Suzan Bird-Conliff -- January 2000 -- All Star Music
Suzie- certified Disney nut , age: old but young at Disney
Steve- long suffering husband who could take or leave WDW
Byron- oldest son, teenager
Nicky- just entering teenaged years
Lenni- age six, still awed by Mickey magic
Michael- friend and Disney fan, novice, New York sophisticate
Mimi- friend, not fan of Disney, New York Sophisticate
Dates: Jan 15-22 2000
Lodgings: All Star Music, Calyso building
Transportation: family van/friends by plane
Here we go again! We really could not afford another trip to Disney this year but it's the old familiar story, we had these annual passes that were going to run out in March and then we got the flyer about the great rates for the All Star Resorts for January/February and we couldn't resist. We drove to save money (even cheap plane fares aren't cheap when you have to them for 5 people ).We also only got one room which is a crush (and yes, I know, you aren't supposed to have 5 in one of the budget rooms but....) and Lenni slept on an inflatable air mattress, being still young enough to like that. Hey, this was supposed to be a "Cheap" trip, right?
After we had booked our rooms back in October, we discovered that our good friends were also going to be in Florida as the same time for a wedding and bar mitzvah. They decided to come over for a few days in the middle of the week and so I called and booked them a room at the same resort (but not at the same rate). This meant for three nights we would have an extra bed too, in their room. I thought it would be funny to see them react to the All Star Resorts as they are more the Grand Floridian types. They are from New York City publishing and usually go first class. They are also novices at WDW having only been there a couple of times, a long time ago and briefly at that.
We had to get absences approved for Lenni and Nicky as they would be missing three days of school. (It turned out to be only two, much to Nicky's dismay, as one of the days was a snow day at home). Monday was Martin Luther King day and Friday an teachers "in-service" day. I called our regular pet sitter and arranged for her to come by each day to care for our young female Dalmation, Spot, our aged Manchester terrier, Blackie, and the long suffering cat, Scotty.
I will spare you the trip down details as it was mostly a long drive (16 hours actual driving from Columbus, Ohio) made more bearable by the TV/VCR that was in the rear for the kids. Spaceballs, Ghostbusters, Flubber, and the occasional Pooh tape for the young one, passed the time. We left right after school on Friday and drove to just before the Tennessee line where we stopped for the night. We arrived late on Saturday, but we stayed on property anyway because I wanted us to get an early start on Sunday and not have to check-in again during the day. Of course the kids and I were excited from the moment that we got off of I-4 onto route 27. Not much further now! Then we turned on to 192 and Lenni was jumping out of his seat. I got that great feeling that you get when you first drive onto the property and all the commercialism of 192 falls away. And then we were actually at the resort and checking in! It was blessedly warm, to us, coming from 19 degrees in Ohio to the 70's. Don't you love the smell of the place when you first arrive? You would know you were there and no place else on earth by the smell alone. Do they pump in extra oxygen in the buildings or what?
We checked in and got our request for a ground floor room in the Calypso. My husband has a bad knee and although he can walk, he can't walk for long periods of time without trouble. We usually rent a wheelchair for him in the parks that we leave outside and he walks into the attractions, but even with that and a knee brace, he is pretty done in at the end of the day and can't take another long walk to the room. We have found that the trip is a lot more pleasant for all of us if we just bear this in mind.
Anyway, after check-in we went to the food court for dinner. Then, as was too late to go to the parks for any reasonable amount of time, the boys and I went over to Downtown Disney and walked around. Well, I walked around, they went to the Lego Store. We could plan the major part of our vacation around that place. (Good thing they still don't know about the park in California, they still think the only one is in Europe, or we would probably not get to WDW!) Now, we have at least two billion of those things at home (every set since 1984) but still they have to spend hours building something there. I talked to several other parents experiencing the same thing.
I shopped which is my favorite thing to do at WDW, might as well confess that now. I got a lot of stuff at WoD and the bookstore. There seemed to be some confusion as to the discounts. I have a MKC Gold card, an American Express and an annual pass. They asked me if I was on a package plan from AMEx and I said no but that I had used the card to check-in. They said at one check-out that there wasn't a discount unless it was package deal but they gave me an annual pass discount. Other cast members at other registers gave me the AMEx discount with no comment, still another asked to see my AMEx belt bag first!? Finally, with many bags and Lego's that somehow just "couldn't" be gotten at home, we returned to the resort to get ready for bed. I do miss the old Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village as they used to call it. It was so peaceful and we used to drive the golf carts right up to the stores and park them to go shopping. Sigh.
Sunday we got up early with a call from Mickey. We ate a quick breakfast in the room (I remembered our mugs from earlier visits) and took off for the Magic Kingdom. We jumped on the first train out of the station and intended to go to Mickey's toontown and Fantasyland but the Lenni and Nicky saw Splash Mountain and we had to go there first. There was no line so we did a quick ride and could have stayed on a second time but as my husband and oldest son were waiting for us, we got off. (If ever you see a skinny guy with a Lion King safari vest sitting outside of a ride looking incredibly bored, that is my husband.) Then we went over to the Pirates ride and walked on that too. After Pirates we headed over to the Haunted Mansion where Lenni had me read all the headstones off to him. I like the hallway with the floating candlestick, I honestly get the chills from that one thing. Dark hallways always give me the creeps. We did Peter Pan and Pooh and then walked back to the Columbia House to eat. I had the vegi- chili in the bread bowl. Good bread bowl. I can't remember what the others had, I think chicken tenders.
We backtracked through Fantasyland and Steve and Byron and Lenni went on the teacups. Nicky has motion sickness like me and passed on that one. We rode Buzz Lightyear twice and went on the Timekeeper. That one gets old fast to me. We rode the TTA, which never gets old and is so relaxing. Finally we went on the Carousel of Progress that I remember from the 1964 World's Fair and still love. I noticed some changes though, that were kind of weird, like the costumes for Halloween on some of the characters. It is so under-attended though, I keep expecting them to do away with it. (Will they ever do anything with the Lagoon space?) The kids wanted to go back to the pool so we returned to the room around 1:30. I put on my suit and hung out in the sun. These first days were the warmest of our visit and we were glad that they got the chance to swim a little. In the evening we went over to Epcot and went in Spaceship Earth. I still miss the Walter Cronkite version and I found the old ending more moving but I still like it. Then we walked over to JiI and discovered that it wasn't as bad as we had expected. There was a lot more Figment than we had thought there would be (more on this later) but the kids did not like the new Imageworks. Byron said, "they took away all the good stuff and just left the boring stuff." I explained that the little screens where you could color Figment were new when they first were installed but by now most people were familiar with paint programs on computers. They missed the pin things too. The music and animation conductor parts were fun. After that we made a beeline for the boat over to Morocco and Kaki- Gori at Japan. It just is better than regular shaved ice, must be the setting My sons all like Samuri stuff and so they hung around Japan for a while and then Lenni saw Pokemon and he was in heaven. (I kept thinking of the South Park episode that dealt with Pokemon mania.) We walked back past France and Great Britain and Canada and tried to eat at Le Cellier. We didn't have PS but the park was not crowded and you used to be able to just walk-in there. It must be more popular because they were booked completely through park closing. We decided to go back to the room and eat at the food court. They have great meatball subs at both the All Star Music and Movies, imo.
Monday we went over to Epcot in the morning and went on Spaceship Earth again and then walked on to Test Track. The sign said 20 minute wait but the time was mostly what it took to walk the que. (We had planned on trying out the Fast Pass option but never met with a line that would have justified it.) We had reservations for The Land Grille but we got hungry before and that part of the park wasn't open yet anyway so we ate at the Electric Umbrella instead. We walked over to HIStA and then went on the Land boat ride. This is my favorite ride at EPCOT. Something about the way it looks in the sunshine when you are in the growing area and the smell of the plants intregues me. The kids love taking pictures of the vegetables and fruits for some reason, we have many years of successive generations of plants on film. Sigh. We went to the Millenium Village and Lenni had a great time at Scotland and Saudi Arabia especially. He is into participation things and he loved the golf. At Saudia Arabia we enjoyed the story in the Bedouin (sp?) tent and the ball and maze game in the tiny model city that took group participation to work. This was one of those exhibits that the more you put into it, the more you got out of it. We walked over to Japan for more Kaki-Gori, prompting my husband to make expressions of disbelief that we would walk so far for a snack of ice. We strolled back slowly and Byron and Nicky got tired of us and went on ahead. Steve and I took Lenni on the ride at Norway and then returned to the room, after a "brief " stop at the Mousegear store. It seems smaller to me than the old store and more crowded together. I miss the upstairs too. Wonder what they plan to use that for? I wondered the same thing at JiI about the upstairs. I miss the Oddessy Restaurant too. It used to have a great fixins bar and the only free character show in a restaurant. I must be getting old, I remember too many old things.
Tuesday we slept in a little and then went over to the Animal Kingdom. My experience with the AK is that it requires more input from you than the other parks. In other words, you just don't jump on a ride and then go to the next one and ride again. Here you ride, inspect, view, study and then go on another ride. We went to see ITtbaB first as my husband had refused to go the first time because of the "Sting" (it was a bad day for him all around that time). He went this time and thought it was okay. I find the 3-D effects hard to focus on in this show but then we have always been on the sides. We then went to the Boneyard and while Byron and Nicky went to get some late breakfast at Donalds, Lenni dug to his hearts content in the dig site. Swarms of little kids were busily digging in the sand. Ever need something excavated? Just give a bunch of kids shovels and brushes. People kept coming up to my husband, who with his Lion King vest, red moroccan shirt, khakis and cowboy boots must have looked like he was in costume (lol), and asking him for directions. It was great because he was clueless and they were puzzled too. This happens everytime that we are at WDW. After the dig, Steve, Byron, Nicky and Lenni went to Countdown. I sat this one out. I didn't really get much out of it the first time and it kinda upset my stomach. They liked it though. We went over to Asia and went on the rapids ride twice in quick succession. It was great! I say that because although everyone else got soaked, I didn't! Good seat choice I guess. Byron and Steve sat this one out. (By now you can tell my family is not very adventurous, I have the boys who hate Universal's rides) Then we went to Camp Minnie Micky and Lenni started going from character to character. The lines were short so he was going to everyone, even ones he has seen many times. About this time, Steve and Nicky (who had homework to do) decided to bail on us and went back to the room. It was left to Byron, Lenni and I to go on the Safari. It was about 3:00 pm and the animals were out in force, much more than last time when went early in the morning. A group of rhinos blocked the road for about 10 minutes and quite a group of vehicles backed up behind us. We had great views of the lions, giraffes, hippos, and of course, the rhinos. Our guide was from South Africa and he told us jokes and talked about how his part of Africa looked very different from the eastern part that we were seeing reproduced. After the blockade cleared, he drove very fast and it was fun! It somehow went with the poacher story and he did a good job of making it interesting. We ate at the Pizzafari and then returned to the All Star. After resting, we went over to the Magic Kingdom for E-ride night. We had a funny experience here,. I had forgotten my list of rides that were open for that particular evening and although I know basically what is open, I also know that there are sometimes changes. So we rode the train around to Frontierland rode Splash Mountain and then went to the Jungle Cruise, the park was just closing and the cast member at JC said, "We're closing now but we will reopen for E-ride in a little bit." We assumed that they had to do something before reopening so I asked him what other rides might be open that night and he said, PoC and Pooh were going to be . We walked back toward Poc planning on doing that before going back to the Jungle Cruise but it was closed when we got there. So we went back to JC only to find out that it was not going to be open after all. But the cast member now standing there assured us that Pooh WAS going to be open. So we went to the Haunted Mansion and then walked over to Pooh and...it was closed. The funny thing is that I know that these rides are not usually open on e-ride night but I was going on the advice given me by cast members so I decided to trust my own info from now on. Anyway we rode Buzz repeatedly. I can get a pretty good score, 200,000 but my two teenaged sons can get 400,000 on a bad try. Lenni got up to 2100 and was thrilled. We all love Buzz and do it over and over. We walked back to Splash Mountain and Nicky,Lenni and I rode it three times in a row without getting off. Then Lenni , Nicky and Byron rode Big Thunder Mountain Railway twice in a row. We dragged ourselves back to the resort to see if our friends had gotten in yet. They had arrived and had spent all evening just laying around the room and eating at the food court. Funny people, come to WDW and lay about the room! I had told them about Downtown Disney and they were going to go there but they decided that they were just too tired after their "long " drive from Boca Raton! Just wait until they've had a day at the parks, cause I've got a suicide day planned for them tomorrow. Heh, heh!
Wednesday I am up at 7:00 and calling them, they were slow moving and needed coffee and time to get themselves ready. And I thought it was had to get three kids moving in the morning! Finally at 9:00 we head over to the Magic Kingdom. We strolled down mainstreet and got to the Crystal Palace for our breakfast PS. I had planned that we would have done some things by now, but, hey, here we are with Pooh and friends so its okay. They took lots of pictures of our kids, guess that's what you do when you don't have your own. We went from here to the Swiss Family Treehouse that I like and they loved. They wanted to live there. Then we went to PotC and after the ride, spent much time in the marketplace while Mimi shopped for a hat. We hurried past IaSW which was mercifully closed and went to Peter Pan and Pooh. They liked those and we would have loved to stay for more, but they are slow moving and we have to go over to the Studios. Byron, who had stayed at the room, met us at the gate and we went on the Great Movie Ride before having lunch at the SciFi Dine-in. Love that restaurant and only wish they would update that film reel. (Lenni still refuses to go in because of the Colossal Man and the shot sequence so Steve took him to the Pizza Planet where he happily played.) We went from there to Star Tours and the Muppets 3-D and then to Catastrophe Canyon. We were supposed to go from here directly to Epcot but had to return to the resort so that Mimi could get some needed medication. This slowed us down some but we returned to Epcot in time to see Spaceship Earth (again) HIStA, and then around to Great Britain where Mimi and Michael shopped extensively. We backtracked to Mexico and had dinner at the San Angel Inn . Finally, we saw a little of the fireworks. I am breathless from writing this and that was how rushed it seemed even at the time but we had fun and my New York sophisticates loved it. We made a stop at Mouseworks as we exited.
Thursday was our day to sleep in and then go over to Disneyquest. We left at 10:00 with our friends still there deciding if they were going to come over later or go to AK or got back to EPCOT. Disneyquest is still fun, especially fun for kids who like video games, but don't pass on it just because of that. The virtual reality games are great (especially Hercules ) and the Cheesecake Factory has good food. Steve went went upstairs to the Internet site and sat on the comfy couch and drank coffee and played with that. The games that win tickets now take those cards with points and you must buy them extra unlike our last visit. Some one must have noticed that they were missing a way to get extra money.
Okay, so I own a lot of Disney stock and so I should be glad of every penny that is spent there. But I seem to remember that Walt Disney did not like the old parks where people were overcharged for everything, in fact he insisted that prices be kept low for things like hot dogs. Now it seems that everything is geared toward making the maximum dollar from the icky soap/shampoo in the budget resorts (tell me Michael Eisner, do you use that stuff?) to the increase in parking fees. Walt Disney never intended that his park be just for the upper classes and he was insistent that everyone be treated as an honored guest. This emphasis on the almighty dollar has been increasing in the parks every year since the mid eighties and is best illustrated by the gift shop at every ride exit. I love to shop and don't mind spending the $$ for the quality stuff that you usually get at Disney but it is getting to be too much. There used to be touches at each land that made it special even down to the napkins and bags at different parks. Now, as a point of pride they mention in the annual report how standardization in things like bags, etc have cut costs....like that blankedy blank soap stuff....
As I was saying, we had a good time at DQ and stayed there until 2:30. Steve, Nicky and Lenni went back to the room to rest and Byron and I went to Belz to shop. I think Byron went just to keep me company, he certainly is not a shopper and hovered over me as I went into my usual shopping frenzy at the Character Outlet. I got a great Pluto watch that I had not seen elsewhere before, I also got several shirts with different Walt Disney pictures on them. I had never seen them before either. I got my husband a baseball cap that only says , Walt Disney World on it in discreet script, something he would wear as opposed to, say, a Goofy hat. I spent many $$ here but enjoyed it greatly. When we got back, our friends were over at Epcot and were coming back to the room to get ready for the evening. They wanted to return there to see the Millenium Parade and the fireworks. Only Byron and I were up for going as Lenni and Nicky were building Legos so we drove over with MImi and Michael and went to the Universe of Energy and then over to see the parade. We got seats easily at the Cantina at Mexico and sat there during part of the parade and during the fireworks and had good view of both. We ate there and then walked slowly back as our friends wailed....."We're not ready to go yet , we haven't seen everything, we need to come back!" Another set of adicts in the making! I drove them around to see the Wilderness Lodge since they love the Grand Canyon and frequently hike there. They loved the lodge and thought that it is a wonderful tribute to the old lodges of the past. Then I took them by Downtown Disney and they could not believe how the old Lake Buena VIsta area had changed. We took them back to the room and said our goodbyes as we would be up early on Friday and they would not and then they would be checking out.
Friday we got up early for our last day (never a happy time for me) and went over to the MK. We went around on the train to Mickey's Toontown Fair, not remembering that part of the park would not be open but we hung out for a few minutes and then here came Mickey and the rope dropped. We went straight to the barnstormer and rode it three times in a row without getting off. That is the best ride!!! Maybe because it is so short, I never get motion sickness on it like I do on BTM. We went to see Mickey in his dressing room and got a family picture. Then we trooped over to Pooh again and the Hall of the Haunted Presidents (as my husband calls it) We ate at the Plaza restaurant and then they decided they were tired!! In all fairness, my husband was coming down with a cold, but they got on the bus and I told them that I would meet them at MGM later. Steve was absolutely convinced that we would never see each other again but I was firm and stayed. Ah, free at last!! I went and purchased our picture from Mickeys' Toontown fair and then sat in the Exhibition Hall for a while. Not the best use of space. I liked it better when they had the old "Walt DIsney's life" film there and Zorro's cape! I mosied over to the monorail and rode over to the TTC and changed to the EPCOT mononrail and rode over there. I went to JiI's shop to make a CD to take home and stock up on some more Figment mechandise. Two years ago at the Character Outlet I met up with tons of Figment stuff and I said to someone working there, "Oh no, they're not getting rid of FIgment!" and she said sadly, "Yes, they're doing a new ride." Then, later, I heard all the stories of how in the new ride, Figment barely appears and etc. Instead, I was really pleased at how often he does show up . SO the lady in front of me in line at the store remarked on how glad she was to still see Figment around and the cast member said, "You know they have added more Figment elements to the ride and have ordered a lot more merchandise. They had intended to phase him out, but then so many people protested and left messages at guest services that they reconsidered." Must have been a lot more that the ones who cried out about Mr. Toad for it to have made a difference. I walked to the International Gateway, just enjoying the atmosphere and flowers, and took the boat over to MGM. At MGM, I went shopping for a while and then met the kids at the gate with no problem. My husband had decided not to come. We went on Star Tours again and then Lenni and Nicky played at the HIStK playground for ages. I always feel sorry for the frantic parents trying to follow their kids around on this set. I always just let mine go and either stand by or sit right at the exit and wait for them. It is an exercise in frustration, not to mention the feet, to try to follow kids in that maze and unless they are really little, it isn't necessary. Just stand there and they will wiz by you every few minutes or so. After that we went and got pizza to go at the Pizza Planet and walked over to Fantasmic. We got there about 45 minutes before the show started and we were in the second section on the left from the center aisle. The whole theater was packed by the time the show started but you could still stand and see it. Great show, "Some Imagination, huh?" Finally time to leave and the kids had to drag their protesting mother out of the park for the last time....until the next time!! What a wonderful place Walt Disney World is!
We got up late on Saturday and dawdled around until check out and then started the long drive back. We stopped just outside of Atlanta because it had started to rain. The next morning we woke up to endless stories of a terrible ice storm and how the city of Atlanta had been shut down. Steve was all for staying put but although I would have done that if it had been Orlando, I don't like Atlanta enough to want to stay there longer. I went out and our car was the only one not covered in Ice, all the others having apparently come from the north. The freeways were fine and we drove home uneventfully while still listening to how no one was supposed to be out on the streets in Atlanta. It was the trees falling on residential streets. We got home at 7:00 and I started my least favorite part of the trip, washing clothes. Our dogs and cat were fine. Two weeks later, Blackie, aged 14, died in his sleep. I am glad that it didn't happen when we were out of town. Thanks for letting me relive the magic! Suzie