Day seven – Friday, April 26, 2013
and Richard are joining us again tonight… and there are some changes
in play for the reunion. We had originally intended to head up
to see their house and have dinner there, but plans worked out
better for them to head our way. Orlando has officially become
the only home Justin and Kim will know for this trip.
pair should arrive around dinner time, and we have a very busy
day… created out of a very slow day… planned.
of our Disney ticket package included admission to DisneyQuest.
So our activities are centered around Downtown Disney.
start things off by wandering on my own down to the pool. It’s
still a bit early… only a few minutes after the pool has opened…
and I have the place to myself. It’s an awesomely quiet start
to the day.
upstairs in the room, Tigg and I play some Dirty Hand and Foot.
And eventually all four of us arrive at a point where we’re ready
to head out and looking for lunch.
pushing for Earl of Sandwich for today, and Terry is in agreement
with the selection. We’re off for the Marketplace.
has announced plans for the area. Basically, expansion and further
development. Granted… we’ve heard this before… and plans have
come and gone, with many of changes ultimately realized and developed
not being exactly what was announced or even outlined. Some beloved
places have faded into memories. But this time… the future of
Disney Springs has all the marks of a development on the way to
new project promises parking garages (bringing MUCH needed additional
spaces to the area). It also calls for an incredibly expanded
World of Disney store. And there are other surprises as well.
Downtown Disney is the craziest part of the Disney World property.
It is organized chaos, and only just-this-close bordering on the
inside of the outer edge of organized. Busy? That doesn’t even
scratch the surface.
a good example -- If you went from your car directly to Earl of
Sandwich, and we started the clock as you pulled off of Buena
Vista Drive, there are many days when you could spend well over
an hour just trying to park and place your order.
eat. Eating isn’t included in that time. Heck, getting your order
served isn’t included in that time. I mean arrive at Downtown
Disney, drive around and look for a spot… look for a spot… drive
into a different area… look for a spot… realize a car is leaving
from the first lot you had been in and work on getting back there…
look for a spot… give up on the first lot a second time… look
for a spot… find a spot… park… spend a few moments in quiet celebration
and reflection… walk to Earl of Sandwich… get in line… wait, wait,
wait, wait… wait… order… and at that point an hour or more has
food in hand.
driving into the parking lot to the point of ordering… more than
here’s the kicker… people that know what they are about to get
at Earl of Sandwich spend that hour SMILING. I defy you
to describe and explain this phenomenon. And that isn’t limited
to Earl of Sandwich. It’s a Disney phenomenon. Go into other places
around Disney World, stores and restaurants and theme parks, and
even with the lines and bumping and frequent “we don’t have that
_________________” (size/color/etc.) or “items like that are at
_________________” (different store, etc.) or whatever, people
are still smiling.)
while just telling that story, we’ve driven in, parked the car,
and we’re now inside Earl of Sandwich.
just going to say it… order the Holiday Sandwich. For one thing,
it’s brilliantly tasty… a great combination of turkey, stuffing,
gravy and cranberry sauce. The bigger thing though is that they’ve
perfected it. Per-fect-ed it. Using a creative stacking
ordering of the items, and just the right amount of each item,
this hot sandwich that includes mayo, cranberry and gravy does
not get soggy. It’s fantastic and delicious and wonderful from
the first bite to the last.
about expanding our experiences here, Terry and I also ordered
a Chipotle Chicken sandwich with the intention so split them.
(We both love avocado on sandwiches, and wanted to give it a shot.
It was good. Very good. But not in the class of the Holiday Sandwich.)
Justin also went with the Chipotle Chicken, while Kim elected
to try the Hawaiian Chicken. Everyone loved the lunch.
decide that the afternoon is going to be so low key that instead
of rushing over to DisneyQuest, we’ll walk around a bit. In Goofy’s
Candy Company I buy a cookie and… well… awful. Very disappointing
since I usually enjoy so much of what Disney does. Normally I
get my cookie fix on Main Street of the Magic Kingdom. Since the
bakery was closed in the Magic Kingdom on this visit, I didn’t
get my normal cookie fix in yesterday, and had hopes of enjoying
this one. Sorry… didn’t.
a quick stop to admire a couple of storefronts, including some
Toy Story decorations, we’re heading back to the car to drive
over to DisneyQuest.
the most part, our visit was centered around six attractions…
up, five specialty games/attractions -- Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblaster…
Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter… Ride the Comix….
Virtual Jungle Cruise… and Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for
second, generic games throughout the building. (Yup… there’s a
story. (Or more precisely, a description. But we’ll get there.))
you enter the building, an elevator takes you to the third floor…
which adds to an incredible feeling of confusion that is already
sweeping over any new visitor. See… the building consists of five
floors, and they’re basically placing you in the middle of it.
actually not bad once you get yourself oriented. But curveballs
keep getting thrown at you. For instance… All of the coin-operated
games aren’t coin-operated. They’re free. Play as much as you
want. And then consider something such as an attraction like Ride
the Comix, which it operates in two separate locations. One is
on the fifth floor, and the other is on the fourth. But as you
pass by it for a second time, it sure seems like it should be
a different version of the attraction. (Say “Ride the Comix” on
one floor, and “Ride the Comix 2” on the other.).
a crazy thing… like sorting out where the restrooms might be…
and most of the visual clues seem to be missing. But once you
take a few corners and get a handle on some landmarks, things
begin to feel more comfortable.
played Ride the Comix and Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien
Encounter, and… ok. (Insert shoulder shrug here.) Same result
from the Jungle Cruise… where Terry and I paddled like mad and
yet never really felt like the attraction was doing ANYTHING
even remotely close to responsive to our movements.
Justin and I have visited DisneyQuest previously, which was more
than ten years ago with Jay. And… honestly… the place could use
a makeover. In a digital world where iPads and smartphones are
making things faster while exploring incredible levels of creativity,
a few of the sections here are dusty and in need of overhauls,
renovations, or just plain replacing. And yet… there’s nothing
like good-old-fashioned fun…
started our visit with Buzz Lightyear’s Astro-Blaster. It’s kind
of a warped version of bumper cars, where you drive your vehicle,
pick up balls quite reminiscent of a dodgeball, and fire them
at other vehicles by using an on-board air cannon. Once you get
the hang of it (and figure out which car is occupied with others
from your group), there are plenty of laughs found here.
the fourth floor we found a section of arcade games… including
those throw-a-football and shoot-basketballs-for-a-minute machines…
that pulled us in and kept our attention for quite some time.
We simply couldn’t pull Justin away from them… and once Kim set
a high-score of 61 on one of the basketball machines, we lost
him for a long time while he tried to at least match her score.
(He never did.)
before leaving we found ourselves on the first floor, and Terry
and I decided to try Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer
had a blast on it, with the two of us working as a team and setting
a “King of the Caribbean” score that cleared 3,900. That feat
became even more impressive when we were joined on a second round
by Justin and Kim, and the four of us failed to match our previous
would recommend DisneyQuest to anyone. It’s a fun place to spend
some time. You will laugh… you will scream… you will enjoy it.
There’s at least one cool discovery waiting for you per floor
(on average). It is definitely something you won’t find back home.
yet… part of it for us, and a large part of the recommendation,
was that the visit was free. Our multi-day passes included an
optional extra, and we decided to make that a visit to DisneyQuest.
I would most certainly not recommend it at the single-day admission
prices… which from a quick look seem to run over $45 a person
for a day.
adults? $200? No. We did not have that much fun during our couple
get back to the room, and Justin and Kim head off for the pool,
while Terry and I wander off to Publix to pick up a few things.
With Ellen and Richard returning tonight, the plans are in place
to make a steak dinner.
goes really well with dinner, and we settle in to play cards.
And that leads us to the story to finish off today.
and I won the game without a count. But, it is possible that Ellen
might not have been concentrating on the game as fully as she
normally does. It’s back to the internet service story, but first,
a bit of background…
I ever told you that Ellen can be one of the most obsessively
compulsive people you will ever meet?
she’s not hideously bad about things. Most of the time you would
never even notice it about her. She just has her ways of doing
things. That’s all. But when something bugs her… wow… it bugs
were playing cards a few years back. She and Terry were picking
on Richard and I, while also slamming us in the game. So I told
her that before we began playing, I had tilted a picture frame
somewhere in the house. And, go figure, it was… right at that
very moment… off balance and hanging crooked.
could literally see the tension and uneasiness building in her.
It began with here tapping her fingers and glancing around the
room during the shuffle and deal. It moved on to a loss of concentration
during the hand, with her leaning in the chair to see if she could
check out the walls in nearby rooms without having to get out
of her seat. And immediately as the hand concluded, it led to
her racing from room to room so she could check each and every
picture in the house.
know. I’m evil. Richard and I lost that game, but we were both
smiling about it. With great power comes great responsibility.)
thing is… if you are aware of this tendency of hers, then you
can probably imagine the impact of the next sentence upon our
has noticed a flashing light on the phone.
Village internet service…
Ha-ha, the word “service” implies we actually got something…
Part four, part two -- Ellen wonders about a light
first Ellen simply asks if we know the message light is on. I
tell her that we do, and that I can’t clear it.
joke a bit about how resorts leave lots of lovely messages, and
how the message light being on is really nothing new for any of
our trips, and we settle in after dinner for some television and
you ever get a call back about the WiFi” Ellen asks me while
looking in the direction of the phone.
“No,” and I discard from my turn.
“Maybe it’s that,” Ellen offers.
“Could be,” I respond.
few more plays go by in the hand of cards.
“No one ever called back about the presentation the other morning,
“I didn’t hear anything,” answers Terry.
you watch The Big Bang Theory, and remember the episode
where Sheldon is getting frustrated by Leonard refusing to answer
his cell phone, and ultimately freaks out when Leonard won’t check
his voice mail… yeah… that’s it.
conversation continues a bit as the round of Dirty Hand and Foot
moves along. And when it ends, and the scoring is being added,
and the next round is being shuffled and dealt, Ellen is missing.
She has disappeared into her suite.
few minutes later she’s back. She had checked on the message and
it was the WiFi people. They wanted to know if our problem was
honestly… no, it wasn’t. But I really didn’t care too much about
it being fixed. After all, we had worked out our main needs by
the time that message was left late yesterday. We didn’t need
WiFi access now. At all.
thing I don’t get is why they called the room. I mean… I get why
they would call the room, since they had the details about our
service call and could probably figure out the extension for the
room’s phone. Still… in three separate calls, each time they specifically
asked for a contact number and I gave my cell number as that contact,
and on the second and third call they confirmed that as the contact
number multiple times. They never said anything about having,
using, or needing a number for the resort unit we were occupying.
And, they have yet to call my cell phone.
be it for me to make assumptions… but let’s see what we can work
out here. Maybe… just maybe… they didn’t want to talk to anyone.
if they called my cell, I probably would have answered. I didn’t
even need to be in the room to get a call on my cell. It was with
me all the time.
a call to the room… Orlando is the vacation center of the universe,
and chances are better than average that at any respectable calling
hour a person wouldn’t be in their room. They’d be out enjoying
Orlando. Especially -- sarcasm alert -- especially, oh, I don’t
know… if they didn’t have WiFi service in their hotel room. So
if you wanted to check off that you returned the call the way
you should, but wanted the best odds of not having someone answer,
well, those odds would favor a call to the room.
again… that’s just me. Generally I don’t care if we decide the
glass is half full or half empty. I want to know who took the
half that’s missing.)
this case… I didn’t care if it was the resort’s wireless offerings
or some setting on my laptop. Tell me you can’t help me because
it’s my laptop and not the WiFi, and you don’t provide tech support
for that, and I will head off to the Magic Kingdom with no worries
and nothing bad to say about you at all.
not what’s happening.
just being told… in exceedingly polite “your call is important
to us” tones (my words, never quoted to me during this experience,
but oh so familiar to all of us that have experienced the land
of automated and put on hold customer service)… we’re being told
to go away. After all, if the situation plays out long enough,
eventually I will leave and head home. And that, for better or
worse, closes out this work order.
eight – Saturday, April 27, 2013
plans for today are a bit all over the place. For instance…
needs some boots for work, so we are thinking about heading out
to one of the outlets to check out some options.
about time to update our cell phones… and Justin is seldom around
and not busy when we get together… so we are debating heading
out to one of the stores for our service provider and getting
that taken care of.
haven’t been to Kobe
Steakhouse yet, and have that set up as tonight’s
are some thoughts of wondering over to Old
Town to check out one of their classic car
nights as a close to the day.
A little bit of everything, some of it general exploring and not
really vacation or specific to where we are in nature, with no
is made in the room… and I have to say, travelling with Terry
and Ellen provides all the examples you would ever need as far
as the benefits of having some sort of suite -- common area and
kitchen offerings -- for a trip.
and I can hold our own in a kitchen. I’m not saying we could come
up with a full week of terrific menus, with a dazzling balance
from salad through dessert, offering simply brilliant entrées.
Once in a while though, we’ve both been known to pull off a great
meal or two, with all phases covered.
point being… we can offer you things a bit more complicated than
a boxed mac-n-cheese followed by pudding cups.
said… Richard and I would also be the first to offer you waffles
when we have waffles planned for breakfast. Of course, with toppings
featuring strawberries and apples and warm syrup… but waffles.
and Ellen? Prepare for those waffles to come in two different
styles (say a buttermilk and something they’ve been meaning to
try with beaten egg whites and fifteen steps of preparation).
Be ready for the sides of home fries, sausage, and a fruit salad.
And don’t forget to try the syrup prepared with bananas and pecans.
There’s likely even going to be a fixins-station, with fruits
and chocolate chips and whipped cream and 14 options of flavored
people swear by kitchenettes in their hotel rooms because they
offer cereal and coffee without leaving the room. Maybe a bagel.
It’s a way to manage costs and menus to a degree… where either
by cooking for the family or targeting specific take-out meals
to bring back to the room, the dollars involved and perhaps even
the inclusion of salads and fruits instead of bottomless soda
and fries offers the opportunity to take a deep breath away from
it doesn’t always work.
remember trips to Orlando in 1997 and 1999 when Jay and Justin
didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning to take a shower,
and you could pretty much forget them even looking for an apple
or something else to eat. But they did understand the concept
of getting the most out of the day and wanted to be moving toward
the theme parks or day’s activities. And what happened as a result?
Well… the kids moved enough to get dressed and to the car, and
woke up just about the time we got inside the front gates. That’s
when these lovely children… so young and precious and “really,
I’m not hungry” just 15 minutes earlier… began asking about lunch.
suppose what I am trying to say is simple… best intentions are
simply perceptions. They need to apply to reality in order to
extra to get a fridge and a stove of some type in the room is
something I would highly recommend. On the other hand… if absolutely
no one is going to cook (and the idea of cooking can even mean
filling a bowl with cereal and pouring some milk)… if you are
going to skip the burgers and fries inside the park so you can
hit a drive-thru for burgers and fries… a fairly strong case can
be built around the idea that you aren’t maximizing your investment.
the years, Terry, Ellen, Richard and I… as a group of four and
with others… have stayed in several resorts while on vacation,
and have had the pleasure of playing cards, cooking fantastic
meals, and generally (and genuinely) enjoying the amenities of
a suite in a resort. And this morning’s breakfast is just another
reminder of how fantastic it is when you the group turns perception
cleaning up, we head out for the day. And the first stop… an outlet
mall… is packed.
No. I’m not sure you understand.
in… if we hadn’t been able to get there in one car, I honestly
don’t know if we would have ever found a second parking spot.
a brain-teaser of sorts for us. Here we are… center of the tourist
industry for the world -- Orlando. Sure… it’s a Saturday. Yes…
lots of people living and visiting the area. Still… what the heck
are they all doing shopping at an outlet mall on an average day
not even going to bother confirming my notes and truly identifying
the place we went to. It was fine. We did get some deals on things,
including Justin’s boots. We wandered through a couple of stores.
But honestly… we didn’t see anything that we couldn’t have found
at any of a number of factory outlet settings in many areas across
and I spot a place to sort out our cell phone situation, and I
will mention that we both left with smartphones… not to direct
anything in particular to this, except to say that once we leave
the store the WiFi in the room is even less than no longer necessary
for the trip.
still early as far as dining options for dinner. (After Terry
had made breakfast, no one was hungry at all for lunch.) So we
decide to swing past Downtown Disney again for some last minute
items we had been planning to pick up today or tomorrow.
stop at World of Disney… get our samples at Ghirardelli… and I
even take the Visa card we got to put some gas in the car. And
now, it’s time for dinner.
in Orlando, a meal at a Japanese steakhouse has long been our
tradition. One placed we loved… on Irlo Bronson during visits
in 1997 and 1999… has closed. So we ate in Japan at Epcot once,
which was awesome. And then we tried Kobe’s in 2005. Since then,
a stop at Kobe’s has been a part of every Orlando visit… and it
the six of us have a fabulous meal. And just moments down the
road we arrive at Old Town for one of their classic car shows.
Richard and Justin are in heaven talking about the cars, and all
of us had a fantastic evening.
in the rooms, Richard and I win another round of cards to wrap
up a really great last full-day of the trip.
Ellen and Richard will leave us after lunch… Justin and Kim will
need to get to the airport… and then Terry and I will drop off
the car and get on our flight home. The trip is winding down…
and a great trip is has been.
nine – Sunday, April 28, 2013
up and moving out is usually an event, and one I have shared previously
in travel stories. In this particular instance though, things
actually move along smoothly with no true stories to tell.
are planning on heading out to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza again
for lunch, and are wrapped up and out of the rooms by 10am. A
couple of things are on the minds of different people… and that,
along with the need to shuffle along a bit until lunchtime, leads
us to Downtown Disney one more time.
get to lunch, and it turns out Ellen and Richard also remember
Anthony’s. Not sure of the exact one they visited, Ellen tells
us they stopped in a different Florida location previously and
enjoyed it. After a second great visit to this location, it looks
like we might have a new regular place for pizza options in Orlando.
lunch wraps up, so does our time with Ellen and Richard. They
are headed back to Sam and Mia, and depart us for their drive.
Justin, Kim and I have been debating trying to catch a movie during
the time we have left, but the start times and a few other factors
sweep that off to the side. We eventually decide on a round of
arrive at Pirate Cove’s on International Drive, and I notice I
have a voice mail. It’s the final chapter of our continuing story…
Village internet service…
Ha-ha, the word “service” implies we actually got something…
Part five -- Would you please take our survey?
another call about the WiFi service. Now… remember… we’ve checked
out. So you can imagine the rush I was in to return their call,
despite their invitation to do so since they were there if I needed
leads quite nicely into a summary of Vacation Village.
everything was fine.
rooms we stayed in were nice. We definitely utilized the kitchen
space, along with the pool. And the location was about as good
as it gets when you are in Orlando and have the use of a rental
elected to take part in their property presentation… and benefited
from the discounted theme park ticket prices as a result.
group size that fluctuated between 4 people and 6 was comfortable
all of this (and, if I read over my notes and journal entries
for particulars, I’m sure for a few assorted other reasons), I
would give Vacation Village at Parkway a solid grade. Yes, if
I was headed to the Orlando area and someone said we were staying
at this property, I wouldn’t have a single problem with the accommodations.
to places like Orange Lake though… well, there is no comparison.
Orange Lake is superior in every way.
if you want to stay on the Disney property, that’s an experience
that can’t be duplicated.
those concepts… you aren’t getting the best of the best, and that
instead Vacation Village is being compared to a standard room
or suite with no frills… and it looks really good. The staff was
fine, the rooms were clean, and we enjoyed our stay.
THE question about any part of a trip is based around the “Would
you fill-in-the-blank again?” concept. If the answer is yes, then
the answer is good news for the subject involved.
we stay at Vacation Village again?
there you go. Vacation Village at Parkway, if it is an option
and you are wondering, is a place I have been and I would return.
With no other adjectives involved… that is about as good as it
a final note though, I simply have to point to our “Vacation Village
internet service” soap opera. The stay was far from perfect.
say that the elevators in our building were slow would be far
too generous. They barely moved.
parking was limited, and on most nights the car was in a garage
completely out of view from the building we stayed in.
then there is the story that concludes with them leaving a message…
after we had checked out… to find out how things were going with
a problem we had first reported a week earlier, had called about
a few times, and never had resolved.
exactly impressive. Not one of those places that has you already
dreaming of a return before you leave.
a round of golf we head over to the airport and drop off Justin
and Kim. Terry is still interested in catching a movie, but I
honestly don’t know the area around the airport well enough to
gauge where we should be looking for a theater.
end up… I think… at the shell of the Festival Bay Mall. You can
go run an internet search if you’re interested. From what I could
find -- Ron Jon Surf Shop… Cinemark movie theater… sense of despair
and empty stores -- yeah, that’s the place. It looked interesting,
and we bought a few things at Ron Jon’s. But, this is a place
that needs some work.
drop off the car and finally finish our shopping for that one
final Disney item at the Disney Earport store. We head out to
our gate area and decide to try and eat at Kafe Kalik. And…
ran out of paper.
I ran out of paper in my notepad.
remember the food was ok. Nothing special, nothing amazing, and
nothing I can say anything about in a good or bad way. It was
fine. And there is a notation about two parents not paying attention
to their two out of control young children. But there isn’t enough
to go on.
with that… Terry and I lined up to board the plane, flew home,
and brought to an end a superb trip.