June 15-30, 1999
Day 0 6/15/99
The big day started off in the morning with Nick coming into my bedroom and insisting "Daddy, go downstairs and turn on your computer."
At first, it didn't occur to me why he was so insistent. The downstairs den, where the computers are, is also where his video game system is, and I thought he might just be wanting company. But, he insisted:
"What does your computer say today, Daddy?"
Now that made sense. For 232 days, ever since I started the countdown (the day I made our reservations at Port Orleans), every time my computer would boot, a synthetic voice would announce "____ Days until Walt Disney World". It was a big part of our ritual in preparing for the trip, and now that the day was here, Nick's excitement was bubbling over, and it showed in him dying to find out what the computer would say now.
Because the day was here.
Nick is ready to explode with anticipation. This trip has gotten a bigger buildup than Christmas, and he is filled with the enthusiasm that only a seven year old can achieve.
Of course, his old man (that would be me) is doing pretty good, despite the extra 33 years. I'd been planning with what some might call an obsessive spirit for a good part of those 232 days. Each detail was worked out, all of the deals we could muster to cut corners, and all of the places where we had decided to splurge. Even enough padding in the plan where we could make changes. After all, if you don't have a plan, how do you know when you can skip something at one of the parks, because you have another day left there later in the trip? Or, even drop a park on one day because the weather is wrong, or you're just too tired, then slip it into one of your free days?
So, the plan was done, and we were packed and ready. Even Debbie (my wife and Nick's mom, about my age more or less, but we don't need that detail) was excited this morning. To tell the truth, there were lots of times during the planning phase when her attitude was more of tolerance than excitement (Why? Doesn't everyone start working out the details of their vacation 8 months in advance? And no, I didn't talk about it incessantly. Well, I didn't talk in my sleep. At least not every night).
But, that was all behind us, and our little trio was ready to go! Let's head for the airport! Of course, the flight didn't leave until 3:30 p.m., and Nick had decided we all need to be up at 8:30 a.m. OK, I'm actually surprise he slept so late.
So, we leisurely spend some time getting ready, go downstairs to see what the computer does say (it says "Days until Walt Disney World". Just leaves out the count, because the program doesn't seem to understand 0), and head over to a restaurant we like in town for an early lunch.
During this little excursion, our van acts up, giving us enough of a scare to make us take the sedan out to the airport. Hey, that's good! We want to get that bad luck out of the way, so that it doesn't happen during the important parts of the trip. More good news. On the way to the airport, we pass the exit for the parking garage that we use, and have to backtrack through a part of town we've never been in before! See, now the rest of the trip will be fine.
The one ironic thing is that part of the reason that we didn't take the van is that it is raining that day, and the windshield wipers stopped working. It has other little things acting up as well, just enough to make us nervous about coming home and something serious being wrong with it, after sitting in the parking garage for two weeks. But, the ironic thing is how many times I'll use the phrase "it was raining that day" during this trip report.
OK, so that's who we are. I might mention that I'm an engineer and technology nut, so that will explain some of my odd comments and behavior. And, we're coming from Denver, Colorado. This is the third trip to WDW for Debbie and I, and Nick's second.
Nothing important really happened on day 0. I'm calling it day 0, because we didn't make it into Disney World, as that wasn't the plan. We decided to take a flight late in the day, get a hotel near to WDW that was inexpensive, and drive in as early as possible the next morning. As per advice on radp, we could then be at the front desk of Port Orleans very early in the morning, and have a good crack at room selection.
And, yes, I said two weeks. Fourteen days. June 16 to June 30. Amazing. We're jazzed.
The flight down was pleasant and uneventful. Well, two amusing things occurred on the plane. Nick ended up playing with the little boy who happened to sit in front of him on the plane. They could hardly see each other, but were passing coloring books and hand-held video games back and fourth between the seats. The other was the bodacious group of women traveling together across the aisle from us. Drinking, laughing, carrying on--they were really pretty entertaining.
That first night hotel was the Best Western Eastgate. It was clean and neat. Perfectly OK for first night, but we wouldn't want to stay here for a whole trip. I guess we just like being pampered. There is a big difference in a Disney property.
We did have a rental car from Dollar. We were completely satisfied with Dollar. It was the best deal I could find for this time of year on the mid-sized car we wanted ($111 per week, AAA discount). The pickup and dropoff is right in the airport, just a walk across the street from the terminal. Service was friendly and efficient both on pickup and drop off. The car was a nice little Plymouth Breeze, an unforgettable barely-green color.
So, you can see these are going to be long installments, and there will be a lot of them :
)! Hey, I'll do my part to use up bandwidth.
I do have to say that radp was invaluable in relation to this trip. Both in helping with the planning, and in helping to enjoy that anticipation. Hey, half the fun of taking a big trip is the anticipation. The other half is remembering it once you're back home. And the other half, of course, is the trip itself.
See, told you I was an engineer.....
Day 1 6/16/99
Got up fairly early, and checked smoothly out of the Best Western. Drove straight over to WDW. Best Western was nice and close to the gate, and we headed straight for Port Orleans. Got there early enough to make a good room selection (even though, of course, the room wouldn't be ready until mid afternoon), parked the car, and grabbed the bus for the Magic Kingdom.
Looking out the window of the bus on the way to the Magic Kingdom, just soaking in the feeling of finally being there, I noticed a hidden Mickey in the clouds. Honestly, there was a big fluffy cloud, with two companions nearby that looked just like someone had designed it for our first day.
At the ticket booth at the Magic Kingdom, had no trouble exchanging our vouchers for the APs. Then, we headed straight into the park.
The first thing we did was to hit New Tomorrowland. Here was a chance to hit a bunch of our old favorites, and to try a couple of new things as well.
We did Timekeeper this time. This was new to us, as we had skipped it last trip. The mix of audioanimatronics and CircleVision was really fun. The story was pretty neat. And, of course, Robin Williams personality shown through. All in all, this is a very enjoyable show.
But, the big new thing in Tomorrowland, of course, is Buzz Lightyear. For those of you who missed the description, Buzz is a cartoon-like ride based around Buzz and the little aliens from the claw machine in Toy Story. The plot is basically that you are a recruit to Star Command, and have to stop Emperor Zurg from stealing all of the batteries
(crystallic fusion cells). The que area is very amusing, with a slightly military version of some Toy Story music playing, and colorful props and posters describing the plight of the little aliens. I got a big kick out of Nick in the que, because he was reading the posters, and really had a sense of what was going on around him.
Near the end of the que, Buzz himself makes an appearance as an animatronic
character, explaining your mission to you. The animatronics is neatly done, and the briefing involves a giant Viewmaster, which is a clever touch.
Once on the ride, you sit in an Omnimover (basically, the same type of cart used in the Haunted Mansion). The difference is that there is a joystick which allows you to turn the cart to any orientation that you choose. And there are two guns mounted to the front of the cart (two people per cart). You fire the guns at various targets throughout the ride. Hits rack up points on the panel in your cart, and cause various pops, and movements in the things you hit (you're actually firing a small red laser). At the end of the ride, you need to note your score from your control panel before they clear it. I rode with Nick, and was certain that I beat him, but Debbie and I argues about who had the highest score. This is a very fun ride.
Outside of Tomorrowland, the other new thing was, of course, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. At the end of the ride, Debbie said "That was really cute. And it's all so new!" There is a sense of newness to it, fresh and clean, and not something that you've seen a dozen times before. Yet, it's the kind of Fantasyland ride that makes you feel like a little kid. This ride is also a winner.
In the mid afternoon, we went back to the room for a brief rest, and to get the luggage out of the car and unpack a little bit. These rooms are very cool. They have a kind of old-fashioned flare. There are classic fixtures on the wash basins. There are brass and glass light fixtures with ornate grapes and leaves sculpted on to them. There are even old photos on the walls, as if you were enjoying the hospitality of someone's home. The room theming and decoration is very well done.
The room is just about perfect in every other way. It's like they read our minds. Primarily, we were looking for a room that would be convenient to both the parking and the bus stop, and we are a stone's throw from both of these. Plus, they put us on the ground floor, in a corner room (love those extra windows!). In addition, we are across the "street" (narrow little fake streets that run through PO) from the food court. Close enough where we can send Nick to fill up his own bottomless mug, even in the evening (these mugs are a great deal). We just couldn't have asked for a better room (building 4 in PO, BTW).
The resort itself is very pretty, with neat little garden paths here and there, and the little fake streets that I've mentioned. Even though we are on the opposite side of the resort from the single pool, it is a short walk. It's just a small enough resort that you aren't very far from anything (but our room location was perfect).
After our rest, it was back to the Magic Kingdom.
We had dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. This was wonderful in every way. The food was great including a very tasty ham with mustard, a selection of other meats, and some very good accompaniments. Plus, it was family style all-you-can-eat. The desert was also very good, a kind of chocolate cake with chocolate chips layered in. Naturally, the desert was extra, but the portion was substantial. Plus, of course, it was a character meal, and the characters turned in a wonderful performance, replete in their colonial outfits to match the restaurant's motif. This meal was definitely a hit.
We saw the new Tiki Room for the first time, and it is hilarious. You have to know the old show by heart to appreciate a lot of the humor, but many of us do. All three of us got a big kick out of this. Also, I was very impressed with the fluid animatronics on the new Tiki goddess. The articulation on her was spectacular. She was very lifelike.
We saw the Main Street Electrical Parade, and it was just breathtaking. Nick seemed to be stunned. This is a gorgeous, creative, fun parade, and one of the better shows we saw while there.
But, that brings up my whine of the day. Why would anyone think that taking a flash photograph of this is a good idea? The whole beauty of the parade is the light coming from your subject. There is no chance of getting a good picture by trying to bounce light off of your subject. Turn the flash on your camera off. If you can't turn the flash on your camera off, then don't bother taking pictures--your camera's not good enough to handle this situation anyway.
People attempting to take flash pictures on the dark rides are looking at the same situation. If you have to use a flash, you have no chance of capturing the experience of the ride anyway. Plus, it shows a nearly inhuman disregard for the enjoyment of those around you. You are getting nothing out of it, and are ruining the experience for everyone else.
Not that anyone in this newsgroup would ever do such a thing. But, I just had to complain to someone about this.
Anyway, after MSEP (the early one), we walked over to Pirates, and it was a walk-on . This may have partly been because of people heading for the fireworks, but Pirates just didn't seem that busy our whole trip. I know we've all been on it a thousand times, but I still enjoy this ride.
We saw the fireworks anyway, as we were coming out of the Pirates. We stood in the middle of Caribbean Square, and watched them exploding over the buildings. It was a fun experience in itself.
It rained this day. It started in the late afternoon, and break up in the late evening. We got a pretty good soaking. But, the first day's enthusiasm is hard to dampen! My notes say that it rained more at night, "but so what?" By the end of the trip, I was a little less tolerant of the rain (should have been very used to it).
I was definitely left with the impression that one day is not enough for the Magic Kingdom, even if you've seen it all before. There is just a lot to do here. We only made it on the Haunted Mansion once, and didn't make Space Mountain at all. We did get in Big Thunder and Splash Mountain, though.
We waited 45 minutes for the bus back from MK to PO. I didn't realize this would be a bad omen of things to come.
Day 2, 6/17/99
Before heading out for the day, we grabbed a quick bite at the food court at PO. The eggs were a mistake, but the fruit is just excellent here. All through the trip, the produce wherever we ate was good-very fresh, nearly spotless fruits and vegetables. It made me wonder how much of it is grown on-property in a hydroponic, well-controlled environment. Or, maybe they just have really good relations with their suppliers. But, the fruit and veggies were always wonderful.
This was our first day at Epcot, and I, of course was looking forward to it. As soon as we walked in, we headed over to Universe of Energy. We always have good luck doing UoE first thing in the morning, because most people like to start off with SpaceShip Earth. We actually got held in a que outside of UoE this particular time, but that is rare. Normally, they'll let you walk in, even if Ellen's dream has started, then she just chides you for being late.
Anyway, it was cool, got to see the entire preshow from the beginning. I have to say that UoE is one of my favorite things at WDW. It's just a good, interesting show, and Ellen's and Bill Nye's personalities help it to come alive. Plus, of course, the real attraction is the "life size" dinosaurs. The ride through part of this presentation is just wonderful (although the energy movie is also quite cool).
UoE also holds up well even if you have ridden it a dozen times. The one other time we were here with Nick, he was very much into dinosaurs, and this was where you went to see them. Nick still considers this among his favorite rides.
Even after riding CTX later in the week, the dinosaurs at UoE are worth seeing. CTX is fun, but in a different way. You get to admire the work they put into this ride, thanks to the leisurely pace.
Anyway, cool dinosaurs, informative little presentation (I believe that Nick has actually grasped a lot of the concepts here now, and that is a very good thing), a ride that is worth doing (again and again).
After UoE we went and spent some time in the Wonders Of Life building. We spent time in the sensory playground, took in a show of Cranium Command, and did one ride on Body Wars.
I really enjoy Body Wars. Of course, it is reminiscent of Star Tours, based upon the same simulator technology. But, the serious tone and bioscience venue is a nice change of pace. I was especially impressed by some of the details, such as the detail in the splinter and the white cells. Again, this ride is the best of both worlds in that it is both fun and informative. Too bad it doesn't seem to really hold people's attention. This was pretty much the middle of the morning, when you'd expect it to be busy, and we had a walk on. Good for us, though (although you miss the que explaining you what you are about to do).
There were some very interesting sensory illusions in the sensory playground. The most interesting for me being the cold/not really hot coils (a trick on your body's temperature perception), and the dot illusion which makes your skin look like it is crawling. This is fun and relaxing, especially if you're a bit of a geek, and a good thing to do while catching your breath between all of the rushing around.
Cranium Command is a very funny show, with appearances by George Wendt, Bobcat Goldwaith, and Hans and Frans from Saturday Night Live. It's a mix of video clips and animatronics, very cleverly presented. Both the show and the preshow are very amusing. Debbie remembered standing in the theater last time, and so took a pass, and sat on a bench out in the main WoL area, people watching. But, we did sit in the main show. I don't recall, they may have changed this, or maybe you always sat (you stand in the preshow).
Upon leaving WoL, the rain had started to fall pretty hard. What? It rained? How odd. Anyway, this one was really a downpour. Well, rather than going back into WoL to wait it out, we sloshed through the rain over to Spaceship Earth, which was a great decision. The line was completely dissipated. The only people there were those under the shelter of the geosphere. So, we were out of the rain as soon as we got in line, and on the ride in what seemed like moments.
My saying "this is one of my favorite things at WDW" is going to get really old, but I just love Spaceship Earth, and this was a good ride. Actually, Spaceship Earth, like the Haunted Mansion is one of those rides that I don't care if it stops while I'm on it--I just get to enjoy the scene in front of me more. But, this ride was just about perfect. Since it was the first of this trip, a couple of things surprised me. I seem to remember mor narrative in the "modern age" section, where you go past the telegraph, telephone, movies, TV, and radio all in rapid succession. Maybe there was more there before they did the revamp that added the Internet stuff and took out the satellite. Regardless, even though these inventions happened in a relatively short time, they certainly each had a huge impact on human life. It's a very interesting thing to ponder--how fast communication has changed in the last century and a half.
Nick insisted on waiting in line to do the "ride the network" thing in the Global Neighborhood, but that was all we did in there. We slogged through the rain to go over to Innoventions, what there was of it.
So, my whine of the day is that I did not realize how much of Future World would be under refurb while we were there. The big surprise was that Innoventions was almost completely shut down. I knew about Imagination and Horizons, thanks to radp. But, Innoventions was shut down, except for IBM and Sega. And, both the front of Spaceship Earth and the back (that is the grounds in both cases) were torn up (preparing something for the millennium, from the looks of it). So, we didn't get to enjoy either the gardens or the little solar lawnmowers (a small thing, I know, but the magic is in the details). So, consider, Imagination, Horizons, Innoventions, and even the grounds all torn up at once. Future World was really in pretty bad shape. Too bad, because I can usually spend days and days there. I hope that the new Innoventions maintains the spirit of hands-on high tech that the old one had. I missed that a lot on this trip.
But, the one really fun thing to do in Innoventions on this trip was the e-mail postcards from IBM. If you haven't heard about it, what it is basically is a web cam. You stand in front of a little console, touch a few prompts on a screen, and it snaps a digital picture. Then you are able to pick the background that you want (your picture is in front a blue screen, allowing a digital background to be superimposed). The machine automatically fills in a "clever" caption for you, so there is no chance to send a personal message. Then, you enter the e-mail address that you want the image sent to, and it's off.
From the copies I sent myself, I later deduced that it really sends your party a URL, and they have to go fetch it from the IBM server there at Epcot, but it's pretty simple for anyone who's used to using a browser.
Anyway, this was very cool, and a lot of fun. There wasn't anyone in line behind us, and we had a list of addresses with us (thanks to radp, I knew about this before we left the house). So, counting this session, and one other we came back for later in the trip, we sent nine postcards. When I got home, I grabbed the copies from my home account (they take them off the server in 30 days, so I wanted to preserve them), and they might show up on my web page some day.
Partly because so much of Future World is closed, and partly because Test Track is brand new, the lines were always enormous at Test Track. Posted waits of 2 hours were common. But, what's worse, part of the ride is outside. So, if it rains (hard?), they shut the ride down. Imagine waiting for an hour and a half, and they shut the ride down. So, we didn't do TT on this day, and waited until a good opportunity presented itself later in the week.
I really don't understand the thinking of putting a section of TT outside. It's a brand new ride, and they could easily have had it enclosed, with the money and effort that went into it. Considering how much it rains during WDW's busiest season, I have to call this one bad planning. Maybe it's fun to have a ride that people standing outside or passing by can see running, but for all the people who get disappointed when it rains, you have to ask if it's worth it.
And I'll give you our TT riding tip in a later installment of this report.
We managed to do Honey, I Shrunk The Audience. There was quit a que, but this show is still worth it. The mix of 3D effects and theatrical effects in the theater is great fun. Plus, this is one of those shows that other members of the audience actually enhance for you. They're fun when they don't know what's coming. Some are probably still fun even if they do know what's coming. I always like this funny, inventive show.
In the late afternoon and evening, we headed back into World Showcase. The rain was pretty stubborn, but we still snapped some pictures on the way over the bridge. Debbie gets a big kick out of the water gardens, which she had seen featured on Home And Garden network. Plus, the flamingos which hang out in this area are always fun to see.
We stop by Mexico, and ride Il Rio De Tempo. Not a great ride, but it's amusing. Later in the trip, Nick will want to ride it again, so I guess it makes an impression on him. Do a little window shopping in Mexico, look at some of the art and artifacts, then go next door to Norway, with the intention of riding the Maelstrom.
On the way, however, Nick discovers the Viking ship. Nick is still drawn to playgrounds--I almost think that he'd be happy if he could spend the whole vacation on playgrounds. And me walking around in Innoventions, if it was really open. But, I don't know what Debbie would do ;
So, we indulge Nick for several minutes, then go over and ride the Maelstrom. Nick has heard about the backward drop over the waterfall (he missed this ride last trip), and is disappointed that it is not more extreme. So, he does not care for the ride, but Debbie and I like it. We sneak out of the film at the end.
The theming in Norway is quaint and charming. We'll be back later in the trip for dinner at Cafe Askerhaus.
By this time, it is about time for us to wander over to the Rose and Crown (UK pavilion) for our dinner reservations. Along the way, Nick gets to play with soap bubbles in front of Canada, and makes friends with a charming young woman who is working in one of the merchandise stands on the outskirts of the UK. Nick is certain to tell her that England is his favorite country, since they built the Titanic and created James Bond. While we are waiting for our dinner seating, Nick talks me into going back to this stand to buy him an English flag.
Dinner at the Rose and Crown is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. It will be one of the one or two best meals of the trip. The food is good, reasonably priced, and the portions are hearty. The service is beyond friendly--everyone here is very personable. We finish it off with a marvelous lemon custard desert, with some of that special WDW fruit. If you've missed the Rose and Crown, I think you've made a mistake.
The only disappointing thing is that we are unable to sit on the front patio, due to the rain. But, they accommodate us on the side patio, which is a wonderful seating (we have sit inside before, and that is very nice as well). When Illuminations starts we are just finishing dinner. There is a bit of a drizzle, but they let us out onto the front patio anyway (they're just not serving out there).
I still love Illuminations. We only got to see it twice this trip, and this will turn out to be the better of the two times. This is a really fun place from which to see Illuminations. It's got a good view of one of the water screens, and the sound and fireworks are great from here. The only caveat is that you are right in the light when the UK pavilion gets lit up, which is a bit distracting. But, it's still a great perch.
After Illuminations, it's back to the hotel, and in bed. Tomorrow will be busy. The bus from here doesn't seem quite as bad as the one from MK last night.
Day 3, 6/18/99
Day 3 and time to hit MGM! We were up fairly early and down to the PO bus stop. Since we were up early, we should have driven.
We waited 40 minutes in the morning for the bus to MGM, and 35 minutes for the bus back. I don't advise anyone to stay at PO without a car. There were 3 Coronado Springs buses while we were waiting at MGM for one PO bus. At one point during this wait, there were 2 Allstar buses lined up--the second had to double park! No other resort seems to wait as long as the PO for pickup at the parks.
Yes, we had a car, but we kept trying to take the bus. Maybe we were trying to tell ourselves it would get better, or that it was only an occasional problem. Or, maybe we thought parking would be a problem. But, our experience didn't bear any of this out. The buses were generally quite poor, and the few times late in the trip when we did drive went very smoothly. Guess it didn't pay to be stubborn (or maybe slow) this time. If we do stay at the PO again, it will be with a car, and we will use it heavily.
Anyway, we got to MGM eventually, and Nick snagged his first autograph from a Green Army Man while on our way to the front turnstiles. We managed to hit our favorites, including the tram tour, The Great Movie Ride, Star Tours, Muppet Vision, and the Tower or Terror despite the weather (actually, I think we hit ToT before the rain really set in).
The Tower of Terror is terrifying. I noticed the stuff on the ride that occurs before the drop more than last time. It really is a very cool set of effects. You see the missing guests from the open elevator door, and they beckon you to join them. The hall breaks down as you are looking out from the elevator. You see a flying window, eyeball, clocks, etc., done in the classic Twilight Zone style. Then you move forward into this Twilight Zone, which includes your reflection in that eyeball. It's not really terrifying, but it is a lot of fun, and mildly unsettling. It does help to set you up for the drops to come. The drops now seem to be pretty unpredictable. You're up and down several times, and are not quite sure when it is going to end. It is a fun and exciting ride, but it still gives me a little bit of a headache. The ride was almost a walk on, we only waited briefly inside the lobby of the hotel before being admitted to the preshow in the library.
The Great Movie Ride is great. It seems to have changed around a little bit, including the point at which the guide is switched. Later in the trip, we figured out how the guide switch actually works. We rode 2 times this day, and each was practically a walk on.
Muppet Vision 4D is wonderful. The effects are imaginative, though maybe not as good as HISTA. We do love the soap bubbles, though. Nick was really chuckling during this part. And the story (there's a story?) is standard Muppet corn--very amusing. The old codgers in the balcony actually being out in the theater's balcony is also a very amusing touch.
The "Sounds Dangerous" show with Drew Cary (first time we heard this show) is a great show. Those killer bees may be even a bit too realistic. It's essentially a sound show, based upon the premise that Drew Carey is a bungling undercover investigator. The sound effects are very good, and the story is amusing. I occasionally hear Nick chuckling despite my head phones.
We had dinner at the Brown Derby. We found it to be disappointing. The prices were large, and the portions small. What there was of the food had a good flavor, and was well-presented, but the small portions and high price just didn't add up to a good value.
Yeah, it rained. Wow, really? We believe that they canceled Fantasmic. It was pouring about a half hour before showtime, and the CMs working the amphitheater didn't seem to think that it would go on. We gave up and headed for the bus, despite having reserved seating through the Brown Derby. We decided that rain is very bad for MK & MGM. It does seem to get in the way of a lot of the things you'd like to do. For Epcot, the rain is not as bad. More of the experience is indoors at Epcot, especially in Future World. The rain did seem to take the edge off of the fun at MGM a little bit (it was especially unfortunate for the tram tour), but at least the crowds were fairly light. We appreciated that later in the trip.
The pizza's good at PO. We've had it as a late-night snack twice, and it is very tasty.
Day 4, 6/19/99
This was our first trip to Animal Kingdom. We had been advised that the best time to do Kilimanjaro Safari was early in the morning. So, we headed there as soon as we arrived at the park (should I mention how long the bus took to get there, or that this is one park to which you should definitely drive if given the option? Nah).
Anyway, the Safari was excellent. It was cool this morning, with a little bit of drizzle, and this seemed to encourage the animals to come out. I know some people have said that they didn't see as many animals in AK as they'd like, but we were very lucky on this safari. It was as if the animals were coming out on que! There were lions, elephants, hippos, rhinos, lions, antelope, and crocodiles. But, the stars of the show this morning were the giraffes. There was a herd of them all around and down on the road! Our vehicle had to creep by one of them, literally two feet away, while we all took pictures of his butt. He was intent on something by the side of the road, and not really interested much in us. That was a close encounter!
All in all, this is a great ride, but it will depend a lot on your luck, and the time of day you happen to be there. And although some people have said the poacher story was superfluous, Nick really enjoyed it.
We tried the Gorilla trail (name?) right after the safari, but we had used up all of our luck. We had a persistent drizzle, but not a single critter.
The architecture in Asia and Africa is awesome. It is very convincing. The whole jungle feel is to most of AK is very engaging.
The Tree of Life is an amazing thing. After the disappointment on the Gorilla trail, we headed over to the "It's Tough To Be A Bug" 3D film. In the que for this film, you get an excellent close up view of the Tree of Life, as you meander through the roots on the way to the theater (which is in the roots right at the base of the tree). It is just fascinating what they have done with these carvings. It's a beautiful thing, and the descriptions don't do it justice.
We saw "It's Tough To Be A Bug" twice on this day. Again, the 3D in this show is terrific. Each of the major 3D shows showing in the parks now feature some really neat effects. The mix of animatronic characters and 3D together in this theater is also very cool. Although I felt the stinger the second time, I never felt the maggots and beetles. I didn't smell the stinkbug, either.
We all loved Dino Land, especially Nick. We rode CTX (once), looked around in Dino Jubilee 99, and then let Nick play in the boneyard. All of these were great.
CTX is a neat ride, with a good story, great animatronics, and lots of excitement. I think that it will hold up well, and people will be lining up for it years from now. Once you get inside the building, the que area is very neat too. I liked hearing from Bill Nye again in the final stage of the que regarding the asteroid theory. The preshow does a nice setup of the ride.
We did learn some interesting facts and theories in the Jubilee that even I wasn't aware of. I liked the touch of a real paleontological exhibit next to the recreation here.
Nick loved the bone yard. Debbie and I hung around nearby, and went to retrieve him when we decided it had been long enough. It was sweltering in there, and not much better near the entrance.
So, if I'm not complaining about the rain, I'm complaining about the heat? So, why did I go to Florida in June?
Actually, I'd rather have the heat any day, but Debbie didn't necessarily agree.
After Dino Land, we tried the Radio Disney Cruise. It was pleasant and funny, albeit corny). Dare I say it? I actually liked the banter on the Jungle Cruise in MK better (GASP! We didn't do the Jungle Cruise at all this trip). We didn't see many animals from the cruise. Our guide did, however, point out the Hidden Mickey on the Tree of Life.
Here's a surprise--it rained. I don't mean the drizzle we had in the morning. Late in day, it poured. But, it had been so hot that this was something of a relief, and I even chose not to wear my pancho for a little while.
On the way out of AK, we stopped for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. We didn't have reservations or PS, but were seated right away. I have to tell you that the Rainforest Cafe was not a big surprise, as there is one in Denver (the one at AK is a little bit bigger). But, the food at this place is so good, and the theming fits in so well with the rest of AK, that you don't mind seeing it here. We had the Caribe chicken as an appetizer, and I had the Jaimaica Me Crazy Chops for an entree. This is what I always get, because it is marvelous, and I was not disappointed. Good as ever (had in Denver).
We left AK right after dinner, and took a short break back at our room at the PO. I really did appreciate these little breaks in the action, and it convinced me more than ever that staying on property is worth it. Our break in the action was followed by a break in the weather, and we were off to the Magic Kingdom.
On this excursion, it was just Nick and I. Debbie was in the mood for a longer rest in the room.
So, of course, we started with the Haunted Mansion. This was followed by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, then Pirates (which had a short line--almost a walk on). Then, we enjoyed the Tiki Room again. Nick then did the Swiss Family Treehouse (he generally does this by himself).
We then tried out the Astro Orbiter, which is the first time we have ever done it. Surprisingly, Nick didn't like it. Partly, it was because he had to ride by himself (those are pretty small vehicles). He wasn't expecting that, and he wasn't expecting it to go quite that fast. Usually, speed doesn't bother him, and I think if we had been together, he would have been fine.
We then did the People Mover, Peter Pan, It's A Small World, and headed home. So, we had a quick little sampling of the MK. The weather, by the way was beautiful. It was a warm, crystal clear night. Possibly the best weather we had all trip.
Day 5, 6/20/99
This was our day at DisneyQuest. If you've missed it, DisneyQuest is something like an arcade--but Disney World style. First, it's enormous, completely filling a large 5-story building in Downtown Disney Westside. Second, there are touches that you don't expect at a normal arcade--a sense of theming, a sense of nostalgia, and a fair smattering of high technology.
We were up relatively late, had a bit of breakfast in the room (Debbie walked over to the food court to pick up some bagels), then went down to the boat dock at PO. We took the launch over to downtown Disney, which was a pleasant little ride past some of the vacation homes (?) that sit by the river. Unfortunately, the rain kept us from making this trip again, and we got stuck on the bus.
The pricing at DisneyQuest is now based upon buying a single ticket that will allow you to use the facility for a single day. I know that this has changed a couple of times since they opened, but that was the policy when we were there. Pay once and play all day on any game or attraction in the place. The only exceptions are the few games where you are trying to win tickets for prizes (think Chuck E. Cheese or Discovery Zone type redemption).
I had the presence of mind to ask about MKC discounts (I had a habit of forgetting), and it was 20% off!! This made the gate for the three of us about $60 (as I recall). Given the price of arcade games today, and the special features here, I found this to be very much worth it. We ended up spending about 10 hours here, and we could have spent more.
DQ is divided somewhat on the basis of floors (some attractions are between floors, or occupy more than one floor). But, there are still basic areas. I'll stick to those in describing what we did. We actually bounced around between floors in no particualr order, so that would be really confusing.
The lowest level is called something like the Explore Zone. This has one very clever "arcade" game, and three virtual reality (VR) treats. One is Alladin, where you don a VR helmet, and immerse yourself in a 3D world based upon the Alladin movies and TV series. It is immersive in the sense that as you turn your head, the scene changes. You sit at the controls of a flying carpet, and try to find some gems. The graphics are good, but the carpet was a little tough to master. Nick called the game "boring", but I think he was having a hard time getting the hang of it.
But Nick's favorite experience in DQ was also on this level--the Virtual Jungle Cruise. Here, you paddle a raft along a prehistoric water way. You are actually sitting in a rubber raft, paddling like crazy with real paddles (but thee is no water). The scenery on the massive screen in front of you changes in response to your paddling, and the raft bounces based on the scenery. At a couple of points, you really do get a little wet.
Nick likes the ride, but he doesn't really paddle. I got a bit tired myself--taking it all too seriously, I suppose. Nick and I did this 3 times, and he and Debbie did it once. It was a lot of fun, but I wouldn't mind seeeing the "quest" that you are on being emphasised a little bit more.
The other VR on this level was "Hercules in The Underworld." The 3D here is really well done, using more of the C.A.V.E. approach, rather than the 3D helmet. It is enhanced by the use of the same type of polarized stereographs used in HISTA. But, it is actually more like a video game, where you are on a quest to collect lightening bolts and defeat Hades. I liked the 3D but the game controls were so-so. The 2nd time we played, we won (blasted Hades out of his chariot)! I believe that the difference betwen the first and second time was that noone played the part of Pegasus the first time, and you really want Pegasus to drive the chariot. Avoid playing Phil if you can--he's too short to get a lot of the lightening bolts.
The one other thing on this lower level is the Gold Of the Incas. This is a cool idea for a game, where you drive around a little radio controlled car through a maze, looking for treasure. The car has a video camera mounted on it, and the view is transmitted back to your control panel, where you have the steering wheel and forward/reverse control. The cars are actually under the floor near the control consoles, and your friends can look down through the glass roof of the maze, and shout directions to you. I found it was easier just to keep your wits about you, and read the signs that you see in the maze. One other interesting thing about the Gold of The Incas is that it is the only free game that dispenses redemption tickets.
The next level up is called something like the create zone. We spent a fair amount of time on and off in here as well. There is a brief animation/drawing class taught by a real live person, in which you get to use an electronic easle. There are touch-screen painting panels, which Nick really enjoyed. There is also a device that allows you to design the twisted kind of toys that Sid was noted for in Toy Story (and you can actually have your creation made, then purchase it). Finally, there is Virtual Space Mountain.
Virtual Space Mountain is a cool idea, but it has a hidden dissapointment. The idea is that you design your own roller coaster, then ride on your creation. The riding portion is done via a flight simulator, which responds to the design you have created. Unfortunately, the simulator seats are quite small, and will not accomodate anyone of even slightly above-average girth. We didn't find this out until after waiting if a fair line for the simulator. Nick ended up riding himself, and hit the "chicken switch" to stop the ride fairly early on. He does a lot better on thrill rides if someone is with him.
The next level includes a ton of classic game, such as Dig Dug, Ms. Pacman, and Defender. Nick and I had a couple of good games of air hockey. There were also some pinball machines here.
This also happens to be the region where the Buzz Lightyear game (ride?) is located. In this, you actually drive around in a little cart (something like a bumper car). You pick up small "asteroids" by running over them. You then load them into a cannon mounted on the front of your cart, and shoot them at the other drivers. You're fully enclosed, but if you hit the target on their cart, they spin out of control.
Nick didn't care for this, but I think he would have more fun if he had listened to my advice, and I had driven while he manned the gun (you really do need two people, BTW). I thought it was a lot of fun.
The next level included a bunch of modern games. Here there were snowboarding, driving (always a big hit with Nick), motorcycle, and pilot games that you might see in the nicer arcades.
If I'm not mistaken, here was also one of the two "Ride The Comix" attractions (the two seemed to be the same). This was my favorite (well, unless Alien Invasion was, which I'll mention in a minute). Nick didn't care for it, I believe because it used the same type of helmet as in Alladin, and he didn't give it a chance.
Anyway, you put on the VR helmet, and you are in a comic book world. You do battle with a number of super villans, together with about 3 other riders. The premise is that you are on some type of hover craft, but you don't get to drive. What you do get to do is to hold a "lazer sword' (hmm...looked a lot like a light saber to me), and hack away at the super villans. Pushing a button on the sword turns it on and off, and you actually see the blade extend in the virtual world. You are really holding the handle of the sword in the real world, and as you hack, the blade in the virtual world swings around and decimate your opponents. This is a very nice piece of VR--both immersive and believable. I also like the story--I wasted a lot of time and money on super hero comic books when I was younger. I rode 2 times, Nick & Debbie only once. There was some rubbing of the helmet against my eyeglass (the helmet is well counter-balance, but still heavy). Nonetheless, the helmet is well designed, reasonably comfortable, and delivers reasonable resolution. This is a big improvement over VR helmets a few years ago.
There was a lot of talk about Disney turning off all "violent" video games on their property. I'm so glad that this hasn't happened.
On the top level, all by itself, is my other favorite here at DQ. This was the Extraterrorestial Invasion. Based loosly on the same future as the Extraterrorestial Encounter over in Tomorrowland, this attraction has Chaiman Klench and XS Tech helping the earth to resue colonists from the path of an alien invasion. You sit in a walking battle drone, pilot it around the alien landscape, blasting aliens, and trying to pick up colonists. What makes it cool is that you are actually sitting in a big cockpit with three other people (three gunners and one pilot). The cockpit bounces around as you steer the walker, there are huge projection screens on all sides, and great 3D sound. It is a very immersive, believable experience. We must have done this at least half a dozen times. I piloted each time, and we always made it back (you have to get to a transport point in a certain time window, or you are doomed).
The only thing that I really disliked at DQ (well, other than the small seats on CyberSpace Mountain) was the Wunderland Cafe. This was supposed to be a CyberCafe, where you could use some table-mounted computers in each booth to access the Internet and some internal Disney pages. But, the restrictions were really rife. We couldn't even get a search engine to work, and couldn't activate "mailto" tags on web pages of our friends. It was just an exersize in frustration, and I'd advise you to skip it. If you can't do without your net fix, rent a laptop, and call your ISP from your room.
There was also some kind of webcam/postcard generator on this machine, but we were so frustratred with the web stuff that we skipped it. It certainly wasn't as obvious or as much fun as the IBM one over in Epcot.
In tandem with the Wunderland was the Cheesecake Factory express. Sorry, but I found it to be overpriced. We had gone back to PO for a nice cajun dinner, and ended up wishing we had gotten desert there as well.
If we didn't have to pay each day we wanted to visit, there are certain things I could have done again and again--Hercules, Alien Invasion (!), Virtual Jungle Cruise, Gold of the Incas, and Ride the Comix (!). The only things I'd avoid are Cyberspace Mountain & Wunderland.
All in all, we had a great time at DisneyQuest, and it was a good value for us. Nonetheless, a couple of things bothered me on principle. We would have gone back without hesitation (there were a couple of times in the trip where it would have been a good filler), but didn't feel like spending another $60. It would be cool if this was part of an AP or PAP. I'd pay to have this added to my AP sooner than I'd pay to have the water parks added. I could see going to this more than once in a trip, especially if you were tired of the rain, or just had a few extra hours to kill.
Oh yeah, it rained this day. Ha, ha, ha. We were inside all day, and didn't care (well, except for messing up our boat ride, but that was minor).
The other thing that crossed my mind is that some of the cooler VR stuff seems like it belongs in Epcot. Especially since Epcot is basically torn up and emptied out right now. But, isn't this a lot more technology of the future stuff, and isn't that what Epcot is about? That's the other reason this really shouldn't be an extra ticket. If some of the VR stuff were in Epcot, then it would be more OK for DQ to be an extra ticket. But now, a lot of people are going to miss out on this cutting edge technology, because they'll be discouraged by the seperate admission.
Day 6 6/21/99
You might consider this off-topic, but I just wanted to go ahead and post it anyway. This was the day that we took a trip off-site to go to Kennedy Space Center. This ended up being our only off-site trip. Although strictly speaking it is not WDW, I wanted to make a few observations for anyone else who is tempted to make the trip over when you're in the area.
First, let me say it is very much worth the trip, even if it means taking a day away from WDW. The drive over was easy--it seems like it was under 2 hours, and we had reasonably good weather (even coming back, it didn't rain very much). And it's hard to put the inspirational value of this trip into words.
They have a tour and several IMAX presentations, as well as a gift shop that will let you find all manner of space-related paraphernalia (real space, not imaginary). I'll get back to the IMAX, but the tour was the highlight.
The most powerful part of the tour (for us) was the stop in the Saturn V building. This is a building which is basically dedicated to the rocket which took man to the moon. It turns out that there were three more of these built than were used by the program (standard procedure for a big aerospace project involving multiple vehicles). Two of them are in the possession of the Smithsonian, and one is here.
That's right, there is an entire Saturn V moon rocket in this building. It is laying on it's side, suspended from the rafters, so that you can walk underneath it, and examine the construction and marvel at the complexity. It is the most powerful vehicle ever built, and it is enormous. Most of it, of course, is engine and fuel, with just the top two stages being for command, crew, and instrumentation. If you are at all technical, you can't help but to wonder what it would have been like to work on something like this. Even if you are not technical, you have to marvel at the achievement. That this monster was built, tamed, and brought men to the moon fills you with a sense of wonder. Combined with the patriotism from AA and Liberty Square over at WDW, if makes you proud again to be an American. It does also give you the sense that this is the most important, and one of the most difficult, things that America has ever done. The real implications of redefining the boundaries of possibility that they did here have only begun to be felt.
The entire building is dedicated to the Apollo, and there are other displays, such as one of the suits worn by an Apollo crewmember, and a working mock-up of the lunar rover (used for training, I believe). There are also multimedia presentations concerning both the launch and the landing. It took me back to that night in 1969 when we watched the live broadcast from the moon. I knew then that I was seeing something important, but it didn't really sink in how much it really meant.
Other parts of the tour gave us a chance to see the building in which the shuttle is prepared for launch (you don't get to go in), and the massive tractor that drags it and it's platform out to the launch pad. We even got to see the shuttle on the pad. Unfortunately, when the shuttle is on the pad, you can't get closer than about 3 miles. There is a viewing gantry from which you can get a pretty fair view through binoculars and telescopes (the put a quarter in kind). I couldn't figure out how to get a decent picture, though. It was way beyond the range of my camera zoom.
There is also a part of the tour where you get to walk through mock ups of the international space station. There are laboratory and living modules on display. It gives you the sense that space station is becoming a reality. Then, you get to walk through an observation level from which you can view the actual modules being prepared for launch. You are on a walkway behind the high bays, and separated from the work area by plexiglass. Photography is allowed, but not flash. Again, this was a breathtaking experience.
Back at the visitors center, we caught two IMAX films. They were both good, but the most memorable, by far, was something called "L5, First City In Space". This film combines IMAX and 3D. That's right, you wear the same type of polarized lenses that we are all used to from HISTA and MuppetVision. But, the difference here is that the screen is an IMAX screen, so it fills your peripheral vision as well. The effect is breathtaking. Purely from the standpoint of the 3D effect itself, this is the best 3D I've ever seen.
The story itself is OK. If is a fiction set in the near future about life in a space station, and it attempts to be technically accurate. The story takes a back seat to the science and the effects, but it isn't bad. The effects (well, and the educational value of the science) make it worth seeing.
We didn't have too much rain when we were here, or didn't notice much, because we were inside a lot of the time. There are a lot of mosquitoes though, so you might want to wear something to discourage them if you make this trip. You get spoiled at Disney.
The government has a very useful official web page. If interested in a side trip to Kennedy, you should visit
I also found this useful (more official information from NASA):
Day 7, 6/22/99
I decided to wear the villains T-Shirt this day, that I had purchased at the villains store, over in MGM. This was a hit--I got a surprising number of comments and inquiries about where I purchased it. There's something about the "dark side of Disney". Just bad enough to be fun.
This was our second day at Epcot. We spent most of our time this day in the World Showcase.
The countries that we got to in this little excursion were Italy, America, Morocco,France, Japan, England, Canada. On the whole trip, we managed to hit every country except China. This is the best we've ever done getting around to the countries.
The first thing we did when the World Showcase opened was to head to Italy for lunch. We cleverly waited for the first boat to go to Italy from the entrance. The boats didn't start running until 11 a.m., when World Showcase opened, but the sidewalk just before Mexico was closed as well (I assume it was on the other side also), so the boat got us there before most people. Unfortunately, when wearrived in Italy, we found that Alfredo's didn't open until noon. So, we put in a reservation, and wondered around for an hour.
The Italian pavilion is beautiful, with architecture that seems fairly authentic, based upon what I have seen, heard, and read of Italy. Though I haven't been there, my mother's family is from Italy, and I studied the language and culture in school, as well as hearing a great deal about it from relatives. The pavilion captures a good sense of "the old country".
When we did make it to lunch at Alfredo's, we were a little bit disappointed. The food was good, but high priced. Based upon the sampling that we had, I'd say try the Fettucine Alfredo, but avoid the antipasto. The antipasto was good, but not a great value. We actually had a sampling of various pastas, but observed that the Fettucine Alfredo was the best, and that folks at other tables who ordered just the Alfredo seemed to end up with better portions. We also had the chocolate mousse, and it was splendid. Couldn't complain about that.
We very much enjoyed the preshow of the "American Adventure" show, which was a performance by The Voices Of Liberty choir. If you haven't caught it, they sing acapelo, and rely upon the wonderful acoustics of the dome in the main hallway. It was a great, fun, patriotic show. After the show, Nick and I talked to one of the girls in the choir, who was originally from Englewood, CO, just a few miles from our home. She was delightful, and seemed happy to chat with someone from her back home. She told us that the hardest thing to get used to in living in Orlando was the humidity. Colorado is actually very arid. Florida is not.
The American Adventures presentation is so moving. It gives you a sense that you should do something to support this great country and help to continue this story. The show in American Adventures, our trip to Kennedy, and Spaceship Earth are things that I found inspiring on this trip. Even Debbie liked the show in AA, and this is not something that is generally "up her alley".
We caught the story book show in American Gardens. This was quite cool, a nicely done little musical, with some cute sets. I even learned that the Snow White fairy tale was originally German (I already knew about the other national origins).
We never did "The Lord of The Dance". The crowds and the timing just made this show impractical for us. It would have been neat to take advantage of the opportunity, and it seemed like a very popular (too popular) show.
The Japanese pavilion is beautiful. We were treated to a nice art exhibit, and enjoyed the gardens.
In the French Pavilion, Nick ran into Quasimodo, and got an autograph. I particularly enjoy the little back street here, with the quaint looking shops. Debbie did the "Impressions De France" film, while Nick & I backtracked to Morocco. We had missed a chance to get Jafar's autograph, and he was supposed to return (he was taking a break from the sun). He never did come back, but Nick got Jasmine and Alladin instead.
We spent a bit of time in the UK. We enjoyed the lovely shops, the chess sets in the Toy Soldier, and the Pooh paraphernalia. The architecture was charming, again fostering that illusion of being there. We also were treated to the sounds of a British rock revival. I got a special kick out of the Mary Poppins topiary.
In the early evening, we headed over to Canada for out dinner reservations at Le Celier. I really did like the gardens that you pass through on your way to the restaurant. This was the first time that we noticed the small ruby throated lizards that we later noticed hanging out in the vegetation at the PO. Nick got a big kick out of these. Before dinner, Nick and I took a little "hike" over by the waterfall. This "back country" is really fun. They've crowded a lot of fun stuff into this little pavilion.
The atmosphere of Le Celier is cool and relaxing. Our waitress was an exceptionally pleasant and friendly young lady from Nova Scotia. She was also very efficient. The steak was very good. The desert, which was a fruit cobbler was exceptional.
We rode the Universe of Energy twice (Nick and I, Debbie only rode it once this time). I really do love this ride. It is one of the best at WDW. It seems like there is seldom a wait, it is entertaining, and educational. Nick is really understanding the concepts presented, and that's a positive thing. Of course, he's heard them enough times by now ;
We did Spaceship Earth twice. The second was late at night, and the line was very short. There was a problem with the sound as we rode through the Renaissance, though. I just love this ride.
I found a "hidden Figment"! Projected on the side of the Imagination pavilion, late at night, as we were leaving the park. Figment is in front of a "pot of gold" with various imaginative things in it. Was this always there, or are they trying to tell us that we'll see something of Figment on the reopening?
Day 8 6/23/99
This was the day that we went to Typhoon Lagoon during the day, then went to The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review in the evening.
We drove to Typhoon Lagoon. This beat the heck out of taking the bus, and meant we wouldn't have to wait around when extremely tired.
It was bout $75 to get into Typhoon Lagoon for the 3 of us. It would have been $300 to upgrade our APs to PAPs. Since we didn't do anything else all trip that would have taken advantage of a PAP, we made the right move (unless we get back before the APs expire, and do the water parks three times, but is this likely ;
We got lucky in that it didn't rain while we were at Typhoon Lagoon (it had started by the time we lay down for our nap). It was very hot, which made this a great day to be here.
It's amazing how big the waves in the surf pool are! I also notice how gorgeous they are when viewed from the side. I tried hanging out in the deep water during the bobbing time (this got very tiring), just to see how the big waves would be in the deep water. It turns out that they are not really that great. The best place to be if you want the full impact is right at the breakwater, which is that red line painted on the bottom.
We rode the Lazy River a couple of times. This is a nice, slow, relaxing ride. I noticed that with a little paddling you can easily catch a tube in front of you (I was trying not to lose track of Nick), but it's a bit tricky navigating around the crowds.
Debbie and I tried to do the shark reef, but they did not have jackets that would fit either of us. I later found out that you can swim without a jacket, if you are willing to brave the cold water. I wish I had thought to ask at the time, as I'm certain Florida's "cold water" isn't is bad as a mountain lake back home.
Other than the attempt at the shark reef, Lazy River, and the surf pool, we didn't do much. Nick did do one slide, but Debbie and I did not. We just had a nice, relaxing, change of pace hanging out in the sun, getting knocked around by the waves, and not doing much else.
After Typhoon Lagoon, we headed back to PO for a nap before going to a late show of Hoop De Doo. Being in the sun, in the water really wears you down, and this was going to be a late night. After the nap, a quick shower, and we were off to meet the bus.
We didn't have much trouble grabbing the bus to Wilderness Lodge, and then up to Pioneer Hall. Considering our other bus experiences, this one went really well.
The Hoop De Doo Musical Review is a very funny show. As everyone has said, the material is pretty corny, but the performance present it with such exuberance! The food was wonderful. Family style Bar B Q, chicken, ribs, and beans. Nick didn't care for the food--he was in one of his moods where he doesn't care to eat anything. We didn't have any trouble talking him into the strawberry short cake, though. He did, however, like the show a lot. Right up his alley.
By this point in the trip, I was beginning to wonder if coming 2 times would have been more fun than coming for 2 weeks. When we had come to WDW before, we always ran out of time to do everything, and felt like we wanted to be there longer. On this trip, we started to tire out, and began to pass up things that we thought we had previously though would be interesting. It seems like you get saturated. If it weren't for the cost of plane tickets (ouch), two trips would be a better value (based on enjoyment for your money). That's not to say that the rest of the vacation wasn't a blast--we just saw diminishing marginal returns.
Day 9 6/24/99
We changed our initial plans around on this day, which is the advantage of having a schedule in the first place--knowing what you can change. We ended up doing the Magic Kingdom in the morning, and MGM in the late afternoon and evening.
At the Magic Kingdom, we rode Buzz Lightyear again, and found that it was just as much fun the second time "around". I noted my score this time to be 150K.
The Lion King show in the Magic Kingdom is very good. If you've missed it, it involves puppets and actors in costumes, mixed with film clips from the movie. It is very well presented and thought out. It concentrates on the music from the film, and shortened version of the story. This is just such a moving and powerful story, and this is a good presentation.
We rode Space Mountain. This was the first time for this trip--the lines had been rather stubborn. We got one of the old cars and neither Debbie nor I had any trouble fitting. This ride was actually a lot more fun than I remembered. It does make me a little nervous, but my new trick is to "laugh it off".
After we were done at the Magic Kingdom, we took the monorail to the TTC, than the bus to MGM. I still love riding on the monorail. When you stop and think about it, it is very disappointing that they have four major theme parks now, and the monorail only services two. Personally, I'd much rather see a system where the buses only take you to the park nearest your hotel (or to the TTC, if that's closer), and the monorail takes you to the other parks. In principal, the extra connections would make the trip slower, but in practice the speed and reliability of the monorail compared to the buses (which they no longer seem to be able to keep on schedule) would more than make up for it. I know--they can't afford it. Poor Disney, they have no money. For what they charge for a premium resort, you should certainly have monorail access to all four parks, and for what they charge for a moderate resort, you should have a bus system that works. In Denver, I can get a bus pass for about a dollar a day, that will get me to wherever I need to go, without waiting an hour at a bus stop or having to stand shoulder to shoulder in the aisle. But, Disney charges hotel guests $150 a night, and can't do the same thing. And they have fewer stops.
One other thought--if Walt saw what has become of the Disney transportation system, he'd cry. Buses and cars all over the place, and the monorail is only a curiosity--not really even useful to the guests at the upscale resorts because it doesn't reach all of the parks.
In traveling on the bus from the TTC to MGM, we had a close encounter with a delivery truck. The bus driver did some swerving and braking. Fortunately, there was no one standing in the aisle, or they would have toppled. It brought home how really dangerous is is for them to run these buses with people standing shoulder to shoulder in the aisles, and then run them across surface roads. This was one of the few times when there was no one standing.
We caught the Little Mermaid show over in MGM, which was the first time we'd ever done this. In a way, it is similar to the Lion King show in the Magic Kingdom, involving puppets, actors, and film clips. In this show, they've also incorporated lasers, a light "sea" spray, and bubbles. Again, it is a shortened version of the story from the movie, incorporating most of the music. It is really a great show, and a lot of fun. Still, the Lion King was better--it's just a better story.
We had supper at the Sci Fi Dine In Theater. Once again, the atmosphere of this place was delightful. Sitting in a car, watching the trailers for the worst Sci Fi movies ever made, and the little intermission animations from every drive in you've ever been to. I just love those clips. It was an enjoyable experience, but---
Why did they change the menu? I remembered something more like pork chops and meat loaf, or was I hallucinating? It' now a fancy "California" cuisine, and really clashes with the drive in theme. I don't expect hot dogs and popcorn, but I certainly don't expect a fancy restaurant. It doesn't fit.
Am I whining a lot in this report?
Debbie had a steak, which looked OK. I had the shrimp pasta, which was a lot more pasta than shrimp. The desert was good--an ice cream sundae called the Big Bang. But, it was very big (some people are never happy).
The weather was threatening, and even drizzling. But, it was nowhere near as bad as it had been at our previous night at MGM, when it just poured. So, we decided to try to see Fantasmic. All through the preshow, the weather was on and off, but the show did go ahead.
Wow!! It is spectacular, wonderful, and breathtaking. This show deserves all the superlatives that you can find. The mix of water screens and live action is very well coordinated and compelling. The theater beats the living daylights out of sitting on the ground at the DisneyLand show. And the pyrotechnics and the dragon were a lot more impressive than anything I remembered from the DL show. But, some of that might have to do with having really good seats. There are no really bad seats in the theater--we were close to the top, and had a wonderful view (and a much simpler exit). Ironically, we were just across the aisle from where we would have sat if we had the reserved seats from our rained-out evening. I actually thought the seats we got by just walking in were better.
Debbie did miss Peter Pan and the Pirate ship from the California show. She loved the preshow though, which was very funny (not the one that occurs on stage--well you know what I mean).
Day 10 6/25/99
Well, today was one of our free days on the schedule (we did have PS for dinner), so we just kind of winged it. We slept late, then had an early lunch at the Wilderness Lodge. We drove over, and were glad we had.
We had lunch at the Whispering Canyons Cafe. Despite it's reputation, it was not really raucous. Maybe it's rowdier in the evening.
Nonetheless, we had a really good all-you-can eat BBQ, similar to the fare at the Hoop De Doo.
We had never been in the Wilderness Lodge before, and it is very impressive. The lobby is gorgeous, with a beautiful parquet floor, 7 story tall totem poles, a huge fireplace, and several ornate wood carvings. Naturally, it reminded us of the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone. I'm not sure it's worth the extra money you'd pay for this place compared to a moderate resort (especially since it's not on the monorail), but it is definitely worth taking a little time to come see it.
Just for fun, we took the boat launch from the Wilderness Lodge. We ended up at Discovery Island. I'm not sure we were supposed to be allowed in. Didn't DI used to be a separate admission? Anyway, she let us in, as I think their traffic is very low now. Nick didn't like this place for some reason, but Debbie and I very much did.
This is a nice little place, even though some of the animals were missing, and must have been moved to Animal Kingdom. The vet area is also closed down, and the building is empty. But I think they were still doing one of the shows.
We enjoyed the flocks of vultures, and flamingos, and the orange birds nesting in the trees (someone remind me what those are called). The Galapagos turtles were very cool. The adults are enormous.
So, is this closing or not? I wish we could vote, because I'd like to see it stay open. It's really very nice. It's quiet and relaxing, probably because everyone is over at AK. Strangely enough, it does not seem as hot as AK, and is certainly not as difficult to get around. It's a really pleasant change of pace from the parks. If they do close it, where will the birds and tortoises go?
We took the boat back to the Wilderness Lodge, and then drove back to the PO. We took a very quick rest in the room, then NicK and I were off (by bus) to the Magic Kingdom.
At the Magic Kingdom, we did the Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
We were disturbed by screamers on HM. I don't mean screaming as in "I'm actually scared," but screaming as in, "Aren't I funny?" No, you aren't. In this case, it was older kids riding with their parents, who, evidently, just let them do it. Doesn't anyone care about how they are effecting the experience of others?
OK, no more whining today.
The steam trains, which were shut down earlier in the week, are running again! It looks like there may be a new coat of paint.
Then it was already time to go to Epcot, and try to meet Debbie at Cafe Askerhaus for our dinner reservations.
We had a wonderful monorail trip to Epcot through the TT&C. I always enjoy riding the monorail, even when it's busy and there are brief delays, or on the occasion when it is so crowded that you have to stand. I still feel safer and more comfortable than I do on a bus. If I wish upon a star, do you think there's any chance they'll connect all the parks by monorail ;
On the ride in the monorail on the way to Epcot, I had a nice chat with a woman from Ohio. I noticed on this trip that a lot of people at WDW are ready to strike up a conversation. Maybe the place just makes you feel friendly.
As soon as Nick and I arrived at Epcot, we headed over to the Cafe Askerhaus.
We met Debbie at the Cafe Askerhaus. This was a great meal, one of our trip's best. It is, of course, an all you can eat smogasboard. This included peel & eat shrimp, a very good (fish?) soup, roast beef, meatballs, macaroni and (a very sharp cheese) and ham. The desert was extra, but it was wonderful. We selected berries and custard in a sort of puff pastry. We seemed to choose a lot of fruit deserts, because the fruit is very fresh and sweet.
After dinner, we immediately headed back to the Magic Kingdom by monorail. We basically did Fantasyland. We did Snow White (which was fun, and a little spookier than we remembered), Pooh again, and It's a Small World. As we were waiting in the always fast line for Small World, I mentioned to Debbie my observation that each room on the ride is a different region of the world. It seems that she hadn't noticed this before either, so I didn't feel so bad about taking several hundred trips on Small World before I noticed.
I think that the Pooh ride is very good. It's rather cute, and not all that 2D, as some people have implied. We rode Peter Pan again (love it), and the teacups.
On the way over to Pooh, we got caught in the rain, and took out our panchos. We hadn't had them out for a couple of days (it rained every day, of course, but we had managed to avoid being caught outside). The smell from the panchos was quite interesting. Clearly, we should have aired them out each night. Obvious, but something you might forget, like we did. I'd advise that you try to remember.
Nick and I went over to Toontown fair, just to ride the Barnstormer. It was a walk on. This is a fun, short little ride, and late at night there is no line.
Nick and I rode Dumbo together, which is still a lot of fun, although he flies like a nut. Sigh. How many more times will I be able to ride this together with him? It's a snug fit, and getting tighter, plus he'll soon reach the point where he doesn't want to ride together on it. I'll miss it.
Dumbo was our last ride of the night. On our way out, Cinderella's Castle was lit up and talking. This little farewell from the Castle at the closing of the Magic Kingdom is a nice, understated way to end a wonderful day. It almost makes you want to cry.
Day 11 6/26/99
This was one of our unplanned days, but the evening was our big date night. Debbie and I had dinner reservations at Artist's Point, and Nick had reservations at the Neverland Club.
Since we knew we were heading out for the evening, and had no set plans for the day, we let ourselves sleep in very late. Then, we drove to the Contemporary for breakfast at Chef Mickey's. The meal was great, the characters were great. We ended up with a lot of autographs, and a lot of pictures. Plus, there was a lot of singing. It was a very positive experience, but there was a small problem. We didn't have priority seating, and I regretted it. Maybe because it was late in the morning, and maybe because this is just such a popular place, we ended up with a very long wait. Our own fault, of course. But, if you are keeping track of restaurants where you need PS and those where you don't, it would be good to keep Chef Mickey's in the PS column.
Still, it was probably worth the time we spent there. We had a lot of fun. Between the late start and the wait for a table, we were still eating breakfast after noon (they were starting to clear some things away).
At this point, Debbie decided she wanted to just take it easy for the few hours we had before Nick's 6:30 drop off at the Neverland Club. But, Nick and I didn't want the day to go to waste. So, we dropped the car off in the PO parking lot. Debbie headed to the room (and the pool, eventually I believe). Nick and I headed for the bus to Epcot.
Oh, and there was that little matter of the lost fanny pack. It was discovered this morning, and Nick got put on the spot. At some point, his fanny pack had become missing. The real problem was that we were letting him use one of our old cameras, and it had film in it recording most of his trip. It's always interesting to get his perspective on film. Usually, we buy him a single use camera, so that he only stands to loose the photos themselves. But, he was allegedly more responsible now.
More on this in a moment--for the time being, he was in trouble.
Anyway, once at Epcot, we did Spaceship Earth as a walk on. It's a funny ride, in terms of the line. Some times the line is a block long, other times in the same day, you walk on. I guess the best advice is to avoid doing it first thing in the morning, and a little rain really helps the line.
We had a mad flasher in Spaceship Earth. Now, I know I started an argument already, and I should probably not mention it. But, this girl was really something. She was in the car behind us, and it was POP! POP! POP! throughout the ride. The coup de gras was when you are rotating backwards as you leave the top of the dome, and she fired straight in our face. Now, isn't everything in this part of the ride a projection on the ceiling? You'll never convince me that was a picture of anything but a blank wall, and several unhappy fellow riders.
Anyway, we had plenty of good Spaceship Earth rides during our stay, so we lived. This is one of those rides, as you can tell, that I'll do over and over.
I let Nick play around at Sega's area in Innoventions, while I walked around at IBM's a little bit. Again, these were the only two Innoventions exhibits open, so we thought we'd might as well do them. I did try IBM's "World Rider", which is supposed to show the future of the Internet. I didn't find anything futuristic about it. Maybe I'm just on the net too much.
But, Big Blue scored some points as I was walking down the ramp from the exhibit. They had a little glass door through which you could see the servers that run all of the audio and video in their World Rider display, and serve as network gateways for all of the PCs they have around their exhibit, including the post card machines, etc. Four little boxes, each about the size of a PC. I've been around server technology, but I still was impressed.
I drug Nick out of Sega and made him send one more e-mail postcard with me. This was a lot of fun. The one saving feature of Innoventions on this trip.
I had never before stopped to admire the little "walk of fame" for science and technology between Innoventions and the Land. There are a number of tiles in the sidewalk, arranged in sort of a circle. Each is inscribed with an important technical innovation or scientific discovery. The name of the innovator, the date, and the country are all listed (some are speculative). There are such things as fire, the wheel, electric generators, radio, television, and the World Wide Web. It was fascinating to me. Yes, I am a geek. I actually had Nick interested in it for a while, but he soon got bored. So, after indulging me a bit more, we walked over to Honey, I Shrunk The Audience.
HISTA was a walk on. Cool. It may have been a combination of the weather (I don't have to mention that it was raining, do I?), and the time of day (pretty late in the afternoon by now). Although I've seen it crowded when it was raining before, so the hour may have been the bigger factor.
But, it's always cool when one of the attractions that you really like is a walk on. And, I just love this little 3D miracle. It's probably the best 3D show around (although the IMAX 3D at Kennedy was more visually impressive).
So, the fanny pack story. I apologize if I digress, but if your curious about what happens to lost items, here it is.
We were reasonably certain that the fanny pack had gotten left at Le Celier, a couple of days back, when we had our dinner there. When we arrived at Epcot in the early afternoon of this day, we stopped at the front of Epcot, just inside the gate. There is a lost and found here. The very helpful British gentleman who was working there told us that when an item is discovered in the park, it usually ends up staying where it was found (Le Celier in this case) until close of business, then goes to the central lost and found at that park (Epcot). But, it is only kept there for 24 hours, then it goes to the central WDW lost and found.
OK, got it? At the restaurant till close of business, at Epcot Lost and Found for 24 hours after that, then to central lost and found.
Central lost and found is in the same building as the kennels. This is at the TT&C. So, we decided to wait until we were leaving Epcot, since we would be going to the Magic Kingdom anyway, and stop at the TT&C on our way.
So, after Epcot, we took the monorail (pleasant ride) to the TT&C. The kennel is actually a bit of a walk from where the monorail stops. It turns out that the kennels are a long, hot walk away from where the monorail stop at TT&C. The fellow who helped us out at the central lost and found deserves a badge for commitment and resourcefulness. With a pretty poor description, he found the missing fanny pack, which was complete with camera and film!
So, it was back on the monorail, to the Magic Kingdom. Our little detour had cost us quite a bit of time, so we just had time to ride the train and Big Thunder, and to let Nick get wet at Donald's boat. We went to Mickey's Toontown fair for Goofy's Barnstormer, but the line was way too long (night time is the right time to do this ride).
We had a splendid conductor on the train from Mainstreet to Frontierland. Nick was able to stand in the little cage in the back of the train, and the conductor let another little girl who was standing with him (a bit older than Nick) yell "Boaaard"!
We also caught a snippet of the flag ceremony when we were waiting for the train to pull out of Main Street station. What I could see of it was very moving. It's quite a production, with the band playing, and the ceremonial folding, etc.
But, on the way back from Toontown to Main Street, the train was actually full! Rather than waiting for another train (we were going to be late meeting Debbie), we walked back from ToonTown to the monorail. I think we actually beat the train, but I would have rather have ridden.
So, we took the monorail to the Poly, then headed over to the Neverland Club. Debbie was already there, and had done the paperwork for Nick's stay.
This place is cool. Flying in through the window is a cute idea, and Nick insisted on exiting the same way when we picked him up. He played Sega Saturn, ate pizza, and had a marvelous time, by all accounts. When we picked him up, he talked incessantly about what he had done. It was $24 for slightly less than 3 hours, which I considered money well spent. I recommend this place without hesitation. Nick loved it, and Debbie and I needed the time to enjoy each other's company.
The Poly is still lovely. We are thinking we might like to stay there on a future trip. It would be even better if all of the parks were on the monorail, but we go to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom more than the others. The monorail is so nice, and the grounds here are just gorgeous. It's more expensive, of course, but we are trying to convince ourselves that it's worth it.
>From the Poly, Debbie and I took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, then the boat to the Wilderness Lodge. This was extremely pleasant. We were a little late for our reservations, but it seemed like there was no harm done. I remember the bill, because it was almost exactly $100 before tip (no type of discount was available). But, it was worth every penny. The service was remarkable, the food was of extraordinary quality, and very well prepared. We both had a buffalo steak, and a fabulous desert. Considering this was one of the few meals where we had drinks, and considering the quality of the meal, it was very worth it. We sat near a window overlooking a dense garden, and it poured through dinner.
After dinner, we sat in the magnificent Wilderness Lodge lobby, and rocked for a while in front of the massive fireplace. If the weather had been better, we would have a romantic stroll, but that just wasn't going to happen. When we finally gave up and headed back to pick up Nick, it was still drizzling steadily.
We took the boat to the Contemporary, then the monorail back to the Poly. Even in the drizzle, this was a very nice way to travel. From the monorail, we saw just enough of the water pageant to know that we missed it, and that it was good. We could have planned that better, but it was a near perfect night, when all was said and done.
We picked up Nick, took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, then the bus to PO. On the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, we saw some of the MK fireworks. It was kind of neat watching them through the window of the monorail.
Do I have to mention that the bus was odious after riding on boats and monorails all evening? Oh well, all in all, this day was a ten plus, so I won't dwell on the bus. Had a great time at Chef Mickey's, a brief but pleasant visit to Epcot, found Nick's fanny pack, and we all three had a terrific evening, with a break from each other.
Day 12 6/27/99
This was one of our Animal Kingdom days. We got up fairly early, and decided to take the bus. This was a big mistake. From the time that we arrived at the bus stop at PO until the time that we arrived at the Animal Kingdom was 50 minutes. Obviously, we should have driven.
OK, I'll try not to complain about the same things over and over again.
Right after we arrived, we headed over to Kilimanjaro Safaris, with the idea in mind to get the safari in before the day got too hot. We had a good safari, although not as good as the first time. It probably was not cool enough, and was a little later in the day. Still, it was really fun. Nick made friends with woman in line asking about his Tower of Terror T-shirt. Nick proudly said that he had ridden the ToT earlier this week, but didn't mention that we couldn't get him to do it again.
Before we left Africa, Nick got his face painted as a dinosaur (dragon?). This was pretty expensive, but worth it based on the attention that he got, and the fun that he had. He got reactions from other guests and from characters the rest of the day. The only bad thing was that he got pretty upset when he got wet and started to lose it. But, he got over it. The artwork was very good, we got some neat pictures, and he had a lot of fun.
After Africa, we walked around in Camp Minnie-Mickey. We had the chance to get plenty of character autographs, and to see the Festival of The Lion King.
The Festival of the Lion King was a great show! It was a very good stage production, incorporating "native" costumes, acrobats, fire juggling, and music. There were also four large floats featuring major characters from the film. I guess you can tell that I like The Lion King, but this seriously was a very good show.
In Camp Minnie-Mickey, we managed to get autographs and pictures from Pooh, Tigger, Eyore, Baloo, Rafiki, and King Louie. Baloo was really a comedian, and King Louie, who was standing with him, made a good straight man. At one point, Baloo took some of Nick's face paint and rubbed it on King Louie. Nice green smudge on the orangutan's orange face. King Louie acted like he didn't know what had happened, whether or not he did. It was hilarious. We've had some real clowns a couple of times when we met Disney characters (once Pluto in the Disneyland Hotel did a very funny begging for food bit). I know this is a lot of extra work for them, but it just enriches the whole experience when you have someone whose humor shines through. Kudos to you, Baloo, wherever you are.
All of the characters, of course were at the meet and greet areas in Camp Minnie-Mickey. These areas were hot, but at least they were shady.
I do miss the spontaneity of the characters wondering around. But, to be honest, the meet and greet is better overall. You can decide whether you want to spend time to meet the characters, and they don't get in way of people moving around. It's better for people not interested in characters, and it's better for people wanting to meet the characters. It may have been spontaneous before, but a character would appear, draw a mob around them, and then wander off. A lot of the times, you'd end up disappointed, with no pictures, and no chance for you or your child to interact with the character. I have to consider the new way to be a big improvement.
We took the train ride up to Conservation station. Overall, Conservation Station is a well done attraction, with a certain educational value. But, it certainly is--well, preachy. You have the impression that they are sincere, and I really didn't mind it much. But, you should be ready for it.
Grandma Willow's sound booth certainly fell into the category of lecturing you. Otherwise, it was a fairly well done sound show reminiscent a bit of the Drew Carey show over in MGM (albeit more relaxing).
The web cams of the animal cages were OK, but felt like they needed work on the technology integration. You couldn't say that about the multimedia tech in the Rafiki exhibit (forgot the exact name). The technology here was extremely well done. The animal diet and hospital stuff was interesting. And Nick had the chance to touch a snake during one of the presentations.
"It's Tough To Be A Bug" was a good show once again. We sat fairly close to the front this time, and I'd advise against that. The show was still good, but the middle to the back of the theater seems to have a better perspective. On the other hand, this time I felt both the hornet and the beetles. Still didn't smell that stink bug. Maybe that's a good thing.
We never did see Asia. Instead, we opted for a second trip over to DinoLand, and another ride on CTX. The heat and the walking just wore us down.
Dinoland is both the coolest (CTX, Dino Jubilee) and hottest (Boneyard) part of the Animal Kingdom (temperature wise).
CTX was wonderful once again. Nick seems to understand the meteor theory of dinosaur extinction, and why the KT boundary layer supports that theory. I'm impressed. Not bad for seven years old. CTX is a cool break on a hot day in AK, because most of the que is in an air conditioned building.
We didn't eat very much in the Animal Kingdom. I can't really say whether the restaurants are any good, but they just didn't catch our attention. We mostly snacked--there were lots of stands where you could grab a quick bite. Of course, for a real meal you can't go wrong with the Rainforest Cafe, although it is not uniquely Disney.
The Animal Kingdom is big and hot. And you walk a whole lot. I guess that the lack of transportation at the Animal Kingdom itself really struck me. It seems like it is the most difficult park to get around. At the Magic Kingdom, you have the train, and the skyride, and you used to have vehicles running up and down Main Street. Even at Epcot, you have boats crossing the lagoon. It's not that I mind walking, but it's nice every once in a while to take a break. It's also fun to take a ride that actually takes you somewhere. I'm surprised that they didn't extend the train rain to Conservation Station to take you to other areas of the park. I think Walt would have liked it better that way.
But, at least we didn't have a downpour (until we got back to the room).
We had planned a swim after the Animal Kingdom, but there was a huge thunderstorm. So, we laid in the room for a while, then went to eat at Bonfamiles dining room in the PO.
We had a very good dinner at PO. I had the Shrimp which was served in a fair portion, and had an excellent flavor. Debbie and I both had some more of their wonderful gumbo. The three of us split a great banana split type desert. Our table was in front of a window looking out onto a little courtyard, and it rained all through dinner. I have to confess that it made me a bit sad. I guess the weather was starting to wear down my earlier enthusiasm. We went to bed very early.
Yet, you think back on it, and it was, all in all, a wonderful day.
Day 13 6/28/99
We had a very early start this morning. We got up at 6. Seriously. We wanted to take advantage of Early Entry at the Magic Kingdom.
EE at the Magic Kingdom is worthwhile. The Space Mountain line was very short (less than 15 minutes).
Space Mountain is a lot of fun. Flying stars enhance experience.
We also had a very short wait for the speedway. Nick rode the speedway with Debbie, and I rode by myself. From riding behind them, I thought Nick did well, Debbie said she had to scold him a bit. He likes to go a little crazy when driving these things.
The Pooh line was already very long, so we skipped it. Instead, we rode Peter Pan again. This is such a neat ride. I guess the one word to best describe it is charming.
We thought we'd try Splash Mountain during the EE, but we couldn't get to it. We actually tried to go through the passage from Fantasyland to Liberty Square, and the rope was up. Perhaps if we had gone back through the hub to Frontierland, we could have made it, or perhaps Splash Mountain wasn't on EE (I had thought that it was).
Anyway, it was close to regular opening, so we waited for the rope to drop at Liberty Square, and ran to Splash Mountain. The line was already huge. So, we did Pirates instead, which was a walk on.
Pirates is still fun. The ride is loaded with great details. I guess this is the first time that I noticed that the tied up guard at the end in the treasure room struggles against his bonds. How many times have I ridden this, and there is still a chance to notice something new?
The folks in the row ahead of us in the boat talked throughout the ride. I don't mean "Hey look, this is cool", but, instead, "So, did you talk to Brenda last night? What did she say about blah, blah..." Now, of course, this was a little annoying, but it was puzzling as well. Why even bother with the ride? You could sit at a table, have a nice cold drink, and carry on a conversation. Seems like a waste of your time. Strange.
I have to say that I miss the old girl chasers on Pirates. Of course, this topic has been beaten to death, but I couldn't help thinking about them. I know it's horribly non-PC, but the whole ride is about shooting and looting and burning, etc. The idea is that, in the end, the Pirates are trapped in their own wickedness, as the town comes down around their ears.
Well, overall this is still a very enjoyable ride.
We never did get on Splash Mountain. The line was just relentless this day. We did take another turn on Big Thunder, though.
Well, since we were in the Magic Kingdom, we had to take another trip on the Haunted Mansion, of course. It was a very nice ride, just about perfect. As you can tell, I'm a big HM fan. I have some interest in the supernatural, and love the art of illusion that they employed here. I've heard people say that it is not very scary, but it was never really meant to be. It is fanciful, imaginative, whimsical, and brilliantly executed. It remains a classic, and one of my very favorite things to do in all of WDW.
We stopped by the podium at Cinderella's castle to try for lunch a couple of hours before lunch time, but couldn't get a seating through the afternoon. They were really busy. Instead, we had them get us a seating at the Liberty Tree in about an hour. Nick and I walked over to Mickey's Toontown Fair and rode Goofy's Barnstormer, then came back to get Debbie. During this time, Debbie sat behind Cinderella's castle, and was lucky enough to see Merlin's little performance by the Sword in the Stone.
Lunch at the Liberty Tree was OK. If it hadn't been for our wonderful dinner here earlier in the week, I wouldn't have been disappointed. The luncheon fair does not include the all-you-can eat family style meal that is available at dinner, and there are no characters. I had a meatloaf sandwich, which wasn't bad, and Debbie had the sea bass. I guess the lesson is, if you are going to eat at the Liberty Tree, plan on dinner, not lunch. Dinner is much better, not a lot more expensive, and has characters. It's not even close in terms of value for your dollar. This seems to happen a lot. Lunch might be a little cheaper, but is often not as good. Breakfasts and dinners are really better at most of the restaurants (in our limited experience).
We saw the Hall of Presidents. Nick had never been in here, and Debbie and I hadn't been since 1988. It was much better than we remembered. Lincoln and Clinton have the speaking parts. A lot of the time is actually spent on the film, which could be shorter. It's really too bad that more of the presidents don't speak. It would be more fun, especially considering the intricate detail in the animatronics here. Some of the presidents move or blink their eyes, Washington nods in recognition when his name is mentioned, etc. It really is a masterful display. The American flag in the sky behind the capital at the end of the presentation is artistically done.
We headed back to the room, and thought we'd have another try at a swim. Remarkably, it didn't rain! We spent a relaxing couple of hours in the pool. The pool at PO is a lot of fun for kids, both because of the dragon slide, and because of other little touches. Nick loved this.
We had a nice little dinner at the food court (PO pizza. It's worth a repeat). I really like the PO food court. The pizza, and soup are both very good. It is seldom busy. Even when it is busy, there is very little waiting. From what I remember of the food court at the Caribbean Beach from a couple of years ago, I thought this one was done much better.
Really, except for our frustration with the bus, the PO was a wonderful resort.
After dinner, Debbie wanted to stay in, and we convinced Nick that he should, because he was starting to show signs of wear. But, I headed back to Epcot. This was the only time I was completely on my own this trip.
I rode Body Wars again. This really is a cool ride. Naturally, it is very reminiscent of Star Tours, although it is serious and informative. Even though this was in the late afternoon, the line was bigger than last time. Still it does not seem real popular.
I rode Spaceship Earth once again. Besides being very immersive and a lot of fun, this ride makes a lot of sense to me. The sweeping changes that have come to communication over and over again through the centuries, and their impact on civilization makes quite a story. Communications has had such an impact on how we live, and the changes in this century have come at a staggering pace. And, of course, they are right about how massive the changes will be as a result of the networked world. It does make you feel like part of a global community, and causes me to pause and wonder how I fit in.
I took the boat to Germany, then walked around Germany and Italy and ate a pretzel. It was a little pricey, but very good. The miniature train in Germany was really something to see, and I made a mental note to make sure to point it out to Nick.
When I got off of Spaceship Earth, I hung around for a little while in the Global Neighborhood. I tried out "You Don't Say", which was an amusing little presentation about the difficulty of translating idioms between languages. I also tried Alice Tellervision. This involved some nice voice recognition, and was well presented.
I watched Illuminations from near the boat dock in Germany. From this vantage, it appeared that one of the water screens was not functioning. In any event there were no projections visible from where I stood. Even though this was disappointing, what remained was still a great show. On our last (shorter) trip, I managed to catch Illuminations several times, but only saw it twice in our two weeks on this trip. A pity, this really is a spectacular show.
After Illuminations, I walked very slowly from Germany the long way around the World Showcase to Future World. I just wanted to take in the lights and music, and enjoy the beauty of World Showcase all lit up. This has been recommended on this newsgroup before, and it is a very nice end to your day.
I took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, than the bus back to PO. It may seem like this was the long way around, but I figured it would be better than taking the bus from Epcot. Since Epcot was closing, the bus would have been packed (and probably extra late). Even when the monorail is standing room only, it's still fun to ride. I still had to take the bus back from the Magic Kingdom, but it was nowhere near closing for the MK, so the bus wasn't very crowded.
While standing on the monorail platform, I had the funny feeling that I just gotten her. But it was the end of day 13.
Day 14 6/29/99
We ended up spending this day at Epcot, and spending some time at Downtown Disney in the early evening.
We got up very early, and drove to Epcot. This was a very smart move. We were trying to make Early Entry at Epcot. We got a great parking place. Of course, it's free if you are a resorts guest. We beat the bus from PO by a long shot, especially since the PO bus at this time of day does every Dixie Landings stop. Obviously, we should have done this before. If you want to make EE from PO, you really should drive.
Anyway, it seems as though we really beat the crowds into the park. The brochure said that EE was at 8:00, but they were open when we arrived at 7:35. I believe we really did make it before most of the early buses started rolling in.
We headed straight to Test Track, and walked into the building. This was the first time all week that the posted wait wasn't well over an hour (generally 2). We actually waited 30 minutes in the building. But, this is the point at which the que is very interesting.
Test Track is very fun. The que includes a lot of cool testing equipment and scenarios. The actual ride is fun and exciting. At the end of the ride, you are going 60 MPH in a convertible on banked track. Before this, you are exposed to temperature extremes, maneuvering tests, a very bumpy road, and a near crash. The antilock brakes demonstration is memorable. It is a lot of fun. A definite high-energy Disney ride.
But will TT hold up like Splash Mountain, or wilt like Star Tours? Don't get me wrong, I love Star Tours, but people just aren't standing in line for it these days, like they do for Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, or even Spaceship Earth (well, at some times of the day). Is TT going to hold up in the same way as one of the classics? I just don't think so. It's not something I'd ride again and again (though a couple of more times would have been nice). I really don't expect there to be this huge line a couple of years from now.
Normally, a store every time you turn around is annoying. But, there is some nice merchandising at the end of the Test Track ride, and it seems appropriate. At least the merchandise is focused on the experience you just had, and isn't a copy of the same thing you can get everywhere else on property. Besides, the car aficionado stuff and the new car models are the kinds of things that a real car nut would like. There is also some Disney-themed car stuff, which fits in properly.
So, the big hint if you want to do TT, is to go on EE, right at rope drop. Even though I enjoyed it, and wouldn't have wanted to miss it, I just don't think it's worth two hours of Epcot time to stand in that line. Also, being there early gives you a fair chance of avoiding the rain, which seems to like the early afternoon.
Well, we had some sweet junk at that pasta place next to the Fountain of Nations. Later, we had burgers at the Electric Umbrella. I liked eating upstairs at the Electric Umbrella, but still found myself wishing that Innoventions next door wasn't closed.
We watched the Fountain of Nations water ballet a couple of times through the morning. I found myself wondering how they do the firework effect. This fountain is just a neat thing to experience.
We headed over to the Living Seas. We had what seemed like great photo opportunities, with rays and sharks and dolphins heading right towards us. Unfortunately, we did not have the digital camera with us at this point (the memory cards had been filled). The photos we took with the film camera did not come out when we had them developed. It was really disappointing. We saw some marvelous things that day.
Nick particularly liked the sharks and the rays. Debbie finally got to see the manatees, which we had always missed on previous visits. Although I would have liked some photos, we brought home some nice memories.
We got to see one of the researchers discussing a very interesting test they were performing on dolphin perception. They were having a dolphin look at an object behind the glass to the tank, which they could see but not echo locate, since it was on the other side of the glass. Then, the dolphin was allowed to echo locate three objects in the water, covered with thin cloth shrouds, so that they could be echo located, but not seen. It was an attempt to determine if the dolphins can associate an object that they see with one that they echo locate. They were remarkably accurate.
The little Atlas film in the Living Seas was really pretty amusing, better than I remembered. Overall, we had a good time in this neat pavilion.
After this, we drug Nick to the American Adventure again. He liked the Voices of Liberty preshow, but still did not care for the main show. We were hoping he had just been overly tired the other day. Oh, well, I loved both the preshow and the main show.
The Voices of Liberty had a different leader than the other day, and a slightly different repertoire. I'm certain that they change things up a little each day. Although I felt the show the other day was better, this was still excellent. The closed with the National Anthem, which had everyone standing, and then breaking into spontaneous applause.
The two things that I really came away from feeling inspired at WDW (not counting Kennedy, which is a different matter entirely) were the AA show and Spaceship Earth.
Nick really liked the model train in Germany. Debbie did as well.
We saw the Kristos perform near the fountain, and Nick decided he wanted them in his autograph book. It is an amazing and impressive little show.
We saw the home theater presentation in Innoventions. This must have opened while we were there, as it was still under construction on our previous Epcot day. It's interesting, but doesn't seem like it's leaps and bounds over what a lot of us have in our homes right now. The most impressive difference was the effect that they got out of their base boost. Something I'll have to think about. Also, the programmable remote with the LCD screen is something I'd like to get my hands on. The presentation took a while, but I was glad to have something to do at Innoventions!
We did Ellen's Energy Adventure one last time. We had the best seat in the house--first row, right hand corner. I know that all of the seats are good, but being in the right hand car close to the front and close to the right side puts you closer to the action. Nick had the very corner seat. And, it was a perfect show. No mechanical difficulties, everyone around us was very polite and considerate. It was just a wonderful farewell until we ride you again.
But, our last ride before leaving Epcot was one more time on Spaceship Earth. This was also a wonderful ride. I had wanted to stop in the Global Village to show Nick and Debbie Tellervision and "You Don't Say". But, we were in the process of rushing to dinner, and wouldn't even have ridden if we didn't hit an extremely short line.
We drove straight over to Downtown Disney, to arrive pretty much on time for our dinner reservations at Fulton's. This meal was very good, but expensive. The atmosphere was OK, the service was impeccable. And we did have substantial portions of crab. Still, it cost almost exactly the same as our dinner at Artist's Point (Nick wasn't with us at AP, but we didn't drink or have desert at Fulton's, so that part was a wash). For the money, Artist's Point was just a better meal.
After dinner, we walked over to the Lego Imagination Center, which is basically next door to Fulton's. This was an amazing place. The master model builders have constructed a troop of 3 foot tall men and women out of legos, and they are standing around in the courtyard. Along with a 5 foot tall videographer. And 15 foot tall dinosaurs, dressed as tourists. And a 50 foot sea serpent, out in the lake. All mad out of Legos. Some of the ducks in the lake were also made out of legos, and were communing with the real ducks. Then, there was this very clever alien spacecraft on the sidewalk (about 4 feet tall).
So, why didn't we have any of the three cameras with us?
Nick spent quite a bit of time at the little Lego race track, where you build a small vehicle (about Hot Wheels scale), and race it downhill against other kid's creations. Debbie sat on a bench and watched, while I walked around for a while in the Lego store.
They have sure changed since I was a kid. Not only can you make a lot better looking things now, but there are kits that allow you to add lights and sounds, and firing projectiles.
The most fascinating thing, though, was the programmable robotic kits. Unfortunately, the did require a PC to run the software. But, since Nick is really a bit to young to be ready for this, maybe they'll expand their platform choices by then. Nonetheless, it was a fascinating concept, and a very interesting little visual language they supported.
Nick and Debbie came and found me in the store. Nick wanted to look around a little bit, and beg for things we weren't going to buy him. But, he's been playing with his Legos a lot more since we got back, and he's just about got us convinced that his sets need some expansion.
It rained a bit. But, we had pretty darned good weather overall today.
We headed back to PO for a great desert. I really wanted to go back out for one last night at the parks, but exhaustion finally beat me. It was actually pretty late, and we had been up very early, with no real break. So, we said good night. At least our plane the next day left really late in the afternoon, so we'd have a farewell visit to one of the parks.
Day 15 6/30/99
Even thought we went to bed early, we got up fairly late. We didn't have our expectations set to high for the day--just get in a little more park time before we had to catch our flight.
So, we checked out of the hotel and had the bags checked and stored by the bellman. We had a car, but I didn't want to cook the luggage for the entire day in the Florida sun.
Then we hopped on the bus to MGM.
We had lunch at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. We were lucky, in that we did not have PS, but were seated right away (we arrived before the opened, and waited in Dad's living Room for them to start calling parties). This was our first time here, and it was outrageous. Debbie actually said "This may be our new favorite place." At one point, she was laughing so hard that she cried . Our waiter was just hilarious. I'm not sure how many times we got scolded for having our elbows on the table. At one point, Nick tattled on Debbie for laughing at the waiter. The waiter's response was "You think this is funny?" You want to stand up here and do this?" She was laughing so hard that she could only shake her head. He was a great waiter, it was great experience, and a great meal. The nacho appetizer was just OK, but the chocolate shake and fried chicken were VERY good. The food was well prepared, and in a substantial portion. We were lucky to have a perfect last meal at WDW.
The crowds at MGM were huge. It turns out that today was Early Entry at MGM, but I don't know if that was the source of the crowds. These were the largest crowds we had seen at a park all trip. Where we had been walking on to a lot of MGM attractions. Earlier in the trip, there were lines everywhere. We actually passed on Star Tours, Muppets and Doug, just due to the crowds. We wound up on the Great Movie Ride. Even here there was a long line, but not as bad. This time, we were in the back tram. This confirmed our theory that the switch for the front car happens at the cowboys, and the back still happens at the gangsters. Debbie had figured out that this has to do with the two cars departing together, they couldn't stop in the same scene. Our gangster, by the way, played it to the hilt. We were in the very first row, and noticed him making comments of mike to the guests next to him--but always in character. He had a very Chicago/1930's attitude. He helped to make this a great last experience on GMR.
GMR was Debbie's last ride of the trip. Nick and I went down to Star Tours again, while she sat on the bench on Hollywood Boulevard.
The line for Star Tours had subsided considerably. It was just long enough to enjoy the que. I almost miss the days when Star Tours was crowded all the time, and you could take in the sites and sounds that they have designed into this que.
Debbie saw street performers again while sitting on the bench. Gretta Garbage gossiped with her. From Debbie's telling, it sounded like quite an experience.
Between the GMR and Star Tours, we all three did Sounds Dangerous again. I really do like this show. Drew Carey has excellent comic timing, whether or not you can see him.
On the way out, we stopped at the shop on Hollywood Boulevard that merges you into pictures. Nick got himself added to a Star Wars poster. It came out very good, actually.
Well, we left MGM at 3. We picked up the bus to the PO, then went to the bell stop at the PO to pick up our luggage. Popped in the car and drove out to the airport. Dollar has a very nice, low hassle drop off, across the street from the terminal building. I can't say anything bad about Dollar--they handled everything very nicely this trip. We had no trouble with check in either.
We had an uneventful flight back. Nick was asleep, and I was working on my trip notes. Unfortunately, between our easy check in and our uneventful flight, we waited in the airport for an eternity.
Our flight was 78 minutes late, due to rain, of course. The incoming connection was having a hard time landing because of the whether. It was as if the rain came out one more time to say good-bye to us. Even Nick noticed that we did not have 1 day in 2 weeks without rain.
I guess that you should be prepared if you come to Florida in June. But, one completely dry day would have been nice. Still, we did catch some nice weather between the showers, and were actually lucky a couple of times when the weather cooperated for something important. It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse.
Looking back on the weather puts me in the mood to look at the whole trip in retrospect, since this is the last day of the report.
What was the best meal? Well, lots of choices, the Liberty Tree, Hoop De Doo, Artist's Point, 50's Prime Time.... But, for me, the winner would be the Rose and Crown. The worst would probably end up being Alfredo's or the Brown Derby. Not really that they were bad, just disappointing.
What were the best shows, rides or attractions? Well, of course, there were a lot of great things--the Haunted Mansion, The Main Street Electrical Parade, Fantasmic, the American Adventure, Pooh, Universe of Energy, the Great Movie Ride...But I would have to pick Spaceship Earth for this trip. I like everything about this ride, including the feeling of inspiration it imparts.
We never did Universal nor Orlando's Titanic exhibit. These were both considered in our original plans, but gave way to a combination of exhaustion, and just having too much to do at Disney. We never did Alien Encounter (on this trip). We did finally do Test Track, however, and it was worth seeing. We only did Tower of Terror once. We thought about doing The Lord Of The Dance, but the crowds and the timing didn't let it happen. I guess it wasn't important enough to us.
Any regrets? The big one is that, having a car anyway, we didn't drive more. I don't like to drive when I'm trying to relax, so the temptation to let someone else take care of it is very strong. But, PO just doesn't have great bus service. I also wish, as I mentioned earlier, that we could have somehow split our two weeks into two separate trips. You have diminishing marginal returns with such a long trip.
I also ended up with too few digital pictures. I guess it wasn't really too few pictures (OK, it was 183 digital pictures), I just felt that I missed some opportunities late in the trip. The camera has a limited amount of memory, and I could have managed it better by using different resolutions. I also regret that I had no way to work on a real trip report while I was there--I was only able to take handwritten notes. I wish I had a laptop. Yes, we've already established that I'm a geek.
And, of course, I wish I could have ridden one more time on the Haunted Mansion
Well, that's it for this trip report. I'm considering posting all or part of it on my web space (text doesn't take much space, after all). I may also include some of those digital pictures.