January/February Trip Report Day Eleven: THE FINAL CHAPTER, AKA Incessant, Never-ending Whining

Number of Pins Traded for: 8
Number of Miles Walked: 5.82

We’ve done it; we’ve reached the final day in this trip report from 1997 February. I bet some of you thought this day would never come! Well, to those naysayers, I’d like to blame my tardiness in the past nine months on the following (yes — in the same time it took me to write 11 blog posts, I could’ve created life; no, that wasn’t one of my excuses): being laid off, looking for a new job, moving to a new state, starting a new job, laziness, an over-flowing DVR, travel, sleeping, drinking, floating, and otherwise living life to its fullest. Moving forward, I’ll try and stop all of that nonsense.

So there we were, Tuesday, February 4th, waking up on our last day of vacation, always a shitty feeling, when I realized that I felt shitty for another reason as well: I was most definitely sick. Whatever had started sneaking up on me in the days before had finally overtaken my Courvoisiugh-weakened immune system. Twas not a good morning at all.

We packed up our belongings (no small feat, as you can imagine), leaving probably enough food behind to stock a local soup kitchen for a month. And another shocker: my suitcase came to 55 pounds.

No idea why my suitcase weighed so much.

No idea why my suitcase weighed so much.

One down-side of checking your luggage at the resort: they take that weight limit seriously (and I understand why — they don’t want to be hit with the overage fees), whereas usually at the airport, if I come in at 53 pounds, I can bat my lashes, remove a scarf to make it look like I tried really hard to lessen the bag’s weight, and then the ticket agent agrees to let it slide.

Not so with Disney airline check-in CMs.

So there I am, full body aches, opening my suitcase on the curb, desperately looking for anything heavy that I could actually fit in my carry-on, and finally ending up with a 50 pound suitcase and what felt like a 67 pound carry-on tote bag. FML.

Goodbye, Wilderness Lodge totem :(

Goodbye, Wilderness Lodge totem :(

Next up on the list of my first world problems (after figuring out what to eat for free breakfast in the Concierge Lounge, because you know it wasn’t going to be the oatmeal again): trying to see if the Concierge Level Concierge (CLC) could find out when and where Scoop was to be trading in the Magic Kingdom that morning. Sadly, that was a question beyond the magical powers of CLC. Useless!

No boats today.

No boats today.

As if my day couldn’t get any worse (woe is me!!!), we reached the boat dock only to find that no boats were running that morning due to fog. Back up the hill we trudged to the bus stop…

Once finally at the Magic Kingdom, we tried once more — this time at Guest Relations — to find out how to best stalk Scoop. This pathological liar pleasant CM tried to tell me that she didn’t have access to that information. “Bullshit!” I cried, and yet it did no good. (For the record — all they have to do is call the Character Hotline or whatever it’s called; it’s like their Batphone. They have this. WHY DON’T THEY USE IT?!)

We finally, finally found a random HELPFUL CM who was familiar with the Batphone and was able to tell us that Scoop would be out on Main Street at 1:00. Fat lot of good that did us, since we needed to be on the 1:00 UnMagical Express to the damned airport. FMLx2.

I want to be #1000!!!

I want to be #1000!!!

After a spin on Space Mountain, we wanted a leisurely turn on the TTA. Nope, temporarily closed. Sure, we were able to make our way over to the Haunted Mansion for a ride there, but you know what happened then? The ride broke down while we were on it.

Wait, that’s not the bad part — I LOVE being stuck on the Haunted Mansion. If I could, I’d rig it to crash all the time, just so I could start hanging out there, maybe I’d take a nap, maybe I’d wear my cat-burglar suit and sneak out of my doom buggy to explore unnoticed eventually crafting a small fort in a corner of the attic where I could spend long weekends and holidays, whatever — nay, the bad part was that just when I thought I’d have a primo opportunity to bulk up on my “quality” dark ride photos, our doom buggy stopped two cars away from the hitchhiking ghosts scene. Two cars! Two fucking cars!!! Instead of one of the best photo-ops ever, we got to be trapped at the tunnel entrance staring at the back of another doom buggy. I was getting fever rages.

Mutherfucker.

Mutherfucker.

The wildest ride in the wilderness!

The wildest ride in the wilderness!

After that, I mostly maintained my cool while we rode Pirates one last time, then Thunder Mountain, and then took the long way to Main Street via the train. And that was that. The end. Back to the Wilderness Lodge for our bus to the airport. Had lunch at the Chili’s and said goodbye to My Mother, as her flight to Boston took off a few hours before mine to Raleigh.

I then used my time wisely to sit alone at Chili’s, drinking two-for-one margaritas and tweeting with Chili’s social media folks about how much I love them and how lonely I am and how I don’t want to go home and can I get free drinks? They were pretty friendly, but that was a no-go on free margs. Bastards.

One last pouty face selfie for us with the damned crane.

One last pouty face selfie for us with the damned crane.

To put the cherry on top, as no one was home to collect me from the airport once I landed, I had to take a cab to our house 35 minutes in Rural Tobacco Farmland, NC. As if that weren’t a pleasant enough experience, I had the added thrill of having my cabbie comment, “gee… that’s an awfully big house for a young woman to live in all alone…” Seriously?! Seriously?!?! I don’t live there alone! I swear! I have a giant manly boyfriend and five pet honey badgers!!!! Honestly — who says that?! FMLx3.

My ferocious honey badger.

My ferocious honey badger.

Psych! Sh’yeah, like I’d really cap off the most amazing trip ever by moaning, groaning, and anticipating my rape and murder!

I know — let’s do the Scooby Doo ending!

… My cabbie turned out to be old man Withers from the haunted amusement park!

Nay, reality is the mega-happy ending. I must take this moment to thank My Mother for what was truly one of — if not the — most amazing trips of my life. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. To be able to spend 11 whole days in my favouritest place in the world with my favouritest person in the world, I am truly blessed.

Perhaps my lolly-gagging in the completion of this trip report was that I never wanted the experience to be truly behind me. Each month, as I wrote up another chapter, I was able to relive it, review the photos taken from that day, and be reminded just how special each moment was.

Now, I’m lucky once again to be embarking upon my next magical(TM) trip with My Mother — this very Saturday!!! Thus maybe it’s okay to finally end this story, because we’re about to make a whole new one :)

Mom, I can’t wait!!! I love you.

/non-snarky sentimental me

January/February Trip Report Day Ten: There’s no food left at WDW; I ate it all

Number of Pins Traded for: 21
Number of Miles Walked: 6.68

As we were getting dressed and primped and adjusting tiaras in order to head out for the day, our door opened. It was our Mousekeeping CM.

Immediate questions:
1. Why didn’t you knock???
2. Since when is 7:45 AM an appropriate time for Mousekeeping to come around?
3. Seriously… knocking? Are you familiar with it?

Our first question was answered for us when we realized that our Mousekeeper was deaf.

Follow-up question:
1. So… if you did knock, clearly you’re not going to hear a response. Is there a work-around for this? Maybe you leave a note prior to the guests’ arrival saying, “Hi, I’m your deaf Mousekeeper. I plan on busting into your room every morning before 8:00 AM, so unless you want to be caught naked, I suggest you put up your Do Not Disturb sign. After all, I’m deaf, not blind. Sincerely, Minnie.”

My Mother managed to communicate that we were almost out of the room and that she could come back in 15 minutes. Smiles and nodding all around. Well done. And Mom even left a follow-up note for our Mousekeeper, thanking her for all her hard work. My Mother’s a pretty swell lady.

Meanwhile, not all was perfect in paradise. I was starting to feel a little under the weather. I simply chalked it up to exhaustion and too much goddamned Courvoisier and kept on trucking. Stop number one: Club Lounge for breakfast — The World’s Best Oatmeal and lots of it. Stop number two: bus to Epcot.

But so delicious.  Also, free Mickey straws on Club Level.

But so delicious. Also, free Mickey straws on Club Level.

It was on this lovely bus ride that “under the weather” started to turn closer toward “PULL THIS SHIT OVER.”

Was it germs from some filthy child who insists on licking the handrails of WDW buses? Was it my lactose intolerance finally discovering the secret ingredient of the World’s Best Oatmeal (HEAVY CREAM)? Or was I starting to show symptoms of the nanovirus that my aunt was victimized by earlier in the week? I’m not sure, but all I knew was that I was not a happy camper. And if I didn’t get off the bus soon, people around me wouldn’t be so happy either.

Luckily we made it to Epcot without my ruining the vacations of dozens of families. After revisiting my breakfast in the privacy of a bathroom stall, we endeavoured to find something to help me. WDW Traveler Protip: most every gift shop sells medicines and first aid type stuff — it’s just hidden and you have to ask for it. $27 later, we had a small roll of Tums and two Pepto tablets.

Okay, fine, it wasn’t really $27 — but it wasn’t cheap. Damn you, Disney, and your taking advantage of the dairy-challenged!

Once things were under control, gag reflex style, it was time to have some fun!

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Spaceship Earth is slow and soothing — you should head there!” Or “how about Living with the Land to gently ease you back into touring?”

To those suggestions, I say, “FUCK THAT, PUSSIES.”

We went on Sum of All Thrills, max level upsidedown in your face style. Because I am a goddamned rock star who’s not going to let a little thing like puking in an Epcot restroom (oooh — another First!) stop me from rocking. Rock on. Always.

After that, it was time to use our FP+ for Test Track where we vowed to make the most powerful and environmentally raping vehicle ever. Because rock stars.

Die, Earth, die!

Die, Earth, die!

You know who’s most assuredly not a rock star? The doe-eyed halfwit that we witnessed get called from the single rider line to join the twosome behind us. She then stood there, let them board the ride vehicle, and refused to climb in after them because they were strangers. She waited for the next ride vehicle to come along and got in that, attempting to sit in the middle seat in order to have the row to herself until a CM finally caught on that she was fucking up the very balance of world order here at Test Track, and she was finally forced to mingle with commoners.

WDW Traveler Protip #2: Single Rider Line means you will be seated with strangers. It does not mean “Princess for a Day; I’m more important than you; You don’t understand how hard it is to be this popular; #Privileged.” I’m sorry if this was unclear for anyone. (As an aside, if this was unclear to you, may I suggest that you do the rest of us a favour and just stay home. Like, forever. Alone. Please.)

Moving on…

I’m still holding a grudge from the first and only time I ever rode the Nemo ride — within months after it had opened thus still generating long wait times. I remember standing in that damn queue for what must have been over an hour (it could’ve been 20 minutes; I don’t remember, but for the purposes of this hyperbole, let’s go with multiple hours), so excited for this new attraction based on a movie I loved, and then…

…blah mixed with meh and topped with whatevs. Fuck Nemo.

Thus, when we thought to ourselves, “gee, it’s been like, seven years since we’ve experienced this attraction, let’s give it another shot” only to then see a 20 minute posted wait time, I once again said, “fuck Nemo.” We went on Spaceship Earth, instead. Judi Dench > crabs.

Sweet hair, bro.

Sweet hair, bro.

By now it was past 11:00, meaning past time to head on into World Showcase. Despite the fact that we had a 2:00 PM ADR at Biergarten and that I had also recently vomited, I was set on attempting the tip I’d read online about getting free chips and salsa at Cava del Tequila. Free food > common sense.

ThinkWe were lucky enough to score an actual table with chairs at Cava (another First!), though, admittedly, it was a table with a couch and four chairs, thus being slightly overkill for the two of us.

A waitress came over, and we placed our order for two margaritas and chips and salsa, which I did, indeed, get for free by showing the waitress that I follow them on Twitter.

Seasons then pass. Babies are born and learned to walk. A new presidential term is upon us. Then we receive our drinks.

By now, we were also joined by two attractive couples, willing to comingle with us in exchange for the four unoccupied seats at our table. With the waitress making a rare appearance, they put in their drink order, as well as an order for the chips and dip sampler — salsa, queso, and guacamole.

More calendar pages drift to the floor. Med students are completing their residencies. Sea turtles are passing away from old age.

Finally, a manager approaches. “Alright, I know you’ve all been waiting awhile — how about you just tell me what you had ordered, and I’ll make sure you get it ASAP.” And so we did, and so she did. Within minutes, our chips and salsa finally appeared. Then a bowl of queso. “You ordered queso as well, yes?” Um, no, but… “here, just take it.” Okay! Then the couples’ dip sampler shows up… minus queso. Insert guilty look here. Luckily, more queso is brought out. We’re all having a good laugh. We’re all enjoying queso.

Duck torture.

Duck torture.

In the time that it took a red supergiant star to phase into a supernova, our waitress mysteriously reappears, likely reborn into this world having vague memories of her past life as a waitress at Cava del Tequila. “You ordered a jalapeno margarita to go?” Um, no… “Just take it.” With that final offering, she was gone, lost in time like tears in rain.

And this, friends, is the story of how we got a free margarita, free chips, free salsa, and free queso from Cava. (We almost hit the trifecta with free guac, because our new friends only ate half of theirs and told us we were welcome to the rest. I was about to descend upon this miracle when a bus boy came by to clear their place settings. I was too proud to stop him and explain that I had plans for those strangers’ leftovers — one of my biggest regrets in life so far. That guacamole looked good.)

Now time for lunch!

Just kidding. We rode the Gran Fiesta Tour and Maelstrom (R.I.P.).

Then lunch time.

This was our First(!) time eating at Biergarten, and I was pretty excited. When I was served my tankard of beer in a glass so large I couldn’t lift it to my face with just one hand, I was even more excited.

I taught D@D everything he knows.  It didn't take long.

I taught D@D everything he knows. It didn’t take long.

I purposely scheduled our lunch as late as possible to be there to experience both the lunch and dinner offerings. However, I guess 2:00 PM isn’t a super popular time for lunch, so there were very few other folks in there with us. When they seated a charming young couple next to us at the communal-style table it felt more like when someone with the social IQ of an aardvark chooses to occupy the restroom stall directly next to you when there are 20 others available than it did “communal.”

But whatever — they were a delight to chat with. Turns out, they’re both big Disney fans, and they, too, follow all the same Disney blogs I do (I refrained from mentioning that I write a Disney blog; contrary to the pompous ass I come across as through my writing, I’m actually shy and borderline respectful in person). I really wanted to exchange Twitter handles as we were leaving, but see previous parenthetical.

Diba was kind enough to use the few clues I had to hunt them down on Facebook for me, but I figured sending out a friend request with the message, “I foooooouuuuuuund you!!!!!!!” probably wouldn’t result in a beautiful new friendship.

Perfectly sensible footwear for touring.  I'm only offended that she paired brown shoes with a black skirt.  Idiot.

Perfectly sensible footwear for touring. I’m only offended that she paired brown shoes with a black skirt. Idiot.

The food did not disappoint. I was in sausage heaven! And pickle heaven! And pretzel bread with beer cheese soup heaven! In fact, the only negative thing I could possibly say about Biergarten (aside from their determination to have you sit with (admittedly lovely) strangers even if there are 84 other empty tables in the joint) is that I think they strategically place the nudel gratin in an out-of-the-way place, not obvious in the order in which most people approach the buffet. The result? I didn’t find it until after I’d already eaten so much that I wouldn’t have entirely minded puking for the second time that day.

Mind you, I still ate the nudel gratin. Obviously. I just wasn’t happy about it. Well, aside from the fact that it was fucking amazing. Other than that, I was not happy.

We refrained from hijacking anyone’s ECVs and instead actually walked out of the park toward the Beach Club for some light pin trading and use of their bus stop to get us to Downtown Disney for the evening.

Once there, we hit up the Pin Hut in hopes of completing our Mine Train pin set — these were being offered at the time in mystery packs — two pins in each pack with a total of seven (duh) to complete the set. We had four out of the seven, yet the last two packs we bought had the exact same two pins in them. We decided to try for one more, and lo and behold — the same two fucking pins.

What’s up with this? I’m not new to capitalism — I know they’re going to make one or two pins rarer than the others so that crack-addicted fiends like me will keep throwing money at them in hopes of getting that elusive last pin in the set, but c’mon — at least mix up the common pins. Throw a little fucking variety in there! Ugh.

One last First for the day: I’d been meaning for awhile now to try Raglan Road’s bread pudding. I’d heard it was to die for, and I consider myself something of a bread pudding connoisseur (best ever: Commander’s Palace in New Orleans). Sadly, every time I’ve been dining at Raglan, I’m always too full by the end of my meal to order dessert. Surely, on this day in which I’ve eaten all the food at Epcot, this is the day that makes sense for me to shoehorn some bread pudding into the bottomless pit that is my stomach.

We sidled up to the bar, ordered a couple of drinks, and I ordered my bread pudding while My Mother ordered … umm… I don’t remember. I was a little preoccupied with the bread pudding and the breathing exercises required to power through consuming it.

And the verdict???

It was good.

I wouldn’t place it above ‘Ohana or Commander’s, but it was definitely quite tasty. And filling. Oh, my poor, poor stomach.

Side note: what the fuck is up with raisins in bread pudding? The person who first started this trend should be brought back to life just so that I can kill them again. Preferably by drowning them in a sea of poisoned raisins. Fucking raisins.

Speaking of getting angry at inanimate objects, it was time to head back to the resort for cocktail hour. One last night of choking down Courvoisier. And then never again. Never. Again.

Patrioticky.

Patrioticky.

By the time we got back to our room, after one last viewing of the Electric Water Pageant with Courvoisugh in hand, we were delighted and touched to find the following note from our new friend and deaf Mousekeeper, Hanna.

HannaNote

You bet your ass we took those towel animals, you bet your ass. Thanks, Hanna. You rock. You can walk in on us naked anytime.

January/February Trip Report Day Nine: English Literature, Tea, Martinis, and some sporting event thing

ToTNumber of Pins Traded For: 18
Number of Miles Walked: 6.64

Superbowl Sunday saw us running a wee bit late to Hollywood Studios that morning (because, let’s face it, who’s in a rush to go to the Studios these days?). We had FP+ for Tower of Terror first thing, and try as I might, I couldn’t push that bad boy back any further to give us some wiggle room. Now, I would completely understand if it’s just plain “sold out.” Sure, that makes sense — it’s a popular attraction, and here I am like an entitled asshole trying to have my pick of times a mere hour before showing up; of course that’s not going to work.

Except, that wasn’t quite the situation. I was hoping for a 9:45ish to 10:45ish window. Instead, my options were 9:15 AM to 10:15 AM or 10:05 AM to 11:05 AM. Because reasons.

Hidden Mickey at the ToT photo pick-up area.

Hidden Mickey at the ToT photo pick-up area.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a FP+ foamer. I actually quite like the technology (when it works). How else would we be able to enjoy breakfast at the Concierge Lounge, not rope-drop, and still walk on Tower of Terror at 10:00 AM? (Definitely not “blind luck and an utter disregard for the safety of those around you as you throw ‘bows.” Nope. Not us. Never.)

Ultimately, we made it to ToT with five minutes to spare in our time window. Score — an attempt at FP+ spontaneity: 0, Us and shoving small children out of the way speedwalking: 1.

"Artsy" ToT shot.

“Artsy” ToT shot.

Glowy.

Glowy.

Around 11:00, we were starting to get hungry and arrived at the same conclusion that most hungry people come to when touring DHS: I do not want to eat at any of their quick service restaurants.

Luckily, we were able to score a last minute ADR at 50′s Prime Time Cafe where we enjoyed the ever-rare laid back Prime Time waitress — no lectures about elbows on the table here. Mayhem and anarchy. She let us get away with whatever, while we got to watch her harass other tables instead. My ideal 50′s Prime Time experience.

Speaking of ideal, I risked my lactose intolerance (no, that’s not the ideal part) to try the Peanut Butter and Jelly milkshake for the first time: yum.

Mom plays with her food and doesn't even get scolded. Anarchy rules.

Mom plays with her food and doesn’t even get scolded. Anarchy rules.

For what happened next… I’m not sure I can properly prepare you (no, not related to my lactose intolerance).

In keeping with the theme of “trying new things,” My Mother dragged me kicking and screaming toward none other than the American Idol Experience. In all of my years going to Disney, I’d never actually sat through this attraction because… well, why would I?

But that’s not the scariest part of this story.

Proof we were actually there.

Proof we were actually there.

Nay, the true shocker is this: I didn’t actually hate it.

I had always envisioned it being some sort of torture chamber where you were locked in an auditorium and forced to listen to seven-year-olds belt out the Star Spangled Banner while wannabe stage moms stood by and beamed at the closest that little Johnny Preciousbottom will ever get to realizing her his dream of a mediocre pop career that only leads to a short-lived run on Dancing with Stars and cyber bullying.

But instead, it was like, adults who could like, sing. I was impressed. Mind you, I was also skeptical. Are we sure they don’t work for Disney? I’m pretty sure they work for Disney, right? I mean, who else with real talent says, “you know what I’m going to do today? I’m going to waste an entire day of my vacation to tether myself to this dying and loathed attraction in the off chance that I can win a Fast Pass to be later insulted by Jennifer Lopez and the tens of hundreds of viewers who still watch American Idol.” Nope, not buying it.

Proof I was actually at the quiet pool.

Proof I was actually at the quiet pool.

Nevertheless, I was thankful for those audience plants in lieu of a nine-year-old’s attempt at “Let it Go.”

After taking in a few more attractions and some light shopping, we headed back to the resort for some quiet time by the Quiet Pool.* Frankly, this was also nearly a first for me. I know there are many, many Disney fans out there who swear by afternoon naps/rest/recharging, but I just can’t get on board with this. I am a child of momentum. Once I’m going — I’m going. Once you stop me, I’m stopped. Afternoon rest? You may as well just say, “I’ll see you at breakfast.”

*I think I’ve figured out what keeps the Quiet Pools quiet. They don’t heat them. We noticed this at the Quiet Pool at the Boardwalk Resort, though some claimed the heater was just temporarily broken. Yet as we got to the Quiet Pool at the Wilderness Lodge, it, too, was frigid. Coincidence? I’m starting to think not.

When waiting for a bus, it's best to pass the time by taking a selfie.

When waiting for a bus, it’s best to pass the time by taking a selfie.

In order to revive me from this state of rest, My Mother dragged my lounge chair to the edge of the ice bath known as the Quiet Pool, and dumped me in.

(The above statement is entirely fictional and used only to avoid boringness).

Next up in our plans (and our Firsts theme), it being Superbowl Sunday and all, we thought to ourselves, “what is the best way to guarantee not to run into any men or sports jerseys or buffalo wings?” Why, tea at the Grand Floridian, of course!

First things first: Mom needed a tiara as well, obvi. Luckily, in case you were wondering, the gift shop at the Grand Floridian sells a small assortment of regal refinery. Once the correct accessories were procured, we headed downstairs to the Garden View Tea Room.

Pinkies up! -- now with more tiaras.

Pinkies up! — now with more tiaras.

We used to do afternoon tea when I was younger — never at WDW, but at the Ritz in Boston, or random local tea houses we’d find on our travels. Thus, being no stranger to tea service, and this being the Grand Floridian, I’d admit that my expectations were set fairly high.

Ultimately, I would say that my expectations were mostly met. The service was impeccable (well, kinda. Sure, the hostess forgot to seat us, and then the waitress brought My Mother the wrong pot of tea, but other than that! And hey, our waitress actually asked me if I had had my hair done at the Bippity Boppity Boutique (I did not; I styled it myself), and I’m pretty sure there’s no higher compliment than if someone asked, “hey, are you the Cast Member who plays Jessica Rabbit?”, so I’m inclined to give the staff a break here), and the food was quite delicious.

My only two real complaints:

1. The tables. Some tables were reasonable. Ours was not. Ours looked like an antique end table designed to, at best, hold someone’s book, reading glasses, and a snifter of brandy. And don’t get me started on the ornate decor encircling the table, something I affectionately refer to as “that pointy shit that kept stabbing me in the thighs.” If the whole point of tea is to relax and savour your itty bity sandwiches over the course of an hour or so, shouldn’t they make the seating arrangements more comfortable?

2. THIS:

IT'S EVERYWHERE.  YOU CAN'T ESCAPE IT.

IT’S EVERYWHERE. YOU CAN’T ESCAPE IT.

Main Street Station.

Main Street Station.

After tea, we made our way up to Mizner’s Lounge for a couple of martinis, because nothing says “English afternoon tea” like gin at 3:00 PM. On our way, we passed the Teddy Bear Lady in the lobby. It was one of those wonderful moments when you get to prove to someone that you’re not crazy and/or a compulsive liar. See, Mom?? See?!?! I wasn’t making it up! There’s a very strange lady who hangs out constantly at the Grand Floridian — just her, her Miss Havisham make-up, and suitcases of teddy bears.

Not only that, but we made eye contact, the Teddy Bear Lady and I. It was special. Maybe one day I’ll work up the nerve (most likely after multiple martinis) to talk to her and find our her story. I bet it’s very Dickensian.

Speaking of grand tea and Dickens and martinis… NOTHING. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IS NOTHING LIKE ANY OF THAT.

WHY?!?!? Because some douche bagel thought it would be a brilliant idea to turn the usually refined Mizner’s into an ESPN Club part deux: Grand Football Floridian location — complete with giant projector screens on either end of the room and a sea of temporary crap chairs and a revised menu featuring fucking hot wings that you just know weren’t even that spicy so like why even fucking bother. Fuckers.

This is the best I've got.

This is the best I’ve got.

Our timing was such that when we entered, we had no problem finding a table and non-folding chair. Yet by the time we were leaving, there were so many football-frenzied vultures seeking a table that we probably missed a great opportunity to earn some extra martini cash by auctioning it off to the highest bidder. Oh well.

It was time to really put on our thinking caps: where in the world could one go to avoid the Super Bowl? What kind of Narnia-like wonderland would exist sans televisions? This could be tricky. May as well head over to the Magic Kingdom while we continue to process this puzzle.

CarouselWe made it in time to hop on the last train out of Main Street Station and headed around to Fantasyland where we ambled about, going on an attraction here or there, catching Wishes from behind Cinderella’s Castle (lesson learned — other things I’m not great at photographing: fireworks), and hitting up the Haunted Mansion before ultimately making our way out.

One note about this last attraction: it seems the recent trend here is for teenagers of a certain ilk and mediocre IQ level to scream at the top of their lungs throughout the ride, because… they’re trying to scare other guests? They’re trying to prove to the world how obnoxious they are? They just realized that they’re going to peak in high school and be miserable ever after? I’m not sure. All I know is, there should be a new rule enacted: you scream on purpose inside the Haunted Mansion, you’re banned from the Magic Kingdom for life. I think that’s entirely reasonable, yes?

MSEPOnce we got back to the Wilderness Lodge, we were hungry again, naturally, so we decided to see what Roarking Fork counter service had to offer. Slim pickin’s if you ask me, but we each found an item or two and headed upstairs to the Concierge Lounge to begrudgingly choke down more Courvoisier gratis. By now, I was close to reaching my limit on how far I’d go to abuse free shit; I’m not sure how many more nights I could handle shooting sipping warm cognac.

Sadly, there was only one more night to go :(

Best picture ever. Credit: My Mother.

Best picture ever. Credit: My Mother.

January/February Trip Report Day Eight: Ultimatums and First World Problems

I swear, normally I'm known for my wonderful handwriting.

I swear, normally I’m known for my wonderful handwriting.

My Mother is very graciously taking me to Disney World for my birthday next month. However, she’s ungraciously told me that this means I need to finish the trip reporting from our last trip before we embark upon a new one. That’s four more days’ worth in only 2.5 weeks. I know that sounds like plenty of time, but given that it’s taken me 8.5 months to write seven days, I’m feeling the pressure.

And you know what’s especially unhelpful when trying to tackle an undertaking such as this? When I go to look at my notes written on that day, and they’re borderline illegible and at best cryptic. Thanks, drunk January me.

Either way, we must forge on. So here we go… four days of reporting left… Today, I give you: Saturday, February first.

Number of pins traded for: 42
Number of miles walked: 6.77

This morning, we decided to act responsibly and take advantage of the free breakfast offered at the Concierge Lounge. Not to be too critical of free things that we were blessed to be mysteriously/magically upgraded to, but I’m going to go on record as saying that the free breakfasts at Hampton Inns are better than Club Level Disney. Sorry.

Am I huge, or is she tiny?

Am I huge, or is she tiny?

There just isn’t much there. It’s continental to the T. No waffle maker, no watery scrambled eggs, no wilty bacon — so sad. Instead, there are danishes and bagels, good coffee (do not ask me what brand — I’m oblivious to such details), cereals, and the one saving grace: the world’s best oatmeal. Hands down. Best. No contest. I’m pretty sure the secret is substituting water for heavy cream and miracles?

First up on the itinerary was to head to Animal Kingdom to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris; always best to harass animals first thing in the morning. From there, we decided to try some new things instead of our usual routine of Safari, animal treks, Everest, Dino, exit. I would never make the claim that Animal Kingdom is a half day park, yet somehow, I don’t seem to end up spending full days there. Clearly, that needs to be remedied.

Gives new meaning to the phrase, "how's it hanging?"

Gives new meaning to the phrase, “how’s it hanging?”

What’s new to us? Well, for starters, Wilderness Explorers! As we all know, I love free things, so I was appropriately pumped for the pretty little booklet and the many colourful stickers out there to earn! Only negative: you have to like, interact with people? And like, learn things? And do stuff? Ugh. This was not going to be as easy as I’d hoped. My first realization of this happened on the Majarajah Jungle Trek, where I was hoping to be handed a sticker for simply staring at bats for awhile (which I always do, as they have oddly obvious schlongs, and this makes me giggle). But no — the cast member wanted me to like, answer questions, and draw something. The nerve!

Luckily, I’m a former artist, so I whipped up a pretty sick bat house castle. Sticker: achieved.

Next new thing: Nemo the Musical. As a general rule, I’m not much of a fan of the shows. Being at Disney World really brings out my inner child, and apparently that child has a serious case of ADHD. The thought of waiting in a line to get in a theatre to then wait in a theatre for a show to start and then wait for that show to finish is just far too daunting when there’s a whole park out there to explore. However, in the name of newness, we walked on in.

Meow.

Meow.

Here’s my review: It was okay. It was a musical. People sang. There was music. People pay for this kind of stuff on Broadway??? To each their own.

Okay, fiiiiiine, it was cute, the actors are clearly talented, the sets were neat, and I liked the school of fish and their fun shapes. But that’s about the most you’ll get out of me, and I’m pretty sure I’m good for another 10 years of not seeing this show. SORRY.

We decided to break up the day by exiting over to Sanaa for lunch mid-day. As per usual, the bread service was killer. I ended up ordering the appetizer sampler for two for one as my lunch. What can I say? Musicals really bring out my appetite. The items on the platter (potato and pea samosas, lamb kefta sliders, and butternut squash bisque) were all pretty tasty, though I found the samosas and sliders to be a bit on the dry side. Luckily, I had nine accompaniments in front of me to remedy this.

Like shooting fish in a barrel...

Like shooting fish in a barrel…

After lunch, we relaxed at Kidani for a bit, pretending to be nature photographers. Not too shabby, right? (Just say, “right”).

Two heads are better than one.

Two heads are better than one.

Less pornographic than bats.

Less pornographic than bats.

First row = BEST row!

First row = BEST row!

Once back at the Animal Kingdom, we headed over to Dinosaur to use our second FP+ of the day. Sadly, we instead encountered the ominous Human Chain of Cast Members that always indicates an attraction is down. (Why is it that Disney thinks they need at least a dozen CMs to convey this message? Do they anticipate riots? Someone running through the chain, screaming “I’M GOING IN THERE NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY!!!”? We may never know).

From the best I can decipher of the remainder of my notes for this afternoon, we rode Expedition Everest twice (both times waiting for the front row, a tip given to us by My Mother’s coworker, and I tell you — it’s amazing. Just do it. Always. All the freakin’ time. Once you go full frontal Yeti, you don’t go back), something about my getting pins and a kid didn’t(?) (haha!), and I guess it was in the afternoon that we went through the Majaraja Jungle Trek, not the morning (my bad for the revisionist history, like you even care).

Tibetan Flags2

Animal Kingdom was open until 7:00 or 8:00 that day, and I was really trying to make it a point to stay there after dark to experience the park (and Yeti) at night since I’d never done that before. Yet some time around 4:00 or 5:00, we found ourselves a little tired and decided that rather than force ourselves to do something just because it’s on the itinerary, we’d take a more relaxed approach and head back to the hotel to wing the rest of the night.

'Mingos are my favouritest.

‘Mingos are my favouritest.

I'm photobombing the martini, clearly.

I’m photobombing the martini, clearly.

With no set dinner ADR, we contemplated testing the magical powers of the Concierge Level Concierge (last minute Be Our Guest dinner spot? MAKE IT HAPPEN, JEEVES). Ultimately, we decided to create our own version of a pub crawl around our resort, starting with the Concierge Lounge, obviously. At that hour, it was “light apps and wine.” We stocked up on snack mix and beer and headed back to the room. Once there we actually consumed some of our hoard (thank god; it was starting to require its own suite). After moderate satiation, we ventured out to the Territory Lounge for cocktails. And then from there, it was full circle back to the Concierge Lounge, now full swing into its cocktail hour.

I managed to choke down some more Courvoisier (if it’s free, I’m going to like it, damnit) before we headed off to the final stop on our tour: the beach in front of our room for our nightly Electric Water Pageant viewing. Perfection.

I want this to wind around the canals in my neighbourhood.

I want this to wind around the canals in my neighbourhood.

Ultimately, it was one of those days where the never-ending mental battle between emphasizing relaxation versus accomplishments makes my head hurt. You’re on vacation — it’s supposed to be fun and leisurely. But it’s Disney World, and it would be a waste of time and money to spend hours sleeping in, or lounging by a pool, or doing anything that you could so easily do elsewhere.

Foggy night.

Foggy night.

This really brings me back to my thoughts during my recent weekend — I now have the luxury of being able to go to Disney World once a month or so, but that still does nothing to ease the guilt I feel if I don’t pack my day to the gills.

Two weeks ago, over the span of two and a half days, I only went on six attractions. I know some locals who are in the parks on a weekly basis rarely go on attractions anymore, and wear such a declaration as a badge of honour. But they’re the ones with the luxury to know that “there’s always tomorrow.”

For those of us who only get Disney World once a year (or less), we don’t have that gift of time. Now that I’m closer to being in the former category, I’m trying to adjust, but I still feel like a Depression-era baby at a free all-you-can-eat buffet. Or me at a free all-you-can-eat buffet.

Can you see the Hidden Bear Face in the facade of the building?

Can you see the Hidden Bear Face in the facade of the building?

I’ll get there, I know I will. But it’s days like this day in February, back before I ever knew I’d be living in Florida, that I literally have in my notes, “I did everything I wanted to do, but leaving before the park closed felt wrong. Should we have kept going?” That’s a level of institutionalized guilt that isn’t going away over night.

Top Ten Things I Learned on Last Weekend’s Super Quick Disney Trip

10. Parking is easy 55 minutes before park closing

Friday I sped as fast as was advisable to try and make it to the Animal Kingdom by 7:00 PM — just in time for one final hour! I had my AP and license ready to show the gate guard, but as I approached, I found the booths empty. I guess they don’t anticipate many speeding assholes hell bent on a smoked turkey sandwich from Flame Tree at that time of night.

Tree of Life at night.

Tree of Life at night.

In turn, there were also no parking lot attendants abusing their power to steer me into a shitty spot of their choosing. I sped toward the head of the lot, was highly tempted to park in a handicapped spot, but ultimately “did the right thing” and parked the first legal row behind those. So close.

But you know what was oddly crowded at that hour? Guest Relations. I guess it makes sense: everyone exiting the park, passing by, thinking, “gee, now’s probably a good time to go in and ask if my child can simply be handed all of the missing Wilderness Explorer stickers that she didn’t earn, only to be told ‘no,’ resulting in her screaming because she’s never heard Mommy and Daddy use this word before.”

Definitely not a great time for those of us in a hurry to try picking up a Tables in Wonderland card because damnit, I really wanted to save $2.00 on that turkey sandwich.

9. Hotwire is your friend

I’d been mostly scared out of ever trying Hotwire after hearing tales of “4 star” hotels turning out to be someone’s basement that was deemed unfit even for AirBNB, but when I saw a 3 star hotel in the Universal area listed for $7 a night, it seemed irresponsible not to purchase it. $15 later (damn you, taxes and fees!), I had myself a room and free breakfast! Hell, the price was so right, I bumped my stay up to two nights.

(Quick explanation for anyone not familiar with Hotwire: it’s a discount travel site that allows you to purchase a hotel room or car or whatever based on price and description alone — you have no idea what hotel you’re actually booking until after you’ve paid. Hence the “sounds great on paper!” and then you click “Purchase,” and next thing you know, you’ve rented the dumpster behind Seaworld where they toss the expired chum.)

My Mystery Hotel turned out to be the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham. It was clean, and I felt safe there. Ultimately, that’s what’s most important to me. Was it the sexiest hotel? No. Did the stove top of my kitchenette look like it was more likely to start a fire than it was to boil water? Maybe. Did the outlets next to the bed actually work, charging my phone overnight? 8% battery the next morning says no. But it suited my needs just fine. For $15 a night, would recommend to a friend.

8. Do not load up on free food just because it’s free

Hell, for $20 a night, would recommend to a friend, because breakfast was wonderful!*

*I get blinded by hunger pangs and the label “free” when applied to anything. It was your typical Hampton Inn complimentary breakfast: oatmeal, scrambled eggs, bagels, waffles, greasy meat options, etc. Said pangs and desire to abuse free offerings led to stuffing my face with two plates of food (in my defense, they had strawberry sauce and whipped cream for the waffles!). The result? Absolutely no room four hours later for Food and Wine booths at Epcot. I am the worst tourist ever.

Lesson learned: prioritize what you put in your mouth.

That’s actually really great life advice — even beyond Disney. You’re welcome.

7. Do not drink a liquid lunch before a bar crawl

What to do at Food and Wine if the very thought of eating anything makes you want to curl into a fetal position on the floor of the Chase Lounge? Drink, of course!

Such an attractive lunch!

Such an attractive lunch!

Toto, we're not at Epcot anymore.

Toto, we’re not at Epcot anymore.

I ended up with the Brewer’s Collection Beer Flight #2 (smoked beer? Would not recommend to a friend) with the earnest hope that by the time I finished sitting and relaxing with my four little lovelies, I’d magically have room for escargot and noodle gratin.

I did not.

Instead, I ended up having another beer, this time with fellow Disney lover, Kristen. And then another. Next thing you know, I’m taking selfies with the Tree of Life, ultimately realize I’m not even at Ecpot anymore, and I still haven’t managed to eat any solid food.

Did I mention that my evening plans included a bar crawl?

I make poor life choices.

6. How to win over a Disney-skeptic

Actually, I did not learn this. No idea how it happened. All I know is, Mark joined me for the first time ever for an evening at Disney World. We met at the Contemporary and had dinner at the Wave, then he followed me to the Boardwalk for drinking with hip people, and then we went back to the illustrious Hawthorn Suites. And he actually enjoyed himself. No complaining, no mocking, no tantrums, no heavy sighs, no glaring, no threatening to punch tourists. Amazing.

How did I do it? I don’t know… but I may try it again. And maybe — just maybe! — I can someday get him in the parks.

5. The Hipsters are lovely people

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not surprised that they’re lovely people — I just wanted to go on public record stating such. We met up with Jamie, Keith, Andrew, and Adam of the Disney Hipsters on their bar crawl/meet-up around Crescent Lake. I’m always a little apprehensive to attend events like this, just because due to the public “come one, come all!” nature of it, you never know what kind of crowd you’ll get. The last thing I want is to be recognizing people from Dateline’s To Catch a Predator. Or DrunkAtDisney.

Luckily, everyone* who showed up seemed perfectly lovely, and nice, and normal, and not at all creepy! I was very happy we went. I finally got to meet the Hipsters**, Mark met Mark, and Meg “met” me for the second time. Fun had by all!

*Almost.
**Except Keith.

4. Backpacks have their pros and cons

For the past two years, I’ve been using the same messenger bag as my Disney Bag — it does nothing other than go with me on Disney trips. However, my hoarding tendencies have apparently reached such a new high that the bag had become too heavy, forcing me to seek out a more ergonomic option. And thus The Backpack has entered my life.

This trip was my first time with The Backpack. It’s a cute little number from Kohl’s. Lots of exterior pockets for phone, pins, and other easy-access essentials. Minimal interior pockets annoys me, but I’ll live.

I was ready to open my heart when Saturday night, walking back to our cars, a woman stopped me on the Boardwalk. Naturally, I assumed she was a fan — either of me, or maybe The Backpack — both are natural contenders, obviously.

Nay, the woman was tapping me on the shoulder to inform me that with every step I took, The Backpack was inching up my dress, higher and higher, tucking it in behind The Backpack, ultimately leaving me Bottomless on the Boardwalk.

That creepy person at the Hipsters Meetup that you think you recognize from To Catch a Predator? Possibly me.

Also, fuck you, Backpack.

3. Rope Drop is not good enough

Shiny objects!

Shiny objects!

Sunday was to be my first time ever riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I had a 9:20 AM FP+ (the only time left available), but I wanted to ride it more than once, so I planned on rope-dropping the Magic Kingdom and heading straight there.

As per usual, I was running ten minutes late. So instead of getting through bag check at 8:40, I was getting through at 9:03.

Did I say ten minutes? I meant 23.

But still… three minutes behind park opening! Big deal, right?

Totally right! If by “big deal” we’re talking about the length of the line at Mine Train. At 9:07 AM, by the time I entered the line, it reached Storybook Circus and was estimated at 60 minutes.

2. Do not fuck with Scoop

I believe it was true fate that led me to Scoop yesterday — as I was exiting the Emporium to cross Main Street on my way out of the park, I literally walked into a huddle of people waiting for Scoop Sanderson to appear and trade pins. Naturally, I stopped to eavesdrop and learned that he was expected at 1:00. I looked at my watch: 1:01. Fate. Kismet. MyMagic+.

With 60 minutes, you have a lot of time to stare at the Mine Train queue.

With 60 minutes, you have a lot of time to stare at the Mine Train queue.

Six minutes later, Scoop showed up. By now, a decent size group had formed, maybe about 10 to 15 people. And with the fanfare of Scoop’s arrival along with other characters of Main Street, this drew even more attention and thus more people. We were looking at maybe 20 to 30 by now.

Scoop goes through his usual friendly introductions, making it a point to actually learn people’s names (he knew my name was from a song!), recognizing people he’s traded with before, introducing us to the other characters of Main Street, leading us in a song, asking trivia questions, asking who’s new, and finally using a number guessing game to determine where we’d start the line for pin trading.

Ultimately, this is what makes Scoop Scoop — this is what sets him apart from any random pin trading CM; he’s always determined to make the interactions special, personal, informative, and fun.

Sadly, I think his social (and impunctual) nature worked against him on this fair day as the scene started to get ugly…

First, you had the world’s ugliest and pushiest child, a girl whose likeness I’ll compare to a potential offspring resulting from the illicit sexual dalliance of Chunk and Sloth from the Goonies. If I believed her to be truly handicapped, I would never say such insensitive things. But I don’t believe her to be handicapped by anything other than poor parenting and bangs she had clearly cut herself.

Chunk/Sloth (Choth? Slunk? Let’s go with Slunk) shoved her way through the crowd, and thrust two pins at Scoop just as he’d arrived and started talking. She was completely oblivious to the people who were there before her, or the fact that Scoop was trying to talk to the crowd, or that he hadn’t even opened up his vest to reveal his pins. — Oh, but don’t worry about that last part, because Slunk just went ahead and used her other grubby paw to try and unbutton the vest herself. The brat literally tried to undress Scoop. Where were her parents? Why, they were beaming proudly in the background — how precious that Slunk has learned to use her opposable thumbs!

HalloweenMKLuckily, when we get to the part of this doomed tale where Scoop was using a numbers game to determine where the trading line would start, little Slunko ended up at the end of the line. My heart lifted; fate struck twice that day!

Scoop stated that he needed to be finished by 1:30, so he had been very clear that he wasn’t allowing more people to join the line. The Main Street band happened to come by right about then, so Scoop moved the line inside the Emporium. By this point, about half the people had made their trades. Imagine his surprise, then, when Slunk appeared next in line.

This story has gone on long enough, so I’ll wrap this up: I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but shit got ugly fast. Scoop confronted Slunk and her mother, who avidly denied any wrong-doing, saying they were simply joining Daddy Slunk in his mid-line position (why the family wasn’t initially standing in line together, I don’t know — maybe Daddy Slunk is embarrassed to be seen with his daughter in public? I wouldn’t blame him). Then Scoop called out some other kids for joining the line after he’d said no more additions; those kids started crying. Scoop called out another person for jumping in the line; that mother starts yelling in response. Scoop announced that he would now only trade one pin with each remaining person in line; more unhappy people grumble. The air was tense. A riot seemed inevitable.

It was about this point where A) I felt bad for Scoop and wondered why he didn’t have a handler like every other meet ‘n’ greet character, and B) I began to fear Scoop, as I saw the rage boiling inside of him. I think if it weren’t for the many witnesses and the importance of Always Staying In Character, Scoop would’ve lost his shit. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes home, makes his own explosives using Disney pins as shrapnel, and then uses them to blow up Goonies action figures.

There’s a darkness to that man.

Ultimately, he finished trading with everyone there — gritting his teeth in what I assume was an attempt at a forced smile, but ended up looking more like a snarl. The crying kids were coaxed back into the line, and the angry mother and her daughter were also permitted to trade. Everyone made it through the line, but I think a little piece of their Disney dream died that day… and another piece of Scoop’s fragile psyche cracked.

1. I’m in a strange Local/Non-Local limbo

Break out your tiny violins, because I’m about to start bitching about my first world problems.

You see, I’m trapped in this Disney Purgatory where I don’t have the luxury of living close enough to WDW to visit any ol’ day, but I also don’t live so far away that my only visits are micro-planned months in advance and treated like a special vacation.

I find myself feeling the usual Non-Local pressure of trying to see and do it all, lest I not get the chance again for awhile — yet I’m feeling the Local mentality of, “this isn’t a vacation, so I can’t be running around shops, buying myself presents and souvenirs or splurging on big dinners and such; it’s just another weekend to me.”

I assume that I’ll eventually get used to living three hours away — after all, this was only my second time there since moving to Florida. But meanwhile, I found myself going to bed last night regretting not doing more, knowing there was so much I missed, and feeling like a Disney failure. Woe is me!

Good thing I’ll be back in less than a month to make it up to myself :)

(Feel free to leave any and all hate mail in the Comments section).

I want this.

I want this.

January Trip Report Day Seven, Part 2: Losing the Battle of the Boats

Did I have this post 100% finished and ready to go when I wrote Part 1? Yes. Did I forget about it and let it sit around for two weeks as a draft? Yes. My bad.

Anyway, since you probably need a slight refresher, I’ll bring you up to speed: My Mother and I, after a full morning and afternoon of boat issues, end up lost in the woods between Fort Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge, finally find our way home, arrive entirely soaked to the bone, but naturally hit up the Concierge Lounge prior to returning to our room to change. #Priorities. Okay, now for the rest:

_________________________________________________________________________

Only after stuffing cups full of gummy bears to bring back to the room (very necessary) did we actually go to the room to dry off and change. This respite didn’t last long, and we were soon off again to boat on over back to the Magic Kingdom in order to boat on over to the Polynesian for pins and Lapus. Boats boats boats!

These have potassium, right?

These have potassium, right?

Boat to MK: Captain literally dropped the rope in our face as we reached the dock. Mind you, this was the rope to the dock, as opposed to the rope barring entry to the boat. So, just to be clear: boat was still roped securely to the dock with the captain not even on board yet. But no, we were “too late.”

Fuck boats.

Once we’d finally ridden the next boat that had come along, we headed over to the Polynesian boat dock (because the monorail was down for maintenance between the hours of 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM each day; the boat was NOT my first choice by now). The line we encountered was astounding. We were finally granted passage on the third godforsaken boat to come by.

After this extravaganza, we only made it to the Polynesian pin board with two minutes to spare. Fucking boats.

My Mother orders a Manhattan, even at the Tambu Lounge. She's classy.

My Mother orders a Manhattan, even at the Tambu Lounge. She’s classy.

Luckily, we had a little over an hour to relax. We were able to kick back in the Tambu Lounge and enjoy a much-needed Lapu Lapu.

After this recuperation, libation, and time off our feet, we were off to our final stop of the evening: the Contemporary for some hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at the California Grill whilst overlooking Wishes. This was all part of my whirlwind tour to show My Mother all of the new gems (Tambu Lounge included) that I’d discovered in my Year O’ Annual Pass.

Unfortunately, given that it was still only 6:30, getting to the Contemporary meant one thing, and one thing only: MORE FUCKING BOATS.

Now, I may not have a background in Transportation Operations, but I think I could’ve organized this shit better. Even the line cook at Trail’s End who assembled the world’s saddest jalapeno poppers could’ve organized this better. It’s 6:30 PM: the Magic Kingdom doesn’t close until 10:00PM. This means that conceivably, you still have resort guests who would like to head in that direction at that time. Likewise, it’s late enough that you have enough guests leaving the park who want to head back to their resort. AND THERE’S NO MONORAIL. So why is it (as was confirmed by the one captain who pulled through in a span of 30 minutes on a boat already full from the Grand Floridian) that operations decided to reduce the number of boats running by half between 5:00 and 7:00 PM?? Riddle me that.

Goddamn fucking boats.

I was starting to get reaaaalllly cranky at this point, wet once again due to the rain returning, cold, and worried about missing our 7:10 ADR. I was trying to bribe My Mother with a cab when finally, in the distance, we saw a boat.

Boats. Like a bitch.

Our original plan was to walk to the Contemporary once we’d taken the boat to the Magic Kingdom, but luckily the travel karma gods took pity on us and decided to start running the monorails a whopping 5 minutes early, so we climbed into one of their warm, dry compartments and were finally on our way to another establishment that sells liquor.

My initial plan for the California Grill was just apps and drinks –- I mostly just wanted My Mother to see Wishes from up on high with a martini in hand; I figured we’d be full enough from other eatings, plus how many table service meals do we really need to fit into 11 days? (Answer: 12). Yet I made the ADR anyway, just so we were guaranteed a seat as opposed to winging it at the bar.

However, My Mother is not one to skimp out on experiences; she goes big or she goes home. So a full dinner it was! This was especially uplifting given that thanks to the aforementioned rain and accompanying fog, we may as well have been trying to view Wishes from the Utilidors.

First things first: wine selection.

While My Mother and I agree on many things, our taste in white wine is not one of them. I veer toward the sweeter end, while she likes it dry enough to feel like you’re drinking sand. (If you were to ask her, I’m sure she’d say something like, “I veer toward the palatable end, while Rhiannon likes it sweet enough to feel like you’re drinking liquefied pixie sticks.” This would be an unfair assessment: I do not like my wine that sweet. I’d say somewhere closer to the Skittles range).

Another of today's brilliant photographic captures.  Whoever can tell me what the hell this is or where it's from wins a prize. Spoiler: I don't know the correct answer to this.

Another of today’s brilliant photographic captures. Whoever can tell me what the hell this is or where it’s from wins a prize. Spoiler: I don’t know the correct answer to this.

We hemmed and hawed, finally seeking the advice of our esteemed waiter. I couldn’t help but notice that of his three recommendations, two were $60 bottles whereas the other was a “mere” $36.

I guess I forgot to mention my other criteria in wine: cheap.

(A brief explanation: I have a palate -– I do! I’m a bourbon snob, a vodka snob, a gin snob, a cheese snob, a BBQ snob, among many other forms of snobbery in my repertoire. But wine? Meh. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE wine. It’s just, if given a blind taste test, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a $30 bottle of pinot versus the $70 vintage. Tastes the same. Tastes like pinot. Tastes good! But when given the option of spending $60 on one bottle of wine or six cocktails or seven pins or a pair of shoes… the wine won’t win. A girl’s got to have her priorities).

Our waiter suggests we try a sampling of each bottle. What happens next is nothing short of miraculous (unlike, say, our view of Wishes): he returns with two glasses and all three bottles of wine. He talks about the first bottle and then pours a healthy “taste” for each of us. Ditto the next. By the time he gets to the third, another table was calling for him, so he left the bottle and told us to just finish it off – he’d be back to hear our final choice.

My vote? The $36 bottle, of course. My Mother was less than pleased. Apparently, after being given what amounted to almost two free glasses of wine per person, it’s considered rather gauche to order the cheap bottle.

I’m not used to being on the other side of snobbery judgment! It felt foreign and dirty.

I wish I could tell you that I caved and we got a nice bottle, but no. My Mother swallowed her pride and went low class. You’d think I was making her order a jug of Carlo Rossi. It was still a nice bottle of wine, damnit!

The rest of the meal went without incident (minus Wishes). When we left our table to go outside and view the non-existent fireworks, we returned to find that our table was covered in Mickey confetti! This was an adorable touch. Yes, I scooped it all up and took it home with me.

Allegedly, there are fireworks in this picture.

Allegedly, there are fireworks in this picture.

Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel, which meant only one thing: another fucking boat.

Luckily, fifth time’s a charm, and the boat from the Contemporary arrived quickly and dropped us off just as expediently. I didn’t even know there was a boat that went directly from the Contemporary to the Wilderness Lodge. You learn something new every day.

Good news: we made it back in time to head up to the Concierge Lounge for a glass or two of Courvoisier before heading to our room, and out to the terrace to end our day with a front row seat to the Electric Water Pageant. At least that can be viewed through the fog: I approve of those boats.

I heart the EWP.

I heart the EWP.

“If you can dream it, you can destroy it for profit.” – Not Walt

A mere twinkle in Epcot's eye. Interestingly, no mention of building snowmen.

A mere twinkle in Epcot’s eye. Interestingly, no mention of building snowmen.

For the most part, I try and stay out of the fray – trying to refrain from being labeled either a duster (“everything’s magical!”) or a foamer (“I’ll hate anything you do, because you’re not Walt”). I’m the Switzerland of the Disney Online Community.

Until now.

Disney, you’ve gone one step too far. Shutting down a beloved classic to make way for last year’s hit, this pathetically last-minute move to try and keep current whilst simultaneously continuing the depressing erosion of the park’s original intent and glory? Fuck you.

Does Epcot need some love, attention, and fresh new attractions? YES. Is closing Maelstrom to make way for more Frozen regurgitation the answer? FUCK NO.

The exasperating thing is that not only has Disney decided to entirely ignore the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but they’ve decided to couple that ignorance with a new philosophy of “if it is broke, just leave it.”

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Maelstrom. Could it use a coat of paint? Maybe. Is it the most thrilling ride in the park? No. Does it need to be completely obliterated from existence? Hardly.

Maelstrom is one of only two rides in all of World Showcase. Meanwhile, Future World sits by ignored, outdated, with an entire pavilion shut down and used only for festivals as a glorified gift shop. Captain EO is shockingly still in existence and gets its own FP+ status, while Innoventions West turns into an even bigger and more abandoned character meet-n-greet, and the Wonders of Life pavilion sells booze three months out of the year. What about the Odyssey Center? Does Epcot really need a first aid center of that size? And what of all these “spaces” where additional pavilions could be created?

So many “broken” things, yet you choose to fuck with the functioning and beloved Maelstrom.

Why? Ah, yes. Frozen. A perfectly fine movie that I quite liked… until it started poking its carrot nose where it didn’t belong – in Norway.

What frustrates me even further is this feeling that Disney is in a panicked frenzy of trying to do anything to divert attention from Universal’s success with Diagon Alley. But why the frenzy; what 7-figure-earning exec did not see this coming? Did Disney genuinely believe that their roughly $2B investment in MyMagic+ would be enough of a draw to compete with Harry Potter? Are they now shocked that kids are more interested in picking out wands than using a bracelet to open a hotel room door? Or did Disney honestly underestimate Universal’s ability to knock HP out of the park? Were they utterly dumbfounded to see the numbers roll in, now so desperate to compete that they’re willing to photocopy their Frozen Get Out of Jail Free card over and over anywhere and everywhere – including Norway?

Look, no one is denying that Frozen will bring in the crowds and give Disney those numbers that it craves. But why Maelstrom??? Do something in the so-defunct-we-no-longer-care Hollywood Studios. Or just a few tweaks could turn Avatarland into Frozenland (what? Just paint everything blue and white. Done).

Picking Maelstrom because “Norway inspired the fictional land of Arendelle” is just plain lazy. For a company made famous by its groundbreaking artistic vision and genius, this is sad, cheap, money-grubbing, ignorant, and LAZY.

People are comparing this move to shoving Nemo into the Living Seas, or the Three Caballeros revamping Mexico’s Rio del Tiempo boat ride, or the oft-fantasized about Ratatouille ride making an appearance in the France pavilion.

A) Nemo at least takes place in the seas, and it wasn’t replacing any existing ride.
B) The current Caballeros film still takes place in the nonfictional Mexico.
C) Ratatouille takes place in the it’s-a-real-country France -– and it would be adding a much-needed ride to the World Showcase.

Are any of these moves a perfect creative and cohesive fit to the overall vision of Epcot? Not really. But if we’re assigning a letter grade to each of these decisions, I’d give Nemo a C+, Donald and friends a B-, and Ratatouille a B. Frozen in Norway? D-.

Frankly, the only way I could envision a true F would be if Disney decided to level Morocco in order to make room for its newest pavilion: Star Wars Land. Sadly, even then, you’d have idiots online applauding the move of “something fresh and new in Epcot!” and “I LOVE STAR WARS!!!!!!!!!!OHMYGODIWETMYSELF.”

Disney, stop letting these people steer your decisions. Your bottom line and artistic integrity are not mutually exclusive; stop selling out the latter to pad the former. You can have both. Or maybe you forgot the recipe that has established your multi-generational success:

Step 1: Imagineering Genius
Step 2: Pixie Dust
Step 3: Profit

For the love of Walt, stop shoe-horning in steps 2b and 2c: Whoring and Laziness.