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Old 07-24-2008, 04:58 AM   #1
SusanEllen
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Yet Another Happiest Place on Earth Report Disneyland--Day Three, June 11th, 2008

[When I have Disney on the phone, either for information or to book a trip, I usually ask the CM helping me what his or her favorite restaurants are or what’s new in the parks or what they think is too good to miss and they always answer with what certainly sounds like genuine enthusiasm and usually with good and useful ideas. That’s how I found out about the Cruzin’ California segway tour of DCA, the first I'd heard of segways at a Disneyland park. I might not have known to this day that they were there if that friendly CM hadn’t taken an extra minute to talk with me. I knew a little about the EPCOT segway tour, but I’d never gotten around to finding out how to book it. Then this spring I learned that segways were no longer just in EPCOT when I read about Joh and Gary’s segway adventure at Fort Wilderness (Fred, Wilma and Family Do Disney, Day 2, posted April 30th). Joh’s report was fresh on my mind when I called Disneyland to book the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour and when the CM helping me responded to my question, “Is there anything else we should do?” by telling me about segways in DCA, it only took a quick call to Sharon and I was calling back to book Cruzin’ California.]

Wednesday morning we actually wanted to get up at 5:30. What would have been an ungodly hour for waking at home was just fine here because we had a brand new adventure ahead of us on this day--the before hours segway tour of Disney’s California Adventure, Cruzin’ California. Sharon had said “Yes!” without hesitation when I called to ask if she’d be interested in doing the tour. In fact, I think she answered before she was entirely clear on what a segway is, but once she knew she said “Yes! Yes! YES!” As for myself, I would have paid the money and carried the segway if I’d had to just to be inside DCA three hours before opening. So we were up before sunrise in order to be dressed, out of the hotel, across Disneyland Drive, through the Grand Californian, to the far end of Downtown Disney, to the Guest Services window (next to the Disneyland gates) by 7:00 to get our Cruzin’ California tickets and we couldn’t be late. It would have been far less worrisome if we could have gotten the tickets when we were at Disneyland the day before and spared ourselves the mad dash at the crack of dawn, but the rule for Cruzin’ California is that tickets can’t be picked up until the morning of the tour. Furthermore, the pick up had to be done in the fifteen minutes between the time Guest Services opened and the time we had to be at DCA to start our segway training. We got there just before the window opened and though there were a few other people in line ahead of us getting their special events tickets (though none for Cruzin’) we were still able to make it across the plaza separating Disneyland and DCA to the tour meeting place next to the DCA gate by the 7:15 report time. We introduced ourselves to the two other guests already waiting there. (I’m not sure how they got their tickets because they weren’t in line with us. Hmmm, I just realized that!). Our fellow tourists were Kim, a registered nurse (whose skills I thought might be handy if we needed some patching up before the end of the tour) and her strapping seventeen year old footballer grandson, Cody (who also might be handy if we needed help getting back on our feet after said patching up). We stood chatting until Jessica and Emily, the two CMs in charge of our tour, showed up and told us that there weren’t any other guests coming today and we could begin. We stowed our bags in lockers and then moved inside to a reception room for refreshments and the start of our training. It was obvious that the tour schedule was structured to accommodate far more than four people—the main clues being the enormous tray of fruit and giant muffins offered to us and the amount of time Jessica and Emily spent telling us personal stories about working for Disney and traveling Europe during their college years and seemingly anything else they could think of to tell us other than how to ride a segway. They clearly were vamping to consume some time. Because we would be zipping up and down streets and walkways where hundreds of people would be working to get the park ready for opening, it had to be important that groups of inexperienced segway riders be in certain areas at certain times so we wouldn’t be in the way. If we finished our training sooner than planned, I can see that it might be a problem. When enough time had been killed the training began in earnest. The short orientation film was shown, questions were answered, and finally we stepped outside to begin the fun. We were told that before the group began the tour of the park we would have to practice the maneuvers they were going to teach us and then one by one we'd each have to demonstrate we could do them all. It only took a few minutes to feel at home on the segways and once we each had done the obligatory checklist of maneuvers we were off to explore early morning DCA. The trivia we were given along the tour was fairly common knowledge among Disneyphiles but it was fun to hear anyway. The best part of Cruzin’ California—other than the fun of riding the segways—was watching the park being readied for guests. I saw a painter applying paint to a handrail that would be grabbed, held, and leaned on by countless guests entering Muppet Vision starting in less than two hours. When Jessica had a bit of trivia to relate she would give us a signal to pull over and once she stopped us a few yards from a construction team, a group of “suits” talking with guys in hardhats making notes on clipboards. Jessica cupped her ear and leaned toward them, then whispered to us that this was a Hardhat Alert. She told us that every time CMs in DCA saw a group like this they tried to hear as much as possible to learn about what was being added or dropped to the plans for the big makeover. We cruised in and out and around the Hollywood area, through Sunshine Plaza, into the Golden State where we circled Grizzly Peak and made our way through the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. We took a break in Paradise Pier at the McDonald’s where we looked for the hidden Mickeys that were salted among the restaurant’s decorations. We zipped past all the rides on the Midway and got a look at the new Toy Story Midway Mania scheduled to open next week—after we’re gone! Then it was on to A Bug’s Land for a meander, then back to the Hollywood area where our tour began and ended. Would I do it again? In a minute! The backstage-before-the-park-opened part of the tour was everything I had hoped it would be and the segway riding was more fun than I imagined it could be. I missed my segway as soon as I stepped off of it. Cruzin’ California was understandably the more expensive of the two tours we did ($99), and even with the 20% discount we received for being Disney VISA card holders, it was a costly way to spend a few hours—but we agreed it was worth every penny.




The tour ended at 10 (DCA’s opening time) and we were walked to the gate to have our passes put through the machine so that we could officially be counted for the day. We picked up our bags, I changed into a cooler shirt and we headed for Soarin’ for a Fast Pass. The standby line was short so we pocketed the FPs for later and walked on the ride. We hated to stop for breakfast as this seemed an excellent time to take advantage of short lines, so we grabbed a perfectly acceptable park breakfast on the run—a box of buttered popcorn for Sharon and caramel corn for me—and race walked to the Tower of Terror. ToT Hollywood Hotel here doesn’t have as much room for its courtyard as the one in WDW, but the real difference is to be experienced in the drops. I’m not going to compare the two ToTs as I hope you get to try them both some day, if you haven’t already, and I think you should step into the elevator expecting what you’ve always gotten at WDW and then be surprised. It’s not a case of one ToT being better than the other, they're just not exactly the same.




On our walk back up Hollywood Boulevard we stopped to listen to the Delta Daddy-o’s, a terrific a cappella group who had no trouble drawing a crowd.


Next we did Monster’s Inc. It’s a cute ride and such an improvement over Superstars Limo (that it replaced) that it looks brilliant in comparison.







Muppet Vision 3-D is the same show as at WDW though the façade is different.

Now seriously hungry after a very busy morning, we headed for Taste Pilot and a somewhat more substantial lunch than our popcorn breakfast. The food was just fine for a quick service meal, but we had the usual Taste Pilot problem—a shortage of places to sit. Finding no empty chairs inside, we stepped outside where we found a table in the shade. The table was large enough that we could offer to share it with a family of three who had no place to sit once all of the outside tables were taken. It isn’t an American custom to share restaurant tables with strangers and that’s kind of a shame. We had such a pleasant conversation with our lunch companions--a mom and dad and their eight year old son—on the first day of their first trip to Disneyland. They were from Hawaii and it occurred to me that though I’ve met people from many US states in Disney parks, these were the first ever from Hawaii. It seemed just a little odd that people who live in a place that most of the world thinks of as a marvelous vacation destination, would leave their island paradise to go somewhere else for their holiday, but then I suppose they want to leave home for their vacation like the rest of us. They were charming people and they made our quick lunch more of an occasion. The mom was an elementary school teacher (I am, too.) Small world, isn’t it?

Soarin’ is next door to Taste Pilot, so after lunch we took a few steps to our right with Fast Passes in hand and were on the ride in minutes. We had just enough time to make it to the next performance of Aladdin at the Hyperion Theater where we had preferred seating with our Disney Travel package. This is a great show without adding the disclaimer “for a theme park show.” The production values are the best—acting, music, sets, and special effects are Broadway show quality. The theater is a real theater. It’s amazing to me that a show like this is essentially free—if you’ve got a ticket for the park, you can see this show.



The Animation Building is just down the street (Hollywood Boulevard) from the Hyperion Theater and our main reason for visiting there was to see Turtle Talk. Sharon hadn’t seen this yet but she’d read everything on the Disneyland website getting ready for this trip and so she knew that Crush interacted with the audience. Silly me, I started to explain about the instant animation software but she didn’t want to hear a word of it. After a morning of backstage revealed on the segway tour, Sharon was ready to just be amazed. Good old Crush did his thing and she was truly amazed.


You can't tell how enormous the screens are in the lobby of the Animation Building in this shot. Take a look at the next picture and notice the size of the people below the screens.




We’d both seen the other parts of the Animation Building on previous visits so we went directly to the one that most interested us—Off the Page, the animation store. After a quick look at the pretty things there, I left Sharon to choose the print of Beast she wanted (to be used in a process that creates something that looks very much like a painting on a stretched canvas when its all done) and headed across to Guest Services to pick up our tickets for tomorrow’s A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour and Friday night’s Fantasmic Dessert buffet, which I was supposed to have been able to get when I picked up the Cruzin’ tickets. However, for some reason the Guest Services CM couldn’t find our records on his computer this morning and of course, all the confirmation numbers for our paid reservations were safe in a folder back in the hotel room. I didn’t want to risk being late for Cruzin’ so I left it for later to sort. Maybe 7 AM was too early for the computer (or for the CM) because this afternoon the reservations were found immediately and I had the tickets in mere minutes—that is, I did once I finally got to the window. There were three windows open but about thirty people ahead of me, so Sharon was left in Off the Page for nearly half an hour. When I got back there she had ordered her Beast print (reluctantly allowing them to keep Belle in the picture), bought two DVDs (one for me as a thank you for the Fantasmic Dessert buffet, a surprise she’d only found out about when she got here), and had befriended two CMs who’d apparently been talking with her the entire time I had been gone. One of them offered to apply her employee discount to a pricey figurine of Beast that Sharon had been thinking about buying and the other one said he’d make Sharon a unique canvas print thingie from her own photo if she could snap one of the Beast in Disneyland. These were Cast Members at their most accommodating but I think they were going above and beyond their Disney training in response to Sharon’s enthusiasm.

We had just enough time to find a spot in Sunshine Plaza for the Pixar Play Parade.


Roz was the baton twirling majorette for the parade.




















After the parade we crossed back to A Bug’s Land to see Tough to Be a Bug, the same show as at WDW but, of course, here there is no Tree of Life above the theater.

We had been in DCA for ten and a half hours and in addition to the fabulous segway tour we had done everything we wanted to do in the front part of the park except the Grizzly River Run that we intended to save for another day. It was time to start toward DTD and Catal where we had a 6:30 seating.

Catal is on my favorites list, but another new place for Sharon. We'd arrived a little early but only had to wait a few minutes before being seated. We were offered upstairs, downstairs, inside or out. We chose the balcony, overlooking the DTD promenade, which seemed like a good idea at the time. It was warm there in the sun at first, but it became increasingly chilly as we felt the effect of the desert night air moving in as the sun dipped toward the horizon. We ordered our starter from the Tapas menu, empanadas made of Spanish cheeses, Yukon Gold potatoes and a salsa verde. Sharon ordered the swordfish that she declared was excellent. She also said, as she had last night at Hook's Pointe, that she couldn't believe she was getting food like this at Disneyland. I knew what she meant, because I remembered the days (and they weren't so long ago) when a Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou was a peak dining experience at Disneyland. The short ribs I ordered at Catal that night were so very good and just entirely too much food for me to eat it all after the filing empanadas. Though it was unlike us, we skipped dessert. I can assure you, though, it was not because we were being dainty eaters.



I’m afraid that I haven’t conveyed just how special this restaurant is and so I’m referring you to Dan and Jackie Collison’s blog at http://danandjackievideo.blogspot.com/ where you can find Dan’s elegantly written Catal review in the list of archived restaurant reviews on the home page.

Our itinerary for today included a tiny bit of parkhopping to watch the Remember Dreams Come True fireworks in Disneyland, but at nearly thirteen hours from the time we’d left our hotel room this morning we were just too tired to consider it. We traded fireworks for a pass through the World of Disney store on the way back to the hotel, but a pass is really all it was as we were too tired to shop—and that, my friends, is just TOO tired!

Day Four here: Day Four, June 12th

Last edited by SusanEllen; 10-18-2008 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 07-24-2008, 06:35 AM   #2
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Another brilliant day Susan.

What great photos. Glad you enjoyed the segway tour as much as you hoped.

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Old 07-24-2008, 07:41 AM   #3
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I can't help but be struck by the unimaginative exterior of Muppet Vision 3D compared with its WDW counterpart. It'll be interesting to discover what changes the makeover brings.

Catal's seems like just my kind of place. The building itself appeals from the off (and that is reminiscent of DTD at WDW - it has a look of Marketplace about it) and then reading Dan's review and seeing his food photos seals the deal!

I know most of us can dredge up huge reserves of stamina when it comes to Disney, but you ladies must have literally fallen into bed - I'm exhausted just reading.
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Old 07-24-2008, 02:24 PM   #4
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wow, you gals sure can pack a lot into 1 day. great photo's.
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Old 07-24-2008, 03:17 PM   #5
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That's my girl! Non-stop action! The Segway tour looks like fun.

I remember enjoying the Animation Building very much.

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Old 07-24-2008, 03:19 PM   #6
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The above was, of course, written by my good self and not my computer hogging wife.

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Old 07-24-2008, 03:48 PM   #7
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Good day and fabaroo report.

A couple of points I'd make.
1. No mention of Margaritas - how can a vacation be a vacation without those green pieces of heaven?
2. SUSAN - SEGWAY - NO!! Surely a recipe for disaster. I read the report expecting to read "and I wasn't paying attention to where I was going and segway-ed into a wall". Good co-ordination Susan!
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Old 07-24-2008, 03:50 PM   #8
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The Segway tour looks great, I'm am going to have to have a go at that one day. It's strange to see attractions that we know so well but are set up so differently to how we are used to seeing them.
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Old 07-24-2008, 10:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UKDEB View Post
I can't help but be struck by the unimaginative exterior of Muppet Vision 3D compared with its WDW counterpart. It'll be interesting to discover what changes the makeover brings.
It will indeed be interesting to see what's changed. I'd sure like to know how much of the re-do is actually what the Imagineers had in mind in the first place. It wasn't a very well kept secret that the Eisner board cheaped-out once the DCA construction started. With a billion and a half dollar price tag it looks like cutting corners was a false economy for the Company and shareholders because it's going to cost a lot more to do it over than to do it right in the first place! Not only is the comparison of some of the DCA attractions (Muppet Vision for example) to their counterparts in WDW a bit jarring, it's even more jarring when you look at what's just next door--in Disneyland. Disneyland is so rich with detail and decoration that DCA was bound to suffer in the comparison. Wait until you see how gorgeous the Fantasyland buildings are in Disneyland. It's a Fairy Tale immersion experience.

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Originally Posted by tony64 View Post
It's strange to see attractions that we know so well but are set up so differently to how we are used to seeing them.
Sometimes the differences are large and sometimes small, Tony. Confusion really sets in for me with the small differences--a shop on one side of Main Street in FL and on the opposite side of the street in CA--or not there at all. You'd think rides would be identical, but aren't always. When you ride Splash Mountin in FL you can sit side by side; in CA you sit single file in the log. On the other hand, you can sit side by side on Space Mountain in CA while you sit one in front of the other in FL! And since the two parks are separate divisions of the Disney Company, they set their own policies regarding passes, bookings, etc. so some of the differences aren't things you see, but rather how you do things.
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Old 07-24-2008, 10:42 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Boss Hogg View Post
Good day and fabaroo report.

A couple of points I'd make.
1. No mention of Margaritas - how can a vacation be a vacation without those green pieces of heaven?
2. SUSAN - SEGWAY - NO!! Surely a recipe for disaster. I read the report expecting to read "and I wasn't paying attention to where I was going and segway-ed into a wall". Good co-ordination Susan!
Because your second point seemed a very real possibility, Sir, and because I didn't have you and Kevin there to peel me off the pavement, I thought it the prudent choice to avoid the Cuervo you suggested in your first point.
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Old 07-25-2008, 06:45 AM   #11
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Susan, I'm so glad you enjoyed the Segways. I agree with the sentiment about missing them as soon as you step off them and, I still maintain, that one of the best ways to tour World Showcase at EPCOT is on a Segway (however, definitely WITHOUT the aid of Margueritas).

I am so enjoying the virtual tour of Disneyland that you are providing me with and I look forward to the day when I get to experience firsthand the things you are so eloquently describing (with any luck for my 40th birthday, so only 5 years to wait).

Do continue entertaining me. I have the rest of the day off work so if you could get another day up thaat would be much appreciated
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Old 07-25-2008, 12:39 PM   #12
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Joh, I'm flattered that you would give up part of your day off work to read my report. It's one thing to read these on your lunch break at work (where I often read TRs), it's another thing when it's on your own time. I replied to your note in a PM a few hours ago, but don't see that you've read it yet, so am repeating my message here, knowing the DIS will send you a notice of it. I'm having a great time organizing my thoughts for the next installment, but am not sure I'll get it written by your bedtime (or mine--6 hours later!). If you still have a little time to devote to armchair traveling today I point again to Dan and Jackie's blog. It's loaded with mini trip reports and Dan's well edited videos. They share lots of Disney trips taken in both US parks and Paris as well as interesting local UK jaunts. [And I swear, they don't pay me to say those things.]
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Old 07-26-2008, 09:24 AM   #13
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The segway tour sounded very enjoyable, we'll probably do the Epcot one next time we visit WDW (already had a packed itinerary last time!) I think we'll be missing the Pixar parade as we're visiting in the week off-season (with one Sunday evening to catch the fireworks) so I will live vicariously through your lovely pictures The Roz float is fantastic!
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Old 07-26-2008, 03:03 PM   #14
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What a great day! That parade looks fab!
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Old 07-27-2008, 05:07 PM   #15
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Another great day Susan! I don't know where you girls get your energy!
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