All Around Orlando
Bob and Terry on Tour 2013, with Justin, Kim, Ellen and Richard
Days Five and Six

Day five – Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Once again we’re facing a fairly hot day in Orlando with a theme park on the schedule.

Now, don’t get me wrong, you move to Florida… live in Florida… vacation in Florida to get days with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the mid-80s or above. The weather for this trip has been, for the most part and even with some rain, exceptional.

That said, when visiting theme parks, give me slightly cloudy without a chance of rain and temperatures in the 60s or 70s. It’s the idea of comfort while being very active… being surrounded by people… being able to last in a place where it’s likely going to be a long day outdoors. (If you don’t understand the sunshine comment, I need you to head over to Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando on the brightest of bright and sunshiny days. Walk into Seuss Landing. No cheating… take those sunglasses off. I rest my case.)

When you take into consideration the crowds that come in the summer months and then top it off with rising temperatures… yeah… don’t expect to see me in many Florida theme parks between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. (And I have been in these theme parks on days when your clothes were thoroughly soaked in sweat and you felt like you were melting into the pavement. It’s draining. It’s tiring. And it most certainly does not feel like quality return on dollar invested for the visit.)

For the most part, our experiences on this trip have been very good. We’ve really been using an easy approach to the parks, knowing there is a bit of heat along four straight park days to contend with. For the Animal Kingdom and Epcot that approached still resulted in: (1) we got to every ride, attraction or other place we had identified as a must for one or more people in our group, (2) we found some new things, and (3) we had some really great and unexpected moments.

That introduction may seem a bit strange placed here, but it will come together as we prepare to spend some time in Disney’s Hollywood Studios today. To truly complete the introduction though, one quick side story before we begin our adventure.

For several years, the family vacations I took with my parents and sisters were each marked by a visit to an emergency room. This is not the place to expand on all of them… suffice to say, I’ve ridden on a security golf cart or two to a first aid station in my time.

Once in Florida, the family had gone to a water park for the day. As I recall, my sister fell, and I just don’t remember if on this occasion she needed stitches on her knee or a bandage on her head. What I can tell you is that as we sat in a waiting area, we all became quite aware of the fact that each of us was right on the cusp of really bad sunburns. We were all brilliantly red and could feel the heat pouring off of our bodies even in the air conditioning of the waiting room. We left the water park because my sister was hurt… we would have stayed longer if she hadn’t fallen… and in the end, her moments of misery quite literally saved all of us from some serious pain.

Please keep this in mind… the way the sun and heat can create moments, and the idea that adjusting things for one can reset the experiences for all.

It’s a slow morning in our rooms. We look through the fridge for leftovers to use as breakfast. Terry and I play cards… with Terry mounting a strong comeback from way behind to take the day’s dirty hand and foot between us.

Our plans involve the Hollywood Studios, and we have reservations at roughly 2:30pm for the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Terry wants to catch Fantasmic! to finish the visit, and there are two shows scheduled for tonight. In simple terms… keeping with our approach of not killing ourselves, that means we don’t have intentions of heading to the park too early. (More complex terms? Ok… tomorrow is the Magic Kingdom… possibly the longest of all of our park visits, another mid-80s-plus and sunny forecast, and certainly another day of mileage for the feet. We are not heading in to Hollywood Studios at 10am for a 12-hour visit.)

Funny thing about great plans though. Sometimes they get adjusted. We hit noon in the suite… there’s not much on television… there are no plans for lunch with a restaurant reservation for the early to mid-afternoon… no desire to deal more cards or head to the pool… and we all begin moving in the direction of assembling things for the day. It doesn’t take long and we’re all kind of just sitting there, ready to go, but no one looking to be the first one moving for the door.

Terry suggests that if we leave, we could stop and pick up our $20 from the timeshare reservation payment on the way, and that gets us all nodding and into motion. And, well, here’s a funny story…

Back on Sunday I mentioned some of the amazing and wondrous possibilities that could be made available to you through the magic of a timeshare presentation. For your consideration… I submit that these presentations are not all evil, cruel, nasty and frightening things. Some of the properties I have visited have been amazing. I have friends that love their ownership of units. Again though -- and I cannot stress this enough -- these are professional sales pitches. They are delivered with bells and whistles and pages after pages after pages after pages of ever changing numbers, delivered by experienced people that want you to buy. It is not for everyone. And while perception and rumors at times exaggerate the realities, there are rock-solid reasons many people quite justifiably can say they did not enjoy their experiences.

As part of the thank you package for listening to their offers, we ended up with a fantastic deal on our park tickets. Going through the experience was worth it to us. When we made our reservations though, two clauses went into motion.

First up… we were told that if we didn’t go to the presentation, we would be charged the difference between our discounted ticket prices and the actual costs. (Well, of course we would be charged the additional costs. If that happened, we didn’t complete our end of the agreement. Makes sense. Naturally… for those of you thinking of attending a presentation to enjoy the gifts and perks and whatever… get everything signed and keep your receipts.)

Second… a $20 breakfast deposit. (Wait… what? A deposit? It was supposed to be a nice breakfast, and this was just a deposit that would be refunded once we joined them, and… yeah… saving a few hundred dollars allowed us to shrug our shoulders and hand over a twenty-dollar-bill.)

It’s kind of an on-going adventure when it comes to this whole process. Sure… the balloons and warm cookies are right there in the lobby when they ask you to sign up. The presentation though takes place in a different part of the property. And the breakfast is held someplace else entirely. And then… “Oh, yeah… your $20? You need to visit the Vacation Village office in the plaza just across the road and on the other side of the parking lot.” (My quotes, my words… but as memory serves, while trying to find the entrance to the plaza I may have turned off of the road and driven across a strip of grass ten to twenty feet wide to get into the parking lot because extensive driving and u-turning and mounting frustrations had shown that there was literally no place to turn and enter the parking lot without driving over the lawn.)

Those of you that joined us for day four of the journey might also recall what Terry was treated with today when she entered the Vacation Village office.

A gift card.

We gave them cash… currency… $20. They gave us a Visa gift card.

Terry returned to the car and tried to explain the encounter. But, she figured if they gave us a gift card they give everyone a gift card, so the local merchants must be used to seeing them. And so instead of fighting the system, she decided she wanted to wrap that part of the journey up and just get moving. She placed the receipts in her purse and told me to make sure I used the card soon enough so we could return and make a fuss if it didn’t work. (It did. And it was no big deal to use it.)

The funny thing about all of this is that it’s probably taken me longer to pass along this story than it did to actually drive along through it. We were parked, on the tram and heading in to the Hollywood Studios well before 1pm.

Having missed the ride last time… and knowing the FASTPASS option might be limited because even that was sold out last time… we entered the park and made our way to Toy Story Midway Mania! The line was at roughly a 45-minute wait, and we ended up using FASTPASS to set up a return at about 6pm.

From there, we were only a few feet from the entry to Studio Backlot Tour, and that’s where we headed for our first attraction in the park.

Part of the tour winds near the set for the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, which got me thinking. A quick look at our times guide, and it was apparent that our timing was going to be perfect for attending the 1:20pm show.

As we walk the route that leads to the stands for the show, it is beginning to feel incredibly hot. It’s just after 1pm, so the sun is peaking at that magic angle of an April day, and reflecting off the steel and asphalt and other people to create that incredible rise in temperature that is not offered by a mid-80s report on the news. I’ve been to Disney parks on hotter days (Universal parks too), but… this is a warm one.

We sit in a shaded portion of the stands and break out our water bottles… which, I think I’ve mentioned, for this trip are bottles I froze overnight and packed when we left that day. We are getting better at this game now. On Monday and Tuesday the water never really melted, and that left us with a sip or two any time we reached for them. This time we had a few sips as we arrived at the park and began refilling it along the way. It worked out great for the rest of our Hollywood Studios visit, and will again tomorrow at the Magic Kingdom. Still had ice in the bottles hours later… but also had cold water in the bottles.

After the show ends we have a decision to make. The reservation we made on Monday was for 2:35pm. It’s about 2pm now, so instead of trying something else we all elect to head over to the Sci-Fi to see if it might be possible to sit a bit early. Along the way, all of us are looking around and commenting about the heat. It’s one of the days that creates a consistent layer of sweat on your skin, and a dampness throughout your clothes. (Which… sure… on a hot day you should be more worried when you stop sweating, but I think you get the idea. It’s a warm one.)

We arrive at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and they do get us in right away. As we begin looking over the menu, I swear in a bit of a whisper that Terry managed to hear. When she looks at me, I show her that the buffalo chicken potato skins… which were beyond description INCREDIBLE on our last visit… are no longer on the menu. I ask our waiter, and sure enough, they no longer exist for ordering.

Lunch overall was very good. Terry and I decided to kind of mix and match, ordering the spicy buffalo popcorn chicken and the smoked turkey sandwich and then splitting them. Terry also got the pomegranate lemonade and it was outstanding. My notes say Justin and Kim got the famous all-American picnic burger and a Reuben, but they don’t say who got what.

We all enjoyed the meals and the setting, and almost certainly will visit again… but I was a bit disappointed with the potato skins missing and the meal wasn’t a brilliant must-do-again kind of thing. The next visit to this park will almost certainly involve a return to the 50’s Prime Time Café.

Time for a Disney flashback…

Epcot used to have a pavilion called Wonders of Life. To my knowledge the building is actually still there, though I believe it is somewhat hidden from regular traffic and rarely used. (Have to be honest, I didn’t look around for it yesterday.)

Inside this pavilion was some great stuff. I loved Cranium Command. It was also the home of Body Wars… and that’s where we are heading with this segue.

Body Wars was a motion simulator ride that kind of played like a journey from Fantastic Voyage -- you were in an experimental vehicle being shrunk and placed inside a human body. The thing about the attraction though was that many riders would leave it feeling mild to severe motion sickness.

Star Tours in some ways is very similar to Body Wars… motion simulator and I have heard stories over the years of motion sickness for passengers. The thing is… while I do recall once being thrown for a loop of my own on Body Wars, I don’t recall ever having troubles on Star Tours. And, when I had my first opportunity to ride Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, I had no difficulties.

That said… difficulties or no… this history is important as our group steps outside of the Sci-Fi restaurant.

The day in Orlando was mostly sunny and crossing over 85-degrees. While not excessively high, when you consider the walkways, glass and design of a theme park… which includes color schemes that reflect sun and hold heat, lots of walking, and time spent in lines with crowds… mid-80s does not exactly scream comfort. (Palm trees, waterside, cool beverage in hand? Sure… give me warmer and all is good then.)

Right next to the restaurant is Star Tours… and it’s hot… and we’ve just finished lunch… and I told you the history of these motion simulator rides and…

We’re all feeling pretty blah when we get off the ride.

Not massively ill… but this is the third day in a row of theme parks, and all of them involved similar weather and walking. None of us feels exactly right. It leaves us looking to slow down a bit for the rest of the afternoon. We take a look at the map, and things actually look good to support such an approach.

As noted earlier, Kim isn’t a huge fan of bigger rides, so the Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster had been side-item-possibilities and not primary-focus-destinations all along. Most of the attractions we haven’t seen involve Muppets, Indiana Jones, and things like the Great Movie Ride… hardly the stuff of rapid accelerations, unexpected drops, and major twists or turns. And our FASTPASS return to Toy Story Midway Mania! is after 6pm.

For the record… our continuing adventure of Star Tours consisted of the Vadar introduction leading to a pod race on Tatooine. From there we met Yoda and then off to Naboo and Jar Jar.

Having left the land of Star Wars, we’re making our way to see the Muppets and their 3-D adventure.

Before this trip, Justin went with Terry and I to Orlando in 1997 and 1999. He’s been in this park twice before… with both of those falling under the Disney-MGM Studios name. Muppet*Vision 3-D has been a part of a visit to this theme park for him every time.

It’s funny… in a way, for me, it serves as this park’s Small World -- a comforting attraction that may not stand should-to-shoulder with the fastest, scariest, most technologically advanced in theme parks around the world, and yet it still makes you smile every time and is lovingly a must for you during a visit. (And for the record… for me… Figment would take such an honor at Epcot, and I suppose the Festival of the Lion King for the Animal Kingdom. Again… not the everyone-is-talking-about-it must of the park… but the comfort-must attraction.)

As we leave the gift shop for the attraction, we’re left with an interesting scenario. We’ve pretty much covered the Streets of America and Echo Lake areas of the park (with exception pretty much of only seeing Indiana Jones). We decide to check out The Great Movie Ride and then wander back over for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! at 5:15pm.

Leaving Indy behind, the four of us head into the ABC Commissary. We get some drinks and settle in, relaxing in the A/C and considering the possible things to do before Fantasmic! completes our visit to the park.

We’re not that far from the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, which will also place us perfectly to return to the Toy Story attraction around 6:30. It’s off to Ariel. (And an ice cream bar and a cream cheese pretzel along the way.)

I need to point out a few things as we find our way into Voyage of the Little Mermaid. On this trip it was a bit noticeable how some attractions have similar themes. I didn’t love the Finding Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom… it was fine. But the attraction-based-on-the-movie’s-story concept extended Finding Nemo from the Animal Kingdom into Epcot. And the same thing is true with The Little Mermaid as the new Fantasyland opens… with this attraction at the Hollywood Studios in a small way being joined by the new attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

I’m not sure what it means. Maybe it was doing the Animal Kingdom and Epcot back-to-back -- so Nemo was there on consecutive days… and now doing Hollywood Studios with the Magic Kingdom tomorrow, and Ariel’s story there. I enjoyed all four of the attractions I’m mentioning. I would even visit the Nemo live show again, and would definitely go to the attractions on my next visit. It is worth noting though.

Ok… we’re heading back into the Pixar section of the Hollywood Studios, and we are in for a huge surprise.

Toy Story Midway Mania! is awesome.

Not good. Not great. It’s beyond those descriptions. It’s one of the most fun rides I’ve been on in a long time. It’s interactive… it makes you laugh… the ride itself has some speed and motion that raises it a bit above a casual ride. Simple, pure enjoyment.

Basically it’s a shooter-target game. But this one is different… in many ways, it’s a living video game, as your ride vehicle is led along a carnival midway. It stops at different points, allowing you to face a screen, and then play the game for that section.

While I wouldn’t say our results make us experts, we did have a lot of fun playing. (Bob – 130,200… Justin – 90,200… Terry – 75,000… Kim – 56,000)

As we leave Pixar Place, we are headed for Sunset Boulevard and Fantasmic! At this point, Terry has been working on Justin and Kim, and it seems as though they are both willing to try the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster after this show as a way to wrap up the visit. And that has me debating the Tower of Terror… since we’d be right there, and if the lines are ok it might be possible to ride both.

Terry gets her popcorn for the show and we settle in with seats near the back (but more or less lined up with the center of the show area). As it ends, Justin and Kim both express their happiness at having stayed to see it.

And then… well… Disney unexpectedly lets me down. (Just a bit.)

Kim and Justin have decided that they do want to get on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. The flow of traffic is moving pretty consistently along a path, but I stop the four of us since it becomes apparent that we are moving beyond the walkway that leads directly out to Sunset and those two stellar attractions. And with mass of people being moved away from that turn… so the exiting of the first show doesn’t run right into the line waiting for the second show… I ask a member of the staff if we are headed the right way. He tells us to keep moving and that we will hit a turn to lead us out to Sunset. (But we never do.)

When we finally are in a place you could truly say was back in the park (the walkway we were on isn’t on any park map I’ve ever seen, though I do vaguely recall having walked it in years past), it is in the Hollywood Boulevard area just inside the main entrance. None of us feel like looping around back to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror.

For those of you with no map available and no visual of the park… the reason for the stunning disappointment… basically Disney not only led us away from the rides, they also guided us along a route that didn’t pass gift shops or restaurants either. It’s kind of the first time I can remember Disney doing that. You always have a chance to set foot in a gift shop with Disney. Then again… not this time.

As day five draws to a close, we are settling in and have no plans at all to wake up early for the Magic Kingdom. All of us seem to be in a bit of a fog at the moment… we’re having fun, but the perception has always been that the Magic Kingdom would be our longest and most adventurous park day. And yet today wiped us out. With a similar very warm, very sunny forecast in place for tomorrow, the reality is that we are a bit numb right now.

Day six – Thursday, April 25, 2013

Terry, Justin and Kim have taken off for the pool.

It’s probably a very smart move on their part. If we were sitting in the room doing nothing, I very well might have started talking about the Magic Kingdom.

Still… we have plans to try out Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza for lunch. (It was a recommendation from the time share day. Yes… seriously.) And I’m busy doing some research to try and find something on-line. So the reality is, there is no true danger of even me -- the weakest “let’s get to the park” link -- trying to get in the car and point it in the direction of Disney World too soon.

Hey… speaking of on-line stuff… let’s get back to the on-going story hiding in the background of this trip for a few minutes…

Vacation Village internet service…
Ha-ha, the word “service” implies we actually got something…
Part three – Do I really need to call again?

I’m not looking to pat myself on the back here… but I really would like to get internet access today. I was recently interviewed for the Warwick Beacon… the hometown paper when I was growing up. As part of it, I was told to look for the finished effort to appear in today’s edition. And as I putter around the suite, I’m wondering if it has hit the on-line edition.

And sure… you likely already have guessed… the laptop is saying the network is there, but in reality it’s not helping me out at all.

I decide to make one last call to the help line, and it plays out pretty much exactly the same as every other call did.

We talk about the good old days… meaning those two calls I made earlier in the week, the promised return calls that never materialized, and a recap of my situation.

I turn my laptop on and off… I watch while the access point is reset and messages flash on the screen… and then the representatives leads me into the great finale of the “can someone call you at this number” recital of my cell phone number. Then we laugh when I joke about the two previous return calls that never arrived.

No internet service for the laptop. No return call in ten… twenty… thirty minutes.

Justin is back and he gets things loaded on his iPad for me. The article doesn’t appear to be there yet.

It’s a little after noon, and we begin walking to the car to head out and have lunch.

Anthony’s turns out to be more familiar than we realized when we first heard about it. With several locations, Kim has actually eaten at an Anthony’s in New Jersey. And over the weekend… when we return with Ellen and Richard… we find out they believe they’ve been to one previously as well.

We order some chicken wings and a meatball and ricotta pizza, and the food is outstanding with service to match. The Anthony’s we stopped at is actually out near Universal Studios (a tip for those of you that might try and place it simply as a location, or for those of you wondering if we had strayed far from Irlo Bronson).

Ok… it’s time for day four of Disney theme parks, and the trip to the Magic Kingdom.

A few things leading in to this day.

First of all, Terry and I are leaving almost every part of it up to Justin and Kim. We have been fortunate to have several Disney World trips in recent years -- and if you could name one park, it would be the Magic Kingdom that has especially has been a part of them. So if there is something they want to see… we will see it. Most of the attractions though, with few exceptions, are ones Terry and I have been on once or twice (or three or more) times just since 2010.

Secondly, the new Fantasyland. Ok… this is different for all of us. The Barnstormer and portions of the land’s expansion inside the Magic Kingdom were available when Tigg and I visited during the Halloween party last October. But on this visit, a wide range of sections will be brand new to us, including Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid and Gaston’s Tavern.

And third, it’s worth mentioning again, until this trip Kim had never before visited a Disney theme park. As we began outlining what we would do, the Magic Kingdom was always a part of our plans. It is the signature Disney theme park… and it is the most visited theme park in the world every year… and there are reasons this park sets the bar.

As we walk down Main Street, I tell the group our first effort should be to make sure we get on Under the Sea, and to get our FASTPASS for that. So we walk around the castle and into the edges of Fantasyland.

The tickets for Under the Sea… for some amazing reason… are distributed near Mickey’s PhilharMagic. And so, FASTPASS secured, we begin our day with Donald attempting to take over an orchestra.

From there, we wander over to “it’s a small world” and enjoy that ride. After, while it’s time to make our way to the reservation we have with Ariel, we are eligible for another FASTPASS. So, we get tickets for Peter Pan’s Flight.

Under the Sea is a ride where guests board a clam shell vehicle, and then are taken through the story of Ariel and Prince Eric. The bonus here is the amazing soundtrack of the film along with the incredible colors available from the movie and its characters. It feels fresh and instantly familiar… a treat enjoyed by Disney in many designs for attractions… but gets to incorporate so much beyond what you’ve seen before. This isn’t a high-tech, jaw-dropping, cutting-edge thrill ride. It is brilliant.

We wander over to Gaston’s, where I am planning on trying LeFou’s Brew.

Now… I enjoyed Butterbeer at Universal back in 2010. Hard to describe it from memory, but it was a play off of the taste of cream soda. In this case, LeFou’s is effectively a frozen apple juice. The kicker is the flavor of toasted marshmallow… which is subtle and yet very apparent… along with a passion fruit and mango foam on top.

The drink is available in souvenir (wallet draining) mugs, which we avoided since they were nothing more that Gaston and Belle plastic cups and the drink was pricey enough. We really liked it overall, and I would definitely hunt it down again on a future visit. That said… it is not even in the same conversation as Aloha Isle and a Dole Whip as a Disney-park-must for a refreshment.

At this point, we get in the ride line for a visit with Winnie the Pooh, and Justin is suddenly very disappointed.

Next to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a character meet and greet station. It just so happens that Pooh and Tigger are there, and as our line winds around we get a good view of kids meeting the legendary pair.

In Justin’s memory -- and this is a quite fair and accurate memory -- he recalls running into characters all over the park. In a way, though unexpected, every corner provided an opportunity for a hug, picture, and autograph.

“What’s that?” he asked, nodding in the direction of Pooh and Tigger.

“It’s a meet and greet station,” I reply.

“A what?”

“They set character meetings at certain times and locations, and people line up for them.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. That’s what they do.”

“Ok, I remember you telling me the story of how the park tries to make sure Mickey Mouse isn’t in two places at the same time, and possibly by accident two side-by-side places. You can’t have Mickey roaming in Tomorrowland and Mickey roaming in Fanstasyland with a chance of both Mickeys ending up side-by-side on the border at the same time. But this…”

Now I’ll avoid going deeper or even word-for-word any further. Suffice to say, Justin was not impressed with character greeting places.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh turned out to be the longest line we waited in all week, clocking in at roughly 45-minutes. Simple enough… considering that we were now later in the afternoon and had covered the upper arch of the park (read: Fantasyland and new Fantasyland), chances were good we would not be coming back to this area once we left. So… we decided to wait the estimated 30-minutes. Only it was longer. Much longer. By the time we got off the ride, we had been with Pooh for almost an hour.

But that’s where the slowdown ended… because after that, visiting the attractions basically took only as long as the walk between them.

Stitch’s Great Escape!... Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin… Tomorrowland Speedway… done, done and done. All enjoyed.

We stopped at Cosmic Ray’s to get some food, and though the location is always a little different than most thanks to the presence of Sunny Eclipse, it was a bit crowded tonight. So what normally in recent visits has been a chance to easily get in two lines for different items at the ordering docks of the Starlight Café turned into everyone agreeing to just get basically the same plates. (I didn’t even write down if it was burgers or chicken.) Back to the park…

We used our FASTPASS for Peter Pan and then kicked off a run through Frontierland, Liberty Square and Adventureland with the Haunted Mansion and Country Bear Jamboree. Terry had been talking to Kim about possibly hitting one of the three signature mountains of the Magic Kingdom, which at this point turned into a visit to Splash Mountain. The sweep concluded with time for one more attraction before the closing activities, and the decision was made to ride Pirates of the Caribbean.

Ok… sure… we didn’t include Jungle Cruise, Dumbo or Aladdin’s carpets. There was no Barnstormer, Space Mountain or Thunder Mountain. Side turns were not taken for the Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents or the Laugh Floor. We didn’t try to get into the Be Our Guest Restaurant. We missed some things. As we stopped at Aloha Isle though, we had been to 12 attractions in about five hours of park time… and we had also managed to stop to get something to eat. Everyone was feeling pretty good.

Until we began looking for a place to watch the parade. (Time for a story…)

I can be skeptical in Disney parks when it comes to some of the shows. Several are recaps of movies or extensions of them, and simply do not play as well as a live show. Yeah… I know some kids will be impressed (along with a few kids-of-all-ages). For the most part though, in my opinion, they seemed designed more to give people a chance to sit for twenty to thirty minutes while easing the congestion at the attractions than quality entertainment.

But I said skeptical… and not rigidly opposed. Several shows are beyond awesome. I LOVE fireworks in the Magic Kingdom. Fantasmic! is an incredible show. Festival of the Lion King is terrific. And while I will watch the parades and smile, it is the Main Street Electrical Parade that I award with a can’t-miss status.

As we hit Main Street and begin walking along the parade route… more than thirty minutes before the start of the parade… it becomes apparent just how many people are in the park, and that almost all of them agree with my can’t-miss assessment.

Now… I’m not heading down this path to be judgmental or even naïve. Instead, I’m just pointing out that overall, Disney does a pretty amazing job managing thousands upon thousands of people and keeping them from stacking up in ridiculous logjams. Think about this…

17 million visitors to the Magic Kingdom per year works out to more than 46,000 people per day.

Is that registering? One more time… 17 million visitors to the Magic Kingdom per year works out to more than 46,000 people per day.

Forty-six-THOUSAND each day. And I would bet that easily more than half of those people have some combination of the Three Mountains, new Fantasyland, and the Haunted Mansion on their minds today… huge chunks are planning to visit Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise… and virtually all of them want a parade and fireworks.

So with that understanding… and such offerings as stage shows helping out during the day… how can it be that it never feels like several thousand adventurers have boarded Peter Pan’s Flight before you that day, but when the Electrical Parade steps off, those thousands are all around you?

I suppose I don’t have an answer either… but it sure feels like something Disney should be improving and not something that gets more difficult.

I have to be honest, I have not had troubles with Disney lines since 2005. It was during that family visit that I recall experiencing longer lines at attractions. Since that time… sure, there’s been a 30-minute ride here or there… for the most part it’s been less than 15-minutes at all but the biggees, and wise use two or three times of a FASTPASS has meant no waits there either. I would guess I haven’t waited more than a half-hour for any ride more than once per park on any visit since 2010.

And that isn’t a small sample. I’ve been fortunate to travel down to Florida with Tigg several times over the past four years. We’ve seen Christmas and Halloween special events… we’ve gone on holiday weekends and days celebrating a park’s anniversary… we’ve been during the day and evening, mid-week and weekends… we’ve been to all four of the Disney parks, and all but the Animal Kingdom multiple times in recent years.

Heck… today… we showed up well after noon. In fact, after leaving Anthony’s around 1pm, it was decidedly mid-afternoon when we entered the park. And by using FASTPASS for the new ride, we had visited three attractions in roughly the first 60 minutes. (Mickey’s PhilharMagic, “it’s a small world” and Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid)

Yes… the parks get crowded. Yes… it’s very busy. Yes… several attractions can have very long lines.

I hadn’t been smacked around by those crowds.

Until tonight.

Normally you do need to stake out a place an hour or so ahead of time. I know that. If you want to be comfortable, have a preferred sightline, or get the kids right up front, even slightly over 60 minutes is cutting it close. But if you aren’t being picky… are willing to stand and stay to the back… look around for different places along the parade route… there is almost always a corner against a building or place near a fence that you can get into with the event just a half-hour away.

Disney staff were patrolling the walkways, keeping people inside roped off viewing areas, or, moving along. And while I recall times visiting the parks where people… including Terry and I… gladly stepped aside to let a child get prime up front parade viewing, on this night people are spreading out and refusing to make eye contact even when all you want to do is grab a spot behind them.


Eventually we do find a place, once four teenagers reluctantly move a bit. (Terry in action, and bravo to her… she spotted what appeared to be a family group of about eight with towels on the ground, spread out, and four of the kids were actually lying down playing with their phones. So she asked if they were expecting more people, and when they said no she asked if they could sit up so we could come inside the ropes of the viewing area. She was polite. She explained that she only wanted to be off the walkway and not packed in against them or stepping in front of their view.)

The parade was good, and worth the aggravation. But I’m sending a message to Disney… please, please, PLEASE work on this a bit.

We walk some of the Main Street shops during the time between the parade and the Wishes fireworks show. And Tink and the gang do not disappoint. Although… maybe I am impersonating Grumpy in this entry… does everyone really need the cell phones lit up and in the air taking pictures? Another thing I just don’t recall from visits past is this many arms in the air with display screens lit up and waving in front of my camera.

Just an observation.

(And maybe some venting.)

When we get back to the room, I notice the message light on the phone is lit. Here we go (I can title it now looking back on it, but at the time I didn’t know it would officially be a part of our continuing story)…

Vacation Village internet service…
Ha-ha, the word “service” implies we actually got something…
Part four, part one – Bob notices a light


There is pretty much no reason for the light to be on that we would be expecting. We have our cell phones… and virtually anyone trying to contact us would use those.

Well… ok… there are two reasons for the light to be on.

Number one – The resort is calling us. Could be any of a number of things for this one, and most of them we have encountered at various resorts at other times… some special cleaning of the room or maintenance work that might be scheduled… a call about attending a time share presentation… and you get the idea. Could be a perfectly understandable call actually, but likely one we would never be waiting for.

Number two – The WiFi. Maybe they have the room number on file as a telephone contact.

Turns out, as we head to bed, I have no idea.

I pick up the handset and there is a solid tone… very reminiscent of what you would hear while trying to send a fax. And no matter what I do, from pressing buttons to hanging up and trying again… the tone just keeps steadily sounding.

And because the tone is present as soon as you lift the handset, you cannot use the phone to call a place like the front desk or resort operator for advice. The phone is useless.


So… while I am more than willing to admit operator error on my side of the equation (and would actually happily do so if someone will just tell me what buttons to push)… we now have no WiFi and no phone in the primary room of our unit.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at