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New Magic, Old Magic, And Just Disney Magic At Its Best

#1 User is offline   Howie 

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 10:36 PM

New Magic, Old Magic, And Just Disney Magic At Its Best

Howie - 56 year old lover of all things Disney
Susan - 53 year old totally out of the closet Disney lover
Sarah - 16 year old princess of the magic

Disney's Wilderness Lodge - Room 4113 - Courtyard View

Day 1 - Wednesday August 6, 2008 - Preface and Once Again Flying to the Magic

When this trip was planned, way back last year right after we returned home from last summer's trip, we were still in the autotrain mode. Therefore, that is how this trip was planned out, departing on Tuesday August 5 on the autotrain and arriving in WDW on Wednesday August 6 for 10 nights at the Wilderness Lodge. Many know that after September 11, Susan, as many others, decided to stop flying. She never liked to fly in the first place and our honeymoon to Bermuda and the Southampton Princess in 1986 was her first flight. In our first 15 years of marriage she did fly all over North America and the Caribbean with me and then with Sarah and me, but she always hated it. She must have flown well over 30 times during that period of time, sometimes two or three times a year. But after 9/11 she had just shut me down and I dealt with it. Our vacations to WDW became first by car for Walt's 100th and then by autotrain which I have always described in previous reports. Our other vacations also became road trips even as far as to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Michigan or up to and across Canada from Ottawa to Niagara Falls. But I really wanted to fly again and so did Sarah. So when Sarah's internship came up this summer for June and July at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Miami, we booked the autotrain for the 3 week stay down there and all was ready. We were also planning to book the autotrain for the August WDW trip but there was still time for that. The train was booked based on Sarah's final exam schedule which ended on June 20 with AP Euro being the last(she received a 99 for the year in that course :-) ) . She was going to start her internship on Monday June 23 so our Saturday autotrain departure and Sunday arrival in Sanford and then drive to Miami gave us plenty of time to set up in the Westin Colonnade Coral Gables where we planned to stay for 3 weeks while Sarah did her thing. However, about 1 month before our trip, the final exam schedule changed and her AP final was shifted to Monday June 23. Now, to take the train took away too many days so Susan graciously and courageously said she would fly to recoup the days. Once hearing that Sarah and I both blurted out, 'then we can fly to Disney too?' And the rest is magical history. Sarah's internship is for another story so on to WDW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We live only 5-10 minutes from JFK but even back when we were flying and took the 7 AM flight out of JFK to MCO, they had already discontinued that and we had to depart from LaGuardia. That airport isn't too far and in the early hours before rush hour it only takes a half hour or so. I booked the earliest flight on Delta, yes we still were planning on using the once Disney's official airline, and got a great rate of $224 RT. We even dug out Sarah's old Fantastic Flyers Club card even though that program had been terminated many years ago. But it is just a part of our magical history so I carried it along. Our regular limo driver, Naftali, picked us up at 5:20 AM for our 7:35 AM flight. I had already checked ourselves and our bags in with Delta online and had our boarding passes ready. When Naftali arrived I had all the bags in the driveway waitng for him. He told me he forgot his blackberry and had to go home, not far from us, and would be right back. We loaded the bags and he headed home. Then he came back and we left about 5:40 AM. So we still headed to LGA before rush hour but halfway there it beagn to rain. For those that know me, the next thing won't come as a surprise. I had been checking our flight departure and arrival times both ways for about two months watching how the delays went and I saw that these days, rain caused a major delay so I was concerned now. I wasn't worried about arriving at WDW but we did have our traditional lunch ressie at the Crystal Palace for lunch at 1:15 PM and I did want to make that along with my magical haircut at the harmony. Curbside checkin at LGA was a breeze and we boarded on time BUT we did have to wait on the tarmac for about a half hour extra before taking off. The pilot assured us he would make up most of the time which he did and we arrived only 5 minutes late. Walking through MCO to the monorail and then to the luggage was just as we remembered it. Looking up at the Hyatt brought back so many memories. It was just great and we weren't even at WDW yet.

Just like the old days, I had booked with National using my Emerald Club card and reserved the Emerald Aisle. In the old days we always chose a van because when Sarah was little she loved sitting way in the back. But there was no need for that so after retrieving our luggage, which magically came out first, we rolled to the Emerald Aisle and I saw way down on the end a bright red Chevy Impala which was a two car upgrade from mid-size so I took that one and off we went to WDW. Even though it was 8 years or so I had no problems remembering the way. Exit the airport, take the BeeLine/528 to I4 and then to the magic. Once again despite all the issues of traffic I read about on I4 online, we didn't stop once except for the two tolls and then at the gate to WDW to announce our arrival to checkin.

We pull up under the entrance to the Wilderness Lodge and just smile. The valets help us unload the car and I tell them that we will be valeting our entire stay. Our bags are placed in the reserve area and we go to the front desk. There is no wait at this hour and we are called to the counter by Jeff, an older CM, and we begin the checkin process. At the security gate of the WL when we gave our name we were given a parking pass only through August 12. That was because we had two reservations due to the two different discounts we/Francine got. Originally when we booked way back when all that was out there was an AAA discount off the courtyard room so that is what we got. Then when the AP rates came out, only part of the trip was available for the AP rate so we split the ressie. The first half was from August 6 through 12 in a courtyard bunk bed room and then from August 12-16 in a regular courtyard room. Backing up a bit here..............when we landed in Orlando and I turned on my cell, there was a message from Francine. She told us that she received an email from Disney that we were being upgraded to the courtyard bunk bed room for the entire trip and therefore, we should't have to switch rooms after the 12th. Leave it to Francine to work her magic and get that upgrade and prevent me from schmoozing at the front desk ;-) lol. So back to checkin............Jeff says that he has us for 6 nights and I tell him that we have that other ressie for the rest of the stay and that we were just upgraded today by Disney so that we could stay in the same room. He goes into the back area and comes back with Bennett aka Benny from Brooklyn, one of the managers, who okays everything. Sarah is thrilled because she hadn't been in a bunk bed in years here. The room isn't ready yet and we have some time so we spend about half and hour talking with Benny about everything Disney. We already have all our pins and lanyards on which we always put on once the plane lands and he is impressed. He lives in the Doctor Philips area and when I tell him that one day I will be retiring down here he suggests that I take a look at that area which I have already since returning home. Our pre-checkin is completed and off we go to the docks and head to the Magic Kingdom for our first day and our traditional Crystal Palace lunch and my makeover at the Harmony. And we get to stay in a courtyard bunk bed room the entire stay which gives us even a bigger discount.

The boat arrives at the MK and we head to the turnstiles. First Susan, next Sarah, and then me. For some reason my AP wasn't working so they had to issue me another one. My old one had a picture of Mickey on it and Susan had Grumpy and Sarah had Cindy. My new one had Tink and that couldn't be more appropriate for this trip that was going to be filled with pixie dust. We walk up Main Street and just become one with the magic. Then over to the Crystal Palace for lunch with the gang. Lunch brought back so many first day memories that we just lingered for a while after lunch and spoke with the CMs. Then back to the Harmony and only one person in the chair in front of me. Now it was my turn and I had Diane who was from Long Island and not far from us. I was of course wearing my first day bright Florida orange sunshine polo and shorts and Diane cut my hair short and dusted me pretty good and made a big orange Mickey head on the back of my head. She also dusted Sarah. We started our photpass pics now and I had preordered the CD so we took as many as we could. Next over to Susan's favorite, Carousel Of Progress, where we sat in the front row and sang along with the show. Then we headed back to Main Street and caught a great spot to watch the parade. The highlight of the parade was when the float with Snow White and the Dwarfs came by, I told Susan to show her lanyard to Snow White with all the Grumpy pins on it especially the large Grumpy lanyard piece. Snow noticed it and was impressed and tapped Grumpy on the shoulder while he was playing the piano and he turned to Susan, saw and pointed to her pins, and gave her a double thumbs up which made Susan's day since Grumpy is her fav. The recognition by Grumpy was but one of the magical moments that we experienced throughout our stay.

I called the WL and they said our room was ready so we headed back to the boat dock and then to the WL to unpack. Once at the WL we had another great surprise regarding the room. We used to like the bear's face rooms but Susan felt that they were a bit noisy due to the lobby noise. So we told Francine which rooms we were interested in and we got the perfect room, just around the corner from the bear's face, number 4113, a bunk bed courtyard view with a pefect vista of Firerock Geyser and the Electrical Water Paegent. The magic was just gushing forth like Firerock for us. We unpack and get ourselves settled and then call for the car so we can drive over to the Grand Floridian to have our first dinner at 1900 Park Fare with Cindy, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and her fabulous daughters. They weren't there the last time we were in WDW, in fact we ate over at the GF Cafe with the characters last summer. Dinner was a blast and Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella are hilarious. Cindy was her usual charming self. When she left us I told her that we were having breakfast with her the next morning at her castle and I told her we were bringing Prince Tim. Amazingly, she told me that she missed Prince Tim at 1900 Park Fare since he doesn't come all that often since Suzy and Perla left. How magical that she knows Tim so well. After dinner we took the monorail over to the MK and enveloped ourselves once again in the magic.

We had not yet seen the redone Haunted Mansion because last summer it was down for rehab so we headed right over there. There was only a five minute wait and then we went in. They really did a nice job on the rehab and it was especially cool to see it on our first night in the dark. Yeah, I know, it is always dark inside but when you know it is dark outside it just has a little bit more to it. After HM we found a great spot to see Spectromagic and when that was over we took the monorail all aound the lagoon and back to the GF for our car and then back to the WL to call Mickey and ask him for a 5:00 AM wake up call so we can be the first ones to have breakfast with Cindy in 'our' castle.

Day 2 - Thursday August 7, 2008 - Brekkie With Cindy and Tim, Granting A Dream, Susan's Dream, Epcot, and Le Cellier

Mickey wakes us up at 5:00 AM, not that the king needs awakening when he is having breakfast with Cinderella ;-) . Now comes the fun, how to get to the MK that early from the WL. Last year we tried for the boat BUT there were bats out there so Susan and Sarah headed for the bus stop. I made a few calls but nobody seemed to know the transportation schedule besides me. So we went to the boat dock and there were no bats and we took the first launch over to the Contemporary. I figured we would walk through and then over to the MK but it was already quite hot and I didn't want to speed walk and get all sweaty so early and I knew Susan and Sarah wouldn't want to move that fast so I saw a bunch of cabs out front. It was only $4 to the front but most cabbies didn't want such a short fare because they would lose their turn in line for the next big airport fare. So I told the driver I would give him $10 and he took us over to the front. After we exited the cab, we walked along the pathway and I noticed they were spraying the bushes for bugs which made Susan very happy lol. As we rounded the last turn, it was now about 7:15, I noticed Tim standing right by the security table. So we met up and went over to the turnstiles at the right where we were first next to another family with a daughter who appeared to be about 6 years old. I began talking with them and found out they were from Georgia and this was there first trip. So it was my turn to grant a dream and I gave them loads of tips from waking up Tink to steering the river boat. But most of all I told them that today was their daughter's day to be princess of the day at Cindy's. I knew that Sarah would be first to the castle and so would Tim. So I asked the parents if it would be okay for their daughter to scoot along with Sarah and Tim. They said okay and Tim, Sarah and the little girl zoomed toward the castle once the CMs let us in. It was an Extra Magic Hour morning at the MK so the resort guests were also ready to bolt but they let us in first about 7:45 AM. Tim took both our names to the castle and he got there first and then came Sarah and her little friend and then the rest of us. And guess who got to be princess of the day? Yes, we made that little girl's day along with her parents' day. They took her in first and she spent time with Cindy and then she went upstairs and her table was covered with pixie dust. She loved it and she thanked us after the meal along with her parents. That is what Disney is all about, sharing the magic.

Those that know Tim, know he is a vegan, so Hans the head chef came out and planned a special meal for him. The really went all out for him and although we had to wait about 20 minutes for our meals, no I wasn't eating vegan, I ate the usual unhealthy brekkie, but we all waited for everything to be ready. Then the princesses came out and Cindy recognized Prince Tim and he took pics with all the princesses with his dolls. We also got some more magic since we we were two separate 'parties' and they 'usually' give you only 1 large photo in the package for a party of 4. But don't you know it, we were magically given a second large photo of us all from downstairs with Cindy and we split the smaller photos. Yes, little bits of magic day in and day out. After breakfast, Tim wanted to go back to his hotel so we said our goodbyes and set up to meet another time during our stay. In fact, Hans had prepared a nice bag of goodies for him to take back.

It was now about 9:20 AM and we went right over the Mickey's PhilHarmagic and walked right in and had great seats. The show was great as always and when we left we decided to see if we could catch the first showing of Dream Along With Mickey. So we crossed behind the castle, walked down by the wishing well and came right around to an empty front of the castle with only a couple of minutes until the first show. It was as magical as always. Then we went over to Adventureland and grabbed a fastpass to Jungle Cruise and then headed over to POTC. Now it was time for a dream for Susan. As we walked by where they hold the Pirate Tutorial, I asked the CM when the next show would begin. He said in about 10 minutes. Now maybe that was the cue but in any case, Erin, a dream squad member came over and began engaging us in conversations. Maybe she was feeling us out to see what was appropriate. I knew she was dream squad from her outfit and from the sticker on her walkie talkie that said dream squad lol. We spoke for a while and then I sent Susan away and told Erin about the Grumpy surprise I had planned for her. So now Erin had it. She called Susan back and officially made her the official 8th dwarf. She presented her with a magical moments certificate declaring such and gave Susan two gemstones from her gemstone bag. Now it was time to see the tutorial so Erin said goodbye but that wasn't the last time we would see her. This time, I wasn't chosen to be in the tutorial but Sarah was when I pointed to her when Jack came over. So there she was again, out there with the kiddies pledging herself to the pirates' life. Then we rode POTC in the first row since Sarah asked for that row and then over to Splash for a fastpass since it had just passed the time to get another one on our Jungle Cruise pass. Now back to Jungle Cruise where we had about a 5 minute wait and got to sit right up front by the skipper. We never went back to Splash because as we got our fastpasses and were heading back to the Jungle Cruise, they were announcing an evacuation and ride shutdown for some unknown reason. So after the Cruise, since it was getting brutally hot, we cut through to Frontierland and walked into the always cool Country Bears. After the Bears we went right over to the Hall of Presidents and watched the show. It was so amazing that wherever we went that first day we just walked in to whatever show/attraction we chose. Then we went to Main Street and took a bunch more photopass pics and stopped by the Exposition Hall and added our Cindy's breakfast pics to our main photopass account. For those that don't know this, all the meal pics and the Disney Visa pics have a little number on them that can be used to add to your own account so all pics from your trip can be together. I have another tip later about how you can get more than your 30 days to view your pics online so if I forget, just remind me lol. After the Exposition Hall, we took the boat back to the Wilderness Lodge to relax and, shhhhhhhhhhh nap time lol. We got back about 1:30 PM and nighty night. Tonight we were heading over to Epcot for dinner at Le Cellier and then EMH there if we could hold out that late.

Nap time ends and we shower and get ready to go to Epcot. I valet at the Beach Club and walk over to Epcot via the low road to the International Gateway entrance. Once we enter we head to Japan figuring to work our way backward to Canada. We spend time in Mitsukoshi and watch someone choose a nice 6.5 mm pearl from the oysters. Then we catch the Matsuriza drum show and then head back to Canada for our dinner. We check in and have about a 15 minuite wait. I ordered the steak and although it was good I still say Shula's is the best on property. Some people left their meals to go out and watch Illuminations but since I had Breathless2 reserved this trip there was no need for us to leave the table. We had already gotten our EMH bands but like I have said from day one, the mornings are fine but I don't care for the crowds at night so we left and went back and got the car and headed to the WL. This was our first full day and we did not want to exhaust ourselves since this was an 11 day trip. As we drove down World Drive back to the WL it was just past 10 PM and we had a great view of Wishes. Then I thought I would surprise Susan and Sarah and didn't turn off to the WL. I kept going straight and they thought I was lost. I took them right to the back of the MK and I showed them the CMs setting off the fireworks way back near the Roundhouse on the way to the laundry. It was really cool albeit very smokey since the wind was blowing from the west. Then we turned around and went back to the WL and hung out in the lobby a bit and then to bed since tomorrow was Breakfast at Hollywood and Vine during an EMH morning at the Studios and our first time at Toy Story Midway Mania. So Susan and Sarah got a break when I called Mickey and asked for a 5:30 AM wakeup instead of 5 AM lol.

Day 3 - Friday August 8, 2008 - Disney's Hollywood Studios, Some Dreams To Others, Brown Derby For Dinner, And A Stormy Night

And Mickey and Stitch give Susan and Sarah a break this morning and call at 5:30 AM allowing them an extra half hour of sleep today. We get ourselves together and I call down for the car and we head over to Disney's Hollywood Studios for our brekkie at Hollywood & Vine and then our first look at Toy Story Midway Mania. I have my chance to use the AAA Diamond Parking Pass and as we enter through the gates of the parking lot, before any CM is even there, we follow the AAA green line on the ground to the front. Now I imagine that the AAA pass is a good thing to have, but for us, arriving at any park at the crack of dawn, it really doesn't make a difference. For example, at DHS we parked in the first spot of the AAA area BUT it was only one zone ahead of where we would have parked if we didn't have the pass since our car was the only one in the lot that early lol. It did work out later in the trip when we went to a different park in the afternoon and we still parked up front in AAA finding a great spot where someone had left already for the day.

Today was the EMH at the Studios so there were some people who had taken the early Disney buses to the parks, However, over to the left where the breakfast lines are there were only a couple of people. Knowing that they always open a couple more of the turnstiles before letting us in, I just moved to one of the empty ones and soon enough the little green arrow came on. Then I had a thought..............if we have breakfast first then we definitely will have a long wait at Midway Mania. So I told Susan and Sarah that info and we decided to skip breakfast. It seemed that many others on that breakfast line did the same because as we passed the H & V turnoff once allowed in to the next rope drop, not one person was headed over to the restaurant. I don't know if all the people on the breakfast line had a ressie like we did but nobody went over there. So we were at the front of the rope and waited for the announcements about not running which many did not heed once the rope went down. We walked fast, but the bygone days of when Sarah was little and I pushed her stroller like mad and arrived first everywhere are history, and we were passed by a number of, as Joe Pesci calls them in 'My Cousin Vinnie, yutes lol. I will say that we were in the first 30 or so to make it on the ride as many stopped for a fastpass before entering to give themselves a second go around once their first was over. We took our time through the line because I wanted to see all that there was to see approaching the ride itself. It really is a great addition to WDW. Susan and I rode together and Sarah went alone behind us. I think that this attraction is amazing. Compared to Buzz which we love, this is heads above in technology and fun. And Susan even got a high score which she never does on Buzz so it was a magical attraction all around. After we exited it was still early and EMH so we had only a few options and we decided not to cross the entire park over to Sunset Blvd so we headed over to the Muppets. We entered just as there were about 5 minutes left to the preshow. We took the front row inside because we love being as close to Sweetums as we can. Then after the show we had a first for us at Walt Disney World - our first counter service meal lol. Since we had skipped breakfast, Susan and Sarah were hungry so we went right into the ABC Commissary. We all had cereal and fruit, yes I had a relatively healthy meal at WDW, now that was another dream for Susan for me ;-).

Next stop was a walk-on to the Great Movie Ride. We slid right down to the front and walked right through the open doors into our car. We had the gangster show which is always better in the hot days of summer because the fire in the western show is really really hot at times. Then we went over to see The Voyage Of The Little Mermaid. There was no wait but we entered and were toward the back. However, once they opened the doors and a little bit of the old ' Disney slide by' we wound up with 5th row center seats and had a great view of the show. Next we went back toward Pixar Place and went to One Man's Dream. Then we went to see the made over Narnia attraction. Here there were two lines. The shorter line was for the show and the longer line was for the meet and greet with the Prince himself and then to the show. When I chose the direct line for the show, the female CM, well there were only female CMs by this attraction ;-), told me that my princesses would surely be disappointed if they didn't get to meet Caspian. So we switched lines and waited about 15 minutes to see the Prince. He was very charming and Susan and Sarah had their photopass pics taken with him individually. He and I spoke about our respective kingdoms. Then as we left and went to the next line to see the show, Susan and I went over to the CM to thank her and tell her she was right about worth the wait lol. She then asked me what I thought and I told her that actually the Prince and I had a lot in common and spoke a bit. I told her that after all he is a Prince and I am a King. She looked puzzled and I said that I wasn't kidding but I doubt she knew what I meant lol. Then inside to the show and I really enjoyed it having seen the film. We spent some time viewing all the props as most rushed out.

I forgot to mention that somewhere in between all of this we grabbed fastpasses for the 12:30 PM show of Indiana Jones. Our fastpasses were for and 11:55 AM return. So we returned about 11:30 AM and were first on the fastpass return line. To our left was a group of about 30 French speaking people who had special needs passes. They were let right in the front and we were let in to wind all around the fast pass line and we came out to where they were. We were still behind that last rope and they were right by the gates. Then the stand by line people arrived on the opposite side of us and they all started going under the rope to be nearer the gates. So that is what we did until the CMs moved them all back but left us alone. Then all of a sudden the skies opened up and it poured so we all just went in. I took the front row stage left, right by the entrance where the audience members go down to be in the show because I knew that we could get autographs from and pics with Indy and Marion after the show when the crowds left. Because of the rain they had to suspend the airplane explosion scene but the show was still as great as ever. The family next to us had little kids and the son was really into Indy so I told them to stick around after the show while everyone else leaves for a surprise. So right on cue over come Indy and Marion and the kid got his dream and Sarah got autographs from and took a great pic with Indy and a blond Marion lol. Then we left and the rain was gone just like magic. We walked over and were right up front for Sounds Dangerous and saw that show again.

Then we decided it was time to shop so we did all the stores and were still disappointed that they didn't have any nice towels at the Celebrity 5 & 10 after discontinuing them last year or so, although they did say that after all the guest letters they were getting them back in one of these days. Therefore we will have to stock up next time for a new supply for my Mickey Bathroom. Then we went to Sid Cahuenga's and Sarah won the trivia contest and received her magical moments certificate declaring her victory. We did a bunch of photopass pics and both Susan and Sarah did the High School Musical photopass op with the basketball and pom poms. We saw the High School Musical show in front of the BAH. Next into the villains store where Susan and Sarah each bought a bag of jellybeans and then we found great seats on the wall by the tip board in anticipation of the Block Party Bash parade. A family with 2 younger kids sat down next to me and the mother started asking me questions about what I thought her young kids might like to do in this park. Little did she know that she was about to be magicalized with so much great info that it would make her day lol. I told her every tip and secret I knew about the Studios and about all of WDW and since her kids just began their interest in pintrading, Sarah gave them each a couple of pins to trade and/or keep. Then the parade began and we stood up and were right at the front and saw everything which was great since this was the first time we saw this new one.

After the parade we headed down Sunset to get a fast pass for TOT and then we did a bunch of photopass pics and shopping while waiting for our time. Our time to return was for 4:10 PM so we returned about 3:50 and as we approached a girl saw that we were a party of three and asked if we wanted to use her fast passes because they couldn't and they were for 3:55 PM. So we took them and went right on and kept ours in my pocket. After reaching the top I went to the left line because I know that it is shorter since it doesn't wind around at all. Then these two guys behind me ask about which line should they go on and I tell them and I detect an Israeli accent. They now wait behind us and I ask them where they are from and they are from Israel just out of the army on a vacation to Orlando and then NYC. So I tell Sarah to start speaking Hebrew to them to see if my exorbitant tuition has paid off and she did great. As for the ride, the three of them went together and Susan and I took the safe elevator down. When they came off we all took pics together and Sarah and they exchanged names to friend each other on facebook. Then, being the protective dadda, I asked them if they wanted to ride TOT again right away since this was their first time and they loved it. They looked at me quizzically and asked how could they and I whipped out of my pocket the other fastpasses which were good right away. Sarah wanted to go again since we had three BUT I told her that mamma was hungry and we wanted to see if we could get in the Brown Derby a little early before our ressie ;-) . So we said our goodbyes and they went back into the fastpass line while we headed to the BD. In fact they and Sarah are friends on facebook now LONG DISTANCE friends that is lol.

Our ressie at the Brown Derby was for 6 PM and we were a good hour early so I cheked in and asked if we could be seated early. The CM noticed my anniversary button and he said he would do what he could. So we sat down in those comfy chairs in the coolness of the Brown Derby lobby and watched all the people trying to just walkup for a table and were told that there was no availability until about 9 PM that night. We did get seated about 5:15 PM and we thankful for that. We had a great CM waitress who gave us a very nice anniversary dessert and I discussed with her the new policy that she must hate working at a high end Disney restaurant only getting an included 18% tip with the DDE. She rolled her eyes and I gave her an extra amount that made the total tip 25% since she truly deserved it. It's a good thing that the new Disney charge receipts include that portion because 18% just doesn't cover it for some CMs. After dinner the skies looked ominous so we headed back toward the car. In the distance the dark clouds were moving in and there was all this great lightening that Sarah loves and she took loads of pics with her new camera. Oh yeah, the camera story. Last year before our trip I got Sarah the Casio Exilim 1050 and she loved it. Then, just 2 days before this trip, she had a friend over and they were taking pics of themselves. She placed the camera on a chair for an auto pic and the camera slipped off the chair and fell and the lens fell apart. She came and told me and I was quite mad but I didn't say anything and she asked why I wasn't yelling at her. Actually I was too mad to yell because that meant no camera for the trip. She somehow put it back together but there were a couple of these long springs left out and the pics were streaked so it was useless. So the next day I went out and bought the Casio Exilim Z80 to punish her - 2 megapixels less then her other camera - nice punishment, after all it was an accident ;-). So when I got home I showed her MY new camera but of course within 2 hours I told her it was hers. And just last week I had the other camera repaired so we now have 2. And the truth is I didn't really pay for either, they came to me gratis from gift cards from test drives that I took although the repair did cost a little bit lol. Now back home to the WL in the rain and a good nights rest because tomorrow is the AK and lunch with Tim, his mom, and his nephew at the Rainforest Cafe and Breathless2 at night.

Day 4 - Saturday August 9, 2008 - Animal Kingdom, Rainforest Cafe, Breathless2 With Friends

All day yesterday, Tim and I were playing phone tag about having lunch together at the Rainforest Cafe in the Animal Kingdom. His mother was with him this trip and so were his nephews. So we finally made contact and I added them to my ressie at the RFC. Now even though this was only our 4th day at WDW, it had taken its toll on my princesses who begged for a later start to the day. So I graciously conceded to their tagteam and I cancelled our brekkie at Cape May with Goofy. They slept a bit later today and when they got up, I was already up for hours trying not to wake them if you can call stomping around the room not trying ;-) lol, we headed over to the Animal Kingdom which had its EMH this morning.

I almost forgot.........since I used a voice recorder for the first time due to my aging ;-) to record everything at the end of each day, I was just listening to this next part and I included what I had eaten at some of the places up to now so here goes. At Le Cellier I had the Cheddar Soup, the New York Strip as rare as could be, and for dessert the Maple Creme Brulee. At the Brown Derby I had the Raviolo for the appy. Now from my extensive comprehension of the Italian language I knew that raviolo meant only one but it did turn out to be a giant and delicious one lol. My entree was the pan roasted duck breast with venison sausage and for my dessert I had the banana white chocolate toffee tower and a piece of the special anniversary dessert that they gave us which Susan and Sarah mostly demolished.

Now back to day 4. I called down for the car and we arrived at the AK around 11 AM. This is where the AAA parking definitely helped us. We got real close up front. These spots are off to the right as you face the entrance and only a short walk to the turnstiles. Our first stop was to walk in to the Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends show since it had so many memories for us when Sarah was little sitting up front with the other kids and gathering the colored streamers at the end. I know the show is scheduled to close for good in September so I just had to see it one last time. Then when it was over we got right into the Festival of the Lion King and we were seated in Pumba's section 'snort snort' . After the show we headed over to the Rainforest Cafe and met Tim, his mom, and one of his nephews. I had some Sheebas Jungle Juice and the spicey Pastalaya. Then we said goodbye to Tim and his family and headed over to Finding Nemo: The Musical. I got online about 40 minutes before the show and when they let us in I crossed over and got the 5th row stage left, right next to the runway. Great show again and we made another dream come true. In front of us was a family of three, 2 adults and 1 little boy like about 4 years old. They dropped something on the floor and I picked it up for them After that the little one kept turning around and staring at our pins so I asked Sarah to find a really nice Nemo pin for him. We asked his parents if we could give him one and they said yes. So Sarah found a really nice CM Dreamaker pin and they put it on his shirt. They were from Venezuela and it was their first time here. After the show it was almost time for the parade so we headed back toward the entrance, did some shopping and photopass, and left to rest up for our night on the waterways of Epcot and Disney Studios on the Breathless2. We got the car and went back to the WL, valeted the car, and then just relaxed for a while.

We had to be at the marina at the Yacht and Beach Club around 8 PM for our 8:30 departure so we valeted at the hotel and went into the lobby. I had invited a couple of online friends to join us, no names needed so they won't be stalked and harassed online for having gone with me ;-) lol, and we met up in the lobby of the Yacht Club. Then we headed to the dock and met Heather our captain for the night. We had done the Breathless a few years back with my sister, her family, and Dawick but this was the first time for the 2. The boat was bigger and faster but the seating was awkward. Instead of all the seats being in close proximity to each other, there were 2 seats way in the back and then a seat for three in the middle right behind the captains seat. It worked out fine and it wasn't too difficult to turn around and talk between the groups. Heather also provided 2 sets of drinks and snacks for both areas. We actually departed at 8 PM which was a bit early and that gave us more time on the boat. Heather was amazing, speeding back and forth between the Studios and the Boardwalk/Y & B area. She was pulling gravity turns and creating rooster tails everywhere. She really gave us a great ride. Then she pulled us up to the very front spot ahead of all the pontoons to view Illuminations and it was once again spectacular from that vantage point. After it was over she gave us a little more time on the seas and then docked the boat. We said our goodbyes to our guests and then headed back to the WL because I wasn't going to let my princesses sleep late tomorrow with a 7 AM Chef Mickey's to breakfast at.

Day 5 - Sunday August 10, 2008 - Chef Mickey's, EMH at Epcot, Downtown Disney, and A Movie

Mickey got back into his routine and woke us up at 5:00 AM. We called for the car and arrived at the Contemporary at 6:40 AM. I knew from previous visits that most people start lining up at 6:55 AM and you all know I wanted to be first here as usual. That is what happened once the CMs came and we were taken right over to our table after the pic which we didn't buy this time but did at dinner our last night of this trip. Since it was an EMH morning at Epcot I wanted to eat fast and grab the monorail to Epcot to get there as close to 8 AM as I could. So we gobbled up our food, spent time with Mickey and Goofy only, and went upstairs to the monorail. We were offered the front and were going to take it but I saw a family with kids ask so I told the CM that they could have it since we have done it so often. We got to Epcot about 10 minutes before the rope drop and headed right over to Soarin'. Our only wait was walking through and boarding the ride. Right after it was over we headed to Mission Space and had only about a 10 minute wait. Sarah rode alone as always and Susan and I walked through and sent some video postcards while awaiting Sarah's return from Mars. After Mission Space we did Test Track with only a 10 minute wait on the single riders' line. In front of us was a bachelorette party from Notre Dame University and we spoke with them about their great getups. After TT we knew that Figment was definitely holding court so we went over and although it was past EMH and the entire park was open there was nobody inside and we walked right on. Then we wnet into the Kodak What If Labs and had a great interactive time with Dr Albright, that first area on the left when you enter. She then took our pic and gave us a copy. Then we sent some more video cards from there and went to The Seas With Nemo and Friends and did have about a 20 minute wait there.

Now it was time for our lunch ressie at Fresh in the Dolphin. So instead of walking all through the World Showcase and then taking the boat to the Dolphin, we exited the front of Epcot and took a bus to MGM and then we caught the boat to the Dolphin. All in all the timing was great. The problem came when we went to checkin at Fresh. Last summer we ate breakfast here and as they were preparing to set up for lunch Susan said she loved brekkie so much and lunch looked so much better that we should try it next time. Since it was a buffet I was all for that. So at checkin they tell us that they are closed that day and the manager comes over and apologizes that they are reformatting the place and it wont be a buffet anymore but she called the Graden Grove at the Swan and made a ressie there for us, not that one is needed. So we went over there and had a great lunch. I had the little filet mignon sliders and they were delicious. After lunch we took a Town Car back from the Swan to the Contemporary and got our car, went back to the WL, and took a well deserved nap lol.

When we woke up we decided to head over to Downtown Disney so we called for our car and headed over. We did plenty of shopping and then felt like seeing a movie so we chose Swing Vote and really liked it. After the movie we went back to the Lodge, bought a bunch of goodies to eat, and just relaxed. Tomorrow was the day I had been waiting for for a long time and since Sarah is now 16 we could do the Backstage Magic Tour and then dinner at the California Grill. There was no need to call Mickey to wake us up because there was no way I was sleeping tonight with the tour tomorrow :-).

Day 6 - Monday August 11, 2008 - Backstage Magic Tour and California Grill Dinner

Today was a day that I had been waiting for since booking the trip. Now that Sarah had crossed the 16 year old threshold, she was allowed by Disney to participate in the better tours that they offered. So I immediately booked the granddaddy of all tours, the Backstage Magic. This tour encompasses three parks, Epcot, DHS, and the MK. Originally when I booked the tour the lunch break was at Mama Melrose's so I booked the Whipsering Canyon Cafe in our hotel for brekkie, figuring that we would eat early and get to Epcot, the meeting place for the tour, by 8:30 AM or so. However, sometime during the year after I booked the tour, they changed the lunch break to the Whispering Canyon Cafe from Mama's so I cancelled brekkie and we just noshed a bit at Roaring Forks before heading over to Epcot. I called for our car and parked in the AAA section around 8:10 AM which is just opposite the kennel there. We were the first spot there and then headed across to the Guest Relations side and waited with a few others on the benches. Soon our tour guide comes over and takes roll call. Her name was Kris and she had an interesting bio. She was an attorney and in the Navy and was in the JAG department. She had been all over throughout her career with JAG. After introductions we boarded the bus, one of the Disney Cruise Line busses, which was very comfy. There were about 20 of us on the tour.

I will not give away all the little details of the tour because I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone BUT I will say that it was fantastic and I highly recommend it for anyone. As for pricing, after the Disney VISA or AP or other discounts you might get, considering the cost of lunch, and then the cost of the surprise pin at the end, it really isn't bad at all. Our first stop was the American Adventure with closeups of the backstage area. When we visited the CM area in Epcot I was very impressed with the level of the Human Resources that Disney prides itself on. As a business owner myself, I can see that Disney strives for that platinum service level for their guests and their staff alike. After Epcot we headed over to the Disney Hollywood Studios with a peek behind the scenes of the Tower of Terror and the huge costuming department. Then we headed to the Wilderness Lodge for lunch at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. We sat at a table with Josh, a single guy who was the debate coach at the University of Michigan who hits WDW every year after his summer season of coaching high school debaters ends, Tom and Jeannine, a married couple from Pennsylvania who are both in the school systems there, Tom being a Math teacher and Jeannine the school nurse in a different school in the district, the three of us, and Kris the tour guide sat with us as well. We had some great conversations mainly focusing on education and they were all impressed with Sarah who really spoke up and discussed her interests, desires, and concerns about her college searching which is happening right now since she is beginning her junior year in high school.

The next park to visit after lunch was the Magic Kingdom. We pulled in behind the Plaza Restaurant and entered the park via backstage. Kris gave us a quick tour up and down Main Street and then we descended into the utilidors :-). After resurfacing we were taken to a great spot for the parade over in front of City Hall and then we all gathered together for the trip back to Epcot to where it all began. The tour did last the 7 hours that was advertised and it was magical. Again, I can't rave enough about finally being able to go behind the scenes of my favorite place in all the world. If you can, take this tour and you will love WDW even more.

We headed back to the hotel once again to relax and change for our dinner at the California Grill. We valeted at the Contemporary and checked in downstairs and were then escorted up to the Grill. The place was packed but we did get seated around our 7:30 PM time. One thing I didn't understand is about the 'changes'. We had eaten here in the past and had watched the fireworks from the balcony too. I know a couple of years ago since our last time eating here, they changed the policy to prevent anyone that isn't having dinner up there from coming up to watch the fireworks because it was becoming a zoo. Well, I have to say that sitting in the center of the restaurant on the couch while waiting to be called for our ressie, I found the restaurant to be the loudest and noisiest retsuarnt I have eve been in so I don't see why they made that policy???? In any case, we got seated in one of the secluded back rooms facing Epcot and our table was all pixiedusted up for our anniversary. Then their photographer came over and asked to take a picture of us to email to us, which has come, since we were celebrating our anniversary. They also gave us a couple of glasses of champagne to toast with. Dinner was fabulous. I had the chilled Maine lobster appy, the Hawaiian Kona Kampachi for the entree, and for desser thet Banana and Butterscotch "Buzz". The food was delicious. Towards the end of dinner we were able to view Illuminations over by Epcot. After dinner we returned to the WL for the night. Tomorrow was brekkie at Park Fare then the special photopass portrait sitting at the Grand Floridian.

Day 7 - Tuesday August 12, 2008 - Fire Drill???, 1900 Park Fare, Portrait Sitting at the GF, and Epcot

We had an 8:00 AM ressie at 1900 Park Fare and then the portrait sitting I set up was at 10:00 AM on the second floor of the Grand Floridian. This is a relatively new service offered by Disney. For $49.95 you get a 20 minute sitting with a professional photographer at either the GF, the WL, the Polynesian, or Saratoga Springs. They will probably be adding more locations as well. Since I prepaid for the Photopass CD, $99 instead of $125, I only had to pay an additional $25 for the sitting. If we chose an additional sitting at a different resort then and additional $50 would be required on top of the first $25 for the first spot. Susan wanted us to dress nicely for this shoot so our plans were to get up, dress, have brekkie at Park fare, and then do the shoot. Then we could return to the WL and change and hit the parks. But the princesses wanted to sleep late so I cancelled brekkie and they got up later then we planned to do. There was still plenty of time to make the shoot so we got ready in out nice duds and were preparing to leave when the fire alarms went off in the hotel. We had to evacuate via the back by the pool so I led Susan and Sarah around the back between the Lodge and the Villas toward the front of the Lodge to get the car. Just as we approached the valet, the alarms went off. I never found out what happened but I doubt it was anything major. So we headed over to the Grand, valeted the car, and went up to the second floor where the photopass kiosk is. There we met Barry, the photographer who was very nice. We started up on the second floor and took numerous shots all around that floor. Then he took us outside and had Sarah get down on the grass. Now some of you know that both Susan and Sarah hate the outdoors where there might be the slightest chance of encountering any bugs. So here was Sarah sitting on the grass in front of the flower beds where the bees were happily pollinating all around the area. Then came Susan to join her and then I joined the shot. Barry asked us if we were in a rush because he had nobody else scheduled and he would gladly give us a full hour of his time. We happily agreed and the next spot was down by the lagoon with great shots of the Wedding Pavilion in the background and the Poly. Susan and I took some shots together on the Hobiecat and then it was Sarah and me on the Hobie. Then he had us walk along the beach and took shots of us going, coming, and running. He took about 120 shots and when it was over we added them to our photopass account after viewing them all on his screen. They really came out nice.

Since we were hungry now we walked over to 1900 Park Fare and had our cancelled/delayed breakfast about 11:30 am. We had a leisurely brekkie and took pics with all the characters that morning. After breakfast we returned to the WL and changed out of our clothes for the shoot and then headed to Downtown Disney for more shopping. Then we headed over to Epcot and followed the green line and found a spot in the AAA area right up front again obviously from a guest who had just left. It always pays to look ;-). Once inside Epcot we headed right to Stormstruck because Sarah was anxious to see this since that is what her summer internship was all about down at the Unmiversity of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Susan and I had stayed in Coral Gables at the Westin Colonnade for the 3 weeks that Sarah was in that internship and now she wanted to experience what she had studied. We got right into the show and it was pretty cool. Then we did the Disney Visa photo op with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. I gave Mickey Sarah's card that says, 'junior disneyworld expert' and Minnie acted all jealous that Mickey took her card lol. Next we saw that the major attractions all had 100 minute waits or more so we went over to the Universe of Energy whose preshow was about to begin. When the preshow ended, we took our usual seats, front row all the way to the right of the right car. Most people run for the middle car but in our seats you get the dinosaur drool dripping on you which I flick on Susan and Sarah who scream even though I always tell them it is just water lol. After the ride we went to Mouse Gears and shopped and purchased and at 5 PM we did that pin board thing where you have 15 seconds to choose any two pins you want from the board that the CM uncovers. All three of us did this one and we all got some great CM pins. Now we headed back to the World Showcase toward Mexico where we had dinner ressies at the San Angel Inn. We were a bit early so we rode the attraction and then checked in for dinner. We only had about a 10 minute wait for a table and ate very well. And that was all for that day. We walked toward the front of Epcot, I went in and chose the free Disney Visa photo from the camera store, and then we drove back to the WL for the night and again watched Michael Phelps win another gold.

One last thing. I mentioned before about a tip to extend your 30 days of online viewing your photopasses. Well, it goes like this. Your 30 day clock starts ticking once you log on and add your new card's number. But if before you leave WDW, you go to one of the centers and ask for an additional card to link to your account, then, after you look at your pics at home with your first card and your 30 days go by, you can now enter your second card and get another 30 day window if you haven't decided on what to get within the first 30 days. I would imagine that you can do that over and over again if you got enough cards lol. But for us, I don't need all that time since I prepurchase the CD and just need a little time to edit and add borders. In fact the CD is already coming to us.

Day 8 - Wednesday August 13, 2008 - Whispering Canyon, More Shopping, Journey at AMC, AK, and Resort Shopping

By now we were ready to take it easy, or at least the princesses were and they begged their king to allow them to sleep a bit later again today. So I granted their request and they were allowed to wake up at their own times. Once up we decided to have lunch at the Whipsering Canyon Cafe once again. We leisurely went downstairs and got a table. I had the Canyon Skillet with unlimited vanilla Sheriff's Shakes - hey why not, I lost 30 pounds before the trip on the Zone Diet and am now back on it and and am doing really well lol. After lunch we decided to go shopping some more so I got the car and we headed to Downtown Disney. When we were there last time Alan, the always amazing Alan at the info desk in the World of Disney, was able to locate 2 shirts that Sarah liked but were not available in her size at the store. Alan checked and found them in her size at Mickey's Groove in the West Side right next to the AMC movies. So we got those shirts which were still on hold for us and then, since it looked rainy, we stayed and saw Journey To The Center Of The Earth in 3D. The movie was really good although nothing beats the original with Pat Boone, James Mason, and Gertrude the Duck playing herself.

After the movie we went back to the Animal Kingdom and parked up front again in the AAA parking area. We went in and went right over to Dinosaur because Sarah loves riding that with Susan who rarely does any of the more 'intense' rides. After Dinosaur we went over to Expedition Everest and waited on the single riders line for about 10 minutes and Sarah went on while I stayed in the store with Susan. Next over to It's Tough To Be A Bug with only a minimal wait and using the Disney Slide-by we got great center seats about 7 rows back, our chocie ;-). Then back through the stores for some shopping for some of the unique things only available at the AK and then back to the parking lot. On the way back to the hotel we made two more shopping stops. The first was at the Boardwalk where I was able to find a great shirt in my size for myself. I have a few of those Hawaiian Mickey shirts and now I know the designer who makes all kinds of them, Reyn Spooner, and I also know where to find them discounted down to $20 now as well ;-). Then after the Boardwalk we went to the GF because Susan had seen some Mickey soaps in the Basin store there but held off on them thinking they would be also at the DD Basin but they didn't have them. We bought a bunch of those soaps that match my Mickey Bathroom perfectly and then back to the WL for Miss Jenny's In-Room Dining delicacies and some Olympics viewing.

Tomorrow is the big Gifts Of A Lifetime surprise for Susan and I had to figure out a way to make it a surprise for her. Yes I know that most of my Disney internet friends already knew about it as well as many friends at home, well actually, I think the entire planet knew about it except for Susan which was amazing in itself with my big mouth and my little princess' desire to always rat me out to Susan ;-) lol.

Day 9 - Thursday August 14, 2008 - A Magical Gift Of A Lifetime for Susan, Plaza For Lunch, Il Mulino Dinner, and Fantasmic

This was the day that Sarah and I had been waiting for since planning the event. I had known about Jane Cartelli for many years and had used her shopping services to send me certain items before many Disney trips to prepare for the magic. However, despite reading all about her wonderful events, I had never planned one with her. Always looking to make our trips more magical then the last one, which is always so difficult but always happens thanks to the, well, thanks to what Disney is, I decided that now was the time to add this great experience to our plans. I filled out Jane's online informational request in which I spoke about Susan's favorite character Grumpy. Then Jane sent me back a fantastic idea about a scavenger hunt throughout the Magic Kingdom involving Grumpy. I called Jane and asked her about getting Grumpy to meet with Susan at the end, already knowing that in 2000 the characters cost $550 per half hour, which I had no problem with then, and thought it would obviously be more now but still no biggie. So Jane found out that the characters were now $800 per half hour, which I still would have done for my queen BUT the characters needed a private room to meet you, not out in public, and the smallest private room was at the GF which went for about $1200. Now I had to make a decision, should I go ahead with this extra part of the surprise, which I was all for doing, but if I did, would I finally get my wish if Susan ever found out the cost, which she would, and I would be buried under the Castle for good lol. Despite my desire to be interred forever in my favorite place in all the world, I felt I was still too young, so I opted out of the meet and greet for my own safety ;-) and just went along with Jane's original planned magic.

Today was another EMH at the Magic Kingdom but I wasn't interested in getting there at the crack of dawn as usual. I let the princesses sleep late again and when they got up I told them that I wanted to go back to the MK today since we only had a couple of days left to this trip and the MK is my favorite park. Sarah knew what I was doing and Susan was just happy to have been able to stay in bed a little later today. So we grabbed a quick bite at Roaring Forks and took the boat over to the MK. We arrived about 9:10 AM and I was well aware of the 10:00 AM meeting time at the Wishing Well along the side of Cindys Castle where the adventure would begin. In fact, I decided to walk up that way to Fantasyland just to see it and comment on the well ;-). So how would I trick Susan and get back here at 9:58 AM? Susan wanted to ride Peter Pan but already the line was long and it would cut it too close. She was annoyed when I said I didn't want to wait. So we rode It's A Small World with no wait but there was still too much time left. Well, she was still as always interested in Grumpy clothing and especially pajamas. They are difficult to come by and I have gotten her a few pairs, but since as Susan says, 'Grumpy is very misunderstood,' besides some shirts, sweatshirts, and hats it is hard to find him on PJs. So we walked to the Seven Dwarfs' Mine to stall and no Grumpy PJs. Then over to Tinks Treasures and still nothing. Then into Sir Mickey's and Susan found some nice things. She had the CM check in the back for her size but now the time was approaching and I had to get her down to the well. She really got annoyed now asking why we couldn't spend more time for her lol. So we headed down to the well and we got there right on time, 9:57 AM. I could see this large laminated parchment on the bench behind the well and I went over and asked Susan to join me for a picture. But she was angry and didn't want to join me there. Finally I schmoozed her over and when she saw the parchment with her and my name on it signed by Snow White, she started to laugh, then cry, and then knew why I had been so 'uncharacteristically selfish' all morning lol.

On the parchment was a note proclaiming the adventure for today. Now remember this was our 22 wedding anniversary trip. The story went like this - Grumpy was angry that Susan was in love me me and not him for all these 22+ years. He was so angry that he gathered all the villains together and put a spell on our marriage. If by noon today we couldn't complete a number of tasks, which were in poetic clue form, then I would be minaturized into a dancing doll, be placed in It's A Small World forever, and Grumpy would have Susan all to himself. If, however, we completed the tasks that Snow White, Tink, and the good fairies of Disney had created into an antidote for the spell, then the spell would be broken and we could live happily ever after as always we do lol. It was very interesting that the clues led us to where we had already been and despite the coincidence Susan thought I knew all about them. The first clue directed us to the dwarfs' mine store where we had to find a shovel hanging around. We marched back up the castle slope and headed back to the Seven Dwarfs' Mine and looked all around. Finally we saw on the wall was a hanging shovel and behind that was another parchment clue. This one directed us to Tinks Treasures where she had to find 'an old rose with petals dried by evil's queen' and break the stem and kiss her married love. Then we had to enter and 'find a message near a door.' We went over there and looked and found the rose in the flower bed where Susan broke the stem and we kissed then went inside and looked by all the doors. Finally we found the next message. We were directed to Adventureland's Agrabah Bazaar to find musical intruments that had traveled far. And inside one of those crates would be a pouch of magical dust left by a pixie. We looked and looked and found it and then the next message instructed us to go to the Haunted Mansion. We had to wait online and once into the 'room of stretching walls' and stand right in the center and not move or else we would 'seal our doom.' Magically, once the lights went out and back on, on top of Sarah's head was a golden crown with another note, this time for her. The message attached to the crown read that Sarah had to find the next clue in 'a cauldron of black outside of Ye Olde Christmas across from Sleepy Hollow.' We headed over there and found a cauldron of black but not any clue. After looking all around my cell went off and told me to find a different cauldron lol. Across the way was another cauldron and Sarah bravely went over and looked down deep and found the next message. This last and final mesaage to break the spell told us what needed to be done. Sarah had to 'bring Mom and Dad to the rear of the castle like Cinderella returning to the ball.' Then we had to 'stand within the giant circle gazing deeply into each others' eyes.' I then had to tell Susan how much I loved her 'not worrying about Grumpy's spies.' 'Then all three of you close your eyes and kiss and if you have succeeded pixie dust will fall on you all and Grumpy's wish will be defeated.' 'But if you kiss and not close your eyes or if you open eyes to quick Susan will become Grumpy's bride while Howard goes to Small World to hide.' 'So all three of you kiss and keep eyes closed until the pixie dust flies or lovesick Grumpy will get his way and ruin your 22nd anniversary day.' Now here we were as the rain began to fall, behind the castle in the circle all hugging and kissing with our eyes closed and then magically out of nowhere, there is no overhang or anything, we feel ourselves being showered with dust. We then open out eyes and nobody is near us, there are guests staring and smiling in awe, but no sign of pixies, and we are drenched with pixie dust. The spell is obviously broken and Susan and I can live happily ever after. Then Jane comes out of the shadows and she takes some pics of us with our camera. We thank her tremendously. We then saw the fairy G-dmother signing autographs under the protection of the castle from the rain

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 10:38 PM

so we went over and thanked her for her help in breaking the spell.

This was a fantastic adventure and I highly recommend everyone going to Walt Disney World to plan something like this to your own tastes. It is well done and very affordable. Jane is great!

Now it was only about 11:20 AM, yes we finished in plenty of time, and it was raining. So we headed toward the front of the park and stopped just as they were opening The Plaza Restaurant for lunch. All the times in Disney we never had a sit down meal here so we went in with no wait and had a great little lunch and a very nice dessert too lol. After lunch the rain magically stopped and we went back to Fantasyland because Susan wanted to now ride Peter Pan. As we appraoched, the standby line said over an hour wait time but just then we saw Erin the Dream Squad CM who made Susan the 8th Dwarf and she asked how the surprise was. We told her all about it and she was thrilled, She then asked what we were doing next and we told her about Peter Pan. She then reached in her bag and pulled out 3 Lost Boys certificates and made us Honorary Lost Boys and took us right through the line and on to Peter Pan. Right behind us were the Miss America contestants who were down there shooting with Mickey and Donald and we had seen the shoot a couple of days before by the side of the castle. We rode Peter Pan as Lost Boys and it was only more magic that only Disney can create. Then over to Splash Mountain with only a 10 minute standby wait and I rode with Sarah. Then across the park to Buzz for a fastpass along with a surprise fastpass for Carousel Of Progress. So we went to COP and viewed that again. Then over to Stitch with no wait and then back to Buzz for our fastpass time. After Buzz we decided to leave and as we were leaving they were running the parade via the new route from the front. This was in preparation of the closing of the bridge to Liberty Square during its rehab. So we got a great spot right in front of the Harmony as they exited by the Firehouse. We were right by the rope and more magic was about to happen once again. As the float with the Fairy G-dmother passed, she saw us and winked. Then as it was already by us she turned around and mouthed Happy Anniversary to us which Sarah caught on tape. It is so amazing how much the little things that Disney CMs do make so much magic for the guests!!

Now we left and took the boat back to the WL. While waiting for the boat we made friends with another family with little kids and Sarah gave them a dream by giving them some pins. Then back to the room and some resting before dining tonight at Il Mulino. We valeted at the Swan, covered by Il Mulino, and had a fantastic dinner. We have eaten at Il Mulino near us on Long Island many times, in North Miami Beach, and in the Swan twice now and this is a top notch albeit expensive place. The food is over the top and so is the service. It is much better then Palios was even though Palios was great.

After dinner we decided to see Fantasmic so we took the boat. While waiting, there was a big line on the Epcot side but nobody on MGM. Then a bunch of well dressed girls who were on the Epcot line asked us which line gets you to the Studios faster. Obviously, they were on the wrong line and they came over to us. They were down from Boston for an engagement party and were headed over to the Studios for a private Fantasmic dessert party. They were going to be late but I told them all the shortcuts. We got to Fantasmic an hour early not bothering to stop for anything else. The center was already filled up but nobdy was down in that front row because the CM vendor was there. So we went right down and got those seats, the very center of the middle water screen. Some people said that we would get wet but I knew better and it was a great show as always. We left just as Mickey shot his fireworks and we beat the crowds out. Then back to the Swan for the car and back to the WL for the night. The next day was our last full day and Sarah wanted to do the World Showcase. So with no brekkie plans another late morning for my girls.

Day 10 - Friday August 15, 2008 - World Showcase, Chef Mickey's, Contemporary Shopping

Since the World Showcase opens at 11:00 AM there was no rush today. After a snack at Roaring Forks we valeted at the Beach Club and this time took the high road to the International Gateway. We arrived about 10:50 AM so we weren't ushered through to Future World. We started at Canada and visited every country. One by one we toured the world experiencing all they had to offer, except food lol. For that we had out last night planned for Chef Mickey's. We sat up front at the American Adventure and with our new appreciation from the Backstage Magic Tour we viewed the show differently now. Over in Italy, we got Sarah a nice pocketbook. Susan bought one last year, a little larger than the one Sarah got, but both were the same shoulder bag style. Susan's was black and Sarah's green. After visiting all the countries we walked around toward Future World and back to Canada and then the International Gateway and left the park. We went back to the Beach Club and got the car. We went back to the WL and packed most of our stuff because we had an early flight. Our compromise this trip when Susan decided to fly was that if I wanted an 11th day we had to leave early, so I booked an 11:00 AM flight which meant an airport arrival of 9:30 or so. I agreed so I could at least have that last day filled with some of the Disney magic that exists anywhere on property. After packing we headed over to Chef Mickey's for dinner. Then we browsed the shops since Susan is partial to the shops in the Contemporary. Then back to the hotel for the night.

Now I had a thought. The last time we flew, back in 1999, when I returned the car, I first dropped Susan and Sarah off with the luggage at the curbside checkin and then I drove back around and returned the car and met up with them. I planned on doing the same thing this time but then I had an idea. What about this new Magical Express that Disney offers? So I asked the CMs at the kiosk out front about using it with a rental car and they said it would be fine. I had to make sure the bags were turned into them no less than three hours before the flight. That was no problem for me since it meant 7 AM the latest. So I had a plan.

Day 11 - Saturday August 16, 2008 - Check Out, Magical Express, Home Sweet Home

Guess what? I brought the bags down at 6:00 AM and checked them hoping they would arrive in NY okay. Then I returned to the room and let Susan and Sarah relax some more. We called for the car around 9:00 AM and headed to the airport. Returning the car to National was as easy as I remembered it to be. We breezed through security and waited at the gate. I called the limo driver in NY and told him the flight was on time. The flight was great and Susan is once again willing to fly all over for which Sarah and I are thrilled. The bags came quickly and we met the limo driver and got home in about 15 minutes. Unfortunately, this was Saturday and it was too late to get all my accumulated mail that I had held at the post office so I would have to wait to early Monday morning before work which is how it went down.


Could there be any other conclusion then my saying we had another amazing and magical trip? No there can't be and therefore I wont say anything except that our next trip to Walt Disney World is already in the planning stages. We are either staying at the WL again or the GF main building again. Since we didn't eat at all that many Disney restaurants this trip, the concierge might be enough. Usually, if I want to eat at about 20+ Disney retsaurants we will stay at the WL, but if we don't want to have an eating orgy vacation we will stay at the GF in either the honeymoon turret or the deluxe room next door, 4421 or 4422, and just eat most of our meals at the concierge lounge and only have 5 or 6 special meals at the restaurants. And then we can take advantage of those cabanas by the pool like last time. That is the only thing up for discussion since the next trip is a definite go.

#3 User is offline   Blixzit 

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 11:25 PM

Wow....I'm gonna have to revisit this thread when I'm not on battery power.

#4 User is offline   QuickGold 

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 11:23 AM

Very well written report Howie. Sounds like your family had a great time :evil:

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