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Old 10-01-2008, 10:29 PM   #1
Luis Rodriguez
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From Caracas to WDW. Our September '08 Trip: A (small) report.

From Caracas to WDW. Our September '08 Trip: A (small) report.

Hi,

Before going further, let me apologize beforehand for a couple of things:


1. I'm from Venezuela, so my native language is Spanish. Please have that in account when trying to make sense of my writing style and any typos or misspellings. Also, please don't hesitate in correcting me (In fact, I'd appreciate it)

2. Just could not bring myself to take food photos. Sorry. I'm afraid it is due to a combination of factors: Cultural differences, fear of wife getting to realize at last how crazy his husband is, etc. Maybe on a later trip I will get over my psychological shortcomings and be able to do so :-)


OK, let’s start with the basics:

What?
The Rodriguez's family + nephew trip to Disney World, staying at the All Star Sports Resort.

When?
Sept. 04th --> Sept. 16th, at the height of the hurricane season!! (Not to mention the "very hot and very humid" season, too)


Who?



Me,
the guy with the blue shirt, certified Disney nut in the family (Otherwise known as Luis). First visit on 1977. About 17 visits to the Disney Parks (including one each to Disneyland in CA and to Disneyland Paris). Last visit: Jan. 2006, for about 6 days.

Mercedes,
my dear DW, suffering spouse of before mentioned Disney nut. First visit on 1991, about 7 visits so far (including DL and DP, see above). Last visit: Jan. 2006.

Valeria,
DD, five years old (born Sep. 10th, 2002), going on six later on during this trip, and the excuse used for visiting WDW. Her first (and so far only) visit was on Jan. 2006, as a 3 years old.


and last (but not least!),

Daniel,
Nephew (D-What?), 12, who joined us on this trip. Disney fan (not nut), whose first and only visit had been on Oct. 1999, at age 3 yrs 10 months.


Why?
Do I need to say why? The stars were in their place, wrangled a vacation from boss, learned a little more about free dining, persuaded wife (told her about how wonderful would be for Valeria to celebrate her birthday at WDWJ), and JUST WANTED TO GO!!

Next: The How

________________________________

Although the report isn't finished yet, I thought a post index could be helpful...


Our trip to All Star Sports

This Resort IS Big!!

Friday 09/05. Our first day: WDW

WDW and Dinner at the Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace - Our very first character dinner...

Of the best plans of mice and parents…

(Almost) Full day at Epcot...

Rest of the world and an early dinner at the Garden Grill

From Disney World to Sea World (and back...)

Afternoon at Disney’s MGM Studios… Sorry, DHS

Venturing again outside the world: Universal Studios or,
Uncle Luis, Why these guys hate us?


IOA

Eating at The Wave…

The Big Day – Valeria Turns six!!

The Liberty Tree Tavern and the end of a wonderful day

Dolphins at Sea World…

A Dinner with Cinderella...

Dining with Mickey, our last character meal of the trip.

An Expedition to Animal Kingdom

Evening at MK


Last edited by Luis Rodriguez; 02-12-2009 at 08:12 PM. Reason: Post index added
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Old 10-01-2008, 11:24 PM   #2
Baloo

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Hey Luis! You' have a beautiful family!


Quote:
2. Just could not bring myself to take food photos. Sorry. I'm afraid it is due to a combination of factors: Cultural differences, fear of wife getting to realize at last how crazy his husband is, etc. Maybe on a later trip I will get over my psychological shortcomings and be able to do so :-)




Nice start! Your English is great! Looking forward to more.
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Old 10-02-2008, 12:03 AM   #3
Luis Rodriguez
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baloo View Post
Hey Luis! You' have a beautiful family!



Nice start! Your English is great! Looking forward to more.
Baloo,

Thank you!! Love your avatar!! Did you know that The Jungle Book was the last picture that Walt supervised personally? It will always have a special place in my heart.

Posting another chapter and going to sleep (almost 1am here!!)
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Old 10-02-2008, 12:24 AM   #4
Luis Rodriguez
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How?

After some months of trip planning, Disboards checking, reading trip reports, checking hurricanes bound for the States, more Disboards checking, trying to find good deals on everything from airline tickets to rental cars, etc., we reserved our trip with Travels Unlimited, under the basic (free) Dining Plan. Our TA (Beth Czada) was efficient and helpful at all the times. Thanks Beth!!.

So, in the afternoon of September 4th we set forth to the airport for a 6pm flight (all the times are given DWST - Disney World Standard Time, 30 minutes more than Caracas's time). The route was CCS --> Panama(PTY) --> MCO, about 6 1/2 hours total time (including changing planes in Panama). We left some 30 min. late and arrived at MCO about 1:00am. The kids got to sleep on the planes (lucky them).






After going thru customs (terminal A), getting our baggage and sending it to Terminal B (as per regulations), riding the train between terminals, going between levels, retrieving our baggage (we were quite lost by then :-) ), we got to the Magical Express counter. At that hour it was, of course, almost empty. There were some other (international?) guests, although we were the only ones riding to ASSP.







The Disney Magic begins. The kids on the bus.


Following a short ride, where our driver tried to cheer up what were about ten sleepy passengers (SHE: WELCOME TO DISNEY WORLD!! US: ..whee..e...), we arrived at Sports about 3:15am, two very awake kids and two VERY tired adults. Fortunately Karen, our CM at the lobby, was courteous and quick, so we were able to get to our room in short time. Unfortunately, we were assigned to the Home Run Building No. 8 (#8232), as far from the lobby as you can get and still stay on the same resort.


It did not matter: the room was VERY clean (ASSP has been renovated recently), clean carpet, towel Mickey (a big hit with Valeria) and with two very inviting beds. The kids discovered the Parks channel quickly, but with some effort we were able to turn out the lights at about 4am.



Our home away from home for the next twelve days...

The usual towel Mickey...



At 4am, these looked very nice...



The kid's most watched channel: Parks info.



Next: Our first day: WDW
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Old 10-02-2008, 12:35 AM   #5
Luis Rodriguez
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Wow, just found that Google Earth shows a distance of 0.25 miles between the lobby and our room!!



Now I know why we came back with our legs in such a good shape...
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Old 10-02-2008, 08:14 AM   #6
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Love your pictures, such cute kids! And boy do they look WIDE awake on that ME bus! LOL!

Allyson
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Old 10-02-2008, 02:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Thank you!! Love your avatar!! Did you know that The Jungle Book was the last picture that Walt supervised personally? It will always have a special place in my heart.
Yes I did! It has a special place in my heart too!



The picture of your DD asleep on her tray is precious!! And the pic of the kids on the bus...I'd never dream it was after 3am...they are so wide eyed!!!
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Old 10-02-2008, 10:19 PM   #8
Luis Rodriguez
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MomofCKJ View Post
Love your pictures, such cute kids! And boy do they look WIDE awake on that ME bus! LOL!

Allyson
Allyson,

Thank you!!. Daniel is a real sport, a Disney fan (not nut) with whom I have shared a lot of Disney stories and things.

Valeria is an only daughter, who came to us a little late in our lives (I'm 50), after a lot of tries and a somewhat delicate (scary?) pregnancy. She's our little princess and my particular joy.

Just read your wonderful trip report. Solo!! You make me envious ...
(waiting anxiously for the rest of the report)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Baloo View Post
Yes I did! It has a special place in my heart too!



The picture of your DD asleep on her tray is precious!! And the pic of the kids on the bus...I'd never dream it was after 3am...they are so wide eyed!!!
Thanks Baloo. The kids were amazed by everything, from the seats (with stars) to the TV in front of them. They were really strung up and it took a small effort to get them to bed.

Last edited by Luis Rodriguez; 01-19-2009 at 09:46 PM. Reason: Small grammar/spelling corrections...
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Old 10-02-2008, 10:22 PM   #9
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Friday 09/05. Our first day: WDW


I woke up early, at 6:30 am (darn internal clock!). The rest of the family was more sensible and were able to sleep till 9:30am. The weather was cloudy and humid when we went out for breakfast, having rained recently.

My, they sure drink a lot of Coke here...



We stayed at Visitors, most appropriate.



Valeria loved the theming.







Note about the weather: Our hometown, Caracas, Venezuela, has a September average (high) temp of about 82°~87°F, with a humidity of 50~55%. During our trip Orlando's day temp was between 90 and 92°F, with a humidity of >80%. Talk about hot weather!! My wife suffered the most, to the point of stating that this was our first and last September trip!! (She later recanted). The kids, resilient as kids are, were OK with drinking lots of water. Me? Learned the meaning of the expression "sweating like a pig"... Fortunately, the boards had a lot of posts about the weather, so we weren't totally unprepared. Also, someone posted about having at hand a small pack of moist (wet?) wipes and that was a very refreshing idea.

Breakfast. The area where the food court is located was going thru some refurbishment work, so you had to enter from the pool area and go around the building in order to get from/to the lobby and gift shop. Not big deal, bit of an inconvenience at times. The food court was a little bit crowded in the mornings, but most of the times we were able to find an available table quickly, settle down the kids and get our food with little to no wait time.
The food was ok, although nothing fancy: pancakes, omelettes, Mickey waffles (a Valeria’s favorite!!), etc. Good selection of beverages and being able to get two drinks for each (adult) breakfast allowed us to get water to the parks (Did I already wrote about the weather?, it was hot J ). Those bottles saw a lot of (water fountain) refills each day.

A point I had forgotten to comment is the fact that the food was ALWAYS fresh. We went to some places on this trip where the food seemed "reheated". Not so in any part of Disney's.


With an ADR for Crystal Palace at 6pm, we had planned an afternoon visit to WDW, so we took the bus to begin our visit.







The buses. Our experience with the buses was mixed. Most of the times they were OK. A bit crowded on some mornings, but after at most 20-30 minutes we would be on our way. Returning from the parks, especially after evening EMHs, the wait time was longer. A couple of times we saw how the lines for the other All Star resorts emptied quickly, having up to four (4) buses at once, while we did not get a bus in more than 40 min. Why? I don't know. I'm sure there must be, hidden somewhere, dispatching personnel whose function is to take care of the buses' schedule, but for the life of me I could not find them (they must fear the guests' wrath :-) )


Next: WDW and Dinner at the Crystal Palace

Last edited by Luis Rodriguez; 01-19-2009 at 09:48 PM. Reason: Small grammar/spelling corrections...
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Old 10-03-2008, 12:24 AM   #10
Luis Rodriguez
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WDW and Dinner at the Crystal Palace.


We arrived at MK at 2:30pm and found that they had the decorations for the MNSSHP all set up.




When I took this photo, the background music was "When you wish upon a star...".

Now let me, if I may, share with you one of my most personal Disney memories... When I was a little kid (a long time ago, as I'm 50 right now), our TV programming and viewing times were very limited. One of the shows we always saw was "Disneyland", with that wonderful introduction: "Walt Disney Presents...". At the same time, I still remember the program that was broadcasted after Walt Disney passed away, showing Jiminy Cricket singing "When you
wish upon a star" and a big tear running down his cheek... I don't know if my memories are all mixed up, but that is how I remember it and, for that reason alone, this song does mean Disney to me.

Sorry for the trip down Memory Lane. We are now returning to Sept. 2008

We found a lot of characters:



This one is quite unusual (for me, at least): Wendell


Pluto, one of my favorites.


It just seems like he had an "accident", doesn't it?


We entered the park and the crowds were light, although in this photo doesn't seem so.


Found this mini "parade", announcing Sleeping Beauty's new Blu-Ray disc:








As we did have a 6pm ADR for Crystal Palace, I did not want the kids to wander too far, so we decided to go to Tomorrowland and try to do a couple of rides.

A couple?!! There were almost no lines at all!! We went first to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and just went straight to the car. The kids got together and, although Daniel is a seasoned video game player and Valeria has almost no experience in that kind of things, she scored more than his cousin (who was very annoyed at the results). Did not like the photo and did it all over again.

After that, we found Stitch, who was his usual mischievous (?) self and made as if going away with Valeria's Tinkerbell autograph book.





BTW, her book seemed to be a new design, as many characters and their handlers were always pointing or making comments about it. It has a small window with some loose plastic "stars" on it and Stitch just liked to rattle it a lot.


We caught Buzz in front of CoP:



I don't know why, but I just cannot avoid thinking "To the Infinity and Beyond" every time I see Buzz :-)


After the characters we went to see Stitch's Great Escape. Not much to say about this attraction. Daniel liked it. Valeria thought Stitch was a very rude person, sneezing and belching on her like that. She liked when he "messed up" her hair, though.

As we were running a little short on time for our ADR, the kids went straight to Space Mountain. As with the others attractions that afternoon, no lines!!. We were a little apprehensive about Valeria's reaction to it, as her most daring rollercoaster to date had been Goofy's Barnstormer in Toontown. Not to worry. She liked it so much that rode it again at once, this time in front. My daughter, the daredevil. Sigh... I'm so proud of her...

As Valeria loves all kind of animals (and dogs in particular), she made me to take a photo of this one:




My, this post has got quite a bit long. Let's split it up and write later about

Next: The Crystal Palace - Our very first character dinner...





Last edited by Luis Rodriguez; 01-19-2009 at 09:50 PM. Reason: Correcting some grammar errors.
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Old 10-03-2008, 06:49 AM   #11
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Great photos! Your daughter is a cutie! It seems that it was easy for you to get to meet the characters, I mean you didn't have to queue very much?
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Old 10-03-2008, 08:24 PM   #12
Luis Rodriguez
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maria_O View Post
Great photos! Your daughter is a cutie! It seems that it was easy for you to get to meet the characters, I mean you didn't have to queue very much?
Thanks Maria! I agree about Valeria being a cutie. At least, that is the unbiased and unprejudiced opinion of her doting parents.

The day we arrived the crowds were very, very light. Also, MK had a closing time of 7pm (early), due to the MNSSHP, so I suppose that many guests preferred to go to some of the other parks.

In this trip we met a lot of characters. A point, though, was that many times there wasn't a photopass photographer nearby. One would think that this should more common, as that is the moment you really want a family photo...

Regards,

Luis
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Old 10-07-2008, 01:54 AM   #13
Luis Rodriguez
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Oops,

Sorry about the lack of updates. Have been some hectic days, both at home and at the office.

Last night, just told myself I was going to rest a little before DISing. Fell fast asleep at once.


Will post tonight.

Regards,

Luis

Last edited by Luis Rodriguez; 01-19-2009 at 09:52 PM. Reason: Small grammar and/or spelling corrections...
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Old 10-08-2008, 10:59 PM   #14
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The Crystal Palace - Our very first character dinner...

We had a 6pm ADR at the Crystal Palace, so after doing all that turning, spinning or what not in Tomorrowland we set off to Main Street.

Strange as it may seem, we had never visited the Crystal Palace before so we were unaware that, from near the entry, you can get a beautiful view of the castle. I’m afraid that the photo does not show the wonderful warm light that bathed the castle that afternoon.



After a *very* short wait we were seated and being introduced to the do’s, don’ts and how’s of Character Dining: duration, how the character visited the tables, what to do and what not to do, etc. It was all a bit daunting, but we braced ourselves, seated the kids and (Mercedes and I) took our turns going to the Buffet, in order to get our meals.

About the food:
Crystal Palace is a buffet dinner. What does this mean? You can, as many people do, have a little (or a lot) of everything you see, fill your plate to the top and hope for the best. Or you can, as we prefer to do, get two or three different kinds of meals (salad, meat, etc) and keep it simple.
My wife went for the Shrimp and mixed greens. I choose the Prime Rib and Corn bread. My wife liked her shrimps. I LOVED the Prime Rib. It was perfectly done, very tender and juicy. Even Mercedes, who tends to prefer her meats very cooked, thought it was pretty good.

For dessert Mercedes had the Brownies and I the Key Lime Pie. Don’t ask me why, but I cannot visit WDW and not eat Key Lime Pie. So far, the best I have found is in The Land (don’t know if they still have it, though).

The kids? Mac and Cheese and Chicken fingers... This became their favorite Disney’s meal. Almost every single time...


Eating with characters:
OK, let me just explain something: Much as I love Disney, this trip was planned for Valeria. As the only daughter of a Disney nut, she has seen her share of Disney’s movies, knows the characters, etc. So we decided to make most of our ADRs as Character meals.

Sigh… The things we do for our kids… Don’t get me wrong, DW and I love Disney’s characters and the kids’ interaction with them was wonderful, and made for beautiful memories. That being said IT IS a stressful experience:
  1. Get Valeria’s food.
  2. Quick, here it comes <Pooh/Tigger/Eeyore/Piglet>, get out the autograph book and the camera!!
  3. Take photos, get autograph(s), say thanks to <Pooh/Tigger/Eeyore/Piglet>
  4. OK Valeria, Please eat.
  5. Grab what seem to be only two bites.

Repeat steps 2 thru 5 for each character.

Fortunately, Valeria is a sensible kid and did not see the need for standing up every time a character approached our table for a second or third time. Just said Hi, Bye and continued eating.

BTW, our Server was very nice, removed our dirty plates quickly and seemed to have a sixth sense for keeping our glasses refilled.

(My apologies for the photos, as I tried very hard not to disturb the other guests, so many times it was difficult to have a good angle or distance from the subject)





Oops!! Daniel drops his autograph book!



Eeyore is Valeria’s favorite…



Pretty soon it was time to leave the park, as the closing time was 7pm (MNSSHP).

The atmosphere is all setup for a (not so) scary night…



As this was our first day, I had planned to return early to our room, in order to get a little rest. Alas, it was not going to be…

Next: Of the best plans of mice and parents…

Last edited by Luis Rodriguez; 01-19-2009 at 09:52 PM.
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Old 10-08-2008, 11:56 PM   #15
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great report and nice pictures
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