Me & My Muse – Day 2309: Walt Disney World Recap

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

I never thought that this moment would come. Just 23 years ago, I was able to experience a vacation of a lifetime. And now, 23 years later, I never thought that I could do it again.

Most of us have been to some place of amusement in the past. Whether that is a carnival, county fair, or even an amusement park, we are all familiar with the territory.

But for Disney, they do it entirely different. And I understand that not everyone is able to experience their magical theme park containing the Most Magical Place on Earth.

Because of this, I have decided that if you can’t go where all the magic is, then I will bring all of that magic to you. I am about to take you on a Disney Vacation, but you will have to use your imagination if you want to have the full experience. This will not be a literal trip to Walt Disney World, but one made up of words. Words attempting to capture the same experience that I had on my recent vacation there.

Are you ready? Then come with me, because you are about to experience something truly magical.

But why is it magical? Before the 1950’s, Walt sat on a park bench and watched his daughters play. He imagined a magical place where both children and their parents could have fun together. The result of this is what happened 64 years ago. Disneyland was born.

Four years later, Walt Disney Productions looked for a location to house a second resort to supplement Disneyland. Afterall, only 5% of Disneyland’s visitors came east of the Mississippi at the time.

In 1965, Disney selected a centrally located area near Bay Lake and used dummy corporations to acquire 30,500 acres of land. Most of the owners were happy to get rid of the land, as it was mostly swamp land. They mineral rights from Tufts University so that they could not make any claim for minerals on the land that they were planning to develop.

A year later, Walt Disney died of lung cancer, leaving Roy O. Disney to see the completion of the resort. On October 1, 1971, the park opened, with the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort, and the Polynesian village. 24 days after the park opened, Roy Disney named the park Walt Disney World in his brother’s honor. From there, this is where all the magic began. Walt Disney World was born.

Are you ready for the magic? Then come with me, as I am going to take you on a trip to Walt Disney World. Got your imagination with you? Good. Because you’re going to need it for this trip.

 

Sunday – Arrival at Walt Disney World    89° Mostly Sunny

Our story begins at home. I wake up like a child wakes up on Christmas morning. I get ready and pack all my remaining items into my check-in bag. Everyone is ready to go.

My dad packs all the luggage into the back of the Toyota 4Runner and we are all ready to go.

On our way down to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, I played a game with the family. Upon my mom’s suggestion, we all decided to play the alphabet game. We all had to look for a sign, billboard, or business that corresponded to the first letter of the alphabet. After that, we could then look for the same thing, but for the second letter of the alphabet. The goal was to complete the alphabet before we boarded our flight to Orlando. How did we fare? We got all the way to Y by the time we entered the U.S. Park car park near the airport.

From there, we loaded our luggage into the bus and it took us to the airport. Spanning 4,850 acres, DTW is one of the largest airline hubs in the country.

After getting out of the bus, we check in our luggage, leaving only our carry-on luggage to tote around. We go through security and I get a couple items surrendered, because I didn’t meet TSA guidelines. The toothpaste and mouthwash that I had contained more than 3.4 ounces or liquid. Since my check-in bag was already on its way to Flight 2880, I had to surrender both items.

After removing everything in my pockets, taking off my shoes, going through a metal detector and getting frisked, I was good to go. I grabbed my x-rayed carry-on, minus my toothpaste and mouthwash.

After security, I went with my family to buy some TSA-approved mouthwash. My parents already had some extra toothpaste, so I was all set there. My brother bought some Excedrin, since he had a bad headache.

After the purchases, it was time to have some lunch. Me and my brother helped ourselves to some Popeye’s Spicy Chicken strips and a biscuit with some blackened ranch and sweet heat dipping sauces and a bottled water to wash it down. My mom and dad both waited for their food at the Subway nearby.

After everyone has eaten, my parents got a cold one at a nearby restaurant while my brother and I waited at Gate A66.

 

Following that, it was time to board. Delta One came first. Then Delta Premium Select. First class came next. Then Delta Comfort+. After that was Cargo Class, um, I mean, Main Cabin. After Main Cabin 1 was announced, Main Cabin 2 could board.

We all boarded the plane, walking past the numerous Delta Posters that lined the inside of the jet bridge.

My seat was 32F. It was a window seat which was right by the wing of the aircraft, making outside pictures very difficult to take.

Flight 2880, Non-stop flight from Detroit to Orlando was clear for takeoff. The Boeing 757 taxied down the tarmac onto the main runway. It barreled down the runway and began its ascent into the sunny autumn sky.

While the plane was airborne, I looked out the window. And since no one was sitting in the middle seat, I watched the flight path on the digital display and checked the plane’s statistics. The outdoor temperature, altitude, current speed, and other figures. I did all this while casually watching Toy Story 4 in the background.

2 hours and 27 minutes later, the 757 landed in Orlando International Airport (MCO). I stepped off the plane with my luggage and was greeted with a burst of warm air in the jet bridge. The sun was just getting ready to set. I exited Gate 74 and followed my family to the Airport People Mover (APM). This was the same APM that I rode on 23 years ago when I went to Walt Disney World the first time.

We got on the APM and rode it to Terminal B. We took the elevators down and followed it to Disney’s Magical Express. Two Mickey Mouse logos marked the entrance. The beginning of all the magic. We all showed them our passes and they scanned our Magic Bands. I wore a red one. My brother’s was green. Mom’s was purple and dad’s was orange.

After scanning all of our magic bands, the bus driver loaded the luggage for all the passengers in the hold below the bus. We all boarded the bus and was greeted to TV monitors that played old Disney Cartoons from Have a Laugh! There was also trivia, behinds the scenes info, and music. The bus left the airport as the sun was setting.

The bus barreled down the Central Florida GreeneWay (FL 417). My excitement grew as I sat in that dark bus while I watched “Mickey’s Delayed Date”.

The bus continued on FL 417, passing International Drive. The road turned into World Center Drive (FL 536), passing two mega resorts. The Caribe Royale Orlando and the Buena Vista Suites. After driving over the three-leaf interchange of I-4, the road turned into Epcot Center Drive. Typhoon Lagoon was just to the right of us when I noticed a sign. The arch and one of the entrances into Walt Disney World!

After passing the arch, we were officially in the 39 square mile resort complex.

 

The bus took the exit ramp onto Disney Vacation Club Way. It turned left onto the Bonnet Creek Parkway, a road that I would become familiar with for the next week.

Not too long after that, the bus turned onto Riverside Drive. It made a quick right onto Sassagoula Circle before making a quick left back onto Riverside drive, towards the resort.

The bus finally came to a stop. We have arrived at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. The place that would become my home for the next week.

After the driver unloaded our luggage, we got off the bus and went to the lobby, taking our luggage with us. Having already done the express check-in in advance, the rooms that we would be at would be texted to my mom’s cellphone.

We went to Fulton’s General Store and bought some milk. From the rotunda, we then exited through the back and followed the meandering paths to Alligator Bayou, building 37.

As I walked down the confusing paths, I felt the warm 80-degree air. It was pitch black, but was still very hot and humid outside. We walked past a pool, a poolside bar, and an indoor fishing hole. We crossed a footbridge and turned right. Not knowing our directions, a cast member drove by on a golf-cart on steroids. It pulled a complete trailer with enough supplies to clean a few of Riverside’s 2,048 rooms.

The cast member gave us directions to our room. We had to turn around, as we were walking away from our room. We turned left and passed Building 39 and Building 38. After that was Building 37 of Alligator Bayou.

Each of the buildings were two stories, each consisting of open-air hallways. What we were looking for was 3759 and 3760.

We found out that those rooms were on the second story, so we took the stairs up to the open-air hallway that wrapped around, gradually leading to our rooms at the end.
I tried room 3759 by touching my magic band to the black circle near the door handle. It was like touching a wristwatch to a door lock. Red light. It didn’t work. I tried the same thing on 3760. Green light.

I opened the door and saw my room for the first time. Two queen beds. One Murphy bed that folded out by the mantle-like shelf. Above it was a large HDTV. Your typical nightstand along with a not so typical bathroom. A large curtain separated the room from the twin sinks. To the left of the sink was a room that contained the toilet and the shower. A side door opened to 3759, allowing my brother and I to have adjoining rooms with my parents next door.

After settling in, it was time to kill some time. Disney was supposed to deliver our check-in luggage, and it could take as much as three hours for them to do this. We were hungry, so we had some dinner at the Riverside Mill Food Court.

The first of the financial pain began. I took out my VISA and paid for a shrimp lasagna and some garlic bread. For dessert, I had a delicious Salted Caramel Chocolate Arendelle Aqua Sparkle Cupcake. For $5.49, it better be good. And it was. Every bite.

After the desserts were done, it was time to turn in for the night, we returned to our rooms and I took a shower, with the best showering substances known to man. There were three pumps. The first one dispensed conditioner. The second one dispensed a bluish green shampoo that was amazing. The last pump dispensed a clear menthol bodywash that provided a refreshingly chilly effect when I scrubbed my loofah on my skin.

After my refreshing shower experience, I got in bed. The first day tomorrow started with Epcot. And for that day, I needed all the sleep that I could get…

 

Monday – Epcot     88° 30% Chance of Showers and Thunderstorms

I woke up and wasted no time getting ready. Having done my nightly routine the night before, all I had to do was my normal posts on the message boards and I was ready to go. I whipped my clothes on, put my Magic Band on, and got ready.

When everyone was ready, I left the room with my brother. The air was still a warm 75 degrees. We left the room and joined my parents, who just left their room. We walked down the meandering walkways to the back door of the lobby, walking through it and through the front door.

From there, we arrived at the South Depot and waited for the next Disney Transport Bus to take us to Epcot. After a couple Magic Kingdom buses and one Disney’s Hollywood Studios bus, one for Epcot finally arrived.

We all boarded the bus and it arrived at Epcot 15 minutes later. I could see Spaceship Earth in the distance. It stood there on its giant tee. A gigantic golf ball just waiting to be hit.

It was after 9:00, so the park just opened. We got in the line and I unzipped my fanny pack. I sat my opened fanny pack on the table for security to briefly glance at the contents. Just seconds later, I was waved through.

I then arrived at a second security check point, where I had to slide my fanny pack on the table while I passed through a metal detector. After going through, I picked up my fanny pack on the other side and proceeded to the official park gate for Epcot.

At the entrance, I had to do two things to get into the park. First of all, I used my magic band on the light-up outline of Mickey Mouse ears logo with light-up circle. I then placed my finger on the fingerprint scanner for a couple seconds. After that, the Mickey Mouse outline and the light-up circle surrounding the logo flashed green. I could now enter Epcot.

 

While I, my brother, and mom followed this procedure, my dad sought an alternative way to get into the park, since he didn’t want Disney to have his fingerprint. They took his picture and he was clear to enter the park.

After everyone was in the park, we all set out for the first attraction. Our 9:15 FastPass+ at Mission: SPACE. We walked over to Future World East and found our first attraction there.

Upon entering the line for Mission: SPACE, there was something that did not occur to me. There were two different missions that you could choose from. For the less adventurous traveler, you could embark on the green mission for a trip around the world. For the more adventurous traveler, the orange mission was available for a 3-month mission to Mars. We decided on the orange mission and used our FastPass on the round Mickey Mouse logo. It flashed green and we entered the faster line.

For the ride, we were all assigned numbers in groups of four, and we had to remember our numbers, as that is what room we would enter for the ride. Different roles were assigned for the mission to Mars. Commander, Navigator, Pilot, or Engineer. Mom was Commander. My brother was the Navigator. I was the Pilot. Dad was the Engineer. Each role was responsible for pressing a couple of buttons when prompted to by the ride. The ride was thrilling and I really felt like I was being launched into outer space.

After the mission ended, we got back in line for the green mission, which was surprisingly as short as the line for the orange mission. It took no more than 10 minutes to board the ride again. This time, it was a tamer mission around the world. This time, Dad was commander. I was Navigator. My brother was the Pilot. Mom was Engineer. The ride was less intense than the last one. The vehicle did not spin, so there was no G-forces. Even with that being the case, I still enjoyed it, since I got to see the whole world from outer space.

Having finished two missions to space, it was now time to design a concept car of our dreams. From Mission: SPACE, we walked over to Test Track, since we had a 10:35 FastPass+ to use for the ride. We used our FastPasses like we did with Mission: SPACE. After the green light and ding sound, we were good to go. We skipped the longer line and merged right to the first waiting room, where we all designed a concept car, fully customizing it to our liking. I chose a red color with white stars and added all the fun add-ons to it. Plasma engine? Check. Rocket thrusters? Why not? I optimized the wheels for good handling and created a smooth ride, which I saved to my Magic Band by swiping the oh-so-familiar light-up Mickey logo in the gray circle.

The next room was another line, which queued all the way to the loading station. As was the typical standard for the ride, the ride assigner asked how was in our party. After telling her four, she assigned the numbers that my family were to stand in. My brother and I were typically in one number and my parents were in the number next to us.
In the line before the ride, you could load your car design by scanning your Magic Band for a few seconds. I did this, and voila! My dream concept car that I made in the other room was loaded.

Moments later, my brother and I boarded our “car” with mom and dad in the seats behind us. The ride took us through different parts of the testing process, beginning with a seat belt check. It tested braking, handling and it took us on the track outside to test power. With this test, we zoomed down the slotted track at 65 miles per hour!

At the end of the ride, a computer display showed which person’s car got the highest combined score for all of the different categories. I got one of the lowest scores while my brother got the highest.

After the ride, you could design your own commercial, using your car data. I made one with my car driving on the moon, narrated by a robot to the tune of techno music.

We walked through the exhibit, which showed real Chevys that everyone could look at. From there, it took us to Mouse Gear, a store selling Disney clothes and merchandise.

Having done those rides, we were hungry, so we went over to the Electric Umbrella for lunch. I got a chicken sandwich with a cookie crunch brownie. I chose water as my fountain drink to wash it down.

After lunch, we all headed over to Journey into Imagination with Figment. It was a fun ride where we all learned about the five senses. Throughout the ride, Dr. Nigel Channing gives us a tour of the five labs of the Imagination Institute, while Figment causes mischief. At the end of the ride, Channing caves in (If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Following the ride was the ImageWorks – The “What If” labs exhibit. There were various different interactive exhibits that I skipped, due to time and age-appropriateness. Nearby, I saw both Ralph and Vanellope, so I took a picture of them.

Following that, we found someone to take a picture of the family in front of Spaceship Earth. In our attempt to replicate the picture from 23 years ago, here is the result.

Epcot 23 years ago.

Epcot Today!

After that, we stopped briefly at the nearby gift shop to kill time before Spaceship Earth.

When the time came, we used our 1:15 FastPass to board Spaceship Earth. I was very excited to get on this ride. Have they made the attraction different? What has changed on this ride in 23 years?

Having experienced the ride, I can tell you. It is nothing to write home about. The time machines from the 1996 version of this ride experienced a far better voyage. The narrator was better and the music was a lot better. For more on this, just check out my comparison below.

The GOOD version featuring Jeremy Irons (1994-2007)

The version that destroyed my childhood! The AWFUL Dame Judi Dench version (2007-Present)

The clincher was the ending. They took out the scene of the boy and girl communicating on the internet and replaced it with a STUPID survey, allowing you to customize your own future from your touch-panel near your seat! Well, I can tell you the future that I want! A future where nothing has changed on the Spaceship Earth ride. Back in 1996, when it was sponsored by SIEMENS. Back when Jeremy Irons narrated the ride and Bach’s Sinfonia No. 2 in C Minor was used for the whole attraction. For my current trip, this was both the first and last time that I went on Spaceship Earth. The new ride ruined my nostalgia and I will not ride it again.

After experiencing the all-out complete demolition of my childhood, we left Spaceship Earth (which is better on the outside, by the way!) and went back to Future World West and entered The Land pavilion. Inside were a couple stores, with a food court on the bottom and a couple of attractions. We stopped for a drink. I got a bottled water. At this time, it was raining outside, so we decided to kill some time inside this pavilion.

After the drink break, we went on LIVING with the LAND, a boat ride sponsored by Chiquita. The attraction went over the history of our planet’s relationship with the land, and the management of its resources. It showed a greenhouse featuring different hydroponically grown plants and a few aquariums containing fresh fish. It also discussed alternatives to pesticides and tackling other environmental issues.

With the short rainstorm finished, we all left the Land pavilion and was greeted by the hot and sticky humidity and the sun shining on our faces. Having completed Future World, we were ready for the south half of Epcot: The World Showcase. The humidity was more than what dad could stand, so we entered a gift shop, going through World Showcase entrance, hopping from gift shop to gift shop. Not for any souvenirs, but for the intense coolness that felt like a meat locker.

After dad’s temperature reached a healthy equilibrium, we left the gift shop and entered Mexico. We saw an Aztec pyramid, so we decided to enter it.

Upon entering, it was the “Remember Me” exhibit, showcasing characters from Disney and Pixar’s Coco. The exhibit celebrated Dia de Muertos. With there being a land of the dead in the movie, the centerpiece was a skeletal bride and groom in wedding clothes. Behind the bride and groom were a skeletal cat and dog.

After leaving the exhibit, we got a taste of some Mariachi Music. The band Mariachi Cobre performed, while we all basked in the hot and humid Florida sun.

Dad needed some more shade so we left Mexico and went over to Norway. We passed by the Royal Sommerhus, where we could’ve gotten character pictures of Anna and Elsa. We decided against it and entered a gift shop, where there was Frozen merchandise galore. Do you want an Olaf doll? Plenty of those! Does your 10-year-old daughter want that Anna royal dress? We have it too! Chibi Frozen character set? Why of course! And let’s not forget the Elsa dress for your other daughter! In addition to this, there was display with Anna action figures, Anna dolls, and yet another display with similar merchandise featuring Elsa.

We passed by the Frozen ever after ride, which was currently at more than an hour wait. With such a wait, we had to “Let it go, let it go” and continue our tour of World Showcase.

We arrived in China to find another air-conditioned place. The Forbidden City was there, with a three-tiered pagoda. We entered it for a blast of cool air, and to admire the colorful patterns on the inside. We passed a Shanghai Disneyland exhibit for a taste of how China does Disneyland.

We left China and got to experience some bonus countries, since it was the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. We passed through India at a blink of an eye. We walked through Africa in an instant.

After experiencing an entire continent in just a few short steps, we were now in Germany. We passed by some Bavarian architecture and entered a Christmas store. We passed by a snack stall and a “Stein Haus”.

Pickle ornaments, anyone?

 

After that, the bonus countries continued. We passed through Spain and watched a model trainset go by on around Germany.

We then entered Italy, where my parents decided to share a drink.

From there, we arrived at The American Adventure. Where Billy Ocean was supposed perform. We entered the American Adventure exhibit, and saw an interior similar to the Capitol Building. We saw an American Indian art collection, with their native dress and inventions, with a kayak and handwoven basket on display.

After experiencing the American Adventure, we traveled from west to east in the blink of an eye. We entered Japan, where we walked by a five-tiered pagoda. An arch was also visible on the lagoon, so I got a good shot of that.

From there, it was time for some shopping. We entered a Mitsukoshi department store and dove deep into a visual feast of various Japanese products and consumables. Mario and Luigi slippers! Hylian shields! And do you want a Toon Zelda plushie to go with that? Or how about a Super Mario Kart plushie? We have Yoshi, a banana peel, a blue shell, Amy Rose from Sonic the Hedgehog, a Bullet Bill, a Pink Yoshi, and plenty more!

Or, if you’re a Pokéfan, you could get a plush Snubbull, a Ludicolo, or even a Pikachu!

We also have plenty of bento boxes, if you’re looking to pack your lunch. Oh, and Hello Kitty is there too so say hi to her! And are your feet cold from the air conditioning? Stick them into some warm tabi socks! Might I suggest the dog?

The clothing was seemingly endless, but came to an end when we got to the consumables. Want some shrimp chips or rice crackers? There is also an impressive display of chopsticks.

After gawking over the Japanese products, I saw the Japanese candy. Lemon candies, Japanese kit kats, and of course, Pocky and Koala’s March.

After getting our fill of the Japanese goods, we left Mitsukoshi and checked out a kawaii exhibit in the next room. It was complete with a typical Japanese girl’s room full of kawaii merchandise.

Before we could leave, we all heard a loud crackle of thunder that nearly shook the entire building. After that, it rained so hard that I was convinced that we got an inch of rain during the 20 minutes that we waited. The rain didn’t matter, since our dinner reservations were scheduled for 5:40, and we had some time to kill anyway.

After a while, the heavy rain switched to light rain, and we all made out way to Tokyo Dining for a delicious Japanese dinner. I started with iced green tea and a hearty bowl of Miso Clam Soup. For sushi, I helped myself to a Spicy Crunchy Roll and a Seared Tuna Roll (which looked more raw than seared, if you ask me). There was a dessert menu, but we opted out because we were all going to visit another country for dessert…

After our delicious dinner, we returned to Mitsukoshi. I bought a pair of chopsticks, some Matcha Green Tea Cream Pocky, and some Cookies & Cream Pocky.

After we bought our souvenirs, we continued touring the World Showcase. We walked through Morocco and continued on. We then saw some bonus countries, such as Belgium and Brazil.

After Brazil, we entered France. We passed by some Parisian restaurants and a quiet back alley full of places to eat. What we wanted was the building tucked all the way in the back. Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie: one of Epcot’s best kept secrets. How so? They just happen to be a pastry shop with the most affordable pastries you can find anywhere in the park. For just $4 plus tax, you can enjoy a pastry of your choice.

We entered the shop and feasted our eyes on most of the pastries that were in there. However, we could only feast on one pastry, so we had to choose well. There was a Framboise (a raspberry mousse), a Tarte au Citron, a Café Liégeois, Crème Brûlée, a Napoleon, Éclair, Macarons, Macarons Parisiens, or a Tarte aux Fraises (a strawberry tart). Which one should I pick? Besides that list, there was one other dessert that I didn’t mention: the Tarte au Chocolat. My brother and I got the Tarte au Chocolat. My dad got a Framboise. My mom got a Crème Brûlée. We found a table and we all ate our delicious desserts. They were très magnifique.

After the French dessert, we walked past the International Gateway and entered the United Kingdom. We passed the Rose & Crown pub and found another bonus country: Ireland.

From there, we passed through Canada with another bonus country: Australia. There was also a bonus state: Hawaii.

From there, we left the World Showcase. Since we had a 7:30 FastPass for Soarin’, we went back there and rode it. We bypassed the one-hour line like it was nothing. We were placed in the top hang glider and soared all around the world to various different locations, such as Sydney, India, Paris, Fiji, and Epcot. Tinkerbell flew out to meet us, and we got a finale fireworks show before the ride ended.

After the ride ended, my brother and I were ready to return to World Showcase. My parents, however, were done for the day, so they left the camera with me and they left Epcot.

With just my brother and I now, we returned to the World Showcase lagoon to catch the Epcot Forever fireworks show. I videoed the entire show, and it was amazing. The song that played throughout the show was “One Little Spark” from the Journey into Imagination With Figment attraction. However, the song was sung entirely by children, with not a single adult vocalist throughout the entire show. Fireworks were launched all over the lagoon, with occasional sightings of colorful dragons flying around the evening sky. The fireworks were good, and I loved how they threw China in there with the fireworks. The show was around 15 minutes long and we both left the park after it ended.

Bye bye, Epcot!

 

From my mom’s texted directions, we went to station 4 and waited for a bus back to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. After some waiting, the bus finally picked us up and we were off.

The bus followed the same route that it did this morning, only backwards. It turned onto the Bonnet Creek Parkway and turned onto Riverside Drive. After it stopped at the South Depot, we got off the bus and took the meandering walkways behind the lobby back to the room. Over a footbridge, past a pool, past the fishing hole, over another footbridge, hanging a right, and then a left. Past building 39 and 38 in Alligator Bayou. We arrived at Building 37 and took the stairs.

I entered 3760 with my brother and got ready for bed. I took a shower, did my evening routine, brushed my teeth, mouthwashed and went to bed.

I crawled under the covers and fell asleep. Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened at 7:00 AM tomorrow for Extra Magic Hours, and with it already being past 11:00, I was going to need all the rest that I could get…

 

Tuesday – Disney’s Animal Kingdom     91° 20% Chance of Showers and Thunderstorms

I woke up at 5:00 AM and got ready. My parents didn’t want to get up real early for rope drop, so it was just my brother and me. I did my usual posts on the message boards, combed my hair, ate my protein bar, and was good to go. We both got ready and were out the door by 5 after 6:00. By 6:12, we were at the bus stop at the South Depot and we made the bus just in time. There were only six other people on the bus and we joined them.

From the news that I heard from the bus driver, there were no passengers to pick up from the French Quarter (the southern smaller half of the massive 325-acre Disney’s Port Orleans Resort). With that being the case, he picked us up. He was very entertaining and helpful. He drove the bus out of our resort and towards the Animal Kingdom.

Now making it there before rope drop was very important for my brother and I. Why? From my understanding, Animal Kingdom had a section of the park called Pandora, and the Avatar Flight of Passage ride was there. Since I had no FastPass+ for that ride, the objective was clear: Make a break for the ride as soon as the park opens!

The bus turned onto Bonnet Creek Parkway and then drove down Epcot Center Drive. It then curved around onto World Drive, crossing the intersection of Buena Vista Drive before merging onto the Osceola Parkway. We then arrived at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Toll Plaza and it dropped us off at the bus terminal.

Now for my brother and I, we have never been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom before. To put things in perspective, they were building the Tree of Life when we both went to Disney World 23 years ago. With the park now open for more than 21 years, we finally get to experience it for the first time.

We both got off the bus at around 6:30 and got into the line that was already sizeable in front of us. These were the smart people who knew the wait time for Avatar Flight of Passage, which can be as long as three hours or more (or 70 minutes on the shorter end). It was still dark and I could see the stars in the sky.

What made this trip to the Animal Kingdom also special was the celebration of the Lion King’s 25 anniversary.

Security was open so we both did what we did yesterday. Since we both had bags, we went through the (longer) bag line and got our things briefly inspected. My fannypack and my brother’s camera. After the metal detector, we proceeded to the line to the park’s inner gate.

At 6:50, we got the “Welcome to the Park/The park is now open” announcement over the loud speakers. The “rope” dropped and we both Magic Banded and fingerprint scanned our way in.

We of course couldn’t run, as this was not allowed by the park and a large crowd of people were in front of us. The crowd in front of us all proceeded forward at a mall walking pace. Together, we were all a mob. A very happy mob ready to go on an elusive ride.

The crowd came to a dead halt when we got to the park boundary for Pandora. It was five minutes to 7:00, and they would not let us into this area until 7:00. I got an early morning shot of the Tree of Life, and it was amazing.

At 7:00, the enormous throng continued moving again. I passed by the soothing luminescence of the purple and sky-blue vegetation of Pandora. After passing the forest entrance, I saw the Ayram Alusing, the floating “Hallelujah Mountains” from the movie. We were not in Walt Disney World anymore, but the planet of Pandora.

The crowds dispersed into two lines. The left one went to Avatar Flight of Passage and the right one went to Na’vi River Journey. I stayed in the left line with my brother and we proceeded through the queue that the cast members made for us, ensuring that the line would not go out of control.

My brother and I continued through the line, snapping pictures of the colorful vegetation of Pandora while we waited. We passed through a cave which eventually led to a laboratory. The Link Chambers were just ahead.

From there, we were given a number based on our party (which was only two). We then entered the room for our first briefing. A scientist that resembled Dr. Norm Spellman needed to collect some DNA from us to ensure that we could be matched to an Avatar. It was in all of us. We all had the material to be matched to an Avatar.

After the second briefing, we both entered the Link Chamber and got into our seats, which was like sitting on a bicycle. I dug my knees into both of the rests while I sat there. A back restraint locked into place just behind my back. It was official. I was about to ride an Ikran (Mountain Banshee)

The four-and-a-half minute ride began and it was breathtaking. I plunged downward and I could feel every gravitational force. I could smell the air and could feel the wind on my face. With the airbags inflating and deflating at my legs, I could feel the Banshee breathing. When it rested on a clifftop, I could hear it. Besides that, words alone can not come close to capturing what I experienced on this ride. For an idea of what I experienced, refer to the video below:

This is the Full POV Experience!

This offers a back view, allowing you to see what you’re riding (skip to 8:00 for ride).  Doesn’t offer perfect view, though…

 

At the end of the ride, the screen went black. The link was disconnected from my Avatar and it was time to leave. For what it’s worth, that was by far the best ride that I have ever experienced at Walt Disney World. Considering that this ride can have a wait time exceeding three hours, it only took me about a half-hour to ride this ride right after the park opened. Everyone, if you ever go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, get there before it opens. Then follow the happy mob to Avatar Flight of Passage and have the ride of your life. You will not be disappointed.

After leaving the ride, we passed through a gift shop that sold Avatar merchandise. There was all kinds of clothing and you could even make your own Avatar. If you wanted to, you could buy a Na’vi tail! I decided not to and left the gift shop with my brother.

After leaving the exit, I passed a bipedal mech that was used in Avatar.

My brother and I walked back to the park entrance and waited for mom and dad to enter the park. Dad entered first, since he gave all the bags to mom. He also did this, because he figured that getting in might take longer for him. It didn’t. All he needed get his picture taken and he was good to go. Mom came second. With her, we were ready for a fun day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

We started our day by returning to Pandora. We had a FastPass for Na’vi River Journey, so we went and used it. We crossed the valley of Mo’Ara and FastPassed our Magic Bands onto the light-up Mickey and circle outline. You know the drill. We got the green light and got into the shorter line, skipping the crowd.

For this ride, it was pretty good. The pacing was a lot slower than the action-packed Flight of Passage since it was a boat ride. Various scenes from the movie were created, while Way Tiretuä (The Shaman’s Song) played throughout the ride.

After the ride, we walked over to Discovery Island and took a group selfie in front of the Tree of Life. It was a little foggy, but the shot was still pretty cool.

After the picture, we continued by watching a little show. We went to the attraction It’s Tough to be a Bug! After getting in line, we were all given 3D glasses to wear while the show was playing.

Once the show started, we got an educational presentation from the characters in A Bug’s Life. The show provided a sensory experience, complete with stinkbug smells, bee stings, and bugs crawling underneath where you’re sitting (I can assure you that those were not real bugs or Disney would be in trouble!).

When the show ended, we walked over to Asia and had a rather funny encounter with a wacky tropical bird. The bird was Kevin from the movie “Up!” It ran wild around Discovery Island, squawking at various passers-by. It took a liking to my brother and began following him. All in all, Kevin was a pretty funny bird and was entertaining to watch.

After we ditched the dodo, we got in line for Kali River Rapids. There was not a long wait for this ride, so we were able to get right on it. It was a river rapids attraction that featured a 30-foot drop. We would get wet on the ride, but that didn’t matter since we would dry throughout the day.

We got on our raft and it spun down the rapids. Water shot out at various places throughout the ride. All in all, the ride was pretty solid.

After getting off the ride, I found out what made the ride even more fun for the passers-by. On the overhead bridge, you could get other riders wet by just pressing a button. I went ahead and did that, making sure that I soaked at least one raft.

Following that, we checked out the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This was a walking trail that offered a self-guided tour of the various different wildlife that you can find in Asia. We saw lizards, monkeys, tigers, birds, and other wildlife.

After we walked through the trail, we started to get hungry. We walked over to Africa and went to Harambe Market for lunch. I got a chicken bowl, which had grilled chicken on Ciltantro Rice, salad greens, and salsa. I washed this down with a bottled water. After lunch, we were ready to continue our journey through the Animal Kingdom.

We went over to Kilimanjaro Safaris, which was nearby and used our FastPass for the ride. It was a good thing that we had a FastPass, since the safari was now at a one-hour wait. We skipped the long line and was able to board a jeep within 10 minutes.

The safari lasted 22 minutes, and I was able to take pictures of all the different wildlife that you can find on the African continent. A duck, Grant’s zebra, Masai giraffes, Reticulated giraffes, a termite mound, some greater flamingo, an ostrich, okapis, waterbucks, greater kudus, Nile crocodiles, hippopotamuses, lions, African bush elephants, warthogs, yellow-billed storks, and more.

To follow up on the safari, we saw even more animals at the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. It was another self-guided tour, only we saw some African animals, including Western Lowland Gorillas, spiny-tail lizards, blue cranes, naked mole rats, Grevy’s Zebra, Meerkats, Grey Parrots, hoopoes, African olive pigeons, Marbled ducks, White-backed ducks, and other animals.

After this walking tour was over, it was time for a snack. We went over to Kusafiri Coffee shop and bakery for some curry. Both and I my brother got a shrimp curry while my parents got a drink at a nearby drink stall. I got a water to wash my curry down. While I had my curry, we watched the Harambe Village Acrobats perform. They did a balancing act and formed a human pyramid, which was impressive.

After the show was over, it was time to go back over to Asia for Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. We got a picture in front of the ride before we went on it. Since we had a FastPass for this one, we were able to get right on it.

The roller coaster was okay. If you are a Cedar Point roller coaster enthusiast, this would be a pretty average coaster. If you’re not, then this coaster is a solid ride.

After we finished our roller coaster ride through the mountains, we walked through Dinoland U.S.A. Most of the rides were tailored to kids, so we didn’t go on any.

With that, we were not quite done with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, since my brother was able to find one more FastPass, since we used our three up. He found one for Festival of the Lion King. This show was a must see, since it was the 25th anniversary of the Lion King, and a cast member told us that it was one of Walt Disney World’s highest rated shows.

Having that said, we returned to Africa and waited at the Harambe Theatre for the show to start.

Once the show started, it launched me into an all-out nostalgia trip. The actors and actresses that led the show organized the audience into four sides. We had the Lions, the Warthogs, the Giraffes, and the Elephants. Since we sat on the Elephant side, we had to give our loudest elephant when prompted to do so. The show had all of the popular numbers from the original Lion King. Circle of Life, Hakuna Matata, Can you feel the Love Tonight?, and Be Prepared. The show had a performer that twirled around a wand that was set on fire! I think that he also ate the flame as well!

After the show was over, it was after 4:00. It was time to leave the park.

We left the entrance and stopped at Guest Relations, so that dad could get clearance for the remaining days that we would be in the other parks. This took a little while. A little while later, we found bus terminal 9 and boarded our bus back to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, following the same roads back.

Before getting off the bus, I took a picture of a girl dressed up as Forky from Toy Story 4.

From there, we got off the bus and went back to Building 37 of Alligator Bayou, following the maze of corridors.

Once at the building, I entered 3760 with my brother and began my routine for the next day. Today’s blog, tomorrow’s three chapters from the audio bible, tomorrow’s devotionals, and tomorrow’s prayers for my future wife. Still only halfway through the routine, I joined the family for a quick dip at Ol’ Man Island Main Pool.

At the pool, it was pretty neat. The pool was themed to look like an old sawmill, complete with leaking overhanging pipes forming mini “waterfalls” into the pool below. After taking a short mandatory shower at the nearby shower station (really, you just step underneath the shower and you’re good to go), I was clear to enter the pool. The pool also had a spa, which was always occupied by the usuals. I’ll call them “spa hogs”.

After my short dip in the pool, I left Ol’ Man Island, taking the footbridge past the fishing hole to leave the island. I returned to my room and finished my routine.

After my brother and parents returned, we all get ready and went to our restaurant for tonight. Since the restaurant we were eating at was right at our resort, we didn’t have to take a bus to go anywhere.

For tonight’s dinner, it was a Cajun-styled dinner at the Boatwright’s Dining hall. Fresh corn bread was served to us while we waited for our meals. I started my meal with a sweet iced tea and a bowl of French Onion Soup Au Gratin. My main course was the Boatwright’s Jambalaya. This delicious dish had slow-cooked spicy shrimp, andouille sausage, and chicken served with rice. To sweeten the deal, I added some lump crab cakes to my entrée. While this was all good, I had to wait for my crab cakes since the waitress forgot to put the order in. So I ate my jambalaya first and my hot and steaming crab cakes second when they arrived. For dessert, I had a Mississippi Mud Crème Brûlée, which was Chocolate Brûlée with a chocolate shortbread cookie.

After the delicious dinner, it was time to head off to bed. Unlike today, everyone will be getting up early to go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With the Extra, Extra Magic Hours for that park, it opens at 6:00 AM to allow resort guests enough time to enjoy Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge before the park opens to the general public at 9:00. We all went back to our rooms. My brother and I to 3760 and my parents to 3759. I took a quick shower, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. With the early rope drop in the morning, I would have to get up at 4:00 AM. Extremely tired, I got into bed and fell asleep. With another exciting park to visit at the crack of dawn, I quickly fell asleep as I gazed at the tiny sliver of light peering in the window from the outside light…

 

Wednesday – Disney’s Hollywood Studios     82° Mostly Sunny

4:00 AM came without warning, as my Princess Zelda alarm told me to “Open your eyes”. I sprang out of bed, disabled the alarm and knocked on the door to my parent’s adjoining room: 3759. Following through on my mom’s request to wake them up at 4:00, this was their wake-up call. Hearing mom’s tired voice on the other side, I knew that I was successful.

About an hour later, we all left our rooms and took a shortcut. From yesterday, my mom discovered that Building 37 in Alligator Bayou was actually closer to the North Depot than the south depot. This meant a very short walk to the bus terminal instead of the meandering path through Ol’ Man Island to the lobby just to get to the South Depot. As I have mentioned before, this resort is 325 acres (Riverside and French Quarter Combined). That also makes it the largest resort at Walt Disney World, requiring five different bus depots (four for Riverside and one for French Quarter).

We all walked down the stairway and took the shortcut through the bushes onto the walkway. We followed the signs for the bus stop and were there in about a minute. By 5:09, we were waiting for a bus.

A couple minutes later, we boarded a bus for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. To get to this park, the bus went down Bonnet Creek Parkway and kept right at the fork to turn right onto Overpass Road. At the intersection, it turned left onto Backstage Lane and kept right at the fork to merge onto E Buena Vista Drive. It followed this road, finally turning left onto studio drive north. It arrived at the park about 5:30 AM.

We all exited the bus and were greeted with various flags celebrating 30 years of the park being open, showing flags of various Disney characters to the right of each flag. One had the Beast. Another had Elsa.

We went through the bag line and our bags were checked by security. We passed through the metal detectors and proceeded to the inner gate of the park where a crowd of people were gathered, waiting for the park to open.

At about 5:50, the rope dropped and everyone entered. My brother, I, and mom Magic Banded and fingerprint scanned our way in and dad Magic Banded and picture ID’d his way in.

We all gathered behind the growing river of people, all flowing towards the center of the park. We were all gathered together in one happy mob. A mob determined to get to Galaxy’s Edge and have fun.

At the Chinese Theater, the paths diverged. The right path went to Toy Story Land and the left path went to Galaxy’s Edge. We kept left and walked towards the Outer Rim planet of Batuu.

We passed through a mysterious gate, which was a lit tunnel leading to outermost planet on the edge of the galaxy. On the other side, it was just like yesterday. We were no longer in Florida, but on the Planet of Batuu. It was official. We were on Galaxy’s Edge.

I glanced in the distance ahead and saw a blue glowing crystalline structure. I saw droids and a land cruiser. A parked X-Wing fighter was just sitting there, as if it were abandoned or surrendered to the First Order. Two storm troopers stood at their posts, stationed on a walkway right above us. I passed other droids into the nearby town. I saw an advanced TIE fighter up close. Bartenders were handing out menus, trying to drum up business for Oga’s Cantina.

Then I saw it. In the distance was the Millennium Falcon. And we were about to pilot it. I, my brother, my mom, and my dad. All of us.

We all entered the line, where we were warned the that line would narrow to only two people wide. As I walked through the line, I geeked out, taking pictures of every angle of the Millennium Falcon that I could. I got a top shot of it, which looked rather impressive.

After getting those shots, we all entered a hallway, which led to a ship technician, who gave us red tickets with our ship operating credentials. Both I and my brother were assigned as gunners. My parents were assigned as Pilots.

After that, we entered this holding room with a small group of people. I then buckled my seat belt and carefully watched the controls. I set mine on automatic so I could aim at the enemy ships a lot easier.

I then got my mission assignment from Hondo Ohnaka. We were on a smuggling mission to intercept a shipment of coaxium, hyperfuel that makes space travel possible. We After incepting this shipment, we were to return it to Hondo.

Having that said, the mission began. I fired at every enemy ship that came my way while my parents piloted our ship to safety. There were no engineers aboard our ship, so repairs were not possible. At the end of the attraction, Hondo complained about the ships damages and said that the damages were coming out of the payment.

 

Completely satisfied with the ride, we all exited the Falcon. We were all a little hungry, so we decided to head over the Black Spire Outpost. Once there, we found Oga’s Cantina. We entered and had virtually no wait to worry about. The waitstaff outside told us that Oga appreciates our business and she’s very happy to see us.

We all entered to the sound of funky music provided by former Starspeeder 3000 pilot DJ R-3X. We were also bound by Oga’s rules: Travelers are allowed no more than two drinks and 45-minutes max before they are booted from the cantina. A star ship engine hangs from the ceiling as a centerpiece for the bar in the center of the cantina.

Our waiter graciously welcomed all of us and took his character very seriously. Afterall, we were at a watering hole at the Black Spire Outpost in Batuu, so how else would he behave? He sat down next to us and took our order. What does one order in a galaxy far far away? Why you would order a Mustafarian Lava Roll, of course! A chocolate cinnamon puff pastry with crumbled Oreos and a raspberry glaze. And let’s not forget the drink! A Blue Bantha, which is a delightful, yet refreshing treasure to savor in this distant outpost on the Outer Rim. A sweetened coconut and rice based milk served chilled with a bantha-inspired vanllia-butter sugar cookie. My brother and I ordered a lava roll and we all ordered the Blue Bantha, except for dad, who ordered a double espresso. After the waiter took our orders, he left with a warning. “No fighting and no biting.” He stood up and left to take the other orders in the Cantina.

Minutes later, the order came. Two delectable Mustafarian Lava Rolls and three Blue Banthas each with a cookie stuck through a straw, resting on the top of the glass like a lid. I ate my roll and drank my milk. It was the best milk that I had in all the galaxy.

After we finished our food, the waiter came back, taking the bill out of the fold of his clothing. Dad paid for our treat and we were quickly off. Afterall, we do not want to be booted out by Oga, do we?

We continued through Batuu, taking in all the sights and sounds around this mysterious planet. We actually saw a miniature R2-D2 moving around.

Shortly after that, I saw a couple of storm troopers nearby, so I decided to get their picture. Bad idea. They saw me with my data pad and they gave me an interrogation that I would never forget. They threatened to arrest me but decided to let me go on good behavior. Had I been trained in the ways of the Force, neither of them would’ve been any trouble to me. I would’ve done a Jedi mind trick and told them “this is not the person you are looking for. Run along now.” So if there’s anything to learn from this, remember. Never take a picture of a storm trooper.

After getting off scot free, we decided to enter the Market Merchants before any other trouble found us. Batuu was a dangerous place, so we decided to lay low for now. Inside the market, you could buy Jedi robes, plush aliens, and various other clothing.

After leaving the market, we saw Chewy hanging out. I had no idea why he wasn’t with Han Solo, but then it hit me. He had a falling out with Kylo Ren, and since that day, we haven’t really seen too much of him.

We walked through the planet. It was now daytime so I got some more shots on my data pad. After that, it was time to leave the planet. We passed through the tunnel leading back to earth…

We found ourselves back on Grand Avenue. With it being 20 minutes to 8:00, we still had a lot of time to kill. We crossed through Echo Lake and then onto Sunset Boulevard. Since we didn’t have FastPass+’s for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, we decided to get in line for that ride.

And I was glad that we did. With it almost 8:00, there was almost no wait for this ride! We entered the spooky hotel and were all guided to an elevator that would take us to our “rooms”. The elevator attendant guided us into a waiting room, before we finally boarded an elevator.

Things didn’t go as planned. While in the elevator, lightning struck it and we all entered the Twilight Zone. The elevator was moving forward instead of down. Elevators don’t do that! They only do in the Twlight Zone.

After leaving the elevator, we passed through a gift shop and left the ride.

From there, we decided to check out Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Featuring Aerosmith. Our FastPass for the ride wasn’t until 9:00, but we decided to go on it anyway. There was virtually no wait for it in the Standby line, so it felt like a bonus FastPass. We passed by the recording studio, where Aerosmith was working on a new song. They then had to leave in a stretch limo.

We then got to the loading station, where a bunch of “cars” were waiting for us. My brother and I were assigned one row and our parents were assigned a row next to us.

The ride began with Steven Tyler counting down. “5! 4!! 3!!! 2!!!! 1!!!!!!!!!!” The zoomed off, through the dark tunnel. Throughout the crazy twists and turns, I heard “Dude Looks Like a Lady”. After a very short minute and a half, the ride was over.

We passed through another gift shop and left the ride. We got some pictures in front of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Arch.

After that, it was time to check out Toy Story Land. Very much like Dino Land U.S.A. the day before, it was an area themed for children. A bunch of giant-sized models were the draw for this park’s land. I caught a picture of Woody and Bo Beep in the park. Since Woody’s big decision, I guess both he and Bo decided to run away to Toy Story Land, huh?

Another giant Woody stood by the entrance to the park area. On the Slinky Dog roller coaster, a scene could be seen with Jesse pulling on some Christmas lights on top of some building blocks. Some balance toys from Tinkertoy could be seen around the area as well.

As we made our way through the area, I caught a shot of Jesse as well. While I couldn’t find Buzz Lightyear in costume, I found a giant model of him standing near his ride, complete with a giant Buzz Lightyear spaceship box that he came in.

As we were leaving, I glanced around and saw that the restrooms sign was spelled in Scrabble tiles, to keep with the area’s toy theme.

With it being 8:45, we had to get back to Sunset Boulevard to ride the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster again. We continued forward, finding a mysterious portal that took us back to Batuu. From there, we found a portal leading back to Grand Avenue on the other side.

Since we had an hour to use our FastPasses, we decided to go to Muppet Vision 3D. But since that didn’t open until 10:00, we decided to check out Star Tours nearby.

We got in line for Star Tours and I found out that it was different than the version that I went on 23 years ago. They took out Darth Vader and some other visuals that you saw while waiting for the ride. There was virtually no wait, so we continued through the line and got on it quickly.

For the ride, it was a little different. Kylo Ren was there at the beginning, and we flew through hyperspace, jumping to different planets in an instant. Overall, it was a fun ride and a quite similar experience to my original ride on it. Only with some updated visuals.

After Star Tours, we decided to finish Aerosmith’s World Tour, with an encore performance: Riding Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Featuring Aerosmith a second time with our FastPasses. This time, there was a longer wait for the ride. About a 30-minute wait. We made that wait time zero by FastPassing our way through the kiosk with our magic bands. The Mickey out line and outlined circle lit up green. Da-ding! We were clear to go through the shorter line.

The experience was just like before, but I knew what to expect. This time, the song that played was “Sweet Emotion”, a song that completed my brother’s nostalgia when he discussed his expectations for the ride from his childhood. When he saw a feature for this ride on TV, “Sweet Emotion” was playing. Nostalgia complete.

After the ride, we headed right back to Grand Avenue, crossing through Echo Lake. We got in line for Muppet Vision 3D and entered the theater. As we walked through the theater, we saw some funny close-up pictures of each Muppet on the wall. The gang was all there. Kermit the Frog, Gonzo the Great, Fozzie Bear, Sam Eagle, and Swedish Chef. I even saw a movie poster from their 2011 movie: The Muppets.

At almost 10:30, the show began. It lasted 25 minutes and was a blast. The fourth wall was broken many times as there was one character that wanted to leave the movie. Heck. Sweetums even left the movie and we saw him inside the theater. Fourth wall breaking? When do I ever do that? Can any of you who are reading this 21,000+ word recap tell me that? Maybe I should ask the narrator, stage crew, or anyone else on the back set! Joke aside, the movie was quite amusing.

After the movie, we were all hungry, so we decided to eat at PizzeRizzo nearby. If you know anything about Rizzo the Rat, his sense of humor does push the envelope a little bit. He’s from “joy-see” and his family traditionally cooked pizzas. Hence the pizzeria named after him.

To tame my appetite, I ordered a sausage and pepperoni meat lovers pizza, which came with a small Caesar salad. For dessert, I ordered a Galaxy Far, Far Away Espresso Mousse Dome. It was a caramel espresso mousse covered in chocolate ganache on a pastry crust base. It’s beautifully decorated with blue and black, topped by little stars. And with the golden cardboard saucer, it’s truly a work of art!

I washed my lunch down with a bottled water. After lunch, it was time to continue through the park.

We passed through the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Arch and entered the Animation Courtyard. Once there, we saw the Walt Disney Presents Gallery and Exhibits. Here, we got to see the history of the man behind it all. There were pictures of Disney, with numerous memorabilia telling his story from his humble beginnings to his passing in 1966. As an interesting factoid, Disney’s childhood hero was Abraham Lincoln. It was what drove him to a deep love of this country and influenced much of his career. We walked through all of the history regarding him and the parks that came after him. There was even a scale model of Cinderella castle, allowing Imagineers to determine its construction.

Following that exhibit, we were all able to get a sneak peak of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

Right after that, we went over to the Star Wars Launch Bay and watched a short film on Star Wars fandom. After the film, we walked through a Star Wars gallery and I took some pictures of different exhibits. A First Order TIE Starfighter, Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer, the First Order’s version of the AT-AT walkers, the First Order Dreadnaught, Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, plus some exhibits from the Resistance.

After that, it was time for a show. Since my brother was able to get a FastPass for Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, we went over there to use our 1:00 FastPass+ for the show. During this show, people could volunteer to be extras. I didn’t volunteer, since I just wanted to watch the show and not be in it. The extras were picked out and they walked us through different movie scenes. The explanation of each process slowed down the fun action scenes, and it would’ve been more effective if it was done a little less. But the show was still fun! There were daring jumps, explosions, fire…Everything that you would want in an action movie. The set pieces moved around, allowing to easily create their new scenes.

When the show was over, we went back to Keystone to look for a Star Wars shirt. Then we went back to the Star Wars Launch Bay, since I couldn’t find a descent one there. Once there, I found a couple shirts and bought them. One of them was for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

After buying the shirts, we left the park and quickly got pictures at the entrance between the security gate and entrance gate.

We found the bus terminal to get back to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. After a while, the bus took us back using the same route it took to get us there.

We got off the bus at the North Depot and our rooms were a short walk away. We all settled in our rooms and I did my routine for the next day. When we were all ready, We left our rooms and got some video on the footbridge leading to Ol’ Man Island.

Our dinner that night was going to be at Disney Springs, so we took a boat ferry to get us there. Our boat putted down the Sassagoula River, eventually coming out at Lake Buena Vista, where Disney Springs was.

In looking at this plaza, it has really grown from when I ate at it 23 years ago. Back then, Pleasure Island was there, and I can remember eating at The Fireworks Factory. Pleasure Island has since closed down and has become the Landing at Disney Springs: A hub where a bunch of restaurants still sit.

As for Disney Springs, it used to be the Disney Village Marketplace. A year after I went there in 1997, it became Downtown Disney. Since 2015, it has been Disney Springs.

We got off the boat, ready to shop until we dropped. Disney Springs was no little shopping center. It covers 120 acres and has over 100 stores to shop at.

Our dinner was 7:00 at the BOATHOUSE, so we had plenty of time to kill. About an hour and a half, to be precise.

We checked out a Once Upon a Toy, a toy store that had Disney Plushies and other toys. You could find Stitch, Lotso Hugging Bear, and every collectable Disney Princess figure that you could find. There was even some Toy Story 4 merchandise around the store.

At the Star Wars Outpost, Ryan bought a shirt for a gift for our friend.

After checking out that store, we went to the World of Disney Store, which featured a collection of Disney merchandise that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

After walking through Uniqlo, I found out that it was nothing but clothing. I went all the way down to the bottom level and left the store.

After walking past a few other stores and getting some photographs, we all walked back to the Landing to make our reservations for the BOATHOUSE. The restaurant not only offered food but is the only place in the world that offered guided captain’s tours on their vintage Amphicars. These cars could drive into the water and operate like boats once submerged.

When we made our reservations, we were seated outside and dined fresco. Having caught a glimpse of the menu, I gasped. The menu had today’s date on it! October 23, 2019. This guaranteed the freshness of all the seafood that this restaurant had.

To start things off, I got a sweet tea and my dad ordered a couple dozen oysters for everyone to share. I think the first dozen came from the bay (I didn’t get the name). The second dozen were some hammerhead oysters. My main course was Coriander Seared Ahi Tuna. It came with Blistered Shishito Peppers, Soy-Lime Vinaigrette, Wasabi Mayo, and Sriracha. I added a side of truffle fries to that but couldn’t finish them all because they were a share-able side. For dessert, I had a triple chocolate layer cake (miniature whole cake, whipped cream, raspberry sauce), but was so full from the fries that I had to take one slice of the two slices back to my room.

All in all, our trip to the BOATHOUSE was a very delicious experience. I enjoyed the oysters and I loved the tuna.

With everyone full from dinner, we started making our way back to the boat launch. I passed a few Lego model of Woody holding on to Buzz strapped to a rocket. I saw another one of Cinderella and then took another one of Rey and BB-8 made entirely out of Legos. I passed a Left-handed store and was done taking pictures after that. When we finally got there, there was a line just to get back on a boat to our resort. Eventually, our boat arrived and we all got on it.

Around 25 minutes later, we were back at the Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside Boat Launch near the bridge to Ol’ Man Island and the Main Pool. We followed the corridors and walked all the way back to Building 37 at Alligator Bayou. I entered 3760 with my brother and was tired. I quickly showered, brushed my teeth, and went to bed.

I dragged my tired body into bed, feeling the slight aches from my legs from walking more than 10 miles. Magic Kingdom was next, and I didn’t want to be tired for that. I closed my eyes and was greeted by my dreams…

 

Thursday – Disney’s Magic Kingdom     90° 80% Chance of Showers and Thunderstorms

Princess Zelda woke me up at 5:00 AM. Having woke up at 4:00 AM the day before, I consider this sleeping in.

I sprang out of bed and knocked on the adjoining door, giving mom her wakeup call. After hearing a response, I finished getting ready.

About an hour later, we were all ready to go. We took the shortcut and all arrived at the North Depot, ready to visit the last of the four parks: The Magic Kingdom. At about 6:20, a bus picked us up.

The bus drove down Bonnet Creek Parkway. From there, it turned right and merged onto Epcot Center Drive. From there, it took the exit ramp onto World Drive, continuing northward until it reached Disney’s Magic Kingdom toll plaza. It then forked right and continued down World Drive, crossing a short bridge over the Seven Seas Lagoon. It then turned left and it dropped us off. At around 6:30, we were finally at the Magic Kingdom.

We got out of the bus and once again went through security. All bags were inspected and we waited for the park to once again open. While we waited, mom went to the Newstand and bought a pair of sequined Minnie ears.

At around five minutes to 7:00, they dropped the rope and we could enter the park. I glanced ahead and saw Cinderella Castle, all lit up in a beautiful blue glow of light.

After getting an early picture, we proceeded forward toward Frontierland.

When we approached Adventureland, it was gated off, with a Cast Member standing next to the gate. Adventureland didn’t open until 9:00, which made no sense since it entirely defeated the purpose of Extra Magic Hours. Liberty Square was also closed until 9:00. Having no other option, we used our Extra Magic Hours to explore the only part of the park that we could do at the time: Tomorrowland.

With the change in the order, I had to change up my Itinerary. We weren’t supposed to be in Tomorrowland until the afternoon, so we made it our first stop. We walked into the park, hearing the futuristic version of “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” and seeing the beautiful lights that made up the area.

We started with Space Mountain. Having entered the Standby line, it felt like a FastPass+ line, since virtually no one was in line yet! Since we basically owned the line, we walked through the desolate, glancing at various different space stations on the way.

Moments later, we boarded the cars and we were off. The coaster went through some light filled tunnels and it was just as fun as I remembered it.

After Space Mountain, we hurried over to Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. This was another attraction that I went on 23 years ago. And as a fun fact, Disney presented this attraction at the GE Pavilion during the 1964 World’s Fair.

Having seen the whole the whole attraction again, I was very pleased that they didn’t change a thing. I saw the attraction back in 1996, and since 1993, Act 4 is still the same.

We left the carousel and quickly made our way to Frontierland.

We took a shortcut through Liberty Square and wasted no time getting to our next ride: Splash Mountain. There was no wait for the ride, so we were able to get right on it!

On the ride, were able to experience the Song of the South. With the Country Bears, Briar Rabbit, and Briar Frog, we watched the story unfold, as Briar Rabbit gets captured and then rescued in the end. Our flume would get wet, so my brother and I turned our Goofy hats backward. This was another ride I rode back in ’96. It was another fun nostalgia trip.

Next after that was Big Thunder Mountain railroad, which was right next door to Splash Mountain. We had a little wait for this one, but it wasn’t too long.

We got into the line for the Jungle Cruise ride at around 9:07. Our FastPass+ for Pirates of the Caribbean started at 9:10, but it was good for a whole hour.

Our tour guide this time was a stout woman that cracked 100 jokes a minute. She was rattling off so many jokes that I was afraid that there wouldn’t be a city large enough to house them all. Her wit was quicker than a marathon runner and her routine was smoother than Vaseline. If you didn’t laugh at her jokes, you would be swimming in a few seconds. No really, she was funny and her razor sharp wit could cut you wide open. Her dialogue may not have been the same as our tour guide in ’96, but her script was delivered better than Shakespeare, if Shakespeare was a tour guide, and did jungle tours at a theme park.

After the jungle cruise was over, we went over to Pirates of the Caribbean and used our FastPass there. It was around 9:30, so pass was still good. We all used our Magic Bands to scan the FastPasse+’s and got the da-ding and the green Mickey outline and circle outline.

For Pirates of the Caribbean, the attraction was a little different. It attempted to remain true to the original attraction, prior to the blockbuster movie. And throughout the ride, you could find Jack Sparrow hiding in various places. He appears three times in the ride. Can you find him in all three spots?

After the ride was over, we went over to Liberty Square and got a picture with Mary Poppins. After the session ended, I told her to have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day.

With the photo session done, it was now time for the Hall of Presidents. I saw a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan’s bolo tie, George H. W. Bush’s horseshoes, George Washington’s dinner plate, a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, a portrait of Ronald Reagan, Barbara Bush’s dress, a portrait of George Washington, and a plaque mentioning Walt Disney’s patriotism for America.

While I was waiting for the show to start, one of the Cast Members had an exhaustive knowledge of every U.S. President and if you told him the state that you lived, he would tell you what presidents lived in or visited that state. He walked around inciting conversation with others and wowing people with his presidential knowledge.

After that, it was time for the show to start. After a short movie, all of the presidents were shown and were named chronologically. When they got to President Trump, it compared Washington’s ascension to the presidency with Trump’s ascension to the presidency. He then gave a short speech to everyone about the freedom our country has. All in all, I really enjoyed it and it was a lot better than hearing Clinton speak 23 years ago.

After the show was over, it was time to get some lunch. We needed a place that served chicken noodle soup, since dad had a cold. Fortunately, Liberty Square had some at a nearby restaurant called Columbia Harbour House. We went there to eat. Dad got his soup and I got a chicken pot pie with a side of green beans and carrots. I washed it down with a bottled water.

After we finished our lunch, it was time to use our FastPasses for the Haunted Mansion. At the kiosk, it made a slightly different sound for The Haunted Mansion. Instead of da-ding, it was da-who-ooo-ooo-ooo! A rather spooky sound. The light-up Mickey outline and circle outline was still there, of course.

We entered the Haunted Mansion, and it was like your typical haunted house attraction, but this was just the waiting room! After entering one room, it turned out to be a spooky elevator that took us to the bottom level. The actual loading area for the ride was just outside the room. My brother and I got on our cart and we were off.

The ride was a little different from the time that I rode it in the past. The effects were definitely updated from last time. There were all kinds of ghosts including our own ghost getting sucked out of us. At the end of the ride, I was told that the ghost that haunted me would follow me home.

Following this ride was a true classic. We left Liberty Square and went right to Fantasyland to ride It’s a Small World. And if you’ve ever heard this song before, brace yourself. Because you’re going to hear this song hundreds of times sung in seven different languages: English, Portuguese, German, French, Chinese, Spanish, and Italian. And even if you’re done with the ride, you cannot unhear this song. It will continually replay in your mind forever and forever. With that aside, this flume ride is the most iconic ride at Walt Disney World. More than 300 audio-animatronic dolls can be heard singing how small our world actually is. Before the ride began, people held out signs in a viewing deck. One of them said to take a selfie. Another said to sing the song. All in all, it was a classic attraction, regardless of how annoying the song can be to some people.

After that ride, all we had was the 2:25 FastPass+ for Space Mountain. In the meantime, there was plenty of time to kill. With it being just before 1:00, we had a professional photographer take a picture of the family in front of Cinderella Castle. I also took a couple of group selfies with the family.

Shortly after this, a show began in front of Cinderella Castle. It was Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire. A fun musical featuring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Tiana, Naveen, Louis, the Pub Thugs, Rapunzel, Flynn, Olaf, Anna, and Elsa. During the show, Mickey and his Merry Makers celebrate the worlds and stories of some of the recent Disney animated classics. During the show, I heard songs from Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Frozen. I really enjoyed the show overall and it was entertaining to watch.

After that, we walked inside of Cinderella’s castle and checked out a store nearby. The store has princess dresses of every single Disney princess.

At 2:00, another event began at the Magic Kingdom. It was the Festival of Fantasy Parade, and it was definitely worth watching. Headlining the parade was a float with Belle and the Beast.

After that was a Cinderella float, a Frozen float with Anna and Elsa, a Tangled float, a Little Mermaid float, a Peter Pan float, a Brave float, a Maleficent float in the form of a dark dragon, the seven dwarfs and Snow White, a Pinocchio float complete with Monstro the Whale, a float with Donald, Daisy, and Pluto, Goofy, Chip, and Dale, and finally, a hot air balloon with Mickey and Minnie.

After the parade, mom and dad had enough. Especially dad, since he wasn’t feeling with. With that, they left the park early, leaving my brother and me to finish the day there.

With only one FastPass+ left, my brother and I hurried to Tomorrowland to use it. We used the last FastPass of the day and rode Space Mountain a second time. What was cool about this time was that I got the front car!

Right after that, it was time to head back to the room. We went to Gate 26 and waited for our bus to arrive back at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. To kill some time, I took a couple of shots of the Grand Floridian Resort.

The bus finally came and took us back, using the same path as this morning. We got off the bus at the North Depot and returned to 3760.

Once back at the room, I ate my leftover cake from last night. After that, I was planning for tomorrow when I discovered that I only had a Four-Day Park Hopper Plus. When I called about this, I was told that I could make it a Five-Day Park Hopper Plus if I did this before 10:00 after all the parks closed. After getting all of my routine done, I went to the concierge at the lobby and sorted all this out. For just $30, I extended the Four-Day Park Hopper Plus to a Five-Day Park Hopper Plus.

After that, I hurried back to my room and we all went to the North Depot and waited for a bus to take us to Disney Springs. With our reservation for the House of Blues being at 7:00, we had to hurry.

We entered the House of Blues and it was time for another great dinner. We arrived right at 7:00, just in time for the reservation. I started with some Sweet Iced Tea and a cup of Gumbo. My main course was Cajun Pasta with Shrimp. My dessert was a key lime pie. Like all other nights, the food was amazing. After dinner, we presented our receipts next door and got a free mason jar.

When we were done with that, it was time to head back to the room. My brother and I were heading to Pandora again tomorrow to ride Avatar Flight of Passage. Our bus took us back to our room and we settled in room 3760. Our parents retired in room 3759.

I took a quick shower, shaved, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. I crawled into the covers again and fell asleep. The last day was in the horizon, and anything was up for grabs. I squinted my tired eyes and fell asleep, thinking to myself. I’m really going to miss this place…

 

Friday – Anything Goes     87° 50% Chance of Showers and Thunderstorms

“Open your eyes!”

I responded to Zelda’s instructions and turned off my alarm. It was 5:00 AM. It was early, but it was our last day, so I wanted to make it count.

Unlike the other four days, mom and dad did not want to spend a fifth day in the park, so it would be just my brother and I. To them, I told them that I would visit two parks with my brother, and it would only take half a day. I would be back by lunchtime. With that, I wasted no time in getting ready.

By 6:00 AM, I was out the door with my brother. We left 3760 and walked down the stairs. We took the shortcut through the bushes and walked down the path, following the signs that led to the North Depot. Both of us waited there for our bus to arrive.

The first park that I wanted to revisit was Disney’s Animal Kingdom. At almost 6:10, a bus pulled up and we got on.

By 6:30, we arrived at Animal Kingdom. We were both there for one reason only. To ride Avatar Flight of Passage one more time. We went through security and waited some more. At 6:50, the park opened. We followed the happy mob to Pandora.

When we got into the line for Avatar Flight of Passage, the line stopped. The reason for this was that they were measuring a little girl to see if she was tall enough to ride the ride. Riders couldn’t be any shorter than 44 inches tall (3’ 8”). The little girl (which I found out that her name was Emma) joined her grandmother that walked alongside her. As Emma walked with her grandmother, she was in tears. From overhearing the conversation, Emma watched some videos on this ride and now she’s too afraid to go on it. So throughout the wait time, I had the privilege of hearing the poor four-year-old girl cry while the middle-aged grandmother tried to comfort her.

My brother and I boarded the ride, and it was just like the first ride, only I knew what to expect. I could anticipate all of the drops, so it was quite fun to experience. Like before, it was four-and-a half minutes well spent.

After getting off the ride, curiosity got the best of me. Did Emma like the ride? I asked her grandmother and she told me that she didn’t like it. I offered her advice, saying that Kevin could cheer her up. Both my brother and I left the ride. With it being around 7:30, it was already time to leave the park.

As I made my way out of the park, I reflected on Emma’s aversion to the ride. Considering her age, I thought that she was way too young to ride it. When I first became addicted to thrill rides, I was only eight years old, and I was AFRAID to ride the Sea Ray at the County Fair.. But after one ride, there was no getting me off that ride!

My brother and I hurried out of the park and waited at our bus gate. The next park that I wanted to visit was Epcot. The goal was to head over to Norway and ride Frozen Ever After before it got busy. Considering that this ride is busy all day, this was a must. We also had to finish our rides at the park before noon, since it was forecasted to rain at that time.

With it being after 8:00 we both waited for a bus. Finally, at around 8:05, a bus arrived for Epcot. We got on it and it took us to our destination. Osceola Parkway, World Drive, and then Epcot Center Drive.

When we got to Epcot, we went through security. My brother went through the no bag entrance, since he had no camera to carry this time.

When we got to the gate, I saw people scanning their FastPass in. When I asked about Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, the Cast Member near the gate told me that there wasn’t any. The park opened at 9:00, so I had to wait with everyone else. I then asked: “Why could they go in early?”

“They have a pass for Breakfast.” They told me.

With that, both my brother and I waited for Epcot to open. At 8:30, they let people into the park, but gated off the area past Spaceship Earth. This created a large corral of people, all waiting for the park to open.

Out of boredom, I took another selfie behind Spaceship earth while I waited for them to “drop the rope”.

Right near me was a Hispanic family with a couple of children that were way too old to ride in a stroller. The girl looked like she was six and the boy looked like he was eight. The boy complained about having to ride in a stroller. When he saw his sister, contentedly sitting in the stroller, he said something about weighing too much. To that, her parents said that he weighed twice as much as her. To that, the boy retorted, saying. “I don’t weigh 100 pounds!” *sigh* Just another sad example of parents selling out. I know for a fact that there are children younger than them that can walk the entire park! Do you see those parents escorting them around? Exactly. Walt Disney World is made for walking, so if you have a problem with that, rent an electric scooter.

Stroller rant aside, the wait seemed to drag on forever. They wouldn’t let us in a minute earlier than what they were supposed to. To raise morale inn the crowd, they started banging on kettle drums and gave us a show while we waited.

Finally, the rope dropped at around 8:57 AM. My brother and I booked it through Future World all the way down to the World Showcase. Once there, we mall-walked east past Mexico and towards Norway.

At around 9:05 AM, we got in line for the Frozen Ever After ride. With the Standby wait time only being 10 minutes, it was just as good as a FastPass+. With virtually no wait to worry about, we proceeded through the nonexistent line.

Throughout the waiting area, it was designed like you were inside some old Norwegian building, like the world of Frozen. We passed through a shop, which I guessed sold winter gear. I even got the Proclamation from the Kingdom of Arendelle that it was indeed an official Summer Snow Day. Why thanks a lot, Elsa! At the loading area, both my brother my I got in line 4.

The ride was basically your standard flume ride, but with Frozen characters throughout. We have Olaf, Sven, Grand Pabbie, the trolls, Anna, Elsa, and let’s not forget our abominable friend Marshmallow! And it looks like he’s a father, as there are a bunch of Snowgies next to him. At one point in the ride, we ascend up to Elsa’s ice palace. We then hear “Let it Go”. The flume accelerates backwards. After going past Marshmallow, the ride has a short drop. At the end, Anna, Elsa, and Olaf all sing “In Summer”. The ride is pretty much over after that. All in all, it was a pretty good flume ride.

After leaving Frozen Ever After, it was time to head to France for another pastry. As we made our way there, I took some daytime pictures of the countries we visited when it was pitch black on Monday: Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom, and France.

When we got to the International Gateway, we were told that that the countries on that side would not open until 11:00, and that the only part of France that was open was Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie. That was right where we wanted to go, so my brother and I crossed the bridge over to France. When I tried to go to Morocco, I saw that it was gated off, making Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie the only place we could go. We entered the pastry shop and picked another delicious pastry.

We both ended up getting chocolate eclairs. After eating them, our time at the World Showcase was over.

After leaving Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie, we doubled back and crossed the bridge back over to the International Gateway. We then passed through the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada again.

We hurried back to Future World West, maintaining a mall walk pace. We entered the Land pavilion and took the escalator down to the bottom level to see the standby time for Soarin’ Around the World. It was a 30-minute wait, so we decided to bite the bullet.

However, it was a lot longer than what they forecasted. It ended up being a 40-minute wait, and we ended up in the middle gliders. This gave us a perfect view of everybody’s legs from the top glider. Despite this being the case, it was still a very fun second ride.

With Soarin’ over, we had to hurry over to Future World East to use our final FastPass! It was 20 minutes to 11:00 and our FastPass+ was good until 11:15. We hurried back to an escalator that took us to the top level, and then turned right, heading up and around until we exited the Land pavilion.

As we were making our way to Future World East, the sky was turning grey and it was starting to sprinkle. Would we make it to Test Track in time?

We got to Test Track and used our very last FastPass+. The circle outline lit green. The Mickey outline lit green. Da-ding! That was it. We were clear to enter the shorter line. Man, am I going to miss that musical chime…

We entered the waiting room and made our car again.  This is what mine looked like this time.

After that, we walked through the lines, leading to the loading platform. As we were boarding, our third passenger got on. He was an Asian guy that noticed that we were twins. I said that we were fraternal twins. He also saw our Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalkers shirts. He asked if that was going to be the last one. I told him that it was the last one of that series. A new saga could begin, but this would tie up everything from George Lucas’s story that he began 42 years ago. We made conversation with him, finding out that he was staying outside of the park. He thought that I was 5 23 years ago, but that would make me 28 now, wouldn’t it? All in all, it was a fun conversation. It was official, our final ride began.

When Test Track got to the Power test, we went outside. Upon exiting, there was no rain. The sun was shining down on us! I saw this as a good sign, as we finished the ride, barreling down the slotted track at 65 miles per hour.

I got off the ride and said good bye to the Asian guy. I left with my brother and we left Test Track, towards Spaceship Earth. There was only one problem. How were we going to get out of the park?

We ended up walking into Mousegear. After that, we left the store and got our bearings again. Where was the exit to Epcot? We finally found a way out of the park.

We left the park and hurried to the gate that took us back to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. And it was not too long after we got underneath the gate that it started to rain. We finished Epcot just in the nick of time!

We waited for a bus for almost 20 minutes. And even after that, getting back took a while. I wanted to go to South Depot instead of North Depot, since I wanted to buy some more mouthwash a Fulton’s General Store. This ended up taking longer since an old couple in scooters got onto the bus. Every time a handicap person gets on, the bus has to deflate its hydraulics enough to be at the ground level, Then the metal ramp has to be unfolded. The handicapped passenger scoots themselves on and the driver has to secure their scooter in a seatbelt. This was done twice, only the old lady knew how to parallel park her scooter better than the old man.

Two stops later, I anxiously got off the bus, hurrying to Fulton’s General store with my brother. I bought my mouthwash, and to commemorate the last day, I bought a Mickey Mouse chocolate ice cream treat.

Mouthwash and Ice Cream treat in tow, I exited into the lobby and took the doors outside, walking past the Boatwright’s Dining Hall and the Riverside Mill food court. Right after that was the bridge to Ol’ Man Island. I passed the main pool and the fishing hole a little way away. I then crossed another foot bridge, leaving Ol’ Man Island.

I turned right and walked down the path, passed other buildings in Alligator Bayou. I hung a left at the signs and passed Building 39 and Building 38. When I got to Building 37, I walked up the stairs and hung a left, following the path as it wrapped around to a hall that went by 3759 and 3760.

I magic banded my lock and opened the door to my room. I ate my Mickey chocolate Ice Cream treat and then talked to mom and dad about plans for dinner. With it being just after noon, there was plenty of time to decide.

When my brother got back, we talked about dinner plans and decided to try to get a reservation at Morimoto’s Asia. We were successful. We got a 5:00 reservation at Morimoto’s Asia at the Landing in Disney Springs.

Prior to leaving for Disney Springs, we all had to begin prepacking our bags. Since my didn’t go with us this morning, they already had their bags prepacked. My brother and I took care of this, and I got all of my routine done prior to leaving.

We all left the room at five minutes to 2:00 and waited for a bus to Disney Springs. At around 2:00, a bus picked us all up.

The bus drove down Bonnet Creek Parkway until it got to the intersection. It turned left onto East Buena Vista Drive and followed this road until it turned at the main entrance, just past the Lime Garage.

We all exited the bus and it was official. This was the very last bus ride at Walt Disney World, since we decided to take the ferry boat back. The next bus would take us back to the airport.

We walked around, dodging the occasional showers that came into the area. Our first stop was the Coca Cola Store, since my brother wanted to visit that store yesterday for some foreign cokes. We went all the way up to the third floor to the rooftop Coca Cola bar.

While the bar served coke-themed drinks, there was also the option of ordering Tastes of the World. This package allows you to taste 16 different cokes from around the world. Each one is poured into a 3.5 ounce glass. If you do the math, that’s 56 fluid ounces, so this is best done with two or more people.

And that’s not all. If you order the Tastes of the World Package, you get a professional photograph of yourself sitting in front of the 16 cokes. And for just under $16, that is not a bad deal at all.

My brother and I ordered the Tastes of the World Package, both agreeing to share one package. Moments later, they had the 16 International cokes stacked in two tiers. I grabbed one tray and my brother grabbed the other. We took the trays over and sat down.

We then began to taste all the cokes. There was Stoney Tangawizi from Tanzania, Fanta Exotic Fruit Punch from Uganda, Bon Bon Anglasis from Madagascar, Frestea Green Honey Tea from Indonesia, Minute Maid Joy Apple Lychee from Korea, Fanta Apple Kiwi from Thailand, Smart Watermelon from China, Thums Up from India, Beverly from Italy, Aquarius Libre from Spain, FUSE Berries Tea from Georgia, Sunfill Black Currant from Mauritus, Lift Manzana from Chile, Bjare Lingonberry from Sweden, Inca Kola from Peru, and Delaware Punch from Honduras. While I’m not going to tell you how each one tasted, I will give you my favorite and least favorite. My hands-down favorite coke was the Fanta Apple Kiwi from Thailand. My least favorite was the Beverly from Italy. It was a clear drink and it had a very bitter taste to it. You call THAT a coke?

After our coke tasting was over, we went down to the second story and explored the rest of the store. I was in awe of all the Coke related merchandise that they had! They had collectable Coke cans and bottles in both aluminum and glass. And if you wanted your Coke coffee, you could drink it in your very own Coke coffee mug! Feeling tired? Cozy up some Coke onesie pajamas, complete with the round Coca-Cola logo and polar bear pattern against a black background.

We all looked around the Coca Cola Store until 3:30, since the Polar Bear was supposed to return, and we could all get a picture with him if we waited around.

Finally, 3:30 came, and we proceeded into his domain. Watch out for thin ice! You might fall in!

After getting our pictures with the polar bear, we went down to the first story of the Coca-Cola store and checked out all the merchandise. Besides the Tastes of the World package at the rooftop bar, we didn’t buy anything else.

After leaving the Coca-Cola store, we entered the Disney Style store. The clothes there were too trendy, so we left and went over to the World of Disney store. I bought a “Walt Disney World 2019” shirt that featured Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Pluto towards the bottom of the shirt. I also bought another souvenir as well.

After shopping until we dropped, we walked over to Morimoto’s Asia. When my mom checked in on the reservation, the woman told us that she couldn’t seat us early. She told mom that she would text us when our table is ready. It was 4:50, so we didn’t have too much more time to wait.

Ten minutes later, we entered Morimoto’s Asia. This was the pinnacle of fine dining if I have ever seen it. The Feng Shui in the restaurant was executed perfectly. The open-air floor plan was great, finely decorated with old black and white pictures of people in the back of people that might have been important in Morimoto’s life when he grew up in Japan. The restaurant continued to the second story, and…what more can I say? I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!

We were seated in a semi-circle booth, where our waiter was ready to be of assistance to us. He mentioned that all the food would be served to us fresh as it comes out, as the enormous restaurant had seven different kitchens. I started with a Thai Tea, which came as a mixture of tea, milk, and sugar. Because of the way it came, I had to mix it when it arrived.

We started with a bowl of Miso Soup, which had Miso broth and silken tofu.

For sushi, I ordered a spicy tuna roll. For their roll, they prepared it with tuna, spicy mayo, scallions and white rice. Now for a normal sushi place, they would just stop there. But at Morimoto’s, he takes it a step further by sprinkling black sesame seeds onto the sushi rolls. Now I am not exaggerating when I’m telling you this, but that was the best spicy tuna roll I ever had.

And what made it even better was the wasabi. Now before you tell me that all sushi places have wasabi, I would argue that they don’t. Most sushi places will have horseradish ground into a powder and made into a paste. They then dye it green to make it look like wasabi. Real wasabi is only found in Japan, along riverbanks, and if a real restaurant has it, it will come at a premium. Before I even ate any of my sushi, I had to find out from the waiter if they had real wasabi. He told me that they did. For just another $10, Morimoto’s actually has real wasabi. Their wasabi is shipped fresh from Japan, from the farms. The melting waters from the mountains actually water the wasabi. My dad got us some real wasabi and I tried some. While it did taste like the horseradish, it was a lot less intense, and had more of an herbal taste to it. I put the real wasabi on all of my spicy tuna rolls and it was amazing. Another plus was that they used lacquered chop sticks, instead of the cheap wooden ones. I set my fake horseradish aside and never touched it for the duration of the meal.

While we were waiting for the main course, my dad ordered some portobello fries for us to all share while we waited for our food. Strips of portobello were deep fried in tempura batter and served with mentaiko mayo. The fries were good and the mayo made them great.

For the main course, I had the Lobster Singapore Laska. A grilled lobster with rice noodles, crispy wanton, and coconut curry broth all laying on a garnish of lettuce leaves, complete with a hard-boiled egg! The broth was spicy, the noodles were AMAZING, and the lobster was heavenly! With a meal like this, it was no surprise that Morimoto became the Iron Chef.

And what’s an amazing dinner without a little dessert? For dessert, my brother and I divided and conquered. Since we both didn’t want to get the same thing, we each ordered a different dessert. My brother ordered a chocolate cream & crunch. Oreo tempura, mandarin orange jelly, dark chocolate gelato, and hazelnut chocolate crunchies.

I ordered the mochi-mochi, which my waiter warned was different than the conventional mochi ball, which is normally ice cream rolled in gelatin. The mochi-mochi was annin tofu with coconut mango soup, fruit boba, frozen mango, and lemon-yogurt powder. He poured the creamy custard onto my mochi-mochi and I was ready to dig in.

And this is where we divided and conquered. I ate half of my brother’s dessert and half of my own dessert. My brother ate half of his dessert and half of my dessert. Considering that my dessert was bigger and his was smaller, I was very glad that I did this. Both desserts were very sweet and my stomach was bulging by the time that I finished.

After the best dinner of all time, it was time to head back to the room. We left Morimoto’s after our wallet screamed bloody murder and walked back to the dock for our ferry boat back to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside.

After around 20 minutes of traveling down Lake Buena Vista into the mouth of the Sassagoula River, we were back at the resort. We got out and crossed onto Ol’ Man Island. We passed the pool, the fishing hole and left the island by crossing over another foot bridge. We turned right and walked to Buildings 39, 38, and 37 of Alligator Bayout. We went to Building 37 and went upstairs.

I then entered room 3760 at around 7:30.

The housekeeping was especially nice as they left a toilet paper bow on a roll of toilet paper. Having removed the bow, I saw that this was done with a hot seal that they used to use for sealing envelopes.

I then did some video footage, providing a brief tour of the room. I reflected on the trip, as this was really a time to say goodbye.

After videoing my parents, I decided that it was time for one more swim at the pool before I went to bed. I went down to the Ol’ Man Island Main Pool and swam with my brother. I of course had to take that mandatory shower that the lifeguard wants you to take, so I “showered” and got into the pool. I scouted out the hot tub, since I wanted one dip before leaving the resort. The spa hogs were sitting there, like they owned the hot tub. Really. Shouldn’t they put time limits on the hot tub? Because this really wasn’t fair. A few finally got out and it bolted for the hot tub. The hot water felt so refreshing. I stayed in the water for only a minute. After that, I swam a little more with my brother and was done after that. We went back to the room taking the same way back (you know the way by now).

I took a quick shower, brushed my teeth and went to bed. I glanced at the glint of light on the floor one last time before falling asleep. This was it. Tomorrow morning, I would be leaving this place. There was no turning back now. No turning back…

 

Saturday – Departure from Disney World     (Michigan) 52° 100% Chance of Rain

I woke up and got ready. This was the sad part of the trip. The part where I had to say goodbye. After getting all ready, I pack the last of my items up. About three hours later, we all left our rooms. The warm humid air greeted me as I left it.

I walked around to the right, rounding the corner and turning left to go down the stairwell. I passed another hallway and took a short set of steps down. This was it. Goodbye Building 37 of Alligator Bayou. You did a wonderful job in resting my weary body the five days that I went to the parks.

We all took pictures of each other before leaving. Mom in her sequined Minnie ears. Dad in his new Mickey Mouse long-sleeved shirt. My brother and me in our new 2019 Walt Disney World shirts and our Goofy hats.

We took one last sad stroll toward the lobby. The walkway leading to Ol’ Man Island. The footbridge connecting to the island. The Fishin’ Hole. The Muddy Rivers Pool Bar. The Main Pool. The footbridge connecting to the main lobby and marina. We passed the Riverside Mill Food Court where we had dinner the first night. We also passed the Boatwright’s Dining Hall where we had dinner the third night. We finally entered the lobby and sat our luggage by the rotunda. Having been to Walt Disney World the entire week, we were lucky. While it definitely did rain a couple times (twice on Monday, intermittently on Friday afternoon), we never had to use the rain ponchos once.

While waiting for my mom to check out, I had another eye rolling moment like I did in Epcot. A mother had her daughter in a stroller and she looked too old to be in one!

When mom got back, a cast member was kind enough to get one more picture of us before we boarded the Disney Magical Express back to Orlando International Airport (MCO).

After the picture, we left the resort, saying our goodbyes to it. A yellow MEARS motor coach was waiting outside, with the driver loading all of the luggage into the cargo compartment below. We set out our luggage and carry-ons and I got on the bus with my family, carrying my laptop case.

On the inside, it looked like a Disney Magical Express bus. Like the last bus, it featured dark night blue seats with yellow stars. Electronic displays hung throughout the bus, with it paused on one of its “Have a Laugh!” cartoons. Mickey Mouse had his fingers rested on the strings of a guitar.

When the bus was ready to leave. Our bus driver introduced himself. He was Gaston Glasgow, and was rather entertaining.

The motor coach drove down Riverside road and turned right onto Bonnet Creek Parkway. It stayed on this road until it got to the next intersection. It turned left onto Vista Boulevard and it crossed a bridge over Bonnet Creek. We continued down Vista Boulevard, and…wait! Why are we going to Disney’s Fort Wilderness?

The bus turned right onto Fort Wilderness Trail and pulled up at a set of building near a parking lot. Apparently, our driver was supposed to pick up someone here. Gaston got off the bus and talked to another bus driver. After his exchange with them, I found out that the other bus driver would be handling the other pickup.

Gaston then told us that our next destination would be Orlando International Airport and that it would take about 45 minutes.

The motor coach drove down Fort Wilderness Trail and turned left onto Vista Boulevard. It then turned right onto Bonnet Creek Parkway.

From there, it forked right and turned onto Overpass Road crossing over Bonnet Creek. After that, it forked right again and looped onto Epcot Center Drive. It crossed over Bonnet Creek one more time before driving past Typhoon Lagoon, which was on the left. After passing that waterpark, it was official. We were no longer in Walt Disney World.

The Disney Magical Express drove over I-4 and passed all the mega resorts that were off the Walt Disney World Property. The Holiday Inn Orlando Suites, the Buena Vista Suites, and the Caribe Royale Orlando, to name a few. Now on World Center Drive, it passed the intersection of International Drive before merging onto the Central Florida GreeneWay. Now on FL 417, it followed this path until it got off on exit 17A, towards Orlando International Airport. This turned into Access Road, and finally, Jeff Fuqua road. The motor coach stopped and Gaston told us to remember our luggage or he warned us that we may find those items on ebay. Gaston got off and unloaded everyone’s luggage. After getting the last luggage off, everyone lined up single file and got off the bus. I got off with my family and we all found our luggage.

After getting our luggage, I saw the last sign for Disney’s Magical Express. “See You Real Soon!” the sign read. Yes Mickey. After spending a fortune on this trip, I’m going to see you soon? If a few years or 10 years is soon, then I’ll see you “soon”.

We took our luggage to the Check In area for Delta Airlines.

After checking in our luggage, we went through security. We all took our shoes off and I unzipped my laptop case. And sat my carry-on and laptop case on the conveyor. After going through a metal detector and getting frisked, I was good to go. Plus, my carry-on passed TSA inspection this time. Take THAT, TSA!

After we all passed the TSA security checkpoint, we all boarded the Automatic People Mover to take us back to the gates for all the departing flights. Our flight, Flight 1424 departed at 2:10 so we still had more than an hour and a half to spare.

After arriving at the main terminal, we decided to get something to eat. We ate at Nathan’s famous hot dogs and I got a chili and cheese dog with bacon ranch fries. The only problem was that it took FOREVER to get our food! Maybe I should’ve asked the woman from Popeye’s in Detroit to run Nathan’s. She would’ve gotten all the orders out in mere seconds!

After eating our food, we went over to Bahama Breeze Island Grille for dessert, and so my parents could have one more drink. Both my brother and I ordered a Chocolate Island. This was a rich chocolate mousse on a fudge brownie island in chocolate sauce and vanilla bean anglaise. Now this dessert was an island, alright! The island was so hard that I needed a jackhammer just to break the mousse apart! After it melted a little bit, I was able to eat the whole island.

After paying for our desserts in cash, we went to our gate and began boarding. We waited at Gate 71 to board our plane back home.

About three minutes before 2:00, we began to board our plane. We entered the jet bridge and followed it all the way to our plane. We entered the plane and walked down the aisle. My brother got in 41F. I sat down in 41E. My mom sat in 41D, by the aisle. Our seats were behind the wings, so we could get better pictures. My dad sat a couple rows ahead of us.

At 2:10, we were off. Our pilot made the announcement and began the safety video as the plane taxied down the runway. After that, it was official. Delta Airlines Flight 1424 non-stop flight from Orlando to Detroit was clear for takeoff. There was a strong tailwind, so we were told that we would arrive at Detroit in just under 2 hours. The plane pulled onto the main runway and sped forward, ascending into the skyway. It began its climb into the warm Florida sky…

While the plane was flying, I decided not to watch any movies this time. Instead, I tracked the flight the whole time. There was a lot of turbulence and our 757’s speed topped out at 595 miles per hour. During the flight, I secretly ate my Chewy granola bar, after finding out that it contained some traces of peanuts. Someone on board had a peanut allergy so I had to eat it quickly! (I have packed some granola bars in my bag, not knowing that we would encounter this scenario.)

About an hour before our plane landed, we were offered some free snacks. I took some salted almonds and a free glass of water. My mom gave my brother and I her shortbread cookie which had the Delta logo.

During most of our flight back, I saw nothing but clouds below us. This didn’t allow for a lot of good pictures. With there being so many clouds, our pilot had to make an instrumented landing. We descended through the clouds and made a perfect landing on the runway. It taxied to our gate and then stopped. Overall, the flight ended up taking 2 hours and 9 minutes. Most of the delay had to do with the cloud cover.

We gathered our carry-on bags and got off the plane. We walked down the jet bridge and exited out of Gate A64.

We walked over a few people movers towards the luggage claim for Delta. Outside, it was raining and the sky was gloomy. It was around 50 degrees. The vacation was over, but the memories remained.

We arrive at the baggage claim and end up finding all of our luggage quickly.

I put my black coat on from my carry on and we look for the transportation terminal. We ended up at the drop-off area at first, and had to go one level up and over the walkway to find the bus transportation on the other side. We took the elevator for my mom’s sake, since she had trouble going up (I’ll spare you the story).

We find the U.S. Park bus waiting for us. We get on it and we start talking to a mother and her daughter. The daughter, despite being around 4 or 5, feared nothing. She went on all the rides that her height permitted herself to go on. One of them was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Her face glowed as she proudly shared her boldness in riding these rides. She even described the dark dragon that was Maleficent in the Festival of Fantasy parade. Having that conversation on the way back to the car park was a wonderful way of wrapping up the trip to Walt Disney World. It brought back fun memories as we were all able to share them on the bus together.

The bus then pulled into the U.S. Park car park. One of the passengers was having trouble finding their car. My dad, however, had no trouble finding his car, as he pressed the button on his fob until we could see the 4Runner lighting up in the distance.

The bus stopped by our car and dad paid the amount for parking the 4Runner for the six days that we were gone at Walt Disney World. We got all our luggage and got out, into the pouring rain.

Dad loaded all the luggage while we inside. After that, we were off. The trip home was pretty much uneventful, as the trip was pretty much over.

We stopped at a Burger King in Auburn and ordered some food. I got a spicy chicken sandwich and an order of small fries. The only problem was that they FORGOT my small fries! My dad offered me a couple of his onion rings and I ate them with my chicken sandwich.

After that, we were home. There was nothing else left to do besides unpack all of our luggage and rest like we’ve never rested before.

 

So in conclusion, I have this to say about my whole Walt Disney World experience. Walt Disney World is a one of a kind theme park. There is no other place on earth that is quite like it. Disney has many imitators, but no one park has come even close to matching the formula that Disney has been using for more than 60 years. From the humble beginnings of Disneyland, to Walt Disney World, and its ten other parks, the mouse has created a massive empire that is ever expanding every year.

And therein lies my concern. When Roy Disney opened Walt Disney World in 1971, admission only cost $3.50 per person. If you factor in 48 years of inflation, that would work out to $21 today. Imagine getting into the Magic Kingdom for only $21! With the current price model today, the middle class is being shoved aside by Disney. If Walt Disney were alive today, he would not approve of these practices. Walt Disney designed Disneyland for the middle class. Although he was not able to see Walt Disney World to his completion, I am pretty certain that he had the same vision for that park. When you have a booming freeway around a large resort complex with four theme parks, two water parks, over 20 resorts, and a shopping complex, then you really can’t charge the same rate that Walt Disney would’ve intended to charge. Property values are sky high in central Florida, so charging a reasonable rate would only be in Disney’s interests if demand were to decline for their park. Believe it or not, staying at the Polynesian Village Resort in 1971 would’ve only costed you $171 in today’s dollars. Now, the elite can fork over $3,000 PER NIGHT for a villa! I am sure if Walt could see what is going on, he would give that Robert Iger an earful! Make that two ears full!

For this very reason, I wanted to recount my memories of Walt Disney World and share them with all of you. To reflect Walt Disney’s vision, everyone should be able to share this kind of magic. Not just the celebrities. Not just the politicians and the top paid athletes. Not just the highest paid cross-section of America and the rest of the world. But every person who has a dream to hold onto. I wish that Walt Disney World was affordable for everyone. Maybe that would come in the future if Disney ever sees their profits coming close to breaking even. Maybe then they would consider Walt Disney’s original vision for his theme park.

So with that said, I hope that you had a wonderful trip. Did you use your imagination like I told you to at the beginning? If so, this is where we get off. Watch your step and remember all of the fun times that we shared.

Walt Disney World is indeed the Most Magical Place on earth. But this title can only be maintained if the keepers of it have plans to share this magic with as many people as possible. I am saying free Disney World (Imagine the taxes on that!). But just a shift back to the original vision. Maybe then…

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

Share the magic, everyone. Only then will this song ever come true.

And to everyone who has managed to read this far, thank you for coming with me on this truly magical journey! I will surely treasure these memories, and I hope that you do so as well.

Today’s high is going to be 42 degrees and the silver lining is being able to share this wonderful recap with everyone.

To those of you who have ever experienced a memorable vacation, I hope that you all have a fantastic day.

Muse: Thanks for writing that! Sadly, Walt Disney World is a place that not everyone can go to. Even if they’re not able to have the experiences first hand, at least they’ll get the idea! After hearing all this, that reminds me! Time to try on my Tinkerbell outfit! It’s right to scale and it has wings, pixie dust, a wand, and everything! Be right back! Tee hee!

*Muse teleports back as Tinkerbell, flies into the corner of the screen, and waves her wand, splashing the screen with shimmering light before the screen fades to black*

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s