Joined: May 2003
||Posted: July 10, 2003 7:55 am/pm
Away From Home Alone
Friday, April 11 - Friday, April 18, 2003
Fort Wilderness Tent Camping & Port Orleans French Quarter
Drove ourselves from Louisiana
Amanda 36 & Miles 4, Both Disney Park Veterans
Thursday, April 17
Got up early, I guess we were conditioned to do it by this point. My original plan had us leaving WDW in the early evening today, and staying in a motel south of Tallahassee, but I had nixed that in favor of staying here another night and doing the full drive home tomorrow.
We could catch another Extra Magic Hour at the Magic Kingdom today, and that turned out to be a really good move, because by 11 a.m. today, if you were just getting into Orlando, you were looking at 45 minute waits for It's a Small World and 90 minute waits for Peter Pan. Lord only knows what the standby wait for Winnie the Pooh was, we did it once this morning and could never get back on.
We got off the bus about 7:55 a.m., and Miles skipped and ran and fell right down on the pavement and scraped his knee up good. Some tears and blood, and I told him I'd get him a stroller for today, so he could ride instead of walk, and we'd go get him a bandaid.
He was patient #1 for the day at First Aid. A very gentle, very sweet man patched him up and gave me some more antibiotic ointment and high quality butterfly bandages for later, and gave Miles a couple of stickers, then let him pick a pin from a lanyard. Miles forgot all about his knee, though I bet the numbing agent in the ointment had some effect, too.
We walked up through Fantasyland, and on a whim, I stopped at the hostess desk for Cinderella's Royal Table, and got a priority seating for lunch at 11:30 a.m. I did hear someone right before me ask about today's breakfast, and that was a "no". So, lunch it would be. (Later, when we checked in at 11:20, I heard the staff saying they were booked solid for all their lunch and dinner seatings for the rest of the day.)
We made our rounds of Fantasyland, doing just about everything we wanted to do in 90 minutes, then lo and behold, Miles says he wants to do Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Walked us over to Frontierland and got the cast member with the height stick in front of Big Thunder Mountain to verify Miles was tall enough, yes, he was, said the smiling cast member, after measuring him carefully, so I picked up Fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain for later and entered the standby line for Splash which only said 25 minutes.
After about 10 minutes in that line, we wound our way up to a handsome, tall young man with a height measuring stick. No, I'm sorry, ma'am but he's just not making it. But the cast member in front of Big Thunder Mountain just measured him and his head was totally over that line. Well, ma'am some cast members just wave kids through when they shouldn't. I saw it with my own eyes, he was taller than the stick. He's not tall enough on this stick. Maybe there's something different with your pavement? No, it's all the same. Can you tell me how he can be 41 1/2" on his growth chart at home, tall enough at the next attraction, but not tall enough here? I'm sorry but I just can't let you on. You know, two months ago his pediatrician measured him at 41 1/2". Well maybe you need to get a new doctor. The conversation went something like that, but I think the snotty tone and me flipping out at the rudeness don't quite come across in print. I could add stuff about flaring nostrils and arms waving and chins pointing up in the air, but, you know, you've seen people get into before in your life, I'm sure. No, no cursing and no threats of violence, but it wasn't a love scene.
I walked back to the gift shop/photo area and asked the girl behind the counter if there was a manager around. I told her my story a little, when she asked me to tell her what was up, and then she went to call the Frontierland manager, who apparently floats around the area. After about 10 minutes, he came and said "The cast member said *what* to you??" I was like, Mama don't whip little Beauford, he's just doing what he thinks is right and we were both getting upset. Really, I didn't want to get the guy in trouble, I wanted to save kids from having to go through this b.s. over and over again.
My whole point is that this measuring thing needs to be standardized and not so freaking subjective. Telling someone this was the whole reason I pushed the issue, not really to get Miles onto the ride. I mean, that was the outcome, but I've heard horror stories like this from other guests, reporting their trips on the internet, and it's just really crummy guest policy and I think people need to fuss a little and let the management know it's crummy.
I told the manager, I mean, what if we weren't talking about turning away little kids inconsistantly from rides they'd stood in line for... what if instead it was adults? Would it be so subjective? Think about that for a second. No way! They couldn't take the heat for one minute if it was grownups they were telling one thing and then another from ride to ride.
Here's a solution: Let's say for the sake of a black and white argument that it's really true if you're just a fraction of a centimeter under 40" and you try to ride Splash Mountain, you're definitely going to fly out of the log and die. OK, then good guest policy says you make the requirement 42", and then if a child is even a full inch under that, the cast member says, "Well, you sure are getting to big a big boy, I think you're just tall enough! Congratulations!" and everyone has a Disney Day, and no one flies out of the log and dies. Trust me, it's a really good idea and it's not that way now because someone in the management over there is just mean and authoritarian. When I am queen of Frontierland, things will be very different. You may now discuss amongst yourselves, and if you are reading this at rec.arts.disney.parks I'll come check back at around post #56 in the thread just to see who's around at that point, yelling insults at eachother about grammer and questioning eachother's popularity or educational background. If you're reading this on a moderated board, really, you should be fairly free of any further comments on this topic that aren't sweet and positive.
Anyways, back in the real world, the manager got a measuring stick and, warning me that his decision was final, he had Miles stand still on flat cement and held it up to him. Miles scrunched down so he wouldn't hit his head on the wood thing coming at his face. Miles, stand up straight, buddy. Miles stood on his toes. Miles, put your feet flat on the ground honey and just stand normally. The manager then put the stick *behind* him, and swiveled the bar up to the *back* of his head so he couldn't see it coming, and lo and behold, my son is indeed about 41 1/2" tall.
Boy, was the manager pissed. Like seething. Like grim death. Not at me... at Beauford. He wasn't gonna whip him, he was gonna shoot him instead, I could tell. I said again, "Don't get him in too much trouble, ok, it's not his fault there's no consistant and objective way to measure kids." "I'll take care of it," he replied, sounding kind of like Dirty Harry. Yikes!
I did ask him, on our way to the ride's exit, where we would be seated in the next available log, about the rumor I'd heard re. Disneyland trying a system where they bounced a beam off your head and gave you a wristband. We tried that here, he said, and people just traded wrist bands.
So, we rode Splash Mountain, and it wasn't much fun, but we didn't get wet because we sat in the way back seat, and I have my first "customer complaint" story to tell out of over 10 trips to Disney World.
We had a wonderful lunch at Cinderella's Castle to make up for it. First, approaching the back of the castle, we look up, and who's up there waving to the crowd, but the resident Princess herself, and her Fairy Godmother. After a minute of bowing and waving back, we checked in and were allowed into the Audience Hall or whatever they call it, I can't remember. I didn't expect it to be so perfectly detailed like... a castle! Well, duh. What was I expecting? I guess chrome? The room was totally complete, with tapestries, coats of arms, a big stone fireplace, suits of armor, stained glass windows, and thrones in gilt and red velvet for us to sit on. Very cute.
We were seated after about 10 minutes, upstairs at a table for two right at the beautifully done lead glass windows, along the balcony, overlooking the carousel, and getting another view of Cinderella and her Godmother waving to the crowds below not ten feet away.
Our waitress was surprisingly disheveled and brusque, kind of an incongruous look for a castle, maybe she was going for a wench impression? She was efficient, though, and when the kitchen got Miles' order wrong she complained loudly about them on our behalf, to us. The food was decent, and the prices weren't bad. The salad was actually good -- I would skip on the chicken pasta dish if I went again, it reminded me too much of Lean Cuisine. I just couldn't bring myself to order their signature dish of commercial red meat stuffed into hydrogenated lard puff pastry, ai yai yai. I'm sure it tasted good, lots of other people around me were chowing down.
About halfway through our meal, Miles wasn't even looking, but I saw Captain Hook run right by our windows! Miles, look, I just saw Captain Hook! I don't think he believed me, but while he was looking, here comes Peter Pan, running by in the opposite direction! They chased eachother around the castle balcony a couple times, stopping in front of our windows for a little jousting, even. Soooo great, what a neat surprise!
After our meal, we hit the royal potties and they were... just potties. I think they should theme them with gilt and red velvet and golden toilet seats. I mean, a "throne", they are missing a chance here at a great joke.
Went to exit, and who is in the audience hall, with only four other people down there, but Cinderella. Man oh man this lunch was turning into an *experience*. Cinderella told Miles that she had just caught Tinkerbell flying around the castle, and had her in her hands. Would he like to see her? Carefully, Cinderella opened her hands and whoosh!! A shiny red light bolted out and flew a bit around the walls, and then whoosh, up the chimney she disappeared. "Oh, I guess she went up the chimney!" said Cinderella. I won't tell you how it was done, but I saw. ;-)
We missed the sword in the stone show, have to do it next visit. We went over to Belle's Storytime, which has been on my list of things to do for the first time for the last three trips, and finally, here we were. We waited for about 15 minutes as a very sizeable crowd grew, and then right at the moment Belle was supposed to appear, an announcement came on that she couldn't make it and was sorry. Jeez, they didn't know that until the moment the show was supposed to start? I hope the cast member was ok, it was kind of weird. A guy next to me said, "Maybe she broke a nail."
Miles had decided not to ride Big Thunder Mountain after all, so we did Jungle Cruise. I was able to give the now-almost-current Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Fastpasses to a British couple behind us in the Jungle Cruise queue, which absolutely thrilled them. They said they hadn't known much about this place (Disney World) before they came, and it was really crowded, and it was sort of more a kiddie park, yes? There weren't many roller coasters? They had been in line for a while for Jungle Cruise, and asked me what it was as we were about to board... well, you go around on a track in a little boat, and fake animals look like they might squirt water on you, and the skipper makes lots of puns. It was a funny conversation. We saw them later about an hour later, and they thanked me again, said they had been able to make it onto Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain, and were on their way to Space Mountain to get Fastpasses. They were going back to Universal the next day, though. Different strokes for different folks!
Not sure what we did after that, but I do know we ended up back at our pool and our Dragon Slide around 3 p.m. I called while we were changing in the room for a priority seating for the Fantasmic Dinner Package, they did indeed have a time for us at 4:45 p.m. at Mama Melrose. I had to pay in advance in full with my credit card. The girl told me to pick up my vouchers at the front desk at my resort, or at guest services at the Studios.
Didn't leave us much time to swim, but we got a few trips down the slide accomplished, and then I hurried us into some clothes and over to the lobby to pick up our Dinner Package tickets. I wanted to drive tonight, so we wouldn't have to deal with the post-Fantasmic! bus crowds. I pulled up in front of the resort, and prepared to run in for the tickets, but was told I couldn't leave my van there without a person inside it. Ok, whatever. So I parked in the lot nearby and walked to the lobby, and the guest services cast member said, no, you don't get your Dinner Package tickets here, you get your voucher at the restaurant when you check in. Really? Can you check that, please? She did, and confirmed it, with Mama Melrose itself. Yes, you just show up at the hostess stand and they give it to you there. Okilie dokilie.
Mama Melrose was fairly crowded, but we were seated right away. Our waiter was laughably incompetant. At one point, he actually stuck his finger right in my food, serving my bowl of risotto. He was slow, and had a beleagured air about him. He was really reluctant to even ask the kitchen if they could make a grilled cheese sandwich for Miles, I mean, say yes, say no, but don't agonize like you're manipulating me to say "never mind". Maybe he'd been sticking his fingers in the food in the kitchen, too, and wasn't popular back there. Anyways, I ate around the spot he'd touched, and Miles got a grilled cheese, and my mushroom risotto wasn't very good, too bitter, and my tiramisu was disappointing, I think it was from frozen, or at least the lady fingers were for sure, but... I love this restaurant. I mean, I really, really love it. I can't wait to go back.
Why? What madness is this?
Well, for one thing, the waiter was a strange exception to the rule. Every other waitress and waiter in there looked really professional and was hustling. The one time I'd eaten here before, as part of a backstage tour, our servers were incredibly friendly. I'm willing to give the place another chance on that count.
For another, the theming is great. I love the decor, the rustic furniture and casual family restaurant atmosphere.
And finally, the flatbread. Oh good golly the flatbread! I've had a few different kinds, on that aforementioned backstage tour, and this time I got the Grilled Pepperoni with Roasted Peppers and slobber slobber slobber man that was good.
I like not having to wait to sit down at Fantasmic, especially with a little kid, but Miles is getting old enough to handle a big wait if he really wants to see that show again. The problem with the Dinner Package is that it's way more food than I'd ever order. The prices aren't jacked up past the average cost from the menu, but the overall effect is that I spend way more on dinner than I normally would. I don't think I'll do the Package again, unless I've fasted for the whole day prior and I'm really ready to put on the feedbag. Just an appetizer flatbread and a side salad was plenty plenty plenty food for me.
We had some time to kill before Fantasmic! so we did another first for any trip here, we finally made it to the Honey I Shrunk the Audience playground. It was pretty crowded in there, and hard to keep track of Miles, but he was old enough now to handle getting a little lost from me, and really the whole thing is well contained. His comment on leaving - "That was the most amazing playground in the whole world!" The college aged cast member watching the exit said to him, "Hey, I think so, too!" We can't wait to come back here and play more when it's less crowded.
Time for Fantasmic! We were about half an hour before start time, and were able to get a seat pretty close down to the front, maybe five or six rows up from the rail. That turned out to make a difference for both of us, I think, in the emotional impact of the show.
Before the show started, I asked the folks around us, if we left a couple of little toys that had been in my bag on the seats, if they could please help the toys save our seats while we went to get some popcorn. You have to leave the roped off Fantasmic Dinner Package area to get to the snack stands, and then when you try and get back in, the cast member you said "I'm going out for popcorn" to is supposed to remember you. Totally impossible for the cast member. Unlike Beauford's solution, which would have been to deny us reentry until I called a manager, this lady was just waving everyone in. Still a management problem.
Going back through the bleachers, and there's a popcorn vendor walking back and forth right by our seats. Doh! The toys did a good job of saving our seats, by the way.
The folks behind us said, in a British accent, "Would you like our popcorn, we can't eat it, it's all full of salt!" Poor things, they had no idea we do salt here instead of their customary sugar and they were really grossed out. The stuff was atomically salty.
The show was fine, I really dig the barges at the end, it's hard not to get emotional, it's so over the top. The plot for this show, however, is totally inscrutable. I defy anyone to tell me the story of Fantasmic in a way that hangs together in a narrative fashion. It's more like watching Mickey channel surf through the Disney unconcious.
We waited a while for the crowd to clear, and got to hear about 40 loud booming choruses of "Do not walk on the bleachers. Do not walk on the bleachers, use the stairs." I can't imagine how many times a week they have someone hurting themselves pretty badly falling trying to get out by walking on the bleachers. I bet they have a couple fractures a year. I wonder if the settlements and doctor bills have equaled the price of putting in seats with backs, yet.
The sky had been looking like it was going to pour before the show, but it didn't, but the folks for show #2 were out of luck, because not ninety seconds after we were both buckled into our van, it really let loose, with that kind of flash flood warning rain that's more like a waterfall than a rain shower.
I bundled my now-sleeping Miles in my rain poncho and ran back to our room. I had to wake him up a little to change his clothes -- even with the poncho we both got damp. Our last night. Sweet dreams!
Best thing today: What a day! Had to be all the characters at lunch showing up unexpected but I'm tempted to say the Grilled Pepperoni Flatbread.
Worst thing today: Experiencing first-hand the non-functional kid-measuring system at the Magic Kingdom
Friday, April 18
Oh well, the trip is over. I have a hard time leaving, I really really do. No matter how exhausted I get during the trip, I still don't want to leave, ever.
We had breakfast at the Port Orleans food court, it wasn't very good. In fact, Miles didn't want to eat his biscuits and gravy at all, the gravy was made kind of funky. We loaded up the van, and said bye bye to our resort.
I had two admissions to a water park left on some old Hoppers, so we parked out in front of Typhoon Lagoon and were some of the first people in line for the day. We had to wait about 15 minutes for them to open the park, and by the way, there was a young family who was *first* in line, and were asked if they'd like to come in and "officially" open the park for the day. That looked like fun!
Miles and I did the family raft ride, he went down the slide by the quiet end of the wave pool, we did the lazy river twice, and Miles played for about half an hour in Ketchakiddie Creek, and then we had to go, so I could make it home before my bedtime.
Boo hoo! Boo hoo! Called hubby on the cell phone to let him know we were on the road, and we didn't stop again until Gainesville.
By the way, don't make my mistake and try and stop at Gainesville, keep going and do a more rural exit for gas and food. The traffic was horrendous, and we wasted almost 30 extra minutes here just getting from the interstate to the ATM machine to McDonald's and back on the interstate. If I'd waited for a one-stop service center in a rural or suburban area, I'd have been able to do all that in a third of the time, and all in one spot.
We stopped again at Cracker Barrell, this time in Mobile, for dinner, and were home by 10:00 p.m. I just found the Winnie the Pooh pin Miles purchased yesterday, and I still haven't finished unpacking my suitcase from all the warmer things we brought for the first few chilly evenings at Fort Wilderness. Won't need them again here until late October, but I keep promising myself I'll put the suitcase away, as the cat is sleeping on it now and it's getting hairy.
Best thing about today: The souvenir photo I bought of Miles on the lazy river, where his eyes and the water and the sky are all about the same color
Worst thing about today: Having to leave
Three Things I Forgot & Three Things I Noticed
Because I didn't take notes, some of the days got jumbled up. I know the following things happened, but it was only after I finished this whole report that I began to remember which days they may have occured on. So here's three more gems from memory lane for you!
I Forgot to Mention: Seeing Bruce aka Zazu of rec.arts.disney.parks working the Frontierland platform, as Miles and I rode around the whole park, trying to get Miles to doze off, which didn't work. It was very crowded and I didn't have a chance to say hi to him. But later that evening, as we were leaving the park for the day, we did indeed meet up face to face at the Main Street platform, which was cool. He told me, since we were leaving about 20 minutes before the fireworks (too tired to stay any longer), if we were leaving via the TTC, to take the big ferry and then step off to the left when we docked -- there is a viewing area on the Seven Seas Lagoon where you get a nice view of the fireworks and castle, and they pipe the music in for you to hear. I did, and then submitted this info to the great folks over at Passporter, and they sent me a free Passporter and a water bottle strap today, after including this tip in their newsletter. Bruce, I owe you half a Passporter. ;-)
I Forgot to Mention: Getting Miles a hair cut at the Main Street barber shop, where the lady made his hair stand straight up in the air , like a real cool kid, putting blue gel all in it and glitter, which he actually hated becuase it kept sticking him and bugging him., but he loved the blue gel. Overall, it was a great experience and one we'll repeat, though there was a pretty long wait, and the guy in front of us had absolutely no sense of humor and his son was a little odd to Miles. "Plays well with others" didn't seem to describe either of them, so it was a bit stressful being stuck in a tiny waiting area with them for almost half an hour. But all's well that ends well, and Miles looked really great coming out of there!
I Forgot to Mention: Getting stuck on Goofy's Barstormer, right at the end of the ride. The other train stuck on the tracks was stuck at the first hill, going up, and they were up there tilted backwards for at least 15 minutes. The engineers all showed up looking tense and fooling around with boxes of controls right below our train. They were able to back the train in front of us into the loading area, then move it forward out of the way and pull our train in. Miles' and my lap bar wouldn't open, they had to come release it manually. I tried to crack a joke with the people waiting right there in the queue, but I'm afraid I couldn't find anyone who wasn't too busy fuming to chat. They closed the attraction after we got off, so maybe we had the last ride of the day.
Now three things I noticed. Sort of personal musings, if you will.
I noticed: The Chinese Silk Music performer at Epcot did and said and played the exact same thing from one show to the next. She does the same thing five times a day, year after year after year? Can't be, but I imagined that she kind of looked like she hated the audience. It struck me as extremely odd, that there was no variation in her speech, or one note of her playing. I am also skeptical that the kids doing the acrobatic acts are truly having a wonderful experience where all their educational needs are being taken care of, etc. like the announcement says when they come out to perform. Maybe I'm being paranoid.
I noticed: I really missed my husband when I needed to shower or pee alone at Fort Wilderness, when the whole Beauford thing went down at Splash Mountain, and when Miles made a wish at Cinderella's Fountain for Daddy to come to Disney World with us next time. He got a phone call on my cell phone right then and there, after that one! As it stands right now, Daddy is indeed scheduled to accompany us on our next trip, though he is madly looking for a new job that will preclude his being able to come, I think avoiding Disney World might be his #1 motivation in life now.
I noticed: The extended hours and extra parades and characters and shows on this trip made me want to return during a holiday week. Depending on how our finances go this Fall, I may add the day before Thanksgiving through Thanksgiving weekend to our December trip, to take advantage of the perks like Carousel of Progress and fireworks every night.
Well, so long folks.
aka Ginny Favers