This is a modified version of my original report but I hope it is still helpful. I would prefer not to go into great details for the reasons behind the change, but basically my original trip report contained some comments regarding the behavior of some people on the trip.
While I donít think anything that was said was untrue, I have decided to respect the general policy of not getting too personal with comments on the site. I was with a group of people but again in order to avoid problems I wonít be mentioning any names.
For those who read the original, I appreciate your discretion.
It goes without saying that barring a major disaster, almost any vacation is better than being at work. Further, almost any trip to Disney is even better. But some trips are better than others, and this was one that didnít quite meet all of my expectations.
Iíve decided to start with an overview of some of the problems I encountered in the hopes that it might help others in planning. Of course most of the things I will cite are probably pretty common sense, but if nothing else it will allow me some self therapy.
Just for the record this is a Walt Disney World trip report and I was there from September 14th-September 23rd. I stayed at Coronado Springs resort and had both the Magic Your Way passes and the Disney Dining Plan.
So what were some of the problems ?
1. One of the biggest issues was, as you might expect, the weather. Florida in summer is never fun and even in September the heat/humidity remains bad. During my 10 days at the World, the highs headed into the 90ís pretty much every day and the lows ranged in the mid 70ís.
Humidity was in the 60-100% range the whole time, usually on the high end, with daily thunderstorms and lots of wild weather. To be fair I did ask some friends who are locals and even they said that things were pretty nasty for the time of year.
Obviously there is nothing you can do about the weather, but you can try to prepare. One thing that really helped was to have water bottles with built in water filters. The water in Florida has a somewhat unique taste and having the filters helped to really improve the situation. You have to keep hydrated; I went through gallons of water most days.
Another tip is to be prepared to lose several hours every day to sitting in a pool or resting in the hotel. Even when the heat doesnít seem too bad the humidity is draining. This is going to be even truer during the June/July/August months, though pretty much April-October is dicey.
2. A second issue was health. On the third day of the trip, I took advantage of my Ďfree optionsí and went to a water park. Since I had done BlizzardBeach before, I tried Typhoon Lagoon.
Now knowing the sun in Florida can be bad, I took a shirt to wear, but with cloud cover tricking me I allowed myself to remove the shirt and ended up with modest but still annoying sunburn that stuck around for the rest of the trip.
Again, health issues arenít always something you can avoid, but it does help if you plan ahead with plenty of medication (and remembering to keep the shirt on during days in the sun). Even when the problems arenít that bad they will drain your fun on the trip.
3. As referenced above, there were some personality conflicts on this trip which arose from a variety of factors.
Part of the problem was that we had both WDW vets and people on their first trip. This situation led to some problems as those of us who had been there before felt like they needed to act as tour guide to a degree.
Iím not meaning to attack first timers here, I am sure on my first trip that I was a hassle. But it did cause some strain especially with a relatively small group
Also, when you travel, you will find that there is a difference between spending time with a friend at home and spending time with them on vacation. Most of us have our own routines and this is especially true of me since I live alone, I am used to my own way off doing things.
In this case we had some issues arise where there was some behavior I felt was inappropriate. As Iíve said I am not going to mention names or details, but suffice it to say that we had a clear case of one person being right and one being wrong. Some language and behavior occurred that caused some serious emotional pain.
I mention this in part to remind people to try and think of others on trips, it is easy to lose your temper and sometimes you just need to admit you were wrong.
I think there are some solutions to this, like even when you are meeting friends, you do need to plan to spend time apart. This can sometimes be a problem when your group is smaller. Because there were not a lot of us on the trip we felt the need to stick with each other to a degree.
One way to solve this problem is to go with a larger group. For example my next planned trip to WDW is for Mousefest in 2008. With a larger but less formal group you have much more freedom to break apart.
Another thing that runs into problems is deciding what to do each day. Itís just like trying to decide where to go for dinner. Nobody ever wants to decide and often this causes frustration.
I think a solution to this dilemma might be to have a designated decider for each day of a trip. If youíre going to spend time with a group, then each day somebody is designated to decide what to do if the group canít agree. If you rotate the job each day then everyone gets to take leadership and nobody feels burdened.
4. A final issue I ran in to had to do with the Disney Dining Plan. Now donít get me wrong, it was a lot of fun to be able to eat anything we wanted. I will get into the benefits and burdens of the plan as I move through the report but one issue of the DDP also could crop up without it.
That problem is being overscheduled. In order to use the DDP you had to make dining reservations in advance and as a result each day we had at least one, sometimes two pre-set dining places and times. This made it a little harder to be spontaneous and on a few days we almost felt like we were slaves to the food.
So that is a look at a few of the problems that we ran in to and some of my ideas on how to deal with them in the future. Now on to the trip report itself.
Day One: Thursday/Friday September 13/14
I list day one as Thursday/Friday because I technically flew out of Sacramento on Thursday night but landed in Orlando on Friday morning. I like doing the red eye flight because although you donít sleep real well, you at least donít waste a day of park time flying over the country.
I think what happened on my way out sort of illustrated the way the trip went in terms of generally minor yet annoying problems. My flight left at about 8pm so my Mom picked me up around 5pm to make the 40 minute drive to the airport. I had spent the afternoon packing and was pleased to finally have a trip where it looked like I didnít forget anything.
About half way to the airport I suddenly made a horrible discovery. I had very carefully packed my two checked bags and my carry on bag. When Mom arrived I went and placed the check bags into the trunk then showed Mom how to lock doors/check alarm/etc on the house since she was keeping an eye out for me.
What I didnít do was move my carry on bag from the desk in the garage to her car. I was cruising along to suddenly discover all of my hotel stuff/camera/etc was sitting back at home. So we then did our version of Speed Racer as I zoomed home and then up to the airport worried that I would miss my flight.
As it turns out, there was some major problem in Los Angeles that night so my flight took over almost an hour late. This was upsetting to pretty much everyone on my plane since we all had connections in LA. But we managed to get there on time and was able to make it to Orlando with only about an hours delay.
Arriving in Orlando around 7am I headed down to the Disney Magical Express stop and was quickly checked in. Iím not sure if it was because I was there so early or if it was because they are efficient, but I was ready to go in a matter of minutes.
I walked out to the bus stop and was slammed in the face with what qualifies for early morning in Orlando. About 75-80 degrees and humid. Not the happiest way to enter into town but what can ya do
On the way to WDW we (me and the one other person on the bus) chatted with the driver and watched the introductory video (which is actually pretty cute with all the characters riding the bus to the parks). On arrival at Coronado Springs I was able to grab a shower thanks to the kindness of part of my travel group.
We headed off to have breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I have to say this is one of the things I really enjoy about visiting Florida. CB has great food, great dťcor and good prices. Sadly it does not look like they will expand into California, as the combination of wage issues, property costs and a dispute over the rights to the name are all acting against us.
After breakfast it was a quick stop Waaaaaaaaaal Mart so we could stock up on supplies and then headed back to WDW to check in to our hotel. Our group was supposed to get a adjoining rooms in the Cabanas area but we ended up in the Caistas area, which turned out to be a big problem.
By now it was around 1pm or so and we decided to head over to Animal Kingdom for a few hours. I was wondering when my bags would arrive, but I still wanted to see the parks.
Our first ride was on Everest, which was new for all of us. Can I say how much FUN this ride is ?? I wonít spoil the surprise for those who donít know the whole ride track but it is amazingly well themed (especially the queue area) and a very fun ride.
We then did the Safari ride, figuring it was a good ride to show people who have never been to Animal Kingdom, but due to the afternoon heat we did not see as many animals as we had hoped.
We also did Kali River Rapids and a good amount of walking around. We also took time to watch the Animal Kingdom parade
While watching the parade we took advantage of our snack option (DDP) to get some sundaes, and that was a nice afternoon treat.
Wanting to check on my luggage and get a break before dinner we headed back to the hotel. My bags were there and waiting so I unpacked and then headed to the snack bar to but us souvenir mugs and then to the pool for a swim. I do have to say I love the souvenir mugs they sell. Admittedly you pay way more that you get in terms of drinks but it gives you a very nice thing to bring home.
Around 7 or so we headed over to Wilderness Lodge for dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe. Along the way it started to rain and by the time we got to the hotel it was really starting to come down.
As it turns out this rain was the start of a long and very active thunderstorm. We later learned that the storm shut down the boats on property and the monorail to Epcot. It was a real mess and we were glad to be inside.
This being our first meal on the Dining Plan we decided to have fun, and ended up paying for it. By the end of the meal, between three of us we ate: a bowl of chips and dip, two orders of cheese/sausage/crackers, two prime rib dinners, one large slab of ribs, 3 bottomless milkshakes, 3 glasses of water and 3 large desserts.
Now you figure if weíd paid for this it would have easily cost us $ 150 or more you can see why Disney is changing the dining plan. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and quickly dropped into bed, knowing we had a big day to follow on Saturday. But I ended up paying a bit for my overeating, if you know what I mean
Day Two: Saturday September 15th: Epcot and MGM
Today was an early day for us, we decided to take advantage of early entry at Epcot so we were up and going at around 7am (far too early for me personally, but what the heck).
Walking in I couldnít help being a tad upset that Spaceship Earth was closed. I have always enjoyed that attraction and was sorry to see that we would not be able to ride.
But we did have Mission Space to look forward to, it was a new attraction for us all so we figured it would be a good idea to get fastpasses for Space and Test Track. Much to our pleasant surprise we found that there was almost no wait for Space and a minimal wait for Test Track.
So we headed in to Mission Space and since it was our first time we decided to go ahead with the Ďorange/redí version of the ride. For those who havenít read about the ride, there were some complaints about the roughness of the ride and so they created two versions, the red version which is the original and the milder green level.
Mission Space simulates a flight to Mars from launch to landing. As with Mount Everest, I really enjoyed this ride. When you get into the simulator it turns you on your back just like you are in a rocket ready to fly. During launch you can really feel the g forces, my face peeled back and I could really feel it pushing on me.
I did get slightly disoriented during the transition to space, but other than that I had no problems with the attraction. Each of us is assigned a Ďjobí to perform during the mission but it basically involves pushing some buttons. I actually liked playing with some of the knobs and switches (which of course do nothing).
Moving on to Test Track we found that the line had grown, but it was still not long enough to justify doing a fast pass. We spent the rest of the morning working our way through Future World. One ride I made sure to hit was Journey to Imagination and good old Figment.
Another of the places I was looking forward to is The Land. I love riding on Living with The Land though again I was sad to see that Food Rocks was gone. Soaring is a great ride but you would think with all the room they have (including the empty Horizons and Odyssey buildings) that they could have kept my Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit.
Living with the Land is still a great and informative ride though.
About the only thing we didnít do was the Nemo ride since we were getting close to our lunch at Le Cellier in the Canada Pavilion. While waiting to be called for our seats we wandered around a little. Canada includes not only a movie but a lot of nice walking around areas with gardens and water and so on.
We were called for lunch and headed in to our seats in the Prince Edward Island section of the restaurant. Our server was a trainer so we actually got two people taking care of our table, including one that was very eager to please.
While the others went with the cheddar cheese soup, I settled on the shrimp for my appetizer. When served it came out with something of an Oriental theme, I had expected something more traditional. But it was quite good. It also reminds you that Canada is a very diverse country and not what some of us think.
For my main course I chose a great chicken sandwich topped with marinated, black diamond cheddar cheese, and tarragon garlic mayonnaise on a sourdough English muffin)( with some fries and a coke (big shock for those who have dined with me before, I am a coke addict.).
For dessert we decided to share, ordering the crŤme brulee sampler (3 types of brulee) and the smores and I took the chocolate moose (which was made up to look like a moose, complete with ears).
Once again, if you look at what we got, between the three of us with tax and tip it would have easily been $ 125-$ 150 and we got it for free. Even if we had paid for it we would have gotten our moneyís worth from lunch alone, leaving our other meal and snack as freebies. Even with the extra revenue from having us in the parks, this system must cost Disney a fortune.
I have to say here that our server at Canada was one of the best we had. She was very attentive, very friendly and did her best to make our lunch a pleasure. Like many of the CMís in World Showcase she was very excited to share with us all about her native country and her home region.
After lunch we did some more poking around in Canada while we waited for the next showing of the new film. I know there have been a lot of people who have criticized the change, saying the Martin Short is not a good host and that the movie is not enjoyable.
Personally I found it to be a lot of fun. To be fair itís been six or seven years since I saw the original/old version so perhaps I am forgetting something. But as I recall the old movie wasnít really worth a second look (I even had some Canadians tell me that). This film was very enjoyable to me and I would take a second showing.
After Canada we moved through the UK. While they do a great job with simulating the different parts of the country I do agree with those who suggest it needs a makeover. For one thing, there is far too much England and not nearly enough Ireland/Scotland or Wales. In addition, the lack of any film, ride or show is a real downer.
We now walked down to the International Gateway to take the boat to MGM.
Once in the park, we walked through MGM looking around and then headed towards the back to ride on the Tower of Terror where I had a rather interesting experience.
Now I donít know how they usually do it in Florida. But in California, they organize the lines with the doors to the elevator closed, then they take you in row by row. Here they had the doors open, and people just walked in. As a result when we got to go in there were only two seats left in the back row, far apart. One was at the far right end and the other to the left of the center (suicide) seat (this from the perspective of facing in to load, when seated, the directions would be reversed.
The CM saw what was up and move the people down. I ended up in the center seat (the one with nobody in front of it. I sat down and reached for my seatbelt and found nothing. I kept reaching as the doors started to close. By this time the man sitting on my left (the one who had been sitting in the center seat before he moved) handed me the belt, as heíd been sitting on it.
Well Iíd never noticed this before, but once the elevator starts moving, the seatbelts lock in place and you cannot pull them out. By now we were nearly to the top of the shaft, so I grabbed on as best I could and proceeded to ride without any seatbelt or restraint.
Once the ride was over, I wasnít sure what to do. I felt ok so I didnít want to make a fuss, but at the same time I didnít want this to happen again, especially if a kid ended up in my spot. So when we got off the ride we approached a CM and asked for a lead.
Needless to say, his reaction was not a good one, he quickly called his supervisor and once I told my story we moved up yet another level to a top supervisor/manager. They were all quite upset and took my name/address/phone number. They kept offering to do something for us so I took a PS for Fantasmic (which we didnít use) just to make them happy.
I had hoped Disney would at least let me know what happened, since they took the time to take my info, but a month later and no word, so I guess that is all they are going to do about it. I wasnít looking for them to give me anything, I just would have liked to hear back from them.
Dinner tonight was in the hotel, a nice dinner of pasta/soda and dessert. Then a quick dip in the pool and rest for the evening.
Day Three: Sunday September 16th: MagicKingdom and Epcot
Since we had made it to the other parks already we decided to start today at the MagicKingdom. In addition we hoped to manage to pull of a bi-coastal hub meet at 3pm, calling someone at DL from WDW.
As I walked down Main Street I couldnít help but be struck by the size of the castle and indeed the whole park.
Magic Kingdom is bigger and more elaborate, but as a number of DL vets have said, it lacks the magic you feel in Anaheim. Itís still better than a pure amusement park, but somehow itís not quite the same.
Since it was early we thought that our best shot was to head into Fantasyland to get on some of the dark rides before the crowds grew. As I moved through FL I was reminded of another thing I find confusing about WDW versus DL. In Florida they had all the room they needed, and yet they seemed to do very little in terms of theming the queues.
Iím not saying that there is anything wrong with WDW/MK Fantasyland, but it just seems strange to me that when they had all that room and when Disney prides itself on theme and detail that they ended up with what they did.
However one thing I do LOVE in Fantasyland is the new (for me) Mickeyís Philharmagic attraction. Of course the fact that it is Donald themed did not hurt (especially for dear Judi). But beyond that it is just a lot of fun, with great music, visuals and so on. I think this will make a great addition to DCA.
I also really like the Winnie the Pooh attraction. For those used to the California version, well just let me say we got rooked here guys. Not only did we lose the great Country Bear attraction but we also didnít get nearly as good a version of Pooh.
After working our way through Fantasyland we headed into Tomorrowland. Judi and I had both been looking forward to getting a nostalgia fix by visiting some lost Disneyland attractions..
Since our feet were getting tired and we wanted to look around the land, we decided to take our first run on TTA/Peoplemover. I really hope that they seriously consider bringing this back to California. It may not be super fast or have the thrills of SpaceMountain, but it is a heck of a lot of fun.
After TTA we headed over to Carousel of Progress for a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (go ahead and sing along). This is another attraction that would be a nice return for California. For those who say it isnít popular, I would point out that in WDW this is a Fastpass attraction !!
Before stopping for lunch we took a run through Buzz Lightyear and I have to say this is one case where California got the better of the deal. I had forgotten how bad the Florida version is (you canít even pull out the gun to aim, its locked to the ride vehicle).
Lunch was at Cosmic Rays Cafe, we got some great shots of Remi taking in the show and were just able to rest and relax for a while
After lunch we took in Stitchís Great Escape (formerly Alien Encounter) and Laugh Floor (formerly Timekeeper). I liked both of them but do think that Laugh floor was much better. Its another item that the DCA guys should take a look at.
By now it was close to 3pm so we moved over to the hub for what was supposed to be a meet with some of the WDW Micechatters and a call to the folks in California.
Unfortunately, nobody showed up in Florida and we couldnít get anyone in California to answer the phone, so there went that idea.
We rested for a while at the hotel before driving over to Epcot for dinner. This was our meal in France and we were all wondering what it would be like. To start off the food was great. I had calamari with ratatouille, a terrific salmon dish and we shared a variety of desserts.
The service however, wasÖ.. well it was very French. Our server was somewhat snooty and seemed to look down on us because we were on the DDP (or because we were American.). Just to give an example of his attitude, when we asked where he was from he responded with a curt ĎI am from Southwest France near Spainí and seemed otherwise uninterested in talking to us.
So France comes down to a Ďbeen there done that but it was worth tryingí kind of meal.
After dinner we took in the France film and did a little poking around in Morocco. Amazingly as we were walking along they announced the start of Illuminations and we were able to walk right up to the fence and get a great view of the show.
With the park now closing we headed out the gates and back to the hotel for bed. I sometimes am bemused by the fact that we work harder on vacations than we do when we are at home.
Day Four: Monday September 17th: Typhoon Lagoon
Today we decided to skip the main parks and take a late morning. Today was the water park day but unfortunately because I forgot to pack a waterproof disposable type camera, I donít have any pics for this day of the trip.
I had gone to BlizzardBeach before and since Typhoon Lagoon was almost always closed during our normal December visits we figured this was our chance. We got there shortly after opening and settled down in a nice set of chairs and then moved out to enjoy the park.
In preparing to go to the park I knew the sun would be an issue, so I made sure to use plenty of sunscreen. I also brought along a shirt to wear, figuring that even on a somewhat cloudy day I would need to be careful.
Unfortunately, I forgot about this when we settled ourselves down and took the shirt off. I should make it clear that I have a body better suited to wearing a shirt, but for some reason I allowed myself to walk around without it.
Needless to say I ended up with a mild but fairly persistent sunburn. It didnít become clear until the next day just how well toasted I was but I have learned my lesson on that point. >.
In our moving around the park I have to say I was not as impressed as with BlizzardBeach. It seemed the park was harder to navigate and that there were way too many stairs to climb up and down.
Deciding that we might as well give everything a shot we did most of the major slides, some of which gave us some pretty nasty bumps and bruises (or it sure felt that way). I would think Disney would be a little more careful about those kind of things but I guess that things must work out ok.
One of the most relaxing parts of the day was floating around in the area they call Castaway Creek. You just sit in an inner tube and float along, taking a short nap if you want.
The wave pool on the other hand was a bit rough on the skin. I do understand that they probably cannot use sand on the bottom due to filtering issues, but I would think they could have something other than hard cement. When you get knocked over by a wave it does hurt your hands when you land.
After a long day at the park we headed back to the hotel to rest up for dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I had been looking forward to this dinner not only because I had heard how good the food was but also because I could meet up with my friend Brian.
We got to the hotel early and were able to do some looking around. The AKL is a pretty amazing place, and if I ever manage to win the lottery I might just stay there for a night or two.
As for dinner, well I have to say I was not very impressed. I had looked forward to trying lots of the different dishes, fire roasted meats, etc. But it struck me as mostly a fairly basic buffet and the African dishes didnít seem that exotic or different to me.
Perhaps part of the issue was my having the sunburn and I was less hungry or eager, but it just didnít seem as good to me.
It was however great to spend some time with Brian and to walk around the hotel and have fun relaxing. I also was able to confirm from him that the rest of us were not weather wimps, that the heat and the storms (especially the Friday one) had been bad.
Day Five: Tuesday September 18th: Animal Kingdom and Epcot
Today we had more of a show day. We had done most of the rides at Animal Kingdom and planned to wrap up Dinosaur on Saturday when we had breakfast. So today we mostly focused on seeing the shows and walk thru attractions at the parks.
We first headed over to do another ride on Kilimanjaro Safari while the weather was cool and comfortable for the animals. I do suggest that anyone who visits AK try to do the ride early in the morning especially if it is a hotter time of day.
After the Safari ride we made our way through Pangani Forest Trail to get a look at hippos, gorillas, birds and lots of plant life and other treats. This is often an attraction people skip as it has a fairly quiet entrance, so I suggest you look for it. We also walked around Africa and Asia for a while.
Our next stop was the Lion King show, which is absolutely one of the best shows that Disney puts on. The combination of singing, dancing, acrobats, fire eaters and everything else is just too good for words.
Lunch was at Flame Tree BBQ, which has some of the best seating in any of the parks. You get an nice view of water and trees and in the background the Tree of Life and Expedition Everest.
We then moved over to see the Jungle Trek, with tigers, bats and birds. We also took the train to Conservation Station.
Around 4pm or so I headed over to Epcot and we did American Adventure, Norway and Mexico before getting ready for dinner.
I do think Voices of Liberty are another of the often overlooked things to see at Epcot. I could sit there for hours listening to them perform and from the reaction of the crowd, so could they.
Mexico was also a real treat since I had not yet seen the new Donald/3 Caballeros themed ride. I know there are some who donít like the new version but I thought it was a lot of fun. The same goes for Norway, which is a cool ride and I especially like the way that they use very limited space in a very clever way.
By now it was time to head to dinner, so we moved towards the boat dock at International Gateway. We had planned on dinner at Teppanyaki but they had not finished renovations yet so we were moved to Spoodles.
I had never been to Spoodles before but I think it was a real nice place. I had the 4 cheese flatbread and the Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Pasta. For dessert I went with the Brulee. All of the food was good and the open kitchen is a ball to watch.
Because we had been forced to change our dining reservations we were given priority seating for Illuminations. This was one area where Disney didnít quite keep things as efficient as they normally do.
We had to pick up our tickets at Customer Service by Spaceship Earth, which is on the other side of the park from where we were and there were no buses for us to take. So it was a long walk through the park.
However our seating (well standing) was perfect. We had a direct view from ShowcasePlaza in Future world, looking right across to American Adventure. This is really where the show should be viewed from to fully understand it.\
For example, most of us who have watched the show have seen the various pavilions in World Showcase light up. But what you donít know until you view it from ShowcasePlaza is that there is coordination to the lighting. As the globe spins, as viewed from SP, the areas light in based on what part of the world is being showed.
Again, I think Illuminations is one of the best shows they put on at WDW and the music and effects always make me feel good.
With the show over, we headed back out of the park and to the hotel where we found a problem with our rooms.
While most of the deluxe hotels have some sort of business center, only two Disney properties have major convention facilities. One is at the Contemporary and the other is at Coronado Springs. As it turns out, there was a huge IRS convention coming in to the hotel and it was open to the local public.
This meant that when we arrived back at the hotel there was literally no parking of any kind anywhere near our room. Needless to say this did not please us and we had a rather stern conversation with the hotel manager about the problem.
I was a bit surprised at how they dealt with the issue at first when they tried to tell us that they had never had any parking problems before did not endear them to us. We understand that problems happen but it is worse when they try to lie about it.
However they did manage to find new rooms for us over in the Cabanas area so we decided that we would move the next morning.
With this I will end Part One with Part Two to follow.