Saturday, June 4, 2016

Universally Awesome! April 2016 Trip Report, Day 2: Wizards and Simpsons and Bilge Rats (Oh My!), Part 1

Our arrival day is found HERE.

I set my alarm on my iPhone for 6:15, and, as a joke, I kept my Pirates of the Caribbean tone on there for everyone.  I was half-expecting minions to knock on the door and reprogram my phone as it went off.

It never went off.


Because Sheri and I were both wide awake around @#@#%^*^&#$@ 5:45!!!  It never fails…every time on vacation, we’re up at the butt-crack of dawn before we need to be.

The boys, however, haven’t moved from their positions in that pic from the last post.

See...told you they haven't moved.

While Wifey got ready, I took the opportunity to grab a few pics of our view from the room:

I got ready, while Sheri attempted to rouse the boys from the dead.  Eric, usually the easier of the two to wake up, flew into the bathroom and got ready.  Aaron eventually stumbled out and started getting ready.  Our goal was to leave the room by 7:00 for the boat to City Walk.  At 6:55, all of us had our Bart Shirts on:

We did our pre-park checklist:

Me: “lanyards?”
All: “Check!”
Me: “Tickets?”
Aaron: “Check!”
Me: “Really?  We don’t have them yet.”
Aaron: “Grrrrr...THEN WHY DID YOU ASK??!!!”
Me: (Evil Grin)
Me: “Express Passes?”
All: (now onto me...searched)…….. “Check!”
Me: “Okay…shoes on….teeth brushed…deodorant used, right?”
All: “Yep”
Eric: “Oh, wait…I couldn’t find my toothbrush.”

Seriously?  He didn’t tell us until we’re walking out the door?  He swore he remembered packing it.   Oh well…looks like later on today, I’ll be stopping by the front desk with the hopes that they’ll have one for him.

We hopped outside and got to see the area in daylight for the first time.

It goes without saying that I was falling in love with this place!

We walked around the bay (yes, I contemplated dunking Eric in there) towards the boat launch.  First, though, was a security check, which they took seriously.  I think they opened up every compartment of the camera bag to look in there, and I think they found $20 that we lost 2 years ago.  With that done, we grabbed a couple of pictures, mouths still agape.  There was one other family waiting for the boat, and they were trying to figure out which park was going to be open early that day.  The travel agent in my kicked in, and I answered their question.  They asked another question, and we ended up talking with them for a minute about the parks.

Within a couple of minutes, we saw this:

Okay, the monorail at Disney World is awesome, but I can get used to this type of transportation very easily!

It was a nice, leisurely 5-minute ride over to City Walk.

As we arrived, we noticed that there was construction on the dock area.  My guess is that they were building an expansion to accommodate for the Sapphire Falls queue and boat launch.

We were here!!!

The first order of business was to get those elusive tickets printed out!  Before we left the room, I snapped a picture of the reservation numbers for both the PhotoConnect and the park tickets.  The kiosks were far from mobbed; there were 8-10 kiosks and just us.  Now, to get your ticket, it is important that you have the credit card that you used to purchase the tickets with!!!  You will use that credit card as the identification to actually get the tickets.  For research purposes, I tested this out by using two different credit cards and putting the card used to buy the PhotoConnect in to try getting the park tickets.

Oh, all right…it was an accidental test.  I didn’t mean to mix them up.

Regardless, I couldn’t get the tickets because the card entered didn’t match the card used for reservation purposes, and the names on the cards were not exactly the same.  I restarted with the correct card and got the tickets a few seconds later.  I then put in the card for the PhotoConnect, and out spurted the card for that.  Quick and easy!  Oh, and, if you don’t have the credit/debit card that was used to purchase the tickets, it’s not the end of the world – just go to one of the manned ticket windows with your confirmation number and a photo ID, and they can help you out there.

(you can see me getting the tickets in the background)

(by the way, man, the boys look tall in this pic!)

I always joke about making it a priority to be the absolute first one in line for the park (ya gotta stay in front of everyone else to stay on time!).  Since the tickets took an extra 2 minutes, we were the sixth one in our line.  I made a joke about it on Facebook about how our vacation was ruined.  One of my recent clients replied with “You should have talked to our guy. He would have advised you to get there at the exact right time, and would have pre-ordered your tickets.”

I nearly doubled over laughing when I read that.  Apparently, I’m rubbing off on my clients!

It was still a half-hour before the park was supposed to open, so we joked around with each other and took in the surroundings.  While looking around, we saw this nearby:

Immediately, Sheri and I went back down memory lane to a trip about 9 years ago (it's a short read...promise!).  Seriously…the boys heard the harp play and saw us drift away, staring at empty space for a brief moment as we had our flashback……

We snapped back to reality and waited for a few minutes in case someone came back to claim it.  When nobody did after about 5 minutes, I headed to the front gate and informed a Team Member about it.  He came through the gate and picked it up to take it to Lost and Found, thanking us for helping out.

Good deed done for the day.  Now I can be a Hellion from here on out, right?

I hopped back in line with the rest of the Mushfam and, while talking, gauged the crowds…not too bad, actually.  Touringplans had anticipated a 3/10 for the crowd levels, and I think that it was spot on.

At 7:40, the Team Member that took the camera to Lost and Found came out and found us in line.

TM: “Hi there…we just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for letting us know about that lost camera, and we were wondering if you would like to be the first family and help us open the park.”



I looked at Sheri.  Sheri looked at me.  The boys looked confused.

Me: “SURE!!!”

He scanned our tickets, had us do the biometric finger squeeze, and took us through the gate.  A couple hundred pairs of eyes wondered who we slept with to be able to get into the park before them.


We were briefed on what was going to happen and, during the briefing, we were given celebratory buttons with “1ST FAMILY” written on them.  Another Team Member said that we were going to get a free PhotoConnect Star Card for the day; after hearing that we had the three-day card already, he took down our information and said he’d merge them and give us a couple of extra free picture printouts.

Oh yeah…this is kewl!

Eric was selected to read the script, while Aaron manned the “ACTION” clicker thingamabob (you know…”scene 1, take 273…CLICK”).  They went through a practice run:

PhotoConnect grabbed a pictures of us...

Then he said, “For this next one, everyone look like you’re REALLY excited!  Ready?  One…Two…look excited…THREE!”


More on this later...ohhhh...definitely more on this picture later.

One of the Team Members grabbed the magic microphone and got ready…and then realized that it wasn’t working.  After a couple of minutes of fiddling around, they determined that they weren’t going to be able to use it.  I contemplated making a Duracell joke but refrained for fear of becoming the last family.  Everyone was just going to have to shout to be heard.  We waited a couple more minutes, and Sheri commented that it was an odd view being the only ones in the park with everyone looking at you, secretly plotting to run you over so they could get to Diagon Alley.  The Team Member hollered out to introduce the Mushrush family from Illinois, and Eric did his best to shout out to the masses.  Aaron yelled out “ACTION!” and clicked the action clicker thingamabob which nobody heard), and the gates were open.

Thanks, Universal Team Members…that was an awesome experience that we won’t forget!

We handed the script and the action clicker thingamabob back to them, thanked them, and wished them well.  We then turned and entered the park along with the first wave of runners (yep, they run at this theme park, too!).  The first stop was the early entry checkpoint, where those not staying on-site were diverted to the Hollywood area, while those on-site continued into Production Central.  We flashed our cards and continued through, with several congratulatory remarks about being the first family tossed our way.  The family we talked to on the boat ride from Portofino Bay passed us and gave us a high five for being selected.

Sheri commented that it was probably all downhill from there LOL.


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