Trip Report Making Lemonade out of Lemons Fractal Family Trip Report

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!
 

Swissmiss

Premium Member
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I love how you describe your photographic challenges while taking pictures at WDW. Since reading your trip reports I sometimes find myself looking during a ride and wondering how you would go about capturing it in photos; it has helped me to “focus” more on details rather than just experiencing the sensations of the ride.

And while I applaud you for seeing things from Val’s perspective, I sincerely hope she does the same for you. She committed to the trip after all.
 

gwhb75

Well-Known Member
I feel awful for anyone who is/was concussed. My older son dives for his high school, and I worry every time he gets on that board.
Yeah it really sucks. In Steph's case it was 5 within 14 months, some mild and a couple that were bad (fractured orbital, broken nose along with the concussions). We had wanted her to retire after the first big one, but she was 18 so we couldn't force her to. No permanent damage thankfully. It's the after effects that are tough and last a long time (insomnia, headaches, dizziness). If there was something good to come out of Covid-19 it was that it forced her to stop everything for months and get rest. She's totally fine now but it's not fun. But enough about us, this is @fractals report, so let's get back to that.
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Sorry to hear about @fractal jr having to retire due to concussions. My daughter had to retire from competitive kickboxing for the same reason (although her's were all related to the sport). It sucks that they have to give up something they love doing due to an injury that no one else can see but is very real.

Yeah it really sucks. In Steph's case it was 5 within 14 months, some mild and a couple that were bad (fractured orbital, broken nose along with the concussions). We had wanted her to retire after the first big one, but she was 18 so we couldn't force her to. No permanent damage thankfully. It's the after effects that are tough and last a long time (insomnia, headaches, dizziness). If there was something good to come out of Covid-19 it was that it forced her to stop everything for months and get rest. She's totally fine now but it's not fun. But enough about us, this is @fractals report, so let's get back to that.


Sorry to hear about your daughter but glad there's no permanent injury. The last specialist explained it this way to Sterg, "You will be able to go through a normal life without any issues, but when you push your body to the extreme like you have to do for your sport, your brain and body will push back." Yes, it's a very tough injury because only the athlete really knows had bad it is. He told him he can't do more damage by swimming just that he won't be able to train and swim at that level again. His friend/roommate and co-captain started a podcast interviewing athletes at the collegiate level. Episode 8 was an interview with @fractal jr in which I learned things that he was going through that I wasn't aware of. A lot of self imposed and outside pressure is put on these athletes to "shake it off" and get back in the pool/field/ring. I'm sure your daughter can relate and yes, not fun at all.

Here's a link if you/anyone has interest. Might be worthwhile if you have a child with athletic aspirations. It helped me understand Sterg's mentally better, but unfortunately it was after he stopped swimming.


Oh, and thanks for following along!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Clemson! How exciting!!! Yes, @Tuvalu family meet ups are super special and definitely something to reminisce about (should I ever be lucky enough to have one!) :geek: :geek: :jawdrop:

I'm glad Val liked Splash and enjoyed the Disney vacay....
Interesting to notice all the painting in Fantasyland....it's your keen eye for detail!
Bummer about Sterg's senior year of athletics but good for PSU that they allowed him to be with the team. I hope he's medically okay and recovered from all those concussions now!

Thanks! We're excited for Toni! Sterg is medically ok now - just can't compete and swim at the level he used to. Thanks for following along!
Be thankful you only needed to deal with fogging glasses when it was for 3-D movies ... I continue my quest for a non disposible mask that does not make my glasses fog up (or only minimally). At the moment, only the disposible surgical masks don‘t make my glasses fog up, but I hate that it creates nonrecyclable waste. Even more so when I just looked at my work emails and as from tomorrow masks must be worn in line getting coffee or food (we have no general requirement to wear masks at work).

I sure the glasses thing is annoying. I primary wear contact but had my glasses on the first day for our trip down and faced the same issues. Good luck with more wearing at work!
Thanks for pointing out about the bees on Splash. I completely forgot about those, but am really hoping to get my daughter on it before the re-theme comes, and she is also absolutely terrified of bees or anything that sounds like bees (we had to leave a restaurant one day because a fly sounded like a bee and brought out the hysterics...) So we'll definitely have to get her prepared ahead of time.

I also really enjoy all the observations and interactions from your family - makes it a lot more "real" to follow along!

Yes, Alex would literally yell and crouch down in the log during the bee scene. You can only imagine her reaction during Tough to Be A Bug! Hopefully your daughter does better!

Thanks!

Just signed on and am loving your TR report!!! Your camera lenses take amazing pictures, especially the ones from BOG and the HM!!! My DH went through a period where he wasn't enjoying our WDW trips as much since we go so often, so I started going with my DD alone and then with friends for about a year. By year's end he told me that he missed going to WDW with me and seems to never tire of it anymore! Your family is so adorable.:)

Thanks! Glad you Husband came along!
I thought is was just me. I just read this to my family and said I had the same problem. They all said the same thing. I just though my eyes were getting that bad.

Yes, It seems the future of 3D is going to be something like Mickey's runaway railway; which isn't a bad thing!

Wow! Your Haunted Mansion photos are incredible! They look so crisp and vibrant!

Thank you!
I feel awful for anyone who is/was concussed. My older son dives for his high school, and I worry every time he gets on that board.

It's a very difficult injury. Good luck to him! Diving is a tough sport, takes a lot of concentration and athletic ability.
Hi Fractal writing his trip report! (Not sure if I did your family joke justice there, but I absolutely love that you all have that inside thing going on - or at least your kids do, at your expense!) :)
Your report is amazing, your pictures even more so, and congrats to Tony and hello to Yia Yia! I still remember your report of her riding Flight of Passage several years back which I recounted to my family back in 2018 while we were waiting 45 minutes (in the Fastpass line, mind you) for our first and only go at that ride. “Even the older folks love this ride - they feel like they are flying!”
As for Val, she is a total trooper, especially since she was not supposed to go originally? For her, it seems that these trips are not really about Disney at all. I remember thinking “Now this is why Val changed her mind” when I saw your live posts and the joyful family selfies of you all in the hotel pool. For her, that is probably what it’s all about!

Lol! Perfect use of "Hi"! In fact I almost titled this report "Hi Fractal Family Trip Report".

Thanks so much! Will say hi to Yia-Yia. You are spot on with Val.
I love how you describe your photographic challenges while taking pictures at WDW. Since reading your trip reports I sometimes find myself looking during a ride and wondering how you would go about capturing it in photos; it has helped me to “focus” more on details rather than just experiencing the sensations of the ride.

And while I applaud you for seeing things from Val’s perspective, I sincerely hope she does the same for you. She committed to the trip after all.

Thanks @Swissmiss ! Glad I inspired you looking at the rides differently! There are so many details you can miss.

She comes around. :)
 

dryerlintfan

Well-Known Member
On the walkway between the Contemporary and the Magic Kingdom there was a white tent you had to enter to be screened for temperature. I found it interesting that Disney hired a third party company to do this. We all passed the temperature test however Val was flagged for having a "Gator" on. They said gators were not allowed. At first I thought it was an attempt at some Florida humor but they were dead serious. I had no idea what the meant by "gator".

This is a "gator"...



Something about them not being think enough. Val could not go into the park without an approved mask and we weren't carrying a spare one, but did have plenty with our luggage. I gave her mine and headed back to the resort wearing Val's purple gator. After retrieving an acceptable mask I started back towards MK. But first some important pics...





I noticed the winds picking up and the sky getting darker and I was about a block from the tent when the heavy rain started. I was still carrying my camera and my small camera bag filled with lenses as I dashed to a large thick palm tree about 30 yards before the tent. My hope that the rain would not last long was crushed as the rain started to get heavy and the sky darker. My camera and lens were both "weather resistance" but I still tried to protect them under my shirt which has some degree of water proofing. After 10 minutes however I decided to make a dash to the tent and join the Temperature screening lady and 2 CM's. We made some small talk and another 10 minutes later the rain stopped prompting me to continue my journey to the MK.

Absolutely no line to get in.



A few pics outside first...





Then inside...









Then I was off to meet the rest of the crew up by Starbucks.


I'm sure someone has already covered this as I was in early but fell way behind.... but we had neck gaiters in the military. That's the full term... neck gaiter. They're really great for hiking and backpacking, as you can use them as headbands to keep the sweat off your face, hair bandanas when your hair gets dirty and you don't want it to touch you, pot holders, snot rags, dust blockers, etc. Really useful. Once we even used them as pillows when our inflatable ones broke... we just stuffed a bunch of clothes in them and knotted them up. In the show Survivor they call them Buffs, which are basically the same thing, but theirs are really stretchy so the girls can wear them as tube tops. In the Army we also were issued fleece lined gaitors for the winter, which kept our necks and noses super warm on mild winter days, and prevented our snot from turning into snotcycles on the really cold days.

Super useful things.
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
After Under the Sea we got in line for 7 Dwarves Coaster. It was to be one of our longest waits of the trip. Posted at 35 minutes it really took about 25 minutes. While we waited in line I called Disney to inquire about the room as my app still showed it not ready and we just wanted to make sure. The CM I spoke to was very nice and after being on hold for 5 minutes or so came back to tell us that yes the app is correct and they hope to have it ready soon. Not that it mattered at that point being in line but hopefully it was going to be ready by the time we left the park!

I mostly kept the camera down during our trip through the mines. I really like this coaster and the "swinging action". As everyone else says, just wish it were longer.





Here's where my silent/electronic shutter issue popped up again and was the point I made the realization.





We see through your disguise you witch! Too bad Snow White didn't; but that would have made the story a lot less interesting.



Soon after we climbed out of our mine train I received notice that our room was ready. It was now almost 6pm. Not the biggest of deals for us and how the day ended up playing out but it had me apprehensive about the rest of our stay at The Contemporary. We then made our way to Adventureland to snag some Dole Whips to help cool us off. We all went with the twist which helps dilute the pineapple taste just enough.

Our next destination was the hub.









 
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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Toni was going to play the part of Jasmine in her Senior Dance Recital which unfortunately got cancelled. Val thought it was a good idea to have her pose in front of the "castle" and do some "Jasmine poses". Who was I to argue? So we ended up having a little bit of a photo shoot.

How many times can one pose in front of the Castle at 6pm with absolutely no one else around?









OK, time to head out. See you later boys!





Got low for this one.





We did have a great kickoff day at Magic Kingdom. It was tough to swallow however that the park was going to close at 7. Night time is so much fun in all of the parks.



A few more shots on the way out...





No people creeping in from the side this time. 😜



We had Roy and Minnie all to ourselves!









On the monorail and on our way to our room.




Up Next - The Contemporary and doing something different.
 
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dryerlintfan

Well-Known Member
Every time I ride Haunted Mansion I remember the first time I rode it as a 9 year and how amazed I was by it; the Ballroom/dinning room scene especially. In my imaginative young mind those ghosts were all but real.

Val happens to be much more pragmatic than me. Part of the reason WDW is not her thing is because of that. These rides are just props, vehicles, lighting and special effects. She would much rather be engaged with real people and actively doing things together such as going to the beach, maybe a hike or long walk, canoeing, making and having dinner together instead of being a "spectator" sitting in a doombuggy in a dark ride. In fact her best times at WDW are when doing things like being at the pool together, the meals and experiences that open you up for more engagement such as Monster's Inc. Laughing Floor, walking and exploring World Showcase - one year her and Alex did that on a Segway and they still talk about it. I was thinking and analyzing this in my mind as we proceeded through the queue of HM.

As excited as I was Val really was not and would make comments along the way; "how many times to we need to ride this?", "aren't you sick of it", "I kinda think it's dumb."

Normally this would get me upset and I would counter with arguments from my perspective, but this time I really tried to understand her side.



Everyone's different; there's a reason I love Star Wars, Marvel Films and Fantasy/Sci-fi in general. Val really has zero interest in that and prefers Reality type shows, and RomComs. Things based in our current world. The more I thought about her side of things I found myself slowly starting to see things differently.

In hindsight, going on the Liberty Belle would have been a great thing to do with Val and the kids but we never made time for it. It was good to see it running as on our last trip it never left the dock.





It was a bit discomforting as we started into the ride because I was looking at things through Val's eyes and was starting not to enjoy it. As I was taking my photos I was asking myself, how many times to I really need to photography this scene?





No stretching room pre-show. Just walked through.



I continued taking photos none the less but I could tell Val was not really engaged and was just along for the ride.





My favorite scene.







She was not happy, and frankly neither was I. It was now 2 1/2 hours past the check in time. First time our room was not available by check-in.

I wonder if Eric had to ever deal with room reservation check in times?

While I can appreciate that you're trying to see things from her perspective, I hope you don't go down the slippery slope here of assuming she's miserable like you might have done here in the Little Mermaid ride. Like... I HATE that ride, and I'll say that again and again. But I LOVE how much my daughter loves that ride. I barely watch the animatronics at all, because I'm busy watching her turn herself into a mermaid, and hide in my arms when Ursula comes, and wave at Ariel and Eric. In your wife's shoes, knowing how much you love the challenge of photographing the ride would make the ride good for me. My point is, even if the ride is dumb af, just being there with the ones you love is the experience, not the ride.
 

gwhb75

Well-Known Member
Sorry to hear about your daughter but glad there's no permanent injury. The last specialist explained it this way to Sterg, "You will be able to go through a normal life without any issues, but when you push your body to the extreme like you have to do for your sport, your brain and body will push back." Yes, it's a very tough injury because only the athlete really knows had bad it is. He told him he can't do more damage by swimming just that he won't be able to train and swim at that level again. His friend/roommate and co-captain started a podcast interviewing athletes at the collegiate level. Episode 8 was an interview with @fractal jr in which I learned things that he was going through that I wasn't aware of. A lot of self imposed and outside pressure is put on these athletes to "shake it off" and get back in the pool/field/ring. I'm sure your daughter can relate and yes, not fun at all.

Here's a link if you/anyone has interest. Might be worthwhile if you have a child with athletic aspirations. It helped me understand Sterg's mentally better, but unfortunately it was after he stopped swimming.


Oh, and thanks for following along!
Exactly. Steph is able to function, do school, work etc, but when she tries to push herself hard in karate (the dojo she trains at came up with a modified post-concussion curriculum for her so she could still get her black belt) she gets dizzy. She did put a lot of pressure on herself to get back (and probably not helped by the fact that her brother is still competing) and now, looking back, realizes that after the first big one that she should have taken at least a year off to fully recover (she went back in 3 months). I'm glad that Sterg doesn't have any permanent issues (I know it was a big relief to us when the MRIs and CT scans came back normal). It really is a hard thing for athletes to let go of something they love to do.

Enjoying the report. Love the pictures
 

Darstarr

Well-Known Member
In the Parks
No
I am late but I have a good excuse. But before we get to that....if you are going to have lemonade, make it one of these!
B64838FD-0F07-4D60-BA76-94AAC48621ED.jpeg

I am currently obsessed with these. One will do ya😉

I had a busy week planning and hosting my son’s college grad parties. Yes plural. Family party then friend party then another friend party to finish the second keg (actually third as we got a 1/6 of Big Wave for the adults).

So yes, I am here and totally enthralled by all of it!!!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
How about some pictures of The Contemporary?

Our room was the second to last before the fire exit, which at first seem like a bummer but ended up with having some nice benefits.





\






The room was big - like the Poly - but was completely void of anything "Disney". I remember commenting in my last report that the Yacht Club really turned down the volume on Disney accents in its rooms and made what was left very subtle.

The Contemporary completely pulled the plug on them. I did not like this approach but Val was just fine with it.

We had a nice view of Bay Lake. @coachwnh told me he loved watching the sunrises from the balcony. I would take on the challenge later in the trip.



I always saw this in other magicians' trip reports. Now I know where it is!



Sign of the times.



We mostly unpacked, got settled and grabbed a quick meal from the Contemp Cafe. It was our first experience with the required mobil app ordering for quick service spots. We fumbled a few times but got the hang of ordering and paying through the app then picking up at a designated area.

After our dinner we changed and decided to spend time at the quiet pool which was open until 11. Normally I would be in the parks at this time but with no other option we were poolside, much to Val's enjoyment. We had a nice relaxing few hours in the cooler air. First thing I noticed was how refreshing the water in the pool was - my biggest complaint at the Beach and Yacht Club is the way too warm temperature of Storm-along-Bay in the middle of summer. I was wondering if the main pool was the same. Second thing I noticed was there was no mask requirement in the pool area which I was just fine with.

Helping me to enjoy the family time next to Bay Lake was the 2 or 3 (maybe 4 or 5?) bourbons I had. I was very relaxed and we laughed and made fun of each other to pass the time. This was quality time for Val, but I appreciated it as well. I kept the camera on "off" for most of the duration but managed a couple of pics of Toni and the Man-Child.





Back in the room I reviewed the photos of the day with mostly a smile on my face, then began to anticipate our next day in Hollywood Studios. A lot has changed since our last visit and I couldn't wait to experience it!

Up Next - Incredible transformation at DHS and genuinely one of our best days at WDW! Plus a million photos and a few WDWmagic meet-ups!
 
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