Test Track and Mermaid Updates, BOG Lunch, Studio Catering Co. Wrap and Sloppy Joe, Cupcakes – Around Town 12/8/12

It’s 8:28am on Saturday December 8th.  We’re standing outside Epcot.

Lines out here have been longer because several of the turnstiles down to our right are behind refurbishment walls.  Hopefully they’ll be operational by Christmas or Disney is going to have a (bigger) problem on their hands.

The plan was to test out my new ideal morning touring plan at Epcot:

  1. FASTPASS Test Track
  2. Ride Test Track
  3. Ride Sum of All Thrills
  4. Ride Mission: Space
  5. Ride Test Track with FASTPASS
  6. FASTPASS Soarin’
  7. Ride Living with the Land
  8. Do something else on this side of the Park (anything in Imagination or Seas Pavilions would be fine along with lunch at Sunshine Seasons or Circle of Life)
  9. Ride Soarin’ with FASTPASS
  10. Head to World Showcase

The main purpose here is to get you over to Test Track with the shortest possible standby wait so you have an opportunity to experience the full queue and design process.  We then hang around that area hitting Sum of All Thrills next because it has a much lower capacity than Mission: Space.  Then it’s over to Mission: Space and Test Track for a second ride with FASTPASS.  Because of the lengthy walk from Test Track to Soarin’, I don’t think it’s wise to head to one and then the other to ride in the standby line at both.  We’ll see if Test Track pulls far more people than Soarin’, which would potentially make it easier to ride both attractions in the standby lines first thing in the morning.  But by the time you get over to Soarin’ after riding Test Track, it’d be around 9:30am.  As usual, you can also get in line for any attraction right up until Park close.  If you don’t want to deal with Test Track and Soarin’ in the morning or with FASTPASS, you can skip IllumiNations and get in line five or ten minutes in front of the stated close to experience shorter waits.

Unfortunately, we’re not going to get a good idea about timing on this particular morning because Test Track was down from Park open through around 10:30am.  As I type this at 4pm on the 9th, Test Track is again down.  As I mentioned in the original look at “the newly refurbished” Test Track 2.0, Test Track has historically been an attraction prone to mechanical failures.  Add in the new technological layer and you’ve introduced a whole slew of additional things that could cause it to go down.  I would expect Test Track to go down at some point virtually every day moving forward.  The fact that they can’t even get it online in the morning doesn’t bode well either.  This is the line that formed immediately after opening.  It winds back toward Innoventions East and then continues down to Mouse Gear.  It will be just as long at 10am as hopeful people continue to wait.

I had an unfortunate run-in with the Brickers, whom you may recognize from DisneyTouristBlog.com and Disney’s new The Looking Glass project.  They somehow coerced me into joining them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, the Osborne Lights, and whatever else.  I think I was drugged as some events are a little hazy.

Of course I’m joking.  We love Tom.  I just wish I could turn up the colors as much as he can.

Above is the Breakfast Panini, which wasn’t as good as the last time I had it.

They’re baked sort of like a pie and if there isn’t anyone to purchase the slices, they end up sitting out for a while.  The one I ate originally was fresh out of the oven.  This one had obviously sat for a while.  If you’re planning to eat breakfast here, you may want to wait for a fresh batch to come out of the oven.  It shouldn’t be long.

I’m sure Tom knows I’ve terrified of everything under the water, so they brought me to The Seas Pavilion next.  Actually now that you mention it, they may have been trying to ditch me the whole time.

After making sure Test Track was still down (it was), we then over to Magic Kingdom around 10:30am for lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant.

This is the largest tour group I’ve ever seen – this time from Argentina.  Or they really like Argentina as that’s what they were chanting in between clapping and singing down Main Street.

Those standing around basically watched with jaws dropped as the mass moved through The Hub.  It’s probably about time Disney addressed the behavior.  These kids all have money though.  Lots of money.  And because they’re all trying to show off to each other and those back home, they purchase a ton of stuff.  But Disney needs to figure out some way to control them – even if it’s just telling the guides not to lead chants down Main Street and show up for lunch at the exact same time.

Lunch is at the now-officially-open Be Our Guest Restaurant. Lines have been long just to get inside the building.  It was about 30 minutes between the time we got in line (around 11am) and when the food arrived.  Be Our Guest has begun lunch service at 10:30am and it continues allowing people to enter until around 2:30pm.  To minimize waits, you want to be in line at 10:25am.

I got a kick out of the fact that Disney had been hyping the Grand Opening of New Fantasyland on December 6th for some time.  Then December 6th rolls around and Be Our Guest is completely closed to the public so “media” can broadcast inside.  The same thing happened with Test Track, where the entirety of Future World East was closed to the public after 3pm on the 6th.

We’ve spent a lot of time over at Be Our Guest in this original dinner review and then again on a return visit, so I won’t bore you with more pictures of the interior or how it’s the Grandest Cafeteria Inside of a Theme Park ever created.

We’ll have to return for a better look at the ordering process.  You’ll first be given one of these RFID roses and then you’ll be directed to a kiosk with a touchscreen that display’s the restaurant’s menu.

You tap the rose to that device on the left to start the process.  When you’re seated, a cast member will find you and deliver your food and they use the rose as a means to figure out where you’re sitting.  They confirm your order with you before leaving, so it would be nice if someone was at the table with the receipts before you go exploring.  Otherwise, you’ll come back to a grumpy cast member and cold food.

I’m not sure if the ordering process is any more efficient than simply telling a cast member what you’d like to order.  With the small size of the room (you’re looking at several of the kiosks in this picture), it may be the best use of space.  But there seemed to be some amount of confusion and it’s crammed with people during the busy lunch service.  Also worth noting is that when you scan your credit card, you do so with the strip facing away from you.  That didn’t seem to be particularly intuitive.

One nice thing about the kiosks is that they tell you the ingredients and nutritional information in the food.  My $11.99 Braised Pork – Slow Cooked Pork with Vegetables and Bacon with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans Jardiniere has 492 calories according to the screen.  The Steak Sandwich is just north of 1,000.  I enjoyed the Pork quite a bit – it was tender and flavorful.  It was easy to cut with a fork.  The picture insinuated peppers and onions along with the green beans, but we seem to just have green beans here.  They were probably cooked properly – which is less than I normally do myself.  Still, very good.  Overall, I would recommend this highly, though it isn’t a ton of food for the money.  But the fact that Be Our Guest doesn’t serve up gut bombs is probably good.  Also note the real bowls and silverware (not pictured).  After you finish your meal, a cast member comes and cleans up.

Tom ordered the $10.99 Croque Monsieur – Grilled Sandwich with Carved Ham, Gruyere Cheese, and Bechamel with Pommes Frites.  He described it as “Good, not great.”  That’s about how it looks.

I was hoping Disney would serve up the delicious fries that accompany the steak at dinner, but that doesn’t look to be the case.  These appear to be extra limp.

Sarah opted for the $9.99 Quinoa Salad with Green Beans, Potatoes, Olives, Roasted Red Peppers, Golden Beets, and Tomatoes.  A big thanks to Sarah for ordering this so I don’t have to.  She said she liked the quinoa more than the salad part.

And the $2.99 Lemon Meringue and Strawberry Cupcakes:

Which they both enjoyed.  I think I’m going to have to order the Lemon Meringue iteration one of these days myself.  I also recommend the Potato Leek Soup.  For whatever it’s worth, the $2.79 fountain beverage cups are sitting right next to the fountain beverage machines and refills are free.

Be Our Guest was very pleasant for lunch.  It’s certainly a cheaper way to experience the restaurant if you don’t want to opt for dinner, even if a couple of the dinner entrees are in the $16 range.  You can also choose where you sit.  The wait times are unfortunate, but at least there weren’t problems with finding a table.  Arrive around 10:25am to lessen the wait or be prepared to wait 15 to 45 minutes later in the day.

Journey of the Little Mermaid wait times have been surprisingly long.  You can see it sitting at 90 minutes with the line down to Gaston’s Tavern at 12:27pm.  The area back here is also cramped with so many people and what now seems like a very narrow corridor outside Mermaid and Ariel’s Grotto.

With two Ariels, wait times have been more reasonable down at the Grotto Meet and Greet.

Enchanted Tales with Belle also continues having longer waits.  Lumiere and the gears are now animated so that Lumiere dances a bit.

This is the line for Journey of the Little Mermaid FASTPASSes outside of PhilharMagic.  I’m not sure if the line looks as long as it is – I would guess you’d have to wait 20 minutes just to collect them.  And they are now connected to the system, meaning you can’t collect FASTPASSes for Peter Pan’s Flight and then Mermaid right after.  FASTPASS is also the reason for the long standby waits.  The FASTPASS return time is only 40 minutes out to 1:10pm at 12:30pm, which means they’re probably printing at least 1,000 FASTPASSes per hour.  And with the absurd posted wait, more people seek out FASTPASSes, which only causes the standby line to move slower.

On the plus side, FASTPASS at Mermaid, Dumbo, and Barnstormer has helped bring down FASTPASS return times at Peter Pan’s Flight.  Here at 12:34pm, the posted wait for Pan is 55 minutes with FASTPASS “only” out to 2:20pm.  Last year on comparable days, FASTPASS would have been out to around 4:30pm.

The tower continues to mark the location of Disney’s next generation bathroom experience.  I wouldn’t want to be the guy behind data mining on that.

Is there a Roger Rabbit reboot I’m unaware of?


And even with the crowds that have already arrived, full ferry boats continue pulling up.

Moving over to Epcot, we see waits that are typically long at Test Track and Soarin’ along with 15 or less minutes at most other attractions.

With the downtime in the morning, Disney was allowing those of us with morning FASTPASSes to use them later in the day.  My FASTPASS was pulled at 8:47am with a return time of 10:05am – 11:05am.  As it has been, Epcot opens its turnstiles around 8:45am.  On this particular morning, it was closer to 8:50am.

FASTPASSes were long gone and the posted standby wait was 60 minutes. The standby line looked to be short, but you’ve got a ton of people returning with FASTPASS, many of them later than their window. I waited just under 20 minutes to ride with my FASTPASS.

The single rider line looked to be moving faster. People that had entered the single rider line after I entered the FASTPASS line boarded before me, so that remains a viable option. The only problem there is that you don’t know how many people are in line ahead of you.

I didn’t notice before, but those standing in the FASTPASS line can creepily look in on those designing automobiles.  Remember me talking about the additional layer of technology?  I counted 12 design consoles that weren’t operational in this room.

As originally pointed out last week, those using FASTPASSes or the single rider line can design their automobile in the post show area.

I confirmed this fact again.  In the Single Rider/FASTPASS lines, you’ll only have an opportunity to choose from pre-made cars that leave a little something to be desired.  If you simply don’t care, you don’t even have to pick a pre-designed car and can just continue through, shortening the wait by a minute or two.  You may recall that your design has no effect on the ride experience.

Reactions to Test Track 2.0 seem to continue being mostly positive.

This time around, more effects seemed to be working.

But I still like being a test track dummy more.

There’s more to look at during the first half of the ride, but once you arrive at the old hot/cold tests, you’re basically traveling through empty rooms outlined in neon.

This is “literally” just a black wall on our left.  Or you could look at your reflection on the right.

More neon Christmas trees. Very festive for the season, anyway.

Test Track is definitely worth experiencing yourself though.  If for no other reason than a bumpy ride through Tron.

PhotoPass pictures are on your right as you exit into the post-show.  For a more complete look at Test Track, see this post.

Cool Wash was operating for the first time in what seems like forever.

I don’t think I’ve seen the Frozen Raspberry Lemonade flavor before.

The Refreshment Outpost in between China/Germany and Fife & Drum Tavern in front of the United States Pavilion have added “Agent P’s Power Pack” and a “Beaker.” The Power Pack is different than what’s offered over at the Studios and looks to come with a cute pail.

The Beaker looks like Strawberry Frozen Slush underneath Soft Serve Vanilla?

To the left of the Germany Pavilion sits a kiosk similar to the ones found at the Food and Wine Festival.  For the holidays, it serves up this delicious sounding menu of treats.

The Tutto Italia gelato cart now serves Montegrande wines, which we sampled at a Regional Lunch a couple of months ago.  You’d have difficulty convincing me they’re anything special, but they’re there.

Never fear, the kiosk still sells gelato and other stuff, including the Italian Margarita and “Primavera” from the Food/Wine Festival:

That’s what’s going on at Epcot.  Hopefully Disney can get their act together on Test Track, but I only see reliability getting worse.  There are so many Chevrolet jokes I could make.

Epcot was recommended and Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios were not.  It’s 4:22pm.

With the name recognition, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow continues to be popular.

We took a look at it in this post.  This actually looks to be a 45 minute wait.  It’s worth waiting 15 minutes for, but I’m not sure I’d stand there bored outside for 45.  Try to visit before 11am to find shorter waits.

Across the way, you’ll see that a new kiosk has popped up offering these cupcake “treasure chests” for a pretty penny.

Along with bottled beverages.  We’ll sample one a little later.

Dinner this evening is avec AJ from Disney Food Blog.  She is as delightful as you might expect.

Seeing Disney added a new Sloppy Joe to the Studio Catering Company menu caused me to groan out loud.  They also offer the same Treasure Chest ($9.57 with tax makes it 7 cents more expensive!) and a Gingerbread Cupcake for the holidays.

Bless her heart – AJ took one for the team and ordered the Sloppy Joe.  This is the $8.99 Chicken Caesar Wrap – Oven Roasted Breast of Chicken, Romaine, Caesar Dressing, and Wheat Flour Tortilla served with Coleslaw, Apple Slices, or French Fries.

I was surprised this sucker was so large and so packed full of chicken.  It’s served cold and would also be portable if you wanted to haul it over to Fantasmic.  With its size and heft, it was quite filling.  On the downside, there wasn’t a ton of Caesar dressing or lettuce, so it was almost entirely flavorless.  I would have preferred to fill it with honey mustard dressing instead.  You might want to order the dressing on the side or ask for it dry.  But I love honey mustard.  I’d definitely order this one again.

An overly edited shot of the Sloppy Joe, which may make it look better than it probably was.  It wasn’t “bad” by any means, but AJ described the meat as “mealy” or like elementary school taco meat.  I don’t think either of these are positive characteristics.

I ate half myself and the flavor was okay – kind of bland all things considered and the cheese was what I would consider to be a gross slimy texture.  In the grand scheme of Disney food, this isn’t a terrible option.

But I’d order the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, Wrap, and Pressed Turkey Club (in that order) first.

When you hang with Disney Food Blog, you know you’re going to be sampling some cupcakes.  Here we have the Gingerbread, which I thought was quite good.  The texture and icing reminded me a lot of a carrot cake cupcake – not too sweet.  I wouldn’t drop five bucks on one, but they would certainly be a more interesting dessert on the Dining Plan.

And the $8.95 Treasure Chest, filled with a cupcake and a couple of cookies.  This was a chocolate-on-top-of-chocolate cupcake with rice krispies on top.  It was moist and quite chocolate-y.  Again, I wouldn’t spend nine bucks on this sucker, but I’m also not on vacation(?).

You can get the same cupcake for $2.50 more along the Streets of America during the Osborne Lights,  Only this time it’s topped with a glow cube.

So that’s that.

Speaking of “vacations,” I’m headed back to Seattle from December 18th – January 15th.

During that time, information consolidation will continue.

We’ll also continue our tour of Universal Studios and (hopefully) SeaWorld along with whatever Disney updates are possible.


  1. molitva says

    So if the mountains, pp, little mermaid, pooh were all on the to do list for rd, would you pull FP for pp and go straight to stand by for LM?

  2. Kevin says

    Damn, I was hoping for some first-hand Christmas Day crowd experiences. Enjoy Seattle. And I’ve had it with those tour groups. But I doubt Disney will step in- they seem to spend lots of $$$$ in the parks, and that’s the bottom line.

  3. josh says

    If possible, I’d plan on doing Big Thunder/Splash Mountains on another morning because it’s a long haul out there, particularly if you’re headed from Space Mountain all the way over to Big Thunder Mountain. Otherwise, I’d probably do Space Mountain -> Winnie the Pooh -> FASTPASS Peter Pan’s Flight if the wait is already 15+ minutes -> Journey of the Little Mermaid -> then probably off to Big Thunder/Splash before coming back to Peter Pan. The big problem is the walking time to Space. Starting with Space won’t totally minimize wait times, but it’d be a couple more minutes in line instead of 15+ minutes of unnecessary walking in the morning.

  4. Betty says

    So the old hot and cold rooms are just empty room temperature neon rooms now?

    Have a great visit!

    Thank you for checking out Universal and Sea World!

  5. Karen says

    For your ideal Epcot morning, where would you fit in Character Spot? Right before heading to TT? We also probably wouldn’t need 2 rides on TT so should we just try and ride standby after Character Spot or will the line be crazy? I can’t believe you will be gone so long!! We will miss you, but you deserve it!!

  6. Natasha says

    I am going to miss reading about the parks while your gone!!!!!!! I LOVE your site, it has so many pictures!! I especially like the food and merchandise ones. It makes it so nice to have a plan with those items as well during a vacation. I totally agree with your park touring plans, they are spot on. We were in the parks last year the week before Christmas and had no problem getting on all the rides and seeing the shows and special holiday attractions. We even had time for tons of pictures for my photopass CD and beautiful night time images for competition prints ( I am a professional photog) , visiting many hotels to see the decorations and time at the pool in the afternoon. I will miss my window into Christmas in the Kingdom this year but hope you have a great time in Seattle!

  7. RebeccaMcK says

    I’ve never seen cheese on a Sloppy Joe. That’s wrong. The version my kiddo is getting at her school today is probably better (she LOVES it). I hope they have that Agent Perry/Doofenschmirtz stuff for a long time, because I must get the pail and the beaker some day. We’re looking at probably October 2014. Have a great holiday vacation, Josh. Today, with it being 2 degrees outside in Colorado Springs (and some snow/ice on the ground from yesterday, which might melt by late tomorrow), I’d rather be in Orlando….even with tour groups chanting past me.

  8. Becky says

    Josh – What do the asterisks on the German kiosk menu denote? There is one on every item except the water. Maybe it indicates that the item has calories…

  9. Mike says

    Oh how I frantcially read and scrolled waiting to see the elusive picture of you and Tom Bricker together and it wasn’t there!

    How could you let us down? It’s like WORLDS COLLIDING and there is no photograpgic proof!

  10. Velma says

    Glad I’m not the only one that thinks the tour groups are getting out of control.

    Between the chanting, general bahavior, cutting in line, and pretending not to understand, I’m fed up.

  11. Dan Young says

    Josh’s breakfast was at Seasons in The Land pavilion. And I can’t believe he LIKES the panini – tastes like feet to me!

    As to Test Track, it was up and running just fine Sunday morning the 9th. And yeah, some of the tech still isn’t working quite right. It’s all a matter of timing, which can be adjusted. But unlike you, Josh (normally my online hero!), I really like the new TT. Once you’re on the ride it’s basically a car ride with stuff to look at, and the new version doesn’t disappoint. I had fun designing my rad car, and didn’t have the slightest problem understanding what was going on, even up to riding the “sim car” through the simulation. Very well done, with excellent repeat value!

  12. Norah says

    We were at Epcot today and TT was down at least 3 times while we were there. We decided to wait in the standby line when we finally caught it open (they were not distributing FP). Posted wait time: 60min Actual wait time: 81 min. Not worth it.

    Also, we were at MK Sunday and noticed that if you FP Winnie the Pooh, you get a bonus Dumbo FP.

  13. Schmoodle says

    “…but I’m also not on vacation(?)” Hmmm, this made me wonder, where would you go on vacation? I know you go to visit family for the holidays, but for a real get-away-from-it-all vacation, where? I’m guessing somewhere without glow cubes. Sorry if I’m being nosy, just curious, not planning to stalk you or anything.

  14. stevenmilz says

    We lucked out with TT on the 8th. DW and DS rode early afternoon twice and DS and I rode late evening three times. It was “down” for maybe fifteen minutes around 8:30ish, right after our ride #1, so we hit MS instead. It was back up when we got done with MS and actually was walk-on right before park close at 9:30. They didn’t even use the final part of the queue before the loading area. The FP design kiosks only worked on one of our three rides though.

    On a related subject, TSMM was down at park open yesterday (10 Dec). It was our check-out day so we didn’t make it for RD, arriving around 9:30. It had been down I think since open and the FP return time was already 2:30pm since everyone was getting FPs. It came back up right after we got our FPs so we rode with a 10-15 min standby wait. The ride was “iffy” though – we stopped a couple of times during the ride. By the way, a CM told DW that if you hear the “please remain seated” message four times, you’re in big trouble and will probably end up being evacuated from the ride (as we were back in Oct).

  15. LesliePR says

    Hubby and I got stuck behind 4 giggling gabby touring teenage girls on Splash mountain and they were SO annoying! They talked through the whole ride and i couldn’t hear the songs through out!

    Shut up during Zippity do dah!!!! geez!

  16. lync says

    I hope you get a chance to try again with coming up with a touring plan at Epcot on a recommended day before my trip (Jan 26-Feb 1)……hint, hint , hint…..

    Enjoy your vacation!

  17. siskaren says

    Becky – The explanation for the asterisk is pretty much cut off at the bottom of the picture, but it looks like it says “Tax not included.”

  18. Katie says

    Hey Josh– off topic I know but what restaurant in the Italy pavilion do you recommend for dinner? Your suggestion would be very much appreciated! We’ve never eaten at either before.

    Have a safe trip home!

  19. Terri -back home is So. Cal says

    Thanks Josh. Is the Beaker at the Africa Coolpost at $8.99 really a Snack Credit on DDP? That must be an error, if not that’s the most expensive item you can use a SC for.

  20. Janet says

    I SAW JOSH AT HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS on the evening of December 8. You were standing by a street light near the entrance. My 20 something daughter told me it would be too creepy for me to speak to you. I can’t believe I had the chance and didn’t speak.
    ANYway, we had a great time following your advice. The longest line was to purchase some gifts at the Emporium in the Magic Kingdom!

  21. Donna says

    We were at Epcot for rope drop on December 5th, hoping for the turnstiles to open at 8:45, but no…not even at 8:50. They waited until 9:00!
    When we got to TT we were told it was not open yet, but FPs were available. By the time we went through the very short line for FPs, it was open for business! So we were able to ride it twice before 10:00.

  22. Steph says

    We were in WDW from 12/8-12/16. The lack of crowds, and most importantly, tour groups was amazing. I think we only saw 3 groups the whole week! Either it’s not a good time of year for them or they don’t read your blog and chose different parks! What I did notice, however, was A LOT of rides that were down for lengthy amounts of time as well as the monorail. On Saturday, 12/15 even Small World was down for quite a while and LM had 110 min posted wait. It was also the busiest I had ever seen there, especially considering that we walked on practically every ride the entire week prior.

  23. Lynda says

    Josh, perhaps they’ve reduced the amount of Pork and Potatoes that they serve at lunch at Be Our Guest. When I ate there in mid November and again in early December, there was no way I could finish my lunch.

    Re Test Track, bleh, not my cup of tea, we were able to ride it single rider first thing in the morning on the official opening day, and for me it was zipping through Tron. Anyone know, is LBJ still driving the truck?

    When are you coming out to Disneyland to ride Radiator Springs Racers, now that’s a great use of this ride design.

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