Saturday, July 7, 2001 2:54 PM
TR: Universal/IOA/WDW 6/15-623
Part II-WDW (LONG)
We checked out of Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Monday (6/18) morning around 11AM. Apparently everyone else was too as there were tons of cars around the circle both checking in and out. We hopped in our rental car and made the short trip to the resort area. Once we passed under the huge four lane wide sign announcing it was Disney World, we knew drove right into a happy and expensive place ;) We went into the familiar check in house at Caribbean Beach (stayed here back in 1996) and the crowd inside to check in looked like a bank was giving away free money. There we picked up the nice park maps (compared to the ones from 1996 that looked like they were drawn in Paint or something) and planned our week.
After we got out of the check-in mess, we would go to our room, cool off, and then take the bus over to MGM. Now normally I wouldn't be excited about a bus ride (school comes to mind) but when we were there last time we had a driver taking us back from a park at 11PM and everyone exhausted from the heat. Well, this guy was like the Sandra Bullock character in Speed taking turns with a bus that just didn't feel safe. Instead of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, it was....ok, I'll stop the bad monologue jokes. I will say in advance that unfortuantley we didn't have any bus rides like that this year.
I was looking forward to MGM for Rock N' Rollercoaster and supposedly a randomized drop sequence on Tower of Terror. Thankfully this year we got to use Fastpass, which when I looked back on, really saved us time and allowed us to really enjoy ourselves other than waiting in 65 minute lines for Space Mountain. We got a FP for ToT. Our taking some time to figuring out how to get a ticket would cause a small headache later. So we got in the pretty short Aerosmith coaster line. I was excited because it sounded great and it would be my fourth coaster of the year so far, and all of them are new to me!
We get inside the building and as much surprise as a summer blockbuster delivers, the Disney theming was great. Made it look like a real record label lobby and the pre-show with us "looking in on" an Aerosmith recording session was well done too. If there's one thing I won't miss from this trip its pre-shows. Nearly all Universal attractions had them and a bucketful of Disney attractions had them too. Some were good; some bad. Needless to say, Orlando is the king of pre-shows. The station to Aerosmith was great as well. I really loved that screeching tire sound as the LIM launches you and how the trains looked like limo's. Second best train design, with the Dragons coming in first IMO.
The last time I rode a non-B&M with horsecollars was Steel Phantom back in August of last year. Bittersweet because it was rough and somewhat painful, but it was my last ever ride on it. " wish every car could have these speakers. Sound is loud, sounds like its....AHHHHH!" that was running through my mind when we launched and my stomach fell lower than the goals scored by Eric Lindros (zero, haha) last season. Into a disorienting loop since it was dark. After that though, things tamed down a bit, but the theming to make it look like a mess of freeway was nice. A couple more inversions would be nice, but hey its Disney. I was pretty much going along with "Walk this Way" rather than paying attention to the end of the ride. I walked out pretty happy. A park like this, say at CP, would have about three-five inversions but the theming would be nonexistent. Whatever your cup of tea is I guess.
We walked around the back half of the park waiting for our 1:30 FP time to come around for ToT. Now we had all assumed we got the same time and would have no trouble. So we got outside the ToT entrance at about 1:31 and my Dad and I showed our 1:30 tickets and we went through. Halfway up the hill, I turned around and the rest of my party wasn't there. We stopped and saw they were being held up at the gate. Somehow in our explanation on how to insert your card to get a FP, they got a ticket at the next block, 1:35. So with some persuading of the worker that they with us, they let them through. Come on, does four minutes make a difference?
Oh well, ToT was pretty fun. Maybe it is because I'm used to the Pittfall and the Power Tower, but ToT didn't do much for me. It still holds its own since it is very, very well themed and the elevators workers act spooky and demented. But it seems like a shorter ride like the Drop side on PT. Rise up, big drop, bounce a bit. BTW, I hope I'm not coming across as a person who compares everything and thinks it has to be perfect, I'm just analyzing them instead of enjoying it like I was five years ago. Coincidentally, I got the Internet a year after I went to Disney and well...it changes your mindset. I noticed the huge Mickey Sorcerer hat under construction. It will be nice to see a nice, big icon (I never thought the water tower as one) Looks nice.
Not much else happened that day except a very good dinner at Mama Rosas or something (I'm not good on names; its the restaurant across from Pizza Planet and the Muppet 3D show) In the restaurant they have pictures of actors and actresses who have visited MGM. Could they please get some updated pictures? All of them are from 1989 and some big hair is going on in some of the pics lol Then as 7PM closed in, the first big storm of our trip occurred. The rains fell harder than the popularity of an aging Arrow looper (score)! A nice show (not Fantasmic, but the Lightning Storm: presented by Mother Nature)! happened. And then as if fate took over, the storm got weaker almost exactly around closing times meaning a nice sized wait for the bus to go back to the hotel. By the time we finally boarded a bus, got back to the Beach, walked to our room, went to the Trading Post Main building to fill our free refill mugs with Mr. Pibb (well just me) and then got back to our room, I think it was around 10:30, 11. There is no time continuum when you are on vacation I guess.
Woke up Tuesday morning and found the temperature at 9AM to be hotter than some towns in the USA get for highs in the spring. Oh did I mention, its humid too? We arrived at the bus stop just as an Animal Kingdom bus pulled up. On this ride we got some "inside info" (I use this lightly) from our bus driver. His name was Oscar and he was pretty enthusiastic compared to some of the other drivers. He said that Disney plans to build three more themeparks and 15 more hotels by....2010! I didn't really believe it then, and I really don't now. I'm pretty sure he had to be joking, or is info outlet is pulling people's legs. I read that Disney is down 8% in attendance (I think that extra 8% decided to come during my trip) and with some economic woes, I doubt three more parks and especially 15 more hotels by then. Sure maybe one park and a few hotels. I did, however believe him when he said that Disney is only using 1/4 of all their property. So take that as you would...
Animal Kingdom: Whoa, what happened here? I know that AK is only three years old, but three, maybe four "E-Ticket" attractions? For a Disney Park? Magic Kingdom has about 20. Oh well. We read to ride Kilimanjaro Safari's early or late in the day since any other time the animals will probably be napping. Don't blame 'em. Thank God that line was shaded because that sun and humidity together can kill ya. The safari was pretty cool, saw most of the animals. The ride could have been better off without that forced ending to make it seem like a real ride. When we got off the back of my shirt was drenched just from sitting down and all that other hot related stuff. Yeech. This prompted me to buy one of those combo fans and misters (which I jokingly refereed to as my souvenir) Sure $16 is a lot, but at least mine was already full of cold water and batteries. Fell bad for the people who buy them in the gift shops without cold water and batteries in them.
We then saw the Bug 3-D show which was cute and then Dinosaur. I don't know, if it is me, but I kind of liked this ride. It reminded me of the JP ride at IOA and the ET ride (minus ET actually saying your name at the end) at Universal. I liked how it got all rough, but it needs some kind of soundtrack. That night we ate at the House of Blues and went inside the ultra cool Disney Quest down at Downtown Disney. Our Wednesday was made up of a day at Blizzard Beach and then a great dinner at Rainforest Cafe. That night there was a tornado warning for a county that had to be close since it was on an Orlando radio station. In fact, a lady at the Cafe said a tornado was spotted 4 miles away. Great. Thanks for telling us. Also at Cafe, New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was spotted eating with his family a few tables away. He and the Devils were only a mere two days away from losing the Cup in Seven games to the Avalanche. OF course it was cool to see a "celeb" in public, but it really wasn't since he and his Devils trounced the Penguins out of the East Finals. Arrgghhh ... hehe j/k
On Thursday we traveled and spent the whole day at my favorite WDW park, Magic Kingdom. Whether it was the magic of walking down Main Street, smelling the candy store or riding Space Mountain, it just is my favorite. Speaking of Space Mountain, holy sh*t! I didn't know I liked this much! In fact it was one of the few Disney rides we rode more than once on the same day. I'm a huge fan of Wild Mouse type rides and this is a great example why. You got some speed, steep drops, unexpected drops, tight turns and most of all, its in the dark! I really like the little double up going parallel to the initial chain lift. Best of all we used Fastpass both times meaning five minute waits. We enjoyed all the rest of MK trademarks. We skipped Snow White and Winney the Pooh rides-not enough time plus they had super long waits. Peter Pan was cool, especially seeing the model England down below. I kind of expected the cars to go into an Immelman or something since I'm so used to Inverted coaster. Now that would be a interesting Inverted coaster: Peter Pan's Flight. The track can be painted green and the first part would start off calm, and then three inversions signifying his duel with Capt. Hook would be next.
Disney's attendance was reported to be down 8%. Sure didn't seem like that to me when I was there as the Frontierland and Main Street areas were super packed. I know its an average figure and it represents on a whole. Our last full day we spent at Epcot. Really liked that Mickey hand extended up and almost touching the "golf ball" and the words Epcot magically appearing. Another thing the monorail. Sure its nice for the few resorts around Epcot and MK to get around, but I heard the stations are detoriating and the supports are getting a bit aged. Have to wonder about 'em.. So we decide to head to Test Track to get a Fastpass and then...well stop reading after "then" because already around 11AM, FP's were being issued for the 2-3PM block. We decided to plan our day another way so we waited in the standby line. This brings to me another point: Is it just me, or does almost every stinkin' Disney ride/attraction's queue spills out onto the midway? Aren't they designed for high capacity or what?
Anyway we get in the building ready for the preshow when one of the cars going around that turn at 65 mph just slows to a nice and gentle halt (I was impressed) They announced the ride was closed to to tech difficulties. So for the people inside, we got outdated and initialed FP's that entitled us to come back at any point during the day and just get in the FP line. Excellent! It was probably the coaster side of me talking, but I wished the whole ride would be like the end. That fast acceleration, turns and some braking. Overall I thought it was informative and overall nicely presented "attraction." I thought it was kind of dumb for them to spoil the whole ride for you at the preshow where they tell you what happens and when it happens.
Lines for the other attractions were pretty short except for the boat ride Living with the Land. The other people wanted to ride it and when I saw a FP spot for it I knew I was in for it. The wait only said 35 minutes I felt it was the slowest moving line the whole trip. Everyone goes into the country section of the park at night, so I figured something was up since Future World was so uncrowded (by Disney's standards) We watched the awesome Illuminations and then headed out. We were walking out when we saw our next door neighbors. We knew they were going, but what are the chances to come all this way and see them at the same park, same day, and same time? Small world.
On our last day Saturday (6/23) we decided to do MGM again. Our flight wasn't supposed to leave until 8:20. Soon rain entered the picture early on in that day and threatened it. But soon the clouds parted and we packed everyone up in our rental car and had to actually park at a Disney park! (something unusual after almost a week of transportation) We picked up a few treats for people back home and then hit Rock 'N Rollercoaster, the Tower, then finally the Indiana Jones stunt show. After about 90 min there it was time to ease out of vacation mode and go back home. When we got to the airport, we found tons of delays, mostly to airports along the East coast including Pittsburgh. US Airways was able to get on us a 7PM flight (delayed half and hour) nonstop instead of an 8:20 flight connecting in Charlotte. Without hesitation we took it.
We arrived back in the familiar confines of PIT International after 10PM sometime. We located our car with ease in the lots and headed home to Greensburg where we were in the house after 11PM. Better than 1AM anyway.
Vacations are work. Planning. Money. Time. Weather. You name it and it probably happens. Sure WDW was great with some very unique stuff that Paramount, CF, and SF chains could even sneeze at. But we had to use all kinds of time management then we've used combined since the last time we were I bet. Probably the only vacation you have to do little on is a cruise. Someday... If anything I learned that you can set your watch to Florida's (maybe Central Florida) weather and to follow the Universal/WDW chains more closely as regard to future plans and such. Everyone had a nice time and a nice sunburn too ;) Can't wait for 7th Annual CP trip next weekend!
Kennywood Park Unlimited www.kpunlimited.com