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Trip Report A Nostalgic Nerd and a Newbie experience WDW over Thanksgiving and, somehow, remain married.

This one has been a long time coming.

In order for you to know what you're in for, you have to know a little bit about me before diving in.

My first trip to WDW was in 1976. I was four years old and traveling with my family. Mom, Dad, older brother, Grandma. We drove down,, like most folks did in those days, with a couple of stops along the way to visit family. I'm not going to exaggerate and tell you that I remember every detail of that trip, because I don't. I was four. However, what I do remember clearly are very strong moments that imprinted themselves on my brain and caused a (perhaps-unhealthy) obsession with Walt Disney World that continues to this day. (Or at least I think it still does. Maybe. We'll get to that.) I remember sipping orange juice out of a plastic orange that I kept and used until it melted in the dishwasher. I remember my brother telling me that the Witch in the Snow White ride would jump onto our vehicle and grab me, causing me to scream the entire time while he laughed and clawed at me. I remember wanting to prove that I was a manly little man and riding the Tea Cups twice in a row, getting sick after the second time and receiving a solid punch to the gut from my big brother for whining about it, causing nausea to turn in to full protein expulsion. I remember eating in, what was then, King Stefan's Banquet Hall and having a terrible time using the paper straw they gave me to drink my milk. I remember the People Mover. I remember If You Had Wings. I remember being terrified of the drop in Pirates, followed by amazement for the rest of the ride. Most of all, I remember the Haunted Mansion. To me, those ghosts were real. They were scary, they were funny, and they made me decide then and there that I wanted to move to the Magic Kingdom. My folks informed me that we weren't planning such a move any time soon, but they mollified me by buying the Haunted Mansion LP and Liberty Square View Master set so that I could take a bit of the Mansion home with me. These are good memories. Yes, I even get a laugh out of the Tea Cup incident. I am fully aware that I was an annoying little brother. Mostly, I remember just being there with my family.

It was a long seven years before we made it back to WDW. Dad was a United Methodist Minister and Mom was a Public School Teacher, so we were pretty firmly lower-middle-class. We were fortunate enough to be able to take a vacation every summer, but a WDW vacation was something special that we could only do every once in a while. We picked a great year to go back: 1983. EPCOT Center had just opened the previous October. We were there in the summer, so Horizons had not yet opened and The Living Seas was still a couple of years off, but it was glorious. I've always been a bit of a nerd, so science, history, and technology were right up my alley. When I walked into EPCOT Center, I may as well have been Charlie Bucket entering Wonka's chocolate factory. It was like the Imagineers probed my brain, found everything I loved, and built an enormous theme park just for me. I remember almost everything about that visit. I remember everything we rode, what we ate for dinner, and even what our 3-Day tickets looked like. As much as I loved the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center was the younger, hotter, smarter sister who immediately stole my heart. Spaceship Earth was awe-inspiring. Even Listen to the Land felt like something out of Science Fiction. Journey Into Imagination? Aw, man. I can't even begin to explain how that whole pavilion just blew me away. Plus, EPCOT HAD COMPUTERS YOU COULD CONTROL BY TOUCH!!!

It was only a few years before we went back to WDW in 1987. I was in high school. You would have thought that maybe WDW would have been "too cheesy" for a 15 year-old boy. Nope. Once again, I was carried away by it. We didn't have the Internet in those days, but I had read and re-read my souvenir pictorial books and any kind of reading material about Disney I could find at my library. By this time, I had come to the conclusion that WDW was the most perfect place on the planet and that I would happily return as soon as I was able.

Well, it turned out that a decade would pass before I could go back. I finished my college degree, met a girl, and got married. I wanted to go to WDW for our honeymoon and, bless her, she agreed. It was early January of 1997 and we were going for an entire week. The weather was beautiful, we were staying at the, then new, Port Orleans (no French Quarter surname, then), and best of all, the parks were almost empty. I mean, they weren't empty, but if you were to go to WDW these days and saw so few people, you might wonder if some great national tragedy had happened that you had somehow missed hearing about. It was amazing. We were able to ride anything we wanted with almost no lines. We could get dining reservations at any restaurant. When the hotel found out it was our honeymoon, we came back to the room that evening to find a free gift basket with flowers, candy, and sparkling grape juice. Talk about a different time.

Almost another decade later in 2006, our son had come along and we decided to go back to WDW with him. He was only two and we knew he wouldn't remember it, but we also knew that he would enjoy it in the moment and that it would be a ton of fun for us to see the place through his eyes. It was. The crowds were larger this time, but it was in the summer and to be expected. It was still unusual to see a line longer than 30 minutes and those were reserved for the new attractions. Pretty much everything else was 15-20 minutes, tops. I noticed that some of the things I loved about WDW had gone away. The Penny Arcade and Magic Shop were gone from Main Street. The Tiki Room was Under New Management (shudder). Horizons had been replaced by Mission: Space. JOURNEY INTO IMAGINATION had been utterly destroyed. Captain Jack had invaded Pirates. Things were still good, but... off.

That brings us to now. It's been twelve years since I've been able to go to WDW. I've gone through a divorce, major traumatic life events, getting remarried, gaining two amazing stepsons, two big career changes, and the death of both of my parents and my grandmother. Needless to say, life hit me pretty hard and I feel very lucky to have bounced back and found myself in a good place again. During the intervening years, I desperately wished I could go back to WDW, but it simply wasn't in the cards. Twice in the past few years, my wife and I planned trips there and twice they were canceled because of unexpected life events.

This time, we got to go.

That's a lot of set-up, I know. I just wanted folks to have some background on my deep love for and experience with WDW so that when I start in full speed tomorrow, you can know from whence my opinions grew. I'm going to be brutally honest. There were things that caught me by surprise at how wonderful they were and other things that, I truly feel, are major, major, issues that Disney will need to contend with in the coming years if they are to continue to prosper. The gloves are off and the filters are down. Don't worry. Future posts will have plenty of pictures. :)

Please keep your hands and feet inside the ride vehicle at all times and make sure that your safety belt is securely fastened. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

...to be continued
 

aliceismad

Well-Known Member
I love IASW too. (Though I do love the DLR version more, just because. :p) It and teacups were my favorites on my first trip to DLR in 1983.

P.S. Did you notice Touring Plans' reported crowd levels for when you were there? (I like to look them up and compare with the pics people post for some obsessive reason. Nov. 19&20: Crowd Level: What we predicted: 5 out of 10 What we saw: 10 out of 10
 
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MinnieM123

Premium Member
IASW is a must do every time we go. I lost my Mom 5 years ago and it was her favorite ride. It’s almost like we relive the experience in honor of her. I agree that you will notice something different each and every time you climb into that boat.

Oh my, I also love IASW, and it is also because I remember how much my mother loved it. She passed away many years ago, but I'll never forget riding with her on that attraction.

And yes, it is just a beautiful, peaceful ride for so many people.
 

geekza

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I love IASW too. (Though I do love the DLR version more, just because. :p) It and teacups were my favorites on my first trip to DLR in 1983.

P.S. Did you notice Touring Plans' reported crowd levels for when you were there? (I like to look them up and compare with the pics people post for some obsessive reason. Nov. 19&20: Crowd Level: What we predicted: 5 out of 10 What we saw: 10 out of 10
Yeah, they were way off on that one, I suspect because that day coincided with Mickey's 90th Birthday and there had been a Destination D event that had taken place at the Contemporary over that weekend, resulting in much higher crowd levels than could be predicted by a model based upon historical data. I will say that their crowd level predictions were pretty accurate for the rest of the trip. Sadly, that meant that, aside from our first day in Epcot on 11/20, which was crowded, but not insane, crowds steadily grew through the rest of the week. Of the three days we spent in the MK, our last day, 11/23, was the least crazy. Even then, after the first couple of hours, it was impossible to ride anything without almost an hour wait, aside from things like the Tea Cups and the PeopleMover, which still had anywhere from 20-30 minute waits. Headline attractions without a FastPass were a no-go without committing to spending a sizable chunk of our day standing in line. I was glad that I had planned as much as I did and made sure to get passes to the things that I absolutely couldn't miss, since there ended up being only a few things that I would have liked to have done that we simply couldn't swing.
 

geekza

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Oh my, I also love IASW, and it is also because I remember how much my mother loved it. She passed away many years ago, but I'll never forget riding with her on that attraction.

And yes, it is just a beautiful, peaceful ride for so many people.
This trip was definitely filled with a lot of ghosts of family members who have passed on. Some attractions are inextricably linked with a person because of their love for it or memories of exciting times. My Dad, especially, loved WDW and would go on and on about the Carousel of Progress and the PeopleMover. He was also head over heels in love with EPCOT Center. I remember how excited he was when we visited there in 1983. Being in those places again really made the memories flood back in. It was a potent combination of sadness, that they are no longer around, and comfort in feeling how strongly they still play a part in my life. I really wish like I felt that current Disney management realized what a gift they have with the parks and the powerful emotional connection that they hold for so many people. Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and EPCOT Center were built with real love poured into them and deserve to be maintained and added to with the same amount of care that went into creating them. Current Disney recognizes these emotions, but only in as much as they can be manipulated in order to encourage guest spending.
 

Littleclown

New Member
I have really enjoyed your journey reports and it makes me remember all of my trips to the world. Used to love going there because it was traveling to a different world. You checked in and for the length of your stay your could not get a newspaper, a news channel or even log onto a computer. You were on vacation and the world outside could wait. Now technology has taken over with Magic Bands, Fast pass plus, Advance dining reservations and 60 day out planning your every move. Oh lest not forget the crowds that were never what they are now. This year ends a run of 13 consecutive years where I have been at the world. Just had to take a break and rethink. I have come to the conclusion that you go there now and just enjoy the magic and forget about everything else. Leave the stress at home and just enjoy what has always been and always will be a magical place but it is what YOU make of it.
 
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