Saturday, August 31, 2013

DisneyWorld and Disney Cruise - Day 4 - EPCOT and Bay Lake Tower

August 31, 2013

We started the day watching cartoons and eating breakfast at the Pop Century food court.  I'm sure it has a more fun name, but I don't know what it is.

At many stores throughout Disney World including at Everything POP, you could buy MagicBand accessories:

T-Shirts to brag about your Magic Bands
Decorations that slide over the band ("Sliders")

"Bandits" to put in the holes like Jibbitz in Crocs

And "CoverBands" to, you know, cover the MagicBand

Then we boarded the bus to EPCOT.  It was nice not having to run to Soarin' immediately, since we were able to reserve the fastpasses for that ahead of time.  (The reserved FPs are the only reason we didn't get up to make it to rope drop.)  Instead we started with characters, which we would normally never do early in the day.

We spent the morning going on a couple of rides and then headed over to the Biergarten for lunch in the Germany pavilion.

The food there is served buffet style.  They have a lot of traditional German foods.  I think I was the only one who liked it.  The kids definitely didn't like much and Kyrie wasn't a big fan either.  The entertainment was good though.  This traditional German band kept us entertained with music played on a variety of instruments.  Ella and Zoe especially liked doing the Polka.

After lunch we took a boat back across the lake to the Future World side of EPCOT and Kyrie, Jacob, Max and Ella went on Test Track while I took Zoe and Zach on the Finding Nemo ride.  Everyone had a good time.  Then we went to Turtle Talk with Crush which was a lot of fun.  It was still super hot today - maybe the hottest day of our trip, so we really didn't feel like walking around outside very much.  We decided to go on Spaceship Earth before heading to our hotel.

We checked in to Bay Lake Tower a little after 4:30 pm.  They aren't testing the MagicBands there, so we have to carry Key to the World cards which isn't any fun compared to the bands.  Our MagicBands will probably still work for fastpasses though since the online program let us reserve them ahead of time.  Actually, even though the front desk CMs don't know it, the MagicBands DO work as our room key here which is pretty cool that it automatically can do that even though the person checking us in obviously didn't program it.  And no, they don't just work on everybody's doors.  Jacob tried.  So I bet they are still fully functional in every way.

The accommodations are wonderful.!!!  We've stayed here twice previously, so we knew what to expect.  It's one of our favorite Disney Vacation Club hotels, mostly due to it's location.
We only fit into a 2 bedroom unit now, so we have so much space! It's great!  It has two bedrooms with balconies, three bathrooms, full kitchen, living room with pull out couch and pull out chair neither of which we need at this point, and a laundry room that we used every day!

Our balcony view from the second floor, next time we will request higher

For dinner we just went to the Contempo Cafe. They don't have a lot of choices, but it's nice that you only have to stand in one line instead of a bunch of different stations.

We all shared cupcakes for dessert.  I was sorry not to see the Black Forest cupcake I have had there before, but we tried some new ones.  The kids liked the Monster Cupcakes with Sully and Mike rings on top (and they were delicious.)  Marc stuck with one of his favorite flavors, Red Velvet.  And I had a chocolate coconut one. It was filled with coconut like a mounds bar, that was a surprise, but good.  

Friday, August 30, 2013

DisneyWorld and Disney Cruise - Day 3 - Magic Kingdom, the Pool, and dinner at Art of Animation

August 30, 2013

 This morning we headed over to the Magic Kingdom (which is already decorated for Halloween).

Zachary got to wear his first matching shirt...

The tag I made to identify our stroller in a crowd
Zach's preferred mode of transportation

It was another hot one today.  Right off the bat I was looking for shade.  I guess wearing a black shirt wasn't a great idea.  We arrived in time to see the park open (of course).  Max and I really wouldn't mind sleeping in once in a while.  The rest of them seem to actually enjoy getting up early!  We went straight to Peter Pan and then took a ride on the carousel before heading to Winnie the Pooh.

Poor Ella.  You can just tell that she's always going to have trouble with Zoe.

This must be the "poorly supervised infant" attraction...

A blurry picture of Ella, Zach and me on the Buzz Lightyear ride.
That's because, you're not supposed to take pictures of the pictures they are trying to sell to you.  But everyone else was doing it and it was so darn cute.  Unfortunately (?) I am not a rule breaker, and felt bad, so I didn't take time to focus and meant to delete it.

This is what happens to you if your mom takes pictures of the pictures you are supposed to buy!

The kids had a really cute surprise exchange with Buzz Lightyear...

So, for the MagicBands, we used them for a couple of fastpasses (which we really didn't need because the park was rather empty).  But what we did notice was that the reserved area for the parade viewing is the circle right in front of the castle.  So I would definitely recommend using your MagicBand for that if you're interested in the parade.  We left before it started, otherwise we would have tried it out.

I'm not sure how I will like only having 3 fastpasses at Magic Kingdom though once they take away the older fastpass system.  In other words, even though we can pre-schedule three FPs with the MagicBands, we are currently ALSO using the old system to collect additional FPs. There are just so many popular rides at the Magic Kingdom.  I guess the standby lines will move faster since less people will have fastpasses overall, but I really liked being able to have fastpasses for all of the rides even though they were only one at a time.  It will be nice not to have to run all over the park collecting fastpasses though!

We ate lunch at the Plaza restaurant.  It was good, but Zoe was really tired and so lunch didn't go very well.  Don't mean to be a complainer, but the waitress was excruciatingly slow, which didn't help.  It was the longest lunch ever.  For instance, Zoe had a nap in the middle of it.

I think Max is getting tired of having his picture taken during lunch...

Max actually asked me to take a picture of his french fry.  I also thought the Mickey shaped PB&J was cute.

Ella never gets tired of having her picture taken!

Ella ready for pin trading
We headed back to the pool in the early afternoon.  The kids had a lot of fun playing games by the pool.  I wish we had our camera with us.  The kids played this game where they threw a ball at a target and if they hit it then a water balloon popped over the person who was sitting in the chair under it.  Well, after the line had gone around a couple of times and nobody could hit the target, Zoe decided she wanted to play.  They let her stand a little closer because she's only two, but sure enough she hit the target right away.  So, when you succeed in hitting the target, then it's your turn to sit in the chair under the water balloon.  Well, I would have thought that she wouldn't be too thrilled about that, but there she was just sitting there with a smile on her face.  And, even when someone finally hit the target and she got drenched, she was still fine with it.  All I can say is that they are all lucky she had her nap today!

Zoe also had a lot of fun in the pool.  She loved wearing her life preserver and then letting go of Kyrie and actually "swimming".

The kids spotted a black snake crossing the path just as we arrived at AoA
After pool time, we walked across Hourglass Lake to the Art of Animation resort for dinner.  They had way better choices in their cafeteria for dinner, but it also took much longer to go through the lines.  The food was really good though and I would recommend it in spite of the wait.

We actually ate in shifts, because by the time Marc came back with my food, the kids were finished, and I was finished by the time he came back with his.  At least I was too tired to move, so it was fine sitting for so long.   I am looking forward to Contempo Cafe though even though they have fewer choices, because you just order on a screen and pick up your food all at once when it's ready.  
Ridiculously decadent dessert of the day...this one was good!

The pool looks better there too.  However, the Little Mermaid building is the only one over there that is just regular rooms, the rest of the buildings just have the family suites.  And the Little Mermaid building is really far away from the main building.  I'm pretty sure that our room at Pop Century is closer to the main building at Art of Animation than the Little Mermaid building is.

A picture of Pop Century from the bridge...

Max didn't mind this picture with his corn dog nuggets!

Max and Zach playing...

(Bonus cute baby picture)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

DisneyWorld and Disney Cruise - Day 2 - Magic Bands, Animal Kingdom and Pop Century Pool

August 29, 2013

POP Century is participating in the MagicBands testing.  We were excited to get a chance to try out the new technology.

Here's a picture of Max wearing his MagicBand.

The bands work for about everything you do at Disney.  They are your ticket, room key, credit card, fastpass, photopass (in the future), your bus ticket at the airport, the MagicBand can even save you a spot at a parade or fireworks show.  I think we could have even skipped the front desk at the hotel if we would have checked-in online.

I really like the technology, but the process does have a couple of drawbacks.  First of all, I'm sure some people don't like Disney constantly knowing what you're up to at all times.  Also, to really take full advantage of the program you have to do a lot of planning ahead of time.  For us, that's not a problem because Kyrie likes to plan everything about our trip down to the last detail, but I'm sure some families would prefer a more spontaneous approach.

Okay, so enough about the MagicBands for now.  I'll write about them throughout our trip when I think it's relevant.  Now, on to Animal Kingdom...

We picked Animal Kingdom for the first day of our trip, because it kind of eases us into the trip. (That, and it was projected to be a low crowd day there according to my sources.)  That park doesn't take all day and can be done at an easy pace.

Hopefully, we can keep these smiles all day!

Well, not everyone was smiling...

We started the day on Primeval Whirl and Triceratops Spin.  We tend to do those first because the boys love Primeval Whirl and like to do it a bunch of times before the crowds build up.  The rest of the rides there they don't mind just doing once or twice.


Then Kyrie took Jacob and Ella on Dinosaur.  We tried to talk four year old Ella out of going on the ride, but she really wanted to go, so we decided to give it a try.   When they came back from the ride I asked who was going to ride with me.  Only Ella!  Jacob said he had to keep his eyes closed and wasn't ever going on that ride again, but Ella was eager to go again!

Snacktime!  Zoe wanted a "Noly Bar" (granola bar), but had to settle for a soft pretzel.

Expedition Everest...a great rollercoaster

It was super hot today - mid 90's.  A wet, oppressive heat that beat down on you whenever you accidentally stepped out of the shade.  None of us minded getting drenched on the Kali River Rapids ride.

(Poor Zoe wasn't tall enough to ride it!)

For lunch we ate at Yak and Yeti, an Asian themed restaurant run by Landry's (the people who own Rainforest Cafe).  I thought the food was great, but the kids weren't that thrilled.

Lettuce Wraps

Beef and Broccoli
(This is a half portion, since Marc and I split it so we could enjoy appetizers and dessert too.  And it appears to be upside down, if food can be upside down.  Whatever!)

Fried Wontons for dessert

After lunch we went on the safari.  Always a good time.

This was officially Zach's first ride. He slept through most of it.

Baby Giraffe

By mid-afternoon we were ready to hit the pool, so we headed back to the hotel and went in the Hippy Dippy Pool in the 60's section of the resort.

I really enjoyed the music at the pool which was hits from the 60's through today, but more heavily weighted from the 80's forward.

All of the kids had a great time swimming and getting out the heat for a while.  They had a photo scavenger hunt that the boys and I participated in.  They gave us a list of clues and then we had to run around the property taking pictures of the answers.  We came in a close second!

Here are some of the pictures:

We had dinner at the food court again.  This time, Marc went in to get it and we ate outside in our swimsuits.  Conveniently located, but still not very good or fast.  

The kids loved climbing on these oversized numbers.  Max joked about how they were "stuck in the '80's."

This was an Elvis cupcake:  Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting topped with candied bacon and filled with banana creme.  It was gross, but we needed to try it!