Monthly Archives: February 2013

A Lack of Love: Part 1

What do you in Disneyland when you’ve already been to both parks and rode (almost) all the rides? You could try for the rest or do as I did and try to fit as many in-park shows\parades as possible before the parks close!

Unfortunately, I had a slight disadvantage In that overslept and missed the “extra magic hour” for Disneyland (slightly overrated anyway since only certain rides are open), but on the plus side I entered just as they “officially” opened the park.

I did however have a few stops to make before heading off to the shows. The first was Jungle Cruise…which hadn’t opened yet so people were milling about outside the entrance until the “almighty announcement” was made allowing guests to enter the queue area.

It was actually kind of cool being the first riders of the day, it would have been even cooler if the guide was a better actor, but that wasn’t my main problem with this ride experience. No, that was when the dock agent reached out for my hand when I tried exiting the boat.

“Thanks, but I don’t like strangers touching me.”

“Sorry,” she said insincerely before clasping my arm, jerking it upwards throwing me off balance and causing me to nearly fall on my face in front of the all of the other guests. “It’s my job,” she then looks me straight in the eye with an obnoxious smirk, “enjoy the rest of your day at the Disneyland Resort.”

Yes, I was the first guest she dealt with today, but I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable reason for that behavior. Who am I kidding, this is pissing me just writing about it – mostly because she’s correct: if it really is her job than I really CAN’T do anything about it.

If I get mad, I become the bad guy. If I let her go without saying anything she wins by default. Either way, I lose. God only knows what will happen if I ever find myself in a win\win situation.

I dust myself off and remind myself that I’m paying good money to have a good time. Besides, I had to Fantasyland before the rest of the crowds do.

I failed. The lines for both Casey Jr. and the Fantasyland Canal Boats was so long that it extended past their respective queues and into the main walkway obscuring the boundaries of their actual waiting areas. The good news was it made the lines for Mr. Toad, Pinocchio and Snow White seem blissfully short by comparison.

After that brief sojourn, I made my around to Innoventions just to find out I’d just missed the first “ASIMO” show and would have to return in another hour. I went downstairs, crossed the pathway to Tomorrowland Terrace which was still serving breakfast.

I guess I probably should have expected that since it was only 10:38am.

Also, three years as a Drama Critic should have taught me to lower my expectations, but I didn’t. It’s not that the ASIMO show was terrible; it’s just the hokey plot that supposedly glues the show together served as more of an interruption of his slickly polished sales pitch than as a natural part of the show. Being a Drama Critic (even an “unprofessional” one) definitely has its disadvantages sometimes.

I left the park through the main gate, and I was stopped for a hand stamp on the way out. I showed him my 3-day ParkHopper, but the bored teenager said it “didn’t matter” as I couldn’t re-enter the park without it. It didn’t bother me as I wasn’t planning on re-entering the park at that point, but he did seem genuinely disappointed to not stamp my hand.

Honestly, I don’t remember this policy in Florida, but according to Guest Services “it has ALWAYS been our policy at Disney Parks.”

Categories: California, Disneyland Resort, Disneys California Adventure, Disneys Resort Hotels | Leave a comment

A Lack of Love: Part 2

I crossed the plaza separating the two parks and got in line for California Adventure. When I got to the front of the line, the gate agent simply scanned my ParkHopper and let me through. The topic of hand stamps never came up.

I make my way Buena Vista Street noting it was essentially a mirror image of Hollywood Blvd at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida (formerly Disney MGM Studios). I stopped into Fiddler, Fifer and Practical on Carthay Circle for lunch (the only restaurant on Disney property to sell Starbucks coffee) and found a table outside just as the “Five and Dime” jalopy pulled into the circle.

I finished my sandwich and coffee and made my way towards Hollywood Land stopping at both the fanastic Monsters Inc. and the disappointing “Minnie’s Fly Girls’ Charter Airlines” and arrived at Paradise Pier just in time for “Instant Concert: Just Add Water” with the only shade in the immediate area coming from a set of umbrellas near the water. The show itself was a short but fun diversion, and walking up the boardwalk a ways further I quickly ended up in the middle of the equally fun “Phineas & Ferb’s Rock and Roll Dance Party.”

I completed the loop around the pier, and ended up back in Carthay Circle just as the afternoon parade was about to begin. I’m not necessarily the biggest Pixar fan, but this little parade was kind of fun in its own way.

That’s enough for the day so I backtrack to the exit through the Grand California so I could plan the rest of my day. I get to the front of the line and show him my ParkHopper, but the middle aged Asian guy at the turnstile says “You CANNOT leave without a hand stamp,” and then grabs my wrist, jerks it back (I literally thought I was going to crash into the family behind me) and practically jabs his stamp through my hand before finally releasing me.

This is when I go to the Guest Services guy I quoted in the previous post who just looks at me blankly and shrugs. “He’s right,” he said apparently missing (or ignoring) the whole point of my complaint. “All guests must get hand stamps unless they are ‘Annual Pass’ holders.”

The man at the desk was nice enough to smile at me, wish me a good day and politely “remind” me that there were other people in line.

Like at Jungle Cruise earlier in the day, there was nothing I could do to solve the situation (I really hate that helpless, invalidated feeling), and getting upset at all about this slight makes me look like a childish, attention-seeking boor.

Categories: California, Disneyland Resort, Disneys California Adventure, Disneys Resort Hotels | Leave a comment

A Lack of Love: Part 3

I go upstairs to my room, right the first half of this story and then suddenly remembered that it was Valentine’s Day – meaning if I didn’t get dinner soon I wouldn’t get dinner at all. I open my wallet, put the reserve cash in there and stuff it in my pocket before grabbing my room key and phone off the coffee bar counter and heading out to Downtown Disney.

I will say that I was extremely lucky to be able get a “walk-in” table at my first choice of restaurant. I was even luckier since both the food and service were easily the best I’d encountered during my stay on Disney property.

I was going through the crappy Disney Parks app while waiting for my food, and noticed that there was a show starting in 40 minutes in the main park with the nightly parade shortly thereafter.

I didn’t make the first show, but didn’t feel like sitting idly on Main Street USA until the parade started so I headed over to Jungle Cruise. The line took about 15 minutes and the guide was a lot better than the one I had this morning, her jokes were largely the same but her delivery was much more confident. The dock agent (not the same one as earlier) didn’t even look at me when I exited the boat.

Now, it was time to find somewhere to see the parade. There were very spots along Main Street to do so. I would have preferred Frontierland as it is usually less crowded, but they directing all foot traffic down Main Street USA where there was almost no available space to watch it except for one patch near City Hall behind a garbage can with a view partially blocked by a faux- antique lamppost.

The parade itself probably isn’t that bad on most nights, but this wasn’t one of them. Maybe their performers got sick, maybe the navigation systems in the floats was off or maybe someone in their Central Command wasn’t on their game, but the timing was completely off. It seemed as if all of the floats (which looked quite impressive, btw) were trying to avoid running over some invisible marching band.

That was it, day over. The last float pulled into the “unstaging” area and the so-called “almighty voice” declared the park was officially closed. I went back to my room; I had some sleep to catch up on – especially since I was planning on catching the first shuttle back to the airport…

Categories: California, Disneyland Resort, Disneys California Adventure, Disneys Resort Hotels, flying | Leave a comment

Photo: It all started with a Mouse…

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Categories: adventures, California, Disneyland Resort, entertainment, photography | Leave a comment

A full half days travel: Part 2

Getting on the plane at Skyharbor was relatively simple (despite the narrow aisle), and the seats were wide enough that not only could I move my body without bumping into anyone but I was actually able to reach my bag under the seat in front of me without too much difficulty. I was almost sorry that the flight lasted only an hour.

I spent about 20 minutes wandering the pick-up area of LAX looking for the green sign mentioned in the brochure for the Disneyland Express which unlike the Disney World version is NOT run by Disney. It was when I finally ran of sidewalk that I looked up and noticed that the sign for “ALL BUSES” which hangs above the islands immediately outside of the baggage area was in green. The second difference between the two services is the California version runs on a roughly hourly basis while their Floridian counterpart dispatches them when they have a full enough load.

I waited for what seemed like an eternity watching various city, airport and car rental shuttles zipping past my little island, but according to my watch was only about 25 minutes for the Disneyland Express to arrive (about 5 minutes late, probably because I was at the last terminal).

The ride itself took approx 45 minutes (though Google Maps says it only takes 37), and they had someone board at the Disneyland Hotel to collect my money before taking me over to the entrance to Paradise Pier.

It was 2:38pm (PST) when I checked in and I was surprised when the effete man at the desk told me that the room was ready. I was disappointed when he told me the 220 Parkhopper deal was “online only” (which was the ONLY reason I chose this week over say March\April) and even more disappointed to see he had written “Johnathon” on my room key even though he presumably copied it directly from my ID which clearly says “Jonathan.” On the plus side, I was eventually able to get someone to correct it, but it still mars the whole illusion of personalization (especially when they try to dismiss the error out of hand).

It took the elevator upstairs and dropped everything off in my room. I had no idea what I was doing with the rest of my day, and, frankly, I was too tired to think about it….

Categories: adventures, transportation, weather

A full half days travel: Part 1

The day started out at 4am with a quick shower, and a dash out the door. The seven block commute at this ungodly hour would be bleak enough, but it was also pouring rain and I was walking. It was about 2/3 of the way to Cultural Center station that I realized that I forgot to bring my hat with me, and with this late of a start it was way too late to go back for it.

I wasn’t waiting at the station all that long when I could hear a train departing from Mt Royal station. Unfortunately, it was a “Penn-Camden,” and I was still behind schedule. It wouldn’t be the last setback of the day, but it was the last one that was my undeniably MY fault.

According to the MTA website, the trip from Mt Royal to BWI takes 35 minutes. However, due to the weather, the train lost power twice. They were relatively brief – maybe a minute or two – but they meant I didn’t make it to the airport until well after 5am. Did I mention my flight was at 6:50am?

The check-in process went relatively smoothly, but it was the 30 wait at security that nearly cost me my flight. Okay, that’s not quite true as I was able to stop and eat a rather disappointing breakfast sandwich from the McDonald’s across from my gate.

I hate long flights. This one was no exception, Sure, it was largely free of turbulence, but I never bought a puzzle or regular magazine on the way to the gate so I had little to do on the flight. Also, they didn’t provide any standard complimentary snacks on board (unless I was will to $2.50 for a tiny bag of airline pretzels), thankfully soft drinks were still free.

We landed at Phoenix, Skyharbor (PHX) just after 10:15am MST, meaning it was too late to get breakfast and too early to get lunch and stopping for either for meant risking my connection…or so I thought. I hadn’t considered it would rain in Phoenix, nor that said rain might effect the times for arrival\departure.

It was only about 20 or so minutes late arriving, but it took several minutes to get everybody off their plane and an even longer time to get everyone in the packed waiting area onto it. However, we were only an hour behind schedule when we pulled out of the gate.

There I was in the air spending the next five hours and four minutes (it felt like 10) getting elbowed in the stomach as the woman next to me did her crossword, read a book, took a drink of her soda or any other action that required even the slightest arm movement.

I would have pulled out my NDS, but I couldn’t reach it as the seat in front of me was reclined. Ditto if I wanted to do one of those crossword books I didn’t have time to look for on my way to the gate.

When we (finally) landed in Phoenix, it was raining. I left a city that was raining just to arrive in a desert city where it was also raining. This rain pushed the incoming flight back about 20 minutes. I already missed the lunch I had planned in the hotel (Storytellers, which is supposed to be one of their “signature restaurants”) so I was officially in no rush to get there.

Categories: adventures, transportation, weather

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