Thursday, October 16, 2014

Disney Halloween Trip Report: Days 1 & 2

Hello, dear readers! This report was originally written with other Disney World junkies (also known as pixie dust snorters) in mind. I have tried to accommodate people who are less familiar by using links and trying to define terms a little more fully. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. I hope you enjoy this trip report as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Meet the Cast

This is my husband, Coda, and me, Tracy! We're 29 and 26, respectively.

We look super fancy here because the photo was taken on our anniversary Disney Cruise earlier this year. The photos in this trip report will not be this fancy. In fact, we look pretty rough in most of our pictures this time because we went from open to close most days - something we've never done before this trip.

Anyway, Coda just finished a year-long process of upgrading to his Third Mate's license (he's a US Merchant Marine) and I've seen him for a grand total of about five months out of the last year. A trip together was much-needed! But since this trip was booked so last-minute, we were unable to get a room through the Disney Vacation Club (a Disney timeshare) and ended up booking five nights at Pop Century (a "value" resort) instead.

With annual passes and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets purchased and two reservations made (Beaches and Cream and Cinderella's Royal Table) we were ready to hit the road to Walt Disney World!

Day One

Usually I skip the travel days in my trip reports. However, this one was kind of unique as far as travel goes... mostly because it started at one in the morning. Unfortunately, day one is also very, very light on pictures, so I hope you'll bear with me! I promise the pictures pick up as the days go on! :)

So, like I was saying, we were up and moving at one in the morning. Coda, who obviously hates Disney World, convinced me to drive through the night so we could have an extra day of vacation time! We were in the car and on the road by 1:30 and I promptly passed out. I was awoken at 4am when we stopped to get gas and I was informed that it was my turn to drive. I hopped in the driver's seat and manned the wheel for a few hours until it was Coda's turn again. He took us through the final stretch and finally I saw one of my favorite sights in the world.

The sky was a little scary looking, but we were undeterred! By 12pm, we were pulling into Epcot.

Our first stop was to pick up our Annual Passes, which had already been linked to our magic bands (basically a ticket/room key/credit card on your wrist). Speaking of magic bands, mine was decorated ahead of time. I used purple nail polish followed by temporary tattoos and, finally, a clear coat.

Unfortunately, this was not a good plan. I had read tons of posts from others who had done the same, but my bands ended up getting cracked and peely. I remedied my magic band situation later in the trip (pics come later)!

Once inside the park, we headed straight for Nemo with our FP+ (FastPass Plus - pretty much a reservation for a ride)! Coda loved using his magic band for his fast pass, by the way. We were both pleasantly surprised to see that all of the effects on the Finding Nemo ride were working perfectly! Even some I'd rarely seen in action were up and running - the creepy angler fish, for example.

After Nemo, we were starving! Well, we were starving before, but Nemo... Lunch had been decided on hours earlier. Les Halles, for sure! The line was very short and it took only a minute to get our orders. I had the quiche, as always, and Coda got a ham and cheese sandwich on a croissant with lobster bisque. There weren't any sit down tables available, but we were able to grab one of the standing only tables and that worked just fine for us. The food was, of course, amazing!

Next we decided to stop off at The American Adventure. Now, this was the first time we'd ever seen this show. I know, I know! This was the first time in seven trips over five years that I've stopped into the American pavilion. I'm sorry to say it'll probably be the last time. I know I might catch a lot of heat for this, but I guess that's how it works with opinions. Let me preface this next paragraph by telling you I served in the US Air Force for four years and went on one tour to Afghanistan, so I'm as American as the next person. Alright, now that I have that out of the way, if you've never seen the show, here's a video of the finale:

While the animatronics are awesome, the show was kind of... almost embarrassing. The "history" presented is so glossed over and glorified. It's honestly a little ridiculous. The pilgrim story is quickly mentioned and the only time Native Americans come up is for Chief Joseph to agree with the government. Wars are also made to look much more romantic than they were. I get that it's the American show, but... I'd really like to get a poll of reactions from people who were there visiting from other countries. My husband and I both had to try really hard to keep straight faces and agreed that we probably wouldn't go back.

By this time it was 3pm and time to check into our hotel. We hit Spaceship Earth on the way out and, for the first time ever, Coda smelled the burning libraries of Alexandria! Everything seemed to be working perfectly!

We checked into Pop Century around 3:30. The check-in went smoothly and we were very lucky to receive a room with a king sized bed, which we'd requested upon booking. The room seemed to be fine on first glance, though much smaller than the DVC rooms we usually get to stay in. I didn't get a picture, but I found an identical one via Google.

It's definitely more of, I guess, a "normal" hotel room. The Disney Magic was not as strong with this one. We passed out on top of the covers for a few hours before heading back to Epcot for the evening.

When we arrived, we were totally shocked to see that Soarin' had absolutely no line at all and we were able to walk right on without a wait. We got the back row of the middle "hang glider," which was a pretty awesome view! The video needs a serious cleaning, as always, but it's so refreshing to watch people who have never seen it before and realize how amazing the ride actually is. I cannot wait until they upgrade the video to 4k!

By this time, we were getting hungry again. It was our first time at the Food and Wine festival so we definitely wanted to take advantage of all the food! We stopped in Greece first for the griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey. The cheese and honey were so good! I probably would have been happy without the pistachios, but it was good either way. Next, Coda ran off to Canada where he got wild mushroom filet mignon with truffle butter sauce. It was awesome! But it was also tiny. So he went to find more food... in Hawaii. He got the tuna poke with seaweed salad, which he loved. I took his word for it because... gross. Last, but certainly not least, I stopped in Mexico for a rib eye taco, which was delicious! Somehow, Coda was still hungry. We made a detour through China so he could stop at the Lotus Blossom Cafe for some orange chicken.

Finally, it was time for our Test Track FP+! The ride was super awesome, of course! I love the new queue, even if the ride is super similar to the original Test Track. The queue is so much quieter and more fluid (if that makes sense). Afterwards we played some of the games in the aftershow and took pictures with our car. I'm not sure what the deal is with their lighting situation.

With Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (fireworks) set to start in about 45 minutes, we headed back through the World Showcase to pick up some drinks. We'd seen the chai tea with baileys on the Food and Wine menu and that was where we went! Of course, I was the only one carded. Such is life...

Here's an awesome video of Illuminations for anyone who hasn't seen it!

Illuminations was just as epic as it always is and, after the fireworks, it was time to get back to the room. I was totally exhausted!

This was where my hotel room issues started. When I pulled back the covers (and I have a pretty serious issue with sheets being spotless), there were black and orange marks on the sheets. When I pulled them back further I found hair. I promptly grabbed a sweatshirt out of my suitcase and switched which side of the bed I was on since my husband isn't fazed by things like this.

We got to sleep around midnight, with thoughts of Kilimanjaro Safaris in our heads...

Day Two 

Day two started bright and early at 7:30am. We are not morning people, but we can make an exception for Disney World! Unfortunately, we didn't have a coffee maker in our room and I knew it would be a tough, caffeine free morning. We headed out towards Animal Kingdom in our car. After driving everywhere on our honeymoon trip, we'll never go back to the buses (at least on trips together)! We got there and headed straight back to use ouf FP+ at Kilimanjaro Safaris. We weren't quite sure what to expect since it was raining, but fingers were crossed and it paid off!

It was one of the best safaris we've ever been on! The animals were super active, which made for an amazing experience.

After the safari I HAD to get my hands (lips?) on some coffee! We went over to Kusafiri Bakery and I bought a cup. Oddly, they weren't able to pour hot coffee over ice... The only "iced" coffee they had was premade, so I settled on hot. I wasn't expecting it to be scalding though. It was McDonalds lawsuit hot! I took my time walking around, hoping it would cool. As you can see, the crowds were pretty rough...

I love the rain!

We walked over to Expedition Everest to check out the wait time and were suprised to see a 10 minute wait! I planned to take my time looking around the queue, hoping my coffee would cool enough to drink. Coda took a really fun picture of one of our favorite hidden Mickeys!

We got to the front of the queue and the coffee was still so hot it burned my tongue (keep in mind, this was coffee I purchased in Africa, then carried to Asia, and moseyed around in the Everest queue with), so I ended up throwing it away since I couldn't leave it anywhere. Oh well... We got really lucky and missed the rain!

That's us in the middle! We still had a FP+ to use, but we'd come back later. In the meantime, we decided to check the lines on Dinosaur next. It was at 10 minutes as well. It wasn't quite that long. The queue was super hectic...

The ride was lots of fun and all of the effects were actually working (as far as we could tell)! There was even a new smoke effect at the beginning and end. If it isn't new, it's never worked while I was there before now.

The middle again!

Next we backtracked to The Tree of Life for It's Tough To Be a Bug, a 3D show starring the bugs from A Bug's Life. For some reason, this is one of Coda's favorite shows.

There were new 3D glasses that really made the effects way better than the last time I saw the show! I could really tell a difference. Flik was also in good condition - even his derpy eye was working! It seems that Disney maintenance really stepped up since last November!

On our way back to Asia (yes, we were all over the place) we stopped to talk to a Photopass photographer about the new construction at Animal Kingdom. We learned that there will be a show on the water that is supposed to be a combo of World of Color at Disneyland and Fantasmic! It sounds like it's going to be really awesome and it's set to open sometime next year! In addition, there will be a new show on the tree similar to Celebrate the Magic at Magic Kingdom, also slotted for next year. And of course, Avatar Land will be making its appearance in 2017. He also told us about updates coming to Soarin including upgraded video and new theaters! I'm really looking forward to all these additions and improvements!

At the Maharajah Jungle Trek, our rainy luck held out. The tigers were really active, looking for somewhere to hide from the rain and take a nap.

And then it was back to Everest to use our FP+ even though we really didn't need it. People were avoiding the coaster like the plague, trying to stay dry. But we missed the rain for a second time and it was epic! We got the second row and had a phenomenal view of the park.

Lunch was at Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe. Afterwards, we headed back to Africa to the train station. Because there was no one in front of us on the train, I had a great view of some of the behind the scenes areas!

At the Conservation Station, we were in for a special treat (depending on how you look at it, I guess). While we were talking to one of the CMs by the vet clinic, two techs brought in a turtle that had been hit by a car. He needed a bandage change so we had the opportunity to see an unscheduled procedure.

The turtle was really nervous, though (understandably), and kept peeing on the technician!

I guess it comes with the job. Finally, we headed out to the petting zoo. The goats were extra... special. We found a few chewing on fences and posts. I did find out that they do this because they don't have top teeth and it feels good on their gums. It still looked pretty special.

At this point we were ready to go back to the Beach Club where we had reservations for Beaches and Cream ice cream. About the time we got to the parking lot, however, the torrential downpour began. Despite our umbrellas, I was soaked from head to toe by the time we reached the car. There was no avoiding going back to the room to change. We were miserably wet, but really glad that the rain had waited until left!

After quickly changing clothes, we were ready to head over to Beaches and Cream for ice cream! We did have the foresight to change into rain boots this time.

I found mine literally two days before the trip... in the kids section at Target. It was the only place I was able to find any! Since I don't own any skinny jeans, it was interesting trying to find ways to keep my pants in.

After checking in, we walked over to the arcade (we were still kind of early). We got a ton of compliments on our rain boots! A lot of, "they know how to plan!" comments. Haha! Finally it was time to go in. Our waitress seemed kind of irritated that we were only having ice cream (is this common?). We made reservations, though, since last time we went we walked up without a reservation and got dirty looks that way too. She did take our orders though. We both got water, I got coffee, and for the ice cream, I got the No Way Jose and Coda got some chocolately brownie thing.

It was awesome! Coda ate all of his and half of mine. I really just get it for the peanut butter... Our drinks though... they hadn't showed up. It took asking twice and probably 20 minutes for our waitress to finally get another waitress to bring our drinks. She didn't get the greatest tip. After we were done, it was time for Downtown Disney. I loved the new magic mirror in World of Disney!

Haha! Coda did it too, but he won't let me post his picture. While we were there, Coda got me a new pearl and a Cinderella's carriage to put it in. We also got some Mickey earrings for our seven year old niece. After a quick stop in the Christmas store, Disney's Days of Christmas, to get a new ornament and order personalization (pictures later!) we were ready to go back "home."

That night we really wanted to walk around the Art of Animation Resort, which was next door to our own! It was so cool! I loved the larger-than-life characters!

One interesting thing was noticing the difference at the Little Mermaid area. It was very obviously the part of Pop Century that was never completed. The remaining three sections were completely different - most noticeably the fact that they were hotel style vs. motel. Anyway, it was really fun! We had dinner while we were there and we really loved their food court. Coda spent the walk back "saving" snails from the sidewalk.

We got back to the hotel and settled in for the night. The next day would bring some fun, new experiences!