November 5, 2005

The Internet access situation is the worst today that it has been any day yet. There is absolutely no access at all today. At least we got confirmation from the front desk that there are no charges at all of the attempted Internet access on our bill. So that is a start but a pretty weak one.

We got up bright and early this morning and got straight out to EPCOT first thing in the morning. We had to wait quite a while for the park to open we were there so early. We were one of the first one hundred or so through the front gates and got to pretty much do anything that we wanted with no one around us. Boy was that nice. We did Spaceship Earth right away. That is three times around on that ride. Then we did Living with the Land. That is our fourth time on that ride this trip and my thirteenth time overall. I took more videos of it as well. Those two rides were the sum total of the rides that we actually like in EPCOT’s Future World. After that we were pretty bored. We would have liken to have done the Universe of Energy ride again but it is so long that we didn’t feel like going through it all. We only like the ride portion and not all of the movie stuff that is played both before and after the actual ride and that constitutes well over fifty percent of the total time of the ride so we didn’t do that.

We sat on the side of the lake near the eastern entrance to the World Showcase and just relaxed with some coffee and cheese danishes while we waited for the other half of EPCOT to open. We had exhausted Future World and everything that we were interested in doing in it more than once and we ready to do something else. The World Showcase opened at 11:00 and we were ready to go right in. We had done all of the attractions in the World Showcase but wanted to spend some time checking out the architecture and some foods that we hadn’t had a chance to try yet. So we just relaxed and milled about. We started in Morocco. There was supposed to have been a tour of Morocco but when we got there they informed us that there was no tour. So much for guide books. We did walk all over the area checking everything out and I did find a hidden Mickey there as well. We hung around until 11:30 and then got an appetizer from the Morocco Food and Wine Festival kiosk and then lunch from the Cafe Tangierine restaurant which is located right in the middle of the Morocco area. The lunch was very good, healthy and refreshing. I was happy that we had decided to eat there. The food that we are eating here is completely different from what we normally eat at home and it makes for a really nice change of pace.

After Morocco we took a slow stroll through the World Showcase taking lots of pictures and just taking it easy. We were in no hurry today at all. We stopped in Norway and Mexico and did those rides again while we were there. Once we finished in Mexico we decided to leave EPCOT and go look at a few of the resorts which Dominica had never seen. First we went over to the Contemporary Resort which is the same resort that I stayed in with my parents in 1987. We have been hoping that we would be able to eat at Chef Mickey’s at some point but we were not able to get reservations for it so we gave up on trying. I took Min around the hotel a little so that she could see it. That was fun but didn’t last for very long. We still had some time to kill before dinner at the Crystal Palace so we took the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom and from there took a boat over to the Wilderness Lodge so that Min could see that as well. We explored the lodge for a little bit and then went back to the Magic Kingdom via the bus so that we could get dinner.

Dinner was at 4:30 at the Crystal Palace which is located at the head of Main Street USA. This is a character dinner with Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger. It was an American Buffet in a beautiful Victorian and British Colonial themed garden house. The food was excellent. I didn’t like it as much as the Garden Grill or Boma but it was very, very good. The salmon here might have been the best that we have had all week although I feel that the Liberty Tree Tavern may get the award in that category. We had a really good time at dinner and got some good pictures of Min and I with some of the characters from the hundred acre wood. No luck getting to Winnie himself, however, because of the long lines of small children pressing in around him. This buffet was definitely packed with kids and was extremely noisy. It was really annoying in that regard. But we had fun.

[YouTube Video Added Later to Make Viewing Easier]

After dinner we hung out in the Magic Kingdom and did some stuff that Dominica had wanted to get back to. We finally got a chance to ride Space Mountain although we ended up discovering that we don’t enjy roller coasters at all anymore. We also finally managed to have our rematch on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Command Spin or whatever it is called. This time Dominica made me steer and shoot at the same time which she claimed made it so hard for her last time. So I sat on the left instead of the right and I “drove” our spacecraft. This time she managed to score 68,400 – up 40,000 from last time. I scored 270,300 which put me well in the lead. I am not sure that she is going to be looking for a rematch anytime soon. We got to go on the Carousel of Progress again and rode the WEDway People Mover twice. Then Splash Mountain and it was time to get back to the shuttle in EPCOT.

There were twenty-one people waiting for the shuttle tonight and they only bring a van to pick us up so we were stuck there for a little while while another van came around to get us. We were back in the hotel around 10:30. Of course, no Internet access still tonight and, of course, Audioblogger has been down all day so we have had no way to keep everyone up to date throughout the day. We are very sad about that. Tonight the front desk attendant said that the Internet provider told the hotel that they didn’t know whether or not they were servicing them anymore so the hotel can’t even tell us if they have a contract or anything for Internet access. That is just great. I want to know whom I spoke with two days before we came down here that confirmed the Internet access for me. I wish that people working in hotels would realize that I am calling because I actually need to know not just because I like talking on the phone. They never really check or ask but the Internet never actually works. I can’t believe how often that ends up being an issue. So it looks like I won’t be able to post this daily until later. Maybe not until we get back in New York on Monday.

Dominica and I did our evening podcast from the hotel and I whipped up a ton of photos from today to upload to Flickr. Two videos are ready to be posted to OurMedia as well. Now all I need is a few minutes of Internet access and I should be all set. Cross your fingers. There has been under fifteen seconds of access all night tonight.

Our plan tomorrow is to do some shopping in the morning and then to go to the Grand Floridian Resort and have afternoon tea. We all ready have reservations there for that. Then we are going to go back to EPCOT where we plan to hit the UK for some fish and chips, Morocco for some hummus and flatbread, France for some crepes and Norway for an almond covered sweet pretzel. Our plan is to make it back to the 6:00 pm shuttle so that we can be in the hotel and as packed as possible by 7:00. We need to get to bed very early tomorrow because our flight is very early in the morning and we need to be up and moving.

After our time in the Magic Kingdom this evening, I have really discovered that I really don’t enjoy the Disney parks. I love the food and all of the little detail stuff like the horticulture. But as far as actually enjoying the parks I am afraid that I would, for the most part, prefer to just stay home or even just sit in the hotel room (assuming that there was actually Internet access or something on television.) Almost none of the rides are very enjoyable for me and the ones that are are almost entirely unable to be enjoyable once you take into account the queue that one must work through in order to get to go on the ride. I am not too big on the short musical shows that they do all over the park even though they are very well done. It just isn’t something that I have ever liked. Musicals for musicals sake. And I really do not like parades and fireworks and there is just so much of that. I wouldn’t mind the shopping so much but every shop is packed beyond capacity and it is very uncomfortable to be in any store and so much of what they are selling is total rubbish. Unless you just need a bunch of Disney stuff, Walt Disney World is a very poor place to be doing any type of normal shopping. Once you eliminate those items you are pretty much left with Disney as a very expensive way to eat a lot of really good food. I really do enjoy the World Showcase and am able to get a lot out of that area but that is still only so much beyond food. The whole area really just becomes an extremely elaborate seating area with great architecture. I have never liked thrill rides so the fact that Disney has begun switching over to a thrill park (slowly but surely) is rapidly making the whole experience one that I would rather pass up. It is tough to say that I really don’t enjoy the parks because there really is so much about Disney World that I really love but after today I finally came to realize that I really don’t enjoy the park portion of the resort hardly at all. Now that EPCOT Future World is almost gone – only two enjoyable attractions left IMHO – that whole park seems to have vanished. And MGM has gone to the dogs and that might as well not even exist anymore as far as I am concerned. The Animal Kingdom is too small to have any significant impact. It is a light half day park at best even though almost all of it is really good. But so many people go there that it isn’t very comfortable to really spend any relaxed time there. That only leaves the Magic Kingdom and that is where I felt so stronly tonight that I would have rather just been in the hotel. I think that I still like the Magic Kingdom early in the morning but as the day wears on and the park fills up with rude people and their rude children I begin to lose any sense of fun that I might have started out with.

One of the reasons that I am putting all of this down now is so that I can look back and remind myself why I don’t really want to return to Disney World. I know that in several years from now the inclination to return will hit me and I will think back to all of the parts that I really love about Disney World and I will want to spend all kinds of money to come back. But I need to go back and read this post and remember that I really don’t want to come back. There is a lot of fun here but most of it is in the nostalgia and there isn’t all that much of that left anymore. When I walk down Main Street USA in the bright, early morning sunlight I think back to being eleven years old and my parents walking me down that street for the very first time on my way to breakfast at the Crystal Palace and then to ride the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Carribbean in Adventureland and all of that feeling of being a little kid and the wonder and excitement comes flooding back. But it is over so quickly and the reality of most of the good rides having been replaced or just closed and Main Street being so busy that you can never just walk down it anymore. Now it is just a standing parking lot for people where obnoxious parents with infants in strollers stand and watch the same parade and fireworks display every evening over and over again. Thousands of insane shoppers packed elbow to elbow in stores paying $50 for tin, made in China toys that they would never have considered paying $5 back in the real world. Toys that their kids only want because they are in Disney World and anything that they sell must be awesome. I remember collecting pins in 1987. I collected all that there were to collect including the anniversary pin. I returned in 1992 and got the next anniversary pin. My collection was complete. Today there are thousands of pins and you can buy any one of them anywhere. There are whole stores dedicated just to pins and the company maintains a computerized tracking system to help shoppers get to the stores with the pins that they need for their pin collectors books. It is a different world.

Of course, when I first went there were only two hotels. And only the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT were there. EPCOT was only five years old. Every ride was shiny and new and the best thing ever. The Magic Kingdom was only fifteen years old. Disney-MGM Studios hadn’t even been built yet. Typhoon Lagoon didn’t exist either. Just Water Country – the old swimming hole was there. And zoological pursuits were handled by Discovery Island a small working zoo on an island in Bay Lake next to the Contemporary Result. Today, being older, I feel that MGM is still the new kid on the block and that the Animal Kingdom is still being worked on. But MGM is over fifteen years old – older today than the entire park was when I first went and the Animal Kingdom is much older than EPCOT was back then. Maybe a lot of what I am seeing is a park that is aging rapidly. It is definitely true that the EPCOT rides that remain from 1982 are showing their age horribly and the technologies that made the park so awesome and groundbreaking in 1972 are just expensive and nothing special today. Now where is the park supposed to go? How is Disney to keep being groundbreaking year after year? They can’t, most likely, and that is very sad. But there is a lot that they could be doing and are not. Not even having a web site to get any real information about the park is a real problem. The park feels barely automated. Reservations made on the central reservation system take hours to reach on property restaurants. How can that be? I can barely imagine a system being designed with such a flaw included in it. But we saw today that much of their software today is still from 1993 and Windows for Workgroups. I actually talked to someone today about their aging computer systems and they said that it was really bad. The main reservation system is still a text terminal application and the different systems don’t tie in together. It is severely outdated and the company is unable to deliver many guest services because of it. Things that are just expected and commonplace elsewhere today are missing in Disney because they are failing to reinvent themelves at the same pace that everyone else is doing so. They can’t keep this up for long. Walt Disney World is rapidly losing its relevance. They need to figure out what it was about that original park that was so amazing that it brought people in in droves because they don’t have it today. The people still come but how long will it last? The kids coming today, I don’t feel, are making those memories like I did and won’t want to return the way that I do. I can’t stand the idea of not coming back for a long time. Disney World is like an old friend to me. A friend that I miss when I am away and feel a special attachment to. I feel like Disney has done a lot of growing old with me. I have spent an entire month of my life here all ready. I have seen so many restaurants, stores, rides, even two parks, come and go. I watched this place change in so many ways that I can barely recognize it anymore. But it is still Disney World under there somewhere. But so much is missing.

I really do hope that Walt Disney World gets on the ball and figures this still out. There is a lot at stake here to lose. I hope that my kids can go to Disney World and have a similarly awesome experience to the one that I had all of those years ago. But that sure won’t happen with the park that is there now. Something has to change. Something major. I don’t have the answer but I can tell you that status quo rides and cow towing to the thrill audience from Six Flags is a sure road to destruction. Disney was different. That made it special. If they don’t keep that uniqueness they won’t be able to overcome their overwhelming tax burdens in the years to come. The whole park needs to be revitalized. They need to keep making rides that no one else can make. Rides that take artistry, forethought and patience. Rides that spark our imagination. Rides that adults and children BOTH love to ride together. Rides that teach us. Rides that relax us. If that formula changes, I don’t see how Disney can survive in the long run.

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