Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Walt Disney World Vacation 2009

Day 1: Arrival

Wow...what a day. We got up at the crack of dawn in Kansas City to catch our 6:45AM flight to Orlando. Flight was great and actually arrived in Orlando at 10:20AM (Southwest Airlines). We headed for Magical Express and was on our designated bus by 10:50AM. Our driver had a couple of issues which made what is normally a 35-40 minute drive from the airport to your resort into about a 60 minute trip. We had taken advantage of Disney's online check in which made checking into our resort a breeze. We dropped a couple of things off at the room and headed for the bus bound for EPCOT. We were in EPCOT by 1:00PM and went straight to the Land Pavilion where we got one of the last "Fastpasses" for Soarin and then ate lunch at Sunshine Seasons.

After lunch we headed for Mission Space and Test Track. Mission Space was only a 15 minute wait so we jumped right in line. Test Track on the other hand was at least a 60 minute wait so we opted to get in the single rider line and just so happened ended up in the same ride car anyways and was on riding Test Track in 10 minutes.

After Test Track we headed over Spaceship Earth (15 minute wait) and then into World Showcase to walk through Mexico and then head over to Paris to grab a quick snack at our favorite sweet shop (see picture on profile). After that we headed over to visit The Seas with Nemo and Friends (no wait at all) and then got right in to see "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" 3D Show. We then headed back over to Mission Space and got right on (5 minute wait or less) and then back to Mexico for a quick dinner.

After dinner it was time to head to Soarin to use our Fastpasses and got on within 20 minutes. The standby line was still 60 minutes at 6:45PM. After Soarin...back into the World Showcase to take our normal stroll "around the world" before finding our seat for Illuminations near Morocco.

We got in every ride on our list in basically a half of a day. We waited only 16 minutes to catch our bus back to Pop Century and, after walking through "Everything Pop" we were back in our room by 10:30PM.

Tomorrow....Hollywood Studios. :)

Day 2: Hollywood Studios

Having a great day today. Weather...low 80's and no a bit of humidity. After a short 15 minute bus ride to Disney's Hollywood Studios, we waited a brief 10 minutes for the park to officially open. Due to the popularity of the new Toy Story Mania attraction, we headed straight there as soon as the park opened. We opted to get in line for the ride instead of jumping in line to get a Fastpass which so many did. Our wait was only 15 minutes so we then headed for the Fastpass booths after the ride and were able to obtain one for later that afternoon (shortly after lunch). After that...we headed for Tower of Terror and Rock N Roller Coaster. Got a Fastpass for RnR and jumped in line for ToT which was only a 20 min wait for stand by.

Crowds overall are medium. 60 minutes for TSM and 45 minutes for RnR seem to be what you can expect today of you don't have a FP. We also were able to ride Star Tours with only a 2 minute wait. The surprise of the day was the show "The Magic of Disney Animation." Here is a nice tip. If you have children (or if you are big kids like us), after the show you exit into an area where you can have photo ops with Mickey and several other characters with little or no lines. Yes...we got our picture with Mickey!

Around 1:30PM...we decided it was time to head back to our resort for some R&R and are planning on being back in Hollywood Studios later on for the extra magic hours and also our ADR at Disney's Sci-Fi Theater Restaurant. (Side note: acronyms are huge among Disney fans so if you are not sure what some mean, send me a note and I can give you the official cheat sheet.)

Not going to write too much tonight due to being a little worn out from a great day. We made it back to Hollywood Studios by about 6:00Pm where we headed to The Great Movie Ride which had zero people in line so we got right on which worked perfect for our ADR at the Sci-fi Dinner Theater (more about the dining later). Since it was EMH's, we were able to ride the big 3 again before the 10PM closing time. So to quickly recap, we rode ToT and TSM 3 times today and RnR twice. That is a sign of a great day!

Tomorrow...the Magic Kingdom.

Day 3: The Magic Kingdom

It was "Extra Magic Hours" in the morning. We were able to ride Buzz Lightyear, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad all before 9:00AM. After our usual morning breakfast in the Magic Kingdom at the Bakery on Main Street, we then headed for Fantasyland where we were able to ride Dumbo, Pinocchio, It's a Small World, watch Mickey's Philharmagic and the Haunted Mansion before crowds got too bad. The longest wait time we had before lunch was 20 minutes and that was for Pinocchio.

We ate at our favorite counter service restaurant where Fantasyland and Liberty Square meet called the Columbia Harbor House. Here is a tip: If you want a nice place to eat a quick meal and be able to have indoor seating, try the Columbia Harbor House. They mainly offer chicken or fish, but you can usually find a good indoor seat out of the heat of the day.

After lunch we noticed that the crowds were getting heavy due to the arrival of the "grads" for "Grad Night" on Friday and Saturday so we headed back to the resort for some rest and pool time. After our break...we loaded back on the bus to head back to Magic Kingdom for some late night rides, Spectromagic and the Wishes Fireworks Show.

Day 4: The Animal Kingdom

This was a day were were extra excited about. We had an 8:10AM ADR at the Tusker House for Donald's Safari Breakfast. This is one I would highly recommend. The characters incuded Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Daisy and they made their rounds in a very orderly fashion and made sure everyone, even the adults, had their picture opportunities. The buffet was easy to work around and had all of the usual fare plus some unique African items. Since we were so close to the Kiliminjaro Safari, we immediately headed there first. The animals were out and very active this morning. The weather was ideal for the ride and we had some up close encounters with some Giraffes and Rhinos. After that it was time to head to Expedition Everest where the line was not too long as of yet so we rode after a short 15 minute wait and then got another fastpass and then headed for Dinoland where we got on Dinosaur immediately. Primeval Whirl did not have their fastpass machines working so we opted not to wait 40 minutes for that attraction and instead decided it was time to see "It's Tough to be a Bug."

We then headed to see Nemo, the Musical (I highly recommend) and then made our way to lunch at the Flame Tree Barbecue. This is a good counter service option due to it having a lot of seating and shade.

After lunch we made our way to our fabvorite,

After the shows and after riding Expedition Everest one more time, we decided it was time for a break again and we headed back to our resort.

We had an 8:20PM ADR for Coral Reef in Epcot so we hopped on the bus and made it into Epcot by 7:00PM. We were able to ride Spaceship Earth, Nemo and Living with the Land before it was time for our dinner. We were some of the lucky ones at dinner. When we checked in, we found out that the restaurant's computer system had crashed so they were very backed up and said we could be later getting into to eat. Well...we were actually seated right on time but found out by listening to others that some had waited over an hour to be seated for dinner even though they had an ADR.

I plan on writing an entire note later on the dining experiences so I will just leave you with that.

After dinner we were able to ride Mission Space again and Soarin due to evening Extra Magic Hours. We also took a nice stroll through Mexico and Norway where we stopped in one of Norway's snack/sweet shops and enjoyed an authentic Norwegian pastry for our dessert.

Tomorrow....Downtown Disney

Day 5: Downtown Disney

Today was our rest and relaxation day. You have to have one of these if you are staying more than 5 nights at WDW. We slept in, ate a nice breakfast at the resort and then headed out for some shopping.

When you need a break from the parks...nothing better to do than shop. No better place to shop than Downtown Disney. The shopping there is second to none. We spent most of our time in the "Art of Disney" and in the "World of Disney."

We also spent some time in Disney Quest. DQ, as I will call it, is an interactive experience where you can be "in the game" via simulation and 3D. It is a place where the whole family can join in on the fun with a 3D Pirates of the Caribbean experience or a simulated raft ride down a raging river. After taking our time getting to know the layout and enjoying some of the games...we headed back out for some more shopping and lunch.

I have to say that our best lunch during our entire trip was here at Downtown Disney. We were able to get right in at the Wolfgang Puck Cafe. The food and service were terrific. More about that when I do a "Disney Dining review."

After lunch and a snack at DD, we then headed back to our resort for some more pool time and a nice leisurely dinner at "Everything Pop."

Tomorrow...Hollywood Studios again

Day 6: Hollywood Studios

We entered the park later in the afternoon and headed for a few of attractions we had yet to visit like Voyage of the Little Mermaid and the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. We had a 3:35 ADR at Mama Melrose as a part of the Fantasmic Dinner Package. Here is something new and not necessarily a good thing. Fantasmic is now only being shown on certain nights. Because of that...crowds are now lining up 2 hours in advance of the show times. If you do the Fantasmic Dinner package, which gives you priority seating at the show, they are still telling you to be in line up to an hour early to be guaranteed a seat. That is a long time to wait for seating that you are supposed to be guaranteed as a part of you paying for the dinner package. So I cannot recommend paying for the dinner package any longer.

We ended up skipping out on Fantasmic and tried to get in some of our favorite attractions again before closing time. We were able to ride ToT, TSM, ST's and RnR again so we really felt we did well at this park. In fact...we were able to get a late Fastpass for TSM which tells you the crowds were much better now that "Grad NIght" was over.

Tomorrow....Free Day!

Day 7: Free Day

We left this as a free day on our schedule so we could make it a day to visit any park where we felt we didn't get enough time previously. We decided to head first to AK again for morning EMH. This turned out to be a great decision. We walked on Dinosaur (no wait) and then walked on Primeval Whirl (no wait) and then headed for Expedition Everest. Not only did we also walk right on again, but we were able to get off and walk back on 4 times and all of this before the official 9AM opening. After the park opened up to the rest of the public, we took a walk through the Maharajah Jungle trek where the tigers were out and active. We also then headed for Kali River Rapids and once again...walked right on. After Kali...we walked right into "It's Tough to be a Bug." After the show we looked at our watches and realized we had done all of this before 10:30AM. We felt very satisfied and also noted that the crowds were getting heavier so we opted to leave and catch a bus back to our resort where we had a nice lunch again at "Everything Pop." We again had some R&R before hopping on a bus headed for the Magic Kingdom. We had 3 goals in mind when we reached the MK; ride Splash Mountain again, see Mickey's Philharmagic again and shop some more. We were able to get a FP for Splash Mountain so we headed back to Fantasyland to watch Philharmagic. It was obvious that the crowds in Fantasyland and Frontierland were heavier due to the refurbishment of Space Mountain. There were long waits at most attractions (50-60+mins). Tomorrowland, on the other hand felt empty. We were able to get into ride Buzz again with little or no line. We got in our Splash Mountain ride and decided we should work our way out of the park by shopping down Main Street and also enjoying one last snack at the Main Street Bakery (they have the best cinnamon rolls). Here is another tip: If you are going to splurge on something...make sure you first splurge on adding the "Park Hopper"option to your park tickets. Today proved its value. We had really done all we wanted to do in AK before lunch time. If you do not have the hopper option, you are either stuck staying at a park that you are really finished with or just having to go back to your hotel or resort. The Park Hopper option gives you flexibility which allowed us the chance to spend the afternoon at another park and focus on a few more things we wanted to do before our trip was over.

We "hopped" at least twice on this trip and really were thankful we had that option and flexibility.

Well...this brings us to the conclusion of our latest journey to "The House of Mouse." we spent our last morning hanging out at the resort before catching our 2:15PM bus back to the airport. Stay tuned later for my dining review as well as my update of my analysis of the Disney Dining plan. Thanks for following along with us. This trip was a celebration of my wife's 5 year mark of being cancer free so it was truly a celebration for both of us.

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