Day 1, Friday 3/16/01
This was the day we spent traveling to WDW. We got in a little swimming at the All Stars Music, and also made the Villains Dinner at the Grand Floridian.
We had a pretty nice flight out. For me, a nice flight is mainly characterized by the person in front of me leaving their chair upright. Nick was listening to a tape we had made for him of various Napster songs. Halfway through the flight, his batteries gave out, and I averted disaster by passing him my camera spares (which are rechargeable). The airline food was airline food. The salad was really bad, the hot pocket entree thing was passable.
We landed at MCO at 3:30, but it was 5 before we were even out of the airport. The baggage line was particularly long. But, what made matters worse was dealing with Mears. We had never used Mears before (and undoubtedly never will again). But, my agent at AAA insisted that this was the way to go when setting up the cruise package. I don't know if it would have been any different if I had set up the cruise package myself, but I still wish that I had.
In any event, part of the Mears problem stemmed from the fact that I
hadn't used them before, and didn't bother to do my research. It turns
out that the little stubs you have in
your cruise booklet need to be exchanged for real bus tickets at the Mears window next to the baggage claim. The line for this was also extremely slow moving, in spite of the
fact that there was only one other small group ahead of us. What we really needed to do was to have one person standing at the Mears counter, while everyone else stood at
baggage claim. Let this be a lesson to anyone else who might decide to use Mears.
But, better advice is to go with Tiffany Town Car. They meet you at
the baggage area with a sign with your name on it. They are cheaper than
Mears (it depends a little on
your party, but it certainly would have been cheaper for us), and a lot more comfortable and flexible. I will definitely be going back to Tiffany next time.
Then after the long wait at the Mears ticket window, there was a long
wait for the bus itself to come. Lesson learned.
|Overall, I was surprised at how nice the All Stars Music is. It made
a very good first impression on us. From just riding by in the bus, the
All Star Sports also looks kind of
neat, with the star motif and the giant football and coca cola. At the Music, we were greeted with the ubiquitous star motif, including the giant 2 story star at the front of the
lobby, and the topiary "shadow" of this star on the ground. I really thought the musical performer montage wallpaper behind the front desk was pretty cool. The "Hall of Fame" of various musical celebrity photographs around WDW, over by the exit hallway was also pretty special. Debbie got a kick out of Minnie Pearl, but I had to laugh at the picture of Alice Cooper with the Big Bad Wolf and Captain Hook.
In this case, faxing our room requests worked perfectly (it didn't work
so well at the Polynesian, but that's a different day). We were in the
Calypso building on the first
Nick enjoyed the All Stars a great deal. He is actually a bit upset with us because it is unlikely we'll be back there. But, that's a story for another day. In any event, the All Stars left him enchanted.
And AAA struck again when we checked in. Somehow, every card had my name on it (and the first name which I don't use, by the way). It was so strange, like the AAA agent had never set up a party like this before. Five people traveling together, it's true, but 3 of them a family and two unrelated friends. And every single card with the same name. And, from what the CM told us, all charging would be back to the same account. Even though we had two rooms. I was a tad disappointed in the CM, too, but the brunt of this mix up lies with AAA. She made the reservations this way, I'm not sure if the CM could have done anything about it.
AAA. Never, ever again.
The All Stars ... probably never again, but not because we didn't enjoy it. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a low price WDW experience.
So, we took the bus from the All Stars to the Magic Kingdom, and then
took the monorail round to the Grand Floridian. I was a little surprised
that there did not seem to
be a bus to the TT&C from the All Stars. But, the MK turned out to be a good connection point for a lot of the things we wanted to do. We later decided that the
launch was often a better choice than the monorail. The boat launch is a lot closer (the walk to the monorail being a little long for Patti).
While on the bus from the All Stars to the Magic Kingdom, I was eavesdropping
on Patti's conversation with a little girl who sat next to her. It was
cute as could be. The
little girl explained to Patti where her family was sitting, and asked Patti where her family was. Patti explained that she was traveling with some very good friends, and pointed out where we were. Then the little girl wanted to know what pets Patti had, and made a point of telling Patti that she had a fish and a dog.
Kids can be like that, but I often find the other guests at WDW to be
remarkably friendly. There was a guy on the plane on the way down talking
to Debbie about how many
times he had been to WDW, and a fellow on the bus to the MK asking us if we were heading for Chef Mickey's (he had overheard us talking about our dinner reservations).
And this has happened to me before on places like the monorail. Maybe people just get so relaxed that they let their guard down a little.
This was the first time that we have actually wondered around inside
the Grand Floridian. It certainly is a beautiful, elegant, upscale hotel.
I actually felt a little
underdressed in a T-shirt here. The lobby sports a stunning four story high ceiling, complete with a gorgeous bit of art deco. The entire lobby is very well appointed,
including a cage elevator, and a live band playing softly on the second floor.
OK, do I admit it? Nick and I were exploring a little bit after dinner,
and ended up sort of stuck on the fourth floor. It seems we really should
have had a card key to even get up that high. We rode up in the elevator
with someone legal, and ended up having to wait for someone else to go
down. What a couple of rubes.
|On the other hand, we got a nice view of the Magic Kingdom at night,
watching the lights of the castle change color (someone later told Patti
that there were something like 700 different color combinations for the
castle at night). We could also see Tomorrowland, including the Astro Orbitor
and the spires of Space Mountain quite well from here.
I've already passed along the story to RMNAAFA about Patti's boyfriend.
Dark, mysterious, charming, and worldly, he was none the less somehow dangerous.
Naturally, it was Captain Hook. I have a great photo of him kissing
her hand. What's actually strange is that Hook seemed to show up over and
over again through our trip,
I was glad we did the things we did Friday night. I think that Jan was left with a good first impression of WDW, the grandeur of the Grand Floridian was a good choice.
Nick couldn't wait to swim in the guitar shaped pool at the All Stars Music. It's too bad that he had such a spot of bad luck with this. But, he did end up getting a pretty good swim in on Saturday afternoon. On the other hand, with all of the anticipation that all of us had for the new volcano pool at the Poly, none of us set one foot in it this trip. The weather and being under the weather, together with a really short schedule on-property just kept that from happening.
The pool did look pretty impressive, though. Quite a sight with the volcano and all. But, Debbie had to point out when we were passing by it that a duck had made it's way into the pool and was swimming around.
Nick was very upset at what happened at the All Stars pool on Friday night. This is the hazard of traveling during spring break, and may be more of a hazard at the All Stars, which may attract more college aged kids. In any event, Nick decided to try to swim a little bit after we returned from the Villains Diner, and we decided to let him. The college kids were definitely very rowdy when we were first heading out to the pool with Nick. He was going to swim, but Debbie and I had decided to pass. Patti and Jan had also decided to swim, and we were going to meet them there. But, within 5 minutes of Nick getting in the pool, it was closed down. This was fairly early in the evening, and Nick had hoped to get in a couple of hours before the regular closing time. But, the college kids had gotten out of hand, people with rooms near the pool were complaining, and management decided to have security shut the whole thing down.
Now, I realize what a difficult position management was in at this point.
But, the really fair thing to do would be to ask the trouble makers to
leave, since it was painfully
obvious who they were. The handful of young kids and families in the pool were already cowering in one corner, while the teens dominated the pool. All of the families
felt the same way that we did.
Anyway, we missed hooking up with Patti and Jan as a consequence. But,
Nick *DID* get a swim in. One of the other families that were tossed out
went down to the piano
pool, which was still open. They sent back one of their kids to let us know, and just caught us as we were leaving.
Now, there were also some college kids yucking it up down there, but
not nearly as bad. Security came by there, and told them either to tone
it down or go. Talking directly to the trouble makers, as was more appropriate.
In any event, not a happy ending, but Nick did enjoy himself, and seems
to have gotten over the disappointment (the guitar
pool would have been cooler). Somehow, he still loves the All Stars.
The funny thing is that Patti and Jan came out just a bit later, and
saw the tail end of security sweeping people out of the guitar pool. They
asked if the other pool was
opened, and were told no, it's closed too. Of course, they should have walked down and checked. Oh well.
Jan actually made a joke later about Patti ditching us to meet Hook behind the giant bongo stairwell.
It was still an awfully nice day. No day is perfect, but the Villains Dinner, the surprising pleasantness (overall) of the All Stars, and the beauty of the Grand Floridian definitely made this a Disney Day.
The All Stars themeing is really kind of charming, in an outrageous
way. The giant maracas and the giant bongo hiding the outside stairs,
the guitar pool with the three
Caballeros on the little island, the music staff around the railings, the silhouette by the jazz building ... everything is actually pretty cool. Inside, we got a kick out of the window curtains with a musical score on them, the Calypso borders on the wall paper, the starry carpet, and the stars on the light fixtures. Nick really did like this place, and finding the playground about 10 yards from our room didn't hurt.