USA Part Nine - Final days at Walt Disney World

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October 9th 2013
Published: October 10th 2013
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We had planned a morning at Hollywood Studios followed by an evening at Epcot to experience the ‘Food & Wine Festival’ that runs there at this time of year - neither of us like wine so we would essentially just be eating our way around the world by trying lots of samples of food! Knowing that it would be a long day ahead, we didn’t get to Hollywood Studios right at opening time at 9am, but were there by around 11am.

Our first stop was, of course, the Hollywood Terror for a couple of rides, and also a ride on the Aerosmith roller coaster (finally remembering to take a picture of the cool outside theming of this ride!). We then checked our map to see what we had missed last time we came here and found that we hadn’t yet been on ‘The Great Movie Ride’, where we took a tour around scenes from various different classic films such as ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Tarzan’ - many with moving animatronics of the characters in these movies.

Our next stop was the Animation Academy, a 30 minute group drawing class where you can learn to draw one of the Disney characters. After a vote at the beginning of the class, it was decided that we would be drawing Goofy, and we were both pretty proud of our end results! Once out of the class, we had a bit of a wander around through Pixar Place (getting a photo with one of the green army men from ‘Toy Story’ that were wondering around!) and then through the ‘Streets of America’ area – the San Francisco backdrop was particularly life-like! We also had a wander into the ‘Pizza Planet’ arcade, though were quite disappointed that they didn’t have a ‘THE CLLAAAWWWW’ machine – we had seen them in other areas so it would make sense to have one here of all places!

We decided to then head over to Epcot as we were getting quite hungry, and figured that we could split the foods that we were planning on trying over the course of lunch and dinner (we had a list of eleven samples picked out from the menus online that we were going to share between us, so it would be plenty of food for two meals!). Of course, we had to have another stop at the ‘Tower of Terror’ for one more re-ride, and snapped a shot of the ride photo this time. There is a ferry that you can catch over to Epcot from Hollywood Studios, so we figured this would make a nice change from getting the bus and would give our feet a chance to have a bit of a rest as it would take a bit longer. On the way over to the ferry we got a picture of the ‘Monsters University’ display at the front of the gates and then hopped onto the ferry which was just pulling in as we got there.

As expected, the journey there was lovely and scenic, stopping at a couple of the nicer Disney hotels along the river front before reaching Epcot. We hadn’t really looked into where the ferry stop was at the park, and to our surprise, it turned out that it stopped at the opposite side of the park at World Showcase, just behind France – exactly where we wanted to be! Armed with a couple of plastic forks to share each sample that we would be eating, our first stop was Ireland, where we had what turned out to be Emma’s favourite dish of the night – a lobster and seafood fisherman’s pie, which was lovely and creamy, and actually our first time trying lobster, which we both loved!

Our next sample was from France, where we split the ‘Boeuf Bourguignon’ – beef short ribs in Cabernet with mashed potatoes. This was also delicious, and also Craig’s favourite dish of the night. Next stop was New Zealand, where we had a lamb meatball with spicy tomato chutney, which was surprisingly served up in what looked and tasted like a Yorkshire pudding! Our final sample for lunch was the ‘Berbere Style Beef with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato, Okra and Pap’ from Africa – this was very spicy and Craig wasn’t too keen, but Emma thought it was quite nice.

We had originally planned to have another dish for lunch from South Korea, however we seemed to have completely walked past this on our way around so decided that we would just have it later on for dinner instead. We didn’t take any pictures but for the next couple of hours we had a walk back over to the ‘Future World’ area of Epcot and visited a few rides and attractions that we had missed before. The first of these was ‘Spaceship Earth’, which took us on a journey inside the giant golf ball (which turned out to be a pretty steep ride, funnily enough, taking place in a giant sphere!), where we were shown mankind’s advances in technology and communication over the course of history using various scenes and animatronics, starting from back when we were drawing on cave walls up until the present day (though this ride probably needs an update, the ‘present day’ was more like the nineties, lol). Our next stop was ‘Turtle Talk with Crush’, a pretty cute show where Crush the turtle from ‘Finding Nemo’ hosted a question and answer session to find out more about the human world and to teach us more about the turtle world and life under the sea. It was mainly aimed at kids, but the quick wit of the guy that did the voice added to the hilarious comments that kids often come out with left the adults sitting at the back with plenty of laughs! Like the ‘Monsters Inc Laugh Floor’ show, they use live motion capture technology so that the projection of the characters are completely interactive with the audience – it’s really cool to watch!

Our last stop before returning to the World Showcase was ‘Captain EO’ – a 3D science-fiction show starring Michael Jackson, which was made back in 1986! Apparently this was an old attraction that had closed in the 90’s, but they had brought this back after his death, though it will be closing permanently next year. It was quite obviously very dated and the 3D technology wasn’t great, but it was nice to see MJ doing his thing back in his prime – clearly this is what he got up to in between the ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ albums!

We made our way back to the World Showcase to continue our food journey, stopping off first at Hawaii for a ‘Kalua Pork Slider’ with pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise – a little messy (especially when trying to share this between us!) but very tasty! Next up was the ‘Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions, Avocado and Cilantro’ from Brazil. We both found the pork to be delicious, though we were not big fans of the beans and the salsa that came with it. We then had the ‘Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies’ from Australia, which we both loved, though would have preferred the pesto to have a bit more of a mint taste! Next up was Argentina, where we picked up a ‘Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée’, which was quite nice, though we thought that the sauce would have a bit more flavour than it did. Singapore was next, for the ‘Seared Mahi Mahi with Jasmine Rice and Singa Sauce’ – the fish was lovely but neither of us liked the sauce, which we suspect had quite a lot of lemongrass in it.

We then found South Korea after somehow missing it earlier, and had originally just planned to get the ‘Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw’, but Craig fancied trying the Spicy Kimchi Dog too, so we grabbed one of each to split. Again, both a little messy but very yummy! Our final stop was Belgium for dessert, where we had a Belgian Waffle (obviously!), served with warm chocolate ganache and whipped cream – delicious! Altogether we spent around $50 for all of the food that we ate, which we figured was pretty good going for the amount that we had eaten, and a lot less than we would have paid for a meal at one of the restaurants (which was the original plan, we were going to do three Disney restaurant meals altogether), whilst getting the chance to try lots of different foods from different cultures.

The ‘Illuminations: Reflections of Earth’ show was due to start at 9pm, so at 8:15pm, we found a perfect spot on a bridge looking over the lake, where we sat and waited for the fireworks to start. It turned out that this was probably the best spot around the lake, as the celebration boats that people can privately hire (for a LOT of money) parked up just below us! The show started and we were treated to more beautiful fireworks for a perfect end to a great evening. Of course, the rush to get to the bus before the majority of the people in the park was the ACTUAL end to our evening, but we made good time (we weave around those crowds in perfect unison like PRO’S) and were actually on the first bus back to our resort, where we both collapsed into bed and fell straight to sleep.

The next day was our first visit to one of the waterparks – Blizzard Beach. We didn’t really take many pictures as the camera was locked up in a locker for most of the day whilst we rode the various waterslides all day, but we got a few snaps of the park on the way out! The park had the usual mix of body slides and tube slides, along with a huge lazy river that circled the entire park and also a small wave pool. The park is themed around a ski resort, which was different and felt quite surreal in the heat, but had the added bonus of a chair lift to take you to the top of the highest slides! We also both had a slide down ‘Summit Plummet’ – a near-vertical plunge down a twelve-storey drop at 60mph - which is the highest and fastest free-falling waterslide in the USA, and second in the world (apparently one was built recently in Brazil which is SLIGHTLY taller). It was pretty fun and you were at the bottom before you knew it – we couldn’t even tell the point at which we had stopped falling and had actually come to a stop at the bottom!

Once we had done everything at the waterpark, we got showered and changed and had a stop next door for a round at the mini-golf course, also included in our Disney passes. Like the waterpark, this was also winter-themed and supposedly where Santa and his Elves spent their summer holidays! This meant that each hole had some sort of Christmas-y/beach theme, and we made our way around the eighteen holes, keeping score on the little card that we had been given. Surprisingly, Emma actually beat Craig (she usually SUCKS at mini-golf but seemed to be having a good day!), though there were only 2 points in it, and both of us were well under par altogether. We were even treated to a free candy cane when we handed back our clubs!

The next day was an early start at Animal Kingdom, where we made us of the Extra Magic Hours offered to resort guests, getting into the park an hour earlier than everyone else at 8am. We figured that the animals on the safari tour would be more active at this time of the morning and at the cooler temperature that it was compared to later in the day. Of course, the lions were still asleep, but we did see a lot more animals roaming around than our previous tour, and many were quite close to the jeep.

I forgot to mention this, but when we had tried to get into Blizzard Beach the previous day, there was a problem with our tickets and they were apparently just showing as room keys when the staff on the gates tried to scan them. The new machines that we usually just touch our cards onto at the other parks had broken here, and we had encountered problems a couple of times when they instead tried to swipe the cards rather than tap them. A trip to guest services proved that our tickets were definitely valid for the waterparks, and they ended up issuing a different set of tickets to use at the parks, telling us that the other cards would now not work and would only serve as our room key.

Anyway, we decided to see if we could still get fast passes on the room key cards, and as we put them into the machines, two fast passes popped out! Bonus! This meant that we could get fast passes for two rides at the same time! We then also realised that we had our original paper tickets in our bag that we had originally received when we ordered them, which we had been carrying around in case we experienced further problems with our card tickets. We tried these and another two fast passes dropped down! Of course, we only had a couple of days left at Disney, but this new discovery meant that we would take advantage of this while we could – after all of the problems with our tickets, we felt it was deserved!

It actually wasn’t too busy until a little later on, so we didn’t really make much use of our extra fast passes (we actually gave one set away to a random couple) but we got a few rides on Expedition Everest and a ride on Primeval Whirl and Dinosaur before our feet started to get tired. We hadn’t yet visited the ‘It’s Tough to be a Bug’ attraction, so we walked over to the Tree of Life, under which the show takes place. This was a 3D show featuring the characters from ‘A Bug’s Life’, where we donned very attractive pairs of 3D glasses! We then watched the ‘Flights of Wonder’ show, featuring lots of different types of birds from all over the world flying low over our heads. After the show we had a walk around the ‘Africa’ area of the park, stopping to play some large drums before watching the professionals do it in a street show, and then visited some of the animal exhibits and had a wander into the petting zoo area, where we were able to pet a few free-roaming goats, pigs and sheep.

We returned to the hotel to rest our feet for a while (enjoying a Mickey-head ice cream for lunch) before returning to the Magic Kingdom later in the afternoon, where we made use of extra fast passes (which were very much needed as the park was HEAVING) to get a few rides on Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear and Big Thunder Mountain before watching the ‘Wishes’ show at 9pm, though we decided to not take any pictures this time around and just enjoy it and take it all in.

Our second-last day was spent at Disney’s other waterpark – Typhoon Lagoon. Again, not many pictures from this day, but the main highlight here was the huge wave pool, where a TSUMANI would sweep everyone off their feet every three minutes or so. Seriously, we’re surprised that kids are allowed in this pool – the wave is about six feet high (very intimidating as it rushes towards you), and really packs a punch unless you duck under it! We swam up to the deep end of the pool (we did notice that kids weren’t allowed past a certain line) and sort of ‘surfed’ the wave in a few times, literally getting swept about ten metres back or so each time just from the force of the wave! The pictures that we took don’t really do it justice but we did get a few videos which do show the size of the wave a bit better! Although it was a bit scary, we both loved it, and spent quite a bit of time swimming to the back of the pool just to be swept back again! The rest of the day was spent sliding down the various different waterslides, and also drifting around the lazy river on a ring – bliss!

Our final day at Disney (sob) was spent at Hollywood Studios, where we had every intention to make use of the extra fast passes to get a few rides on Toy Story Mania, which always has such huge queues all of the time! We treated ourselves at breakfast and rather than having our usual two pieces of toast, Craig had French toast with sausages and Emma had a Mickey-shaped waffle, which was every bit as delicious as she hoped it would be! Once at the park, we raced over to Toy Story to secure two lots of fast passes, which already had return times of 1:30pm!! The problem at the minute is that Disney are currently testing new ‘Magic Bands’ at most of the resorts (our hotel unfortunately was one of the few not included), meaning that people can actually reserve fast passes way in advance (weeks before they even arrive), and as this is the most popular and newest ride, all of these people have these reserved before the gates are even open! These people can also make use of the normal fast pass system, so really, what we were doing wasn’t really any different as we were not the only ones that could have more than one fast pass at one time.

Anyway, fast passes in hand, we made our way over to the Tower of Terror, grabbing another fast pass for Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster on the way past. We got a snap of our ride photo on this and got another fast pass to return later. As the Toy Story return times were so far away, we were actually able to get another two lots of fast passes after 11am, so we got another couple for Terror of Terror, ending up with five lots of fast passes at one point – awesome! For some reason, the park was incredibly busy today, so we were quite glad that we didn’t have to wait in the queues which were often over an hour long for the most popular rides.

We did, however, encounter our first downpour since arriving in Florida – we had actually been very lucky as they had been having a lot of rain just before we arrived. This meant that everyone rushed to the nearest ride, and we did have to queue outside in the fast pass line for Tower of Terror as even the fast pass line was quite long! Thankfully, we had an umbrella packed in our bag, so we didn’t get too wet, and were soon inside the creepy hotel lobby and ready to ride again! There was a nervous family of four riding for their first time on one of our rides, and we spent most of the queue trying to convince them how awesome the ride was, and that there was nothing to be afraid of – they had a daughter that was about eight and a son around six years old that had been a bit creeped out by all of the pre-ride antics. They all seemed to love the ride (their daughter in particular loved it, turning around to us after the ride finished to exclaim that it was AWESOME), though their son commented that he felt like he was “gonna barf”, lol. We went round again and were joined by the daughter and her dad, who also, like us had another pair of fast passes (see, it’s not just us!). We chatted to them for a bit while we queued, and they mentioned that they were going over to Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster next, as they hadn’t yet been on it. After the ride had finished, we didn’t think that we would have time to use our fast passes for that ride before our Toy Story passes became valid, so we handed them over to the dad. They were valid for use straight away, so that probably saved them an hour’s worth of queuing anyway, and they were very grateful – we’ve never seen a kids face light up so much when she saw them!

We made our way to Toy Story (120 minute queue – whaatttt!!) and joined the fast pass queue, which was probably about ten minutes long – much better! Emma beat Craig as usual first time round, then on our second go Craig finally beat Emma! Lots of fun, but like we said before, probably not worth a two hour queue! We also visited the Animation Academy a couple of times during the day, the first time drawing ‘Pascal’ the chameleon from ‘Tangled’ – neither of us had watched this and Craig didn’t fancy drawing it so instead copied a Mickey Mouse drawing from on the wall in the room, whilst Emma thought that her drawing was quite cute! The second time round we got Mickey Mouse anyway, so we both drew him along with the rest of the class, though we don’t seem to have a picture of Craig’s attempt for some reason!

We were going for a meal at Kona Café at the Polynesian Resort later that evening, to celebrate nine years (!!!!) of being together! We decided to just get a cake each from ‘Starring Rolls’ for lunch, though quickly realised that these were HUGE! Craig had a Napoleon – layers of flaky pastry filled with vanilla custard cream and topped with a sticky icing glaze - whilst Emma had a Butterfinger cupcake – a MONSTER of a chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream, covered in chocolate and crushed peanuts, and with a hidden surprise of chocolate fudge in the centre of the cake. We couldn’t even finish them they were so big, and admitted defeat before we made ourselves sick!

We had a couple of hours back at the hotel to change and leave plenty of time to get to the Polynesian, ready for our reservation at 7pm. To get there, we caught a bus to Epcot before hopping onto the Monorail to the hotel, which was pretty easy and straight forward! We were a bit early, so had a wander around the hotel (which was beautiful, by the way, but so expensive to stay there) and sat in the lobby for a little while until around 6:45pm, when we made our way up to the restaurant. It seemed quite busy, and we were given a buzzer which would let us know when our table was ready.

We were actually waiting for around half an hour, and were eventually seated at about 7:15pm. We had already looked at the menu online and had both decided what we were going to order in advance. Once our waiter had taken our orders, he brought over a HUGE round loaf of bread with macadamia nut butter, which we picked at until our food arrived. This was really tasty – the bread was slightly sweet (the flavour was a bit like a croissant) and the butter really complimented it well. For starters, we ordered one portion of sticky wings and another of pot stickers, which we shared between us. These were DELICIOUS – the sauce on the chicken wings was like Chinese-style rib sauce, whilst the pot stickers were like pork and vegetable dumplings, topped with a creamy sauce.

For mains, Emma had the Grilled Curry-crusted Lamb Chops with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Swiss Chard, and Mango Compote, whilst Craig had the Pan-seared Duck Breast served with Mung, Adzuki, and Cranberry Beans with Chorizo Sausage and Spinach in a Tamarind Gastrique. All we can say is MMMMM. Both were delicious, and we each tried a bite of each other’s dish and agreed that they were both beautifully cooked. Finally for dessert, Craig picked the infamous ‘Kona Kone’ - a waffle bowl filled with ice-cream, with M&M’s, Mickey sprinkles and candy floss, whilst Emma had the Kilauea Torte – a chocolate fondant cake. We had worn our ‘Happy Anniversary’ badges, and our waiter had noticed, bringing out the Kona Kone with ‘Happy Anniversary’ written in chocolate on the plate and a couple of Mickey chocolates stuck on top – aww! Once again, both were very yummy, though again we couldn’t quite finish them – our minds wanted more candy floss (we haven’t eaten this for YEARS) but our stomachs couldn’t take anymore!

We paid our bill, along with a tip for our lovely waiter and made our way out of the restaurant. As the Polynesian is located across the lake from the Magic Kingdom, we had planned to watch the ‘Wishes’ show from the beach at the hotel. We got out of the restaurant at 8:55pm, so the show started just as we got to the beach, where we enjoyed the fireworks as they lit up the lake in front of us. There were also a few electrical floats that lit up on the lake during the show, with a water dragon, dolphins, whales, turtles and even King Triton from ‘The Little Mermaid’ floating past as we watched.

After the show finished, we made our way back to the monorail and figured that the buses from both Magic Kingdom and Epcot would both be busy as the fireworks shows at both parks would have just finished. As Magic Kingdom was closer, we decided to bite the bullet and endure the queues here, and as expected, there was a huge queue for the All-Star Music hotel as we got there. However, there was hardly a queue at all for All-Star Sports, and a bus was at the stop! This hotel is right next door to ours, probably a ten to fifteen minute walk away, so we figured that it would be quicker to just catch that bus and walk back from there. We took a leisurely walk once we arrived, and were soon back in our room for our last night in our bed at Walt Disney World, before we would be moving to International Drive the next day for two weeks at the other Orlando theme parks.

We’ve had such an amazing time here and there is no doubt that we will be back again within the next few years – even Craig, who wasn’t all that keen on the whole Disney holiday thing, is a complete convert! He will probably deny this, but he exclaimed on more than one occasion that he now loves Disney! We can definitely see why it’s known as the happiest place on earth!

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