What a Carry On! Part 12 – Thursday 28th August 2008. I wake around 2.00am thinking it’s probably because I need the loo, but realise I can hear the sound of running water somewhere in the house. I pad out to investigate and discover that Adam’s toilet, across the landing, is constantly filling and emptying. I can’t get the valve to work correctly, so I turn the water off at the isolation point and leave him a note telling him to use the other loo downstairs. After sleeping soundly for the next 4 hours or so, I wake naturally at 6.30, seconds before the alarm goes off. Everyone appears over the next half hour, after which the kids and I feast on reheated pizza and coffee! It’s looking like another fine day as we drink our coffees outside, watching it get light. There was a bit of cloud first thing, but it is already breaking up. I send Linda the landlady a PM about the toilet before showering. As all the rooms have Ipod docking stations, I treat my housemates to a bit of live M People/karaoke while I get ready. There’s time for a bit of housekeeping, and I do the few bits of ironing that we’ve generated over the last couple of days – there’s an excellent dryer, but we find that hanging our washed clothes in the games room works a treat – this area, in reality the garage, is not air-conditioned and remains warm all day. It’s already 80° as we leave at 8.20. Amanda records a reminder of TS Fay from last week. Soon enough we are parking up at Stage 42 for the Studios at 8.45. The cloud has burned off completely now, and it’s getting hotter by the minute. The kids are clamouring for the tram, but we are relatively close to the entrance, and walk across, several minutes before the next tram appears. More fun at the turnstiles – Beth’s ticket has been wiped this time, and we are issued a new one from Guest Services. Accordingly, it’s 9.10 by the time we get into the park proper, and, as we approach the Toy Story Mania attraction, we find that there’s a hefty line for the FastPasses! It takes 15 minutes to get FPs, and these are for 12.00 – 13.00 already! This ride is obviously selling out in the first hour of business at the moment. Walking back to the centre of the park, we split up – dad and Adam head off to Star Tours, and the rest of us make for Tower of Terror, restrooming along the way. There’s a 20 minute standby time posted, but without FPs we have no alternative. And, being in line here is no hardship: the theming is superb! In fact it only takes 15 minutes, and we are back outside by 9.50. I love this ride! Next door to Rock n Roller Coaster – showing a depressing 30-minute wait time. Sigh.. Mike doesn’t ‘do’ more than 20 minute waits normally, but again, we have little choice and hope that this is also over estimated. I text Adam to arrange a meeting point at 10.30 or so. The line moves smoothly and steadily, and once more, we arrive at the loading platform 5 minutes before the posted time. We enjoy the thrill of this favourite attraction once more, before exiting at 10.25 in good time to walk over and meet the chaps near the dinosaur ice cream stand (no, sorry, son, it doesn’t open until 12.00!) The Indiana Jones Stunt Show is our next objective, and they are admitting guests for the 11.00 presentation. We are seated on the lower, left side, not far from the centre. I make an impulsive decision to offer my services as an extra – having seen the show many times over the years, I reckon it’s about time I showed them how it should be done! The technique for getting selected is simple – when the producer focuses on your section and asks for volunteers, you need to stand up, waving and yelling like a lunatic. It works a treat, and I am picked! My family generally think I’m barmy, and Bethany in particular is appalled that I would embarrass her in this fashion! I am one of a group selected as ‘screamers’ and we are gathered on the stage to demonstrate our skills before being sent off to ‘wardrobe’ at the upper right hand side of the theatre. Here, along with the rest of the various skill groups, we first sign a lengthy disclaimer (!) and then are dressed in Arab robes and turbans before being seated in a roped off section for the first part of the show. After the initial act is over, and as they start to re-arrange the set for the next scenes, the assistant producer walks us down onto the stage and briefs us as to our roles. While the director talks to the stunt Indy and the audience, she instructs us to follow her lead during the crowd scenes to come: basically, if she tells us to ‘stay’ then we must keep in one place, to avoid the various (potentially dangerous) effects and props, and when she indicates that we should ‘come’, we have to follow her to the next area. Finally, she says, ‘when I put my hands over my ears, I recommend that you do too!’. The director turns to address us, and requires us to perform our ‘crowd’ impersonations. This is a confusing and amateur mess, as normal! He then picks a victim to act out a death scene… guess who he selects? That’s right, yours truly… After admonishing me to act my ass off, but advising that I ‘die soft’, he draws an imaginary weapon as I attack him with an invisible knife. There’s a video around somewhere I believe of the professional and moving scene that follows… On with the rest of the show… Indy and his female accomplice take on the various thugs and gunmen as normal, and we are shepherded around the set en masse, avoiding the pitfalls and explosions. Which, I may add, are incredibly loud! The whole experience is quite exciting, and I am very pleased that I stuck my hand up! It’s absolutely sweltering on the stage, especially wearing the thick turban! As the scene concludes, we watch as the ‘stooge’ is unveiled (we spotted him immediately, as he was the only one acting professionally ‘crowd-like’ at the start!) and then are lead off to receive our remuneration – copious amounts of free water from a cooler back at the wardrobe section! I rejoin the family to watch the final scene. It was a great laugh, and I recommend it to any of you who have seen the show previously, as a way of getting a wonderfully different perspective on it. We leave the theatre at 11.35 and head for the restrooms (with the other 2000 people from the show, it seems!) and then to the Backlot Express (there’s an oxymoron!) for lunch. This turns out to be almost as entertaining a show as Indy! The lines are monumental, and it takes an age to get to the ordering point. Then, our food seems to have slipped out of the system and parties behind us are receiving theirs whilst we clog the works up around the counter. I spot what seems likely to be our partially completed order on one side, and am trying to draw a CM’s attention to it when a numpty in the kitchen pushes more trays through, shoving the ones I think are ours onto the floor! The numptys on our side stand and look at this, and then start stepping over it to complete other orders! Incredible! I finally manage to catch the eye of a matronly lady who turns out to be a supervisor; she apologises, sorts our food, then proceeds to chat about how hard her job is, and how she’s been given all these useless trainees…. She seems quite put out when I suggest that, having waited half an hour for our lunch, we’d actually prefer to leave now and eat it, before it gets cold! Our selection of veggie and turkey sandwiches, chicken nuggets and burgers is basic theme park fodder, and fills a corner, but it’s no better than that. I have rarely had an acceptable counter service meal at MGM/DHS. 12.20 when we finish our ‘meal’ and we cross the park to Pixar Studios for our FastPass slot at Toy Story Mania. The standby line is an incredible 80 minutes now, and the FP machines are hooded, presumably long exhausted. I love ‘first rides’ on anything new. The pre-show area is attractively themed in carnival colours and we are soon picking up our 3D specs, sorry, ‘Game Glasses’ (they always have to have a name, don’t they? Opera Glasses at Philharmagic etc…) and arrive at the loading deck. It’s a pleasing experience – totally interactive and absorbing, and over all too soon! For the record, the scores were: Adam- 111,400, Mike- 104,000, Amanda- 82,000, Bethany- 79,800, Dad- 43,000 and Mum – 33,000. We exit at 12.50 into a sweltering afternoon, and walk through the Streets of America, where, dear diary an amazing and jaw-dropping event occurs… Amanda sneezes –TWICE!!! In our years together, and throughout her pre-Mike days, she has only ever produced sneezes one at a time!!! (Ok, I guess you had to be there, but I have to record it for posterity!) Our next objective is the Muppet 3-D show. We arrive at the end of a pre-show so walk straight in, and are seated by 1.00pm. An old favourite, the show is as good as ever, although I suspect you have to be of a certain age to appreciate it these days– I’m not sure younger kids either side of the Atlantic are as familiar with Kermit and Miss Piggy as we are. After leaving the show we spend a little time browsing the Muppet store nearby, where Adam buys a T-shirt and Beth picks a couple of toys to match her (tall, ginger) boyfriend and herself. We’ve pretty well exhausted the things we want to do here, and it’s getting hotter and more crowded as the afternoon progresses, so we head for the car. Traffic is light, and we are soon making our daily visit to Winn Dixie (first name terms with several of the staff there now!) before landing back at the villa by 2.30. ‘Roger’ from the management company has left a note to tell us Adam’s loo has been repaired. First class service that, Roger and Linda, cheers! Amanda and I shower so we can lounge in and around the pool with a coffee. Mum goes for a sleep, and Dad and Beth are inside somewhere. Adam decides to spend some time on the pc, MSNing his mates…I’m not sure if the main reason isn’t simply to deny the use of it to his sister for a while! He’s had enough by 3.30 and Bethany appears like magic to take over his browsing position at the kitchen table! Adam joins us in the pool and we spend some time chucking a ball around. It gets noisy for a few minutes when a team of three gardeners appear to cut the grass around the pool. We have Advance Dining Reservations for Boma at 5.00pm this afternoon, so we leave the pool to get showered ad changed soon after 4.00. It’s 4.30 when we leave, and after a visit to the Animal Kingdom itself (I got fixated on turning right at the end of the Sherberth Road, forgetting that AK Lodge is a LEFT there!) we arrive at the Lodge around 4.45pm. Boma check in has moved to the main lobby sometime over the last 2 years (an excellent idea, as the reception area outside the restaurant used to get terribly crowded) and we are handed our pager without much of a wait. We’ve barely moved away from the desk when it goes off (the pager, not the desk!), and we present ourselves downstairs just on 5.00pm to be shown to our table. Our server is Bob, a friendly and helpful guy who tells us about the various dishes available tonight and takes our drinks orders. I have an African beer: Mum, Dad and Amanda all have wine and the kids ask for the fruit punch. We set to our task with enthusiasm and enjoy a lovely meal. I didn’t record every dish the party attempted, (and I’m rather afraid that the photos of slightly over-stocked plates below may appear gluttonous) but my selections included salad with humus and pita bread, a superb seafood gumbo (two servings!), redskin potatoes, sausages and peppers, a very rare-cooked rib roast (two servings!), wood-roasted chicken, a bit of a rest, then a spicy-coated salmon dish.. and another pice of the rib roast! Hic. I managed to finish off with a serving or two of the desserts, including Zebra Domes, Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake, Banana Bread Pudding and some fresh berry tartlets….. Everyone is satisfied at last: Mum and dad think the quality of this meal was amazing, and proclaim it the best meals we’ve had anywhere so far. I cannot disagree. The damage to our budget is $250, including an 18% service charge. We leave the restaurant at 6.15 and go outside for a look round. The wind is getting up, and the pool area has been roped off as a safety precaution in case of lightning. Almost as soon as we turn to go inside, the thunder starts and raindrops the size of grapes begin to pepper the walkways. We stand under cover and chat to one of the lifeguards. Back indoors, we wander the lobby and different levels around the huge picture window before venturing out onto the covered lanai area overlooking the savannah. The rain starts pelting down in earnest, scattering the guests outside below us. However, the storm moves past very swiftly, so we descend to the lower level and walk into the viewing area for a closer look at the wildlife, including kudu, giraffe, zebra and pelicans. The kids have supposedly disappeared to the store, but after a climb to the lobby bridge, we spot them lounging below in the, er, lounge… Back down to the lobby, we take a final look at the shop – one of the nicer Disney stores in my opinion, but nothing tempts anyone – and then return to the car at about 7.30. I drive to Downtown Disney so we can have a browse around the shops before visiting MK later for WISHES. I park close to Cirque again and we stroll down the avenue of shops. While everyone else is in Magnetron I give in to temptation and buy a cigar from the Sosa Brothers outlet. (I gave up as a regular smoker over a year ago, but have had the occasional puff since.) We carry on into Pleasure Island, enjoying the atmosphere. There are lovely views across the lake to Saratoga Springs. The Harley Shop is new to us, and we venture inside for a look at the merchandise – there’s an interesting range of bandanas and garments for Harley-addicts pets! Continuing through into Marketplace, we once more brave the crowds in the Disney Store, where Beth buys a bag for school – it’s marked up at $26 but scans at $11, so she’s very pleased. Time to get over to MK. We retrace our steps back to the car and drive across to the TTC, parking close to the monorail station to avoid needing a tram later. As we’re not rushing, we choose the ferry again, and watch a distant, silent electrical storm visible over the castle. We enter the park at 9.35, this time without any ticket problems, and walk up Main Street to take up viewing posts on the Tomorrowland Bridge. Amanda and I leave the family there for a few minutes to fetch coffees and sodas from the Lunching Pad (terrible pun!) in Tomorrowland. We’re back at 9.55 and the show kicks off on time a few minutes later. Once again we are treated to a stunning firework display – Mum & Dad haven’t seen it before, and are very impressed. The journey home is without hindrance – we endure the slow walk out of the park, and join the crowds on a ferry just docking as we approach the lake. After an easy drive we are home at 11.00pm. The car thermometer is still showing 80° F. The kids are weary and head straight to bed. The rest of us sit out for a bit, relaxing with a drink until about 12.15. Another busy and fulfilling day is over. Goodnight. Mike & Amanda. Tomorrow: Blizzard Beach.