November 26, 2007

One Magical Time

Well, we finally did it. My brother Jay (Jeff Jr.) has been telling us for years about how much fun he has at DisneyWorld. Despite our cynical nature, we placed ourselves in his competent care for the week prior to Thanksgiving. We arrived at Disney's Dolphin hotel, walked a loop around a lake out back including a quaint boardwalk and had a tremendous sushi dinner in the neighboring Swan Hotel. Later that night, we met up with Jay and his wife Jeannine and their daughter Nichole. Joining them on their flight from Manchester, NH were my parents, Jeff and Cindy Myers and my other brother Jim with his wife Abby and 5-year-old son Jimmy Jr. Inevitably, a group of 10 will face difficulty when it comes to maneuvering through a crowded place. But overall, I think we handled it rather well.

There were lots of things to see and do, but Jay smartly kept us to an efficient, but flexible schedule. We bought the DisneyWorld Park-Hopper passes which enabled us to bounce from park to park as much as we liked with a simple card swipe and fingerprint scan.

Day one started with breakfast with Cinderella in her castle at the Magic Kingdom. After a quick photo op, downstairs, Breakfast was an all-you-can-eat affair while other Disney Damsels checked in at our table. From there we zipped straight to Space Mountain, using the fast-passes Jay had collected before breakfast. En route to this dark thrill-ride, all-you-can-eat started sounding a little ill-advised. But we made it through. We then skipped over to MGM Studios for some shows and more rides. We hit up the Indiana Jones stunt show and the Lights, Motors, Action stunt driving show. Both were action packed and gave us some good insight into how some of the coolest scenes in movies are made. After some buildup, we braved the tower of terror. Sarah was rightfully nervous about the 13-story drop at rate faster than gravity. But after some screaming and bouncing, we all survived. That night we took in Fantasmic, an extravagant Disney Opera where Mickey fights the forces of evil. This truly unique experience, included some live-action mascot characters on a man-made mountain set. Some classic Disney scenes are also projected onto water sprayed from the surrounding moat which at certain points is fully engulfed in fire. The moat is also used for various floats and boats where dozens of Disney characters are represented.

Day two was a trip to Animal Kingdom, where we took a wild safari ride through an African jungle. This mini-ecosystem houses dozens of large animals from apes to elephants to giraffes to wildebeasts etc. Really cool. The park is built around the Tree of Life, which we entered to see A Bug's Life in 3D inside a fully interactive theater. The seats have hidden features that add to the overall realism of the show. In this 15 minute movie sprayed us, blew on us, tickled us and more. We also hit the Mount Everest rollercoaster which includes many surprises including going backwards in the dark etc. Then it was time for a raft-ride to cool off. After Animal Kingdom, we took an afternoon pool break before the evening fireworks. We rented a pontoon boat to sit on the lake and get right up to the ellaborate fireworks display. That was a great way to see it.

Day three was all about Epcot. Sarah and my parents and I had reserved a Segway tour where we explored the park before it opened to the public. We then took a test drive in GMC's Test Track where we played test-dummy. Epcot is known for its world-of-the-future theme, but also its cultural cross-sections. They have dozens of mini-countries with stores, restaurants and monuments dedicated to each country's theme. We had a great lunch in Morocco complete with a Belly Dancer performance and all. Later that afternoon, Jay and Nichole participated in a guided swim with the sharks at Epcot's Aquarium, the second largest in the world. They had pre-registered and become scuba-certified prior to the trip. For about a half hour or so, they scuba-dived with sharks, sea turtles, and dozens of other species to the delight of their adoring fans. Sarah had picked up a stomach bug at this point so she had to miss a few of these activities.

Day four started with Breakfast with Pooh at the Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore, Piglet etc, were all on-hand to sign autographs and receive hugs from the kids. From there, we explored some of the older rides in Magic Kingdom including the Haunted Mansion and the Carousel. My parents and I headed back through Epcot for a quick Pint in an English pub. We then met up with Sarah who was starting to feel a little better and we relaxed by the pool a bit. That night Sarah and I met up with her College friend Amy. We also finally met her boyfriend Jason who turned out to be a really nice guy. We had dinner at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in Downtown Disney and came back to the boardwalk by the hotel to hit the Dueling Piano Bar where we belted out dozens of songs in the audience sing-along. The evening halted briefly as Abby succumbed to an epileptic seizure. My brother Jim was able to get ahold of me as I was only a few doors away at the time. Jason stepped up and started driving us to the hospital, but Abby recovered quickly and had us meet her at her room instead. Throughout the scary moment, Jimmy Jr. stayed brave and quiet, until we reached their hotel room. The situation could have been a lot worse, but thankfully we were all close enough to act quickly.

Our final day at the park started out a little rough for me. We had a typically hearty breakfast before hitting Blizzard Beach, one of two Disney waterparks. Somewhere between the undetermined amount beers the night before, and my spiced apple waffle my stomach decided to revolt. I almost lost it on the shuttle, but was able to hold off until we hit a proper bathroom at the park. After that, it was game-on again. We started slowly on the Lazy River around the park. Then we hit a few small waterslides building up to the monster-slide at the center of the park. This slide was 150 feet straight down. Jay, my dad and I all tiptoed up the stairs and watch victim after victim disappear into the water-jets down a dark tube. Between the three of us our top speeds averaged around 55 mph on the radar gun screen below! The only way to describe that feeling is that I stood up giggling like a little kid, but I'm still not entirely sure I enjoyed it. I must have though.

Sarah and I left at 4am the next morning. My mom chased us down the hall to give us one last emotional hug. We had a wonderful time and it was clear that some family time was long overdue.

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