Florida – September 2011

Day 18 – EPCOT (again)

Thursday 6th October

Our morning routine was somewhat adjusted this morning to accommodate for the fact that we would be meeting up with Louise & Chris for breakfast. Our usual Waffle House is a very small building and doesn’t have the ability to accommodate for groups of more than 5 comfortably so we decided that we’d all meet at the IHOP just a few doors down instead. The food served is essentially the same, although the IHOP does real, freshly squeezed orange juice, which is nice. Shane missed out on breakfast, as he was off to one of the various ticket sales outlets up and down 192 trying to secure a good deal on some theme park tickets. There are a number of operators in the area that buy tickets with unused days on them for sale onto new customers looking to get a good deal. Shane’s 1-day, 1-park ticket for EPCOT set him back $60. This was a good $30 or more cheaper than the turnstile price but I doubt the operator would have spent more than $20 buying the ticket from whomever it was that didn’t need them any more. They sell these tickets even though the tickets are associated with the original buyers fingerprints. We had to get our fingerprints scanned when we first used our Disney tickets. In the case of the Universal tickets, we had to sign the tickets also. Just exactly how the second-hand ticket operators get around this is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps the fingerprinting system doesn’t always work very well.

Shane arrived with his ticket for EPCOT not long after Louise & Chris and us had finished eating and the three cars set off in a convoy towards the Walt Disney World resort area – in our case, this would be fir the last time.

As ever, very few park visitors today meant that we were able to park quite close to the turnstiles as so didn’t need to board any trams before getting into the park. We made guest services our first stop so as to renew the guest assistance pass that I have been nursing over the past couple of weeks or so. It’s all tattered and torn now and we wanted to get them to issue us with a new one that reflects the now larger number in our group, which they were all to happy to do. Shane has a disability sticker for his car and has some problems with mobility and so he also procured a guest services pass to accommodate him and Lisa.

It seems that everyone was in agreement that we should do Spaceship Earth first off. With our guest assistance passes, we slipped into the back entrance. At least, everyone else did. I was supposed to book us a table at the German beer-garden restaurant for later on in the day when I was renewing the guest services pass but I’d forgotten to do so and had to go back and arrange this whilst everyone else went on the ride. I met them all shortly after at the end of the attraction.

Sandy couldn’t pass up another opportunity to ‘meet the Disney characters’ so that we could get more photos of everyone with their favourite Disney characters. As we moved our way through the sets from Mickey, to Minnie, to Donald and then onto Pluto and finally Goofy, I kept telling myself that perhaps Joey won’t this time pull on Goofy’s whiskers with such force as to force a temporary withdrawal of the cast member to address a ‘wardrobe issue’. Alas, Joey’s enthusiasm struck with characteristic predictability and, sure enough, Pluto had to ‘temporarily retire’ shortly after Joey was moved into the camera’s frame and his enthusiasm got away with him.

Although we had the kids with us, our group now consisted of mostly adults and so we thought it would be best to try to have a more even mix of adult versus kid activities. As such, we decided to make the Land attraction our next stop, where we would all enjoy the Soarin’ ride, which I think is one of the better attractions here at EPCOT nowadays. We did this and had a really good time doing so. Although I know that I’m just being dangled in the air in front of at large screen, the synchronisation of the movement of the hoist on which you sit and the movie screen really does a very good job at fooling your brain into thinking that you’re actually ‘soaring’.

Since we were already there anyway, we hopped onto the hydroponics tour boats right outside of the Soarin’ attraction exit/entrance. If nothing else, it’s a chance to sit and relax for 10-15 minutes as the boat drifts ever-so-slowly through the hydroponics gardens.

Next up was the Seas, where we would enjoy the Turtle Talk with Crush attraction. We’d just mist out on the group that were just entering but the 15 minute wait didn’t seem to phase anyone too much. I used the time to pop into the nearby shop to see if there was a ray stuffed toy for Joey. They didn’t have any but he decided he wanted a stuffed dolphin instead so that’s what he got. Curiously, he chose a pink one. Naturally, I can’t get something for Joey and not for Jennifer but she was particularly easy. She took one look at Joey’s pink stuffed dolphin and immediately decided that she wanted an identical one – but blue. I’ve no idea how or why but she seemed to already know that they had both pink & blue stuffed dolphins in this particular store and, sure enough, when I took her over there, she found one buried amongst all the others. I was actually quite chuffed at the fact that neither of the kids adheres to gender stereotypes.

The Turtle Talk with Crush show was, once again, very good. It was made even more memorable this time around by virtue of Crush having chosen Joey out of the crowd as one of the ‘dudes’ to allow a question. Joey’s question was ‘how old are you’, to which Crush replied ‘150 dude!’

The Turtle Talk show lasted all of 10 minutes and it did take a few minutes for hundred or so members of full auditorium to file out. Our group managed to re-convene right by the back entrance to the Finding Nemo ride, which, thanks to our guest assistance passes, we were able to take full advantage of. Once again, the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes was gratefully welcomed, I’m sure, by all involved. Well, with the possible exception of Shane, who was probably in some sort of existential quandary with wanting to sit down on the one hand and not particularly wanting to succumb to the ‘Disney Magic’ on the other. He’s here for the benefit of seeing his relatives and only reluctantly tagging along on the Disney Magic carpet ride.

We backtracked slightly from the Seas attraction to make our way over to the Imagination building. Everybody absolutely loved the Figment ride … well, nearly everybody.

The water fountains outside of the Imagination building are always good for a few moments of entertainment and a few of us hd fun trying to ‘catch’ the jet of water as it made its way from section to section. Some of us got wet but it was hot enough for this not to pose any problems.

Over on the other side of the plaza, two more prime-time attractions would await us next. The first of these was Mission Space. Although Jennifer was allowed to do this last week, for whatever reason, the cast member manning their post at the entrance to this attraction today was being particularly zealous about enforcing the heigh rule. Once again, it was by the smallest of margins but Jennifer was not allowed to ride. Sandy took her through the side door to spend some time in the play area that the rest f us would be dumped into following the conclusion out ride. Since I had Joey with me, he and I took the ‘green’ route, whilst all the others took the ‘orange’ route. The orange route was a more intense version of the same ride but I never got to experience it first hand so I can’t say too much about it. Shane was particularly impressed so I have to conclude that it was a very good ride.

At my suggestion, we all hung around for a few minutes in the Mission Space play area to allow the kids an opportunity to stretch their legs and burn of a bit of energy. Nobody had any qualms about this and I have to say that, despite probably wanting to make faster progress throughout the entire day, everyone was very accommodating to the needs of the children all day long as we moved about the park.

We weren’t too sure about whether the Energy attraction was going to be worth it – or indeed whether it was still going nowadays – so we made our way directly over to the Test Track attraction instead. Everyone was certain that this was going to be worth it – which it was.

For the first time on this trip, we next made our way into the World Showcase section of EPCOT. It was by now getting close to 16:00 anyway and time for us to make our way into Germany for our dinner reservation. The food, I thought was mediocre at best and really rather expensive but I think we all had a good time despite this and the music entertainment was very good. The good doing the Edelweiss tune on the cow bells was particularly good.

Being a buffet, everyone ate themselves into a stupor and we rolled out of the German beer-garden restaurant amphitheatre is desperate need of a nap. Sandy had other ideas and decided that we should visit both Norway and Mexico, as each of these had boat ride attractions that she thought the kids might enjoy. I suggested that the others would be more than welcome to go their own way at this point but everyone thought it was a good idea to stick together and to try these rides out also.

Norway was just a couple of countries away and the Maelstrom ride was pretty good. The kids loved it and I didn’t hear anyone else complaining. I had completely forgotten about the Donald Duck boat ride n Mexico but it all came flooding back to me (no pun intended) once we were on board.

It had been the plan to hang around for the Luminations display of lasers and fireworks but it only nearly 19:00 and already I was getting very tired. I didn’t feel that I was going to be able to hang on for another 2 hours before the show was due to start so I suggested that we forego that experience but that the others were more than welcome to hang around if they wanted to. Again, everyone was happy to stick together as a group and come back to our house for the remainder of the evening. We still had time for another quick go on the Test Track and given that we were right next door to that, we wandered over and made one final use of our guest assistance pass, after which I gave ours to Louise and Chris so that they could maximise their enjoyment for the rest of their time here in Orlando.

On the way back to the car, I floated the suggestion of having another go at Spaceship Earth – particularly in light of the fact that I missed out on this at the front end of the day. This all did, except for Sandy and Shane, who we later met at the cars in the car-park.

Back at our place, we enjoyed a lovely hour and a half of chit-chat and general relaxation and we all took advantage of the games room and, in the case of some of us, the hot-tub.

With a healthy dose of reluctance, we said our final good-bye to Louise and Chris. It was a real treat catching up with them here in Orlando and we will miss them. We have no idea when or where we might see them next.