Monday, December 3, 2012

October 2012 Trip Report Part I: WDW

After a three year hiatus, I returned to Orlando for a quick respite from law school.  I spent 1.5 days in Walt Disney World, 2.5 days at Universal Orlando, and wasted a day in Gainesville.

In 2007, I was very fortunate to participate in the Disney College Program, and beyond that, I was even more fortunate to remain seasonal and be a Disney Campus Representative beyond that.  As a Campus Representative, I met my friend Taylor who went on to do the program in the same role as me, watercraft.  He now works at Disney full time, so I was able to stay with him this trip.

Day 1
Thursday October 4, 2012

On my first day, I went with Taylor and his parents, who were visiting at the time, to Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  We started the day at the Studios where we were successfully able to do everything worthwhile except for the Great Movie Ride.  Tower, in my opinion, is still one of WDI's greatest achievements, and as an Aerosmith and coaster fan, I will always love Rockin' Roller Coaster.  As I had not been to Orlando in a few years, this was my first chance to ride Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.

In my opinion, Star Tours 2.0 is a nice refresh of the original; however, it is not much better.  To be fair, I was never a huge fan of Star Tours.  I feel that the Star Wars franchise deserves better than an old simulator, and hopefully, that will happen now that the Walt Disney Company owns it.  With what WDI had to work with, they did an admirable job.  The new software that allows random and unique ride sequences is a great idea and one that hopefully makes its way to more attractions in the future.  Besides my overall apathy towards Star Tours, I also blame my meh reaction to Star Tours 2.0 on the fact that both times, I got Kashyyyk.  From what I have heard, that is one of lesser options.  I am also not a fan of the character overload.  It is quite inorganic.  Despite my meh attitude and feeling towards Star Tours, the refurb gets an A from me.

While walking from Star Tours to Midway Mania, I made sure to get one last passing look at Lights Motors Action on the off chance that they get started on Cars Land soon.  While I was initially against the idea, it will do wonders for the park, and at this point, anything is better than the Backlot Tour or LMA.  Cars Land, done right, would be a great would Indiana Jones Adventure.  Hollywood Studios needs something.

Speaking of parks that need something (or somethings) we went to Epcot around lunchtime.  Taylor's parents had an ADR for Chefs de France and graciously invited me to tag along.  I had the Florentine Quiche and it was quite delicious.  I also enjoyed the (I was hungry!) I would highly recommend checking out Chefs de France.  The menu is reasonably priced, and the food is not very intimidating.  I am very glad that I was able to try it.

After lunch, we headed back to Future World.  If I recall correctly, we only rode Spaceship Earth which is really all that is left in Future World.  Had there been more time, I would have made the the trek to Living with the Land, but I was eager to get to Universal Orlando to pick up my Annual Pass, Rush of Fear Pass, and check out the main reason for this trip, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Day 2
Friday October 5, 2012

On my second day, I went with Taylor and his parents to Magic Kingdom, and later on, I went to Epcot and the Wilderness Lodge.  We started off the morning at the Polynesian where we got Tonga Toast at Captain Cook's.  Previously, I was under the impression that it was only available at Kona Cafe. Captain Cook's is a much more cost-efficient option, and the toast was as delicious as always.  We then took the Resort Monorail to Magic Kingdom.  The first thing we did was walk to Fantasyland to see if Enchanted Tales was in previews, but it was not.  New Fantasyland looks just like it did in pictures.  I'm still not convinced with Beast's Castle, but I have not seen it from inside the walls yet.

Haunted Mansion was tinkered with during my hiatus and is my favorite MK attraction, so we headed there next.  The interactive queue was mistake, and there is no getting around that fact.  To make matters worse, there is a Photopass CM stationed by the busts at the beginning of the interactive queue. Totally puts you in the mood for Haunted Mansion right? Wrong.  The queue looks decent enough, but it is unnecessary clutter that does not enhance the attraction.  Also, it appeared to me that guests do not know what to make of what is the point?  Luckily, it can be skipped for now, but who knows what will happen with Fastpass+?  The new Hitchhiking Ghost effect is well done and furthers the great work that WDI did in 2007.  There was another Photopass CM at the exit by the cemetery, and again, I am not okay with this.  It is very jarring.

You know what else was jarring?  The intrusion of the Tangled "E-Ticket Restroom" and Walkway Complex that has taken over the former Skyway station.  I am confident that this will blend in when it is complete as WDI is usually pretty good about these sorts of things, but as it stands now, I am not pleased with how less secluded Mansion seems.

After Mansion, we got Fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain.  For a moment, I considered Splash Mountain, but I do not like getting wet.  Next, I passed by Sunshine Tree Terrace to witness Orange Bird Mecca.  I smirked at it and hit up Aloha Isle.  I enjoyed a delicious Dole Whip Float and walked into the Enchanted Tiki Room.  Again, this was my first time in Tiki Room since it was restored.  It is a very pleasant attraction with a great amount of charm.  I love little diversions like that.

Storybook Circus was nice to look at it, but it was also as scary as I imagined. I managed to avoid all traces of reclaimed water and got to Tomorrowland safely. It was not until I was on the Space Mountain exit ramp that I remembered that Space Mountain was supposed to have "Starry-o-phonic Sound" and that I had not heard anything.  We rode it again with a Fastpass.  This time, I listened hard for the soundtrack, and I am sad to say that it did not make much of an impression on me.  It is barely audible.

After Magic Kingdom, I made a quick trip to Epcot.  I had one last ice cream from Fountainview (it is becoming a Starbucks!) and then headed to World Showcase to kill some time before dinner and pick up an American Adventure t-shirt.  Even though I have seen the show many times now, The American Adventure still manages to get me to tear up at the end.  Such a beautiful tribute to our nation.  I always feel proud and hopeful about America when I leave there.

After American Adventure, I made my way to the Monorail station taking in as much Epcot atmosphere as I could.  Epcot does not have much in the way of attractions, but the atmosphere at night is second to none.  That is what keeps people coming back, for better or worse.  I took the Monorail to TTC, the ferry to MK, and a cruiser to Wilderness Lodge.  Yes, it was the long way, but as a former Transportation CM, I could not help myself. The approach to Kingdom and the Lodge at night on a boat is unbeatable.  Try it sometime!

Wilderness Lodge is my favorite deluxe resort.  Taylor's parents once again treated me to a meal.  They had an ADR for Whispering Canyon.  While we waited for our table, I got an Old Fashioned from Territory Lounge and relaxed in the lobby.  I could sit in that lobby for the rest of my life.  It really is quite something.  Dinner was delicious, but the atmosphere was subdued (for Whispering Canyon) because it was late.  After dinner, I was really missing Pleasure Island and wanted to stay at the Lodge and drink, but there were no takers...alas.  It has been four years Disney.  Time to reopen the clubs!

That does it for Walt Disney World (well mostly.)  Next report will cover Universal.  Feel free to start a flame war on Twitter with me, @CaptMichael87

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