I went through a period of many years, well, a good portion of my adult life, hating on Disney for no particular reason other than it was Disney. I perceived the company as a giant marketing machine that consumed people and their money. Maybe that's actually true, but I can't pretend that Disney's product is not a significant portion of my cultural experience, and a great deal of it is of high quality.
My prior experience with Disney included a trip as a small child, once in high school and once with Cath a couple of years ago. Stephanie and I also did a whirlwind through three of the parks (those with coasters) earlier in the decade on a one-day trip free on behalf of a friend of her grandparents, who was a carpenter at Disneyland in the 70's. I also went in February of this year for a certain project that isn't done. So going with Diana was going to be entirely new for her, and I was hoping to do many of the things I had not before. And there sure was a lot I had never seen.
It's strange, because you enter a manufactured alternate reality literally from the time you check your bags at your airport. It's a lot of fun to indulge in that fantasy. I've found that there are several different kinds of experiences you can have there as an adult without children. Some are more intimate (Spaceship Earth, dinner at the better restaurants, "driving" the monorail, etc.), while others you share with thousands of people at a time (Lights, Motors, Action!, Illuminations and such). It's quite a variety.
It also leaves you exhausted. Mind you, we weren't trying to do everything we possibly could, but we did pretty much everything we wanted in the eightish days without rushing around or having some kind of grand plan. You still end up going for about 14 hours at a time or more. As much as we thought about going back to the hotel for a break, we only did it once (on the last day). It was not busy at all, at least, but Disney standards.
It's also worth mentioning that me and Diana felt like we were child shopping. I know that sounds weird, but we're in our 30's and a little late in getting the whole family thing started. Every little redheaded girl we pretty much imagined could be our own. Of course, we saw our share of poor parenting too, which is scary. But today, on our last day on a bus, we ran into a woman in her 40's and it was clear she got a late start with her five-ish girl, and said that it was absolutely the right thing to do.
We had a number of goofy "us" things that developed too. For example, riding Spaceship Earth became a bit of a sport. With no wait, why not? Our goal was to get the various combinations of video options at the end of the ride to see all of the ways they could animate our head shots (you'll likely see them on YouTube eventually). We even did it once in French, which just wasn't the same since it isn't Judy Dench narrating.
I mistakenly told Diana about the hidden Mickey's, which is the wrong thing to do for someone who gets a little OCD. But she found at least two in Spaceship Earth, once of which was non-obvious from most angles.
Soarin' was the big surprise of the trip. I figured it just another stupid simulator film, but we loved it (three times). One of the most relaxing times I've ever had on a ride. I thought it was exceptionally brilliant.
The food was pretty amazing most of the time. Make no mistake, the dining plan is an enormously good deal. Our biggest bill was $91 for one meal. Consider again that the hotel plus meal plan for two was $140/night (with annual pass discount), so I felt we really got the most out of it we could. Unfortunately, the service at Marrakesh is still terrible, but damn is the food good.
Our Segway tour was also a serious highlight. I want one. Or two.
I'm sure there are many things that I'm not thinking of right now, but we had a great time. We're exhausted, but in a good way. In the eight days, we went to Epcot six, studios three, Magic Kingdom two and Animal Kingdom two. I think it'll be at least two years before we do it again. I definitely got the most out of my annual pass, especially with the discounts on the room, dining plan, tours and merchandise.
Photos are forthcoming...