The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 16, 2009

Disney World Trip Report – Part 4: It’s the Future! (Sort of.)

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 9:21 pm

Note:  If you missed them, the previous installments of the Trip Report may be found here:

Part 1: Getting There is Half the Fun, Right? (Traveling to Orlando and fleeing from the snow and ice in Seattle)
Part 2: Now with Actual Disney in it! (The Hotel Room, and the beginning of day 1 in the Magic Kingdom)
Part 3: Just Another Day in Never Never Land (The rest of Day 1, in which dreams purportedly come true if you sing about them for long enough)

Also note that I am writing this trip report in installments on the DISBoards, and then compiling 2 or 3 parts of it at a time into the posts you see here, with added info to make this more suited for a more general audience than the audience of Disney junkies on that board.  If you don’t mind wading through a bunch of acronyms, you might be able to find new installments posted over there on the following thread before they’re on this Blog:

Fleeing From a Winter Wonderland – A First Timer’s Disney Christmas

When I last left off on my Disney World trip report, I had spent the first day of my trip in the Magic Kingdom, a wonderful magical place where parades come down the street every day, fireworks shoot through the air every night, and if you aren’t careful you could very well end up listening to the same blasted song over and over until your brain tries to crawl out of your head.  So what to do for an encore the next day?  Well, I can start by doing what I was supposed to do in the first place yesterday and go to Epcot.  Then in the afternoon and evening it would be time for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, a so-called “hard ticket” event in which the park closes at 7pm for the regular guests and admission is limited to those who purchase the separate tickets (although event ticket holders can get in after 3pm on their MVMCP tickets without the need to use a  regular ticket.  In addition to a (theoretically) smaller crowd in the park, there is also special entertainment, including a special Christmas parade and fireworks.  I’ll discuss this a bit more later on, but for the time being, find the next part of the trip report, complete with a bunch of images,  after the jump.

It’s the FUTURE…  Sort of.

A Brief trip through Epcot’s Future World, and Halfway Around the World in 180 Minutes

Once again, the alarm went off at 7:30am in the morning, and once again, the late night bedtime left me somewhat less than enthusiastic about getting up that early (now combined with residual soreness from the previous day’s walking,) so I hit the snooze for an hour and zonked out again. After about five minutes of sleep (well, it was actually an hour, it just seemed like five minutes) I decided that I should probably just get up and do something with my life.  After all, I was in the Happiest Place on EarthTM, I was on vacation, and as I’ve mentioned before, whenever I’m on vacation I seem to have this little invisible timer ticking down in my head reminding me that I had approximately 56 hours of Disney time remaining, so I might as well make something out of it.  Then again, after all the walking around yesterday, I wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders this morning, but I quickly got ready for the day (I’m not the type to linger around and take my time getting ready or sit down for a nice leisurely breakfast. When I’m at home it usually takes me about fifteen minutes to get out of bed, get ready for work and head out the door, and worry about breakfast when I get there) and headed out the door to catch the bus for Epcot, which is what I had planned to do yesterday but ended up at the Magic Kingdom instead. In the process I forgot to remove the Do Not Disturb tag from the door of my hotel room, so housekeeping never serviced the room, but this wasn’t a big deal, since at home I’m not exactly a neat and tidy person.

Back before I threw the previous day’s plans out the proverbial window, the plan was for today to be spent completely in the Magic Kingdom, since today was the Christmas Party I had purchased a ticket for some time ago. Of course, since I ended up spending all of yesterday (including an Extra Magic Hours evening) there, today’s plan ended up being yesterday’s original plan, which was to start out at Epcot and head to the Magic Kingdom later on in the day.

This time around I managed to actually get onto the correct bus at the hotel, and after the bus ride I made it to Epcot… Well, the charter bus parking lot of Epcot anyway. Much as it is at the TTC (where you get on the monorail to go from the Magic Kingdom’s parking lot to the park itself,) the Downtown Disney hotel bus dropoffat Epcot is a fair distance away from the park gate (Looking at distances on Live Search Maps, it’s about a quarter of a mile from the  where the  bus drops people off to the Epcot gate, or roughly a mile away from the backside of World Showcase where I ended up watching Illuminations from, but I’ll get to that later.)

Upon entering Epcot, I ended up riding Spaceship Earth first, mostly because it showed a 5 minute wait and because  I was already sore from the cumulative effects of yesterday’s touring and the long walk from the bus dropoff, and it looked like a good place to sit down (this will soon become a recurring theme.)  There was also the fact that in spite of the research about Disney World I had done before the trip I still has no clue what was actually in here, and wanted to know what the thing was besides a freakishly huge golfball (of Doom.)

In the most recent updates to Spaceship Earth, they have added an interactive part at the end of the ride while the Omnimover cars are descending back to the loading station.  At the beginning of the ride, a picture is taken, and based on a series of questions asked on a touchscreen in the vehicle, you are shown a video of what your future is supposed to look like with your face superimposed onto it, which is where this comes from.  I’m going to guess that this probably isn’t the best picture that’s ever been taken of me.

Having sated my curiosity somewhat, I then proceeded into Future World, toward the east side, but not before noting that Soarin’, the most popular ride in Epcot by far, was already showing a 100-minute wait time by now.  Since on my 2006 Disneyland trip I had been on Soarin’ over California (which is identical to this one) six times with little waiting, I decided to pass on it for now.  Instead I headed next to Test Track.

When I got to Test Track, I found a 50 minute wait in the regular line but only 15 minutes in the single-rider line (this ride is one of only a handful in the parks with a separate single rider line,) which turned out to be less than 5 minutes to actually get onto the ride. This didn’t leave much time to check out the queue, but I’ll take a five minute wait where I can get it, especially on one of the more popular rides.  Nonetheless, this ride still felt just  a little bit odd at this particular time because when I was there, the government bailout of the US automakers was still dominating the headlines.

I then ended up over at Mission Space, where it took about fifteen minutes of waiting to get in on the Green (less intense) side.  The Orange side (which is how the ride was originally designed, but the scaled down version was added in response to the ride causing trouble for people with health problems) was 25 minutes at this time.  I found this ride a bit disappointing on the Green side, so next time I’m here I’ll have to try it on Orange.

At this point, it seemed like I had been having some pretty good luck with the rides (even though there was no way in heck I was going to test out the 100-minute Soarin’ line at this point) so I decided to head across the park and try my luck on The Seas with Nemoand Friends… Once I could actually find it, anyway. I was having a bit of trouble getting my bearings at this point still, and had to follow signs to figure out exactly where I was going. Oh yeah, and I never got around to riding Ellen’s Energy Adventure either. In fact, it would turn out that I didn’t ride anything in Epcot (except for Spaceship Earth) more than once on this trip.

I did eventually make it over there without getting too hopelessly lost (although I did briefly end up wandering through Innoventions on the way there,) and the sign outside showed a 10-minute wait, even though the line was out the door by this time. I probably should have taken that as a sign that the line might have been somewhat in excess of 10 minutes, but since I didn’t know what I was getting myself into I just got into the line, figuring it couldn’t be that bad. After getting through the first room of the queue I figured it couldn’t be too much longer. Then I reached the second room, and I began to suspect that the 10-minute estimate was just a bit off. By the time I reached the third room I was questioning what the heck I had gotten myself into, and finally after at least 30 minutes in line (I didn’t really keep track) I reached the ride, and shortly afterward found myself wondering what the heck I had bothered waiting for.  Although I haven’t ever seen the entire movie, I’ve always gotten the impression that Finding Nemo is more of a hit with kids than with grown-ups, and I just don’t seem to be the right target audience for it.  That aside, I did enjoy the aquariums in here.

If I had known that the ride would be short and not particularly interesting (and if I had known the wait would be that long,)  I probably  would have just gone into the place via the gift shop to see the aquariums and called it good. In spite of the disappointing ride, I actually enjoyed watching the aquariums for a while (mostly because I’ve always been interested in the underwater world, and I could sort of find a place to sit down for a few minutes) but couldn’t really get more than a couple of good pictures. I’ll have to come back here (through the back, of course) and spend a bit more time here on my next trip.

I ended up passing by the Land pavilion (Soarin’ was still too long a wait to bother with at this point, and had a Fastpass return time later in the day than I was planning to be at Epcot) and went on Journey into Imagination next (with a 10-minute wait.) This was another ride that I had basically no idea of what was here before I rode it, and although I have heard a number of people on DISBoards opine that they preferred the older version with Dreamfinder (I suspect the same could be said of The Living Seas) I couldn’t tell you which one is better. After this, It was about Noon, and having not eaten breakfast in the morning I was starting to get a bit hungry, so I headed over toward World Showcase next, hoping to grab a bite in Mexico.

I first checked the San Angel Inn (the sit-down restautant at the Mexico Pavilion) since the reservations board at Guest Services had suggested there might be available seating there, but when I arrived there the line was rather long, so I decided to skip it. On the other hand, the Gran Fiesta Tour (a boat ridein Mexico) was basically a walk-on at this point, so I went ahead and rodeit while I was there. I then went outside to the Cantina de San Angel (the counter service place here) where the lines seemed fairly short. I then waited… and waited… and waited… After 20 minutes of being second or third in line and not actually moving  anywhere, I was beginning to get really hungry, and I was also beginning to suspect that I could starve in this line.  Having already had experience with starving on vacation, I decided to cut my losses and look for a plan B. I walked over to China, where I was able to be seated immediately at Nine Dragons even though I had no reservation. In fact, the place didn’t look all that busy.

The server (named Guan Hua) was quite nice here, and provided some tips and recommendations on the World Showcase since it was my first time there, and a crayon with which to try out the Chinese characters on the placemat.  I think the last time I was entrusted with crayons at a restaurant without trying to eat them was back when I was about nine or so, but given the fact that I can barely manage to write legibly in my own language, my results weren’t so great here either.

For lunch, I ordered the Hot and Sour Soup and the Pepper Beef. Both were pretty good, although this place was definitely a bit pricier than the local Chinese take-out (the options for which are sorely lacking here in Redmond these days, but that’s another post.)  I wasn’t really paying much attention to the price though since I was hungry, needed a place to sit down for a bit, and (as I would find out later on in the trip) the place I waited in line at Mexico wasn’t really all that great anyway. Besides, my Mother (a seasoned traveler herself) has always told me that if I am going to spend the money to take a vacation in the first place, there’s no point in penny-pinching when I get there.

After finishing off lunch, I continued wandering around the World Showcase in the clockwise direction, Browsing through the shops in China, Germany and Italy (When I start wrapping up the trip report, I’ll discuss some of these in a bit more detail.)  Unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly thorough in my exploration of the World Showcase, and there are a lot of little details that I missed completely and found out about on subsequent reading after the trip.

As I was getting ready to leave Italy, the World Showcase Players began their “Romeo and Edna” show, and since I wasn’t in that big a hurry to keep walking, I decided to stop and watch.  This is a show (very) loosely based on the familiar Shakespeare play, with various audience participation elements added in and about 27% less dying involved (after all, this is Disney, right?)  I’m reasonably certain that Shakespeare never included the words  “Eh, fuhgeddaboutit” in any of his works…

The happy couple (chosen randomly out of the audience) confessing their undying love for each other even though they had never met before.  They just look like they’re MADE for each other, don’t they?  The mime in the back couldn’t be reached for comment.

Once everyone managed to figure out how to live happily ever after, I continued on my trip around the world, although I ended up bypassing the American Adventure since I figured I’d have time to get back to it later (I didn’t) and I headed next for Japan.

When I got there, the Taiko drummers were performing.I didn’t stick around long to watch though

The obligatory “Spaceship Earth through the gate” shot. I don’t know who any of those people are though. Anyway, I wandered through the Mitsukoshi shop in Japan for a while (interesting place, but I didn’t see much of anything I couldn’t live without or get packed into my suitcase for the trip home, and I think samaurai swords in my carry-on luggage might have presented a bit of a problem,) then continued on next door to Morocco, where I didn’t stay long, but did get a couple of photos.

At this point, it was starting to get toward the time to think about heading toward the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Rather than walk back all the way around the World Showcase (If you can’t tell, I was already getting just a bit sick of walking by this time) I opted to take the boat back across the lagoon.

It is from this point that I will pick up on the next installment, which will be coming shortly since it has already been written and just needs to be edited down a bit to cut back on the jargon. 

Coming Up Next:  Merry Enough For You?  (It’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, complete with festive holiday pirates, hot chocolate in 75-degree weather, and some advice on how NOT to pick a spot for the parade!)

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