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Friday, June 8, 2012

Live Walt Disney World Report - July/August 2000 - Part 1

This is a re-print of an original post to the ThompsonFamilyWeb site about a trip I took to Walt Disney World in late July/early August of 2000. It is completely unaltered from my original post.

howdy howdy howdy,

Introduction:

I started my new job with a NYC based software firm right after my family and I returned from our trip to WDW last March. One of the things I knew was going to be part of this job was going to technical conferences and training sessions. Since I had been an independent consultant for the prior 10 years, I had never had the opportunity to attend these conferences (except on one unusual occurrence when a long time client paid for me to train on a new piece of software).

One conference I knew for sure I wanted to attend was the International Sybase Users Group Techwave. I had been a Sybase specialist for many years and had always wanted to attend one of these. So, when my new boss asked what conferences I wanted to go to, Techwave was my first choice. He said fine, see when it's available. There was a conference in London, but unfortunately I just missed it. The next was to be in August in Orlando. Now, on the one hand, Orlando in August is not my first choice of places to go. On the other hand, I love WDW, so I figured it would be fun regardless.

My original plan was to fly down the morning of Sunday the 30th of July, sign up for the conference and then go to one of the parks on Sunday, stay through Friday and return to NY on Friday evening. A few weeks later I was informed by my mother that she was going to have 2 parties in one week-end, one to celebrate my father's 75th birthday and the other to celebrate my brother's recent nuptials. She was planning on August 5th and 6th. So, I changed my plans to fly out of Orlando a little earlier (2:30 PM) on Friday and go to Southern California, stay through Monday and then return to NY on Tuesday. Not only would this mean going to both parties and seeing my family - including my oldest brother who I haven't seen for 6 years - but we were also planning on going to Disneyland on Monday. This would mean Disney parks on both coasts in one trip for me. Pretty cool.

While in Orlando I'll be staying at the Dolphin. This is not a hotel I would normally choose to stay at, but it happens to be where the conference is so I figured it would be easiest to stay there. Besides, I like the location. I also made plans to meet Bruce Metcalf(Zazu) and Paragon (whose real name I'll know by tonight) for dinner tonight at Kona in the Polynesian resort.

I decided a few days ago to try something new. I am going to attempt to post this trip report "live" in installments as the trip progresses. I'll also try to post pictures as well. Unfortunately my digital camera's software doesn't work well on this laptop - which is running Windows 2000 - so I may not have any luck with the pictures. We'll see. We'll also see if I have the energy to actually write the report during my busy trip.

July 30, 2000

I got up at 4:30 this morning and was picked up by the car service at 5:00. I kissed all my girls (Andie, Nat and Charlie) goodbye, being sure to wake Nat and say goodbye as I had promised her I would. It took about an hour to get to JFK. Save a minor screw-up with an out-of-order ticket printer, all went well. On the flight I was asked to switch seats with a lady and her small child who were in an exit row - this was great because it gave me more leg-room. I can tell that the plane is starting to descend into Orlando now (it's a few minutes before 9:00), so I'll put my laptop away and finish today's report later tonight.

It's now 11:15, and I have just tried in vain to download the pictures from my camera. So, I'll post the report as I go along, then put it on my web site with the pictures when I get back. In honesty, there won't be that many pictures, anyway.

We landed about 9:30 in Orlando. Since this is a business trip and I left it to the travel department to make the arrangements, they made choices I never would have made. The first was to use Hertz rental car. I never use Hertz. I don't have a big problem with them, but I can always find a better deal. In the case of Orlando this was really a problem because the rental office is not in the airport. Why do people ever use a car rental company that is outside of the airport when there are others in the airport? The only answer I can fathom is that either they don't know any better or, like me, they are forced to do it by their companies. The car, a Nissan Altima, however, is quite nice.

When we landed I had still not decided what I was going to do today. I was leaning toward going to Disney/MGM, but I was also considering going to Disney's Animal Kingdom. I decided to let fate decide. I would go to the first park that I saw a sign of any kind for. One of the first signs I saw was for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at MGM, so the decision was made. It turned out to be the right decision.

I drove to the Dolphin and arrived about 11:00. Check in went smoothly. I have a room in the west wing. Again, the Dolphin is not a hotel I would ever choose for a family vacation. I'm really not crazy about the Swan & Dolphin, they seem to dominate the surrounding landscape in a way that doesn't work with the other structures. The Yacht Club/Beach Club and The Boardwalk compliment each other and really blend into their surroundings. The Swan & Dolphin are big and garish. I actually could have requested either the Boardwalk or Yacht Club/Beach Club, but the main plus, as I saw it, were the pools, which I very likely will end up not using. Since the conference is in the Dolphin, staying here makes it much easier.

After checking in, I registered for the conference. I picked up all the material, including a pretty nifty small duffel bag. I then picked up my park ticket. When I first planned on coming here for this conference I was debating what kind of ticket or tickets to get. Should I get a 4 day hopper and end up not using one day? Or should I buy 3 one-day tickets? I wasn't sure if I would want to park hop, but I did want the option. It turned out that they were selling tickets in conjunction with the conference, including a three-day hopper that includes admittance to Pleasure Island. And it only cost $102! Such a deal!

I put my stuff in my room. I would have preferred a king-size bed, but they didn't have any, so I settled for a double queen. The view is of the parking lot - pretty lousy - but I won't be spending that much time in the room so it's OK. The room is quite nice. The décor picks up the gaudy Dolphin theme, but the colors are subdued.

I went down to the boat dock and caught the boat to MGM. As I've mentioned in trip reports before, the boats are by far the most pleasant way to get around WDW. I got to the park about noon. It's hot and very humid. I headed straight down Sunset Blvd to Rock 'N Roller Coaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, pausing only to take some pictures to replace pictures I'd been using for computer wallpaper that I wasn't happy with. The stand-by line for TZToT was only 20- minutes, so I got Fastpass for RnRC (2:35 - 3:35) and went on TZToT using the stand-by line. I don't think the wait was even 20 minutes.

As I've stated in previous trip reports, I would rate TZToT as perhaps my favorite attraction anywhere. In terms of everything you want from an attraction - good story and theming, attention to detail, great special effects and thrills - TZToT excels in them all. It really is an awesome ride. I would have ridden again, but the line had increased to 45 minutes.

I was hungry, so after the ride I had lunch at Rosie's All-American Café. I had a bacon cheeseburger and some lemonade. It was, um, filling.

I really wanted to focus on attractions that we weren't able to experience in previous trips, so I went on Sounds Dangerous. This attraction, almost entirely made up of sounds and played out in the dark, I found to be pretty fun but not a headliner. It stars Drew Carrey, who I happen to like, so that helped.

It was now almost 2:00, so I decided to check out the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at 2:15 - something else I've never seen. Unfortunately, I still haven't - at least not all of it. As the show started, they announced that the show would only include the first act because of threatening thunder storms. Funny thing, the audience assumed it was a bluff and part of the show, and they just sat there after it was announced that show would end early. I admit I thought it might be part of the show.

After Indiana Jones I headed back to RnRC for my Fastpass time. First I picked up another Fastpass for RnRC (5:05 - 6:05). When I went on RnRC on our last trip I was mildly disappointed. This time I enjoyed it a lot more. Maybe it was because I knew what to expect. Maybe it was because I sat in the front. Maybe it was both. Either way, I enjoyed it a lot more.

After RnRC I got some ice cream at Scoops. I then headed over to The Great Movie Ride. This ride is a must at MGM. This ride is a must. Going to MGM without riding GMR is like going to Disneyland and not riding Pirates of the Caribbean. It's simply not done. I was in the front car so I saw the cowboy scene, which I prefer to the gangster scene. I was also real close to the Wicked Witch animatronic. It's impressive even up close.

Next up was the Backlot Tour, which I hadn't been on since Andie and I came here in 1992. It was fun. Catastrophe Canyon was cool.

I headed back to RnRC. First I checked out the line at TZToT. The standby line was still 40 minutes, but the Fastpass time was for 5:40, so I got a Fastpass. I had some time to kill, so I did some window shopping. There's a new WDW 2000 T-shirt that I think I will have to get. I rode RnRC, this time riding in the back. The front and the back are the best places to be, and afford very different experiences. I rode TZToT again. By this time it was 6:00 and time for me to leave as I was meeting Bruce Metcalf at 7:00.

I went back to my room and changed into jeans, and left to go to the Poly. I had decided to drive. I arrived and looked Around the Poly lobby, which I have never seen before. It looks very nice. I waited around until about 7:15, wondering where Bruce and Paragon were. Then it dawned on me - I had gotten the dates screwed up. They were there the night before. Rats.

I drove back to the Dolphin and logged in to check my mail. I verified that I had mis-read Bruce's email. I wrote him to apologize and let him know I'm still open for getting together later.

Since I now had some found time, I decided to return to MGM to see Fantasmic! I was hoping to have enough time to get something to eat before the show, but the boat pilot suggested going straight to the theater to secure seats. She also pointed out that the walkway from The Boardwalk to MGM is being equipped for permanent use - which is a cool thing. S&D, YC/BC and BWV guests will be able to walk to Epcot and MGM. Cool. Dinner ended up being a hot dog and a beer in the bleachers, with a rice-krispies treat Mickey Mouse for dessert. Health food.

Fantasmic! Is a fun show, although I don't know if it deserves the enthusiastic praise it often gets. I've seen the DL version once - the year it opened - and I feel the same way about both shows. The shows are similar but not exactly the same, each has it's strengths and weaknesses. The MGM version has a better venue, whild the DL version makes good use of the Mark Twain (and the Columbia?)
Beth commented:

Yes, the original Fantasmic at DL uses the Columbia for the exciting and fun Peter Pan-Captain Hook sequence that is sorely missing from the WDW version. For a first-timer, seeing the Columbia sail out with the rigging full of pirates and watching all the action that takes place there is one of those jaw-dropping, just-say-wow moments. And even after probably a dozen or more veiwings, I'm still impressed. I still think Fantasmic! at DL is the best Disney show ever, bar none.

After Fantasmic! I went on TZToT again, practically a walk on. After TZToT I checked out RnRC, but the stand-by line was 50 minutes. As I was walking away I heard a woman giving awat Fastpasses, so I took them. When I get in the Fastpass line, however, I realized that it wouold be 20 - 30 minutes, so I bailed on it.

Well, that was it for the day. I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do tomorrow night after the conference sessions. You'll be the first to know.
Lori commented:

Go to Pleasure Island! Good report so far. Oops about the mishap with Bruce and Paragon.

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