Tuesday, August 29, 2017

First Visit to Pandora

August 1, 2017

This was a day that had been planned when we first came down to Florida and knew we would stay for both my daughter's and my granddaughter's birthdays at the end of July. My daughter, Iris would be taking her daughter, Brooke to the doctor for her checkup and we would then spend the day in Animal Kingdom and see Pandora for the first time.

Originally, Iris would have had to get us into the park, since while my wife and I have annual passes, but this day was still within the blockout dates for the summer. However, days before today, Disney announced an early lifting of those blockout dates, so we could now go early and meet Iris and Brooke in the park once they finished with the doctor.

We left our house for the hour long drive, and arrived at Animal Kingdom in the late morning. We could already tell that this would be a very hot day! Checking the My Disney Experience app (MDX), we discovered that the standby for the new Flights of Passage was already at almost three hours, but Na'vi River ride was at 90 minutes. We briefly considered standing on line, but that would cut it way too close to the time we had been planning on meeting Iris and Brooke, so we decided to simply walk around the new Pandora and see what the Imagineers accomplished.

It was quite an accomplishment during the day, and we had hoped to see it at night with the bioluminescence on display this evening. (I had made the decision - due to the heat - not to bring my camera, so all shots here have been taken with my phone.)

We next decided to have a look inside of Windtraders, the gift shop, and I had planned on checking out the banshees with the goal of "adopting" one. When it first opened, that had been so popular that they had sold out very quickly! Today, there were plenty available.

I "adopted" this fellow, and even bought him a perch!

We passed the Satu'li Canteen where we would be having lunch once Iris arrived - and I have to admit to feeling a bit hungry, so since the heat continued to be oppressive, we decided to head out of Pandora and into the Nomad Lounge to stay cool and get an adult drink and a cheese plate while we waited for Iris.

After being there a while, I received a message from Iris that she was leaving the doctor's office and would be here shortly, so we decided to head towards Africa since she would be arriving as our FastPass+ window for the Safari was just opening. We had been trying to get FastPasses for either of the new Pandora attractions, but demand was still high and we had been unsuccessful in that attempt.

After getting ourselves situated at the bar - which had removed most of the seating to accommodate the new park-to-park shuttle (which has since been discontinued), I get another text from Iris that she is in the parking lot, and was going to check for the new Pandora attractions one last time. Would you believe it? She was able to get FastPasses for Flights of Passage for a time only 90 minutes from then! To be able to, however, she had to cancel our Safari FastPasses ... no big deal. But now, we had to head back to whence we came ... telling Iris we would meet her in front of Nomad Lounge. We arrived and shortly so did Iris and Brooke.

Our first order of business was to place our online order for Satu'li Canteen on MDX and when we arrive, again use the app to let them know we are there. Shortly we are informed that our meals are ready for pickup, which we do and then find a table to have lunch.

We still had some time until our FastPass return time, so we again took a quick look around Windtraders for Iris, who purchased a bubble wand for Brooke - who loves bubbles!!! That would (hopefully) keep her busy while we made use of the child swap later on Flights of Passage.

When our return time arrived, I stayed out with Brooke - who was having a blast with her bubbles - while Sandy and Iris rode. Then when they were done, it was my turn. I had heard all sorts of stories about how the leg restraints might be an issue for people with larger calves, but as my turn came to climb aboard, I had no issues whatsoever, and proceeded to enjoy the ride. It's a combination 3D movie/motion simulator but the effect is amazing - you can even feel the banshee you are riding upon breathing!

Because of the child swap, we did miss our FastPass for the Festival of the Lion King, so instead we decided to check out the standby line for the Safari, and since it was only 10 minutes, we got on line. It turned out to be a bit more than that, but still, a reasonable wait.

Once we got off the Safari, we had hoped to take the train back to Rafiki's Planet Watch and Conservation Station but it was already too late and the train was no longer running. We had also planned on staying until dark to see Pandora in all of its bioluminescent glory, but the heat was simply too much and we decided to call it a day. We headed to our respective cars (which were not parked far from each other as it turned out) and head home.

Still more to see and do - but that will happen when I return for the Florida portion of my snowbird existence.

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