How was Disney??
It’s big like the time I ordered a Bloomin Onion appetizer at Outback Steakhouse: however big it looks in the picture, in real life, it’s bigger.
It’s also very, very clean.
Think Singapore clean.
I’ve never been to Singapore, but a few years ago while living in downtown Philadelphia, my husband came home one day after kicking through the crack vials and cheesesteak wrappers on his walk from work, to announce that we were moving to Singapore, where - he had read - people get caned for expectorating in parks and put against a wall and shot for forgetting to flush a public toilet. I didn’t see anyone actually put against a wall and shot for littering at Disney, but it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that it has happened. Mickey looked like he was packing heat. And, it was whispered among guests that a teenager was pistol-whipped at the candy shop on Magic Kingdom Main Street for trying to purchase bubblegum.
In an incident I actually witnessed at the Chef Mickey buffet, some poor little girl got so excited when Chip and Dale approached her table that she threw-up her $15.00 Mickey Mouse Ear Waffles all over the carpet. Immediately, a team of men in white coats and dark glasses swooped in from open tiles in the ceiling and surrounded the table…there was a loud hissing sound as they sprayed down the area with what looked like enormous fire extinguishers, sang an a cappella round of “If You Wish Upon A Star” and then vanished. The was no sign of emesis, and…no sign that anyone had even been seated at that table for the past half hour.
The little girl and her family were nowhere to be seen.
Later that day, at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride…I don’t know. I can’t be sure, but one of the animatronic wenches had the mother’s hairline…
Further tales of cleanliness…We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort - a Disney resort themed on the charming Louisiana bayou country - and I didn’t see one mosquito, one alligator, one Piggly Wiggly grocery bag washed up along the (fake) swamps after Katrina’s (Magical!) devastation. It was all very, very tidy on the banks of Ole Man Sassagoula, the winding river that connects Port Orleans Riverside to downtown Port Orleans French Quarter. Honestly. I didn’t see one crawfish, let alone an old fruit jar, in the entire resort. If Hank Williams had visited this bayou, he’d have nothing to sing about.
Except maybe the hot tub.
Oddly enough, the one body of water that you’d expect to be conspicuously spic-and-span instead had a fine layer of Magical grunge floating across it’s bubbling swamp gas. Which didn’t stop anyone from dipping in and boiling their clammy flesh. Everything else at the resort is so antiseptically clean; if you did pick up any germs in the hot tub, you’d be instantly disinfected the moment you stepped out. Just walking around Disney is the equivalent of stepping into a biohazard decontamination room. Even my acne cleared up while I was there.
It was also cold when we were there. Which was a surprise to me…I mean, Florida? I thought that was somewhere near the equator, no? We actually had to crank up the heat a few nights.
All-in-all, though, it was absolutely Magical! La-la Land. You had no idea where you were at any time. Or what year it was. I even signed my maiden name once, I was so feeling so mixed-up and joie de vivre.
All that cleanliness, and yet you couldn’t smell any bleach.
We are thinking about going maybe next fall, around the time you guys went. I want to pick your brain about it. What did you learn, that you would do or not do again?
What I’d Do Again: (Distilled to my Top Five)
1.I would stay at a Disney resort. It’s the closest thing to living on another planet that you’ll ever experience.
2. I would not rent a car.
To be precise, if you are just doing Disney and are staying on property, don’t rent a car. The bus service is fairly good, although some of the buses got packed to bursting at certain hours and let me tell you: even if you’re carrying two passed-out children - one of whom has just obviously vomited Magical! fruit punch all over your shirt - no one and I mean NO ONE will give up a seat for you. They won’t even look at you. It’s like the bus seat is an E-ticket and you just hopped the line. Forget it. You’re carrying your kids, buddy. Disney World is so not a Christian country at closing time. Go back to the Heartland if you want a bus seat.
Other than that, the bus service was grand, quick and convenient.
3. I would get the meal plan.
The food at Disney is priced like this: HOW Much For A Hot Dog?!, We Can’t All Afford Dinner Here…Someone Has to Go Home, and We’ll Just Have to Eat The Baby. I didn’t try to smuggle food into the parks, but…I’d be afraid. One guard at the entrance patted me down and told me that next time I wouldn’t be allowed to bring in the extra fat around my hips because it was considered a calorie reserve that would get me through lunchtime thus stealing valuable profits from The Large Mouse.
Other than that, the food was good. The best food is at Epcot; the worst food is at The Magic Kingdom. Except the Crystal Palace buffet at the Magic Kingdom was very good. So, don’t listen to me.
4. I would book priority seating reservations for as many character meals as possible.
You have to sit down at some point to eat, anyway, right? Here’s your choice: either stand in line for 5, 10, 15 - 45 minutes to learn up close that Sleeping Beauty has a space between her teeth, or have The Princesses walk up to your table, talk a bit, and pose for photos with your Little Princess. Or, if princesses aren’t de rigueur for your crew, the Winne the Pooh Buffet at Crystal Palace is A+. My kids don’t even know from Winnie the Pooh, and they loved the characters. Just be careful how you frame your photos: we have about 100 photos shot from across the table with a gravy boat or plate of mashed potatoes right at character-crotch-level. It looks like the characters are hiding more than they really have. Naughty, naughty, Furries.
5. I would make sure to make all my Disney table reservations ASAP, pronto, NOW, NOW, NOW!
For table service meals anywhere in Disney, priority seating reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance (up to two years for some dinner shows, I crap you not). Take this 180 number seriously. Deadly seriously. Like your social security number or the phone number for Dialing for Dollars where you can win big on the hour. I made all my dinner reservations 180 days in advance. A month before we went to Disney, I decided that I didn’t want to eat a Magical! lunch with Pooh (that sounds gross) at 11:00 AM and instead would like to eat a Magical! lunch with Pooh at 2:00 PM.
No soap. Every seating time was taken and had been taken for weeks. And this was during a low attendance day. Our options were to keep our 11:00 AM reservation or else take a reservation for a sit down lunch at 8:39 PM in a restaurant somewhere in Epcot (I think it was at Le Cheval Mécontent in France where we would have to sit at six different tables, agree to each order a bottle of wine, and then admit to the French waiters that we were very silly Americans and that Freedom Fries were a stupid idea.)
And, just to be clear, Priority Seating - which is what Disney calls their reservation system - is not a real reservation. Think of it more as an exact time you should arrive, but which represents in actuality an amorphous range of Magical! Dining Time Possibilities. Sometimes we waited five minutes, sometimes a little more give or take a half-hour. It was all very…Magical!
What I'd NOT Do Again? (Again, Top Five)
1. I would not eat any meat off any buffet.
It was invariably dry and tasted like a heating lamp. All the vegetable dishes were superb - I even ate my beets - and I recommend becoming a vegetarian for the duration of your stay.
2. I would not attempt to stay in any one park longer than 5 hours.
It goes this way:
Your first hour in the park, everyone in your party is bouncing and bubbly and pulling at your arms to run see this, wait in line for that, trip and fall over their own feet, skin their knees and still get up smiling.
Your second hour in the park, the magic is still hitting you between the eyes full force. It’s great. It’s like nitrous oxide without the whipped cream.
Your third hour in the park, everyone is ready for a snack and a drink and, unless you can time everyone’s bladders to go off at the same time, the rest of your park visit will be broken up into 30 minute “ride a ride and then search for a bathroom” intervals. Those intervals will shorten by 10 minutes for each child with you who is under six-years-old. But, you’re still having fun. Pixie dust has a looooooooong half-life.
Your fourth hour in the park, anyone under the age of 15-years-old will be asking you to carry them. Plan a lot of the long stage shows and quick-entry rides for this time. You will also want to start thinking about lunch. (By the way, do not plan to have lunch at a regular lunch time because if you get in line for a burger at noon, you’ll eat it sometime around the fireworks show.) Having read all your handbooks and chosen the counter- service restaurant that will suit the gustatory needs and attitudes of the majority of your family, you will immediately discover to your great dismay that this restaurant is 15 miles across the park and you will have to settle for the counter-service restaurant nearby, the one where the only menu item anyone will eat is french fries.
(Hint: No child under the age of about seven needs their own entrée almost anywhere. It’s not that the portions are always so big; it’s just your children will have been inhaling Pixie Dust and will be too out of their minds to eat anything much at one sitting. My advice is to smuggle an apple and some granola in your bra, or swipe grapes from the buffet, stick them in your hat, and then throughout the day whenever your little Mouseketeers are saying, “WOW” or “LOOK THERE” or “HOLY SMOKES, DONALD DUCK HAS A BIG WHITE BUTT” take the opportunity to shove a healthy snack into their adorable gaping gob.)
By the fifth hour in the park, it is almost beyond useless to follow any preconceived touring plans or timelines. Let go, let God.
Anything after the fifth hour in the park…well, let’s just say that by five-hours-and-five-minutes in the Magic Kingdom, there was very little difference that I can ascertain between my state of mind then and my state of mind the time in college when I was five hours into an acid trip in Kenmore Square. It was still fun, a little scary, and the back of your head felt like it was caving in.
By hour five, it’s time to go back to the hotel and take up residence in the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Go back by hour four if you have anyone under the age of 5 or over the age of 30 with you.
3. I would not feel guilty about using FASTPASS.
FASTPASS is a miracle of modern technology and a celebration of Good Ole American cunning, one-upsmanship, and nyah-nyah-nyah-itude.
With FASTPASS, you put your Disney ticket into a little vending machine, and out comes another ticket with a timestamp. You wave the timestamped ticket at all the suckers standing under the sign that says “FROM THIS POINT THE WAIT IS 5 DAYS, SUCKER” and you go on your merry way about the park, perhaps stopping to enjoy a nice cup of cool water which you pour over your tired feet. Then, at the time prescribed on your ticket, you go back to the ride, enter the FASTPASS cattle chute which runs triumphantly alongside the SUCKERS cattle chute, whereupon your wait for the desired ride is cut in half at least. Usually, we walked right past rows and rows and rows of SUCKERS and stepped right in front of them to get on the desired ride. It felt ssssoooooooooooo wrong. I mean, I know that you can only get one FASTPASS every hour or so, and sometimes FASTPASSES were sold out. But surely, some of these people had been standing in line since the park had opened five hours ago. I can only imagine that they were all non-English speakers whose Moldovan-English dictionaries had no translation for FASTPASS, or they were British and just liked to queue anyway.
At any rate, no one in the SUCKERS chute ever complained or gave us the hairy eyeball because lines of us in the FASTPASS chute - heads down but with a song in our hearts - were speeding by. I’m telling you…happy gas all around.
Or maybe they thought we were celebrities. In the right light, I do look an awful lot like Brad Pitt.
4. I would not ask children to pose for more than one photo every two hours.
Every two days.
If your kids are anything like mine, when surrounded by so much Magic! to get their hands on, they have little patience for this cute posing beyond the first photo, and in all of the posed photos after, they will be sprawled in impatient contortions as if trying to pick-up tacks with their butt cheeks.
Stick with the candid shots. They’ll have their mouths open in every one, but at least they won’t look in pain.
5. I would not assume that because it’s 55 degrees that I can get out of going into the pool with my kids.
The pools are heated, which is nice. But not heated enough for my liking. And don’t think that you can try the old, “It’s 55 degrees and no dufus is swimming today” because there will always be one dufus in the pool, and in a few minutes you will be the second one.
How much did it really cost??
5 billion dollars. Unless you stay off-site. Then it only costs 5 billion dollars.
Did you fly down or drive?
We drove, then drove, then flew, then drove.
Somehow, the trip from Harrisburg to Baltimore was three times longer than the trip from Baltimore to Orlando. Then, the bus ride from Orlando to our resort took nine days.
No, actually, the Magical! Express - which you get free if you stay at a Disney Resort - was fabu. It really got you in the mood, and people actually moved to another seat so that all of your family could sit together. Don’t expect this on the way back, however. Everyone is feeling poor and surly.
Southwest airline was…fine. None of that annoying sliding off the runway on our trip. But, there aren’t any assigned seats, so, you know…be prepared to yell at people who won’t change their seat so that your 4-year-old can sit next to you instead of sitting by herself next to a man wearing rubber gloves and a gold toupee.
Did you do a package or just buy the tickets all separately?
We bought the Disney package which, supposedly, is now priced competitively with other packages. Honestly, after six months of planning, at some point - as with my wedding - I just threw up my hands and said “Here’s how much money I have. Take it. Just tell me where and when to show up.”
Where did you stay?
Port Orleans Riverside, which again, I loved. I could have spent an entire week there without leaving and have been very content indeed. There was a fishing hole for the kids, seven pools (give or take), bike rentals, carriage rentals (all for a fee, of course) and an arcade; a sit-down restaurant and a cafeteria-style restaurant; and, miles of gorgeous, landscaped paths. You could also rent boats and more boats and there was a campfire one night for the kids. In the end, we did very little of any of this because we were running from park to park like Magical nutcases.
The other nice thing about POR is that there is a free boat that takes you to Port Orleans French Quarter and gives you access to their amazing dragon pool. Then, the boat continues on to Downtown Disney where you will promptly and happily leave all your money.
I would stay at Port Orleans Riverside again. I would also like to try the Wilderness Lodge and the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but we’re waiting for my Mother-In-Law to publish her bestselling memoirs, appear on Oprah, and then spring for the trip with her first royalty check. Eh-hem.
I know I'm asking a million questions here!
Not even close! I love talking Disney. I'm a convert.
Would you go the same time again?
Maybe. It was a wonderful time of year - not too hot, but not too cold that you actually did freeze off your tender bits in the pool - and the Christmas decorations and special seasonal activities were all top shelf. However, we chose to go the week after Thanksgiving because every guide book we read said that this was THE lowest attendance time of year. This was important to me because my husband dislikes 1) amusement parks and 2) people.
He just doesn’t like crowds, and really, who does except people who pick pockets or who like to brush up against other people’s tender bits.
And the first two days we were there we walked onto every ride without using FASTPASS once. Of course, Tuesday it rained, so anyone made of sugar didn’t bother coming to the park that day. We actually walked onto the Peter Pan ride - a usual FASTPASS must - and rode the ride three times back-to-back without breaking stride.
However, by Wednesday, the crowds were picking up. We got to Magic Kingdom later in the day (instead of at the crack of dawn) and by 4 o’clock the crowds were so close in areas that I’m pretty sure I’ve swapped DNA with more people than I care to think about. I think I’m also now married to a man from Moldova.
So, evidently, 50,000 other people also read that this was a low attendance time of year and decided to make a trip to Disney when the crowds were low. And I curse them all.
I hope you guys had a great time.
We did. I’d go back in a heartbeat. My husband says the same thing. It really is magical in the 4-year-old definition of magical.
Did the girls love it?