Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Disney World Trip June 2009


Alright, it has been over a month since I left for Florida to go to Walt Disney World. This was the first time to go to Walt Disney World since 2005. I went on this trip as a solo traveler staying at the Pop Century Resort with the Quick Service Dining Plan and Park Hopper tickets. I made a reservation with AAA in December 2008 when Disney first had the “Buy 4 Get 3 Free Plan”. So I had 7 days to spend with me, myself, and I at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

On June 18, 2009, I left West Virginia early in the morning to take the drive to Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT). I parked in the extended parking lot and boarded the shuttle. At this point I am a little nervous and haven’t flown since 1997. I went to the AirTran desk and was asked if I wanted an aisle or window seat. I said I wanted an aisle seat because I was unsure about legroom and didn’t have to have someone on both sides of me. I went to the gate and waited for the flight. I got on the plane and felt relaxed. I was two rows behind the business class, so I didn’t have to walk too far into the cabin. As soon as the plane moved from the gate I was getting nervous about the movement. I am thinking to myself “How am I doing to deal with the flight?” The plane took off and it made me more nervous. But as the plane leveled off I was okay. When we were around the Carolinas there was some turbulence but I was comfortable with it. I didn’t get up during the flight, but I turned around to look about the cabin to survey who was aboard the flight. There were many children with families and the flight was quiet. Two women sitting next to me were sisters going to Disney also and they were watching and giggling with “The Golden Girls” on their DVD player. Then the next thing I know, we are circling over the Orlando area and I hear families conversing about where they are and what they are about to do.

We landed at Orlando International Airport (MCO) at about 12:30 p.m. and I directly went to the Magical Express Counter on the ground floor. I showed them my voucher and was swiftly moved into a line for Caribbean Beach and Pop Century Resorts. I wasn’t in line more than 5 minutes when my line was escorted to the Magical Express bus. There were about 15 people on the bus. It took about 30 minutes to get to Walt Disney World. While we were on the bus, we watched a video about the Magical Express procedure, checking into the resorts, and then features about the Disney parks. The bus pulled into Caribbean Beach and dropped off guests and then the next stop was Pop Century. I only had a carry-on bag with me because I checked in my luggage where the Magical Express Program would deliver the luggage to the room after a while.

I went to the online check-in desk at Pop Century. The time was about 1:15 and the lobby had very few people in it. I had checked-in online a few days previously and it was a new program so I decided to try it. There was nothing to it. They had the room keys ready and they described your package and told you using the map where your room was. There was a little problem though when there were 4 keys in the packet and I said it was just me. They had someone else’s keys in the packet and that was straightened out right away and I was on my way.

I arrived to room 8432 in the 90s Section of Pop Century. I wondered why they numbered the rooms that way. I got into the room after fretting over inserting the room key a couple of times and the door was hard to open. The room was decent and has two double beds, one sink, and a conventional shower. I turned on the TV and watched resort TV. Now I had to decide what to do.

At home for the past 6 months I sketched out a rough idea of what I wanted to do by writing ideas into a Word document and changing it periodically. This plan included Extra Magic Hours. I knew that Epcot had Extra Magic Hours and compared it with the hours on the “Master Schedule” I got from the Resort desk. So I left for Epcot at about 3:00 and it was open until midnight to Resort guests. Ideally, I would have started with the Magic Kingdom but I was trying to maximize my ticket value for the day.

I left and it was partly cloudy in the mid-80s. I took the bus to Epcot and got there and walked around a little bit. I got a Fastpass for TestTrack I decided to go to Mission: Space and took the Orange Extreme challenge. They really want to make you nervous about taking the extreme challenge. I got through and walked the long hallway out into the gift shop and abruptly stopped. I was wondering why it was so crowded in the gift shop. Apparently it was raining. I was thinking that the sky was partly cloudy when I went it, so it couldn’t be so bad. Oh, yes it was – there was a torrential rain! I waited a few minutes and I put on my rain parka (the only one I brought for the trip – I wish I brought a few more). I went to the other side of Epcot Future World by cutting through Innoventions and then went to the Land Pavilion. I decided to go to Soarin’ even with a two hour wait. I liked the interactive activity they have after waiting for the first hour. But it was well worth it to wait for the ride. It is such a beautiful and exhilarating ride. I exited the ride and found that the rain was now a steady drizzle which would remain for the rest of the evening. I walked around until about 8:00 p.m. I decided it was time to eat. Remember I have counter service meals for my trip. I had studied counter service menus from different websites so I had an idea what I wanted. So I wanted Mexican for the evening. I think everyone else in Epcot wanted Mexican at the same time too. I waited over ½ hour in line for Mexican fare and was fortunate enough to have a father share his table with him and his two girls. When I was done with dinner I found a viewing spot near China to view Illuminations. I have always like watching Illuminations. For the next two and half hours I ventured through the World Showcase Pavilions. I watched an American Adventure, went to China, and rode Maelstrom (the Norwegian video was down). I took pictures at night of Epcot but by the time I got to England and Canada. Even the store at Canada was closed by the time I got there. I also got to use my TestTrack Fastpass. The last attraction I went to that day was Turtle Talk with Crush. Even though there were not many people there, it was very cute and kept my attention. At midnight I left the park for my first night at Pop Century.

On Friday, my second day, I started with Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios. Everyone’s plan was to go to Toy Story Midway Mania. I decided to go to Pixar Place and check out the area. I saw a line for FastPass that seemed to be about a quarter-mile line. I decided to go to Sunset Boulevard and rode Tower of Terror a couple of times and as a result of a Single Rider Line I was able to ride Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster three times. I went to the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show. It was very hot sitting in that theater but it was enjoyable. I then went back to Toy Story Midway Mania later in the day and waited about 45 minutes. I was able go and see the entire queue of the attraction. I got onto the ride and it was amazing. The video screens were very vivid and makes me want to purchase a Wii and the upcoming Midway video game in the fall.

I went back to Pop Century to wash up and sit for a while. I went back out about 4:00 and the Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours. It normally closes at 12:00 midnight. Extra Magic Hours made closing 3:00. Normally I go to sleep at midnight. But I never felt tired at all that night. I immediately went to Adventureland then to Frontierland to get a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain or Splash Mountain. I was able to get a FastPass for Big Thunder. I went back to Adventureland and went to Aloha Isle. I got a pineapple ice cream with pineapple juice. Just wonderful! I stayed on this side of the park throughout the night and didn’t even see Wishes or SpectroMagic that night. I spent the night riding the rides on the left side of the Magic Kingdom. It was memorable to catch a ride on the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. The Skipper I had on the Jungle Cruise was Mike from New York and he did an awesome job. I rode Splash Mountain 5 times in a row that night to close the park. The cast members allowed us to ride through and everyone was thoroughly soaked on the way home. It was after 3:00 when they shut Splash Mountain down. I walked to Main Street via Liberty Square and saw the custodial staff members working with maintenance and construction workers working. It wasn’t until 4:00 by the time I went to bed.

So I decided no more Early Magic Hours. I like the later hours better than the early hours. I went to Animal Kingdom on Saturday at about 10 a.m. I went to see the Festival of the Lion King. It looked the main characters were the same cast as the last time I saw it in 2005. I went to Dinosaur and talked to a guy who was a Ski Instructor from Lake Tahoe and was also a solo traveler to Walt Disney World. It was his first day and I told him he wouldn’t be board. I went to ride Kali River Rapids three times and figured out with the Single Rider Line at Expedition Everest you can dry pretty quickly. I ended up riding Expedition Everest 5 times that day but the Yeti was not working, just the strobe light!

I then went back to Pop Century and then went back to the Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day. I took my camera and took pictures up and down Main Street. As Lou Mongello says “look all around, up and down”, so I got pictures of the windows on the second floor façade of Main Street. There were many Disney Legends’ names on display. This time, I did go to Tomorrowland. I knew Space Mountain was closed, but I walked through the area at night. It was kind of desolate. I went back over to the Liberty Square area and watched SpectroMagic in front of Liberty Tree Tavern. It was a very delightful parade and very reminiscent of watching the Main Street Electrical Parade when I was a child. Then I went to Pecos Bill Café to eat a cheeseburger. Gotta love that toppings bar! I hurried back to the Hub to see Wishes, but the best I could do was get a spot under a tree. I couldn’t get good photos, but I was able to see the fireworks well. Afterwards I went back to Tommorrowland and saw The Laugh Factory. I was almost “That Guy” and my mug was put on the screen. I went on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger ride and it doesn’t even compare to Toy Story Midway Mania! I went to see the Carousel of Progress and I always enjoy seeing it. Then I went to Stitch’s Great Escape – there were about 15 people there! Then I drove for the first time in several days at the Tomorrowland Speedway. Then I finished the day at Big Thunder Mountain where I was able to ride through 5 times that night and at midnight I went back to Pop Century.

Sunday came along. The Weather Channel stated that it was going to be 99 degrees with 108 heat index. I went to Hollywood Studios that morning and I enjoyed the shows and stayed in the air conditioning. I did see High School Musical 3 show and wondered how these cast members stayed cool. I kept the day short at Hollywood Studios and went back to the room. I then went to Downtown Disney. I wanted to ride Characters in Flight. Characters in Flight is a tethered helium balloon on the shore of Downtown Disney that goes up 400 feet. I was a little nervous going on this but I paid my $16 and anticipated my 12 minute ride. Even at 100 degrees that day, Downtown Disney felt cooler because of a breeze from the lake. Because of the breeze, Characters in Flight restricts the number of guests with increased winds. By the time my group was able to board, we were told we would have to wait about 20 minutes. The group waited the required time for the winds to die down and the group of 7 finally was able to board and go up. It was wonderful to see the views of the Orlando area. The pilot was able to tell us where certain locations were. Just don’t look directly under you because you will lose your bearings! After I toured Downtown Disney and spent the required amount of dollars at the Lego Store for my nephew and at the World of Disney for the rest of the family. The rest of the day was spent at Magic Kingdom. I just strolled through the stores and went on the rides. I enjoyed the park until close.

Monday was another hot day. I rode the bus to Blizzard Beach to go to Winter Summerland. This is mini-golf. I had a voucher for a free round of golf and I took advantage of it. I then went to Boardwalk Resort and looked around. I took a boat to Epcot and went to Future World. I was able to go on Soarin’ and in the scene where the golf ball came up to me I thought I should have got out the ball that was given to me at Winter Summerland and pretend that I caught it. I ran into a lady I worked with this year. She asked me who I was here with and she was very surprised that I went by myself. That was only of 1 2 experiences where I was questioned about being a solo traveler. I then went back to Pop Century and this was a hot day again. Animal Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours for resort guests. My intention was to ride Expedition Everest at night. And boy I did! I was able to ride it 6 times and the Yeti was working! It is a totally different experience riding it at night. I was disappointed with Animal Kingdom during Extra Magic Hours as there is Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Dinosaur, and Primeval Whirl open. I now know how the Dinosaurs became extinct – they rode Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl and were jostled to death! I got bruises from riding Primeval Whirl and Dinosaur! I was sore for sure! I left the park at close to keep my record perfect.

On Tuesday morning, I toured the Monorail resorts and took pictures. Only if I had the budget to stay at those resorts! I was concerned about the vultures (?) or whatever birds were at home at the Contemporary Resort. I finished my tour at the Grand Floridian and went to Downtown Disney. I had gone to Planet Hollywood for lunch with my $15 meal voucher. I went in and said I was by myself and they wanted to seat me at the bar. I said I wanted to be seated in the actual restaurant. The restaurant was neat, the entrée of chicken fajita was lackluster, and the dessert was good. I went to Hollywood Studios later in the day just to see Fantasia. For a 9:00 show I lined up at 7:15! I was able to get a front row seat with no obstructions. I’ve never been to Fantasia before and it was very memorable! After the show I went to Epcot by boat for Extra Magic Hours. I went to the Canadian Pavilion to view the film and had fish from Yorkshire County Fish and Chips. I went to TestTrack and Mission: Space again. TestTrack at night is another enjoyable experience. I just hope they keep TestTrack open and maintained if GM drops as a sponsor of the attraction. Again, I stayed to close.

Wednesday came along and it was my last day for tickets to the parks. I started the day by going to Animal Kingdom because I wanted to see Finding Nemo: the Musical. I was very impressed by the performance, but in my mind The Festival of the Lion King was better. I went to the Festival of the Lion King afterward. There I saw a different cast than before and I was impressed with the first cast I had seen. I also went to see A Bug’s Life and then went back to Pop Century. I was tired that day and took a nap for about an hour. I finished the day with Hollywood Studios after 7:00 and it was their Extra Magic Hours. I had eaten dinner at Pop Century and a guy gave me a card that had 3 Magic Fastpasses from DVC. I was palling to use it for Midway Mania. It was not to be. I used them on Tower of Terror though. Hollywood Studios has the same problem with Extra Magic Hours with limited amount of attractions open. I went to Star Tours, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror since Midway Mania was out the question with no Fastpasses and a long 120 minute wait. So I went to Sunset Boulevard and got 5 Fastpasses ultimately for Tower of Terror. The preshow got old after watching it over and over. I pretty much rode it 5 times in a row within two hours. I think I got a concussion after the third consecutive time. The ultimate experience of the night was when I ended the night at Rockin’ Roller Coaster. I went in the Single Rider Line for the third time of the night. But it was different as a guy in the regular rider line wanted to ride at the front of the coaster. I was next in the Single Rider line and I was to ride in front of the coaster. Usually with Single Rider Lines, the single rider does not ride in the front or the back. The guy was there with his family but they didn’t want to ride so he went by himself. The first part of riding Rockin’ Roller Coaster is almost frightening but it is a really enjoyable ride. I thanked the guy I was sitting next to because it was the last ride of my trip and I got to sit in the front of the “limo”. I went back to Pop Century at park close knowing it was to be the end of my trip.

On Thursday, I spent the day at Pop Century after I left the room at 11:30. My bus for Magical Express didn’t come to 3:00 so I have to wait several hours. I checked into the airline at the resort and checked in my luggage there also. I got on the bus and the two sisters from my original flight boarded the bus at the same time. They were to be on the same flight but in the row behind me. The bus was not a Magical Express bus as we know, but it was a Mears bus with large Expedition Everest decals on it. We arrived at the airport. Everyone but the sisters and I remained on the bus after everyone else got off at Terminal A. We got to terminal B and went upstairs to the main mail area. I visited the stores for about an hour and a half. I went to the competing theme park stores as well as the Disney stores at the airport mall. I went to the gate and CNN was on and found out that Farrah Fawcett had died. Then a few minutes later, it said that Michael Jackson went in cardiac arrest. By the time we boarded the plane, we found out that he had died. Then I knew what was going to be on every TV show for the next few weeks!

I was among the last on the plane as I was talking to the pilot with an older couple. He told us his schedule as he started his day in Las Vegas to Charlotte, and then to Orlando. As we ascend, the flight attendant stated that there was sad news. Everyone was startled as if we needed to go back. She was telling us that Michael Jackson had died and we could find more information about on Wi-Fi. She advertised that Wi-FI would be free if you filled out an airline credit card application! Wonderful! I listened to XM radio (admittedly a little of MJ, but mostly music). The flight back to Pittsburgh was pretty looking out the window. It was going to storm in Pittsburgh. We flew over PNC Park as a Pirates game was going on and then flying into PIT there were increased winds and lightning all around. I got into the shuttle bus in the parking lot, it was windy. By the time it got to my car it was raining sheets and terrifying lightning! But I was glad I went to Disney by myself. I would recommend to anyone to go solo because you can do things at your own pace and do what you want to do when you want to do it!

4 comments:

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  2. Hey Richard,
    Get Rid of Henry's advertizement ;-)LOL

    I liked your travelog. I didn't realize your adventure was solo. I flew to Orlando with my Mom and that was a T-R-I-P. We, of course, got lost with the rental car. She held the map upside down and gave me directions! Where was "garmin" when I needed him/her?
    Check your mail: Pam sent us an update on hirings/resignations.
    See you next week.
    Patsy

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