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Trip Report Making Lemonade out of Lemons Fractal Family Trip Report - Completed

I think we can all agree that so far 2020 has been one big sour lemon.

For those that did not read my Pre-Trip report; my entire family (Val-wife, Alex - oldest daughter, Sterg - son, Toni - youngest daughter) has recovered from the Covid-19 virus. Myself, Val, Sterg and Toni got it in March and Alex in April while working as a nurse. Val had it worse with a fever for a couple days and flu like symptoms for about a week. The rest of us were either asymptomatic or had minor symptoms.

Add to that the mental stress of living in a society dealing with this pandemic, Toni missing out on a big chunk of her High School Senior Year and her last dance recital (where she was going to take on a major role as Jasmine), work reductions for Sterg and high stress work conditions for Alex on the front line. Yes, 2020 has sure been one big sourpuss.

But, as the saying goes; "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"

It just so happened that last year I made a reservation to attend the annual AHEPA convention in Walt Disney World, just as I did in 2017. We were going to stay at the Grand Destino Towers but that seemed very much in jeopardy when AHEPA (which is a charitable organization I'm involved with. Like a Greek version of the Knights of Columbus or Lions Club.) cancelled their convention. Soon after however, I received an email that Disney would honor our reservation in July. This was pretty tempting since we had convention rates and discounts on tickets. Long story short, we decided to go. We felt that having already had the virus gave us an extra level of protection and we knew that Disney would handle the health risks properly. In addition, we later found out that our rooms were moved from Grand Destino to the Contemporary in order to accommodate the LA Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. Sterg's and my dream of playing Marco Polo with the Greek Freak and LeBron James in the pool were quickly dashed. But who could say no to staying at The Contemporary for $175 a night?

We were a go! It was frustrating however because although we had a resort reservation we did not have park tickets. We also didn't have a "park pass" which was needed during this reopening of WDW. We had to wait for all that to open and I had serious doubts it would by the time our first day at the resort (July 20th) rolled around. I decided to book flights without tickets or park passes. Southwest had roundtrip flights from Philly to Orlando for $90 plus if you had to cancel you got that credit for a future flight. No brainer. This was turning out to be the cheapest Disney trip we have taken as a family! Soon after I was open to buy tickets and book Park Passes. We had started to squeeze that lemon and add it's juice to our pitcher of cold water.

Now for the Cast of our adventure.

Myself - Chris/Fractal. A lover of Disney Parks for the many memories it has given me over the years with my family, the way it helps me completely unwind from my job, and how it taps into my creative side and challenges my skills as a photographer.

Here I am with my crazy kids at Christmas.


Val - my beautiful wife. Not the biggest fan of Disney but in the end she was on board. I think secretly she likes it more than she lets on. I will make it up to her with a trip more to her liking.

Here she is with Alex.


Alex - our oldest. Now a traveling nurse. Alex is like me in many ways but as she's getting older and more responsible I'm starting to see her take on a number of Val's traits. She's a good mix and always a delight to be with.

From a trip to Colorado we took last year;


Sterg, aka Fractal Jr. One word to describe Sterg - catalyst - he just makes things happen. He creates reactions both good and bad. He graduated last year from Penn State. He was a captain on the Swim Team but not without drama. He had to miss his promising senior year of swimming when a series of concussions (all outside the water) forced him to medically retire. PSU handled it very well as he helped the team from the sidelines. He now works as a digital marketing consultant as well as helping his cousin get his music career off the ground. Never a dull moment when Sterg is around!

with our dog Prince (Charming).


Toni - For long time readers of my reports you know that Toni and I have a special Disney connection. Many times she would be the only one up early with me to tackle the parks at opening. We have had many great adventures together in the Disney bubble. She's now technically an adult (how did that happen?) so I was going to find out this trip if the magic was still there. She's going to attend Clemson University starting next month and I couldn't be prouder.

Toni in front of the Theater her Recital was supposed to perform at.


So Covid-19 made our family suffer in many ways, but we took that lemon, squeezed it's juice out into our water pitcher, now we just needed a little Disney sugar to make our Lemonade complete.

Coming up - Our trip begins with a WDW meet-up before our flight even leaves the ground!


Well-Known Member
Taking all the fun out of mining!


Common sense rules to follow.


Alex and Sterg have an interesting relationship. When younger, Alex would more or less "bully" and tease her little brother. He claims he would complain to us but we never listened and that was mostly true. It wasn't until recently when we watched some old family videos that we realized his complaints were valid. Things like pinning him down and pretending to spit on him, etc. That all stopped however when Sterg grew up bigger than her. Today they are very close and have a great time together. I call Alex "Sterg's laugh-track" because she will literally laugh at any of his jokes and antics no matter how stupid they may be. And the problem with that is it only encourages Sterg to continue his comedy show even if it devolves into more stupidity and antics. But it's all in good fun and I love that they maintain a great relationship.


Getting closer.


I love all the signs and other details in the "new" queue line for BTMRR.


Down we go, moving at a fast clip.


Alex and Sterg on Big Thunder circa 2011 - this picture was taken at 20 minutes till 1am on August 8th 2011. Remember the days when MK would have Extra Magic Hours until 2am? We loved and miss that.


2020 - another AM ride on BTMRR - this time at 9:15 in the morning. We often joke that Alex looks exactly the same as she did when she was 15. Lol. By the way - Alex is easily the worst abuser of saying "Hi" to everything.
"Hi taking our picture, Hi wearing my new shirt, Hi your light on your camera..." Those were just a few from that day.


I requested sitting in the back, but just like with Everest - no special requests granted.

No photos on the ride because I decided to take a video of the entire trip up the mountain and back. @Longers I thought of you while doing this. This is your little surprise! I hope your patience is rewarded with this video despite Sterg continuously saying "the wildest ride in the west" and me continuously correcting him. He even tells me I'm number one during the ride! See what his human laugh track does for him? 😁 Anyway - Whenever you, or anyone for that matter, wants to take a ride on Big Thunder with us you can just hit play!

Oh my goodness - we were getting close to the end of this report and I was starting to think there was no surprise!

thank you, thank you, thank you

I have literally just had the biggest smile on my face with tears rolling down my cheeks whilst laughing at the wildest ride in the West comments.

So many feelings about riding and the hope that any chance to ride this year is fading away. I will not give up hope.

My heart is warmed by this amazing gesture. Thanks again.


Premium Member
Original Poster
On to our next adventure...


Splash was still closed but i got a nice reflection shot.


We'll be back!


Sterg had some "pressures" building so our next adventure became finding the nearest restroom. :oops: I continued documenting.

Maybe later - still mad about those darn pirates stealing my lens in 2017!




After what seemed like forever; Sterg emerged from his "relief break". We took this photo in front of the shooting range in honor of my late Father and Sterg's namesake. My first trip to WDW was in 1976 and was my first (and only) family vacation as a child. As I've mentioned in previous reports, I have a vivid memory of my father and I spending time at this shooting range and how much he (and I) enjoyed it. Sterg and I have done the same on every trip except this one as unfortunately it was closed. But we did get the photo!


Continuing on back into Adventureland.


We set our sights on a guided exotic cruise...


I liked the fact that Sterg and Alex didn't really have a memory of JC despite riding in 2013 (at night) and way back in 2009...


It was like a new ride for them. I remember how impressed I was with Disneyland's version when I was there in 2012. With WDW getting a refurb since then I was looking forward to a little comparison.


Well-Known Member
It was time well spent with Alex! Yes, you can eat in the Outer Rim.

Thanks @lindawdw !

Hi being late! Lol! Better late than never and glad you checked in! Always love your reports.

Thanks on the photos and the comments!

Agree and thanks Neil!

Thanks and have a great trip! :)

Sad times for Disney and it's CMs.

Will we be seeing a @Billy6 trip report?
I should be able to get to one. Changing computers for work next so I have to wait...we shall see!


Premium Member
Original Poster
Seeing these Flame Tree photos reminded me I owe you a huge THANK YOU! We never realized the seating area back here, although we always insist on eating Flame Tree. This past trip I got to Flame Tree first, and very confidently told my wife "follow me", and made my way down the path I figured would lead me down to the river. Lo and behold, we got an awesome waterfront table, which only was better due to the character floats on the water. My wife loved the view, my son loved the birds, and my daughter loved the opportunities to get up to wave to the characters. We stayed there longer than we needed to, but it was the perfect chance to see all the characters while we were in the shade. It was exactly the break we needed, and gave me that Dad cred in the family :p

You can't see the joy in her face (and they're not the best quality) but let me tell you, that while these were being taken, she had that pure Disney joy that only kids can have. If we ever happen to be in the world at the same time, I owe you a Kungaloosh!

You don't know how happy this makes me! 😊

The black and whites in this post are stunning.

Thank you Teresa! You're the best! 👍
Oh my gosh what a great way to start the day! I have no idea how you are able to hang onto whatever you took the video with because I always have to hang on for dear life! So much fun being with you and your kids on that ride so thank you!

I wrapped the camera strap a few times around my wrist then pulled on it for some sense of stability. Glad you enjoyed it! :)

It is truly amazing that you're able to hold onto your video camera on BTMMR!!! Loved the video along with seeing the pictures of your kids from the days when you could stay in the MK until 2:00 am! We have done that many times over the years! :)

We loved extra magic AM hours!

Thank you for the BTMRR video; I just had to cancel our trip to DLP in two weeks so seeing a video of one of my favorite rides took the sting out of it a bit 😊

I'm glad I could help!

Oh my goodness - we were getting close to the end of this report and I was starting to think there was no surprise!

thank you, thank you, thank you

I have literally just had the biggest smile on my face with tears rolling down my cheeks whilst laughing at the wildest ride in the West comments.

So many feelings about riding and the hope that any chance to ride this year is fading away. I will not give up hope.

My heart is warmed by this amazing gesture. Thanks again.

I don't know what else to say except...☺️🥰👍
You've really outdone yourself with the photos on this trip! Remarkably, raising the high bar you had already set. Incredible!

Thanks so much @Notes from Neverland ! That means alot!

I love your Tommy shirt! :cool:

Me too! Thanks @KellBelle !
I should be able to get to one. Changing computers for work next so I have to wait...we shall see!
I'll take that as a yes! 😁


Premium Member
Original Poster
In line at the Jungle Cruise. This was not a walk on, but only about 15 min wait.


It gave us a time to talk..


goof around...


and take photos of the well themed queue line.



Toni wasn't here to be scared by the Tarantula, but I did get Alex to flinch after convincing her it was real.


All aboard!


Our captain was very good! Most of the standard jokes but a good number of new ones. She was witty and had great delivery - very important attributes that made our trip through the world's rivers more entertaining.


Snake! This poor woman was sitting across from me which meant whenever I took a photo of the other side of the river she was in it.


Silly gorillas!



It's good when lions and zebras can be friends.


Rhino making his point.



Are these crocs or gators?


Hungry Hippo. I felt all the animals and props looked fantastic.


And these guys!



Premium Member
Original Poster
Cool Masks!


The back side of water! Sterg and Alex were thoroughly enjoying things.


they loved going in the cave.


I kinda forgot how cool this was.



Now onto the elephants!


The jokes here came rapid fire.



I was taking pictures as fast as our captain was delivering her dry punchlines.



How can you not love this?



And finally - Trader Sam. Still trying to get "ahead". :p


Jungle Cruise was a big hit for our trio! It also now holds up very well next to Disneyland's version; thank you very much. You can tell a lot of love has been put into it over the last few years.


Up next - More Classic Disney Fun!



Premium Member
Original Poster
We are now in the home stretch, only a few more precious hours left in Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World. The great thing was my 2 children were up for anything I wanted to do - even the "old boring" rides they would
have been stomping their feet and crying about 10 years again.

"Onward!" I commanded as our time was slipping away like sands through the hourglass.

"I need to go to the bathroom again." Sterg said, throwing a wet blanket on my fiery proclamation.

"What? What the h*ll did you eat last night?"

"C'mon Sterg!"
Alex complained.

"I'll be right back." He promised. "Wait for me!"

So we waited, and waited and waited some more.

Time for a selfie.


"What the heck?" I said. "I figured when you guys were older, you would be waiting for me to go to the bathroom."

"He's just like Mom!"
Alex responded. It's an inside joke that Val must go to the restroom every 15-20 minutes when we're in Disney.

Finally Sterg surfaced and we ended up here.


The Tiki Room was something Alex never experienced.


I was pleasantly surprised to observe how much they enjoyed it.



They were laughing and singing...and I heard plenty of "HI's".

"Hi birds coming down from the ceiling."


I then realized they had created a little funny narrative amongst themselves - "Can you imagine sitting through this if you were drunk or high?"

After I caught on to it I turned to them "Nice. I'm sure that's what Walt Disney thought when he made this." They found much amusement in that comment.


Overall, they enjoyed themselves as did I. With or without their stupid running joke. It was nice to see them interact like this and bond together for a short time.


OK birdbrains, let's keep moving.


UP NEXT - Back to the scene of the crime.
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Premium Member
Original Poster
Time to meet up with some pirates.


Last time I was on POTC I had fumbled a lens change halfway through and my 55mm lens sank down to Davey Jones' locker. This time I was going to stick with the same lens all the way through. The 24mm was securely fastened to my camera as we entered.


Alex was ready for some plundering.



The 24mm gave me a nice wide view.




Such a great scene!


Poor Carlos.



First time seeing the gun tooting redhead!


Definitely a fan!


Is this guy a moving animatronic or do they move his position?



Also 2017!




This guy definitely moves on his own.


Here kitty, kitty...

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Premium Member
Original Poster
Our first and only family vacation was to WDW in 1977!

I don't know about you, but I think thats a big part of why I love WDW so much.

You really captured some incredible photos of POTC! Enjoy all the banter that you have with your kids!
Thanks @lindawdw! Yes, we have some interesting conversations. 😁

Great POC pictures! I could actually smell the water and the smoke from the fires/guns. It's one of my favorite attractions.
Thanks @Minnesota disney fan ! Mine as well!

I always worry when we go under him that his leg is going to fall off on my head! (You know, maintenance cut backs and all)!

One of my favorite scenes in the ride!

Ha on leg falling off! 😁

The burning village is pretty amazing.
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