Walt Disney World - Day 5 - February 9, 2005
Walt Disney World
February 5 - 12, 2005
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)
"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.
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 front of 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 ,and 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 developed. 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.
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 get 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 and 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 banter, 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 better. 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 dinner 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. (He must have some smoker GPS leading him to the smoking areas). the rest of us enjoy snacks at the Lunching Pad. Hmm, frozen cherry slush.
After our snack break, we board the Speedramp up to the Tommorowland Trasnit 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, and a couple building have some dioramas. It's a nice 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.
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 galactic 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 behalf 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 anStitch 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 scanned so 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 Stitch 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 smell 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.
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. About 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 mountain. There used to be a future life diorama along this exit, but now 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 back 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.
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 queue area has a giant 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 using 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 be 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 reach 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.
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, instead of being along one side of the theater, instead everybody enters in one corner of 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 comedic 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.
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
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.
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 other 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.
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 former Diamond Horseshoe, and head to the smoking area at the former Adventureland Veranda.
While Tim smoked, we toured the 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 saw 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 peeks into the various rooms of the treehouse to see how the Robinsons have been aable to combine salvage from their ships with resources available on the island to create a tree house. We 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 ushered 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.
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 walk 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 going 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 and a 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 therefore 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 hopes 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 while 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 feel 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
Earl of Sandwhich was an excelent find. Hot deli sandwhiches on artisan breads, with kettle chips 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 sandwhiches themselves are large rectangular brick shapes wrapped in gold foil. When you unpack your bag of 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 Tim and Gail drive us back as close to our room as we could get giving the motor traffic restrictions at Port Orleans.
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 enter 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 Thursday. 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 weather 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
Continue to Day 6
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