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Old 02-15-2013, 10:20 AM   #1
Planning my next trip...
BuenaVistaBound's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 65

This is Late: Hurricane Sandy Trip!

This is a little late, just going through my computer and realized that I never posted it. But if you don't put a trip report up on the DIS, did it really happen…???

We arrived at the Wilderness Lodge villas on Tuesday 10/23 at 9:30 p.m. Since we had a YES class the following morning at 8:30 a.m. at Epcot, I decided to take the boat over to Magic Kingdom to pick up our 7-day hoppers. The Guest Relations windows outside of the park were closed, but a very helpful security guard named Lee found a cast member to escort me to the guest relations inside the park. Just as we arrived, I got to see the headless horseman finish his ride!

It took them quite a while to figure out what to do with my ticket vouchers, so I'm very glad that I took care of it the night before. It was more than a half hour before I had my tickets in hand. I had another nice ride back to the WL (past the Electrical Water Pagent) and headed off to bed.

My first note about accommodations: our studio at the Wilderness villas was not in great shape. I get that being rustic is part of the theme, but the main panel over the air conditioner rattled so loudly that I had to get up and stuff paper plates behind it so that we could get some sleep. My son commented that I created a hidden Mickey. Also, the temp control on the shower was so loose that it kept drooping into the 'cold' zone while we showered.

My "Hidden Mickey" repair.

Wednesday morning, we caught a cab over to Epcot so that we could start our YES Ocean Discoveries class by 8:30 a.m. The class was fun, the kids all had a good time. They played games and learned a lot about sea turtles. It was fun walking over to the Nemo pavilion through an empty park, and the teacher was very knowledgeable.

The class ended about 11:30 a.m., so we walked next door and picked up some Soarin fast passes for 3 - 4 p.m. This was our first trip since they began the fast pass enforcement, and we really didn't have a problem working around the times. I was certainly concerned about it, as other trips we've done it was nice to collect and use them whenever we got back. But it really wasn't a big deal to stick to their schedule.

We had reservations at Teppan Edo, and managed to catch the Miyuki candy making show before our lunch. Food was good, kids loved the hibachi show. One bonus at the Japan pavilion was that they had a great selection of Pokemon plushies. My son is a big fan, and through him my daughter has her favorites, so they each got a toy.

The Miyuki candy demo.

We then went and picked up phones for the Phineas & Ferb missions at Italy. We got the Germany missions, so we went and did those. I never did the Kim Possible at Germany, so I was pleasantly surprised when so much of the game involved controlling elements within the area. Both kids finished their missions -- they had different things to do. There was some overlap, but if you've done it once don't hesitate to do it again, there's more than one mission worth of things to discover.

We then headed back to the land and used our Soarin fast passes. From there, it was off to Spaceship Earth, Ellen's Energy Adventure, and Mission Space. We did the green mission, as the kids weren't quite ready for the more intense side. We got a peek at the new Test Track, it looks like there's still a ways to go to get it ready.

From there, it was over to the Mexico pavilion where we rode the Three Caballeros and had dinner reservations at the San Angel Inn. This has always been one of my favorite places, I like the atmosphere and love Mexican food. I know, it's Disney-fied Mexican food, but the mole poblano is tasty and the adults at the table enjoyed an assortment of margaritas. I had the pineapple -- delicious!

The crowd was pretty low for Illuminations, we watched from the plaza where World Showcase meets Future World. They had EMH until midnight, but having been there since 8:00 a.m. we decided to call it a night. Caught the bus back to WL. A note about the on-site transportation: we usually avoid relying on the buses to get around, but generally had a good experience every time we used them. The one exception is noted below.

Thursday was Magic Kingdom day, and we had tickets to that evening's MNSSHP (10/25). We started the day with breakfast at Chef Mickey's. We were traveling with friends who had never brought their son (5) to Disney, so we figured that jumping right in with a buffet of characters was a good idea. Lots of photo ops and waffles later, we hopped the monorail to MK.

Our first stop was the barber shop, where my wife and daughter got pixie-dusted. While they got their hair done, my son and I went to the firehouse and got our four packs of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards. He's a big Pokemon fan, so he was happy to check out the cards. We were excited to play the game, but a little disappointed in the actual game play. There is a lot of exposition at each of the portals, and it does't seem to matter much what cards you use. Maybe it gets tougher at the higher levels, but he lost interest after a few stops and the the portals the game was sending us to kept going counter to the direction we were heading.

Pixie dust at the Main Street barber shop.

We got to our reservations at The Pirate League at 12:30, and the kids got made up. We had intended to participate in the parade they have for Pirate League kids later in the day, but never made it back. We boarded the Pirates ride after the makeover, and got to see the new mermaid effect & skeleton. It's very subtle, just a projection of the mermaids swimming on the top of the water. I didn't like the new Blackbeard intro, the Davey Jones one was scarier.

From there we went to the Jungle Cruise. While I went and picked up fast passes, my wife waited with our friends and the three kids all made up as pirates. A cast member spotted them and offered to let us in through the handicapped entrance. Sweet! The Cruise operator made a big deal out of the kids during the whole trip, and we were able to give immediate fast passes to two families that were entering the standby line.

We stopped for a quick bite at Pecos Bill, and then headed for the mountains, only to find that Splash and Big Thunder were both closed! We went back to MK a few times during this trip, and Splash Mountain was down almost the whole time. BTM when on and off line, resulting in huge wait times. So, we skipped along and did Haunted Mansion and Small World. When we emerged from Small World, there was a torrential rain storm going on. We dashed across to Mickey's Philharmagic and by the time we got into the theater and through the show, the rain had mostly stopped. The funny thing was, there was almost nobody in there. Even during a downpour. We hadn't been in a few years, and were pleasantly surprised, it was a good show! Should definitely be more popular.

We continued along the back rim of the park, doing the teacups, barnstormer, Dumbo and raceway. Loved the new Dumbo, this was another spot where we took shelter during some brief rain in the new indoor play area and had the place to ourselves. CMs there told us we could wait around inside and hop on a flying elephant whenever we wanted to. After waiting out the shower, we headed over to Buzz Lightyear & The Laugh Floor. I knew right away when we sat in the half empty row that we were prime targets, and sure enough, I was Sully! I did my best scary face and tizzy, and then we went off for dinner at Cosmic Rays.

From there we walked over for another shot at the mountains of Frontierland. This time we were in luck - Splash Mountain was open and had no wait. So we rode Splash, but BTM was still closed. What was open, however, was the new Fantasyland! So we walked through and took a ride on the new Voyage of the Little Mermaid. It's my daughter's favorite character, so we enjoyed it very much. One downside, in fact, was that the total lack of a wait meant we walked briskly through the queue without getting to appreciate much of it.

From there, we went to Gaston's Tavern and sampled the pork shank and the Le Frou's Brew. Pork shank was excellent, the Brew, not so much. It was basically an apple juice slurpee with some marshmallow foam on top. If that's their answer to the delicious Butterbeer at WWoHP, they need to go back to the drawing board.

The wait at Story Time with Belle was 40 minutes, so we decided to skip. Instead, we headed for the center of Fantasyland to watch Hallowishes. This is a cool spot to watch the fireworks. While you can't see the castle effects and fireworks at the same time, you are completely surrounded by pyrotechnics which was pretty cool.

Then it was off to the hub and got a good spot to watch the Villans Mix & Mingle and the 10:30 p.m. parade. Our night cap was Space Mountain, the first time my daughter was tall enough to ride. At 20 minutes after 11 p.m., the wait was five minutes. So we rode twice, and then headed back to the boat for Wilderness Lodge.

A quick note about the crowds: there were a lot of people there, more than we're used to seeing for our annual Halloween Party trip. However, the main reason we go is the short wait times for the all of the rides, and they were all pretty reasonable. What was really ridiculous this time was the trick-or-treat candy lines! I'm used to ushering my kids past these since I can't see standing on line for some candy when you're on the clock. But this year was a new low. Because we were traveling with another family, they really wanted to do it. So we wound up standing on line for over a half an hour at three spots for this paltry handful of goodies. Mind you, this is for four of us! I had to take a picture because it was so silly.

Forty minutes standing in line for this!

Friday was mostly a relaxing day, so we slept late and had breakfast at Whispering Canyon. We then spent some time at the Wilderness Lodge pool. Since this was our last day at WL, and we missed Thunder Mountain, we decided for a mid-afternoon trip to MK for a roller coaster fix. The effects of hurricane Sandy were being felt, and it was too windy for the boats to run so we had to take a bus. Luckily for us, when we got to the MK we caught the train back to Frontierland and BTM was open. The wait was 60 minutes, with a 40-minute fast pass window, so we grabbed some passes and rode Pirates. Got back just in time for our window and took our only ride on Thunder Mountain of the whole trip. Splash Mountain was closed, in fact there wasn't even any water flowing down the flume.

While the wife and kids watched Dream Along with Mickey, I went and grabbed some fast passes to Space Mountain. After the show, we managed to wrangle mom onto Space Mountain with us. She's not big on roller coasters, but she gave in. I would be sorry later.

We had dinner reservations at The Garden Grill at Epcot, so we boarded the monorail and headed in that direction. We got there a little early, and so I took the kids back to Mission Space. By the time we got out, my wife was feeling very sick. Between Space Mountain and the monorail, she was in no condition to eat. So we had to bail on our reservations and took a cab back to our hotel. I was able to call wdw-dine and get the $40 penalty waived since we had an illness.

Saturday was a move day for us. We went from the DVC studio at Wilderness Lodge to a one-bedroom at the Beach Club. We like to switch to the one-bedroom at the end of our trips so that we can use the in-room washer and dryer. While we waited for our room to be ready, we hit Hollywood Studios. On the boat ride over, I had to perform a tooth extraction on my daughter. Her second loose tooth.

We got there just in time for the 11:30 a.m. indiana Jones show, a favorite for my family. We actually were one of the last people in there, and had to sit on the wall at the back of the theater, which was fine. I positioned everyone on the wall at the top of the stairs, so they would have a decent view. Of course, a family of three boys aged 7 - 12 or so took up residence right at the top of the steps, standing right in front of us. A parade of cast members came by to shoo them away, but no sooner did they turn their backs then these kids were right back standing in front of us. The poor CMs must have told them to clear the area five times, and they just kept walking right back. Parents did nothing. It made me wonder what you have to do to actually get kicked out. What made it even worse was that these kids didn't even care about the show, they were busy horsing around and eating their food, they weren't even watching. Just bugging us…

We took a spin on Star Tours and hit our reservation at the Sci-Fi Drive In. This is one of my favorite places. The food and the service is terrible, but I love the theme so much I just keep going back. This time, we had a 12:20 p.m. reservation for lunch. We got there at 12:15, and didn't get seated until 1:00. That's right, 45 minutes to get seated when we had a reservation. Once in our car, we watched the whole film loop before our food got there. So for those of you keeping score at home, that's lunch hitting our table at 1:45 p.m. for a 12:20 p.m. reservation. It was 2:30 p.m. by the time we got out of there. I'll still go back, just can't help myself.

We then took a ride on the Great Movie Ride, another family favorite. The queue actually extended around the covered perimeter of the courtyard, something I haven't seen in many years. By the time we got through it, we figured we should get over and check in at the Beach Club. We got our room and started a load of laundry (love those one-bedrooms!). We had a 6:55 reservation for dinner at the Brown Derby, so we made our way back and got seated for a very good meal. Great food, nice atmosphere, this was a highlight. Not to mention the margarita flight! We were having so good a time that we missed Fantasmic.

Sunday was supposed to be another relaxing day, and it mostly was. We had breakfast with Goofy & friends at the Cape May Cafe, a mostly good experience except for the rowdy kids next to us who kept crashing into me. Then we spent a few hours at Stormalong Bay, enjoying the waterslide and lazy-river type of pool with the sand at the bottom (cool). When we went back to our room in the afternoon, it was becoming apparent that Hurricane Sandy was going to hit the NY area hard, and our flight for Monday afternoon was cancelled. I sat on hold for about 45 minutes, watching football while my son worked on the packet of homework he was sent off with. The soonest that we could fly back was Thursday, three extra nights at Disney!

We made arrangements with the concierge to extend our stay. We had to move out of our nice one-bedroom and into a standard hotel room, but Disney extended a 35% hurricane discount since we couldn't fly home. After taking care of that bit of business, we went over to Epcot for our 6:30 reservation at Akershus. Before being seated, we took a ride on the Maelstrom, and then had dinner with the princesses. Having already done Illuminations once, we just went back to the hotel to pack after dinner. There were extra magic hours at Hollywood Studios that night, so my son and I went off and rode Star Tours four times between 10 and 11 p.m. as a nightcap. We would have done it more (we wanted to see all of the scenes), but Toy Story Mania had closed and the crowds hit Star Tours pretty hard.

Monday morning came, and when we went to the front desk to get our new room, they had no record of the reservation made the day before by the concierge. Luckily, after some haggling, they gave us the water-view room at the rate we were quoted the day before. The room wasn't ready, so we checked our luggage with bell services and headed off for Animal Kingdom.

We usually skip Animal Kingdom, it's always so hot there and my kids weren't big enough for the big rides. But we had a very pleasant 72 degree day, and my youngest is finally tall enough to ride everything, so off we went. We headed straight for Dinoland, where we took our debut ride on Dinosaur. Fun ride, not much wait time. My son and I did the Primeval Whirl while daughter & wife rode the Triceratop Spin. From there we walked past Expedition Everest and grabbed a set of Fastpasses. We stopped for lunch at Yak & Yeti local foods, and had a good spot to watch the Asian dancers. They actually did a pretty funny version of 'Gangham Style' that got lots of audience participation. The only bad thing is that the crowd makes it nearly impossible to walk through this tight area. We managed to squeak by and do the Maharajah Jungle Trek. We went from there straight on to the Kilimanjaro Safaris. This was the only spot on our trip where both Mobile Magic and the posted wait times were way off: the sign said 10 minutes standby, but it took nearly 25 minutes to get on to the bus. The cool temps made for great touring, but it made most of the animals on the savanna shy -- we didn't see much.

From there, we headed back to Everest to make use of our 2:30 p.m. fast passes. None of us had ever been on the ride, and we all had a blast. The fast pass line is one of the best at Disney, we really walked right on once we got through the queue, no wait at all. My wife didn't want to ride, so she stayed at the observation area to try to get a picture of us. She was completely surprised that we returned so quickly. My daughter was raving how that was the best ride ever, and a guy whose child chickened out offered us his fast passes! He only had two, but my son was gracious enough to let his sister go again with me since she loved it so much. Second ride was as fun as the first.

From there we went into It's Tough to be a Bug. It's been a few years since I've done the show, it's a marquee spot and there was always a long line. But in the late afternoon, it was a walk-on. Our kids liked the show very much, but there were a few families where the little ones were absolutely terrified. Lots of screaming.

After that, I took my son for one more ride on Dinosaur, which he enjoyed much more than his sister. My one regret is that we didn't have time to see the Nemo show. We caught the back end of the parade on our way out, and went back to the hotel. We didn't have any dinner plans since we didn't expect to be there, but somehow we got lucky and there was an opening at the Garden Grill, which we had to bail on just a few days earlier! It was late, after 8:00 p.m., but that's okay. We took a leisurely walk over from the Beach Club and had a nice meal with Chip & Dale and farmer Mickey. As a bonus, we left the restaurant at 9:20 p.m. and Soarin' was still open. With no wait! So on we went. Twice. Definitely one of my favorite rides.

Tuesday was the last day that our tickets were valid for, and we wanted to make the most of it. We planned to hit our favorite rides at three parks in one day. We began with Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, where my son and I were the first ones through the turnstiles at the International Gateway at 7:50 a.m. We headed straight for Soarin, where we picked up Fastpasses and then hopped on Standby. There were 10 minutes worth of front gate people already waiting, but not too bad. We then grabbed some breakfast and waited for our 8:50 a.m. passes to be valid. This is where I made a big-time rookie mistake. The standby line at 8:50 a.m. was zero, as the EMH people had already been through and the regular hours visitors hadn't come in yet. But I stupidly entered the fast pass lane and stared blankly at the guy who took my passes, despite the fact that there was literally nobody on the standby line. I guess I could have backed out and went through standby, but we had other things to see.

Next stop was Sum of All Fears, which we walked right into at 9:05 a.m. We designed a cool coaster (my son named it the 'Lightning Cobra') and took it for a spin. I found the graphics a little lacking, but I liked how they incorporated a physics lesson into the design portion. From there, it was one more ride on Mission Space and back to the hotel to pick up wife & daughter and head off to Magic Kingdom.

We were hoping to do Splash & BTMRR again, but SM was still closed, still no water even coming down the flume. Not surprisingly, the wait at Thunder Mountain was 75 minutes. It was lunch time, so we stopped at Haunted Mansion on our way to pick up Fastpasses for Peter Pan and had some lunch at Pinocchio's. First time I've eaten there, flatbread pizza was okay. We finished up in time for a ride to Neverland, and then headed towards Tomorrowland. The friends who were traveling with us had no interest in Tomorrowland Speedway, so they waited for us while we took advantage of a ten-minute wait time. When we got out, they were raving about the funny talking garbage can! I missed Push!! Still can't believe I've been to Magic Kingdom 30+ times and have never seen it, and our friends run into him on their second visit…

We grabbed a fistful of fast passes for Space Mountain and killed some time at the Laugh Floor. Sure enough, my wife and daughter were both in on the act. Twice in one trip! We had enough passes for the coaster crazies (three of us) to ride twice in a row, so we did that. By then, it was almost 5:00 p.m. and it was our last chance to see Fantasmic, so we decided to head off for Hollywood Studios. We had to split up, so I could go back to the hotel and get jackets while everyone else went to TTC for the bus to HS.

This was my only bad experience with Disney transportation. It took nearly an hour for a bus to arrive and take me back to the Beach Club. I actually got off the bus at the Yacht Club and ran to my room, grabbed our coats and dashed for the dock. Of course, I watched as the ferry pulled away from the dock just as I got to the end of the pier. Determined to beat the boat, I took off running towards the Swan. As I crossed the bridge, I had a decision to make: run towards the landing to try and catch the boat, or continue along the path and try to beat it to Hollywood Studios. I couldn't be sure I would make it, and it seemed like too great a detour, so I kept running along the path.

I was making good time. It was about 6:30 p.m. now, and I knew they would start letting people in to Fantasmic in a half hour. As I reached the bridge, the boat finally overtook me. I was beat. As I passed through the gates of Hollywood Studios a hot mess, I got a text from my wife that they were getting on the Movie Ride. So rather than head for the gates of Fantasmic, I detoured to the exit of TGAMR. And I waited. And Waited. 7:10 p.m. Still waiting. 7:15 p.m. They finally emerge from the ride and I exhort them to run to Fantasmic. We actually made it in, and sat in the very last section for the show. It was good, maybe a bit of a letdown after all of the effort I made to get there!

We had an 8:40 reservation at the 50's Prime Time Cafe, the last seating time of the night. I've never heard anything good about the place, but it was our only option. I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the whole theme & decor (it looked like my grandma's house when I was a kid!). Our waiter was great, very funny. The food was passable, not the worst at Disney, not the best. But I would go back, it was a great experience. As we were the last party seated and a large group, we closed the place down. Literally. As we left the restaurant, we got a security escort through the gates. That very morning, my son and I were the first people through the gate at Epcot, and now we were the last to leave Hollywood Studios. We made the most of our last day in the parks.

Wednesday was our last day at Disney, but our eight-day hopper had expired and we decided not to add another day. It was Halloween, which was bittersweet as we often make a big deal out of the holiday with our kids (the Halloween party has been our primary reason for visiting for the last five years) but here we were with no plans for trick-or-treating. I had heard that there was trick-or-treating at Downtown Disney, but that it had been discontinued.

To start the day, we walked over to Kouzzina by Cat Cora and had a very nice breakfast. From there, we headed over to Blizzard Beach to play a round of mini golf at Winter Summerland. This was a great course, the kids had a lot of fun. There's Christmas music playing, and some of the holes are very challenging. There was almost nobody there, it was a bit too chilly for the water park. The upside to that is we didn't have to wait long for our tee time.

We took the bus back to our hotel, and put on some warmer clothes before heading over to Downtown Disney. Even though there was no more trick-or-treating, we figured we would head over for dinner and some atmosphere. It was bustling, and the kids got their faces painted at one of the stands. We stopped over at T-Rex for dinner, without reservations. But since it was early -- just 5:00 p.m. -- we got seated right away. The meteor shower and animatronic dinosaurs made for a good bit of fun, the kids had a good time. I got suckered into buying another one of those souvenir cups. It's cheaper than buying two regular drinks, but I never know what to do with them. I wound up just leaving mine as I knew that we would have a hard time stuffing our suitcases with all of those stuff we got from staying for an extra three days.

And that's about it. We stopped for dessert at Ghiardelli on our way out, took the bus back to the hotel and packed up for our flight home Thursday morning. An unexpectedly long stay at Disney World, which hit out pocketbook a little harder than we had planned for but made for some great memories. We got to do a lot of things for the first time, and enjoyed our old favorites. We're still considering whether a ten-day trip means that we might just skip 2013 and bank some DVC points for a really nice room when the rest of Fantasy Land is opened in 2014. But we're already planning a trip to Disney Land this summer!
Disneyland 1978, 1998 Disneyland Hotel
Disneyworld 1976, 1986, 1994 Honeymoon, 1998 Boardwalk, 2005 Contemporary, 2007 Wilderness Lodge, 2009 Contemporary, 2009 Old Key West, 2010 Animal Kingdom Kidani Village, 2011 Vero Beach Resort, 2011 Bay Lake Tower & Boardwalk, 2012 Wilderness Lodge & Beach Club, 2013 Saratoga Springs, 2014 AoA Nemo Suite ... too many day trips to count!
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