Day 6, Wednesday, 3/21/01
We planned to go to MGM today, specifically because it was an early entry day. But, things just didn't turn out that way. We went to MGM regardless, but ended up with a pretty late start. That's a story in itself.
We wanted to go to MGM this morning, but ended up with a late start. I guess being out till midnight at Disney Quest may have slowed Nick and I down.
Since it was after 8, and we knew that the cruise desk at the Polynesian was open at 8, we thought we'd stop by. The main purpose was to arrange for a pickup for Patti, Jan and I at the Animal Kingdom the next day, instead of the Poly. But, as it turns out, it was very fortunate that we stopped by the desk.
I guess this is a point at which I will forward a little bit of advice. I was told, before we started this trip, that I shouldn't have to stop by the cruise desk for any reason. The only reason that we did was to arrange this AK pickup. But, what I'd say, in hindsight, is that you should plan on making a stop by the cruise desk sometime during the WDW portion of your trip, just to make certain everything is properly arranged. After all, if there is a mistake, how costly will it be to find that out on the day you are supposed to be getting on the bus.
Especially if there is no seat for you on the bus. As there was not for us.
The CM at the cruise desk, Ginger, was very helpful, above and beyond the call of duty. But, it seems that my good friend back at AAA, in one more act of blind ineptitude, had managed to bungle our ground transfers.
Here's the good part. As you know, five of us were traveling together. Now, I had (through AAA) made the cruise arrangements for all five of us. In other words, I set up the original package, and all our packages were booked together. In fact, at several points, they had trouble separating us.
In spite of that, there were ground transfers purchased for Jan and Patti. And no ground transfers purchased for Debbie, Nick and I. The same package, the same day, the same price. One with ground transfers, and one without.
It took Ginger about three phone calls, and some fancy talking to convince the people back at the main cruise office that this was not something worth upsetting guests about. So, the AAA travel agent's blunder notwithstanding, we soon had passage on the bus from WDW to Port Canaveral, and the pickups arranged (Patti, Jan, and I at AK, and Debbie and Nick at the Poly).
So, we were off, with a rather late start, to MGM. During this fiasco, we once again were able to touch base with Patti and Jan thanks to Jan's cell phone, and arranged for them to go ahead of us and meet us at the park.
The moral is cell phone good, AAA bad. And if you have any trouble, "Tell them Ginger said so. It doesn't mean anything, but it confuses the heck out of them." This last bit of advice is a direct quote from Ginger.
I blame AAA for a lot of the troubles that we had on this trip. Ordinarily, I do my own travel arrangements, but this time I convinced myself that the cruise, being something I hadn't done before, would require a little extra help. I couldn't have been more wrong. If I had just called the Disney Cruise Line directly, I would have avoided a huge number of problems. At every turn, AAA had messed something about this trip up. A great example was the problems that we had with Mears. The AAA agent actually told me at one point that we would not have ground transportation from the airport to the All Stars, simply because the All Stars was not booked as part of the cruise package. Yet, we had transfer tickets from the airport to the hotel in our cruise ticket booklet (admittedly, they said Polynesian on them). I called Mears directly, and they told me that as long as I had a transfer ticket, it wouldn't matter what hotel I was going to. If I had listened to the AAA agent, I would have went off and gotten separate ground transport, having already paid for it in the package.
Then, there was no notice that these tickets actually had to be taken to the Mears counter in order to be exchanged. Now, most of you have done this before, and I would have known about it if I had asked in the newsgroup. But, no hint from AAA.
Frankly, I've never used Mears before, and won't again. By far, the best way to get from the airport back and forth to WDW is Tiffany Town Car. More comfortable, more courteous, actually cheaper for most parties, and they meet you at baggage with a sign with your name on it. No doubt about it, it's Tiffany from now on.
And I'll be dealing directly with Disney from now on. Wish I had this trip.
Of course, the thing about going somewhere like WDW is that the minor annoyances have a hard time mounting up to enough to tarnish such a great trip. We had a spectacular time regardless.
Debbie, Nick, and I finally took the bus over to MGM. At least this part went smoothly. Never had trouble with transportation from the Poly (and had only that one bad incident from the All Stars).
Once at MGM, we used our handy dandy cell phone to hook up with Patti and Jan at the TOT/RnRC fastpass distribution.
Jan actually went on ToT! We were all surprised at Jan's willingness to try out the thrill rides, as we expected her to be a lot more hesitant. At ToT, she said she was just going to stand in the queue with Patti, and take the chicken exit. She said that she liked the spookiness of the whole ToT themeing. But, when she got to the front, she ended up doing the ride.
This ride is themed to the hilt, isn't it? We had some especially creepy CMs, and just love the buildup of "Rod Serling's" introduction, all of the detail in the lobby, and the back hallway to the service elevator. And, of course, the other dimension stuff on the ride itself before the drop.
On the way down, my camera, with the strap securely wrapped around my wrist, still managed to catch some air. I could feel it lifting up as we were plummeting down.
It is a great ride. Nick now claims that the drop doesn't bother him, but the spooky part does.
In the gift shop, Debbie found a black bear (beanie baby) with Twilight Zone stars and logo that plays the Twilight Zone theme when you press his tummy. Now, that's a well-themed souvenir.
I tried to pick up a sweat shirt to stave off the unexpected chill while
we were in the ToT gift shop. It was really cold this trip while we were
in Orlando, much colder than our previous trip in February. But, no luck,
everything was too small.
|We actually had Jan talked into riding on Rock And Roller Coaster.
But, we had all gotten fast passes before standing in line for ToT, and
she did not. So, she ended up just waiting for us.
Patti did ride Rock And Roller Coaster with us. She struggled a little getting in and out of the car, but had no trouble fitting the seat.
Rock And Roller Coaster is hi speed, with that whiplash magnetic launch (0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds), plenty of loops and turns, and the Disney flair (black lit landmarks in an otherwise pitch black building). It is a great ride, and we had some great music on our trip. Personally, I'm not much one for drops and coasters, but I'll ride them at Disney. The thing is that when Disney does a "thrill ride", it is much more than a thrill ride. You have the Disney themeing and attention to detail, and much more of a total immersive experience. The Rock And Roller Coaster (and for that matter ToT) really lives up to the expectations that you have of a Disney ride.
After the Rock And Roller Coaster ride, I found a long sleeve sweatshirt (the weather was Surprisingly cold) in the Rock And Roller Coaster gift shop. We also got the launch photo, which is a pretty good picture of the four of us. I'll need to scan it so that we can share it between us and Patti. Nick picked up some toys (he's operating on his own money this trip, saved up from allowance, gifts, and chore money).
Debbie didn't really hide the fact that she dislikes this shirt. It
is a tie dye shirt with the Rock And Roller Coaster logo on it. It certainly
stands out. But, I thought it was fun. I'll have to post a picture of it.
After the Rock And Roller Coaster gift shop, we had to stop by the Villains store so that I could pick up some evil. I very much like Fantasmic, but I was disappointed that there is so much Fantasmic merchandise here now. I really liked there being one place in the park dedicated to the villains. I guess they decided to move the Fantasmic stuff in because it is the closest shop to the theater. I don't mind a little bit of it, but there really isn't much shelf space dedicated to the Villains now.
All of my whining aside, I found some nice refrigerator magnets, desk pads, a couple of other villainous items.
While I'm complaining, I'll pass on Debbie's feelings about the hat thing in front of Great Movie Ride. It is ugly at this stage, and ruins the vista completely. Maybe it may be tolerable when they're done, but I doubt it'll be better than the original view we had of the Great Movie Ride.
Nick got a photo with Geppetto right outside of the Villains. Debbie and he caught Geppetto on the street while I was shopping. I was really glad to see Nick collecting autographs and interacting with the characters again. For most of the last trip, he had a camera, and was taking pictures of the characters with other people's kids. Him being back in the picture was a lot of fun.
Since we were on such a short stay at the parks this time, we were having things we purchased sent to the front gate of each park (normally, we send them back to the hotel). This works very well. Then you are only dealing with your packages on the bus, and not lugging them around the parks.
The only reason we didn't send them back to the hotel this trip (which works even better), is that we didn't want to worry about them getting there before check out and boarding the cruise bus (especially since MGM was Wednesday, and the cruise bus left on Thursday).
We caught the Drew Carey Sounds Dangerous show, which is always funny and amusing.
We, of course, had lunch at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. That has become a standard for us when at MGM--at least one meal at the Prime Time. Of course, we expected even more fun this time, since we didn't really warn Patti and Jan.
We have had crazier waiters than this one, but she (Deb) was pretty funny. Jan had the privilege of having the entire room make the airplane sound to encourage her to finish the last few bytes on her plate. Nick and the rest of us got clean plate stickers. Frankly, I'm not sure Nick should have got one, but I think Deb liked him. He made an effort throughout the meal to get in trouble, but wasn't all that successful.
I didn't notice the fried chicken on the menu, but I asked about it, and they still had it. Maybe I was just too distracted when trying to read the menu. In any event, this is a great meal (fried chicken and mashed potatoes), and goes with the setting of Mom's kitchen in the 50's. I also had a peanut butter and jelly shake, which was amazing, and we split a plate of smores between the five of us. They were wonderful. The decor and humor of the Prime Time was a big hit with everyone.
Patti claims she ordered pot roast, but they brought her meat loaf. When she pointed it out to Deb, Deb insisted that she had heard Patti order meat loaf. It was replaced very quickly, but the fellow who brought her the pot roast said "Here's you meat loaf". It was even listed as meat loaf on the bill (but the price was correct for pot roast. A common restaurant error, really, but they managed to exploit the mistake and make it funny.
The final word on our lunch at the Prime Time is perfect. Great food, funny waitress, great atmosphere. Everyone enjoyed it, and I had an especially good time.
Nick, Jan, and I rode Star Tours while Patti and Debbie waited near
Indiana Jones. Nick did say something later about it being less fun than
it used to be. Of course, he has been on it a few hundred times (OK, maybe
not quite that many). On the other hand, he also gets in his moods, and
he had one later that day. Regardless, I still love this ride. It is fun,
amusing, and filled with some nice fantasy elements and special effects
which still hold up after a lot of years. We did choose not to do fast
pass, as the queue here is one of the best around--winding through the
Ewok Village, listening to C3P0 prattle, hearing the stand up comedy of
the droid in the repair section--it's worth walking slowly through this.
|Well, right after Star Tours, we went to Muppet Vision 4D. Nick always
acts up on the way into this show, and always laughs and smiles all the
way through the show. Since it is close to the Honey I Shrunk The Kids
playground, I think he gets anxious to go over there. But, he always admits
he liked Muppet Vision as we are on our way out. It really is a silly,
enjoyable, corny, over-the-top show, and the special effects are terrific
(even with their oddball flair). Who can resist being charmed by the bunny,
Sweetums, the bubbles falling from the ceiling, and even the old geezers?
I always leave smiling.
Next, Nick went to the Honey I Shrunk The Kids playground. Just because he was under the weather didn't mean he was going to miss this! For some reason, he still loves this place. I do find the fantasy of this set to be pretty appealing, and I can understand the fascination from that perspective. And he still loves to jump and climb, so he won't miss this attraction.
This gave the rest of us a chance to sit at the lunch counter nearby and have a light snack. Some popcorn and some drinks seemed in order. At this point, Debbie was feeling pretty lousy, having picked up Nick's crud. Besides giving you a scratchy throat, this thing made you a lot more tired, which is not compatible with WDW.
After Nick got off the playground, we did the Studio Backlot Tour (the Tram), but not the Backstage Pass (the walking tour). This tour is great, I always enjoy it. I especially like the bone yard, seeing all of the vehicles and miniatures which have enjoyed starring roles. The little "museum" section at the end (leading into the gift shop after you leave the tram) has a display about vehicles used in the movies, so it's a double treat! Nick gets his picture taken by the speeder used in Return of The Jedi.
I feel like I heard something new on the tour this time. The guide mentioned that this wardrobe department was the busiest in the industry, and gave us some amazing numbers (which I've forgotten). That's the thing about WDW, you always seem to uncover something that you've somehow missed on your previous trips.
At Catastrophe Canyon, Debbie and I, like wimps, covered ourselves with our ponchos. It was very cold by this part of the afternoon, and we both new we were taking on Nick's recent bug.
At the very beginning of the tour, they did the little show in the water tank area, with the miniatures and so forth. I kind of thought that this was part of the other tour, but maybe it's on both. In any event, they did not ask for volunteers to stand on the bridge of the ship and get wet. I wonder if they also decided it was too cold for that.
This tour was very accommodating of Patti. They let her park the ECV
right at the loading area, and we all sat together in the very first car.
Once again, Disney seems like they are on the ball in terms of mobility
Patti talked about the animation tour, which she has done before and enjoyed. I was interested, but we pretty much ran out of time before we wanted to go and get seated for Fantasmic! Something else that is still on my first time list. Next trip, perhaps.
While walking on the back street from the snack place to the Great Movie Ride, we saw both Tigger and Pooh at their (movie) trailers. Nick stopped to get their autographs, and I snapped a couple of pictures while the girls waited patiently. We didn't' realize the trailers were back there, and this was a pleasant little surprise.
The Great Movie Ride is, well, great. We even enjoyed looking at the footprints in the cement before entering the que. And I like the trailers in the que.
We got the cowboy switch. Neither our original CM nor our cowgirl was really exceptional (the cowgirl sort of slurred things). But, this is still a very fun ride, and Jan enjoyed the surprise of the cowboy switch. Didn't have a chance to do a second ride and get the gangster switch. Personally, I had gone on the ride several times before I realized there were two different switches.
We all enjoyed the great animatronics on this ride, the sets, and the wonderful film finale'.
It was cold, but it was clearly not going to rain, so Fantasmic! would definitely be staged tonight. Jan, of course, had never seen this, and I don't believe that Patti had. I have seen it once here and a few times at Disneyland, but I really don't want to miss it. Debbie, on the other hand, decided to bow out because she was feeling poorly, and was hoping to feel better before the cruise. She said she was heading back to the Poly, and ordering room service.
We said good-bye, and the rest of us went to eat at Catalina Eddie's. Big surprise, Nick had a pizza. The food is all pretty good here, but we are quite cold sitting outside.
It's a good thing we did something fast for dinner, because we are pretty late to Fantasmic! It really wouldn't have made much of a difference, because we end up in the very back row, where the handicapped seating is set up. It is the very top of the amphitheater, but we are at center stage, and it turns out to be a very good seat. In my opinion, Disney once again wins points for being very accommodating to guests with mobility issues.
In a way, Patti is lucky to be seated in the ECV, because those benches are cold! We remain covered with our ponchos, not for the rain (I am glad there is no rain), but in an effort to keep warm. Nick and I realize that if we sit on something else, the benches won't be as cold. So, I use Debbie's poncho, which is still with us, and Nick uses his backup. That helps a lot.
We are really surprised at how cold this week at the parks is. The weather on the hotel room TV kept talking about the jet stream dipping down, how unusual it is, and so forth. I'm sure it cleared up right after we left.
So, Patti just had to have a Skywriter. This is the thing that you spin around like a New Year's Eve noisemaker, and it writes a message using a pattern of flashing LEDs. What is really funny, though, is that she was out of cash, and had to borrow twenty dollars from me to get one. Just like having a second kid.
Speaking of which, Nick is after me about getting one of those enormous Mickey gloves. I hold out until after the show, and then let him get one from one of the vendors at the exit. This is based upon the "it's his money this trip" theory. In reality, it does make a nice souveigner.
There was no preshow. I recall both a comedy pair doing some unexpected things in the audience and a band on stage when last we saw Fantasmic! I think that may have been in the summer, though. It wouldn't surprise me that they do a little more in the summer. So, you miss some things in off season, but it's still not worth the weather and crowds in the summer (I would take rainless cold over hot and rainy).
As for the show itself--well, you've heard it over and over again, and it's still true. The Fantasmic! show is fantastic. Well, maybe even fantasmic. I think I still like Illuminations better, but these are both incredible shows. Certainly the two best nighttime/fireworks shows I've ever seen.
I am impressed again with the way that the live action is integrated with the projections on the water screens. Frequently, something in the "movie" pops out of the water screen, and is a "live" character. The fire effect is magnificent. Even when you know it's coming, Malificent becoming a dragon is stunning. I don't know if I ever noticed that the snake was made up of several dancers under a facade. The whole show is even better than I remembered.
I don't believe Patti had seen this show at WDW (she had seen it at DL), and I know Jan has never seen it. They are both delighted, and we are all lucky to have a cold, but very clear night. And really very good seats. This was a winner.
I'd like to say we had a simple and uneventful trip back to the Poly. That would be true, if the bus hadn't stalled halfway there. But, we were back underway before it became very annoying. Just enough time for me to program "help" into Patti's Skywriter, and flash it at some passing cars. Also, we got a call from Debbie on my cell phone, and Nick announced to everyone on the bus that she was going to save us. After she and I finished talking, he said "never mind".
I don't know if anyone else was finding us amusing, but Nick and I were having fun.
Anyway, during my conversation with Debbie, she told me that she hadn't done room service after all. So, we arranged to meet at the Kona Cafe for a late snack as soon as the bus got back. Once again, the cell phone proved invaluable.
Our cell bill that month was about $100, when it's usually $20. So, the price of all of that convenience was about $80. Keep in mind that a lot of the calls were from one cell to another, and Debbie and I were paying both ends, each of which had long distance and roaming charges. Plus, this situation was worsened by having five people, who were often heading in different directions, It was also added to by Nick being sick a couple of days, which separated us more. Nonetheless, for the price of a really nice dinner at one of the restaurants, we coordinated with each other very efficiently. In my mind, it was worth it.
We went by the Kona Cafe when we got back for a late snack (Patti, Nick, Debbie, and I). The food and the service were again very good, and the atmosphere is cool. I made sure I pointed out the hidden Mickey's in the ceiling.
It was a great ending to a wonderful day. Except for our little cruise line mixup in the morning, we had a pretty perfect time. It was definitely a Disney day, and we all enjoyed the studios very much.