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  1. #1

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    12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Day 01: September 21

    Lured in by Disney's free dining plan offer, the boyfriend (Vince) and I (Tom, aka BC_DisneyGeek) booked a trip to Walt Disney World.

    We arrived mid-afternoon. Our Magical Express tags didn't make it in time, so we had to get our bags at the airport. Even without the Magical Express vouchers, getting onto our bus was easy and efficient.

    I'd previously stayed at the Pop Century and Coronado Springs resorts. I would never go back to a value resort if I could help it, and wanted to try something different, so Port Orleans French Quarter would be our lodgings of choice this go-around.

    The rooms there are nice. I like the bathroom curtain:



    A Mickey towel reminds us where we are, as if we could forget:



    We had nothing planned for day one, other than dinner, so we hopped on the boat to Downtown Disney:



    Port Orleans French Quarter shares a dedicated boat service to Downtown Disney with the Port Orleans Riverside resort. It stops at Riverside first, and only runs every 20 minutes or so. If it is full or almost full when it gets to French Quarter, you might be waiting for the next boat. Like a much of Disney's transportation system, capacity can be an issue. We did get on the first boat to arrive.

    We didn't spend a lot of time at Downtown Disney. I always enjoy the Lego displays:





    We headed back to our resort to freshen up for dinner. Here's a few evening shots:









    We didn't want to do a lot of travelling on day one, so dinner reservations were at Boatwrights, at our sister resort.



    Might as well start with a drink, right?



    I was disappointed that many of the WDW restaurants share the same drink menu. One of the nice things about dining in the world is all the different food & drink options one encounters at the various restaurants.

    I think I liked the pasta as much as the meat here:



    I find it hard, when on the dining plan, not to choose from the priciest entress. The servers seem to recommend them as well, but are they just aiming for a bigger tip?



    In any case, dinner was excellent, and the the Bananas Foster Angel Food Cake for dessert was sublime:



    The basic dining plan used to include an appetizer and dessert, now it's just dessert. Honestly, it is more than enough food (I took my dessert home a few times, in fact). Still, I wish they'd offer a choice between dessert or an appetizer, if both aren't included.
    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  2. #2

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Day 02: September 22

    We began our day at one of the most beautiful Disney parks, Animal Kingdom:



    Great attention to detail in this park. The buildings look suitably worn (but not run down) and authentic:





    Kali River Rapids was a walk-on, so we hit it up. A few shots from its excellent queue:





    Monkey!



    Animal Kingdom's signature thrill ride - Expedition Everest:



    Everest is fun, but Animal Kingdom is not about thrill rides. The big attraction is, of course, Kilimanjaro Safari:









    In the open areas, you really can get quite close to the animals:









    Artificially cooled rocks ensure the lions are visible to the tourists. I've honestly never not seen them, when doing this attraction:





    We took the train over to Rafiki's Planet Watch. I love the giant mural when you first enter:



    The attraction is a bit isolated, which allows for more intimate experiences. Here we can get really close to an animal and ask questions of its' handler:



    Nothing was happening at the time, but one can actually watch animals get medical attention, if the timing is right:



    *shudder*





    Animal Kingdom oozes with atmosphere:

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  3. #3

    • far, far away from DL
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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    We were there too. Our trip was from the 15 thru 23. We were in building four. We really enjoyed French Quarter.

  4. #4

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    The centerpiece of the park is the amazing Tree of Life. You can spend hours admiring the animal carvings, and exploring the trails surrounding it.











    The tackiest park of Animal Kingdom is of course, Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama. We ventured here to take a spin on Primieval Whirl, despite it making me feel queasy the last time I rode it. Imagine a wild mouse style coaster, with spinning cars.

    We took a ride on Dinosaur. Another good queue. The room with the Dinosaur skeleton keeps one entertained, even if the voice-over by Bill Nye the Science Guy dates it a bit:



    We grabbed lunch at the Yak & Yeti quick service location, and were generally pleased. Seating seemed to be in short supply, and this was in September. I don't know how people manage to navigate the parks in the summer months and stay sane:



    We headed over to the Winnie the Pooh & friends character greeting spot. We were pleasantly surprised to find no one there. I was shocked, since character meet & greets seem to always have a bit of a wait.





    Tigger took advantage of the lack of crowds to ham it up for the camera. He was awesome:









    We'd had our fill of Animal Kingdom at that point (Vince wasn't into the shows, and I'd seen them all before), so we hopped on a bus to the Magic Kingdom...
    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  5. #5

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    The only WDW theme park to get the Halloween treatment, is the Magic Kingdom:





    Pluto! I love the character statues in the hub:



    A crane was out as they were putting up the Christmas lights on the castle. Fortunately, it wasn't out all of the time, so there would be other opportunities for photos without the intrusion:



    One of the best things about the Magic Kingdom, is that they still have the People Mover. I think we might have ridden this more than any other attraction during this trip. A nice, relaxing, lengthy, and fun trip around Tomorrowland:



    The entire backside of Fantasyland is one long construction wall. You really have to see it in person to appreciate the size of this expansion. I hope they do a quality job with the additions. The Magic Kingdom is one of Disney's busiest parks, but it doesn't even have as many attractions as Disneyland. It needs more attractions, and it needs good attractions.



    The teacups were scheduled for refubishment in a few days, so a nausea-inducing spin was high on my to-do list. They spin faster than Anaheim's, I think.



    One of nice things about Disney's Photopass service, is night shots. It can be a challenge to get a good night portrait, but the Photopass cast members have tripods and expertise the average visitor might not have:



    We rode Pirates of the Carribean. I'd forgotten just how obviously shorter and inferior this version is compared to the original.



    Adventureland area at night:



    City Hall looking pretty:



    A monorail passes by overhead, as we make our way to the busses, and our next dinner reservation:



    The beautiful Animal Kingdom Lodge:



    Even the gift shop is well designed:



    We had dinner at Boma, my favourite buffet in Walt Disney World. Some of what I ate:





    And that ended Day two.
    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  6. #6

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Day 03: September 23

    We begin our day at Disney's Hollywood studios. It's currently my least-favourite WDW theme park. There's some great stuff there, but it's too show-heavy, and the attempts to pretend it's a working film studio feel forced.

    I know a lot of people loathe it, but I don't mind the Sorcerer's Hat. I do however, think the High School Musical backdrop ruins the shot:



    Lots of detail in this park:



    We watched Muppet-Vision 3D. I've seen it plenty of times, but spending some time out of the hot sun is always welcome.



    Speeder bike photo-op:



    Hmm, I look bored here. I'm not going to convince anyone I'm actually riding a speeder bike with that expression:



    Every time we walked by Star Tours, there was someone shocked and/or upset that the ride was closed. Don't people check refurb schedules beforehand? I understand that not everyone is as obsessed as we are, or reads sites like Micechat regularly, but I was shocked at just how many people were unaware that Star Tours was closed to make way for Star Tours 2.0.

    I like the dinosaur, but closed shops are never a good thing:



    The streetmosphere performers were fun:



    Vancouver 2010 Olympic mascot Mukmuk made the trip to Orlando with us:



    Ah, the Great Movie Ride. A lengthy, detailed, immersive dark ride that the entire family can enjoy together:





    Lotso meet & greet in the Animation building:



    We had lunch at the ABC Commissary. Standard stuff.



    We enjoyed the American Idol experience. My only criticism is that while the stage is very nice, it's obvious we're in an old theater. They could have gone all out, replacing the seats, changing the colours, and doing whatever to make it closer to what it would be like to be at the actual show. Comparatively, at Universal Studios, the Simpsons ride feels like an all-new attraction. If you weren't aware it used to house Back to the Future, you'd never guess that it did.

    Here we see the warm-up guy on stage:



    Nice topiaries:



    For some reason, we actually checked out Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey. Terrible. Easily the worst Disney attraction at the moment. It startes with the pre-show monitors, on which we're treated to trivia about such hit ABC TV shows as The Practice, Home Improvement, and Spin City. Seriously? How long have these shows been off the air? Would it kill them to slap together some current trivia? Then, there's the attraction itself, in which we listen to sound effects through cheap headphones. I'm not a fan of closing attractions without a replacement, but this needs to go.

    Still a classic, is the Hollywood Tower of Terror. I think I like Anaheim's a bit better. Since you're in the drop shaft from the start, there's a feeling that you could drop at any time. In Orlando, you enter the drop shaft later in the ride, so the anticipation is not as intense.



    The lobby of a Disney value resort. Spend the extra money on a moderate, it really is worth it:



    Guests get wet on the backlot tour:





    Catastrophe Canyon:



    The backlot tram ride is too short, but I do enjoy some of the sights, such as this vehicle from Return of the Jedi:



    We probably would have left sooner in the day, but we were waiting for our Toy Story fastpass time. Note the stand-by wait time is 120 minutes. I attribute the long wait to overuse of fastpass (four of the parks' five rides utilize it) and a lack of attractions overall.



    We had a technical problem on the attraction. Our ride vehicle bypassed most of the games, and just sat in the spot between screens. I had to really argue with a cast member to get a re-ride. He didn't believe me, because no one else in our ride vehicle complained. I can see his point, and I didn't understand why no one else said anything. I also imagine, with the wait times being so long, people may try and scam their way into an extra ride. Regardless, the ride did malfunction, and I did not appreciate that my legitimate complaint was dismissed. The cast member was not helpful or friendly. We got our re-ride in the end, but it was a negative experience.

    When we had a similair problem later on at Universal's Islands of Adventure, we encountered a staff member who addressed our issue in a completely positive manner. That's right, when it comes to top-notch customer service, it's no longer a given that Disney is the best. In my experience, they weren't even close.

    I also question whether this attraction needs a refurb. Maybe if the park had a decent number of rides, they could close Toy Story, but as it stands, with Star Tours being down, they need everything else up and running.

    And with that, we headed to catch a bus to Epcot for another free dinner.
    Last edited by BC_DisneyGeek; 11-27-2010 at 03:42 PM.
    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  7. #7

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    I'm loving this trip report. Twelve days is a great amount of time for an Orlando trip. There's time to do everything without feeling too rushed.

    Port Orleans French Quarter is one of our favorites also. It's a very charming property and the smaller size makes parking and dining more convenient.

    I didn't know that about the artificially cooled rocks at Animal Kingdom. That's cool!

    Can't wait for more....
    Rick


  8. #8

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    loving it

  9. #9

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Great trip report so far. I can't wait to see the Kennedy Space Center pics.

  10. #10

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    As day three continued, we made our way by bus to Ecpot.

    Here is a picture of a bus. Oooh, exciting stuff, right?



    I may not mind the hat at the Studios, but I am definately glad they lost the giant wand at Epcot.



    First stop is Club Cool. I like almost all of the exotic beverages, and the price is right.



    Mmmm...free drinks. Many people hate the Beverly drink, but I don't even find that one too bad.



    We headed over for a ride on Nemo. When I first saw it two years ago, the scene with the fish chase wasn't working, so I was pleased to see that was fixed. I like this ride better than the Nemo subs in Anaheim. The subs aren't bad, but riding them is more of a hassle. This is a solid little dark ride.



    Dinner tonight was Japan's Teppan Edo.



    For anyone not familiar, this is a Japanese-style restaurant, where the chefs prepare the food as you watch. It's part dinner, part show. In terms of atmosphere and quality, it's comparable to similair restaurants elsewhere. Definately recommended as a different type of dining experience, particularly for those who haven't experienced this type of restuarant previously.



    We stopped for one more Photopass opportunity, before heading back for the night.

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  11. #11

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    you guys are sooo cute!

  12. #12

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    What a great trip report. Looks like you two had lots of fun!

  13. #13

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Quote Originally Posted by KingEric View Post
    you guys are sooo cute!
    Aw, thanks
    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  14. #14

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Quote Originally Posted by Rixter View Post
    I'm loving this trip report. Twelve days is a great amount of time for an Orlando trip. There's time to do everything without feeling too rushed.

    Port Orleans French Quarter is one of our favorites also. It's a very charming property and the smaller size makes parking and dining more convenient.

    I didn't know that about the artificially cooled rocks at Animal Kingdom. That's cool!

    Can't wait for more....
    Thanks, and thanks to everyone else who has read or commented thus far.

    I think I preferred Coronado Springs over French Quarter slightly. The water and hammocks were nice, and the pool was a bit nicer. The fact that is was less busy may have played a factor as well. I imagine many people avoid it because it's a convention center as well.
    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  15. #15

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Day 04: September 24

    We made it to Epcot for rope drop. The fab five were out, posing with one lucky family. It's always neat to see them all together.



    We hit up Test Track first. The nice thing about being at Ecpot for opening, is you can get on Test Track without having to watch the pre-show film for the umpteenth time.

    We hit up Sum of All Thrills in Innoventions shortly thereafter, as we didn't want to spent a lot of time in line for this relatively low-capacity attraction.



    It's pretty good, and it was nice to see Epcot still does attractions that combine entertainment and educational elements. For those not familiar, you design a coaster on a large computer screen, using pre-made template sections, and then adjust things like height and launch speed to allow your virtual coaster to actually work. You don't actually do a completely original design, like you would for Cyber Space Mountain over at Disney Quest.

    Once your coaster is designed, it's loaded into the motion simulator and you get to ride it. This attraction uses the robotic Kuka arms to allow for a wide range of motion. Of course, this ride technology is put to far more impressive use at a different theme park, but that's another day.



    We rode Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment, one of my favourite attractions. I know it's not as good as the old version, but it's still a solid little dark ride, and the catchy song can't be beat.

    After that was the return of Captain EO. I hadn't seen it in so long, it was practically a new attraction for me.

    I was glad to see they made the effort with some merchandise, although I didn't buy any:



    The attraction itself holds up quite well. Aside from a few bad special effects, it doesn't feel as dated as I thought it would. The in-theater effects really added to the experience. The Disneyland version has been criticized for overuse of the thumping floor, but I had no problems with what they did here.

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

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