Touched down at MCO around 5:40am. Grabbed some breakfast in the food court then made our way to the Magical Express bus around 6:35m and arrived at Pop Century at 7:15am. Checked in, changed clothes and hopped on a bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, arriving just after 8am, almost an hour before opening. Took a look at several of the construction projects then hung out on Hollywood Blvd until park opening. Watched the mass going to Toy Story Land and walked slowly behind them. Walked right onto Alien Swirling Saucers with no wait and then took some pictures of the area and found a shady spot to sit until our 9:35am Toy Story Midway Mania FastPass. After our game made headed for Sunset Blvd. Ran into some friends by Rock n Roller Coaster and we all went to Lightning McQeen’s Racing Academy. Used a FastPass for Beauty and the Beast (since I needed to use a 3rd) and then grabbed lunch at the Sunset Marketplace. After eating one of our rooms was ready to we decided to return to Pop Century where some went to rest and I met another friend and we set off for Epcot then took the Monorail to the TTC and ferry boat to the Magic Kingdom. Strolled up Main Street USA and took a look at the Sleepy Hollow/Castle walkway expansion project then walked through Cinderella Castle to Fantasyland. Made our way over to by the Barnstormer to take a look at the TRON work then walked by the Tomorrowland Speedway where Cast Members were cycling cars through the station. Went for a ride on the People Mover then made my way to Main Street. Enjoyed a performance by the Main Street Philharmonic and then took the resort Monorail to the Contemporary. Took a look around and then re-boarded the Monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center and transferred to the Epcot line. At Epcot found a spot and let a rain cell blow through then strolled through Future World and out to World Showcase
Thoughts & Observations:
- Leaving Los Angeles is always an adventure with traffic, construction, etc.. but all in all it was not too bad for us this trip. Traffic to the airport was about normal. Parking was a little challenging as the garage we usually use decided to add valet parking and they just parked those cars in the middle of the aisles blocking in other cars and making it a challenge to go through the garage. LAX was backed up but flowing. The construction at the Delta terminals made for a hike to drop the suitcases.
- The flight started off on a positive note. As we waited to board we were upgraded to First Class. On a red eye I am not sure how much of an advantage this is but having a little extra space was nice. The flight left late since boarding began late and was slow going, but we made up some time in the air and arrived into MCO on time. The Flight was uneventful and I managed to sleep for most of it. They made more announcements than usual and announced landing almost an hour early so sleep was more interrupted than I would have liked.
- There is construction at MCO and our flight landed on a far runway and had to taxi a long way to the terminal. This added some time to our arrival but we were so early it did not really matter.
- As we walked through the airport it felt more crowded than the past couple of visits. The security lines for those departing were on the long side given the early hour. Once we reached the food court that was quiet as usual though.
- The Magical Express Trip was fairly efficient. We only had to wait a few minutes for the bus to leave, there were already a handful of parties onboard. We ended up being the second stop, Art of Animation was first, so it was a quick drop off too.
- We had checked in online but still opted to visit the front desk since there was no line and to confirm there were no rooms ready yet for us. Then we stored our carryons and were off to the park.
- Decided to head for Disney’s Hollywood Studios since it was the closest park to the hotel. This was my first time using the new bus stops, they were still under construction in December. The new stops look nice and have plenty of room. They are still a fairly good hike from the front entrance. The bus stops are a further hike than some of the parking as well as the new tram drop off location and Skyliner. I think for the premium you pay to stay onsite and use Disney Transportation you should have a shorter walk than general parking.
- The Disney Skyliner system is still testing and finishing touches being completed on the stations. The announced opening is this Fall with the expectation being it will be before the August opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
- The arrival experience is being upgraded/reconfigured at the parks. At the Studios this means a large new bag check structure is being erected further out than the old ones. Also new walkways in addition to the bus and tram stops. Looking at the configuration I think it would be beneficial to have the Skyliner system inside the secure zone, like the Monorail is. Also I am kind of surprised they did not move the Friendship dock to be on the side with the bus and Skyliner vs off by itself.
- I found a bench on Hollywood Blvd to wait for the park to open, I was ahead of schedule and had no reason to join the masses rushing toward Toy Story Land. They dropped the rope about 15 minutes early and the crowd was walked out to Toy Story Land with a majority getting in line for Slinky Dog Dash. I let them go and strolled along behind them taking some pictures then walking on Alien Swirling Saucers before using a FastPass+ I had for Toy Story Mania.
- I took a look at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and you can still see a fair amount of scaffolding as the project has several months to go still. There seemed to be more trees obstructing views now (or maybe the trees are just more filled in since December).
- Recently a new show, the Lighting McQueen’s Racing Academy opened in the Sunset Showcase at the end of Sunset Blvd beyond Rock n Roller Coaster. The location is a bit awkward and challenging to get to. The courtyard additions for the show are minimal with Cruz and DJ on hand for pictures and some cast members out interacting with guests and performing. Neither Cruz nor DJ drive, they are stationary, basically photo backdrop props. The queue area for the show has a handful of umbrellas for shade and a couple fans. I would not want to be there mid day.
- The Lighting McQueen Racing Academy show runs continuously throughout the day and features a good size theater. The show features Lightning McQueen on a stage and then videos of other characters as he goes through a simulation race and shows the value of team work. I thought this was a well done show and I enjoyed it. Lightning looked good and interacted well with the show. The reliance on screens was integrated nicely in the show and the script felt fairly tight which kept the show moving along.
- I caught a performance of Beauty and the Beast Live On Stage. I still miss the preshow performers for this. The large fans above the audience kept the air moving fairly well on the humid late morning. The show itself is still virtually the same as it has been for years.
- Central Florida has a lot of swamp land which means bugs.. we had the unfortunate timing this trip of being there during lovebug season and this year felt worse than previous years, even locals were saying how it was the worst in years or memory for some. These duo bugs fly around and get on everything. The only redeeming thing is they do not bit people. But they do make eating outside and just talking a challenge at times. And for those with cars they are a big mess.
- For lunch the plan was to go to Rizzo’s but the rest of my group was fading fast by this time and one of the rooms was ready so instead of hiking across the park we ate at the Sunset Marketplace. It is still really annoying to me that you can not customize your order more on the WDW App.. for example I just wanted a pizza, no side salad, and there is no way to do that on the app.
- Returned to Pop Century and went to our first room that was ready. This was my first time being in a renovated room. The new look is rather sparse. There are no longer any references to the decade you are staying in, which I thought was poor. There are some generic Mickey Mouse graphics above the bed and Pluto on the second bed. No other Disney references in the room really. I do like that the second bed can be stored up allowing for a larger table to sit at, this makes the room feel larger. There were plenty of outlets and USB ports for charging both by the beds and by the TV. The shower was nice and high and had a hand wand too, but they have switched to dispensers on the wall for the soap/shampoo which I am not a fan of. Overall I thought the new rooms were an improvement in functionality and options but disappointing loosing Disney and resort specific touches.
- We were frustrated by the checkin process at Pop Century today. The one room was done by lunch time which was great. But the second was not and that turned into a challenging set of issues. In the end what happened is the guests before us dead bolted the door of that room and left through an adjoining room. House keeping could not get into the room to clean it and there was a miscommunication between them and the lock shop and no one showed up to work on it until we complained in the mid afternoon. Eventually they got the door open and room cleaned and turned over to us. Adding to the frustration here is they would not deliver the bags to the second room to our first room nor the carryons so we did not have access to a majority of the luggage until the evening. At one point, after 3pm we were told the suitcases for the second room were lost and back at the airport. In the evening once everything showed up one suitcase had the handle completely ripped off and other damage to it (no clue if it was the airline, Magical Express or who).
- When we checked in we were not given the option to opt out of the Daily Housekeeping.. and we forgot to ask until later in the day so it meant a second wait at the front desk for us to set that up on the rooms. This program means no daily housekeeping. In return for this we got a $60 gift card per room. If you wanted clean towels, trash picked up or additional coffee/supplies you could just call and have it delivered for free at any time, which we did a couple of times over the week with no problem.
- To top off our issues with the resort in the evening when one of the group went to get ice they got run into by a house keeping cart because the cast member could not see over/around the cart and ran into them.
- We sent an email to the general manager using the address provided on the letter in the room. We received a call back and several apologies. They took the broken suitcase and said they would try to get it repaired. We did not hear back for several days and followed up on this the day before we left and were told they could not replace the suitcase and instead they showed up and gave us a new suitcase. This was a pleasant surprise, the suitcase they gave us was one they were selling in the gift shop and was great!
- I met a friend this afternoon and realized that the parking and signage at WDW is a little challenging now a days. I have not rented a car in years and tend to just rely on Disney Transportation. Part of vacation for me is not driving since I drive so much in my normal work week. First interesting note is I was staying in building 10 at Pop Century, this is in the 70s. So I told them that and they parked in the 70s lot. Well that lot is almost at the other end of the resort from the building I was in. I did not look at a map and just thought 70s parking would be near the building.. no such luck.. it was the 90s lot that was closest. We then drove to Epcot from Pop Century and thanks to some poor signage took a detour through the new Studios entrance (which I did find interesting to see), then when leaving there almost ended up on the old entry road which is for cast members and deliveries now. Really hope when the road projects wrap up the signage is cleaned up a bit to make it easier for those driving around.
- The front of Epcot has a lot of construction activity with construction starting on the new entry experience which will involve relocation of the tram stops, bag checks and more to make it a smoother process. You could also see the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster project which is now mostly enclosed. And there is a lot of work on the drainage canal and retention pond along the entry road.
- It appeared there was only one Monorail operating this afternoon which meant a wait. It was not crowded so no issue there, just a long time between trains.
- Arriving at the Magic Kingdom Transportation and Ticket Center you are greeted with more construction as they are working on that arrival experience too. As part of this project the walk around the world will be removed.
- Opted to take the ferry across to the Magic Kingdom.. this sounded great until I walked up to the front and the area was covered in love bugs!!
- The last several visits to WDW the People Mover always seems to have a wait now. Today was no different with a good size group of guests in the queue.. the good thing is it moves quickly and even though it filled the queue area it was only a 5 minute wait.
- The TRON coaster project is moving ahead quickly with support columns being attached. From the PeopleMover you get a good view of the project and from the Contemporary an even better one. They are erecting the track first and then will put up the building and canopy structure it appears. This is the same process that was done in Shanghai. I am really curious how this new coaster will integrate into Tomorrowland. In Shanghai it works extremely well as the lighting, sound, etc.. are fully integrated from TRON throughout the rest of the land. In Orlando being right next to Space Mountain and in the back of the land with not many clear lines of site to the front of the land will make for a much different feel and experience. I for one wish WDW would invest in some more quality E-Ticket attractions that are not coasters. The trend is for coasters and height restrictions. I know they can deliver attractions that are not but those do not seem to be green lit anymore in Orlando.
- On the way out of the Magic Kingdom caught a performance by the Main Street Philharmonic. They performed a tribute to Mickey Mouse and it was a great set!
- Took the Monorail back to Epcot and I really hope with the changes they move the Monorail exit into the secure zone so you do not have to be rescreened at the park.
- Spent the evening doing a couple laps of World Showcase meeting some friends and visiting. Stopped to watch the Don Felder, formerly of the Eagles, concert which was ok then grabbed a bite to eat at the Liberty Inn which was extremely slow too.
- Wrapped up my day with Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Watched the show from near Norway for a change of pace. This will be my last trip before the show is retired so I plan to watch the show several times over the course of the week.
Pedometer Information for the day:
Addition Blog Picture Posts from today: