Mark L. Fendrick - February 2002 - All Star Music
Time of Year: Winter
Travel Method: Plane, Personal Car
Accommodations: Standard Room
Ages Represented in Group: Adult
WDW Experience Represented in Group: Veteran
Comments: Mark and his wife flew down to WDW to visit their CM daughter once again. As usual, Mark provides a great narrative on the happenings during the trip. As usual, the Fendrick clan maximized their in-park touring time. If you enjoy the parks and lots of details, you'll enjoy a Mark Fendrick trip report.
Mark L. Fendrick -- February 2002 -- Walt Disney World (ASMuR)
February 17-23, 2002
This trip turned out to represent many emotions, both positive and negative. Since September 11, my daughter, Iris, who was working at Caribbean Beach Resort, was unsure from week to week if she would be working and if so, how many hours. She had been a part-timer, although it was her only means of support, waiting for her full time status. Since the events of September 11, when that would happen was now an unknown. Just weeks before our trip, she had found out that there would be openings at CBR and her manager checked to make sure she still wanted one of the full time positions. A week later, she received a call from casting that she would be receiving her full time status - and being transferred to All Star Sports. Although a bit disappointed about leaving CBR, she was nonetheless happy about the months of uncertainty being over. She was approached by her manager at CBR and asked if she was transferring to All Star Sports simply for full time or if she wanted to go. Naturally Iris informed her that she would prefer to stay at CBR, but had to have the full time status. Well, to make a long story short, her manager arranged a deal with a number of people and although Iris would indeed move to All Star Sports, it would be a deployment rather than a transfer, and Iris would stay statused at CBR. She would stay there for three weeks while the 27 new All Star Cast Members are trained. This will work out well, since this time we had decided to stay at All Star Music. Although we totally loved staying at DAK Lodge out last trip down, for us this was a waste since all we use the room for is sleeping. When I couldn't decide whether to book at CBR or All Star for this trip, Iris put it very well; "Stay at All Star," she said, "so you have more money to spend on me!"
On the other hand, my son, Bobby, who had worked at the Haunted Mansion during his stint on the WDW College Program and then continued with the company as a WDWCP campus rep, found out that he did not get the advanced internship that he had applied for to start when he graduates this May. However, as we all have at one point or another in our lives, he has now come to grips with his disappointment and is moving on.
Sunday, February 17, 2002
We left the house at 5:15 AM to make our 8:05 flight from Newark International. Although the airport is only about 15 minutes from our house, the new security calls for arriving 2 hours before your flight, so we took no chances.
After leaving the car in long term parking, we got on the airport monorail, and discovered it was traveling very slowly and at one point made a long stop between stations. A trip which usually takes us about 5 minutes took us almost 20 this morning. Arriving at the Continental terminal, which we found had been rearranged into three check-in areas on three different levels. A bit confusing, but with many more check-in positions, very welcome. When we checked in (we had e-tickets) we found that we then had to have our checked luggage x-rayed before we would receive our boarding passes. While the Continental personnel were pleasant and efficient, the Argenbright security people were anything but! The agent who was supposed to transport out luggage to the machine got pissed when the Continental agent would not let me move my luggage onto her cart. This is a federal mandate that I am not allowed to touch my luggage until I pick it up at my destination and Continental could get a fine if I were allowed. Finally my luggage was transported and x-rayed and we received our boarding passes and headed back to the next security checkpoint. There was a short line here and I passed through fine, without even so much as the usual random search that I am selected for. However, my wife's carry-on caused some interest and she was asked to step out for a full search. He carry-on was opened, and the nail scissors that she had inadvertently packed was confiscated. She was searched and a check of her sneakers for explosives was conducted. Finally we head back to our flight which pushes from the gate right on time. However we wait 20 minutes when it is discovered that luggage with no corresponding passenger was loaded and had to be removed. All of the luggage is removed and the offending luggage is found. Our luggage was reloaded, and we were off. With all of that we arrived on time in Orlando where Iris was meeting us at the airport.
We meet her in the lobby after our monorail trip from the terminal, and were shocked by what we saw. The entire lobby was one huge queue to pass through the metal detectors. In fact, the line was too long for the queue that was set up, and continued down a hallway and out of sight. We then decided to add 2 more hours to our arrival time at the airport on our return trip.
Finally we get to Iris's car and head to All Star Music to check in. Since we were arriving so early and Iris was working later that evening, she did not pre-check us in and would validate her discount when we checked in. Although it was early, we were happily surprised to find that our room was ready, so we unpacked, and then headed off to Downtown Disney for lunch at Wolfgang Puck's.
After lunch, Iris headed back to the room and took a nap before she had to work, while Sandy and I headed to the Disney-MGM Studios for a while.
When we got there, Sandy turned in the voucher for her renewed AP and in we went. She made her stop at Sid Cahuenga's while I went to the pin stand at the hat and purchased both of the AP pins. The original was out when I was last there, so I was happy to find both the first and the second pin available this trip.
We went through our favorite attraction, the Great Movie Ride, and checked out a few of the shops before the long day caught up with us and we headed back to the hotel. We stopped in the food court and had a light dinner and then headed toward our room. By 9:30 we were both sound asleep! Iris arrived back in the room after her shift at about 1:45 AM, and we would do Epcot the next day.
Monday, February 18, 2002
Today is our first full day here, and President's Day. We expect the Magic Kingdom to be very crowded so we decide to pick what we hope is the least popular of the parks for today, Animal Kingdom. A quick breakfast at the All Star Music food court, Iris drives us to DAK, so that she can have her car when she leaves and has to get to work. Later in the week, we will use the busses as much as is feasible.
Although Iris worked her first six months at WDW in Rafiki's Planet Watch, her priorities are seeing as many shows in the park as possible during her time with us. She grabs the time schedule and starts making the split second show plans for us.
First up is It's Tough to be a Bug. The Fast Passes don't work out time wise for us, so we decide to do the 25 minutes on the stand-by line, although it takes a bit less. As usual I love picking out the first timers and watching their reaction. This time was not a disappointment.
When they canceled the first Tarzan Rocks (and I find out that the President's Day pins have already sold out) we head back to Asia for lunch. We like eating at the counter/fast food Chicken House (?) restaurant by the River Rapids ride. I personally like the pot stickers and a couple of fresh corn on the cobs. Sometimes they have different Asian treats, so check back there to see what they have if you are there.
From there we catch the Flights of Wonder show. We get there just moments before it begins. I had seen it the first time I visited Iris at Conservation Station, but neither Sandy nor Iris had done so, therefore it was something new for them. Some overhead birds were causing some of the show's performers to lose concentration, but the show was terrific and the handlers did a good job with the birds.
From there we head to Tarzan Rocks, and our timing continues to be perfect. Although we have seen it many times, we still enjoy it each time. When the show was over, Iris decided it was time to head back to the room, take a short nap, change into her costume and go to work.
We head back to Dinosaur, and all the Fast Passes were taken, so we once again waited on the stand-by line. The park was crowded, but the lines were not that bad at all.
By this time we were ready to start to head out of the park, but would catch the parade for the first time. As we got to Discovery Island, the parade was about to arrive, so we watched it from there. It is a nice parade with plenty of characters for the kids. Not a classic, but far from the worst Disney Parade I have ever seen.
Once the parade is over we leave the park and decide to head for Boardwalk for dinner. I had Big River in mind as we had never eaten there before. This is a restaurant which brews it's own microbrews right in the restaurant to have with your meal. Sandy and I tried a dark ale. I enjoyed it more than Sandy, but it was only one of many that were available. The food was very good and we intend to go back to sample some of the other brews as well as some of the other meals. The menu was quite varied and the choice was wide.
Both well fed and tired, we head back to the hotel to relax - and fall asleep early once again - to prepare for the next day.
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
An unusual thing happens today. After working 6 and 7 days in the last weeks, Iris actually has today and tomorrow off. She could have picked up a shift on one of these days, but since we were down she decided not to and hang with us for some good meals. Today we would go to Epcot.
No wake up calls for us this week, but we rolled out of bed starting about 9:30 AM each day - except for the day that I woke up and it was already after 11:00 AM. But hey, this is a vacation, right?
Our first stop this morning was at Test Track where we picked up our Fastpasses. They were for about 5:00 PM which was good as we had dinner P.S.'s at The Coral Reef and would be heading back to Future World after taking the spin around World Showcase.
Fastpasses in hand we head over to Mexico, where we ride El Rio del Tiempo. Sandy looks around the shops and then we head for Norway. It has been years since we rode Maelstrom, so we decide to wait the 10 minutes and do it. It was fun watching the first timers, especially when they thought we would be going backwards over the falls. Naturally, we pass right through the theater and by-pass the movie.
The three of us are hungry now, and since we are having a large dinner and want to be hungry, we decide to have lunch now, and decide for the first time to eat at the buffet at Norway. I have to say that our reluctance over the years to try it proved baseless and we all had a wonderful meal. It still is not nearly my favorite in World Showcase, but it is another option that we can consider on future trips. However, the deserts were fabulous! I had the rice pudding with the strawberries - wow! I would go back just for that! Or at least buy it often in the bakery across from the restaurant.
We then continue around World Showcase until we got to The American Adventure. As usual, Voices of Liberty put on a magnificent show. However, the special patriotic feeling that was there shortly after September 11 was no longer there. Then you could see American flags everywhere and on everything. This trip things were back to what you might have expected before the terrorist attacks.
Continuing around we eventually made our way back to Future World. There was still some time before our Fastpasses would be valid, so we went to Innoventions for a while. Among the things we did was send picture postcards to friends and relatives. Here is one that we sent to my son. (It is in Spanish as my wife is a Spanish teacher and decided to send some in Spanish as well as English.)
When our time came to use our Fastpasses we headed over, and rode the ride. As we exited, I remembered that my newly purchased Saturn was a GM product. My daughter, of course, had not seen my new car, so when I looked around the display floor, I was happy to find a display Saturn SL2 that I could show her. Except for the color and the sun roof (mine is black and didn't have a sun roof), here was my car.
After a quick trip through The Living Seas, we headed for The Coral Reef for dinner. This meal would be 50% off as Iris still had her holiday coupon to use this night. While we were eating, the divers who had been in the tank since we started eating, came down with a sign saying "Happy Birthday". A guest at one of the tables up against the glass was having a birthday and had arranged this prior. After a while they showed up in the dining room and spent some time visiting with the birthday girl. Before they left, they spent some time with many of the restaurant's guests.
Stuffed and sleepy, we headed back to the hotel.
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Iris's second day off in a row and today we will visit her apartment for the first time. She moved into it in January, but still has been lacking a few amenities - such as furniture. Her bedroom had a computer desk with the computer equipment set up and working, but she was still sleeping on an old box spring and mattress which colleagues from her days at Conservation Station found for her when she first moved to Orlando. I had been promising her a bed for a while, and we notice a Rooms to Go delivery truck as we approach her apartment. Once inside, I log on to their website and within a few minutes had ordered her a new bed. I think she was more excited over the bed that I was over the new car I purchased just before we came down to Florida. She had picked up her next week's schedule the day before and knew that she had Wednesday off, and that was the first delivery date they offered so it worked out perfectly. (By 7:15 AM the next Wednesday she had a new bed!)
From her apartment we headed back to The Disney/MGM studios for the day. It was about lunch time when we got there so we decided to see how long it would be at 50's Prime Time Caf without PS's. We were informed that it would be about 20 minutes which was fine for us, so we sat down to wait. In reality it wasn't as much as 10 minutes, and we were brought in for our lunch. This restaurant is always one of the more fun places to eat, and the food is always excellent. I got the chicken pot pie, which they make so well that I anticipate it before we even get to the restaurant. I was not disappointed. With a little self-control, we manage to pass on dessert, not wanting to eat too much during the day as we were going to the Yachtsman Steak House for dinner that evening.
Once more we go through the Great Movie Ride, only this day there was absolutely no line at all. A single ride vehicle was dispatched at a time, and even that was far from being filled.
Next we went to see the Muppets 3-D show, and enjoyed it as much as always. We followed that up with a trip with Star Tours and then it was time to head over to the Hunchback Theater for our favorite show. We wanted to make sure we got there early enough to not only get a good seat on the runway, but to see Matt, the juggler. He was as funny as ever, and even had a few new pieces in his act. While this show is always our favorite, Iris also wants to see if a friend of hers is playing the role of Claupin this show. (He wasn't.) While the show was as enjoyable as ever, the actor who played Quasimodo was not as strong as those I have seen before. (At first I thought it might have only been my background as a musical director being critical, but Iris mentioned the same thing as well.)
A final pass through the shops on the way out, and we head to the Yacht Club and our dinner. This was another first for us as we had never eaten at the Yachtsman Steakhouse, but we were not disappointed. I had the NY Strip cooked in Jack Daniels - one of the best steaks I have ever had. Iris had the plain NY Strip and Sandy had the Prime Rib. No one was unhappy with their selections.
We decide to end the day at Pleasure Island, and catch a few shows at the Comedy Club and at the Adventurer's Club. When we eventually got very sleepy, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the next day.
Thursday, February 21, 2002
Today is the day that Iris actually has to get up and out of the room before we wake up. She is scheduled for a class at Disney University. Although she knows what they will teach her, since during her PT days at CBR she learned what they will cover, but was never sent to the class, when she came over to All Star for the few weeks she will be here, they noticed that she had never taken this class and scheduled it for her. As it turns out, since the facilitator quickly realizes that Iris not only knows what they are teaching, but has real life experience with it, she spends most of the rest of the day answering questions and almost acting as a second facilitator. Iris is comfortable with this since as a Teaching Assistant in college, she has experience in teaching a course or two herself. She has already been asked by her GSM at CBR if she is interested in being certified as a trainer when she returns in March. Naturally, Iris accepted. We will meet her back at the room in the evening, before we head to the Beach Club for out dinner at Cape May Caf.
For Sandy and myself, we will be meeting my parents in Epcot this morning. In the Spring and Summer months, they live here on Staten Island not far from us. In the Fall and Winter months, they live south of Tampa, and hold AP's for the park so they spend quite a bit of time here as well. We arrange to meet them at the AP lounge in The Land, so that is where we head.
We had seen the AP Lounge in Animal Kingdom when it was opened, and while it was nice, this is much better. I understand it was the Nestles VIP lounge before being taken over by the VIP Guest Services. You check in at the podium for the Garden Grille and they tell you the "secret" of getting to the Lounge. The elevator lets you off at the end of a corridor with a desk at the end under a sign welcoming you the AP Lounge. Three VIP Guest Services CM's were there when we arrived, and couldn't do enough for us. One took us on a tour of the lounge, which included a kids play area, with TV, and many small areas with plush chairs, and TV's - very comfortable. We are shown the soda machine along with the coffee and tea stations. The final room is for business, supplying free faxing capabilities, free local phone calls and data ports. Back at the desk you have what amounts to your own concierge service and while I realized it wasn't actually necessary, I made a PS for us at Germany for lunch. In the lounge at Animal Kingdom, they were able to provide you with Fastpasses, so I inquired here, but they had not been set up for that. The CM explained that they were new and experimental and were still trying to figure out what to offer. She wrote my request down as one of the things to consider. I returned to my parents and Sandy to find them having a nice conversation with one of the CM's. I hope that this becomes a permanent addition, as I can see really enjoying a stop here after a long day at the park.
We start to head over to World Showcase, stopping first at Test Track to pick up Fastpasses. They were timed so that they would be the last thing we would do before we leave the park. My parents would stay until about 6:00 PM so that they might possibly avoid the traffic on I-4 on the way home. We get to the entrance to World Showcase moments before it opens, and at rope drop we head towards China, since my parents now need a smoking break. During this break, Sandy does a little shopping in the China store and picks up some gifts for people back home. From there we head to Germany and our lunch at the Biergarten buffet.
After lunch we continue our walk around, stopping at The American Adventure. In a way I feel guilty about this, as Iris has been trying to see a performance of American Vybe since they have started performing at The American Adventure, but her schedule has always prevented this. Today, American Vybe - whom we had seen two trips back - were performing, and we caught their show. While they are not Voices of Liberty, they do put on an interesting show and I enjoyed this performance as I did the first time we saw them. And of course, as always, the show in the theater upstairs was enjoyable.
Returning to Future World, as we pass Ice Station Cool I ask my parents if they have ever been inside. My father says that he had always wondered what it was, so Sandy and I took them in. I told my father he absolutely HAD to taste the soda named Beverly. I wish I had a camera to take a picture of his face when he tastes it, but I didn't bring it with me today. For those of you who have never tasted it, it is an Italian drink used as a non-alcoholic aperitif. It is anything but sweet as you would expect of a soda. At this time, my parents need another smoking break. They find the nearest spot, in front of the "under construction" Mission:Space. Sandy and I go to Wonders of Life for the next 45 minutes, until it is time to use our Test Track Fastpasses.
But, as was frequently the case in years past, it was closed with mechanical problems, and no clue as to when it would re-open. We decide to ride Ellen's Energy Adventure and then drive to our hotel room until my parents need to leave towards home.
We get to the room and Iris has already returned from her class. We hang out for a bit, and when my parents leave, we have to start getting ready to leave for dinner ourselves. Our dinner at Cape May Caf was as wonderful as ever (I just love steamers!) and once again we head to Pleasure Island for the evening to catch the shows at the Comedy Club and the Adventurer's Club before heading back to the hotel.
Friday, February 22, 2002
Our last full day here. For the first time, our usual wake-up time comes and goes with none of us realizing it. At one point I check the clock and realize that it is almost 11:00 AM, so I wake everyone else up. We take our showers and then head to the Magic Kingdom, the one park which we have not yet done on this trip. Although they have been predicting rain for the last few days, today we finally got it. It is a mild drizzle and is still warm, so we decide to go the MK. If it starts getting too heavy or too cold we will make alternate plans. We drive to the MK since Iris will spend some time with us.
Since it is lunch time as we get to the MK, we decide to start with some lunch. Sandy wants to go to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Caf so she can watch Sonny Eclipse do a set. The place is very crowded but we manage to find a table on the lounge floor - perfect to watch Sonny. Both Sandy and I notice that the sound is not very good today and is somewhat hard to hear.
After lunch we head to get Fastpasses for Buzz Lightyear and find that they are for a time not very long from when we get them, so we take a trip around on the TTA (people-mover for us old-timers), and look through Mickey's Star Traders until it is time to use our Fastpasses. This trip through Iris hits something right away and finishes with a unusually high score - making her a Space Ace. Sandy and I finish with our usual pathetic numbers.
Unfortunately, both the Carousel of Progress and Timekeeper are once again closed so we could not enjoy either of those shows. We get fast passes for Space Mountain, which would make it the last thing that Iris can do before she heads back to go to work. Iris and I now decide that we need Dole Whips, so we head to Adventureland and get them. The rain still hasn't stopped at all during the day, but has never gotten to the point of being more than a mild, warm drizzle so we continue our day at the MK. Iris, however, decides not to trek back to Space Mountain, and heads back to the hotel to relax before work. Sandy and I decide to go on the Pirates of the Caribbean. When we reach the set with the pirate and the pigs, the ride stops. Through repeated taped announcements, and one or two live announcements stating that the repair crew is working and that they hope to have us going again shortly, we listen to the theme song over and over. Oh well, it could be worse - we could be in It's a Small World. Finally after about 15 minutes we are once again on our way with no evacuation necessary.
We continue around through Frontierland and take in a showing of the Country Bears Jamboree. From there we head to my favorite attraction of all - The Haunted Mansion. We notice that a new tombstone has been added for Madame Leota. Next our travels take us to the Hall of Presidents. Once done, we head into Fantasyland.
Sandy really wants to do some of the dark rides, so we get a Fastpass for Peter Pan, and then ride It's a Small World, hoping not to have a repeat of what occurred in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Happily, it went without incident. We waited on the stand-by line for Snow White and then returned to Peter Pan's Flight.
We pass the Legend of the Lion King theater, knowing that the next day will be its last, but decide not to go in, as we are wet, a bit tired and it is getting late. I have brought my pin collection with me and want to stop by the pin meet at the Contemporary this evening. We decide to head out, and make a stop at the rest rooms by the City Hall. While I am sitting and waiting for Sandy I sit on a bench protected from the rain by the bathroom, and realize that we have a perfect seat for SpectroMagic which is about to begin. We watch the parade as it comes onstage directly in front of us. Then we head to the monorail and the Contemporary Resort.
There are many pin collectors there, and we stay for about an hour, meeting people and making a few swaps. Hunger, wetness and tiredness win out and we head to Epcot for one more swing around on the monorail and then get a bus back to the hotel. We stop at All Star Sports first to see if Iris is near a break. It seems we had just missed her break, but she didn't eat and would do so on her second break. I tol;d her I would meet here and sit with her while she had dinner. I had to bring something she could cover her costume with so she could go to the food court with me for dinner. I borrow her car keys to drive back to our room in All Star Music where we get into dry clothes and head to the food court for dinner. I decide to wait until I meet Iris and eat with her, but Sandy is so tired that she eats and I drive her back to the room so she can pack and go to sleep. Packing will take me very little time so I am not worried about that. I head back to All Star Sports just as the line gets a little longer and Iris has to finish with a few guests before meeting me. After dinner I did not feel like making the walk back in the rain, so I once again use her car, telling her that I will meet her at 1:15 AM when she finishes for the night and drive her back with me.
Saturday, February 23, 2002
This is the final day, and after seeing the line in the Orlando Airport, we have decided to leave WDW about 12:30 or 1:00 PM. This actually makes it practical for Iris to drive us to the airport, which she could not have done if we left two hours later as originally planned. The original plans would have had us probably at a park for part of the day before returning to the hotel where we would have Tiffany Town Car pick us up.
To make the decision even easier, the rain from yesterday has increased, and the temperature has dropped quite a bit and it would have been too uncomfortable for us to go to a park anyway. We have breakfast at the All Star Music food court and then drive to the Downtown Disney Marketplace. We spend some time at the World of Disney, picking up last minute gifts and then decide to head to the airport.
We did a curbside check-in and then head back towards the gate, knowing that the security check-point just before the monorail was still in front of us. As we get there, the line looks identical to the way it was when we arrived a week ago. A loooong walk to find the end of the line and we take our place. Surprisingly it moves continuously. Airport personnel are very visible and helpful. If you find yourself on the line while your flight time approaches, you will find airport personnel constantly checking for folks in your situation, and they move you to the head of the line. We head past the 30 minute mark, the 20 minute mark, the 10 minute, and we are finally at the metal detector. Even here, security personnel are helping you arrange your stuff on the belt so things go smoothly. How long did it take us to go the entire length of the line? Would you believe only 15 minutes from start to finish? Much less than the posted times. Congratulations MCO!
Of course we now had a long wait at the gate, so we picked up some reading material and sat back for a wait. No problem at all.
The flights from MCO to CLE and the CLE to EWR went rather smoothly and on-time. In fact, unlike the usual connections we make, not only was our connection in the same terminal, not only was it at the same gate, it turned out that the flight would be on the same aircraft! When boarding for our last leg, Sandy and I were pulled aside for a random search, and then we head for Newark.
When we landed, one of those things that is only funny because of when and where it happened. As we touched down in Newark, the window directly across from me (I was in seat "A" and this happened at seat "F") fell out onto the lap of the woman sitting there. Since we were safely on the ground we got a laugh out of it - had it happened in the air - well I am not sure it would have been as funny.
So now we are home again, but I still have one chore to take care of. When we came down, Iris had asked us to bring some good NY Deli down with us since she can't get a good pastrami on rye in Florida. Of course, we forget to do this. On the plane, looking through the magazine in the seat pocket, I see a picture of Katz's Deli on Houston (pronounced HOUSE-ton for you non-NYer's) Street in the lower East Side of Manhattan. I hadn't eaten there since I was a young boy whose dentist was in the neighborhood. Of course, Katz's is not only famous for being the deli where they filmed to orgasmic scene in When Harry Met Sally, but going back even further to WWII when they were known for "Send a salami to your boy in the Army." I check them on the web when I get home and they do indeed ship, so I order about $100.00 of deli and stuff to send to Iris. She comes home from work hungry on Tuesday to find the shipment waiting for her! And the next morning at 7:15 AM, her new bed arrives. Now THAT is a good week!
Mark L. Fendrick