25 March, 2018

Tripus Intruptus

Since our last visit in 2015, we were looking forward to returning to The World in September. It was going to be a nice short trip, just enough to get a fix, without spending too much money. It was set to include the Halloween party and a special after hours DVC party at Animal Kingdom that would have given plenty of opportunities to ride what many have called the greatest theme park ride of all time, Flights of Passage in the new Avatar world. But alas, Irma had other plans.

The for the second time in 2 years, the threat of a hurricane closed the parks and canceled flights, and we were forced to change our plans. JetBlue and Disney were both very good at refunding money for anything that couldn’t be pushed back to a future trip. That future trip went off without a hitch in early March. 

This time around, we decided to try out one of the newer DVC offerings, the relatively new deluxe studios at the Polynesian Resort. We had never stayed on the Monorail before. As with any resort, there are pros and cons. What goes into which column is often a matter of personal preference. The 3 resorts on the Monorail are all deluxe resorts, so off the bat, you are going to be paying a premium for points to stay there, but the new studios at Poly sleep 5, and traveling in an off peak time of the year, made a lake view room something we couldn’t pass up.

Pros of the resort. The rooms are on the larger side as far as ‘studios’ go. It was roomy, but still was starting to feel crowded with 3 adults and 2 kids staying there, especially with the Murphy bed pulled down. The nicest amenity of the room is the 2nd bathroom. While it’s not a full bathroom, it is a second vanity and a walk in shower in addition to the very large main bathroom with tub/shower combo. 

View from our balcony
The room had a nice balcony with a good view of the castle across the lagoon. The only problem was the chairs sat you right at the level that the railing was right at eye level while seated. Either have it be a glass wall, or higher chairs so you could enjoy the view while relaxing in a chair. 

Another huge selling point of this resort is the location. From the main building, it is 1 monorail stop away from the Magic Kingdom. The thing is, we never actually took that monorail to the park. Our longhouse was actually closer to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) than the main building of the resort. The advantage to this is there are now 3 options to get to the Magic Kingdom, the resort loop that makes a clockwise loop around the lagoon making stops at Poly, Grand Floridian, Magic Kingdom, Contemporary and TTC. The next option is the express loop, a counter clockwise loop around the lagoon that only stops at the TTC and Magic Kingdom. The third option being one of the large ferry boats. More often than not, the boat was the way we would go.

The cons of the resort are mostly based on how sprawling the resort is. It really has a large footprint, and if you are on one of the fringe longhouses, it is a bit of a hike back to the main building where the restaurants are. We didn’t do the dining plan this trip, so we didn’t have the mugs, but we didn’t miss them because the refill stations were so far from the room. I’ve said before about the mugs, they often aren’t worth the hassle, and in resorts like this, you really have to work to find the value in them. 

When we fly down, we try to stick with direct flights. From Rochester, that gives us 3 options, Southwest from Rochester or Buffalo, or JetBlue from Buffalo. The times and prices of the flights determine the option we choose. This time, Southwest from Buffalo was the best option. Since Helen and Molly would be joining us this trip, we figured it would be best to spend the night at her house and leave early Sunday morning to drive to the airport for the flight. After clearing security and finding our way to our gate, I grabbed a breakfast sandwich from Wich Wich, probably the best food option at the Buffalo airport.

Two days prior to the flight, we got about a foot of snow, and several flights were canceled or delayed on Friday. This had a little of a ripple effect, leaving this a full flight as well. One of the last families to board had a young child (he was about 7) who had never flown before and an anxious mom, and by the time they were looking for a seat, there were no 2 seats next to each other. The flight attendants tried to coax someone to move so they could sit together, and when no one stepped up, my wife did. As a ‘thank you’, they brought us a full bag of bags of pretzels. 

We chatted through the flight, and I tried to keep them calm. It was a pretty uneventful flight, and before we knew it, we were pulling up to the gate at MCO. We both offered our ‘have a great trip’ and went our separate ways, them on to Lego Land, and us downstairs to catch the Magic Express. 

On the ferry boat to the
Magic Kingdom
The dinner spread at the
Liberty Tree Tavern

Despite our early arrival, our room was ready for us. We got our Leis, and headed over to our room, dropped our stuff off, and headed to the TTC to catch the boat over to the Magic Kingdom. We had a few fast passes, and a reservation at one of our favorite places to eat, the Liberty Tree Tavern, where every day is Thanksgiving! It had been closed for renovation the last time we were down there, and they had shuffled the menu a bit since we last ate there, but the core of the experience remains the same. First they bring out the bread, then the salad. A few minutes later, out comes the sides, green beans, mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes and gravy, moments later, the main course, a large platter of turkey, pork and pot roast, with stuffing and cranberries. The nice part of this meal, is anything you want more of, they are happy to bring. We had them bring us more of the pot roast. It just fell apart. The turkey and pork were good, if not a little dry, but couldn’t hold a candle to the pot roast. We ate so much, that we didn’t have any room for the new desert, the previously only available at lunch ooie-gooie toffee cake. A large, thick cookie like cake with toffee and chocolate chips, a la mode, drizzled with both chocolate and caramel sauces.. Yea, that was good too. 

With the day starting before 4am, and an anticipated early start Monday morning (7am magic hours at Animal Kingdom) after a few more rides, some walking around, we decided to end the night one of the best ways I can think of ending the night at Magic Kingdom, with a ride on the People Mover. As we made our way out, the castle show was getting ready to start, making Main St USA pretty crowded, but they had opened up the new (or at least new to us) bypass behind the shops giving us a crowd free pass out of the park. We boarded the friendship boat and headed back to the resort for the night with the fireworks bursting behind us. Step total for day 1, 11,935, 167% to goal.

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I was unable to secure a Fast Pass for the newest ride at Disney World, Flights of Passage. Knowing that during Magic Hours, that extra hour that only those guests staying on property can get in to the park early, was going to be my best chance at getting on the hottest ride around, I told everyone else, I was going there, and would catch up with them later. I made my way down to the bus stop shortly after 6, so I could be near the front when they opened the park. 

But apparently, the buses didn’t get my schedule, and the first one didn’t arrive until nearly 6.30am. By that time, Kathy, Evy, Helen and Molly had made it to the bus stop and when it arrived, we all rode together to the park in a nearly full bus. When we got there, I again told the group I would catch up with them after I got off the ride, and headed off to the gate. Once through, I headed to Pandora and took my place in an ever growing line. 

Since the park had just opened, the line, despite stretching almost all of the way to Harambe, moved pretty well. It snaked through the new environment and into the floating mountains. At one point, they hand you a card to read that goes over the health risks of riding the ride. It is the same as the posted signs, and is the same as most of the rides in the parks, you know, don’t ride this if you have a heart condition, are pregnant, prone to motion sickness, have a bad back or neck.. Blah blah blah.. 

Now, I’ve only seen the movie once, so I don’t know much about it, but you don’t really need to know the movie to enjoy the ride. You enter the first of 2 pre-show rooms that are pretty lame the writing isn’t great and the acting is worse, but then we are escorted into the main ride room. We had a seat on the ride chair, the restraints are locked into place behind my legs and lower back and after a bit more of the ‘pre-show’, I am on the back of the banshee and we are diving towards the ocean. 

Before 7.45 that morning, I was off the ride. I grabbed one of the snacks at the kiosk, a pineapple cheesecake eggroll type thing, that was very good, and met up with the family at Dinoland USA. That early, Dinosaur is still a walk-on, so I took a trip into the past looking for the iguanodon to bring back, just don’t tell Claire Huxtable.

A couple of rides the the savannah on the Safari ride, and it was time to eat. I fired up the My Disney Experience app, and used mobile ordering to buy lunch at Satu’li Canteen. Moments after arriving, our food was ready and we sat down and enjoyed the meal. Our second Fast Pass was for the other new ride at Avatar. It is a slow boat dark ride through the bioluminescent rainforest of Pandora. When we got in line, the posted wait time for stand by was 2 hours. We got right on, and a few minutes later, we were done. It was a beautiful ride, but short, and not worth a 2 hour wait. It takes you through the glowing trees. You can see some of the plant and animal life of Pandora. There is a Na’vi at the end singing a song in their native language, that if you didn’t know better, would swear it is a real thing, not an animatronic.

After some shopping, it was time for Evelyn and Molly to head back for a nap. I had made contact with a friend of mine who was already in the park, so I hung back and waited to catch up with him. 

The last of my originally scheduled Fast Passes was for the Kali River Rapids. It was actually for Kathy, Evy and myself, but since I was the only one left, and now Todd and Andrea had joined me. I asked the guy at the fast pass entrance to the ride if it was possible to transfer the FP from Kathy and Evy to Todd and Andrea. He told us they were not transferable. We thanked him and walked away, figuring he couldn’t be right. We grabbed a table in the shade and talked it out.. And figured out how to do it.. A few minutes later, we walked right past the same guy who told us we couldn’t do it and went for a ride. It turned out to be the perfect time to ride. It was the right temperature and it was early enough in the day that we were dry before it started to cool down. 

We looked for other fast passes we could book right away, and found one for Primeval Whirl. I had never ridden it before, and didn’t have much interest in it, but figured what the heck. Andrea wanted to win a prize, so she bought tickets to play the games. With her first toss, she won the big prize! She got a giant snake. 

On our way out of Dinoland, we stopped at one of the food carts. I got the buffalo chicken chips. Todd also got one and we took them down to the tables on the river behind the Flame Tree. Nice covered seating where we could relax and chat while we ate. It was a basket of fresh chips, piled high with shredded chicken, buffalo sauce, arugula, and blu cheese crumbles. It was very good. It was a pretty hefty portion, and tasted fresh, a nice kick tempered well by the real blu cheese crumbles. I would get it again. 

We sat looking over the river as they began the staging for the Rivers of Light show, which we didn’t get a chance to see. While we were catching up, Andrea got a text from a friend of hers that was at the Magic Kingdom, so she left to meet up with them and we started off looking for something else to do.

My is relatively new, and still holds a charge pretty good, but it had been a long day, and checking for new fast passes can burn through battery, so I was running pretty low. I had forgotten to bring my portable battery, so I was out of luck. That is until I headed over to the Fuel-Rod machine in the Mercantile store. I had known about these machines, for $30, you get a small portable charger with cords for iOS, and both Android cables (micro SD and the new Type C). It is re-chargeable, but the nice thing about it is you can exchange it for free at any Fuel-Rod machine, and they are all over Disney, both in the parks, and in the resorts. It gave me a bit more than a half a charge. I’m not sure how useful it will be now that I am home, since the closest machine to exchange it is in they Syracuse Airport, but at least I can recharge it myself and re-use it. Or, it is just another excuse to go back to Disney! 

At this point in the night, there weren’t many fast passes left, but crowds were lightning up. We went on the night safari and saw it from a different light than we had seen it before. We saw the hyenas that aren’t out during the day, and the fake sunset the set up. Overall it is cool to do once, but I still prefer the early morning safari better, you tend to see more activity then. 

Todd and me in
Pandora at night
By this time, it was after dark, so we headed over to see Pandora, all lit up. It was cool to see. There was a lot of black lighting, so there was an extraterrestrial glow around the area. There was even a glow in the walkways. The lines for the rides were still insane, so we just got some pictures and headed towards the exit of the park. On the way out, we caught one of the projection shows on the tree. It is amazing to me that they can take something that has exactly zero flat edges and project animated images on it and make it look like an Imax screen. Todd was on his way to the Magic Kingdom to meet up with Andrea, so I rode with him to the TTC, and caught the monorail back to the Poly for the night. Step count for day 2: 22,339, 312% of goal.

Tuesday morning was a bit laid back. It was to be an EPCOT day, we had a breakfast at Akershus in the Norway Pavilion, but not until 9.15. A nice easy morning, that included relaxing on the balcony and taking in the atmosphere. A little after 8, we made our way down to the TTC to catch the monorail to EPCOT. Once we were through security, we headed over to the reservation line. About quarter to 9 (opening time for the park that day), they let us into the park. When we got to the check-in for the restaurant, we were still a bit early, but it was just turning 9, so we hopped in line for the Frozen Ever After ride. It was still under construction last time we were down, and Helen and Molly weren’t able to get fast passes to ride it, so this would have been their only chance to get on it, since it still has hour or longer wait times.
On the Monorail to EPCOT

By that time, it was time to eat. Breakfast at Akershus starts with a meet and greet with Belle. Pictures were taken, autograph books were signed and we were whisked to our table. Our waiter took our drink orders and pointed the way to the buffet. If you could call it a buffet. It was rather small. It had cut fruit, some generic mini-bagels, some cold cuts and cheeses. The main thrust of the meal was the platter they bring to the table, it included scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and a hashbrown casserole.

The food really isn’t the draw here. I won’t go so far to say it was bad, (the casserole was), but everything else was ordinary, at best. People pay $50 per person for breakfast because Mary Poppins, Ariel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty go table to table. I’m generally one for the character meals, and this was no exception for me. Evy was in a shy mood, so she didn’t want to meet anyone so I didn’t get any pictures because the only way she would get close is if I was holding her. But Molly loved it. One cute thing that happened at breakfast, we were sat in the corner, near a fireplace. When it was time for Mary Poppins to visit, she stuck her head in the chimney and called for Bert. 

After breakfast, we made our way to the Seas for our fast pass with Nemo, then to the Land for our Fast Pass for Living with the land. Before long, it was time for our Fast Pass for Frozen. It is a cute ride and they did a nice job replacing the Norway props to make room for the Frozen characters. It is the same ride track, even the same boats as before, but it doesn’t feel like the same ride. They even added a ride photo. 

We rode Nemo and Living with the land. Molly met Joy and Sadness while Kathy and I relaxed in the shade while Evy slept in the stroller. After a break, we took a Journey into our Imagination. After the ride we went upstairs to the new DVC lounge to grab a drink and give a boost to our phones. 

The view from inside
the DVC lounge.
Since EPCOT was going to be open late for Magic Hours that day, we decided to take a break in the afternoon and come back later, so we headed back to the monorail to take a break. Kathy and Helen took the girls to the pool, I took a nap. 

After some time to re-charge, Kathy and I headed back to EPCOT. We met up with Todd and Andrea. One of the main reasons I wanted to go back was to catch Illuminations, the fireworks display over the World Showcase Lagoon. It has always been one of my favorite parts of Disney World. 

Because of the tiered fast pass system at EPCOT, since we had fast passes for Frozen, we were unable to get one for Soarin’. I hadn’t seen the new ‘around the world’ version yet, and the lines seemed reasonable, so we got in line. I had heard bad things about sitting on the wings of the ride, so we asked to get in the middle section. It was a pretty cool show, but I prefer the original version better. As we got out, we could hear the fireworks exploding outside. We had missed most of the show. We had a few minutes to hang out with Todd before they had to head out since they had to get home and go to work the next day. We did Mission Space and Spaceship Earth with minimal waits and decided to call it a night. Day 3 step count: 22,958, 321% to goal.

As Wednesday dawned, Hollywood Studios was on the agenda. The park was scheduled to open at 9, and we had a 9.30 fast pass for Toy Story. It was another leisurely morning. We got to the park shortly before opening and made our way in. Unlike how things will be next summer, there really isn’t much to do in this park right now. Especially since our group isn’t much for thrill rides. 

Over in the Star Wars Launch Bay, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren and BB-8 were meeting people. I met Chewie. Evy was a bit nervous, so she didn’t get too close. After that, I went back out to the Animation courtyard, and a few minutes later, a squad of Stormtroopers marched out and started looking for members of the Resistance. They didn’t find any.

The Little Mermaid show was letting people in, so we walked in and enjoyed the show that would have been pretty cool in 1993, when the technology was new-ish, but is pretty played out in 2018. After the show, we met Doc McStuffins and Pluto, before catching the Frozen sing-a-long show.

It was getting to be lunch time, and we had a reservation at Momma Melroses. Lunch ended up being just the 3 of us since Molly had Jedi training. There were 2 dishes that neither of us could decide between, so we each ordered one and we split them. Turned out that neither one was wrong. We had the Charred Strip Steak - with four-cheese macaroni with pancetta, aged balsamic-shallot butter, and Chianti Wine Reduction, and the Saltimbocca - Pork Tenderloin topped with Prosciutto, Sage, Fontina Cheese, Tuscan Mashed Potatoes, Broccolini, and Lemon Caper Sauce. After having half of each order, it was still difficult to pick a winner. If I had to, I would give the nod to the pork, if only because the reduction on the steak was a bit on the salty side. Not too salty by any stretch, but a bit much. I would order either dish again, and would recommend both without a second thought.

Our lunch was the Fantasmic! dining package, so we knew it was going to be a late night, so we decided to take the afternoon off. On our way out of the park, we saw Donald Duck meeting people, with a short line, so we decided to say ‘hello’. While we were waiting, they cleared the walkway, and a gate opened, and Captain Phasma and 12 Stormtroopers marched out, and right past us, complete with the Imperial March playing. 

Before long, we said goodbye to Donald, and headed for the bus. After recharging in the room for a couple of hours, we headed back to the park. We did some shopping and had dinner, then headed to the amphitheater for the show. The dining package seating section was right in the middle, and we got seats pretty low down. It was a great place to catch the show. 

For some people, it isn’t Disney without popcorn, and now they have refillable popcorn buckets. $10 for a bucket, then $1.50 or $1.75 for refills the length of your stay. If you are a popcorn person, this is a great deal. There are popcorn carts all over all of the parks, and some even have flavored specialty popcorn. I didn’t get a chance to try any of them. Most of the popcorn carts have a popper in side, so it is fresh, but the one at the Fantasmic! theater just has boxes of popcorn that had been popped somewhere else. It makes sense, since this kiosk is only open for the show. No point in having a popper sit idle all day, just for the show. The funny thing is, if you had the bucket, they sold you a box of popcorn for $1.50, if not, regular price was $5.50.

I had only seen it once before, and it was a few years ago. I didn’t really remember much about it, except that I was underwhelmed last time I saw it. This time around, I can’t say that I loved it, but it was an enjoyable evening. 

After the show, we made our way to the front of the Chinese Theater to catch the Star Wars fireworks. This is another new offering since our last visit, so I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be more of projection show than a fireworks show, though there were pyrotechnics involved as well as lasers. Overall, it was a good show, and we were glad we stayed to catch it. But it was the end of another long day, so we headed back to the resort. Step count: 11621, 162% to goal.

Thursday was a Magic Kingdom day. Another leisurely morning. We took a poll, and the monorail won, so we headed over. It is a nice ride around the lagoon to get to the park. Fast passes on the agenda for the day include 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan, and Pooh. Evy wanted to ride the Carousel. Other rides we did between the fast passes included Mickey’s Philharmagic, the People Mover, and Monsters Inc.

Originally, the fast passes were made for just Kathy, Evy, and me, since Helen hadn’t gotten her ticket yet, but since Evy isn’t tall enough for the Mine Train, I used my newly found secret method of transferring the FP from Evy to Molly. When we got into the fast pass line, the posted standby wait was 90 minutes. 13 minutes later we were off the ride. Now Molly has a new favorite ride. One of the pictures captures a look of pure joy on her face as we race around a curve. She really is turning into an adventurous little girl. 

After a trip around Tommorowland on the Peoplemover, it was time to head over to the campgrounds. As we headed out of the park, they were blocking off Main St. USA, getting ready for the Festival of Fantasy parade. I’m normally not one for theme park parades, but this one is pretty fun. We got to an area just as they were closing off one of the cross walks, so we got a spot right on the side of the road. The crowd control cast member was having a heck of a time controlling the crowds. People were stepping over us while we waited for the parade to get to us. 

Eventually, the parade came, and we followed the rope line behind it out of the park and boarded the boat to Fort Wilderness. When we got there, we were a bit later than we would have liked, but the show hadn’t started yet, and they showed us right to our table. Salad and cornbread was on the table. A few minutes later our waiter took our drink orders.

On the menu at the Review is fried chicken, ribs, mashed potatoes and corn. I asked for some mac and cheese, and the waiter obliged us. It is all you can eat, so anything you want more of, they are happy to bring you. A few minutes later, the show started. It is a high energy song and dance show with 6 performers. It was a lot of fun.

After the show, it was still daylight, and there was a small playground between the Pioneer Hall, where dinner was, and the boat dock, so we let the girls climb and run around for a few minutes. It was starting to get on the chilly side, so we left for the dock. It was a bit of a wait. While we were waiting a crane flew in and was walking down a neighboring dock, just feet away. I’m not sure I have ever been that close to one of them. 

When a second boat not going to where we wanted arrived, I decided to change plans. Instead of going back to the Magic Kingdom dock, and catching the boat back to the Poly, we squeezed onto the boat headed for the Contemporary where we could catch the monorail back. That plan sounded better than it actually ended up being.. But before long we were relaxing back in our room. Daily step total, 9635, 134% to goal.

When we did our initial planning, we hadn’t planned into Friday or Saturday (I would be the only one going to the parks on Saturday, more on that later), so we hadn’t really thought about what we would be doing Friday. It was morning Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom, so we decided to rope drop the morning there. Molly wanted to ride the Mine Train again, so Helen, Molly, and I headed that direction, while Kathy took Evy to Peter Pan. They were able to ride it 2x, and a spin on the carousel. When we finished the Mine Train, we headed over to Peter Pan. The line moved pretty well, but we still got to see some of the little extras they built into the interactive queue a few years back. They are cool, but not cool enough to temper a 70+ wait for a 3 minute ride. 

When we got off Peter Pan, it was getting close for the rest of the park to open for the general public. For some reason, the whole park isn’t open for Magic Hours, Liberty Square, Frontierland and Adventure Land are not open. We headed toward Liberty Square for our second rope drop of the day, and went for the Haunted Mansion. We were among the first of the day to ride one of the iconic Disney rides. 

It was still pretty early in the morning, so we headed to see talking Mickey while he was still around. It was posted a 30 minute wait, and it ended up being a little longer. It was cool to see, and it is too bad that it is an experience that is going away soon. When we got out, we figured might as well meet Tink while we were right there. The posted 20 minute wait ended up being closer to 40. It made us late for our Jungle Cruise fast pass, but not so late that they wouldn’t let us on.

Lunch was at Columbia Harbor House. The mobile order feature of the app is a great thing. As we got in line, which stretched to the door, I placed an order with my phone, and headed to pick it up. I got the salmon. I have had it before, and still can’t believe that it is a fast food meal. It is a nice piece of fish along with couscous and broccoli, for around $14. I can see paying $25 for almost the exact same meal at a sit down restaurant.

Of the rides that have height restrictions, the only one that Evy is tall enough for is Goofy’s Barnstormer. The wait was posted at 20 minute on the app, when we got there, it said 25, we got in line, and it was about right. The ride ended up being a bit much for her. She was ok, since I was sitting right next to her, and it isn’t a very long ride. As soon as we started moving kind of quick, I could see she was nervous. I held her and reassured her that she would be ok and I was right here for her, but she said it was too fast and too high for her. I told her she wouldn’t have to ride a ride like that again if she didn’t want to. 

Molly and Helen rode Dumbo, while we wandered around the souvenir shop in the circus area. It is a bit of an unusual shop, since it has the standard stuff, but it also has a candy apple creation area in the middle. You can watch them make those treats. It is fun to watch them come together. 

While we waited for Helen and Molly to finish up with Dumbo, we went ‘under the sea’ for Evelyn’s favorite ride of the trip. The wait wasn’t very long and when we got out, we hit up the Photo Pass photographer outside of the ride. We got a nice picture of Evy holding Sebastian.

Once again, no one wants to do
Splash with me..
Since we had a lake-view room, we had a nice view of Cinderella’s castle from our balcony, and we could see the fireworks the nights we were in the room at that time. Since the introduction of the new Happily Ever After show that replaced Wishes, the new show relies a lot more on the castle projection to supplement the fireworks. Friday would be our last chance to see the show, so Kathy and I grabbed dinner at Casey’s Corner, and staked out a spot on Main St to eat and watch the show. It is a truly impressive show, but I think that I prefer the now retired Wishes. 

After the show, we did Jungle Cruise (I still think that Jungle Cruise at night is among the best experiences WDW has to offer). We had one of the better skippers on this run. After the ride, we hit the Tiki room. Not my favorite, but Kathy likes it, so we went in. After the show, we grabbed a Dole Whip pineapple upside down cake. It is as good as you can imagine it would be. We ate it on our way back to Tomorrowland for Monsters Inc. I wasn’t ‘That Guy’, but was close, he sat 4 or 5 people down from me. I did, however, keep my streak of being featured on screen going. I was once again portrayed as Sully in the retelling of the story. I would have liked another shot at Emperor Zurg, but the posted ride was over 30 minutes, and we didn’t want to invest that much time. We decided to end the night my favorite way at the Magic Kingdom, with a ride on the People Mover. 

We got in line, but they weren’t letting people up the ramp. After a few minutes, a couple went up, the he stopped it. Eventually, we got up the ramp and were about to get in the car, but the ride came to a halt. The cast members consulted, then called out that the ride was closed, and we would need to exit down the ramp. Sadly, we left the park and caught the monorail back to the resort. Step count: 14,875, 208% to goal.

Since our flight wasn’t leaving until almost 9pm, and we wouldn’t be leaving the resort for the airport until 5 or 6pm, I wanted to head back to the park, but no one else wanted to do it. I set my alarm for 5.30a, and was at the bus stop shortly after 6 for another 7am Early Magic Hour at Animal Kingdom. I was going to take down Avatar again.

This time, the bus was later, and got me to the park just before 7, and by the time I got in line, it stretched back almost to the Harambe theater, where the Lion King show is performed. This time, they were also using the whole queue inside the mountain, so it snaked back and forth through the interworkings of the station and into and around the lab, right past the Avatar in the tube. Eventually, I was directed into the first of the pre-shows and on to the ride. 

With this being my second flight, I looked around a bit more to see what I could see about the ride. I noticed that there were 8 rooms (2 columns of 4 rooms), each with 16 riders. I was in the top room on the right, all of the way to the right. I’m pretty sure I was in the same seat as I was in last time. Next time I go, I’d like to get either spot 1 in this room, or 16 in the left stack of rooms, something more towards the center of the screen. Either way, it is a great ride. 

I was off the ride about 8.15, one of the best times to take a safari into the savannah. I love this ride but have been on it enough that I don’t take many pictures any more, but this time, I was able to get some great shots of some giraffes that were so close, I could almost reach out and pet them. 

I wandered around the park a bit more, looking for souvenirs and stopped at the Photo Pass photographers in front of the tree, since I hadn’t gotten one this trip yet. Then I headed to the bus stop. The Grand Floridian and Poly share a stop, but apparently not buses, because the bus I boarded drove right past the Poly, and to the neighboring Grand Floridian. They are close together, but there isn’t a walking path between them. The only way back was to go upstairs and catch the monorail loop. The only problem is it only goes 1 way, so I had to ride the full loop, stopping at Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary, and the TTC before stopping at the Poly. But I wasn’t in a rush, so I enjoyed the ride.

Upon returning to the room, I packed up all my stuff and we headed down to check in for our flights. It is another great service that the resorts provide, airline check in. We checked our bags, and got our boarding passes. Concierge would even hold our carry on bags since our flight was still several hours away. We went over to the quiet pool that has a small counter service restaurant for lunch and enjoyed our lunch poolside. 

After lunch, the girls splashed around in the pool for a while. We did some more shopping and relaxed in the lobby of the resort. We enjoyed one last Dole Whip float and a few more photos. At this point, we were done waiting at the resort and decided to see if we could catch an earlier bus to the airport to wait there. There was plenty of room on the next Magic Express bus, so we climbed aboard and were on our way to MCO. 

On the way to security, we stopped into the Disney Store at the airport for one last chance to give the Mouse more of our money, then in line for the Pre Check. I got randomly selected for the extra screening, but that just entailed going through the naked body scanner in addition to the metal detector. 

Since we were so early, our gate was still full of people waiting for a flight to Detroit, that was delayed. We found some seats at an empty gate and settled in, and I made a run to visit everyone’s favorite clown Ronald for dinner. Upon bringing it back, I went back for my own meal. I was going to get a burrito from Chipotle, but the line was quite long, so I got a sub from Jersey Mike's. 

Time came to board the flight. This flight wasn’t as full as the flight down, so we were able to be comfortable. We found our seats and settled in. As we were preparing the various tablets and phones for the onboard WI-FI and available tv, we noticed that Evy had already checked out for the night. 

After a couple of uneventful hours at 35000 feet, we made our approach to the Buffalo airport. Since we had a sleeping baby with us, we weren’t in a rush to get off the plane, so we let everyone deplane before we did. When we had a big enough gap, I grabbed the baby and the stroller at the end of the jet bridge, and set her down in the stroller. 

Downstairs at the baggage claim, we collected our luggage. Kathy figured it would be best if I went by myself on the shuttle to the long term lot to get the car and pull it around and pile in out front rather than having everyone get on the bus, so I retrieved the car and drove to the terminal. Everyone piled in and we headed east. 

And thus ends another trip to the World. The entire flight home, I was thinking of what a great trip it was. In the days following our return, I started to think of all of the things we didn’t get to do, but as soon as I start making a list in my mind, I stop and think about all the good times we had. There is so much to do in the 4 parks, that it would be impossible for even the most ardent planners and most efficient touring plan to accomplish everything you want to do in just a week. That is part of the draw that keeps people going back time and time again.

Now all that is left to do is to sort through all the pictures, print the good ones, and start planning our next trip! 

See you real soon

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!