Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Fairest Trip Report of All: 12/08/13

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. 

My very last page of vacation day notes. My last trip report day. Waaaah. At least I have a couple posts' worth of food reviews... after which I'll really be depressed.

The wake-up bugle was at 6:45AM this morning because I wanted to give us time to check our luggage without impacting our schedule. When we left we found our boarding passes in an envelope on the door, which was a nice touch; I always checked in online in advance of my flight and then had the luggage desk print it for me, but I've never had them anticipate my needs before. I like it - one less step.

We found the luggage check area around the corner and were helped by a nice guy whose name I unfortunately don't remember. Anyway, he was nice and friendly. Following that we went around to the front desk and checked our large carry-ons at the resort. Since we had laptops in those bags, they put our bags in electronic cage; if you ever have valuables and you want to check your bag, feel free to ask for the same.

That done, we picked up the bus to the Magic Kingdom, which was unfortunately being shared with all three resorts. Two ECVs at All-Star Sports later, we took off for MK, arriving a little before 8:30AM. I found the special entrance for people with breakfast reservations and spoke the magic words: "Crystal Palace, 9:15AM." We were in!

Before checking in at the Crystal Palace we of course had to get the obligatory THERE'S NO ONE HERE SQUEEEE! photos of Main Street, USA, so I wandered around clicking merrily away. It was awesome. In fact, I might go so far as to say it was worth the price of breakfast. (At the Crystal Palace, anyway. I've never done Cinderella's Royal Table but I am frankly suspicious.)





Once I was photographically sated, we went over to the Crystal Palace podium; though we were over half an hour early, we were seated within five minutes. Our server was Kip from Melbourne, Australia, so naturally I was thrilled every time he spoke a word to us. He was really nice and fun and sweet, but I guess we were too tired because we never got into a banter groove. Ah well; they can't all be winners.

First thing first: we hit up the buffet and I embarked on my standard WDW buffet strategy, which is to eat the cost of the meal's worth of smoked salmon. I LOVE smoked salmon but it is so expensive; naturally in an unlimited situation like this I go nuts. Protein, people, protein! As an accompaniment Kip brought us coffee and wonderful Florida orange juice. Mini-buffet review to come in the food posts.

Soon the characters began to come around, starting with Pooh, who kissed me on the head because why not? Then Tigger, who was HILARIOUS. We took several pictures with various exciting Tee-eye-double-guh-er poses, and when I thanked him, he bowed to me in courtly fashion.




Tigger's handler - I think it was Tigger's handler but there's a small chance it could've been Piglet's; just go with me here - saw the Candlelight Processional sticker I had left on my camera bag and asked us how we liked the show. Turns out she was a member of the chorus, although not on the night we were there. She was super jealous that we had Whoopi Goldberg as our narrator but was generally pleased that we had loved the performance. Incidentally, she was also from Australia. Is Crystal Palace where Disney quarantines all its Aussies?

Next up was Piglet, who was a) adorable and b) a STRONG hugger. Serious arm muscles on that one!



Eeyore still hadn't come by and he's my favorite, so we asked Kip if we could stay and wait for his next round. Kip assured us that we were welcome to stay until the restaurant closed that night provided we participated in at least one of the Friendship Day Parades. So of course we had to leave. But we did wait for Eeyore, who gave me a hug, so that was something.


By this point it was about 9:30AM; I pondered one last ride on Space Mountain, but the line was posted at 15 minutes and I didn't want to make my mom wait. This might be a good time to explain my Theory of Ride Waits:

  • 5 minute posted wait time = There is no line.
  • 10 minute posted wait time = If there is a line, and there may well not be, it's bunched up near the loading area.
  • 15 minute posted wait time = There is an actual line. You will likely wait 15 minutes, give or take.
  • 20+ minute posted wait time = Honestly, it's something of a crapshoot, but you're definitely going to be hanging out for awhile.

Naturally there are exceptions to every rule, but I've tested my hypothesis many times and it pans out more often than it doesn't. But my point is that I suspected the Space Mountain line was real, I'd already ridden it once this trip, and I didn't want to make my mom hang around alone on our last day.

I always let my traveling companion choose our park itinerary on the final day of a vacation, so we decided to go to my mom's favorite place (Epcot, duh). We paused on our way out, though, as the holiday Trolley Show magically appeared before us. It was cute as usual, but I can only imagine how hot they get in those outfits.


MAGIC BAND MALFUNCTION! The Epcot reader refused to let my mom in. Why? Beats the heck outta me - she got into Magic Kingdom that morning just fine. But a lady with an iPad scanned her and let her through, so that worked out. Oh, Magic Bands. There is work to be done. 

We made it into Epcot just as World Showcase was opening, so we headed straight to China to catch the first Reflections of China movie of the day, which was of course enjoyable. We wandered around the store for a bit, and as usual I pondered springing for one of those pretty mandarin collar dresses and then talked myself out of it. At least I'm consistent.

I was feeling rather parched, so I wandered over to the Joy of Tea stand and ordered an iced mango green tea from one of the most enthusiastic CMs ever. This turned out to be comprised primarily of mango juice with a dash of green tea for technical accuracy, but I was thirsty and like mango so I drank it without complaint.

From there we walked back through Mexico and around into Canada, where we were just in time to see the Canada movie with Martin Short. As a hockey girl with a great deal of Canadian ancestry, I... can only wonder how come I don't have a greater tolerance for cold, really. My grandfather was from Duluth, Minnesota for God's sake! Shouldn't it be in my genes?!

Then it was time for one of my all-time favorite Epcot attractions: the World Showcase Players. LOVE. THEM. Love. This time around they were performing the King Arthur tale (fun story for another post: my ex-boyfriend was once Sir Galahad. The pictures are priceless).



Each WSP performance is uniquely funny, and this one was no exception. A man from the audience had a bag of Doritos which he shared with a Player, and this earned him the distinction of portraying Sir Galahad. This was amusing enough, but it gets better! The evil sorceress Pelum was then selected, and prompted to say her line: "I am the object of your deepest desires." And from the audience came a voice: "Oooh, that's freaky." Yes, you guessed correctly - Pelum was, in her off-stage life, the daughter of Sir Galahad. From then on she was instructed to address her lines directly to Sir Lancelot. Good times.

We headed back to Mitsukoshi for some shopping. Sadly, my mom got overwhelmed by the selection and went outside and sat down. Meanwhile I ran around the store making decisions and then changing my mind repeatedly until I finally had my Christmas shopping for my friends done. Whew. I'm afraid I am not a decisive shopper.

The American Adventure being right next door, we headed inside and settled in for a Voices of Liberty performance, because my mom's love for them stops just short of founding a religion around them. After the show we headed back toward Future World, where a girl pointed at my Jukebox the Ghost t-shirt and got REALLY excited. "I love them and no one's ever heard of them!" she declared. See, I have indie music cred!

That done, we hit The Land for our Soarin' FP+, as it was my mom's favorite ride of the trip. We noted as we exited the ride that Living with the Land had no wait as is right and proper, so we went ahead and did that again too.

After that we went into Mouse Gears, because I had decided I was going to buy a t-shirt that I had spotted and earlier and liked a good deal. I found it, hemmed and hawed over the color and then the price and then I talked myself out of buying it again. Like I always do. I followed this up by not buying some Christmas-specific merchandise, my theory being that I can get it at DisneyStore.com for a discount post-holiday. Thus we left the store empty-handed.

We passed Spaceship Earth with a short line as we headed toward the exit and I almost suggested one last ride; ultimately I decided against it because I couldn't be sure how long it would take us to get back to the resort. Of course there was a bus waiting for us and we were back at All-Star Music a full hour before our Magical Express bus was set to pick us up.

Being a bit hungry, we decided to hit the food court for a snack. Guys, the All-Star Music food court BLOWS. Granted, it was an off hour, but COME ON. I'm used to Everything Pop or walking over to Art of Animation, where there is always something worthwhile in the grab 'n go case. I don't know if Music is indicative of all All-Star resorts, but if so, I hope the newly renovated Sports food court signals a re-commitment to culinary awesomeness. It is sorely needed. I wound up just eating an orange muffin my mom had socked away from the Crystal Palace buffet.

We further murdered time by wandering around the Maestro Mickey's gift shop (which is totally separate from the food court - as a denizen of Pop Century, I found this weird). I continued my talking-myself-out-of-buying-stuff streak by coming close to but not actually buying a Figment Mickey ears hat. And, um, I kind of wish I had bought it, so, uh, that might be a day-one purchase next trip...

It was still awhile before our ME bus would show up, so we took a walk down to the piano pool and back and then finally accepted our fate, retrieved on carry-on bags from bell services, and settled down on the benches to wait. Has anyone's ME bus ever arrived on time? Mine certainly hasn't - not that I'm ever in a hurry, mind you. There was a bit of a mixup with our ME tickets because I thought it was on your Magic Band like it had been upon arrival, but we were let on the bus and arrived at the airport without further difficulty. Sigh.

Thanks to the questionable weather conditions at BWI we already knew that our flight was delayed by 40 minutes, and we strongly suspected it would be longer than that before we really took off. Nevertheless, we headed straight through security, grabbed dinner at Au Bon Pain, and then hung around the gate for safety. We charged our laptops and I loaded the last of my photos while sulking. Stupid airport. Stupid home.

To make a long and, let's face it, not very exciting portion of the story short, our flight finally took off at 9:30PM, we landed without coming anywhere close to dying, and my dad entertained us upon our arrival with his Huffy Dance of Why Is It Taking So Long For Your Luggage To Arrive It's Icy Outside And I Want to Leave. Then he forbid me to drive home from my parents' house because my parents firmly believe that at any given moment out of their sight I must be two seconds from death. So I went home in the morning and then went to work. Sigh.


SOME TAKEAWAYS

Magic Bands are great in theory. I love having my tickets and my room key and and FastPasses and, hypothetically, my credit card all in one. But the system is flaaaaaaawed. I couldn't get my AP hooked up without help although I was assured that I could use the app. Our PIN never worked and we stopped trying to use it. At one point my mom was having trouble getting into Epcot. The only way it consistently worked was as a room key. I understand that resort-hopping and/or connecting multiple accounts creates a whole new host of problems.

FastPass+... Look. I'm not opposed to FP+ in full. I'm fine with making some decisions in advance, and didn't have any trouble finding some day-before options, either. I'm even fine with being confined to one part for my selections and I understand the reasoning behind placing attractions in different tiers and limiting them thereby. BUT. This is all with the assumption that the regular, "legacy" FastPass program continues to apply. I hear rumors that the system is being tested sans legacy FP machines and I am NOT okay with this. Not unless I get LOTS of FP+ options and can spread them between two parks. And even then I'm not sure I'd like that either.

ALSO: FP+ can create problems where none formerly existed. Mind you, I only have observational data, but from what I saw it looks like FP+ being added to attractions that formerly rarely had a line is causing more harm than good. FP+ people are creating bottlenecks where none formerly existed and now rides like Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land and Finding Nemo have waits much longer than they did pre-program.

My Disney Experience is great... when it works. I loved being able to check show times, wait times, hours, and more from my phone. When I could. I found the service to be extremely spotty, unfortunately most often when within the parks themselves. I understand that a LOT of people are trying to access the app at once, but that's the nature of the beast. Disney needs to beef up their bandwidth if they want the system to work properly.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party garnered a lot of complaints from me, but I would give it another shot. I'd just adjust my expectations. You can't count on the alleged ticket cap to save you from crowds, and you need to be aggressive in getting into character lines and staking out show and parade spots far in advance. Would that strategy make for a fun evening? I'm not sure, but I'm willing to give it a go. The cookies are good, anyway.

EDITED TO ADD: All-Star Music Resort is okay. I wouldn't turn up my nose at a trip to WDW just because I had to stay there, or one of the other All-Stars for that matter. But with the bus sharing and the sucky food court and the Timbuktu location, my experience only solidified my Pop Century love.

That's all I can think of for the time being. Feel free to ask me in the comments if you have any specific questions! Thanks to everyone who slogged through this trip report. It made me happy to write it and I look forward to re-reading it in the future. :) One shining ray of light on the horizon: I plan to do two food-specific food recaps. Stay tuned!

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. Sounds fun! Crystal Palace has always been a favorite of mine!

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    1. I would definitely go back! Although I might have to try 1900 Park Fare first; I'm intrigued by the possibility of Mary Poppins AND Alice.

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