Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

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Jabroniville
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Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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Blue milk!

I managed to get a reservation for Olga's Cantina, which I guess is a highly-sought-after one? I honestly hadn't looked it up (my hotel concierge was checking and got it for me while looking for Be Our Guest reservations), so when I got in, I didn't know what to expect. It's got more great theming, though HOLY COW it's a tiny lil' bar. No wonder nobody can get in. It greatly resembles a dive, with "gross" stuff like the little blue boba-things that go in your drinks appearing to be the eggs of some lumpy frog-monster in the giant tub with tubes "leading" to the drink fountains. That's pretty funny. There's a robot DJ bouncing to random electronica beats and a lot of high-tech-but-scrappy gear all over the place. I didn't want a MEAL meal and so I went with a pretty generic cheap non-alcoholic drink and paid before having a wander around the place to get my money's worth, haha.

There are some MASSIVE foot stops around this place, it seems- a gigantic barbecue-looking thing and another quick-service place in a big building off to another side- these seem like more "mass transit quick service" places just to deal with the massive influx of tourists. I was curious (and hungry) but ultimately passed.
Jabroniville
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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https://jabroniville.smugmug.com/Disney ... /i-BZLtKKG
https://jabroniville.smugmug.com/Disney ... -vcm8cCT/A

Three-minute clips of the finale, one from the second row. See if this works.

FROZEN EVER AFTER:

So like I said before, Frozen is my jam, and so I KNEW I would end up seeing Frozen Ever After at least once. So I went pretty early in the first one, but the timing stank because I had to absolutely SLAM the slush drink I'd just bought, because you can't even stand in the crowd to get in with the drink. I figured it would be a good enough seat and it KIND OF was, but I figured an LL selection would be superior and so got one for later. First World Problem: the WiFi in here is COMPLETELY non-existant, so the queue and the auditorium completely blanked my phone or any checking of the App. I found two different pairs of narrators once more- they must alternate semi-frequently, because in 2019 it was the same deal. It's a mostly full theater, but close seats are MUCH better.

Both groups of narrators have a similar dynamic- the middle-aged woman being a thirst-queen for Hans and Kristoff is always entertaining, and the repartee between the hosts is always fun. I like how they both get zingers on each other. Watching twice in one day means you get repeat jokes, but they often put a different spin on them and have completely new material as well- it seems a bit like the Jungle Cruise where you have some freedom to do different things. This time neither group called out the one guy in the "Elsa Reveals Her Powers Outside" bit who happens to be smiling nonchalantly, lol. The show itself is solid, though most people call out the problems- Frozen is immensely front-loaded with songs, so the narrators largely have to spend 20 minutes on the first half of the movie, then railroad everything into the end with this ridiculous "Okay so then all this stuff happens!" that glosses over the entirety of the rest of the film. Though it's actually been so long since I've seen Frozen and heard many of the songs that it was kind of nice to see them again. Like, that is a REALLY GOOD soundtrack.

But we get Anna early on to give us a "main" character, Kristoff in the middle as everyone's still looking for Elsa, and then BAM! Anna comes out at the end and we finally get Elsa, the Main Event of the whole thing. And it's a legit singer doing "Let It Go", not lip-synching or anything (unlike the old Friendship Faire castle show, where it was Idina Menzel doing even the new dialogue). The funny thing is Anna gets almost nothing to really do in this one, obviously playing support for Elsa... funnier still because I know for a fact that at least one Anna performer is also a Belle performer at the Studios and DOES sing for that show! I always wonder if people mind being "The Anna" and having Elsa steal the spotlight, lol.

So the second time around, I made sure I was able to get a middle center seat wayyyyyyyyy up front, getting in the second row, and it has pretty much no weaknesses. you can still see everything just fine, and when you're up front, the people on stage can see you and wave at you! I got waves from Anna AND Elsa, you guys!!

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST:
I managed to see this for its last show- the Studios are actually REALLY BAD for spacing out all the shows "just so" that you will miss 1-2 performances of one if you see another one. Plus the shows all end fairly early, and you will miss valuable park time if you go in the morning, so there's really only a small handful of time where it's best to go see them. This one is DEFINITELY showing its age, though it's kind of funny how the truncated form of the show is. You get all of the Beast's cartoonish anger and rage, yet none of his heroism or character development, so it's literally just "The Beast apologizes and so Belle instantly knows he's a great person". Interesting to see them use the same 6 people for all the "background" bits and give them some notable dances during scenes, even though their backgrounders- I think this is to make those supplementary roles "worthwhile" and not something an actor would grow to resent, haha.

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The day I finally got to ride Slinky Dog Dash, lol.

TOY STORY LAND:
-Okay, so FINALLY, near the very end of the day, I managed to get on Slinky Dog. It had a 30-40 minute wait, and I wasn't gonna see a better one. I joked with a CM there that coasters at least never seem to break down, but he promptly corrected me. "You were VERY lucky" he said, to not have seen this one break down. This was indeed a lot of fun, though, and is MUCH better at night with all the bright lights everywhere. It's not really a "thrill ride" or even more hardcore than Big Thunder (much less Space Mountain), but it's nice and you can see the characters and such. The queue has a solid design (though is BRUTAL if it's light out), especially once you get inside to the massive indoor switchback thing. I stayed near the drop-off point to repeatedly watch Slinky Dogs scoot through the Hot Wheels "light up" arches.

I actually managed a Midway Mania spot via G+. I'd missed this one last time I was here, because the lines were pretty bad and I left around 5pm. I also skipped it on Tokyo, because for some reason over there it's the most immensely busy attraction in either park! I seem decently good at it, but I find scores that are preposterously huge- are these people who play all the time, or just know the tricks? Again, it's got a good queue. Unfortunately I didn't go on the Alien Spin thingie, like last time- it's a pretty neat attraction with an interesting, complex design, but the wait wasn't justifiable to me.
Jabroniville
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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Still waiting for this one to come back, dated as it is.

OTHER STUFF:
SO! Mickey's Runaway Railway! I managed to snag this twice! I bought one "guaranteed spot", and found it pretty entertaining... though we were absolutely jammed into the big "train car" thing and then it broke down partway through (at the carnival scene), which kind of dampened things... then we passed a room with a blank cone in the middle (the tornado scene, as I'd realize later). I do admire the trackless technology; it's kind of funny how it's become the "New Big Thing" in theme park snobbery, as many big attractions now have it. Here it's pretty good, and makes solid use of the big screens and variety of interesting things to look at, "Hobo Goofy" and all. I kept wanting to see how the "explosion in the screen" thing happens in the "introductory from the queue" thing, but I missed it the second go-around, lol.

When the "Castle Show" thing started, I dove right into the queue again- it had a VERY short wait (something like 15 minutes?) and found it a flawless ride this time around. I saw the full "tornado scene" and everything. I tried to spot the "Pluto Backstory" thing that the Disney Food Blog pointed out, but only saw him a couple of times- you might have to be in the right position to see it. Though I do like this attraction, I LOVED the Movie Ride and don't see why they couldn't have just built this wherever. BOO TO GETTING RID OF THE MOVIE RIDE! I only ever got to ride it once!

I found the tail end of the Castle Show after I left the ride, and it went on a WHILE afterwards- this one actually seems to be the most packed with "actual stuff from the movies" with scenes and things playing on multiple parts of the Chinese Theater. The night ended on a great note when I was waiting for the second Railway ride, though- I randomly checked my phone and found that my Touring Plans Reservation Finder had a hit! Be Our Guest for tomorrow afternoon! BAM! I snapped it up, somehow not missing it (you literally have to get it in SECONDS, people warned me), and had my much-desired reservation for the next afternoon! Pretty crazy coincidence.

FOODSTUFFS:
-This was probably the least "good" I ate on my trip, as I just couldn't find a reservation ANYWHERE (you really do have to get them early, even at the minor places)- the '50s diner, the other things around the main street, etc. So I ultimately just went with the old standby I went with in 2019- the seafood-ish one in the boat. I do like "themed buildings" for food. One day I might try Brown Derby or one of the other diners (in 2014 I know I was at the Sci-Fi Diner... not sure if that was available at this time).

Bizarrely, there was this ice cream/drink stall in the big boulevard to Twilight Zone and when I ordered something, it turned out they didn't have it. Since I couldn't think of another thing to get, I figured I'd just get a refund. Except the dude didn't know how to do it, and had to call someone. And I ended up waiting like TEN MINUTES to get my five bucks back. After a few I was thinking "geez maybe I should just get a cheaper thing" but the whole time I'm thinking the person would be right over. But nope- they took forever and then I got a refund and went to get the aforementioned slush drink I had to slam because it was already time for the Frozen show, haha. Very weird. What even is that?

At the end of the night near closing, I was in the "Guest Services" thing taking pictures of the various "Park History" photos on the walls and reading the info- something I often like to do as the day winds down. This time I eavesdropped on some heated conversation as two guys had apparently been "stuck on Rise of the Resistance" for three hours and thus missed out on a ton of things at the park ("We missed Slinky Dog and..."). The big burly CM was pretty much going back & forth with them on all sorts of stuff as they wanted a free parkhopper for the next day and he was just NOT having it ("I can't give you a parkhopper- you guys DID have all day in the park"). I'm not sure how those two managed to be stuck on the ride for that long- that WAS the duration of its breakdown that day, but they'd obviously let you off it at some point. I think they must have been insisting on staying there to not waste their spot in line, maybe? I'd have loved to know more, but nobody likes an eavesdropper and I ran out of stuff to photograph so I left, lol. But let it be known that Guest Relations is NOT there to just hand out all sorts of free stuff- Disney actually appears pretty hardcore on this sort of thing.
Jabroniville
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Animal Kingdom

Post by Jabroniville »

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DAY SIX (ANIMAL KINGDOM):
* Animal Kingdom is pretty much the same as when I'd left it in 2019, with nothing really new, save their big closing show being dropped and instead they have boats flying around kites. I saw this while walking by a couple of times and it was pretty cool. I never DID end up seeing the closing show when it was on though, haha. It only stuck around a couple of years! So Meet & Greets weren't a thing here, but they had a quartet of boats going around carrying special guests- Mickey & Minnie, a Donald boat, Santa Claus, and Pocahontas & Meeko! This means I still haven't actually seen Pocahontas in person, lol.

The only attraction really closed is Kali River Rapids, which is kind of unfortunate... though I never really cared for being COMPLETELY soaked like you get on this one- like absolutely drenched down to everything (and the operators enhance this by putting all the heavy people on one side of the boat). Still it's unfortunate that a place with so few attractions is missing one. Otherwise AK is a very pretty park- the Tree of Life is the most outstanding of the three non-Castles (and may be the best overall), and the addition of Pandora certainly added a fair bit to do.

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So my "Get Their Early" plan was somewhat messed up here, as my app and even Google indicated an 8am opening time, necessitating being there by 7:30 for Early Morning Entry... except that today was DISNEY+ DAY! So by getting there at like 7:15 for rope-drop actually made me fifteen minutes LATE, as they'd allowed early entry for Disney+ subscribers, and a half hour earlier than THAT for Disney Resort guests! This was mentioned literally nowhere in my hotel, the app, the Genie+ or anything. However, Ride of Passage was still almost a complete walk-on with very little waiting, so it wasn't so bad. And I went right from that to the River Voyage with again very little wait. I had purchased a Genie+ thing for "Ride" as well, figuring I wanted to go twice, so I went on it a couple hours later as well. I actually screwed up here, writing down the wrong arrival time and so I was an hour late, but when I asked the guy how forgiving they were, he was like "You can ALWAYS pretty much just go on" and I was able to ride it again. This usually worked in the parks, apparently (only once was I denied entry for being late).
Jabroniville
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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The "Passage" ride remains one of Disney's best, despite being the typical "3D Ride". I love how the Banshee "breathes" as you're riding it (this time, no operator pointed that out; in 2019, I noticed it near the end of my first ride, but the second operator mentioned it). The queue is pretty great, with all the winding passageways down the amazing Pandora "landscapes", and features the extremely good "lab" area with the floating Na'vi and other scientific stuff. The River Voyage is more "screens that you watch" and isn't as great, but the Na'vi animatronic at the end is another top-tier Disney one. Shockingly, I wouldn't actually ride this one again- on my 2019 trip, I was able to ride it three times (once by accident, as I'd mixed it up with the other queue and waited 35-40 minutes near park closing for it, haha- I only barely got on Flight again!). But this time, increasingly-bad wait times kept me away.

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The best shot I got of the "fake waterfall", which is actually a rotating wheel covered in film.

Pandora as a whole is still great. I went sightseeing both in the day and at night for the different vibes. It's really remarkable, though I can still tell it's "faked" a bit with the giant wall of foliage-covered mountains that only SORT OF looks as tall as it's supposed to be. I love the "Floating Mountains", though. And thanks to YouTube, I now know that the "waterfall" furthest in the back is actually FAKE- it's just a rotating metal-covered wheel, because at that distance, actual water is too hard to see! It's a neat example of how Disney Imagineering can "trick" the eye.

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I ate this thing! I forget what it's called, but it's my Animal Kingdom standby! Meat + Rice!

In the early afternoon (after the Safaris), I ate at the quick-service thing, which took some doing as the app would NOT let me order food properly. It would take me out every single time, even if I took only seconds to select something, and the guys at the front helping people had no idea what was going on. So they just sent me to the ordering area where people were going ANYWAYS, and oh look! I easily walked right up and got food before the App said it would be ready! I got some kind of bean/beef/chicken thing with one of the cool-colored drinks- it's a HUGE bowl of food, which is pretty great for Disney quick-service. And I really like this whole area- it has a "handmade native-built" kind of feel, despite being absolutely enormous and covering like 1/6 of Pandora, lol.

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The only time I got on a Frozen-themed bus, lol.

The scenery and ambiance of the area was a great help when I got the notification I was pretty much expecting that my Aunt Karen had died after entering palliative care following her stroke a couple of years ago. Not exactly the greatest news to get on a vacation, but her suffering was over and it's hard not to feel better in an area like Pandora after dark, surrounded by amazing lighting and neon.
Jabroniville
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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Baby Gorilla!

KILIMANJARO SAFARIS & AFRICA:
-The fact that the parks were just getting busier and busier was particularly notable here, as I went right to the popular Safaris right after Pandora and got SLAMMED by a big line! I mean, for the morning- it was 20-30 minutes or so, with very spotty WiFi. But yay, Safaris! This is something I always tried to do twice, but today it closed at 5:45, stopping me from seeing the unusual "Dark Safari". This one was quite solid- we saw ostrich eggs, most of the big animals, the giraffes got pretty close, and more. The elephants were a bit far off in the distance.

I trekked about afterwards on the Africa thing, which felt a bit different- the room with the Naked Mole Rats was blocked off so you just walked down one side of the building, unfortunately. But everyone could see the hippos up close! Very cool area in general. The gorillas were out as usual (Disney keeps them quite visible thanks to the layout of the area), and OMG THE BABY!!! They had this little toddler-sized gorilla baby, who was pretty much left by its mother whenever she wanted to walk off, so he'd have to roll over and follow- not only did everyone get this great close-up of the baby only a couple feet away, but we saw him get up and crawl! With his huge head and long arms! People were freaking out all over- these things are just the best.

Oddly I don't remember much else of Africa- the okapi was absent, unfortunately. I remember it being very visible on past trips, with one zookeeper telling me about them (their tongues are raspy like giraffe tongues- I found out the latter on a San Diego trip years ago! They lick your arm when you feed them at the Safari Park!). The area here is very cool, though- I know a lot of Imagineering Nerds who worship the Africa section for it's "fake lived-in" look and all the building graffiti and assorted bits.

Later in the day, I tried to help a father & daughter get on the Safari before it closed (showing them where it was), but they apparently shut it down early (as it was getting just too crowded in the lines). The girl looked pretty disappointed and last I saw the dad was trying to beg their way into the line- I do feel for people who just don't have the insider knowledge or park knowhow- it's legitimately WAY too confusing or convoluted for most people, and so you get stuff like this where people spend a fortune to get here and can't get on everything.

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OTHER STUFF:
Amazingly, I was here for the very first day they brought the "Winter Animal" puppets back to AK! I had no idea this was a thing, but these extremely artistic, cool puppets are brought out and people can touch and pet them, and interact with them. COVID had taken this away for a long time, and the attendant overseeing them told me "There were a lot of happy tears this morning" as they were SO EAGER to bring their friends back out. The first one I saw was a cool Arctic fox that tried to find if I had any snacks ("What's that? No snacks? No, I don't think that he can have Powerade..."). The giant penguin charges people to hug them, the polar bear & cub are huge, and the snowy owls are fascinating to watch. They came out every hour or so for 15 minutes, alternating with two groups so you usually didn't have to wait long. It's really great that stuff like this is coming back. (Fun Fact: A friend of Elena I met earlier was also a puppeteer here, lol- I pretended I didn't recognize her!).

The shops in the main area are... fine. I kind of glossed many of them over, to be honest- the gift shops are becoming increasingly same-y, and I think the pandemic really affected those. I guess there's more stuffed animals here, though.

Though I usually go along the trails of animals on my trip, this time I never QUITE managed it. This was partially because of the distraction of the animal puppets and frequent backtracking as I checked stuff out. I sort of forgot until the end, and most animals had gone away (though I saw the otters earlier in the day)- I went down the trails to get close-ups of the animal sculptures, but it was a tad trickier at night- the rope things off and it's dark- I even slammed right into a thigh-high rope barrier, lol!
Jabroniville
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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EXPEDITION EVEREST:
I was pretty stoked to have made my trip for late 2020, as apparently Expedition Everest is CLOSING for the majority of next year. This is thought by many to be the big fix necessary for the "Disco Yeti", which they shockingly didn't try to fix during the COVID lockdowns- the Yeti animatronic stopped working good and early when the ride was built, and so they've flashed a light over it to give the illusion of movement as you go by. Though I never found you saw it long enough for movement to be that necessary, to be honest. Still, I hope it's true- it'd be nice to see! This one also had a HUGE line all day long, and both my attempts at the old reliable Single Rider line failed- typically in the FP days, I could easily ride this twice using the SR & FP combo, but today, it had a big line even for SRs, and I didn't use G+ for this day.

However, I did eventually find a point where it was sporting only a 20-minute wait, so I hammered that one out very quickly. This was actually my first time in the actual QUEUE of the attraction, as in 2014 & 2019, I'd always used the other options, missing out here. It's quite cool and informative, with a lot of great legit pictures and fantastical stuff. Sculptures of the "Protector Yeti" and a GIGANTIC foot imprint, and more! I usually let people go ahead of me so I could take pictures and actually read some of the stuff. The ride is as good as ever- I don't know what it is, but the "falling backwards" portion always gives me the illusion that the ride is turning you upside-down! But it's a great combination of theming and excitement, as it's one of the most bewildering thrill rides at Disney, but also has the great bits like the torn-up flags and shredded tracks and everything, plus a Yeti!

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ASIA:
-While Asia isn't quite as neat-looking as Africa, it's a bit more flashy, with big temple structures and the like. Plus the great ice cream "double-decker bus" is still here! This thing has the best theming ever for a random quick dessert cart, lol. The Maharajah Jungle Trek was solid, with all the animals visible- the big tigress moving from one area to the other and giving a good view.

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DINOLAND USA:
My goodness is this place sad now. It's always been the unloved stepchild of this park, but WOW. Now they got rid of the seasonal Triceratops Spin and it's even emptier. The Carnival rides for kids is I guess somewhat valuable since there's less lines and kids can dig it, but still. Oddly, I went into the big restaurant off to the side here... and I don't think I've ever realized just how ENORMOUS it was! I mean, I went exploring in here and found room after room after room- endless hallways of tables, bigger rooms, little side areas (there's one with '50s-style jukeboxes), etc. I don't know if I actually went through all of this on past trips, as I mostly recall the two quick-service/buffet spots with the dino heads on the walls and token fossils in certain areas.

I rode "Dinosaur" again, braving the full line for the first time ever. It tends to have pretty huge line-ups all day long since it's the only thing to do in this area, but I managed with a 20-30 minute one. Not so bad, especially as they have fossils and informative stuff in the queue. The attraction never quite wowed me, which is weird because it was supposed to use the "Indiana Jones" track layout, right? And that one was INCREDIBLE.

I saw... bits and pieces of the "Tree Show" at the end. I wasn't aware they were even doing a thing, but what I saw was alright. The tree looked good in blue light (the D+ Day colors).

Overall I left feeling pretty solid about the park, though it remains one you can do in FAIRLY little time. Though I only did so by skipping the Festival of the Lion King and even kinda missing trailing about around the tree, nor seeing Tough To Be a Bug! (which I liked, but am pretty familiar with having seen in 2-3 times before). It'd have been nice to see the Safaris one more time (like Meet & Greets, it's one of the few attractions you can see a "different" story of each time).
Jabroniville
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Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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DAY SEVEN (MAGIC KINGDOM AGAIN):
* So with all four parks down, I had three days left- time to return to the Big Two! I like to have multiple MK days, as it's my favorite park, even over EPCOT it turns out. And this was a day the park was open fairly late, resulting in a massive 9-11 day or something like that. I got in early, got in line for Seven Dwarfs... but found I was a bit behind where I was the first time I tried this. Enough so that when I made it all the way down to the ride, the end of the line was on the OTHER side of the attraction! The CM there admitted it was going to be a 40-minute wait now! I had no idea why I was soooooooooo far back this time around, but it seems the parks were just getting busier and busier by this point. So my "Rope drop" strategy failed and I instead bailed for Space Mountain, because I didn't want to blow park time in the early morning just waiting in line. I managed Space Mountain with a 15-20 minute wait and maybe Peter Pan or something before things started getting really busy.

They were filming a lot of concert stuff on the stage in front of the castle- all for the Christmas Special Disney does each year. The stage was in front of a blocked-off area and I didn't think much of it, save for the occasional mini-explosion of fireworks that startled park-goers every half-hour or so. However, tragedy struck! See, as I wear my "Wicked" t-shirts when going to most parks, I was apparently rather recognizable to CMs in particular. The day after this, when I was in the MK again, a CM on the parade route stopped me and asked if I had been in the park the day before. When I answered yes, he was like "Oh yeah, I remember your Wicked shirt! Did you see Kristin Chenoweth yesterday?" I was like "!!!!" and he said she was one of the people performing on the stage! And I missed it! Granted it was only a single song and the vantage point would have sucked, but that would have been nice to see, as much as missing park ride time in the early morning wasn't ideal. Ah well.

It's still pretty funny that a CM was able to recognize me like that. He said "Yeah, I remember your shirt yesterday and I was wondering 'huh, I wonder if that guy saw her?". Like I said, I was getting recognized a LOT and I was not used to it.

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Despite being here TWICE before, I'd never even heard of Sonny Eclipse, lol. I mean, this was never a recommended restaurant, so I never went in! Then I saw that "My Favorite Lame Things to Do in Disney World" video and wanted to see him...so of course he was broken the one time I got in and I wasn't allowed in without a reservation any other time, lol.

The COVID Test That Never Was:
-So based off of the advice at Disboards, I went with "Beeper MD" for my COVID test (as a Canadian, I need it to return home), as it was free and quick. It necessitated me returning to my hotel mid-day, which is NOT ideal for my vacation ideals, but I didn't have much of a choice, really. Typically it's free for a two-hour window around your appointment, but I paid extra for the "No window" option since my time is valuable on these things. Unfortunately, being a foreigner on US soil creates a lot of issues with communication, but since I get texts on my phone when at the hotel (they do NOT arrive at parks for some reason), and WiFi means I can get emails, I set up a deal with them to email me on arrival for the test.

UNFORTUNATELY, despite me having sent an email and receiving confirmation that they WOULD email me when the nurse arrived for the test... they did not. In fact, despite me pathologically checking over and over again, NOTHING happened. I saw nobody come to Art of Animation, saw no emails, nothing. Not even a text. So for an hour or so I was in a blind panic- I assumed they maybe got held up or something, so was ready to be patient, but I was completely stressed out after ages of getting nothing. Frustrated and wondering WHAT I was going to do now, I ultimately had to leave the resort empty-handed- I had a dinner reservation that would cost a fortune to miss, and I needed "Be Our Guest", especially now.

I sent a pretty dramatic (but no swearing!) email to BeeperMD and bailed to the Magic Kingdom again. It was only when I arrived back at the park when I checked my junk email (which I totally should have checked earlier, obviously, just in case), and found a random BeeperMD person emailing me saying "The nurse has been attempting to call your number, to no avail. If you cannot respond, then the test may not take place". So they IGNORED MY INSTRUCTIONS and that got lost somewhere along the way. Obviously I didn't have my phone set up to take international calls while at the hotel- I was expecting at LEAST a text! In any case, I received no responses from BeeperMD after that, but they did send an email that my fee had been refunded, so that was nice.

THANKFULLY, I made mention of this on the Disboards forum about COVID tests, and while I was doing something else, somebody else on the forum had managed to do a quick check and found a pharmacy in Windemere, FL (close to MK) that had an open slot for a drive-through test the next day! So, annoyed I blew two hours doing NOTHING and was gonna have to blow an hour or two the next day AS WELL, I thanked the poster profusely and set up an apppointment... while I was waiting for food at Be Our Guest, lol.

While missing out on park time sucked (this actually kept me from going to Tom Sawyer's Island OR Country Bears Jamboree, as I just never quite found the time to set aside while rides were available now), by the end of this day my feet were ANNIHILATED and I was physically pretty wiped out from either heat or exhaustion. In retrospect the 20+ minute air-conditioned bus ride to and from the resort might have been ideal, given how beat I already was. So on the bright side, there's that.

OTHER PARK STUFF:
-I don't really remember what I did on each of the three MK days, but it was probably a lot of "ride X, then Y, then Z" as I rode almost everything at least once a day. Genie+ meant I usually got on the Jingle Cruise once each day, because the line was "Mine Train"-tier the whole time otherwise. It's kind of funny how nearly everyone seems to prepare properly for these things and knows what the popular rides are, because everyone I know finds my "Disney Planning" stories to be terrifying and too complicated.

Funnily enough, I was recognized AGAIN, this time by Tiana, then Cinderella! I actually didn't recognize Cinderella since, like, the costume is pretty big and it could be ANY 20-something in there since faces have to be kept pretty similar, so I wasn't sure it was the same one until she recognized me. Tiana scolded me for not going to her restaurant, which she'd insisted on last time, so I know it was the same girl and she remembered our last conversation! She was straight up going "MMM-HMMMM" when I tried to explain! I did mention having gone to "Be Our Guest" and we ended up talking about food again, haha.
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Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

THE COVID TEST THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED:

Okay, so thanks to a helpful Disboards poster, I was able to grab a COVID test appointment in some place called Windemere. Turns out there's a LOT of small towns around WDW! This one involved a bit more planning than the other one, but thankfully it all worked out. First I had to get a Taxi- the in-parks help suggested I go on the ferry across the lake to the transportation hub and get one there. When I told the hotel concierge that, she looked as if that was the most asinine solution ever offered, and pointed out the Contemporary is MUCH closer.

So hey! Plus side! I get to go to the Contemporary! "Visiting the good resorts" is always something I've wanted to do at WDW but never found the time to, so this let me actually check out the great Mary Blair mural in the middle, see the Monorail go through the hotel itself, and look through the gift shop before I needed to get a cab.

Getting there proved a bit tricky, since the arrows outside MK pointed me down the end of the bus pickup area, where the sidewalk ran out. As I was trying to navigate this and not die via bus, I heard a bunch of dudes shouting. I looked up and security was waving me back the other way, lol. Turns out there's a security checkpoint parallel to MK you have to go through to walk there. When I got there, we all had a laugh over it- "Oh, was that you?" one guy said. "Yeah- I thought I was going the right way based off of that arrow!" "At least you ADMIT it!" another guy said- I am apparently not the first person to try to shuffle through the bus area to get to the Contemporary! To be fair, it WAS mostly a straight line from that point- the "real" way makes you kinda scoot around corners and odd walking paths.

So I hit the Contemporary, go to the cab concierge, and ask about a ride into Windemere for the test. I'd phoned Mears Transportation to check if they took people on drive-through tests (the only ones in Florida, maybe?), and they confirmed every driver should. When I asked I should check with the driver if he would, the concierge just bluntly stated "I ALWAYS check"- I am apparently not the first person who's asked this, lol.

In any case, I go on my way! Which was a fun drive, actually- you get to see the side areas of WDW- did you know there's a big power plant right outside it? Makes sense, I guess. A lot of vehicle docks/garages and the like, too. Windemere itself looks like a generic suburb you'd find anywhere- chain fast food joints, etc. I figured it was a generic middle class area populated mostly by Cast Members... but looked it up later and this is apparently where the MEGA-RICH live. For example, Kobe Bryant used to live here.

In any case, me and the poor cabbie have to hit this pharmacy and the lady speaks to him via the speaker, then he speaks to me- we somehow manage to not screw it up as he instructs me on how to shove the giant q-tip up my nose and place it in the booger-bag or whatever it is, and we head back! I gave the guy a pretty solid tip (I mean, that had to suuuuuuuuuuck, lol) and I was back in the MK with 2-2.5 hours gone. Not the funnest way to spend a vacation, but at least I was done and got my Covid test. And they'd already emailed me to say it was negative by the time I got back to the park!

Turns out these multiple trips mostly just cost me some parade viewing and maybe a ride or two, plus Tom Sawyer's Island, Hall of Presidents & Country Bears- none of which I could justify with the time I had left. And some stress. NOT IDEAL, and it makes me wanna wait againt to go to the parks, but at least this is all stuff I've already done.
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Day Eight

Post by Jabroniville »

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This friend of Elsa is EVERYWHERE these days. If you notice, almost all of the Disney social media and Parks reporters that meet the characters take pictures of this exact person every time- the recent announcement that they'd returned to the Royal Somerhus ALSO featured her! She must be like... the Elsa of Elsas.

DAY EIGHT (EPCOT & Magic Kingdom):
Finally on my last day! I had made my last day an EPCOT one in my pre-planning, but by this point I'd gotten a bit tired of "Wallcot" and wanted to do MK, so I left as soon as I could. I think I must have miscalculated my time to leave because I was WELL behind the major lines from the Skyliner and despite hauling it to Frozen Ever After, I saw a line reaching China Pavilion- the line helper pointed out the posted wait-time (45 minutes) was DEFINITELY off, which meant for the third time this trip, my "Rope Drop Ride" actually failed. The parks were THAT BUSY. So I just waited until my paid G+ ride on it came up a bit later and went then. I did a last go-round the World Showcase, seeing the Princesses again- Jasmine was different! But Swole White recognized me! Aurora had replaced Belle in Paris, and even swapped to her winter gear the second time as it was getting colder. I took the park in one last time, and rode Spaceship Earth (helping out a couple who didn't realize that you couldn't book a new G+ ride until two hours had passed) and did Soarin'. I still didn't get on the upper row- I might have to ask specifically next time, but oh well.

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Belle at EPCOT.

I left EPCOT... a tad disappointed, maybe? I was so into it two years before, especially never having ridden Frozen Ever After before, but it was diminished both by walls being everywhere (making pathways hard to traverse speedily), foreign CMs being gone, and the fact that I'd done it before. So my planned "three days at EPCOT" turned to "wow I shouldn't have made the first part of my trip only be here" and then I left early the third day. I still love FEA/Norway, though the crowds made that rougher... and it didn't hit QUITE the same way on the second trip, probably since I'd already done it so much the first time.

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On one of the last days of my trip, I noticed the first-ever appearance of Belle just outside her cottage- a new temporary "Meet & Greet" variant, where you can talk (er... shout from afar) to the Princess. They were just starting this out at the time, with a security guy, a helper AND someone who looked like they were higher up. I made sure to thank them for bringing the characters back, as non-ideal as this was.

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So back to MK! Turns out this park DOESN'T get worse with repetition! Also no giant walls everywhere! I managed to do most of what I wanted- still no Mine Train, but most of the other stuff thanks to G+ (which was really necessary on busy days like this). Most of what I ended up doing was waiting for the repeated character promenades. Not as big as the parades, but they're a bit more "personal". Had a fun bit where a little girl freaked upon seeing Elena of Avalor on a float, with the mom explaining that "She dressed as you for Halloween!" "REALLY!?", and as they walked away, she said "There- we finally saw her"- they must have been at it for a while. I pointed out to them that she's almost always in the Fairytale Hall these days as Cinderella's pal.

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Elena's face when she was like "You came back!"

Then the next time I waited for the promenade (I walk fast enough that I could easily get ahead of it repeatedly and take pictures from multiple vantage points from Liberty Square to Main Street to the exit door), Elena actually spotted me and shouted down "You came back! So lovely to see you again!", making my day. I must be super-distinctive-looking, lol. Or she just really likes it when adults recognize her. Seeing ALL the Princesses at once is pretty good- you can catch all of them in close-up instead of hoping to catch them as they spin around their giant floats.

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There was a funny bit as I went to check out one of the windows by a shop near the castle (the one with Scrooge and the triplets, I think), and a lady on the bench by me was like "Yes- that's a cigarette!" all embarrassed and then begged me not to tell on her. I hadn't even noticed until she said it! She was trying to sneak one out and was dreading it as I was walking up to the window where their bench was- she was mortified when she realized she had parked in front of a display window.

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TINK! I'd have missed her if I hadn't seen some people taking a photo. She's not hidden at all- she's right in the main cog in front of the castle. But she's so tiny it's easy to miss if you're looking for the big golden statues.

As it was my last night in town, I went to say bye to the people in the ice cream parlor after the fireworks show. They had recognized me coming in on 2-3 separate occasions- when I told them it was my last night in town, they actually looked disappointed. The one girl pointed out "We DO recognize people when they come in more than once" and that they figured I was an Annual Passholder or something.
Jabroniville
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Be Our Guest Restaurant

Post by Jabroniville »

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I think you either need a good camera to take quality pictures in here, or be a better cameraman.

BE OUR GUEST:
-Okay I forgot to include this bit, lol:

So I arrived too late for my Haunted Mansion Genie+ reservation, but when I asked the guy how forgiving they were about that, he told me "It's usually fine!" and just to go up. When I got to the front, I scanned my MagicBand and the indicator turned red, which led to the girl there going mock-angry "You're LATE! Why are you LATE?!", haha. I explained "I was stuck at my hotel and couldn't make it" and she was good enough to let me in (this is one of like four times I was late for my return window, and in all but one I was still let in). I do love how the HM Cast Members are able to be blunt, lecturing and rude. It apparently makes that a REALLY popular attraction to work for ("It's also the only place here where you don't have to smile".

Anyways, I finally hit Be Our Guest. Now it's not ideal to be on your phone there, but I had to set up my new COVID appointment fairly quickly, so I did that while waiting for drinks and food, haha. And I took pictures after anyhow! I requested the main dining hall because I love that (I might try the Beast's Study some time, but it's so dark and crowded!), but unfortunately I got the "Lame Single Person's Space" in the newly spread-out version of the restaurant, shoved against a side wall instead of being somewhat in the middle area like I was two years before. But it's a good view of everything, I guess. The Beast walks by every 20 minutes since you can't do a meet & greet this time around.

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Instead of a meet & greet, the Beast does several quick tours of the place.

I think I ended up going with the steak (which I had at the Skipper's Canteen earlier, too, haha)- I went with lamb or something the time before and I recall it not being THAT excellent. I don't particularly recall the meal all that much two months later, but I was not disappointed. Most memorable stuff is always the funny little dessert platter where you eat a white chocolate version of Chip! I naturally took a bunch of pictures after I ate. Probably the same ones I took two years before, but whatever. I tried to "see things without the camera", too (I find that if I focus too much on pictures I don't really LOOK at the stuff I've photographing and let it sink in, you know?).

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The lil' Chip cup... which is edible.

Funnily enough, I actually spotted my waiter from two years before! That's the only time (other than the Elena I met) that I recognized a CM from a past trip! He had a distinctive enough look that I was able to figure him out- I told him about it and he was like "Oh I've worked here since it opened, so probably! Welcome back!" So all that wipes out an hour and a bit.
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Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

MEET & GREETS:
* So Meet & Greets in the Princess Fairytale Hall are back! Only slightly modified, because the characters are in these odd little "pens" that are roped off and you have to stay masked. The staffing shortages are apparent here, as back in the day it was Attendant/PhotoPass/Princess and now it's just one Attendant for the whole room, mostly. However, this kinda suits me fine, as it's easier to take pictures yourself (though I wonder if that's awkward for them to talk while you're just holding a camera out front).

The rooms are Tiana/Rapunzel (almost always half the line of the other) and Cinderella/Visiting Princess... yet every single time I went over the week, the Princess was always Elena of Avalor. Now this one shocked a lot of Park-Bloggers as the assumption was Elena would be dropped once her show ended in 2020, but I think the diversity/representation quotient wins out here (I mean, Florida has a big enough Latino population that the ride warnings are also in Spanish, right?) and she was here. Which suits me fine, because I'm actually a huge fan of her show! Moreover, I found out just the week before that she was in fact returning (via a CM I follow on IG), and in fact, she was the "friend" of Elena's in the room, lol! That makes her the only performer I saw in both my 2019 trip and this one.

So Elena has a lot of issues with people going "So who are you?". So she has to fill a lot of conversation with "Have you tried my Abuela's Avaloran chocolate?" or "I rode by on my friend Skylar" filler-talk, but thankfully I actually know the lore, and MAN are they delighted to be actually recognized by an adult, lol. Especially since I can drop the deep lore like how Elena was crowned Queen and various side characters bowed to her, and stuff like when Elena goes on about "The Sirenas, which is what we call our mermaids", I can name-drop Princess Marisa ("YOU KNOW PRINCESS MARISA!?" she shouted back). I swear they actually seem touched to not have to explain their characters to an adult.

Funnily enough, the same Tiana was there twice, which was fun. When I responded with surprise that she recognized me over three days later, she said "You have a very distinctive face" and I said "Well, half of one, anyways" and she actually jumped around covering her mouth from laughing! I can't remember if that was a "Practiced Princess Laugh" of Tiana's or I just legit made her crack up, lol. In any case, since we'd described ideal restaurant experiences and she suggested Tiana's Place for dinner, the next time I was in there she scolded me for not going! So now I was being teased and had no adequate response, haha- I just made the excuse that I went to Be Our Guest Restaurant and we went on about that. It occurs to me every time I talk to Tiana the subject is always food- poor girl must be starving after each shift!
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The Trip Home

Post by Jabroniville »

THE TRIP HOME:

So my trip home was FANTASTICALLY miserable. Though now that I think about it, I think all three of my trips home from Disney World were bad. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it's almost impossible to avoid travelling through Pearson, Canada's crappiest airport. Especially with only a one hour layover (thanks to plane schedule shuffling after I'd already bought tickets).

Naturally, my plane touched down at the same time as another one, so two planeloads disembarked into the same "scan your passport and then get back in another line" thing, which for some reason took like 30 minutes despite it mostly being one person figuring who got randomly selected for a COVID test... naturally, I was chosen, despite at this point having only FIFTEEN MINUTES LEFT.

So I had to tell like 3-4 people I needed that test RIGHT NOW while a bunch of other people around me were also infuriated- nobody was being tested in their destination site, just in Toronto. This at least got me to the front of the line and tested... and then I had to bolt at top speed across like a mile of airport (including getting up the wrong set of stairs at one point), desperately hoping I could make it. I even had to get my stuff scanned AGAIN, and went through the "extra security checking" part, but when I desperately explained what was up, they just let me go without checking me. I BARELY made it, with one minute to go... and of course the plane had been delayed in departure for like 20 more minutes, lol.

So someone else in line gave me some paper towels as I was SOAKED with sweat at this point... and of course once we got on board the plane was stuck on the tarmac because of some airport security issue, so we were an hour or so late all in all.

And this STILL beats the time WestJet destroyed my suitcase (thankfully my stuff was still fine).

But yeah, at last I was home!

Next up: The Good & Bad/Finale!
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Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS:
* So it's hard to truly rank my Disney trips- I'd have to say the previous one was the best overall- I'd gone in 2014 or so and had a blast, but that was also my FIRST time, so I was running around trying to DO everything. In 2019 I was able to relax and take it all in. That was also the first time I'd done Meet & Greets. I'd also been able to get "Be Our Guest" reservations (I went with Cinderella's Royal Table before) AND Akershus, and all sorts of stuff. It was also my first time with "Frozen Ever After", and it turns out that feeling is hard to replicate. This being my first trip while everything was still somewhat "fresh" from last time made it more of a "time to come back to my favorite place again" over "OMG time to see EVERYTHING for the first time ever!". I was also going through some stuff in 2019 that the trip made me feel a lot better about- though this trip being the first fun thing I'd done post-COVID sort of came close- after two years of that I was REALLY ready.

This also being a year of "carrying your mask under your chin so you can pop it up every time you go indoors", CMs all in masks, lowered amounts of CMs, no international CMs in EPCOT, etc. (I mentioned the "clearly bored teenagers talking about how they couldn't afford anything" in the UK shop, lol), also put a bit of a damper on things. Not a HUGE one, but the international aspect was a big part of the flavor of EPCOT to me.

* EPCOT felt... quite diminished. Part of it was my familiarity with it- Frozen had nothing new, and as I said, the feeling of wonder from the ride had somewhat faltered- now I was really used to it. It was still wonderful, but now it was an old familiar friend. At least Ratatouille gave me new stuff to look at! I'd done it in Disneyland Paris so that wasn't new, but still.

* Merchandise fell well short this time around, I think. I was floored by how much amazing stuff there was in 2014 & 2019... and this time I really only found "Must Have" stuff in the art store at Disney Springs. I got four wonderful art posters/prints but the rest of it was mostly the same old stuff from Disney Stores (shortly before they'd closed). I also kinda wish merch stores aired clips from old Disney movies, same way the Disney Stores used to- that's one of the biggest things I miss about the shops.

* It was MUCH busier. To the point where the crowd calendars were all far off. CMs were stunned. Hotels were hard to get and every park was jam-packed. It was a staggering difference between my 2014 & 2019 trips (which took place in spring between holidays) and this. Example: At AK in 2019, I was able to ride Na'vi River Journey THREE TIMES. This time around, it had a huge line all day long and I only got on once. Expedition Everest? That was a walk-on using single rider EVERY TIME and I could go on whenever. This time they shut that down and I only got on once. Frozen Ever After? I used to ride that 4-5 times PER DAY in 2019; here, I managed rope-drop twice and paid LL trips twice, then one additional run at the end of the night; it was just way too busy every other time. One time, even ROPE DROP didn't work- I was just a bit too late (delays in the Skyliner, getting up a bit too late, etc.) and it was already at 45 minutes by the time I got there.

I think everyone was like me- they held off as long as possible and went for the 50th Anniversary, so it broke all expectations. Seeing it busy and alive is good on that front, but it definitely diminished my ability to ride things.

* Genie+ is really NOT much fun to use. I didn't viscerally hate it quite as much as others, and I never really liked having to book FastPasses 60 days in advance (that's crazy to me, and in 2019 I missed Slinky Dog because of it- I was a day or two late because I changed my HS day), but having to pay extra for it is another kick in the teeth from Disney. Being able to decide one thing at a time was alright, though- passes didn't sell out QUITE as fast as when they were FastPassses. I was able to pick & choose when to use it (MK kind of requires it, unfortunately; HS as well) and the app seems easy enough to use...

But one issue I have from it is that it forces you to be on your phone. I kind of have enough issues being glued to my phone at the best of times- I tend to use it to check something out... then I look up and ten minutes have passed because I started checking notifications and websites and stuff, lol. This is extra-annoying at Disney Parks because you almost have to check your LL offerings the second you're off a ride, so you're looking down at your phone repeatedly throughout the day, and I end up locked-in like this.

* The COVID test stuff SUCKED, but that's not Disney's fault- just draconian government stuff (this was pre-Omicron, too). Granted, all I did was miss a couple hours of park-time in the middle of two weekend days- this is stuff they actually RECOMMEND people do (via daily breaks) so mine was just a more stressful version of a park break, haha. All I really missed was the Bears, Hall of Presidents & Tom Sawyer, I guess- stuff I've seen before and can easily see again.

All in all, I enjoyed myself. Probably spent MUCH more money than last time- Park spending is so gradual because I typically paid for hotels, flights and other things piecemeal and THEN went to the parks, but this time I kind of had to do it all at once because it was a sudden trip and that blew through all the money quickly- though I spread the credit card bill across two months I think I paid about $4000 Canadian just for me to go. That feels pricier than before, though about $1000 more than my 2014 trip (where hotels were literally half the price!). That kind of showed me that Disney should be a "once every year and a half" trip instead of just a yearly thing, lol, but then I remembered my 2019 trip and immediately deciding to make Disney a YEARDLY vacation until I could no longer afford it, because I'd liked it so much. So who knows?
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Ken
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Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Ken »

Coming soon: Disney Report Sept. 2022
"he can't even run his own life; I'll be damned if he'll run mine" ― Jonathan Edwards "Sunshine"
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