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Resort Makeovers, Cheerleaders in Epcot, Aquatica Jungles and Moroccan Busch Gardens!

Rating: 4 votes, 4.00 average.
by , 05-01-2011 at 08:58 PM

Welcome to another week of Orlando Parkhopping! Our team has been so busy bringing you what's going on in all the parks, this week is just FULL of new and exciting event's occurring all around the Orlando area.

  • Feature of the Week: Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • Grad Night starts this week at the Magic Kingdom.
  • RooBear has a pirate themed lunch and shows us the appeal of an overlooked attraction.
  • Cheerleaders invade Epcot.
  • Kevin closes the last show with The British Invasion.
  • Some Walt Disney Resort rooms are getting makeovers!
  • Eric shows us the jungle side of Aquatica and we're not just talking about the spring crowds!
  • Aimster shows us the Morocco section of Busch Gardens and all it has to offer!



Mr and Mrs Easter Bunny, from last week.

Baby ducklings also visited the Easter Bunny!

The last-ever season of Grad Nites has started this week. This tent in the hub must be for the entertainment.


Big Thunder is always a big draw.


RooBear takes us through his day at the Magic Kingdom, discovering for the first time an area of the park that is often overlooked, Tom Sawyer Island. But first, he enjoys his lunch at the Tortuga Tavern, showing us that a pirate themed adventure can make for a great lunch!

Every Sunday is a day my partner and I share as a "Date Day." Normally, sure, we head to the parks, our APs (annual passes for the unintiated) have long since paid their weight in gold. However, after time, we started to challenge ourselves to see something new. The rules were simple: 1.) Rotate who picks the park and activity to keep it all fair (it's my week); 2.) It has to be something we've not done since we've got the APs in September. So, sure, sometimes we've already been on a ride, but we might not have ridden it since before September. So, items like "It's A Small World," which has known to cause me to break out into song and dance involving jazz hands, was off the list for many moons until our own SummerInFl had the MiceChat crew hop on. Haunted Mansion works because it has a snazzy new interactive ending.

With this goal in mind, MayDay had two firsts. One, we were to head to Tom Sawyer Island, which neither of us had ever done; Two, try out the new Tortuga Tavern that just opened over in Adventureland.

Third, enjoy time together. That was the easy, but most important part. People watch, giggle and point at people also are allowed, but not required. Okay, maybe giggling.

We arrived at Tortuga Tavern and found the lines were empty and the tables mostly full. They only have four things on the menu all Mexican flavors. Keep that in mind. The picture is of Penelope Cruz's character, Angela, from the new Pirates of the Caribean: On Stranger Tides. Synergy in motion.

This is RooBear teaching American Sign Language. That, dear readers, is the sign for "Pirate." Creative, huh?

Here's husOtter's Nachos. I think he already took a bite. That poophead:

I had a Taco Salad. For seven (!) bucks you get the shell and either beef or chicken. That's it. YOU have to head over to the pseudo-salad bar and get your lettuce, cheese and salsa. Really. I'm not bitter.

The dining patio links with old Peco's Bill's up in Frontierland, should some in your party like some burger action. Strangely, we found a decent seat. This was on a busy Sunday at around high noon, to give you an idea:

We headed straight away (probably one of the few times I ever do anything 'straight') to Tom Sawyer Island. Sure, we could debate if kids today even KNOW who Tom Sawyer is-but that's not my place here on these boards. I will warn you, this is like a very woodsy playground surrounded by water. When the temperature is pushing the 90s and you're from the Great White North states, you might find this isn't a respite place to go midday.

To access the Island, you hop on a raft. Like most staff cuts, there is only one poor soul doing crowd control, loading and unloading and then piloting the raft to the other side. I recommend really paying attention. Also, these rafts are gas powered and that engine in the center can get hot, especially on a day like today. The aromas of fuel might give you a bit of a buzz as you head over, and since they aren't on tracks, wait for the 'thunk' as you bounce off the dock.

Here's a lead map, and it contains several names of characters found in Samuel Langhorn Clemens, nee Mark Twain's famed book:

This is old fashioned fun, however. And, as a teacher in my other life, I really appreciated this place--old tech over new tech and still quite capable of having a good time. There's an old windmill still churning:

There are three caves as well. An escape from the Fort, Injun (sic) Joe's cave, and a Mystery Mine. No scares, just a sense of discovery. The lighting is low and the ceilings are low there, so keep that in mind. I would have taken pictures, but the darkness was a bit thick. If you get nervous--play Marco Polo throughout the tunnel.

A suspension bridge with a slight swing connects the islands; a barrel bridge is also off to one side of the key.

Want to explore without a line at Disney? And even have animatronics going too? There's a small "Fort Langhorn" (get it?) on the north end of the island. Pay it a visit.

There's a blacksmith working with animatronic animals:

There's even some toy rifles and make gun noises. Don't worry, they're locked into place and facing out. You can't even aim at your exes even if you tried. Better to wait until you get home and buy a flamethrower or a Sherman F-1 tank so you can really jsut do the job. Here? Just bang-bang guns that won't even aim at the trail below. I know. I tried. Sigh....

I cannot stress how removed from the park this little location feels and how different it is from the rest of the Magic Kingdom. All low-tech. You can see several other attractions and they are great to photograph them from this vantage point. Not one person can photo-bomb from these vantages!

Is it me, or does the canopy over the queue for HM really kinda kill this image? Guess we can't have guests baking to death. Bummer.

The ride back was as simple as we started--and perfect Date Day accomplished.


Lightning McQueen is finally at Flower and Garden

A new "race around world showcase" game gives kids something else to stamp and collect

The most recent sand sculpture

The smaller choir venue outside Future World West has a new stage.

Lotso still greets Epcot visitors.

Buzz Lightyear is nearby as well.

The cheerleaders are in town, having a competition inside World Showplace.

It's REALLY crowded in there - lots of teams competing.


A lot of changes have happened to EPCOT, specifically to Journey Into Imagination. While the pavilion is one of the few that have been changed so drastically on the inside (twice), the outside has changed relatively little. Sure, fountains, topiaries, etc. have come and gone, but this pavilion still is one of the most beautiful and photographed structures in EPCOT, and perhaps all of Walt Disney World. With its playful fountains, unique structure, and iconic pyramid, guests have been mesmerized by it since it opened shortly after EPCOT's grand opening. And, depite the criticism the inside has received (mostly deservedly so), there still are moments where some great effects are used and the pavilion occassionally can offer some unique perspectives. Now, if only Dreamfinder can come back and they can open that upstairs Image Works again...


From the DisneyParks Blog:

Disney announced their intentions to upgrade some rooms in the Contemporary and Port Orleans to cater to different guest tastes.

The new Contemporary "Health and Wellness Suites" will feature bamboo flooring, 100-percent cotton linens, non-allergenic wrapped mattresses. Bathrooms will be equipped with rainwater showers and tea tree oils. Cardio Equipment will be in the rooms as well. There will also be access to yoga classes and spa treatments at the renovated spa and organic foods at the concierge level, which implies that one of the concierge levels will be tranformed to offer these unique suites.

Meanwhile, Port Orleans will follow the popular Pirates of the Caribbean rooms in the Caribbean Beach resort with Royal Guest Rooms. These rooms will include ornate beds that feature headboards with fiber-optic special effects, and gold and crystal accents. Guests also can enjoy artwork and special mementos left by Tiana’s royal friends. It doesn't specifically state which side (or both) of Port Orleans, but I'm sure those details will be revealed in the coming months. Incidentally, these rooms look like the final versions of the concept art of themed hotel rooms leaked online earlier in the year. The Royal room was one of the concepts then, along with Haunted Mansion rooms.

The plan is to have them open by March 2012.

More info: Specialty Rooms Will Give Guests The Royal Treatment « Disney Parks Blog
Orlando Sentinel article: Disney princess hotel rooms: Disney carves out more niche hotel rooms, with princesses rooms and healthy-living suites -

Image Credits: Disney Blog

Bye-Bye British Invasion! After fifteen years, this band has been told by Disney that their contract will not be renewed. They gave their final show on Saturday night.

They will travel just a bit (they have a quick gig at the MGM hotel in Las Vegas) and then will do other shows in the Central Florida region, including some one-off stints back at Epcot.

Unlike the Fab Four band at Disneyland (also a Beatles tribute group), British Invasion may not have the same critical mass of followers to truly "break out". The Disneyland band had played for years to enough adoring fans - and local fans who came week after week - that they could parlay their success with Disney into other venues. Here's hoping British Invasion can do the same, despite not having an army of annual passholders coming every week (being at Disneyland would have been an advantage!)


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This weekend Eric hopped over to Sea World's Aquatica, to check up on the Spring crowds.

Topiary at the entrance to Aquatica

The lush landscape as you enter the park

The main attraction at this park are two slides that go through the Commerson's Dolphin tank.

YouTube - commerson's dolphins at Aquatica by SeaWorld in Orlando
Contrary to what the little girl says in this video, these cute guys are not "Shamus" but Commerson's Dolphins found at the bottom tip of South America. Only Aquatica and SeaWorld San Diego have these animal on display in North America.

You can also get a view of these guys when you are on the Lazy River

By mid day the park was PACKED!

Having been to Aquatica since the day it opened, I must say that with how lush the foliage has come in, this park just keeps getting better and better.


Kevin gives us his "lens" on the new show One Ocean and shows us that even penguins have something to say, even if we don't know what it is.

One Ocean has replaced Believe.

A preshow lets people text in their names. I guess Chuck Norris was in attendance?

The show has leaping orcas, as you might expect.

One new feature: water fountains near the guests. I liked this addition!

Orcas now enter the main pool via a land bridge (they inch over, not leap Willie-style)

Tillikum is back, and boy can he splash the audience.

You have to see Blue Horizons, though, to find trainers in the water with animals (here: a pilot whale).

Dolphins always please.

Care to suggest a caption?

Aimster shows us a comprehensive picture of the Moroccan entrance to Busch Gardens in Tampa.

Morocco is the first area you encounter when you enter the park and pretty much the "Main Street" area.

Your view just after the turnstiles.

To your immediate right is the Emporium.

A plethora of plushie cuteness

To the immediate left across from the Emporium is Casablanca Outfitters, which sells mostly surf/beach apparel and gear for some reason.

Straight ahead is Saraha Trading Company, which sells mostly plush toys most of the year but is converted into the Howl-O-Scream store and Christmas store during those respective times of year.

Sultan's Sweets is the main candy/bakery shop. They offer a wide variety of baked goods, home made candies and fudge, ice cream and... Starbucks Coffee!

And yes it's as good as if you went to a regular Starbucks!

The other sweets shop in Morocco is Moroccan Delights, which serves ice cream and other sweet treats.

The main eatery in Morocco is Zagora Cafe, a buffeteria that features cheeseburgers, fajita wraps, chicken strips and more!

Across from Zagora Cafe and next to Moroccan Delights is the Marrakesh Theater

There are currently two different shows that perform daily, Sweet Music and Men of Note.

Sweet Music was performing when I took these photos.

On the other side of Morocco, the Nature's Kingdom shop sells wood carvings, wind chimes, sun catchers and more.

Finally, we reach the Moroccan Palace Theater, current home of the Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy show.

Beautiful fountain outside the Moroccan Palace Theater.

2011 National Train Day
May 7th - Tampa Union Station - Tampa, FL
Celebrating the 142nd anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike of the transcontinental railroad between the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific.

Taste of Pinellas
May 20 - 22 - Vinoy Park - St. Petersburg, FL
A Taste of Pinellas, Tampa Bay's beloved waterfront festival is getting ready for another spectacular year of food, music, and fun!

Mount Dora Blues and Wine Festival
May 20 - 22 - Mt. Dora, FL
Three days of great entertainment from the areas best blues talents, with just a touch of jazz.

Disney On Ice: Let's Celebrate
May 20 - 23 - Tampa, FL
Make an ordinary day extraordinary when Disney On Ice presents Let’s Celebrate! brings more than 50 Disney characters to your hometown for one colossal party on ice! This action-packed, all-new show features a magical montage of celebrations, and is set to a blend of contemporary music and favorite Disney songs.

Florida Anime Experience
May 27 - 29 - Orlando, FL
The Florida Anime Experience is a new fan convention designed to focus specifically on Japanese animation, manga and popular culture.

Don't forget to check out the other areas of MiceChat that offer news, updates and photos about the other Disney Parks around the World!

  • Dateline Disneyland which is packed with great news and photos from the Disneyland Resort.
  • Weekend Update Offers a world of Disney theme parks as well as other sights and landmarks!
  • In The Parks offers news, updates and tips from Disneyland and other Southern California offerings.
  • SAMLAND - Your weekly look at some interesting tales from Disney history.
  • And you'll always find something of interest on the forums or MiceAge!

Show us you appreciate this column by sharing this page with your friends!

We want your photos! Contribute to the Orlando Parkhopper by emailing [email protected] with your submissions. We welcome volunteers for single contributions as well as permanent "Parkhopper" staff.

Thanks to our fantastic and talented crew of writers, photographers and news contributors who work hard every week to bring you the latest information available:

Aimster - Pictures by Aimster
Kevin Yee - - A different look at Disney...
Eric M. Davis - Orlando Theme Park News
Miles Bresin - Miles Bresin Photos
SummerinFL - SummerInFL Photo Galleries

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Updated 05-04-2011 at 04:47 AM by SummerInFL



  1. FigmentJedi's Avatar
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    I like to think of JIIWF as the third chapter in a meta-story that they inadverantly created with those remakes. Figment's had his home and learned the potential of imagination, looses his home and stuck in a position where he has to watch people be judged as un-imaginative, and with the current ride he's fighting the man to get his viewpoint heard. Fourth version and the return of Dreamfinder with it would provide a resolution.
  2. Speedway's Avatar
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    I think RooBear needs to start employment as full time MiceAge columnist! What a breath of fresh air. I love all the columnists here but RooBear seems to have a knack for writing and making people laugh. Hurrah.

    Also, lovely to see Tom Sawyer Island up close. Haven't visited there since I was about 12. Isn't it remarkable to see an area of the Magic Kingdom actually operating normally, elegantly themed, practically untouched since 1971? Have no fear, people will still find something to complain about. I predict people will begin moaning about a lack of pirates or something.

    Sad about the British Invasion. If everything goes to plan I will be working at the UK pavilion from next June (a whole year away) for twelve months and it's sad to see something lost from the atmosphere of my possible future workplace.

    Fantastic update guys! Love reading it every week, always nice to check in with my second home!
  3. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Fantastic update today folks. Roobear's mini trip report was fabulous! Love the look at Figment. Oh how I wish they would restore that ride to its former glory.

    Great pictures of Sea World, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens.

    Loving the Orlando Parkhopper!!!

  4. KENfromOC's Avatar
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    You had me at "Cheerleaders in Epcot" - But next time, more pictures!!
  5. Not My Real Name's Avatar
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    The caption for the penguin photo should be, "Stop crying! We are not going to see Harry Potter and that's final!"
  6. Barbossa's Avatar
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    Cool update. Neat photo from Sea World. Even though he was in a couple mishaps, I do miss seeing Tilikum perform when he was at Sealand of the Pacific over here in Victoria.
  7. Speedway's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barbossa
    Cool update. Neat photo from Sea World. Even though he was in a couple mishaps, I do miss seeing Tilikum perform when he was at Sealand of the Pacific over here in Victoria.
    I'm not entirely sure 'mishap' is how I'd describe mauling human beings.
  8. Fishbulb's Avatar
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    What a great update! Good job guys.
  9. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    Nice update!

  10. SpcMtn77's Avatar
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    "I told you to use the bathroom BEFORE we got in line!"
  11. ABOMIBOT's Avatar
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    Great report everyone. Special kudos to Roobear! I hope to be a part of OPH one day...
  12. tink12170's Avatar
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    Awesome Updates!! I can not wait to get back to WDW.
  13. Dadoo's Avatar
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    Caption for the penguin photo:

    "It's my money, AND I WANT IT NOW!"


    "I told you, I DON'T HAVE ANY FISH!"
  14. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Ok, I'll play along, here's my penguin captain

    NO! We are NOT there yet. Now, let's play the quiet game, the first one to peep loses.
  15. Sulley86's Avatar
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    That really sucks about The British Invasion. I am a huge Beatles fan and was looking forward to hearing them play when I make my first visit soon to come.
  16. Marko50's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedway
    I'm not entirely sure 'mishap' is how I'd describe mauling human beings.
    Picky, picky.
  17. Marko50's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KENfromOC
    You had me at "Cheerleaders in Epcot" - But next time, more pictures!!
    Second the motion.
  18. Mark Fiorentino's Avatar
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    My wife and I love Disney World, especially Epcot. I always take loads of pictures when we go. We have a annual season pass. I created a special website called Tour of Epcot that has all of our photos on it. There is also videos and music as well. For a complete tour of Epcot with videos photographs and music visit our website at Tour of Epcot - A Multimedia guided Tour of Epcot Theme Park. You can take a virtual tour of the Epcot site. This is a really fun site that I am sure you will enjoy. You can explore the entire park and learn your way around. Its almost as good as being there.