WDW Trip Report January 30-31 2018

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horizons1
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WDW Trip Report January 30-31 2018

Post by horizons1 » Feb Fri 02, 2018 5:46 pm

I took a small trip to see the mouse this past week. As I had to be in Orlando for work and had one day left on my non-expiring 10-day park hopper (bought in 2001) I decided to take a day off and spend the entire day Wednesday in the parks.

Tuesday night, January 30:
I landed at 730pm, grabbed my rental car and was at the All Star Movies for my one night check-in by 830pm. The line at the front desk was S-L-O-W. There were only four people in front of me but it still took over 20 minutes to get up to the cast member. They gave me my magic band and I had it set up just for the room key, deciding not to tinker with the remaining day of park admission on my plastic RFID card (plus the eight Water Park and More days that are also unused.)

I drove the car back to my room. Man, the All Star is getting pretty run down. My room rate was $87 for the night, $99 after taxes. And it looked it:

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Pretty dank and dreary with very cheap linens, old carpet, ancient curtains and a sketchy bathroom. The plus side? Free parking in the parks and EMH.

I headed over to Disney Springs for a quick bite to eat. It was very chilly that night (probably in the low 50's and falling) and so I didn't walk around much but did eat at one of the newer eateries, the Polite Pig.

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Here's my Southern Pig, a pulled pork sandwich with a side of crispy brussel sprouts. The whole meal was very good. The sprouts were lightly coated in a sweet bbq but they were a bit too leafy and flaky to really sink my teeth into. The restaurant itself is informal but had a contemporary vibe. It's also equipped with a bar for those who want to hang out for a while.

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Now if I was going to hang out in a bar this is where I'd go: The Hangar Bar:

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Looks cozy and kitschy. Nice.

Back to the hotel and a detour to the food court for an ice cream cone, then to the room and to bed. Good thing I brought earplugs because those All Star walls are thin. You can hear every footstep and toilet flush for your neighbors. I've got an early start tomorrow.
No one's gloomy or complaining while the flatware's entertaining.
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horizons1
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Re: WDW Trip Report January 30-31 2018

Post by horizons1 » Feb Fri 02, 2018 6:33 pm

Wednesday, January 31: THE DAY THE CHEESE SAUCE DIED

I woke up around 730am and, with the earplugs had a decent night's sleep. All Star allows you to skip the front desk for check-out if you keep the room on the same card and so I didn't have to worry about lines at the hotel. A quick shower (hot, nice water pressure) and I was off to check out Pandora.

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Above is the scene on the pathway leading to Pandora, right next to Tiffin's restaurant. This is at 8:35am, with the rope drop scheduled for 9am.

The posted wait time for Flight of Passage at opening was 210 minutes. They really need to work on the crowd control as they had us snake around to the right of the entrance and up the path leading out of Pandora toward Africa. I joined the end of the line about half way up that path so it was pretty far back. There was a lot of jockeying for position and lots of line cutting. A woman with a Brazil tour flag was holding space in line for others. She started with six people but ended up with 14! Luckily, she was behind me.

I got to the official entrance to the queue at 9:25am, so 25 mins of waiting out in the path. Then I got to the preshow entrance at 10:18am. I was off the ride at 10:38am. What did I think of it? Not impressed. It's basically a next-generation Soarin'. Or you can think of it as the love child of Soarin' and Simpsons/BTTF. It's a motion simulator where you straddle a seat that makes you feel like you're on the back of a Banshee. Then all the simulator seats face a gigantic screen where you all watch the same thing, with 3-D glasses of course. It's not a "wow" event, but it's ok. Certainly not worth a 210 minute wait so I feel bad for the people who arrived late!

After Flight of Passage I went to Na'vi River Journey. Got in line at 10:43am, posted wait time 90 minutes. at 12:31pm I was just joining with the Fast Pass queue, so almost two hour wait for what is essentially a very short indoor boat ride. The special effects are ok, lots of black light but not a lot of animatronics. They rely, instead, on video projection for most of the critters.

Yeah, so underwhelming for Pandora. I'll admit I'm not a fan of the movie so that might've tainted my perspective. But I thought they could've done so much more with the property. The land itself is nice and probably looks great at night. I never made it back to AK - with my one day I had to maximize.

I had lunch at Flame Tree for more BBQ. The Disney Experience mobile app now allows you to place food orders at some quick serve restaurants, Flame Tree being one of them. I took a look at the queue and then decided to order over the phone. My food was ready before the people I would've queued behind even got to the ordering station. So, win for that. Basically, you pull up the menu on the app, pick the food items, place the order, then go to a designated pickup location (at Flame Tree it's the counter on the far right.) Easy peasy!

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After lunch I rode Expedition Everest in the single rider line then used my 1:10pm Fast Pass for Dinosaur. That's still a people pleaser. The six year old girl in front of me said "that was AWESOME" when the ride was over. Made me smile.

I saw "It's Tough to Be a Bug" on the way out of the park, just for the heck of it. Then I headed back to the car and over to Epcot.

I arrived at Epcot around 2:45pm or so. I was disappointed to see Imagination was broken down and American Adventure was closed. They do have the Epcot International Festival of the Arts running, seems like an excuse to keep the food stands open in the dead time between Food & Wine and Flower & Garden.

I wasn't going to do it, but the posted wait time was 65 minutes so I decided to check out Frozen Ever After. It's great, but doesn't belong in Epcot. It would be a fantastic addition to either Fantasyland or even the Studios. But at Epcot, it just feels out of place. The ride itself was pleasant and they really did a good job with the layout and use of the reversing feature of Maelstrom. But bring me back my Norway!

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Test Track, along with Spaceship Earth, seem like two of the attractions that still hold the spirit of the old Epcot. From the corporate sponsor to the carpeted walls, it's what I always think of when I think of the early years of EPCOT Center. They even incorporated the World of Motion logo into the signage which is appreciated.

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A kid outside had a t-shirt that said "Weekend forecast: video games with a chance of pizza" - nice.

Here's a shot of the dead area of Epcot, the lonely space from Energy to Wonders of Life, plus the inside of the equally lonely Innoventions East which is down to only three exhibits:

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I had a 5:50pm Soarin' Fast Pass. The standby time was 40 mins so it wouldn't have been terrible to wait, but got on nice and fast. Have they always played the theme from the original Battlestar Galactica in the queue? It came up and I was surprised. Soarin Over the World has already been reviewed by me from my Shanghai trip. Not a fan of the fake CG animals and special effects, but I like that this particular version ends with a flight over Epcot.

After Soarin' it was a quick ride on Spaceship Earth and then over to Magic Kingdom. As I said before, I got EMH as part of staying at the All Star. I almost completely forgot about this benefit as I am so used to not having the perk. I was going to spend the evening in Epcot and then I said "wait a minute, I can go to MK for EMH!" The EMH hours were from 8-10 so, bonus.

A note on parking: Now that everything is on the Magic Band, you use the band at the parking booth too. But since I didn't use the band for my ticket media I wondered whether I needed to have the band with me to show proof to get on rides during EMH. Well, I took a chance and left the band in the car. Turned out the ticket, linked to my profile, is linked to my hotel so they were able to see that I was a guest. In short, it was not a problem. I used my plastic RFID card all night and never needed the Magic Band.

This post is subititled "THE DAY THE CHEESE SAUCE DIED" for a very important reason: The beloved free cheese sauce at Cosmic Ray's is no longer free. This makes me sad. Not only is it $1 now, but it's just an off-the-shelf branded cheese cup. Very sad day.

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OK, I got over it pretty quick and headed over to Buzz Lightyear after dinner, then Peoplemover which I got off after 8pm. I was able to get onto Space Mountain during the fireworks and before the rush. Good thing too, because when I got off the line was all the way past the Rocket Jets. EMH lines were long everywhere after that. A two-hour event is tight, it used to be three hours at night. And now that they have to scan everyone's band or ticket it makes the whole process slower at each attraction.

Still, I stayed until 9:45pm and was able to hit most of the majors. After Space Mountain it was Pirates, then Big Thunder, then Haunted Mansion. Then the line was too long for Seven Dwarfs so I just rode Little Mermaid before heading out.

Wednesday night was spent near my work so I bid farewell to the resort and to the last day of my 10-day non-expiring park hopper ticket bought in 2001. If I knew then what I know now I would've stocked up on those suckers! But I still have 8 days of Water Parks and more to use so the magic will live on well into the future!
No one's gloomy or complaining while the flatware's entertaining.
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Amy
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Re: WDW Trip Report January 30-31 2018

Post by Amy » Feb Fri 02, 2018 9:55 pm

That's too bad about the All Stars ~ I don't consider $100/night a value, although by Disney standards I suppose it is. I do remember how thin the walls are there, and if you happen to get stuck beside people with a small baby, that is no fun. Your sandwich at the Prized Pig looked good!
Good to hear your thoughts on the two Avatarland attractions. That is unfortunate about how they handled the queue.
More bbq at Flame Tree for the win! Good to know about the mobile ordering option. That will be handy information to have when the parks are crowded and the lines are long.
How long was your wait in the single rider line for EE? The last few times we went, it seemed like the single rider line was fairly long, and unfortunately it wasn't always even available.
No American Adventure?! Is it down for refurbishment? And Journey into Imagination, while still not as great as the original, is still a fun spin with Figment. Too bad that was down too :(
Only an hour wait for Frozen? Not bad. Was the wait time fairly accurate?
I still enjoy Test Track as well. And Spaceship Earth will always be one of my favorites :D
Innovations is definitely on borrowed time. Sad really as it used to be a fun little space!
Do you not normally stay at the parks? Is that why you are unaccustomed to having the EMH perk? That is one of the best reasons to stay on property in my opinion. Along with the transportation system.
$1 for plastic cheese in a cup? Yikes. I don't care for that anyhow, it has an off flavor to me, but I know many who love it so that is sad.
Space Mountain does get a really long line during EMH. Found that out the hard way one time. Learned from that experience quickly!
Yeah, 2 hours of EMH isn't as much as it sounds like it would be. And they actually scan everyone's media now? Last time I was there, you just had to flash your hotel card. There would be an occasional CM that wanted a closer look to be sure the dates were current, but mostly they just waved you through when they saw the card.
Sounds like you packed quite a bit into your one Disney day. That's great. And the fact that you were able to do it on a ticket from that long ago is great!
Thanks for sharing your day with us :D

horizons1
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Re: WDW Trip Report January 30-31 2018

Post by horizons1 » Feb Sat 03, 2018 11:21 am

Hi Amy, here are my responses:

I don't consider $100/night a value, although by Disney standards I suppose it is.
Well, I travel a lot and it's not uncommon to pay north of $100 for something like a Hampton Inn, so in that respect it's a good price. It's just desperately in need of a refurb.

How long was your wait in the single rider line for EE?
Not even 5 minutes. Same for Test Track.

No American Adventure?! Is it down for refurbishment?
I think so.

Only an hour wait for Frozen? Not bad. Was the wait time fairly accurate?
Pretty close, but the line just feels like it's painfully slow. But I remember Maelstrom feeling like that too and we didn't have Fast Pass to blame.

Do you not normally stay at the parks? Is that why you are unaccustomed to having the EMH perk? That is one of the best reasons to stay on property in my opinion. Along with the transportation system.
If it's a vacation I always stay onsite. But I usually go to Orlando for work so I got into the habit of thinking EMH didn't apply. Also, not sure what parts of the transportation system you are referring to. Do you mean convenient transport from the hotel to the parks vs staying offsite? If so, I agree.

And they actually scan everyone's media now? Last time I was there, you just had to flash your hotel card. There would be an occasional CM that wanted a closer look to be sure the dates were current, but mostly they just waved you through when they saw the card.
There aren't any cards for room keys anymore. It's all Magic Bands. The only cards are for older ticket media and one exception: In the fine print that accompanies the Magic Band it talks about the fact that the Magic Band is ACTIVE two-way RFID. That means it transmits as well as receives and is capable of being picked up at a distance. If you don't like the Big Brother implications of that or are concerned about interference with a medical device you can opt for the older cards which are PASSIVE RFID like a classic hotel room key. It's something you have to request though.
No one's gloomy or complaining while the flatware's entertaining.
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horizons1
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Re: WDW Trip Report January 30-31 2018

Post by horizons1 » Feb Sat 03, 2018 11:25 am

Oh, and one more comment on EMH scanning of Magic Bands. After the first hour they only scanned ONE band for each party. I think they are strict up front to weed out abuse but get more lenient after a period when they assume most non-resort guests have left the park. This does speed things up, obviously, but it's still slower than just glancing at a printed card.
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Amy
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Re: WDW Trip Report January 30-31 2018

Post by Amy » Feb Sat 03, 2018 3:03 pm

Yes, I was thinking mostly about the transportation from the hotels to the parks ~ once you're on property you can utilize any of the transportation system regardless of whether you are staying on property at that point.

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