A Florida Vacation: Epcot

The next day as I was getting out of the hotel shower I noticed to my alarm that there were words written in the condensation in the mirror. One word was ‘you’ and the rest of the words were undecipherable. Of course my mind made the message say “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE”. The message definitely hadn’t been there when I got in the shower and no one had entered the bathroom while I was showering so I was pretty freaked out. I was relieved to learn that the laws of chemistry, physics or whatever science it is that I don’t understand said that the words were most likely written on the mirror before I showered but it took the steam from the shower to make them visible.

The next day was to be our last day in Orlando and we had a conversation about how we would spend the rest of our time. Since my feelings towards Disney World were very different from my traveling companions’ feelings towards Disney World, the conversation got kind of heated. Gabrielle said that tomorrow she definitely did not want to go to Disney World.  My father and brother agreed. The thought of not going to Disney World the next day was anathema to me and since I’m a big animal lover missing out on Animal Kingdom would be a real bummer. Still, my brother insisted that since he hated Disney World and his vacation time was limited he deserved a Disney-free day.  That night my father was having dinner with some business colleagues. My brother had the option of going to the dinner or going to Disney World with me.

Most people would have immediately chosen Disney World without even having to think about it but for my brother the decision involved figuring out which one he considered to be the lesser of two evils. Eventually I came up with a compromise. I said “How about this- you go to Disney World with me tonight and I’ll do a non-Disney activity with you tomorrow.” “Deal” he said and we shook on it.

I managed to get us all to Epcot at around noon. My friend Mary was visiting Disney World to run in a Princess Marathon so we met up at Epcot. We had our picture taken together and I captioned the picture “The people who actually like Disney World.”

Mary visits Disney World frequently so she’s picked up some pointers on how to make the most of your experience there. She told us that you could reduce your wait time for Test Track by entering the single riders line. We did that and afterwards we went on some space ship ride. The ride offered two options: an intense version and a less intense version. I went for the intense version while my brother did the less intense version with Gabrielle. My brother complained that his version of the ride was boring and I complained that my version left me feeling nauseated.

Then we saw some show about colors. My brother and I snickered about how lame it was. After that we moved on to The Sea section of Epcot. We went on a Finding Nemo ride and since we rode in shells I busted out the camera on my phone and took a shellfie. Upstairs there was an aquarium with various marine life including manatees. This prompted my father to start calling Gabrielle Manatee and he periodically referred to her as Manatee for the rest of our trip. If I was called Manatee I would take it as a disparaging comment on my weight and would be insulted but I think my father meant it affectionately.

After The Sea we split up with my brother and me going in one direction and my father and Gabrielle going in another direction. My brother and I were both hungry so we went to The World Showcase to find a restaurant. “What country do you want to eat in?” my brother asked. “A country in which the food is not spicy” I replied.  France seemed like a good bet for non-spicy food so we went to a French restaurant.

When my brother noticed that I wasn’t eating my salad he pointed out that I hadn’t had any intention of ordering a salad but when the waitress had asked me what salad I wanted I panicked and chose one. It was similar to what the waiter had done with my dad and the ribs last night. It was another example of Disney employees sneakily tricking you in to paying too much money for things you didn’t want or need and this was why he hated Disney. I could not argue with him there.

After our meal we went to The Land. We saw a boat ride with a very short wait so we hopped on. We assumed that since the wait was so short the ride would be lame but it was actually pretty cool and interesting. Then we went on Figment’s Imagination Ride which is the kind of childish brightly colored ride full of song and dance that I love and my brother hates. After that we saw a compilation of 3-D Disney animated shorts. They were so cute and funny that even my brother enjoyed them.

When we met up with my father and Gabrielle again we discovered that in our time apart we had gone on the same rides. Now it was time for my father and Gabrielle to leave and get ready for the business dinner. My brother had agreed to continue doing Disney with me but I told him I didn’t want to stay at Epcot. I wanted to go back to The Magic Kingdom to do some of the classic rides we hadn’t gotten to the first time we were there, especially the haunted mansion. My father said we couldn’t do that because the tickets only allowed us to go to one park a day. I told him he was mistaken about how the tickets worked.

As we headed off to The Magic Kingdom  (which I’ve just learned is now called Magic Kingdom; ‘The’ has been removed from several of its signs)  I felt excited. This was going to be fun.

When we reached the parking lot we had to pay $20 for parking despite the fact that we were only going to be there for a few hours. They charge a flat rate for parking each day, regardless of the amount of time you’re spending in the park. It took us a while to find a spot but we eventually found one in the Ursula section. Then we had to take a trolley to the monorail. Then we had to wait among the crowds for the monorail. Then we were packed like sardines in to a monorail full of loud children and taken to the park entrance. Then we waited in a very long line to be admitted to the park. I knew it would all be worth it in the end though.

Finally we made it to the front of the line. After having our bags checked and our fingerprints verified, my brother inserted his ticket in to the machine that would admit us in to The Magic Kingdom. It didn’t work. He tried it again. It didn’t work that time either. He tried a third time. It still didn’t work.

A Disney employee came over to investigate the problem. After scanning my brother’s ticket she said to him “This ticket is only valid for one park per day and you’ve already been to Epcot today.”

A wave of crushing disappointment came over me. This was supposed to be the happiest place on earth but I wasn’t feeling very happy. In that moment The Magic Kingdom lost some of its magic for me. In that moment I was able to see Disney World through my brother’s eyes: A world full of long lines, crowds and hassles, a world where you were tricked in to giving up ridiculously large amounts of money for rewards that didn’t pay off.

That Disney employee could have said to us “Look, your ticket isn’t good for The Magic Kingdom but we know you came all the way here, paid for parking, and fought your way through crowds. Since there are only a couple of hours left until The Magic Kingdom closes we’ll let you in tonight.” You’d think that would be in the spirit of what the place was supposed to be about. Of course she didn’t do that though. She chose to follow the rules, rules made by a bunch of dirty, sneaky money grubbers.

I turned to my brother and said “Fuck Disney World. Let’s see what else Orlando has to offer.”

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A Florida Vacation: Hollywood Studios

We discovered much to our relief and delight that we weren’t staying in a crappy motel but in a fancy hotel. I had my own bed and my brother had his own room. The hotel had nice amenities such as a large outdoor pool and room service. Since we were too exhausted to go out to a restaurant that night we took advantage of room service. After dinner my brother decided to tell me how much he hated Disney World.

“How can you hate Disney world? Disney World is awesome” I replied.

“That’s just your opinion.”

“Yes, obviously it’s my opinion since it came out of my mouth. I don’t think I should have to put a ‘This is my opinion’ disclaimer on everything I say.”

“But you always state your opinion as if it’s a fact.”

“Well, what is there to hate about Disney World?”

“Let’s see…the long lines, the huge crowds, the loud noises, the ridiculous prices…”

“Well, don’t you like the rides?”

“Not really. I’m so tall that there’s not enough room for me to stretch my legs in them and I’m uncomfortable.”

Soon after that I discovered much to my dismay that my other traveling companions are not big fans of Disney World either. You’re probably wondering why three people who hate Disney World decided to go to Disney World. I wondered the same thing. It sounded like my brother came because he felt like he didn’t have much of a choice in the matter and he wanted to spend time with us over his break from work.  He said it was a shame that his break coincided with the Disney World portion of our trip rather than the Fort Lauderdale/Key West/Miami portions.

As for why my father who hates Disney World decided to take his girlfriend and his son who also hate Disney World to Disney World, I’m not entirely sure. I’d like to think he did it for my sake but being at Disney World with three people who hated Disney World really put a damper on my fun. Getting my traveling companions to actually go to the parks was like pulling teeth and required a lot of nagging on my part. We never even made it to Animal Kingdom.

The day after we went to Magic Kingdom, I tried to get us all to Hollywood Studios first thing in the morning but my traveling companions were having none of it.

“Let’s stay around the hotel pool until noon and then go to Hollywood Studios. You can’t spend more than 5 hours at Disney World anyway” my father said.

“Sure you can” I replied.

The hotel pool was nice though. It included a lazy river in which you could float on inner tubes and a water slide.  As I glanced at the water slide I was reminded of my childhood days when my mom would take us swimming at a public pool that had a water slide. I loved that water slide and my mom loved it as much as I did.  She went on it over and over again. At one point I saw one of the lifeguards point to my mother and heard him say to another lifeguard “Why does that grown woman keep going on the water slide?’

The advantage I have in looking young enough to be an adolescent is that I don’t have to worry about getting crap from the lifeguards about riding the water slide as a grown woman. It didn’t seem like this lifeguard had a problem with adults riding on the water slide anyway. He happily chatted with Gabrielle when she made her way to the top of the water slide. Gabrielle ended up having the same hesitations about riding the water slide as she did about riding Space Mountain. She continued to chat with the lifeguard and let several children go on the slide before her. She called to me from the top of the water slide and said I should try it. When I told her I already had, she told me to do it again. When I did so and she saw that I survived she went down the slide herself. She also survived.

By the time we left the pool it was after one. Then my dad got trapped on a long business call and by the time he got off it it was after 2. When we looked for my brother he was nowhere to be found. We finally decided to go without him, as he wouldn’t be too upset about missing out on Disney World anyway.  By the time we arrived at Hollywood Studios it was after 3.

I insisted we go on The Tower of Terror first because that’s my favorite ride in all of Disney World. Once again my father and Gabrielle spent the entire time we were in line debating whether or not they would go on the ride. Gabrielle ended up riding with me while my father sat it out.

The next ride I wanted to go on was The Rockin” Roller coaster. Deciding whether or not they wanted to go on this ride was easier for my father and Gabrielle because when they saw that the wait was 90 minutes they decided they didn’t even want to stand in line. I wasn’t thrilled at having to wait 90 minutes but I remembered it as being a fun ride and I decided that with my Kindle the wait was manageable. It was agreed that I would wait in line and go on the ride by myself. I would meet up with my father and Gabrielle afterwards to see the Fantasmic light show.

While I was in line an announcement came over the loudspeaker. Disney said they were sorry but the wait time was going to be longer than anticipated. At this point the people surrounding me craned their necks around the crowd in front of us to try to determine how much longer we’d have to wait.  Some people decided ‘fuck it’ and left the line but I stuck it out until the end.  We made it to Fantasmic just in the nick of time.

When we were trying to decide what to do for dinner I suggested eating at Downtown Disney. However, I knew that just like Hollywood Studios had been MGM the last time I was there, Downtown Disney also had a new name. I didn’t know what the new name was so I Googled and as best I could tell Downtown Disney was now the The Disney Boardwalk. It was conveniently located near Hollywood Studios. I called my brother (who had forgone Disney World in favor of working out at the hotel gym and napping in his room) and told him to come meet us at The Disney Boardwalk.

When we got there it appeared to be a hotel.

“I think we have the wrong place” I said.

“Let’s see. Maybe the shops and restaurants are behind the hotel” my dad replied.

When I asked a hotel employee where the shops and restaurants were he gave me a baffled look.

“You mean the gift shop?”

“I’m looking for the place that used to be Downtown Disney.”

“Oh, the place you’re looking for is Disney Springs.”

I called my brother and told him, just kidding, he needed to meet us at Disney Springs, not The Disney Boardwalk.

When we got there it took us about an hour to find a restaurant that had a wait time of less than an hour. The restaurant we settled on was a pretty good one. The waiters were friendly and the food was served in large portions. After the appetizers were ordered my brother turned to me and said “Father just ordered ribs with his appetizer without realizing it.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The waiter realized that English is not Father’s first language so while he was explaining all the appetizers he slipped ‘Do you want ribs?’ in there. Father was confused and just said yes. He had no idea he was ordering ribs.”

Sure enough when the ribs arrived my father was surprised by them. He ate them anyway though. My brother then turned to me again and said “See, this is one of the reasons I hate Disney. They’re sneaky bastards who shamelessly grub for your money in any way they can.”

We were way too stuffed to order dessert but as we walked towards our car we decided ice cream would be nice. Unfortunately it was late and we couldn’t find any. As we entered the parking lot my father asked me if I’d had a good day. I acknowledged that although I hadn’t gotten ice cream and I hadn’t seen as much of Disney World as I would have liked, it had been a good day.

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A Florida Vacation: The Magic Kingdom

My flight to Orlando was uneventful and pleasant enough. The only problem was that when we landed there were a few planes ahead of us on the runway so we had to wait about half an hour to get off our plane.  I find sitting still on a grounded plane to be much more intolerable than sitting still on a flying plane so by the time we finally did exit the plane I felt like my butt cheeks were about to fall off.

Disney World pervaded the atmosphere of the Orlando airport. There were Disney signs, Disney memorabilia, and people wearing mouse ears. I snapped a picture of those people in their mouse ears, getting as close as I could without seeming like a creeper. As we waited for our luggage my dad lamented what a shame it was that we’d only be seeing The Magic Kingdom and not any of the other Disney parks. He explained to Gabrielle that we’d be staying in a crappy motel with one bed between us but it was okay because we’d only be there for one night.

We made our way to The Magic Kingdom and surprise, surprise, there was my brother! My father then revealed the true itinerary of our trip and Gabrielle was delighted although she did admit that all my father’s talk of Florida and all the time he’d spent researching Florida on the internet had aroused her suspicions.

Our first order of business was eating because I was starving. I’m pretty sure that the hot chocolate I got was actually coffee but I didn’t feel like making my way back through the crowds and lines to exchange it. Our next order of business was going on rides. To our dismay we found that the lines for most of the rides were very long. We wanted to get fast passes but it seemed they had changed the fast pass system since the last time I was there. We had trouble figuring out how to get them and once we did figure it out they were all gone. Now you had to book you fast passes way ahead of time and we hadn’t had the foresight to do that.

Now that I have a Kindle I don’t mind waiting in long lines so much but my Kindleless traveling companions didn’t have much tolerance for it so we went on the rides that had shorter waits. Of course the length of the line is inversely related to the quality of the ride but as far as I’m concerned there are no bad rides at Disney World so I enjoyed It’s a Small World, the Winnie the Pooh ride, the Dumbo ride, the Goofy ride, the train through Tomorrowland and the teacups even though the teacups made me feel nauseous.

The line for Space Mountain was long but we decided it was worth the wait. Actually I decided it was worth the wait and my travelling companions grudgingly agreed to stand in line. Once they got in line my father and Gabrielle were still undecided about whether or not they would actually go on the ride and the whole time we were in line they debated it back and forth. In the end they did go on the ride and they enjoyed themselves (at least I think they did.)

While we were waiting in line for the haunted house it began to rain very hard. My traveling companions decided to take shelter in the nearest shop but I stubbornly remained in line. A few minutes later I had to concede defeat though because I was drenched from head to toe. I looked and felt like a miserable wet rat.  At that point we decided to call it a day and leave The Magic Kingdom.

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