Thursday, August 24, 2006

Magic Your Way

I have two brief disclaimers for the entries on my vacation. The first is that I will write a lot in the first person. I know that this is usually considered bad journalism, however, I love writing in the first person and since this is a blog, I think it's acceptable. I also think sometimes writing in the first person can help the reader understand where the writer is coming from. Also, I don't have my AP style book with me and I have a lot of information I am trying to get down quickly, so I apologize in advance for any errors.

When my family and I arrived at the Orlando airport, Disney's Magical Express was there to take us to what we thought would be a fairy tale world. On the half-hour bus trip, a video is shown of Disney World complete with happy children and of course, Mickey Mouse. My anticipation was already building. I had been looking forward to this trip for months, especially during the grueling six weeks of boot camp.

Once we arrived at the Pop Century hotel, the newest and one of the cheapest hotels at the Walt Disney World resort, we had to wait in a ridiculously long and slow-moving line. When we finally got to the front of the line we were informed that there were no rooms left in the sixties wing that we had requested three months prior, so we settled for the fifties wing. Also, only one of the two rooms was ready. Pop Century represents pop culture from every decade from the fifties to the nineties with fun, colorful, and larger than life decorations, making it an ideal hotel for my family and me. Unfortunately, it is one of the largest and more popular hotels at the resort, meaning that the service was not great and there were always long lines, especially for the buses to the parks. The buses to and from the parks ran only about once every twenty minutes, making it tough to get a seat, especially at night when the parks are closing. After those long and tiring days at the parks, standing for a ten to twenty bus ride was annoying.

This leads me to my first problem with Walt Disney World, it is way too huge. I realize this is why Walt Disney wanted to build the park their in the first place, because he had space he never had in Anaheim. However, I am used to Disneyland where the parks and the hotel are right next to each other and I was (perhaps naively) not expecting long travel distances.

The Magic Kingdom is modeled after Disneyland itself, with many of the same attractions. The only attraction that was worth it that Disneyland does not have is Mickey's Philharmagic, a charming 3-D show with many favorite Disney songs and characters. Cinderellabration, based on a Tokyo Disney show, was very disappointing as it barely made sense and it was in front of the Cinderella castle where there was no shade. For those who cannot travel to Disneyland, I am sure a trip to the Magic Kingdom is well worth it, but I focused my attention on the other parks.

The premise of the Animal Kingdom seems silly to me when there are other wild animal parks without having to Disney-ize it, but it does have some of the best rides in the resort. Expedition Everest is one of the fastest roller coasters in all four parks that includes a backwards portion. The safari was fun, especially being so close to the giraffes, but at the end they turned it into a ride with fake poachers and animals. I think it would be better to just keep it realistic since the animals are real unlike the ones at say, the jungle cruise at Disneyland, instead of turning everything into a ride.

Epcot was also a letdown as the main attraction there is the world showcase. There is not much to do there besides spend money at the restaurants or at the shops, so it seems unreasonable for the tickets to the park to be the same as all the other parks (almost $70) when the only thing to do there is spend more money. What my family did was buy food at each country rather than going to a sit-down restaurant, so we could try more and spend less money. I do recommend the Mission Space ride which is a simulation of a mission to mars with options for a less intense or more intense experience.

MGM Studios was by far my favorite of the four parks, as it had the most variety of things to do. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is a great ride for anybody who likes roller coasters or Aerosmith. Aerosmith music plays in the line and on the ride. While some of the attractions are a waste of time, such as Journey To Narnia, which was described as a behind the scenes look at the making of The Chronicles of Narnia, but turned out to be mostly clips from the movie, overall there are some entertaining shows, especially Beauty and the Beast. As far as dining goes, the Sci-Fi Drive In is a restaurant where you dine in cars in front of a movie screen that shows science fiction movies from the fifties. The service is not great, but the experience is worth it. Be sure to make reservations far in advance for this restaurant or you will be stuck sitting in a flying saucer at the back of the restaurant instead of a car. I didn't actually eat at the 50's Prime Time Cafe because we failed to make reservations in advance for any of the restaurants, but I did get a soda at the bar, and this restaurant gives diners the feel of being in a 50's sitcom such as Leave it to Beaver and they treat you as part of the family.

In general I noticed that the cast members at Disney World were nowhere near as friendly as the ones at Disneyland. Even when they were smiling, it was obviously fake and most of the time when they said, "Have a magical day," it felt like they were struggling to get that out. In Disneyland, nobody ever says that, but usually the workers seem genuinely happy to be there.

I realize I sound biased towards Disneyland, but the size works better for me. Also, while it is hot there, it is never as humid and unbearable as Disney World. Everywhere I went, people seemed to be complaining. It did not feel like I was at the happiest place on earth.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Disney World and I enjoyed myself a lot of the time, but Disney World is the type of place I would go to once. I know there are people who vacation there all the time, and more power to them, but I couldn't do that. I am happy I went, but next time I would opt for a longer cruise and skip the parks altogether.

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