Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Break '14 - Trip Report: Part 1

(Don't feel like reading everything?  Find just the Trip Report Tips Summary here!)

Day 1: Airport and Epcot

We arrived in Orlando around 1:00 in the afternoon.  We had Disney Magical Express reservations, so we hurried through the airport to get to the buses.  Didn't want to waste a minute of Disney magic! However, we went to Terminal A, not B, and wasted probably 15 minutes looking for the place to check in for Magical Express.  Once we did find it, though, we used our Magic Bands to check in to the buses!  This was the first magic band usage of the trip, and was pretty exciting.

Tip: Make sure to go to Terminal B, level 1 if you are taking the Magical Express.  It's easy to find yourself wandering around Terminal A, with no Magical Express to be found.  When you get to the main area (with the gift shop pictured below) be sure to go to the B side!  If you aren't sure, ask for directions.
Disney gift shop in Orlando International Airport.

We were staying at the Pop Century Resort (which I somehow managed not to take one picture of), and dropped our stuff off in our room before heading to the bus stop to go to Epcot!

Tip: If you're staying in value/moderate, opt for a preferred room.  The preferred rooms are closer to the main building, and mean less hassle to talk to the front desk and for value resorts mean less walking at the beginning of the day and end of the night.  Your feet will thank you.

We hopped on the bus and made it to Epcot basically just in time for our first Fastpass+.  After snapping a few pictures with the Photopass photographers, we went to The Land for our 3:15-4:15 ride on Living with the Land.

The line here wasn't super long, and we considered swapping our Fastpass+ for another ride, but ultimately decided that waiting in no line was better than a short line, because we were both hungry after the flight, and wanted to eat before our next Fastpass+ at Soarin'.

We had lunch (very late lunch) at Sunshine Seasons, which is located in The Land pavilion.  It has a great variety, and Alex and I were both able to get something completely different.
Sunshine Seasons
Keep in mind that the there are different stations in here that all serve the various types of food.  We split up to get our meals, went to the dessert station and drink station together, then paid using a quick service credit on the dining plan.
I got cashew chicken with lo mien noodles.  Skillfully eaten with chopsticks.
For dessert I opted for a coconut macaroon.  Alex got an m&m cookie.
Alex's pork chop (with BBQ sauce) and mashed potatoes.
Alex absolutely LOVED his meal, raving about how tender the pork chop was.  I tried it.  It was surprisingly delicious.  We were both too full for desert, and I used the wax paper to wrap them up and put them in my purse for later that night (when we were still too full to finish them).

Next on the agenda was the Fastpass+ for Soarin'.  Soarin' is my FAVORITE ride at Disney, period, and we got there after eating with about 15 minutes to go.  At this point, the stand-by line was around 50 minutes, I believe.

After Soarin', we went over to Club Cool to try the different sodas from around the world.  It was a bit busy and hard to get to all of them (but we made a point of doing so), because one of the three pillars that hold the dispensers was completely out of order.

This was out of order, but it gives you an idea of the kinds they had.
"Beverly" from Italy, is the one that everyone typically finds pretty gross.  Alex predicted I would like it, since I like "weird things like soda water."  He was right, I did.  My other favorite was the one from Brazil.  He liked the pineapple Fanta from Greece.

After this, we went to Innovations West to check out Sum of All Thrills, which claimed to have a zero wait time, but we stood there for about 10 minutes.  Ultimately, not too bad.  You design you own roller coaster, then get the chance to virtually ride it!  The whole thing has a pretty cheesy "building future mathematicians and engineers" theme, but the experience is pretty neat none-the-less.
The ride is a little hard to find, but look for this sign!
It was hard to get a picture, but this is the mechanical arm
that you virtually ride your roller coaster on.
From there, we continued right on through the middle of the Future World side of Epcot to Mission: SPACE.  We had a Fastpass+, but the line was really short (especially for Green, since Alex and I were too afraid of getting sick for orange) so we checked the Times Guide on the My Disney Experience app and saw that Spaceship Earth had a 20 minute wait.  Since we wanted to ride that too, we changed the Fastpass+ to that, about 20 minutes later, and hopped on to Mission: SPACE.

Tip: Download the My Disney Experience app, and bring a charger with you to the parks.  We used the times guide a lot, and switched the Fastpass+ more than I expected over the trip.  My phone only died once, but it came close a few times.  Disney is installing charging areas around the parks, and cast members are really good about helping you find somewhere to charge it in a restaurant, for example.

Spaceship Earth.  Kinda.
After Spaceship Earth, we started toward World Showcase.  We had dinner reservations at 7:15, and wanted to take some time to look around before that.

We went to Canada first, since that's the first on the right side of the lagoon.  The scenery there is lovely.
View of Canada from the upper...deck? 
Admittedly bad picture of the waterfalls.

We then headed over to the next pavilion, United Kingdom.  There are a lot of really cute gift shops there.  Alex and I hung out in the Doctor Who part of one of them for longer than we anticipated.

Our dinner reservation was at 7:15 at Rose and Crown Pub in the UK.  We checked in after looking through the gift shops, but weren't seated for about another 15 minutes.

When we were eventually taken to our seats, I was quite pleased to find out that, even without asking, we were being given a table on the front patio, which I knew had the potential to be great, because it gives you a pretty amazing view of the fireworks.  I wasn't sure if we would be done too soon, though, and I felt bad hanging out after we finished and holding the spot from someone else.  I'm just nice like that.
Front patio view.
We ordered drinks - I got the Magic Star Cocktail and Alex got a Snakebite in a souvenir glass.  I wanted to get a Scotch Egg as an appetizer, because I've heard they are delicious, but it wouldn't have been covered under the dining plan, and I we weren't going to need any extra food since we were still somewhat full from lunch.
The drink glows.  The "ice cube" changes color.  And you get to keep it.
Alex with his souvenir beer stein and Snakebite (two different types of beer) 
We ordered a little later.  Despite not being too big of a fan of seafood, I felt like I had to get the Fish and Chips, because it was the UK.  Alex got the steak option, that came with fish, mashed potatoes (again), yorkshire pudding (which was good, but a little weird), and green beans.

Not real newspaper, but super cute
All of the foods
At this point, we realized just how slow our waitress was.  On any other day it might have annoyed me a little, but on this night it was actually pretty awesome, because we finished dessert just in time for the fireworks!  For dessert, I had the Jaffa Tarts, which were little orange cakes covered in chocolate.  They were interesting, and apparently are really widespread in the UK.  Alex had the sticky toffee pudding, which was also pretty good.

(As a side note, I wanted to include that I'm lactose intolerant, so I stay away from dairy as much as I can, and my food choices reflect that.  In addition, Alex has Crohn's Disease, which means he can't really have vegetables.  We're basically a mess.)

Jaffa Tarts with raspberry sauce
Sticky Toffee Pudding
The food was all really good, and it was our favorite meal of the trip.  Then, at nine, I hopped over to Alex's seat and sat on his lap for the best possible view of the fireworks!
Seriously, this was ideal
Tip: Remember, anything outside of a standard drink, meal, and dessert costs extra if you are using the dining plan.  This includes alcohol, and appetizers.

Tip: If you are having dinner at Rose and Crown, opt for a time past 7:30.  And ask for a patio seat.  It was so nice to be able to sit at our table, not stand around for a good spot 45 minutes before the fireworks started.

After dinner, we left Epcot (because, well, it was closed) and headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

Day 2: Magic Kingdom
The second day we went to Magic Kingdom!  

We had a Fastpass+ to Meet Magic Mickey at Town Square at 9:00-10:00 am.  I've heard cool things about this Mickey, because he is the first one to actually talk to guests, and had to see it for myself.  I also really like having pictures with the characters.

Honestly, Magic Mickey was AWESOME.  He interacted with each group in front of us differently.  They were all little kids, though, so I wasn't sure what he would do for us.  He ended up doing a magic trick, but I won't give away his secrets.  If you get the chance, though, grab a Fastpass+ for this one.  It's worth it.
Looking deep into Mickey's eyes so he could figure out my card.
After this, we meandered down Main Street, getting pictures from Photopass photographers (many with the castle had cranes in them, unfortunately.  From what Alex and I could tell, they were repainted the turrets on the castle.)

We stopped at the old Main Street Bakery, which is now Starbucks, because the Starbucks Disney cups are just SO cute!
The counter at Starbucks/Main Street Bakery.
Our drinks in the super-cute cups.
From there we went to Fantasyland to waste a few minutes before our next Fastpass+ at 11.

The new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is looking amazing, and was a big change from the hole in the ground that it was last year.  Later that night we saw a test run, and the coaster runs almost silently on the tracks.  I can't wait to go back and ride it sometime once it's open.
One view of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
At 11, we went to Frontierland for our Fastpass+ at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  The line was pretty long, so it was nice to skip it.

Tip: If at all possible, sit toward the back of the train on Big Thunder Mountain.  The hills of the ride are too small, and the train too long, so when you go over the lift chains still hold on to the back while the front is already half way down the hill.  Because of this, you feel like you're going slower and you don't get the thrill of the drops nearly as much.

Outside of the queue
The mountain from the ride's exit
After this ride, we realized that it was a lot sunnier than we had anticipated, and that I forgot the sunblock in the room.  Instead of going back to get it, which we knew would probably take over an hour using the buses and traversing the entire park to get to the parking lot, we just bought a can.  It cost us $13, and we only used it twice.

Moral of the story:
Tip: Don't forget to bring sunblock.

We rode Pirates of the Caribbean after that, because the line was basically so short that we could walk straight on.  We might have waited 5 minutes in total.

Typically the line wraps around outside these arches.
It got a lot longer later in the day.
Pirates of the Caribbean is my favorite Disney movie that isn't animated, so afterward we hung out in the gift shop a while, where I had a really hard time not buying everything.  I ended up with an aztec gold coin keychain.  Restraint is hard.

We then went over to Jungle Cruise for our next Fastpass+.  I've heard that the line there is typically short and that the Fastpass+ isn't necessary.  It was a 50 minute stand-by wait when we got there, so I don't really believe that.  Alex and I love puns, though, so we really got a kick out of this.

Gotta love some elephant butt
We then climbed through the Swiss Family Robinson tree house (nothing special, in my opinion) before our lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant.  We were lucky enough to secure a Fastpass+, but technically they are still in testing phase for Fastpasses here.  I had checked back to this page almost daily the last month or so before our trip in hopes of getting one, and though it said they weren't available most of the time, one day it opened a spot on this Tuesday, so I was quick to take it.

The day we left, I got an email that we were officially invited to test the Fastpass+.  So there's that.

I love lunch at Be Our Guest.  The food is good, and the atmosphere is so amazing and immersive that I probably could just spend my whole trip there.
The archway just inside the entrance
The grand ballroom.  It "snows" outside the windows.
The rose in the West Wing room
Alex got a turkey sandwich and I got a roast beef sandwich, both with pom frites (french fries).  For dessert, Alex got the chocolate cream puff.  I got the Master's Cupcake (which is new since our trip last year), with "the grey stuff" frosting.  (You know, the line from Be Our Guest "try the grey stuff, it's delicious, don't believe me, ask the dishes"?)  Everything tasted really great, especially since it was just a quick service option.  It was also very filling, they almost give too much food.
My roast beef sandwich
Chocolate cream puff
Master's Cupcake
The stained glass at the exit of the restaurant.  My favorite.

Once lunch was over, we found that we had just enough time to go get a good seat for the parade.  Seat, yes, because mostly everyone sat on the ground.  Because of this, all the kids could see, and adult could rest their feet a bit.  I was in a dress, which made it a bit difficult, but I was still grateful to sit because it was so hot.

The Festival of Fantasy parade is truly marvelous.  The floats and costumes are so extravagant and beautiful.  I felt like a little kid, I kept tapping Alex's arm and pointing out some of my favorite parts. I won't post all of the pictures, because I don't want to ruin everything (if you want that, you could probably find it somewhere on the internet by now) but here are some highlights:
Beauty and the Beast lead the parade in.
Anna and Elsa make an appearance.
Rapunzel blowing Eugene a kiss!  (So glad I caught this moment on camera)
Merida's bagpipe float.
The steampunk Maleficent dragon
The famous duo closes it out!
Though parade time is typically a time when you can get on rides with a shorter line, I still recommend watching this one.  It's spectacular.

The next 2+ hours were consumed by some Disney magic of Alex's doing, because he proposed to me!  I already posted the story, so if you're interested, read it HERE!
(Side note: At this point, my take-pictures-of-everything starts to falter.  Blame it on the excitement.  But apologies to you guys!)

After all of the excitement surrounding our engagement, and calling/texting all of our family and friends, we had dinner reservations at Liberty Tree Tavern at 7:00.  We checked in, and waited. And waited. And waited.  I twas a little perturbed, actually, by the time we spent waiting for our table (then by our slow waiter).  They said that they were behind because the computers went down, but it meant that we really didn't get to do much in the park until after the fireworks when all the kiddies left to go to bed.

Still, the food was delicious and plentiful, as they offer to fill your plates IF you can finish the first round they bring you.  (Not pictured: pre-dinner salad, and dessert.)

Alex can't handle all the food.
I asked the waiter to bring the cake and ice cream for dessert separately.  Alex ate the ice cream (not me, re: lactose issue) while willingly passing me the cranberry and apple cake.

After dinner, we decided to skip the fireworks (we saw them twice last year) to try and get on rides with short lines.  This was pretty successful.

it's a small world had almost no line.  We had a nice conversation with the couple behind us in line about our recent engagement.

We then headed to Gaston's Tavern because I really wanted to try LeFou's Brew, their signature drink.  It's frozen apple slush with marshmallow flavor, and a passionfruit mango foam.  I liked both components separately.  Together, they were a little weird.  And the sweet marshmallow flavor made it hard to finish the entire drink, even though both Alex and I were sipping it.  Still, worth trying.  I'd probably get it again.
Alex holding the LeFou's Brew.
Note the magic band:
Tip: If your wrist is small, remove the outer grey layer.  Alex didn't but I did, and it made wearing my magic band so much more comfortable.  I can't even tell you the number of parents who hadn't done this for their kids, or women who had theirs wrapped around almost an extra time.  It peels off really easily.  Just take it off.

We then walked over to Space Mountain, which had a short line, allowing us to wait minimally before getting on.
One of three Space Mountain pictures we ended up with.
Tip: If you buy Memory Maker, be sure to get the ride photos.  They come with the Memory Maker package, and since it's $150-$200 (depending on if you buy it before you get to Disney or at Disney), you want to be sure to get your money's worth.

We then went to Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor, which was really cute.  They have two screens, one for the monster comedians, and one for members of the audience.  I was picked (probably because I was in the exact middle of the theater and had my white bride ears on), and it was fun to have the monster comedian interact with me, and then eventually Alex, and make a big deal out of our engagement.

After that, we decided to call it a night so that we wouldn't be too tired for our next day of park touring!
This is the longest post ever.  Had enough yet?

Day 3 (Part 1): Hollywood Studios
Alex and I stayed up a little too late the night before, so before bed, I changed our Tower of Terror Fastpass+ from 9:00-10:00 to 10:00-11:00.  It ended up being a good thing, because I don't think we boarded the bus away from Pop Century until 10:15 that morning.  Whoops.

Alex didn't end up riding this, but the Fastpass+ meant that I could without making him wait too long.

Me on Tower of Terror...alone.

After I rode that, we went to Star Tours.  We had a Fastpass+ reservation for it later, but the times guide showed that the wait was only 10 minutes, and we were totally fine with riding it more than once.  We love Star Wars.  We're kinda super nerds.

R2D2 and C3PO
We then headed to our Fastpass+ for Toy Story Midway Mania at 12:00-1:00.  This was the point that we started noticing that we were going to have trouble going to any of the MANY shows at Hollywood Studios, because our Fastpasses conflicted with show times.  Thankfully, last year we made a point of going to basically all of them, so missing out this year wasn't a big deal.

Tip: When planning Fastpass+ for Hollywoods Studios, concentrate your ride times for the evening if at all possible.  This will make it easier to go see shows like Lights, Motor, Action, Indiana Jones, and Beauty and the Beast.

Anyway, we rode Toy Story Midway Mania, which was awesome.  Mostly because I beat Alex, which he did not understand. (He is the video gamer in our relationship FOR SURE.)  I seriously recommend this as your Tier 1 option in Hollywood Studios.  The stand-by is always atrocious, and it's a really unique experience.
A glimpse inside the queue for this ride.
I was the red side.

We then went to the Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage Show.  We didn't get a chance to make it to that one last year, so it was our one viewing priority.  It was cute, but definitely not a must-see if you aren't a lover of Beauty and the Beast.

Outside of the theater

Also around this time, it started raining.  I had brought my poncho from last year, so I used that.  Alex forgot to pack his (despite my reminding), and had to buy another for almost $9.

Tip: Buy a poncho at a local chain store before coming to Disney.  Or, if you did buy one at Disney, save it and bring it for your next trip.  They are needlessly expensive.

We then decided to ride the Great Movie Ride, which had about a 20 minute wait.  They have a "Party of 2" portion of the line once you get through most of the queue, kind of like a single rider line on their roller coasters, which allows you to get on just a few minutes sooner when rows don't quite fill up.

While in this process, we were debating whether we would come back to Hollywood Studios or go somewhere else after dinner.  We weren't sure, but decided to change our 7:00-8:00 Star Tours Fastpass+ just in case.  We moved it to 3:20, which meant that after the Great Movie ride, we headed back there.

We got there a few minutes early, but the line was short again so we rode it without a Fastpass+.  While in line, we tried to maybe move the Fastpass+ to another ride, but at this point, it said that no other rides were available for the day.

Tip: If you are not staying on property and can't make Fastpass+ reservations in advance, come early.  By 3:00, everything was booked up.  I also noticed that the lines were pretty long at the Fastpass+ Kiosks that one-day visitors and those staying outside of Disney have to use.  To have the best chance at getting your picks, be at the park when it opens and head right toward the kiosks.  They are staffed by cast members in blue polos.

So we took the 3:20 Fastpass+ for Star Tours (our third time riding it that day) before heading out of Hollywood Studios for our 5:00 dinner reservation at 'Ohana.

To be continued!

So that was part 1 of the trip!  I know it's a little long, but here is a summary of the tips that I included throughout.

  • Make sure to go to Terminal B, level 1 if you are taking the Magical Express.
  • If you're staying in value/moderate, opt for a preferred room. 
  • Download the My Disney Experience app, and bring a charger with you to the parks.
  • Remember, anything outside of a standard drink, meal, and dessert costs extra if you are using the dining plan.
  • If you are having dinner at Rose and Crown, opt for a time past 7:30.
  • If at all possible, sit toward the back of the train on Big Thunder Mountain.
  • Don't forget to bring sunblock.
  • If your wrist is small, remove the outer grey layer of the magic band.
  • If you buy Memory Maker, be sure to get the ride photos. 
  • When planning Fastpass+ for Hollywoods Studios, concentrate your ride times for the evening if at all possible. 
  • Buy a poncho at a local chain store before coming to Disney.
  • If you are not staying on property and can't make Fastpass+ reservations in advance, come early. 

Ready to read Part 2?  Click here!

Until then! <3

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