Day One: Arrival, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom

Today was a great day with one glaring exception, which I’ll to in a minute. But first let me praise Southwest Airlines again – they have figured out this boarding thing (at least for travelers’ like me who check in early and don’t have a big party to get seated together). We were literally on the plane for 10 minutes before we were pulling away from the gate. There was a nice woman and her daughter, who was celebrating her 9th birthday at Disney, seated next to me and we had a nice chat throughout the trip.

We arrived 20 minutes early to MCO and I really lucked out with Magical Express. No waiting in the check in line and then I literally walked right on to the bus . . . and Pop Century was the first stop.

Now here’s where things got a bit ugly. First, I was not feeling great and couldn’t hear well because my ears never fully popped (this cold did a number on me in the air). I hopped off the ME bus and walked into the lobby – and very quickly found the “Online Check-In” desk where I was supposed to be able to walk up, show my ID, and receive my packet in a very smooth, quick process. There was a couple ahead of me who had been waiting awhile, it seemed, and they were a little peturbed that other members of their family had not pre-registered and were getting waited on before them in the regular line. I was starting to fume, because nothing upsets me more than service employees anywhere ignoring me. Look up, apologize, say you’ll be there in a second, but refusing eye contact and not acknowledging that I’m there will usually result in me asking to speak to the manager.

So, after the couple finally were waited on – and after I realized that the person waiting on them was busy talking to another cast member dressed in a shirt and tie for an extended period of time in what looked like a casual social conversation while we were being ignored I really had had enough. That same shirt and tie guy walked by and asked how my day was going.

“I’m a little frustrated, to be honest.” He stopped. “I don’t understand why 6 people from the non-online checkin line have gone while I’ve stood here waiting when I’ve actually already ‘checked in.'”

He said, “Well, there was an issue with that guest up there.”

I said, “Then they should have been transferred to a different agent or to concierge.” I remained calm, but assertive. “The whole point of this system is to speed things up, right?”

His response was, “Well, we are still in trial runs.”

And again, quite calmly, I said, “Yes, you’ve been ‘upgrading’ a lot of systems lately. This works about as well as your new dining reservation system does.”

And then he walked away.

WALKED THE FRICK AWAY!

He must have thought about it, though, because he said to the poor sap behind the counter who just returned from his break, “Angel, would you take care of this gentleman, please?”

And Angel argued with him that he couldn’t.

BOILING POINT!

But the manager was adamant and so I went over to Angel, who was completely clueless on how to do the check in for me. I wasn’t upset with him; he was put in a real bad spot. He did figure it out though and I praised him for his hard work and thanked him for taking care of me. I got my packet and room key and then lined up for concierge to get a print out of my dining reservations.

Guess who called me up? ANGEL. “This is what I do!” he announced. He quite quickly printed the list for me and I thanked him again and went to find my room.

I’m in the 1950’s building on the 3rd floor facing the parking lot. If I had a car, this would be a great room. Fortunately, its not THAT far from the busses.

I threw my bag down and went to line up for the bus for the Animal Kingdom. It took about 20 minutes to arrive and we saw 2 buses for each of the other parks come and go before it came. I started to think my early luck had run out permanently.

We got to the AK and I had to get my annual pass reprinted since it was in my luggage, which was being Magically Expressed to my room. The cast member was great. She realized it was my birthday tomorrow and I asked about the button and she was already working on making it for me.

I made my way into the park and went directly to Flame Tree BBQ and got some lunch. It was just OK; the portion sizes have gone way down and the quality has dropped here over the last couple of years. Plus, I hate eating outside near all those birds.

Let me ask you something… what part of “don’t feed the animals” is hard to understand? Its not cute when Johnny and Jane give the pelicans and ducks french fries and I wish they’d mistake the little tyke’s fingers for a potato and give me a real lunch time show. But I digress.

I headed over to Festival of the Lion King, which was starting at 3:30 (it was 3:10). About 15 cast member wished me a happy birthday on the way, which I thought might get annoying . . . but you know what? It didn’t. On the way over, I also got a photopass and had my picture taken in front of the Tree of Life. I’m going to do photo ops a lot this trip, just because I want to.

At FotLK I sat in the Elephant section, which is new for me and I didn’t like it as well. The sound system didn’t sound as good and I don’t know if I was in a dead spot or if they had mixed it poorly but during the finale the singers sounded really off.

I was able to get out of the theater quickly and tried to make my way over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, since I’d never been over there. I was hoping to find Jiminy Cricket to get my picture taken with him. I was stopped the end of the parade and the massive throng of people following it towards the front of the park.

I waited it out by standing by and watching the people. When things thinned out a bit, I was able to move towards Africa only to be thwarted yet again by the same parade! Only this time I got to see the whole thing, which I’d never done before. It was nice and simple and fun. It was not crowded at all, so I had a great spot and took some good pictures, which I’ll post later. Several of the live actors wished me a happy birthday from the parade, too, which was very cool.

During the parade, we had our first nomination for Biggest Waste of Human Skin on Planet Earth 2009. Some how this lardbutt guy got seperated from his family; they were on my side of the parade and he was on the other side. He kept motioning for his wife to get over there where he was and the cast member near me told her in no uncertain terms that it would not be possible for her to cross over there and that she would just have to wait. Then she told LardButt the same thing . . . and he just looked at her like he wanted his wife to do it anyway.

So, once the parade was over, I had the great pleasure of walking towards Asia with these two as he threatened his wife in front of his children, told her that she should “show some balls,” called her out for “talking sh*t to him but not having the balls” to do anything about it during the parade with the CMs, and “if anyone put their hands on you, I’d f&*k them up,” and on and on it went for about 5 minutes.

First of all, stay with your party. Its not like they don’t put up the parade blockades at least 15-20 minutes before the parade so you know something is going to happen in that area. Secondly, just because you weigh 400 pounds and are from somewhere in New England, that does not mean that a) you are a badass or b) that you should demean your wife especially in front of your children. But whatever. Beat her in the privacy of your room at the Red Roof Inn and leave me out of it.

So, I realized I missed the entrance to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and backtracked. The train ride was pleasant and we saw a few animals from the Safari on the way out. It ws 4:50 by the time we disembarked and they were getting ready to close it down so I walked
through and walked back to the train. There was no Jiminy Cricket – only Pocahantus and Rafiki – and I made my way back to Harambe Village via another pleasant train ride.

I did use my EMH privilege to watch “It’s Tough to Be a Bug,” which I just love mainly because I love to hear the reactions of people who’ve never done it. I then headed for the park exit and walked right on a bus to the TTC. I had to stand and it was a bit of ride, but it was fine. I managed to score a seat on the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom and made my way into the park. The CM at the turnstile gave me a Mickey sticker as a birthday present.

I bought some Mikey Ears for a lady back home who’s granddaughter lost hers and had them personalized. I then decided to walk over to Space Mountain – just to see what the line looked like.

IT WAS ONLY 10 MINUTES.

At 6:30 PM.

So, I got in line. Once I got to the front, I was trying to decide if I could actually fit in the stupid little ride vehicle. It was a tight squeeze, let me tell you, but I’m so glad I wasn’t in the front because at least I had a split second to prepare for the drops and turns. I think I might have also gotten a free back adjustment on the initial ascent as I heard my whole spinal area crack from the jolt.

After this, I realized I was hungry and thirsty. So, I walked over to Pecos Bill’s and made it in just under the wire as they were getting ready to close. I used the self-serve kiosk, which is so fast and wonderful. However, something about the way it made me ring up my dining plan info made me worry that it had been encoded incorrectly and that I was just on the quick service plan instead of the deluxe.

So, after my meal, I walked up to Guest Relations where she looked up my account and said it showed that I still had 3 table service credits and 3 snacks available. So, I felt relieved.

Before I left the park, I saw Pinnochio next to Guest Relations and I decided I wanted to a picture with him. The cast member gave me a birthday present – she would say “Happy Birthday” in 6 languages of my choosing. I think I made her do Spanish, German, Portguese, Russian, French, and Japanese. Her cohort said, “Do you really know if she didn’t just make those up?” and I had honestly been thinking that same thing.

Pinnochio wished me a Happy Birthday and made me pose in a funny way with him. I headed out to the bus and rode back to the Pop. I briefly browsed the gift shop, but it was crowded, so I decided to call it a night. I made it to the room in time to see the American Idol results and I honestly think that with the exception of the rough check in to the hotel, things were really awesome.

Tomorrow: EPCOT, Le Cellier, and probably Downtown Disney!

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