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Keane's September/October 2012 "This Is Too Good To Pass Up" Trip Report - Part 1 of 10

Index

Note:
The text of this trip report was posted to the Usenet group rec.arts.disney.parks on October 21, 2012. This is an expanded version with pictures. If you are reading this someplace else than rec.arts.disney.parks, or on my site keanespics.com, it was copied without my permission.

Me and da' broad...
Me and Jenny in Da' Great Movie Ride...
Cast:
Who: Me, Keane. Disney Junkie and obviously a glutton for punishment...
     Mom, aka "Miss Marie". Mobility impaired. Memory impaired, too.
     Jenny. Fellow Disney Junkie, and du...kind enough to help.
     Karen. My GPS. (A Garmin nuvi 1390)
What: An opportunistic trip to Walt Disney World.
Where: Walt Disney World, Art of Animation Resort, Little Mermaid Room.
Why: D23's Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration, D23's 2012 Sip & Scream, and a dinner in Great Movie Ride.
When: September 29 thru October 6, 2012

<Disclaimers>

  1. Much of what is here is fact, mostly fact, or complete figments of my imagination remembered as fact. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
  2. Unlike my last two trip reports with Mom (Sept 2011 and March 2012), this isn't as much about being a good son as much as some dumbass Disney fan getting some tickets to a much desired event. (If you wish to read about a our little rookie escapade with taking a mobility impaired person to WDW, read the Sept 2011 Trip Report.)
  3. If you take something in this report seriously and get offended, I will laugh at you. I am not Disney. No refunds. And just how much did you pay to read this, anyway?
  4. Please remember to take all your personal belongings, and have a magical Disney Day! Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay...
</Disclaimers>

Ah, here we go again...

Prolog

There comes a time in everyone's life, okay, some people's lives, when you just have to say, "The hell with it. I have to go to Disney World!"

I really wasn't planning a trip to WDW. I had even resigned myself to the fact I wouldn't be able to economically justify my annual pass this year. But then, D23 offered two events within days of each other, with some fantastic upper tier ticket options. The prize of which would be dinner in Great Movie Ride. The Disney World Trip gears in my mind started slowly turning...

Timeline

June 5, 2012:
D23 announces D23's Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration will be held on September 30. Tickets go on sale June 21 at Noon, local time.

June 7:
Details for D23's Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration, is posted. Also posted are the event highlights.

Back in May of 2011, I attended D23's celebration of Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary. This one would celebrate Epcot's 30th. Since Epcot is my favorite park, it would no doubt it'd be worth attending.

There is an upper tier (World Key) ticket available, that had reserved seating for the main conference, a dessert reception at a "Future World Lounge", and a meet and greet with all the Disney Legends that were at the event.

June 17:
Details posted for D23's 2012 Sip & Scream, to be held on October 3. Tickets will be available June 27, Noon local time.

Sip and Scream (formerly Sip and Stroll) would have tastings of the new offerings at Food and Wine, as well as a dessert party in France with reserved Illuminations space.

But the prize would be the Upper Tier "Super Scream" ticket. A backstage tour through Costuming and dinner in Great Movie Ride the night of October 2...

June 19:
Ask Jenny if she can get away and help me with Mom, if I score the tickets I want. She can get there the day before Epcot 30th on Saturday night and fly out Thursday morning, the day after Sip and Scream. Hmmmm.

June 21:
Epcot 30th tickets go on sale today. At noon, a link is posted, and you get to Experient, who is doing D23's ticket reservations. The screen I get says "Registration is closed. Registration opens at 10:00pst."

Well, it *is* 10:00pst. Go back to D23 page and click on link again, and by the time I get to the page, there is no option for the World Key (upper tier) ticket. Not even a waitlist. So there may be reports of it selling out in 3 minutes, but it was more like 15-20 seconds. I purchase 2 normal level tickets. I get back on the site, only a couple of minutes later, and there is now a waitlist for the World Key level, but I can't get on it because I've already bought tickets, even though I've only bought two of the four I'm allowed. Well, the grapes were probably sour anyway. (I do suspect Experient screwed up, and they didn't have the World Key radio button on the page when it first appeared. I don't think a single recent event has gone smoothly when buying tickets through Experient. But read on...)

June 27:
Sip and Scream tickets become available today. A couple of minutes before Noon, D23 posts the "Purchase" link. It takes you again to Experient, and again, I get a message "Registration is closed. Registration opens at 10:00pst." Well, I've been here before.

I keep refreshing the link, but Experient isn't being any more helpful. At about five minutes past, I pull up Internet Explorer and Chrome, just in case something's screwy with Firefox. All three browsers tell me "Registration is closed. Registration opens at 10:00pst."

sigh.

I refuse to give up, and continue clicking on links on different browsers, mostly because I'm bor... determined. At 12:20pm, Experient *finally* get's its act together and I get a sign-in screen. It has the "Super Scream" event available, and I get confirmation for two tickets. Dinner in Great Movie Ride, here we come. The Disney World Trip gears in my head start spinning at full speed.

When I am done with my purchase, I return to the events screen, and the Super Scream package is sold out. The entire event will sell out in an hour.


AoA
Art of Animation Resort Sign At Night

The Plan

Since every other part of the trip was dependent on getting those tickets, it would probably be a good idea to come up with a plan...

Jenny can be there essentially from Sunday through Wednesday:

I want to be in Animal Kingdom one day. Last time I took Jenny to the airport in the morning, it threw my normal departure time off, and didn't get as far down the road as I usually do. The obvious answer is to leave the next morning. :-) I eventually decide to arrive Friday, September 28, and depart Friday, October 5. The first or last day will be Downtown Disney, the other Animal Kingdom.

Seven days. How ambitious.

So, I've got dates and tickets for the ball, but no room. Disney doesn't have AP rates for the timeframe I want yet.

We are going to try something different. Disney on the cheap(er). The last two times I took Mom to Disney World, I ended up renting points (from Laura... Thanks Laura!) for a two-bedroom villa. This time, we're going to get two moderate rooms, hopefully adjoining. That would be a savings of some $150/night.

July 12:
(Note: All prices is in USD, accurate as of August 2012, and include tax of 12.5%.)

AP rates are finally announced through Sept 29. I will get there Sept 28, right? I get online, check the availability of all the moderates, and I can only get the combination of rooms I want (preferred, one of them handicap accessible) at CBR. That's okay, I haven't been to CBR since 2002, and it's time to update my website. Good idea, right? No Pop Warner, no cheerleaders... Done deal!

Well crap. Since my stay is through Oct 5, I can only get AP rates for the first two nights ($176, weekend rate), the last 5 are at full rack rate ($218, weekday rate). I will have to convert the last 5 nights to an AP rate when *those* are announced. More waiting. Oh wait, this *is* Disney. At least I'm not waiting in a line, but I have a bad feeling about this. I call Disney and request adjoining rooms and make sure the request is in for a 1st floor room with level access for Mom's scooter. No elevators at CBR, doncha know.

I take the Disney phone Survey at the end.

July 27:
Buy a 10-day, non-expiring, park-hopping MYW ticket from undercover tourist for mom. Had I known I was going to drag her down there again, I would have bought her an AP. I'm more than just hedging my bets buying the MYW pass. As an added bonus, Undercover Tourist is giving an extra $1.99 off if you spend more than $500, in celebration of their new wait time app. And then 1 percent back in Disney Reward Dollars, so I'm looking to get more than $8 back. Hey, I'm just trying to make myself feel a little better, okay?

July 30:
Epcot 30th sells out. A waitlist is available.

August 13:
Let me see. Canon has a new camera (the G1X) that I *am* going to buy at some point, and I'm going to go to Walt Disney World, and the price on the camera drops $100. I order one.

August 20:
The Canon G1X arrives. Since I'm upgrading from a G12, the camera is already familiar, but feels like a brick, like the G's of old. It takes me a couple hours to customize the camera and learn its new relevant features. Image quality is pretty darn amazing. We'll see if it survives a week at WDW...

August 24:
Make 4:45pm reservations on October 1 at Boma, the only evening we'd really be free. Because I had to. Because it's Boma.

August 28, or Adventures with Disney reservations:
The good news is, annual pass rates are announced through December 24. I play punch-the-numbers with Robo-Disney, and get a real live CM in a short amount of time.

The bad news is, the cost-adjustment season changes at the same boundary as the AP rates, and the handicap room and my room isn't available in the new block of rooms. Nor are they available at Port Orleans or Coronado Springs. So even though I have the room reservations in hand for those types of rooms, I cannot convert the last 5 nights to an AP rate because the rooms I have aren't part of the new block of AP rate rooms. Bummer. You can almost hear the relief in the CM's voice that he doesn't have to do an in depth explanation of why I'm screwed.

Thank the CM, will think about things, and terminate the call. I take the Disney Survey again.

At $436/night for 2 rooms, I might as well rent a two-bedroom villa on rented points. I can get a 2-bedroom Villa at SSR for just another $75/night with an AP, and all my problems would be solved.

I contact Jenny, she thinks we should do a value.

I check Art of Animation. Family suites are available. ($238) I get excited for a little while, until I dig up a floor plan and find out they really are a family suite, and really not suited for two separate parties. They're more like a 1-bedroom villa, without the full kitchen. I refuse to sleep on a Murphy bed for a week.

sigh.

August 29:
While I'm looking over my options, a light bulb comes on (yes, one of the power wasting incandescent types) and realize that AoA is only offering AP rates for the family suites.

I can't figure out how to get to the rack rate screens, since now that Disney knows I'm a passholder, I'm always redirected there.

So instead, I just pull up another browser. Different browser, different cookies, and lo and behold! Little Mermaid standard rooms are available. Call Disney, play with the robo-Disney pre-show, and finally get a live human. I explain my problem, and he pulls up my reservations, and nope, still can't convert those last 5 days at CBR.

So I request those AoA rooms, and tell him I know I'm paying full rack, but he tells me he doesn't have those rooms in his system. I check, and yep, they aren't listed anymore. I tell him to check Movies, and I refresh my session, and they're the Mermaid rooms are there again. He checks again, and yes! He has them too! And the system give him an error when trying to access the rooms. I check the website, and yep, they're gone. Ugh. Bummer again.

I tell him to look at Movies, and since the season changed, I have to keep the first two days on my first reservation, then the last five days on a second reservation, so now I have four reservations. Ugh. This is getting stupid fast.

I take the Disney Survey again.

August 30:
I pull up the reservations on My Vacation, and there's something wrong. The reservation sez AP rates, but the prices don't reflect it. I pull up the AP site again, and yes, Movies is listed under those resorts getting a discount, Music does not. But some research shows both Music and Sports is cheaper than Movies. The AP site is wrong. Send some e-mail to guest services...

I am about to call Disney and have them move me to Music, when those $*&%# Mermaid rooms are back on-line. Why complain about the rate if I go to another hotel that has the same rate? (The last five days would cost me $104.50 at Movies and $105 at AoA (sans taxes), so I suspect my AP discount at Movies was fifty cents.)

I call Disney once again. I explain the situation, and she takes the AP codes off of my request, and still cannot find the rooms. While she's doing this, I'm going forward with the reservations online. Before I go through the final pages, I tell her I can reserve online, and can I double book then call back in and cancel my original reservations?

I'm told if that's the only way I can get the rooms, to go for it. Hang up, (and take the survey) and within 10 minutes have my rooms and confirmation numbers, and am calling Disney again for the fourth time. Fifth, if you want to count the original booking.

After playing with robo-Disney for the fourth time in a couple of days, I get a very good humored CM who listens to my story and pulls up all six reservations (how many can they pull up at one time?) and verifies for me that I do indeed have reservations for two rooms at AoA, one a standard and one a handicap. I tie the two rooms together and ask for adjoining rooms. *Then* we start deleting out the Movies reservations. Cancellation numbers are now only six digits. I was waiting for the rest of them...

I then find out I can't be the primary person in each room, even though I'm paying for it. She has to go through guest services to get it changed for some reason (maybe it was to have them note the room request), and while she's gone, I get Disney World commercials! Country Bears, to be exact. Almost too soon (I could have listened to a couple more), she comes back on-line and everything's been taken care of. (I should add that Country Bears was down while I was there.)

I take the survey again. I am always happy to skew Disney's survey results. I feel like I've voted 5 times. Well, I'm from Chicago, so it's okay.

I'm booked into Art of Animation for 7 nights, a resort I've never stayed at. That wasn't easy. $270/night (for two rooms) for the first two weekend nights and $236/night for the last five weekday nights. The last five are also on a different season... My best record at staying at a new resort was Kidani Village, having first stayed there four months after opening. So I'm staying at a section of a resort that will only have been officially opened for 2 weeks. What could go wrong?

Anyway, at least I'm not staying at an All-Stars. BWAhahahaha....

August 31:
Rent scooter from Apple Scooter. Great. I'm a VIP repeat guest. They could give me a VIP repeat discount, but it doesn't happen.

September 1:
I hear back from Disney. They "have no way of checking rates and I'll have to call reservations". sigh. It seems there is no way to inform Disney of mistakes on their website.

At some point in all of this, I make informal arrangements to meet Kidagain, who'll not only be there at the same time, but in the same section of the resort as well. I also ask Lisa if she and Andy will be in town during that time frame. Circumstances had me missing them the past couple of times going through Atlanta.

Day 0, Thursday, Sept. 27
On the road again

I am up and about early, packing coolers, making sure I have all the cables and peripherals I need, and shut down the electronics in the house.

Literally a couple of hours before I leave, I am at a grocery store to pick up a couple of bags of potato chips and some butter cookies (unavailable in the South) for Lisa. I have also decided that if Disney doesn't want to supply the value resorts with a coffee maker, that I should supply my own. The grocery store (a big one) didn't seem to have appliances, so I stopped at a local 24-hour Walgreen, and they had a 5-cup Sylvania coffee maker for $14.99. Heck, that's what I'd pay for that liquid brown crud Disney serves in the week I'd be there. Sold!

Then ladies and gentlemen, I got home and spent 15 minutes pulling up spearmint plants that grow in my yard for Jenny's garden. It grows like a weed, but it's what she wants. Get a couple of plastic grocery bags, put some wet paper towels in the bottom, and stuff the root ends of a bunch of plants in. Tie it off, then put it in a larger, 12 gallon plastic bag with the top open, so the plants can get some light and air.

Every time I removed and replaced Mom's walker during the early part of the trip, it smelled like someone was chewing an entire pack of spearmint gum...

And not because of any of the above events, I got started about 15 minutes late. Left at 6:45, 60 degrees.

The trip completely uneventful. Other than breakfast. Cracker Barrels, Bob Evans, etc, aren't as common up North as they are in the South. We (okay, I) decided to stop South of Merrillville for breakfast. 45 minutes later, still not coming across a breakfast place, we reluctantly stop at a McDonalds for food and coffee. While McDonalds has pretty good coffee, I'd rather have a burger for breakfast. Well, this would be the last crappy meal I'd have for a while, right? Right? As soon as we get back on the expressway, there is a sign advertising a Cracker Barrel 10 miles down the road.

Unfortunately, sitting down for meals, and slow rest area trips put me behind by about 2 hours, and I'm not sure how that happened. Met Jenny near Lebanon, and dropped off the spearmint, some food stuff you can't find in Tennessee (Mochi, small ones, about 1.25" in diameter, her favorite breakfast food)... Anyway, it cleared out half the back seat.

It was late, I was tired, so only made it to the Best Western in Monteagle, TN. Again. I requested an adjoining handicap room, and they bent over backwards to accommodate me. Kudos to the staff there.

Ate at The Smoke House. Had the buffet. It was okay, but I don't think it was anything to write home about. The greens were good, though. So was the ambience.

Mileage: 547
Moving time: 8:42
Moving Avg: 66
Stopped: 36:00
Overall Avg: 62
Total Time: 9:18

The Smoke House, Monteagle, TN
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Sunrise
Sunrise someplace in Southern Georgia...

Day 1, Friday, Sept. 28
I have arrived... Again...

I pack up the car, and go check out, but girl behind the counter can't give me a receipt because the printer's jammed and she doesn't know how to un-jam it. Damn computers.

On the road at 4:30am, pass Lisa's place about 6:30, 30 minutes before Queeny has given me the good graces to call. It's 65 degrees. We can do better than that, can't we? Sunrise is nice, and the G1X does a decent job at guessing the right exposure. There is an unexplained slowdown close to Atlanta, but otherwise I sailed right through.

There are a number of law enforcement officials about. All of us are doing 80mph, and they don't care. They are in big-ticket only mode. 90 degrees by Macon, GA. Stop at the rest areas before the I-75/I-475 split, and there's a big-ass spider over the garbage can. One of the hairy kinds. My G1X can't do close focus macro, so I pull out the G12 for the duty, but still don't get that close. There is a difference between can get close and want to get close.

The drive is otherwise uneventful. Stop in a Cracker Barrel for breakfast, which so far does a decently good job at just about any location. Gas is 70 cents per gallon cheaper here than Chicago.

We enter Florida, and about every 90 minutes we get about 2-3 minutes of rain, enough to make it more humid. I fill the tank at a Shell station in Ocala. A few years ago, the official I-75 highway sign that said which gas stations were available at the exit, had this Shell station was on it. So, I got off, and it was still being built. The pumps weren't even in yet.

Along I-75, Georgia and Florida
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In a dozen miles, the left lane becomes the Florida Turnpike, my traditional place where I go into "We're goin' to Disney World!" mode. I pass the first toll booth in the Sun-Pass lane, and the "Low funds" light flashes. Crap. Then we go down 429 toward Western Way, and it POURS. Tropical storm pours. Then it stops.

Along SR-429 and Western Way, Florida
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Get to Art of Animation, which Karen still knows as a Pop Century Access road, it starts raining. Just enough to annoy me. Show my ID to the guard and drive to registration. Mom stays in the car, but I use up a handicap spot anyway. It's 92 degrees and lightly raining. It was supposed to be 85 and mostly sunny. Someone didn't check with weatherdotcom...

I cross the bus lane and enter Animation Hall, the central building that houses the gift shop, arcade, counter-service restaurant and registration. While Ink and Paint (the gift shop) has an exterior entrance, there's one on the left wall of registration, flanked by rear-lit concept animation art of the four themes at the resort.

The place really looks well thought out. Registration, however, is huge. That worries me. If it's designed to hold that many guests, this place could be crowded. However, my objections of a human unfriendly lobby at the All-Stars doesn't apply here. The entire wall behind registration is also concept art of the four themes. (There is a complete panoramic of it on the next page.) You will note that the left has color frames, and as you go to the right, color eventually is removed until you only have line art near the Magical Express entrance. I'm sure there's a reason for that, the immediate one, is sunlight hits the drawings on the ME entrance side...

I did early check-in, any yes, we do have adjoining rooms and quickly screw up my speedy check-in by requesting another key to Mom's room. My wonderful CM gives me that look (heck, I'm paying for the room lady), and I reply she's my 85 year old mom, has Alzheimer's, and is mobility impaired. I get another key, but it can't be in my name. Mumble. (Let me later add, I am surveyed by Disney. The e-mail was to my e-mail address, but the salutation was to Mom. sigh.)

The new key was for Triton Arase. Well, that's destiny for you. If I ever have a kid, I'm naming it Triton. (We were in building Triton, hence the name...) I should have charged everything to Triton. Missed opportunities.

Get registered, out to the car, get to building 9 where we're supposed to be, and it starts POURING. Wait in car 1/2 hour for it to stop. Unload the car, the sun is out, streets are drying, and 94 degrees, 100% humidity.

It was one of those, "Take a breath... wait, did I actually breath in?" days...

Mileage: 609
Moving time: 8:35
Moving Avg: 71
Stopped: 26:32
Overall Avg: 67
Total Time: 9:01

Take Mom up to the room first in case it starts raining again. Ah, this is cool. Room locks are RFID. No more inserting cards, just put it up next to the sensor, and it clicks green. It's a low powered reader. I found it didn't read through say, 3 three other cards. It's best to have it at the outside of your wallet, then you can just put your wallet over the sensor to open the door. I had both Triton's and my key cards in my wallet, and the reader seemed to find the right one.

I find I am parked on the wrong side of Building 9. Before I let mom in the room, I take pictures. Boy, you better like the Little Mermaid. There is a reason this is the Little Mermaid section. I open the adjoining door, then repeat the process of photographing my room. I open the adjoining door, and the weather/sound stripping they put around the doors is already falling off (the adhesive is not holding) and I am repeatedly putting it back on the door jam. Let me see. This part of the hotel has been open 2 weeks...

[Note: All of the pictures of the room and resort have been merged together and is on the next page.]

I wonder if I'm the first to stay in this room, but find a piece of a kid's toy under the bed. Nope.

I leave mom in the room, move the car to the closest parking area and unload the car. After resting and hydrating for a while, I head on out, photographing the themeing on the way. Then I come across some pirates, then some jellyfish... There's a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party tonight.

I can't find bell services, and find it's on the far side of Animation Hall. Jeez... At Kidani, there were four ECV's in the parking garage. Here, there are about 20, from several vendors. Each is plugged into a wall socket and is charging. Obviously, Disney's designed this area for scooters.

So I pick up the scooter, and VIP or not, it's one of the older, beat up ones. There is some foam missing off the steering handle (that was probably a good accident), and the key lock is no longer attached to the panel, so you can probably hot wire the thing with no problem. The one's I got at the DVC resorts were almost brand new. Hmmm...

I motor on out to the front of the resort and take some pictures. The sun is in a bad place, and motor on to a place with a better angle. I want to take pictures of the inside of Animation Hall, and motor on in. Hey, this is fun. I park the scooter as I take the registration panoramic, but instead of turning left out the back door, I turn right, play mobility impaired, and take the scooter to all the different parts of the resort, and take pictures. Hey, I was going to take pictures of the resort anyway, so is there really a difference if you pick up the scooter and take pictures of the resort as opposed to taking pictures of the resort then picking up the scooter? It's not like I'm being charged by the mile. And it's a big resort. And it's almost 90 degrees with really high humidity. And it's my first day here.

The speed control isn't as linear as you'd like when the speed is set to 11, so I do have to dial it back a little when in crowds. I can see using one of these in the parks. You can actually travel faster than you can walk, and going from one end of the park to the other several times becomes doable... Heh.

Got a surf and surf burger, which was surprisingly good, with some cheesecake bites and brought it back to the room.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any plastic ware (AoA food court uses real dishes and silver... well, metal-ware), so I took a real fork with me... Yes, I returned it. I later find out where the plastic ware is. With the cashiers. You would think they'd offer some to you if you have food to go. Nope.

It's dark and late evening by the time I get back, and since Mom's asleep, I take the scooter into my room. There is barely room for a scooter, hence the king bed in Mom's room. More floor space for scooters, wheelchairs and walkers.

As I turn in for the night, the bed cover has yet to see anything resembling a washing machine yet, so it's so stiff you can almost pick it up by one corner and move it off the bed. At least there are no smells from everything being new.

Art of Animation, Walt Disney World
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End Sept 2012 Trip Report - Part 1 of 10.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

Revisions:
  • 11/08/2012 - Page Added
  • 12/31/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 09/01/2014 - Update to v3.2