Day 1 – Epcot & DHS

Who:
Paul, 31: 17 previous WDW/DLR/DCL trips
Amanda, 15: first timer

When:
July 10 – 18, 2010

Where:
Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Why:
Siblings’ first vacation together
Harry Potter opening at Universal
Because I decided not to wait another 3 years for her to graduate

For the backstory to how this vacation came to be, please see my Trip Preview: http://bit.ly/c4rZce

For the “quick highlights”, please see my blog posts at http://blog.mritty.net/?p=34 and http://blog.mritty.net/?p=35

Day 1: Arrival and Epcot

I spent the previous night at my parents’ place (they happen to live in the same town as Amanda and her parents). I picked up Amanda at about 6am, and drove to BDL. No issues getting through security, so our concerns about the metal rods in her back were for naught. While we were sitting and waiting for our flight, there were some fellow Disney freaks there, most of whom expressed shock that she was 15 and had never been to WDW before. At this point, Amanda was still under the false
impression that we’d be staying offsite, so I had to lie to them when they asked where we were staying too.

Once we got on the plane and it reached cruising altitude, I pulled out my laptop computer, and we each plugged in a set of earphones. I put on the All About The Mouse finale podcast from a few weeks earlier. On it,
Jonathan Dichter did me the supreme favor of reading my email, in which
I (via him) revealed the surprise to Amanda. That we were staying at
Pop Century, rather than offsite. She was completely shocked and
amazed. Apparently I was better at not revealing the surprise than I’d
feared. We spent the rest of the flight listening to Lou Mongello’s
Audio Guides to Walt Disney World. She was surprised that there was
enough to talk about “just a street” to warrant an hour or more of talking.

Upon arrival at MCO, we had less than a 5 minute wait in the Magical
Express line before we boarded a bus. To my delight, Pop was the first
stop. We went to the Online Checkin line, and received our keycards for
our room in the 50’s section. Amanda also got her next (albeit
comparatively tiny) surprise: the first-timer button from the CM
checking us in. We dropped our carryons in our room, applied sunscreen,
and immediately left again. By now, it was only about 11:45 or so.
Amanda took some of her spending money and bought a Gift Card at the Pop
gift shop, and then we got in line for the buses to Epcot. Again, no
more than a 5-10 minute wait for a bus.

Our first stop was to get a FastPass for Soarin’ (already into about 6pm
by then, fwiw). We were going to go on Living with the Land, but a
TourGroup had just flooded the queue, so we got lunch at Sunshine
Seasons first. Amanda was surprised to see such different options
available, as her only experience with theme park counter service food
is Six Flags’s burgers and chicken fingers. After lunch, we did indeed
go onto Living with the Land. There were a lot of new crops that I
didn’t remember seeing the last time I was here, including an entire
section on “edible water plants”.

Now back to the front of the park for Spaceship Earth. Probably about a
10 minute wait, but the continuous-loading attractions queues almost
never bother me, since you’re almost always moving forward anyway. This
was the attraction Amanda was most looking forward too, as she loved the
sight of the geodesic sphere in all the photos I’d been showing her as
we were leading up to the trip. It very much met and exceeded her
expectations. 🙂

Our next stop was to Guest Services. I needed to upgrade Amanda’s 5 Day
Park Hopper to a 6 Day PH + Water Park ticket. I’d bought her ticket
originally from Undercover Tourist, and for whatever reason the 6 day
option wasn’t there when I bought it. I also tried getting my WDW AP
upgraded to a Premier Passport, but I was told that the Guest Services
here in the park couldn’t do that upgrade, and I had to visit the one
outside the park to do it. Odd, but okay, I’d get that done another day.

While the CM was processing her ticket upgrade, she was asking me what
we were going to do next. She asked about getting a FastPass for Test
Track. I replied that we couldn’t get one yet, because we still had a
FastPass for Soarin and our next FastPass availability wasn’t for
another hour or so. Upon hearing this, the CM gave Amanda her first
Magical Moment: he said that since it was her first time, and she wanted
to ride Test Track so much, he’d give us two instant-use FastPasses so
that we could go ride it right then and there. She was amazed that
anyone would do that. I said I wish I was still surprised by things
like that, but that I have so much experience with completely awesome
CMs giving stuff like that, that the surprise has worn off.

In any event, when her upgrade was finished, we did indeed use the
FastPass at Test Track. She was incredulous about how many people we
were walking past (it was about a 50 minute wait at the time, if memory
serves). The ride thankfully did not break down at all, and she
thoroughly enjoyed it.

We next went over to Innoventions for our Disney Visa character photo.
The characters were Goofy & Minnie (it seems to be them
disproportionately often). We also did the Sum of All Thrills while we
were here. I continue to assert that this attraction spells the death
of DisneyQuest, as it blows Cyberspace Mountain out of the water.
Before leaving Innoventions, we also got a ticket to do the Kim Possible
adventure later in the evening.

Next up was Captain EO. My first Disney trip was in 2004, so I never
saw the film during its original run. Frankly, though, anything that
makes Honey I Shrunk the Audience go away has to be a good thing in my
book. Gone was any theming in the queue holding area about the
Imagination Institute. The pre-show now was actually a
documentary-style “making of” the film we were about to see. I found
that a little bit odd. As for the movie itself… eh. I mean, it
wasn’t bad. It was just very, VERY 80’s. I can understand why those
who grew up during its initial run might want to see it again for
Nostalgic reasons, but I personally have no desire to go see it a second
time.

We went to Club Cool next. No, I did not try to trick her into drinking
the Beverly. While we were there though, something about our previous
ticket upgrade finally clicked in my head. I realized I’d been over
charged by about $40. I was charged something like $95, when the cost
to go from 5 to 6 days should have been only $3, and the cost of adding
the Water Park option should have been only about $50. So we headed
back to Guest Services, and I explained the situation. The CMs that
were there now realized that the previous CM had forgotten to do an
internal upgrade from my discounted ticket to the gate ticket before
upgrading to the new 6D WP ticket. Hence, my discount from
UnderCoverTourist was not carried over. Finding no way to rectify the
actual ticket, the CMs simply processed a refund in the amount of the
discount back to my credit card. All good.

Since we were already at the front of the park again, we went across the
plaza to the camera center and picked up our Disney Visa photo. (And
when I say “picked up”, I mean “had sent back to our hotel” – which
Amanda found awesome). Then back to The Land for Soarin’ with our
FastPass. Love this ride. Love it love it love it. I asked to wait
for B1, as always. My only complaint is that I wish the film and/or
projector could be cleaned up more frequently. Seeing the dust and
dirty on the film (not to mention the occasional bug seeming to move on
the projector lens) is really distracting.

Getting hungry, so we started walking toward World Showcase for our
dinner at Chefs De France. This was my first time at this restaurant
too. Amanda had a salad and the baked Macaroni & Cheese. I had the
lobster bisque and the braised short ribs. Both were very very good.
We shared a Creme Brule for dessert (her first time having one).
Overall, I was pleased with the restaurant. I mean, expensive as all
hell of course, but that’s almost to be expected at a Disney restaurant.
My one regret was that I forgot to buy the Tables in Wonderland card
while I was at Guest Services, so I lost out on a 20% discount. Oh well.

After dinner, we went over to the International Gateway for our Kim
Possible adventure. The young CM who was to give us our ticket was,
shall we say, loquatious. I did my best to be polite, but after a few
minutes, I’m sure my expression was saying “Please kindly shut up and
let us get on with it, thank you.” Our adventure was in France. I
don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who later does this adventure,
but some of the effects were just truly amazing. For such a
comparatively simple process, Kim Possible remains one of my most
bizzarely favorite things to do in Epcot.

It’s only about 7:30pm now, but we are dead tired (remember, we’d each
waken up at like 5am that morning), so we had a seat on the bridge
between the UK and France and waited for IllumiNations. When it finally
started, the wait was more than worth it. Amanda’s jaw didn’t close the
entire time. She was completely blown away, and when the globe opened
near the end, I thought her eyes were going to pop out. She said she
now fully understood why I say that Disney has thoroughly ruined all
other fireworks shows for me. 🙂

Now here comes the insanity. IllumiNations started at 9pm. Disney’s
Hollywood Studios didn’t close until 10pm. That gave us roughly 45
minutes to leave Epcot, get to DHS, get in the turnstiles and into the
queue for Tower of Terror. Yup. So we started walking. We saw no
Friendship boat on the horizon, so I decided not to wait for it, as the
three stops it would have to make would most likely not get us to DHS in
time. So we walked from the International Gateway along to the
boardwalk, over to the Swolphin, and to the path behind the Boardwalk
Inn that would lead us to DHS. We made it through the turnstiles with
about 10 minutes to spare. Wheee! So here was Amanda’s second-ever
Disney Park. We booked it down Sunset Blvd and into the queue for Tower
of Terror.

This was the one attraction we’d talked about that Amanda was somewhat
nervous about. She claimed to not like the sensation of falling. So I
wanted to do it on our first day to get her past her fears. I was also
anxious to see the new Summer Nighttastic effects on the Tower, which
happens to be my favorite attraction. I have to say I was mildly
disappointed in that aspect. The new effects were okay, but certainly
not worth a trip to WDW (in contrast to the MSEP, which I know some
people did make a trip down just to see). I won’t list them here, in
case anyone wants to be surprised by them when they head down later this
summer. Amanda made it through ToT unharmed, of course. When it was
finished, she said “Oh, was that it?!”. Oy.

We exited the park and went back to the buses. Again with the great
luck for transportation, as there was a bus at the Pop stop already, and
was ready to leave when we boarded. When we got back to Pop Century, we
found our checked bags from DME in our room as expected. (I have taken
DME at least 12 or 13 times now, and never had a problem with my bags –
are other people still experiencing difficulties?). We each decided to
take showers in the evening before bed, both because we were covered in
sweat and so that we could have a few extra minutes in the morning.
Then we each passed out within about 5 minutes of laying down. A very
long, very good day.

The Good: Arriving in WDW, getting the surprise FastPass from Guest Services
The Bad: Having to go back to Guest Services to correct the upgrade mistake
The Magical: Amanda’s reactions to the initial surprise on the plane,
and IllumiNations.

Thanks for reading. Days 2 through 9 will be forthcoming.

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