Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Walt Disney World - Day 8 - February 12, 2005

Walt Disney World ' 05

Day 8

Saturday February 12, 2005

All good things must come to an end - or - Now's its time to say goodbye....

We carefully calculated our wake up time to get us the maximum amount of sleep and still get us out of the room by check out time. It so happens that after getting everything in readiness, we summoned the bellhop, who happened to be the same bellhop that brought our bags to us on Day 1. We chatted for a bit about how our stay went, then we finished up some last minute details, like emptying out the fridge, and making sure the safe was empty. By the way, is it really necesary to have a decal telling safe users to be sure to lock the safe and take the key with you while out enjoying the parks? I also picked up our final statement of account which was hanging on our doorknob. We had elected Express Checkout, so upon looking over the statement and finding everything in order, we know we could just leave anytime before 11AM.

Before leaving I took photos of the room and the resort, and then we took our last carry around items with us and headed to Boatwright's for breakfast. We hadn't made a prioirity seating for Boatwright's and were surprised to have to wait about 20 minutes around 11AM. We took our pager and sat in the River Roost lounge. Gee this lounge looks awfully familiar. I looked by the piano and I think I see the magic button in the floor that makes the piano rock...

Anyway, Boatwright's a is a nicely themed (Boatwright's shop) table service restaurant. We proceeded to have a nice relaxing breakfast. Mom had the french toast, and I had the sweet potato pancakes, and boy were they good. We relaxed and had a really nice waitress. We sat and lingered over breakfast until we were some of the last people out of the restaurant.

We next headed to Fulton's General Store for the big massive souvneir run. You know, its the "Oh no, it's our last day at Disney and we need to find gifts to take back to people, and oh wouldn't that be cute to have" type souvenier run. We bought a lot of stuff, and a duffel bag to put it all in.

Having a little bit of time before our 4:15 pick up time, we decide to cruise on down to Downtown Disney, and do so by way of the Sasagoula River Cruise. It was a very relaxing cruise, and it was Mom's first time on the boat. The cruise is a lot more enjoyable by day. You get to see Port Orleans by river, then you get to see the disused treehouse villas. Our boat captain said they hav ethe lights in the villas connected to timers so that the treehouse villas light up the waterway at night and reduce the need to use the watercrafts bright lights. We also cruised past the golf courses and saw the golfers hard at 'work'. Our captain said that this particular waterway has releaved golfers of tens of thousands of golf balls.

We had an informative and somewhat funny captain, he gave us the standard watercraft safety speil, you know "I have life vests in the foot locker to my left that will be eopened should the need arise. They are free for tourists, and $20 for locals" Againit is a wonderfully relaxeing 20-30 minute or so ride.

We landed at Downtown Disney near Rainforest Cafe, and started walking around the lakeside. Our first stop was a DIsney closeout alley where nothing is over $10. The 'store' is located outdoors in the breezeway (or alley) between two other stores. It trades in souveniers that can be had for under $10, as well as what appear to be closeout items. They also sell mystery grab bags. Are you one who likes surprises, well go ahead pick a bag and take a chance.

We left that store, and looked through the big pin trading center, and I took a look at but did not ride the Carousel and kiddie train rides they have there. Those rides run for $2, and are not included in any disney ticket package.

We next took a walk through Once Upon A Toy, a mega toy shop. They have just about anything one can imagine if it involves toys, in a whimsical building. I will admit that I toured the toy store mainly to see the complete Disney monorail model kit set up with all the accessories and add on packs. Quite impressive looking.

From the toy store, we looked through the giant kaleidoscoe, our boat captain had told us that all the figues in the scopt look like Mickey's head. A cool touch. We spent the rest of our time in Downtown Disney tourin the World of Disney.

World of Disney is a super ultra mega Disney store, if they don't got it, you don't need it. They have the mega store oned off into departments to make it easier to find what you are looking for. We finsihed our shopping there, and while checking out, I noted that I like to fly decorative banner flags, so I asked if there were any Disney related flags or banners for sale. Aparently I found a weak spot, a caegory that Disney currently does not have any products. I mean not even a Mickey Mouse Club flag, how else am I supposed to "Forever let us raise our banner high, High, HIGH"

Leaving the World of Disney, a time check revealed the time to be just around 3PM, so we headed back to the boat dock for the return cruise to Port Orleans. We must have just missed a boat, becuase we waited until 3:30 for a boat to arrive. We though we saw a boat much earlier but it was flying the green flag of Saratoga Springs/Old Key West, and not the Yellow flag of Port Orleans. Never fear the boat did arrive at 3:30, and ran perfectly to shcedule and we were avoiding the hose that someone had stretched out across the exit stairs at the Port Orlenas Riverside dock at around 3:55. a full 20 minutes ahead of the Mear's shuttle arrival.

We made our way to baggage claim, where within a few minutes a friendly baggage porter was moving our bags from the storage facility to a spot along the sidewalk where the Mear's shuttle stops.

4:15 comes, 4:15 passes, no bus
4:20 comes, 4:20 passes, no bus
4:30 comes, 4:30 passes, no bus
A Mears shuttle comes to drop off but not pick up passengers, the driver gives us a gruff unfriendly "I can't help you, call Mears" The friendly Port Orleans baggage services guy calls Mears but can't get through to them on the phone.
4:35 comes, 4:35 passes, no bus
4:40 comes,, 4:40 passes, no bus
4:45 comes, and low and behold a bus arrives
BUT wait, its not our bus, it is the regularly shceduled 4:45 bus running right on time. After some pleading by those of us waiting fora bus, he agrees to take us to the airport with him.
4:55 we leave POR
5:00 we arrive French Quarter
5:10 we leave French Quarter
5:15 we arrive Old Key West
5:25 we leave Old Key West.
I can't fault our driver who is being friendlyt and courteous, and judging from the radio calls we heard him make (the volume was turned way up), we could hear that dispatch kept wanting him to pick up more passengers even as he was trying to tell dispatch he was full. Also from overhearing the operators radio, things were not going smooth for Mears at all, with all kinds of busses running way behind schedule and all. Mear's dispatch office must be staffed by a group of mindless jerks who have no idea how to run a transit company.
6:00 we arrive at the Orlando Airport
6:10 we check in for our 7:00 flight
6:15 we arrive at the back of the long queue for Security
6:35 we finally walk through the metal detector
6:40 we arrive at the Airside buidling from the monorail, note on monitor that boarding is in progress from one of the gates furthest from the monorial stop.
6:50 We arrive at the gate, and without even slowing down we continue walking right to our seats. So much for a restroom stop or grabbing a sack lunch to take on board.

Whew - that was WAY too close. At least the flight was smooth and as I like my airplane rides, uneventful. Well, it did get interesting after landing in Cincinnati. We had a last minute ( as in we were almost at one gate) when they captrain announced we had an arrival gate change, then we get to the new gate to find out that there was some miscommunication and the cpatain was told to take us back to the first gate. Hey, an MD-80 CAN do a U-Turn on the ground! We arrive a the original gate, to learn the gate crew had been sent to the new gate, so we sat on the plane until a gate crew could arrive. Then we were told the wrong baggage carousel number.

We walked through the deserted terminal and I spotted a (closed for the night) WolfGang Puck's express. Shame I think this is the only Wolfgang Puck Express in Cincinnati and you can only get to it with an airline ticket. Pretty massive cover charge. We amde our way to baggage claim where my Uncle and Aunt were wating to drive us home. Pciked up our luggage, headed to the parking garage, and headed home.

We showed the digital photos on the TV, gave them there gifts, and called it a night,

And so ends a wonderful Disney vacation!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Walt Disney World - Day 7 - February 11, 2005

Walt Disney World '05

Day 7

Friday, February 11, 2005

Welcome to Day 7, if you've had the patience to stay with me this long, look on the bright side, this is only an 8 part series, and this is part 7, and its the last part with any real meat to it. Before I started for the day, I followed Mear's directions and called in at least 24 hours in advance to schedule my return pickup. A hint for future travelers, call the front desk on the room phone and ask them to connect you to Mear's it seems like they don't put the call on your phone bill that way. Anyway, the helpful Mear's representative took down my information and scheduled us for a return bus a full three hours before my aircraft is scheduled to depart. Confirmation number noted down, we are confident that chore is out of the way.

Today's park is Animal Kingdon, and it happens to be our first ever trip to Animal Kingdom. Knowing the park closed early, we somehow found the will to awake early and caught a bus at the bus stop nearest our room. Let me tell you something, it is a real long bus ride from Port Orleans to Animal Kingdom, and apparently we arrived at the park just after the big park opening show. Another thing is that the artctic cold spell that arrived last night, well its still here, and the thermometer is reading about 40 degrees as we enter the park. We note not many people are entering the park.

The park entrance tried to emulate that of a national park with all its dark greens and earth tones. We get dropped off at the bus stop and make our way to the front gate. Once through the front gate, Mom is able to get one of those motorized wheel chairs, and I heard the stroller/wheelchair attendnats talking about how its like 5 minutes after park opening, and their stand has no business. Apparently this is quite rare.

We enter the park and Disney took a different approach with Animal Kingdom, instead of the traditional wide commerical path that leads from the front gate into the heart of the park, Animal Kingdom uses a number of narrower windy paths that are collectively dubbed "The Oasis" The Oasis does not look that different than trails you might see in a zoo, with lots of landscaping and vegetation lined with animal exhibits, but we must remember what the Dsney marketing folks keep trying to sledge hammer into our heads, the fact that this is meant to be Nahtazu. (pronounced NOT-A-ZOO, get it?) The windy twisty paths serve to remomve any possible visuals that might reveal the parking lot or even the front gate while in the park. So much so that on the other side of the Oasis they have large tropical bird themed signs that prominently read "PARK EXIT" Coming out of the Oasis you cross a wooden bridge and find yourself in the hub of Animal Kingdom. In this case the hub is named "Discovery Island" in what must be a tribute to the resorts first zoological themed attraction.

Discovery Island is vastly different from the national park look of the entrance plaza. On Discovery Island shops and food stands are housed in bright vibrant vividly colored buildings. I took a look at the tip board before continuing. In the center of the Disocvery Island is the parks signature landmark, the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is a hige manmade tree, whose leaves will always be a vibrant shade of green, but more importatly the trunk of tree is ocvered with hand carved animal sculptures, making the Tree of Life a huge piece of art, and to assist in viewing there are several 'nature trails' that endeavor to get you close enough to see the Tree of Life up close, but far enough away to prevent any vanadlism.

The Tree of Life is a huge tree with a LARGE diameter. How large you ask, well large enough to fit a movie theater into the base of its trunk. We note the disused Fastpass machines and enter the regular queue. The queue itself is themed to be a nature trail, and as such is windy and naroow and seems to take you anywhere except to the theater. Mom quipped that this queue must be her motorized chair mobility test.

Eventually we walk into the base of the Tree of Life and into a waiting room. The movie is titled "It's Tough to Be a Bug" and the waiting area has movie posters for other shows staring the bugs, most are name parodies on popular musicals. With hardly any wait we are admitted to the theater itself. Here in the tree of life, there are no cushy theater chairs, no, you sit on a big wooden bench, but wait that bench has ridged dividers to encourage you to position yourself on the bench properly.

The screen appears to be one of those Magic Eye pictures, you know those pictures that if you cross your eyes and stare at it a 3D image is supposed to pop out. The movie starts and it is revealed that you are actually looking at a zillion cinematic insects that were forming a curtain. In the introduction you learn that you are about to learn about the world of the insects, and to do so you have been issued speical 'honorary bug eyes' which will magnify your sight so that bugs seem to be about the size of you.

What starts as a supposed documentary on bugs gets ugly fast when a bug with a grudge to hold against humans decided to turn the tables. The special in theater special effects start, including a new effect, 'stingers' in the back of your seat, and lets not forget the odor of the stink bug. This makes three Disney parks in Florida that now have an attraction that makes use of spraying an offensive odor into the theater. That and the spiders dropping from the ceiling to just above your head is another cool effect. Luckily for you all the ruffled wings get smoothed out, and you get treated to a musical number that helps to reveal what insects purpose is on the eco system. Get readt for one last surprise when the insects are told to leave the theater first. Its an interesting effect that involves probs in the bottom of your seat interacting with your butt. Its another of Disney's unique 4D movies.

We exit the theater where we follow another nature trail that leads us back to Discovery Island. The park has provided a very generous number of directional signs in this park, owing to its newness and its confusing layout. We follow the signs around toward Festival of the Lion King. Not that we would need too many signs as they have cast members as far back as Discovery Island playing the role of carnival talker trying to drum up an audience to see Festival of the Lion King. Aniaml Kingdom may be a HUGE park (500 acres), but very little of it is used be footpaths, leading to a lot of congested areas, and long long long paths that serve to keep the themed areas far apart. I mean just because you have started down the path to Festival of the Lion King, don't start slowing down now, becuase its a huge walk back to Camp Mickey Minnie. Recall that there is only one way in and out of Camp Minnie Mickey so yep you;ll be backtracking along that real long pathway when its time to move on to another themed area.

Camp Minnie Mikcey seems to be intended to be the parks children's area, and is themed have a rustic summer camp feel to it. Along the way there, rustic looking cabins house disused concession stands, and if you follow the 'nature trails' at Camp Minnie Mickey you can visit the Disney charcters. In fact one of the big attraction in the area is character greeting. After navigating the long walk back to camp Minnnie Mickey, you reach a central plaza. To the right are the character greeting trails, to the left is the amptheater for Pocohantas and Her Forest Friends, and up ahead is the huge arena for Fesitval of the Lion King.

We stay the course and head straight to Festival of the Lion King, which by all accounts is a very popular show which is a must see. Remember how cold I mentioned it was today, it seems that every warm blooded human in the park has decided to gather for this indoor show.

Festival of the Lion King, for lack of a better word is a circus. You have larger than life parade floats each topped with a jungle animal, which come out and take up positions between the seating sections, and in the middle a large float that serves as a multi purpose stage. When you first enter there are 4 seating sections in the octagonal shapped buidling, leaving 4 gaps. When you start the parade floats come out and fill in those gaps, and the stage rolls into the center of the arena. The show consists of a revue of music from the Lion King, hosted by Timon and Pumba. Larger than life stilt walkers and others in colorful native dress cause a constant fury of motion around the edges of the stage. On the stage, you have aerial artists, you have gymnasts, you have fire-jugglers, and more. Its just a real fun show that gets the audience involved. I happen rather to like it. I was a bit surprised at the end of the show when they had the audience exit the arena before the stage and the parade floats retracted back into their hiding spots backstge. I would have though they would want to protect the floats from curious hands.
Remember those congested areas I told you about, the end of a Festival of the Lion King show sends Camp Minnie Mickey into a major case of traffic congestion. Through some skill and luck we were able to edge our way over and get into the Pocohantas and Her Forest Friends show just as it was starting.

Pocohantas's show is masically a forest conservation show aimed at the younger crowd. Yur hosts are the live actress playing Pocohantas, and the talking tree "Grandma Willow", along with several smaller non threatening live animals. You ahve the Pocohants theme song, as well as animal intoductions before making the point that the only one that can save the forest is the humans. It seemed to be rather a short show, it was interesting but seemed a bit short.

We then backtracked all the way to Disvoery Island, and continues walking around Discover Island until we found the bridge to Africa. The Africa section is themed to a rural/agricultural village complete with village market, and what are reported to be some nice food stands. The architecture is supposed to be representative of Africa, and of course the areas main attraction is the African jungle safari, here named The Lillamanjaro Safaris. We decided to stop in the public rest room (and I make the point becuase the parks signage says in big letters "PUBLIC REST ROOMS"), before heading off on our safari. We look at the fastpass time but decide we can do better just going standby. We enter the long queue area which leads us to and through the booking offices of the Killamanjaro Safari Company. In an odd move for Disney, guests with strollers are told to take the strollers through the line with them, and there is a littel branch off the main line almost at the loading area that leda to the stroller parking area. Id' say not less than 10 minutes later in this constantly moving line, and we were to the front.

Owing to mom's motorized chair, we were directed to follow an alternative path when we got to the front of the line that leads to a different loading area. On this ride they deidcate a certain number of safari trucks to those requireing wheelchairs, or even to those just using wheelchairs owing to the way the attractions exit is setup. We waitied for the next designated truck to show up which pulled off the main show road to this alternative pick up point where extra time could be taken in unloading and loading. We were soon loaded an on our way. Our safariguide introduces himself an comments that we packed light of a three week safari. Our vehcile looks a lot like an oversized land rover with large bench seats that have thankfully been padded as well as animal spotting guides posted above each row. The vehicle is driven by your safari guide, who gets assitance from the "warden flying overhead" and communicated via radio. To further enhance the jungle safari experience, Disney has gone out of their way to make the road your safari vehicle travels on about as rough as they can get it, and you will even drive through pools of water at some point. For the most part, the ride is just what you would expect a safari ride to be, the guide drives you through the reserve while pointing out the various live animals that can be seen along either side. No ugly fences or barriers here, it looks for all the world like you are driving in the middle of a wildlife preserve and the illusion is that nothing is sperating your safari truck from the wildlife. It's the parks signature attraction, and deservingly so. We were lucky enough to get a ride witha lot of very active animals so I got several photos, and really enjoyed the ride. Disney put in a couple unnecesary specieal effects just in case the live animals weren't enough of an attraction, such as the 'collapsing bridge scene', and the loosley followed "Save Little Red from poachers" storyline that flares up in the last few moments of the ride. Whe you see the lions doing their Pride Rock imitation, the actual safari is over the rest is just unneeded Disney storyline. We then roll right past the normal load and unload stations without stopping and are let off at the same alternative station where we entered. We then exit down into the Paginini Jungle Trail. Ah, this is why you must take your strollers and wheelchairs with you, becuase apparently this is meant to be an out-but-not-back safari, where your return to the main park is via the Paginini Jungle trail, or part of it anyway, as the walking trail can alsse be accessed without taking the safari. The Junge Trail is meant to be an at-your-own pace compnent that weaved itself in and through the same safari area you just rode through, giving you some different viewpoints.

We walked the Paginini Junle Trail and exited into the heart of Africa in time to notice that we have a lunch seating in 15 minutes. Hey we covered quite a bit of park by 11:45. We saw both Camp Mininie Mickey shows, the Oasis, the Tree of Life, Tough to be a Bug, and most of Africa. We followed the conveniently placed signs pointing us to the "Park Exit" Our lunch is to be in the Rainforest Cafe, which is located just outside the parks main gate. Back through Africa around Discovery Island, through the Oasis (we choose a different trail), and finally we follow the trail marked "Rainforest Cafe" We learn that since the restaurant lies outside the park gate, Mom must leave her rental chair inside the park boundaries. She takes the key and we slip out a special side exit just for patrons of the Rainforest Cafe. It may be the smallest park gate at Disny with just one turnstile for exiting guests, and one for entering guests. We collect our handstamps and proceed through the gift shp of the Rain Forest Cafe.

I am directed to check in at the pink elephant, which I do. Unlike most Disney restaurants, they host at the Rainforest is electronically handling the waiting list via a computer instead of with an index card system. I check in, and note that I have a Priority Seating. The host hands me a ticket which indicated our part size and that we would be seated in the Gorilla Room. We move along and stand in the queue of those holding seating tickets. I barely have time to admire the large aquarium and the animal''s legs barstools when a server comes up behind us, asks for the Bowers party, then leads us out of the line, and around the aquarium to enter the dining room via the exit. Talk about a Priority Seating that makes you feel like royalty.

We are quickly seated at a table in the middle of the Gorilla Room, and it is explained to us to not be surprised when the storms come about every 20 minutes. To assist in planning Mom asks when the next storm would be, and the server claims that she doesn't know and that she has done this for so long, she doesn't even notice the 'atmosphere' anymore, which is probably very true.

We order a nice lunch and proceed to enjoy it along with our jungle friends. The animals act up a little bit more often than every 20 minutes, but the big feature 'show' is every 20 minuites. Which means you will probably see it 2 or 3 times through your sitting. Rainforest Cafe is NOT where you go to have a nice relaxing meal while trying to carry on a casual dinner conversation, but Rainforest Cafe IS where you go to eat in a total imersive fantasy environment. The food is even pretty good to boot. And hey say it with me "VOLCANO!" We did not order this feature family sized desert, but we got to see enough of them being served, and oh did it look so good, and did I mention they make a big deal when they serve one. Rainforest also served sweet tea, which is a rare commodity on Disney property, even though I though Sweet Tea was a southern tradtion. For those liking artifical sweeteners, RainForest is also one of the very few places on Disney property where you can get "Sweet and Low" (pink packet) sweetener, Disney owned establishments seem to have a thing against it.

One rarity is when you go to charge your meal to your room, since RainForest is not owned by Disney, they follow a different charging proceudre, they bring you charge slip before they process your card, and ask you to indicate your tip on the slip before handing over the card. In fact you write your tip on the check, ut don't sign it yet, they come back with an adjusted tip that has your desired level of gratutity included in the check, THEN you sign it and process the paperwork, Wierd, and I noted that the non Disney establishments must be using an older version of Disney's room charge software. How old? Old enough to print our hotel name as "Dixie Landings" That theme was killed how many years ago?

We finsih our enjoyable lunch and reenter the park through the special side gate, recollect the chair, and head back through the Oasis. This time we stay to the right of the Tree of Life and head toward DinoLand USA. I note that a Tarzan Rocks show is about to start, so we head to the Theater in the Wild.

Tarzan Rocks is a Disney character 'rock concert' that features some extreme trick bke riding and other aerial stunts along with a a rock concert like atmosphere. It's nowhere near as endearing as Festival of the Lion King. But that means we have now seen all but one of the parks shows. We return to DinoLand USA.

DinoLand USA is themed to look like a Route 66 era roadside attraction. Dinosaurs are the theme in this quirky attraction. DinoLand contains such non-Disney elements as a carnival style midway. Mind you this is Disney so you can believe they are highly themed carnival games. Also in the area are two carnival rides, one being the Triceratops Spin (think Prehistoric Dumbo and you have the idea), the other is Primevil Whirl. Primevil Whirl happens to be a rollercoaster, so while I could do without the flying dinosaurs, I had to take my ride trough time. Primeveil Whirl is a Disneyfied Reverchon Crazy Mouse, and identical model rides are curretnly traveling and playing some of the nations finest fairs, and other parks are starting to get them. In fact another Florida park, Cypress Gardens is trying to do a themed version of this very same ride. Mind you Disney did replace the mouse cars with 'time machines' and they put a lot of cheezy whimsical lookin theming around the ride, and to improve capacity they enven installed two idential rides right next to each other. That didn't help the fact that Fastpass was almost completely sold out for the day, so I entered the regular line and wound up waiting about 30 minutes for this ride. Disney has made a couple minor improvements to the ride by slowing down the speed at whch the cars travel through the station. The idea is the cars never stop moving, but most carnivals run the cars through the station so fast they have to sit and wait for clearance from the rides safety system, Disney has figured out the optimum speed at which to run the cars through the station so that they really do never stop. They have also added gates to the sides of the cars to keep your legs inside. I get seated into the 4 seat car with another couple. Its not a tight fit as the cars are very roomy, and besides I got one of the two becnehs to myself. Both benches are righ next to each other and form a sort of semicricle, not unlike the seats on a Tilt-A-Whirl. Being an experience fair goer, I knew jut where to sit on my bench for maximum effect. The first half of the ride consists of a fairly ordinary left turn out of the station where you go along the front of the ride, then anothr left turn, then up the lift hill. At the top of the lift hill you start going on a zig zag course of sharp turns all while facing forwards. After about three such sig zags you turn left, go down a drop, come back up, to a turnaround to the left, go down the big drop, then up the double up to make yet another left turn. You then enter the larger lower set of switchbacks. You also cross over a track mounted switch that releases a lock on the tub which allows it to spin as gravitiational forced dictate. Remember that strategic seating I mentioned earlier, well our car span like a top for the rest of the ride. I could tell the other riders in the tub with me were not as excited about the psychotic spinning as I was, but hey I wanted to show them a good time, right?

The madlly spinning car eventually returned to the station, where it was automagiclaly rotated to face forward and we exited UP the exit ramp, The exit ramp for this ride is a coaster photography fanatics dream as you go up over the coaster.

We exited Primevil Whirl and I noted that all the fastpasses were now gone, so it was time to find Dinosaur (the ride). Dinosaur the ride sits in a Jurassic Park inspired buidling off the beaten path behind DinoLand. I noted that all its fastpasses were also exhausted. I netered the buidling which is themed to look like your average natural history museum complete with dinosaur skeleton sculpture in the grand lobby. I walked right through the empty queue area in the foyer and in the Grand lobby and was soon being directed down a corridor to a pre shw room. Of course, its a Disney adventure got to have a briefing. I did note one guest who tried to bypass the pre show by continung on walking out the (closed) exit door was sent back into the preshow.

The stroyline this time is that you are at a high tech museum that has figured out how to transport guests through time using a special time machine that looks a lot like a safari jeeps. You will be taken back to the age of the dinosaurs and ride amongst the dinosaurs before being safely transported back to the current day. This attraction is in no way inspired by Jurassic Park, not at all... We even have the greedy computer geek, who hypothesizes that if he can send us back through time, he can pick up a (vegatarian) dinosaur and bring it forward through time, presumably to become rich by opening a "See the dinosaur" attraction. Unfortuantely his superiro gets wind of his idea and reminds him that we are to be given the standard expedition, no more, no less. Computer geek makes a show of pounding a few keys to which the screen flashes that access is denied to tamper with the tour computer. But wait, as soon as the sureprior is out of the room, said geek enters a password, and we are about to embak on a special dinosaur retreival mission. I can just see the standard "And something goes really wrong" Disney storyline from a mile away.

We exit the pre show room, and follow another corridor to the main stairwell where we go down one flight to the ride boarding area. Hey they have running ketchup, mustard and mayonaise in this facility, I always wondered how those condiment dispensers were kept stocked ;)

A few moments later, I am beign shown to a jeep and seeing that there are to be more seats than riders in our row, I start to sit in the 'window seat' on the load side. This catches not only the evil eye but a directive that I must move filling in the empty seat. I am just starting to get moved into my new seat when the vehicle starts moving. I am not fully seated, not to mention fastened my seatbelt. Hmm, I thought Safety, Courtesy and Show all came BEFORE effiicency. With that startling lunge forward, I hastily complete taking my seat just as the car stops again. This is another ride that uses that Disney three stop loading "Unload"."Load","Restraint Check" I fasten the seatbelt and we proceed on.

What happens next is well I don't know. You sort of ride around real fast taking sudden truns while getting about a 2 second peek at a dinosaur "Nope, not our dino" and hastily move on. Of course the asteriod shower that killed the dinosaurs that you were warned about in the pre show is about to happen, and after a couple failed attempts yo do mange to snag your dino. All in all I left the ride feeling "What was that??!!??" If this is Disney's answer to Spiderman, they have fallen way short. This dark ride is about as good at DCA's Superstar Limo, and that ride has gotten the endeering nickname of SuperSuck Limo, by its non-fans, if that gives you any clue. Guys, I've been on Indiana Jones at Disneyland, I know what this ride sytem is capeable of doing, and this ride just doesn't seem perform to the same standards as Indiana Jones.

I exit the time travel jeep, proceed up the stairs to the gift shop, and walk through the gift shop. We proceed through DinoLand USA, and I take a few moments to look at the Expedition Everest construction site. Man this ride which seems like it might fall into the mine train variety looks absolutely HUGE. Work is progressing well on the mountain, and I presume the summit has been reached, if the American flag flying hapilly from the summit is any indication, and some of the exposed trackwork looks pretty interesting as well. How wll it turn out, I guess we'll fnd out in 2006.

Next stop is Asia. Asia is themed loosely around temple ruins. I decline to ride Kali River Rapids owing to the bitter cold winds, and note that we missed the last showing of the bird show "Flights of Wonder", and we head off to the walking trail portion of Africa. The Maharajah Jungle Trek. We each get issued a trail guide and animal spotting guide and head out on the trek. It appears that I am not the only one thingking the air is a bit cool as the Komodo Dragons, and in fact everything up to the bat exhbit seems to be missing. The attendant in the bat temple explains to us that due to the cold weather many of this exhibits animals are curretnly enjoying their heated indoor accompdtions. Luckily the keynote tiger exhibit and pretyt much everything after the tigers, includding the birds in the aviary were very much ou and active. The intricate detail in the Tiger Temple Ruins is impressive, and you may even learn a bit of culture. At one part there were strings of several small flags stretched out over the walkway. Right at that spot a helpful sign indicated that they are prayer flags and gave a brief decription of their use.

We enjoyed the walk through Jungle Trek where we had a nice conversation with the person overseeing the bird aviary, and soon returned to the main part of Asia. We returned to the main central pathway just in time for the parade. Mickey's Jammin Jungle Parade. Shortlye before the parade, I ducked into what looked like a little store that advertised tht it sold Coca Cola. Shame the store looked deserted, except for a big old fashioned steel Coca Cola cooler. Interestingly the Coca Cola cooler had a coin mechnism visible, I went over to investigate. Ah, its a self service Coca Cola stand, I opened the lid on the cooler and staring back at me is a modern adaptation of a style of soft drink machine that I had not seen much of since the 1980's when glass bottles were still the rage. You may remember this one from your local barber shop, you open the lid and thre are racks of soft drink bottles suspended from metal racks by their necks. You can move the bottles around inside the cooler, but there is no place where there is a big enough gap in the tracks to squeeze a bottle through, except for a mechancal gate that will only open after payment is made. In other words you grab a bottle move it through the habitrail until it gets into the mechanical jaws, you then insert your payment, then pull up hard on the bottle. I had used this kind of machine many times in my youth, and was instantly prepared with the knowledge of how to operate it. I would have loved seeing one of today's youth struggle with it.

Anyway, now that I have the soft drinks, it is time to grab that nice spot available right by the rope and watch the parade. A lot of disney characters, a lot of crazy safri vehicles, and even Donalds' boat. Also a lot of oversized mechanical animals being opearated by puppetters who are walking beneath the mechanical animal. Nice peppy sountrack, and what appears to be a good number of 'volunteers from the auidence' who are seen riding along on the floats. It was a fun parade, and owing to the fact that the only thing left to see is Rafiki's Plant Watch we wound up follwoing the parade through Asia and into Africa. Man was that a long walk. As it turns out we board the very last departing train of the evening. The cars are setup like the train cars at Disneyland, with all the seats turned to face one side, and the back closed in. The train ride is advertised as a behidn the scenes tour type ride, and yes you do get to see some rather utilitarian all weather anial enclosuers, including one (I think the elephants) who apparently get luxury living, or at least a luxury facade. We arrive at Raffiki's to learn that Raffkiki;'s and Conservation Station have closed for the day, but the petting zoo "Affection Section" will remain open for 15 minutes for us. We decline the petting zoo and are allowed to stay aboard the train for a round trip back to Africa.

We then start the long walk back to the front gate, and I notice that Expedition Everest is clearly visible from Africa. We continue walking and eventually go through Discovery Island and then throught the Oaiss trails. We returne the chair, get the deposit back, and note that while strollers earn a $1 refund, they have thought to have a person soliciting donations for a Wildife care fund, the donation required for a button, you guessed it $1.

We then exit the park and head over to the bus pickup area and take the long ride back to Port Orleans. Once back at the resort we pick up packages from the gift shop, then I pick up a copy of our room charge bill from Guest Services, then we ask at the lounge about the piano man. Seems he plays from 8:30-midnight. Gotcha. We return to our room.

On the way to the room I ask mom to guess how much the rooom charge bill is, and am deligted to hear her guess a number that is significantly higher than what the bill actually is. The bill also gives an itemization bypurchase, giving the stand name and dollar amount appearing in more or less chronological order. We get back to the room, pack up as tommorow is check out morning, and take naps until about 8PM.

Around 8, we got ready to go and headed over to the River Roost, which is Port Orleans' cocktail lounge. We were fortunate enough to be able to grab one of the last tables and settled in. We found a menu on the table listing the various signature cocktails as well as mentioned that we could order appetizers from Boatwright's. We started off with some soft drinks and an order of Nachos Supreme. Disney lounges are friendly to those that don't want to drink. They will give you no grief over odering just a soft drink, in fact they will give you free refills on the soft drink.

Entertainment in the River Roost is provided by a comic piano player that goes by the name of Bob Jackson. His show consits of mostly pop standards, tv theme songs, campfire songs and the like. In other words it all songs you have probably heard before and are familiar with. This is good because Bob's show is heavy on audience participation. There are two motto's "No one has more fun than us!", followed closely by "You will never see any of these people again" I know you might think this sounds cheesy or campy, but from what I saw everybody gets involved in the show. This is mostly because a lot of the songs have either obvious auidence parts or Bob makes up an audience part. If you are thinking you'll just sit back, wrong. I dont know how else to describe it, but Bob's enthusiasm is infectious and before you know it you too will be jumping up and down, waving your hands in the air and yelling (or singing like Edith Bunker) in your loudest voice stuff like "Have some Fun Tonight" in the cocktail lounge of a rather upscale looking hotel lobby. And if you hear a bugle call, well by the end of the evening you will instincitvely jump up and do your best Tarzan imitation.

Pay close attention to Bob's piano, becuase it is also a part of the show. This black upright piano gets so excited that when they say Bob rocks that piano, the piano literally rocks back and forth. Then you have bob himself who is a very personable entertainer who welcomes newcomers to the lounge between shows. He ask them were they are from, and gee whiz, Bob just happens to also be from whatever city they name, and a little while everybody else claims to be from whatever city the new arrivals are from. Bob takes two breaks but never leaves the lounge, instead spending his break itme signing autographs and making his way around the room stopping to chat at just about every table. Oh, and for those that drink, be careful, Bob loves to haul out a song titlled Sara towards the end of the night. Its a perfectly innocent song, but its lyrics are a tounge twister when taken slow and sober, let alone when taken fast and with a few drinks. Just try keeping "Sarah, Sarah, sitting in a shoe shine shop, sarah sarah, sitting in a shoe shine shop, all day long she sits and shines, all night long she shines and sits, Sarah Sarah sitting in a shoe shine shop." straight.

All in all it was a great evening. After the show ended it was time to make our way back to the room. We got just about all packed up before going to bed, then told Stitch to take his own seet time in waking us up tommorow. Sadly, tommorow is departure day.

We planned on watching one set, and wound up staying from 8:30 clear through last call, which at the River Roost is at midnight.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Walt Disney World - Day 6 - February 10, 2005

Walt Disney World 2005

Day 6

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Mostly uninteresting morning stuff

I won't dwell too long on the morning, except to say that after thinking it all over, I decided on Magic Kingdom in the morning, then Disney Studios in the evening. Mom had, as expected, decided to sleep in a bit today, and would meet me at Disney Studios. Oh, and I think my park endurance is starting to wane, as I was moving just a little bit faster than a snail getting myself cleaned up and out of the room.

Before leaving the room, I fetched the Spirit of Aloha tickets out of the in-room safe. I figured I may as well take care of the refund while I was walking past Guest Services anyway. (For those reading out of sequence, I had recieved a voice mail on Wednesday night informing me that the performance of Spirit of Aloha that I held tickets for had been cancelled for weather) I stopped at Guest Services and my initial thought was to ask to have the refund applied to my room charge account. As it turns out, the refund would be issues in kind with how the payment was made, which meant they processed a refund to my credit card, the same card that is standing behind the aforementioned room charge. Next best thing to having the refund applied to the room. I also note that the refund was processed in a swift friendly manner.

Time to head to the Magic Kingdom

I then headed out to the bus stop where I got on a capacity crowd bus to the Magic Kingdom. Not a good sign, but then it was like 8:40 so what did I expect. The bus ride was fine until the turn right after Fort Wilderness, just as we started to go uner the monorial tracks, the skies opened up and it started to rain. By the time we got the park, the rain was coming down pretty hard. I decided to exit the bus and tough it out.

As it turns out, I made it to the turnstile just as the first steam train was arriving with the Disney characters, which meant I got there right for the opening dash into the park. I made my way down Main Street USA, and decided to use the "Eric Huelsman Magic Kingdom Tactic" This tactic plays on the fact that most people head towards either Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, or Dumbo. This leaves Fantasyland largely ignored except for the little kids running to Dumbo, and Dumbo was taking the day off. In other words plan states that you head directly to Fantasyland and get the relatively low capacity Fantasyland rides out of the way first, then head to the higher capacity ride. It worked well in Disneyland, so let's see how well it works here.

The rain continued to fall as I marched up and through Cinderella's Castle. I looked around Fantasyland and just as I thought, deserted. I'm sure the rain helped, a lot. I reviewed the plan I had made for touring the park, so I headed directly to Peter Pan's Flight for the first ride of the day. Hey, its my inner child coming out, and Peter Pan does develop a slow moving long queue.

Peter Pan's Flight

As it happened, I walked through the empty queue and directly into a pirate ship barelyeven slowing down. It so happened I had my own private pirate ship, and off we go. The chief gimmick of Peter Pan's Flight is that your pirate ships 'flys' through the ride, not a usual behavior for boats. The ride starts in the bedroom scene, and you see dark ride track ahead of you rise up towards the window, then the track ends! Of course you are really following the overhead track, and I suspect Arrow had a large part in this dark ride system after seeing how the pirate ships are connected to the track. The ride tells the story of Peter Pan, with a flight over London, then over Captain Hook's pirate ship and all. It's not a long ride, but I always have liked it.

I exited Peter Pan's Flight, then having already done Phillharmagic the day before, I walked right accross to Snow White's Scary Adventures

Snow White's Scary Adventures

As it happened there was nobody in the Snow White queue, so I hopped into a mine cart and take a trip on this very ordinary dark ride that tells the story of Snow White. So we go through and see Snow White and hey upon my exit I realize the rain has stopped. Things are looking up.

I walk next door to Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh's Many Adventures

Let me get it out of the way now, I miss Mr. Toad.

The queue for Winnie the Pooh was just to the base of the ramp, which means it was hardly any wait at all.

Our honey pot lurches forward into the Winnie the Pooh building and past the subtle tribute to Mr. Toads Wild Ride. Winnie the Pooh is a gimmick laden dark ride. They have, in a very gentle manner managed to use a motion base type ride vehicle. In one scene where Tigger is bouncing up and down, so is your ride car, in another scene when the characters are on a boat in the water, your ride vehicle oobs back and forth like it were a boat out on rough water. Add to that a catchy soundtrack and while I would not call it a headliner attraction or a must-see, it is a good dark ride. ou may even notice another subtle tribute to Mr. Toad when your honey pot heads directly towards a mirror, reminnicent of the near crash that occured in Mr. Toad when the two ride paths came very close to each other head on. And I see that Winnie the Pooh is new enough that they thoughtfully placed a gift shop at the ride exit.

Now its time for some serious spin action

The Mad Tea Party

I have long been a fan of teacups-style rides, or Tubs of Fun. Curiously although I have been on several teacups rides, I had never been on the real Tea Cup Ride until now. I enter the Mad Tea Party arena just as a ride is about to start and score the last teacup. I'm so happy I got a cup to myself, as, well let's just say that if you get stuck in a teacup with me you had better have a high spin tolerance or face thr dire consequences. I would have hated to bring a case of major motion sickness to someone's Disney day with the park having been open less than 40 minutes.

The area around the ride is decorated with teapots, and Japanese lanterns hang above the teaparty floor. In a unique note, the Disney Teacups actually have saucers, usually that little formality is left out of tea cups rides. I step into a cup, close the door, emit an evil grin and grab the Wheel of Spinning Delight.

And I don't know how long the Mad Tea Party ride is, I don't know what is around the Mad Tea Party, because it all became one big blur. I think I may have noted people pointing at me, but again I was spinning way too fast to know for sure. After a few seconds of absolute delight, I found out that this Tea Cup Ride is equipped with a diabolical feature that most aren't. This ride actually has working tub brakes. My cup went from spinning at just over 1,000,000 RPM to a dead stop in .00000001 seconds Wow, I'm impressed,

I exited the Mad Tea Party and I noted the time to be about 9:40-9:45. Yep, the Eric Huelsman Fantasy Land Plan, worked again! In fact I kinda got throuhg Fantasyland a bit too quick, because my next stop, Goofy's Barnstormer doesn't even open for about 20 minutes. So I went and grabed myself a Space Mountain Fastpass, and went off to ride another ride I usually skip.

Tommorowland Indy Speedway

The wait for the speedway was posted at about 15 minutes, which was just the right amount of time. The line was just back to the turnstiles. The Indy Speedway features little racecards on a road course. Said road course has 4 lanes, of which 2 were open this morning. The ride boarding area is done up as pit row, complete wuth jersey barriers being used as fencing. All kinds of race car related flags fly over the attraction, a scoring obelisk purported reports who is in the lead, and there is even a grandstand for spectators. Instead of the constant queue movement that most car rides have, Disney starts ther ride off like a race, loading 8 (or 16 if all tracks in use) cars all at once, then disptaching in groups. After a reasonable wait I was shown to loading spot 1.

I think I may have found one case where Disney goofed up. With most car rides, they either have seperate unload and load areas, or they have the exiting riders get out of the cr on the opposite side as the riders getting in. In the case of the Indy Speedway, the cars pull in, then the people waiting to ride have to step to the side so the exiting riders can get through, then the oncoming riders load. It's a minor thing, but seems too stand out in a park where everything is fine tuned to the nth degree. I get into my race car, the leather belt is hooked, and off I go. The ride is not much different than car rides the world over, except with the ability to pass the cars in the next lane. I don't know if its possible to actually collide with the car next to you, but it does give the illusion of being able to pass very very close. I finish my lap, exit to pit row, and then exit up toward the grandstand before returning to the Tommorowland midway.

And its perfect timing to, as I walk around the perimeter of the Indy Speedway I arrive in Toontown just in time. Toontown may be the only disney themed area that is vastly different between the two domestic Magic Kingdom's. Out in California, Toontown has a Roger Rabbit Toon feel to it, and here in Florida its the classic Disney characters with a county fair theme.

Toontown in Florida is also mostly a character greeting venue, with the opportunity t0 meet Mickey himself in the Judges Tent, as well as 4 other characters in the Hall of Fame. If thats not enough you can tour Mickey's Mouse, Minnie's House or Donalds Boat. I decided to tour Goofy's Farm instead.

Goofy's Barnstormer

I seem to recall that Goofy's Wiseacres Farm was originally a 'petting zoo' type attraction. Well the animals are gone, and I really like what Goofy has done with the place. It seems that Goofy has taken up avaition as a hobby, too bad he is not particularly good at it. I mean you can see the big goofy and airplance shaped hole where he flew right through his barn, and NOT through the windows or doors.

I entered the queue and walked through the deserted queue through the lower level of the barn, then around the farm and eventually to the coaster boarding area. There was absolutely no line for this, which meant another quick ride. Goofy has a most unusual biplane, in that it seats 16 people in 8 rows of two, whats more there is a wing mounted over every other row. I find tht my seating assignment has me in 4A (and 4B for that matter). I wait behind the gate and when the plane arives a the airport, I realize that I have been assigned a wing seat. The other passengers unload, and the gates open. I am happy to report that dispute the small size of the rider, and the large size of the rider, I was still able to fit comfortably into the covered wing seat. Just watch that you don't bang your head on the wing when planing or deplaing,and if you DO bang our head, watch your language, this is a family park.

Let me back up and say that Goofy's Barnstormer at Wiseacres Farm (hows that for a name?), is at its heart a kiddie coaster. It's a small rollercoaster that doesn't go up really high, and concentrated more on graceful turns than drops. That does not, however, make it any less valued on the coaster track record of a coaster enthusiast. Asside from the high level of Disney theming, its mostly a production model kiddie coaster that you can order out of Vekoma's catalog (I believe the model number is 700J), however Disney being Disney has made a few changes. For one there is that incredible theming, and secondly there are some changes to make the ride carry more people safer. At most installations this model ships with one train, Disney has added the required brake run and block safety system to be able to run two trains.. In this context they have one train loading and unloading while the other trainload is out experiencing the ride. They also replaced the friction based pinch-wheel tire drive system that is standard on these rides wth a conventional coaster chain lift. This means the ride can safely run in the rain, while a standard off the shelf model cannot. And when you get as much rain as Disney does, you don't want an attraction that doesn't stand up to rain.

Wheee! The Coaster Credit meter goes Ca-Ching, and the feature of the ride is flying through the barn. I exit the ride and head towards Tommorowland.

I head out of Toontown towards Fantasyland. I note the restroom buildig themed to look like a cartoonish gas station. I also note that the gas station has one of those antique style pumps withe the big clear cylinder. I also note the rest room key is floating in the middle of said cylinder. I suppose I'll 'hold it,

I get distracted on my way to Space Mountain, and I stop past Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe. I had heard that Cosmic Ray offers out of this world entertainment, and sure enough I caught a couple songs of Sonny Eclipse's set. I do like Rideman's thoughts of giving Cosmic Ray's a "Milliway's" overlay/retheme, its gonna be a hot new Disney movie, and you can't get too much more into the future than "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe"

Space Mountain

Anyway, I go over to Space Mountain, the fastpass wasn't a big help as the initial lines for this ride had subsided, as I figured, but It may have saved me 5-10 minutes. I turned in my Fastpass, and slyly veered off to the open left hand track. All the times I had ridden Space Mountain, they had all been on the right hand side, now its time to take the left hand side for a flight.

The line moves pretty fast, and they call for a single rider. So I get expressed to the back seat of a rocket. I know the differences in the tracks are very slight, so slight as to not really be noticeable. All the main feautres are on both sides, the blue strobe light tunnel (whoa, we turn the other way all of a sudden), the drop that dives down alongside the lift hill, and the red crash and burn brake run. But Cha-Ching, I have the left side of Space Mountian now on the old coaster credit meter. (for more details on this attraction, see Day 5 of this same series)

Buzz Lightyear

I exit Space Mountain and decidiing I could safely dispense wiht Carousel of Progress, TTA, and Stitch, I headed to Buzz Lightyear. I entered without a fastpass which is just as well becuase the line was not even near reaching the merge in point. In fact I pretty much walked right on. I was happy to get a spaceship to myself.

(For more details on this attraction, see Day 5 of this same series)

Gee, its about 10:30 and I have Fantasyland, ToonTown, and Tommorowland out of the way. I head towards the hub and take in a bit of Cinderellaa's Suprise Celebration live character show in the castle forecourt, before heading into Advnetureland for a snack.

The stop is at the Aloha Aisle, where I order up a Dole Whip Float. Thats a vanilla/pineapple soft serve swirl, sitting utop a cup of pineapple juice. It's a generous serving and my YUMMMMM! that really hits the spot. I eat my Dolw Whip while watching the Flying Carpets go by. I have already done most of the stuff in Adventureland multiple times on this trip already, so even thought the 5 minute wait for Jungle Cruise and the 10 minute wait for Pirates! seemed tempting, I pressed on into Frontierland.

Upon entering Frontierland, I looked at the situation, it looked to be a wash between which to fastpass and which to go ahead and ride. I decided to take the Splash Mountain fastpass with the hopes of maybe catching it during the hottest part of the day.

I got in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and was aout 3/4 of the way through the deserted queue area when they had just started opening up the extra line area in anticipation for a crowd. I'd say less than 10 minutes later, I was in row 3 of a mine train. I decided to sit in the middle of the bench seat and I enjoyed the mine ride. For more details on Big Thunder see Day 5 in this same series)

Having ridden Big Thunder, I looked at the situation over at Tom Sawyer's Island. Hmm, a 20 minute wait for a raft to the island, then the time it takes to explore the island, then an undetermined amount of time to wait for return raft. I decided that Tom Sawyer's Island just wasn't in the cards for me this trip. Just as well Tom Sawyer's Island doesn't seem like it would be that much fun alone.

I did catch a show with what looked like the Grizzly Bears that must have escaped Grizzly Hall and were putting on a show in the middle of Frontierland. Cute show. Then I stopped past the Frontierland Shooting Gallery.

I have a soft spot for shooting galleries, and at only 50 cents, this one is relativley inexpensive. I hear it was a big deal when it was first installed, but now it seems to be standard IR light operated mechanical stunts. I hear that at one time an actual pellet shooting gallery was here isntead. Though in true Disney style the firearms are nicely detailed muskets, and the gallery countertop is covered in southwestern looking blankets to rest your arm on while you shoot the lower targets.

Splash Mountain

Well target practice took up just enough time that I was able to return to Splash Mountain with what Zazu would call "impeccable timing" Again the fastpass line was not even back to the merge point, and so in hardly not time at all I was through the cave and onto the loading dock. I do feel bad for the trainee they had on the ride this day. The exchange startd out innocent enough with the trainee requesting that I step out of line and "Come this way". I mistook that to mean he wanted me to come to him for some reason. I'm standing there like "Okay, now what", then I hear the person who must have been the trainer almost barking at the poor trainee bellowing "You have to show them where to go!" In reality they were opening the second loading area. I'm still figuring out where courtesy and show figure into that exchange.

It so happens that said exchange causes the boat I am in to go out with a load of two, which I suppose is why the trainee invoked the wrath of fury he recieved. Again, the ride is a near walk on, so its not like anybody is being inconvenienced and besides wouldn't it have made sense if capaicty were the prime concern to not start actually loading boats from dock 2 until the guests are ready to start boaring from dock 2.

Anyway, the ride starts, and the anticipatin builds as you circle the mountain while climbing the multple lifts to the top. Splash Mountain loves to play with your anixiety over the coming big drop by putting in several smaller drops before you get to the big one. (Hint: when you start hearing the ominous cressendoing music as you climb the lift hill INSIDE the mountain, get ready for the big one) First its the Slipp In Falls which takes you into the mountain for the lengthy dark ride half of the ride. Its a version of Song of the South, particularly the part about Brer Rabbit and the Laughing Place. Another short drop takes you into the beehive (brer rabbit's laughing place), and its a wondrfully done lengthy dark ride with some catchy music. After a while you make a big climb inside the moutain then emerge to do the big drop down the front of the mountain. I was sitting in the front row, and didn't get real wet. You then curve around by the observation area where lesser parks would have installed a row of coin operated water cannons by now. You then go up a real slight incline and a real slight drop, I was briefly worried cause Journey to Atlantis has such a small drop in its ride that gets you surprisngly wet. Luckily that is not the case and you just go inside for the final Zip-a-Dee-Doh-Dah finale.

One last word of caution, be careful crossing the bridge that overlooks Splash Mountain, there must be a water canon of sorts set to trigger when the logs reach splashdown. The resulting spray lands in the middle of the bridge. I got wetter walking from the ride than I did on the ride. Not drenched mind you, but it can be startling.

I exited Splash Mountain, took care of some errands, took some photos, visited some stores, pressed some pennies, made sure Mom was up and then headed towards Disney Stuidos.

Commute to Disney Studios

I followed the recommended commute to Disney Studios, which is to take the express monorail to the TTC, then a bus from the TTC to Disney Studios. I wonder if I would have been better off to take the resort monorail to the Contemproary and catch a bus from there. Anyway I exited the park and found a surprisingly crowded express monorail platform. A few moments later I was climbing aboard Monorail Yellow for a ride to the TTC. Monorail Yellow has its Stitch decal on the nose of the lead car. One could only hope that really happened as overboard as Disney is promoting Stitch.

I arrived at the TTC and followed the signs to the bus facility. Based on the wait for the bus I must have just missed the one prior, as all in all it took me about 1 hour to commute from Magic Kingdom to Disney Studios. The bus I rode to the Stuidos was pretty crowded owing mostly to the fact that an entire tour group got on en masse.

Disney Studios

Mom and I met up at the Crossroads stand just as we had aranged. I ducked into Guest Services to get the Extra Magic Hour information. The brochure must not be on general display, but when I asked bout it, and then confirmed I was staying at a Disney resort, the cast member reached under the counter and produced the appropriate flyer.

We walked down Hollywood Blvd. and realized that both of us were feeling a bit hungry, and we didn't have a lot to accomplish at the park, so we headed to the 50's Prime Time.

50's Prime Time

We were able to get a walk up seating at the Prime Time in under 20 minutes, so that wasn't too bad. Before I describe the experience, I must warn those that have not been there that what you read below might sound like rude or bad service, but it really isn't its all part of the schtick. You see the Prime Time is more than just one of those 50's nostaliga places, when you go to have dinner at the Prime Time, you are coming back home to eat dinner with your long lost relatives. As such, the staff are all your relations (Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) and you don't eat in a fancy dining room, no you eat on a 50s style kitchen table, while watching 50's TV clips on your very own black and white television set. The hey thing to remember is that you are at home, and the staff will treat you like you are at home, not like you are in a restaurant.

We waitied out our time in the Tune In Lounge, which is mre or less like a 50's living room with 50's sofas and yes you can watch the old tv clips while you wait. When it is time to be seated, you hear something like "Hey Bowers family, it's time for dinner!" We were then shown to a table.

It turns out our server would be our Aunt Elaine. She dropped off the menus and I pondered drink orders. Evidentally the bartender is dad, as you can order drinks from Dad's Liquor Cabinet" Elaine instantly gained several points from me when upon ordering a mixed drink, Elaine asked to see my ID, then looked genuinely shocked to see my age. Hey once you pass 30 getting carded is a nice experience. I realize it may be part of that particular eateries schtick, but it was the only time I got carded the whole week.

I looked over the menu while my nephew asked me to raise my legs up so he could sweep under me. (The floor was clean, that too is part of the act) The menu which features a variety of items that seem like they were common home dining choices awaits, and the menu has several motherly admonishements like "Elbows off the table", "Clean your plate or no desert"

Soon my electric lemondae arrived complete with its cool blue electric light up ice cube. I think I deserve a commision cause I know I saw more people order them after seeing mine. As other parties are seated you are introduced as "Your cousins from Ohio" or somethigng like that. As with most Disney dining rooms the tables are close together, and we actually struck up a nice conversation with the table next to us. Food orders placed, we settled back and Aunt Elaine put a caddy on the table with the silverware and napkins "Do your chores! Set the table!"
We had even more fun watching a group of teenagers get seated next to us. They had ordered milkshakes and the server broguht them both a glass and the metal shake canister. Before you ask whats strange about that, the glasses were empty, you have to pour your own shake. Their server laid on the schitck to the hilt.

After a nice dinner, I asked about desert and was handed a viewmaster. You look through the slides on the Viewmaster and you can see the desert selections in 3D. Neat gimmick. We opted for the Smores. Talk about instant return to summer camp. After dinner Aunt Elaine brings not your check, but the 'grocery bill'. We handed in our room charge card, and then she came back with my 'homework' "I'll be back to check on your arithmetic and penmanship" Its a really neat unique dinner, but I caution you that a proper mindset is needed.

After dinner, we headed over to finish up the last thing we had not seen on the entire left half of hte park, "Sounds Dangerous". But first I noted the wristbands were already beeing distributed at the top of the stairs for the ABC Theater. My mom had opted to use a wheelchair again today, and I was just getting the chair parked when a wristband distributor came down the stairs to assis tus. A show of the keys and the pplying of a couple wristabnds and we were on our way.

The ABC Theatre itself is a now disused theater where they used to have a headliner show that showed off chromakey by putting audience volunteers into famous scenes from ABC tv shows. It goes along wiht most of the older educational minded shows

Which brings us to Sounds Dangerous

Sounds Dangerous

This shows venue used to be a hsow about sound effects. It was one of those shows where the played a movie clip, then drafted audience volunteers using various foley equipment to recreate the sound effects as the movie clip was played again with the sound muted. Then the movie clip was shown a third time, except with the new soundtrack created by the audience volunteers. You would then exit into a hands on attraction area where you could do much the same thing by yourself. A unexted star in the interactive exhibit area was (and still is) the Soundsations studios, which were private listening booths where up to 4 people went into a soundproof lightproof booth and put on special headsets. The lights would be turned off, and deprived of the visuals, your increased sense of sound, vivid imagination, and perhaps some special sound reproduction techniques caused you to FEEL what was going on in the audio recording. A memorable scene would that in the barber shop, where you might actually reach above your head to feel the clippers, and you for sure felt the hair dryer.

Sounds Dangerous is an attempt to present the same concept but to larger audiences in a higher capacity setting. You first wait in an outdoor holding area where monitors display text generated trivia questions about ABC TV shows, along with warnings about the loud volume and prolonged darkness of the show. You then get escorted into the theater, and in a pocket by your armrest you find a headset waiting for you. So instead of using a house sound system, you get all audio through a headset. They then tell you that you are about to watch the TV pilot for a new reality show "Undercover Live" where you go undercover with Drew Carry, thanks to high tech spy equipment. Not to spoill the story, but as one might predict the visual feed is lost pretty early on in the movie, plunging the auditorium into darkness, so that your mind can play the same tricks on you with the suggestion of the audio. Hey they even put in a barbershop scene.

That was uhm, interesting.

We then headed towards the Disney Studios arch, and upon looking at the show schedules, headed to the Magic of Disney Animation, the parks newly redone animation tour.

The tour had a posted wait of 15 minutes, and you wait in a covered exterior queue area. When it is your groups turn you are takien along an exterior walkway to the former animation building where you enter an auditorium. What takes place in the auditorium is a neat show that combines the action on two screens with the live presenter in the room. Yes they actually appear to converse with one another. The show featured the dragon from Mulan, and they try to get you to feel the background behind creating an animated character. Note that you don't get any technical knowledge about animation in the movie, but you learn a bit about how the character was developed storywise, and you get some reminsiing on the general art of animation.

The doors then open to where you used to actually take the animation studio tour. Of course there is no more animation studio in Florida, so the large workshop/studio has been converted into a sparsely filled hands on exhbit area, where youu too can 'paint' a virtual animation cell using a paint like program, or you can dub your voice into a cartoon, or you can take a personality assesment to learn which character you are most like. None of it actually tells you anything about how to make an animated feature, like the old tour used to endeavor to do.

Just about the only redeeming feature of the whole setup is an optional class you can take. Its a 10 minute class, for FREE even, where you get to sketch a disney character. I lined up and entered the classroom. Along the sides of the classroom they have couches set up for those who would rather observe Each participant gets a stool, a tilted drawing table, complete with an illuminated backlit work surface, a courtesy piece of sketch paper (that happens to have the park logo printed on it), and a pencil. You then draw along to the instructions given by the instructor who is also drawing the character with them drawing on an overhead projector. The character was Goofy when I did the class. I must say I am pleased with my handiwork, and at the end of the sketching lesson you get to keep your sketch ,but please leave the pencil for the next guest. The loaner pencil also has no eraser, so you better get it right the first time.

You then exit the anmation tour through an exhibit gallery and of course the obligatory gift shop.

Next up, I checked the show times, and figured that our next stop was

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It!"

We entered the soundstage and waited in its lobby. While you wait in the lobby they show clips from various episodes of the game show to keep ou entertainmed while you wait. Since mom wa using the wheelchair we got to wait in a different area. A few minutes before the show, we were lead through a doorway an onto the soundstage itself, waling down a pathway in back of the set itself, we were led not to the grandstand style seating that most of the audience gets, but to a section of floor seating. Then the rest of the audience is admitted. The set looks almost spot on like the millionaire set, down to the glass floor, which seemed to caus some people alarm when they were asked to walk accross it. The show ina nutshell is that you are the studio audince for a taping of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" the difference is the contestants are chosen directly out of the audience, and a park guest will make it into the hot seat. That person cannot however win a million dollars. You instead try to get a million points. The more points you win in the game, the better the prize you get in Disney souvenirs, usualy stuff that you can only get by being in the hot seat on the show. A person who would get the million point question correct gets a free Disney cruise.

The rules play as close to the real game show as possible, with the safe plateau levels and all, the big difference is that the "Phone a Friend" lifeline is not available, instead you get the "Phone a Complete Stranger" You opt for this lifeline, it is played just like phone a friend, except the person on the other end of the phone line is a park guest, who is not watching the show, chosen at random.

No one made it close to 1,000,000 and all eventually lost and had only made it the 1,000 safe harbour (which gets you 5 disney collectible trading pins and a show logoed baseball hat) But its not just the person in the hot seat having all the fun, each audience member is given a keypad with which they get to play along. Press the letter of the answer you feel is correct both speed and accuracy count. Before each round and at the safe harbour levels they display the top 10 scores on the big monitors. identified by your seat number which is posted on a plaque located next to your keypad. The first hot seat contestant is chosen b a fastest finger question (put these 4 items in order...), after that a vacated hot seat is filled whith the current high scorer from the audience. It's an interesting diversion, and admit it you always wanted to play along.

By the time we exited the show, it was almost time for the park to close for the day guests, so wristbands ready, we headed to Sunet Blvd. or I should say I headed to Sunet Blvd., mom headed to the gift shops.

Sunset Blvd is the parks thrill zone. I dodged the people trying to make last minute entries into Fantasmic! and instead headed to the end of the street. At the end of the street is the neglected, damaged looking Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Twilight Zone:Tower of Terror

I entered the regular entrance and headed up the pathway opting now to visit the roped off exterior grounds of the deserted hotel. I climbed up on the front porch and say the cornerstone. 1919 was the opening date. The porch was empty so I made my way to the dust covered deserted lobby. Its like the hotel was suddenly abandoned and no ne even cleaned up or removed the old furnishings. I walked past the front desk, past the sitting room and up to the bell desk. Behind the bell desk I could see that the hotels elevators all seemed to be out of service. I didn't have much time to look around as I was being told to wait in the library as my room wasn't quite ready yet.

I enter a small library just as the doors are closed. Shortly after the doors close wee see a bolt of lightning and the lights go out, but oddly enough a small black and white television srpings to life, showing an episode ot The Twilight Zone. The tv clip sets up the story. The Hollywood Tower Hotel used to be THE place to stay in Hollywood, until one fatefull night in 1939 when the tower was struck by lightning causing extensive damage, including sending and elevator full of hotel guests plunging towards the basement, but wait, the elevators passengers DISAPPEARED! We then find out that that window is opening yet again, and this time it opens for us, we will be taking a ride in the hotels service (freight) elevator which is apparently still functioning, however that elevator is an express elevator to "The Twilight Zone"

The lights come back on and a secret panel opens. The bellhop apparently oblivious to what has just happened is leading you to your rooms via the hotels boiler room. You then wait outside the doors of the service elevator for the next available car. You see the car in front of you go up to the top, then slowly come back down. I mean the floor indicator wouldn't lie, now would it?

The elevator returns, the doors open and you start filing into the elevator. And what a freight elevator it is, it comes equipped with benches to sit on, and not only that the floor is tiered to provide stadium seating. I'm not sure how practical the lift would be as a freight elevator but alright, I guess. I take a seat on the bench and fasten my seatbelt. This ride used to have lapbars, but over the yers those were removed, and now you are held in with just a lap belt. Don't worry, it has an automagically locking buckle that can't be released mid ride, no matter how hard you press the orange button. The bellhop closes the interior gate, then wished you luck, then the exterior door closes.

Your elevator goes up a ways, and the doors open to reveal a normal looking hotel hallway with guests milling about. That is until the guests turn into ghosts and fade away, then the hallway itself fades away, leaving just the window at the end of the hall which eventually shatters.

The doors close and you go up some more, the doors reopen and you find yourself looking at a big starfield, you have no idea where you were then the starufeld appears to completely surround the elevator car. Recall that you are in an old fashined elevator cage where you can see all the sides of the shaft throught he metal grilles. Then the elevator car does not continue its way up, instead it starts moving out and stays level while moving forward through the starfield. Clearly something is wrong, and you are making your way for the Twilight Zone. Doors open as your car goes into another elevator shaft. What happens next is anybody's guess.

You see a randomizer has been installed on the ride, sure the elevator can do any one of a number of different routines, but no one knows for sure which routine the elevator will choose. The car may go up fast, it may go up slow, it may go down slow, it may go down fast, it may see to PLUMMET down, the sides of the shaft are apparently video screens which can show different visual effects. There is some commonality in that all the programs will take you up to the 13 floor at least once, where the doors will open and you can see outside the building and see that the hieght is no trick as you get a birds eye view of the park. All programs will also have the 1 drop fakeout while the on ride photo is taken, and at least one full plunge. I would hope that all the programs also feature at least one hop where the elevator flies to the top of the shaft at hyperdrive, then without warning starts falling again even faster, causing copious amounts of airtime.

At the end of the ride, the car starts moving horixontally again, this time backwards, the doors in front of you close, then the car rotates 90 degrees before lining up with the exit doors. You then walk through a lower level of the hotel eventually exiting through the hotels still operating gift shop. I took an immediate reride since it was a walk on both times. The second time however I had to wait at the bell desk to be admitted to the library. The hotel has a floor directory, its one of those jobs with plastic letters with tips that fit into a couragated, often felt covered surface. They are notorious for letters falling off, and this one is no excpetion. If you look into the locked case, you can see the letters that have fallen down form the phrase "EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED" Just another litte hidden gem.

Next up was Rock N Roller Coaster

The buidling next door to the Hollywood Tower Hotel happend to be G-Force Records. I snagged a fastpass before heaing through the regular line and up pas thte empty outside queue area and into the lobby of G-Force Records. You walk through the lobby and then it seems like any corporate recording studio. There is a historical exhibit on recording devices in the lobby. Real recording devices are shown, but those that read the museum style labels will not only find out what the item is, but will also be treated to a bad pun. Further in the waiting area you see the various recording studios along the sides, and another corporate style exhibit, this time with sound reproduction devices. Eventally you are allowed out of the waiting room and into the hallway leading back to the main studio. Then you are admitted into the observation room looking into a studio just as Aerosmtith is finishing up a rehearsal. Their stage manager admonsihes the for pushing the time what with having to get all the way accross town for a concert. The band then persuades the manager to invite all the people in the recording studio to the concert, to which she says that she is gonna need a fast car, a super stretch limo. You then exit the recording studio, go down a short hallway and out the alley exit of G-Force Records. (Mind you the entire attraction is indoors, and is also prepetually nightitme) Out in the dingy looking alley, a chain link fence keeps you away from the coaster track. Youwalk down the alley to the loading area. I'm not sure of the preshow idea really works. While the preshows were full with at least 5 preshows worth of people standing in line, they still cannot deliver people to the loading area fast enough.

As such I was able to "Choose any seat" so I chose the backseat. After they load the train, you pull out and take a lef turn where you gt stopped at a red light. A electronic traffic alert sign gives dire messages about the crowded roads, then the mesage changes t Rock On, your limo rools back about a foot, the light turns green, and WHAMO o-60+ in 2 seconds. Its one of those launched coasters, and during the course of your psychotic ride from the recording studio to the concert you will be flipped upside down three times, all while zipping in and around carbdoard cutout theming. You find the limo also has a sound system as you havea an Aerosmith song played while you ide. Its a really neat ride, however it still has shoulder bars, while a very similar style ride was greatly improved at my local amusement park by convering to lap bars. Rock N Rollercoaster isn't overly rough, but its not as smooth as say, Flight of Fear. The brake run is themed as the highway off ramp to the concert hall, and you are letoff at the stage door. You then walk the red carpet and enter the concert, well you actually enter a gift shop, but thats Disney. You then walk down a ramp back to the main path.

By the time I exited, Fantasmic had let out, and the walk on waits were no more, I used m Fastpass to get expressed through the exterior portion of Rock N Roller coasters line. I reallyt do not like this rides merge point, primarily becuase it cuases a long section of queue to go unusded, but I saw the person owkring merge has a closed circuit television so they send more riders up the ramp so that the interior quee area stays full. After the second ride (seat 2) I decided to find out what Mom was up to.

What Mom was up to was staying inside to stay warm. I mean it is bitterly cold and windy tonight. Man I am glad we aren't outside freezing our butts off at that Luau. I mean this isn't even pleasant.

Having done everything we wanted to at Disney Studios, we caught a bus back to Port Orlenas. We decide to pick up the packages that were being held for us at the resort's gift shop then decided to grab a snackat the food court (after I trekked back to the room with the packages and to get the mugs of course).

A word of caution about Riverside Mill foodcourt, avoid the pizza at all costs. Man that was just about the worst pizza I have ever had. Mom ate two slices I ate one slice the rest went to the garbage can. Luckily it was only a small pizza as I had opted for the alright but nothing special Chicken Parmagian dinner. I'd stick to the good grilled burgers at the foodcourt if I were you.

On our way back to the room we stood out in the hallway and watched a lively piano player getting the crowd really worked up and seeming to have a grand old time doing TV theme songs. We decided that we would check his act out tommorow night after touring Animal Kingdom. Tonight it was off to the room where I first viewing my digital photos on the room television set. Hey the newer larger TV's have front side A/V jacks that actually work. Just hook up your device, then keep hitting the channel down button on the remote, go below channel two and you start getting into the auxillary inputs, I think 3 more presses gets you the front side feed.

Then it was time for some extended sleeping, I mean Animal Kingdom closes at 5Pm, so an early start is essnetail.

See you tommorow for Part 7!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Walt Disney World - Day 5 - February 9, 2005

Walt Disney World

February 5 - 12, 2005

Day 5

They're here already?

This mornings plans were set, we'd get up around 7, and meet my Uncle and Aunt who were expected around 8. We also expected them to be late owing to trying to figure out how to get to our resort once on Disney property.

We got the 7 oclock part alright and were just starting to get fully awake when the phone rang around 7:30. Yep, they were already in the lobby waiting for us. Time to speed up the whole getting ready to go to the park process, and we met them in the lobby as soon as we could.

We met up in the lobby, and then we all walked down to Riverside Mill. Riverside Mill is what Disney refers to as scramble service, so we all scrambled about filling our trays with breakfast, and met up again at a table. I went for the made to order omlette station, and soon we were all having a nice relaxing breakfast. After breakfast I returned the mugs as well as uneaten breakfast items to our room.

I returned to the lobby, to find Tim and Gail already waiting in the Guest Services line to purchase tickets. The slow moving Guest Services line, I might add. It seems that selling a ticket now requires more than just

"Hello, I'd like 2 one day one park tickets, florida resident"
"Sure thing, that will be $xxx.xx"

"Have a magical day in the park!"

Oh, no - after a considerable wait - it now goes something like this:
"Hello, I'd like 2 one day one park tickets, flordia resident"
"May I see some ID"

"With those tickets you are limited to just one park, as a Florida resident, for just $6 per person more, you can add the Park Hopper option, and visit all 4 parks today, may I add the Park Hopper option to your tickets?"
"No, thanks I have no plans to visit more than one park today"
"Well, I can offer you a special deal, if you buy a 2 Day ticket now, I'll give you a third day for FREE" (note she did not mention the whole 14 day rule)
"No thanks"
"Okay, I just need everybody's names and addresses"

"Okay, that will be $xxx.xx"

"Okay, thank you"

"Have a magical day"

I'm sure the long line of people would prefer that Disney use more discretion when they try to embark on a campaign to upsell people. Geez, that took 20-30 minutes.

"Getting there is half the fun, come share it with me"

We exit the hotel lobby just in time to see the tailpipe of the Magic Kingdom bus taking other happy park guests to the park. We glance over to the parking lot and see Tim's car and decide to just drive to the Magic Kingdom. Besides, we have no idea where we want to eat dinner tonight, so having the car with us could prove usefull.

We get into the car, pull out of the resort and flawlessly follow the roads past Fort Wilderness, and we see the signs pointing out the Magic Kingdom, then we see the TTC parking lot, with no evident entrance. We see turn offs for "Passenger Drop Off", and "Golf Courses" and "Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Shades of Green" Lastly, we see a sign "Bus Only" as we pass by the contemporary.

We keep drving looking for the elusive parking lot entrance road, hey there goes Space Mountain. We keep driving along, and after a bit of a drive we pass by the Grand Floridian, then the Polynesian, and then we see the HESS gas station. We also see the elusive sign "Magic Kingdom Parking - Next Left" About 100 feet past this sign there is a paved section in the center divider that looks not unlike the emergency turn arounds on interstates. Hey the sign did say "NEXT LEFT" so we made the left and continued the U-turn and the next thing we know we are being shown to a space in "Pluto 23" Curious, I like how the resort entrance roads take you directly into the parking lot without going through the toll plaza.

We gather our belongings, and head to the center of the parking lot to wait behind the green poles. We see a tram come, we see a tram fill, we see a tram go. We see another tram come, we see another tram fill, we note that the people who made it onto the tram were not necessarily the same people in the fronts of the lines. The tram departs. I find myself standing at the fron tof a line between two green posts. I invoke the Eric H. law of parking lot trams, which states that all courtesy goes out the window and people develop super human powers when it comes to boarding parking trams.

The next tram pulls up, and before anybody else knows what hit them I have already lunged forward and am standing on the side of the tram blocking access to a row of seats till the rest of my group makes it through the resulting dust cloud. We proceed via tram to the TTC.

Already having park tickets, we breeze through the TTC gate and decide on the Monorial so that we can see the mosaics in the Contemporary. Two monorail trains later we are taking a ride on the highway in the sky, passing through the Contemporary looking at the murals, and then heading to, uh oh, Stitch has taken control of the PA system and is welcoming us to Stitch's Kingdom, huh??

We soon pull into the monorail station, disembark from the monorail head down the pathway and through the usless bag check. We enter the park and head towards the wheelchair rental. My uncle can't walk that far anymore, and was interested in renting an ECV, and he talked mom into renting an ECV as well. Yes, mom was able to work out an upgrade deal on the prepaid wheelchair voucher by basically paying the difference. I was a bit worried about mom going for the ECV ,a dn truth be told she was a bit nervous. Well it took her about 15 seconds to get the hang of it and really enjoy it.

We entered Main Street USA, and made our way up Main Street. We decided to start in Tommorowland, and the first stop was picking up Stitch fast passes. Fastpass is a nifty computerized ride reservation system Disney developes. When you aproach a fastpass enabled ride you have the option of waiting in the traditional waiting line, or getting a fastpass. To get a fastpass you insert your park ticket into the fastpass machine, which checks for eligibility, and if you ar elgible it dispenses a fastpass ticket as well as your own park admission ticket. the computer keeps track of how many fastpass tickets have been distrubuted and adjusts the return time accordingly, as well as posts it on a sign above the fastpass machines. The computer also enforces limits about how many fastpasses you can have at a time. Unless special exceptions apply you can only have one per park at a time, unless the Fastpass Mercy rule kicks in which states that if your fastpass return time is longer than two hours, you can get another fastpass after two hours.

We waited out our fastpass wait by heading to Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress.

Carousel of Progress

The carousel of progress is a legacy of the Walt Disney era that came from the Walt Disney Fair of 64, ooops, sorry I mean the World's Fair, starring at least 4 Disney attractions. It is an audio animatronic show where you follow a typcial family through 4 generations and learn how progress has made their life easier in each generation. The gimmick is that instead of the stage moving to change sets, the audience rotates around the sets, like a giant carousel.

We enter the theater and ge a brief history on the attraction, then the attraction starts.

It's the first of spring, 1900. Hand pumped water, ice box, no electricity to speak of, and yet the father states "Life can't possibly be any better than it is today" All while the father speaks on the main stage, and the appliances intorduce themselves ad are animated (recall this was sponsored by GE Appliances after all, and the appliances actually take center stage), off on two smaller side sets are the rest of the members of the family who all get their two bits in about each era.

Soon you are rotating and advaning to 1920. 4th of July 1920 to be exact, and a careful observer can see the flag flying outside the kitchen window. Here the family gets elecricity, and the new time saving appliances are shown off. All at once, the family blows the power for not only themselves but the entire neighborhood. A little more banted, and speaking of banter Pal Mickey would not shut up. We tried putting him inside a canvas bag, laying him face down on the floor of the auditorium, he would just keep giggling, and even if you squeexed him, he;d speak and then giggle right away again. Strange as this is the only attraction the whole week where we had a hyperactive Mickey that was hyperactive during a show.

Another set rotation and here we are in the 1940's. Halloween 1940, if I recall, and of course things just keep getting bette. There is a joke about those fad vibrating belt exercise machines and all. More banter, then we skip WAY ahead and its 2000.

Christmas time 2000 in a scene that is much different than the others. Computers, virtual reality, voice activated appliances. They manage to burn Christmas diner due to some confusing misunderstandings of the voice operated oven.

We enjoy watching this nostalgic Disney favorite, it is due for its rehab, and I hope the rumours of its demise aren't true.

We depart from Carousel of Progress and Tim takes a smoke break. (Hey must have some smoker GSP leading him to the smoking areas). the rest of us enjouy snacks at the Lunching Pad. Hmm, frozen cherry slush.

After our snack break, we board the Speedramp up to the Tommorowland Trasnit Authority

Tommorwland Transit Authority

The TTA is a nice sceneic elevator LIM powered train ride through Tommorowland with sneak peeks inside attractions. Okay you get to see inside Space Mountain, and some gift shops, anda couple building have some dioramas. It's a ice orientation ride for Tommorowland, but nothing special. We disembark and ride the Speedramp back down to the midway.

Then I grab Space Mountain fastpasses for Gail and I, then we all head over to meet Stitch.

Stitchs Great Escape

Using our Fastpasses, we get to sidestep the line and move right to the outdoor waiting area between the turnstiles and the front doors. This still looks a lot like Alien Encounter. I joke about reading the signage written in alien text. A little bit later the doors open and we are admitted into the indoor holding area. We wait in this room (that still looks a lot like its Alien Encounter Days) and eventually we get the backstory over the television monitors. We learn that we are working in a galactis prison facility as prison guards. Swell.

We are then rushed into the pre-show room for our orientation. Same setup as for AE, the audiennce walkway is tiered facing a demonstration room off to one side. In this case we watch a Level 1 (common criminal) be teleported in, assigned to a cell and teleported out. We start to learn about level 2, but are told as newbies we would only have to deal with level 1's. Of course, something goes wrong, and we learn that no less than a level 3 is coming. Our trainer insists on our behlaf that we aren't ready for a level 3, but the supervisor insists that everybody rush into the level 3 teleportation room. We see that our trainer is not exactly eager to go, but is told he has to come along as well. In another urgent rush, we move from the preshow room around the corner and down the hall into the round main level 3 teleportation chamber. It still looks more like an Stitch overlay to Alien Encounter, and the basic floorplan is a legacy as far back as Flight to the Moon and Mission to Mars.

We enter the main chamber and take seats. For our safety we have to be scannedso that our body patters are not confused with the criminals. The scaning devices lower down past our heads and stop just above our shoulders. (All the better to position the special effects, my dear). The show goes on and the level 3 gets teleported in, and its the cute cuddly version of Stitch. There must be some mistake, but as soon as they leader turns his back on Stitch, everythign goes wrong in true Disney fashion and Stithc escapes the tube, really neat laser cannons try to follow him around the room, and the lights go out, you feel stitch walk on your shoulders, you smeell the results of Stitch and a chilli dog, and eventually Stitch climbs back into the teleportation chamber and escapes. You are encouraged to go out and track down Stitch. You exit the teleportation chamber, and instead of capturing Stitch and getting closure, Stitch escapes and instead of going onto another part of the attraction you exit into a gift shop.

Okay, the laser canons, the audio animatronics, and the special effects are neat, however the storyline is watered down Alien Encounter. Good effects, mediocre content. Not something I am eager to go back and see again.

Space Mountain

We exit Stitch and we grab some Buzz Lightyear fastpasses. Tim and Mom stay outside Space Mountain whle Gail and I go inside. Tim uses this chance for an extended smoke break. Using our Fastpasses we zip right through the queue area at the speed of light, turn in our fastpasses at the turnstile, and we head towards the right. There is a small waiting area after the turnstile, but nothing to be concerned about, and I note the disused Single Rider Entrance. We wind up not having to wait the whole line as the loader needs a party of two. The loader opens up a secret gate in the line and we board a rocket.

The 'trains' consist of two rockets. Each rocket seats three people in a single line. Over time seatbacks have been added so that each person gets their own seat instead of the former arrangement involving sitting in other people's lap. We lower our lapbars, and off we go.

We zip around to the left and down a real slight dip to go to the waiting area that spaces out the rockets. We can glimpse the queue to our right but before you know it we are going through the strobe light filled 'launch' tunnel. A quick turnaround to the right and its up the lift hill. Abot halfway up the lift we see a rocket zip right past us on the right hand side. Pretty soon its up over the top of the lift and into a layout that is more concerned with quick surprise turns and shallow drops than deep dips. The park claims it is actually a very slow coaster, at only 28MPH top speed.The complete darnkess adds considerably to the ride experience, and what drops are there actually do produce some gentle airtime. About halfway along the course you do the dip that zips past the lift hill, then at the end of the ride, you have a crash down landing as the brake run is surrounded by bright red lights and crashing noises. We then move around to the unload station and disembark our rocket. I enjoyed it, and Gail admits to enjoying her ride on Space Mountain.

We follow the signs to the long slow conveyor belt that leads you out of the mointain. There used to be a future life diorama along this exit, but not its a series of uninteresting scenes. Most people walk along the conveyor belt, which dips down to pass back under the railroad tracks, then goes uback up to midway level. There is one part that interests people and that is where you get to see yourself on a TV monitor. Yup, that simple gimmick still fascinates people. At the top of the exit speedramp you come out into a gift shop/video arcade.

Gail and I regroup, and we all head over to Buzz Lightyear.

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

Using out Fastpasses we again skip the entire queue area and merge into the line by the giant viewmaster in the queue area, which means just about right before you get onto the Omnimover dark ride vehicles. The queu area has a ginat Buzz Lightyear with an animated face, the aforemetioned giant viewmaster showing your mission, and a lot of neon day glo drawings on the walls that are vaguely representative of a space ship interior.

We board our modified Omnimover and group the spin ride tolerant togehter, and the non spin ride tolerant together. The omnimover cars are Buzz lightyear green and I suppose are meant to be small two man fighter spacecraft. The cars have been modified so that a dashboard has been added that pivots out of the way as the lapbar lowers and raises.

Each rider gets a blaster gun. The guns are rigid mounted to the dashbaord with very little mobility. Next to the gun is a score readout, and in the center of the dash is a joystick. The joystick allows you to control your spacecraft by controlling how your Omnimover car rotates. Thats right on this dark ride YOU control which way the car turns, and with the relatively fixed guns, and targets on both sides you will need to master use of this control lever, helpfully labeled "<- SPIN ->" Yep that means your rotational ability is 360+ and you can spin around in circles if you'd like.

We left the loading area and we were susing the spin control and the guns to rack up some scores. It did not take long to learn that some targets are better than others, and some are dramatically better than others. Its a ride through a buzz lightyear cartoon, and like most interactive shoot em up dark rides, I didn't pay close enough attention to get the story, in fact as has been quipped "They could have just filled a buidling with plain old targets, and the effect would e the same" Interestingly there are no targets at the point hwerre you travel through the old speed tunnels. I think this is designed to give your inner child the chance to spin the tub a little bit with carefree abandon.

We treach the end of the ride, nudge out way past the on ride photo booth and gift shop and back out into Tommorowland.

We proceed up past the Indy Speedway, which we deem not to be worth 30 minutes, and into Fantasyland. We stop for a Mikcky Premium Bar break, and I assess the Fantasyland situation, as we decide to skip Toontown as we have no interest in meeeting the characters.

Okay, Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan have 45 minute waits, Snow White is posting 20 minutes, and I didn't bother looking at the carousel or Tea Cups. (Dumbo and Small World were closed for rehab)I also note that Phillharmagic is posting 20 minutes. What is worse is that the Winnie and Peter Pan fastpass return times are like three hours away.

We decide to dispense with the Fantasyland dark rides in order to see as much of the park as is possible with the 7pm close. We do finish our ice creams, and head over to Mickey's Phillharmagic.

Mickey's Phillharmagic

We enter Phillharmagic through the regular queue and we do not make the next showing, but we are like the 3rd family back for the showing after that. The waiting area contains posters advertising the phillharmagic's future concerts, and we are soon admitted into the holding area. It's a kidney shaped holding area, insteadof being along one side of the theater, insttead everybody enters in one corner oth the auditoirum. We pick up our opera glasses and wait out in the holding area in the foyer to enter the concert hall.

Some time later we enter the theatre and start to watch a 3D movie on a traditional sixe screen as Donald tries to lead the Phillharmagic to comedi results, the movie screen then grows to a super wide format widescreen and sveral scenes invovong your favorite disney characters come to life. Its a very delightful 3D movie, towards the end of the movie the screen narrows back down to its usual size, where Micky comes back and succesfully leads the philharmagic through the closing scene.

Haunted Mansion

We leave Mickey's Phillharmagic and proceed into Liberty Square. We make a right after entering Liberty Square and head toward the Haunted Mansion. For the record we enter the Haunted Mansion through the servant's entrance, and if you'd like to read about the haunted mansion, there are some detailed writeups in Day 3 of this same series

Share a Dream Come True

After enjoying our trip through the huanted mansion, we grab some grapes at the fruit stand next to the Hall of Presidents. I learn that the next showing of Hall of Presidents is at 3:30, so we take places in front of the Hall of Presidents to watch the Share a Dream Come True parade

Share a Dream is the afternoon character parade, this time with the characters riding around inside gigantic snow globes. We watched the parade while standing just outside the Hall of Presidents turnstiles, that way the second we see the last float go past, we dash into the Hall of Presidents.

Hall of Presidents

The Hall of Presidents takes place in a stately 1780's mansion. The formal looking waiting room has the presidentail seal carpet (surrounded by a railing), and we dashed forward towards the theater entrance just ahead of a rush of ohter park guests. We had an attraction host that filled the time with presidential and Americna history trivia. Just around 3:30 we are admitted to the main auditorium

The first part of the presentation is a wide format movie that gives a brief version of American History. After the movie, the movie screens rise out of the way to reveal a stage upon which are assembled audio animatronic versions of every president from Washington to "W" Bush. You can see the capitol building out the back windows of the stately chamber, and the presidential and national flags are on display. This portion of the presentation starts with a roll call where evey president is acknowledged and identified, then W. Bush and A. Lincoln both give some speeches. This patriotic classic attraction still seems to gather a crowd. Soon we are heading out the exit and into Liberty Square.

We continue along the banks of the Rivers of America and head into Frontierland, and then to Grizzly Hall.

Country Bear Jamboree

We were able to get into the next showing of Country Bear Jamboree. For a review of this attraction, please see Day 3 of this series of reports.

After Country Bear Jamboree, Tim is needing a smoke break in the worst way, so we cut into Adventureland in the breezeway by the formed Diamond Horseshoe, and head to the smokign area at the former Adventureland Veranda.

While Tim smoked, we toured the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

The treehouse is a walk through attraction. It had no wait so soon we were walking accross the swinging bridge that heads to the tree. We say the waterwheel and clever series of bamboo buckets which move water to the various rooms of the treehouse. We start climbing up stairways and get beeks into the various rooms of the treehouse to gsee hos the Robinsons have been aable to combine salvage from their ships with resources available on the island to create a tree house. wee see the drawing room, the bedroom, and so forth. For the first half we wind our way higher and higher in the tree through a series of stairways and walkeays, then we started to wind our way back down. The final rooms of the house (Kitchen and dining room) are at ground level in the field behind the tree. We then crossed another bridge to head back to Advnetureland.

We regroup and continue our tour of Adventureland with rides on Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribean. We approached the Jungle Cruise and were ushed to the wheelchair entrance (the two ECV's) which enabled us to forgo about a 30 minute line. For details about the Jungle Cruise, see Day 3 of this report series.

At Pirates of the Caribean, we were informed that they could not take their ECV's into the line, but they were loaned wheelchairs by the attraction host. The line was back out of the indoor fort queue area and starting to wind back into the shaded veranda like area. I never realized how steep the indoor queue area is until I pushed a wheelchair through it. For attraction details, see the Day 3 report from this series. Some oddities this time included the fact that when we got to the loading area they kept the back row of our boat empty, folded up the wheelchairs and stuck them into the back row. My uncle even handled the drop in stride.

At the end of the ride, we exit the boat and an unload host retireves the chairs from the back row of the boat and shows us out a side door to a service hallway that has an elevator. We ride the elevator back up to the midway level, and follow along a utilitarian walkway that takes us from the elevator, around the side of the restroom building, and back to the main pathway. We return back to the stroller parking area to re-exchange the attraction specific wheelchairs for the ECV's.

We look at our watches and its about 6:15, with a 7Pm close. We make a dash to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

We get to the railroad and note that the Fastpasses have been exhausted. The sign above the standyby lane states 40 minutes. Gail and I join the standby line, and proceed to wal through the waiting area. Luckily very little of the queue maze is in use, and despite the sign, we are boarding a train in just 20 minutes.

Big Thunder Mountain has 5 car long mine trains that seat 6 passengers per car, and have a fake train engine on the front. "This here is the wildest ride in the wilderness". The out of control train takes off and goes through a mine, before goig up the indoor lift hill to emerge outside at the top of the mountain. This ride also involves mostly twists and turns and shallow dips. It also contains audio animatroncis scenes such as farm animals anda flooded town that you may or may not see. The three lift mine ride offers an above average mine train experience in both exceptional theming and the ride experience itself is pretty good. We had boarded the train in the loading area closest to the main midway, and so thereofre missed Tim and Gail who were waiting for us at the ride observation area by the far ride exit. A quick cell phone call sovled that problem.


We decided it was a bit cool to ride Splash Mountain, and zipped through Adventureland in hpes of getting to the Castle in time for Wishes. We finally settled for some as of yet unclamed spots in front of Crystal Palace. Yes there are some trees obscuring the view from there, but overall you can see the show.

(I know its getting old, but for a review of Wishes, see Day 3 of this series.

After Wishes we wind up taking about 45 minutes to browse the Main Street gift shops. Resort guests are still entering the park for ExtraMagic Hours, but since Tim and Gail are technically not resort guests, we try not to sneak them in, even with their Tinkerbell card tickets that probably would have passed muster. Besides dinner is calling. Time to head to the Ferryboat. It;s a family tradition to ride on the top deck of the ferryboat whil watching the park slowly fade off into the distance.

We return the ECV's get the deposit money back, and exit the park. The Ferryboat and the Express Monorail have ceased operations for the night. A transportation host directs us to board the Resort Monorail, and ride 2 stops to the TTC. A coulple trains later ( and overhearing some transportation hosts commenting that they should run the express monorail longer on EMH nights) we were boarding Monorail Black. The resort monorail runs in the opposite direction, of the express monorail, so we didn't even get the full monorail loop. There were still so many day guests heading for the TTC that I feell sorta bad for the resort guests at the Contemporary who could not get to EMH becuase the monorails were always full passing by there.

We departed the monorail at the TTC and head through the open gates to head back to the tram pickup. We are able to immediately board a tram, head directly to our car, and exit the TTC parking lot.

I looked over the resort road map, and was able to lead us directly to Downtown Disney, via Epcot Drive. We pull into the Marketplace parking lot, and a a little stunned to learn that the wait for Rainforest Cafe will be about 2 hours. We weigh our options and wind up at the Earl of Sandwhich

The Earl of Sandwich

Earl of Sandwhich was an excelent find. Hot deli sandwhiches on artisan breads, with kettle chps and all. Gourmet toppings on the sandwhiches and a highly skilled mix of ingrediants combined to provide us with fantasic, inexpensive sandwhiches. They even serve them in a cute little shopping bag. The snadwhiches themselves are large rectangular brick shapes wrapped in golf foil. When you unpack your bag o sandwiches it looks like you are unloading gold bricks.

I really enjoyed Earl of Sandwhich, but please stay away from that Earl Grey Lemondade. EEEEEEWWWWWW.

We left the Earl and looked at the big kaleidoscope outside the World of Disney. Owing to time, we decide not to explore Downtown Disney further, and Tima and Gail driver us back as close to our room as we could get giving the motor traffic restrictions at Port Orleans.

The Evil Voicemail Light of Doom!

We return to our room, and did I mention yet that housekeeping turns on your room lights after they finsih cleaning your room. It may seem like a waste but that way you don't come back to a dark hotel room.

We etner our room, and forget the room lights, I am more concerned about a little red light on our phone. I wonder "Who is calling us on vacation?"

I hit the speakerphone button, then I hit the "Voicemail" button. No passwords or anything like that needed. You have two messages.

Message 1 was the resorts gift shop telling us that the souvenirs we had purchased at Epcot and arranged to have delivered to our resort had arrived and could be picked up at the claim desk in Fulton's General Store. No problem, thanks for the reminder.

Message Two: Aloha! We regret to inform you that due to inclement weather "Spirit of Aloha!" is cancelled on both Februry 10 and February 11. We appoligize for any inconveneince this may cause. You may return the tickets to any Guest Services desk for a full refund. "

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I was so looking forward to the Luau Dinner Show. Major bummer, but nothing that can be helped, so I resign myself to picking up our $98 the next morning. We suddenly realize we have to retool our touring plans for Thusday. Originally I was going to go to Blizzard Beach water park, while mom slept in, then we would meet up and go to the Luau. I turned on the weater channel and oh boy, its gonna get really cold Thursday night and Friday. Besides I still have to go to Disney Studios to ride Rock N Roller Coaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I could also do with finishing up Magic Kingdom. We turn on the resort announcent channel, and as the messages displayed on our screen, we found out that Thursday is extra magic hour evening at Disney Studios.

Mom still wants to sleep in, but I am suddenly not feeling much water park interest. We deicde that I will go to Magic Kingdom in the morning, then meet Mom at Disney Studios at 2pm. Sounds great.

It does not take me long to fall asleep

See you in Part 6