Tuesday, March 4, 2008 8:27 PM
I visited the world with my pregnant wife, and another expecting couple and their two-year-old daughter. It was not a coaster commando trip, but we still hit all the big rides. This TR is in two parts: theme park attractions and resort / dining experiences.
- Space Mountain: visual effects still awesome, but I missed the built-in sound system from SM at DLP and DL. The single-rider-per-row seating didn't bother me when I rode 7 years ago, but it does now. Maybe it's because I'm imagining taking my son or daughter for their first ride and not being able to hold their hands...
- Splash Mountain: I love the story and the effects, but they were having some serious reliability issues. I missed riding one night while they were trying to fix problems. The next day, my buddy and I were stuck 20 minutes under the vultures, plus another 5 just before the unload platform.
- Big Thunder Mountain: I love this ride in all its incarnations. Sure, the tunnels are not as long or dark as DLP, but there's a lot more audio and visual effects packed into the WDW tunnels.
- Mickey's PhilharMagic: The best 3D show in WDW. Awesome.
- Monsters Inc. Comedy Club: Monsters tell lame jokes and cameramen zoom in on unsuspecting audience members for the real laughs. Not as good as Turtle Talk with Crush, but will likely build a collection of material that will ensure a long run attraction.
- Dream Along with Mickey: It's like a miniature version of Fantasmic, except that it's during daylight hours and it's much easier to escape if your kids are scared by the evil witch. If you're not sure if your kids can handle the evil characters in Fantasmic, try this first.
- Turtle Talk with Crush puts guests into a happy Disney mood. The behind-the-scenes actor was not as quick or funny as the DL version I saw nine months ago, but I was still quoting Crush days after leaving the show. "I like sea grass, but it gives me bubbles."
- Mission to Mars. Finally, a simulator that is intense without being violent! 10/10.
- Soarin'. Exactly like Soarin' over California. Sat on the far left side but was impressed to find the view didn't seem significantly off-center. 8/10
- O Canada! Finally updated, it's not too embarrassing. Staff still wear dorky lumberjack outfits. FYI, Moosehead beer tastes great.
- Germany: We kept going back, trying to decide which tasted better, the German wines or beers. I think I need another round...
- Mexico: The river ride has been updated with cartoons of Donald enjoying the attractions. This adds a bit of kid appeal but little else.
Disney Hollywood Studios
- Lights Motors Action is a very good stunt show. There isn't a bad seat anywhere in the massive grandstand.
- Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular hasn't changed in +7 years. Even the stunt-man plant hasn't been rewritten.
- Tower of Terror: This "human yo-yo" ride is great in all its incarnations. It always leaves me wanting to come back for more.
- Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Love coasters. Love Aerosmith. Good ride.
- Fantasmic! It seemed different from what I saw in 2001. Has the finale with the boats been reduced, or is it the same as always? I also thought the 2001 version had more fireworks, but maybe my memory is just wack.
- Star Tours, also unchanged in years. For a rough simulator, it has a very loyal audience. As long as Disney maintains rights to use Star Wars characters around the attraction, there's no incentive to improve the ride. Another generation of Jedi's is growing up with Star Wars...
- Expedition Everest. Wow! Excellent design and mix of sensations as you move through the course. I rode it 5 times, mostly in the middle. I'm still craving a front seat ride. Singles line pulls 3-5 riders per train and from queue entry to ride was just as fast as the FastPass Return line. (5-6 trains, dispatched very quickly.)
- Kali River Rapids. Unchanged, but still a good wet ride.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris. It's amazing how different each ride can be. Years ago, we raved about seeing the lions. This time around, the lions were napping and it was the elephants that amazed us.
- Dinosaur - a very rough ride through vivid dinosaur-infested jungle. It doesn't even seem like you're in a jeep, it's more like a tippy row-boat in ocean swells. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is so much better, I can't believe it's the same ride technology.
- Finding Nemo the Musical - A top-notch Broadway style show. Not quite as good as Aladdin at DCA, but better than Beauty and the Beast at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Resorts and Dining
We stayed at Coronado Springs Resort (a moderate resort). The room was comfortable, but dining didn't wow us. The counter service restaurant (Pepper Market) served OK food, but there was a mandatory 10% service charge, and staff only seated you and maybe brought you beverages. (We craved the value resort counter-service free-for-all after seeing our bills.) Everything at the resort was supposed to be Mexican themed, but the only Mexican food was at Pepper Market for lunch and supper, and even this was weak. Surprisingly, the Maya Grill has virtually no Mexican food. When we go back, we'll probably go back to a value resort and travel to more interesting dining areas.
My wife loves dining just as much as I do, but being six months pregnant, she doesn't have the capacity to eat Disney-sized portions of a three-course meal, so we regularly shared an appetizer or an entree (and sometimes dessert).
- San Angel Inn – Real Mexican food, what a treat! Priced on par with our resort restaurants, it offered more variety and flavor. Nothing we ordered was too spicy for my expectant wife. But it is really dark -- we could barely read our menus. 7/10.
- Wolfgang Puck Cafe - very good food, and improved service from 2005. Surprisingly, the recommended wine pairing was too weak for the beef entre. (Lazy sommelier? Or just one with a very different palate...) Dessert is still the best part of the meal. 8/10
- Spoodles - WOW! Great Mediterranean appetizers and entrées. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Dessert wasn't memorable. Recommended wine pairing did not perfectly match the entrées. 9/10
- Tony's - Me and my sweetie had to share a platter of spaghetti and meatballs. We're not just being romantic, the portions are huge! 7/10
- Artist Point - Classy and delicious. The art in this restaurant is tasteful with very large landscape paintings. There were a variety of hearty appetizers made with ingredients native to Oregon / Washington / British Columbia. The entrées focused on salmon, beef and buffalo. Sommelier suggestions in the wine menu were perfect. Desserts were decadent and included blackberries and wild raspberries native to the Northwest. It was the only place where my wife and I each ordered our own appetizers and entrées. We both waddled out, totally stuffed. 10/10. (We rank Artist Point at the same level as California Grill in terms of quality dining.)
*** Edited 3/5/2008 1:29:01 AM UTC by greatwhitenorth***