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Friday, June 8, 2012

Disney World Middle School Trip - May 2010 - Day 1

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As this was a school trip there were a few sort of interesting restrictions on what we could and could not do. To begin with, we all had to be in the same general area as at least one of the official school reps (being Matt or Mike). What that meant was that we all had to go to the same place at the same time. If, say, someone wanted to leave the park we were visiting in the middle of the day to go to the pool, either Matt or Mike would have to go back to the hotel as well. Also, us chaperons were told in no uncertain terms that we needed to stay with our charges at all times
Charlotte, Michelle and Zoe

So, we all met up to catch the bus at the All Star bus stop. One thing to note - and I wish I had taken a picture, was that Matt's wife Jessica and their one year-old son Parker came along for the trip. They had dressed Parker in a Disney Animal Kingdom outfit (our destination for the morning) including a safari outfit and hate. Very cute. Matt's parents also came along - very nice folks. Anyway, my charges were my daughter Charlotte and her friends Michelle and Zoe.

I mentioned earlier that we were to go on a "scavenger hunt". Basically the idea was that Matt and Mike set up a bunch of activities - most of them music related - for the kids to participate in. You would get points for each activity with chances for extra points. As an example you might get a number of points for seeing a show and extra points for participating. The team with the most points would win an iTunes gift certificate for each member  as well as the chance to choose any song to sing or play in any song of their choosing at the year-end concert. It was the chance to perform any song of their choosing that motivated my group, They were determined to win. And they thought that I was their "ringer" - that my knowledge of the parks would make us a cinch to win. I was flattered, but I also tried to mange their expectations.


The first park on our agenda was Disney's Animal Kingdom (DAK). Matt and Mike had arranged for a group breakfast at the Rainforest Cafe (RFC) to start our first day. It was quite fun with a large breakfast buffet and the food was actually pretty good. After leaving RFC we all went to Guest Services to get out park-hopper passes. After we got our passes I took my group to the entry gate and... our tickets were rejected. Looking at the passes the reason was clear - they were not valid until the next day. We all went back to Guest Services and the error was rectified in about 10 or 15 minutes (not bad considering we your talking about a party of about 40) and we were still in the park by about 8:45. This turned out to be the on and only organization glitch of the trip, which as I wrote earlier was very well organized.

Now, my experience going to WDW has lead to my developing some fairly loose touring plans for each park. In particular I have a plan I use when first arriving at any park. My approach is to get as many Fastpasses (FP) and experience as many of the most popular attractions as possible in the morning while the lines are shorter. At AK it's a bit different because one of the first attractions that should be experienced is Kilimanjaro Safari (KS) because the animals are most active in the morning, yet KS is not an attraction that usually justifies a FP. So, my usual approach is to go straight to Expedition Everest (EE) and get a FP for that, ride EE if lines are short then head straight to KS. This didn't quite work for us this morning.

Animal Kingdom parade
First, as I mentioned, we got into the park a bit late (45 minutes after opening). Second, as I mentioned, the girls really wanted to win the scavenger hunt (I'm going to use the abbreviation SH from now on) and one of the items on the SH was Mickey's Jammin' Jungle parade which was going on when we first got there. The requirements of the SH were such that you had to provide photos proving you participated so I took a (fairly lame) photo of the parade. Later I realized I forgot to make sure the girls were in the picture as well - I would not make that mistake again.


We got to EE at about 9:15. We got our FPs (9:55) and as the line was short we rode it right away. Zoe and Michelle had never ridden EE and they both loved it. After riding I tried to convince the girls to go straight to KS but they weren't all that interested - they wanted to ride EE again. Well, I could not argue with that logic so we rode a second time getting on at about 9:30.


We then went to KS but the line was 30 minutes which we thought was too long and we could not get another FP yet so instead we walked through the Pangani Exploration Trail (PET) instead. I really enjoy this as well as AKs other main walking trail the Maharajah Jungle Trek in the Asia section. Upon exiting PET we got FPs for KS.


Zoe, Michelle and Charlotte
Another item on the SH was the Nemo show in the "Theater in the Wild" in Dinoland. There was a 10:30 show the girls wanted to catch so we started toward Dinoland - sort of. I messed up and took us to Camp Minnie Mickey instead. Ooops. A bit embarrassing considering I'm supposed to be the expert. Well, we still made it to the theater in time for a show. The girls got credit for going to the theater and extra credit for seeing the show.


After the show we rode Dinosaur with a 10 minute wait. We then headed back to Asia in hopes of getting a FP for Kali River Rapids (KRR) but the FP machines were shut down. So instead we headed to KS and used our FPs. Even though the girls expressed limited interest in riding KS they ended up enjoying it quite a bit. We then headed to Kali River Rapids. The line was not too long so we rode. As usual, I got soaked. Good thing it was a hot day. So hot in fact that we headed to the Tree of Life so that we could enjoy the air-conditioning of "It's Tough to be a Bug".


Another SH item was "Festival of the Lion King. We saw the 2:30 show (I highly recommend this show, BTW) so the girls got credit for seeing it. Try as we may they did not get picked to join in the show which would have gotten them even more credit. We were supposed to be at the Magic Kingdom no later than 4:00 which meant we had no time to use our FPs for EE. A bummer but then we did get to ride it twice in the morning. On our way out we saw a steel drum band and the girls joined in with them. They were not on the official SH list but I knew that all of the SH activities (save one) were focused around music so I took a picture of the girls with the musicians hoping it could be an extra credit tie breaker. We left AK having done every item on the SH that we could have done (The World Drumming Experience was not happening that day so far as we could tell and). We left the park and hopped a bus to the Magic Kingdom (MK).



Admiring our "brick"

We arrived at MK at 3:50. First thing on the agenda was to visit the Thompson Family Brick in the entrance plaza to MK. Every time we make a trip to WDW I am afraid we'll find our brick is gone - and every time I am pleasantly surprised that it is still there. A bit warn and harder to read, but there in it's great spot a few feet over from one of the trees in the entrance plaza.




We immediately went to Adventureland for Dole Whips. I can tell you that Matt and Mike must also be Dole Whip fans - because having a Dole Whip was the only non-music task on the SH.  (Why do I keep hearing Stooie Griffin saying "Dole wHip") I should note here that the one of the absolutely required duties of the chaperons was to never leave their charges alone. Well, this was the one and only time I failed in that regard - and I felt awful about it. The Dole Whip line was pretty long and I wanted to get Splash Mountain (SplM) FPs, so I let the girls wait in line while I got the FPs. And of course when I was in the SplM FP who else was there but Matt. I didn't want to get busted so I sort of slunk away. I don't know if Matt saw me, he didn't say anything. Funny thing, talking to other chaperons later I learned that there were a few who pretty much abandoned their charges altogether. One guy, rumor has it, even left his kids to hang out in the pub in the England pavilion when we were in Epcot. So... I didn't feel so bad.

We headed over to Space Mountain (SpM). There we met up with Matt and his group. They all had FPs and we didn't, but the line was only 20 minutes so we all went for it. We then went to Fantasyland to do Mickey's Philharmagic (another SH attraction). I have to say, I really enjoy Philharmagic. By now our SplM FP time was up (4:50) so we stayed with Matt's group and headed there. On the way the girls harmonized to "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger - one of the songs they were going to do in the concert. I thought that was pretty cool.

From there we headed to to SplM but we were sidetracked by the fact that Haunted Mansion (HM) was a walk-on so we decided to do that. Good thing to - we had heard about the new queue area and that if you use the left side going in you will go through the new stuff. Very cool! We really enjoyed taking our time and enjoying all the new stuff .

After that we went over to SplM and... it was closed. Bummer. Instead we headed to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMRR) which had a 30 minute wait (not unusual when SplM is down). Once again we met up with Matt and his crew. The posted 30 minute wait ended up only being 14 minutes. After BTMRR we were all hungry so we went to Columbia Harbor House for a snack (one of the best counter service places in MK IMO). There we met up with a bunch of others included Matt's parents, wife and son.

After eating we decided to go on SpM again. We got there and... it was closed. Batting 1000 with those mountains! Anyway, by then a bunch of people had headed back to the hotel to go swimming and my crew thought that sounded awesome to we headed back to All Star Music. We still had a bunch of stuff on the SH, but we would be coming back to MK later. Back at the hotel the girls went swimming, we had supper in the food court and then the girls settled in for homework and bed (this was a school trip after all). After the girls were settled in a bunch of the chaperon went to the bar to hang out and relax for a bit. All in all a very fun day.

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