Hi all. The cast of characters for this trip are Jeff, a 37 year old NASA engineer that is epitome of Disney-a-holics and wife Susan, a 36 year old NASA engineer. We took this shorter- than-normal trip (4 days) without the kiddies, Brian (9) and Katie (7). They were spending some quality time with Granny and PawPaw in Arkansas. This was our first trip to WDW without kids since 1984, when we had no kids.
Day 1, August 8 - Travel, Magic Kingdom (MK) and RADP Meet at Epcot
We live in Huntsville, Alabama, and as we always do, drove to WDW. Without the kids, Susan and I were able to make the 675 mile drive from northern Alabama to WDW in about 10.5 hours. Normally we leave around midnight so the kids sleep most of the way down but since we didn't have the kids, we decided to leave at 9 pm on Thursday so we could arrive at the MK by 9 am on Friday. We own a Coleman popup camper and as always, had made reservations at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
We ended up leaving Alabama a little late, (maybe because I was chatting on #radp-friends) and didn't walk into the MK until 9:15 am. We picked the MK to tour first because it was the early entry park the day before (Thursday). Crowds were not bad at all but since we did arrive a little late, we missed the Splash/Space Mountain dash. Both had lines of 30 minutes or more so we skipped them and went directly to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMR). We were able to ride BTMR twice with a 10 minute wait. We then rode Pirates and the Haunted Mansion (HM) with no wait. There were two things of note at the HM. First, as guests were stepping onto the conveyor belt I overhead one of the cast members proclaim "Please watch your step, watch your step please, if you fall, I'll laugh at you uncontrollably". Well, *I* thought it was funny! Secondly, I had read earlier in someone's trip report that the bride in the Haunted Mansion had been removed/covered for a time and now I know why. The bride now is "floating" in the air in a forward-inclined position. She's holding a candle in one hand and a bouquet in the other. She now has a very distinct face as well. This is a really neat change! We walked through Fantasyland, bypassing most of the attractions. We did stop in several of the shops to look at their selection - something we rarely get to do with the kids. They get bored in a milli- second if they aren't "doing something". We continued through Fantasyland to Tomorrowland where we stopped to watch Timekeeper. Folks, there is *no* need to stand up and wait for this attraction. Susan and I took one of the several unoccupied benches along the wall while everyone else stood in line. We still walked up to the front of the theater after they opened the doors. Take advantage of any opportunities to sit while you can at WDW!
Per our plan, we left the MK around noon and drove over to Fort Wilderness for check-in. Check-in was unusually slow this time, taking at least 25 minutes. We had requested to be placed in the 1300 loop and discovered from CM Jeff at the Reception Outpost that our request would be granted *but* the system still showed that the folks occupying our site had still not checked out. Well phooey! Check-out time is 11 am, it was now 12:30 pm, so what's the problem I asked? Several calls to the Front Desk did nothing to help our situation and I volunteered to "run off" anyone occupying the site but CM Jeff would have none of that. Faced with the option of waiting another 25-30 minutes or changing loops, we decided to change. Something of note here - the CMs do have loop/site diagrams at their disposal so before taking a site blindly, one can ask to be shown where that site is on the loop and where it is located in relation to the nearest Comfort Station/bus stop. We ended up taking site 866, which was right across from the Comfort Station. Setting up was *hot* but we did get through and rode our bikes to the Trail's End Buffet for lunch. Total for lunch with tip was $20. We just got back to our camper before the typical afternoon Florida thunderstorm hit. It was a deluge! Luckily it stopped after a few hours and we were able to shower and get ready for the rec.arts.disney.parks (radp) meet at Beaches and Cream.
We drove over to the Beach Club and were waved right through by the security guard without a question. Susan and I arrived a half hour early (at 6:30 pm) with hopes of securing a few tables for the group. We spoke with a CM inside and asked that she try to accommodate a group of 12 to 14. Just as we finished, who should walk through the door - gardenia herself, along with Nancy Tynes, her husband and friend Suzanne. We moved out to the outside tables and chatted while looking at gardenia's radp photo album. Shortly thereafter, Kenny Cottrell, the Keeper of all Kingdom Knowledge (did I get the title right?) joined us. For those that haven't had the pleasure of meeting Kenny, you're in for a treat when you do. We moved inside shortly thereafter and just as we were ordering food and desserts, Lisa Harris joined us. Lisa was the planner/coordinator extrordinare for this meet and it really was a pleasure to meet her. As we were stuffing down our respective desserts (Susan and I had the Milky Way cake - we highly recommend it) Pam, Larry and Lauren Kratz arrived. It was a pleasure to finally meet Pam, aka Scrappy on #radp-friends, a fellow irc junkie, once and for all. She seemed much nicer in person than on irc (I'm kidding!). Pam's 3 year old daughter Lauren was a bundle of energy and and a pleasure to watch. We were all truly amazed at her ability to hold a strawberry ice cream cone upside down without dumping it all over Larry's lap.
We finished desserts and went outside to take the official group photo before heading over to the international gateway to watch Illuminations 25. As we were walking over to the Japan pavillion who did we spot but Chad Wilson, aka m-i-c-k-e-y on #radp-friends, walking the other way. We snagged Chad and proceeded to Japan. When we arrived, I was pleased to see the Cirikli performing their ritual dance. If you have not seen this show, I highly recommend it. I doubt you'll ever see anything like it elsewhere and it truly is amazing what these performers can do. I had brought some Space Shuttle pins and patches and passed those out while we were waiting for the show. Illuminations 25 itself was pretty good, especially since the show was changed, but I still couldn't explain at the end what it was all supposed to mean. Maybe if I keep watching...who knows. We all walked over to the beach behind the Beach Club and pulled up some chairs to chat and watch the Sorcery in the Sky fireworks at MGM. Afterwards, we said our goodbyes and exchanged hugs and went our separate ways.
Lisa, Kenny and I talked Susan into going to the Magic Kingdom for a late night ride on Space and Splash Mountain. We dropped Kenny off at his car at MGM and then dropped Chad off at the TTC. Lisa, Kenny, Susan and I were able to ride Space Mtn. after a 25 min. wait then we scampered over to Splash arriving with at least 5 minutes to spare. We were shocked to see CM Web closing the queue before park closing and politely showed him that it wasn't midnight but young Web wouldn't budge. He instead directed us to BTMR, which was still running. Well that confused us even more. Why would BTMR be running but not Splash? Don't they both run on Disney time? Oh well. We were able to ride BTMR at night, which is always a thrill but we made sure to stop by Guest Relations on the way out of the MK. After explaining what had happened and filling out a complaint form, we were given passes to ride Splash with no wait good for the following day - Woo Hoo!! Susan and I didn't get to bed until nearly 1 am - ouch!
Day 2, August 9 - Epcot, MGM Studios
Since we stayed out so late we didn't even think about setting the alarm to get up. We finally drug ourselves out of the bed around 8:45 and arrived at Epcot by 9:30 am. The first thing we noticed was that the parking lot signs had changed. Before the various areas had names like Communications, Horizons, etc. The new names are Amaze, Discover, Create and Journey (there may be others). We also noticed that the Epcot maps were much improved over the maps we saw in June. The character meeting places and times are now *all* listed at the top of the map. Additionally, all of the live acts at the various country pavillions have been added to the right inside cover. In June, we noticed that a number of acts were inexpicably missing, such as the Houzali Troop in Morroco. We skipped Spaceship Earth and headed directly to Honey I Shrunk the Audience. We were somewhat surprised to find that more than an hour after opening we were able to walk right into the attraction. I just read a trip report where someone hated the Kodak preshow but we like it. We don't see it as an advertisement for Kodak (though we know it is), we see the beautiful images of children, landscapes, balloons, and animals, among other things. Oh well - to each his own. This is a great, not-to-be-missed attraction.
Next was a wonderful show by Future Corps on the west side of Innoventions. They played some great jazz tunes including an arrangement of Maleguena by Stan Kenton. Wow! Check your Epcot guide and find these guys! We walked over to the Mexican pavillion for the rope drop at 11 am and headed directly to Norway to ride the Maelstrom. We were in the first boat and skipped the film the first time. We rode again with no wait and stayed for the film the second time. We looked hard but still couldn't find the hidden Mickey in the film. If someone has seen it, I'd sure like to hear where it is. We walked back to the Mexican pavillion and rode El Rio del Tiempo with no wait then checked in at the San Angel Inn for our 11:45 priority seating time. We asked for and were seated along the rail and watched the boats float by as we enjoyed our lunch. I had the chicken burrito with rice and Susan had the chicken enchiladas with red sauce. Both dishes were very good, as was the service. Total with tip was $31.50.
We strolled to the China pavillion to see the film "Wonders of China", which neither of us had seen since 1984. We continued clockwise around the World Showcase past Germany and Italy to the American Pavillion. We staked out our spot on the marble floor of the lobby outside the pink circle in the middle on the west side and waited for the Voices of Liberty (VoL) to arrive. It sure was nice laying my hot body on that cold floor! The VoL are simply fantastic! Their show is not to be missed. One of the songs they did was "Oh Susanna" and during the song, the leader Kevin came over and grabbed Susan's hand and sang to her, ending the song with a kiss on her hand. If you've seen their show you know Kevin holds onto the lady's hand and pretends she jerks him back when he turns to leave. It's a hoot and Susan got a kick out of it. After the show, one of the singers, Holly, came over and talked with us. We found out she had been a VoL singer for a year and a half and that her husband had been a VoL singer as well. Kevin, the hand-kissing bandit, is a charter member of the VoL singers, having been at it for 15 years. It was a pleasure talking to Holly. We decided to head back to Fort Wilderness for a nap prior to touring MGM Studios later that evening.
We arrived at MGM and headed directly to Mama Melrose's arriving exactly at our 6:45 pm priority seating time. We were seated in just a few minutes and proceeded to have a wonderful meal. Omar was our server and he did a fantastic job. We were never lacking for anything. I asked Omar for a menu to send to Deb Will's for the WDWIG and he brought back the entire 5 page menu with a smile. Susan ordered the lasagna and I had Grandma Grace's bottomless pasta bowl. These were preceded by a Caesar salad that had a wonderful caesar dressing on it. Those looking for quality dining in the Studios need to try Mama Melrose's. Total including tip was $33.50. We waddled out of Mama's and headed to Muppet Vision 3D. Great preshow, great show - don't miss it. We then rode Star Tours and the Great Movie Ride with no wait. We were able to find the Hidden Mickey on the rock leaning against the ark of the covenant in the Indiana Jones scene. We also took a photo of the Hidden Minnie silhouette in the mural in the ride loading area. We then rode the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror with a 45 minute wait. This is much longer than we normally ever wait but we decided to stick it out and it was worth it. We ended up rided ToT twice this trip and I got the seat belt seat both times. What are the chances of that happening? It was neat - I love this ride. We watched the fireworks over our shoulders as we walked back out to the parking lot. We were "home" at Fort Wilderness shortly after 10 pm and hit the sack.
Go to Trip Report - Part II
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