November 8, 2013: Last Day in WDW

This is it, we have made it to our final day in Walt Disney World for this vacation and I must say, we are all ready to be done with it.  We are burned out.  Our feet really hurt and we are just tired.  Plus Luciana has been sick with a horrible cough for days and Liesl has started to show signs of it too.  Dad left yesterday so it is just the four of us today.

We slept in this morning and did not get moving until pretty late.  We headed out to the Magic Kingdom once we were up and moving.   We know that tonight is going to be a late one so we needed to rest up before heading out.

We arrived in the Magic Kingdom and started off the day by going up to the Main Street Train Station and at twelve thirty we boarded the train and rode it the entire way around the Magic Kingdom and stayed on until we go to the station at Frontierland for the second time and started our day of rides there.

We headed in the direction of Adventureland but stopped at Pecos Bill’s (the same place that Eric, Mark and I ate at almost every day in the late ’90s) because the girls were hungry so we picked up some food and had a snack.  Liesl wanted corn on the cob, of all things.

We rode Pirates of the Caribbean again, which Liesl still did not enjoy.  That just is not the ride for her.  Then we went next door to the Jungle Cruise which has been rebranded “The Jingle Cruise” for the holidays.  This is, as is my understanding, the first time that they have changed the script of the Jungle Cruise for a seasonal variant.  It will be doing this new script and new decorations for a few months.  Very little was done other than a new set of puns but it was nice having a little variety on this classic ride.  The girls are normally happy just to ride anything with a boat and don’t really pay attention to what is being said anyway.

Luciana and I took a break together near Casey’s Corner and just sat for a while.  She had some popcorn from earlier and ate that and just chilled out while Dominica and Liesl went out together around Main Street USA to play more of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  This is the game that we had started together a few days ago.  They managed to finish the game that they had been playing.  Liesl really enjoyed this.  What a great idea.

A little after three we went to the Crystal Palace, also on Main Street, for our final character meal of the vacation.  This was, by far, the worst dining experience that we had.  The food was incredibly bland, it could have been a generic American buffet anywhere (a slightly nicer Ponderosa, more or less, nothing special in the least.)  Even food that sounded like it would be good, like bread pudding, wasn’t very good.  It wasn’t just that the menu was weak but the food that was there wasn’t well prepared.  The place was over-crowded to a point that getting to the buffet or trying to actually eat was a huge pain.  As a restaurant it was neither good nor functional.  The characters came around (twice actually, which was way too much) but the girls were way past the point of caring and didn’t want to get autographs or talk to them, they just wanted to leave since they never want to eat anyway.  I was very unhappy.  Every trip to the buffet required walking all over the huge restaurant like an idiot because the walkways were all blocked so that they could squeeze more people in.

To make things worse, at one point they made a big announcement that kids who wanted to go do a conga-line with the characters should go up to the front.  So we sent Liesl up but the characters and their handlers ignored the announcement and just kept doing their thing.  So Liesl felt really uncomfortable and ended up in some other family’s pictures.  They ended up not doing the conga-line and the rude handlers who couldn’t be bothered to follow their own rules instead acted like Liesl was supposed to be there and acted like she was a lost child even though she was looking at us and we were looking at her.  We gave up, collected her and left.    This was not the kind of dining that Disney used to have.  The standards are gone.  This was not the only lessened experience on this trip but this one was, by far, the worst restaurant that we experienced.  It was so bad that it wasn’t pleasant at all, if this was a local restaurant at normal prices we would never consider eating there.  Not as good, for the same price, as a cheap diner.  That it required a real meal credit was ridiculous and shows a huge decline in the value of Disney dining plans as the food and venues are not what they used to be but the cost is just as high.

The very unhappy experience at the Crystal Palace was followed by an even more dramatic Disney fail as we went to Liberty Square to continue our day.  We found a parasol seller who would customize parasols for the girls.  They thought that it was just the coolest thing and that they really wanted them.  Dominica placed an order and when we went to pay, oh no, surprise surprise…. the Magic Bands don’t work here.  No reason given for it, no way to know.  The “you don’t have to carry money anymore” system isn’t actually the intention.  The seller even said that it was a widely known problem and that nothing was being done about it – the issue was just being ignored.  Really?  That’s Disney’s customer service response to a major service blunder?  It was a quarter to five in the afternoon, we had attempted to buy something and had promised it to our girls, we were using the Magic Bands and attempting to do everything the official Disney way, we had the backup cards… but at random and with no way to know ahead of time, some Disney shops and who knows what in the parks only take credit cards.  Real credit cards!

So what else was there to do, Dominica took the girls into Liberty Square to do rides and I made a mad dash to go from deep inside the Magic Kingdom to go all the way through the park, take yet another bus to the hotel, run through the massive hotel complex, get a credit card and return all the way back and order the parasols.  Not only did this mean missing a major portion of my last day in the park (which isn’t free in any way) but it also means that much more damage to my feet.  It is really hard to describe just how unhappy I am with Disney and just how dramatic I feel that this is a fail of their customer service. Having a problem is going to happen – but their response of  “sure we know there is this problem… tough” was beyond unacceptable.  That Disney had zero concern that they had screwed us so completely while we were doing everything that they wanted was unbelievable.  The Disney of old would never have acted like that.

The race here is because it was so late in the day and was our last day.  If I didn’t make incredible time (because the bus trips take forever) there would not be enough time for me to get from the parasol shop to the hotel and back before the park closed for the day.  Seriously, at 4:40 PM it was a struggle to be able to complete a transaction.  Disney had zero accommodation to deal with a known problem like this.  If I had been anyone who didn’t know how to maneuver the parks, couldn’t move quickly or didn’t have a spouse that could just take the kids at the drop of a hat or had been just fifteen minutes later there would have been no way to get the things that we had promised the girls.

So my afternoon was ruined.  I was so incredibly sick of the Disney buses before this.  This made it far worse.  It was a very long and fast walk to get way out to the bus stop.  Rode the bus back to the hotel and went as fast as I could from the bus to the hotel, grabbed the credit card and ran back to the bus stop.  My saving grace was that because of the holiday party tonight the buses going to the Magic Kingdom were running continuously.  Without that I probably would not have made it.  I was able to get right back onto a bus (instead of waiting another twenty minutes) and go back to the Magic Kingdom where I had to fight my way through the throngs of people milling about waiting to get into the evening’s holiday party.

I got to the parasol shop and was almost certainly their last customer of the day.  It was basically the last minute that they could take orders for the day (it takes about an hour to make the parasols and they pack up and leave by seven.)  So it was about an hour and twenty minutes for me to make the crazy trip to be able to get the parasols.  Had any little thing gone wrong or had I not been that fast of a walker or known my way around, I could not have done it.  Most Disney visitors would have just been screwed (well I was screwed, but less than a typical visitor would have been.)

Dominica and the girls were looking for me and found me right after I got the order placed.  They were very surprised that I had managed to pull it off.  The girls were so happy that I had managed to buy the parasols.  Now, in addition to the nearly hour and a half that I had lost, we have to manage picking up the parasols and we have a very tiny window in which to do that and if we miss it… we lose them.  So we need to lose quite a bit more time in order to make sure we don’t miss getting the parasols.

While I was gone the girls rode the Haunted Mansion again which is good because that was one of Liesl’s two favourite rides in all of WDW (the Great Movie Ride being the other one.)  But it meant that I missed getting to take Luciana on this ride.

While waiting for the parasols to be ready we had just enough time to safely run over to Fantasyland and ride the Winnie the Pooh ride, which is really cute, I like that one.  And that was the end of our rides, no time to do anymore.  Because of the party this evening which requires special wristbands (but for which there is little public information so we had no idea what we were supposed to do to be allowed into the party for which we had already paid) we had to get our wristbands or we would be kicked out of the park.  Very annoying that yet more of our park day is burned up dealing with punishments for how Disney handles things.  At least we were able to deal with it now and it is over and done so we can “relax” once we pick up the parasols.

We had to return to Liberty Square, most of our time being lost to walking, and picked up the parasols which were not dry yet but at least we knew that we would not lose them.  The best of the available options.

So since I needed to stand with the parasols open for thirty or forty minutes, we just stood a few feet away from the parasol seller as they packed up and left for the day.  Dominica wanted to get collectible pins for the Christmas party that we were at and they sell out extremely quickly.  Luckily one of the shops that sells them was right next to the parasol seller.  So I set up with the girls standing on the side of the “road” and Dominica went and got into the line waiting for the pins to go on sale – yes, there is actually a line as if it was a Black Friday deal where you have to wait in line for the “rope to drop” and then you can guy the stuff that you want, even though you have been in the park all day.

So we stood for nearly forty five minutes while we waited for Dominica to be able to get the pins.  That was a really long wait, the girls were screaming the whole time.  One of the Disney employees even made a comment about “good luck with that” when she went off shift after having watched me put up with them while trying to protect the not yet dry parasols from them for about half an hour.  The girls had way more than had enough of all of it.

Once Dominica was done at the shop and had the pins we were finally ready to head out and see what this party is all about.

First stop was the Columbia Harbor House for the “free” hot cocoa and cookies (snickerdoodles) which was all pretty good.  I waited outside with the stuff while Dominica picked up the goods.  Then we worked our way to an outdoor seating area to enjoy the cookies and figure out what to do next.

Liesl got her choice of what ride to try to do now that the park was “closed” and she chose, much to our surprise, Splash Mountain.  We did not think that she was going to want to do that one again but she decided that it was a lot of fun and that she could handle it.  So we headed over to Frontierland and Luciana and I went to the “The Laughing Place”, a little kids playground that is effectively a toddler waiting area specifically for Splash Mountain.

Liesl talked Dominica into sitting in front on this ride which resulted in them getting very wet.  They did not have to wait long for the ride as there were no crowds whatsoever (on the rides, the park was completely at capacity otherwise) but they did not have a FastPass so they did the very quick walk through the long waiting line area which confused Liesl a bit as she thought that it was two different rides or something.

Luciana and I had a very nice time.  I got to sit and do nothing for a bit (I had been pretty much on my feet for three hours leading up to this) with nothing to worry about except keeping an eye on Ciana who was having a great time playing with lots of other kids on the very safe and well monitored playground.   That was nice and it was perfect because Luciana probably had a lot more fun than Liesl did as she got to play the whole time and did not get wet and cold.

After Splash Mountain it was time for Mickey’s Christmas Parade.  We got a spot right in front of Splash Mountain near the beginning of the parade.  It was a pretty decent spot.  So we got the parade over with on the early side.  The girls kind of liked it.  I am not a parade guy.  I like live music parades but Disney doesn’t do that, it is all just recordings of studio stuff so not something that I am into.

From there, everyone was really feeling burned out.  We went to Storybook Circus in the attempt to see some of the characters, notably Minnie Mouse, that Liesl had been wanting to see.  But they closed that stuff so there were not characters there.  That was very disappointing as that was the stuff that Liesl really wanted to be able to do.  I expected that this would be closed but it was disappointing that paying a lot for this “extra” stuff left us without that.

So while we waited for the fireworks to start we went to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe to get dinner as it was the only place really left open.  The crowds there were crazy but they have a good veggie burger bar with tons of toppings and it is pretty low key.  The girls were exhausted and starting to fall asleep at this point and by the time that we were done eating they were both fast asleep in the stroller.  Dominica ended up giving up on the fireworks and I am never into them, so I was happy to just sit there and watch what little bit we could see from there.

After food, Dominica finally gave up on doing anything else.  The kids were asleep, she was tired and I had had way more of this day than I wanted.  We really just wanted to get back to the hotel.

So we fought the insane shoulder to shoulder crowds and got out of the park, got on the bus and went back to the Pop Century to call it a vacation.  It was five after eleven when we got back to the hotel.  We got in and were straight to bed.  We are totally exhausted.

We are done with this vacation.  Tomorrow morning we are sleeping in to make sure that I am as good to drive as possible, we are getting breakfast before we leave.  We will be driving as far towards Connecticut as we can tomorrow.   It’s time to be back to real life.  We have Saturday and Sunday to get to Connecticut and we need to be in early enough for me to be able to get sleep and get to the office on Monday morning.

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