Feeding the "Beast": End-of-trip review and summary

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by TiggerAllie, Oct 22, 2006.

  1. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

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    The Disney-obsessed: Me & DP--2 30 yr old girls celebrating 10 yrs! :)
    Ok, well, we're sort of celebrating through all of our Disney trips this year. We have 3 planned in 6 months!

    The back story:
    Last year, we went to WDW in October (during hurricane Wilma) and just loved all the holiday festivities, along with Food & Wine.
    This year, we had planned a trip in December to see all the Christmas decor (trip #1). Then, in May, the youth baseball team we help out with qualified for the USSSA World Series at WWoS in early August (trip #2). Here's where the trouble started.... Now, because we were going to Disney for 2 weeks, it made perfect sense to buy APs. Actually, *premium* APs, so we could get into the baseball games. And, we got a great deal on the BC!

    Ok... now that we have the APs (good through 7/07!), when an extra week of vacation time comes up on October *and* airfare to Orlando is only $98 per person, where do you think we decide to go? To WDW of course! Who could pass up MNSSHP and Food & Wine?

    AKL here we come!

    Day 1 Saturday: A very long day (part 1)

    We've never stayed at AKL before. We are working our way around the World's resorts. So far, we've been to ASMu, ASSp, CSR, and BC. WL and Poly are scheduled for Dec. Usually, we rent a car. But, since this was a "last minute" trip, we were trying to do it on a smaller budget.
    So, we decided to explore the World of Magical Express and the Disney busses! Part of why I thought this would work is because I read lots of good reviews about the AKL bus service. The result? You'll have to read on to find out!

    Our flight left the Detroit airport at 7 AM, which meant waking up at 4:30 AM. Ouch! In preparation for our Magical Express trip (and to accommodate the new TSA regulations) we packed a carry-on bag with our clothes for that day, evening, and even the next day, along with essential toiletries. Everything else went into the checked luggage with the bright yellow Magical Express tags. The airport was blissfully empty at 6 AM. We dropped off our checked luggage and breezed through security. I highly recommend being ready to present your Ziploc bag of 3 oz bottles as you enter the security area. It saves lots of time if you don't have to bother digging it out of your bags.

    The flight was full, but we got on and left on time! Amazing! In August our flight was delayed because of the lack of a flight crew. Of course, I think the worst Disney delay we had was in February, when we were surprised by a snow storm as we were driving to the airport at 5 AM. I think we were on the plane for 7 hours before we landed in Orlando. Not this time! We touched down in Orlando 10 minutes early.

    Enter Magical Express... we skipped luggage claim and made our way down to the ME check-in desk. Here we got our first taste of "the Disney way". If you have ever waited in line at any of the rental car counters in Orlando, you know those lines can last over an hour, with only one or two people working at the desks. Compare that to Disney's ME, where there were at least 12 people working and we waited in line maybe 5 minutes. We checked in and went off to wait in the AKL line. After maybe another 5 minutes, they called Pop, CSR, and AKL to board the bus. There were maybe 20 people on the bus. We were on our way to Disney! Hooray!!

    The bus had a cute Disney promo to watch. I had hoped it would be updated for Year of a Million Dreams (we were only Day 7 at this point of YoMD), but they were still advertising Cinderellabration. Seems like they could have updated the DVD. It's not as if they didn't know YoMD was coming....

    We stopped at Pop and let off about half of the folks on the bus. We went on to CSR and dropped off a few more. Then we were on our way to AKL-- only 3 parties left on the bus! One of whom was fellow DISer Oh_the_anticipation! We arrived at AKL less that 1 hour after we deplaned. I was very impressed with ME thus far. Up until now, all my worries were for nothing.

    I can never sleep well the night before a flight, because I am too nervous that we’ll oversleep (I hate getting up in the morning), we’ll have trouble with traffic, the airport will be crowded, the flight will be delayed, etc. This trip, I had the added worry of Magical Express. So far, no troubles.

    Now, 6 hours after waking up, we are standing in line waiting to check in at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s our first stay at AKL. When we first walked into the lobby, we were blinded by the sun coming in the 4-story window at the back of the lobby that looks out over the savannah. The sun was so bright it reflected off of the dark, polished wood floor like a mirror. So, with squinty eyes from the lighting and the early morning, we had our fingers crossed that our room might be ready early so we could rest a bit.

    I was very excited about staying at AKL with all the animals. I had done lots of research about all the different room areas, even memorizing the location of the “worst AKL room ever” 2345. I had requested Zebra trail, Arusha savannah. Well, the room they assigned us (4382) was neither of these. In fact, it was the exact opposite, as it was on the Kudu trail, Sunset savannah. Ok—we were tired and even though I was concerned about the room location, I didn’t want to end up not having a room available for many hours. This was my first mistake. If you aren’t happy with the room location, say something about it right away.

    So, we get our keys and start the long trek down the Kudu trail all the way to the last building and go in our room. I go straight to the window to check our view. Ack! People pen! And a whole bunch of chain-link fencing. And a good chunk of the view is obscured by the staircase directly adjacent to our balcony. I do see some giraffe who walk by, and an ostrich comes up to the chain link fence and starts chewing and rattling the chain that keeps the fencing closed. The animals appear to have a path they follow as the circle into the enclosure and back out again. In fact, it seemed to be the spot the ostriches came to for a bathroom stop, as we saw more than one bird shower the ground with a splatter of poo. A small group of pigs root around looking for food. So, there are animals, but the view is quite ugly. My second mistake was not to say something about the room at this point. However, we were tired and hungry. We changed into some Florida-appropriate clothing (it was almost 90 degrees!) and headed out to Animal Kingdom.
     
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  3. happybratpack

    happybratpack <font color=green>Just Maryann :)<br><font color=b

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    I hope your AKL stay gets better as your report goes along.. :(

    Looking forward to reading more!! (and hopefully seeing some pics!) :wave:
     
  4. Dusted

    Dusted Mouseketeer

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    Waiting for day 2. Just got back ourselves from AKL, and still debating with my husband about the stay... can't wait to read and share your review with him.
     
  5. Cass

    Cass www.casshew.com

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    Great review so far, curious to see if you eventually switched rooms. Sounds like you had a L O N G walk to the end of Kudu.
     
  6. pumba

    pumba DIS PUMBARIZER Moderator

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    we are going to try ME too in December. We usually have a towncar and this will be a new experience. thanks for your views on that
     
  7. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

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    Day 1: Saturday (part 2)

    Is it really still only Saturday? Ok! Travel worries aside, we are off to Animal Kingdom!

    Our first experience with the Disney busses went well. We walked over to the AKL bus stop, and a bus came right away. We hopped on and were at AK in less than 5 minutes. There is this excellent service road that only the busses can use which dramatically shortens the trip between AKL and AK. I think it’s faster to go by bus from AKL to AK than by car for sure.

    As we were entering the park, we were surprised with characters! We met Rafiki, Miko, Friar Tuck, and Terk before we even went through the turnstiles! After grabbing a Fast Pass for Expedition Everest, we headed over to lunch at Tusker House. We were not on the dining plan (hence the AP room rate), but Tusker House is one of the few counter service places that takes the DDE card. The turkey wrap meal and salmon meal did not disappoint. However, the bathrooms there were not in good shape—about half of the toilets were dirty. While we were in there a little boy with his mom overflowed one of the toilets, and it spilled all over the floor. Yuck! We did report it to one of the cast members as we left so others wouldn’t be subjected to the ickiness. While waiting for our EE fast pass, we rode the Kilimanjaro Safari. The standby line was only 30 minutes. For the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend, it was surprisingly uncrowded. AK and Disney-MGM Studies, in my mind, have the narrowest walkways. Hence, it doesn’t take much of a crowd to lead to totally impassable paths. However, this day at AK, we had no trouble walking. In fact, we could even walk at our normally brisk pace with only minimal stroller interference.

    Is it time for EE yet? Ok, not yet. Our goal this trip was to try to go to some of the places and attractions we don’t normally see. So, we decided to get on the train to Conservation Station. We had heard rumors that Jiminy Cricket sometimes hangs out there. We found Conservation Station less than stimulating. It was surprisingly small, and the train ride didn’t have a lot of “show”—as in, we saw a lot of the backsides of buildings. Though it was interesting to learn that the animals went to sleep in the buildings every night. And that they rotated the animals, such that they had many more at AK than you ever see on the Safari. But—all was not lost! We did finally meet Jiminy Cricket!
    [​IMG]

    Still not time for EE. Our next stop was the Flights of Wonder bird show. It was actually well done. However, if you have issues with Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, don’t see this show. The birds really fly right over your head! And they are trained to go out into the audience and retrieve things from people’s hands. We did get to see a “Colb-eagle” (a.k.a. a bald eagle, for non-Steven Colbert fans).

    Still not time for EE. Really—the park was not very crowded! Our fast passes were only for 3 hours later (4PM) than we printed it (1PM). If you are keeping track, we’ve already eaten lunch, gone on the Safari, ridden the train to Conservation Station, and seen Flights of Wonder. And we still have time to go ride Dinosaur! (walk on). In August, one of our friends (who was only at Disney for the 2nd time) came to stay with us for a few days. We went commando in the parks—4 parks in 2 days! We took her on Dinosaur, and she happened to be sitting in the seat where the big dinosaur roared in her face (when they take the picture). She hated the ride! She thought it was inappropriately terrifying (for anyone under the age of 25). Too bad we didn’t purchase the picture at the end of the ride! Unfortunately, our friend was so terrified she wanted no memory of the ride. (I can kind of sympathize—that was how I felt about Alien Encounter. I still get the creeps from the Stitch version of the ride.) Anyway, we enjoyed another trip on Dinosaur! in her honor.

    Finally—time for Expedition Everest! The fast pass wait was not even 5 minutes—I think the standby line was only 30 minutes. We were on the 2nd train through the station. This was an EXCELLENT ride! Now, I am a very motion-sensitive person, and I wasn’t bothered by the whole “backwards section”. We were a bit worried about the whole going backwards thing. This summer, we went to an amusement park and rode “The Head Spin”. Let’s just say there was a reason for the name and a reason that there was no wait for this ride. Imagine sitting in a coaster and being pulled backwards up a hill (praying the safety bars hold). Then you are shot forward to do a loop and two corkscrews ending by being pulled to the top of another hill. Ok—that was not so bad. We turned to each other and said, “This isn’t so bad. That was kind of a fun ride.” Until all of a sudden they release the cars to hurl backwards down the hill, backwards through the 2 corkscrews and the loop, and ending by lurching back up the original hill (safety bars still holding) until they finally release you into the station, where you are now prepared to part with whatever food you’ve eaten that day. DP turns to me and says, “I think I almost blacked out on that ride,” which is sadly followed by the woman behind us (yes, there were other people deluded into riding “The Head Spin”) commented on how she still felt faint. So after this, we were very wary of any ride that went backwards or upside-down.

    Fortunately, EE had no such problems. It was the smoothest rollercoaster I’ve ever been on! I highly recommend it! I did watch for the track flip over when we were waiting to go forwards again—how cool is that technology! If only we had had time to ride again… oh well, that’s why we have more trips planned! We had to get back to the hotel so we could sneak a quick nap in before the evening’s adventures.

    Upon returning to the room (after hiking the 7 miles down the Kudu trail again), my elated spirits from EE were soon deflated. I decided that I hated the room. At this moment, my DP (who desperately needed a nap) had the following brilliant observation: “I think we have the same view as room 2345.” By golly, she was right! We were looking into the same ugly corner that was described as the worst view in all of AKL. My third mistake: Not changing rooms at this moment! However, DP really needed to lay down; we needed to get to Spectromagic this evening or risk missing it this trip (it too often conflicts with the dinner hour!); and we still had reservations at Jiko for 9:30 PM. So, I let DP unpack before she napped (that’s her travel obsession). Meanwhile, I was in the process of finishing the sewing on my MNSSHP costume. Unfortunately, by the time she woke up from her nap, I had decided that if we stayed in that room the whole time, it would really ruin AKL and the whole trip for me. I had had enough of watching ostriches poop and chain-rattle. So, I repacked the suitcases. Thankfully, because we had packed a separate bag for the first two days of the trip (in my over-worrying about Magical Express), I didn’t have to deal with too much organization—those items just went back in the ME bag, and everything else went into the large suitcases.

    The view from Room 4382:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Why the view from Room 4382 is surprisingly similar to the infamous 2345:
    [​IMG]

    Now, in order to get to Spectromagic at the Magic Kingdom at 8PM (the BEST parade at WDW), we figured we needed to be at the AKL bus stop at 7PM. There was not enough time to deal with the front desk and make it to Spectromagic, so we decided to try to take care of a faster errand: When we were at Journey into Imagination in August, DP purchased a Figment sweatshirt. However, they forgot to take the ink tag off. It was buried in the hood of the sweatshirt, so we didn’t notice it until long after we got home. At this point, the receipt for the sweatshirt was long gone. So, thanks to the DIS boards, I had gotten the phone number for Disney merchandise. I called a few days before we left and asked if they would remove the ink tag even though I didn’t have a receipt. The very nice woman on the phone told me I could go to the AKL gift shop and have it removed and that I should just bring some other receipts that proved we really were at WDW that week. We decided 15 minutes was long enough to deal with the sweatshirt. We took it up to the counter, and while the Cast Member working thought it was a bit bizarre, she did take it off. But as she was handing it back to us, she asked why the ink didn’t “go off” when we walked into the store. We just looked at her, very confused. “We didn’t try to remove it, because we didn’t want to break it open.” “Well,” she said, “it’s supposed to explode ink all over if you try to take it out of the store and the tag is still on.” At this point, we were probably looking at her like she had 3 heads, so we decided to just leave with our now-ink-freed sweatshirt. Um… does anyone else think it doesn’t make any sense for the ink to “go off” accidentally if you brought it too close to the door? Think about how much merchandise would be ruined! It only releases its ink if you try to pry it off without using the special unlocking tool. Duh.

    Our second bus trip was alright. We didn’t wait too long, and a bus to MK appeared. I was pleasantly surprised with how close the bus stops were to the front of MK. A few stray drops of rain were in the sky, and I swear I saw lightening off to the north, but we made our way in and took a spot near the train station to watch Spectromagic. Thanks to our DIS boards research, we knew that the parade would begin at Main St and would end by 8:20. If we left just as we saw the last float, we could beat most of the people out of the gate and be ready to board the bus at 8:30PM. That would be plenty of time to get back to AKL to change for our dinner at Jiko. Another good bus experience—it arrived quickly, and we got to AKL with enough time to speak to the front desk about our room concerns.

    [​IMG]

    I was less than enthusiastic about their response. I told them that I was displeased with the view and would like to switch rooms. Once I told her the room number (and about the pooping, rattling ostriches), she did not seem surprised. But, she said since we had “used” the room, she couldn’t give us a new one until the morning. And, at that time, we would have to check out, store our luggage, and check back in the following afternoon.

    Sadly, this is the second time we have had to do this in as many trips. In August, we were staying at the Beach Club. I had called 1 week prior to check-in to let them know that we had a third guest who would be staying in the room with us for the first 3 nights. Then, when our flight was delayed, I called that evening to make sure they would hold the room and to make sure they knew about the 3rd guest. No problem. However, when we finally arrived at 1AM, the only room they had was a King Bed room, with no daybed. Not really acceptable when we had 3 people. And, they had no record of my 2 calls (which were both to CRO and directly to the hotel). The short version of our distasteful evening there: they gave us a rollaway bed for free, but it didn’t show up until 2:30AM. We had to get up and check out and then in again the next day (in the middle of our commando park day). They compensated us with $50 off our room (and they didn’t charge us for the extra adult), but we had to ask for it. However, by the end of our stay at BC, I decided that I really liked the resort a lot, so there was still hope for AKL, assuming everything worked out ok.

    I don’t really think it’s appropriate to call that area of the AKL savannah view and charge the same price as the “real” savannah views. Maybe they can call it partial savannah view or something and charge less. I can’t imagine keeping those rooms unless you were upgraded. Actually, the inconvenience to the Mara and the pool would be enough to turn down the upgrade.

    So, with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth from the room-change exchange, and feeling a bit bleary-eyed from the long day (yes, it is still Saturday, Day 1), we hiked back to our room to change into something nicer to wear to our dinner at Jiko.

    Our first impression of Jiko was a bit of annoyance because we were given what we call a “lesbian table”. We were put in a back corner of the restaurant where all the other tables seemed to be 2 women. Apparently, only larger parties or parties with men were allowed to sit in the main restaurant. It may have been because we were clearly coming in at the end of their dinner hours, but it was still a bit annoying. However, we did have an excellent meal. I would go back, but probably not before California Grill. The restaurant was pretty, but could have had better ambiance (or maybe we would have had more ambiance if we were sitting at a better table). We had a flatbread with goat cheese and something else, the squash soup, the shrimp, and the short ribs. We had a chocolate mocha cake and a chocolate cherry martini for dessert. All in all, it was a good meal, but I wish we had saved it for a day that wasn’t so long. The experience was dulled both by our tiredness and my disappointment with the room location. Maybe it would impress us more on another day. Eventually we’ll get around to trying it again—maybe we could stop by the night-vision animal viewing afterwards, as we never seemed to have time to do this while we were there this trip.

    The flying bird-lights are very cool I think. I guess that's a perk of sitting in the back corner.
    [​IMG]

    Ok! Off to bed (finally)! Ready to be up bright and early on Sunday, as we had a reservation at Norway for Princess Storybook Breakfast at Epcot at 8:50AM!
     
  8. Cass

    Cass www.casshew.com

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    Great trip report and thanks for the tip about where to see spectro and then scoot out before the crowds!

    I am so hoping your next report will be about a room with a great view :)

    We have stayed at AKL twice, once on Kudu and once on Zebra, but just off the lobby area in the 1st or 2nd section... we did a walk down to the ends of the trails to check it out... what a trek!!

    I went for dinner a Jiko with my friend SuAnne, we were given a table for 2 by the window right near the entrance... I didn't really notice the tables you are talking about - sorry you felt a little slighted, :guilty:
     
  9. Viki

    Viki <font color="green">Mid-town Manhattan, anyone?</f

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    Sorry about Jiko, in August we ate there four times in one week and never had the "Lesbian" table, though we clearly are!!! :goodvibes
     
  10. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

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    I'm glad you are all enjoying it!
    Viki-- I'm glad to know that the back area isn't usually the "lesbian" area--I would expect more from Disney!
    I think because we didn't have a reservation until 9:30, it is possible that they were just seating all of the later tables in that area. Either that, or you look like better-paying customers! :) I have been at restaruants where parties of only women (lesbian or no) are not treated like the "best" customers because it is thought that they purchase less (drink less alcohol, share meals, skip dessert). We didn't (as our bill shows!), but I have seen in happen.
    I did enjoy Jiko-- more than my DP I think, maybe because the food is rather rich. I think it was a mistake to try to eat there on our first night. We weren't settled in, and I think being tired didn't help. We'll have to get out there again, maybe when it isn't the tail end of Free Dining so we can try the Duck and Pork Firecracker. :)
     
  11. Viki

    Viki <font color="green">Mid-town Manhattan, anyone?</f

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    OH, I hear you, been there done that (on the lesbian table thing and I would NOT put up with it for one second).

    We loved Jiko, but I think you're right that the first night would be too much, we always reserve that for Boma.

    Have you read our trip report (AKL - Very Gay, over on the trip report board, somehwere ... :)
     
  12. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

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    Viki-- I did enjoy your trip report very much! I read it as we were planning this trip, and it gave me lots of ideas! It sounded like an awesome trip! I actually considered going for concierge because of it, but by that time, nothing was available (Columbus Day wknd and all). You're ability to "have a night on the town" (or an afternoon!) is impress-- I don't think I could keep up! But it sure sounds like it was a great time!. It looks like you are heading back for Thanksgiving? How fun!
     
  13. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

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    As if Day 1 couldn't get any longer...

    I did want to add this about Magical Express (it seems to have gotten lost in the editing):

    It was EXCELLENT! We left our bags at the airport, didn't have to hassle with baggage claim, breezed through the DME line, got on the bus, and were at our hotel less than an hour after we deplaned! We checked in, and by the time we came back to our room (I think it was 5 hrs later), our 2 checked bags were happily there. :)

    I'll keep the return trip description for the end of the trip report. But I will say, even though we have always been car renters in the past, I don't know how I will pass up ME for our next trip. I just have to figure out the best way to rent a car at Disney and still use ME for airport transfer. The busses I would not do again. More on that coming up.
     
  14. slkant

    slkant Mouseketeer

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    We're planning on seeing Spectromagic when we go in January. Ideally we'd love to be ahead of the crowds heading back to AKL and elsewhere. Where you right at the beginning of the Parade route? If you've been before but were at a different vantage point, how did the view compare and where were you before? How long did you need to stake a claim on your spot?
     
  15. pumba

    pumba DIS PUMBARIZER Moderator

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    still sounds like you are doing it all.....now about that EE thingie....I think I will stay clear of that.......I have heard someplace.......that you can pick up rentals at the Dolphin someplace and then return it to the Dolphin someplace.....maybe someone can check into that one.....
    WE do the DDE too and have enjoyed going to different restaurants and still save on it. Not sure my diabetes would allow all the food that was on that free dining plan......hahah
    Thanks for your report
     
  16. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

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    Even though this was the Sat of Columbus Day wknd (and MK was open until at least 11PM), we only arrived at 7:30-7:45 and were able to find a pretty good spot for the parade. It started from the Main St. Fire Station at 8. Since we usually see it going by sideways (along Main St or in Frontierland), I thought it would be neat to see it coming straight at us, so I got a spot on the Expo Hall side, in front of the train station, looking towards the Town Hall. This also facilitated making a bee-line for the busses, as we were on the bus stop (as opposed to monorail) side of the train station. We decided to stand, and there was only one family sitting on the curb in front of us. I usually like to stand behind a trash can, because it makes an excellent tripod for taking night pictures. However, because the floats were coming towards you, they were moving more slowly, so I didn't need to be as still to get a good picture. Compare to seeing it farther down, the floats are a bit more stacked up and less spread out-- you can easily see what is coming next. If you really want to be at the front of the parade, you can go stand on the Town Hall side of the train station. I liked it-- I wouldn't say it was a better or worse view, just different. I was just glad we didn't miss it--I love the Spectromagic music--It is so "Disney" to me! :)
     
  17. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

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    Day 2: Sunday (part 1)

    Another day begins much too early for vacation. Our Princess Breakfast reservation at Restaurant Akershus was for 8:50 AM. I (mistakenly) thought that Epcot had extra magic that morning, and I thought we would need to be at the bus stop between 7 and 7:15 to make it to Epcot for the rope drop. So, when the CM at the front desk told me I’d have to come down and check out in the morning, I told her it would have to be before 7 AM as we had early breakfast reservations. So, I set the alarm for 6:30 AM. Quite an “owie” for vacation. As it went off, I rolled out of bed and checked my “Master List” which had all the park hours, ADR numbers, etc. Imagine my surprise when Epcot morning EMH were actually scheduled for Tuesday! And, to top it off, I saw the message light flashing on the phone. When I picked up the message (from 6:30 that morning), it said that I could call down to front desk to inform them whether or not I was still interested in switching my room. Well, duh! You bet I am! So, I called the front desk to let them know I did indeed want to proceed with my room change request. They told me I would need to check out and check back in after 3PM. So, I finished packing, and woke up DP at 7:15.

    We dragged all our luggage (ok, only 4 bags) down to the front desk. They told us that we would be given a room on the 2nd floor, Zebra Trail, but that they couldn’t tell us which room yet because it was still occupied. So, we went to leave our bags with Bell Services. We arrived at the Epcot bus stop at 8:10. That gave us 40 minutes to get to breakfast. There were people already waiting when we arrived who had been waiting for about 10 minutes already. Epcot opened at 9AM, so I figured a bus must be coming soon. We waited until 8:45 AM for a bus to come. Is it just me, or is it ridiculous that when the park opens at 9AM, a bus doesn’t come early enough for guests to arrive for the rope drop? The bus didn’t drop us off until 9:05AM. It appeared that the first Epcot bus of the day picked up guests at 8:45 for a 9 AM park opening. That to me is unacceptable.

    Of course, on the (very loud) bus ride to Epcot, I was frantically trying to call Disney dining to find out if they would hold the reservation for us. (PSB requires a credit card deposit and a 48 hr cancellation notice or they charge you anyway.) The operator could barely hear me over the noise of the bus, but after being transferred to 3 different people, I was finally told that they couldn’t connect me to Restaurant Akershus or even call the podium for me, because there was no phone in Norway. No phone? In the whole pavilion? They told me they would only guarantee the reservation for 15 minutes. As the bus arrived at Epcot at 9:05, and it is quite a hike from the Epcot bus stops, it looked like we had no chance to get there in time. So, we decided to run. In flip flops.

    We didn’t even make it to the bag check line before having shoe issues. DP’s shoes were really not made for running, so we switched. Luckily, the bag and turnstile lines were short. So, we went running through Future World and into the World Showcase, past the closed Food & Wine booths, the Mexico margarita stand, and over to Norway.

    The pavilion was eerily empty… As I approached the podium, I was prepared to roll out the entire story of how we waited 45 minutes for a bus that never came, then ran all the way through Epcot, but it was unnecessary. The CM asked my name and put us in line to meet Ariel.

    Apparently, they have a new seating strategy at PSB. They seat whole sections of the restaurant all at one time. Then, they send the parade of princesses through the room. They keep cycling through the different rooms at discrete seating times. So, after a large section of the restaurant has been seated, there isn’t anyone waiting outside until the next “batch” shows up. Then, they line you up to meet one princess (with the photopass photographer). From there you are seated at your table where 4 more princesses stop by for pictures and autographs. They don’t come back to the room until the next group is seated.

    After meeting Ariel, the other princesses there were Belle, Mulan, Snow White, and Jasmine. However, since we sat down late for our “seating group” we had missed the point at which Snow White and Jasmine would have come to our table, but Belle and Mulan stopped by in short order.

    But what about Snow White and Jasmine? Disney of course has an answer! There is actually a character handler CM assigned to make sure that each table has seen all 5 princesses. After the princess parade has supposedly passed your table, he comes by and asks you which princesses you’ve seen. If you haven’t seen them all yet, he makes a note of it, and they come back and make a stop just at your table. We went from feeling somewhat disappointed to exceedingly special. All in all, breakfast was fun and yummy, after a rocky start. I was disappointed that they don’t serve the food in the skillet like they used to, but it still was tasty.

    Now it was time for some rides! We started with Test Track, because the line had been long in the past, but wasn’t very bad. They we went to Soarin’ to pick up a Fast Pass for later and to ride it then. The standby line was supposed to be 35 minutes long, and when we started, it didn’t really look that bad. Very quickly we got to the point where they have the pictures and trivia questions. Then, everything stopped. There are 5 different screens, and we stood in front of each of them long enough to see every single question and trivia fact at least once. It also seemed like only Fast Pass people were actually being allowed into the ride. As we were waiting to go to the pre-boarding area, we noticed that they were only using one of the 2 theaters. Then, they decided to let our group in to the previously unused “gate”. As we finally were boarding, 75 minutes after we got in line, we noticed that the pine smell was very very very strong in the pre-show area. I mean strong like you are drowning in pine-scent Lysol. Then, the projector had some issues with those pesky love-bugs. Somehow they had gotten stuck on the projector lens, so they were magnified to 10 times their normal size. Then I think some of them must have fried in the heat of the light, because they stopped crawling and looked kind of smushed. Eww. We were only slightly distracted from one of our most favorite rides, but we were coming back with our Fast Passes, so all was not lost!
    [​IMG]
    Then we went and met Figment, rode the Figment ride, and then proceeded over to begin our Food&Wine tour of the World Showcase. For this portion, we began by Canada and covered the area over to Turkey (which was between France and Morocco). Our first stop was Greece: We had the spanakopita, baklava, and the Boutari Santorini wine. Yum! We skipped Canada since we were dining there later in the week. We also skipped Poland because all of the foods were things DP’s grandmother makes (she’s actually Ukrainian, but the foods are close), and there was no way it would be as good as hers. Next was Ireland: I had the Potato Leek Soup—interesting because it was clear broth with potato chunks. We also tried the Bunratty Meade Honey Wine—very good, and the Irish Cream. We skipped France for the moment, but we were able to see Belle (again) and the Beast! And even Christopher, the nice character handler CM from that morning at Norway.
    [​IMG]
    Last, we had the Meze and the stuffed vine leaves at Turkey. Excellent! While in Turkey—which had done an impressive job of constructing a whole area, we watched the paper marbling demonstration. It was very impressive! They actually had a man who was an artist from Turkey who did it in the traditional style. A Turkish woman who had been living in New York City working for the Turkish government had been sent to Disney to act as a cultural ambassador and to help with the demonstration. If you have the time to see it, I highly recommend it.
    [​IMG]
    It was getting to be time for our Soarin’ FastPass, and it was getting hot! We were tired and needed to head back to AKL to deal with the whole room situation. We took the boat back across the World Showcase Lagoon and walked back over to The Land for Soarin’. This time, we barely waited. It was excellent again as usual. Then we went back on the bus to AKL, fingers crossed that our new room would be an improvement.

    More to come soon!
     
  18. Dusted

    Dusted Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2006
    Messages:
    303
    Still loving your report...

    Questions...HOW did you get so see so many characters? You explained the little nook where Jiminy lives, but Figment and the Beast??? WAY cool!! :cool1:

    Also, thank you for explaining a bit about the Princess seating schedule. We went a few weeks ago, and boy was I miffed. :furious: We got there late, as we always seem to do, but they let us in anway. We had 11:30 lunch ressies and were about 15, maybe more minutes late. Anyway, after checking in at the podium, I took the family in the lobby to wait since it was very hot for my little Tinkerbella out side. Anyway, they didn't call our party to meet Ariel, so I inquired after they removed the little velvet rope, looking like something was over. No problem, they did miss us, but off to Ariel we go. Here's the problem. This was officially our breakfast. We are late vacation risers, so eating a breakfast before this was just silly. Point being, we are hungry. We are seated, and then went to the appetizer buffet before DD3 passed out. OK, maybe I was hungry too. I was tapped on the shoulder by a CM who asked me to sit down because Princess Jasmine was about to come to our table. I thought this strange after being there maybe 4 times and other character buffets dozens of times, I have never been interrupted in line before. I blew her off, and continued to make my baby's plate. She tells me again, and this time I turn around and search my table area. There isn't a princess in sight. I reluctantly return to my table, lunch interrupted to let my little girl have her moment with Jasmine. Well, Jasmine goes to TWO other tables first. I could have made our plates twice over. I ask the CM if she is REALLY coming over, and she was as cold and undisney as someone could be. YUK to her! :stir:

    Jasmine eventually came over, as did the 4 other Princesses, Cinderella, Belle and Sleeping Beauty. OK, one more snide remark, Cinderella looked like she needed Mascara...kinda wierd. Anyway, they all came within 7 minutes of when Jasmine arrived. We didn't put one thing in our mouths until they were all gone. I mean totally gone. After reading the post, I realize they must have been in another section.... My DH and I discussed the strangeness of this event over and over. We noticed a huge section behind us empty. We thought maybe we were the last seating for lunch or something, but it was WAY to early...

    Now I understand. My gripe was then and still is,a little better communication would have been appreciated. :grouphug: Not understanding the process made it all the more annoying.

    I don't know about anyone else, but we seem to have incredible Magical expereinces our whole trip, or not. This trip was a not. We laugh about it, and the good and the bad make Disney what it is.

    Did anyone notice the huge piles of dust on the white interior bricks? Several of them jut out, making a perfect landing for god knows what...

    OK, rant over. Feel much better now. :rotfl:
     
  19. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2005
    Messages:
    1,453
    Dusted--

    Ok, so character searching is always one of our major Disney goals. :) From the DIS and experience, we've been able to come up with a pretty good idea of where the characters are. Figment is usually at Journey into Imagination, either inside or outside up near where the entrance to HIStA. Belle and sometimes Beast are in France near the side that overlooks the International Gateway. We probably could have gone after more, but that was who we just "came across".

    As far as magical vs. not trips, I kind of know what you mean. I would say this was a not-as-magical trip for us, which kind of bummed me out, because after all the YoMD promos, I was hoping for more magic. Oh well. We still had fun, and we'll try again in Dec!
     
  20. Viki

    Viki <font color="green">Mid-town Manhattan, anyone?</f

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2004
    Messages:
    3,091
    I hear you! Not only was my stepfather's Mom Lithawainian, I once traveled through Eastern Europe, including a Hungarian Village which had never seen an American and had been baking and cooking to welcome us for one solid week! OMG, the food!!!!!!!!!!!!! :dance3:

    Loving the report!
     
  21. TiggerAllie

    TiggerAllie DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2005
    Messages:
    1,453
    Sunday: Day 2 (part 2):

    We shared the bus ride back to AKL from Epcot with some folks who had clearly been enjoying the “Wine” side of Food & Wine. As our day had started very early, we were ready to get our new room and have a rest and maybe a quick dip in the pool before heading back over to Epcot for our 7PM reservation at Flying Fish.

    We went to the front desk and told them that we had requested a room change. They asked to see our original room keys and looked up our reservation. Our new room number was 2427—which, as you can see from the map was on the Zebra Trail and the Arusha savannah. It was also conveniently located by the Mara and the pool! Hooray!
    [​IMG]
    We happily took our new room keys and walked the short steps to our new room. Once there, we called bell services to have them deliver our 4 bags to our new room. They said they would be up in 15-20 minutes. DP laid down for a quick nap, and I went to admire our new view, which now included zebras!
    [​IMG]
    We also had the wonderful surprise of a fabulous towel animal collection! Our Mousekeeper clearly had a lot of spirit, because she left a little note telling us to have a wonderful stay. We had excellent Mousekeeping the entire time—we never needed to ask for extra towels or pillows.
    [​IMG]
    Sunday was a bad day for lovebugs—it was very hard to even open the door to the balcony without having them fly in. I was picking them off the sheer to keep them from infesting the room. Fortunately, that was the last day for lovebugs. Eww. The sheers almost functioned like the mosquito nets of Africa that day. I do wonder, why aren’t there screen doors on the balconies? Are they afraid people will leave them open and waste air-conditioning? Is it unsafe? Just curious. They weren’t screens on the BC balconies either, but they had real doors instead of sliding glass.

    Ok, so 30 minutes have gone by, and no sign of our luggage. So, I called down to bell services again. They say, “2427? Oh yes, the bellman just left the desk here. It should be up shortly.” 15 more minutes go by. I call back again. “Hi, it’s been 45 minutes, and no one has come with our luggage.” “Oh,” she responds. Let me check into it.” So she puts me on hold. After a while, she comes back and says, “Oh, he took the work order, but never actually brought the luggage. That’s why I thought it must be on its way. I’ll send someone with it right away.” So, an hour after I first call for the luggage, it shows up. This means no time to go to the pool. So, I unpack, and wake up DP to get ready for dinner. Now that we are so close to the Mara, I run downstairs to get a quick refill of soda in our mug. I am very excited that they now have 2 styles of mugs—the big cylinder, as well as the tall one that fits in a cup holder. We have so many of the big ones, we decided to get the tall one instead. Literally, I walk out of our room, cross the hall, head down some stairs (that are almost backstage, but not quite), exit the stairwell, turn right past the arcade, and I’m the Mara. Hooray!

    Now, it’s on to Flying Fish for dinner. We decide that since its past AK closing time (for a bus-transfer there), our best bet is to take the bus to Epcot, walk through to the International Gateway, and then either walk or boat to the Boardwalk. After our heinous bus experience that morning, we leave even more time to complete this semi-complicated transportation. Fortunately, things went smoothly this time, and we were even able to take the boat from IG to BW. I love that Disney has so many different kinds of transportation. My goal is to ride all of them while we visit. So far we’ve hit busses (a new one for me), trains, and boats. We still have to get on the monorail!

    We got to the Flying Fish a little early, so they gave us a beeper and told us we could walk around the Boardwalk for 15-20 minutes until it went off. We were barely out of the door, heading over to the shop across from the boat landing, when the beeper went off! The Flying Fish has very cute décor, styled after Coney Island. The Flying Fish, they told us, was actually a rollercoaster at Coney Island. We ordered some cocktails and the Ahi Tuna Tataki, which was excellent! Then, the chef decided that, based on our order, we needed a palate-cleanser before the main course, so he brought us complimentary strawberry-guava sorbet. We then had wine and the potato-wrapped snapper and the current salmon dish (I can’t remember exactly what it was. There was another fish over risotto that sounded good, but it had too much pea in it, so based on the waiter’s recommendation, I went with the house specialty snapper.) Finally, we shared the white chocolate strawberry “cosmo” for dessert. It really was a mousse dessert, not a martini!

    After our excellent meal, we realized it was early enough to catch Illuminations. That was great, because it wasn’t on our list of “must-sees” for this trip. It was just a few minutes from beginning as we walked in the IG. We were able to snag a pretty good spot across from Canada to watch the fireworks. Magic Kingdom had EMH that night, so we thought about going over for that, but we decided that it would be better to get a bit more sleep.

    We headed back to AKL by bus. Since we missed out on swimming that afternoon, we decided a quick trip to the hot tub was in order. They were surprisingly busy. The closer one was full, but we found some room in the farther back one. The pool area was very nice, and we had a nice, warm, relaxing time before heading up to bed in our new, excellent room!

    Finally, we didn’t have anything scheduled for the early morning, so we are able to sleep in! Hooray!
     

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