I had the phone alarm set for 6:45 am.
Why the heck would we set an alarm for 6:45 am when we’re on vacation?
DUDE…WE’RE IN DISNEY WORLD!!!
(that, and we had 7:45 reservations at Kona Café).
Unfortunately, I was up before 6 – too many things going through my mind. In an effort to keep the peace with Sheri, I didn’t get up so she could sleep a little longer. Around 6:30, I got up and started getting ready; of course, I forgot to turn the alarm off, and Pirates of the Caribbean Music filled the room 15 minutes later. I turned it off, and we went into what can only be described as checking-out-and-going-to-Magic-Kingdom mode. We triple checked everything, said goodbye to the room, looked at the Belle Vue Lounge and contemplated getting coffee for the road (but decided to resist and wait for the ambrosia that we would be enjoying soon), and headed down to the lobby to drop off our keys. Sure enough, in true Disney fashion, there were people touching up paint all around the resort. I walked out to the car, fired it up, and headed to the lobby area to load up and get going.
Until 2012, I had never driven on Walt Disney World property (well, there was our 2001 trip, but we were clueless, so that didn’t count). Since 2012, though, we’ve driven a couple of times, and I have to admit that I’m becoming a fan of driving to the parks. Normally, I recommend to people staying on-site to use Disney Transportation to Magic Kingdom, but we weren’t going directly to the park today. We were stopping for Breakfast at the Polynesian Village Resort, so driving would definitely be quicker. As we took the ramp off of Buena Vista Drive, I pointed out to Sheri (in true Brad Garfinkel fashion) that I ran that on-ramp on the other side of the road (mile 22.5). I don’t know why she rolled her eyes (her and Cindy, Brad's wife) are kindred spirit). We breezed through the Magic Kingdom toll plaza (Wifey took about 40 pics as we approached it…my turn to roll my eyes)...
(if you scroll through those fast, it might appear animated)
... and I noticed the work being done to bring down the Speedway (I ran that, too). Upon entering the Heroes lot (where I also ran), I was disappointed to find that there were 7 cars in the parking lot before us. We’re usually the first or second car in the lot. We hopped out, grabbed what we needed, and made our way onto the road under Seven Seas Drive (I ran that) (oh, and I also cheered nearby to that) to hop on the monorail to the Poly. I noticed for the first time that the flags were at half-staff, and then I remembered that it was September 11th. We paused for a moment to reflect what happened on that day in 2001.
After the slight pause, we started to make our way over to the Resort Monorail ramp and helped a woman who was trying to figure out how to get to Epcot (“ma’am, you’ll want to head down the ramp and take a left…when you see the Epcot sign, just take the ramp up, and you’ll be good”…I think I even used a double-finger point). Monorail Lime was waiting at the station, and they waited for us to ascend the ramp. We got on and both immediately chanted (all together now): “Please stand clear of the doors. Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas.”. A short ride later, and we were hopping off at the Poly. This was the first time either of us have had the chance to see the new lobby:
Hmmm….staying here is still on my bucket list, but the atrium theming looks a lot smaller (and makes the atrium feel a lot bigger). Oh, okay, it’s not too bad; just a little smaller than before.
We checked into the Kona Café station and only had to wait about 3 minutes before our buzzer buzzed. We looked to see if one of our former Moose friends (Patricia, or “Pixie” as she was known on the Lodge) was working, but we didn’t see her. We did notice again, though, that there were still quite a few familiar faces working here – the turnover is remarkably low at Kona. Our server was a repeat for us, and, while I don’t think she would have remembered us at all (it had been 2.5 years since we last ate there together…though I ate there during Marathon Weekend 2014)(twice), she continued to be awesome! We knew what we wanted before we were even seated: pressed pot of 100% Kona bean coffee, Tonga Toast for me (TONGA TONGA TONGA), and Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes for Sheri.
The table next to us also ordered a pressed pot, and two of them ordered the same thing as us. She initially set down their pressed pot at our table, but only so we could put in our drink order. Tease. Later on, she had Tonga Toast and Macadamia Pineapple pancakes in her hand and walked right towards us (making eye contact and everything)…only to turn at the last second and head to the table next to us, giving us an "awwwwwwww" as she passed us.
I nearly cried.
I told her that I expected her to give them our check, too.
Wait…I’m getting a little ahead of myself…first, the pressed pot. That first sip of coffee…oh, man. Hands-down, we both think that it’s the best coffee out there. We contemplated ordering a second pot but decided against it due to Sheri already being a little nervous about the ship as well as her being a little jittery thanks to the Kona caffeine.
As we devoured our food, we noticed that ‘Ohana looked extremely quiet (it’s a character meal at breakfast with Mickey, Pluto, Lilo, and Stitch). Yep, September is the quietest time we’ve seen so far.
With my Tonga Toast gone, I gave Sheri my best Bambi eyes, which freaked her out. It served the same purpose, because I was able to get some of her pancakes. As we ate, a couple was seated by us, and we immediately struck up a conversation with each other. It started out as a comment on the woman’s awesome Haunted Mansion shirt; however, it eventually turned to the Disney Nerds podcast, which the gentleman sitting by us was an active listener and member of their forums. He was very knowledgeable, and we had a really nice conversation about some Disney history. We exchanged e-mail addresses as we finished up and were about ready to leave.
We usually try to be heading out of Kona around 8:20-8:30 so we could make it in time to catch the Welcome Show. We got out to the monorail station around 8:35, and we just missed a monorail as we walked up. The next one took longer than the monorails typically take (no worries…I was just antsy), so we didn’t make it to the bag check at Magic Kingdom until 7:49. As we approached the “turnstiles” (the MagicBand readers), we noticed that people were already walking into the park and that the train was pulling into the Main Street Station empty. We wondered if either they didn’t do the show as a nod to 9/11 or they moved the opening up (Steve Soares’ site currently lists the opening show at 8:40 now).
We had a VERY tight schedule in MK today, as we were planning on being in the parks for just over an hour before heading to Port Canaveral. We still keep in touch with a former neighbor of ours, and her mother typically works either in the Emporium or the Baby Center on Fridays, so we were going to try meeting up with her. During a Facebook message with her to coordinate, she said she might come in a little early to greet guests on Main Street. As we walked up Main Street USA, we looked for her but didn’t see her, unfortunately.
Sheri always wants to get a PhotoPass picture in front of the Cinderella Castle, but I had a mission to get to our first attraction. I promised her that we’d get a pic on the way out, and she made it clear that bodily harm would come to me if we didn’t get that pic. As we hit the hub, we stopped for a quick second to look at the new expansion. They did a really good job with it!
Then Sheri saw a crane.
“WHY IS THERE A CRANE IN MY PARK??!!”
“They’re putting in the turret extension on each side of the castle.”
“They aren’t supposed to do that while I’m here!”
We both paused and, at the same time, mentioned that it was going to ruin her vacation (inside joke).
The first stop was going to be Space Mountain. On the bridge to Tomorrowland, I noticed that the Rose Garden was no longer there, nor was there the topiaries by the Photo spot. Creative Destruction, right? (rim shot).
We entered Space Mountain’s queue, and, being a stats geek, I started timing the actual wait for the Touringplans.com stats geeks. The result was 7-8 minutes from entrance to getting in the rocket, with most of it being the walking to the Omega boarding platform. I let Sheri know that I’d give her a countdown for when she’d scream. She seriously screams twice on the attraction at the exact same places.
I made a stupid face for the on-ride photo….ride ride ride ride….THREE…TWO (from behind me: “Nope…not gonna…”) ONE…(“happen…I don’t screAAAAAAYYYYEEIIIUUUGGGHHHH”).
I didn’t count down the second one so she wouldn’t expect it. She screamed even louder and bopped me on the head.
One ride down, and, as we exited, we were again reminded that there was NOBODY in the park. Next up was a FP+ at Peter Pan. I entered a few posted wait times for TouringPlans as we walked over to Fantasyland, and we were done with Pan in no time at all. Up next was a walk on to it’s a small world. I thought we’d get a boat to ourselves, but they threw us in with 2 couples and left the second boat empty (bummer…vacation is ruined).
Three rides down. We’re WAAAAAY ahead of schedule, so we decide to add an attraction: the Tangled Restroom. Even after that, we had 15 minutes before our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FP window, so we headed to Haunted Mansion, which was AFAYCW (see previous day’s post for translation). We saw a young family talking with their 4-5 year old son who was a little hesitant to enter the Mansion. They asked us about how scary it was, and we told them that, after the “first part” (translation for Disney geeks: get past the stretch room), it’s funny-scary rather than scary-scary.
One of the things I’ve found myself doing at this attraction when entering the stretch room is that I immediately walked to the panel that becomes the door that opens up after the stretch sequence ends.
This put us ahead of everyone else heading to the doom buggy loading area. It’s the economist in me…I’m efficient.
Mansion…done…Phineas swapped our heads at the end (I will always love the hitchhiking ghosts). We checked with the younger family, and their son gives a big thumbs-up…he loved it.
Let’s take inventory here…in 1 hour, we’ve done Space Mountain, Peter Pan, Small World, and Haunted Mansion. In the next 10 minutes, we’ll also have Mine Train done. For those keeping track, that’s four headliners and a long boat ride with a mind-numbing song in a little over an hour.
Yeah, we like September and FastPass+.
We entered the mine train queue and were done in just a few minutes. It’s a cute ride, albeit short, as many of the reviews have mentioned. Considering the amount of space that they had to put the coaster in, I’d say they did a good job with it. I’d definitely place its thrill factor between the Barnstormer (Goofini) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The next time I/we ride this, I might try the standby queue to get a feel for the interactive areas that they have included for guests.
With that done, we started to make our way towards Main Street. We were going to head through the Castle (Sheri loves the mosaics in there); however, they had it closed up, most likely for the Dream Along with Mickey show on the other side. We headed past the Cinderella Fountain and resisted the urge to stop at Sleepy Hollow for one of their famous waffle sammiches. Past the Tiana meeting area and across the bridge, we made it to the Baby Care Center in no time flat.
We were the only ones in there, which meant that it should be easy to find Judy. We spent a couple minutes with one of our favorite cast members to catch up with how she was doing, what her son, Gene, who is an entertainment producer at Walt Disney World (in short, he has one of the cool jobs that we all want someday in the parks), was up to. She mentioned that she was out on Main Street at opening, so we must have just missed her (sorry, Judy!). We couldn’t stay too long, though, because we had a ship to jump on that was over an hour away. We grabbed a picture…
…and said our goodbyes until next time.
We made our way to Main Street (of course, after stopping for a PhotoPass pic in front of the castle) and soaked in the atmosphere as we slowly headed out. The Halloween decorations were all throughout this area, as it usually is.
As we made our way to Town Square, we saw the Main Street Performers doing one of their shows on the Town Square side of the station. We got to watching that as we walked towards the tunnel under the station and forgot to do one of our big traditions: we forgot to look back to tell the castle “Goodbye”. Oh well…we have annual passes, so I think we’ll be back soon.
(Part 2 can be viewed HERE)