Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ohana Means Family

Disney Diary - Day 2
Saturday, July 16, 2011

Many of the books and websites I've read about Disney World tell you not to do Magic Kingdom on Saturday because it is on the weekend and therefore theroritically busier.  I decided to do it anyway because both Friday and Sunday had extra magic days at Magic Kingdom, so I figured fewer people would choose Magic Kingdom that day.  Also families that travel from out of town are often traveling on Saturday, so even if they come to MK on Saturday, they arrive later in the day.  And I just plain wanted to go to Magic Kingdom for our first real park day. :) 

My plan was to get Fast Passes for both Mickey and the Princess meet and greets at the Town Square near the front of the park on our way in and then head straight for Space Mountain.  A tip: The Mickey Mouse meet fast passes are not connected to the other fast passes in the park for some reason.  In other words you can get FP for Mickey and still get another FP for something else immediately instead of having to wait for two hours or the window to open. (This is not true of the Princess M&G, they are connected to the other fast passes).  Well that was my plan anyway.  We got to the park about 10-15 min. before rope drop because we like to see the opening show and because it puts us in a good position for getting a FP and to our first ride right away. :)  It was HOT, well it was July, so Duh!  But gosh it was HOT, and the sun was really beating down even though it was only 9am.

So the rope dropped and we muddled our way into the crowd and headed for the Mickey and Princess greets.  Oh, the building was so heavenly cool... and the wait to see the princesses was only 5 min!  Why FP it when it is only 5min?  Well, it was really more like 15 min.  but the line was inside and did I say it was cool?  We saw Aurora (sleeping beauty), Belle, and Cinderella and Katie loved talking with each of them.  This was about the time she realized that lots of other kids had autograph books and she wanted one too.  We had promised her one soveniour during the tip if she was on good behavior, so we didn't get it then because it was still really day one.  She got her picture taken with each and got to talk to them though and you could tell she really liked it.

Once we finished with the Princesses I was a little nervous about getting a FP for Space Mountain for me and Alex and Katie seemed content with meeting the princesses, so we decided to skip Mickey for now and do him another time (we'd live to regret that on another day, but I'll save that story for when we come to it).  So we continued up Main Street and then turned right into Tomorrowland. Alex and I obtained FPs for Space Mountain and then we all got in line for Buzz Lightyear.  This is a real family favorite!  The wait was posted as 10 min, but it was really only 5, we got right back in line to ride a second time and probably could have done it a third time but DH didn't want to ride the same ride 3 times.  Party pooper! ;) I got the high score the first time, Alex got the high score the second time.  Something Sean and I really enjoyed this time was that now that Katie is older she is less clingy and really preferred to ride with Alex on lots of the rides.  Alex enjoyed teaching her things and showing off a bit to her, and we enjoyed the chance to ride together and not have to split up so one of us could ride with Katie.

After Buzz we ran into Stitch by the PeopleMover ride.  Katie loves Stitch and there was only one other child in line to see him. :)  The night before we left for the trip Katie lost one of her front teeth, so she is now sporting that classic gap you see on your average 7 yr old once they lose one or both of their front teeth.  Stitch was pointing at her mouth and shaking his head.  The character handler was sort of translating for him since the characters with a head costume don't actually talk.  The character handler said that Stitch was wondering where her tooth went.  Katie said the Tooth Fairy took it, and Stitch had a horrified look and covered his mouth, which really made Katie giggle. We got it all explained to Stitch so he could sleep at night without fear of the Tooth Fairy taking his teeth and moved on to the Tomorrowland Speedway. :)

Again, the kids rode together, which meant DH and I got to ride together. :) And even better I got to take a pic of them in the car together.  We rode the Tea Cups and then the PeopleMover before our FP time for Space Mountain was ready.  Sean is still scared of roller coasters, and I didn't think Katie was ready for Space Mountain yet - at least not as her first more grown up ride, so just Alex and I were ready to go.  Unfortunately the ride was closed when we came back. :(  So we were talking about whether to have lunch or ride Carousel of Progress when Katie saw Chip and Dale and wanted to get in line for them.  The rest of us weren't really up for that, and told her so.  She had a bit of meltdown about that, not terrible, but sassy and pouting and I was ready to nip that in the bud.  I wasn't putting up with that for the whole trip.  She had a prompt timeout on a nearby bench while we plotted our next move.  We ended up doing Carousel of Progress after the 7 excrutiating minutes waiting for the time out to be over was finally done. (Why does punishing your kid always feel like punishing you?) 

Just as we came out of the Carosel of Progress we headed over to a restroom and when we came out of there we saw that Space Mountain was just starting up again.  We headed over to it and got in line and rode right away.  Just as much fun as I remember it.  We took a look at Big Thunder Mountain, but the wait was over 50 minutes and the FP return time was 2pm and we didn't plan to stay that long, so we had to take a pass on it. 

We ate lunch at Cosmic Rays - DH and I had grilled chicken sandwiches and Alex had a burger.  A note if you are on the dining plan.  They will only allow you to order a chid meal for a kid, but the choices for kids meals are really limited.  However, the counter service credits are really all pooled together in the computer.  Basically they enforce this by only allowing you to order as many adult meals at one time as are on your reservation.  So for us, we could only order 3 adult meals each time we placed an order.  The options for kids at cosmic rays were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (uncrustables) or this nasty mac and cheese.  Katie really wanted a hot dog instead.  So we split up (both my card and DH's could charge) and we each ordered two adult meals so Katie could get a hot dog.  Why the hot dog is not on the kids meal plan to begin with is beyond me.  It isn't as though we were trying to get prime rib for her or anything.

After lunch we did the Liberty Boat, which was way hotter than I expected.  My sunburn, although slight, was really annoying me because I was just sweating and hot and uncomfortable.  I almost fainted on the boat, and DH helped me sit down in a little bench in the center of the boat and drink some water from the pack we brought, and then crawl (well not literally, I walked, but it felt like I was crawling)  to the rail where I could get some air.  That is a long ride and it is more in the hot sun than I was expecting.  I think it would be fun and relaxing in 70 degrees, not so much at 96 degrees.

After that ordeal, we made our way to Hall of Presidents where we cooled down and DH slept. :)  I actually did listen to the presentation this time and was even a bit interested in the history, but the coolness was the little slice of heaven I needed.  After getting cooled down in Hall of Presidents we headed out of the park and back to the monorail and then the Contemporary. 

We slept a little, swam a little, and then got ready for our dinner reservation at Ohana at the Polynesian resort.  This was the reservation I was most nervous about - our family is not really adventurous eaters.  I'm trying to change that at least a little bit, which is why I picked it.  The food there is Hawaiian Polynesian and is really, really good.  To my relief and surprise Sean and Alex loved it.  They ate and ate.  I liked it too, very yummy.  The have sticky wings and pot stickers - two things I usually don't care for much.  But here they were just to die for!  Katie didn't eat so well.. sigh.. but she really enjoyed the singing and dancing they do with the kids.  A Polynesian woman sings and dances and leads them around the tables in a procession and gives them lays.  Katie still has hers and still tallks about it even though she basically ate 3 bites of skewered chicken and a few bites of bread and brocilli and that is it. Ah well.  Probably the best meal of the trip.

After the meal we went to the Poly bus stop and rode to Downtown Disney to go to DisneyQuest.  You want the Pleasure Island stop, not the marketplace stop if you are going to DisneyQuest.  DH had been dreading this part of the trip, since he did not enjoy it on our earlier trip.  Last time we went though, Sean didn't do a lot of the stuff Alex and I did because he thought it was too video game orientated.  Katie was only 4, so she didn't come at all, instead she went to the kids club (babysitting service) last time.  So this time we got to do everything as a family, which was way more fun.  We did the Jungle Cruise, which isn't at all like the one in MK - it is a simulator of a boat ride where you have to paddle your way through the course.  The way you paddle had a real effect on which direction you go in the simulator too.  Very fun and it didn't matter that Katie couldn't really paddle much, the other 3 of us made up for it.  Next we did Pirate of the Caribean, again not like the one in MK.  This was also sort of a virtual reality and we got to shoot down pirate ships, similiar to the way you shoot in the Toy Story Mania game at Hollywood Studios.  We also did the big pinball simulation all together and the Tourist Jeep ride (Lost World?).  We wanted to do the Animation Academy here too, but kept missing the scheduled time for it.  Alex and I did the design your own roller coaster and that was fun - the ride handler made fun of us though for choosing all "green" (easy) and "yellow" (medium) level elements.

After all that we were exhausted, but happy.  I felt so good that this trip was going well - Katie could do more and there was a better sense of comradery than on previous trips when we had to do separate activities based on the age and interest levels not matching up as much.  So yes, Ohana means family seemed to be our theme for the day.

We rode the bus back to the Contemporary and noticed that mousekeeping left us a brand new towel arrangement. :)

Next up: Epcot and a little Hollywood Studios.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Perfect Arrival Day

Disney Diary 2011
Day 1 - July 15, 2011

We left the house at 5:30am to make our 7:30am flight. Very early, but we were all so happy and excited to be going - so for once it wasn't hard to get everyone up and going. Even Katie, who can be a bear in the morning, got up cheerfully. :)

The flight left on time and even landed 20 minutes early - guess our pilot had a lead foot or something.  Since this was our third trip I knew to ride the shuttle to main terminal and go down to the first floor on the B side to get to the Magical Express counter.  I saw the long check in line and gave a little inward sigh, and went to stand in line.  Only they had changed the setup a bit since last time - the long check in line was actually for Disney Cruise Line - not for the Disney Resorts at Walt Disney World.  The cast members directed me to an EMPTY line to get on the buses - Yay! :)  So the cast members scanned our Magic Express tickets and showed us to our bus to the Contemporary which was already there and ready to take off. Extra bonus!

It was 11:30am, and we had 7:15pm reservations for the Hoop Dee Doo that night.  Hoop Dee Doo is now a family tradition for us, if you aren't already familiar, it is a live dinner show that serves fried chicken, ribs, cornbread, salad, and strawberry shortcake.  To be honest, the food is nothing special - just average.  It is a really fun show though.  The kids really enjoyed the slap-stick hee-haw type humor.  If you have a fourth grade boy or so he will think it is hilarious.  The first time we saw this show Alex was 11 and he laughed so hard he cried.  Now it is more tradition for us and more mildly amusing. Still a good time, and a fun thing to do on our more laid back arrival day.  So anyway - I would have made reservations for the 5pm show, but I was nervous about the flight getting delayed, or magic express taking a long time and needing time to get settled in our room, so I booked the later reservation.  Since we were making such good time, I called the WDW Dining number, and moved the reservation to 5pm - no problem there - the cast member was able to change the reservation.

The actual ride to the resort took a little longer than I would have liked because the bus made stops at Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and the Polynesian before taking us to the Contemporary, but we were still all checked in, settled in our room, and eating lunch at the Contempo Cafe by 1pm - very good time for the scheduled landing of 11:14am.  Alex actually had a good idea that I'd use if we are ever in this situation again.  We should have just gotten off the Magic Express bus at Grand Floridian (the first stop) and rode the monorail to Contemporary - probably would have shaved another 15-20 minutes off, but oh well.
We checked into our room to find the "mousekeeping" had already left us a towel animal.  Some wash clothes arranged like a mickey head. :)  A nice touch.  We stayed in the Garden Wing of the Contemporary Resort and our room sort of overlooked the pool except that there were trees and folliage between our room and the pool - but that was fine with us - we didn't pay for any special view and we didn't get any special view, so par for the course. :)

We were on the Disney Dining Plan because I had gotten a Free Dining PIN right around the time I was beginning to plan the trip.  The Dining Plan is 1 Table Service Credit per day, 1 Counter Service credit per day and 1 snack per day for every member of your party.  It might not sound like much, but it can be a lot of food.  Each of the Table Service and Counter Service credits include a dessert, drink and entree. And at the counter service places, often a side such as fries is also included.  I would probably not get the dining plan if we did not have the PIN code, but since our food is then included in the price of our room/tickets, we do save a bit of money using it.  Anway, we used our first set of counter service credits at the Contempo Cafe.  One of the dessert options are these huge cupcakes.  They were super yummy too.  This is the Dos Leche one (caramel) and they also have a Black Forest and a Strawberry which were also very good. :)

So after lunch we changed into our swim suits and decided to check out the pool.  I would not recommend staying at the Contemporary resort if you have little kids (say under 7ish) because of the pool.  There is no kiddie pool at all.  Katie loved, loved the kiddie pool at the Wilderness when we stayed there in 2008, but all the Contemporary has is a water-spout play area.  It was a real pain for me too, because although she could just touch bottom in the big pool, she isn't a strong enough swimmer that I felt she could be independent in the water at all.  So if she wanted to be in the water, I had to be right there, attached at the hip the entire time.  I really liked being able to let her play in the kiddie pool while I enjoyed my drink in a nearby beach chair at the Wilderness - couldn't do that here.

If anything went wrong on this day at all it was that I didn't pack any sunscreen in our carry-ons.  We had larger bottles packed in our check-in luggage, which hadn't arrived yet, but I should have thought to pack a few 3oz bottles so that we could have lathered up before going to the pool.  We didn't stay at the pool long, and luckily no one was badly burned, but my shoulder and neck got slightly crispy.  Enough to be sore for the rest of that day and the beginning of the next - a minor annoyance.

After our dip in the pool we got ready for the Hoop Dee Doo.  We were almost late for our reservation because it was raining and the boat that runs from the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, and Ft Wilderness Campground had to switch to using bigger, covered boats because of the possibility of lightning.  We had our ponchos though, and it was no big deal.  We finally caught the boat and just made the reservation.  Fun time at HDD as usual. :)

I was really happy to make the earlier show of HDD because it meant we had time afterward to go to FANTASMIC! at Disney's Hollywood studios. FANTASMIC! was playing twice - once at 9pm and again at 10:30p, but we really didn't want to stay up for the 10:30p since we had been up since 4:30am, and 9pm was really like 10p with the 1 hour time change difference between CT (WI) and ET (FL).  I love FANTASMIC!  It is my favorite night time show at WDW and I highly recommend it. 

After HDD we took the boat back to the Contemporary and the walked to the bus stop and took the bus to Hollywood Studios.  No problem waiting for the bus - it drove up just as we walked to the bus stop. :)  We did have to make a stop at the Polynesian to pick up people there though, and I had heard that in July the line for FANTASMIC could be full as soon as an hour and a half before the show.  We arrived at Hollywood Studios about 8:20p - so I was a little concerned we would miss it, but my backup plan was to do some of the other rides planned for a different day if that happened.  Turned out there was no need to worry at all.  We scored excellent seats about half way up a little the left of the center.  Excellent viewing - I think we lucked out because the rain drove a lot of people out of the park and back to their hotels. The pictures below are of the stage as we waited for the show to start and then the finale float with all the characters. :)


After FANTASMIC! we were all very tired, but very happy.  We had another small snafu trying to get to the right bus stop - we walked left instead of right out of the gate and went quite a distance before we realized the stop for the Contemporary was on the other side and then had to back track and go the right way.  The bus was there waiting for us though and we didn't have to wait long to get back to our resort.  Everyone went right to sleep. :)

Next up - Day 2 - Magic Kingdom and DisneyQuest.