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Kirk & Connie's Trip Report - June 4 - 14, 2008

#1 User is offline   kirksheppard 

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  • Location:Cincinnati, OH

Posted 16 June 2008 - 11:12 AM

Disney Trip Negative Day One

Who's Going: I'm Kirk, a 32-year-old going on 11-year-old Disney fanatic. Also on this trip is my usual partner in crime, Dr. Connie, who is older than me and that's all I'm saying. For portions of the trip we're meeting up with Dr. Nicole and Dr. Jeff, (both around my age) a husband and wife combo who live and work in the Tampa area. Connie and I are traveling from Southwestern Ohio (think Cincinnati suburbs) via Indianapolis on AirTran. I'm the only non-psychologist on this trip (I'm just a regular Master's level clinical counselor, no PhD for me - though I do have TWO Masters Degrees! So I'm just as good as them! Really! So why do they make 50% more again??? Anyway, I digress . . .)

Our mission: Tackle TWO Star Wars Weekends and the final Pirate's & Princess's Party. There are other adventures planned in the itinerary and we've got ten days to do it all, so I think we'll be just fine.

This is what we're calling Negative Day One as we have decided the two hour trip to the Indy airport is better done at 7PM than 3AM. So, I'm currently in the Motel6 getting ready to get some rest so we can get up at 5 AM and catch our 7:05am flight to Orlando. The hotel is clean enough, but check-in was a bit dicey. We met a crippled truck driver and a homeless tornado victim while we were checking in. I felt sorry for them both, but meeting them also reminded me that we're not at the Grand Floridian. So, as long as there are no shootings, no crack deals gone bad, or undercover hooker busts tonight, we'll continue our journey as scheduled in the morning.

We've got tickets for the P&PP tomorrow night and Nicole is coming up to meet us at the Magic Kingdom. We'll also hit Downtown Disney prior to the event and I hope to catch a much deserved and needed nap sometime in the afternoon. Stay tuned!

DAY ONE: Arrival, Downtown Disney, & Mickey’s Princess & Pirate Party

This has been the most eventful trip thus far. Connie and I have traveled together to Disney World 5 times now and we have had fairly smooth sailing up to this point. Today started out pretty rough and we were both concerned that things would not bode well as the day went on.

We got to the airport, parked the car, and took the long term parking shuttle to the terminal. We checked in with a woman who was quick but seemed distracted. Chick-Fil-A was open and I was ecstatic because it meant that I could still get my chicken biscuits for breakfast like normal on these trips.

Security was quick and we boarded the plane in Zone 1. Now, this is where things got dicey. Our flight was delayed due to the weather for about an hour and 45 minutes. There were tornados in the area all night and there was still bad weather in the south, forbidding flights from traveling in that direction. So, we had to head north and then west and then south and that required more fuel. So, 100 minutes later, we took off.

Luckily, our pilot booked it and we only arrived in Orlando about an hour after originally planned. The flight – once we got off the ground – was smooth and the flight attendants friendly enough. I even got my cranapple and biscoff cookie combo that I was fearful would not be available on a non-Delta flight!

When we got off the plane, I realized that my wallet wasn’t in my pocket where I knew I’d left it. In a panic, I threw everything out of my backpack and searched until I heard my name announced over the loud speaker. Thankfully someone had found it right away and everything was intact. We proceeded to baggage claim without further incident and got our rental car – a red Dodge Charger – from the Dollar counter.

We drove to the hotel and found out via voicemail that Nicole would be joining us earlier than she thought for the Princess and Pirates Party. As we neared Downtown Disney, we became more excited especially when we saw the pineapples on our hotel’s exterior. We parked and went inside to the Orlando Vista hotel, where the desk clerk couldn’t have been friendlier. He was quick and efficient and helpful and both Connie and I got our room keys and proceeded to our rooms.

Connie opened her door first and I heard her say, “Wow!” I said, “Is that a good wow or a bad wow?” She said, “It’s huge!” And she’s right – the rooms are as big as Port Orleans if not bigger. Things were very clean and while the hotel is a little old, for what we paid for it we are very satisfied.

We were hungry so we drove to Downtown Disney and ate lunch at Earl of Sandwich. Connie got a Chicken Caesar Salad and I got the All-American, which is Roasted Turkey. I got it without the cranberries, ranch, and tomato. The lettuce and cheddar cheese complimented it well, and I felt like the sandwich had more meat on it than I remembered. I was quite pleased. We then went over to get our tickets from Guest Relations. Connie had renewed her annual pass and had some difficulty with the cast member who didn’t want to have to look for her confirmation number. Connie had left her expired pass at home and the CM started telling her that she couldn’t help her. I think she must have realized what she was saying because she immediately changed her story and found both the annual pass renewal and the P&PP tickets in the computer system. I got my 10-Day Park Hopper (I might upgrade to an AP at the end of the trip, but I just quit my job and am opening my own business so I’m not sure if/when I’ll be able to get back and if I want to spend the extra $200 right now).

I browsed World of Disney while Connie went to the Lego Store. She was looking for Star Wars merchandise before it gets picked through this weekend. We then went to Pin Central and Connie bought 5 pins. She is very addicted. I bought a new clear plastic cardholder for my tickets. Then we went into Once Upon a Toy and Connie found more Star Wars items to buy. We finally decided it was time to head over to Wal-Greens to get some Coke and other snack items. While we were there the two customers in front of us had the cashier do a price check on a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper. It was $1.50 and they said they didn’t want it. They’re nuts; that’s a good price. Unfortunately, the cashier didn’t void it and that caused some commotion. The reason I mention this is because last year the exact same clerk charged me twice for some Ibuprofen. So . . . she needs to befriend the VOID key a little more often.

In line behind us was a CM whose shirt said, “Pirate’s and Princesses Event Operations Team.” I asked if tonight’s event was sold out and he said, “Oh no,” which gave me hope that it wouldn’t be crowded. Connie and I returned to the hotel and took short naps before meeting back up again at 4 to head to the Magic Kingdom.
_
We headed out and missed our turn so we had to backtrack a little. We eventually made it to the Magic Kingdom and parked in Goofy Row 60. The tram was waiting for us so we booked it and made it just in time. We breezed through security and the special event entrance and waited for a few minutes for Nicole to arrive.

We immediately proceeded to the bathroom. I think I’ve got a decent handle on anatomy but I will never stop being fascinated by the pea-sized bladders that women seem to have.

Our first stop was – of course – Pirates of the Caribbean. Connie was decked out in full pirate regalia and I was wearing my “Music Pirate” t-shirt and brand new skull and crossbones skullcap I got at Wal-Mart for $2. Nicole was not in costume, per se, but her outfit fit in with our motif. There was no wait for Pirates and we were seated in the front of the boat.

After Pirates, we stopped at Pecos Bill’s for dinner. I had a double cheeseburger, fries, and a large Coke and was pleasantly surprised to see that there was hot melted liquid cheese available (again? Still?) I thought this had been removed and there was quite a controversy about it on WDWMagic, but perhaps I’m incorrect. Connie also had a burger and Nicole had a veggie burger with apple slices.

We then walked on Haunted Mansion with no wait, followed by It’s a Small World, which was something Nicole wanted to do so we obliged. It was just now 7:00 and Peter Pan was a walk on for the first time that I can remember and we also walked on Winnie the Pooh. By this time, we were wondering about the Captain Jack Meet and Greet and were told it was in the Adventureland Veranda. The sign said it was a 60 minute wait and we ended up waiting about 50 minutes. Jack was pleasant and we were the last group before the parade. We had our pictures taken by the Photopass photographer and also with Connie’s camera by the CM attendant, who was very helpful.

We watched the parade from Fronteirland/Liberty Square (kind of there on the border). It was nice but I definitely prefer the Halloween parade more. Nothing really stood out as spectacular about this parade but I do find the pirate ship to be an impressive float.

After the parade, Connie bought the AP pin for the event and then we grabbed DoleWhip floats. Nicole had tried one last year but they were out of pineapple soft serve so she had vanilla ice cream with pineapple juice and it just wasn’t the same. She seemed to like the real float. At this time, I suggested heading to get a good spot for the fireworks. The segment where Captain Hook and the Pirates are bombing the castle was simply amazing. We were a little surprised that Tinkerbell flew given how breezy it was but it was nice to see her, as well.

After the fireworks, we walked to Tomorrowland and walked right onto Buzz Lightyear and were surprised that the gift shop was closed and we were dumped out in a different spot. This was convenient, though, because our next stop was the TTA. We walked onto this, of course, and then decided it was getting late enough that we should ride Pirates one last time (since its going down for refurb tomorrow) and then head home. We walked on to Pirates again, this time narrowly avoiding the crowd that had gathered to watch the Captain Jack Tutorial, and then headed up to City Hall to inquire about how Photopass and the 40% discount worked. We caught the monorail back to the TTC and then the parking tram wouldn’t start. Luckily, they just transferred us to a different tram and we made it to the parking lot safely. We got back to the resort about midnight and agreed to meet tomorrow at Au Bon Pain in the lobby of our hotel for breakfast at 9 AM.

TOMORROW: Mouse Surplus and Animal Kingdom

DAY TWO: Mouse Surplus, Animal Kingdom, and Downtown Disney

We all met at 8AM at the Au Bon Pain in the lobby of the hotel for breakfast. I fought with my laptop for 45 minutes to get a signal before Connie and Nicole came down and finally got online just as they were joining me. I found the schedule for Star Wars Weekend courtesy of StudiosCentral.com and we reviewed that while we ate our croissants. I got a ham and cheese, Nicole and Connie both got fruit flavored ones. I wasn’t full so I also got a chocolate one, which was ridiculous but I’m on vacation so whatever.

We headed out to the car and began our journey to Mouse Surplus, which was a place Nicole really wanted to see and Connie was pretty excited, too. I was ambivalent but was more afraid that Nicole might be disappointed when we arrived if it wasn’t up to her expectations. When we pulled up, we all were a bit reluctant to get out of the car. It reminded me of something you might see in a movie where the unsuspecting tourists enter the scary warehouse looking for adventure only to be gutted and hung on the wall as a trophy. However, there were other cars out front and we braved our way in.

It was an interesting place and we were glad we went but I don’t think we’ll need to go back. Nicole bought a sign that says “Baby Change” that we think came from Epcot. At least that’s what we want to believe as Nicole is a big retro-Epcot fan. Connie didn’t buy anything because the Mouse Surplus guy wasn’t willing to negotiate. I saw nothing that really piqued my interest so we headed on out.

Our next stop was the Animal Kingdom and we parked in Giraffe 39. We proceeded through security and decided it was lunch time. Rainforest Café had no wait and we were seated almost immediately. I got the Rainforest burger with swiss and bacon, Connie got a salad and soup, and Nicole got a BBQ chicken wrap. Our server was excellent and everything was good.

After we ate, we headed into the park and decided to check out the line for Kilimanjaro Safari. It said 20 minutes but was much more like 5 or 10. It was very hot outside but there were still lots of animals out. Not a lot of elephants and the lions were asleep but there were a ton of white rhinos. We watched the gorillas for a few minutes before heading to Festival of the Lion King, which Connie and I were so glad Nicole liked. It was packed in the theater and it took forever for us to get out. We raced over to Finding Nemo and walked in and got decent seats near the exit. This was important as we wanted to beat the rest of the packed theater to Expedition Everest. We all loved Nemo and again Connie and I were pleased that Nicole was enjoying herself at AK since it was her first time here.

As we were walking, we encountered this family that had the theming been different in that area of the park I would have sworn that they were Streetsmophere characters. This big black man was screaming about “Ice Mountain” and pointing towards Everest and I started looking for the camera to see if Martin Lawrence was filming a new movie or something. It was really something.

We went through the standby line of Everest, which was very dark as the lights didn’t appear to be working. The sign was 20 minutes, but it was really more like 15. I really like this ride but I always feel so out of sorts when we get done. It takes me about 15 minutes to get my balance back and to stop feeling nauseous. Connie and I wanted Nicole to ride Dinosaur and the posted wait time was 25 minutes. We waited for about 15 and decided that this was true and got out of line knowing we’d be back on Sunday. We all got frozen lemonades, which were good but made us more thirsty, before heading into It’s Tough to Be a Bug. Wait time was 5 minutes and we just missed a show, so we waited for the next one.

Connie and I were so excited to watch Nicole’s reactions to the tactile surprises that we made her sit between us. She responded appropriately. Connie wanted to go buy a glass hippo from a shop in Africa so we headed back that way and did some other shopping on our way out of the park.

We headed back to the hotel so that Nicole could get back to Tampa and work tomorrow. Connie and I then went to Downtown Disney. As we were pulling into the parking lot, we were amazed at the very long line to get into Pleasure Island. Gay Days are very big this year as there was only one female in the line, which made us laugh just thinking about this one chick and how if she didn’t know what was going on, she might be very excited about having her pick of men for the night.

We had dinner at the House of Blues. I enjoyed the atmosphere but the menu didn’t have much that interested me. Since I’d had a burger for lunch, I went with the Prime Rib. It was fine but wasn’t really worth what I paid for it. Connie had the BBQ Pulled Pork and it was good. She had sweet potato fries and wasn’t a big fan. We also got dessert; I had the chocolate mousse cheesecake and Connie had Key Lime pie. Our server, Brian, was not that attentive and took awhile to bring our checks.

After we left here, we walked out to the boat dock to the Marketplace. It was nice and relaxing and our captain was Captain Jack, who we had two years ago when we stayed Port Orleans and rode the boat over from there to DD. We did some shopping and saw several things that we thought we should buy, but decided to wait until later in the trip.

We walked through the very packed Pleasure Island back to the car and decided to call it a night as tomorrow is going to be pretty busy and a long day with Star Wars weekend at DHS.

TOMORROW: Star Wars Weekend at DHS!

Day Three: Disney Hollywood Studios, Star Wars Weekend, and Downtown Disney

Connie and I met at 8:15 and headed to DHS. We parked in Stage 43, got through the turnstiles rater quickly, and walked all the way up to the Brown Derby where the crowd was being held. People were sprinting to Toy Story Mania and we grabbed FastPasses for 9:50AM – 10:50AM. We then braved the long standby line, which was posted at 60 minutes. We got on in about 40 minutes and really liked the ride. Connie beat me by 200 points so of course we had to do it again.

But first, we were hungry so we went to Starring Rolls Café and I got a few things. Connie had the cheese Danish. After this we went back and rode with our fastpasses and this time I beat Connie by several thousand. We were both very happy that we scored over 100,000. Next time I’m sure we’ll do even better.

We walked over to ToT, which had a posted standby wait of 60 minutes. FastPasses were right around the time of the Star Wars Parade so we decided to do RnRC Single Riders line instead. Connie was gracious and let me go when the CM gave us an odd numbered row. I just don’t think I could get in the car again on an even numbered row; my knees can’t fit at all.

We then walked over to where the Star Wars stuff was so that Connie could scope out where the talk show would be held this year. I sat down on a bench by the GMR while Connie shopped for some pins. At this point, I nearly fell asleep. It was so hot and crowded and I was just done in. We agreed that I should go back to the room – the 3rd day is ALWAYS when I crash – and so I did.

I literally slept from 12:30 when I arrived back at the hotel until 4:00 PM when Nicole called and said that she and Jeff were on the road and would head back to the park with me for the Star Wars Hoopla show.

We headed back to the Studios once Nicole and Jeff arrived and met Connie at the front gate. She said she was exhausted and gave us a short rundown of her day after I left. She watched the parade and went back to check out Wicket’s Warehouse, which had a 4 hour wait. So, she planted herself outside the queue for the Premier Theater in order to see the talk show. Because of the new location, she had to wait out in the sun for an hour, which really took its toll. She reported that the talk show was good. Then she also watched the trailer for the new Clone Wars movie, which got her excited. She did end up going into Wicket’s Warehouse and buying what she wanted with little wait.

We all headed over to the stage by Star Tours and finished watching the Padawan Mind Challenge. I split off to grab a snack since I never even ate lunch and ran right into an old friend of mine, former WWE developmental wrestler Chet “The Jet” Jablonski. I grabbed a bit to eat and watched the Jedi Training Academy through the windows at the restaurant there next to it. I finished up and headed back to the stage to catch Star Wars Hoopla, which was largely the same as last year but had enough new things to keep me entertained. Darth Vader dancing to Thriller was pretty hilarious and really got the crowd going.

We were all tired – yes, even me with my 4 hour nap – so we decided to get a bite to eat outside the world and call it a night. We ate at Chilli’s on Apopka-Vineland and retired for the evening.

Tomorrow: More Star Wars Weekend!

DAY FOUR: Disney-Hollywood Studios, Star Wars Weekend, and Epcot

All four of us met in the lobby of the hotel at 8 am to head to the Studios. We got through security and stood in the sun while the Stormtroopers did their shtick up above. Once through the turnstiles, I took everyone’s tickets and got in place behind the rope for Toy Story Mania. The rest of the crew headed to Tower of Terror and waited for me to arrive with the fastpasses.

I cannot wait until the other side of the street at Pixar Place is opened up because the bottleneck here was unbelievable. I, of course, got in the FastPass line with the broken machine and had to wait twice as long. It actually took me 10 minutes to get 4 fastpasses and the return window increased by 15 minutes while I was in line. To say this attraction is a hit is an understatement.

I briskly walked over to ToT and found them waiting patiently for me outside the standby entrance. The wait time said 10 minutes but we were able to walk in to the library without much of a wait at all. We walked right over to RnRC and only waited for about 5 minutes here in spite of the posted 20 minute wait time. The couple in front of us told the ride attendant that they had 5 people in their party . . . he thought we were with them and was very confused by the whole situation. I have no idea if it was a language issue or if they had 3 others waiting in the gift shop but it was weird.

We then went to Starring Rolls Café for breakfast again and I really like the chocolate croissant. I’m trying to do a better job of drinking water on this trip, especially with the hot sun and heat beating down on us all day. After we ate, we walked through One Man’s Dream while we waited for our 10:45AM – 11:45AM FastPass window. I watched the short film about Walt and think that everyone should see this movie. It was touching and made me so grateful for the contributions Walt has made to our culture. I hope he is never forgotten.

I met Connie, Nicole, and Jeff and we went into Toy Story Mania. Jeff got the highest score, followed by me, Connie, and Nicole. I narrowly beat Connie again, which is my goal. The bonus round is where I excel. Connie thinks the ringtoss is hard and I agree but I think the balloons and darts are as challenging. Jeff and Nicole seemed to enjoy it.

It was now 11 and we decided it was important to line up for the Star Wars parade. I stayed back in the shade on a bench under the Sorcerer’s Hat for awhile because the sun was so bright and I didn’t want to sit on the hot pavement. I was able to walk up about 10 minutes before the parade started and got a great view from the front row with the rest of the group. We booked it immediately after the parade to Wicket’s Warehouse, where I bought a really nice laptop bag. We all four got our picture taken together – and I make a mean Mace Windu. That photo will be uploaded as soon as I get a digital copy from Nicole.

Nicole wanted to do the Backlot Tour so we rode through and had the WORST tour guide in the history of tour guides. He was annoying, thought he was funny, was a terrible actor during Catastrophe Canyon, and started making stuff up at one point. When he said that Epcot was Walt’s “one and only dream” I nearly had an aneurism. I think I know what he meant but the way he said it was factually incorrect. He was hard to listen to and made the tour – which is already sad to ride at this point – even less enjoyable. So . . . thanks, Christopher, for ruining this ride even more!

We grabbed lunch at the Studio Catering Company. The BBQ Pulled Pork was OK, but could have used more sauce. The apple slices were delicious on a hot summer day, though. We rode the Great Movie Ride and I asked if we could wait for the cowboy scene. The attraction host obliged the request and we got to ride in the very front row of the front car. Samantha, our ride operator, was friendly and pretty good. She was friendly during the parts when she had no spiel.

After this we watched Muppet 3-D and I could hear Nicole laughing throughout. She hadn’t been here in awhile and I’m so glad she was having fun. The Muppets are funny; I wish they would do more with them.

Next we got in line for the 3 o’clock Behind the Force show, which was hosted by Warwick Davis. It was interesting to learn about the new Clone Wars movie coming out and I’m glad I watched all the new trilogy Star Wars movies before we came down so I had an idea of what was going on.

At this point, we decided that we had seen everything we needed to at DHS and proceeded to Epcot. We discussed the best way to get there and even though walking and the boat were an option, we didn’t want to have to come back for the car so we drove over.

We immediately headed to Soarin’ and were surprised to discover FastPasses available for 6:45. It was just now 4:45 so we were pleased with that. I would have waited the posted 50 minutes but the rest of them weren’t as excited. I’m glad they weren’t because we were able to do so many things in the meantime.

First, we got ice cream at the Fountain View Café. The sundaes here are huge! I finished my Coke Float and walked towards the restroom to discover that Epcot “museum” I’d been looking for during the last two trips. I was very excited because I knew Nicole would be very happy to see it; she’s a vintage Epcot aficionado and especially misses Horizons. In fact, as discussed previously in this report, her prized find at MouseSuprlus was a “Baby Change” sign that we all decided must have come from Epcot due to the font and style.

We then went to Club Cool and sampled the beverages. I wasn’t able to trick anyone into trying the Beverly (those Ph.D.s are deserved, I guess) and then we walked back up and rode Spaceship Earth (after a lengthy perusal of the Pin Station). We all laughed so hard at the cartoon at the end. I am glad this attraction got some attention.

It was almost time for the FastPasses but we still had a few minutes to kill so I suggested The Seas because I really like the Nemo ride. There’s seldom a wait, it moves quickly, and the digital projection at the end is technologically impressive. I watched the manatees eat for awhile and it seemed there was an inordinate amount of divers in the tank. I also made a mental note of how chilly it was in the upstairs observation area and will return here for a break from the heat in the future.

We headed to the Land, rode Living with the Land, which I find relaxing and interesting. I miss eating at revolving restaurant upstairs. I think we only ate there twice as a kid but I had very fond memories of it and wish it hadn’t become “family style” and character dining experiences.

We finally rode Soarin’. Connie asked the ride attendant if we could ride in row one and she accommodated us, however it was a bit frustrating for her, I think. But she was pleasant about it. After this, we decided to head to the ESPN Club at the Boardwalk. We were going to walk, but I pointed out that it was already 7:30 and by the time we got there and back, the park would be closed and we wouldn’t be able to get to the car very easily. So, we drove.

Now, I’m the first person to point out the great things and people we encounter on our trips so I feel justified in telling you that Tim at the ESPN Club and more importantly, his manager, Karla, need some extra coaching. Tim was pleasant, however it took him wayyy too long to serve us. We were seated in the bar section of the restaurant and I do realize that you don’t get the same level of service here that you would in the dining room. However, the table next to us had a different server and I saw him 45 times. We literally saw Tim about 4 or 5 times the entire meal. He also messed up our checks, even though we went over this with him several times before he rang us up. Again, none of this was a big deal but we did agree that management might be running Tim a little ragged so perhaps we should talk with them.

Connie sought the manager out and Karla admitted that, yes, Tim had tables in both the bar and dining room and that “he gets flustered when it gets this busy.” Not “I’m sorry for your wait,” or “Gosh, I’ll talk with him about this,” but just an acknowledgement that, “Yep, he sucks.” And that was it. Again, I don’t blame Tim nearly as much as I blame Karla and for her not to even appear sorry about the experience is unacceptable and Disney will be getting an email from us about it.

We were all beat so we headed back to the hotel for another day of touring tomorrow!

TOMORROW: Animal Kingdom!

DAY FIVE: Animal Kingdom & Disney Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekend!

We met in the lobby at 8:15. Well, actually, Jeff and Nicole checked out and went to McDonald’s about 8. Connie and I planned to meet them at the park but we ended up next to one another driving into the park and parked next to one another in the parking lot.

Wes Palm was out and Connie and I played our favorite game, which is guess where the guy is with the microphone. He was very well hidden and we never did find him. We got through the turnstiles and it was incredibly crowded. We walked slowly to the Safaris in the midst of a double and triple stroller convention and got on with about a 15 minute wait. Our driver, Cathy, was the best I’ve ever had. She was friendly, knowledgeable, and well-spoke. She stayed on script enough to keep Disney happy but also altered her wording just enough that it fresh and enjoyable to hear. She was amazing.

Not a whole lot of animals were out but it was already in the high 80s at 9:30 am and most of them were hiding in the shade. We did get to see the lioness jump from one rock to another, which was a rare treat. We walked from the Safari over to Everest and I sat out while they rode it. Their wait time was posted at 20 minutes and like clockwork 20 minutes later, Connie called looking for me.

I was waiting on a bench right between the Theater in the Wild and Dinoland USA, where I sat my lanyard down because it was so hot I was tired of wearing it. We walked to Dinosaur and I realized we got in line that I forgot the lanyard there. I rushed back but it was already gone. Neither of the three cast members in the area had been given it, so I’m sure it’s gone forever. It had my room key and my annual pass on it; no major loss but it was still a hassle to stop at Guest Relations and the front desk of the hotel for new stuff.

Nicole was hunched down during the Dinosaur picture so I imagine it was a bit scary for her. I know the first time I road it, I was terrified. My heart pounded and I sweat badly. And I loved it. I hope she had the same experience.

Next we went to see “It’s Tough to Be a Bug.” I LOVE watching this with people who’ve never seen it before and Jeff had a smile on his face from ear to ear when it was over so I hope he liked it. We grabbed a bite to eat from the Flame Tree BBQ. I really miss the smoked chicken sandwich but it’s been gone for a long time now and the torch I’ve been carrying for it went out with the corn on the cob that also used to be on the menu. The beef was very fatty and I was disappointed in the meal. I do enjoy the baked beans, though. The worst part about eating here is the ducks and the seagulls that have no fear of people and are becoming more aggressive. I have an irrational and unhealthy fear of birds as it is (well, any wild creature that shows no fear, I guess) and I was very anxious during the meal as the ducks kept walking under our table and even nudged Nicole at one point. I wish Disney could do something about the bird infestation but I guess they got in some trouble for that over at the original Discovery Island already, eh? 

After lunch, we started towards Festival of the Lion King but Connie and Nicole hatched a better plan. Nicole and Jeff would go on home before work tomorrow and Nicole will return to Star Wars Weekends on Friday after work next week. Connie and I would head out, too, and I would drop her off at DHS before retiring to the hotel for a nice nap. We stopped at Guest Relations first; Jeff lost his sunglasses on Dinosaur (he left them in the cargo pouch) and the cast member brought out several pair but none of them were his. A cast member went looking for my lanyard, as well, but no luck as I expected. He issued me a new pass and I was good to go.

There was a woman in line along side of us who was being very aggressive towards the cast member. From what we gathered from eavesdropping, her son had gone into anaphylactic shock and she was demanding free passes as a result. She was leaning over the counter in the cast member’s face and I was very proud to watch as Samantha held her ground, remained professional, but was also assertive in explaining what she was allowed to do for the woman and her party. Our thoughts were pretty simple; if Disney was to blame for your son being sick then why would you want to stay even longer? Alas, people never fail to amaze us even working with them all day long.

We took the tram back to our cars and said our goodbyes. Connie and I drove to the studios and the nice parking people showed us where to go to drop her off. I went back to the hotel for a nice nap and met up with Connie about 5PM by the new Cars meet and greet.

While we were waiting to meet up with the folks of MouseFan Travel who organized the special SWW dinner buffet, Connie told me that she talked her way into meeting Daniel Logan without a fastpass. She chatted with the cast member handling the line and he let Connie go first out of the standbys. Connie told Daniel that she had seen him recently at the Cincinnati Pops performance where he read passages from Star Wars and he told her he was very nervous doing that. Connie was very impressed by his personality and warmth and was very glad she was able to meet him.

We checked in with the folks for the dinner and walked backstage to the Prop Shop, which was our private dining room. Some stormtroopers came in and hassled us for a few minutes and then we got to eat. The food was wonderful; the chicken was scrumptious and the beef was cooked perfectly. They had some very good tomato demi that I liked with the beef and the mashed potatoes were also very good.

We were seated with a nice family and a single woman, who had been in line every morning this weekend since 3 and 4 am so she could get autographs with the stars. She had lots of pins and a whole book of autographed photos with her. Connie and I ended up leaving before the trivia game started as we were a little bored and had hoped for a little more excitement. However, the food was delicious and we were glad we did this exclusive event.

We rushed over to catch most of the Star Wars Hoopla show and then decided that since tomorrow is our Four Park Challenge Day that we should call it a night early.

TOMORROW: FOUR PARK CHALLENGE!

Day Six: THE FOUR PARK CHALLENGE: Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, Epcot, & Magic Kingdom!

This day will be chronicled just a tad different than the rest to demonstrate our strategic and well paced journey through all four major theme parks. It was tiring and even Connie said so, which really means it must have been a lot of walking. I forgot my pedometer at home this trip.

So, before we begin with the report of the day, I suppose some history would be helpful. On AllEarsNet.com, one of the regular writers issued a challenge to visit all four major theme parks in one day’s time. Connie and I both thought it sounded like fun so we decided to do it; we also decided that we needed to take our picture in the park in front of the park’s icon and we would also buy a pin to represent that park for a special display that we’ll each create later. We had fun and I’m looking forward to getting home and creating my special project incorporating the maps, the pins, and the photographs to decorate my new office with.

Now, on with the report:

8:00 – We left the Orlando Vista hotel and drove to the Animal Kingdom.

8:20 – Arrived at AK and were given a Magical Moment Dream Parking certificate that allowed us to park in the front of the lot right next to the AAA Diamond parking lot.

8:45 – The turnstiles opened and we proceeded to position ourselves on the far left side as close to the rope as possible.

9:08 – We were seated on Kilimanjaro Safaris with our driver Roy.

9:31 – We left KS and headed towards Dinosaur.

9:42 – Entered queue for Dinosaur.

9:53 – Exited Dinosaur’s gift shop after riding.

10:03 – Entered queue for “Its Tough to Be a Bug.”

10:07 – Seated in the theater for ITBAB.

10:18 – Exited ITBAB and headed to the Tree of Life to get our picture taken. We also bought our pin for this park and headed for the park exit.

10:31 – Left AK and headed for DHS.

10:47 – Parked at DHS and on the tram heading for the front gate.

10:54 – Entered DHS turnstiles.

11:01 – Grabbed Fast Passes for RnRC for 13:10 just in case.

11:05 – In the queue for Tower of Terror, with wait time posted at 50 minutes.

11:20 – In ToT library watching the preshow.

11:30 – In ride vehicle for ToT.

11:35 – Exited ToT.

11:38 – Entered Single Rider line for RnRC.

12:11 – In ride vehicle for RnRC.

12:17 – Exited RnRC and heading for Great Movie Ride.

12:22 – In queue for GMR.

12:52 – Exiting GMR, and bought our pins underneath the big hat. While we were walking out we almost got caught by the High School Musical processional down the street. Also, we heard a family paged to go to Guest Relations ASAP, which sounded ominous. I’ve never heard Disney page someone like that before so I hope it was no super bad news.

13:02 – On parking lot tram headed for the car.

13:17 – Arrived at Epcot Parking lot and parked.

13:26 – Through Epcot Turnstiles.

13:28 – In line at Electric Umbrella for first in park meal of the day. This took forever as the printer in the line I was waiting in didn’t print the orders in the kitchen so they didn’t know what to make. Plus, the park was jammed packed and Connie had to guard a table while I got the food so we’d have a place to eat. AND the birds were hovering

14:08 – In line for the Grand Fiesta Tour in Mexico.

14:11 – In the boat for Grand Fiesta Tour.

14:21 – Exited Grand Fiesta Tour.

14:30 – Entered single rider queue for Test Track despite weather warnings by the cast members.

14:41 – Exited Test Track just before an overhead announcement of mechanical breakdown and no further boarding.

14:49 – Entered queue for Spaceship Earth. Wait time posted as 20 minutes.

15:06 – In Spaceship Earth ride vehicle.

15:23 – Exited Spaceship Earth. Our video screen did not work on the descent, which was very disappointing to us and the people in the back of the car, whose screen also didn’t work. The cars in front/behind us seemed to be working properly. We then bought our pins at the pin station behind the tip board.

15:28 – Connie ran to the car to put our pins and maps away safely and to grab her rain gear just in case. Kirk sat on a bench and waited.

15:50 – On monorail, heading for Magic Kingdom.

15:58 – Pulling in to TTC.

16:02 – On Magic Kingdom Express Monorail.

16:10 – Entering Magic Kingdom.

16:29 - Connie caught Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial and I grabbed Fast Passes to the Jungle Cruise. I also watched the Tiki Birds while I waited for Connie.

16:43 – In queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Wait time posted at 50 minutes.

17:12 – In ride vehicle at BTMR. Johnny, the ride attendant, had his head so far up his own rear end he could smell his own breath. He was sending people down into the loading area without counting them ahead of time and causing all sorts of problems as people were switching lanes (since they weren’t assigned, why wouldn’t they?). His coworker started to yell at the guests and I told him it was Johnny’s fault. This was the bumpiest ride ever and Connie swore she’d have bruises after it was over.

17:17 – Exited BTMR.

17:22 – Entered Pirates of the Caribbean store to kill some time before Jungle Cruise Fast Passes took effect.

17:35 – Entered Jungle Cruise Fast Pass line.

17:45 – On boat for Jungle Cruise with skipper, Kara, who was fine. Also on the boat was a party of 13 who were not digging the jokes. They did react, however, to the giant python and Connie and I thought the oversized woman’s overreacting might tip the boat over at one point.

17:57 – Exited Jungle Cruise and headed for Liberty Square.

18:03 – In line at Columbia Harbor House for dinner. No waiting. We ate upstairs and watched the Haunted Mansion queue line. I am always puzzled by the amount of questions that are asked of the front line attendants. I mean, really, what do you need to know about the Mansion that isn’t already posted in a guide map or that you wouldn’t have heard about from your careful research of your Disney vacation? We watched the standby line’s wait time go from 30 minutes to 40 minutes to 30 to 40 and then to 20.

18:33 – In Haunted Mansion queue. Wait time posted at 20 minutes.

18:51 – Out of stretch room and waiting to Board Doom Buggy.

19:03 – Exited Haunted Mansion.

So there you have it, we were able to complete the Four Parks in a Day Challenge in 10 hours. It was hard work, a lot of walking, and the crowds were thick in all four parks. We were so exhausted but needed to buy our final pin – so we went to the jeweler on Main Street. We bought our pins and noticed the Annual Passholder exclusive lanyard on sale!! So, we both got one and I also got my 2008 Passholder pin before heading to the monorail station.

We accidentally boarded the resort monorail, but that was fine. We then headed up the ramp to the Epcot station and were greeted by a little Hobbit named Brandon who was wearing the largest winter coat I’ve ever seen. He might have been delirious from fever or something because he was weird. He did let Connie and I sit in the front of the monorail with the pilot, George, however. George said no words the whole trip; not even “Your welcome” when we said thanks. He was very busy, I guess, pushing that one lever up and down a few times on the trip.

We got to our car at Epcot and Connie – who is certifiably nuts – asked me to drop her off at Downtown Disney. She planned to take a taxi home and I went back to the room and collapsed.

TOMORROW: Epcot!

Day Seven: Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Thunderstorms, and Downtown Disney

We left the hotel at 8 AM and headed for Epcot. We were able to park on the row closest to the park at the end closest to the walkway. Parking has really been a cinch on this trip. We headed through the turnstiles when they let us in and found our usual spot by Innoventions in anticipation of the Soarin’ Stampede. Norm, a manager of some sort I assume by the way he was dressed, came out and entertained the crowd with a nice comedy routine and gave a young lady a small dog made out of a string of fake pearls. He was really funny and a nice way to start the day.

Then Daniel came out. Daniel was way over the top and was very concerned about all of us drinking lots of water and lathering on the sunscreen. He and his fellow cast members did seem to genuinely like one another. Daniel plugged Soarin’, The Seas, and Living with the Land. They made fun of Imagination because none of their cast members were there. Then, the CM from the Character Spot chimed in with a plug for his area and they were like, “Oh yeah, them.” It was funny but probably only to me. Daniel talked a lot with his hands and was really a bit much but you gotta admire his enthusiasm.

We walked to Soarin and Connie and I grabbed FastPasses for 9:51. We rode Soarin next to a family that had never been on and were worried about motion sickness. We talked to them about what to expect and calmed the mom down a bit as she was a little nervous about what the ride would be like.

After Soarin’ we grabbed breakfast at Sunshine Seasons. I had a Croissant with egg, bacon, and cheese, as well as a side order of potatoes – which had way too much green pepper flavor. Connie got the breakfast platter and said was very good, though felt the pepper was too strong.

We rode Soarin’ again with our fast passes and then walked to Test Track. We were able to walk right in, even bypassing the pre-show, in the single rider line. I have noticed more “1st Visit” buttons and have talked to more people in line who have never been on these attractions on this trip than before. Good news, I guess, for the long term – but I was sort of hoping the economy might keep the crowds lower this trip. It hasn’t worked.

Connie and I then browsed MouseGear for awhile before heading over to the Imagination Pavillion to get a few pictures of the fountain. We decided to ride Journey into Imagination with Figment since Connie hadn’t been on it in many years. It was better than I remembered, but still pretty lame. Then, we caught Honey I Shrunk the Audience and only had to watch 5 minutes of the preshow. My 3-D glasses were pretty beat up and Connie said the same thing. It made the show a bit hard to watch without closing one eye.

We had reservations at Le Cellier at 2:20 but I was hungry and so we walked back to inquire about being seated now. I was told, “No problem,” and we had a table within 10 minutes. I got a bowl of Cheddar Cheese Soup and a Steakburger with Cheddar and bacon. Connie got a bowl of soup and was able to get the Mixed Green Salad that they offer at dinner. Our server, Annie, was phenomenal and is the best one I’ve ever had at Le Cellier. I was so full after the soup that I didn’t even eat the bun. I should have just done the soup and a dessert, I think. The gentleman dining alone next to us got the New York Strip Steak and it was huge – so I will try that sometime, as well.

I was still tired from yesterday and Connie was done with Epcot so I headed back to the hotel and she took the boat to the Studios. I came back and the maid was in my room so I took my laptop to the lobby and did some business related things while I waited. I came back up about 30 minutes later and took a nap. I was awakened by a loud clap of thunder; the power had gone off a couple times too.

I called Connie and she was stuck underneath the Sorcerer’s Hat, which had been struck by lightning. She said that she had tried to take the Backlot Tour, but it was raining so hard – and there was so much lightning that once they left the load area that they turned around immediately and unloaded. Connie said that the woman on the tram with her was upset and said, “I’m already wet, why can’t we just finish the ride!” She also said a woman screamed at the cast member at the pin station under the hat three different times about them not selling her daughter a pin she wanted in spite of the electricity being off and the store being closed. It was probably good that I was not there because after seven days, I’ve really had enough of rude behavior especially towards cast members.

I met Connie at Downtown Disney about 6:30. She took a bus from the Studios to Port Orleans (it was the first bus to arrive at the station) and she got off there and noticed that the same bus changed its sign to Downtown Disney so she got back on and rode over. We had dinner Earl of Sandwich (I got a Ham and Swiss, Connie got Roast Beef) and then went to World of Disney where I bought several things, including the $15 throw they were selling with purchases over $50. It will go nicely with the one I have from last year’s trip. Connie walked through the Lego store but they had nothing new so we headed back to the car to retire for the night. Tomorrow is a big day for us.

TOMORROW: Universal Studios Florida!

Day Eight: Universal Studios Florida

We met in the lobby at 7:45 (I forgot my phone in my room so I had to go back real quick – so I guess we actually left at 7:47) and headed out of the hotel parking lot. We got on I-4 and drove towards Universal.

We pulled into the garage (paid the $12 for parking!! I forget how much we save with the Annual Pass at Disney) and parked in Jaws 211. We walked through CityWalk, got our tickets printed at the Electronic machine, and lined up in the front of the queue. It was fun watching the employees tease each other and make fun of the other side of the gates employees. Our side had three older gentlemen who seemed to really like each other. They should make a sitcom based on them really, they were that funny.

The gates opened and we breezed right through. We passed Shrek and were told by a lone custodian wielding a big broom that the rest of the park wasn’t open yet and that we could not go any further. The female dressed in dress clothes, whom I took for a manager type, next to him was silent. I said, “Well, we’re not going in Shrek – it sucks.” So we planted ourselves on a bench and waited for the rest of the park to open. This poor custodian guy was trying to tell all the other guests that they couldn’t enter the park and I was fearful for his safety. I yelled at him that he should move closer to the Shrek entrance so that people knew what was going on. He then waved the crowd past him as I guess he changed his mind about the rest of the park being open. The Universal difference, for sure. Jeez.

So, we walked quickly to Revenge of the Mummy and were loaded into the first ride vehicle of the day. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did last year, but maybe it was the element of surprise on my first time. It was still a lot of fun, but we didn’t feel compelled to ride it twice.

We then headed towards The Simpsons ride and my calves were burning from walking with such purpose. We waited for about 5 minutes to enter the first preshow area and were there for another five or so. I loved the safety video and thought the concept was great. It was in line with the quality of the show but I got motion sick during the ride and had to close my eyes for the 2nd half. I won’t do this again but I’m glad I got to see it. Back to the Future never made me feel that nauseous but The Simpsons was a nicely updated theme for this attraction.

We then walked over to Men in Black and neither Connie nor I remembered the preshow part where you waited to be let into the elevator last year. We walked right on the ride and Connie beat me by several thousand points. It also made me feel a little dizzy. So, of course, we rode it again. And Connie beat me again. So, obviously the ride is broken.

We then walked over to Jaws and they only had two or three boats running so the line was moving a little slow. Plus the Universal Express line was gumming things up pretty good. We were in the last row on the right side and I felt a little unsafe. I didn’t realize how “open” the boat felt. I guess I’ve always sat in the middle.

After Jaws, we saw Disaster. What a tremendous improvement! “Lonnie,” our host was funny and engaging and this is the kind of attraction that Disney could learn from. Universal doesn’t have “spielers” like this anymore and I so enjoyed the interactions between Lonnie and the “virtual Christopher Walken” on stage. He looked incredibly real. The last portion the show is the least impressive, really, but when they put all the scenes they shot together, it made for a good laugh. We really enjoyed this.

We then walked into the seafood restaurant across from Disaster and stood there for a few minutes, but no one came to seat us so we walked down to the Richter Burger Company. I got a double burger and it was huge! I was very impressed with the food.

We went to check out the queue for Beetlejuice, and we still had 35 minutes before seating so we wandered around the shops and the arcade for a few minutes. We decided that there wasn’t much to see so we went back to the Graveyard Revue theater and sat on a bench for a few minutes. Beetlejuice sure is raunchy at times; I wonder how many people are stunned by some of his jokes. We liked this very much.

Then we walked over to E.T., which had a posted wait time of 15 minutes. It felt about that long in the outside queue but once we were inside, we kept moving pretty quickly. I think this attraction is underrated as far as dark rides, go. It reminds me of Peter Pan, only longer and more elaborate.

Finally, we headed back to T2. We had about 10 minutes until the next show. We got the same Kimberly Duncan that we had last year, which surprised me a little. I like this show, but I think the non-live action portion of the 3-D movie goes on a little long.

We left the theater and headed back to Disney property. Connie wanted dropped off at the Magic Kingdom, so we followed the signs to Guest Drop Off and were impressed with the efficiency of this process. I headed back to the hotel for another of my famous naps. Connie stayed in the Magic Kingdom and I toyed with possibly joining her for Wishes.

I woke up about 7 and Connie reported that Magic Kingdom was as crowded as it was on Monday so I decided that my only journey would be to the Subway behind the hotel. I watched Family Guy and went to bed.

I’ll fill in more updates about Connie’s evening in the MK in tomorrow’s report.

TOMORROW: Islands of Adventure

Day Nine: Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and Magic Kingdom

We met at 7:45 again in order to be at the front of the line at the turnstiles and it worked. We parked in Jaws 212 AGAIN – we’ve been to Universal four times in two years and always park in Jaws 212. At least they’re consistent.

We headed to the gates and waited for opening, which happened about 20 minutes earlier than scheduled. We rushed to Spiderman and walked right through the queue, getting lost only once, and made it on to our ride vehicle. This is an amazing experience but I was feeling a bit dizzy after the first trip. We rode it again, of course, because there was no wait and it was still mind boggling how they managed to time all the effects perfectly.

We then proceeded through Toon Lagoon bypassing all the attractions here (because we didn’t want to get drowned again on Dudley Dooright’s Ripsaw Falls) and headed straight for Jurassic Park. Last year we didn’t get that wet and I suggested the middle row and the middle two seats since there was no line here, either.

We got absolutely drenched.

I think it may be because there was a family in the front of the boat and no one in the back so all the wait was up front. It was still fun and it was hot out so it didn’t matter.

We then walked over to Poseidon’s Fury and got the same “Taylor” we had last year. This is a creative attraction and I enjoy it, though I did like it better last year when it was all new.

We then walked right by the Dr. Seuss Trolley in the Sky and it had a posted wait time of 5 minutes. We looked at each other and remembered last year’s disastrous wait in line for 45 minutes for the 2 minute trip around the track and thought we should allow Dr. Seuss to redeem himself. We waited less than 5 minutes and while the visuals are great the soundtrack has to go.

After this we rode Cat in the Hat, which again had a 5 minute wait time posted. This is a pretty wild little ride! It whips you around and spins you fast; we both liked it, though.

Now, we had a dilemma. We had lunch reservations for Mythos, voted as Theme Park Insider’s #1 theme park restaurant for 5 years now, but it was only 10:00 AM. Yes, that’s right; we did Spiderman twice, Jurassic Park, Poseidon’s Fury, The Trolley Train, and Cat in the Hat in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

We really didn’t have a preference, but figured we should walk around and see if we could make it to the opening time of Mythos, which was 11:30. There are not a lot of shops that have much to look at in this part of the park so we ended up doing Poseidon’s Fury again because it was close to the restaurant.

We walked into Mythos, which was now open, and were seated within 5 minutes. Our server, Robert, was amazing. He was so slick and smooth that our drinks were never empty and we had everything we needed without having to ask. Connie got a Pasta Penne with marinara and chicken. I got a burger. Shocker, I know. It wasn’t all that great, really, but I did also get the Chocolate Gooey Cake with peanut butter ice cream, carmel sauce, and bananas. It was heavenly.

We decided to call it a wrap at Islands of Adventure and Connie had me drop her off at the Studios. I went back to the room to take a nap.

We met up again at the Magic Kingdom at about 7 PM and immediately headed to Casey’s. I love their hot dogs and Connie always gets the corndog bites. We then walked to Philharmagic, and it was sprinkling heavily. I love this show, but this theater is in need of some refurbishment. The carpet was duct taped to the floor in my row and the glasses are starting to show some of the same dents that Honey I Shrunk the Audience has. Bad show.

We then walked to the Haunted Mansion, which had a 20 minute wait time posted. It was more like 10. Then we walked over to get Dole Whip Floats. After this, we walked to Tomorrowland and rode the TTA. I made Connie do Carousel of Progress and it was nearly empty. I still love it, though.

Then we had an exciting ride on Buzz Lightyear. Connie beat me significantly, which means she got lucky and hit something big accidentally. More importantly, though, just as we were approaching the exit, the ride stopped. Two cars in front of us, the car was stuck facing the wrong direction. We got to watch ride technicians come out, force it into place, and then they had to reboot the computer, which took several minutes. It was cool to see the guardrails rise up when they initially turned off the ride system’s power.

It was now time for the fireworks so we fought through the masses surrounding the castle and found our way to a spot immediately in front of the castle. This actually is not our favorite place to watch – you really should be just a little to the left of the castle to see everything correctly. I got some decent firework pictures this trip.

We then did a late night Jungle Cruise with our skipper, Rick, who sped through the spiel so fast you couldn’t understand him. He wasn’t funny and really made little attempt to be. We didn’t want to get caught by the second Spectromagic performance so we raced through the shops on Main Street to get to the exit. We took the ferryboat back to the car and called it a night.

Tomorrow: Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekend!

Day Ten: Disney Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekend 2

We got there about 8:15 and waited through the Stormtrooper show again. Connie took my ticket with her to get our FastPasses to Toy Story Mania. I sat and read a book. It took her awhile, so I also grabbed a cinnamon roll from Starring Rolls Café. She came back and announced she’d already been to Wicket’s Warehouse and got the pins she needed for this week.

We walked to Tower of Terror, which had a 10 minute wait time posted, but it felt more like 20. They weren’t filling the libraries very full and when we walked into the boiler room, I saw why. They were loading very slowly for some reason, and it looked like the right side wasn’t even running when we first entered.

After this we used our Toy Story Mania fast passes. Connie beat me again, because now she cheats. She doesn’t aim she just pulls the trigger, which doesn’t seem fair at all! I went to watch the Voyage of the Little Mermaid and I was so tired I nearly fell asleep. Connie went to line up for the Star Wars Motorcade and I called her to tell her I was heading back to the room.

I grabbed Subway by the hotel and went to bed. Connie had a great time, meanwhile, and even got Peter Mayhew and Warwick Davis’s autographs by being in the right place at the right time. Nicole had come back up from work and they were trying to find the Beaker muppet pin in the mystery packs . . . and it only took one try! Connie also watched Stars of the Saga and said they were more organized about where they had them wait this trip, out of the sun over closer to Muppetvision.

I came back over at about 6. I grabbed a burger at the Backlot Express and watched for Connie and Nicole as I knew they would be heading over for the Hyperspace Hoopla. I saw them and walked up to surprise them. Then I went back over and read and watched the Hoopla from a chair next to the restaurant. It is quite funny, even after 3 viewings this year.

They were hungry so we went to the ABC commissary, where Nicole got the Chicken Curry and Connie had a Cuban sandwich. We walked to Fantasmic and I got a pretzel with cheese. It was only 8:10 and the show didn’t start until 9. We were seated a bit to the left of the center, in between two of the water screens. I didn’t like this view much, but I did notice the canoes docking and the performers entering the stage for the first time. Fantasmic remains my favorite night time show.

We walked through the shops and we all three bought a shadowbox. They were only $30 and of good quality and it will be a great way to display my pins. We walked over to the Sorcerer’s Hat for some last minute photos and then headed back to the car. We stopped to get gas so that we wouldn’t have any problems with the rental car drop off in the morning. When we got back to the hotel my key wasn’t working in my door of my room.

I went downstairs and the desk clerk was the least friendly of any one I’d encountered at the hotel thus far. But he wasn’t unpleasant, just wasn’t overly friendly. He issued me a new key and I went to bed.

TOMORROW: Flying home

Day Eleven: Flying Home

We met at 7:15. Both of us checked out of the hotel and had no issues having the safe charge removed from our accounts since we didn’t use it. I highly recommend this hotel for anyone not wanting to stay on Disney property. The cost was great, at least through Expedia, and for a long trip like this, I would definitely stay again. I did miss the Disney bus service at times but for what we paid for the Orlando Vista Hotel, it was well worth it.

We got to the airport, returned our rental car – which by the way, the $7 dollar a day upgrade to the Dodge Charger turned into $142 with tax? – and then found our way to the very busy AirTran check-in counter. It was crazy! We checked in with no issues, though we were separated because there were no seats together. The clerk put me in the exit row, which was kind of her. I sat next to a woman who was flying to her fiancee’s home to meet his parents for the first time and she was nervous. She also asked what I did for a living, which for someone in my line of work is the curse of death, and I ended up talking to her for a long time about her children, her upcoming marriage, and how she should handle being a stepmom. Finally, once we were in the air, she took a nap so I could finish my book.

I read James Pattersons’ Cat and Mouse this trip and I have found a new author to go in my favorites. I love John Grisham and usually read one of his books on vacation but now I can add James Patterson to my list.

We got back to the airport and waited forever for our bags. We packed into the parking lot tram, which was overly full with people going to their cars. We got out of the lot with an $88 parking charge, which just seems ridiculous, and then we got stuck in a traffic jam that lasted about an hour.

Once we got past that and got some lunch at Wendy’s it was smooth sailing all the way home. What a great trip! I was basically away from home for 12 days and by Day 8 or 9, I was ready to return home. I hope to return for one of the Halloween parties, but we’ll see!
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Posted 16 June 2008 - 11:14 AM

Welcome to Studios Central kirksheppard!

I love the Orlando Vista Hotel also and you can't beat the value you get for it.
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Posted 16 June 2008 - 11:24 AM

I was delighted! It really was like staying on property with the exception of the busses and Extra Magic Hours . . . but with 10 days, who needs to fight the EMH crowds anyway! :-)
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Posted 16 June 2008 - 11:25 AM

kirksheppard said:

I was delighted! It really was like staying on property with the exception of the busses and Extra Magic Hours . . . but with 10 days, who needs to fight the EMH crowds anyway! :-)
Yes, it's location is really good. If you rent a car I think it's a terrific option. Glad you had a good trip...thanks for sharing your report with us!
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Posted 16 June 2008 - 08:15 PM

It was nice to meet you at the dinner, too, Matt!
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Posted 16 June 2008 - 08:47 PM

kirksheppard said:

It was nice to meet you at the dinner, too, Matt!
Thanks for attending the event and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed your time there ;)
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Posted 18 June 2008 - 12:56 PM

Nice trip report. It was long. It took me 3 sittings to get through it, but was definately worth it. Thanks!
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