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Old 11-12-2012, 07:20 AM   #16
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LOVE your ride photos!
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Old 11-12-2012, 05:22 PM   #17
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Thanks very much. You ought to see the outtakes

On to:
Day 6 Friday 26/10 - Magic Kingdom, DHS, La Nouba

For the first 5 days we'd decided in advance what we were doing - parks in the usual order, then Typhoon Lagoon before it closed for the winter. We'd got ADRs done for almost every evening meal for the whole two weeks, but with park hopping no problem we'd basically left the rest of holiday to decide each day as it came.
Our ADR for this evening was Sci-Fi in DHS, and we'd got La Nouba booked for the late show (9pm). However, Touring Plans showed a very light MK today as it was a party day and "closed" at 7pm, so we decided to do our second day there, with plans to have a pool break in the afternoon.
Drove to TTC and got the monorail for the first time (after our rather poor bus experience on day 1). This was fine, although it did impress on us just how huge the TTC car park is! Got there just after rope drop. Our day 2 touring plan had us doing Fantasyland/Adventureland/Frontierland, although we were a lot more relaxed about order of things.
Started off on Splash Mountain. Enjoyed this, as an oversized log flume. I think we got quite lucky - the number of times we saw this was broken down over our other MK visits I think we were probably fortunate to get round! Obviously in dire need of a maintainance overhaul. Did get rather wet on this - DW confessed afterwards she'd read that sitting in a right hand seat got you wetter than left, and she'd stuck me there deliberately. Thanks for that darling!


Thunder Mountain next, which we enjoyed, although it is pretty tame. Good length though. We did this a few times later in the week after sunset, which seems to make it more fun.
Small World. Oh so cheesy, but not to be missed of course. And of course the damn tune still plays in my head now I've mentioned it.


Arggghhhh! Fastpasses for Peter Pan, which give you bonus (unnecessary on a quiet day) fastpasses for Philharmagic, which we used. Philharmagic was quite fun and a sit-down is always appreciated .
Peter Pan with the fastpasses - I can see why this is so slow to load, and it stops occasionally, which is nice for non-flash photography, but doesn't exactly make the ride flow. I think Disney generally does this continuous-story-telling ride pretty well, as it's obviously had lots of practice! But more on that point later in the TR (Little mermaid... shhh ).


We'd signed up for SOTMK on Day 1, but didn't actually get round to playing. We'd signed up to all play individually, which in hindsight might have been a mistake, but we took a break to have a go at it now - I went off with DS1 and DW went with DS2, after also getting another pack of cards. I have slightly mixed feelings about SOTMK - the kids enjoyed collecting and comparing cards, it was nice to wander around the park searching for portals, but the actual game play is incredibly linear and non-challenging. I understand there are harder levels where it actually matters which spell you use, but maybe that should be offered as an option from the start, as my kids both got a little bored by the game itself. Anyway, we defeated a villain each at that point, which was about 20 mins each.


Met up at the Partners statue just as a castle show was going on, and also caught a bit of the Main St Move it Shake it mini-parade thing.




We then went to lunch at the closest QS, which was Casey's Corner. This turned out to be a serious mistake - urgghh, most definitely the worst QS meal of the holiday by far. Place was packed, the hot dogs were sitting out on the counter for several minutes before being distributed by frankly inept staff, and then we could find nowhere to sit so ended up eating luke-warm hotdogs standing at a small table. One to avoid for us!
From the main entrance, we had a ride all the way round the park on the steam train, then carried on again to the Frontierland station. We did Country Bear Jamboree (guilty pleasure of mine that the rest of the family indulged me in, I have to say).


Then headed across to Tom Sawyer Island where we let the kids run round for a bit while we had a more relaxed wander. It's a good place to get photos.





Back to OKW for some pool time. ADR at Sci-fi was at 6.30, but we headed over to DHS a little bit early to have more of a wander around the Streets sets, which we hadn't really done the first day. Impressive backdrops.


We checked in at Sci-fi about 6.20, but didn't actually get seated until 6.50, which I think was our longest ADR wait of the trip. Given we'd got Cirque bookings later, was probably the most stressful evening for that to happen, but not too bad, so no harm done. We got a decent car, sat the kids in the front where they were pretty much enthralled by the on-screen action. DS1 even tried something new - a chicken pasta dish that I really wasn't sure he'd like, but he ate almost all of it, which was novel. DW and I both had steak, which was ok. Service in here was slooow. Not surprised we had to wait for a seat, and made it a bit stressful having to clock-watch a bit. Didn't get out until after 8pm, which for a 2 course meal is pretty slow for us.


Headed straight over to DTD, and had the usual difficult time parking, although the West Side end is somewhat easier, being less busy and has a much larger lot. Ended up getting to Cirque for about 8.40.
It was a rather last-minute decision to go here. I've seen "O" at the Bellagio in Vegas, which was absolutely amazing, but this was on a lads trip, so DW had never seen a Cirque show. We'd spotted an offer for Cat 2 seats for $50 if you sign up with the Cirque Friends club a few weeks before the holiday, so we'd done that and did the recommended trick of psuedo-booking blocks of seats until it actually assigned ones in the block we wanted (you can't manually pick seats doing online bookings).
We all loved it - the kids were a bit dubious at first, but the quality of the acts is universally first rate. Some incredibly impressive acrobatic skills and very varied. High-wire, trapeze, trampolining, cycling, balancing acts, little chinese girls with spinny things, etc etc etc. Would highly recommend a trip here to anyone who hasn't seen it. Superb stuff.

Busy day, "home" to bed. The middle Saturday was the only day where we'd booked absolutely nothing, so we actually switched the alarm clocks off before going to bed, for the first time!
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Old 11-13-2012, 01:18 PM   #18
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Enjoying your report and photos.

We used to enjoy the Bear Jamboree at Christmas when they sang Christmas songs - they stopped this a few years ago now though
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:32 PM   #19
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Loving all the photos really really good photography Trip is sounding fab so far cant wait to read more
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:33 PM   #20
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Thanks. Don't know what it is, just always brings a smile to my face .

Day 7 Saturday 27/10 - Shopping! Late night MK.

We'd planned nothing for the day - no ADR, no early morning . So we decided to hit the Orlando shops. Idea was to find some decent malls, and hit the cheapo gift shops along I-Drive. I did a bit of research (not enough, apparently), and found the 2 malls with the best reviews (factory outlet types) were the Premium Outlet malls at either end of I-Drive, so we jumped in the car and headed for the nearest one. Satnav is a wonderful thing (hah! read on). Took <10 mins to get there, had a decent range of shops.
We'd been giving some reward money to the kids in $ during the year, so they'd each got about $100 with almost free rein, so they were happy to look around as well. They'd already both spent some of it, but they both ended up getting new watches (decent waterproof Timex digitals) at a good price. Disney outlet in this mall was ok, had some good prices. Unfortunately the xmas ornament we bought here didn't survive the journey home .
We decided to head up to the other Premium Outlets. Unfortunately this wasn't a POI in the satnav (realised later it was called Prime Outlets until fairly recently). So I just thought I'd head up I Drive and we could hit the gift shops.
Well, we got on I Drive, but it was in a fairly bare part, and I realised we were actually heading South. So we did a U turn, and then we came to what appeared to be the end of I Drive, with the only option being a toll road. So we did another U turn. It all went a bit wrong - we'd got some printed maps in the car, but coudn't work out where we were. I think there were 2 more U turns involved! Eventually ended up plugging in Seaworld as an address, as we knew that was near the top end of I-Drive. Finally worked, and we pretty much worked out where we were. Hit a couple of the cheapo gift shops, kids bought a couple of bits. Got to the top end of I-Drive and there was a 400m queue just get into the car park! So did another U turn (was getting used to it by now) and cruised back down I-Drive and found a Subway for lunch (paid cash for food! Weird!). Little bit more shopping, and went back for hotel pool.




As far as I can remember, we didn't really do anything else that afternoon, was a very relaxed few hours. For dinner we decided to head to the nearest Pizza Hut. Kids favourite.
For the evening, I checked my calendar and noticed that MK was a midnight close that evening, so we decided to head over there around 8pm. Got the boat over, which was a first. Enjoyed this, seemed more relaxed than the monorail.


Wishes was 9pm, so we watched that from just in front of the Main St station. Was pretty good. We knew we'd be seeing this at other times later, so didn't fight for a view.


Did some of our favourites (Space Mountain on FP), some Fantasyland stuff we hadn't done (tea cups and carousel).


We then realised that they were letting anyone into the FLE area, which was very much unexpected. Quite exited by this as I honestly hadn't expected to be able to see it during our break (was mostly scheduled for cast previews).
Walked down into the area, past the Enchanted Tales bit (queue) and headed for Little Mermaid. Queue area is very long - took about 3 minutes to walk, and we had a quick photo stop and a play with the crab interactions a bit. May be a bit controversial here, but I was a little underwhelmed by the ride itself. I mean, it's nice, the music is good, and it flows reasonably well (although skips about 90% of the second half of the story), but it's not new or special. The Nemo one in EPCOT is very very similar, and possibly actually better (IMHO, of course!).




Anyway, I'm glad we did it. We didn't really do anything else in the area. The mermaid MnG area was open, but with a queue, and we weren't really fussed about character stuff. Gastons was open, but absolutely packed solid - we couldn't even get through the door. BoG was open for a look around, and I kind of regret not taking the opportunity, but we didn't go in. We did have a quick look round the shop.
I have to say, the scenery and theming generally is really really well done - Belle's and Ariel's areas are sufficiently distinct, but the flow is very good.


We then went off to do Dumbo, which I found a little weird - I'd read about the pager queuing thing, but they were only partly operating it, because it was quite quiet. So they handed us a pager, and the kids had a play, but they said we could come back when we liked. So we were kind of wondering what the pager was for! Anyway, went off and rode Dumbo, just to tick it off .


Then did Goofy's Barnstormer. Crickey, that's a quick ride. If I'd queued more than 5 mins for that I'd be a little annoyed I think. Can't last more than 30s! Similar rides in other parks send you round the track 2 or 3 times, but then I guess the queue would be at least 3 times as long!
As we were coming off that, we noticed a really weird sky around the moon. I've since found out it's called a lunar halo and is caused by very high cirrus clouds with ice crystals, but it was very spooky. Photo doesn't really do it justice, and you may not even see it depending on your monitor.


[Note to self: calibrate work monitor ]

Did the Speedway again, and we left pretty much at closing time, with a final look round the shops.
Oh, and I've just remembered, we had a midnight snack at the mainstreet bakery on the way out. I had a cinnamon roll. OMG those things are amazing - absolutely gigantic, and they warm them up and pour extra icing over. Wow. Was seriously nice . Wish I'd taken a photo, so here'e one off the internet.


Anyway, out, monorail, tram (we were getting good at this by now), car, home, bed. 1am. Kids were still fine, amazingly Wouldn't even be the latest night of the trip (see Day 9 ).
I have to say, late nights at MK are special things. Seems to have a much happier atmosphere than the other parks (not that we were ever quite this late anywhere else).

Tomorrow: Blizzard Beach, Biergarten, Illuminations
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:36 AM   #21
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Really enjoying your trip report! Looking forward to the next bit.

[note to self: start your own trip report!]
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:55 AM   #22
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Great pictures and details. Will be watching for more updates
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:29 AM   #23
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Photography - a side note:

Thanks for the comments about the photos and the report so far. Just hope I'm not boring anybody!

Any non-photographers can tune out at this point and skip to the next post . I'm about to get very geeky, and bore 95% of you .

I've been keen on photography for a couple of years now. Being an unashamed geek, I think I'm reasonably knowledgeable on the technical side, certainly not so good on the artistic side, and I'm also fortunate to be blessed with an understanding wife who has watched me gather a frankly ridiculous quantity of gear without complaining (too much).

My hand luggage for the holiday consisted of my camera bag. And when I say bag I mean Lowepro Runner 300 backpack, pretty much stuffed with camera/technology. I wish I'd taken a picture, but all my cameras were in the bag . A list, from memory:
Canon 7D (DSLR body, 18MP 1.6x crop sensor)
Tamron 18-270 lens (good all round 15x zoom lens)
Tamron 17-50 F2.8 (high quality 3x zoom lens especially good for low light)
Sigma 8-16 (ultra-wide angle)
Batteries, memory cards, charger, for the above
Panasonic Lumix compact + batteries, etc
And my new purchase: Olympus Tough TG-1 + bits
Then add:
USB Multi-card reader
Portable 500Gb USB hard disk
Asus EeePad transformer (+ docking keyboard with 2 USB slots)
Chargers, etc
That last few items meant I could back up my photos during the holiday, which I did pretty much most evenings. Less stress this way!
Then add a collection of power adaptors, cables, cleaning bits, etc etc.

I'm glad it didn't get weighed, as I'm fairly sure I was over the hand luggage 6kg limit!

I really wanted to take a waterproof camera this trip; I knew we'd be doing waterparks and it might be handy in other places. Being rather addicted to gadgetery I'd spent quite some time reading reviews, and of course ended up spending way more than I had originally planned to get one with really decent image quality. The TG-1 has the main advantage of an F2.0 lens (at the wide end), which if you're still reading might mean you are a photographer and know that that is very impressive for any compact camera, let alone a waterproof one. To non-photographers - that is a wide aperture that lets a lot of light on to the sensor, which means you can use lower shutter speed and ISO, which in turn means less movement blur and lower digital noise. It also has GPS built on, which I thought I'd not be fussed about, but it's pretty cool to be able to find photos on a map, and I've manually added GPS coords to other photos I've uploaded. Big thumbs up for the TG-1, but then it should be good, given the price (£300).
The plan was to travel light for the first day in each park, then lug the SLR subsequently, which is pretty much what I did. Carried the 2 P+S cameras in my pockets, so no bag. So most of the photos so far have been on either the Panasonic or the Olympus. DS2 likes taking photos, so he often ended up with the Panasonic while I wielded the Olympus. Have to say I was very impressed with the TG-1, the image quality is fantastic.
I have a Think Tank shoulder bag for the SLR, which is big enough to carry a second lens, but not too massive. I also have a BlackRapid shoulder strap for the camera, which is superb, and makes carrying it around on it's own very comfortable. Of course that meant going through the bag check line, which was a bit of a shock after having bypassed it for a week, but never really held me up for more than a couple of minutes, so not too bad.
So for the second half of my TR, there will be more SLR photos, which might be noticable, and might not! I took a vast amount on the second time round the AK safari. All SLR photos are done in RAW format, which increases your processing options in terms of adjusting exposure and white balance after the shot.
All the cameras are also capable of fullHD video, which is pretty much a ubiquitous thing these days, and means I no longer bother with a video camera.
Between me and DS2, we returned with over 2000 photos.

I then process these using Lightroom 4 on my home PC. Workflow here is:
  • Import all photos from all 3 cameras to date-sorted folders.
  • For the SLR ones, filter by lens and apply lens corrections (which fixes the small amounts of distortion that all lenses produce)
  • Go through each set, day by day, picking out ones I like, and rejecting ones that are total duffers (out of focus, accidental shots, etc). Delete the rejected ones, and copy the "picks" to a Lightroom Collection created for that day. I've been taking between 15-40% of each days output.
  • Go through the collection and filter them further, trying to get a good representative set for the day.

    For each photo left in the collection:
  • Crop and rotate. This means fixing wonky horizons, tightening the crop to get a good composition, sometimes turning a landscape photo into a portrait, etc. Generally I'll stick with a standard 3:2 aspect ratio, but I've played a bit on some photos.
  • For high ISO photos, do noise reduction. Look to see if there is any sharpening needed (I have a very light touch here, don't like oversharpening).
  • Check for any obviously bad white balance, although the 7D does a fairly good job here, so not much to do. For the JPEGs out the P+Ss, there's not a lot you can do here.
  • I generally start processing with the Auto-tone option. Lightroom 4 is very very good in this regard, much better than 3, so there's usually not much else to tweak. Again, RAW photos are a lot more tweakable than jpegs. Have a manual play on the sliders if I think it needs it. Clarity slider is good for non-people pictures, although you have to be careful not to overdo it.
  • Once I've done a day, I then go through and caption each photo, and add keywords. This means all the exports capture this metadata, which makes things easier to search for.
  • I export a jpeg at resolution of 1920 on the long side (HD on a typical monitor or TV these days) to a single subfolder.
  • I then use a plugin to export to Picasa (single album).

Sounds a lot, but I'd say a typical day (100-150 originals) has been taking maybe 2 hours to produce maybe 20-30 shots I'm happy with. The second Wednesday is rather exceptional as I took my SLR on the AK safari, and we did MNSSHP, so I managed over 600 photos in one day! Might take a bit longer...

Saying all that, it's amazing looking through the 2000 photos thinking - "oh, I wish I'd got a photo of...". I think DS2 probably managed to be more versatile in the stuff he was shooting than I was; I really need to work on identifying good shots, and also documenting stuff - there are long periods of time when I didn't take photos when I could have done, even if it was only a few to remind myself what we did and where we went. Oh well, just means I'll have to go back!

For those who've got this far - question: can you see the ring around the moon in the Day 7 report? My home monitor is a proper calibrated IPS panel, and it is easily visible. (BTW: The ring fills most of the photo, it's not the small circle round the moon itself). My work one is not, and it's not. If you can't, and you do any photo editing yourself, I suggest you look at calibration. Amazing how much difference it makes to get the brightness/contrast/colour correct.

Anyway, sorry about that. I started typing a side point and it turned into an essay!
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:24 PM   #24
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Loving the trip report and the pictures are great. Glad you mentioned your waterproof camera as the pics are amazing. My hubby is the gadget man so I'll get him to read your last entry as sounds a bit like blah blah blah to me ha ha!
Starting to consider hoop de doo a bit more now as my kids love cheesy entertainment and it looks a good evening out. How many credits is it on the dining plan? Our favourite is Spirit of aloha as we got married at the Polynesian, but always good to try new things. Thanks Catherine
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:40 PM   #25
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Thanks. The TG-1 was very impressive as an all round camera, although [geek] the wide aperture was only at the widest zoom - at 4x tele, it goes down to f4.9, so it's generally better to keep it zoomed out, then crop later [/geek].

HDDR is 2 credits each, but it includes both alcoholic drinks AND the tip, so I think it's quite a good value deal, depending on how much Sangria you get through .

Edit - or beer, or wine .

Oh, and for the photo geeks, all the pics are links to the Picasa page where you can see a higher resolution, plus get the full EXIF info.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:18 PM   #26
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Day 8 - Sunday 28/10 - Blizzard Beach, Biergarten, Illuminations

We'd been keeping an eye on the weather forecasts, and although the first week had been hot and mostly dry, the forecast was for it to significantly cool down for the beginning of our second week, so we decided to do Blizzard Beach today, just in case it was too cool for the rest of the holiday. Considering hurricane Sandy was making it's way up the East coast of the US at this point, I think we got very lucky!
BB opens at 10am, so we even got a bit of a lie-in after the 1am finish the night before. Got there just as it opened, seemed reasonably quiet considering it was a weekend. Found some decently located sunbeds near the bottom of the ski lift and dumped our stuff. Jumped straight on the ski lift to get to the top of the mountain.


Wow, you get an absolutely fantastic view from up there. All the tall buildings in Disney really stand out above what pretty much looks like a rainforest.


So in order to beat the queues we immediately did Summit Plummet. OMG. Going over that edge is probably the most intense thrill at Disney, IMHO. It's a BIG drop. Just remember to keep your ankles crossed if you want to avoid a serious water-wedgie! DW and both boys did it - very proud of DW - she's not a fan of heights.
http://youtu.be/fEexY7irfyk

Walked back up the mountain - lots of steps, but quicker than the ski lift, and we did Teamboat Springs, which is a big family raft ride. Very long, lots of fun, pile up to 6 people in a raft. We did find that the heaviest side of the raft always ended up going backward, so guess who that was .
Went up the back of the mountain and did Runoff rapids - these are 3 flumes where you go down either singles or pairs. The enclosed flume is singles only, and despite the rather confusing signage, both the open ones either side are doubles only. These were fun, quite fast.
Had a relax on the lazy river - pretty much the same as the TL one, although you get sprayed with cold water a little more frequently!

Had lunch at the Lottawatta Lodge QS place, which was decently efficient and had plenty of seating, which was good. The usual combination of burgers, hot dogs and pizza. Cookies and cheesecake for dessert.

Had a break for digestion. Did the water-toboggan slides, which were fun. There is a set of 3 flumes, which on a toboggan seem really fast, then there is a race with 8 parallel bumpy lanes. Weight is definitely an advantage here - get a decent push off and then heaviest person wins . This is a pic of them from the top of the mountain:


Did Teamboat Springs again. This time the other 3 tried to counterbalance me, and we just about managed to get the raft to spin round a bit, which made it more fun. Think the wife was nearly dry at this point, hence the intensely girly screaming when she got splashed
http://youtu.be/Xf-G7ulYOak

Pretty much a lazy afternoon - let the kids go off and do their own thing. They spent quite some time in the wave pool, which is more the traditional kind compared to the monster waves at TL.


Before we left, DS2 and I did the Slush Gusher, which is a straight drop slide with humps in it. Very slow queue. This one hurts! The landing after the second hump got both our backs a bit. Pretty fast.

If I had to pick one park to go to out of TL and BB it would be a tough choice. The wave pool at TL is amazing, no doubt. The lazy rivers are pretty similar. For some reason I found the BB flumes more memorable, and the ski lift is something different. I'd probably go for BB personally, but it's close. We did end up doing BB again later in the week, but that's partly because TL was closed, and we met up with DS1's friend again, who hadn't done BB.

Headed back to OKW and went out to EPCOT - our ADR for the evening was 7pm at Biergarten, in the German pavilion.
I took a few photos with my ultra-wide angle on the way in. The golf ball looked particularly good approaching sunset.


[geek]This lens manages a rectilinear (non-fisheye) 8-16mm, or 12.8-25.6mm non-crop equivalent. I was pretty much standing underneath the edge of the ball at this point. I regret not using this lens more, although it needs a very good eye for where it would work well, which I'm still working on. [/geek]


Headed straight to Germany, and were seated fairly quickly.


It's a german buffet, so a mix of meats, sausage, good salad bar. Quite pork oriented. Decent food although the kids weren't particularly enamoured of the choices. All the tables here are 8 seater, so you'll be with somebody else if you were less than this. We met a family from Massachusetts who were having to stay at Disney for an extra couple of days because of flights cancelled by Sandy, and we had a nice chat with them.
There was a bit of dinner entertainment in the form of an oom-pah band, along with some audience interaction. Was quite fun. Not that you'd know it from looking at this guy's face :


We'd booked preferential viewing for Illuminations as part of the package, although we had no idea where we were supposed to go. I'd asked our hotel concierge to print off the ticket for this, but he didn't know either. So we headed out to the nearest roped off area, and they weren't sure but pointed us towards the UK pavilion (our tickets had UK on them, but that was in relation to coming from WDTC UK I'm pretty sure). Anyway, we get there and they "think" we should be in Morocco, to which we both said "but we've just come from there!". They took pity on us and let us into the bit next to the Pub. Got an excellent view from there. Lots and lots of photos. I rested the camera on a wall for some long exposures, these were a selection.










Finale:


Superb show, think I prefer this to Wishes personally. Although Hallowishes was something else again (see Day 11, to come).

EPCOT closed that evening immediately after the fireworks, so joined the 20000 or so other people and headed out the park and home.

Next: Disney Quest, California Grill, very late night
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:23 AM   #27
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Brilliant photos from Epcot - although you lost me on the geeky bit
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Old 11-17-2012, 05:58 PM   #28
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Thanks. I'll try to keep the geek quotient low .

I've been very productive today, so Day 10 photos done, and Day 9 written up. I am NOT looking forward to Day 11. 693 photos to sort!

Day 9 - Monday 29/10 - Disney Quest, California Grill, MK EMH

Kids were keen to have a look round Disney Quest, and being a video game fan, I was too. DW isn't quite the fanatic the blokes are, but she likes the odd game. DQ doesn't open until 11.30, so we had a nice lie-in and a relaxing start to the day, before driving to DTD. Had time to have a quick shop around, including a look around the Lego shop (I'm a big Lego fan).

We then headed to DQ for opening. We'd read a bit about it, but there are few reviews, so didn't have a detailed idea of what to expect. I've realised since getting home that although I took my P+S camera in, I didn't take a single photo. Too busy! Kicking myself a bit for that now.
You go through normal park turnstiles, then there are a pair of lifts that take you up to floor 3 (of 5). It's a bit of a maze inside - there are some regular lifts between all floors, but finding the stairs could be tricky - each floor is laid out slightly differently.
There are large areas of arcade machines, roughly in themes, but there are also some "rides". Kids had read about Cyberspace Mountain, so we headed here first (floor 2). This is a design-your-own simulator, very similar in concept to Sum of All Thrills in EPCOT. You have a much bigger choice though - there is a choice of about 20 section types (rather than 4), and you get to place about 12 in a row (rather than 4). The simulator itself is similarly on a robot arm, but on SOAT each passenger gets a hood with a screen, whereas this is one big box for both of you with a big screen. Works well if not quite so immersive. DW and I had a go as did kids, who also went back later for more. Goes fully upside down, if you so choose (of course we all did!).
Next thing we did was the Virtual Jungle Cruise (floor 1). We all 4 got in a raft, with a paddle each. This rides on an air cushion, and you are supposed to paddle to move and steer. It didn't seem to work very well! Maybe we were a bit rubbish, but it just seemed to follow a course no matter what.
We then did a Pirates of the Caribbean game. This was fantastic! You all get put in a room with a moving ship's deck on it. One person is the captain, who steers and controls speed. The others man the guns - there are 7 altogether, and you are expected to move about the deck to use the ones that are pointing in the right direction. Game is projected on 3 walls in 3D, so it's very enveloping. You shoot at other ships and sea monsters, collecting treasure when you sink each one. It's timed, and you get a score at the end. There is a bonus round where the captain gets to shoot as well. Definitely all loved this one, and stayed on for a second go (no queue at this point). Gets busy later in the day though - throughput is slow.
We then headed back upstairs to floor 3 and did Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blaster. This was a lot of fun. Its quite a large floor area, and you sit in 2-person enclosed dodgem-type cars. Left person steers and has a forward/backward lever (unlike a dodgem car the wheels don't go all the way round). The right person is the gunner. The pilot has to steer over balls on the floor, which are them scooped into a bin between the seats (bowling ball sized, but light plastic). The gunner has to put a ball into the top of his gun, rotate the loading bin with a side wheel which drops the ball into the cannon, then press a button to fire. If the ball hits the side of another car, they go out of control for 10s. It's a bit crazy frantic, and surprisingly energetic, but we enjoyed ourselves. Did this a couple of times as well.
There are a couple of virtual reality helmet games, where you put a helmet with screens on your head and do a team 3D thing. I didn't personally get on with these; the helmet was uncomfortable, and you didn't have a great deal of control of things - you had a handle or sword in each one that you could use, but the game itself was short and linear.
There were also a couple of other interactive games that I didn't try myself, although the kids had a go. Human pinball thing, and another simulator thing I think.
The rest of the place is filled with arcade games. There is an area of racing games (including a 10-man linked driving game), an area of physical games (guitar hero, dance dance revolution, etc), areas of shooting games, classic arcade games (original space invaders, pac man, etc). Whilst we were there they also had "real" versions of "Fix-it-Felix-Jnr", which is the 30-year old machine in the new Wreck-it-Ralph Disney film. Supposedly the only place in the world you could play it. Rubbish game, but kudos points for playing it . Also area of pinballs, of flying sim games, and a few others.
Basically heaven for me and the kids .
There is a typical QS place on the top floor with plenty of seating. Usual burgers, pizzas & hot dogs. DDP taken. They had the most ridiculous dessert I'd seen yet - a chocolate brownie that must have weighed about a pound and probably contained 2000 Calories. Had to get 1 each on the DDP of course, but no more than 1/4 eaten. I had a cupcake cheesecake that was probably only 1000 cals. Lunch was the only photo I took!
Light lunch, Disney style...


After lunch, the kids went off by themselves, and we told them to report back to the Wreck-it-Ralph statue at 2.30. Which they did, so we gave them another hour. And then another. Ended up leaving at 4.30, so got 5 hours in there, and there were still quite a lot of machines I didn't get round to playing. Queues were all fine - there was pretty much never a wait. Promising the kids we would get back at some point, we headed back to OKW.

ADR this evening was for California Grill at 7.30, with a plan to watch Wishes from the roof at 9pm. Was our only Signature restaurant of the trip, so we got reasonably dressed up - I donned long trousers for the only time in the entire holiday! Timekeeping on our part was poor - we parked in the TTC as we thought we'd do MK after dinner, and then waited ages for a resort monorail, which then of course has to go 4 stops round to the Contemporary. Ended up checking in around 7.45 I think.
Still, no harm done, got shown up and seated fairly quickly. Server we had was really nice. You don't normally get appetisers with DDP, but the server said we could have the cheese sampler plate on it for some reason. Which would normally be $22 for 5 small bits of cheese! Was very nice indeed, but not sure I'd normally have a $22 plate of cheese as a starter! For main course, we both had the posh $48 steak (make full use of the 2 credits, obviously), and it was really very nice indeed. Kids both had 1/2 roast chicken, which we ended up helping them out with, was also very nice.
Just finished main courses when we got warning of Wishes start. Went out on the balcony walkway there, and did get a nice view, although it was packed. Didn't realise how far back some the fireworks are set off from, but you're kind of looking at it from the side. Great place to see them. Unfortunately there was no easy place to rest the camera, so although I tried to handhold a few, they were useless.
DW and DSs had the Vahlrona Choc pudding. I can't even remember what I had; but a safe guess would be cheesecake . All lovely. Great food. Worth 2 DDP credits? Probably. I certainly would have dined there more given the chance. Would have loved to try some sushi there, I'm a big sushi fan.

MK was open from 10pm-1am on EMH, so we decided to travel all the way back round (4 stops again. Yes, we should have walked some dinner off).


This turned out to be a great evening. It started off reasonably busy, but emptied out a lot and we were pretty much walking on most rides. We did at least 1 villain each on SOTMK as well. We did end up having to do some indoor stuff just so DW could warm up - was really getting quite chilly by this point. Kids in fleece jackets!


We all stuck it out right to closing time. Final thing was riding at the back of BTMR twice without getting off at 1am .
Once we'd done the journey back, with a closed monorail so shivering on the ferry boat deck, think we finally ended up going to bed at 2am. Good day though!

Sorry for a very light photo day. I will way overcompensate in a couple of days, believe me!

Next: Hollywood Studios, all day. Mama Melrose, Fantasmic.
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Old 11-17-2012, 07:46 PM   #29
petals
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luvin all your pics especially the ride photos.
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Old 11-18-2012, 12:51 AM   #30
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I've just caught up with your wonderful TR
I particularly enjoyed the post on your camera kit, I'm trying to learn more and dabble a little in photography so found this really interesting
I must admit that when I'm at Disney, I tend not to use my DSLR and just pop a point and shoot in my bag but your photos make me think I should make the effort!
Looking forward to reading more
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