Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 2013 Trip Report - Day 7

It's our last day here in Walt Disney World, and we will begin it at Old Key West with lunch at Olivia's where we will meet my daughter, her husband and his mother.

I have my daughter's car - since both she and her husband had their cars at EPCOT last night - so we drive from Pop Century to Old Key West where we will meet them.

After lunch, my son-in-law, who is working on very little sleep at this time, decides to go back home, while his mother, my daughter, my wife and myself go to the Magic Kingdom. We decide that it will be easier to leave the car where we parked it here and take the bus. Soon we arrive at the Magic Kingdom.

As we walk down Main Street, I get my first look at the newly reopened bakery which now features Starbucks.

As is my usual procedure, I plan on making our first stop the Haunted Mansion, but when we get there the line is longer than we want to wait in, as today will be a short day for many reasons - including getting there after lunch, and the fact that we won't be staying late. Sandy and I have to pack to leave in the morning, and Iris's mother-in-law has a long drive to get back home. Because of that, we skip the Haunted Mansion and decide on It's a Small World instead. First, however, a stop at the newest bathrooms in the Magic Kingdom ... as you see, they are themed to Disney's Rapunzel movie ... Tangled.

Next stop will be New Fantasyland. While we have been there a few times already, this is Carrie's (Iris's mother-in-law) first time seeing it. We see the progress on the Seven Dwarfs mine train attraction - much work has been done since our last time here in January. We had thought about seeing Enchanted Tales with Belle - since it is cute and Carrie would enjoy it, but the line is long, so we decide to go directly to Gaston's Tavern for a few LeFeu's brews. (Frozen apple juice with toasted marshmallow flavor and foam)

When we are finished, the skies look very threatening, and it appears as if we are going to get the first significant rain since we have been here this week. Hoping it holds off for just a little longer, we get in line at Little Mermaid. It starts to drizzle while we are still on the outside portion of the line, but just as we get under cover inside, the skies totally open up in a full downpour. We got lucky this time.

Unfortunately, when we exit the ride itself, it is still raining quite hard outside, and people are not exiting, but staying in the hallway "cave" leading to the outside. We join that crowd. It gets so crowded that they have to stop the ride itself as there is no longer any room left, and no one is leaving. Disney cast members do not make anyone leave until the rain lets up considerably.

It's still raining when we finally leave the shelter of the cave, although not very hard. Since we had been here the last time, the entrance to the new circus area back here is now open, so it is just a short walk to the big tent/souvenir shop where we pick up ponchos, and then continue into Tomorrowland. It is getting close to our dinner time reservation at Plaza Restaurant, but there is enough time to take Carrie into Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor - something new for her. The preshow has been slightly updated for the Monsters U movie, and some of the routines inside have been updated along with the backdrops.

After dinner, it's time to leave so we take the bus back to Old Key West to pick up Iris's car and she drives us back to Pop Century where Sandy and I pack in preparation to head to the airport tomorrow morning.

The next morning, Iris drives us to the airport where we have an easy and uneventful flight home, another Disney vacation under our belts. It was fun spending time with some friends from half a world away, and they continue their US adventure as we settle in back home. Time to start thinking about our next trip down.

You can see some more photos from today by clicking here.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

July 2013 Trip Report - Day 6

Today will be another (basically) non-park day, so we plan to sleep in and have a late breakfast at Pop Century.

Yesterday, on the way to Downtown Disney, we decided to see if we could have afternoon tea at Grand Floridian, so a phone call was made, and we get a 2:05 PM reservation.

The day starts even before it is time to wake up. At 5:30 AM I wake up momentarily and notice that I have received a text message which I decide to look at before rolling over and going back to sleep. It is a message from my daughter - who had sent it last night just as I had gone to bed - and it says, "MK on Saturday?" and is followed by a screen shot which states. "Cast Members may now use their Main Entrance Passes to sign in Guests at Magic Kingdom beginning Saturday, July 13, through Wednesday, July 31, which were previously blocked out." Needless to say, I responded with one word -  "yes!" She had been watching for this announcement the whole time we have been here, hoping it might come before we had to head home ... and Saturday is the last possible day for us to go to a park! With that, I roll over and go back to sleep ... happy.

After a relaxing morning, my wife and I head to the Grand Floridian to be there early for our tea reservation. We take the bus to the Magic Kingdom, where we board the resort monorail to the Grand Floridian. As we pass the Magic Kingdom, we are happy to know that this will not be as close as we get to it this trip.

We arrive early enough for my wife to have a look in the gift store before we have to check in. Once we are seated, we find out that the menu has changed since the last times we have been here, but we are quite able to find something we want - even if it is not what we had planned on having.

After tea, we have a choice to make. The original plan was to take the bus to Downtown Disney and take a ride up on the Characters in Flight balloon. Since Iris works across from the West Side at Downtown Disney, she would pick us up after work and drive us to EPCOT where we have dinner reservations at Morocco. However, the weather is a bit windy today with a threat of rain, and I am pretty sure that the balloon would not be flying right now, so we decide to stick around the Grand Floridian until Iris is about to leave work, and then take the monorail to EPCOT and meet her there.

We sit for a while listening to the singer and piano player and then I decide to take my camera and walk around the back of the resort for a while.

After getting quite a few photos - many for the 365 Days In Nature Project that I am doing this year - I come back and meet my wife so I can review my photos and just relax while we wait for my daughter to let us know she is about to leave the office. While we sit, we listen to the band which has replaced the singer/piano player duo.

Soon my daughter sends me a text message that she is about to get ready to leave work, and since we have 2 monorails to take to get to EPCOT, we start our journey. Moments after we get there and go through security, Iris and Jason arrive and we start our journey towards World Showcase and Morocco where we have dinner reservations. A slight drizzle makes us decide to make a quick stop at Club Cool for some free sodas. Then we finish our trip.

Unfortunately, the belly dancer is performing as we enter, and does not come back before we leave, so no photos.

After dinner, I know that Iris and Jason are tired, after a full day of work, and Sandy really doesn't want to stick around for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, so I suggest that they all leave and I can stay, set up my camera and wait for Illuminations.

I find the spot (by Germany) where I want to set up, and it is people-free, so I set up in the exact spot I want. As soon as I am set up, and sit down to wait the hour until Illuminations start, a gentleman and his son (from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) sit down and we spend the next hour chatting - and it makes the time go very fast. Before I know it ... it's show time.

(If you are interested in more shots from Illuminations and want to see the shooting settings that were used, visit my photo blog, Gathered Images.)

After Illuminations I pack up and walk to the bus stop and take the bus back to Pop Century. Tomorrow ... The Magic Kingdom!!

You can see some more photos from today by clicking here.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 2013 Trip Report - Day 5

Today is a planned quiet day. Our friends are off to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, and our daughter and son-in-law are working, so my wife and I take this opportunity for a non-park day and spend it it Downtown Disney.

For the first time this trip, after breakfast we take a Disney bus to the West Side of Downtown Disney where we plan on seeing Despicable Me 2. Feeling naked without my camera (I do, however have my phone camera), we arrive at Downtown Disney and pick up our tickets for the movie. (We are seeing it at the Fork and Screen, so have purchased them in advance last night.)

We still have a bit of time to kill before it is time for the movie, so we walk around for a bit. Passing the balloon of Characters in Flight, I check the ticket booth for the times of operation, as I plan to return tomorrow to go up and take some photos. I have done it before but either didn't have the lens I wanted with me or was too late at night to get some of the photos I wanted. Tomorrow I hope to rectify that situation.

Next, we stop in to the candy store and pick up a few jelly beans (for the movie). We then continue down the street, stopping in a number or stores along the way. When we get to Splitsville, we take a moment to look inside, and check out the menu. It occurs to me that since we are meeting our daughter for dinner (she works directly across the road from the West Side) I text her asking if she and her husband would like to have dinner here. The menu looks good, and none of us have ever eaten here, so it is decided that we would indeed do that.

There is still time left before we can enter our theater for the movie (and lunch) so we decide to get out of the sun and have a drink in the outside bar area of Splitsville until it is time to see the movie.

When it is time to go to the theater I make a wonderful discovery. Unlike the Fork and Screen theaters back home, this one features a Coke Freestyle machine which is capable of hundreds of different combination drinks - including over 100 diet selections! Sure wish we had that here. (I have never seen that anywhere here.)

Once the movie is over, we make the short walk over to The Marketplace so my wife can have all the time she wants to go through all of the stores. I, on the other hand, take my usual seat in front of the bandstand and relax ... occasionally watching the volcano at Rainforest Café erupt.

Eventually, I get a message that my daughter is looking for parking in the parking lot (it is quite crowded), so my wife and I walk back to the West Side and meet my daughter and son-in-law in front of Splitsville and then go in for an enjoyable dinner. We had toyed with the idea of bowling for a while, but have decided to put that off until our next trip down here.

After dinner we get driven back to Pop Century and make arrangements with Iris as to where and when we will meet tomorrow.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 2013 Trip Report - Day 4

Today will spend most of the day in the park with our Australian friends who have chosen, as their final park for this trip, the only one they have yet to visit ... EPCOT.

Our morning routine is similar as in previous days (breakfast at Pop Century and then being picked up by our daughter), but this time after we are in EPCOT, Iris returns home where she will be back at work since today is an on call day for her.

As we are on the tram heading towards the entrance, I get a call from our friends who are just getting Fastpasses for Test Track and then will wait on the standby line for Mission:Space. While they are doing that, we head to Test Track to get our own Fastpasses which correspond to the return window that our friends received earlier, so we can ride together ... in a manner of speaking. (The vehicle only holds 6 passengers, and we were now 7.)

Once we have gotten our Fastpasses, we find a spot in the shade to sit and wait for our friends to finish the Mission:Space adventure, and we meet and head over to Imagination, where Michael Jackson's Captain EO is their goal. We walk through Innoventions on our way. We ride Journey Through Imagination (or whatever it is called now - I have lost track). Before we head towards the Magic Eye Theater where the 1980's classic is now playing once again, a stop to marvel at the jumping fountains is in order.

After Captain EO, more than two hours have passed since getting Fastpasses for Test Track, so another set of Fastpasses can be obtained, so we decide to check the availability of Soarin' and discover that they are available and at a convenient time, so we all get another Fastpass.

It's now lunch time and since Sunshine Seasons (a food court) is right here, we find a table and have lunch. While some of our party is off getting food, the younger family members ask if they can try out my camera - Miss 9 has told me that she would like to be a photographer - so I let them each take a few shots ... and here are some of the results.

A trip through Living With The Land follows lunch.

There is still some time until our Test Track window, so we ride through Universe of Energy (the whole Jeopardy theme is still getting old) and Spaceship Earth.

It's now time to use our Test:Track Fastpasses, so we head over and proceed to the test/ride portion of the attraction.

From here we decide to walk over to World Showcase and make our first (and only as it turns out) stop in Mexico where we take the boat ride and look around the stands. When we leave the pyramid, we find it is Magarita o'clock so proper actions are taken.

While mom (ooops sorry, she's Australian, so "mum") and dad enjoy their drinks, Miss 9 is given another opportunity to take some photos with my camera.

But brothers being what they are resulted in this shot!

At this point we decide that we would not have any more time to spend in World Showcase but needed to walk back to Future World and The Land to use our Soarin' Fastpasses. Once the ride is over, we all decide that it is time to leave EPCOT. Since we are heading to different destinations, we say our goodbyes here. Sadly, this will be the last time we have to get together, and who knows if/when we will have the chance to meet in person again. For now there will be the internet once again.

My wife and I head back to Pop Century where we have dinner at the food court. Tomorrow will be a relaxing day, giving us a chance to recover from the last 4 days in the parks before we do a few more while we are down here before returning home.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Trip Report - July 2013 - Day 3

After our usual breakfast at the Pop Century food court, my wife and I get picked up by our daughter and we head for Disney's Hollywood Studios where we will be meeting our Australian friends for lunch at the 50's Prime Time Café.

We arrive at the parking lot, and naturally get directed to the end of the row. We catch the tram to the entrance, and once in head right back towards Pixar Place to get our Fastpasses for Toy Story:Midway Mania. At this point our daughter wants to get some breakfast and my wife wants to look at the pins under the sorcerers hat, so I head off with Iris to Starring Rolls, and Sandy heads off for the hat.

When we meet it is time to go on The Great Movie Ride. The queue is long enough that we start waiting in the area before the memorabilia room - longer than usual, but not really a long wait. When we finally get to board, we are assigned to the front cars so we will get to see the "western bank robbery" scene ... something we haven't seen in many years. It seems as if we are always in the back set of cars and see the "gangsters" scene.

(Note: Please pay attention to all announcements that remind you that use of flash is prohibited. I always do, so these and all other indoor shots where flash is prohibited were taken without the use of any additional lighting.)

(More photos from The Great Movie Ride can be seen
at the link at the end of this post.)

From The Great Movie Ride we head over to the Animation building where we get ready for a class in the Animation Academy ... one of our favorite things to do here in Disney's Hollywood Studios. The very first drawing I did when I first attended a class was Stitch and I hadn't drawn him again ... until today that is.

Still quite a bit of time until we are to meet our friends for our lunch reservation, so we decide to see MuppetVision 3D, followed by a stroll down New York Street.

We meet our friends for lunch at 50's Prime Time Café, and then we make up with them to meet tomorrow at EPCOT and spend some time together. Today is the last day that Iris will be with us before going back to work, and the last time she will see our friends.

The time is fast approaching for our Toy Story:Midway Mania Fastpass window, so Iris, Sandy and I head over and head inside.

Now we leave the park and head back to our room at Pop Century where the three of us will relax for a bit, shower and get ready for dinner at Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge. We will meet our son-in-law there. It's been a while since my wife and I have eaten there, and we are definitely looking forward to some zebra domes!

You can see some more photos from today by clicking here.