Joe Obrin -- February 2000 -- Port Orleans
February 2-8, 2000
Wednesday, February 2, 2000.
The millennium trip. At least for us. We didn't make it down to WDW on New Year's Eve. The crowds, the Y2K glitches that never happened, a lot of reasons entered into it. But, I'd decided that this would be the trip when we would celebrate the millennium. Heck, Disney was selling it, and I was buying. The millennium celebration was lasting all year, right?
And, actually, this trip was kind of our "two for one deal" anyway. At least that's how I had sold it to Debbie (my wife, who really is pretty tolerant of my WDW obsession). We had bought APs for our trip in June of 99. They were justified based upon the number of days we were on property--that trip was nice and long (14 glorious days). Past a certain number of days (about 10 is what I believe it works out to be), an AP is cheaper than a LOS. So, we had annual passes. You know, if we go back before they run out, the admission to WDW is basically free. And, if we go in off-season, then the hotels and the air fares should both be way down. Make it a shorter trip, (5 full days on property instead of 14), and it will seem even cheaper, as your daily expenses won't add up as fast.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Well, she bought it, anyway. And the morsel of truth is that this trip, according to what I was estimating, would cost about a fifth of our summer excursion. Of course, it was also a shorter trip, but it was an almost two for one deal here.
We picked February, because the weather and "crowd" charts I'd seen seemed to indicate that this time would be dry, hurricane free, and relatively uncrowded. Actually, the span from November to February seemed to meet these criteria the best, except for the weeks right around Christmas and year's end (especially this year). And this way, we could center the trip around Nick's birthday.
Nick is our son, and right in the middle of this trip, he was going to turn 8. I thought that spending your 8th birthday at WDW would be a pretty cool thing. Nick seemed to agree ;^).
So, on February 2, we got on a plane to Orlando. By way of Detroit.
Denver to Detroit to Orlando. Draw it on a map, and it looks pretty funny. But, this was our "let's try to make it cheap" trip, so we opted for a connecting flight instead of a direct. And Northwest, whose hub is in Detroit, had the best deal.
The plane trip was long but uneventful. Actually, it was really long. We left Denver at 7:45 a.m., and didn't arrive Orlando until 5:43 p.m. Of course, this counted flying against the sun and a 2.5 hour layover in Detroit. It wasn't as bad as it sounds on the surface. It gave Nick a chance to work on some of his class work that he had to make up, as we had snagged him out of school for this trip. As afar as that goes, he could have been a little more cooperative, but he actually got a lot done.
At the airport, we were picked up by Tiffany Town Car Service of Orlando. I had heard about them through their ad on Deb Will's page. For $75 round trip, I felt it was well worth it, although our return adventure was complicated (you'll have to read day 5). The driver meets you at the luggage area with a sign with your name on it. You don't have to be alert, worrying about where the rental car place is, studying the road, etc. The driver takes you straight to your resort, and you just relax. And the rate is $75 for the car, which will hold up to five people. In fact, the driver will also stop on the way at a store if you need to pick up a few items. I'm definitely doing this again (regardless of what happened on day 5).
Because we didn't have a rental car, and because we were arriving pretty early in the evening (compared to last trip), I decided not to stay off property the first night, but to go right to the Port Orleans instead. Again, this was a good decision. The magic starts as soon as you get on property, even if you don't make any of the parks that night. And if you have a LOS or AP, then why not? Especially since we got a great off-season room rate at the PO (something like $89 a night compared to $120 a night for the same room in the summer).
We had a great CM at the front desk when we checked in. In spite of our late arrival, he worked really hard to find a room to suit us. He's part of what I mean by the magic starting when you arrive on property.
The room was not as cool as the one in the summer. But, that room was perfect--on the ground floor, on a corner, across the "street" from the food court, and you could throw a rock to the bus stop. But, this one was really very nice. Still in building 4 (I like being close to the bus). Even though it was third floor, it was the closest room to the elevator. So, although the walk from the food court with the late night pizza was a little longer, at least you didn't have to deal with stairs after a long day in the parks. We were very happy with the room.
The PO is sure a pretty resort! I like the beautiful grounds, the food, the theming, and the small size. Despite some rough times with the buses in the summer, this trip would prove to be very smooth in terms of transport (and this time we were completely at the mercy of the buses, as we had no rental car). The fact is that the summer crowds probably just push the bus system to it's limits. I just know the transport this trip was many times better.
And since that was my only complaint about the PO on our summer trip, I'd surely stay here again, especially in off-season. I really think it beats the other moderates hands down.
After we got settled in, we went down to Bonfamilles, where we had priority seating arrangements. Again this trip, I followed my obsessive habit of having PS for each supper, and just winging it for lunch and breakfast. I like doing that. It sets the skeleton for your plan, and you have to have a plan ;^).
The food at Bonfamilles was wonderful. I had the Shrimp Orleans, and Debbie had the Bourbon Street steak. I love the gumbo here, and had it as an appetizer. Debbie got a crawfish dip appetizer. I sampled a bit, and it was quite good as well (but the gumbo was better ;^). We topped it off with a Jackson Street Sundae.
The really interesting thing about the sundae, though, is that they took it off the menu. But, when we asked why it was gone, our waitress arranged one for us anyway! Another prize winning CM, IMHO. It's almost embarrassing. Nick snuck off to the arcade after finishing his meal. When desert was about to come out, our waitress asked where he had gone. When we told her, she went and fetched him! Before we could say, "No, wait, don't do that". We must have really looked tired after our trip. Talk about pampering above and beyond the call!
After supper, Nick had fun in the arcade at the PO (there are actually some pretty good games there), while we unpacked a little better, and just relaxed. Tomorrow would be a big day.
When we were back in our room after dinner, Debbie said it was like we never left. Doo doo doo doo....
The night was cool but dry. That set the tone for the whole trip, which was a delightful tone indeed.
Thursday, February 3, 2000
This is a day that we largely spent at Epcot. We spent a lot of time in the future world section, exploring the new Innoventions (Innoventions had been closed for refurb when we were there in June), marveling at the new Leave A Legacy sculpture, and enjoying the other technology exhibits which are my favorite things to do on the entire property.
That giant millennium hand sculpture (whatever you want to call it) was something to see! It was very impressive! It would be annoying if it was permanent, but it was not nearly as intrusive as the birthday cake they did on the castle for the 25th anniversary. It was big, it was cool, and it went well with the spirit of the millennium celebration.
On the subject of more permanent changes, I like the look of Leave A Legacy. As soon as we came in the gate at Epcot, we went over and had two pictures taken--one with Nick and I, and another with Nick and Debbie. You can only have one or two people in a photo. I believe that each was $33, after MKC discount. The photographer took some very good pictures. We were quite pleased with the results. I'll add the location of our pictures to this report as soon as I understand how this works!
As soon as we were done at Leave A Legacy, we went to Test Track. It was a walk on. Later in the day, we had a 15 minute wait to get on. This is nothing compared to the two hour lines in June! I really do enjoy this ride a lot. I also enjoy the que area, although we didn't spend all that much time there ;^).
It seemed like TT was faster, and pulled more g's than I remember. Of course, when we went on RnRC at MGM, we found out what serious g's were like. Nonetheless, I find TT to be a fun, fast ride. With a little technogeek stuff thrown in to make it more interesting.
On the ride later in the day, it was just Nick and I, as Debbie had gone back to the room for a rest before supper. In fact, we wouldn't have stood in line, but Debbie had taken Nick's AP with her, so he couldn't get a ticket. But, the standby line was not nearly as long as the posted time, and it didn't kill us to wait in the que (and look at all of the automotive technology stuff).
But, it was really getting to the guy in line in front of us. In fact, he was fuming about Fast Pass. It was obvious from his rant that he didn't understand it. He was talking about people paying extra on top of their gate admission, having to go somewhere else to get a special ticket, etc. So, he really didn't get it, and was getting himself pretty worked up about it. He promised his friends he would be writing a letter when he got home.
I almost stopped him to tell him he was way off, but thought the better of it. I'm sure he would have gotten a straight story if he had just asked one of the CMs.
Personally, I find Fast Pass to be a great system. But, Disney may need to put a little more effort into getting the guests informed about it. OTOH, I'm not sure how to do that. The CM's at the attractions are very helpful, and they were running explanations of the system on the "Park channel" in the rooms.
Really, there's no disadvantage of it to anyone. That guy getting on ahead of you in the Fast Pass line (if you are in standby) was at the attraction before you, so would have been ahead of you anyway. Plus, Fast Pass is free to anyone who has gotten in the gate. So, why not use it?
We didn't use it this day, but had great experiences with it later in the trip.
I have to say that I still really love Spaceship Earth. IMHO, it is the best of Epcot, and Epcot is my favorite park. This ride remains moving, entertaining, and informative.
We also went through the "New" Global Neighborhood at the end of Spaceship Earth. For the most part, all that has really changed is that they took out the "ride the network" display, and put in this "communications tree". I was lukewarm about this tree. You know, not everything has to be "organic", and this is a case of someone trying a bit too hard.
The electronic "compass" thing here is also new. This was pretty cool. Basically, you point this device around the room, and it shows you what is in the direction that you are pointing. You see a short synopsis, and can push a button or two for more information, film clips, etc. But, you can also set it to a "long distance" mode, and it tells you what you are pointing at outside of the building, through the rest of Epcot. Again, film clips and extended info are available at the touch of a button. Kind of a neat idea. It reminds me of the "World Key" system of many years back, which really impressed me at the time.
We took three rides (not all at once, throughout the day) on "Ellen's Energy Adventure". This is still a great show, even though we have seen it a lot now. It's funny, it's informative, and the special effects in the film and the audioanimatronic dinosaurs remain very impressive. Nick should be quite an expert on both energy and communications by now ;^).
We spent a fair amount of time in the new Innoventions. I'm afraid that the old Innoventions was actually better overall. Although Innoventions was closed on our trip in June, it was going full blast on our trip two years earlier. There was more technology and more companies participating before. The new theme seems to be a little more "earthy" and less "techy". That's all well and good for the Animal Kingdom, but Epcot--and especially Innoventions--is supposed to be about high tech. Especially since within Epcot you already have pavilions for land and sea environmental stuff (and medicine, for that matter). Innoventions should be the very cutting edge of technology.
Oh well. I still love the place. I just found it to be a step down, rather than up.
On the subject of medicine, it seems like the radiologist presentation is out of place in Innoventions. Again, it is something that really can and should be in the Hall Of Life. That's the pavilion for medicine. Of course, you could argue that there is already a communications pavilion, so why is Motorola's booth in Innoventions all about wireless communications? But, that is obviously a matter of rivalry between the two companies, and it is acceptable. But, you wouldn't think Met Life's sponsorship of the Hall of Life would keep the radiologists booth out.
All of that having been said, the radiologist presentation was really very interesting. The subject matter of non-invasive means of observing the human body was interesting, and the presentation was quite good.
The highlight of Innoventions is really the house of the future. Of course, we all recognize it as an updated idea from the old Tomorrowland. The flash oven was cool (or coolly hot, or hotly cool...) It cooks faster than a microwave, and simulates a conventional oven more closely.
The fridge that scans your groceries as you take out the last of an item (assuming you want another), and then orders it over the net for you is also a cool idea. But, the idea that you will use this panel on the fridge to read e-mail or web pages is pretty silly. Forget about computers. Do you stand in the middle of the room to read the newspaper, a magazine, or a book. No, you almost certainly sit to read. Even when you read in bed, it's usually in a propped-up, seated position. People like to sit when they read. Pay attention to what people do naturally, then enhance that experience.
Put some type of device at the breakfast table where you can grab news and e-mail, and you have something that makes a lot more sense.
The kids room was interesting. The interactive toys here were pretty cool.
The electric toilet and the video shower were also clever ideas. Actually, the full-functioned electric toilet was more interesting than the video feed in the shower. How many minutes a day do you really spend in the shower? I think you could be away from a TV that long.
The guy giving the tour (the house of the future is a guided walk through) didn't even point out the laser clock in the study, but I thought it was neat.
I also have to say that the idea of checking my e-mail through the TV when I'm laying on the couch is only slightly better than reading it at the fridge. Maybe these guys are trying a little too hard to replace what is actually a pretty functional interface. Although mobile information is good, and smart house technology has it's place, the keyboard/mouse/monitor paradigm is actually a pretty good one for a lot of functions like reading and writing.
I did like the high mobility wheelchair in the "back yard". Maybe the most impressing technology in the house. I also like the hydrogen fuel cell in the back yard, although one wonders again about practicality. Is it really better to pipe around a volatile explosive gas, rather than running relatively safe electric circuits? I know we still use natural gas today, but that is only because electric heating is so darned inefficient.
Overall, I really enjoyed the house of the future. I just like to mull over the technology that they are presenting.
On the way out of the house of the future, Nick asked the guide when you could buy this stuff. Hey! We actually got him interested in some technology.
I really liked Motorola's booth in Innoventions. Of all of their vast and varied technology, they have decided to focus this display on wireless communications. There's a little theater, with an animatronic character before you go in who is very amusing. Then, the film clip in the theater plays with various ideas about how wireless communication might evolve in the next few years.
In general, the idea of the video phone is another one of those technologies whose usefulness escapes me. Why would I care about seeing the person I'm talking to? But, Motorola makes a strong case for a *MOBILE* video phone. Take it with you to show the folks back home some of the amazing sights you're seeing on your vacation. Take it out in the field to send a video back to the central engineering office of a piece of equipment that's acting flakey (and the folks on the other end can even direct you to move the camera to a different angle). Or, like Motorola suggests, send video to your family of the new baby minutes after he's born.
The Disney I-Zone in Innoventions was very interesting. I would like to see more of it, but Nick and Debbie were reaching the limit of their patience by the time that we had made it to this point.
There was a place in the I-zone area to build a personal web page on Go.com, but I didn't have a chance to try it. Of course, my web page has been around for a long time, but I was curious.
The one thing that Nick really liked in the I-Zone was Toon Tag. I mean, he really liked it. Whenever we were back in Epcot on this trip, he'd be certain to spend a chunk of time playing this game.
Toon Tag is a little video game in which you assume the identity of one of the fab four (Mickey, Donald, Minnie, and Goofy). Then, you run around Toon Town, trying to tag any of the other three players. A simple concept, but well implemented in a 3D environment. Each of the players sees the game on a monitor from the perspective of his character. The four machines on which it is running are networked together, so that the four players are in the same game.
An MC (a real live CM) keeps the game going, adding humor and commentary. We got to see different CMs do this, and some were funny, while others filled you in on what was going on. It seems that Disney's intention is to host this game from their website within the next year. They are estimating 20,000 people would be playing at a time! Now, I'm certain they wouldn't all be in the same game, but if you had a bunch of people, and a large expanse to play in, this game could be really amusing.
At one point, I was able to tear Nick away from Toon Tag, and get him to send video e-mail to a friend of mine back home (Debbie had gone back to the room at this point). A technician helps you to send this v-mail, running the camera and the capture machine for you. I enjoyed sending the IBM Internet Postcards more, since it was all do-it-yourself, and you could easily dash off several. Nonetheless, this was a cool idea.
But, I later discovered that while the IBM postcards are easy for anyone with a browser to view, the v-mail requires special software, installations, a certain configuration on your system, etc. I suspected something like this, which is another reason we only sent one (to someone I knew could handle it).
OTOH, we sent tons of Internet Postcards from the IBM booth in Innoventions. They arrive as a simple e-mail message, which directs you to a certain web page, where you postcard is displayed. 99% of the people using the Internet are going to be able to view these, and they are fast, easy, and fund to send. We'd send a few each time we were anywhere near the IBM booth, coming back to it several times during the trip. I wish you could put in your own words, rather than a canned message, but that's life. This is still a kick. As part of getting ready for your trip, remember to print out your friend's addresses.
The Dreamcast area in Innoventions was interesting, showing some of the latest games for Sega's super system, including some networked offerings. The RPG game shown here, with the text and voice in Japanese, was really beautiful! But, it's all pretty standard game console stuff. I could spend a lot more time over in DisneyQuest! But, the Dreamcast area is "free".
We spent some time at the Kodak pavilion--rode Journey Into Your Imagination, spent some time afterwards in the Image Works, and saw Honey I Shrunk The Audience yet again. Again, the Image Works and JIYI are both areas that did not get improved by the refurb.
Honestly, I did not find JIYI to be as bad as some people on the newsgroup have said. It's certainly not as good, however, as the original. I like Eric Idle, but you can't carry the whole ride on his personality. The old story was a lot better, and went a lot further on the subject of exploring the process of imagination. It may be a light-hearted subject, but it deserves a better treatment. And, frankly, Figment and DreamFinder were better fleshed out as characters than the Nigel Channing character.
The old Image Works, over all, was more fun and interesting then the new one.
One thing they kept, though was the squares on the floor where you leap to make sounds. Instead of colored squares of light, there are now images projected onto the floor in little squares. The sound now corresponds to the image (a horn plays a few notes, a lion roars, etc). Nick still liked this, and I think that it is an improvement.
We spent some time in here conducting the orchestra by waving our hands, and this was also very amusing. I would like to have tried the photo morphing stations, but there was they were very busy (a line? For this trip, that was unusual!)
As you exit the Image Works, of course, there is now a store. But, they had a kiosk set up for Disney Forever. This is a system where you stand at a computer screen, and pick areas of the property that you enjoy. Then, music is offered to you associated with that area. You can preview songs, pick a few that you like, and add them to your list. At the end, the songs from your list are burned onto a CD. You then purchase the CD, which has a special personalized label. The idea is *REALLY* good, but the music selection could have been a little better. There were some songs missing that I would really have expected to see. Nonetheless, Nick got his own, and Debbie and I did one together, and we had a heck of a time, and got a neat memento.
The one area of the Kodak pavilion that I cannot complain about is HISTA! I still love this show. The effects, the plot, the humor. Fewer people now scream when the mice come out, as everyone is expecting it by now. But, it's still one of many great effects in a well put together show. And HISTA was a walk on this day.
The crowds at Epcot were so light that it was hard to believe! At least in our experience, this is a great time of the year to visit WDW! We had one walk on ride after another.
Once again, we had dinner at the Rose and Crown. It seems like we do this once every trip. Once again, the dinner was just wonderful. I had the British Pie Sampler, which was very good. The soup that I had was even better, and the lemon custard desert with fresh berries just made you cry. I raved in my last trip report about how fresh the fruit in the restaurant at WDW seems to be. Again, I was not disappointed.
Our view of Illuminations was fairly good. But, we were on the covered porch, and back a bit from the front railing. So, a lot of the fireworks were out of sight for us. I really would rather have sat on the patio at the water's edge, but you can't always get that. The Illuminations 2000 show is spectacular, and I vowed that we would see it again this trip from a more open vantage point.
The centerpoint of the show, even more so than the lasers, the music, and the pyrotechnics is the enormous globe on which they show the "Reflections of Earth", a series of film clips depicting worldwide culture, peoples, and environment. Only the continents have movies in them, which are clearly visible from throughout world showcase, as the globe slowly turns. Each continent seems to have it's own appropriate regional theme. The films are crystal clear and very moving. I had read that this effect is implemented with thousands of LEDs! It is a breathtaking effect!
We also had a decent view of the Tapestry of Nations Parade from our vantage point on the porch. Nick asked to be excused from the table, and ran off to get much closer to the action (finishing his supper upon his return). It is a gorgeous show, full of moving sentiments. Again, I promised myself that we would have a better view on another evening (but we could see it all surprisingly well from the porch).
Friday, February 4, 2000
This was a day that we spent at Magic Kingdom.
Nick's picture taking on this trip really made me smile. Months ago, he had ordered a "Pok-e-Mon" camera through some sort of box top deal. But, it took forever to arrive. Two days before we left for the trip, it showed up. So, he took his camera, with him, and was busy snapping pictures throughout the trip. Instead of posing with the characters, and letting me get pictures with him, he would take his own pictures of the characters. So, we have all of these pictures of the characters with other people's kids. But, he loved doing it, and I suppose he found a new way to make memories.
Before lunch, we got a FastPass for Splash Mountain. Then, we went to lunch at Pecos Bill's (standard burger and fries fare, but not bad). After lunch, we were just in time to use our FastPass. It is a kick flying past the people in standby, as you walk up that empty FastPass line. I have to say again that I am delighted with the FastPass system.
Even though the weather was a bit cool, we enjoyed going on Splash Mountain. It's just a fun ride. My trick was to wear my light jacket (which I was carrying around all day anyway). It would get wet, then I'd take it off at the end of the ride, and I'd be nice and dry and warm.
Every time we went on the Haunted Mansion this trip was a walk on. On Nick's birthday (although I'm getting ahead of myself), we even went twice in a row. I swear, he wanted to ;^)!
Getting back to this day, though, we had the great good fortune of being stuck during one of our rides. We were right at the beginning of the grave yard, and it would have been delightful, but the announcer kept breaking in telling us that the ride was stopped. I know, they have to remind people to sit down, but it could be less frequent. Don't they know that being stuck is an added treat ;^)?
For the first time I heard a wailing cat when we were stuck at this point. There are things you don't notice until you are stuck (even if you've been on the ride a few hundred times).
Nick picked up some bizarre sunglasses at the little gypsy cart outside of the Haunted Mansion. Each lens has a skull hologram which the wearer can't see, but an observer see's floating where the wearer's eye should be. These got a reaction from CM's throughout the rest of the trip, which just delighted Nick.
We spent some time in Toon Town, but had to avoid the Miss Daisy, because it was just a bit too chilly. IMHO, it was a small price to pay for the great weather we enjoyed. Nick and I rode the Barnstormer a few times. It's a fun little ride, "short but sweet".
We had fun going through Mickey's house, and got some good pictures of the tooney interior. But, we were disappointed that Mickey was not in the judge's tent in the back. He was to "return shortly", but we didn't chose to wait.
Nick and I went on Buzz Lightyear two times, one with and one without Debbie (she decided to go back to the room after supper). I obtained the rank of "Planetary Pilot", which seemed pretty good to me ;^). Nick was upset because he didn't do as well. He has quite a competitive nature. I can't imagine where he gets that from.
Buzz is a fun mix of ride and arcade game, and the que area is a blast. I learned that it's a lot easier game to play if Nick doesn't control the joystick. On the other hand, the ride is more, er, interesting if Nick is driving.
We rode on It's A Small World once and on Peter Pan several times. I still really enjoy both of these classic rides. I especially enjoy the flight over London at the beginning of Peter Pan. Yes, it's simple by today's standards, but it is effective and enjoyable.
Nick and I rode Dumbo. As I expected from our summer trip, Nick has now gotten too big for us to ride together on this. That kind of tugged at my heart, but we still both had fun, as I could watch him popping up and down.
We did a little shopping while at the Magic Kingdom. I really like having stuff sent back to the room, instead of lugging it around. On the last day of the trip, we found that we could at least have the stuff sent to the gate of the theme park for pickup.
In the evening, Nick and I wanted to go on Pooh, but even the FastPass return time was stretched way out. So, we got a FastPass, went to dinner, rode the Mad Tea Party and Snow White, and still had time to get back to Pooh within our window. Basically, FastPass just erased the time we would have spent waiting for Pooh. Instead, we spent our "waiting time" riding other rides and having a great meal. I can't say enough good things about FastPass.
I really like Winnie The Pooh. It's a funny, cute ride. It's mostly low tech, but the art is well drawn, and the ride is well-themed. I still consider it a good ride.
Nick and I just hit a good rhythm with each ride on the Mad Tea Party this time. We were spinning fast, and having a blast. Sometimes, you just seem to get it right.
We had a wonderful dinner in at Cinderella's Royal Table. I had the prime rib, and a terribly rich chocolate mouse cake desert. The potatoes were very good, with a mash of interesting flavors in them. Strangely enough, though, I thought I had those same potatoes at the Prime Time Cafe' two days later. I guess I think it would be nice if the food was unique to the venue/theming where it's served. An example of how it should be is the food at the Liberty Tree, which is very good, and uniquely "Yanky".
Nonetheless, the food at Cindy's was great. The dining room filled with medieval architecture and decoration is charming. We had a terrific table, next to a window overlooking Fantasyland. It was quite a setting. And the service was "Disney great". When you get back to the real world, the waiters at a normal restaurant just seem rude by comparison. The service at Disney is beyond compare.
This meal was just about as close to perfect as any I've had.
Debbie left the park right after dinner to return to the room. Nick and I stayed until 10. This was an e-ticket night, and we could have put out a little cash and stayed later. But, the crowds had been light all day, and we really were satisfied with the riding we had done. It was time for a good night's sleep.
Nick and I took two rides late at night on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I found that I like BTMR better at night! The feeling of speed is enhanced (which is why Space Mountain is a dark ride). In addition, the sky was full of stars when you are on the pinnacle. I suppose there are no lights anywhere near the ride, and the stars really shine. I've seen stars like that in the mountains back in Colorado, but not in town. It was gorgeous.
Nick and I took a ride on Pirates late in the evening, and there were only three other people on the ride. Pirates is not as popular as it used to be, but I still love it.
Nick and I watched the Fantasy In The Sky fireworks from the streets of Frontierland. We were just coming off of one of the rides in Adventureland, and rounded the corner down by Pecos Bill's to get a better view. We were close enough from there to hear the PA system, and to get a very good view of the fireworks. It was gorgeous.
The pizza from the food court at Port Orleans still makes a great late night snack.
Saturday, February 5, 2000
This is the big day! Nick's 8th birthday. The day before, he got a card from Pooh, Eyore, and Tigger, which was left in his room by the PO staff). It said "Port Orleans" on the envelope. Nick said "Cool, is it really from them?" Did he mean Pooh or PO?
This was a day that we spent at Animal Kingdom in the morning, and Magic Kingdom in the afternoon and evening.
In Animal Kingdom, we made sure that Nick got a birthday button (from guest services). The, we did Countdown to Extinction, the Dinosaur Jubilee, Tarzan Rocks, saw some Monkeys in Asia, did the Maherashi Jungle Trek, and "It's Tough To Be A Bug". We did a little shopping on the way out, and picked up our picture before heading back to PO.
I know that people have complained about it, but the truth is the new CTX is better! It's still plenty bumpy for my tastes. The slightly slower fide lets you get a better view of the dinosaurs, and I'd rather have that. I find the dinos to be actually very good overall. But, the pterodactyl rope is noticeable (because everyone in the newsgroup talks about it so much? ;^) My whole family loves this ride, and the slow down actually improved it.
BTW, it was a walk on.
I thought the Maherashi Jungle Trek was pretty good. The theming is deep, with ruined temples overrun by the advancing jungle. The "wildlife" which we observed included deer and tigers. There were also some interesting birds in the aviary, and a lot of giant bats in the bat hut. I thought this was a lot better than the Gorilla Trail, or whatever it's called now.
We saw "It's Tough to Be A Bug" one more time. The sculpture on the Tree of Life is just awe-inspiring. This que is a great chance to see it up close.
And I love "It's Tough To Be A Bug". The mix of animatronics and 3d film is just very cool, the story is funny and engaging. It's a neat, short little script, and it is very well-presented. The crawling maggots really got a reaction out of Nick. He may not have ever felt them before--they seem to be kind of hit or miss. But, it leaves a surprise for you even if you've seen the show a couple of times.
This show was a walk on. It takes you a while to meander through the que area, even if no one is in front of you. But, we went right in when we got to the door. Even in the pouring rain in the summer, this show was never a walk on. We've got to come back at this time of year.
We still didn't do the Kali River Rapids. It just seemed too chilly (that didn't do stop us from doing Splash Mountain while in the Magic Kingdom, but that's beside the point). In the summer, it was raining too much, in the winter, it was too cool. We just aren't meant to ride this ride.
Between the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom, we stopped off at the room, and I had a bowl of gumbo in the food court as a snack. Man, this is good gumbo! Debbie and I took a short nap, while Nick messed around in the arcade. It was good to get recharged for our big night at the Magic Kingdom.
On this trip, Nick discovered the penny pressing machines that are located all around the property. He seemed to be pressing a penny everywhere we went. It's actually 51 cents a piece (two quarters and the penny), but he's got a pocketful of souvenirs from all over the property.
When we got to the Magic Kingdom on his birthday, we took the train from Main Street to Frontierland, grabbed a FastPass on Splash Mountain, did BTMR and waited for Splash. After Splash Mountain, we had a wonderful dinner at the Liberty Tree, did the Haunted Mansion twice in a row, rode Peter Pan, the Mad Tea Party, then hit Adventureland. In Adventureland, we did the Jungle Cruise, Pirates, did some shopping at the treasure chest, caught the last show at the Tiki Room, and then caught the Main Street Electrical Parade.
We got FastPass for Splash Mountain, and then rode BTMR, and still had time to kill before the FastPass return. I just love FastPass.
We had Nick's birthday dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. We could not have made a better choice! Before you sit down, they decorate your table with curly streamers and "tiny Mickeys". At desert time, they bring out a giant cupcake with a candle, and the waitstaff sings a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday Patriot". By the end of the evening, we knew the words to the song. There were 6 birthdays in the little room we in which we were seated. One of the birthdays was a woman who looked like she was in her early 40's, and she was as having as much fun as the kids.
The dinner, of course, consisted of honey mustard ham, roast beef, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and an apple crisp desert. The meal is served family style, and there is plenty of it. Of all of the meals in the trip report, this is the only one that makes me hungry when I'm writing about it! Now, the meal also, in principle, included a family style mac and cheese, but Nick snagged that as his entree.
Of course, the characters (Minnie, Goofy, Pluto--a very funny Pluto, Chip and Dale) wander around the restaurant in colonial uniforms. We actually got some nice pictures with Nick and the characters, instead of him taking pictures of the characters with other people's kids.
The colonial atmosphere is great, the characters were great, the food was great, the service perfect, and the birthday celebration was great. This was a hit by all measures. We made the perfect choice.
We were lucky enough to get stuck on the Haunted Mansion once, but the announcer kept interrupting the music to tell us the ride would start again *SIGH*.
The hearse and the ghost horse are no longer standing in front of the Haunted Mansion. This bothered us enough that we asked a CM. She told us that they were being refurbed, as the weather had taken a toll. She assured us that they would be back. Someone let me know if they return. It's just not the same without them.
I really like the little gypsy wagon by the Haunted Mansion. Besides the fact that it is next to the best ride on the property. It has a bit of the dark side, like the Villains' Store in MGM. Disney dark, just unsettling enough to be fun.
We rode the Jungle Cruise at night again, this time with Debbie. It's still a funny ride, but the skipper the night before was funnier. I do like doing this ride at night, it seems to add a dimension to it. The temple is especially enhanced by the darkness.
There was a fair crowd on Pirates this time. I think PoTC is a great show, although I wish they hadn't made the politically correct changes. I always felt that the story is centered around the bad guys, who lose in the end, so why do you expect the treatment to be PC? Although the fact that the bad guys lose in the end is less clear on this version than on the DisneyLand version.
Nick got a handful of treasures from the treasure chest shop next to Pirates. His booty included glass jewels and gold coins. And we each got a T-shirt.
We were in the Enchanted Tiki Room for their last show of the night. There were only 2 other people in there besides us. I still love this show. I am very impressed by the articulation on the animatronic figure of the Goddess Of Disaster. It looks so much like a live actress! This show is very funny, although you have to know the old show very well to really "get it".
After the Tiki Room, we were crossing the bridge between Adventureland and the hub right when the Main Street Electrical Parade was starting. We sat on the bench right there on the little walkway which links Adventureland to the hub. Folks, this is a great place from which to see this parade. It's not very crowded, and you get a clear view of the parade across the lawn, with the castle in the background. It was beautiful. This is such a fun parade. Quite a fitting end to Nick's birthday.
Well, almost the end. When we got back to the room, we tried ordering a pizza from the food court. This is not smart. I should have went down and picked it up like I did the night before. It took much longer and was kind of cold. I should have walked over there. What was I thinking? (Probably "I'm exhausted. Why aren't I going to bed?")
Boy, this trip was very happy. Nick had a great birthday.
Sunday, February 6, 2000
This was a day that we spent at Disney MGM Studios.
The Rock And Roller Coaster! What a ride! They have FastPass, but the standby line says 10 minutes. We are on in much less time than that. In fact, when we get off, the line is still so short that we get back in line, and are back on in less than ten minutes. That may have been a little too much, though ;^).
The ride is a linear induction coaster, and it is amazingly fast, with loops and inversions throughout. You feel the most force at takeoff, when you go from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds. But, what makes it Disney is that the theming is exceptional, as you scream through the highways of Los Angelus in a black lit experience with an Aerosmith soundtrack. FYI, the sound track does change each time, as our second ride had a better song ;^). Seriously, the pounding
Aerosmith music in each seat adds a lot to the experience.
We each fit easily in the ride vehicle, which is roomier than it looks. I did bump my knee getting in the first time, but that was more clumsiness than
Even the exterior is wonderfully themed, with a giant guitar and keyboard, and neat logo right next to the Tower of Terror.
This ride is a hit.
Nick said that he liked RnRC a lot better than ToT. In fact, Nick says that RnRC is now his favorite ride. He's pretty fickle, though.
We skipped the Tower of Terror. Debbie was just not in the mood after we went on 2 back to back rides on RnRC. Ironically, she's the thrill rider. So, when she didn't want to do ToT, we passed.
This was about the time that I started to feel like we were really rushed, that we were skipping things I wanted to see or do, or only doing fun things only
once. Probably missing the Tower of Terror and knowing we wouldn't get back to it really made me feel that way. There is no doubt I want to come back during
off season, but five days is not enough. I began thinking about having the next trip include Thanksgiving, so the trip could be longer without missing too much school.
For lunch, we had burgers at the outdoor place down by ToT and RnRC. We had to get our bearings after our double dose of RnRC.
We only rode on Star Tours once. After all these years, this is still a fun ride. The outside of the building showed some Episode 1 theming, but the
interior and the ride are still the same as ever. There was Episode 1 merchandise in the store, though.
I still love the Great Movie Ride, which we only get to do once. Both of our guides (we got the cowboy switch) are a little weka. Nonetheless, this is still a neat ride in terms of the sets, the action, and everything else. The finale
of movie clips is always moving, because you think "I remember that" over and over again. It's still a GREAT movie ride.
While I was on the GMR, I was wondering to myself why I found the animals and so forth on the Tarzan part of this ride or Adventureland to be more entertaining
than Animal Kingdom. I think it's because in their efforts to make AK "authentic", they have really produced a number of settings that just seem "run down" (of course, they really aren't). Remember, Walt nixed the original
exterior design for the Haunted Mansion, because he didn't want anything "run down" in his park. Have they missed a point here, or is it just me?
Muppet Vision 4D is just a funny, clever, inventive show. We all enjoyed it again.
This is the first time that we saw Doug Live! It was actually very good. It is a live stage production based upon the animated TV series. It is better, of course, if you know a little bit about the cartoon, but should be easy for
anyone to identify with. The show is a mix of simple Doug style animations and minimalist stage settings which work very well together. The actors, especially
Doug and Roger, were very good. "The Beets" singing group are recruited from the audience. Our bunch was quit hammy and enjoyable.
Nick still enjoys the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground. We let him run around in there by himself this time, while we enjoyed a break at the lunch area next door, snacking on popcorn and churros.
We did the Backstage Pass, which included sets and scenes from Home Improvement.
I passed up the chance to volunteer to play Al in the little demo scene. Nick really encouraged me to put my hand up, and I later wished I had for his sake. I thought that the creature shop was very interesting, although Nick and Debbie seemed lukewarm. Actually, I still found the whole tour to be pretty fascinating.
I still found the Drew Carry "Sounds Dangerous" show to be funny, with great
audio effects. It's a lot of fun.
We picked up some treasures from the Villains' store, including some great T shirts, a coffee mug, and some other wonderful items. Although I tend to agree that there is just a bit too much merchandising at the parks now, the Villains'
store is an exception. This place is great. It lets you revel in Disney's dark side, which is just evil enough to be a lot of fun.
We had dinner at The Fiftys' Prime Time Cafe. We all loved it. I enjoyed the theming even more this time. The fifty's furniture and decorating and the
constant loop of fifty's hit TV shows in every room create such a fun atmosphere. I had to have the fried chicken, because it fits the theme ;^).
The potatoes and the green beans were both excellent, and the chicken was
perfect. The strawberry shake, though, was the best part of the meal. It was all great, and very "fiftys", after all.
Our waiter, Cousin Toupher, made the experience. He was hilarious. Debbie and Nick both thought this guy was funnier than the last one, but I remember him as being pretty funny. Nick was, predictably, acting up. So, the waiter offered
to arrange to have one of the little girls in the next booth kiss him. That
kept him in line--for a while.
At the next table, a young lady in her early thirties didn't finish her vegetables. So, the waiter was forced to help her out with the airplane sound. Her date was given the teapot song Penalty for some regression. But, he refused to play. Some people just have no respect (and don't know a good time when they see one).
Debbie had the pork chops, and reported that they were very good. I don't
recall what Nick had, but I know we each had one of those spectacular shakes.
Whenever we are at MGM, we have to go back to Prime Time. It's quite the
But, it'll be weeks before I'm comfortable putting my elbows on the table again.
We went back to PO early, right after our early dinner at Prime Time. I had really wanted to catch the Fantasmic! show, as this summer's performance was out of this world. But, Nick had homework to do, and Debbie was clearly tired. So, we ended up back at the PO food court, Nick and Debbie working on his homework,
and I on my notes for my trip report. It sounded like they had a live band next door, and what we could hear was pretty good.
Monday, February 7, 2000
This was a day that we spent at Epcot.
I really enjoy the little sidewalk of discoveries, or whatever you want to call it, between Innoventions and the Living Seas. If you've never looked down,
there are a series of small round tiles, each with an important discovery or invention. The discovery is listed, the country or region of origin, the year, and the person responsible. For some of the older discoveries, some of the
information is missing. But, from the discovery of fire to the creation of the World Wide Web, great moments in science and technology are listed here. You may have to be a real tech fan to enjoy this, but I got a big kick out of it. I noticed this on our summer trip, but on this trip I realized that the tiles are arranged in concentric rings. The center ring is prehistory, followed by the middle ages, then the Renaissance, the industrial revolution, and the 20th
century. So, will they need a new ring?
We didn't get in either HISTA or TT this day, but we did Spaceship Earth twice. Once it was a walk on, the other there was a tiny line.
On Spaceship Earth, after having been on it over and over again, I actually
noticed something I had missed. Near the end, when the Japanese girl and the American boy are talking and interacting with their terminals, she is talking in Japanese, and her display is in Japanese, while the American is speaking and reading English. Maybe Motorola just made me sensitive to this. It's pretty
I still find Spaceship Earth to be accurate and inspiring. I enjoy the historical perspective on communication, and the treatment of the modern
revolution. And, you have to agree--the Internet is in the process of changing
*EVERYTHING*. The changes we are in the middle of now are as sweeping as
everything before put together.
I find that Spaceship Earth makes you think about the Internet and what has
happened in the last few years. I've had very few things ever published in print, but I have had a ton of things "published" on the net--in my own web
pages, in newsgroups, mailing lists, and personal e-mails. Although it's still easier to make a living as a print author, it's a lot easier to be an Internet
author. And people all over the world read what you write. You have the
opportunity to touch lives, which is at least as important as making money.
Friends, family, and groups are now pulled together by the "lost art" of
correspondence. People will send an e-mail who would never have "had time" to send a letter. And a phone call is just not the same. You can compose your
Internet missives a little at a time, when you have a few minutes. And your
recipient reads them the same way. Plus, it's easy for your recipient to be a dozen or a hundred people. The net is letting people overcome time and distance
in a brand new way, and allowing circles of people to form, both locally and globally.
And when you want to learn something new, the best way has become to hit the terminal. Whether at work or at home, you have a good chance of finding just that fact, data sheet, or tutorial you are looking for.
Things have changed.
It makes you stop to realize that despite the recent emphasis on shopping
online, the net is still so much more than that. It's about content, not
technology. We end up worrying about the latest plug in so you can go view some animation. But, the real power is in ideas, and written words (and simple
pictures). And despite all of the frustration, it's still pretty darned
The point of the Internet is ideas and community, not multimedia or shopping.
It's content and information, not presentation. Despite the problems with
fractured formats and Microsoft's monopoly, the net is still hot. Forget
opposable thumbs! What makes humans unique is our power to communicate and
preserve our ideas, throughout the globe and across the centuries. No other
creature does that.
Speaking of communication, the film over in Motorola's area in Innoventions has some neat concepts. I especially like the navigator and the door locker in the minivan. Telecom in the car coupled with a smart house does have some great
possibilities, and Motorola hit a couple here. I also really like the idea of the voice translator. I generally find speech recognition technology to be overrated (a solution in search of a problem). But, with respects to Gene
Rodenbery, wouldn't a universal voice-to-voice translator be cool? Speech
synthesis exists, translation software for text to text between languages exists (you can even find web pages that will translate for you), and speech recognition exists (although it's a bit immature, even now). Put these three
things back to back, and you could actually build this thing! Pretty darned
Nick played a lot of Toon Tag. He was surprised when I explained to him that it would be across the net. He had heard the CM say it the other day, but didn't
realize you'd be playing person to person with the Internet enabling the game. We both agree that this should be a lot of fun.
So, you might infer I'm a big Internet fan. Would I even be writing this if I wasn't? Although the web gets a lot more publicity, I have always felt that the newsgroups enable a lot more truly useful communication. RADP, of course, being one of the finest examples ;^).
Debbie wanted to go to the Coral Reef for lunch, but I resisted. The last time we went (not this year, but a couple of years back), it was rather disappointing--expensive with mediocer quality and small portions. But, she persisted. As strange as it may sound, I was completely wrong! The food this time was wonderful, and we had a great seat next to the glass. We were frequented by sharks and sting rays. I even got some fairly good pictures
shooting through the glass. The service was great, even by Disney standards,
and I did not find it to be very expensive (for seafood). Have they improved
this place, or is lunch just a better choice here than dinner (I usually find the opposite to be true--I like the dinners most sit down places better than the lunches). Well, you must try going here for lunch, it was well worth it. The cream of lobster soup and the curry prawns were both memorable.
We spent quite a bit of time inside of the Millennium Village. I had thought
that the Millennium Village was only going to be around for the Millennium
celebration, but it sure looks permanent.
From the way that I saw the Millennium Village described, I expected it to be kind of cheesy. You know, "well, after all of the money they spent on the main countries, now their throwing everyone whose left into one big building". But, in reality, it is pretty nice. We spent quite a bit of time there.
There is a nice performance area (World Showplace) with an ad for Venizula's
travel, then performers from around the world. We enjoyed a Finish musical
group performing folks songs and traditional music. The music was good, some of the instruments were unique, and the staging and lighting were good. They were quite good. Debbie had caught a group of dancers in here a couple of days ago, and said they were also memorable.
The Jeruselum presentation in the Israel booth was really very nice. Sort of a high tech travel film, complete with light flight simulation. Despite what some have said, I found it to be pretty well balanced. They paid a tribute to the three major faiths that consider this a holy city.
The shops inside of MV are all pretty neat. The Brazillian exhibit has a neat walk/run through. The Scottish exhibit (shouldn't they be included in the UK?) included a presentation on Scottish inventors which was very interesting. It's fascinating that so much significant technical progress has come from one small country. I was surprised to learn that Alexandar Graham Bell was working on a hearing aid when he made his communications breakthrough.
Nick really liked the recycling town here in the MV. I'm trying to figure out why it is in here--what does it have to do with the international theme? Oh well, he had fun.
I was not aware that Chile owns Easter Island. I wonder how that happened. It gave them a chance to have something very interesting in their MV booth. We didn't have a chance to enter the Saudi booth at MV, but it looked very
Overall, the MV has better production value and more technology than I expected.
It was far more entertaining and informative than I thought it would be. Kind of a "Innoventions" for World Showcase.
Nick introduced the British Invasion!!! It's quite a little story.
We wandered into the back street of the UK pavilion, which we had never really
explored before. It is a beautiful little area, right out of Mary Poppins.
Well, the KidCot booth was there. We had also not run into these before. So, Nick sat down and started working on his mask. It was a gorgeous day (did I mention the February weather beats the pants off of the weather in June), so Debbie and I sat down on a bench, soaking up the sun and the scenery, and
watching the people go by. I was watching a British CM in a slightly puffy
dress go around trying to convince one of the guests to do something for her, which I figured had to do with a show about to start in the bandstand. She went from one guest to another, each of whom politely turned her down.
About this time, Tigger appeared from one of the secret passages. Nick had been taking pictures of characters this trip, but was out of film today, so he was getting me to snap every character we saw. Not with Nick posing there--he just wanted the pictures. Well, anyway, in typical Nick style, he yelled at the top of his lungs from across the square "Tigger, Tigger, Dad get his picture!"
(No I didn't need to be told).
So, some time goes by, and we're still sort of watching the crowd. May have
been a little too comfortable, because we just assumed Nick was still working on his mask. Until he walked up to the microphone with the CM.
I guess she found someone who wasn't afraid of making a spectacle of himself.
It was funny, because she had been trying to get an adult guest to do it, but must have decided that Nick had as good as volunteered.
He did a great job, BTW.
In the late afternoon, this courtyard where the British Invasion plays (Upper
Regency Lane seems to be the name of the "street") is one great big party. The KidCot booth is here, with kids busily working on their masks. There are lots of characters with a British bend--Alice, Tigger, Pooh, Mary Poppins, Mr. Smee, the Queen of Hearts, and Eyore. The music is well-performed British pop from the 60's. The weather was wonderful, the gardens and the British architecture
make relaxing surroundings. This was a wonderful bit of serendipity.
The mask which Nick started here drove him to try to hit every country in Epcot before supper. He was very excited to try to get this done. With the mask that he started at the UK, his goal was to visit every KidCot booth (there's one in each country), and add a trinket or a stamp to the mask or it's handle. We went all around World Showcase in less than an hour! We went from one KidCot to the next, taking in just a smidgen of each country as we did. But, we saw some
characters, caught the drummers in Japan, stopped for a drink at the little
African place, and just had a great time! The only problem is that I was
kicking myself because the light was so good (it was late afternoon, and the declining sun was painting each pavilion in gorgeous shadows), and I was out of both film and memory in my digital camera. It would have been a neat photo
What a meal at Le Cellier! The pretzel bread, the cheese soup, the peppery
steak and the rich, fresh cobbler were all superb. The waitress was pleasant
and patient (Nick was in a mood). The bill was on the high side, but considering the quality and the portions, it was definitely worthwhile. It seems like we had very good restaurant luck this trip.
For the Illuminations 2000 show, there is really no such thing as a really good or really bad spot. The show is so big, you will see some parts very well and others more poorly, no matter where you are. Our spot this night was better
overall than the covered porch at The Rose and Crown. We stood on the walk near Canada, the part that juts out into the water. Trees and lampposts are in the way, but you see a lot of the lake, and have a clear view of the sky. Man, what a show this is! The globe is amazing. It's hard to even describe to people how good the movies they show on it look. The torch that comes out of the globe at the finale is awe inspiring. The entire finale is fantastic, and the music
throughout the show is superb. All of the fireworks and pyrotechnics are
awesome. It is also a very moving show (although Spaceship Earth still touches
me more, for some reason).
This was a good trip. We got good pictures, had good food, collected good
memories, and enjoyed good weather. A shorter, more hectic trip than last time, but we were fortunate at every turn.
It's probably going to be November of 2001 before we return. I wonder how many days that is?
Tuesday, February 8, 2000
Time to go home. This is sad.
It seems to be a universal rule that the trip home is never as smooth or pleasant as the trip there. It's probably because on the trip there the anticipation makes you overlook the small problems, but on the trip back, you keep thinking how you'd rather still be at WDW.
We had trouble with Tiffany on the way back! Our driver never showed up, even though he had called me the night before to double check the pick up time. Another Tiffany driver came for someone else, and we spoke with him. He had also spoken with our driver that morning. But, well past the pickup time, and no sign of him. Hopefully nothing serious happened.
After we waited as long as we could, the other driver turned around and gave us cab fare, and we caught a taxi. So, you have to give Tiffany credit for taking care of us. I'd use them again without hesitation. Based on the taxi fare for this ride, a round trip cab would cost the same as Tiffany, and Tiffany is a much more pleasant ride (and they meet you at the baggage pick up). Stuff happens, and I'm sure our little adventure was unusual.
We had connecting flights on our way back, as we did on our way out, because this was our cheap trip, and it was a lot cheaper than a direct flight. The first leg of the return trip was on a Boeing, which I actually found to be less roomy than the Aerobus, in spite of what I had read. Then, Debbie and Nick sat on one side of the aisle (two seats), and I on the other (center section). I was seated near a stranger, and couldn't put my armrest up. In addition, the woman in front of me thought she should have her head in my lap for the entire flight. I'll never understand why people think that's a fine thing to do.
Boy, WDW spoils you! When you get back to the real world, the waiters and other service folks seem rude by comparison. That feeling goes away after a while.
I can't believe how good our luck was with the buses on this trip. I truly believe it has to do with the system being at capacity in the summer, and much more relaxed this time of year. A car during this time of year is certainly superfluous, if you are staying on site. And, since that is the only real complaint I ever had about PO, we'll be back at PO on the next trip.
I just love PO. It's nice and small, the food court and restaurant are both
very good, the rooms and grounds are lovely (it's not the Wilderness Lodge, but it's still beautiful). IMHO, it's the best of the moderates, especially if you take the size into account.
I also have to rave about the weather on this trip again. The first day, there was a bit of drizzle, but that was the only rain we saw all trip. The skies were blue the entire time. In the morning and at night, it was cool enough to want to wear a very light jacket, so you ended up carrying one around all day. But, hey, it comes in handy for wet rides!
We didn't use the MKC very much this trip. I honestly feel it is less of an advantage than it used to be, because the number of places you can use it is smaller. But, we got a discount on our room, and a discount on the AP when we bought it, and those two are big savings (I also recall that we got a pretty
fair discount on Leave a Legacy). So, MKC is still worthwhile, but not like it used to be.
Looking back over the trip, there were several things that we didn't have a chance to do, and I wish we had. We didn't do Tower of Terror (when we were next to it, we were dizzy from two consecutive rides on RnRC, and we never got back to it), never rode on the monorail, (still) didn't see the Hunchback show, didn't see the Beauty and The Beast show, didn't do the Backlot tour, didn't see the American Adventures show, didn't' ride on the Maelstrom, missed the Country Bears, we didn't go swimming, we had no time for DisneyQuest, and didn't spend anytime in either the Land or the Sea.
I guess that five days is just a little too short. But, I still want to go back in the off season. The lines, the crowds, and the weather are wonderful this time of year. So, we'll have to balance between the amount of time we want to spend there, and the amount of school that Nick can miss.
I think I mentioned that we've already gotten Nick's grades back for the trimester in which we took the trip. They were vastly improved from the previous trimester. I think giving him something to stimulate his mind, to look forward to, and something about which he will feel a strong need to communicate when he comes back is actually a great boon to his school work. Plus, he actually thought we wouldn't go unless he was doing well in school. Heh, heh, heh.
So, it' definitely worth it to make the trip during the school year, but I don't want to get carried away. So, no two week trips. But, it will have to be more than five days.
A friend at work, who only goes during the school year, said that they take ten day trips (8 on property, and 2 traveling). By planning the days right, the kids only miss six days of school, and that's only one more than Nick missed this trip. This sounds very manageable.
The only problem is that Debbie is trying to talk me into a combined cruise/WDW trip next time. But, that's only like three days on property! What is she thinking ;^)?