We arrived in Orlando Saturday morning, where my mom picked us up. My mom and step-dad, aunt and uncle and grandparents all moved to The Villages, a retirement community north of Orlando. Sounds like a place to go and die, but honestly it's a pretty amazing place to live the last couple decades of your life. Lots to do.
I took my parents and Catherine to Medieval Times. The first time I went, years ago, Stephanie practically had to drag me there, but I had such a good time that I've enjoyed going back every chance I can. The show is the same it has been the last few years, and as usual my knight lost. But my slave topped off my beer many times, so it's all good.
After the show, my uncle dropped us off at the Pop Century Resort at Disney. They managed to hose my reservation and gave us a room with a pair of small double beds instead of the king I asked for. I was not pleased. The front desk was non-helpful, but the reservations guy I talked to figured it out for the next night. They explained that they ran out of rooms, and could not explain why there was any point in having a reservation in the first place.
A few words about Pop Century. First of all, it was packed. Disney considers this the "value season" with the cheapest pricing, but I can't believe how many people were there. I wonder why they haven't continued building out the other half of the century. They built the central hall, and a few of the room buildings, all unpainted. It's also the hotel furthest from Magic Kingdom, by a lot.
Pop Century begins the cattle wrangling in their cafeteria. The breakfast food was OK, but expensive for what it was. That's a recurring theme at Disney.
We started the first day at Animal Kingdom. Stephanie and I went the year after it opened, and honestly it was cool, but not more than a five-hour park. They've since added Expedition Everest and the Finding Nemo musical, and now you can make an eight-hour day of it.
The Nemo musical is amazing. The music was very well done, the sets top notch and the costumes and puppets (which kind of blend into one) were outstanding. The show is about 45 minutes, and the actors are not some second string Broadway rejects. Cath was theorizing that they might be testing the whole concept for Broadway, in which case I'd say they could easily pull it off.
Expedition Everest is a pretty cool ride. Disney does not screw around with capacity either. The ride is well paced and a lot of fun. It's not hour wait fun, but a worthy addition to the park. My only complaint is that you don't get a very long look at the Yeti.
With a 5pm closing, we went back to our room for a little break. Our stuff was moved to the new room, and with some new keys we were in. This one was on the ground floor in front of the pool in the 50's quad.
Let's talk some more about the buses. The reason I wanted to say on-property was the convenience of not having a car and being able to jet around the empire. The truth is, though, that the buses are slow, arrive infrequently and get packed with stinky people with kids who don't know how to behave in public. Hell, half the parents don't know how to act in public. In a nutshell, we had more than our fill of those stupid buses.
So next we dropped in on Disney-MGM Studios. My only real goal was to hit Rockin' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, but the park was really more beautiful than I remembered it. They had their giant holiday lighting display too. We ate at this place where the tables were cars in a drive-in (think Jack Rabbit Slim's). Food was OK. The coaster was down, but we rode Tower and it has a particularly good program on that run. Cath hates drop rides.
Magic Kingdom was open for its extended hours, until 11, so we park hopped again. The bus dropped us off at the transportation center. Remember that, it's an important detail.
The park was ridiculously crowded, and the fireworks ended as we arrived. It was like swimming upstream. Fortunately we got wristbands outside of the park. We did the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain, and that was enough. I loved Splash Mountain, and had never been on it before.
We got back on the monorail to the transportation center, to find that the buses back to the hotels didn't load there. It seemed logical to me that they would be there, but they were actually just down the hill from the main Magic Kingdom entrance. I didn't notice any signage to that effect either. That was annoying. Back on the monorail, and about 90 minutes after we left the park, we got back with other sweaty and smelly people.
That was a long ass day. I ended it by reaching into my suitcase and slicing off the top of my right ring finger on a new razor. Think paper cut times a thousand. It bled like a dripping faucet. As if I wasn't exhausted enough.
All in all, the first day at Disney really surprised me because it was so freakin' busy. It didn't keep us from having a good time or anything, as we used Fastpasses and took it easy. One thing was for certain though, that if things were like this in the supposed off-season, no way would I want to come here in July or August!