Half of the World

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End Jun 08, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Monday, May 17, 2010

I figure that Disney isn't a bad place to start a holiday that involves long flights and a 12 hour time difference.  I was a bit annoyed that my body didn't want to sleep much, waking at around 8am to kill some time at the hotel ahead of taking the shuttle bus to Downtown Disney.  Despite the relatively short distance it took the bus, sorry I mean "motor coach", ages to get from my hotel through all the lights and via the Typhoon Lagoon water park to Downtown Disney.  This is basically a large outdoor shopping and entertainment centre on the shore of one of the many lakes/lagoons here.  Guests at the Port Orleans hotels, which look quite nice, can get here by boat.  I checked out the area and its shops (including a year-round Christmas shop) before inevitably ending up at DisneyQuest.  The area is quite large so in addition to walking it once or twice I also took the free ferry from side to the other, which afforded a nice view.  If I had more time and money I would've hired one of the small boats for an explore of the lake and surrounding areas up to the hotels.

DisneyQuest is a 5 storey indoor concept amusement park.  At one stage there were a few of these around the US but they were unsuccessful and this one at Disney World is the only that remains.  The main purpose of my visit was to try Cyber Space Mountain, a simulator ride where guests can build their own roller coaster and then ride it in the simulators.  It was fun experience but not worth the hefty admission price (just over $40!) so I had a look around at the other attractions, most of which seemed pretty dated.  The biggest boon was the architecture of the central arrival area and the tons of free arcade games.  After a while I was over it and headed back to the hotel on the bus to get ready for spending the rest of the day at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

I walked to the Studios (the location is why I shelled out for this "Deluxe" category villa), arriving at 2pm.  Unfortunately and presumably due to the Magic Kingdom park closing early at 5pm this day, the Studios were quite busy - the average ride time was around 40 minutes, with the newest attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania, featuring a 90 minute wait.  I was expecting my friend Alicia to arrive at around 2:30pm after finishing her shift in the Magic Kingdom at 1:45pm so I didn't want to join any particularly long queues.  Instead I walked around the different sections of the park to acquaint myself.

My first impressions were that it was a much more developed and diverse park than its counterpart in Paris, which I have visited several times.  There were more areas, more themed streets and just more attractions in general.  Despite this it still seemed a bit tired (most animatronics were of the jerky variety), haphazardly joined together and perhaps not worthy of a full day if the crowds weren't so large.  Although any negative feelings toward the park could also be attributed to my fellow guests, who consisted mainly of loud, obnoxious and oblivious Americans.  Although I expected it, I was surprised by how many of them were in wheelchairs or buggies with no aparent medical condition other than being extremely obese.  Plus, there are tons of prams, as if every child under the age of 10 must ride in one at all times!  To make matters worse, people with said wheeled vehicles like to take a lot of space and have a nack for deciding to pause for ages in doorways and other confined spaces, or at least hogging the entire width of any path whilst walking slowly.  While waiting for Alicia I did most of the attractions in the park, as it turned out that her shift was extended and she wouldn't be able to join me until the evening.

Thunderstorms moved into the area at around 5:30pm, which closed all outdoor attractions and halted the Indiana Jones stunt show that I was watching at the time.  These storms did bring a bit of rain but it was mainly just drizzle so that wasn't so much of an issue.  Luckily these let up by about 7pm so I went to watch the stunt show at 8pm to see it in full and met up with Alicia at this time.  After the show we had a chance to talk and catchup, with Alicia wanting an update of the gang of us that she used to hang around with when she was at Curtin uni for her exchange semester.  During the discussion we hit the subject of jobs and I was surprised the learn that Alicia earns just shy of $8 an hour, which is above minimum wage!  In the process of talking we bumped into several of Alicia's friends, all of whom she currently or has previously worked with at Disney World.  She knows a lot of current and ex-Cast Members, and it was cool to be introduced as "Tom from Australia". We also rerode some of my favourites and braved the long queue for Toy Story Midway Mania.

Midway Mania was a lot of fun and was a pretty nicely-done ride.  Guests wear 3D glasses and travel in buggies between different 3D interactive games that require them to fire darts, hoops, balloons etc at targets in each game to earn points.  A total score and accuracy percentage are displayed.  I was leading Alicia midway through our ride but she ended up coming out on top.  I would've liked to ride again to try to improve my score but it was 12:30am when we got out and I didn't fancy another long wait.  Since we're officially Disney hotel guests we had access to the park's "Extra Magic Hours" which were 10pm until 1am, which was convenient in accessing smaller queues later in the day.  I also immensley enjoyed the Tower of Terror at this park, which was the first in this line of rides.  This original version is the only where the lifts in which guests ride leave the first shaft and travel through a trans-dimensional show scene before entering another shaft for the actual drop sequence.  As a bonus, the drop sequence is randomised so it's different every time.  The evening's entertainment came in the local version of Fantasmic!, a show performed on an island in a lake about Mickey's imagination.  I found it a bit Friday the 13th because Mickey has a nice dream that is then overtaken by villians who basically try to kill him.  Of course he recaptures his imagination and sets everything right, accompanied by an uplifting musical score and lots of pyrotechnics.  Now that I've seen this supposedly inferior version I'm keen to see the original at Disneyland in California.  The show was a great way to cap the evening (even if it wasn't the last thing we did) but I have to admit that I prefer BraviSEAmo! at Tokyo Disney Sea.

It was almost 1am when we left the park and parted ways, Alicia going to her car to drive to her home in Davenport and me walking back to the hotel.

With such a late (or is that early?) finish it was a sleep in morning today.  On the cards was Disney's Animal Kingdom, which is the newest (11 years old) park at Disney World, with Alicia due to meet me there sometime in the afternoon as she had no work shifts.  I headed straight to the park on the slow and annoying shuttle bus and arrived at about 12:30pm.  I am surprised at how little (none) priority Disney gives to it's massive shuttle bus operation on property.  There are no bus lanes, queue jumps, priority at lights or anything and yet one would assume that this is how the bulk of guests from their many hotels get around.  At the Animal Kingdom the bus station was actually further from the entrance than the parking "tram" stop.

Disney's Animal Kingdom is a much more lavish and detailed park to the Studios, and is more in the style that I've been accustomed to and prefer, from Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.  The attention to detail was impressive and I had a great time just walking around and finding little signs and details.  With the animal focus the park is half zoo and for once there is no distinct main street area at the entrance.  There is a central square at the entrance side of the park's central "Tree of Life".  This tree is pretty nifty as it is covered in carvings of animals, insects and dinosaurs.

In a similar and impressive vein to its details, the Expedition Everest coaster was filled with details and good theming to make an immersive and still thrilling adventure through a mini Mount Everest that culminating in an encounter with the Yeti.  The train out to the animal conservation station (which was pretty uninspiring) was awesomely done and pretty well in touch with the rural East African setting that it was portraying.  The Dinosaur ride was nicely done, even if half of the dinosaurs were extremely jerky or non-functioning (but the charging dinosaur was cool) and the track was exactly the same as the Indiana Jones Adventure that I enjoy so much at Tokyo Disney Sea.  I also had a great time riding the Kiliminjaro Safari through a large park area with real animals.  A little bit different to my last theme park safari experience in Asia...

Alicia joined me for Finding Nemo: The Musical (the Australian dialogue always ended up sounding British) as well as the safaris and a few more rides on Everest, but declined joining me on the Kali River Rapids.  She opted out knowing that a ride means certain soaking and I did come out of the experience extremely wet, but it was worth it.

With no evening entertainment to speak of the Animal Kingdom closes at 5pm so Alicia and I headed off, this time Alicia drove me to the hotel to check it out and so that I could get into some dry clothes before going to meet her friends for dinner at Olive Garden, just outside of Disney property.  It was weird to go to a US eatery in a carpark, surrounded by Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, TGI Friday's and other chains you hear about but never see back home.

After dinner we went down to Alicia and her friend Emily's house in Davenport.  It took about 10 minutes on the highway (3 lanes each way, of course).  Their friend Ed, who had also been at dinner with us, accompanied us.  We had a quick look at their apartment before walking around the complex checking out the communal facilities (pool, games room, internet/computer room, gym etc.) and the layout.  All the buildings were the same, all with fake shutters and fake exterior wood panelling.  The complex was gated and all the streeets had the same name, the only distinguishing feature was the numbers on each building to help identify which one it was.  Nevertheless, good conversation was had by all before we played some of the arcade games (free) and pool in the games room.  Time flew and it was soon time to call it a night and take me back to the hotel for another long rest ready for Epcot tomorrow.
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John H on

I see things have not changed since I was in USA...they are still in wheel chairs and buggies without any medical condition except for being morbidly obese!!!
Get out and walk ya lazy f** Bug****!!

albert3801 on

$8 an hour?! My friend works as a rides attendant for the Luna Park amusement park in Sydney and gets $19/hour!

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