Sunday, March 6, 2011

August 2010 Walt Disney World Trip Report - Day 2

Day 2 – Check-in to Kidani and “Let the Adventure Begin” at Animal Kingdom

I woke up about 6:00am, showered and headed over to Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village to check in. I had used a similar strategy in February to snag an available room by being early to check in. When I arrived I had to wait about five minutes behind another guest checking in, and then it was my turn.

The front manager was training one of the new Cast Members on the check-in procedure, and he asked if it would be OK if she checked me in with him right there to help. I said it would be fine.

It took a little longer than usual, especially since we had done Online Check-in, but the best news was that we had gotten our request for a room close to the pool on the Sunset Savanna.  They told me we would be on the same floor as the lobby, just a handful of rooms away from the Lobby, and that it was a great location. The room wasn’t ready, though, so we’d have to wait to find out exactly what room we’d be in.

Armed with my packet of check-in material, I headed back to Pop Century to finish re-packing, gather up the family, and head over to our park for the day - Animal Kingdom.

We got there about 8:30, plenty of time for a Photopass picture in front of the Animal Kingdom sign. The photographer told us to make claws and growl, so we did. As you can see, I really wasn’t into it so much, while DD give it her all…

We found an unattended but “green arrowed” turnstile where no one was waiting and got in line. It was here we discussed our rope drop strategy.

Leading up to this trip, DD decided that she was a big girl (she turned 7 in May) and would no longer be scared of the rides that had terrified her in the past. At AK, that meant she wanted to ride Expedition Everest (or, as she calls it, “The Yeti Ride”) and Dinosaur.

After they opened the turnstiles, they kind of split off the rope in two sections, to the right and left of the plantings just beyond the turnstiles. That’s where they do the rope drop show now – no more Mickey up near the tree, he gets to ride on the truck now. We lined up on the left, betting that the two groups would converge at the bridge leading to Discovery Island. Most of the crowd lined up on the right, figuring that was the faster way to EE. The show ended about 8:50, and they started walking the rope into the park about 8:53. Turns out we were right, and as both groups converged at the bridge I was able to get one of the first FPs to EE.

I left there and doubled back to Kali… to find DD and DW waiting for me. They weren’t opening it until 9:30. Bummer! We had ridden Kali five times in a row at rope drop last August, and DD wanted to break our record. But with it opening at 9:30, I figured lines would grow quickly enough that we wouldn’t stand a chance.

We decided to see what the EE standby line was like, since it was only about 9:00 at that point. When we got there, the line was snaking all over the place in front of the queue area. We figured out that they hadn’t let anyone in yet (maybe because they opened the park a few minutes early) so we got in line, and they started letting us in almost immediately.

The queue for EE is really neat. It only took about five minutes to go through, and since we were moving pretty fast, we didn’t have a lot of time to look, but it’s really well themed, with the kind of equipment I suspect you’d take when searching for a Yeti in the Himalayas. DW and I had only been through the single rider line in the past, so it was cool to see how detailed it all was (we didn’t take any pictures, so here are some from to give you an idea).

Before long we were on the train, ready to go. DD’s biggest fear last year was the Yeti, so we explained that she could close her eyes and she wouldn’t have to see it. Frankly, in its motionless state, I usually miss it with my eyes open. And the shadow part, where you see the Yeti ripping up tracks, we explained was just a cartoon. She didn’t seem apprehensive or nervous as the ride started. 

That’s my hand pointing out the great view…

Here we are, pausing at the top, and I’m checking on her, she’s looking back at DW just before we start rolling backwards. She was OK until about three-quarters of the way through where the train starts moving pretty fast. She started saying, “Daaaaaaadddyyyyyy? I think it’s too scaryyyyyyyyyy.” I asked her if it was just too fast, and she said, “tooooooo faaaaaaaaast!” The ride was just about over, so she was able to keep it together and as we were getting off she declared that she didn’t want to ride EE ever again.  I told her I was proud of her for trying.

After getting off EE, it was about 9:20, so we went over to wait for Kali to open. We were in one of the first boats – we like to poncho it up in line so we can board without delay…

Aside from wearing ponchos, a couple of other Kali tips, to make your post-Kali day at Animal Kingdom more enjoyable:
-          Put your purse, backpack, fanny pack, etc. in a XL Ziploc before putting it in the center storage bin. That sucker is always wet, and usually has standing water in the bottom, so it won’t keep your stuff dry.
-          Put your feet up on the bar in front of you. Unless you get hit with a huge wave, your shoes will stay mostly dry. If you keep them on the floor, you’re guaranteed to be sloshing all day.
-          Moisture-wicking, quick-dry clothing is the way to go.  Even though we wear ponchos, we still get pretty wet, but we don’t stay wet for long.

We were able to ride three times before the line grew and we had to get off. We were even able to convince some of the other people on our boat to ride it again with us! We were sad that we didn’t get to break our record, but it was still a lot of fun to stay on for three straight rides.

Since this was our third trip in 12 months, we were trying, at every park, to do something we hadn’t done before. For AK, it was the Flights of Wonder show, which started at 10:30. By the time we got off Kali, dried off and put away the wet ponchos, it was a little after 10:00. I left DD and DW to watch an owl handler who was answering questions in front of the theater, and I went to get some snacks and FPs for the Safari.

When I came back with some pretzels and drinks, DW informed me that DD had been raising her hand repeatedly and offering helpful facts about owls (rather than asking any questions). DD loves animals and knows a lot of facts about them. Not shy about sharing. Apparenly I missed:

“An owl’s ears are so good, they can hear mice running.”

“An owl can see so well, they can see a bunny from a mile up.”

“I know why you’re wearing a glove – it’s so the owl doesn’t scratch you with its sharp talons.”

Thankfully, they opened the theater shortly after I arrived, and we were able to give the patient CM a break. Here he is after the show, probably fearing a bunch of parrot facts…

This bird was coming right at us!

We really liked the Flights of Wonder show. There was just enough humor mixed in with cool bird demonstrations and audience participation.

From there we conquered another of DD’s fears by watching “It’s Tough to be a Bug.” It helped that the soundtrack to it is on her iPod, and she knew the script word-for-word, so there wouldn’t be any surprises (other than the old acid in the face). We had lunch at Pizzafari (originally planned to eat at Flame Tree, but it was down for refurb), and then headed up to Africa to help Wilson stop some poachers.

There were two recent additions out on the savanna – a baby giraffe…

(really, that’s a baby)

…and a baby elephant, conveniently hiding behind a rock. If you look closely, you can see part of his ear and back…

DW took these pictures with our “real” camera, and I let DD use our Kodak PlaySport to take some, not expecting much… and I wasn’t disappointed…

…actually, she did get the best picture we’ve ever had of the male lion (he’s the thing that looks like a rock, sleeping under the tree)…

After the Safari, I checked my phone and we had received a text – our room was ready! Wwe were getting hot and run down anyway, so we decided to hit Dinosaur and head out. The wait time was posted as 10 minutes, so we got in line. It was about a five minute wait – not bad at all. For the record, Dinosaur is back on the list of rides to avoid – DD was scared out of her wits. “Too loud and scary,” she decided. We had an ADR at Akershus, so we headed over to AKL to unpack and freshen up for dinner.

Our room was five off the lobby, with a great panoramic view of the sunset savanna.

After a quick unpacking and refreshening, we headed over to Epcot for dinner with the princesses in Norway. We were running a bit early, and since we weren’t sweaty, so we stopped for pictures…

Our reservation was for 5:15, but we checked in about 4:40 to see if we could get seated early, since we were still a bit tired from the long day yesterday. We didn’t realize, but the restaurant doesn’t open until 4:45. Luckily, we were one of the first families called and seated right at 4:45.

The last time we went to Akershus, Belle was the princess who you met before sitting at your table. This time it was Princess Aurora.

The four princesses making the rounds were Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White and Ariel.

We like the food at Akershus. DW and I both got the Traditional Kjottkake, which is a little like Meatloaf with gravy. Dinner portions are bigger than the lunch portions we got a couple years back, so we were stuffed by the end of the meal. We were really surprised and happy that we were able to get seated early. There’s really nowhere to wait after you check in, and unless you get seated right when they open, you’re likely to sit in the sun for 15-20 minutes. My tip would be, if eating around 5:00 is OK for your family, make an ADR but get there early if you can.

After dinner, we drove back to Kidani and were asleep before 10:00.

Coming up, the pixie dust really starts flying at Epcot…

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