Thursday, September 24, 2015

Living the Dream: 2015 Disney Cruise Line Trip Report - Day 1: UNDER (a time constraint trying to get to) THE BOARDWALK, Part 2

Part 1 can be viewed here.

We dropped everything off, freshened up, and started heading out to the International Gateway.  This was the first time we have stayed at an Epcot resort, so not taking a bus or car to a park was unnatural to us.  When we walked out of the Boardwalk Inn and onto the Boardwalk, we both felt the smiles slowly form on our faces.  The entire area is!

ESPN Club was getting busier as it was opening night for the NFL.  When we crossed the bridge over the water that the Friendship boats used, I had to pause and look over at the Beach Club.  I grabbed my phone and took this pic:

When Sheri asked what that was about, I told her that the last time I was there, I had the best beer I have ever tasted.  During the 2014 Disney World Marathon, one of the families that I have come to know and love, Tom and Molly Troost, had people stationed there to cheer the marathoners.  Tom was running his very first marathon (with no training for it, either, I might add…a bib fell into his lap the day before), while Molly and a couple of their daughters had some beers that they were handing out.  This was around mile 24.5, and I was struggling; my running partners, Ellie (a fellow Team AllEars teammate) and Darrell (someone who joined our group at the start and stayed with us the whole way…we bonded over those 26.2 miles), were good enough to stay with me to the end, despite my protests for them to finish.  Anyway, Molly saw us approaching and started screaming.  Then she showed us the cooler, which still had a couple of beers left.  She handed Ellie and me a Michelob Ultra, and we split the best-tasting beer I’ve ever had.  That place will forever be known by me as Troost’s Beer Corner! (You can read about this in one of my marathon

When we arrived to Guest Services, it was about 7:43, which was 2 minutes before the end of our FastPass window for Test Track.  I  knew we weren’t going to make it, so, while we waited for one couple ahead of us to get their issues straightened out (they needed a travel agent…badly), Sheri and I discussed what we should do.  We contemplated single rider line for Test Track, skipping Test Track and just going to Soarin, forgetting all the attractions and just going to La Cava del Tequila for the night…about eight minutes later (they REALLY needed a travel agent to help them before they got to the parks), we approached the cast member with the voucher and our IDs.  He smiled and said, “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”  After the beating he took with the last guest, I think he was relieved to have an easy thing to do.  As we talked, the excellent Epcot background music changed, and I mentioned that I always thought Epcot had the best background music.  He agreed wholeheartedly, and we both also agreed that Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom was a close second.  He let us pick our characters for the AP cards and asked if we had dining reservations.  I mentioned that our flight landed over an hour late, and we ended up missing our last FP window; we were likely just going to enjoy the Epcot atmosphere until Illuminations and then grab something after the park closed over on the Boardwalk.

He looked at me and said, “Wait a second…let’s see what we can do.”  Yep, he was able to get us a FP for Test Track that was good until park closing.

Gotta love the Disney Magic..

Disney, if you’re reading this, please give the guy working at Guest Relations at International Gateway the evening of September 10th kudos in his record…we weren’t looking for anything at all (we were just happy we made it), and he surprised us with the magic.  I wish I could have remembered or written down his name to pass it on.

He asked again if we wanted to look for reservations, and we declined, though I think he would have tried to get us whatever we wanted.  After expressing our thanks, we parted ways and headed to the entrance.  Another collective breath-holding commenced as we tried our MagicBands with the Annual Passes to get into a park for the first time.  Green lights all around (translation: they worked flawlessly).

The first thing that Sheri and I both noticed was the complete lack of people in Epcot.  It was QUIET!!!  Touringplans had predicted a 2/10 on the crowd calendar, and it was at most a 2.  Normally around 8pm, the UK Pavilion is bustling with tons of people; this night, however, we were able to make it through the UK with no problem at all.  There were a few starting to line up for Illuminations, but there were a LOT of open spaces.  As we turned towards Future Land, we saw our first crowd: a bunch of folks waiting for the FP viewing area. 

We caught a quick pic from PhotoPass in front of Spaceship Earth before heading over to Test Track.  We were immediately sent into the car design room, which took too long (LET US ON THE ATTRACTION…WE WANT THE CAR…WE WANT THE CAR…WE WANT…)  Okay, it actually was kind of neat once we saw how our designs performed on the course.  I checked the time, and, while we waiting for the final queue, Sheri and I discussed the next plan of action.  She asked if La Cava closed at 9.  I sent a message to my Moose friends to see if they knew how La Cava closed down (did they close at 9 or just quit seating people at 9?  I know that the Moose would know the answer).  We got our answer within 5 minutes, and, after checking the wait time for Soarin (5 minutes…5 minUTES???  ONLY 5 MINUTES??!!!!!!!), we decided to forego the tequila and salsa for Soarin.

We scanned our design and made it into the car.  I have to admit that I think I like the older version just a bit over the new Tron Track.   It’s close, but I think I like the hot/cold/corrosion room along with the more realistic semi-truck and the crash test.

After Test Track, we made a beeline to the Land Pavilion to see if the 5 minute wait was for real.  I timed the wait for TouringPlans and found that it was the AFAYCW time (Mush-speak for “as fast as you can walk”)…we were blowing by the Kronk Video and stopping the timer at exactly 5 minutes.
Holy cow…Test Track and Soarin both in 35 minutes!  Yeah, I agree that September is a good month to tour the parks.

But wait…the day is not yet over!  We walked out and took the Imagination Pavilion route to World Showcase.  We decided that we would see the Imagination fountains and then just walk around to say HI to all the Pavilions while Illuminations was going on.

We made it to Mexico in the hopes of trying to grab a drink before it all closed, but 9:00 pm hit just as we got by La Hacienda de San Angel, and everything started shutting down.  We heard, “Good Evening….”, and the Illuminations spiel was starting.  As we made it out of Mexico and near Norway where they were building the Frozen stuff that caught on fire the day before, I stopped to look for a spot that wasn’t too bad to view the show, fully expecting to find nothing.  Sure enough, they were only about 2 deep by the railing almost all around the lagoon, so we stopped and helped blow out the torches to watch the show.

I still love love love this show!  This was the first time I’ve seen the show with the laser addition, and I have to concur that the lasers add quite a bit!  I know that there are rumors about a replacement coming in sometime in the future (rumors about the use of drone technology in the new show….kewl).  After the show was over (PEOPLE, don’t leave when “We Go On” starts…the show’s not over yet!), we continued our tour of the World Showcase Pavilions in a clockwise motion…Norway, China, Germany…I paused at Italy to grab a photo and post on Facebook, knowing that several friends were (then) currently on an Adventures by Disney European tour and just finished Venice and the Piazza San Marco, which the Italy Pavilion is fashioned after.

Mexico Pavilion

Germany Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Continuing our tour of the World Showcase are the American Adventure and Japan, which are both dazzling at night.  Morocco was followed by France, and we had to get a picture there, of course!

France Pavilion

After crossing the bridge, we felt odd as we took a left to exit the International Gateway. 

Oh yeah…we could definitely stay at an Epcot Resort again!  #coughcoughBeachClub

Knowing that the chances were very slim, I tried to see if Beaches and Cream had a table available, as we were nearing the starving stage.  As expected, the Disney World App laughed at me.  We headed toward the Boardwalk and started walking around, in search of grub.  ESPN Club erupted in shouts and applause as we walked by.  I’d like to think it was because we were walking by; it was just a coincidence that Gronk grabbed a TD pass from Brady at the same time.

Boardwalk Joe’s came into sight, and a margarita was starting to sound good; however, the lack of food, coupled with alcohol, might have resulted in us skinny dipping in Crescent Lake.  We popped into the Boardwalk Bakery and each grabbed a smoked turkey sandwich (advice…they’re big enough to share) (reality…we didn’t share and regretted eating the entire sandwiches).  With food in hand, we made our way to Boardwalk Joe’s in search of fermentation.  While we both initially were thinking of margaritas, the Captain’s Seaside Sensation started calling our names, and we decided to give them a try.

I think that the base of the drink is the same base that they use for the ever-popular Dole Whips.  I knew it was going to be good, because they added a little Spiced Rum to it.


As we dined, we didn’t talk too much; we took in the sights and sounds around us: the occasional shouts from the ESPN Club; the friendship boats’ horns and engines; the end credits of a movie under the stars on the Boardwalk lawn; and the occasional clap of hands nearby.  Wait…clap of hands?  One of the cast member performers was doing his set on juggling and magic about 50 feet away from us, so we finished eating and headed over to catch the last few minutes of his set.  He brought up a couple of children from the gathering crowd and had them take part in the last skit.  I don’t think he said a single word, yet he was very entertaining.

Nice job Disney…it’s great seeing roving acts like these still around!

(please bring back Off Kilter)

Tomorrow was going to be a big day for us, so we decided to forego walking down to check out Jellyrolls and head in.  We walked around in the Belle Vue Lounge for a bit before calling it a night and heading up to our room.  I put the cruise luggage tags on the bags (after removing the airline tags), and we crash for the night.  I turned the television on and put it on sleep mode.

What channel?

Disney cartoons, of course.

(Day 2 starts HERE)

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