Jens Birthday Trip to the World I preface this report by saying that this was an abbreviated trip. On our most recent trip to Walt Disney World (my third and my husbands second) in February 2002, it actually was worthwhile to go ahead and purchase an annual pass. We had been (and still will be) planning to return in January 2003, just before the passes expire. However, I was scheduled to attend a professional conference in Nashville, Tennessee and it was not that much more expensive to add a leg to Orlando. (For those of you back east, it may seem that Nashville and Orlando dont seem that close together, but, when youre coming from Northern California, it looks a bit different!) Monday, September 16, 2002 AKA The Wonders of Technology While Waiting I will temporarily go out of order in writing this trip report to note that, at this very moment, I am sitting on the floor near the baggage carousel at the Orlando International Airport. When one has time to kill and theres a laptop available, why not start the report? ; ) (Why am I delayed in picking up my baggage? Keep reading and Ill get to it ) Okay, now to go back to the beginning! This morning came way too early! While I like to gradually prepare for my trips some days in advance, my husband, on the other hand, always seems to have something going on up until the last minute the night before. Unfortunately, this stress sometimes wears off on me, so between that and the excitement of a Disney trip, its awfully hard for me to get to sleep the night before! Anyhow, we get out the door in time this morning to get to the airport though I realize a bit too late that I should have grabbed my bagel and yogurt smoothie from the fridge that was meant to be my breakfast! Oh, well While waiting to board, my husband and someone else recognize each other. (I was not acquainted with this individual.) It ends up that it was the husband of a co-worker of Keiths. It just so happens that Keith carpools with her as well, so he made the rather fitting joke that, instead of ride sharing with the wife today, he was ride sharing with her husband! (Example of the wonders of technology #1: Keith uses his two way pager to send e-mail to the wife, to share this joke.) The trip to Minneapolis is fairly uneventful. Going to Orlando, though, we hit some pretty bad turbulence. It was kind of interesting to see how fellow passengers alternated between feeling awe at the beauty of the clouds (we were completely surrounded by big, puffy ones) and not liking the feeling that comes with bumping into them. I felt like I was on my first ride of my trip already - though on an attraction I usually AVOID, like Tower of Terror! This is my fourth trip to Orlando. Each and every time prior to this trip, as we get close to our destination, Ive always kept an eye open, thinking maybe I could spy some Walt Disney World landmarks from the air. Ive looked and looked. This time, there was a momentary break in the clouds. Keith just happened to peek out the window, since there was temporarily actually something to see other than clouds. Lo and behold, he spotted Spaceship Earth! I was really delighted, and a bunch of other passengers also peered out to their right upon Keiths exclamation. Then, almost as quickly as it had appeared, it clouded over again. Keith said it must have been all that magic down there clearing that small air space over Disney World. Upon our descent, the weather was clear, but it began to pour as we taxied in to the gate. Once inside the airport, Keith wanted to get to the baggage carousel and get on our way, only there was just a big crowd at the carousel, no luggage. It ends up that the same lightning show we were being treated to was making it too dangerous for anyone to go out on the tarmac. Initially, as we waited, people were optimistic and kept their standing posts. After a while, though, gradually more and more fellow passengers simply sat down on the ground. I managed to find a spare piece of paper to jot down some trip notes when Keith got the idea to pull out the laptop and begin writing my report that way. At long last, the lightning went away and the crew was able to pick up the luggage. By now, a number of flights had backed up due to this luggage problem, so it also meant a wait for Mears to pick us up. We arrived at the airport after seven, but it was almost 10PM by the time we were en route to the hotel. (And though I would have expected Port Orleans French Quarter to be one of the first stops, I think the driver dropped off at the hotel that was most far away!) My gosh, I was so hungry! I was fearful that we would get to the French Quarter, to find that food service had ended. (Back in February, at Port Orleans Riverside, the food court had closed around 10PM.) It was close to 11 when we arrived at long last. My husband, who loves to play the accent guessing game, was having a grand time as we met some North Carolina cast members at check-in and the man who helped take our baggage to the room was from Arkansas. Throughout all of this, I have been taking in all of the themeing of the resort. I can see why Port Orleans Riverside has been made a sister hotel, though they are each unique to themselves as well. Where Riverside is sedate, French Quarter is festive. It has a lot more visual noise than Riverside, with the huge masks in the food court to the mural of revelers in the lobby to the jazz playing alligators that parade the path to the swimming pool. Upon entering our room, I was delighted to spy the cutest basket in the shape of a Mickey head containing some fresh fruit, a box of crackers, some spreadable cheese, and chocolate toffee, with a note wishing me happy birthday from my family at Walt Disney World. Having set everything in our room, it was time for FOOD! Although the full array is not available at that late hour, we still had our choice of some pasta and related dishes. Keith really enjoyed his sausage and pepper sub, while I had pasta and meatballs, complete with a breadstick and salad. It was more than I needed at that time, so Keith finished off what I didnt eat. At this point, we were ready for bed! Tuesday, September 17 AKA A Magical Birthday I have celebrated a birthday in Disneyland before, so I had a certain level of anticipation and excitement toward celebrating one in Disney World for the first time. Upon waking up, Keith had set up the laptop and polled for e-mail. I was tickled to see all of the birthday greetings and e-cards from family, friends, and fellow Disney folks. We breakfasted in the food court, where Keith proclaimed that the French Quarter is nice, but he thinks that he likes Riverside better because he likes low key more. I have happy memories, though, in hearing the music that is played there, especially When the Saints Go Marching In because it reminds me of the time I saw Harry Connick, Jr. in concert and what an excellent, fun show it was. I say that I want to start my day in the Magic Kingdom. Right as we get ready to go through the turnstyle, Keiths phone rings. Its my grandmother, to wish me a happy birthday. Once in the park, our first stop, of course, is to City Hall, where I ask for a birthday button and Im told that someone in the family has left a message, do I want to take the call? Its Goofy doing, well, a rather goofy rendition of the happy birthday song. We also make a priority seating reservation for a late dinner at Boma. Next on my agenda is finding the passholder merchandise. I could remember the names of all the stores in the other parks, but I have blanked on the Magic Kingdom location. It takes talking with a couple of cast members in other stores before I finally think to ask if theres a place with Tony or exhibition in the name to be told that theres an Exhibition Hall next to Tonys restaurant. (Im getting more and more familiar with navigating the World, but I still have a lot to learn, too.) I find the place, but its also busy with people needing help with or dropping off film (and, sadly, some of the folks dont seem to be following the idea that queues exist in stores, too!) At last, though, I get the prizes Ive been seeking. I tuck the bags into my backpack and were off to do some attractions. I decide that we should visit Winnie the Pooh first, which ends up being a good plan because it has a 40 minute wait already, but Fastpasses are available with a window half an hour later. (On my last trip, Ive learned that unless its a short wait, its better to Fastpass since its not only a ride that tends to have a long queue, its a noisy queue due to so many young children waiting there.) Having only seen the line for Pooh, I have no idea how crowded the park actually is. (Ive found that, even during off season, it always feels busier at Walt Disney World than Disneyland during the same time frame and that may initially skew my impression of how crowded or not it truly is.) At Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, Im expecting a similar long line, but am pleasantly surprised to see that the standby line is 10 minutes (though the actual wait felt like less than half that). In the same half hour, we ride Tomorrowland Transit Authority and Space Mountain, too. Im really liking that everything is a walk-on. As we navigate through the park, I am periodically greeted with happy birthday from cast members who see my button. We also take in Country Bear Jamboree. This is doubly a treat because, not only do the Bears no longer exist at Disneyland, the original show was replaced there some time in the 80s. To Keith it feels like a new experience because he did not make nearly the number of trips to the park as I did as a child. (Hes become a Disney fan through conversion. <g>) He says, though, that he prefers the Vacation Hoedown. Im getting hungry and weve decided that the Garden Grill is where we want to have to have lunch. I stop by the bathrooms first near Adventureland, while Keith goes on the hunt for a particular souvenir for a co-worker. He does not find what he is looking for, but has a delightful conversation with cast member Luisa, originally from Tijuana, Mexico. She is such a Disney fan, she says that once she finishes with her time there, she wants to return and enter the college program and, when she completes the college program, she wants to work for the cruise line. As were getting ready to leave Magic Kingdom, Keith sees a rare opportunity: the area in front of the Mickey planter is empty. He takes my picture, although I am sad to be leaving as Im not expecting to be back at Magic Kingdom before the end of my trip. En route to the TTC, we ask if we can ride in the front cab and our request is granted. We have a nice conversation with the driver and Keith shoots pictures of the driver and the view out the front window. We make the same request to go to Epcot and are able to repeat the experience. Once at Epcot, we visit Guest Relations where I ask for their birthday button. Now Keith is making the comment that Im celebrating two birthdays! At the Garden Grill, we walk right in, as its between lunch and dinner. Were the only table in our servers area and it also means we get lots of attention from Mickey, Pluto, and Chip n Dale. As usual, lunch is wonderful. When another party comes in, Keith is surprised when they say that they dont want any catfish in their skillet because thats one of our favorites. Around the time were expecting our dessert, the server comes out not only with the desserts we asked for (Keith prefers dirt and worms to the adult desserts), he has plates and a small cake. He is also surrounded by other servers. I was not expecting this! They sing a birthday song with a chorus of ei ei oh and I get a certificate afterwards, commemorating my birthday. Theres way too much dessert between the two of us. Keith comments to the characters as they come by that, gee, theres cake left for them, too. Pluto responds by actually sticking his nose in the cake! With frosting smeared on his nose, he tries to smear it on my nose, too! Somehow, I manage to avoid this fate, though Keith snaps a picture that shows just how close it was! ; ) After lunch, we visit the passholder lounge. Our entry in the guest book causes a small stir as were quite a novelty being Californians and with annual passes, to boot! We are awestruck by this lounge. We dont want anything to drink as were satisfied from lunch, but we do wander around to take in the awesome view and plush setting. We also have a chat with Krystyna, from Guest Relations, who works the desk there. She has worked at Epcot for 19 years and is a very sweet, interesting lady. As we head out, its started to rain. The weather has really been something. I was following the reports before we left home, but its not the same thing as actually being out in it. There seems to be debate about whether its even more humid than usual. Ive been ever so glad that I brought a personal fan, as well as Shower to Shower wipes to cool off with. I am now eager to see the revamped Journey Into Imagination. I actually never saw Journey Into Your Imagination, but I loved the original attraction, so Im eager to see Figment, now that hes back. At first, Im disappointed that Figment, in the first scene, doesnt sound all that much like Billy Barty. However, the longer the ride goes on, the more he sounds like the Figment Ive always known and loved. My favorite part is the point that begins with Figments open house and then goes into the finale. After riding JII, we spend some time playing in the Imageworks. Theyve included a variation on an exhibit I remember from the past, creating and altering the sound of music by moving ones body. We spend a little while playing with this, as well checking out some of the other kiosks. We are also fascinated by the things that the photo center has made available. There are machines that can etch designs inside a crystal! Next, its on to a merchandise area filled with Figment! I could spend so much money here! I decide to pick just a pen. As we leave, I mention to Keith that I was being reasonable, but that there was a hat and polo shirt I liked. He then asks if I would like the shirt as a birthday present? I say, Really? So he goes back in and gets the shirt (and the hat, too, but I was surprised with that when we came back to the room). By now, its time to get to Animal Kingdom Lodge, for our Boma reservation. On the bus, we meet a couple that has just gotten married. This is actually the third couple we have met on a bus that had just gotten married on the previous Saturday and was honeymooning in the World! (Each one has also been subjected to the same question from Keith: Do you still like each other? Yes? Youre off to a good start then. <g>) When we get to Boma, were actually running late, but it ends up that the restaurant is so quiet at that point that it isnt a big deal. It ends up that the menu was pretty much the same one as when we ate there in February, so we looked forward to certain dishes, such as the nut crusted salmon and chicken pepper pot soup. Next time, in addition to dinner, were going to try to make arrangements for breakfast, too, since we havent tried that but have heard its highly recommended. Just after I had gone to the dessert section, our server comes out with a plate that has a small cupcake in the center, covered with icing and mouse head sprinkles, with the plate edged with drizzled chocolate reading happy birthday and gummy bears and more sprinkles. (He said that he would sing, but we wouldnt want to hear him, so he wasnt going to. <g>) I was pleasantly surprised yet again by the unexpected. : ) Meanwhile, Keith was using a zebra dome and two chocolate mousse items to make a mouse head. (To show how attentive to service the Disney CMs are, he kept trying to show off his plate to the CMs that were still working. Initially, they asked what the concern was but then were amused to see Keith simply wanted to show off his design!) Also toward the end of dinner, the chef, Tony, came out to the remaining diners and asked how their meal was. That was rather cool! We engaged in some further conversation and found him to be a delight to speak with. Next it was time for the long trip back. On the bus to Downtown Disney, we struck up a conversation with the only other passenger. It ends up that he reads (but mostly lurks) at the discussion boards at Laughing Place and is a fellow NFFC member from New Jersey. (Hi, Aaron! : )) While waiting near Pleasure Island (because the buses leaving from DD for the evening has stopped running due to DD being closed), we got to see the New Years Eve fireworks. Upon arriving back at Port Orleans, we talked a bit more with Aaron before heading back to our room, tired but happy. I had one of my best birthdays. : ) I felt really special from all the attention I received and all of the surprises.