Started off this WDW arriving as the sun was rising. We were about an hour late leaving LAX due to a mechanical problem on the plane. We grabbed some breakfast at the airport then hopped on the Magical Express. We checked into Pop Century and were lucky enough to get a room right away. Dropped the carry ons and were on our way to the parks by 9am. First stop was Epcot. We stopped by Guest Relations first to purchase a Tables in Wonderland card then headed into the park. Grabbed a Fastpass for Test Track and made my way to the Odyssey to exchange my pass for a new RFID enabled one. Due to some complications they issued us a Fastpass for an attraction of our choice. Hung around Future World taking some pictures and then used our Test Track Fastpass. Spent some time exploring the new post show and then wandered around Future World. Made our way over to the Land and used our card for Soarin. Walked onto Living with the Land and then made our way out to World Showcase, past Canada and the United Kingdom and out the International Gateway. Stopped for lunch at the ESPN Club and then hopped on a bus from the Boardwalk to the Animal Kingdom. Noticed Festival of the Lion King was starting in 15 minutes so we hiked that way and made it to the show with a couple minutes to spare. After the show joined the mass heading back to Discovery Island. Was stuck waiting for the Jamin Jungle Parade to end then headed to Harambe. Walked onto the Safari then through Pangani Forest. Listened to the band at the Street Party then walked around the Tree of Life a bit and into Asia. Strolled through the Jungle Trek then out by Everest and around to Dino Land. Decided to call it an early evening and headed for the busses. Took the long way back to Pop Century, went to the Art of Animation and walked around a bit then crossed the bridge to Pop Century. Unpacked a bit and prepared for Day 2.
Thoughts & Observations:
- Our "day" actually started off the night before with a red-eye flight out of LAX. We were delayed over an hour with some sort of indicator problem that actually caused us to return to the gate for a mechanic to come onboard. Always a fun way to start a cross country flight! We eventually left and made up a little time en route to Orlando.
- Arrived just as the sun was rising and grabbed a quick breakfast at the food court before heading to the Magical Express. Boarded a bus right away with no wait at all and we were off. Found it interesting that several of the people on the bus were from our flight. So looks like stopping for some food did not really delay us at all. The bus had several stops and luckily we were the second. It stopped at Art of Animation, Pop Century, Kidani Village and then All Star. I understand why they do this but that sure seems like a lot of steps before getting to a Deluxe Resort.
- Check in at Pop Century went smoothly for us. No line at all and as luck would have it a room was ready for us and in a location that we liked even!
- The big change around Walt Disney World since my trip in October is the rollout of some of the the myMagic+ system. The rooms are now all RFID, no more card swipe. Most registers around property are tap to pay. And most of the parks entrances have been converted to tap to enter which means no more turn stiles. Overall I think this is an improvement. They are still working out some of the bugs, but the room key portion and park entrance worked well. The pay points seemed a little more buggy.
- Made our now routine stop at Epcot guest relations.. not sure why but seems I always end up there to kick off a trip. This time to purchase a new Tables in Wonderland card. It is getting pricing at a discounted rate of $100 but since we plan to use it for two trips and maybe three if we are lucky it seemed like it could save us some money down the road.
- We swung by the Odyssey Center to exchange our Premiere passes for the new RFID ones. The process went very smoothly. We walked in and there were no other guests so the three in my group all went to a different cast member and we were processed in parallel. It still took several minutes and it was the first Premiere most of the CMs had done. They worked their way through the screens and issued our new cards. Unfortunately they did not have main gate scanner so our cards could not be used to get Fastpasses until we brought them back later or used them to re-enter the park. Because of this they issued us a pass good for any attraction we wanted. I could not believe how cumbersome of a process the information technology team had set up for the guest relations team to exchange the passes. They went through quite a few screens, clicks, typing, and printing. In the end our passes worked great at WDW.
** Note on my first visit to Disneyland a few days after returning learned they did not link it properly to my Disneyland Profile so the ticket was not valid and I had to visit a ticket booth to get it re-linked.
- There were several cast members on hand to answer any questions you had on the new system and to explain some of the upcoming additions to the my Disney Experience website and mobile app. They also had a couple of test stations where you could practice using your new pass to learn how to enter the parks now. It is quite easy.. just tap your card on the Mickey symbol and put your finger on the reader. If it turns green you are good to go. If not try again and a cast member will help you out.
- Also in the Odyssey Center was a small exhibit feature some historical items from the parks. Such as tickets, name badges, a Small World Doll, Figment, etc.. I thought this was an interesting little exhibit and I really enjoyed spending some time to look around and snap some photos of it. And with no crowd at all it was great!
- Next up we went for a ride on the new Test Track. We had grabbed Fastpasses on the way to the Odyssey and it was time. The experience is much different than before. I thought they used the space better and it has more of an Epcot feel to it now, more future based and less reporting on a current way of doing things. The idea is you are now at the Chevrolet design center and learning about how they create cars. You then get to create your own and run it through a simulator for evaluation. The experience is much more interactive and I enjoyed it. The ride profile is still more or less the same as before but with the darker interior it works better in my opinion than the giant room you traveled through before where everything was visible.
- Stopped by the Land next to use our pass for Soarin. I ended up being split up from the rest of my group because the Cast Member miscounted the number of guests. I ended up next to a first time visitor to WDW and first time on Soarin Always fun to listen to a first timers reaction.
- We ate lunch at ESPN Club. They only had a few tables open for lunch. Seemed only one server in the regular dining room. Everyone else was around the bar area. Lunch was good but extremely slow. At one point they brought us some free chips because we were still waiting for our meals. Not sure what was going on. The food all did show up eventually and was correct and good.
- After lunch we decided to head to the Animal Kingdom so went to the Boardwalk bus stop and waited... and waited... and waited... and eventually an Animal Kingdom bus showed up. It was over half an hour.
- Once we finally reached the park it was very quiet. Wait times were mild and it was very pleasant to walk around.
- We wandered out to the Festival of the Lion King first since a show was about to start. We walked right in and waited a couple minutes then the show started, great timing. Something new, at the end they asked everyone to remain seated until they moved the floats out. When did they start doing this? Guessing something happened to trigger it? I do not remember reading anything.
- Went for a ride on the Safari and two changes to note. First is they have removed the net bags. Guess this is to stop guests from leaving things behind? I always used them for my hat.. oh well. Secondly no sign of the zebras.. at the end they had Addax in that space.
- I spent the next couple of hours roaming around the park. As I did I had several moments of DCA flashbacks with all the walls up. It seemed everywhere I turned there was a construction wall. It was no where near as intrusive as DCA but the number of walls was impressive. Looks like the park is getting some TLC and changes are underway. Hope they all pan out. Some of the work is preparation for Avatarland, which so far I have been unable to get excited about. I would have much rather seen more Animal areas or even Beastly Kingdom or something Disney/original vs a property like Avatar.
- As the sun was setting I was starting to run out of energy.. the red eye and few hours of sleep were catching up so decided to head back for an early evening. I took the long way back to Pop Century.. I took a bus to Art of Animation, wandered around taking some pictures, then walked across the bridge to Pop.
- Upon arriving at Art of Animation spotted a Disney bus with the new paint scheme pulling away. Quickly snapped a picture, but not very good. I figured this was the first of many I was going to see.. turns out not quite. I only saw a couple the entire trip and I did get to ride on one the second to last day.
Pedometer Information for the day: