My June 1999 visit to Walt Disney World started out with the idea of being a rather basic trip, and a way to get some more mileage out of my annual pass. While checking airfares online, I found a $128 bargain on Midway. To get the airfare during the week I hoped to go, I'd have to stay 5 nights- more than I'd stayed in the World for awhile. Still, I had doubts about whether I should seize the opportunity. I called CRO on my birthday in March from my NY hotel and found out to my surprise that there were rooms available at All Star Music with an AP discount. Well, it was such a deal (both for air and hotel)- how could I not take advantage of it??? This would be my first time returning to a Disney resort where I'd stayed previously.
Eventually, plans began to evolve and I set up some priority seatings, a Keys to the Kingdom tour and my first RADP meet! My mom semi-surprised me with 2 nights at the Contemporary (also at AP rate), which turned into 3 once the 3rd night became available. I was so psyched- I'd *always* wanted to stay there! I'd even constructed a little "Contemp-purr-ary" hotel on the monorail line in my living room for my kitty. Unlike my parents, I wasn't going to deprive my "baby" of a full Disney experience, no siree! ;)
This is where I'd generally introduce the cast of characters, but this was a solo trip so it's just me! For those of you who may not know me, I will add just a few words: I am a 20-something all-around musical theatre/ Disney fan, on my 12th adventure to the World. I am mostly high energy when at WDW and I love walking around. I've had a roller coaster year with many lowpoints, and I definitely have my share of moods. But for the most part, when I am on vacation (especially at WDW), I am very positive- I maintain the attitude that I *will* have a wonderful time. However, I do not wear rose colored glasses and I am not silent if I see something that could use improvement.
It also bears mentioning here that I write very long, detailed trip reports. ;)
My alarm was set for 5am, but I woke up on my own 20 minutes before it was scheduled to go off. Normally, my body will sleep til noon or later if nothing forces it awake, but not today! Today was Disney and my body must have been even more excited than my brain.
My dad was sweet enough to drive me to the airport, and my trip to Orlando went fairly smoothly-except that the Midway had no record of how I'd called a few days earlier and supposedly selected my seats. :P Once I arrived at the Orlando airport, it finally sunk in that it was real- I was back at my home away from home! I was practically teary eyed as I took the shuttle/monorail to the main terminal, my head spinning with thoughts of all the magic that was just ahead.
I took Mears Shuttle to All Star Music (ASM) and had little to no wait. I'd requested the Broadway Inn area of ASM and of course, like last year, they had me somewhere else. :P But this time I had a wonderful CM checking me in. She consulted with her manager and had me switched, though the room was not yet ready. (yes, I did mention her on my little evaluation of the hotel). I wanted to store my bags and head to the parks so I headed for the luggage stand. I waited there for at least 10 minutes before anyone even acknowledged my presence- even though another CM went up to that area to grab a paper.
As soon as I was free of the luggaes, I headed over to the pay phones. Ever since I'd dropped an evening computer class due to start 6/21, I'd been toying with the idea of staying a bit longer- so that I'd be able to hit an E-ride night and so that well I could just be there longer. ;) I called Midway and they said they could get me on a flight the following Wed (2 days after my initial depature) for a $75 fee. I decided to go for it! When I called CRO, they said I could extend my stay at the Contemporary- and still at the AP rate to boot. Coolness! I also changed my 4hr Keys to the Kingdom tour to the full day Backstage Magic tour, since I'd have more time. I called the Pleasure Island theatre to try to book tickets for the Tarzan meet but they didn't seem to have info on Friday's movies yet. I think I also called Mears to get information on going to IOA the next day. Essentially, I called every place I could possibly call and completely changed my well-crafted trip in the course of about 1/2 hr. Wheeeeee! (in case anyone happened to be following my pre-trip plans closely, now you see why this is part 1 of 8 and not part 1 of 5 <G>)
Though everything was going well and I was excited about being on Disney, I was also a bit overwhelmed. There was so much I was looking forward to- I hoped I'd have time for it all and that I wouldn't be disappointed. And, standing at the pay phones, I wasn't quite feeling a part of the magic yet. But I was most definitely thrilled to have 2 unexpected bonus days to play with!
The day before I left, I'd been in such a miserable mood that I thought I'd want to hit MK first since it is my favorite and most magical park. However, it was already 1:30pm and I wanted to do some things at Epcot before my 6pm Priority Seating. So, I headed directly there.
First stop at Epcot? Test Track ,of course! Test Track- the ride that soft opened just days after my last WDW visit . the ride I wanted terribly to experience. So, I walked directly to the mecca that was TT, with visions of the singles line dancing in my head. I was starting to get excited that I'd *finally* ride it. I reached the pavilion and the ride was down. :( I felt bad for the poor CM's who must deal with this a lot. At least they had some entertainment for those of us who decided to wait it out. (including a walkaround crash test dummy and CM's who squirted the crowd with squeeze breezes) I overheard a lady near me complaining that half the park was shut down but it still cost full price.
Finally, the ride reopened and, as I was near the front of the pack, I went into the regular queue area and was on the ride within 20 minutes (and thrilled to be out of the heat)- though it broke down for a few minutes right before I got on. I thought it was quite a fun ride- and once I rode it, the Disney magic started pumping through my blood at last.
From there, I set off for Norway, rode Maelstrom, escaped the movie that I'd seen many times (I have also been to Norway itself- gorgeous country!) and decided to head to the American Adventure. However, by the time I got there, it was 3:50 and the next showing wasn't until 4:30. What to do in the mean time? Well, Lord of the Dance had a 4pm show and as a single person, I was able to find a great seat at the last minute. I was glad I got to see the show even though it isn't exactly my favorite type of thing. I enjoyed the group dancing the most (as opposed to the singing and violin playing) After the show, I was finally able to get through to call home and tell my parents of my new itinerary- which was a good thing since they were going to pick me up at the airport, and I'd left my apt keys with them so I was really at their mercy! ;)
I thought I was going to arrive to dinner very early, but I was only 15 minutes early for my 6pm priority seating at Le Cellier, and I was seated right away. I looked over the menu and decided to stick with the choices that had tempted me from the online menus at Deb Wills' awesome site (www.wdwig.com)-- namely, the Cheddar Cheese soup to be followed by the Maple Glazed Salmon. Both items, along with the breadsticks, were totally delicious and most welcome after hardly eating anything all day! But I was stuffed and had to pass on dessert. All in all, it was exactly the wonderful welcome meal I had in mind when I'd made the PS!
So much for taking brief notes- I either was very lax or a page got torn out of my mini notebook! (not unlikely since the page right before it is half torn out and since I vaguely remember writing down a couple things from that night). So the rest of my day 1 report is strictly from memory.
After dinner, I walked through International Gateway to the Beach Club, pausing to recall my wonderful stay there in Dec. 1998. I soon caught a boat to MGM and headed to Tower of Terror which had only a short line. I was more nervous than usual because they'd changed the drop sequence and I like the comfort of knowing what is ahead on thrill rides, but it ended up being a lot of fun. So much so that my body led me right back into line! However, the more I think about it, the more I think that although the current drop sequence is more fun, it is also less scary and the drops seem shorter. Maybe it's just me. At any rate, I was looking at name tags on the female bellhops to see if I could spot RADP's own Melissa but I never came across her during the whole trip.
I think by this point it was somewhere between 9 and 10, and I decided that it was time to go and get my room. I would have stayed to ride the Rock and Roller Coaster but alas,it was only in cast previews and there was no way for a common person like me to get on it. There wasn't even a CM at the gate that I could try to sweet talk. I was quite tired, so it was probably for the best. Upon going to my room at the ASM for the first time, I was very pleased that they'd automatically brought up my checked bags. I liked the Broadway area- especially because the outside has many pictures from Beauty and the Beast the musical and the room itself featured a painting with Belle and the Beast signing autographs. BatB is one of my favorite movies/musicals- so much so that I named my cat Belle. So it was definitely the best area for me and I was glad I finally got to stay there.
For the first time ever, I'd set a wakeup call. So at 7am, I was treated to the voice of none other than Mickey Mouse. What fun! By 8:05, I was on a bus bound for Island of Adventure, Universal's newest theme park.
I could tell right away that I'd picked a Bad Day to go- at least half of the people I saw were wearing T-shirts, fanny packs, or other memorabilia that announced to the world that they belonged to the Dodge Days promotion. I have no clue what the exact deal was but it must have been a sweet one because a ton of people were there for it.
The park itself is beautiful. My one criticism of the layout is it seemed like there wasn't a way to cut across the islands other than circling around (i.e. unlike at MK where you can cut through the central hub) But really, everything was gorgeous and new and I loved the colors and textures.
Following advice, I went on Spiderman first. As everyone has said, it is one totally cool ride- though I am unsure if *any* ride could quite live up to the hype I'd heard on this one. (I personally am anti-hype) I had hoped to ride Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges next but they were closed. I passed on Ripsaw Falls until later- the "chicken" factor sigh . Jurassic Park was a walk on so I hopped right on- I thought it was a cute ride, and not as lame as I'd heard. I wanted to hit Poseidon next but it was closed with technical problems, so I moved onward to Seuss Landing.
The Cat in the Hat was a 20 minute wait- 10 minutes shorter than the signs. I thought it was a very cute, fun dark ride. It didn't spin nearly as much as I'd anticipated from reading other reports. Since I was there already, I decided to go on One Fish Two Fish- despite its 30 minute wait. Let me tell you, that theme song seemed very cute at first but after 20 minutes, it became more annoying than Small World. I can still hear it. Aaargh! ;) After that, I went on the Caroseussal with no wait.
Then I circled back for the Popeye ride. I was starving but it said it was only a 20 minute wait, so I decided to go for it. In reality, I waited about 45 minutes (!) for the ride. As I got closer, they made an announcement that due to the approaching inclement weather, the ride "may" have to shut down. I guess they have a reason for making such announcements, but it made the wait totally unmagical- aside from being annoyed that it was no 20 minute wait like I'd been anticipating, I had some anxiety over whether I'd even get to ride at all. Once I did, I was slipping and sliding so much that I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have- perhaps my seat belt wasn't tight enough.
No matter- I was off for pizza in Jurassic Park! But again, the wait was longer than I'd anticipated- the line moved incredibly slowly. They also needed more tables and I didn't really like that they were all so big that if you had a small party, you'd have to sit with other people. (and also people were saving table space while their family members waited in the long line to put it in perspective, my entire table was saved, except for my place, but no one came back with the food until I was just about done- effectively taking up space from those who actually did have food) After eating, I was able to successfully call for a Tarzan ticket for the meet the next day.
I decided it was time to do Ripsaw Falls, though the wait was posted as 75 minutes. As I've said, the crowds were insane due to Dodge days. I figured that the wait would at least give me enough time to digest my food. Well, soon after I got in line, it started raining. Then it started pouring. Ripsaw Falls *was* actually shut down due to inclement weather- as I could see a number of other rides were as well. I could barely hear the announcement that the ride was suspended from where I was near the rear of the line- and at *no* time did an employee come by anywhere near where I was to let us know what was going on. I decided to wait out the rain, in a very bad judgement call. Eventually, enough people left the line so that I could get under cover- but not before I was thoroughly soaked, with water getting in my (sensitive) eyes and bothering my contact lenses.
By the time I got on the ride (which eventually resumed operation), I was cold and wet. It was still drizzling and a good portion of the ride was outdoors. So I was getting more wet, much to my chagrin. I was also uncomfortable- I don't like flume rides with the one behind the other seating (like Splash Mountain in Disneyland) as much as the ones with real seats. Bottom line is I was just not able to really enjoy the ride to my fullest. I'd hoped to work my way up to Hulk but I finally made a bright decision and realized that I was so soaked so and miserable, I was not going to enjoy anything so I might as well cut my losses. At 3:15, I called Mears and asked when the next bus was to ASM and was told it was at 4:30; I rushed and was able to make it aboard a 3:30 bus. Mercilessly, it stopped at several other places before ASM. I had to get rained on more making my way back to my room, but I was soon in dry clothes! Sopping wet clothes can be majorly uncomfortable.
After drying off a bit, I wanted to get a soda but I wasn't about to get rained on again. Unfortunately, the soda machine on the 1st floor ate my dollar and was out of everything and the one on the 3rd floor wouldn't take dollar bills. Grrr . I drank tap water. ;) I couldn't wait to move to the Contemporary, where free refills would be just a brief elevator ride away. I spent some time talking to friends online, eating a pop-tart, doing my nails, and then napping.
I woke up and the rain had stopped- yay! I was so lucky I'd packed extra sneakers (I usually don't) because mine were thoroughly soaked. I'd planned to hold off on going to Magic Kingdom until I was in the nearby Contemporary, but I decided that I needed the MK magic to salvage my day. So off to MK I went- as it turned out, I went to that park for at least a little bit of every remaining day on my trip. I arrived at about 8pm and couldn't wait to burst through the gates!
I was so happy to be back at Disney and MK that I wanted to hug every CM I saw! I wanted to hug the rides, the buildings, everything! Just one thing was disconcerting- the board on Main Street with the wait times was empty. I didn't know if that was due to strange budget cuts (clearly, some lines had substantial waits so it wasn't empty for that reason) or what- very strange. So I walked on over to Tomorrowland. Space Mountain was only a 20 minute wait, so that was a must-do. During part of my wait, the normally dark interior of the building was lit up- apparently, there was something on the track so the ride had to be stopped for a few minutes. But I was on it soon enough. Afterwards, I went to Cosmic Rays and tried a Veggie Burger- quite good indeed! Next up, while much of the park watched the 9pm parade, I headed over to the new Pooh ride (25 min wait; I never saw it get much less than that), which was cute. Afterwards, I bought my mom a Tigger beanie since he is her favorite character.
Filled with MK joy, I walked over to Frontierland where I flirted with the idea of riding Splash Mountain, one of my all-time favorite rides. However, after being so thoroughly drenched earlier in the day, I decided that the prospect of even another drop of water on me was not at all inviting! So, after buying a Br'er Rabbit beanie for myself, I opted for Big Thunder Mountain instead, getting in line just as the 10pm fireworks started.
I thought about staying for the Main Street Electrical Parade- but I was so exhausted and I felt content that my day had been successfully salvaged. As it was, I had to wait for the 3rd ASM bus back- I am sure the wait would have been even longer if I'd stayed until closing. As I waited, I looked off at the Contemporary in the distance and wished that I was already staying there- but I reminded myself that it wouldn't be much longer until that dream finally came true.
After Mickey called at 7am to rouse me out of a fitful sleep, I drifted for another 20 minutes but still woke up before the alarm which I'd set as a backup for 7:30. I'd arranged for ASM to transfer my main bag, though I wanted to hand carry 2 smaller ones- including the one with the laptop in it. On my way out, I stopped at the front desk and they were happy to refund the $1 I'd lost in the soda machine the night before.
At about 8:30, I was on a bus bound for the MK, where I changed to a monorail as I heard the announcement that the park was opening. And then I was *there* There were nearly tears in my eyes as I went to check in- it was real! I was actually staying at the promised land itself, the Contemporary Tower, after waiting 20+ yrs to do so.
Of course, with my luck, there was no MK view available, except for the 6th floor right above Chef Mickey's which the CM didn't recommend. So I decided to keep the 10th floor Bay Lake room that I'd been assigned (which the CM said was much better) and take my chance at being able to transfer the next morning to MK view. I *really* had my heart set on MK view and was determined to get it for at least one night. Of course, my Bay Lake view room would not be ready until later in the day.
Where to go, where to go? I was getting a little hungry, and thought a cookie dough brownie at Restaurantosaurus would be wonderful, so it was off to Animal Kingdom! I arrived at 10 and went on Countdown to Extinction, always a fun ride, with a short wait. Restaurantosaurus didn't open for lunch until 11, so I walked around in the shops a bit and came back. Yumm! That brownie was every bit as delicious as I'd remembered!
At about 11:30, I decided to head for Downtown Disney, figuring I'd be early for the meet. Ha ha ha! ;) I'd made the silly decision to transfer at All Stars and I had to wait forever for a bus (wondering why the first bus was only going to Movies and the next one was going to all 3 hotels- and also wondering why I didn't get on the one going to Movies in the first place!). Fortunately, once I got off, the DtD bus was right there. I finally arrived at about 12:30 and picked up my movie ticket, noting that they changed the time of the movie from 2:10 to 2:00. I didn't see any people who looked like RADP people lurking around so I looked at the notes I'd written down the night before when I'd checked online and figured out there was a second entrance. I walked over there and saw someone with a RADP pin on- yay! I breathed a sigh of relief.
Now I know I am going to forget some names- I can say this with certainty because I am awful with names and can remember some faces of cool people that I loved meeting, but I don't have a clue what names belong with those faces. <hangs head in shame> Blanket statement: I loved meeting everyone and wish I could have had a chance to talk with each and every person more than I did! Of those that I did get a chance to talk to, Pamela was as adorable as Meeko, her TDC namesake (and hello, while we are on the subject, they need to have a Meeko beanie! <g>), Nancy, Paragon and Wendy and some others whose names I forget (so sorry again!) were a lot of fun to hang out with until 6pm; Ronnie, Mike and Jill were an adorable family. Thea and Bruce were also great! OK, so that is not very descriptive- but I thought everyone was friendly and welcoming and all-around super. I was so nervous since I was coming solo and didn't know anyone- I wondered if I'd seem like a total moron next to some of these legends of RADP I wondered if I'd be so quiet no one would even notice me But it all worked out marvelously and I even have a nifty Tarzan straw. I'd like to especially thank Ronnie and Paragon for organizing the meet.
As for the movie- the animation was as amazing as in the previews- what surprised me was that the story had more heart than I'd expected. It's a definite winner in my book, though I wish Clayton was a better defined villain. How fun to see it for the first time in WDW, with a great bunch of folks!
As I lingered talking more than I should have (it was so fun seeing everyone that I didn't want to leave even though I was starving and hadn't yet been to my new hotel room), it started to pour. Finally, at about 6, I decided I *must* eat and so I headed to Wolfgang Puck's café across the way. I was lucky enough to have a "head of the line" pass from the movie guide I'd been given at ASM- though the bulk of the crowds came in after me. I ordered the Smoked Salmon pizza (I believe it was called the Oscar Night Special) which was quite tasty.
As I walked to the bus stop, I saw that my bus was there. One of the biggest downsides of staying at the Contemporary is that it shares 2 routes with the Transportation and Ticket Center (an evil place that I generally don't mind avoiding <g>) The main problem with that is that busses are more crowded than normal and it is harder to make it on the first bus back because 90% of the people waiting are for TTC. Fortunately, I just about was able to squeeze onto the bus.
Before going up to my room, I bought a refillable mug since I'd be there for 5 nights. It was not the MK view, as I knew, but it was still quite lovely- since I was on the 10th floor, I could see clear across to Epcot- in addition to the lake, the pool area, and Wilderness Lodge. What I couldn't see, however, was any luggage in my room! I was surprised since at ASM, it had been delivered automatically. But I figured a call down to Bell Services could quickly fix things. According to them, the bag from ASM was still not there (not a huge deal to me- I was most concerned with my computer which I'd hand carried) but my other 2 bags would be right up.
Yeah, sure. If "right up" means "you'd better not hold your breath waiting for it" :P I called home and talked for awhile . 40 minutes came and went and still no bags! I was quite annoyed- and worried, since my hand checked items were quite valuable. So I finally called again. Apparently, they hadn't even started on the hand checked items- they asked me for the claim check number again. I was quite irate by this point. I got even more annoyed because whenever I asked about why they said the 2 hand checked bags would be right up, they were telling me about the delay from ASM. Of course it would have been nice to have had that bag transferred before 8:00 pm, but what concerned me was that I'd gone through the trouble to hand carry 2 bags over and I was told they'd be sent right up- and they weren't. "I just got the work order" was all the bellman on the phone could say. While I realize it probably wasn't his fault personally, I did not appreciate how he was content to pass the buck and how poor the communication was in general. I had hoped for better service than this for the money I was spending.
At about 8:25, after I finally had my bags- all three of them (they held the 2 hand checked ones until the ASM one came, for some reason that I never did understand), I decided to walk to the MK and maybe see the parade. However, as soon as I got there, I realized that I was too tired- which was probably why I'd been so cranky about the luggage. So, I turned right around, exited the park and took the monorail back- arriving in time to see the distant Epcot Illuminations fireworks from my balcony. I went online and chatted with friends- pausing to run downstairs to refill my soda and to buy a chocolate chip cookie that turned out to be quite yummy indeed. After hearing the MK fireworks (and wishing I could see them from my room), I saw the electrical water pagaent and finally passed out at a very-early-for-me 10:30pm.
Due to the fact that the wakeup call line was busy when I tried to call to set one on Fri. night, I awoke simply to the alarm at 6:45 am. I'd slept the most peacefully and soundly as I had all trip- clearly, the Contemporary agreed with me! Before leaving for early entry at MK, I called the front desk and asked about a room transfer- the CM told me she could move me to MK view on the 9th or 10th floor. I asked if it would be possible to get a room on the side that wasn't Chef Mickey's (the noise traveled up to my 10th floor room; it wasn't bad, but I'd prefer not to be by it; my current room also had pool noise including the sound of water going down the slide). She also said I could stay in my current room til 1- which meant that both: 1) I'd be able to nap after Early Entry and 2) I may not have to store luggage at all. (after Day 3's luggage issues, I was not keen on letting my bags out of my sight <g>)
Feeling excited about the new day, the new room, and the MK, I cheerfully walked to MK and arrived at 7:25, before the turnstiles were even open. I began my tour in Tomorrowland- riding Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and Alien Encounter, all with minimal waits. I also rode Peter Pan, before meandering over to the Haunted Mansion when the rest of the park opened. I'd originally toyed with hitting Splash Mountain at rope drop, but I still hadn't quite gotten over my water issues from Thursday (refresher: I got hugely drenched at IOA and I hadn't wanted to have anything to do with water ever since)
By then, it was time to check in for my 9:40 priority seating for breakfast at the Castle. After a small wait downstairs, my royal family (which was only me, of course <g>) was called upstairs. I eyed a small table right at the window and hoped it was where I'd be directed, even though I didn't think it would be. I was delightfully surprised when I was seated right there! I could look out onto the Carousel and Dumbo and all the people outside. Perfect for dining alone!
The food itself was quite tasty- for adults, there was a choice of a healthy breakfast or a regular one, and I chose the latter. It consisted of: cheesy French Toast (my favorite- much yummier than it sounded!), breakfast potatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs and sausage. Cinderella came over to my table not long after I sat down, and the waitress, seeing my camera sitting on the table, asked if I'd like her to take my picture. Not long after that, Belle came over and I had to tell her I named my cat after her- she smiled and didn't quite know what to say. ;) She asked if I wanted a picture and I said yes, but I needed someone to take it. She looked around and called Peter Pan over- he was adorable and asked how to use the camera, perfectly capturing the essence of the playful boy who wouldn't be sophisticated about such things. Afterwards, he and Belle switched places (Peter Pan "Do you know how to use this? Oh, I guess you do because you told me how to do it") and I imitated him in my best arms-on-hips Peter Pan pose. Snow White was also around but never made it to my table, which was fine since Belle was the one I'd most wanted to see; Alice (in Wonderland) was in the lobby on my way out though I didn't have my picture taken with her either. All in all, it was a delightful breakfast and I could just feel my trip taking a turn toward being even more magical.
After breakfast, I headed over to the wait time board which actually did have wait times listed on it, unlike on Thursday. However, I don't know how meaningful they were- Splash Mountain was listed at 25 minutes but when I got to the ride, it was posted as 45. I decided to do Pirates of the Caribbean instead, and then I headed back to my room. I was rather tired, and I was quite happy I didn't have to be back at 1pm for a Keys to the Kingdom tour, as I'd originally planned. (refresher: I changed tours and dates when I extended my stay) When I arrived back at the room, there was a message at 7:20 from the front desk saying they had a note that I wanted to transfer and could I plase call and confirm if I still wanted to. OK . I had already called at 7am, just 20 minutes or so before they left the message! I started to get nervous that the wonderful rooms I'd been promised might have vanished into thin air
So I called the extension I'd been instructed to call and the nice gentleman answering clearly had no clue what I was talking about or why I was calling! I mentioned the rooms I'd been promised and the fact that I was told I could stay in that room til 1-- He said there was no notation about any of that. Whee, what fun! :P I was very lucky that it worked out fine in the end- 5 minutes later, he called back and told me he found an 11th floor MK view room that I could move into immediately, room 4743. Yippeee!!!! It ended up being 6 rooms from the end, above the shops and not Chef Mickey's. And for those who don't know, 11th floor is the highest floor of standard Tower rooms- 12th floor is concierge and 14th floor is suites.
I was led into the room and I was drawn immediately to the view, which was beyond spectacular! The coolest thing was that I could see tiny logs taking the plunge down a distant Splash Mountain- followed by tiny flashes (from when the photos are taken) and then miniscule splashes of water leaping into the air. Of course, I could also see the castle, the Astro Orbiter, and the exterior of Space Mountain--- along with the Seven Seas Lagoon, the Poly and the Grand Floridian. I could see monorails and ferries, along with water mice and busses. I *loved* it!!! It was the room I'd always dreamt of. I opened the curtains as widely as possible whenever I was in the room and I enjoyed the room and my lovely, magical panoramic view much more than I can even put into words. I am glad I was able to experience both views but it was no contest as to which one I preferred- MK view wins by a landslide!
Some words on the Contemporary in general: my first day, the hotel didn't live up to my sky high expectations- I think this was mainly because it was almost a let down to finally be there after all the years of dreaming, and all the weeks of immediate anticipation. But once I had time for the reality to set in, I loved it. I loved being in the middle of everything. I loved the bright colors of the hotel- purples, greens and pinks- and the fun shapes of the furniture and the decor. Everything looked so cheerful and funky. I loved the spacious rooms and balconies. I loved being able to walk to MK and to be on the monorail loop. I loved the comfy beds. But, most of all, I loved the perfect view from room 4743. (no, I can't emphasize that enough <G>) I decided immediately that it was important to me to devote some of my time to relaxing and admiring the view; the parks and rides would always be there but who could say when I'd be back at the Contemporary? And if I did make it back, who could guarantee it would be a high floor, MK view away from Chef Mickey's?
Finally, I was able to take a nap- my eyes were enjoying the castle and the lagoon too much to want to close but I knew I was exhausted so I finally willed them shut and reminded them that everything would still be there when they opened. <G> When I woke up at 5pm, it was rainy. I headed over to MGM- another route the Contemporary shares with the TTC. With little to no wait, I enjoyed the Little Mermaid (always a favorite!), The Great Movie Ride (I was impressed to see a female Cowgirl hijack the car in the Western scene) and Sounds Dangerous (fun, cute show). At about 8:05, I got on the Tower of Terror after a short wait and did my own private salute to a favorite actor who was leaving a Broadway show after that night's performance (my friends got a kick out of this; it involves an "in joke" but the main thing to note is that it was me being silly and having a fun time!)
They now served pizza at Catalina Eddie's on Sunset Blvd by ToT, so I decided to try it. I charged my food to the room and the CM commented on the bright yellow key to the world I now had (my original Contemporary key was the standard purple color)- so I wasn't the only one who found it unusual! I noticed that the blockade for the Rock n Roller coaster was further back than before and you could see some of the building- I assumed this was because the cast previews were over so they didn't need to surround the area with as much secrecy. I then headed back to the hotel so I could be sure to see the MK fireworks from my new room. On my way to my room, I purchased a ticket for the 6/22 E-night.
After the fireworks, I decided on a whim to walk over to MK to see 11pm MSEP. I arrived at 10:30 and was able to snag a seat on the curb of Main Street, in front of the Emporium. I gleefully noted that tons of people were leaving. The parade was as wonderful as I remembered, though my heart belongs to Spectromagic. I took great pleasure in how quick and convenient it was to get back to the hotel via the monorail.
I stayed up for a short while because I was energized from my nap and excited about my room- I logged onto aol to see if anyone I knew was online. I read RADP and was delighted to see reports of the Tarzan meet were already there- and smiled that Pamela had something nice to say about me! Finally, I forced myself to close the curtains and went to sleep on my comfy bed, with happy thoughts of an especially enchanting day.
My pal Mickey Mouse woke me up at 7:15 and by 8am, I was heading down for the monorail, destination: EPCOT. Today was my Backstage Magic tour. (refresher: I'd originally planned Keys for the Kingdom for Saturday but changed tours and days when I lengthened my stay). I arrived at about 8:30 and found a bunch of people already at Guest Relations outside Epcot for the tour. My tour guide was Susan and her name tag said she was from Philadelphia so naturally, I had to comment since that is also my home town. It turned out that a very large percentage of the 13 people on my tour were from the Phila. area.
*Note- I very foolishly didn't take any notes while I was on the tour- in fact, I didn't take any until at the airport to go home- so I apologize for any lack of detail/accuracy/etc. *
After making our introductions and sharing what we wanted to see on the tour, we all got on a mini-bus. Susan said she didn't want to tell us exactly what we were scheduled to do, but I'd read several tour reports online (at www.wdwig.com) so I had a good idea of what was in store. Our first stop was the American Adventure, where we got an up close and personal view of the hydraulics and audioanimatronics. Susan emphasized the attention to detail that goes even beyond what the audience would notice- an example being that they use authentic stitching from the period for the costumes.
Next up was a visit to the Living Seas- one of the divers greeted us and showed us the kitchen where food is prepared for the animals. She had prepared two trays of sample foods and she explained to us about what everything was and which animals ate it. She also told us the kitchen area had to be so sanitary that people have to clean it off after they touch any surfaces, and I noticed that everyone had to step in a pail of disinfectant/water before they entered. Next, she showed us a behind the scenes view of the Manatee tank and told us about the three Manatees that live there, two of which eventually swam near us. She was formerly a part of the college program and was now on an internship, and she was very enthusiastic. One of my favorite parts of the tour was meeting people like her, the ones who work hands-on to make the magic happen. At about 10, we said out goodbyes and she was off to feed the fish (she was dressed in a wet suit the whole time, in anticipation).
I'd always been curious to see what those simulator machines look like from the outside and at our next stop, Body Wars, we got to do just that! First we saw monitors that showed live shots of the people on the vehicle. Well, actually, they *would* have shown the people on the vehicle, but that one was empty. Still, Susan explained how CM's monitor the screen and how they have various codes for situations that might cause them to have to stop the vehicle. Then, we turned to the left and walked through a black curtain, emerging in a tiny area in front of one of the simulator vehicles, which was elevated from the main floor (at our level). There was glass separating us from the actual area occupied by the ride. We had to close the lights when the vehicle's doors opened, so that anyone going on or off wouldn't see us- of course, as I said, no one was on it but we still had to be cautious. It was impressive seeing the motion those simulators go through- it was more than I thought it would be. Back on the bus, Susan explained that they had actually toned down the motion in Body Wars twice since the attraction opened. BTW, I can be claustrophobic and I was pleased that I didn't have any problems in the small viewing area, even when we were in the dark. If you are considering this tour and are claustrophobic, it may be helpful to stand toward the front, right by the glass, as I did.
Moving right along, we soon arrived at MGM and entered the animation building, where we were given guest badges to wear around our necks during our stay. Our first stop was a classroom where we sat at desks arrange in a "u" shape and learned how to draw an animated character- in this case it was Goofy. We drew him in 3 segments, passing the paper to our left after each of the first two. We got to keep the one we ended up with, but I would rather have had a drawing that I had done completely. But all the ones I saw turned out pretty nicely.
Next, we moved across the hall to a room with more traditional classroom seating. The same instructor showed us how to paint animation cels- in this case, it was a special scene with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Donald. Although this was fun, I would certainly rather have skipped it and seen more backstage areas instead. I mean, anyone can buy a cel painting kit on their own, can't they? Plus, I knew it would mean I'd have a bunch of stuff (paints, cel) to carry when the tour was done, thereby necessitating a trip back to the hotel room. (oh darn I would just have to see that dream room of mine again <G>) I knew we wouldn't be there long enough to finish, so I just took my time and enjoyed the videos we saw- one of the Disney sing along videos as well as one with Tarzan clips. The instructor was surprised that I was the only one who had seen the movie so far, so he wanted to give everyone else a taste of it. We also had a little discussion about Beauty and the Beast the musical- he had enjoyed it (iirc, he saw the original London cast) and I told him he was quite lucky not to have had to have seen Toni Braxton in it during her recent Broadway stint! :P
Soon enough it was lunch time. After a brief bus ride, we entered a doorway from backstage and emerged in the park, in front of Mama Melroses. I was the only person in our group to have eaten there already (yes, there is a trend here- I was the only person in the group to have done a great many things <G> I was surprised because it seemed like many other people were WDW veterans) Lunch was served family style, all you can eat. And boy, was it ever yummy! It started out with salad which I skipped, and bread which I ate. :) Then came more and more plates of food- every time I thought they were done, more came out. First were the pizzas: all in all, I spotted at least 4 varieties though I only sampled the Four Cheese and one with Spinach, Bacon, pesto and Chicken. The latter was so yummy, I had to have seconds! Other entrees sampled included Chicken with Feta Cheese and Tomatoes; Rigatoni with Parmesean Cheese, Chicken and Broccoli; and Tortelloni in a pesto sauce. It was all wonderful, and I was too stuffed for dessert, as tempting as those looked. (There were three: a Candy Bar cheesecake with snickers, a chocolate cake with Capuccino icing and a third one that I can't remember) It was fun talking with everyone else on the group during lunch- it was a great bunch of folks including a young man who was interested in doing the College Program in the near future.
We didn't spend a long time eating, which was fine with me- the less time spent in a restaurant, the more time we could spend on things I can't normally see at WDW! So we were soon loaded back on the bus where we were joined by a colorfully dressed streetmosphere person. She'd popped up at the end of the meal, and had been asking where her flower group was since they were supposed to meet there. On the bus, she broke character and said that she worked at Pleasure Island (I think at the Comedy place) and was new there. Later, Susan said she'd was supposed to have arrived earlier but there was a miscommunication and the performer apologized for it privately. Too bad.
We next arrived at the costuming building where the first order of business was choosing a fabric swatch from a character's outfit- the choices were, I believe, Belle, Aladdin, Snow White, and someone else (Cinderella?). Anyone who knows me at all will realize it was a no-brainer; I had to pick Belle! The fabric sample was mounted on a wide pink ribbon with gold letters on it. One of the neatest things about the costume building was being able to see the sketches for costumes for the upcoming new Tarzan show at AK- if they are any indication, the show will be *very* cool! They also had costume photos and sketches from current and old shows, as well as for other areas (i.e. the servers at Animator's Palate on Disney Cruise Line)
As the MK is my favorite park, I was looking forward to the final poriton of the tour and it did not disappoint. We pulled around behind Space Mountain and drove counter-clockwise behind the perimeter of the park to the Parade staging area, between Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean. We saw the floats for both parades (Remember the Magic and Main Street Electrical Parade) up close. As I'd seen other write, the evening floats look so plain and almost tacky in the daylight- just a black mess with a bunch of Christmasy lights on them. I saw what a tight crawl it was for the people who have to ride in some of the floats and I was sure glad that wasn't my job, as I would be too claustrophobic. We saw the costume area for the parade, and Susan passed around a hanger with the Blue Fairy costume on it (admonishing us to please not touch the actual costume) so we could feel how heavy it was. On the way out of the building, I stole a glance into the rehearsal hall. Outside, we took a look at the floats of the Electrical Water Pagaent and Susan explained how originally, it was supposed to be temporary (iirc, for the grand opening of the Poly) but it proved so popular that it was still there. BTW, you can see the area where the floats for the water parade are stored from the monorail- between the Grand Floridian and the MK.
Here is where my memory gets a bit hazy- I apologize if things are not quite in the exact order.
Our next stop was Central Shops and on the way out of the bus, we had to grab a pair of protective glasses to wear if we didn't already have glasses on. We saw where different props- like garbage cans- were constructed and were told how much effort and expense went into getting the right look for everything, down to small details. We met Edd, who worked in creating audioanimatronics, and he told us about the challenges of creating Tigger for the new Pooh ride- specifically, the movement they wanted for the character was difficult to actually acheive. Again, it was neat seeing and hearing from someone who actually worked on something recognizable. (again, I believe I was the only one who actually had been on the Pooh ride already!) We also met Isle, a lovely lady who hand paints each and every Carousel horse, in a time consuming process. It had never occurred to me that someone actually painted them by hand. She also told us that they were careful to keep the horses the same (not have any removed; I think they have copies of the horses that they install when one is down for maintenance) because sometimes people actually look for their favorite horse. She also noted with pride that she finally added the chariot from the original Carousel. In many areas of the Central Shops, I noticed signs with the current number of consecutive days since an accident requiring someone to miss work, along with the previous record.
Finally, we were set to enter the famed Utilidors. There was a sign with a slogan I liked above the entrance (which was approximately behind It's a Small World) but I forget what it said. I really should have taken notes at the time- how easy would that have been?! :P I believe the first thing we saw was the area where CM's pick up their costumes. There are tons of recognizable MK costumes on the racks there and each person picks up their one for the day either at the end of the previous day or the beginning of the current day. There are also jackets and coats that the CM's wear on days when it is not as warm and humid as the summer. At one point, we saw a wall mounted map of the tunnels as they corresponded to the park, and I was glad to hear they were redoing it- it was out of date and still listed Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
We eventually made our way to a tiny room that was Parade Central. Two men were sitting in the booth and we almost immediately noticed it was no routine day at the office for them, as the start of the parade had to be delayed. We asked why, and they said they were only told that it was a costume issue- but not even which float was involved. Susan joked that every time she took a group there, there was some problem. On the plus side, it gave us more of a chance to talk to the gentlemen who worked there and to observe something more interesting than what I imagined was the usual: sitting around on auto-pilot as the parade ran smoothly through the park. On this day, we were able to overhear the CM's communicate with someone and notice how they periodically broadcast a park-wide message (actually, the first one may not have been park-wide) that the parade was delayed. We had time to hear how the windows along the route were raised before the parade, because parade speakers were located in them. We even chatted with the CM's about their background and how long they had been with WDW. Finally, the parade started and each float first showed up as a little square blip on the computer than marked the parade route (which was divided into 33 separate zones). Eventually, it also began to show up on one of the monitors- there were 2-3 cameras set up at a couple areas along the route, so that the progress could be monitored. The CM's in the booth were able to control these cameras via remote control.
Eventually, it was time to walk under Main Street- Susan pointed out that we were the only backstage tour to be allowed to do so. She also pointed at the ceiling at the point where we were directly under the castle. We emerged behind Tony's Town Square and walked through a doorway to be able to watch the parade along with everyone else. I was glad I hadn't spent any time on seeing the parade already this trip, especially as I'd seen it many times before. (I wish they would get a new daytime parade already) It was neat seeing how everything came together, though, so it was an appropriate finale to the day.
Afterwards, we were on our way back to where we started outside Epcot. We got our cels back and I was relieved mine wasn't one of the ones that was still wet. I wish we'd gotten a survey for feedback on the tour- maybe one will arrive in the mail, who knows? I thought it was definitely worth it, as a once in a lifetime experience. I love seeing things from a different perspective, especially one that takes you behind the scenes and beyond what the average person can experience. (I enjoy backstage tours on Broadway for similar reasons) It was a wonderful addition to this particular trip because it gave me a chance to meet some other people and hang around with them for 7 hours. Even though it was much more expensive than Keys for the Kingdom, I am glad I did it because it was more comprehensive-- if I did Keys and then wanted to do this one later, it would have had some overlap. On the con side, as I said, I wished we had made better use of our time than painting the cel- at least when we drew Goofy, it was an interactive experience that was beyond what we could do on our own ("how to" books would not be the same as working with an actual person with animation experience).
After the tour, I decided to clutch my paints, cel, and folder with the Goofy sketch and ride Test Track once more. The posted wait time was 85 minutes so I was all for the Singles Line. Fortunately, while I was still outside, a CM with a horn was wrangling people for the Singles line and I, along with some others, followed him in the door to the side. I ended up waiting about 25 minutes total- most of that being the wait to go into the preshow area (the other 2 preshow areas let people in at least twice each while we waited). It was a fun ride again, though I wouldn't think it was worth an 85 minute wait!
I went back to the hotel to drop off my stuff and after a small break in which I was treated to an amazing sunset (it looks great in my pictures but they don't come close to capturing the full extent of its glory), I headed to Downtown Disney. I didn't know if I wanted to buy anything much, but I always enjoy looking around there. Eventually, I decided to eat dinner at McDonald's and ended up in the slowest fast food line I'd ever experienced in WDW (or anywhere else for that matter ). After I gave my order, I had to wait for what seemed like an eternity to pick it up. I'd decided on the $3.80 Chicken McNuggets Tarzan happy meal- I was glad that no one looked at me strangely like they had when I'd ordered Pooh Happy Meals in England in Jan ("Did you say you wanted a happy meal?" someone had asked in a Leeds McD's, probably thinking my American accent was playing tricks on her) . I was surprised to note that they served individual pizzas at this McDonalds. I would say that I'd try one "next time" only I am not sure I will spend the time eating there again, unless it is majorly uncrowded.
The only thing I bought was non-pareils at Ghiradellis. Yummm!!! They are a "must buy" for any trip to WDW; too bad I was not hungry for one of their wonderful hot fudge sundaes. (during my endless wait at McD's, I realized a sundae would have been a more satisfying, if less nutritious, dinner option <G>) I remembered to ask for MKC/ AP discounts. I then took a bus back, again cursing the fact that the Contemporary shared the route with the TTC. I got back to my room literally just as the fireworks were starting. At about 12:30, I went to sleep, exhausted and sad that I only had one full day left.
Mickey woke me up at 9am for the last time this trip and yet again, I fell back to sleep, knowing I was too tired to wake up after my E-night excitement. At 9:30, the back-up alarm went off and I managed to stumble out of bed. Deeply attatched to my room, I inquired about a late checkout and was told I could stay til noon- it was a good thing, because I was moving so slowly that it took awhile to get myself together. Noon came all too soon and I called down for someone to take my luggage and store it. Typcial of my experience, no one answered and I wrestled with my bags myself, after saying a tearful goodbye to my wonderful, fantastic, magical dream room. *sob*
I took a bus to MGM, partly just to be sure the Rock n Roller Coaster wasn't having soft openings without my knowledge. ;) I checked the wait board- Muppetvision and Star Tour both had ridiculous 45 minute waits. Tower of Terror, on the other hand, was only a 20 minute wait so I headed there one last time. I had a lapbar seat but once again it was also on a row with a large gentleman and I caught even more air time than the night before. Woo hoo!
I walked around and shopped and bought a couple things I should have picked up at Downtown Disney, where I would have received a MKC discount: a small photo album for this trip and a mouse pad. (my old one was a boring solid red and I realized that morning as I packed that it was looking a bit worn)
Not wanting to deal with the "evil" TTC <g> and overdo for a resort hopping experience, I took a bus for Grand Floridian and convinced the bus driver that I was only one person and I could squeeze myself on the bus there instead of waiting for the next one. It was amazing how much the GF reminded me of a hotel it was based on- the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, where I'd stayed once in 1994 for a wedding. I'd already decided that the Contemporary was *the* hotel for me and that I no longer had the nagging urge to try different places. My somewhat brief walk around the GF did not change my mind.
I hopped on a monorail back to the Contemporary, but I decided at the last minute to get off at MK for one last swing through the park, though I knew I wouldn't have time to do any rides. Most of the roll of a disposable camera I'd brought with me was still unused so I walked up Main Street, beared right into Fantasyland, walked through Fantasyland and then back through the Castle, and finally back down Main Street, snapping pictures all along the way. As I walked down Main Street to the exit- as slowly as possible of course- I started to cry. Eventually, I reached the end of Main Street and I turned around for one last, poignant look at the castle. I took a picture of the entrance that says "Magic Kingdom" and appropriately, that is where the roll of film ran out.
I walked and cried my way back to the hotel. I went into the 4th floor shops and bought myself a Contemporary T-shirt as well as a postcard. I also got one last chocolate chip cookie at the Food and Fun Center- this proved to be very valuable at the airport when waiting to board my plane! I claimed my luggage and reorganized, adding my new purchases to my large bag.
I was almost disappointed to have a direct ride to the airport- I wanted to delay my departure from Disney property as long as possible. But the people waiting at the Contemporary completely filled the two small Mears vans that came by at 3:35pm. After the heart sinking feeling of passing back through the WDW gates, I slept most of the ride. I had no problems switching my airplane tickets (it had been arranged over the phone, but you never know ) and had an uneventful, but sad journey home.
I came back from this trip with the firm hope that I could make it to the Dec RADP meet because 1) I would need my fix of WDW by then and 2) The Tarzan meet, my first RADP meet, was definitely one of the highlights of this trip!
The Contemporary- Although I felt the staff was rather disogranized, the hotel ended up meeting or exceeding my high expectations. I don't know if I will ever be satisfied anywhere else again- I am glad I already tried many resorts, so I won't feel guilty if I never do so again. ;) My second room (room 4743, for those keeping score <g>) was to die for, the perfect room, exactly as I imagined it would be! I am sure the hotel isn't ideal for everyone but it was perfect for me due to its location (I love MK and adore being in the middle of things, in general) as well as its bright and cheerful décor. I also loved the convenience of the Food And Fun center in the lobby. The biggest downside was sharing bus routes to Downtown Disney and MGM with the TTC- but even that was not all that horrible.
The parks (WDW)- I never waited in line more than 30 minutes, except when I once chose to ride Splash Mountain at a time I knew it would be rather crowded. The key is to be smart about which rides you do when. This trip, I didn't even come in with a plan, but it all worked out smoothly. There are a few rides and attractions that I wish I'd worked harder to fit in- but they will still be there next time. Hopefully. ;)
IOA- I thought it was lovely park with wild rides. I was not as impressed as some, but am definitely willing to give it a second chance in the future. It was extremely crowded when I was there, due to the Dodge promotion.
Backstage Magic Tour- The tour was definitely cool, if a bit expensive. I'd recommend it for Disney veterans, especially if one is on a solo trip. It could be even better, imho, if they got rid of the cel painting in favor of some more behind the scenes time.
Food- I didn't feel I spent a ton of money on food by any means, as I only had a maximum of 1 sit down meal a day and had at least one meal a day in my room (usually breakfast)-- I brought small boxes of cereal and some other snacks with me. I ended up braving more sit down meals than usual, and all were excellent. Breakfast at the castle was particularly magical and I'd highly recommend Le Cellier and California Grill for dinner. (I'd been to CA Grill once before)
Weather- It was rainy for much of my time, but that also kept the temperatures down. So much so that I was often quite cold when I went into A/C! The rain also cleared the parks out early sometimes. It didn't bother me that much, other than when I was completely soaked at IOA.
My laptop- I am glad I brought it. Since it was a solo trip, it was nice to be able to connect with my friends and share things with them (I*wish* they could have joined me maybe another time ). It was also fun and inspiring to read some RADP trip reports. I mentioned Rob's TR inspiring me to ride Splash Mountain (after my issues with getting soaked) but I forgot to mention reading Sue (WDW1972)'s TR and then trying one of those yummy chocolate and M&M covered marshmallows on a stick! There were many other posts I enjoyed as well and I hope I didn't sound like I was trying to rub it in when I posted myself. That was not my intention at all- if I had my way, I'd take all of RADP (well, with some exceptions <g>) with me so that everyone could share my magic with me.
Going solo- it was not my 1st solo trip and I doubt it will be my last. I enjoyed myself as much as when I've gone with family and friends- it is just a *different* experience. If anyone has any questions about travelling solo, especially if you are hesitant, please feel free to email me.
And that's about all there is to say. <hears collective sigh of relief from anyone who has read all of this> I hope this report has maintained the reader's interest- I have tried my utmost not to be boring and to write something at least half as entertaining as my favorite trip reports. If you have read this far, thanks for being there to share my trip with me! :)