Monday, August 3, 2009

The Mad World of Disney

Fortunately for anyone brave enough to read through my vacation posts, I don't remember a whole lot about everything that happened at the Magic Kingdom. It was a dizzying array of rides, parades, fireworks and photographs...with temperatures in the 90s and the humidity in the same range. It was HOT, folks.

We moved hotels to Disney's Contemporary Resort, which is much closer to the Magic Kingdom than the Animal Kingdom Lodge is. It's just one stop away on the park's free monorail. In fact, the monorail goes right through the center of the hotel. I think that fact alone made it a childhood dream of Daddy's to stay here. Dream achieved.But let's back up. The morning we were to check out of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the kids were booked to go on a Pirate Cruise around the lagoon. Sounded like a lot of fun, but we were hardly packed. Armed with a map, a GPS and an iPhone, we decided to take the kids to their cruise, then head back to our hotel and pack while they were away...thus defeating the purpose of booking them on a cruise, really.

Thing is, it's really, really hard to navigate Disney World with a map. The exits aren't where you expect them and there are no street names on the signs, just confusing arrows and destinations. We ended up in a backed up line to get into the Magic Kingdom when we were trying to get to the Grand Floridian Resort (not in the Magic Kingdom, but close to it). We did this twice, with the effect of making me near hysterical before we cut across a parking lot and landed on a street leading to the resort. The Floridian is at least as big as the Animal Kingdom Lodge and just finding the marina was a chore. We were often lost and so concerned that they wouldn't make it before launch that I doubt I was using any positive parenting techniques with the kids either.

We finally made it. The boat was just sailing off around the corner, but if Disney does one thing well it's making kids happy. The kids were given their pirate garb and a free ferry out to the first port of call where their pirate brethren were searching for treasure. And we hightailed it back to the hotel and packed as fast as possible, making it back to the Floridian just in time to pick them up. The day was half gone with the pirate cruise, so we stayed at the Floridian for lunch, then decided to beat the heat by heading to Blizzard Beach, a water park with a snow theme. We all had a fantastic time on all the waterslides. The kids could swim well enough not to need rescuing. Daddy and I got a workout heaving tubes and toboggans up long cement staircases. It was an afternoon well spent...even if we didn't use our park tickets that day.

The real fun began when we arrived to check in at the Contemporary. The woman at the desk took forever and then told us our room wasn't ready yet. She couldn't even tell us our room number. The room was an important one. Daddy had booked it specially so we could see the Magic Kingdom and the nightly fireworks from our balcony. But the desk clerk sent us off to our pre-arranged dinner at Chef Mickey's, telling us to come back for our room assignment when we were done.Yes, there were Mickey-shaped raviolis.

I had some reservations about dinner, but it was really fun. I'm not a big fan of people dressed up in big fuzzy costumes, but the kids had such a blast that it didn't really matter. They don't even know who all the classic Disney characters least they didn't, but that didn't matter either. They posed with each one.And Mam fell in love with Minnie Mouse. She was so sad when Minnie abruptly left the room before getting to our table (turns out she'd skipped a room and had to go back), but was thrilled when she finally came back at the end of dessert. Ahh, dessert. Who knew there could be so many mouse-themed items on a tray?We returned to the lobby for another go around with the staff there. They'd given us a second floor room, which was pretty unacceptable considering the reason we'd booked a room there...on the 12th floor. So, they ended up giving us a nice room on the 9th floor for the night. It still had a view of the fireworks and we had a nice time watching them before bed. This room wasn't going to be available the following night, so we were going to have to switch and no more "kingdom view" rooms were available. I was annoyed, but we were promised a very nice room looking the other direction, so I figured I'd suck it up and go to the lounge for fireworks (tough life, huh?).

Despite all the time we spent at the water park, the kids insisted on going in the pool after dinner. See a theme here? Who really needs rides and funny characters when you have pools and water parks? This hotel also had a water slide and Smunch negotiated it without much trouble, but as soon as Mam tried it out, the rushing water at the bottom swept her into the middle of the pool where she panicked and a heroic, alert lifeguard quickly came to her rescue and very politely let me know that they had lifejackets if we'd like to use them. Ugh. The kid can swim. Really. But it's a whole lot more relaxing, it turns out, to be at the pool with the kids in lifejackets. Once Mam got one, Smunch felt the need to have one too, of course.We spent the entire next day at the Magic Kingdom. Did you know they make Mickey Mouse confetti? I didn't either, but apparently they use it a lot at the park and it was impossible to get Mam to go anywhere without picking up at least a dozen shiny pieces of confetti along the way.

The kids finally got their roller coaster in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Smunch decided it was too fast and too bumpy for him. Mam seemed to enjoy it.They both enjoyed Pirates of the Carribean and the Dumbo ride. We had lunch with the princesses at Cinderella's Castle. Smunch didn't care for it all that much, but Mam had a blast. Snow White is her favorite.We met up with Brian and Jill again for the afternoon where we went on more rides, including It's a Small World, the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain.We headed back to the hotel a little early, with the idea that Daddy and I had a reservation at the upscale restaurant atop the Contemporary and that the kids had a spot booked at the Neverland Club (daycare) for a few hours. We checked into our new room, which turned out to be the Vice Presidential Suite on the 14th floor. It was far more space than we ever could have needed and the view was all wrong...but it sure was nice. By the last day, we realized we could all take a shower at the same time, in different showers and have one left over. The kids each got a queen bed (in the same room) and each one had a bathroom, one bathroom even included a TV.There was a huge living area and another bedroom on the other side of that with a king-size bed in it. Sweet. It was so very comfortable and quiet. Obviously, we need to get rich so we can afford these things rather than getting them just because someone else screwed up.

Daddy took the kids over to the club while I got ready for dinner. He didn't mention that they had no record of our reservation at the Neverland club until much later...when we realized that both those reservations were for the next night. So, we didn't have dinner reservations either. But figuring that we had the kids appropriately stashed already, we decided to give the restaurant a shot without reservations. It worked out perfectly. We were seated before we'd even gotten the cocktails we'd ordered to pass the time. It was a really nice, if seriously overpriced, dinner. The view from our table, mostly of the Floridian across the lake, was lovely.And the kids had a great time at the Neverland Club with the four other kids who showed up that evening. And it meant that we had nothing pressing on our time the next day. We went past the park on the way back to the hotel and stopped to watch the SpectraMagic parade, which was a lot of fun.Feeling that we hadn't quite done it all, we returned to the Magic Kingdom the next day for a few more rides. We started with waiting to meet Ariel at the Little Mermaid's grotto.I knew Mam would love that. We ran into Alice on the appropriate...and the kids got to visit with her for a little while.We also spotted Wendy and Peter Pan when going back to the Pirate gift shop for a souvenir for Smunch.Mam was all about getting autographs on day 2. We left the park in the early afternoon, with plans to visit the other water park, Typhoon Lagoon.It wasn't as fun as the first park and both kids insisted on having life vests...which frustrates the heck out of me after paying for all those darned swimming lessons. We still had a good time once the life vests were on and we stayed for a few hours, then started to leave just as they announced they'd be shutting the park due to impending lightning. Our bus was stuck trying to get out of the parking lot for what felt like forever...especially since we were all wet and the air conditioning was on!

We finally made it back to the hotel, took showers and warmed up before going to dinner, followed by some fun in the arcade for Daddy and Gavinand fireworks from the balcony in the lounge, where the soundtrack was piped in over speakers. Faaancy.Unlike the Animal Kingdom, I was ready to leave the Magic Kingdom. We'd planned to drive down towards Sarasota the next day, but since we failed to use our park passes for one day, we opted for one more day of rides and adventure...Epcot.

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