November 1, 2005

Here it is, the first update written inside of Walt Disney World! Unfortunately I do not yet know when or how this update is going to get posted so there is still some possibility that this won’t be seen for several day but if all has ended up going as I had planned then it will be posted sometime early on Wednesday morning.

Dominica and I made it out yesterday as planned. Our flight went very smoothly and we arrived in Florida just after 3:00. Our “limosine” driver was waiting for us and helped us get our luggage. Boy are we glad that we had gone with the limo service instead of the stock shuttle service. It was so much faster, easier and more convenient. It really allowed us to get right to our hotel and to get started with our vacation without all of the stress associated with dealing with those shuttle deals. Our driver was very nice. He was from Brazil and we talked for a while.

It is weird being back at the hotel that Eric, Mark and I stayed at so many years ago. It is in the process of being turned into a Holiday Inn Express so everything is torn up and under construction. We got room 100 on the ground floor right near the entrance. I think that there is hardly anybody else here right now. The place seems to be deserted. We have a king room which we had to push to be able to get even though that is what we reserved. There aren’t a whole lot of ammenities that are associated with this room but it has the basics that we need so we are quite happy. The price is definitely right.

We wasted no time in setting off for the park. There is no afternoon or evening shuttle service from our hotel into the park so we decided to hoof it since the main entrance is practically right across the street from the hotel. We set off but by the time we made it up hotel boulevard and into Downtown Disney Min’s feet were all ready starting to kill her. She had decided to go walking in sandals instead of sneakers and we had barely gotten started before the blisters started to form. We picked up our tickets at Downtown Disney and then hoped onto a bus destined for Epcot. We were determined to get a full evening of Disney fun under our belts before heading off to bed. The downside to this whole theory is that Dominica worked all night and didn’t get to go to bed at all last night and although I did get to go to bed last night I only got about three hours of total sleep and that was with a number of dog related interruptions. So neither of us had a complete sleep cycle under our belts as we headed into the park.

We walked into Epcot from the backside. The bus had dropped us off at the Yacht Club and we walked into Epcot through the back entrance that enters in the middle of the World Showcase between France and the UK. We had eaten lunch at the airport in Rochester having a few slices of Famiglia Pizza but we were both pretty hungry as we entered Epcot and our eyes instantly set upon the Famous Fish and Chips vendor in the UK so off we went. Boy was that Fish and Chips good. Totally delicious.

In addition to all of the other walking that we did today we then made the mistake of going to do some rides in Future World after all ready being in the World Showcase. We should have minimized the walking but we weren’t really thinking and immediately set off for Spaceship Earth which is about the farthest thing from the entrance that we had just entered. There was no line at all when we got there though and we got right in. I love being in Disney World in November. The entire park is your private domain. The experience for those of us who only come in the off-season is completely different from the experience of those poor people who come during the peak seasons. After Spaceship Earth we went over and did the Universe of Energy. Both rides were somewhat updated from their 1980’s programs but only slightly. Spaceship Earth now has Jeremy Irons narrating with the very final bit of the ride updated to the Internet into account. The Universe of Energy has a new program but hasn’t changed the ride itself so it is a little weird. The ride was always really good but now the ride and the movie portions don’t seem to match very well. But it is still a good ride. Like many of the Epcot rides, though, the Universe of Energy has been watered down and doesn’t deliver the level of “educational” value that it once did and is targetted towards a younger or less educated audience. EPCOT used to focus on teaching people about new technologies and history and what they thought that the future would be like. But now they are regearing so much of the park to just be another Tomorrowland with thrill rides and no content. Ho-hum. It is very sad.

We took the long walk back to the World Showcase and did the Rio del Tiempo boat ride in Mexico. Now there is a ride that needs to be updated. Nothing has changed on that ride since the park first opened. It has to be the single most out of date thing in all of EPCOT. It is ridiculous. The ride was poor when it was new but now it doesn’t fit in Disney World at all. The one thing that I really like about it is that it is a boat ride and a little bit of it goes past the San Angel Inn which is the restaurant inside of the pyramid and it is very romantic. I really like the setting and overall I think that the Mexican area is excellently done. I just can’t believe that they haven’t done something about that ride in all of this time. We ran over to Norway and did some pastry shopping (Eric and Mark should remember our daily trips to the Norwegian pastry shop) and I got a Cloudberry Horn and Dominica got a sweet almond covered pretzel. Boy was that stuff good. Then we rode the Maelstrom. I remember when that ride was brand new and the hottest thing in Disney World. Now we ride it and I wonder what I was thinking. The ride has a lot of potential but it is so short. Nothing happens at all on the ride. The whole thing lasts only a minute and I thought that they took some time to explain about the history of Norway but they really don’t and just use the ride as an excuse to have a short boat ride with a tiny water plume (tiny like ten feet) and an audio-animitronic troll that tells you to go away. That is it. That’s all. Nothing more to see here. That is really sad. That thirty seconds of ride was done really well and the Norwegian area in general is excellent with good food, architecture and the really nice Stave Church gallery. Min has never had the chance to go to the Stave Church but we were unfortunate enough to have it closed right now because there is a new exhibit coming soon. So she had to miss it again. I always really liked that exhibit. After the Maelstrom there is a short tourism promotion movie that is pretty good and we watched that.

By this time we were both really exhausted so we walked over to Germany and got I got myself a beer and Min got a glass of wine and we relaxed by the water for a little bit. We wanted to avoid the crowd during Illuminations because the show is boring and the people get super obnoxious while it is going on so we high-tailed it out of there before we got trapped.

We stopped and sat for a long time over on the west side of Future World just waiting for enough time to pass so that we could go out of the park and catch the hotel shuttle back. We had over an hour to kill so that was really poor timing on our part. We just sat around and relaxed and then walked out to the EPCOT shuttle waiting area and caught the hotel shuttle at 10:00 pm. We are apparently the first hotel on the return route so we were dropped off right away. Boy were we glad to be back in the hotel. We had no energy left at all and were ready to pass out. We were in bed and asleep by 11:00 or so. Our morning alarm is set for 7:00 so even getting to bed so early is barely enough time to get ready and to get out of the hotel in the morning. Our shuttle picks us up at 8:10 in front of the hotel. A little early but we get to beat most of the crowds this way.

Well today we were up with the 7:00 alarm and were ready and in front of the hotel by 8:00. I think that 7:15 might be better for tomorrow. We were totally exhausted this morning and had no desire to get out of bed at all. Both of us felt that we hadn’t gotten enough rest. It was destined to be a long day.

The hotel shuttle drops us at the entrance to EPCOT and from there we can use Disney transportation to get us to wherever we want to go. We hopped onto the monorail and road that all of the way out to the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom is the only way to really start a big Disney vacation. This wasn’t the first time for either of us, though, so we decided to do the park the right way and not start where everyone else starts so that we could get the most out of it. We immediately got onto the railroad that circles the park and rode that over to Frontierland were we disembarked and headed for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Dominica didn’t know what to make of the ride without any lines. None. We could ride as fast as we could run through the “line” area. The park was so slow that they let us ride again without even getting out of our seats! Now that is an empty park. We decided to try out luck with Splash Mountain next since we were nearby. That ride always has the lines. But not today. Once again we were on as quickly as we could get through the “line” area and once again we were able to stay on the ride for a second go around without having to get out of our seats. It was awesome. There were even less people than when I came to the park in 1987 and it was raining on my first day in the Magic Kingdom.

Next up was Liberty Square and the Haunted Mansion. You guessed it: no lines. We figured that we were on a roll so we headed to Fantasyland and hit the popular kids rides that we wanted to do since they always get backed up with little kids who just want to ride them over and over. We went right into Peter Pan, Snow White and the brand new Winnie the Pooh rides. I haven’t ridden Snow White since 1987 and they have updated the ride considerably to make it a little more passable as a Disney ride but Min agreed that it was pretty weak. Pooh is an improvement over Mr. Toads Wild Ride but I wish that they would have kept some ride somewhere in the park themed after The Wind in the Willows. I love that book. Fantasyland is suffering a little which 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea being removed and having a toddler’s playground in its place. Disney definitely cheaped out on that one. Talk about saving a buck. Then they closed the Skyway to Tomorrowland completely. A Disney worker died while working on the ride just a year or two ago so they must have closed it for that reason. But they replaced it with stroller parking. Oh great. Nothing like progress.

The highlight of Fantasyland now is the brand new Mickey’s Philharmagic presented by Kodak. It is a 3D movie and it is awesome. This one has to be by far the best 3D movie in the park. It is really great. And to make it even better we had managed to time getting there just perfectly so that we were able to walk straight in which is tough in a movie based “ride” where there can be a twenty minute wait even if there isn’t any line at all to deal with.

At this point it was 11:00 on the nose and we were getting hungry. Note the time: Park opened at 9:00 and it is now 11:00. Look back at how many rides we did in just two hours! I do believe that that is ten total rides AND we walked between Frontierland, Liberty Square and Fantasyland so we were JUST riding rides. Without any waiting you can cover a lot of ground very quickly. We were starting a new ride every twelve minutes with at least one of those rides lasting more than twelve minutes.

Lunch doesn’t serve at the Liberty Tree Tavern where we wanted to eat until 11:30 so we went down to the Hall of Presidents and, believe it or not, made it to the MINUTE to walk straight into a show and those shows last for half an hour! So we watched that show and then it was perfect timing for lunch. We were the third group seated at the Liberty Tree Tavern.

The Liberty Tree Tavern is the big full service restaurant in Liberty Square and they focus on high end American cuisine. The meal was amazing. We loved it. We got the most delicious hot rolls with honey butter and I started with some New England Clam Chowder that was to die for delicious. Both Min and I got the same entree: salmon on pumpkin bread. Yummy. Then we split a caramel apple crumble for dessert. The whole meal was awesome. We couldn’t have asked for a better lunch and what better day to have such an awesome lunch than our first full day in the the Magic Kingdom when we have been able to just zip from ride to ride. We are having a great time.

We moved on to Tomorrowland and managed to do all of the attractions that we had wanted to do with no wait being over five minutes. We did the new Stitch ride which was supposed to have replaced the pathetic Alien Encounter Ride which replaced the pathetic Mission to Mars ride. Well it turns out that they just replaced the alien with Stitch and left the rest of the ride the same. Still totally crap.

Min made me to the Buzz Lightyear ride for little kids. It is like an arcade game. You ride through the ride in a little car with big plastic guns on the front and you shoot and the bad guys and it gives you points. Cute for little kids. Min scored about 28,000. I scored 152,000. 🙂 She didn’t like the ride quite and much after that. We were so excited to learn that both of our favourite Magic Kingdom ride, the Carousel of Progress, which all of the guidebooks have listed as close, was actually up and running. We were so happy to get to ride it after being so sure that it was closed. We just happened to walk by it and saw people going in. The cast members who were working there said that it hadn’t closed in the last three years and they didn’t know of it being scheduled to close. So beware of the guidebooks.

We rode the Wedway People Mover (or the Tomorrowland Transit Authority now that Walt is dead and gone and no one but me is left to complain) which we both love to ride. Then it was off to Adventureland in the hopes that we would have bypassed the crowds going in the order that we did. We would have tried to do Space Mountain but the ride closed just before we went there.

We did the Pirates of the Carribean and The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management without any lines or delays. That was awfully nice. We walked past the Jungle Cruise because it had had a really long wait. But we came back and figured that a singe twenty minute wait today wouldn’t kill us. So we joined our one and only queue for the day and rode the Jungle Cruise wrapping up the Magic Kingdom for us. It was starting to rain while we were on the Jungle Cruise and we were getting thirsty so we hid in the Dole Aloha snack tent place and had pineapple floats while we waited for the rain to die down.

Since we had done everything in the Magic Kingdom that we had wanted to do we decided that it would be a good chance to head back to EPCOT and get some more stuff done there. How is that for a productive day. We did six and a half hours in the Magic Kingdom, from 9:00 until 3:30, and managed to complete the entire park’s allottment of adult rides, had a full service sit down lunch and a light snack! Few people will ever be able to do the Magic Kingdom so quickly. In all honesty we did completely bypass the Country Bear Jamboree and the Riverboat is shut down for work and would normally be a fairly long ride.

We got to EPCOT and went straight to The Land which is my all time favourite place to go in Walt Disney World. The ride Soarin’ is there from the California Adventure in Disneyland. Josh, Andy and I did that ride while we were out there and were not very impressed. Here it is the big attraction because it is new so it has the longest lines in EPCOT. We were blessed enough to only have to wait about twenty minutes which is pretty amazing for that ride. We got through it in no time and then rode Living with the Land which is my favourite ride while we were there. No wait on that ride. While we were at The Land we stopped up on the upper level and looked into getting reservations for the awesome revolving restaurant that they have in there. They have a character dinner that they do that Dominica wants to go to. I would like to eat there again after all of these years. I ate there with my parents many years ago. Probably in 1987 but maybe in 1992. So we got reservations for tomorrow evening at 7:50. We are going to be exhausted by the time we are done tomorrow. Tomorrow is now locked in to being a fourteen hour day in the park. I am sure that on Thursday morning that we will be sleeping in big time and not going to any park until pretty close to lunch time. At least that is what I am hoping for. I need a chance to catch up on some sleep and to let my body rest a little bit.

By the time we were leaving The Land it was raining pretty hard and we ended up getting soaked through by the time we got up to the World Showcase. We got to France and needed to get out of the rain so we shot into the pastry shop there and got some snack and sat ouside eating them at a time table next to the patissere with a very small awning just barely keeping the rain off of us. We stayed there as long as we could but we were getting cold. I did a quick podcast from there and then we shot around the corner to the French tourism film that they show which takes about thirteen minuts. It is a movie in Disney World that I haven’t seen yet. In fact, I am pretty sure that I have never been into the French area of the World Showcase at all. So it was all new and neat to me. The movie was good but the air conditioning made us super cold and Dominica was dieing by the time that the movie was over.

Our last stop for the evening was the American Experience. That is an amazing and decently long show. But the place was warmer than anyplace else we had been. Thank goodness. We were so wet and cold. Dominica had never seen the American Experience so it was a real treat for her to get to see it. It is one of the real highlights of Walt Disney World.

The timing of that last ride was just perfect to allow us to swing by the UK area on the way out of EPCOT and to grab some fish and chips for dinner and to walk all the way back through Future World and out of the park to catch out 8:00 shuttle back to the hotel. Boy were we glad to be on the shuttle and headed for the hotel. We were exhausted, cold and wet. And both of us had some pretty soar feet too.

So our first two days in Disney were very successful. We have done over half of the main parts of the parks. Tomorrow is going to be the Animal Kingdom and most likely it will be our only time spent there. There really isn’t a whole lot there to do. Then we plan to spend the evening in EPCOT since we are scheduled to be having dinner there very late.

We have all ready decided that this will be our final trip to Disney without actually staying in a Disney resort on property. We are glad that we are saving money and are off property now since we wouldn’t have been able to have had this vacation otherwise. But we don’t think that with all of the hassle that we are having to go through because we are off property that it is really worth it until you are willing to do it “right”. We also are pretty sure that we won’t be returning to the park without children. Not necessarily our own. But someone’s. The park is just so much more fun through the eyes of a child. As an adult the park is starting to be rather lacking in many ways.

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