Just got back from visiting the dvc resort in Vero for the first time, followed by 3 nights at Old Key West. Here's the trip report - we had a great time:
Characters: Sue (me), son Chris (11), his friend Colin (12)
Dates: June 15 - June 19, 1998
Travel Method: Personal car
Resort: Disneys Vero Beach Resort & Old Key West
Accommodations: Ocean View Inn Room (Vero) & Studio (OKW)
Ages: Adult, 2 kids aged 11&12
Experience: Sue & Chris are DVC members, everyone is a frequent visitor - Colin and his mother had joined us on our wdw trips in June 97, August 97 & December 97.
This is a relatively short trip, intended to satisfy two things - to see Vero for the first time in order to decide how many days wed like to stay next year, and to somewhat appease the WDW withdrawal wed been in since our last trip in late March/early April. Chris & I are season ticket holders for our local minor league baseball team (Ft. Myers Miracle - a class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins), so this trip was squeezed in while the team was away. At the last minute I decided to invite Colin to join us, so Chris would have a buddy to hang with while at the beach. Also I really, really enjoy the Comedy Warehouse at Pleasure Island, so the boys can keep each other company while Im spending a couple of evenings there. Its my opinion that while kids wont be harmed by going to Pleasure Island, and both Colin & Chris have been there before, it really is mostly for adults & I wish people would not bring their kids (therefore I dont bring mine anymore). Both Chris & Colin know the Disney parks inside-out, and are responsible & trustworthy. If they werent, Colin would not have been invited, and Id never consider letting them go off on their own. Weve experimented with Chris (and Colin in December) being allowed to go somewhere in the parks alone the past few trips, and hes always been exactly where he was supposed to be, doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing - so Colins mother & I are not worried about them. They will have access to me via my beeper (with an 800 number, so they could call from any pay phone), in the event of any problem or emergency.
As I mentioned, one reason for the trip was to see Vero. Chris & I had always spent 4 nights at the end of the summer in a place on Daytona Beach - where we enjoyed the beach & relaxed. I live on the gulf coast of FL, and even have a small private beach in my community, but I much prefer the "real" beaches on the east coast - I think because the Atlantic has waves. I bought some add-on dvc points at Vero Beach figuring Id stay there instead of Daytona, but have never seen the resort. Ive heard the beach is narrower, but the resort has lots more amenities (and is lots nicer) than the place we always stayed at, so hopefully Ill be happy with it. If not, Ill just use the dvc points for wdw trips & stick to cash for Daytona. This trip Im also looking forward to meeting a dvc friend from aol for the first time - weve got plans for dinner at Chef Mickeys on Thursday.
Day 1 - Monday June 15, 1998:
Last week I had called guest services at Vero and asked them to fax me the list of daily activities for today & tomorrow. It was not published yet (would be out Sunday), so they sent me one from a couple of weeks earlier. I saw there was to be a Members Welcome Reception from 9am-10am in one of the Beach Cottages. While the complimentary continental breakfast didnt excite me, the idea of seeing the inside of a Beach Cottage did! By looking at the map (there is no direct route or main roads from Ft Myers to Vero Beach) I figured the trip would take almost 4 hours, so we decided to leave at (omigosh!) 5:30 am. By the way - I had used Mapquest to map out the "fastest" route, and received a trip that would take 5 hours & 33 minutes, taking me way north of Vero & then heading back south - very much out of the way. So much for "expert" help on the internet!
We ended up leaving our house at 5:33 am, picked up Colin & hit the road. Traffic was very light that early in the morning, and most of the route was on roads through small towns - not very populated. Unfortunately, theres no main road running across the state unless I was willing to drive way far north or south of where we needed to be! We arrived at Vero at 8:30 (my estimate of 4 hours had a 30 minute calculation error - but even still we did better than Id thought).As soon as we turned off 510 onto A1A I could glimpse what looked like a beautiful place partially visible over the tree tops - and was delighted to see that it was Disneys Vero Beach Resort. The place was gorgeous, and the 2 boys were busily exclaiming "awesome", "cool", and other pre-teen adjectives I cant recall. The place is much prettier than the pictures and model I had seen. We were welcomed through the security gate and told where to park. Our room was not ready (at 8:30 am I was not expecting it to be), but that was okay. We got our resort id cards and when I told the CM wed be going to the beach & pool for the day she got me a beeper so that they could reach me in case the room was ready early (although she didnt have too much hope for that). She did tell me the room was on the 3rd floor, and that wed love the view. I had requested an "upper" floor, and 3rd floor in a 4th floor building fits that description in my book. We walked around the pool area - very impressive - and then wandered over to the Beach Cottage for the free continental breakfast (held twice a week from 9-10am). On the way we met and chatted with a CM who works in recreation at the rental place - Eb & Flos. At the cottage they asked whether we were members or guests, so I said Member. She asked what our room # was, and I said "I dont know". She looked at me funny, and said "you dont know your room number?" - like maybe I had amnesia or something - so I explained we had just arrived & the room was not ready yet.
The Beach Cottage was beautiful, with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms downstairs. Upstairs was the kitchen/dining/living room area. I found this area to be somewhat small, considering youd have 3 bedrooms worth of people gathered here. Its not nearly as spacious as the non-bedroom area of the grand villa at OKW. Although its pretty, I dont consider it to be worth the # of points it costs to stay here, so I wont be booking one. There are 6 of them at the resort. They had a nice continental breakfast set up, with great fresh fruit, raspberry & apple rugelah (sp) pastries, croissants, orange juice, & coffee. A lady from a local citrus place was there to talk about the tours her place offers, and she brought a carton of oranges for people to help themselves to. Next the dvc person spoke for just a few minutes - nothing new. They drew for a couple of door prizes (no winners in our party) and then gave each kid a Vero beach ball.
The boys were anxious to play, so we went to the car to get our beach stuff. We had all worn our swimsuits today since I knew we would not get into the room until late. One really nice thing at Vero is the parking is under the building, so the car doesnt get hot. This is especially nice during record high temperatures like weve been experiencing in Florida this month! We walked out the boardwalk to the beach, and noticed high tide would be 12:17 pm - it was now 9:45 am, so the beach would be getting smaller rather than larger. The beach is tiny compared to Daytona, and once in the water it drops off quickly. For that reason, it is not a good beach for boogie boarding, and I would not let the boys go out as far as they can in Daytona. The resort has beach chairs & umbrellas for rent (boogie boards too), but I had brought my chair so I set it up at the end of the row. The sand is brown, rather than white. The white sand is cooler on the feet and prettier on the eyes, in my opinion. There were shells on the beach, but we have tons of shells right next door to us on Sanibel Island, so to me theyre more of a nuisance than anything else (ouch, ouch - walking on them can be a pain). Overall so far - we like the beach in Daytona better, but the resort is a lot nicer than anyplace there.
The boys played frisbee in the water while I relaxed & watched everyone. They built a mountain or something in the sand, and rebuilt each time the waves destroyed it, then played frisbee some more, until they were tired with that. I took them over to the pool & got towels to put on 3 chairs for us. The pool area is entirely fenced in - with what Id estimate is a 4 foot or higher fence. You must insert your resort id card to get in, and again to get out. Evidently theyve had some problem with "locals" wanting to use the facilities, so security is pretty tight. We needed to show the id to get towels, as well. They will give you a wrist band to wear (one color for guests, another color for members) but when I told them I didnt want to wear that they were okay & just put it away. The last thing I want when sunning is a one inch strip around my wrist! The boys jumped in and were playing basketball in the pool with a bunch of other kids. I went back to the beach, and walked south about 30 minutes. Other than some condos there is nothing else there - the beach was deserted. Actually, Vero Beach is south of the resort. The resort is in Sebastion River Inlet or something like that. I saw a fish about 3 feet long swimming near the shore, so avoided the water in that section. I folded up my chair & moved to the pool. The kids were still playing basketball, but I convinced them to try the miniature golf before it got too hot. The mini golf is only 9 holes, and nothing fancy, but it was fun. The members price is $1, and you can pay $5 to get unlimited mini golf for your length of stay. Since we were leaving the next day we stuck with the $1 per person. Unless you golf early in the day, wear shoes because the carpet on course gets very hot! Next the boys went into Community Hall & played foosball (sp?) while I relaxed in a chair by the pool. I had a great view of the water basketball, and the slide. The slide is 163 feet, and spirals down around the light house. It dumps you into an area of the pool thats only 3 feet deep, so its good for all ages. The line was quite long at times, and then suddenly it would get very short. Its a large pool, and even with the resort fully booked it was not too crowded (unlike those awful pools at the All Star Resorts). The boys found the Playstation game in Community Hall, and stayed in there playing that until 1:30. I had gotten a pina colada for lunch ($6.15) and it was very good. I made the boys take time out for lunch, so they each got nachos and french fries ($10.70) at Bleachers (the pool side snack bar).
After lunch, Colin sat out for a while, and Chris did more pool basketball and the water slide. I met a dvc member from Minnesota and talked to her in the pool for a while. At 3pm the boys went to play wiffleball, which was one of the recreation activities. Around 3:30 I called to check on the room, and was told the room was clean but the carpet was not dry yet. They found a spot on it so they cleaned the carpet! They assured me it would be dry by 4pm, and they were right. The boys got back from their game at 4, and we went to get the room number & unpack the car. I asked for and talked to the front desk manager Jimmy Rose a little bit, at the request of fellow dvc member Jodi (djpix). He was every bit as nice as Jodi said he is, and Jodi - I gave him your message re: August. We unpacked the car and headed up to room #2319. It had 2 queen beds, a table & 2 chairs, the mini kitchen area, decent sized bathroom, and a balcony overlooking the croquet lawn and ocean. Unfortunately, with the beach so narrow, all I could see was the water - no beach or waves. The room was very nice, though, and attractively decorated. After dropping our stuff in the room, Chris went back to play pool basketball, I walked the beach (north this time) and bought some postcards in the shop, and I think Colin stayed in the room. Hes got blonde hair & fair skin, and although he applied sunscreen several times I think hed had all the sun he wanted. I wrote out a postcard to send to FirstNo in Saudi Arabia - shes another regular on the AOL message boards. I was thinking of having a pizza delivered rather than dragging the boys away from the resort for dinner, and a dvc CM suggested a place right next door that she said had excellent pizza. I decided since it was so close wed walk over & maybe eat there - so off we went to Beachside Pizza. It was really a hole in the wall type of place, with no indoor dining, and worst of all NO AIR CONDITIONING!! They had a couple of fans blowing the hot air around, but you were basically in their kitchen ordering your pizza, and it was close to 100 degrees outside. Needless to say, we waited outside and took the pizza back to the room! It was very good, but for some reason the 3 of us did not finish it (maybe that sun). After dinner, Chris wanted to play tennis, but Colin didnt, so I walked with him through the tunnel to the other side of the street where the tennis courts were to see if there was anyone he could play with. The only people there were 2 teens who were much older than him, and were playing singles, so we walked back & returned the tennis racket & balls (free to members). Theres also a half court basketball area next to the tennis courts, and if they go ahead with the plans to expand the resort the new rooms will be over here as well. The tunnel runs under A1A, and theyve got characters from Peter Pan painted on the walls, and Im pretty sure Disney music was piped in. The CM at Eb & Flos had told Chris to come to the Campfire and hed "scare your socks off" with the scary stories. I headed back to the room, since General Hospital (my soap since high school) was airing at 8pm & I hadnt set the vcr back home for this episode. Colin got a second wind & agreed to go out with Chris - supposedly to the Campfire. The Campfire was held at 8pm, and was to include singing, stories, marshmallow toasting, the usual Disney stuff. People were sitting there already waiting at 7:30. The boys came back around 9, after playing croquet for the first time. They checked out the Campfire, but declared it "lame". I did hear a little noise from people running around in the room upstairs, so next time Ill be sure to request Top floor rather than Upper. We were all in bed by 9, with lights out at 10.
Day 2 - Tuesday June 16, 1998:
Today Colin didnt want to go to the pool, or to the beach. He wasnt sunburned or anything, and wore a tee shirt while in the sun the day before, but did not want to go outside. Chris, on the other hand, couldnt wait to get to the pool. He tans easily, and never burns - although I did put sunscreen on him yesterday & today just in case. We had a gourmet breakfast of Corn Pops in our room, and then packed our stuff in the car. Colin stayed in the room to watch tv, with instructions that he had to get out of there & come find us at the pool at 11 (check out time). I stopped at the dvc desk & the CM there gave me a key so I could see the studio, 1 bedroom & 2 bedroom units. I was not at all impressed with the studio, and preferred the Inn Room. The 1 bedroom unit was definitely a WOW!!! It is laid out exactly like OKW, but somewhat smaller. It has the stack washer/dryer like at the BW units, and the white cabinets in the kitchen like BW - but not exactly the same. The decor & color scheme is so much prettier than OKW. The 2 bedroom is just a 1 bedroom & connecting studio, and I would have liked it much better if there were 2 beds in that room rather than the bed & sleep sofa. I doubt Id ever get a 2 bedroom here, but that 1 bedroom sure is tempting! Chris & I returned the key & were at the pool by 9:30. It was very hot, and there was not much breeze. Initially I chose a chair across from the bottom of the water slide, but the lighthouse must have been blocking any breeze because it was noticeably hotter there than it was 10 yards away. I ended up moving over near a shaded table (for Colin when he had to leave the room, and for us to eat lunch at). Record heat was expected today, as it would be this entire trip. We saw on the news that yesterday afternoon 3 teenagers were caught in the currents at Jupiter (just south of here). Theyd recovered one of the bodies, but were still looking for the other 2. The resort has signs warning about the possibility of currents - I wonder if its due to the rather quick drop-off once you enter the water. We hung around the pool until noon. When Colin came down he went into the arcade & Community Hall until I said it was lunch time. We bought lunch at Bleachers again - a virgin (since Id be driving) pina colada for me, and chicken tender meals for the boys ($15.25). After eating, Chris & I changed into regular clothes and we drove to Walt Disney World.
Final thoughts on Vero: Its a gorgeous resort! The furnishings in the room are of excellent quality - not the cheap crap found in so many beach hotels, which is something that definitely sets Disney resorts apart from others. There were several flies around Bleachers, and the rest of the pool area. They did not seem to be biting flies, but it was annoying at times. The nicest unit is easily the 1 Bedroom. The worst unit is the Studio. Only the Ocean View Inn Rooms and Beach Cottages will guarantee a view of the ocean, and even then it will be just the water - no beach or waves. The Garden View Inn Room may have a view of a large lake, and although normally when Im at the beach I insist on being ocean front, at this resort the garden view may not be any less pretty than the ocean view. One very nice surprise is I only saw 1 person smoking the entire time I was here (granted, it was only 1.5 days) and that person was by herself at a table by the pool away from most of the other people. Even on the beach - not a single smoker, yet no signs or anything indicating it was frowned upon or forbidden. Community Hall had a musty smell to it - perhaps all those wet feet on the carpet?? The pool area was great. The kids meal was an excellent value - $5.25 got you 3 large chicken tenderloins, grapes, large cookie, small soda, and a pail & shovel. The 12 year old boy could not eat all 3 of his chicken tenders, they were so large. Kids meals are for age 12 & under, but if you have a couple of young kids theres no way theyll finish the food. The drinks were expensive - $6.15 for a pina colada. I think the virgin one was $3.75. Will I be back to this resort? You bet - but Ill also continue to pay cash at Daytona Beach from time to time for a better beach & ocean experience. Now, on to WDW!
We arrived at Old Key West around 2, after paying $3.25 in tolls from Vero, and the studio was not ready. No problem - we got our resort id cards and the boys jumped on an Epcot bus. I drove over to Belz outlets for some shopping at the 2 Disney shops there. I got a Mary Poppins doll and the 1997 holiday Barbie for my nieces, and a long sleeve shirt with the characters embroidered on it for me. The shirt was regularly $54 but priced at $16.99, and the dolls were each $9.99 (originally $28 for Mary & $50 for Barbie). I returned to OKW at 4pm & the room was ready. I drove over to building 35, room 3535 - Old Turtle Pond Road area, just across the street from the bus stop, and a short walk to that pool. My requests were all met - non smoking, top floor (3rd floor), water view (partial golf course view, but mostly water). Since the boys were in Epcot, I ended up unloading the car myself, schlepping 3 peoples stuff and groceries up 3 flights of stairs in 100 degree heat! It was not a pretty picture. I ended up moving all the stuff from the trunk to the curb, then from the curb to the bottom of the stairs, then from the bottom of the stairs to the 2nd floor landing, then . . . you get the picture! Never again will my son or my guests get themselves exempted from the joy of moving in. After unpacking I cooled off for a few minutes, and called Darla (IluvDVC) to say hi, then went to the bus stop to wait for a Downtown Disney bus. I was due to meet the boys at Planet Hollywood at 5:15, and it was already 5pm. The bus finally arrived at 5:15, and the next stop was at the Hospitality House, where the boys boarded the bus! They had just missed the bus from Epcot, and had to wait about 30 minutes for the next one here to switch to Downtown Disney. Anyway, we were all together, and arrived Planet Hollywood around 5:40. There was already a 40-50 minute wait, but I showed them my DVC card and we were taken right in & seated immediately. DVC members (and annual pass holders) can go to the head of any line there prior to 6pm. Its a great perk, and we were certainly glad to be able to take advantage of it - especially since all Id had that day was corn pops & a virgin pina colada.
I had 2 of the Planet Hollywood Milky Way coupons. We could only use one per visit, and decided to use the one for a free appetizer (with $10 purchase) & save the free dessert for some other time. Turns out its not any appetizer you want - it was the chicken tenders - but that was okay. Each boy got a kids cheeseburger meal ($5.95 each), I got the Mystic Pizza Bread, and we got the chicken tenders which had some Captain Crunch cereal in the coating. They came with a honey mustard dip that tasted somewhat like horse radish, but they were good. My pizza bread was good too - flat bread with melted mozzarella & parmesan cheese and chunks of fresh tomatoes. We ended up taking most of the pizza bread home to eat later. Total check was $19.51 plus tip.
The boys decided to return to OKW to play ping pong, so I gave Chris the pizza bread to take back with them. I wandered over to West Side to talk to the Disney Quest people. The latest Mickey Monitor had an article about annual pass holders getting some bonus units if they visit Disney Quest shortly after the grand opening on 6/19. The boys both wanted to go there, so I wanted to find out exactly how many bonus units would be given - to decide whether it was enough to justify waiting until 6/19 (the day wed be leaving) to let them go. The CM there checked, and came back to tell me that there would be bonus units, but that they had not decided yet how many and that decision would be made on 6/19. Now, I dont believe for a second that a company like Disney does not know in advance what they will be offering. Will the DQ manager wake up that day, and spin a wheel or something to decide how many bonus units would be given? I dont think so!
I headed over to Pleasure Island, and got in line for the Comedy Warehouse. As I was walking down the stairs to be seated, one of the waitresses recognized me & said hi - noting I hadnt been there in a while. I told her it had been 2-3 months, and she said yes, that seems about right. It was funny to be recognized/remembered by someone there. I saw the first 2 shows. The 1st one was good but not great, and the 2nd one was terrific. Theres a new guy named Matt who was very funny, and he was in both shows. There were kids there, too - not sure they understood what Viagra was, or the comments about the actor playing a lab rat who tests viagra having lots of "ups and downs"- but maybe those parents will think twice next time. Afterwards I sat in the Adventurers Club for a while, finishing my drink. The Mask on the wall was picking on a couple of men at the bar, and the Colonel was getting into the act. It was fun. I stopped at the BET Soundstage, which replaced the Neon Armadillo & decided to take a peek inside. I lasted about 10 seconds due to the stench of cigarette smoke, and quickly went back outside. Its not my style of music anyway, so no loss there. Panama was performing their 2nd set on the West End Stage. Theyre a local band, and play either on this stage or in the Rock & Roll Beach Club most nights. They are very good. I enjoyed listening to their music and watching their very good looking but too young electric guitar player. Boy, does he have nice muscles in his arms, and hes such a cutie, with blonde hair and a California boy look. Who says fantasyland is only in the Magic Kingdom - lol! After watching for a few songs, I headed out to the bus stop.
While waiting for the OKW bus I could see the MGM fireworks. The bus took me back to OKW, where the boys were in the room watching tv. Theyd played ping pong for a while, and then went back to the room. We talked about what to do tomorrow, and were in bed by 10:45.
Day 3 - Wednesday June 17, 1998:
I woke up at 6:30, and had arranged a wake up call for 7:15 hoping it would be Mickey. When the phone rang, I made Chris wake up to answer it, and he said it was just some "disgusting song". I was puzzled, but no big deal. I called to ask about Disney Quest hours, figuring it was not worth worrying about the stupid bonus units on our last day here, and was going to send the boys tonight or tomorrow night. The CM told me it was closed for a private party on both days, and would not open at all to guests until 6/19. Oh well, Colin will be back with his mother & other relatives in army August, and Chris & I will be back in mid-August, so they will have to wait until then.
The boys ate their breakfast in the room, but I ate mine on the porch (must be Darlas influence). Once again, it was Corn Pops. We were headed to Epcot, and the bus got us there around 8:30. We did Spaceship Earth first, since there was pretty much no line yet. Some idiot several cars back kept taking flash pictures in there. I hope none of them come out - he must have shot off a whole roll in there! Next we went to the land and rode the Living With the Land boat ride, followed by Food Rocks and the Circle of Life movie. We did the boat ride for me, Food Rocks for Colin, and the movie for Chris, but I think we all enjoyed all of them. They boys bought Epcot straps for their drink bottles (I decided to wait & get one in Animal Kingdom). I had bought a 4 pack of Powerade and we had a canister of powder refill for Chris and Gatorade refill for Colin. Each day I put the powder in an empty powerade bottle, and when they got thirsty we filled it up with cold water from a drinking fountain to make their drink. It worked very well, and was better than carrying full bottles around before they were needed. We found the straps at the beverage cart outside Imagination, and they cost $3 each.
I rode Journey Into Imagination while the boys played in Image Works upstairs. By now it was getting close to 11am, so we headed out to World Showcase in order to get on the Maelstrom in Norway before it got crowded. We walked right on, and rode it 3 times. Afterwards, the boys headed back to Future World to a Coca Cola thing set up right next to Fountainview Espresso & Bakery. I cant remember the name of the thing - maybe Cool Station or something like that. While they did that, I rode Horizons. I went over to meet them at the Coke thing, and they went through it again with me. You wait a bit, and then are let into this very cold room, where it is actually snowing! Here I am in humid weather trying to keep my hair looking decent and I walk into a darn snow storm! Snow is blowing down from the ceiling, and theres piles of the stuff on the ground. I just tried to cover my hair & ran out of the room - lol! In the next room the boys told me I had snow all over my hair - gee, thanks - but it melted. This room had stations where you could sample (for free) the different flavor beverages Coke sells in different countries. I dont remember them all, but there were at least 10-12. I sampled one that was watermelon, and one that was pineapple, but I dont like soda & didnt even drink a total of an inch of the stuff. The boys thought it was great, though, and I met a CM theyd been talking to who said "you must be Mom". The boys each bought a key chain for their backpacks that was a tiny plastic coke bottle in a gold color for $1.00. At this point it was time to head to Spoodles for our 12:30 priority seating.
We walked out the International Gateway, and over to Boardwalk, arriving right at 12:25. Spoodles has long been a favorite of mine due to their terrific Greek salad. I had heard on the boards a week or so ago that the menu had changed quite a bit, but was optimistic that my favorite would be left unchanged.... We were seated immediately, with a great view of the kitchen (its open so you can watch them preparing the food), and were handed the new menu. There was no Greek salad anymore! I told the waitress we came specifically because I loved that salad, and she pointed out a new salad made with romaine that had feta cheese, roasted peppers & olives and a dressing somewhat like a Greek salad, and said that was as close as they could get now. Also, the old Greek salad was $7.00 and this one was $8.75 - but there was nothing else that looked appealing to me so I decided to try it (with no olives & the roasted peppers on the side). Colin ordered the kids popcorn chicken meal, and Chris did the kids make your own pizza meal. At the last minute I also decided to order a glass of their white merlot. I generally hate merlots, as I dont like red wine at all - but this white (more of a blush) merlot is quite good. Not knowing if Id ever be back to Spoodles again I figured this might be my last chance to have a glass of that wine. Another thing thats changed is they now appear to be trying to get all of a tables food to come out at the same time, which should appeal to those people who didnt understand the previous concept. The waitress brought our bread and the 2 spreads (tziki sauce & hummus), and we all enjoyed the tziki so much we ordered more bread. When the food came the kids enjoyed their meals, although Colin could not finish all of his chicken. What I got was a plate of romaine lettuce with some feta cheese crumbled over it - and a small bowl of cooked but cold red & green peppers on the side. It actually was quite good and I would come back to Spoodles & order it again if I was with people who wanted to eat there. Im not sure if Id make the trip just for me & Chris - possibly, since he loves the pizza. Total check was $22.90 before tip after my 20% discount for the Disney Dining Experience card. After lunch I called AMC theaters to check movie times for the boys, who were planning to see Dirty Work today, and then we split up. They were headed to the ESPN arcade to look around, then were returning to Epcot for some Innoventions & Coke, then would see the 5:45 movie & head back to either Epcot or the resort. They each had $20 cash, their passes, room keys, and my beeper number (800 number) in case they needed to contact me.
I wandered around the Boardwalk shops, and then hopped on the boat back to Epcot since it had just pulled in. Epcot was the next stop, and the boat was air conditioned. I walked through Epcot but must have just missed the OKW bus, and waited 30 minutes for the next one. They used to have the times posted on the sign, but they are not there anymore. Back at OKW I walked over to the pool in Old Turtle Pond to check out the laundry facilities - not bad, 2 washers & 4 dryers plus a vending machine to purchase laundry supplies. I went back to the room & cooled off for about 30 minutes, and returned to the bus stop. After 10-15 minutes the Animal Kingdom bus arrived, and I was its only passenger. I chatted with the driver, but the drive still seemed pretty long. This was my first visit to AK, and I came alone because Chris pass does not include this park until after 8/23/98. The bus stops at AK are quite a hike from the park entrance, unfortunately. The crowds were not too bad, but it was HOT in there! By now it was after 4pm, and it must have been close to 100 degrees. There was shade, but it was still too hot. Several CMs were spraying those mist bottles on guests who wanted to get sprayed as they walked by. I headed straight for the Safari, and walked right on. I would have had to wait for the next Kilamanjaro Safari, but they had room for a party of 2 or less on the one ready to leave & I was the first one in line who qualified so I skipped ahead of about 30 people. The ride was nice, but it was too hot to really enjoy it. Even with the movement of the vehicle, sitting on those vinyl seats got hot & sticky. I saw more animals than Id expected to in the heat, including hippos, alligators, giraffes, zebras, elephants, and several antelope-type animals. The bridge did rock when we were on it, Darla; maybe it was all those desserts at Cape May buffet that wouldnt allow it to rock for your family - lol! After getting off I decided to skip the gorilla trail, train ride, and any other outdoor stuff due to the heat. I walked back to Dinoland and got in line for Countdown to Extinction. Almost immediately I was in air conditioning, and at that point would have waited any amount of time & gone on just about any ride just to experience that cool air! There was only about a 5 minute wait, and then we were in the brief pre-show and then boarded the ride vehicles. This ride was great, but I did miss some stuff because I had closed my eyes, so Ill try to keep them open more next time. Its pretty rough, and may be too intense for some kids, but the effects are excellent. It seemed more stuff popped up on the left side, which was fine with me since I was seated on the "safer" right side. I took a couple pictures of the Tree of Life, but didnt bother with the Its Tough to be a Bug show this time. I also skipped the boat ride, and all shows since theyre all outdoors & it would have been too hot. There did seem to be lots of places to eat in this park. I looked through a couple of shops and then returned to the bus stop. I will not be returning to this park during my August trip, or any other time when it is hot outside. Well wait until late October/early November & go then.
I was ready for Downtown Disney, and the first bus to arrive was for Port Orleans/Dixie Landings so I hopped on. I switched buses with a 15 minute wait at Port Orleans, and then went to Marketplace. I looked in the World of Disney for a bracelet style watch, and tried several on but none were exactly what I wanted. The CM said they got new ones in all the time, so Ill check again in August, Oct/Nov, and December. Sooner or later the perfect watch will appear. I picked up a fan at the DVC booth - actually a cardboard dvc logo attached to a plastic handle. Next I stopped at the Disney Quest booth to inquire about those bonus units, but the kid working there know nothing. We chatted about dvc for a while - he knew nothing about that, either. I went into Pleasure Island at 6:30, and almost bumped into that cute blonde guy from the band Panama when he was carrying equipment into the Rock & Roll Beach Club, where they were performing tonight. Ladies - he was wearing shorts & a tank top, and definitely works out. He should be considered an extension to the Hunks of Epcot Tour talked about recently on the Disney message boards! I walked around a bit, then sat on the steps to the Adventurers Club until it was time to line up at the Comedy Warehouse. I saw the first 2 shows again - both were excellent. The outdoor band was Frankie & the West End Boys. They play there quite a bit, too, and were good. The lead singer Frankie is a pretty funky dresser. Tonight it was long black shorts, bright orange tee shirt, black shirt with white polka dots over all that (open), black sneakers & white socks - very colorful. I walked over to Wolfgang Puck Express on the West Side to buy some biscotti for breakfast, but they didnt have any. I took the boat from West Side over to the Marketplace (this runs after 6pm daily) - which is just one of the PO/Dixie Landings boats with the hard wooden seats. Once there I waited for the boat to OKW. One of the 2 had broken, so it was only running every 40 minutes rather than every 20, but I only had a 15 minute wait. Our boats are so much more comfortable - with soft cushioned seats and a capacity of only 14 guests. It was a very nice ride back "home". I bought an OKW postcard to send to FirstNo, then walked to the Peninsular Road bus stop and caught the next bus that came by to ride to the Old Turtle Pond Road bus stop. The boys were in the room watching tv (it was around 10:30 or so). Turns out they never went to the movie - they played in Innoventions from 2pm until Epcot closed at 9pm - taking a dinner break at the Electric Umbrella for bacon double cheeseburgers and beverage/snow breaks at the Coke station. I hadnt eaten dinner, so I got out the leftover Mystic Pizza Bread, which Chris & I finished. The boys went to bed at 11, I watched the news/weather and it was lights out by 11:20.
Day 4 - Thursday June 18, 1998:
Another good nights sleep for all of us. We always sleep so well at okw! The beds & rooms are so comfortable. The sun is an orange ball hanging in the sky - will be another hot day! I sat on the porch & had my cappuccino and some of the chocolate/vanilla pretzel I had bought at the BW bakery yesterday. The boys were still asleep, but the wake up call was due soon. Today we were headed to MGM Studios. The boys got up, had their corn pops & we caught the bus to MGM, arriving just after 8:30. To our surprise there was a rope extended all the way across the end of Hollywood Boulevard, and they were not letting people past until 9am. Weve always gotten on the rides starting at 8:30, so this was new to us - and I was not pleased. If I had known we couldnt ride anything until 9 we would not have arrived until 9! We hung out in an air conditioned store until just before 9, and then went to ride Star Tours after the rope drop. Most of the crowd we were following started walking through the ropes & heading towards the exit by mistake, so we just walked right in the entrance & were among the first to ride. Next Colin went to see the 9:30 Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular while Chris & I did the Great Movie Ride. We had a brief wait, and would have made it into the next one (in the very last row) but I asked the CM if we could just wait for the following ride. She said sure, took the people behind us, and then asked why we wanted to wait. I told her wed rather sit towards the front than in the back - so she brought us inside & had us wait in row #1 for the next vehicle. We were the only guests there & got to watch the vehicles leave & the next ones come in. One of the CMs came over to chat with us while we waited. We ended up being seated next to the driver before the other guests were even admitted into the room. I did have to wipe a minor Alien "spill" from the seat, but that was a good clue for me not to sit there if I didnt want to get dripped on during the ride. During the Wizard of Oz scene the smoke maker was not working, so the witch just popped up out of the ground and then dropped back down when done - not nearly as nice as appearing in the cloud of smoke. Chris wanted to look at the hand & foot prints outside the theater, so we did that & then headed towards the Backlot Tour. On the way, we found Piglet standing all alone so I went over & posed for a picture. I was wearing something with Pooh, so Piglet pointed to it & indicated she/he liked it. We also saw Pooh, & several other characters, and then met the green army men from Toy Story. They are so funny when interacting with the crowd! One of them was working with Chris - suck in your gut, throw out your chest, salute, etc - it was really cute. Later Buzz & Woody came out for pictures, but we didnt go over. Colin arrived, so we got on the Backlot Tour. After the boat battle scene we were seated in row #1 on the tram - which is not the best seat in hot weather because youve got a windshield to protect you from the engines fumes but it also blocks some of the breeze. Next we saw Superstar TV and were on the screen 2-3 times when they showed part of the audience. We went to the Backlot Express for lunch, which is always a good place. The boys both got bacon double cheeseburgers again, and I saw some good looking chicken tenderloins so I ordered the kids meal. What came with that, though, was chicken nuggets. I was disappointed, & gave 2 of the 5 to Chris - but they werent bad.
We rode the bus back to OKW, changed into swim suits (except Colin - he didnt want to swim & I said okay but youre not sitting in the hotel room) & grabbed our laundry. All week Chris had wanted to go swimming at night, or play tennis or do something outdoors - but Colin didnt want to do any of that. Since we dont have lifeguards at our pools in OKW I didnt want Chris swimming alone & wanted them to stay together when separated from me. Today was a chance for Chris to get some pool time in. Both washers were available in the laundry, so I had Colin put his stuff in one, & put ours in the other. I had brought 2 small boxes of Tide, so we were all set. When the clothes were done washing we moved them the dryers, which dried them very quickly, then we folded them & put them back into our bags. In the mean time Chris swam, I sat in the pool & read, and Colin went in the arcade or laundry room. I had suggested he bring his book & read in the shade, but was hoping hed decide to change into his suit & join Chris swimming, but he didnt want to. Chris got a brownie at the snack bar, and it was huge so he gave half to Colin. I got a virgin pina colada. We stayed less than 2 hours, then went "home" to pack our clean clothes and any other stuff we would not be needing the next day. We loaded that stuff into the car, and took the bus to Magic Kingdom - arriving at 4pm. The boys like Tom Sawyers Island, so I told them they could go there as long as they were on the raft to return by 4:45, and would meet them at Chef Mickeys at 5:25.
Off they went, and I walked onto the resort monorail. There was a family with 2 young kids and Grandma in the car with me. The 4 year old boy was standing near the door & when Dad told him to sit down the kid screamed NO. Later the Dad took his arm and again told him to not get near the door, and the kid twisted his arm away and shrieked "Leave ma alone - NO". Grandma looked very embarrassed - I commented that he certainly was headstrong. He certainly didnt look like he was a monster child, but the potential was there since the parents never followed through or enforced anything they said. Grandma said she raised 2 kids, and if they mouthed off like that they would have been dealt with. I agreed with her, and told her my son would have had his mouth slapped & his butt on the seat after the first time - should be interesting when that kid starts school & suddenly has to do what hes told. Parents - please do us all a favor & follow through with what you say. If you tell the kid to sit in a seat, either be prepared to MAKE him sit in that seat, or save your breath! :::getting off soap box now::: I got off the monorail at the Polynesian to look through the shops, then continued on to the Grand Floridian. There was a bride & groom out on the terrace with Mickey, Minnie, a violinist, & a couple of other people. They were cutting their wedding cake with the assistance of M&M. Next, the bride danced with Mickey while the groom danced with Minnie, and then they changed partners to complete the song. It was very romantic, and they all looked beautiful. Minnie was wearing a very formal apricot-colored dress and matching pumps. I think she also had a shawl. The bride wore a beautiful wedding dress. Both Mickey & the groom wore a tuxedo with tails. After dancing, the 2 couples walked down the grand staircase, and posed for more pictures. Mickey & Minnie left, a CM brought the wedding couple the leftover wedding cake, and after much bowing (I think they were from Japan) they headed out to the waiting Cinderellas coach to ride off to wherever they were going. I could see the monorail arrive, so I headed out the door for the trip to the Contemporary.
Once at the Contemporary I wandered throught the shops, and down to Chef Mickeys to see if Darla might be there early. No sign of her, or the boys, so I waited near the monorail exit until 5:25. Then I checked in at Chef Mickeys - but had to tell them I was not sure whether we were a party of 10 or 12, since both Darla & I ended up with one extra person after I had made the priority seating arrangement. Darla & her group arrived just as I was heading back to check the monorail again, and as we were talking the boys showed up. We were a party of 12, and were seated all together in about 5 minutes. Its funny to chat with someone for a year, and then finally meet them for the first time - and I enjoyed chatting with her in person (no typing - lol). Her son Steven is a cute kid, and her whole family was very nice & friendly. Chris & Colin got along great with her 12 year old nephew Johnny, and made plans to go to Epcot together (Innoventions of course) after dinner. It was the first time Johnnys mother had allowed him to go off somewhere without a parent, and she was very nervous - but Johnny couldnt wait to taste that freedom! The boys had a great time playing the games & computers at Innoventions. Chris & Colin had instructions to head for the monorail at 8:45 and meet me on the roof at the Contemporary when they got back.
I rode over to the MK, and decided to do a few things the boys would not be interested in. I arrived at 7:10, and it was pretty crowded. People were already lining up on Main Street for the 9pm Spectromagic. I rode Small World (walk on), then did Mr. Toad (15 minute wait) to see the naked lady Ive heard about on the message boards. Its on the left side, in the bar scene, and I cant believe I never noticed it before - maybe its more of a guy thing! I went on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority and rode twice, walked over to Toontown Fair for the Barnstormer but the line was too long so I hopped on the Railroad train. I got off in Frontierland & checked out Big Thunder, but the wait was 20 minutes & I did not want to wait that long. I walked over to Pirates of the Caribbean & that was a walk on right into the front row of a waiting boat. There was one other family in the boat with me. Afterwards, I walked back to the Frontierland station rode back to Main Street. I did not attempt to walk it, since the entire Spectromagic parade route was packed with people & it should have just started running. I watched a few minutes of the middle of the parade, and then walked over to the Contemporary. As I was headed to the rest room on the 4th floor I ran into the boys who had just gotten off the monorail. Together we headed up to the 15th floor observation deck to watch the fireworks. This time we went on the deck closest to Bay Lake rather than MK, and had an excellent view of the MGM fireworks at 9:50 (those people on the MK side could not see at all), then saw the MK fireworks at 10, followed by the Electrical Water Pageant around 10:05. It was a great way to end a day. When it was over we waited for the elevator downstairs & waited for a bus outside the Contemporary. The Downtown Disney bus stopped first at TTC, and sat there for a long time before continuing to DD. We got off at the Marketplace, and waited again for the OKW bus, which then stopped & waited some more at Pleasure Island. We got home around 11:30, which was over an hour after we left the fireworks! Ill never do that again without driving my car to the Contemporary.
Day 5 - Friday June 19, 1998:
Today was our last day, so after breakfast of corn pops for the boys & cappuccino and chocolate/vanilla pretzel for me we loaded the rest of the stuff in the car & headed to the bus stop. We took the bus to Magic Kingdom, and arrived around 8:30. Chris wanted to ride Mr Toad (wonder if he knows about the naked lady???), so he went off to wait for Fantasyland to open while Colin & I waited at Adventureland. At 9 the music played & rope came down, but now the CMs form a line and guests must follow them to the attractions. We followed the guy heading to Splash/Big Thunder and were on the first train (last row) of Big Thunder. This new system really cuts down on the people running through the parks, and they walk quickly so I think we got there just as fast. They did not allow any of the "runners" to pass them. We rode Big Thunder twice, and then took the train to Toontown for the Barnstormer. We ran into Chris outside the Barnstormer, but he would not ride. Colin & I rode twice, then I stayed on for a 3rd time. The boys then went to Grand Prix Raceway, while I rode the TTA. Once on, I took off my shoes, put my feet up, and relaxed. When I came back into the station, I stayed on, and the CM there tried to steal one of my shoes - but I caught him. As my vehicle passed the loading point, Chris was there & joined me, and soon Colin showed up so we yelled to him & he had to run to get on the vehicle. He was irritated that on the way from Grand Prix he stopped to play with the balloon ball & told Chris to wait, but Chris continued on to the TTA. I told Colin that they were told to ride the Grand Prix and then come right to the TTA - so Chris did the right thing in not stopping. Luckily he showed up when he did or he would have had a 15 minute wait until we came around again! Next we did the Carousel of Progress, then took the skyway to Fantasyland. Chris rode in one car, while Colin & I rode in the one ahead of him. We had about a 10 minute wait for the Skyway, which was not too bad. Next Chris & I went on the Haunted Mansion, while Colin waited for us (he doesnt like that attraction), then we all went on the Mike Fink Keelboats. Chris & I rode on top, while Colin sat down below in the shade. It was a nice ride, and did not have to wait very long. Afterwards, Colin & I rode Pirates of Caribbean (Chris didnt want to) while Chris went to the Treehouse. Pirates was a walk-on, and it was nice & cool in there. Chris said the treehouse was not any better than before. Finally, we all went into the new Tiki Room, which was very funny and we all enjoyed it. I HATED the old show, but this one well see again.
We left the MK, and took the bus to Dixie Landings for lunch. They now have separate bus stops for Port Orleans and Dixie Landings at the MK. We got off at the main building, and I noticed the benches out front really need to be replaced. The finish is all worn off, and areas of bare wood are exposed - it really looked trashy & detracted from the resort. We had lunch in the food court. Colin & I each got a kids chicken tenderloin meal, and Chris got a taco salad. The taco salad used to come in a tortilla bowl, but now just comes on a bed of tortilla chips. He ate every bite, so I guess it was okay, but I would have preferred the tortilla bowl. After eating the boys got slushies at the beverage island. I was not pleased to see they had added a tv to the food court, and it was showing some Disney cartoon - but at least it was way off to the side and at a very low volume so it did not disturb anyone other than those people in that immediate area. One of the nicest things about the DL food court is its so much more peaceful than those awful food courts at the All Stars, CBR, or PO.
We took the boat from DL to the Marketplace, and then had to wait about 20 minutes or so for the boat to OKW. It was hot, so I sat inside Captain Jacks where I could see when the boat was coming. We ended up being the only ones on the boat back to OKW, and had a nice time chatting with the driver. The boat looked pretty awful - torn cushions, stains & sun damage. I commented to the driver that they needed to get some new boats, and he told me they had but had to pull them out of service & send them back. Evidently when they loaded them up to capacity (14 guests) the front end dipped down and water came up into the boat! Im not sure when the next new boats will be in, so they can retire this beat-up one. It was a nice ride, though, and over all too soon. We walked to the Peninsular Road bus stop, and hopped the next bus to get to Old Turtle Pond Road, got in the car & began the drive home.
It was great being back "home" at OKW, and staying at Vero was wonderful. I own points at both of these resorts, and its such a nice feeling to know Ill be back here many times over the next 40 or so years. The biggest negative this trip was the extremely hot weather - record breaking temperatures all week. The next worse thing was the abundance of smokers in the parks. Maybe it was the humidity, but the air didnt move much so the stench from a cigarette 50 yards away was just disgusting! Crowds werent too bad, but then we didnt stay in the parks during the busy afternoon hours.
Bringing along a buddy for Chris was a good idea, but most of the time what each of them wanted to do was not what the other one wanted to do - which caused some friction between them at times. Chris wanted to do swimming & outdoor stuff, while Colin preferred to stay indoors. I insisted they stay together, so they compromised by spending lots of time at Innoventions (Chris at the Sega section, Colin in the computers section).
Our next trip will be Chris & me in mid-August, for 4 nights at OKW. He should get to do Disney Quest on that trip, and well be spending 1 or 2 days with one of the people on my staff who will be in the area attending a food show. He & I also plan to visit Blizzard Beach for the first time.
Until then, thanks for reading & feel free to e-mail any questions you might have about anything Ive said.