Walt Disney World

"Spring Fling"

Orlando, Florida

April, 2004

Tuesday 20 April 2004

Day 1

Getting There

I’ll spare y’all the typical “I worked till the last possible minute and then I flung my clothes in a suitcase and didn’t get any sleep” routine – you’ve all heard it all too many times before, and I’m sure you’re all as sick of hearing about it as I am of living it.


I took the early direct flight from Long Island to Orlando, and arrived to find Gregory himself from Quicksilver Tours waiting for me, with a big smile on his face and enough energy and determination to get my bags and me to Pop Century in record time.  Gregory remembered several of the pirates from Common Ground by their full names, most especially Mary and Alicia, and he was a friendly conversationalist on the way to the resort.


Checking In

Gregory dropped me off and we set a time for the pickup.  I entered Classic Hall and proceeded to the check-in queue, which had practically nobody in it.  Still there were lots of people milling about, ducking in and out of the gift shop, checking out the memorabilia displays, etc.  There is always an underlying hum of voices and other peripheral noise in there – really cavernous, echo-y place.  I checked in and was assigned room 1418, which is on the 4th floor of the 1950s section, very close to Classic Hall.  There was one of those huge bowling pin staircases very close to the room, but with luggage, I chose to by-pass the stairs and take the elevator.  I had to walk past a giant sculpture of Lady on the way to the elevator – she is so cute!  Tramp was across the way, and he was even taller, all shiny gray, with his ears perked up.  


The Room

I have never been to a Value Resort before, and I noticed right away upon entering the room that it seems narrower than Moderate or Deluxe resorts – you notice this mostly in the context of how much room there is to pass between the armoire and the beds.  Still, there was enough room for me to wheel my suitcase over to the “closet” – you know, that little area near the vanity sink where the ironing board is stored, and you can hang up your clothes on the rod and stow your bags.


The walls of this room were cream colored, and there was a blue printed border around the top perimeter with Tinker Bell flying around icons of the decade – 45 RPM records, (complete with those little whachacallit inserts you had to use to play them, cause the peg on the turntable was meant for a tiny hole), a Lost-In-Space-type robot, bowling pins, a jitterbugging couple complete with poodle skirt, etc.  There was a framed collage print hung on the far wall by the second bed, depicting more memorabilia type stuff.  The bedspreads were much the same print/theme as the border and the framed print, on a dark blue background, except they included drawings of Walt Heads (as opposed to Mickey Heads) on them, sorta abstract.  Hey, I got to sleep with Walt Disney!  ;-) 


The bathroom tile was of a dark green and cream pattern, and the grout and caulk were white, white, white.  Everything was still pretty new looking, and considering this resort only opened in December 2003, that’s as it should be.


The vanity/sink area was kinda small, not really much counter space – but they do give you a shelf across the bottom of the mirror to stack stuff on.  I realized immediately that there was NO COFFEE POT!  I called right away about that, but they said there were none available.  I steeled myself right then and there to actually purchase a resort mug and make the Mug Pilgrimage each time I needed a jolt.  Oh, boy.  And all that fresh ground Starbuck’s Breakfast Blend in my suitcase would go to waste.  Alas.


I was eager to get out and about – all that glorious Florida sunshine, heat, and humidity was going to waste while I examined the room.  First things first – lock up the valuables in the safe.  (PLEASE NOTE: this was before the news story of the family from India who came back to their room in a Disney hotel to discover everything was gone from their safe, so I was feeling secure as I stowed things in there.)  I was grateful to note that my camera fit in the safe easily, along with the rest of the stuff I put in there.  I quickly switched wallets and traded my purse for a bag I was not happy with and did not like, but would hold almost everything, excluding the camera – I’ll explain later.  Placed the camera gingerly around my neck.  At this point, we were still quite formal with one another, with me certainly feeling more trepidation toward it than it felt toward me.  Finally, I was ready to get my first really good look at the Pop Century resort.

DISmay at First Sight

The resort is designed such that on each floor, the outdoor “hallways” along which the rooms can be accessed skirt the perimeter of each building.  I figured the fourth floor made a good vantage point to see what one could see, and boy did I see it.


The sight of this resort is enough to kill a life-long love of pop culture.  If aliens landed at the Pop Century to check out what Americans are like, they would fly away thinking we are a pretty shallow bunch.  We are all guilty of shallowness to some degree, but this place ridiculously, unabashedly exposes the shallowness of American pop culture for all the world to see.  Only the Disney character icons, as overdone as they are, don’t seem cheap and schlocky.  It’s as though “Made in <insert name of third-world high volume low quality producer here>” should be stamped on the entire resort.  I guess I was hoping there would be more zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, rather than just the fads of the times. The only part of the iconography I liked was the huge sculptures of the Disney characters.  I did like the walk along Hourglass Lake, which was relatively quiet, and had signage for each year or so between 1950 and 1999, heralding some important milestone events, headline style.  Now, THAT’S zeitgeist.


When I vacation at Disney, I typically regard the resort as somewhere to relax in peace after a long, hard day at the parks, a place to get away from the crowds and the noise, and this ain’t it, folks.  This place is LOUD.  It is not only aurally loud, it is a complete assault on the senses.


After I got over the initial appalled-ness, I realized that this resort is the perfect playground for children and teenagers.  They seem to absolutely love it here, and the room prices are certainly attractive for families, especially if you have the Annual Passholder’s discount or some other discount code.

Musical Madness

While I was walking through the resort, the music was constant, and as mentioned, it was pretty loud.  It is not meant to be subtle “background” music, such as the Spanish guitars wafting from the shrubbery at the Coronado Springs, or Debussy emanating from the landscaping in the French pavilion at Epcot.  Music is showcased at this resort as part of the pop culture.  I’m totally down with that, just wish it was a little quieter, especially in the food court!  Also, there are times when the music is just too surreally juxtaposed with the surroundings – it is bizarre, for instance, to be examining a rack of Goofy t-shirts while the resort is insisting, “…and that sweet city woman, she moves through the night, controlling my mind and my soul”.


Here’s a smattering of what I heard while strolling the grounds


In the 1950s section - ”.....the movie’s over, it’s four o’clock, and we’re in trouble, deep!”


In the 1970s section - “I need you, by me, beside me, to guide me”


In the hotel shop, where I was scoping out stuff to buy later at World of Disney - “Try now we can only lose, and our love become a funeral pyre”


Outside in the bus stop area - “You know that's a game that I hate to lose.  Now I'm feeling the strain – ain’t it a shame?” , and also “So come on now let’s try it – I love you, can’t deny it.  Cos it’s true, I do I do I do I do I do!”


And in the food court - “Some folks inherit star spangled eyes, Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord, And when you ask them, "How much should we give?" Ooh, they only answer More! more! more!

Lunch at the Pop Century Food Court

By the time I’d pretty much walked the entire resort, snapping and deleting, snapping and deleting (ah, the wonders of a digital camera!), I realized I was hungry, and grabbed a salad from the food court.  Also bought (shudder) a refillable resort mug.  Ugh, even the mugs are undignified – neon psychedelic colors, blech.  They are hideous, but hey, they get you all the free java, soda, and hot chocolate you can guzzle during your stay for about $10 bucks.  The salad wasn’t bad, but it was annoying to hear ““But I'm a million different people from one day to the next.  I can't change my mold, No, no, no, no, no” blasting in one ear while trying to hear what Pepper Ann and her friends were chattering about on the big screen TV in the dining area.


Hey, they changed the motif of  the brown paper napkins!  No longer do they carry the icons from the four Walt Disney World parks.  I feel like it’s the end of an era or something.


The salad was tasty enough, but it was jolting to sit there and have the songs pelt me in surreal juxtaposition to my surroundings.

Shopping at Downtown Disney

After I’d finished my lunch, I decided to spend the afternoon serenely shopping at a leisurely pace in Downtown Disney.  I had my Annual Passholder discount.  I had my Disney Dream Reward Dollars from my Bank One Disney Visa – they send you a “credit card” charged up with your points – and I had an Amex gift cheque that had been lying crumpled in my wallet for several years, unused.  I kept forgetting it was there, and now it was time to use it.  So I was well prepared to select and bring home gifts for my nieces as well as for myself.

Digression into Social Analysis: McValues

I first stopped at the room to ditch the camera and change to a smaller bag.  At this point, walking around the resort, I began to notice that the mean age of those focused on wearing what is “cool” has plummeted since I was a child.  Everywhere, there were children of all ages running around with tattoos, multiple piercings including the belly button, and flesh-revealing attire.  I mean, I saw 10 year olds decked out in the skimpiest shorts possible, makeup, midriff-revealing shirts, etc.  My parents would have killed me had I even suggested wearing makeup at that age, and shorts/skirts had to fall just at the knee.  Adding to my mystification is the practice of wearing cropped shirts when what is revealed is a big roll at the waist.  I can understand the display of a fabulously fit body, at an appropriate age, but I don’t understand letting your very out of shape 10 year old run around in clothing that looks like they outgrew it two summers ago.  As someone recently said to me, it must be all that self-esteem being taught in recent years.  What it has led to is both adults and children running around without the good sense to realize that their physical condition needs improvement.  The hallmark zeitgeist of the new millennium: McValues.

Back to the Shopping Trip

The bus stops at this resort are spread out across the front of Classic Hall, in the blazing sun.  True, there is a long shelter near the queues with some benches, but they planned it badly – for a large part of the prime bus-waiting time during the day, the sun is actually shining into the shelters, with only a thin strip of shade into which one can squeeze one’s self, and that’s behind the benches.  So it really isn’t of much assistance in terms of keeping large quantities of bus riding tourists from frying.  As everywhere, music is blasting at the bus stops.


While waiting for the busses, I saw a pair of “swabbie” CMs with their long, pincer-tongs, clearing debris out of the landscaping, and doing a really excellent job, at that.  They looked to be about 17 years old or so, and one of them was bopping to Karma Chameleon, a song to which she apparently knew all the words, but is definitely too young to know.  I guess working at the Pop Century is educational for these youngsters!


The bus to Downtown Disney arrived within 5 minutes, and on the way I noticed construction occurring at the entrance to Bonnet Creek Resort.  The bus also passed something  called the Treehouse Villas, which I’d never heard of before, and have since discovered are part of what used to be the Disney Institute villas.   


I entered the Marketplace right near Once Upon A Toy.  A mere few  hours of the Pop Century experience had sensitized me to the background music to the point where I immediately noticed Sarah McLachlan’s rendition of When Somebody Loves You gently wafting through the air at a reasonable decibel level.  Ah, thank you!  As I slowly made my way browsing through all the stores, I also heard Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride from Lilo & Stitch while browsing the racks of Tommy Bahama resort wear, as well as Toy Story’s You’ve Got A Friend In Me somewhere in the vicinity of the new Earl of Sandwich eatery.


After a couple of hours of browsing, I finally made my way into the big World of Disney store for the real purchases.  I can typically drop a bundle on gifts for myself and my nieces during a given stay at Walt Disney World.  This time, I had to be mindful of austerity conditions, as I am under an aggressive savings plan to accumulate a reasonable down payment for a house of my own.  One way to assure that I wouldn’t spend major bucks was to keep my solemn vow to stay the hell away from the Virgin Mega Store on the West Side, which I did.  But I was well armed with the aforementioned mechanisms for savings, and so the fun began in earnest inside World of Disney.  I selected some Tink mugs that had previously escaped my collection, pins, clothing, toys, DVDs and music CDs – my basket was full to overflowing when I approached the checkout.  It rang up, and after deducting the AP discount and the Disney Dream Reward Dollars, what I ended up paying was about HALF of what it rang up to! Which I, naturally, charged to my Disney Visa (more Reward Dollars!).  I saved the Amex gift cheque for anything I might see in the parks later in the week that wasn’t available at World of Disney.


Laden with my purchases, I was suddenly very tired and made my way back to the bus stop.  The return trip back to the resort was 25 minutes, because it included the dreaded Typhoon Lagoon stop.  I found myself struggling to maintain consciousness as the rocking of the bus threatened to render me snoring. 


Once back at the room, I tried on all the clothes, and there was only one size miscalculation, which I put aside to return later.  After stowing my purchases in the room, a glance at the bathroom counter reminded me of the distinct lack of coffee pot, and I knew I had to bite the bullet and partake in my first Mug Pilgrimage.


And so off I trudged to the food court.  I was tempted to buy some dinner, but was reminded that I’d promised myself dinner from the French bakery at Epcot upon my arrival here.  So I got just the coffee, and  noticed that at the beverage stations there are these little sinks with signs that said “Mug wash”, which made me giggle – it just sounds like a place where Harry Potter and friends would go to bathe Muggles, or perhaps a retort when one suddenly realizes that a Muggle is exaggerating.  Revived by the coffee, I stowed the mug back at the room and hit the bus stop once more. 


Off to Epcot!

It was getting dark by time I arrived, but two things were clear even in the darkness: one, the Flower and Garden Festival was in full swing, with fabulous topiaries seemingly everywhere, and two, I WANT ONE OF THOSE TINK BANNERS!  They have Tink on them and they say “Magical Gatherings”.  They appear at each resort in a different color – red, purple, aqua, royal blue, etc.  Disney had just started to put them up when I had stayed at the Boardwalk during November 2003, and now they were everywhere.


I strolled at a leisurely pace on my way to the French bakery, stopping to admire the topiaries and other gardening displays, and starting to get really excited that I now own a digital camera!  By this time, most folks were staking out their spots for Illuminations, and I so I was able to make my dinner purchase (ham and cheese croissants with a glass of white wine) and get a table in the little courtyard, where I chatted with a nice family from Berlin while dining.  Once finished, I made my way out of the park again just as Illuminations was starting.  Didn’t even make a pit stop at Mouse Gear on the way out – I was that tired!  Back in the room, sleep came easily.  I had no touring plan for the next day, or the rest of the week, for that matter, beyond knowing what I wanted to photograph in each of the parks.  And didn’t much care. 


I’m in Disney World!


Back to Spring Fling April 2004