Disney Vacation – day 2

The alarm clock went off bright and early around 7:30 am and surprisingly, we weren’t that tired! Imagine that, me up in the am and not tired! Ha! Anyway, we wanted to try to get to Animal Kingdom as close to rope drop (opening) as possible so that we could get on the popular rides first. It’s good to get on those first because Animal Kingdom is always a bit hotter than the other parks thanks to all the humidity and heat being held under the canopy of trees, so it’s pretty icky to be in long lines there. I managed to remember everything for the backpack this day and our bus again was just POFQ so we got to the park right at opening. We followed the herd in and rushed over to Kilimanjaro Safari, the riding safari, to get fast passes (if you wait till later in the day, we’ve seen the wait around 90 minutes!) and then power walked across the park to get on Everest, which only had a 10 minute wait! I love Everest. It’s got the theming of a typical Disney roller coaster plus the excitement of a real thrill ride. It doesn’t go upside down, but there’s a part that sure feels like it. I won’t ruin the surprise for anyone who hasn’t ridden it, but it’s a great ride. After Everest, we walked through the Maharajah Jungle Trek, which has animals like bats, tapirs, and tigers. We named the tapir Bob, since we couldn’t agree how tapir is pronounced (TAPE-ur, right? Not TAPE-ear!). The tigers were sleeping, as usual (though last time we saw one spray a tree, lovely), but they were close to the viewing spot, so that was nice. I like tigers. We also saw a bat licking it’s balls. Not very dignified. After the trail, we decided to take a ride on Kali River Rapids, which is a raft ride that can get you quite wet. Last time we went, Chris and I got soaked and I was wearing jean capris, so it was really icky feeling for the rest of the time at the park. This time, I specifically brought board shorts to wear to this park just in case and of course we barely got splashed. It was still fun, though. Next, we went back to the Kilimanjaro Safari for our fast pass time and had a nice ride and saw lots of animals, some pretty close up, like the elephants and giraffes.

Giraffes

Once we got off, we were right near the entrance of the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where we saw some birds and some gorillas. I did my Master’s project on gorillas, so I always like watching them. Most of them were sleeping, some in odd positions, but we saw one that sat up and was looking around, looking deep in thought. Chris tried to narrate what he was thinking – mainly about how the gorilla was worried about the stock market – and then the gorilla threw up. Gross. Everyone simultaneously “eww”ed. And then he ate it. Everyone “eww”ed again. I hate to see that. Back when I was watching the gorillas at the Philly Zoo, I learned that reinjesting vomited food is an abnormal behavior only seen in captivity and is a sign of stress. The enclosures are pretty nice at the park, though (they seem pretty large and natural), so I hope it’s an isolated incident.

By now, it was lunchtime, and despite the gorilla vomit, we were actually pretty hungry, so we found a counter service place to grab some lunch with our CS credits. We each got burgers, fries, a soda, and a milkshake (dessert is included in the CS credits) and sat down in a nice shaded table area near the meet-and-greet spot where kids get to meet Baloo and King Louie from The Jungle Book. It was fun to watch the kids meet the characters and watch the characters act silly with the kids. After lunch, we were pretty much done with Animal Kingdom (we’ve done Dinosaur in the past, but I really don’t like it. It’s loud and shakes you around a lot and the dinosaur at the end always freaks me out. I know it’s not real, obviously, I just don’t really like big, scary things that make loud noises. If our kids one day want to ride it, they can go on with Daddy. I’ll wait patiently in a nearby shop. 🙂 ). Next time we go, I would like to try to see either Festival of the Lion King or Finding Nemo – The Musical, since I’ve heard they’re both pretty good. We were on a limited time though this trip, and we really needed a break, so we went back to the hotel for a short while.

Us with the Tree of Life in the background. Also, my new set of ears! :)

Us with the Tree of Life in the background. Also, my new set of ears! 🙂

Chris in front of the Rainforest Cafe sign. We didnt eat there, but we thought the gorilla looked like he was making our silly face, so he posed with it.

Chris in front of the Rainforest Cafe sign. We didn't eat there, but we thought the gorilla looked like he was making our silly face, so he posed with it.

After a short nap and freshening up, we went back to the Magic Kingdom to finish up the rides, have dinner, see the parade, and watch the fireworks. We first walked over to Thunder Mountain, since it was the main ride we missed the day before, and yet again, it was closed, this time for a bee infestation! They promised to have it back up in an hour or so, so we grabbed fast passes. We decided not to go on Splash Mountain again, so after I grabbed a few pressed pennies from Frontierland, we went back on Haunted Mansion, Pirates, and the Enchanted Tiki Room (which I don’t remember ever seeing – boy, it was dumb. Maybe that’s one of those rides you have to grow up loving so that it becomes a classic must-do later on, like IASW and Carousel of Progress.). We had a bit of time to kill before dinner, but not enough to wait in line for a ride, so we walked through the rose garden in front of the castle and took some pictures. I really liked how some of them came out. I love how you can get shots without too many people in them from the rose garden. It looks like a scene right out of a fairytale.

Excalibur behind the castle. Do they still do the who can pull it out thing?

Excalibur behind the castle. Do they still do the "who can pull it out" thing?

Just us in front of the castle, more magic on my head

Just us in front of the castle, more magic on my head

Dinner was pretty early (5:15 pm) that day at the Plaza Restaurant on Main Street. I had a tuna salad sandwich with fries and Chris had a grilled chicken sandwich with fries. We shared a banana split since most of the desserts looked pretty big (we also got some cookies to go since one dessert each is included in the TS credit). The restaurant was pretty, and we were off in a cute little octagonal room with lots of windows, but it was a bit warm and the bathroom was outside, which was kind of a pain. I also think it would be a great place for lunch with all the sandwich choices, but a bit light for dinner. I’d go back, but only for lunch. There’s so many great restaurants at Disney World, so I’m sure I can find a better choice to try for dinner.

Chris in the Plaza Restaurant

Chris in the Plaza Restaurant

We got in one last viewing of The Laugh Floor (Chris wanted to submit a joke via text message for the show, but I thought it was slightly too macabre, so he decided not to, and then we heard a joke that was really similar and he pouted, lol) before deciding to find a place to watch the parade and fireworks. It was a bit late (7:45 with the parade at 9 – sad that that’s late to find a spot), but we found a great spot in the circle in front of the castle just behind some British kids who ended up buying half the glowing spinny things off the nearby cart. The parade was cute, as usual. I think they changed the creepy dudes that start the parade off, though. They used to wear full fake heads and now they seem to only have makeup and wigs. I’m not sure which is worse:

Old version of creepy dudes. (Picture from www.laugingplace.com)

Old version of creepy dudes. (Picture from http://www.laugingplace.com)

New creepy dude

New creepy dude

Wishes was wonderful also, as always. I love the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. I’ve never seen Phantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (it’s MGM, dammit), but I definitely prefer Wishes over Illuminations at EPCOT. Illuminations is nice, but it’s a bit slow at times and a bit too Kumbaya for me. Wishes is just cute.

After the fireworks, we finally had time to go use our Thunder Mountain fast passes before the park closed (even though we were past the return time – they’ll typically still take them as long as it’s the same day), so off we went back to Frontierland. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden it at night and I thought it was actually a bit more exciting. I guess the darkness makes it feel like you’re going faster. I’ll definitely remember that in the future. As it was getting close to closing time, we headed back towards the entrance of the park to go home. We were originally planning on taking a quick round-trip on the monorail (to hear the “Por favor mantenganse alejado de las puertas” of course!), but the line was gimungous, so we decided we could do without it this time. When we got to the bus station, the line for Port Orleans was shared between POR and POFQ and really, really long. We waited a while, watched one bus fill up and go, and we got on the second one that came around just after the first left.  It was pretty crowded. So, mental note: the buses around closing time can take a while to get onto and get home (I dunno though, like I’d leave early just to avoid this? Maybe we could just stick around longer and hope that the bus lines die down a bit? And what if you’ve got kids? Are you outta there early anyway or do you just carry them out sleeping/cranky/crying?). Luckily POFQ was the first stop, so we only had our usual ride home before we were able to get home and into bed. Next up, day 3: Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT!

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Disney Vacation – day 1

After checking in, we made sure our bag had everything in it that we needed (I later realized I’d forgotten about 4 things, but oh well), put on our silly hats, anniversary pins, and some sunblock, and headed off to the bus stop to wait for the bus to the Magic Kingdom. It was a bit weird not arriving via monorail, but soon we were there, walking through the gates! As it was the middle of the day (around 3:30 pm), we didn’t need to rush to any rides to beat lines, so we strolled in leisurely (I love that first sight of the castle!) and decided to use our daily snack credit since we were hungry. I’d heard great things about Dole Whips and Dole Whip Floats, so we each got a Dole Whip Float (mine was pineapple, Chris’s was orange, both are soft serve with pineapple juice) from the stand in Adventureland. MMMM. They were really good and quite refreshing. Definitely lived up to the hype.

Dole Whip Floats!

Dole Whip Floats!

We walked over to the Haunted Mansion, one of my favorite rides, while eating/drinking our Dole Whip Floats. All before dinner, we managed to hit most of the rest of our favorites: Pirates, Buzz Lightyear (I beat Chris’s score! haha!), Carousel of Progress (I know most people think this is dumb, but I love it), It’s a Small World (much to Chris’s chagrin), the Laugh Floor (for the first time), Jungle Cruise, and Mickey’s Philharmagic. For some reason, the park looked fairly packed, yet all the lines were pretty short. The longest line we waited in was the 20 minute Jungle Cruise line. Everything else was 15 or less, which was great!

Proof of my winning Buzz Lightyear score!

Proof of my winning Buzz Lightyear score!

Proof of Chriss losing Buzz Lightyear score!

Proof of Chris's losing Buzz Lightyear score!

As we knew beforehand, Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority were closed for renovations, so neither of them for us this time. 😦 They also ended up closing down Thunder Mountain for a while due to technical difficulties, so we didn’t get on it that day, but we knew we were coming back the next day, so it wasn’t a problem. We did grab fast passes for it, since they said it shouldn’t be down too long, but once we got to the front of the line to get fast passes, the time had changed so much (due to the huge amount of people getting turned away from the broken down ride), that our return time would be our dinner reservation time, so we just gave them to another couple. Splash Mountain’s line was actually pretty long (I think at least an hour), so we just skipped that. We should have saved the fast pass for this, but oh well. Anyway, all the rides we got on were fun as always. Chris hates IASW, but he was a trooper and rode it for me. It was weird though, lots of buildings were under renovation, so there were a lot of those paper facades up, which kind of tarnishes the magic a bit, but I understand they need to do the work (I guess I just think they should probably pick a less busy time of year to impact as few people as possible). IASW was actually one of them, so Chris had a glimmer of hope that it was closed, but we just had to find the makeshift entrance off to the side.

Chris thinks IASW is closed. Nope just a fake facade while they renovate. Its open!

Chris thinks IASW is closed. Nope. Just a fake facade while they renovate. It's open! (If you look down the road a bit, Pinocchio's also has a fake facade up. 😦

Photo on IASW - notice the grumpy gus. (Its ok, hes just acting, the next pic he smiled for.)

Photo on IASW - notice the grumpy gus. (It's ok, he's just acting, the next pic he smiled for.)

On the upside, Chris really liked the Laugh Floor, so that was a plus for him. It was pretty cute. It’s animated and somewhat interactive (I think someone who can hear the audience does the character voices backstage, I just don’t know how the animation is always appropriate to what needs to be said and as we later found out, different for different shows, perhaps depending on people’s answers?). Anyway, it was pretty cool.

I got a bit of a headache midday (and Advil was one of the things I forgot to put in the backpack), but we found some in a store and then found out that you can ask for ice water at any CS restaurant and it’s free, so we at least got free water. And now you know you can get free ice water! Finally, something free at Disney World!

After all the rides, we were off to our late dinner (8:25 pm – general closing time was 9 that night, but there was extra magic hours for resort guests) at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, which is Italian food. I had spaghetti and meatballs and creme brulee, and Chris had chicken parmesan and an ice cream bomb. We also shared bruschetta for an appetizer (which wasn’t included in our dining plan, so we just had to pay for that out of pocket. Everything else was included and everything was very yummy. Their meatballs were fantastic (very dense, I love dense meatballs). Though we were starving when we got there, the food really filled us up quickly and by the end of dinner, we were beyond stuffed. There was no parade this night, so we didn’t get to see that, but we had it slotted in for the next day, so no worries. We heard, but didn’t get to see Wishes, the fireworks, but again, we knew we’d be back the next night with an early dinner, so that was ok. Plus, I love the music for Wishes, so it was nice even to just hear it anyway. 🙂

Dinner at Tonys Town Square Restaurant. Notice the magic on the table!

Dinner at Tony's Town Square Restaurant. Notice the "magic" on the table! Also, it looks early in this shot, but it got dark pretty quickly.

After dinner, the MK was open for EMH until 1 am, so we decided to just walk around a bit and take some pictures. It was so romantic to just stroll around the paths around the castle holding hands, just enjoying the scenery and each other. 🙂 It actually might have been my favorite part of the trip. You’re typically racing around in an effort to get to all your favorite rides, so it’s nice to just take your time and enjoy the atmosphere sometimes.

I love this shot of the castle, with the still water giving a perfect reflection. I just wish I could somehow back up further and get the full reflection without getting the bridge Im standing on, too.

I love this shot of the castle, with the still water giving a perfect reflection. I just wish I could somehow back up further and get the full reflection without getting the bridge I'm standing on, too.

An Ariel fountain in Fantasyland. I also have a flash shot of this, but I thought this one was prettier.

A Cinderella fountain in Fantasyland. I also have a flash shot of this, but I thought this one was prettier.

Silly picture of us. We were trying to get the castle in the background (you can kind of see a little of it...), but with only the 2 of us, theres only so far an arm can go. Yes, thats magic on my head and yes, I knew it was there.

Silly picture of us. We were trying to get the castle in the background (you can kind of see a little of it...), but with only the 2 of us, there's only so far an arm can go. Yes, that's magic on my head and yes, I knew it was there.

After we were both feeling a little less full and done taking pictures, we decided to call it a night and head home, so we went back to the bus stops and got on a bus fairly quickly. After the long drive down to Florida and the excitement of the first day of parks, we were exhausted, but happy, and fell asleep really quickly. Next up: Animal Kingdom/MK again!

Disney Vacation part 2

As promised, here’s the last photo I wanted to post from the last post (since it was getting chopped in half when I tried to post it yesterday):

Night time walkway

Night time walkway

It’s a tad blurry, but I wanted to show how cute the place looks at night with all the street lights lit up.

So, after checking in, we got directions to our room, which was pretty close to the main lobby building. Our building was catty-corner to it, building number 5. That put us close to the food court (if we wanted to use it), the lobby, the gift shop (how convenient!), and the bus stop. We had a standard room with a standard view, which in some cases can have you looking out at the scenic parking lot, but we really lucked out and got a corner room overlooking a large, pretty courtyard. The corner rooms are great because they have 2 windows as opposed to the standard one, so it was nice and bright in the room when we had the blinds open. Here’s some pictures of our room:

Our room!

Our room! (Building 5, floor 2, room 48)

The next set of photos has our little tradition of Chris hiding and poking his head out from a random part of the room, so find Waldo:

Looking into the room

Looking into the room

Most of the rooms have 2 double beds. Coming from a king size bed, double is damn small, but we’re on our anniversary trip, so extra cuddling never hurts! They do have king rooms for a bit extra though. Anyway, I thought the decor was really cute and the beds/pillows were comfortable enough (I didn’t notice a difference between these and the ones at the Grand Floridian), but then again, at Disney World, you’re typically so tired at the end of the night, you could fall asleep comfortably on a slab of concrete. 😛

Looking into the bathroom area

Looking into the bathroom area

No problems with the bathroom. There’s even a curtain in that doorway to block some of the light in the morning if you don’t get up at the same time. Another bonus of POFQ over POR from what I’ve heard is the double sinks. Apparently POR only gives you one sink. Ick. I mean, it’s only 2 of us, so I can only imagine how tough that is with a whole family.

Shower

Shower

This was the little toilet/shower room. That toilet was mega powerful and super loud when it flushes. That’s the only thing we heard from other rooms, though. This could also be due to the somewhat loud AC unit. It’s white noise though, so it didn’t bother us. I think hearing people in other rooms would be worse.  The shower was fine, though I always wish they had bigger towels. I also liked the lighting in here. I don’t know if it was on purpose or if it was actually a problem, but the light started out somewhat dim and got brighter after a minute or so. That’s nice in the morning when you wake up in a room artificially darkened by the nice light-blocking curtains.

Looking towards the door (I dont think Chris is in this picture)

Looking towards the door (I don't think Chris is in this picture)

Yes, that door leads outside. No interior hallways here like at the deluxes, but I didn’t mind at all. No bugs got in and we didn’t see that many people walk by. Those that did didn’t look in. We closed the blinds and curtains at night and when we napped or showered, but otherwise, leaving the blinds open definitely wasn’t a problem. Maybe it would be more so on the ground level, but I’m not sure. Most of the rooms are back far enough from the little roads (not to mention having trees and bushes in between) that people walking around the resort to the pool or something really couldn’t see in. If you like having a balcony to sit on and drink your coffee or something, this setup might be a negative, but we were happy.

2 windows! (Not in this one either)

2 windows! Yay corner room! (He's not in this one either)

View out of window 1

View out of window 1

View out of window 2

View out of window 2

Folded Mickey towel left for us

Folded Mickey towel left for us

We only got a folded towel on day 1, but that’s ok. I don’t think we got towel animals everyday at the Grand Floridian anyway (we did on the cruise though). This does remind me of probably the only major difference I noticed between deluxes (and maybe even just concierge level deluxe) and moderates: no turndown service except on your last night. Again, to us, this wasn’t a big deal. The maids still came around during the day to tidy up, so your bed is still crisp when you get in at night, but I do kinda like those chocolates and the cute little cards they leave on your pillow. A few other small things that were different, but we didn’t really care about were the fewer and slightly lower quality bath products in the room (no uber-moisturizing lotion or peppermint foot rub) and the TV wasn’t a flatscreen (I think this is just a future upgrade though – I think one or two of the other moderates just got a renovation with flatscreens and queen size beds). Overall though, we really liked the hotel and the room, so we’d definitely like to stay here again.

Next up, the traditional shower cap pictures. I don’t know when I started this, but at some point I decided that at every hotel I stay at, the first thing I do is go look for the complementary shower cap (none at this hotel, blasphemy! Good thing I brought my own!) and take a picture with it on. So, Chris has joined in as well, with his own twist to it:

Traditional shower cap photo

Traditional shower cap photo

Not so traditional shower cap photo

Not so traditional shower cap photo (he doesn't always do this pose. Sometimes he wears a hat with the shower cap or puts the shower cap on his face and proceeds to gasp for air - no worries, he's ok. I guess...he is a bit crazy...)

Free anniversary pins for us!

Free anniversary pins for us!

We both wore these everyday to the parks, as you’ll see in the upcoming posts! It got us lots of attention! Tomorrow: Remainder of day 1, Magic Kingdom. 🙂

Disney Vacation part 1

Since I have so many pictures, I think I may split up our vacation into several posts. Today’s post: the hotel! We stayed at Port Orleans: French Quarter, which apparently used to be Dixie Landings. It’s the first moderate that we’ve tried and we absolutely loved it. It was so cute and the room was quite comfortable. Also, of the two Port Orleans hotel options (the other is Riverside), I think we definitely made the right choice. Riverside is HUGE. From what I could see of it, it looked pretty and there were 4 themes to it, which is cute, but I like the more intimate size of French Quarter and I LOVED the little tree and street-lamp lined mini-roads that were laid out between the buildings. Here’s my photo tour of the hotel:

POFQ lobby

POFQ lobby

Jazz lounge looking into the lobby looking into the registration area

Jazz lounge looking into the lobby looking into the registration area. Though not in use at this moment, there was, in fact, a jazz band that played here periodically.

We had a small issue getting into the hotel parking lot – apparently at some point our reservation was made under the last set of names we gave them when we booked ourselves (when Chris booked the honeymoon), which was correct for Chris, but completely incorrect for me. Not only was my last name listed as my maiden name, but my first name was misspelled (is it really that hard to spell Melissa? Who spells it Melesa??). But anywhoo, we got in once I mentioned my maiden name (I’m glad at least they’re strict about who gets in – go security!). Check-in was quick and easy. We got a really nice CM (cast member, which is what Disney employees are called) named Matt, who recognized our WoW shirts and joked around with us, even trying to get us room 1337 (leet in leetspeek). We politely requested a room upgrade, which they’ll sometimes give you if you ask nicely (and sometimes surprise you with), but they were totally booked in the nicer rooms, but it didn’t matter at all because we got a great standard room, which I’ll talk about in my next post.

Sassagoula food court

Sassagoula food court

We didn’t actually eat in the food court, but it seemed fine. The decorations were a bit wilder here than anywhere else (other than the pool area) – there were some really creepy large Mardi Gras masks hanging from the corners of the room. The food selection is one of the main complaints I read about regarding POFQ, since they don’t have a table-service restaurant (you can walk to Riverside and find one though), but we never ate at the hotel (other than the breakfast we brought ourselves, which we ate in the room), so it really didn’t bother us at all.

Walkway out of the lobby

Walkway out of the lobby, which is straight ahead. Food court is to the right, gift shop to the left, pool is down a walkway behind us.

We also didn’t check out the pool much since we were only there for 5 days, but it looks pretty fun, especially for kids. There’s a big dragon slide and the pathway leading down to the pool has big cartoony alligator statues.

Beautiful tree-lined street

Beautiful tree-lined street

This kind of landscaping was all over the resort. It was absolutely beautiful. I loved it. Very romantic and cozy. This was the main “street” that ran parallel to the main lobby building and lead to many of the room buildings. There were also lots of pretty courtyards, some with lots of trees, some with pristine grass and fountains, which can be seen in the next couple of pictures.

Our building!

Our building!

Pretty pathway from the bus stop

Pretty pathway from the bus stop

Speaking of the bus stop, the buses were probably the only slight negative in my view. It definitely wasn’t enough to convince me not to stay there again (I would in a heartbeat!), but the buses were a bit slow. POFQ has one stop and on average we waited about 10-15 minutes for a bus going TO a park. Depending on when we left to come home, it could be a similar 10-15 minutes (leaving middle of the day) or 20+ minutes in a long line (at park closing). That, in itself, wasn’t really that bad. I can wait in lines – it’s a big part of Disney. The thing I didn’t like was that it was somewhat unpredictable when the bus would be stopping at both POFQ and POR (which involves 4 stops throughout the hugeness of Riverside and squeezing lots of people into the bus). It often seemed that when we were in a bit of a hurry to get somewhere (either to a park rope drop or home for a much needed nap) the bus decided to make all 5 stops. But it didn’t happen every ride or only to/from certain parks. I’m sure there’s a monetary reason for not getting separate buses for each resort, but it would sure be nice.

Courtyard and our building

Courtyard and our building. There's also a fountain at the other end of this courtyard.

Street sign and our building (thats our room on the 2nd floor corner!)

Street sign and our building (that's our room on the 2nd floor corner!)

River path

River path

This was another really pretty area. Across the river was simply forest. You could take this path to get to either Port Orleans Riverside or the boat dock, where a small boat takes you to Downtown Disney.

Night time entrance

Night time entrance

My last picture isn’t posting right, so I’m thinking there may be some sort of data limit per post, so I’ll go ahead and put that last picture at the beginning of the next post. Also, the main focus of tomorrow’s post: our room!