28 May, 2017

Controversies at the Most Magical Place on Earth?

If you have ever done an online search for Disney World, you will find that there are countless Disney blogs and fan sites. I'm not one to talk, I'm turning this page in to one as well.. The difference is I haven't been there a million times, like several of the other writers. I also was never a cast member or part of the College Program (but if I had known about it when I was in college, I would have applied for it). But I have been there a few times, and have read several of those other sites, and feel that I have a pretty good idea of the comings and goings

One of the sites that pops up on my radar every now and then publishes its posts as lists. The top 10 this or the 6 biggest that or whatever. Often they claim to be things that you don't know about one of the parks or rides or whatever. They rarely have anything that I hadn't read or seen from either personal experience or read from another source.

A list I came across today was interesting, and I figured I would have to give my feedback to it. You can read the list here: It is titled the 10 Biggest Disney Park Controversies. I'd like to take them each one by one and give my take on each of them.

10. Which Park Is The Best? –

This one is a bit tricky. I love almost everything about Animal Kingdom, and don't get it why so many people call it a half day park. Now that Avatar is open (which I will be seeing in September), there certainly is more to do, but I never had problems filling a day there. Often, we would spend 2 days there on a trip. I would rank the Kilimanjaro Safari ride as one of the best in all of Disney World. Kali River is a fun (albeit too short) water ride, and I love the Flights of Wonders show. There is something for everyone there, and has probably the 2 best quick service restaurants on property (Flame Tree and Restaurantasaurus, and the new one at Avatar, looks to be ready to take the top spot. With the addition of the 2 rides at Avatar, the projection show on the Tree of Life and the Rivers of Light night show, it will be difficult to call it a half day park any more.

That said, I think I have to go with the Magic Kingdom as the best park. It has the most to do, and it not only can never be called a half day park, it is hard to make it only a 1 day park. Even the experienced Disney goers can't get everything they want done there in a single day. It has all of the classics, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise. Not to mention the immersive theming that envelops you with every step you take. I would like to see some more table service options, but except for EPCOT, all the parks are rather limited. Some of the best places to sit down and eat are in the resorts, not the parks.

While I enjoy days at EPCOT and Hollywood studios, in their current conditions, they pale in comparison to the other parks. Things will all change in 2019 when Star Wars Land is expected to open at Hollywood Studios (or whatever it will be called then, a name change is expected). I love Toy Story Midway Mania, the Indy Show (I know, a lot of people think it's tired, but maybe I just haven't seen it enough), and it has some great shows for kids. I'm not much for thrill rides, but Tower of Terror is fantastically well done. Over at EPCOT, expect to do a lot of walking. I am looking forward to experiencing Soarin' around the World. I really loved the original version and have intentionally not watched videos of it online, waiting to see it for myself our next trip.

9. Which Is The Best Mountain? –

Ah yes, the Disney World Mountain Range, 3 (Splash, Thunder and Space) or 4 (Expedition Everest) mountains with rides. Do you count the new 7 Dwarfs Mine Train? For me, it's an easy one. Hands down it is Splash. Now, I haven't yet been on Space (as I said before, I'm not huge into thrill rides, and my family is less so, but I have intentions to ride it at some point, after all, how can you call yourself a Disney Park Nerd if you've never ridden Space Mountain?)

8. Turkey Legs v. Dole Whips –

Another no brainer here. Dole Whip for the win. I have never been a big fan of turkey legs, and wouldn't want to walk around the park picking past all the tendons. Give me a Dole Whip Float any day of the week.

7. Haunted Mansion Or Pirates Of The Caribbean? –

Ok, this one I had to think about for a minute. I love both, and a trip to the Magic Kingdom just isn't complete without a ride on both. There are people who don't like what is represented in Pirates, and many that don't like the Johnny Depp overlays, but it is still a great ride. But on this one, I have to give the nod to the Haunted Mansion. It is a lot of fun and can be ridden multiple times each trip.

6. Which Disney Resort Is The Best? –

Here is one I really can't speak of with a ton of authority. I have only stayed at 2 (Saratoga Springs and Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge). Both are great places to stay. I have visited other resorts for the restaurants. The live open savannas give Animal Kingdom Lodge the edge. I know a lot of people don't like how far away they are from other things.. you can't hop on the monorail or boat and get to the Magic Kingdom, you can't walk to EPCOT or Hollywood studios or Disney Springs. For us, the bus service has been all we need to get wherever we want to go with minimal waiting.

5. Walt Disney World Or Disneyland? –

Another one that I really can't comment on. Hopefully someday soon we will make it to Anaheim, but I don't know when that will be.

4. Are Certain Attractions Overrated? –

Of course certain attractions are overrated. Which ones are a matter of opinion. For me, the overrated things include Test Track, Mission: Space and most character meet and greets.

3. Are Certain Attractions Underrated? –

As certain attractions are overrated, there are underrated ones as well. On my list of underrated attractions you find things like Carousel of Progress, the People Mover, and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.
2. Which Is The Best Disney Restaurant? –

I haven't eaten at them all, and haven't been to any of the 'signature' ones either, but of the ones I have been to, I have really enjoyed Liberty Tree Tavern (Magic Kingdom) for dinner, Captains Grille (Yacht Club Resort) and Cape May (Beach Club Resort) for dinner and Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge) for both Breakfast and Dinner. Honorable mention goes to 'Ohana (Polynesian resort) for breakfast (wasn't a fan of dinner), Garden Grille (EPCOT) for breakfast and Trail's End (Fort Wilderness Lodge) for dinner.

A couple I probably wouldn't be going back to include The Wave (Contemporary Resort) for dinner, 'Ohana for dinner, and Yak and Yeti (Animal Kingdom) for dinner.

1. Which Nighttime Show Is The Best? –

So much has changed since our last trip, that I really can't comment on this one either. Wishes is done at Magic Kingdom, replaced by the new Happily Ever After, Hollywood Studios added the Star Wars show, and the projection show and Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom are all new since we were there last.

The one time I saw Fantasmic! I wasn't thrilled with it, but we will be doing it again this time so I can give it another viewing. Wishes at Magic Kingdom was great. The music and narration were powerful. We had the opportunity to see Hallowishes at the Halloween party a couple years ago, and loved that and will be seeing it again this year, but of the shows that were in place last time we went, I have to give the nod of best night time show to Illuminations at EPCOT. The fact that there are so many great places to see the show around the World Showcase lagoon, to the music, fire, water, lasers and fireworks, it makes for a great way to end the day at EPCOT.

Well, there you have it. My takes on the 10 biggest Controversies at Walt Disney World. What are your thoughts? Where was I right, where was I wrong? Let me know in the comments!

16 May, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

** Warning Spoilers to follow, proceed at your own risks **

Ok, now that that is out of the way, I wanted to give my review and thoughts of Captain America: Civil War.

I have always enjoyed the Marvel Universe. I was never a huge comic book guy growing up… but when I picked one up, it was usually an X-Men, Avengers, or Spider-man. My cousins were a lot more into it than I was, and I kind of fed off of them. We played the Marvel version of Dungeons and Dragons, so we created our own superheroes in the Marvel Universe. I can accept the idea that there are multiple iterations of the Marvel Universe, so Captain America, doesn’t necessarily live in the same New York City as Professor Xavier and his X-Men do, which is different than the one that Peter Parker lives in. Imagine a world with all of the Marvel superheroes and supervillains in the same city at the same time. It would be kind of awkward for normal people to live, but I suppose you would get used to it. I like to think that I have a better than average idea of what is going on there, but some of the obscure plotlines, I am not as familiar with.

One of those plotlines I don’t know much (or anything, really) about from the, comic perspective, is the Civil War. For this review, I am going to go off of how the movie was done, not how it should have been done.

I like how they have woven the Avengers’ individual movies (Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, etc.) together with the Avengers movies, and look forward to them continuing to do so. There are aspects of the previous movies that are helpful to have seen them (but probably not imperative, I haven’t seen the Antman movie yet, so I probably missed some inside jokes, but I don’t think I missed anything from that movie in this one).

In a nutshell, the world’s governments are conflicted when it comes to the Avengers. On one hand, they are able to stop the supernatural forces of evil, but there is (sometimes excessive) civilian collateral damage. Sometimes it is extensive. The UN has decided to create guidelines as to how and when the Avengers can assemble. As you can imagine, when you take a group of people who have become accustomed to doing whatever they felt was needed to get the job done and give them a set of rules they now need to follow, there will be some pushback.

This is called the Sachovian Accords, after the events in the last Avengers movie. The group is split between whether or not this is good for the Avengers, and there are some strong opinions on both sides. Ultimately, a few sign the accords, while others refuse.

(Warning, spoilers coming... you have been warned...)

As the accords were being implemented, the UN is bombed, and blamed on Captain America’s friend, Bucky, the Winter Soldier. An all points with shoot to kill goes out and Cap goes after his friend, and the battle lines are drawn. The Avengers are divided. Those who are in favor of the oversight follow Tony Stark and those against the regulations follow Steve Rogers.  A huge fight breaks out at an airport with Avenger fighting Avenger. It is another example of why the Accord is important. In the scuffle, planes are destroyed, as well as ground units (belt loaders, tugs, etc.) and even the tower and terminals are subject to extensive damage.

Ultimately, Captain America and Winter Soldier escape, the remaining Avengers opposed to the Accord are rounded up and sent to a super-secret maximum security prison. The Captain and Soldier go off on their own to try to prove that he (Winter Soldier) was innocent and ultimately tag team to beat up Iron Man, then go break the rest of the Avengers out of the super-secret under water prison they are being held in for violating the Sachovian Accords. The movie ends with Tony opening a letter (delivered by Stan Lee) apologizing to him and giving him a phone (really? A flip phone? I get it that you are a WWII vet, and you don’t grasp tech like Tony does.. but a flip phone?) that he can use call if and when he needs their help. What is this? The A-Team?

Here are my thoughts. I know it was a ‘Captain America’ movie, so he is going to have to be the one that comes out on top. I wonder how different it would have been if it was an Iron Man movie, or if it was a more generic Avengers movie. That said, I didn’t like the way it ended.

I can understand where they are coming from. No one likes restrictive rules, especially new rules. That said, there needs to be a checks and balance system in place. It is the same reason that our Constitution established 3 parts of the government, each with checks on another.

Overall, it was an entertaining movie. I would rank it slightly above the middle of the pack among the Avengers movies (including the individuals). The Stan Lee cameo is one of the better ones, I still think the best one was in one of the worst movies, Fantastic 4 2, when he is trying to get into the wedding, but he wasn’t on the list.  The extended scene at the end after the credits foreshadow a new Spider-man reboot, do we really need that right now?

27 November, 2015

Meanwhile, back at WDW...

Well, another trip in the books, lets take a look and see how it went.

This year's cast of characters included my wife and daughter (19mo), my parents, my sister-in-law and her daughter (4). Helen and Molly had joined us for a previous trip (read about it here), but this was the first trip to Disney for my parents since we made 2 day trips to Magic Kingdom and the then EPCOT Center in 1985. The other 2 parks weren't around back then.

We were scheduled for a week at Kindani village. We had hoped for a spot at the Boardwalk, but there were no 2 bedroom suites available the week we were looking for.

Since we are DVC, staying on points, we have always paid for our trips in pieces. You know, plane tickets.. dining plan.. park tickets.. etc.. This year, the park tickets were the last big piece we paid for. That made it difficult to get fast passes for the some of the more popular attractions. We were unable to get fast passes for the new 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, or for Toy Story. There were several meet and greets that were full as well.

The best priced flights were out of BUF, so we drove the hour down the thruway (I-90). We had an early (ish) morning flight, so we booked a night at the Marriott across the street and made arrangements to park our cars there for the week. Once we were checked in, we headed over to Charlie the Butchers for some great beef on weck.
In the morning we took the hotel shuttle to the airport and boarded the plane. It was the first time that Evelyn had been on a plane, and despite having being up at 5am, she was awake and active for the entire 2 hour flight, right up until the instant we touched down in Orlando, when she went out like a light. We arrived at MCO shortly before noon on Saturday the 14th, and we headed down to the first floor of the airport where the Disney Magic Express buses whisk you away to your resort. When we stepped off the elevator, we were a bit surprised to see how busy it was. One of the reasons we had picked this week was that traditionally, it was a relatively light crowd week at Disney.

But despite being fuller than I have ever seen it, our line moved fairly well, and in about 20 minutes, we were on a bus and on our way to the hotel. When we got there, we checked in and got our room assignment. I had gotten the texts that let us know the room was ready, but that we would need to check in at the front desk to get our room assignment. We head to the elevators and make the trek to the room. We had requested a room on the Sunset Savannah, near the lobby. We got one of those. Although, by the way the crow flies, it wasn't that far from the lobby, but you can't walk across the savannah to get there. The hotel is built like a large looping 'w', with the lobby being the center point. We called down to see if there was a different room closer to the lobby, but the hotel was booked solid. There would be an opening the next night, so we agreed to move the next day and we headed over to Hollywood Studios. With all the recent closings there and the group not being big on thrill rides, there isn't a lot to draw us there, but we did want to catch the Osborne lights. We hadn't been there for Christmas, and this was going to be the last year of them. My dad also wanted to see the Lights Motors Action show.

This was our first visit to Hollywood Studios since the Hat came down. I didn't have the hatred towards the hat that may people did, but that is probably because I had only been there when it was there. I can't say I liked it, but I can't say I didn't either. It just sort of was. I did like the background it made for photos as you enter the park, but the Chinese Theater does a nice job on its own. We didn't have a meal planned for the first day, so we hit up the Back Lot Express for dinner.

The Osborne lights were amazing. They completely covered the Streets of America in Christmas lights. The lights danced with the music and it even was snowing. It was quite crowded, but not so bad that you couldn't move through the crowd as you needed. It is too bad that they are going away after this year, but I am looking forward to what they will be doing with the new Star Wars world that will be going in its place. I'm sure they will be doing a light display somewhere else on property. Probably not to the scale of Osborne, but I'm sure there will be something. We had fast passes for Fantasmic! but it had been a long day, so we decided to forgo it and went back to the resort.

Sunday morning, we packed up our stuff, and left it together near the door for bell services to pick up and take to our new room. We had reservations for the new breakfast at the Garden Grill at Epcot, so we hopped the bus and headed to the park. This was one of the places we wanted for dinner, but were unable to secure reservations. When they announced a couple of months ago that they were adding breakfast, I jumped on it, and was able to secure a reservation. One of the criteria I was trying to keep to when picking where would eat was to try to stick with the all you can eat places, since we were traveling with an infant (by Disney standards, anyone under 3 is an infant), and would be able to eat off our plates at no extra charge. The fact that Farmer Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale were there were a bonus. The food was great, and we ate ourselves silly on cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, tater tots, Mickey waffles, biscuits and gravy and fruit, all washed down with that famous POG juice.

By mid afternoon, our new room had been secured, but our luggage had been misplaced. My wife and her sister took the kids to the community room to relax while my parents and I stayed at Epcot. Before long, our luggage had been located and delivered to our new room, much closer to the lobby. In fact, we were moved to the closest room to the lobby. It made for much shorter walks to the gift shop for refills for our mugs.

It was the last day of the Food and Wine festival. I had been to Epoct during the festival, but never really experienced it. I was looking forward to trying some of the offerings from the kiosks set up from around the world. A new option on the dining plan this year allows you to get 3 'snacks' for 1 quick service meal credit. I was looking forward to using this option for dinner. I ended up getting my dinner from the Brazil kiosk. I had Brazil's take on shepherds pie, pork belly and a drink. Both were very good, but the servings were very small. My dad chose to eat at Belgium. He got a dinner waffle, a desert waffle and a drink. My mom went a couple kiosks down and went into the Tangarine Cafe, and got a regular quick service meal. When she came back to the table that we had secured to watch Illuminations from, we were shocked how much more food she had than we did.

Monday morning saw us at Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom. In our planning, I was unable to secure a fast pass for the new 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. It was under construction the last 2 times we were there, and I was looking forward to riding it. I figured that this would be our best chance to ride it without an hour + wait. We made a mad dash to the ride as soon as they let us in. When we got there, the line already wrapped almost completely around the ride. There was a cast member there holding a sign indicating the beginning (or end?) of the line. He assured us that the ride had just started, and despite looking long, it would move right along now that the trains were running. Sure enough, it moved right along and before long, we were climbing into the cars. The theming was fantastic. The animatronics inside the mine were great. It isn't a supper intense roller-coaster, but with the technology they have put into it, it is worth riding at least once. Of course we also hit the traditional must-do's. The trinity of Magic Kingdom rides, Jungle Cruise (or Jingle Cruise, as it is this time of year), Haunted Mansion and Pirates. No trip to Magic Kingdom is complete without a ride on these. After the several month long renovation of Pirates, I was looking forward to riding the newly refurbished ride. We were in the front row, which has gained the reputation of getting you wet on the initial plunge near the start of the ride. I'll just say that I have never gotten wetter on all my rides on Splash Mountain. I was disappointed that the fog waterfall wasn't working, but it was working on later rides. The Jingle Cruise was fun, but I found myself missing the traditional jokes that were replaced in favor of the Christmas jokes.

Lunch that day was at the Columbia Harbor House. It was another place I had not eaten at, but had heard good things about. I chose the salmon dish. It came with steamed broccoli and couscous. Being a quick service, I wasn't sure what to expect. When I was in line, I was planning on ordering something different, but someone ahead of me ordered it, and it looked good, so I changed my mind, and was glad I did. It was very good, and at a menu price of $12.50, it was a very good use of a quick service credit.

One thing we had been looking forward to was Evy's first haircut. She is just about 19 months, and we have been holding out for the first haircut package at the barber shop on Main Street USA. We weren't sure how it would go. Some new things she is good with, others, not so much. She had slept most of the morning as we pushed her in the rented stroller. When it was time to check in at the barber shop, we got her up and started to wake her up. I was surprised how small the barber shop is, just 3 chairs, and a very little waiting space. All 3 chairs were in use when we checked in, but after a few minutes, she was in the chair. The stylist did a great job. She started by putting Mickey stickers all over Evy's arms and legs and handed her a toy to keep her occupied. When she was done, she put a 'First Haircut' Mickey ears on her head and gave us a small satchel with the hair clippings.

Dinner that night found us at The Wave in the Contemporary, so a brief monorail ride over and we were checking in. It was another first time for us. I don't think that it will be on our list to return. It was nice, and the food was good, but it was loud, and the service wasn't great. Maybe I was just over tired, but I didn't fall in love with this place. After we ate, we went upstairs to a balcony that overlooked the Magic Kingdom to watch Wishes, the nightly fireworks display. We had plans on going up to the Top of the World Lounge, the lounge exclusively for DVC members, but by the time we finished eating, we didn't have time to go over there.

Tuesday night, Hollywood Studios was hosting an employee party, so it was scheduled to close early. I figured it would be a good day to go back and hit the things we missed Saturday, since it was a short day. It was. We lined up at rope-drop for Toy Story, another ride we couldn't get fast passes for. We hit a few things that we missed Saturday and re-did a couple that we wanted to do again. After an afternoon break, we returned to the park to catch the boat to the Yacht Club resort for dinner at The Captain's Grille. This was hands down, the best meal of the trip. Everyone loved their meals. I went with the chef's pasta creation. It was egg noodles cooked in veal stock, tossed with braised short ribs and topped with Parmesan and fresh arugula. Highly delicious, highly recommended. After dinner we walked to Epcot, and caught a bus back to the resort.

The only park we had yet to visit was up for Wednesday morning. Magic hours had us arriving at The Animal Kingdom shortly before 8am. We made our way to the Safari for an early morning ride. I was a little disappointed with the animal participation that morning. For lunch we tried the new Harambe Market. I really enjoyed the beef gyro. The milk tart desert as different, and tasty. Our dinner that night was going to be late, so my wife and her sister took the girls to Epcot for dinner, while my parents and I looked forward to the seafood buffet at Cape May at the Beach Club resort. If you are a seafood lover (more specifically a shellfish lover), this is the place for you.

Since they announced breakfast at Be Our Guest, I was intrigued. I had eaten there for lunch, and was interested in trying their breakfast option. I was unable to get a reservation for all 7 of us, but was able to get one for 4. Kathy and Helen took Molly for some meet and greets, while my parents and I took Evy to dine with the beast. I had been planning on ordering the open faced sandwich. When it arrived, it was served with scrambled eggs. I was almost half way through before I remembered it was supposed to be poached. I flagged down a waitress to let her know, she offered to replace it, but by that point, I didn't think it was worth it, and it was a half hearted offer. I have no doubt they would have, but I just didn't want to deal with it. My mom ordered the Croque Madame, it arrived luke warm, and she was dissatisfied. Overall, it wasn't a great experience. I wouldn't call it a bad one, but by Disney standards, it was pretty low.

We did the usual things you do at the Magic Kingdom, including the new Festival of Fantasy. I'm not usually much for parades, but this one is pretty cool. The floats are very well done, and the dragon is pretty cool. We had another relatively late dinner, so Kathy and Helen set a earlier dinner at The Plaza while we waited for a visit to the Trails End at the Fort Wilderness resort. It was a Christmas party night, so the park was closing at 7, our diner was at 7.30p. On our way out of the park, we caught the show of freezing the castle. It was pretty cool seeing it. It is amazing how they can project pictures onto the castle and have them be animated and recognizable. It's not like it is a smooth, flat surface. The lights they have hung on the castle really make it look like it is ice. We took the boat to the resort and made our way to the Trails End. I really enjoyed it. It had all the comfort food you could want, including a baked potato bar, complete with cheese, bacon, butter etc. The only thing I would do to improve it would be to make it a bit bigger. The buffet area was a bit cramped, and it was tough to jump in and get what you want. It was like you had to go through the line each time. After we ate, a quick boat ride back to the Kingdom, and a bus ride back to our hotel for the night.

Friday was extra magic hours again early at Animal Kingdom. I was pretty tired after the past week walking 7-10 miles a day, so I decided to take a break, and not hit the park so early. Kathy and Helen took Molly early, and my parents, Evy and I took our time getting ready and getting to the park. We met up at Dinoland. After a ride on the Triceratops spinner, the line was forming to meet Santa Goofy, so we got in line. I moved a fast pass for the Kali River ride that we had missed by getting to the park late and hit a couple other things we had either missed on Wednesday, or wanted to do again. Dinner that night was at Tusker House. It featured Safari Donald Duck and his friends, Goofy, Daisy and Mickey, all also dressed for a safari. This buffet had plenty of space, but there was less on it that I was interested in. The meat at the carving stations was over cooked. The characters were great, and Evy loved meeting each of them. The park closed at 6, and our reservation was for 6, so as most of the people were heading for the exits, we were sitting down for dinner. This gave us the opportunity to see the Tree of Life all lit up, with few people around. It is quite the sight.

On our past trips, our flight home was early enough that there really isn't much time do do anything besides pack up and burn any unused snack credits before we head to the airport, but this time, our flight wasn't until 8.30, so we had all day. We had breakfast at Boma, so we took a quick walk to the Jambo house. We had eaten there for dinner on a previous trip, but breakfast would be a new experience for us. It has some African themed dishes as well as more traditional American type breakfast options. It also had the famous POG juice. I really enjoyed it, and would keep it on the 'would return' side of the ledger. After breakfast, we returned to our room to pack up everything and we dropped our bags off at bell services. We checked in for our flights and had our boarding passes printed. We still had several hours to use, so we headed to Magic Kingdom to wrap our trip. It was a nice way to end our stay. We had already done all the must do's on our list, so everything we did was gravy. It was now the first day of Thanksgiving week, and a weekend, so the crowds were higher than we had seen earlier in the week, but we weren't pressing. We had some fast passes, but we had a pretty relaxed last day at the park. After the afternoon parade, we headed for the bus back to the resort for the last time. We collected our things from bell services, used the last of our snack credits and headed for the Magic Express.

When we got to the airport, and through security, we headed for our gate. Once there, we were notified that our plane was going to be late. A front had moved in, and the plane that we were supposed to be on had been diverted to Jacksonville, and didn't have an ETA for Orlando. So we waited. And waited. Eventually, our plane arrived. We boarded our 8.30p flight just before 11, and touched down in Buffalo about 2am. We called the hotel and caught the shuttle back to our car and drove home.

Some final thoughts on the trip. The weather was great. Not too hot. We had some rain on Wednesday and Thursday, but not enough to ruin anything. I think that I am over the Food and Wine fest. As someone who doesn't drink, there really isn't much to draw me to it. The snacks, while good, are small and pricy, even by Disney standards. I kind of liked the magic bands and fast pass system last time we went, but this time, it was a bit less convenient. Perhaps because we didn't buy the park passes early enough to get the ones we wanted, perhaps it is because we were trying to manage a larger group.

Planning a day with kids is much different than it is as just a couple of adults. We should have scheduled either non park days, or at least ½ days to take advantage of the activities at the resorts, whether it is games in the community room, activities around the pool, including the movies under the stars or whatever. We can't be park commandos until Evy is a bit older, but by then, we very well could be too old ourselves to do it!

There are quite a range of views of the dining plan. I like it for the convenience of having all your meals prepaid for, but the hassle of making reservations for each day can get tedious. Don't get me wrong, I think that the dining is as much a part of a Disney trip as the rides and shows, but it isn't super convenient getting to and from other resorts (especially those not on the monorail), and some of the best places to eat are at the resorts, not in the parks. A couple of changes in how I will plan for meals in the future, is to not be so opposed to booking lunches for one, and another is to skip the dining plan all together and just pick the 3 or 4 meals we want to do and buy gift cards months in advance to use on food. That way, the meals are still prepaid for, and we can be a bit more free in what we order and how we experience the restaurant.

I'm glad we got to see the Osborne lights before they go dark for ever. I would have liked to see Wishes from in the Magic Kingdom, but when you visit in a week that has 3 nights closed early for the Christmas party, it makes it tough to schedule.

We don't have any hard plans for our next trip. It doesn't look like it will be for over a year at this point. I would like to see the parks in the spring, but not during spring break, March or April, but not near Easter. Perhaps for the garden fest. There is a good chance that parts of Avatar will be open at Animal Kingdom will have opened, and maybe even parts of Star Wars land will be taking shape. If not, Hollywood Studios might not even be on our agenda. The new Frozen ride at Epcot will be open and the River of Light show at Animal Kingdom will be on, so we'll have those to look forward to. I keep saying one of these trips, I'm going to get on a golf course.. maybe next time will be the time.

22 June, 2015

Trying Something New

As part of a high school English project several years ago, I wrote the first chapter of a novel. I wrote a few more pages, but then life happened, and a floppy disk on Apple 2e, was a little less than reliable.. a few years ago, I decided to give it a shot again and started another one.. but didn't get more than a few pages in before my laptop gave up the ghost.. 

Well, I've decided to give it another go. This time, I am several pages in. I don't know what direction I want to take it, but I've got a few ideas. I've decided to post the first chapter here. It may evolve to become the preface rather than chapter 1, but I'm a long way from having to make that decision.

As always, I encourage feedback, let me know what you think.. and if you pick up a book and read this, would you keep reading? I may share more in the future, but for now, this is it.

Chapter 1

He collapsed into the chair in the empty lounge. It was a long day, and he was still getting used to life on Mars. He had all the physical training before he left Earth, but simulators can only go so far. As he gazed out through the glass dome of the compound, he looked to see if he could see Earth, but this time of year, the Earth is on the other side of the sun.

“The final tram to the residential compound will be leaving in 15 minutes. Once again, the final tram for the residential compound will be departing in 15 minutes.” The PA system echoed through the abandoned lounge.

“Il tram finale per il complesso residenziale sarĂ  lasciare in 15 minuti. Ancora una volta, il tram finale per il complesso residenziale sarĂ  in partenza in 15 minuti.” the PA repeated in Italian, then again in Chinese.

The tram to the dorms was a 35 minute ride. He considered just crashing in his office again, but he really needed to get back, so he grabbed his stuff, and headed to the station. It was the last work day of the week at the center, so the tram station was almost as empty as the lounge he had just left.

“Hey Dave, running late again?” asked the conductor.

“Yea, you know how it is..” he responded as he stepped on the tram seconds before the automatic doors slid shut. He turned to find a seat. The last tram of the week was routinely light, and today was no exception. They had considered eliminating it to cut costs, but the workers voiced strong disapproval, and since the tram was solar powered, it really wasn't going to save a lot.

Dave found his seat. He liked sitting by the window on the left side of the tram on the way home. It had a better view of the Martian landscape. The route took them right past where the rover Opportunity first landed. The remains of the landing pod can still be seen as they flew past.

The Roanoke station had been originally set up as a mining colony. It is officially a colony of the United States in conjunction with China, but due to the remoteness, it is effectively self governing.

In the mid 2020s, a subsidiary of a Richard Bronson company had developed a low cost, unmanned cargo craft that could make the trip to Mars in less than a year. It saved on fuel by not needing any life support systems. It is basically an interplanetary dumbwaiter. The Lusitania II would haul ore to Earth, and return a little less than 2 years later stocked with supplies. Once it got up and running, they needed more and more miners, and the population grew to a few hundred. Since there was no reliable way to return to Earth, everyone was living under the understanding that it was a 1 way trip. In the last 15 years, 7 people had tried to stow away on Lusitania II, only to be found frozen solid when it docked in Mexico.

Then they figured how to harvest ice from passing comets to refill the long dry ocean. And that's when things started to change.

14 November, 2014

It's a Changing World

These days, it seems a week doesn't go by without news of something closing or going away or changing at Walt Disney World. Whether it is American Idol, the Backlot Tour, Maelstrom being 'Frozen-ised' the big hat going away not to mention the acts ending around EPCOT. There are a lot of opinions about the changes.

Some changes are progress, others seem to be a step back. Depending on who you may ask, one may be one for one person, and the other for another.

There are a myriad of rumors as to what is going to happen next. More Frozen stuff, a Wreck-it Ralph attraction, or bring a ride from Disneyland over to the World? The one that seems to have the most traction is an expanded Star Wars presence. Especially after Disney bought LucasFilm. What form that is going to take is anyone's guess at this point. Will it be a whole new 5th park? Will it be a Star Wars world similar to the Harry Potter section at Universal? 

My guess is they are planning on taking a large part of the back part of Hollywood Studios and creating a large Star Wars World. I believe there will be a couple rides, a couple places for refreshments, a new show or two, and of course, gift shops.

The rides I can picture being incorporated into the area are a couple of different types. I would like to see a quasi-thrill ride, either a speeder bike ride through Endor, or in an X-Wing fighter in a space battle or a pod race. A dark ride through the movies would be cool.

There are any number of scenes from the 6 existing movies: the tree city of Endor, Lando's Cloud City, Kashyyyk, Hoth, Degobah, Coruscant, and of course the Cantina from Mos Eisley.

Of course, it is all speculation. Some is wishful thinking. I wish that they would have gotten started on a Star Wars World before they started on that huge Avatar land in Animal Kingdom. 

Whatever the case is, one thing is for sure, it is going to be a much different park when we go in just about a year from now.

Not that I'm counting... 

27 June, 2014

It's on the Horizon...

When we went to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon a couple years back, I got hooked on the parks. What does that mean? A couple of things really.. First off, I read a couple of Disney Parks forums daily (sometime multiple times a day..), secondly, I am always in planning mode for our next trip, even if we don’t have one specifically planned (there is always a ‘next trip’ in the works)

I like to look at the resorts to see where we can stay next time. One of the sites I frequent has weekly WDW updates, so I can keep track of what is going on down there (updates, scheduled referbs, etc..). I read the forums to see what other fans have seen and experienced, that way, I can keep up with all the changes in the parks (like the updated MagicBand program and the newly opened 7 Dwarfs Mine Train ride).

Since we are in the Disney Vacation Club (DVC), we will be going on average every year or so. Our last trip (January) was a big one, so it used up 2 years’ worth of points, so our next trip was going to be a ways off. We had an idea of when it was going to be, but nothing firm. Well.. we have nailed it down on when we want to go. We are looking to go down with my parents the week before Thanksgiving, next year. We wanted to go when crowds are down, but we still wanted to see the parks all done up for Christmas.

I like going during the off-peak times when crowds are low, and points (to book rooms) are less. This time frame is the 2nd lowest time to go, points wise. They start with the Christmas decorations right after Halloween.

There are so many things to do, you can’t do it all in one trip, and I have been trying new things each trip--Things that would normally be out of my comfort zone. I’m not one for the ‘thrill rides’ but on recent trips, I tried Expedition Everest and the Tower of Terror. This time, I may try the Rocken’ Rollercoaster or Space Mountain. I mean, can you really say you’ve been to Disney as many times and never been on Space Mountain?

We are now inside the 15 month window, well within the acceptable window for planning a trip for normal people.. It looks like we are looking at a stay at the Boardwalk Villas, steps away from EPCOT, and a quick boat ride to Hollywood Studios.

I’ve been looking for what types of restaurants we will eat at. One thing is for sure, we will do dinner one night at the Liberty Tree Tavern. This has become our favorite place to eat. Since we will be traveling with our new addition, we will be looking mostly at all-you-can-eat places so Evy can just eat off our plates. My mom is a huge seafood lover, so it seems that a meal at Cape May will be in order.

We like to not duplicate places we have eaten before until we have been everywhere, so we will be looking to try places we haven’t been to before, but we may end up duplicating meals. We still have time to figure things out. I am always open to suggestions. Where is your favorite place to eat?    

Feel free to read my reviews from previous trip in earlier postings on this blog.

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