We had a very nice trip. The main piece of advice I can give people is if you want to see Disney World without waiting in line, go when Florida’s already been hit by a hurricane (or two), and another one is threatening (err – nothing against the people who’ve lost their homes). Our bible for the week was The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2005, and while it was invaluable, we were able to throw the complex plans to ride every ride away after the first day.
Epcot day. We got a cab, went to Dulles for our first flight on Ted. Uneventful flight, really no different than flying United. Got into Orlando right on time, picked up our luggage, and caught a cab ($45 flat rate). We were staying at Disney’s Beach Club Villas (using the time share exchange), and checked in and were in the room by 4PM. When we checked in, we bought a 5 day Park Hopper Plus ticket. What that meant was for 5 days, when we went into one of the four Disney Theme Parks, we could go to any other park (hop) during that day. The “plus” part was two admissions each for the 2 water parks, or Pleasure Island, Disney’s “adult” nightspot.
Anyway, at 4PM we decided to go to Epcot, since we were within walking distance (the Beach Club was on a manmade lake that flowed into the World Showcase at Epcot, and the closest resort to Epcot). We decided to check out some of the rides, and went straight to Test Track (a coaster like car ride) because we had read it was really fun, and the lines might be long, so we wanted to check it out first. We walked in – and there was a five minute wait. This phenomenon repeated itself throughout the day, and for the remainder of the time we were there, the longest we waited was 25 minutes. We took in the Living Seas (fancy aquarium), Living With The Land (greenhouse boat ride) and The Circle Of Life (film) before we headed over to the English part of the World Showcase. We had priority seating (reservations) at the Rose and Crown, Epcot’s version of an English pub. I had the lamb & barley soup and the bangers & mash (although I substituted Yorkshire pudding for the mash), and an enormous plastic glass of Boddington’s beer (I think it was 2 pints). We were there because Jill had read it was a good place to see Epcot’s fireworks, so we had a long dinner until the show at 9PM. We went to bed to get an early start on the next day.
Disney/MGM Studios day. From the Beach Club dock, we took a boat that went there. We got in, made a beeline for the Tower Of Terror. I was kind of surprised Jill was interested in it, because she didn’t seem as interested in free fall rides. But we went, and she really enjoyed it. Next was the Aerosmith Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Disney’s best coaster, but not too much different than Space Mountain. We slowed down by taking in Sounds Dangerous (sound fx film with Drew Carey), then got in just in time for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. That was my favorite thing there, as evidenced by then number of pictures I took. Next was Star Tours (Star Wars motion simulator), which Jill didn’t like because of the bucking. I was a little disappointed that it was exactly like the one out in Disneyland I’d ridden 17 years previously. We kept going through the Muppets 3D film, before we took a break and Jill got a coffee.
We got on the Backlot tour (kinda fun but long for just two stunts), then got on the Great Movie Ride (animatronic recreation of movie scenes) just in time to beat a downpour. We split a footlong hot dog while we decided there weren’t anymore rides or shows we wanted. We took the boat back to the room, then took a bus to Downtown Disney (outdoor mall). Jill went shopping, while I took a 20 minute walk to a real grocery store (the one at the resort charged us nearly $8 for a half gallon of milk and a liter of Diet Coke). I filled my backpack, then met up with Jill at the bus stop. We decided to not go out, and had some of the groceries I’d bought – Caesar salad, burritos, and ice cream.
Magic Kingdom day. Most of the groceries I’d obtained were breakfast food, and we ate them every day but today, as we explored Jill’s previously unknown (to me) obsession with Piglet and the rest of Pooh’s friends. We went to the character breakfast at the Crystal Palace, where the food was pretty good, and Jill had her picture taken with Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet (she was cross because she missed him the first time through, and we had to wait for him).
Next, we toured the Magic Kingdom in a clockwise pattern (my friend Oran had advised against it, but there were no lines, so it didn’t matter). Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain right in a row, took about 30 minutes. Then onto the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight (nicely done), and Mickey’s Philharmagic (3D film, really starring Donald Duck). And of course the Adventures of Winnie Pooh, where I never could get a clear or well lit picture.
Finally, we got to Tomorrowland. While Space Mountain used to be my favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom, I have a new love – Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, where it’s like a giant videogame you ride through and shoot things. It was one of only two rides we rode twice all week.
After we finished all the attractions we wanted in the Magic Kingdom, we hopped the monorail to Epcot and rode the rest of the rides we hadn’t yet done. Jill decided Mission:Space (another motion simulator) wasn’t for her, but I enjoyed it. Ellen’s Energy Adventure (featuring Ellen Degeneres and a lot of dinosaurs) was fun, Spaceship Earth was pretty lame, and Honey I Shrunk The Audience and Journey Into Imagination (both unexpectedly starring Eric Idle) were good.
We went back to the room and changed before returning to Epcot, this time to Germany for their buffet dinner. I had a lot of sausage, sauerkraut, and schnitzel, and a hefeweizen to drink. They also had Oktoberfest Musikanten (a German band) come out for a short set.
Later on, we relaxed in the whirlpool spa at the Villas.
Book of the day: The Golden Compassby Philip Pullman, part 1 of His Dark Materials trilogy.
Our rain day. After it was apparent the week before that Ivan wasn’t going to hit, only maybe brush, we were thinking it would pass by Tuesday, which became Wednesday by the time we bought tickets Sunday, so it was our rest day. We slept in, and discovered the previous night’s forecast was correct: scattered showers only. So we ended up going to the enormous pool between the Beach Club and Yacht Club called Stormalong Bay. It was fun, especially the two story slide you had to cross the sidewalk and climb up the mast of the pirate ship to ride.
We went back to the room to read after we finished roasting, then crossed the lake to the Boardwalk. We ate at the Big River Grille, the only brewpub at Disney. We both had the 6 beer sampler, and split a rack of ribs for dinner. I really enjoyed their hefeweizen and had a full glass of that as well.
Books of the day: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, parts 2 & 3 of His Dark Materials trilogy. Nice fantasy coming of age series – typically recommended to Harry Potter fans looking for something similar, and I can see why. Jill and I are going to have a discussion group with some friends for it in a couple months.
Universal Studios Florida day, or the only day we spent off Disney. We had breakfast, then got a cab over for $15 (we didn’t see the need to rent a car for one trip besides the airport). We went straight to the Mummy, which wasn’t open yet (technical difficulties). Earthquake wasn’t open yet either (it opened late), so we rode Jaws first – cheesy but fun, and you didn’t get very wet. Next we rode Men In Black, another shooting ride like Buzz Lightyear, but with more spinning and sudden stopping, then straight into Back To The Future. It was rougher than Star Tours, but Jill said it was her favorite at Universal. We did E.T. (ok), then onto my favorite theater show of the week, Terminator 2:3D. I had watched the making of as a featurette on the T2 DVD, and was psyched to see how they blended a 3D film and a live stage show. It did not disappoint, and even Jill was surprised she like it.
Next we went back to the Mummy, which was now open. This was the longest we waited, about 25 minutes. It was worth it – it’s like Space Mountain: the next generation. Earthquake was exactly as I remembered it from California, and Twister was something of a letdown (especially since the preshow has you expecting a lot more). Shrek 4D was fun, and so was Jimmy Neutron. Jill’s favorite show was Extreme Ghostbusters, where Beetlejuice shows up and makes them imitate a multitude of musical acts.
We were hungry, and faced with a plethora of chain restaurants, chose the Hard Rock Cafe over Margaritaville. Jill hadn’t been to either, and the Hard Rock was the biggest in the world. They had a truly impressive display of memorabilia, including rooms devoted to the Beatles and Elvis. We both had decent burgers.
Book of the day: First half of Song of Susannah by Stephen King, part 6 of the Dark Tower series.
Animal Kingdom day. One of the nice things about staying at a Disney resort is each day one of the resorts opens an hour early for resort guests only, and today it was the Animal Kingdom. We took advantage of it to get to the Kilimanjaro Safaris early while the line was short and the animals were awake. And most of them were awake, with the exception of the lion. We save the River Rapids for last, and went to ride the Dinosaur. There was a 20 minute wait, so we got a Fastpass (for timed entry later), the first and last time we used it. In the meantime, we watched It’s Tough To Be A Bug with a terrified audience of children (I think you should be at least 5 to watch it), then Jill rode the Primeval Whirl (I was done with spinning rides), then we rode Dinosaur (a motion simulators with animatronic dinosaurs jumping out at you) – I thought it was ok while Jill found it scary.
We went to ride the Kali River Rapids, but it was closed for repairs. We took the Maharajah Jungle Trek nearby, saw tigers, bats, and dragons, oh my. When we finished, we saw that the River Rapids had opened and joined the flood of people. After about 10 minutes, they announced that they were still having problems and would have to close indefinitely. We decided to stick it out, and our patience was rewarded after another 10 minutes passed and the line was reopened, and we quickly got to the front. Fun ride, and I was glad for the poncho to protect my sneakers from the drenching water.
We took the bus back. We went to Epcot for lunch. We went to France, but didn’t like the menu. We had to decide between Norway and Mexico, and went with Norway. They had a hot and cold buffet, most of the food was very good (I discovered I’m not a fan of pickled herring). We hit shops in England and France next, got trapped inside of the English shops because of rain (seems appropriate).
That night we went to Downtown Disney. Jill had some more shopping to do, and I wanted to check out the Virgin Megastore there, did my shopping. Later, we met up at Pleasure Island in the middle. They had a selection of nightclubs, the only one I really wanted to go to was the Adventurers Club, the one with a Disney feel. They gather everyone there downstairs for some improv bits, then hustle you in back for a pretty funny show. Afterwards we debated going to the comedy club, but went to the Rainforest Cafe for a late dinner instead.
Book of the day: Second half of Song of Susannah by Stephen King. Good read but cliffhangers a plenty, glad the last book in the series, The Dark Tower, comes out tomorrow. BTW, nice review in the Post.
Water park day. We read our book, consulted with other guests, and decided to go to Blizzard Beach instead of Typhoon Lagoon. The theme of Blizzard Beach was a ski resort that had melted, and it was a lot of fun. The biggest shocker was the Summit Plummit, the tallest and fastest slide in the US. Jill compared the landing to getting an Atomic Wedgie, and I thought it was like getting spanked really hard. Not sure riding it first was the best idea. The other rides were great, especially Teamboat Springs, which we took twice. The floating tube ride was good, and the Run Off Rapids tube ride had some nice curves and turns.
Back at the hotel, we stopped by the pool one more time, then went up to the room. We figured out we should have reapplied sunscreen, as we both go some sunburn. We changed and went to the Boardwalk again, this time to eat at Spoodles, a Spanish influenced restaurant. I had 3 tapas – mussels in a butter broth, lamb skewers, and a four cheese flatbread. I also had a strawberry daiquiri like drink with amaretto.
We went down to use the whirlpool spa one more time before we left.
Book of the day: First half of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, the new author’s preferred edition (think director’s cut).
Up and out of the room. The cab this time was metered, cost $42. Got to the airport with plenty of time, time enough for Jill to get another book. I liked the fact we flew out of gate 42 (as I was reading Gaiman – he’s not DNA, but did write Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Flight was fine, got home to a nice musty house, and the news that we had missed all the rain (and tornadoes), but the temperature would hit the 40s. I watched the Skins lose to the Giants while Jill went shopping. For dinner, we had some of Jill’s mom’s leftover galumpkes, then went to Safeway to restock on food. Not really ready to rejoin the real world, but I guess we gotta.
Book of the day: Second half of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Still a great read. Supposedly over 40 pages of new material that did not appear in the original edition – I’m curious as to what was added.