Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Fairest Trip Report of All: 12/05/13

The trip report continues! Click here to see all the posts for this report. As a note: I'm glossing over my food experiences here, but don't worry - I'll be doing a full food post or two later on.

We got up at 7AM for our first full vacation day. Epcot was on the docket, but first we wanted to tell someone about the open door snafu from the night before. (Etymologist's note: you should look up the origin of the word "snafu." Never fails to make me laugh.) So we swung through the lobby on our way to the buses, but finding the desks excessively crowded, I decided to make a phone call instead.

We continued on our way to the bus stop and were somewhat dismayed to watch an Epcot bus pull away. Oh well; it wasn't even 8AM yet and anyway buses tend to come more often in the morning. Sure enough, another Epcot bus came through about five minutes later. I was still on the phone with the All-Star Music desk, explaining what happened, but the lady on the other end of the line didn't seem too concerned. She did say she'd send maintenance to check on the door, but we never heard anything more about it. Then again, we never suffered any more door-related incidents, so I guess it all worked out.

Anyway, we hopped on said Epcot bus and had the entire thing to ourselves. I don't think we even stopped at Movies; we just headed directly to the park in our own private chariot. Nice.

My mom is one of those people who needs her caffeine in the morning, so we stopped at the espresso kiosk under the monorail station. The coffee was pretty expensive there, and they only offered one size, but it did the job. We hopped in line and alternately sipped at the coffee while we waited, finally entering the park at 8:50AM. There was no further rope drop, which leads me to wonder: has WDW abandoned opening ceremonies outside of the Magic Kingdom? I never did see the one for the Studios...

I hightailed it over to The Land - luckily my mom was able to keep up with my Walking On A Mission Mode - to grab FastPasses for Soarin', since I'd been unable to secure a FastPass+ for the day. From there we proceeded to Test Track, which was already boasting a 15 minute wait. We designed a COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS mini pink car with plasma engines and a tricked out grill. Somehow it still came in #2 in the test rankings. Who says novelty vehicles can't perform?

From there we headed over to Mission: Space, where we walked right on to the green side. I had actually never done the green side before; the first time I rode in 2004 they hadn't even instituted a more gentle version, and when the green/orange split occurred I never saw any reason to go for the milder iteration when I knew that I could take the wild side just fine. But my mom had no interest in centrifugal force, so green it was to be. It actually wasn't as different as I was expecting, but it was weird being able to lift my head and arms during takeoff.

My mom claims she felt a trifle woozy after even the green experience, but I think that may have been the power of suggestion. Still, we made our gentle, meandering way back to The Land for our Soarin' FastPass. Now this was a big hit - she loved it! Score one for Epcot.

At this point we were feeling a bit peckish, but we didn't want to eat too much as we had mid-afternoon ADRs for tea at the Grand Floridian. We wound up purchasing a pre-packaged snack from Sunshine Seasons, containing hummus, a red pepper spread of some sort, pita, and two kinds of grain salads. Nothing earth-shattering but decently tasty.

After a quick bathroom and water fountain stop, we hopped over to The Seas and rode the Nemo dark ride, which is cute. My favorite part is Peach at the end. "Wait, where are you going? Take me with you! It's a nice song, but..." There was an actual LINE for the ride, though, which is highly unusual, and this sparked the first embers of suspicion in my mind about FastPass+...

Post-ride we strolled around the seabase for a bit, but there wasn't much going on. We watched the manatees for a couple minutes, then went over to the dolphins, none of whom were particularly active. It looked like the dolphins had been separated - you could occasionally catch glimpses of a dolphin in an adjacent tank, and the remaining dolphin hung around the hole, waiting. Poor guy missed his buddy. (Perhaps more than a buddy; I've witness some interesting things in the dolphin tank. Educational, indeed.)

It was time for World Showcase, but first: a pit stop in Club Cool to try the new array of soda flavors. I can't believe they got rid of my watermelon soda, guys! The new Thai melon soda is good but not the same. My favorite of the new class is the Sparberry raspberry cream soda... but seriously, what do I have to do to bring the watermelon soda back?


From there we walked up the bridge and hung a left, through Mexico and into Norway to look at tall boys ride the Maelstrom. I loved this ride back in 1998 when I was still too much of a wuss to ride real flumes and roller coasters. It's not nearly as thrilling now, but I still enjoy it, and the drop wasn't too much for my mom to handle.

We stopped in Germany to look at the train display in honor of my dad, who is a huge model train buff. I was endlessly amused by the enormous and presumably irradiated squirrel that was terrorizing the tiny town.


Then it was on to the American Adventure, which I was pleased to note would start in ten minutes. I hustled my mom into the lobby because I knew that a) the Voices of Liberty generally perform starting fifteen minutes before the show and b) my mom would LOOOOOVE the Voices of Liberty. Sure enough, she raved about their beautiful voices (my mom has an MA in music). For myself, I don't always love their regular show, finding a strange disconnect between their trained, melismatic performance style and the simplicity of the folk songs they perform, but I think their holiday repertoire works very well. The American Adventure itself was good as always, and my mom enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as VoL.

My man Teddy.

After the show we proceeded next door to - DUH DUH DUH DAAAAAAAAAAAH - the Mitsukoshi department store! I preface this with a trumpet fanfare because my mom looooooves Hello Kitty, and Mitsukoshi has more Sanrio merchandise than some Sanrio stores. Naturally we meandered from the front of the store to the back coveting three-quarters of everything we saw, but as it was too early in the trip to make purchasing decisions we just made some mental notes and tore ourselves away.

We took a brief pitstop at Spaceship Earth, which had a LINE. My FastPass+ suspicions burned a little brighter, but we were in our time machine within ten minutes so no matter. My mom very much enjoyed Dame Judi Dench and found the end animation with our faces pretty hilarious, so that was good.

It was time for tea, so we caught the monorail from Epcot to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then the TTA to the Grand Floridian, timing it PERFECTLY - there was always a monorail just pulling in. Score! Of course, I had left plenty of time for travel, so we were way early for our reservation. We killed a little time looking at the decorations and gingerbread house before checking in at Garden View Loung, but we were still turned away and told to return at our exact ADR time. This is the only restaurant where this happens to me on the regular; I guess they were never issued pagers? We wandered through a few gift shops and people-watched a bit before finally being called in about five minutes after our reservation time.

We both ordered the Buckingham tea, which is essentially the same as the Grand Tea now except you don't get a glass of champagne. My mom went with the Harmony tea, and I was all set to order the seasonal Nutcracker when I saw that my beloved Cassis was back and I had to have it. Yay! I wasn't going to do a review since Moon and I have already covered tea pretty in-depth, but some changes have been made so I'll be touching on it during my food recap after all. Stay tuned!

Tea took less time than usual, so we found ourselves back on the monorail headed to the Magic Kingdom sooner than anticipated. It was a little after four when I hit the - the - the place where the turnstiles used to be? What do we call them now that they're Magic Band readers? Anyway, we were there, and I was about to touch my Magic Band to the reader when the attendant demanded to know if I was attending Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Bewildered, I answered to the affirmative, then at his prompting took out our tickets so that my mom and I could use them to get inside instead. We received our wristbands right inside the gate. I was a little confused, since the Magic Kingdom didn't technically close to non-party-goers until 7PM, but we had the tickets so it was all right.

The marching band was performing by the Emporium, so I dropped my mom off there to watch while I headed to the Firehouse to pick up the free, Christmas party-exclusive Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card. To be honest, I still haven't gotten around to trying SotMK, but I'm sure I will someday and when I do I want to be fully armed.

MVMCP wasn't starting for a couple hours, so we took a swing by the Haunted Mansion - 25 minutes. We weren't having that, so we went to Pirates of the Caribbean - also 25 minutes. (The reason why I didn't check this out on the My Disney Experience app beforehand was because, true to form, it wasn't loading.) Knowing what I do of the PotC system I was willing to bet the line wouldn't actually be that long, so we went in, and sure enough we were on a boat in about 15 minutes.

It was, to my mom's dismay, time for our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPass+. I assured her again and again and again that no, I wasn't lying, there really isn't any kind of intense drop whatsoever, really, I promise there isn't, and just to get physics on our side we'll sit in the very first car so that we're dragging the entire train behind us, okay? I guess she trusted me at least that far, because she did get on the ride, and you all KNOW that she was fine because anyone who has ever ridden BTMRR knows that it is adorable and fun but really just a glorified kiddie coaster.

Indeed, she was doing fine after she saw the first hill and confirmed that, yes, it barely qualifies at a hill at all, until we crested another tiny drop... and stopped dead. Why? Beats the heck outta me. The pause lasted about two minutes, but the interruption was enough to convince my mom that something had gone wrong and at any moment we were going to derail. Sigh. And she was doing so well, too. Still, she rode it, and I'm qualifying that as a success.

Big Thunder Mountain Standstill.

We pondered taking in another ride, but it was getting close to the castle lighting ceremony time and we didn't want to risk missing it. Instead we headed to the hub, where we were just in time to catch the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! parade. I've never been much for daytime parades, but this was cuter than I expected. I mean, I certainly wasn't going to dance - I'm not a participatory person - but it was fun. My favorite was a stiltwalker who tried his darnedest to reach down and grab a guy's Casey's hotdog, but he couldn't quite make it. Such is the burden of height.

We stayed put for the castle lighting ceremony, which was also pretty cute, if a little nauseatingly sweet in the way that Disney princess activities tend to be (which is a stupid thing to complain about at Disney, I know, but there you are). I did very much enjoy the Fairy Godmother's role.



By the time that was over our FastPass+ for the Jingle nee Jungle Cruise had opened up. As reported, little about the ride itself had changed; it was all in the spiel. We got a pretty good skipper this time around. Some favorite jokes:

  • "That's my friend Inna. Everyone say 'Hi, Inna!" ... some of you won't get that until later."
  • "It's Piranhukkah, the Festival of Bites!"
  • "This sight has never before been seen by civilized man. And today is no exception."

From there we walked through the extended Haunted Mansion queue, playing with the composer's tomb, then wandered right into the stretch room. The final bit of line was completely empty and we were the first into a Doom Buggy, which was unfortunately malfunctioning - our Ghost Host's voice kept fading in and out. Fortunately the narration, while fun, isn't really important to understanding the scenes, and my mom enjoyed it. I hid from the bride, as per usual. She's CREEPY, okay? So is Little Leota. God forbid playful spirits ever leave me stopped near one of them.

MVMCP had started by then, so we stopped in the Pinocchio Village Haus for some snickerdoodles and cocoa. The cookies were soft baked, which is how cookies ought to be, but the cocoa was unremarkable. Still, it was a nice snack.

We decided to head back to the hub, but they had cut off the most expedient route. I walked us around to the path by Sleepy Hollow to try to go that way, but THAT was cut off by the tail end of the first parade. So we stood there in a MASSIVE CRUSH OF HUMANITY waiting for the parade to end before following it to a spot near the Rose Garden where we jostled for positioning to watch the Christmas Celebration show. It was cute, but we were so far away and at such an angle that we could only see about half of it.

We stopped at Columbia Harbour House for some apple juice because I was so thirsty I was willing to drink apple juice. There was time to kill before the fireworks, so we rode the Pooh dark ride with minimal wait. On the way out, I was positively ecstatic to see a photo op with not just Mary Poppins but also Bert and the penguin waiters. Love! Sadly, we missed the line cutoff, but I resolved to come back later. Instead I went on Space Mountain solo (funneled into the FP line at the split, which was nice) while my mom called my dad. We passed one of the dance parties, but we're both strictly ballet people so we opted to skip it.

After the show we shouldered our way through the masses and managed to carve out a decent spot to watch the castle light projection show, which was cute, and the fireworks, which were admittedly REALLY REALLY REALLY impressive. I must say, those fireworks improved my morale immensely - great music and truly spectacular displays.




I hustled my mom back to the Mary Poppins meet and greet line and strongarmed her into appearing in the picture. I feel no guilt.


We eyed the seven dwarfs line, but like everything else, it was soooo long. Instead we rode the Little Mermaid dark ride before heading back to Main Street for the Christmas parade. It was so incredibly densely packed that we climbed up onto a fence behind the main group and watched from there. Not ideal but we could see okay. Not great for photographs.


By that late hour the line for the Peter Pan dark ride was unusually short, so we rode that, then went back to the hub to catch the Christmas Celebration show again to watch the Nutcracker Suite portion, which we really liked - the dancers were very good, especially the men of the Russian variation. There was still about an hour left of the party, but by then we were exhausted and overwhelmed and the crowd was just too much. We were ready to go home.

I dunno, guys. I was really excited about Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, but I ultimately found it to be a frustrating experience. I was under the impression that the tickets were capped, and indeed the party was listed as sold out, but as far as I can tell that cap was the number of people legally permitted by the fire marshal. It was packed. If we wanted to get a good view of anything, we would've had to stake it out far in advance, and we didn't pay $66 to stand around and wait. Heck, we don't even do that on regular days - that's what FastPasses are for. On a regular day if I wait for the second parade I guarantee you I can get a good spot with minimal effort. It was just too crowded.

Could be my fault - maybe we went into it with unrealistic expectations. But our primary topic of conversation, from making small talk with the bus guard to our hotel room, was about how insanely crowded the park was during MVMCP.

Regardless - we had never gotten around to eating a real dinner, so we scarfed down some protein bars before hitting the hay. Same as the last night - showers, pictures, notes. Sure, MVMCP was a minor disappointment, but it was back to AK in the morning for a brand new safari!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

2 comments:

  1. You're not alone, I had the same feeling about MVMCP. I was underdazzled, but I love your pictures of the castle and fireworks.
    I am skeptical of any system that creates a line at Spaceship Earth WHERE THERE FORMALLY WAS NEVER ONE UNLESS IT WAS RAINING. And FYI, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the wildest ride in the wilderness and a very exciting thrill ride (to which my sister usually responds, "like all the rides you like, it just has a VIEW of a thrill ride.")

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    1. I really think FP+ is creating all kinds of bottlenecks where there never used to be such. I am DEEPLY SUSPICIOUS.

      By "view of a thrill ride," I assume she means Splash Mountain? Because my mom was NOT riding that. A shame, because the rest of the ride is really cute, but one look at the drop and she was OUT.

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