Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Disney World Part Two

Day 4 – Magic Kingdom. The least magical part of our trip! At least for the first three hours. It was almost a total bust, until Jon went to Guest Services (for the second time that day) and said through clenched teeth “I just…want…to ride a ride…without it breaking down.” I contributed, “I am going to lose my mind. We are all losing our minds.”

Here’s what happened: We knew that the new ride, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, would have a ridiculous line. Fast passes had been gone for weeks and the stand-by in the days before was showing a 2 hour wait on our Disney app. Our only chance to ride it was to get to the park at opening and trample a bunch of strollers on our sprint over to it. We didn’t factor into our plans that unless you’re staying on Disney property, the only way into Magic Kingdom is the monorail, and by the time the monorail started running we were already late getting into the park and hundreds of busloads of people had already been dropped off. Sure enough, when we turned the corner to the coaster the stand-by line was 90 minutes. No way. Our first fast pass of the day (Pirates) didn’t start for 30 minutes so we hit Peter Pan on the way (my favorite of the kiddie rides). We showed up at Pirates with a couple of minutes to spare only to realize it was completely broken down. So we hopped over to the Splash Mountain standby line instead. After about 40 minutes we realized that the line was stopped: At moments it seemed like it was maybe moving, but that was only because people way ahead of us (who clearly knew something we didn’t) were leaving. We optimistically stuck it out another ten minutes or so until I could corner a park employee to ask what was going on. This happened:

By now we started worrying that the day was a total bust. It was twice as crowded as any of the other parks had been and with half the rides broken down, dismal people were all just roaming from broken ride to broken ride in the infernal heat like confused zombies. We’d been in lines since 8:30, and it was now noon, and we’d only managed to ride one thing (I guess two if you count the monorail, AND I DON’T. Get a FACELIFT, Monorail). We remembered that when we’d gotten our Hollywood Studios fast passes at Tower of Terror the guy told us we could trade them in at any park. Exasperated, we headed to guest services to do just that. But the lady refused! She harped on and on about how our “incident” happened at Hollywood Studios and that’s a totally different park; Magic Kingdom is a separate park from Hollywood Studios and whatever had happened there had nothing to do with Magic Kingdom, blah blah blah. Ohhh we wanted to murder her. As we left guest services, we checked our Disney app and realized Pirates was up and running so we shrugged and went for it.

Remember how when we were stuck on Tower of Terror, the only thing that kept me sane was the thought “At least I’m not on Pirates of the Caribbean”? Well that was some effed up real-life foreshadowing because Pirates of the Caribbean broke down at the “Yo Ho Yo Ho” part for 20 minutes, and they did not turn the sound off, and I almost lost it. Jon told me later that I had sort of caused a scene and all the people on the boat kept casting tense looks in my direction. I only remember saying “I cannot handle this. I cannot handle this” over and over with my fingers in my ears and my head between my knees. It was a hundred times worse to me than the Tower of Terror and I don’t even really know why. Something about it was triggering to me. Afterward Annie said “Why did you have such a hard time with that? I could have sat there another two hours, no problem.” Aaaaaahahahaha. Anyway, this was when we went to Guest Services for the second time. After Jon gave his speech, I hastily tacked on “but if we could ride the mine ride that would make it all better” and ta-dah, fast pass city. So I guess I owe thanks to the awful shrew that refused to trade in our Hollywood Studios passes for Magic Kingdom ones, because in the end we got Magic Kingdom passes in ADDITION to the ones from Hollywood Studios and had so many fast passes we ran out of time before we could even use them all. And we got to ride the new mine ride, TWICE.

Pics from Magic Kingdom:


Annie rode splash mountain! Twice! The second time she was in front of a terrified 7 year old and his parents, and it was HILARIOUS. At one point our log paused RIGHT next to the big drop as another one plummeted, and the kid’s dad immediately said “That’s not this ride. That’s a different ride.” Then at the end the kid shouted triumphantly “I found my courage!!”

This Gaston-themed restaurant was in the new portion of the park. They serve an apple/toasted marshmallow slushie drink with passionfruit foam on top called “LaFou’s Brew” that sounds gross but was one of the most delicious things we ate the entire trip. Jon will not stop talking about it.

I use antlers in all of my decorating.

That night we went back to Hollywood Studios to ride Toy Story on repeat. Photo: BOMBED. Then of course Epcot for dinner.

Day 5 – By this point we’d done all the parks so we voted on which we wanted to repeat. It was unanimous: Animal Kingdom in the morning, Typhoon Lagoon in the afternoon.

Sunset at Epcot our final night

Other things that happened:

  • Me [at Biergarten]: “I’m too full to move. Jon, will you go get me another dessert?” (He brought me two.)
  • All of us saying “These dogs are barking” many, many times each day, and laughing our heads off every time. Somehow I had never heard of this expression before…??
  • Me: Does this look good to you? Jon: The only thing that looks good to me is an anti-diarrheal.
  • Annie complaining that she was in need of a moist towelette after a meal and Jon delighting us all by whipping one out of the place in his wallet where one would stereotypically carry a condom.
  • The sleeping manatee farting a steady stream of air bubbles and hearing Jon’s distinct chuckle through his snorkel from several yards away. Sixty seconds later, and still through his snorkel, he chortled to himself “It’s still going!”
  • Also, this (video forthcoming):

The person next to Annie on her flight home had a blanket covering their head the entire time.

Lastly, some tweets:

And then…this

A Disney vacation is many things, but relaxing is not one of them. It drained my life force, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Disney World Part One

Drinking game: take a shot every time you see the phrase “fast pass” in this post.

“We’re going to Disney World!!!” selfie

Pretty view of (thousands of) oil wells somewhere outside of Houston.

The next leg, the two little kids I shared my row with couldn’t have been more adorable or better behaved. But at one point I got the distinct feeling I was being watched…

Our flight and Annie’s flight were scheduled to arrive within minutes of each other, but Annie’s second leg got delayed. Thankfully it was her last leg and not the first! Otherwise manatees could not have happened. Jon and I figured out the rental car then made ourselves comfortable on the floor for the wait.

After a solid 2-hour night’s sleep, it was time for manatees! [insert manatee pictures here]

After manatees we returned to the hotel for a nap. This was the first we’d seen it in daylight due to our late night and early morning. The above was our view – Lake, golf course, AND pool. The concierge was very excited for us that we were in building 97.

Apres nap, we went to Epcot to pick up our park tickets and special occasion buttons. (The next day was Annie’s birthday, and Jon and I were celebrating our TENTH anniversary. TEN! Our official anniversary isn’t until December but I was forthcoming to the ticket agent and she said we could have the buttons anyway since this WAS our anniversary trip, so stop looking at me like that. Then I told her Annie could prove it was her birthday with her ID and she said “That’s not necessary! We LOVE to give out buttons! I give out ‘unbirthday’ buttons all the time!” As we walked away, Annie said glumly, “That cheapened it.”) Also, because I always want to remember this - the tram ride from the parking lot into Epcot that night was spectacular. The operator was literally SCREAMING into the microphone. Everyone was plugging their ears.

We then went directly to Downtown Disney because we knew we would never feel like it again for the rest of the trip. It was ridiculously crowded but our Raglan Road reservations made it all worth it. Eating there was one of my favorite things we did the entire time. It’s an Irish restaurant with cloggers and musicians as entertainment, and through an odd turn of events Annie got TWO free birthday desserts. Perfect end to a perfect day (and our Disney vacation hadn’t even officially begun yet!)

Day 1 in the parks: Annie’s birthday!! 

The way the employee wrote her name looked like “Annce.” Needless to say, Annie was Annce to us for the entire trip.

She’s allergic to the sun so we preemptively invented ready-made quips for whoever was rude enough to ask about her gloves. My personal favorite was “They’re for better grip on the rides” but we only ever got to use the hand model excuse. Another favorite moment of the trip was when the bag-checker guy one morning asked her if she was cold (presumably because of the turtleneck and long pants) and she replied, “No. I’m really, really hot, actually.”

Our days were planned to a T. We scoured predicted crowds/events calendars for months beforehand to figure out the best days for which parks. Thanks to a combination of that foresight, visiting outside of peak season, getting to the parks before opening to be amongst the first inside, careful fast pass planning + being showered with unexpected fast passes throughout the trip (more on that later), we hardly had to wait in a single line. In fact, our longest wait was for (our second of the day) Dole whip floats in Magic Kingdom on day 4 (and by “our longest wait” I mean Jon’s. Annie and I were sitting in the shade).

Our first day was Epcot in the morning, Typhoon Lagoon in the afternoon, and Epcot again for dinner. (Park Hopper + Water Park tickets are a MUST). We ran to Test Track and only had a 5 minute wait, then walked directly on to Mission: Space afterward, which made Jon ill for the entire rest of the week :( Luckily, the literal LAST thing we packed the morning we left was some Zofran we fortuitously found whilst looking for something else. It saved the trip.

The prettiest tree in all The Land

 The noble Epcot squirrel

Typhoon Lagoon

Back in Epcot

We returned to Epcot that night for Annie’s birthday feast at Biergarten German buffet. (Full disclosure, we returned to Epcot EVERY night. It was the International Food and Wine Festival during our stay and it was spectacular. Each day we ate until we could physically eat no more.)

We were worried because we really wanted to see the fireworks show that night, but the only dinner reservation we could get was pretty late. So it was looking like we would either have to rush through dinner (and who wants to do that?) or miss the show (and who wants to do that?). We checked the website compulsively for weeks to see if we could get in earlier but with no luck. So we just showed up early, displayed Annie’s birthday pin prominently, and asked if we could pretty please get in before our reservation. 4 minutes later we were seated – and next to a Disney engineer, too! He’d been with the company almost 30 years and gave us some inside scoop while we gorged ourselves and watched the entertainment. And yea, it was good.

After fireworks. This was a tricky picture to get. We were being encroached.

Day 2 began at Hollywood Studios.

Our picture taking style evolved from “ugliest faces we can muster” to “can’t-be-bothered stoicism.”

Jedi training camp - one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen. I laughed until I cried. The “jedi master” was hilarious and the kids were the perfect age – old enough to be able to follow instructions but young enough for them to take it very, very seriously (and for all of the jokes to go over their heads). I can’t wait to sign my own kids up, in case I ever have any.

Star Tours! Jon sat this one out. He’d had it with screens by then.

It was off to Blizzard Beach that afternoon, but we went back to Hollywood Studios afterward on account of that was the only time we could get fast passes for Toy Story (they were doing some experimenting that week on the Toy Story line and weren’t allowing anyone to ride unless they had a fast pass; subsequently, fast passes were sold out and we only managed to score some by the skin of our teeth).

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ride Tower of Terror or not. I mean, I wanted to, but I was the only one who wanted to, and I wasn’t gonna make everyone else wait for me while I stood in line for an hour. But when we exited Toy Story, the park was about to close and there was no wait for Tower, so I decided to make a break for it. Jon very shortly afterward decided to go for it, too, so he chased after me and didn’t catch up until 2 seconds before I stepped onto the ride. I ditched my line so he and I could ride together on the very last run of the night. Long story short, a moment before the big drop, our ride malfunctioned and we were trapped inside a dark sweaty death box with a dozen panicky strangers for 45 minutes and had to eventually be rescued. Fortunately everyone (mostly) kept it together, but there were some tense moments where you could see how easily it could have become a true emergency. The two teenaged girls we were sitting next to were park employees, and one mentioned that she had once gotten stuck on Pirates of the Caribbean for an hour and a half and they would not turn the sound off. Every time I started feeling panicked I would think to myself “At least I’m not on Pirates of the Caribbean. At least I’m not on Pirates of the Caribbean.” An automated voice kept coming over the intercom every few minutes saying “Your ride has been momentarily stopped. Please remain seated. The ride may resume motion at any time.” But we didn’t want it to resume motion, we were stuck at the zenith of a 13 story drop!!! We were all pretty tense. Anyway an engineer came and busted us out. We climbed through the hole and down a little five step ladder then were ushered directly onto a service elevator (great). All the park employees were lined up near the ride’s exit and cheered for us as we walked out, it was hilarious. Annie and the other families had been relocated to Guest Services and on the way there we were showered with (our first wave of) extra fast passes. Worth it!

Day 3 – Animal Kingdom all the live-long day.

We ran to Expedition Everest as soon as they let us in and Annie and I rode that three? four? times in a row with no wait. Jon casually snapped one…ONE picture of a coaster during that timeframe and didn’t realize until later in the day that it just happened to be me and Annie’s coaster. See us?

Then Annie somehow got thoroughly soaked on the Kali River Rapids ride despite the fact that we were all, including her, wearing ponchos. It was sad too, because of all of us Annie was wearing the most clothing, plus shoes and socks. Of course she was the one that got completely waterlogged.

We’re all cracking up in this picture because
Park employee: “Say ‘Rafiki!’”
Me [unenthusiastically]: “Rafiki.”
Park employee: “One more, everyone say ‘Rafiki!!’”
Me: “Ehhh…”

Annie: “Does my hair look all crazy?” Me: “Yes. Bedraggled, even.”

Since we were sufficiently soaked, we figured we might as well do it again right then instead of drying out and coming back during our fast pass window.

Drying out at the Flights of Wonder bird show :(

Annie had been to Disney World more recently than I had (and it was Jon’s first time!) so she reminded me as we walked over to the bird venue that there is a moment when the crow comes out that they ask for an adult volunteer with a dollar bill handy. I found a five and clung to it fiercely for the next thirty minutes, then literally startled the emcee with my ridiculously quick response (“Okay, now I need a vol--WHOA. Oh. Wow. Um. Okay, you.”). Short video to come, but here are some crappy screengrabs of the blessed event in the meantime.

One of three safari rides

I cannot believe how much I look like my best friend Christa in this picture. I asked Jon why and he said “Because your eyes are open.” It’s funny because it’s true. I’m squinty.

 On our way inside the tree for the horrible Bug’s Life show. I really hate it but I was a good sport and closed my eyes and sat on the edge of my chair and held my breath the entire time.

Terrible picture but must be included because it’s a classic.

Festival of the Lion King. So much fun.

My photos tell me we did the safari again and Expedition Everest a couple more times somewhere in here. Jon finally rode it, too.

Back to Epcot again for dinner, but this time we had reservations at Marrakesh, a Moroccan restaurant. Total NOMfest accompanied by belly dancing.

"The royal feast"

This series of photos makes me so happy. Annie was snapping a picture of me and Jon when a lightning-fast waiter fez-bombed the photo.

Now you don't see it.

Now you do.

More another time.