Disney World 2018
As part of my CEBS re-certification effort this year, my employer agreed to send me to an employee benefits conference in Orlando – specifically, Disney World. I got to spend a few days and nights at the Disney Contemporary Hotel and in my spare time could sight-see and shop to my Disney fanboy’s content. What I didn’t count on was my eyes and wallet being bigger and in better shape than my legs and feet.
Saturday morning. After a short flight from DC, we hopped on the Mickey Express bus, got to our hotel, and checked-in. First bad news was that the room was not in the main building, closer to the amenities and to my conference, but in one of the extensions. Fortunately, our luggage was being delivered from the airport separately, so we didn’t have to carry too much back to our room. Although the room was logo-free (although the television had like a dozen different Disney-pushing channels), and had only a hint of a space-age-but-now-retro “contemporary” look, the best part was the size. Had plenty of room to lounge, spread out our stuff, and admire the quiet river view we had. But we didn’t stay long.
Saturday afternoon. We had tickets to burn, so we headed back to the main building to catch a Monorail train over to the Magic Kingdom. By the time we got off and into the main gate, I knew I was going to hate life and unfortunately make Ann hate it too. I underestimated the size of the Kingdom based on my distorted childhood memories. Between that, no seating, and the oppressive Florida humidity – did I mention I was wearing long black pants because DC was below-freezing when we left – I was severely dehydrated and freaking out about heat stroke by the time we got to Frontier Land, only half way to our destination (the Haunted Mansion). By the time we left that, Ann’s patience was dead and I was nearly gone, too. So we tried to get through to Tomorrowland, but didn’t quite make it. Got some cold liquid and made a beeline to the exit. Yeah, I know, pathetic. But we also had dinner plans and weren’t quite sure if we’d have time for much more than that, anyway. And honestly? Magic Kingdom does not hold up well going there as an adult. The attractions look old, the food isn’t anything special, and even Tomorrowland looks like Yesteryear. Not a great start to the trip.
Saturday evening. Next, we made our way around to the Polynesian Resort for a Luau dinner and show. Getting some liquid in me, including some maitai, and sitting in the shade for a couple hours, did me some good as I came back to (tired and full-stomached) life while feasting on pork and pineapples while watching some beautiful people dance and breath fire for us.
Sunday morning. Ann went off to the Animal Kingdom while I waited for my brother and his wife to arrive. They did, and Sean and I hopped on a bus over to Hollywood Studios while Savannah went to Animal Kingdom. Of the 3 days I had enough time to really visit Disney, I was most looking forward to this one, as I never got a chance to see it when I lived in Florida. EPCOT I had been to at least half a dozen times (or it felt that way) and while I wanted to go there for their UK and Canada pavilions, I knew I could live missing them. So Sean and I went to Hollywood Studios. We arrived just in time to see a bunch of Stormtroopers march down the main drag of the park. We went off to see some more Star Wars stuff – I grabbed a key chain with a flashlight that looks like a light saber. And even though we barely scratched the surface, we had lunch plans over at Animal Kingdom, so I convinced Sean to leave early.
Sunday afternoon. We met up with Savannah at the Rainforest Cafe, a restaurant that sits just outside the Animal Kingdom park entrance. There was a line, so we hung out for a bit, but finally got to eat. The cafe has some neat lightning effects and small animatronics for the kids to gawk at, as well as giant aquariums. It was pretty neat. But they couldn’t stay much longer and I had a CEBS meet-and-greet thing to head over to see, so back to the Contemporary for us. I offered to do a cab (Disney calls them Minnie-Vans), but the pickup point was a long-ass walk for my shapeless legs to really tolerate. Thankfully Savannah coached me through the pain.
Monday. First day of the CEBS conference. More people than I would have guessed, and not that many my age. Interesting topics, though. I thought I might do something in the evening, but I ended up just going back to my room.
Tuesday. More of the same at the conference. But we had booked what turned out to be an entirely too-kid-friendly Pirates & Fireworks boat ride. Not even our pirate entertainer on board seemed happy to deal with the kids but still put on a brave smile. The fireworks were awesome and worth the long, long, long walk out onto the pier, but maybe not the price of admission.
Wednesday. The final sessions of the conference were sparsely attended. We then took a Minnie-Van over to Disney Springs. That place is huge, too, and is basically just one long shopping mall. We did manage to see Peter Rabbit the movie while we were there, and I had just enough endurance to make it to the giant Disney store near the middle of the place. There was so much more to do, but we decided to have a late lunch or early dinner at this French-y place next door to the Disney store and got ourselves a small cake in the shape of Mickey’s head.
Thursday. After a few last minutes bits of souvenir shopping, it was time to board the Mickey Express back to the airport.
The Contemporary hotel was great, and I enjoyed the whole experience at the Polynesian. But I may need to lose weight if I ever want to go back and truly enjoy Disney World. On the other hand, since I was working during part of the trip, my employer paid for about half of what I spent during the week, hotels and food included. So not bad, I’d say.