englanddg's Magical Mystery Tour (and Trip Report)!

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by englanddg, Aug 29, 2012.

  1. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    This is being posted 2 weeks late...I was there from August 8 - August 22.

    I wrote it daily and posted it on another forum as I visited "The World" for my 2012 trip. I'm doing this partially to share my trip with others, and partially to archive my posts. I'm also going to merge my Pre-Trip Report, which was 2 posts, below.

    I will post daily, and I hope you all enjoy it!


    Ok, I'm setting this thread up for my trip report. I plan to brain dump daily. I hope you all don't find it too long winded, as I'm apt to over explain (we all know this). Anyhow, I'm gonna steal a stat thing from someone else's Trip Report that I liked.

    Magic Moments - 0
    Pics Taken - 0
    Vid for Projects Taken - 0
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 0
    Unexpected Surprises - 0
    Peeves - 0

    Ok, well, I posted a Laundry vid in another Thread, that worked out, and I considered making it a whole series. But now that I'm pretty much done packing, I think it's easier and faster to post what I do pack for a 2 week stay. So, lets tear apart some luggage!


    Day T minus 1 (Part 1)

    Magic Moments - 0
    Pics Taken - 89
    Vid for Projects Taken - 6
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 1
    Unexpected Surprises - 1
    Peeves - 0

    Breakfast - Cereal
    Lunch - Spicy V8 and half a Tomato and Grilled Cheese Sandwich
    Dinner - McDonalds
    Snacks - None

    Ok, so this is going to be a 2 part post. The first, as promised, is a look through my luggage! The second I will do tomorrow on our flight to Orlando. I have a very early flight (6:55a), so I don't have time to really formulate today's post in it's entirety the way I'd like to. So, 2 posts!

    First, on to the luggage! Keep in mind I packed for a 15 day trip for one adult and one child. Here's the checklist I used. Pictures will come tomorrow when I'm on the plane.

    Oh, and let me add a note about Zip Locks. I use them. A lot. A whole lot. They protect items, they keep your bag well organized, and they maximize luggage space. I even bring extra ziplocks on the trip, for packing for the trip home.

    I take 3 major bags with me. My Day Pack (which I use at the parks as well), my Electronics Bag / Briefcase, and my Primary Luggage (which is a standard sized TSA approved carry on).

    Day Pack for the Parks("Purse" Carry on for TSA)

    [ ] First Aid Kit
    6 Gelcap Asprin, 2 Anti-Gas Chews, 2 Alka Seltzer packets, 2 Pepto Bismol pills, 1 Bacatracin Mist (anti-bacterial/pain), 15 standard size Band Aids (Barbie) packed in a small box (in this case a Johnson and Johnson first aid kit, but I've replaced all of the original contents).

    [ ] Friction powered flashlight
    It's always useful to have battery-less options when you need some light.

    [ ] Child's Poncho and Rain Jacket (in vacuum sealed zip lock)

    [ ] Brita filter water bottle
    First trip with this, but after a bout with dehydration in late May that sent me to the clinic, I'm paranoid about water intake. I'm not as young as I used to be, and I take dehydration and diet far more seriously now.

    [ ] Portable Power Pack by Energizer
    Great for recharging my phone and carmeras while walking around at the park.

    [ ] Small Notepad and pen
    Jotting notes quickly, or playing paper games like tic tac toe, hangman and squares with the kid while in a line

    [ ] Antibacterial Baby Wipes in a Travel Size
    Perfect for cleaning dirty hand and face after eating a Mickey Ice Cream, among other uses!

    [ ] Antibacterial Hand Solution

    [ ] Caribener attached to upper loop for holding hats, bags, etc.

    [ ] Sony DSC-WX50 Still/Video Camera
    My first year with this Camera. So far I'm very happy, well worth the money. I keep it in the external cel phone pocket on the bag, or in my pocket.

    [ ] Extra pair of contacts and Contact Friendly Eyedrops

    [ ] 2 Wisps and 1 pack of Sugarless Gum
    Wisps are portable 1 use only tooth brushes

    [ ] 2 Glad Snack Size Ziplocks
    1 for pin backers, 1 for change / pressed pennies. I empty the penny bag nightly into a larger bag, and restock the change.

    Electronics Bag ("Overhead" Carry on for TSA)

    [ ] Laptop, folding mouse, and headphones
    For work. Even when I'm at the parks, I work at least 1 - 2 hours a day, as my job doesn't allow me to be completely disconnected.

    [ ] iPad
    General entertainment, books, games, etc.

    [ ] High Adventure Durable Camera
    Another first time this year item. I'm excited to take video at the Water Parks and Pools, including underwater shots! In the past I've used that terrible Kodak "underwater" camera you can buy at the parks. It's better then nothing, but this year I'm looking forward to some fantastic shots!

    [ ] Chargers for all of the items listed above
    I also pack 1 extra charger for the cel phone, and 1 extra battery for HD photo/video camera. I'll leave the extra battery charging at the hotel, and swap daily.

    [ ] 8" x 11" Leather Portfolio and Office Supplies
    With pen, about 30 sheets of blank paper, printouts of all pertainent flight / hotel / ticket / reservation information organized in order of the trip, plus business cards and extra pens / pencils.

    Primary Luggage (Checked)

    [ ] Toiletries Bag
    Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Deodorant, 1 can Shaving Cream, Razor stub with 3 new blades, Nail Clippers, Fine Tip Tweezers, 30 Q-tips in a snack sized ziplock, 5 pairs of extra contacts with daily solution and contact holder (my contacts are 90 day wear, but I don't want to run out), spare prescription glasses and non-prescription sunglasses, and snack sized zip locks or travel sized bottles of daily and spare medications (28 gel coated aspirin, 15 vitamins, 4 alka seltzer packets, 12 Pepto Bismol tabs)

    [ ] 2 Packing Sized Ziplock Bags of Clothes (rolled per outfit)
    3 Standard Day outfits (shirt, underwear, socks, shorts), 1 "Classy" outfit (Golf shorts, polo, etc...I look like a Golf Pro in it...this is what I'll wear to Jiko or California Grille), 1 Swim outfit (suit + tshirt), 4 sleep outfits (shirts, shorts, underwear), 2 pairs spare underwear / socks (for fluff). My fifth outfit is what I wear on the plane, 2 baseball caps.

    [ ] 1 can Heavy Starch
    I iron our daily clothes while the kid is in the nightly / morning bath/shower.

    [ ] 5 bottles of spare Hand Sanitizer
    For when I run out in my Day Pack

    [ ] 1TB USB Hard Disk for Picture / Video Archival
    Packed between my clothes for padding

    [ ] 15 packs of Gum
    Disney doesn't sell Gum on property. I'm an ex-smoker, and Gum in my crutch.

    [ ] 30 Wisps
    Mentioned before, these are one use toothbrushes. I will use them to replenish my Day Pack. I probably won't use them all, but when you need them they are a god send.

    [ ] Laundry Kit
    Video link describing this is in this thread - Packing advice

    [ ] Birkenstocks and Water Shoes (I wear my Keens on the plane)

    [ ] Bags of Snacks
    Trail mix, etc.

    Allright, this last item is a bit adult, but I do recommend it if you are so inclined.

    [ ] Bacardi Rum

    This year I packed 2 plastic 750 ml bottles of Bacardi. I'm a fan of getting a Pina Colada at the end of the day from the Hotel Bar, and I'm going to use these to spike them. Far cheaper then buying liqueur at the hotel!

    I'm going to have to cut this short here, as I need to get to sleep for our early flight. Part 2 and I'll post the promised luggage and other photos tomorrow, as well as the rest of T minus 1!

    I promise, the rest of my posts will probably not be this long, but this time it was a list, and honestly, this took less time then making a well edited video describing it all like I did with the Laundry vid!

    See you all tomorrow!
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  3. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day T minus 1 (Part 2)

    Magic Moments - 0
    Pics Taken - 89
    Vid for Projects Taken - 6
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 1 (escalator)
    Unexpected Surprises - 1 (Enterprise rocks!)
    Peeves - 0

    Breakfast - Cereal
    Lunch - Spicy V8 and half a Tomato and Grilled Cheese Sandwich
    Dinner - McDonalds
    Snacks - None

    I don't own a car, but when the munchkin comes to visit I rent one. I arranged to return the rental at 5:30p, and the agency (Enterprise) said they would give us a lift to the MARTA Subway station. From there we could make our way to the Atlanta Airport, where we would snag a hotel room for the night, since our flight was early.

    Alas, when I showed up, they said their driver was out, and they couldn't do it. However, they had proactively called over to another Enterprise office a few miles away, and that office had said yes!

    Happily, I drove over to the other office, but when we arrived, I was informed that they, too, couldn't give us a lift, even though the station is less then 3 miles away. I got a sinking feeling that this was going to turn into a farce of mis-communication and poor customer service, but to my pleasant surprise, the manager of the office had already called the airport location and arranged that I could drop the car off there, and furthermore, the $70 airport drop off fee would be waived.

    This was completely unexpected! I was thrilled to be able to take my time to travel to the Airport, as my only pressure had been the 6pm closing time of the Enterprise offices in my area. We stopped back by the house and double checked for left last minute items, and then got some McDonald's to eat on the trip to the Airport.

    Once there, returning the car was uneventful, and everyone was extremely helpful and polite. They were aware of my situation already, and were expecting me down to the check-in guy in the parking lot. This sort of service just reinforced why I enjoy using Enterprise for my rentals (as opposed to Hertz, which I've had several issues with over the years).

    We hopped on the tram to our hotel (Marriot Springwood Suites at ATL Airport), and our first accident of the trip happened. My kid wanted to tackle the escalator on her own with her baggage. I thought nothing of it, as she's done it many times, and never had an issue.

    However, this time she didn't have her bag completely on one step, and when the first step raised, the bag tipped back and sent her falling head first down the escalator. I freaked out, dropped my bag and grabbed her, and after a quick check for blood, indentations, etc (specifically back and head). There were none, outside of some scratches and scrapes, so I rode with her to the top. Once there and calmed down, she stood in silent embarrassment as I ran back down the escalator to collect her luggage and mine. They were stuck in a loop on the middle of the escalator, going up a few feet when the teeth caught, then sliding back down. Both sets of luggage are now permanently scratched, and part of the reason why my last post was a packing list was that I unpacked and repacked all our bags last night to check for damage because of this ordeal.

    After patching her up and kissing her boo boos (and soothing her bruised ego), we arrived at the Springhill Suites. Check-in was painless, in fact it was pleasant. The staff was extremely polite, and even jovial. I ran into several staff members, and to sum it up, it's probably one of the best staffed hotels in terms of friendliness and proactive interactivity that I've run into in a long time (even Disney). I enjoyed the staff so much that I have jotted on my notes to write a letter to the hotel to praise them. They oriented me to the hotel, asked me about my stay not in a shallow way, but to find out if I needed a wake up call, which they then scheduled proactively during checkin, etc. They even remembered my name when I came down later to purchase some sodas for the evening. 5 star experience at a 3 star price!

    The rooms are small, but well furnished, and since they use pocket style sliding doors, they feel much larger then they are. Pics are attached.

    The rack rate for the room is a bit steep (~$250 a night), but if you ever need to squat at the ATL Airport overnight, and can get a good advance rate, I highly recommend it.

    One interesting thing is that this hotel is "Green Certified". I wasn't sure what that meant until I got to the room. First, everything is turned off when you get in. I don't mean the maid turns them off either! The power in the room is actually turned off. The only light you have is in the entry of the room. On the wall, there is a pocket, where you put one of your room keys. Once you put it in, within about 20 - 30 seconds, all your electricity starts working. Once you pull it out, it takes about 5 minutes before your electricity cuts off.

    It's weird, but also neat (as a "green" idea). However, I just took it as another reason to request 2 room keys at check in! I don't want my stuff to shut off simply because I went to dinner!

    As far as perks, the hotel is very clean and well maintained. The decor is wonderful. They have a heated indoor pool and a small but functional exercise room. They also have a flight display board in the hotel lobby, which is nice to check flight statuses in the morning before you leave. Internet and WiFi are free.

    My only pet peeve is a trend that I've seen lately in hotels (not enough to make my peeves count above, but I really don't like it). Hotels seem to be migrating to a model where create "shops" in the lobby instead of putting vending machines on the floors.

    Whilst I love the shops, I *despise* not having vending machines on the same floor I'm staying on, especially if it's a large hotel.

    Other then that, the hotel was wonderful, and I went to bed happy, comfortable and anticipating the next day!
  4. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 1
    Ordeals, Orlando and Overpriced (er...I mean Universal)

    Magic Moments - 0
    Pics Taken - 72
    Vid for Projects Taken - 12
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 1 (emotional, a missed flight)
    Unexpected Surprises - 2 (AirTran, Quick Transportation Taxi Services)
    Peeves - 2 (Cards and more Cards, Delta)

    Breakfast - Great free breakfast at the hotel! Fresh waffles, great eggs, etc!
    Lunch - None
    Dinner - Room Service (meh)
    Snacks - 2 Ice Creams, 1 Popcorn, 1 Soda

    Ever had a day that was planned out went perfectly wrong because you didn't adhere to the plan? That was my day today.

    We had a flight at 6:55a. While I had a wake up call at 4a, and it did wake me up, my sleepy brain figured I could nap for another 30 minutes. Unfortunantly, in dreamland, 30 minutes = 2 hours.

    When I finally woke, it was 6a. With a kid in tow, there was no way I'd be able to make a 6:55a flight. So, I called Delta. They said "No worries", and for a small fee, they booked me on the 7:55 flight.

    Happy, my kid and I made our way to the airport, only to find out at the check-in kiosk that it was "too late" to check bags for the 7:55 flight. I wanted to check our luggage, so I called back Delta, and they informed me that there were no open seats until the 3:05 flight, and to get on that flight I couldn't call back until 12:05p. Who knew so many people flew to Orlando on a Weds?

    So, we went back to the hotel, and they let us hang out all morning. Even though checkout was at 11a, they didn't bug us at all, and at 12:03 on the dot I called the Delta number.

    By 12:10, I had an Agent on the phone, and was told that all the flights to Orlando for the day were booked full, but I still could do Standby (which is what I asked in the first place), and I needed to go BACK to the airport.

    Once I got to the airport, I waited for 40 minutes in Delta's "Kiosk Service Line", only to be told that indeed, they had no flights that day that I could standby on.

    I know this was all my fault, but I was upset strictly because Delta didn't just say "no, we can't do it". AirTran could have had me in at 10a (I called them as a backup)...anyhow, after all this I went to them.

    They got me on a last minute flight to Orlando. I've flown with them many times before, but default with Delta, as they are based out of Atlanta. AirTran didn't cut their prices (so it was an expense I'd rather not have paid), but it wasn't unreasonable either. They did, however, listen to my situation, and took special care of us from that point on. They even gave the kid a goodie bag and some wings for her Minnie Mouse doll.

    So, 6 hours off schedule, we arrived in Orlando.

    I want to take a moment to talk about my arranged transportation to the Leows Pacific through Quick-Transportation. They were FANTASTIC. My driver called me in the morning, and seemed genuinely interested in my plight. When we arrived later in the day, she was prompt, and extremely helpful, including tips on how to "do" Universal, and what we should expect from our visit and the hotel. 5 star experience! Not at all what I expected from a taxi service! I tipped her extra for this, and for working around my complications.

    So, having lost most of our first day, we checked in, and I was sent off down the hall from the front desk to pick up my tickets and my "resort benefits".

    The hotel is beautiful, but isn't what I would term "comfortable". It makes me feel like I'm in Vegas. I'm staying at the Leows Royal Pacific, which is obviously the Universal version of Disney's Polynesian, down to a Luau spot (that they aren't using at all during this week, and seems to be reserved for "large groups" and "conventions").

    So, on to Universal. First, I hate how they handle tickets and benefits. I miss the "key to the world". You would think that a smaller property would have more luck about integrating systems, but it seems this is not the case.

    Cards...so many cards.

    I have the dining plan, complimentary Citywalk access, "park hopper" and free "Express Pass" since I'm staying on site. Each one is it's own card.

    In fact, it gets worse. Each day I have a different card to present for the "dining plan". The 3 day ticket is a separate card. And the express pass is it's own card, which doesn't come with your resort check in or your ticket check in, and you have to obtain separately. Granted all of this is convenient to the check in desk, but it's a lot of work, whereas at Disney it's all in one.

    As a result, for 2 people, each day I have to carry 1 card for the ticket, 1 card for the dining plan, 1 card for the express pass PER PERSON. This is just silly.

    To make matters worse, all the cards are printed on water soluble cardboard (outside of the room keys). So, if you are doing a wet ride, be sure they are in a ziplock or something similar.

    The hotel is pretty (pictures attached), but feels very "Vegas"...and while I'm not upset with it, I don't think it's worth the rate. That being said, it has a lot of amenities, including 4 restaurants, a day care center, an arcade, an exercise room, and a large pool with a special kids area. Internet is either 9.95 a day, or 24 bucks for 3 days. This includes wired and wi-fi, but if you sign up on one and not the other, you will need to call the helpdesk to get both to work.

    It's a 10 - 15 minute walk to the parks from the hotel, and there is no complimentary transportation outside of the Water Taxi. The Water Taxi is ok, but it runs on a 20 - 30 minute schedule, and closes when it rains.

    For the walkway, there is a rickshaw service that is a lot of fun. You can set the rate, and I've taken to 5 bucks a ride and will use that for the rest of our trip. The drivers are polite, and it's a ton of fun to wiz along the pathway.

    Seeing as how we came in late, we decided to go to Islands of Adventure (the kid really wanted to do "River Adventure". Since it had rained around 5p (go figure, it's Orlando in August!), the parks had mostly cleared out, and we had a very fun experience. This is a new park for both of us. We did all of the Jurrasic Park area today, as well as most of Harry Potter, and we had a blast. The parks are nice, but they feel very small compared to Disney Parks, but it was still fun. We also had enough time to walk the entire park, and we made notes for tomorrow. We are gonna start with Seuss Landing.

    The River Adventure was ok, but I wouldn't care to do it again. However, the Pteridactyl ride was a ton of fun, and their themed playground is far better then anything found at Disney (closest analog is the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" playground at DHS...but, unlike that playground, I had a ton of fun at theirs. We crawled around it for nearly an hour exploring.

    The Harry Potter ride is AMAZING! It is intense and scary though, and my kid at 7 nearly 8, who loves Harry Potter, doesn't want to do it again. If you do it, they have lockers near the entrance. No bags are allowed, but the lockers are free for the duration of your ride. The locker system is really neat. It takes your fingerprint, assigns you a locker, and then uses your fingerprint and locker number to "unlock" the locker at the end of the ride. It's a very well programmed system, and as an IT guy, I loved it.

    So, those of you looking to do the ride, don't skip by the lockers. You will not be allowed to bring a backpack or purse, etc. on the ride. Plus, with how the ride runs, you won't want to.

    Also, the ride is not at all what I expected, and I'll say it really gives Disney a run for their money in terms of experience. If Sourin' and Peter Pan had a child, it would be Harry Potter.

    Since we already had a long day, we decided to head back to the hotel early rather then checking out Citywalk after the park closed. After she fell asleep, I walked the hotel, and it's quite lively. Still, nothing I'm interested in, but they have their own "night life"...and the whole park and hotel is far more "adult" then Disney is. For dinner, we did room service.

    Only advice I have here is...don't. It's grossly overpriced, and the food is mediocre.

    A few other notes about Universal, from what I've experienced so far. Bring extra money...Universal charges here and there for EVERYTHING. Bring cash...as not all of their stuff is card friendly. It's also far more "tip friendly" then Disney, once you get offsite, so make sure you account for that as well. For example, the Rickshaws are "tip only"...I set a rate of 5 bucks a ride, but it's up to you.

    So...on to tomorrow!
  5. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 2
    Finished IoA, First Magic Moments, Blue Men!

    Magic Moments - 5 (4 Cast Members, 1 Special Experience)
    Pics Taken - 41 (slow day!)
    Vid for Projects Taken - 9
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 1 (Bad Storm)
    Unexpected Surprises - 0
    Peeves - 1 (Water Taxi)

    Breakfast - None
    Lunch - Split a Dagwood Sandwich and some Chips (Dagwoods)
    Dinner - Cheeseburger and Fried Chicken (Circus McGurkus)
    Late Dinner - Turkey Club (Room Service)
    Snacks - 1 Popcorn, 2 packs of candy, 2 Sodas

    After an eventful day yesterday, we decided last night to sleep in this morning, so we didn't wake until around 9a, and we took our time getting ready. We didn't get to the park until close to 10:30a.

    Our plan was to finish up IoA and head over to Universal if we had time, or meander around Citywalk and eat dinner at one of the restaurants (I was planning Jimmy Buffet or Emerils, both of which I am interested in).

    Again, the Water Taxi wasn't running (in two days, I've only seen that thing running once) So, we hoofed it. We cut through the hotel pool area, which shaves off ~800 feet. The total walk is under a half mile. I know this seems minuscule, but with a 7 year old in tow, every foot counts! Of course, on the park she'll walk 20 times that and not bat an eye...but, that's beside the point.

    Near the end of the hotel property, we ran into a Rickshaw unloading, and grabbed it. Whilst you can be fairly sure that there will be a Rickshaw for the trip home, it's rare to catch them at the hotel, as they don't stay there after dropping people off. $5 bucks and a wonderful conversation with our "driver" later, we arrived at the bridge to IoA.

    This time I was more prepared with our cards, and already had our meal cards, express pass card, and tickets ready. I left the cards I didn't need back at the hotel.

    I also noticed people in the park today wearing lanyards with the ziplock "card holders". At Disney, I've often thought about doing this, but never really needed to due to the "key to the world". I would HIGHLY recommend picking these up for Universal.

    We already completed Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, so we decided to start the day with Toon Lagoon. We stopped on our way to refill our Popcorn bin for 89 cents so we'd have something to snack on!

    Universal sells 3 types of refillable "collectible" items all over the park. There are two types of cups. One is refillable pretty much anywhere on the park (7.99) and refills are 95 cents, the other one is tied to the meal plan (8.99) and refills are free, however it's refillable only at the 7 meal plan restaurants. Both are only valid on the day of purchase. I'm sure a lot of people ignore this policy, and I have no idea how Universal would try and enforce it...straw color maybe?

    I do not recommend these. First, the price of a large drink is 2.99, and it's a LARGE drink (48 oz I think). So, it would take 3 large sodas to beat the cost of one refillable cup. I just don't drink that much soda in a day.

    Second, the cups themselves do not seal. This means you can't lay them sideways in the lockers, and you can't put them in your backpack unless it has a bottle holder on the outside. Hpw do I know this? I leaked soda all over the inside of my backpack with mine yesterday. I didn't even bring it back to the park today. :P

    It also doesn't have a hook or a handle, so you can't dangle it. I prefer not to carry something around all day in my hands, even if it saves me a few bucks. If I had a stroller or something, perhaps I could make this work.

    If the cups were refillable forever (or at least for the length of your stay), I would feel differently.

    They also sell refillable tubs of popcorn for 4.99, which are not limited to the day, and are good for your entire visit. You can refill them for 89 cents. The tub works at both parks.

    I HIGHLY recommend this tub, even if you don't go with kids. For the price, you won't find a better / cheaper park snack. The tub comes with a sealing lid and a handle that can easily be attached to a backpack. Kid getting restless in line? Here, have some popcorn. Also, the popcorn itself is pretty good!

    So, popcorn refreshed, we grabbed a bottled soda to share, and headed off for Toon Lagoon. Slowing down and taking in all the details of the area is a lot of fun. Universal really packed a lot of characters and references into that area of the park. We rode Ripsaw Falls (which is now my kid's favorite ride), and Bluto's Barge, as well as exploring the area. One neat thing they have are "People Dryers". I'd never pay 5 bucks for one, but we happened across one that someone had paid for and left, and it was a fun experience. It doesn't get you dry at all...but it is fun. Think of it like a giant hair dryer.

    There is a reason why this part of the park is named "Toon Lagoon"...you are gonna get soaked. Not wet...you get wet on the Jurassic River Adventure and Splash Mountain. Here, you will get SOAKED to the undies! I knew this in advance, thanks to Winkster's trip report, and we had dressed accordingly for the day in lighter clothes and shoes that would dry off quickly.

    The Orlando heat in the summer will quickly make you damp within a half hour or less, and touch dry within an hour or two. Also, it really helps cool you off during the day. Kids getting cranky from the heat? Check out one of these rides!

    I'm gonna break again here to discuss another "perk" that I purchased that I rate as the single best thing I bought for this trip so far. The Express Pass. It comes with my hotel reservation, but you can purchase them all over the Parks, and Universal literally plugs them every 200 feet or so.

    Get one.

    Here's a short breakdown of how much time it saved us. Ripsaw we rode 5 times, and whilst the normal line was 45 - 60 mins pretty much all day, we never waited more then 15. Spiderman and Cat in the Hat we did twice, and literally walked on both times, when the wait was 40+. The kid got her wits up and wanted to try Harry Potter again, and we walked on when the wait was 60 minutes. This story carried throughout the day.

    I actually felt bad for the people in the normal line, as we walked by them and onto the ride. If you don't stay at a Universal Resort, you can add this to your ticket for 20 - 35 dollars per day (depending on if you get a single park or multi-park pass).

    After a few hours in Toon Lagoon, and a Dagwood Sandwich we split for lunch (it was a pretty good sandwich!), we went over to Marvel Land (not sure what they call it), and did Spiderman twice. The kid is too short for Hulk or Dr. Doom.

    We stopped by Captain America's restaurant to try and grab a quick meal (I was still peckish), but they only served pizza and spaghetti, and I really wanted a cheeseburger. Next to the restaurant is an Arcade.

    For $10 bucks, it was a fun half hour. We ended up with 307 tickets, and she got a lot of little goodies from their prize cabinet (the one she loved the best were the bubbles).

    A magic moment (first of the trip) happened here too. Spiderman does a character meet and greet, and his entrance to the park is in the back of the arcade. My kid and I were racing motorcycles, and I was focused on the game. My kid wizzed by me, and I said, still not looking over, "How did you pass me?" She responded, "Spiderman did it!"...

    I thought she had lost her mind, and I looked over and yep, there he was helping her out! He looked at me, gave me a thumbs up and said "Hey, I'm just helping out a lady in distress!", patted my kid on the head, waved at both of us and went on to his meet and greet. I wish I had that on tape!

    After a quick refill of the popcorn bucket, which tided my stomach over, we headed over to Seuss Landing. This is a great part of IoA, and by far my favorite area (yes, even over Harry Potter). The level of detail they went into is fantastic, and it's worth walking the whole thing just to catch all the details, like the Sneech Beach, and the Zax still standing, foot to foot, face to face! (the Zax is my kid's favorite bedtime story, cause I do voices, one based on Walter Matheau, the other based on Sean Connery...so imagine the two of them having a fight, and you can imagine our "bedtime" story).

    My kid and I headed to the back first, and got some Moose Juice and Goose Juice, and shared them and compared them. We both decided that Geese have better taste (though both were good). Then we did all the rides. Cat and the Hat is memorable, but I think the Sneeches ride is my favorite. They also have a very well done tribute to the Lorax. The carousel is ok, it's a carousel. There is a fantastic playground near the Green Eggs and Ham eatery. My kid loves it, and one of our "magic moments" happened here. A Cast Member (named Erin) really loves her job monitoring the "water" part of the playground, and she spent her whole shift, from what I observed, engaging and playing with the kids. She was having so much fun, it made me have fun watching her!

    I love to see Cast Members that envelope you in the charm of the attraction, and she did a fantastic job! Also, this playground is worth going through with the kid, as there are a lot of clever things inside (like crawling through the cave!).

    By now, I really needed something substantial to eat. So we headed over to Circus McGurkus, and used our "Dining Plan" for the first time. The food here was edible...that's the best I can say. I'd liken it to Disney Quick Service at it's worst.

    If you have the Dining Plan (which I am increasingly thinking is not worth it), you are given a card for each day, one for each member of your party. Kids are limited to the kids menu, which closely resembles the adult menu with smaller portions. Once you turn in your card at your first restaurant, they give you a bracelet (like a bar) that you have to wear all day. From this point forward, you are allowed to eat at any participating restaurant as much as you want all day.

    However, they don't let you do that in one walk-through. So, for example, if you want to have a chicken salad AND a burger, you have to go through the line twice. What a mess! Also, the plan does NOT include drinks (which is where they push the refillable cup).

    In my experience so far, dining is something I think that Disney has down that Universal still needs to refine.

    After a passable meal, we headed off to the last section of the park we had not done. Poseiden's Fury and Sinbad! Unfortunantly, we didn't get to do either, as I broke a cardinal "parental" rule, and didn't do a bathroom break after eating! Halfway into the line at Poseidon, the kid "had to go!"...and off we went!

    I asked a local cast member where the closest restrooms were, and she said Seuss Landing. After that, we walked over to Sinabd to find out the last show was at 6p. We had just missed it. However, there is a talking fountain there which is tons of fun (sortof like Crush at Disney armed with a Water Gun!), and a Magic Show that we didn't do, but I wish we had. If you visit, be sure to check them out!

    Then came the rain. Because I'm a dummy, I had left our ponchos out of my daypack. Rain doesn't bother me at all, and I find it amusing how it freaks people who will pay hundred of dollars to go on a water ride to "get soaked", but will run for shelter when it rains. However, the kid doesn't feel the same way.

    We made our way, ducking between covers, to Harry Potter, where she waited under a canopy, and I obtained butterbeer. Can't leave IoA without having one, right?

    It's a unique taste. It's not cream soda, but it's similar. It's spicy and sweet. Sortof like mixing sprite and ginger ale, with a dash of pepsi. I know that doesn't sound tasty, but it really wasn't bad at all, and I finished my cup. They also top it with a cinnamon whipped cream that is delicious, and you will be using your finger to get every last bit out of the rim of the cup!

    We walked the Three Broomsticks (something that was closed the last night), and rode the ride, and said goodbye to IoA...time to head back to the hotel to get ready for Blue Man Group!

    A walk and a quick Rickshaw ride (5 bucks) later, and we were in our room. She decided she didn't want to change clothes, but I took a shower and changed into a different outfit. Feeling refreshed, we headed back to Citywalk.

    Unfortunantly, Orlando weather in August had a different plan for us. A storm had passed by earlier, and while it wasn't raining, the Water Taxi was still closed. This is turning into a regular thing on my trip. The water taxi sign (which, they could have put at the walkway, instead of us walking down there to find out it was closed) did say there was a shuttle we could take, but it wasn't raining, so I decided we should walk.

    Not wanting to do the walk at a 7 year old's pace, I plopped her on my shoulders and we did it in a record 10 minutes! We made it all the way to Jimmy Buffet's, and I had just set her down for the final stretch, and the sky opened up on us. This wasn't a happy summer drizzle either. Lighting, thunder and all things rain poured down on us, and before we'd crossed the bridge, we were both soaked and rushing for cover. The Blue Man venue is past the Hard rock, and by then you'd think both of us had jumped headfirst into a pool in our clothes.

    Attitude wise, my kid was done, and I ended up carrying her the rest of the way to the show. Here comes magic moment #3. About 100 feet from the venue, a cast member working the kiosk noticed us walking up, and she rushed out with an umbrella, and walked us to the venue, talking the whole time with my kid about how cool the show was and how much we were going to enjoy it. Talk about a mood saver!

    Unfortunantly, I didn't catch her name, but she literally saved the evening for us (well, not me, but the kid was grumpy by now and really just wanted to go back to the hotel and a warm bed).

    So, Blue Man Group, I don't want to say too much, but...if you've never seen them, do it. If you do Disney, and have time to do something off site...do it. I rate it higher then La Nouba.

    I'm already a huge fan of theirs, and have seen them several times (though not this exact show/group). As before, they did not disappoint. We were front row, center, and here is magic moment #4...we interacted repeatedly with the Blue Men, and my daughter even got the painting they make during this scene:

    Blue man group shadow/paint drumming, pvc ii - YouTube

    After the show, they all "signed" it (they don't really sign anything, rather they put hand prints or finger smudges), but if you do the show, be sure to hang out afterwards, the band and the blue men all come out for pictures/autographs, etc.

    Now for Magic Moment #5. I had thought that the storm would have passed after the show, but it hadn't. In fact, it had gotten worse. Now, I had a well spirited, but tired 7 year old and a wonderful painting to transport...and I'd left our rain gear at the hotel.

    Again, Cast Members to the rescue! First, a Blue Man Cast Member "snuck" us a poncho (apparently, you are allowed to take them with you, but if you don't, they can't hand them out), which I used to wrap the painting, and we made it as far as the Universal Shop outside of the venue, which sold Ponchos.

    I purchased two, and they let me use their scotch tape to wrap our painting up in the poncho the Blue Man Group Cast Member gave us, so it wouldn't get destroyed on our very wet walk back to the hotel.

    Also, we got sprayed 3 times straight on with twinkie stuff during the show, and we were both sticky and messy. For those of you who have seen the show, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. It was in our hair, all over our skin, on our clothes and shoes. It is mushed banana, so if you want to simulate the feeling, buy a dozen of them, mush them to a pulp in your bathtub, then roll around it it. Let it dry for an hour, and see how you feel. :P

    The other Cast Member working the shop was chatting with my daughter about the show, and the twinkies came up. She volunteered to take my daughter into the bathroom and help her get cleaned up. I was already planning on doing this, but was waiting for the crowd to thin out so we'd have the bathroom mostly to ourselves, but since the Cast Member volunteered, and my child seemed to be responding well, I let them go. About 20 minutes later they emerged from the ladies restroom, and the kid was all cheered up for the walk home.

    By far, those two Cast Members are worth their weight in gold. I will be passing this on to Universal, and I wish I had grabbed their names. That was poor foresight on my part.

    Now happy, clean and with ponchos on, we had a pleasant walk back to the hotel. We chatted about the show, yodeled under the bridges (there's an echo there), and discussed our plans for tomorrow. Once back in the room, the kid took a quick bath (had to get out the rest of the "twinkies", and then promptly passed out. I was hungry, so I ordered some (still overpriced) room service, as everything else was closed. I had a turkey club, and it was overpriced, but good.

    Anyhow, that's Day 2. Further updates tomorrow!
  6. disney212

    disney212 DIS Veteran

    Apr 15, 2011
    I am here and caught up! Can't wait to read more popcorn::
  7. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 3
    Water Taxis, Universal Park, and Final Thoughts!

    Magic Moments - 0
    Pics Taken - 96
    Vid for Projects Taken - 6
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 1 (Heat)
    Unexpected Surprises - 0
    Peeves - 1 (Large Groups)

    Breakfast - Coffee (me) and 2 Orange Juice (Kid)
    Early Lunch - 2 Corn Dogs
    Late Lunch - Split a Turkey Leg
    Dinner - Spiced Rubbed Beef Tenderloin w/ Baby Veggies, Sweet Onion Potato Gratin and a Plum Wine Syrup, Surfer's Grilled Fish Wrap (Grilled Mahi, Broccoli, Corn, Carrots, Tomatoes, Ranch/Yogurt dipping sauce) w/ fries (Room Service)
    Snacks - 1 Cotton Candy, 2 Popcorn, 3 Sodas

    We leave tomorrow for Disney, and as I pack up I find myself wishing I'd given us a few extra days here. I hadn't been to Universal since 2004, and I don't remember much from my last trip (it was just one day, the day after the UGA / Perdue Orange Bowl game). I have lots of memories from the early to mid 90s of the park, and it has changed a LOT since then. For example, a few years ago I converted to digital a VHS tape my Grandfather and I made from when Star Trek was still there...I was a 13 (I think) year old doing my best Kirk impression, and my Grandfather was "Spock", hamming it up. One day I need to upload that to youtube. It's campy...but it really brings back memories.

    Also, people talk a lot about "Lost Disney", but I NEVER see a "Lost Universal" thread. I really miss the Alfred Hitchcock experience. I learned that "The Birds" was originally intended to be a 3-D movie, but the fad had faded about halfway through production. However, most of the original 3-D footage had survived, and they showed it to you in the ride, and to date it is still the most harrowing 3-D experience I can remember, even though it was even at that time decades old. I'm a huge fan of Hitchcock, and loved that "ride"...it's long gone (I think it was replaced with T-2 3-D).

    I must admit, I walked into this part of the trip with low expectations, and a bit of a Disney Snob. I must say that Universal not only pleasantly surprised me, but completely reversed my attitude. I was expecting a three star experience at a five star price, and I was completely mistaken.

    I have a few gripes and a few suggestions for Universal which would help the experience, but both the kid and I are actually sad that this is our last night. And to me, that means we had fun!

    I'll finish my post with a quick summary of the trip, but for now, let me run through our experience today while it's still fresh on the membrane!

    Since yesterday was both an eventful and late night for both of us, I decided another low pressure day was in order to keep both of our attitudes in prime condition. I woke up about 8a, and went for a quick walk around the property while sipping some coffee. I went out in my my tattered Umbros (I was at one point a FIFA certified ref, and don't do that anymore...though I always consider getting back into it, though I'd have to recertify...my sleep clothes are generally old work shorts), unshaven face, and bed head. I'm sure I got a few odd looks from some of the more bourgeois guests, but I'm not the sort of person who really cares. It's not like I went and hung out in the lobby or by one of the restaurants!

    When I got back to the room, I brewed another cup of coffee, sat in on a conference call, checked in with my team, and answered work e-mails.

    They have a Keurig single cup in the room, with free pods of Emerils coffee in caf and decaf, as well as green and black tea. The Emerils coffee blend is pretty good. Right now I'm sipping on the black tea, and it's ok. I'd still rather steep my own in my ball at home, but it tastes better then a Lipton bag I think.

    After that, I woke the kid up, and she started her morning routine (wash face, take vitamin, get dressed, put away dirty clothes, make bed, etc...all this takes her about a half hour). While she did that I checked my TD post from last night and did minor edits for typos, etc (there are still quite a few in there, but I'm not in the mood to clean it up right now).

    While I was editing, we chatted about what she wanted to do first today. I was pushing for a loop around the park, working from right and ignoring the early rides (Despicable Me and Shrek). She agreed.

    After stopping by the hotel gift shop to buy some orange juice to tide us over until we got to the park, we headed towards our daily walk. The weather was clear, so we decided to check on the water taxi, rather then taking our Pool shortcut and hoping on a Rickshaw. Lo and behold, it was running AND just pulling up as we arrived! 5 minutes later we were cruising along the lake, and my kid was explaining to me how the water isn't supposed to be green, and she was concerned that all the fish would die.

    After a pleasant ride, we departed for Universal Studios. We took a few minutes to capture some "dancing" footage for my video project in front of the Universal Ball (I've done a lot of these dancing vids so far, just haven't mentioned them in my post outside of the summary), and then entered the park. It was a bit after 11a.

    At this point, our plans immediately changed! She saw Despicable Me, and couldn't think of anything else. The wait was 50 minutes, but Express Pass to the rescue! 10 minutes later we were in the secondary staging for the ride about to get on and she informed me that she needed to relieve herself and couldn't hold it (doh!). We walked through the theater, and after handling her business, went back to the ride. Now, the Express Lane was wrapped outside of the queue and down the side of the building (tour group), so we decided to go on Shrek.

    Shrek, is lots of fun! Our host for the Secondary Queue did a small stand up routine that was very much in line with the comic style of Shrek, and really got me in the mood to do the ride (which isn't really a ride, but a "4-d" style theater show). As far as Shrek is concerned, I enjoyed the first movie intensly, but not the sequels as much (outside of the Puss and Boots character). I found the later movies were running out of gags, and fell back onto bathroom humor too much. I was very happy to see the ride followed the original movie story line and style of humor.

    After that we went over to Rip Roarin', cause the kid really wanted to go. I already knew she was too short, but saw no reason to burst her bubble. Part of the rite of passage of growing up is getting tall enough to do "that ride", right? This year, she's finally tall enough for Rockin' Roller Coaster, and I can't wait until she finds out. I have pictures of her at the measuring post at 5 and 6. Can't wait to take this years picture and do the ride with her!

    After taking a picture at their measuring post, and hanging out for a bit to watch the ride and let her reset her disappointment, we wandered off into New York. We got on Twister, and at first I didn't remember the ride, but once I got to the final spot it came back to me. The kid, however, was freaked from the secondary queue, and during the final show she was muttering the whole time "let me out, let me out, let me out". I tried to calm her down by joking about the flying cow squirting her with milk, and while this obtained a giggle, it didn't ease her much. This reaction would become a recurring theme today. The ride upset her so much, I bought her some cotton candy at the end to help her nurse her fright and reset her mood, and we reversed course and headed off to calmer waters (that end of the park has a lot of intense experience rides, like Disaster and Revenge of the Mummy).

    As we were walking, we ran into the Spongebob show, and she danced with the parade for a bit. To my surprise, she didn't want to take a picture with Patrick or Spongebob, but she loved the fish and their roller skates.

    Then we headed off towards E.T. Today was hot, really hot. I felt it, but I can control my temper. My 7 year old, however, is still learning, and after her freak out on Twister, she wasn't ready for another ride, so we stopped at Feivel's Playground, and she had a blast. It got better when we discovered that there is a "hidden ride" in the playground that is a tube based water slide. The ride is very short, but I sent her on it by herself, and waited at the bottom. This is the first ride she has ever done by herself. I later did it 3 times with her, but the first time I had assumed that it was a kids only ride, so she did it on her own. As a neat feature, Universal has a large screen TV tied into a camera up in the waiting area, so you can watch your kid get on the ride from the base of the ride. This was very helpful, as I wasn't sure how she would react. She behaved like the young lady I hope she is, and came out of the ride screaming with joy, and ranting excitedly about doing it again.

    As I said, we did it 3 more times, and she quite professionally informed me that "this ride isn't just for children, but for parents too" and that I "was missing out on the best ride of the day"...

    Once she discovered that my added 210 lbs made us ride up on the walls and actually jump at the end, she wouldn't stop asking me to go with her. We did it 3 times total, and whilst the ride is short, it is fun.

    At this point, we went off to Woody Woodpecker's roller coaster, and did that 4 times. It's a fun little ride, akin to Goofy's Barnstormer. After that we decided that we couldn't put off solid food any longer, and we filled our popcorn bucket, and got two Corn Dogs. They were ok...not the best Corn Dog I've ever had. The batter was heat lamp baked off of the dog, and the dog seemed more like a brat then an all beef kosher. Another disappointment for me was that they didn't have mustard! Still, it cut the edge off our hunger, and we went off to Curious George.

    We spent nearly 2 hours here. It's a fantastic little area, and my kid had a blast. It is broken into 3 parts. 1 is a small playground / water feature area clearly geared for toddlers. The middle section is an intense water park style experience (no slides, but LOTS of water), and at the back is the "ball factory", which is whimsical and tons of fun. We both enjoyed it thoroughly, though I burned out before she did, she didn't mind. I broke up our mutual playing by with intervals where I let her wander the area on her own, and I hung out near the entrance in the shade and caught up on some work. Every now and then she'd run over to me to eat some popcorn and get a swig of soda.

    After 2 hours, I saw our last day window closing, so I literally had to drag her out of Curious George. Well, not literally, but she was not a happy camper!

    Now, I should mention, my kid doesn't throw fits, and she doesn't whine. When she's unhappy, she gets very quiet. And, while she'll comply with your requests, the only verbal acknowledgement you'll get is "Yes, sir" and "No, sir". I am happy she's not one of "those kids" who freaks out, but in some ways her silent treatment is just as annoying. It just bothers me alone, and not other families that are around us.

    We headed off to E.T., and she enjoyed the ride, but her mood still hadn't reset yet, so we did the Animal Show, which she enjoyed, but was upset she "wasn't picked". We headed off for Simpsons, which was ok. It was obviously a skin of Back to the Future, and they did a great job at it, but I didn't like Back to the Future either because you could see the edges of the wrap around screen, which destroyed the effect for me, so while it was fun, it's a try it and move on ride for me.

    It had started to rain, but this time I was totally ready, ponchos in the bag. We suited up in the Simpsons exit, and discussed where to go next. I wanted to go to MIB after that, and keep working our way around the park, but the kid was dead set on Despicable Me. I explained that she'd love MIB, and it was like Toy Story Mania, she'd get to shoot aliens, and that we'd have to trek all the way back across the park in the rain, but she didn't care. So, off to Despicable Me (who says I wear the pants in this relationship?!?).

    I must say, I'm glad we did! There was almost no wait in the Express Line, and I'm not familiar with the franchise, but my kid is, and she took great pleasure in explaining it all to me. The ride (rather, movie) is fun, and the production/story is fantastic. We did it twice, and I got her a "Ray Gun". We then proceeded into New York to try the other side of the park and work our way around to MIB. She shot up the Twister ride with her Raygun (I'm shrinking things I don't like, was her comment)

    Halfway into the Mummy queue, she decided that it was too intense, and rather then force her, we left. A general note for this ride, head straight to the lockers before the ride...like Harry Potter, no bags are allowed.

    We went and grabbed a turkey leg (which was a serious backtrack, but no biggie...I figured walking around was a good thing at this point), and wandered through the shops and checked out the restaurants along the way. We checked out Disaster, but I've never liked that ride much, and the kid was restless, so I decided to skip it.

    Originally I had wanted to have a full dinner at Lombarde's Seafood Grille, as I've been craving a good seafood meal for the past 2 days. I did have the room service version of fish and chips on Weds night, and it was...not fish and chips. It was flour fried fish with french fries. You are supposed to have it in fish strips, not the whole dang filet! And it's supposed to be batter fried, not flour fried! Anyhow...after reviewing their menu, I decided against it, and I was honestly surprised how little seafood they offered.

    So, we made our way over to MIB. This was another express pass walk on for us, and we did it 4 times. It quickly became my kids favorite. It was nearly 8p at this point, and I had a decision. We could stay for the evening fireworks, or head back to the hotel and have an easy night. I ran it by the kid, and she opted for the latter. I decided to agree. We stopped at Quickie Mart so I could pick up a 3 eyed fish for my dad (he works in a nuclear power plant, and I thought it would make a fun office addition for him), and some Duff Beer...er...energy drink.

    We did Despicable Me one more time, and said goodbye to Universal.

    After filming some of our dancing videos in front of the Universal Ball, we caught the Water Taxi (just in time) and she chatted with her mother on the phone during the ride home, repeating how much she didn't want to leave. After stopping by the hotel gift shop to pick up some drinks for dinner, I ordered room service, and she took her bath, while I repacked our bags to get ready for tomorrow. Room service arrived, and we ate and watched some ninja show on Nick. She liked her Fish Taco, but didn't finish it. Rather she picked out the fish and veg, and dipped them in the sauce. She also ate about 1/4 of my steak however! By 9:30p, she was in the bed and knocked out.

    I had one general peeve today that I didn't have at IoA...tour groups. The park was not crowded at all today, but they were all over (mostly south american, I think). I'm sure it's a cultural misunderstanding, but they were extremely rude. They cut lines, were totally out of control in the lines (wrestling and just generally acting wild), and while I didn't have to spend much time around them due to the fact we both had express passes, I'm glad I wasn't stuck next to them in a line for an extended period. The most frustrating thing was how they would mob the express pass area, not paying any attention to who was there first for pass check, and even blocking the normal line entrance generally. Oh well, it was a short lived peeve, but I kept running into them!

    So, in summery, I have many things I really liked about our few days at Universal, and a few things I didn't like. I think if they streamlined the following, it would make it a better experience:

    1) Unify the dining plan / room keys / express pass system
    2) Go into more detail about how the Water Taxi / Shuttle System works. I had to discover all of this on my own
    3) Get rid of cash only vending options on the parks (there are only a few left, but it's annoying, even if I don't plan on using them)
    4) Make the refillable drink bottle water tight (or at least not an easy leak), and extend it over the whole trip
    5) Offer more and better Quick Service options. All of the QS restaurants basically serve one of a few different dishes, and all are presented exactly the same. You basically get a grilled half chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, fried chicken, or a hamburger / cheeseburger. All of which are mediocre at best. (granted, I only tried the cheeseburger and the fried chicken, but I wasn't inclined to go out of my way to try the others based on their appearance)

    I was impressed with Universal, and I now understand those who are raving fans. As I stated at the beginning of the post, I went into these few days a bit of a Disney Snob, expecting to be disappointed, and I was not.

    One thing I would note about Universal...the whole experience is clearly geared towards an older audience. There were several rides my 7 year old was not interested in, couldn't do, or flat out refused to do. Bear this in mind when you plan your trips. I think the perfect age for it would be when she is 10 or so. That being said, we still had a blast!

    I'd highly recommend it to families looking for a few days of something different, and while you can do each park in 1 day pretty easily (especially with an express pass), there is no reason to. If we do this again, I'm going to give it 5 days instead of 3. Just like Disney, there are a lot of details and fun things to do. Not as much as Disney, by far, but they are still there, and it's a ton of fun!

    Welp, tomorrow it's off to the World!
  8. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 4 (Part 1)
    Goodbye Leows and Hello Pop, Royal Treatment at the Royal Table, and How to Watch Two Fireworks Shows in one Night

    Magic Moments - 1
    Pics Taken - 72
    Vid for Projects Taken - 8
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 0
    Unexpected Surprises - 2 (Fireworks and Pop itself)
    Peeves - 0

    Breakfast - Coffee (me), Orange Juice, Milk and a banana (Kid)
    Lunch/Snack - 2 Apples and a split a blueberry muffin I had picked up with breakfast
    Dinner - Rock Shrimp Cocktail, Grilled Swordfish and Espresso Cheesecake (me), Grapes and Cheese, Beef Tenderloin and Decorate your own Ice Cream (kid) (Cinderella's Royal Table)
    Snacks - Resort Drink Cups

    The day has arrived, and it's time to say our final goodbye to the Leows and head off to "The World". We had a scheduled pick up at 9a with Quick Transportation to take us back to the Orlando Airport, where we would catch the Magical Express to Pop Century.

    I had packed the night before, and only had to put together our toiletries from getting ready in the morning. I woke up at 7a (6:30a wake up call WITH the alarm/snooze set for 7a as well this time!), did a final room check for forgotten items, and ran down and got us some breakfast munchies to snack on. At 8a, I woke the kid, and let her get ready at her own pace while she watched Avatar on Nick.

    I enjoyed the Leows, with only a few gripes that I have mentioned before, and as our stay got longer, my comfort grew. They have a lot of things going on at the hotel, way to much to take in with just one 3 day visit. One example is their "Open Wok and Magic Show", which they do on Saturday nights. You get all you can eat stir fry, and then a magic show. Another is "Open Wok and Hula Night (which is Friday Nights).

    I was also hasty to judge room service. I used it all three nights, which was never my plan, but it sortof worked out and was convenient. Yes, there was sticker shock each time (there is an automatic 22% gratuity). I also didn't like that the porter every time insisted on entering my room beyond the entry way and "setting up" our table. Though, there may be a liability reason for that (one porter informed me he could get in serious trouble if he didn't do it).

    What added to the general frustration is that the hotel restaurants will not do "carry out" orders, except for one (the same one that does room service, and is located across the hotel from me). I had to walk by Emerils (he has another restaurant in this hotel) and a Sushi place every night on my way back from the park (even last night when I took the Water Taxi back), and I would have loved to sit down at the bar and share a shirley temple or something with the kid and take a really nice meal up to the room...but it's verbotten.

    Instead, I got decent food, for 30% more then I expected at even an inflated hotel rate. However, the food was good 2 nights out of 3, so perhaps Weds was just an off night for the kitchen.

    Quick Transportation was prompt, and again the driver was professional, courteous and organized. He dropped us off directly above the Magical Express check in area (after having to loop around the airport after dropping off two other families who were catching flights home), and gave us very clear directions on how to proceed. He helped me reassemble my luggage, and joked around well with the chiddler.

    I was already aware of where we were in the airport due to the frequency of my trips, but I knew he was going an extra mile, and I let him go through the whole spiel. I tipped him $5 for the drive (would have done $10, but it was the only cash I had on hand), thanked him, and we were on our way.

    I have never seen the Magical Express queues so empty! We literally walked up to check-in, and then also literally walked onto our bus. The bus took about 30 minutes to fill up. I covered the kid up in her Minnie throw blanket that I use for the airplane, and she settled on my lap and tried to take a nap.

    No go...she was too excited. Every year since she was 5 she has done this ride, and this is the first year I didn't suprise her at the gates of the Magical Express (in hindsight, I still sortof wish I had kept it a secret and let her figure it out on her own).

    Anyhow, she now knows exactly what is coming at the end of the ride! In fact, she knows it so well that this year we got a "water park" themed bus instead of the traditional Magical Express bus, and she thought I was telling her to get on the wrong bus. "Daddy, we are supposed to get on one of THOSE!"

    Anyhow, she couldn't doze off, so we powered up the iPad and played DragonBox+ together. For parents, I recommend this app. It's a math game that doesn't play like one, and teaches logic and reasoning skills. We adore it, and my kid is actually faster then me at times. We play the game by alternating levels and we give each other "3 hints" each if we see a solution that the controlling player doesn't (which sometimes turns into 4 - 20 hints, but who's counting?) Anyhow, it's a fun iPad app to check out.

    The bus finally filled and we were off! The driver was jovial, and had several good one liners that came off as genuinely funny without being forced (which is always hit or miss, in my experience), and the ride was a blast. Every year I've done the Express, I have one gripe only. I wish that instead of turning on the video so late, they'd do it earlier, and instead of a blank screen, they'd run cartoons as filler. They do it after the video, but not before, and there's a good portion of the ride where you are staring at a blank screen.

    After a nostalgic stop at Carribean (Pop shares this route), we arrived. We arrived around 10a. The arrival was more then I expected. Bell Services was out there with bubble guns, and they had literally laid out the red carpet for you. From the moment I stepped off the bus, the hotel took on a jovial feel, and for the first time on the trip, I felt like I was coming "home", even though the hotel was mostly new to me.

    I plopped the kid and the luggage down in front of the cartoon TV (great idea Disney!), and check-in is was mostly painless. I did let one woman who I had seen earlier ranting at her husband about how this was "the fourth time our room keys haven't worked" cut ahead of me, as I figured she needed more attention then I did at the moment.

    Once it was my turn, I'd done the online check-in before arriving, and true to Disney's promise, they had everything ready for me when I got there. A veteran, I didn't need the whole spiel, so I quickly informed the clerk that I was not a first time, or even irregular visitor, but I was new to Pop. He seemed a bit relieved by this, and then went about calling housekeeping to find out if a room was already available, or if we needed to go see bell services to drop off our bags until our scheduled room became available.

    Luck be my friend, there was a room ready! AND it was on the 4th floor, which I wanted anyway (I like being on the top floors of buildings, personal mental issue I'm sure, but <shrug>).

    New keys issued, we were off to our room. For those who haven't been, Pop has elevators, which is very nice. Carribean does not (though it's only 2 stories tall, not 4...there is probably a local building regulation that requires a certain number of elevators per floor...I know that building regs like this exist in Atlanta...anything 4 floors or taller with above a certain amount of habitable sq footage is required to have an ADA compliant elevator there, even residential homes. So, there's some random trivia for you!)

    The room is a touch smaller the CBR, but the layout is very similar. There were a few details that CBR had that Pop does not that immedietly stood out to me, outside of the obviously simpler decor and furniture.

    1) No real glasses, no coffee maker
    2) No Footstand with storage compartment next to the entertainment center
    3) Smaller table

    There are other obvious differences, but overall, nothing I found inconvenient or annoying, and in the back of my mind I was wondering why I spent extra money for CBR in the past.

    I paid the slightly higher rate to get a "preferred room", which basically means you are near the food court / shops / bus and have a view of the central pool. As luck would have it, I ended up with the very last room on the top floor closest to the laundry/etc. I am very pleased with the room, the view, and the location. The only disadvantage of this was the obvious temptation of the pool for the chiddler. It was all she could talk about, and while I went about setting up our room for our stay, she was out on the foyer looking down at the sparkling water and getting so excited you could see her anticipation from her body language alone.

    Getting the room ready was easy, since the layout was so similar to CBR, and I largely was able to keep the same system.

    I unpacked her clean clothes into middle drawer on the entertainment center, and mine into the top. The bottom drawer is reserved for souvanier storage. I emptied the nightstand of the obligatory phone book and Bible, which I deposited on back corner of the shelf above the hangers in the bathroom, as the nightstand will become my electronics center. I pulled the nightstand out about 3 inches from the wall, and balanced the clock and phone against it. I plugged in my power strip, and started to set up my my charging station. All items ended up with their own cables leading into the night stand drawer, with the exception of the phone which is granted the spot between the phone and the clock. The only other exception is the laptop, which at CBR I would set up at the night stand, but I felt it worked better on the table at Pop this year, and that's where I am now. This year I have far less electronics, as I now have a combined HD video/picture camera (I'll touch on that later), and that helped dramatically.

    I unsealed our laundry pack (re: video in the Packing Advice thread), and put all our dirty clothes from Universal (which I had isolated in the outer pockets on our luggage). After dropping a laundry sheet into the bottom of the bag, I filled them appropriately, hers and mine. There was no need to hang them, as my plan was to do laundry tonight (every 4 days, give or take), so I sat them by the front table, and moved on to our shoes. These I lined up in pairs below the window.

    Then I removed every piece of promotional/educational material (only after checking each one for something new or exciting) and put them on the shelf above the hangers on top of the phone book and Bible. The "Privacy Please" card I stuck on the front door, using the on door evacuation route hanger to hold it (easy access for the future, if I ever want to use it...but I enjoy room service, so I probably won't, unless one of us has an embarrassing situation that I don't want to share with a hotel maid...)

    From the hooks outside the bathroom, I hung bags. Working order, from the one closest to the bathroom to farthest, my day pack, my belt, my now empty electronics pack which is also my briefcase, and her pin collection bag.

    The "empty spots" on the entertainment center, inbetween the unused area below the TV and the drawers (which, CBR starting last year is a media connection portal with comparable empty spots to the right and left), I set up our daily staging. These are drop off points for our daily use items, like wallets, cards, tickets, change, etc... Basically, I use it as a catch all spot for things that need to be looked through or taken daily, and it's where we empty our pockets at the end of the day, and fill our pockets for the next day.

    Our trip luggage I stashed in the back of the "closet", with all associated zip locks and related packing items within. I was now tucked into the hotel for our extended visit, and ready to face the day.

    It was around 11a. I gathered the munchkin and asked her what she wanted to do next, as we really didn't have any plans outside of our normal traditional stop to get set up for pin trading, buy some ears, and head off for Magic Kingdom.

    She had different ideas. I'm going to leave you here, as I am off to collect our laundry. I'll be back and will finish in a second post before I go to bed.

    Day 4 (Part 2)

    Ok, I just got back from one of the most farcical things I've seen in a long time. I was going to write how Pop is much more active at night (it is) then CBR was, and how, at this time of night I would rarely see another person. However, here, the party is still going, even though the pools are "shut down"!

    So, apparently, Disney does send security out to clear people at a certain hour (pool closed hours ago, so...this is quite delayed). In this case, it was a 60 something year old woman with an LED flashlight trying to tell a bunch of excited colombian kids (I ran into one of thier group leaders) to get out of the pool. They didn't understand her, and kept going. So, I watched her keep circling the pool, repeating "the pool is closed, please return to your rooms, for about 3 minutes, before I couldn't take it anymore and left for the laundry chuckling to myself.

    That poor lady is still out there trying to round up all the kids.

    Anyhow, back to my report. This part will be much shorter, as there isn't much left to say, and I'm ready for the sack.

    The kid, after 20 minutes of watching the "fun" down at the pool, decided she didn't want to go to the parks first, and breaking our tradition, we went to the pool. We spent 3 hours here. I should note, my kid doesn't know how to swim, and while she loves the water, she freaks out when it touches her face. I don't enjoy this attitude much, as I'm an adept swimmer, and I've struggled for years to get her over this phobia.

    This year, she was ready to really start learning. 2 hours later, after working on her floating (jellyfish and back float), and her leg work (standard teaching method of holding onto the edge of the pool while kicking to learn how to keep your legs flexible but straight), she was swimming about 20 - 30 feet on her own into the 4 foot section of the pool to my waiting arms.

    My magic moment today was seeing her awkwardly doggy paddle while telling herself "don't panic, don't panic!" to keep herself motivated, as she set her own free swim goals to get to me. She won't understand this until she gets much older, but it reminded me of teaching her how to walk all over again.

    The pool at Pop is a whole lot of fun, and they do activities for the pool visitors throughout the day. We played bingo, for example (which, to our mutual but minor disappointment, we lost at every time). This is a far cry from CBR, which has a grander pool setup, but lacks interactivity (they do have it, but it's very rare).

    Also, Pop blasts hits from the 80s and 90s...who could ask for more?

    But, as much as we were having a good time, I had to cut it short as we had a 4:25 ADR for Royal Table.

    I had pushed us out of the pool a bit early for both of us to get refreshed with a shower and change of clothes, so we agreed to walk through AoA (in her eyes after walking it the "cool hotel!") to catch our bus to Magic Kingdom.

    I posted some of the pics I took at the AoA forum here: A of A

    Overall, AoA is impressive, and obviously a step up from Pop. That being said, as a party of two, I think Pop is perfect for our needs, and I see nothing there that interests me, outside of the eye candy. However, the kid loved the pools, as they have a lot more detail and water features, which is to be expected given their relative age.

    Architecturally, the food court and main lobby smack of Pop (as they should, as it was supposed to be a Pop extension in the first place, and any Pop goer will feel quite at home over there. The food court does have some interesting options, and I'm glad that Disney did that, as I plan to check out the AoA food court more during my visit. The Pop food court is very similar to CBR in terms of offerings.

    So, a short bus ride later where she fell asleep on my lap, and I nearly dozed off, we were at Magic Kingdom. I picked up my 2 day tickets at Will Call, where I noticed a family sporting what seems to be a trend this year...knock off "Thing" t-shirts. If you are not familiar, Universal sells Thing 1, Thing 2, Thing 3, Thing 4 and any other Thing they can imagine you'd want at their resort, all of which are a tie in to Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Cat and the Hat.

    They are fun T-shirts, and I got one for my kid (Thing 1), and a sundress/shirt for her half-sister (Thing 2, age 3), as well as a t-shirt for my ex that says "Mother of all Things" as souvaniers from Universal.

    And, when anything goes "fun" at the parks, the parody artists go wild. So, off site of Universal and Disney, you can get T-Shirts that are far more...racy...

    For example, the family in front of me, which was a group of about 20 all with these shirts, had Drunk 1 and Drunk 2, as well as Bi**h 1 and Bi**h 2, S*xy 4, and Spoiled 1 and Spoiled 4 (never figured that out), etc...the list goes on.

    I never figured out the logic behind why they chose these shirts. If I was a 30 something year old man or woman, I wouldn't care to wear a shirt that said B**ch 1, even if I was one.

    But, to each their own. Once they were done Jerry Springering the staff, I picked up my will call 2 day tickets, and moved forward to our dinner.

    The kid was dog tired after 3 hours of swimming, and I knew it, and my plan was we'd do the dinner and get out, but once she saw the castle, she knew she was here. I teared up a bit too, once I see the Castle and see Main Street, it all gets very real.

    She quite literally ran to it, and was stopped by a show, which, caused us to take a detour (by Sleepy Hollow) to get to our dinner, and the mere fact she guided me through it, including the detour route, made me realize...she's as much a Disneyphile as I am!

    I need to summarize and go get the rest of our laundry.

    The park is pretty much the same as before, and as always magical. We did Small World, and Prince Charming's Carousel today, and did some dancing vids along the way. She really wanted to do the movie at Pop's central pool tonight, so we skipped her favorite rides (Splash M and Space M) by her own choice, and by the time we had gotten back to Pop, she was asleep.

    I carried her to the room, and laid her in bed, and she's still knocked out. Tomorrow, we have breakfast at Tuskers, but I don't think we are going to do the whole day at Animal Kingdom, as I planned.

    She's quite excited to find out if she's finally tall enough for Rockin' Roller Coaster...she's only been waiting for 2 years!

    (she is, I think, based on web details from Disney...but only the bar will tell!)

    Anyhow, goodnight all, and I'll be posting tomorrow night unless all goes haywire with my internet (I have issues with the "free wifi...I'll get into why in detail tomorrow)....
  9. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 5
    Sadistic Waffles, Singin' in the (Water Park) Rain, and I see a little silhouetto of a man. Scaramouch!

    Magic Moments - 1
    Pics Taken - 96
    Vid for Projects Taken - 12
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 0
    Unexpected Surprises - 1 (Winter Summerland)
    Peeves - 3 (Rude Bus Drivers, Disney Wifi, Vending Machines)

    Breakfast - A Mickey Waffle, OJ, Milk and Coffee (Pop)
    Lunch - Cobb Salad, Pan-seared Coriander-dusted Grouper, Haricot Verts, Goat Cheese and Watermelon Salad with a Balsamic Reduction and Fennel Oil, Grapefruit Cake (me) Salad, Fish and Chips, Make-your-own Ice Cream (her) (Brown Derby)
    Dinner - BLT Soup, Reuban, Chocolate Milkshake (me) Fruit Salad, Chicken Nuggets and Fries, Vanilla Ice Cream (her)
    Snacks - 1 OJ, 4 sodas, 1 popcorn, 1 frozen lemonade

    Dinner Credits left - 50
    Snack Credits left - 35

    After a late night last night, we both slept in today. I didn't wake until nearly 10a, and it was certainly a coffee morning. My body was sore, and I had the beginnings of a sunburn on my upper back. Certainly not painful, but noticeable, and I would certainly need to be sure to use sunscreen today as my skin healed, or it could easily get worse. It seems years of computer work has taken it's toll on my sun tolorance!

    I went down to the hotel cafeteria and picked up a kids Mickey Waffles with bacon, and a Bounty Platter. I filled my mug and my kid's mug with coffee (both for me!), and headed back to the room. When I got back, the kid was already awake and had found some cartoons to watch.

    I cleared off the small table, and moved it over to her bed so we could eat together. We shared everything, and it was mediocre, as anyone who has had a hotel breakfast at Disney would expect. Not bad, but not good...very cafeteria.

    My kid tucked into her waffle first, and she has a peculiar and habit of how to eat them that goes back to an early breakfast on our first trip in 2010. We had woken early that day after doing 1am EM, and she was just grumping around. Nothing would get her out of the funk, so I was trying to get her excited about her waffles. So, I decided...to mutilate Mickey. I cut off one of his waffle ears and did my best Mickey impression of him screaming "noooo, not my ears, my beautiful ears", or something like that. Then I munched an ear. This got her giggling, and she ate the other ear. His chin and nose later, she was fully into the gag and her mood restored.

    Fast forward to 2012, and she STILL eats her waffles this way, doing the voice herself. Who says you shouldn't play with your food, even if it is a bit sadistic?

    We ate leisurely and around 11:30 we decided to head off to to Hollywood Studios, and were there by noon. Listening to the bus announcements, I found out that Extra Magic hours at Hollywood Studios were going to be until 1a, instead of the 12a that I had programmed into my calendar. Neat!

    We grabbed a fast pass for Star Tours, and headed off to the Backstage Tour, stopping for about a half hour for her to play on the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground (note to parents, unless you WANT to do this, steer your kids around it. When they see it, they will not stop talking about it). It was ok. I remember loving it as a kid, and it is really well done, but after playing at the playgrounds at Universal, I felt underwhelmed. The kid, obviously, does not share this feeling.

    The Backstage Tour was ok. I've seen Disaster Canyon so many times that it doesn't impress me anymore, and I miss the extensive pre-show (I rode the bee twice as a kid, and was also picked for the "rainy boat" scene once). In fact, the only highlight of the trip for me is Walt Disney's plane that he used to survey the "Florida Project". The kid thought it was ok. She had a front row seat this time for Disaster Canyon, and was right in front of the Tanker when it blew up. She shrieked with pleasure at the heat, and talked about it the rest of the ride.

    We went off for our reservation at Brown Derby, and showed up a bit early. They were not busy at all, and quickly had us seated. Oddly, we sat in the same booth we had in 2010 and 2011. They had a walkaround "Chef" character with a french accent that was hilarious, and great at ad-lib. I've never seen this character before, and it makes me wonder if they are trying to drum up business, because as a regular visitor with no dining plan, there really is no reason to see the Brown Derby.

    He had a pie with pi on it, and that was his opening joke. The kid didn't get it, and I made the comment that she would understand it later, and he worked off me and asked her how old she was. "7, nearly 8", she said, and he quipped, "Oh, well, you will get this joke in about 3.14 years!" I nearly choked on the bread I was nibbling! As I'll be eating at Brown Derby again on Friday, I decided to skip my normal choices and try new things this time.

    Our server was fantastic! He was obviously enjoying his day, and formed a great relationship with my kid. I had the Cobb Salad, which was my first time trying it, but as it's a signature dish, I felt it was time to give it a try. The reason it's a signature dish is that the Cobb Salad was invented at the real Brown Derby in the late 30's. The story is that the owner, Mr. Cobb, hadn't eaten all day and near closing threw together a salad using leftovers from the days cooking along with some fresh bacon. He liked the salad so much, that he put it on the menu, and the rest is history! You can get the recipe for the Cobb Salad as you exit the restaurant. It's in a wall pocket near the exit, and is printed on cards shaped like a little brown derby.

    It...was ok. It was extremely well produced by the kitchen, so I can't really complain about that, but the combination of flavours wasn't something that I really liked. I will not be doing it again. I want to stress that this shouldn't turn anyone else off to it, as it was prepared very well, and I did enjoy it, but not enough to finish it. The portion is pretty large too. If I could have shared it with someone, it would have been perfect.

    I love fish, and we were planning the waterpark later, so I wanted a "light" lunch. I make coriander crusted fish at home a lot. I grind up the seeds in my mortar and pestle. I generally use flounder, as it's my favorite fish. I'm not fond of grouper, as I find it generally flavorless, and so I wanted to try it to see if I could get some seasoning tips. I wasted my time. The fish was bland. The balsamic / watermelon base was fantastic though, and I ate all of that, but still left pieces of fish on the plate. As with many dishes, if you combine all the elements in one bite, you get a proper taste, but this dish wasn't like that. The salad dramatically overpowered the fish, and frankly they could have just served me the salad alone, and I would have been happy. They could have left the grouper in the pan for all I cared. :P

    The grapefruit cake is another Brown Derby signature dish, so I decided to give it a shot. One word. Don't. I love grapefruit (and drink it daily at home). But this cake was no good at all, even though the presentation was fantastic.

    During our meal, nature called for me, and I left the kid for a few minutes while I handled my business. When I came back, she and the waiter had an inside joke. He had served what I assume was some brandy or a wine test to another table, and had used a "tiny glass". It was about a 3 oz wine glass, and my kid loved it.

    When I came back, she was joking with him about it, and I was completely outside of the loop. A few minutes later, he came back with coke in that same glass, and she pretended she was a "grown lady", while taking dainty sips from her glass. How fun!

    Tummies full, and Fantasmic Dinner Pass acquired, we moved on. I must say, I wasn't satisfied, but I was not disappointed either. Lunch was just meh, outside of the service. It started to rain, and ponchos in hand, I checked my phone for a weather map, and saw a storm was going to blow through for about an hour. We had planned to go to the water park, but we still had our fast passes for Star Tours, so we ran over and did that. It's great. I love the new version. We happened into the Star Tours Celebration V shutdown event in 2010, and it's a lasting memory for both of us (video of the event here - An overview of Disney's Last Tour to Endor for Star Wars Celebration V - YouTube). We saw several celebs that night, including George Lucas and Anthony Daniels, and we even rode Star Tours next to Jon Stewart (whom I didn't recognize at all in person, and he's quite short).

    I love what they've done with the ride, and I was really happy that we got Hoth as one of our options, as I hadn't seen that version when we rode last year, and Hoth is hands down my favorite part of all the movies.

    We went and watched Muppets again, and the rain started to subside, so we went to catch a bus for the water park. She wanted to go to Typhoon, but to get to Typhoon, you have to hotel hop. I wanted to go straight, so we flipped a coin, and Blizzard it was.

    So, gripe #1 of the day...we saw a driver change at HS (which I think this is where they do them, as I see it all the time here, and I know they alternate routes throughout the shift), and the new driver obviously wasn't happy to be at work. It wasn't anything she said, but you could tell with her body language and her tone of voice. She overheard me talking to the kid about how cool Blizzard was, and I was reminding her about it ("remember the water park where we rode on the ski lift really high in the air and you could see all the people as small as ants?") She snapped out of nowhere "Well, it's raining now, so that park is closed. I'll still drop you off, but they won't let you in!"

    This was very off-putting. I knew the park was closed, I am quite aware of the rain schedules, and I'd been checking my phone for weather maps, and knew that they'd be open in 30 mins to a half hour. The kid really wanted to do a water park, and if we had to wait for a bit and wander the grounds or even be turned away and head off to a hotel to explore for a bit before coming back, it was my choice, and I really didn't appreciate her uninvited intrusion into my conversation with my child.

    However, my kid seemed not to notice, and once on the bus, she took a nap on my lap as we headed on. By the time we got there, the rain had mostly stopped, and we trundled over to Winter Summerland to check it out before trying park entry. At drop off, the bus driver didn't even open the back door for us to exit, even though she knew this was our destination and the bus was mostly empty (3 families), and when we stood up to leave, she exclaimed for all to hear that "I told you the park was closed, and you won't even be able to get in. You can get off, but you won't be able to swim. You still want to get off?" I indicated I did, and we left. I hope she got over whatever had put her in such a bad mood later, because I found her attitude extremely uncomfortable.

    As she had said, the park was closed, though they would allow us entry, we just couldn't get on any rides. I asked the chiddler if she wanted to go in now, or check out the mini-golf. She chose the latter, so off to Winter Summerland. We've never explored this course, and it looked amazingly cool! 18 holes, 9 themed wintery, and 9 themed summary. I love the "twin castles" too. After walking the outside (they were closed too), we settled down near the entrance, and I must say that they handle rain downage very well! They had crayons and coloring pages for the kids, and my kid asked for Eeyore, and one of the cast members went back and looked up one for her to color. How fun! They also gave out free mini-candy canes, and while here we purchased a few snacks and decided to hang out until it reopened.

    About 30 minutes later, we were off on the course! My kid loves mini-golf, and it's a regular thing that both her mom and I do with her. I've been doing putt putts with her since she was 3 years old. She even has a real kid sized putter at home that she normally uses, and she is scary good. I don't know why it never occurred to me to do the courses at Disney, but after reading various trip reports to get ready for this trip, I decided to remedy that.

    So, my little Tigress Woods and I hit the links, and she decided to do the Winter side. The theme is a lot of fun, and by far our favorite hole was the castle (for the theme, not the complexity of the hole). She beat me by 4 strokes, though I may have thrown a few holes, no one could prove it. She did, however, give me a run for my money, and after a satisfying round, we headed off to Blizzard. She was excited to test out her new "swimming skills", and the first place she wanted to visit was the wave pool. This was a first, as on previous visits, she mostly wanted to do the lazy river.

    I love doing the water parks right after rain. First, most of the guests have departed, so the parks are not crowded at all. Second, while the water is less enjoyable, as it doesn't relieve your heat, the park is more enjoyable, as you don't have to wait in the heat!

    I must plug my other camera now. I got a Pentax Optio waterproof digital camera for this trip, and while I miss the Sony still (it's gonna turn up I hope), the Pentax was made for this sort of experience. We took all sorts of underwater shots (her and me making funny faces) as well as videos. I didn't have to worry about water or splashes, and at I'm very glad I got this camera.

    After renting a locker and depositing my day pack, our shoes, and her overclothes, we headed off to the pool! She adored the wave pool, and I regret teaching her how to wave surf, because it's all she wanted to do the rest of the day! Eventually, I was able to talk her into going on a few slides. Not all of the rides had completely opened yet, so we went on Double Dipper. She was just barely tall enough (funny how the extra half inch shoes add at the parks makes all the difference), and she was measured 4 times total. Once at the base, twice while in line, and then once again at the top. Disney lifeguards seemed to be on the lookout for short ones!

    But, she qualified by about a half inch, and wanted me to go first so I'd be there to help her out of the landing pool. I'm always a bit nervous about going first on these sorts of things with her, as I'm not sure if she will freak out and refuse to do the ride, and I don't want to inconvenience the other people waiting or the cast member with her emotional expression, but she's never freaked out, and so I did as she requested, and went first.

    The ride is awesome, with quite a few jumps. I am a contact wearer, and on the second jump, I got a splatter of water in my eye that sent the contact roaming, so I really can't tell you much about the last drop outside of that it was fast! Struggling with my eye, I followed the lifeguards instructions, and stumbled over to the exit and deposited my tube on the tube return.

    I hastened to listen for my kids distinctive scream...and didn't hear it. I began to worry that she had chickened out, but a few moments later that mix of thrill and joy hit my ears, and she popped out the bottom of the tube. She fared much better then I, and managed to stay on the tube all the way to the stairs, where I helped her out, and she deposited it for return.

    Deciding not to brave another trip on the now open Toboggan runs (I'm not sure if they upped the height on them, but those were her first intense slides in 2010...and now they require 48 inches)...

    We had seen a double tube ride while waiting for the Double Dipper, and she really wanted to do it, so we walked to the back of the park and got on board!

    Now, I really wanted some water slide footage for the videos I plan to make after our trip, so I filmed the whole trip down the slide. I must say this took away some of the enjoyment, but the footage turned out fantastic. One thing that will keep me from doing it all the way through again was the landing. We landed hard! And since I didn't have my weight balanced since I was holding the camera, the tube flipped. Totally my fault, but this sent the kid into 4 foot water quickly, and she freaked out. After grabbing her trying to tread water (we've talked about it, but I haven't taught her the arm/leg movements), I moved us off to the side and she did a jellyfish float while I collected my camera.

    I will collect more footage like this, but I will shut the camera off and connect it well before the end of the ride. I was embarrassed, and the kid was upset that water got up her nose.

    After this, she really wanted to do a tube on the wave pool to see how far we could get, so we grabbed the Lazy River and rode off into blissful relaxation. She and I both assumed the "tanning positions", and as usual, I kept her raft near using my foot tied to the curve.

    At the wave pool, it took us a few minutes to secure a tube, but once we did, she braved it all the way to the back where the big waves are. I hung off the side of the tube, and we floated wherever the waves took us (I did guide us out of the flux where the two wave producing areas meet, and you can easily get stuck). After reaching the 1 foot spot, we headed back out to float in again, and then gave our tube to a family who seemed to just be arriving, and went back to the lockers and a quick bathroom break. While she was finishing, I bought us a towel with the seagulls from Nemo on it, as a running joke for both of us is "mine, mine, mine"!

    On our way out, we passed the "lost children" section, where the kid hula hooped for a few minutes with the attendant who seemed thoroughly bored before we showed up, and they did a contest to see who could hula longest. This went on far longer then I expected, nearly 3 minutes, and my kid won (I'm sure the attendant made sure of that).

    Once on the bus, I covered her in our new towel, and we headed back to Hollywood Studios for our dinner reservation, and to see Fantasmic using our earlier obtained pass.

    Dinner was what I expected. The Dine-In Theater is one of my favorite venues, and I ordered old favorites, since my experience at new things at Brown Derby. The BLT soup was fantastic, but the Reuban was disappointing (too dry), I wish I'd done the burger instead, which has always been fantastic. For dessert I had a chocolate milkshake, which was good. I'd prefer the PBJ Milkshake from 50's, but I don't like the experience. Maybe one day they'll get it here.

    We watched the film all the way through the loop (about an hour), and then headed over to Fantasmic. We've only seen this once, and they've made a few changes since 2010. It's still a fantastic show. Not much to say here outside of...go see it!

    After Fantasmic, we went off to do other things as there were EM hours till 1am (which I confirmed with a CM upon exit, as I've never seen them do EM hours until 1am, it's always 12a...) But, the bus was right. Oh, one tip for those of you looking for a bathroom break after the show...don't use the first ones you see, the lines will be horrendous. Rather, wander towards the back of the park and use one of those bathrooms. We used the bathrooms to the right of American Idol, and found them desolate. Disney will card you for EM if you want to ride a ride, but they won't if you need to have some relief.

    For EM, we rode Star Wars, then walked New York and San Fran. You might think those doors are fake, but they are not. They are cast only, and some Cast Member had left one in San Fran open...and it happened to be the first one my kid had me try. While there was nothing to look at outside of the Muppet queue, she insisted that I try every door along the street, which was fun in it's own way.

    After this, we headed to Toy Story, which for some reason was closed, but according to CM's was "expected to open for EM hours"...the line was back to the Coke Spot, so, we skipped it. We did Tower of Terror, and Rockin' Roller Coaster, and then I again used a parental veto to say the night was over.

    At this point, the day hit me hard, and I wanted to go back to the hotel. On the bus ride home came a truly magical moment.

    As we pulled out of Hollywood Studios, they play music, and this time it was Bohemian Rhapsody. I started singing along (it's one of my favorite songs), and the guy next to me joined in, and before we were at Pop, about half the bus was singing "will not let you go!"

    This is what I love about Disney.

    Ok, to explain my two peeves that I didnt't touch on so far.

    Disney Wifi is hit or miss. It times out and wants you to agree to legal conditions that only work in IE, and I don't use IE, I use Chrome, so I have to log out, and log in again, and sometimes even that doesn't work, and the only thing I've found that will get me back online is an IP renewal. This is exactly what I experienced at CBR in 2010 when they had Wifi only, and I hate it.

    The vending machine on my floor doesn't like dollar bills...so I went to the third floor...That vending machine also doesn't like dollar bills...I just want a coke! So, I went to the second floor. THAT vending machine LOVES my dollar bills, but tells me that it's out of every product, then freezes up for a few minutes, then teases me by letting me input my choice, and then saying again it's sold out, even though I am staring at the product through the window. I just want a coke!

    So, 3 bucks lost to the third vending machine, I just go to the laundry area, where it finally works.

    Further updates tomorrow!
  10. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 6
    ADR frustrations, What was Lost now is Found, No Remy?

    Magic Moments - 1 (Surprise Phone Call at UK)
    Pics Taken - 72
    Vid for Projects Taken - 16
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 0
    Unexpected Surprises - 0
    Peeves - 0

    Breakfast - Milk and Coffee (Pop)
    Lunch - BBQ Cheeseburger, fries, rice crispy treat (me), chicken nuggets and fries, rice crispy treat (her) (Pop)
    Dinner - Cassolette d'escargots de Bourgongne au beurre persille, Bisque de homard, Plat de cotes de boeuf au cabernet avec pates, Fraisier sur coulis de framboise, sorbet fraise (me), Friand au Fromage, Croquette de Boeuf en Brioche, Vanilla Sorbet (her)
    Snacks - 1 Milk

    Dinner Credits left - 46
    Snack Credits left - 34

    After 2 days of 1am Extra Magic Hours, today we really didn't want to get up and going. We got ready leisurely, and the kid wanted to go back to Blizzard Beach. It wasn't terribly hot today, in fact most of the day was overcast. It would have been a perfect AK day, but since she wanted to go back, so off we went! Today I got lots more footage and a ton of pictures. I'm still loving the waterproof camera. We did the Tobaggan Racers and the Snow Stormers (they were the first water slides my kid ever did, and she still loves them). We headed over to the chairlift, which was a fun ride as always. She is now tall enough for Summit Plummet, and she really wanted to do it, but as we got closer to the top, she changed her mind, so we went off and got on Teamboat Springs.

    The park wasn't too crowded today, probably because of the weather. It wasn't nearly as empty as it was yesterday, where we were virtually walking onto most slides, but I've seen it far worse.

    We had a 1:30p ADR for Teppan Edo, and I didn't wear my watch at the water park. I didn't think to check my camera regularly either. So, I glanced at the camera and it was already 1:40. We were having so much fun, we had missed our lunch!

    I was excited about Teppan, too, but we do hibachi style dining often, and I have some great ones near my house. So, outside of the fact my credit card is gonna get dinged for 20 bucks, I got over it fairly easy. Maybe we can squeeze something in later in the trip. I have several days where I didn't do any ADRs for lunch.

    This is the first year that I did this many ADRs, and so far, I'm still not sure I enjoy it. I have enjoyed all of the food, and I'm certainly making better use of my Dining Plan credits, but planning out pretty much every meal has caused some frustration for me, as I like to just relax and see how the day unfolds. Having to rush off to an ADR when we are both interested in doing something else is sortof annoying. I am considering cancelling a bunch of our current ADRs and going back to doing it how we have in the past. I'll make my final decision tomorrow, as tomorrow is more like previous visits...only 1 ADR, and that's Le Cellier. This leaves the day wide open for us to do as we please.

    We headed over to Winter Summerland, and played the winter course again. She decided that she wanted to keep going and play the Summer course. I have plenty of "Waterpark and more" credits on an 11 day stay, I thought, why not?

    I discovered, it doesn't work that way. While you can use the credits at different locations on the same day, you can't use them at the same location on the same day. However, they did honor the "2nd round half off" policy, and it cost a bit under 12 bucks for both of us to play.

    Rain was coming, and we were just putting over Sleeping Santa's belly when the attendant walked up to tell us that they were closing down. I must say, after walking both courses, I prefer the Summer Course. A lot of the holes are direct copies (outside of theme) on each side (like the Castle hole), but the Summer Course has the train obstacle, and the Ribbon Hole with a loop de loop. I wish we'd gotten to finish our round, oh well...

    We left for the hotel, and the sky opened up soon after we arrived. It was merely a light drizzle at Pop, as the worst of it had passed to the north. She turned on the TV and called her mom to tell her about her trip, and I headed down to grab lunch from Pop's cafeteria.

    I got the BBQ Cheeseburger for me and Chicken Nuggets for the kid. For dessert, I picked up some Rice Krispy treats. We didn't eat them, but I collect them throughout the trip whenever I can as I think they make great souvaniers for co-workers, etc. I also got two bottled cokes, which would sit in the fridge for nighttime drinks (no vending machine hassles for me tonight or tomorrow!), and filled our resort mugs for our lunch.

    I wasn't expecting much out of the food, as at CBR it was always hit or miss. However, this time it was really good. The fries were fresh, and perfectly seasoned. I had to restrain myself from nibbling on them as they made my burger. The BBQ Burger was equally good, and I loved the fried onions on the top. They added a nice but subtle crunch. It wasn't oversauced, and I added some mayo to it to give it some creaminess. Not Teppan, but still a pretty good lunch. Yummers!

    While I was picking up lunch, my kid had turned on the TV and found a show on Animal Planet I've never seen before called "Tanked". It is sortof like Ace of Cakes or Orange County Choppers. It's about a brother / brother-in-law from New York who moved to Vegas and started a company building custom fish tanks. It was really interesting, and if you ever see it on the lineup, give it a shot. Especially if you like Ace of Cakes. The editing and humor is very similar, and they litter the show with fun facts about tanks, fish, etc.

    Frankly, I was physically exhausted at this point, so while watching TV in the hotel room for a few hours isn't what most people do at Disney, I enjoyed the break and the kid actually dozed off for about an hour (as did I).

    Around 6p, the rain had stopped, and we headed off to EPCOT to catch our 8p ADR at Chefs de France (or, as my kid constantly corrects me, Fr-ah-nce). On the bus trip, I called TTC Lost and Found to check on my camera. Guess what, they had it! After answering some questions about what was on the camera, they confirmed it was mine. They had trouble finding the last video I took (the kid dancing with Zurg behind the bars) at first, and when I told them I was staying at Pop, I could tell that the Cast Member thought this wasn't my camera. She asked if I had visited any other resorts, and I told her about Jiko and Animal Kingdom Lodge. She confirmed it was mine, and even found the Zurg video. Elated, I decided that I have to head up there tomorrow. They tagged it and set it aside for me.

    We went to Journey into Imagination and watched Captain EO. After Captain EO, she played in the shooting water and I bought a Captain EO t-shirt, as I'm not sure how much longer this will be here, and it's one of my favorite nostalgic things to do at EPCOT. I was very happy when they brought it back.

    It was time to start wandering back to our ADR, but first I had some business to take care of. In all our trips, my kid had never had a Beverly! In fact, I hadn't either (not at Disney at least...they have it at the World of Coke in Atlanta).

    Video camera on, I walked her through the other flavors, leading up the Beverly. She didn't like the ginger ale, but liked the rest. A cast member who was servicing the drink stations walked up, and appearantly caught on to what I was building up to and chimed in "The Beverly is the best drink of all!" I took a sip first, and instantly the taste brought back bad memories of an asthma medicine I had to take as a child called Theophylline. As a kid I used to call it "The Awful In", and it tasted pretty much exactly like a Beverly.

    We poured her drink, and after swallowing her first sip (quickly), her face went flat. She asked me to lean over, and whispered, "If I don't like this, is that ok?" I chuckled and said, yes it was fine, and suggested she get some Fanta to get the taste out of her mouth. She quietly poured the rest of her cup down the drain, and we grabbed 2 cups of Fanta, and 2 cups of ginger ale for me.

    Off to Fr-ah-nce! As we were walking, my kid asked about Kim Possible, and started chattering about how much she loved it, and asked if we could do it again this year. I said, of course, but it wasn't Kim Possible anymore. Now it's Perry the Platypus. She's a huge fan of the show, so I expected excitement. Instead, she frumped about how Perry doesn't talk and all he does is fight Doofinshmirtz and how Kim was so much more fun.

    I commented that she now has her first Forgotten Disney moment, that Disney is always making changes, and there were several things that I wish they had never changed either. It didn't do much to change her mood, but in the back of my mind I pictured a middle aged version of her taking her children to Disney would remember and wish was back to the original.

    We arrived about 10 minutes early to our Chefs reservation, and I went and got our name on the list. I noted that, unlike the other restaurants we've visited so far, they were using paper and printouts instead of a computer to look up our reservation. The hostess would write your name on the list, and then every few minutes would run the list back to what I assume was the Front of House Manager, who would call you for seating.

    I should also mention, they were packed. All of the seats in the entrance were full, and people were camped out on the fountain outside waiting. We grabbed a seat at the fountain as close to the front door as we could so I could hear if our name was called. After 15 - 20 minutes, I became concerned. We hadn't been called, and the Manager's accent was extremely thick (all the accents tonight were thick) and his voice wasn't very loud. I gave the kid my cel phone and she started playing a game, and I moved about 10 feet away, right by the front door. After 30 minutes had elapsed, I was really concerned that I had missed our seating call, so I went back to the hostess.

    She couldn't tell me, as she'd already handed off the seating list that had my name on it and was working on a new one. So, she went off to ask the manager, and came back to indicate that yes, our name had been called and we were already seated. I explained that we obviously had not been seated, and asked if we could get back on the list. I wasn't in a rush, so I didn't really mind the extra wait, but I did want to get in.

    She went off again, and when she returned, she asked that we follow her. At the entrance to the restaurant, another hostess started to collect our menus and get us ready when the manager walked up, and barged into the conversation. I use this term, because that's exactly what he did. He asked my name, I told him, and he said we had not been seated, and had not been called. By now there were 2 more cast members who had "joined" the conversation, and they all started chattering in French. The interaction ended with the manager obviously chewing them out in french, and then turning to me and, with the fakest polite face I've ever seen, and asked me to sit in the corner (literally...but there were chairs there). I was amused with all of this, thinking to myself about how I've heard about the unintended rudeness of the French, and quietly chuckling that Disney was so detail oriented that they made sure to include that as well!

    After a short wait, we were seated behind a pole. Illuminations was about to start up, so I took the pole seat, and gave the kid a good view of the window. I could still easily work around the pole, and if you ever get a chance to snag a window seat on a not crowded night, I can imagine that the view is a lot of fun.

    Our waiter was polite, but he carried with a running theme I'd seen so far. All of them have extremely thick accents, and they all speak rather quietly. In addition, I don't know if it's a cultural thing, but they apologized constantly for everything. So much that it started to annoy me.

    I could barely understand him, and when he tried to interact with the munchkin, I had to translate everything for her. However, his attitude was fun, and I could tell the restaurant was getting slammed tonight, so even though he was a bit inattentive (my drink went empty several times, and service was very slow...the whole meal took 2 hours), I give it a pass.

    When you are on the Dining Plan, Chefs won't let you order off the whole menu. You have a 3 course option, or you can choose an item off the regular menu, but none of the appetizers (except for the soups). You can, however, add whatever you like as long as you are willing to pay for it. I was craving escargot. You don't find snails on american restaurant menus very often, so I opted to pay extra and get that. This meant that I had 2 appetizers, and I chose the lobster bisque for the second. Before I go on, here are translations of what I listed in the summary up top:

    Cassolette d'escargots de Bourgogne au beurre persillé (Casserole of Burgundian escargots baked in parsley and garlic butter)
    Bisque de homard (Lobster Bisque)
    Plat de côte de boeuf au cabernet avec pâtes (Beef short ribs braised in Cabernet with pasta, pearl onions and mushrooms)
    Fraisier sur coulis de framboise, sorbet fraise (Fresh strawberry and cream cake, raspberry sauce and strawberry sorbet)

    Friand au Fromage (Cheese puff pastry)
    Croquette de Boeuf en Brioche (Ground beef steakon a brioche bun, served with French fries...a.k.a. a hamburger)
    Choix de Glace ou Sorbet (Choice of Sorbet, she chose Vanilla)

    The escargot was very good, but I have had better. I think it needed a bit more garlic and salt. For 12 bucks, I'd do it again. Also, I enjoyed dipping the french bread in the pools of garlic butter and letting it sop up all that heart stopping goodness!

    The Lobster Bisque was ok. It was put together well, but nothing noteworthy. In retrospect, I wish I'd done the French Onion instead. The fresh shredded lobster in the middle was a nice touch.

    The cheese puff pastry did not interest my kid at all, and I took a few bites as well. It was ok, but I could see why she didn't care for it. It could have used a touch more cheese, and a tad less puff pastry. The salad greens that accompanied it though were very good, and the kid finished them (this from a kid who normally doesn't do salads).

    The beef short ribs are a signature dish of the restaurant, and I was eagerly anticipating them. I am sad to report disappointment. The dish had several high points. The short ribs were perfectly cooked fork tender. The noodles were amazing, and they could have just given me them tossed in butter and I would have been like a pig in the mud (with the gut to match!). The onions were unnoticable, but the mushrooms had great texture and flavour.

    So, you may be wondering what ruined the dish for me? The sauce. It was bitter and undersalted. It had an aftertaste, almost as if it hadn't reduced enough. The dish wasn't bad, but hardly what I had expected, and I wouldn't order it again. I only ate half, which concerned my waiter, but I didn't complain because, since so many elements of the dish were nailed, and I had nothing to compare it against, this may just be exactly how the dish is supposed to taste. It not agreeing with my palette is not a reason to complain, in my book. I'm sure there are plenty of people who love it.

    The kid's frenchburger was good, and the fries were fantastic (first thin fries I've seen at Disney, and they were gone quickly. She had to chase me away from "taste testing" them!) They were so good that the kid didn't even want the ketchup, and instead used it on her burger.

    On to dessert. Her vanilla sorbet was fantastic, but my dessert is the best I've had so far on the trip, and the kid and I ended up splitting it. The dessert is a wash of texture, temperature and taste variations. The cake is very soft, with a whipped heavy cream layered to add to the pillowy texture. This is broken up with fresh quartered strawberries, so you end up with a wonderful crunch with every bite. The cake also sticks very well to the strawberries, so if you aim for them, you end up with a great bite. There's a raspberry sauce on the side that adds some wonderful tang, and the sorbet was delicious. They also had white chocolate shavings under the sorbet, which was a wonderful touch. Though I wasn't overly impressed so far, this dessert is now on my "must do" list for future visits. I wonder if they'd just let me in for dessert and coffee!

    I was a bit upset we didn't see Remy, but I should have done some more research before making the ADR. I had assumed (wrongly) that Remy would be a consistent feature, like a character breakfast. He isn't. Rather, he does a few shows a day, and the last one was around 5:30p.

    It was about 10p, and there are EM hours at EPCOT. However, my plan was to head back to the hotel and try and get us both in bed by midnight so we could try for a rope drop at MK in the morning, but the kid had other ideas.

    On the way to France, I had told her I was going to show her "something cool" in the United Kingdom, and on our walk back, she asked me to show her. So, we went off to the phone booths. Luckily, someone had decided to call in soon after we arrived, and the kid answered and had a whole conversation with them. I texted her mother, and a few minutes later, the phone rang again. I got on tape the kid going "Mom? Is that YOU?" and they chatted for a few minutes about how her trip was going.

    Other people who were using the area as a photo op didn't know you could do this, and they thought it was cool. I ended up pointing out where the numbers are listed on the phones to several families. For anyone interested in doing this yourself, the numbers are:

    Left Booth - 407.827.9862
    Center Booth - 407.827.9863
    Right Booth - 407.827.9861

    The booths are located off to the right as you enter the UK from Canada. Look for a pathway.

    We made it all the way to the "golf ball" and she saw people getting onto the ride. She loves this ride. It was a walk-on, so I said, sure, lets do it. I'm glad we did. The ride hasn't changed much, but I found myself focusing on a lot of the details I normally gloss over. The kid thoroughly enjoyed it, but I forgot to get her propped up for the picture, so for our "Future" video, her head was pretty funny. I joked that we'll just pretend it's a hairstyle from the future, and we mutually giggled for the rest of the video.

    The playground at the end was very empty, and this is the first time I've actually done all of the games in one visit. There was still about a half hour left in EM, but I was done. So, we headed back to Pop.

    The kid fell asleep on the bus, and I carried her to the room. I caught up on some work items, and typed up this report.

    One more day down. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
  11. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 7
    Found the Lost and Found, Resort Wifi Stinks, Cars area at AoA is lots of fun!

    Magic Moments - 0
    Pics Taken - 49
    Vid for Projects Taken - 27
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) -0
    Unexpected Surprises - 0
    Peeves - 1 (Hotel Wifi)

    Breakfast - Milk and Coffee (Pop)
    Lunch - Half Rotisserie Chicken with fries by request instead of mashed potatoes, Chocolate Cake (both of us) (Cosmic Rays)
    Late Lunch - Turkey Leg with chips and a soda (both of us) (Turkey Leg stand in Frontierland)
    Dinner - Wagyu Beef Carpaccio (Beef tenderloin, capersm radish, frisee, Flagship Reserve Cheddar and lemon oil), Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup with Moosehead Beer and smoked bacon, Le Cellier Mushroom Filet Mignon (with wild mushroom risotto and white truffle-herb butter sauce), Maple Creme Brulee (me), Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup, Sirloin with fries and green beans, Chocolate Moose (mispelling intended) (her) (Le Cellier)
    Snacks - 1 Milk, 1 Sugar/Cinnamon Almond, 1 Mickey Ice Cream, 1 soda

    Dinner Credits left - 40
    Snack Credits left - 30

    I am going to start this with my peeve. I absolutely despise the hotel wifi. The speed isn't bad, but it times out regularly, and erratically. I find that simply disconnecting and reconnecting doesn't help either. Sometimes I have to release/renew my IP address to get it to work, sometimes I have to open IE and agree to the Terms of Service again, sometimes I have to reboot my laptop.

    It doesn't just happen on my laptop, my phone and iPad have the same issues. It drives me nuts that when I leave my computer for a few minutes, say to get a soda or pick up my laundry, I have to refresh my internet connection. To make it even more annoying, the steps I have to take to get it to work each time vary.

    I hope Disney gets this right, as the service availability and speed are both ok, so this is clearly some ruleset they have for lease length, security and quality of service I suspect. Whatever it is, right now, the service is in it's infancy, and I can tell. This is exactly what the Wifi at CBR in 2010 was like, and I was so happy that they had wired service in 2011.

    So, on with the day.

    We woke up late...very late. I was actually ready to go at 10a, but the kid wasn't, so I let her sleep in. We didn't hit MK until around 12p, and we went first for some solid food, as she got up so late and I didn't want to eat at Pop again. I wanted to do Columbia Harbor House, but she decided on Cosmic Rays.

    The place was crowded, but not uncomfortable. I planted her at a table. One thing I really like about her nearly 8 year old age is that she is now old enough that I can leave her alone for short periods of time and feel confident that she will behave herself and also be safe.

    It was a good start for us, the wait was fairly short, and the Cast Member I ordered with allowed me to substitute some fries (the kids favorite) for the mashed potatoes, which was a nice touch.

    We split a half a chicken, and it was decent as always. I am consistently amazed at the average level of this dish. It's never bad, and never amazing. Not dry, but not succulent. Just ok.

    We watched Ray's show for about 45 minutes, and as always I loved it. It's campy, it's stupid, and the animitronics are dated. But, I still enjoy it.

    Bellies full and now both mutually awake, we headed off to the park. The first ride was the Teacups, and from there we snagged a fast pass for Winnie the Pooh, and did some videos and pictures in front of Pooh's house. I wanted to go see the new Dumbo, but the kid wanted to do the Speedway, so after one of the better waits for a mid-day try that I've had there (about 30 mins), we were on board for the jerkiest "high speed" ride ever. She was bummed that she wasn't able to drive her own car, but we still had fun.

    After that we wandered back to Tomorrowland, as she wanted to do Astro Orbiter. She loves it, but this ride actually bugs me. I can't tell you what it is, but I constantly feel like I'm going to fall out. I'm not afraid of heights, or even a skittish person, but this ride makes me nervous every time.

    Next was our Pooh fastpass, and as usual got stuck in the queue. She loves it there, and I always end up having to tell families to move along as she gets her fill. After we defeated the tug of rope, we rode the ride, and it was time to start heading to a parade point.

    We walked to Frontierland, and did our traditional pictures in the Pillory. It was close to 3p, and the parade route was already starting to get roped off. We headed over to the Turkey Leg stand, and secured seating across from the Country Bears. She chased birds for a bit while I ate my half of the leg and chips, and sipped some water.

    The Brita water bottle has been fantastic for this trip, and I'm glad I have it. In the past I've spent a lot of snack credits on sodas (I have on this trip too), but I find that the water tastes fantastic, and I fill it up with ice on the way out of the hotel in the morning, so it's got some nice ice cold water already there when I refill it later in the day.

    She got the lions share of the soda, and ate her half just as the Parade was pulling up. It was fun as always, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. As soon as they passed, we headed off to Aladdin.

    I've heard mixed stories of how the camel spits work on this ride, from random to a CM controlling it. Whatever it was, I got shot right in the lap! This is the first time I've ever gotten wet on this ride. We both wanted to continue through Adventureland, but I got a call from work, and we had to head back to the hotel.

    I spent an hour or so doing things, and she watched TV and griped about how "we never do the pool anymore!". I checked TalkDisney while I waited on a job to finish, but I still hadn't accomplished my primary mission of the day...picking up my now found camera!

    So, we hopped a bus back to Magic Kingdom, and then the monorail to TTC. This was our first monorail trip so far, and I got some great dancing footage of the kid at TTC just the monorail pulled up. On the drive in on the bus, we saw the Avenger Monorail (which was running the hotel line today), and it was stopped on the track. When we got to MK, the monorail station was a mess. The resort lines are generally fun to do, and my preferance, but it was around 5p, and people were trying to get to Narcossi's, Ohana and California grille, and were freaking out that the monorail line was backed up all the way to the base.

    Not a concern for us, we quickly went through bag check and used the direct line, and in a quarter hour, we were walking to Lost and Found. The building is really out of the way, but I quickly got my camera back, and it answered a question that had been nagging me about our planned Richard Petty Experience later this week. The shuttle for the Experience picks up right outside of the building. If you ever need to seek it out, just leave TTC, and go left...and keep going left past the 3rd party bus stops and the gift shop. Then keep going left. (Did I mention you should go to the left?)

    After that we bought a soda (no snack credit this time) and shared it as we trundled off to the monorail to head over to EPCOT.

    The monorail was empty, and it was a nice ride. The kid napped on my lap the whole way. As we pulled into the station, she asked if we could do Sourin', and I said of course!

    EPCOT wasn't busy today, so we headed straight for Sourin', and I decided to cut through Innoventions. This is where my kid's 7 year old attention span kicked in. We ended up spending an hour in Innoventions, and did everything there, and walked out just as they were closing at 7p. The Fire Safety attraction and the "Make your own video game" attraction were the same as last year, and while fun, nothing to rave about. The video game wall was up, and the kid played for a while before I dragged her onto something else.

    The Segway exhibit was closed, and in fact looked like it was closed for good. This sortof upset me, as I was looking forward to trying out one of their 4 wheelers. Then we went off to something neither one of us had done before, the T. Rowe Price Piggy Bank attraction.

    This was so much fun! I love how they organized it as a series of mini games with an underlying theme/lesson, and getting to carry the pig around was a blast. Be sure to check it out!

    After that, we went off to Sourin', and the wait was only 45 mins, but the kid said she'd rather do Journey into Imagination. Unlike yesterday, today it closed at 7p. So, after a quick snack break, we went to the Cool Spot, and got some more free soda, and then registered for Agent P.

    She was skeptical in the short line, talking about how Kim Possible was better, but the registration process was exciting, and once she became "Agent K", she was all into it. We went off to Norway! A half hour or so later, we had completed the quest, and she wanted to ride the ride. Unfortunantly, it was near 8p by now, and though the wait board said 20 minutes, the line was out the door, and knowing that ride, it wasn't a 20 minute wait. No way we were gonna miss Le Cellier!

    So, we signed up for Agent P again, and did Mexico. After finishing our mission (it was a lot of fun), we still had about 45 minutes to burn, so we headed over to La Cava, and I had a Cucumber Margarita and she had a Pinata. I had wanted to get some chips and guac to munch on as well, but they were already throwing out the chips, so I decided not to press my luck.

    Drinks finished, we headed over to Le Cellier, taking our time to enjoy the pre-Illuminations flames and stopping at the gift shop at the entrance to the international pavilions.

    We arrived right on time, and after registering with the hostess station (hrm, they used the computer too, what's up Chefs de France?)...we walked back outside to watch the opening fireworks of Illuminations. I plopped her on my shoulders, and right after they start doing the earth scene, post fireworks and fire effects, we were called to be seated.

    Le Cellier, as expected, didn't disappoint. First, our server was excellent. She was conversational and really queued in to making our dining experience fun! I am a huge fan of this restaurant, and had been looking forward to it, as has the kid (she loves steak!)

    I again decided on some wine at this point, even though the cucumber was still in my system, and asked the waitress to "suprise me" (same thing I did at Jiko). After a few short questions to figure out my wine pallate (for a meal like this, I like a merlot), she found a wonderful Charmes wine, 2 years old. It wasn't the best merlot I've ever had, but had a fantastic sweet aftertaste, and I thought it would be a great companion for my anticipated Filet.

    I decided on an extra side (Lobster Mac and Cheese) and an extra Appetizer (Beef Carpaccio)...though I think the Carpaccio was worth it. I'd pass on the Lobster Mac and Cheese, and really only ordered it because the kid wanted it. It wasn't bad, but nothing amazing.

    The kid and I both thoroughly enjoyed the Chedder soup, and she finished hers using the sourdough bread, while I ate mine pure. I wanted to try something new, but couldn't pass on the Filet, and she had a wonderful sirloin. They substituted fries for her potatoes, and she cleaned her plate.

    I was stuffed at this point, and couldn't finish my entree, but there was still dessert. I had the maple creme brulee, and she ordered for herself, telling the waitress to "suprise her", something she's picked up from my wine orders.

    A Chocolate Moose and a Creme Brulee later, we were walking through a mostly empty park. This wasn't as late as we did last year (it was closer to 11:30 then), we were leaving around 10:30, and apparently several other families had the same idea. Still, we got a lot of great pictures and dancing videos with the park mostly empty, and not once did we feel rushed by cast members (or even observed, as we did last year).

    The Art of Animation bus arrived first, and their stop was the same as Pop, so we hopped on that one. After a short stop at the AoA food court to pick up a bag of chips for the kid, and a beer for me (Orange Blossom Brew, a local microbrew, which was pretty good), we headed off to the Cars section to walk it before heading back to our room.


    There's a lot of detail there, and if you do it, take time to read the road signs, the bumper stickers, and the post cards. Their pool, unlike the main pool, doesn't have card readers on it, and the rebel in me wants to give it a shot, but we probably won't. I don't want to abuse things like this, lest Disney thinks they need to lock things down more. The pool is fantastic though. They used the "cone motel" for the motif, and the Cones are the table areas. It's really fun.

    A short walk across Generation Gap Bridge, and we were home. She took a quick bath while I started our laundry, and fell asleep quickly. I finished our laundry, caught up on some work, archived all our pictures from both cameras, and then wrote this report.

    Thanks for reading! More tomorrow.
  12. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 8 (Part 1 of ?)
    Rumbly in the Tumbly

    Magic Moments - 1 (Hotel Room Service)
    Pics Taken - 13
    Vid for Projects Taken - 4
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 1 (Heat and Humidity)
    Unexpected Surprises - 1 (Sick kid)
    Peeves - 0

    Breakfast - Bounty Platter, Coffee (me), Milk, leftover OJ, Mickey Waffles (kid) (Pop)
    Lunch - Haven't had it yet
    Dinner - Haven't had it yet
    Snacks - None

    Dinner Credits left - 38
    Snack Credits left - 30

    Today's report will probably be short content wise, as my kid isn't feeling very well at the moment. Right now I'm burning time, as the kid sleeps in the bed. I will be adding to the post later. So, lets get started...

    After an early night last night (relative to previous nights), she quite literally bounced out of bed this morning and after breakfast at Pop we made it to EPCOT just after rope drop! Outside of the waffles, I am not fond of the hotel breakfasts generally, and today was no exception. The eggs were dry, the sausage was bland, and the bacon tasted like strips of rubber. But, the potatoes were good!

    We had missed Sourin' last night, and it was the kids top priority. We headed over and snagged some fast passes, and then waited for the first ride. 40 minutes later or so we were on the ride. After another stop by the cool spot we did Energy Adventure and Mission: Space Green, and then Orange.

    Today was hot. Temps are only in the mid-90s (which is bad enough), but to compound the matter the humidity makes it feel more like 105. EPCOT basically finished outside of Nemo (we have Living Seas ADRs later this week, so I figured we could put this off), we had planned to do some more Agent P, snag some fish and chips for lunch, and then head out the International Gateway and over to Hollywood Studios.

    But, this heat was killing us, so I suggested that we head back to the hotel, get changed, and go hit up Typhoon Lagoon, with a brief stop by DD to get something from one of the Quick Service places there (I was thinking Earl of Sandwich, as it's over near the bus stop). She has fallen in love with water parks (as you probably can tell from the past few days reports), and she jumped at the idea.

    I handed our unused Sourin' fast passes to what I assume was a grandmother and her grandson on the way out of the park, and they were very happy to take them. On the bus, munchkin fell asleep on my lap. The air conditioning on the bus felt fantastic, and I sipped water and let her doze away. Stepping off the bus I felt like I was stepping into Arrakis.

    I could tell from the look in her eyes that she needed a longer nap then the 20 minute bus ride. I carried her to the room, and she was complaining she didn't feel well. When we got settled, I checked her forehead, and she was flushed and a bit hot. I assumed a bit of heat exhaustion, but she'd been drinking all day. Still, these things can happen. So, I toweled her off, removing any morning stickiness, and after a few minutes of this her face had returned to normal. I tucked her into bed, and she was quickly asleep.

    Now, my kid has a peculiar habit that her mother says she gets from me (though I deny that!). She talks in her sleep. Normally, it's just random statements, but sometimes you can actually piece them together and I assume figure out what she is dreaming about.

    Today was hilarious. She was having a scattered conversation with Goofy about how she thought he was really funny but she liked Mickey better. I was sitting across the room catching up on work emails and trying not to laugh hard. I snuck a video of her doing it that will remain in my private collection, as her sleep talking embarrasses her, but I couldn't help myself.

    I felt her head again, and her temperature was normal, and her face still looked fine, so I chalked it up to heat exhaustion, and I settled into the distraction that is the internet and decided to work on organizing pictures and videos. I did post some pictures from Jiko on this thread for that post, and have other pictures to add to the other posts as well, so if you want to check back scroll through the older posts and you'll see them if you are interested.

    Around 1:30p, I saw movement from the bed, and thought to myself, "Neat! She's now rested and ready to go!" Then I noticed that the movement...was not a happy wake up movement. It was going to lead to something else entirely.

    I won't go into more detail about this, outside of saying that I didn't quite make it there with the ice bucket fast enough. Needless to say, she was deeply embarrassed. Nearly to the point of tears. She kept apologizing for messing up her bed, which of course I didn't mind.

    Room Service showed up during all of this, but this wasn't a great time. The situation was under control now, but she was too embarrassed to let him in. When I tried to explain we needed to get the soiled items out of the room, I got "the look". I hate this look. It's where I can tell her self-control is about to break, and she's struggling to be "a young lady" instead of a "little baby" (her terms, not mine).

    So, I didn't press my luck. I refused room service. In full on Daddy mode now, I helped her get cleaned up and sanitized, changed her into some clean pajamas, and tucked her into my bed, tied her hair back into a bun and positioned the now clean ice bucket on the night stand in case there was another incident, and called her mother so that she could let her know she wasn't feeling well.

    I stripped her bed and made a bundle with the towels I used to clean up, and as she finished talking with her mother, and I walked the bundle down the way to a service cart, and I didn't see the attendant, so I put it in the dirty linen bag that room service lugs around with them. I felt bad about this, but I needed to get it out of the room.

    Apparently, the Room Service gentleman had figured out what was going on, and about 30 minutes later there was a soft knock on the door. There he was with clean linens, extra towels, and asked if I wanted him to remake the bed. He didn't exactly say that he knew my daughter wasn't feeling well, but the look in his eyes indicated that he'd figured it out. I explained about the ice bucket, and he told me that it wasn't a problem. If I didn't mind washing it out and leaving him a note, he would be servicing my room tomorrow and would take care of it.

    Not a traditional magic moment, but it really helped to have clean sheets and that he took time to come back and offer them, as well as help with my plight.

    I did bring cold medicine with me, but it doesn't help with nausea (it's cough and cold). So I ran down to the gift shop and they had Childrens Immodium AD and a child's forehead thermometer (I will be adding a digital one to my packing list for future trips). When I got back to the room, the kid was awake and had turned on the TV. As Phineus and Ferb built some crazy contraption, I checked her temp, and she is spot on at 98 degrees.

    Diagnoses, minor food poisoning or heat exhaustion. Before the show was over she had dozed off again.

    We were planning Bongos for dinner and La Nouba at 9pm. I have no idea if this is going to happen. I suspect the thunderstorm that's on the horizon right now will cool things down so it doesn't feel like Tatooine anymore.

    She was asking for soup while I was cleaning her up, and I know they serve soup over at AoA, so I think I'll let her rest for another few hours. Then we'll walk over there with her and test her stomach out. I want to be close to the room in case things go wrong. At this point I will make up my mind, and if I need to call Cirque Will Call so they can release my seats, and find out if I can move my tickets to another date (I hope I can, but my hopes are not high. Still, doesn't hurt to ask).

    So, there is the day so far. I'll know more once she wakes back up.
  13. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 8 (Part 2 of ?)
    Rumbly in the Tumbly

    Magic Moments - 3 (Hotel Room Service, AoA Food Court Staff and Chef)
    Pics Taken - 13
    Vid for Projects Taken - 4
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 1 (Heat and Humidity)
    Unexpected Surprises - 1 (Sick kid)
    Peeves - 0

    Breakfast - Bounty Platter, Coffee (me), Milk, leftover OJ, Mickey Waffles (kid) (Pop)
    Lunch / Dinner - Tandoori Portuguese Sausage with Basmati rice, Paneer with Spinich and roasted cauliflower and fresh Naan bread, Veggie Burger with Fries (me) (AoA)
    Snacks - Potato Leek Soup, Minestrone Soup, Special Chicken Noodle Soup (AoA)

    Dinner Credits left - 36
    Snack Credits left - 27

    Ok, I had to call everything off. She's still not feeling well. I actually decided our plans were going to have to be scrapped earlier tonight, and I called 407.WDW.SEAT and explained the situation. The person on the other line was very polite, and put me on hold for a few minutes while she called Cirque to see what could be done.

    Cirque informed her that after 4pm on the same day as the performance, nothing could be done over the phone. It must be done at the Box Office. I explained that there was no way I would be able to take my child to the Box Office tonight, as I don't want to risk an incident on the bus, and that's not fair to my child or to other guests. I understand the no refund policy, and was merely calling for options, and to let Cirque know they could issue those seats as we would not be making it.

    I think she thought I honestly expected a different answer, but this was what I had feared, so I was prepared for it. So, after helping the child get resettled after a bout, she dozed off again. When she woke up a bit later, she asked if I had crackers and soup, and I told her no. She said she wanted to try some, and I told her I'd need to walk over to the "cool hotel" to go get it. She said that was fine, she just plans to sit here and be sick, and that she knows the rules (Don't open the door for anyone, don't answer the phone, don't leave the room). I got her settled with the TV and some pillows to prop upon, checked with her to make sure she was set up, and headed off to AoA.

    20 minutes later I was back in my room thoroughly blown away by what I experienced.

    I was rushing to beat an oncoming Thunderstorm, and today's storm was a big one. I'm sure the people at the parks got thoroughly drenched. The food court was lively, but not crowded at all, and I took a moment to take a closer look at what they had to offer (pictures attached). Everything looks very tasty. They run a mostly open kitchen with most of the preparation areas fully visible.

    They were obviously training new cast members, and I saw a lot of "I'm still earning my ears" tags. Behind the counter was very busy, but also well organized and clean. I went over to the sandwich shop, which is where the soups are, and unfortunantly they only had minestrone and potato leek. They do have chicken noodle, but not today.

    I picked up a bowl of each and asked for extra crackers, planning to offer my kid a choice when I got back. Then I stopped at the Indian restaurant and got a Tandoori Sausage plate. I had some questions about some of the sides, and the cast member was extremely knowledgeable about what each dish consisted of, and very enthusiastic to answer my questions. Then I headed over to the burger spot and decided to try the Veggie Burger (though, turning down the Surf and Surf or the Pastrami Cheeseburger was a tough call for me). I wanted to report on something that most people probably *won't* try if they eat there, just to give you all some interesting reading. So, Veggie it is! I'm glad I did, because it was delicious. But, I'll get into that more later.

    While I was waiting for my burger to be cooked (yes, they cook them fresh per order), I struck up conversation with a nice gentleman who, as it turns out, is also a Disney regular (he has kids ranging from age 6 to 27, so he's been coming for quite some time!). He was staying with his family at AoA, and he raved about the suites, saying it's basically like getting 3 rooms in terms of beds, and the extra space was certainly worth the cost for a larger family (he was there with his wife and 2 youngest children).

    The topic of my sick kid and La Nouba came up, and a cast member overheard me. Now, I don't know if I'd already set off "reviewer" alarms or something because I'd circled the food court snapping pictures of the menus, setup and foods before ordering, or if they were just trying to create magic (perhaps a touch of both?), but at this point my visit changed from ordinary to extraordinary.

    The cast member slipped out to the floor and spoke with someone who was obviously a floor manager, and a few moments later the manager came up and asked me if everything was ok (he had seen me checking the windows to make sure I was going to beat the storm...I had brought my poncho just in case). I told him I was waiting on a burger.

    A few minutes later, he came back and said "Sir, have you been having trouble with Cirque de Soleis?" Now I knew the Cast Member had tipped him off, and it was a nice touch. He listened while I explained the story.

    His response was "Obviously you can't make it to the Box Office tonight. Here's what I would do. The Box Office opens tomorrow at Noon, so don't go before Noon. But, if you can take a few moments and stop by there tomorrow, if they are doing things they way they are supposed to, they should be able to assist you in arranging something."

    I don't know if he'd already gotten something in the works, or what "if they are doing what they should be doing" means, exactly, but I thanked him for his advice. I had already planned to go by the Box Office tomorrow anyhow to see if there was anything I could do (still not expecting anything).

    For the cast member to take that initiative was very nice. After this, to my further suprise, the chef came out and apologized for not having any chicken noodle soup available, and offered to make some for my kid! He did prepare me that it wasn't going to be classic chicken noodle, but he'd see what he could throw together. He gave me a pager so I could wait in the seating area and nibble at my food while he worked his magic.

    What he created was pretty good, considering what he had to work with. I was slightly surprised at a kitchen that doesn't have chicken stock handy, but one of the other chefs explained it was because all the soup stocks come in bagged form, and are only kept while the soup is being served. They add fresh veg and meat when the stock arrives. This makes sense.

    The soup he made ended up being a tomato base that he had watered down slightly, added cabbage, peas, chopped carrots, fresh chicken, mushrooms and red pepper, and then seasoned (obvious salt, probably trying to emulate chicken broth as best as he could).

    The soup was very good, and the kid ate about half of it before her stomach disagreed. Even though the soup went mostly unfinished, the gesture from the chef is greatly appreciated.

    I took my food over to the seating area and took pictures of the original plating before I boxed them up for the walk home. At this time I was approached by a Disney Researcher, and we chatted for a bit. She said she would love to get my feedback if I would be by later. I informed her I probably wouldn't today, but I would love to answer any questions she had while I waited.

    We continued to talk about my impressions of the AoA food court, the chef delivered his soup, and I trucked it back to the hotel room.

    The kid was still watching TV, and decided to try some crackers and soup. It wasn't long before that turned out to be a poor decision, but I am encouraged her appetite is there). I checked her temperature, and still no fever, so I gave her some medicine, tucked her in and found a movie on Netflix to watch (Labyrinth).

    A note here about the Pop TVs (or at least the one in my room). They do have HDMI, VGA, Component and Composite inputs, and Disney didn't lock down the TV to prevent you from using them. I have an HDMI dongle for my iPad, and use the screen mirroring feature to watch Netflix on the TV. Anyhow, if you have a similar setup, be aware it will work here.

    Ok, so on to the food. The Tandoori sausages were well seasoned, and spicy without being hot. The naan bread was extremely good, and I enjoyed wrapping the spinach paneer in it, which was also excellent. I enjoyed the sauce immensely. The cauliflower was well charred and fork tender, and had absorbed spices from the sauce, which was a tomato base and very tasty. I'm not a huge fan of Indian food, and though this was obviously very generalized, I'd eat it again.

    The potato leek soup was edible at best. I'd never get it again. It desperately needed seasoning / salt. The texture wasn't creamy either, rather it was mealy. In my opinion, it should have been pureed longer. I also couldn't taste the leeks. A nice touch for this soup would have been dashing some green onions on the top, or some crumbled bacon. Otherwise it's just like eating a liquid potato (and not in a very good way).

    On the other hand, the Minestrone was delightful. There are two things that I see very often with Minestrone soups that generally keep me from ordering them. One, they are overcooked to the point where the vegetables are soggy and there is no bite to them and the tomato stock has reduced to the point that the tomato overpowers the rest of the soup. Two, they go light on the vegetables and seasoning. This soup did neither, and I quickly finished the whole bowl. I didn't even feel the need to add the crackers to give it more substance. It was fantastic.

    The winner of the evening was certainly the Veggie Burger. I'm not a fan of Veggie Burgers, but this was absolutely fantastic. For those of you who are Vegan, you should note that the burger by default comes on Brioche and has Provolone Cheese. This means it is not technically "vegetarian", in the strictest sense. But, if you are looking for something different and trying to stay away from meats for whatever reason, I'd give it a shot!

    The patty has diced carrot, diced onion, corn, and what appears to be pulverized broccoli. All of this is blended with a breadcrumb mixture. For added texture there are whole white beans and lima beans as well. It is well seasoned, and I am very sure that it was sauteed in garlic butter. The patty is served on a pickled green tomato, which offers crunch and brings some tartness to the party. The provolone doesn't add much to the sandwich, but doesn't hurt it either, and I suspect it is probably being used to help hold the patty together.

    The mayonnaise they serve with it has a heat to it that I can't put my finger on exactly. Possibly chili powder?

    The choice of brioche was excellent, as it is a very light and sweet bread, and it complements all the flavours extremely well. This gives you a great sensation when you take a bite of sweetness, then the pickled tomato tart, followed by a flavour explosion as the rest of the players mingle.

    I will be getting this again.

    Wow, this turned out a lot longer then I expected. I hope you all enjoyed, and I will be posting another one tomorrow night. For now, the kid is knocked out (I gave her medicine), and I think I'm done for the night as well.

    T T F N!
  14. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 8 (Part 3 of 3)
    Rumbly in the Tumbly

    (Nothing has changed, so no summary)

    The kid is still passed out, and I'm afraid to go to sleep yet because I want to make sure she sleeps comfortably. So, I thought this would be a good time to post some details that I have left out of or didn't elaborate well in previous posts.

    1) The Cost of Convenience

    I paid for the Preferred Room at the Pop. So far, I am enjoying this hotel. When booking, I thought, sure, why not pay a bit more and be close to the busses and food court? I figured I would appreciate this benefit, especially on nights where she was tired coming home.

    I was wrong.

    The hotel is extremely loud and busy. It doesn't really start quieting down until nearly 3a. People on different arrival schedules are always arriving, and letting their kids play in the pool (I assume people who live in different time zones). I don't begrudge this at all, but at CBR, the pool closes. At Pop, it goes on all night. Disney does occasionally send out Security to try and get them to calm down, but in my experience it rarely has much effect.

    Also, during the day the main pool is basically a huge dance party. They blast music, play games. This is fantastic, unless you are trying to catch some rest in your room. Then they are like the noisy neighbors who constantly throw parties and blare music.

    The room is not insulated well enough to keep these noises out, and the sounds of children shreiking in pleasure makes it quite difficult for me to get the kid settled at night, as her 7 year old brain keeps waking up and thinking...why can't I be out there having fun too?

    I've walked the other parts of the hotel at night, and they are fine (though there is foot traffic). But, if I ever stay here again, I will NOT be paying extra money for the convenience. In fact, now that I know the property, I would request a room in the 50s building that faces the 60s building and overlooks the garden. It's not much further from the front then I am now, and it's vastly quieter. I want the hotel room to retreat to at the end of the day and recharge...not situated next to a night club!

    Mind you, I'm thoroughly enjoying my stay, and I can see why Pop has raving fans. I would just rather be in a quieter (and coincidentally, cheaper) part of the property.

    2) Pop Traditions

    As I walk the hotel, I can tell that a lot of families must do this hotel regularly. How do I know? They decorate their windows. This is not an uncommon sight here, from what I can tell, and I've never seen these type of displays before. The type of display is varied. I've seen mouse ear collections, stuffed animal collections, disney cup collections, window vinyls, deflated balloons taped to windows...

    3 of the windows are very striking, and pictures are attached. One family went so far as to theme the window, make decorated door placards with their names in glitter "Queen Jessica, Princess Lacey, etc" (not their real names, just an example). They used 3m removable hooks to hang them on the door with a ribbon. They also lined the window with lights, and custom made window clings. One window is done up with a princess motif, and the other is a fairies. Obviously a lot of thought went into the design of these, and walking by them always makes me grin.

    3) Using Extra Magic hours (specifically to catch up on Big Rides)

    In 2010, I had read about Extra Magic hours, but really didn't understand how they worked. We sortof "happened" into them by chance, and back then I found that I wasn't alone. The parks were normally fairly empty, especially the closer to midnight that you got (for 1a at MK). This year, people seem to have caught on.

    I've noticed that this year, Disney seems to keep a lot more open for Extra Magic then they have in the past. However, a LOT more people know the system now, and they all seem to have the same idea. Hit the big rides!

    So, my analysis is, I wouldn't plan your trip around them, and what it does to your night schedule will destroy your morning schedule. For every EM late hour you spend, in my experience you will lose 1 - 2 hours of morning hours, unless you and the family stress to get out of the door in the morning (and who wants to do that?). If they do happen, and you run across them, neat. But, I wouldn't plan your days around them.

    In addition, I've read the observation elsewhere that so many people DO plan their trips around them now that they actually are indicators of days when the park will be busier, as many people don't have park hoppers. I concur with this observation.

    4) ADRs for Lunch

    This year I was instistant on using all (or nearly all) of my Dining Credits, as I buy the Deluxe Plan, and each year I've left the parks with leftovers. I'm saving my receipts from each meal (which I do by taking a picture of them when the bill is delivered or when I purchase) so I can do a true Cost Benefit Analysis as a Post Trip report. Anyhow, as a result, I've found that lunch ADRs are just a bad idea. Dinner works out fine for me, as does Breakfast.

    But, Lunch really sticks you with pressures to get someplace right in the middle of the day. It really stinks when you want to ride a ride or see a show, but can't because it would make you late for your ADR. For those of you who don't know...if you MISS an ADR, there is a $10 charge per person to the credit card used to reserve it.

    Additionally, many of the restaurants have a limited menu for lunch, and some of their more exotic and interesting offerings are on the dinner menu only.

    Perhaps if I was going with another adult or older child of reasoning age, I'd feel differently. But, with a 7 year old, I wish I'd booked less lunches, more breakfasts, and more signature dining (still time to change that if I want).

    5) AoA to Pop and AoA vs Pop

    The resorts are so close together that I assume that Disney has planned for cross pollination (hence the locks on the main pool at AoA). AoA is much quieter, but I don't know how much longer it will stay like that. The resorts are so close that it's an easy paced 5 minute walk from my room (which is right next to the main pool) to the AoA food court (maybe 10 if you are coming from a remote part of each respective property).

    If you are going with a group of 4 or more, AoA is the way to go. In fact, I chatted tonight with a Cast Member who happened to also be from Atlanta when I bought the kids tummy meds, and she has family at the Wilderness Cabins right now. She said after seeing the rooms at AoA, they should have gone there. The size is comparable, and the cost would have been less (though, I wonder if she used some Cast perk for their trip, not at all sure how that works).

    The AoA rooms will sleep 6 comfortably, according to the gentleman I spoke with today, with two daybed options in the living space. I don't know if that is true, but I have no reason to doubt him.

    One thing I have enjoyed this trip is the fact that I can take the AoA bus or the Pop bus home. The stops also tend to be next to each other, so the kid and I just get into whichever line is shorter, or grab whichever bus comes first on the way home.

    This has dramatically decreased bus wait times, which has been a plus as we've done a lot of park hopping.

    AoA also has a vastly superior food court, and many items even, from bottled drink offerings, prepped snacks, etc, have far more variety when compared to Pop. For example, they sell 1 liters of Coke at AoA, and their prepped food plates have a much larger variety. So, if you want to pick up snacks on your way back to the room for late night (or early morning), it's a great place to visit on your trek back to the room.

    In the reverse, Pop has better Rice Crispy treats. At AoA they did a standard square and put a themed edible decal on it. At Pop they still have (for the time being) the custom shaped ones dipped in chocolate with sprinkles. So, if you are like me and collect them throughout your trip as gifts for people back home, go to Pop or get them at the parks.

    6) Agent P (used to be Kim Possible) at EPCOT

    This is a must do if you have kids (and even if you don't, though I don't know if they'll let you sign up without a child as the handsets do have a limited supply). If the main recruiting station for O.W.C.A. (Organization Without Cool Acronym) is very busy, there is another sign up location in Norway and another in the UK.

    Though I haven't done it this year, one of our best days last year was when we took the water taxi from a morning at MGM *cough* Hollywood Studios *cough* and signed up for Kim Possible right inside the International Gateway (it's off to the left as you enter from the back of the park, or if you are walking from France).

    7) Pin Trading, Pennies and Character Autographs

    The past two trips, my kid was into all these things. So, this year I was overzealous, and over prepared. As it turns out, this year, none of them interest her very much at all. She still loved the Princess dinner, and the breakfast at Tusker House, but the wonder about those activities is waning, and I can see it. Now, I have an autograph book that has almost no signatures, a pin collection that she's barely traded with (and now I mostly leave it at the hotel, carrying just a few of our "trading" pins just in case she changes her mind), and I have completely stopped carrying the penny bag.

    On previous trips, she would eagerly wait for a character meet and greet or for the Character Spot, now she analyzes the line and generally declines ("I already have his autograph already"). She still does wave hi and yell a greeting...but she really isn't into it like she was in the past. The wonderful thing about Disney is, this waning interest has been replaced with different ones (probably why adults love it so much too).

    So, my advice. Before you sink a ton of money or time into it, even if the kid has loved it on previous trips, wait and make sure they are still interested in it, as you may find that they've grown beyond it (or just aren't interested at all).

    I really don't have much more for this post, and I'm sure I've rambled on long enough. I am mostly burning time to make sure she didn't wake up or have a relapse, but so far it's been smooth sailing, so I'm going to wrap it up for the evening.

    Thanks again to all of you who read my posts and sent your well wishes. I appreciate it. I would share them with her, but I'm sure if I said Curious Alice, kid@heart, Trnrmarkad, joanna71985, inumom2, and Rachelln wished her well, she'd probably think I'd lost my mind!

    Still, thanks to you all. I will be back tomorrow.
  15. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 9
    Lunch with a Magic Maker, Whoop Dee Doo, AoA wins again!

    Magic Moments - 1 (Dine with an Imagineer)
    Pics Taken - 83
    Vid for Projects Taken - 12
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 1 (Physical Exhaustion)
    Unexpected Surprises - 0
    Peeves - 1 (Smelly People)

    Breakfast - Coffee (me), OJ (kid) (Pop)
    Lunch - Cobb Salad, Potato Leek Soup, Beef Filet with Mushroom Risotto, Creme Brulee (both) (Brown Derby)
    Dinner - Fried Chicken, BBQ Pork Ribs, Sweet Butter Corn, Mashed Potatoes, Baked Beans (both) (Hoop de Hoo Musical Revue)
    Late Dinner - Surf and Surf Burger (AoA)
    Snacks - None

    Dinner Credits left - 30
    Snack Credits left - 27

    After a long and worried night, but also without relapse, I was in no mood to get moving this morning. Like a zombie risen from the grave, I wandered to the hotel food court and picked up a milk and oj for the kid to test her stomach with and two mugs of coffee for me.

    She was chipper after nearly 20 hours of off and on sleep, and was ready for the day within 30 minutes. I, on the other hand was not, and it was a very long and hot shower before I felt human again.

    We headed off to Dine with an Imagineer with 40 minutes to spare. It took forever for the Hollywood bus to come this morning, for whatever reason, and we ended up walking into the event just as they were getting started. Not quite perfect timing, but good enough.

    It was an amazing experience. I certainly will add this to the short list when planning future trips. But, not for next year. Then, she will be old enough for some of the tours, so we'll probably do those.

    I wrote a Mission: Disney assignment for it, and you can read it here: Mission: Dine with and Imagineer

    I am still amazed at how relaxing and laid back the entire experience was. We dined with 2 other families, one with 2 children around age 10, and the other with 3 teenagers, including a young man who was obviously in awe of the Imagineer, and was very curious as to how to become one.

    The food was top notch.

    The Potato Leek soup was everything that the soup I ate yesterday should have been. It was smooth and satisfying. The Cobb Salad proved that size does matter. The Cobb they serve is much smaller then the one they serve when you order it in the restaurant. I didn't enjoy the appetizer Cobb much when I ate at Brown Derby a few days ago, but this version I found the ratio of goodies to lettuce perfect.

    The Beef Filet with Mushroom Risotto could have come straight out of the Le Cellier kitchen, and if I had known this, I would have skipped Le Celllier (gasp) and tried some other signature dine instead with those credits.

    The Creme Brulee was ok (I haven't been overly impressed with any Creme Brulee I've had on this trip so far, even Le Cellier's). Outside of the Creme Brulee, the kid and I finished pretty much everything.

    The service was fantastic today, and I would have left a tip, but I noted that there is an automatic 18% gratuity included on the tab, so I didn't. The only gripe I had with the meal was that they didn't offer coffee with the dessert. I didn't ask either, but it would have been a nice touch after such a rich lunch.

    I really enjoyed some of the questions that popped up, and was pleasantly surprised when it turned into a table discussion, rather then a straight up interview style Q&A. The Imagineer was very good keeping the discussion moving, and acted more like a moderator as opposed to a subject of an interview. I asked several questions of the other adults at the table even, as they had experiences that they loved to share (I was especially interested in the Dream).

    The kid had to answer a call from nature, and while I waited on her to finish, I struck up conversation with another family that was waiting outside. It turns out the father is a monorail driver. Their child is severely autistic. They took him to Disney World on a vacation several years ago, and he opened up...so they moved to Florida and got a job with Disney. What a cool story!

    When we got back, the discussion had turned to the work our Imagineer had done on the Dream and the Fantasy. Some questions I didn't put in the Mission: Disney report that came up were:

    1) Is the Dwarves Mine Coaster going to be a thrill/dark ride mix, similar to the mixed profile of the Cars ride at Carsland?

    He said definitely a mixed ride. His exact statement was something along the lines of "Disney is not in the roller coaster business, we are here to tell a story." He couldn't go into much more detail, but this is good to know. I'm even more excited for 2014 now.

    2) Did WED change it's name to WDI because they kept getting calls for Wedding services?

    He had never heard this one, but the person sitting next to my daughter had as well. I forget where I heard it (some documentary I think), but she had heard it from a Cast Member when she did the Keys to the Kingdom tour (which she raved about, so I can't wait to try that sometime).

    3) Are there any plans to bring Glow with the Show style ears to DisneyWorld?

    Again, he said he had never heard of them and wasn't sure. In fact, I was a bit surprised that no one at the table had heard of them.

    Through the whole meal, he was very engaging and polite, and everyone got questions in, including my kid who clammed up when the spotlight is on her, and then asked about the bamboo roof of the room and why does it look so old.

    He answered this beautifully and turned it into a into a discussion about how much time and effort is placed by WDI to age things, and spoke of the team that does it with paint and sandblasters. He was there before the "aging" team did work on Everest, and he said everything in the queue was fresh and new. They were there for a few days day, and when he returned it looks like it does now.

    The whole meal isn't really timed, and the meal courses are served once everyone is finished with that course. At no point did any of us feel rushed.

    Everyone at the table was obviously as enthusiastic about Disney as I am. We all left feeling very special, and having small chats with each other.

    During the meal, I had missed a few calls from work, and had to rush back to the hotel to handle some loose ends that had frayed up there. Then I wrote my Mission: Disney report while it was still fresh on my mind. During this I got a call from a 407 area code, and thought...who from Disney would be calling me?

    It turns out it was the Dining Reservation Center. I had planned the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue for Monday night at 9:30p, but Disney decided to cancel that showtime starting Sunday night. So, they were calling to let me know they could squeeze me in tonight if I wanted. I had planned to do the Luau tonight at 9p, but they helped me rebook it tomorrow night for 5:15p and cancelled my Germany ADR for me. No biggie. I love the show there, but hate the food. If you want good food from that pavilion, go to the QS option. It's far superior.

    I was offered the 5p or 9p showtime, and I chose 5p. A week and half of hitting the parks, sick kiddo, lost cameras, near sunburns and short sleeps had finally caught up with me, and I needed a slow day of my own.

    On the bus ride over to Ft. Wilderness, I ran through the evening options with the kid, and she decided on going to EPCOT after the show. I was very cool with that, as EPCOT closes the earliest of all the parks tonight (except AK).

    I accidentally got off at Wilderness Lodge. Wow, what a resort. I can see why DVC members like it so much. I love the relaxed feel of it. It has boat and bike rentals which I will file away for future trips. The whole time we were there I saw people riding on the well kept bike trails that seem to criss cross the property, and as an avid biker, I wanted to join them!

    We wandered around taking pictures and shooting a few dancing videos, and had made it as far back as Artist's Point when I finally decided to double back and ask someone where the Hoop de Hoo is. They informed me that I was at the wrong resort, and it immedietly hit me. It's at Ft. Wilderness NOT Wilderness Lodge. I knew that! What was I thinking?

    The Wilderness resorts have an on property bus that connects them, so we ran down to catch it. Ft. Wilderness is interesting. It's very spread out, and has it's own busses that run as shuttles throughout the resorts. My kid loved seeing the deer and horses as we arrived.

    We were a few minutes late for the Hoop de Hoo because of my mental malfunction, but as it turns out the show really doesn't get rolling until 10 - 15 minutes after "showtime" anyhow. I assume this is to give the diners time to get seated and settled. So, we didn't miss anything.

    Considering the size of the Venue, the place was about half full. I did notice they do an interesting thing with the tables. The tables in the back have longer legs on the table and chairs then towards the front. Each "row" of tables is gradually shorter then the tables behind it. It's not something you would notice easily wish a casual glance, but what a neat trick for Disney to throw in!

    We were taken to a two-top table that was literally by the piano, and about 10 feet from the stage. This was fun, except that it's up against a wall. One seat had a fantastic view, the other had almost no view at all. So, I gave the kid the good seat. Still, poor planning on their part, and it frustrated me when I saw how many empty tables they had around the restaurant where we could both have a great view.

    When I pulled out my daughter's chair for her and pretended she was a "grand lady" (a common game we play), she refused to sit. It was covered in some liquid (soda I think)! The seater hadn't noticed, and was staring off into space with our menus under his arm. I grabbed one of the napkins (which doesn't absorb water worth squat), and dried off her chair. He eventually came around, and rushed off to get a towel to clean the chair, but by the time he got back I'd already done the job.

    The table looked like someone had set off a shredded parmeasan cheese bomb on it. It was on the plates, the tablecloth, the napkins, my chair. It was everywhere. I cleaned most of it off, but if you look at the picture of the Cornbread, you can still see it on the tablecloth.

    We had to make a restroom break at this point. The restrooms are "outside and to the left". They are public restrooms, like you find all over the parks. And, they were thoroughly disgusting. My daughter wouldn't even use them, even though she was the reason we stepped out. "It stinks and the floor is wet".

    The men's room wasn't much better. Things were going downhill fast. I worked a long time in restaurants, and I have a very long fuse as I know what rough nights are like, but I was very close to calling off the whole thing.

    While we were outside, the performers came around the corner, and they were a hoot! I watched them do a few quick photo op requests from guests who were outside of the show, and then they went to the front porch to get ready for their entrance. They alone kept my interest long enough to keep going.

    We got back to the table and our waiter introduced himself and got us our drinks. Drinks are served in Mason jars, which is a fun touch.

    The restaurant is "all you care to enjoy" (Disney's magical way of saying "Eat until you burst, fatty!") <grin>

    They serve it in and on pewtarex (stainless steel that looks like pewter) buckets, bowls and plates. It's a fun motif.

    Determined to give the place a fair shot, I started to dig into the food. The salad was delicious, and I found myself eating several servings. It wasn't overly special, just a house salad, but everything was very fresh and the ratio of veg to dressing was spot on. The cornbread was decent. I'm from the south, and I know cornbread. This was not authentic at all, and I've had much better. But, that aside, it was good.

    The honey butter, on the other hand, was not. For those of you who are interested, for the best honey butter you should try and find a sweet cream unsalted butter for the best flavor. The saltiness of good cornbread doesn't need anything added to the party. Let the butter get to room temperature. Try to find a good wildflower or orange blossom honey, and blend it 1 part honey to 3 parts butter using a small fork. Whip until it's fluffy. But, I'm off track. Enough Southern Snobbery from me (don't ever get me started on how to properly make Iced Sweet Tea, I'll write a whole dissertation on it!)

    Here, they not only used a salted butter, but it was VERY salty. I don't mind salted butter at all, but this tasted like it had a salt shaker dumped into it. The honey was runny. Without good honey butter, I didn't have much interest in my cornbread loaf, though I did have 2 slices with butter just to make sure I was correct in my initial impression. I was.

    The show starts about 20 minutes after seating, which I think is way too long. My kid had already lost interest, and was chattering about how this was boring and she really wanted to go out and look at the ponies. The entrance was lackluster, but I hand it to the performers, they really gave it their best shot.

    They all hop up to the stage and introduce themselves (too quickly, I think, both the kid and I had trouble understanding what they were saying as they were speaking at the speed of the Micro Machines man), and then sing a song about your upcoming food.

    This lasts about 10 minutes, and the lights come back up while the Banjo player (who was fantastic) plays a few songs as your food is delivered. This is a family style restaurant, so everyone eats out of central serving dishes (or buckets in this case). You get fried chicken, BBQ pork ribs, mashed potatoes, sweet butter corn kernels and baked beans.

    I'm pleased to say, all were fantastic! I could run through all the dishes in detail, but there really is no need. It was awesome.

    About 20 minutes later, they start the actual "show". By now the audience had warmed up to the performers, and they really started to shine. 6-cent (?) is the male comic relief, and he really stole the show, but they all did a good job.

    Then the dessert comes out, Strawberry Shortcake, which was also amazingly good. The performers take the stage for the finale, and it was very amusing (some genuinely funny skits).

    The winner of the night was my waiter, as he had several quips throughout the meal that were hilarious, including one that was completely ad-lib. When he was clearing the table, my kid decided she wanted to sprinkle extra salt the leftover fried chicken. He let her and then said "Well, I guess you just as-salt-ed the chicken." I burst out laughing, and with a straight face, he looked at me and said "I had to let her do it. I didn't want to in-salt her."

    Absolutely brilliant! So, after a rough start, the place turned out to be pretty fun. The food was excellently produced, and while the show was mediocre, it was still fun. I wouldn't classify it as a must do, but if you are looking for something new to try, I would check it out.

    While, overall I enjoyed it, the kid thought it was ok, though on the bus ride to EPCOT I asked her what she thought of the Hoop Dee Doo. She responded "Hoop Dee Doo? It's Whoop Dee Do." while twirling her finger in the air and rolling her eyes. It seems she is learning puns. How fun!

    Once at EPCOT, we rode Mission Space Green and Orange (I was still sortof testing her stomach, but I was pretty sure she was going to be fine) and Sourin' twice.

    Note, if you do Sourin' right at 9p, you'll find it's a pretty short wait, and we were able to loop back around and we had an even shorter wait on the second run.

    Nothing really special to report here, except that EPCOT at night is still my favorite place to be at Disney, and that we got to ride Mission Space with a very nice, but incredibly smelly person. I couldn't put my finger on the smell when we were in the secondary queue (where you suit up), and after checking myself, I even asked my kid quietly if she had an accident.

    It wasn't until we got off the ride and I had to walk behind her the whole way to Mission Control that I knew where it was coming from. It wasn't body odor, and it wasn't pleasurable at all.

    The bus ride home was on a Mears bus as opposed to a Disney Transit bus, which meant reclining seats and TVs! The driver had taken it upon himself to put in a DVD of classic Disney cartoons. It was wonderful to see some of these cartoons again, and I found myself remembering gags from them that I probably haven't seen in 25 - 30 years. Amazing how classic Disney works like that.

    When we got to the room, the kid crawled up under the covers and promptly fell asleep (not what I expected). I decided not to bug her about a bath tonight, as we hadn't had a sweaty day at all, and I'll have her shower in the morning.

    I had a few hours of work to take care of after the phone calls this afternoon, and it was around 10p. I decided I wanted something to snack on while I worked, so I ran over to AoA to snag one of the Surf and Surf burgers that had caught my eye the day before.

    Once again I was not disappointed. The burger is a crab and fish patty that is well seasoned. They serve this with a spicy aioli, lettuce, tomato and fried shrimp on a sweet white roll. It was fantastic, and pictures are attached.

    So, there you have my day today. Tomorrow we are off to Magic Kingdom!
  16. englanddg

    englanddg Mouseketeer

    Jun 30, 2012
    Day 9
    Belly Dancin' Baby, Sponge-dad Squarepants, Battle of the Burgers

    Magic Moments - 0
    Pics Taken - 94
    Vid for Projects Taken - 9
    Discomforts (bug bites/etc) - 0
    Unexpected Surprises - 0
    Peeves - 0

    Breakfast - Coffee (me), Chocolate Milk (not Nesquick) (kid) (Pop)
    Lunch - Harira Soup, Couscous with Lamb Shank, Bastilla (me), Chicken Tenders, Ice Cream (kid) (Marrakesh, Morocco)
    Dinner - Sweet Bread, Pineapple, Tropical Salad, Pork Ribs, Chicken, Rice, Mixed Veg, Chocolate pudding with raspberry sauce (both) (Spirit of Aloha, Polynesian Resort)
    Late Dinner - Pastrami Burger (AoA), BBQ Angus Bacon Burger (Pop), Mexican Hotdog (Pop)
    Snacks - None

    Dinner Credits left - 22
    Snack Credits left - 27

    After an early and restful night, we were both up easily this morning. She took a quick shower (faster then usual), and was dressed and ready before I was finished with mine. So, instead of bringing our morning drinks back to the room, we went down to the food court. The place was packed to the gills, but I snagged a to go coffee and she wanted chocolate milk.

    I paid for these out of pocket rather then use up credits, and we went out to catch a bus. We had planned on Magic Kingdom today, but I also had reservations for lunch at Marrakesh in EPCOT, so there was nothing really holding us back. So, we decided to play bus roulette.

    Animal Kingdom! I was fine with this, as it was supposed to be overcast and cool all day with scattered showers. A *perfect* day for Animal Kingdom, in my book. I find that park on a hot day is unbearable.

    We headed off to Everest to snag a fast pass for a ride later in the day. The wait was short, but I wanted to see Lion King, and there was no way we could have made both. So, we didn't ride. In 2 years of 2 week trips, we've probably never spent more then 4 days total in this park combined (including this past Sunday), and we always end up doing the same things...Africa, Asia and Dino-Land. So, fast passes in hand, we walked through Asia and headed towards Camp Minnie Mickey.

    The park wasn't very crowded yet, and we happened upon Devine in our way out of Asia (right before the drums). I love Devine. We didn't see her last year, but in 2010 we happened upon her, and I think she's one of the most unique features of the park. We watched her for a few minutes and took a dancing video and tons of pictures. Then we pounded on the drums until our hands were red, and continued our journey.

    As I've stated before, I normally don't enjoy this park very much, but today, be it the weather or our general mood, I was having a wonderful time wandering along the pathways.

    We arrived at Camp M&M (as my kid has started calling it), and headed over to the Lion King theater. The first show was scheduled to start soon, so we settled in our seats and nibbled on some california trail mix I had brought with me and drank water from the Brita water bottle. This has become something my kid enjoys doing every time she sees a water fountain. She loves filling it up. I'm not sure how she feels about how it works for the water, but I can certainly taste the difference.

    The theater is enclosed, which I didn't expect. I had always thought it was an outdoor amphitheater like Fantasmic. Once the show started, I understood why. I have read people who say this is a close second to La Nouba. I agree. The show was fantastic! Every song from Lion King you can think of was in it, and the acrobatics and other performances were amazing. The finale actually made me sniffle a bit, as it's quite heart moving.

    I can't believe in 3 visits I'd never taken time out for this before. If you do AK, don't be like me. Go see it. It's a new must do, and I will not miss it again.

    Our Fast Pass window was coming up, so we walked back to Asia through Africa again. I was puporsfully taking this route to avoid Dino-Land USA, which is my kid's favorite part of the park outside of Everest and the Safari. Why? The Bone Yard.

    This attraction is a huge playground and sandbox. She has a blast, and I enjoy it...in 15 minutes spurts, and getting her to leave is hit or miss. But, she could literally stay there for hours if I let her. So, I strategized...out of sight, out of mind!

    After riding Everest, I was really enjoying trying out new things, and wanted to go check out the petting zoo and try and catch Nemo and the Parade, but I had a lunch ADR to attend to. Again, I noted to myself that I won't do so many lunch ADRs on future trips. This is exactly why I have not enjoyed them.

    By far, today was my best trip to AK ever. So, sadly, we said goodbye. We probably will not come back on this visit (though, I might try to sqeeze in a few hours in the coming days if it's a cool day like today).

    We hopped a bus to All Star Music (just happened to be the first bus we came upon), and then grabbed a bus to MGM from there. We rode the Water Taxi from MGM to EPCOT, and it was fun. We got a seat on the back of the boat. It drizzled a little bit on our commute, but no lightning and certainly not a major storm.

    I love using the International Gateway to enter EPCOT. It's never crowded, the boat ride is fun, and with a 7 year old, it's similar in terms of commute time as coming in the front and walking to the back of the park.

    We arrived for our reservation a few minutes late, but they had no issues with this. The restaurant wasn't very busy at all. We were given a nice table near where the band and belly dancer performs. I was a bit disappointed they were not out, but they did show up about halfway through our meal, to my kid's delight. The belly dancer even took an interest in her and taught her how to belly dance. This was hilarious. My kid has is rather uncoordinated (not uncommon for a 7 year old), and she looked more like she was using an invisible hula hoop then doing a belly dance.

    I decided to go all lamb, and didn't regret it. The soup was well seasoned and wonderful. The couscous and lamp is one of my favorite things to eat, and was equally good. The only disappointment I had was that they still use a limited american kids menu. My kid didn't mind (what kid says no to Chicken Nuggets?), but I wish they had a bit more for the kids at the international pavilion. Food is a great way to share cultures.

    The decor is amazing, and I love to take in all the lush fabrics and details on the walls as I eat. Morocco is the only pavilion that is actually sponsored and operated by the country it represents, and I personally think this shows. The restaurant is ornate, the street bazaar is loads of fun, and overall it's one of my favorite pavilions. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore.

    Though it had been a cool day, it was humid, and I was feeling sticky. We had the Luau coming up tonight, and I wanted to feel fresh for it. So, we caught the water taxi back to MGM and headed back to the hotel and I let the kid swim for a bit while I did some work (and messed around on TD). I've had my gripes about the WiFi, and those haven't changed, but it was nice to sit on the side of the pool while she played around and practiced her "straight legs" (which is what she calls the flutter kick) while holding onto the edge of the pool.

    We cleaned up, and left for the luau with about 45 minutes to spare. This is cutting it close, because we needed to catch a bus to Magic Kingdom, walk over to the monorail station or the boat launches and either catch a water taxi or the resort line monorail. The actual transit time would be will within this window, but you can never really predict how long the wait for each mode of transportation will be. Then, once you get to Polynesian, you are looking at a 10 - 15 minute walk unless you rush to get to Luau Cove, and that assumes you know where you are going.

    I, actually, was ok with this, and I'll explain why. First, from what I remember of last years Luau, the show doesn't get started immediately, so you really don't miss anything if you are a few minutes late. Second, I really didn't want to go. I did the Luau last year because my kid's mother had joined us on the trip, and she really wanted to do it. My kid loved it too, so I am only doing it this year because she's excited to do it. Of course, I'd never let on that I don't like it to her, but...I was walking into this with very low expectations.

    As it turned out, the gods of luck were on our side and we literally walked onto the Magic Kingdom bus, and 25 minutes later were boarding the Water Taxi for Polynesian. This excited my kid. We've never done these (well, I have, but it was decades ago), and she's been asking about them all trip.

    A smooth ride over Seven Seas Lagoon, and we were making our way back to the Luau.

    We arrived a few minutes early, and there was still a line at check-in, but it wasn't long. We made our way up the path and collected our Leis and had our picture taken. I was doing my best to get into this, but I just had terrible memories of it, and was silently expecting the worst. My kid, however, was in seventh heaven, and was chattering and running around.

    Let me take a moment to explain why I have such a bad feeling about the Luau. As I stated before, we went in 2011, and we did the late show (7p as I recall). The Luau is outdoors, and it...was...hot. We were seated on the top level, house left, near the bathrooms. The tables and seats are of a very heavy construction, and don't shift well. The tables were shoved very close together, and are very small. With a party of four, we were constantly running out of table space, and due to the proximity to the tables around us, I felt very enclosed and trapped. The guy in the table behind me was consistantly hitting the back of my chair throughout the show, and I had to crane my neck to see anything because I couldn't angle my chair as there was no room.

    Due to the low ceiling, the venue is very noisy. The wait staff seemed comprised of retirees, which there is nothing wrong with that, but the last person you want leaning over you in a noisy venue is a 60 something waiter who looks obviously uncomfortable and looks like they just finished a session of Sweatin' to the Oldies, no matter how polite they are.

    The food was ok, with two shining stars, the ribs and the pineapple that came with the salad. The rest was merely passable. And the show was mediocre. I had a hard time understanding what they were saying as they spoke too fast. I've seen several Luaus in my life, and this was a far cry from what you can find in Hawaii.

    So, that was 2011. Now you know why I was secretly dreading this meal. But, seeing my kid's excitement and obvious enthusiasm to be back kept my negative mood in check.

    We were seated literally in the front, and off to the right. There was a pole in front of our table, but unlike at Hoop De Hoo, both of us had a comfortable view. I have my kid the seat closer to stage center. This venue also uses pewtarax serving dishes, and is family style, and our salad, pineapple and bread was already on the table.

    I'm going to break for a moment and explain why I know the rather obscure name of this material, since I've now referenced it twice. I used to open restaurants, and we used it for our Salad Bar crocks. When opening a store in Superior, CO, we were doing the walkthrough with the health inspector to get our initial permit. This walkthrough is completely different then a regular inspection, and in most jurisdictions is done by a different inspector who is specifically assigned to do these sorts of inspections.

    They are extremely detailed, and everything is checked. Though I'm used to this, the guy in Superior was by far the strictest inspector I've ever had to deal with. He was asking us how we maintain temp at the salad bar (below 40 degrees), and the General Manager of the soon to be opened restaurant chimed in that we use "pewter crocks and ice". BIG mistake. Pewter contains lead.

    His little inspector ears perked up, and, while we passed everything else, and the pewtarex name was stamped on the bottom of all the crocks, he refused to issue our permit until we had provided him proof that the crocks were not made out of pewter. 6 hours on the phone later, I finally got someone at DuPont who could help me out and faxed me what I needed. I never forgot what that material was.

    I wasn't very hungry, but I dug into the pineapple with a ferociousness. I was not disappointed. I don't know where Disney gets it's pineapple from, but it is the sweetest best pineapple I have ever had. The kid and I both had some sweet bread and salad. Both are good, but nothing to rave about.

    Our waitress stopped by (still using retirees I see), and she was a blast. She engaged the kid, and it was a lot of fun to see my kid spout off how much she's been looking forward to the show and asking if the "fire man" was going to come back out. I had already consumed half of the pineapple, and asked if we could have some more as she went to get our drinks.

    While she was out Act I had started. It was pretty much as I remembered it, but with better seats I enjoyed it much more. I felt my mood starting to warm.

    She came back with our drinks and a small plate of pineapple, which I consumed all of as well. My kid asked me why I was eating so much pineapple, and between bites, I said "Because I live in a pineapple under the sea." She said, "Oh, so you are Spongebob...no...Sponge-dad Squarepants!" Heh, I am raising a comedian. :P

    During the break between the acts the appitizers were cleared and the entrees delivered. You get ribs (that are more of a dry rub with a sweet sauce then a BBQ), chicken, rice and a vegetable mix. The same as last year, all of it was good, and the ribs were fantastic. The second Act started, and I found myself really starting to enjoy the show. Perhaps it was the fact we went a bit earlier, perhaps it was the weather (though it was still muggy, it was very cool compared to last year).

    I still didn't find the story very engaging. Appearantly there is a young woman who went off to the "mainland" to get a college education, and had forgotten her heritage. So, the primary plot of the show is to re-educate her about her roots, and as a happy ending, she discovers what "home" and "family" are all about.

    It's ok, and I can see why my kid loves it. However, it's on par with Hoop de Hoo in terms of depth. That being said, I really enjoyed the dancers this time, now that we had a closer view. The fire twirler came out, and for this I must say I preferred the later show last year, where it was dark already. The kid loved it though, and commented randomly halfway through "Don't you think he's handsome daddy?". I didn't know she was 7 going on 17.

    All the kids are invited to join the dancers on the stage and do the hula, which was the highlight of the night for the munchkin outside of the "Fire Man". The chocolate volcano dessert was ok, but neither one of us were very interested in it. In all, I enjoyed it this year, unlike last year. But, for 2 dinner credits each and 2 hours of time, I can think of far better things to do on property.

    I wouldn't put this on a must do list, but it certainly is a try it once sort of thing. That being said, the kid disagrees with me, and so I will probably end up doing this again.

    After the meal, I offered the kid two options. We could head over to Magic Kingdom and catch some rides and watch the evening show, or we could tour the resorts for a bit and watch the water electrical parade (if you've never seen this, check it out one time) and catch the fireworks from the beach at Polynesian.

    She chose options C...go back to the hotel. She said she was tired, and wanted to go back to the hotel and relax (say what?).

    Not questioning, we rode over to Magic Kingdom, and after offering her one more time, hopped the bus back to the hotel. She took a long bath and crawled in bed where I cleaned and painted her toenails (her request). We watched TV while they dried, and she crawled under the duvet and promptly fell asleep. I don't know what this mood she is in lately is, but it's certainly interesting, though abnormal.

    After she was asleep, I was reviewing my dining credits, and I found I had a few spare, so I decided to do something for the Trip Report that I thought would be fun. I've talked a lot of about the AoA food court, so why not do a head on competition between the AoA food court and the Pop food court! What better way then to do a Battle of the Burgers!

    So, I donned my "wannabe food reviewer" hat, and was off! Both food courts have "signature" BBQ burgers. At AoA it's a Pastrami Burger, and at Pop it's a BBQ Bacon Angus Burger. I hiked over to AoA first, and the same cast member who had tipped off management on Thursday was working. He asked about how my kid was doing, and I informed him and thanked him for all his efforts. He said he was going back to the Pop food court starting tomorrow, and he'd love to meet the kid if I didn't mind stopping by. I shook his hand and thanked him again, and said we would certainly try to do so. What a great guy. I love CMs like this.

    One Pastrami burger later, I was walking back across the bridge munching on the fresh fries. I dropped the burger off at the room and took a big bite while it was still fresh, so I could do a fair review. It was pretty good, but I'll get into that in a moment.

    I then hiked over to Pop, and obtained a BBQ Bacon Angus. I noticed they had a "Mexican Hot Dog" special dish too, so I grabbed one of those as well, as I was curious.

    Back in the room, the tasting began. I will break this down into several categories. Bun, toppings, sauce, patty, fries, first bite, third bite (when you get to the middle of the sandwich and all the flavors really start to merge), and overall score.


    The Pop burger uses a standard sesame white roll. It's good, but pretty much a bagged bun you'd find at grocer. The AoA burger is served on whole-wheat multigrain toast. While this sounds wonderful, I didn't like it. I'm fond of multigrain breads, but for something like a burger, I think it needs to have a pop, and I like breads that highlight the burger/toppings, not overpower them. This bread is very dense and not very flavorful. If they sauteed it in butter rather then toasting it, it would have been completely different. Frankly, I think the whole sandwich would have been better with a Rye Swirl then a heavy multigrain. So, while cafeteria, point to Pop!


    The Pop burger is very simple. It has two strips of leather bacon (same type they serve at breakfast) and fried onions. AoA has pepperjack cheese, pastrami (thick cut), butter lettuce and tomato. Surprisingly, sometimes doing something simply, but well, is the way to go. I vastly preferred the toppings on the Pop burger. The bacon was terrible, but the fried onions are very well seasoned, and have a wonderful flavour.

    In comparison, the garden on the AoA burger didn't add much at all. The pepperjack cheese was mostly jack and very little pepper. It had no bite at all, and frankly if it were left off the sandwich I probably wouldn't have noticed it's absence. The pastrami was ok, but very fatty. This was a huge negative, because the last thing you want to do when eating a burger is fight with the sandwich to separate your bite from the sandwich itself. One more point to Pop!


    Pop uses a standard industrial BBQ sauce (which I assume is Heinz), and it's ok. AoA makes a Chipotle BBQ sauce, and it is very good. However, on my sandwiches, Pop over sauced my burger and AoA severely under-sauced it. With a BBQ burger, I like to taste the creamy sauce mingling with the ingredients as I chew. The AoA burger was just...dry. However, I did lift the bun and taste the sauce itself for the AoA burger, and it is delicious. If you order it, ask them to well sauce it. Even though there wasn't enough of it on my sandwich, point to AoA.


    Now on to the meat of matter (pun intended). Both restaurants use frozen preformed patties. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact, I freeze my patties at home before cooking (helps keep the burger from breaking apart on the griddle/grill). However, the key to making patties work is how you cook and season them. In both cases, they failed. A bland patty is ok if you want the star of the show to be the toppings, but otherwise is a bad idea. Point goes to neither.


    Both Pop and AoA use the same cut of fry (probably also frozen), and I got fresh orders from each. While both were good (especially when fresh), AoA put a seasoned salt on their that made them flat out addictive. In fact, I'd eaten most of them on the walk back to the room. Point to AoA.

    First Bite

    Pop uses a traditional bun, AoA uses sandwich bread. There is a reason why most popular burger restaurants don't use sandwich bread for burgers. The crust. If you use a toasted sandwich bread, you have to pick it carefully, as you don't want a crust that gets very tough when it toasts. Multigrain bread does get tough, even hard. There are cooking methods that can prevent this, but with a traditional toast, you are looking at a bad time, and maybe even cut up gums from it. A soft sourdough or a rye would have been much better. Either that, or instead of toasting if they had sauteed it in a knob of butter.

    Also, since the profile of the toppings/beef is round, but the bread is not, the AoA burger meant you had to hit it at just the right angle to get a good first bite. With the AoA burger, I had to nibble away at it before I got a really good bite, just to get through the bread. With Pop, I was able to dig right in. I, personally, hate this, so point to Pop.

    Third Bite (or fourth, or fifth)

    To me, the real test of a good burger (or any sandwich really) isn't the first bite, as that's just the teaser to get you interested, but it's when you get towards the middle of the sandwich and the flavors and textures really start to mingle. Each bite should be slightly different, as you get different proportions of sauce, patty and toppings each bite as you venture in. A good sandwich will make you want to take another bite. A bad one will leave you with a frustrating or bland experience.

    I would say that AoA took the point here, as the flavours are fantastic (once you get past the dry crunchy crust), but I have one gripe. The pastrami. It was very bland pastrami (not much saltiness at all, and I'm sure the chef who wrote this up on the menu planned to use it as a cheap but "exotic" bacon substitute). It was fatty. As I ventured into the sandwich, I found I had to fight with the fat every few bites. The few times I didn't, it tasted incredible, but 1/4 way into the sandwich, I was tired of fighting this darned meat just to get some burger goodness in my mouth!

    That being said, Pop also fails, as there isn't much variation in texture or variety of taste. If the bacon actually had some flavor, instead of being precooked slices that are reheated for serving, perhaps I would have felt differently. So, while I really did enjoy both sandwiches, this is a competition, and point goes to neither.

    Overall Score

    Lets see. Pop won for the Bun, the Toppings, and the First Bite. AoA won for the Sauce and the Fries. So, Pop wins!

    Still, both burgers were very good, and I enjoyed putting this together. While I don't think the Pop BBQ Burger is the best I've ever had, it's superior to the Pastrami Burger at AoA. I don't want to turn anyone off to that burger, so try it out for yourself. But, in my opinion, the burger shop over at the AoA food court has so many other options that are far superior (you can even build your own burger).

    Pop, however, has very few options. You can get the BBQ burger or the bacon cheeseburger. I've also tried the cheesesteak wrap...stay away from this. If you get the Pop BBQ burger, you won't be amazed, but you won't be disappointed either. And trust me on the fried onions. Yummers!

    So, onto the final dish I got for tonight to review. The mexican hot dog. It was ok. That's all I have to say about that. Hot dogs are probably not the best thing to get at Disney, nomatter how they dress them up, and this was no exception. I got it with Pasta Salad as the side, and that was very good.

    So, I'm off for the night, and I'll see you all tomorrow!

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