Friday, March 24 - Animal Kingdom, Studios, Fantasmic!
We're trying to be more relaxed than usual on this trip, and so we didn't get a very early start, nor did we have a firm itinerary. We decided to visit Animal Kingdom, and arrived there about 9:00.
We got a Fastpass for the Safari, and then had breakfast at Tusker House. I *finally* got to try the apple-cinnamon muffin - every other time we've eaten here they have been out of those. It was good.
By the time we finished breakfast it was time to use our Safari
Fastpass - we were on the vehicle less than 10 minutes after
getting in line. Ahhhh....love those Fastpasses! :-)
We hardly saw any animals on the Savannah but there were quite a few once we got past the red clay pits - elephants, and giraffes and an eland that were RIGHT next to the road, then some Thompson's gazelles, scimitar-horned oryx, ostriches, and impalas. We saw all 4 cheetahs, but no lions.
The driver's spiel has changed from what I remember...now before you
go over the "old bridge" there's a sign off to the right that says
"Road Closed", and the driver says that the new road is washed out,
and we'll have to take the old one - hope the bridge holds, etc.
I don't remember ever hearing much of an explanation for it before (or
seeing the "Road Closed" sign), but we got that on both of our safaris
on this trip.
After we got off the safari we walked along the Pangani Forest Exploration trail. There were lots of gorillas out - the big male silverback was out, and on the other side of the river were several of the bachelors, including one sleeping down along the creek.
Along the way to Asia Lee was overjoyed to find that the caramel corn stand was open - it had been closed (and looked abandoned) on our last trip. The first time we got caramel corn here I think it was fresh and warm, but now it's just out of a bag - still tasty, though.
Asia was crowded and there was a line to get into the Maharajah Jungle
Trek, so we went back toward the Tree of Life and looked at the
various animal enclosures that are around it. We saw the lemurs, and
watched the flamingos building nests - we also got a flamingo biology
lesson, too. (No, they don't do it standing on one leg. :-) )
And the swans at Animal Kingdom were also keeping an eye on Lee... :-)
We were meeting Lee's parents at the Studios at 2:00 so we took our break early, and left Animal Kingdom about 11:30. The tram conductors (or whatever you call the people who ride on the back of the trams and make the announcements) we had on this trip were a pretty funny group, but this one incident stands out - we had gotten on the tram, which at that time of day was practically deserted for the trip back OUT to the parking lot, and were waiting to leave. The tram guy was doing his spiel about boarding and how many people per row, etc., and he said "No double lap-sitting except for children under 3 - that's 5 1/2 metric". Lee and I looked at each other and started laughing, and then we looked back at the guy and he was grinning.
And it just isn't a trip to Animal Kingdom without some flower pictures... :-)
After a short break back at Old Key West we went to Disney-MGM Studios. We had arranged to meet Carol and Donn at 2:00, not realizing that was when the Hunchback of Notre Dame show started. We arrived early, and I went to Little Mermaid to get Fastpasses for all of us. Fortunately Carol and Donn were early too - they had just gotten off the Great Movie Ride, and we were able to make it to the Backlot Theatre in plenty of time to see Hunchback - we even saw enough of Matt the Juggler's pre-show to notice that he'd added something new.
There were several new cast members since the last time we'd seen it - the new Quasimodo doesn't have as good a voice, and the new Clopin is a little too animated, but he has a nice voice. It was the same Esmeralda that we've seen for the last year and a half or so, though.
After Hunchback we just had time to use our Fastpasses for Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Carol and Donn hadn't seen either Hunchback or Little Mermaid, and they really enjoyed them.
We watched the Mulan parade - we'd never actually seen the one here, though we'd seen the one at Disneyland a number of times. We thought the Disneyland parade was better - Disneyland had Chinese acrobats and people doing martial arts routines and other such things, and here the participants just marched along the parade route.
We still had a little time before our Priority Seating time, so we went to see, or rather *hear*, "Sounds Dangerous" - I'd warned everyone in advance that it was kind of stupid...and afterwards, they agreed. :-)
We had a really good dinner at the Brown Derby - Donn and Carol and I all had the sauteed grouper, and it was *wonderful*. One of the best fish dishes I think I have ever had. Lee had the Grilled New York Strip Steak. He had the potato leek soup as an appetizer and the rest of us had the salad. A passing server dropped a glass on the floor next to us and it broke - they insisted on getting Donn another salad even though it didn't appear the glass really came anywhere near him, but they wanted to be safe.
Lee and I split the double chocolate torte for dessert, while Carol and Donn split the grapefruit cake. It was a really good meal, and afterwards our server gave us the card that would get us into Fantasmic! without having to wait in line. We still had some time before then, so we wandered around for a little while before we went to the "Secret Fantasmic Entrance". :-)
We arrived just about half an hour before the show started - the reserved section that was set aside for us was pretty full, and the rest of the amphitheater was already standing room only. We saw most of the pre-show by the Tower of Terror Bellhops, Moe and Delman, though they were so far away that we couldn't actually see that much. They were still very entertaining, though - they do some clever things.
Fantasmic! is a good show, though not as good as the version at Disneyland. (Lee doesn't necessarily agree with my opinion about that, though. :-) ) Poor Carol was coming down with a cold, and she was suddenly hit with the chills about 3/4 of the way through, and was shivering with cold even though it was a very pleasant night. :-( We said our goodbyes, and went back to Old Key West - there was an E-ride night at Magic Kingdom that night and we'd talked about doing that, but decided to just go back to the room instead - Walt and Barb were taking the red eye, and we expected them to arrive at Old Key West about 7:00-7:30 the next day.
(We never actually made it to Magic Kingdom at all on this trip - I've mentioned that to several people and they act like I've committed heresy or something! :-) But MK is our LEAST favorite park - there are a couple of things there that we enjoy doing, but not enough to brave the crowds and strollers. Overall we think Disneyland is a much better park than MK, and we're usually at Disneyland at least once a month - MK just doesn't hold much appeal for us.)
Saturday, March 25 - Epcot, California Grill, Fireworks
Remember what I said about Walt and Barb arriving about 7:00-7:30? They called our room at 6:45 and had already arrived. :-)
Lee went to the Front Desk and finished getting them checked in and they got their park passes while I showered and got dressed. Their room wasn't ready so they brought their luggage to our room.
All things considered they were remarkably awake and perky...Barb was having the travel week from hell. Let's see...she'd had a briefing to give Wednesday morning, then got on a plane Wednesday afternoon...flew back home Friday evening, and a few hours later hopped on the red-eye flight to Orlando. Then on Tuesday, rather than flying back to San Diego with the rest of us, she was having to fly to D.C. for meetings. So instead of having to pack for one trip, she'd had to pack for 3!
We'd made 8:30 Priority Seating for Spoodles, so we headed there - even though we were an hour early they had no trouble seating us...in fact they put us in a back room all by ourselves! Hmmm. The coffee "cups" at Spoodles are HUGE - more like bowls than cups. But Walt and Barb seemed to be in need of a little caffeine. :-)
Spoodles has a really nice breakfast buffet - I'd never eaten there before, but it has been recommended a number of times. There was a wide variety of food - breakfast pizza, two kinds of frittatas, richotto(sp? - This was NOT risotto, it was like a Mediterranean style egg roll, with veggies inside), eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, potatoes, toast, bagels, muffins, cream cheese, lox, capers, pastries, hot and cold cereals, bread pudding, Mickey waffles, and fruit.
After we waddled out, we took the *long* way around to the International Gateway (i.e. back entrance to Epcot). :-) It was an absolutely beautiful day - actually we'd had great weather for the whole trip. Highs in the mid to upper 70s - a far cry from our Spring trip last year.
We went to Test Track to get Fastpasses, and wandered through a little bit of Innoventions East while we were waiting. We went back to Test Track with our Fastpasses, and got in the queue - Lee and I had never actually been in the main queue before, because we've always done the singles line. We were on the ride in about 10 minutes - there weren't any singles to ride with us so the four of us had a whole car to ourselves.
The "crash test dummies" were out near the photo pick-up area... I got crashed between the two of them. :-) Barb and Lee both tried out the driving simulators, though the one Barb was on wasn't working properly, and wouldn't allow her to go more than about 25mph. (Or maybe it *was* working properly? ;-) )
Walt and Barb are going to be in the market for a new SUV soon, and since Lee and I are usually their back seat passengers, we've been designated the back seat test drivers. :-) We checked out the two SUVs that were in the Test Track show room, but they both got the thumbs down from the front AND back seat drivers. During the rest of the time we were at WDW we looked at SUVs in all the parking lots any time we walked past one that we really hadn't seen before. There are a LOT of SUVs at WDW!!!! And an awful lot of them had child seats in them...we certainly hope that isn't a standard feature! :-)
It was another beautiful day with blue skies and pleasant temperatures, and even though it was Saturday, the park wasn't very crowded - we didn't have much of a wait for anything.
At some point we saw Ellen's Energy Adventure, and a much longer and more extensive performance of the JAMMitors - they had a lot more "cleaning supplies" and performed longer than we have seen before. They're a lot of fun to watch. And we heard a little bit of a "pin trading seminar", and learned that the colors on the pins are done with powder that is mixed with spring water, and then applied with a hypodermic needle, and then baked. The more expensive limited edition pins generally have more detail and color, and take longer to make. I traded a couple of pins, since for a change I actually HAD my good pins with me. On this trip it seemed like I only saw the *real* pin traders when I *didn't* have my good pins with me, and when I had them, I didn't see anyone. (I still did a fair bit of trading with CMs, though - that's always fun.)
We went into the Living Seas pavilion - bypassed the film, so we didn't have to hear that "it rained, and it rained, and it rained..." :-) We saw the manatee and lots of fish and other sealife. And Walt had a close encounter with a shark. :-)
We decided to have lunch in the Millennium Village, and showed Barb and Walt the Swedish eggs. (Sweden's exhibit is the 4 seasons of Sweden, each in a giant egg. None of us can really figure out the significance of this. But at least the Swedish Cast Members are always very scenic. :-) )
On the way back to Future World we had beaver tails for dessert - I
tried the maple and chocolate one this time. It was really messy.
The maple was good, but the chocolate they drizzled on top was just
regular Hershey's syrup - it actually detracted from the flavor.
Cinnamon sugar is still the best! The others got a kick out of seeing
me be so messy, though, so I guess this one
has a higher entertainment
value than the other varieties. :-)
In the Land pavilion we did the boat tour through the green houses - no wait, which was nice. The CMs at the boat dock were giving a really bad time to the CM in the boat behind us - they held up some kind of sign when he pulled in. Our CM told us that he's a college student, and he had actually boxed up his dirty laundry and sent it home to be washed, so the sign said "Will work for laundry service", or something similar. "Oh look, Mom, it's a big box from Disney!...What's in it? Ewwwwwww..."
After the boat tour we saw Food Rocks, always a cute show. We were ready for a break by this time, but on the way out we stopped to see the World Showcase players in the United Kingdom pavilion perform King Arthur and the Holy Grail. Lee has obviously been typecast, because he was selected to play King Arthur again (they chose him on our trip last year, too). They've changed the script a little, so he had to greet his loyal subjects with a "boogie-woogie-woogie" instead of a "hot cha-cha-cha". :-) He performed with verve and enthusiasm, and even ad-libbed a couple of lines.
Back to Old Key West, and got Walt and Barb checked into their room which was about 4 doors away from us - same floor. They had a nicer view off their patio but didn't have a front window like we did.
We all rested for a while before meeting to drive to the Contemporary Resort where we had Priority Seating at California Grill. The place was packed when we arrived. We asked to be seated at one of Kendall's tables (he was our server last April), and about 20 minutes later they paged and seated us. Kendall didn't remember us, but was flattered that we'd remembered and had asked for him. :-)
Dinner at California Grill is never a quick meal...and with Kendall it's even a little longer process. :-) But he really helps make the whole thing an event. We all shared the salmon flatbread appetizer, and Walt and Barb had the sushi sampler while Lee and I had the vegetable egg rolls. By that time it was time to watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom, so we went out on the deck for a while. And when we got back our entrees were about ready. Lee had their signature dish, the tamarind beef filet, Barb had the Tempura Bonsai Tuna and,...hmm. I think Walt had the beef filet also. I actually had one of the appetizers as an entree - the artichokes with prosciutto and breadstick. For dessert we got two chocolate souffles - those things are HUGE. I was stuffed already and didn't eat very much of it, and chocolate souffle is not really my favorite anyways. But Lee was really happy that it was back on the menu - he was very disappointed that it wasn't there when we were here in December.
After dinner we waddled...err...*walked* around the hotel grounds a
little and saw just a bit of the Electrical Water Pageant. We called
it a day and headed back to Old Key West.
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Last updated 4/22/00