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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Trip Summary

Overall, it was a wonderful trip. Although when we first arrived home, we weren’t sure if we would ever want to brave the long travel days and the heat and humidity to do it again, it wasn’t long before those memories faded. We are now ready to go back again and are tentatively planning a trip in 2007.

I think we were able to accomplish much more than the usual first timer thanks to the resources of my favorite Disney fan sites,, and Also, the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World was a tremendous help.

In future visits, we’ll try to stay longer so that we don’t have to cram as much into each day as we did. The difference in cost between a 7 day park hopper ticket and a 10 day ticket is very small. We’ll also avoid the evening Extra Magic Hours as they were very crowded and we felt that we didn’t get a lot accomplished during those times. If possible, we’ll schedule our next visit for December when it’s cooler and we’ll get to enjoy the Christmas decorations. We’re also considering renting a car to cut down on the amount of standing in line at the bus stops and also to make it easier to visit the other resorts to see their Christmas decorations.

Day Eight - Goodbye Orlando

Today was our last day at WDW. On one hand I was sad to see it end. On the other, I was a glad to be going home. After a extremely busy week, I was tired of the heat and humidity, and sore from all the walking.

My wake-up call was for an early 5:30 AM. I finished packing and then we went down to Classic Hall to check out. Because American Airlines was a participating airline, we were able to check our luggage in and get our boarding passes right there at the luggage assistance desk in the hotel. It was very convenient. We asked them to hold our carry-on luggage while we went to the Magic Kingdom for breakfast.

Today was were having breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, located inside the castle. I was really looking forward to this. Reservations were extremely hard to get and I felt fortunate that we were able to get them at all. Since we were a little early, we went through Mickey’s Philharmagic one last time and then picked up FP’s for Peter Pan.

It was now time for our 8:55 AM breakfast reservation. After checking in at the counter outside the restaurant we were invited to wait inside in the lobby area. At one end of the lobby was an enormous throne, we the Fairy Godmother was seated. There was a long line of children waiting to have their pictures taken with her, many of the girls wearing their Disney Princess outfits. When our table was ready, chimes were sounded and our names called out. We walked up a red carpeted circular staircase to the restaurant, which was located on the second floor.

We were met at the top of the stairs and ushered to our table. We have a very nice table for two located right next to the window overlooking Fantasyland. Paul, our server, was very nice and explained that it was all-you-care-to-eat brought to your table. We started with a bowl of assorted fruit and basket of breads, muffins, pastries and rolls. We both had orange juice, and I had coffee. Our main entrée consisted of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, potatos, and cream cheese stuffed french toast with blueberry topping.

While we ate, the characters made their way from table to table, stopping to chat and have pictures taken. We were visited by Wendy, Princess Aurora, Belle (in her blue dress), Mary Poppins and Cinderella. Each character behaved and spoke exactly as you would have expected. Wendy noticed our FP’s for Peter Pan and commented on them. Mary Poppins spoke with a British accent and was very crisp and matter of fact. If was a very enjoyable time and the food was excellent.

After breakfast we had time to ride Snow White before using our FP’s for Peter Pan. Then it was over to Liberty Square to see the Hall of Presidents then on to the Emporium so Jason could do a little last minute shopping.

It was now time to head back to the resort to catch our Magical Express bus to the airport. Once we reached the resort, we used the last of our snack credits to purchase Mickey Mouse Rice Krispie treats.

We picked up our checked carry-on luggage and waited for the Magical Express bus. Once on the bus, we enjoyed watching cartoons during the trip to the airport. The airport was a breeze as we already had our boarding passes and our luggage was being taken care of.

Our flight to Dallas was smooth and went quickly. The next leg from Dallas to Portland was a little rocky over the Rocky Mountains, but still passed more quickly that we had expected.

It was great to see my Dad meet us at the airport. He was so wonderful to get us so early to drive us to the airport when we left and then be there to pick us up when we arrived home.

Day Seven PM - MGM Studios

Arriving at MGM Studios, we picked up FP’s for the Indiana Jones Stunt Show. We had a bit of time to kill before the show so we went to see Drew Carey’s “Sounds Dangerous” show, a show about sound effects. This was a very boring show. About seven minutes of it took place in total darkness so I used that time to catch a few winks.

We then used our FP’s to watch Indiana Jones. The show was interesting but I was mostly happy to be able to sit for an extended period of time. After the show we saw “Walt Disney – One Man’s Dream,” a film about Walt Disney. There was a large room outside the theatre was many exhibits about Walt’s Life. It was great.

Next up was the Great Movie Ride, which we had ridden on our previous visit to this Park; this time with a different live action sequence. I had assumed the ride would be the same every time and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t.

By now it was around 2:30 PM we were starving, yet we were reluctant to get anything to eat as we had 6:00 PM reservations at the Hollywood & Vine Restaurant and knew it would spoil our appetites. We were both tired but knew we didn’t have enough time to go back to the resort for a rest.

We decided to try to move up our dinner reservation to earlier in the day. After dinner we planned to just call it a day and go back to the resort for an evening of rest and relaxation.

The reservation podium was located outside the restaurant and they were more than happy to accommodate our request to move our reservation up to 3:00 PM, when they opened for dinner. They were probably glad to free up a reservation during the more popular dinner hour.

Since we didn’t really have time to see anything else before dinner, we sat at some tables outside the restaurant to wait. As we waited, it began to rain and so we were glad to be out of the rain.

Dinner at Hollywood & Vine was buffet style and they offered a really wide variety of items. The restaurant was themed about the early days of Hollywood, maybe the 1940’s. The food was delicious and our server was really nice.

After dinner, we did a little shopping. I bought a Walt Disney World calendar for my office at work and Jason bought a stuffed Sorcerer Mickey. It was now getting close to the time when the afternoon parade was due to begin so we thought that would be a good time to leave before we had to mess with parade traffic.

Once back at the resort we picked up our refillable mugs in our rooms then went back to Classic Hall. We stopped at the Front Desk to check on our bills and make sure we were all set for express checkout the next morning. Then we stopped at the gift shop to use the coupon that had come with our Magical Express packets for a free lanyard and pin. The pin was for the Disney Cruise Line. We had hoped that it would have been a Magical Express bus instead, but didn’t think until later that we should have asked the clerk if there was a choice of pins. Next stop was at the food court to fill our mugs with frozen coke machine. There were two choices, coke and a blue-raspberry. The blue-raspberry was delicious and I made good use of it during our stay. We also used a snack credit to buy a Mickey ice-cream bar for later.

Back in the room I rested for a while and then began to pack. We had an early breakfast reservation the next morning and would need to check our luggage in before we left for the Magic Kingdom. It was a very relaxing evening and one that we desperately needed.

Day Seven AM - Animal Kingdom

I was up at 6:00 AM, after only 4-1/2 hours of sleep. In spite of this being the morning EMH for Animal Kingdom, we were both running out of steam so we didn’t get to the Park until around normal park opening time. We had only allocated a half day at this park as it didn’t seem as though there was as much to do as the other parks.

Animal Kingdom Park is huge. In fact, all three of the others parks would fit inside this one park. This morning, it seemed hotter and more humid than previous days. We had been walking for a time along the path when Jason realized that he was missing his Key to the World. So we had to turn around and walk all the way back to the entrance. There was Guest Relations office near the turnstiles so he went in and fortunately someone had turned in his card. Relieved that he hadn’t lost his card, we made our way back up the trail.

Our first stop was Kilimanjaro Safaris. You board open-sided safari vehicles for a ride through Africa. Animals from Africa roam freely through acres of savannah, rivers and hills. There were many opportunities to take pictures. However, the ride was so bumpy that it was difficult to take good pictures. We rarely stayed in one spot long enough for my slow digital camera to take the picture. As a result, I have quite a few blurry pictures. It was a great ride though and one I would definitely want to do again someday. We saw giraffes, hippos, elephants, rhinos, lions and more. The giraffe was so close to the vehicle that couldn’t fit all of him into the picture.

We had worked up such an appetite on our safari that we stopped for breakfast at the Tusker House. Since we had plenty of counter service credits left and not that much more time to use them, we decided not to share a meal. We both had scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, a biscuit and iced tea. We were also entitled to a dessert so Jason chose the cinnamon roll and I chose the blueberry muffin.

After breakfast we strolled over to the Kali River Rapids ride. This ride is similar to the Grizzly River Rapids ride at Disney’s California Adventure Park. You can get really soaked on this ride. We decided not to ride as neither of us wished to get soaked this early in the day.

The only other attraction on our list was Dinosaur which was on the opposite side of the park from where we currently were. On our way we saw Expedition Everest which is still under construction and scheduled to open next spring. This thrill ride is a high-altitude, high-speed train adventure with nail-biting hairpin turns that hurl you forward toward the peak and then backward. I’m not sure if this is something I would be able to handle riding.

Dinosaur is similar in technology to the Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland. The vehicles are the same; it just has a different story. It was fun but very loud.

By now it was 11:00 AM and we had spent three hours at this park. Since it was a little early to go back to the resort for our afternoon naps, we decided to go over to MGM Studios where we had planned to spend the evening. We sweated our way through the park back to the entrance and over to the bus stop.

Day Six PM - Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Tonight was the event that I was most looking forward to, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. The Magic Kingdom closes down at 6:00 PM and only those who have purchased tickets to this party are allowed to stay for the evening.

We arrived shortly after 4:00 PM and were greeted by a Cast Member who gave us wristbands, identifying us a party guests, as well as a trick or treat bag. After picking up a party schedule from City Hall, we had a little time to kill before our dinner reservation so we browsed through the “Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe” for a while. I found a few items that I wanted to purchase so we decided to come back later and do some serious shopping.

Dinner was at the Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square, an all you care to eat character meal served family style. As we sat waiting, we noticed that they would call out the name of the party and their state when their table was ready. When our name was called we were seated in the George Washington Dining Room which was very cozy with a fireplace at one end. Bonnie was our server and she took our drink orders and explained how everything worked. A bowl of salad and and basket of rolls with honey butter were brought to the table first. This was followed by a platter of beef, turkey and ham and bowls of stuffing, green beans, mashed potatos and gravy, and macaroni and cheese. Dessert was cherry cobbler with ice cream. The food was excellent. While we ate, the characters made their way through the room stopping at each table for pictures. Because of its colonial décor, the characters wear costumes from the period. Now because of the Halloween Party they were also decked out in costumes. Minnie was first to visit, followed by Goofy, Dale, Pluto and Chip. Jason and I each posed with the character while the other one took the picture. We knew it was time to leave when the same characters began making the rounds of tables.

After dinner, we went out to find that it had begun to rain. It was after six and the park was closing to non-party guests. From 6:00-7:00 PM, they herd everyone over to one location while they set up for the party. In years past they sent everyone over to Tomorrowland to wait. All the rides in the land were open so it was a good chance to ride everything before the party began at 7:00 PM. We checked with a Cast Member who told us to go to Tomorrowland. Once we reached Tomorrowland, another Cast Member told us to go wait in Adventureland. When we arrived in Adventureland, we were told to wait in Liberty Square. After going full circle, we ended up back in the same location we started.

The Haunted Mansion was open so we decided to ride it as a fitting way to begin a Halloween Party. Exiting the ride, it was really raining quite heavily so we broke down and donned our Mickey ponchos. It was like being in a steam room, but at least we weren’t soaking wet.

Fantasyland was open by now so we rode Peter Pan and Mickey’s Philharmagic. Making our way around, we rode Indy Speedway which is similar to the Autopia at Disneyland. Across from Indy Speedway was one of several trick or treat stations situated throughout the Park. We joined the short line and began to fill our trick or treat bags. Next we browsed through the Star Trader shop and then went back to Main Street to find a spot for the Boo to You Parade. We found a spot near the hub behind a couple seated on the curb. It had stopped raining for the most park so I took off my poncho so I could sit on it without getting wet.

Shortly before the parade was due to begin, announcements began over the PA system informing us that due to the weather there was a chance that the parade may be cancelled. This continued until well after the scheduled start time of the parade. The couple in front of us gave up so we scooted forward to a seat on the curb. Finally, the announcement was made that the regular parade would be cancelled due to weather but replaced with the Rainy Day Character Cavalcade. This cavalcade consisted of several of the Main Street Vehicles loaded with characters making there way along the parade route. It was kind of lame and little disappointing after waiting for so long. To make up for it, they had the Trick or Treat brigade come through at the same time handing out candy, so it wasn’t a total waste. After the cavalcade we searched Main Street for a Cast Member to see if they thought the 10:00 PM parade would still go as scheduled. We approached Michael, who we could see from his name tag was French. He replied in a very heavy French accent that he thought it would or they would have told us. Jason made fun of his accent for the next hour plus.

The crowd from the cancelled parade was still lingering in the area in anticipation for the special fireworks show, HalloWishes, scheduled for 9:15 PM. The rain had stopped so we hoped the show wouldn’t be cancelled. We found a spot directly in front of the castle and sat down to wait for the show. Most of the people were seated but there was a couple a little ways in front of us standing. I took several pictures of them with my bright flash hoping it would get them to sit down. Fortunately, they moved on a little while later.

The fireworks were amazing. Being very close to the castle it was a little difficult to see the ones that were set off behind the castle, but we got an excellent view of the projections onto the castle and the fireworks that were set off on either side of the castle. At one point fireworks were going off in a complete 360 degree circle around us, which was truly spectacular.

After the fireworks ended, we decided to try to find a good spot for the 10:00 PM Boo to You Parade, hoping that it wouldn’t be cancelled. We headed towards Frontierland and after much debate, settled on a spot along the rope directly across from Pecos Bill’s.

The parade began with the Headless Horseman galloping at full speed along the parade route mounted on a huge black stallion. Running along behind them at full speed (but not even able to keep up) was a maintenance man with a broom and dustpan in case the horse decided to leave gifts behind. The rest of the parade was great. It was fun to see all the characters dressed up in Halloween costumes. Periodically, parade participants would come through and put candy in our trick or treat bags.

The crowd after the parade was unbelievable. We inched our way along in what has been referred to as the Disney shuffle. Small mincing steps. We made our way to Tomorrowland and rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Jason wanted to do some shopping for pins at the Frontierland Trading Post so we walked all the way back to Frontierland with me whining all the way about the extra walking. Since we were nearby, we stopped in at the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe and I purchased the items I had eyed earlier. Then on to the Frontierland Trading Post where Jason cemented his addiction to collectible pins.

By now I was exhausted, so we decided to leave, even though the party would go on until midnight. We caught the second bus back to the resort, arriving at 12:30 AM. After showering, we ate our leftover dessert from the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant then lights out at 1:30 AM.

Day Six AM - Magic Kingdom

The bus stop for the Magic Kingdom was very crowded so we decided to take a gamble and hop the bus to Epcot then take the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Instead of the standard shuttle bus, this was one of the luxury Disney Cruise Line buses. This meant that there wasn’t any extra room on the bus for strollers. Not realizing this, a woman attempted to bring her stroller aboard and was confronted by a rather surly bus driver who berated her for not waiting to have the stroller stowed underneath the bus. Not exactly the Disney spirit you would expect.

Our car on the Monorail was empty due to the fact that that Epcot wasn’t open yet so most people were taking the bus to the Parks. I had hoped to take some photos through the window, but my camera lens was totally fogged up from being in the air-conditioned room then moving out to the warm, humid outdoors.

Once instead the Magic Kingdom, we board the train at the Main Street Station and took it to the next stop which was in Frontierland. We had hoped to ride Splash Mountain but it was temporarily closed so we rode Big Thunder twice in a row. Splash Mountain was still closed so we went to Tomorrowland. The line for Space Mountain was short so we decided to ride it, after picking up FP’s to use later on. Afterwards, rode Stitch’s Great Escape then picked up FP’s for Buzz Lightyear.

By now we were getting hungry so we ate lunch at the Columbia Harbour House, where we had lunch on our tour the day before. The restaurant was practically empty as it was a little early for the lunch crowd. There was no one in the small dining area that we chose and the excellent theming make us feel like we were actually eating in a small tavern in New England. Jason had the same sandwich he had yesterday, while I tried the chicken strips. We had no desire to eat here while we were researching eating places for this trip. However, after actually eating here twice, it has become a favorite and will be a place we visit on future trips.

After lunch we used our FP for Space Mountain and our FP for Buzz Lightyear. Hoping that Splash Mountain was open, we went back to Frontierland and found that it was. The line was fairly short so we hopped on. At Disneyland, there is a chance that you may get wet, but usually not too seriously. I had heard that at WDW there’s a much greater chance that you’ll be splashed, especially if you’re seated in the front row. As we prepared to board, the couple in front of us offered to switch places, as they were designated for the front row. We laughed and graciously declined their offer. However, they got the last laugh. Having been on this ride before, they knew right when to duck, allowing the wave of water to pass over them and hit us in the face. Soaking wet, we decided it was a good time to go back to the resort for our rest. Tonight was the night we had tickets to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) so we hopped the train in Frontierland and rode it back to the Main Street Station. Once again we refilled our mugs and settled down for naps.

Day Five PM - Magic Kingdom

Refreshed after a shower and nap, we boarded the bus for the Magic Kingdom. Upon our arrival, we headed over to the Monorail station for a ride to the nearby Contemporary Resort where we had dinner reservations at the California Grill. The great thing about this hotel is that the Monorail station is located inside the hotel. The Monorail track runs right through the center of the building. Although the hotel itself is not particularly attractive; having the ability to hop the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom Park would be a definite plus.

As we really didn’t know how long it would take us to get to the Contemporary, we arrived way too early. Not wanting to waste our legs walking around, we found a place to sit and wait until it was time to check in. The California Grill is located on the 15th floor of the hotel but you check in on the 2nd floor and then are escorted up a special elevator to the restaurant. It was recommended to me by a co-worker because they offer an observation deck where you can watch the fireworks from the nearby Magic Kingdom. Plus he said the food was excellent.

We were given a pager to carry that would notify us when our table was ready. While waiting, we stepped outside onto the observation deck and tried to take pictures of the Magic Kingdom at night. Without a tripod it was difficult to get any decent pictures.

After about 10 minutes our pager went off and we went back inside. Not being too comfortable eating in upscale restaurants we were pretty much resigned to a somewhat awkward experience. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Our server was a very friendly woman named Debbie, who went out of her way to make us feel comfortable. We each ordered the quadruple cheese flatbread with tomato and basil as an appetizer and it was delicious. I could have easily made a meal out of just the flatbread. For our entrée, Jason ordered a Tortellini dish and I had the Oak-fired Beef Filet. My filet was the tenderest piece of meat I have ever eaten. It was served with potato and gorgonzola pave and blue lake beans. For dessert I ordered L'Opera Sings, a biscuit Joconde, mocha cream, "California Crunch," chocolate glaze, candied filberts, and gold leaf. I can’t recall what Jason ordered.

Just as dessert was served, it was time to watch the fireworks so we left our table and went out to the observation deck. The music from the show was playing on the speaker system outdoors and we had an excellent view along the railing. After the show ended, we returned to our table and ate our dessert, the perfect ending to a perfect experience.

We boarded the Monorail back to the Magic Kingdom and picked up our wristbands for the evening EMH. We rode Big Thunder Railroad and then watched Country Bears Jamboree, which used to be at Disneyland until the replaced it with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride. After wandering around for a while we decided to go back to the hotel.

At the bus stop, there were two full buses just pulling away from the stop so we had to wait about 20 minutes for the next bus. Fortunately, we were able to get seats and didn’t have to stand during the ride. We arrived back at the Pop Century at little after midnight.

Day Five AM - Magic Kingdom

My day began at 6:30 AM with the usual character wake-up call. I used one of my counter service dining credits on the Waffle Platter from the Food Court. Today was the day we were taking the “Keys to the Kingdom” Tour and I knew we wouldn’t be able to eat until lunchtime.

The bus to the Magic Kingdom pulled up just as we arrived at the bus stop and we were on our way. Even though the park hadn’t officially opened yet, we were able to duck under the rope and make our way to the tour check-in area located next door to City Hall on Main Street. We checked in and were given a tour badge with our names on it and a radio with an earpiece to wear during the tour. We also made our lunch selections from a menu. Coffee and bottled water were available to us.

Our tour guide’s name was Mandy and she had first come to work at WDW through the college program. We began on Main Street, stopping periodically for Mandy to share interesting bits of information about the Park. She also explained to us the four Keys to the Kingdom: Safety, Courtesy, Show and Effeciency and we discussed examples of each that we found on Main Street. Our next stop was Adventureland were we boarded our own Jungle Cruise boat. More bits of information and trivia were shared during the cruise.

Moving from Adventureland, we moved to the far end of Frontierland and after waving at the passing train, were treated to a tour of the backstage area. Making our way down the road to the gate in the fence, Mandy pointed out a line painted in the road and explained that it marked the boundary between what is considered “onstage” and “backstage.” Anyone in the “onstage” could possibly be seen by a guest passing by and they should ensure that they are in character.

Backstage was pretty average looking which didn’t really come as a surprise. There’s no reason for any type of theming in that area. We saw warehouses containing the floats for the parades and a hippo that had been brought from the Jungle Cruise to have his tooth repaired. Interestingly, only the portion of the hippo that actually showed above the water was built to look like a hippo.

After returning to the Park, we made our way back through Frontierland where Mandy pointed out the RFID’s imbedded along the parade route. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and is used by Disney to monitor the position of the float as well as control the lights and music on the float to make sure it stays in sync with the rest of the parade.

Lunch was at the Columbia Harbour House restaurant which serves sandwiches, fish and chips and chicken strips. The entire upstairs dining area was reserved for the tours and we entered the dining area to find the lunches we had pre-ordered that morning waiting for us. We were also given a pin shaped like a key as a memento of our “Keys to the Kingdom” tour.

After lunch we rode the Haunted Mansion, during which time Mandy tried to communicate interesting bits of information to us via the earpieces we were wearing. At least I think that’s what she was doing. All Jason and I heard was a bunch of static.

Exiting the Haunted Mansion, we made our way through Fantasyland and the Castle and back to Main Street. We entered one of the shops and made our way to the back of the store where we again went backstage. There were actually two sets of doors situated a few feet apart that we had to go through. This was to prevent any guest shopping in the store to see backstage, thereby increasing the mystery of the backstage area. The two sets of doors were not supposed to be opened at the same time, so a few of us at time had to go through the first set of doors, wait in the small space, then once the first set of doors were firmly closed we could proceed through the second set of doors.

This backstage area looked very similar to the first area we visited, only this time we were led to a set of stairs and invited to descend into the bowels of the Park, the infamous tunnel called the Utilidor. This underground tunnel is used to transport food, merchandise, trash and employees to and from different areas of the Park. We toured through the halls, stopping periodically so Mandy could impart interesting information. One stop was in front of a large bulletin board and computer kiosk where Cast Members could check their schedules and pick up their daily pocket schedule. In spite of being told at the beginning of the tour that we were allowed to take anything from backstage, one man picked up one of the pocket schedules. Mandy immediately spotted it and asked him to return it, which he very sheepishly did. Also posted on the board were seven traits of good customer service. Each one was based on one of the Seven Dwarfs. For example: Bashful: Don’t be shy, make eye contact with each guest. I wish I could remember the rest of them.

After wandering around the tunnel for a while, we emerged into the bright sun only to find ourselves in the VIP Cast Member parking lot. This lot is limited to a small number of important cast members. The majority of cast members park in a lot located at the edge of the property and take a bus to the cast member entrance. It was here that Mandy showed us the spot where Tinkerbelle lands after she makes her magical flight from the castle during the fireworks.

It was now time for the tour to end so we followed Mandy through a gate and emerged near the very front of the Park next to Tony’s Italian Restaurant. We gave Mandy back our earpieces and thanked her for a wonderful tour. Before leaving the park to go back to the hotel for a rest, we stopped by City Hall to fill out a compliment card. Unlike Disneyland where they give you a form to complete, the Cast Member filled out the form for us. It was a little awkward, but much quicker than agonizing over what to say.

Day Four PM - Epcot

At 4:30 PM we boarded the bus for Epcot – our destination for the evening. At this point we weren’t even the slightest bit hungry and hoped that we would regain some of our appetite before we were scheduled to eat dinner at Alfredo’s later in the evening. It was then that we decided not to make reservations for more than one table service meal at day. It was just too much food.

Our first stop was in Future World to ride Ellen’s Energy Adventure, starring Ellen DeGeneres. This attraction moved us through the supposed creation of the universe and turned out to be more interesting than it first appeared.

Since we had done most of Future World the previous day, the plan was to spend the first part of the evening working our way around the World Showcase, visiting each country’s pavilion, stopping in Italy to eat dinner at Alfredo’s. Since this was Epcot’s evening to stay open three hours late, we planned to use some of that time to ride some of our favorite attractions back in Future World later in the evening. At this point they were not handing out the wristbands that identified those that were allowed the stay past the regular closing time. I hoped that we would be able to pick up wristbands as we made our way around the lagoon.

We began by visiting Mexico. In addition to displays of Mexican arts and crafts, there was a restaurant and a boat ride taking us through the culture of Mexico. It was moderately interesting.

Continuing our way around the lagoon, we briefly visited each Pavilion until we reached the American Pavilion located on the opposite side of the lagoon. It was at this point that we realized there was no way we were going to make it all the way around before our 7:30 PM dinner reservation. We also hadn’t seen anyone handing out the EMH wristbands either. We knew the park would be closed to regular guests by the time we finished dinner and we weren’t sure if we would be able to pick up a wristband at the time. So we walked at breakneck speed the rest of the way around the lagoon until we were back at the entrance to the World Showcase. Continuing on to Mexico, we finally spotted a place where they were handing out the wristbands. After being issued our wristband, we realized that we were really running out of time so we had to race half way around the lagoon again to the Italy Pavilion. Before entering the restaurant I ducked into a nearby restroom and tried to freshen up so I wouldn’t arrive all hot and sweaty.

Alfredo’s at WDW was created by the direct descendants of Alfredo di Lelio, the inventor of Fettuccini Alfredo. We felt more than a little out of place as it was a very upscale restaurant and we generally don’t eat in upscale places. The wait staff are all Italian natives and although our particular waiter was civil, we had a sense of thinly veiled contempt on his part. It wasn’t until it came time to present the bill that he became a little more friendly and polite. We both ordered the Caesar Salad for our appetizers, followed by the Fettuccini Alfredo (of course) and iced tea. For dessert, I ordered the chocolate mousse and Jason ordered their 50th Anniversary Happiest Celebration dessert. The entire meal was delicious.

Dinner took just over an hour and by the time we left the restaurant it was time to stake out a spot for the Illuminations fireworks show scheduled for 9:00 PM. We found a spot on a small bridge directly in front of the Italy Pavilion. As the time for show drew closer it became more and more crowded so that by the time the fireworks actually started we were packed like sardines. Fortunately, I was against the railing so I wasn’t completely surrounded by people. Still it was a little uncomfortable. The show itself was amazing and we both enjoyed it at lot.

After the fireworks ended it began to rain quite heavily. Since the World Showcase was now closed (only Future World stayed open during EMH), there wasn’t anyplace to duck into to escape the rain so in no time at all we were soaked. As quickly as we could we made our way the rest of way around the lagoon. At the nearest restroom, I wrung myself out as best I could and we continued on to The Land, an indoor Pavilion which housed the ride Soarin’ (among other things).

Soarin’ was posting a 70 minute wait and no FP’s were being issued. We briefly contemplated trying to ride Test Track, but figured it would be just as crowded. With fewer attractions than the other Parks, long lines form more quickly. Tired and sore we decided to head back to the hotel. We filled our mugs with hot chocolate. After a long soak in a hot bath, the lights were out by midnight.

Day Four AM - MGM Studios

We stepped outside our rooms to an overcast day, which in no way diminished the heat and humidity. As we waited at the bus stop for the bus to MGM Studios, it began to rain quite heavily. Yet, we refused to use the emergency ponchos that we had tucked into our bags. Once the poncho is unleashed from its plastic pouch, it definitely was going to go back in easily. It would have been a shame to pull out the poncho only to have the rain stop a few minutes later. Then we would have been stuck hauling it around for the rest of the morning. It also seemed quite unbearable to be encased in plastic when it was so hot and humid.

We were near the front of the line, so when the bus arrived we looked forward to boarding to get some relief from the rain. We were prevented from doing so by a couple of wheelchairs that needed to be loaded first. If you are in a wheelchair, you don’t need to wait in the regular line for the bus. Instead you wait by the curb near the back of the bus. This doesn’t seem quite fair to me. There could be the equivalent of three bus loads of people waiting in line for a bus and a person in a wheelchair can just roll up and load on the next bus, along with everyone else in their party. The queue lines are quite wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair so I don’t see why they are not able to wait their turn in line along with the rest of us. As you can see, this is somewhat of a sore subject for me. As the week went on, I experienced quite a bit of pain in my knees from all the standing on concrete that we did, much of it in line waiting for the bus.

Anyway, we made our way to MGM Studios Park in plenty of time for the rope drop, then immediately went to the Tower of Terror to pick up FP’s. Next we got into the short line for Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, featuring Aerosmith. As this was our first time on this ride, we were both more than a little nervous. Me especially, as I had never been on a roller coaster in which you go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds. With one group ahead of us, we were assigned a line to wait to board the car. Suddenly, the ride shut down and the people already on the ride were escorted off. A few minutes later, maintenance personnel enter the building and disappeared inside. While a small part of me was relieved that I wasn’t on the ride, a bigger part of me wished I could just get it over with. After a few more minutes, they decided to close down the ride due to “technical difficulties.” As we exited the ride, we were given FP’s to ride later.

As it was still raining pretty heavily, we broke down and purchased Mickey Mouse ponchos for $7.00. These ponchos were a lot sturdier than the cheap emergency ponches we brought with us. However, we still didn’t put them on.

Our window to use our FP’s for Tower of Terror had opened up and we walked the short distance to the Hollywood Tower Hotel. This ride is different than the one at DCA as the elevator moves out and along the hotel floor before locking into place for the drop sequences. It was a lot of fun.

After Tower of Terror we walked back to Rock ‘n Roller Coaster and found that it was now open. So we used our FP’s and this time actually got to ride. It was scary, very fast, and totally awesome. There are three upside down loops, but you’re going so fast and it’s so dark that you barely notice that you are upside down. After exiting, the line was still very short, so we rode it again. This time I was a little less scared, but it was still very fast. I was able to open my eyes and check out some of the scenery around me instead of just hanging trying to survive.

MGM Studios is part theme park and part an actual working studio. Our next stop was the Backlot Tour which promised us a behind the scenes glimpse into the studio portion of the park. This was not quite as interesting as it was portrayed. It began with a short special effects show in a water tank using audience members chosen before the show began, followed by walk through a prop warehouse and ended with a guided tram tour through the lot. We didn’t really get to see a whole lot of the working studio portion, but it was nice to just sit down and ride.

After exiting the tour, we raced over to the outdoor (covered) theatre just in time to see Beauty and the Beast Live Action Show, an elaborate, enchanting musical spectacular. We both enjoyed the show every much and again it was nice to just sit down and rest.

We looked through a few more of the shops before checking in for our 12:00 noon reservation at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant. This was a lot of fun and is on our must-do list for future visits. The inside of this restaurant is themed to look exactly like a drive-in movie theater. It’s dark and looks like your outside. There’s a giant movie screen at the front that continuously plays clips from old, black and white science fiction movies of the 50’s. Guests are seated in vintage convertibles. Each car contains three rows of seats with a narrow table area and each row can seat two people. We were seated in the last row of our car. In front of us was a party of three people, one in the front seat and two in the middle seat. Since we were all seated in the same car, our waiter introduced us to each other. The last name of the couple in front of us was Beverage. We thought that was an unusual last name.

The service was excellent and the waiter very friendly. For our appetizer, we both ordered the onion rings. This could have been a meal by itself as the plate was heaping with crispy, golden brown rings. We each chose the ribs as our entrée and they were delicious. The ribs were recommended by the women from Disney Dining that I spoke with when making our dining reservations 90 days prior. She said they were based in Coca-Cola and were out of this world. The ribs were served with fries and the best tasting cole slaw I had ever eaten. High praise from someone who doesn’t really care for cole slaw. By the time we were ready for dessert, we were stuff. Since we planned to return to the hotel for a rest, we asked for our dessert to go. Jason ordered the special 50th anniversary dessert, the cheesecake, while I ordered the chocolcate tart.

With perfect timing, the bus pulled up just as we arrived at the stop and in no time at all we were back at the Pop Century and tucked in for a nap.

Day Three PM - Magic Kingdom

It was shortly before six when we boarded the bus to the Magic Kingdom where planned to spend the evening. It was very crowded when we arrived and people were already lining up along the parade route for the 8:00 PM Spectromagic Parade. This time we started in Adventureland, picking up FP’s for the Jungle Cruise before getting in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. The line for this attraction moved very slowly. This is mainly because they can only load one boat at a time, whereas Pirates at Disneyland can load two boats at once. The ride itself was different than the one at DL. First there was only one drop compared to two at DL. Next, each scene seemed less expansive, with less theming, and the ride itself seemed shorter. There wasn’t the boat ride through the bayou to get us in the mood. There also wasn’t a Blue Bayou restaurant, which is one of our favorite places to eat at DL.

After Pirates, we used our FP’s for the Jungle Cruise. By now it was dark, which made the ride very interesting. The ride differed slightly than the one at DL, with this cruise including a trip through a cave.

We decided not to watch the parade, deciding instead to continue our way around the park and riding more attractions. Next stop was the Haunted Mansion. The stretching room is not an elevator like it is at DL where they need to get us beyond the train tracks. Also, there isn’t the long hallway through the portrait gallery before boarding the Doom Buggies. You step out of the stretching room and are ready to board the Doom Buggy. The ride itself was great and seemed a little different the DL.

Making our way to Fantasyland, we went on Mickey’s Philharmagic and enjoyed it immensely. One thing we noticed at WDW is that most rides exit directly into a gift shop and Philharmagic was no exception. We browsed around for a few minutes, admiring a particularly nice Philharmagic coffee mug, but didn’t buy anything.

By now it was really getting crowded and we decided to leave before the fireworks began, to try to avoid some of the crowds on the bus. Apparently, many people had the same idea as we waited a long time for our bus. In addition to being the furthest bus stop from the park, it always seemed more hot and humid, if that’s even possible. While we waited, we were able to see some of the fireworks in the sky.

Once back at the resort, I showered for the third time that day then we went down to the Food Court to refill our mugs and get something to eat. We again split one of our counter service meal credits and got the Cheesesteak Wrap and fries, a chocolate milk and a piece of carrot cake. Total cost $13.07, our cost $0. We discovered that the beverage island had an icee type machine and filled our mugs with frozen coke. We took our food back to the room to eat, relax and watch TV before turning in for the night.

Day Three AM - Epcot/Downtown Disney

This morning my wake-up call came at 5:45 AM as it was a morning Magic Hour at Epcot. I had coffee as usual in my refillable mug (got to get my money’s worth). We were out the door by 7:10 AM and on the bus 10 minutes later. It was a fairly short ride to the Park. Epcot is divided into two sections, the front section is called Future World and the back section is called the World Showcase. Future World opens earlier than the World Showcase so that’s where we began our day.

We first headed over to Test Track and picked up a FP before joining the queue. This ride was very fun. It simulates the testing an automobile goes through after production. It the longest, fastest ride of all Disney rides. You go through hairpin turns, bumpy terrain, heat testing, speed through a freezing chamber, a braking test, a couple of others before ending up with the speed test. Most of the ride takes place indoors except for the last test where you rush on to 50 degree banked curves at 60 miles an hour. It’s very exhilarating.

Next stop was Soarin’ which was located on the other side of Future World. At Disney’s California Adventure, this is one of my favorite rides and it was brought to Florida as part of Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Upon exiting the ride, we were able to pick up FP’s for Soarin’ before heading back over to Test Track to use the FP’s we had picked up earlier.

By now we were getting hungry, so having learned our lesson the day before we decided to use one of our counter service meal credits and split breakfast. We choose to eat at the Electric Umbrella, which seemed like the only place that served breakfast. We shared a cheese omelet (somewhat rubbery tasting), bacon, hash browns, and a biscuit. For our beverage we got a bottle of water for later. The total would have been $8.48 if we weren’t on the dining plan.

After eating, it was time to use our FP for Soarin’ so we rode it again. Once again, an excellent ride. Next door to Soarin’ was a ride called Livin’ with the Land. We picked up a FP for it before walking over to ride Spaceship Earth. This ride is inside the huge geosphere that is located at the front of the park. The ride itself was a little boring as it explores the history of human communication. But it was kind of interesting to know that we were moving through the large sphere. We found much of Epcot to be on the educational side, although they did a fairly good job of making it entertaining as well.

We had some time before we could use our FP’s for Living with the Land, so we browsed through The Art of Disney store looking at the different pieces of Disney art. Now it was time to ride Living with the Land, which is a boat ride through different scenes displaying the latest developments in aquaculture and desert farming. It was interesting and educational.

It was a little after noon and we decided to take the Monorail over to the Ticket and Transportation Center, where we thought we could board a bus that would take us to Downtown Disney. We soon discovered how wrong this decision was when we exited the Monorail only to discover that there weren’t any buses to board at that particular location. We ended up walking over to the nearly Polynesian Resort and wandering around for a while before we located the bus stops at the front of the resort. After a short wait we boarded the bus bound for Downtown Disney.

Once we arrived, we began working our way through the shops. About half way through we stopped for lunch at the Earl of Sandwich, a very popular, reasonably priced eatery that served a variety of hot and cold sandwiches. We wisely decided again to split a meal so we ordered the hot Hawaiian Ham Sandwich, which contained barbequed ham and pineapple on a delicious roll. We also order a lemonade, which I drank, while Jason drank the water from this morning. For dessert we split a homemade brownie. It was plenty of food and the short break reenergized us somewhat.

Continuing on with our shopping we ended up at the World of Disney Store where we did the majority of our shopping as we could get a 10% discount by showing a Disney Visa card. We also decided to have our purchases shipped directly to our house, thereby eliminating the need to pay the 6.5% sales tax. The very nice young lady that rang us up turned out to be from Salem, OR and we commiserated together on the difference in climate between Oregon and Florida.

By now we were very tired and it was time to head back to the resort for a rest. After dodging a brief rainstorm, we ran to catch the bus and settled down for the short trip back to the resort. Once again it was time for a shower and a nap before we began the second half of our day.

Day Two PM - MGM Studios

Refreshed from our naps, we stepped outside our rooms at 3:00 PM and were again assaulted by the heat and humidity. After a 15 minute wait, we boarded the bus for the eight minute ride to MGM Studios. The park was amazing. It very much resembled Hollywood in its early days. It was fun to stroll down the street looking at all the shops. At the end of the street is the park icon, a gigantic Sorcerer’s Mickey hat. Our first stop was to pick up FP’s for Rock-n-Roller (RNR) Coaster, which we ended up not using. Then we had our pictures taken in front of the RNR building with our PhotoPass cards.

Without warning it began to rain and everyone took cover under the nearest shelter. It rained pretty much every day during our visit, but it was usually just a quick shower that was over in 5-10 minutes. When the rain subsided, it was time to head over to The Hollywood Brown Derby for our dinner reservation. The inside of the restaurant was an exact replica of the original restaurant in Hollywood, complete with the caricatures of celebrities on the walls. This dinner was part of the Fantasmic! Dinner Package. For a fixed price of $36.99, you have your choice of an appetizer, entrée and dessert, plus VIP seating for the Fantasmic! show later that evening. Fantasmic! is very popular at WDW and people begin lining up as early as 90-120 minutes before the show. With the special seating, we were able to enter the stadium 30 minutes before the show and sit in a section roped off from the general audience.

Dinner was delicious. For an appetizer, I had the Chilled Gazpacho Soup and Jason had the Portobello Tortellini. Jason chose the Tanglewood Chicken for his entrée and I had the Char-Grilled Filet Minon. We both had the Grapefruit Cake, a Brown Derby classic, for dessert. While eating we reminisced about one of our favorite I Love Lucy episodes where Lucy, Ethel and Fred eat lunch at the Brown Derby and Lucy gets starstruck when she sees William Holden in the next booth. William Holden decides to turn the tables on her and begins staring at her as she eats her spaghetti. She becomes extremely nervous and ends up with too big of a mouthful. Trying to be helpful, Ethel takes a pair of scissors from her purse and nonchalantly reaches over to cut off the excess spaghetti. We agreed that if spaghetti had been on the menu, we both would have ordered it.

After dinner we picked up our wristbands for the Extra Magic Hours (EMH). EMH is a perk for guests staying at one of the WDW resorts. Each of the parks will open one hour early or stay open three hours late once during the week. We found the morning EMH was definitely worth it and we were able to get a lot accomplished in that hour, while the evening EMH was usually very crowded, with line lines and no FP’s for the more popular rides. In future visit, we’ll avoid the parks that are having the evening EMH’s.

We had a little time to spare so we browsed through some of the shops before heading over to the stadium for Fantasmic!. Our seats were great and while we waited we entertained ourselves by participating in the wave that was going around the stadium. The threat of rain left us with the possibility of delay or cancellation of the show, but finally it began and it was wonderful.

After fighting our way through the crowds exiting the Fantasmic! stadium, we joined the line for The Great Movie Ride. On this ride, you sit in a large vehicle that looks similar to a section of a movie theater and move through scenes from famous movies. One of the scenes featured the Wizard of Oz and it really felt like we were in Munchkinland. Surprisingly, the ride also includes some live-action interactive parts that were fun. This was definitely one of our favorite rides at MGM.

Our schedule called for us to go to Downtown Disney this evening, but we were too tired to make the trip so we went back to the resort, stopping to use a snack credit on a Mickey ice cream bar before returning to our rooms for the evening.

Day Two AM - Magic Kingdom

Promptly at 6:00 AM, I picked up the phone and was greeted by the annoying sound of the character Stitch urging me to wake-up. Fortunately, a few seconds later the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse, interrupted to wish me a magical day at the resort. In spite of less than 5 hours of sleep the night before, I jumped out of bed, eager to start the day. After showering and dressing, we headed over to the food court to fill our mugs, and then went back to the room.

Two Double Bed RoomAt 8:00 AM we left our rooms and walked to the bus stop. On our way, we noted some interesting towel animals that were displayed in windows of a couple of room. Prior to booking our trip to WDW, I had never heard of towels animals. If you’re lucky, occasionally the maid will leave you towels that have been twisted into animal shapes, somewhat like balloon animals. Apparently, they are very popular and the subject of much discussion on one of the message boards I frequented while preparing for our trip. I hoped we would be lucky enough to get towel animals sometime during our stay.

We arrived at the bus area, located out in front of Classic Hall. Each theme park had its own stop and we joined the line for the Magic Kingdom. At 8:07 AM the bus arrived but by the time we boarded, all the seats were taken and it was standing room only. The Magic Kingdom Park was the furthest away from our resort and it was a good twenty minute bus ride to get there.

We stepped off the bus and headed to the main gates. Earlier this year, WDW had begun using a biometric finger scan to try to cut down on the practice of people selling or giving away their tickets with unused days left on them. To enter the park, you insert your ticket into the machine and place your index and middle fingers into the biometric scanning device. Contrary to what many people think, the machine does not record your fingerprints. Instead, it takes a measure of the two fingers and associates it with the bar code on your park ticket. The next time you enter one of the parks, the system checks to make sure that the same person is using the ticket. Jason sailed right through without problem, but it took me a few tries to get the hang of the machine. Finally, I was allowed to enter.

We still had a few minutes until the park opened and everyone gathered in the esplanade area to wait. Shortly before park opening, a brief ceremony was held up above at the train station ending with the train rolling into the station with many of the characters waving and dancing.

Cinderella's CastleFinally, the gates opened and we stepped onto Main Street for our first look at the Magic Kingdom Park. It was very similar, yet different from Main Street in Disneyland. The buildings looked taller and the street seemed wider. At the end of the street was the hub with the very familiar “Partners” statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Beyond the hub stood Cinderella’s castle, very different than Sleeping Beauty’s castle in California.

Before reaching the hub, we stopped to have our pictures taken by one of the PhotoPass photographers. The PhotoPass system is great and is wish Disneyland would use the same system. Situated at different locations through each of the theme parks are professional photographers who will take your picture in front of some of the more popular picture taking spots. The first time they take your picture they issue you a PhotoPass card, similar to a credit card. During your stay, whenever you wish to have your picture taken, you give your card to the photographer and they scan it in before taking your picture. This is a spot at each park where you can view and purchase any of the pictures that were taken, or you can view them online when you get home. There is no obligation to buy and it was a great way for us to get pictures that included the two of us. After we returned home, we checked out our pictures and weren’t very pleased with how they turned out. This was through no fault of the photographer. I looked hot and sweaty in each picture, which come to think of it, was exactly how I felt.

We spent the first part of the morning exploring Fantasyland. Many of the dark rides seemed to be better than their counterparts in California, especially Peter Pan, which was a FastPass attraction. Peter Pan in California really needs to be a FastPass attraction as well. It is very popular and long lines form very quickly and remain long for the rest of the day. The exterior of It's a Small World was disappointing. It was completely enclosed so that you don’t have to stand in line outside in the heat. However the exterior resembled a strip mall and I half expected to see a dry cleaners and a 7-11 around the corner.

My favorite ride in Fantasyland, and probably in the Magic Kingdom itself, is Mickey’s Philharmagic. This is a 3-D musical extravaganza, featuring characters from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King. We watched this quite a few times during our visit and never tired of it.

After Fantasyland, we quickly toured Mickey’s Toontown Fair. This area of the park is mostly geared toward the younger crowd and we didn’t find much to do there. If you want to see characters, the Toontown Hall of Fame Tent is the best place to go.

Continuing on clockwise around the park, our next stop was Tomorrowland, which seemed infinitely better than its counterpart at Disneyland. It seemed larger, with more to do and see. We picked up FastPasses for Space Mountain, then went on to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which was very fun. As you move through the attraction in your Star Cruiser, you use a laser cannon to shoot targeted items and rack up points. Last March, this attraction opened up in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and I’m looking forward to riding it when we go in December. After Buzz, we used our FastPasses for Space Mountain. The ride vehicles are different than those at Disneyland. Instead of sitting two across, you ride single file. It also seemed very jerky and not quite as fast as I remembered from Disneyland. Next stop was the Carousel of Progress which had been moved from California. I love this ride and was very happy to be able to ride it again.

Lunch at Cosmic Ray'sBy now we were getting hungry as we hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning. We decided to eat lunch at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland. We each used one of our counter service dining credits and ordered the double bacon cheese burger, which came with fries, a piece of cake for dessert (chocolate for me, carrot for Jason), and a bottle of Dasani water. Lunch was delicious, but we were both stuffed afterwards. Too late we realized that we probably should have split one meal as we had late afternoon reservations at the Brown Derby restaurant at the MGM Studios Park.

After lunch we rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which is like the Peoplemover ride that used to be at Disneyland. It was fun to travel around and get a great view of everything in Tomorrowland.

It was now time for us to return to the resort for our afternoon rest. We had decided to make time every day to go back to the hotel to rest and reenergize before returning for the evening. We headed to the bus stop only to find that the bus stop for the Pop Century was located at the very furthest spot imaginable. We found this to be true for most of the theme parks. The bus stops for the value reports were further away than those for the Deluxe and Moderate resorts. There wasn’t much a line waiting to go back to the hotel, so we were able get on the first bus that arrived and in about 20 minutes we were back at the hotel. After refilling my mug, I showered and settled down for a short nap.

Day One - Part Four - Pop Century Resort

Pop Century ResortAt last we arrived at the Pop Century Resort, which looked even more amazing in real life. I had heard the Pop Century described as a Motel 6 with theming. I found it to be much nicer than a Motel 6. The front desk spanned much of the length of the lobby area. Along one wall were shadowboxes, each containing artifacts from a particular time period. Across from the front desk was a room with a TV and couches for kids to wait while their parents checked in. The check in line was short and in no time at all we were issued our “Key to the World.” This key functioned not only as our room key, but also contained our park tickets and dining credits. In addition, by providing a credit card number, we were able to use our “Key” to charge all of our purchases to our room. Our next stop was the Concierge desk, where we picked up our tickets to “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.”

Icons from the Jungle BookWith map in hand we exited the building, called “Classic Hall” and headed for our rooms. The resort contains 10 buildings, each with 288 rooms. It is divided into five areas, each representing a different decade between the 1950’s and the 1990’s. Each building is T-shaped, with an elevator, ice machine, and pop machine in the center. Our rooms were located in the 60’s section. This section was considered a preferred section as it is closest to Classic Hall where the food court and gift shop are located.

The Hippy, Dippy Pool in the 60's SectionWe walked past the Hippy, Dippy Pool, which coupled with the heat and humidity, immediately fogged up our glasses. Up the elevator we went and exited on the third floor. To our delight, our rooms overlooked Hourglass Lake, located at the back of the property. Across the lake was Phase II of the resort, still under construction. This phase was called the “Legendary Years” and represented the time period from the 1900’s through the 1940’s. The two phases of the resort were connected by the Generation Gap Bridge.

Two Double Bed RoomWe each entered our rooms and were pleased to discover that they were connecting rooms. Each room contained two double beds, a table with two chairs, an armoire with a 27” TV and drawers, a wall safe, iron and ironing board, and a vanity. I had requested a refrigerator, and that was waiting in the corner. The bathroom contained the usual toilet and a shower/tub combination, along with Mickey Mouse soaps and shampoo/conditioner. The room was definitely nicer than any Motel 6 we had ever stayed in. We were more than a little relieved to discover the temperature in the room to be very cool and comfortable.

Refillable MugsAs our luggage had not arrived yet, we decided to head on back to Classic Hall to check out Everything Pop, the food court and gift shop. The first thing we did was purchase a refillable mug for $11.99. This mug entitled us to free refills from any of the beverages located in the beverage island throughout our stay. We filled our mugs and looked through the gift shop. By this time we were getting a little hungry so we decided to use one of our counter service meal credits and split the Very Sloppy Joe, which included a dill pickle spear. In addition, we chose a milk and a piece of chocolate cake. Since we had our mugs, we took the milk back to the room with us and put it in the refrigerator. The total for the entire meal was $11.58, but it cost us nothing with our meal plan.

By now it was 9:45 PM and we were both very tired from our long day. We decided to go back to the room and hoped our luggage would be there waiting for us. I refilled my mug with decaf coffee and we headed out the door. Once again, our glasses immediately became fogged up and we blindly walked to the elevator.

Once back in the room, we were disappointed to find that our luggage still hadn’t arrived. I called luggage assistance and was told that it would take 4-6 hours from the time our plane landed until we could expect our luggage. This means that our luggage would be delivered sometime between 10:00 PM and midnight. We were not happy about this as we had planned to get a good nights sleep so as to be refreshed and ready for our first day at the Magic Kingdom.

Two Double Bed RoomBecause Jason was really tired, I told him to go lie down in his room and I would wait up for the luggage. I continued watching TV and ended up turning the thermostat up a couple of degress and crawling under the covers as it was getting really chilly in the room.

Shortly before midnight the luggage still hadn’t arrived and I began to worry that due to the late hour, they may not deliver it until the next morning. I called down to luggage assistance again and was told that they were running behind, but that my luggage had arrived from the airport and they would be delivering it to me within the hour. Finally, at 12:57 AM the luggage arrived. I was relieved that the ½ case of water bottles we had each packed was still intact and hadn’t spilled out over the contents of my suitcase. I wheeled Jason’s luggage into his room and said goodnight. Quickly I unpacked my things and got ready for bed. The last thing I did was call to request a wake-up call for 6:00 the next morning. I slipped into the most comfortable bed and didn’t stir until the phone rang the next morning.

Day One - Part Three - Orlando at Last!

The day went surprisingly fast and almost before we knew it was had arrived at the Orlando airport. We gathered our things and headed to the front of the plane. As we stepped from the plane we were assaulted by heat and humidity the likes of which we had never experience before. It almost brought us to our knees and we began to have serious doubts about our ability to withstand an entire week of this. Mind you, we hadn’t actually stepped outside yet. This assault originated from the small crack between the plane and the enclosed walkway thingy that leads to the terminal. I can’t for the life of me remember what that’s called.

Magic Express Greets at the Orlando AirportOnce inside the air-conditioned terminal, we revived somewhat. Not really knowing what to do next we followed the crowd until we reached the main concourse. There we spotted a couple of Disney representatives with large white Mickey Mouse hands holding up a Magical Express sign. Everyone else seemed to know where to go, so they just passed them by. We stopped and they gave us directions to the Magical Express Welcome Center located on the lower level. Before leaving, I asked to take their pictures, somewhat embarrassing Jason. I didn’t care. They willingly posed for a picture, waving their big mouse hands.

A Disney cast member was stationed at the entrance to the line for the Welcome Center and as we passed by him, he asked how many were in our party. Jason answered, “Two” before we realized what an odd question it was. Maybe he was just getting us accustomed to life at the theme parks. The line was short and after checking us in, we were directed to another area where there were separate lines for each resort. We wound our way through the Pop Century Resort line and ended up at the front of the line. A very friendly cast member kept us entertained with comments about the best way to avoid crowds and some of the special events, such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Magical Express BusOur bus finally arrived and we braved the heat and humidity once again to board the very comfortable, air-conditioned luxury motor coach. As we made our way out of the airport and on towards Walt Disney World, our bus driver attempted to start the video that we were supposed to watch during the trip. After several unsuccessful tries, he pulled the bus over to the side of the highway and got up to check the VCR, where he discovered that the videotape had been ejected. He quickly remedied the situation and once again we were on our way. As it was now past 6:00 PM, the sun was low in the sky and a light sprinkling of raindrops dusted the windshield.

Day One - Part Two - Dallas to Orlando

The first leg of our journey took us to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) where we would change planes before continuing on to Orlando. The layout of the plane was such that there were three seats on one side of the aisle and only two seats on the other side. We were fortunate enough to be seated on the side with only two seats. Jason had the window seat and I sat on the aisle. Since this was the longest flight on our trip east, we each came amply prepared with a tote bag full of things to do. Jason had his PSP and we each had our iPod nanos. We had each purchased our iPods specificially for this trip a couple of weeks prior. With its slim design and long battery life, it was perfect for a cross country flight. It was also planned to be the majority of our Christmas gifts to each other, which seemed like a really good idea in September, but not quite as good of an idea in November.

One of cost cutting measures implemented by the airline industry was the elimination of a free meal service. Shortly after take-off, the beverage cart was hauled out and slowly made its way down the aisle. As usual, we shared a can Canada Dry ginger ale, and for a snack, we were each given a Quaker low-fat maple brown sugar granola bar. Yum! For a small fee, we could purchase a boxed snack. We declined to purchase the snack and instead opted for some of the many provisions we had packed in our carryon bag. Our stash consisted of Quaker granola bars, honey-roasted cashews, pepperoni sticks and a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Later in the flight the beverage cart was hauled out again and we were offered yet another granola bar, which we declined.

It was a four and a half hour flight which seemed to go very quickly and before we knew it we were preparing to land in. DFW airport is a major hub for American Airlines and during our descent the gate numbers for a dozen or so connecting flights were announced over the PA system. Luckily for us, our connecting flight was scheduled to depart from a gate within the same terminal.

DFW is huge and even though the gate for our next flight was located within the same terminal, it was still a long walk. Prior to our trip, Jason had compiled a short list of things that he wanted to take pictures of. One of the items on the list were the horns from a steer, another was a big-haired woman, which we assumed was the norm for women from Texas. He was successful in finding the first item, snapping a picture of horns mounted on the wall in the gift shop, but alas, was unable to spot a big-haired woman.

Periodically spaced along the way were food courts offering up a variety of different cuisines. After spending way too much time in a state of indecision, we realized we were running out of time and settled for Popeye’s Fried Chicken. This particular Popeye’s had a Cajun flair. After a few moments debating the difference between a meal and a combo, we decided to each order a 3-piece meal, which, unlike a combo, does not come with a drink. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Anyone, we wanted the option without the drink. I very clearly ordered 2 three piece chicken strip meals (or combos). What they packed into the little box, was 2 pieces of chicken on the bone. I very politely told them that we had ordered the chicken strips, not the regular chicken. For some reason this was very difficult for them to comprehend. It took us both several tries before they were able to understand what we were trying to say. Finally, with our chicken strip meals in hand, we quickly headed back to the gate. We ate quickly and finished with a few minutes to spare before boarding the plane.

On this second leg of our journey, we were seated in the middle and aisle seats, with Jason seated in the middle. Fortunately, the man in the window seat slept through much of the flight, even though he snored. This was the shorted leg, with the flight lasting about two and a half hours. The flight attendants again hauled out the beverage cart and we had our usual ginger ale. This time, instead of Granola bars, we were each given a ½ ounce bag of tortilla crisps. We also enjoyed watching a sampler of TV shows including David Letterman, 60 minutes, a sports show, an entertainment show, and ending with a full episode of The King of Queens, one of our favorite sitcoms. This made the flight pass fairly quickly and before we knew it was had landed at our final destination, Orlando.

Day One - Part One - Portland to Dallas

It was without difficulty that I responded to the 3:30 AM call from my alarm clock. After months of planning that bordered on the obsessive (okay it wasn’t just borderline, it was full-fledged), the day had finally arrived for our very first trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Because of the offer of a free dining plan, Jason and I impulsively decided to cancel our October trip to Disneyland and go to Walt Disney World instead.

I hopped out of bed, showered, dressed and finished packing well before my dad arrived a few minutes before 5:00 AM to drive us to the airport. We left home at 5:01 AM and arrived at PDX 28 minutes later. Oh, how great it is to leave early on a weekend morning!

For $2.00 a bag, we opted to take advantage of curb-side check in, which eliminated the need to stand in the long-ish line inside the terminal. Next stop was security, always an uncertain and nerve-wracking experience. No longer rookies, having flown to Disneyland last December, we felt somewhat more prepared. We knew that shoes would need to be removed and which equipment to have ready for possible inspection.

My plan was to proceed as organized as fashion as possible. I had already removed my watch and cell phone and placed them in my purse. My shoes were ready to slip off and I wasn’t carrying anything that needed to be out for inspection. I placed my tote bag on the conveyor and my purse and shoes in a grey bin and stepped through the metal detector without incident. Unfortunately, Jason was not as lucky. After he set off the detector, he removed his belt and passed through again. Still, the alarm went off. Finally, he was moved to off to the side where he was given a more thorough inspection. It was discovered that he had neglected to remove his cell phone from his pocket.

While Jason was getting his pat down, a security person approached me and said she needed to test Jason’s laptop. She opened it up and began to swab it, possibly testing for the presence of explosives. Meanwhile, I was trying to gather up all my belongings, which seemed to have multiplied, as well as all of Jason’s things. Arms laden, I managed to heave everything over to a chair located behind the woman inspecting the laptop and began sorting through the jumble of belongings. So much for being organized. Jason rejoined me and retrieved his laptop, which was found not to be a threat to the security of our nation. As we redressed and repacked, Jason asked if I had his boarding pass. I didn’t, and after a few moments of frantic searching, he located it.

Next stop was the shop where Jason looked without success for a puzzle book and then on to the gate for the 1-1/2 hour wait until our flight was scheduled to leave for the first leg of our trip. During this time, we medicated ourselves with the usual Imodium AD and Dramamine, as well as a newcomer AirBorne.

At last it was time to board and we gathered up our belongings and headed onto the plane.