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Thread: Starting Summer Vacation with a Bang .

  1. #1
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    Cool Starting Summer Vacation with a Bang .

    Some thoughts from our recent trip in case they are helpful/entertaining for anyone else out there.

    First and foremost: thanks to Josh for dedicating so much time and fab pix to helping others "tour intelligently" (My favorite phrase of his. That, and "flapdoodlery"), and for creating this space for people to share. Thanks to forumers for immeasurably improving our plans before hitting the ground running. You are all awesome and generous. Endless showers of pixie dust on you all!

    It was myself, DH, DS(18) and DD(12) travelling, with our 22 year old son electing for the third year in a row to bow out of the annual family vacaction. This is partly because he doesn't want his style to be cramped by how we vacation (involving being awake during the day and sleeping at night, which he mostly likes to reverse), partly because he can't resist the temptation of having house and car all to himself. Though it is still very sad for me that he doesn't want to come along (Come on! One week or so in a whole year! Is that too much to ask? i think not) the benefit of it is that we don't have to get a house sitter, the pet birds get fed and the flowers watered. So there's that.

    But why in the world would be choose to go in late June/early July, when everyone knows Central Florida is slightly warm and a touch crowded and the Disney prices nudge upward? Good question. Mostly it has to do with how school is sacred in my husband's view and CANNOT be missed, and also that his chiropractic practice is slower in the summer, so he can be persuaded to leave the office for a week or so.

    DAY 1

    And so it was we found ourselves being chauffeured by eldest boy to the airport in Toronto at 4:00 on June 27 for our 7:00am flight. We are now very long into the post-9/11 age, and yet it still amazes me every time I fly how lengthy and intensive security measures have become, easily eating two hours prior to a simple three-hour flight. I suppose the good thing about it is that it creates jobs for people.

    Off the plane at 10, on Magical Express by 11, pulling up to Pop Century by 11:30. First time staying on site! So much anticipation!

    To be met by a long, long line of people waiting to check in. Cast members flitted about with ipads but that did not seem to make the process go more quickly. Used the time in line to try Mobile Order for lunch from the food court - worked great. Finally got to front desk and asked for early check in as number 1 priority followed by high floor and quiet room. Then off we went to eat the whole cheese pizza (OK) and single order of pasta with meatballs (did not impress anyone) ready and waiting for us at Mobile Pickup. Then out to the pool area.

    I believe that the term "the sun beat down" was invented in Central Florida. Sun is of course the single greatest attraction of this vacation destination for us snow-oversupplied Canadians, but does it ever need some getting-used-to. I was the only one who packed a swim suit in my carry-on and immediately tried out all three pools (without exception, bathtub warm). Rest of fam elected to sit in the shade by the pool bar and spend time on various devices. By 2:30 they were all getting hot and bothered so I went back to the front desk to ask about room ETA, sharing that DS has ASD and struggles with prolonged heat and noise. The cast member kindly found a room that was ready, cautioning that it wasn't on a high floor as requested. No problem - access to quiet and air conditioning trumps high floor. So off we went to the blue building in the 90's section with the computer stuck on its side. It actually worked out fine - we were on the second floor on the corner, looking toward a parking lot and in general direction of computer pool (though we couldnt see it). It was quiet, and we got used to cutting through the parking lot to reach the buses. Plus, it was beside my favorite of the three pools. Hippy was too busy, Bowling Pin was less busy but noisy due to some kind of machinery, computer pool calm in terms of noise and only pool big and empty enough to swim laps. So that was good.

    Our order from Garden Grocer had arrived before we did and was delivered promptly to the room, perishables perfectly chilled and fruits unbruised. I would happily order from them again. I had tried Amazon Prime/Whole Foods but the system could not handle me ordering to a US destination when my primary account is in Canada, something almost two hours on the phone with a series of customer service reps could not fix, even when I opened a US Amazon Prime account.

    We liked the minimalist decor of the room, and the many little storage places, and the multiple charging locations, and how the shower/toilet area was separated from the sink area by a door, and the firmness of the mattresses, and the table/chairs available whenever the second bed was upright, and the large TV. We didn't like how very cramped the room became when the second bed was down and DS's air mattress was squeezed into the narrow space between bed and door, and how our eyes and noses seemed to react to the detergent or something that was used to launder the sheets/pillowcases (next time we will bring our own pillow cases), and none of us cared for the external building decor at Pop. Perhaps time for a refresh on the outside of the buildings as well.

    We chilled for awhile and then made our way to the MK bus, and then the Fort Wilderness boat. Love, love, love the disney boats. We arrived at Fort Wilderness and strolled a bit, admiring the horse-and-carriage and a wild (we think) turkey family, before it was time for our ADR at Trails End. Seemed a bit dark in there, but the staff were all friendly, and we all found apps and main course dishes we really liked. Same cannot be said for any of the desserts - the baked goods all seemed old, (likewise the dinner rolls) and the ice cream from the soft serve machine seemed watery. But the server went next door to Hoop De Doo and brought us back a strawberry shortcake with a candle in it to celebrate our "ever after" 30th anniversary buttons - and it was delicious, as well as big enough for all of us. So, hooray!

    After dinner, DH said he felt wiped and decided to go back to our room. Kids and I wandered down the road to the Meadows where the campfire was in progress. The only size of marshmallows for purchase was "great big bag" so we didn't do that. Not because of $, but because of a diabetic grandmother which means my kids can have sugar in small and spaced quantities but need to be careful. A kind soul realized that they wanted to join in the toasting and offered them the loan of their sticks and however many marshmallows they wanted out of their family bag. They felt my eagle eye on them and took one each. He refused my offer of payment, and accepted my expression of thanks and promise to pay it forward for someone else. Kids each very much enjoyed their token marshmallow and when it was done, Cowboy Singer Man was already striding onto the little stage.

    His jokes were corny, his songs well-known to the point of over-exposure, and I was amazed at how much my kids enjoyed the whole thing. Teen son loudly yelled "Yee haw!" whenever instructed, and even sang along with some of the songs. It was a lot of fun in a casual, all-ages atmosphere, on a beautiful sunny evening - only improved with the appearance of Chip and Dale. They do some singing (kind of) and gestures at the jokes and then come down off the stage to take a picture standing behind the bench area of each family for a picture. So everyone gets a nice photo, but no time for hugs or autographs. it was a great little first taste of character interaction - and thank goodness I was able to tell tween DD (who prior to the trip had been too cool to show any interest in character interactions and was now almost in tears at not getting to hug the munks) that we would see them another day at Epcot.

    The bus back to the boat took forever to arrive so we walked back instead, and boarded the boat with a pretty sunset on the horizon. About half way through the boat ride, the fireworks started. Was lovely. We disembarked and watched the rest on the walkway to the bus stops i front of MK. Great end to our first day, and DH had much enjoyed his alone time, so all good.
    Last edited by Monica; 07-23-2019 at 10:50 AM.

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    Senior Member Mrs Darling's Avatar
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    Sounds like a really nice travel day!
    As an East coast Canuck, living in central you-can't-get-there-from-here, I'm super envious of your quick direct flight & early arrival.
    Looking forward to reading more!
    ~Stacey

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs Darling View Post
    Sounds like a really nice travel day!
    As an East coast Canuck, living in central you-can't-get-there-from-here, I'm super envious of your quick direct flight & early arrival.
    Looking forward to reading more!

    Hi Mrs. Darling. You're right, that is a big advantage. I used to live in northern Ontario, five hours north of where we are now, so we did used to have to tack on that travel time plus an hour or two in case of snow delay or accident on the one-lane-north-one lane-south highway to get to the airport.

    Glad to have you along

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    Senior Member kgillen's Avatar
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    Sounds like a super start to your trip! Can't wait to hear about the rest. As the father of two, too-cool teens, I love hearing about WDW bringing out a little of the kid still left in them.
    KEVIN

    Cast: Me , DW, DS (12), DD(10), DS (5)
    Previous trips: 03/2009-ASMo, 03/2012-POR, 10/2014-AoA, 01/2016 - 1/2 Marathon, POR

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    Senior Member mgarbowski's Avatar
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    Love the story about the other guest who shared the marshmallows and sticks.
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by kgillen View Post
    Sounds like a super start to your trip! Can't wait to hear about the rest. As the father of two, too-cool teens, I love hearing about WDW bringing out a little of the kid still left in them.
    Yes! It was part of the reason why DH offered this as our vacation destination at all this year. He doesn't like heat, or crowds, or commercialism, so he is most certainly not the greatest Disney fan. But he feels how the boys are slowly or not so slowly distancing themselves, so he wanted DD to have the chance to feel the magic (which he himself doesn't really) while she is still interested.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mgarbowski View Post
    Love the story about the other guest who shared the marshmallows and sticks.
    Yes. Disney people are great. I read a lot about not so wonderful behaviour on various threads, but can't really recall anything that we heard or saw that shattered the bubble for other people while we were there - even at the very end of the nights when all were tired.

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    DAY 2 - Animal Kingdom - AM

    Up bright and early, fam gamely trusting my assurances that sacrificing sleep would be the best possible thing we could do, still managed to miss the first bus by seconds. Got on the second with only two other families, arrived by 7:30 with what looked like less than a hundred people ahead of us. First piece of happiness that a guest services window was open that early, second piece of happiness that there was absolutely no line at it. Got DAS squared away rapidly with the hope that we wouldn't actually need it.

    (Quick aside for people who may not be aware of how DAS works - at least, for individuals with hidden rather than physical disabilities, I don't know how it works for someone in a wheelchair, for example. If the standby line at an attraction one wishes to visit is anticipated to cause significant problems for the person - for example, for people who have issues with crowds, or heat, or sensory processing, or noise, or who can deal with those types of things individuaully but not altogether- , then one approaches the castmember at the FP entry, and they will provide a return time to the FP area which is equivalent to the current standby wait time. Your party then waits the same amount of time as they would have done in standby, only they don't have to do it IN standby. Then the party returns and goes through FP. The affected person must be present, and if I have understood correctly, you can only use this once for each ride. For people whose first reaction may be "Wow, I wish my family could do that!", let me just say: if I had the a choice, I would actually much rather wait in line like everyone else, because if I am able to do that, it means my kid has reached the point of being able to deal with all the sensory information /heat /crowds/etc in a way that doesn't overload his/her system, which in turn means he/she will be able to go to many more public places than before rather than being "trapped" at home and the rest of the family therefore also being so restricted in where they can go. So, NOT having to use the DAS, if the family member is coping, and being able to inch forward like everyone else in standby, is actually a triumph.Other parents of kids with hidden disabilities will understand this).

    We baked for awhile in that rectangle in front of the tapstiles with the crowd building steadily behind us. Finally they opened and everyone surged toward the left side rope holding area. Not one person that I could see went right. Then we waited some more, but this was much more bearable as it was in the shade. Then, the rope came down, and we were off, kind of like what you see on TV at the start of a marathon or something. I had no idea this was a risky activity. DH was almost mowed down by a lady trying to pass on the outside, using her scooter the way old steam trains crossing prairies used buffalocatchers. We arrived at FoP and wound our way through the amazingly long queue, finally stopping in the area where cast assign you into the pre-ride rooms, with less than ten people ahead of us. Less than 5 minutes wait, and in we went. All LOVED the ride, DD so much she asked if we could immediately go again. No, because a. standby line was insane, b. did not want to use DAS so soon while DS was still in good shape, and c. Navi awaited! We hurried over and had less than a ten minute wait. We all enjoyed it but no one said yes when I asked if we wanted to do it again straight away.

    So off we went to FP#1, Safari. I was sad to leave Pandora so quickly and would have loved to spend half an hour just wandering the land, taking pics of truly astonishing landscaping. It really does feel like another planet. In hindsight, I wish we had done so as later in the day when we did return the lighting was not nearly as good and more people got in the way of good shots.

    Standby at Safari already looked substantial, in FP line the wait was about ten minutes. Ride was great, twin baby giraffes and a pair of elephants posing photogenically, rhino majestic, flamingos such divas, and bonus: learned new word! Group of flamingos is a flamboyance, which seems awesomely apt.

    After safari DD said she was tired (and we had been expecting it to be DS! But he was doing great! Hooray!) so we parked her on a bench with her ipod at start of Gorilla Falls and went in to explore the trail. Serene, lush, comfortable due to all the vegetation protecting from sun. We cooed over the baby gorilla for quite awhile. By the time we exited the trail DD announced it was time for lunch. We took advantage of some photopass photogs in Harambe, across the water from Tree of Life, and by the ruins near bridge to discovery island (highly recommend - were some of our best shots from whole trip), and then felt very happy that we had an ADR when we beheld the line of people wanting a table to Yak & Yeti even before noon.

    We really liked Yak & Yeti. Nice art, AC cool without being arctic, large portions. DD had half portion won ton soup and the chicken lo mein (I thought it could have been more flavourful but she liked it), DS had chicken tikka masala (all liked), DH had Kobe burger (whether or not it was "true" Kobe, we all thought it was really good) and I had the seared tuna salad (delicious). After lunch we made our way to FP#2 - Kali River. We all enjoyed it, with DS only one to make use of his poncho. Rest only got wet enough to find it refreshing, not soaked.

    By this time the heat was truly oppressive and rest of fam wanted to go back to room for some downtime. They left, but I stayed - because who knows when I will ever be in AK again?


    RIDE IMPRESSIONS:
    Motion Sickness/Dizziness: Few moments on FoP when I had to close my eyes, but overall, was surprisingly OK, especially because part of the effects are a cool breeze at times, and some moisture spray. No problems on Safari or Kali.

    ASD: People were crowded a bit tightly at the Safari FP queue, but by having DS in the middle of our family members rather than first or last among our own group, it was fine. This strategy worked in a lot of other queues also. No issues with Safari or Kali (since he had used his poncho and did not need to feel anxious about wet clothes) nor him personally with FoP, but people with family members who take things literally should be aware that in the pre-ride portion where riders are prepared for getting on their banshee, the guide says "Don't worry, you won't feel a thing!" and then immediately, you feel a strongish gust of wind. Usually people just laugh or have no reaction, but it could be startling for someone who trusted those words. Also, when you get in position to ride, the usual sensation is reversed: rather than sitting with your back against a solid surface and seatbelt or hip restraint etc. being positioned in front of you, you lean your chest against a solid surface and the restraint comes up behind your back. DS handled it fine but it might be startling as you do not visually see it coming. The audio does warn you about it but it is easy to miss that information among all the other things going on.
    Last edited by Monica; 07-12-2019 at 05:24 PM.

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    DAY 2 . - Animal Kingdom - PM

    Now solo, I took my time enjoying Maharaja Jungle Trek Trail. Equally as beautiful as Gorilla Falls, in a different way. Sat in on Up, a Bird Journey (or whatever its called) and did not make it through the whole show. If it had been simply about birds and the cool things they do, it would have been fine, but to me personally it felt like they were trying way too hard to force both Russell/Dug interaction on top of it, and then not only that, but the story of the MC character as well. Why so much artificial overlay? Took away from what should have been the main focus and when I realized how restless/irritated I was feeling I decided I could find a better way to use my time.

    So I left - only to encounter the best bird of them all. Kevin was meandering, and she was awesome - huge, interactiony- and walking/fluffing her wings/tipping her head exactly like she does in the movie. Love her.

    Sun even more broiling by now, so sat at the bar at Yak & Yeti and enjoyed a slice of mango pie with one of their sparkling waters (desert pear and lemongrass, I think). Really refreshing and enjoyable. As I did so, I was astonished at the upselling skill of one of the bartenders . There was a steady stream of people approaching the bar who were waiting for a table (and by now, there were no more empty spots at the bar either), and whenever someone placed an order for a drink to help pass time till their table was ready, he would invariably ask "Would you like to make that a double?" or "Would you like two of those?" or "Would you like some beverages to go along with that?" (to people who ordered snacks to help pass the time). It was rare that his inquiry was turned down.

    I wandered around Discovery Island a bit, taking in the Rafiki/Terk dance party, looking at the shops (sadly, no "No Touchy!" tees with Kuzco, which I'd been hoping to find), and eventually got in line for Nemo. Then a rain drop fell.

    Where I live, rain clouds usually give fair warning. They mass, a light drizzle may set in, an advance party of actual drops signals last chance, and then the real rain builds gradually and later eases off the same way. No such thing, apparently, in Florida. It went from nothing to pounding downpour in a few seconds. Naturally, my poncho and umbrella were in the backpack DH had taken back to hotel with him. I sprinted toward some type of three sided shelter thing and waited it out with as many people who were able to squeeze into the space as possible. I was in the back, leaning against the wall, and sort of crouched down to wait it out. The drops fell with such force that even through the legs of those people in front of me, I was continually sprayed with fine warm mist as the water bounced back from impact on the ground. After a short and furious time, the rain stopped as suddenly as it started, and full sun resumed.

    Into Nemo I went. The costumes were beautiful, the special effects great, and neither was enough to stop me from enjoying a little snooze. Woke up for the grand finale and then wandered into Asia. Was working up my courage to get in line for Everest (I am NOT a rollercoaster person), when an announcement was made that the ride was down. So took that as a sign I really shouldn't do Everest. Instead, went to see Mickey & Minnie as the standby line announced 10 minutes, I guess because of the earlier rain. It was a fun meeting. I really like their safari outfits. I had brought my lipstick with Mouse Ears and Minnie dots (the Disney line from The Face Shop) and showed Minnie that I had her lipstick. I also showed it to Micky, in case he is the type of mouse who likes lipstick also. For characters who have immovable faces, and can only get their meaning across with arms and legs, they were really effective in showing how Micky pretended to be intrigued and Minnie made it clear that that was a no-no for him.

    Fam still not returned so I went into Lion King, with no wait at all. I really liked the show. The voices of all 4 main singers were impressive, and as a parent who has sunk a lot of money in gymnastics lessons I admired the monkeys. Very soon after I exited fam texted that they were in line for the next show of Lion King, so I went right back in (again no wait) and got to see the show from a different section of the room. Great show again, really made me want to go see the full musical while it is still on back in Toronto.

    DD wanted to see the mice, so we went to Adventurers Outpost where the wait was still reasonable. Lovely interaction with the famous couple again. We went on to Tough to be a Bug, and all liked it (with the occasional scream from DD, especially at end with the bug audience "exits" under the benches). Then FP #3 - our second ride on FoP. Loved it again the second time. It was an awkward time in this land - neither enough lighting for good pix, nor the illuminations after dark yet kicked in. But we couldn't linger as Kids were getting hungry, and none seemed intrigued by Sautuli Canteen (to my disappointment). So we walked toward Flame Tree while I tried and failed to get into Mobile Order. Took our food away from the bustling and noisy area closest to walkway and all the way down to the water's edge, where we had a whole section to ourselves, and enjoyed peaceful twilight dining looking across to Everest. Was very romantical, as Mike Wazowski would say. The food itself (salad, pulled pork sandwich, half chicken, macaroni) was just OK - nothing any of us would want to make special efforts to seek out again. But the setting was unmatched by anyplace else we ever ate on the whole trip - and not one bird even tried to snatch anything! I guess they were settling into their nests with oncoming dark.

    DD had been promised ice cream so we walked towards Rivers of Light but overshot it to get to Tamu Tamu for Dole Whip - only to find it already closed. Argh. We managed to find a popcorn cart for end-of-day-show snack and then walked toward FP entrance for first attempt at using DAS with DS's battery clearly winding down again. Only to be told that we needed to have DAS plus an actual FP to get in. I was confused, as if one has FP, one shouldn't need DAS, and if one is tryng to use DAS, one shouldn't need FP. It didn't make sense. In any case, DS was beginning to get agitated, DH was embarrassed and said we should just leave, which made DD distressed as she thought that might mean we didn't get to see the show at all, and I was trying to rerun in my head the instructions the castmember at Guest Services had given me as we were turning away to leave and try our luck at the standby entrance (which is, unlike the way entrances work at most rides, quite some distance away from the FP entrance). The cast member observed all this and said that since there had been a misunderstanding we could go in. We thanked her and did so. DH was still uncomfortable about what had happened and concerned that perhaps we were taking away spots from someone else; but by the time the show began shortly after, there were still open areas in the section.

    The show itself was nice. This being the first time I had ever made it to the end of the day at Animal Kingdom, I have nothing with which to compare it. I thought the water lilies and mosaic animal sculptures were beautiful. The spinning globe thing seemed to take a long time doing the same thing, and stuck in one kind of hard to see position. Not sure if that was malfunction or intended. The coloured spraying water jets were nice, the music was great, the animal images projected on boat sails extremely difficult to make out. I have no idea whether this show is better/same/worse than what there was before, but for me, it was very nice to have something grand to close the day rather than just being sent out of the park while shops closed down, or something.

    The walk from the back of the park to the exit was nice in the sultry evening air, atmospheric and serene. There were no more projections on the Tree of Life by the time we wound our way around (drat - those photos that others post of their family in front of the colourful tree are amazing), but the mood music still played through the speakers in the park and the buildings are nicely illuminated and once the sun goes down the air is soft and warm on the skin.

    All that steadily built feeling of Zen was destroyed on arrival at the bus stop. The long line of people waiting to go back to Pop was expected. The fact that there wasn't more than one bus to accomodate that crowd at the end of the night was not. It felt like there was only one, going back and forth to deliver one small batch before returning to pick up the next. Took FOREVER to get get back with long gaps in between busses. Kind of punctured the balloon of happy end of day feeling.

    ATTRACTION IMPRESSIONS:
    Motion Sickness/Dizzyness: Since I didn't ride Everest, Dinosaur, or tilt a whirl, no problems.

    ASD: Son did fine with volume of show at Lion King, but may have needed to take a break outside if it had been, say, an hour or more. He also did fine at Tough to be a Bug (something he would have struggled with ten years ago), but people with family members who do not like surprises may want to consider warning them or letting them sit on a parent's lap prior to the last bit of the show when the bugs "exit" under your bench.
    Last edited by Monica; 08-10-2019 at 10:01 AM.

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    DAY 3 - Non-park day

    DH woke up feeling under the weather, so he didn't join the 3 of us as we headed to Animal Kingdom Lodge for breakfast. The two buses involved from Pop went relatively quickly and we were soon strolling around Animal Kingdom gift shop while waiting for our time at Boma. This ADR was one recommended by forumers here, and also by EVERY SINGLE cast member whose favorite onsite breakfast buffet spot I had asked about. They were not wrong. This was a wonderful place to have a leisurely, delicious begin to the day. We all enjoyed it tremendously, and the little muffin and scone types things we didn't have room for during the actual breakfast made great portable snacks for later in the day.

    After breakfast we wandered the lodge a bit, admiring the decor and vibe, then went out to try and spy some animals. No luck at that time of day, but as we ambled by the pool, we happened to come to one of the gates as a lifeguard was coming out - who spontaneously and courteously held the door for us. Maybe because we all had magic bands? I had read all about the no-pool-hopping rule, so we hadn't brought our suits, but I wasn't about to turn down that opportunity. So in we went and had a look around the very pretty pool area. I stood up to ankle height on a pool step, but there were no more seats left in the shade and it was way too hot to stay there in the sun without being able to get wet.

    So we got back on the bus and returned to Animal Kingdom, expecting to transfer to the Pop bus. It wasn't there, but the Art of Animation one was, so we took that, which pleased me since we hadn't had the chance to look around there yet. A lot of the AoA lobby seemed to be blocked so it wasn't as impressive looking as it had seemed online, and the gift shop was almost the same as at Pop. We went out toward the pool - and were immediately blown away by Big Blue (as compared with Hippy Dippy) as well as the outdoor building decor on all sides. So, so much more attractive than Pop. DS used to love the Cars movies to be point of obsession (they helped him learn his alphabet), so we took lots of pics at the Radiator Springs area. Kids feeling really hot by now so we crossed the bridge to go back to the room and some downtime.

    A few hours later i offered four options: go try out the pool at AoA, go to Disney Springs, go to check out Boardwalk, go ride the monorail and look at those hotels. They chose Springs. We strolled a bit but the extreme heat and crowds made the process much less pleasant than anticipated. We did enjoy some time on the rooftop patio of the coca-cola store, and DS actually found a cap and tee there which he accepted as his souvenir (we have a rule that he must choose something on every yearly trip, as a practice of accepting new things), whereas DD (who has no trouble identifying things she would like) couldn't find anything at Disney store that met twin requirements of her liking, and me liking as well as accepting the price (since she was looking at clothes that were much beyond what can be found at our local Disney outlet).

    We got on a bus to Polynesian Resort in search of the Dole Whip we missed out on the day before. By the time we got there, it was overcast. We accepted leis they were handing out in the lobby, checked whether the gift shop sold the Mai Tai souvenir glass from Trader Sam (no luck; at the time of day we arrived I didn't think we would have any luck getting a table inside to order the drink), and yes, enjoyed Dole Whip swirl and the island music playing on the patio outside. By this time DH & DS had had enough so we headed back home, had dinner at the food court, and stayed in when in rained off and on the rest of the evening.
    Last edited by Monica; 08-10-2019 at 10:53 AM.

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    Senior Member est71's Avatar
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    Awesome report! Following!

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    Quote Originally Posted by est71 View Post
    Awesome report! Following!
    Hello! Happy to have you on the ride

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    DAY 4 - MK

    Magic Kingdom and all it involves being too much for our men, DD & I rose early for our Girls Day Out while they snoozed on. They ended up using 2 of the minigolf coupons given to us at checkin, swimming, touring Art of Animation, and eating at that food court. They enjoyed their lowkey day and would have held us back had they come along. Hooray for everyone doing their own thing.

    Perhaps 100 or so people ahead of us at the entrance after bag check, but by using "go all the way left!" advice we managed to stand only third deep behind people previously arrived. There did not appear to be anyplace where they were allowing people with breakfast reservations in earlier. Somehow that holding area is not as hot as the one in AK, so we passed the wait pleasantly, chatting with others about their rope drop plans. And then, we were off - without any before-entry show like there had been the last time I was at MK.

    Instead, there was a welcoming message, and then began that exhilerating first rush down main street. Really magical with the castle in bright light up ahead. We stopped for a photo pass photog but shouldn't have - not because of time, but because the shot didn't turn out at all with us in shadow and castle in light - and arrived at The Plaza at 7:45. I opened the door with a cheery "Good MORNING!", all happy that my eat-fast-and-make-it-to-rope-drop plan was rolling right along, only to be told they were not open and being ushered out again. Huh. Perhaps - keep the door locked, then?

    Anyway, we took the opportunity for some really nice early morning shots without many people, and then found one of those classic cars that drive up and down Main street with a young man cast member driver who truly could have been the poster child of employment recruiting for the world. Great, fun ride (with only us!) from the castle back down to the beginning of main street, and walked back up again. Eagle-eyed DD fascinated with how the mermaid in the Starbucks logo was given a retro treatment to fit in with the time period.

    On second attempt at Plaza (PRECISELY at ADR time of 8:00) they made us wait awhile at the tables outside, but before long they seated us in the area where you can still see the castle, with only one other table occupied. We shared the lobster eggs benedict (really good, my first time having fried green tomatoes, and though there wasn't a huge amount of lobster, what there was came in large chunks and a claw - not lobster shreds or anything like that) and a child's order of waffles (waffles and chocolate sauce really good, the banana pastry cream stuff we both found too sweet and artificial tasting). Very nice breakfast and the server was very familiar with tables wanting to be on their way rapidly.

    By the time we emerged there was character singing and dancing going on in front of the castle, but we didn't allow ourselves to be distracted from making our way to Adventureland rope. We actually were in the foremost group, literally "belly up" to quote our favorite blogger. So having taken time for breakfast didn't have a negative effect on our touring plan. By now it was 8:45, and I was expecting the Rope Guardians to start walking us into the land. No such thing. Instead, more Rope Guardians slowly arrived to form a Shield Wall (yes, I watch Game of Thrones and Vikings - why do you ask?). By now, the sun was uncomfortably strong on the backs of our heads, and I felt sympathy for those cast members who had to face towards it with visibly sweating faces and no sunglasses (apparently sunglasses are not considered correct cast attire?) - but not too much sympathy, as they continued to form an obstacle when, you know, they could have let us in before official 9:00 open or something. But no. It went all the way to 9:00 before they ceremoniously unhooked the rope and made what seemed a production of coiling it into it's little rope house and finally began moving - none too swiftly- into Adventureland.

    On our previous Girls Magic Kingdom visit 8 years before, DD had been 4 and fully in princess mode so we spent a lot of time in Fantasyland. Today was intended as a day we would do all the things we hadn't had time for on that previous visit. We were the VERY FIRST people of the day in the queue at Jungle Cruise. I was feeling all happy with successful planning and execution when we arrived at the loading zone - and saw a boat already full of people. What? How?? What??? My only explanation is that these were people who had participated in the Early Morning Fantasyland special event that day and who had somehow been allowed to then branch out into other lands.

    Anyway - onto the second boat we went, and very much enjoyed our first ride. I still like the elephants the best and still feel uncomfortable about the headhunting bits and think its time to retire the concept that people should be afraid of other people eating them. Off of Jungle Cruise, straight into Pirates, with a five minute wait because there was some sort of technical issue. Resolved itself, and onto another boat ride we went. I didn't manage to spot the mermaid skeleton but loved Captain Jack and Barbossa voices and inclusion of a lady pirate. DD didn't like this ride at all though she likes the movies. Found it too menacing.

    Off of Pirates, we backtracked towards the castle and got in line for Merida, who already had a wait. This was the only hoped-for item in our previous visit we hadn't achieved, so we were determined to do it no matter what. The wait turned out to be fifteenish minutes, but at that time of day it was in the shade, and DD used the time to visit the photog at the wishing well down the path. Visit with Merida really fun, she chats humourously with her photog, said no when I asked her if she had seen the movie Braveheart. Wondered whether she or William Wallace would be the better archer. She was modest. Nice pics, but when its done they no longer allow kids to try out or even touch the bow that is placed a little further along Merida's wall. And no more little bear brothers.

    We moved on to Dumbo with 10 minute posted wait but it was really less then five (DD's nostalgic choice, and fun but really surprisingly short ride), avoided even looking in the direction of Mad Tea Cups to prevent queasiness, visited Daisy & Pluto in the circus tent (great interaction and shots) with less than 10 minute wait. Would probably have been less but they did a character swap while we were waiting.

    Time for FP#1: Mine Train. So, so happy we scored this FP as the ride had been under construction during our last visit and DD had been fascinated with the idea of Snow While ride.
    With FP wait was about 5 minutes, ride was fun, she wanted to go again but standby line too much. Standby for Under the Sea ride much more reasonable, so did that instead. I still think the queue and ship and castle (and the magic shot of Sebastian) outside are the best parts of the ride. DD chose not get in line for Ariel (posted wait 25 mins) and we headed to FP#2 instead at Haunted Mansion. Both enjoyed it, but didn't feel like we couldn't wait to do it again.

    Found ourselves at Liberty square, where not a single cast member could advise on time of next Muppets presentation. Times Guide just says intermittent, really not helpful. Rather than waiting for who knew how long to see it, and by now needing a bit of a rest, we got on the Riverboat. I liked it, but would have liked it even more if there were places to sit while still being able to look out at the passing landscape. DD more pragmatic, chose to sit on the stairs (where there is no view) rather than Magic Kingdom views you can't get from walkways.

    Off of Riverboat, sun becoming overpowering, we decided that a snack wouldn't do, it was time for lunch. Looked into Pecos Bill and onto trays of other customers to see what looked good, then I placed a mobile order (with some difficulty due to sluggishness and page reverting to home castle pic number of times) while DD went in search of a table. Sticking with it was worthwhile as wait at Mobile Order pickup window was short. Seating area crazy busy and loud, but we were happy to sit for awhile and our shared southwest salad with chicken, increased to another third in height at the toppings bar, was tasty and refreshing. Side of guacamole was small but tasted good.
    Last edited by Monica; 08-10-2019 at 10:14 AM.

  14. #14
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    Yay for a girls day! I love my boys, but they just don't have enough stamina for all day at Disney ;)
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  15. #15
    Senior Member ChristineOH's Avatar
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    Enjoying reading along! What a fun trip!
    June 2011 Poly, May 2013 POR, June 2015 CBR, June 2017 POR, March 2018 CSR, June 2018 POR

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    Quote Originally Posted by disney obsessed mom View Post
    Yay for a girls day! I love my boys, but they just don't have enough stamina for all day at Disney ;)
    Girls day was amazing. I think my daughter will remember it for years. I sure will

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristineOH View Post
    Enjoying reading along! What a fun trip!
    Hi Christine. Happy to have you along.

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    Day 4 - MK - PM

    After lunch we headed for FP#3 - Splash Mountain. Neither of us had ever been on this ride and it was a lot of fun. The magic shot outside is also really nice. We looked at Big Thunder but standby really long. Couldn't get disney phone app to work at all, so found a FP kiosk and booked one for Princess Hall. Till then, started walking across Liberty Square and DD found it very hot and tiring - so we found that porch in the middle of it with two rocking chairs and had a nice little sit, eating popcorn and watching people go by. Everntually some of those people were ones that put down the parade ropes so we found a good spot and settled in. But - it was scorching. Somehow that bit of MK feels hotter than many other places in that park. DD visibly wilting. I parked her in a bit of shade in that gardeny area behind the christmas shop and popped across the street to Sleepy Hollow for ice water and churro ice cream sandwich. By having the churros on the side, it helped the ice cream to melt a bit less quickly. All helped DD recuperate enough to sit at my feet at the rope to watch the parade. It was very nice, characters energetic and making great eye contact, and somehow much shorter than I remember the parade some years ago that involved characters in cars (?) at one of the other parks (Hollywood?).

    Parade over, we were both feeling ill from heat and in dire need of some cool. We entered the President Show and I had a brief but refreshing nap. Show over, DD wanted a longer rest so we went to the upper floor of Columbia Harbour House, found a remote corner table (there were very few people around) and chilled for awhile. Charged my phone, trying and failing again to get into phone disney app, while DD lay on a bench for a little while. After half an hour or so (in which no one disturbed us or questioned lack of food in front of us - thank you Columbia Harbour House staff!) we walked into fantasyland, marvelling at the standby wait time at Mine Train. Entered Princess Hall (or whatever its called) and had a very nice time with Rapunzel and Tiana. We got another FP for Big Thunder, then headed towards Tomorrowland. Walked into pre-show area for Monsters Inc without a wait, used the brief time there to text in a joke (Why do we tell Dad jokes? Because the Granddad jokes fell asleep!), then went into the show. Turned out to be one of both our favorite parts of the day. Really unexpectedly funny. They kept turning the spotlight on a gentleman sitting right next to us - and after the second time he moved his seat, so when they came back again the spot was empty and the monster riffed on it for awhile. Hilarious. For sure I will come back to this attraction on every return visit (unlike, frex, Peter Pan or Small World which were one and done) even though they didn't use our joke.

    After the Monster battery was sufficiently filled with laughter we got in line for Peoplemover. Was kind of cool despite brief malfunction. Then Carousel of Progress in which I slid down in my chair, closed my eyes, and drifted awhile again. DD pronounced the whole thing creepy. We walked toward Frontierland and came across the Country Bear dance party. Kind of fun but still not enough to lure me into Jamboree. We rode Big Thunder - awesome. It is just about the most amount of rollercoaster I can handle.

    By now we were hungry again. Stupidly, the day before I had cancelled our ADR at Plaza for dinner, thinking that I had no idea where we would be in the park at dinner time. Turns out I should have respected the fact that it was a Sunday at the end of June. They were not accepting walkins nor any new reservations at Plaza, the quick service locations we passed all had lines out the door, and DD didn't have energy to backtrack to Skipper Canteen nor interest in their menu. We ended up leaving the kingdom and heading to Polynesian Resort. Though the monorail ride and relative peace at the resort were soothing, it ate up a lot of time. Kona Cafe was totally full so we ate nachos at Captain Cook (both liked it) then headed back to MK as storm clouds massed overhead. By the time we entered the park again it started pouring.

    We ran into Town Square Theatre and joined the standby line for the birthday celebration mice. Only took fifteen minutes or so. But by the time we were done and emerged, thinking to be right on time to find a spot for the fireworks, we found out that because of the weather they had been done earlier than usual and we had MISSED THEM. Drat, drat, drat. At least we had seen part of them on our very first evening.

    It started pouring again, and DD was very tired, so we abandoned thoughts of getting in line for another ride or two before the park closed and headed to the bus stop. Very pleased with our dollar store ponchos that did the trick, especially after seeing some people purchasing what looked like a stack of a dozen pricey disney ponchos for the walk to the bus/ferry.

    Attraction Impressions ref: Motion Sickness/Claustrophobia:
    No problems on Jungle Cruise, Pirates, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Mine Train, People Mover, Riverboat. Very much avoided Space Mountain and Speedway (due to fumes). There was a bit of an uncomfortable period in that room in the Haunted Mansion before you get into the Doombuggy, because of large amount of people in small dark room combined with feeling of sinking. Didn't help for the narrator to talk about no doors or windows. But managed to deal with it by touching palm to wall and closing my eyes. Just glad I wasn't in the middle of the crowd.Might have felt uncomfortable eventually in mine train queue if had stayed there longer because it is dark and the ceiling feels very low. So that tells me if in future visits I don't have FP, I need to forgo riding if the standby line is longer than 20 minutes or so.
    Last edited by Monica; 08-10-2019 at 10:23 AM.

  19. #19
    unsure of the release date for the dumbo anniversary dvd but waiting outside best buy just the same jillyb's Avatar
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    Busy day but sounds like lots of fun! For the record, Stitch's Escape is closed. I avoid Space Mountain too because it's just too jerky and no fun at all. Love Country Bear Jamboree! You should see it at least once!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jillyb View Post
    Busy day but sounds like lots of fun! For the record, Stitch's Escape is closed. I avoid Space Mountain too because it's just too jerky and no fun at all. Love Country Bear Jamboree! You should see it at least once!
    Yes, super busy day. But so much fun.
    I will take your advice and try the Jamboree another time.

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    Day 5 - Epcot - AM

    Our last full Disney day. Up bright and early once more, DD bravely arising again despite long, long day before. This was because of promise of seeing Chip & Dale for breakfast. Hooray touring plan compliance motivators! Epcot bus from Pop half full, we arrived and delighted in being waved through the ADR breakfast line - only to find Garden Grill staff not only not allowing people with 8:10 reservations in at 8:00, but keeping them waiting till 8:20. With settling in a table, drink orders, etc. it wasn't till 8:30 that food appeared, by which point time crunch anxiety massively interfered not only with enjoyment of the meal overall but even eating at all, since I am a slow eater and had to take pix of DD with all the characters. We inquired with our server about Mickey as he had still not appeared (to us; we saw him at a distance) by the time we were paying our bill to get ready to stay ahead of the mad crush and DD was near tears. Server did send Mickey to us in time, thank goodness, so that was fun, but overall, I was disappointed. All of us found the food at best mediocre. Despite the early hour, the fruit was already overly soft and becoming slimy on the edges, the bacon was undercooked, and the eggs were cooling. I guess we could have asked for more of all those in hopes it would be a better batch, but we didn't want to sacrifice the time. I am not sure I would go back.

    And with all of that, our plan still almost failed. DD and I made a quick bathroom break, and when we came out, DH was already pointing at the throng racing by him at exit of Garden Grill to get on escalator down to Soarin. We joined them and ended up waiting less than five minutes in the queue. This ride ended up being DH's absolute favorite of whole trip. So we got right back in line and went again. Was kind of interesting because the first time, we were centrally located, but the second time we were in a place where many of the objects pictured looked bent. Either way, we all wished the ride was longer and showed even more cool sights.

    Off of Soarin, we headed out towards Character Spot but were immediately blocked by lines set up to accommodate a performing dance group. This involved many, many dozens of girls in glittery costumes, makeup, and brilliant smiles, as well as two very brave boys, and most awesomely, a girl in a wheelchair. Her smile was most brilliant of all as she expertly did all the arm movements.

    We got in line for Baymax - hooray! and Joy & Sadness. Their interaction was great, Sadness leaning her head against the wall in despair when DD first went to hug Joy (she was closer) and then allowing herself to be consoled and coaxed back into the photo again. They were great, but I did not like their backdrop (which shows Riley as she goes about her day, the way that the feelings all see her through the brain) , it totally interfered with all the shots by making the whole thing too busy and steering attention away from the subjects. Baymax' background was much better, enhancing the subjects in the foreground.

    Character Spot completed (by this point we really didn't need another Micky pic) we crossed the park to Test Track for FP#1. DS loves cars so this was his Disney highlight. Was a lot of fun for us all. I was amazed at how fast the final outdoor bit goes. Spent some time looking at the vehicle displays. Then, on to FP#2 - Spaceship Earth. A thoughtful and interesting approach to explaining all of human history.

    On to the Seas, and living with the land. Then Turtle Talk with Crush. Was great. The cast they have doing the interactive bits, here and at Monsters Laugh Floor, are amazingly quick on their feet (their brains?) and skillful at engaging in a funny, non-condescending way. We were also really happy to see some manatees, for first time ever. Yay real life mermaids.

    By this time it was very hot and surprisingly late in the morning. Kind of hard to believe how quickly time speeds by with what seems like few rides completed. All that criss-crossing and waiting in line really takes its toll. We ended up having to hurry all the way to the other side of world showcase to make our ADR - not fun in the glare of midday early July sun. On the other hand, entering Via Napoli and being ushered to our booth in the cool, bright, and relatively non-noisy back room was all the more of a pleasure. DH had a great time taking his rusty Italian language skills out for practice with the one-and-all charming staff. i thought we would order the family salad and one of their largest pizzas, but looking at some examples of those monstrosities on other people's tables made us realize we needed the next size down. Between that, the salad, the bread with olive oil provided, and DD's linguini with meatball, we all felt stuffed. Was delicious and relaxing and I would very gladly return.

    Ride Impressions:
    ASD: DS was fine with Soarin, Seas, Land, and of course Turtle Talk. He did fine with Test Track also, but may have struggled in earlier years due to final stretch of noisy acceleration. In Spaceship Earth, there is a point where one's vehicle (pod? hoverpad? chairmobile?) spins around once and then tilts in a way that one descends at a sharp backward angle. If one is in a calm frame of mind it is actually nice because you look up at "stars", but it proved anxiety producing for DS. He didn't have an outburst or anything but needed a bit of non-talking, non-motion recuperation time after we got out of the golf ball.

    Motion Sickness/Claustrophobia: I had been a little worried about Soarin but it was fine. No problems on the other rides. We ended up not having time for the Mars ride and frankly I was not sad about it.
    Last edited by Monica; 08-10-2019 at 10:26 AM.

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    Day 5 - Epcot - PM

    In what was becoming tradition, after lunch the fam decided to go back to our room and chill, while I stayed behind.

    Not much was happening in Italy when we emerged from lunch, but something was going on at the open air theatre opposite American Adventure. "Something" turned out to be Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Remix. Apparently the story is that the Guardians have to teach some sort of aliens to rock out or the universe will end or something. The story didn't make sense but the show was very lively and fun and Starlord really looked and moved and sounded like Peter Quill.

    Next, Japan. Very pretty and the drummers were out, and impressive, and the cute culture exhibit worth a look. I had built up a lot of anticipation for the department store, and if our town didn't have (conservatively) 3 Chinatown areas, I would have been more intrigued. As it was, while window shopping was fun, there wasn't anything of interest that I couldn't find for a better price at home. The one thing I had been interested to do was Pick-a-Pearl, but when I suggested to DD, she asked if it hurt the oysters. We googled it and DD so horrified with the decidedly un-animal-friendly results (and me so embarrassed that it had never occurred to me to ask) that it was a no-go.

    On to Morrocco which I personally found to be the prettiest/most atmospheric of the showcases. Sadly, no Aladdin or Jasmine to be found (even on two return check-ins) but fantastic magic shot with Iago, and great selfies with fab fez-wearing wooden camel statue.

    On to France where Serveur Amusant were performing (liked it), no Belle to be found, nice shop browsing, and enjoyed a Framboise (raspberry parfait thing) which was very refreshing in the heat. Then into the France theatre - and Holy Decrepit Movie, Batman. The clothes and hairstyles of the people in it look to be from multiple decades ago. It seems like this is the same movie that was shown on Epcot's very first day of operation. Surely there have been enough changes in France - and cinematic technology - to make creation of a new movie worthwhile??

    Moving on to UK. What a nice little showcase. The Beatles (or whatever they are called) were performing, and the shops are lovely to wander through. Purchased my first souvenir of the trip - a kind of Twinings loose-leaf tea I can't get at home, in a pretty tin for my teatin collection. They also had cool t-shirts (back view of Mickey making a call in an iconic red payphone booth, I am Sherlocked, etc.) but eldest son at home declined them all as his bring-home gift.

    Moving on to Canada. This being July 1st, and Canada Day (equivalent to American July 4th), I had a celebratory mini-Maple Leaf flag in my hair and was excited to see festivities would be going on here. Special food? special fireworks? Some kind of extravagant lumberjack dance and maple syrup candies for all? No such luck. It was some kind of coloring page for kids, and a wooden plaque with Mickey-in-a-pompom-beanie to hold for the photopass photog taking one's picture in front of Chateau Laurier. The grand waterfall had even been shut off. Very anti-climactic. Of the movie, I can say that it was miles better than the one in France, but despite beloved Martin Short, for me is was good but not great. Worth seeing, but not re-seeing over and over.

    Now back at the entrance to FutureWorld, it felt much too hot to stay outdoors. The cool of the pyramid and drifting music of the mariachi beckoned. But I didn't settle in to listen to their full set because - there was Donald! In his poncho and sombrero! Completely adorable. Inside the pyramid the Coco exhibit was still on, and the wooden animal carvers impressed. I wandered the marketplace longer than necessary because of showers outside.

    Once they were done I went next door to Norway, to find the line for Anna and Elsa posted at 10 minutes - amazing. They were lovely and sparkly and animated. With great excitement, I got in line for FP #3 - Frozen Ever After. It was mildly pleasant, but I kind of expected more from such a top tier priority. I consoled myself with some school bread (delish) and the Scandinavian gods exhibit.

    I had just entered the store in China when fam texted that they had returned. We met in Mexico and went on the ride. Good lord. It seems even older than the movie in France. I could smell the dust on the props as we boated through (not even kidding). Mexico is an amazing, ancient, richly diverse country in every way - SURELY there can be something better here to represent???

    DD wanted to go meet the Frozen sisters so we turned back to Norway while DH & DS wandered on. The princess and queen even more delightful with DD than before. By now it was starting to get perilously close to end of day and she decided she would rather look at countries than wait for a long time in Frozen ever after standby (since she had missed her FP and there were none left to rebook). We wandered into Germany and had a hard time choosing treats at Karamelkuche. Finally shared a peanut/toffee apple (heavenly) and a caramel butter square (would not get again). Fun magic shot with Pascal, and some minutes admiring the model train. Quick wander through Japan and Morocco, but by now the sun was setting and the torches around the lake were lit. Was beautiful. Fam had earlier rejected my suggestions of where to pick up something for dinner (tacos? norwegian grilled sandwiches? german sausage?) and now places were closing up and everyone was hungry. As we settled in to a spot by the grand red gate by Japan, DH desperately scrounged a pretzel from somewhere and a small collection of sushi.

    The show, once again, was very nice, and the illuminated buildings on the walk around the lake on the way out were beautiful. And once again, less beautiful, the long wait for buses to get back to Pop.
    Last edited by Monica; 08-10-2019 at 10:40 AM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monica View Post
    In Spaceship Earth, there is a point where one's vehicle (pod? hoverpad? chairmobile?) spins around once and then tilts in a way that one descends at a sharp backward angle. If one is in a calm frame of mind it is actually nice because you look up at "stars", but it proved anxiety producing for DS.
    My non-ASD 12yo daughter also has a hard time with this part of the ride. We have to convince her to go on it every visit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by geek1997 View Post
    My non-ASD 12yo daughter also has a hard time with this part of the ride. We have to convince her to go on it every visit.
    I don't blame her. It is quite an unsettling feeling.

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    Day 6 - Transition Day

    Took our time packing and finishing the groceries left in the fridge, casually ordered a Lyfft and received a very rapid education on how many ride-share vehicles hover close to Disney resorts. Received text almost immediately that driver would arrive in four minutes time. Followed soon by text that he would leave shortly if we did not show. Hustled over to main entrance to meet him, very glad that Lyfft provides photos to match with driver's appearance for safety's sake. Driver showed us place on app where we could have notified him we needed a few more minutes, so we filed that away for future reference. Car was comfortable and spacious, driver was courteous and quick, I would use Lyfft again.

    Arrived at Surfside Endless Summer resort at Universal by 11:00, less than a week after the hotel opened. I had been a bit leary of booking in case of hiccups like delayed opening, but figured that if that happened Universal would give us a room in another of their properties. But all worked out, and it was beautiful. Airy, open lobby with lovely colour palette and lots of comfortable seating and charging spots. Instagram worthy surfboard decor (according to expert DD). Eager-to-please staff made us simultaneously happy by advising our room was ready, and unhappy by cautioning that pool hopping was forbidden. This was deeply annoying since i had deliberately asked if it was OK to use other Universal pools when I called to book, and was assured that this was alright. In the end it was OK though because it was far too hot to come up with the energy to travel elsewhere and back just to swim - even though it did hurt to give up on waterslides.

    We went up to our room and found despite it being Universal's most "value" category larger and nicer than what was a "value" property elsewhere. The only element that we felt was superior in our Pop room was the presence of the table when the Murphy bed was up. At Surfside ceilings higher (though perhaps that was due to our being on top floor), window much larger, view more expansive (to the in-construction sister property next door), club chair much more comfortable, shower larger, way more floor space for DS's air mattress. We had lunch at the spotless quick-service spot in the lobby and found the food fresh, tasty, and not crazy expensive.

    Then on to the pool - simultaneously perhaps the best feature of the property, but also my single element of disappointment. It is in the shape of a surfboard, and very large, with massive amounts of loungers and umbrellas surrounding in attractive colours, zero-entry area, large bar area directly poolside (as opposed to outside of the fenced general pool area), with dozens of beach balls, complimentary swim diapers, and an enormous jug of SPF50 sunscreen available to all. The only criticism I have is that it was too shallow. I am not a tall person, and at its deepest point the water depth came to four inches below my shoulders. Despite that, we spent a great afternoon alternately splashing in the sun and cat-napping in the shade, kids every once in a while heading back into cafeteria to top up refillable mug.

    At some point somebody said they were hungry so we changed and got on the bus at the side of the hotel (there are a total of 2; one to the parks, one to Volcano Bay). After a very short wait, the bus arrived and we embarked on what should have been a very short ride, but included a period of just siting on the tarmac due to traffic at that time of day. Even so - the ride is so short compared to distances we had been travelling at Disney that it seems like it could be walkable, if only there were a safe and pleasant way to do it (you need to cross a very busy and exhaust-filled major road). It drops you off in an area that seems to be the Universal equivalent to Disney Springs - a large space filled with shops and restaurants, a rushed 5 minute or leisurely 10 minute walk from the actual park entrances. It is thronging with people and the impact on me was a kind of too-intense, in-your-face level of competition for visual and auditory attention. Makes Disney's initial parks-approach impact seem kind and gentle by comparison. But I imagine many people would find it invigorating and fun, and it certainly stokes the "Hooray, I'm on vacation!" feeling. So there's that.

    At quarter to six, Cowfish was already maxed out on tables and we were given a buzzer with the expectation of a 15-30 minute wait. We wandered about, watching a bit of the Americas Cup soccer match on the Jumbotron size outdoor screen, doing a bit of gift-shopping for people at home, marvelling at the VooDoo Donuts selection and the chocolate restaurant (really!) eye-catching outdoor display. More than the full half hour went by before our buzzer called us back to Cowfish where we had the choice of indoor or upper level patio table. DS chose AC, and we were seated at a table close to kitchen and server-station. Although in reality I guess it wasn't really cramped, the fact of staff continually rushing past us in two directions (we were on a corner) made for an exceptionally non-relaxing meal. I knew it would be uncomfortable from the moment I saw where the hostess was headed, but I resigned myself to it because very clearly there were few if any other tables available and the fam would not be happy to wait longer, and because DH finds it embarrassing to question hostess table selection. So, fine then. We had a mix of sushi and burgers, and found the food to be neither remarkably good nor bad. Overall, I wouldn't advise against Cowfish, but would rather check out other places in this area than return again.

    After eating we returned to Surfside, with DH and DS choosing downtime in our room while DD and I returned to the pool - which was even more enjoyable at night. Temperature perfect, lighting very well done, not a single mosquito (how do they do that?? With all the moisture in the air and standing water everywhere to form perfect mosquito breeding grounds??), we stayed quite some time. Then tested the shower in our room - good - and found the beds very comfortable. We would not hesitate to stay in this hotel again. Or perhaps, try out the sister hotel (to be finished next year) in case their pool is not quite as shallow.
    Last edited by Monica; 08-10-2019 at 10:44 AM.

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