bridges between buildings to get to my room....it had started to rain again. We wanted to go back to The Magic Kingdom that night so we hoped the rain would hold off. I called the California Grill to make priority seating arrangements. The entire night was booked. God knows why...the menu is limited and overpriced....of course the view is breathtaking... especially at night. So we made priority seating at the Concourse Steakhouse. Carol felt guilty about making these arrangements and not going. We thought that we either had to make "reservations" at a CR restaurant or say we were going to the Health Club to park at the CR. Now that I think of it, we should have parked at the Poly and checked that out before going to the park...we could have looked for our brick.
On the way to TMK we saw a boo-boo. At the end of Bluebonnet Parkway, where you take a left to enter the back way of Fort Wilderness, was a truck that had crashed into a tree. The truck was actually between the tree and a stop sign. Looks like someone could not negotiate a left hand turn onto Bluebonnet Parkway from Fort Wilderness.
We entered the park and took the WDW Express to Mickey's Starland. Along the way we saw a major league line at Splash Mountain. We got off at Mickey's Starland. Boy it is a zoo with all the kids. It almost seems too small for the amount of guests. I'll leave it up to you as to whether or not waiting in line for the Barnstormer Roller Coaster is worth it. It's a short ride. I'm guessing it's a 90 second ride tops.
We left there and walked over to Tomorrowland. Space Mountain's line wasn't too bad...just under the Astro Orbiter (he typed scarcastically).
We took in the show at the Galaxy Palace Theater. That was enjoyable. The show's climax features an animatron that had been used in EPCOT a few years back. From there we went on Takeflight...for the last time. It was 8:00 and the line at Space Mountain was even longer.
We took a nighttime ride on the TTA. Doing this at night helps you get a better look at the inside of Space Mountain. Carol and Mike decided to ride the Skyway to Fantasyland. I did the Skyway once in my lifetime and that was enough for me. Mike took the video camera to tape some footage from way up high.
They headed for the Skyway queue and I hung around TL for awhile. There is now a DJ at EPCOT and TL every night. I watched the DJ lead the audience into the Electric Slide and then I started towards Fantasyland.
I kept looking up to see where Carol and Mike were. It was getting dark and it was tough to see that high up. I went over to Ariel's Grotto and waved to a couple of the people up there...didn't recognize anyone.
Then the Skyway stopped...and it was starting to rain. I walked to Fantasyland and there was Mike. They never got on the ride. We found Carol and ducked into Small World as it was starting to rain.
Carol and Mike told me that just before they were about to get in their skyway bucket the Castmember announced they were closing the ride. I think the impending storm had a lot to do with that.
After Small World we came out to what could be best described as a driving thunderstorm. We decided that now was the best time to have dinner. We went into the Geppetto Haus and ate there. The food was so so...I should have gotten the Pasta Salad. It was absolutely pouring.
After our meal we cut over to the Mad Hatter Shop. I was beginning to think it was time to get a nice big WDW umbrella souvenir. The shop had a tote umbrella with Mickey on it. No thanks.
We made our way to the castle by ducking into doorways and little cubbyholes along the way. Now we had to make a decision...left or right? Carol had the umbrella and Mike and I made a dash for the area near the Crystal Palace. It was raining so hard that my contacts almost flushed out of my eyes. Imagine...my protein covered contacts floating down Main Street, U.S.A.
Mike and I dried off in the men's room next to the Crystal Palace. I took my wallet and traveler checks and put them in the waterproof camera bag....something I should have done some 10 minutes ago.
We cut through the shops along Main Street...you can bet they were really stuffed with guests. When we got to the Train Station we heard that Tink would not fly tonight...but the fireworks (remember the deal with the phosphorus?) would.
At first we thought about trying to get on the monorail and getting over to the CR. That was not a good idea as the monorail was doing an impression of Space Mountain...big queue. We huddled under the small umbrella and made our way back to the CR. The rain was actually letting up so that was good. Instead of a waterfall of rain we just had a steady downpour.
The water was everywhere. I took it slowly back to the CBR. Visibility was very low but good enough to drive. As I came into the CBR the gate was up. Thank you. As I pulled into the Martinique area I noticed the parking area near the buildings was full so I had to go to the lot near the bus stop.
The water was so high that some of the cars looked as if they had flat tires.
I guess I didn't see the puddle I hit. I guess I also never expected to lose my power steering. But that's what happened. Like Hercules I negotiated the van into a parking spot and we made a dash to the room. It was too wet and dark to check anything under the hood.
Oh yes...the keys to the room were now giving us trouble. ARRRRRH! I felt like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football for the zillionth time and for the zillionth time Lucy would pull that football away just as I was about to deliver the goods.
After about five long minutes we got one of the keys to work. What a day. That night we watched the news on Hurricane Dan, a.k.a. Hurricane Ruth. We weren't getting the winds but just the rain...heck that was more than enough...tell me something I don't know.
Beyond that was another tropical depression forming in the Gulf of Mexico that should be hitting Florida on the day we take off to go home. Gee more good news.
What's next...that Mickey Mouse is really Jimmy Hoffa in a costume? That the castle will remain pink permanently? That...that Dole Whip would be eliminated from the Aloha Isle Menu? I turned to Carol and said, "Pinch me...I think I'm really Chevy Chase in one of those National Lampoon vacation movies."
I checked to see that everything that we needed to be dry was indeed dry and I began to charge the video camera batteries. I eventually nodded off to sleep wondering, when I woke up the next morning, if I'd have power steering.
Saturday, July 19th - Beltless in Orlando
Everything outside was wet. I can't remember the last time I had seen standing water in Florida the morning after a rainstorm. I went out to the van and popped the hood. Everything looked fine.
I took it for a drive...still no power steering but it seemed better than the night before. I looked under the vehicle. Everything looked okay. I thought that maybe a belt had gone but the belts looked okay. Carol mentioned that this had happened to her before when she had driven through a puddle and the power steering went but eventually came back. I thought I'd give it a day but to play it safe we went to EPCOT...relatively close.
We got there early and went into the Living Seas. We had this place all to ourselves. Mike and Carol did their thing while I taped the huge aquarium/tank and its inhabitants...to the tune of 30 minutes.
We left there and walked towards Innoventions. I told them I would meet them there and I went over to World Key and made priority seating at Alfredo's. I enjoy interacting with World Key...wish I had taped my little visit at the World Key Kiosk.
We hadn't eaten breakfast so lunch would be welcomed.
After a small visit to Innoventions we started off towards World Showcase and along the way we ran into Future Corps. They played a few songs and we continued our way to the boats. I taped their song...about 5 minutes...remember this.
It was still early for World Showcase to open. We hung around the boats and waited. I went over to two Castmembers and started pumping them with questions. I asked them about the staggered EPCOT hours. One suggested that the hours are probably staggered because most guests stay in Future World for the first hour of the day anyway. I suggested that they have no choice but to do that whereas if World Showcase was open maybe more people would go there. I also suggested that the reason for the staggered hours was to save payroll by cutting back on the CM hours.
"Perhaps!" she said.
We took a boat to Japan and walked to the American Adventure. We walked into the Rotunda and in less than 5 minutes..."Ladies and Gentlemen the Voices of Liberty". The choice of songs was different. It was their first show of the day and it was quite subdued...not like other shows I've enjoyed. But I still taped them...remember this too.
We took in AA and I taped the presentation. I had my camera on my lap and monitored the taping through the viewfinder. Just as "Golden Dream" was about to begin my battery began to flash. Remember I had taped Future Corps? Mistake. Remember I had taped VOL? Mistake.
In the dark I had to switch batteries. This is fine if you are, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, a cat, or have antenna like capabilities like a common bat. I had to find a fresh battery, and line up the arrows and then carefully close the compartment so that it worked properly...and FAST!
C'mon where's that battery!
"...Shed your golden wings..." (sic...it's "spread")
"Sail on Silver wings" (sic...it's "freedom's wind")
Gotta close the compartment!
"...in the skyyyyy." (sic..."across the skyyyyy")
Trip Tip #15 - Video Camera Batteries
This little tip may come in handy for someone. Before going to Orlando I decided that Id better buy two more batteries for my video camera. I could not get anything that would give me more than one hour of power. I ended up getting two batteries. I put stickers on each of my video camera batteries and labeled them 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 with 1 being the newest battery and 5 being the oldest. In this way I always knew which battery would provide me with the most power and for the most part was able to avoid some problems. Alas it didn't always work out exactly the way I wanted it to but it certainly helped avoid a lot of taping problems.
"Golden Dream" is different. It's nice to see more images of people who are still alive. For awhile there I thought you had to be dead to be in this film. The song and film has changed since 1994...I liked the change. The updated version seems to fit in nicely. Of course there is always a lump in my throat when I see the 10 to 15 seconds of JFK and JFK Jr. Has anyone imagined what it would feel like to be John F. Kennedy, Jr. watching this film for the first time? Has he ever seen it?
It was easy to tape the show. I just sat my camera on my lap and taped the show. The seats in the AA theater are designed in a staggered way so that you never have a head in front of you. Too bad I taped Future Corps and Voices of Liberty. I used just enough battery to deplete the charge...who knew?
Lunch in Alfredo's. It was okay. Being somewhat of a gourmet Italian cook I am a bit tougher on Italian restaurants than others. As far as Italian Restaurants in WDW goes I still prefer Tony's.
When we came out of Alfredo's the sky looked threatening. "No not again!"
We walked over to Japan where some female drummers were performing. Mike and I both felt that the drummer in the middle was not of Japanese descent. She looked about 5' 9" and definitely was lacking those oriental facial features. She looked a bit nervous...maybe because she wasn't of Japanese descent and felt guilty performing in Japan.
As we walked around World Showcase it started to rain again. We eventually made it to Innoventions. I think Innoventions is most appreciated by those guests who don't work from a keyboard all day or aren't exposed to technologies displayed there. I find only about 15% of Innoventions interesting. The rest strikes me as marketing hype for products. I think Innoventions should teach as well as entertain...not just baby sit with video games. I'm sure Sega appreciates their involvement with Innoventions. They get to debug games and hardware.
The rain was continuing but I didn't want the rain to control us anymore. We went over to Imagination. Along the way we noticed that long yellow (ponchos) line waiting to get into "Honey..." It's probably one of the top four attractions in EPCOT (Honey, Spaceship Earth, Body Wars, and Maelstrom).
Imagination is showing it's age. Boy does figment look a little bit like a relative of Skippy from Alien Encounter? He sure does to me.
We played in Image Works and then from there went to the Land Pavillion. We took in The Circle of Life. Oh yes...party of 10 plus the wheelchair? Right this way please. We need a special report from Dateline...no gotta stay with ABC. Hello I'm Hugh Downs and THIS is 20/20. Tonight on the ABC newsmagazine 20/20....."Is it real or is it Memorex?" Are there that many guests to major theme parks who need wheelchairs? Is it a ploy to cut in front of the lines at major attractions? And why does it always seem that there is a large entourage accompanying the wheelchair user? Tom Jarrell explores these questions on... "Wheelchair Abuse: A Demon on the Upsurge." When I get home I'll call ABC.
Does anyone want to guess why Castmembers place trash cans in front of escalators during prolonged periods of rain? Safety precaution. Don't want those loose ponchos getting caught in the escalator...could get real nasty...make that real messy.
The Circle of Life film is good. Bring your kids so they get the message.
We left The Land and walked towards and around the Eastern shore of World Showcase checking out the shops we had missed. When we got to International Gateway we checked a few items in there. They had a large Mickey umbrella...about $25. I passed. I was concerned about the weather and poked my head outside. I noticed some foreign family near the water and the kids were ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE NEAR THE CANAL. I immediately got the attention of a CM and pointed to the family. The CM turned white and went over to correct the situation. Phew!...another good deed.
Hmmm. I wonder if I have power steering.
We continued our journey around World Showcase. Yet another band was playing at the American Gardens Pavilion. This time it was "Swing."
I was getting thirsty. We were near the African hut when I asked Carol and Mike if they wanted anything. Carol passed, Mike had a lemonade, and I had a frozen Strawberry Slush that was so good that I am hereby stating for the record that it will give Dole Whip serious competition. Of course here it is July 18th and I still can't believe I hadn't tasted that Aloha Isle treat...weird vacation. We sat down at a table and cooled off.
I was asked by a guest what I was having and everyone was checking it out. It was very refreshing. You can get this delightful treat at the refreshment stand to the left of the African Hut...just before China.
I wonder why The Maelstrom was so popular. The line came out to the Akershus door...and there were five lanes queued up. Go figure...must be because it's the only decent attraction in World Showcase besides AA. Make that it's the only decent "ride."
We went to the Centorium to look for a certain shirt Carol had seen. While there Mike bought something and had it shipped back to the room. I bought a red shirt with the EPCOT logo/flags on it and a jacket with the EPCOT logo on the back for about the price of a shirt. I also bought a mug. That jacket was the bargain that was waiting for me.
As we reached the front of the park we noticed that Spaceship Earth was practically empty. We walked right on the attraction. Since 1994 the changes I noticed was right about the time we see Walt Disney on that television to the left of the ride vehicles. Everything else from there is different...including the absence of Tomorrow's Child.
The day went by pretty fast. When we got to the van I made a wish that the power steering would return. It didn't. As we drove towards the CBR I noticed the air conditioning wasn't working and then the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree and the engine started to get warm. I turned off the AC and put on the heater..in July...in Florida. That stabilized the temperature.
I backed the van into a parking spot at the CBR. My suspicions were now definitely leaning towards a belt problem. I got out of the van and looked underneath. Yep...there was the serpentine belt hanging about four inches from the ground. It had apparently been worn and the water puddle the night before may have finished it off but since I hadn't driven it the belt was still on in the morning although not in any condition to handle the AC, water pump, and other services. In the morning the belt may have been partially on.
I called the front desk and Security to see if Car Care Central could help. This was Saturday night and they don't open on Sunday. I had to work fast. I got their wrecker to come out and when we popped the hood he said, "Yep, Serpentine belt." I gave him my AAA number and they towed the van away. He told me to give them a call on Monday and they'll tell me what they find and other good stuff. By the way, Car Care Central is a contracted service and not a part of Walt Disney World...so don't even bother thinking about using your MKC card.
While all this is going on Carol called the front desk again to complain about the door keys...yes we had more trouble with them.
The front desk said, "Are you the same people with the car problem?" "Oh yeah...that's us." Someone came to check the door and felt that the batteries for the lock were low. He gave it a charge for the night and said they would double check in the morning.
Well it was now close to 10 P.M. and we headed over to OPR for a real late dinner. While we ate we talked about what had happened and Carol made the comment, "Well I'm sorta glad it happened here instead of on the way to or from Florida." I agreed with her. I felt that we were in good hands. I was pretty sure that the belt would have to be replaced.
I didn't think anything else would have to be done. With only two full days left and one without a vehicle what would be the best way to do what we had to do? We decided that we would go to MGM the next day. I know I wanted to tape "Hunchback..." and Mike and I were also thinking about doing the Tower again. I also wanted to see Voyage of the Little Mermaid and The Beauty and the Beast stage show. With the rain over the last several days I started to think as to which attractions would be affected by the rain.
Wow...what a day. Little did I and you realize how it would affect the next evening.
Sunday, July 20th - When Fantasy Becomes Reality
I got up early and made sure that all my batteries were charged and ready to go. Today I was gonna play Ed Badger and use the Walt Disney World Transportation to get to my destination...I had no choice. The last time I rode a WDW bus was some seven years ago.
I estimate that riding the WDW busses doubles your transportation time.
It took 30 minutes to get to MGM. When I drive it's a ten minute trip.
Ed, you can have the busses.
Up until this day I was doing well with the AP finger do-se-do. Today it took awhile before I got it right. "So much for batting 1.000!" Mike said.
I wanted to tape several MGM attractions today. The first was the "Beauty and the Beast" stage show. I hadn't seen the Sunset Blvd. version. We sat behind the control booth which wasn't the greatest seat in the house but we were dead center. Except for a little bit of the technician's head I had little interruption. I had to zoom in a bit...comes with the territory we sat in. I thought the show was somewhat different than the original version back in 1992. Of course seeing the show at night (1992) and in the morning (1997) will cause you to think that.
Mike hadn't come in with us to the show but instead walked around MGM. He met us outside the entrance. We then discussed our next action. I wanted to tape "Hunchback..." but neither Carol nor Mike felt like they wanted to see the show again. They said they were going to do something else. We decided to meet at Miss Piggy's fountain at Noon.
I was one of the first dozen or so people in the Hunchback Theater and I decided to go to the very top middle of the center bleachers. A very nice British couple sat next to me. The woman wanted to tape the show too and we shared the center spot. I think the Hunchback show is excellent and is a can't miss attraction. While taping I noticed that all the performers would try to focus on me...especially Esmeralda when she sang "God Bless the Outcasts."
After the show I took the long way to Miss Piggy's fountain. I taped a little of the Toy Story stuff. When I met Mike and Carol they presented me with a gift...my very own guest of honor name tag. Mike put it on me. We then went into Pizza Planet and I smoked Mike in basketball scoring over 100 points in 3 games. They said they made priority seating for lunch but didn't tell me where. I have a feeling they made it at two places and let me decide which one. We had lunch at the Brown Derby. I used my MKC discount.
We went over to the animation area and saw a couple of characters (Pain and Panic). I picked up a pretty neat shirt that had "The Art of Disney" embroidered on it. We checked out the 3-D sculptures to see if there were any new ones.
We then headed towards the Tower. Guess what? No line. We walked right on. When we came off Mike went back on to take a picture with the camera. I had a difficult time picking out a shirt at the TZTOT shop. I think there were about 6 different styles to choose from...several of which had Mickey and friends. I ended up buying the classic Tower shirt with no reference to Disney. I also bought a button which had the design of my second choice for a shirt.
We checked a couple of shops along Sunset Blvd. Anyone going down in the next few months will notice a new shop that has Planet Hollywood merchandise.
Okay, now another decision. Carol and I were going to do "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" and Mike decided to check out the Herc parade. The wait for the show was about 20 minutes. We heard the parade start and we heard/saw the thunderstorm start. I felt bad for the parade performers...especially the guy who tried to control Pegasus.
Of course we saw an entourage with a wheelchair guest...only seven with this person. When we went into the theater we let a bunch of people go ahead of us so we wouldn't be way over to the left of the stage. I taped the show but it's pretty dark in there. When we got out of the show it was raining a wall of water.
Mike was huddled across from the show against a cart. We made a dash for the cart. I told Carol I had just about enough of the rain and I broke down and purchased a poncho. Neither Mike nor Carol wanted one. I bought the poncho in the animation store. I just wanted to make sure that the camera and money didn't get wet. Wow I never saw it rain so hard.
We made our way to Hollywood Blvd. and walked through the shops. We bought a few last souvenirs from this park...we would not be returning to MGM.
Of course this day we were without our van so we had to take the bus back to the CBR. The CBR bus stop was well towards the end of the terminal. We ran to catch it and when I got on the bus and saw everyone with ponchos I looked at the whole bus and said, "I never want to see the color yellow again." Some chuckles...but the rain pretty much washed everyone's sense of humor down the drain.
When we got to the CBR we had to negotiate some serious problems...the water in the parking lot was about four inches high....not good for sneakers. I wore sandals this day so my feet were already wet. The cars in the lot all looked like they had flat tires.
We probably should have stayed in MGM and waited out the storm but you never know when the rain will stop. As it was the rain continued for several hours.
After about an hour or two we dried off a bit and then poked our head out the door and noticed that the rain was letting up a bit. We went over to OPR and had dinner. We kept talking about the rain...in the past rain would usually dampen about one or two hours of vacation time maybe every other day. For the last five days the rain consumed about four hours per day...not good.
We got back to the room around 9 P.M. and Mike and Carol got interested in the X Files. I kept on looking out the door and noticed that the rain had stopped. I thought about some things I hadn't done and told Carol that I was thinking about going to TMK to tape Spectromagic. Both she and Mike were too tired to go so I loaded up the camera, checked the battery, and took off for TMK.
When I left the room I noticed that the sky had cleared up but the ground was still somewhat damp. It normally would take me about 10 to 15 minutes to get to TMK by car...about seven minutes to get to the CR and another five minutes to walk to the front of the park. Tonight the bus took 20 minutes to get there and he flew. I got on the bus at 9:30. As the bus made it's loop around the CBR about five other people got on the bus.
I had visions of taping "Fantasy in The Sky" from the train station. C'mon bus...9:45...9:50...c'mon...it's almost 10 P.M. and I think I can make it. I hustle to the turnstiles and hear the music begin. Only two turnstiles are open for entering the park and there are 20 people in each line. I can't get in the park to tape so I run out to the dock and station myself in front of the train station and next to a speaker. I taped "Fantasy..." from this spot. I wished the fireworks were a bit higher.
After the fireworks I entered the park. What an eerie feeling. I had never entered TMK after 10 P.M. The mass of humanity was pouring down Main Street U.S.A. and I was plowing against it in search of a spot to tape Spectromagic. Due to the crowd I opted to cut through the stores on the right side of the street and made my way to the front of the castle. I could have taped the parade here but I thought that the position was not good enough. I like to have an object near me. I walked around the hub and found what I had thought was a good spot. I stood there for a few minutes and then said, "Wait a minute...this goes to Adventureland...I wanted to be along the route that flows into Liberty Square.
I then got a brainstorm. Why not find a location just after the bridge? I did. I found a nice little spot right near the Sleepy Hollow Refreshments. I asked Castmember Ed if anyone would be allowed on the bridge. He said, "Nope...not on my watch!" and chuckled. He said I had a great spot to tape. No kidding. I was facing the front of the park. On my left was the bridge, behind me was a trash can, and a rope was in front of me. The only place where someone could stand near me was on my right and since the parade came from the left this was perfect.
While waiting I noticed a woman trying to figure out how to take a picture of the castle. I suggested taking a long shot that included the castle's reflection in the moat. She thought that was a good idea. We talked about the castle and a few other things. She then left. About two minutes later she came back and asked me if I was from New Hampshire. Do you think the words "New Hampshire" on my shirt gave it away? I told her I was. She said, "I thought so. You were very friendly and I didn't think you were a Floridian." I didn't know what to make of it but I'm glad she thought I was a good person.
In talking with Castmembers Ed and Dave we got into a few topics. Ed told me that the entire Magic Kingdom was in the midst of a revamping and the 25th Anniversary celebration kinda held up some projects but once the celebration goes and the castle "...and all it's pinkness" is just a memory then several projects will get going.
Some Castmembers volunteer information more freely than others and so in my travels this night here is what I found for information. I don't know how much of this is true but it will be fun to watch:
The castle will remain pink until March. The schedule for changing the castle back to it's original form has a completion target date of March 31st. You may want to shift your February school vacation trip to the April school vacation time frame.
The Jungle Cruise is slated to be moved to The Animal Kingdom.
Replacing The Jungle Cruise? Don't know...although speculation is running about a certain Indy attraction in Anaheim.
New Tiki show coming...but we know that.
Pirates of the Caribbean will be going through a rehab...could that drop be extended a bit? Also, something about the last scene or two possibly changing.
At least one room will be added to The Haunted Mansion.
Takeflight will be replaced by a Toy Story flavored ride.
Ariel's Grotto may be expanded.
Could Mr. Toad's Wild Ride be history?
The Magic Kingdom revamping is slated to be completed by 2002.
Ed had to do some crowd control and when he came back he and Dave asked me if I was writing a report on them. I was jotting down notes for this trip report. I told them what I was doing and related stories of how Castmembers thought I was writing them up and how well I was treated when Castmembers thought this...especially in the restaurants and attractions. They loved my stories.
They told me that there is always discussion on how to improve the park and what policies need to be addressed to make visits more enjoyable for the guests. I got the impression that the Castmembers have less patience with the Brazilian tour groups that anyone else and many of them said that they interact with these groups on a different level than they do individual families.
Ed talked about how all attractions involving water are treated with special care. When the park closes Splash Mountain is given a through inspection. Every inch of that attraction is inspected and any area that shows the start of corrosiveness is immediately replaced. Attractions which contain any water elements are watched over very closely.
I also found out that we may soon see a new policy regarding wheelchairs. Disney is aware that there is some abuse going on and is trying to come up with a new policy which would be fair to everyone. This will be fun to watch.
Well, Ed introduced the parade for me by addressing the camera and saying Hi to Holly. The next time you are in TMK to watch the SpectroMagic Parade keep your eyes on the Castmembers. About five minutes before the parade reaches your area Jiminy Cricket will introduce the parade and says a certain phrase and then some of the Castmembers will wave their arms and the lights will go out...some fun.
Well, that spot was great. The only better spot would be across from where I was standing. That will give the castle as a backdrop to the parade.
After the parade I walked around the castle and took some close footage of the cake and all it's splendor...not the same as my castle. I made my way to Fantasyland and went on Peter Pan...too dark to tape. There was a family in front of me on Peter Pan who was extremely excited about being in the park at this time of night with light crowds. They got off Peter Pan and ran to Small World. Like a Spectromagic lemming at the end of the parade I followed them. I got halfway down the ramp to Small World and then I slapped myself and said, "Mike...what are you doing!!!???"
I left Small World and walked over to Mickey's Toontown. It was pretty quiet and a few security type Castmembers were there. They didn't bother me as I took some video of some of the structures. I walked from Mickey's Toontown to the carrousel. There were some mechanics there and as the ride finished the ride operator said..."Didja hear it?" I did... a small noise...that once the park closed would be most likely addressed and removed.
I taped a bit in Tomorrowland and then made my way back to Fantasyland. By now this portion of the park was getting real empty. I had a great idea. Isn't it every Disneyholic's fantasy to stow away in a Disney theme park to see what really goes on after hours? As I stared up at the windows to Cinderella's Roundtable I wondered if it was possible to hide somewhere in the park after hours.
I could be like the Hunchback of Notre Dame but instead call myself "The Disneyholic of The Magic Kingdom." I could climb on the castle and hang out singing...(to the tune of "Out There")
"Safe behind this topiary shaped like a fat dwarf,
Gazing at the castle pink before me,
All my life I've fantasized of being here at night,
Even though I never thought it could be
All these years I'd wondered what it'd be like
Wondering if it could actually come true,
All my life I wondered how it feels to pass a night,
Spent inside here,
Instead of out there,
And in here, strolling in the night,
It's so nice to be here,
Until the moonlight..."
You can fill in the rest.
My thoughts ran back several years to a day in 1992 when we were going from Fantasyland to Liberty Square and we were cutting behind the castle through that winding path to where I had just taped Spectromagic. I remember some workers early one morning replacing a park bench and had taken the old bench behind some shrubs. I walked over to where I thought this shrub was.
Now remember that I was trying to recall something that I had seen about five years ago so it was not easy to find this place. Also I had watched this episode in the late afternoon...not at night.
I walked down the path and stopped at what I thought was the spot where the bench was brought. I looked around and didn't see anyone around me. I stepped over the fence and looked around the shrub. Hidden from the view of the path were a number of things, trash cans, benches, some type of carts. and a path that lead to the back of Sleepy Hollow Refreshments and the shop where the Civil War stuff was.
I found a small area back here that was sort of secluded. I even found a nice chair to sit in. "Hmmmm" I thought. "Opportunity is knocking." I thought about the pros and cons of trying to hide in The Magic Kingdom overnight. I could see maybe the top 25 feet of the castle. As I stared at the castle and weighed my options I yawned a bit and found my eyes to be somewhat heavy. I didn't realize how tired I was. I leaned back and thought about the whole vacation...about Holly not being with us...about the rain...about the trouble with the Van.
This proved to be a dangerous thing to do. I didn't realize how dangerous it was until I woke up and checked my watch.
It was 3:15. Make that 3:15 A.M. "Oh (expletive deleted)!!!!"
You know that feeling you get when you realize you forgot to do something like picking up the kids at school, attending an important meeting with your boss, or paying your taxes? Well that's nothing to waking up in The Magic Kingdom at 3 A.M. At first I thought I was dreaming...but then I remembered what I had done the night before and didn't recall going back to the CBR. I also pinched myself...hoping I'd sit up in bed back at the CBR.
At this point I was both nervous and excited. I probably would have been more excited had I not thought, "Omigod, Carol must be a nervous wreck!"
I walked back to where I had climbed into this area and poked my head out of the shrubbery. I could only hear soft music being played. I figured that the music is played to keep the nighttime workers company. Well, where were the workers? I looked around and didn't see a soul. Then again I remembered talking to a Castmember who said that during the high volume months the only work that goes on at night is cleaning, repair, and restoration of flowers and trees. Also, a lot of this work (at least the cleaning portion) is done during operating hours. I guess it gets expensive to have a large work crew at night.
Apparently most of that work was done because there was no one around.
"Then what the heck are the lights on for?" I thought.
My next thought was to get to a phone and call Carol. Luckily I had some change but thought about using the calling card instead. I didn't want to make any noise and dropping a coin in a pay telephone would generate some sounds.
I slowly walked along the trees and made my way to the Mad Hatter. There was a phone along the back side of the shop and it allowed me to make a call and hide behind a barrier while I talked on the phone. My trip notebook had numbers written on it. I usually write important numbers on the back page.
Yes I had written the CBR's number. I had written the CBR number down because I had written it for Holly, my father-in-law, and my mother before leaving for Florida. I almost had it memorized...934-3400.
I didnt realize how nervous I was until I tried to dial. Heck even though it was a touch tone phone I was shaking.
When I got the CBR I asked for my room number.
"Hello?" It was Carol.
"Hi Honey it's me. I'm in The Magic Kingdom."
"What??? Are you crazy? I've been sick worrying about you. You gotta be nuts to..."
"Okay okay...I know. Listen. I'm gonna have to lay low and wait until the park opens to get out...I could try and sneak out but there's no way I'll get by any security on Main Street so don't worry. I hope it's a surprise morning today."
"Omigod Mike if they find you they'll throw you in jail,"
Talk about a crazy mixed feeling. On the one hand I'm like a child on Christmas morning and my heart is racing a mile a minute...at the same time I had to be calm and convince my wife that everything would be okay.
"I don't think they'd do that...this probably happens from time to ooops..."
I ducked. I noticed a security person walking around and checking everything. He hadn't heard me because even though the park was closed that soft music was being played. Now I was real happy I used the calling card. Imagine the operator coming on and saying, "Please pay an additional 25 cents for the next ten minutes."
This security guard walked around the carousel and towards Mickey's Starland. He, I mean, she didn't particularly look like she would toss me in jail. I thought about turning myself in...but how would I get back to the CBR?
Meanwhile I kept hearing Carol calling me over the phone. Finally the guard was far away so I felt comfortable enough to get back to the phone.
"Okay honey look. I'll stay low until the park opens and try to get out and get back to the CBR. It's only gonna be another six hours..."
"SIX HOURS? You've really taken this Disney thing too far. What if you're banned from the park? If they catch you this might happen."
Now I'm starting to think that I'll never hear the end of this one. All of a sudden I wasn't so excited anymore. Banned from the park?
"Gee I never thought of that"
Huh? What was that. Oh the Carrousel making that noise again. Wait a minute...the Carousel? It's 3:30 A.M.!!!?!!?! The park is closed!!!!
No it wasn't...it was 12:30 A.M.? Huh?
I was standing and looking up at the windows to Cinderella's Roundtable. I must have had quite the daydream. Boy that was kinda realistic. For a minute I thought I had really fallen asleep and had awakened in the middle of the night with a big problem.
*To my audience: Gotcha!!!!*
I walked under the castle and taped all the mosaic panels. I looked at my watch again. Yep...12:34. The park was still crawling with guests...not many...I'd say less than 500.
I came out to the front of the castle and looked over Main Street. I turned around and looked up at the castle. This isn't my castle (sigh).
I walked over towards Tomorrowland but stopped and went down into the area which I call "The Rose Garden." Back in the '70's this was a loading area for the Swan Boat attraction. It's a great place to watch fireworks. I decided that if we got a chance we would do so.
I walked down Main Street and eventually got to the Emporium windows and taped the animated windows...I especially liked the windows with "Hunchback..." scenes.
One thing I noticed while walking out of the park was the subtle way the Castmembers would shut down an attraction. I never saw Castmembers turn away guests but I did notice that after midnight that when an attraction had a lull that the Castmembers would close the doors from inside and place trash cans at the turnstiles. Those attraction cast members then sort of faded away into the night.
I felt sorry for the Castmembers working the shops and the carts. They are still out there selling and moving merchandise. It seems as long as there are paying guests there are open shops.
I left the Park around 12:50 and arrived at my room at the CBR around 1:20. I started charging some batteries for the next day. I slipped into bed, pinched myself, sighed, and fell asleep around 2 A.M.
Monday, July 21 - The Begining of The End
"Can you remember back to a simpler time,
Back to the watercolor days that still run through your mind?
Oh I remember just my old friend and me,
Running through an open field, the way it used to be..."
The last day for any Disney vacation is the pits. On this, our last full day, it would not even be a full day. I woke up at 7:30 and quickly showered. I checked the batteries for the video camera and called Car Care Central.
They replaced the belt and said that everything else was in good working order. We arranged for them to pick me up at the Custom House. I took off for the Custom House and stood outside near the bell captain. While I was there some interesting things happened:
A large white car pulled up and a white haired gentlemen in a suit (with a CM badge on his lapel got out of the car. "May I help you?" asked the bell captain. "I'm picking up some guests." With that a woman and two girls got into the car and they drove off.
I started up a conversation with Castmember Bud and asked him about the Brazilians. He said that from time to time they will stay at the CBR but all the foreign groups are held in Barbados and nowhere else. He said that they love to buy merchandise but don't tip at all.
While we were talking a fancy red car pulls up and two college aged boys get out along with the driver. Bud asked, "Can I help you?" And they said, "We're going to play golf." They took their clubs out of the car and set them on the sidewalk. Then the driver, I assume it was their father, got into the car and drove off.
About two minutes later a taxi pulls up and the golf clubs went into the trunk and they drove off. I couldn't figure what their father didn't drive them to the golf course. Bud told me that if you play golf on the property then you get free transportation to and from the golf course.
As I'm waiting for the Car Care Central van to pick me up I notice people checking in and out of the CBR and pulling up in front of the Custom House with Bud directing them to park here and there. One guest in a green van was having an interesting discussion with his wife. I guess she was trying to tell him how to drive and he didn't want to hear it. He pulled away from the Custom House rather fast. Bud and I chuckled.
The Car Car Central van finally came and brought me to the Car Care Central station. They are constantly busy and said they could use four more mechanics. Sorry, did my last tune up in 1982 and I do mean LAST TUNE-UP. The cost for replacing the Serpentine belt and checking out all the pulleys and pumps was $75. I didn't think it was an outrageous price. I do think that the last $20 was some sort of "tourist tax" but in all honesty the belt runs about $30 and it's probably a half-hour to job just to replace it...then they have to check other areas that may have been affected. I figure the mechanic is getting $20-25/hour. I thought that the price was acceptable...got my van back...but it was 10 A.M. I was more concerned about the lost time than the repair cost.
So much for a full day.
This episode with the van actually helped determine our plans for this day.
"The feeling that our hearts could just take wings,
We could live out all our dreams.
The journey there was never far away."
When I got back to the room Carol and Mike were waiting and talking with the housekeeping staff on the balcony. We got into the car and decided to go to TMK. Mike forgot something and went back to get his stuff to work out. While he was gone I suggested that instead of going to TMK we hit Planet Hollywood. Carol thought that was a good idea. Mike took a long time to get back to the van. He had made a friend or two while down there and I thought that friend number 456283, a girl from Indiana, was saying goodbye to him AGAIN! The delay was the staff person fixing the lock on our door...AGAIN!
We told Mike about Planet Hollywood and he was all for it. We drove over and got into the line at the bottom of the stairs.
Trip Tip #16 - AP Benefits at Planet Hollywood
The preferred time to visit Planet Hollywood is around 10:30 in the morning. However, if your schedule does not allow you to go at that time you may be interested to know that Annual Passholders may make priority seating arrangements at Planet Hollywood.
We got seated right away....near the huge screen. While we were at our table a merchandise rep came around to show us some merchandise and ask if we'd like to order anything. This saves time (but not money) because you don't have to get into a long line outside after you're done with your meal.
Well we spent two hours at Planet Hollywood. We checked out all the paraphernalia from the movies from gold bricks from "Goldfinger" to a chariot wheel from "Ben Her" to Tom Cruise's uniform in "Top Gun", Mr. T's boxing trunks from "Rocky III", to even the robe worn by Alistair Sim in 1951's "A Christmas Carol." We all bought shirts...got one for Holly too. Don't miss Planet Hollywood. If you plan to go make sure you go early in the morning...around 10:00-10:30. Otherwise be prepared to wait.
"But like a dream come true,
That's still inside of you,
The secret of tomorrow is to live your dreams today."
We left Planet Hollywood and went over to the Village again to check on some things and pick up some last minute souvenirs for some friends and relatives. We picked up a few things and then walked around Pleasure Island. It certainly is a different place during the day than it is at night. I tried to con Mike into doing a video with me...couldn't get him to budge. After we checked out Pleasure Island we then drove to the Contemporary.
The guard told us to "park wherever you like."
Carol seemed to be fading so once we got to The Magic Kingdom we looked for something to cool us off.
BULLETIN BULLETIN BULLETIN BULLETIN BULLETIN !!!!!
Orlando, FL - (7/21) - Hello everyone this is Mickey Mouse with a Walt Disney bulletin. As you all know, Mike Scopa is visiting us this Summer and is having quite a memorable vacation. However it has been brought to my attention that something is seriously wrong with his mental state.
Mike arrived in Florida on July 7th and 14 days later he has yet to, and I caution you to remove young children from earshot of my report, Mike has yet to HAVE A DOLE WHIP!
That's right folks. This aberration must be stopped. Yours truly will be sending a subliminal message to Mike in the hope of correcting this horrible miscarriage of vacation time...oh the humanity.
Reporting from Walt Disney World in Orlando I'm Mickey Mouse.
When we got into the park the "Remember the Magic" Parade was in full swing. We took the WDW Express to Splash Mountain to pick up a Splash Mountain souvenir for a friend. We went in the shop and it was Pooh...POoh...POOh...POOH!!!!
While we were there all of a sudden these lights started flashing and sirens blasting...from in front of the shop an electric cart with several Castmembers pulled up. These Castmembers were dressed like paramedics and rushed right into the shop and ran past me to a little girl who stood in the midst of frilly Pooh dresses, Tigger shirts, and Piglet and Roo stuffed animals. The girl was comatose. I had never seen anything like this before in any park. I thought it was heat stroke.
Boy was I wrong.
I heard the Castmember call on her radio, "Yep. Another Pooh Overdose." "Check her eyes Jim." Jim comes back with, "There's still time...we need a Mickey bar STAT!!!" Soon another Castmember comes running in...with a Mickey bar. The unwrap the ice cream and slowly inch it into her mouth...all the time her mother praying that it will work.
It wasn't working. "Looks like we need "IT!"" cried the lead paramedic.
They all took a swallow and pulled out a red box. From the box they pulled these red headphones and placed them on the girl's head.
"We then heard the lead medic yell, CLEAR!!" Nothing.
"Please" cried the anguished Mother, "Please try again!"
We were all standing with trembling lips. The medic gave the nod.
The little girl blinked. "Mommy!?? Mommy!!!" The little girl ran to her Mother. The paramedics hugged one another, we all cheered, the Kleenex tissue was flowing.
"While everyone was celebrating I picked up the headphones and put them on my head. I heard, "It's a world of laughter a world of..."
The medics packed up and started out. They stopped and looked at a Pooh bib. The lead Medic looked at it and under his breath said, "Too much damn Pooh!"
I will never forget that moment.
About 95% of the shop was dedicated to Pooh merchandise. Oh there was a little cubbyhole that had a Splash Mountain mug or two. Thank you very much.
There's a market out there that has yet to be untouched. If the Disney Marketeers only knew. I guess I'll give them a hint.
Two Words: Donald Duck.
"Remember the night,
Remember the feeling,
Remember the magic in our lives"
All of a sudden I realized that I hadn't had a dole whip yet. Carol was thirsty so we headed to Aloha Isle where I made up for lost time by having two, that's right, two dole whips to Carol's one bottle of water.
Since the Tiki Bird show was going away soon we decided to pay tribute to Jose, Michael, and the boys with one last visit.
From there we figured we could fit The Lion King in before going to the steps of Disneyana to meet Mike.
We were first in line for the next Lion King show and that meant a 15 minute wait. The folks in line with us wondered if they had time to go across and get Merlin's autograph. The Castmember running the Lion Show wait area took the book and said, "Let's see what I can do for you." In about five minutes she returned with Merlin's autograph and a special button. Of course we all made a big deal of it for the youngster who wanted Merlin's autograph so much.
The same Castmember said the day had been pretty busy. It was almost 5 P.M. and 11,000 guests had come through her turnstile.
Hello once again folks this is Mike Scopa with his wheelchair abuse report. We're here at The Magic Kingdom where it's a beautiful day for a vacation. It's the bottom of the first and we have one wheelchair family, and a handsome family it is. Let's count: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 people...and let's not forget the wheelchair occupant.
On deck is our second wheelchair entourage. Oh they fall a bit short of our first group. Let's count: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 plus the wheelchair occupant.
That's our report from the Lion King Adventure in the Magic Kingdom here at Walt Disney World celebrating 25 Years of Remembering the Magic...now back to you in the studio.
Those are true numbers.
Okay...what happened to all the rest of the animals in the "Oh I Just Can't Wait to be King!" number? I saw two giraffes...what gives?
After the show we walked over to Ariel's Grotto. I'll pass on this. It appears that it's a place to have your picture taken with Ariel.
"You opened up my eyes to a new world revealing,
So remember the magic, just remember the magic,
One more time."
Carol and I made our way down Main Street and stopped in the Uptown Jeweler's. We checked out the wedding bands...kinda neat...Mickey and Minnie heads.
We met Mike at the steps of Disneyana. He mentioned that Bre'r Fox was at the Olympiad Health Club. He (Mike) was thirsty and so was I. We both had a Sprite. From there we checked out some shops along Main Street...went back to look at those wedding bands again. Unfortunately they did not have my size. Oh well. Carol did pick up a necklace and Mickey and Minnie pendants.
I made priority seating at the Crystal Palace for a late dinner.
Y'know, just once I'd like to make priority seating at a place like that where they call you and go up and say, "Yes I'd like to make priority seating for 7 P.M. please." And they say, "Name please?" I would then look around, lean over, and say, "Disney...but please don't treat us any differently from the rest of the guests." Then sit back and watch the fun. The fun really starts when they say, "Winnie the Pooh and friends are ready for the Disney family." With all the necks turning it would be a chiropracter's dream. Maybe....someday.
"Do you remember
how it used to feel,
When love was only make-believe
and fairy tales were real?"
We went over to Adventureland because about a week ago Mike had seen a hat that he thought he might like. But he, like Carol and myself, had made the mistake of NOT BUYING IT WHEN WE FIRST SAW IT!
We walked over to a place in Liberty Square that had Jewelry...yes, they had the wedding bands but, no, they did not have my size.
We went back and sat down outside the Crystal Palace until we were called.
For those who have not been to TMK since '94 be advised that the Crystal Palace is a far cry from what it once was. It is now a character buffet restaurant. The problem is that there aren't enough characters for the entire restaurant. I observed that the three characters: Pooh, Tigger, and Eyore, weren't able to make the rounds like they should or at least as I had observed at other character meals.
The food is passable at best and even though they offer Prime Rib, each time you go up for a slice you get as much as you would had it come out of a tuna fish can. I didn't even bother.
When it comes to character meals, especially dinners, Chef Mickey's and 1900 Park Fare are both heads and tails above the Crystal Palace. The price is the same but that's where the similarities end.
If you're a Pooh fan then go to the Crystal Palace. If you want just Mickey and Minnie hit 1900 Park Fare. If you want a real rocking time with Mickey, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale then Chef Mickey's is the place for you.
As far as food...in order of quality...1900 Park Fare, Chef Mickey's, and Crystal Palace.
Both Chef Mickey's and 1900 Park Fare offer a lot of features not found at the Crystal Palace. Some of these are:
More character visits during the course of your meal...especially at Chef Mickey's.
As mentioned earlier...better quality of food.
Less hectic. 1900 Park Fare is the most quiet of all three.
Quality of service in order is 1900 Park Fare, Chef Mickey's, and Crystal Palace.
While at the Crystal Palace I jotted down some notes and our waitress thought I was doing a report on her...lucky for her that I wasn't.
"Oh I remember,
you are with me once again,
Free to live our fantasies,
It never has to end."
We left Crystal Palace as Spectromagic was ending. We watched Fantasy in the Sky from the Rose Garden...Tink flew right over our heads. The view from the Rose Garden offers you full view of the fireworks as the castle is to the left.
After the fireworks we headed towards Liberty Square. With everyone coming at us we felt like salmon swimming upstream. We went counter-clockwise around the Hub and over the bridge to Liberty Square.
We setup right across from where I had taped the night before. This offered the castle as a backdrop and also let me tape Spectromagic from right to left instead of left to right. Mike took off for Tomorrowland. Other than the guy behind me yelling to all the characters it was the best footage of maybe the whole trip.
Mike returned after the parade and mentioned that there was a competition at the Space Mountain Arcade and some guy won the Virtua Racing contest and his prize was to ride Test Track with Richard Petty.
"The feeling that our hearts could just take wings,
We could live the world of dreams.
Together we could sail against the wind."
It was approaching Midnight and I suggested we do our traditional final
attraction as we have always done...the Pirates of the Caribbean.
"And now I know where to begin,
How to find it all again,
From now until forever."
We then walked to Main Street. Boy talk about Deja Vu.
Carol had been debating all week on two coffee cups. Which one to buy. I told her I'd have a Castmember help me make the decision and I brought both cups up to the counter and said, "We'll take these."
"Remember the time,
Remember the feeling,
Remember the magic in your eyes."
We walked towards the front of Main Street...past the Emporium Corner, past the Hub.
"You opened up my heart,
And you gave life new meaning."
Carol and Mike were ahead of me...about 50 feet or so. I was constantly looking over my shoulder...at the lights, at the people, at the castle.
"So remember that feeling,
Just remember the magic,
One more time."
As I approached the area near the train station, passing by the front of Disneyana Carol called me...she thought when I had turned my head I had been looking for them. But I knew where I was...I knew where I belonged.
It was time to leave The Happiest (and Pinkest) Place on Earth. I guess when I think of this particular Disney World vacation I could borrow a line from Charles Dickens and say, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." The personality and profile of this vacation was established a long time ago.
"One more time...."
It was determined when Holly said she decided to stay home. As I took a final look and painfully went through the turnstiles for the final time I thought back to a phrase that was always quoted when the imagineers would plan attractions. They had this motto, "What would Walt think of this?" or something like that.
I wasn't sure if I was sad just because the vacation was over or because my daughter wasn't here. I guess I could say that like the imagineers I was thinking a similar quote. It was, "What would Holly think of this?"
Carol, Mike and I left the Magic Kingdom and as we walked away I took a deep breath and thought the memories we established...memories that will go a long way to help us.....
"Remember the Magic!"
Okay, now for the top ten lists for 1997:
Top Ten Memories
My birthday especially the brick my family gave me.
Running through the raindrops in the parks...a lot of rain.
Losing the Serpentine belt on the van.
Being alone in The Magic Kingdom at night.
The Universal Studios expansion plans.
Running with Mike at the Wilderness Lodge.
My adventures on The Mountains.
The castle in all its pinkness.
The change in The Disney Village.
Top Ten Observations/Changes Since 1994
Obviously the castle..ugh!
Beefed up security.
More character access.
Better control of Brazilian tour groups.
Too much Pooh.
Guests using cell phones.
The Disney Village.
Priority seating at restaurants.
Top Ten Restaurants
1900 Park Fare
Tony's Town Square Restaurant
Whispering Canyon Cafe
Prime Time Cafe
Studio Stars Restaurant
Old Port Royale
Top/Favorite Five Attractions
Sorcery In The Sky
The American Adventure
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Stage Show
Fantasy In The Sky/Remember the Magic Parade (tie)
Top Five Disappointments
Streetmosphere...has gone downhill a bit.
EPCOT hours...why stagger them?
Castle in all its...pinkness.
Crystal Palace...liked it the way it was before.
Test Track...not even a soft opening
And so ends the Great Grandmother of All Trip Reports.
This was truly a labor of love and was written with two objectives in mind:
First to record my memories of the trip. Photographs are always great tools to jog the memory and they say a picture is worth a thousand words. I guess I always felt that it depends upon whose words you read. Pictures are great...but so are words.
Secondly to provide insight, information, answers, and entertainment to my audience. Trip reports can serve as great tour guides and tools by which you can plan you first or next trip to WDW.
My hope is that all who read this "diary" of mine will enjoy it as much as I did while writing it. If it brought a momentary smile, an answer to a question, or an idea to take with you on your next trip then I have done my job.
Like everyone else, once a trip ends you immediately think about when you can return. In one year we'll have two students in college so that pretty much puts a damper on any plans to return real soon.
Early estimates are that the next trip report novel I writee will be called "The Great Great Grandmother Trip Report of All Time" and it will be published sometime in August, 2002.
Until then remember that we should never lose sight of the fact as Walt said, "It was all started by a mouse."
Michael J. Scopa