Ron found us amazingly cheap flight to Orlando, courtesy of a start-up at Patrick Henry international airport; then some bozo ran his truck into one of their 2 airplanes and the other developed maintenance issues. At least we got our money back.
No one ever accused Ron Buckles of being less than stubborn. Granted, we have bought our Disney tickets, but until activated, they were good for a year. However, Ron went online and secured plane tickets at reasonable cost, only noticing later that we flew out of Richmond and returned to Norfolk. Fortunately, we have wonderful friends who delivered us [thanks, Ruth!] and picked us up [thanks Robert and Pat!]. Ron also upgraded us to 1st class for very little more--Ron, you are the Man.
We arrived at our Disney All-Star Music Resort hotel via Disney Express from the airport. We had arranged for Walt’s folks to pick up our baggage and deliver it to our room [within 5 hours]. Remarkably, our room was ready when we arrived, so we got to leave our carry-ons in the room. Very reasonable rates due to ongoing work, but we thought it was a very nice hotel. Their normal restaurant was closed but they had a charming ‘pick and go’ with some chairs. Our pattern became to pick up boxes of sandwiches, wraps, fruit, boiled eggs, bagels and carrot cake for supper and then breakfast the next a.m.
A note here: we each had a Disney Magic Band, which is an RFID you wear on your wrist; it serves as entry ticket to all the Disney Parks and as the room key. We also arranged for it to hook to our credit card for any purchases at Disney. This makes it amazingly easy to spend money since you just have to tap it on a receiver at the register. I foresee this coming to WalMart; they were the pioneers of RFID in stocking and inventory [one way they lowered their prices FYI].
Another thing to check is the early opening / late closing hours for the various parks. We got info online for this when we bought our Magic Bands [entry], confirmed it at the hotel and planned our days accordingly. Always check park hours, as they often have after-hours rental of the entire park by corporations or other groups and may close earlier than they would otherwise.
Then, we only had to catch the bus to the Magic Kingdom.
Disney’s bus service is superb. Since all the Disney parks and hotels are vastly far apart, having the bus system meant we didn’t need a car at any time. Traffic is fairly light within the parks road system due to the buses. Suits me.
One caveat! Be advised, we were visiting in NOV, not peak season!!! The weather was absolutely glorious, warm, but not hot. Crowds were at a minimum. We made use of the FastPass+, which guarantees speedy entry to various rides at a given time [also on Magic Bands], but never stood in line longer than 20 minutes. Also, we made use of The Unofficial Guide to Disney World and Orlando [about $20] and found it quite helpful. They also have online help.
Our goal at the Magic Kingdom was to visit the things that were different than Disneyland
· The Jungle Cruise is the same but now politically correct.
· The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse has been changed to Tarzan’s treehouse out west, so I was pleased to see it again. The book and movie were always a fave of mine.
· Pirates of the Caribbean has added Johnny Depp a couple of times and it has no Blue Bayou restaurant, alas. They had a Depp-alike pirate skit in the square and much pirate costuming for young and old.
· Liberty Square = New Orleans Square. The Haunted Mansion has a different façade, but much the same ride.
· We had a very yummy lunch at the Liberty Bell Tavern. Disney has come a long way in the food department, getting away from expensive sawdustburgers and rubber hot dogs to really good food and lots of vegetables. Still expensive, but more worth the $$.
· Mickey’s Philharmagic was by far our favorite. Donald Duck takes over the orchestra, a la Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia. It is one of several rides that have seats that blow air and water at you to coincide with the 3-D screen action. To the best of my feeble memory, this started with Captain EO [Michael Jackson] in the early 80s. BTW, this has been brought back after the death of Mike-Jack [as my son used to call him] and is now in EPCOT.
· It’s a Small World has the entire waiting line indoors and the iconic clock and towers are smaller and less dimensional. But I thrilled to see the cowboy and Indian are still there.
· Splash Mountain was supposed to be fabulous, but we disliked it. Out West, it was a log flume with “America Sings” i.e. animatronic animals singing folk songs from around the USA. In
· As an aside, I read a Disney bio years ago that said that Walt would visit Disneyland unannounced. If he left a ride smiling, all was well. If he exited frowning, he would say, “Fix it,” without giving a clue what was wrong. Great scrambling to figure it out would ensue. I say, “Fix it” to Splash Mountain.
Thus exhausted, we returned to our hotel, missing the fireworks. This also became our pattern; to go full tilt all day and then not have enough energy for the evening shows. I would recommend returning to the hotel for a mid-afternoon rest and return to the park a few hours before closing. Ron did not want to lose the time commuting but it did mean we were too tired to stay; and the evening hours tend to be the most kid-free, as they have gone home exhausted like us old folks.