Category: Magic Kingdom

Disney Hop, Construction Everywhere, Magic finds us anyway

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By , September 25, 2014 11:06 pm

Hopping from SeaWorld to Magic Kingdom takes your own vehicle and a bit of a time investment. It’s about 8 miles apart. You can chose local roads which take longer (around 25 minutes to the parking lot) or I-4 where all the crazies drive (saves you about 10 minutes).

Thanks to living in Maryland where I have to endure the impatient DC-Balto commuters, I’ve gotten used to crazy drivers. So I opt to dive onto I-4. Saves me the traffic lights, at least. And I’m traveling mid-day so there’s no backup. (I made the mistake of taking I-4 on Tuesday evening, smack dab in the middle of rush hour. The interstate gets jammed then. I quickly ducked off and went the rest of the way by local roads.)

Once you get to the Magic Kingdom parking lot, you then have to take another 15-20 minutes taking Disney transport to get to the park. By the time we meandered out of SeaWorld and traversed our transportation loop, it just time for the new 3pm parade at Magic Kingdom. Clouds formed, but the radar showed storms just north, south or east of us.

We usually opt to traverse the Seven Seas Lagoon by ferry. We love the easy boarding and scenic views.

Ok rant mode on. What in the name of Walt Disney have they done to the Polynesian?! Yeah I know everyone was excited about a Poly DVC, but have you seen the place? They’ve completely ruined the beach and pool area. Sunset Point is gone! The nice long sandy beach with lounge chairs and swinging benches… GONE! Any view the hotel guests had of Magic Kingdom… BLOCKED by the new DVC villas. It looks horrendous. I don’t know what the MOers are going to do for their annual December 30 Pre-NYE Meet & Greet. Seriously guys, it doesn’t even look possible anymore.

CMs at Kona’s told me they were told, and fingers-crossed hoped the construction would be done by Christmas, but there’s a ton of stuff to do. The volcano pool is still under construction. Villas are shells built out along the water. I guess any sort of beach area left afterward will be the small bit right in front of the pool or around the luau.

This was a poorly thought out project, IMHO. It’s the opposite of BCV and BLT or even VGF where the DVC add-on blended into the hotel. This one is as rude as that foreign tourist who jumps in front of you at the parade and pretends not to understand English.

We were sorely disappointed to see the sight of that as the ferry sailed off. No more watching fireworks from Poly for us. At least not this trip.

Speaking of construction woes, have you seen what they did to Cinderella’s Castle circle? I must have been oblivious Monday. I didn’t realize both walkways in front of The Plaza restaurant AND Casey’s Corner all the way to Crystal Palace are closed off and under construction. I’m told it’s been that way for months. Again they expect (and hope) to finish by Christmas. Plan is to widen the walkway, I guess by plowing over the scenic lagoon and putting in lots of concrete and tables.

There goes our super secret favorite place to watch Wishes and not get trampled by the crowd. All you see now is a giant Dream Builders construction wall. It’s flat out ugly. My uncle will be devastated next week. Magic Kingdom and the circle are two of his favorite place to visit.

I seriously wonder about Disney Management these days. I think they’ve lost sight of what Walt wanted. The Castle Circle was built to be a picturesque park, not a dining and FP+ venue. But now you have no good viewing spots and the precious view decent ones taken up by FP+ holders. That’s why the gazebo in the Rose Garden was dismantled. To hold FP+ guests. It’s so disheartening.

I should have more faith and hope. After all, the new 3pm Fantasy of Dreams parade is AWESOME! I arrived late enough I barely managed a tiny spot at the top of the train station. Thanks to my Nikon zoom I did get some decent pics of the new floats. Not the greatest view. I need to get to the train station early and camp out for an hour if I want to capture that right down Main Street view. It’s my mission for next week.

GpaM handled a work thing while I photographed. Then we hopped on the next train for a round trip. I setup my Action Cam to take a full ride for my uncle. Not the same as being able to ride it himself, but at least he’s coming back to Disney next March. I did confirm with an engineer that Sunday is the last day for the steam train before it goes down for maintenance the entire month of October. Major bummer.

The rain held off and the sun got hotter as the afternoon progressed. GpaM wanted to check out the new Main Street bakery. Add this to another of his disappointments. He and I both despise Starbucks. There’s one at the entrance to our local mall which we avoid like the plague. The fumes overpower me and the coffee is far too strong for him. Bakery choices are bland and typical of Starbucks. I know some of you mocha latte coffee lovers exclaim about this, but IMHO Disney made a huge mistake going the corporate co-sponsor route with this venue. There is just nothing special about the place anymore. All it lacks is a few tables with laptop charging stations and it may as well be in my mall.

We rode in, surveyed the disappointment, and rode out swearing not to return. Gone are the days we’d stop by and pick up a special Mickey treat or some fresh-baked mini pumpkin pies.

Instead we decided to get a couple ice cream cones at the parlor. Since there’s no seating in the Rose Garden or anywhere along it because of the construction, I directed us to Tomorrowland Terrace. Plenty of room with a view of the Castle, right? Well not really. They’ve closed off the main dining area to setup for the Wishes Dessert Party (another charged special venue). This was closed at 4pm for a 9pm fireworks… WTH?) I swear that was open on Monday at the same time. Disney must be punking us.

We ended up in the back corner overlooking a slice of the Plaza walkway and all the construction. At least it was under cover and had a table. (We always get our ice cones in a cup so it’s easier to handle. You flip it upside down and have the cones sticking up. We both like sugar cones more than whip cream and sundae toppings.)

There was a Castle show while we ate, or so we heard. You couldn’t actually see the Castle.

Still we’re troopers. We’d accomplished our two “must do’s” of the day (Antarctica & Steam Train). The rest was whatever our whims were. As we sat there comparing the spacious beauty of SeaWorld to the utter debacle of Magic Kingdom, I remembered I had booked some FP+ for us to use in Magic Kingdom that evening. Trouble was I forgot when and which ones. No trouble, I’ll just launch my MDE app on my phone. (Techie gripe: the app works fine for my Nexus but it has yet to be approved for my July-released 5.5″ LG G3. I don’t know if it’s a glitch in the Play Store, but it’s damn annoying. It makes me carry my backup phone wherever I go.)

MDE makes me log in every dang time I launch it. Why can’t it remember my credentials? Second, the stupid app gave out errors whenever it tried to pull up my itinerary. I had no way of knowing what FP+ I booked. I could, after a few error messages, book new ones. Little Mermaid, Pooh, It’s A Small World… stuff with less than 20 minute waits already. It wasn’t worth it. (Irony is I’m still carrying around 5 Re-entry passes from my Pooh adventure Monday. If I was into rollercoasters, they’d be gold. I wish the things didn’t expire before my family came to town. I’m tempted to go to Guest Relations and ask a sympathetic manager if he could please allow me to exchange them for passes that didn’t expire until the end of my trip. I’d really like to send my brother and cousin on the Mine Train so they could at least tell me about it.

Speaking of the Mine Train, after ice cream we rode through TomorrowLand and stopped to survey the new rollercoaster. It looks to be filled with lots of twists and turns. The theming is nice. GpaM confirmed this is one ride he doesn’t trust himself to go on. He gets dizzy just bending down. We don’t need him passing out on a rollercoaster.

I stopped by Pooh to check on the wheelchair car. Got two very apologetic Cast Members who told me they had it fixed Tues & Wed, but it broke again this morning. They had to remove it from the track and now aren’t sure when it would be working. I assured them I wasn’t upset for myself. I just feel horrible for all the other wheelie guests visiting this week. If you are a wheelie, then don’t burn a FP+ on this ride. Not until you confirm they’ve repaired and returned the vehicle to the track. I’ll keep checking myself as my trip progresses. (Note: the ride works fine for non-wheelie guests or those who can transfer.)

Since I couldn’t retrieve my FP+ and didn’t need then anyway for stuff we might do, we just ignored all that and rode through FantasyLand. Our destination turned out to be the Liberty Belle Riverboat.

Clouds formed again, and there was even a rainbow over Cinderella’s Castle. I took a few more photos but got completely distracted meeting two young guests traveling beside me at the bow of the boat. A little girl and her brother, about 5 years old and full of curious questions. I answered everything from “Why does you hand look like that?” to “Aren’t you scared to ride Haunted Mansion?” The moment was to sweet to waste on shutterbugging, so instead I dived into the conversation. I explained my hand as arthritis and used the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz as an analogy of what that is. (i.e. the Tin Man doesn’t move because his joints rusted shut.) I heard all about their trip on Dinosaur! and how scared they were.

Our luck with the weather finally rain out as the boat returned to the dock. Rain started falling. Not heavy, but fat enough drops that we feared a downpour. We hightailed it over to Columbia Harbour House for a quick bite of dinner. This is becoming one of favorite eateries. They have good tuna salad sandwiches for lunch and hot chicken pot pie & seafood macaroni for dessert. CMs greeted us at the door and ushered us over to the far side counter to order.

Props to Disney CMs here for being extra helpful to wheelies. Not only did we get escorted to a wheelie-friendly end counter, once they took our order they sent us over to the reserved wheelie seating section and delivered our food to the table. It’s a nice extra touch to make things easier for folks with a more challenging time getting around. I always wonder how I’ll manage to navigate those tight queues than balance a tray with one hand and drive my chair to an empty table with the other.

Dinner was yummy. GpaM’s seafood macaroni came loaded with shrimp and lobster. I had tons of good cuts of chicken in my pot pie along with peas, carrots and an extra helping of steamed broccoli. We shared a hot peach cobbler for dessert.

Mother Nature finally decided to give everyone a break. That rainbow must have truly been a promise from God. The rain stopped and it was dry and comfy the rest of the night. Not too hot, not too cold, just a comfortable summer balmy the way GpaM & I like it. We were going to go home right after dinner but decided to hang out and look for a new favorite spot to watch fireworks.

I’m pleased to say we found one. Perhaps not ideal for anyone who absolutely must see every firework or have Cindy’s Castle as their foreground. Instead we ventured deep into FantasyLand where there are two more castles to act as your center stage. I chose Beast’s Castle as my focus.

Here are a few stills from the video. Warning, while there’s plenty of room on the walkway and fireworks are high above you, people will walk past and in front of you. Make sure you get to the side by a fence for safety. There was another guest using a large tripod for his camera. The height allowed him to get even better shots than me.

Those low fireworks surrounding Cinderella’s are behind you, but they light up the pathway and explode over your head. It feels like NYE with surround fireworks. I’m told by another PhotoPass CM that there’s an equally stunning view if you position yourself directly across Ariel’s castle.

This trip, at least, we may be watching fireworks exclusively back here. I have to gauge where is best to catch the panoramic fireworks of special events. Our Halloween Party is booked for next Thursday.

After fireworks, we opted to walk onto Little Mermaid. It was only a 10 minute Standby wait. A good time to traverse the Standby queue and absorb all the theming. If the queue is empty, those twists and turns are fun to drive a wheelchair through. I took advantage of the empty lines to take a full ride video for myself. The images come out better that way.

We got as far as Storybook Circus (where GpaM picked up a few apropro friends for his touring… Bad Donald and Good Donald magnetic tagalongs Maybe he’ll incorporate it into a Halloween costume.) I intended to walk the Tomorrowland Treat Path just to confirm it’s up this year, but before I got there the park closed. CMs from Dumbo shut down the ride and became a human chain ushering guests toward the exit.

We ended up on the TomorrowLand bridge just as the Main Street Electrical Parade went by. That meant we closed a park for the second day in a row. (SeaWorld yesterday.)

As you can imagine, I’m exhausted today. I counted 18 hours away, 14 of them in a theme park.

Today we’re staying at the resort. We have friends visiting for lunch. If we’re up to it, I’m hoping to pop over to DHS tonight and catch the Frozen Summer Fun Spectacular fireworks. It’s only tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. Wish us luck the weather holds again.

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